Sponsor Plug: Special thanks to Yesteryear Comics for sponsoring this week’s review books. Make Yesteryear Comics your first destination in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new books during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. Come introduce yourself to owner Michael Cholak and tell him that Justin from Thirteen Minutes sent you! www.yesteryear-comics.com
Colder #1 (Dark Horse): Paul Tobin and Juan Ferreyra deliver the book of the week, beginning with the hint of some type of improprietous experiments at an insane asylum that may have kicked the entire plot into motion. There’s a natural flow to the dialogue and no awful exposition as the clues to the puzzle all slowly begin to emerge. We meet Declan with his mysterious affliction, Reece the tough female, and I really appreciate the off-type cop. It’s been quite a few weeks for the introduction of modern age sociopaths, from the resurgence of the Joker, to Madder Red over in Bedlam, to Nimble Jack here in Colder. At first glance, Jack looks a little blatantly like young Joker in The Killing Joke, but by the end he seems to morph into his own being through sheer force of will. The art is very glossy and clean, and I was convinced I was intrigued with this mischievous psychopath soul-eating, or life-force eating, creep by about page 8. I’m intrigued by this book and will probably keep picking it up. I’d encourage my readers to pick this up instead of something like Mind The Gap; it feels like a cross between that and the aforementioned Bedlam. Grade B+.
Manhattan Projects #7 (Image): There are still some things I like about this book, but overall I feel like I’m just about done with it, in singles anyway. I like the notion of the Soviet Star City being driven by the Tunguska event, while the opposing Manhattan Projects driven by the Roswell incident all come to a head. At the core, that’s a cool idea, and is basically the thrust of the book, the dueling capitalist and socialist “proxy propaganda war through science programs.” Unfortunately, that core idea, the type that Hickman is so good at dreaming up, is mired in a bunch of other muck that has it treading water. The single issues are starting to feel redundant, there’s no real sense of a larger plot direction beyond the notion of old men debating with cool science-infused lines and kitschy shock value visuals (Truman is a Freemason! FDR is A.I.! Huzzah!). But cool tricks doesn’t equal cool story. The art is still interesting and the color palette is beautiful, but it sometimes shifts (Von Braun goes back and forth from red to blue for example) and I’m not exactly sure why. There are some irregularities in the dialogue (Einstein’s use of the Germanic “ze” instead of “the” comes and goes willy-nilly), not the least of which is 4 really bad obvious typos in the script and another 3 really bad obvious typos in the Hickman letter at the end. As for the letter, it’s meant as an earnest explanation to fans, but sorry, I just think it’s lame to be announcing a bunch of new books in the same breath as talking about all the existing late ones you can’t deliver. I mean, c’mon, Secret (the one I was most interested in) is now months late, and it’s a reminder that every single one of Hickman’s numerous Image projects (mini-series, mind you - Red Mass for Mars probably being the most egregious example, 4 issues that took 2 years to come out) have failed to run monthly and have experienced lengthy delays. So, at this point I’m happy to trade-wait Manhattan Projects and pick it up for 50% off at a con. Grade B-.
Shadowman #1 (Valiant): Man, all the reviews I’ve seen for this book have been overwhelmingly positive, so I’m feeling a little awkward about being in the minority. I’ve never been shy about voicing a contrarian opinion though, provided it’s my honest reaction. That said, this didn’t really work for me. It wasn’t bad per se, there just didn’t seem to be any narrative or aesthetic hook that really grabbed me. Starting with the story, I enjoyed the originality of Justin Jordan’s Luther Strode work. But by comparison, this just felt so rote and standard, with a typical angsty “chosen one” script treatment that felt like a young writer or filmmaker who’d just read Joseph Campbell and wanted to set up a classic “crossing the threshold” moment. Loner guy, mysterious parents, sage older characters, suddenly thrust into a larger mystical world, a totem, a destiny, and powers he doesn’t yet understand, shoot, it might as well have been Luke Skywalker instead of demon fighter guy, or whatever he’s supposed to be doing. There was a lot of unnatural exposition in the script, yet no real sense of story drivers beyond “bad guys doing stuff,” and along the way we meet stock waitresses, cops, and all manner of creature. These are the kinds of characters speaking the kinds of lines that you shake your head at and go “bah, nobody talks like that in real life,” they’re talking like they’re on a back lot at Universal Studios advancing the plot with cleverly staged lines while talking at the audience. For example, there’s the forward flirty waitress literally saying “I don’t know your name,” just so that the main character can then exposit who he is and where he’s going solely for the audience’s benefit. Artistically, there are moments of grace from Patrick Zircher. I really enjoy the design of the new Shadowman purely visually. But then, there are some stiff poses, generic action, and generic monsters who spout odd lines like “Receive this flesh of my flesh… which, I realize, may not actually taste like chicken…” Umm. Ok? I’ve tried ‘em all, and once again, Valiant has yet to produce a book which has really hooked me, despite critical acclaim and nice production values. Not horrible, just underwhelming; I was really hoping this might be the Valiant book that was the one for me. Grade C+.