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Bill and Ted’s Most Triumphant Return #1 [Review]

billandtedsmosttriumphantreturn001Written by: Brian Lynch
Pencils by: Jerry Gaylord
Inks by: Jerry & Penelopy Gaylord
Colors by: Whitney Cogar
Letters by: Jim Campbell
Cover: Felipe Smith, Rob Guillory
Designer: Scott Newman
Assistant Editor: Alex Galer
Editor: Ian Brill
Published by: Boom! Studios
Cover Date: March 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

I must confess: though I bought the two Bill & Ted movies on dvd awhile back, I have yet to watch those dvds, and it’s possible that I haven’t actually watched either film since my sophomore year of college more than a decade back.

I was vaguely aware that there was to be a new Bill & Ted comic, having noted some press release or headline about Boom! getting the property…but it wasn’t until a few days before this issue’s release that I was actually consciously aware of and looking for it. And even seeing it in the store, I noted that the cover specifies this is "No. 1 of 6," which translates (for me) to "serialized graphic novel." And even the title itself, the emphasis on Most Triumphant Return over Bill & Ted suggests this is a single, finite story and so whether as the comic it is or some tv/movie analogy, after this story it will no longer be a return, and so there’d be some other title there.

But the nostalgia got me, and while the characters look absolutely ridiculous on the cover, just the NOTION of something new and contemporary with Bill & Ted was something I couldn’t bring myself to pass up, at least to check out a first issue. (And in a bit of interesting timing, DC Comics is doing a "movie posters" variant theme for the month, and the Action Comics issue riffing on Bill & Ted was also released this week).

This issue opens basically seconds after the end of the film Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. The guys are at the Battle of the Bands, having just won; kids in tow, the babes nearby, Station and Death hanging around, the guys’ destiny has begun. They have a hit song that will eventually bring world peace and all that, they’ve been to hell and back…so where do they go from here? We follow them in the immediate aftermath as they try to settle into some semblance of normalcy with a full apartment, kids, Station, the Good Robot Thems…and time-travelers eager to visit The Great Ones. Realizing they have no idea about their next song (let alone a whole album) or how to deal with facing a future they’re responsible for, the two acquire a phone booth and travel to the future to sit in on a Bill & Ted 101 class. Once there, they make a remarkable discovery.

The cliffhanger comes on the 16th page…but there’s a backup feature.

Bill & Ted and the Bogus Virus

Written by: Ryan North
Illustrated by: Ian McGinty
Colors & Letters by: Fred Stresing

This 6-page short does not seem to be set in any particular timeframe, but given the presence of the Good Robot Thems, presumably is during/after Bogus Journey. Essentially, the Robots get an email from the future, from the Evil Robots, and they’re corrupted to be totally bogus, prompting Bill & Ted to take them to the future where technology should exist to fix their pals. While the technology is iffy, a solution is arrived at that fixes the issue and leaves everyone content.

The art for the main story is solid, though a bit cartooney. It’s a stylized thing, and while I wouldn’t like it for a superhero comic or an adaptation of an existing on-screen thing (such as one of the films) as its own thing taking the characters and telling a new story it works very well and several times actually made me smile just taking in the (exaggerated) looks on faces, etc. I like it as the characters are recognizable and I can follow what’s going on…but it’s not at all trying to capture the actors’ likenesses. This is a comic book, a fictional story about fictional characters, and it doesn’t try to be anything else and just revels in the simple fun-ness of the property.

The art on the backup is even more cartooney/stylized, and something about it just doesn’t work nearly as well for me. It’s not bad in itself, but it’s sorta unexpected and the layouts are rather crowded and after reading the main story (perhaps specifically for following and being in the same issue with it) I don’t care for the look. It’s good art, just not as appealing for me personally.

That said, McGinty‘s style puts me very much in mind of a webcomic, and if this were a Bill & Ted webcomic I’d probably be very happy with it. The story works for what it is, fits the characters and all that, and was an enjoyable read.

The main story is a nice blend of nostalgia and new, taking the familiar and moving things forward…and I really like that this isn’t trying to be Bill & Ted Twenty Years Later, but picks up and draws directly on where the movies left off.

The primary drawback to this issue and series is that it’s not an ongoing, so I’m very resistant to buying single issues when I "know" there will be a collected volume and I can have the entire story in one book. I’m also rather frustrated that the "main" story is a mere 16 pages, and the "backup" brings the total of content pages to the "standard" 22. This is a $3.99 book, a price point I’ve long hated, and the main story doesn’t even reach the 20-page mark. At 16 pages/issue that’ll make a six-issue arc a mere 96 pages…which could easily be done in a mere 3 issues that are slightly oversized.

Competing with the $3.99 price point for me is the issue of variant covers–I’m not a huge fan of this standard cover, but I absolutely have no interest in getting one of a number of variants pushed for this one.

As a whole, this is definitely a good issue, and I’m glad I bought it to check things out. I’ll probably wait for a collected volume, though–knowing this is a finite story I just don’t like the notion of paying $3.99 for 16-page chunks of a single story.

Definitely recommended, format depends on your preference for single issues vs. collected edition.

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Ninjak (2015) #1 [Review]

ninjak(2015)001Book 1; The Lost Files

Writer: Matt Kindt
Art: Clay Mann, Seth Mann, Butch Guice
Colors: Ulises Arreola
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover Art: Lewis Larosa, Clay Mann, Brian Reber, Dave Johnson, Marguerite Sauvage, Trevor Hairsine, Tom Muller
Associate Editor: Tom Brennan
Editor: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant Entertainment
Cover Price: $3.99
Cover Date: March 2015

I can honestly say that while looking forward to the debut of this series, I hadn’t really noticed its release was quite so imminent until the morning it was due out. Once I did, I found myself REALLY looking forward to getting it and sitting down to read the thing.

The cover is a bit of a mixed bag. The image is rather cool, showing off the title character and his toughness–both swords drawn, angry face, and arrows sticking out from all over…obviously he’s not some ordinary man that can be stopped with even a hail of arrows and shuriken. I dig the solid coloring to the cover text, company logo, and title…it looks good with the image, complementing it while standing out clearly and avoiding any trouble being made out against its background. However, outside of the UPC box it looks to me more like an ad than actual ads for the issue have! The advertised image that most stood out to me had the standard Valiant trade dress and the title logo at the top. At the size presented on this cover there’s no real reason I see to not have it at the top. If it were significantly larger it’d make sense to move it down to avoid covering most of Ninjak’s head/face. So while I applaud the image and the cover text coloring/use individually, it looks like a draft rather than a final piece.

For the $3.99 cover price we’re given a 22-page main story as well as an 8-page backup. This was a real treat to get the extra content withOUT losing pages from the main story…and certainly adds content value to the issue. There’s also a several-page “preview” of Bloodshot Reborn that–with the backup–makes this a fairly thick issue that physically feels a lot more worthwhile than most $3.99 comics.

The main story flips back and forth between Ninjak present-day and his past, allowing for some nice compare/contrast and insight into who he is now and where he comes from. It’s rather cinematic, which I both appreciate and enjoy here. I’m not particularly invested in the character as yet, only knowing him from a couple issues I’ve read of the ’90s incarnation and his appearances in other contemporary Valiant titles the last couple years. As such, I’m interested in learning more about Ninjak and the man behind the costume…which is something we get plenty of here. We see him on his own, in his element as he takes on a particular mission…and we see glimpses of his past which lets us see more depth of character than we could reasonably get seeing only the present. The split nature of showing present and past allows us this new story with the character, an “in” to his past, while avoiding our being forced as readers to endure simply a solo adventure or simply some prequel-esque/Year One type story.

Buried within the story itself is a little gem that made me grin and think to myself “of COURSE! That is GREAT!” In the back of my head, I’ve always wondered at the name Ninjak. Where’d it come from, why would this secret agent/spy/ninja call himself that? (Other than the fact that it’s definitely a product of the early 1990s). Being paid from a “black slush fund,” several previous ninjas were labeled A through J…Colin is the 11th: Ninja-K.

The backup IS fully set in the past, providing an uninterrupted narrative of one of Colin’s first missions. While I’d likely balk if the main story were shorter to allow for the backup, as (functionally) bonus content it’s a welcome addition, allowing even further insight into where Ninjak’s come from.

I definitely prefer Mann‘s art in the main story to Guice‘s art on the backup. Guice‘s art is gritty, moody, and works very well in what it does, and definitely fits its story. Mann‘s work is a bit cleaner and has the benefit of consistency with recent-past appearances of Ninjak. The coloring of both stories also has an impact with the main story being a lot brighter and thus fitting more into the superhero mold while the backup is darker and more fitting as a spy story.

Whether you’ve followed this incarnation of Ninjak from X-O Manowar #4 back in 2012 or simply remember the character from the ’90s (or just want a ninja-“superhero” adventure) this is a great first issue. You’re introduced to the character–where he is now as well as where he’s come from.  We see some extension to the cast around him with hints on where this’ll go. We’re set up for the story that’s unfolding while getting a decent chunk of it here…by no means a full story, but enough to work with and get a feel for things. If you’re starting here, it works as-is…and if you’re familiar with the current Valiant universe and continuity there’s added depth to be found..

Valiant takes a character that’s been around most of its history and for the past several years in its current run, and truly rewards us with an excellent first issue…from Kindt‘s writing, Mann and Guice‘s art, and the entire creative team. It’s just that cover that bugs me, from the design standpoint. Highly recommended!


xomanowar005

  ninjak001advertisedcover

X-O Manowar (2012) #5 – the first appearance of Ninjak in contemporary Valiant comics.

Ninjak #1 cover ad and what I’d expected of the standard cover.

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