Greetings, Rama readers! Ready for tomorrow's reads, today? Have no fear, Best Shots is bending time and space to bring a trio of advance reviews. Want some back-issue books? Check out the Best Shots Topic Page! And now, class is back in session, as we take a look at the latest issue of Morning Glories…Morning Glories #11
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Joe Eisma and Alex Sollazzo
Lettering by Johnny Lowe
Published by Image Comics
Review by David Pepose
What a knockout.
For the first nine or so months, Morning Glories was good, but it was missing a certain something. Not anymore. Last issue, Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma took the dial and cranked it till it broke off, and it's exciting as hell to see that they're not stopping this week. Following spoiled, sick rich kid Ike, this issue crackles with cleverness, even as the art team continues to blow the roof off reader expectations.
The thing that stood out most to me about this issue is that it seems like Nick Spencer is just having a ridiculous amount of fun with Ike. This is the kid with all the right lines, all the ridiculous over-the-top stunts, including knocking out a rival at his father's company… by bringing his daughters to the boardroom. "Sorry I'm late, gentlemen. Tennis," he says. "Or at least we were on a tennis court, I believe." But snappy dialogue isn't all that Spencer brings to the table — his structure is also really immaculate, bouncing between Ike's present at Morning Glory Academy, his past dirty secrets, and the road he took in between.
But I'd be remiss if I didn't give some serious credit to Joe Eisma and Alex Sollazzo. If you had told me that the visuals for Morning Glories were going to look this good when I read the first issue, I probably wouldn't have believed you — the art team has grown by so much in eleven issues, really just punching out of their weight class again and again. Eisma in particular has been doing some great things with composition and body language, which really adds so much to the occasionally brittle linework of his facial expressions. The look on Ike's face as he takes a sip of his father's liquor, that's a rock star moment right there. And Miss Daramount's appearance? Wowza. The thing about Eisma and Sollazzo is that they're not the natural fan-favorite MVPs — instead, they're eating their Wheaties and working their asses off, and that growth is just stunning.
In certain ways, this issue represents the kind of artistic growth that Spencer has been exhibiting over the past year, with this character piece being very reminiscent of the fantastic opening arc he wrote on DC's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. Characterization isn't enough in this day and age — characters have to be interesting, they have to have a book that keeps you reading. Ike is a kid who has plenty of hooks, from his deep dirty secret to the imperious snakiness he wears as his bulletproof shield. Combine this with an art team that is more ambitious with their craft than anyone on the stands, and you have a book you can't miss.Starborn #9
Written by Chris Roberson
Art by Khary Randolph and Mitch Gerads
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by Wendy Holler
"And we're off!" Starborn #9 doesn't begin with those words, but it might as well. This issue, the first of a new arc, introduces itself with the speed of a Saturday morning cartoon. The setup is easy to grasp and fun. The art is efficient, playful, and symbolic. The writing dispenses with backstory quickly and revels unapologetically in the story's concept. The pace of the series is frenetic, though, and when the cosmic plot events do arrive in this issue, they feel hollow compared to the story's smaller moments. The result is a strange combination of delightful and frustrating, a comic whose parts outweigh its sum.
Let me be clear: the parts of Starborn are well worth the time devoted to them. The comic's main character, Benjamin, is a writer whose fictional worlds turn out to be true. The twist is that the stories in his head are propaganda set there by his father, the totalitarian ruler of an interstellar empire. Benjamin inherits the consequences of absolute authority, like the wicked-looking gauntlet left to him by his dad, and the gift comes with at least as much trouble as advantage.
Benjamin isn't the only writer addressing the interstellar conflict, and this issue opens with Benjamin's visit to that other man. Kirk Allen, this other writer, tells stories from the point of view of the working class, the beings ruled by Benjamin's father. Kirk plays Joseph Conrad to Benjamin's Rudyard Kipling, and the comic's art regularly and cleverly contrasts these two views of the Human Civilization. Benjamin's visit is soon interrupted by the arrival of another alien contingent, and the aforementioned cosmic events enter in loud and dramatic fashion.
