Singles Going Steady 7/1/2014: Comics to Grow On

A comic review article by: Gabe Carrasco, Justin Giampaoli, Alex Gradet, Beth Janzen, Ryan Scott, Richard Zom

Singles Going Steady

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

Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #6

(Zack Whedon / Georges Jeanty / Karl Story; Dark Horse)
 
4.5 stars
The final issue of Serenity: Leaves on the Wind left me wanting more, and I hope someone delivers! Overall the series was great. Zack Whedon knows his brother's writing well because the way each character talks is true to the original. You could almost picture the actors in these roles. 
 
This issue focuses on the crew of the Serenity hoping to rescue Zoe from a prison planet and also elaborates on a character introduced last issue that both expands our knowledge about River and what she's gone through while also giving us insight into what the Alliance is doing in the shadows. 
 
The art was very appropriate to the overall mood of this comic. I found all the characters were similar to their human actor counterparts, except for maybe Inara. I did have a hard time at first telling Kaylee and River apart sometimes earlier in this mini-series as they issue similarly drawn but by this sixth issue they were no more problems there. Facial expressions in different emotional situations seemed right, especially with this last comic as there was a lot of action and character development. 
There are also nice little details included as well if you keep your eye out for them. The "Leaves on the Wind" part of the title is from a line used by the deceased pilot, Wash. Not only is the same line used a couple times in this mini, but if you look closely you'll notice leaves gently drifting by in the wind near the end of the issue. I found they added more meaning to a particular scene and thought that very inventive.
 
The overall writing was easy to follow. The plot continuation from the movie was well done and the storyline made sense. That is important to this particular series with such a big cult following. 
 
I won't give any spoilers but I found one key action scene disappointing in the lack of "resistance' the group encountered. Another scene was vague as regards a character's possible demise so that was frustrating as well but overall the end was fantastic. The end was what left you wanting more.
 
This series overall and this final issue in particular was great. If you were a fan of Firefly and/or Serenity, you will enjoy this series. If you haven't had the chance to check out Firefly and Serenity, I would highly recommend it to be able to understand and fully enjoy these comics. 
 
- Beth Janzen

Outcast #1

(Robert Kirkman / Paul Azaceta / Elizabeth Breitweiser; Image Comics)

5 stars

Me and you… your mama and the Minister too…

Surely, I'm reviewing an indie comic about a priest and a scraggly young guy set in some countryside town? Hmm, deja-vu. Hopefully I'm not let down all over again. Outcast #1 is Comic Book Kingpin Robert Kirkman's latest creation. It isn't much of a spoiler to say that the plot centers around demons and demonic possession, so it's good to see Kirkman staying in the horror genre after the insane success of The Walking Dead franchise.

The book centers around Kyle Barnes, a hermit twenty-something year old living in a run-down house in West Virginia. Exciting right? Oh, I almost forgot, demonic possessions seem to be destroying his life one person at a time. Although he isn't the one actually being possessed, it seems on several occasions alluded to in the premiere issue, demons have been the cause of every shitty event he's lived through so far.

OUTCAST0109_color

What really sells this book for me is the work of artist Paul Azaceta (Amazing Spider-Man) and colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser(Agents of Atlas). Azaceta's simple, brushed inkwork speak volumes when it comes to facial expressions and gestures. Kyle's contemplation, frustration, and anger really come through using minimal line work. And that drawing of Joshua's creepy possessed smile just gives me the chills! Breitweiser's color pallete perfectly compliments Azaceta's linework, giving the book a rustic, stained, sun-bleached feel. All the muted, desaturated tones successfully establish the dull, suburban setting which makes it all the more shocking when the bright red blood hits the page (which is by like, page 2).

Overall, Kirkman delivers a fantastic introduction to Kyle's world of demons. Every little panel and speech bubble is geared to establish these complex characters and their complicated relationship to one another. You honestly get more story out of these 44-pages than some mainstream comics give you in a 5-month story arc.

And just one last creepy nail in the coffin is Kirkman's note to the reader at the end of the book. He explains how he's writing this comic from the perspective that demonic possession is very real. And trust me, he writes it without a drop of irony. Whether you agree or disagree with him you've got to admit, it's a scary thought.

