Best Shots Advance Reviews: PROMETHEUS, DR. MIRAGE, TEEN DOG First Issues

Credit: BOOM! Studios
Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Prometheus: Fire and Stone #1
Written by Paul Tobin
Art by Juan Ferreyra
Lettering by Nate Piekos
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Review by Justin Partridge, III
'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10

Remember when Prometheus was supposed to be the biggest thing ever to hit sci-fi cinema? Heady days, my friends, but sadly, they didn’t last. Thankfully, Dark Horse Comics has picked up where Ridley Scott and Damon Lindelof left off with Paul Tobin and Juan Ferreyra’s Prometheus: Fire and Stone #1, the first entry into Dark Horse’s ambitious Prometheus/Aliens/Predator/Aliens vs. Predator crossover project. The idea of four separate series of comic books being handled like a season of television - complete with a writer’s room - is enough to make me mildly curious as to what these books have to offer, and Prometheus: Fire and Stone #1 is a solid enough start that hits a lot of the same notes that the film did. Unfortunately, the majority of those notes are a bit tedious and don’t really pop until the last two pages - much like the film itself. < b>Prometheus: Fire and Stone #1 is by no means a blockbuster, but there is enough atmosphere and mood on display here to keep fans moderately satisfied until the next series debuts later this month.

Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Prometheus: Fire and Stone #1 follows almost the exact plot of the film, complete with a quirky crew and a captain hiding something from the rest of her crew, as they make their way to LV-223 to investigate exactly what happened to the crew lost in the film. Writer Paul Tobin smartly frames the entire action of this issue through the lens of the ship’s documentarian, Clara, as she interviews each of the crew, introducing them to readers and the fictional audience. Tobin stocks the ship with reliable but tired stock characters like the wise cracking security chief Helder and the shifty lab assistant Elden, who may very well be a synthetic, because you have to have a synthetic in anything Aliens-related. 

While this is all fine and good, you can’t help feel that you have seen this exact thing before, more than few times. Tobin does, however, throw in an interesting twist as well as a hefty bit of connection to the upcoming Alien comic to give this story a little more sizzle. When last we saw LV-223 it was a barren moon, but now, it is a jungle teeming with all sorts of strange alien life. While the stock nature of the characters and plot are a bit of a let-down, Tobin generates a feeling of genuine dread and apprehension with these scenes, highlighting various strange aspects of the moon’s ecosystem to foster a rich feeling of sci-fi creepiness. The Alien franchise started its life sustained by mood, and what Prometheus: Fire and Stone #1 lacks in originality and character, it more than makes up for with cosmic dread.

Credit: Dark Horse Comics

That feeling of creeping dread you feel throughout is due in large part to artist Juan Ferreyra, who takes to the grimy, lived in nature of this universe like a xenomorph takes to a air shaft. Ferreyra draws Prometheus: Fire and Stone #1 much like an issue of Heavy Metal with heavy inks, murky yet lush colors, and a heap of horrifying creature designs apart from our favorite xenomorph. Something that I’ve always responded to in the Alien franchise was just how practical and downright hard it looked to live and work in space. Ferreyra nails that with his depictions of the ship’s dingy hallways and cargo bays. He also does the book one better by making the surface of LV-223 almost a character itself as it constantly shifts, oozes, and throws another odd alien life form at our explorers. Science fiction recently has taken a turn toward the inspiring and bright and that is amazing, but in an Alien book, I want to feel as if the surroundings could kill the characters at any moment and Juan Ferreyra’s work throughout this debut issue gave me that black pit in the center of my stomach. That is the highest possible compliment I could pay to Prometheus: Fire and Stone #1.

Dark Horse Comics has had a long and fruitful relationship with licensed comics, and while Prometheus: Fire and Stone #1 isn’t the most stellar start to their new licensed venture, there is still the spark of potential there. I honestly don’t think it will really shock readers to find out that the book based on a notable bummer of a movie isn’t exactly ground-breaking, but who knows? The creative team is certainly capable enough just based on this first issue to actually turn the known potential of Prometheus into something captivating. Add to that the possibility of a crossover that we were teased with in the film itself as well as the potential thrill of seeing a Predator and an Engineer tangling within the pages of Prometheus: Fire and Stone and we may just have a pretty strong story on our hands later this year.

