Greetings, Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, writing to you... from the future! The Best Shots team has already seen through the veils of time and space, and come back to you with sweet, sweet reviews from Image, BOOM! Studios and Th3rd World Studios. Want more? Check out our stock of back issue reviews at the Best Shots Topic Page! And now, coming to you at 88 miles per hour, Teresa Jusino, taking a finger-lickin' look at the latest issue of Chew...
Written and Lettered by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory
Published by Image Comics
Review by Teresa Jusino
First, let’s talk about the cover of this issue, shall we? It’s a picture of a smiling chicken on a crutch holding out one of her own cooked legs on a plate. If that doesn’t say “read me,” I don’t know what does. And no, I’m not being sarcastic. I’m very, very serious about this.
I had no experience with Chew before this issue, and I am always impressed when I can pick up a random issue of a series and have it suck me in despite having no prior knowledge of any of the characters or plot. Chew #16 had me from the first page. It shows the deterioration of a fast-food chicken restaurant over the course of thirty-five years. Panel by panel it goes from thriving family establishment to desolate, boarded-up shack having been shut down by the FDA, “the most powerful law enforcement agency on the planet.” You see, in this series chicken (all poultry) has been outlawed after it caused a deadly outbreak of Avian flu. Chew focuses on former police officer turned FDA agent, Tony Chu, who uses his skill as a “cibopath” (gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats) to solve crimes.
What makes this issue, and this series, hilarious and intriguing is its focus on a government agency no one really pays much attention to. Chu walks around like Mulder or Scully as he solves food-related crime. Also wonderful is that food-related abilities like being a cibopath, or in the case of this issue, “voresophic” (one who becomes more intelligent the more he/she eats), seem to be commonplace. The best writers take things we see every day and make them new again, and writer John Layman does an amazing job in making readers look at things they take for granted, like food and government food policy, in a completely new light. He also has an excellent satiric voice and a wonderful feel for dialogue. A phone conversation between Chu and his sister, Toni, is hilarious as her speech bubbles go on and on down the page while Chu only gets an intermittent “now’s not a good time” or “I gotta go.”
Rob Guillory’s art is a perfect companion to Layman’s story in that, as Layman does with his writing, Guillory makes us look at ourselves and the world around us in a new way. His artwork evokes almost Norman Rockwell-ish Americana, but then turns that on its head with images of the disgusting. Like that chicken on the cover, for instance. It looks adorable, except for the fact that it’s holding out its own severed leg! There is a grisly death in this issue that looks slightly less grisly, because Guillory makes the subject so darn cute when it goes splat!
Chew #16 is wonderfully paced, effectively uses flashbacks, and does a wonderful job of moving the story of the series (which manages to be about poultry, aliens, and possibly the apocalypse) forward for its fans, while also including all the information a new reader would need to enjoy the story without making a point of it. While other comic series rely on Editor’s Notes that reference previous issues, or ill-fitting exposition by the characters to explain what’s going on, the information given here is seamless. It is the job of any issue of a comic to encourage new readership even as it entertains its existing fan base, and Issue #16 of Chew does its job. I’ll be adding another title to my pull list.
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Marcio Takara and Nolan Woodward
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by David Pepose
It isn't easy being the middle child, but that's pretty much where Incorruptible is at right now.
It doesn't have the privilege of being first, like Mark Waid's Irredeemable, which has had the added advantage of visual consistency provided by Peter Krause. It doesn't have the shiny newness of Waid's new series The Traveler, which also benefits from having Stan Lee's name attached to it. But while the overall direction of this series is still up in the air, there's a solidness to this book that I think many people have overlooked.
A lot of that comes from the artwork of Marcio Takara. Takara reminds me of Morning Glories artist Joe Eisma mixed with Phil Hester and cut with a hint of Paul Dini. It's a clean, cartoony style that might cause a little bit of dissonance when compared to the gloomy shadows of Irredeemable, but really stands up as a singular product. It's not a complicated look, but the composition to the fight sequences show some real promise.
And Waid himself is surprisingly underrated on this book. While I still have reservations about Max Damage's new sidekick Headcase -- like, why is there no mention of the old sidekick Jailbait? -- Waid gives her a really sick moment that shows just how messed up in the head she is. In fact, the women in Max's life -- including Alana Patel, the ex-girlfriend of the now-genocidal Plutonan -- already brings some heat and structured conflict into what had been a scattered status quo for Max.