So if you wanna be a hipster, and say "Pshh, I read Outcast before it was a TV show" (which Kirkman says is already in the works!), OR if you just wanna see a child get punched in the face by an adult man (probably my favorite panel), go ahead; give Outcast a read. Cuz hell, if demons are as real as Kirkman says they are, I'm gonna need these…

- Gabe Carrasco


Deadly Class #6

(Rick Remender / Wesley Craig / Lee Loughridge; Image)

5 stars

Man, I think this might be my favorite book this week. Deadly Class started a little slow for me, but it's built toward a very rewarding crescendo that's equal parts intense violence and dramatic gravitas.

The issue deals with the fallout from Marcus's drug trip and the spot he's gotten himself into, namely right between Chico and Maria. There's a horrific confrontation sequence, with violence dipped in red thanks to Lee Loughridge. The "class" is basically ripping itself apart, and the emotionally charged, racially tinged word choices from Rick Remender are so raw, so uncomfortable, and just so good.

Wes Craig might just be my new favorite artist, with interesting camera angles (the high overhead shots really do it for me) and crisp figure work that stays so sharply on model. It'd be easy to get lost in the satisfying action and violence, but those things are empty gestures without some emotional core to hold onto. We get that emotion in the final sequences of the issue, the narrative centering on five characters with a solemn bit of introspection that weaves in what I assume are autobiographical elements from the writer. This was a fantastic conclusion to the first arc, some real artistry on display, and I'm highly recommending it.

- Justin Giampaoli


Dream Thief: Escape #1

(Jai Nitz / Greg Smallwood; Dark Horse Comics)

2 stars

Jai Nitz (Blue Beetle) & Greg (Moon Knight) Smallwood‘s follow-up to their 2013 Dream Thief meets the world with striking cover design, jaunty panel layouts and nicely-detailed art (all Smallwood’s doing), but these are quickly toppled by Nitz’s convoluted-yet-not-that-eventful story and broad, sub-Tarantino swipes at authenticity that are steeped more in geekdom than grit.

Meet “Dream Thief” John Lincoln, a host for the spirits of murder victims to exact bloody revenge on their killers (why this earns him the moniker “Dream Thief” and not, I don’t know; “Ghost Tube” escapes me). Lincoln’s power is tied to a mask he stole from a museum in last year’s arc, but despite DT:E‘s frequent dead-stops for exposition, the rules of this power remain frustratingly obscure. In a richer character this might matter less, but Lincoln is the center that can’t hold – being a vessel for the comparatively fleshed-out-in-flashback ghosts robs him of agency and morality; he feels righteous in carrying out other people’s revenge, and that’s the end of that conversation. I could see myself getting into a breezier take on the murder-by-possession hook, where Nitz & Smallwood just set it up and run with it, rather than try to legitimize it with layer after layer of page-eating mythos. And sure, I might get more out of this if I had read the 2013 arc – though little here makes me want to catch up on what I’ve missed, and if you’re going to put #1 on your cover, your book should be more plug-and-play than this.

- Alex Gradet


Trees #2

(Warren Ellis / Jason Howard; Image Comics)

4.5 stars

This seems a lot meatier and less light-hearted than a lot of recent Warren Ellis scripts, and the work is much stronger for it.

I enjoyed the investigative slant to the arctic poppies bits (and that whole set, that whole cast, by extension), but it's important to note that's just one of several continuing vignettes the series is offering. Taken holistically, all of the sequences are essentially representative of the effects the trees are having on global life, impacting social and political structures as much as they're altering weather patterns and flora and fauna.

- Justin Giampaoli


New Avengers Annual #1

(Frank J. Barbiere / Marco Rudy; Marvel Comics)

5 stars

It’s clear that Marvel is looking to ramp up The Sorcerer Supreme now that he will be joining the MCU — and perhaps that’s why he is the subject of the first New Avengers Annual in the Marvel Now era. Really though, who gives a S#%T about the reason, the point is we’re finally going to get the modern Strange we deserve with this book a firm step in the right direction.

