Monday, April 11, 2016

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 4/6

The Fix #1
Story: Nick Spencer

Art: Steve Lieber & Ryan Hill

There are a lot of great crime comics out there, that focus on smart criminals pulling of million dollar heists and getting away scot-free with the money and the police left in the dust. The Fix, the new crime series from Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber, published by Image, is... not one of those. At all. It is instead a crime story more in the Coen brothers school, a tale of incompetent and venal criminals in way over their heads. Roy (our narrator) and Mac are literally partners in crime. They're also partners on the police force. They're crooked cops who are also flat out crooks; they don't just take bribes and look the other way, but the opening of the issue sees the two of them committing a robbery. At a nursing home. Because they owe the local mob kingpin a bunch of money because of gambling debts. From illegal robot fights. And not cool future-tech robots, but old school Battle Bots type robots. I know that was an excessive use of sentence fragments, but I wanted to use it to emphasize how completely out there and funny this book is. I don't want to use the words tongue-in-cheek, because that implies a sort of send up sensibility, and this comic doesn't have that. It's not parodying crime stories, but playing the tropes straight while dropping people into them who aren't the usual hard bitten crooks. Despite being a self-admitted bastard, you can't help liking Roy; he might not be the kind of guy you want to hang out with, but he's definitely fun to read about. And since this is set in L.A., you know he's got a movie deal waiting to be optioned so he can get out of the deep doo-doo he's in, and the guy in the movie business he knows? Well, he's not exactly the most stable and normal guy either. Pretty much every character you meet throughout this first issue works against expectations, or in the case of Donovan, the producer, is such a broad stereotype that you can't help but be horrified and amused at the same time. When Lt. Malone of Internal Affairs shows up, you're expecting this to turn into a sorry of these two guys trying (and probably failing if their track record is any indication) to avoid being caught for the nursing home robbery. Only, oops, Malone works for the big mob boss. And Josh, the mob boss? He's this stay at home dad, who cooks organic and is an anti-vaccer. Only when he knows the guys don't have the money he's owed, he begins to discuss, "Carving out their taints." It's darkly funny, very blue, and reads breezily; the first issue has no ads, an expanded page count, and it takes time to read in he best way. here are all sorts of odd little moments too, things involving vintage pornography, Donovan's weird "romantic" life, and a drug-sniffing dog named Pretzels, who may be this year's canine character find, that just add to the air of caper gone bad. Having read and loved this issue, I now need to track down the trades of the creators' previous crime comic, Superior Foes of Spider-Man, which I have heard is a similar crazy caper book, but with capes and tights. If you're going through crime comic withdrawal, waiting for all those books announced at Image Expo to start, you need to go and read The Fix.

Star Wars: Poe Dameron #1
Story: Charles Soule
Art: Phil Noto

While Rey and Finn were the new characters who got the most screen time in The Force Awakens, I felt like every time Oscar Isaac appeared on screen as fighter ace Poe Dameron, he stole the show. I've always been a sucker for Star Wars stories focusing on fighter pilots, and so a new series about the adventures of Poe before the events of the film was something that I've been looking forward to. And with creators with some previous Star Wars credits (Charles Soule wrote the Lando mini-series and is writing the current Obi-Wan and Anakin one, while Phil Noto drew Chewbacca, as well as plenty of spot illustrations for Star Wars fiction), I had set the bar petty high. And while the first issue didn't speak to a lot of the questions about the character many fans have about him, it was a great debut and a fun adventure story. Set directly in the run up to the events of The Force Awakens, this issue sees Poe given the assignment by General Leia Organa to locate Lor San Tekka, the character played by Max von Sydow in the opening moments of the film. The issue does a lot of set-up, introducing members of Poe's Black Squadron, many of whom are drawn from background pilots in the film, and setting them off on their mission. The opening of the issue is actually in media res, as Poe flies through a series of tunnels and caverns, and Noto draws hem ably; dog fighting and flight can be a daunting task to draw, and panels of starfighter flight can easily become confusing, but Noto knows what he's doing. Poe's adventure lads him to meet The Creche, a sect that is dedicated to protecting a giant egg that they believe will birth some kind of cosmic messiah, and who have clues to Lor San Tekka's whereabouts. These interactions allow us to see a different side of Poe, one that is more diplomatic and less action based. But things look bleak when Poe finds a tracker on his ship, and Noto gets in one great shot of the arrival of The First Order, setting the bar high for what will be an exciting battle next issue. The issue also has a back-up story, "SaBBotage," written and illustrated by Chris Eliopoulos, about Poe's droid, BB-8, playing matchmaker for a fighter pilot and a repair technician. It's a cute story, and made me miss he classic Star Wars Tales anthologies from Dark Horse, where this story would have fit perfectly. A solid starting point for more stories set around he events of The Force Awakens, Poe Dameron #1 is a solid Star Wars comic, with a strong adventure, a touch of humor, and interesting new worlds, which is everything I want out of Star Wars.

Steven Universe: Too Cool for School OGN
Story: Ian Jones-Quartey & Jeremy Sorese
Art: Asia Kendrick-Horton w/ Rachel Dukes & Leigh Luna w/Andy Leigh R

Steven Universe gets to have lots of cool adventures, without very having to worry about the mundane, day-to-day stuff most kids have to go through, like school. But when Steven's friend, Connie, takes Steven to school for show and tell because he's bored and wants something to do, well, you can imagine that chaos is in the offing. Pretty soon, the school principal is insisting Steven stay in school to learn to properly socialize with kids his age, and get beyond his fantasies about being part alien and having alien friends. Following on he heels of successful original graphic novels based on Adventure Time and Regular Show, this new Steven Universe story works far better as a full graphic novel than it ever would as single issues; based on a story by animated series produced Ian Jones-Quartey, the narrative would have felt unnaturally choppy as monthly comics. Instead, we get a story that not only explores how Steven interacts with kids his own age, but get an exploration of Steven's relationship with Connie. The animated series has done a great job of establishing that relationship, making it deeper and far more rich than you'd expect from kids in middle school, but this story places them not in Steven's sphere, where they usually are, but in Connie's, and the quiet, usually reserved Connie is not as patient with Steven as he draws attention to her in ways she is unused to. But these are passing storms, as Connie and Steven are the best of friends, and Steven might be a good influence on Connie's social life, as people notice her. But Steven, as is usually the case, is followed by the usual madness of being a part alien, and when a giant snail monster attacks the school, it's not Steven, but Connie, who not only figures out how to stop it, but leads the other kids. I love the spotlight that Connie stands in, and how nicely balanced the story is between the day to day of school and Steven's adventures with the Gems and the monster attack. And the end of the story has a nice message about being yourself, something that is an ingrained part of the Steven Universe, well, universe. The back up story, "Yard Sale," from Josceline Fenton, who is writing the current Steven Universe mini-series, has Steven and the Gems going to a garage sale at the home of Vidalia. It's a sweet story that demonstrates just how nice a kid Steven is, and ends with a punchy little joke, on that fans of the show will appreciate. Hopefully, this volume will be successful and we'll se more Steven Universe graphic novels, as this one was great fun, especially as we wait for new episodes.

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