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sheltered

Sheltered 12 (October 2014)

Sheltered #12

Can Sheltered work if Brisson doesn’t have any actual sympathetic characters left? He’s bringing in the police, he’ll be bringing in the FBI, the ATF, some kind of child protective services–the issue reads real fast as Brisson and Christmas get to the ending, which sets up the grand finale arc–but he’s taken the “good guy” out of the equation.

So now it’s the man versus a bunch of brainwashed teenagers who killed or helped kill their parents. Who cares. Let them die; the drama is gone.

It’s still a well-executed issue, with the cops not listening to the good girl–who started the series as the protagonist but now I can’t even remember her name–until it’s a little too late. And there are likable cops in danger and all, but… who cares.

Sheltered’s successes aren’t insignificant but the traditional narrative finish is going to hurt.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer and letterer, Ed Brisson; artist, Johnnie Christmas; colorist, Shari Chankhamma; editor, Paul Allor; publisher, Image Comics.

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

Starlight 6 (October 2014)

Starlight #6

You know, I hate Mark Millar. I hate how he was able to goof around with Starlight–not just drag out the series, but be really late on the last issue–and how he’s still able to deliver exactly what he needs to deliver on this finale.

Maybe it works better because he’s already disappointed in other issues, so when this one comes through, it works out. But I think it’s more because Millar actually understands how to write mainstream heroic moments and he just lets himself get too confused, too commercial. Starlight is definitely mainstream, definitely commercial, but it’s also got Millar taking the time with his protagonist.

Even though he’s been through a problematic six issue limited series, Duke McQueen’s a great character and Millar wants to celebrate him–and the time the reader’s spent with him.

So it’s cheap and easy, but it sure does taste good.

A- 

CREDITS

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

lazarus

Lazarus 12 (October 2014)

Lazarus #12

If you had told me twelve issues in, Lazarus would be a comic I just had to read first the week it came out, I never would have believed it. You can go back and read the rather negative posts about the first five issues.

But Rucka has found the series. Especially with this arc about the political intrigue with the families; it’s a little soapier and a little showier, but it works out beautifully. He gives Lark the most basic action–the Lazari sparring with each other in the gym–but then gives him some great talking heads and a grand ball to render. Lark does a fantastic job.

The change in the comic seems to be from Rucka’s concentration on the intrigue–and Forever’s character development–instead of him having to guide the reader’s judgment with the families. Or something. Who knows. Who cares. It’s an excellent comic.

A 

CREDITS

Conclave, Part Two; writer, Greg Rucka; artists, Michael Lark and Tyler Boss; colorist, Santiago Arcas; letterer, Jodi Wynne; editor, David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

Ghosted

Ghosted 14 (October 2014)

Ghosted #14

Williamson finally finds a great cliffhanger for Ghosted. What’s so strange about it is how it continues the trend of somehow being either too intimate or too grandiose; but maybe for the first time he’s got his lead in real, scary danger. Ghosted is a supernatural heist story and Jackson is the mastermind and Williamson has spent the series setting him up as being smarter than everyone else.

So finally putting him in an impossible situation and having it work? Great cliffhanger.

The rest of the comic is excellent, opening with various action sequences–Anderson in angry ghost form is awesome–before getting into some character level arguing. There’s not a lot of room for character development this issue, but Williamson does at least acknowledge it a little in the dialogue asides. There’s no time for a break.

And then the conclusion… starts quiet, gets loud. It’s one of Williamson’s best issues.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Williamson; artist, Goran Sudzuka; colorist, Miroslav Mrva; letterer, Rus Wooten; editors, Helen Leigh and Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

copperhead

Copperhead 2 (October 2014)

Copperhead #2

How can this comic be so good? Faerber keeps up the fantastic mix of sci-fi and Western in the second issue, with a couple plots. The sheriff's son is in trouble in the desert from giant bugs, with the neighbor girl, and a mysterious protector (calling him Ishmael is a cute touch from Faerber).

So that plot is mostly danger, with Godlewski's art concentrating on keeping the reader on edge. The giant bugs aren't clear at first, they get introduced all. It moves very fast.

The investigation is the other plot, the sheriff and deputy Boo. The best moment in the comic is when Faerber reveals Boo isn't stupid; he's smart, but looks stupid and slow. It's a great, quiet scene in the issue.

There are some new characters, some unexpected scenes with already introduced scenes; Faerber just writes them all wonderfully and Godlewski's art is perfect for it all.

