Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples have put out another good issue of Saga. What’s new right? Next thing I will be writing a review over the wetness of water or blueness of the sky. When you answer the question of what makes this book so great there are a lot of choices, but when you look at what has given it such a longevity over these past few years there are specific answers that are demonstrated in this issue. Vaughn crafted a script that is not afraid to be mean to its characters as nothing comes easy. A simple trip to the doctor is becoming an incredible journey.
Alana and Marko are still desperately searching for a doctor who can help them with the dead fetus that is causing Alana to fall ill and have random magical powers. The last issue ended on a rather somber note, one that was poignant and showed that Vaughn and Staples were not taking this storyline lightly. That continues here as Alana begins to feel guilt for what has occurred as she feels her past sins are responsible for what happened. It is a very complex and prolonged event and what we are seeing is that approaching the issue that Vaugh and Staples are approaching in a complete and challenging way.
Somehow this book that has been going on for years about aliens from a far off galaxy is still incredibly timely. Health care is very much in the news and the commentary here is evident. Alana and Marko are two parents in a desperate situation due in large part to the prejudicial structure they live in. Vaughn is no stranger to social politics as he is the person who gave us Y:The Last Man. Where Saga differs is its commentary is much more in the subtext of the story. Well for the most part. There are times when it will be blatantly called out like the last issue. At its heart, it is a story about a family that continues to find ways to get into trouble.
All that heavy material is balanced with what is one of the most ridiculous worlds we have seen in the Saga universe so far. I am all for Westerns in space especially when the Cowboys are also half-horse. In true Saga style, it ends on another major shock that will certainly bring this entire plot thread full circle. Not that Saga fans really need another reason to pick up the next issue.
God Country #6
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Geoff Shaw
God Country made Donny Cates into an overnight phenomenon only a few months ago. Well, as much as an overnight success a comic book writer can be. He is a person who has worked in the industry for years. That experience paid off as he teamed up with Geoff Shaw to make one of the best books of the year. Considering its success both critically and in sales, it is surprising this book is already coming to an end. They are leaving it on a high note as this is one of the best issues of the year.
Since its onset, this comic about a magical sword that gives its holder the power of a god has been a father and son story. A fact this issue directly points out. Some may take issue with a book that literally tells you it’s message but when it’s done so effectively like this issue I cannot begrudge the method. Emotion is high throughout and leads to some majorly impactful moments that will move the coldest of souls.
Specifically, there is a moment where the relationship between Emmett and Roy that epitomizes everything that was wonderful about this book. Geoff Shaw constructs this depiction of the relationship of a father and son that is beautiful in its simplicity. Donny Cates’s words are lightly peppered throughout to bring home the message and capture the resonance of that scene. They are pages I have already revisited many times already in an act of respect for what they put together.
In the issue, Emmett confronts Attum in an attempt to finally claim the sword for himself. It’s a battle most feel he cannot win, but Emmett does not want to go back to the way things were. Having the power of a god is one thing, but what he is too afraid to do is let the memories that previously evaded him go. He was given a gift and it is a gift worth dying for.
Most of us have dealt with the horrors of seeing a loved one succumb to the product of old age. It is tragic to see anyone lose who they are and not be able to remember the people they once loved. In all its larger than life fantasy God Country never forgot what was at the heart of this story. Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw could have easily filled this issue with melodrama as they piled on the tragedy. Instead God Country has worked on all levels. This crazy tale has its fun and exciting moments along with all the dread. When victory occurs there are moments of glee and when the finale does come there is a bitter sweetness to it all. Simply it is art in its purest form. This is how you announce to the world you are a creative team that is out to impact the industry.
GRRL Scouts #2
Writer: Jim Mahfood
Artist: Jim Mahfood
GRRL Scouts is a difficult book to review because it has a certain of style and humor that will work for its target audience. The question becomes how big is that audience, and more importantly does accomplishing what you set out to do make your work a success? My argument would be in general no. Look at Adam Sandler films for instance. No doubt they are the movies he wanted to make, but that does not mean that nearly everything he has done in the last decade has its tremendous amount of faults. Looking at GRRL Scouts there are a lot of issues that stop it from being a successful book.
