Judge Dredd: Under Siege #1 (May 2018)

Judge Dredd: Under Siege #1

Judge Dredd: Under Siege reads kind of exactly how one would expect it to read from the unrealistic proportions of Dredd compared to everyone else and his really bad one-liners. It opens with the revelation football has been outlawed because it causes concussions. The Judges don’t want people with brain damage or something. Fascists.

Other than the one-liners and the eye-rolling attempts at social commentary, writer Mark Russell doesn’t bring anything else. Under Siege doesn’t bring anything else. It reads like a bad adaptation of the Dredd movie, only Russell thinks Dredd is a dick, not a hero.

Oh, and there’s an armed civilian force. They’re fighting the mutants, who have gotten in from the Cursed Earth.

Doesn’t matter. The story beats in the first issue are almost identical to the movie. Except the mutants.

Dunbar’s art isn’t terrible; other than the Dredd as Frank Miller Dark Knight. Yawn. It also isn’t good enough to make the comic worth reading.

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Russell; artist, Max Dunbar; colorist, Jose Luis Rio; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Denton J. Tipton; publisher, IDW Publishing.

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Assassinistas #5 (April 2018)

Assassinistas #5

Beto’s a trooper on Assassinistas. He’s getting it done, but not with much visual enthusiasm. The moving figures–and there are a lot of moving figures–are all too similar and all too static.

Otherwise, of course, it’s a perfectly solid comic. Beto’s talking heads stuff is great. It’s a showdown issue (of sorts); between action beats, there’s talking heads. So it works. Talking heads isn’t just close ups, it’s also medium shots. Basically anything without too much action, Beto’s got covered.

Howard’s reliance on the word “baby”–whether it’s Octavia calling Dominic baby or Dominic calling Taylor baby–it’s a lot of “babies.” Too many. It feels like filler.

Next issue seems like it’s going to wrap up this arc (or this series) and Howard finishes the issue in a good place. Some surprises, big and small, often funny.

The villain’s plan is a little suspect (and, frankly, reminds me of Identity Crisis, which nothing should ever remind someone of) and counter to when Howard has a great line from the villain to a mansplaining Taylor.

It seems, at this point, whatever the ending Assassinistas will be fine.

CREDITS

Pack Some Heat With That Lunch!; writer, Tini Howard; artist, Gilbert Hernandez; colorists, Rob Davis and Robin Henley; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Punks Not Dead #4 (May 2018)

Punks Not Dead #4

The best part of this issue–which isn’t the best issue of the series so far, but pretty close–is the plotting. There’s a lot of humor with the federal agent ghost hunters and Sid and Fergie have a good adventure, but it all works because of the plotting. Barnett opens with a cliffhanging teaser, then goes into flashback and catches up.

There’s a lot going on–Fergie seems to have caused some kind of flash mob of seniors who can’t stop dancing, the feds are there, Fergie’s mom is sad, Sid’s not really being as helpful as he could be. Barnett and Simmonds make Punks Not Dead funny, weird, and dangerous. The danger is real. Even if it’s just the truth–Culpepper, the hilarious fed ghost hunter, has some truth and threatens to tell it.

It might change how the book reads, particularly in regards to Sid, and Barnett is real careful about how he plots out the teases. The tease has to be intriguing, dangerous, and still possibly not so terrible you can’t like Sid. You don’t want any evil from Sid.

Because Punks Not Dead is still going for fun. It’s a fun comic. Just wants some edge.

Simmonds does great the entire issue until the end, when he doesn’t seem to have enough pages to do the finale action right so he just skips it. A necessary reaction shot is missing.

It’s not a big deal. Nowhere near as big a deal as the cliffhanger, which promises new dangers for Sid and Fergie in the issues ahead. Hopefully Barnett can pull it off too, because it’s a doozy of a trope.

CREDITS

Keep the Faith; writer, David Barnett; artist, Martin Simmonds; colorist, Dee Cunniffe; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

The Highest House #4 (May 2018)

The Highest House #4

Gross has a double page spread this issue and it’s even more glorious than I could’ve imagined. He keeps the same small panel style, which is part of why the comic reads so well in general, but has a bigger area to flow. It makes up for the very confusing art at the end.

The issue is another full one. Not just with the existing plots, Carey goes ahead and adds another. There are visitors at Highest House and maybe they shouldn’t be trusted. Moth gets suspicious.

Before the end of the comic, after a lot of action and a lot of danger. It’s amazing Moth is still alive by the end–but in a great way. Carey is able to drum up concern as needed. A couple of the many subplots seem to get wrapped up. In both cases it’s more implied; it’s also very likely Carey’s on top of all the subplots. Because Highest House is refined. It’s grand and ambitious but the writing is just as precise as Gross’s art.

It’s an excellent comic.

CREDITS

Obsidian’s Bargain, Part 4; writer, Mike Carey; artist and letterer, Peter Gross; colorist, Fabien Alquier; editor, Denton J. Tipton; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Punks Not Dead #3 (April 2018)

Punks Not Dead #3

It’s a quick issue, which is almost a relief since it’s only #3 and Punks Not Dead feels like a lot has happened. Here there’s the aftermath of something happening and the preparation for more to happen. A quintessential bridging issue.

With some great art. Simmonds has a great sense of movement, which isn’t easy with painted comics, even digitally painted. But Simmonds has got it. Punks moves smooth from panel to panel.

And some really scary crows. The crows are looking for Fergie. They seem to be eating souls on the way. Or they’re looking for Sid. It’s not clear yet. Similarly, it’s not clear what’s around the corner for Fergie and Sid. They seem about ready to encounter the government ghostbusters.

Writer Barnett amps up the comedy this issue. Danger is up (a lot), comedy is up (a bit). I’m just as curious for what happens to the protagonists next issue as I am to see how Barnett paces it. Has Punks moved into the second act of the eventual trade (as I now assume all Black Crown are headed to the eventual trade)? Or is it just a quick issue.