Starborn is a comic about a war of ideas, the conflict between two different notions of civilization. This comic is also fun, and those things together ought to make it one of the best comics of the year. The main problem here is follow-through. Early issues of the series have moments, like the introduction of the Gauntlet, that suggest that the external events are going to be symbolic of interior changes taking place in the characters. The larger plot arcs haven't quite followed through on this promise, and this particular issue follows that trend. The actions of the antagonists are frustrating and totalitarian, an irony that is surely purposeful but also lacking in the kind of nuance that might comment on the comic's larger themes.
Individual elements of this issue are very good indeed. Many panels set the characters against one another visually as well as with dialogue. The comic tells small and adorable visual jokes, and the main character voices all of the "why can't we all just get along?" frustration of the young and inexperienced. The art is fantastic, and the coloring in particular strikes the perfect balance of grandeur and menace, otherworldliness and homeliness. The comic is lit by cartoon tones, but the complementary color schemes and shadow-sensitive inking keep the art feeling believable and cohesive. I'm particularly fond of the return to this slimmer, younger-looking version of Benjamin, an artistic choice that emphasizes the character's inexperience and helps justify his approach to his situation. The conflicts of the comic play out on a couple of different levels, and on a page-to-page basis, the issue is great fun. No one throws a punch, but that feels like the story being true to itself rather than any kind of weakness.
The space opera world of Starborn has great potential, and part of the frustration of the comic is the degree to which the characters seem to careen from one moment of crisis to another. The central conflict has great story possibilities, and it would be fascinating to see characters in that world working out how to incorporate the extremes of nationalism and insurrection. That's clearly the role of the focus character, but I'd love to see a simple Pride backstory or a coming-of-age story for a Witch of Arbor. More than anything else, this comic is rife with possibility, and though it does sometimes miss its mark, the comic's energy and enthusiasm are a welcome counterpoint to some of the summer's darker titles and crossovers.The Living Corpse: Exhumed #1
Written by Ken Haeser
Art and Story by Ken Haeser and Buz Hasson
Colors by Chris Hewitt
Lettering by Ken Haeser
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Review by George Marston
Zombie comics are getting a little bit tired these days. The last five years have seen them explode in popularity; from "Marvel Zombies," to "The Walking Dead," I have more friends who have started reading comics off of titles like those than almost any other genre. So what's different about The Living Corpse? Well, not a lot, but just enough to keep things fun. In a world clearly inspired by White Wolf RPG's (right down to the Vampire "clans"), John Romero is a zombie with a purpose; he prevents the bloodthirsty dead of all types from invading and overrunning our world. In the two page prologue, it's explained that Romero (do you get it???) was once a regular zombie, until he feasted on his own family. Hesitating before eating the brain of his own son, a small spark of life inspired... somebody... to give him a second chance as the undead defender of the mortal world. And that's about it. It's not the first time a zombie, or other denizen of the night, has been the hero, but this comic moves quickly enough, and has enough charm to justify a place on the already zombie-clogged stands.
The story in this issue is a simple one. John returns to his graveyard dwelling to discover a vampire has been feeding on mortals right under his nose. It doesn't take long for him to discover that the vampire is, in fact, a young girl named Lilith who John had talked out of suicide some time before. Of course, John meets her master, and after a confrontation between the three of them, there are revelations about a greater evil at stake, and a brief glimpse of John's son, spared by his zombie father years before.
The plot is simple, but that's not a bad thing. It really reads like one of those old Marvel Monster comics, like "Werewolf By Night," or "Tomb of Dracula," and there are worse influences a book could take. The art is cartoony, but in a positive way. Occasionally Ken Haeser and Buz Hasson, who share artistic and creator credits, get a bit gratuitous. There are a few too many up-skirt shots for my taste, particularly since they seem kind of forced in at weird times, but overall the simple design of the monsters, combined with the juicy black lines and sharp, moody colors make the book look very nice.
If you're into zombie comics, The Living Corpse: Exhumed has enough setting it apart from the usual fare that it's worth a look. If you aren't into zombie comics, I can't say that this is the one that will sell you on them, but it's still a fun comic in the vein of those seventies shockers.