ROGUE ELEMENT 96

Rogue Element #96: Date Night


By Avril Brown

First dates are almost always something special. Whether they be a passionate event kicking off an epic romance, or a fiery crash and burn insuring a story for life, a first date is at the very least good for a smile of one kind or another. A long time ago on an url now only used for archiving I wrote a column about some excellent first dates of my own, and since that publication I have experienced several interesting nights out that make for nearly equally entertaining tales, such as the skater boy I picked up in the park who suggested Noodles & Company for dinner, didn’t even offer to pay, and gave me a ‘coach hug’ goodbye (a loose-armed embrace complete with a hearty pat on the back, as if conveying a job well done). Also let us not forget Ernest, who insisted I call him ‘Ern’ (because I totally want to hook up with a guy who chose a nickname synonymous with a container for dead people) and who was prone to loud and inappropriate questioning in a public place. However, the one beer and four martinis he threw back fast enough to keep time with my own pints (and that’s saying a lot) could have accounted for his exuberant if typically dull conversation, and he did pick up on my not-so-subtle hint that this first date was a last one, so I always reflect upon Urn with a sardonic fondness.

In fact, some of the best first dates are often equal parts awesome and awkward, giving a happy couple, or a nostalgic individual, multiple reasons to grin upon reflection. Take my first ‘date’ with my beau: a meeting in a smallish bar in Libertyville on Christmas Eve where the pints were two dollars (there are advantages to living in the sticks), the barflies are so local they’re part mahogany, and I’m surrounded by cousins, most of which are curious and hopeful for me, with a couple leaning towards the protective side. In walks Jesse…with a Santa/Viking hat on his head. Think pointy hat, complete with bobble, but with a leather type material rather than red and white velour. Nonetheless, we ended up chatting the night away, half of which found that ridiculous hat on my head, and he drove me all the way back to Evanston (translation, an hour drive at one in the morning on Christmas Day), despite a threatening talking to from one of my cousins.

Therefore in honor of memorable first dates that break the mold, here is a brief list of some of my favorite fictional first dates:

X-MEN #8 (1992)
Written by Scott Lobdell, Illustrated by Jim Lee (also credited with plot)

When the infamous X-Men comic book series was ‘re-launched’ back in the early nineties, it was following a major story arc and a blending of teams and characters. Storm, after she was de-aged by a villain called Nanny, was running around New Orleans as a child and had reverted to her childhood ways of stealing shit (don’t ask, it’s comics), met Gambit and brought him into the X-Men fold. He didn’t meet Rogue until after he got back from a little space adventure involving Professor Xavier, his girlfriend, Lilandra the Empress of the immensely powerful bird-like Shi’ar Empire and lots of angry shape-shifting Skrulls (like I said, comics). Although I could dedicate an entire series of columns to Rogue and Gambit’s relationship and their many interludes, for the moment the spotlight is directed towards their first ‘official’ date. Deciding to go with Gambit’s incessant and irresistible flirting, Rogue makes them a Cajun lunch and things are going sexily, I mean swimmingly, until a curmudgeon-y Bishop shows up to rain on their picnic. Insults are exchanged and punches are thrown, and when Bishop pulls a plasma rifle on Gambit he grabs the nearest object in defense to charge with his mutant kinetic energy, which happens to be Rogue’s boysenberry pie. Unfortunately she flies to her date’s rescue just as he lobs the perilous pastry towards Bishop, and Rogue ends up with a face full of bursting boysenberry. As the laughs fill the panels, Bishop whispers to Gambit, “Are you sure this is wise?” Gambit wisely whispers back, “Keeping laughing or she’ll kill us.” Even while she’s still picking pie crust out of her hair, Rogue’s defending Gambit’s intentions…until his estranged wife shows up to further destroy the amorous ambience. Regardless, this issue provided quite the combustible commencement to one of Marvel’s hottest couples ever written.

