Comic Review – Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #6

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of his favourite one, with potential minor spoilers.

There were a lot of great comics this week, but as it was ending (and I forgot to pick up Outcast #1) I decided to review the finale of the Serenity: Leaves on the Wind mini-series. It was published by Dark Horse Comics, as I think all or most of the Serenity comics have been. Leaves on the Wind #6 was written by Zack Whedon, with pencils from Georges Jeanty, inks from Karl Story, colours by Laura Martin and letters by Michael Heisler. I don’t think we’ve made it a big secret at The Lost Lighthouse how much we love Firefly and Serenity, so it was pretty much guaranteed that I was going to pick up this series.

Leaves on the Wind has been the first story, after a couple of one shots, that follows on from the events of the Serenity film. For those unfamiliar with the short lived Joss Whedon sci-fi series Firefly and the feature film Serenity that continued the story (though I find it hard to believe anyone reading this site hasn’t seen either), the story follows the crew of the ship Serenity, led by Captain Malcolm ‘Mal’ Reynolds, as they take odd jobs both legal and illegal to try and make ends meet. Nine months after the events of the film, where Mal and his crew unleashed damning information about the ruling Alliance government to the whole ‘verse, they are laying low. Following complications during child birth, the crew are forced to leave Zoe at an Alliance hospital to save her life, even though her status as a known criminal ensures her incarceration after medical treatment. The series then becomes focused on finding and rescuing Zoe, taking care of her newly born child and encountering the new resistance born out of the signal Mal released. This final issue sees the crew finally locate Zoe and stage a grand rescue from a prison planet. A pretty simple, but very well executed conclusion. The twists and turns in the story, a few of which come to a head in this issue and particularly in the cliffhanger at the end, are really where the meat of the story comes from and I don’t really want to spoil any of it.

The story is really solid, and there are some great appearances from old favourite characters that are unexpected and completely serve the story rather than feeling like fan service. Zack Whedon nails the dialogue and personality of every member of the crew, getting the almost lyrical quality in the speech that served the show so well spot on (“This job can’t go but one way. Turns out you’re beyond your depth, I ain’t gonna drag you back.”). The art is great too. Jeanty captures the look of each of the actors who played River, Kaylee, Mal, Zoe and the others without making it photo-realistic, which often looks clunky and a little bit valley-of-the-uncanny. As with his work on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer continuation comics, his faces resemble the actors they are based on but as they would be in an actual comic, so it fits well. The rest of the art team do a great job bringing this all to life, especially the colours from Laura Martin. The pick up in issue #6 looks gorgeous, and considering how may people are wearing brown and it takes place in a desert, everything is really clear and vibrant.

The only drawback, if there is one at all, is that this comic very much depends on you being familiar with these characters. The story is written well enough that you can entirely follow what is going on through the series without having ever watched an episode of Firefly, I’m just not sure you would care about anything that happens. I’d still recommend checking it out, and if you like it then try the show. If you are a Firefly fan, definitely pick this series up. It is a really strong continuation of the series we all loved, and I really hope there is more. Check the series out, and try to track down all 6 issues of the mini-series if you can (or read it digitally!). If you can’t manage it, or can’t be arsed, Dark Horse will be releasing a hard cover of the whole of Leaves on the Wind in November. So check it out then!

Score: 9 Powers in the ‘verse out of 10

Dan’s Nerdgasms: Locke & Key

 

 

Locke and key, welcome to Lovecraft. Ever wanted to have keys that unlock amazing abilities? Locke & Key is a fantastic horror fantasy that tells the story of Keyhouse, an unlikely New England mansion, with fantastic doors that transform all who dare to walk through them, and home to a hate-filled and relentless creature that will not rest until it forces open the most terrible door of them all! I’ll warn you now that when you read the first volume of this story, you’ll want to finish the rest

Dan

Comic Review – The Wicked + The Divine #1

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of his favourite one, with potential minor spoilers.

