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Friday, April 16, 2010

Comic Reviews: Week of April 7th

The Flash: Secret Files and Origins 2010 #1: Well, chalk this one up to a lack of perceptive skills on my part, but I bought this thinking that it was the first issue of Geoff Johns’ new Flash ongoing series. Despite my initial disappointment, this wasn't a bad read, and it's perfect for somebody who could use a refresher on the wild world of the Flash. There’s a short intro story that will doubtlessly come into play in Flash #1, and the back-up material is full of quick, easy breakdowns regarding the extended cast of the Flash. One thought did strike me while reading this though: The Flash’s rouge gallery is startlingly similar to some of the Robot Masters found in the Megaman Series (Captain Cold = Ice Man, Heatwave =Fire Man, Weather Wizard = Tornado Man, etc). It's a bit of a stretch, I know, but I'll use any excuse to talk about Megaman, even if I have to sneak it into a Flash review.

Jonah Hex #54: When it comes to franchise comics, my favorite issues are almost uniformly the one-and-dones. This is part of the reason why Jonah Hex is quickly becoming one of my favorite comic books around. Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Grey's continued ability to tell stand-alone stories that are both self-sustaining and satisfying makes for a must-read series. In issue #54, what could have easily been a rather one-note story about treacherous lawmen and a bounty hunter team-up is instead made into a short Western tale dealing with aspects of loyalty and personal responsibility. In the end, Jonah Hex’s stubborn brand of self-loathing rubs off on another character, making for one of the more memorable endings in recent months. Jordi Bernet’s art is, as always, fantastic. The cartoonish feel dozen’t take away from the Western grit of the story, instead leaving you with the feeling that Jonah Hex would make for an amazing animated series geared toward adults.

Area 10 (Vertigo Crime, Christos Gage, Chris Samnee): Unlike last month’s entry into the Vertigo Crime imprint, Area 10 is more of a horror-thriller than straight crime mystery. I had high hopes before heading into Area 10, and though I wasn’t disappointed, I’m have yet to be wowed by any of the Vertigo Crime titles. Though they’ve all been impressive, fast-paced reads, nothing has floored me. However, Area 10 deserves special attention for it’s gross-out plot and Chris Samnee's horrific (in a good way) art. Christos Gage's writing thrives in this explicitly violent tale, wherein a whacked out killer attempts to open people’s minds both literally and figuratively. A short digression: I sort of wished he'd given it a more sensationalist title than Area 10, as something like Brain Drilling Time Psychics would've been more fun. Anyway, partway through the story I was worried that Gage was going down the path of a very well-worn twist, but just as I started to lose faith, Gage creates enough doubt to keep me turning the pages until I hit the last. Like I said before, Samnee’s art is worth the price of admission alone, especially whenever there’s a decapitated head on panel (which happens quite a bit). Area 10 is a good read for anybody into gruesome crime stories that perfectly play with the delicate balance between believability and macabre fun.


Philip K. Dick’s Electric Ant #1: Adapting Philip K. Dick is always a risky endeavour. If done right, the result can be some of the best science fiction films and comic books ever to hit the market; if done poorly, you end up with a movie like Next. So when I first read that Marvel was planning to adapt a Philip K. Dick short story into a comic book, my little PKD-loving heart was filled with trepidation. After all, how could Marvel follow BOOM’s critically-acclaimed adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Luckily for Marvel, their retelling of Electric Ant survives on the strength of the source material, albeit just barely. Admittedly, my expectations were never very high for Electric Ant, and after this initial issue I’m still on the fence. Pascal Alexie’s art is satisfactory in some places, though decidedly underwhelming overall. David Mack does a good enough job at adapting the original story, although some of Dick’s themes are spelt out a little too explicitly for my tastes. All in all, this is a pretty lukewarm effort, and I'm beginning to fear that the strategy is just to weasel us PKD-fanboys out of our dollars with a half-assed adaptation. Then again, one can always hold out the hope that some wayward Marvel youth will pick this up by chance and subsequently decide to delve further into the world of Science Fiction’s great modern guru.

S.H.I.E.L.D. #1: So begins the latest, greatest retcon in recent Marvel History. Before it even hit stands, Hickmans’ S.H.I.E.L.D. has proven to be a polarizing title among Marvel Fans. I’ve read some people call it outright blasphemy (Galactus in 1582???), while others are genuinely interested in this revised history of the world’s greatest defense network. I have to say that I fall in with the latter party. Despite my interest, this first issue is a little hard to review, as it's mainly used to show how Shield first began (with a fun cameo by Apocalypse), and to introduce us to Leonid, a young man who's destiny is somehow tied to the fate of S.H.I.E.L.D. I have to say that I really did enjoy S.H.I.E.L.D., even though there's not much I can say about it at the moment. Beyond a few new characters and some familiar scientific faces, the best part of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 is Dustin Weaver's art. This guy can draw both extremely intricate, large-scale machines, as well as he draws the minute expressions that create characters who are more than just one-dimensional plot pieces.