STORM FRONT, The Dresden Files, Book One (2000)
Written by Jim Butcher

In the first installment of this utterly addictive ongoing magical murder mystery series, our hero Harry Dresden sure knows how to show a girl a good time. I have gushed about ‘The Dresden Files’ on numerous occasions, and for good reason: they rock. Harry is totally badass, fiercely loyal, noble almost to a fault and quite the gentlemen when it comes to women. One of those women includes Susan Rodriguez, a reporter he dated at the beginning of the series, and during STORM FRONT they have a rather pulse-pounding first date. Sultry, smoking hot Susan is mostly fishing for information when she shows up one Saturday night to take Harry to dinner, and she ends up caught in the middle of a battle between Dresden and a rather powerful toad-demon. In an attempt to safeguard his first date in years, Harry tells her to drink a teleporting potion, but instead she accidentally drinks a potent love potion. Harry manages to get his hands on the proper potion around the same time Susan got her hands on him (which was made a lot easier by the fact he was in the middle of a shower when she arrived with the toad-demon close on her heels, and therefore Harry’s battling in the buff), and they’re whisked away to near safety. Susan’s lusty feelings are reversed along with the contents of her stomach due to the mixture of potions just in time for Toadie to find them for a final showdown. Naked Harry manages to call upon storm energies to kill the baddie, the police show up to find a naked man with burnt hair, armed with a stick, comforting a woman next to a puddle of puke, and Harry asks what she’s doing next Saturday. Susan moans this was the worst night of her life, but admits (with a torrid twitch of the lips) that it’ll make one fantastic story. Definitely the start of an interesting relationship, and a first date for the ages.

NEW MUTANTS #37 (2012)
Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, Illustrated by David Lopez

A couple of story arcs ago, the latest of Marvel’s New Mutants crew accidentally found themselves in Hell while on a rescue mission to Hel, their intended destination (that one L can make all the difference). Faced with the Devil himself and low on options, one member of the team, Amara Olivans, aka Magma (her mutant power involves lava manipulation, in case you didn’t guess), takes Beelzebub up on his offer to transport them all to their desired location in return for one date with her, no strings attached. In issue #37, he comes to collect, and he does it in style. There may be a certain amount of cheese-factor at work in this issue (the Devil is taken aback by a small cup full of chipotle? Really? Points to the writers for the use of ‘piquant’ as a descriptor, however), but there is a light-hearted feel to this issue that seems to be missing in certain comic books as of late. Occasionally, comics are just meant to be FUN, and this issue delivers that in spades. From the Devil’s initial grand overture (picking her up in a Lamborghini and escorting her to dinner in the Third Circle of Hell, complete with Mozart on piano), to his admission of wanting to go on a date like a ‘normal’ person, onto his business plan of how to get more souls the UNICEF way (keep ‘em alive until they fuck things up themselves), this issue was bittersweet, amusing and a little hot. “Can I call you again?” the insecure Devil asks the literally on-fire Amara. “I don’t know. Can you?” she replies, with a sexy smirk. “Seriously. Smoking hot,” the Devil remarks to himself as he walks away. Couldn’t agree more.

Which are the first dates you remember best: the ones at a nice restaurant with pleasant conversation and sweet kiss good night, or the ones rife with exploding pies, toad-demons and dinner with the Devil? Granted these aren’t exactly hiccups someone in the Real World experiences with any kind of regularity, but take a look at your unforgettables and you make recognize a little brimstone in your bisque, whether or not that first dance ended in an extended waltz. I remember with an intensive clarity Jesse and I’s first date, and for damn good reason, but I can hardly look back on Skater Boy or Urn without a silly smile. Cherish those first date moments, for you never know when they may make one fantastic story.

NEW IMAGES

NEW IMAGES
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Image Comics


Reviewed by Marc Mason

A variety of creator-owned new stuff from the Image folks…

There will be few debuts this year as highly anticipated as SAGA #1, because it marks the return of writer Brian K. Vaughan to comics. He is joined by artist Fiona Staples, and together they have delivered one of the best-looking and most interesting comics you’ll read this year. SAGA dives right in, introducing us to Alana and Marko, members of warring planets who have fallen in love, stolen away together, and are preparing to have a child. However, this Shakespearean setup just scratches the surface of the amazing world-building going on here; there are varied forces in this book, and each of them has an agenda reaching far beyond finding the protagonists and killing them and their child. Indeed, there is an entire species of people who have televisions for heads and alligators for butlers; a woman of magic who might be part unicorn; and a giant fire-breathing turtle. There’s a LOT to take in as you read this book, but it’s all quite stunning. The trick will be to see how well Vaughan can keep it going. Nobody – and I mean nobody – does issue one like he does. Y THE LAST MAN and EX MACHINA both had debuts that felt like comicbook lightning, but they had trouble maintaining that energy level. Hopefully, SAGA will.

