Wildstorm – 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 DV8: Gods and Monsters #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2010/04/30/dv8-gods-and-monsters-1/ Fri, 30 Apr 2010 08:00:44 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=1320 Written by Brian WoodArt by Rebekah Isaacs32 pages, colorPublished by Wildstorm/DC Comics

I’m not what you’d call a long-time fan of DV8. I read the first ten issues of the series back in the day, but the writer who came on board after Warren Ellis didn’t interest me enough to stick around once Ellis and [...]]]> Written by Brian Wood
Art by Rebekah Isaacs
32 pages, color
Published by Wildstorm/DC Comics

I’m not what you’d call a long-time fan of DV8. I read the first ten issues of the series back in the day, but the writer who came on board after Warren Ellis didn’t interest me enough to stick around once Ellis and Humberto Ramos were gone. Reading interviews about Brian Wood and Rebekah Isaacs’s revamp mini-series intrigued my interest, though; maybe it’s because Wood has tried for several years to bring DV8 back, or maybe because the idea of superheroes viewed as gods had enough potential that I wanted to see where the creators would go with it. Considering how well Wood and Isaacs worked together on DMZ #50, it was definitely worth taking a look. And while it’s a slow start, there’s enough here to keep interest levels high.

DV8: Gods and Monsters #1 opens with what is most likely the end of the series, placing team member Copycat in a containment cell and being debriefed on what happened to her and the rest of the team on an alien world that they were unceremoniously dumped on. It’s not a bad opening to the series; we see almost instantly that this is a story that is going to end badly for the people on the planet, but beyond that tells us nothing too far in advance. Wood has the story paced so that Copycat herself was placed on the world after the other seven members of her team, and most of the issue is Copycat relating what Frostbite told her happened. It’s less actual narrative and more narration, telling rather than showing. It’s a fast way to get Wood to where he wants the book, with the various DV8 characters being worshipped as gods by different tribes on the planet, but the one problem with this is the lack of emotional hook for the reader. It’s told in a dispassionate manner, so for someone like myself who hasn’t been counting the days for the return of DV8, there isn’t that instant moment of wanting to see more of these characters.

On the plus side, once things do get rolling, Wood starts whetting the appetite. The final two pages of the issue are the big hook, as Wood runs down seven of the eight members of DV8 and how each of them in their own way would be perceived as a god by the primitive inhabitants of this world. (I was amused that the one character that I’ve never read about before and post-dated the Ellis and Ramos run, Freestyle, is the only one not included in this run down.) He presents them more as iconic figures, and when looked at in that light it’s easy to see how each of the members of the team could be taken as a god, albeit as a dangerous one. It’s the start of exactly what I was looking for in the series, and it makes me more eager to see the remaining seven issues.

Strong from start to finish for me was Isaacs’s work, something I only recently became familiar with through her short story in DMZ #50. It’s a clean, strong style, with full bodied figures and crisp lines to create the characters. It’s actually some of the quieter moments that struck me almost instantly when reading DV8: Gods and Monsters #1; when Evo runs off and Freestyle yells at him to come back, the remaining five team members staring her down struck a wonderfully eerie tone. You get the sense that Freestyle’s attempts to bring Evo back are being beaten down on an emotional level, bullied into letting him go into the night. It’s a simple but effective staging of a scene that might not have carried the same weight otherwise.

DV8: Gods and Monsters #1 is off to a slow start, but by the end there’s enough carefully placed onto the page to make me want to read the second issue. And, since this issue was primarily set-up, I have high hopes that the series will grab my attention even more in the following issues. If nothing else, it’s nice to see a non-post-apocalyptic Wildstorm title on the shelves. And for past DV8 fans, well, it looks like all your prayers are finally answered.

