Welcome to Adventures in Poor Taste’s weekly comic review. A typical week might see over 50 book releases and that’s just the big two over at DC and Marvel. This column serves as a buyers guide to those of us holding a single Hamilton and can’t afford to read every single issue.
Each week I’ll read a glut of the good and the bad and post enough reviews to reach the budget of $X. Yes, that’s $10.00 to those of you not Roman. I’ll also post comics to steer clear from. Sadly a quality comic is few and far between these days, so with ten dollars a diligent reader can still get their comic on.
This is a big week for comic fans as DC Comics has released some of their flagship books like Action Comics and Detective Comics while some repeatedly well written books like Animal Man and Swamp Thing have hit the racks. Marvel has released another issue of the always good Uncany X-Force and Brian Wood has begun a new X-Men miniseries. With so many books potentially worth a purchase, lets take a gander and see if enough books can fit in the budget.
Fatale #1 (Image)
Check out that red smoke coming out of the gun. So cool.
Fatale is the first in a new series by pulp writing maestro Ed Brubaker that at first glance appears to be similar to Criminal but there are underlining things brooding in this story that shouldn’t be missed. If you are a fan of Brubaker’s Incognito, Criminal or Sleeper you’ll probably be purchasing this book anyway. But for those of you put off by a slow detective book like Criminal, don’t worry, Fatale is something a bit different.
Fatale opens with a man named Lash acquiring the estate of a recently deceased detective novelist. It seems the man wasn’t as rich as some hoped, but after rummaging through his things he’s found an unpublished novel written in 1957 that could be worth a pretty penny. Unfortunately, men in dark suits force him to run for his life, and things don’t end very well. In the hospital 5 days later Lash begins to read the novel, and so begins this comic series.
Damn, it don’t feel good to be a gangsta.
Personally I love a story within a story. It’s a great technique to keep the reader at the edge of their seat, but also a way to understand each story based on how they relate to each other. The book follows a reporter getting way over his head, a woman who’s a slave to a rich bastard and detectives looking into a group of cultists brutally murdered.
Clearly Brubaker is in love with this genre, as his prose is pointed, poetic and interesting throughout. The entire book has a horror noir vibe that keeps the reader guessing and when coupled with Brubaker’s dense style feels very real. When reading Criminal, a straight laced detective book, the reader can only anticipate twists, double crosses and the occasional shootout. In Fatale one gets the impression a demon could jump out at any moment. On top of all that things seem to be tied to the Nazi’s obsession with the Occult which gives the sometimes stuffy 50s some necessary flair.
“Back in my day cultists weren’t afraid to flay a few horny teenagers!”
Working with his trusty go-to for art, Sean Phillips does a great job as always, whether it be the grisly gore or the important information delivered by simply revealing a woman’s eyes in the shadows. I wasn’t a big fan of his art in Criminal, mainly because the story was so drab things didn’t need to pop off the page. But when there are genre-bending elements like flayed cultists in Fatale, similar to his previous work on Incognito and Sleeper, his work is stellar. Based on how dense Brubaker makes these pulpy detective books it’s well worth the $2.99 price tag.
Budget: $10.00-$2.99= $7.01
Uncanny X-Force #19.1 (Marvel)
Don’t be fooled by the title, because that seems to be what Marvel wants. This book doesn’t have anything to do with the Uncanny X-Force we’ve grown to love the last year. No, this is a set up issue to a new series following next month called “The Age of Apocalypse.” Now if the title and cover doesn’t give it away, this is another look at the failed big crossover universe created in 1995. Personally I enjoyed this universe, even if it was a bit underwritten. Writer Rick Remender seems to be pulling it more and more into the Earth 616 universe over the last year, but who’s to know how important these characters will be. If you’re a fan of multi-universe or elseworlds tales you’ll probably dig this book. Unfortunately, it doesn’t contain a whole lot which makes it pretty hard to fit into a tight budget.
Wolverine uses the same tactics in debate club.
Typically with an introductory book like this you get a quick glance at the main players, then a big hook at the end. This book tries to do this, but overall it feels more like one cat and mouse race that ends a tad flat. I suppose it’s a game changer as far as many of these characters plight in the world, and it sets up that Wolverine is the big bad guy, but a lot of the characters used in this story are second level at best. Some big events happen, surprising deaths, but since it’s another universe it doesn’t hold much water. The art is very sketchy, which is good, but may turn some off. Overall this book is good but not great. At a dollar it’d be worth it, but even at $2.99 that’s too much.
