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Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Red Wing

Title: The Red Wing

ISBN: 9781607064794

Price: $14.99

Publisher/Year: Image, 2011

Artist: Nick Pitarra

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Rating: 1.5/5

Jonathan Hickman confuses concept for plot and leaves the fantastic concept of The Red Wing floundering and incomplete.  Hickman apparently cannot decide if he is more interested in telling a story about the pilots who navigate both time and space in a war that crosses eons, or if he wants to tell a story about a war that stretches over eons and happens to involve some pilots.  Either way, he fails on both accounts and we are left with a “graphic novel” that is heavy on the graphics and light on the novel.

Dominic Dorne and Valen Redd are new recruits to fly the Red Wing Tac II, a fighter that is designed to destroy the enemy across time and space.  Both Dorne and Redd are legacies; their fathers flew in the original Red Wing squadron and were killed on a mission.  Now it is up to the “sons and daughters of the Red Wing” to continue the fight.

That is a great premise.  But, you will notice that there is a major gap in that description: Who is the enemy and what do they want?  Hickman decides to skip over that minor detail in order to provide the reader with a SHOCK twist at the end of the second issue.  Now, shock surprises work best when there is some explanation why the reader should be shocked.  Just giving the reader something to look at without any explanation doesn’t make fore very good storytelling. Let me give you an example that is similar to The Red Wing, but will not contain any spoilers:

It is Christmas time. Little Timmy and Tina see Santa in their living room.  He turns and sees them and then rips off the fake beard to show his kids that he is, in fact, their father, not Santa.  The kids, both firm believers in Santa, are horrified to find that their belief in the jolly old elf has been shattered.  To make matters worse, the father just stands there without giving any explanation why he would do such a thing.  Did he do it to be mean?  Did he do it because he did not want to lie to his kids?  Did he do it because he had a horrible itch on his chin and had to remove his beard right then?  No explanation.  He just stares at the crying kids, and recites The Night Before Christmas.

Now, that may be surreal as hell, but it is not a good story.  It is a good scene that needs to be explained or at least further expanded upon for it to make sense in a larger context.

Hickman does not do that with his reveal/twist.  Instead he rambles on for another two issues, all the while, another character (and the reader!!!!) begs the antagonist to explain himself.   But, Hickman assumes that this is all self-evident and chooses to jump to another scene which he leaves half-explained a few pages later.

The only thing The Red Wing has going for it is the lovely art.   Nick Pitarra and Rachelle Rosenberg give life to an otherwise stark and linear future.  Their art is reminiscent of Frank Quitely yet they managed to keep the lines clean and sharp when needed.  The color palette shifts from muted colors in the future, to lush colors in the past, making the crazy time-travel elements of the story easy to follow.

In addition, the characters are remarkably easy to identify, despite the fact that several of them have helmets covering half of their face for several pages at a time.  This is a pleasant change from other artists who Hickman has partnered with (including himself) where the art is often murky or difficult to follow.

I really wanted to like The Red Wing.  I was ready to herald Hickman’s triumphant return to creator-owned independent comics.  Instead I am left shaking my head at how such an exciting and rich concept coud be short-changed by a writer unwilling (or unable) to give it the kind of length and development that is needed to take it from concept to plot.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

CHEW Vol 1: Taster’s Choice

Title: CHEW Vol 1: Taster’s Choice

ISBN: 9781607061595
Price: $9.99
Publisher/Year: Image, 2009
Artist: Rob Guillory
Writer: John Layman
Collects: CHEW #1-5

Rating: 3.5/5

Well let’s start by saying that this graphic novel is for mature audience. And it can be really gross and bloody at times. You have been warned.

With that out of the way let’s get into the review!

The story in itself was very interesting and intriguing – I couldn’t stop reading it at all. And I ended up finishing it in one sitting. The revelation at the end (which I am not going to go into, because spoilers) was shocking – I didn’t see it coming at all. It made me want to pick up the next volume right away!

I feel as if this first volume was more of a character introduction and preparation for the future story. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing at all. Things did happen, it just felt as if it was creating the world and presenting the characters. That is the only reason why I gave it 4 stars instead of 5.

Another fantastic thing were the powers – I find books (and graphic novels) with extraordinary powers to be very interesting. These especially, as they all concentrate around food, in one way or another, and I have never read something like that before. I can’t wait for more of them to be introduced, as I have heard that will happen in future volumes.

The art. I absolutely adored the art. It was dark and edgy. It gave the whole story an fantastic atmosphere. I don’t think this art is for everyone though, so I would check it out first before getting the graphic novel.

