Thursday, March 29, 2012

The New Deadwardians #1 - Review

ANOTHER WONDERFULLY ORIGINAL HORROR SERIES FROM VERTIGO


The vampire and zombie genres are two that have been heavily used lately, and even more recent are all of the genre-crossing comic books where the two clash in some way. But the only comic book that seems to have done something completely original with it is The New Deadwardians, written by Dan Abnett and drawn by I. N. J. Culbard. The story revolves around an alternate version of post-Victorian England, where The Restless (zombies) has driven the upper class to become The Young (vampires) in order to preserve the empire and carry on. Chief Inspector George Suttle is the only remaining homicide detective in his precinct and is shocked when a murder actually shows up on his doorstep. In a world of monsters fighting monsters, an everyday murder is the true thing to be terrified about.

I have to be honest -- when I heard about this book I thought it was going to be horrible. I wrote it off without giving it a chance. I’d like to say that I now have a completely different opinion of this book. It’s really fun. It hits all the right spots that costume dramas on the BBC do, while adding in the classic horror elements that comics seem to be perfect at capturing. The political structure of this new world is really captivating. The Young are on top, The Restless are on the bottom, and humanity is caught in the middle. It’s a really fascinating and completely original approach to this kind of genre.

What really interests me is how The Young behave. They get their teeth filed down, they get blood transfusions to keep their hunger at bay, and they continue to dress and eat normally to keep up their social standards. They treat being the undead as a lifestyle change and medical condition rather than an excuse for ultimate power. The fact that one of them is found murdered, with no signs of classic undead dispatching, is a cause for alarm among the authorities. Has that ever happened in any other vampire or zombie story?

I’m going to give this issue a 4/5 for being really interesting and grabbing my attention from the start. The writing is solid, the artwork has a classic and clean look, and Vertigo continues to prove that they can do vampire stories the way they should be. How you ask? They do it by being original, thrilling, and downright horrifying.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

American Vampire #25 - Video Review

SKINNER VS. KIDD




The Flash #7 - Review

CAPTAIN COLD & THE WORMHOLE


In this exciting issue of The Flash, written and illustrated by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, Barry Allen has to juggle fighting the new and improved Captain Cold with trying to save both Iris and Patty from two halves of a broken ship floating on frozen pillars! But if Allen accelerates too fast, his new found speed force powers could rip a hole in space and time. With Captain Cold's new abilities constantly slowing Allen down, it'll be a race against the clock to try and save the two most important people in the Scarlet Speedster's life.

Wow. That's all I can say. I've always been a fan of The Flash, especially Barry Allen, but lately he's just been in the air. In fact I heard a little kid trying to explain to his grandmother yesterday why The Flash is such a good guy and why he's important.

But I digress . . .

Francis Manapul can draw all the comic books in the world as far as I'm concerned. Every panel, every character, and every moment in this book screams fun. I'm serious. If you open up the pages you literally hear "FUN!" explode from the book. Manapul's art and storytelling culminates in what really makes a super powered romp so damn exciting. There's high stakes, the hero is constantly being challenged, and you feel a real connection with the villain. Some people might not be on board with Captain Cold's new skill set, but I'm all about it. Besides, it's just fun to say his name . . . Captain Cold!

The coloring in this book by Buccellato is to die for. Every single page could be blown up and put on someone's wall as a colorful work of art. The blending of bright and toned down colors really makes everything jump off the page so that it gets gobbled up by your eyes. It pains me that not every comic can be this vibrant and exciting at the same time.

I haven't been following this book lately, and I really hate myself for it. I jumped back on during issue six, and for my money this is what big time superheroes should be about it. There's lots of popcorn action moments, but every single one of them is backed by complex characters and motivations. Captain Cold has every right to be pissed off at The Flash. If someone caused a blackout that was going to kill your sister who desperately needed an operation, you'd be seeking some street justice too.

