So, after spending a week in San Francisco (and alas not San Diego), I'm quite a bit behind in my reading, with a week and a half's books waiting to be read, but I will try not to leave the Matt Signal faithful without something to read. So, I'm tossing out three reviews for new Image Comics first issues from the past month, and then some of the news that got me the most excited from San Diego Comic Con this past weekend.
Story: Greg Rucka
Art: Michael Lark
This book was one of my things to look forward in 2013 and it is as good as I expected it to be. Greg Rucka is a writer known best for his strong female protagonists, and our new lead, Forever Carlyle (or Eve for short) looks to be the next in a line that includes Kate Kane, Renee Montoya, Tara Chace, Carrie Steko, and Dex Parios. The world of Lazarus is a dystopian future ruled over by powerful corporate families. Eve is the Lazarus of the Carlyle family, a member of the family whose duty it is to defend the family interests, and has been equipped with extra normal abilities to do it, mostly the ability to heal any wound and to rise from the dead. The book opens with Eve being killed, and then returning to exact revenge on those who killed her. We see her relationship with one of her brothers, which is a cold one at best, and see him more or less sic her on the people who might have leaked family information with the same care that Montgomery Burns sics his hounds on any of the townspeople of Springfield. That might seem like a funny analogy, but this world is one where everyone who rules is a Mr. Burns, so it's more chilling than that. It seems that the series is going to be about Eve finding her way when she realizes just how corrupt the system is, and how unloved she truly is by her family, how she is simply viewed as a tool, which is a strong thematic core, but after only one issue there's only so much I can infer. Michael Lark is one of my favorite artists in comics, and his work here is some of, if not entirely, his strongest. The world is gritty, hard, and there is an edge of desperation to the common people that is so at odds with Eve's family that Lark makes so clear. The first issue of a series set in another time or another world is an exercise in world building, by both writer and artist, and Lark does a tremendous job, both in the intense violence of the early pages and the quieter moments as Eve does her job efficiently back with the family. The second issue of Lazarus arrives this Wednesday, and it is one of the most anticipated books of the week for me.
Story: Joshua Williamson
Art: Goran Sudzuka
Ghosted is a supernatural caper title, something like Thief of Thieves meets The Haunting. Jackson T. Winters is a master thief rotting in jail and waiting to die. The opening prison scene is brutal, showing rape, murder, and violence as if they are everyday occurrences in jail, which they are. But when he's broken out of jail by an eccentric rich man and his gorgeous fixer, he's given an opportunity to escape all that. But he has to pull off something he's never done before: he has to steal a ghost. Despite a firm belief that there's no such thing as ghosts, Winters takes the deal, assembles a team of expert con artists and crooks, picks up a psychic he doesn't trust, and heads to a big mansion that's about to be torn down to find a ghost for his benefactor. By issues end, the whole party has arrived at the haunted house, and are inside. We see through the eyes of the psychic that this house is indeed very haunted, although her response to that proves that she has her own agenda. While we haven't gotten to know any of these characters except Winters too well, there's great potential in this odd and diverse cast, and writer Joshua Williamson has done a great job of setting the scene. Goran Sudzuka, probably best known as one of the artists on Y: The Last Man, has done a beautiful job with this issue, and the spirits as he draws them are creepy and perfectly in tone with the horror end of the book.
Story: Ed Brisson
Art: Johnnie Christmas
At a survivalist camp, as the end times near (or so its inhabitants think), the children rise up and kill their elders, leaving them to move forward in what will be a new world. That's the premise behind Ed Brisson and Johnnie Christmas's Sheltered. While we don't get to the thrust of the arc of the series until the end of the first issue, we get a very solid issue, starting with a typical day in the life at the camp. We meet people, mostly teenagers, and see what it's like living off the grid. Only at issue's end, when a seeming attack from the outside turns into one from within, do we see what's really going on. Ed Brisson, whose Murder Book back-ups in Near Death fit perfectly with that neo-noir, and whose sci-fi mystery Comeback was one of my favorite Image minis of of late last year, does a great job of making these characters three dimensional; these aren't your stereotypical redneck anti-government whackos, but people who care about their families and children, only to have it go horribly wrong. Johnnie Christmas has an angular style, somewhere closer to realistic than a Bill Sienkiewicz or Ashley Wood, but still lanky and somewhat off kilter, which works for a story where the world is upside down. Next issue is when the series will really shift gears into what it promises, a story of youth trying forge a different world, something that I have a feeling will not end well.
Now, as for San Diego, well Marvel and DC didn't announce a whole lot of new comic related projects, and Image had talked about all their new projects during Image Expo, but still there were a few things to get excited about:
- Firstly, we have a December release for the next of Darwyn Cooke's brilliant Parker adaptations, Slayground. New Darwyn Cooke is always something I'm excited for, and Parker is the height of his craft, so this is big news.
- Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner are going to be cowriting a Harley Quinn title. Frankly, DC probably doesn't need another Bat related title, but Harley is a fun character, and Palmiotti is one of their strongest writers. While I haven't read much Amanda Conner has written, the Supergirl short in Wednesday Comics, was charming and fun, so I look forward to seeing what she can do in a longer form. We don't know the artist yet, but the first cover at least is by Conner, and is her typical wonderful.
- Joe Hill's new comic project, his first after the end of Locke & Key, will be NOS4A2: Welcome to Christmasland, a prequel to his most recent novel, the brilliant and decidedly creepy NOS4A2. With art by Stuff of Legend's Charles Paul Wilson III, and with covers by Locke and Key's Gabriel Rodriguez (who did chapter art and the inside covers for the novel), this looks to be another great horror story from Hill.
- Marvel had a couple interesting X-Men items, and of special interest is Wolverine: Origin II, a project that I wouldn't be excited for except for the fact that Kieron Gillen is writing it, whose Uncanny X-Men run was one of the strongest in years, and it will feature Mr. Sinister, my favorite X-villain, and one who Gillen wrote masterfully. I also find myself curious about Amazing X-Men almost in spite of myself, since I don't want to buy another ongoing X title, but Jason Aaron and Ed McGuiness are a great team, and Nightcrawler's return is a plus, as I feel he has been missed more than any other character in the X-titles.
- Finally the superhero movie news. I'm curious to know where Thanos is headed, now that it's been revealed Avengers 2 is called Age of Ultron and there's no sign of him in Guardians of the Galaxy, which I'm feeling more confident about as more is revealed. But the big one is a Batman/Superman movie. That just speaks to my inner fanboy in ways that I can't begin to describe.