Angelic 3 (November 2017)

Angelic #3

It’s not a great issue of Angelic. It’s an all right issue, but it’s kind of an action-packed bridging issue. Spurrier’s just setting things up for next time. There’s trouble brewing with the flying monkeys. The flying manatees are lying to Qora, the good flying monkey girl. There are weaponized cats, who aren’t friendly.

The action is paced quite well. Even though the issue isn’t a substantial read and Wijngaard mostly impresses just because he can keep up with the story, it’s got a good pace. You keep turning pages, expecting something significant to happen.

And it doesn’t. There are all sorts of hints at significant things, but they aren’t the same as substantial moments in the comic.

I was hoping Angelic would be smooth sailing after its bumpy start and solid second issue. It appears it’s going to be bumpy throughout though.

CREDITS

Heirs and Graces, Part Three; writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Caspar Wijngaard; letterer, Jim Campbell; publisher, Image Comics.

Advertisements

Angelic 2 (October 2017)

Angelic #2

Turns out all Angelic needed was some teched-out manatees to turn the book around. Young hero Qora is alone on the beach, waiting to be married off to an icky priest monkey. She just wants to keep her wings (she loses them at marriage). The manatees show up and offer her a deal–help them save their god.

Their god is a malfunctioning drone scanner robot thing; doesn’t matter.

Spurrier paces out the issue beautifully. The back and forth between the Mans (manatees) and Qora is great, with the young Monk (monkey–Spurrier doesn’t go too far off with the dialect and its eclectic nouns). And then the second half, with a Mans and Qora questing, is even better. Spurrier’s able to draw their characters out right away, all nature introduction stuff. Deft.

Lovely art from Wijngaard. He’s got a lot of concise detail, but with thick, emotive lines. Gives the book a lot of its feel for the talking heads. Manatees. Whatever.

Angelic just got a whole lot better.

CREDITS

Heirs and Graces, Part Two; writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Caspar Wijngaard; letterer, Jim Campbell; publisher, Image Comics.

Godshaper 6 (September 2017)

Godshaper #6

Godshaper comes to its finish. There’s some good art from Goonface, but he literally doesn’t have room again. The concert hall is too small for the giant gods and the pages are too small for all Ennay is supposed to be doing. But there’s some good art and some nice feels to the issue.

Those nice feels, courtesy Spurrier’s shiny happy ending, are in the place of any actual finish to the comic. Spurrier spins things up and drops them in new places. He leverages a lot on the likability of the cast–a whole lot, more as the comic goes on–without doing anything for them. It just wraps up.

Godshaper peaked early, so it didn’t exactly waste potential, but it’s a shame it didn’t work out. Spurrier probably should’ve decided on the narrative tone before the last issue.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Jonas Goonface; letterer, Colin Bell; editors, Cameron Chittock and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Angelic 1 (September 2017)

Angelic #1

Angelic is simultaneously new and familiar. It’s post-apocalyptic, no people, just genetically altered animals. The villains are flying dolphins who hunt the winged monkeys. The winged monkeys live in a patriarchal society with a cult-like religion controlling everything. They look like Wizard of Oz winged monkeys, talk like Planet of the Apes. Well, writer Simon Spurrier gives them their own vocabulary with modified words, which they presumably learned themselves (because in being genetically modified, they learned to speak?).

The lead is a female monkey who doesn’t want to get her wings cut off, which is what happens to female monkeys when they have to become broodmares for some dude. The lead, Qora, is going to be broodmare for one of the high holies. She’s not thrilled. So she goes down to the sea shore to sulk and is attacked by a cyborg cat.

The cat’s real messed up. It appears to want pets.

And then she discovers the world is not what it seems.

Lovely art from Caspar Wijngaard. Spurrier’s writing is compelling enough; he pushes it with all the vocabulary, as the story doesn’t have enough weight to support it (yet). But Wijngaard makes up the difference.

Angelic’s all right.

CREDITS

Heirs and Graces, Part One; writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Caspar Wijngaard; letterer, Jim Campbell; publisher, Image Comics.

Godshaper 5 (August 2017)

Godshaper #5

Well. Spurrier sure does get literal in his metaphors this issue. Like, way too literal for Godshaper to have any magic. There are a handful of other reasons why it doesn’t have any magic this issue, like the cheap terrorizing of a little kid and the passive Ennay. He’s not much of a protagonist anymore. Spurrier’s got some ideas, Goonface has some art, but Spurrier hasn’t got the script to keep Godshaper together. I’m invested enough to read the finale, but I’ve got no hopes for it (past anticipating a strong competence).

