Boom! – Read About Comics http://www.readaboutcomics.com Where to find out what's really good. Mon, 16 Nov 2015 17:36:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.10 Herobear and the Kid Special #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2013/07/08/herobear-kid-special-1/ Mon, 08 Jul 2013 13:00:34 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=2497 By Mike Kunkel32 pages, black and white, with spot colorPublished by Boom! Studios

It’s been over a decade since Mike Kunkel’s original Herobear and the Kid comic was published. Running just five issues, it managed to make a huge splash as readers were wowed by the light story about a kid named Tyler and his [...]]]> By Mike Kunkel
32 pages, black and white, with spot color
Published by Boom! Studios

It’s been over a decade since Mike Kunkel’s original Herobear and the Kid comic was published. Running just five issues, it managed to make a huge splash as readers were wowed by the light story about a kid named Tyler and his stuffed bear that transforms into a superhero, as well as the animation-inspired art. Since then Kunkel’s had a couple of small projects here and there, but his comic book output has been few and far between. With a new Herobear and the Kid mini-series scheduled for later this summer, though, Kunkel and Boom! Studios are kicking off the comic’s return with a new one-shot to presumably draw in new readers.

The basic plot for Herobear and the Kid Special #1 is fairly simple; it’s school picture day and Tyler’s running late, and if that’s not bad enough, his trouble-sensing watch is going berserk. Before it’s done, Herobear and Tyler are fighting massive rubber duckies and an attempt to steal a boat full of antennae, all while trying to get back before the last snapshot is clicked at school. Throughout Herobear and the Kid Special #1, it feels like there are two different, distinct stories fighting each other trying to get out; Tyler and Herobear fighting crime, and Tyler trying to adjust with being a kid. With only one of these, though, does the book feel 100% successful.

I would cheerfully read an entire Herobear and the Kid comic where it’s just about Tyler trying to get through an everyday kid’s life, with the occasional assistance from the larger-than-life Herobear. Tyler’s Walter Mitty flight of fancy as he imagines swimming through the ocean while playing in his sheets is fun, and it’s that part that I think works well. In some ways it’s all very stereotypical—the school bullies, the geeky best friend, the beautiful love interest around whom Tyler is tongue-tied—but there’s a real charm to the way that Kunkel writes it. He has a light touch to his words, and there’s a certain joy that’s infused into every little moment of those scenes.

Less successful, though, is when Herobear and Tyler actually fight crime. It’s not bad, but it feels like a completely different comic that lacks the charm existing elsewhere. It’s at its best in that section when it’s Tyler and Herobear talking to one another; the "are you thinking what I’m thinking?" sequence, for instance, could have fit in just about anywhere within the comic so long as the final segment was tailored to fit wherever it needed to go. But when it comes time to fight an evil genius? Herobear and the Kid Special #1 loses a bit of the figurative spring in its step, and that’s a shame, because it’s merely good instead of great on those pages.

The art from Kunkel is great from start to finish, though. Tyler’s beaming face is hysterical, and I love Herobear’s big black nose that defines his face. Kunkel’s animation background is hard to miss here, with Tyler’s swim through his imaginary ocean feeling very energetic and easy to follow; you can almost feel him moving across the panels as he dives and kicks his way through them. Kunkel also uses the art to hit just the right punch lines for his jokes. Having an imaginary creature in a dream turn out to be the voice of a parent is hardly the most original moment, but Kunkel sells it by the disdainful look on the fish’s face as it says, "Your socks stink." That’s why it works so well, and in many ways it’s why even with some of the weaker parts of the comic, I’ll still cheerfully read.

"Remember your childhood?" is the tag line for Herobear and the Kid, one that’s used once more in the advertisement for Herobear and the Kid: The Inheritance #1. I’m pretty sure most of us didn’t actually have a childhood where we fought crime in anywhere but our imagination, though, and I’d love to see part of the book minimized over time. Until then, though, so long as we’ve got the sequences with Tyler just trying to survive being a kid? I’m in, and cheerfully.

