Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Reviews of Comics from Wednesdays 12/24 & 12/31

Abigail and the Snowman #1
Story & Art: Roger Langridge

If you haven't picked it up from the things I've written about The Muppet Show Comic Book, Snarked!, and The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow, I love the work of Roger Langridge. The fact that BOOM! Studios chose the first issue of his new project, the all ages Abigail and the Snowman, to be their skip week end of year book made me happy, because it meant that, due to the limited field of what was released, the book got a higher profile than it might have gotten otherwise. Abigail is a lonely girl who just moved to a new town, hasn't made any friends, has a dad who's a bit clumsy, and has a vivid imagination. She's sweet and funny, and has her own imaginary dog. And then, one day, playing alone at the park, she meets a Yeti. The Yeti escaped from a government lab, and has the power to cloud men's minds, so no adult can see him. However, kids can, and he and Abigail become fast friends. The government agents, guys who you could easily see working in spy stories like Get Smart, are pursuing the Yeti, so now the race is on for Abigail to protect her friend. The Yeti, by the way, is not your Harry and the Hendersons cryptid, but is intelligent and well spoken. The set up for the book is charming, as would be expected from Langridge. The characters are all lovable, and I think many comic readers will feel a kinship to Abigail, with her wild imagination. The set up is simple and elegant, and let's Langridge play with character, something he is a master of in these all ages stories. His art is second to none, and his design for the Yeti is wonderful, making him expressive without losing the fact that he's, well, a Yeti. Abigail and the Snowman was a perfect comic to start 2015 with, something that glows with fun, joy, and promise. I'm crossing my fingers for the series to go over well enough to earn some more issues, like Lumberjanes did, or at least a sequel. More Langridge is always a good thing.

Graveyard Shift #1
Story: Jay Faerber
Art: Fran Bueno

I'm calling it right now: there is no genre Jay Faerber can't write. Between his current space western, Copperhead, his crime series Near Death, and his superhero series Noble Causes and Dynamo 5, Faerber has written some great comics. Graveyard Shift is a classic horror story, about a police raid gone wrong. After a suspect is seemingly killed in a raid, the police officers who were on the raid are murdered all in one night. Liam, the last remaining member of the squad, is having dinner with Hope, his fiancee, when a knock at the door admits... vampires. The fight is dirty and brutal, leaving a fire,a wounded Liam, and a dead Hope. But Hope was bitten, and upon visiting her grave, Liam sees more of the darkness that is hiding in the world. There's a lot to like in this comic, with it's well written characters, and dark, moody art. One of the things that really grabbed me is how old school this feels when it comes to its horror. In the essay at the back, Faerber talks about his influences, and you can see the classic monster movie feel. These aren't Joss Whedon witty vampires, or Twilight sparkly ones. Nope, these are monsters in the sense of your best 80s horror movie, Fright Night, Lost Boys, or Near Dark. Fran Bueno adds to the atmosphere with art that makes the monsters look good and scary. Liam is a likable protagonist, and spending time with him and Hope in their home life makes the horror all the more real when it happens, and I'm curious to see where he goes in the rest of the series, whether he becomes the grim avenger or is partnered with a classic vampire hunter (or maybe the Frog Brothers. It could be them). So many horror comics have a modern feel, are trying to do something different, which is great, don't get me wrong.  But Graveyard Shift takes the classic horror tropes and runs with them, crafting a scary narrative that follows all the old rules and still feels fresh.

And from Dan Grote...

S.H.I.E.L.D. #1
Story: Mark Waid
Art: Carlos Pacheco, Mariano Taibo and Dono Almara

Marvel’s newest book may have been “inspired by the hit TV series,” but it reads more like a love letter to the Phil Coulson of the first Avengers movie, the one who gushed about his Captain America trading cards and became a rallying point for the heroes upon his (quickly reversed) death.

In S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson’s title is “Special Ops Supreme Commander.” And while he doesn’t wear a metal faceplate or a blue bag over his head, he does appear to have access to every superhero in the Marvel Universe.

And he knows how to use them, a skill honed through a childhood of figuring out which superheroes could beat whom in a fight, or memorizing the X-Men in the order in which they joined. “Remind me to tell you sometime how Quicksilver could kill the Hulk if he wanted to,” he tells Agent May at one point.

That right-tool-for-the-job approach has Coulson throwing tanks like the Hulk and Hyperion at fire demons, Valkyrie and the Black Knight (nice to see you again after MI13, Dane) at a MacGuffin-empowered, sword-wielding Mideast terrorist and the Vision at a possessed Heimdall.

Coulson’s relationship with the heroes is downright rosy compared with the way other high-ranking SHIELDers have interacted with the capes-and-tights set. We’ve been subjected to years of Nick Fury standing in a corner chomping a cigar looking like his secrets have secrets, and about a decade of Maria Hill getting in good guys’ faces wagging her finger and saying, “I don’t like you, I don’t trust you, etc.” Coulson plays poker with these guys, but he also has their tells memorized.

Agents May, Fitz and Simmons make their 616 debuts in the book, but the big missing TV agent – Skye – is glaringly obvious. If you’ve seen the mid-season finale of the show, you know working Skye back into the comics is going to be tricky, and I’m curious to see how Mark Waid and company handle it. That said, this book is already the best attempt I’ve seen at cramming Coulson into the comics.

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