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Thursday, October 06, 2016

Recently Read 2016.10.06

A few more recent readings, namely:


(collecting MONSTRESS #1 - #6)
by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda

This is the first collection of an on-going fantasy/horror series, one of the more successful recent launches from Image comics. I thought it was an excellent read, much more dense in plot and character and background than is usual for most new series, from Image or otherwise, with an impressively consistently designed alternate world full of unique creatures, buildings and landscapes. I'm not familiar with the prior work of the creators, but they definitely hit the ground running with this one. And unlike some other impressive debuts, they continued on a steady pace, with six issues coming out roughly on time in seven months, and a second story arc set to begin soon. I'm very tempted to pick up the serialization instead of waiting for the collection.

Short form synopsis is that this is a fantasy world of advanced technology and magic, populated by Humans, intelligent multi-tailed Cats, magical Ancients (immortals with animal features) and Human/Ancient hybrids called Arcanics. Plus mysterious giant Old Gods whose ghosts haunt the skyline. Our lead is one young Arcanic girl named Maiki Halfwolf, who is on a quest of both discovery and revenge. Liu demonstrates some detailed work on the background of the world, some complex plotting where small details pay off issues later and a good ear for dialogue, where she's able to put in some genuinely funny bits. For the visuals, Takeda shows a wide variety of influences, combined seamlessly into something completely her own. There are traces of some European comics in the METAL HURLANT vein, especially in the colours, some very Japanese influences (comics and animation) in the faces and creature designs.

Overall just a delightful read. Generally I'm pretty much no more than mildly impressed (and often very disappointed) in new comics, so it's good to occasionally come across one I like so much.

by Sara Kenney & John Watkiss

The first issue of a new medical science fiction series written by first time comic writer Kenney and drawn by Watkiss, who has credits going back decades, mostly for DC's Vertigo imprint. Relevant to that is the editor, which I don't usually note, but who earns a rare editorial cover credit this time. Karen Berger, long-time head of that Vertigo imprint that she founded, with her first work in comics since leaving DC. It's a well earned credit, since I kind of doubt that Image would have greenlit a medical SF series by a first time comics writer and relatively little-known artist without the endorsement of Berger. It definitely got more attention on release than its pedigree would suggest, just the fact that there was a pile of them available for me to buy is surprising.

This was a decent enough debut. It's a near-future Britain, which is in a bit of a medical crisis that involves rationing treatment, and a young surgeon who fights back against that, with some help from friends and family. Kenney does the usual required introductions for the characters and the world, setting up some future plots, pretty smoothly, and Watkiss is solid on the artwork.

I'll probably be around to check out the eventual collection.

(collecting REVENGER #1 - #5)
by Charles Forsman

This is a bit of a change of pace for Forsman from his earlier major books, TEOTFW and CELEBRATED SUMMER. This is a bit of a throwback to 1980s independent comics, even going so far as to be set in 1987. That was the year that The Punisher got an on-going series at Marvel, after years as a supporting character, and I could probably pull out a handful of b&w independent comics inspired by that from that era that REVENGER could sit comfortably beside (DELTA TENN and JACK OF NINES are the first two that come to mind). It's noteworthy that the other book from the publisher of the collection, Bergen Street Press, is the SUICIDE SQUAD (1987 series) inspired COPRA.

The Revenger is a black female vigilante, with a violent origin alluded to in a few flashbacks, who takes on missions for those who call her answering machine. The main mission in this story is the missing girlfriend of a guy in the small town of Neptune. It all gets very violent, as well as increasingly absurd, as matters escalate through the story. It was a pretty fun read, overall. There are three issues of a second series out right now, I'll probably check that out when it's done and collected.

(collecting THE BEAUTY #1 - #6)
by Jeremy Haun & Jason A. Hurley

This is the first collection of an on-going series from Image. The high-concept is that there's a sexually transmitted disease called "The Beauty" which makes the infected physically attractive and has quickly spread to half the population before its side effects become known. It follows two police officers as they get entwined in various schemes and conspiracies regarding the disease.

I thought the first half of the book was really solid, setting up the premise, exploring some of the implications and presenting more pieces to the mystery. It really starts to lose me in the second half, as it becomes more convoluted, with action scenes that don't read as smoothly as they should and some generally unclear writing. I don't think I'll be back for more.

(collecting WYTCHES #1 - #6)
by "Jock" & "Scott" Snyder

This is the first collection of a horror-fantasy series from Image. Theoretically it's continuing beyond this, although no further issues have been scheduled as of this writing. I thought it was pretty good at juggling around the usual tropes of hidden societies, monsters in the woods and all that. I kind of liked the art, but found the colouring on it to be very distracting at times. The backmatter shows that it was done with actual spatter paintings being scanned in and put in the background of the coloured pages. I'm not sure why anyone thought that was a good idea, the plain coloured pages shown in the back look much clearer.

