Is It Wednesday Yet?
10 July 2007
By Desmond Reddick and Michael David Sims
10 July 2007 In this first installment of Is It Wednesday Yet?, Desmond Reddick and myself sat down to review three comic books. But not just any comic books. These books won't be released until tomorrow (11 July 2007), but you can read reviews of them today one day early!
Our grading scale is simple:
Buy: An excellent comic book.
Borrow: A good comic, but save yourself some money by reading a friend's copy.
Flip Through: Give it a once-over at the comic shop.
Skip: This doesn't need to be explained.
The following is a transcript of Earth-2.net: The Show, episode 121.
Freshmen II #6
Publisher: Top Cow
Writer: Hugh Sterbakov
Artist: Jorge Correa
Letters: Troy Peteri
Cover A: Eric Basaldua
Cover B: Rodolfo Migliari
Michael David Sims: Let's talk about the cover real quick. Let's start here, since this is what you're gonna see on the shelf. This is the thing that's really gonna make you decide if you're gonna pick this book up or not. What are your thoughts on this?
Desmond Reddick: Sort of a Vampirella / Scarlet Witch-type chicky looking all vengeful on the cover. It's pretty cool.
MDS: Yeah, if I saw this on the shelf I would, at the very least, flip through it because I'd be like, "Oh! Who's this demonic Scarlet Witch lookin broad? I would go, "Hey, this looks interesting. Let me see what's goin on here." And then after reading a couple of pages and seeing the art I'd decide if I'd buy it or not.
DR: It's certainly eye-catching. And the fact that there's a somewhat dead beaver laying on the ground in front of her is also kinda eye-catching. So yeah; vibrant colors. The red is nice and dark. I'd definitely pick it up and look through it.
MDS: So why don't you give us the plot summary.
DR: Freshmen is a book about a school for superheroes, and as we open up students are studying for final exams.
MDS: They're trying to figure out a way to cheat.
DR: I think one guy is.
MDS: 'Cause they're sitting there talking about using their powers to jump in someone's head and do all these various things. I thought that was really amusing. They're superheroes and they're kids; they're gonna use their powers that way. And I thought that was really innovative, 'cause you never saw the X-Men you never saw Jean saying, "Let me see if I can get in Xavier's head so we can pass this quiz," and then spread the knowledge onto the other four members of the team. You didn't see that. But times being what they are now, you're gonna see that and I thought it was really inventive.
DR: I'd agree with that. And without going too far into it, there's one certain character who is sort of uninterested in the studying and the possible cheating.
MDS: She's interested in a different kind of cheating.
DR: Yes, exactly. Due to a ruined relationship or a relationship in ruins, I suppose I should say. And the rest of the issue is basically that conflict. But it's that conflict from a different level from a high school kid's... are they high school kids or college?
MDS: I'm not entirely sure.
DR: I get the feeling high school. If it's college it's pretty immature.
MDS: But they are freshmen! I mean, my brother is about to go into his first year of college. And I see the way he is. So yeah... these could be college kids!
DR: Fair enough. So basically it's a lovers' quarrel, but the lovers have superpowers. I think that's all we should really say. What did you think?
MDS: Much like I enjoyed the students using their powers to try to figure out a way to cheat, I really liked how during the lovers' quarrel you know, emotions are running high, adrenaline is running high. So these kids, having powers, their powers are just gonna be running rampant. Just like we had never seen superpowered teens using their powers to cheat before, I can't recall any time where I've seen a lovers' quarrel between superheroes where their powers were just going crazy and it was wreaking havoc around them. And that right there I thought was a really cool, really fun way to show that these people despite the fact that they have these powers are human. Because when you're angry you lose control of yourself, and when you have a superpower, you're gonna lose control of it if you're upset. And that felt very real to me.
DR: Exactly. The whole teenage superhero school thing is not a new idea. We've seen it in the X-Men and Harbinger but it is used with ingenuity. It's not the best scripted story, but it does the trick. What about the art?