Writer Alex Link and artist Riley Rossmo dive into the zombie outbreak genre with REBEL BLOOD #1, which goes a step further by adding zombiefied animals to the mix. Chuck, a forest ranger, starts receiving calls in the fire tower where he lives, and as he investigates, he must deal with some unusually inhospitable wildlife, as well as his own mental problems. His mental malfunctions while working for the fire department cost him his job and his wife & kid, which makes him a not-likely candidate for saving the day. What makes him interesting – and the book with it – is how we get inside his head. The book shows us his internal fantasies and delusions about what kind of hero he could be to his estranged family, which gives the reader a nice hook to latch onto. I tend to run hot and cold on Rossmo’s art; his stylized work can sometimes overwhelm the basic storytelling, but here he generally keeps things smooth and understandable. There’s some potential here; it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.

I’ve long been a fan of Ted McKeever’s work. His surrealist stories and art have always danced on the edge of being extremely weird, but still comprehensible. But his last series, META 4, fell way too far into the incomprehensible side of things. I’ve read it twice and still have no idea what it was about or what happened in the story. So I was apprehensive about his new book, MONDO #1, but am pleased to report that McKeever is back to just being extremely weird. Catfish Mandu, a lowly, put-upon worker at a genetically-modified chicken processing plant, is in an industrial accident that gives him strength and power beyond those… oh, I’m not even going to try and explain what happens to the poor guy. But it does involve a giant chicken, a super-strong girl on roller skates, and an egg that has the ability to communicate (at least to the insane). MONDO is completely nutty, but also funny and beautiful to look at, and McKeever is really at the top of his game here.

QUEEN CRAB is one of those nifty risks you like to see on the shelves. Writer Jimmy Palmiotti (working solo – partner Justin Gray is absent here) teams with artist Artiz Eiguren for an extremely unusual graphic novel. Ginger Drake isn’t exactly a saint; she’s getting married in less than a week and she’s still screwing around on the side, and her fiancée Murry isn’t any better. But they do indeed tie the knot, and while on their honeymoon cruise, Ginger (who cannot swim) winds up in the water. When she surfaces, her arms have been replaced with crab-like claws. Life, death, and a lot of weirdness ensues. I liked this book a lot, and it improves on a second reading. There’s a lot of courage involved in making Ginger as complex as she is; it would have been tempting to make her a nicer person and easier to root for. But QUEEN CRAB never takes the easy way out at any turn. The book also looks fantastic, and Eiguren draws people that look real instead of like pinups. I also appreciated the format- hardcover, with a reasonably affordable price. I’d like to see more books like it on the stands.




JESS KNOWS BEST 22

JESS KNOWS BEST #22: Jess Knows…Baking?


by Jess Blackshear

As an occasional writer for CWR, I’ve always felt like my columns are really only aimed at a limited audience. I’m married to a comic book author, so it would seem like I’d be a perfect fit amongst my well-read colleagues, but the truth is that I’m so busy between my full time technical job, our 12 year-old (pre-teen, OMG) son, and the few hobbies I enjoy, that I really don’t reserve time to keep up with comics. I know, I know, I should have just let the secret stay…secret.

Now, I have something else to offer that I know I have in common with you geeks: A love of food. More specifically in my case, baking, but you can bake savory as well as sweet — and I’m hoping to offer a little something for everyone here. Before I launch into what my Kitchenaid and I made this week, let me give you a little background about myself and how I’ve come around to this topic:

I was raised in a small town in Washington, and taught to cook by my mom, and by extension, her parents. A combo of Arkansas meets Texas showed me how to make a proper southern cornbread, and how to drink a really dark cup of coffee! Though both grandma and grandpa passed away before my teens, I have very clear and specific memories of being at their house – and they pretty much all involve food.

My older brother and I would both ride our bikes over to G and G’s; I enjoyed having a cup of “coffee milk” with grandma, and I learned later that Ricky would eat breakfast at home, then ride the three miles up and down some major hills in order to have Grandma cook breakfast for him all over again. Smart kid! I remember helping wrap venison with my mom, aunts, and grandma, while the men broke down the week’s hunt in the garage, and I remember my grandpa debating whether cornbread belonged in stuffing at Christmas. While I didn’t learn many of their recipes until later in life, they all taught me the basics, which is all you need to know to get started.

