Image – 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 Lazarus #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2013/06/26/lazarus-1/ Wed, 26 Jun 2013 13:00:40 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=2478 Written by Greg RuckaArt by Michael Lark32 pages, colorPublished by Image Comics

If you already read Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s collaboration (plus co-author Ed Brubaker) on Gotham Central back in the day, the fact that Rucka and Lark are teaming up on this new series Lazarus is probably all I need to tell you [...]]]> Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Michael Lark
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

If you already read Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s collaboration (plus co-author Ed Brubaker) on Gotham Central back in the day, the fact that Rucka and Lark are teaming up on this new series Lazarus is probably all I need to tell you in order to make you run out and buy a copy right now. But if you haven’t (and if that’s the case, it’s all collected into four volumes and you owe it to yourself to buy it), then you might need some convincing. And either way, here’s the good news: the first issue is excellent.

Rucka and Lark quickly introduce us to a future where a handful of Families rule the planet, and even those Families only take care of a small number of people. And if the Families didn’t already have a strong enough grip on the world? They each have a special enforcer called a Lazarus, with all sorts of special enhancements… including, as the name insinuates, the ability to come back from the dead. As Lazarus #1 opens, we meet Forever Carlyle, the Lazarus of Family Carlyle, who’s starting to doubt what exactly she’s doing for her Family. And of course, that’s only just the beginning of our story…

Rucka’s script for Lazarus #1 in many ways hits all of the notes that it should. We get the basic gist of the world, we get to see what goes on when everything is normal, and we also get the first cracks in that facade. Those cracks, of course, are what’s going to drive Lazarus as a whole and get everything moving. In this case it’s Forever, whose uncomfortable feelings about killing people for Family Carlyle is starting to push all of the wrong buttons. What makes this work in no small part is the environment around her that’s fostering those feelings. When scientist James reports to Jonah Carlyle, he’s just as concerned about including oxycontin into Forever’s bloodstream as he is that Jonah tries to show some warmth towards his sister Forever so that she’ll relax and bond more with the Carlyles. It’s a cold, emotionless setting in Lazarus, and Rucka’s giving us the first glimmerings of Forever’s soul struggling to break free. At the same time, though, she’s still a tool for Family Carlyle for most of the story (even though she’s a Family member); when she threatens to execute a huge number of people if one of them won’t step forward with a confession, it’s not an empty statement. Forever still has a long way to go before she’ll find her humanity, and that’s clearly part of the larger story that we’ll be reading.

Lark’s art works well with Rucka’s script. As mentioned before, they’ve worked together in the past, and the comfort level between the pair shows quite clearly in the finished comic. The opening pages are fast and violent; a series of close-ups of the flare from a gun’s muzzle as shots are fired, the silhouetted figure of a mysterious figure collapsing, and then the revelation that it’s a woman sprawled on the floor dead… until she’s not dead any more. There’s so much that works well here it’s almost impossible to name everything. I love how Lark doesn’t give us any of Forever’s details aside from the outline of her body on the first page; she’s a faceless person going down, with no way to empathize or even worry about this mysterious figure because she’s such a blank slate. And then, before we see her on the second and third pages, we get one clear look at her killers and Lark is able to instantly depict them in a way that you realize that they’re the bad guys, not the person who just went down. There’s something so desperate and nasty about their faces that you instantly know that something’s up. And from there, turning the page, the sprawl of Forever’s body at first seems to be what we’re supposed to be paying attention to, collapsed in a blood snow angel. That is, until you look to the right of the page and you get that final panel of Forever coming back to life, with that look of terror and confusion bursting through her face at us. It’s a dramatic opening, and as good as the script is, it wouldn’t have worked half as well without a talented artist like Lark. And from there, he just keeps going. Laboratories, farms, the insides of helicopters, everything is drawn impeccably and realistically. It’s exactly what I’ve come to expect from Lark, only better.

Lazarus #1 is a great opening to this series, and another in a long line of strong new titles from Image Comics. As much action thriller as it is social commentary, there’s a lot to draw people into Lazarus. Add in a long essay from Rucka about the creation of the series (which is genuinely fascinating reading), and trust me, you don’t want to wait for a collection. Whatever Rucka and Lark want to do with Lazarus, after this first issue I know I’ll stick around to find out. Definitely check this book out.

