Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Alien, Blambot, Dark Horse, David, David Palumbo, Engineer, Julian Ferreryra, LV 223, Nate Piekos, Paul Tobin, Predator, Prometheus, Weyland, Xenomorph
Written by Paul Tobin
Art by Julian Ferreyra
Letters by Nate Piekos of Blambot!
Cover by David Palumbo
Published by Dark Horse
£2.85 or £1.85 with your Weyland Yuytani issue SuperCard Go!
Hated Prometheus? Read the first paragraph below. Loved it? Read the second.
Everything that was wrong with Prometheus is fixed inside three pages of this blistering return to the Aliens universe from Dark Horse. The story follows a 2219 mission to salvage the downed survey vessel from Prometheus. As far as most of the crew are concerned, it’s just a salvage op. As far as the Captain’s concerned, it’s a mission to find what happened to Weyland and the truth behind the history of humanity…
Everything Prometheus did right is used as a foundation for this first part of a Prometheus/Aliens/Predator three way dance, Tobin’s script neatly builds on both the original mission and it’s secret as a three-ship group is dispatched to LV 223 to salvage the remains of the previous expedition. Only the Captain knows the truth about what Weyland did there, and that’s why there’s an armed patrol ship as part of the fleet…
Tobin has an instinctive understanding not just of the universe he’s playing in but our expectations of it. He sets the team up as fun, distinctive people and shows us the seeds of their destruction even as they take pains to ensure the mission will be safe. Everyone has secrets, no one trusts anyone else and the entire mission is already working to two agendas even before they make planetfall. When they do? Tobin does an excellent job of showing us how the world’s changed, casting a little doubt on whether this is the right world at all and wrapping up with a killer final panel.
Ferreyra’s art is perfect for this style of book. The characters are all distinctive and expressive and the technology is exactly the right level of Ron Cobb-esque chunky precision and functionality. What really makes the book fly though is how expansive the panels are. Splashes are uses sparingly and effectively and the tension is neatly ratcheted up by some truly extraordinary colour work. This feels like an alien world and it’s a pleasure, albeit a terrifying, blood-soaked one, to spend time here,
Peikos’ letters combine with the book’s unusual style to cleverly guide your eye around the large panels in particular. Lettering is an often overlooked, but always vital, part of comics and Piekos’ reputation as one of the best in the business is only confirmed here. It’s effortless, smart work in a book that’s intensely smart and tremendously good, nasty SF fun.
Whether you loved or hated Prometheus doesn’t matter, because this take the elements of the movie that truly worked and makes something better from them. I’m fascinated to see not only how this series pans out but the others that are connected to it too. Excellent work from some of the best creators in the field. Go get it.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Boom, Clive Slipaway, Dan Abnett, Gilbert Arrant, INJ Culbard, Peter Minks, Upper Crowchurch
Written by Dan Abnett
Illustrated and lettered by INJ Culbard
Published by Boom!
£2.85 or £1.99 with that SuperCardGo! You won at the last village fete
Lower Crowchurch is a sleepy village where everyone knows everyone’s business. Except for Mr Slipaway, a naval veteran who has retired there to live a quieter life. Not that Village solicitor Gilbert Arrant and journalist Peter Minks plan on letting t stay that way. But something is moving out in the woods, something that Gilbert can’t control but, perhaps. Clive Slipaway can stop…
Dan Abnett is one of the all-time greats, an author whose profound love for British fictional tropes and boundless enthusiasm has led to the creation of some of my favorite comics. He’s endlessly inventive, casually horrific (Google ‘Knights of Pendragon strawberry punnets’. Don’t eat first.) and endlessly inventive. He’s also a real student of the art and all of those qualities combine here.
You see, Wild’s End is basically Wind in the Willows meets War of the Worlds.
Every character is an anthropomorphized animal. Gilbert is a remarkably arrogant looking rabbit, Peter is a Mink and Slipaway is a sad, cautious man with a literal hangdog expression. It’s a brilliant technique not only giving the book a unique feel but accentuating the emotions of the characters ina very unusual way. Lower Crowchurch isn’t an especially nice place if your name isn’t Gilbert Arant, and it’s also one with flashes of humour as well as horror. My favorite scene involves the mole pub landlord who can’t see over his own counter for example.
