Singles Going Steady 5/6/2014: A Wild Ride and Much More

A comic review article by: Guy Copes III, Justin Giampaoli, Travis Moody, Bree Ogden, Kevin Reilly, John Yohe

Singles Going steady

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

Veil #3

(Greg Rucka / Toni Fejzula / Nate Piekos; Dark Horse)

How many times do I have to repeat myself? Go get this series. Veil #1 and #2 are still probably stocked at your local comic book store. Get all three issues and enjoy the most mysterious story going on right now in the comics world.

Veil #3 has us finally learning a little bit of the "why" of the main character, though it comes through the actions of other characters: Cormac, the occultist-for-hire, and his now former employer, corporate-overlord Mr. Scarborough, as they compete to possess Veil. And if that makes her sound like an object, to them she is certainly at least not human.

Speaking of action, Rucka is going more and more minimalist, with hardly any captions, and minimal dialogue. Check this out: Six pages of continuous pages with no dialogue! And none is necessary, because Rucka has artist Toni Fejzula drawing (and most importantly coloring!) the story. What other creative team can get away with the main character not saying one word for 22 pages?

The only minor problem at this point is how Rucka can catch new readers up to speed on what’s going on. He does this, to my mind, smoothly, through a scene with Scarborough, though even then that scene happens halfway through the issue. Fejzula is the key, with artwork so intriguing that readers might forget that there’s a larger story going on. But there is, and if you jump on now, at #3, you’re just going to want to go back and start at the beginning.

How many times do I have to repeat myself?

Or, let me put it this way:

Top 10 Reasons to read VEIL

1-5. Greg Rucka

6-10. Toni Fejzula

- John Yohe

V-Wars #1

(Jonathan Maberry / Alan Robinson / Jay Fotos; IDW)

4 stars

As Jonathan Maberry’s vampire comic Bad Blood comes to an end this week, his new IDW vampire comic V Wars drops and ensures us that we don’t have to live in a Maberry Vampireless world.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Jonathan Maberry creates the freshest vampire lore I've ever experienced. He flips the genre on its head and refuses to play by any of the set rules. Because of this, he's able to entertain, provoke, and sustain series after series of, frankly, one of the most played out literary monsters.
In V Wars, everyone carries the vampire gene. It's dormant, but it's there and all it takes is an illness dubbed "The Ice Virus" to trigger the vampire gene. Once the Ice Virus is triggered, you move to your side of the line: the vampire side or the human side. The comic starts mid-story as the world is in all-out war between those who want to kill the vampires and those who want to cure them and or live harmoniously with them.
It'd be silly if I sat here and ignored the blatant political message of this comic. Like in HBO's True Blood, the vampires, or as they call themselves in V Wars, the "Bloods," aren't always bad. Also as in True Blood, there are those trying to end the hatred and seek equality for all—including the Bloods. Because ignorance breeds fear, this just isn't going to happen. There are those who truly want unity but more importantly, there are those (the Bloods) who believe they are the "top of the food chain. And everything—and everyone—else is ours to bleed." Damnit that Maberry… he knows how to write a killer line. This story is an allegory of ignorant hatred at its finest. Maberry has created a war in which people are needlessly attacking others out of fear, and it hits painfully close to home.
There's nothing about the art here that's light on gore. Lots of heads being ripped off, eyeballs flying out of sockets, mashed bloody globs of heaven knows what splattered all over the pages. But it's beautiful because it's paired with Maberry's robust and ardent writing.
This isn't a story about vampires. It's not even really a story about war, if that's what you're looking for. It's a complex look at right and wrong, conspiracy and trust. As a reporter in the comic says, "Is it a war of self-defense? Or ethnic genocide?" This is a message from Maberry. 

- Bree Ogden

Hacktivist #4

(Alyssa Milano / Jackson Lanzing / Collin Kelly / Marcus To; Archaia)

4 stars

This is an emotionally satisfying conclusion to one of the surprise hits of 2014.

