Best Shots Advance Reviews: SUICIDE RISK, TEN GRAND, More


Suicide Risk #1

Written by Mike Carey

Art by Elena Casagrande and Andrew Elder

Letters by Ed Dukeshire

Published by BOOM! Studios

Review by George Marston

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Mike Carey's Suicide Risk starts with an intriguing concept, taking a look at the lives — and deaths — of the human cops who have to deal with a newly burgeoning wave of superhuman crime. And while it's a little disappointing how quickly the simplicity of that idea gets complicated, Suicide Risk still gets its hooks in, setting up a world where super powers are still a new and dangerous commodity.

Suicide Risk starts strong, playing on a model of normal people in an abnormal world that's often been touched in comics, but rarely used as wisely, or with as much impact as in the opening scenes of the issue. After the impact of the opening scenes, the breezy nature with which Suicide Risk spirals into more familiar and less exciting territory sells short some well-begun characterization, and misses some opportunities to expand on the key themes of the book.

The real strength, and, in turn, tragedy of Suicide Risk is Mike Carey's excellent ability to fully sell the world these characters inhabit. With a minimum of effort, the basis of an obviously intricate mythology is laid out convincingly enough to leave the reader with only the kind of questions that warrant further reading rather than head scratching. The downside is that, while this central concept is strong, and the world feels formed enough, the characters that inhabit it fall by the wayside. There are strong beats — Leo, the main character, sells the clichés he embodies in a Don Draper meets Travis Bickle kind of way — but too often moments that could do with a little breathing room are cramped, leading the issue's ending to feel more typical and unremarkable than it probably should.

Still, despite its flaws, there's more potential in Suicide Risk than is squandered by a lack of time spent investing in the characters. Nearly every page has some new concept or character sprung forth from Carey's imagination and brought to colorful, engaging life by Elena Casagrande. The artist's ostentatious character designs and humble set pieces, coupled with the strength of her storytelling are the glue that holds Suicide Risk together. Casagrande's deft hand smoothes over the cracks in the plot, creating a world that begs exploring if only to see more of what she and Carey can dream up by way of supervillains and sci-fi gimmicks.

Overall, Suicide Risk marks a much stronger debut than many superhero comics are lucky to get these days. While it has its share of flaws, mainly stemming from a lack of time building up the central characters before drastically changing their world, Suicide Risk packs in more intrigue and merit than disappointment. The biggest success for the big is that it presents an interesting enough world, and an engaging enough hook to make readers want to know more about the characters, to feel the impact that's missing from this issue's last few pages, to inhabit their world, and unravel the mysteries within it. And in today's superhero landscape, that's about as big a success as you can hope for in a brand new concept.


Ten Grand #1

Written by J. Michael Straczynski

Art by Ben Templesmith

Lettering by Troy Peteri

Published by Image Comics

Review by Pierce Lydon

'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

J. Michael Straczynski is one of the best and most divisive writers in comics today. His runs on corporate heroes like Thor, Spider-Man and Superman are well-known and plenty talked about. His forays into other media, such as film and television, have been largely successful as well. Ten Grand marks the return of Straczynski’s “Joe’s Comics” imprint that started at Top Cow and has followed him to his new company, Studio JMS. With the help of veteran comic artist, Ben Templesmith, Straczynski crafts a supernatural tale that wouldn’t seem out of place on network television lineup but might not be all that original.

The art style is what I first noticed in Ten Grand. By using a glut of dark colors interspersed with slightly warmer sequences, Templesmiith is able to convey the tone of a scene before you even read a word. The color work is intense but not distracting. The line work exudes something of a Sienkiewiczian element to it. It’s sketchy but the clarity of the storytelling is never lost. The protagonist Joe’s interaction with an angel is by far the best scene in the book as the art really comes together.

The story itself doesn’t hold up as well as the art though. There are shades of Hellboy and Hellblazer combined with a love story that has yet to be fleshed out. The pacing of the story is a little off-putting. Joe flips back and forth between being present in the action and narrating it as well as providing backstory and commentary during flashback sequences. The writing is better when the narration is mostly absent and the characters are actually interacting with one another. Case and point, the dialogue is snappy, particularly in the bar scene and the strip club scene, and it moves the plot along. But the end of the issue does little to excite readers about what’s to come. It gives a reason for the status quo of the main character but it gives little reason to actually care about what happens to Joe.

JMS is a notorious for slow pacing in his work. But in the past (think Thor), he was at least giving us something to come back for. The world of story here isn’t something we haven’t seen before in other supernatural-tinged work, but it might be too early to actually say that. Certain elements (such as the way Joe summons the angel) are interesting but not enough to pick up a book. Templesmith’s art really carries this issue along but JMS is going to have to step it up to keep readers coming back.


