Written and illustrated by comics creator Jeff Lemire, "Trillium" has a pretty neat concept. In the farflung future, the last remnants of humanity areWritten and illustrated by comics creator Jeff Lemire, "Trillium" has a pretty neat concept. In the farflung future, the last remnants of humanity are desperately seeking a cure for a deadly "sentient virus" chasing them through the galaxy, and they appear to have found one in a temple complex guarded by an alien race. Meanwhile, in the year 1921, a shellshocked veteran of the first World War is on an Amazon expedition with his brother, looking for an Inca temple thought to hold mysterious powers. Thanks to a mystical experience, the two timelines intersect, and the man and a woman scientist from the future set off to save humanity.
The book is at its best in the setup, where the two characters meet, connect and try to overcome the obstacles that separate them. There's a lot of fun sci-fi details, from independent artificial intelligences to wetware and spacesuits, all deployed through Lemire's scratchy, elongated, expressive art.
But as the book moves toward resolution, the characters and their plight never feels more developed than it does at the start. The supporting characters are a little one-note and very explicit in stating their motivations: you have the supportive brother, the aggressive military commander, the self-sacrificing mother. A lot of the action that results felt familiar from other works, even as Lemire adopts an interesting stylistic approach, literally flipping the panels at points to reflect the different points of view.
To me, though, the plot progression didn't seem motivated by the choices of any of the characters; instead, it's a bit of an eight-issue deus ex machina, riding the rails in the late chapters to get to the ending. I never felt much connection to the characters, and by the finale even the threat of this sentient virus is waved off a bit, reduced to an obstacle that can seemingly (view spoiler)[be blown up with a spaceship. (hide spoiler)] "Trillium" had some nice ideas, but the execution of the plot (not the art) ended up feeling a bit too rote and simplistic. Larger concepts are hinted at throughout, but they end up never quite being realized.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Mike Carey's "Unwritten" is a pretty ambitious piece of comics storytelling, using a Harry Potter-inspired protagonist to explore the shared world ofMike Carey's "Unwritten" is a pretty ambitious piece of comics storytelling, using a Harry Potter-inspired protagonist to explore the shared world of stories, much like Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" used its titular character to explore the world of dreams.
Our lead here, Tom Taylor, shares his name with Tommy Taylor, the hero of a massive Potter-esque series created by Tom's father, who disappeared years ago. As this volume starts, Tom has been framed for a series of murders and finds himself in a French prison where, of course, the warden's kids are big fans of the Tommy Taylor series. Tom himself becomes a living symbol of their loss of innocence, although writer Mike Carey overdoes it hitting that theme. The warden is very explicit in voicing the conflict, and his daughter's obsession with the books, to the point of taking them literally, comes off as silly. The ending, as it comes, seems very manipulative too.
The stories that follow are better, though. There's a two-issue excursion that has Tom and his friends inhabit the moral universe of a Nazi propaganda film, to creative and moving effect. The volume follows with the story of a criminal who's been magically exiled to life as "Mr. Bun" in a Hundred-Acre Wood analogue. That's pretty funny, although the curse-heavy voice seems over the top.
That's one of my main issues with the series--there's a lot of swear-heavy tough-guy talk that seems unnatural to the characters. Instead of coming off like seasoned hard cases, they sound like little kids trying cusswords on for the first time and overdoing it. It reminded me of Brian K. Wood's "DMZ," whose voice was also hindered by the same seeming need to prove itself as authentic. Maybe it's just me, but it rang hollow.
The art by Peter Gross is effective, ably handling both conversations and imaginative dreamscapes. While the pencils don't feel overly distinctive, his characters are well distinguished and he rarely stumbles. I wish the colors by Chris Chuckry were a bit more vibrant, but it's a nice package.