The front of the issue focuses mostly on Ed and Sirine in Tunisia, still reeling from the death of Beya, and having a great discussion about a freedom uprising being so much more than just a complex trust algorithm. Placing Ed "on the streets" is a great way to shake up his worldview and develop an awareness of this fact. Amid drone strikes and Tiananmen Square style showdowns in the street, the two eventually create something of an "open source rebellion" that spreads. To borrow a phrase, the revolution may not be televised, but it will certainly spread virally over the wireless network. Witness the true power of technology as an information accessibility equalizer in the modern age.

Nate has a role to play too, understanding from his government handlers the lengths that the CIA is willing to go to in violating personal freedoms all in the name of National Security. Deron Bennett also has some nice moves in the lettering of certain Arabic and Russian bits.

With recent developments around the world, glossed over bits like US Aid's so-called "Cuban Twitter" losing out to air time in favor of pap like Kim and Kanye, Hacktivist is one of the most socially relevant works out there at the moment. I’m sad to see the series go at just four issues, though the way it ended certainly leaves it open for further adventures in the future. I’m also happy to see that Archaia will have a swanky hardcover collection out in July (ideally in time for SDCC), with an introduction by Twitter's own Jack Dorsey, thus exposing the work to throngs of new fans. I'll certainly be upgrading to the hardcover for my bookshelves, and encourage the SDCC horde to do the same.

Justin Giampaoli

Flash Annual #3

(Robert Venditti / Van Jensen / Brett Booth / Ron Frenz; DC Comics)

3.5 stars

Let's move the elephant in the room out-of-the-way right at the start.

What's most important about this story is not the race of the New 52 Wally West. If that's your main focus and point of contention, then I feel sad for you. The draw of this issue and all that really matters in the end is the art and writing. Is the story itself good? I say, definitely yes.

Just a friendly game of "tag" is all..

Just a friendly game of “tag” is all...

This issue, by scribes Robert Venditti (X-O Manowar, Green Lantern) and Van Jensen (Green Lantern Corps) and artists Brett Booth (Backlash, Teen Titans) and longtime vet Ron Frenz (Spider-Girl), spends its time setting up future stories for the regular Flash ongoing. This issue bounces back and forth between the present and the future, where we are introduced to future Barry Allen and future Gorilla Grodd. Hints and revelations abound in both time periods. We meet the New 52 Wally West in the present day, learn his backstory and get glimpses into his personality. For those who remember the young Wally from the Wolfman/Perez New Teen Titans or Messner-Loebs Flash runs back in the day, there are flashes of that old Wally in the little bit of time we spend with Nu-52 Wally. Time will tell how much of the old DCU former Kid Flash/Flash will be present in the new version, who might just prove interesting in his own right without having to carry the weight of past continuity on his shoulders.

Speaking of time, it is a big theme in this issue. From Barry's head-scratching loss of time early on, to the time-travel that closes out the annual, time is front and center as an important element in this story.

Venditti and Jansen script that appropriately fast-paced story with pretty plainly motivations of each character. Even more so than last week’s issue — which marked the debut of their run — the pacing and level of exposition made it feel like a first issue introduction to the new Flash status quo. The art is split with Booth handling the jaw-dropping scenes of Future Flash and Frenz dutifully detailing the actions in the here and now. No real weak spots art-wise and the frequent transitions between the now and twenty years from now are nearly seamless.

Overall, this was a fun issue with a couple of cool fight sequences, slight revelations, two mysteries in need of solving and enough introductions to whet the appetite for more to come.

-Guy Copes III

Umbral #6

(Antony Johnston / Christopher Mitten; Image Comics)

4 stars

Rascal, Dalone, and Shayim (my current favorite Umbral character) are still on the run, essentially picking up right where last issue left off, and it all ends rather abruptly. There's a nice bit of prose in this issue from Antony Johnston about your willingness to do the unexpected under heightened circumstances, and it gets driven home by that first pistol shot from Munty. It's a thing of beauty, and when I see stuff like this I always think about craft and how the sausage gets made. Was it in Johnston's script or was it merely the way Chris Mitten chose to interpret it(?), illustrating the shot within a large SFX that just won't be contained by a traditional panel border, and then having Jordan Boyd punctuate it with that burst of red that stops us in our in tracks.

