Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Crank!. Image, Felipe Sobreiro, Hope, Justin Jordan, Kyle Strahm, No, Spread, The Spread
Co-Created by Justin Jordan and Kyle Strahm
Art by Kyle Strahm
Colour by Felipe Sobreiro
Letters by Crank!
Published by Image
£2.50 or £1.85 with that SuperCard Go! the mysterious, near silent man with the axe gave you
The world’s ended. We’ve lost. The only survivors left are constantly on the lookout for supplies, raiders and most of all, the thing that lives on this world now. America, at the very least, is almost exclusively home to the Spread. The Spread is a biological entity the size of a continent, a suppurating mass of gristle and teeth that deploys skinless abominations of countless types to consume the few people still alive.
No is still alive. He’s planning on keeping it that way.
Jordan and Strahm have created something, appropriately enough, fully formed here. In one issue we get a good look at the Spread, what it does, the people who fight it and how this world could be changed forever. The dialogue is sparse, the action is constant and brutal and the Spread is everywhere; a red, meaty nightmare with teeth where everything else should be. It’s a wonderfully designed foe, looking like an explosion in an anatomy lab and Strahm’s burly style brings it to horrific life. It’s Sobreiro’s colours that will stay with you though, the deep, gristle red of the hideous creature a neat contrast to the snowy setting.
That tremendous, wonderfully gristly art is backed up by Jordan’s brutally confident script. Elements of Lone Wolf and Cub, The Thing and Saga combine with Jordan and Strahm’s own unique style to create something that feels like it’s been around for years but still has something new to say. Much of the dialogue this issue is from a character we’ll meet fully later on but that doesn’t stop the monosyllabic No or Hope’s doomed guardian to register as characters. The first is a quiet, confident man rattled by the last thing he expected and the only thing he can’t fight. The second is only on the page for a short time but her scenes feel like the end of a book that’s only just finished and runs directly into this one. It doesn’t damage Spread at all, in fact it gives the book a sense of scope and place that really lifts it.
Rounded out by smart, expressive lettering from Crank! this is a grizly, horrifying, excellent start to a story. Horrific, and human, it’s on sale now.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews, Uncategorized | Tags: Alex De Campi, Chumash, Dona Maria La Sangrienta, Dynamite, Esperanza, Lady Zorro, Morgan Hickman, Ray Villegas, Zorro
Written by Alex de Campi
Art by Ray Villegas
Colours by Morgan Hickman
Letters by Alex de Campi
Published by Dynamite
Esperanza is out of the war. Moving to the coast, she’s working as a rose farmer when the war finds her again. Part of her is disgusted, the rest? Well, Lady Zorro was never cut out to be a rose farmer.
Alex De Campi’s script strides on stage with a swagger and a good looking cape from the first page and never once lets up. She reintroduces us to Esperanza and brings new readers up to speed in under a panel and the plot arrives (On horseback, looking cool, of course), by the end of the first page. From there it’s a straight run back into Mewxico to battle Dona Maria La Sangrienta, the new villainess, to recover a sacred Chumash axe. Without it, there will be all out war. With it, there is a chance that she, Zorro and their allies can contain the situation.
She of course, agrees.
It, of course, goes incredibly badly.
De Campi is an author who has always been very comfortable subverting expectations and that’s exactly what we get here both in and out of the story. Internally, there’s some really smart interplay between Esperanza and her new soldier sidekick. Hugo is everything Esperanza should hate, but the two are worryingly similar and there’s a sparky banter to their relationship from the start. He’s everything she hates and nothing she expected, whilst she is everything he hoped and nothing he sees coming. It’s a rapid fire, light on its feet relationship and one of the two that powers the book. The other is between Esperanza, Dona Maria and the villainous General Von Detmar. The three are connected in surprising ways and by the end of the book Esperanza has taken justifiable action that’s going to have disastrous consequences. Again, De Campi pulls no punches and the fight between Barbara and Esperanza is as brutal as it is surprising. As the book closes, everyone still standing is in a very bad way and De Campi has succeeded in setting up a classic pulp cliffhanger in a very different, surprising way.
