Best Shots Advance Reviews: DEBRIS, NINJA TURTLES, More

 

Debris #1

Written by Kurtis J. Wiebe

Art by Riley Rossmo and Owen Gieni

Lettering by Ed Brisson

Published by Image Comics

Review by Aaron Duran

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

It would be understandable if you saw Debris #1 as just another post-apocalyptic comic on the shelf and passed it by. Though not due to any fault of it's own, it just feels like we're neck-deep in such stories these days. However, after flipping through just a few pages, it's very clear that writer Kurtis J. Wiebe and artist Riley Rossmo aren't creating your standard “living at the end of the world” tale.

In Debris #1, humanity is on the brink of extinction. Not a suggestive brink, but a very real possibility. Indeed our eventual slow decline into extinction is a very real probability. As in all things though, there is a small hope and much of that hope resides in Maya. A young woman training to become the next Protector. The one person able to keep for the last vestige of humanity safe against the Colossus that roam a tattered Earth. On the surface, there isn't anything to Debris that most readers haven't seen before. And yet, in its delivery, the title rises above most similarly themed comics out there.

Wiebe pens a world that is very familiar and still so alien. While we get a sense that this is our home, there is an air of desolation that suggests our home no longer knows us. In the creation of the dangerous Colossus' the cover the planet, Wiebe is moving beyond the trope of humanity versus nature. We are no longer enduring nature, but instead staving off the inevitable. Still, this is a tale of hope and Wiebe's keen grasp of the classic hero concept in Maya provides that hope.

We know little of this strong young woman. We don't yet know her past. Although we get some hints through her elderly teacher. We don't yet know the full extent of her powers. Although we see hints of a great power when she faces a Colossus. All we really know is her determination for a better world, both for her and her people, again an unmeasurable power. It all reads so very familiar, and in way, comforting.

Riley Rossmo on art is the true standout of this title. While I enjoyed his versatile work in Cowboy Ninja Viking and Green Wake, I didn't expect such a strong shift in style. First and foremost, his designs for the Colossus are incredibility gorgeous and horrifying. A combination of random junk and organic sinew give terrible life to these beasts. And yet in their image I felt a spark of excitement. These looked like the creatures any child's mind would create as they set out on their own imaginary adventures.

Which fits beautifully within the world both Rossmo and Wiebe are attempting to create. There were a few moments when Rossmo's more exaggerated style didn't mesh well with the story, but, as a whole, this book is simply brimming with energy and style. Maya moves with youthful savagery against the Colossus, but Rossmo adds just enough temperance to her lines to suggest she's at least being mindful of her lessons taunted by the elder Protector.

I went into Debris #1 with absolutely zero expectations, indeed, I read this comic based on the cover art alone. What I found was a pleasant surprise. To be sure, this book is firmly rooted in the all-too-familiar post-apocalyptic and classic hero's journey tale, but both Wiebe and Rossmo bring enough to the table to make the familiar read as fresh and interesting.

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Micro-Series #6: Casey Jones

Written by Mike Costa and Ben Epstein

Art by Mike Henderson and Ian Herring

Lettering by Shawn Lee

Published by IDW Publishing

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Score one for Casey Jones. Y'know what, scratch that — score him a perfect 10. The vigilante in the hockey mask has always played second fiddle to his friends, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but thanks to Mike Costa, Ben Epstein, Mike Henderson and Ian Herring, that's all changing in a big way.

From the very first page, both the writing and the art will charm you — and this is coming from a guy who was never particularly charmed by Casey Jones as a character to begin with. Watching Casey go on patrol with Raphael not only drops us right into the action but also immediately gets you invested in them as characters, as they snipe back and forth with the kind of quips that only best friends will give. Costa and Epstein also deserve plenty of praise for establishing the right balance between the duo — Raph does play a role in this comic, but it's a supporting role, just giving us enough familiarity to branch out with a character that readers might not be so familiar with.

Not to say, of course, that Costa and Epstein don't change that. The structure and pacing for this comic is downright perfect, giving just enough details to show why Casey is the toughened, hockey stick-wielding thug that he is today, and what kind of straits his family is in today. We've got investment, we've got stakes, and the fact that Costa and Epstein manage to weave in a strong heroic theme at the end — complete with a bittersweet coda that is so true to Casey's hardscrabble existence — is something I'm still in awe over.