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Mysterius the Unfathomable #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2009/02/04/mysterius-the-unfathomable-1/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2009/02/04/mysterius-the-unfathomable-1/#comments Wed, 04 Feb 2009 05:00:32 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=789 Written by Jeff ParkerArt by Tom Fowler32 pages, colorPublished by Wildstorm/DC Comics

I feel a little bad for the Wildstorm imprint, these days. It seems to have majorly fallen off the radar of readers, and that means no matter how good the project is, it’s likely to be overlooked. In the case of something like [...]]]> Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Tom Fowler
32 pages, color
Published by Wildstorm/DC Comics

I feel a little bad for the Wildstorm imprint, these days. It seems to have majorly fallen off the radar of readers, and that means no matter how good the project is, it’s likely to be overlooked. In the case of something like Mysterius the Unfathomable, that’s a real shame. Jeff Parker and Tom Fowler’s new mini-series has such a fun start that it deserves to be seen by more than a handful of people.

Back in the 1920s, seances were a dime-a-dozen. In the modern day, though, most people look down on the mere idea, calling them nothing more than a con to swindle money out of innocent people. That’s certainly what Ella thought when she went to see a seance held in Manhattan by someone who calls himself Mysterius the Great. When the seance actually did perform as promised, though, Ella couldn’t help but try and look into Mysterius’s life a little further. She certainly didn’t expect herself to end up as the latest assistant to the aging magician, though.

If I had to compare Mysterius the Unfathomable #1 to another comic, the pitch would be, "John Constantine without all of the demons." Parker’s Mysterius is untrustworthy, erratic, and absolutely sure of what he’s doing. While he’s the title character of the book, though, he’s not our protagonist. That’s Ella, and it’s fun to see both what Ella does and does not immediately pick up on as she starts her interactions with Mysterius. I like Ella a lot; she’s strong-willed and smart, and while she’s certainly taken in by some of Mysterius’s glib claims and fast talk, you get the impression that it won’t be that way forever. In short, she’s the perfect foil for Mysterius, as well as a good viewpoint character to let us as readers enter Mysterius’s world. And speaking of Mysterius, I appreciate that he’s not a one-note character. It would be easy to make him simply a callous user of others, or an arrogant know-it-all, or even a perfect magician. He’s none and all of these, with a lot of other pieces added in for good measure. One of the early scenes we get of him involves the seance and how it goes wrong; it would certainly be easy for Mysterius to ignore the bad situation that one of them was in when the dust settled. Instead, Parker walks a fine line with Mysterius; he’s not going to abandon the poor soul to his fate, but at the same time he puts the care and responsibility on others. In many ways, that sums up Mysterius quite well for me.

It’s always nice to see more art from Fowler, whose art on books like Caper has always pleased me. His art has always had for me just the right level of exaggeration; enough to make it clearly Fowler’s style, but not so much that people look misshapen or unrealistic. He and colorist Dave McCaig work well together; the scene outside the rowhouse in New York is flush full of color and background material, making you feel almost like you’ve walked into the streets of Manhattan yourself. At the same time, though, the seance scenes are genuinely creepy, with the stark white sea of bones moaning for help, with Mysterius and the red chain of bodies holding him to the real world. I know that generally speaking the oversized hardcover collections at DC and its various imprints are saved for Absolute editions, but if they wanted to just release a slightly larger hardcover Mysterius the Unfathomable (say, the size of the recent Jeff Smith Shazam! hardcover) I can’t help but think that the art would definitely support it.

Mysterius the Unfathomable #1 is a really fun start to the mini-series. This is a book that you can’t help but want to succeed, because it’s just so much fun. Hopefully it’ll find the audience it deserves, because the idea of this sinking without a trace in our current tough publishing market… well, that would truly be unfathomable. Check it out.

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Welcome to Tranquility #1-4 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2007/03/12/welcome-to-tranquility-1-4/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2007/03/12/welcome-to-tranquility-1-4/#comments Mon, 12 Mar 2007 05:00:26 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2007/03/12/welcome-to-tranquility-1-4/ Written by Gail Simone Art by Neil Googe 32 pages, color Published by Wildstorm/DC Comics

When DC Comics announced the revamp of the Wildstorm comics line last year, most of the books from the new line-up were retooled concepts that were already published. The one exception was Gail Simone and Neil Googe’s Welcome to [...]]]> Written by Gail Simone
Art by Neil Googe
32 pages, color
Published by Wildstorm/DC Comics

When DC Comics announced the revamp of the Wildstorm comics line last year, most of the books from the new line-up were retooled concepts that were already published. The one exception was Gail Simone and Neil Googe’s Welcome to Tranquility, an ongoing series about a retirement village for super-powered individuals. Now that the series is four issues in, Welcome to Tranquility is simultaneously one of the more interesting and frustrating books I’ve read in a while.