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Adventure Time #5 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/07/16/adventure-time-5/ Mon, 16 Jul 2012 13:00:36 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=2347 Written by Ryan North, Paul Pope, Chris Roberson, and Georgia RobersonArt by Mike Holmes, Paul Pope, and Lucy Knisley24 pages, colorPublished by Boom! Studios

Boom! Studios’ wildly successful Adventure Time comic has been not just a good-seller, but enormously fun with its first four-issue storyline. With Adventure Time #5, though, Ryan North proves that he [...]]]> Written by Ryan North, Paul Pope, Chris Roberson, and Georgia Roberson
Art by Mike Holmes, Paul Pope, and Lucy Knisley
24 pages, color
Published by Boom! Studios

Boom! Studios’ wildly successful Adventure Time comic has been not just a good-seller, but enormously fun with its first four-issue storyline. With Adventure Time #5, though, Ryan North proves that he can tackle single-issue stories too. It’s a fun, meandering concept of an issue, with Finn and Jake competing to see who can walk in a straight line the longest in order to get a cupcake, but quickly turns into them encountering someone named "Adventure Tim" whose life seems suspiciously familiar to the duo. It’s a fun twist on the idea of an identical twin, and even as the story wanders off in different directions it never stops being entertaining. Mike Holmes takes over the art this issue and it’s another strong choice for the book, with that crisp, clean, animation-styled approach to the title.

And if that’s not enough… how about a little Paul Pope or Lucy Knisley art? Paul Pope writes and draws "Emit Erutnevda!!" which starts off with a magic hole that leads into other dimensions, and rapidly gets stranger with each of its four pages. It’s bizarre and wonderful, and I love that his stringy, textured, almost oily art isn’t changed or compromised at all in order to tackle an issue of Adventure Time. Knisley draws a one-page story written by Chris Roberson and his 8-year old daughter Georgia Roberson, which is ridiculous and I say that in a good way. From the generation of ice cubes to the Ice King’s "conversation" with penguin Gunter, it’s a fun little diversion to wrap up the comic. Adventure Time continues to bring sheer fun into its comics, and I like that this issue completely stands on its own if you’ve never read the comic or watched the show before. Check it out. You’ll be glad you did.

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Supurbia #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/03/07/supurbia-1/ Wed, 07 Mar 2012 14:00:23 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=2184 Written by Grace RandolphArt by Russell Dauterman24 pages, colorPublished by Boom! Studios

The basic idea behind Grace Randolph’s Supurbia is a fairly simple one; superheroes and their spouses living next door to one another (in secret) in the same suburb. It’s a potentially fun concept, if one we’ve seen before. What can make a book [...]]]> Written by Grace Randolph
Art by Russell Dauterman
24 pages, color
Published by Boom! Studios

The basic idea behind Grace Randolph’s Supurbia is a fairly simple one; superheroes and their spouses living next door to one another (in secret) in the same suburb. It’s a potentially fun concept, if one we’ve seen before. What can make a book like Supurbia stand out—both positively and negatively—is the execution. And with Supurbia, it’s the proverbial mixed bag; there are things to like here, and others to not care about. But ultimately, it’s the positives that will make you come back for #2.

Most of the first issue of Supurbia has Grace Randolph setting up the basic structure of the mini-series. We meet the spouses and the superheroes they’re married to, most of whom are direct analogues to famous characters. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Captain America are all represented, and the spouses also all run the gamut from former super-villain to business manager. It’s the less-traditional characters that ultimately stand out the most in a good way; the second-class citizen that is Batu’s husband Jeremy or their two children, or new recruit Bulldog’s wife Eve. Eve in particular is clearly meant to be a viewpoint character for the reader—someone from the outside just now entering the world—and Randolph obligingly sets Eve on the path of being the one who might just figure out what’s causing Marine Omega’s mysterious illness.

Randolph’s script falls down in a few places, for being a little too predictable while acting like it’s some big revelation. A version of Batman who’s having an affair with his sidekick? A Superman character who sees himself up above everyone else, even as his general lack of humanity is slowly revealed? These concepts are presented to the reader like they’re supposed to be shocking and outrageous, but it’s old territory that’s been plumbed before (and after Rick Veitch’s Bratpack, territory that should have been retired gracefully). Some of the exposition is also a little clunky; Helen talking to her probation officer on the phone while explaining that she can’t call her old friends (because it would violate her probation) feels like a speech that no one would actually give, and Dion’s wife Tia doesn’t seem to have any detectable personality other than to recite facts about other characters. Still, it’s the fun bits, like Eve being an unrepentant snoop (a character trait you wouldn’t expect for the main character), or the information on what’s happening to Marine Omega, that keep the script fun enough to make you want to read more.