Budget: $10.00-$2.99= $7.01-$0.0 = $7.01
Hawk and Dove #5 (DC Comics)
If this book doesn’t get cancelled soon, it shows DC is way too locked in with delivering 52 different comics in the “New 52” thing. Rob Liefeld, famous co-creator of Image comics and all things giant when it comes to muscles and jaw lines, is back at it with this comic. Clearly it’s being written for his art, which is loud, stupid and boring. Aside from the yawner of a story the art is bad too. If the cover wasn’t enough proof here are some examples:
Every background is boring. If not lines as above, it’s blank.
This is a woman in Liefelds imagination. I guess the clothes are painted on? Really lazy.
This is a face. What?!
and finally an image that shows laziness when it comes to crafting an exciting perspective. Our heroes are plunked in the foreground staring up at the big boring bird baddy. If this image wasn’t proof it was written for children I don’t know what is:
…and then the big monster man said, “squaw, SQUAW!”
Word to the wise: I bought this issue to protect you fine readers. I shall never be buying another issue again! Maybe I can write this off to charity…
Budget: $10.00-$2.99= $7.01-$0.0 = $7.01-$0.0 = $7.01
Swamp Thing #5 (DC Comics)
Scott Snyder writes a mean comic. I was a bit put off by Swamp Thing when it hit stands, mostly because it was a bit too slow for my tastes. The hero wasn’t aware of his powers, this zombie-fying force called The Rot was on it’s way, and things looked dire for humanity. This issue carries that story further, but there’s a lot to like here and it’s worth a read.
First off, the rot is a scary thing. Also appearing in Animal Man, this monster can assume control of any animal it infects. It typically is rotting off the bone and it’s all around disgusting. Yanick Paquette does a great job making each panel jump off the page, and when it’s as grisly as these images it’s a pretty horrific thing.
Who wants steaks!?
The books sense of drama is also heightened by the layout of each page. Each panel in this issue seemed to be torn from flesh which gives everything a nice sense of dread. Anything could happen, and while the backgrounds tend to be pretty simple, it doesn’t matter all that much, as it’s the action that’s the most important thing to look at.
Swamp Thing’s powers are growing and his fingers are begging you to turn the page!
This issue has just enough action to keep you interested, and plenty of plot developments to make it all worth a read.
Budget: $10.00-$2.99= $7.01-$0.0 = $7.01-$0.0 = $7.01-$2.99 = $4.02
Three different comics this week had a lot of potential, and I think they might make the budget another week, but ended up not doing a whole lot with their story. Lets deliver them to Doom in quick succession:
Huntress #4 has lots of cool shots of the Amalfi Coast and one nice little choreographed fight scene. Unfortunately, the rest is Huntress waxing on and off about seemingly nothing.
Animal Man #5 contains a big fight scene that concludes the first story arc with very little story. The pictures are extremely horrific but to cap off the boring story it all ends with a “no duh” conclusion.
And finally, Wolverine and the X-Men Alpha & Omega is a ho-hum first issue by acclaimed writer Brian Wood. The concept is okay, and could be highly entertaining, but then again it all means nothing since it’s your typical “it was all a dream” plot.
Have at them, Doom!
Defenders #2 (Marvel)
Matt Fraction is back baby, and he’s bringing his manic writing style from Casanova with him. This issue sums up the previous issue pretty quickly, and in fact is a great jumping on point if you missed issue #1. As far as team books go, this book has just enough originality to separate it from the pack. There’s some great ideas at work here that tie well with the motley crew he’s assembled on this team. The team isn’t necessarily at each other’s throats, but they’re all so new to work with each other after years being apart it’s a refreshing group.
Outside of the characters, it’s the way Fraction tells the story that’s so intriguing. The comic seems to be narrated by a omnipresent source similar to how a novel would read. It has a very energetic vibe that punches up the imagery and dialogue nicely. Here’s an example:
Kick annnnd stretch annnnnd punch! « Sad attempt at an SNL reference.
The art is a tad too cartoony for my tastes, and in all honesty makes the animal bad guys a little less formidable looking. In fact, at one point, the narrator seems to realize the enemy might come across as a tad silly and points it out here:
Respect the power!
Really, the reason why this comic is so good is the energy that flows through it. Fraction is putting so many little touches on it that the comic is doing something new. You turn the page and, while the art isn’t going to win any awards, it suits its purpose and makes the reader want more. For instance, a cool trick Fraction adds to the book is weird little messages at the bottom of the page (“Fight to save everything” “You are breathing the air of Caesar of Hannibal of Da Vinci of Galileo” and “Shut the engine down shut the eng”—) and each character has their own color for internal narration which makes the characters stand out further.
It appears Marvel has given Fraction free reign to play around with comic book motifs and instill new ideas. As a whole this book is worth checking out.
Budget: $10.00-$2.99= $7.01-$0.0 = $7.01-$0.0 = $7.01-$2.99 = $4.02-$3.99 = $.03
Our budget was knocked down to three cents. Yahoo! I call that an After-Christmas miracle!