Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Eric Stephenson, Fonografiks, Image, Jordie Bellaire, Loog, Maisie, Simon Gane, Syd, The Voice
Syd wants the voices in her head to stop. After an unsuccessful suicide attempt, she’s broken out of hospital by a stern young man in a good suit who calls himself The Voice. He explains that she isn’t crazy and never has been. Syd’s a telepath and The Voice, along with the group of people he lives with, are all like her. Gifted, unique and seething with rage. They live in a world that hates and fears them and they don’t care. But, as Syd finds out, living with them has a price. One that involves murder…
Eric Stephenson’s work is always clever and always, for me, cold and this is no exception. However, what marks this out as something unique both in his canon and the field itself is the way in which Stephenson dissects the central concepts of the book. It’s easy to describe this as what the X-Men would look like if they’d been created post Tumblr and there’s something to that but there’s also a lot more going on here. Stephenson codes the horror and aimlessness of twentysomething life into the book, couples it with the anti-establishment rage the X-Men work so hard to tamp down and then questions every single thing every character knows. They’re all gifted, all unique and none of them know what to do. They follow The Voice as much because it’s the best option as out of choice and as the book goes on we’re shown just what that entails.
Even then, Stephenson grounds his characters and makes even their most horrifying actions understandable. They’re all victims, all people who’ve been horribly treated by the very parts of society that should protect them and their anger is justified even if their actions aren’t. The book’s best chapters are the closing ones, exploring the horrific past of The Voice and placing Syd in the one position she doesn’t want to be in. The insidious, creeping tension in those chapters is incredible and there’s a sense of Syd being well and truly through the looking glass even as we find out The Voice may not be quite as trustworthy as he first appears.
It’s a complex, ambitious story that Stephenson nails every single beat of and the art is there with the script every step of the way. Gane’s style is a little scratchy, a little nervous and it’s a perfect fit for the tone of the story. Small character beats, like the sweet natured Loog chatting about music or Maisie’s conflicted relationship with her abilities are brought to life with delicacy and realism while the fight scenes are ugly, untidy and enthusiastic. It’s helped immensely by Bellaire’s typically great colour choices too. The sequences where the group’s telepaths communicate are especially good, Bellaire using colour shifts to show who can perceive what and subtly isolating the group from the people who they prey on and who, in the past, have preyed on them. It’s intensely clever, subtle work and it’s rounded out by Fonografiks’ typically impressive lettering.
This is a tough, no holds barred book that seethes with energy and rage. It’s also the most interesting take on this idea in years. Morally ambiguous, brutal and still deeply compassionate it’s essential reading and available now.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Battleworld, Captain America, Charles Soule, Civil War, Gerry Alanguilan, Iron Man, Leinil Francis Yu, Secret Wars, Steve Rogers, Sunny Gho, Tony STark, VC's Joe Sabino
Pencils by Leinil Francis Yu
Inks by Gerry Alanguilan
Colours by Sunny Gho
Letters by VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover by Leinil Francis Yu & Sunny Gho
Published by Marvel
Six years ago, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark went to war. The Superhero Registration Act and the Fifty States Initiative combined to promise a brave new world of licensed, government trained and protected superheroes. But that world’s dark side was too much for Rogers and civil war broke out between the Avengers. It was brought to a halt, originally, by Rogers realizing the damage they were causing and surrendering.
But that was before Battleworld…
If there was a Marvel event made for Charles Soule to play with, it was Civil War. The fascinating legal issues that the original series raised (And, towards the end, shoved to one side) are ample fodder for Soule’s legal experience and detail-oriented writing and this sits with Carol Corps and Marvel Zombies as one of the best Secret Wars series to date. The reason for that is, on the script side, due to Soule’s exploration of the effects of deadlock and what happens when a war doesn’t so much end as stagger to a pause.
There are two scenes here, very clearly designed as bookends, that tell you just how finely balanced this world is. They both feature a young superhuman exhibiting their powers and being talked down by a member of the armed forces. On the Blue’s side, run by Captain America, it’s stature. On The Iron’s side, run by Tony Stark, it’s Carol Danvers. Both scenes are gentle, kind moments that see veterans pass their wisdom onto the young. Both scenes finish with hanging questions. Both scenes make it clear neither side is blameless. It’s a subtle, effective storytelling technique that echoes up and down the book. From the bridge where the peace talks are held to the different heroes holding positions in each army, Soule continually plays with expectation. There’s a cameo from one character that I was particularly happy to see and a take on Spider-Man that honours the approach taken in the original series but, bluntly, works much better than that ever did. It’s an immensely clever, heartfelt script that never loses sight of the people in the middle of these events, or the price they pay for being there.