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The Red Diary/The Re[a]d Diary http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/10/10/red-diary-read-diary/ Wed, 10 Oct 2012 13:00:05 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=2433 Written by Teddy Kristiansen and Steven T. SeagleArt by Teddy Kristiansen144 pages, colorPublished by Image Comics

The Red Diary/The Re[a]d Diary is one of the strangest and most inventive graphic novels I’ve seen in a while, but it takes a little explaining. Teddy Kristiansen wrote and painted a graphic novel published in France titled Le [...]]]> Written by Teddy Kristiansen and Steven T. Seagle
Art by Teddy Kristiansen
144 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

The Red Diary/The Re[a]d Diary is one of the strangest and most inventive graphic novels I’ve seen in a while, but it takes a little explaining. Teddy Kristiansen wrote and painted a graphic novel published in France titled Le Carnet Rouge (or The Red Diary). In bringing it to North America and an English translation, he came to his friend and often-collaborator Steven T. Seagle. He’s part of the Man of Action Studios collective, which has a deal with Image, but (as Seagle explains in the book) he needed to be a co-creator in order to publish it, and he wasn’t sure that just providing a translation would suffice.

So, Seagle came up with an inventive plan. He’d take the French graphic novel and on his own write a brand-new script over top the art, trying to fit his script into the narration boxes and word balloons, and keeping in any names that didn’t require translation. Then, once he’d done that, he’d also (with the help of Kristiansen) script an actual translation of the graphic novel, and the two would be published side-by-side. The end result? The Red Diary, which contains Kristiansen’s original story, and The Re[a]d Diary, with Seagle’s brand new story "remixed" into Kristiansen’s art. It’s bizarre and off the wall, and yet? It utterly works.

As heretical as it may sound, I must admit that of the two stories presented here it was Seagle’s that caught my attention more. There’s nothing necessarily wrong about Kristiansen’s own story from The Red Diary (and after all without it we’d have neither of these projects), but its plot involving a researcher finding diaries of an artist connected to a poet from World War I feels simultaneously a little too convoluted and also disengaging. The researcher himself has no real connection to the person whose story is being told; had the researcher only appeared in the first and last pages of The Red Diary that might not have been a problem, but the book dips back and forth between the two on a regular basis. It’s ultimately a dispassionate story, one where there aren’t any real stakes for the reader or one of the two main characters.

Seagle’s story, on the other hand, put the researcher character firmly into the center of the spotlight. It was a logical assumption for him to make upon seeing the art, that the character had a greater role in the book, and it works in The Re[a]d Diary. As you read along into a story that is also about art and the war, you get a much stronger sense of urgency and mystery bound into the exploration of the three color-coded diaries examined throughout the book. There’s a promised end goal here, a story about a character that needs to be told. And while Seagle provides a slight twist at the end of the book (although I suspect most readers will have guessed it long beforehand), it generally feels much more straight-forward and to the point. The Re[a]d Diary becomes a book that sets its sights on a specific ending and then arrives there.

On the other hand, there’s no question as to the quality of the art for The Red Diary/The Re[a]d Diary, which is jaw-droppingly beautiful. Fully painted by Kristiansen, every page is carefully composed and would look amazing on display on your own wall. (For books about painters, this is of course an important thing to be able to pull off.) It’s also worth noting that each page is sequential enough that even though you lose the finer details without getting Kristiansen’s words, it’s still able to be followed as a story well enough that Seagle was able to create a story to overlay on top of the art.

The pages with the narrator are the most peaceful ones; ones as simple as him walking through a library or gazing out the window have a level of quiet beauty about them. Nothing is left out; the walls are carefully painted just as much as the main character, and you can read into how characters are feeling through the body language displayed here. I also liked his usage of simple techniques to tell the story in an effective manner, like a montage of the past that has multiple images fading into one another. In both Kristiansen and Seagle’s story, it works as a way to get across both a specific event as well as a general feel to the time period, and his gentle and graceful lines mesh well with the painted colors.

The war scenes are the most dramatic, of course. Here Kristiansen tosses out the lighter colors for dark greens and browns, a perfect choice for the infamous war of the trenches. There’s something in his color choices and heavy paints that can’t help but drag down the reader into the general despair of the moment. It’s beautifully rendered, and it gives those moments set in World War I an extra punch to the gut.

