Monday, February 16, 2015

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 2/11

Atomic Robo Vol.9: The Knights of the Golden Circle TPB
Story: Brian Clevinger
Art: Scott Wegener

There's something great when you get a fish out of water. And putting an atomic robot in the Wild West is about as fish out of water as you can get. After the events of the previous volume, Atomic Robo has found himself trapped in the late 1800s, and has done his best to not get involved, so as to not upset the timeline. But desperadoes and a town in danger get Robo back in action. Robo, mistaken for an armor wearing old west gunslinger called Ironhide, winds up on a vengeance ride of sorts with Doc Holliday and Deputy US Marshall Boss Reeves, to save the townsfolk of . I didn't know Reeves before this; he, like Holliday, is a real person, and as per usual when real people are used in Robo stories he is very interesting, and the story has now made me curious to track down more about him. Before the story is done, we get cyborgs, zeppelins, a train chase, and everything you might expect in an Atomic Robo story. I have written more times than I can count about how much I love Robo, how much fun the stories are, and how there can still be character and heart in the middle of all the crazy science fiction. This volume mixes many classic Western tropes with the usual science fiction of Robo in a perfect mix. Brian Clevinger subtly builds tension throughout the story as it is clear Robo is "dying;" his power cells failing. There's no big speech explaining it, since the people Robo is with wouldn't understand it, and I like the fact that the needless exposition isn't there. Also appearing for the first time in a bit is Robo's arch nemesis (well, other arch nemesis after Dr. Dinosaur), Baron Heinrich Von Helsingard. The question of how Helsingard is alive so long before his and Robo's first meeting during World War II remains unanswered, a story for another day, I hope. So, what more can I say other than go buy some Robo, because it's the best dang science action comic on the stands? How about go read some Robo for free! Yes, this is the last print first volume of Atomic Robo, Recently, the guys at Robo, in conjunction with Hiveworks, started putting all of Robo's adventures on-line. They're rolling out all the past stories, and leading up to new material this summer. There will be trade collections of the new work, but you can read it first on-line. So you now have no excuse! Go and read some Robo now!

Divinity #1
Story: Matt Kindt
Art: Trevor Hairsine

Since Valiant's return a couple years ago, the company has reinvigorated most of it's old properties. This week saw the debut of it's first completely original property under the new regime. Divinity is the story of Abram Adams, a young man who was sent off into space by the Soviet Union, and has now returned, decades later, with godlike powers. Much of this issue takes place before that mission, and is the story of Abram's life. A black orphan left on the doorstep of a Soviet embassy, he was raised by the state, and trained to become this cosmonaut. We see a boy who strives to the ideals that are laid before him, who is loyal, but who still disobeys quietly at times. It would be a perfect and beautiful short story, of one boy's life, and the reader learns to care for Abram over these short pages. But then we see his return, as his ship crashes in Australia. There we meet our second principle character, David Camp, who, out for a morning climb, first encounters Abram. He falls, and wanders, wounded, through the outback, with visions and pain from the fall. At issue's end, we see Abram track David down once more, and as the military arrives, Abram uses his powers for the first time to a devastating effect. This is a four issue mini-series, so I understand writer Matt Kindt can't spare the pages to make this a done in one story the way I like most first issues to be, but he does an excellent job of doing everything he should in a first issue while still leaving it on a cliffhanger: there's character, plot, and just a bit of action to make the reader want more. Trevor Hairsine's is gorgeous, with excellent face work, especially on Abram. His settings, both the Soviet Union of old and the Australia of now, draw the reader in. I also really like the design for Abram's space suit; it's a logical mix of what we expect from space suits and super hero costumes. Valiant has been on a roll with its recent first issues, and Divinity is another excellent example. Hopefully, this is a new character who will catch on and be a longstanding part of the new Valiant Universe.

Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files: Down Town #1
Story: Jim Butcher & Mark Powers
Art: Carlos Gomez

After War Cry, the last original Dresden Files comic mini-series, I was very excited for this new one. We're now set deeply in the series, and so we're getting to see characters who have never appeared in comics before, and we're seeing a Harry Dresden at the height of his powers. Down Town takes place in between the novels White Night and Small Favor, and features Harry being brought into investigate the murder of a pawn broker at the hands of something monstrous. Well, hands might not be the right turn of phrase. It looks more like the fangs, claws, and horrible goo of something monstrous. Still, it's a case right up Dresden's alley. This is a great jumping on point for new readers who want to get a feel for Harry's day to day world. War Cry was a very self contained story, removed from Harry's stomping ground of Chicago, and not featuring many of Harry's long time associates. This issue introduces you not just to Dresden, but to his police contact/sometimes love interest Karrin Murphy and her partner, Rawlins, Harry's half-brother, Thomas, Harry's apprentice, Molly Carpenter, and Harry's big shaggy dog, Mouse. And other than the mysterious figure at the beginning of the issue, the man responsible for the attack on the pawnbroker, readers also meet one of Harry's most recurring nemeses, Chicago mob boss Gentleman John Marcone, along with his supernatural adviser Ms. Gard and his bodyguard Hendricks. Mark Powers clearly knows and loves his Dresden Files, because the characters are spot on, their voices perfectly on pith from creator Jim Butcher's world. With a mystery, the mob, and all the best aspects of a Dresden Files story, Down Town looks to be the best of the original Harry Dresden comic adventures yet.