Wolverine: Weapon X #12: The first time I read through this issue, I was pretty disappointed with the familiar storyline, especially since we've now seen "future" Wolverine at least three times (if not more). However, when I switched off the snotty/nerd judgemental part of my brain and just read the damn comic, I found that I really enjoyed it. Ron Garney's art is just as impressive as ever, and he deserves credit for the front cover, which was maybe the most dynamic of the week; and Wolverine-centric story this may be, it's clear that Jason Aaron is going to bring in some great Marvel Team-ups in the coming issues. At this point, it almost feels like the Weapon X title has become a vehicle for Aaron to put Wolverine into homages to his favorite works of fiction, and just as the Dr. Rot arc was basically a bloody, nightmarish take on One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest, this time it's Terminator with superheroes and Deathloks. I say bring it on.


King City #7: Say it with me now: New King City! In the first fresh entry into the long-stalled King City series, Joe questions the motives of his new foxy female employer, we get a bit of Cat Master flash-back, and Pete sets out to rescue the water girl he wronged. Plus Earthling eats brains and watches soap operas. It really doesn't get much better than this. There's also a great (although short) back up feature drawn by James "Orc Stain" Stokoe, so really, what else could you ask for? If you've been reading King City up to this point, whether in the Image reprints or the original Tokyopop book, you know how exciting it is to finally have new King City; and if issue #7 is any indication, Brandon Graham has only just begun to show us the full scale of this crazed Sci-Fi-spy-crime-cat epic. Just when I'm ready to give up on comics, something like King City comes along to remind me why I keep reading.

Turf #1: I honestly don’t know why I picked this up, as I’m not really a fan of vampire period-pieces or Jonathan Ross. I think the market is already over saturated by vamps, although the same could easily be said about superheroes and zombies. But while I was willing to give Ross the benefit of the doubt, I have to say that I’m unconvinced by this first issue. While it was nice to read a thick story that took me more than five minutes to finish, Ross’ overly wordy narration and dialogue often felt excessively laborious. Thankfully, Tommy Lee Edwards is here to ease our eyes with his beautifully penciled panels. So here’s the set up: vampires move into prohibition New York, and the second-in-command of the undead family decides that it’s time that undead took the power from the mafia. Yawn. Then there’s a spaceship that crashes, meaning we’ll probably get some alien-action (or at least) alien tech in forthcoming issues. While this sounds like it would make for great B-storytelling, Turf takes itself too seriously to be of any real fun, but I'm willing to tough it out through a second issue. Despite my reservations, I get the feeling that there might be some fun to be had with Turf.

The Weird World of Jack Staff #2: Much like the first issue of Weird World of Jack Staff, this was a bit confusing for those of us who haven't been fans in the past. However, the art, writing, and amazingly fluid panel-to-panel flow is done with such careful expertise that it overshadows any reservations I have about the story (which all stem from my lack of knowledge). What I like most about Jack Staff is the book's diverse cast, all of whom get ample page-time. And like the Butler last time, I think that Skull might be my new favorite supervillian, if only for his hilarious lack of planning. Not only has WWoJS introduced me to my new favorite super-people, it's also brought Paul Grist to my attention, a comic book veteran who I had unfortunately been unaware of until now. The guy's got talent in spades, and I wish there were more creators out there like him.

Marvel Zombies 5 #1 (Fred Van Lente, Kano, Tom Palmer): Who saw this coming? Certainly not me. It was a really tough choice between Marvel Zombies 5 and Jonah Hex #54, but I had to give it up to MZ5 if only because I was not expecting to like this book whatsoever; but just like the Kid Kolt, by the end of this issue my mind was blown. After four separate series of brain-devouring destruction, who would’ve thought Marvel Zombies still had legs? Judging by the amount of excess issues they had at comic book store, not very many. But by taking the A-list heroes out of Marvel Zombies and handing the lead role back to Machine Man, MZ5 is set to be a great cross-dimensional ride. This time, MM makes his way to a western world infected by undead chompers, only to pick up the daughter of a gunslinger by the name of Harry “Hurricane” Kane. Fred Van Lente was a great choice for the series, and it looks like he’s only getting warmed up. Plus, Tom Palmer’s art is so good you can almost feel the decomposing frontier dust accumulate under your nails with each passing page. I won't spoil the surprise star of the issue, but let's just say he's got feathers to spare and he's none too fond of pants.


  1. Jon -- I totally agree about Turf. Way to much dialogue. I had to put the issued own because I was laboring over the last four pages of the issue. I like all the elements in the comic, but there's just too much going on and too much space given to words rather than action.

    And I'm glad to read your review of Area 10. I wanted to pick it up, but debated for a bit at the comic shop. I'm glad to read your review because now I'm intrigued to pick up the issue and see where it goes.

    Nice work, Jon!!

  2. Thanks Brian!

    Yeah, Area 10 was fun...but now I'm extra excited since they've announced a new Thor series by Roger "man o' muppets" Langridge and Chris Samnee. Should be awesome.