FBP (Federal Bureau of Physics) (vol 1-2): The Paradigm Shift & Wish You Were Here - Simon Oliver

This world is a lot like ours, except the laws of physics are more like unenforceable suggestions. The FBP is the government agency designed to investigate and attempt to rectify problems such as quantum tornadoes, random wormholes, time shifts, and the occasional loss of gravity. Agent Adam Hardy is a real ladies man (although I'm uncertain why or how) and is looking for his long lost father; unfortunately for him, so is a criminal multinational corporation. There's more to this story, of course, it took the entire first trade just to set up the world and the main character and introduce the sassy, sexy, sociopathic, female sidekick, but I'm unfortunately not really into it. Maybe in part because of the art by Robbi Rodriguez, whose work is just too elongated and faces too indistinct for me, or maybe, as I said, the fact that it took forever to set up our main story line. FBP

Hinterkind (vol 1-2): The Waking World & Written in Blood - Ian Edginton

I thought I might enjoy this obvious rip off of Fables, but it is just too flawed. The idea is a random plague destroyed most of humanity, put forests on top of buildings (and sometimes zebras on top of them, along with kangaroos in the Midwest etc.), and this allowed fairytale creatures to come out of hiding (which they were doing in astronomically large numbers). Some humans did survive and even have radio networks to each other some 20 years after the event, yet these humans for no reason have no idea about the fairy folk, or the fact that they are going to get roped up into the middle of both a civil war and a foreign invasion (yes, Europeans looking for conquest always decide to go over to America first, and not to, say Africa, Asia, or the near east). The fact that so many of these things are happening at this exact moment is part of the problem, coupled with the fact that events happen too quickly to have meaning (a major adversary is both introduced and (maybe) eliminated in the first volume), and most of the characters are boring archetypes (the reluctant hero, etc.). I can live without this. hinterkind

Testament - Douglas Rushkoff

I read vol 1-3 (actually I read the first one twice) and it is a fascinating idea mixing Biblical stories with reinterpretations of them in a futuristic setting, all the while explaining a divine war between opposing theological beliefs. The problem, however, does not come from my occasional religious interpretive or depiction disputes (blond hair and blue eyed Hebrew Joseph, who is in chains in an Egyptian prison when it is clearly stated that he runs the joint?), but from the lackluster characterization of the main, mortal, players (and I mean much more so than the mostly naked depictions of an underage girl with an impossible body) who bore me to tears. I want to like this series but find it so hard to do so; I'm much more interested in Rushkoff's explanations and thoughts on his creative process that the second and third volume have. 

Return to Perdition - Max Allan Collins

I wasn't impressed by this crime drama that ties Collins' earlier, more famous work into the Vietnam era. While the idea of crime evolving--for lack of a better word--from thugs with tommy guns to things much more devious is intriguing, I just didn't think the story was well told, as it was too over the top and the art, by Terry Beatty, was too stifled. 

The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank Twice - Mike Carey

You have to be reading the main title of The Unwritten to enjoy this prequel (which seem to be the case for all prequels), but it is a fun little tale (or two tales) about both the--perhaps--insane author that decides he will raise a son in parallel with a fictional character he created to see if he can blur the lines between fantasy and reality. In this story, we read the beginning of the boy wizard, Tommy, and friends and their first encounter with their arch-nemesis, all the while hearing their creator justify destroying real lives for the sake of "art." 

Other Lives - Peter Bagge

This short work is quite a fascinating attempt to discus and explore the idea that we rarely--if ever--know the truth about people. Whether it is fake identities we make for ourselves online or how we project images of ourselves to those around us (consciously or not), the truth is often elusive. However, Bagge's work doesn't quite measure up. His oddball art style is wonderful for his wilder comics, but fails for the seriousness of this topic. It also is somewhat misleading in that the story begins with the impression that it is about a post 9-11 world and quickly abandons that idea (maybe that was the point, but since I'm uncertain, I'd call it a negative). Finally, there was so much going on here that I felt I was overwhelmed with the depth of characterization--wow, how often do I claim that?! While I feel the book doesn't really work in the end, I must say it is a really powerful idea and I commend Bagge for the effort.

