Best Shots Advance Reviews: SATELLITE SAM #2, PATHFINDER: GOBLINS! #1

Satellite Sam #2
Credit: Image Comics
Satellite Sam #2
Satellite Sam #2
Credit: Image Comics

Satellite Sam #2
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Howard Chaykin
Lettering by Ken Bruzenak
Published by Image Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Having taken the superhero mainstream by storm with his unique and multi-award-winning Hawkeye in the last year, not to mention writing both Fantastic Four and FF for Marvel, writer Matt Fraction seems less than content with maintaining only a handful of accolade-worthy material on the comic shelves. With the first issue of Satellite Sam, Fraction combined two of the major themes of his recent works, depicting an incredibly dysfunctional family (of sorts) struggling to hold it together as one knock begets the next in the naked city that is New York of the 1950s. Coupling with the legendary Howard Chaykin, it’s a match made in period comics heaven.

Fraction gave us a glimpse under the hood in the first episode, and all indications are that this will be a slow reveal, despite the sexually charged discoveries of the previous cliffhanger. Michael White’s father, the titular star of a popular live television show, is dead. As the station desperately tries to keep him on board as his father’s replacement, Michael is tending towards finding his solutions at the bottom of a bottle. Just as Mike shies away from being the star of the series, so too does Fraction maneuver us away from the idea that this book is about any single person. Instead, he keeps his narrative structured around the ensemble that are connected to the man and the show, this month focusing on Dr. Joseph Ginsberg, the founder and owner of the LeMonde Network. His concerns around losing the program to the West Coast drive the drama in this outing.

The opening page is sliced into ten panels that introduce the players in this opera, and serves a dual purpose. It not only indicates how rich and complex this serial is by its second issue, perhaps more so than titles that are decades older, but it the only exposition Fraction affords us before dropping us back into the thick of it. Finding some kind of middle ground between Paddy Chayefsky, James Ellroy and Aaron Sorkin, Satellite Sam blends the seedy underbelly of 1950s television with a crime drama. Moving at a rapid pace, Fraction’s overlapping dialogue belies the slower tension that is bubbling under the surface. As we watch Michael unable to achieve instant self-gratification over a row of naked photos, Fraction might just as well be speaking directly to an audience who demand a similarly quick climax.

There are few more perfect unions than Fraction and Chaykin, with the latter truly in his element here. From the-world weary Ginsberg to the decline of Michael in just three panels, Chaykin imbues these characters with character. Chaykin is reigned in somewhat by Fraction’s own restraint, not allowing either party to let it all hang out just yet. If you can stand to be on the edge of your chosen place to sit for the foreseeable future, then Satellite Sam might just be one of the most layered and handsome new comics of this or any year.

Pathfinder: Goblins! #1
Pathfinder: Goblins! #1
Credit: Dynamite

Pathfinder: Goblins! #1
Written by Adam Warren and Erik Mona
Art by Carlos Gomez, Shane White, Teo Gonzalez and Mark Roberts
Lettering by Marshall Dillon
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Review by Aaron Duran
'Rama Rating 8 out of 10

Over in the role playing game world, Paizo Publishing is making a big push with their Goblins adventures and miniatures collection. So, it makes perfect sense for their comic book partners at Dynamite to put their own spin on the iconic and annoying fantasy creatures. Forget all notions you might have of the brutish and blood-thirsty creatures from Middle Earth. These little beasts are nothing but walking bundles of chaos and crazy. More in line with the creatures that inhabit the film Labyrinth, by way of Wile E. Coyote. Wisely believing you can't really hold a complete comic with these one (maybe two) trick monsters, Pathfinder – Goblins! #1 gives the reader a couple of fresh tales.

Opening with “The One-Eyed Goblin is King”, writer Adam Warren pens the more traditional story of the two. Doing what they do best, some Goblins ambush battle weary PCs, savagely dispatch their foes, and steal their loot. Almost immediately, Warren lets the reader in on the joke. By only naming the soon to be dead characters by their Class alone - mage, paladin, etc., we know this isn't some sprawling epic. This is going to be chaotic fun that will appeal to the fan that likes a little cartoony violence with their slapstick. Which is also the stories only real hindrance as well, as I'll get to in a minute.

The art by Carlos Gomez is exactly what fans of the Pathfinder RPG have come to expect. With their massive heads sitting atop freakishly scrawny bodies and spindling legs, Warren expertly captures their comedic though dangerous look. However, like Warren, Gomez might have drawn the pages a little too well. Or, at least with too much attention to the moment of violence. This is a nasty story. Mind you, most of the over the top violence is done by and on the Goblins and in the classic “keep it PG” style, they don't bleed red. Still, I imagine this is a story that would appeal to younger role players. While most gleefully perform such actions at the gaming table, it's another thing entirely to see it come to life on the page. Parents might want to skim the story first. Still, it's a fun ride.

“Prize Pupil” from longtime game designer and writer Erik Mona reads more like a classic story from Dragon magazine. Indeed, even the art from Shane White gives a nice nod to the look gamers came to expect in the late 1970s to early 1980s. Although not as obviously dark or violent, there is a definite sense of real villainy within this story. A nobleman attempts to civilize the wild and savage Goblins so that they may be sold into service throughout the land. Upon first reading, the story works for simple gags as we watch the creatures mess up one simple task after another. However, as the story progresses, you get the sense that Mona is pulling much of the content from darker moments of our own history. It's not an easy balance and seems rather out of place in a comic inspired by monsters designed for slaughter by the earliest of gamers.

Shane White's pencils are a little on the cartoony side but still work well with the story. His strongest element are the individual expressions on each of the Goblins. It's fairly easy and forgivable to let them all slip into the same look. White avoids that pitfall and makes sure that each one has a definable appearance that goes a long way in selling their personality. Mark Roberts on colors makes good use of the negative space provided by White. The colors are what truly bring the creatures and setting to life in this story. Although not as vibrant or over the top as the previous story, White and Roberts tell a story that has a longer lasting visual impact.

Pathfinder: Goblins! #1 might not be the fantasy comic the hardcore fan wants. But if you like a little slapstick (with a slice of ethics) slipped in with your sword and sorcery, then this is a solid read. A nice one-shot to enhance your gaming and reading experience.

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