Credit: Valiant Comics

The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage #1
Written by Jen Van Meter
Art by Roberto De La Torre and David Baron
Lettering by Dave Lanphear
Published by Valiant Entertainment
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10

When there's something strange in the neighborhood, who ya gonna call? In the case of Valiant Entertainment, it's The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage, a paranormal investigator with a solid high concept, but not quite enough flashiness in the execution. The character may be decently likable and has a wide world to play in, but there's nothing ground-breaking or memorable in this book to make it really stand out.

Credit: Valiant Comics

Jen Van Meter starts the book off right by having Doctor Mirage enact, for lack of a better term, a seance for a group of mourning spouses. It's a smart move, not only illustrating that spirits and ghosts are Mirage's business, but also showing that she's a wounded soul, mourning over the loss of her husband. Mirage is a bit of a misanthrope, and that makes for a decent protagonist in this otherworldly investigation, since she's savvy enough not to trust anything or anyone. Van Meter also gives her an interesting mystery to crack, showing that even Mirage's clients might have some dangerous skeletons in their closet - skeletons that might be able to stand up and pull our heroine into places she doesn't want to go.

That said, this might sound familiar to you - and that's because this is very familiar. Almost everything in this book is familiar. The dead ghostly husband trope we've seen in Katana, the paranormal adventurer in Hexed. Even the various wards she places on her house don't distinguish her beyond Doctor Strange. The problem also lies in the pacing - because Van Meter spends so long explaining Mirage's client's story, we barely get to see our hero actually in action. This issue ends just when the story begins.

Credit: Valiant Comics

The artwork, by Roberto De La Torre, is gritty and gnarled, but there is something missing here, as well. Part of it is Mirage's design, and the fact that she's immediately in costume from the first page. Van Meter has a decent explanatory line about the uniform being mystical armor enchanted by Mirage's late husband, but it stumbles on two levels: it's different enough just to stand out as not "ordinary" clothing, but it's not interesting enough to serve as a viable superhero costume. There's no occult symbols or talismans here, just a black jumpsuit with white every so often. It looks like an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., not a headliner. Another weak spot in the issue is just the panel-to-panel storytelling - De La Torre focuses in on the headshots when he needs to, but he isn't able to get some really memorable wide shots to seal the deal.

There's something to be said for The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage, which still has one of the best title names on the stands. But beyond that snappy sobriquet, the actual story feels done to death. Believe it or not, there are tons of self-reliant, powerful female protagonists out there - but there needs to be more than just that. The high concept needs to be there. The emotional stakes need to be there. And the story needs to get to the point as fast as humanly possible. Without that, The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage is only the illusion of a viable story.

Credit: BOOM! Studios

Teen Dog #1
Written and Illustrated by Jake Lawrence
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

What if the coolest kid in school was actually a dog? And what if, by the virtue of his epic coolness, the rest of the universe simply bent into his dog-shaped image?

Wonder no more. Read Teen Dog instead.

Like a canine Fonzarelli, Teen Dog's trials and tribulations can barely be called that - it's just a dog's world, and the rest of Tantamount High School is just living in it. Jake Lawrence sets up most of his jokes in one to two pages, bringing some nice chuckles to the gauntlet of high school. Unlike, say, his Simpsons counterpart Poochy, Teen Dog's defining characteristic is that he isn't trying too hard - in one of the book's most surprisingly sharp moments, he tells his nemesis Thug Pug "learn to love yourself then the world will too." Whoa. Too real.

Credit: BOOM! Studios

But the sight gags, aided by Lawrence's Scott Pilgrim-esque linework, help make this a light, fun read. Things like Teen Dog and his BFF Mariella's "secret handshake" winds up having their hands literally liquify and transport themselves into the void. Other sit com cliches like the principal screaming "Teen Dog!" when our hero shows up with just a hamburger to class gives this book the right kind of ironic touch. Perhaps my favorite line of the bunch is his philosophizing on pizza: "I get older but it always stays the same."

Of course, there will be plenty of people who dismiss this book as hipster pretension or one-note banality. They aren't necessarily wrong. I wouldn't say there's any overarching story here, and certainly very little tension - this reads more like a collection of comic strips (or, even more appropriately, a collection of webcomics) that just so happen to have a unifying lead character. It's okay. Not all books have to be super-serious. Not every book has to have the fate of the free world at stake. Sometimes it's just okay to enjoy the funny pictures.

And that's ultimately what Teen Dog is about. It's not trying too hard, but instead just cruising away on its low-key, quirky charms, hoping the rest of the world will chillax with it, too. There are worse literary crimes. If you're looking for a goofy, optimistic take on high school without all the stress and hassle, Teen Dog could be a reader's best friend.

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