I was just 17 when I first met Brandon, and we were married five short months and an 18th birthday later. Scandalous, I know! Over the past 13 years, we’ve made a lot of meals together, some of which are good enough to be designated “On the Menu” for our future dream restaurant. Fast forward to now…and Brandon’s wonderful mom. Karen is the type that takes in strays and ends up being “mom” to everyone on the block. She never hesitates to offer encouragement when you need it, and she doesn’t ask for anything in return.

A couple years ago, I heard a great idea for a 4th of July cake – when you cut into it, the layers look like the United States flag. After I found the instructions online, I realized I wanted to make my cake not only look amazing, but taste amazing, and thus began my experimentation with flavors and recipe substitutions.

The recipe and cake were a hit, and unbeknownst to me, I’d suddenly picked up a hobby in common with Karen…which prompted her to do what she does best. Over the last couple years, she’s equipped my baking arsenal with a tool box full of icing bags and tips, cookie cutters, a dough mat, countless baking books, and of course, the coup de gras, a Kitchenaid stand mixer! All of that said, the biggest and best things she’s given me are confidence and encouragement. The tools are great, and for some recipes, I wouldn’t be able to make them without my super-duper mixer, but I meant it when I said that all you need to start is the basics. In this new version of Jess Knows Best, I’m hoping I can share what I’ve learned with you, and maybe pass on some of the confidence and encouragement that has been given to me. At the same time, I’m going to be working to make my recipes a little healthier for the family, without compromising flavor.

Next time, I will dive head first into one of my favorite and most-used recipes for “Breakfast Cookies.” They taste like a treat, but are actually quite good for you. A scary idea, I know, but remember this is Jess Knows Best… and I’m hoping you’ll find that’s true as this column switches gears and heads into the kitchen!

FRIENDS WITH BOYS-MOON MOTH

FRIENDS WITH BOYS/THE MOON MOTH
Written and Drawn by Faith Erin Hicks
Written by Jack Vance, Adapted by Humayoun Ibrahim
Published by First Second


Reviewed by Marc Mason


It isn’t easy coming up with a new, fresh take on the coming-of-age genre, but writer/artist Faith Erin Hicks manages to do so quite nicely in FRIENDS WITH BOYS. Maggie McKay has been home-schooled through the first eight years of her education, but now she has been turned loose on the local high school and life will never be the same. She doesn’t know anyone but her three older brothers, her mother has left the family, and her father is now the town sheriff which leaves him little time for her. Confused by having a new life thrust upon her, she struggles to maintain and to make friends. Plus: for unknown reasons, a ghost from the town cemetery is haunting her. While it sounds like it could all be confusing, instead FRIENDS WITH BOYS is an exhilarating, entertaining piece of work. Hicks’ characters are interesting and have very fleshed out and full lives on the page, and they feel like kids you could meet and know. The emotional content is strong, and it takes precedent over the plot, which is important- the plot is not the core here. Maggie’s early journey towards learning about herself and her world is. Hicks also delivers some wonderful art; her storytelling is solid, and her character design is terrific. The book is a feast for the eyes, as well as for the heart. Highly recommended.

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of THE MOON MOTH, which is adapted from a classic short story by science fiction writer Jack Vance. In it, a man named Edwer Thissell is assigned duties on the planet Sirene. On this planet, everyone wears masks designed to show their place in the social strata, and much of the communication is accompanied by music played on specific instruments for specific situations. It’s a fascinating concept, if wildly convoluted, and it takes a while for writer/artist Humayoun Ibrahim to find footing with it on the page. The story and the book both kick into gear, though, when Thissell is alerted that a wanted murderer has arrived on the planet and needs to be captured. Of course, when everyone wears a mask (under potential penalty of death), the job of finding the bad guy isn’t so easy. This adaptation of THE MOON MOTH is certainly pretty to look at- Ibrahim’s work is lovely- and the concepts are engaging. But as an intellectual exercise, it never quite takes off. Thissell is a cipher of a character and we never get really invested in his search or in his attempts to fit in on Sirene. Ultimately, the terrific pieces of the book are better than the book itself on the whole. Fans of Vance and the story will likely love it; others will probably have mixed feelings, as I did.


