And we're back with more reviews from last week's comics. Today we have books from Image and IDW...
Atomic Robo & The Ring of Fire #5
Story: Brian Clevinger
Art: Scott Wegener, Anthony Clark, & Jeff Powell
So, after spending much of his most recent mini-series as not much more than a head, Atomic Robo has a body again and is on a mission, so of course that means only one thing: Fight with a cybernetic Nazi astronaut while trying to save the world. The conclusion of Atomic Robo & The Ring of Fire is the most action oriented issue of this series, as Robo tries to power up a Nazi space weapon to destroy the Biomega Island, a mass of biomatter that if it reaches land will grow to devour and cover all life on Earth, and Majestic-12s Titan mechs fight to destroy the island themselves. The clock is ticking, not just because the Biomega is nearing landfall, but if Robo can't stop the Island himself, Majestic's only answer is nukes, and, well, we all know that's probably not good for Earth. The Titan battle with the Biomega, which began last issue, continues to be impressive work from artist Scott Wegener, not just because he does a great job of keeping what is a massive fight coherent for readers to follow, but because his monster designs are excellent. Robo's plot is equally as exciting and considerably more amusing, as Robo makes his way through the Nazi Longinus satellite while in contact with his team of Action Scientists. The interaction between Robo and his team is one of my favorite aspects of the series, with great banter; Robo's particularly dry sense of humor and delivery as he's fighting a cyber-Nazi and crashing to Earth in a satellite makes the situation, which is still dire, seem like it will all work out in the end (and it does, of course. The comic is named after him, after all). The end of the issue begins to establish a new status quo, for both Robo and the world at large. The last three Robo mini-series ("Savage Sword of Doctor Dinosaur," "Knights of the Golden Circle," and "Ring of Fire") have left Robo is a strange new world, and it seems like he's interested in changing his own life, but there are new threats hinted at and old ones that might not be as gone as he thinks; the last page of the series is a classic last minute horror movie moment. We'll have to wait a while to find out what's next for Robo, as the next series, Atomic Robo & the Temple of Od, moves us back to an earlier adventure in Robo's life, but be it the past or the present, there are few comics as exciting as Atomic Robo.
Cry Havoc #1
Story: Simon Spurrier
Art: Ryan Kelly, Nick Filardi, Lee Loughridge, & Matt Wilson
When I choose a new series from Image to readm it's usually based on the writer. But the ads for Cry Havoc declared, "It's not about a lesbian werewolf going to war. Except it kind of is." And if you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know how I feel about werewolves, so I thought Id give it a shot, despite having little to no experience with Simon Spurrier. And it's a very solid debut issue. The issue takes place in three distinct time periods: The first is "The End," the farthest down the timeline, with our lead, Louise Canton, in a cage and partially transformed; "The Beginning" is the farthest back, showing Lou shortly before she was attacked by a werewolf and moves through shortly after the attack; and "The Middle" shows her arrival in Afghanistan with the military. All are drawn by Ryan Kelly but colored by three different artists that give each section a different feel. That style is one of the things that makes this comic such an engaging read. Not only is the alternating timeline keeping you off kilter and as lost as Lou clearly feels, but those different colorists really bring out different aspects of Kelly's art. It's also easy to keep track of the time periods as the panel borders are a different color for each time zones: red for the end, blue for the beginning, and yellow for the middle. There's a lot going on in this issue, with three plots that are all really one plot all running at once, and Lou is a likable lead, even though I don't feel like we get a whole feel for her as a character yet. Each Lou is different, and part of the series journey to me will be seeing how she moves from one phase to the next. There's not a lot of monster action, but the glimpses we get of Kelly's werewolf design is phenomenal, a large monstrous beast. I also like the way he represents Lou's senses kicking into the heightened werewolf ones, these blue lines that radiate out from her, be they representing sound or scent. There are a lot of questions posed in this first issue, questions about the werewolf that turned Lou, about whether the military will really cure her, what the motive of Lynn Odell, the woman Lou was brought into a war zone to hunt, are, and I'll definitely be back to see where all these questions lead.
