Monday, July 23, 2012

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 7/18

Bad Medicine #3
Story: Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir
Art: Christopher Mitten

Bad Medicine, Oni Press's new title that debuted with a free #1 back on Free Comic Book Day this year and features a sci-fi/horror/medical/procedural mash up, kicks off its second arc this month, and it's a really solid beginning. I'm a sucker for any kind of werewolf story, so when the issue opens with a cop shooting a werewolf, I knew I was going to be into this one. As the group of CDC investigators arrive at the site to look into another strange disease, we continue to get a feel for each of these characters; DeFilippis and Weir have always been writers who do tremendous character work, and this title is no exception. Dr. Randal Horne, the principal character of the ensemble, is a fascinating character, a man who has the early Doctor Strange/Doctor House lack of a bedside manner who is trying to learn it, and who might be haunted by the ghost of a patient he didn't save, or might just have a screw loose, while Detective Joley Huffman is a tough, no-nonsense NYPD detctive who has been sucked into this world of paranormal disease. And rounding out the team are doctors Alexander Teague and Ian Hogarth, who are opposite poles; Teague is the Scully of the team, always searching for the rational explanation, while Hogarth is the wacky, geeky, almost comic relief figure. The group balances well, and as the book gets its feet under itself, they grow into more vivid life. The idea of lycanthropy as pathogen is especially interesting, since I've seen similar takes on vampirism and Zombie outbreaks, but not really with werewolves, and I look forward to seeing how it develops. Bad Medicine is a book that reminds me of the best year's of The X-Files: science and the paranormal tossed together into a creepy stew, with interesting characters trying to find the truth.

Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation2 #3
Story: Scott and David Tipton & Tony Lee
Art: J.K. Woodward & The Sharp Brothers

While I may not be as big a Doctor Who or Star Trek fan as I am, say, a Batman or Star Wars fan, I couldn't resist picking up a crossover between the two longest running sci-fi franchises in the western world, especially when it was going to be the Next Generation crew in the spotlight, since that was the first series of the franchise I was exposed to. I have to say, it's been a ton of fun. While the first two issues were spent introducing the casts of the two series, and establishing the threat of a Borg/Cybermen alliance, this issue really starts seeing the plot move forward, and features a fun flashback of the original Enterprise meeting the Fourth Doctor. All of the characters, be it the Enterprise crew or the Eleventh Doctor and his companions, Amy and Rory, are written to sound exactly like they would in an episode of their respective shows, and while the stakes are duly high, the fate of the Federation and all known space to start with, the series never loses the sense of fun and adventure that is the cornerstone of both shows. As the mystery of the Doctor's memories deepen, and the Borg/Cybermen alliance looms, I am honestly just excited to see where the story goes. And that sense of wide-eyed excitement is something that makes me remember why the frontiers of space and time are always so fun to explore on the Enterprise and the TARDIS.

Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison #3
Story: W. Haden Blackman
Art: Agustin Alessio

The second issue of this series nearly made it into last month's reviews, but was just barely bumped out by Dawn of the Jedi, and as this issue is as good as the last, it had to make it this month. The series, set shortly after the events of Revenge of the Sith, follows Darth Vader, Moff Trachta (a character from earlier Star Wars comic stories), and our narrator, a recently graduated Imperial Lieutenant named Laurita Tohm, on a desperate fight from Coruscant with a wounded Emperor Palpatine to escape a coup attempt. The story has all the hallmarks of a great Star Wars story: character, a sense of what has come before, and action. The story does a good job of getting into the heads of each of its three protagonists. There are interesting parallels between the three men, all of whom have been scarred and lost limbs; they are all broken men, and we see them all dealing with how broken they are, both physically and mentally. We see one scene of Vader in a fit of rage at the Jedi he once served with, and you can see Vader justifying the acts he perpetrated against them in his rage. Trachta gets revenge on the being who scarred him, and Tohm reveals the origin of the damage to his body. I don't want to reveal what the Ghost Prison of the title is, because it's a great moment and something I could discuss in a future review, but it continues to explore how the Jedi were compromised during the end of the era of the Republic, and how far they had strayed from their ideals. Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison is a great series for both the die hard and casual Star Wars fan to read, not being heavily beholden to continuity but still rewarding those of us who are long time readers.

The Unwritten #39
Story: Mike Carey
Art: Peter Gross

It's hard to review a single issue of one of these continuing Vertigo series, especially when they are forty issues into an epic that, while it has beginnings and endings to arcs, is pretty much one continuous story. The Unwritten has been one of my favorite Vertgo series since it launched, and the last arc ended act one of the series, and this issue continues "The Wound," the first arc of the second act. This arc has barely featured the regular cast of the series, with only Richie Savoy, lead character Tom Taylor's vampire friend, appearing for more than isolated panels. But the characters for this arc are still interesting. Australian detective Didge and Danny, former employee of the Cabal,  catch up to Lucas Filby, leader of the Church of Tommy, and find that he is more tied to the events of the series then suspected. The issue also features the origin of fan favorite character Pauly Bruckner, better known as the fowl mouthed anthropomorphic rabbit, Mr. Bun. And being that this is The Unwritten, there has to be that sense of magical realism that has existed in so few comics since the heyday of The Sandman, where the world of thugs, cults, and hitmen are set against appearances by magical prosthetic hands and prophecy spouting unicorns. Next issue looks to be the return of Tom Taylor to the book, and further revelations on the damage to the Leviathan, and a resolution to the events in Australia. I'm curious to see where Tom's journey goes from here, and what he will do when he learns about the damage his war with the Cabal caused. But for now, I just have to deal with a comic that ends with people charging off to stop the villain on unicornback. There are worse things.

Wonder Woman #11
Story: Brian Azzarello
Art: Cliff Chiang

Wonder Woman is the title that came out of the New 52 as probably the most changed title. Brian Azzarello was not a writer anyone expected to see on the title, and that has breathed a new life into the adventures of Diana. There have been controversies along the way, no doubt, but I have found the book to be an interesting combination of mythology and superheroics. This issue seems to be moving the plot that has driven the series until this point, the fight over the thrown of the dead Zeus and the fate of his illegitimate child with the mortal Zola, into its endgame. The gods are assembled, and Wonder Woman is facing them down. Azzarello has given Diana a strong voice, and understands her as a character; she is both a fierce warrior and a font of compassion. One of the things that has been spectacular about the post-New 52 Wonder Woman has also been the re-envisioning of the Greek gods by artist Cliff Chiang. This issue, both Demter and Artemis make their initial appearances, looking as stunning as the rest of the gods, with a plant based Earth mother in Demeter, and a silvery, moon like luminescence in the moon goddess Artemis. With Diana finally facing down Hera, who has plagued her since the beginning of the series, and Apollo, whose machinations are behind much of the chaos she has encountered, its time to see what the Amazon Princess and her friend's fates will be.

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