First and foremost that sense of humor is full of jokes that are random for random sake. When the first issue of your series advises you to light one up before reading clearly the humor is not designed to be nuanced. Broad comedy can legitimately be funny but this at times is unaware of its lack of cleverness. Even if you do enjoy the comedy there are some general problems with the scripting and overall story.
The biggest problem being these characters are both ill-defined and rather unlikeable. This series is based on previous work so maybe if you are aware of that there is something here for you. Without that, you have a group of individuals fighting over the use of magic socks with no reason to be invested. The only hope is somehow they take each other out as quickly as possible so there is no need to deal with any of them any longer.
Perhaps the problem is me as I’m looking for too much in a stoner comedy about magic socks that have traveled throughout history. Looking at Jim Mahfood’s brash art you can see a style that is creative and unquestionably its own. It will not take long to know if this book is for you or not, and I freely admit it is not in my wheelhouse. Still, that does not excuse some of the glaring story problems that stop this from being an enjoyable comic.
The Walking Dead #168
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Charlie Adlard
The Walking Dead is one of the few comics existing today where death still matters. Unlike the television show it does not play games with killing characters for cheap attention points, nor does it bring characters back to life in a glorified stunt. When characters do die rarely does the book linger on the death. Choosing to move forward as that is a part of life. These past few issues, however, a certain major death has lingered in every panel. as much as these past few issues have. Considering a once thought untouchable character in Andrea actually died it makes sense to let the death linger for some time.
Negan steals the show this issue as he shows why he is a resource Rick may not be able to give up no matter how much he would like. He works as a counterweight for the more dour Rick who is still deeply wounded over the death of Andrea, which is demonstrated in an emotional sequence in the final pages of this issue. Robert Kirkman has given Charlie Adlard a lot of room to demonstrate his power as a storyteller. There are many somber beats where it is all on Adlard to capture the atmosphere which he does with ease.
It appeared that Kirkman was laying the groundwork for the next big event inside of The Whisper War. This takes an immediate turn due to the actions of Negan, and that along with his development since ‘All Out War’ concluded is making Negan turn the corner as a character. I did not think we would be dealing with Negan this far into the series when he first debuted. Luckily we are as he is currently the best character in the comic.
Royal City #4
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Jeff Lemire
What Jeff Lemire has done with Royal City #4 is craft a story that works on a human drama level first and foremost. The supernatural element that permeates in the background adds a lot of intrigue to sweeten the story. Jeff Lemire has made Royal City into this quiet book that is provocative in its approach to death and how it affects us all in different ways. With this issue, we get a story that centers mostly on the sins of Pat.
When Pat was introduced he seemed like the sane one in the family. He was the one person in the family who left his hometown behind for greener pastures. Those greener pastures dried up as his marriage is falling apart and now his career is also suffering. What we find out in this issue is that he may have committed the greatest sins of them all. Those sins did benefit him greatly, but now due to facing yet another failure, the guilt is beginning to seep in.
Considering Pat is also a writer I wonder if Lemire has put a lot of himself into that character. Pat is finding himself lost in this world. An aspect Lemire demonstrates in a simple yet poignant page about the two-sided person he has become. How it is true what they say about trying to go home again and how you end up being this split person. Partially the person people once knew you as and partially as who you have now become. It is that element that gives Royal City much of its intimate feel.
Jeff Lemire may be the most versatile writer in comics today. Outside of the fact that he can both write and draw, speaking of which his watercolor like style in this series continues to be phenomenal. He can craft stories for multiple companies in a variety of genres. He can make grand space adventure or something much more down to earth like Royal City. Ultimately it is about telling a good story and for Lemire that comes naturally.
Bill and Ted Save the Universe #1
Writer: Brian Joines
When Bill and Ted’s first film was released I doubt anyone thought it would exist in any form nearly thirty years later. By no means is it a timeless concept. Bill and Ted are two characters very much of a specific time and place. I could not see the youth of today at all understanding much what they were about let alone comprehend all the slang they always use. Bill and Ted Save the Universe embraces that part of their characters to make a book that is designed for anyone who enjoyed their past films.