This week I read The Wicked + The Divine #1 from Image Comics, written by Kieron Gillen and art from Jamie McKelvie, with colours by Matthew Wilson and letters from Clayton Cowles. I had seen a fair bit of promotion about this series, somehow managing to skip over what it is actually about but remaining interested in it.

The Wicked + The Divine kicks off with a cryptic prologue set in 1923, titled ‘Once Again’ – a mantra repeated a couple of times and the meaning of which becomes clearer later on, as does the random finger clicking. The time line moves on to present day London in the main story ‘1-2-3-4’ where we meet our main cast. The Wicked + The Divine centres on various young adults with apparently incredible powers. To most they appear to be a combination of rockstar and god, taking on names from a variety of different cultures including Japanese Shinto and Egyptian mythology. So far we have three women – Lucifer (or ‘Luci’), Sakhmet and Amaterasu (and Susanoo in 1923), but it is hinted that there are twelve ‘immortals’ in total. We see their world through the eyes of Laura attending one of Amaterasu’s gatherings, which is basically a concert that ends with everyone passing out (many with orgasms apparently) through sheer bliss. When Laura wakes up she meets Lucifer, who lets her come and listen while a reporter berates the group accusing them of being fakes. There is an insinuation here that this has all happened before, ‘The Recurrence’, and that they are reincarnations (or think themselves as such) of gods. Just as the reporter, Cassandra, disputes the veracity of the miracles they can perform, and why they don’t show them off if they can, masked men attempt an assassination. This ends extremely badly for the would-be assassins, and it turns out that finger clicking causes people’s heads to explode. There are consequences and complications to this, the resolution of which appears to be the direction the series will head.

The story is a difficult one to describe, as I have skillfully just displayed, but it really was interesting and unlike anything I’m reading at the moment. It has a glam-rock style and a set of characters that were intriguing. Gillen’s writing is great here, and we had the world fleshed out with background through the dialogue in a way that served the story perfectly, rather than feeling clunky and expositional. The art team really shone here too, the double page splash at the concert in particular looked gorgeous, and I don’t think I have ever seen such a vividly colourful and beautiful depiction of someone’s head exploding.

I need to pick up an issue of something I really dislike one of these weeks, because the number of new series that I am completely on board with is starting to hurt my wallet a lot. This was a really interesting read, check it out in your local comic book shop or online.

Score: 9 Finger Clicks out of 10

Comic Review – The Empty Man #1

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of his favourite one, with potential minor spoilers.

No review last week, long story short I was insanely busy. The few things I did read were largely ongoings or mid-series so I decided to skip a review. Anyway, this week I read The Empty Man #1 from Boom! Studios. It was written by Cullen Bunn, with art by Vanesa R. Del Rey, colours from Michael Garland and letters from Ed Dukeshire. I heard about this last week, so picked it up when I saw it on the rack.

The Empty Man takes place one year since the first case of the ‘Empty Man’ disease, a mysterious illness with unknown causes or transmission, that causes suffers to hallucinate or descend into a mad rage, with them either dying or entering an empty catatonic state. The FBI and the CDC investigate cases of the disease, hindered by various cults that surround it mistaking it for the work of God or some other delusion. The issue uses religion to frame the story too, which highlights this cultist turn later on for it’s general craziness. We follow Special Agents Langford and Jenson on a case of a family with the parents having succumbed to the Empty Man, and the children missing. The agents try to find out what happened to the kids, interviewing neighbours and interrogating suspects.

I’ve not really done the story justice, but I don’t want to give too much away. I got a real True Detective vibe from it, with the whole issue having an excellent sense of impending dread throughout all of this, and the characters seemingly knowing as little about the condition as the reader. The story is very well paced and the dialogue is sharp. I really liked the layout of the interviews 1-8 with the neighbours being so brief they felt like vox-pops. The art is really gloomy and shadowed, which just adds to the mysterious feeling. There were maybe two panels where I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on straight, in the shower scene (not nearly as sexy as it sounds) and the last page, but I got it from dialogue or the next few panels. Everything else looked great, and there is one panel that was so terrifying that I’m certain it is going to be a fixture in my nightmares for the next few nights.