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Jonas Goonface; letterer, Colin Bell; editors, Cameron Chittock and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Godshaper 4 (July 2017)

Godshaper #4

It’s a downer of an issue. Spurrier sort of hints at it in dialogue, but then it gets violent and even more depressing. Godshaper is a six issue series, after all, and Spurrier’s got to get things in place for the finale. This issue certainly gets things in order for revealations and dramatic twists; though most of it takes place in a nightclub. Ennay is performing, then musing despondently on life, then it’s time for the action. Goonface does better on the performing and musing than the action–the action’s just too big in too few pages, in too confined a space. But it’s a success. The issue’s a complete bummer.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Jonas Goonface; letterer, Colin Bell; editors, Cameron Chittock and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Godshaper 3 (June 2017)

Gs3

I wish it didn’t, but Godshaper now feels like a six issue limited. This issue ends with a cliffhanger setting up big revelations and big events. Spurrier hints at what the reveal might involve and it’s a lot of stuff. It’s not bad stuff, it’s interesting stuff, it’s just a lot of stuff. And the series only has three more issues and about half this issue washing its hands with the idea of character development. Spurrier totally changes the pace. It’s still well-written and Goonface’s art is a lot of fun–though he gets overwhelmed–but the reading experience of Godshaper has changed. Fingers crossed it’s worth it.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Jonas Goonface; letterer, Colin Bell; editors, Cameron Chittock and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Godshaper 2 (May 2017)

Godshaper #2

Beautiful pacing on this one. Not just Spurrier, but Goonface too. They draw Godshaper out, letting the characters sort of swell with development. Occasionally, they’ll turn the valve for some release on it but otherwise Spurrier is too busy exploring the setting. There’s plot material, sure, but it’s first runner-up. Setting, characters, plot. Goonface makes sure to keep the characters present enough, whether it’s setting stuff or plot stuff. The first issue was good, but this one raises the book’s potential big time.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Jonas Goonface; letterer, Colin Bell; editors, Cameron Chittock and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Godshaper 1 (April 2017)

Godshaper #1

Godshaper is simultaneously weird and simultaneously not. The world has gone back to the dark ages, technology-wise, but everyone got a personal god to compensate. The gods can be modded (Godshaper isn’t the most original book, but Simon Spurrier assembles the details in interesting ways), only you need a Godshaper to do the modding. Yet Godshapers don’t get gods, so they’re pariahs. Only the Godshaper the comic follows has an outcast god, leftover from when its person died. Undoubtedly there’s a story to be told. Until then, they’re unlikely, slightly scheming compatriots. There’s also a whole music thing. It’s a fine read, with solid art from Jonas Goonface.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Jonas Goonface; letterer, Colin Bell; editors, Cameron Chittock and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

The Spire 8 (June 2016)

The Spire #8

There are many impressive things about this final issue of The Spire, but I think the most impressive has to be how Spurrier and Stokely pace the whole thing. It’s got a quick reveal to solve a mystery, but then spins into this third act for the entire series. Not to mention a simultaneously tragic and awesome moment for one of its most endearing characters.

Hero fartslam indeed.

While Shå solves The Spire’s mystery internally, there’s also the external (to the Spire) battle raging. Or preparing to rage. Spurrier and Stokely toggle quickly between the plot threads, agitating the reader and the characters. Everything is urgent, everything is important.

There are lots of revelations this issue. Probably half a dozen, maybe a few more, but Spurrier has the reader (and the characters) ready to digest them while in motion. There are no pause points; he never has to go overtly expository. The Spire is sci-fi fantasy noir, using the best narrative devices of each genre.

It’s also the best kind of depressing–symmetrical in its tragedy. Spurrier and Stokely make it move so fast, it haunts the reader without ever having to shock the reader.

The Spire is outstanding. Spurrier and Stokely. Hero fartslam.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Jeff Stokely; colorist, André May; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Cameron Chittock and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

The Spire 7 (March 2016)

The Spire #7

The Spire is racing. Or maybe it isn’t. Maybe it was always headed to this place, where Spurrier rushes everything. Every subplot, every character, the cliffhanger resolution, the mid-issue reveals, everything is rushed. When it gets the final panel and Shå says “it all ends tonight,” Spurrier and Stokely are out of breath. It’s an exhausting read.

Stokely does better than Spurrier. There’s some rather good art moments, visual moments, while Spurrier’s got almost nothing going in the script. When he does have the opportunity to really write a scene, he goes the other way and lets Stokely figure it out visually. The Spire is a good comic, no doubt about it, it’s well-executed, it’s inventive. It’s just too much this issue. Spurrier wants it to do too much.

There’s enough story here for two issues. With the pacing, with the reveals, Spurrier could do two issues. There’s a whole Pug subplot Spurrier races through. It’s penultimate issue, wrap-up stuff.