In the town of Tranquility, super-beings of all shapes and sizes live together. The one thing is, though, they’re all retired. Pink Bunny runs a diner. Judge Fury is now Mayor Fury. Minxy Millions is losing touch with reality but keeps flying her planes above (and sometimes into) town. When Mister Articulate is murdered in broad daylight, stabbed on his own sword, it’s up to Sheriff Thomasina Lindo to bring the killer to justice—and she’s quite possibly the one true hero that Tranquility still has.

There’s a lot to love about Welcome to Tranquility. Simone has thought the entire idea of a super retirement community through wonderfully, on a number of different levels. This is more than just heroes becoming mayors, or people with x-ray vision working as coroners that never need to cut the corpses open. It’s a genuine examination of what life in a world with super-powers would be like, and all that would entail. The teenaged super-team that rebels against their former wholesome image and goes emo and goth, for instance. Jobs for super-villains being relegated to things like the local cemetery. Gang-banging grandchildren of villains. Even little touches that we’ve seen in different forms before, like a super-speedster teenager’s perception of her mother scolding her, come across as feeling fresh and different than what most superhero books are these days. Welcome to Tranquility in some ways exists in its own little world, where people with powers are called “maxi”s and there’s a very different attitude towards them than in any other book that Wildstorm publishes. Then the second issue features a reference to the Midnighter from The Authority and in some ways a tiny bit of Welcome to Tranquility’s charm is lost as it is briefly relegated to just another cog in a larger machine, robbing Tranquility of its uniqueness. In many ways, to trot out an old cliché, the town of Tranquility is a character in its own right, and by far the most interesting one of the comic.

Unfortunately, that’s also the frustrating thing about Welcome to Tranquility. The town itself as a setting stands out as being really fresh and different (despite the fact that towns of superpowered people have been done before) thanks to Simone’s careful crafting of the social dynamic, but that same amount of care and meticulous creation doesn’t feel like it’s been extended to the actual cast of the book. Thomasina appears to be set up as our main character, for instance, but at the end of four issues it feels like we barely know anything about her. We’re presented with facts about her life here and there, but you don’t ever get a real feel for her other than she works hard at her job and is well-respected. She and just about everyone else in the comic don’t come across as possessing much depth, and after four installments that’s something we should start seeing. The closest Welcome to Tranquility seems to come in that regard is the relationship between Zeke from the the cemetery and the depowered Maximum Man, with the subtle hints that one of them is manipulating the other in order to keep their status quo solid. In the end, it’s the big weakness so far with Welcome to Tranquility; the town is fantastic, the concept is fun, and the plot of the first storyline is solid. (I could be wrong but I think Simone’s also planted enough clues at this point to solve the murder mystery, but with two issues to go we’ll see if there’s another twist waiting.) In terms of writing, while all of those elements grab my attention, the lack of complex characterization is what threatens to lose it.

Googe’s art was new to me with Welcome to Tranquility, but it’s something that I’ll definitely remember. Starting with the basics, he’s got a fine sense of anatomy, able to not only draw lots of different looking realistic characters but ones that genuinely look older. While that alone would be a good thing, it’s Googe’s page layouts and his ability to mimic creations of older times that stands out. His page borders are beautiful, from lines of apples moving across a page with two neighbors fighting over the ownership of said fruit, to Ajita’s MP3 player headphones lining a panel border as she jogs across town, each one adds a little extra flair and interest to the page without coming across as distracting. Also of interest is Googe’s creation of various pieces of culture that exist in the world of Welcome to Tranquility. From old-time comic strips and trading cards to diner menus and children’s television line-ups, Googe makes all of Simone’s ideas seem almost like they’re actual discoveries that the two came across in the creation of the book. It’s a smart touch to help understand exactly what we’re wading into, and Googe pulls it off perfectly.