This book gets a 5/5 without a moment's hesitation. Because in the Central City, on Flash's turf, one hesitation could be enough to send the whole world rocketing toward oblivion.

The Unwritten #35.5 - Review

DANNY AND THE GRID

As the epic story from Mike Carey and Peter Gross starts spiraling into its tasty conclusion, we get another point five issue this month to give us a bit more back story on how The Grid works. If you haven’t been reading The Unwritten, The Grid is a network of hired readers that are connected to the stories of the world. These readers are given stories to read in order to strengthen their influence over real life. In this story, a young man named Danny Armitage is recruited into The Grid and has been loosely connected with what’s been going on the whole time.

This issue really helped me, and probably other readers, to understand how The Cabal and The Grid actually work and why there were certain people chosen to make it operate correctly. Danny’s story is complete and separate from Tom Taylor’s story, but is also back dropped against everything that’s been happening to the main characters. These extra issues have really helped build the world of The Unwritten without forcing it on readers or feeling made up for the sake of selling more issues.

The writing and art is top notch in this issue, as they are in every other issue of this series. Everyone who I’ve introduced this comic book to fall in love with it after a single read. Hell, even my mom, who never reads comics, ate the first trade paperback up like it was a giant literary sugar cookie. I really hope that Carey and Gross get paired up again on another book from Vertigo in the near future, because this series has had everything that makes comics as a medium great, as well as stories as a whole.

This issue gets a solid 4/5 for delivering well on all fronts. I’m interested to see if Danny will crossover in the final moments of Tom’s story arc, and if he’ll be important to one of the characters that ended up “dying” in the last issue. The trades are available at any bookstore, and though this series is ending soon, it’s completely worth checking out.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

John Carter: The Gods of Mars #1 - Review

JOHN CARTER RETURNS TO BARSOOM


John Carter returns to Barsoom (Mars) in order to find his long lost love and wife, Dejah Thoris, but of course runs into danger the moment he wakes up on the alien planet. With his four-armed friend Tars Tarkas at his side, the two venture into The Valley of Dor, where the Therns are rumored to rule the land. But what kinds of strange surprises are waiting for Carter and Tarkas in The Valley of Dor?

Just like the movie that was completely underrated, this comic book was tons of fun. Whether you were one of the people who saw the movie or not, it's easy to follow and thrilling to read. The action scenes are gripping, the backgrounds and characters are stunning, and the actions of Carter make you want to pick up a sword, jump onto a flying pirate ship, and do some interplanetary swashbuckling.

Sam Humphries wrote this issue and I couldn't be happier with his storytelling. This comic book adaptation from MARVEL feels authentic in terms of characterization, and I'm sure that Humphries has a lot to do with it. The artwork by Ramon Perez is just as incredible. I haven't gotten to read A Tale of Sand yet, but this book has sold me on it. He's someone who has a style all his own and is someone who is really going to shine in the comic book industry.

Since the people at Disney failed to market the movie correctly, I have some doubts that people will think to try this book out. Throw your preconceived notions out at the door and pick this book up off the shelf. Fans of the old novel series by Edgar Rice Burroughs or people who enjoyed the new film John Carter are going to find this book a welcome addition to the chronicles about Barsoom, and new readers will eat it up if they give it a chance. I'm giving this first issue a 4.5/5 for getting me excited about space epics again.

Batman #7 - Review

HOLY TERRIBLE TALONS, BATMAN!


I’ve been a fan of what Scott Snyder has done with Batman ever since his Detective Comics run. This ongoing title from the New 52 of the DC Universe has been one of my favorites and continues to prove it to me every month. Not only do we get the same mystery and creepy images that were brought in on the Detective books, but we also get tons of world-building story and incredible action. Each issue ups the ante of the last and puts Bruce Wayne/Batman in another horrible predicament.

