Kick-Ass #1 (Marvel/ICON): Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. cut right to the chase and hit us with the most enjoyable first issue of 2008! Their hero is set in a narrative that has a down to Earth, everyman quality to it, which is really rich. We’re immediately introduced to a realistic world where Falcon-inspired wings malfunction, Armenians abound, and electrodes strapped to your testicles is about as glamorous as the superhero game gets. There’s a simplicity to the storytelling here that I just have to applaud, check out the way the secret origin is called out, announces itself plain as day. We’re brought into a familiar, self-aware world, with self-referential nods to the greater Marvel U. Along the way, Millar poses some interesting questions about the people that society chooses to idealize and obsess over. This kid’s mind is insightful, he views himself as different, and he’s contemplative on that different path, even as he’s getting the shit kicked out of him. This is the title to watch. Grade A+.
Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 #3 (Archaia Studios Press): The word that continually springs to mind for me when I read David Petersen’s work is… rich. The details around the way the Guard Mice do even the simplest task is so well thought out. Listen to the way the bats tell their tale, how they were shunned by the Earth bound creatures because they had wings, and likewise shunned by the other fliers in the sky because they had fur. It adds authenticity so a fictional world, it makes you want to read more and absorb the carefully considered elements of a crafty writer. Speaking of craft, look at the pipe smoke as Celanawe reveals a piece of his origin… is that a fingerprint that was used in the ink wash to create that effect? Brilliant. Grade A.
Action Comics #862 (DC): Sometimes I think about which books I would let my daughter read (when she’s old enough to read, anyway). This issue definitely falls into that category. I think all of the messaging about rejection and believing in yourself and taking constructive criticism without giving up or becoming cynical is really positive. I also enjoyed the way that Legion tryouts were instantly modernized with the psychological profiling of Saturn Girl’s mental scans. Geoff Johns and Gary Frank offer us a really believable drama here, which is punctuated with intense action and thought-provoking, valuable ideas. In short, this arc really has a lot to offer. The text is dense, in the sense that you feel you’re getting your money’s worth, but not slow. There’s so much commentary about prejudice, power, and ego all embedded in the story. The substitute heroes also show us that it’s not necessarily your powers that win a fight, but your brain and the trust you have in your team. There’s also some “haha” moments like “The ferns cry out for retribution and they’ll have it!” Again, a lot to offer here. Grade A.
Dan Dare #4 (Virgin Comics): “Time you were out of your scratcher, ducks.” What? No idea what that means. I’m a fan of language and different cultures’ speech patterns, but this is a bit too much of a UK-ism or something. Conversely, the diction of The Mekon is really interesting, it really makes him (it?) sound like a true alien. The “confession” scene just drips with exposition. The typo in which “out of this word” was used, rather than “out of this world” really upset me. All of that was really improved upon by a rousing, if predictable, action sequence and some exceptionally well mannered military-procedural jargon during the convoy attack scene. This title started a bit more unique to me (with some offbeat political maneuvering), but now seems to be degenerating to a more standard space-faring action story. Grade B+.
The Circle #4 (Image): Wasn’t this solicited as a four issue mini-series? It really caught me off guard that this wasn’t the last issue and another is coming out. There were some bits here that played in a very derivative way, such as the “Team 7” style throwback pin up of the original international Circle squad and the “Last Crusade” motorcycle set. I think I’m frustrated by The Circle because it’s a bit uneven. It had aspirations of being a more unique spy/espionage thriller, but is falling a bit short for me. The CIA “biscuit” bits are phenomenal, but then we get a really odd dislocated shoulder scene (how does that get you free of handcuffs per se?) and a really gratuitous topless scene. When Ilona finally escapes, the first thing she does isn’t make a plan to escape, discuss how to stop the train, or even grab a weapon, it’s… strip off her top? Ooo-kay. Grade B.
Rasl #1 (Cartoon Books): Jeff “He of Bone Fame” Smith gives us something a little different here. There wasn’t actually that much to go on, but what little I got, I enjoyed. The concept of “The Drift” is interesting, not quite a Nightcrawler/Jumper style “BAMF!” but not quite straight time travel either, there are implications of other worlds or dimensions here that have a lot of potential. I really was into the art heist angle (I mean, hey, I work at a museum) and desperately want to see more of that. Overall, a promising new work from a trusted creator that has all sorts of possibilities. Sparse for the moment, but let’s see where this goes. For now, Grade B.