The art takes each one of those themes and elements and builds on it. Yu’s gravelly precision is exactly the style needed here and the two generals in particular look great; Rogers a mass of green fatigues and anger, Stark still in a suit but carrying a lot more grey hair. All the characters look like they’ve been through the wringer but all of them also look like they’ve evolved. This is what the world would look had the Civil War ended disastrously and the pain of that battle is etched on every face Yu shows us. Alanguilan’s inks add to that tight, weary feel and give the world a slightly desolate, blasted look that suits it to a tee. Finally, Gho’s colour work not only drives that home but gives each character a unique signature. Rogers’ uniform, Tony’s suit, the armour worn by their forces. All of it feels lived in and worn and real. Finally, Sabino’s lettering deals with a lot of information with absolute ease, keeping you in the middle of the two armies and the two immense egos driving them.
This feels like a Greek tragedy with added punching. It’s an immensely successful, confident open to what was arguably one of the stickiest wickets in the entire Secret Wars run, raising serious questions about all the characters we meet and setting up a hell of a mystery. If you were looking for a Secret Wars title to try, try this one.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Adriano Lucas, Cyborg, David F. Walker, DC, Ivan Reis, JLA, Joe Prado, Rob Leigh, Sarah, Vic Stone
Art by Ivan Reis
Inks by Joe Prado
Colours by Adriano Lucas
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Reis, Prado and Lucas
Published by DC
Vic Stone died two days ago. It suckd. What didn’t suck was getting back up again. The only question is…how?
Cyborg is a big part of the DC Movie universe we’ve got coming down the line so it makes sense for him to be a little more front and centre in the comics. He’s a vital part of the current run on JLA (And not a part that hates criminals because they’re poor either! Win!) and with this, gets his first solo series in a while. And it’s really good too.
David F.Walker’s script gives Vic the one character trait you’d never expect but the one that makes the most sense; calm. He’s a gentle, laid back funny guy who walks his father and colleagues through his horrifying death and makes jokes as he does it. It’s not making light of it either, Vic is genuinely less concerned about having died than he is about registering as something other than a new project to his father. It’s an interesting, subtle take that implies that the years and years of upgrades have if not divorced Vic from his emotions certainly allowed him to keep them at arm’s length. There are some hints as to just why dropped into the issue and the overall story promises a lot of exploration of his mindset especially his complex relationship with his dad. I look forward to it too. Vic’s a unique character in the DCU and one whose perspective deserves a lot more exploration. He’s, unlike so many of his colleagues, completely at peace with himself and it’ll be really interesting to see how Walker’s script challenges that peace.
The art side of things sees Ivan Reis bring the book the exact style it needs. Every line is clean and crisp but there’s fluidity to the designs, especially the nightmarish alien threat that Vic seems to have attracted the attention of. Nothing feels clunky or forced, and the character work is especially great, in particular the scenes between Vic and close friend Sarah. The technology never swallows the man, or the people around him, and that grounds the book in the exact way it needs. Lucas’ colours are really impressive too, especially during the holographic re-enactment of Vic’s death. Prado’s inks help a lot too, throwing stark shadows and hard lines when needed to show us the machine-tooled, emotionless lab of Vic’s father and how badly he fits into it. Leigh’s lettering closes the book’s circuits and walks you round complex pages, and different species’ voices, without ever feeling like you’re being dragged.
This is an instantly likable take on the character backed by great art, a rock solid premise and the exact balance of man and machine that makes Vic Stone so compelling. Cyborg’s deserved a great book for a while. This is it.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Beyond Thunderdome, DC/Vertigo, Furiosa, Fury Road, Immortan Joe, Imperator Furiosa, Mad Max, Mark Sexton, Max, Nico Lathouris, Nux, The Road Warrior, Tommy Lee Edwards
Script by Mark Sexton & Nico Lathouris
Art by Mark Sexton
Cover by Tommy Lee Edwards
Published by DC/Vertigo
There are two facts you need to remember reading this. The first is that Fury Road is an extraordinarily good piece of filmmaking, not to mention conclusive proof that if you leave a sequel to marinade for three decades it will be exponentially better than something you knock out in eight months or so.