Bill and Ted are all about absurdity and there is plenty of that here. It starts with one of the most elaborate surprise parties ever put together. Not often do you see someone go through time in order to be thrown off the scent of an upcoming of surprise, but that is the world Bill and Ted live in. A world that gets even more complicated when they get abducted by aliens in order to go on a galactic tour to spread peace across the universe. Of course, they do. Of course, Bill and Ted’s music is so powerful it can transcend galactic boundaries causing unknown alien species to ‘Party On’ for peace.
Brian Joines has the voices of the Bill and Ted universe down. Everyone from Bill and Ted to their parents to Death and of course the character with the most robust vocabulary Station. This could have easily been the next movie in the franchise. The biggest complaint is that it does borrow a lot from those movies. Many of its best bits are lifted directly from the biggest jokes in the films. It does not add a lot new until the very end, which in fairness is a surprise that could give this book a fresh way to look at these characters. By no means will this convert those who do not like the movies. If you care little about Bill and Ted there is not much of anything for you. Those that have enjoyed the franchise have plenty to be excited about.
Victor LaValle’s Destroyer #2
Writer: Victor LaValle
Artist: Dietrich Smith
Victor LaValle’s Destroyer #2 has the makings of a good comic but some of the execution was off-putting and at times even upsetting. Two issues in and it is still unclear who exactly the protagonist of this story is or what fully is at stake. There are individual moments that make it worth your time, but better writing could have tied all those together.
This continues the saga of Frankenstein’s monster as he has found himself in the modern world. He is on a specific mission that he will not wait on no matter who it may impact. Unwavering from his path we find that his feelings towards mankind have become extremely sour. Here he travels through Mexico and becomes this Moses-like prophet leading people throughout the desert. Victor LaValle does demonstrate how people will place their own beliefs and preconceived notions into something for either verification purposes or a reason to have hope. What is shown is this monster is a false prophet who is ambivalent towards anything outside his goal.
This leads to one of the more problematic scenes I have seen in a comic in some time. Depicting the death of a child in a comic is not something that should be taken lightly, and to the credit of Victor LaValle and Dietrich Smith, they understand that. Isolated the sequence works on how it is laid out on the page. By no means was it was gratuitous, but it was off-putting and ultimately unnecessary due to everything that surrounds it. Most of the violence in this series has not been treated with a sense of seriousness. Right after this moment, for example, there is a car filled with stereotypical country yokels flying through the air like a rag doll. Something you would expect to see in your normal blockbuster or superhero story. Outside of the fact it was an unnecessary sequence, it severely undercuts the death the child that just took place.
We are also spending a great deal of time with characters that are ultimately meaningless. The special agents from last issue return as they are trying to locate Dr. Baker. Their back and forth is humorous and the nonchalant way they approach their job makes them endearing to be around. They simply have a lot of scenes drenched in meaningless dialog that halts the pace of this story. Based on the ending of this issue it does not seem like we will be dealing with them for much longer. Hopefully, Dr. Baker can bring some character and purpose to make this book more worth your time. There is a good story here if Victor LaValle and Dietrich Smith can find it.
Grass Kings #4
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Tyler Jenkins
Grass Kings is a series that is in a hurry to go nowhere. Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins built this book from the inside out. By crafting the characters and the world they live in first the tension that has arisen in this issue occurs organically. Motivations are clear and the stakes are steadily increasing. Simply put this is how you tell a story.
This issue deals with the fall out of Big Dan’s death and stuf is ready to go down. Now with an excuse to invade Grassland each group is readying their soliders for what is going to be a bloody affair. Not a great deal happens in this issue but the story is still moving forward. As cliché, as it sounds the Grasslands location, is developing into this full fleshed out character full of its own identity. Reading this I cannot help but be reminded of something like Dark Horses’s Brigg Lands, but where this differs is these characters are more subtle with their faults. The only negative part about this comic is that there are only a few issues left.
Similar to Bigg Lands I could easily see this becoming a television series of some sort or returning with more mini-series. The cast here is wide and we are just getting to know who many of them are. With the conclusion coming I doubt much more development will occur. Perhaps it will as Matt Kindt has shown he favors telling a good story over filling a book with mindless action.
