Wasteland #13 (Oni Press):
I have a lot of respect for the creative team putting people on paths where they finally feel like they're finding their place in an organic way. It's such a treat to see the divergent paths; Golden Voice sees a place for himself in Newbegin, as a place to model a society of tolerance and admirable acceptance. On the other side of town, Abi and Michael appear to really be off to A-Ree-Yass-I. There are some tough decisions made along the way, proving that the right decision might not be an easy or popular choice, but true leaders will make it anyway. And then, there's the huge last page reveal. I'll just leave that one alone for now. This brilliant storytelling is getting harder and harder to review; I'm running out of ways to explain how great it is. Yes, Mitten's pencils are airtight. Yes, Johnston's running a marathon here, crafting a tale that will be remembered years from now. It's fucking brilliant. Bring on the Eisner Awards already. Grade A+.Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 #2 (Archaia Studios Press):
I'm actually liking this second arc of Mouse Guard more than the first. The pairing of young Lieam and grisled veteran Celanawe is a terrific match, full of commentary on what it means to be a Guard Mouse and all the various personality types the Guard may be comprised of. It shows that David Petersen really thought about this world, not only the types of things that would inhabit it to help build it, like the introduction of the weasel threat and references to a past war, but also the diversity of personality types that would likely inhabit this universe. Their descent into Darkheather smacks a bit of the journey of the Fellowship into the Mines of Moria, but otherwise this arc is fairly unique. Grade A.
Special Forces #1 (Image): Kyle Baker is one of those names that is pretty much an instant purchase as he guarantees a pretty high level of concept and execution. DC's Army @ Love is getting tons of positive buzz right now, but I hated the first issue and never came back. To me, Special Forces is the book that Army @ Love wishes it could be. It's sexy, full of attitude and satire, and pretty loosely based on real world type events. Lines like "this piece of shit's not bulletproof" are played perfectly, completely deadpan from the character, but full of biting commentary on the plight of American soldiers around the world today, directed squarely at the discerning audience. Baker's lines are crisp and clear, beautifully rendered, with perfect panel composition. Tally-ho, I'm in. Grade A.
Tales of the Fear Agent: Twelve Steps in One (Dark Horse): On the one hand, the publishing strategy of Fear Agent feels all over the map and stretched pretty thin to me. We've gone from one publisher to another, from ongoing book to mini-series, to series of mini-series, to a spin off "Tales Of" book, which I thought would be either ongoing or a mini-series, but now debuts billed as a one-shot. Will other one-shots follow to comprise a mini-series of "Tales Of" stories over time? Who fucking knows! I'm so confused. But... all that aside... the lead story is a decent enough one, highlighted by Eric Nguyen's strong pencils, which fit right in. Stealing the show is the back up story by C.B. Cebulski (whose writing I've honestly never warmed to until now) and Tommy Ohtsuka - and it's freakin' hilarious! The script perfectly captures the debaucherous scoundrel ways of Heath Huston and the slightly cartoony art styles compliments it perfectly. They're perfectly channeling Han Solo with lines like "Listen, sister... last night was nice an' all, but 'nectar of heaven'? I been with some peaches in my day, and let me tell ya', you ain't one... 'specially seein' how ya' didn't even have the common courtesy of shavin' yer fuzz first." My god, how are they getting away with this? It's sexy, crazy, fun, and a nice little side story tangent to entertain the Fear Agent audience with. Grade B.
Action Comics #858 (DC): I purchased this book primarily because it's Gary Frank's first issue on art chores. I really enjoyed his wide-eyed look on Supreme Power and it doesn't disappoint here. There seems to be some Leinil Francis Yu influence here with the sketchy lines, along with moments of Frank Quitely's thinly presented pencils. I enjoyed the quick faux origin retelling intro, and his renditions of most of the familiar characters. Geoff Johns script is an interesting one, touching upon recent events around the DCU. The scene with the bullet wound and ultimate reveal is also played nicely. This issue didn't blow me away by any means, but as a very reluctant Superman fan, the Legion bits felt interesting enough to maybe keep up with this arc. Grade B.
X-Men: Messiah Complex #1 (Marvel): Hoo-boy... well, let's start with the one good point. The core premise here is a good one. The first mutant being born after all of the recent big event tomfoolery is a fine idea. And that's where the goodness comes to a screeching halt. The very first double page spread is laced with stiff, expository dialogue, with characters literally saying "what do you mean?" to eachother so that the next character can talk at the audience and explain the plot device that will occur on the next page. And what the hell happened to Silvestri's art? Ohmygod. There's a shot of Cyclops piloting the Blackbird that is just horrendous. The basic human anatomy is so flawed; his neck muscles appear so bulbous and elongated that they're larger than his pecs and extend to such a degree that his head is sitting a foot on top of of his shoulders. It's just awful. The next page has a panel with Emma Frost that has absolutely no mastery of depth in the art, she looks like she got hit in the face with a shovel and her mug is still completely flat. Beast looks like he has a shiny layer of liquid metal covering his fur, and the inking/coloring mishaps don't stop there. The entire book looks washed out as if it's been left in the scorching sun and bleached for a few days. It's not clear why the X-Men even think that this fire could have been caused by a mutant until so deep in the book that I didn't even care anymore; and that fact was only revealed by an awkward flashback to Professor X and Emma's deus ex machina Vulcan mind-meld with a random survivor. Emma randomly finds information in a hospital that conveniently exists only to advance the plot, and this craptacular crapfest is crapped off by a crappy new villain named Predator X that smacks of a crappy, poor, tired, wannabe 90's concept that was rejected by Image, Valiant, and Shooter's Warriors of Plasm line. Truly awful. Only 'cuz the basic high concept was ok, Grade D-.
I also picked up;
Chiaroscuro: Patchwork: Book 1 (IDW): Troy Little is a name I'd not heard before, but his strong consistent art style looks great. The high praise from Steven Grant and Randy Lander, whose eyes for budding talent I generally trust, convinced me to purchase this.
Hug Time (Little, Brown & Company): Patrick McDonnell's follow up to Just Like Heaven and The Gift of Nothing looks great. I'm a total sucker for their beautiful simplicty and meaningful messages.