Could an experiment like The Red Diary/The Re[a]d Diary work again? Probably not. Re-dialoging comics has happened before and will again, of course, but there’s something about the utter mystery that confronted Seagle that makes this feel completely non-cynical and rather clever. I might have ended up liking The Re[a]d Diary half more, but I still appreciated what Kristiansen did for The Red Diary too. Add in the fact that this is published in a huge, over-sized flipbook that will let you examine the art for quite some time to come, and this is well worth your while.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

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Happy! #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/09/26/happy-1/ Wed, 26 Sep 2012 13:00:39 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=2396 Written by Grant MorrisonArt by Darick Robertson32 pages, colorPublished by Image Comics

Grant Morrison recently announced the end dates for his two ongoing work-for-hire titles for DC Comics (Action Comics and Batman Incorporated), and while he still has a handful of company-owned projects still in the pipeline (Multiversity and Wonder Woman Year One for starters), [...]]]> Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Darick Robertson
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

Grant Morrison recently announced the end dates for his two ongoing work-for-hire titles for DC Comics (Action Comics and Batman Incorporated), and while he still has a handful of company-owned projects still in the pipeline (Multiversity and Wonder Woman Year One for starters), he’s going to start concentrating more on some new creator-owned titles. The first of those is Happy!, a four-issue limited series with co-creator Darick Robertson. Reading the first issue, I have to say that this is a distinct change for Morrison. If I hadn’t known better, I’d have thought it was written by an entirely different big-name-creator.

Happy! #1 introduces us to Nick Sax, a former policeman who these days kills people for money. He’s hardly a shining example of society. When Happy! #1 opens he’s in the process of being hunted by the Fratelli brothers, members of the local mob. Then things go a bit off schedule, and not only is Nick injured, but he’s being hunted by the mob over  piece of information that he doesn’t actually possess. His only chance of escape? A little girl’s imaginary friend that he can now see, a winged blue unicorn the size of a fist named Happy.

If I didn’t know better I’d have assumed Garth Ennis wrote Happy! #1. It’s got a rough, foul-mouthed exterior that hasn’t been present in Morrison’s comics for a long time. So much of the first half of Happy! #1 in particular feels like an Ennis; low-class language, the seedy underside of a city, a prostitute about to be killed even as she’s blowing her john. I’m not saying that Morrison can’t write this way too, but rather that it’s quite a surprise to be encountering a book from him that revels in its own filth. Here’s the thing, though: I love that he’s taking this opportunity to veer off in a different direction than we’re used to. Perhaps we’re getting Morrison trying a little too hard in places but it’s still a refreshing change. And by the end of the first issue of Happy!, I feel like we’re on slightly more familiar ground with him. A deranged spirit guide feels more in line with Morrison’s other comics, but I’m still eager to see where this darker and dirtier version of the story is willing to go.

Robertson’s art, on the other hand, feels quite familiar; in many ways it’s like being reunited with an old friend. He and colorist Richard P. Clark are doing a great job here; the dizzying glimpse of the city from up above as snow falls down is a great image, for example, and the dead bodies wrapped up in Christmas lights is a perfect set piece. The idea may be Morrison’s, but I feel like Robertson and Clark are the ones who sell it; the crude sign propped up in a way that it’s off to one side instead of blatantly staring at the audience, or the gentle glow of the lights themselves. It’s cozy and awful at the same time, and that juxtaposition in the art is something that Robertson is great at bringing to life. Even the page layouts are nice; they’re not crazy or strange, but occasionally surprised me by doing something fun like having all the borders radiate out of the side of the page like bicycle spokes. Add in some of the driest expressions you’ll see in comics—the looks of disdain are just fantastic—and it’s a reminder of how Robertson’s career launched into high gear once Transmetropolitan began back in the day.

Happy! #1 wasn’t at all what I was expecting from this comic, but it was a pleasant surprise. It bodes well for Morrison’s other upcoming creator-owned projects; if he keeps stretching himself and branching into different genres and tones, we’re in for a wild ride. In the meantime, though, I’ll be content to just see how the remaining three issues of Happy! play out. All in all, a fun debut.

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Thief of Thieves #8 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/09/07/thief-of-thieves-8/ Fri, 07 Sep 2012 13:00:51 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=2376 Story by Robert KirkmanWritten by James AsmusArt by Shawn Martinbrough32 pages, colorPublished by Image Comics

Thief of Thieves, for those coming in late, is Robert Kirkman’s new ongoing series that follows master thief Redmond. The series has a series of co-authors attached to it but plotted overall by Kirkman and drawn by Shawn Martinbrough, similar [...]]]> Story by Robert Kirkman
Written by James Asmus
Art by Shawn Martinbrough
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

Thief of Thieves, for those coming in late, is Robert Kirkman’s new ongoing series that follows master thief Redmond. The series has a series of co-authors attached to it but plotted overall by Kirkman and drawn by Shawn Martinbrough, similar to how a television’s writer’s room works. Thief of Thieves #1-7, the first storyline, was scripted by Nick Spencer and now it’s James Asmus’s turn in the hot seat for the second storyline. And so far? It’s not a bad start.