SUPURBIA 1

SUPURBIA #1
Written by Grace Randolph and Illustrated by Russell Dauterman
Published by BOOM! Studios


By Avril Brown

Although BOOM! Studios pitched a summary of its newest title SUPURBIA utilizing scary phrases such as “meet the ‘Real Housewives’ of Earth’s greatest super-team” and “a TMZ-fueled look at what it’s like to live with a superhero,” hopefully those poisonous words will not turn off retailers and comic readers from picking up the first issue of this unique and deliciously intriguing book.

SUPURBIA blends superhero action and all the nifty side effects of having powers (like the nigh-omnipotent Sovereign listening in on the Pope’s sleep talking from a continent away), plus some relationship drama (such as a female CEO of a crime-fighting business walking in on her husband having his male sidekick’s back…sans clothes) and of course a dash of mystery and betrayal from within the ranks to give the book a bit of cabal. There’s even a doe-eyed, no-powers new bride of a super-team ladder climber who is already being set up as a major player in this introductory issue.

At the very least, SUPURBIA offers an entertaining, fast-paced script from an author who knows how to write a good girly guilty pleasure. However, sex, drugs and back-stabbing aside, Randolph has managed to produce interesting, strong women of all shapes, sizes and moral fortitude worth getting to know better in the span of twenty-four pages, which is a rare talent indeed, and certainly worth following. Dauterman produces solid superhero-style artwork while also keeping most of the feminine leads tastefully dressed, and the one that is not also happens to be a former villainess who is only a few metaphorical days out of super-villain rehab and cannot be expected to don a pantsuit.

SUPURBIA is off to one hell of an addictive start.


ROGUE ELEMENT 95

Rogue Element #95: One and Done


By Avril Brown

I do heart a good all-encompassing catchphrase, such as ‘One and done,’ with its many applications useful in a variety of situations. Take my sister, for example, who has been saying these words for almost fifteen months now, since mere hours after the arrival of her daughter via a rather painful C-section (the midwife who moronically said “It’ll be better the second time around” should thank her lucky fucking stars my sister didn’t pack her Glock in her birthing bag). Or people out on the town, who are decidedly not me, referring to their alcoholic drink limit.

This time around, however, I find ‘One and done’ is vastly applicable when describing several very forgettable television shows I cannot forgive. One of the reasons I find myself returning again and again to books, shows and movies I’ve seen dozens of times before is because they have proven themselves to be entertaining in some form or another, and thusly worthy of my free time. When I do venture into new territory and encounter hostile, stupid terrain not deserving of the hour or so I have dedicated to its exploration, I become quite irate. Therefore, the following are several examples of shows that have made my shit-list, with a vengeance.

THE DRESDEN FILES
‘The Dresden Files’ book series, authored by the incredibly awesome Jim Butcher, is a series chock full of nerd-gasms. Harry Dresden is a wizard/private detective for hire who has had an adventuresome but rather tough life. Armed with a sarcastic tongue, oodles of pop culture references, a stubborn streak a mile wide matched only by his moral one, and an impressive ability to harness magics, Harry is both a wholesome and badass hero who is a joy to read. I’ve gushed about my hard-on for book-Harry before, but my experience with the short-lived TV show was anything but awe-inspiring. I couldn’t make it past the fifteen minute mark in the pilot episode thanks to the complete lack of respect for the title character. The television representation of his sidekick and mystical helper Bob the (horny) Skull I can forgive given the logistics of creating a believable talking skull whose only desire is the latest porno mag (they turned him into a butler), but Harry himself is a pushover when it comes to women, children and the generally downtrodden. When the TV version of this rough-edged but golden-hearted hero who knows what goes bump in the night essentially told a poor, obviously frightened young boy asking for his help in fighting a monster to pound snow, I took a hike from the show and never looked back.

NO ORDINARY FAMILY
I thought I’d give this show a whirl when it debuted back in 2010. After all, it had Julie Benz fresh off her stint on ‘Dexter,’ and with her ‘Buffy/Angel’ history giving her nerd-cred plus her starring role as a super-powered matriarch in this much-hyped new series, how bad could it be? Well, not to push the cheesy envelope, but Super-bad, as it turns out (I should have taken into account how much more I enjoyed human Rita over obnoxious vampire Darla). I stuck around for the entirety of the pilot and was left cringing at the bad dialogue, Saturday morning cartoon-y type origin story, and overall lameness of what could have been a good idea, had it been executed with a more universally creative flair. The introductory episode was just so trite and boring that despite this ‘ordinary’ family of four boarding a vacation plane which crash lands in a cesspool of genome-altering, glowy-green bacteria, granting the entire family superpowers niftier and more socially acceptable than the Fantastic Four, I could barely keep my eyes open. That is saying a lot.