Even with the problems over thin characterization, there’s a lot to recommend Welcome to Tranquility. It’s the most inventive book published by Wildstorm, full of great ideas and beautiful art. It’s just a little aggravating that it doesn’t seem to come together one hundred percent, because at times it seems like it’s almost there. After four months, though, I’m still willing to give it chance after chance. It may be an imperfect book, but it’s got more pieces of excitement and interest embedded into its pages than the majority of books hitting stands right now. You definitely owe it to yourself to take a look.

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StormWatch: Post Human Division #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2006/11/15/stormwatch-post-human-division-1/ Wed, 15 Nov 2006 05:00:17 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2006/11/15/stormwatch-post-human-division/ Written by Christos Gage Art by Doug Mahnke 32 pages, color Published by WildStorm/DC Comics

WildStorm’s StormWatch has in some ways always been a troubled title. Early on the series’s history it released an issue #25 almost eighteen months early to let readers play the “how would they get there?” game. Later the book got [...]]]> Written by Christos Gage
Art by Doug Mahnke
32 pages, color
Published by WildStorm/DC Comics

WildStorm’s StormWatch has in some ways always been a troubled title. Early on the series’s history it released an issue #25 almost eighteen months early to let readers play the “how would they get there?” game. Later the book got heavily revamped by Warren Ellis and Tom Raney, then restarted with a new #1 before being cancelled to lead into The Authority. A new book called StormWatch: Team Achilles survived for two years before getting cancelled amid low sales and creative team scandals. Now the book is back again under the new moniker StormWatch: Post Human Division. And while the subtitle may not be the most riveting, Christos Gage and Doug Mahnke’s stab at the book might just have a chance of surviving.

StormWatch has seen better days—orbiting space stations, billion dollar technology, hundreds-of-people staff. Now? This once-darling of the United Nations is severely underfunded, understaffed, and overwhelmed. Former StormWatch leader Jackson King’s new plan involves a series of Post Human Division groups, one in each major city and partnering with local law enforcement, to best deal with super-powered outbreaks and the aftermath, forming a team of specialists who are the experts of their field. Now all he has to do is get each of his prospective candidates to want to join the pilot program.

What surprised me the most about StormWatch: Post Human Division #1 is that this is in many ways a comic where almost nothing happens, and yet it held my attention the entire time. It’s a pretty standard set-up, where Jackson visits each of the new cast members and convinces them to sign on as part of the new StormWatch. This has the immense potential to be boring, with multiple scenes of two people talking and discussing their lives. Thanks to Gage’s writing, though, it’s anything but. Gage has most of the characters tell a story to Jackson about an earlier encounter, one that takes just one or two pages to tell—but most of them are little snippets of ideas that other writers would’ve taken an entire issue to tell. Gage boils them down to their essence, keeping the book moving quickly and with a minimum of padding. The end result? It’s immensely interesting for the reader, getting a rapid-fire collection of short stories that continue to entertain and intrigue.

The characters themselves have real potential as well, from the former super-villain moll whose lure to join StormWatch is to finally be taken seriously as the extremely intelligent woman that she is, to the perfectly ordinary cop who’s merely able to think fast enough on his feet that he can survive against super-powered attacks. In other hands they could easily descend into stereotypes, but Gage already is finding a voice for each of them. Considering how swiftly he was able to move the book from one to the next (with almost all of them being brand-new characters) and bring them all on stage, this is one of the few times where I not only feel like I’ve got a grasp on all the major characters of a new team book, but that we’re going to continue to learn about each of them as the series progresses.

