Comic Book Review – Black Science #34 (Image Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Then he reviews one every other week.

As it’s been a while since I bloviated about one of my favourite books, I figured I would use the excuse of the end of an arc to revisit Black Science with issue #34, the finale of ‘Extinction is the Rule’. Black Science is written by Rick Remender, with art by Matteo Scalera and colours by Moreno Dinisio, published by Image Comics.

Cover art by Scalera & Dinisio

The worlds are in chaos. Heroes, villains and monsters from every corner of the Eververse, every layer of the Onion, have converged on Grant McKay’s home reality. The pillar, the transdimensional technology that every version of him creates in every reality has torn everything apart, leading through a crusading hive mind intent on conquering everything, an evil witch who feeds off deals and has stolen Grant’s mind, and a version of his old team members Kadir and Chandra who burn each world they screw up before jumping to the next, partially fueled by Kadir’s obsession with Grant’s wife Sara. Every version of her. And now Grant needs to fix everything.

Short review: Black Science – Still great. Remender juggles a big cast of characters at this point, with everything from the past 34 issues coming to bear and war over reality. Yet while that all happens, he manages to find time to meditate on giving up (and when not to), fatherhood and blame, and the ultimate meaning behind everything. It remains a desperate, chaotic and hopeful book, despite being crushingly bleak.

 

Art by Scalera & Dinisio

Scalera as an artist an absolute beast. As Black Science continues to ramp up, the action gets more frenetic and he has more and more to incorporate into his unique style, and he never seems to miss a beat. This issue is packed full of magics, sci-fi weaponry and actual superheroics, along with huge battles, giant monsters and even more dimension hopping, and it all looks superb. Even the quieter moments that close out the issue and arc are handled with a deft heaviness and clarity. Dinisio’s colours make everything clear and distinct, with no two explosions or energy blasts looking the same, adding a richness to a world gone mad.

As ever, Black Science is still top of my reading pile whenever it comes out. While I’m sad that the end of this arc means that the book will go away for a few months, I can’t wait to see what happens next. If you still haven’t tried Black Science and this rambling ode to the sci-fi craziness sounds good, pick up the first trade paperback ‘How to Fall Forever’ here, which collects the first 6 issues. For this issue, make sure to pick it up at your local comic shop!

Score: 9.5 Toolboxes out of 10

Comic Review – Seven to Eternity #1 (Image Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Then he reviews one every other week.

As if to swiftly fill the hole left by Tokyo Ghost ending a few weeks ago, Rick Remender is back with another new series in the form of Seven to Eternity from Image Comics, reuniting with his long-time collaborator Jerome Opeña on art duties, with Matt Hollingsworth providing colours and lettering from Rus Wooton. As a big fan of Fear Agent I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while now, so seemed an obvious choice for review this week.

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Cover by Opeña & Hollingsworth

Seven to Eternity takes place in the Kingdom of Zhal, where the ruthless and terrifying tyrant The God of Whispers (also known as the Mud King) has, after a long and devastating war, nearly secured his absolute dominion over the land. By inciting fear and hatred, by turning others against their friends and allies, he has taken control and even made those who stand against him pariahs rather than heroes. Zebadiah Osidis was one such man, and rather than hear the Mud King’s offer and bend his knee to him, he took his family far away. Years later, the Mud King has sent his agents to deal with Zebadiah, and while he sticks to his principles and refuses to hear the offer, his now adult son Adam, thinking of his own young family and the threat to them, travels across Zhal and through the dying embers of the war to hear The God of Whispers out.

Zhal is a high-fantasy world of magic rather than technology, and the entire team here has quickly established an incredibly rich world. The nature and design of how it all works together is stunning, and again really shows a creative team working so well together. This is a dense and heavy story that is unforgiving, but well worth the effort to get into. Seven to Eternity is cinematic in scope, which is clear from even the cover. Remender’s characters are as always, fascinating studies into individuals whose obsession or devotion to their ideals may very well be their undoing. Zebadiah is uncompromising in his principles, and by refusing to bend on them he turned his family into hated outcasts. Adam may not do the same, but his choices may well end up even more dangerous for everyone. The complex characters, a legitimately terrifying villain, and strong dialogue round off a great start to the story.

