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a voice in the dark

A Voice in the Dark 6 (April 2014)

A Voice in the Dark #6

Taylor's been setting up a murder for so long I can't even remember how many people get killed in it. The format's the same every issue; he opens in the present, with Zoey cleaning up after the murder, and then flashes back.

This issue concentrates solely on Zoey as she prepares to commit the murder. Or a murder. Part of Dark's charm is how Taylor is able to build a lot of backstory in his issues, even though there's not a lot of exposition lately. There's usually a talking heads scene or two–this issue has one–and it's enough to move things along. It's like there are whole b and c plots happening off panel, with Taylor ready to bring them in once they've percolated enough.

The story continues to be engaging–with Zoey getting a love interest now–but this arc's getting a little too long. Hopefully it'll wrap sooner than later.

B 

CREDITS

Killing Game, Part Four; writer, artist and letterer, Larime Taylor; editor, Duncan Eagleson; publisher, Image Comics.

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Shutter

Shutter 1 (April 2014)

Shutter #1

Shutter needs to take a breath. Between Leila Del Duca’s frantic, detailed art and Joe Keatinge’s hip, artificial plotting and dialogue, it’s an adventure comic without any sense of adventure. When the lead complains life is boring, even though there are mythical creatures living among humans and some kind of futuristic steampunk thing going on… it makes sense. Shutter is actually pretty boring so why wouldn’t the protagonist be bored too.

It’s odd in some ways too how Keatinge pays lip service to it being post-gender–the lead follows in her father’s footsteps, who follows in his mother’s, etc–but then his details for the protagonist are generic single woman stuff.

More odd is the first backup–there are two, neither good, but the first one opens with the mother of all curse words. After a very YA appropriate feature. Guess they don’t actually want crossover audience.

Shutter misfires.

C- 

CREDITS

Writer, Joe Keatinge; artist, Leila Del Duca; colorist, Owen Gieni; letterer, Ed Brisson. Mungore; writer and artist, Ryan Alexander-Tanner; colorist, Catherine Peach. Tiger Lawyer, Sidebar; writer, Ryan Ferrier; artist, Felipe Torrent. Publisher, Image Comics.

manifest destiny

Manifest Destiny 6 (April 2014)

Manifest Destiny #6

It’s a decent issue with some great art sequences from Roberts–the explorers are fighting plant zombie wildlife after all–but it moves too fast. Dingess seems too concerned with keeping things moving and keeping to his narration structure to really relax and enjoy.

This issue, for example, once again has Sacajawea kicking butt. Only Dingess is too busy showing Lewis and Clark’s side of the event, which involves hallucinations, to let the reader enjoy the butt-kicking. The script sometimes makes Roberts’s art feel stunted. Who knows, maybe it’s the other way around and the art’s a stunted rendition of the script.

But I doubt it.

Still, the baseline quality of Manifest Destiny is undeniable. It remains to be seen whether Dingess is going to achieve something amazing for the series or be satisfied being above average.

The characters, who Dingess does give good attention, deserve more ambitious plotting.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Chris Dingess; artist, Matthew Roberts; colorist, Owen Gieni; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editor, Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

A review of a Starlight comic book, a series published by Image Comics.

Starlight 2 (April 2014)

Starlight #2

I was expecting a lot more from Starlight. This new development where series totally fall off after strong openings didn’t seem like something Millar would fall for, but this issue suggests otherwise. Duke argues with a kid from the planet he saved about whether he’s going back to save them again.

Of course he’s going to go back. Otherwise there’s not a series.

About the only time the comic shows any signs of life is when Duke says they’re going to show off the spaceship to all the people who said he was crazy. And then Millar fails to deliver anything.

So it’s a redundant, predictable talking heads book. Without very interesting art. Parlov doesn’t do a lot of backgrounds and his panels are simplistic. There’s an overemphasis on the kid, who’s not particularly interesting, and most of the moodiness about Duke’s solitude is gone.

Starlight’s dimming. It’s too bad too.

C 

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Millar; artist, Goran Parlov; colorist, Ive Svorcina; letterer, Marko Sunjic; editor, Nicole Boose; publisher, Image Comics.

Pretty-Deadly

Pretty Deadly 5 (April 2014)

Pretty Deadly #5

DeConnick has a decent finish for the end of the first Pretty Deadly arc. There’s something missing, like she rushed through resolving the showdown in order to get to the next showdown. It’s hurried and there’s little sense of the journey the characters take.

There’s also a lot of narration through the issue–the framing sequence has never felt so prevalent. The characters all become the subject of this narration and no longer the leads in it.