Either way, good comics.

CREDITS

Wide Awake in a Dream; writer, David Barnett; artist, Martin Simmonds; colorist, Dee Cunniffe; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Assassinistas #4 (March 2018)

Assassinistas #4

I’m back on board–fully on board–with Assassinistas. There’s character development here, instead of just the character revelations in flashback. It’s kind of cool too. Howard has the banter down in the present-day action sequences, which helps a lot too. Banter, action, character development. Does wonders.

There’s also a nice mix of serious and silly. The absurdity of the action and so on. But also the real danger–physical and psychological–helps things.

The comic does still read a little fast; the character development is a nice change though. It seems like it’s been a while (like since the first issue, really).

Beto’s art is pretty good. It seems rushed in a few too many places, but his practically stick figure bodies are growing on me. And the action works. He gets the pacing of it just right.

The story itself is either moving too fast or too slow. The series’ll probably have to wrap before it’s clear which one.

CREDITS

The Thing That Grew Inside Me!!; writer, Tini Howard; artist, Gilbert Hernandez; colorists, Rob Davis and Robin Henley; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

The Spider King #3 (April 2018)

The Spider King #3

The first bit of the comic, when the capable princess meets up with the doofus king, is the best Spider King has ever been. There’s a rhythm to the interactions; you want to spend time with these characters. They’re distinct for a moment.

Then the princess goes on her way to assassinate the bad guy while the doofus king plans on a frontal assault or something. Doesn’t matter. It’s a bad idea, whatever it is, because he’s a doofus.

The art also feels very small this issue. Panels are smaller, D’Armini is cramped. There’s also a lot of stylistic night time action scenes and it looks very much like it’d be better in black and white. Adrian Bloch’s night time colors overwhelm the art.

Spider King #3 starts as the best issue of the series. It ends as more of the same, maybe worse. Vann can’t write evil spider king dialogue as it turns out. The Spider King is just a Bond villain, blathering on and on. And the strange design work on the infected soldiers–they’re bloated and without distinguishing features–is kind of gross but mostly kind of uninteresting.

CREDITS

Kjartandottir; writer, Josh Vann; artist, Simone D’Armini; colorist, Adrian Bloch; letterer, Nic J Shaw; editors, Chas! Pangburn and Sarah Gaydos; publisher, IDW Publishing.</p

The Highest House #3 (April 2018)

The Highest House #3

Highest House #3 really is only twenty-five pages. I had to do a confirmation count because so much happens I was having a hard time believing it was only one issue. Not a lot in terms of events, just in terms of character introductions and character development. Carey really does a lot, including giving Moth a love interest–well, a crush, anyway–in the lord’s daughter. And then he introduces the lord. And one of the princess’s maids. And some family mystic who can tell Moth’s got something going on with a dark power.

And then there’s Obsidian explaining how Moth is secretly descended from a royal line, which is why Moth can free Obsidian. There’s also a bunch about the deal with Obsidian. And with Fless, Moth’s roofing boss; there’s a lot with her. There’s not much with the creep cook, who’s still alive. For some reason I thought he was dead.

It’s a packed issue, beautifully visualized. Gross’s art moves the story along at a brisk pace without ever hurrying it. And he always makes time for some gorgeous establishing shots.

Highest House keeps getting better.

CREDITS

Obsidian’s Bargain, Part 3; writer, Mike Carey; artist and letterer, Peter Gross; colorist, Fabien Alquier; editor, Denton J. Tipton; publisher, IDW Publishing.

The Spider King #2 (March 2018)

The Spider King #2

Yep, I’ll bet Spider King reads better in one sitting.

This issue has the goofy ball underdog king getting his hands on an alien arsenal. There’s an alien around, but he’s not mean. He’s cute, in fact, and utterly unimpressed with the Vikings’ intelligence.

There’s a little with the evil uncle melding with the evil alien. Some real cool art from D’Armini on those pages. The comic slows down for a second and demands your attention to its detail. Then it speeds back up, with the Viking princess finding an arsenal of her own and a kid for a sidekick.

They get arrows whereas King Goofball gets swords and other types of weapons. Ones he and his clan members can’t really figure out how to use. Not good since there are now bad aliens hunting them. These bad aliens look different from the cute alien and the evil alien, who are at least both blue and somewhat similar.

Good art, okay script, way too fast of a pace.

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CREDITS

The Treasures of Valhalla; writer, Josh Vann; artist, Simone D’Armini; colorist, Adrian Bloch; letterer, Nic J Shaw; editors, Chas! Pangburn and Sarah Gaydos; publisher, IDW Publishing.</p

Kid Lobotomy #6 (March 2018)

Kid Lobotomy #6

Kid Lobotomy comes to a satisfactory, self-indulgent, successful conclusion. Milligan does not Milligan Lobotomy and he even has Kid refer to him (Milligan). But really only twice. And once during a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” reference, which is beautifully executed. Surprisingly so. Kid Lobotomy #6 almost feels like it’s from a different series.

Not least because Kid is now front and center protagonist. He’s discovering his past and how those secrets have affected him and the lives of those around him. It’s not near as outrageous an issue in terms of what Fowler has to visualize, but there’s something special about the art this time. It flows differently. Because Kid’s protagonist and everything else is subplot.

When I finished reading the comic, I was a little confused. Milligan changes the style a bunch, not just with the plotting and his self-reference but in how Kid functions in the comic. Then I realized how well it’d read in trade. It’s the pay-off chapter. It’s just not the pay-off issue. Well, it is the pay-off, but it’d read better in trade.

