Best Shots Advance Reviews: Vertigo's COLLIDER, More

Art from Collider #1
Credit: DC/Vertigo
Art from Collider #1
Art from Collider #1
Credit: DC/Vertigo

Collider #1
Written by Simon Oliver
Art by Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by Vertigo
Review by Aaron Duran
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

On the surface, Collider #1 plays like any other science-gone-amok comic. Truth be told, I am okay with that - those kinds of stories, especially when backed by great art, are a blast. However, after spending some extra time with this comic, something far more interesting began to play out. There are themes and comments on the inherent adaptability, to say nothing of corruptibility, of the human race slowly surfacing. Looking back, it's no small surprise when you think about the comic's foundation in theoretical physics.

Sometime in the near future we humans face a slight hiccup in the world of physics. As in the laws don't always apply. At all. In steps the Federal Bureau of Physics to save, or at the very least, contain the day. Like I said, on the surface writer Simon Oliver drafts an interesting story of wild science with a slight touch of MIB or B.P.R.D.. However, as the comic unfolds, you start to see part of Oliver's master plan. The breaking of the laws of physics are but a extension of the chaos that's slowly found it's way into society.

With the exception of the above mentioned bureau, most public service agencies have become privatized and humanity has truly transformed into “take care of your own” land. Yet we've somehow maintained the appearance of a free and just society. Thankfully, Oliver doesn't bash you over the head with that concept. He slowly weaves it into the story with both character and setting. By showing the slow shift in societal paradigms, Collider makes the reader wonder. Are these changes in the laws a physics the reason, or simply another symptom of a fracturing world?

Robbi Rodriguez might just be the perfect artist for this series. All of his character designs and panels seem to stretch to just beyond the page. Not one person looks 100% correct and in that slight distortion, Rodriguez sets a wonderful visual tone for this comic. There is special attention paid to backgrounds that do more than just place the characters. There are lines and grids weaving within the backgrounds that, like the subject matter, suggest the book itself is no longer playing with established comic book rules.

There appears to little or even no photo referencing of buildings and locations, sticking to just what the artist envisions. It's a subtle little touch, but goes a long way in adding the unsettling nature of the comic. Rico Renzi on colors really brings out the detail in Rodriguez's art. The coloring gives the art a real sense of scope and movement. There were many times in Collider where I could imagine the pages moving as a single piece of animation. Particularity during the moments when our main character is literally within the belly of chaos.

Collider #1 is definitely a book that someone can read for the crazy science and fantastic art. However, to do so would be to miss out on all the questions the creative team is asking. What happens when we rely on something so completely? Even something we thought was as constant as the laws of physics. Can humanity truly adapt to anything the universe wishes to throw at us? What happens when we're the reason these laws fight back? This is a solid debut and hopefully an example of what we can expect as Vertigo slowly evolves and grows.

Amala’s Blade #4
Written by Steve Horton
Art by Michael Dialynas
Lettering by Steve Horton
Published by Dark Horse
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Since its first appearance in Dark Horse Presents #9 at the beginning of 2012, and the subsequent reissue as a zero issue, Amala’s Blade was the kind of tale that demanded our attention. Combining pirate tales with a fearsome female assassin, both cyber- and steampunks and most importantly, a ghost monkey, "Tropical" Steve Horton’s clear sense of humor and adventure were the perfect recipe for this smooth cocktail of old-school fun. As we reach the final chapter in Amala’s tale, it can now be said that this is easily one of the best new limited series of the year.

Assassin Amala, caught between two warring factions like Yojimbo and the Man with No Name before her, has uncovered Prince Markos' plan to re-spark the civil war between Modifiers and Purifiers, although Amala’s actions in response are not entirely expected. This leads to a confrontation with “The Lady Strawbale,” whose true identity was revealed in an earlier issue. In the classic four-act structure of a warrior’s tale, Amala’s mettle is measured and the final confrontation is a pure epic.

Horton has skillfully been applying the brakes and accelerator in equal measure throughout the series, carefully punctuating his world-building exposition with some ripping action pieces. In this final chapter, he’s dutifully committed all the pressure on the forward momentum, rarely pausing for breath in this action-packed issue. If you’ve ever wanted to see tanks, guns and swords going up against mechanised walkers and technology modified troopers, then this is your comic. As the battle reaches its climax, the dramatic aspects fall in line. Some of the last minute twists actually elicited a few gasps, itself an impressive feat towards the end of the book.

One of the other gems of this series has been in the discovery of Michael Dialynas’s art. Influenced by Guy Davis (who provided a variant cover on the very first issue of Amala’s Blade), the SPERA artist really gets to cut loose on these battles. Opening with close-quartered shots and tight framing, Dialynas also demonstrates a knack for getting the biggest picture in such a sequence, creating some beautiful wide shots and splash pages. Almost all of the characters that have featured in this series turn up for a final hurrah, ensuring that Dialynas earns a much needed rest after this. He also gets the final visual gag in the book, which ends the series on the lighthearted foot that it began with. Of course, it won’t be long before we see the artist again, as he’s deservedly just been announced as the artist on the Superior Spider-Man Team-Up Special in October from Marvel.