While Gage is a writer whose works I hadn’t encountered before, I am familiar with Doug Mahnke’s work. Now, more than ever, his art can’t help but make me think that he’s the second coming of Simon Bisley. Mahnke is able to walk the line perfectly between beautiful and grotesque here, something that’s harder than it sounds. The book opens with a two-page splash of twisted, unreal beings destroying a city block and it’s enthralling to look at each of the figures on the page. From the small curls of hair and squiggles designing a coat, to the madness in the villains’s eyes and the catching of claws across a person’s face, nothing is left to the reader’s imagination. This is something that borders on brutal, with city buses being thrown and mortar crumbling. There’s nothing here that Mahnke is glamorizing or beautifying; this is a group of people trying to kill each other and all that it entails. Even the people in the scene are less than beautiful, with angry expressions and sharp lines forming their features. And then, several pages later, you meet the woman called Gorgeous and that’s exactly what she is; classic, calm, and flawlessly beautiful. You’re reminded at this point that Mahnke is carefully choosing what to show the reader and how. Every expression is perfectly detailed, from Jackson’s pain upon an associate discovering the truth about her chances of recovery, to the humor as Gorgeous taps Jackson on his nose. Even little panels that could be throw-aways, like two of the villains talking to each other, have little visual treasures such as what looked like simple braids suddenly looking much more like some form of thorny claw. This is some of Mahnke’s best work yet, and if Gage’s strong writing isn’t enough of a lure, surely this will be.

StormWatch: Post Human Division #1 is the latest in a series of new launches for the WildStorm imprint, and is in many ways the most intriguing. Fans of the previous incarnations of the book have a couple of returning characters, while new readers can start fresh and enjoy it equally. As a first issue debut, Gage and Mahnke have more than exceeded my expectations. This is absolutely a book to watch; in a market saturated with too much of the same, Gage and Mahnke manage to make this feel fresh and and exciting. Definitely recommended.

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Wildcats Version 3.0 Vol. 2: Full Disclosure http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2004/04/13/wildcats-version-30-vol-2-full-disclosure/ Tue, 13 Apr 2004 04:00:54 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2004/04/13/wildcats-version-30-vol-2-full-disclosure/ Written by Joe Casey Penciled by Dustin Nguyen Inked by Richard Friend 144 pages, color Published by WildStorm/DC Comics

A few years ago, Joe Casey took over the revamped Wildcats series and I was happy with the results. A year later, I was utterly hooked with what Casey was doing with one of the most [...]]]> Written by Joe Casey
Penciled by Dustin Nguyen
Inked by Richard Friend
144 pages, color
Published by WildStorm/DC Comics

A few years ago, Joe Casey took over the revamped Wildcats series and I was happy with the results. A year later, I was utterly hooked with what Casey was doing with one of the most unorthodox “superhero teams” out there. Now the book is named Wildcats Version 3.0 and I must say how completely impressed I am: it’s not many people who could turn a superhero book into one about a new corporation going up against the business giants of the world and make it so utterly enthralling.

Not many people know that Halo Corporation’s CEO, Jack Marlowe, is really an android from another planet who once was a superhero named Spartan. Even less people know that one of his main employees is a former assassin named Grifter. No, they’re probably all concentrating on Halo’s impossible technologies (fueled by discoveries that Marlowe made thanks to some of his super powers) and how Halo’s challenging the rest of the world with its unorthodox strategies and methods. And they’re looking at the wrong thing, of course. They should really be concerned with what Marlowe and Grifter are doing behind the scenes, because that’s where everything really happens…

Casey’s scripts have a real balancing act to perform. On the one hand, they’re taking the old original concept of the book and keeping it alive in daring raids on secure buildings, action sequences to die for, and general mayhem. On the other hand, Wildcats Version 3.0 is now just as much about being a comic about corporate struggles, and so watching Marlowe go up against the behemoths of the world has to be just as interesting. And you know, he balances the two perfectly. This isn’t a case where it’s two different storylines taking place in the same book; Casey takes the two different ideas and makes them both part of a greater whole. Take, for instance, the story of Edwin Dolby. An accountant whose firm was bought up by Halo, Dolby’s story is one of the central parts of Full Disclosure, as he’s brought into the underbelly of Halo and trained to be the new Grifter. His descent into the world of espionage and his final destination is fascinating to watch, both because of how Casey writes this wonderfully vulnerable character and also on how Dolby straddles the corporate and superpowered worlds of Wildcats Version 3.0, with an action in one of those worlds affecting the other world just as much. Dolby’s just one of a large cast of characters whose actions travel the full spectrum of morals and ultimate intentions, and it’s why Wildcats Version 3.0 is so exciting to read.

