Singles Going Steady 9/10/2013: A little bit mighty, a little bit crazyA comic review article by: Taylor Lilley, Keith Silva, Zack Davisson, Jason Sacks
Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin's weekly single issue review roundup.
Curious for our take on Week Two of DC's Villains Month? Read Kyle's take on it!
Mighty Avengers #1
(Al Ewing/Greg Land; Marvel)
Mighty Avengers appears to be the Civil War: Front Line for Infinity, a supplementary title based in New York as Thanos's city-razing Black Order land, chronicling the fallout on the ground from the main event --said event currently happening in space, leaving Earth without any Avengers teams.
Except… Mighty Avengers can't be that book, because it's a brand new Avengers number one, it's ongoing, and it's arguably Marvel's highest profile promotion of diversity to date. Created by white guys (full disclosure: I'm one of them too), this new series contains a cast of minority characters. So what is Mighty Avengers about?
In promoting the book, writer Al Ewing and the Marvel publicity team have been keen to emphasise its community aspect, that this is Luke Cage trying to prioritise real world problems over alien-punching ("This is not the world I want… It needs to change. And I can do more about that"). His Heroes for Hire operation seems the perfect vehicle for that real-world emphasis.
Except that it isn't the '70s anymore. In 2013 we live in the economy of free, where rightly or wrongly great works are often either passion projects reaping meagre reward, or "social enterprises". You know, citizens taking action. Individual empowerment. Heroism.
Ewing smartly nods to this via Superior Spidey's dismissal of Cage's crew as "mercenaries"; a charge so dishonourable that White Tiger leaves the team there and then. This use of Superior Spidey, sowing discord to cement his New York dominance, is possibly the first intelligent exploration of that character's disruptive potential. Could Cage's lack of rebuttal to Doc Ock signal the search for a new hero-ing paradigm?
This muddled package is redeemed by this questioning intelligence. Ewing's dialogue seems believable, and is refreshingly free of the kind of shorthand that's often applied to minorities in comics. His Monica Rambeau is every inch an Avenger in the classic Janet van Dyne mode (though "Spectrum" is a weak moniker). Power Man is fired up, spirited without being annoying. But crucially, Luke Cage is a man of ideals, driven yet empathic toward the perspectives of others. He's a rounded, compelling lead.
Land's "Glam Realism" style seems at a new level of refinement too, though strange inking choices (particularly with Cage's black tee, a flat, light-swallowing ebony) is at odds with his photo-finish figures. Naturally, all the women are Barbies, but Land is increasingly observant of Larry Hama's 2nd rule for drawing a comic book page, and has pulled back from his steroids and side-boobs obsessions.
Mighty Avengers #1 seems misplaced in time (fitting, what with all the temporal disturbances in the Marvel Universe) and ill at ease with the galactic scale of events surrounding it. If it can survive the predictable "New Yorkers unite to repel all invaders" scenario with internal tensions still fizzing, watching this cast realise Luke Cage's Heroic vision for the Avengers might just make for a must-read Avengers title. But that's a way off yet.
- Taylor Lilley
Locke & Key: Alpha #1
(Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriquez, Jay Fotos; IDW)
As Tuco tells Blondie in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly: ''You see, in this world there's two kinds of people, my friend: Those who read Locke & Key and those who should.''
If Locke & Key is beyond your ken, I am envious, envious for the blessed moment you crack the spine on Locke & Key Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft and discover the true consequences of ''the magic of comic books'' and ''the power of storytelling.'' This review is not for you; you have some reading to catch up on.
Locke & Key: Alpha #1 hurts. It's visceral and corporeal, a story felt, in the gut, in the heart and in the soul. Above all, Locke & Key: Alpha #1 is not a story one ruins for others. These are, after all, anxious times for our heroes, as Kinsey says: ''I need to feel something besides panic.''
For this penultimate issue, storytellers Gabriel Rodriquez, Joe Hill and Jay Fotos choose to fight, to do the 'meat work' Locke & Key has been leading to since it began. Three talents (four counting letterer Robbie Robbins) at the height of their powers -- not a line, word, or shade out of place.
