Greetings, Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, still picking up steam after the craziness of the New York Comic Con! While everyone in the industry is recuperating from the massive crowds and endless hustle, Best Shots still has a trio of tomorrow's reviews, today, including Top Cow's latest Pilot Season offering, Dynamite's spin on the John Carter of Mars saga, and an early peek at Cartoon Network's Firebreather animated film! Want to see more? Have no fear, just check out the Best Shots Topic Page! And now, let's start off with Vanessa's take on Top Cow's Forever...
Pilot Season: Forever #1
Created by Matt Hawkins
Written by Brad Ingelsby
Art by Thomas Nachlik and Nathan Fairbairn
Lettering by Troy Peteri
Published by Top Cow
Review by Vanessa Gabriel
I avoided any and all solicits for this book, and with no idea of what to expect, I was rewarded with a surprisingly intense read. Many first issues provide only a framework and an introduction, but Forever #1 dives the reader head first into the shallow end of the pool, leaving your head spinning and your jaw on the floor.
Ryan Chambers seems to a have a simple life. He’s a young guy with a good job as a research assistant at Longevity, a pharmaceutical company. The biggest event on his horizon was Thanksgiving in Nantucket with his lovely girlfriend and her family. But then, he meets Kane. Ryan abruptly learns that everything he thought to be true is a lie.
Page 1Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 There are some big reveals for a first issue, but you get the sense that the story’s scope is so grand that we’re seeing just the tip of the iceberg. The reader gets some answers, but there are some lingering, burning questions. I’m certain I read almost the entire issue with my mouth open and my eyes wide. My exact word at the end of the book was, “WHOA.”
The art has a gritty, painted quality that appealed to me. The lines are bold and reminiscent of sketches, but they’re simple enough that it looks clean. The faces are a bit abstract, but the artist clearly conveys emotional intensity through dark facial lines and distinct body language. The cool blues, greens, and browns accentuate the futuristic vibe. One thinks of cold rooms, sterile surfaces, desperation, and science. The free-flowing panel layout complements the story’s quick pacing.
An exhilarating story infused with real science, Forever #1 is hopefully the beginning of an exciting thriller.
Warlord of Mars #1
Written by Arvid Nelson
Art by Stephen Sadowski and Adriano Lucas
Lettering by Troy Peteri
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Review by David Pepose
An ex-Confederate soldier. Giant interstellar warriors. The rust-colored terrain of Mars.
You put all these together, you'd think that Warlord of Mars would be a perfect fit for the comics-reading crowd. As someone completely new to the John Carter of Mars series, I was really excited to dive into this rich piece of sci-fi history.
So it's too bad that by the end of this $1 first issue, I didn't know much more than when I began. If you know the series, chances are this first issue is a bit too elementary for your tastes; if you don't, there's just too little story to hook you in.
Much of the underwhelming nature of this book comes from Arvid Nelson's story structure. That's not to say there isn't a ton of potential to the character of John Carter -- the fact that Nelson is able to make a Confederate soldier into such a sympathetic character, despite the fact that he won't drink to the name of Abe Lincoln, is a testament to his storytelling chops. But where this book fails is that it sends only half the book on Carter's story -- and it barely gets far enough to introduce him as a character, let alone how he winds up on Mars. It's not that I don't think the character of Tars Tarkas deserves some screen time, but... the first issue? Really?
There is a silver lining to this book, however, and his name is Stephen Sadowski. The intensity he gives Carter is really striking, with the big nose and sideburns giving him a little bit more "character" than the standard black-haired, muscular comics protagonist. While the composition of some of the fights doesn't always grab me, his settings, as far as Carter's scenes go, are also unusually detailed -- his linework has a little bit of that Nathan Fox-style scratchiness, and I think that visual tone could really give this book its own identity. But that said, Sadowski is running uphill with the colorwork -- Adriano Lucas's tones are a little bit too garish, with the Union blues sometimes running purple, and skintones getting a yellow sheen under gunfire.
Warlord of Mars is one of those books that makes you frustrating not because of its flaws, but because you know it has all the ingredients it'll ever need to succeed and still falls short. Will the second issue shape up? I hope so. Would this book work well as a trade? Probably. But in this business, oftentimes all you have is 22 pages to get your point across, and convince readers of what exactly they're reading and why they should buy it. I'll be back next month to see if it improves, but this first issue is a case of story structure run amok.
Firebreather Animated Film
Created by Phil Hester and Andy Kuhn
Directed by Peter Chung
Written by Jim Kreig
Produced by Cartoon Network
Review by David Pepose
Move over, Peter Parker -- there's a new contender for "Most Endearing High Schooler in Comics," and his name is Duncan Rosenblatt. Or should I call him by the name you'd recognize: Firebreather. With an animated feature with Phil Hester and Andy Kuhn's half-human, half-dragon hero making its way to Cartoon Network next month, I have to tell you: This is a fantastic introduction to the character, and makes me hope that more of Duncan's animated adventures are on their way.
Watching the animated feature at the New York Comic Con, I was approaching the Image Comics character with pretty much a blank slate -- but after awhile, it felt weird thinking of him as "Firebreather." No, this isn't about alter egos, this is a story about Duncan, a typical high schooler with, well, a less-than-conventional home life. If you've read the comics, you already know: His mom is a human, and his dad is the Godzilla-like Belloc, King of the Kaiju. The result is perhaps an even more "true" high school allegory than Spider-Man -- Duncan has body image issues, confidence issues, girl issues, issues with the local jocks, but he's so (comparatively) well-adjusted that it never feels angsty or grating.
A lot of that, of course, comes from writer Jim Krieg, taking Hester and Kuhn's groundwork and streamlining it even further for the 80-minute feature. Things like Duncan's armor have become "organic," which only heightens the character's anxiety over his scaly orange body, and the conflict between he and his parents is much more drawn out, giving a poignancy that Duncan doesn't really know about his full heritage. Maybe that's the biggest success of this all-ages flick: There's an underlying ambiguity to all the characters, and no one is every really "all-good" or "all-bad" -- they're human. Not bad for a bunch of computer-animated drawings.
And while we're on that subject, let's talk a little about the look and design of this movie. Aeon Flux's Peter Chung trades in some of the ultra-stylized drawings for a 3-D style venture, and while the shadows and cragginess of Kuhn's drawings isn't quite there, you can sense that the larger audience will be fine with the adaptation. At the beginning of the film, it does feel a little unfinished, but that likely is just due to weariness of Dreamworks knockoffs delivering a subpar product -- once Duncan is turning his high school into his own personal acrobatics course, you'll be hard-pressed to have a complaint. The fighting can get fast and frenetic, but it's to the animation team's credit that it's always clear. And if seeing little touches like Isabel's happy dance doesn't make you melt a little, you have no soul.
Y'know, maybe that's the right word to use when describing Firebreather: Soul. The overall path that Duncan takes isn't all that new -- we've seen high school awkwardness, we've seen that struggle for young love -- but ultimately Duncan's personality and upbringing make the execution something very fresh and very exciting. I for one think it'd be criminal not to see more of Duncan's animated adventures -- if you don't check this movie out when it premieres next month, you'll be missing out on something special.What are you excited about this week?