Thief of Thieves #8 picks up more or less where the last issue left off. Redmond’s son Augustus is now out of jail, but he quickly discovers that just because the authorities are no longer after him because of the duffle bag full of heroin, that doesn’t mean the people for whom he was supposed to sell the heroin are quite as forgiving. It’s a smart follow-up, showing that there’s no easy solution to the problem that Augustus landed himself into. It’s also a bit of a reminder that as good as Redmond is at what he does, there are no shortcuts for just anyone to try and breeze through the system; Redmond is good because he’s skilled and thinks things through from start to finish.

The dialogue isn’t quite as snappy and crisp as under Spencer (who has a real gift for it), but I think Asmus does a nice job here too. The story flows well, and it shifts between Augustus and Redmond with just the right balance between the two. Thief of Thieves #8 never lingers for too long on one or the other, hopping back and forth for a good taste of what they’re up to (and helping serve up more of the contrast between father and son). It’s nice to see that both have distinct plotlines of their own; each zooming off in a slightly different direction, each for now. As the guiding hand for this new storyline, I think Asmus will do just fine.

I’m delighted that Martinbrough is still the main artist for Thief of Thieves, because with each issue I think he just gets better and better. There are a lot of little details that I think come across well here; the family resemblance between Redmon and Augustus (without making them look identical), the annoyance on Redmond’s face when seeing his ex-wife’s new husband, the genuine fear radiated from Augustus when he realizes just how deep he’s in it. The storytelling is also strong; there’s nothing tricky here and there doesn’t need to be either. Each page flows through smoothly and cleanly; always with a strong horizontal path across the page, often with a stack of single panels one on top of another, or occasionally having a horizontal panel chopped up into smaller ones. You can’t go wrong with Martinbrough.

Thief of Thieves #8 is trucking along at a nice pace, and with a collection of #1-7 also en route it’s a well-timed plan of attack for new readers to scoop up both the collection and this new issue. While I’m already eager for Spencer to return to the scripting chair, Asmus has shown that he’ll do a good job alongside Kirkman and Martinbrough for his story, and it eases my mind about the remaining, yet-to-be-announced writers still in the wings. If you haven’t tried out Thief of Thieves yet, this is as good a place to start as any.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

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It Girl and the Atomics #1-2 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/08/08/it-girl-and-the-atomics-1-2/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/08/08/it-girl-and-the-atomics-1-2/#comments Wed, 08 Aug 2012 13:00:21 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=2364 Written by Jamie S. RichArt by Mike Norton32 pages, colorPublished by Image Comics

I remember buying the very first issue of Michael Allred’s Madman back in the early ’90s, with its blue-and-black duo-tone scheme and flip-a-mation dance in the lower-right-hand corner. Over the years I read most of the incarnations of the title, although it [...]]]> Written by Jamie S. Rich
Art by Mike Norton
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

I remember buying the very first issue of Michael Allred’s Madman back in the early ’90s, with its blue-and-black duo-tone scheme and flip-a-mation dance in the lower-right-hand corner. Over the years I read most of the incarnations of the title, although it was around the time that the Atomics got their own series that I fell away from the series for a while. I find that a little ironic because it’s one of the Atomics that takes center stage in It Girl and the Atomics, a new series from Jamie S. Rich and Mike Norton. And while I’ve read very little about the Atomics, what I do know about the various Madman comics makes me feel strongly that this is a worthy successor.

It Girl and the Atomics takes place in Snap City, where It Girl has the power to take on the properties of objects she touches, and where all she really wants to do is help people. An early encounter with a former foe leaves her discouraged enough to agree to take on the role of test subject from the always erratic Dr. Flem. And that’s when things, of course, just start to get strange. As It Girl and the Atomics starts to spin its story over the first two issues, I found myself impressed that even though I’d been away from this little pocket of characters for quite some time, Rich made me feel immediately welcome. He introduces It Girl and the Skunk quickly and effectively, and then as other supporting characters appear (Dr. Flem, Moot the Hoople, Joe, and so on) we’re given just enough information to grasp their purpose without stopping the book dead in its tracks to (re-)introduce them all.

