First up, here’s a gorgeous piece of art from Afterlife With Archie that will be on the next Overstreet Guide:
Thanks to the Archie team for passing that on. And now, comics!
Avengers Undercover #1
Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker follow up Avengers Arena with the survivors. None of whom, as you may have guessed, are adapting terribly well to life after killing their friends. The ongoing theme here is the callousness of celebrity and the distance a TV screen puts between us and the people going through the actual events, and Hopeless pays it off well. Walker’s solid art helps. Overall, it’s a pretty interesting book and worthy of future attention.
Captain Marvel #1
Kelly Sue DeConnick and David Lopez pick up Carol Danvers, galactic explorer. This issue is mostly setting up the larger plot, namely Danvers going into space, but Lopez’ art is attractive, and DeConnick works in a lot of small character moments, whether it’s Carol chatting with Kit or working out how she feels with Rhodey. Worth a read, especially for Danvers fans.
Secret Avengers #1
S.H.I.E.L.D. putting MODOK on a team is pretty much the perfect jumping-off point for Ales Kot and Michael Walsh. Kot, bless him, is a master of the smart-ass caption, something he puts to full use here as he manages to ramp up the stakes in both absurdity and plot. Also, the ante is upped on the Hawkblock, which is always a good thing. It’s a frantic, funny book and definitely worth a read. Highly recommended.
Monster And Madman #1
Steve Niles and Damien Worm attempt to cross over Frankenstein and Jack The Ripper. Niles actually doesn’t do a bad job with Frankenstein, as a character, but Worm spends a little too much time trying to Ben Templesmith and not quite succeeding. The muddy, dark color palette doesn’t help matters and in fact can make the book difficult to read. Still, an interesting idea, and a restrained script from Niles; worth picking up if you’re a fan.
The Crow: Pestilence #1
Frank Bill and Drew Moss deliver a story about a pro boxer coming back from the dead that is, to be honest, not the finest moment in this franchise. The writing is clunky and florid in equal measure; it’s the kind of book where the villains are all named [Adjective] Dog, and the dialogue is written as if the characters have English as a second language. Which, to be fair, some of them do, but the effect doesn’t work: Why would Mexicans living in Mexico not speak Spanish with each other? Moss’s art also doesn’t seem suited to the book; his art can be loose, but also elaborate, but the book is too bright to really generate the proper mood. Especially after The Crow: Curare, which had the masterstroke of the Crow bringing back somebody other than an action hero, this is something of a disappointment.
The Returning #1
Jason Starr and Andrea Mutti begin a book about “changers”, people who return from near-death experiences… and begin committing crimes. So, zombies, but sort of not. But while Starr’s characters are a bit stock at first, with the shy teenage girl and the jerk-ass jock, the book begins to get a little more interesting right when it drops a pretty nasty cliffhanger. I’m on the fence about this one, but it’s worth a read if you want something a bit off the beaten path.
Magnus: Robot Fighter #1
Fred Van Lente is usually notable for his lighthearted take on superheroics. Yeah. Not here. His reboot of a series better known for its art than its writing launches turns the Magnus “mythos”, such as it is, into something genuinely unnerving. The Gold Key reboots have all been interesting, but this one especially stands out. Cory Smith’s art is solid, albeit the coloring gives the game away a little early. Either way, this book is an unexpectedly good relaunch of a goofy cult property. Highly recommended.
Stray Bullets: Killers #1
David Lapham’s noir series returns with a new spin-off, and the decade-overdue issue #41. #41 polishes off an arc, so for those who want to get on this series, Lapham launched this. If you’ve never read an issue, this is one worth picking up: Lapham’s tight, clean art and economical storytelling makes this coming-of-age noir simultaneously absorbing and heartbreaking. It’s mature in a sense that most noir comics often aren’t, in that they deal with their characters sensitively and smartly, even when they’re bastards. A great read, and highly recommended.
Revolutionary War: Motormouth
Marvel’s tour through its British heroes arrives on Motormouth… who’s a single mom with two kids, living in a crappy council flat. To say this direction is… unexpected of Glenn Dakin is an understatement, but why he made that choice is cleverly shown throughout the book. This is a smart, well-done one-shot and worth picking up even if you don’t care about Marvel’s stiff upper Brits.
Beasts Of Burden: Hunters And Gatherers
Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson are back with the dogs and cats of Burden Hill, investigating yet another crime. Yes, there’s a bit of a trend of dog books on the stands lately, but Dorkin and Thompson have been working on this series for a while, and they’re willing to be gory where it matters and cute when its funny. This is largely a breather issue, filling in some continuity gaps, but it’s still a great read. Pick up a collection and start from the beginning, and read this along the way; it’s a treat.
Steve Niles and Menton3 deliver, well, you can guess from the title. This book collects the strip from Dark Horse Presents and honestly, it’s a bit disjointed, with the strip taking a turn for the ridiculous towards the end and with not so much a cliffhanger but an annoying unresolved opening and ending. But Menton3’s art is pretty to look at, at least; a mix of sharp lines and watercolor that makes for a distinctive and detailed style. This is generally the prelude to a miniseries, and we hope that’s a bit more well thought-out.
The X-Files: Conspiracy: The Crow
Denton Tipton and Vic Malhotra cross over the bleak vengeance-obsessed comics and, uh, the goofy nerds from The X-Files. As you may have guessed, it’s not really the best fit, although Tipton tries his hardest and Malhotra’s art is surprisingly effective in places. The main problem is that it’s a fairly forced and rushed story that has to cram a lot in, and the creative team doesn’t have time to play with all the ideas in the story. OK for fans, but not really worth picking up for those not following this crossover.