But the horror is where this book lives, both in the constant tension in the village and the brutal invaders making their way towards it. This is where INJ Culbard, whose astounding work was reviewed here earlier this year, comes into his own. The characters are natural and expressive without losing sight of their roots and each page is clean and precise. That leads to moments of real beauty as well as horror; a cottage burning and melting into the sky, Slipaway coming to life as everything goes to Hell around him and the mole gag. Those three points in particular show just how much range this book has as well as how beautifully put together it all is. A polite British nightmare; War in the Wind in the Willows.
This is utterly confident, brilliantly executed comics. You need to read it. Just don’t get too attached to anybody…
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Captain Carrot, DC, grant morrison, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Multiversity, Nei Ruffino, Nix Uotan, Todd Klein
Written by Grant Morrison
Penciled by Ivan Reis
Inks by Joe Prado
Colours by Nei Ruffino
Letters by Todd Klein
Cover by Resi, Prado and Ruffino
The universe is breaking. A comic is a body to be dissected, a sentient warning, a gateway to a dozen different worlds. All of them are falling. Many already have. Now, a small group of heroes pulled from a dozen different worlds must journey the Multiverse and rescue us all from the stories that are coming for us from out of the darkness.
Grant Morrison’s roadtrip through the DC universe is going to be an amazingly easy sell to Grant Morrison fans. There’s the same self awareness of form and wry, slightly terrified humour that distinguishes a lot of his early work combined with a couple of very familiar tropes. The Filth and the Super Judge have similar taste in technology whilst the villains here are going to be more than a little familiar to anyone who’s read Zenith. Plus there are whole characters here he’s played with, or created, before.
But the performance is never the trick and you’d be forgiven for worrying if this wasn’t, like so many other comics, a collection of tropes and metafictional beats falling downhill in loose formation. After all, there are clear analogues for Marvel and Image characters here and when you go down that road there’s always a danger of a comic disappearing up it’s own knowing in jokes.
Instead you get a very well paced, intense story that sets up a multiversal threat and manages the near impossible task of introducing a non A-List cast and making them both viable and vulnerable. The version of Superman, not to mention Captain Carrot, we meet is a really interesting take on the character, likewise Nix Uotan the Super Judge. They all declaim a little much, but that’s Morrison’s style and it works here. Plus the feverish pace and style change of the script makes this a mercurial, involving reading experience.
Reis’ pencils are a big part of that, especially on the analog characters and the chilling scenes of otherworldly destruction. His character work is excellent and massively enhanced by the effortlessly shifting letters Klein produces and the vibrant colours from Ruffino.
For all that though, this feels…a little cold? It’s an excellent set up for a story but, so far, that’s all it is. It’s intensely clever and beautifully produced but so far there’s not much heart to it. Look for that to change with future issues.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: IDW, John Workman, Laura Martin, Walt Simonson
Written and drawn by Walt Simons
Colours by Laura Martin
Letters by John Workman
Published by IDW
Walt Simonson draws the best Vikings and Norse myths in comics history. He’s drawn this. It’s about Vikings and Norse myth. You need to buy it.
You want more? Seriously?
What happens after the end of the world?
Ragnarok has come, the gods have fallen and amongst the survivors are a dark elf couple and their young daughter. They’re both highly skilled soldiers but times are hard and they don’t quite have the resources to retire, until a contract comes in to assassinate a god…
Simonson is one of the all-time greats and Simonson working on something Nordic is essential reading. Every page here rings with the same contained confidence as Brynja, the dark elf heroine. From the colossal scale and destruction of the opening flashback to the quiet character beats and the closing reveal there isn’t a single image here that doesn’t earn it’s keep. There also isn’t a single image here that isn’t beautiful. Simonson’s work is as brawny, and graceful, as ever it was but coloured by Laura Martin it achieves a new level of genuine beauty. Martin’s one of the best colourists on the planet and her combination of dark, muted colours and sudden shocks of colour helps punctuate, and accentuate the action here. Workman’s letters mesh perfectly too, especially in one moment of astonishingly effective, minimalistic and brutal violence.