I love a good mystery, and this series presents a very interesting one. The art was great, complementing the ominous overshadowing of the story. I’ll be carrying on with The Empty Man, and I’m definitely recommending people pick this up.

Score: 8.5 Fortunate Ones out of 10

Comic Review – Trees #1

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of his favourite one, with potential minor spoilers.

This week I read Trees #1 by Warren Ellis, with art by Jason Howard and letters from Fonografiks, published by Image Comics. This was another case of not hearing about a new series, seeing a nice shiny number one issue on the rack with a well known writer’s name on the front, judging whether or not the stack of comics in my hand is already too much (it probably was) and picking it up anyway*. I must admit I haven’t read as much Warren Ellis as I would have liked, his Transmetropolitan seemingly a permanent fixture on my ‘to buy’ list of collections.

Trees takes place ten years after first alien contact with Earth, in the form of huge monolithic ‘trees’ that suddenly landed across the globe, devastating communities in the cities they struck. Even years later, mankind seems to have accepted the presence of the trees despite knowing almost nothing about them. No beings have emerged, no communication has come through, they just sit there. And they very occasionally “dump waste” which appears to mean “crap acid over everyone, melting people and buildings”, which apparently has happened six times now. Why anyone would live anywhere near one if there is the slightest potential of that happening is beyond insane, but then again I’ve visited Naples in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius where we were cheerfully told that it could erupt at any time, and there definitely wouldn’t be enough time to evacuate the whole city. So aside from the horror of this, the alien interlopers are a total mystery. We are introduced to an array of different and seemingly unconnected characters – a man running for New York mayor, a young aspiring artist moving as close as he can to the trees, and some scientists studying one in Norway. None of them immediately jump out as the lead, but all are compelling for different reasons.

The writing is strong, with perhaps only the dialogue between the mayoral hopeful Vince and his friend/advisor Del feeling a touch exposition-heavy. It reads well enough, it could be passed off as rhetoric from Vince to explain why he wants to run for mayor, and we need this information somehow, it just feels a bit stark. The prologue got me invested enough in the story, and the bleakness of an enemy that doesn’t seem to know or even care that we are here, with some very brief narration over the action. I think I would have preferred some of the details of the original landing to unfurl more organically over a couple of issues. That really is nit-picking though, and it wasn’t really a problem at all. The pacing of the issue itself is really where the story shines, giving very little away but showing the scope of the world as it is now. This scope is illustrated very effectively by Jason Howard (as ‘artist’ I assume he did colours and all), showcasing each locale with a different colour palate to contrast them perfectly. My favourite panel was probably the iconic vista of Rio de Janeiro marred by trees dumping their waste into the city at the start.

This was another great first issue of a new creator-owned series, and again I will definitely be keeping up with it as the characters are fleshed out and Ellis explores the mystery of the trees and why they are here, largely dormant and uncommunicative, and what they are going to do. I fully recommend picking this one up from your local comic book shop or online retailer with your tablet/smart phone/internet-linked cyberbrain.

Score: 8.5 Weird Robot Police Dogs out of 10

 

* The delay of Batman #31 over here in the UK to next week (due to a printing error or something I equally don’t understand) helped reduce my costs this week, but I wasn’t overly happy about that.

Comic Review – Forever Evil #7

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of his favourite one, with potential minor spoilers. 

Probably more than ‘minor’ this week, including spoilers for the whole event and the end of Trinity War.

This was a fairly expensive trip to the comics shop! This week I’ve decided to review the finale of the DC event comic Forever Evil (the first time I’ve reviewed an issue that wasn’t a #1), not because it was necessarily my favourite or the best but because it was worth talking about, I think anyway. Forever Evil #7 was written by Geoff Johns, with pencils by David Finch, inks by Richard Friend, colours from Sonia Oback and letters by Rob Leigh. Forever Evil started back in September last year during the Villain’s Month, and was due to finish two months ago in March. I had mistakenly (and unfairly) assumed that this was due to art delays and wanting to maintain consistency rather than rushing out the ending with a replacement, but it turns out Johns realised he wanted the end to be longer so we ended up getting a 40-page, slightly more expensive, finale. Quite why this meant the delay was two months I’m not sure, but we’ve got it now.

