Best Shots Advance Reviews: GODZILLA, MAGDALENA, More


Godzilla #1

Written by Duane Swierczynski

Art by Simon Gane and Rhonda Pattison

Letters by Chris Mowry

Published by IDW

Review by Rob McMonigal

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

The giant monsters from the creative minds of Toho are back, and they’re bent on destroying every major city and military installation they can. When the biggest monster of them all comes calling to turn Washington, DC into rubble, one man makes it his personal mission to take down Godzilla. It’s city-stomping time with no filming budget in this action packed and highly enjoyable first issue in IDW’s latest licensed offering.

Though I am a huge fan of the Godzilla movie franchise, I have actually never read a single Godzilla comic book before this one, so I have no frame of reference. However, as a veteran of the films, I have certain expectations for how the monsters should be handled and writer Duane Swierczynski hits all of the major points, one by one.

First, we get the appearance of the monsters right away, within the first few pages, in a set piece that features a gay wedding, handled tastefully and treated naturally. One of the grooms is a man of action, but we quickly see that even a person quick of wit and filled with determination is no match for the horrors born of the nuclear age.

Second, we find a human focal point, which has varied over the years but in this case is a man named Boxer. He’s a former special operative, only has one goal—protecting his client’s daughter, regardless of the hazard. Unfortunately, his job runs right into the immovable object that is Godzilla and the irresistible force that is fear, and we soon see that he, like the groom, is no match for the beast. Boxer’s refusal to accept this fact is going to be one of the keys to the action in future issues.

Third, the use of the monsters is restrained, which means when we see a splash page of Godzilla or see him wreak havoc on the Capital Building, it has the full force and impact of when a monster movie does the inevitable big reveal. Swierczynski does not put monsters on every page, preferring to deploy them at the edges for the most part, which I think is a smart choice. A comic designed to be ongoing needs to keep the premise fresh, and too much smashing too soon would bore readers over time, even big fans of the Toho monsters.

All of these parts put together make for a solidly written comic, whose only potential irritant for modern readers is the extensive use of narrative boxes. Godzilla doesn’t talk and the alternative is to create talking heads to narrate the action, which would limit Gane’s ability to focus the panels on the action. I think it was the best choice, though reducing their quantity in future issues should be a goal of Swierczynski. Personally, I was a bit confused as to why the monsters were attacking and why Godzilla had picked the United States instead of Japan, but I expect we’ll have that answer in the issues to come. (It’s possible that ties into the latter-day movie continuity, with which I am less familiar.)

Simon Gane’s artwork for Godzilla #1 is simply stunning. He is able to capture the sense of collapse, despair, and destruction perfectly, while not always using a monster to demonstrate it. The splash pages we do get of Godzilla are poster-worthy, with Gane’s scratchy lines capturing the nature of Godzilla, Mothra, and the rest in a way that a low-budget movie cannot. The whole world created by Gane has lines on it, and his art style makes it feel like at any moment, all of civilization will lie in ruin—and it just might, given the nature of the forces lined up against humanity.

Licensed comics are a tricky thing to get right, as not all properties make the transition from screen to comic very well. Godzilla by nature has a heavy emphasis on its visual elements, making it a good candidate for the move to the printed page, as long as the right writer is found who can craft a story that blends the two genres together. Swierczynski does that very well here with the aid of Gane. It’s early yet, but so farGodzilla #1 is a great comic that monster movie fans will love.


Magdalena #12

Written by Ron Marz

Art by Nelson Blake II, David Marquez, Sal Regla, and Dave McCaig

Lettering by Troy Peteri

Published by Top Cow

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Continuing the trend of combining mythology from around the world with Christian beliefs, Top Cow's Magdalena has really had a good run so far, even with the more-than-slight delays. Patience takes on a resurrected dragon from Chinese lore, and comes to terms with some aspects of being in the role of the Magdalena. While it seems like we've been here before, it doesn't let up on strong characters and the potential of what's to come.

I will say I do miss Ron Marz on Witchblade as he does have a strong voice for female leads. Patience might not be Sara Pezzini, and he doesn't approach her as such. Both characters have their own distinctive voice, even if they have the same goals and motives. With both of them in this issue, it's obvious who accepts their job and the other was born into it. Kristoff and Patience's relationship is still up in the air and I admire their partnership; very Mulder and Scully. Most of the book is action-oriented and there isn't a lot of dialog until towards the end of the issue where there is a strong character moment, but it seems like it's wrapped up a bit too nicely.

The art here has seriously been kicked up a notch and I've been trying to put my finger on it and then I discover that Nelson Blake II wasn't the only penciler here, but had added assistance from David Marquez. Marquez's style blends well with Blake's, but there is a definite difference on some pages. Marquez has a retro Guy Davis-type of rendering to some of the faces and environments that adds just a pinch of detail to Blake's usual simplistic take on things. Both of Sal Regla's and Marquez's inking is fluid and consistent, giving everything a nice polished look. Add to that, some of Dave McCaig's great use of warm colors and you've got an array of terrific visuals.