That combination of detail and subtlety, grace and violence is what makes the book sing. It’s an astonishingly modern take on a very old storyu that manages to honour both time periods equally. Brutal, immensely entertaining and epic in scope it’s a fantasy comic unlike any other. Worth a trip to the end of the world for.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Dairus Dax, Diana Dane, Image, John Roshell, Richard Starkings, Supreme, Supreme Blue Rose, Tula Lota, Warren Ellis
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Tula Lotay
Lettering by Richard Starkings
Design by John Roshell
£2.20 or £1.70 with that exciting new job you just got offered by the mysterious elusive billionaire
Diana Dane is a journalist. So Diana Dane’s poor. Until she gets a job offer from Darius Dax, the world’s most famous secret man (Or is that the other way round?). Darius wants her to find Blue Roses for him, the things out in the world that defy logic and could change society forever. Blue Roses that, maybe, have something to do with Diana’s very odd dreams…
Ellis is, arguably, the most Fortean author working in comics right now. He has a tremendous fondness not just for the weird but for the support structures we build to help us understand the weird and that’s the framework we see here. Darius Dax would get on well with Elijah Snow and William Gibson’s Hubertus Bigend; he’s a brilliant, driven man with bottomless pockets and a very long game plan. It’s a familiar beat for Ellis’ work but it’s also one that feels very different here; Snow was, for most of Planetary, a cautious reticent figure. Likewise, Gibson’s splendidly named Bigend is all but unknowable, playing games within games. In contrast, Dax is completely upfront and as a result, rather sweet. There’s no heroic call to adventure, nothing po-faced about the job offer. He simply wants to work with good people and Diana is clearly one of those. He’s enthusiastic, philanthropic and so far apparently not either evil or insane. I rather like him.
The script is measured, even slow, in a way that Ellis has been playing with for a while now and, just like with Trees, it really works. There’s a measured, precise tone to the whole thing that’s helped immensely by Lotay’s art. It’s a stereotype to say you’ve never seen art like this before but here’s the thing;
Her figure work is exemplary and naturalistic, precise lines managing to communicate the untidy normality of the characters. The settings are equal parts precise and hallucinatory and the book is shot through with scratchy, frantic colour washes that add extra beats to the characters. Dax, and Diana, are bathed in blue light during their talk whilst a stained glass window dapples another scene with fairground abandon. It’s fluid, precise art for a fluid precise world and, coupled with the exemplary lettering and design work from Starkings and Roshell gives the book a tone and look unlike any other.
Supreme Blue Rose is a superhero book the same way it’s a science fiction book; at one, very unusual and successful remove. It’s distanced, precise but compassionate storytelling that looks and reads unlike anything else on the market. If you’re interested in seeing something new, then you should be interested in this.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews, Uncategorized | Tags: Al Ewing, Blade, Captain Marvel, Frank D'armata, Greg Land, Infinity, Jay Leister, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Marvel, Power Man, She-Hulk, Spectrum, Superior Spider-Man, Thanos, VC's Cory Petit
Written by Al Ewing
Pencils by Greg Land
Inks by Jay Leister
Colours by Frank D’Armata
Letters by VC’s Cory Petit
Published by Marvel
This is a book that was never expected to work. It launched in the middle of a crossover and features an artist whose work is less than popular in some circles. However, the odds being stacked against it a little actually works in the book’s favour. Because these are Avengers who like to get their hands dirty, and starting as the underdog? That just gets their attention.
Al Ewing is one of the best writers working today. There’s no other way to describe his work and he’s on excellent form here. The basic premise he comes up with is great; this is an Avengers team put together on the fly, people who don’t especially like one another but have no choice except to work together. That instantly turns one of the book’s problems into an asset; the crossover element becomes a vital part of the story and is also contained entirely within the book. All you need to know is that Earth is being invaded and these Avengers are the ones standing on the wall in New York, trying to hold the line.