MDS: Here's where I had a problem with this book; the art felt really static to me. I mean, we have this lovers' quarrel going on, and it's wreaking havoc on this school, and their powers are going crazy. And I just didn't feel like anything was really moving. Granted, these are 2D images on a flat page, but I never felt movement. I never felt their power. That hindered the book, at least in my opinion.
DR: I thought it looked very digital.
MDS: How so?
DR: Very crisp and clean. The backgrounds are very washed. Although it offers some cool effects when things are going awry. It's got some good lines to it. The characters are very distinctive anyway. But I think it is kinda static for something where there's so much action and power going on.
MDS: Had the story remained the way it started, with the kids just trying to figure out a way to cheat and wasn't very action-filled, I think this art would have been serviceable. But because we did get people rolling around, because it went that route I don't think this art was right for that.
DR: I'd have to agree with that.
MDS: If we were going to take a more mundane look at the lives of these kids, this art would work.
DR: What else should we say about it?
MDS: Maybe this goes a little too into spoilers here and I won't say how it happens or exactly what happens but I think the villain was defeated way too easily.
DR: It kinda came outta the blue, didn't it?
MDS: Now granted, this is the sixth issue. We both admit we haven't read this series beforehand, so I trust that this villain has appeared before, but the villain just pops up and is defeated. I didn't understand what the point was.
DR: It was a little bit out of left field. But if we had read one through five, we might know that.
MDS: There's certain things I'm willing to accept I'm not going to know. Like what was going on with that one dude and the plant?
DR: I loved that part! That was my favorite part of this issue.
MDS: But when it comes to the villain, I don't want dialog that's too expositional but I would have liked some to explain what was going on there. I don't want it overwritten, but something... anything. "Oh! I thought we killed you!"
DR: "You again?!"
MDS: Just something. And I think the last thing I have to say about this is, when the book opens we're with Renee and I really, really liked her interior monologues. Because they felt they were chaotic, and it felt natural.
DR: Yes. It felt very real.
MDS: She's all over the place. She's like, "How could he do this to me? He's a liar! I hate him! I hate her! Look at them? How can they pretend none of this happened? I'm gonna kill him. I wanna die." That's the thought process. It always kinda bugged me whenever I would see thought balloons that were very straight forward, because that's not how most people think. That's one of the things I love about Mighty Avengers!
DR: I was just about to say that.
MDS: The thought balloons, they're so all over the place. Ms. Marvel's saying one thing, but her thought balloon is saying another. And it's like, that's the way it really is. And that's what's happening here. She starts out with this one thing and she ends up in this other place, but in between there's all this zaniness that's going on in her head. And that felt so damn real to me.
DR: Well, should we rate it?
MDS: What do you give this one?
DR: I'm gonna say borrow, because it has potential. What I'd like to do is go back and checkout the trade, to see it all in one story. And I'm not saying, "Wait for the trade." What I'm really saying is I'd like to see the whole story; it doesn't work for me as a single issue. But as part of a grander story, who knows? So I'm gonna say borrow it, and I've gotta see more about the guy with the plant.
MDS: I'm gonna give this a flip through. I definitely liked what I read. Especially the innovativeness in the way these kids are trying to cheat, when it comes to the use of the powers during the fight and the internal monologue of Renee. I liked that. But the art really didn't work for me in this book. And I'm not knockin the artist! I think his style would work in a particular book, just not in this issue.
Publisher: Top Cow
Writer: Ron Marz
Artist: Sami Basri
Colors: Imaginary Friends Studios
Letters: Troy Peteri
Cover: Chris Bachalo
MDS: Again, we'll start with the cover. I love Bachalo.
DR: Same here.
MDS: I believe the first time I ever saw his art was Generation X #1, and he didn't stay on that book too long, but his run on that book was imprinted on me forever. And when I see his name attached to a book I try to buy it. That said, he rarely disappoints me. Sometimes it's a little hard to tell what's going on in his artwork, like in his book Steampunk.
DR: It was very cluttered.