Writer: Dennis Hopeless, Mairghread Scott
Artist: Serg Acuna, Max Raynor
WWE #6 is probably the worst issue of the series so far due to an overabundance of dull dialog. In this issue, Dean Ambrose and Sasha Banks continue their kinship that began the last issue as they travel across the US to all the different WWE shows. Sasha is coming off an injury and is tapping into the Lunatic Fringe’s insight to get over some back-to-the-ring butterflies. Along the way she learns some key information like how to know where to eat and the benefit of living in the moment, becaue if you do you may end up finding yourself in the middle of demolition derby.
These two work as an interesting pair. The problem was so much of their interaction was packed with dull dialog. It is somewhat odd to say a WWE comic was trying to do too much but that was they case. There are two issues worth of character growth packed into one book. Pacing suffered and felt off kilter for the second half of the book. Halfway through the book, this story feels complete. Sasha overcomes her obstacles and picks up the win, even if you have to overlook the fact that Dead Ambrose was getting a pin count when he had his opponent in a submission hold. A point that I know will bother some wrestling fans. Then suddenly this Dean Ambrose origin story occurs that is out of place with the rest of the story.
In a way, this misstep is a positive because it demonstrates that Hopeless has built a WWE book worthy of decent expectations. If you know nothing about Dean Ambrose or Sasha Banks this is not going to lead you to get a subscription to the WWE Network. (I hear it is only $9.99 a month) Those that regularly watch Raw on Monday nights have a series that sweetness some of the past storylines even if this issue had its problems.
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Pete Woods
Mark Waid and Pete Woods are doing something special with this current storyline in Archie. This has long been a book about low-risk struggles such as teenage romance and local town elections. ‘Over the Edge’ adds a more ominous tone to all the hamburger gags and slapstick humor. Here the stakes are much more than who will win this year’s big talent show.
Not that those types of stories are inherently bad, nor that Archie needs to be serious in order to be a quality book. In fact, this is a type of story that is best done is small doses otherwise you end up making it feel like an after school special in comic book form. Last issue we saw things get serious when a car race literally went over the edge. With the notion that this would forever change the world of Archie the hope was this book would give some major answers.
Waid shows his veteran nature making us wait till the very end to get any idea of the fate of these beloved characters. We get a series of vignettes showing major Archie characters living their lives like they normally would only to have their world shaken by the power of a phone call. It is an effective technique that works to show the seriousness of this moment while keeping you in suspense. When those answers do come they are as impactful as you would hope.
Who knows if this will have the ramifications it promises. This is the world of comics after all. For now, it is simply a good story that has given this book new life. If you are someone who has thought about getting into this book this is not an ideal jumping on point as these events will mean a lot more if you have an understanding of these characters. It’s odd but in the year 2017 one of the most consistent books on the shelves comes from one of its longing lasting characters. This feels like the story Waid has been building to since he first relaunched this title.
Jimmy’s Bastards #1
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Russell Braun
Garth Ennis doing a mature spoof of the James Bond character makes a lot of sense. His sense of humor lends itself to that type of idea, and the more Garth Ennis comics we get the better the world of comics. Jimmy’s Bastards has a humorous premise that sums up exactly what this book is like. For a first issue, there is a lot of fun to be had, but there is no question that some of the humor just did not land in the way it was intended.
Anyone who has read an Ennis comic in the past knows he is not known for his subtlety. It is well executed sophomoric humor with a mature tone. Here he is writing what is clearly a Roger Moore era type of James Bond character. Although he looks much more like Geroge Lazenby. One with perfect hair, an ideal grin, and a knack for landing any lady he wishes. That is until he gets his new partner Nancy McEwan who rebukes everything he stands for. Clearly, she is a stand-in for modern society that is clashing with the lifestyle Jimmy wishes to live.
That is where Ennis struggles with his comedic bits. Mocking things like safe spaces or trigger warnings reeks of an old man not understanding the modern world. It is completely legitimate to mock that type of terminology or way of thinking. Why it does not work here is because Enis was reaching to pull those references in during moments that did not fit whatsoever. I imagine Enis went to Urban dictionary to find what the new hip words were people were using and threw them in the book where he could Madlibs style.
