Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Convention, George Joy, Mindstain, Perfect Room, Sarah Peplo
Written by George Joy
Art by Sarah Peplo
Layout and Lettering by George Joy
Published by Mindstain
Tomas and Anya are comic creators, in Germany to attend a convention. They are some of the first people to stay in the hotel and find themselves in a room that used to be owned by a government official. As they go about the business of selling their comic, Anya begins to unravel. Something is on the phone, even though it isn’t plugged in…
The smallest, both in format and scale, story from Mindstain to date this is still a tight, nasty piece of horror fiction. Joy’s script balances the perils of working a con with the creeping horror of the phone tremendously well and there’s a constantly ratcheting feeling of tension throughout the book. This is helped immensely by the image of the phone being constantly returned to, rendering the mundane increasingly alien and disturbing.
It’s also helped by Peploe’s art. Her style is loose but detailed and that’s exactly what’s needed here. As the book goes on, and things get worse, the art becomes the carrier wave for the horror. The final couple of pages in particular are chilling and there’s one line of dialog that will stay with you long after the comic’s done.
Announced as a tribute to ‘Perfect Room’, a title coming soon from Mindstain there’s a sense of this being the first piece of a puzzle. The story works great by itself but if there’s more to come I welcome it. Just remember, don’t pick up the phone…
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Adam Gorham, Ales Kot, Clayton Cowles, Image, Jordie Bellaire, Zero
Written by Ales Kot
Art by Adam Gorham
Colours by Jordie Bellaire
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Published by Image
There’s a page towards the end of this issue that’s just two panels. Its right after Zero has been told something he never expected to hear and had clearly given up ever wanting. The top panel is him, and the bottom is Director Cooke. He looks happy for possibly the very first time in the series, a man who has put down a burden he’s carried so long he almost forgot what it weighed. Cooke looks accepting, welcoming but tense. Guilt, grief, happiness, resignation and stress live in those two panels as the two characters rewrite their relationship for the first time in the issue. Gorham’s art , and the information it conveys, is perfect. It’s needlepoint emotional acting of a sort many TV shows or movies never come close to.
The scene that follows is less kind. Zero has come in from the cold. But he didn’t know how far out he truly was.
Zero is one of the best books on the market right now and this issue, despite its self-contained nature, is the worst possible place to start. The second half is concerned with Zero’s return to the Agency. The first is a horrific conversation with a young man who is both much elss and much more than human. Each page is shot through with Kot’s ear for dialogue, emotional awareness and Cronenbergian fondness for the hideous. Each page is also coloured with glorious sickly beauty by Jordie Bellaire and lettered with typical grace by Clayton Cowles. Gorham’s art pulls off a couple of series visual tricks with ease and each character feels real and grounded. It’s an extraordinary book and you should absolutely go and pick up the first two collections, then this issue. Very few comics published this year have been better.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Alarm Cat, Ed Brisson, Image, Joe Keatinge, Kate Kristopher, Owen Gieni, Shutter
Written by Joe Keatinge
Art by Leila Del Duca
Colours by Owen Gieni
Letters by Ed Brisson
Published by Image
Kate Kristopher used to be an adventurer. She and her dad explored the world, fought monsters, stopped evil and had fun.
Her dad and the fun went at about the same time.
For a decade, Kate grieved, and spent every birthday at her dad’s tombstone. Then adventure came looking for her.
Hold your breath and dive in to the most breathless adventure series you’ll read this year, Keatinge’s work always impresses and here he’s excelled himself. Kate’s world is just enough like ours to be familiar but alien enough to be fascinating. By making her jaded and tired, he gives us a chance to rediscover it and it really pays off. The first two chapters here will feel a little overwhelming but as the book goes on you’ll get your feet under you and realize just how much trouble Kate’s in. You’ll also see just how lovely this world is, as Keatinge expands the supporting cast to include the most terrifying duckbilled platypus you’ll ever meet, a Kitsune samurai and the world’s coolest, and least reassuring, butler. Not to mention Alarm Cat, Kate’s perpetually cheerful, endlessly enthusiastic robotic alarm clock. They and many more orbit each other in a chaotic string of events that’s both a high adventure comic and a clear-eyed, very dark look at what happens when our family fall short way of expectations.
Del Duca’s art and Gieni’s wonderful, lush colours are absolutely perfect and lift the script throughout. Del Duca’s sense of details gives even the most absurd moments weight and presence whilst Gieni’s colours show just how vibrant Kate’s world is. Finally, the ever excellent Ed Brisson turns in exactly the precision, minimalist lettering a book like this needs.
