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Red One #1 [Review]

redone001Welcome to America, Part 1

Script: Xavier Dorison
Pencils & Colors: Terry Dodson
Inks: Rachel Dodson
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Published by: Image Comics
Cover Date: March 2015
Cover Price: $2.99

I had an itch last week to try something new. I saw several #1s and have noticed others in recent weeks, so figured what the hey, I can try SOMETHING new. And after seeing a bunch of variant covers for Chrononauts, I opted for something withOUT a ton of variants so went with Red One. I actually didn’t pay attention to the price–I’m so used to $3.99 that I figured as an Image comic this would at least be $3.50 (since Image books seem much more reasonable about their price creep). Noticing this is a $2.99 book is a huge mark in the “positives” for it.

The issue opens on a film premiere…a film of the “adult” variety. The primary actress is on-site, though the premiere has been picketed and she’s essentially chased off by the crowd seeking to turn her from her ways. Leaving, her car is attacked by a figure from an overpass and the car crashes…and she’s left to burn. Later in Moscow, a female agent is recruited to go to the US. She will become a “super-hero” to rival The Carpenter (the vigilante that caused the death of the adult film star). She’s provided a cover identity and equipment and a starting job to get situated in the US…though she has other “talents” that help. Once she meets with her contact and gets a costume she’s pretty much ready to go…though the costume isn’t the exact fit that was intended.

While the cover was a bit offputting–I’m not really into comics going for blatant sex appeal–the back cover’s question “What happens when America’s greatest superhero is a Russian spy?” sold me. I was curious.

On reading the issue, the story and art work very well together providing a pretty dense experience–plenty of dialogue, and the layouts are primarily small panels–many pages carrying at least 6-7 panels, some with 10. As I read primarily for story but appreciate art when it works well…this was a real treat. I’m not exactly a fan of the Dodsons, though I’m familiar with them from past stuff I’ve read–but I do like the look of this book. There’s no prior history of any characters for me to compare their work/interpretation to, so it just IS.

And the story’s concept is a good one…as said, it was the elevator pitch posed on the back cover that did “sell” me on checking this out. I don’t know that I’d ever heard of Dorison…which left the concept to be that much more impressive as I was taking a shot on (to me) an unknown.

I like that even though this could have gone for gratuitous visuals it still leaves plenty to the imagination…which allows the story to be itself as a story and draw one in. That the issue takes longer to read for so much packed onto each page is a welcome change-up from full and double-page splashes and multiple pages of blown-up visuals with little text to slow one from flying through the pages simply soaking in the images. This issues is far more worthy than most $3.99 books of the price point and yet it’s only $2.99.

I by far prefer collected volumes for most of my comics these days, and Image doing so many vol. 1s for only $9.99 provides a great entry point to the format…even a $14.99 “regular” volume with 5-6 issues makes for a darned good price (especially compared to the more expensive volumes from certain other publishers. Given that, I don’t know if I’ll stick with this for the long haul as single issues…but it’s certainly got my interest with this issue such that I’ll be very likely to pick up the first collected volume in a few months and go from there.

Rise of the Magi #s 0 & 1 [Review]

riseofthemagi001Writer: Marc Silvestri
Artists: Sumeyye Kesgin & Marc Silvestri
Colorist: Betsy Gonia (#0 – Jasen Smith)
Letterer: Troy Peteri
Editor: Betsy Gonia
Art Assists: Bridget Silvestri
Cover: Marc Silvestri & Betsy Gonia (#0 – Silvestri & Andy Troy
Published by: Image/Top Cow
Cover Price: $3.50 (#0 – Free)

Rise of the Magi is one of the Free Comic Book Day comics that seemed to jump out more than most…though at present whether that was internet “hype” or the logo and cover of the issue itself catching me, I’m not sure. I hadn’t gotten around to reading that issue, but saw the first issue of the series itself out this past week, so decided to give it a chance. (While not the $2.99 that anymore is a quick-sell for me, the 0-issue having been free and this first issue being $3.50 at least kept it under the frustrating $3.99 price point).

riseofthemagi000The 0-issue’s cover was a bit deceptive…I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it led me to believe the main character was going to have some sort of agenda against witches (and warlocks?) or otherwise be opposed to magic/etc. in general. However, the issue begins with a page of mostly text setting up the situation–all magic is contained in a small orb, and doing something to the orb would affect the entire universe. A boy whose brother is part of some sort of guard unit protecting the orb stumbles across a situation threatening the orb, leading into the #1 issue.

In Rise of the Magi #1, we get some further context of the magic orb, the Spellguard, and what’s going on that threatens the orb. As the threatening scenario plays out, the boy is drawn tightly into the situation, and ultimately thrust into a world he’s going to have to learn to operate in as the series moves forward.

Visually, I was more impressed with the first issue–brief as it was. The second issue had a bit of a jarring visual shift, though at least it came with a “chapter break” in the story rather than just shifting with no apparent rhyme or reason. Given this is not an “established property,” I have no visuals to compare it to–simply the archetypal fantasy setting given the primarily-fantasy setting of the story. That lack of comparison leaves the art to stand on its own, with no preconceived notions on my part with the specific characters. Given I’ve liked Silvestri‘s art in the past on X-Men stuff in particular, I had rather high expectations for this, but found myself a bit disappointed. The art was not bad, it just didn’t live up to whatever my expectations had set.

Story-wise, I found myself rather “iffy” partway into #1, figuring this to be “just another” fantasy thing, but the ending of the issue gave a bit of a twist to that…yet, it’s a twist that also feels like “just another” of its kind. The characters and specifics may be a bit different, but it’s definitely not the first such story I’ve seen/read of its kind, and I’m not entirely sure what to make of it.

I can’t say I’m exactly “impressed,” but to again use the passive: it’s not bad. If you like Silvestri or any of the other creators involved, it’s definitely worth taking a look. All in all, I think it’s safe to say that if I happen to notice the next issue I’ll pick it up, giving the series another issue to really hook me, but it doesn’t yet have me enough to want to put it on my pull list.

Lazarus vol. 1 TPB [Review]

lazarustpb001Family

Written by: Greg Rucka
Art and Letters by: Michael Lark with Stefano Gaudiano and Brian Level
Colors by: Santi Arcas
Cover by: Michael Lark
Publication design by: Michael Lark and Eric Trautmann
Edited by: David Brothers
Reprints: Lazarus #s 1-4
Published by: Image
Cover Price: $9.99

This is another volume that I was ‘sold’ on by virtue of it being $9.99 and thus the chance to try a new series on the cheap (functionally $2.50/issue rather than $3+).

Lazarus is a story set in the future, a world wherein Families run things, and a sort of caste system: core Family at the top, a serving class, and “waste” at the bottom. The term Lazarus applies to a Family’s “champion,” someone who seems genetically engineered to be the epitome of that Family and a sort of enforcer or military type function defending the Family’s interest. This first volume introduces us to the Carlyle Family and their Lazarus, Forever Carlyle. As the Family deals with a recent attack by a rival Family, Forever is sent in to make peace, though some in the Family don’t want peace and so lash out, with rather painful results.

Only four issues in, I can’t say that I feel all that vested in the story…while I’ll admit to curiosity at where things will go, it hasn’t particularly hooked me to where I’ll eagerly seek out single issues or the next volume. It’s an interesting concept, though, with the family intrigue; secrets and betrayals; sort of a futuristic Game of Thrones type thing. 

The art doesn’t exactly do much for me…though that’s not a bad thing here. I had no problem following the story, and even the almost too-frequent “silent panels” seemed to get things across quite well. I did definitely appreciate the lack of full/double page splashes as those tend to really chew up pagecounts pointlessly.

I suppose Rucka‘s name on this would actually be another “selling point” for me, and while this volume’s failed to really hook me, Rucka‘s name and the curiosity I do have means I’ll probably snag the next volume once I notice it’s out, to see if a few more issues’ worth of content do what these didn’t.

All in all, though…not bad for a $10 volume, and it definitely does far more toward getting me to be willing to continue with the series than just a single issue or two would have done.

Velvet #1 [Review]

velvet001Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Steve Epting
Colors: Elizabeth Breitweiser
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Published by: Image
Cover Price: $3.50

I’m not sure what caught my eye about this–perhaps the Brubaker/Epting combo, maybe some ad, maybe just something when I was on the Comixology site recently…but this was in my Comixology pull-list that gets emailed Tuesday nights, and since I often check my stack against that, I was able to snag a copy. I don’t usually buy Image #1s as I tend to wait for the collected volumes, but given this was only $3.50 (beats the $3.99 Marvel standard), I got and read it.

We’re introduced to a group of black op spies. When one is killed, it kicks off a bit of a chain reaction as we follow a character that in most other stories would be minor, and learn that she–Velvet–is actually a Pretty Big Deal. She looks into the death herself, and quickly finds herself caught up in a bigger mess than expected, that kickstarts the foremost conflict of this first arc, if not the series in general.

Visually, this is quite good. I had a good ‘taste’ of Epting‘s work during the Captain America run a few years back, and this has a similar look. In and of itself it works well with the story, and as a new property like this, it DEFINES the characters and story. No complaints here.

Story-wise, I enjoyed this issue. It does what I feel a first issue should, introducing the world, the protagonist(s), the conflict(s), gives us some “in” on the characters, and leaves the reader interested in the story and where things will go from here. As with the art, no complaints from me.

As an issue, this is one where it’s the creative team rather than the title or concept that “sold” me. I wouldn’t particularly care for arbitrarily trying some new series about a “female spy” or any “spy story” for that matter, in and of itself. But on strength of their Captain America run, I’m interested in “anything” by Brubaker and Epting (particularly having been reminded OF their Captain America run).

Knowing most such series read better in collected volume, I can’t help but liken this single issue to the pilot of a tv show; yet as a pilot, I’m interested, and will probably check out the next issue. Given Image using the $9.99 first-arc TPB trick, for the price of the singles, I can probably expect to be able to buy the first two issues, opt for the collected volume, and still not exceed the individual issues’ cost…which is also a ‘selling point’ for me.

Definitely a recommended read if you’re looking for a quality spy thriller/adventure by Brubaker and Epting, particularly with an absolute lack of “superheroes.”

East of West vol. 1 [Review]

eastofwestvol1Volume One

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Nick Dragotta
Colors: Frank Martin
Letters: Rus Wooton
Published by: Image
Cover Price: $9.99
Collects: East of West #s 1-5

I’m not a fan of Hickman…I’ve been more turned-off by his work than I’ve been impressed. I didn’t enjoy his Shield (I never even managed to finish the first issue); couldn’t get into his Fantastic Four, was actively turned off by his Avengers. So by rights I should have left this volume on the shelf. But, it’s a healthy-sized 5-issue volume…and only $9.99 cover price. Which is the “sweet spot” for me…especially as that’s a bargain whether the single issues were $2.99 or $3.99 originally…and just as I’ll check out pretty much anything at $1/under, I have little problem trying the first volume of a series for $10 or so.

I noticed the chapter-heading pages pretty quickly, which I’d also noticed in Infinity #1, so that was a stylistic thing for me immediately. Not quite the sort of thing I enjoy with Quantum and Woody, but this being its own thing, I found it a little more fitting than I did IN Infinity. Otherwise, visually, this had a different feel than I’m used to and I could almost see this being all silhouettes for the characters. The color palette is definitely not what I’m used to, but for this particular story–not being something I already knew, or involving super-heroes–it works very well and I like it. I also like the quasi-“Western” sense I got from it.

Story-wise, I’ve long since read Gaiman‘s Sandman, which to me has the definitive take on the personification of Death. However, here Death is brought in as one of the Four Horsemen rather than “just” the embodiment of an abstract, so it’s a bit different, and works. Reading this, I wasn’t looking to analyze or dig deep; and it being Hickman I expected to have a sense of high-brow pretentiousness to things; and for this to be totally over my head. What I got was a followable story where Death had fallen in love, married, lost a child and his wife, discovers both to be alive yet and seeks them out. His wife’s less than thrilled at his return, and she has quite a bit of status as a woman who has conquered Death. Meanwhile, the other Horsemen are seeking to reunite with Death in order to usher in the end of the world. I mentioned above getting a sense of a quasi-“Western” from the visuals; the story seems a mix of things, and actually put me somewhat in mind of Stephen King‘s The Gunslinger, which is a credit to East of West.

Given my being able to read this as a larger chunk–5 issues’ worth of story–I rather enjoyed the volume. I couldn’t quite identify the end/beginning of issues because of the chapter breaks’ pages, and I am relatively certain I would have hated this as single issues; but as something I knew nothing about and so had no real expectations for going in, I enjoyed it. (I think this is the first I’ve actually enjoyed Hickman’s work in general.) $14.95–the “regular price” for a volume this size, these days–will be a much more significant investment and “risk” for me for the next volume…but having read the first volume now, my picking up vol. 2 in a few months won’t be out-of-the question as it would have been before.

This is no Sandman or Gunslinger…but for the price, a pretty good volume. I probably wouldn’t specifically seek it out, but for the $9.99, it having been right there and my having the money to spend at the time, it was worthwhile and I’m definitely glad I picked it up. If you’re a fan of Hickman in general, you’ll probably enjoy this; and if you’re a fan of Sandman, the Gunslinger books, or a mix of Western/dystopian future/etc. this might tickle your fancy. And whether you typically enjoy this type of fare or not…I’d say that cover price makes for a solid bargain for just checking it out (Especially compared to most volumes…particularly as this is less than half the price of a 5-issue Marvel premiere edition.

The Rest of the Stack Catch-Up: Miscellaneous (July/Early-August 2012)

The Rest of the Stack logo

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.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted much, so this is part of my “catching up” on the past month and a half or so.

GAMBIT #1

I picked this up because it was a new #1, a new start on a new Gambit series. I loved the original ongoing from ’99-’01 by Nicieza, and figured I’d check in on the character here. The issue itself is pretty good–we see Gambit in full thief mode, having fun with what he does, and while I can’t quite place all of his apparent motivations as being “fitting,” they work here, and I once again can totally “buy” Gambit as a solo act without needing the other X-Men. The art’s solid, though there’s something just a little bit “off” for me. Unfortunately, with other problems I’m having with Marvel lately–particularly the pending Marvel Now renumbering/relaunching of so many books; even if this stays at $2.99, it’s not enough and too late for me to truly care to “invest” in a long-form limited series right now. I’ll catch up in collected volumes or bargain bins if anything much pans out for this book. (8/10)

X-O MANOWAR #3

Normally I’m not a fan of decompression, especially lately…certainly not in a $3.99 book. But I’m loving this new X-O Manowar series. The story’s still seeming very familiar, keeping the basics of the character (as I recall ’em, anyway) pretty close to the classic version, just updated quite a bit to present-day comic sensibilities. The art’s a bit rough, but somehow fits the tone of the comic and the character in a way that works. I’m not all that familiar with characters’ individual names and such yet, but the issue works well for me just enjoying the story in and of itself. (7.5/10)

WALKING DEAD #101

Perhaps I’m over-simplifying a bit, but this (like its predecessor, the over-hyped #100) is a strong “next chapter” of the ongoing Walking Dead story. The art’s solid as always, maintaining the usual consistency–it looks and feels like an issue of The Walking Dead. The story moves forward, as the various characters react to what happened last issue, and begin to figure out what to do next. And of course, “to be continued.” I don’t know how much longer I’m going to stay on the “singles” bandwagon this time–I’m trying to tell myself to go back to the trades after this arc…but we’ll see. (7/10)

ANTI #1

I was surprised when the LCS owner mentioned this title to me when I recently revised my pull-list, as I had completely forgotten about it. I mean…it didn’t even ring any bells at all. So when I got it, I realized where it had come from: I must’ve requested it based on the Free Comic Day issue back in May. And for $1, figured I’d give it a shot. The art’s not bad, though it has that certain luminescent effect, a lightness even to the dark images, that so often makes me think “adaptation of something from TV” or some such, and the story (while it pulled me through the issue) is ultimately kinda forgettable, and I kept thinking as I read how this really seemed like something intended more for TV but relegated to comic book form. It’s also kinda telling that the selling point (which is what caught ME) is that it’s got Gale Anne Hurd‘s involvement, somehow…and that none of the actual creators who worked on story or art are even listed on the cover. I haven’t 100% decided either way on this title…I’ll probably give it another issue or two to really wow me, but at the moment I don’t see staying with this long. (6/10)

The Walking Dead #100 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

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