The Court of Owls is turning out to be a villainous group that not only has their eyes on Batman, but on Gotham City itself. There’s an incredible final image in this issue where we get to see just how far their wingspan goes, and trust me, it’s horrifyingly awesome. All of these moments that were woven by Snyder’s words and Greg Capullo’s art come together in a beautiful way, and it shows on every page.

There are just too many good things for me to say about this series. I could dig into the plot and exactly what happened, but I want anyone reading this review to just dig in and experience it firsthand. I hear complaints all the time that publishers like DC don’t do anything original with their characters and that the storylines are repetitive. Well, I’ve never personally seen a Batman story like this, and after seven months of issues I have to say that it’s still going strong. This issue gets a 4.5/5 in both the writing and the art categories.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Saga #1 - Review

Brian K. Vaughn's Aptly Named New Series


A war between planets is taking place. Two lovers are caught in the crossfire as they reluctantly bring a child into the world. But the forces that be are being put in motion to stop them. Forces they can't possibly understand. And it's going to take all of their cunning and resources to keep them alive.

It's no secret that many people have been waiting for Brian K. Vaughn's return to comics. I'm relieved to say that he not only returned, he came back with a tour de force. Saga has all the makings of a true epic in the classic sense of the term. Within one issue we meet all of the players, get the stage set for us, and have a complete understanding of the tone of the universe that we're dropped into.

Vaughn has an uncanny ability to make someone care for a character as soon as they're presented on the page. Marko and Alana aren't just compelling, they feel like people you know. Granted one has horns and the other has wings, but they're still just as human as you and I are. The other characters, like the Robots, are incredibly fun to watch and extremely interesting.

The artwork by Fiona Staples is breathtaking. Each page and panel stands on its own as a tribute to both Vaughn's story and sequential storytelling. The landscapes and designs felt authentic, much like the original Star Wars did, and all of the characters express emotion, even when they don't have a face. Staples was definitely the correct choice for a story that's about a war torn galaxy and two lovers trying to fight off their differences and save their child.

If it sounds like I'm gushing over this book it's because I am. I felt like many titles on the shelf were getting stale, new and old, and this gives me hope that there are still some great science fiction stories out there in the minds of comic book writers. This issue gets a 5/5, and you can bet it's been added to my pull list.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Green Lantern: The Animated Series - Pilot Review

LET THERE BE LIGHT


When I heard that Bruce Timm was going to be producing a Green Lantern animated show I just about died I was so happy. After the announcements and eventual release of the live-action film that let so many fans and moviegoers down, I was ready for the dose of superhero storytelling that only Timm can deliver. That all came to a screeching halt when I found out the show was done with CGI. I kept telling myself that there was no way it would be as good as other shows in the Warner Bros. animation arsenal.

I was wrong.

This show is everything I could want in a Green Lantern television series. It has an original premise and rewrites some of the continuity of the comic book, but all of Timm's series took an original direction. I'm welcome to rewriting some of the history in order to make it fit better on another medium. I just think that the movie turned many fans away from it. I'm welcome to the changes that were made because the story was incredibly fun and really engaging.


The basic premise is that Hal Jordan and fellow Green Lantern Kilowog hijack a prototype spaceship in order to patrol the deep frontier zone of space. A group of Lantern killers are on the loose and might be more of a threat than the Guardians of the Universe are leading on. As Jordan and Kilowog investigate the mystery, they find a new enemy that no one was expecting -- the Red Lanterns!


This show does everything extremely well, and it gets the characters, tone, and energy right off the bat. I felt like I was watching a Green Lantern story that had deep thought put into it and a thorough understanding of what it means to be a Green Lantern and a hero. In fact I was surprised at how dark and mature the pilot was. Within the first episode we have deaths, strong motivation, and not once does the show play to the lowest common denominator. We skip the origin story and get straight to the action with Hal Jordan and the other Corps members. It also helps that the voice cast, led by Josh Keaton (Hal Jordan), all seemed like they had done their research and really knew how to speak through these iconic characters.


