Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: batman, Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, Bruce Wayne, Dave McCaig, DC, Geyser, Gotham Academy, Gotham City, Karl Kerschl, Steve Wands
Written by Becky CLoonan and Brenden Fletcher
Art by Karl Kerschl
Colours by Geyser with Dave McCaig
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Karl Kerschl
Published by DC
Olive Silverlock is about to enter her second year at Gotham Academy. Olive has just been given a first year student to look after ‘Maps’ Mizoguchi is all enthusiasm and no filter. Maps is also the younger sister of Olive’s sort-of former ex boyfriend. The year is not off to the best start…
Cloonan and Fletcher do two really smart things here. The first is lay out the Academy in a manner that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever read a school story; a stern headmaster, a mean kid, a trouble-maker and so on. That gives it a very different feel to the usual Bat books but also establishes the book in a manner that will feel very familiar to its audience. This is new ground for Gotham, and feels like it, but at the same time it’s reassuringly familiar.
The second really smart thing they do is massively compress Olive’s learning curve. She’s clearly traumatized, over and above the horrors of adolescence, and spends the first half of the issue being deeply unpleasant to her friends as a result. In other media, this would be her arc for the entire series as she gradually gets over her issues. Here she’s figured out what she’s doing and corrected it by the middle of the issue. It’s a smart move by a smart character and sets Olive and Map up as the central double act exploring this very odd, possibly very dangerous school.
Kerschl shows us around the school and does an astounding job. One double page spread features highlighted panels showing us different classes whilst an action beat involving the bell tower uses extreme perspective to huge effect. The panel layouts are never standard, always innovative and always a pleasure to read. Geyser and McCaig’s deep colour scheme also does wonders or the book, especially the sunset the bell tower sequence happens against. Finally, Wands’ lettering is exuberant and kinetic, giving you not just character but tone as well.
There is no other Batbook like this. It’s exuberant, beautiful to look at and packed with action, character and fun. Ring the bell, school’s in
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Dynamite, Elizabeth Bathory, Ferenc, Fritz Casa, Ivan Nunes, Jay Anacleto, Kirsty Swan, Mark Roberts, Marshall Dillon, Troy Brownfield
Written by Troy Brownfield
Illustrated by Fritz Casas
Coloured by Mark Roberts (Pages 1-9) and Kirsty Swan (Pages 10-22)
Lettered by Marshall Dillon
Main Cover by Jay Anacleto and Ivan Nunes
Published by Dynamite
There are certain expectations when you write about the Countess Bathory. This book takes great delight in ignoring all of them and the end result is immensely good fun. Brownfield’s script plays far more like an unusually grounded novel than the schlockathon the presentation promises. Elizabeth is a healer, called to heal the King’s daughter. She’s clever, witty, principled and clearly part of a greater plan. She clearly has both doubts about that and about how she fits in at court and that level of uncertainty is what makes it fascinating. Both Elizabeth and Ferenc, the knight she’s brought in by, are so much more than their stereotypes. She’s an extremely intelligent, political, compassionate figure whilst he’s a dutiful soldier who’s not entirely certain that duty is being pointed in the right direction. Brownfield’s script is subtle and nuanced, teasing this out without ever having, or needing, to be explicit. The ending too is wonderfully ambiguous and remarkably complete, marking this out as almost a pilot episode. If you’re intrigued, there’ll be more. If you aren’t, you still get closure. Everybody wins. Especially, it seems, Elizabeth…
Casas’ art is a huge part of why the book works, and shares Brownfield’s grounded approach. The opening murder, and final fight, are where he really cuts loose though and they’re crammed full of action and gore, both of which have real weight and impact to them. Roberts’ colour work on the opening half really makes the opening scene something special (And horrible too) whilst Swan’s closing work both mirrors it and gives the book’s external scenes a welcome, brighter feel. Rounded out by excellent lettering from Dillon this is a book that’ll confound your expectations in the best way. The reign of the Blood Queen is off to a very good start.