I’m assuming (and hoping) Spurrier’s got a stronger narrative next issue. I want The Spire to end well. Stokely–and Spurrier–have done some excellent work on this book.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Jeff Stokely; colorist, André May; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Cameron Chittock and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

The Spire 6 (January 2016)

The Spire #6

This issue of The Spire is a weird read. It takes place outside the city, with Shå in disguise and acting as a bodyguard. A forbidden, unknown bodyguard, but bodyguard nonetheless. There’s a lot about the religious fanatics, setting them up as villains–with the awkward shortcut of comparing them to Christian fundamentalist bigots. But while Spurrier’s setting all that stuff up in the wasteland, he’s also keeping some wheels of intrigue running in the city.

With the setting, with the wasteland, Spurrier and Stokely have this foreign but very familiar comic book sci-fi setting. It’s just the right mix of everything, so beautifully brought together with Stokely’s organic artwork. He’s got the right level of detail, though he does go deeper with it on the wasteland half of the issue. It’s a voyage of discovery not just for the reader, but the characters as well. The reader has finally become a Spire city dweller.

But since Shå is in disguise the whole issue, the comic sort of doesn’t look like The Spire. Shå, as a character, changes. Her actions read differently with a different face. I’m curious if Spurrier’s going to do anything with it or I was just surprised to see the viciousness in an altered context.

Great finale with Shå interrogating an evil priest guy. Very unexpected finish.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Jeff Stokely; colorist, André May; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Cameron Chittock and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Cry Havoc 1 (January 2016)

Cry Havoc #1

Yeah, wrong Simon Spurrier. How common a name is Simon Spurrier? It seems somewhat specific. I suppose one could do some cross referencing via Google but whatever. I read this comic, Cry Havoc, because I thought it was the other Simon Spurrier writing with Ryan Kelly on art.

I’m pretty sure it’s the regular Ryan Kelly, though his colorists do a lot of work. He has three, one for each setting. The comic is the story of a punk violinist who gets bitten by a werewolf and goes to work for the American government. I think she might be British.

I think I’m going to keep reading it, even though none of the colorists complement Kelly’s art particularly well. The pop London stuff gets tired, the war stuff doesn’t look right. I suppose the “Red Place”–I can’t believe I’m going to try reading a werewolf comic. Good grief.

It’s almost okay. Spurrier takes himself way too seriously, but Cry Havoc is almost okay. What’s strange is how impersonal Kelly’s art comes across.

CREDITS

Dog Days; writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Ryan Kelly; colorists, Nick Filardi, Lee Loughridge and Matt Wilson; letterer, Simon Bowland; publisher, Image Comics.

The Spire 5 (December 2015)

The Spire #5

Politics, romance, danger, The Spire.

Five issues into the series and it still has a lot of surprises. Not just in the plot or a twist, which this issue ends on, but in how Spurrier is going to approach it. This issue is very straightforward, nearly noir with Shå having to figure some things out while trying to protect her girlfriend, her queen, not to mention having to get her sidekick back.

It’s a lot. And it’s packed because Stokely’s drawing this amazing setting–Stokely and Spurrier even do full page spreads, which is a little weird for The Spire. And Stokely’s not great at them, quite frankly, but I like seeing them. I like seeing Spurrier and Stokely open up The Spire. It feels like the series is still growing.

Spurrier’s writing is outstanding. Shå’s becoming something of a great character, which I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Jeff Stokely; colorist, André May; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Cameron Chittock and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Crossed + One Hundred 12 (November 2015)

crossedonehundred12Six issues into the Simon Spurrier run, Future Taylor is undergoing unexpected adaptions to life that echo what Alan Moore put her through at the conclusion of his initial arc. The difference is that small surprises of this busy installment aren’t as shattering as the gradually revealed unknown unknown of Bosol’s prophecy, they’re the logical tipping points of every development since then. The most gripping turns are within Future herself. Her exhaustion is forcing some radical choices and it’s some of her most significant character development in the entire series. All her decisions feel like the natural results of who we’ve know her to be, combining with where the story has taken her. It’s incredibly satisfying and occasionally startling.

There’s a combat scene towards the end which echoes, perhaps unintentionally, a very similar sequence at the climax of Garth Ennis’ original Crossed wherein the protagonists are, at least momentarily, relieved of all their pain through the simple satisfaction of killing their hated enemies. The war may go on forever, but if battles can still be decisively won then the struggle has not been in vain. Spurrier and Rafael Ortiz convey all that in a few panels where Ennis and Jacen Burrows took a page of internal narration, which isn’t to say that they did it better, rather that they’ve successfully harkened back to a very Ennis-esque emotional peak within the context of Alan Moore’s spinoff from his original concept.

Ortiz is maybe the best artist for Crossed + One Hundred since Gabriel Andrade, for all the opposite reasons. Andrade illustrated the post-apocalypse with technical skill that made you believe in the world’s details, Ortiz goes for the rickety chaos of life post-sacking-of-Chooga. You feel the desperation and turbulence in everyone’s faces. He can also stage elaborate action scenes. Both are heavily required at this point in the story and he absolutely delivers. It’s thrilling how Spurrier and Moore constructed all the drama that’s transpired to build up into these simultaneous interpersonal and external conflicts. I would never recommend jumping into this series from anywhere except the very start, but you could do worse than here.