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Art by Opeña & Hollingsworth

The art is the best work I’ve seen from Opeña to date. The visuals are utterly gorgeous, the action sequences insanely detailed, and the way the magic in this world works is just mesmerising. The double page splash of Adam seeing the city is almost criminally good. I don’t know what was going on in it, but my god was it pretty. Matt Hollingsworth’s colours are an excellent edition to the art, often bringing almost a glow to the backgrounds, while infusing the action with an intense vibrancy. The lettering from Wooton in this book is particularly strong too, never intruding on the art but guiding through the pages with a perfect flow.

What is clear in Seven to Eternity is that this is a truly collaborative affair, and everyone involved is pulling in some of the best work of their careers. It’s a dense, intriguing high fantasy epic that I genuinely can’t wait to read more of, and you should definitely be checking this out. Pick it up at your LCS or digitally now.

Score: 9 Mud Hounds out of 10

 

Adam’s Top 5 Comics of 2015

Over the next couple of weeks we’re going to be sharing our top 5s of 2015, from everyone who writes here at The Lost Lighthouse. This time Adam will go through his favourite 5 comics of the year.

I’m taking a quick break from the depths of writing my PhD thesis to write about some of the things I actually cared about this year. For my final top five I’m ranking my favourite comics released in 2015. Comics are one of the few things I still manage to put a lot of time (and money) into, making a trip to my LCS every Wednesday for new comic book day. I read a lot of really excellent series, with new ones starting all the time. This year I’ve experienced a real shift from DC to Marvel, trying out and sticking with many new series of the latter before and after Marvel’s summer event ‘Secret Wars’, while dropping a large number of DC books – I’m now down to about 5 monthly books from them. But as this list will reflect, I tend to read more Image books than anything else these days.

A warning now, there may be a few spoilers along the way. If you get to a title and aren’t necessarily up to date with it, read on only if you don’t mind finding out the odd plot detail. In particular for my number 2.

5. Justice League – Geoff Johns & Jason Fabok (DC Comics)

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Justice League is one of the few DC titles I have consistently picked up since the start of DC’s New 52 back in 2011. Geoff Johns has been writing the book since issue #1, delivering the sort of blockbuster superhero action you’d expect from the title. The artist has changed every few arcs on the book, and since the end of last year Jason Fabok has taken over as the main artist. The previous arc ‘The Amazo Virus’ was decent, possibly one of the weaker plots of the last couple of years (certainly not due to the art). However, the current story ‘The Darkseid War’ has been superb, and more importantly has given Fabok the chance to really let loose with his art, not just with excellent superhero action but with huge god Vs god action between Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor. His action sequences are superb and relentless, while not falling down when it comes to facial work like many action-orientated artists do.

The story is moving in to its second act this week, with the various members of the Justice League converted to various New God status. A real positive for the series has been seeing the story through the eyes and narration of Wonder Woman, while she leads the remaining Leaguers in a desperate battle while gods wage war on Earth. Justice League makes my list because it is one of the series I look forward to most whenever it comes out, and always goes to the top of my reading stack.

 

4. The Fade Out – Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips & Elizabeth Breitweiser (Image Comics)

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The Fade Out started near the end of last year, and wraps up it’s 12 issue run next week. Created by long time collaborators Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, the series is a Hollywood crime noir set in the late 1940s. The Fade Out deals with the murder of Hollywood starlet Valeria Sommers, and follows writer Charlie Parish as he tries to piece together his fractured and drunken memory to figure out who is responsible for her death and why. It’s very different to what I would normally read, but I’m so glad I picked it up.

