Monday, April 1, 2013

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 3/27

East of West #1
Story: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Nick Dragotta

While I've enjoyed Jonathan Hickman's Marvel work, it's the work he does through Image, his creator owned work, that blows me off my feet. Manhattan Projects is one of the best books on the stands month in and month out, so the announcement of a new Hickman ongoing through Image was something that got me curious and excited. East of West lives up to its predecessors. No two of Hickman's books are the same, each with a fascinating high concept that creates a unique world. East of West is a post apocalyptic weird western, set in a world where a Civil War wound up not only creating two nations, but the Seven Nations of America in 2064. After the backstory is established, the reader is given a series of seemingly unrelated scenes that by the end of the issue coalesce into a whole that is eerie. The appearance of three figures of seemingly dark power seems separate from a pale cowboy and his two Native American companions hunting for men who once tried (or maybe succeeded) in killing the pale rider. Leaving a trail of bodies behind him, the pale rider finds his way to the man responsible for his death, the President of the United States, and before he kills the president, he makes his victim say his true name: Death. The three figures are the other Horsemen, and now all four of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse are riding through a world seemingly on the edge of tipping towards them. The clear Western influences are mixed with high tech to make a world that is both familiar and strange. Credit has to go to artist Nick Dragotta as well for crafting such a stark visual, especially with Death and his two companions, whose paleness stands out in a world that is so dark. I hope this book is as much of a hit as Hickman's other work, and we get a good long run up to the Apocalypse.

Fatale #13
Story: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips

This seemed to be the week of the weird western, with not just East of West, but a new Sixth Gun: Sons of the Gun, All-Star Western, and this gem, a one off issue of Fatale set in the old West. For a genre that was non-existent a few years ago on the racks, its nice to see it making a comeback.This issue tells the tale of Black Bonnie, another of the mysterious femme fatales who are the focus of the series, culminating in our chief protagonist, Josephine. Bonnie has been living as an outlaw, and is a wanted woman. At the beginning of the issue her gang is killed by Milkfed, a Native American hunter, and she is brought to a travelling medicine wagon, where she meets the wagon's owner, a professor who seems to know more about Bonnie's background then she does. But as with all the previous fatales, Bonnie is being pursued by the strange creatires that want her for their own sinister purposes. The issue is clearly influenced by Leone and the spaghetti westerns, with the same brutal gunplay you'd see in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Sean Phillips style blends well with the bloody and brutal world of the Old West. There are the usual Fatale twists and turns, and Brubaker provides a story that stands well on its own for readers who have never tried Fatale before. It will be nice to get back to the 20th century and Josephine, but these one shots of other fatales flesh out the world that Brubaker has in mind, and adds depth to it; I'm glad he expended the series to allow it time to breathe.

Superman Family Adventures #11
Story and Art: Art Baltazar & Franco

Only one more issue to go before the end, but Superman Family Adventures isn't taking it easy across the finish line. While Superman is at the Fortress of Solitude fighting Brainiac alongside Zod, Ma Kent takes Superboy and Supergirl in their civilian identities (glasses and all) on a field trip to Metropolis. Art and Franco have a lot of fun with this plotline. A clearly in the know Lois Lane talks to Ma, mixing up Superman and Clark, making it clear she knows the link between Superman and Clark. Perry White continues to seem obsessed with his coffee, and even offers Ma a cup. But the highlight if the issue is the arrival of Doomsday. When Superboy, Supergirl, and the Superpets can do nothing to stop the rampaging monster, it's up to Ma Kent to use her abilities as a mom to put an end to Doomsday's reign of terror. The sequence is a delight, and everything you expect from this creative team. No one does better all ages comics than these guys, and I'm going to miss this comic. What's great is that, while each issue does a pretty good job of standing on its own, the series has actually built an uber plot, drawing from various sources of classic and modern Superman comics, and have formed an easy to understand epic of sorts. And its made Ma Kent the toughest mother in the universe, as she faces down even more villains. The end of the issue has a great nod to the long lamented Tiny Titans that sets up next issue's grand finale.

The Unwritten #47
Story: Mike Carey
Art: Peter Gross

The new issue of The Unwritten picks up shortly after the last time we saw Tom Taylor in the Underworld, with no memory of who he is and faced with the new king of the Underworld: Pauly Bruckner, the hitman who was turned into an anthropomorphic rabbit. Pauly enjoys having the son of the man who turned him into a rabbit at his disposal, and tells him his version of how he became king of the Underworld. It's of course a very skewed version of events, which is perfectly in character with everything we've seen Pauly say and do over the course of the series; Pauly is a self aggrandizing and always paints himself in the best light, despite his treacherous nature. While Tom is ushered off to his quarters by Pauly's mysterious masked servants, Tom's companions, Cosi and Leon, children who died in the crossfire between Tom and his enemies, watch Pauly and see what the mad rabbit-dictator is up to. But its Tom whose journey speeds to plot forward. We see that all who have died in the conflict between Tom and his enemies are in this Underworld, and as the masked servants disobey Pauly and bring Tom to a cell deep in the castle, Tom seems to remain lost to himself. However Tom's lack of memory might be changing, and he is not sure if he wants to remember who he is, seeing the way those in the cells react to him. Identity is one of the central themes of The Unwritten, especially when it comes to Tom and his relation to his literary alter ego, young wizard Tommy Taylor. Tom has become a different man from who he was at the series beginning, probably a better one, but his trip down memory lane here will not be an easy one. The last page reveal of the identity of Pauly's special prisoner is perfectly logical, and Tom's confrontation with the person in the cell is something that will possibly shake the series to its foundations come next issue.

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