Unwritten - Mike Carey, art: Peter Gross

Cej first mentions this title in a general review, but the series certainly  deserves a larger mention. Take Harry Potter (make it real), add your Master's in Literature, a Dan Brown-esq conspiracy, and plenty of murder and intrigue and vola! As of this writting there are seven volumes (Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity, Inside Man, Dead Man's Knock, Leviathan, On to Genesis, Tommy Taylor and the War of Words, and The Wound) although I've only read the first five--get on the ball Cej and get me the rest! What, you expect me to buy my own comics?! Tommy Taylor is a famous children's story character, or is he just the son of the author? Or is he not the author's son at all? And is Tommy really the character in the story and are the stories real?! In any event, why do so many people want to capture or kill Tom? What is his link to a cabal and can they actually shape reality through the control of stories? So many questions and I'm enjoying all of them. Carey delves into ideas like the collective unconscious, the power of myth, censorship, childhood celebraties, and lots and lots on literature. Well done!

 

Enigma - Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo

I heard so much about this comic and everyone says how great it is. Honestly, I couldn't stand it. The art is scratchy, the coloring is dull, the plot is boring (it's about a boring guy who comes across a mysterious superhero and even more mysterious) villains), and comes to an end without coming to a conclusion, and the only thing that makes the comic the slightest bit interesting [SPOILER BUT WHO CARES BECAUSE THE COMIC ISN'T VERY GOOD] is that the main character turns out to be gay. Ooh, how shocking, that certainly makes the comic worth reading, since it is about a guy who suddenly discovers he is gay without any past hint of homosexual feeling or experience? Yeah, right. Skip this crap. 

The New Deadwardians - Dan Abnett

Chief Inspector George Suttle, last of the homicide detectives of a post Victorian England wherein the upper classes are vampires and the 99% are, well, the same as always, but some sort of plague has set off a zombie epidemic. Suttle attempts to unravel the inexplicable murder of a vampire only to find out unwanted truths. This is an interesting idea, but I felt the entire story was designed as a set up for a future story, and that all the characters were only there to fulfill archetypes, in other words that were flat or Edwardian.  

iZombie - Chris Roberson & Michael Allred

This title, cut short due to a problem between DC comics and the creators, consists of Dead to the World, uVampire, Six Feet Under and Rising, and Repossession. Originally I avoid reading this because I read an excerpt and thought "ug, another zombie book," but Roberson takes that idea and runs with it producing a straight take on the ridiculous. The comic is about a group of monsters (zombies, ghosts, were-creatures, vampires, mummies, etc) going through their daily routines and either saving or attempting to destroy the world--you know, typical stuff. While done in a serious way, the comic is funny and silly and just a really nice read. That's not to suggest there aren't problems and leaps in the story's logic, yet you tend to get wrapped up enough to not mind. Sadly, this doesn't last. This was suppose to run eight volumes (or was it 80 issues?), which I doubt would have worked either way, but it definitely should have lasted a few more issues to better end it for the sake of all (creators and readers). As is, the final trade is a rushed mess that destroys the enjoyment, all the more a shame as it could have been so very good.

