iZombie #1

I was lured into iZombie #1 by two things: 1) a Darwyn Cooke cover and 2) a $1.00 price tag. After picking this book off the shelf I noticed that the author was Chris Roberson, of recent Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love fame, and the immensely talented artist Mike Allred, author and penciller of Madman Atomic Comics. It suffice to say that this book rocketed from slightly piqued interest to full-blown excitement in zero to sixty. I wished I had tempered my expectations though because I ended up slightly disappointed. Continue reading

Review: Wednesday Comics #3

Wednesday

Last week’s Wednesday Comics was the first to really disappoint.  The premise of the project should suggest that the creators compress their stories as much as possible, at least in general – when all’s said and done, they only really have 15 pages to finish the story.  While some creators have risen to the challenge, like Caldwell on Wonder Woman or Pope on Strange Adventures, some strips that started out strong have begun to peter off already.

There is still the seeds of genius that were strongly evident in the first two issues, but there are too many non-starters here.  The flaws remain relatively unfixed, with the weakest pages among the first two issues showing little improvement.  Not all is bleak, of course – a project with this many gifted creators is bound to have some astonishing moments – but I am not sure that a book facing all the challenges that Wednesday Comics faces can afford to have many more issues like this one: Not bad, but not quite worth the trouble.

Grade: B-

– Cal Cleary

Wednesday Comics #2

Wednesday Comics #1

Review: Wednesday Comics #2

Wed2

Though Wednesday Comics #2 didn’t do much to improve over the flaws of the first one, and certainly won’t change any minds about the project as a whole, it also kept all the charm, wit and creative energy of the first issue, and even improved upon some of the slower stories.  The keyword with Wednesday Comics is variety, and you get a lot of it.

Busiek’s Green Lantern is a wonderfully retro The New Frontier-style sci-fi adventure, while Pope’s Strange Adventures is classic pulp action.  Flash reads like a bizarre blend of romance and super-hero stories, while Baker’s Hawkman offers a dark, fascinating look at a frequently muddled character.  As with the first issue, not every story is a hit, and the two biggest offenders from #1 (Teen Titans and Sgt. Rock and Easy Co.) remain relatively weak, though both show at least some signs of improvement over the previous issue.

Meanwhile, the creators are making full use of the space, sometimes in interesting ways.  The Gaiman/Allred Metamorpho is essentially one enormous panel while Caldwell’s surreal Wonder Woman features roughly fifty panels on its only page.  

The format is definitely bringing out the best in many of these artists, most of whom have admirably risen to the challenge.  The less-glossy pages and creases that come from the folding were a worry to some people when it came to the quality of the art, but rest-assured, this is rarely the case.  Only Caldwell’s Wonder Woman and the Arcudi/Bermejo Superman seem to have been hampered by the fact, each of them a little too dark for their own good.  Despite that, however, both pages remain well-crafted and interesting.

Wednesday Comics is too scattershot to appeal to everyone, but those who try it out will find a selection of interesting stories by star creators that hearken back to the early days of comics and the traditional stories without being lazy or condescending.  Everyone involved seems to be having far too much fun to either.

Grade: A-

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Wednesday Comics #1

Review: Wednesday Comics #1

Wednesd

Wednesday Comics is here!  While DC often struggles to stay relevant in the fact of a vastly more trendy Marvel Comics, it’s had a few successes in recent years.  One such success was their year-long event, 52, a weekly with an absolute powerhouse of a writing team that managed to gain both critical and fan acclaim – no small feat for an event comic largely lacking Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman.  After that, of course, DC felt the urge to repeat their success story with the watered down Countdown and then again with Busiek’s Trinity.  Still, three years in and the weekly format, once a fresh revival, had begun to seem stale.

That all changed with the announcement of their next weekly, Wednesday Comics, a 12 week long project, packaged as a newspaper, in which superstar creative teams would be given continuity-free reins on a vasty supply of DC characters to tell their stories… one page each week.  There were a lot of risks, obviously, but the announcement of the creative teams was where they had it: Gaiman, Busiek, Allred, Azzarello, Risso, Gibbons, Pope, Baker and many more, all getting involved in the project.

So, with all that expectations, how does the issue stack up?

Very well.  Very well, indeed.