If I recall correctly, this is the first issue not to identify, via Future, the wishful fiction novel from whose title each issue is borrowed. “Behold The Man” is – according to our own pre-surprise Wi-Fi Encyclopedia, Wikipedia – a 1966 novella by Michael Moorcock, in which a time traveller with a messiah complex meets Jesus of Nazareth and it turns out he’s not the messiah, just a very naughty boy. So the time traveller takes his place, effectively becoming the legend. Beyond the classic sci-fi trope of a predestination paradox, it’s a very Alan Moorish kind of story, speaking to the idea that the meaning of life is storytelling. I don’t skull the connection to the events of this particular Crossed + One Hundred chapter but it’s worth noting that Moorcock was an avowed anarchist and the tactical limits of pacifist religion have very much become a focus in this comic. The loss of blind faith and forging of a more pragmatic one may have something to do with it. Or it may all hinge on the last-page cliffhanger revelation of a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; series outline, Alan Moore; artist, Rafa Ortiz; colorist, Digikore Studios; lettering, Jaymes Reed; publisher, Avatar Press.

Crossed + One Hundred 11 (October 2015)

crossed100-11reg-600x928‘Slims, churchface surprises, a refugee crisis with possible in-filled-traitors. Crossed +100 is the most satirically relevant dystopic sci-fi of modern times that no-one is reading because it’s a comic book. A lot more will read Frank Miller’s oncoming Dark Knight III: The Master Race (myself included) which will doubtlessly contain a lot of heavy handed, big-fisted references to the state of world affairs. Alan Moore’s funhouse mirror to our clash of civilizations leads the reader to reconsider recent events – chiefly the proliferation of barbarism and resulting struggle to defend ourselves without losing human decency – through the disarmingly pulpy prism of the Crossed franchise. The clever conceit of Garth Ennis’ original story was to make the zombie apocalypse subgenre more human and therefore scarier. This spinoff’s logical next step of evolving the Crossed as an organized force of religious terrorism is so uncannily relatable and disturbing as to not only render the old George Romero films kind of quaint by comparison (which Ennis’ original run did a pretty good job of anyways) but to also dissipate any suspense within the flagship series Crossed: Badlands. No wonder Kieron Gillen’s recent arc Homo Tortor was set set in the ancient past, essentially Crossed Minus Seventy-Five Thousand.

Actually talking about issue 11 now; life amongst the survivalers has hit the tipping point where Future’s warnings can’t be ignored any longer. There’s been a back and forth between installments in seeing her go out to learn more about the Salt-Crossed’s moves, then fruitlessly reporting back her findings to Murfreesboro. This is the chapter when the situation finds its way back with her, and it’s not the attackers but the wounded who are banging at the doors. Rafa Ortiz’s sketchy, thin-lined art is wholly suited to depicting the poor and tired huddled masses, while consternation grows amongst the settled. What’s slightly off is that sometimes his character’s faces will appear rushed or haphazardly constructed in some panels, and then become amazingly, painstakingly detailed on the very next page. Halfway through the comic Si Spurrier writes a terrific dialogue between Future and Mustaqba, wherein Ortiz gives Fewch kind of a goofy “angry” face at the start. By the scene’s climax she has one of the most startlingly withered looks of desperation in the entire series so far. Despite that occasional unevenness, Ortiz turns in great work throughout on a challenging variety of scenes: refugee crowds, flashbacks to battle, another heated argument between Future and Ima’am Fajr. There’s also a mysterious and imposing new character who may or may not be another Robbie Greer / Jokemercy.

If we’re still allowed to read comic books a hundred years from now we might be studying Crossed + One Hundred, not necessarily for storytelling technique but as a record of how contemporary fears are more honestly dramatized under the mainstream radar by less genteel entertainments – horror movies, sure, but now also horror comics.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; Series Outline, Alan Moore; artist, Rafa Ortiz; colorist, Digikore Studios; lettering, Jaymes Reed; publisher, Avatar Press.

Crossed + One Hundred 10 (September 2015)

crossed one hundred 10It took me two readings of this issue to realize why it feels like the shortest in the series thus far: terse dialogue between two peoples, the Crossed and the non, is made twice as terse by the rules of Alan Moore’s debilitated future English. Nearly half the pages are an excruciatingly tense standoff between Future and the camp she and her exploratory party stumbled upon, and new info gleaned about the Salt-Crossed is kept in line with Moore & Spurrier’s highly disciplined rationing of revelations across the second arc. Spurrier’s ear for dialogue might actually be better amongst the Salt-Crossed and their sickly lower-tier classes than Future and her fellow survivalers. The introduction of uncrossed humans indoctrinated as servants to the empire of Bosol is a harrowing, barely fictionalized snapshot of how slave mentality continues to function when the slave masters are away.