Rodriquez's cartooning is on a higher plane -- there's no other way to put it -- backgrounds, figures, all of it. Each panel roils with detail, every crease in every hat and hoodie, the sutures stitched across Rufus's face, and, of course, the terror, the desperate certain terror. The legions of demons Rodriquez draws in triumph and in repose rival a Fuseli nightmare. His character work has so much verve (such a spark) it's easy to miss a riff on a Renaissance master and the Almighty.
Fotos finds Nigel Tufnel's ''none more black'' black for almost every scene except when something is aflame: people, buildings, 'whispering iron.' His delicate colors for starry skies and the crescent moon are the story's only comforts.
Where did Joe Hill learn to write dialogue like this? He had to learn those filthy words, abject anger and maniac passion somewhere, right? What Hill does best is animate evil. In Dodge, Hill offers a gift: a villain's villain.
See Dodge's eyes. The shine? It's experience, knowing it's time for these creators to slip the long shadows of influence and begin to cast their own envious shades of inspiration.
(Adam Egypt Mortimer / Darick Robertson / Diego Rodriguez; Black Mask)
Ballistic is a nonstop idea machine, a comic that's so full of concepts both outrageous and clever, both absurdly offensive and brilliantly insightful, that a reader might have found him or herself lost amidst the drug-addicted talking guns and flesh eating porn and cybernetic seashells if he wasn't grounded to this completely messed-up world by a completely messed up HVAC installer-cum bank robber lead character.
It's at the same time the most postmodern and the most retro idea ever to appear in comics: what if everything in the future was even more outrageously screwed than it is now? What if we had flying cars – with wings for god's sake – and a utopian future city built upon the recycling of giant heaps of garbage, but everyone important in that city is completely messed up, completely incapable of doing anything other than look out for their own very specific, very weird self-interests.
The future looks bright but it also looks dark as hell. It's a beautiful world and it’s completely outrageous. And it's all drawn beautifully by current comics' unparalleled master of the disturbingly bizarre, Darick Robertson. Robertson draws everything in this comic with same upsetting patina of grime all over everything. Even the most beautiful women and exciting scenes are tainted by the awesomely horrible world that has created them. And most awesome of all is the gun which looks like a terrifying vagina and the scene where it breastfeeds… yeah you really have to read this comic to get the whole effect.
I'd never heard of this comic's writer, Adam Egypt Mortimer, before I read this comic, but it appears that he's a Hollywood filmmaker with a few comics under his belt as well as music videos and other media. In other words, he's a classic Hollywood renaissance creator, but based on the quality of work he's putting out here, he doesn't seem to be one of those Hollywood douchebags who's always trying to pitch boring old ideas back to you. Now I really want to see this man's movies
Not very comics leave me with a combination of euphoria and depression at the same time, but the brilliantly dystopian world that Adam Egypt Mortimer and Darick Robertson create with Ballistic put me in a thoroughly alien state of mind.
- Jason Sacks
Kiss Me Satan #1
(Victor Gischler / Juan Ferreryra / Eduardo Ferreyra / Nate Piekos; Dark Horse)
This was another one of my random Dark Horse #1 picks. I don’t know the slightest thing about Kiss Me Satan and have never heard of any of the creative team behind the comic. Sometimes that works out for me (Blood Brothers is a great series. Addictive.) Sometimes not so much (Resident Alien is decent but dull and forgettable.) So far I have never gotten a truly BAD comic.
Kiss Me Satan falls somewhere in the middle. I wouldn’t consider this a horror comic, any more than I would consider Blood Brothers a horror comic. Sure, there are vampires, werewolves, and demons galore, but that isn’t enough to qualify something as horror. This is an action comic that happens to use monsters instead of superheroes or super spies. There isn’t the slightest attempt to be scary, or even unsettlingly weird. There's just standard issue loner hero vs. gang drama with a slight horror façade.