MDS: But 95% of the time he hits it out of the park, and I think he hit it out of the park with this cover. I mean, we have a woman in a red and white tuxedo, and then in the background we have all these cherubs fighting over the Witchblade. And some are devils and some are angels, and it's like, "Wait! What the hell is going on?" I mean, they've got knives and arrows. This one angel and demon are gonna knife-fight. Look right there underneath the Image logo! Those guys are gonna knife-fight, and I wanna see that! [laughs] That's too funny!
DR: It's a great cover.
MDS: I almost wonder if they had him draw the woman in just to have a sexy woman there. If that's the case, I don't need her. Just show me the little angels and hellions fighting! That's all I wanna see; that would make me buy this book. Not that seeing an attractive woman prevents me from buying a book. [laughs]
DR: Of course. [laughs]
MDS: She wasn't necessarily needed on the cover, but it's intriguing nonetheless.
DR: I gotta say the same. Although, I certainly hope that if I see a cover like that in the future I will open up and flip through first, because we don't get that at all. It's not indicative of the story in any way. It's a pin-up. I've never read a Witchblade book before, ever. The last Top Cow thing I read was Wanted by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones, and before that it was one of the first five issues of Cyberforce. So that goes really back. I've never been a fan of Witchblade, and I can't say I'm going to be after reading this book either.
DR: Not that it was terrible, but it did nothing for me. While I'm not a fan of complete digital art, which is what this looks like to me, I really like the colors. The colors are brilliant. But it doesn't hit me in any way.
MDS: The book as a whole or just the art?
DR: I would say the book as a whole. I don't even wanna give the synopsis for this, because I have no idea what's going on... besides there's a new Witchblade holder.
MDS: I can.
DR: Go ahead.
MDS: First we should mention that this is part one of a brand new storyline called "One Good Turn." Basically all this book is about is we have the new Witchblade holder her name is Dani and she approaches Sara the former Witchblade host and asks her to mentor her because Sara had the Witchblade for a very long time. She had to give it up recently I assume it's because she's pregnant. And, you know, Sara was a cop. She was trained to fight. She knew how to do these things. She could deal with stress. But Dani doesn't know how to do any of that. I think she says she barely holds her life together. So she basically begs Sara and says, "Please, please, please, please, please mentor me," and Sara says, "Okay, I'll train you." And as they're going out to start her training an old villain appears... and we're pretty much left on a cliffhanger right there. That's the story. Now getting back to the art, I thought this was excellent. It was a really unique blend of American and Japanese I should say manga styles. There's one particular image... if you look at Dani in the lower right hand corner, that look on her face the general shape of her face, the way the hair lays that's very manga. But it's mixed with a fresh American style as well. Blending those two sometimes doesn't work, but in this case I thought it really did. But I think the digital colors helped it along greatly. Also speaking of this art, I liked the pacing here, too. On this same page Sara looks up at her bird, Dani keeps talking to her and in that second to last panel Sara's coming from looking at the bird. I've said it before: that space between the panels, that's the gutter and most of the action in comic books happens in that gutter. With a comic you can play with time you can compress it, you can decompress it and here they really show that this is just like one second between each of those panels, because Sara hasn't even fully turned around yet. Her head is still turned toward the bird but her eyes are on Dani, and I thought that showed really good pacing on this artist's part.
DR: I will say that the storytelling of the art is nice. Even the opening scene. I think the fight is very fluid; it's very cinematic, even.
MDS: If I did have one gripe with the art, it has to be that only in one panel does Sara look pregnant. Now I don't know how far along she's supposed to be at this point, but Top Cow is about to start their First Born event. I think a preview book came out in June and I think the first book comes out in July, so that to me implies that she's pretty far along. But here, only in one panel does she actually look pregnant. Throughout the rest of the book nothin! She may be a little chubbier than she was before, but I wouldn't think she was pregnant. I would just say, "Oh, she's not the Witchblade. She's just put on 10 pounds." That's all I'd say.
DR: Well maybe when she's pushed up against the wall.
MDS: There too. You are right.
