After a somewhat slow month, the comics industry delivers a pretty rich week. Reviews under the cut of books from DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, Boom! Studios, IDW Publishing, Valiant, and Dynamite.
Superman: Lois Lane #1
Lois Lane gets her own one-shot because… because…well, good question, honestly. Marguerite Bennett delivers a solid story about Lois and her badassery, albeit once again tied to what a screw-up her sister is, but there’s very little here to justify a one-shot. It’s OK, I suppose, but you’ll have trouble remembering what it’s about next week.
Revolutionary War: Super Soldiers #1
Marvel’s miniseries featuring their British heroes keeps going, this time with, well, super soldiers. Rob Williams’ script is actually an amusing goof on ’90s comics, to some degree, and Brent Anderson’s work is always a joy. A solid little one-shot worth reading if you’ve got the room on your sub list.
Fantastic Four #1
James Robinson, Leonard Kirk, and Karl Kesel relaunch the First Family of Marvel. It’s undeniably a “first issue” in the sense that it’s setting up plotlines, but it starts the way any FF comic should: With a giant monster fight. It’s a good start to what looks like a promising book.
One-Hit Wonder #1
If you’re going to write a book about a hitman, you need to do one of two things: Either mire him in a world where he’s the most likeable option, or make him one profoundly charismatic mofo. Fabrice Sapolsky’s script for this book unfortunately does neither; it mostly tries to riff on the joke in the title and the concept, and while the ideas are actually pretty clever, the main character is too thin and unappealing to make the book interesting, even with Ariel Olivetti handling the art.
The Revenge #1
A washed-up Hollywood star gets a second chance… only to find out his trophy wife is literally going to steal his identity. Honestly, this book is a surprising move from Image, awash as it is in gore and boobs. But while Ian Churchill does a vivid and bloodily surreal job with the art work, Jonathan Ross’s script is mostly hoping you’ll either be too distracted by gore and boobies to notice the plot’s a bit thin and stretched out. It’s fun for what it is, but it’s also not something you’ll feel compelled to read again.
Tomb Raider #1
Gail Simone and Nicolas Daniel Selma follow up on the story of one of the best games of last year with middling results. The problem is that Simone wrote a supernatural horror script tinted with the surreal, and it’s completely at odds with Selma’s undeniably well-rendered, but very grounded and clean artwork. The pieces don’t quite fit, a problem hopefully that will be addressed in future issues. Still, this is highly readable and well worth picking up; highly recommended.
King Conan: The Conqueror #1
Timothy Truman and Tomas Giorello continue their adaptation of Robert E. Howard with a chase story as everybody from Conan to local blackguards to Stygians try to get their hands on a magic gem. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s entertaining, and Giorello’s art is a ’70s throwback well suited to the material. A lot of fun for Conan fans.
Aron Warner, Philip Gelatt and Brett Weldele deliver a story about what seems to be misfits on a space station sent up to die. It’s not a bad plot, but Warner and Gelatt are so busy dropping hints and implying things that they don’t give us any time to care about the cast. It’s not a bad book but one hopes they’re going to spend a little more time making us care about the cast in the future. Worth reading if you want some offbeat SF.
A homicidal AI built into an android that looks like a van designer from the ’70s? What could possibly go wrong? Dan McDaid has a lot of fun with the art, here, and Tommy Lee Edwards and Noah Smith tone down the ’80s nostalgia enough that they have an actual plot instead of a string of references, admittedly a quite goofy one. It’s a solid book, but it may be a little too offbeat for some readers.
The Shadow: Masters Series #1
Andrew Helfer and Bill Sienkiewicz deliver a pretty engaging take on a pulp classic character in this reprint. Sienkiewicz’s art is, of course, a big draw here. Helfer’s script is overly wordy, but the story is interesting and Sienkiewicz really elevates the proceedings. Worth a look for pulp fans.
X-Files: Conspiracy: Transformers
Yes, they really crossed over both the Transformers and the X-Files. It’s a talky issue, unfortunately, with less action than there really should be. On the other hand, it also has Langley and Bumblebee screwing around and declaring each other ninja buddies. So it’s kind of hard to feel too unkindly towards it; if you love either property, or both, it’s worth picking up.
Ed Brisson and Emilio Lasio explain why, exactly, RoboCop was RoboCop and not RoboSoldier. The plot twist is unfortunately fairly predictable, but the book itself is fairly solid overall. Not essential reading, but a good addition to the mythology nonetheless.
Bloodshot And The H.A.R.D. Corps #0
Christos Gage and Joshua Dysart get into the history of Bloodshot and the H.A.R.D. Corps, with several different artists jumping over the decades. Each story is, in of itself, a hard look at the “meat grinder” that is H.A.R.D. Corps and it’s a surprisingly melancholy collection of stories. Highly recommended.