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CREDITS

Uncommon Lobotomies, Part Six of A Lad Insane; writer, Peter Milligan; artist, Tess Fowler; colorists, Lee Loughridge and Dee Cunliffe; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

The Highest House #2 (March 2018)

The Highest House #2

Highest House doesn’t go anywhere expected. Even when it’s going somewhere predictably unexpected, writer Carey manages to get rid of that predictability. He’s got a lot of immediate danger, a lot of action, but after an almost pastoral setup.

Moth, new slave and roof-fixer, is in training. He talks to his boss, Fless, about life at Highest House, but without excitement. Life is long and without incident, it sounds like; Moth just needs to learn how to climb roofs better.

There’s some B plot with the mean cook who wanted Moth for the kitchen and then some C plot with the castle wizard. Though it’s unclear how much magic there’s actually going to be in Highest House. Even after it becomes clear there’s some kind of magic, Carey doesn’t define it yet. Because the reader understands more about what’s going on than Moth, because Moth’s a kid.

Of course, Moth’s got a voice in his head to explain things, which seems like it might be more trouble than it’s worth. We’ll see. Carey never rushes even when it seems like he’s about to rush. Instead, he dwells.

The issue just increases the series’s potential. Excellent art from Gross, who fits a whole bunch into these pages. Lots of panels, lots of information, but also lots and lots of movement. Some beautiful composition going on here.

Highest House. High hopes.

CREDITS

Obsidian’s Bargain, Part 2; writer, Mike Carey; artist and letterer, Peter Gross; colorist, Fabien Alquier; editor, Denton J. Tipton; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Assassinistas #3 (February 2018)

Assassinistas #3

Assassinistas is starting to lose momentum, which isn’t good considering it’s just the third issue. Beto’s panels are getting sparer and sparer, he’s rushing through the action sequences. He slows down for the flashbacks and there are a lot of flashbacks. The flashbacks have the three Assassinistas in their prime. The present has the women separate, with Octavia having her son and his boyfriend as her sidekicks. The flashbacks are better.

But even they’re not without issue. There’s always an awkward transition as Octavia forgets she’s telling a story and then goes back to it. Writer Howard is dragging the revelations out–and playing with the idea of dragging them out–but Assassinistas can’t get stretched that thin. The boys are likable. No one else is likable. In flashback, the three women are funny and the action’s good, but they’re not likable. They’re still too thin.

And the whole thing about a kidnapped toddler just makes it feel forced. Like… we have to care, a child is (ostensibly but probably not really) in danger.

Also, for whatever reason, Beto’s expressions for the characters often doesn’t match their dialogue. It gets real noticable since there’s not just flashback, there’s exposition about getting to the flashback.

This issue’s a concerning turn (or concerning standstill) for the book.

CREDITS

Don’t Find Me — I’m Allergic to You!; writer, Tini Howard; artist, Gilbert Hernandez; colorists, Rob Davis and Robin Henley; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Sax Rohmer’s Dope (September 2017)

Dope

Sax Rohmer’s Dope was originally serialized in the Eclipse anthology magazine in the early eighties, which makes a lot of sense. It’s not paced for a single reading, not with the final “reveal” (which isn’t pertenant by that time) and the long blocks of exposition.

The early eighties origin also makes the ickiness of the adaptation make more sense. Dope, the original novel, is from 1919. It’s British. Having not read it, I’m just going to go ahead and assume all the racism in the adaptation is from the original as well as the gentle misogyny of it all.

It takes a while to get to it–again, why it would read better serialized–but the story is about a police detective investigating a murder and a missing person. Dope’s very convoluted in the setup. This person meets that person, then visits that person with an acquaintance and on and on (there’s a lot of society stuff in it).

And adapter and artist Trina Robbins does great with that society stuff. She paces out these long conversations in a couple panels, word balloons crowding one another, the dialogue briskly paced. Not so with the exposition blocks, unfortunately. When Robbins is doing exposition, it all just hangs. There’s so much text. And none of it is particularly good. The source novel is mostly unknown pulp, after all. There’s none of the efficiency Robbins brings to the dialogue.

The second half of Dope, which reads a lot faster, is this police inspector investigating. I’m still not sure how he solves the crime. It’s on page, but there’s no explanation for how or why it works (or he would think it would work). He’s not a particularly likable character either. No one in Dope is particularly likable. The society men are all shallow jackasses, the women are deceptive dope addicts or unfaithful wives; there’s the one good woman, but she’s just a vessel for an exposition dump.

Dope is an interesting piece of work, but it’s too much for one sitting. The finale is this incredibly tedious (and racist) trip to London’s Chinatown so it’s not like the comic builds to anything. Serialized, it’d probably read a lot better. The ick factor wouldn’t be as relentless and the weak characterizations would play episodically, not as de facto character development.

It’s rather disappointing, actually. But clear from early on it’s not going to be able to overcome the source material. Or particularly interested in overcoming it.

CREDITS

Adapter and illustrator, Trina Robbins; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Punks Not Dead #2 (March 2018)

Punks Not Dead #2

So, yeah, Punks Not Dead #2 is smooth sailing. Barnett builds the characters, concentrating on Fergie’s daily life. School stuff, crush on the girl stuff, a little on the relationship with his mom. He and Sid try to figure out how their bond works, usually to comic effect. Barnett doesn’t play Sid for much but comic relief here, which is fine. It’s nice to have a little mystery.

Simultaneously, Barnett’s got Ms. Culpepper the government ghost hunter playfully tormenting her new hire while they’re on a mission.

It’s all set to Simmonds’s lovely art. There’s a static quality to the art–in a good way–where everything can sort of hang. Which is important since some of Fergie’s powers (he’s got supernatural powers of some kind now, maybe thanks to Sid, they don’t know) involves manipulating objects. Simmond’s panel composition is key; the way he paces scenes turns out to have less to do with actual space and depth and more to do with expressionist space and depth.

