Yes, I’m finally back online after going to WonderCon and then heading off for a weeks long vacation with the family. I was hoping to get a few post on WonderCon and vacation up on the site but just needed time to recover. There have also been issues with the website that my web master has been trying to fix to get the site more stable. So with that all behind us let’s get to new comic book reviews. There are a lot this week and a few from last week so they are going to be shorter than usual to get through them all.
COMIC BOOK OF THE WEEK:
Swamp Thing #4
DC Comics Writer Len Wein, Artist Kelley Jones, Colorist Michelle Madsen, Letterer Rob Leigh
This book continues to be the must read book as soon as it comes out and it truly impresses me that Wein and Jones continue to craft one of the finest horror comics that I have read in years. This issue take on the basic story Be Careful What You Wish For! (and wisely the title of the issue) and give it a fresh new spin and make it one of the creepiness stories I have ever read. Leading from the events of last issue Matt is now Swamp Thing and Alec is now human again. Wein has taken this tried and true story and showed just how much Alec was able to not let his animal instincts take control and use the powers for evil. Matt sets in motion his plan in the opposite direction and shows just how powerful and deadly Swamp Thing can be. Wein script gives the story a nice slow build that subtly build a very unnerving felling that leads up to the shocking ending of the issue. You do not realize that as the story goes along how it slowly gets under your skin and that is was is very impressive about this issue. He crafts a truly brilliant horror story that really sneaks up on you and leaves a very haunting memory after reading it. A great story like this will only get you so far and that is where Jones comes in. He brings the stories horrific images to life in ways that one would never imagine themselves. This issue is proof of the marriage of story and artwork that makes the comic book medium such a great art form. Very few artist would be able to draw the many emotions and subtle detail of a story like this and he does it with such ease that it’s breath-taking. The sheer visual horror of Matt’s Swamp Thing rampage is a testament to the power of Jones’s art and the stuff of nightmares. Is this book worth your time and money? Each issue of this series just keeps getting better and better with such scope and depth to the story that has you more eager for the next issue. Wein and Jones are firing on all cylinders with this book and is showing how you don’t have to have gimmicks or crossovers to tell a great story. I can safely say that it’s going to be hard to top this series as one of the best ones of the year. Rarely do you get to see a book deliver this kind of quality in a mainstream comic. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION!
Star Wars Poe Dameron: X-Wing Pilot #1
Marvel Comics Writer Chales Soule, Artist/Colorist Phil Noto, Letterer Joe Caramagna, Back up Story Writer and Artist Chris Eliopoulos with Jordie Bellaire
The first comic starring one of the new cast Poe Dameron is one of the first series to disappoint me. Soule’s mistake in the script is that while we like Dameron as a character he forgot to give him a compelling story with this opening issue. While the story is not terrible, it really doesn’t do much either. The structure of it is pretty basic and you could pretty much take it and use with nearly any other character in or out of the Star Wars universe. It goes through the basic motions but after reading the story there was nothing compelling to read the second issue. I’m a fan of Noto’s work but was underwhelmed with his art on this book. His work was much more lavish on the Chewbacca series a few months ago but here it’s very flat and standard comic book artwork. It looks nice but doesn’t grab you like a lot of his painted art does. The only saving grace to the book is the backup story by Eliopoulos that is both fun and charming. I found it ironic that this simple little cute backup story pretty much blew that main story out of the water. The difference is that while the story is a simple eight page story the key to its success is that it tells that simple story quite well and to the point. Is this book worth your time and money? While I adore the Eliopoulos back up story the main story just is flat and quite frankly boring. I’m a huge fan of the Dameron character but this book just doesn’t cut it. SKIP IT!
Icon/Marvel Comics Writer Mark Millar, Penciller Stuart Immonen, Inker Wade Von Grawbadger, Colorist Ive Svorcina, Letterer Peter Doherty
Yet another new series from Millar that falls into the meh category. The story is a bit of a familiar one that while it’s a slick read, it didn’t really leave a huge impression on me. The thing about this book is that I think that there are some decent ideas here but the story comes off as cliché and average without a lot of substance to it. I will give Millar that he comes up with a lot of ideas and lately it’s been a lot but it’s his execution of the concepts that have tripped him up. The one big plus that the book has is Immonen and Grawgadger’s artwork that makes this a better experience than it should have been. The artwork is exceptionally good and when your done reading the book it’s that much more disappointing, meaning that their artwork is the main reason for getting the book and that is sadly not enough. Is this book worth your time and money? Sadly no. The story is just far too basic and flat doesn’t really grab you or give you much of a reason to come back for another round. The only thing that is the saving grace of the book was the artwork that is very nice but in the end not enough to recommend it. SKIP IT!
