Monday, February 29, 2016

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 2/24

Faith #2
Story: Jody Hauser
Art: Francis Portella, Marguerite Sauvage, & Andrew Dalhouse

The second issue of Faith is as absolutely enjoyable as the first, making it one of the most fun books on the racks right now. Having survived the explosion from the end of the first issue (not a surprise, as the comic is named after her after all), Faith now has an even more personal stake in hunting down the people who are kidnapping psiots. But Faith has a whole other life as Summer Smith, and she's not willing to give up her secret identity, so she also has to deal with work. And her boss at Zipline assigns Summer a takedown piece on Torque, who unbeknownst to the editor is Faith's ex-boyfriend, superhero turned reality star. Before I talk about that, I want to mention we're also getting a better feeling for what's happening to the kidnapped psiots, with them imprisoned somewhere surrounded by wealthy and beautiful people, once of whom seems to be sympathetic, but most who are vapid and unfeeling. Combine this with Torque not being willing to help Faith hunt down the missing psiots and his stereotypical reality star girlfriend, and we're seeing a theme of the callous upper class and society in general standing contrasted with Faith's caring. Faith also has her Torque piece rewritten by her boos because it didn't have enough bite, and the police aren't investigating the disappearance of Sam, the young psiot who Faith has been looking for. The fact that he disappeared when going to a fandom event gives him a kinship to both Faith and the readers, the majority of whom I'm sure have all gone to some convention, signing, or the like. But it's not all Faith at work and investigating. While doing that, Faith is discovered by the people who are hunting psiots, and Faith's relative naivete when it comes to secret identities (it's not the same as in the comics), gets her in quite a bind at the end of the issue. Faith is wonderfully well rounded character, so genuinely good, but with her own foibles and doubts, and the fantasy sequences drawn by Marguerite Sauvage are a great window into her head. Jody Hauser not only does a great job of giving us a well rounded heroine, but the references to Faith's previous adventures are not so dense that readers who have no previous exposure to the character get lost, but are tantalizing enough that its making me want to track down Harbinger trades. Faith #2 has a great balance of superheroics and character, and continues to build a mystery that has me waiting on bated breath for the next issue.

Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1953- Beyond the Fences #1
Story: Mike Mignola & Chris Roberson
Art: Paolo Rivera, Joe Rivera, & Dave Stewart

I'm fairly sure I've said this before, but in case I haven't, Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. is a breath of fresh air in the overwhelming gloom of the current Hellboy-verse status quo. I love the stuff set in the present too, but everything there is so dire, so end of the world. We're around sixty years before hell on Earth here, so while there is still danger, things are allowed to be lighter, and Hellboy has always been the brightest light in these books, full of quips, humor, and more humanity than most humans. This mini-sereis sees Hellboy, Agent Susan Xiang (the psychic who shared a spotlight with Hellboy in the Hellboy Winter Special), and Agent Jacob Stegner to investigate what may be a monster killing children in Pasadena, California; children and pets have been disappearing, and the first adult victim has been found savaged, so the possibility of monster calls for the B.P.R.D. Xiang and Stegner are perfect opposites: Xiang is a person who tries to reach out to others and cares, enhanced by her natural empathic abilities, while Stegner is a sarcastic bastard who doesn't demonstrate the smallest amount of empathy. The mystery deepens as a scientist at local lab appears to have stolen a sample of enkeladite, an extradimensional mineral introduced in B.P.R.D.: 1948. The real charm of this issue is seeing Hellboy interact with kids. In the Hellboy comics, Hellboy was never a secret like in the movies, so he's a well known personality. As the cover above hints, Hellboy is popular with kids, and a bunch of them come looking for autographs, and when Hellboy gets away from them he finds a boy crying because his dog has gone missing, and Hellboy does his best to comfort the boy. It's a charming scene, and I've become so used to Hellboy dealing with monsters and the damned, I forget how good he is with people. It's nice to see this current series tying in aspects from the earlier B.P.R.D. series set in the '40s and the previous stories with Xiang; it adds to the tapestry of Hellboy's universe. This series is drawn by Paolo Rivera, a newcomer to the Mignolaverse, and just... wow. I love Rivera's work on Daredevil and The Valiant, and he absolutely hits a homerun here. His style isn't as moody and expressionistic as many artists who have worked on Hellboy comic before, but this story, set in the suburbs and much of it in the daytime, works with his more realistic style, but that's not to say he can't draw weird. The two page spread of Stegner and B.P.R.D. agents fighting monsters in 1948 is a sight to behold, and the monster at the end of the issue is not what I would have expected but looks great. I'm happy that there's more Hellboy out in the world, and if you're looking for a good Hellboy story that isn't heavy on the continuity, this is a great choice.