As an action-comic-with-a-monster-façade, Kiss Me Satan is pretty good. The premise is interesting: Barnabus is an angel who rebelled with Lucifer, then later repented and wanted back into Heaven. As the sole rebel angel knocking on Heaven’s Door, there is no precedent. Heaven decides to let Barnabus in after he has performed an undecided number of tasks for redemption. The tasks usually involve dirty work, and Barnabaus is a gun-toting former angel who kills without hesitation. Meanwhile, New Orleans is run by a werewolf syndicate (as stand-ins for the Mob) who are having heir problems and civil war that I am guessing will spill over onto Barabus.
The art in Kiss Me Satan pushes it up a notch. Artist Juan Ferreyra has a solid style, with a cinematic flair that is good for this kind of action comic. Lots of in-your-face guns pointed right at the reader. Some of the weirder points are thanks to Ferreyra as well. The Eye of Fates is damn cool. I wanted to see more of that. The coloring has a nice, painterly feel to it that combines the effects of a fully painted comic with Japanese animation shadow and coloring.
This is only a 5-issue limited series, so I will probably pick up the rest of Kiss Me Satan. It’s entertaining enough for a read, and maybe writer Victor Gischler will flesh out the story in further issues. I’m suspecting he wanted to open with a bang, which is why we get this over-the-top action issue for #1. Or maybe not. After all, a comic called Kiss Me Satan probably isn’t shooting for subtle.
- Zack Davisson
Robocop: Last Stand #2
(Frank Miller & Steven Grant / Korkut Öztekin; BOOM! Studios)
"Come and get it, scum."
With a slick reboot in cinemas next year, BOOM! are cleverly gunning for those excited by (or sceptical of) the trailer's shininess, by publishing this Steven Grant adaptation of Frank Miller's unused Robocop 3 script. The end result is classic Miller and classic Robocop, a solid '80s B-movie wrapped in mood-perfect Shalvey/Bellaire covers.
Set years after the original film, the police force has been replaced by ED-209's and Omni Consumer Products (OCP) officers, while Robocop has gone rogue, standing up for the rights of the oppressed citizenry as their homes are bulldozed for OCP's Delta City reconstruction. After holding back wrecking balls in #1, this issue Rogue-ocop liberates brainwash-ees from an OCP Attitude Adjustment Clinic, aided by a re-programmed ED-209 ("Loy-al-as-a-pup-py"). Oh, and he kind of flirts, too. Old-school boxes ticked!
Öztekin keeps the action explosive, the acting heightened, the shoulder pads fitted wide, and the Detroit locales just as gritty as they should be. While the art is rough in places, one-liners get their moments and the carnage has space to bleed. The overall aesthetic will feel familiar to Miller/Janson fans, and familiarity is, after all, a large part of this comic's appeal. Miller's writing tics are all present and correct too, so if you were hoping for a passing score on the Bechdel test or nuanced social commentary, you'll be disappointed. Of course, if you were eager to see how a Japanese warrior could fit into the Robocop mix, or had just missed seeing panels of newscasters on TV, you'll be smiling by the end.
There's a pretty limited sweet spot for this comic consisting of those who still enjoy the original movie, and those who can forgive it and Miller their excesses. For comics progressives there's less to entice, but for fanboys lapsed and practicing, it's a blast. Come and get it.
- Taylor Lilley
Resident Alien: Suicide Blonde #1
(Peter Hogan / Steve Parkhouse; Dark Horse)
I picked up Resident Alien: Suicide Blonde on a whim and jumped into it blind. I saw a new #1 from Dark Horse and didn't realize it wasn't a true #1, but just the latest in a series-of-mini-series. Still, that's not always a bad thing. If the writer and artist are good they can give you enough hooks in the middle of a story to make you want to go back and read the rest. I didn't pick up an issue of The Goon or Criminal Macabre until they were well into the middle of their stories, and I still fell in love with them.
