Monday, May 12, 2014

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 5/7

Batman: Eternal #5
Story: James Tynion IV & Scott Snyder, Tim Seeley, John Layman, Ray Fawkes
Art: Andy Clarke

I still plan on doing a catch up on this series with individual issue analyses, but I had to talk about this issue because it made me ever so happy. This issue moves away from the Jim Gordon plotline that was the driving force of the first month and introduces or fleshes out a few more characters. We get to see Vicky Vale, the reporter who is probably best known for her appearance in the first Tim Burton Batman movie, but is a much older character than that, as well as introducing her new associate at the Gotham Gazette. We also get to see Harper Row and her brother Cullen, the characters introduced as new supporting characters by Scott Snyder in his run on Batman. I love Harper; she's smart, tough, and a nice addition to the Bat family. But the thing that made this issue for me, really made it, was Tim Drake. Yes, it really feels like Red Robin is back in the Bat titles, after only a few appearances here and there throughout the tenure of the New 52. And this feels like my Tim Drake. I'm not going to start bashing Teen Titans here, but I will say that the Tim Drake there has not really rung true to someone who has pretty much every appearance the character has ever made. But this issue works beautifully. Tim is the tech savvy detective he always felt like he was supposed to be; he looks at the bigger picture and figures out something Bruce hasn't, and then he gets into a fight with a bunch of nanobots. Andy Clarke's art is solid throughout the issue, but the creepy tentacles of nanobots are really a great visual. I've been enjoying Eternal so far, but if this issue is an indication of the Red Robin to come, this book is going to be high on my reading order each and every week.

Cyclops #1
Story: Greg Rucka
Art: Russell Dauterman

I love Cyclops; I've written about that before. I love Greg Rucka. So the combination of a Cyclops ongoing written by Greg Rucka was a surefire hit with me. This series features the young Cyclops, the one brought to the present in All New X-Men on a space adventure with his dad, the space pirate Corsair. Cyclops here is sixteen, and someone who thought he lost his dad years before. Now he's trying to not only navigate being out of his own time and away from everyone he knows, but with the father he thought he lost and a crew that includes a giant lizard man, a bird alien, a cyborg, and a cat/skunk woman his dad is dating. Rucka paints a great picture of Cyclops, one that is fully fleshed out; he's a confused teenager without being whiny about it; Corsair gives his son the advice that, "everyone sucks at being sixteen," and I have to say, Rucka remembers that feeling and knows how to make it work really well. Aside from all that introspection and character beats, we also get some hints about exactly how Corsair is back from the dead (no, not the time Cyclops thought he was dead. That time he was just abducted by aliens. The time he seemed really dead), we get to meet Corsair's crew, the Starjammers, and we get an action piece involving boarding a Badoon ship. One of the things that makes this a strong first issue is you get pretty much an entire story in one issue. Marvel has had some great first issue's lately, especially She-Hulk and Daredevil, both of which did exactly this. While I understand trying to build a series around the first issue and having it spin into a huge arc, I always feel a strong stand alone first issue helps lure the reader back for more. While it might not have the direct agency of a "To be continued," you can get a better feel of exactly what the book will be if the first issue stands on its own. I find this especially true with mainstream superhero books, where the world building isn't as difficult since you're building a house of a pre-existing frame; books where you have to build the whole world get a bit more time from me, and I'll get to that in a minute. The issue wraps with Cyclops and Corsair heading out on their own in the captured Badoon ship for a tour of the galaxy's great sites. I'm a sucker for father and son stories, and this is a cosmic road trip thrown in. It looks like a fun, action series with a strong core relationship, and is a series I'm looking forward to watching develop.

