Wytches (vol 1) - Scott Snyder

So there's this girl, and she might be crazy, or she might be a killer, or she might be haunted by witches, and her dad is a children's book writer or something completely unimportant to the plot, and the mom's in a wheelchair (which kind of is important), and there's all these mysterious happenings as first the point of view is from the girl and then it shifts to the father, and often it is just as confusing and convoluted as this sentence. The story actually has a lot of potential, but as I said with Snyder's work before, he needs a very strong editor to keep him in check and in focus; as soon as the point of view shifted from the teenage daughter I really lost interest. Apparently and inexplicably this is an ongoing series, and while it is probably one the best things Snyder has done it's too all over the place for me to invest time in. wytches

Trees (vol 1): In Shadow - Warren Ellis

I can't say this was an actively bad comic, I'm just not sure what to make of it. In the future, these alien pylon-like structures that we call "trees" just crashed down on various parts of the world. Seemingly impervious and completely oblivious, they occasionally pour out toxic destruction, but otherwise appear to do nothing. The story follows several different people and their relationship to the trees. So far the comic seems to be symbolic for an uncaring universe or the way we treat weeds and insects (or both). At the same time, there's a hint of some other meaning (?) going on. Now here's the thing, not to be too much of a spoiler, but almost none of the lives we follow seem to matter. I don't need a comic book to remind me of an uncaring universe, so if that's the direction of this, I certainly can skip it, yet if it's supposed to have some larger plot line, after eight issues there should've been more of a hint of one. I don't see myself continuing with this. trees

Sex Criminals (vol. 1-2): One Weird Trick & Two Worlds, One Cop - Matt Fraction

Seeing how incredibly popular and award winning this comic series is, it only made sense for me to want to find out what the buzz was about. The story revolves around Suzie and Jon (yes with a Z and without an H, because that shows how cool they are), who both have a bizarre magical power wherein when they orgasm they temporarily stop time. The plot begins when Jon suggest they use their power to rob an evil bank corporation to pay off the mortgage Suzie's library owes to the bank. The problem is they're not alone with their powers, and are now being hunted by those who would keep them in check. Now that we're on the same page let me go through the various unfortunate reasons why this comic is an absolute pile of garbage. Fraction writes most of the comic with the two main characters, and sometimes even himself, speaking directly to the audience, which might've been clever once upon a time, but largely is a sign of laziness and inability to express character or conflict through dialogue or action. He does a fair job going into Suzie's history, expressing her anger with the evil corporation, only vaguely amusingly called Bankcorp, who she blames for the death of her father, and the fact that it is shutting down her beloved library due to mortgage payments, showing her confusion during her years of sexual discovery and lack of information. This last part is the highlight of the comic as it captures confusion of adolescent years, but quickly undermines itself, as her best friend overwhelms her with misinformation about sexual positions when she starts by saying that she wishes someone had talked to her at an early age, so that she might not have contracted HPV. The undermining I'm speaking of is that this is the first, and only until a bit of a joke page in the second volume wherein birth-control methods are discussed, reference to STI (yes, STI not STD), aside from when Jon jokingly thinks he has HIV--people die from that, this is not a joke (and so why would a kid be wearing a t-shirt that makes fun of AIDs in volume two, I have no idea)--and there's absolutely no indication that any of the characters are concerned about STIs, discussing such issues with their partners, or means of preventing them (e.g., condom use). Fraction also tries to give a similar backstory for Jon, but it is poorly done, or rather simply uninteresting. Suzie is obviously made a librarian to play with the fetish of the sexy librarian, but it would help if Fraction knew anything about public libraries, such as they are not owned by banks. Suzie is drawn like an absolute bombshell, which is to be expected in comics, but Jon looks like an absolute nothing, and he wins her over only by reciting the opening lines of her favorite book (what he knew because he wanted to be an actor, a point that is never taken up again, such as why he gave up this dream, how he fell into his bank secretary job, how old he is, etc.), and then they proceed to stay together, presumably only because they share this magical power (and the ability to orgasm non-stop), as they don't appear to have anything else in common, not that they really have personalities anyway.

Jon is depicted as having various problems (although he keeps getting hot women, so how severe can the problems be?) in that he failed in his career as an actor (again, did he even try? we don't know) and now is stuck in a bank job he hates and also has various mental and behavior problems and doesn't want take his medicine. This is the second time in a week that I have read a comic wherein not taking medicine that prevents mental disorders is depicted as a noble thing. I find this kind a statement to be incredibly dangerous and irresponsible. It is also his idea to rob Bankcorp in order to pay the library's mortgage--because the bank won't notice that their missing money is being used as payment.