It’s a good looking book. And it just gets better as it goes.

Another Black Crown winner.

CREDITS

Teenage Kicks, Part Two: Turn It Up to Eleven; writer, David Barnett; artist, Martin Simmonds; colorist, Dee Cunniffe; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

The Highest House #1 (February 2018)

Mike Carey and Peter Gross find a beautiful pace for the first issue of The Highest House. The issue’s full, but never too full–Gross’s pages sometimes have twelve panels, sometimes three, usually eight to ten. A lot of panels, a lot of story. And a lot of exposition.

In some medieval maybe fantasy world, a woman sells her son, Moth, into slavery. He’s off to Highest House, which he doesn’t know much (if anything) about. The guy who buys the slaves is an agent, not royalty. And he might he some kind of wizard (or hypnotist). He bonds with Moth because Moth’s got some perception abilities. Maybe. It’s unclear what they are or even might be.

So there’s the rural village, the trip to the city (with breaks), then the city itself. The palace. It just looks like a city. Anyway. Moth finds himself a roof repairer. He learns all about the tools, in this speedy, thorough page from Gross and Carey. There eighteen panels on the page and lots of text. Because it’s a full book.

Gross’s lines are a little looser than I remember, but he’s got gorgeous composition. And the loose lines usually make the characters emote better.

Carey’s writing is good. It’s interesting, it’s engaging, it’s not too complicated. Lots of panels, lots of text–Highest House could easily overwhelm. Carey doesn’t let it, even when it seems like it may. It’s that pacing. Beauty pacing.

Highest House is off to a strong start.

CREDITS

Obsidian’s Bargain, Part 1; writer, Mike Carey; artist and letterer, Peter Gross; colorist, Fabien Alquier; editor, Denton J. Tipton; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Kid Lobotomy #5 (February 2018)

Kid Lobotomy #5

Kid Lobotomy seems about ready to have a “Milligan moment.” There’s no exact definition to a “Milligan,” it’s just when Peter Milligan does one of those Peter Milligan things and the comic never recovers. Sometimes he makes it twenty issues. Sometimes he doesn’t make it one.

Did he make it five on Kid Lobotomy? It’s a great issue, for the most part; even the ominous material is good. It’s just the end of a story but not the end of the arc. Milligan’s got one more to go and he’s just introduced the idea of the writer as interactive creator. i.e. the characters can interact with the writer.

We’ll see.

But otherwise it’s one of the best issues in the series so far. Fowler’s got a lot of different stuff–an action sequence in a mental hospital, some flashbacks, lots of bugs. Great visuals.

Kid Lobotomy just needs to survive its writer’s more extravagant impulses.

CREDITS

The Boy With Two Hearts, Part Five of A Lad Insane; writer, Peter Milligan; artist, Tess Fowler; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editors, Chase Marotz and Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Punks Not Dead #1 (February 2018)

Punks Not Dead #1

Punks Not Dead #1 opens with the protagonist–Fergie–introducing himself. And talking about he’s got a punk rocker ghost friend named Sid. Yes, Sid looks like that Sid but he’s not that Sid. He thinks he’s that Sid. It’s all writer David Barnett’s back matter.

Anyway.

The comic sets up the kid, Fergie; he and his mom are reality show actors. They’re at the airport, Fergie discovers he can see the ghost, Sid. Sid gets tethered to Fergie. A comic book will ensue.

But then there’s this government agency–British government, it’s U.K.–for paranormal investigation and there are demon imps and ghosts and whatever else. The supernatural is real. So maybe Sid the ghost isn’t just some figment of the imagination or even a real ghost friend.

And it’s cool. Both sides of the story work. The teenage stuff, the secret agency thing–there’s a new guy starting, working for the tough lady who’s run it for years. Barnett’s setup is outstanding.

And Martin Simmonds art accentuates both the teenage stuff as well as the supernatural. The supernatural elements–the way Simmonds visualizes them alongside the mundane–it’s outstanding.

Oh, right. The kid might be a wizard too. He’s got magic of his own.

Another good one from Black Crown.

CREDITS

Teenage Kicks, Part One: Don’t Let Them Take You Alive; writer, David Barnett; artist, Martin Simmonds; colorist, Dee Cunniffe; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Assassinistas #2 (January 2018)

Assassinistas #2

The second issue of Assassinistas doesn’t have much of the Assassinistas. But there’s a lot with Dom–he’s Assassinista Octavia’s son–and his boyfriend, Taylor, bonding with Octavia as they prepare for their mission.

There’s a little with the other Assassinistas–there’s a fun flashback and then the one with kidnapped baby has some trouble with her husband.

Hernandez’s art is excellent, no surprise, and he gives the whole thing a rather nice pace. Assassinistas #2 is gradual, building to its unexpected final reveal. It’s unexpected but still a soft cliffhanger, partially because there’s no immediate danger, but also because of the pacing. There’s not a lot of urgency to Assassinistas, which makes it rather likable, even if it’s not reinventing any wheels. Yet.

CREDITS

Pregnant Pauses and Campout Makeouts!; writer, Tini Howard; artist, Gilbert Hernandez; colorist, Rob Davis; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editors, Chase Marotz and Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Kid Lobotomy #4 (January 2018)

Kid Lobotomy #4

This issue is all about supporting cast member Oletta. While she’s trying to figure out what happened to Kid, she flashes back to her “origin.” Not her full origin (i.e. she’s a shapeshifter, how, why) but her beginnings at the hotel.

Milligan even introduces tween Kid, which is something to see. Though it does make Oletta hard crushing on him a little weird, as she met him when he was ten or something.

Though given the other oddities of Kid Lobotomy, that one is one of the least skeevy.

It’s a somewhat gentle issue–Milligan never goes as gross as he threatens–and Fowler’s artwork is fantastic.