DR: I will say the cliffhanger is pretty good. And the second fight with Celestine is pretty fluid. It's the storytelling I like; it's not necessarily the style. And it's funny you said that the manga connection because I did notice it in that one panel as well, and as I flick through it here I'm seeing it more and more. I'm really not a manga fan. I love Akira and I love Uzumaki, and that's about it. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I'm not into the art. And the story... I don't know. I think it's beyond me at this point to even try to jump into Witchblade.
MDS: The story worked for me, for what it was. Because it was the first part of this new arc. Some of the dialog felt a little expositional, but, again, it's the first part of a new arc and they're about to launch this big event so I didn't mind any expositional dialog because there should be a little. It should be like, "This is who I am. This is who you are. This is what's happened in our past. Now let's just move on." So any bumps in the story I was willing to forgive. The one thing I wasn't totally keen on is the fact that the story was so short because of the back-up. I wouldn't have minded the back-up at all if it wasn't basically a retelling of what we just saw. It's the same thing. I understand they were trying to draw parallels...
DR: There go my notes for the back-up. [laughs]
MDS: I understand what they were trying to do by saying, "This is what's happened in Witchblade's past and it's happening again." I get that... but it was the same story just told in Japan in the 1600s in a shorter amount of pages. That's all it was. I much rather would have preferred the main story have a couple more pages and the back-up be shorter, with parallels that weren't so overt.
DR: And it might have allowed for more fleshing out of the story. Part of my issue with the Witchblade thing is that it all hinges on this Witchblade, and so much of the story revolve around that and I have no idea what it is. I'm one to complain about exposition a lot, but I'm also one to complain about not being tuned in. And I don't need it every issue, all through the issue, but I would like a little hint here and there. And I wasn't given any in this issue other than the fact that it can be passed from person to person.
MDS: There was a moment that I really liked in this book. I'm not gonna spoil it, I'm not gonna say exactly what happened, but there was a moment between Sara and the Witchblade itself. That's all I'm gonna say. If you guys decide to pick up this book you'll see exactly what I mean. It was this really cool moment that told you a lot about the character and the Witchblade and what they mean to each other. So then, what would you grade this one?
DR: I would give it a flip through. Because of my bend against it, I think it would be unfair to say, "Skip it."
MDS: I'm gonna give this one a borrow. I really did like the art, as I said. I think the story, though it was short, was a decent jumping on point for new readers. I trust in Ron Marz. He's a very good writer, and I hope in issue two, three, four however long this storyline is he goes into what the Witchblade is, what happened between Celestine and Sara. I trust that he's going to get into all that, and that makes it a borrow in my mind. I think if it was any other writer, I'd probably also give it a flip through.
DR: Fair enough.
Xombie: Reanimated #3
Publisher: Devil's Due Publishing
Writer: James Farr
Artist: Nate Lovett
Letters: Brian J. Crowley
Cover A: Tim Seeley, John Lowe and Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Cover B: James Farr
DR: Xombie: Reanimated #3 comes to you with two separate covers. One sort of painted cover with Tim Seeley, John Lowe and Jean-Francois Beaulieu, and Cover B is by James Farr, which is much easier to say. And James Farr is the writer of the book.
MDS: Creator of the book, as well.
DR: And both covers are the exact same image, however one is...
MDS: Much more digitally painted.
DR: Yeah. Sort of an EC Comics look, but digitally painted. And then the other one is very cartoony, but both feature the zombie that's zombie with an X, by the way about to be attacked by crazed-looking monkeys. And well... I'm not going to throw any hint toward my rating at this point, but we've got monkeys, we've got zombies. That's all I gotta say.
MDS: Yeah. Later on shoot! I'm trying not to spoil anything! It's so hard! But when that thing happens, when they all get attacked I totally flipped out. I was like, "Oh my god!" I wish I could say what it was!
DR: Me too.
MDS: Anyway, what do you think about this idea of having variant covers that are very similar in nature you know, same design, same pose but the art is just different? What do you think about that?
DR: It doesn't make that much of a difference to me. I'm not a big fan of variant covers anyway. I'll choose whichever I like better. But I think it really works for this issue.
MDS: They do this all the time with Xombie.
DR: I can tell because there's a preview on the inside cover. There's the covers to the next issue... perhaps?