One final note, it is not exactly commonplace that a couple will orgasm at the exact same time, especially their first time together. I just feel that Fraction knows as little about sex as he does libraries, and this entire comic is an exercise in fulfilling adolescent fantasy, which is fine, but not deserving of awards, best-selling status, or critical acclaim. For all its make believe to promote sexual expression, the comic does more harm then good by promoting misinformation or delusions about sex. It's a fluff piece, making Fraction a Fluffer. sex criminals

Alex + Ada (vol 1-2) - Jonathan Luna & Sarah Vaughn

The series is slow-moving and somewhat quiet (not a lot of words or actions on a page), which is not a criticism, but I'm still at a loss for how I truly feel about it. Alex is a nice, good looking, guy whose fiancé walked out on him without explanation, and his rather rich, and far too sexually open, grandmother buys him an android. Considering this world is filled with robots, it's pretty clear this model's purpose is purely sexual. True to sci-fi conventions, he unlocks her artificial intelligence, making her sentient, and true to the romance conventions they fall in love. I'm not sure what I expected, either the realistic thing would occur and the now sentient, never aging, beauty will run off and live her life: the end, or the fairy tale will occur where they fall in love (what is it about either of them that is appealing beyond physical attraction?) and the story has at least the possibility of continuing. The latter, naturally, had to take place and the story shifts to one that deals with robot rights (another sci-fi convention). I guess there just isn't enough here that's new, or different, or exciting to keep me interested. Which is a shame as the writing and art are fine, but as I said, not enough to entice me. I guess I do know how I feel. Alex + Ada

East of West (vol one) - Jonathan Hickman

I took the first three volumes of the series out of the library, but I only barely made it through the first one. The world is a future alternate reality wherein three (sort of) horseman of the apocalypse are trying to force Death (the fourth of their number) to join them so the Apocalypse can happen. The comic is filled with shooting, various ridiculous relationships, really bad faux Western genre, and none of it actually seems to make any sense internal to the story itself. I'm sure it is a huge success, and I never want to hear about this comic ever again. east of west

C.O.W.L. (vol 1): Principles of Power - Kyle Higgins & Alec Siegel

Similar to Powers and Top 10, the series is about a Chicago law enforcement division, staffed by super powered and unpowered individuals, focusing on fighting supervillains. The added twist is that this world takes place in 1962, and has more of a grittier feel and deals with issues like labor relations--which makes sense since the acronym stands for Chicago Organized Workers League--(and a little bit about women's rights, but surprisingly nothing about race). The genre is not a favorite of mine, but it is enjoyable, with interesting characters, and good--if not necessarily original--plot. Unfortunately, I'm not a fan of Rod Reis's art and some of the coloring bothers me although both points are rather subjective. It's definitely worth looking at. COWL

Shutter (vol 1): Wanderlost - Joe Keatinge

Okay so there's this girl and apparently she was once this big-shot explorer, but now she's retired for some reason despite not even being 30, and she lives in this magical world that has some similarities to ours, and she has a best friend and some sort of robot cat which we know nothing about, and her dad's dead (which is sad, but we didn't know him), and people are trying to kill her for some reason, and apparently she has some unknown siblings who are also trying to kill her--okay the point is there's a lot of stuff happening here, but nothing actually happening in the sense of helping us understand what type of the world we are dealing with, who the main character is and why should we care about her, etc., you know, basic plot points. This seems like something I would like, but first I have to have some clue as to what is going on. shutter

The Wicked + The Divine (vol 1): The Faust Act - Gillen McKelvie

Maybe I would've liked this comic more if it didn't read like a set up for the next collection. The premise is that every 90 years 12 gods (who exactly seems to be somewhat random) are awaken in the body of teenagers and they have all sorts of cool magical powers until they die two years later. I suppose it is supposed to be a metaphor for the live fast, die young / fleeting nature of Hollywood fame, but it's not. Instead you have a collection of very uninteresting characters with one or two humans you are supposed to relate to, and a murder mystery that no one is actually trying to solve. I didn't actually care about anything until the very end and now I just don't care enough to keep reading. The wicked and the divine

Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray & Lost Coastlines - Frank J. Barbiere

You can either figure it out from the blurb on the cover or wait for issue four of the first collection, but this series is about an adventurer who can tap into the skills of five fictional characters in order to aid him in whatever quest he is on, often one involving trying to rescue his twin sister's soul. Honestly, I am not too impressed. There's absolutely no substance to the characters or plot, making it geared towards younger readers, who, in turn, may be confused by the time shifts in the comic and most certainly won't get the Lovecraft reference. While Chris Mooneyham art is ok, and Lauren Affe's muted and few colors provides an excellent touch, the whole work seems like it could've been done better as a Kid Eternity comic or just trying to be less of a pulp fiction novel a la H. Rider Haggard. five ghosts

