Singles Going Steady 4/29/2014: like if Michelangelo did cave paintings directed by Akira Kurosawa

A comic review article by: Ryan Ford, Rafael Gaitan, Justin Giampaoli , Kenny Sanders, Ashley Simpson

Singles Going Steady

Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin's weekly single issue review roundup. 

Elektra #1

(W. Haden Blackman / Michael del Mundo; Marvel Comics)

4 stars

With W. Haden Blackman (Batwoman) helming the script and Michael del Mundo (X-Men Legacy) steering the artwork, it looks like Elektra is getting her first legit run since Frank Miller. The combination of the two is like if Michelangelo did cave paintings directed by Akira Kurosawa. Make sense? Because it should. It is a beautifully composed piece of artwork that alludes to the sordid past of this covermodel assassin.

Before we get started, let’s do a roll call of classic cameos: Matt Murdock (with sunglasses, minus the red suit), Wilson Fisk (in his white suit), Bullseye, Stick, Sabretooth… Anyway, not to name drop, but… Moving on.

elektra-2014-issue-1-interior-art-preview-02

Red Swannin’ on ‘em.

“The Bloodlines” story begins with the Matchmaker (cue Holly Golightly) throwing Elektra a new mission to keep her mind off the past. Ex-boyfriends who think you’re dead can have that effect. New target – Cape Crow.

But it seems she ain’t the only trained killer, after that old bird as the scaly villain The Serpent sends ol’ Bloody Lips on the same trail. With the final glorious frame, Elektra skydives into the next field of battle, the Savage Land. Overall, Blackman and del Mundo craft a brilliant work that visually tells the backstory while the dialogue sets up the future. From the first frame to the last, this series looks like could have the balls necessary to pump some life back into this character (Phrasing).

Ashley Simpson and Ryan Ford


Iron Patriot #2

(Ales Kot / Garry Brown; Marvel Comics)

4 stars

Why can't James Rhodes just make it work?

For all intents and purposes, the character just can't seem to find a following, despite some kick-ass diegetic credentials- he's a soldier, an intelligent and charismatic guy who can keep toe-to-toe with Anthony Stark in just about any universe he's thrown in, and he's also made it into more feature films than Wonder Woman- with two (2!) iterations!

Despite having all the coolest suits (as far as 10 yr old Raf Gaitan was concerned,) comics tends to “Yeah, pal” Ol' Rhodey- he had a brief and brilliant run in the defunct Iron Man 2.0 (peace to Nick Spencer, also shout-outs to stripping him of his identity for sales.) Now Lil' Jimmy is back, assuming the role of the Iron Patriot in his own series, guided by prodigious newcomer Ales Kot, and with it lots of questions- does it stack up? Does he still have that giant machine-gun shoulder?

Yes and sadly, no. Kot approaches an angle of Rhodey's that has been mostly untapped: his family. He casts him as the star of his own 80s action-flick or even a much better comics-reboot of Steel. James Rhodes is no Shaquille O' Neal, but he does come with a smart-as-a-whip niece and an elderly father, both whom surprisingly defy their conventions. Kot has sprinkled some hints that her mechanical talents will come into handy later in the plot, but as of this issue they've been deftly handled to showcase her and flesh her out, and Terrence Rhodes could have easily Lou Gossett Juniored his way around the book, but Kot finds a rich vein of esteem and the conversations Rhodey has with him are tender yet engaging- they both feel like genuine people having a heart-to-heart.

Garry Brown's fluid yet solid pencils are very much in line with Kot's pacing and not a single frame of the book feels decompressed or wasteful- they have a great hybrid sense of one another's direction and talents- there is an incredible sequence that fuses dialogue and internal monologue and artwork into a crackling piece of sequential perfection.

**SPOILER ALERT***

How would you ever know that you wanted to see a Stark Industries Mark used as a missile against a giant monster unless you read this issue and had that desire awakened in you?

**END SPOILERS**

The nice thing about having a low-key superstar like Rhodey is that Kot and Brown can tell the stories they want without any presumed editorial cockblocking. Until people take notice, that is- it's too early to tell as Kot has just started with Marvel but with this and his run on Secret Avengers, we might be seeing another Fraction on the come-up, in terms of truly grasping how to marry the personality profiling of his characters with Cool, Rad Shit (TM). Take the (James) Rhode(s) less traveled!

- Rafael Gaitan


Sheltered #8 

(Ed Brisson / Johnnie Christmas / Shari Chankhamma; Image Comics)

4 stars

I’ve been wondering if Ed Brisson naming this series “Sheltered” might have been a nod to a guy named Lloyd Kahn, who was an early pioneer of green shelters, involved with the Whole Earth Catalog, and created some guides to counterculture building. That’s neither here nor there as far as the review goes, but hopefully Ed will chime in and allay my curiosity.

