1.08.14 [Weekly Reviews]

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Manifest Destiny #3 (Image): I joked on Twitter that it’s probably way too soon to be calling out Best of 2014 books, but if this title keeps charging ahead at this pace, with this level of quality, then it’s truly going to be a strong contender. It’s a heaping dose of historical speculative fiction that never forgets to be a bold brazen action-adventure story in the process. Chris Dingess and Matthew Roberts are the new team to watch, and with Owen Gieni coming up as one of the hot next-gen colorists, the effects are brilliant. There’s a realism to the crazy events in the book that I really appreciate, the details of the weaponry are on point, and the expedition’s bold decisive pragmatism in the face of 1804 veg zombies(!) was just so terrific. It’s so smartly written, there’s a gender type-cast assault on the last page, and by now the book really feels like it’s settled into the core essence of what it set out to be. I can’t wait for more. I love this book. Grade A+.

Letter 44 #3 (Oni Press): Not a  lot to say beyond what I said on Twitter actually. The pitch for Letter 44 is just so tight and crisp, and I enjoy both sides of it. You have the Aaron Sorkin West Wing-style behind-the-scenes political maneuvers, in conjunction with the mounting sci-fi summer blockbuster waiting to break off. The shipboard space scenes and social complications are given equal screen time with the Earth-bound Presidential concerns. It all builds to a WTF cliffhanger involving the Chief of Staff, which you just cannot see coming. Grade A.

Star Wars #13 (Dark Horse): So, Dark Horse is losing the Star Wars property to Disney’s in-house publishing arm, Marvel Comics, and it’s a shame because while I really only enjoy this title, most critics are saying that this holistic current crop of DH SW books are the best they’ve been in years. I’d selfishly like to see Brian Wood stay on the title at Marvel, but there will no doubt be a creative shuffle looming with all of the Marvel writers available, not to mention LucasFilm’s reported “Writers Group” meetings, wherein they’re determining what’s canonical and what’s not, and how that might shape future licensing products. Anyway. This is a dark brutal story, and I fear the worst is yet to come. Wood shifts our POV away from the rebels, to a young Imperial Officer named Ensign Nanda for “5 Days of The Sith.” It’s a dark descent down to the atrocities that Vader and his elite squad of black-dot insignia’d Stormtroopers are willing to commit in the name of Vader’s Imperial vengeance. Nanda’s a quick-learner, and she goes beyond learning to survive service to Lord Vader, to questioning the realities of plausible deniability and the efficacy of “just following orders,” in the tradition of Calley at My Lai and the Nazis at Nuremberg. Facundo Percio’s art isn't quite as polished or detailed as the impeccable Carlos D’Anda, but Gabe Eltaeb’s colors certainly help it become a nice aesthetic fit regardless. Wood’s writing was cracking me up, having pored over 72 issues of his DMZ again recently, catch phrases like “boots on the ground” and “collective punishment” (the title of DMZ Vol. 10!) jumped out at me in the way he plays around with their real-world relevance. Star Wars remains a shining star on the licensed landscape, and I’ll be sad to see it go, but with 7 issues left there’s still plenty of space to enjoy. Grade A.

Sheltered #6 (Image): There’s some beautifully handled back story here that explains what led up to the outsiders arriving at Safe Haven. It’s a good indicator of the lengths that writer Ed Brisson is willing to go to in order to flesh out the world he’s created through strong characterization. There’s a burst of violence toward the end that has beautiful choreography. It’s an unanticipated shooting that cracks and pops with the chaos of unpredictability, the way it usually does in real life, not the clean precision you usually see in movies and TV. It’s sloppy and panicked, lit so well by Shari Chankhamma. Johnnie Christmas’ pencils sing under her coloring, delivering emotive shrugs and focus on character reactions in paused beats. I always dig the Ryan K. Lindsay backmatter too, here there’s a playful way with the language, and lines like “Swiss chard is going to become your new comfort food” really stick with you and sell their basic point. Thanks to Ed, Johnnie, Shari, and the whole team at Image Comics for doing up another variant cover for my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics, which actually interlocks with our variant for #1. It’s super cool. #TeamVictoria Grade A.

Three #4 (Image): This is the first issue of Three I’ve felt I could really get behind. I’ve always enjoyed the killer combination of Ryan Kelly’s pencils and Jordie Bellaire’s color, really some of the best work they've done, but the writing has been nagging at me in past issues. Up until now, it seems like Gillen’s writing has been sacrificing an engaging story to showcase some of his research to some degree. This time out, I felt like he really kept that in check and it settled down nicely, it was narrative first and backmatter exposition second. The writing was super sharp, with lines like “I’m a butcher” being used as delicious double entendres. Grade A.

Sex Criminals #4 (Image): What can you say about Sex Criminals? It’s irreverent fun, the sex is fun, the heists are meaningful, there’s a slow exploration of this weird world being established, but more than anything, I just really enjoy the modern relationship dynamics and it’s frank ability to address sexuality from a female perspective. I don’t think this is one of the best books of the year, and like Saga, I don’t think it’s as good as everyone else says it is because its virtues are easily overshadowed by the popularity contest of its creators, that’s the bandwagon that can drives sales, but I’ll keep reading for the mild entertainment it is. Grade A-.

Minimum Wage #1 (Image): I don’t necessarily feel like there’s a lot of there there with these types of autobio comics anymore, and because of that I don’t know how long I'll be able to stick with Minimum Wage. On the positive side, there’s certainly no doubt that Fingerman has a masterful command of language and cadence, and churns out some extremely realistic dialogue. It’s not often you see speech patterns flow so effortlessly. As a sort of NYC geek, I also enjoyed all the subtle background drops to Long Island, Brooklyn, and Manhattan going on. It’s a solidly rendered book, but I’m not sure it’s essential “must-reading” for me in floppies. This is one of those books I’ll gleefully pick up for 50% off in trades at SDCC. #LawnGuyland Grade B+.


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