Endlessly inventive, deeply weird and hugely ambitious this is a book like no other on the market. Kate Kristopher may be reluctant to answer the call to adventure but you should run headlong towards both it, and this book.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Dennis Hopeless, Frank D'armata, Greg Land, Jay Leisten, Marvel, Morry Holowell, Spider-Verse, Spider-Woman, Travis Lanham
Written by Dennis Hopeless
Pencils by Greg Land
Inks by Jay Leisten
Colours by Frank D’Armata
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover art by Greg Land and Morry Holowell
Published by Marvel
For the last year or so, Marvel have been very good at running crossovers with minimum impact. Infinity and Original Sin in particular both told complete stories in their core mini-series that by and large altered the status quo of other books in an accessible way. It was a breath of fresh air, especially after the relentless crossovers both of the two big companies have inflicted on readers in the past.
But recently, Marvel have started to get worse at this. The recent Captain America and the Mighty Avengers series was required to tie in with Axis at the same time as Sam Wilson took on the mantle and now, Spider-Woman has been launched as less a series on its own and more another episode of Spider-Verse. The Mighty Avengers book makes a virtue of the massive status quo change it has to launch under but this is much less successful.
To be clear that’s not the creative team’s fault. Dennis Hopeless is an excellent writer and he does some really interesting stuff here with the idea of the Spider-Totems and the impact that her heroic reputation has on Spider-Woman. The apocalyptic air to the thing is comparable to Zenith in places too; the same sense of the world ending, time running out and nowhere left to hide. Plus the Prohibition era Spider-Man is actually a really lovely character and the interaction between him and Silk is especially fun.
But all of its overshadowed by Spider-Verse in a way that always feels intrusive. Spider-Woman herself is grumpy, desperate and off her game. That’s an interesting change in the character but it also keeps the book more dour than it perhaps should be and is a very strange move for a debut issue. The end result feels weirdly flat, a series trying to define itself while working within the confines of another.
On the art side of things D’Armata does excellent work with the otherworldly colour schemes and Land’s art continues to get looser and more fluid. There’s a little too much posing here but there’s also a truly brilliant joke about that which, combined with the excellent ink work by Leisten and D’Armata’s witty colour scheme keeps the book both moving and looking good. Lanham’s lettering work also impresses, especially in the fast paced banter sequence at the end.
This isn’t a bad book by any means but it’s not an especially accessible one either. Every member of the team does good work but it never quite breaks stride due to its ties to Spider-Verse. There’s a lot of promise here but, until the crossover is out of the way, you’re going to have to work to reach it. Fun for Spider-fans but everyone else should wait for the next arc.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Drew Gill, Howard Chaykin, Image, Jed Dougherty, Jesus Aburtov, Ken Bruzeank, Mad Men, matt fraction, Michael White, Satellite Sam
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Howard Chaykin
Lettering & Logo by Ken Bruzenak
Diggital Production by Jed Dougherty
Cover Colours by Jesus Aburtov
Designed by Drew Gill
Published by Image
Welcome to 1951. TV is about to change forever, the airwaves themselves are up for grabs and two of the worst things that could possibly happen to Michael White. He’s about to lose his father and gain the old man’s job.
Few books have combined the glamour and sweat of TV with the darkest pits of human behaviour like Satellite Sam. This first story sets up the multiple threads of the series and plays like an episode of Studio 60 written and produced by the creators of Mad Men. Everyone walks fast and talks fast, everyone has an angle, the show is everything and no one has time to slow down for human things like grieving or asking questions. Except Michael White.
Michael is the series itself in microcosm. He’s a man unsure what side of the camera he fits on and who has the quiet(ish) life he built snatched away by his father’s death. He’s very deliberately not a square jawed hero, but one of us. Weak, traumatised, struggling to understand not only the opportunities offered him but the reasons for everything that’s happened. He’s not always sympathetic or likable by any means but he’s always human and always interesting.
The book could be described the same way. Fraction has a huge fondness for this time period and it shows in everything from the detail to the pacing. There’s cinematic use of time here as some moments are stretched across multiple panels while other panels repeat ‘camera angles’ to give a scene a specific pacing or tone. That really helps as the book goes on, diving into the complex politics of the birth of the political age as well as the increasingly shadowy lives of the people building it.
On the art side of things, this is the sort of book Howard Chaykin was born to draw. There’s incredible detail and love in every panel as well as the slightly cold feel that Chaykin’s work has always had for me. There’s something deliberately grotesque about this large cast of mostly beautiful people doing awful things and Chaykin revels in that, dropping us into the shark tank and letting us see what’s waiting in there. Combined with his very dense, information heavy style that’s going to be too much for some people although Bruzenak’s lettering remains accessible and clear throughout.