All in all I would highly recommend this graphic novel, if you don’t mind mature and gross themes that is. I am very much looking forward to picking up the next volume!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

2 Past Midnight

Title: 2 Past Midnight

ISBN: 9781616554408
Price: $9.99
Publisher/Year: Dark Horse, 2014
Artist: Eduardo Francisco
Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Collects: 2 Past Midnight #1-5

Rating: 3/5

Two Past Midnight meet up in the first crossover of Dark Horse’s superhero comics. A book that’s too good and rare to pass up not reading. Who wouldn’t want to see Ghost, X, and Captain Midnight all together in the same series? All three still ongoing and have their own thrilling tales to connect to. It was nice to see that Duane Swierczynski covered writing this book. Does an excellent job with X and the premise of this story is right up his alley.

twopastmidp1What you like about this right away is the fact that neither of these heroes have met each other. Some of them aren’t even aware of the things others out there are able to do until they meet each other. It creates intense moments of confrontation between them and everything about it is natural when most of them aren’t too used to the concept of team-ups. In fact they’ve never had such a reason to team-up like this. That’s what made it fun to see the brawl which broke loose between them because of a misunderstanding. It’s always a misunderstanding, but you have to give credit to Duane Swierczynski that he doesn’t pull punches to let them actually go for the kill. They aren’t like the golden heroes you see on TV and that is captured throughout this book.

The plot is fairly straightforward as we know a madman is on the loose. His goal is to create shock, awe, panic, and hysteria.The mystery behind the villain is very necessary for keeping everyone on their toes about the possibilities of what could happen next. Seeing things from his perspective as well is very engaging. Having an idea of what makes him tick as he acts creates that dark atmosphere in which you like the sick things he does or you might find it a bit cringe-worthy.

When things really picked up, see how this investigative specter,  psychopathic vigilante, and time-traveling genius operated was interesting. The differences between them really stand out. Meaning that there is an awareness of who these characters are at their core to display how they would act to find this terror-focused sociopath. Those differences makes this intense enough that you are left questioning just how they could possibly get out of this unharmed. Their personalities clash and the trust between them is far from strong enough to hold up against a threat that attacks them mentally. With that said, there was some humor between them which was hard to ignore, especially when it was at the expense of X.

Eduardo Francisco’s style really fit this story. The detail and way he handled drawing everything made it feel gritty. The way it should as when most of Two Past Midnight book takes place in Arcadia, a neutral atmosphere is the last thing you should expect. The light of use of colors also added to this. Could be that a lot of this also took place at night, but it was a good use of it nonetheless.

Two Past Midnight is a great story that has a lot to offer as a first crossover of Dark Horse’s new superhero comics. We know we will see more stories like this to come and of a larger scope. So if it’s anything like Two Past Midnight, it’s definitely worth picking up. For 130 pages you aren’t left feeling like this isn’t worth the money or time. From beginning to end you are left at the edge of your seat with this dark tale.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor Vol 1: Terrorformer

Title: Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor Vol 1: Terrorformer

ISBN: 9781782761778

Price: $19.99

Publisher/Year: Titan Comics, 2016

Artist: Dave Taylor

Writer: Robbie Morrison

Collects: Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor #1-5

Rating: 3.5/5

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor, Vol. 1: Terrorformer collects the first five issues and initial story arcs of the comic series starring actor Peter Capaldi. Alongside companion Clara Oswald—played in the show by actress Jenna Coleman—the Doctor first journeys to an ice world recently terraformed into a tropical paradise by a money-obsessed developer, and then pops in to twenty-fourth-century India to investigate the death of a friend.

Storywise, Morrison does as one would hope to expect with a Doctor Who comic: create adventures that would be far beyond the budgetary restraints of the live-action series. And he does that very well. The two-part “Terrorformer” gives us the aforementioned tropical paradise and introduces us to the Hyperion, a race of sentient suns that the Doctor’s race, the Time Lords, had to put down when they became a threat to all life. Walking, talking suns laying waste to planets? Yeah, that’s a little outside the BBC’s special-effects budget. The three-part “Swords of Kali” brings a new menace: the Scindia, a family of demonlike aliens that seeks to revive their goddess, Kali.

Morrison’s one stumbling block is in his depiction of the Twelfth Doctor, whose characterization in “Terrorformer” doesn’t seem to gel with his TV counterpart; based on the comic-book Doctor’s speech pattern alone, one would think this was originally written with Matt Smith’s energetic Eleventh Doctor in mind. I can only assume that, because this comic series had to go into production while Capaldi’s first season was in the works, and no one outside of the BBC had any clue as to Twelve’s personality, Morrison had to devise his own approach to the new leading man and hope for the best. Still, it’s a small distraction in comparison to the engaging storylines, and his Doctor becomes more Capaldi-like by the time “Swords of Kali” reaches its conclusion.

As for the art, Dave Taylor brings a clean, Moebius-like quality to the sci-fi elements of “Terrorformer,” and the appropriate scary shadows to “Kali,” considering its bad guys look like monsters. His depictions of the Doctor and Clara are a little off-model, but by the time we reach “The Swords of Kali,” you can tell he’s become more comfortable in reproducing Capaldi’s and Coleman’s features. Together, he and Morrison make for a strong creative team.

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