For those who don’t know, Forever Evil followed hot on the heels of the previous DC event ‘Trinity War’, which saw the Crime Syndicate (basically evil alternate universe versions of the Justice League) turn up in the main DC universe having escaped their own crumbling reality. Forever Evil starts with them having totally defeated the League, all of whom are presumed dead, and the Syndicate organising the villains of the DCU to take over and basically destroy the world. This doesn’t sit well with a few of the bad guys, who decide to band together to fight back against these extra-dimensional intruders. Lex Luthor joins up with with Bizzaro, Captain Cold, Black Adam, Black Manta, Sinestro, and a few others including Batman (who survived when all his super-powered friends were “killed” by the Syndicate, because he is Batman) to give us a nice villains Vs. villains tale, which is a good change of pace from the usual heroes Vs. heroes we have been used to of late in superhero comics.

The finale, which is pretty action-packed, starts with Luthor saving Nightwing. Spoiler I guess, but DC already started previewing their new ‘Grayson’ comic weeks before this issue came out. It was fairly obvious from the set up that this is how it would go down anyway. Batman hugs Nightwing, Luthor notices in some foreshadowing for something that comes later. Bizzarro then hugs Lex, which is definitely my favourite moment of the book. A large part of the rest of the issue is various villains fighting the remaining Crime Syndicate members Ultraman and Superwoman, and everyone fighting the alternate universe Alexander Luthor, who is a sort of reverse Shazam that steals the powers from people he kills. He has killed a lot of people apparently, because he is crazy powerful. I must admit I didn’t see the end of the fight coming, but I’m glad it went down like it did. It felt like it was earned, and even though the Justice League were pretty much simultaneously freed from their predicament by Batman and Cyborg, it was the villains that won the day and saved the planet. Basically, if none of that made any sense, it was all pretty awesome.

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I really like Johns’ writing, and never more so than when he is writing villains. He continues to do a great job here, the only complaint I have is really more an issue I’ve found a lot recently in the new 52, being hinting at events that have occurred in the 5 year time span of the continuity that we haven’t seen and may not ever see. It makes things feel unearned. The main instance I mean involved Batman and the lasso of truth. The only other problem I’ve had with the event was the inclusion of Sinestro in the story, which I am conflicted over anyway because he has been excellent in it. I really enjoyed how Sinestro ended up at the end of Johns’ Green Lantern run, and didn’t want him back so soon as it lessened the impact. But I have no idea whose call it was to bring him in. The art team do a good job here too, dynamic fights in great looking surroundings with colours really suiting the tone of a big thunderous finale.

This was a damn good piece of superhero comics, involving very few actual superheroes. It sets up a really interesting new status quo, with Lex Luthor actually seemingly reflecting on events and improving himself (though not as clear cut as a full redemption, and he is clearly going to use some new information to his advantage soon), and the reveal of who chased the Crime Syndicate out of their own reality (and may be coming to the main DCU next). If you haven’t been reading this event, I wouldn’t recommend the finale as a jumping on point but definitely check out the collection when DC releases it. If you have been reading it, you dropped off the series because you weren’t into it or lost interest due to the delays, I would recommend jumping back on as it is a satisfying conclusion to what I found to be one of the best event books I have read in a while. Check it out at your local comic book shop, or digitally online if you have one of those new fangled tablet thingys.

Score: 7.5 MAZAHS! out of 10

 

* Definitely check out Saga #19 and American Vampire: Second Cycle #3 this week. They were both fantastic.

Comic Review – The United States of Murder Inc. #1

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of his favourite one, with potential minor spoilers.

