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The Rest of the Stack: Week of October 26, 2011

The Rest of the Stack is my general mini-review coverage of new comics for any given week. It’s in addition to (or in place of) full-size individual reviews. It’s far less formal, and more off-the-top-of-my head thoughts on the given comics than it is detailed reviews.

ANGEL & FAITH #3

angelandfaith003Angel and Faith continue the search for Mohra blood, and though the two find themselves at odds with one another, they do make a pretty good team. By issue’s end, they find themselves facing a threat more powerful than they imagined–and though he doesn’t yet know it, Angel’s in greater danger than even he knows. Three issues in, and I’m not yet finding the overall story. of course, if memory serves this is a 24-issue series, so we’re a mere 1/8th in so far. The story doesn’t seem to be really shaping up in a big way yet–but we’re getting plenty of smaller moments. The art continues to do a good job showing the characters as themselves, with a hint of the actors but not slavishly modeled after the human counterparts. I like that this is steeped in established continuity, and that for a licensed comic, it holds at $2.99 rather than the $3.99 so many others have embraced. I don’t know that this is in itself a jumping on point…but if you want to jump in and get your feet wet, snag this and the previous couple issues. I imagine this’ll be neatly collected into 4 6-issue volumes, so halfway in, may also be as well served to wait for the collected edition. (7/10)

THE FURY OF FIRESTORM: THE NUCLEAR MEN #2

furyoffirestorm002I’m definitely liking the whole “in from the beginning” this title’s letting me do. I’m intrigued by where things are going to go…but the issue itself is rather forgettable. Ronnie and Jason each are “a” Firestorm, and they’ve fused at least once into this “Fury” creature. Whether they can do that at will or will fight to avoid becoming it remains to be seen. This issue wastes no time cutting the characters completely loose from their established lives–which at least at this point has me a little wary–it seems this might be veering off a little quick from what I’d hoped for in the book. We do seem to have a front-running for supporting cast member, but it’s hard to tell for certain. I’ll be back for #3, but I had the rather disturbing thought of just how easy it would be to passively shed this book from my pull list without missing it much. I enjoy it as I read it, but it’s not all that stand-out impressive in and of itself. (6.5/10)

STAR TREK (IDW) #2

startrek002While I would be irked to see classic ‘Trek episodes adapted into 6 issue arcs featuring this version of the characters…I can’t help but wonder if two issues is enough space. I thought for sure I was in for a 3-6 issue arc when the first issue wasn’t in and of itself a complete adaptation. The crew rallies and deals with their threat here. and before long the Enterprise is back off on its continuing mission. The story’s solid enough–and while I can’t decide what would be an ideal size for each adaptation, I continue to really enjoy the concept of experiencing classic Trek through the filter of the 2009 characters. Unfortunately, I’m already guessing that nothing truly major or unexpected will happen with the characters in this series–which makes this a rather “safe” sort of series, where sure, we’ll get the twists of this cast, but ultimately the toys are all going to stay in the toybox for the next movie, so there seems little chance of major character beats. The $3.99 cover price doesn’t help, either. While this is one of only about 3 $3.99 books to make my recent cuts…when I thought this had NOT actually been pulled for me, it didn’t bother me–so for better or worse, this is one of the books I could most easily “give up,” especially with the notion of just getting the collected volumes. (7/10)

TEEN TITANS #2

teentitans002I didn’t get nearly the thrill out of this issue as I did the opener. Which isn’t to say this was bad or anything, but it lacked something the first issue had. I’m not sure what to make of this story so far–but the whole “let’s gather a group of potential victims together to strike back before the group chasing them can get any others” seems somehow rather cliche and overly familiar. This ‘Skitter’ character isn’t interesting to me, so whether she returns or not, I don’t much care. That she may be part of the new lineup really doesn’t thrill me…but then, this is only the second issue. It’s kinda crazy to think about what now-long-established favorites weren’t exactly embraced the moment they first appeared. Still…I think my enthusiasm at the New 52 has waned a lot more (and faster) than anticipated. Maybe I’ll force myself to stick with what titles I chose to go beyond #1 with for their first arcs…or at least, through the 3rd issues beginning tomorrow. (7/10)

THE WALKING DEAD #90

walkingdead090Hard to believe this is another arc down (at least, if we’re going with “arc” as being “another 6 issues.”) I’m amazed at the way the human stuff gets played up, the interactions between the cast. As I’m presently re-reading the earlier volumes, it’s also kind of amazing to see how much has changed, and that much of the key stuff that so defined this series for me, the most powerful moments, are mostly in the first half of what we have so far. At issue 45 we were in the midst of that story where we were told no one was safe, and saw horrific deaths of some beloved characters. Having been desensitized to that a bit, I’ve yet to really care much about new characters since, even while seeing these longer-term characters evolve along the way. This issue IS the end of the next 6 issues, and the cliffhanger is something I saw coming a couple pages before getting to it, though I don’t know I truly EXPEcTED it. It definitely holds a lot of potential, though it could be a major developing point, or just as easily little more than a moment given extra attention. Still…I’m enjoying this version as much as I’m enjoying the tv version, and thankful they’re separate entities. (8/10)

