ABELARD

ABELARD
Written by Regis Hautiere and Drawn by Renaud Dillies
Published by NBM


Reviewed by Marc Mason

How long can innocence survive?

That’s a heady question for a book that might initially look like it is meant for younger readers. Abelard, a tiny bird who lives in a small country swamp, meets a traveler named Eppily and falls head over heels for her. Upon discovering that there are machines in America that allow creatures to fly high into the sky, he sets off into the world so that he can ride one of those machines, capture the moon, and deliver it to Eppily as a sign of his affections. The journey takes him into a gypsy carnival, alongside a grumpy bear, and onto an ocean voyage, but what happens as he discovers the truth about the world is far from a pleasant tale.

ABELARD starts off feeling somewhat quaint and unassuming, and by the time you realize where it is heading, it is far too late to stem the tide of heartache that the book makes you feel. You come to care about this crazy little bird, and you adore his innocence, but as it gets stripped away, it becomes painful. Yet that is also what makes the book so fantastic: the creators find a way to make you genuinely care about what happens to the poor little guy. You get deeply invested in his quest.

Put that together with superior presentation (hardcover, large-size printing, thick paper) and you have a book very much worth your time and money. This is a high-quality piece of work.

NEW IMAGES

NEW IMAGES
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Image Comics


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Buncha new stuff from Image lately. Taking a look at some of it…

The future + sports has always been a fertile combination, and it proves to be once again with MARA #1 from writer Brian Wood and artist Ming Doyle. In a near-future where international athletic competition has reached a zenith of popularity, no one is more revered or respected than volleyball sensation Mara Prince. Talented, telegenic, and sponsor-friendly, she stars for the best team in the world. But beneath that, she leads a stressful life with no privacy and danger lurking all around. However, that all may change when during a match something… strange… happens that will change her life and career permanently. Everything here is executed extremely well; Wood’s script is terse, letting the art carry the story, and Doyle’s knockout work is more than up to the task. The cliffhanger is a damn good one, and I look forward to seeing how the story plays itself out. Recommended.

I really enjoyed THE STRANGE TALENT OF LUTHOR STRODE, so I was pleased to see the sequel THE LEGEND OF LUTHOR STRODE #1 arrive by the end of the year. Writer Justin Jordan and artist Tradd Moore return with a gloriously over-violent new installment, picking up five years after the first book ended. Luthor is terrorizing the underworld, and the bad guys simply cannot let that stand, so they hatch a clever plan that involves tying up an outstanding thread from book one. Telling you more would be unfair. Suffice it to say, everything I enjoyed about the first book is back in this one: good dialogue, gonzo art, zippy pacing. This isn’t a book for the squeamish, but it sure is a lot of fun. Give me a comic with this much joy in it every day of the week.

The first WITCH DOCTOR series also surprised me with how much fun it was to read, and WITCH DOCTOR: MAL PRACTICE #1 & 2 continue in that vein as well. This time around, the Doctor is mystically roofied, leaving him with an STD (sorcery transmitted disease) that will kill him unless he turns over a particular spellbook to the bad guy. Of course, nothing is ever that easy, and things don’t quite go according to plan. Magical carnivals, strange autopsies, demons that replace the human tongue… this book is loaded with insane ideas, which is really its charm. Writer Brandon Seifert and artist Lukas Ketner seem unafraid to try anything, willing to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. That kind of gunslinger mentality serves them well, and it serves the book well, also.

NOWHERE MEN #1 & 2 are certainly audacious comics. Writer Eric Stephenson and artist Nate Bellegarde have created an ambitious story that follows two different tracks. In one, we meet and learn about a foursome of scientists who band together to form a company of their own and change the world, and see how that façade of greatness can be easily wiped away. In another, we follow a small laboratory crew that work for their country as they deal with being quarantined because of an unexplainable illness. Nothing there is quite what it seems, either, and to spoil it would be criminal. But that isn’t all. There is also supplementary material that will remind many readers of the experience of reading WATCHMEN. Oh, and there isn’t an ounce of fat to be found here, either. No ads, and the inside covers are used for story material as well. The indicia is crowded out and forced to the back cover. At three bucks, this is pretty much a mega-bargain. I was completely immersed in it, and I have zero idea where it is going. That’s all you can ask for as a reader.




NEW DYNAMITE

MASKS/VAMPIRELLA/SHERLOCK HOLMES
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Dynamite Entertainment


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Catching up with Dynamite Entertainment, including their most high-profile release of the year…

For the past few years, DE has been home to a growing number of classic pulp heroes, so it was only a matter of time before they figured out how to bring them all together. That time is now, as MASKS #1 & 2 have hit shelves. Writer Chris Roberson draws together The Green Hornet and Kato, The Shadow, and The Spider for starters, with more heroes lurking on the edges of the story. Teaming these characters already makes for a smokin’ cool idea, but in the hands of Roberson, it is also intriguingly layered one. Their pulp origins are common, but their personas and ways of working are not. The baddies are a group of corrupt officials called “the Justice Party” who have infiltrated politics and law enforcement in order to pursue horrific agendas, giving room for Roberson to take some sly pokes at some modern trends as well. If that wasn’t enough, we get a full issue of Alex Ross art on issue one, something rather rare these days. Dennis Calero steps in on issue two and does some of his finest work as well. Overall, this is about as good as you could have hoped for, and the promise of more awesome stuff to come is definitely here.

VAMPIRELLA STRIKES is the second ongoing Vampi title, and I’m a little surprised it took this long for that to happen. Writer Tom Sniegoski is joined by rising DE star Johnny Desjardins on the art, and the book gets off to a solid start. We catch up to Vampirella as she wipes out a bar full of demons, and follow the story to find out about the black market harvesting of organs… the organs of angels, that is. Nifty concept. Desjardins draws the hell out of it, and Sniegoski smartly uses the updated version of Vampi that Eric Trautmann laid out when the main series started up. Dynamite takes some heat for some of its covers, but it never quite gets the credit it deserves for the fact that the heroines inside the books are quite well-written and interesting, not just wanker bait. There isn’t a single legit T&A shot in this book’s interiors. Worth your time.

Leah Moore and John Reppion dive back into writing history’s greatest detective in SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE LIVERPOOL DEMON. With all the incarnations of Holmes running around pop culture right now, DE’s comics have been the ones most faithful to the source material, eschewing modern touches, steampunk, and relocation. Here we have a Holmes and Watson living in England in 1888, solving crimes and doing their thing. However, peace and quiet is not their thing. During a trip to catch a murderer, they find themselves embroiled in at least one new mystery, if not two. Cleverness, intelligence, and observation will be required, because the game is most certainly afoot. The art by Matt Triano is effective in telling the story, and the pacing and plotting are solid; there’s nothing grandly spectacular about this one, it just works. It gives you precisely what you’re looking for out of a classic Holmes story.