I’d also add Russell Dauterman’s art as a positive piece of Supurbia #1. I liked that Dauterman draws Sovereign as beefcake, complete with a lot of flesh on display, and Eli chasing the pig across the yard is quite entertaining. He’s probably his best when it comes to drawing the "normal" people in Supurbia; Ruth Smith comes across as instantly powerful and commanding, even as she plays the "I’m just Marine Omega’s wife" role. Jeremy and Eli also jump out at the reader from the page; Jeremy in a trustworthy (if slightly in over his head) way, and Eli as a kid who’s turning out far more capable than Batu will ever recognize even as he’s desperate to be acknowledged. There’s so much packed into their expressions that I feel like Dauterman does a lot of the heavy lifting here, even with his adorably cartoonish art.

Supurbia #1 is ultimately a book that goes over familiar territory, but the little sparks of fun are what will keep you around for the second chapter. There’s a lot of potential for this comic to go places, and now that the set-up is over, I’m curious to see what Randolph and Dauterman have in store for us next. Theoretically this could go well beyond its original four-issue mini-series status; only time will tell.

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Adventure Time with Finn and Jake #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/02/27/adventure-time-1/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/02/27/adventure-time-1/#comments Mon, 27 Feb 2012 14:00:34 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=2170 Written by Ryan North and Aaron RenierArt by Shelli Paroline, Braden Lamb, and Aaron Renier24 pages, colorPublished by Boom! Studios

I’ve never actually seen an episode of Adventure Time with Jake and Finn, although I’ve always heard that the show is amazingly fun and silly and generally awesome. This perhaps makes me not the target [...]]]> Written by Ryan North and Aaron Renier
Art by Shelli Paroline, Braden Lamb, and Aaron Renier
24 pages, color
Published by Boom! Studios

I’ve never actually seen an episode of Adventure Time with Jake and Finn, although I’ve always heard that the show is amazingly fun and silly and generally awesome. This perhaps makes me not the target audience for an Adventure Time with Jake and Finn comic, but with folks like Ryan North and Aaron Renier working on the title, I figured it was worth a gander. (Doubly so because all the new printings of this first issue keep selling out at the distributor level.) Turns out? I’m now dying to watch the show.

So far as I can tell, Adventure Time with Jake and Finn is about an adventurer (Finn), his stretchy dog (Jake), and their adventures in places like the Land of Ooo and the Candy Kingdom, where they hang out with characters like Princess Bubblegum, or the evil Ice King. Honestly, I’m pretty sure you don’t need to know anything more than what Ryan North helpfully provides in the first two pages of the comic; he introduces the characters quickly and then immediately plunges us into an adventure involving an evil lich that escapes a bag of holding and then terrorizes the world.

What’s important here is that North keeps Adventure Time with Finn and Jake #1 fast-moving and fun; the book never slows down, and perpetually entertains. It helps that Finn and Jake are always clearly enjoying themselves even in the face of adversity; the Candy Kingdom might be on the edge of being destroyed once and for all, and they’re still gung-ho about stopping the lich from sucking everything into the Bag of Holding and finding a way to stop the evil undead. Their introduction of the Desert Princess (not to be confused with the Dessert Princess, despite being made out of desserts) is fun too, and all in all I feel like I’ve just gotten to the first commercial break on a cartoon that I need to watch more of. It’s silly and entertaining from start to finish, and the art from Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb looks so much like the clips I’ve seen in ads for Adventure Time with Finn and Jake that I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that the pair works on the show itself.

There’s also a back-up feature by Aaron Renier, and as a fan of his this was an added draw. It’s a fun little story involving cider making and deliveries, and Renier uses gorgeous painted watercolors over his regular line art for a spectacular looking final product. Like the main feature, Renier shows off whimsy and inventiveness for his short, and it helped me get a feel some more for the overall world of Adventure Time with Finn and Jake, and make me that much more eager to experience more of this comic as well as show.

Adventure Time with Finn and Jake #1 is a huge hit with me, and by the sounds of it, for Boom! Studios too. It’s easy to see why; it’s light-hearted and fun, and best of all it stands on its own even if you’ve never watched the show before. I’ll give the show a try soon, but in the meantime, I definitely will be back for Adventure Time with Finn and Jake #2. (Added bonus: back-up feature by Lucy Knisley!) This is a winner, pure and simple.