Written and illustrated by George Joy
Published by MindStain
Available at Thought Bubble
Cogs and Caves won’t take you long to read, and has actually been designed to be given away with jewellery. It’s a micro comic made up of photos and manipulated art. You’ll read it in around a minute. It’ll stay with you long past that.
It’s the story of the other race on Earth, born of silicates rather than carbon. Slow, precise and ageless they built a culture before we did and sheltered us. In doing so, they changed us forever and, inadvertently, led to the splitting of their own species.
It’s a beautiful book combining photo montages with cave art and some iconography that’ll be very familiar to anyone who’s read a little about prehistory. The art and the words drive and comment on each other in a way that’s as elegant as it is poignant and Joy has carefully designed each page to not only tell the story but show you the world behind it. It’s the writing that will stay with you, a simple, short story that takes you through remarkable emotional territory and ends with a note that’s quietly, almost desperately hopeful.
Not big, not especially lengthy but as dense and stratified as the race it talks about, Remnants is a haunting example of indie comics at their best. Highly recommended.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Becka Kinzie, Chip Zdarsky, Cumworld, Drew Gill, Jon, Kegelface, matt fraction, Myrtle Spurge, Rach, Sex Criminals, Sex Police, Suzy, The Quiet, Thomas K
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Chip Zdarsky
Colour Flatting by Becka Kinzie
Editing by Thomas K
Production by Drew Gill
Published by Image
Suzy and Jon are a thing. Suzy and Jon also have a Thing. A Thing that’s completely unlike anything else they’ve ever had. When they orgasm, time slows way down. Suzy calls it The Quiet. Jon calls it Cumworld.
They use Suzy’s name. It’s cooler.
They also, sort of, commit crimes. And date. And their lives are far more complicated than they were expecting because it turns out? They’re not the only ones who can access The Quiet.
Sex Criminals careens merrily into its second six months with a look at Suzy’s present, Jon’s past and their future. Suzy’s present actually looks pretty good too, reunited with best friend Rach and able to trust her enough to let her in on their secret. The pair have an easy, very funny back and forth rapport and Suzy’s method of proving her ability is real is Rach’s suggestion, immensely immature and very funny. It’s a sweet scene that leads directly to a look at just how messed up Jon is.
This book excels at major tonal gearshifts and there are two here. The first is in Jon’s flashback, which goes from the sort of adolescent wish fulfillment having abilities like his would cause to a sudden, horrific realization of just what he’s being sculpted into. Jon has a moment in this issue where everything that’s happened to him, his crappy childhood, his apparent liberation via his powers, his hormones and the total lack of expectations on him combine and he realizes what he may be becoming. It’s a realization that would crush a weaker person but his strength, and self-awareness, allow him to stop becoming a monster. That would be impressive writing in and of itself but coupled with his inability to move past those behaviors, it’s extraordinary writing. This is subtle nuanced character work on a scale you don’t normally see. Anywhere. The fact that a few pages later he’s beating the crap out of someone with a double ended, six foot long dildo does nothing to diminish the scene either.
That’s the second major gearshift and again, it works beautifully. Jon’s fight scene is a masterpiece of action and crappy, untrained scuffling that also reinforces the previous scene. He gets in trouble because he’s always got away with stuff before. That trouble has now, at last, led back to Suzy (And Rach) and provided all three with answers as well as a serious threat. They aren’t alone in The Quiet, and Jon has just started a war. That war and what it does to them will be the biggest test they and the book have faced so far.