Magdalena might not be the Cow's top character, but ever since Artifacts she's certainly come out of the shadow of bigger names and made a name for herself to newer fans of that universe. While this issue isn't exactly a great place to start for the whole story, you can get a sense of who Patience is as a character. If you're looking for something supernatural to add to your pull box, give Magdalena a peek.


Prophet #25

Written by Brandon Graham with Giannis Milonogiannis and Simon Roy

Art by Giannis Milonogiannis and Joseph Bergin III

Lettering by Ed Brisson

Published by Image Comics

Review by Scott Cederlund

‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

There’s only one word I can really think of to describe Prophet #25 and that’s “disorienting.” Last issue ended with what I thought was John Prophet finding five or six other Prophets and I thought everything made sense. This issue begins with the three remaining Prophets hunting or searching for something. We’re not told how their number was halved and it’s not important to know. The captions tells us that “they search this dead metropolis for its giants” which is just cool sounding enough that we’ll let the ambiguity of their reasons slide for the time being.

Brandon Graham makes the book disorientating by never telling us exactly what’s going on. He and Giannis Milonogiannis show us everything that the trio of Prophets is experiencing on this Euro-punkish sci fi, but they’ve kept as at arms length away from the story by constantly introducing these new versions of Prophet and their stories. Just as we begin to think that we find some understanding in one issue, Graham has no problem changing the story so it feels like we’re starting over again in this issue. We thought we knew who Prophet was after the last issue but now we’re introduced to three essentially new characters and their stories.

This issue is like a Ripley Scott movie as reimagined by Hayao Miyazaki. The landscapes and alien vistas that Milonogiannis draws recall Scott’s designs for Alien and even images we’re seeing in the Prometheus trailers. But the giants that they’re searching for recall the elemental creatures of Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away. The look of this issue and the series by artists Milonogiannis, Roy and Farel Darlymple set Prophet apart from Rob Liefeld’s original Image badboy and create a story of worlds and creatures that we have never seen before. If the story leaves us wondering, the images leave us breathless as new creatures and new alien landscapes are created right before our eyes.

Graham has been building a story by layers but not consecutively. Prophet #25 is like the second or third layer and so far he’s leaving it to the readers to figure out how those layers fit together. As this group of Prophets search for their giants, you have to figure out how they fit into the story of the first Prophet who woke up after millennia of hibernation to a world he didn’t recognize or to the Prophet trapped on a on a ship that had crashed into another ship. And maybe there’s not enough yet to figure out how these three different sets of Prophets fit together but Graham and his artists makes the individual stories so fascinating to read and look at that it’s not until after you’re done reading the story that you start to wonder about the grander story that he’s layering together.

By the end of this issue, maybe you’ll think you have Graham figured out and you know what Prophet is about. Maybe you’ll think that you know what the story is and who the true John Prophet is. And just maybe, well... more than maybe... Brandon Graham will throw up a surprise on the first page that just shatters all of your notions about the book you’ve just read. He’s done it at least a couple of times already. I honestly don’t think I ever want to know what’s going on in this book; I just want to be swept up in the Prophet current and carried along into the story and wherever it may take me. And I’m perfectly content to believe that the current will shift and that we’ll be heading in a different direction next month.


Resident Alien #1

Written by Peter Hogan

Art by Steve Parkhouse

Published by Dark Horse Comics

Review by Rob McMonigal

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

The alien posing as Dr. Vanderspeigle is drawn further into the web of intrigue and murder that infects the small town he’s chosen to hide in on Earth, as he ministers to the sick of the town and realizes there just might be a cancer more deeply rooted than the eye can see. The precarious balance between Dr. Vanderspeigle’s safety and his desire to get at the truth starts to break in the next installment of this excellent series from Dark Horse.

Given that issue number one picks up exactly where Resident Alien #0 ended, I am not entirely sure of the logic of calling it a zero issue in the first place, but comics numbering these days is a science only publishers understand. I do worry that the odd numbering will hurt this book, because it opens with a Stan Lee-style caption box saying that you need to read the zero issue first. I have a feeling some folks might just pass entirely rather than look for the back issue, which would be a shame because this story is really good. Hogan and Parkhouse frame the story within a fairly standard mystery plot, but the twist that he’s an alien using a fragile disguise lore that can falter with overuse makes what would have been an enjoyable story that much better. There’s a great fake-out in this issue, where it looks like the jig is up, but while our alien manages to make it through this crisis, I think it’s clear that before things are finished in this series, murder won’t be the only notable thing about Patience.