Brubaker creates an interesting noir mystery and it is clear that plenty of research and care has gone into making sure the era feels right for both the setting, story and dialogue. The same can be said for Phillips’s art, with the style and characters feeling very 1940s, so they all really standing out. A bonus to the whole package are the back up articles from Devin Faraci in every issue, dealing with a different star or theme of old Hollywood. It’s really fascinating stuff. I’ll really miss this series when it’s finished, and will be re-reading it all when the final issue is out to see what I missed.

 

3. Southern Bastards – Jason Aaron & Jason Latour (Image Comics)

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Another Image series that started back in 2014 that continues to go to the top of my reading stack whenever it comes out is the brutal Southern Bastards, written by Jason Aaron and drawn by Jason Latour. This is a fucking mean book. Set in Craw County, Alabama, Southern Bastards revolves around Coach Boss and his football team the Runnin’ Rebs, state champions that essentially run the town. The arc that has run through this year has largely focused on fleshing out Boss and his various violent cronies, presumably before we return to the plot moving forward in the new year.

Aaron’s writing is incredibly dark, I tend to feel fairly bummed out after each issue full of terrible people doing terrible things, but it is so well written and compelling. 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, and that includes the people. I can’t wait to see how low this series goes in 2016.

 

2. Thor/The Mighty Thor – Jason Aaron & Russell Dauterman (Marvel Comics)

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Another one from Jason Aaron, but this time decidedly less bleak. I jumped on to the Thor ongoing series during all the fuss over “Thor being turned into Lady Thor” and the huge amount of internet bullshit that followed that announcement that essentially boils down to people being afraid of change, of giving compelling stories a chance rather than knee jerk reactions and being unaware that if comic book companies only cater to the currently relatively small readership prices will continue to rise until the industry dies. And I don’t want that. I like comics. The storm in a teacup followed on from Thor as we know him, the Odinson, becoming unworthy to wield Mjolnir. In his place, a mysterious female picks up the hammer, and starts to use it more skillfully than even the Odinson. He spends a large amount of the first run leading up to Secret Wars trying to figure out her identity, which is revealed to be the cancer-stricken Jane Foster. And using the hammer is rendering her treatments ineffective, so being a hero is slowly killing her.

The story is tightly weaved and incredibly enjoyable, with really top notch plot and character work from Jason Aaron. Dauterman’s art is superb though, and probably the series’s main selling point for me at this stage. There are huge action splashes that are breathtaking to behold, and the cosmic and otherworldly elements and characters of the Nine Realms have looked great so far. When this series wrapped up for Secret Wars I was disappointed, but then delighted to hear that the same team was returning for the continuation after the summer event with The Mighty Thor. The issues so far from that I feel have been even better than the pre-Secret Wars material.

And calm down nerds. Eventually Odinson will be Thor again (in fact there is a fairly large hint in a Secret Wars tie in that we may be looking at having two Thors, which makes me happy as Jane Foster as Thor is great), Steve Rogers will be Cap again (it is his 75th Anniversary in 2016…) and I don’t really know or care what is happening with the Hulk. Just enjoy the stories. Or piss off. Either way do it quietly so the rest of us can read our comics in peace.

 

1. Black Science – Rick Remender & Matteo Scalera (Image Comics)

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Big Image bias in this list isn’t there? My favourite series of the year is the extremely high concept sci fi Black Science, written by Rick Remender and beautifully drawn by Matteo Scalera. Starting back in late 2013, Black Science focuses on a group of alternative scientists pushing the boundaries of conventional research, led by Grant McKay, formerly of the Anarchist Order of Scientists. Their project, ‘The Pillar’, breaches into different dimensions, but someone sabotages it. It’s stuck jumping across different worlds – dragging everyone that was present along with it, including the other scientists and Grant’s kids Pia and Nate.