Kid Lobotomy is a sturdy, sturdy book. Four issues in but still.

CREDITS

The Chambermaid’s Tale, Part Four of A Lad Insane; writer, Peter Milligan; artist, Tess Fowler; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editors, Chase Marotz and Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Assassinistas #1 (December 2017)

Assassinistas #1

I don’t know what I was expecting from Assassinistas. Beto Hernandez drawing a book about a team of eighties(?) female assassins, written by Tini Howard, who I’m unfamiliar with. It’s a Black Crown book from IDW, but I still wasn’t expecting the Black Crown Pub reference in it. There’s no pomp or pretense to having a Beto female assassins (including masked swordfighting assassins) comic, which is just another feather in imprint editor Shelly Bond’s cap. It’s just this comic.

The issue is simultaneously awkward and comfortable. Howard introduces the cast in flashback, then plays catch up with two of the three Assassinistas. Only it doesn’t seem like they’re the leads of the book, at least not all of them. Instead, it’s one of their kids, who has to drop out of college to “intern” with mom. He brings along his boyfriend; about a third of the comic is just their romance comic. Howard and Beto pace it calmly–the boys are the reader’s vantage point, not the assassins. The son, in particular, gets to do this passive commmentary on the whole concept of the book. What’s the human cost, et cetera, et cetera. It’s cool.

It’s very cool.

Because there’s still all the other stuff going on, there’s still all the retired assassins stuff, there’s still Beto doing an action comic.

I was expecting Assassinistas to be a solid comic, but this first issue implies it could be a lot more.

CREDITS

Dominic Prince and the Semester Abroad, Part One of Six; writer, Tini Howard; artist, Gilbert Hernandez; colorist, Rob Davis; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editors, Chase Marotz and Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Kid Lobotomy 3 (December 2017)

Kid Lobotomy #3

What a book.

Kid (Lobotomy) has turned into a giant cockroach. What do you think happens to you if you start reading Kafka at twelve–you grow up to internalize it. So he’s a giant cockroach and he’s trying to hide from his sister, who wants to turn their hotel into a haunted hotel attraction.

She doesn’t get to see the ghosts, only Kid. He can’t help but come across them as they help him see the errors of his ways (at least as his desire to be a giant cockroach). Kid has people who care about him, like the shape-shifting girl and another sidekick.

The issue’s split between him, his sister, and the love interest. Things come together at the end, but without out much collision. There’s a hard cliffhanger, detached from the issue’s events but sort of related.

Who knows where it goes to go next. I’m reading Kid Lobotomy on guard; Milligan wants to shock, maybe awe, probably disgust. Fowler’s art is down for shock and awe but not so much for disgust. Who knew Kid Cockroach would be sweeter looking than Kid Lobotomy?

CREDITS

Lost in Franz, Part Three of A Lad Insane; writer, Peter Milligan; artist, Tess Fowler; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editors, Chase Marotz and Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Kid Lobotomy 2 (November 2017)

Kid Lobotomy #2

Milligan opens the issue with a couple new characters who ostensibly seem to provide the reader fresh perspective into the hotel and the existing cast. And they sort of do provide that fresh perspective, but all the action of the comic is so crazy it’s not like Milligan needed forced freshness.

The resolution to last issue’s cliffhanger takes up maybe half the pages; it’s Kid’s story arc. Then Kid’s story arc becomes something else entirely.

Meanwhile, one of the new characters explores a bit, discovering how little reality Kid Lobotomy has to it. Once Milligan gets that lack established, he and artist Fowler just go wild. Some great art throughout the book, including gross stuff. Fowler can make gross stuff palatable.

Who knows what next issue will bring, but it’ll be something else. Kid Lobotomy is definitely something else.

CREDITS

Vile Bodies, Part Two of A Lad Insane; writer, Peter Milligan; artist, Tess Fowler; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editors, Chase Marotz and Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Black Crown Quarterly 1 (Fall 2017)

Black Crown Quarterly #1

The subtitle for Black Crown Quarterly should be “Shelly Bond Should Be Running Vertigo.” Only then we wouldn’t have BCQ.

There are a lot of features in the comic. Interviews, some text pieces, previews of upcoming Black Crown imprint (at IDW) titles. Some comics.

The first comic is a strange potential crossover comic by Rob Davis. It’s potential because the characters from the imprint’s books could meet there. They don’t (or I didn’t recognize them). Instead it’s Davis exploring this weird bar and its customers, all through a new barmaid’s point of view. It’s funny, kind of creepy, well-illustrated. It gets the comic off to a good start.

Then there’s a strip from writers Will Potter and Carl Puttnam and artist Philip Bond about an aged rock band; two of the members are in a retirement home, one is on a yacht, the former want to convince the latter to get the band back together. Too soon to tell much about the strip, but it’s got a fine tone and Bond’s art is nice as ever.

Amid all this original content, there are some great previews of the upcoming imprint titles.

Amid all those previews is Jamie Coe’s Bandtwits. It’s unclear if it’s called Bandtwits or Canonball Comics. It’s also unclear if it’s a BCQ strip or will have it’s own series. But it’s finely executed indie stuff.

Again, Shelly Bond should be running Vertigo. Instead, we get Black Crown, which will apparently have some excellent comics.

CREDITS

Tales from the Black Crown Pub, Part One: A Barmaid’s Tale; writer and artist, Rob Davis; colorists, Davis and Robin Henley. Cud, Side 1, Track 1: Rich and Strange; writers, William Poster and Carl Puttnam; artist, Philip Bond; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Aditya Bidikar. Canonball Comics, Bandtwist; writer and artist, Jamie Coe. Editors, Chase Marotz and Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Kid Lobotomy 1 (October 2017)

Kid Lobotomy #1

Kid Lobotomy shows just how much editing can help when it comes to an excessive concept. Writer Peter Milligan has this expansive, weird, creepy, disturbing story yet it’s always in check. It hits all its story beats, the writing is there for the art, the art is there for the writing.