Dustin Nguyen and Richard Friend are quite possibly one of the most underrated art teams working at all of the branches of DC Comics. That’s hopefully going to change soon with a Batman story arc on their plates, but right now you can enjoy their art in the first two Wildcats Version 3.0 trade paperbacks. They draw the human form wonderfully, with a confident clean line defining the bodies coupled with lush, flowing hair. At the same time, Nguyen’s able to do more than just design good looking people, he’s able to make them dance. From sliding down wires to shooting a dozen guards, it’s like you’re watching a high-budget action flick come to life on the page. I really like his rendition of a “superhero uniform” here as well, with simple masks and kevlar gear looking perfectly in place. This is one fine-looking book.

What can I say? I’m gushing, and it’s because each new installment of Wildcats Version 3.0 is better than the one before. Between this, Sleeper, and StormWatch: Team Achilles, WildStorm’s “Eye of the Storm” mature readers line is publishing a lot of really great books that deserve much high readerships than they’re getting. With two collections reprinting the first year’s worth of Wildcats Version 3.0, there’s no real excuse for why you haven’t taken a look. This is one fine, fine book.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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21 Down: The Conduit http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/11/04/21-down-the-conduit/ Tue, 04 Nov 2003 04:00:11 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/11/04/21-down-the-conduit/ Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray Penciled by Jesus Saiz Inked by Jimmy Palmiotti 176 pages, color Published by WildStorm/DC Comics

It’s interesting to see how comics have shifted in the past decade. Ten years ago, comics seemed to strive to emulate Chris Claremont’s X-Men, where rambling storylines threatened to stretch into eternity with [...]]]> Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Penciled by Jesus Saiz
Inked by Jimmy Palmiotti
176 pages, color
Published by WildStorm/DC Comics

It’s interesting to see how comics have shifted in the past decade. Ten years ago, comics seemed to strive to emulate Chris Claremont’s X-Men, where rambling storylines threatened to stretch into eternity with no resolutions or major developments in sight, sort of like many popular sitcoms. Now, the reverse seems to be true. We’re seeing more and more comics focusing on tighter story arcs, with small “seasons” of issues where conclusions are reached even as seeds are laid for future outings, not that unlike shows on cable networks like HBO. 21 Down from WildStorm definitely went for the latter approach, and to continue the television analogy, hopefully this is the DVD release that will help ratings for its second season.

What if you had a ticking time bomb inside of you? What if you knew exactly when it was going to detonate? Preston Kills knows. At the age of thirteen an enigmatic figure known as Herod appeared before him, granted Preston the power to see someone’s final moments before death, and then stated, “You will be judged.” Everyone else that’s happened to has died horribly the day they turned twenty-one… and Preston just had his twentieth birthday. When FBI Agent Mickey Rinaldi appears in Preston’s life, though, it’s about to kick-start him into making the most of what could be the last year of his life.

Collecting the first seven issues of the twelve-issue series, 21 Down: The Conduit managed to grab me pretty good before the end of the second chapter. It was at that point that I first started to get the feeling that writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray knew exactly where 21 Down was going, as well as its eventual goal. That’s not something necessarily easy to convey for a book whose basic premise involves something very similar to a “road trip” in search of answers. Maybe it’s Palmiotti and Gray’s deliberate time frame they put into 21 Down, with the unseen ticking clock of one year’s time, inching towards oblivion. Maybe it’s the little pieces of the puzzle that are already starting to come together by the end of this collection, even as more fragments are placed onto the board. Whatever the reason, it’s a great overall feel to the book. Palmiotti and Gray did a nice job with telling Preston Kills’s story; by giving Preston a very low-key power, it forces them to concentrate on Preston the character instead of Preston the faceless holder of neato superpowers. Watching Preston and Mickey’s interplay is a lot of fun, and it feels realistic enough that it’s almost like eavesdropping into their lives.