Secondly, the Fury Road tie in comics have come in for a lot of very valid criticism. The Furiosa special took a lot of flak for the line it took with regards to both the Brides and Furiosa. You can read some of that criticism, and the extremely valid points it raises, over here.
So with that in mind it’s a little bitter sweet to say that this is really good. Sweet because it’s a remarkably effective bridging manoeuvre between the movies, all of them, and Fury Road. Bitter because Max is much, much better served on the page than Furiosa was.
Sexton’s art is exactly the sort of feverish, grainy combination of information and silence that Max’s story demands. The clean lines and colour work combines with a frantic scatter of panels to map he collapse of civilization to the collapse of Max’s life. Each movie is given the same double page treatment and the images are often both beautiful and horrifying. The children from Thunderdome standing on the tail of their downed plane turned home and the final image of Max walking off into the sunset in particular. The tonal shift from that to the burnt reds and oranges of Gastown are sharp and instant but there’s the same kinetic flow to the art. This is a hot, burnt desolate world where violence is baked into the environment every page pummels that point home.
The plot lands the follow up punch, seeing Max enter a very different Thunderdome to find something he desperately needs. Far more of a brawl than the stratified, bungie Samurai battles of its first appearance, it’s a neat tie back to the previous movies. It’s also a chance to explore Gastown, a far more chaotic, crammed place than the Citadel. More importantly, it shows just how broken Max is pre-Fury Road, a man fully willing to brutally murder other people for an engine. Fighting not for his heart but the heart of the one thing he has left.
What’s really interesting is what happens in the last few pages. A second character arrives who could be someone we’ve seen before but the timing doesn’t seem to quite line up. Who it is remains to be seen but she’s an interesting addition and gives Max the one thing he wants but doesn’t think he deserves; company.
Lathouris and Sexton do a great job here, as does Sexton on the art. It feels like it should; a story that sits between Thunderdome and Fury Road and honours both. If you loved the movies, then pick this up. If you were burnt by the Furiosa special, this is much better but, honestly, that fact won’t help.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Breaker's Yard, Bridgid, Declan Shalvey, Image, Injection, Maria Kilbride, Robin, Sim, Viv, Warren Ellis
Art by Declan Shalvey
Colours by Jordie Bellaire
Lettering & Design by Fonografiks
The members of 3C continue to struggle with the consequences of what they found, and what they did. Brigid finds herselve getting an unwelcome visit, Robin and Maria discuss the differences between science and magic and we get our first good luck at what the Injection’s done. Even as it gets a good look at Robin…
Well on the way to being my Book of the Year, Injection hits its third issue and things begin to unfold. We get a brief look at 3C’s past, get a really good idea of what the Breaker’s Yard isand a sense of how the team are dealing with what they’ve done. Better still, we get a solid look at what they’ve done in a sequence that’s truly chilling. On the phone with Maria, Robin’s reality begins to break down and become something…else. A wild hunt, feral life growing through his hotel room and embodying itself. He confronts, and dismisses it, in a double page splash that’s one of the most precise and powerful pieces of comics you’ll see this year. It’s the literal battle line between fantasy and reality being drawn and Shalvey, and Bellaire’s bleak colours, show you just how permeable that line is.
And that line is what defines the series. The best moment here, again absolutely embodied by Shalvey’s art and the clinical colour scheme Bellaire uses, sees Maria’s internal monologue become external. In a panel we get a clear view of the tension between her and Robin, the two schools of thought they embody, the professional jealousy she feels and just how much stress she’s under. It’s a stunning moment precisely because it’s so simple and marks this issue out as a major gear change for the series. Up to now it’s been great but, with the plot beginning to unfold and the characters under ever increasing pressure, it’s becoming unmissable. Pick this, and the first two issues, up now.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: America, Craig Yeung, G. Willow Wilson, Jorge Molina, Laura Martin, Marguerite Bennet, Marvel, Medusa, Secret Wars, She-Hulk, VC's Cory Pettit, Walden Wong
Written by Marguerite Bennett & G. Willow Wilson
Pencils by Jorge Molina
Inks by Craig Yeung & Walden Wong
Colours by Laura Martin
Letters by VC’s Cory Pettit
Published by Marvel
In the wake of America’s banishment to the Shield, Nico brings the mysterious new girl into the fold. At the same time, She-Hulk and A-Force discover just what’s been causing the strange events on the island and Medusa begins to make her power play.