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Steed & Mrs. Peel #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/01/18/steed-and-mrs-peel-1/ Wed, 18 Jan 2012 14:00:30 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=2004 Written by Grant MorrisonArt by Ian Gibson32 pages, colorPublished by Boom! Studios

When Eclipse published Steed and Mrs. Peel twenty years ago, I knew who Grant Morrison and Ian Gibson were, but had never actually watched an episode of The Avengers television show. I’ve since fixed the latter omission in my entertainment knowledge, so it’s [...]]]> Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Ian Gibson
32 pages, color
Published by Boom! Studios

When Eclipse published Steed and Mrs. Peel twenty years ago, I knew who Grant Morrison and Ian Gibson were, but had never actually watched an episode of The Avengers television show. I’ve since fixed the latter omission in my entertainment knowledge, so it’s nice to have Boom! Studios bringing this long-out-of-print series back to life for another go-round. And so far? Well, like any story involving John Steed, Emma Peel, and Tara King, it’s a mixed bag.

Steed and Mrs. Peel takes place after the end of The Avengers television show, but still strongly within its continuity. Steed and Tara are still working for "Mother" (introduced in the Steed and King episodes that closed out the series), and after Tara has gone missing on a solo investigation, Steed has called up his old partner Mrs. Peel. The presence of Mother and an organization in general sending Steed out on assignments is just as regrettable now as it was on the television show; given the choice of using or quietly discarding the idea, I’ll admit to being disappointed that Morrison stuck so rigidly to the setup.

On the plus side, Steed and Mrs. Peel both feel spot-on. Steed’s still got his general suave nature, and Mrs. Peel’s playful personality shines through so much that I could almost hear Diana Rigg delivering her lines. It’s that interplay between the two that punctuated a lot of the entertainment from their episodes of The Avengers, and it works well here. When the pair of them visit Fanshawe’s home, Morrison places them inside all of the massive games that fill the estate, and it felt like a missing scene right out of their era. Playing with the ship in the bottle, making quips involving both the board game Clue (or Cluedo in their case) and if the butler did it… Morrison clearly loved those episodes of The Avengers, too. Fans of Tara King might be a little disappointed here; she’s barely in the story, and comes across as a bit naive when she does. Still, it’s her disappearance that spurs the rest of the story, so it’s only understandable that she’s hardly a star.

Gibson’s art is a bit variable in Steed and Mrs. Peel. It’s difficult to work off of real-life likenesses, of course, but it’s hard to ignore when the looks are a bit off-kilter. When Gibson gets it right, it looks fantastic; Mrs. Peel sitting on the desk at the magazine office, for instance, exudes the confidence and sexuality that was a hallmark of the character. On the other hand, the title page image of Mrs. Peel looks almost like someone else entirely, and in general the art veers back and forth between careful renditions and what feels like squiggled faces. Mrs. Peel playing hopscotch looks more like an electrocuted scarecrow than an actual person, and while I appreciate that Gibson is bringing his own slightly cartoonish style to the comic, it veers a little too far off-course every now and then.

The original Steed and Mrs. Peel was a three-issue mini-series, but with each issue having two chapters worth of story, it makes the split into a six-issue series here rather painless. (The main story, "The Golden Game," only runs four chapters with the remaining two chapters being drawn by Gibson but written by Anne Caulfield instead, with a story about the return of the infamous Mr. Peel.) It’s fun to see Steed and Mrs. Peel dusted off, and based off of this I’d certainly be happy to see Morrison—or just comic books in general—take another crack at the property. There’s definitely still some life in these characters.

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Snarked! #3 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2011/12/28/snarked-3/ Wed, 28 Dec 2011 14:00:01 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=1963 By Roger Langridge24 pages, colorPublished by Boom! Studios

Roger Langridge is one of those comic creators that I’ve come to think of as "dependably good." It doesn’t matter what title he’s working on, from The Muppet Show to Thor, you automatically know that it’s going to be a great mix of drama and humor that [...]]]> By Roger Langridge
24 pages, color
Published by Boom! Studios

Roger Langridge is one of those comic creators that I’ve come to think of as "dependably good." It doesn’t matter what title he’s working on, from The Muppet Show to Thor, you automatically know that it’s going to be a great mix of drama and humor that is entertaining from start to finish. I think that’s why I had such high hopes for Snarked!, his new creator-owned series for Boom! Studios that provides his own particular spin on some the ancillary characters from Lewis Carroll’s works. And so far? It’s as excellent as I’d hoped it to be.