I'm a huge traditionalist when it comes to animation. I'm usually 2D or nothing. But this 3D animation really made the ring constructs pop and gave the designs that 1950's and 60's feel that fits the science fiction aspect of Green Lantern perfectly. I'm giving the pilot a strong 4.5/5 for really impressing me. You can bet that I'll continue to watch it and see how they develop these characters in a new environment.

*NOTE*
I of course don't own any of these images. All rights to the creators, DC Comics, and Warner Bros.

Animal Man #7 - Review

ANIMAL WOMAN?!


The Rot is terrorizing the countryside as it moves in the form of dead animals and decayed flesh. The Baker family tries desperately to get in contact with other superheroes in order to warn them of the oncoming threat and get some assistance in fighting them off. As Buddy and Cliff try to spend more time together, Maxine's outlook only seems to terrify and outrage her Grandmother. However, a vision of the future soon shakes Buddy to the core as he sees his adult daughter teaming up with two very strange allies.

I nearly had to get up and run around the block screaming, "oh my God, this is the best thing ever," after reading this issue. Jeff Lemire gave us so many wonderful character moments and images that I can't even begin to express the joy that its brought readers, myself included. The moment when Cliff is being teased by the girl's is probably my favorite. The way Buddy swoops in to help him out isn't just a wonderfully written page, but a very expressive and beautiful piece of work.

I've heard some people complain about having two artists on this book, but Foreman and Pugh meshed well together and the book kept its overall feel and tone the entire way through. It's also a nice way to ease into Pugh taking over as the artist for the series. One of my favorite sequences was the future version of Maxine, or Animal Woman, when she's teamed up with --

*SPOILER ALERT!*

-- Swamp Thing and an old John Constantine. That made my day. I had always held Animal Man, Swamp Thing, and Hellblazer in the same realm of high regard. It's good to see the three characters join up and fit so perfectly together.

From what I've heard all of these characters might be meeting up with the Justice League Dark team sometime in the near future. If that's the case you can sign me up. Not only is Lemire crafting a bold new dark corner of the DC Universe, he's giving it a whole arena to play in. That's what makes this issue one of the best I've read in recent months. It gets a 5/5 without a moment of hesitation. I hope you all feel the same way about it when you read it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Swamp Thing #7 - Review

BRING ON THE PAIN


Dr. Alec Holland is bleeding out as he begs the Parliament of Trees to grant him the power to become Swamp Thing again and save the world from The Rot. The Parliament of Trees aren't too happy with Holland, and they see him as a failure to The Green and a lost chance to finally rid the world of The Rot. But Holland isn't willing to give up so easily. As hordes of undead humans with backwards heads fight to reach his dying body, he brings up an argument with the Parliament that shakes them right down to their roots.

Written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Yanick Paquette, this issue of Swamp Thing made me so giddy that I couldn't wait to jump online and write the review. If there was a book that DC needed more than any other in their stable after the relaunch, it was this one. Snyder hasn't just improved on the Swamp Thing mythos, he's made Holland a character you want to root for and the ability to control plants an incredible and desirable superpower. This chapter in the story brings a new sense of danger, philosophy, and depth to it's characters in a way that only Snyder can pull off.

Paquette's artwork, especially the giant spread pages with the elaborate borders, are a sight to behold. If I had to pick the most beautiful book overall every month between all of the major publishers, this book would win the award every time. If it sounds like I'm gushing it's because I am. His characterizations and environments are so filled with life that I can actually hear the plants growing through Holland's skin.

People are always asking me what my favorite ongoing comic book series are, and Swamp Thing is always one of my top choices. It earns the mention every month and hasn't let me down since I first picked it up this past September. It really goes to show you that any character can be taken out of obscurity and can be thrown out onto the main stage. Even though it has the DC logo at the top, it still retains all of the complexity and maturity of a Vertigo title while adding that DC grand feeling of a world of heroes, horror, and in Holland's case, honor. This gets a 5/5 without a moment's hesitation.