Ghostbusters International #1
Story: Erik Burnham
Art: Dan Schoening & Luis Antonio Delgado
The team of Burnham and Schoening return with the continued adventures of the original Ghostbusters. After the past couple of adventures the team has had, meeting the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and other dimensional versions of themselves, the team is back to fighting ghosts and not gods (so far anyway). A big shaggy werewolf looking ghost is attacking the UN, and what seems like a run of the mill capture job turns into something more as an unrelated haunting pops up at the same time and Egon is injured. The boys are still able to pull it out and stop the ghost, and the additional fees to the UN are paid be mystery industrialist Erland Vinter, who asks to meet with the Ghostbusters to discuss a business proposition. The tile of the series sort of gives away what Vinter's plan is, but we won't learn more about that until next issue. Aside from the initial capture, the issue is filled with little character moments.The Burnham/Scoening Ghostbusters comics have done a really solid job of developing the characters around the Ghostbusters, so a scene with Janine and Jenny Moran, a comics original character who is currently the team's liaison with the city, is as interesting as when Ray, Winston, and Peter go out for a drink to share information about Vinter. And Egon, recuperating from an acid spitting ghost attack, is clearly into something, but it's something he doesn't share with Kylie Griffin, a character from the late-90s Extreme Ghostbusters cartoon who has been a regular in the series for some time now, and who I really like. I'm hoping for more interaction between her and Egon in the future. There's also a two page "Haunted America" short at the back of the issue in the form of a report from FBI agent, ally, and sometime Ghostbuster Melanie Ortiz, about a haunting in Florida; these shorts that have been a regular part of IDW's Ghostbusters comics are a nice bonus, and always mean a little more bang for your buck. There are a lot of seeds for upcoming plots in this issue, lots of little moments. Since Burnham started writing Ghostbusters he's played an almost Claremontian long game, dropping little hints and moments that don't pay off for some time. I'm curious as ever to see where these new threads take us.
Southern Bastards #13
Story: Jason Aaron
Art: Jason Latour
OK, this might not be much of a shocking confession, but I'm going to say it up front: I don't care about football. Sports in general don't do much for me, and fiction about sports can be interesting if it's dealing with the personalities, but actually reading/watching the game? Meh. So when I saw this week's Southern Bastards was going to take place during the homecoming game, I got a bit worried. This is one of my favorite comics out there right now, and football is an integral part of it, but I wasn't sure if I could take twenty-four pages of football. I shouldn't have been surprised that Jason Aaron and Jason Latour kept the issue engaging, mixing the football game, which I admit did keep me interested as I didn't know which way it was going to turn out, with Coach Boss before and after the game. This avoided a problem I often find in sports fiction. You know the team of scrappy underdogs you're rooting for is going to pull off a miracle and win in the end. In Jason Aaron's usually dark universe, victory is never quite as assured. The game does not go Craw County's way, as nothing seems to be for Coach Boss, the antagonist of the series who we've frankly spent more time with than the protagonists at this point. It feels like Boss is surrounded by troubles on all sides. The mayor and his wife are coming down on him hard, his longtime friend Coach Big has killed himself, and his team is doing a piss poor job. It's fascinating that you can empathize with a character who was introduced as such a stock, southern-fried villain, but I actually feel for Boss. I don't like him, and he's deserving of this crapstorm he's in, but I can't help feel a pang of sadness for him. But Boss is a guy who goes down swinging, and his post-game confrontation with the gigantic running back from arch rival team Wetumpka County Warriors shows that Boss still has plenty of fight in him. It's a very solid showing from Southern Bastards, and while I might not care about football, I care about what happens to these characters, and the series works like a good game of football, where every hard fought inch gets you closer to a touchdown and the end of the game. And this endgame is going to be bloodier than any ever in a football stadium, I have no doubt.