ALCATRAZ
This is the most recent of television aberrations I have come across, and I am still chafed. The preview for this fresh action/mystery/sci-fi show on Fox actually had me tingling in anticipation, if only for Sam Neill in a fascinating new role. Prisoners disappeared from Alcatraz in 1963? They start reappearing in 2012…with apparent murderous agendas? Sam Neill in a badass covert G-man role?? I was anxiously anticipating the pilot appearing on Hulu, and when it finally arrived, I was seeing red at the ridiculousness of it all. Yes, I will concede that the points I just illustrated above are grounds alone to prep the ship for ludicrous speed, but when done well, unexplainable sci-fi mystery can be immensely enjoyable. ‘Alcatraz’ was not done well. First off, we have the dramatic set up back in 1963, which includes a wet behind the ears prison guard paired with a veteran guard (who was obviously a ‘Dragnet’ fan) assigned to a scheduled prisoner transfer from the maximum security Alcatraz to an undisclosed location, but there is no one to meet the guards. When the younger guard suggests maybe someone forgot the transfer, his mentor’s gruff answer is, “This is Alcatraz. No one forgets.” …Yeah, gotta agree with you there. One would think the veteran guard might’ve sprinted to the radio to report something amiss on this dark and foggy MAXIMUM SECURITY PRISON ISLAND, but noooo, they just wander through the empty hallways, attempting to find a clue, and failing. Fade in to present day, where one of the prisoners has suddenly found himself back in Alcatraz in the present year amidst a tour (can we say ‘The Rock?’) and hops a boat back to the mainland within minutes. While in boarding this ferry he had the foresight to piggy back on a ride off the Rock, he felt the first thing he needed to do was to steal some tourist’s book on Alcatraz’s history and look up his own rap sheet. This, of course, was for the audience that was too slow and/or blind to pick up on the fact that we’d just seen this face a few minutes ago in a flashback and therefore needed a visual reminder of who exactly he was. The rest of the episode was just as mind-numbing as the first five minutes, and even the “unexpected” twist at the end of Sam Neill, covert G-man, actually involved in the whole ‘disappearing/reappearing with a murderous agenda’ Alcatraz prisoner thing, despite recruiting young minds to find out why the prisoners are returning, couldn’t save this unforgivable pilot.

Of course, we mustn’t let ourselves become eternally tangled in the negative uses of ‘One and done’ as it applies to nerd-culture. There are several cases where all it took was one episode, one viewing, one issue and I was hooked. My first exposure to ‘X-Men,’ for example, was issue #81, which in retrospect is not that deep of a story, but MAN did it sink its pages into my soul. Not only did the Rogue-and-Gambit-ness of the issue burn an impression upon my sixteen-year-old brain and heart, but the artwork (I love you, Kuberts!) drew me in so completely I have never been the same since.

‘Serenity’ was responsible for making me a ‘Firefly’ fan, I am almost ashamed to admit. Despite my love of the Whedon, I remained ignorant of his cult-hit television show ‘Firefly’ (debuted in 2002) until the movie it inspired after its premature demise, ‘Serenity,’ (2005) came out, and shortly after my first (but not only) viewing of the movie in theaters I purchased the DVD set of the ‘Firefly’ show without seeing a single episode of the series. (Of course, my mother, who’d fallen asleep during the climactic battle scene in ‘Serenity’ in the theaters, could care less)

‘X-Factor’ the comic also had me at first issue. Well, sort of. I was inspired to pick up the revamped version of ‘X-Factor’ (which debuted in 2005) after reading a few issues a couple years ago thanks to yet another (and thankfully awesome) ‘X-Men’ crossover, and I could not help but be totally blown away by Peter David’s incredibly candid, clever and surprising writing. Now one of my favorite authors, David’s take on the ‘X-Factor’ characters is immensely impressive not only in his way of making them more complex than they already are, but making them more likable. I could give two flying figs about Jamie Madrox before I started reading David’s take on the character, and now I can’t get enough of him (even to the point where my boyfriend and I are cosplaying as Jamie Madrox and Layla Miller for 2012, respectively, at several upcoming Comic-Cons!).

