FIVE WEAPONS – BEYOND SCIENCE

FIVE WEAPONS/TALES FROM BEYOND SCIENCE
Written and Drawn by Jimmie Robinson
Written by Mark Millar, John Smith and Alan McKenzie and Drawn by Rian Hughes
Published by Image Comics


Reviewed by Marc Mason


One of the most difficult questions a creator can wrestle with is “Now what?” For writer/artist Jimmie Robinson, it would pertain to his next move after seven full volumes of his sex and violence satire, BOMB QUEEN. Robinson devoted years to the Queen and her saga, and he took the story to fascinating and unusual places. But what to do for an encore? More in that satirical vein? Or the road less traveled. Thankfully, he chose option number two, and we get FIVE WEAPONS #1. Here we meet Tyler Shainline, the son of two master assassins, as he arrives for his first day of school at a private academy full of the children of other killers. As part of his education, Tyler will have to join one of five student clubs, each devoted to a different discipline or death dealing device. But as the story progresses, we learn that there is much more to young Tyler than meets the eye, particularly as it seems that he does not like to use weapons at all. Robinson’s new book is effortlessly charming, full of likeable characters, some nifty plotting, and a number of solid surprises in the story itself. It’s also friendly for all readers, moving away from the hardcore aspects of BQ. Robinson has always been one of comics’ best artists, as he has a strong line, a good sense of storytelling, and his ability to convey facial expressions and body language is top-notch. I liked this book very much, and I look forward to seeing where it goes.

I love the artwork of Rian Hughes, so I was pleased to see TALES FROM BEYOND SCIENCE cross my desk. This collection brings together a series of short stories drawn by Hughes that appeared in the great 2000 A.D. back in the early 90s. Working with writers Mark Millar, John Smith, and Alan McKenzie, Hughes put to page a number of fun tales that have a bit of a Twilight Zone feel to them. Weird science, brutal ironies, horrific comeuppances… these stories took the classic genre tropes and gave them interesting life. I was particularly fond of “The Man Who Created Space,” a charmingly nihilistic look at the philosophical questions we have about the universe we live in that has a wonderfully grim answer. But more than anything, I just loved looking at Hughes’ work, whether it was in the stories themselves or the mocked-up covers for comics that never actually existed. If you’re looking for something cool and off the beaten path, I recommend this one.


NEW IMAGE

NEW IMAGES
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Image Comics


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Looking at some new stuff from the Image gang…

Continuing the recent trend of high profile “Big Two” creators taking creator-owned projects over to Image, writer Andy Diggle and artist Jock (who made the amazing LOSERS series that came out of Vertigo and inspired the movie) deliver SNAPSHOT #1. Jake Dobson, a somewhat slacker-ish comic shop employee, finds a fancy cell phone on his way to work one day. Thinking he has lucked out in finding a new toy, that luck turns all bad when he discovers that the only thing on the phone are photographs of a murdered man… and just when it couldn’t get any worse, the phone rings and its owner wants it back. From that simple setup flows a far more complicated set of circumstances, as what Jake (and the reader) thinks is going on… well, that isn’t quite what’s going on. Cleverly scripted, and drawn in loving black and white, SNAPSHOT is a tasty little piece of neo-noir, and it sucked me in completely, and with little effort. I’m completely in the tank for books like this, and I look forward to seeing what happens next.

The apocalypse has rarely been stranger than in THE END TIMES OF BRAM AND BEN #1 & 2, a comedic look at the end of the world. One afternoon, roommates Bram and Ben are sitting around chatting when Bram suddenly disappears, along with a good chunk of the rest of the population. However, unlike the rest, Bram returns, and with unusual news: the Rapture was responsible for what happened, and he was only taken because of a clerical error. Of course, now he knows the secrets of Heaven, and he is not exactly thrilled with what he found there. On the other hand, Ben begins to struggle with the fact that he was not taken, and is swept up in the ultimate existential crisis. As both deal with their “new” lives, agents of Earth, Heaven, and Hell all move in to try and take advantage of (or eliminate) Bram. Writers James Asmus and Jim Festante have created one of the more unusual apocalyptic scenarios that you’ll ever see, and the absurdity of their story plays well on the comics page. With artist Rem Broo working in a neatly cartoony style, this is a nifty satire of religion, survivalists, hypocrites, media, and many more targets, and it entertains at every turn. Lots of fun to be had here.

