6.19.13 [Weekly Reviews]

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Dream Thief #2 (Dark Horse): Honestly, there’s more going on in the first page of this issue than there is in most comics. Hell, you could probably take any random page of this issue and it would stand up to full issues of most of the other comics currently being published. Jai Nitz and Greg Smallwood are an all-around powerhouse creative team. John Lincoln is still trying desperately to figure out what the hell happened to his girl and what the hell kind of world he’s gotten himself sucked into. He’s right in the middle of a huge criminal mess. The script is incredibly rich and crisp from Nitz. The crazy panel layouts are some of the most inventive and gorgeous I’ve seen in quite some time. The colors are immaculate. As someone who worked in law enforcement, it avoids one of my pet peeves by not getting firearms factoids wrong. There’s a matter of fact approach to violence here that is so welcome amid cartoony fetish treatment of the violence so prevalent in the majority of genre comics. Nitz and Smallwood deftly handle the origin of an intriguing new anti-hero who apparently is absorbing the memories and the skills of others, all set amid a complex murder investigation that leads into a larger criminal world. This thing has legs. Now, I have no idea how this mini will end, so perhaps this is premature to speculate, but if Dark Horse doesn’t make this an ongoing series via future mini-series as they’ve done with other books, I’ll be surprised. Here’s something it’s not too soon to call: Dream Thief is one of the year’s best books. Grade A+.
Conan The Barbarian #17 (Dark Horse): “Sometimes the fates spin true.” There’s been a considerable amount of backlash about the way Brian Wood has chosen to depict contemplative Conan in this run of the title, but when the results get you tales like these lingering psychological effects of the yellow lotus, or Conan reeling from the uncertainty and trust associated with love, then I’m totally pleased with the treatment. Conan and Belit come face to face with psychological motivations and fears in themselves and in each other. From self-reliance to self-doubt, Wood and Davide Gianfelice are treating us to a spectrum of emotional resonance. In non-linear fashion, we move from dream sequences to real life, to recalled events about what was, to speculative futures about what could be. Gianfelice handles it all deftly, particularly sequences with no text, like Conan slicing open a sea serpent underwater. Most of the time, audiences yearn for a stable creative team. One writer. One artist. Many issues. It’s oddly appealing that Conan The Barbarian has witnessed a new artist with every 3-issue arc and it’s been like a sequential art buffet of some of the finest artists working today. Sure, I’d love to see Becky Cloonan, or James Harren, or even Davide Gianfelice on every single issue, but I’d rather have it the way it is. It’s like every arc is the exciting start of a “new” series with a stellar new team. Grade A.
Harbinger #13 (Valiant): It’s clear that Joshua Dysart is pouring his heart into Harbinger, just crafting the world, and crafting the characters, and crafting narrative threads, fleshing out a complex quadrant of the Valiant Universe with a rich history and a plethora of realistic characterization. Bloodshot finally enters Las Vegas with his half of the psiot kids and encounters Pete and The Renegades, along with Cronus and the other half of the psiots. It’s a well choreographed ambushed that bounces quickly from being smartly planned to going totally south. Sometimes in these big crossover events, characterization gets back-burnered to make room for the 'splosions, but Dysart has been careful to still give us small moments like Faith reacting to some bad news or Cronus stepping up as a sorrowful leader for “his people.” At this point, Dysart has things perfectly positioned for what should be an explosive finale to Harbinger Wars. I’m excited for so many things in the Valiant Universe, the conclusion of the crossover, the continuation of the main series, and even Bloodshot seemingly taking over H.A.R.D. Corps. Valiant Comics is the place to be. Grade A.


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