Monday, December 15, 2014

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 12/10

Afterlife with Archie #7
Story: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa 
Art: Francecso Francavilla

I never thought I'd say Archie and horror in the same breath. I read and enjoyed Archie's Weird Mysteries in the 90s and 00s, but those weren't horror comics; they were supernatural adventure books that wouldn't scare anybody over the age of four. But Afterlife with Archie, the story of a zombie apocalypse that started in Riverdale, is definitely a horror comics, and it's a great one, full of genuine scares and tremendous character work. This issue picks up with the survivors of Archie and the gang having fled Riverdale, with a ravening horde of zombies led by Jughead following them (even in death and zombification, Jughead is still always hungry). Betty is trying to recreate her lost diaries, so we see flashbacks to Betty's time in Riverdale, the problems in her family wither her sister, her meeting Archie, and the turbulent relationship between her and Veronica. Meanwhile, we see more about just how warped the Blossom household in this reality is, with some flashbacks to Cheryl Blossom's family Thanksgivings. Taking Riverdale and mixing in some Peyton Place and some Flowers in the Attic could easily turn into something that feels exploitative and tacky, but Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa clearly has long plans for these characters, and isn't just throwing in shocks for shock value. He is developing these characters down unexplored territory, while still having them feel like the characters that Archie readers know. The atmosphere is only heightened by the dark, moody art from Francesco Francavilla, who draws not only some seriously creepy zombies, but such realistic facial expressions that you can read the full spectrum of emotions that run  through each character. If you're all caught up on The Walking Dead and are looking for something else to satisfy your zombie/horror fix, Afterlife with Archie is one of the best horror comics on the market. Also worth noting, each issue has a back up from the classic Archie published horror comics on the silver age, which are creepy in the EC Comics vein; I'd love to see some collections of those in the future as well.

Copperhead #4
Story: Jay Faerber
Art: Scott Godlewski

Copperhead, Jay Faerber and Scott Godlewski's sci-fi western, continues it's first arc, as Sheriff Clara Bronson and her deputy, Budroxifinicus (Boo for short and from here on out), close in on the killer of the Sewell family. Bronson goes on the hint for Ishmael, the artificial being ("artie") that saved her son and he saw with a stolen object from the Sewell house, only after getting into an argument with the local mine owner and land baron. It's through his inquiries that we learn exactly why Bronson is now out in the galactic backwater of Copperhead. She immediately jumps to the conclusion that Ishmael is guilty, reinforcing the knowledge that she dislikes arties, and we begin to get more details about the war that was fought, now knowing that the arties were designed to fight Boo's people. With Bronson away, Boo gets the spotlight as he heads to investigate a break in at the local doctors office (the doctor is a drunk, a classic western trope). While Boo pursues the being who broke in, we see a flashback to his time in the war, and get the idea of exactly how tough Boo is and was. Four issues isn't a lot of time, but Faerber has done a good job of letting us know who each of these characters are; still there's a lot to learn. We also see the first real clash between Clara and her son, Zeke, who absolutely believes that Ishmael is not the killer since Ishmael saved his live. Zeke's a good kid, but like all kids, they think they know better than their parents sometimes. I'm curious to see which is right. Scott Godlewski, artist on the series, impresses me by giving non-human faces very clear emotions. The Sewells and Boo are only slightly near human, and many artists would have a hard time conveying mood and emotion, but Godlewski does  a great job of helping us get right into Boo's head.

Rocket Raccoon #6
Story: Skottie Young
Art: Jake Parker

Rocket Raccoon continues to be one of Marvels' most charming comics. Rocket is now working to pay off the debt to the numerous princesses he has wronged in his life, but this issue he has to step away from that task to help out another old friend. Cosmo, the psychic Russian space dog who is the head of security at Knowhere, gets in touch with Rocket to help a robot, whose name is only given in binary, to help locate some of his friends, who all live on a colony of warbots who have forsaken violence to live a peaceful life. So Rocket and the robot go on a crazy adventure where Rocket actually has to act as the cool head, trying to keep the robot from blasting everyone; if your friends were taken by slavers, you'd be a little prickly too. From a weapons dealer to a weapons auction, Rocket and his robot sidekick leave a swath of carnage. Groot isn't around this issue, so the robot takes the place of Rocket's usual sidekick, but since not only is the robot's name in binary, but that's all he can speak, it's not like his vocabulary is much wider than Groot's. I wanted to talk about this issue for two very simple reasons. First, it's just fun. While yes, robot slavery is an important topic that should be discussed, this is a comic in the old model, a perfect done in one story with some good jokes, some good action, and a lovable cast. Second, it has Cosmo. I love Cosmo, but since the return of the cosmic Marvel Universe in the past three years or so, he hasn't really appeared much, so an issue with a lot of Cosmo is something I wanted to call out. Artist Jake Parker's style is reminiscent of Skottie Young's own while not being a direct clone, so it keeps with the tone of the first arc, and he draws absolutely adorable animals, so he's made for this book. If Rocket Raccoon can continue to tell fun stories like this, it will be the jewel in Marvel's cosmic crown.

The Valiant #1
Story: Jeff Lemire & Matt Kindt
Art: Paolo Rivera

When it comes to consistency, Valiant really can't be beat. Since they started publishing two years and change ago, they've done a good job of keeping up a consistent high quality. And while they have done a couple of crossovers, Harbinger Wars and Armor Hunters, each of those connected small corners of the Valiant Universe. This week saw the debut of The Valiant, a four issue mini-series that looks to tie the whole universe together. The issue opens with a history of Gilad Anni-Padda, the Eternal Warrior, and his battle with a creature called the Eternal Enemy. Three times before, the Eternal Enemy has come, and three times it has slain the Geomancer, the person who speaks for the Earth. And each time, Gilad has gotten a scar on his face; the origin of the scars has been hotly debated since Gilad first appeared in the new Valiant, and it's a cool history to them, adding something to make Gilad's arch-foe a much bigger threat. From there, we see the current Geomancer, Kay McHenry, having a discussion with Armstrong, Gilad's also immortal brother about what she should be doing. I haven't read anything with Kay since her first appearance in Archer & Armstrong, so it was nice to get a refresher on who she is, as she is going to be important to this series. The issue also features an action sequence with Bloodshot, the nanite infused hero, fighting his former masters at Project: Rising Spirit on the behest of MI6. This sequence not only gives a nice action centerpiece to the issue, but catches readers up on Bloodhot's current status quo. The issue ends with Kay trying her hand at being a more active Geomancer, Gilad talking to X-O Manowar about the coming of a threat, and the rise of the Eternal Enemy. Writers Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt do a very solid job of making it clear exactly who all these characters are even if you haven't read anything with them before, while keeping the story moving and it never feeling like an info dump. Paolo Rivera is an outstanding artist, and his work is as amazing as ever. His action sequences, especially Bloodshot versus a pair of mechs, flow perfectly, giving a sense of motion and action, and his design for the monstrous Eternal Enemy is the stuff of nightmares. If you've ever thought about trying out a Valiant comic and have been hesitant or if you're an old school Valiant fan who wants to try the new books, this is a book that is the perfect place to jump on. And if you've been reading Valiant regularly, this is a great showing that will feature the characters you're reading already, so go out and pick up The Valiant.

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