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Abadazad vol. 1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: The Road to Inconceivable

Summary: We’re introduced to Katie and her present situation as well as beginning to learn a bit about Abadazad…while Katie’s life changes forever…

abadazadvol01Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Drawings: Mike Ploog
Colors: Nick Bell
Cover Art: Mike Ploog
Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children

This book has been a long time coming. For many, though, it’s a bit of familiarity, as we–like a certain character in the story–return, at last, to the world of Abadazad.
About two and a half years ago, CrossGen introduced a fairly unique and interesting new comic series–Abadazad. After just a handful of issues, though, CrossGen went down, and by extension, so did Abadazad.

Long story short (look stuff up online if you want more of the CrossGen story), Abadazad has found a new home, and an interesting new format.

This is no standard comic or graphic novel or TPB, etc. It’s a hardback book–reminds me offhand of the Series of Unfortunate Events books, and a couple other series-I-don’t-know-the-names-of that I see lined up in the YA section at Wal-Mart all the time.

To open this book, flipping to the right page, it certainly looks like one of those sorts of books inside as well (as opposed to, say, some mass market paperback books reprinting comics and such).
Some very familiar images adorn certain pages, sometimes interspersed with the text itself, other times large singular images on a page opposing text, sometimes a full-page image or double-page spread. And still other pages, are actually in ‘standard’ comic book format–these taken from those original 2004 issues of Abadazad that saw print.

It seems that here we get a rather interesting–if a bit haphazard (mostly in a good way, I think)–mix of prose and “comic” and simply images to go with said prose. The prose is Kate’s narration, what she’s recorded in her diary…er…memoir…diary. And on occasion, it leads into the “comic pages” that give brief visuals of Kate and the situations she finds herself in, and the characters she interacts with.
This style feels almost like a voice-over-on-black that then leads into a scene, or a voiceover-into-scene transition, were one to visualize this as a movie or tv program or such.

Physical and style description aside, what of the story?

There’s just something about the story itself that draws one in. It’s at once familiar, and yet new. Not too far in, a reference is made about “through the rabbit-hole,” “over the rainbow,” “into the wardrobe,” showing an in-text awarenessof the likes of Wonderland, Oz, Narnia; another reference goes to Middle-Earth…perhaps the mention alone leads one to slightly shift their mind to try to see this in the same light as those classic stories.

We meet Katie–Kate–a 14 year old girl living with her mother. The father ditched them years earlier. Accompanying that, Kate had a younger brother–Matty. One quickly realizes that she’s writing about Matty in the past tense. Five years later, and she and her mother are still deeply traumatized at having lost Matty. Her mother–“Frantic Frances”–has distanced herself all the more trying to hide from the loss, while Kate herself has tried to harden her heart and move on without wanting to allow herself to dwell on her lost brother.

Her crazy old neighbor introduces her to the “truth” behind the stories she’s read since she was a kid–and had bonded with her brother over reading them to him. The truth leads to what will be Katie’s great adventure/quest/whatever, and the true meat of Abadazad.

DeMatteis‘ story is well-thought-out, drawing on the familiar while injecting some new to the concept of a fantasy-world-turned-real. Given the context of the story, the characters are very believeable, and while there’s not a LOT of depth yet, this is just introducing the characters, context, and world of Abadazad. This book’s story sets the stage for what is to come, presenting the reader with all they need to know to get the characters and know what they’re all about.

Ploog‘s art captures a great style that looks right at home simply as illustrations for a prose tale, but then lends itself to a rather realistic visual style on the comic pages–realistic, but a sort of ‘softness’ that mutes the seriousness of the story. This gives a tone that keeps the seriousness from totally weighing on the reader, while allowing for its presence. Additionally, the comic pages give visual on the settings depicted much moreso than one would get simply from single-image illustrations.

On the whole, while not entirely a prose book nor by any stretch a graphic novel, this book is a great blend of both, and while maybe not 100% original, is certainly comparatively unique in this blending. Adults should find a certain enjoyment of the story, and yet it seems pretty well-suited for a younger crowd (though as with anything, I wouldn’t indiscriminately give it to a kindergartener or such).

The prose is enough to not be something boring to adult readers, but is simple enough for younger readers. It also provides a “hook” to bring readers into the story, and the comic pages in addition to providing visuals to small scenes serve double-duty by showing someone what comics are–and can be.

Even if for some reason someone disapproves of comics, this format holds more prose than comic, so might make parents happy seeing their kids read a prose story–but the comics enhance the story for someone who wants more than just a few ‘static’ images here and there in their story.

Whether you’re interested in this for having read the original comics, or this is the first you’ve even heard of Abadazad…I highly recommend checking these books out!

Ratings:

Story: 4.5/5
Art: 4.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

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