The worst thing that can be said about Amala’s Blade is that there simply isn’t enough of it to satiate our newfound craving for this character. Indeed, perhaps the only thing that disappoints about this issue is that it’s the end of the story for Amala and her merry gathering of miscreants and mayhem. With any luck, Horton and Dialynas have more like this up their sleeves.

Credit: Image Comics

It Girl and The Atomics #12
Written by Jamie S. Rich
Art by Mike Norton, Natalie Nourigat, Chynna Clugston Flores and Allen Passalaqua
Lettering by Crank!
Published by Image Comics
Review by Lan Pitts
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

For a comic book that unapologetically lets you know it's a comic with its bright characters and all-around strangeness, writer Jamie S. Rich and his team of artists have given readers a true gem. Sadly though, this is the last issue of It Girl and The Atomics. Rich broke the news earlier in the year and here, he was given the chance to wrap everything up with his rotating team of artists - and is done oh so nicely.

What we have here in this issue is three stories brought together at the end. The first pertaining to a bumbling group of supervillains, followed by the KImmanDos taking down an old foe that has plagued the heroes throughout the series, then It Girl and the Slug taking down mummies. The conclusion chapter is a sweet touch that allowed Rich to celebrate the book without going overboard. The fun and whimsy of the issue is still prominent, unlike that issue that had a more dramatic edge.

The artists working on this issue all have the same animated art style that mesh well together and cohesively tell a great story, even if the focus of the characters change. Mike Norton goes first with his usual cartoony flair and it's just plain fun. The absurdness of the character designs makes it all the better. Natalie Nourigat's KImmanDos bit is next and is just as great. Her youthful style works well with the kids as the subject and treats it almost like a Saturday morning cartoon with her use of exaggerated facial expressions and thin, kinetic linework. After that, it's Chynna Glugston Flores' turn and while her style probably deviates the most from the other two, using bolder lines and a more Silver Age panel composition style, it still showcases how much fun the creators of the series had.

Another thing that ties everything nicely together is Allan Passalaqua handling coloring duties. He treats the artists the same throughout the issue giving the book a bright, moddish tone and doesn't oversaturate the pages. Everything works within a balance of warm and cool reds that make everything pop and gives the book a very distinct look.

With this being the last issue, one can hope that while Rich and company may have closed the door for now, that they also cracked a window just in case they needed to come back in for a visit. It Girl and the Atomics was a fresh concept on an older, established, and to some probably unfamiliar, property but was made accessible to old and new readers alike. Cheers to you.

Credit: Image Comics

Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray #5
Written by Frank J. Barbiere
Art by Chris Mooneyham and Lauren Affe
Published by Image Comics
Review by Forrest C. Helvie
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

This issue has a lot of ground to cover. It picks up where it left off with Fabian facing off with the vampire in “The Dreaming” while Iago continues to wreak havoc upon the grounds above. This final issue of the series provides satisfactory closure to Barbiere and Mooneyham’s pulp adventure. Yet, it is also clear how they are creating opportunities for future storylines, given the recent news from Image Comics that Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray will become an ongoing series.

Because this issue serves as the final installment for this story arc, I don’t want to go too far into detail about what takes place so as to avoid any spoilers. What I will say is that it has all the right parts in place that help bring the story together. Admittedly, I would have liked Barbiere to have taken more time with introducing the “skeleton in the closet” early on in the issue. However, I also recognize the practical constraints of telling this story in only a five-issue mini-series, and those are decisions often out of the writer’s control. Now that the series will become an on-going title through Image, Barbiere should have the freedom to take his time and dig deep into the history of Fabian and his supporting cast of characters. And make no mistake: This story delivers a great supernatural pulp adventure, and based on the way this mini-series came together, readers can continue to expect same from the on-going as well.

I’ve said this in just about every review of this miniseries and it should not go without saying yet again: Chris Mooneyham and Lauren Affe make a superb pairing given the type of story they are telling. There is a rough, sketchy quality to Mooneyham’s art that works well in a pulp story where a more polished aesthetic would somehow feel a bit out of place. After all, it’s a not a polished and highly stylized world in which this story is set. Moreover, Affe’s more simple color palette eschews some of the more overwrought and complex renderings in many other comics today. The scenes including the vampire were very reminiscent of Raphael Albuquerque in American Vampire without feeling at all derivative in any way. Frankly, it’s good to see vampires returning back to their terror-inspiring roots and Mooneyham shows his skills in his depictions of the fifth and final ghost. I won’t lie: this ghost is the one I’m looking forward to seeing more of in future stories as he represents something darker within Fabian that we saw hints of earlier in this story.

If you haven’t read Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray yet, don’t buy this issue unless you’re planning to pick up issues 1-4 as well. And that would be a pretty good idea if you haven’t. Readers who have been following along since the beginning are not going to want to miss out on getting the final answers to Fabian’s first encounter with the Dreamstone shards, his sister’s mysterious condition, and the conclusion to his pending battle with the demonic Iago.

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