Jordan Boyd is really the unsung color hero with all the coded happenings in Umbral. I also enjoyed the tension between the magic and science paradigms in the give and take between Dalone and Munty, kind of mirroring the racial tension that was previously going on between Munty and Shayim, because it's stuff like this that fleshes out a world by being organic world-building. It's not some character expositing a history of racial tension, but occurs naturally through one or more character's actions. That's the way to do it. By the end, Rascal echoes that willingness to do the unexpected, the instinct to leap before looking, to think outside the box with bold decisions, and that's what all good roguish protagonists are made of. It was also a delight to see more of the MagicSpeak SymboLettering™ coming through.

Well, the end of the first arc comes to a close (brief pause as the trade comes out next month, and then issue #7 hits in July!) as Rascal and company apparently head out of Strakhelm to deal with the Oculus, and I'm already excited to see more of this new world.

- Justin Giampaoli

Southern Bastards #1

(Jason Aaron / Jason Latour; Image Comics)

4 stars

Jasons Aaron and Latour are men of the south, but they are men trying to escape its clutches. In the post-script of Image's latest Marvel-talent-pilfering masterwork, Southern Bastards, they say as much. "I love being from the South," Aaron writes. "But I don't live there anymore. And I don't plan on ever moving back." "This book is for THEM," Latour adds. "Those assholes you think live in the south."
Southern Bastards, as with any good art, plays off these passions, fears, anxieties, and the inherent rage perfectly, capturing in its thirty two pages the essence of pure, white-hot, southern hate, a hideous, violent place that is as ghastly as it is enthralling.
Highway to hell.

Highway to hell.

Here's the pitch: After having ran away years before, Earl Tubb has returned to his hometown of Craw County, Alabama to move stuff out of his father's house. I won't ruin the rest, because it's just that good. In his script, Aaron does a brilliant job of immediately and very cleverly burying us in this landscape, and drawing his world around it. 

Latour does some brilliant, unique things, too: his onomatopoeia—a dog's bark, the crack of a bat, the sizzle of a French fry greasebin-- are loosely scrawled in light-brown text onto his illustrations, giving the book the edge worthy of a book called "Southern Bastards". His coloring is also phenomenal, giving it a dark-red-and-gold southern-fried, terrifying look, especially in the book's last few pages.
It's only the first issue, so I can only be so masturbatory. But if this book keeps up the momentum, it's certainly going to be remembered as one of Image's finest. 

- Kevin Reilly

Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Two #4

(Tom Taylor / Bruno Redondo / Julien Hugonnard-Bert / Rex Lokus; DC Comics)

3.5 stars

The guys are ramping up this part of the series for a showdown between the Green Lantern Corps and Superman, with Hal Jordan stuck somewhere in the middle. More important than any of the internal story mechanics is what a project like this represents to DC Comics.

Injustice stands completely outside the continuity of the dreck New 52 and the results are highly-charged action with serious consequences. The integrity of the writing jumps up because of that, the excitement inherent in it all jumps us, and it's just better. At the rate DC has been killing off characters, bringing them back, rebooting franchises, starting and stopping series with relaunched #1 issue desperation, and hacking out dopey crossover events ad nauseum, there's no reason that the Injustice "formula" couldn't be applied to the DC Universe as a whole. Some writer comes along and tells a great story where The Joker or Lois Lane or whoever dies? Ok. The next writer can come along and just restart and bring them back to tell their own version. Fuck Continuity.