The tone of the book itself is a pleasant, relaxed nature. Sure, there’s bad things going on and at any given moment disaster could strike, but It Girl and the Atomics never feels grim. That’s part of what works so well for this series; its fun demeanor makes you want to read more, almost inviting you in. Rich also is having fun exploring the nature of what it’s like to live in a superhero world. Not just the idea of a superhero playing themselves in an online superhero computer game, but other ideas like, "What happens to someone guilty of killing a superhero when that superhero comes back from the dead?" Even something as simple as a bored superhero turns into story fodder here, and at no time did anything feel forced. All of this is what attracted me to the original Madman comics back in the day, and it’s nice to see it return here.

Norton is one of those artists who’s been around for ages and just gets even better with time, and It Girl and the Atomics is no exception to that rule. He nails the overall look and feel that Allred’s art also has; clean character designs, crisp lines, and hysterically fun expressions. When Joe shows up and explains, "He’s saying he wants you to let him experiment on you the way he did Frank," you can just hear the dry delivery dripping off of her words thanks to how she’s disdainfully staring at Dr. Flem. I was also glad to see that the overall fashions weren’t lost in the transition to Norton; little signature looks like Bonnie’s big bouffant or the cute little freckles of Joe’s face are still present, and colorist Allen Passalaqua keeps Laura Allred’s pop color scheme on display here too.

It Girl and the Atomics is off to a strong start; having read the first two issues, I’m already eagerly awaiting issue #3. Rich and Norton understand exactly what’s needed for a comic like It Girl and the Atomics; it’s funny, it’s clever, and it’s got heart. The world of Madman is in good hands with Rich and Norton.

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Revival #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/07/16/revival-1/ Mon, 16 Jul 2012 20:00:21 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=2356 Written by Tim SeeleyArt by Mike Norton32 pages, colorPublished by Image Comics

There are an awful lot of zombies these days; between comics, television shows, book, and movies, there’s a certain saturation to the market that’s hard to ignore. I think what ended up working for me with Tim Seeley and Mike Norton’s new series [...]]]> Written by Tim Seeley
Art by Mike Norton
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

There are an awful lot of zombies these days; between comics, television shows, book, and movies, there’s a certain saturation to the market that’s hard to ignore. I think what ended up working for me with Tim Seeley and Mike Norton’s new series Revival is that it appears to have started with that same germ of an idea, but taken it in a quite different direction. Seeley’s giving us the small city of Wausau, Wisconson where the dead are coming back, but with its quarantinedby the CDC/enthralled by religious fringe groups/debated on the airwaves status, we know almost instantly that Revival is going for a slightly different take. We follow officer Dana Cypress in Revival, a police officer who’s about to be assigned to dealing as the law enforcement liaison between the CDC and the locals. Through her eyes we get our first direct glimpse at just what the "revivals" are like, and how they differ greatly from actual zombies.

It helps that Seeley and Norton quickly establish a creepy mood in Revival #1; the strange being in the woods that groans and slides among the trees, the image of Martha standing on the bridge looking at the cold waters below, even the strange opening scene of the fleeing, stumbling zorse (a horse/zebra hybrid). Norton’s been juggling multiple projects lately (Battlepug, Revival, It Girl) but you’d never know it based on the art here. It’s clean and attractive, and the storytelling is quite strong, something that’s a must in order for him and Seeley to build up the tension as the issue progresses. By the time we hit the issue’s climax, new questions are being opened about the nature of the "revivals" and the set-up is strong enough to want to see what will happen next. This is a good first issue; if you check it out for yourself, I suspect you’ll be quickly hooked. I know I am.

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Hoax Hunters #0 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/03/26/hoax-hunters-0/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/03/26/hoax-hunters-0/#comments Mon, 26 Mar 2012 13:00:42 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=2245 Written by Michael Moreci and Steve SeeleyArt by JM Ringuet32 pages, colorPublished by Image Comics

I hadn’t heard of Hoax Hunters until this special was released; originally it ran as a back-up feature in the pages of Hack/Slash. With an ongoing series planned to debut shortly, though, this was clearly meant as a way for [...]]]> Written by Michael Moreci and Steve Seeley
Art by JM Ringuet
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

I hadn’t heard of Hoax Hunters until this special was released; originally it ran as a back-up feature in the pages of Hack/Slash. With an ongoing series planned to debut shortly, though, this was clearly meant as a way for people like myself to become familiar with the comic, and hopefully get interested. And while there are parts of Hoax Hunters that didn’t entirely work for me, there’s enough good material here that I feel like that mission has been accomplished.