It’s so well-executed, one can look past some of the defects. For example, it’s a little slow at times. Milligan seems to be dragging things out; artist Tess Fowler compensates with focus on characters, but most of them are gross so the focus becomes problematic.

Actually, all the characters are gross to some degree. There aren’t any nice characters. Maybe the shape-shifting maid, who might be Franz Kafka’s sister. Speaking of Kafka, the protagonist sees lots of insects in his hotel. The protagonist is a mentally disturbed, wealthy young man whose father has gifted him a hotel to manage. In addition to managing, the protagonist (Kid), performs high-tech lobotomies on wanting customers.

Sometimes to good result, sometimes to bad.

Anyway, he sees the insects whenever he’s messing around with his sister, who wants to the hotel for herself.

So. Yeah. Kid Lobotomy sort of does an insect/incest word play thing. It’s icky, but well-executed.

And the comic’s got a great cliffhanger.

CREDITS

Do Not Disturb, Part One of A Lad Insane; writer, Peter Milligan; artist, Tess Fowler; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editors, Chase Marotz and Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Barbarella 1 (December 2017)

Barbarella #1

No doubt I’m going to regret it, but I’m excited about Barbarella. There’s whatever baggage comes with having an old white guy (Mike Carey) write a bisexual future woman and it’s definitely there. Carey doesn’t have any conversations, he just acknowledges conversations to be had. Only without ever promising they’ll be had. Again, I’m going to regret being excited about this book.

Because the rest of it is Carey doing crazy sci-fi. Not super crazy sci-fi, not like with dragons and angels and whatnot, but futuristic cyberpunk meets intergalactic travel stuff. There’s a lot of action, there’s a lot of sublime plotting, there’s a lot of great art.

Kenan Yarar implies a lot more detail than he actually draws. He’s got a rough style and a great sense of movement. It’s important because eventually Carey starts doing summary and Yarar is able to fill those montage panels with a nature momentum.

It makes for a compelling read. I’m looking forward to the next issue, which is kind of embarrassing because Barbarella is kind of a cop-out. It’s an excellently executed comic, but it’s aimed at the broadest audience Dynamite can get away with on a book with nudity and sex.

And Yarar’s rough and immediate style actually give Barbarella all its grit.

Honestly, it feels like a Dark Horse comic from the mid-nineties.

One I’m hesitantly onboard with, because I can’t believe Dynamite is intentionally doing this book this (good) way.

CREDITS

Red Hot Gospel, Part One: The Spoils of War; writer, Mike Carey; artist, Kenan Yarar; colorist, Mohan; letterer, Crank!; consulting editor, Jean-Marc Lofficier; publisher, IDW Publishing.

The Killer Inside Me (2016-17)

Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me

The Killer Inside Me revels in its degeneracy. There aren’t any happy moments in the entire series–a five issue adaptation of Jim Thompson’s 1952 novel–but the first issue is jarringly, hostilely unpleasant. Writer Devin Faraci does lengthy talking heads sequences–back and forth, back and forth–with artist Vic Malhotra keeping them interesting. Interesting or not, the content is so dark and Faraci dwells in it so much–this content can’t be visually rendered, it’s too dark–the first issue ends up being a tolerance gauntlet. Is all this darkness worth it for the story of viciously smart psychopath Lou Ford, a small-town Texas sheriff who’s got everyone fooled into thinking he’s a dopey nice guy.

Killer is dark noir, but it’s also brightly lighted rural Texas dark noir. There’s not just sunshine, there’s also the precise settings. Those back and forth conversation sequences take place in offices, houses, hospitals, and Malhotra keeps them all compelling. The comic’s tone comes less from the content of Faraci’s dialogue (or is it Thompson’s) than it does Malhotra’s panels.

Lou is not a nice man.

Lou narrates the story, revealing to the reader all the awful things he thinks. Lou’s a relatively reliable narrator–Faraci suggests at some point he’s writing a letter, but the series doesn’t start with that narration constraint. It’s just the awful stuff, ranging from nasty thoughts about the townspeople to fond reminiscences of atrocities committed. About five pages in is when Faraci (and Malhotra) start pushing the ugliness. Lou’s already been somewhat established as a character, his narration’s already been somewhat established, so when he becomes not just a villain, but a reprehensible one… well, like I said, hostilely unpleasant stuff. And then it just gets worse a few pages later. Like, it shouldn’t easily be able to get worse, but it certainly does.

Faraci has some trouble keeping all the characters sorted in the first issue. Killer Inside Me is the kind of book where a character appears on a couple pages in the first issue and won’t be back (or be important) for another issue and a half. It’s something of an adaptation problem; of course narrator Lou can keep everything straight, and maybe it’s paced differently in the novel to add to reader retention, but it’s a lot for a first issue. Especially after all the unpleasantness.

The cheerful banality of the psychopath cop.

The problem sort of goes away in the second issue, which has a strange but phenomenal pacing. Faraci’s breaking points in the story aren’t on natural story beats. The issues come to their closes with the narrative arc still in motion. So while Killer Inside Me is a five issue series, the first issue and a half are “part one.” Part two kicks off over halfway into the second (with the same talking heads participants who kick off the story proper in the first issue). Malhotra has such a great time with the talking heads sequences. There’s a lot of personality in everyone’s expression. Except protagonist Lou, since he’s a vicious psychopath. He’s stone. Everyone else is guarded but Malhotra’s expressions are almost lush. The awkward conversations, their weights and silences, all come through because of the art.