Overall, this volume shows a lot of the promise of the series as well as its shortcomings. This is actually the point where I dropped it in collecting the single issues, but I'm interested enough to keep reading the trades....more
"Batman 66" is a fun resurrection of the Batman of the TV era, complete with silly gags and "biff, bam, pow" level action with a villain's gallery ran"Batman 66" is a fun resurrection of the Batman of the TV era, complete with silly gags and "biff, bam, pow" level action with a villain's gallery ranging from the Joker to the lesser-known Clock King.
Writer Jeff Parker does a great job nailing the tongue-in-cheek vibe of Adam West's Batman, but he also doesn't miss opportunities to poke fun at the proceedings either. Dracula makes an appearance (and admires Batman's taste in capes), shark-riding and surf contests are referenced, and Catwoman even wonders where exactly Robin sat after she was spirited away to the Bat Cave in the two-seater Batmobile.
The art is provided by several collaborators, all of whom go for clean lines, saturated colors and crisp action. Jonathan Chase is a particular standout; he has a lot of fun creating a swingin' Catwoman as well as a crew of cat-capped collaborators.
In recent years Batman has generally come to be associated with grim street-level storytelling, complete with over-the-top violence and plenty of collateral damage. I've enjoyed a few of those stories, but none have been quite as much fun as this cheerful, pepped-up alternative....more
This is a big volume for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. After some apocalyptic times, the band is back together, so to speak, and on tThis is a big volume for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. After some apocalyptic times, the band is back together, so to speak, and on the offensive again, heading into New York City to see precisely what strange forces have isolated it from the rest of the world.
Two teams head in, one led by the B.P.R.D. mainstays Johann Kraus (ghost man) and Liz Sherman (pyrotechnic) along with precognitive newcomer Fenix. The other is headed up by Iosif, a kind of holy zombie who's the head of Russia's Special Sciences Service.
They find a city that's been devastated. What remains is ruled by the demonic Zinco corporation, who keeps a few slaves as chattel to work the fields. There are toughs surviving in the ruins, but few of them; most of the city's population has been devoured by monsters or given in to despair.
But the B.P.R.D. crew is trying to change that, and in doing so, it almost finds the path a bit too easy. Humanity has seemed wholly on the brink in recent volumes of Mignola's story, overwhelmed by demons and other foul things from other worlds. But here the team has a relatively simple time of it, shrugging off what seem to be insurmountable odds.
That's not to say I didn't enjoy it. The world is frighteningly realized, particularly in a scene where the one of the teams (view spoiler)[stumbles across a mass suicide spot. (hide spoiler)] That really captures the despair that's come with living on this "hell on earth."
But the pacing seems fast once the squads get the upper hand. Iosif undertakes a one-man assault on what should be an impenetrable sronghold. Liz is suddenly flying around like the Human Torch, something that's never really been part of her range of powers. Even Fenix, a punk-kid runaway before, seems unexpectedly aggro here, complete with a new, spiky visual design that I didn't particularly enjoy.
Even if you like the developments, they come too rapidly, especially given the slow pacing of earlier volumes. I like where the story begins and ends, but it seems a little rushed in the middle, without the character development the series in known for.
The art by James Harren continues to be excellent, succeeding with character moments, desperate gunfights and high-flying battles between near-cosmic foes. Ultimately, it was exciting to read and look at, although I wish the tension has been stretched out a little further.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
It's been a bleak run for the B.P.R.D. crew--and much of humanity as giant creatures are erupting from the bowels of the earth, destroying entire citiIt's been a bleak run for the B.P.R.D. crew--and much of humanity as giant creatures are erupting from the bowels of the earth, destroying entire cities and releasing strange gases that turn people into monsters. In this volume, though, we see the first signs of hope in a long time as two members return to the fold of the supernatural squad--one old, one new.
The volume contains two parallel storylines. The first follows Liz Sherman, a human pyrotechnic who seemed to burn herself out--literally and emotionally--saving the world a little while back. Now recovering from serious injuries in a barely-holding-on hospital, she runs into a Dr. Moreau figure who's experimenting with the mutative potential of the evil forms that have overrun the world.