The story has jackknifed through gorgeous worlds, deadly worlds, diseased worlds and the slowly dwindling cast of characters has had to interact with multiple versions of themselves in various realities. And while that is all pretty high concept and mind-bending, the latest arc ‘Godworld’ is utterly insane. Remender’s writing is complex and layered, with excellent and dark character work and intelligent science fiction that commands your attention. Scalera’s artwork renders Black Science as one of the most consistently superb looking books on the stands every month. The worlds he brings to life are just stunning.

The latest part of Godworld is due out next week with issue #19, and I’ll probably read it on the tube on the way home. And it will probably be weird, and anyone sitting next to me will be deeply confused and terrified. And I don’t care.

Comic Review – Tokyo Ghost #1 (Image Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he reviews of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

This week saw the start of a series I’ve been looking forward to since its announcement at Image Expo last year: sci-fi series Tokyo Ghost #1 created by Rick Remender and Sean Murphy on writing and art duties respectively, with colours provided by Matt Hollingsworth and letters from Rus Wooton.

Tokyo Ghost takes place in a 2089 in a world obsessed and addicted to technology, a natural extension of the world we live in now. Debbie Decay, the last tech free human in LA and her partner Led Dent, partners and constables for the Flak corporation, are hunting down a suspect responsible for a series of horrible murders, a nostalgic video game nerd named Davey Trauma who can seemingly hack into any human being with the slightest nano tech to do his bidding. And his bidding is to kill Debbie Decay as she closes in on him, her husband and partner Dent so addicted to video streams and porn that he can’t even make himself get off his bike. This is Debbie and Led’s last job for Flak, before they head off to the only tech free city in the world, Tokyo, to get Led clean off of tech and to start a new life. But Led has to tell Flak that he wants it first…

TokyoGhostThere is a lot to take in for this first issue. Remender packs in an incredible amount of nuanced world-building, without making it centre stage, and while framing it around an incredibly action packed case for the two constables. As for the two main characters, Debbie really shines here, with her actually following up on the case while her tech-addicted partner stays glued to the screens in front of his face. We actually learn more about Dent contextually and through Debbie’s devotion to him, as his obsession renders him as essentially a blank slate here. As a partnership, this makes them fascinating as eventually they do work well together, despite the shortcomings of half of the team. The story is slick and upsettingly prescient, without being too grim or overbearing.

The only minor complaint I had was the dialogue. Not overall, as it is largely very strong without being too faux-futuristic, but specifically the dialogue of Davey Trauma, which comes across as a little painfully ‘gamer’. Maybe it’s a stab at gamergaters, much more likely it is supposed to be so over the top as the character himself is nostalgia-obsessed and so bound to actually fail to accurately represent anyone who has genuinely played a video game in the early 21st century, but as someone who falls between the Millenial and Atari age ranges all of the ‘pwned’ and ‘I ain’t no noob’ read to me a little like the try-hard 12 year olds I used to fight on Halo 2 oh so many years ago. But frankly I assume this was intentional, to read the guy as an idiot poser who barely understood the culture he was misrepresenting, and to make him that much easier to dislike.

As for the art, I find it a little difficult to be subjective here. Murphy and Hollingsworth are now my favourite art team. I suspected it on The Wake, and it was probably confirmed on Chrononauts but they just work so incredibly well together. Sean Murphy’s scratchy and shadowy style does wonders here to create a sort of tech based LA noir feel, and really most of the world building I spoke of comes from what he brings to the table, rendering a very lived-in setting amongst the familiar trappings of bleak dystopia. The car chases and death races look stunning, and the few moments of horrible bloodshed are somehow understated in their realisation. Matt Hollingsworth brings more of his usual washed out, almost pastel colour palette to round off the ‘lived in’ feeling of the world, making everything seem worn out and strained while remaining vivid and exciting. Tokyo Ghost is a stunning book.