Jesus Saiz’s pencils were a real delight to see in the Vertigo title Midnight, Mass and that’s no exception here. Here Saiz has to ground his art even more in reality instead of fantasy, and he does a great job with the challenge. Preston looks like a real twenty year-old kid, someone who’s filled out into his body but still has a slight air of youth about him. It’s a good contrast to Mickey, who exudes the confidence and self-assuredness that Palmiotti and Gray clearly had in mind when writing her. (It also no doubt helps that co-author Palmiotti is the inker of the series, able to make sure that the art is exactly what he and Gray had in mind.) Add in some really slick-looking covers by Joe Jusko (whose “puzzle piece” cover for the trade paperback so gorgeously sums up the entire series in one fell swoop) and this is one attractive looking book.

With so many new series hitting stores at any given moment, it’s easy to overlook a gem. That was definitely the case with 21 Down, and hopefully this collection will fix that problem. 21 Down: The Conduit is seven issues of pure fun, and if there’s any justice the new 21 Down series will be a tremendous success. Hopefully we’ll see a second 21 Down collection before too long, because 21 Down is too good to be kept a secret any longer.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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Arrowsmith #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/08/11/arrowsmith-1/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/08/11/arrowsmith-1/#comments Mon, 11 Aug 2003 05:00:52 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/08/11/arrowsmith-1/ Written by Kurt Busiek Pencilled by Carlos Pacheco Inked by Jesus Merino 32 pages, color Published by WildStorm/DC Comics

It’s usually when I write something off that it comes back with a vengeance. Take, for example, the Cliffhanger! subimprint of Wildstorm. It had just gotten to the point where I’d decided the line (essentially a [...]]]> Written by Kurt Busiek
Pencilled by Carlos Pacheco
Inked by Jesus Merino
32 pages, color
Published by WildStorm/DC Comics

It’s usually when I write something off that it comes back with a vengeance. Take, for example, the Cliffhanger! subimprint of Wildstorm. It had just gotten to the point where I’d decided the line (essentially a creator-owned branch of Wildstorm) was quietly retired when it decided to come back with a bunch of new project announcements—and the book I was really ready to see was Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco’s Arrowsmith.

It’s 1915, and the Great War is raging across Europe. This isn’t the World War I that you and I may remember, though, because this is a world where magic grew up alongside science, and this is a war that has fire demons alongside trench warfare. All of this shouldn’t bother Fletcher Arrowsmith, because he’s on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, safe at home; Columbia may have entered the war to aid its allies, but as Fletcher’s father reminds him it’s Europe’s problem, not Columbia’s. Right?

Busiek’s first issue of Arrowsmith will probably have a familiar ring about it for most readers. That’s because it’s a very traditional look at the young hero’s journey beginning; the outside world coming to visit, the understanding that one can’t hide from the rest of the world. The important thing is how Busiek tells it, and he succeeds here quite nicely. Busiek’s put a lot of work into creating this alternate history of the world (science-fiction author Lawrence Watt-Evans is listed as an Alternity Consultant, which gives you an idea of just how seriously Busiek took this), and in many ways it’s what tipped the scale for me. A setting isn’t the deciding factor on if something is good or not, don’t get me wrong, but it’s adding a lush feeling to the world of Arrowsmith, that this is a place that we’ll be really enjoying exploring through the eyes of Fletcher. And after all, now that Fletcher’s leaving Connecticut for the first time, both his eyes and ours are about to get widened…

The last time Busiek and Pacheco worked together, it was on the Avengers Forever mini-series, which was fun if not necessarily aimed at someone like myself who only had a passing familiarity with the characters. I was thrilled when I heard they wanted to work together some more, though, because I really wanted to see Pacheco illustrate a script of Busiek’s that I’d be excited about… and let me tell you, Pacheco has succeeded in making me act pretty thrilled about the whole thing. His pencils and Jesus Merino’s inks look fantastic here, bringing a real sense of awe to the bigger things here. In the early pages of Arrowsmith when we first see the trench warfare in Gallia, the fire demon crashing through the troops is a really powerful moment; it’s so out of place with what we’re used to, and the visuals are a wonderful cross between reality (military-issued pants and belt) and fantasy (horns, flaming skin, eight feet tall) that it’s a great “whoa!” moment for the reader. Pacheco doesn’t have to cheat and use a splash page to do this, either; each panel is given enough proper attention and care that the impact is still there. At the same time, though, it’s a lot of the little details that bring the whole package home. Having a rock-based being grow foliage for hair on the top of their head is something we’ve seen before… but Pacheco thinks this all the way through and goes a step further, with little patches of greenery on the rock-creature’s chest and arms makes a gimmick suddenly look very natural and completely in place. He’s able to take the fantastic and make it feel almost every day just as easily as awe-inspiring, and that’s a talent not many have.

