Sponsor Plug: 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 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 Boulevard. www.yesteryear-comics.com
Locke & Key: Omega #3 (IDW): Honestly, I was a little ambivalent about the first two issues of this series, but it’s finally where I wanted it to be. I feel like this could have been the first or even second issue and would have moved this (essentially) final chapter along at a swifter pace. Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez deliver a real corker, where (without spoiling anything specific) Dodge starts to make his final play, outing his current host be damned, several relationship tensions play out (Kinsey and her mom, Tyler and Jordan, etc.), the stakes are already incredibly high as more than one person is hurt, and you can tell that all the story threads are on a trajectory that's going to build to a spectacular final showdown. As if the story didn’t offer enough precision, Gabe Rodriguez’s art is just jaw-droppingly gorgeous. It’s like George Perez and John Cassaday had some kind of love-child, the lines are clean and fresh and detailed, and the people look realistic and strong and stunning. I pity anyone coming into this series now and trying to grasp fully the consequences and emotional payoff of what’s currently happening, but I also can’t imagine anyone seeing this and not wanting to rush out and pick up all the preceding trades and get caught up. I mean, sheesh, for the art alone this is a Grade A+.
Harbinger #9 (Valiant): The recent #0 issue is still probably my favorite of these loose origin issues, but this is a close second that showcases a lot of Joshua Dysart’s strong writing characteristics. Everyone loves a good origin story, and Dysart is careful to avoid stock archetypes and give us some off-type characters. He’s assembled a real band of misfits, who all have their strengths and psychological weaknesses, which makes them more realistic and more compelling than much of what you’d find Marvel and DC currently churning out. We get a large slice of Faith’s origin story and it’s embedded in rich characterization and framed from her POV, which is full of pop culture references. There are nice character moments, it builds toward a nice cliffhanger, and you can see the elements for the whispered "Harbinger Wars" starting to coalesce. Valiant has built a universe in a smart, slow, methodical way, with subtle references to other books and organizations which have taken their time to play out and haven’t been forced on the readership. You can read Harbinger all by itself if you want, but if you also picked up, say, Bloodshot, you’d catch a couple bonus things here and there inter-woven between the titles. It’s a nice balance. My only gripe has to do with the art, which sometimes can feel a tad rushed or flat; I wish it had the type of rendering and polish that Valiant puts into the cover work. For me, the art isn’t quite on par with the strength of the writing. If that equates to the writing being a Grade A, and the art being a Grade B, then for this outing we land somewhere around a Grade A-.
Saga #10 (Image): Well, here goes my usual caveat with regard to Saga. I like it, but I don’t love it. It’s good, but not flawless. I don’t feel it deserves the blind fawning it receives and could use a little more constructive feedback than I currently see it getting. For every 3 things I like about it, there’s 1 that I don’t. So, up front, the whole book within a book deal feels like it begins to get lost in its own self-aware meta-commentary. The characters discuss a book within the comic that reflects their own reality of the comic we’re reading, which is also a comic book that might reflect our own reality out here in the real world(?). I remember back in Ex Machina (a book I really enjoyed), BKV would occasionally wear his very liberal politics on his sleeve and have his characters soapbox his own beliefs. Now, I say this as a pretty liberal guy myself, but I don’t want to feel like the characters are ciphers for the creator to preach at me, even if I happen to agree with the politics. Just tell a good character driven story and do some decent world-building, everything else will take care of itself. But hey, you actually get that too. You get Orange Flame Gorillas, and another great scene between Alana and her father-in-law Barr, and an epic two-page spread from Fiona Staples. Just when I was coming around, ready to say that BKV was still a great world-builder doing all this unique and original stuff, he goes and swipes a scene pretty much directly from The Hunt For Red October, where a ship closes the distance between itself and an incoming torpedo/missile before it can arm (which now that I think about it, they may have also pulled that bit in Crimson Tide). So, yeah, there’s lots to like in Saga and I’m sure I’ll keep reading it because the good outweighs the negative, but please don’t pretend that the sprinkling of derivative annoyances isn’t there no matter how much you dig the book. Grade A-.