Still, Rios’s art is gorgeous and DeConnick gets in some good character moments. There’s just not enough room for all the things they’re imagining. It feels undeveloped, especially when it comes to the big finale. There’s a mix of action and character stuff and neither really gets the deserved amount of attention.

Deadly has been able to be confusing and rewarding at the same time. Here, DeConnick tries too hard to be intelligible.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Sigrid Ellis; publisher, Image Comics.

Satellite-Sam

Satellite Sam 7 (March 2014)

Satellite Sam #7

Fraction's doing less of an arc than a window into Mike–as in the new Satellite Sam–and his descent into obsession. It's funny, but I think Fraction's still trying to get keep the character as likable as possible. He's just over his head, trying to relieve his father's photography fetish.

There are the subplots going too, of course. There's a great one with the disgraced writer on his way out and then the troubles of a new show going on. Not to mention a flashback to the original Satellite Sam and how he conducted himself, drafting a girl Friday who tracks down Mike for something here.

The comic opens with the series's most explicit moment (so far). Chaykin choreographs it perfectly. There's some great stuff from long distance profile later one too. I love how Chaykin makes the comic about classic TV feel like classic TV with panel composition.

Awesome issue.

A 

CREDITS

Exposure; writer, Matt Fraction; artist, Howard Chaykin; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editor, Thomas K.; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale

Fatale 21 (March 2014)

Fatale #21

This issue, while obviously winding up to the big finish, is a bit of return to form. Brubaker takes the time to introduce a new character–one impervious to Jo's charms–and he's a nice addition. There's some levity amidst Jo's preparations.

Speaking of Jo's preparations, Brubaker does go too far with a reveal in the last page or two. He makes Jo do something incredibly dumb. After showing her to be plotting and careful, she goofs. It doesn't work.

But Jo's really back to being the mysterious femme fatale this issue. Nicolas is the protagonist, meeting Jo's sidekick, trying to figure out what's going on with her–he hasn't been the protagonist for a long, long time. And the series is only twenty-one issues in and the guy feels foreign to the captain's chair.

It's an outstanding issue; still, it also shows how reductive Brubaker's being with the series's many intermediary details.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

a voice in the dark

A Voice in the Dark 5 (March 2014)

A Voice in the Dark #5

It’s a talking heads issue. Conversation after conversation after conversation. Not in a bad way, as Taylor does develop characters and flesh out the situations in the conversations. There’s a very good banter element, especially with the protagonist and her uncle. Taylor gets into college-related minutiae then goes directly into serial killer stuff.

There’s still the opening frame with the protagonist cleaning up after killing someone–Taylor doesn’t worry about action shots. There’s some implied violence this issue, but he’s comfortable just having the violence talked about. The more riveting parts of Voice come from how Taylor structures his issues. There’s a cliffhanger this time around, but it’s a soft one and not the most interesting of the last few pages’ revelations.

The art is solid. Again, Taylor is only really doing talking heads. He keeps the conversations visually compelling.

The delayed narrative gratification better be worth it though.

B 

CREDITS

Killing Game, Part Three; writer, artist and letterer, Larime Taylor; publisher, Image Comics.

Rocket-Girl

Rocket Girl 4 (March 2014)

Rocket Girl #4

I had been a little worried about Rocket Girl but everything is back on track this issue. There’s the 1986 scientists realizing they’re Cyberdyne, there’s the future detectives realizing they don’t know what’s going to happen, there’s Rocket Girl on the run from guys from the future.

Those bad guys from the future turn out to be about the only problem with the comic. Montclare goes for a plot connection he really doesn’t need. The way he paces the series, it’ll be quite a while before he gets to it and it’s not good enough to wait on.

Otherwise though, all of the plot moves are fantastic. There’s some great dialogue from the scientists and the future scenes go further in making the teen police department more believable. All they needed was to get boozed up, apparently.

Reeder’s art for the issue is phenomenal. The action scenes, settings, just phenomenal.

A- 

CREDITS

Nowhere Fast; writer, Brandon Montclare; artist, colorist and letterer, Amy Reeder; publisher, Image Comics.

prophet

Prophet 43 (March 2014)

Prophet #43

The difference between a divine Prophet and an excellent one? The divine one has less story. The issue opens with the tree-man on Old John’s team. Bayard Baudoin does the art for his story. It’s very stylized, very lyrical. In just a few pages, Baudoin is able to define how the tree-man sees the universe and his place in it.

