A big week with DC Comics kicking off their new Black Label line that has already caused quite a stir. Dick Tracy is back from IDW and Kick-Ass gets a new writer and Mister Miracle is nearing the end. Lots of comics to get to this week so off we go.
Batman: Damned #1
DC Comics Writer Brian Azzarello, Artist Lee Bermejo, Letterer Jared K. Fletcher
One of the theories of the Black Label line is in some ways bringing back the Elseworld theory in that creators can do what ever type of story that they want without the ties of continuity and tell more mature stories if they so desire. It allows the creators the freedom of schedule or format constraints to tell the story any way that they see fit. The stories will focus on the DC Holy Trinity with Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman. Before we get too deep into the review let’s get the elephant in the room out-of-the-way. Yes you see Batman’s penis and everyone is having a cow about it. Honesty it’s simply no big deal and sadly DC has decided to censor reprints and digital versions of it. I am strongly against censorship and honesty who hasn’t seen a penis before and it’s not like it’s front and center in the 3 panels out of the entire 46 pages of artwork.
OK with that done let’s get to the review. Azzarello story here plays on different themes of Bruce’s still dealing with the loss of his parents and how those wounds really never heal and how he continues to fight demons both real and imaginary. What I liked with this story was that he went to the dark side of Batman but without trying to re-invent the wheel. He doesn’t try and change Batman’s history but just embellish things here and there. The other fun thing about this story is bringing Constantine to the mix and giving it a mythical side that you rarely see in a Batman story. The big win for this book is of course Bermrjo’s artwork that is as gorgeous as it is moody. One thing that works very well here is the style of bat suit that he designed for the book that gives it a more classic feel and less modern look that benefits the book greatly. There are many subtle visual elements that I wont spoil here but make sure that you look very closely to each panel for clues as to the underlying elements of the story.
Is this book worth your time and money? Quality wise for seven bucks there is a lot bang for your buck here because there are no ads and with a larger format that benefits Bermejo’s artwork greatly. Azzarello has crafted an interesting story here and having more obscure guest stars is a nice change of pace. This first issue gets off to a very solid start and gives a good reason to come back for more. VERY RECOMMENDED!
Dick Tracy #1
IDW Comics Writers Lee & Micheal Allred, Penciller Rich Tommaso, Inker Michael Allred, Colorist Laura Allred, Letterer Shawn Lee
It’s always a challenge translating a comic strip into a comic book format but I have to say that Allred and Tommaso have done a very nice job on bringing Tracy to the longer form storytelling format. One thing that Lee and Michael bring to the characters is depth that is hard to do in a four panel format. They give Tracy a great back story that expanded the world and was able to tell a story with deeper roots. While the story is set in a more retro period but doesn’t feel trapped by it and doesn’t feel dated at least for myself. They also wisely don’t use the classic exaggerated villains quite yet that let new readers ease into this world. What they do bring to this book is a retro pop-art feel and look that is a great homage to Chester Gould’s original characters but allows it to strike out on it’s own. They keep the story simple and straight forward here in the first issue and give a nice balance of exposition and forward momentum that made for a pleasant read. While I’m a huge fan of Michael’s artwork, choosing Tommaso to draw the book was a stroke of genus. I’m a huge fan of his Spy Seal and other work and he brings a clean and simple retro style to the book but never tries to imitate Gould’s style that would have been a huge mistake here. He brings his own flair to the artwork and gives the book a great visual charm and feel that is simply perfect. Laura brings her usual great color work to this book and keeps the color palate simple but give nice little subtle modern touches to the art that keeps it from becoming too flat.
Is this book worth your time and money? I really enjoyed this book because team Allred and Tommaso doesn’t try to make this book be more than it is. It’s simply a fun ride with great artwork and story that aims for it’s target and hits a bullseye. This is as charming as it is good and with a strong story and a great cliffhanger they give a great reason to come back for more. VERY RECOMMENDED!
Olivia Twist #1
Berger Books/Dark Horse Comics Writers Darin Strauss & Adam Dalva, Artist Emma Vieceli, Colorist Lee Loughridge, Letterer Sal Cipriano
I get that Oliver Twist is a classic book and has been adapted many ways over the years in both films and literature but this retelling of the story is a sad mess. The biggest gripe that I have with the story is that Strauss and Dalva simple don’t bring anything new to the story or give it a new and fresh angle. The story simply goes through the motions of the original source material and simply changes the location, gender and time to the future and that only changes the surface and not the story. I get that you don’t want to change it too much but this version simply feels lazy and little effort put into it. The artwork is a bit of a mixed bag here. There are times where Vieceli does some very nice work with good detail but overall there are real consistency issues that plague the book throughout. It might have helped if she had a strong inker to help smooth out the rougher edges at times here and there. I will say that she does show promise as an artist but she just needs to get a bit more consistent with her artwork overall.
