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Is It Wednesday Yet?

11 October 2011 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.

BPRD Hell on Earth: Russia #1
Publisher: Dark Horse
Released: 21 September 2011
Writers: Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Artist: Tyler Crook
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Clem Robins
Cover: Dave Johnson
Cover price: $3.50

Review: Hannah Krueger
In the aftermath of the war on the army of plague frogs, the Russian Occult Bureau is dealing with an infestation of slime mutants in a mine and a mutant fungus contagion in the city proper, and has called the BPRD for a meeting in Moscow. With Liz Sherman missing and Abe Sapien seemingly on his deathbed, Johann Krauss and Kate Corrigan are sent, and from there the two bureaus butt heads.

I'll be honest, the extent of my experience with the Hellboy franchise have been Guillermo del Toro's movies, and occasionally paging through issues at my local comic shop.

However, the part of the franchise that I am the least familiar with is what's happened to the BPRD after Hellboy left them. And if you've not been following the related books prior to this, you're going to be a bit lost. I ended up having to pause my reading to look up the whos, whats, wheres, whens, whys, and hows concerning certain events. To say the least, this is not an easily accessible book for at least half of its length, and that does detract from the enjoyment.

However, once the status quo is established, when time is spent on the fungus and slime mutations, and as the two bureaus come together, the book is pretty fun. The action scenes are incredible, with flamethrowers and a car chase upping the enjoyment factor. The parts with the mines are the kind of creepiness you've come to expect with a Mignola book. This one even includes some amusing references to current events, in the form of a certain notorious leaks site that the Russian bureau uses to its advantage.

Tyler Crook, Mignola's new artist, does a great job drawing the fast-paced action scenes, and properly conveying ickiness when the slime mutant graveyard is uncovered by the Russians. He also does a great job with some of Johann's more subtle expressions, which is definitely an accomplishment, as Johan is a bunch of smoke in a jar and a containment suit.

Borrow this book. Newcomers might need a quick look online in order to get up to speed, but this looks like the prelude to an interesting minseries.

Huntress #1
Publisher: DC Comics
Released: 05 October 2011
Writer: Paul Levitz
Penciler: Marcus To
Inker: John Dell
Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Cover: Guillem March
Cover price: $2.99

Review: Hannah Krueger
Helena Bertinelli, also known as The Huntress, has come to Naples to stop a shipment of guns from reaching the shores of Gotham. However, she discovers that the smuggling ring includes far more than just guns, and decides to bring them down as she makes an enemy of one of the biggest mobsters in Naples.

This book is supposed to reboot Huntress for the DCnU, and will apparently dovetail with Birds of Prey. What I can tell so far is that she is somehow tied to The Daily Planet, she's based out of Gotham, may or may not know Batman, and she goes out of her way to stop crime before she comes to Gotham. Oh, and she doesn't like mobsters who traffic women. (By the way, it took six pages into a DCnU book before whores / sex slavery was bought up.)

I'm really not sure what to think so far. It looks kind of interesting, but I found my attention wandering throughout. I don't even feel that intrigued to pick up the next issue, to be honest.

The art's not awful, but it's not anything that makes me stunned at the capability of the artist.

Flip through this. If you're interested in Huntress and how she's being handled in the DCnU, maybe you'll want to pick it up. It just leaves me lukewarm.

Star Trek #1
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Released: 21 September 2011
Writer: Mike Johnson
Artist: Stephen Molnar
Colorist: John Rauch
Letterer: Neil Uyetake
Cover: Tim Bradstreet
Cover price: $3.99

Review: Sean Lemberg
Confidence is a trait James Kirk never seemed to lack in Star Trek's recent film reboot, but for that quality to truly manifest itself into something meaningful, it requires the respect and loyalty of one's peers. That's something we never had a chance to see in play during the squad's first adventure, as Kirk spent the entire tale proving his worth and, ultimately, staking a claim to the captain's chair. When we rejoin the cast in this month's Star Trek #1, and presumably in the forthcoming sequel, Kirk has already completed his transition from ragged potential leader to proven, venerable commander.