The basic concept behind Hoax Hunters is easy to grasp; the three leads of a Mythbusters-type show travel the world, stomping down hoaxes of supernatural events that can be explained through science. What Regan, Ken, and Jack aren’t telling their viewers, though, is that they themselves are living proof that it’s all real and that their show is instead designed to disguise the truth from their viewers.

Because Hoax Hunters #0 was originally a back-up serial,I was willing to give it a little bit of slack in terms of overall flow for the writing. As it turned out, I didn’t need to; if I hadn’t read that it was originally served up in small two- and three-page installments, I would never have known. Michael Moreci and Steve Seeley have a good core concept here, and while I don’t feel like I necessarily know the three characters that well by the time the issue is over, I’m willing to forgive that for now. Once it goes to series, hopefully they’ll get fleshed out a bit. (Poor Jack’s name isn’t even mentioned until the second-to-last page.) There’s clearly a lot more in Moreci’s and Seeley’s heads than makes it to the page, and I’m looking forward to them having the space in which to lay it out for us.

While most of the plotting worked well for me—the team’s pursuit of the oddities happening in Russia is methodical and follows a careful chain of events—the one part that fell flat for me was the conclusion, which appears to happen regardless of the main characters being there or not. They end up being more of observers than protagonists, and that’s the weak spot in Hoax Hunters #0. It’s the one part that jumped out at me as absolutely needing to be fixed for future installments, or I think Hoax Hunters will risk losing its audience.

JM Ringuet is the artist for Hoax Hunters #0, although he’s since left the comic and been replaced for the ongoing series around the corner. Ringuet’s art is nice, if a little rough in spots. The best parts for me are every time the crows show up; Ringuet draws them with a mixture of menace and mystery, and their presence on the page is always instantly noticeable. The characters themselves have an angular nature to them; for the most part, that works, unless the panel is crowded. At that point, it feels more like a jumble because of those hard edges; fortunately, it doesn’t happen that often. There are some nice little touches here and there too, like the strange characters that appear when Regan uses her powers, or Ringuet using the astronaut helmet as a panel border for the flashback explaining what happened to cause all of the strangeness in Russia.

Hoax Hunters #0 is a nice introduction to the series, and I feel like it’s given itself enough room to expand and grow once we get issues on a more regular basis. For now, consider myself interested. There are a lot of places for Hoax Hunters to go from here, and I’ll be curious to see firsthand how it pans out.

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Hell Yeah #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/03/12/hell-yeah-1/ Mon, 12 Mar 2012 14:00:45 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=2192 Written by Joe KeatingeArt by Andre Szymanowicz32 pages, colorPublished by Image Comics

After reading Joe Keatinge’s first issue of Glory, seeing his name attached to the new series Hell Yeah made instantly intrigued. After all, if he could make Glory an interesting comic, what would an original creation of Keatinge’s look like? What I found [...]]]> Written by Joe Keatinge
Art by Andre Szymanowicz
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

After reading Joe Keatinge’s first issue of Glory, seeing his name attached to the new series Hell Yeah made instantly intrigued. After all, if he could make Glory an interesting comic, what would an original creation of Keatinge’s look like? What I found was a book that feels like it’s attaching itself to the trend of of "real world superheroes with violence" but in a way that’s worth picking up a second issue.

Like a lot of comics these days, Hell Yeah is set in our world with a single divergence point. In the case of Hell Yeah, it’s having superheroes appear during the first Gulf War twenty years ago. From there, we’ve ended up with these super-powered being trying to improve the planet, even as special academies are created for the next generation of heroes.

Our main character is Ben Day, the son of the soldier who was rescued by the superheroes when they first made their appearance. Keatinge right off the bat starts hinting that we don’t know Ben’s entire story; his (presumably super-powered) mother is heard but never seen, and Ben’s got a mysterious bar code on the back of his neck. It’s a slow build, and I think Keatinge handles that aspect of Hell Yeah well.

Ben himself isn’t quite as interesting of a character as the events surrounding him, though. Right now he’s the typical belligerent young man; getting into fights and believing that he can do anything. As a personality hook, though, that’s not much to go on. (Even his girlfriend Sara seems somewhat unimpressed with him at times in the first issue.) If I had to guess I’d say that Keatinge’s planning on Hell Yeah slowly showing Ben’s maturation, but based solely on the first issue he’s not that compelling of a person. When at the end of the first issue he decides to run into where a strange explosion happened to see if the people are all right, it feels almost random; everything up until that point draws him as someone who would be uninterested, so this sudden caring about others moment feels grafted on. At this point, it’s Hell Yeah‘s basic world-building that feels more interesting than the protagonist within it.