On the art side of things, Zdarsky and Becka Kinzie continue to do phenomenally good work. Zdarsky’s characters work is extraordinary because he has such a remarkable eye for the ordinary. These are normal looking people doing abnormal things and the two elements build each other up to give the book an utterly unique feel. The pages are all smartly laid out and dense in a way that doesn’t feel heavy and knows when to stand back from the script. The lettering is chatty and leads you round the page and the characters’ thought processes are all there on the page. It’s amazingly good work all around and ties off another really strong issue of one of the breakout hits of the year. Clever, melancholy, deeply weird and magnificently filthy stuff.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Cefalu, Chenglei, Eligia, Fonografiks, Image, Jason Howard, Tree, Trees, Uncle, Warren Ellis, Zhen
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Jason Howard
Letters by Fonografiks
Published by Image
There are three images in this book that are about as close to perfect comic panels as you’ll get. The first is the Arctic rover, covered in small blooms with the immense Trees behind it. It’s dropped into the middle of a really sweet, and very funny, scene between Chenglei and his uncle. Chenglei is in the middle of the existential crisis everyone but him knew was coming following his spectacular sexual awakening in the last issue. The entire scene is joyous, Uncle simultaneously mocking Chenglei and being desperately sweet to him in a way that the younger man doesn’t quite notice. Ellis is an author best known for expansive dialogue and creative violence but he writes people better than very nearly everyone else on the planet. This scene shows how and why and also gives Howard a perfect walk-off closing joke that he, and Uncle, absolutely nail.
The second image is in the second plot, returning to Eligia in Cefalu, Italy. Her world is far darker and far more enclosed than Chenglei’s and Howard’s work reflects that with a change in colour and atmosphere. The power dynamics here are very complex as Eligia gently worms information out of her idiot, fascist boyfriend. The perfect image comes at the end of one of these scenes, where she excuses herself to go for a cigarette. In the background her boyfriend is ordering another drink whilst in the foreground, Eligia lets her mask slip and strides off page with total focus, anger in every line of her body.
The third image returns to Chenglei and Zhen and again, bookends a fantastic scene. The pair do the emotional algebra on their relationship with brutal honesty and Ellis and Howard are on top form as the pair work through their own preconceptions. Howard has an eye for gesture and emotion that matches Ellis’ ear for dialogue and the scene is heartfelt, open and very, very sweet. The image it closes with is is anything but; a sweet bisexual young man and his transsexual girlfriend kissing as a drone flies past outside. It’s a perfect visual metaphor for the series; humanity in the raw, the emotional, complex lives of people under threat from the naïve, terrified thinking of governments still reeling from the Trees’ arrival.
This is one of the quietest series Warren Ellis has ever written and, I’d argue, one of the very best. Combined with Howard’s gorgeous, detailed style and Fonografiks’ subtle, effective lettering, his script puts humans front and centre in a way a lot of science fiction tries and fails to do. Phenomenally good, different, interesting work. Track it and the other issues down now.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Adrian Alphona, Atilan, Black Bolt, Bruno, Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers, Edison, G. Willow Wilson, Ian Herring, Infinity, Inhumans, Jamie Mckelvie, Kamala, Kamala Khan, Lockjaw, Marvel, Matthew Wilson, Medusa, Ms. Marvel, Terrigen bomb, Terrigen Mists, VCs Joe Caramagna, Vinatos
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by Adrian Alphona
Colour art by Ian Herring
Lettering by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover by Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson
Published by Marvel
I talk a lot about Ms Marvel and there are three big reasons for that. The first is that it’s brilliant, a colossally smart, funny sweet superhero book unlike anything that’s gone before. The second is that it, along with Captain Marvel, She-Hulk and the other female-led Marvel books is going a long way towards forcibly rowing the company, and a big chunk of the industry, towards far more diverse, interesting and sustainable waters. The third reason is that even with a breakout success like this (A 7th printing of issue 1 is on the way which, if not unprecedented, certainly follows unprecedented on twitter) it’s possible people haven’t heard of it. Every issue is someone’s first so, let’s take a look at this one and see what we’ve got.
Kamala Khan is a New Jersey teenager and the biggest Captain Marvel fan on the planet. In the closing stages of Infinity, the last but one (And really very good) Marvel crossover, the Inhuman city of Atilan was being overrun. Black Bolt, King of the Inhumans, detonated the Terrigen bomb which spread the mists that trigger Inhumans out across the planet. Anyone with alien DNA in their ancestry was changed by exposure to the mists and, now, the Inhumans are functionally a second species, scattered worldwide.