Anyway, I mostly liked the book,, although I found the last chapter to be a bit frantic and unclear, and the ending not too satisfying. What I liked was enough that I'll take a look if they ever decide to continue it.

by Gerard Way & Nick Derington
[Doom Patrol created by Arnold Drake (acknowledged) and Bruno Premiani (unacknowledged)]

Well, this is a bit of a mess of a comic. I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt that it makes much more sense to people who have read prior iterations of the characters beyond the Drake/Premiani years, especially the Case/Morrison/etc. run. I've only read a handful of those Case/Morrison issues, so it was all noise to me. I liked some of the previous Way comics I'd read, so I know that he's capable of telling a coherent story, introducing characters and all that stuff. Guess it was a conscious decision not to do any of that here.

Pretty enough cover by Brian Bolland there, and Derington's art is nicely clean and clear, I'd come back for more of him, but not for more of this book.

(collecting THE MIDAS FLESH #1 - #8)
by Shelli Paroline, Ryan North & Braden Lamb

This collects the complete series in two volumes. Not sure why they thought splitting it in half was a good idea. The concept here is that if you take the fable of King Midas seriously, his powers to turn objects he touches into gold would quickly turn the whole world gold, because everything touches everything else, eventually. So thousands of years later, a trio come to Earth and look for the "weapon" that somehow turned an entire planet to gold to use in their own battle against a conquering Federation.

I like some of the concepts in here but did not like the book overall. North has a lot of annoying dialogue ticks, some of which might sound better if this was spoken out loud instead of read on paper, but a lot of them are pretty inexcusable in any circumstances. A character actually says "Can I get a what what?" That might be acceptable on a Disney Channel or Nickelodeon tween comedy. Ten years ago. It goes beyond stretching it to put in in a science fiction story, set in a universe where the Earth was turned to gold thousands of years ago, so there is no bloody Jay-Z to reference. The book is full of stuff like that, and all of North's writing felt a little half-baked, desperately in need of a second draft. Especially the ending, where he tries to get scientific about his teenage stoner idea ("Hey, man, if everything Midas touched turns to gold, and everything touches everything else, than wouldn't the whole world turn gold?").

The art was a bit better, for the most part. Nothing too special, but serviceable, easy to read and sometimes cleverly designed. Sometimes the action bits were a little unclear, but that was a minor problem.

by Yanick Paquette & Grant Morrison
[Wonder Woman created by William Moulton Marston (acknowledged) and Harry G. Peter (unacknowledged)]

I'm not sure I completely understand DC's "Earth One" line of original hardcover comics. They seem to throw considerable marketing and production money into them, and appear to have gotten somewhat decent sales despite the (arguable) lack of quality of some of the books. But they don't seem to be at all interested in capitalizing on that by speeding up the production of the books, which have averaged one a year since they started, with two-plus years being common for volumes of the same series. Despite that, they also don't seem too interested in making sure that each book tells a complete story, despite knowing it's at least two years for a follow-up. They've also seemed to imply that all the books take place in the same fictional world, but there's really no evidence of that in the books.

Anyway, I found this pretty disappointing for such a well hyped book, but disappointing is pretty much my default reaction to Grant Morrison, so at some point I have decide he's just not for me. This seemed to be especially pretentious, even for Morrison, starting with the dedication and going downhill from there. I thought Paquette's art was also weaker than I expected, based on some limited exposure to his work before this. I didn't recall it being so stiff, with poses and faces clearly based on glamour photography that don't suit the actual story situations at all.

(collecting CHRONONAUTS #1 - #4)
by Mark Millar & Sean Murphy
(collecting HUCK #1 - #6)
by Rafael Albuquerque & Mark Millar

Not sure why I keep reading Mark Millar's movie-pitch comics. I guess I find them entertaining enough, in a low calorie way. He works with good artists, certainly, who seem to enjoy the opportunity to work on an "original" concept with fewer editorial restraints, while still getting well paid in the short term (and opening themselves up to getting very well paid in the long term). Certainly in these two books Murphy and Albuquerque are doing most of what's worth reading.

For his part, Millar seems to have to formula down. Don't get too bogged down in characterization or subtext (especially regarding supporting characters), since the eventual screenwriters and directors will have their own ideas of what direction to take. Make it a quick read, throw in a few big visual ideas that give some idea of the potential for the concept on the screen. Make sure every issue has a big cliffhanger, even if you don't have anywhere near as big a resolution to that cliffhanger. Don't worry too much about plot holes (like one big one in HUCK), just wrap up everything with a bow so you have a package that can be digested in 30 minutes. I guess sometimes it's good to just have a non-challenging good-looking quick read that won't stick with you an hour after you finish it.

by "One" & Yusuke Marata

This is a fairly successful recent Japanese comic, up to seven volumes in English now. It's about an odd bald expressionless hero names Saitama who can somehow defeat any foe he goes up against with, as the title says, one punch. Which he finds extremely frustrating.

Very strange comic. I got a few laughs out of it, which might be enough for me to check out another volume. But I didn't like the artwork that much, with a lot of the cliche things I don't like about a lot of Japanese comics very much in evidence, and very hard to follow storytelling on top of that.

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