The comic takes minor characters like the Walrus and the Carpenter, the Gryphon, and the Red King, and sets them in their own little world where they exist side-by-side with other Carroll creations like the characters and creatures of the poem The Hunting of the Snark. From there, though, all bets are off in terms of familiarity. Langridge makes the young Queen Scarlett the protagonist here, as she finds herself and her infant brother Rusty at great danger as the kingdom’s administration attempt to seize power away from Scarlett now that her father has gone missing. Paired up with the scheming Walrus and the dimwitted Carpenter, we watch them try to outwit the bad guys even as they scramble to find out what happened to the missing Red King and try to figure out how to rescue him.

Each issue is episodic in nature, but at the same time builds towards a greater whole. For example, Snarked! #3 focuses on Scarlett trying to break back into the castle to retrieve a map that they’d learned about in the previous issue, one that would guide them to the location of the missing Red King. At the same time, the Walrus has to try and hire a ship to take them out to sea on said rescue mission, even as he tries to look out for his own skin. It’s a crafty and well thought-out storytelling technique; make sure each issue stands on its own, but also give the reader a reason to come back for the next installment. It helps that while the main characters each have one or two defining character elements (the Carpenter’s dim-witted nature, for instance, or Scarlett’s brave-little-girl adventurer persona), they’re all likeable. You want to see them succeed, and Langridge makes them each rather charming in their own particular way.

There’s also always a fun little design element in each issue, waiting to be discovered by the reader. The first issue drew a map of the city, for example, or in the third issue Scarlett’s escape through a laundry chute turns into a twisty maze for the reader to follow along as she wanders through its tunnels. Snarked! is meant as an all-ages series, and these little touches give those younger readers something to stop and examine in great detail, even as older readers will get a chuckle and grin as they recognize the twist on sequential art. Langridge is a good enough of an artist that it never comes across as a gimmick either, but instead just a fun way to present the information. His characters in general look great; they’re a little cartoonish and spritely, and I love the "what the heck?" expressions that Scarlett in particular is so good at flashing to the audience.

Snarked! is only three issues in (plus a #0 teaser released months earlier) and I’m utterly enchanted with it. I love how Langridge is teasing us with the specter of the dreaded Snark (and the Boojum!), and how he’s building up its presence and danger without ever showing it to us. Scarlett’s a great heroine, too; she’s headstrong and tough and doesn’t give up easily, all good elements for an all-ages comic book character. As with his Muppet Show comic, Langridge is giving us an all-ages comic that truly is for all ages; it’s funny, it’s entertaining, and I look forward to a new issue every month. If you’ve never read a comic by Langridge, this is as good a time as any to fix that problem. Definitely check it out.

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Peanuts: Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2011/04/15/happiness-is-a-warm-blanket/ Fri, 15 Apr 2011 13:00:30 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=1752 Based on comic strips by Charles M. SchulzScript by Stephan Pastis and Craig SchulzLayouts by Vicki ScottPencils by Bob Scott and Vicki ScottInks by Ron Zorman96 pages, colorPublished by Boom! Studios

One of my top five favorite comic strips is, without a doubt, Peanuts. And in terms of the great Peanuts multimedia empire, there’s been [...]]]> Based on comic strips by Charles M. Schulz
Script by Stephan Pastis and Craig Schulz
Layouts by Vicki Scott
Pencils by Bob Scott and Vicki Scott
Inks by Ron Zorman
96 pages, color
Published by Boom! Studios

One of my top five favorite comic strips is, without a doubt, Peanuts. And in terms of the great Peanuts multimedia empire, there’s been a lot to love over the years. (Watching A Charlie Brown Christmas happens in my home every December, for starters.) So a new graphic novel based off a new direct-to-DVD animated special? Well, I certainly had to take a look and see just what we were offered up.

Peanuts: Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown! is published by Boom! Studio’s all-ages imprint Kaboom!, and with hindsight I should have pegged that this was not a book aimed at me. Not because it’s dumbed down or particularly juvenile, but rather, because it’s aimed at the newer reader for Peanuts rather than a long-time fan. The feature is an adaptation of popular Peanuts stories by Charles M. Schulz, and as a result the book does the same. So as Linus is given a one-week deadline to stop carrying around his blanket, I found myself nodding along to the different vignettes because they were all familiar. For instance, the classic sequence where Linus shows why children at school don’t tease him about his blanket will ring true to any Peanuts fan, but for a new reader it’s still funny.