Rough Riders #1
Aftershock Comics Writer Adam Glass, Artist Patrick Olliffe, Colorist Gabe Elraeb, Letterer Sal Cipriano
Aftershock Comics has been a mixed bag for a new company but I will give them that they are trying different ideas and creative teams on their books. The really good idea is that this months first issues are only a $1.99 (NOTE: The cover price on Rough Riders is misprinted with a $3.99 cover price but your retailer should only be selling it for $1.99). On the surface the concept of the book is quite strange with creating a supergroup of historical figures seems really far-fetched but you know this book was quite good and a really solid first issue. Glass does a wonderful job on this first issue of not letting the exposition of the book drag or stumble the story off course. While the story might not be flashy it was a solid read and gave me enough to want to come back for a second issue. He really keeps the story focused and doesn’t try to introduce the whole cast in the first issue. The other thing that I liked was that he respected the character in the sense of building on their real life history with just tinkering with them being a “superhero” group. Olliffe is the perfect choice for the artwork because the tone of the book needed a more old school look over a flashy style that would have killed the book. His artwork has a nice clean style that really brings the characters and period of the story to life with a very natural feel that fits the script perfectly. Is this book worth your time and money. I am very fond of this book and applaud Glass and Olliffe for pulling off a very solid first issue. The story has a nice pace and does not get overwhelmed by exposition that really kills a lot of first issues. There is a lot to like here and if Glass and Olliffe can deliver with the second issue this might be a nice little surprise of a book. RECOMMENDED!
Gold Key Alliance #1
Dynamite Writer Phil Hester, Artist Brent Peeples, Colorist Morgan Hickman, Letterer Simon Bowland
On the flip side of Rough Riders here is an example of how NOT to do a first issue of a team book. I am a huge fan of the Gold Key characters Magnus Robot Fighter, Turok, Solar Man of the Atom and Samson unfortunately none of those great characters are here in this book. Hester’s script has two big flaws that sink the book. First he shoehorn all of the character introductions into this first issue and ends up having none of them to be very satisfying. Secondly only Turok comes off feeling like the original characters from the old Gold Key books. The rest of them simply shells of them. I will give him props for the changing up of the Solar character with changing it to a female of color that was a nice twist on the original. With all five introductions in the first issue the story is all over the place and is very disjointed to read and doesn’t make much sense by the end of the issue. The art side of the book is not much better Peeples artwork does have a few bright spots but is very stiff and anatomy challenged and the lack of backgrounds really isn’t helping that either. Is this book worth your time and money? The big flaw of this book beyond the obvious story and art failures is that for new readers of these characters there is nothing to take away from this mess that gives them any reason to want to read this book and for fans who know the original book need to stay away from this because it will just infuriate you. This was a real waste of $3.99. AVOID THIS BOOK!
Archie Comics Writer Mark Waid, Artist Veronica Fish, Colorist Andre Szymanowicz with Jen Vaughn, Letterer Jack Morelli
This book continues to be a wonderful new take on the Archie universe. Some would say that the story by Waid is too basic and light but those people have obviously never read an Archie story in their life. What made Archie comics was exactly that, simple and straight forward stories that had good characterization and a very enjoyable read. He’s infusing each issue with nice little touches and this issues Reggie and Pop’s story lines are quite fun and add to the series stories so far. Waid keeps things moving along nicely again this issue and there are some really nice dramatic moments in this issue. Fish continues to impress me with her artwork on the book. She brings a fun and fresh style to the book that add greatly to the script by Waid. I just love the expressions that she is able to capture in each characters face. Is this book worth your time and money? I can’t recommend this book enough and the simple pleasure of reading this book is a joy every time. It’s simple well scripted and wonderfully drawn every issue and always leaves a smile on my face after reading. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
The Fix #1
Image Comics Writer Nick Spencer, Artist Steve Lieber, Colorist Ryan Hill, Letterer Nic J SHaw
I was pleasantly surprised by this book that is charming in all of the wrong ways. Spencer’s script mixes a lot of thing together here and what could have been a real mess he perfectly fits all of them together is a way that I was not expecting. The thing that makes this book really work is the dark humor of it and having the two leads be not the sharpest tacks in the box but yet they are not stupid. They just make lots of poor judgements that most of us make except they are cops doing it. Spencer keeps the script nice and snappy and pepper in the exposition of the story so well that you tend to not notice it and never gets in the way of the fun but perfectly paces the story along. Lieber’s artwork is a real joy on this book. Solid character expression and having some of the flashbacks in a more cartoony style was a stroke of genus. This is a really great looking book and I must also point out Hill’s wonderful coloring on the book that gives it a nice bold visual impact at times but understands when to go full throttle with it and when to be more subtle with it and is a very nice complement to Lieber’s art. Is this book worth your time and money? Hell Yea! This is a really solid hard “R” book that doesn’t try to shock or over blow things. Every aspect of the story has a reason to be there and they all fit together perfectly. Spencer and Lieber are a well oiled machine on this book and can’t wait to see where this story goes. VERY RECOMMENDED!