The second storyline follows teenage precog Fenix as she seeks refuge in old memories near the Sargasso Sea. Unfortunately, a cult has sprung up there in the shadow of a monstrous egg laid by some towering creature. A religious pacifist gives her shelter but disappears in conflict with the cult, spurring Fenix to take action after spending months running from any responsibility.
It's a bit convenient how both characters "power up" when it's needed for the plot, but I still enjoyed the sense of return after what's been a disastrous run for our heroes. Better yet, both characters give the story some much-needed attitude, notably Liz, who seems tough and defiant.
The art by Tyler Crook is great throughout. His monsters--both demonic and human--are suitably scary, and he does a good job with the near-postapocalyptic setting as well, giving us a candlelit hospital and a psychedelic Christian retreat.
In one sense, the story is a bit of an interlude, as our heroes are preparing to sneak into New York, which may be under the rule of an evil, survivalist cult. This is a nice break before the action begin again, and I'm happy to see the odds have evened somewhat....more
Eric Shanower's graphic retelling of the Trojan War continues. In this volume, we get the Greek armies landing on the Trojan beach as well as the tragEric Shanower's graphic retelling of the Trojan War continues. In this volume, we get the Greek armies landing on the Trojan beach as well as the tragic tale of Troilus and Cressida.
Shanower's art is amazing as always, with his finely rendered black-and-white drawings capturing everything from rough life in the camp to the hand-to-hand gore of Bronze Age warfare. His characters can be tough to distinguish in their armor, although Shanower does give us hints with ornate helmets to help us keep track of who's who.
The story us a little too wrapped up in the action, however. Page after page of battle scenes capture the drudgery and brutality of this long war, but they end up conveying a bit too much of its repetition to the reader. I ended up wanting more variety in the telling.
There's also not much advancement in the character arcs here. Achilles remains a glory-hungry psychopath, Hector noble, Paris vain. Young Troilus suffers the agonies of love from afar, but he doesn't really rise above one-note longing. Similarly, there's a lot of talk about hunger and discontent in the Greek camp, but the politics of the situation don't advance much, and the alliance never seems to really be at risk of fracture or mutiny.
Still, it's a joy to watch Shanower capture these classic tales in his own style, and he humanizes the iconic characters by emphasizing their pettiness and cruelty. When Cressida is "rescued" by the Greek camp, the assault that welcomes her is shocking, making it near impossible to identify with any of the Greek kings as heroes. They're more like bandit-kings, waging war for their own reasons--or advancement. The resulting bloodshed, we're reminded, is an epic waste for nearly everyone else....more
In this volume of Mike Mignola's long-running B.P.R.D. series, fish-man/paranormal agent Abe Sapien wakes up from a coma and heads out into a ruined wIn this volume of Mike Mignola's long-running B.P.R.D. series, fish-man/paranormal agent Abe Sapien wakes up from a coma and heads out into a ruined world. Foul things have overrun humanity, destroying cities and turning people into murderous monsters. But Abe himself looks like the monster in chief, and he's trying to find a different direction beyond simply being "a monster shooting other monsters," as another character puts it.
His journey takes him to a town that's largely been bypassed by the destruction, although it turns out that Abe's arrival spurs some demonic seeds to sprout with bloody results. Abe himself fights the monsters that result, even as agents from the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense enter the fray, unsure whether Abe is an ally or a foe.
It's a satisfying action tale, although the town's citizenry seem to form a mob at the drop of a hat. (Understandable given the frightening circumstances, perhaps, but still a bit abrupt, especially when their violence focuses on one of their own.) The art by Sebastian Fiumara is great, though, and the story ends on a suitably ominous note.