The Astounding Wolf-Man - Robert Kirkman

Seeing how Cej got the entire 4 volume series I figured I give this a shot. Here's the thing: Millionaire man get attacked by werewolf, becomes werewolf, gets vampire mentor, becomes superhero, falls into conspiracies that disrupt his life, other stuff. All good, except that these plot points, instead of taking place over numerous issues--even volumes--in order to develop characters and make it all mean something, practically happens in a flash. Nothing really has any meaning in the comic because we really have no understanding of why anything is taking place, and I mean that in terms of plot design and character motivation. The cartoony feel of the art and the complete lack of depth would make this a good kids comic, except for the copious amounts of murder. Oh, and the whole vampire/werewolf dynamic appears to be a rip off of White Wolf. Skip it. 

Saga (vol. three) - Brian K. Vaughan

Continuing from the first/last two volumes of this title, we continue with our star crossed lovers and their mixed raced baby that everyone seems to want to get their hands on, as the rabidly growing extended family attempts to elude and outwit various bounty hunters and government agents that are so darn annoyed that Marko and Alana have decided to quit their war. As mentioned previously, I enjoy the various cast of characters, the straightforward plot, the not particularly wordy storyline, veiled and not so veiled references to our world, and female characters like look like a supermodels' dream come true. Very enjoyable. 

Nowhere Men

Imagine a world where scientists are revered like rock stars. Scientists Ellis, Grimshaw, Dade, and Strange are the equivalent of the Beatles, not only in their popularity with the public but also in their genius and---ultimately---their inability to remain together. Interweaving faux advertisements, books, and magazine articles with the comic pages, writer Eric Stephenson shows us how thoroughly this alternative Fab Four have affected the cultural mindset. The story is compelling, but I wasn't quite sure where it was going. While I certainly appreciate not having all my plotlines telegraphed, I had the nagging feeling that this could be one of those books that has a great set up but crashes and burns in the third act. Stephenson focuses so heavily on the personalities of the main characters that he leaves little room to show any actual science---I'm not entirely sure what they've actually accomplished much less why they rate the "super genius" label. Similarly, although artist Nate Bellegarde does some fine character work, his settings and backgrounds are sparse at best. Where are all the gadgets and, you know, science stuff? How is this world any different from our own? Is it only the choice of pop icon?

Nevertheless, Nowhere Men 1: Fates Worse Than Death is certainly worth a read, and I'm happy to see it alongside the other amazing work Image Comics is pumping out in its (gasp!) third decade. I'll certainly seek out book two.

Nowhere Men by Eric Stephenson (w), Nate Bellgarde (a), Jordie Bellaire (c)

Buy This Comic Now: Debris #1

http://comicbookdb.com/graphics/comic_graphics/1/509/254165_20120725163504_large.jpg I won't try to sell you on how some #1 Image Comics have become hot, high $$$ potatoes these past few years, oh no, though I'd like to believe this may become one of them because I enjoyed it so damn much. Welcome to Debris, a sweet sci-fi action comic.

Why this comic book rocks!: It's a wonderful synergy of the writing and the art. Like any well-done sci-fi, this book takes the audience into a new and believable world. It has a feel to it like Dune and Vampire Hunter D, but is deliciously its own world filled with bio-mechanoid giant roadrunners and a cybernetic worm creature that has never been defeated by this last community of humans just trying to survive in a mean, ugly world lacking in resources.

The Artwork: I don't know how closely writer Kurtis J Wiebe worked with artist/inker/cover artist Riley Rossomo and colorist Owen Gieni, but the mood and action flow wonderfully off the page, as if they were all one artist of a singular vision, creating epic battles and doomed futures in my imagination. I've been brought to humanity's brink--will you join me?

You all know I've bitched and moaned about many comics costing more than $2.99, but this is $3.50 that was worth spending. I've already told my local comics retailer, Collectors Kingdom (yes, I used to work there, so I'm gonna promote them), to hold the remaining 3 issues in this 4-issue miniseries when they are published. If you're not yet sold, check out the Image Comics Debris web page featuring the covers of the upcoming issues. I plan to pick up more work from these creators! Check out a list of their works on the ComicBook Database!

Thanks again to the ComicBook Database for use of their cover image, whether they know it or not. Hey, it's free advertising for them!

The Five Fists of Science – Matt Fraction

Take Mark Twain, Nikola Tesla, and Baroness von Suttner and pit them against J. P. Morgan, Thomas Edison, Guglielmo Marconi, and Andrew Carnegie (yeah, I didn't know von Suttner and Marconi either) in a plot that involves Lovecraftian monsters and robot peacekeepers and you'd think you'd have a winner. You'd think that but Fraction really only provides proof that you can take historical characters and produce wild adventures for them, rather than actually produce it. It's too rushed and focuses on some not-so-funny gags instead of characters.