This first issue of Tokyo Ghost has a lot going on, aggressively eschewing the usual trade off of character vs. plot for a first issue of a new series by just smashing together both. And it works. More could, and presumably will, be said about Led. To be honest, I worry that once Led starts to come off of his addiction he will start to overshadow Debbie Decay in the story, which I think would be a great shame because as it stands, she is far and away the most compelling character. The story is compelling, but the art is the main draw here for me. Remender, Murphy and Hollingsworth deliver a cyberpunk LA noir with death races, video games obsessives and explosions and it looks ridiculously pretty. This is a great first issue and I can’t wait to see where it goes. Pick it up at your LCS or digitally today.

Score: 9 Tech-free cities out of 10

 

Comic Review – Black Science #10

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.

As I was aiming to do a quick review this week, and am struggling for cash a fair bit so opted to avoid any new titles, I’ve finally decided to review an issue of Black Science, as issue #10 just came out. I think the first issue came out before I started up these weekly single comic reviews, but like Saga before it I’ve held off on this one for a bit, going more for first issues or last issues of arcs instead. I think it’s high time to direct anyone not yet reading this title towards it now though. Black Science is a high concept sci-fi series from Image Comics, written by Rick Remender with art from Matteo Scalera, painted art by Dean White and letters by Rus Wooton.

Black Science focuses on a group of alternative scientists pushing the boundaries of conventional research, led by Grant McKay, formerly of the Anarchist Order of Scientists (new band name, I call it!). Their project, ‘The Pillar’, is intended to breach into different dimensions, in theory allowing the collection of an abundance of resources and knowledge. However, someone sabotages the machine, and it is stuck jumping across different worlds – dragging everyone that was present along with it, including the other scientists and Grant’s kids Pia and Nate. They’ve been dragged through ‘The Onion’ of all the overlapping worlds, hunted by lizards through,jungle environments, they’ve landed in the middle of a war between Nazi’s and hi-tech Native Americans, and now they find themselves on a distinctly more barren world with pillar worshipping insects, and all along the way people have died.

This issue largely focuses on Pia and Nate, escaping their previous capture by these insects, who are trying to psychically probe them to find out the location of the pillar. During their flight, Pia lets out all of her rage at her father (through both inner monologue and talking to her brother) for putting them in this situation, for never being around during their childhood and for breaking their mother not just through infidelity but by loving his work more than her. Alongside this, there is some forward momentum on another world involving the Grant McKays from multiple worlds, all of whom are very different. It seems more than one person in this story wants to use the Pillar to get back someone they lost, but is that in any way a good idea?

Remender’s story is as layered as ‘The Onion’ it takes place in, and is expertly crafted and complicated sci-fi. The concept of a multiverse isn’t a new one, but it is utilised well in Black Science by positing the potential of the ability to traverse dimensions, while highlighting what a horrible idea it turns out to be. In this issue, I loved the dialogue from the insect priest figure, essentially saying that if the only difference between him living under hardship and an alternate version of him living in opulence is a simple misstep of his behalf, and if across all the realities everything is happening, what meaning does any action or decision have? Coupled with the well fleshed out characters, almost all of whom are incredibly flawed (some across multiple incarnations), this makes for a great read. The art is stunning, with Scalera’s work being consistently one of my favourites in the business. From claustrophobic and crowded scenes full of millipede creatures, to the gorgeous sprawling mountainous area in the background of Pia and Nate’s escape on a weird flying hippo creature, the art really works for the story, all brought to vivid life by White’s painted colours.

Black Science is one of the titles I look forward to the most every month, and this issue did not disappoint. The multi-layered story is fascinating and bleak, and I can’t wait to see where it all ends up. Issue #10 may not be the best jumping on point, but the writing is strong enough that you can still pick it up and enjoy it, or track down the first 9 issues physically (many of which have had multiple reprints due to demand) or digitally to get caught up. Alternatively, the first trade ‘How To Fall Forever’ is already out, collecting issues 1-6, and the second ‘Welcome, Nowhere’  is coming out soon that will go right up to next month’s issue #11. However you do it, Black Science is definitely worth your time.

9 Pillars out of 10