Serenity: Leaves On The Wind #2
Zack Whedon, Georges Jeanty, and Karl Story follow up their somewhat staid first issue with… well, at least a more dramatic followup. Truthfully, this is a book entirely for the fans, and while that’s not a bad thing, by the same token it means the staff takes a few things for granted. A solid issue, but, as I said, entirely for fans of the show.
Bryan J.L. Glass and Victor Santos continue their story of a worn-out child star turned superhero, and it’s actually become a strong superhero book in its own right. This issue is all about how screwed up Cadence Lark is, and how she got that way. It’s a pretty interesting story, and it’s something unique as it handles both its topic of how police and media might react to a superhero and its screwed-up heroine with a far lighter and more thoughtful touch than you might expect. Highly recommended.
Jackson Lanzing, Colin Kelly, and Marcus To continue their story of rich guys trying to change the world through hacking. The twists in this issue are pretty easy to see coming, but the concept is still pretty engaging. Marcus To’s art could stand to be a little more detailed and sharper, but overall, it’s a pretty well executed concept.
Dead Boy Detectives #3
Toby Litt, Mark Buckingham and Gary Eskine continue to push this book away from its Sandman roots, and that’s a strength. The current arc has steadily improved, and we’re looking forward to seeing where it goes once this current arc wraps up.
Halo: Escalation #3
Chris Schlerf, Sergio Arino, and Juan Castro & Jason Gorder continue the first ongoing in the Haloverse. It’s a fairly solid SF action book in its own right, although Schlerf’s scripts continue to remain limited by the plots of the games. It’s fun, though, and worth a read if you’re a fan of the game.
Steven Grant and Jose Holder continue their story of con-men and espionage. It’s a pretty solid action book, but nothing special, and Holder really could use an inker so he could focus more on his art; it’s a little too loose, although it’s well laid-out. Worth a read for fans of international intrigue.
Black Science #4
Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera continue to deliver a pulpy, violent and thoughtful story of alternate universes and personal flaws. It’s a superb book that I don’t want to spoil, so suffice to say, it’s worth picking up. Highly recommended.
Kieron Gillen and Ryan Kelly wrap up their lacerating reply to 300 with a strong final issue. This comic has been a smart book right from the start, but it’s also been consistently great throughout its run. Highly recommended.
Samurai Jack #5
Jim Zub and Andy Suriano continue their adaptation of the Cartoon Network cult series, and it continues to be great. It’s a mix of goofy comedy, action, and melancholy that really makes the book stand out; kids can read and enjoy it, but adults will also get a lot out of it as well. It’s simply a well-written, well-drawn book, with or without the license. Highly recommended.
The Wake #6
Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy pick up where the first five issues left off, a century or two into the future when fish men have sunk a fair amount of the world and are trying to sink more. If you haven’t been following this book, it’s actually a pretty good jumping-on point, and definitely worth checking out.
Five Weapons #7
Jimmie Robertson took a somewhat cliched concept, a high school full of assassins, and made it into a clever riff on outsmarting your opponent… but now Enrique, our hero, is being knocked off his game by Tyler, who knows him better than anybody and is trying to get him killed. This continues to be a clever, funny riff on the concept, and a gem of a book. Highly recommended.
Captain Midnight #8
Joshua Williamson and Fernando Dagnino actually mostly make this about a teleporting anti-hero, Helios, and set up the conflict this book has been building to since issue #1; Captain Midnight going after the time-traveling Nazis. It’s solid superheroics, but this book has consistently felt like it hasn’t quite hit upon what makes it different, and Helios being more interesting as a mercenary than Midnight as a square-jawed hero is a problem reflected by that. Still worth a read, but one hopes Dark Horse finds just where this book belongs in their line of superhero books soon.
Mass Effect: Foundation #8
Mac Walters and Tony Parker continue telling stories of the Mass Effect universe. They’ve gone into full prequel mode for Mass Effect 2, and it’s interesting, albeit we know how the story ends. But hey, if you like the games, it’s a lot of fun.
Fraction and Aja end this book on one hell of a cliffhanger, and that’s all we’re going to say, here. Buy it, you won’t be sorry. Highly recommended.
Mind MGMT #19
Matt Kindt’s wildly creative story of psychics and espionage continues, this time threading multiple stories through the issue with graphic design. It’s a great comic, as usual, and Kindt’s clever layout keeps it fresh and sharply draws a new character with depth and dimension while maintaining the larger plot. In short, Kindt knocks it out of the park again; highly recommended.
The Massive #20
Callum Israel is headed towards an inevitable confrontation in this book’s latest arc, but the real revelation is that Callum Israel might just have been played in ways he doesn’t understand. Brian Wood and Gary Brown deliver a tense drama that really is some of the best comics out there; highly recommended.
X-O Manowar #22
Robert Venditti, Cary Nord, and Vincente Cifuentes tell a story of Aric learning that this isn’t the Roman era, and what he wants comes with a price. As usual, Venditti has a thoughtful take on a sometimes oddball character, and it’s always worth reading at least once.