Of the limited number of comics I did read this week*, the book I enjoyed the most was The United State of Murder Inc. #1 from Brian Michael Bendis and art by Michael Avon Oeming, with colours from Taki Soma and letters by Chris Eliopoulos, published by the Icon imprint from Marvel comics. I have read very little of Bendis’s work so far, mainly because everything I see him writing is Marvel. I briefly tried getting into Marvel, but I was already invested in the DC universe fairly heavily and was trying to buy more independent stuff too, so couldn’t afford to keep it up. I am a PhD student living in London after all, and I don’t think “I can’t afford rent because I bought too many comics” will go down well as a good excuse for why I have started sleeping at my desk and using the emergency shower in the lab every day. I dropped nearly all the Marvel books I was picking up, choosing to wait for trades that looked really good instead, along with a fair few DC books so I could still grab new creator-owned series that caught my eye. That said, I did read about 7 issues of Uncanny X-Men last year from Bendis, and I enjoyed it. That is a series that I’m planning to keep up with in trades.

Anyway, The United States of Murder Inc. takes place in an alternate USA where the Mob continued to be a dominant force rather than dying out in the early 20th century, to the extent that they actually own the East Coast (“the territories”). Our protagonist is Valentine Gallo, and we meet him just as he becomes a made man and is inducted into one of the major crime families. He is soon sent on his first job, out of the territories to Washington DC. On the way he is joined by a veteran member of the crime family, Jagger Rose, a sultry redhead sent to guide him (or emasculate him, whatever). I really enjoyed the back-and-forth dialogue between the pair on the train, it felt genuine and I didn’t find it to be over the top despite it feeling very much like a noir film. Things take an unexpected turn during the job, leading Valentine to confront more senior members of the family towards the end of the issue. This builds to what should be a particularly interesting plot as we go forward with the series.

At this point I must confess I made a pretty stupid error. I was going to give the book a lower score than I have, because I felt that the ending felt rushed. I felt that it should have been the end of the second issue, and the first issue should entirely be concerned with establishing this interesting alternate world. I think it probably ends up to the credit of the writing because I must have been so engrossed in the story that I did not notice that this was an oversized first issue, so what transpires in the last pages essentially is the end of a normal issue #2. So I retracted that complaint before I even made it. What I’m saying is I liked the story, and I liked the writing.

The art is really interesting, and I mean that to be a compliment. It is fairly cartoony, but in a very dark way.  Lots of thick, bold lines, with a toned down almost unimportant use of background to really emphasise the characters as being the most distinct aspect of each shot. The colours really back this up, with a different but basic shades flooding the background of each scene. Most of the characters tend to be a stark black and white against this background, except Jagger who really stands out with red hair and clothes in every scene (blood and fire incidentally also stand out). As usual, I am a total sucker for double page splashes. Give me two in a row, first of an explosion and then the same explosion reflected in someone’s sunglasses? I’m in.

I enjoyed this comic a great deal, and I seem to be paying so little attention of late that I didn’t even realise it was coming out. I just saw it on the rack at the comic book shop and thought “I’d like to read more Bendis, and this doesn’t require loads of pre existing knowledge of what came before it!”. I’m glad I did (see kids, acting on impulse works out sometimes), I found a really different looking book from anything else I’m reading, and in a setting that I did not know I wanted a comic about. It turns out I did. Check it out at your local comic book shop, or digitally online if you have one of those new fangled tablet thingys.

Score: 8 Coronation Pins out of 10

 

* This week I actually mostly bought DC comics, only to find out that a lot of it is now taking place post-Forever Evil, the finale of which was delayed for about a month and doesn’t come out until next week. So I didn’t read most of what I bought as I am still pointlessly trying to avoid any form of spoilers, even though I have heard snippets of what does happen (and I did read Futures End #2, in which a throw away line did also indicate other things that obviously happen in Forever Evil #7 that I didn’t know). I would of course rather the book was completed properly with delays than get in fill-in artists or whatever to get it out on schedule, and I also get that it’s not like DC can postpone a huge number of comics for a month that have already been solicited, but this still feels a bit ridiculous. Frustrating, but there we go.