John Constantine, Hellblazzer: India & Bloody Carnations - Peter Milligan

It's been a long time since I've read any Hellblazzer comics and was glad to see that I can still pick up a collection and get into it fairly easily. In India, the British bastard wizard has gone to the sub-continent in order to resurrect his late girlfriend (just another in the long line of people close to him that he got killed). In India John has to deal with a rather lustful, murdering demon. I feel Milligan did a really nice job capturing the setting and the character of John himself. There is also a clever shorter story that deals with English politics and punks which was also good. "I think I'll keep reading," is what I thought, and went to the next collection (thanks to Kym for the loan). And here is where I got disappointed. The story, Bloody Carnations, is rushed which isn't good when you are radically shifting a personality trait of the title character. Constantine is going to settle down as he is in love (with someone half his age and, quite frankly, only seems to like him due to daddy issues (something's Milligan does somewhat acknowledge)). Milligan, unfortunately, decides to use this time to bring up his canceled character/title, Shade, for no real reason and misses tons of opportunities to delve into the characters (e.g. What's it like to be in an asylum? Cutting off your thumb? Being kidnapped by a lunatic? Deal with a major life change? Going back in time? Etc). And just to nitpick, if a building gets attacked by knife welding zombies, don't ignore that fact. If you have an internal organ sitting in your frig, don't say it is a severed head. I could go on, but why should I do the work the editor was paid to do? "I think I'll stop reading," is what I thought next.

Punk Rock Jesus

Sean Murphy explores a not-too-distant future in which the Son of God (or is He?) is cloned and turned into a reality star hero until He goes off the rails and attacks the society that created Him. Punk Rock Jesus is a wonderful mess, pinballing from crises of faith to social media critique to the history of the Irish Republican Army. I suppose it might be an offensive story for some, but to me it reads like an artist struggling with his own demons and throwing it all on the page as he works through it. All your favorite political, sci-fi, and religious tropes are here, and they are rendered with highly detailed frenetic black and white art that is reminiscent of Chris Bacchalo's early work on Shade.

I can't really call Punk Rock Jesus a success, but it was a fun ride.

Sweet Tooth - Jeff Lemire

The apocalypse is ongoing, and the only ones with immunity to the killer plague are hybrid animal people. Gus is part deer-part boy and suddenly finds his sheltered life turned to hell. With the “help” of survivors of various levels of trustworthiness, Gus attempts to find out the truth about his past and, perhaps, save the world, if he can stay alive. I like this comic that dwells on quiet images and spends pages on silent dreams, but at the same time feel a little slighted that I can read an issue in under ten minutes. UPDATE 2014: I finished the series and for books that could often be read in under 5 minutes it rushed through its ending even while having scenes that were drawn out. The lack of consistent art (which on at least two occasions didn't quite match the captions) was a problem and I hated when Lemire tried telling the story in Gus' voice. I found this comic, as I far too often do with comics, in that it seems like a first draft and if more time and care was spent making such interesting ideas come alive this would really be a great piece of art. 

American Vampire vol. I-II - Scott Snyder

Yes, Steven King wrote some parts of this but I think that was really just to grab some headlines and sales. American Vampire is a series about just that and how the good ol' U.S. of A's vampire ain't ya daddy's monster. I really like the idea of tracing the "lives" of vampires to see what role they had in the development of our nation, and there is some intrigue and mystery to go along with it all. The final product, well, more often than not leaves me flat. It's too reliant on fight scenes that might work better on a big screen (and maybe that's what the title is destined for) and cuts short the more interesting notions of how and why these monsters are so interested in developing America.

John Constantine, Hellblazer: Scab – Peter Milligan

The amoral, black magician Constantine's new relationship is strained when his body is covered in a magical rash. No, there is no message of practicing safe sex here, although it might have made for a better story. Instead, the situation revolves around a union organizer who sells out and is likewise infected. Milligan attempts to tell a story sympathetic to the working man's plight and how a corrupt government might behave. I never felt the story really got going and it becomes yet another of Milligan's tales that didn't thrill me, which is starting to heavily outweigh the ones that have.

Pride of Baghdad - Brian K. Vaughan

Extrapolating on the fact that in April of '03 several lions got loose from a zoo in the Iraqi capital during the latest (and hopefully last) US-Iraq war, Vaughan anthropomorphizes a group of lions and presents their reactions to having their world destroyed. It is a great idea and does have many interesting moments, although I do have my complaints. Niko Henrichon's pre-bombed Baghdad looks far too ideal with its lush woodlands and Vaughan only truly gives one of the four lions, Safa, much of a back story and depth. Perhaps it was a little rushed.