Except the issue isn’t just his story. It starts with him, moves to the space battle–including another fun flashback to Youngblood. Even though Graham and Roy use such flashbacks more often now, they’re still surprising. For a moment Prophet all of a sudden becomes a comic about comics, a wild imagining of what could be. Then the moment passes–organically–and the story continues. It’s a very nice move the writers make.

The third part involves the slaves (from many issues ago); it’s setup. Good, but obviously setup.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writers, Brandon Graham and Simon Roy; artists, Bayard Baudoin, Giannis Milonogiannis, Roy, Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward; colorists, Joseph Bergin III, Baudoin, Sheean and Ward; letterer, Ed Brisson. Pieces; writer and artist, Daniel Warren Johnson; colorist, Doug Garbark. Publisher, Image Comics.

lazarus

Lazarus 7 (March 2014)

Lazarus #7

Even though there’s a rather emotional turn of events this issue–Rucka and Lark pace the sequence perfectly–there’s almost a genial quality to this issue of Lazarus. As genial as a comic where the opening scene is a flashback to Forever getting caned as a child.

But that genial quality, along with an odd sense of wonderment in the soft cliffhanger, are worrisome for the arc. Not terribly worrisome, just a bit. Rucka can either reward the reader or be honest to the story. While reading the issue, these concerns don’t come up. Only afterwards.

The stuff with the peasant family trying to make it to the opportunity to better themselves is good. Maybe a little too much tugging on the heartstrings but no worse than any number of Westerns.

Forever, in the modern day, is investigating a terror cell. It’s practically the B plot, but engaging.

Lazarus’s stride is continuing.

B 

CREDITS

Life, Part Three; writer, Greg Rucka; artists and letterers, Michael Lark and Brian Level; colorist, Santiago Arcas; editor, David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

Sovereign

Sovereign 1 (March 2014)

Sovereign #1

Chris Roberson splits Sovereign’s first issue into three parts; he’s trying to establish a whole world so splintering makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately, the three parts are not equal.

The first part is some mystics having to bury people. Not their people, just people, because as mystics they have to bury dead. Roberson works in a mystic in training, which gives the reader further entry into the world.

The second part is some prince who doesn’t want to be king but is going to be sooner than he thought. For the first part, which is set at night, Paul Maybury’s art is excellent. Once the day time scenes start? It’s okay. Mostly. It’s like Paul Pope meets E.C. Segar.

The third part is the weakest. Lots of fantasy exposition; it’s set at sea, there are monsters, lots and lots of terminology.

It’s too bad–the first part’s great.

C 

CREDITS

Writer, Chris Roberson; artist, Paul Maybury; colorists, Jordan Gibson and Maybury; letterer, John J. Hill; publisher, Image Comics.

Ghosted

Ghosted 8 (March 2014)

Ghosted #8

Gianfelice’s art stands out this issue. Maybe it’s because everything Williamson does–Jackson is being held hostage–needs to be a surprise. There’s the villains taunting him so their taunts need to be visually rendered, there’s the allies doing a surprise attack, the surprise needs to be rendered. Even though there aren’t any huge set piece fights (I think they average three or four panels), the art’s essential.

Also essential is giving Jackson someone to talk with. Williamson can run him through the Bond henchmen and Bond villain–a comparison the comic itself raises–but giving him a chance to connect with a “regular” character is necessary to jump start the arc. Ghosted has been doing fine, but once Williamson unveils the damsel in distress’s secret, it improves.

While the flashback stuff is calculatedly compelling, Williamson hasn’t introduced complicated intrigue in the arc until now. It seems worth the wait.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Williamson; artist, Davide Gianfelice; colorist, Miroslav Mrva; letterer, Rus Wooton; editor, Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

Ghosted

Ghosted 7 (February 2014)

Ghosted #7

Trick is okay. I’m a little surprised, since he sort of ominously disappeared for a bit last issue. He’s in sidekick role, self-proclaimed dirty old man to Jackson’s more sympathetic narrator.

Williamson gives the issue a speedy pace. It’s maybe three or four different sequences set in the same night. But there’s something too speedy about it. Williamson forecasts the cliffhanger too early. Not the exact details of it, but how he’s going to use it. Hard cliffhanger, just after Jackson has discovered a big detail in the story arc.

It’s too bad the comic gets predictable for the last few pages, because, otherwise, Williamson’s pacing is good–pulp, ghosts and action all play a part. There’s even a flashback to some mystery woman. I’d forgotten Williamson might want to develop Jackson a bit more; even though the character narrates, he’s distant.

The issue meanders, which is a shame.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Williamson; artist, Davide Gianfelice; colorist, Miroslav Mrva; letterer, Rus Wooton; editor, Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.