On the other hand, writer/artist JM Ringuet takes the idea of Hell on Earth deeply seriously in REPOSSESSED #1 & 2, and it works just as well. Here, the apocalypse is far subtler: a flood of demons has begun inhabiting the Earth, doing so by taking possession of human bodies at an exponential rate. The solution? Bounty hunters who specialize in repossessing bodies from their demon hosts. Joe, Clay, and Martha take on the cases that others won’t, and they beatdown the baddest of the bad, but their new case has far more going on than they can wrap their minds around. A man arrives at their agency to offer them of finding and rescuing his daughter, who he believes has been possessed. Unconvinced that she is, they take the case anyway, and as they do, they find that while the girl may or may not be in the thrall of a demon, something sinister is indeed happening, and the target might actually be themselves. REPOSSESSED looks great, moves along at a zippy pace, has dynamic action, and never stops being a lot of fun. It also has a concept that is built almost perfectly for a television procedural. Solid stuff.

The last few years have allowed readers to watch artist Riley Rossmo grow and evolve, his art getting stronger and stronger, and his sense of storytelling becoming more powerful. Now he has a new showcase for his work, DIA DE LOS MUERTOS #1, a limited series featuring short stories that allow him to work in many genres, with many writers, and with interesting experiments in color and layouts. The book is also printed at Golden Age size, giving his work more room to expand and breathe. The stories here, from writers Alex Link, Christopher E. Long, and Dirk Manning generally embrace horror at their core, and they are all entertaining enough. But if you bought this book, you likely did so for one reason: to see what Rossmo can do. In that, it is successful: this is a lovely comic, a visual feast that keeps your eyes glued to the page. If you like his work, this is a must-buy; if not, it makes for a decent introduction to what he can do.




NEW DYNAMITE

NEW DYNAMITE
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Dynamite Entertainment


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Taking a look at three new efforts from the folks at DE…

A bad guy who has gotten away with it. Cops tired of watching their efforts – and their brethren – wasted. This lethal combination sets the stage for RED TEAM #1 from writer Garth Ennis and artist Craig Cermak. Kicking off DE’s new crime comics line, we start with the story of a major crimes unit that decides to murder a suspect that they have spent years unsuccessfully trying to take down. Telling you anymore details would spoil the book, but what I can say is that the story is narrated from the point of view of one team member eight months after the fact, and that his narration comes as part of his being interrogated by other law enforcement. In the flashbacks, we meet the team, learn about who they are as people, and genuinely begin to like them. Ennis gives you enough to go on that you get sucked in and care about their fate. And let’s be honest, the odds are pretty good that some horrible shit is about to happen to them and it will hurt to read it. That’s what makes Ennis so damned good. He is abetted nicely by the clean, clear storytelling by Cermak; the book is artistically strong, and Cermak shows that he can give even static moments some real juice. Can’t wait to read more of this.

Writer Peter V. Brett returns to Red Sonja with RED SONJA: UNCHAINED #1, which picks up after his one-shot, RED SONJA: BLUE. Brett ties up the loose ends from the previous book, then sets Sonja off on a new adventure, an adventure that’s fairly unique to the character. Normally, Sonja is in search of riches – treasures of gold or of power. But in this case, she finds herself hired to find information. Of course, before she gets there, she has to engage in a few battles along the way, and no one does better with the sword than our red-headed heroine. I like Brett’s interpretation of the character a great deal; he writes her as a creature of enormous intelligence, which is always a pleasure to read. We get inside her thought process as she plans out in a matter of seconds how she will take down an entire gang of bad guys, then watch as she executes precisely what she intended to do. It demonstrates not only how clever she is, but also how she has managed to survive for so long. The art by Jack Jadsen complements the story well, and overall, this one entertains. Good stuff.

THE BIONIC MAN VS THE BIONIC WOMAN is a bit of a misnomer of a title, considering that in the first two issues, the pair not only do not fight, but they also don’t really share significant screen time. (That said, the next issue blurb suggests a throwdown in #3.) Instead, we get a story that calls more for a team-up; a new bionic player arrives on the scene, and he is not only not a nice fellow, he’s pretty much a serial killer with a gift for stealing human organs. Cue the need for Steve Austin to take over the hunt, and put Jaime Sommers on deck in case something goes wrong. (Hint: something is going to go wrong.) It isn’t an overly complicated premise, and it shouldn’t be: writer Keith Champagne knows what fans of the characters want to see, and he puts it on the page for the fans to enjoy. Artist Jose Luis does a solid job of depicting the mayhem and death caused by bionic beings doing bastardly things, and keeps the flow moving along at a good pace. These aren’t brain surgery comics by any stretch, but they are a solid take on what a crossover like this is supposed to offer.