Although the idea of an old man stuck in a bygone style teaming up with a powerful modern woman is not new there is still a lot of fun and their interaction. Also seeing Enis and Russell Braun comes up with crazier and crazier Bond-like villains was one of the early highlights. Despite its missteps, Jimmy’s Bastards has promise as a series. Once this concept comes together hopefully it will hit its stride.
Blood Brothers #1
Writer: Fabian Rangel Jr.
Artist: Javier Caba
It seems like Fabian Rangel Jr. and Javier Caba were so excited for what they had created with Blood Brothers they threw as much at you as possible in this first issue. So much so it is challenging to grasp what this book is exactly. Both Rangel and Caba have some truly creative minds and these is something to appreciate about a first issue. It does not get bogged down in exposition, but there needs to be more to point you in the direction of what this book is going to be. It feels like you are jumping into the second issue of the second arc, not the opening chapter.
Diego and Gabriel Soli are two brothers and cops of a very unusual city where monsters exist in normal day to day life. Adding to that you have one brother is able to see the dead and the other is a luchador. They discover a secret about one of their father’s past projects that leads them on a quest to track down a Werewolf. A lot to take in there right? Again that gives you an idea of everything packed into this opening. Some better world building could have fined tuned some of those concepts to build a tighter book.
You have to give Fabian Rangel Jr. and Javier Caba credit for being original. I doubt you will find another book out there today quite like this one. Caba’s art is a big standout. He uses the basic panel grid but his coloring and cartooning are especially strong. That may be the best reason to continue with this series. Outside of some of his opening issue jitters, the heart of this book is strong. Dynamite is quietly building a lot of original creator own books this past year.
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Cafu, Roberto de la Torre
Rapture is a challenging book to review as it is well put together yet extremely difficult to get into. It is hard fantasy with dialog that is thick and verbose along with a plotline full of multiple threads and magical creatures with enormous power. Most of the Valiant event comics are broad in their appeal and usually require little knowledge of their world or history. Early this year, for example, Divinity III was a great place to enjoy a phenomenal story no matter what you knew about Valiant as a whole. Rapture is not as inviting as that was. If fantasy is not a genre that normally appeals to you I could not fully recommend this series.
With this issue, we get more back story of the character of Rex the Razer. At first glance, he seems like a version of Odin that does not have as many jerk-like tendencies. We see his origin is far more tragic. That origin is depicted by Roberto de la Torre and is gorgeous in every way. Forcing two different artists into one book tends to lead to a disjointed book. When it works is when you have a situation like this where each artist is depicting their own specific section or flashback. The styles fit together well enough that it is not jarring moving from one to another. One thing Valiant has done better than any other publisher is how to pair artists with one another.
Specifically looking at my apprehension I have to point to what may seem like a minr detail. Perhaps it is, but it does have a major impact. That minor detail comes from the main antagonist of Babel and the choice Matt Kindt is using for his dialog. Many of the words are backward and out of place. This goes along with the theme of this book unquestionably. Overall that theme has been well integrated throughout this story with elements like characters that have the power to kill with just a spoken word. I do not envy Kindt as a writer with that premise. It has to be difficult to find ways to solve that problem.
Looking at the dialog of Babel specificly I understand what Kindt is going for, but it is a choice that makes it more difficult to read your comic. When you have such an important character speaking important dialog it is an odd choice to put up comprehension barriers. It ends up undermining a lot of the good this book is doing.
X-0 Manowar #4
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Doug Braithwaite
X-0 Manowar #4 marks the beginning of a new arc for this series and so far it seems the quality of this series will remain. Now Aric is making the progression from loyal soldier to leader of men. All of that progress has occurred without Aric dawning his trusty armor. What is revealed in this issue leads to Aric questioning his loyalty and leading him to take major action that will surely have gigantic repercussions.
Matt Kindt has used these first two arcs to get at who Aric is as a person. He could easily be this boring character with his moral methods and near invincible ability. What Kindt has shown is how that methodology can be used against him, and how his reluctance to use the armor is eventual moot issue. Here Aric is forced to confront that issue head on as death and destruction reign down around him. It can be easy to overlook how much character this story has due to the insane amount of action that is included throughout. These gigantic set pieces are great to look at but the heart of this story is still a character piece.