It’s because the jokes are still entertaining that I found myself ultimately not minding that I’d seen this all before. Sort of like a band releasing a greatest hits album, just because all of these moments that I’ve seen before are showing up again doesn’t make them any less entertaining the second time around. Stephan Pastis and Craig Schulz thread their story around Linus’s looming deadline before his grandmother arrives and takes away his blanket, but they wisely include some shorter subplots to give the rest of the cast things to do. So we get some of the tried-and-true elements; Charlie Brown trying to fly his kite and failing, Lucy romantically pursuing Schroeder, and Pig-Pen’s general filthiness. It’s a nice way to be able to cut away and then return to Linus’s story, and keep things moving. The one downside to this, though, is that Pastis and Schulz’s subplots, unlike that of Linus’s grandmother arriving, can’t by definition have any sort of resolution. It’s a problem that stands out in part because of the main plot having an end point; it wraps up, but nothing else has changed.

Still, it’s a nice looking and innocent enough book. Vicki Scott, Bob Scott, and Ron Zorman ape Charles M. Schulz’s style well, with the familiar round-head of Charlie Brown, Snoopy’s grins and winks to the audience, and the snarl of kite string when Charlie Brown ultimately wipes out. There are a couple of nice bits to try and mimic some of the animation from the feature, like the multiple images (with no panel borders) of Charlie Brown running across the hill with his kite in tow, or the double-exposure of Snoopy whipping Linus through the air. It’s a cute looking comic, and while on the whole it’s exactly what you would expect, I think the art team stayed exactly within the parameters of Peanuts and successfully transferred the animated feature to a printed form.

Peanuts: Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown! isn’t a brand-new Peanuts story, although to be fair I think most Peanuts fans would find that bordering on heresy. So while the long-time readers might find little new with this book, for a new reader it’s a warm and welcoming way to show them what Peanuts is all about. Once they’re done, though, it might be worth breaking out some of the gorgeous collections from Fantagraphics, and let them experience the material direct from the source. All parties involved do a good job here, but at the end of the day, the best is still the real thing.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

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Hellraiser #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2011/03/23/hellraiser-1/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2011/03/23/hellraiser-1/#comments Wed, 23 Mar 2011 13:00:43 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=1725 Written by Clive Barker and Christopher MonfetteArt by Leonardo Manco40 pages, colorPublished by Boom! Studios

Despite having never seen any of the Hellraiser movies, I was a big fan of the comic from Marvel’s Epic imprint back in the day. A friend introduced me to the relatively new series when I was in college; when [...]]]> Written by Clive Barker and Christopher Monfette
Art by Leonardo Manco
40 pages, color
Published by Boom! Studios

Despite having never seen any of the Hellraiser movies, I was a big fan of the comic from Marvel’s Epic imprint back in the day. A friend introduced me to the relatively new series when I was in college; when I protested that I’d not seem the films, he told me it didn’t matter, that they were some shockingly good horror comics. And when you consider that early issues included creators like Bernie Wrightson, John Bolton, Ted McKeever, Scott Hampton, Kevin O’Neill, John Van Fleet, and Dave Dorman—to name but a few—you can get an idea of the pedigree of Hellraiser. So hearing that Clive Barker had come on board for a brand-new Hellraiser comic? Well, color me interested.

Barker and his co-author Christopher Monfette (the pair of whom also worked on the Seduth one-shot at the end of 2009) start the comic with a back-to-basics moment. We get to see one of the demonic puzzle boxes that summon the demonic Cenobites, and in the blink of an eye the first victim of the series is claimed. But this scene does more than just re-introduce the Cenobites; it also sets up something greater, with the introduction of an individual using the boxes to kill his captors, someone who clearly knows just who Pinhead and company are and what they’re capable of. It’s a logical step, and one that holds some potential.

From there we move between Hell and Earth, seeing both a plan of Pinhead’s to walk on Earth once more with the help of the Nebraska farmer who is killing people via puzzle box, and a painter whose art indicates that she knows something about the Cenobites as well. Writing wise, it’s a good introduction to Hellraiser; we’re getting the players on the field, and some of the greater cosmology (like the massive Leviathan that the Cenobites worship, or the fact that there are those out there destroying the puzzle boxes) is already being presented. It’s the latter that I think is particularly important, because it shows the reader right from the start that this isn’t just a simple slasher/monster story, but a much larger and intricate setting.