It’s tough to review due to the grab bag nature of the book – Caldwell’s Wonder Woman, for example, is gorgeous and surreal, while Kubert’s Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. on the very next page is about as bland as can be.   I toyed briefly with the idea of reviewing each story, but the simple fact is this: these stories stand together or fall together, but the strength of an Azzarello/Risso Batman doesn’t necessarily offset the slow start of the Berganza/Galloway Teen Titans.  You buy one, you get ’em all.

And, as a collection, it works.  This, this is traditional super-hero comics done right.  For those yearning for a set of simple, gorgeous stories, Wednesday Comics delivers.  Not every story will be a hit, but #1 offers a number of strong starts and relatively few missteps.  I eagerly await seeing where it will go.

As a note, however, the stand-outs of the issue for me were Batman, Kamandi, Supergirl, Metal Men, and The Demon/Catwoman, with Superman and Wonder Woman having okay starts but gorgeous art.  The only pages I didn’t really appreciate at all were Teen Titans and Sgt. Rock and Easy Co., so the bulk of the issue was, for me, a hit.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Bruce Castle Presents: Matt Fraction Books Unite!

Large Cover of Uncanny X-Men #505 (Villain Variant)

Uncanny X-Men #505 (***)

Do we really want this man writing the X-Men?

I think it’s official, Brubaker has left the building. Did Fracker break up? I don’t know, but that picture is awesome. And Tony was right. Anyway, I feel sorry for this book. It’s become Marvel’s answer to JLA. One of the terrible things about the current JLA is that the book has to keep servicing other books. It spends too much time talking about events that it can’t tell its own stories. That’s exactly what Uncanny X-Men is. This issue spends so much time talking about X-Force, and M-Day, and Astonishing X-Men and now Dark Reign. Fraction only gets a few pages to tell the stories he wants to tell, but it has little impact. It barely makes sense! The Dodson’s continue to impress and the fact that this book isn’t terrible demonstrates Fraction’s ability as a writer. Please Marvel, give the man some freedom!

Large Cover of The Invincible Iron Man #8 (Villain Variant)

Invincible Iron Man #8 (****1/2)

Everything about this book is perfect. Except the art of course, Larroca can’t draw people. I know I know it’s Iron Man, but this book is about the characters. It’s not about the iron. Although the few panels involving technology do look sweet. It’s still amazing how Fraction manages to write this cast so well. Tony, Maria and Pepper are so lovable even though they’re definitely human and flawed. You know what else is in this issue? Comedy! I’ve said a thousand times but I’ll say it again, if you liked the movie you’ll enjoy this. Last thing, Osborn is the new Skrull. It’s only been two weeks and already I realize how much I’ll type the name Osborn in the coming months.

God-Sized

Thor: God-Sized #1 (****)

The writing is great. The art is great. There are four art teams working on this thing and yet they’re all pretty cool. I enjoyed the part three artist the most. It was very old-school, cartoony, and fun. So this is a quality issue, but I’m sure a lot of you will ask, “What’s the point?” It’s a tribute. Along with the 38 new pages, you’ll also receive a reprint of the classic Thor #362. Walt Simonson had one of the best runs on Thor ever. It easily rivals the Lee/Kirby era. But you know what? You can’t even get a trade that contains Thor #362. They were reprinted in trades but they’re sold out now. That’s why this issue is important. If you haven’t read Walt’s run, it’ll let you know what you’re missing. If you have read his run, you’ll quickly be reminded how great it was. The reason why I loved part three so much was because you got to see all the classic Simonson costumes, Balder in his armor, Thor with his beard, and so on. Of course this issue isn’t all about Simonson, it’s also about Skurge. He was a tragic and important part of the Thor mythos. I highly recommend this issue.

Desiato’s Rainy Sunday Catch Up Reviews, Part 1

Crappy weather all over the Northeastern seaboard this weekend. It’s time to do some MAJOR catching up.

