Comic Review – Spread #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.

In stark contrast to last week, this week I bought way too many comics (admittedly some were those I put back last week). I still haven’t got to all of them, but all those I have read so far have been excellent. Tough choice for a review, but I decided to go with Spread #1 as I enjoyed it the most*. Spread was written by Justin Jordan, with art by Kyle Strahm, colours by Felipe Sobreiro and letters from Crank!, published by Image Comics.

Spread takes place in a post apocalyptic world that is overrun with ‘the spread’, mysterious and grotesquely twisted organisms that will kill anything they see, infecting the living and reanimating the dead, converting them into foul mutated puppets. Think ‘The Thing’ but on a much bigger scale. People scavenge and fight over resources while trying to avoid the spread, but we open on a group that got too close for comfort. It seems that raiders are responsible initially, and now the spread is creeping closer. The protagonist, ‘No’, is connected in some way to these unlucky people, and has to despatch one of them after the spread has taken them, and later the raiders that killed them too. Visually he looks quite a bit like Wolverine, but has two hatchets instead of claws. Which is very much as cool as it sounds. No eventually finds what the group were trying to find: a baby (who will later be called ‘Hope’ apparently) who he must now protect in this hideous world.

While the elements of the plot may be familiar, the writing is very strong and everything combines to a refreshingly interesting take on the horror post apocalyptic genre. The story, in a way similar to Saga, is narrated by the baby from some point in the future (which does somewhat indicate that the child will survive at least a decent stretch of time) but there is no big information dump, no hand-holding to explain at length what is going on. We know what we need to at this stage, and it works very well. The art is disgusting in the best possible way. Gory and revelling in it, and it looks fantastic because of it. The colours are almost where this book shines the most though, the vivid blood red of the spread (and all the actual blood) juxtaposed strikingly over the snow filled surroundings to really bring the horror of the art to life.

So pretty clear this is another new series I really enjoyed, and I think you should pick it up too. If you are a fan of grim horror (and I suspect you are), then you should be into Spread. Check it out at your local comic book shop or digital comics app thingymabob.

Score: 9 Runners out of 10

 

* Also check out ‘The Life After’ by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Gabo from Oni Press for another really interesting new series. 

Comic Review – Southern Bastards #3

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.

Last week before payday, so a bit of a struggle to make room for comics. I even put a couple back on the rack I actually wanted to pick up! Maybe I’m growing as a person, and learning to prioritise like an adult. Maybe I was hungry and remembered I need to eat at some point over the next few days. Whatever, I was pretty sure I was going to review Southern Bastards #3 anyway. Southern Bastards is published by Image Comics, and written by Jason Aaron, with art from Jason Latour and letters by Jared K. Fletcher.

After over 40 years, our protagonist Earl Tubb returns to his home in Craw County, Alabama, to pack up what is left of his uncle’s house. He finds the place under the control of ‘Coach Boss’, the high school football coach who uses his players to instil fear in the county between games. While Earl is there, the coach’s boys assault and end up killing a friend. Constantly trying to convince himself to leave, Earl eventually realises he can’t just let it be (as we knew he wouldn’t). Events conspire for his dad’s old weapon of choice to almost fall on his lap, and as the previews stated, ‘Earl Tubb is an angry old man with a very big stick’. In this latest issue, Earl heads to the local diner to confront some of those responsible for the murder of his friend. And by confront, I mean beat the shit out of them with his stick. He then orders some ribs and waits for some of the other county residents to stand up with him against Coach Boss and his cronies. If I make it to old age I hope I am as much of a badass as Earl.

Earl

The world Jason Aaron has been crafting in this series is excellent. I’ve never been to ‘The South’ of the US, but the feel, the characters and the dialogue really evoke what I little know about that part of the country (though I certainly don’t mean that every town in the south is like this!). Latour’s art is brilliant, bringing this world to life and imbuing it with a dirty feel and colour palette. Everything in Craw County is ugly, especially the people. Considering the things they’ve done that suits just fine.

Southern Bastards is great, and issue #3 is another solid instalment in this first arc ‘Here Was a Man’. The story is simple but really interesting, and is totally different from anything else I’m reading at the moment. The first two issues have been reprinted (I think), so pick this up and track them down (or wait for the first arc to be collected in trade paperback in a few months) at your local comic book shop, or grab all 3 digitally. Now!

Score: 8.5 Ribs out of 10

Dan’s Nerdgasm: Daredevil

Daredevil has to be one of my best loved Marvel characters. Daredevil: The Man Without Fear is a classic story on the origin of the old horn head himself. Frank Miller (Sin City, 300) brings us a gritty origin story that follows Matt Murdock’s life of love, pain disappointment and strength. A must read for Daredevil and Miller fans alike.

Dan

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

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.