For longtime readers of the book, it also feels like Barker and Monfette are revisiting the concept of the Harrowers, a plot thread that Barker created for the later issues of Epic’s Hellraiser comic. The idea of a team of people fighting the Cenobites was always better in concept than actual execution, so it would be nice to see a soft reset of them in the new Hellraiser. I think Barker and Monfette are smart enough to not require people to have read comics that are over 15 years old, so chances are this is a fresh start for the name and potential group.

Leonardo Manco, probably best known for his long run on the similarly-titled Hellblazer, is on the art and it’s just what you’d expect for a horror comic. Manco’s photo-real art works at its best with the tight close-ups on people’s faces, the worry and fear reflected back at the reader. It’s some of the more expansive images (like Pinhead standing in front of the demonic organ) which feel a little weaker because there’s so much detail crammed onto the page that it’s actually a little hard to make out some of the finer points. It’s still good overall, though, and when it comes to some of the more interesting visual moments (the slow approach to the captive woman; the look from above at Samuel’s crops) it really sings.

It’s a little funny that the two supplemental pieces attached to Hellraiser #1, though, that are my least favorite things about the new comic. First, it preview 16 pages of one of the stories due to appear in Hellraiser Masterpieces Vol. 1, which promises reprints of the Epic series by creators like Barker, Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean, Alex Ross, Kevin O’Neill, and Mike Mignola. The story they reprint from, though, is by Larry Wachowski and Mark Pacella, from the Hellraiser Spring Slaughter special in 1994. I can understand the idea behind finding a story by Wachowski (who of course went onto projects like The Matrix), but Pacella’s art looks hideous and not in a good way. This is hardly a good enticement to pick up a collection that promises so many better potential stories.

There’s also a free online exclusive prelude to Hellraiser #1, which won’t show up in print until the collection. It’s just all right; it gives the reader a good look into what Manco’s art is like, but Barker and Monfette’s story feels much more standard and run of the mill. The writing is much stronger in Hellraiser #1, and it’s a shame this prelude isn’t quite as good so that potential buyers can get a better idea of what they’re in for. Still, at the end of the day, it’s the main comic itself which has me interested in seeing what Barker, Monfette, and Manco are up to next. Horror and Hellraiser fans, I suspect, will discover the same thing as well for themselves. It’s nice to see Hellraiser returning, and in good form. I’ve missed my little Cenobite stories, and this promises to scratch that itch.

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7 Psychopaths #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2010/06/09/7-psychopaths-1/ Wed, 09 Jun 2010 07:00:36 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=1400 Written by Fabien VehlmannArt by Sean Phillips24 pages, colorPublished by Boom! Studios

It’s hard to not make the obvious comparison between 7 Psychopaths and Inglorious Basterds, both of them being about a team of slightly crazy people in World War II trying to assassinate Hitler. Once you move past that, though, the first issue this [...]]]> Written by Fabien Vehlmann
Art by Sean Phillips
24 pages, color
Published by Boom! Studios

It’s hard to not make the obvious comparison between 7 Psychopaths and Inglorious Basterds, both of them being about a team of slightly crazy people in World War II trying to assassinate Hitler. Once you move past that, though, the first issue this comic imported from France has little else in common with Quentin Tarantino’s film. 7 Psychopaths is a much more sedate story, at least so far, but at the same time Fabien Vehlmann and Sean Phillips are doing a good enough job that you’ll want to read more about these seven psychopaths.

Originally published as a longer album, Boom! Studios is serializing 7 Psychopaths into individual issues, and so far I’m pleased that they’ve found a good place to stop at the end of the issue, and are paying attention to the adaptation into this slightly different format. Vehlmann’s story moves at a leisurely pace because of its original longer page count, but it never feels like it’s dragging its feet. We discover the plan to send seven deranged people into Germany to go after Hitler, and while the reason for just seven is a little out there, you do also have to consider the source of the insane person that has come up with the plan in the first case. From there, it’s a typical "assemble the troops" series of scenes, except of course that so far each of the squad members has their own specific problem. It’s entertaining, but reading it serialized made me wish for the entire volume in one fell swoop so we could get to the action.

The big attraction, though, is Phillips’s art. It’s as beautiful as his work on books like Criminal and Incognito, able to draw character portraits that are striking and full at the same time. As strange as it may sound, though, it’s some of the layouts of 7 Psychopaths that gets me the most excited. He’s able to use the original oversized dimensions of these pages to play around with the extra space; on one early page, he keeps slicing away at a square he’s created on its top and left sides until we’re whittled down to the final panel in the bottom right corner. Other times, he creates almost-mirror duplicates on a page of his layouts, stacking horizontal and vertical panels into configurations that in other hands might be hard to follow but here flow perfectly across the page. None of these layouts ever detract from the storytelling that’s going on here, most importantly, and that’s why at the end of the day you have to raise your metaphorical hat to Phillips.