Nothing against the art of Doug Braithwaite as what he does works for this story. However, it was sad to see Tomas Giorello go for this arc. Maybe it is a byproduct of being infatuated with the new kid on the block but Giorello’s art was something special. He made this book feel like a major event worthy of the highest attention, which is a trait that Braithwaite along with most artist does not have.
Britannia: We Who Are About to Die #3
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Juan Jose Ryp
If you are at all interested in the history of the Roman Empire Britannia is worth reading simply for the back matter that delves deep into the actual real life history. It is a history that is reflected in this story about the first ever detective and his journey to find the truth in a corrupt world. This picked up right after the last issue as Antonius Axia and the female gladiator known as Achillia face off with the emperor’s soldiers in the middle of the great arena. Juan Jose Ryp’s highly detailed art is used to great effect in this sequence. It is a gorgeously bloody affair as these soldiers are torn to shreds. You feel their pain as their faces cry out in agony.
Peter Milligan’s script encapsulates the intrigue of Rome at this time and how extremely corrupt every inch of it was. That, of course, makes attempting to solve any mystery a massive challenge as the lists of suspects is ever mounting. Major answers are revealed here as Antonius is in desperation to save his son. Having that personal stake has allowed this series to succeed the previous one. There is more to it than general politicking of high-ranking Roman officials.
This issue is not without its faults. Pacing wise this had a breakneck speed as we move from one story element to the next rather quickly. With that some of the major plot reveals may be lost as it is challenging to keep track of some of the finer details. Also one does wonder how a person like Antonius who openly challenges the emperor can do so with little repercussions. It is somewhat strange to see a man basically sentenced to death able to walk free only moments later. The glory of Rome at the time I guess.
Ghostbusters 101 #4
Writer: Erik Burnham
Artist: Dan Schoening
Now that the Ghostbusters’ universes have come together this book has hit its stride. In a way it makes you wish the previous movie went this route so we could see some of the major characters interact. Although coming from seperate dimensions did lead to some funny quips like Patty calling out the fact that Winston looks very much like a younger version of her Uncle. That could have easily been a throwaway but based on some major a sides it actually may lead to some major plot elements.
The interaction between these characters is what has made the book so far. Well, that along with the coloring that caused all of thse pages to pop. Specifically, the coloring used for the ghosts gives a lot of life to this series. Here the team travels to Ellis Island to take on the latest disturbance, which some thought may, in fact, be ghost pirates. Oh how glorious that would have been, but alas that did not occur.
Where this series has benefited is not focusing on the fact that you have one male team and one female team. Instead, it has been more on how you have a team who has been doing this for years working side by side with green rookies. Holtzmann’s itchy trigger finger for example causes things to get worse before they get better.
On the negative side is how a major problem is solved with a very simple solution. It is not uncommon for that to happen in comics. Reed Richards has a habit of creating a new crazy invention to solve whatever unsolvable problems the Fantastic Four are facing, but simply having a big gun to solve your major crisis is not very satisfying. Even if that gun was set up early on in the first few panels. When you have a group of major scientists there should be more to it than big explosions.
Writer: Paul Allor
Artist: Nelson Daniel
At first Clue #1 looks like another cash grab by a company trying to make a comic out of anything. Within the first few panels, it is evident we are dealing with an actually solid comic worth your time. Those who love the cult classic film will find this falls very much in line with that story with a more modern twist. Here the butler acts as the story narrator and fourth wall breaker as he talks directly to the audience.
Not that it is a groundbreaking technique but it is a welcome surprise for a book about a board game. That leads to some of the biggest standout moments of this issue including a brief cameo from an IDW editor. You have to love the fact his room was covered in other Hasbro related property gear. An example of how to do obvious product placement right. I mean this entire book is pretty much product placement, but hey that does not mean it cannot be good. Paul Allor and Nelson Daniel know where bread is buttered.
Is this book a must read? By no means is that the case. There is nothing deep here happening. This is simply a prolonged gag stretched out for a full issue. Simply this is an example of a creative team doing the best that can be done with the material they were given. A pun-laden book about a board game could only last so long. Hopefully, its surprise success does not lead to an onslaught of board game related comics that no one needs. For now, let’s just enjoy this for what it is.