Greetings, Rama Readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, hitting 88 miles per hour with the Best Shots Team to bring you a trio of advance reviews to take a look at tomorrow's books, today! And for those who want to see what else we've hit, just take a peek at the Best Shots Topic Page. And now, let's put an end to the latest New Orleans crime story, as I take a peek at the final issue of Kody Chamberlain's Sweets…
Written and Illustrated by Kody Chamberlain
Published by Image Comics
Review by David Pepose
"Finish what you started."
There's an eerie moment in the last issue of Sweets, as we see the near-mystical destructiveness of the killer terrorizing New Orleans, as he's drawn like a magnet to finding victims that will do the most damage. Yet every magnet has its opposite, and in this case, it's the one man connected to all these victims — Detective Curt Delatte. And while there are still plenty of threads that will bedevil you after you finish this book, the sheer atmosphere Kody Chamberlain exudes with this head-on collision makes Sweets a book worth reading.
The thing, at least for me, that's made Sweets such an interesting read is the fact that Chamberlain has really pulled himself up by his bootstraps with this project — he raised the money himself via Kickstarter, he wrote it, drew it, colored it, lettered it, shopped it out — he's a one-man band, and the fact that this story read so well as a complete package is nothing short of amazing.
And it's clear just by cracking the cover that Chamberlain is a true artist, giving a sort of Sean-Phillips-noir-by-way-of-Frank-Miller scratchiness to his characters, all washed out in that paint-splattered yellow and brown. And because of the nature of this story — with deranged antagonist and increasingly unhinged hero — that Chamberlain's able to really accommodate for his style, being able to stretch and distort and even skimp on the details when it suits him, and it always winds up feeling like the right style for the story. Everything just drips with ominous mood, as Chamberlain alludes repeatedly to a storm "coming right at us" — but Mother Nature is not all we have to worry about. Mankind's got plenty of edge waiting for us.
It's that artwork and real-life journey for this story that, in many ways, overshadows some of the writing here. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing — there are going to be plenty of purists for detective stories who might cry foul that the story breaks so many rules. The protagonist doesn't really get a clear shot at the bad guy. The end twist ratchets the stakes up far past New Orleans, but doesn't really feel like a lot of set-up. And what about the subplot with the prostitutes? So often you hear that books could have shed an issue or two, but in the case of Sweets, you almost wish there was another issue in the wings, just so you could address some of these loose threads.
Still, at the same time, with time running out and the page count getting tight, Chamberlain makes the right call for what he has — it's direct, it's to the point, and it adds an aura of downright spookiness. How does Sweets know the right domino to push, to make the whole thing come crashing down? It's never explicitly stated, and that lack of explanation — even the lack of characterization for the killer, outside of the skewed-perspective flashbacks, told in inhuman greens and blues — ends up making for a villain that's larger than life, that's more powerful dead than alive.
Even if it breaks a lot of rules — and ultimately runs a little too fast to make sense as far as the detective story structure goes — the book is more than just its plot. There's such a deliberate style to how Sweets looks and feels and behaves, it almost feels like a living, breathing organism rather than just a single issue. People who have been reading this book, it's definitely worth the conclusion, and people who haven't been able to pick it up should definitely get the whole thing. This is a book that you don't read in single-issue chunks, but reread to get a new sense of the story as a whole. This kind of care and craftsmanship isn't just art — it's magic.
Written by Chris Roberson
Art by Khary Randolph and Mitch Gerads
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by Lan Pitts
Have you been missing out on this series? The same series that is turning into one of my new favorites? Perfect! This is a great jumping on point for new readers out there. The way how Chris Roberson writes the fish-out-of-water/accidental hero with Benjamin Warner has that classic 60's Marvel feel to it, then again, this does have Stan Lee's name attached so I shouldn't be that surprised by now.
When we left off from the last issue, Benjamin and his shape-shifting bodyguard, Tara fled Earth on the run from the alien collective, the Hive. They now are in the presence of General Cur Talon, a fierce war hero that reminds of Han Solo on steroids. The tension between Tara and Talon is apparent, as the two don't exactly trust one another. The trio soon are engaged in a dogfight and have to land on a nearby planet, where more of the mystery grows thicker.
The thing about Starborn is that it really is unlike anything that BOOM! puts out. I think Roberson's grasp for the more alien, and fantastical concepts are a good fit here. I've compared this to The Last Starfighter before , but here it branches off into almost Star Trek territory with even more alien worlds and characters. Khary Randolph choreographs a terrific dogfight sequence with his kinetic style and interesting use of perspective. Mitch Gerads' colors are not as dynamic as they have been in previous issues, but still does a great job with the space environments and alien textures.
The major complaint I've had of the series is the pacing, but here it really starts gaining momentum. Part of me wishes the narrative wasn't so heavy, but the other part enjoys learning about these far off civilizations as Benjamin learns as well. As I mentioned, this is a perfect jumping on point for new readers as it begins a new arc. There is a small paragraph in the beginning of the book that briefly catches you up. If you're looking for a sci-fi kick in your longbox, look no further than Starborn.
Battle Chasers Anthology
Written by Joe Madureira and Munier Sharrieff
Illustrated by Joe Madureira
Published by Image Comics
Review by Jeff Marsick
It was just the other day that I was wondering what happened to Battle Chasers, one of the original tentpoles of the Cliffhanger comic line that, at the time, was the most dynamic action fantasy comic on the shelves.
If you’re not savvy, it’s an adventure tale of nine-year-old Gully who searches for her father, an enigmatic warrior who has left behind a mysterious pair of magical gloves. Gully’s path crosses with Garrison, a renowned yet haunted swordsman who has unwittingly freed a quartet of villains from their prison and who must now stop their murderous spree. Joining them is a wizard named Knolan, a triple-Z endowed bounty hunter named Monika, and my favorite, a war golem named Calibretto. It’s everything you want in a fantasy comic book and then some.
The series ran for nine issues (well, ten if you count the issue zero prelude) and the final book, issue ten, still hasn’t seen the light of day since series creator Joe Madureira moved on to other projects. Up until this point you could get the series through three collected editions, so finally getting it all under one hardcover collection was certainly a treat. Gully and gang have been long relegated to the depths of my longbox collection somewhere in the basement, so I was pleasantly surprised upon the re-read to see that Joey Mad’s D&D-on-steroids vision stands the test of time. It’s still fun and emotional with a fast pace that just sucks you in.
And there’s a lot going on here besides story. From Joe Madureira’s kinetic and unique pencils to the eye-popping colors by Christian Lichtner and Aron Lusen to the amazing lettering by Richard Starkings and his Comicraft team that makes the dialogue and sound effects leap off the page. Lettering alone is a reason to buy this book; it’s a workshop in fontsmanship that has few peers.
This hardcover collection is gorgeous, well put-together by Image. But it’s still just issues zero to nine, which is going to be off-putting to some: $100 cover for a collection that doesn’t have the final chapter? First off, you can find a great deal on Amazon and secondly, it’s totally worth it. If you’re holding out until issue ten is completed and collected, well, that’s about as likely as Lethal Weapon 5 coming to a theater near you. Don’t be stubborn about it, just go out and get this book.