In some respects that's a good thing; leaving the origin chapter behind can only open new doors to adventure. Eventually the core group members have to embrace their responsibilities and push forward as a bright, versatile young unit. However, it also runs plenty of risks, some of which aren't so deftly avoided in this very issue. When Kirk, Spock, and Bones step away from the bridge to discuss a sudden threat to the Enterprise, for example, the conversation could just as easily have come from the mouths of Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelley as their fresh-faced counterparts. They've already slid too easily into the static, classical roles associated with each character, and the last thing the fledgling crew should be doing at this point is getting too comfortable on the bridge. After all, what's the point of taking a new direction if it's just going to wind up in exactly the same place as before?

I suppose it's inevitable that some amount of revisitation is in order for such a long-running, well-regarded series. The plot, notably, is lifted almost directly from an episode of The Next Generation. What's to stop the movie franchise from going a similar route by resurrecting Khan? And who's to say they'd be wrong to do so? My concern is that too much reverence is paid to the original tales at the cost of ingenuity and fresh thinking. It's a very thin line between the two, but I left this issue with the impression that it wound up standing on the wrong side. Excessive familiarity does breed contempt, after all.

Fortunately, the artwork doesn't subscribe to quite the same mantra as the storytelling. Stephen Molnar's linework is loose and playful, more concerned with gesture and character than rigid technical proficiency. Though he does occasionally tread a bit too near the uncanny valley in some of his interpretations of the actors, those transgressions are usually tempered by a crisp, clean environment and a quick return to form in the next panel. Molnar doesn't get much liberty to light up the page in this bookful of boardrooms and staff meetings, but he does manage to keep things fresh and interesting all the same.

Sadly, as slightly more than a passing fan of the Star Trek mythos myself, I found the new troupe's debut issue redundant and actionless, a safe reinterpretation of a classic story that never manages to shift out of first gear. Though forthcoming issues may promise more in the way of exploration and extraterrestrial encounters, the tone that's been set in this initial adventure is a long ways from reaching the potential set by its celluloid predecessor. Diehard Trekkies might enjoy it as an appetizer for things yet to come, but even they will find plenty of minor ticks and glitches to pick away at. Flip through it.

And now, and advanced review of...
Power Play #1
Released: 12 October 2011
Writer: Kurt Christenson
Artist: Reilly Brown
Letterer: Kurt Christenson
Cover: Reilly Brown
Cover price: $1.99 on comiXology

Review: Hannah Krueger
The Power Play games are an extreme street games league based in NYC with superpowered competitors, such as Gowanus Pete (the hooded squid-boy) and Ice Queen (her name implies her power). Into this mix is thrown a young NYU student named Mac, who's struck by lightning and gains the ability to turn himself into whatever material he touches. Once he gains these powers, his friend, looking for a quick buck, enters him into the next round of the Power Play games. Little does he know what he's getting into.

Power Play is definitely one of the comics you should check out this year. As a first issue, this does its job admirably. We're thrown right into the action in the first few pages as we get a sense of what the games themselves are like, and we meet some of the contestants, who I'm sure we'll be seeing more of down the line. Christenson wisely uses YouTube as a way to showcase the games, and also introduces us to Mac and his friends, who form the backbone of this book. Mac could be anyone reading this comic; all of the geek references definitely aid in connecting us to him and his friends. The issue sets up what's to come quite nicely, and I'm interested to see where this is going.

One of the things that Reilly Brown has emphasized is how this comic was designed with the digital platform in mind. And you can see that in the way it's constructed. The file that Reilly sent to me was the image files that he sent to comiXology. There are several moments where the way panels are drawn, where the storytelling is so smooth, it makes Power Play look almost animated. Reilly's art is truly lively.

This is some of the most fun I've had reading a comic this year. Definitely be sure to buy Power Play #1. You won't want to miss it.


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