But this book still isn't perfect -- the tie-in nature of this book, being a sister book to the more stable, more successful Irredeemable, kind of flat-tires this issue by the end, giving a recap for another book that, in many ways, doesn't seem to fit the mold of a "mirror" title anymore. That said, that's part and parcel for what this book is at its core, and if you're following both books, it'll likely make for a more cohesive story all around. Make no mistake, Incorruptible is still an imperfect book -- much like its main character -- but it does have its redeeming values.
Written by Jim Zubkavich
Art by Edwin Huang and Misty Coats
Published by Image Comics
Review by David Pepose
And then there's books like Skullkickers.
Rude, crude and loud, this book is not exactly the most disciplined example of comic book storytelling. For me, it's a bit of a bittersweet read -- while Edwin Huang certainly has a strong handle on the visual side of the equation, sometimes it feels like Jim Zubkavich goes a little too overboard in his enthusiasm, foresaking character and direction to instead produce a lot of fireworks and jokes that don't always hit their mark.
Well, maybe that's a little harsh. Skullkickers knows what it wants to do, and certainly isn't trying to be a serious, somber read. And you know, considering the prevailing trends of the marketplace, that's certainly refreshing enough. Think Looney Tunes meets Dungeons and Dragons, and that's pretty much the tone of the story and the humor here. Edwin Huang's cartoony style certainly pops with Misty Coats' colorwork, and the lines are clean and expressive enough that sight gags like Shorty kicking his own butt can bring a chuckle.
But I'm going to be honest here, as well -- part of me feels like the story doesn't really go anywhere, you know? Jim Zubkavich knows what images he wants to get on the page, but when you substitute deep characterization for off-the-cuff humor -- which, hey, it works for plenty of characters -- you also have to make sure the jokes work. Sound effects and captions like "incoming death!" and "misplaced stab!" are okay at the beginning, but the joke starts getting a little thin by the eighth or ninth time it happens.
And the other thing -- which again, your mileage may vary on this -- this issue is almost entirely a fight sequence. Now, if you're already converted, this might be a rollicking good time -- but if you aren't hooked yet, it ultimately feels light. Punches and kicks are fine, but who are Baldy and Shorty? Is that even their real names? Shorty at least gets some short-hand as a cantankerous drawf, but Baldy still feels a little nondescript -- and when you can't remember what their mission is, well, it's tough to root for them.
All in all, Skullkickers is a decent book -- but considering Zubkavich's eye for imagery being channeled through Huang and Coats, I still can't help but feel like it's underperforming a bit. Zubkavich's enthusiasm is apparent as far as the world he's created, and he's got the right team to convey that freewheeling, angst-free quality that gives this book its charm. But I think a little less of the gags and little more of who these people are and why we should care about them would bring Skullkickers to a whole new level.
The Stuff of Legend: The Jungle #3
Written by Mike Raicht and Brian Smith
Art by Charles Paul Wilson III
Published by Th3rd World Studios
Review by Lan Pitts
"So you suggest they are idealists? Believers in the old ways, or coexisting, and yet these humansss bring tools to hunt us. Like the Boogeyman'sss army! The days of unity amongst us died long ago. It is best they accept their new home...and being discarded." -- The Serpent King
If you haven't been following the adventures of Max, Jester, Percy, and the rest of the gang in The Stuff of Legends, then you are missing out. When our brigade of heroes wander into the clutches of the misfit toys of the Jungle, they aren't treated to the warmest of welcomes. Soon both sides realize that they have a common fiend in the Boogeyman and make a momentary alliance. Also, a bit of the origins of the Dark are revealed in a touching way. For being "just toys", Mike Raicht and Brian Smith has given these characters have some of the most sincere dialog I have read all year.
There is only one more part until the conclusion of Volume 2, and while that is reassuring I don't have to wait until the third volume for the rest of the story, the end of this issue caught me off guard. Part Four cannot come soon enough.
For those of you unfamiliar with the style of how these books are layed out, again, I cannot express this enough: Charles Paul Wilson III is a bonafide genius. The panel composition and colors use are nothing else out there. The action scenes, particually the ones feature Jester, are intense and still carry a certain weight of drama, you forget the characters are playthings.
With Christmas/the Holiday Season around the corner, a series like this is perfect for your little reader. The series showed promise a year ago and has not let me down. It's beyond captivating and highly recommended.What comic are you looking forward to reading most this week?