Monday, March 25, 2013

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 3/20

Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray #1
Story: Frank J. Barbiere
Art: Chris Mooneyham

I love comics and movies influenced by pulps, that sort of story that is full of action and character, with a crime of supernatural edge. The high concept of Image's new series, Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray is that an Indiana Jones-esque treasure hunter has acquired the abilities of five literary characters: the detective, the archer, the wizard, the samurai, and the vampire. However, it seems that these powers are killing him. We see Fabian use his powers on one of his hunts (although it seems like he's as much a thief as he is a treasure hunter), and then bed his client. He is also on a quest to find a mystical artifact that he is hoping will awaken his sister from a mystically induced coma. The details are a bit sketchy, but it's only one issue in, so frankly we got more story than we do in a lot of issue ones.There's some great set up of a cult or evil society chasing after Fabian, and in the end Fabian and a man I assume is his brother-in-law, or at least his sister's significant other, run afoul of a tribe that may or may not have the stone they seek. It's a lot of classic pulp and serial tropes tossed together that work really well. The characters grab you right away, and you see there's more to Fabian than meets the eye. The art fits the book perfectly, with the grit that suits the period. Like a lot of pulp influenced stories, the series is set in the 40s, and seems to thoroughly researched. This is a very impressive first issue, and sets up a series that has a ton of potential.

Justice League #18
Story: Geoff Johns
Art: Jesus Saiz/ Gary Frank

While I have found Justice League a bit hit or miss since the New 52 began, the issues starting with "Throne of Atlantis" have been firing on all cylinders, and while this issue seemed like it was going to be a downtime sort of issue, we got a good amount of forward momentum, as well as expanding the team and really meeting the New 52 versions of some characters we either haven't seen or have gotten very little exposure to. After needing to call in the reserves during the attack by Atlantis, the League decides it's time to find some full time members. The most interesting of these characters is the New 52 Atom, a completely new character. While hints of Ryan Choi had been dropped, and Ray Palmer was a recurring character on the late, lamented Frankenstein Agent of SHADE series, it seems this Atom is Rhonda Pineda, a student at Ivy University, the school that both Palmer and Choi have been associated with, so it's possible her background will tie in more with them. I want to see more of this character, and how she is going to fit in with the new team. I also enjoyed seeing a completely new character, Goldrush. I've found a distinct lack of brand new characters in the New 52, so any chance to expand and try new things is welcomed by me. Johns ends the issue with something a mystery and cliffhanger, moving the series towards the upcoming Trinity War. I was also excited to see the art for this issue by the dramatically under-rated Jesus Saiz, who has been flying under the radar for too many years. I hope this issue raises his profile enough to get him on a major book soon. The Shazam back up story, which has been the highlight of the series for much of its run (which is not a slight at the main story. The back up is just that good), continues as well, setting up Billy's final confrontation with Black Adam and the Seven Sins. I like how Billy has grown from the seeming brat he was at the start into someone who clearly wants to do what's right but has baggage that is making it hard, and I like the further development of the other kids staying at the foster home with Billy. Artist Gary Frank also wins the award for creepiest designs of the week for the personifications of the Seven Deadly Sins. Those are some creepy monsters.

Saga #11
Story: Brian K Vaughan
Art: Fiona Staples

Every issue of Saga is a gift, a perfect comic. Picking up right after the events of last issue, we watch as Alana, Marko, Hazel and the rest of our protagonists flee the birth of the giant space creature, while The Will tries to keep his own ship together. We get very little of The Will and his crew, though, as this issue really focuses on Marko and his father, as Barr meets the end that he has been expecting for the past few issues. The really incredible scene is Marko's flashback to a memory of his father. The entire sequence is in their native language, so none of it was decipherable to me, but the art perfectly conveyed the story and the emotion of Marko's fond remembrance of a parent now lost. Vaughan finds a way to pack so much emotion into one issue, and Staples makes it so real; it's that kind of synergy that makes this medium work as well as it does. On the other end of the spectrum, the opening scene, the flashback to Alan and Marko's more... intimate moment before the birth of their daughter, is hilarious. It's bawdy and so real in how awkward it is. And even with all this personal stuff going on, Vaughan finds a way to mix in some new sci-fi/fantasy aspects to the story that continue to build the world. If every comic was half as good as Saga, the industry would be a wonderland of amazing work.

Star Wars: Legacy Vol.2 #1
Story: Corinna Bechko & Gabriel Hardman
Art: Gabriel Hardman

It's great to be back in the future of the Galaxy Far, Far Away. As excited as I was for new Star Wars: Legacy, I admit the lack of John Ostrander and Jan Duuresema had me a little nervous. Fortunately, new creators Corinna Cechko and Gabriel Hardman brought their A-game on this first issue. We're thrust right into a universe where the clean up from the last war is under way and the fallout from the Sith War is not entirely done. While it was nice to see the ruling triumvirate again, Empress Fel, Admiral Staazi, and Master K'Krukh are the only characters to return from the old series, and that's good; having a lot of teases of the old series would just make people expect to see all those characters again, while this feels like more of a fresh start. Ania Solo, the descendant of Han and Leia on what I assume is their son Jacen's side (versus on their daughter Jaina's side, who are the Fel dynasty), is our new hero, and takes after her great grandfather, Han. While Cade Skywalker was on the fringe of things, running away from his past as a Jedi Padawan and the loss of his father, it seems Ania has been living on the fringe for her whole life, is used to it, and is looking for a way to get out of it. She's tough, savvy, and smart, just like all the best Star Wars heroines. By the end of the issue, we have met Ania, her friend/sidekick Sauk, a Mon Calamari (Admiral Ackbar's people) engineer, an Imperial Knight imprisoned, and a Sith with an agenda of his own. All the pieces are in place for an exciting Star Wars series, familiar and still with some interesting new twists.

By the way, this is my 100th post, which is pretty exciting, and I'm hoping to do something midweek for post 101 that will celebrate hitting the milestone. Stay tuned!

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