Orphan Black: Helsinki #4
Story: John Fawcett, Graeme Manson, & Heli Kennedy
Art: Wayne Nichols, Fico Ossio, & Sebastian Cheng

Orphan Black is one of the tensest shows I've ever seen on television, one that slowly ratchets up that tension to keep readers on the edge of their seats and asking all sorts of questions. The current tie-in mini-series, detailing events hinted at in the series, about a clone massacre in Helsinki,
has reached the point where the tension has my skin crawling in a good way. Our protagonist clone, Veera, has been captured by the people who are conducting the clone experiments, and the beginning of the issue is the action part of the issue, as Veera and Jade, a clone who has been kept at the facility and tested, make their escape. And once their escape has been made, the two of them, along with Niki, a third clone attempt to bring the cloning experiments to light. Even though I know the inevitable ending of this is going to be ugly, it's exciting to see the slow build, as the clones attempt to get out from under the Dyad Group, and the monitors close in. Series writer Heli Kennedy, working with Orphan Black creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson, have created a group of new clone characters that the reader can really engage with and care about, and that is going to make their eventual demise all the more painful, and matter all the more. The comic also takes us deeper into the relationship between self-aware clone Rachel, who works for Dyad, and Ferdinand, the cleaner (the nice term for their corporate killer) who works for them. The relationship was made clear in Ferdinand's appearances in the TV series, but seeing exactly how Rachel played him and got her to submit to her desires gives more dimension to both characters. Helsinki is a worthy addition to the mythology of Orphan Black, and a must read for any fan of the show.

Rick and Morty #11

A lot of tie-in comics try their hardest to capture he feeling of their source material, and while the hit to miss ratio feels better recently than in the past, its really rare to find an issue of a comic that feels like it could have been an episode of its source material. The Rick and Morty series from Oni is one hat pretty much always hits, and this week's issue is so delightfully and perfectly warped, it captures all the flavor of the series. As is standard in an episode of R&M, there are two plots here, a Rick and Morty plot and a plot revolving around the rest of the family. Rick and Morty's plot, while definitely the wackier, is he less character-centric here. Rick enrolls Morty in a virtual alien high school so he can get through the whole high school experience in one day. Of course, as with everything Rick has Morty do, there's way more danger involved here. Every time Morty fails, he has to rerun the lesson until he gets it right. A particularly funny one involves a little... risky business, shall we say. And just when Morty tells Rick to go shove it and seems to be making out OK on his own, well, things get kinda lethal and there's a callback to what seemed like a throwaway line a the beginning of the issue that comes back in a hilarious fashion. The b-plot, which is far more strange and character driven involves Morty's sister, Summer, and their hapless dad, Jerry, going full on Freak Friday thanks to messing with Rick's tech. Instead of having some great adventure together where they come to understand each other better, Jerry takes Summer's friends on a camping trip which seems to go over well, and Summer, well, she gets a call from Beth, her mom, who is ready for, "Beth and Jerry's Crazy Sexy Weekend Part two: Naughtytown for Me and You." We cut away from that pretty quickly, but the end of the story, and Beth's reaction, indicates nothing untoward happened, and that seems to have improved things between Beth and Jerry. The look on Summer's face as she glares at Jerry once they're back in their bodies is one of the best panels in the issue, as is Morty's reaction to Rick once Rick tries to get all sentimental on him. That sort of unexpected twist on the usual emotional beats of a family story is central to Rick and Morty, as is the warped takes on classic sci-fi tales, two things this issue has in spades and makes it perfect reading for fans of the show.

And Dan Grote reviews the much delayed and anticipated return of Warren Ellis's Karnak...

Karnak #2
Story by Warren Ellis
Art by Gerardo Zaffino, Antonio Fuso and Dan Brown

A personal matter in the life of artist Gerardo Zaffino sidelined one of All-New, All-Different Marvel’s first books, but writer Warren Ellis’ latest jerk protagonist is back with an issue that is almost entirely action.

Zaffino and co-artist Antonio Fuso make up for the wait with an issue full of martial-arts ultraviolence. Necks get snapped, faces get bashed in, eyes get gouged out and guns are shattered with the wave of a hand, all in a blur of action lines and hatch marks. Little seems to stand still. Everything, and nearly everyone, is destroyed.

Oh and hey, there’s a story, too.

Karnak, at the behest of SHIELD (see last issue) has been tasked with going after an AIM splinter cell that has kidnapped a boy who underwent terrigenesis – the transformation by which Inhumans acquire their powers – only to find the process did little more than clear up his allergies. The baddies’ base is run by a priest who claims the boy is a messiah who went with them of his own volition.

Also, said priest can make guns out of zen, which wins the award for Most Warren Ellis Thing This Issue.

Karnak dispatches the priest, but the boy is nowhere to be found. Before Karnak kills him, the priest tells him the boy is someplace called the Chapel of the Single Shadow, promising his killer a journey of discovery.

A flashback at the beginning of the issue reveals there’s some discovery to be had. We see a young Karnak stacking blocks while his parents – off-camera – argue about whether to expose their son to the Terrigen Mists, mostly because it didn’t work out so hot for his older brother, Triton, the merman-looking one. The priest knows this about Karnak, calls him “The Fake Inhuman.” The issue ends with Karnak alone outside a German bistro, watching couples do couple-y things on the street. Does a man who finds basic human needs a weakness still feel those needs himself? Hopefully we don’t have to wait another four months to find out.

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