2.12.14 [Weekly Reviews]

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Manifest Destiny #4 (Image): The Corps of Discovery attempts to work out “the least horrible plan” to extricate themselves from being penned in at La Charrette this issue, and we finally get to meet Sacagawea. If you break down every part of this book into its constituent components, it’s almost as if it was meant for me. I love this time period in history, and Chris Dingess captures the balance of the fabled and the unknown, while Matthew Roberts makes it so visually convincing, with the details of the uniforms and weapons and rustic environs. Owen Gieni’s colors are such a treat too, from the way the fire lights up that first page, to the way he helps Roberts’ pencils be both clear, distinct, and consistent, but maintaining plenty of heterogeneous personality. The guys also really understand how to compose a cliffhanger in every single issue. Grade A.
Death Sentence #5 (Titan Comics): This title is really pushing the idea of what would actually happen if people developed superpowers to its natural conclusion. Monty Nero sort of deconstructs the genre from within, using rich social commentary about the way people work in their constituent components with flawed personalities, greed, and hedonism, all the way up to how organized institutions like the government can operate with duplicitous intentions. When Monty says: “I’m fulfilling myself- experiencing as much cool stuff as I can before I check out. Isn’t that what everyone does?” that’s really what it’s all about. Mike Dowling’s art is terrific, bold and emotional at the larger figure scale, and rough and sketchy at the smaller scale. I love how loose it feels, humming with energy, and his inks and colors are particularly sharp. It seems like this book is still somewhat under the radar, and it’s a shame, as it’s the best book Titan Comics has produced to date, really a standout star. Grade A.

The Bunker #1 (Oni Press): I wasn’t sure what to expect from this title, but I’m glad I picked it up. As loyal Thirteen Minutes readers know, I have a weak spot for well done post-apocalyptic tales and The Bunker positions itself in a way that allows it to show that, and then offer a time-spanning mystery as to how it came to pass. If you’re a fan of Naoki Urasawa’s epic 20th Century Boys, then you should dig this. It’s about a group of young people stumbling into the titular bunker to find notes from their future selves about how they’ll essentially destroy the world. It’s a huge hook that could go south, but Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari really sell it well. It’s grounded in relationship mechanics and Infurnari’s really lush art that has a washed out effect to it. It’s $3.99 for this first big installment, but with 44 pages it’s a dense and satisfying read. This is one of the hot new number ones this week! My only pet peeve was the continued use of “anyways” instead of “anyway,” but that was a relatively little glitch. You’re making a mistake if you don’t pick it up. Grade A.
Letter 44 #4 (Oni Press): The art already seems to be improving in this title, gaining more consistency and assuredness as time goes on. Charles Soule is all over the place in the industry lately, cranking out both Marvel and DC titles, but for my money, there’s nothing like the magic that a writer or artist pours into their creator owned work. I enjoy how many moving parts Soule is able to juggle here, from government cover-ups, to first contact scenarios, to interpersonal dynamics that complicate the mission, it’s a high concept book that never fails to work out the details and deliver in the small moments. It’s one of the books I’m most excited to read every month because I have no clue where it could go next. It’s sort of West Wing meets Independence Day, with the behind the scenes flair of the former and the urgency of the latter. Grade A.

Hawken: Melee #5 (Archaia): So, I guess this is based on a video game or something? I don’t really care about any of that, and I didn’t read any of the preceding issues. If you were going to judge this week’s books strictly by the art inside a vacuum, and no other factors, then this book would be the book of the week for me. I bought it for one reason – Nathan Fox. He’s one of the best artists working in the industry today. I’m basically a completist when it comes to his work, and I think (controversy alert!) he has the ability to eclipse Paul Pope. His style has all the energy and emotion of Pope, but adds in harder angles and more sexy attitude, a certain grounded futurism to it that makes it just right for just about anything. I love it. For the art alone, this is an easy Grade A.
Harbinger #21 (Valiant): Though I enjoy Joshua Dysart’s writing in general, my interest in Harbinger has been ebbing and flowing for the last few months as it pulled out of a crossover and a certain VR arc that I wasn’t fond of, but it’s come back strong recently. As the team picks up the pieces and continues their struggle against Harada, the things I love about Dysart’s writing have returned. It’s nimbly written, there’s a strong LA/West Coast vibe that he writes from a position of personal knowledge, and the young characters feel fresh, contemporary, and relevant, true to the ages and experiences they supposedly stem from. The interpersonal relationship stuff is totally on point in this issue. Clayton Henry is a nice match for Dysart’s style and, short of the coup it would be to have Clayton Crain, it’d be great if he settled into the regular series artist. Grade A-.

Astro City #9 (DC/Vertigo): Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson continue to impress me with this title and hold my attention. I was telling someone at the LCS today that the “old” Astro City never did much for me back in the day, my youthful surface readings had me thinking it was a pretty vanilla and watered down shared universe knock-off, but in my old age now, maybe I’m picking up more of the nuance and poignancy. The end was somehow a little clumsy for me, but right up until then, this storyline with Winged Victory has been a particularly great examination of feminism, fame, power, and perception, and how they all converge. The interlude about Japanese internment camps on the West Coast was also an interesting story-within-a-story, calling to mind the stories my grandfather used to tell me of not only Japanese-Americans, but Italian-Americans also being interred here in California. Grade A-.
Think Tank #12 (Image): I’m still impressed with how willing Matt Hawkins is to push the envelope with tensions. He basically has China and the United States on the brink of World War III here, with Russia and India ready to jump into the fray. It does seem as if things de-escalate quickly and neatly, but it marks the end of the black and white era for this title. Rahsan Ekedal brings out a lot of emotion and dynamism in his black and white art, so I can only imagine that with a new #1 on the horizon, full color art, and hopefully the continuation of the dense backmatter, more people will hop onto this title and ensure it sticks around for a while. Grade A-.

She-Hulk #1 (Marvel): Charles Soule has a successful legal practice as I understand it, so the lawyering shit is all kinds of authentic in this, something I truly enjoyed. It’s also a smart, if transparent, marketing move to essentially “Hawkeye” this title (as they’re doing with a couple other – Winter Soldier, Black Widow, etc.) by the humorous grounding of otherwise larger than life characters. I will say that Pulido’s art didn’t do it for me 100% of the time, with some instances that just looked off, with weird angles, clunky faces, or just awkward inconsistencies. It’s too bad, I wish the art was just a little stronger and stood up to what I feel is Soule’s best work for hire project so far. It’s pretty damn fun, something I will definitely pursue in trade, but am on the fence for in terms of making a rare exception to my Marvel/DC no fly rule for the creators I’m loyal to. Grade B+.
Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Two #2 (DC): There weren’t as many shocking moments in this issue as I’ve become accustomed to in the previous, because it’s largely dedicated to set-up in order to propel this arc with the introduction of Sinestro and the Guardians, but I still find it more enjoyable than any of that shared universe pap in the New52. The art is clean and clear, and I enjoy how all of the action feels bold and consequential when it’s not conducted under the constraints of continuity. People make understandable decisions, people take sides, and people die. It runs the idea of superheroes out to its likely horrible denouement. For that, it’s important in a way that the rebooted ad infinitum mainline universe can never quite achieve. Grade B.


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