The ish from Frank J. Barbiere (Solar: Man of the Atom) revisits a pivotal moment from Strange’s past while he simultaneously battles a badass, universe threatening demon monster. I’ll be honest, I’m typically story first when it comes to comics, art usually comes second but by the hoary hosts of Hoggoth is Marco (Swamp Thing) Rudy‘s art in this book amazing! It’s honestly one of the most gorgeous books I’ve seen in a ages and any long time Strange fan will tell you that the Master of the Mystic Arts has a knack for bringing out the best in comic artists. Doctor Strange fans should adore this book, but newcomers will find a nice introduction into the character as well. This is a must read.

- Ryan Scott


The Fuse #5

(Antony Johnston / Justin Greenwood; Image Comics)

4 stars

Well, Ralph went and got himself captured in the cables! This opening sequence is really fun, paving the way for the types of chances grizzled ol' Klem is willing to take for her new partner, showing off a full page shot of the makeshift shanty town slums the cablers created for themselves, and even answering one of the little questions the series has offered, that "FGU" is basically The Fuse equivalent of "OG."

 

Like a lot of writer Antony Johnston's creator-owned work (Wasteland, Umbral), it's clear that he's in it for long-form storytelling, with self-referential bits that loop back around to the first couple of issues, as the pieces of the investigation continue to materialize and come together. He's also careful to organically include social commentary, like the way people live up on Level 50. Imagine full-blown houses on a space station! The 1% indeed.

As great as the writing is, a lot of the razzle dazzle in this issue comes from artist Justin Greenwood. Specifically, he's killing it on panel layouts. Now, some of this might be scripted, but he really nails the static emulation of video feed in the Boo confessional. It sort of scrolls right off of a full bleed page. I also really enjoyed Klem's memories flooding back to her when she's holding a bottle of pills. It's the kind of thing we've all experienced, something more easily done in film with voice over sound clips, but takes a special talent to pull off on a comic page.

- Justin Giampaoli


Original Sin: Hulk vs. Iron Man

(Mark Waid / Kieron Gillen; Marvel Comics)

1.5 stars

It was quite nostalgic to re-dive into the Hulk origin storyline, only this time more so through the POV of Tony Stark. What was more shocking than anything, was Mark Waid (Daredevil) & Kieron (The Wicked + The Divine) Gillen‘s hint at the fact that storylines are becoming more tied together just like most comic films nowadays.

I don’t recall from my heyday of reading Hulk comics much mention of Tony Stark; sure, a stark industries was in there, but again its been years. Unfortunately, this Original Sin event tie-in fails to captivate, as this version of Stark comes off as quite the attention killer rather than the engaging emotional killer. There’s just far too much exposition for a comic that promises a face-off between two of the most dynamic Avengers of all: the fan-dubbed Science Bros. Certainly, this is no Planet Hulk, and the first few pages of that EVENT alone display more depth than this entire comic. Gamma Ray Bruce Banner Rage at how Jackie Collins dapple this issue was.

- Richard Zom


Sex #14

(Joe Casey / Piotr Kowalski; Image Comics)

4 stars

I've had sort of a cautious love-like relationship with Sex since it began. I've lauded Joe Casey's willingness to experiment with craft and genre, substituting repressed sexuality for hidden superhero identities in a sort of post-shared-superhero universe world. Piotr Kowalski's art has grown in assuredness as well, the colors have morphed from an almost monochromatic neon pallet to something more intricate.

But.

The thing that bothers me is something Casey essentially admits in the backmatter, that he might not necessarily have a master plan in mind, that his grand experiment is just seeing where the characters take him and wondering aloud if the payoff will ever be worth it.

Sigh. I applaud the seat-of-the-pants experimentation, but if it's at the expense of a narrative plan, you've got about a 50/50 shot at sticking the landing.

In the meantime, this was one of the strongest issues to date! Dolph and Cha-Cha steal the show, manipulating Junior in such a devastating way. It's a sequence guest-illustrated by Chris Peterson that's smartly wedged into their grand gestures in the pits of a club. Junior does pull a bit of a Season 4 Tyrion, if you'll pardon the expression, but overall it's another solid issue that showcases Saturn City as a living breathing entity full of many moving parts and players.

- Justin Giampaoli

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