We quite literally begin 2014 with comics. Here’s a look at what’s on the stands this week.
A quick note: We’re off the actual First, and some of this week’s books are embargoed until then. So we’re posting what books we can review today, and the rest will go up early on the First. And now, to the comics!
Jonathan Maberry and Tyler Crook kick the year off right with a damn near perfect opening issue to this series. Trick is on his last legs; he has cancer, and he’s slowly dying. Then, after a vampire attack goes wrong, his friends are suddenly being targeted. Trick’s sole advantage? His blood is poison to vampires, and he intends to use it.
It’s a killer concept, but Maberry and Crook pay it off in the little details as well as the broad strokes. This book is touching and funny in places, horrific in others, and generally just a great read. Highly recommended.
I admit I went into this book with a bit of trepidation; the talent behind it, namely Toby Litt, Mark Buckingham, and Gary Erskine, is absolutely top notch, but recycling a Sandman concept for an ongoing seems to be a bad idea. Litt, though, makes it work by largely leaving the Sandman mythos out of it; not even Death makes an on-panel appearance, and Litt kicks it off with, of all things, an art heist. In short, a surprisingly fun read and an interesting start to the book.
Yep, another two-parter starring Lord Baltimore. As always, the plotting is fun enough, but it’s Ben Stenbeck’s art that makes the book. You can also read this without needing to read the other Baltimore books, which is a nice touch. Still, more for fans than anyone else.
David Lapham of Stray Bullets fame tries his hand at a story for tweens. The basic concept is that a small town’s kids fight off giant bugs. It sounds goofy, but it’s cleverly done; Lapham knows that condescending to kids is a great way to alienate them, but he easily handles making the book kid-friendly without making it dumb. A lot of light fun, and worth picking up.
Bill Willingham and Sergio Fernandez put all of Dynamite’s licensed characters into a steampunk alternate reality, in something you’ll find yourself wondering whether or not it was delayed a few years before publication. Willingham’s script is sturdy enough, but Fernandez’s character design is pretty much Steampunk Cliche 101 with an accompanying master class in Pin-Ups. It’s clean and detailed, but it feels faddish, at best. In short, unless you’re really into Dynamite or steampunk, this is one you can safely leave on the shelf.
Kiddie books starring adult characters are all the rage, so Dynamite… decides to give Roger Langridge Evil Ernie. And Langridge, as you might expect, runs with it, handing in a hilarious satire of the kiddie-book fad that’s actually a pretty solid book for kids in its own right. The first story especially takes a rather hilariously grotesque turn. This will probably outrage Evil Ernie fans, but for the rest of us, it’s a hoot.
J. Michael Straczynski and Guiu Vilanova deliver a sadly pretty conventional story that really doesn’t need the Twilight Zone name behind it. This doesn’t even feature Rod Serling in the introduction. It’s not a bad book, but the title writes a check the story can’t cash, and it doesn’t help that anybody remotely familiar with how the series works can peg what’ll happen in issue two, especially since Straczynski can’t even be bothered to hide the obvious twist that’s coming. It’s a disappointment, to say the least.
Paul Jenkins writes a Vatican conspiracy thriller. It’s an interesting idea, if perhaps one that’s been done before, but a few decisions made for this book are off. For one, Humberto Ramos is a talented artist, but his style doesn’t really seem to fit the tone of this book. Two, the book is so dialogue-heavy, the lettering becomes a bit cramped and hard to read. It’s a pretty good book, but one hopes it rights the ship a little bit with the upcoming issues.
Essentially this is the “official guide” to this alternate version of Star Wars. it’s a fun read to explore the process behind the mini, but nothing essential.
Is there anything more generic than the sequel to a prequel that’s really a sequel to a franchise that didn’t need that sequel in the first place. This book isn’t bad, if a little dialogue-heavy, but J. Michael Straczynski and Pete Woods don’t really do much with the franchise, and at twelve issues, it already feels somewhat padded.
These 2000 AD reprints continue and also continue to be… well… pretty dated. It’s not bad comics, for the time, but Dan Abnett and Andy Clarke have both done better work since. A fun nostalgia trip for British readers, perhaps, but little else. Here’s a preview to see what we mean.
Hoping that Gary Reed and Sami Makkonen’s second issue would be less impenetrable than the first? Nope, sorry. Again it’s not bad, but it’s aimed squarely at people who’ve read every Deadworld issue. Here’s a previews to show what we mean.
This book wraps up its Prison Ship Antares two-parter in decent style. Alex Di Campi shows off a bit more style than the last arc of the book, and Simon Fraser has a few witty moments that actually justify the goofier parts of this book. I’m still not entirely sold on the concept; being over-the-top for its own sake is still this book’s biggest problem. But this is still a good idea, well-executed, and thus worth reading.
Tim Seeley and Mike Norton pay off this mystical superhero book in many fun ways this issue. The idea is essentially Spidey meets Doctor Strange, but it’s so entertaining you’re really not going to care about originality. It’s worth checking out, and it’ll be interesting to see how it crosses over with other Black Sky books.
This mini comes to an…expected conclusion. Gerard Way, Shaun Simon and Becky Cloonan do manage to make the finale satisfying, and tie together this book’s plotlines, but it never quite took off the way it felt it was intended to. Still, it was a fun mini and I’ll miss it, a little bit. It’s worth picking up if you’ve been following the series.
Joe Casey’s anthology superhero book continues to be pretty compelling, although if there’s a weakness, it’s that the way the stories are paced, there’s always one that takes the lead over the other two. Here, Frank Wells has the most compelling moment, even though he doesn’t get the most pages. Still, a well-done book and something a little different for superhero fans.
Think Michael Avon Oeming’s story of superheroes and Illuminati can’t get weirder? Wanna bet? This actually isn’t a bad intro to the series, partially because it explains what the hell’s been going on for seven issues as the plot is a wee bit convoluted. But it’s still fun, and has become a superhero story in its own bizarre, trippy mold.
Christos Gage and Neil Googe deliver a gleefully inventive story about the Flash chasing a flying villain that uses superspeed in clever, semi-scientific ways. It’s well worth adding to your pile this week if you’re low on comics to read; it’s a fun one-and-done issue.
Jeff Parker and Paul Pelletier deliver a good old-fashioned Aquaman story, namely Orangeshirt fighting a giant sea monster. It’s nothing original, but it’s a fun, well-done little romp.
Marc Andreyko and Jeremy Haun have a tough crowd to play to, so they start it off a little modestly; there’s a hint of mystery in the opening, a light touch in the beginning, and a straight-up brawl to wrap up the book. It’s a lot of fun, and hopefully fans of the book’s former creative team will give this one a chance; they deserve it.