Hickman’s deep, rich colours help set the tone perfectly and the whip fast yet precise art of Villegas gives the fight scenes the exact room they need. De Campi letters her own book and does so supremely well, especially in the fight and the whole thing fits together with style, panache and more than a little blood. The end result is a book as flashy, fast moving and brutally effective as it’s lead. Swashbuckling, surprising and huge fun.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Adrian Alphona, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers, G. Willow Wilson, Ian Herring, Jacob Wyatt, Joe Caramagna, Kamala Khan, Marvel, Ms. Marvel, Thor
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by Adrian Alphona and Jacob Wyatt(Issue 6)
Color art by Ian Herring
Lettering by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel
Let’s talk about Kamala Khan. The last couple of weeks have seen some massive ructions in the more change averse (And yes I am being nice describing it that way) sections of fandom. Thor as a woman, Captain America as a black man and Tony Stark moving to San Francisco have all got some people worried about how comics are changing. There’s a growing terror of the old metaphors, old tropes falling away and the massive castles of continuity that are built on them crumbling into nothing more than dust in the wind.
What none of these people are looking in the eyes is this; change came to the Marvel universe a while ago, about four different ways. Marvel’s three best books right now are She-Hulk, Captain Marvel and Ms.Marvel. Extend that to six and you’ve got Black Widow, Elektra and Bendis’ All-New X-Men, a book with a cast crammed full of kickass female characters.
Change isn’t coming. Change is HERE. And things are already better for it.
Don’t believe me? Issue 1 of Ms Marvel is on its 6th printing.6th. Here are three other books that have managed that:
Justice League 1
Detective Comics 1
Sex Criminals 1
Kamala Khan isn’t going anywhere and based on these first issues it’s really easy to see why.
First off, there’s the fact that G. Willow Wilson writes real people. This is a book crammed full of people you’ve already met, the sort of small town groups of family and friends that are a near universal constant in the West. Wilson has an instinctive understanding of how and why people cluster together and the fact that the highest stakes moment in here is at the Circle Q convenience store (Bill and Ted fans out there? YES the joke is made) drives that home. This is a book about normal people in normal sized lives dealing with extraordinary circumstances.
Then there’s the fact that Wilson doesn’t just write people, she writes people who are funny. Kamala is the best example; a cheerfully over articulate, whip smart teenager who’s dialogue crackles with pure joy from the moment you hear her first line; ‘Delicious, delicious infidel meat.’ She’s a wiseass in the same way Peter Parker is when he’s written well; charming, self-deprecating and clearly deeply in love with the shape of the words she’s saying and the effect they have on the people around her.
Kamala’s also us. All of us. She’s a total geek; a gamer, a fanfic writer, a superhero fan. Kamala has a black belt in geek fu, she thinks and contextualizes the world the same way we do and that instantly makes her one of the most relatable characters in comics right now. She reacts how we would and how we hope we would; panicking in her first fight, getting hurt and getting back up because that’s what heroes do. Then, entering the best training montage you’ll see in modern comics as she figures out how to game her new powers.
But this isn’t just about Kamala. This is about her family and her friends too. Wilson writes the best family scenes I’ve read in years. Kamala’s parents are clearly aware something is up with their daughter, she’s aware they’re aware and everyone dances around one another in that not-quite-looking-it-in-the-eyes two step that adolescence always becomes. There’s a scene in issue 5 with her father that was my favourite moment in the book until I read issue 6. It’s a beautiful piece of writing as her dad simultaneously diffuses the tensions between her and her mom, let’s Kamala know he loves her and is there for her and still grounds her. The lack of angst isn’t just refreshing, it’s revolutionary.
Issue 6 though, is the high point so far. The opening conversation between Kamala and Sheikh Abdullah is extraordinary; sweet, pragmatic and something I’ve almost never seen in fiction before. Kamala and her family are Muslim and when she steps out of line yet again, she’s sent to see Sheikh Abdullah to talk to him. Expecting a severe telling off, she instead gets compassion, understanding and humour. He’s a sleeves rolled up holy man, someone with no illusions as to how easy anyone’s life is. He treats Kamala with absolute respect and gets out of her way even as he advises her. I’ve had the singular privilege of knowing several Catholic priests like that and seeing that represented so well here was a chance to let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding.
Finally, there’s the art. Alphona’s loping, easy going style is a perfect fit for both Kamala’s new powers and the style of the script and Herring’s warm, rich colours are amazing throughout. Wyatt’s art, in issue 6, is a little tighter but the book actually benefits from that. It’s reminiscent of Bandette and has the same light-footed, graceful approach. Not bad going for a book with gigantic cyborg crocodiles in it. The whole thing is rounded out by Caramagna’s top class lettering and issue 6 in particular sees that play a vital role in dictating the pace of the action.