That sort of narrative wit is present throughout the book as Ewing continues to expertly combine his own plot elements with the necessary architecture of the Marvel universe. The Superior Spider-Man and Blade have never been more fun than they are here and, more importantly, this is the best written Luke Cage book in years. Ewing gets Cage completely and sets him up as something genuinely poignant; he’s a good man trying to be a better one, someone who feels more than a little left behind by the massive events in his friends’ lives and seizes this as a chance to not only do good but feel like he matters. He’s both a great, and reluctant, hero and you’re rooting for him within pages of the book starting. Through him, Ewing manages to set up a street level Avengers team without any of the baggage that implies. This is a team who show up, whether the problem’s big or small and the ‘Avengers Assemble’ moment here has tremendous emotional weight. Ewing loves these characters, understands them and that makes every single beat land dead centre. Plus, he works in the single best She-Hulk moment in years and given the strength of her book, that’s saying something.
Now, let’s talk about the art. At this stage you’ve decided if you like Greg Land’s work or not. It’s much looser and more character driven here than it’s been in a while and Leister, D’Armata and Petit all do great work especially in the wonderfully squishy fight scene in the middle of the book. However, all of them come together in the joyous clash between Cage and Spider-Man presented at the end of the book. High comedy, character and near cartoon logic abounds in an issue that’s exuberant, funny, character driven and immensely entertaining.
This is one of the best Avengers books you aren’t reading. I’d do something about that. It’s an absolute treat.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Charlie Parish, David Brothers, Dotty Quinn, Earl Rath, Ed Brubaker, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Gil Mason, Image, Phil Brodsky, Sean Phillips, The Fade Out, Valeria Sommers
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips
Colours by Elizabeth Breitweiser
Edits by David Brothers
Published by Image
ICharlie Parish has woken up in a bathtub. He’s a screenwriter and a partygoer in 1948 Hollywoodland and he’s fairly bad at both. As he stumb;es through the house, he slowly remembers not only the previous night but the bad things that happened. The arguments. The fight.
Charlie has no memory of killing Valeria Sommers. That doesn’t mean he didn’t do it. In fact, in a town where fiction is foundation and lies are building blocks, it may not matter if he did. At least not to anyone but Charlie…
Brubaker and Philips are well on theirw ay to being the definitive creative team of their generation. Their work is as varied in scope as it is excellent in execution and here they step away from the historical supernatural world of previous book Fatale into something far more grounded and real. At least, it seems that way. This first issue features an interesting, possibly significant, discussion of the ‘phantom’ planes over LA during the war and a single image that’s vintage horror to the core. Whether either become important later isn’t important right now. With or without them this is a blistering opening issue that lays everything out for you and trusts you to pay attention.
At the centre of it all, Charlie is a resolutely flawed, almost unlikable figure. Timid and increasingly desperate, his dilemma is classic film noir; working out who to trust when he can’t even trust himself. His supporting cast is equally interesting including; smooth and untrustworthy film star Earl Rath, Charlie’s secret, blacklisted writing partner Gil Mason and Phil Brodsky the monolithic head of Studio Security. Then there’s Valeria, poor, dead Valeria who looks set to be more of a major player in death than she ever was in life. However, the character that really connects in this first issue is Dotty Quinn. A PR girl at the studio, Dotty is the most grounded, and decent, person we meet this issue. Between her and Gil, Charlie has the makings of some allies and by the looks of this issue he’s going to need them.
Brubaker’s script glows with constant menace and Philips is with him every step of the way. There’s some lovely, elegant narrative here but my favourite is a page that’s classic film noir montage. A haunted Charlie stumbles towards the screen, smoking and drinking as classic movies scenes play out behind him. We see a swordfight, a gangster and a cowboy and that last appears in two panels. In the first he’s riding towards Charlie. In the second his horse has reared and he’s turned. It could be read as him being startled or as Charlie’s inner, idealized self-refusing to let events slide even as he tries very hard to forget what’s happened. It’s an amazing, elegant page and shows just how good the creative team are. Breitweiser’s colours in particular are impressive throughout but genuinely amazing here.
Rounded out by an essay by Devin Faraci on the tragic Hollywood history of Peg Entwistle, this is an amazing opening issue from a truly amazing group of creators. Endlessly confident, gripping and assured this is modern western comics at its best. Go buy it.