A 

CREDITS

Writer, Jay Faerber; artist, Scott Godlewski; colorist, Ron Riley; letterer, Thomas Mauer; publisher, Image Comics.

birthright

Birthright 1 (October 2014)

Birthright #1

If the first issue is an indication, Birthright is going to be a trip.

Writer Joshua Williamson has a big twist at the end–the story of a missing child who returns as a grown, savage warrior out of a fantasy world–but the better stuff is how he’s handling the regular characters. The back and forth between the family is great, especially how Williamson is carefully positioning the older (but not anymore) brother as the protagonist. He’s the one who’s had to be literally responsible for his father but also monitoring the mother.

Williamson opens the issue with the child going missing, showing the family in the happier days. It also seems like he’s going to try for some science with the child’s return.

Andrei Bressan’s art is a little slick, but his composition and visual pacing are both strong.

The cliffhanger’s an obvious one, but Williamson sells it.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Williamson; artist, Andrei Bressan; colorist, Adriano Lucas; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Helen Leigh and Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

Ghosted

Ghosted 13 (September 2014)

Ghosted #13

Williamson keeps this issue in constant motion. Even the expository scenes are in motion–with both Williamson and Gianfelice putting the emphasis on keeping things moving. The pace is important because Williamson needs to get in an unexpected turn regarding the villain of the arc before the cliffhanger.

On the way to that cliffhanger, there’s time for Jackson to bond with his new crew, the old witch who gives them information and the ghost hanging over his shoulder. Williamson maintains a certain level of danger throughout, but it’s always relatively funny… if dangerous. The issue does open, after all, with Jackson basically revealed as doubly impervious to physical and magical threats.

Given the reveals in the last few pages, the issue probably qualifies as a bridging issue but Williamson does such a good job with the trip across said bridge, it never feels like it.

Ghosted is a sturdy read.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Williamson; artist, Goran Sudzuka; colorist, Miroslav Mrva; letterer, Rus Wooten; editors, Helen Leigh and Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

Fade-Out

The Fade Out 2 (October 2014)

The Fade Out #2

Brubaker goes all over the place in the second issue of Fade Out. There's a bunch of stuff with protagonist Charlie's secret partner and best friend–and the way Brubaker narrates from a close third person on Charlie is phenomenal–but there's a lot at the movie studio too.

Not to mention the scenes with Charlie and his friend's wife or Charlie and the dead girl. Those scenes are just great. Brubaker doesn't do anything with the murder investigation; the comic doesn't feel like a too gimmicky noir, it feels like Brubaker trying to figure out this story and it's often great.

Overall, there are some problems towards the end because there's still the narrative–it's still about this dead girl and protagonist Charlie's involvement in it. But Brubaker's emphasis on the cast and making sure the texture of the setting comes through, not to mention Phillips's illustration of those things, is great.

B 

CREDITS

The Death of Me; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; editor, David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

voice in the dark get your gun

A Voice in the Dark: Get Your Gun 1 (September 2014)

A Voice in the Dark: Get Your Gun #1

A Voice in the Dark is back and in full color now. Well, not exactly full color–the figures get fully colored while the background are muted and messy. It’s a great look for the book, especially since writer and artist Larime Taylor doesn’t emphasize the backgrounds. The colors are striking.

The issue opens with a bookend and then goes back in time to fill in the details. Protagonist Zoey and her paramour–another college-aged serial killer–are in trouble in the present action bookend. The flashbacks start explaining how they got there.

As usual for the series, Taylor is precise in both his composition and his plotting of Zoey’s daily life. Dark is very well-crafted, which is why the love interest is such a problem. Taylor goes too fast, tries too hard. The first date scene is mediocre, not sublime.

Still, it’s fine enough and definitely ambitious.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, artist and letterer, Larime Taylor; colorist, Jay Savage; editor, Duncan Eagleson; publisher, Image Comics.

Satellite-Sam

Satellite Sam 10 (September 2014)

Satellite Sam #10

Just when I thought Fraction would never turn the series around, he delivers a fully fantastic issue. There’s no wasting time here, there’s no dawdling. At most he spends a few pages with the minor supporting cast, but it all turns out to be to prop up the main cast.