Chew

Chew 1: Taster's Choice Tony Chu works for the FDA. That may not sound like a particularly good recipe for a comic, but writer John Layman has created an alternate reality where bird flu has become an epidemic and the government has cracked down on the sale of poultry. As an agent of the Special Crimes Division, it's Chu's job to find and put a stop to black market sales of chicken. Oh, and his brother is a famous chef who happens to think that the entire epidemic is a government conspiracy. And Chu himself is a cibopathic, which means that he can taste something and tell you it's entire history from farm to plate. Or from cradle to grave, if he happens to taste human flesh.

Layman sets the table with some pretty interesting characters and situations, but unfortunately, the stories themselves came off a bit stale. Between the crazed serial killer, the boss-who's-out-to-get-him, and the turncoat friend, a lot of the elements read disappointingly like re-heated leftovers. On art, Rob Guillory lays out a decent spread, although his manga style is not really my cup of tea.

There are enough flavors here to bring me back for another course, but I'm hoping that Laymen will serve up something richer that I can't find at every other joint.

Common Grounds

Common Grounds TPB from Image Comics Common Grounds is a coffee shop like most coffee shops, except this one serves as a DMZ where heroes and villains can partake of a latte at adjoining booths without having to bash each other’s face in. Common Grounds is an anthology of sorts, featuring a baker’s dozen of short stories with work by Troy Hickman, George Perez, Carlos Pacheco, and others; but Dan Jurgens does most of the heavy lifting in terms of story and art, which is fine by me, because I’m a fan. Jurgens isn’t the flashiest of artists, but he tells good solid stories with clear, clean artwork. The stories in Grounds focus on the quieter (and often mundane) moments of super-powered life, putting characters and relationships ahead of world-saving/dominating. Like most anthologies, some stories (and artwork) are better than others, but they are all largely palatable. A bit like the sampler plate, Common Grounds offers something less than a full meal, but it’s a pleasant addition to your morning coffee.

Comic Book Run Review - Youngblood 0-4 (Image Comics 1992-3)

So what happened when several of Marvel Comics' most popular artists of the late 80s and early 90s formed their own company, Image Comics?

One result: Rob Liefeld's creator-owned comic book Youngblood (1992-3).

While some comic readers vehemently hate this man and his artwork, especially his most recent artwork on comic titles such as X-Force (2004) and Onslaught Reborn (2007), I thought I would give this original run of the Youngblood mini-series a chance: the original four issues mini-series and the 0 issue that is a prologue to the series.

I am still quite fond of Liefeld's work on later issues of The New Mutants (1982), and then the first year or so of X-Force (1991), though I may be biased, because that is my favorite era of Marvel's mutant "X" titles (X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, X-Factor, etc.).

So did Youngblood make me want more? Can I wait to get my hands on the next back issues of Youngblood?

The answer: I can wait...a long time.

I was generally enjoying the series, since I didn't have to wait months in between issues, as did readers of the comic as it was being released, but several things took away from my enjoyment, and one thing really irked me. The coherence of the stories of this so-called mini-series is lacking, with the series beginning with a flip-book storytelling, introducing dozens (and I mean, dozens) of characters in the first two issues, therefore there was little opportunity to really tell much of a story. The art (which I enjoyed in the sense of early 90's splash and dash) was what would be expected of Rob Liefeld of that era. Not that many of the early Image Comics characters appearances were very original, Liefeld's designs screamed reminiscence of characters from X-Force and a title Liefeld would later pencil, The Avengers.

What pissed me off was coming to the end of issue 4, only to discover that the ten page conclusion to this mini-series appeared in the fourth issue of another comic book title all together. What the *&$#? I have no desire to seek out Brigade 4, or whatever ten cent bin comic that story appears in. For some reason I would have been less disappointed to discover that the conclusion appeared in, oh say, Youngblood 5. As tumultuous as at must have been to be a founding member of a breakout comic book company that Image Comics was, this was really poor planning and marketing in regard to reader/customer satisfaction. I'm glad that I obtained this run as part of a cheap (my cost) collection, because it makes me feel less bad about dumping this run. If you can get a hold of that conclusion, it might be almost worth it, as there seemed to be story coherence by the fourth issue and finally some momentum, even if details and character development were lacking.

Issue 2 featured the debut of a character named Prophet, who would later receive his own title. Could he predict my future anger some fifteen years later?

And could Prophet predict the Rob Liefeld Drinking Game?