The Victories #1

Written by Michael Avon Oeming

Art by Michael Avon Oeming and Nick Filardi

Lettering by Aaron Walker

Published by Dark Horse Comics

Review by Forrest C. Helvie 

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Set in a the near-future in a world populated by violent superheroes and villains, The Victories #1 picks up where the mini-series left off after the depraved Jackal — a super-powered terrorist — casts the world into darkness, where electricity is no available and the fixed rules of society are now in question.

The writing in this first issue provides readers with an interesting mix: It moves from discussing society’s unhealthy obsession with electronics and communication to some dry, sardonic commentaries on the blindness of villains who fail to recognize how the cost of their various accoutrements far outweighs any reward from their petty bank robberies and the delusions of grandeur permeating throughout their monologues. It’s a little meta without going over the top. The story also touches upon the often-ignored subject of sexuality and violence inherent in the superhero genre through the eyes of one The Victories’ female members and the ways these heroes use their role as public vigilantes to not protect the public but also work out their respective psychological issues. It will be interesting to see how Oeming tackles body image — a concern espoused by DD Mau and her rather… unique power set.

Oeming’s artistic style is unique—it’s not hard to pick his line work out from a crowd of other artists’ pages—and it provides a visual break from the industry norm. What is noteworthy about this issue though is the way in which he plays with the form to communicate his characters’ physiological states of mind and body in this issue, especially when the villain places the Superman-like hero, Metatron, in a state of intoxication. Oeming’s visuals play with the reader’s sense of sight in such a way that replicates how that individual might actually see if he or she was as intoxicated as the leader of The Victories through the use of panel bleed outs and images that overlap and whose color is distorted.

In past interviews regarding this series, Oeming discussed how his past life experiences informed the original miniseries (2012) and the shorts published in Dark Horse Comics Presents, which centered largely on the character, Faustus — modeled in part on Batman but whose man behind the cowl is far more broken and motivated by an entirely different set of reasons. Reading this first issue of the on-going series, however, it is clear there are many more real life issues Oeming aims to tackle within his superhero fiction.

While readers will certainly benefit from having read the previous mini-series, they will find this first issue provides more than enough background to follow along with the narrative without feeling confused. Perhaps the one criticism of this book is the amount of exposition present; however, it does help provide a bridge for readers to gain a better understanding of the world initially introduced in the miniseries, so it is not without purpose. Moreover, Oeming avoids pairing his discussion of more philosophical issues with mere talking heads, and instead, aptly pairs visuals that compliment his prose. Fans of superhero comics will find this series aims to provide a more thought-provoking, adult-oriented narrative rather than some of the more commonly applied cheap thrills and melodrama within the genre.


Artifacts #27

Written by Ron Marz

Art by Marco Turini, Andy Troy, and Bill Farmer

Lettering by Troy Peteri

Published by Top Cow

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

With Tom Judge having built a sort of entourage the past dozen issues or so, it's interesting to see him one-on-one with one of the Artifact bearers. Here, Magdalena shares the spotlight with Judge as they try to find the Glacier Stone and run into an old acquaintance who has a past with the stone, and then running across the new holder of the frosty Artifact. Problem is, I don't think it's going to give it up so easily.

Ron Marz basically sets up a buddy cop routine here with Mags and Judge, with him showcasing what the "Catholic Church's Bastion against all evil" can really do. Considering Artifacts is sort of like The West Wing of the Top Cow universe with its vast array of characters, not everybody can be have their defining moment in every issue, so the spotlight is shared amongst the bearers. Here, it's most definitely Mags that gets a little more time in the sun.

The script itself is a solid read and the dynamic of Judge and Mags is shown well in this issue. Magdalena's short-lived ongoing gave Marz some time to expand on her as a character and Artifacts continues that tradition. Judge's and Mag's relationship is explored here in a sort of co-workers who are forced to partner up, much to their chagrin. It reads like a mystery novel, but without going over your head. Marz's ability to be as accessible as possible to new readers shines through here with how Mags and Judge are introduced, as well as the third player later on at the end of the issue.

Usual Artifacts artist Stjepan Sejic is missing again and Marco Turini takes the stage again with the main artistic duty. While Turini's traditional style is a big departure from Sejic's and the series' aesthetics as a whole, it's pretty easy on the eyes. He has a good eye for panel layouts and keeps the pacing interesting without relying on too much repeating visuals. His style is in the same vibe as Joe Eisma's, but with broader lines. It's detailed, but not to the point of excess.

The biggest issue with Turini though is here and there, he'll have a choppy panel that doesn't fit the rest of the page. A weird angle or odd close up in some pages in the middle of the book deters the flow. Sort of like starting the alphabet with "m" instead of "a". It just sticks out and you're left wondering how and why that's there and what he could have done better. Aside that issue, his art is strong enough to follow Seijc properly and colorists Andy Troy and Bill Farmer give a deep richness to the linework with a cool palette enriched with blues and grays that give the book just the right mood.

Artifacts #27 is a great jumping on point if you've been missing out. The "Progeny" arc just ended with the previous issue, and while things aren't really all nice and wrapped up, this issue gives a good example of what you're in for as well as the characters and the world at large.

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