And having Mike back as the lead helps immensely. Even though the supporting cast–Gene’s secret gets out, along with some other secrets–have their share of story this issue, Fraction is back to Mike on his investigation. He doesn’t discover much, though Fraction and Chaykin do an astounding explanation of women’s stockings, but the investigation (and its weight on him) brings Sam back around.

Hopefully Fraction can maintain the pace–he’s spent a lot of time putting things in place without them paying off and now he’s showing his deliberate pacing was worth the wait.

It’s amazing stuff again.

A 

CREDITS

Keyhole and Welt; Shadow, Seam, Heel; writer, Matt Fraction; artist, Howard Chaykin; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editor, Thomas K.; publisher, Image Comics.

cowl

C.O.W.L. 5 (September 2014)

C.O.W.L. #5

It’s a decent enough issue–with Reis doing a lengthy Sienkiewicz-inspired action sequence–but it’s a little light.

C.O.W.L. is a hard-sell, which makes writers Higgins and Siegel’s accomplishments more significant, because it’s a comic book about a labor union and union politics and union negotiating. The superhero aspect of the comic doesn’t come into play much throughout the issue, with Higgins and Siegel saving it for the finale.

But even then it has a lot to do with the union and its problems.

Most of the art is highly stylized, but Reis never gets in the way of the story. He keeps the talking heads scenes visually interesting. Even with its problems, the issue is impressive. Higgins and Siegel find time for character scenes, they find time for conspiracies, they just don’t have enough A plot for the issue.

Slightness aside, it’s still perfectly good stuff.

B 

CREDITS

Principles of Power, Chapter Five: Sacrifice; writers, Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel; artist, Rod Reis; letterer, Troy Peteri; editor, Andy Schmidt; publisher, Image Comics.

Wicked-+-Divine

The Wicked + The Divine 4 (September 2014)

The Wicked + The Divine #4

Well… let’s see… where to start–the issue is two and a half scenes. The first has our protagonist, the human girl detective investigating on Lucifer’s behalf, with her sidekick interviewing Baal. He’s evil but irresistible. Only it’s not really an interview scene, it’s to get the protagonist into see all the gods and ask them for help with Lucifer’s wrongful imprisonment.

McKelvie makes a very interesting choice with the gods’ hangout chamber. It looks like Tron. Not a little like Tron, exactly like it. Only the protagonist is too young to make the reference.

So then there is a lot of talking and a lot of banter from the various gods and none of it’s good. Gillen spends almost half the issue on exposition he could summarize in a paragraph.

The second scene is the protagonist and Lucifer. It’s even slighter.

It’s all about the gimmick, not the protagonist.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Jamie McKelvie; colorist, Matthew Wilson; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Chrissy Williams; publisher, Image Comics.

velvet

Velvet 7 (September 2014)

Velvet #7

Leave it to Brubaker–my favorite issue of Velvet so far and she isn't even in her own comic. Instead, it's Brubaker chronicling the efforts of two guys working for the agency (and neither seem to be the corrupt faction out for Velvet) trying to find her.

There's really good narration from the first guy, Colt, as Brubaker takes him through the first half of the comic. The guy's figuring out how Velvet's working, which is subtle at first but then gets more important. He's also surprised at himself–the character, not Brubaker–for missing the signs of Velvet being a master spy.

The second guy is Colt's boss and he's also got a path to go on to figure things out. Brubaker never forces the narration, never does anything obvious. When the boss figures out Velvet's next step, it's a huge surprise for the reader.

It's an outstanding issue. Brubaker nails it.

B+ 

CREDITS

The Secret Lives of Dead Men, Part Two; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor; David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

manifest destiny

Manifest Destiny 10 (September 2014)

Manifest Destiny #10

Dingess just can't stop with the cliffhanger problems. Manifest Destiny always has these fake cliffhangers, where Dingess is teasing what ever is going to happen next and it usually is a character's intention, not an outside event. It's an interesting narrative device, but Destiny isn't character driven. If it were, such cliffhangers might make sense.

Most of the issue is good. There's a blowout between Lewis and his female assistant and it's pretty good stuff. Dingess definitely knows how to do the talking heads scenes to give them weight; they're nice and layered. Sadly, it comes right before a confusing montage. Roberts visually implies a mutiny, which doesn't correspond to the actual scene content at all.

There's some good Sacajawea action, even though it's off-screen–Dingess can't seem to figure out what to do with her.

But the series feels a little stuck… appropriate given the expedition is, quite literally, stuck.

B 

CREDITS

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