The third issue is where Faraci gets around to making an excuse for Lou. I assume it comes from the source novel and Faraci does get through it somewhat quickly, but it’s a bit of a pothole. Regardless of if it’s in the novel, the comic doesn’t need the rationalizing. It doesn’t slow the momentum, it’s just a little dishonest. Especially once Faraci gets around to revealing all the surprises in the last issue. Killer Inside Me has a number of reveals throughout. The final ones force the reader to question Lou not just as a narrator but as a character. He’s already the villain–though Faraci and Malhotra certainly make Lou’s “nemesis” an unlikable fop–he’s just not the villain he (or the reader) expected.

Flashback: Why Lou isn’t a nice man.

Evil is sometimes banal, though–fifties rural Texas or not–there are some big leaps of logic. Faraci doesn’t pay any attention to them, apparently fine leveraging the adaptation status.

The third and fourth issues–excuses aside–are the best in the series. Faraci is sailing with the narration. The too big cast is somewhat under control (it’s easier to remember murder victims than soda jerks) and the unpleasantness has died down. Going so big in the opening, Faraci and Malhotra don’t tone it down as much as avoid it. Lou is far more ominous after the reader has already seen the monster loose.

Artist Vic Malhotra has a great sense of depth when composing his panels.

The finale is a mess of summary storytelling with a fantastic last scene. Malhotra is almost able to pull it off completely, almost able to pave over all the potholes Faraci tries skipping over and can’t. Killer Inside Me is one of those stories–maybe even back to the source material–where it’s far more interesting in how it isn’t told than how it is told. Sure, Lou’s one heck of a narrator, but his narration doesn’t end up being the most interesting part of the story. And Faraci avoids dealing with it. It’s too bad because it’d be something to see how Malhotra would’ve handled it.

It’s a strong, sometimes stomach-turning read, with some lovely art. Faraci just needed an editor who’d let him break more with the source material. Shocking first person narration might not have been passé when Jim Thompson published the book in 1952, but it’s not 1952 anymore. And given the final narrative reveals, however, the creators’ more hostile choices are questionable. Still, Killer mostly works out.

CREDITS

Writers, Jim Thompson and Devin Faraci; artist, Vic Malhotra; colorist, Jason Millet; letterer, Christa Miesner; editor, Denton J. Tipton; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Transformers vs. G.I. Joe: The Movie Adaptation (March 2017)

Transformers vs. G.I. Joe: The Movie Adaptation

Transformers vs. G.I. Joe: The Movie Adaptation is a comic book tie-in to the non-existant movie adaptation of writer and artist’s previous comic, Transformers vs. G.I. Joe. That series got long in the tooth for me. The “Movie Adaptation” doesn’t exactly. It’s hurried, nonsensical–like so many comic book movie adaptations of yore–but it’s got some great art and some amusing scenes. It’s probably for interested parties only; it’s too hurried with the art for it really to be a succulent visual reading experience.

CREDITS

Writer, artist, colorist, and letterer, Tom Scioli; editor, Carlos Guzman; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Hot Damn 2 (May 2016)

Hot Damn #2

I’m still undecided on Hot Damn, which I wasn’t expecting. I was expecting to jump off with this issue–something about Ferrier’s writing style for this comic, he’s trying too hard to be flashy. He knows Ramon can really do up the Heaven and Hell scenery and Ferrier pushes it. There is actual nuance to some of the characters, Ferrier just doesn’t want to get caught up.

He wants to be sensational. He wants to do something blasphemous. He fails. Even with Ramon’s art, Hot Damn is just desperate for attention. I’m not even sure what zeitgeist it’s chasing, because Ferrier has original material and then he has tropes he goes through. Maybe it’s something with IDW editorial. Hot Damn is creator-owned but does have an editor.

So I guess I’m on for another issue. There’s some good stuff in the issue, some amusing moments, some very amusing sight gags from Ramon. There’s also a lot of lame stuff in the issue, lame moments, lame sight gags from Ramon. I’m far more curious to see if Ferrier gets anywhere, even somewhere tepid, with Hot Damn than I am to see how the narrative goes. While narrative’s barely passable, the execution’s bewildering.

CREDITS

Writer, Ryan Ferrier; artist, Valentin Ramon; editor, David Hedgecock; publisher, IDW Publishing.

HOT DDDDDDD

Hot Damn 1 (April 2016)

Hot Damn #1

Didn’t I just read a Hell series lately? Or was it a Heaven series? One or the other. Or it’s both. Hot Damn is sort of both. Ryan Ferrier writes, Valentin Ramon illustrates. It’s the story of some guy who ODes on coke and dies. He goes to Hell. Hell has thousand year twelve step programs (regular sinners promoted to demons), it has gross junk food, it has crappy apartments, it’s generally icky. With lots of fluids.

Ramon does a fine job with all the Hell stuff. He does a fine job with all the Heaven stuff (angels getting stoned, mostly). It’s detailed and never too icky. There’s far more implied grossness than actual.

But is Hot Damn any good? Eh.

It’s okay. It’s not the worst “slacker goes to Hell” story in the world. It’s not the best. Ferrier’s a problematic writer, but he actually doesn’t do much here. The jokes are all pretty standard, there’s nothing of particular note about the characters. I thought the Devil was going to be interesting, but no. He’s just a boring office guy so far. Sure, Hitler, Stalin and Mao are all in his office being tormented but it’s Hell. Stalin, Mao and Hitler in Hell are all tropes.

Maybe something interesting will happen next issue. But, sadly, I sort of doubt it.