The only downside to this excellent scene is that it takes so little time to read, there’s barely any story left in the remaining pages. I actually went back and counted them, thinking I’d been short-changed from the usual 22. A heavy firefight action bit in the middle section also sped up the pacing. Since it’s all in greater service of the plot rather than gratuitous pandering, however, you can’t really complain.

Of equal weight to new developments in Future’s adventures, Crossed +One Hundred now has a third artist in the fold: Rafa Ortiz, who’s apparently done prior work elsewhere in the CCU (Crossed Comics Universe.) The changeover from Fernando Heinz is a mixed bag. Though his skills aren’t equal to Gabriel Andrade’s, his character acting still strives towards a comparable level of realism rather than manga-inspired rendering. The grit is back. But man-oh-man, there are two panels that are just BLATANTLY re-used near the beginning of that confrontation sequence, abruptly jerking you right out of the moment. They actually almost mirror each other across the two-page spread, it’s kind of impossible to ignore. Not sure if that’s Avatar’s fault or his – both this and the previous issue are dated for September, what was the big rush?

Hopefully we don’t see that kind of sloppiness again. Especially since Ortiz proves himself otherwise capable throughout his debut installment, both at staging action and depicting complicated outdoor crowd scenes, as he does on the final page. Those two aspects will doubtless become more critical as the saga continues simmering to a boil.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; Series Outline, Alan Moore; artist, Rafa Ortiz; colorist, Digikore Studios; lettering, Jaymes Reed; publisher, Avatar Press.

The Spire 4 (October 2015)

The Spire #4

It’s a bridging issue. It’s a decent bridging issue because Stokely’s art is awesome, but it’s still a bridging issue. What does Spurrier do besides humanize the protagonist a bit? He hints at more dread down the line. So what?

There’s a great fight scene and then Stokely gets to do a lot of narrative design stuff through composition, but it’s a light issue. It relies so heavily on the art, it would probably read better with almost no text. Especially the scenes between the protagonist and her royal love interest, just because Spurrier wants to hint at a secret and a problem but doesn’t want to have to deal with them here.

Why not?

Because it’s a bridging issue. And nothing gets done in bridging issues; Spurrier introduces some okay things to deal with later. But it’s light stuff.

I’m still excited about The Spire but it definitely feels like BOOM! shouldn’t have given Spurrier eight issues. Four might not have been enough (as this issue’s the fourth) but eight is way too many.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Jeff Stokely; colorist, André May; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Cameron Chittock and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Crossed + One Hundred 9 (September 2015)

Crossed One Hundred 9Like Alan Moore, Spurrier respects the value of a single issue. There’s a substantial amount of plot development in this one, with reading time expanded by the process of deciphering future-speak, at which Spurrier is gradually getting better and more clever. Fernando Heinz’s art still occasionally does the characters a disservice with distractingly cartoonish facial expressions during tough, emotional scenes, but his panel compositions are rock solid, as are his crowd scenes and backgrounds. There’s a flashy two-page splash reveal near the beginning, which is really nice to pause on and explore. Spurrier is also working in conjunction with Heinz in more creative ways; using flashbacks, panel breaks within static angles, internal thought balloon counterpoints and other cool tricks.

What Spurrier and Moore achieve with Crossed+One Hundred number 9 is that like the previous issue’s unsettling new angle on the strategies of the Salt-Crossed, this one raises unpleasant questions about the limitations of religious leadership in the post-apocalypse. Moore’s introduction of the ‘Slims as the last surviving faith after The Surprise in his original arc was one of the more brilliant details, and now this second arc is addressing the implications. The casual homosexuality and female leadership have already been touched upon as plusses for a formerly repressive religion made pluralistic by necessity, but now Future is hitting the glass ceiling when she needs Murfreesboro’s help the most: her hair’s in a scarf, not a full hijab. They’re only going to listen to and respect someone so much who isn’t a member of the faith, ditto Cautious. There’s an arrogant trust in God’s benevolence that everything will work out, keeping them from heeding their warnings. Meanwhile, that other faith-based organization of the post-Surprise world – who have no qualms about reproducing images of their prophet – are employing Dark Ages tactics of proselytization, Taqiyya and Jizya with expert efficacy.

The thought-provoking satirical details of this theocratic in-fighting are unfortunately at a slight cost to the logic of the story: Future finally has evidence, VIDEO evidence of the Salt-Crossed working their unholy plans, and she still can’t rally everyone together yet? It was already a stretch to accept that Murfreesboro wouldn’t listen to her about what REALLY happened to Chooga, and write it off as some freak incident of unpreparedness against a breakout from within, or attack from outside, by run-of-the-mill churchface illbillies. Chooga wasn’t just some two-bit settle, you’d think they’d afford Future and Cautious some credit as the only surviving witnesses. But they’re women – and infidel women at that – so perhaps that’s the point.