7 Psychopaths #1 is early enough in this mini-series that it’s hard to judge it too terribly much, but based on this first issue I definitely want to read more. The story’s good so far, and Phillips is unsurprisingly at the top of his game. 7 Psychopaths is part of a seven volume series of books by different creators, and if they’re all this strong, I hope Boom! Studios brings over the rest as well. It’s a good start.

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Finding Nemo: Reef Rescue #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2009/07/15/finding-nemo-reef-rescue-1/ Wed, 15 Jul 2009 04:00:44 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=1004 Written by Marie CroallArt by Erica Leigh Currey32 pages, colorPublished by Boom! Studios

Writing a comic book sequel to a hit movie has got to be a thankless task. It’s a project that by very definition will be compared to something that’s a different form of media, and as a result run the real potential [...]]]> Written by Marie Croall
Art by Erica Leigh Currey
32 pages, color
Published by Boom! Studios

Writing a comic book sequel to a hit movie has got to be a thankless task. It’s a project that by very definition will be compared to something that’s a different form of media, and as a result run the real potential of falling short in the reader’s mind. I guess that’s why I was so impressed, then, with Marie Croall’s script for Finding Nemo: Reef Rescue #1. Reading the comic, it’s hard to not feel like this is something that’s perfectly in tune with the Finding Nemo film.

It’s another typical day under the ocean for Marlin and Nemo; Nemo is going to class under the guidance of Mr. Ray, and Marlin is still the ever-worried father. When a class field trip to the edge of the reef reveals that something is killing the coral, the dim-witted Dory volunteers herself, Marlin, and Nemo to try and figure out what’s causing the blight. But have the three fish bitten off more than they can chew?

Croall really nails the Finding Nemo characters in her script. With each line, I could almost hear the different voice actors from the movie. Croall wisely keeps the characters very much the same; after all, Marlin is still going to be overly protective, Dory a little scatterbrained, and Nemo inquisitive. At the same time, though, Marlin is clearly trying to remain a little calmer than you might remember, so it’s not as if the characters operate in a vacuum. What I think I like the most about this first issue of Finding Nemo: Reef Rescue, though, is that it feels like the comic is continuing the movie’s look at the ocean as something both wondrous and threatened. In the movie, of course, it had more to do with fish being taken out of their ecosystem and into aquariums. Here, it’s the imminent destruction of the reef. But it’s still present, and it’s a story that doesn’t feel like a generic children’s comic with underwater elements grafted onto it.

I have to admit that I wasn’t quite as crazy about Erica Leigh Currey’s art for Finding Nemo: Reef Rescue. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t quite hit the strengths of the source material. While I wasn’t expecting it to look like Pixar’s gorgeous computer-generated creatures, I couldn’t help but feel that Currey and colorists Digikore really missed on the whole vibrant, colorful, teaming-with-life look of Finding Nemo. The comic seems to lack on having lots of fish and colors here, and that’s a real shame. The huge schools of fish and the amazing looks that they sport seem like something that should be a natural for a comic version of the movie. It feels like an easy catch that’s ignored entirely.

Other than that, though, the art has some strong points. I love that Currey can make a fish actually look worried; a fish’s face, after all, is hardly an expressive looking construction. Currey manages, here, and from a lost Dory to an exasperated Marlin, she gets the looks just quite right. The storytelling is solid and carefully constructed here; nice simple page layouts, although I appreciate that Currey will make an exception for moments like when Dory surprises Marlin, using a diagonally angled panel that almost explodes onto the page.

The complaint I have with the writing of Finding Nemo: Reef Rescue #1 is that the issue doesn’t seem to use the serial nature of this mini-series at all well. At the end of the first issue, the story doesn’t come to a cliffhanger, or even an appropriate chapter break. Instead, it just stops. It feels almost like this was originally written as a graphic novel and then chopped into four pieces. While it will no doubt work better in a collected form, as a single comic it slightly falls down in that regard. Still, it’s a pleasant and fun comic, and Croall makes the writing work so well here that it’s definitely a success. Kids who loved Finding Nemo will love Finding Nemo: Reef Rescue.

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