Most of this issue is spent dragging the alien doctor further into the murder mystery and making the plot of the crime more complex. Why are the police so eager to get these cases solved? Why is the mayor in such a hurry to get the dead doctor’s effects sorted? For that matter, why can’t they replace him? All of these questions and more will be on the reader’s mind as they work through the issue, which proceeds methodically but never plods. The pace is a bit on the slow side, but that’s because all the proper clues must be left for the reader in order to make the big reveal even more important when we finally get to it. Anyone who likes crime fiction or crime comics will find the story moves comfortably, but should be aware this is not a thriller—it’s a classic, Christie-Doyle style story. (That’s probably part of why I like it so much, as they are my two favorite crime writers.)

As with the last issue, Steve Parkhouse does a very solid job of moving the story along and his artwork reminds me very much of creators like Dave Gibbons, where the focus is on the emotional responses of the characters to each other rather than their movements. We get a lot of facial close-ups in this issue, allowing the reader to stare into the eyes of everyone from the alien to the cops to the alleged killer. Are their clues to be gained from the way they look out at the reader from the page? Is an eye tilted or a brow wrinkled enough to indicate someone is lying? I really like that Parkhouse has structured the art in such a way that those of us who watch televised mysteries can analyze body language and knowing looks, just as we would if this were filmed. It’s not required of the reader, but long-time mystery buffs like me have plenty to sink our teeth into, both visually and in the dialog presented by Hogan.

Anyone who has read the zero issue won’t be terribly surprised to learn about the cliffhanger at the end of this issue, because the seeds for it are sewn in the prior issue. The big question now is how that changes the game, because there are getting to be too many people to be involved in the cover-up. I can’t wait to see the resolution in the final two issues.

Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka get credit for their crime comics work, but I’m ready to add Peter Hogan to the list with Resident Alien #1. It’s a great mystery with just a hint of sci-fi, and looks to only be getting better as it moves on.


Mind MGMT #1

Story and Art by Matt Kindt

Published by Dark Horse Comics

Review by Pierce Lydon

'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

The summary of Mind MGMT on Matt Kindt’s website is way better than the first issue of this monthly series is. But that’s because the summary introduces a potential reader to the basic tenets of the series better than this first issue does. While this book fails at serving as a primer for what is to come, it does succeed in other ways. This one has potential in spades but Kindt’s initial execution leaves something to be desired.

The summary promises a young journalist stumbling upon a world of secret espionage organizations, talking dolphins and weaponized psychics. All we really get here is a mysterious case of amnesia and a young journalist, stumbling. Meru, our protagonist, is kind of a loser. Once an up and coming true crime writer, she’s on her last legs. Kindt gives us all the familiar details; her bills are all past due, her agent gives her money for “the last time,” she’s estranged from her parents, she gets by in the small town where she lives with a smile and a promise to pay back whatever she owes. And there is the biggest problem. Meru is hollow. She’s not an interesting character. She barely even speaks save for a conversation with her agent. She’s Hank Moody in the first two seasons of “Californication” just without David Duchovny’s charm or wit. An argument could be made that Kindt is positioning her as an empty vessel as a way to let readers into the story but I’m not convinced.

But Kindt does make a lot of the stuff surrounding Meru compelling enough for a second read-through. The opening page features a short story called “The Second Floor” about Leopold Lojka and the secrets of Mind Management. Kindt chooses to split the story between the inside covers which actually provides an interesting set of bookends for the story in between. The first page of “The Second Floor” ends just before the climax and it leads into an dream sequence that Kindt uses to build on some of the details of “The Second Floor.” Then we are thrown onto the Amnesia Flight before the story skids to a halt when we meet Meru. It picks up again when she travels to Mexico and when we get into the side story involving the secret agents following her around.

The final pages are a psych profile on a man named Duncan Jones aka The Futurist. And Kindt again does an excellent job building the world of this series before giving way to the end of “The Second Floor.” Slowly the mysteries of Mind Management are being revealed to us but before we can get any concrete answers, the book ends. Kindt talks about infusing the monthly issues with clues and Easter eggs that will point to larger story ideas and exclusive content for those that buy the single issues. It’s weird to be told that there is something afoot. It somehow makes it seem a little less genuine. But I admire Kindt’s attempts to make the monthly reading experience something separate from simply trade waiting.

Kindt handles the art on this one too and given the brainy subject matter, his rough linework coupled with watercolor coloring approach approximates what everything looks like when you first wake up in the morning but haven’t quite opened your eyes. Not every detail is there but your mind fills in what should be. It works very well in the context of the story. I like when the writer pulls double duty and serves as the artist as well. I get the feeling that we get a more succinct focused vision and there is never a question of whether or not the creative team is totally on the same page. Kindt knows the way he wants to tell this story and that comes through in his storytelling on both the writing and art sides.

In broad strokes, Mind MGMT is something to be excited about. It has a huge concept and a lot of potential. It’s held back by a boring main character, but the world of story surrounding her is definitely intriguing. The mark of a good mystery that you want to keep reading despite its flaws. Mind MGMT is definitely rough around the edges but should pique anyone’s curiosity to much to pass up.

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