The Immortal Iron Fist: Orson Randall and the Death Queen of California (*****)

This is the best story to come out of the new Iron Fist mythos. It should be noted that I’m including the main Iron Fist series in that statement, which means that this book actually manages to outshine Fraction and Brubaker’s work on the character and the title. I never thought I’d find myself in a position to make a statement like that. But that’s how good this one shot is. Swierczynski takes the Orson Randall character and puts him exactly where he should be; a hot blooded noir tinged Hollywood at the end of the 1920’s. He proceeds to spin a yarn that effortlessly combines the Eastern sensibilities of the Iron Fist with the American culture of the early twentieth century. It’s a detective story in the good noir tradition, complete with everything kicked off by the voluptuous and mysterious woman coming out of nowhere to present her problems to the protagonist, who in turn can’t keep her our of his mind while he tries to focus on the task at hand. Of course, she’s not who she originally claims to be, and thus the mystery unfolds. Sure, it’s procedure, but things become procedure because they work. Which is not to say Swierczynski simply follows a script here and plays by the rules. Something as simple as naming the female lead Galatea (who is of course the name of the woman statue from the Greek Pygmallion myth) starts to pique the interest of the mind.

The most important part of any noirish book is the narration. It’s the only entrance you have into the story and the main character. The window into his thoughts. Duane is more than capable here, and his narrative captions move the story along swimmingly. The story itself twists and turns upon itself over and over as new details come to light and more characters enter the picture. You’ve also got that inevitable moment where the detective proves he’s a badass, which in this story is represented by Orson having a meeting with a film executive and using some pistachio shells to his advantage. Did we need to know Orson Randall is a badass? Not really; he is an Iron Fist after all, and the work done in the first arc of Immortal Iron Fist as well as the Fraction penned Green Mist of Death one shot certainly established the level of badassery at play when Orson Randall is around. In this case, however, Duane is specifically making sure that this book is perfectly accessible to anyone that might deign to pick it up. Truly, there’s not a whole lot of actual Iron Fist talk until later in the book, and Orson very rarely appears with his cowl early on. This is simply an awesome noir story that anyone can read. I gave it to one of my roommates that is a big noir fan, and while he may not have gotten as much out of it as those of us with a larger information base about the Iron Fist mythology, he still loved it.

The art is also excellent here, and the work of Giuseppe Camuncoli is very different than what we’ve become used to in the various and sundry Iron Fist books since the relaunch. It also follows the standard approach of using different art for different eras. With this being a standalone one shot, things work despite the different art style than what your average Iron Fist fan would be expecting. It more than gets the job done, and there are some beautiful sequences that show a strong grasp of sequential art. It enhances the story without being garish or jarring, and both halves of the book work in a wonderfully symbiotic fashion, which is exactly what you want from a comic.

This is a gorgeous book, and probably the best Marvel one shot I’ve ever read. If not for the mad power of Casanova #14, this book would be a strong candidate for my favorite single issue of the year. It’s super accessible, wonderfully written and wonderfully drawn. It is completely worth the four dollar cover price (which I did pay in full, as I managed to forget to order it from DCBS). EVERYONE should pick this book up, if not only to enjoy the story but to see a taste of what Duane Swierczynski is doing with Iron Fist post Fraction and Brubaker

Fables #76 (***)

MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE FABLES SERIES. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

Still with me? Cool.

This kind of issue was probably necessary after the conclusion of War & Pieces. You had to have the moments that deal with Gepetto and his attempts to reacclimate himself with polite society after signing the Fabletown charter at the end of issue 75. And considering the art demands that faced Mark Buckingham during War & Pieces, it was as good of a time as any to spell him with pinch hitter Mike Allred. It’s also always been the case that the non-Buckingham issues have never been heavy on story progression. So we have a breath catching interlude to take care of things. This issue does not answer the question of “where is this series headed?” after the huge shake up of the Adversary being captured and brought into Fabletown, but that’s not something that had to be answered immediately. You have what is pretty much expected. Pinocchio and Beast take Gepetto out for a tour of the town, and the inhabitants of Fabletown aren’t exactly pleased with their newest resident. He is spit on, denied food, and generally reviled. No shock there. The only problem with this is the fact that it’s basically an auto pilot issue. Willingham doesn’t do anyhting big or spectacular, nor does he do a lot of character building that we haven’t seen before. The art is capable enough; this isn’t Mike Allred’s first go around in the Fables universe. It’s certainly a different style from Buckingham, and the only part of it that’s really jarring is Allred’s rendition of Pinocchio, which is completely different from Buckingham, even down to hair color. Even still, that’s not the kind of thing that’s going to ruin a book. All told, it’s an adequate installment of Fables. It’s not reaching for the stars and it’s not slumming. It’s just there.