Is this book worth your time and money? This book is a real disappointment and Karen Burger usually has a better eye for material than this. It’s not a total train wreck but is simply doesn’t bring anything new to the table and was a pretty boring read. It’s a shame because there are a few good ideas but the story simply lacks any originality beyond the surface changes to the source material. SKIP IT!
Image Comics Writer Steve Niles, Artist Marcelo Frusin, Colorist Sunny Gho, Letterer John Workman
I’m a fan of Niles writing and he is one of the best horror writers around and was intrigued to see what he could bring to a fairly mainstream superhero like Kick-Ass and this first issue is good but didn’t overwhelm me quite yet. In this case his is taking over the story continuity of the book so there is a constraint that is in place that doesn’t allow him too much leeway with the story. What he does bring to the book is a darker more moody elements that hopefully he is able to put more of his style into the book as the story moves along. I liked it but just didn’t feel like a Niles script. It’s one thing to play in someone else sandbox but Niles has done that before with Batman and those stories didn’t feel constrained like this one does. I did really enjoy Fusin’s artwork that had a nice style to it that kinda reminded me of Richard Corbin but Frusin makes this all his own. He is able to capture quite well the darker elements of Niles script and brings a great visceral feel and look to the book that adds greatly to it.
Is this book worth your time and money? I was really hoping for something more outside the box here but hopefully Niles is allowed to take the story in a direction that he can infuse more of his own style into. It’s not that I didn’t like this first outing but I had wished that it would have been a bit more outside the box instead of more of the same. Frusin’s artwork is very nice here and I hope that they are able to build on this first outing as the story goes along. Still worth checking out.
West Coast Avengers #2
Marvel Comics Writer Kelly Thompson, Artist Stefano Caselli, Colorist Triona Farrell, Letterer Joe Caramagna
I’m so glad that Thompson is back because she really brings a fresh approach to these characters and simply delivers a book that is solid and fun. What works so well here is that she has taken characters that nobody else really wanted and gets to do pretty much whatever she wants to do with them and boy she really goes to town with them. This issue big win is B.R.O.D.O.K. aka M.O.D.O.K. and gets some really great mileage out this one. His two page “origin” story is priceless and made me laugh out loud with that one. While there is a great deal of humor Thompson doesn’t forget that this is a superhero book and there is still a great balance of the two that she is able to straddle that fine line perfectly here. With each passing page this book becomes more fun by the minute and is elevating to the top of the read pile quite quickly with just two issues so far. Caselli continues to impress with his artwork here and grows quite well from the first issue that looked good. The double page B.R.O.D.O.K. origin artwork was amazing and the change in style was perfect. The one thing that really impressed me with his art is the spot on facial expressions of the characters. This is a really good-looking comic.
Is this book worth your time and money? I think I liked this second issue better than the first and that one got off to a great start. Thompson writing of this book is spot on and brings the fun back to Marvel comics that it desperately needs now (along with the long running Squirrel Girl) that builds greatly from the first issue and continues to give a great reason to stick with the book. Throw in Caselli’s spot on artwork and this book continues to impress and gives you great reasons to buy this book. RECOMMENDED!
Writer Brian Michael Bendis, Artist Michael Gaydos, Letterer Joshua Reed
I like the first issue of this book and this second outing continues to intrigue with it’s story. The only issue that I have with the book is that it’s a bit hard to read as a monthly comic because you only are getting a chapter at a time and after reading this second issue you can tell this is a story that will work better in one setting than as a single issue format. It’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy this second issue because I did but this story really leaves you craving more and it ends faster than you want it to. There are a lot of moving parts to this story and I like how Bendis is slowing revealing them. Pearl is a very complex character and we get to see part of her back story in this issue and it really wets your appetite to find out more about her. What makes this comic such a joy is how Gaydos is able to capture exactly what Bendis script needs to come to life. A lot of the story is visual and you need an artist that can bring it all to life and Gaydos really delivers with this book.