Nailbiter #1
Story: Joshua Williamson
Art: Mike Henderson

Speaking of issue ones that have to spend some time doing world building, here is the horrifying (in the best sense of the word) Nailbiter, from the writer of my favorite Image series I feel like needs more attention, Ghosted, Joshua Williamson. Imagine one town produced Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Jack the Ripper. If it existed, that town would be Buckaroo, Oregon, a creepy little town that has produced sixteen serial killers. After a brief introduction to one of these "Buckaroo Butchers," the titular  Edward "Nailbiter" Warren, we are introduced to the character who seems to be our protagonist, Nicholas Finch, an army intelligence agent who seems about to take his own life. Only a call from a friend of his, an FBI profiler, stops him. His friend tells him that he has discovered the secret of Buckaroo, and that Finch needs to get out to Buckaroo now. Finch arrives, only to find his friend missing and the town creepier than he imagined. Quickly he meets the local goth girl who local toughs harass with comments about her becoming the next Butcher, the guy who runs the local serial killer souvenir shop, and the local sheriff. Sheriff Crane, who knew Carroll, Finch's friend, was also looking for the missing man, and the two go to meet the person Carroll was in touch with: Nailbiter Warren, who is free and living back in town. The first issue is wonderfully atmospheric, with gorgeous dark art from Mike Henderson. This first issue works very differently than Cyclops did; while we only get sketches of the characters (well wrought ones; I'm curious to see more about Finch's past and his anger issues, for instance), this issue establishes mood and setting perfectly. Buckaroo is going to be as much a character as any of the people in this series, and it is the thing I feel like I know the best after this first issue. And frankly, that's a character that made gooseflesh break out on my arms, which for a horror comic, is a very good sign.

The Sixth Gun #40
Story: Cullen Bunn
Art: Brian Hurtt

I feel bad that I haven't written about The Sixth Gun more. I've commented about other books that fall in a similar range, a book that is so consistently good that I don't reach out and address it as I should. Frankly, as we run down to the end of the series, I'll probably do a full on recommended reading for it, but for now, let's look at issue #40. For those unfamiliar, The Sixth Gun is a weird western that follows six magical guns that can bring about the apocalypse, and those who bear them, some trying to destroy the guns, some trying to use them for their own nefarious purposes. After most of our heroes were killed over the past few issues, those few remaining, Beckie Montcrief (the bearer of the Sixth Gun), Drake Sinclair (the bearer of four of the other six guns), and Nidawi (bearer of the spirit of the shaman Screaming Crow), are being chased by serpent men and Jesup, the bearer of the Fifth Gun and servant of Griselda, the Grey Witch, who plans to use the guns to remake the world. It's another brutal issue, where more of our heroes fall by the wayside, and features a great battle between Jesup and Drake. Drake is becoming more and more affected by the guns he bears, and when Jesup gets his hands on a couple of them, things turn badly for Drake. Series artist Brian Hurtt does a tremendous job in the scene where Drake must face down the golems created by the Fourth Gun. Becky's use of the Sixth Gun to travel back in time to talk to her fallen friend, Gord Cantrell, to learn what he knew of the guns is poignant and painful, as Gord knows the only reason Becky would be coming to him in this form. With only ten issues left before the finale, The Sixth Gun continues to ramp up the tension, with the supernatural elements all coming together to what I'm sure is going to one final great battle between good and evil.

Oh, and a couple general notes before I go:

- I was still recovering from a wonderful and exhausting Free Comic Book Day last week (thanks to everyone who came out and made it an amazing day), so I didn't take notes as I was reading my books and thus don't have the info to write a full review here, but you should all check out Southern Bastards by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour. Deep South crime done amazingly; if you liked Scalped, Aaron's last crime book, this is well worth checking out.

- With network upfronts now hitting, we have seen not only the renewal of the two current major network comic book based series, Arrow and Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, but the pick up of five more: iZombie, Flash, Constantine, Gotham, and Marvel's Agent Carter. The trailers for two of these have hit, and I enjoyed both quite a bit. I remain optimistic about Gotham, and Donal Logue was born to play Harvey Bullock, but Constantine knocked me off my feet. There's a clear reverence for the source material, the opening shot of Ravenscar Asylum shows that right off the bat, and Matt Ryan looks like the DC Direct John Constantine action figure come to life. And he's British! I know three minutes can't tell you too much about a series, but that was a fine three minutes, and I'm on the hook for this one, no doubt.

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