Black Panther #1
Marvel Comics Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, Artist Brian Stelfreeze, Colorist Laura Martin, Letterer Joe Sabino
It’s nice to see Black Panther back but the book gets off to a really shaky start in the first issue. Coates script has a lot of ideas in there but unfortunately it’s very unstructured and the narrative is really unclear. I will give him that in a weird way there is a good set up but it gets lost with the disjointed story that jumps around and your quite frankly not sure what is going most of the time. It really shows that he is a first time comic book writer because as a reader I had little idea of what the focus of the story is and the other issue is that you feel as if you have been dropped into a story that has been going on for about five or six issues. He is really going to have to bring it in the second issue that could be a make or break for this book. On the plus side Stelfreeze on the artwork is a huge plus for the book and did help the story along visually. I was a little disappointed with the lack of backgrounds at times but he is a seasoned artist that Coates desperately needed on the book. Stelfreeze bring a great visual style to the book that gives it a unique look that does make it stand out from most superhero fare now days. Is this book worth your time and money? This book is a really tough call because Coates has some really good ideas but the first issue is a bit of a beautiful failure. Hopefully he just gets off on the wrong foot here in this issue and is able to get it on track next issue. Stelfreeze’s art nearly saves the day but that will only last so long. I’m really on the fence with this one.
Archie Comics Writer Chip Zdarsky, Artist Erica Henderson, Colorist Andre Syzmanowicz, Letterer Jack Morelli
Zdarsky continues to move the first story arc along nicely here with the best part being the gang going to another town and seeing their doppelgangers was a stroke of genus and made the story work so well this issue. He really nailed the cliffhanger of the story and can’t wait to read the final chapter next issue. Henderson as always brings her wonderful artwork to this book and brings it to life. She is one of the big reasons that this book is working so well. Is this book worth your time and money. Zdarsky and Henderson are nailing this book and is a sheer pleasure to read each issue. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Black Widow #2
Marvel Comics Writers Chris Samnee & Mark Waid, Artist Chris Samnee, Colorist Matthew Wilson, Letterer Joe Caramagna
Waid and Samnee’s Black Widow is a rare spy book in the comics medium. This is a really solid book that blends story and art in a perfect way. It’s pretty rare to see a team like this in comics and reminds me of the days of great teams like Byrne and Claremont or Wolfman and Perez. Waid and Samnee are in perfect sync on this book if not more so than they were on Daredevil. Black Widow is allowing them to really do an outside the box and yet is still in the realm of superhero fair. It’s a book that goes by way too fast and yet is very satisfying at the same time. Is this book worth your time and money? This is one of the best incarnations of Black Widow and is a rare perfect mix of story and artwork that is becoming a must read every month. VERY RECOMMENDED!
Image Comics Writer/Artist/Letterer Ryan Ottley, Colorist Ivan Plascencia
Grizzlyshark is one of those books that sounds like a fun idea but sadly wears out its welcome very quickly. The problem is that Ottley sets it up like an old B Movie but there is just no story to it. There are no characters that you care about and the one joke of the shark attacking gets beaten over your head and by the end you could care less about it. The art is a bit of a weird mix and can’t decide between cartoony or regular. The art is nice but seems to not match up totally with the story. Is this book worth your time and money? Not really and that is a bit of a shame because if Ottley had been able to have more fun with it and have a better story structure this could have been a fun little book but instead it just sits there and never does much except tell the same joke for 24 pages and somehow there are going to be two more issue of this. That is not going to work out well. SKIP IT!
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #6
Marvel Comics Writers Ryan North with Chip Zdarsky, Artist Erica Henderson, Colorist Rico Renzi, Letterer Travis Lanham
I have not been a fan of the revival of Howard the Duck and so while I love Squirrel Girl I was hoping that North might get it right and while it’s he’s not perfect it’s a lot better than the regular Howard series. These two characters are a very natural fit and this issue keeps the regular tone of the book and Howard blends in nicely to it. North snappy script makes the crossover fun and natural and not feel out-of-place like a lot of crossovers do. The story is off to a solid start and am hoping that the issue of Howard the Duck continues to feel like this instead of his regular book. Henderson draws a great Howard and give this issue a great visual feast with all of the wild elements of the story. Is this book worth your time and money? This is one of the few crossovers that I was excited about and at least the first part has worked out very well. Fingers crossed that the next part is as good as this one. RECOMMENDED!