CREDITS

Writer, Ryan Ferrier; artist, Valentin Ramon; editor, David Hedgecock; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Judge Dredd 1 (December 2015)

JudgeDredd_MC001_cvrJudge Dredd is a venerable British pop culture icon who’s only recently grabbed a toehold in American pop cultural consciousness. Doctor Who, another sci-fi icon as British as The East India Tea Company, has made far more progress towards American popularity. The two couldn’t be further apart in terms of personality, although the stewards behind both franchises have made worthy efforts over the decades to use the sci-fi genre as an exploratory tool for ideas and satire, in addition to being a platform for fantastical adventure. One entirely valid explanation for the disparity in popularity is that Dredd is an inimitable archetype while The Doctor is, superficially, more relatable to an audience despite his not being human. Dredd is both a hypermasculine power fantasy and self-reflexive critique of that fantasy’s fascist authoritarianism – not unlike the American film he inspired, Robocop, whose darkly humorous irony is also often lost on audiences taking the premise at face value.

Doctor Who, despite hefty volumes of back story across decades of adventures, is nonetheless what he appears to be: a nerd in a scarf. His cosplay won’t deplete your bank account, and his esoteric, extraterrestrial lack of communication skills are a gentle reassuring nod to the socially withdrawn. He is a genteel aspirational role model of science and justice, whereas Dredd is a living setup to rude and irreverent punchlines about how life in a dystopic future metropolis isn’t all that different from the present day.

The most significant cause of Doctor Who surpassing Judge Dredd in an American popularity contest, of course, is that today’s nerds have never been less likely to read a comic book. The BBC continues to produce Doctor Who shows. Dredd 3D tanked because 1995’s Judge Dredd was so bad that the stench lingered for almost 20 years. Word of mouth gave it enough of an American cult following that the character was no longer a joke, but short attention spans still dictate the consumption habits of geeks. If it’s not a TV series or movie franchise in 2015, it doesn’t exist. Witness the multitudes who’ve never read The Killing Joke blowing Heath Ledger’s mummified member, or the middle management drone who couldn’t tell you Judge Death from Judge Judy informing me that Dredd 3D “finally got it right.” I don’t expect people to pass some bullshit nerd test designed by the Eltingville Comic Book, Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Role-Playing Club before being allowed to have an opinion – but could everyone please stop pretending to be an informed longtime fan just to state that they enjoyed some recent movie or Netflix original series?

IDW, admirably, grabbed the post-Dredd surge of interest in the character with both fists, publishing Dredd artist collections, colorized reprints of classic stories like The Dark Judges and The Apocalpyse War, and most excitingly, a new regular title and various mini-series for the new American audience. The range of success has been inconsistent – Anderson, Psi-Division and Judge Dredd: Year One were forgettable, while Mega-City Two and Mars Attacks Judge Dredd were fun romps. The flagship series was a platform for selectively incorporating pieces of favorite storylines and characters, like Marvel’s “Ultimate” reboot, and maintained a fairy consistent level of quality across 30 issues from writer Duane Swierczynski and Nelson Daniel. Its only real shortcoming was the absence of variety in artists or writers that 2000 AD enjoyed; an unavoidable production difference between a weekly-produced strip and a monthly book.

When a series is relaunched, it’s sometimes hard to tell if the move is an act of desperation in the face of sluggish sales or affirmation in good faith of continued success – number one issues tend to sell well either way.

The all-new Judge Dredd 1 is a competently made, narratively risky point of entry for any new reader not already following IDW’s revival. It’s unclear if there’s meant to be continuity from the previous regular series (probably not) but it wouldn’t matter at the offset of this initial storyline anyways: Ulises Fariñas, the excellent illustrator of Mega-City Two and his co-writer Erick Freitas have gone all Crossed +100 on Dredd and flung him into the post-post-Apocalpse, a storyline entitled Mega-City Zero, where he finds himself at the moss covered remains of what might be the last Mega-Block on Earth. The concept is certainly intriguing, as is the business calculation that a casual fan of Dredd 3D will feel familiar enough with the character to begin investment in a story where he’s out of his element.

Or rather, it’s a refutation of what had to be a really underwhelming response to 2000 AD‘s own attempt to appeal to Dredd 3D fans directly.

The proposal is thoughtful insofar as Dredd 3D also stranded him without support from the Justice Department, though it also stands to reason that anyone picking up this comic in lieu of a Dredd 2 would want to see more of Mega-City One, rather than Dredd again bringing The Law to another block under control by a despotic ruler. Granted, the issue ends before any major antagonist is revealed, so it would be nice if the storyline isn’t as predictable as it seems. Anderson makes a pointless cameo at the beginning of the story, hopefully this tossed-off introduction isn’t solely so she can later save Dredd’s hash as she’s often done when Old Stony Face gets stranded in another time or dimension.

Plot aside, Fariñas & Freitas’ script has some nice contrast between Dredd’s by-the-book proceduralisms and the slang of the kid hoodlums he first encounters outside the perimeter of the lone Year Zero block. There are some world-building details in spite of the usual rules not applying – robot judges guard the block, humanoid animals are seen outside (the Mutant/mutie slur goes unuttered) and Dredd reviews the ammunition of his Lawgiver – as did Dredd 3D. I’m a little irritated that the trio of ragamuffin savages who are arrested by Dredd and thereby taken under his protection get almost as much of the spotlight as he does, in this new debut.

Dan McDaid’s art is less clean and precise than Nelson Daniel’s, which at least fits the grunginess of this particular story. The lack of detailing only really hurts peoples’ faces – it feels even sparser than Mega-City Two. His figure composition has a nice Mike McMahon-esque dynamism, including during the action sequences. Ryan Hill’s colors bring an appropriately lush earthiness to the outdoor meadows – I’d just like to know what their Mega-City One will look like.

The new Judge Dredd’s opening arc might not turn out to be the best initiation for new fans, but as Dredd adventures go, this one seems to have serviceable talent behind it.

CREDITS

Mega-City Zero: Part One, writers, Ulises Fariñas and Erick Freitas; artist, Dan McDaid; colorist, Ryan Hill, letterer, Chris Mowry; editor, Denton J. Tipton; publisher, IDW.

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