Resident Alien isn't quite on that level, but it was a solid opening for a series that kept my interest even though I was starting without the benefit of the full story. The opening provides a short intro to the character and series that was enough to get me going. It's an odd premise and an exercise in genre-mashing—this is forensics show (ala Bones and CSI) meets quirky "Alien Among Us" (a la X-Files and My Favorite Martian.).
And really, based on this first issue of Suicide Blonde the "Aliens Among Us" part is the least important aspect of the series. Our friendly neighborhood alien, Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle, looks like your classic Grey but he acts and talks like any of the other cast, and obviously has relationships with those around him. I don't know how the rest of the series goes, but I pretty much forgot he was an alien a few pages into the story because it had zero impact on how the forensics/detective aspect of the story was shaping up. At the end of this first issue, we get a glimpse of a government organization hunting the mysterious "Icarus" (aka our friendly neighborhood alien) but that's about it.
Steve Parkhouse's art is good—really good—but nothing special. I realize that sounds strange, so let me explain. His style is skillfully executed, with nice line work and composition. He favors a realistic style—which is something I really like—and everything in his world seems to fit into place. He draws great faces. There were a couple of panels where I was just staring, thinking "That's a well-drawn face. That's really good." All that is great, but … I just didn't get any emotional impact off of his work. Nothing particularly moved me or made me excited.
And I think that's true for Peter Hogan's writing as well, and this issue on the whole. There's nothing bad about it. It's a decent comic, and I could see reading it from the beginning and getting hooked on the series. The problem is in the day and age of $3 and $4 comic books, "decent" just isn't good enough anymore. If I don't feel some kind of emotional hook to the story—if I don't NEED to read that next issue—then I probably won't. And that's how it is with Resident Alien: Suicide Blonde.
- Zack Davisson
(Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Giannis Milogiannis, Joseph Bergin III, Matt Sheean, Malachi Ward, James Stokoe, Aaron Conley, Lando, Ron Wimberly, Ed Brisson; Image)
Brandon Graham is the Yeezy of indie cartoonists. Prophet #39 shows he knows how to party.
Under Graham's watch, Prophet has been an art first comic. Often, in the case of Marvel and DC, artist showcases get ghettoized i.e. Batman Black & White and Marvel Knights. I admire Graham's chutzpah (with Image's blessing) to put out an on-going non-anthology title with an emphasis on cartooning and an unfussiness in regards to monotonous narrative continuity. For a creator who boogies to the music in his own head, it's a comfort to know Graham's got the industry juice to pull off Prophet in the first place. Art takes such a priority in Prophet #39 the credits are listed on the back cover. Ballsy.
Oftentimes when nine artists contribute to a single title it smacks of unreasonable deadlines and assembly line drudgery. Prophet #39 comes off as the exact opposite of a work-for-hire slog -- it's an artistic bacchanal that serves as a family album for Diehard. Each artist takes a crack at the more-human-than-human robot's life (lives?) across the millennia. Series artist Giannis Milogiannis counts off (on the inside front cover) with two half-page panels showing Diehard's current iteration as he noodles on an alien woodwind in a quiet starship corridor, ''an old song played by an old robot,'' poetry in both word and image.
Simon Roy, Prophet's other regular artist and the issue's co-writer, rounds out the proceedings. He bookends the story with what Diehard was up to before he meets up (again) with John Prophet in the current storyline. Prophet #39 is a must see for the five pages James Stokoe turns in and for the one panel from Ron Wimberly. One panel? Hell yeah, it's Ron Wimberly, dude's got big ups!
Wimberly's cameo has Iron Giant-type heart and charm. Stokoe, the Woo-ping Yuen of comic book battle royales, gets to draw Diehard with a chainsword (a nod to Maximum 'Max' Absolute in King City).
It's fashionable nowadays to wrap a story arc with a palate cleanser character study. Where Graham and Roy break from tradition (?) is to show Diehard's life in montage, a life of war, but also full of families, children and brothers-in-arms. Graham makes Prophet more than its reductive descriptor, 'Conan in space,' by letting the sci-fi fly and allowing creators to create. Prophet #39 goes the does likewise for the 'old robot.'
- Keith Silva