The artwork, meanwhile, is as fantastic — maybe even more fantastic — than main series artist Dan Duncan. While Duncan has the crazy stylistic chops that people will remember, artists Mike Henderson and Ian Herring strike the perfect balance between artistic quirkiness and rock-solid storytelling. Henderson's lines are sharp and laced with shadow, almost Mignola-style, but he also manages to swerve with a clean expressiveness that reminds me a lot of Francis Manapul or Marcus To.

It's really amazing to behold, but Henderson's artwork could easily have swerved into a weird tonal zone. That is, if he wasn't paired with colorist Ian Herring. These two should be joined at the hip, they work so well together — Herring's colors really play up the gritty mood of the city, but they also keep the energy moving with purples and greens that remind me just a shade of Dean White's bold experiments over at Uncanny X-Force.

I never thought I'd ever type the words "the perfect Casey Jones comic," but I'm happy to be so surprised. To be honest, IDW has struck gold with this team, and of they're smart they'll bring them back together in a hurry. If every issue of the main Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series was as this pitch-perfect as this done-in-one micro-series, I would be happy as shell.

 

Vic Boone: Malfunction Murder

Written by Shawn Aldridge

Art by Geoffo

Published by 215 Ink

Review by Rob McMonigal

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Dodging robots, mutated creatures, bullets, and the law is just another day in the life of Vic Boone, a former stuntman turned private eye. He’ll need all of his cunning and skills to prevent a murder before it happens in this colorful sci-fi noir that does a great job of mixing genres.

I’m a big fan of noir stories, and it seems that’s true for a lot of comic creators as well. Unfortunately, not every creator has the ability to write a crime comic and we get stories that don’t flow well or miss the key ideas that go into the genre, particularly in relation to noir. Shawn Aldridge definitely understands the key elements to writing a private investigator story, and grounds Vic Boone in solid plotting first, which is key to making this trade work so well. Only after that part is established does he add on the weirdness and creative freedom that comes with working within the science fiction world that this comic uses as its backdrop.

That does not mean that Vic Boone could just as easily been set in 1930s New York. There’s no way that would work, because Aldridge has weaved too many sci-fi elements into the story. It’s that Vic and the creatures he encounters—whether they’re a shady man turned into a fly, robot goons, or cops with an agenda—have that grime and untrustworthiness about them that makes for a solid crime story.

The plot itself moves quickly and plays fair with the reader, even if it would be impossible to figure out the culprit until the very end. Aldridge smoothly runs Boone through the case, step by step, placing obstacles in his path but managing to make it convincing that our protagonist is just smart enough to keep one beat ahead of his enemies. I really like how the world is built organically, through Boone’s actions, rather than forcing him into settings that show off the sci-fi elements of the plot. When Boone experiments with a dangerous drug in order to infiltrate a lab, it feels like he has no other option while at the same time showing just how different this world is from our own.

Though the setting and story are definitively noir in tone, artist Geoffo does not try to work in the usual shades of grey and brown that most artists use for such a story. Instead, he’s opted for art deco backgrounds that resemble 1950s cartoons, switching between oranges, purples, yellows, and other shades you would be more likely to associate with a superhero comic. Despite this, however, there’s still a layer of film over the colors, making them look more sinister, especially when they’re used to clash with one another, such as in the final confrontation. There’s also a good use of shading to contrast off whatever primary color or colors are found on each page, adding to the visual contrast.

Geoffo’s coloring is what caught my eye, but he also does a nice job with panel placements and positioning of characters to create a mood or draw the reader’s attention to a particular person or place within the narrative. The artist is not afraid to spread the action across two pages and multiple small panels that key in on little details of a larger action—almost an anti-splash. Most of the work is done medium-shot, and I do wish that Geoffo had tried a little harder to adjust the reader’s eye with more longshots or close-ups.

After the main story, there are a few backups, all written by Aldridge with art from a variety of creators. They serve to flesh out Vic Boone’s world and explain some of the things just hinted at in the main story. The stories are short and to the point, never straying too long before hitting their punchline, which is what a vignette should do. It helps expand what would have been an otherwise smallish trade without feeling like filler material.

I am definitely the target audience for a comic like Vic Boone, as I am a sucker for crime fiction with a razor-sharp wit and I love seeing what authors can do with the concept. This is one of the better ones I’ve read from a small publisher, holding to its roots while breaking new ground and is well worth seeking out.

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