Andre Szymanowicz provides the art, and it’s also a little uneven. There are panels and pages where I think Szymanowicz nails the look perfectly, like that opening page where we first see Ben. He’s drawn in a crisp and clean manner, and the little touches like the trickles of blood and the bruise under the eye feel realistic without being a cliche. Other moments aren’t quite so well-drawn, though; the scene in the principal’s office feels remarkably wooden, for example. The principal feels not only stiff but even a little mentally vacant, with the repeated panels of him not helping matters. The panel at the bottom of the page with both Ben and the principal is also unhelpful; Ben’s sprawled in the chair with all of the poise of a Barbie doll. It’s frustrating because I think in a lot of places Szymanowicz is turning out strong, solid pages, but it’s not as consistent as it could be. Hopefully with a little more time and some more issues under his belt, Hell Yeah will have strong art from start to finish.

Hell Yeah #1 is a slightly above-average opening issue. I found myself interested enough in the final moments of the first issue that I want to see what Keatinge has in mind next, but in general the book could use a little boost in both the main character’s personality as well as the art. I’ll certainly keep an eye on Hell Yeah, though; I think there’s a lot of potential here just waiting to fully bloom.

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Glory #23 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/03/02/glory-23/ Fri, 02 Mar 2012 14:00:53 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=2177 Written by Joe KeatingeArt by Sophie Campbell32 pages, colorPublished by Image Comics

Of the various rebooting of Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Studios properties, it was Glory that simultaneously had the least and most potential. It’s the one that has the least-interesting character hook—it’s a thinly veiled rendition of Wonder Woman—and what little we saw of even [...]]]> Written by Joe Keatinge
Art by Sophie Campbell
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

Of the various rebooting of Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Studios properties, it was Glory that simultaneously had the least and most potential. It’s the one that has the least-interesting character hook—it’s a thinly veiled rendition of Wonder Woman—and what little we saw of even Alan Moore’s take on the character wasn’t that exciting. At the same time, though, it meant that Joe Keatinge and Sophie Campbell would have the most room to play with Glory and transform her into something interesting. And so far? Well, similarity to another comic aside, this is the most interesting I’ve found Glory, ever.

Keatinge reintroduces us to Glory’s history in this first issue; the union of two warring groups of gods that look like a merger of tribal peoples and aliens, then coming to Earth to fight in World War II alongside Supreme, and staying to continue to try and make the world a better place. Keatinge also brings new character Riley into the mix, a journalism student who used to dream of Glory and now is researching the missing heroine for her thesis. In doing so, Riley travels to France, meets Glory’s former human host, and begins to discover just where Glory’s been missing all of these years.

The elephant in the room with Glory #23 is something that can’t help but be addressed: this first chapter bears a certain similarity to Alan Moore and J.H. Williams III’s Promethea. The hero who’s existed from over the years, the student researching the missing figure, the hero who is bonded with an average person, the former host talking to the young student… To be fair, all of these are iconic story hooks, and some of them existed from the original Glory comic. And these are early days for the Keatinge and Campbell Glory, and anything could happen from here. So while I’m not knocking Glory #23 for its similarity to Promethea #1, it is something that needs to be acknowledged before you can move on and enjoy Glory #23 in its own right.

With that out of the way, I thought Keatinge did a nice job with his first issue of Glory, thanks to a certain elegance in his narration. Riley under Keatinge’s scripting feels like a real person that we’ve known for ages, not a brand-new character that we’ve seen for just a handful of pages. The yearning present from Riley when it comes to Glory, and trying to recapture those dreams and form new ones, feels much more tangible in a matter of panels than character motivations from other entire graphic novels. The pacing is good here too; we’re told everything at just the right time, never overloaded with exposition but never left wanting either. Shifting the setting to Mont St. Michel is a lovely change of scenery for a superhero comic, too; it somehow makes this feel like a more global, grand-scale kind of story unfolding.

Just as many kudos need to go to Campbell, whose work on comics like Shadoweyes and Wet Moon has always been impressive. Here, Campbell brings both the exotic and the mundane to life. The world of the gods and goddesses that Glory comes from feels much more graphic than I remember from many years ago; the strange forms that the non-humans are in, mixed with those who look more recognizable but full of tribal markings and dressings. Whenever we see the demons and monsters that Glory herself fights, they seem unreal and dangerous, and it makes whatever’s lurking in the darkness for Riley and company that much more scary as a result. At the same time, Campbell draws the people of our world in a wonderfully real manner. People have a solid heft to them; they come across as full-figured and real (and no, these are not euphemisms for being overweight). Even something as simple as the thick locks of hair of Glory’s, blowing in the breeze, feels tangible under Campbell’s pencil, and it’s a great look.