This is a smart, demanding book that’s difficult to love but very easy to enjoy. A multi leveled, ambitious story set at the start of the TV age, ti’s a salute to everything, good and bad, from that time. Complex, demanding and extremely rewarding.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Adam Hardy, DC, FBP, Jared K Fletcher, Nathan Fox, rico renzi, Robbi Rodriguez, Simon Oliver, Steve Wands, Vertigo
Written by Simon Oliver
Art by Robbi Rodriguez
Colours by Rico Renzi
Letters by Steve Wands and Jared K Fletcher
Covers by Nathan Fox
Published by DC/Vertigo
Physics is negotiable. The impossible is possible. And that may be the only thing keeping FBP (Federal Bureau of Physics) Agent Adam Hardy alive.
This is the best police procedural not on TV. Oliver’s script operates off such a wonderfully skewed and simple premise, ‘Physics is the fourth emergency service’ that it could coast on that idea for years. But Oliver has other ideas and in short order this volume introduces us to Adam, his partner, the FBP and the world they’re increasingly struggling to save. It also proceeds to mirror the quantum weather at the core of the book and turn their world upside down.
Oliver has a fine eye for big ideas explained well and this first plot carefully walks the reader through the basic issues of the FBP’s world. They’re an organization who are one part Ghostbusters, one pat Emergency Services and that combination allows for some glorious technology and some blisteringly smart, inventive ideas. The second half of the book in particular does two really clever things; explores one of the oddest hazards the FBP deal with and shows Adam is paying attention. Agent Hardy’s world is not safe, or predictable and the events in this book put you in lockstep with him. The pair of you are shown enough of the truth to be hooked and both take action. You keep reading, Adam starts remembering how to be a cop and everyone goes home happy. It’s smart, grounded storytelling in a world that’s essentially mercurial and it allows Oliver to land every weird concept or moment of high strangeness perfectly.
That fluidity of reality is mirrored by Rodriguez’s graceful, flowing art. The characters are all rock solid, wonderfully human designs and Cicero in particular, whose massive hair matches his massive brain, is perfectly designed. However it’s the way Rodriguez, and Renzi on colours, change their style as the FBP agents move between pocket universes that will blow you away. Looking like a Warner Brothers cartoon crossed with Pixar cell-shading and a fever dream the climactic sequence of the rescue here is extraordinary work. That fluidity is in turn reflected in Wands and Fletcher’s smart lettering and the wonderful final twist. Every element of the book works, every element is adaptable and every element suits the book perfectly. A mercurial science nightmare with style and one deserving your attention.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Big Shot, Black Alice, Cat Man, Dale Eaglesham, Drew Geraci, Gail Simone, Jason Wright, Ken Lashley, Secret Six, Strix, The Ventriloquist
Written by Gail Simone
Pencils by Ken Lashley
Inks by Ken Lashley and Drew Geraci
Colours by Jason Wright
Cover by Dale Eaglesham and Jason Wright
Published by DC
A Man walks into a bar in New Mexico. He’s carried out. He wakes up in a sealed room with five strangers. His name is Cat Man. They are Porcelain, Strix, Big Shot, The Ventriloquist and Black Alice. They’re about to be tested. It’s not going to go well.
Gail Simone’s pre-New 52 run on Secret Six was one of the best books DC have produced in years. It built momentum issue by issue and ended up as a definitive look at the underside of the DCU from people who’d grown to if not like it, then accept their place there. This new version features a largely different cast but is already heading in the same direction. Simone is one of the best dialogue writers in the business and in one issue she sets everyone up perfectly. Big Shot has the placidity of a big man who’s seen it all, Porcelain is subtly reticent and withdrawn, Black Alice is unsubtly reticent and withdrawn and Strix communicates by post its. The Ventriloquist communicates constantly, whether anyone wants her to or not. Each one gets a moment in the spotlight and the conflicts between them are already set up. There’s also some subtle hints about where Simone may be going with the book’s cast. This is a diverse, interesting fractious group and seeing them stand to be in the same room, let alone be a team is going to be a lot of fun. Plus, pay very close attention. You find out more than you think…
On the art side of things Ken Lashley’s work is both rounded and nicely scratchy. The inking by Lashley and Geraci gives a good sense of scope and detail but doesn’t get in the way of the nicely worn, crumpled characters. Wright’s colours help too and subtly key you in to the location before the characters figure it out.
A confident, dark opening to a promising series, Secret Six is a book with rolls of quarters in its fists and a nasty look in its eyes. Make sure you’re on its side.