So let us give some love to the phrase ‘One and done,’ because odds are, one way or another, whether it be you love it or you despise it, you have at least learned something, which in itself is irreplaceable information.

SUPURBIA 1

SUPURBIA #1
Written by Grace Randolph and Drawn by Russell Dauterman
Published by Boom Studios


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Take a smidge of the Justice League, add a dash of Watchmen, throw them into a large pot of Desperate Housewives, and you get SUPURBIA, an amusing new series from writer Grace Randolph. We enter the world of the Meta Legion through the eyes of Eve White, who has just married her superhero lover. Their honeymoon is cut short, however, when he is promoted from sidekick to full-fledged member, and they enter the world of big league superheroics. And what an intriguing group of heroes they are- a near-omnipotent man who eavesdrops on the world while sexing up his villainess girlfriend; a Batman-type who gets caught by his wife while having sex with another male hero; an Earth goddess who is so sexist she ignores her son; and a cosmic-level hero who is as grounded as any human being you’d ever meet. These guys put the “fun” in dysfunctional.

The book works. Randolph does a very good job of introducing the characters, and Dauterman’s work has a clean and appealing look on the page. There are levels of intrigue to be explored, and a genuinely unexpected ending proves that you can’t always tell who the traitor of the tale is going to be (and there always is one). SUPURBIA has some style and some wit to it, and I’ll be with it all the way through.

NEW IMAGES

NEW IMAGES
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Image Comics


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Three new creator-owned books from the gang in NorCal…

THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #1 by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Nick Pitarra presents a world where the actual Manhattan Project was just the tip of the iceberg for scientific research and study beyond normal comprehension. We pick up the story as Dr. Robert Oppenheimer arrives to take a job at the joint, believing he is only there to build the world’s first nuclear weapon. But soon he (and we) learns that he will have opportunities to expand and explore his knowledge of the universe in ways he had only previously imagined. To be blunt, I was dubious about this one going in- I haven’t liked most of Hickman’s work, only truly enjoying PAX ROMANA. However, this book is unusually straightforward in its storytelling, which helps ground it and capture the reader’s attention quickly and efficiently. Pitarra’s art also grabs the eye as well- he has a very Frank Quitely-esque look to his work, combining panel-level simplicity with fine levels of detail. The twist at the end is telegraphed pretty far ahead, but doesn’t keep the book from offering you a very good reason to keep reading and see what the creators do with it.

Modernist takes on classic lit and characters are all the rage these days, the most popular being new looks at ALICE IN WONDERLAND. Thus I am not surprised to see a Goth-infused revisiting of THE WIZARD OF OZ in the guise of NO PLACE LIKE HOME #1, but I am surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Writer Angelo Tirotto and artist Richard Jordan give us a new heroine in the form of Dee Dee, a Kansas expatriate who must return home for the first time in five years in order to bury her parents, who have been killed by a tornado. But as she settles back into town, the strange rumblings of conspiracy rear up and it appears as if perhaps there was more to her folks’ death than she could have ever guessed. Part of what makes the book interesting is that the creative team doesn’t entirely rehash the classic material- there are narrative differences in the storytelling and characters and situations that have an air of freshness about them. There’s also no indication of when and whether there will be an actual trip to Oz, either. I like that there’s an open-ended feeling to this take, and I liked Dee Dee.

Writer Joe Keatinge and artist Andre Szymanowicz deliver HELL YEAH #1, which takes us into the life of a college-aged kid with superpowers and a really shitty attitude. Benjamin Day is obnoxious and gets into too many fights, something that neither his family, friends, nor school are happy about. But it becomes clear as the story progresses that perhaps he is really dealing with some sublimated emotions about identity confusion and acting out is the consequence. Whatever the deal, his life takes a turn for the crazy when an object crash lands on campus and things get a little crazy. I wasn’t fully sold on this one; it feels a little light, like it needed a few more pages to fully grab me and make me care about Benjamin more. His best friend, Sara, feels like a more realized character that he does at this point. The setup leaves room to grow, and there is an interesting attitude that pervades the book, but it’s going to need a strong issue two to really reel me in.