This is a really fun first issue; with five more issues to go, anything can happen, of course. With this much energy and potential behind Arrowsmith, though, I’ve got all the confidence in the world that we’re going to have a lot more enjoyment in the months to come. Arrowsmith is a six-issue limited-series from Wildstorm; the first issue is on sale at better comic stores everywhere.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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Sleeper #5 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/05/29/sleeper-5/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/05/29/sleeper-5/#comments Thu, 29 May 2003 05:00:21 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/05/29/sleeper-5/ Written by Ed Brubaker Art by Sean Phillips 32 pages, color Published by WildStorm/DC Comics

Super-powered beings are really like different nations. That seems to have been one of the sparks of an idea that triggered the creation of Sleeper, a relatively new series from WildStorm/DC Comics. It makes sense if you think about it, [...]]]> Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips
32 pages, color
Published by WildStorm/DC Comics

Super-powered beings are really like different nations. That seems to have been one of the sparks of an idea that triggered the creation of Sleeper, a relatively new series from WildStorm/DC Comics. It makes sense if you think about it, really. Beings band together, form alliances, confederations, and unions. So really, it would just be a matter of time until one of these nations would send a spy in to infiltrate one of the enemies. And that’s when things get interesting.

Holden Carver is a member of the super-genius Tao’s little empire. There’s very little that Tao doesn’t have his hands in—not just money, but entertainment, world politics, and anything else he can manipulate. What Tao doesn’t know, though, is that Holden is a sleeper agent, sent in to work his way up through the chain of command and send as much information back as he can. The only problem is that the only person who knows about Holden’s mission is currently in a coma and may never recover. There’s no record of Holden’s true allegiances (since if there was, the bad guys could find it), so now he’s stuck. And that’s when things get interesting.

Ed Brubaker’s stories have always seemed the most interesting to me when the line between right and wrong is made ambiguous, and that’s exactly what we’re getting in Sleeper. Holden is in a horrible situation, where if he doesn’t at least go along with Tao’s schemes on the surface he’ll certainly be exposed… but how many times can you sabotage a plan before the common link between a series of failures is discovered? It’s a wonderful dilemma that Brubaker uses very much to his advantage; these are stories with no right answers, and where Holden is discovering that sometimes the “bad” guys, in their own way, can be just as noble as the “good” guys.

Sean Phillips’s art on Sleeper has a rare combination of good storytelling AND a clever trick built into it. At a casual glance, it looks great; Phillips has always done a nice job of drawing people that look like people you’d see walking down the street, and in a setting where leather jackets and slacks are the dress code of the day, it’s a great choice. He’s also good at drawing the rest of the world, mind you. At the end of the fifth issue, where one of the characters is lying in an alleyway, the entire scene looks like it came right out of real life (or at least a movie), with the walls of the buildings and the rain splashing down on the street is given just as much attention as the person lying in the center of it all. And of course, one can’t help but note Phillips’s layouts in Sleeper, which at a quick glance are easy to follow and look nice… but with closer examination, are more than just arranging panel gridlines on a page. Every page is designed as a single unit, with the central focus becoming a splash image that takes over the entire page, and containing all the other panels that carefully arrange themselves around it for an easy-to-follow storytelling technique.

It’s a lot of fun to watch poor Holden slip deeper into Tao’s underworld while trying to retain his own integrity; ultimately, the question of if Holden can survive without being completely corrupted is a big question mark, because you really just can’t tell where Brubaker will take the book. Edgy stories, clever art, and an air of unpredictability… now those are all hallmarks of a series that you really should be reading. There are currently five issues of Sleeper published to date, and are on sale at better comic book stores everywhere.

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