Secret Wars as an event is doing a really good job of telling coherent stories that echo up and down each other but exist in isolation. A-Force is a great example; the defining choice of the book so far being America’s banishment to the Shield and its consequences. In this issue we see the fractionation that causes amongst A-Force, both with Nico and Medusa starting to push back against She-Hulk’s reign. It’s a really smart call and one that Wilson and Bennett pull off without diminishing any of the three women involved. Jen’s as unhappy as anyone else about what happened but has larger problems to deal with. Nico, heartbroken over the loss of her foster sister finds someone new to protect and define herself against while Medusa is clearly having difficulty not being in charge. None of them are diminished, none of them are cheap villains and all of them having entirely understandable viewpoints. It’s complex, character-driven stuff and while the Medusa/She-Hulk fight definitely seems to be coming, when it arrives it’ll be far more than an empty slugfest. This is a book about how you rule as much as why you do and there’s going to be some heavy context and ideology behind the punches, once they get thrown.
But it’s also a book that, like the best Secret Wars stories, is about what happens when the world begins to fall apart. The portals into Arcadia are the first indication of Doom’s will and control slipping while the arrival of Captain Marvel over in the main book raises some interesting questions about the two versions of Carol we’ve met so far, here and in Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps. The question of who’s the ‘real’ one isn’t central to the book but its there for those who want to see it. That, Medusa’s discontent and Jen’s own growing issues with Doom all speak to the instability of Battleworld as an idea and a location. The end is starting and A-Force look to be front and centre in the coming war.
But for all this, it’s the little moments of affection and respect that really register. A-Force’s effortless takedown of the latest threat is an almost balletic action scene that shows just how good these characters are at working together. There’s tremendous respect and affection as the foundation for this team and Bennett and Wilson never forget that. The best panel in the comic is one of Carol, Jen and Dazzler, looking up at the latest threat, getting ready to face it. They’re holding hands as they do, and that simple gesture of unity is the most poignant moment in the book.
As you can see there’s a lot going on here, and all of it’s good. The script is top notch and Molina’s art is subtle, character-centred and just as able to raise Hell as A-Force themselves. Yeung and Wong’s inks give welcome, grounded detail to Molina’s excellent art and Martin’s colours are naturalistic and subtle. Along with Pettit’s letters and Wilson and Bennett’s script they make this a great second issue for one of the best new books on the shelves. Pick it up.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Colin Bell, Curt Pires, Dave Rubin, David Rubin, Michael Garland
Written by Curt Pires
Illustrated by David Rubin
Colors by Michael Garland
Letters by Colin Bell
Cover by David Rubin
Published by Boom!
Fifteen years ago, Tyler, Tsang, Kassie and Max hid in the attic while their various parents argued. Something was coming, something their parents were unable to agree on how to deal with.
Something that found the teenagers instead.
The four were lost in an infinity of feral stories for as long as they wanted to be. Then, one day, they came home. Most of them.
Now the stories want them back.
Few books on the shelves are more chilling, or elegantly put together. Pires’ script takes the ‘life in a book’ idea and turns it into something that maps the wilds of the imagination into dangerous reality. That by itself would be interesting. What makes the book sing is what happens when they come back. Pires uses the ability comic pages have to accelerate time to tell a huge story in a small space and then smash cut to the present day. There’s this glorious, Edgar Wright-esque page of nine panels following Kassie through the sprint of adult life that tells you everything you need to know and is a beautiful contrast to the sprawling layouts of the fictionspace pages. That motif is repeated through the book and the gear shifting neatly keys you in to the two different time frames, to say nothing of how unhappy the adult leads are.
Rubin’s art is required to do a lot with a script like this and it nails every single thing asked of it. The adult pages are precise and loud and mildly feverish while the fictionspace pages slant and shift at the whim of the same imagination that defines and imprisons the kids. It’s immensely impressive, award-worthy stuff and it’s matched by Garland and Bell’s work. Garland’s colours are vibrant when needed, muted when not and deal with three different time periods with ease, never letting the book’s tone fade into the background. Bell’s lettering is extraordinarily good, and the entrance to fictionspace in particular is both deeply disturbing and utterly dependent on his work. Like everything else here, it’s a perfect fit.
This is an amazingly smart, confident, well produced book. It’s crammed with ideas, ambition and story, all feral and all utterly deserving of your attention. Brilliantly unsettling and unsettlingly brilliant stuff.