And in Jersey.
Kamala’s abilities manifested as shape changing and mass control. Normally when someone’s abilities trigger there’s a period of trauma and recovery.Kamala Khan is a superhero fan, a gamer and a geek.
She’s GOT this.
So by this issue she’s gained a costume, a sidekick (Sort of),an arch nemesis (A really weird arch nemesis) and had her first legitimate team up, with Wolverine. Logan, in his final days, realized what had given Kamala her powers and quietly reached out to Medusa, the Queen of the Inhumans. Medusa did what any sensible ruler would do; sent her colossal teleporting hyper intelligent bulldog to help Kamala.
I did mention I loved this book, yes?
This issue is a perfect example of why. Wilson balances character, humour and plot with total ease, as Kamala fights a giant robot, is told the truth about her genetic heritage and not unreasonably is knocked on her ass by it. Wilson’s one of those writers talented enough to under write and Kamala’s slightly numb reaction, as well as her friend Bruno’s gentle takedown of it is both well written and really sweet. Where she’s from doesn’t matter. Who she is does. Plus, Wilson keeps it nicely ambiguous as to whether Kamala’s rebelling against Medusa’s orders is actually a rebellion or exactly what the monarch wants. There’s a complexity and refusal to let anyone off easily here and the final few pages embody that very neatly. Kamala may be a hero but that means she gets to make the tough choices whether she wants to or not.
On the art side of things, Alphona’s broad, friendly style is exactly what the books and his Lockjaw in particular is a colossal mouthed, inherently doggish delight. Herring’s colour art continues to be vibrant and beautiful whilst Caramagna’s lettering does everything right. Wrapped up in an excellent McKelvie and Wilson cover this is another fantastic issue in a strong contender for series of the year. Completely recommended.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: 7String, Afterlife Inc, Ash Jackson, Jack FOrtune, Jon Lock, Lars Troubleclef, Michael Stock, Nathan Ashworth, Nich Angell, Zachary Briarpath
Written by Jon Lock
Art by Nich Angell
Additional art by Ash Jackson and Nathan Ashworth
Letters by Michael Stock
Afterlife Inc is the company that ensures your eternity doesn’t feel like forever. Or rather, like a deeply rubbish forever. Run by Jack Fortune, a recently dead conman with a silver tongue and a prehensile tie, Afterlife Inc has more than their fair share of problems. The most recent of which is Zachary Briarpatch, a young man from a world where music and passion are deadly weapons. The wielder of the 7String guitar sword, Zachary is on a mission of vengeance to destroy Lars Troubleclef, the would-be dictator of Zachary’s world.
Then there’s Requiem. Who wants to conduct the final music for both of them…
This is one of those crossovers that does six impossible things before breakfast. First off it’s a coherent story from the point of view of both sets of characters, secondly it’s a perfect introduction to both and thirdly it introduces a major new force, Requiem to threaten both of them. Fourthly, it’s a perfect meshing of Lock’s laconic, slightly Matter of Life and Death-esque writing style and Angell’s clean, precise lined martial artistry (And I mean that in the ink way, not the punchy/throwy way). Fifthly it manages to do the ‘huge misunderstanding and fight followed by team up’ in a way which doesn’t feel like box ticking and finally it’s crammed with wit, energy and fun.
Like I said, six impossible things. The standouts for me are the wonderful double page spread that features both casts and the way the two casts collide. Afterlife Inc have near infinite resources and a remarkably relazed attitude to death. After all, it has already happened. Zachary on the other hand is a grim, vengeance seeking samurai and his single-minded purpose punctures Afterlife Inc’s mild arrogance to hugely entertaining effect.
Both sets of characters are in other books, 7String and Afterlife Inc respectively and you should absolutely pick them up but honestly? I’d start here. Firstly because it’s a fun, tight, action packed story whose second part is going to launch at Thought Bubble next month and secondly because it’s a great on ramp for both series. Energetic, smart, and huge fun. Comics with guitars have never sounded or looked this good before.