5.15.13 [Weekly Reviews]

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Dream Thief #1 (Dark Horse): Well, there’s two independent books that came out this week with “dream” in the title, but this is the one you definitely want. Jai Nitz and Greg Smallwood are two creators I wasn’t familiar with, but now I will make it a point to be. This is the type of new comics experience I live for. Walking into the LCS on Wednesday to discover a new book, new creators, new approaches that seemingly come from out of nowhere and grab my interest. Smallwood handles all of the art, inking, coloring, and lettering duties on the title. His art style immediately reminded me of latter era Sean Phillips, only better. There’s more life in these lines, sans the angular and sometimes stiff edges that accompany an artist like Phillips. Smallwood’s style is quite accomplished, especially when bathed in the warm and welcoming color palette he uses. Additionally, Smallwood is able to deliberately shift his aesthetic at times, like during the memory sequences, or by including visual shorthand like $ signs and “like” symbols in thought balloons, as well as play around with conventional panel layouts to emphasize the disorientation of, say, waking up next to dead bodies while wearing a mask you stole from a museum after assuming you blacked out during an alcohol fueled chronic bender. Ahem. The theft of the artifact and scenes in an art museum were near and dear to me, since I work in one. I particularly enjoyed the complex morality presented with some of the (without spoiling things) decisions that John Lincoln has to make and the ways he finds to justify them. There’s just a fresh, vibrant, effortless sense of discovery to reading this book. It comes across in the engaging characters, the natural dialogue, and the cover story that John quickly starts putting into place, fueling the series, and giving hints as to where things might even go. I’m already wondering how sales and critical reaction on this book will be. It’s probably too early to tell, but at this point it’s certainly the type of story that seems to have the potential for the creators to return to for additional adventures or an ongoing series. I’d welcome that. Grade A.

The Legend of Luther Strode #5 (Image): Remember that artist Tan Eng Huat? Yeah! That’s what Tradd Moore’s art sometimes reminds me of, only more dynamic. It’s kinetic and stylized and refined. There’s probably no end to the adjectives I could sling at this thing and do it justice. There’s a fine sense of detail that’s like dancing on a razor’s edge during the action sequences. Holistically, Justin Jordan has always positioned Luther Strode as a genre hybrid of horror and superhero, and I think this issue taps into that nicely. It’s got all the reader engagement of the latter and the journey toward the redemption of sins of the former. Between them, Luther, Petra, Binder, and Jack end up resolving one personal issue, but one threat is still very much looming for the climactic showdown. This is the type of comic that critics tell people “if you’re not buying this, you just don’t like comics.” It can only be done on paper, in this medium. I love this book. It’s everything a fun modern comic should be. Grade A.

Think Tank #7 (Image): I always enjoy the way Matt Hawkins is able to so strongly infuse the research he does for this book directly into the narrative. This issue opens with the notion of the feint, of balancing small scale tactics with looking at the bigger picture strategy. It suggests that people actually make life-changing decisions every single day, often with insufficient information and limited perspective, probably without even realizing it. The script then dives directly into positioning the players in a military style feint and dealing with the unintended consequences. With biomimetics and advanced drones, we see a surgical strike against Iran, supposedly to halt their nuclear capability, but with the added benefit of diverting attention away from a DNA targeting weapon possibly being used against China. All the while, the White House will probably need a fall guy in this whole mess. Bet you can’t guess how that plays out. Rahsan Ekedal is an artist who should be a superstar in the near future. The decision to showcase his art devoid of full color and using just gray tones really lets it shine instead of tamping down any sense of pop. You can actually see the various line weights, the expressions, and the postures of the in-fighting colleagues and how to tell a visual story sequentially. Hawkins’ back-matter concerning drone carriers, mimetics, and more is very informative, and sometimes startling, regarding material that the mainstream media shows little interest in covering. This issue ends with a huge “holy shit!” moment that’s going to have many political and personal consequences. Grade A.


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