Just like the return of Prophet earlier this year, Glory #23 is a genuine hit. For the first time, I feel like this character is really working, and Keatinge and Campbell have a great opportunity here to take Glory into interesting places. What happens next? Well, that’s up to them, but I’m quite curious to see it for myself. A strong opening chapter. Check it out.

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Thief of Thieves #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/02/13/thief-of-thieves-1/ Mon, 13 Feb 2012 14:00:46 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=2157 Written by Robert Kirkman and Nick SpencerArt by Shawn Martinbrough32 pages, colorPublished by Image Comics

With several wildly successful ongoing series currently being published (The Walking Dead, Invincible, Super Dinosaur), the debut of a new series helmed by Robert Kirkman is bound to grab some attention. Thief of Thieves is using a writing team style [...]]]> Written by Robert Kirkman and Nick Spencer
Art by Shawn Martinbrough
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

With several wildly successful ongoing series currently being published (The Walking Dead, Invincible, Super Dinosaur), the debut of a new series helmed by Robert Kirkman is bound to grab some attention. Thief of Thieves is using a writing team style that’s normally seen in television rather than comics; four different writers will be co-writing the series with Kirkman, with Nick Spencer being the first out of the gate. And so far, I’m liking what I see.

For now, the idea behind Thief of Thieves is a simple one; Redmond is a master thief, with Celia his younger apprentice. The pair are working on a careful setup to get into a cruise ship’s vault, but there’s a bigger plan still being worked on that might finally come to fruition. Kirkman and Spencer have a lot of fun with this relatively simple idea; we first get to see the pair of them in action in a complete grab, we then flash back to the pair of them meeting when Celia was trying to steal cars, and then finally return to the present to see the edges of the big caper starting to form. It’s a good structure to introduce us to the main characters, get to know their standard plan of operations, and generally get a strong feel for the pair.

It’s the flashback from Kirkman and Spencer that I think ultimately sells the reader on the title. Redmond has a wonderful parental role in their interactions right from the start, but not in a condescending or bossy way. Rather, we see him instantly size her up, teach her the right way to do the job, and then take her under his wing. At the same time, it’s that last step that he almost doesn’t seem to know he’s doing until it’s already over. There’s something about Celia that lets her worm herself in before he’s fully taken stock; a mixture of need and self-assuredness that shows her as someone who always understands how to get what she wants, one way or another.

As for the big plot? It’s there that Kirkman and Spencer still need to sell us, but it’s early enough in the story that I don’t mind it suffering in comparison. I think it’s more important to establish the characters and how they interact, because that’s going to be the hook to make you want to read more. They’ve got enough charm between the two of them that you want to see them succeed, and that’s even while remembering that yes, they are thieves. Now that’s been solidly established, the rest should be an easy ride.

Shaun Martinbrough is an artist whom I’ve always thought deserved a huge break-out comic, and hopefully this was it. I remember enjoying his run on Detective Comics with Greg Rucka, and Thief of Thieves #1 has shown him to have gotten stronger since then. I love the opening image of Redmond dangling from the ceiling by a rope, with everyone scattered around beneath him. The angle at which he draws that page feels almost dizzying, even as Redmond is shown as calm and firmly in control of the situation. There’s no look of panic, no wavering on the rope; it instantly lets us know who Redmond is in a single glance. It’s that attention to detail that runs throughout the comic; Celia, for instance, is clearly the same person be it present-day and glammed up, or in the past and a little more of a wild child. Martinbrough provides quiet, subtle differences between the two time periods, though, and it’s an amount of care that goes a long way. Even something as simple as the pair walking into a group meeting give us a wide range of body types and faces; there are no anonymous nobodies in the backgrounds here. Then again, I was sold on the art for Thief of Thieves as soon as I saw the cover. Martinbrough and colorist Felix Serrano have done a great job; the shadows over Redmond’s face, the classy shirt, jacket, and pocket square, and then the looser style of art for the painting being held. Add in a deceivingly simple but classy logo, and it all but screams, "Buy this book."

Right now I feel like this is a creative team to watch. Kirkman’s idea for the series is solid, and Spencer’s co-writing has helped punch up the dialogue and bring an element of fun to the book that I don’t feel like we get often enough in Kirkman’s non-all-ages titles. Add in Martinbrough’s art, and we have a winner.

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