100 Bullets: First Shot, Last Call - Brian Azzarello

I like a lot of Azzarello's work, but this first volume about a mysterious Agent Graves who gives victims information about criminals who did them wrong and an untraceable gun and bullets with which to get revenge just didn't thrill me. The stories deal with people's moral dilemmas over murder, but I can't help but get caught up in the idea that if Graves wants justice he could turn the evidence over to the law or simply kill these criminals himself. Cej tells me that the later stories explain more, but I'm not certain if I should bother with it.

Jack of Fables Vol 7: The New Adventures of Jack and Jack - Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges, & Chris Roberson

So the story of the not-so-lovable rogue, Jack (as in of fables, beanstalks, nimble, etc.), shifts to that of his illegitimate son who is quite different from his father in that he is and wants to be a hero. There's nothing wrong with his adventures of fighting monsters and saving damsels, it's just not what (and who) the series was about. Well, apparently there is only about 10 single issues of the comic left, and I suppose that's for the best as the ending of the whole Mr. Revise story-line should have been the ending of the series.

Revolver

RevolverRevolver follows Sam, a thirty-something photo-editor for a Seattle newspaper whose career (and life) is going nowhere fast. Suddenly, disaster strikes; America is under attack from a strange guru-cum-terrorist, and Sam must learn to cope with his new reality. Or does he? Every time Sam falls asleep, he awakens in the alternate world---the one where things are their normal drudgery or the one where the world has gone to hell. And as Sam bounces back and forth between worlds, he slowly begins taking charge of his life.

I've become a real fan of creator Matt Kindt. His stories are both surreal and poignant. And while his loose art style doesn't always seem appropriate to the material, its fluidity generally makes up for the disconnect.

Revolver is good, but it's easily my least favorite of Kindt's work so far. I think it misses in several respects. The title refers to the name of an underground newspaper that Sam and his cohorts form, but it doesn't seem significant enough to be the title. I guess you could interpret the title as Sam "revolving" through alternate worlds or undergoing a personal revolution, but these seem a stretch to me. Kindt also creates a unique page numbering design in which each page number is presented as part of a "news crawl" at the bottom of the page. This is clever, and it adds to the story's sense of confusion, but I think it was ultimately distracting. Most important, the lynchpin to Sam's transformation is shown in flashback and only loosely explained, which makes it difficult to believe.

Overall, Revolver gets a thumbs-up. But be sure to check out Super Spy and 3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man to see what Kindt can really do.

Scalped vol 1-6: Indian Country, Casino Boogie, Dead Mothers, The Gravel in Your Guts, High Lonesome, The Gnawing – Jason Aaron

Dashiell Bad Horse has returned to the reservation he always hated to be police officer who actually works (unwillingly) for the FBI. He's trying to bring down Lincoln Red Crow, a criminal who controls the police and a former activist who is trying to restart the local economy by making a casino. To complicate the situation, Dash is in a relationship with Red Crow's daughter, which is fair as Red Crow was once in a relationship with Bad Horse's mom. The two of them were Native American activist back in the day, along with a nut job called Catcher, and involved (to an unknown degree) in the murder of two FBI agents, which explains why Dash was recruited, although it is a little shakier on why FBI Agent Nitz has added the sociopath Diesel as another undercover operative. The work is interesting if over the top (does everyone have to be super violent, have tattoos, drug problems, and a shady past?) a fact aggravated by the dark coloring of the artwork which makes everything seem like it is happening at night. The comics really takes off during volumes four and five (when I originally just read the first volume I didn't care much) as they give the backstories to several characters giving them depth and triggering interest in their complexity that does not exist for the main character Dash, who I really don't care about. Thanks to Kym for the lone and hurry up getting volume seven.