- Justin Giampaoli

Silver Surfer #2

(Dan Slott / Mike Allred / Laura Allred; Marvel Comics)
3 stars
Since January's Point One story, I have attempted to justify to my friends and many others the potential of Dan Slott and the Allred's Silver Surfer. On the surface, this book should be a huge success: Mike Allred and Dan Slott are doing a Silver Surfer story!
When we finally saw that Point One story, I should've known better than to expect more than that: Slott sent Norrin Radd and his new love interest, Dawn, to a planet of all-grey people, and the story was barely memorable. Here, in this glacially-moving opening arc, we kind of meet Dawn for the first time here, and the two even meet. On page 20.
Mike Allred continues to be the main driving force for my love of this book. His alien worlds are bright and sharp, and Laura's colors are-- as always-- absolutely breathtaking. The two are, and have been for many years, the best penciler-colorist team in the industry, and having a book by them continuously every month for the better part of a year and a half has been a pleasure.
The highlight of the book to me, though, has got to be Marvel's continued use of the "Storytellers" credit. It began in Hawkeye, I believe, and I'm really glad to see it spread to other books in which the credit is appropriate. We may never see it in rotating-artist books like Avengers or Spider-Man, but it's seriously a huge treat for me, a sign that regardless of the book's actual quality, it was crafted with care by everyone involved.
I'm sticking with this thing until issue #6, but with trepidation. Is it what I thought it would be, my favorite debut of the year? Not anymore, no. But it's still sort of fun, and if Slott can pull it off by the end of this arc, it'll be something really special.
- Kevin Reilly

Star Wars: Rebel Heist #1 

(Matt Kindt / Marco Castiello / Dan Parsons / Gabe Eltaeb; Dark Horse)

2.5 stars

I probably wanted to like this book more than I did. Matt Kindt is a good writer, but this just lacks any pizzazz beyond the interesting high concept of telling a story from the POV of a rebel recruit teaming up with Han Solo. The everyman description of Han Solo is spot-on, but you can see the Falcon joke coming a mile off, there's confusion over whether Corellia is a planet or a city, and I don't think you can get enough audience connection with what will obviously be a throwaway story. It just feels like filler.

Marco Castiello's art is helped along in the aesthetic consistency department with nice color from Gabe Eltaeb, and even lettering from Michael Heisler (the team from the "regular" Brian Wood Star Wars), but the art itself is littered with awkward proportions and weird posturing.

- Justin Giampaoli

Dream Police #1

(J. Michael Straczynski / Bill Farmer / Sid Kotian)

3 stars

The team that brought us Apocalypse Al launches another comic from Image this week under the Joe's Comics banner. J. Michael Straczysnki (Thor), Sid Kotian (Twilight Guardian) and Bill Farmer (Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion) deliver a hard-boiled detective story set in the land of dreams. They police all manner of dreams. The good, the bad, the ugly. From the lucid to the disturbing result of a parent reading the wrong bedtime story to their kids. Joe Thursday and his partner make sure dreams play out the way they should. Dreams are like elaborate stage plays where sometimes the actors (here, changelings) decide to go off script. There are some smile inducing moments thanks to JMS's mastery of dialogue and the wry sense of humor, usually brought on by frustration, exhibited by the main character. Solid art by Kotian and Farmer. Kotian's storytelling, panel-to-panel is really quite good. The highlight for me, where words and images really merged to make something special, was the one-on-one with the lead, Joe Thursday, and a talking cat. There were some fun interpretations of various types of dreams throughout this debut.

Oh, and the Nightmares? Yeah, you really don't want them to show up on any side that isn't your own.

- Guy Copes III

Vertigo Quarterly: CMYK #1

(Jock / Amy Chu / Lee Garbett / Joe Keatinge / Fabio Moon / Monty Nero / James Brian O'Ready / Cris Peter / Rob Rodi / Shaun Simon / James Tynion IV / Tony Akins / Al Davison / Javier Fernandez / Ken Garing / Alitha Martinez / Martin Morazzo / Tom Chu / Andrew Dalhouse; DC Comics/Vertigo)

2 stars

I think this anthology project actually works best as a showcase for the strong art talent DC has in the stables. The art was fantastic across the board, with standouts from Tony Akins, Ken Garing, Al Davison, Ana Koehler, and of course Fabio Moon. The art, in and of itself, would probably rate an collectively. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the writing was totally lackluster. I'm not sure if it was the difficulty in finding an emotional connection in just a few quick pages or what the deal was, but with the exception of Shaun Simon's killer opener, the pieces were all totally forgettable the second you were done reading them. The writing as a whole was probably somewhere in the range, so when you factor in the average and the steep $7.99 price point, this feels like a


- Justin Giampaoli

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