It’s totally forgivable for the overall quality of the package, including a disturbing new revelation about the Salt-Crossed’s social castes, which leads into a great cliffhanger.

Crossed + 100 continues to impress.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; Series Outline, Alan Moore; artist, Fernando Heinz; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Jaymes Reed; publisher, Avatar Press.

The Spire 3 (September 2015)

The Spire #3

The Spire continues to impress, though this issue shows the first time Spurrier lets the size of the comic get ahead of him. The lead, Shå, shows up on the fourth page or so–some beautiful double page spreads from Stokley here–but she’s just leading the reader through procedural stuff. Stokley’s composition is so strong, it overpowers the character stuff with she and her royal girlfriend bickering. The Spire is a big book, big story.

For the last third of the book, after some political stuff–the non-humans coming and pledging their loyalty to the humans–is all Shå’s, which is good, because Spurrier gets the balance right here between moving the plot forward and letting the comic have a protagonist.

The comic succeeds not just because Spurrier can eventually pull it around, but because he and Stokely work so well together. Stokely’s art makes some of the longer expository scenes visually dynamic enough to move. It’s a good comic, it just meanders a bit as Spurrier tries to define the boundaries of the setting.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Jeff Stokely; colorist, André May; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Cameron Chittock and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Crossed + One Hundred 8 (August 2015)

crossedonehundred8The good news of Crossed + One Hundred number eight is that the story does has someplace to go. Alan Moore’s “Series Outline” credit has been proven creditable, and the new arc is shaping up in a logical way to the groundwork laid out in volume one. Simon Spurrier’s future-English dialogue is still not as diabolically punny as Moore, but he’s playing around with some new details. This issue spends time with a new character’s dialect that’s a mishmash of Bostonian and Jersey twang. There’s also a monologue from one of the Salt-Crossed, probably the longest speech we’ve heard from any of them, and it reads how you’d hope it would: brutal, scary. After their near-absence in issue seven, Moore seems to have figured out how to continue revealing their insanity gradually, to maintain the creep factor.

That monologue reveals an important new plot point, which is also the turning point where Crossed + One Hundred justifies its ongoing existence. The Salt-Crossed’s organizational skills open up a whole new slew of dramatic possibilities, based on what is actually a fairly unique sci-fi/horror hybrid idea: if a burgeoning civilization were centered around the celebration of sadism, how could such a civilization function? The question slightly nudges the franchise out of the realm of pure horror and into a more philosophical kind of terror that’s not exactly a zombie tale any longer. It’s more akin to 1984, The Man in the High Castle or The Handmaid’s Tale, where the horror comes from contemplating the ruthlessness of an insane society. Future Taylor isn’t nearly as fucked as Winston Smith or even Evey from Moore’s V For Vendetta, but she’s got her work cut out for her in trying to stem the rising tides of Salt water.

Spurrier’s scripting, besides the adequate continuation of the future-speak, is not as good as Moore’s in terms of panel and page pacing, but come on. Whose is? The highlight once again is his bookending of Future’s latest sci-fi book review around her situation at hand.

The only missing component from the equation is, once again, Fernando Heinz’s art. The technical skills are mostly there – despite one distracting perspective problem on the opening splash page which makes a character appear armless, he actually nails a lot of tricky angles from high aerial perspectives as Future travels around by hot air balloon.  But his particular manga-influenced style is just too unserious. Future still looks weirdly younger than she did in the first arc, despite it taking place a year after the taking of Chooga and characters occasionally just look cute. One of the Crossed, leering maniacally, vaguely resembles a heavy from Dragonball Z. Even Future’s expressions of fear are a little too aesthetically appealing. It doesn’t ruin the whole package, but undermines the moments of grave seriousness.

Despite the aesthetic setback, Crossed + One Hundred is still compelling reading.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; Series Outline, Alan Moore; artist, Fernando Heinz; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Jaymes Reed; publisher, Avatar Press.

Crossed + One Hundred 7 (July 2015)

crossed100-7Simon Spurrier isn’t the first writer to have to fill Alan Moore’s shoes on a title, but I can’t recall another writer having to do it quite so immediately, with such an urgency to validate himself. Swamp Thing had a history before Moore, Before Watchmen was done years after the original, and Tom Strong was way more than six issues in before anyone else had to take over. Spurrier’s no slouch; his Wish You Were Here series for the Crossed franchise was about on par with any of Garth Ennis’ arcs. Moore also gave his blessing in interviews, and claimed to have bequeathed extensive notes for the furtherance of the series – which apparently must be true because while Spurrier has the “story” credit, Moore is credited for “Series Outline,” whatever that entails. Still, hardly an enviable position.