Ms Marvel is a revelation; a new character who works perfectly straight out of the gate. It doesn’t just add welcome diversity to the Marvel universe but a brand new, hugely likeable heroine who embodies everything that makes superheroes such an attractive trope. Oh and Wolverine’s in issue 6. And her reaction is PRICELESS. This is joyous, clever, sweet-natured comics. Buy them now.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Boom, Chris Miskiewicz, Deron Bennett, Palle Schmidt, Richard Alsop, The Hand of the Island, Thomas Alsop
Written by Chris Miskiewicz
Art by Palle Schmidt
Lettering by Deron Bennett
Cover by Palle Schmidt
Published by Boom!
£2.85 or £1.99 with that ancestral SuperCard Go! left for you by the wisdom of your predecessors.
Thomas Alsop is a frequently drunk, occasionally guitar-playing, smoking urban mage.
Hellblazer fans, I can hear you grumbling. Stand down. Or…sacrifice every ounce of happiness to save the world knowing full well everyone will hate you until the never ending cycle starts over again. Whichever works best.
Miskiewicz’s opening issue tackles every comparison between it’s lead and John Constantine head on and makes the similarities both an asset and something to push against. The character type is familiar but the way in which Miskewicz approaches him is very different. For a start, Thomas is a media sensation and knows it. He lives the life he lives as much because he can as because he wants to. The debauchery is both a side effect of the fame and a coping mechanism for the horror. It’s an interesting idea and one I’ve seen a few titles play with recently. This one does it best, by a good margin.
Then there’s the historical aspect. The script cleverly walks us through two separate origin stories, one for Thomas, one for Richard, his ancestor. Both men live in New York and Richard, we find out, was the first Alsop to be called. This is where Miskiewicz gets really clever, establishing the idea that the Alsop family are the Hand of the Island, chosen to defend New York from dark forces. They meet, briefly, in the centre of the issue and the entire script pivots around that scene with grace and real sweetness. Two different men, two different takes on the same fictional idea and one family. It’s a really smart idea that suggests the story will unfold in both time periods. I certainly hope so, especially given what the art does when the focus shifts to Richard Alsop.
Schmidt’s art is lovely throughout, reminiscent of Matthew Dow Smith in the shading, characterization and slightly impressionistic approach to character. It’s also fiercely versatile, the colour palette shifting from urban yellows and reds to a subtle monochrome as the story moves back in time. There’s also a keen eye for the iconic image, with Richard every inch the old west Preacher figure in appearance if not demeanor. Bennett’s lettering works really well too, and there’s one panel in particular where that, and Schmidt’s art, combine to create an image that’s iconic, minimalistic and gives you a sense of just how much power Richard Alsop has. It’s intelligent, versatile art and an integral part of why the story works so well.
This is a sharp, confident opening issue that takes every trope you expect it to and turns them all on their head. The art is gorgeous, the central premise is great and elegantly handled and the script fizzes with the same confidence Thomas convinces himself he has. One of the best horror comics on the shelves right now. Seek it out.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews, Uncategorized | Tags: Andrea Sorrentino, DC, Green Arrow, jeff lemire, Marcelo Maiolo, Oliver Queen, Ollie Queen
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Andrea Sorrentino
Colours by Marcelo Maiolo and Andrea Sorrentino
Letters by Rob Leigh
Published by DC
In a heartbeat, everything that matters to Oliver Queen is taken away. Now it’s time for him to learn the truth.
Jeff Lemire doesn’t so much hit the ground running as hit it running, firing and triggering multiple diversionary attacks. The script moves with the same speed and assurance as Ollie, hitting everything it aims at and only slowing down when it choose to. Lemire is one of the best writers working today and this is a perfect on ramp for both his work and the character. It shows off his strengths; intelligence, character, spectacle, an unflinching attitude to violence, and also positions Ollie solidly in the same ball park as his TV counterpart.
The scale of the story is what’s really impressive here, starting with an attack on Ollie’s holdings, taking in Queen family history and going to Valtava, one of those endearingly fictional comics countries I secretly hope always win the Eurovision song contest. Throughout, Lemire pushes Ollie to the limit and beyond, beating the hell out of his lead so badly even Jason Bourne would suggest a nice cup of tea and a sitdown. That process isn’t the sort of tedious character attrition it normally is though. Rather it’s tempering Ollie, turning him into the sort of person who can be the Green Arrow that’s needed. It’s a tough road, and Lemire pulls no punches in the gloriously gnarly fight scenes, but it’s absolutely worthwhile for both Ollie and us.