MDS: It's the same thing, where we got that digitally painted look, the EC look as you said. But then we have the animated look on the other side. And they're the same cover, they're just different styles. I personally think it's a really good spade's a spade gimmick.
DR: Yeah, variant covers are a gimmick. You can't get away from it.
MDS: I like seeing this. I don't like when it's like, "Hey, here's the Alex Ross cover. And here's the other guy's cover." This is the same cover, it's just different artists. Something about that appeals to me, and I wish more companies would employ that. Where it's like, "Here's the Jim Lee version of this cover. Here's the Marc Silvestri version." And they're all from the same layout.
DR: Exactly. You know, if I were buying this book regularly, I would probably pick up the James Farr cover because I think it's more indicative of what the regular art is. But if I were to buy an original piece of art, sweet jiminy! That Tim Seeley art is rad! So rad!
MDS: Nothing against Farr's artwork, but I think I would pick up the Tim Seeley cover just because it has retro sensibilities but with a modern vibe. And I like that. Think about those old EC covers. Those were in a completely different style than the interior artwork. This does that same thing, and I like that idea. There's times where I don't like when there's a different cover artist, but with this kind of book it works because there's that tradition. EC started maybe they didn't start it, but that's what was going on there and DDP is continuing it with Xombie: Reanimated. I just think I'd want Seeley's just for that retroness. Do you want to recap this one?
DR: Okay. Well we have a very helpful recap page.
MDS: Thank you, DDP! Thank you very much! We love recap pages.
DR: Basically they're on their way to investigate a railroad sorry, that is the main character Zoe and Dirge. And Zoe is a kinda cute little goth chick. And Dirge is a big, monstrous zombie with human sensibilities. So on their way I guess if you're a human and you go out you have something that's called "scent disguise" Zoe's scent disguise is damaged in a car accident, her scent becomes too much for the normally in control Dirge. He turns to Zoe, his hunger... too much... to bear! And we just basically open up with Dirge trying to eat Zoe for a second. You called it a horror book, but it's more of a comedy
MDS: I called it a horror book?
MDS: What did I say?
DR: Maybe you said it in relation to the variant cover.
MDS: That's kinda what I meant, because I'm sorry. I don't mean to step on you. Go ahead.
DR: It's more of like a dark sci-fi / dark fantasy mixed with heavy, heavy doses of comedy. So I don't want to relay that to someone who may be a horror comic fan. If they picked it up they'd be very surprised.
MDS: If I gave off that impression I did not mean to. You are absolutely correct. It is a comedy book that has horror elements and these fantastical elements. I just really meant in terms of the cover I liked that horror / retro vibe.
DR: I guess that pretty much recaps the story. They're on their way to checkout this railroad, and without spoiling they will be attacked by monkeys.
MDS: In this case, the cover is actually indicative of the story. We love ya Top Cow, but we would have liked a cover that wasn't just a pin-up as good as the cover was.
DR: I'm just gonna go right ahead and say that this book was hysterical.
DR: The story was engaging. While I was laughing, I was also kinda worried for the characters. There is a sense of danger, which you gotta like in a horror comedy. The art is a little cartoony for my usual tastes, but I like it here. So... yeah. I got nothing to complain about. [laughs]
MDS: With this book I do not believe I wrote down one negative thing at all. It's fun, but, as you said, sometimes you're a little worried about the characters.
DR: Super-quick read, too.
MDS: And not in a bad way.
DR: No, no.
MDS: Not in one of those "Why did I just spend however-many-bucks on this?" ways.
DR: It's a page-turner.
MDS: It's a page-turner, but after you're done reading it you'll want to read it again because that's how good it is. It's going so fast because that's the pace of this book. This is a very intense issue. They are being chased by monkeys that aren't just normal monkeys, we'll say. [laughs] And other things are happening along the way. So yeah, it's very fast but not in that negative way. You get your $3.50's worth out of this book. When it comes to the art, right off the bat I open it up, I look at the first page and I'm in love with it. Absolutely in love with it. It looks like it should be a Saturday morning cartoon, but with sort of a Cartoon Network vibe. Maybe an Adult Swim vibe we'll say, since they can get away with some darker themes. I would love to see this as a more mature cartoon on a network that would actually appreciate it for what it is, not tone it down. You could present it exactly how it is, and they could just storyboard straight from these comics.
DR: I agree 100%. A lot of the animation-style art comic books I don't think would transfer well to an animated series, but this certainly wood. It's got the hook: a girl and her zombie. It's perfect.
MDS: [laughs] I can see that being used on a collection. "It's the story about a girl and her zombie." And then underneath, Des Reddick of Earth-2.net: The Show. Devil's Due, if you want to use that just go ahead. [laughs]
DR: Please do. Please do.
MDS: I will say about this art, it's not what I was expecting at all! I see "Xombie" on the cover, and I'm like, "Okay, it's going to be a horror book. Okay." And then I open it up and I see this, and I'm like, "Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Huh! What's going on?" You get that it's not going to be dark horror, that it's going to be dark comedy.
DR: And I was fooled too, because I've never read or seen anything about this before. And I opened that first page I went, "Oh. Okay. This is how it is." [laughs] But of course, no complaints. I mean, it was a pleasant surprise. I was actually even I heard Xombie with an X, and I was like, "Ughhh! What are you doing to me, Mike! Oh god, here we go. Here's a crappy, crappy zombie comic," and I was pleasantly surprised! It is anything but a "crappy zombie comic."
MDS: What else about this one?
DR: While I think the hip girl in danger / cutesy sidekick thing is kinda clichιd I like that character. I really, really do.
MDS: They make the clichι work for themselves.
DR: They certainly do. And there's a lot of images in this book where she's seemingly as afraid of Dirge as she is of the others. There's a lot of space between them.
MDS: Yeah, she doesn't get close to him really unless they're in the car.
DR: And even in the car, look at
MDS: She's way over by the passenger door.
DR: She's way over there.
MDS: It's justified. I mean, he's a frickin zombie.
DR: He's a flesh eater.
MDS: Right in the beginning he's trying to eat her because her protective coat or vest or whatever has been damaged. So yeah, she should be scared and I'm glad that came through in the art that she's not leaning up on him or anywhere near him.
DR: And on the last page, I need to know what happens next.
MDS: Oh yeah! In my notes I wrote down two words: "Awesome cliffhanger!"
DR: Should we rate it? [laughs]
MDS: Do we need to? I think it's self-explanatory. But we'll go ahead. What do you give this one?
DR: I give this two rotting bananas up. Buy it. Buy it. Buy it. A lot of horror comics you have to be a real horror fan to enjoy. And a lot of the cartoony-style comics you have to be a real fan of that. It almost looks like a webcomic.
MDS: I think it's the colors.
DR: And I think these styles are really divisive. But here I'm one of the most jaded horror fans on Earth. And I will call anything down. I have so many favorite movies that I'm just willing to tear to shreds as far as what's wrong with them, but this I have so much trouble trying to think about any sort of criticism. It's the first time I've read a new comic in so long when I've been so impressed. And that's all I'm going to say: Buy it. Buy it. Buy it.
MDS: Before we get to my rating, I think I might have said the book was drawn by James Farr.
DR: I think you might have said that.
MDS: It was actually Nate Lovett who illustrated this book. So I am very, very, very, very, very, very sorry I misspoke when I said that. So all apologies. Now as for my score this is the first time we're doing this, we've established our grading scale. That being buy, borrow, flip through and skip. Well, I'm already going to break away from that. I am going to call this buy and then pick up the back issues. So it's off the scale, that's how good this is. Don't wait for the trade, get this now!
DR: I'm all about this.
MDS: This is just a wonderful book, and I really hope DDP really makes this if not an ongoing at least a series of minis. Maybe this would work better as that. Do six issues, take three months off. Build up anticipation. Advertise. And then do another six-issue mini. Sometimes that's the best route to go so something doesn't become stale, and I think this could support a series of minis or an ongoing. I said it before and I'll say it again, this is just wonderful fun and I absolutely need to know what happens next and I need to know what came before.