Issue seven isn’t an oh-eight level surprise, just mediocre. Gabriel Andrade has been replaced with Fernando Heinz, whose manga influenced style makes Future Taylor look like she’s fifteen. She gets action lines during an emotional outburst in one panel, there’s gratuitous ass shots, a child in a crowd scene looks like he fell out of a Tokyopop book and another ‘Slim looks like Spike Spiegel. It’s all professionally rendered, but tonally inconsistent with Andrade’s designs – it feels less serious, more cartoonish. The coloring helps. Digikore Studios continues their fine work, keeping the bleakly naturalistic palette entirely consistent with what’s come before.

Spurrier’s writing is the big relief. Moore’s amazing post-apocalypse diction created for + One Hundred has more or less been maintained, with all the impish wordplay and a few funny new malapropisms. And but it’s hard to skull if you’ve audied the vernacular so closely now, you’re just used to it, or if Spurrier’s writing it a little easier to read for the first-timers. That’s a fuck possible, since the issue’s biggest problem is that nothing happens. He’s writing for the trade, for volume 2. Future does a big recap of the last issue, and Murfreesboro does a defense drill against a potential churchface attack. Some of them show up at the very end, basically just to realize that Keller lied; Future’s still alive. It actually pales in comparison to an early bit of casual, highly blasphemous worldbuilding about ‘Slim life in Murfreesboro. After so much masterful suspense built up around the revelation of the Bo Salt Crossed tribe, all I want now is to see more of them, but this issue is still just teasing.

Carrying on Moore’s literary studies theme, Spurrier bookends the issue with Future’s take on Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, certainly a sci-fi book more comparable to her own situation than any of the wishful fictions Moore referenced in the initial arc. She acknowledges one of the genre details which Ennis has publicly cited as inspiration for Crossed, that all zombies and vampires can only be so scary if they have well-known exploitable weaknesses. She also acknowledges the similarity of the novel’s twist ending to Moore’s own twist conclusion from the previous issue. It’s thoughtful but almost too deconstructive of itself.

Despite being merely competent + One Issue after Moore, the Fewch of Crossed + One Hundred may still be worth an opsy.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; Series Outline, Alan Moore; artist, Fernando Heinz; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Jaymes Reed; publisher, Avatar Press.

The Spire 2 (August 2015)

The Spire #2

The Spire continues to go quite well. Some of Stokely’s art seems a little loose–the setting has a lot of design elements and Stokely takes great care with them. Then he’ll rush through a dialogue scene when it comes to the characters’ faces. The panel sizing is great, the composition is great, it’s just loose with the people.

Well, it’s loose after the issue gets to the protagonist. Before her, the issue follows the new ruler of the Spire’s mother. Not sure if Spurrier is hoping to get Helen Mirren but it’d be pretty cool. The relationship between the protagonist and the “queen mother” is fantastic. Lots of discrete character development.

Spurrier and Stokely have found an odd, working mix with The Spire. It’s steampunk, but organic, Western, but sci-fi, a detective story, but political intrigue. Spurrier never pushes the exposition; it’s all naturally revealed.

It’s darned good.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Jeff Stokely; colorist, André May; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Cameron Chittock and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

The Spire 1 (July 2015)

The Spire #1

The Spire is an interesting mix of fantasy, sci-fi and cop story. The protagonist is a captain of the city guard (the Spire itself is a city state in the middle of nowhere–think Mega-City One only in a steampunk-ish future) who’s cavorting with the new ruler’s little sister. The captain is also a woman.

Real quick–the trend of lesbian protagonists in not Big Two comics written by men seems to suggest male writers can’t figure out a way of writing a strong female character who’s interested in men as romantic partners. It just means there aren’t strong enough male characters in otherwise good comics. They’re caricatures.

Except not in Spire, because the only male characters are supposed to be rubes.

Simon Spurrier’s script is good. The pacing is great. Jeff Stokely’s art is awesome, detailed in its roughness.

Spire intrigues and welcomes while maintaining dangerousness.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Jeff Stokely; colorist, André May; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Cameron Chittock and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Six-Gun Gorilla 6 (November 2013)

3484246

Spurrier brings the series to a decent, if underwhelming conclusion. Lots of things don’t get resolved and Spurrier has introduced so much over the previous five issues, it’s hard to remember them all when he brings them back in. He was able to entertain when he was being confounding, but this time he’s trying too hard to be literal.

He splits the issue between Blue and the gorilla. Only the gorilla doesn’t get a good plot thread, just an action scene. And Blue has a master plan the reader doesn’t know about, which gives Spurrier some time to kill explaining it all… time he could have spent a whole lot better.

It’s a big, monumental, earth-shattering finish and the series never felt particularly big. Stokely’s art for it isn’t composed big–and Spurrier’s plotting isn’t big either. It’s big for the sequel? Who knows….

It’s okay, but not great.

CREDITS

Fill Your Hand; writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Jeff Stokely; colorist, Andre May; letterer, Steve Wands; editor, Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Six-Gun Gorilla 5 (October 2013)

3163718 wboom 6gungorilla 005v1

And here Spurrier gets to the big reveal, or at least starts to hint at it. For a while, it looks like Gorilla could just be one incredibly long dream sequence–and it still could be–with a bunch of characters out of books the protagonist, Blue, has read running through his mind.