The art in this book is amazing, there is no other word that covers it. Sorrentino and Lemire continually play with scale, pacing and panel layout to highlight and dictate the tempo of the action in a way I’ve only seen JH Williams III do so well. It’s subtle, clever stuff like a panel-in-panel of Ollie’s arrow wounds that really works and gives the book a unique visual identity. It also punches up the impact of the fights, and a later moment where Ollie suffers an ear injury will have you wincing in sympathy. With Maiolo assisting on colors, Sorrentino’s art is vibrant, feverish, fluid and brutal, just like the script. Leigh’s lettering is the perfect complement to all this and by the end of the book you’ve been drawn into this new world just as completely as Ollie.
Blindingly clever, savagely violent and immensely ambitious this is arguably the best title DC are publishing right now. Pick it up from this volume and buckle up. This creative team are just getting started.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Boom, Cullen Bunn, Ed Dukeshire, Jenson, Langford, Michael Garland, The Empty Man, Vanesa R Del Rey
Created and written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Vanesa R Del Rey
Colours by Michael Garland
Letters by Ed Dukeshire
Published by Boom!
£2.85 or £1.99 if Supercard Go! made you do it
Something awful is moving through the US. Something that whispers to people, tells them to do awful things to themselves and others. Something that ensures their last act is giving it the credit it deserves. The Empty Man made them do it.
Jensen and Langford are two of the inter-agency task force investigating whatever the Empty Man is. Langford is older, calmer, more arrogant and quietly very ill. Jensen is worse with people, more driven and completely unwilling to put up with her partner’s crap. Bunn’s script hits the ground running for both and sets up not only their world but how they approach it with consumate ease. By the end of the first issue we know the two agents, know their job and have an idea of just how bad the world they live in is. This is America just before panic, the intake of breath before the scream. This entire book is hunched, waiting for the blow to fall and when it does, it changes everything we, and the agents know. This is serialized storytelling and the gamble, as always, is if people come back. I certainly will.
On the art side of things, Del Rey’s work is fantastic. She has a Tom Mandrake-esque eye for character, everyone somehow normal and slightly grotesque at the same time. She’s helped immensely by Garland’s colors, especially on the two big reveal pages. This is a book with dread encoded into every page and the fact it’s there shows just how talented the art team are.
Horrifying, gripping and confident, this is a book that travels the dark roads between The X Files and True Detective with ease. Hop aboard and remember, if you do, you can always blame The Empty Man.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: 2000ad, Brass Sun, Ellie De Ville, Ian Edginton, INJ Culbard, Wren
Written by Ian Edginton
Art by INJ CUlbard
Letters by Ellie De Ville
Published by 2000AD
The Wheel of Worlds is a solar marvel, an elaborate celestial structure where each world is interconnected with each other. It’s an orrery write large, a glorious, precision piece of design. And it’s dying. Wren’s grandfather’s last act was to give her the means to save it. Now she has t decide if it deserves saving.
This is exactly the sort of rangy, expansive, gloriously eccentric storytelling that Edginton and 20000AD have traditionally excelled at. The visual of the Wheel is breathtaking, a system so clearly artificial that it’s religions focus not on who made the world but why. It’s a neat idea, and one that lays in future storylines in the skies of the worlds we do see. It’s also central to the book’s main theme; faith vs action. Wren’s grandfather has both, as does she and that makes them both dangerous and unique. Edginton’s script cleverly focuses both on that and on Wren’s legitimate rage at what’s been done to her. She doesn’t so much answer the call to adventure as get thrown through the door to adventure sideways, on fire and bleeding and she’s far from happy about that. Likewise, the sidekick she acquires in issue two, Septimus, has an agenda he’s handed that’s very different to what he’d choose. Both are products of a system where precision and ritual are part of the natural order, neither want any part of it and Edginton uses that to create a pair of deeply likable leads.
On the art side of things, Culbard is a perfect fit. His character work is extraordinary, especially in the first issue and he has a real talent for showing character through posture. His scale work is just as impressive and he and Edginton constantly throw in visual cues that this isn’t quite a familiar world. Wren’s steed is an Elk, she roasts a huge spider for camp dinner at one point and so on. Together, and with the magnificent Ellie De Ville, on lettering, they create a world that’s familiar but different, fascinatingly close to our own but dangerously dissimilar. It’s an amazing achievement and creates a comic that’s as precise as the world it portrays, and chaotic as it’s characters. Brilliant, brilliant stuff. Go buy it.