The next arc in the trade finds Abe traveling to the Sargasso Sea, trying to connect with his aquatic roots, perhaps. There he finds a monstrous egg laid by a walking horror--and a young cult that's sprung up around it. This story is quieter but more unnerving; it shows how a new way of living could spring up when all the old certainties have been shaken away. Here too Abe solves a mystery, but he can't offer any resolution--or hope. The great art continues, this time by Max Fiumara.
The book ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, setting up a quest narrative for Abe as he flees to find his own answers. It's dark and compelling, promising new discoveries with the next volume....more
"Sledgehammer 44" read like "Iron Man Hellboy fights Nazis in World War II," with all all the benefits and detriments that entails. Our story starts w"Sledgehammer 44" read like "Iron Man Hellboy fights Nazis in World War II," with all all the benefits and detriments that entails. Our story starts with a squad of grunts backings up a new secret weapon on its first deployment in occupied Paris. Things don't go quite according to plan, though, and one of the soldiers in the squad ends up inhabiting the mystically powered suit, a turn of events that lets him save his buddies but may end up costing him his soul.
This opening sequence has nice action, characters and dialogue, even if it's familiar to anyone who's read a few old Sergeant Rock comics. What follows is a little different. Before our protagonist can get down to the business of slugging saboteurs, he has to come to terms with his transformation, which has left him marooned from humanity.
It's an interesting choice...but it's also a bit inert, as we spin our wheels a bit before the hero can be prodded into action. The approach slows down the story--and also calls for a literal, over-the-top scene baring of scars to get the conflict started again.
From there, we're in familiar Hellboy territory, with average-joe heroic and lots of punching. There are spies everywhere, which seems implausible, and the fisticuffs themselves lack dramatic tension, as Sledgehammer always seems to have an extra reserves to draw on when things get tough. (I have the same problem with the Hellboy series as well.)
It's fun to see World War II reflected in the Mignola-verse, but a similar time period was explored to much greater effect in the B.P.R.D. 1946 and 1947 storylines. I'd check those out first and only come back to this if you're fully hooked....more
I thought volume 3 of "Lobster Johnson" was a bit of a step back compared to previous installments. The previous trade, "The Burning Hand," offered aI thought volume 3 of "Lobster Johnson" was a bit of a step back compared to previous installments. The previous trade, "The Burning Hand," offered a great gangland tale blending mystic forces and gritty, street-level revenge. It offered the pulp hero and his crew mysteries to solve, setbacks to overcome and a sense of loss blended into the finale.
"Satan Smells a Rat" tells several anthology-style stories, and most of them are limited to Lobster discovering a threat and going in guns blazing. He takes out Nazi terrorists, mad scientists, elder gods and mummies in a series of single-issue tales. The action and the plots are all pretty straightforward, though, and it's hard to get excited about the Lobster's triumphs when there aren't really any obstacles in his way.
One exception is the book's longer story, "A Scent of Lotus," which has Lobster facing down a mystical Japanese spy who's come to the United States to stop the flow of funds to freedom fighters in occupied Japan. The extra space lets the story stretch out some, providing an actual mystery. Our heroes have to figure things out, deal with some hassle from the cops and solve the problem in a way that doesn't just involve shooting it. This story feels like a throwback to the strengths of the previous volume, and it offers a connection to a later B.P.R.D. story, which is nice.
"Satan Smells a Rat" calls on a roster of artists to illustrate Mike Mignola and John Arcudi's stories. They all do nice work, capturing the shadows and pulp-era setting that Lobster calls home....more
Three volumes in, I have to conclude that while I've enjoyed other stories by Peter David, his Hulk run isn't for me. Part of the problem is the charaThree volumes in, I have to conclude that while I've enjoyed other stories by Peter David, his Hulk run isn't for me. Part of the problem is the character. The Hulk here isn't the mindless beast he's generally represented as; instead, he's a nasty, amoral strongarm man. But while other characters, notably his girlfriend, talk up his supposed redeeming qualities, nothing on the page makes him pleasant to spend time with.