But it’s not a dream, not exactly.

Spurrier handles the reveal quite well, encouraging the reader to imagine all sorts of possible explanations before getting to the finish.

However, instead of the issue being entirely incomprehensible, Spurrier just has one incomprehensible plot development and it sadly matters. He skips over an important detail and it’s noticeable.

The issue races along, but remains a rewarding reading experience.

It’ll be interesting to see how Spurrier wraps it all up. He might have done some of the heaviest lifting this issue, leaving the more action oriented stuff for the finish.

CREDITS

And Those Who Dig; writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Jeff Stokely; colorist, Andre May; letterer, Steve Wands; editor, Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Six-Gun Gorilla 4 (September 2013)

SixGunGorilla 04 rev

I’m totally confused but I still love this comic. I assume the confusion is intentional on Spurrier’s part. He has Blue talking to the gorilla and the gorilla not answering him, talking instead about unrelated things. It’s very strange, very dense.

The density is a little surprising as Spurrier opens with some expository dialogue explaining everything–almost–to the reader. There’s an explanation of the other world, there’s an explanation of how the humans got there–about the only time the gorilla does make sense is when he’s talking about the natives of the other dimension.

Sometimes it feels like Spurrier’s trying to comment on Blue’s place in the story as protagonist. He keeps arguing he’s on the hero’s journey, the gorilla keeps telling him he isn’t. It’s weird.

Spurrier makes nods to his subplots, especially for the cliffhanger, but he’s mostly just gloriously confusing the reader.

Still love it.

CREDITS

Deserve’s Got Nothin’ To Do With It; writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Jeff Stokely; colorist, Andre May; letterer, Steve Wands; editor, Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Six-Gun Gorilla 3 (August 2013)

280797 20130814202251 large

The series just keeps getting better. Spurrier brings in more of the sci-fi aspect–people born in the different dimension have the chance of mutation–while introducing a lot of backstory.

The rebels all talk to Blue, but because they want their stories sent back to Earth. Spurrier is able to cover a lot of ground with them, especially since Blue is sort of a dunce.

There’s a lot with the evil corporation talking to Blue’s ex-girlfriend, trying to figure out where the gorilla came from, checking in on their bounty hunter. It’s a packed read, with Blue romancing the girl from last issue too. Well, she more romances him.

Spurrier even has enough time to introduce another bad guy, this one a rebel general. She’s only in a scene, but she terrifies them all so much she’s a frequent topic of conversation.

Gorilla is a great book.

CREDITS

Dyin Ain’t Much Of A Livin; writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Jeff Stokely; colorist, Andre May; letterer, Steve Wands; editor, Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Six-Gun Gorilla 2 (July 2013)

277232 20130730192158 large

Spurrier brings in the ladies for the second issue, with Blue’s ex-girlfriend discovering he’s gone to the colony–which Spurrier reveals is extra-dimensional this issue, not interplanetary–and he also meets a fetching working girl.

There’s a lot more with the conflict between the rebels and the Earth people; Spurrier’s just updating the Civil War, which is fine. He could have done the same thing set during the Civil War, if only he didn’t have to deal with the talking gorilla.

The talking gorilla doesn’t talk a lot, but when he does, it counts. He’s also really funny.

Spurrier and Stokely continue to deliver exactly what one expects from a comic called Six-Gun Gorilla, ending the issue with a gigantic hard cliffhanger (gigantic in size, not story importance); it’s just a lot of fun.

The only soft spot? Spurrier rushes through his sci-fi details too much.

CREDITS

Just Another Filthy Memory; writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Jeff Stokely; colorist, Andre May; letterer, Steve Wands; editor, Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Six-Gun Gorilla 1 (June 2013)

SixGunGorilla 01 rev

Talk about high concept. Six-Gun Gorilla takes place in a somewhat distant future, where there is fighting over Earth’s colonies. On these planet colonies are gigantic battle tortoises, amongst other things I’m sure, and it all appears very Monument Valley. Simon Spurrier mixes old and new; the combatants are an analogue of the American Civil War, but he’s following a protagonist who’s got a brain implant to broadcast his experiences back to Earth.

You know, for TV.

That plot alone is pretty awesome, but then there’s a mysterious gorilla who has real pistols–apparently they only use steam punk technology on the colony world, but regular future stuff on Earth–and the pistols are a big deal.

Additionally, the writing on the protagonist is outstanding and Spurrier gives him a lot of interesting conversation partners throughout.

Very nice art from Jeff Stokely too. Gorilla’s off to a great start.

CREDITS

Shoot Don’t Talk; writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Jeff Stokely; colorist, Andre May; letterer, Steve Wands; editor, Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: