Posts Tagged ‘Image Comics’

Maybe I’m just a crusty old-timer who yearns for days gone by, but goddamnit — I miss having comics on the store shelves that were sick and wrong.

Oh, sure, plenty of series have moments here and there designed to shock — Saga is certainly famous for it, although such instances been fewer and farther between lately — but books with a genuinely twisted and perverted core premise are in painfully short supply, and have been for some time. Thank goodness (or, more likely, its polar opposite) then for a couple of upstanding gentlemen I admit to never having heard of before named Doug Wagner and Daniel Hillyard.

Granted, the first issue of their new Image Comics five-parter, Plastic (which comes our way under the auspices of the suddenly-surging 12-Gauge Comics studio/imprint) isn’t going to make you suddenly forget all about the work of gleeful reprobates like S. Clay Wilson or Mike Diana, but it’s more than enough to make the morally and ethically average reader feel more than just bit queasy, and that’s something to be grateful for. Consider, if you will, this scenario and let me know if it ticks enough boxes off your “dude, that ain’t right” checklist : former “black ops” agent turned serial killer Edwyn Stoffgruppen has finally met his perfect partner, Virginia. She calms his homicidal urges with her non-stop sex drive, and the two of them seem to be having the time of their lives travelling the backroads of America in his old Ford LTD. Heck, they’re getting along so swimmingly that they’re even planning a trip to Rome together. But when a run-in with some local hooligans leads, by a fairly straight-forward series of interpersonal connections, to Virginia being kidnapped by a Louisiana multi-millionaire, our guy Ed’s put in a sticky situation : either kill some of the rich asshole’s enemies for him, or his old lady gets a bullet in the head.

Okay, put that way things sound more than a little bog-standard, but there’s one tiny detail I forgot to mention : Virginia is a plastic sex doll.

If you take a look at the preview pages included with this review, they suddenly take on a whole new meaning with that in mind, don’t they? And what appears to be rather banal dialogue? Well, it’s really anything but. Wagner’s script rather masterfully portrays Edwyn as precisely what he is, namely a hopelessly sick fuck, but you also sort of want the best for him and his “lady” friend, not so much because “either” of “them” are sympathetic figures in any way, but simply because the alternative to him living happily ever after with a rubber fuck-toy is probably so much worse. One way or another, then, “good” outcome or “bad,” things are probably gonna get even weirder and bloodier before this whole thing is over.

Hillyard’s art is almost disconcertingly innocent in its appearance, with a definite and pronounced animation influence, which is what makes it so perfect for this kind of depraved material. When one of Virginia’s kidnappers starts licking “her” arm, for instance — damn, you wanna feel physically ill. And given that veteran colorist Laura Martin primarily hews to a bright and vibrant palette (again underscoring the animation cel look), the downright garish contrast between what’s depicted and the way it’s depicted borders on the dizzying. I can see a strong argument being made for the idea this book’s art really doesn’t “match up well” with its story, sure, but I think a conservative viewpoint like that rather misses the point entirely, in my own hopefully-humble opinion. And while Andrew Robinson’s memorable cover should be more than enough to clue the average store browser in to exactly what they’re getting with this one, anyone who bails on this series after this opening shot across the bow isn’t someone I can necessarily begrudge for their sensibilities — this is, after all, a book that probably will (hell, probably should) only appeal to the tiniest and most (ahem!) specialized of audiences.

The fact that I’m part of said audience may be a cause of concern to my therapist, I suppose (that is, if I had one), but come on — you and I both know I could give a flying fuck about that. Recently a rather pompous-seeming individual opined that he detests me (not my reviews, mind you, but me, personally) “with the fiery heat of a thousand suns” due to what he perceives to be my apparently-obvious intellectual shortcomings as evidenced by my comic reviews in particular, and I would imagine that my whole-hearted endorsement of a series as amoral (at best) as this one will sink my already-low stature in the eyes of these self-appointed “honor brigade”-types even more, but there are plenty of self-serious, sanctimonious titles out there explicitly designed to appeal to the sort of folks who think that stories featuring super-heroes with PTSD or asking themselves “do I have the right to kill villains X,Y, and Z” passes for “deep.” Well, they can keep all that shit — truth be told Marvel, in particular, hasn’t been able to do angst properly since Steve Ditko walked away from Peter Parker/Spider-Man. My own interest in moral heavy-handedness is at an all-time low, and if you’re as sick of it as I am, then chances are you’ll agree that Plastic is the perfect antidote to all this wretched, over-wrought earnestness.

Will you feel appropriately guilty about enjoying this comic? Oh, I should think so — hell, I dearly hope so. But who are we kidding? That’s half the fun, too, isn’t it?

 

cursewords_01-1

Oh, yeah — it’s party time!

Charles Soule and Ryan Browne’s new Image Comics (ongoing, I presume) series Curse Words has looked like all kinds of batshit-crazy fun since it was first solicited some months ago, and now that the extra-sized first issue is here, I’m pleased to say the preview pages that have been non-Wiki leaking out didn’t lie : this is a high-energy, full-throttle, goofy-ass, balls-out book that doesn’t care half as much about making sense as it does about just giving its readers a good, old-fashioned good time.

751628ce9bfdb39cd5db09fc191fce48-_sx1280_ql80_ttd_

Not that Soule’s script doesn’t make sense, mind you — in fact, it’re pretty simple, straightforward stuff :an other-dimensional evil wizard named, get this, Wizord finds himself thrust into our world (New York, to be specific), and rather than destroy the place as was his original intent, he decides to hang around, make some money, and live the good life first. But in order to do that, he’s gotta establish himself as a “good guy” before he can pimp out his services as a magician-for-hire. And so, with “funny Koala” sidekick Margaret in tow, it’s time to become the first genuine wizard of the celebrity age.

It all works like a charm until it doesn’t, and if the premise here sounds more than a bit similar to that of Image stablemate Birthright, rest assured that those “happy coincidences” continue right through to the cliffhanger, which sees another practitioner of the so-called “dark arts” rip the sky open and come after Wizord in order to force him to stick to the plan for global destruction — or die. Whichever comes first. But whereas Birthright adds family drama and personal redemption into the sword-n’-sorcery mix, Curse Words spices things up with with subtexts perhaps more appropriate to the Trump age, chiefly : personal greed, lust for power, and moral and ethical decadence. All delivered with the most knowing wink and nod you can possibly imagine, naturally.

16b16a5311a09374a11e9299e85c4546-_sx1280_ql80_ttd_

Browne, fresh off blowing minds with God Hates Astronauts, is all about the dynamism with his visuals here, as well, and if there’s an artist better-suited to the sort of “leave it all on the page” craziness the subject matter here lends itself (with considerable interest) to, I’d be hard-pressed to name them. Inventive panel layouts add a further eye-glueing aspect to the proceedings, as do the vibrant, explosive colors supplied by Browne, Jordan Boyd, and Michael Parkinson (don’t feel too bad — this book has three letterers, as well, Browne himself also being one of them), so all in all you’ve gotta say these are pages that almost dare you not to examine them for several minutes at a time. So why not do yourself a favor and do just that?

 

07_cursewords01

If you need a legit “good guy” to root for in order to enjoy a story, then fair enough — Curse Words doesn’t really have one on offer and you might be better off dropping your $3.99 elsewhere. But if watching reprobate magicians hurling lightning bolts from enchanted spears at each other in the middle of Yankee Stadium sounds like a good time to you — and trust me when I say that it is — then congratulations! You’ve just found the comic you probably didn’t even know that you were waiting for.

darwyn-cooke-tribute-dc-comics-185397

img_5628-600x447

Before we get rolling on our look back at 2016 in the world of comics, let’s take a brief moment to acknowledge the passing of two masters, shall we? Darwyn Cooke and Steve Dillon were  very different artists with very different visions and very different styles, no doubt about that, but both were among the very best at what they did, both entered this undeserving world in 1962, and both exited it, leaving it a decidedly poorer place for their passing, in 2016. Both gentleman turned the medium upside – down with their brilliance and created bodies of work that are more than guaranteed to stand the test of time, so I feel it’s only appropriate, prior to diving into our annual retrospective (which, you’ve officially been warned, will take a minute, so buckle in) to say “thank you” and “we miss you” one more time to this pair of undeniable greats. And now, onto the business at hand —

dc-universe-rebirth-1-cover-1

Wow, it’s been quite a ride, hasn’t it? In a year when both of the “Big Two” decided to hit the “reset” button again, it’s probably fair to say that DC Universe : Rebirth #1 — and the entire Rebirth initiative in general — will go down as the major “event” of 2016, given that it essentially catapulted the publisher from a distant-second-place competitor to Marvel to “Top Dog” in the industry in the space of one month. That doesn’t mean that the comic itself was any good, of course — my feelings on it are well-known and I believe that Geoff Johns and his artistic collaborators Gary FrankEthan Van SciverIvan Reis and Phil Jimenez essentially churned out a stinkbomb here that will ultimately do both the DCU “proper” as well as the so-called “Watchmen Universe” no favors by setting them on a collision course with each other — but at this point, what’s done is done, and in the short run that means we’ve got a two-horse race for the top spot in the Diamond sales charts every month as DC’s decidedly mediocre twice-monthly efforts compete with yet fucking another round of “Marvel Now!” relaunched books that by and large are, in their own way, every bit as uninspired and predictable as their rivals’ four-color “floppies.” Honestly, this has been the most convoluted path back to the status quo that I’ve ever seen, and just goes to show that a bunch of hype is all that’s needed to sell readers on the same old crap. Of the two reboots, Marvel’s is the most promising, given that they’ve made an effort to carve out some space for genuinely interesting and off-beat titles, but you know most of ’em aren’t going to last, as the so-called “House Of Ideas” is putting far more promotional muscle behind crap like this —

00001jpg-19af24_765w

than they are behind intriguing and potentially subversive fare like this :

foolkiller

So, yeah, on the whole, count me as being more or less completely uninspired by both major initiatives by both major publishers. Marvel’s in the awkward position (although it’s one they’re well used to after last year’s Secret Wars) of rolling out a raft of new books hot on the tail of a major crossover that hasn’t even ended yet, given that Civil War II was beset by the usual delays we’ve come to expect from these things, but I do give ’em credit for having about a half-dozen or so pretty good books stemming from “Marvel Now!” 2016 — and that’s roughly four more than post-Rebirth DC is giving us. For all that, though, once you move outside the Rebirth realm, DC is actually putting out a fair number of quite good books, which brings us to our main order of business here —

Ryan C.’s Top 10 Comics Series Of 2016

Same rules as always apply : these can be either “limited” or “ongoing” series — as long as they came out within the past 12 months in single-issue format (our preferred consumption method around these parts), we don’t discriminate. But it’s not a “real” Top 10 list without at least a couple of “honorable mentions,” though, is it? So let’s look at those first —

Honorable Mention #1 : American Monster (Aftershock)

stk694871

Brian Azzarello — whose name will be coming up again later for decidedly less complimentary reasons — is proving he’s “still got it” and then some with this decidedly sleazy, amoral small-town crime series that features a cast of pedophiles, gun-runners, neo-Nazis, corrupt preachers, and other fine, upstanding citizens. And Juan Doe‘s animation-cel inspired art is absolutely killer. Unfortunately, this book has seen so many publication delays that we only got three issues all year. If it was coming out on anything like an even remotely consistent basis, this would not only be “Top 10” material all the way, it might be “Top 2 Or 3.” I love this comic. Now feed me more of it.

Honorable Mention #2 : Power Man And Iron Fist (Marvel)

5100021-02

David F. Walker is The Man. You could ask for no more perfect writer to chronicle the exploits of Luke Cage and Danny Rand. And Sanford Greene and frequent fill-in Flaviano Armentaro are doing a nice job on the art. Unfortunately, this title got sidetracked for no less than four months into the creative black hole that is Civil War II, and while these issues weren’t bad for tie-in nonsense, they were still — well, tie-in nonsense. Now that we’ve got the real story rolling again, all is right with the world, and you can blame this one narrowly missing out on the Top 10 squarely and solely on Marvel editorial, who steered the ship into “event” territory before it even had a chance to properly get its feet off the ground. It was a real momentum-killing decision, and I sincerely hope it won’t prove to be a fatal one, as well — but it may turn out to be just that given that sales on this series have been tanking in recent months. So much for the notion that cross-over “events” boost interest in a book.

Honorable Mention #3 : Love And Rockets (Fantagraphics)

lr4-1

I’m not too proud to admit it — seeing the first issue of this new series from Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez on the shelves of my LCS, and back in its original magazine format at that, was enough to make me tear up just a little bit for a second. It was hardly an issue for the ages or anything, but everything about this just feels right. I love it when life comes full-circle, I love Los Bros., I love their characters, and I love this world. It’s a shoe-in for the Top 10 next year, but one issue is simply too small a sample size for me too include it in good conscience this time out. Not that I wasn’t tempted.

Honorable Mention #4 : The Fix (Image)

thefix_01-1

Nobody does fuck-up criminal low-lifes like Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber, and in the pages of this book they up the ante by making their fuck-up criminal low-lifes cops, to boot. This comic is all kinds of perverse and depraved fun, and I’d dearly love to have found a spot for it in the Top 10, but there simply wasn’t room for more than — well, shit, ten titles. Nevertheless, it’s a series you absolutely should be pulling.

And now onto the main event —

10. Doom Patrol (DC’s Young Animal)

doom-patrol-1-4-600x923

The flagship title of Gerard Way‘s new “art comics” imprint, this book is proving a mere three issues in that it’s gonna push these characters in directions even Grant Morrison never dreamed of. Way and artist Nick Derington are doing the genuinely unthinkable here — producing a well and truly experimental comic with the full blessing of one of the “Big Two” publishers. All may not be lost, after all.

9. Deadly Class (Image)

deadlyclass_24-1

Rick Remender and Wes Craig gave us the “Holy Shit!” moment of the year in comics when they actually fucking killed their protagonist (doubly shocking when you consider he was an obvious stand-in for a youthful Remender himself) twenty-some issues in, but the new crop of students at King’s Dominion Atelier For The Deadly Arts is decidedly less interesting than was the last, hence the drop for this series from its loftier perch last year.

8. Southern Bastards (Image)

southernbastards_14-1

Jasons Aaron and Latour just don’t let up. This deep-friend southern noir is loaded with so much gallows humor, spot-on characterization, and low-rent evil that not even a spotty publication schedule and a lackluster fill-in issue could keep it outta the Top 10. A legend in the making, even if it ends up taking a decade for it all to get made.

7. Jacked (Vertigo)

5112699-05

As near as I can determine, nobody other than myself actually read Eric Kripke and John Higgins’ superb six-part tale of pharmaceutically-charged super-hero revisionism, and that’s a damn shame as it’s one of the single finest and most honest portrayals of mid-life crisis that this beleaguered medium has ever produced, and the art is simply sensational. Do yourself a favor and grab it in trade — you won’t be disappointed, and you won’t hate yourself for that beer gut and receding hairline anymore, either.

6. The Vision (Marvel)

5493191-vision2015012_dc11_lr-0

Enough ink — both physical and digital — has been spilled in praise of Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta‘s admittedly Philip K. Dick-inspired techno-Shakespearean tragedy that adding to it just feels like piling on against the rest of the industry at this point. Suffice to say all the superlatives you’ve heard are true and then some and yeah, this one has “destined to be talked about for years to come” written all over it.

5. Hip Hop Family Tree (Fantagraphics)

hhftm12

Ed Piskor put the wraps on the 12-part single-issue reprintings of his cultural history milestone earlier this year, and while I’ll certainly continue to collect and enjoy his oversized hardcover volumes, there was just something about having these previously-told stories presented on cheap, pre-yellowed newsprint that was beyond awesome. And the last issue even came packaged with an old-school floppy record — that was actually a code for a free digital download, but whatever. This book was more satisfying than a 40 of Olde English on a hot summer day.

4. Glitterbomb (Image)

glitterbomb02-digital-1

Jim Zub and deliriously-talented newcomer Djibril Morissette-Pham came out of nowhere with this series about Lovecraftian horror intersecting with the seedier side of post-fame Tinseltown (with bloody results) and just blew me the fuck away. The surprise hit of the year for this armchair critic and a book I can’t stop thinking or talking about. The first trade should be out soon enough and collects the self-contained story presented in issues 1-4,  and they’re coming back in late 2017 with a new arc that — man, I just don’t even know where they go from here. But I’m dying to find out.

3. The Flintstones (DC)

f9fda79d8b775ed517f294cddb23a4c3_xl

Believe it. Mark Russell and Steve Pugh are putting out the most socially- and politically-relevant comic on the stands, and the satire in this book is by turns hilarious and heartwarming. A truly “mature” take on characters we thought we already knew everything there was to know about, and consistently one of the smartest books you’ll have the pleasure of reading. I don’t know that I have words to adequately describe how unexpectedly awesome this series is — when I said that DC was actually putting out some damn good stuff outside its main Rebirth line, this is exactly what I was talking about. If you’d have told me a year ago that one of the books I was going to be most eagerly looking forward to month-in and month-out was going to be The Flintstones, I would have thought you’d lost it. In fact, I probably would have said that Donald effing Trump had a better chance of being elected president. And yet, here we are — ain’t life crazy? And shitty? But at least we have this comic, and as antidotes to a new age of right-wing anti-intellectual barbarism go, you won’t find much better.

2. The Sheriff Of Babylon (Vertigo)

stl020299

The Vision may have gotten all the attention, but Tom King‘s best series of 2016 — by a wide margin, in my view — was this Iraq-set murder mystery drawn heavily from his own experiences as a CIA case officer during that bloody boondoggle of a war. Every aspect of this comic is almost painfully authentic, and Mitch Gerads rounds the package out with artwork so gritty you can feel the sand underneath your fingertips. This. Shit. Was. Amazing. Or maybe that should be “is” amazing, since — well, more on that in a minute.

1. Providence (Avatar)

providence10-portait

I’m out of superlatives, honestly. I review each issue of this series as it comes out, and my mind is blown more completely every time. I said last year that Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows were potentially creating the comic of the young century with this volume of their “Lovecraft Cycle,” and with one installment left to go in this 12-parter, I think it’s safe to say we can take the “potentially” qualifier out of that statement :  Providence is, in fact, the best comic of the century so far.

Wait, though! We’re far from done —

On the graphic novel front, it’s gotta be said that 2016 was a banner year, as well, in many respects — but I’m always a bit perplexed on how best to assemble a “best-of” list when it comes to the GN format because it only seems fair to subdivide it down into wholly original works, trade collections, old-school vintage reprints, etc. Throw in the fact that may “original” graphic novels got their start as serialized installments on the web, and things get even dicier. What really constitutes “new” work anymore? Still, there is definitely plenty outside the realm of the single-issue “floppy” that deserves a mention, and so —

Original Graphic Novel Of The Year : Patience By Daniel Clowes (Fantagraphics)

71zvxdb61wl

Five years in the making, and it shows in every panel on every page. Clowes outdoes himself with each new project, it seems, and this is jewel in his creative crown — until the next one, at any rate. Love, obsession, longing, time travel, regret, loneliness, desolation — even optimism? This work encompasses all of it and then some; a monumental achievement of staggering proportions.

Best Collected Edition Of Recent Work : American Blood By Benjamin Marra (Fantagraphics)

american-blood-cover

Anyone who’s read Terror Assaulter : O.M.W.O.T. knows that Ben Marra exists on a planet of his own, and this collection of the self-published works issued under his awesomely-named Traditional Comics imprint runs the stylistic gamut from insanely exaggerated pseudo-“realism” to Gary Panter-esque primitive id-channeling. WaPo columnist Maureen Dowd as a sexy super-spy? Bloodthirsty barbarians from distant worlds? Gang-bangers who do nothing but fuck and kill? Freed slaves who can tear white men apart with their bare hands? It’s all here, in suitably gaudy purple-and-white.

Best Collected Edition Of Vintage WorkMarvel Masterworks : The Black Panther, Volume 2 By Jack Kirby (Marvel)

mm_bp02_4a

In recent years, the awesome body of work produced by The King Of Comics during his second, late-’70s stint at Marvel has finally been given its due as the visionary output it so clearly was, but while books like Machine ManThe EternalsDevil Dinosaur and “Madbomb!”-era Captain America have now taken their rightful place among the rich pantheon of Kirby masterworks, Jack’s Black Panther run from that same period still doesn’t get anything like the love it deserves. Hopefully this handsome hardbound collection will finally start to clue readers in to what a magical and imaginative Wakanda Kirby created in this high-flying techno-fantasy epic.

It wasn’t all good news, though, and since we’re on the subject of T’Challa, we might as well segue into some of 2016’s lowlights —

Most Disappointing Series Of The Year #1 : Black Panther (Marvel)

413898-_sx1280_ql80_ttd_

There’s no doubt that Ta-Nehisi Coates is a literary and journalistic genius, and his voice in this ugly new Trump-ian era is more necessary and urgent than ever. Unfortunately, he can’t write a comic to save his life, and his dour, humorless, self-absorbed, navel-gazing take on The Panther reads like a relic of the worst sort of over-wrought 1990s excesses. This is a genuinely lousy title, and it doesn’t help that neither of its usually-reliable artists, Brian Stelfreeze and Chris Sprouse, are delivering anything like their best work.

Most Disappointing Series Of The Year #2 : Batman (DC)

bm_aspen_turner1

Tom King giveth, and Tom King taketh away. We’ve already covered the great stuff he’s given readers in 2016, but he’s also taken one of the most consistently-good super-hero books and turned it into a massive fucking train wreck. Lots of people were jazzed when he was announced as Scott Snyder‘s replacement on the “main” Bat-book, but King has struggled to find a “voice” for Bruce Wayne either in or out of the cape and cowl, his two major storylines to date have featured ridiculous plots, and 13 issues in all we can really say is that he writes a pretty good Alfred. The illustration by David Finch on the first five-issue story arc was atrocious, and the only thing that saved this title from being dropped from my pull for the first time ever was when the magnificent Mikel Janin took over art chores with the second arc and delivered work of absolutely breathtaking scope and grandeur. Still, at this point, I have to say — when he goes, I go. And I think he’s gone after next issue. And yet, horseshit as this book has been, it’s nothing compared with our —

Worst Comic Of The Year : Dark Knight III : The Master Race (DC)

dark_knight_iii_the_master_race_vol_1_3_lee_variant

Unmitigated garbage that plumbs new depths of hopelessness with every issue, Brian AzzarelloAndy Kubert and Klaus Janson (with nominal involvement from Frank Miller) are doing something here no one thought possible : making fans yearn for the days of The Dark Knight Strikes Again!  (which, admittedly, I’ve always liked, but no one else does). Also, they seem to be doing their level best to match that title’s glacial publication schedule. At this rate, we’re gonna wait three years to complete a story that’s been a total waste of time from the outset. This series is honestly starting to rival Before Watchmen  in the “artistically-bankrupt blatant cash-grab” category. I expected nothing from it, true — and yet somehow we’re getting even less than that.

I’m going to close on something of a high note for DC, though, if you can believe it, because they also get the award for —

Best Development Of 2016 DC’s Young Animal

1smallya1

I’m still not sure what the hell a “pop-up imprint” is, but Gerard Way has one he can call his very own, and so far all four series released under this label’s auspices — Doom Patrol (as previously discussed), Shade, The Changing GirlCave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye and Mother Panic — have been not just good, but great. While at first DCYA sounded like little more than a stylistic heir to vintage-era Veritgo to my mind, in fact its aims seem to be much different, while admittedly utilizing a number of characters and concepts from that fan-favorite period. This is an imprint where anything both goes and can happen, and we’ve sorely needed that for waaaaayyy too long. In short, this is the most exciting thing either of the “Big Two” have done in — shit, as long as I can remember. Long may it continue.

So — What About The Year To Come?

By the sound of it there’s plenty to be excited about, from Warren Ellis spearheading the re-launch of WildStorm to the debuts of much-publicized new series from Image such as God Country and The Few, but my most-anticipated events of 2017 (at least as far we know now) would have to be —

prov_12_portrait_color_large

March 31st (seriously, guys?) is slated as the provisional release date for Providence #12, and to say that I can’t wait to find out how it all ends would be an understatement of criminal proportions. It would also be an equally-proportionate understatement to say that I’ll simply “miss” this series when it’s over. So, ya know, maybe take your time with that last issue, after all.

sheriff_s2_promo_colors3

The so-called second “season” of The Sheriff Of Babylon is due to hit sometime in the latter part of the year and, simple as the “teaser” image shown above was, it was still enough to get me excited. And finally —

441521-_sx1280_ql80_ttd_

January sees the release of the first installment of Kamandi Challenge, a “round-robin” 12-part series from DC starring The Last Boy On Earth that features a different creative team on each issue trying to solve the cliffhangers left by the folks the month before, as well setting up new messes for the next bunch to get themselves out of. This is the first of what I hope to be many releases commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jack Kirby that we can look forward to over the next 12 months — in fact, DC has just also announced an omnibus hardcover reprinting of Kirby’s entire original Kamandi run, so let’s hope that 2017 really will be a vintage year for fans of The King.

Whew! Okay! We’re done for the year! Enjoy your holidays — or what remains of them — and we’ll see you back here in January, when we get to start the whole thing all over again!

 

violentlove_01-1

From Bonnie And Clyde to Natural Born Killers, star-crossed lovers on the run from the law and racing head-first to a date with death have been a popular box-office draw for decades, and if you’re willing to tinker with the formula just a bit it’s not too great a leap to see how drive-in classics like Bonnie’s Kids and Black Mama, White Mama are cut from very much the same cloth. With the popularity of the exploitation ethos at an all-time high in the pages of indie comics thanks to series like Alex Di Campi’s Grindhouse and Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro’s Bitch Planet, then, it was probably only a matter of time before we got our own funnybook stand-ins for Mickey and Mallory, and now that writer Frank J. Babiere and artist Victor Santos’ new Image five-parter, Violent Love, is on LCS shelves, my only question is — what the hell took so long?

violentlove01_3

These two have teamed up before, on the Boom! Studios revisionist super-hero min-series Black Market, and their experience and familiarity with each others’ storytelling strengths is on full display here, as this first issue reads almost as seamlessly as something from the mind and pen of a single creator. Our opening installment treats us to the tragic backstory of only one of the pair — whirlwind-of-trouble Daisy Jane (I assume Rock Bradley will get his due next month) — and if you dig well-developed “origin stories” you’re going to find a lot to like here. True, we’ve met Daisy’s like before, but I’m no sure we’ve ever met anyone quite like her, if you get what I’m saying. A solid framing sequence set in a dusty Texas backwater is the perfect narrative device for plunging us into this tale of doomed romance, and while the pacing of the issue is anything but breakneck, there’s a whole lot of character development packed into this book’s extra-length page count (Image is doing this with a lot of their “number ones” lately — and keeping the cover price steady at $3.99), as well as action aplenty. I found it to be a fairly quick read on the whole, true, but not an insubstantial one by any stretch of the imagination. In short, you get your money’s worth from this comic on the strength of Barbiere’s script alone.

violentlove-01_cvrb

Fortunately for us all, though, that’s only the half of it. Santos’ slick and stylish line art may be a bit “cartoony” for some folks’ tastes, but there’s simply no arguing that it fits this material to a “T” and goes a long way toward advancing the cinematic flavor of the proceedings. There are a number of pages that are laid out almost exactly like film storyboards, and if you get the feeling that this whole thing is playing out like a movie that just hasn’t been made yet, congratulations — you’re not alone. Santos also handles the coloring on this book himself, and his watercolor-flavored digital palette looks just plain great and gives everything a “grainy old 16mm” finishing touch. Are you picking up on the idea that I’m pretty much in love with this comic yet?

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-9-38-06-pm

I guess there’s always a possibility that this series  will go right down the tank and I’ll leave to eat these words, but — nah, that ain’t gonna happen. These are confident creators and I’m confident in them. Everyone — genre cinema fans in particular — would be doing themselves “a solid” (do people still say that?) to jump on board Violent Love right now. I try my best to avoid hackneyed catch-phrases like “highest possible recommendation” in my reviews, but ya know what? Babiere and Santos’ obvious labor of love deserves exactly that.

5455996-01

I have to admit, of all the end-times scenarios I’ve imagined — and there have been many, I can assure you — the idea of a “medical apocalypse” due to the over-prescribing of antibiotics is one that never occurred to me. But maybe that’s just because I’m allergic to penicillin —

Still, it goes to show that there is, in fact, a pretty unique premise at play in the pages of Sugeon X, the latest Image Comics series to debut with a what’s-fast-becoming-commonplace (not that I’m complaining, mind you) extra-sized first issue for the standard $3.99 cover price (are you paying attention to how this works, Marvel? Because you really should be). Sadly, a gripping premise alone isn’t enough to salvage a comic.

sx01-14

So, yeah, this is a less-than-stellar review that I’m cranking out here, and of all the less-than-stellar reviews I’ve written over the years, this one hurts perhaps the most, simply because I’ve got so damn much respect for so many of the people involved with this project, starting with its esteemed editor, Karen Berger. Yes, that Karen Berger. The founder of DC’s Vertigo imprint and a genuine living legend in the comics world, Ms. Berger is now working freelance, and this is her first commissioned assignment since leaving the baby she birthed (metaphorically speaking) behind over a year ago. She was brought on board the then-gestating series by its creator, writer Sara Kenney, via LinkedIn, if you can believe it, and it was Berger who sought out the amazingly talented John Watkiss to serve as the book’s artist — and for that alone she should be praised, because this is a guy who’s never gotten anywhere near the recognition (or, for whatever reason, the steady work) that he deserves. Watkiss is the closest thing we’ve got in comics today to a stylistic heir to the great Bernard Krigstein, and I don’t just say that because his work has a similar stylistic flair, but because he so clearly understands — and puts into practice — Krigstein’s philosophy of sequential illustration. He’s been kicking around the comics scene for over two decades now, and this guy’s work is so good that it makes other pros flat-out jealous of his talent, but his is one of those names that you just don’t know where or when it will pop up next, as regular gigs have never really been his forte. Still, as the pages included with this review clearly show, this is art to fucking die for.

img_2220-600x800

I’ll tell you what, though : no offense intended to colorist James Devlin (who really does a fine job), this book would have looked better in black and white. Watkiss’ best work to date remains on the B&W series Ring Of Roses from Dark Horse, which really showcased the detail of his exquisite linework in a way that color comics just plain can’t, and if you need any further proof of my assertion that this would have been the way to go here, as well, just check out the deadly awesome cover for this issue — or download the Surgeon X app, which showcases Watkiss’ pencil-and-ink art for all the interior pages.

Ah, yes, that app — it’s another solid innovation from the always-forward-thinking Berger and really does flesh out the world of the far-right future Britain this series takes place in, as well as giving plenty of insight into the creative process behind the book, but the fact that’s it’s even “a thing” just goes to show that there is much missing from the pages of the comic itself, and unfortunately, that’s all on Sara Kenney’s shoulders. So let’s get into what doesn’t work about this comic —

img_2218-600x800

In short, this isn’t a “story” per se so much as it is an extended info-dump. The dialogue is beyond clunky and overly-expository in the extreme, yet for all its wordiness, none of the characters have much by way of a distinct personality, their motivations remain murky at best, and all the extraneous and belabored world-building on offer still doesn’t do its job in that we don’t have much of a clear picture of the political “battlefield” that is post-medical-apocalypse UK society by issue’s end. It takes a lot of doing to throw as much background info at readers as this book does and still manage to come up short in the “here’s what’s happening —” department, but that’s exactly what Kenney does here, and it’s a damn shame because it undercuts the superb work being done by all of her collaborators (none of whom, crucially, share in the copyright credit that she maintains for herself).

Kenney has an interesting and varied background in documentary filmmaking and animation, and she’s being guided by the surest pair of hands one can imagine, so maybe there’s hope — the folks who issued her an honest-to-goodness grant so she could work on this thing full-time certainly hope so — but by all accounts her central character, Rosa, at least, should be a somewhat compelling figure by the time we hit the last page (as should key members of the supporting cast), given that she’s walked away from her gig as a doctor due to the government’s antibiotic rationing and has set up a home-based surgical clinic to “go freelance,” but even there it all seems haphazard and clumsy in that she chucks her job in the morning and has her “underground” medical operation more or less ready to go by nightfall. Throw in some dysfunctional family dynamics (her brother, we’re lectured — as opposed to informed — is a schizophrenic who deserves compassion and support, her sister is a successful medical school instructor, her dad runs an exclusive clinic for the rich and famous) and the already-muddy political situation becomes even muddier with interpersonal drama. So while I desperately want to be optimistic about where this series is headed, issue one offers no reason for me to be.

Perhaps idiotically, though, I’m not even really considering dropping this book. No way, no how. Not as long as Watkiss is on board. Buying a comic for the art alone used to be a pretty regular thing, but these days you almost never hear of it — and yet that’s exactly what I’m doing here. This is one of the most stunningly-illustrated series on the shelves right now, and if the story continues to suck, I’ll keep on picking it up just to look at the pictures. I can’t in good conscience recommend that anyone else does the same, though, so readers more sane than myself may want to simply give it another issue or two at most to see if Kenney figures out both where she’s going and how she’s going to get there.

5421875-01a

Truth be told, I almost passed on this one when I saw it on the new release shelves last week. Image Comics first issues are a dime a dozen these days, as anyone can tell you, and while I’m marginally familiar with the work of writer Jim Zub, artist Djibril Morissette Pham is a name that’s entirely new to me. It was the pull quote from former Vertigo head honcho Karen Berger on the back cover of Glitterbomb #1 that convinced me to give it a whirl — after all, if it’s good enough for Ms. Berger, it should be good enough for me, right? Well, I’m glad I took her advice, because this book is considerably more than “good enough.”

Hollywood is always a target ripe for commentary of the seething and hard-hitting variety, vacuous wasteland of the talentless and over-privileged that it is, and Zub’s aim here appears to be the utilization of Lovecraftian horror tropes to take aim at the Tinseltown rat race and, by extension, the very “culture of celebrity” itself. Which is all well and good, I’m sure we’d agree — perhaps even noble — but the best intentions in the world don’t amount to a hill of beans if the story and art don’t get the job done, do they?

0007c1-600x850

Rest easy on that score, friends — very easy. Zub’s script is fast and economical, plunging you right in at the deep end by means of a bit of Tarantino-esque timeline-fudging as we learn that middle-aged actress Farrah Durante is about to be dumped by her agent. She ends that conversation both viscerally and on her own terms (see the splash page near review’s end), and then we get to see how she got there, as a dead-end audition (one of many, by the sound of things) leads to an unscheduled dip in the ocean leads to possession by an evil aquatic entity leads to desperately trying to make things up with her babysitter leads to a near-accident with her son (Farrah’s a single mom on top of everything else) leads back to her agent’s office. The dialogue along the way is razor-sharp and infused with a palpable sense of both desperation and weariness, and for a male writer to have this firm a grasp on a largely female cast is pretty impressive, in my book. Everybody sounds so painfully real.

glitterbomb-01-panel-01

Now, about that artist I’ve never heard of — turns out there’s a good reason for that. This, ya see, is Djibril Morissette-Pham’s first-ever professional work. He’s 22, he’s got all the talent in the world, and yes, I’m appropriately jealous. The guy can just plain do it all, from the everyday to the horrific to the everyday horrific and everything in between. Marvel and DC are going to be knocking on his door right quick after they see this comic, but fuck them and their higher page rates and their corporate ownership of IP — Djibril, my man, stay right where you are. And if you can keep colorist K. Michael Russell as your steady collaborator, that’d be a good thing, too, because his work on this book is just right : not too flashy, never overpowering, walking the fine line between drab and otherwordly, this guy knows his hues.

glitterbomb01_02

So, I dunno — have I gushed enough praise yet? No? Okay, then let me up my game — a couple weeks back I hesitated to call Lake Of Fire #1 the best Image debut of the year (even though it’s fantastic and you should definitely buy it if you haven’t already), and now I’m glad I was gun-shy in awarding that designation, because Glitterbomb #1 definitely deserves the title. Throw in some killer “Real Hollywood” backmatter at the end (which you absolutely must not skip over), and this is the whole goddamn package. You could, in theory, ask for more out of a comic, but odds are you’re not going to get it (unless we’re talking Providence, of course) — this feels like the first installment of something very special indeed.

And to think, I almost passed on it —

 

LakeofFire_01-1

Sometimes all that’s necessary for a new project to pique your interest is to see a familiar name in a new and unexpected place, so when I noticed that veteran comics colorist Nathan Fairbairn was going to be writing a new series for Image, my curiosity was sufficiently stoked — doubly so, in fact, given that the first issue of his ongoing title with artist Matt Smith (sorry, Doctor Who fans, not that one), Lake Of Fire, was being solicited as a “double-sized” 44-page comic for only $3.99. Honestly, at that price, they’re practically begging you to give their book a chance — why not take them up on it?

The “pull-quote” featured on the cover from the usually-reliable Comics Bulletin website calling it the “best debut issue to be published by Image Comics in 2016” was high praise indeed considering that said publisher has already given us finely-crafted opening salvos from The Black Monday MurdersRenato Jones : The One %Midnight Of The Soul, and Kill Or Be Killed, among others, just in the last handful of months alone, and so suddenly my expectations were very much in line with my level of curiosity — and Fairbairn and Smith found themselves with a mighty pair of four -dollar shoes to fill. Would they be able to do it?

01_LakeofFire01

In three simple words “oh, hell yes.” This story about a rag-tag band of misfits with seriously conflicting agendas sent on a wild goose chase to keep them off the battlefields of the Albigensian Crusade in 1220 A.D. France is instantly addictive stuff, as Fairbairn gives each of his ensemble clearly-delineated backstories, well-defined personalities, and believable motivations — and then sets all of them into conflict with a force from beyond the stars that none of them could have seen coming when they set out on their “find the heretics!” mission. The dialogue here is witty and engaging, the story moves at a pleasing clip (even some of the dialogue-heavy pages in the middle of the book don’t seem “slow”), and by the time our squad of “expendables” is thrust into action, you actually care about all of ’em , from the gung-ho incompetent knight-come-lately and his loyal squire to the noble combat veteran protecting them to the disgruntled former “golden boy” thrust into a babysitter’s role to the sadistic “witch-burner” monk to the lonely girl in the woods branded a spawn of the devil — these are all seriously intriguing folks to one degree or another, and watching how they deal with a situation well beyond any of their pay grades promises to be a real treat for readers in the months ahead.

Okay, fair enough, the introduction of one of the principal players (our aforementioned over-enthusiastic inquisitor, who is at least given his proper due as events progress) is handled in an off-handed fashion that suggests Fairbairn may simply have forgotten to mention him earlier, but aside from that, the rest of the cast are given proper set-ups and the decision to send them all on a bona fide “time-waster” makes plenty of sense. A strong sense of time, place, and purpose goes no small way toward fleshing out this issue’s necessary “world-building,” as well, so if you’re looking for a genuinely immersive reading experience, congratulations — you’ve come to the right place.

IMG_2227-600x800

Of course, all this damn good writing doesn’t mean squat if Smith — whose prior work I confess to being unfamiliar with — can’t deliver the goods visually, but there’s less than no need to fret on that score : on top of everything else, this book looks really good. There’s a bit of a Mignola influence on offer here, to be sure — as well as some stylistic flourishes that seem torn from the Cameron Stewart playbook — but each character looks physically distinctive, small quirks like facial “tics” and expressions are used to develop individual personality, and the action scenes are fluid and expressive in the extreme. Smith even goes the extra mile by delineating his backgrounds in reasonably solid detail, as well, and his keen eye for everything from pastoral countrysides to period architecture shows that he’s giving it everything he’s got in every panel here. All in all, then, this is a very nicely-rendered comic.

05_LakeofFire01

So — what the heck have you got to lose? Especially considering the extra page count, Lake Of Fire #1 gives you plenty of bang for your buck, and in this day and age when even the best comics feel a little bit over-priced, that’s really saying something. I’m not quite ready to agree that this is the best Image debut of the year, but it’s certainly right up there, and it offers more than enough reasons to stick around for a good long while to see what develops.

 

Mechanism_01-1

As a long-time fan of Blade Runner-esque dystopian sci-fi, the premise behind writer/artist/letterer/colorist Raffaele Ienco’s new Top Cow/Image series Mechanism sounded right up my alley — sometime in the not-too-terribly-distant future, a reptilian race of flesh-eaters referred to by the besieged populace of Earth as “Geckos” have descended upon us from above with a view toward turning the planet into their personal larder, and in response such humans as still remain have constructed a shit-ton of militarized robots to fight off the marauding lizard-men. Results have been decidedly mixed, however, and now a new “leaner, meaner” — and hopefully smarter — prototype has been sent into the field well before it’s probably ready, and it’s up to a pair of cops who well and truly don’t seem to like each other very much to show their new mechanical “pal” the ropes while it just sits (or stands) there, quietly and creepily observing everything until its programming tells it that it’s good and ready for action. The problem is, when it finally does get off its tin-plated ass, it’s going to be too late for either one or both of the “future cops,” or for the determined urban scavenger they’ve found wandering through one of those “unauthorized zones” we’re apparently going to be seeing any number of down the road according to one post-apocalyptic would-be epic after another. And then, of course, we’ll be confronted with the even larger existential dilemma of  which poses the greater threat — the Geckos themselves, or the robots ostensibly meant to “save” us from them? Who watches the Watch-bots?

Mechanism01_

Ienco’s lush, fluid art — complete with its distinctive “digitally painted” coloring — has been consistently impressive over in the pages of fellow Top Cow stablemate (ha! Get it?) Symmetry, but whereas that book both benefits and suffers from writer Matt Hawkins’ propensity to ask “big questions” at the expense, at times, of his own narrative, here it’s a solo show all the way, and so far the results are encouraging, at the least, if not quite altogether impressive. Much of the dialogue, particularly between our mutually-antagonistic cops, is cliched and ineffective, it has to be said,  but the internal politics of both the police department and the corporate lab where the titular Mechanism is being rushed into service seem damn intriguing, and while the mechanics (pun only slightly intended, I promise) of the scripting can hopefully be improved on over time, there’s no going back and swapping out good core concepts for shit ones once the train has left its station, and the core concepts in this book are very good indeed.

Mechanism01_2

Who are we kidding, though? The art’s the real star of the show here, and I’m more than pleased to report that our guy Raff is pulling out all the stops when it comes to delivering a borderline-breathtaking visual experience. His style may be a bit too “computerized” for some tastes, I freely admit, but underneath that SFX-heavy digitized palette —which actually serves to embellish the storyline quite well given its setting and subject matter — is high-quality pencil-and-ink work that you simply can’t fake. Even if the script absolutely sucked — which, again and for the record, is hardly the case — this book might be worth your $3.99 for the art alone.

Mechanism01_3

All in all, then, I’m reasonably optimistic about the future of this — uhhmmm — horrific, nightmarish future. I have some concerns as to whether or not Ienco can keep up with two titles, sure, especially since he’s wearing all of the various creative “hats” on this one, but hopefully they’ve scheduled the now-customary breaks between story arcs for each in such a way that a lull in the publication of one will afford him the opportunity to concentrate more fully on the other. And vice-versa, of course. He’s got a lot on his plate, no question about it, but so far it seems like he can handle the heavy load not just fine, but really well. I strongly recommend giving Mechanism a look.

 

5337611-01a

Trying to review the new Image Comics series Snotgirl is a bit tricky because, frankly, I’m not sure how much a reader like me is even supposed to like it, given that it’s clearly aimed at a younger — and decidedly more female — readership. All in all this is a good thing given that books aimed at a 30-and 40-something male readership are absolutely saturating the market, whereas titles squarely aimed at women in their 20s are depressingly few and far between —the problem with this book, though, is that it seems to be trying more than a little bit too hard to connect with its intended demographic and ends up feeling like it’s pandering, rather than speaking, to its hoped-for audience.

The creation of writer Bryan Lee O’Malley (of Scott Pilgrim fame) and artist/webcomics sensation Leslie Hung, Snotgirl follows the so-far-quite-dull exploits of one Lottie Person, an L.A. (I think, at any rate)-based fashion blogger with severe allergies, perhaps even more severe anxiety, and green hair. This debut installment introduces us to Lottie, her largely vacuous circle of shallow “friends” (who are also all fashion bloggers), and a new wannabe-addition to her social circle who’s too perfect and stylish for words (and has also just started a fashion blog herself). None of ’em do much beyond text each other constantly and silently compare every single aspect of each other’s appearance, resulting in an overall portrayal of young women that’s as offensive as it is overly-generalized, but that’s sort of endemic of the main problem that’s festering away at this series’ core — ya see, it comes off as a story written by an older guy who’s read a little bit about what his “target market” is into, and how they act, but doesn’t have the first fucking clue about what they’re actually like.

Snotgirl_1_4

For one thing, you can probably count on two hands the number of people in the entire country who are managing to earn a living as fashion bloggers. Sure, style blogs are a dime a dozen (as are — gulp! — movie and comic review blogs), but it’s largely a voluntary enterprise for most involved with it, and the idea that there is a veritable army of young women (in just one city alone!) who are making enough money at it to pay the bills is at least as ludicrous as the idea that being bitten by a radioactive insect will give you super-powers rather than kill you. And ya know what? Even the few actual, paid fashion bloggers that are out there probably don’t celebrate their “blogiversaries,” much less even know when they are, but if you’re getting your ideas about the (again, largely unpaid) “blog economy” from Snotgirl, you’d think it was the most important day of the year for all of them.

Next up, we’ve gotta take a closer look at this whole texting thing. Yes, younger folks tend to text each other pretty frequently, but they don’t do it all the goddamn time like the characters in this comic do, nor do they still use the abbrvtd txt lngo tht wnt by th wysde when “smart” phones came along and you no longer had to type the frigging number keys to write out words anymore. Yeah, they still say shit like “LOL” and “WTF,” but by and large text messages are written in semi-coherent form these days. And I’m sorry, but no one sends a text to their friend sitting in a coffee shop from right outside that same shop’s window to tell them that they won’t be coming in. People — even young people — still actually do talk to each other once in awhile.

unnamed-4

Once O’Malley starts delving into the murky depths of Lottie’s personal insecurities things take a turn for the (slightly) more interesting, but by that point his “forced-contemporary” narrative style has already succeeded in completely alienating anyone (young or old) who might still be paying attention, and just to underscore the point he’s already accidentally made, he manages to more or less squander any chance of reviving your interest on a more permanent basis by wrapping the issue up with a cliffhanger that by all rights should be surprising but is detailed in a manner so ambiguous and bereft of coherence that you couldn’t even be bothered to care about it if the preceding 20-or-so pages had been any good. In short, this is a horribly-written comic that treats its subjects more like exotic germs being examined under a microscope than actual, flesh-and-blood people, and is every bit as condescending toward the “millenials” of today as Reality Bites was toward the “Generation X”ers of 20 years ago.

snotgirl01-review07

All of which, of course, does an incredible disservice to the artwork of Leslie Hung, which well and truly does have an air of genuine youthful authenticity and energy to it as one panel flows freely and seamlessly into the next in a quick-but-not-rushed, almost dreamlike fashion. Yeah, it’s all a bit “cartoony,” but that’s okay in my book under most circumstances (these included) if the end result has freshness and vitality to it, which this most certainly does. It’s nowhere near enough to elevate the proceedings in Snotgirl #1 above the level of profound and borderline-offensive over-simplification, though, and all in all it doesn’t seem like O’Malley — who’s known, perhaps ironically, for having a pretty solid handle on “youth culture” —understands the reality of young women’s lives any more than your crotchety old uncle who’s constantly spouting his “let me tell you what’s wrong with kids these days” nonsense.

 

RenatoJones01_cvr-2_351_540

Let’s be brutally honest — there’s always been something kind of fucked up about Batman, hasn’t there?

Mind you,  I say this as someone who loves that character and still reads both major “Bat-books” religiously every month, but come on — here’s a guy with all the money in the world and a deep desire to right all of society’s wrongs, and what does he do? Goes after common street criminals, most of whom are probably both poor and desperate. Meanwhile, the rich are robbing us all blind to a degree most of us can’t even conceive of, and when we complain about it even just a little bit, the wusses at the top of the economic food chain — the ones who own the entire media, the entire political system, and frankly the entire world — these lily-livered, gutless scumbags in $5,000 suits or even more expensive cocktail dresses accuse us lowly serfs of engaging in “class warfare.”

Never mind the largely- unremarked-upon, but very successful, class war that they have been waging against us for the past few decades by looting our pension funds, stripping away our collective bargaining rights, raising the cost of our educations through the roof, kicking the poorest of us off welfare while sticking their fat, disgusting snouts into the public trough and hogging up all the “corporate welfare” they can get, cutting their own taxes down to the bone, jacking our health care premiums up exponentially so they can pocket the extra cash — their rapacious greed knows no limits, and frankly if Batman had any balls whatsoever he’d be going after his own kind, because these sons of bitches make even The Joker look small-time by comparison.

175731_861629_144-600x903

Fortunately, Kaare Kyle Andrews and his new (dammit, I’ll say it) hero, Renato Jones, are here to finally bring down the real villains of the world by any means necessary. Indeed, the front cover for issue one of Image Comics’ Renato Jones : The One % openly states “The Super Rich Are Super F***ed,” and the minute I saw that, I knew this title was going straight onto my pull list. It’s nice to see there might be some justice in the world, I suppose, even if it’s only on the comic book page.

spotlight-intvw-renatojones-07

These aren’t just any old pages, though, as the double-splash reproduced above shows — they’re gorgeous pages. Andrews’ most recent series, Marvel’s Iron Fist : The Living Weapon, certainly showed that he was willing to step up and claim the mantle of the industry’s leading heir to Jim Steranko’s artistic legacy, but fortunately his Steranko stylistic appropriations were more homage than direct swipe. That trend continues here, as you’d no doubt expect, but Andrews also incorporates a fair number of elements from one of Steranko’s earlier (if largely unacknowledged) admirers/unofficial pupils, Frank Miller. Indeed, the B&W pages interspersed throughout this debut issue are torn right from the Sin City playbook, but they’re included to add variety and nuance to the proceedings and are hardly the “backbone” of the book. No, that distinction belongs to awesome-looking shit like this : Renato-2

What’d I tell you (or try to, at any rate)? Despite wearing his influences on his sleeve, Andrews’ style is uniquely his own. And uniquely kick-ass. As is his new creator-owned character, who was born into wealth and privilege, narrowly escaped death at the hands of his money-grubbing aunt at age three, lived on the streets, learned to survive by his own wits and fight like a man possessed, came back to take his revenge, and now is out to bring his, in the words of Warren Ellis, “Punisher from Occupy”- brand of vigilantism to all the rich, sadistic, evil bastards who have it coming. If, ya know, he’s even Renato Jones at all. Which he might not be. And you should really read the book to understand exactly what that means.

Renato-JonesThe-One-01

And hey, how about the fake ads scattered here and there in this comic? They’re flat-out awesome, too! And so is the depraved villain that Jones despatches in this story! And so is Andrews’ razor-sharp dialogue and pump-your-fist-at-how-spot-on-it-is “voice-over” narration! And so is, well — everything, really. Look, anyone who’s read my reviews for any length of time knows that I’m not the easiest guy to please, but seriously — there was nothing about the story or art here that I felt to be lacking, and each successive page just cemented my opinion that this is a comic  that I’ve been waiting a long time for, even if I didn’t know it. Of course, I did used to have this poster hanging in my apartment back when I was in my twenties :

nyahem

So, yeah, me and the class was, we go back a long ways. And the future is finally starting to look kinda bright between the rise of movements like the aforementioned Occupy and the Bernie Sanders campaign and the emergence of pop culture characters like Renato Jones. My one bone to pick with this book — and it’s a small one — is that Andrews (who really is a one-man show here writing, drawing, coloring, designing, creating and, crucially, owning the whole thing), after 30-some pages of taking it to the rich bastards (did I mention this was an extra-sized issue that gives you great value for it’s $3.99 cover price?), loaded up his first letters column with missives from — his wealthy and famous friends like Sean Astin and Tegan And Sara? Seems a bit curious to me, to say the least, but I’m not gonna let it dampen my enthusiasm for this project one little bit, nor should you. In fact, you should go read Renato Jones : The One % #1 right now — I’ll meet you in the street with a pitchfork and a torch afterwards and we’ll go pay a visit to those assholes in the mansions who live behind the gates.