This is a great issue because the balance of power begins to teeter between Lucas and Victoria. The group is still reeling from the shootout that occurred, with characters like Mitch and Nancy the sort of “swing votes” that either side needs to win over the group. At times, you almost can sense the ideological divide that Brisson laces the narrative with, Victoria as an idealist, Lucas as a fascist, and Mitch as a cold realist.

I continue to be impressed by the combination of Johnnie Christmas’ art and Shari Chankhamma’s color, I mean, just look at the noses, it’s all about the noses! The way they glow warm from the cold environment, the lighting on them is just superb. Christmas is able to carry so much emotion in the facial characteristics, just look at wild-eyed Victoria trying to plead her case. I also really enjoyed the nuclear primer in the backmatter by Ryan K. Lindsay, which essentially debunks the realities of post-nuclear detonation. It’s a crime that this book was not nominated for Best New Series in the Eisner Awards this year. #TeamVictoria

- Justin Giampaoli


Secret Origins #1

(Tony Bedard / Kyle Higgins / Greg Pak / Doug Mahnke / Paulo Siqueira / Lee Weeks / Keith Champagne / Sandra Hope; DC Comics)

4 stars

Oh, Superman. Will they ever get him right? So far, Greg Pak (Batman/Superman, Action Comics) has done the Big Blue Boy Scout no injustice in 2K14, so there’s no other reason why he can’t fine-tune his origin either.

In Secret Origins #1, readers will experience a triplet of short-stories from three differing creative teams on some of DC’s most iconic figures — none more harrowing than the Man of Steel himself. Harrowing, I say, because over the years — and there has been a lot of them — we have revisited the dude’s origin countless times. You figured Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s Secret Origins would be enough. And while some may feel this is the same cookie cutter, Pak’s stroll through young Superman Lane is just as compelling.

More like.. EEE-Harmony!!

More like.. EEE-Harmony!!

But here’s the deal: while the story hits all the right emotional beats and the “baby pictures” from Lee Weeks (storyboard artist on Superman: The Animated Series) appear just as adorable on paper, this Saint would like to see an origin story where Superman is a complete ass and has that sense of arrogance that he is a superior being. Oh, okay, so I guess something like Superior, but with our Clark Kent. So whenever Supes got pissed, he’d thrust someone in the balls “Nature Boy” style. Whoo! Then as he gets on with his career (you know, jet flyin’, limousine ridin’…), he’d learn the lesson of being a true hero — not merely a God among the common man.

The second of the Secret Origins stories is Nightwing scribe Kyle Higgins‘ fall of Dick Grayson and rise of Robin. As we see the Boy Wonder begin as a member of the Flying Graysons to being Batman’s right hand man, there’s a couple of clutch situations that I need not spoil. And just a side note: Grayson (who has his own spy-thriller ongoing coming soon), is my favorite Robin. Even more so than that funny Mr. Williams dude. Finally, the last origin features Supergirl. I’m not going to lie: I was bored. Tony (Blue Beatle) Bedard‘s story does show some of Kara’s early life on Krypton, though.

- Kenny Sanders


Lazarus #8

(Greg Rucka / Michael Lark; Image Comics)

5 stars

Michael Lark’s art really has an ability to capture the dark and murky morality that Greg Rucka’s scripts are addressing. From Forever’s childhood indoctrination into the family business, to a bomb plot in LA that leads... elsewhere... there’s a sense of shifting cultural values and social mores. From the Carlyle Family perspective, the bomb plot is a terror plot, and the intended location really resides in the heart of one of the only hopeful places the world has left to offer. The plot thread about “The Lift” converges with everything else we’ve been shown in this new arc, and it finally all makes sense.

I really enjoyed the way people’s value can go from waste to serf based on their abilities in this weird organic community that’s been created on the march. It’s no surprise around these parts that I have a thing for post-apocalyptic morality plays, and Lazarus is certainly in the top grouping of that genre, illustrating current social fears by extrapolating them to the extreme. With its commentary on resource scarcity and the rapidly expanding divide between the haves and the have nots, it’s an important book that could easily be studied at the collegiate level.

- Justin Giampaoli


Original Sin #0

(Mark Waid / Paco Medina; Marvel Comics)

3.5 stars

My second reading was Original Sin — and not quite original and not quite a sin. The #0 issue, from Daredevil scribe Mark Waid and stunning layouts courtesy of Jim Cheung (Young Avengers), Paco Medina (Ultimate Comics X-Men), and a swap-meet of colorists, is centered around Nova — Sam Alexander Nova — and The Watcher, Uatu. Though cameos from Iron Man and Captain America add more spice to the flavor, the overall prequel story to Marvel’s big summer blockbuster event ran a little slow. The story centers around…

…or, at least those were the beats swirling around my head for the majority of this comic. While the #0 does appear to aim for too many stars (with a heavy load of Nova-narration), the natural focus remains on my man The Watcher and why he is the Watcher. It is pretty revealing, actually. But, really, my own interest sparked on this comic solely on the strength of the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy flick. Still, Waid’s story got me more familiar with Uatu as well as more interest for the upcoming big event. And damn if this comic ain’t pretty as hell.