Is this book worth your time and money? I like this book a lot but each issue has been over far too quickly and leaves you wanting more that is a good thing. The problem is that waiting a month for the next chapter is very difficult so if you haven’t jumped into this book yet I would say wait for the trade, but if you like me and already hooked then your just going to have to hang on to this book and ride it out. Well worth still buying.
Black Hammer: Age of Doom #5
Dark Horse Comics Writer Jeff Lemire, Artist Dean Ormston, Colorist Dave Stewart, Letterer Todd Klein
After last issues HUGE reveal and cliffhanger I was excited to see where Lemire was going to take this story now that a big reveal has unfolded. We finally lean the truth about why they have been missing and what happened to the Black Hammer and its both exciting and heartbreaking at the same time. The reason that this book is working so well is that Lemire has created a world and characters that you care about so the emotional core of the book has been the reason that each story has drawn you into this worlds and care about it so much. The other thing that he has done with this shift in the story is that the stakes keep getting raised and you never quite know where the story is going to go and that is keeping this book so fresh and such a great reading experience. Ormston continues to deliver great artwork on the book and this issue has a lot of subtle dramatic moments that needs a very light touch with the art and he hits them perfectly and captures the emotions of the story exceptionally well.
Is this book worth your time and money? This book (and it’s side mini series) continue to be some of the best comics published now and it’s impressive how Lemire continues to find new ways to deliver twist and turns in the story that always keeps readers on their toes and still keeps it super entertaining. This book simply gets better and better with each issue and is a true must read comic. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION!
Death or Glory #5
Image Comics Writer Rick Remender, Artist Bengal, Letterer Russ Wooton
Death and Glory continues to be a book that balances action with drama and is able to weave in and out of each other to deliver a wonderful read each issue. This issue is the end of the first story arc of the book and there is a lot to digest after the events in this issue. The key to the book’s success is that Remender has grounded the story around Glory so that she is always the driving force that all of the craziness is able to happen because your invested in her story and care about her and what is happening to her. No matter what is going on she always tries to do the right thing that may not always be right but she does what she needs to do not for herself but for the ones that she cares about. The one thing that Remender gets so right with this book is the bond of family and that is alway first and foremost to the book and that family is not alway just blood relations. There are some great surprises in this issue and I will certainly not spoil them here simply put there are some great moments in this issue that will lead into the nest story arc and there is more surprises ahead. As always Bengal’s artwork is where this book shines because he brings so much visual excitement to the story and is able to capture both the small and big moments in the story masterfully. The one that always impresses me with his artwork is the more subtle dramatic moments in the story that carry the emotions of the characters and is a big reason this book works so well.
Is this book worth your time and money? The toughest part of this issue is finding out that we are going to have to wait till January for the next chapter of this book and that is going to be very difficult indeed. Remender and Bengal continue to deliver a solid comic that is a solid read and visual eye candy with each issue and well worth buying.
Mister Miracle #11
DC Comics Writer Tom King, Artist and Colorist Mitch Gerads, Letterer Clayton Cowles
While this book may be super late at this point I would rather have King and Gerads take this extra time and continue to deliver one of the best superhero comics. There is so much that happens in this issue that it’s hard to even write a review because I don’t want to give anything away. What I will say is that King has wisely not having the 12th issue be the big blow out but instead has it here in the next to last chapter that will have you on pins and needles as you read it. At one point I was so shaken with the events of the story that was so heart wrenching that I nearly cried and that is why this book has been so great is because of the strong emotional core of the story and the characters. It’s never really been about the war or Darkseid but about the struggle of real life trying to be a god/superhero. The one thing that I will say about this issue is who knew how funny a veggie tray could be but leave it to King and Gerads to change that. Gerads continues to deliver a visual feast in this book and this issue he does things that is both radical and perfect that shows how talented of an artist that he is. He capture the heart wrenching moments of the story so well that made this issue almost unbearable to see but that is why it works so well.
Is this book worth your time and money. There is no doubt that this book is going to be talked about for many years to come but it hard to fathom how each issue and every panel is so full of blood sweat and tears with both the story and the creators. You can feel every stroke of the art that Gerads draws and this book is a rare combination of writer and artist perfectly in sync with each other. This is not only a great book but shows how strong Jack Kirby’s influence continues to inspire. These characters are so great that allows other creators to tell new and exciting stories that would have surely pleased him. This is what comic can and should be. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION!