Is It Wednesday Yet?
17 February 2009 — Here we are again with another installment of your favorite comic book review series. As always, the reviews are free of spoilers, so read on without fear of having your experience ruined!
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.
Bad Dog #1
Released: 04 February 2009
Writer: Joe Kelly
Artist: Diego Greco
Letterer: Thomas Mauer
Cover: Diego Greco
Review: Damien Wilkens
I have a fear that our creative evolution is one day going to reach a point in which every zany, fucked up idea will have been conceived and put in comic book form. Image, in particular, is a front-runner in making this sort of fear into an inevitability. This is a book about a giant dog and his foul-mouthed troll of a friend who work as bounty hunters. Before you get past the first page, there is a certain amount of eye rolling and scoffing that many will do — and for good reason, since it sounds like something that was created by drunkenly throwing darts at a wall. What is rather surprising is just how well it works.
The aforementioned dog (technically a werewolf) is named Lou, and despite being a massive bruiser, he is a surprisingly somber character. A man so disgusted with humans that he refuses to revert from his more animalistic form. He is the backbone of the book, and he has a heart and genuine quality about him that makes it all the more impactful when he loses his temper. His partner, Wendell, however, is a vertically underwhelming ex-preacher with a hair-trigger temper and a mouth that overflows with curse words. The little man is a stark contrast to the almost self-pitying Lou, bringing wordplay that sounds less like it belongs in an Image book and more like it should be in the Garth Ennis remake of Scarface.
The book thrives on constant, abrasive humor, quite often brought on by situations that make absolutely no sense. Lou has a decapitated head that talks to him in his fridge. Why? Because it's funny. To enjoy this book, you can't really think about it. The issue is held up pretty much entirely by the entertaining interactions between the characters, as there is almost no plot to speak of. Yes, they're bounty hunters, but they seem more concerned about getting hammered than getting their man.
You can tell that Greco had a lot of fun drawing the issue, and his characters are the better for it. Wendell demands attention with his Krusty the Clown-like hair and utter refusal to put a shirt on. While Lou is large to the point of awkwardness, which lends itself even more to his character. In general, the art is great, and never once did it feel like Greco was phoning it in. He really seems to want to draw these characters, and it makes a difference.
This is the definition of a light read, and I mean that as a complement. There is a lot of character potential here, and it could certainly lead to some heavier stuff in the future. But for now, it's a fun, vulgar buddy comedy, with more than enough heart to spare. Buy it.
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Released: 04 February 2009
Story: Andrew Cosby
Script: Brendan Hay
Artist: Diego Barreto
Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse
Letterer: Marshall Dillon
Cover: JK Woodward
I've always taken it for granted that a great majority of the nation's most brilliant minds are under the employ of the government. Between its connections, its resources and the ability to literally print their own money, the feds enjoy a large number of benefits that private corporations simply can't match. So, barring any moral dilemmas, if you're a brilliant mind in the United States, chances are good you're working for The Man. But where does that put you, physically? Where do you park your seat on a typical working day? Where do you call home? In Eureka, an adaptation of the popular TV series, the answer to both questions is a small town in the Pacific Northwest with an average IQ of somewhere around 180.
Andrew Cosby and Brendan Hay pair up on the book's writing duties; Cosby, co-creator of the original series (and one of the founders of publisher Boom! Studios) handles the issue's plot while Hay pens its script. Cosby is wise to recognize that, while the concept of a town full of brainiacs may seem interesting on paper, in execution it's probably going to be tough to establish a connection with a less-intellectual audience. His solution is Sheriff Carter, an everyman lead character who provides a sense of perspective and stability amongst a culture of mad scientists. The eccentric geniuses of the city keep their quirks, the story keeps its unique angle and the readers aren't hung out to dry without an emotional anchor. Problem solved.
Newcomer Diego Barreto provides the artwork, which is kept clean, basic and organized in the same vein as Stray Bullets veteran David Lapham. Barreto may not have the discipline, seediness and maturity evident in Lapham's work, but the two share a knack for visual characterization and the ability to keep the page clean amidst a wealth of activity. His storytelling is sometimes tough to follow, however, which can be very disorienting. Early in this issue, for example, Sheriff Carter appears to sprint away from a hostage situation, only to be seen chatting with the bad guy on the next page. I'd thought a few panels had gone missing, but it turns out cloudy artwork was to blame, and it wasn't the only time I had to step back to figure out what had just happened.
Fans of the TV series will find plenty to enjoy here, as the comic book expands on the backgrounds and personalities of characters that were left unexplored in the primary series. Readers unfamiliar with the material needn't fret, as this is fairly accessible after a brief feeling-out process. It's good fun, although it came off a bit more generic than I'd expected — Eureka enjoys a deep cast almost unanimously populated by geniuses, but this month we're rolling along with the sheriff to crack a hostage situation? Seems like a waste of a perfectly good premise. Borrow this from a friend: it's solid on most fronts, but I can't imagine you'll want to read it over and over again.
I Am Legion #1
Publisher: Devil's Due
Released: 04 February 2009
Writer: Fabien Nury
Artist: John Cassaday
Colorist: Laura Martin
Translation: Justin Kelly
Cover: John Cassaday
Review: Damien Wilkens
I'm very much of the belief that art is a universal language, that something made in Croatia or Denmark can most definitely be appreciated in lands abroad. However, this can work both ways. Sure, a classic movie will be a classic whether or not we have to read subtitles, but a subpar movie isn't going to instantly improve simply because it comes from another country. And I fear that mindset may be the main reason why I wasn't into I Am Legion as much as I expected to be.
Devil's Due has made use of their association with French publisher Les Humanoïdes Associés to bring this series overseas. Frankly, I'm not convinced it was worth the effort. I Am Legion comes off very much like the opposite of what a comic book should be; it's dense, unfailingly serious and dull. For a book about Nazi vampires and murder mysteries, I was gobsmacked by just how little I ended up carrying. I found myself constantly checking the page number to see how much more I had remaining.
John Cassaday, best known for his work on Astonishing X-Men and Planetary, continues the same standard of artwork he's known for. If you've seen his work there, you've seen it here. While he's one of those artists that you can instantly recognize, he's also not going to do much to surprise you. His style is very cinematic, and works very well for the serious tone of this book. I've always found his women a little off, but that's not really an issue here — what with the mostly male cast. He serves the issue well, and I'd have to assume that this book likely would have never seen the light of day over here if it were done by a lesser artist.
There is an obvious amount of effort at work here, but it's not as engaging as you would expect it to be. Flip through this one to see if it's for you. I think that there may indeed be an audience out there for material like this, but I'm not it.
The Mighty #1
Publisher: DC Comics
Released: 04 February 2009
Writers: Peter J. Tomasi and Keith Champagne
Artist: Peter Snejbjerg
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover: Dave Johnson
In this retrospective look at a more innocent era, we're introduced to Alpha One — the world's first and, so far, only superhero. Embraced by both the public and the law, Alpha One enjoys the support of Section Omega — his own dedicated police force — fronted by an old friend by the name of Gabriel Cole. But when a high-profile murder shakes the organization to its core, things start to unravel.
Co-writers Peter J. Tomasi and Keith Champagne have teamed to script an accurate look back at several notable eras of the superhero genre. When the book opens, we're whisked to the 1950s, when the nation was both respectful and apprehensive of the combined blessing and threat of nuclear energy. Moments later, we leap forward to a modernized vision of the early 90s without batting an eyelash. Tomasi and Champagne make us feel at home in both instances, adding little details and eccentricities that both validate the timeframe and set readers at ease. The backstories of Alpha One and his support squad are introduced via the unique media outlets of each era, and are accomplished so casually they almost catch their audience by surprise. I was completely up to speed after eight pages, but it didn't feel like I'd gone through boot camp to get there.
The Mighty goes to great lengths to achieve that level of comfort, and in the end it pays off in spades. Naturally, you know what they say about the best-laid plans; just as soon as you've come to grips with the utopian status quo, the plot takes a violent turn. I can't argue with the timing or the delivery. The sharp curve this issue takes just beyond the midway point hits like a body blow — it's the ground rushing towards your face that wakes you from a peaceful dream.
The issue's artwork, provided by Peter Snejbjerg, is uncomplicated but strong. While he does churn out a handful of nice compositions, this is primarily a character-driven story and Snejbjerg has no problem moving out of the way while the dialog takes center stage. His artwork feels authentic when the narration is set in the distant past, but still relevant and applicable when the perspective shifts towards the more modern era. Perhaps most impressive is Snejbjerg's ability to subtly shift the tone of a panel through careful tinkering with camera angles and lighting. When Alpha One stands guard over the city at the issue's conclusion, the panel could have easily been seen as a noble portrait of the resident hero. But in his hands it takes a very mildly sinister turn — one that I'm convinced is a sign of things to come. I'm not sure how many other artists could have conveyed that slight turn of emotion.
This issue was as good an introduction as I've seen in the last few years. Although it's a very easy read, the plot is tremendously layered and the cast is compelling. If subsequent issues can manage to follow up on many of the promises delivered by this introduction, we're in for a real treat. Buy it up, this one deserves all the attention it can get.