- Kenny Sanders


Justice League United #0

(Jeff Lemire / Mike McKone; DC Comics)

At the head of this project, we have writer Jeff Lemire (Animal Man) and artist Mike McKone (JLA, JLI) taking us to the frozen tundra of Canada for what is shaping up to be a galactic Battle Royale. So, naturally, the Justice League will be taking on a nicer, more gentle approach. And people in hell want ice water.

Even though the Canadians are world renown for their kindness, the New 52 JLU is far from it. With cinematic tones and snarky dialogue, the comic takes on a light-hearted facade, though a devious underbelly lies evidently in wait.

Patrick Bateman would be proud.

-Batting first, in this lineup of heroes, is J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter. With super strength, telepathy, shape and density shifting, it is easy to see why this power hitter is batting lead off.

-On deck, we have Oliver Queen, aka the Green Arrow. This billionaire turned vigilante has had a long tenure with the team and is perfectly suited to finance any sort of expenditures the team may need.

What's a brunette?

What’s a brunette?

-Coming in as an unlikely early-game savior is Adam Strange. In this lineup, he is a multi-tooled player functioning first as an anthropologist. Apparently, creating Zeta tubes doesn’t matter as much as it did…

-Coming in to hit cleanup is Supergirl, followed by Stargirl and the one and only Animal Man.

-The late inning surprise is Equinox. Her name is Miyahbin Marten, a member of the Moose Cree Nation from northern Ontario, Canada. The rest of the lineup is saved for a game time decision… Or the last page. Spoiler.

All in all, it’s a decent set up. The self-deprecating jokes of the lesser characters and the cultural references make for a good chuckle, but the erratic framing make for something better suited to cartoons. Still worth a read and looking like a decent set up for a much bigger event.

Ashley Simpson and Ryan Ford


The Bunker #3

(Joshua Hale Fialkov / Joe Infurnari; Oni Press)

This is a very moody and atmospheric issue that amps up the intensity by showing us the nitty-gritty of the explosion in SF, characterized as “the worst terror attack since 9/11.” It’ll no doubt shape the future of the world, and it plays like the key event with a butterfly effect through time that it’s been set up as. There’s that, along with the traumatic childhood stuff that’s impacted the personalities of the characters today.

Joshua Hale Fialkov seems to be a rising star, and when he’s paired with stylish artists like Joe Infurnari, the results are pretty great. Infurnari has a sketchy quality to his art that captures the tenuous grip on reality that the characters must be feeling. There’s a sequence here where Heidi is depicted in a washed out white color that emphasizes the emotional void she must be feeling too. It’s a smart book that has the potential to be one of the great modern mysteries.

- Justin Giampaoli


Conan the Avenger #0

(Fred Van Lente / Brian Ching; Dark Horse Comics)

3.5 stars

First off, let’s start this piece by saying that Fred Van Lente (Cowboys and Aliens) has made this Barbarian (or the Drunk Avenger… Whatever) look like a truly badass motherfucker. Brian Ching (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic) has done artistically what Dashel Hamet did for Humphrey Bogart’s career. That’s a Maltese Falcon reference. Boom. So, to tie the room together like a nice rug, the dynamic duo of Van Lente and Ching breathe a new light into a rugged character that would have the kings of Westeros in a tizzy.

Lunch time!

Lunch time!

As far as the work as a whole, there is dynamic character development paired against a backdrop that sets the Moody more than the written word could. This sick Cimmerian warrior slices and dices like no other. Whence licking the blood from his sword, the fallen officers who cast him off obviously shit their pants. No record can be confirmed, but we all know it happened.

When Conan emerges from the pit victorious, you almost feel like “Hell yeah! That’s what I would do” as you helplessly mimic the Star Wars boy in your living room while watch the Donatello only sequences from Ninja Turtles… What I’m saying is the writing and artwork suck you in an make you ready for the next episode. Also, beware thieves and witches. And no one touches his boots. NO ONE!

All in all, a blessed read and holy, holy art.

-Ashley Simpson and Ryan Ford


Letter 44 #6

(Charles Soule / Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque; Oni Press)

4 stars

The other big new creator owned book from Oni Press is Charles Soule’s Letter 44, and this was an interesting issue that ends this first arc by allowing us to catch our breath and absorb the new status quo. The team in space is dealing with the aftermath of their messy first contact scenario, with lost crew members, decoded plans, and a new birth, which has lots of potential repercussions. Back on Earth, the politics are in full force with a Presidential tete a tete that ends up thwarting more conspiratorial violence.

It’s rare that you feel you have no idea where a series will go next, and that’s part of the high I get from Letter 44. I’m really excited to see the next one-shot issue, with art by Joelle Jones.

- Justin Giampaoli

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