Princeless: The Pirate Princess #1
Story: Jeremy Whitley
Art: Rosy Higgins

After some time away, Princeless returns with the third full mini-series, The Pirate Princess. The titular princess is Raven, who our heroines, Adrienne and Bedelia rescue at the beginning of the issue. The story opens with Raven being told the story of her great-grandmother, the dreaded pirate Mong Two-Tails, by her father, and then recounts the events of the zero issue, a Free Comic Book Day issue from 2013, from Raven's point of view instead of Adrienne's. These events include Adrienne and Bedelia rescuing Raven from a tower her brothers have left her in, as well as imprisoning the pompous knight who has been pursuing Adrienne. It's a great way to refresh readers who read that story over a year and a half ago without having to reprint it, and to flesh out Raven as a character. With their new friend saved, our heroes go out to get some food. If you're familiar with Princeless, pretty much any time Adrienne goes out into public, something chaotic happens, and in this case that something is Raven, who picks a fight with a couple members of her brother's crew who happen by, to have them deliver the message that she is back. The issue ends with Raven agreeing to join Adrienne and Bedelia on their quest to save Adrienne's sisters, but she has some of her own plans involving her brothers and Sparky, Adrienne's dragon. Princeless remains one of, if not the, best all ages comic on the market, with it's wonderful mix of character, action, and fairy tale trope breaking. It also happily passes the Bechdel test, and has a very diverse cast. What more could you ask for, really?

And this week, Dan Grote takes a trip into the DCU

Harley Quinn Valentine’s Day Special
Story:  Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Art:  John Timms, Ben Caldwell, Aaron Campbell, Paul Mounts and Hi-Fi

The comics power couple of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti have worked hard to turn the Joker’s gal pal into DC’s version of Deadpool: a fourth-wall breaking psychopath with a secret good-guy streak who still loves killing people and makes for damn-funny comics. In this holiday-themed one-shot, Batman sits up and takes notice.

Harley’s long gone from Gotham these days, managing an apartment building in Brooklyn Heights and riding the Staten Island Ferry for days on end just because it’s free. So she and B-man haven’t crossed paths in a while. But when Bruce Wayne is put up for a win-a-date auction to benefit an animal rescue, Harley steals $1,000,100 from a Bernie Madoff-ripoff to get herself into the bidding pool. Harley and Bruce end up running afoul of a purposely lame villain named The Carp who believes dogs and cats get too much publicity and the money should go toward saving fish. The Carp has a sidekick named Sea Robin, because that’s just the kind of book this is.

In fact, in case the reader has any doubts about the tone of the book, Harley’s talking stuffed rodent spells it out for you while she sleeps, simultaneously introducing a dream sequence, explaining the role of guest artists and mocking crossovers.

A good chunk of the book is dedicated to dream sequences: One Harley’s, one Bruce’s, each drawn by a different artist. In Harley’s, drawn by Ben Caldwell very much in the style of Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi, she and the millionaire playboy fall madly in love, until Bruce reveals he effectively wants Harley to become a baby factory. Harley protests, saying having kids will ruin her figure, which I guess is more of a concern now that she’s ditched the red-and-black spandex bodysuit to dress like a Suicide Girl. Cartoon violence ensues. In Bruce’s, drawn in much darker tones by Aaron Campbell, he wakes up in bed next to Harley brandishing a list of his ex-lovers. She becomes the new Robin/Mrs. Batman, fires Alfred and henpecks him about cleaning up the Batcave (and getting rid of the giant Joker playing card) and the Batmobile, which is covered in bat poop. Dream Harley makes a valid point: How does the Batmobile stay so shiny parked in a cave full of bats and their guano?

Harley rescues Bruce from the Carp – though in true Batman fashion, he didn’t need saving at all – and honors Harley’s winning bid for a date. Impressed by her current escapades, Bruce lets her kiss him goodnight, then returns as Batman and threatens her in such a way that he’s actually praising her for her behavior, robbing a corrupt millionaire included. Then they kiss again.

So essentially this special was made to inspire a wave of Batman/Harley slash-fic, to add to the pile of Harley/Ivy and Harley/Deadpool fantasies. Happy typing, slashers!

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