Beyond that, the stories are pretty weak. We kick off with a team of robot mercenaries--pretty much the most generic 80s villains imaginable--rampaging their way through Las Vegas in a game of murder tag. The Hulk gets into a fight with Spider-Man here for no good reason, following that up with a team-up with Dr. Doom (?!) to head to New York and trade punches with the Thing.
Both storylines seem silly, embodying the childishness at the heart of generic superhero comics. Why are the Hulk and the Thing destroying New York City for no reason? Worse, why does the Hulk come off so much like a phony tough guy?
From there, the story takes a quick trip into another universe before wrapping up with a mob fight in Las Vegas that's at least a compelling idea. But the boring old Banner-Hulk split surfaces again, and I just didn't see much imagination or credibility in the set-up. The Hulk as a ritzy Vegas strong-arm guy? I can get behind that. But the series seems bored by that premise before it can even get into it, and the distorted Jeff Purves art doesn't help things either.
We're in the meat of Chris Claremont's "New Mutants" run now, and the stories here seems more ambitious than good. We start with a jaunt to Muir IslanWe're in the meat of Chris Claremont's "New Mutants" run now, and the stories here seems more ambitious than good. We start with a jaunt to Muir Island where Professor X works to save the troubled, overpowered son he didn't know he had: David, aka Legion. The psychic teen is so named for the multiple personalities literally warring within his fractured mindscape--and expressing themselves in untidy bits of telekinesis and pyrotechnic displays. In his last issues on the series, Bill Sienkiewicz does a nice job capturing this tortured mind space, but the journey there doesn't have much dramatic interest. Worse, Claremont goes all in with the sweet talk in the dialogue--"poppet" this and "mummy" that--and it can be tough to stomach.
After this sojourn to Scotland, the team hits L.A., where they get caught up in the city's underground gladiatorial ring. I'd unfortunately just read the "Beauty and the Beast" graphic novel that covers the same turf, so I was pretty tired of the concept at this point. There is some nice angst when a former team member is revealed to be a new villain, and I enjoyed the young mutants being outmatched before scrapping their way back to a victory. (The big plan at the end isn't very plausible, though, requiring the villain to basically not turn his head for minutes at a time.) I didn't like the punk scumbag New Mutants from new artist Steve Leialoha either, but the rest of his stuff was ok.
Is this essential? If you're an X-men fan and invested in the characters, it's probably worth reading. If not, you can skip it pretty safely.
An enjoyable storyline from Brian Michael Bendis' 2000-era reimagining of Spider-Man. Peter Parker is still a teen in these stories, juggling school,An enjoyable storyline from Brian Michael Bendis' 2000-era reimagining of Spider-Man. Peter Parker is still a teen in these stories, juggling school, work, drama with his girlfriend's dad and--oh yeah--the fact that the Kingpin of Crime is looking to kill him. Bendis does a good job balancing the different elements, giving Peter a volatile helping of teenage angst while ensuring the Spidey has plenty of nice quips for when he goes into action.
"Young boy," the Kingpin says in one tussle, "I do not know why you are involved in this...but I wasnt what is mine."
"Well they don't make the Happy Meals any bigger than supersized," Spidey shoots back.
As the cover indicates, this trade introduces both the Black Cat and female assassin Elektra, both to mixed results. There's a lot of sexualization at play here. Black Cat's character design is a ridiculous bundle of T&A, including the sideboobiest costume in the ignoble history of sideboob. Similarly, while Elektra is supposed to be a fearsome assassin, the dude that's hiring her still thinks it's appropriate to make a pass while contracting her for murder.
That said, I enjoyed the story here. The Kingpin comes off as a menace and an appropriate foil for Peter. It's interesting to see J. Jonah Jameson act badly--and get some serious pushback. And the ending doesn't waste the emotion the story has built. If you're interested in a teenage Spider-man at all, this is a nice exploration of the character.