GRAPHIC NOVEL ROUNDUP

GRAPHIC NOVEL ROUNDUP
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Various


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Taking a look at four new books from the last couple of months…

There’s a lot to like about THE JOYNERS IN 3D (Archaia/Boom) by writer R.J. Ryan and artist David Marquez. Set about fifty years in the future, George Joyner is the world’s finest creator of new technology, and he has a new breakthrough ready to happen that will change the world again. He also had a family that is falling apart and a gift for philandering. That second part is, as you might guess, going to bite him in the ass. Ryan creates an interesting group of characters here, the leads well-rounded and multi-layered. Neither George, nor his wife, is entirely good or bad and each one bears part of the blame for the disintegration of their union. Marquez’ art is equally adept with the character stuff as it is in designing the future milieu, and his storytelling is crisp. What doesn’t quite work here is the gimmick: the 3D. Sure, it’s well done, but there’s no real need for it. This is a quiet story, really, and not a single sequence in the book feels truly enhanced by the 3D experience. I liked the book overall, but I would have liked it a little more not having to wear the glasses.

Writer/artist Danica Novgorodoff, who impressed so much with SLOW STORM, returns with THE UNDERTAKING OF LILY CHEN (First Second), which is the best double-meaning title I’ve seen in recent memory. The story involves “ghost marriages” – an old Chinese tradition that involves marrying the dead so that they may be happy in the afterlife. While this sounds like something that would have only happened a long time ago, there has been a resurgence in the last decade or so. Here, the book follows a young man named Deshi who is sent by his parents to find a female corpse who can be married to his newly deceased brother. Along the journey, he meets Lily Chen, a young woman who wants to leave her rural, sheltered existence behind and live a life of her own, as she attaches herself to him. To Deshi’s hired “matchmaker” (grave robber) the solution is simple: kill Lily and marry her off to the brother. But things are rarely that simple, and they certainly aren’t in this story. Novgorodoff creates a story that fires on all cylinders; her characters are interesting and gain depth as the tale moves forward, she offers up an even-handed look at a culture that could easily be misunderstood or mocked, and the sense of design in her artwork is stunning. The journey does drag in the middle, but it recaptures its energy later in the book and delivers a strong, solid ending. Fascinating stuff.

It’s nice to see writer/artist Jesse Lonergan back on shelves, as it’s been a while since JOE & AZAT came out. ALL STAR (NBM) tells a deceptively simple story of a small town high school baseball star named Carl Carter. He’s the kid the whole community rallies behind, the one with a chance to play college ball on scholarship. His best friend, Edsen, is different, though. Edsen’s from a broken home, has a track record for screwing up, and is going nowhere. This fazes neither of them, though, until in a moment of pure stupid, they pull a “prank” while drunk that sees them get arrested by the cops. That’s when Carl begins to truly see the world and its double-standards for the first time, as he and Edsen are given wildly differing punishments. Lonergan does get things right at every turn. His town feels right, the people who live there feel right, the reaction to what happens feels right, and the angst Carl feels over it feels right. There’s a universal recognition of the human condition here that works. Having grown up in a town like this, I saw the truth in it. The art has a crisp, cartoon-y look about it, and the ending, while feeling a little manufactured, resonates in the final panels. Solid stuff.

The GRAPHIC CLASSICS series continues to be an evergreen for Eureka Productions, as the 3rd volume (of 24!) heads back into print, now with 80 new pages of work. GRAPHIC CLASSICS: H.G. WELLS offers up “The Time Machine”, “The Island of Dr. Moreau”, “The Invisible Man”, and “The Inexperienced Ghost” in one volume, and the material here is quite strong across the board. Not only are the stories done well, but they are ones that any fan of Wells’ work would want to read. Creative types like Simon Gane and Rich Tommaso can be found doing some of the art, so the book looks fantastic. This series of books is not likely to ever make an enormous splash in the comic shop market, but it is just about perfect for bookstores and libraries. It’s a smart move by GC majordomo Tom Pomplun to target those markets and fill a severe need. Recommended, as always.




EXTERMINATION 1

EXTERMINATION #1
Written by Simon Spurrier and Illustrated by Jeffrey Edwards
Published by BOOM! Studios


Reviewed by Avril Brown

With so many apocalyptic future stories running wild nowadays, new books have to either provide something new, or do the story better than it has been done before. At first glance, EXTERMINATION seems to offer both.

Personally, I do love a book that opens with some clever and antagonistic banter between the headliners, and Nox (the good guy) and The Red Reaper (the bad guy…sort of) clearly love each other as much as they love the bizarre and deadly alien that is chasing them through an ash-strewn wasteland. They do work well together, as evident by the way they take down their pursuer, but as the flashbacks interlaced with the ongoing narrative suggest, they only very recently started fighting on the same side, and for all they know, they may be what is left of the human race.

The aliens are creatively illustrated and appear to be the stuff of nightmares, literally, giving the book its dark side. There is also something not quite right about the ‘good’ guy, and Reaper appears determined to bring out the other side of Nox the no-kill detective, a side Nox seems intent on keeping buried, perhaps for good reason. A humorous element is introduced right off the bat, and major kudos go to the writer for injecting a Star Wars reference within the first three pages. Thus far, apart from a victim and the colorful, carnage-happy creatures, Nox and The Reaper are the entire cast of EXTERMINATION, and their bountiful personalities are more than enough to fill a captivating first issue.



HYPERNATURALS 1

HYPERNATURALS #1
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Landing, and Illustrated by Brad Walker, Andres Guinaldo, Mark Irwin and Mariano Taibo
Published by BOOM! Studios


Reviewed by Avril Brown

BOOM! is taking a new crack at the superhero story with HYPERNATURALS, a group of heroes who use their abilities openly with public approval, and necessity. One of the different twists here is revealed at the beginning of this issue in a flashback scene from seven years ago when the world almost ended. The bad guy, an extremely smart and determined man named Sublime, declared the Quantinuum AI, which exists in the black hole core below the Quantinuum Platform where our heroes, and everyone else, currently live, needs to die for the abomination of running everyone’s lives. Utilizing a stolen nephilim fragment containing unknown powers, Sublime battles the Hypernaturals in attempt to “kill god.”
Confused yet? Too bad, because things do not get any clearer as the issue progresses. Now, seven years later, there is a new Hypernatural team that has vanished while on a recon mission and Bewilder, the face of the current regime and a former team member who fought in that fateful fight seven years ago, pulls together some new people and some old to figure out what happened to the current Hypernaturals.

There are a lot of nifty new buzz words in this book, but many aspects of the story and the look of the characters feel recycled (apparently half and half hair is trending again). There is an interview with one of the main characters at the end of the issue which is a nice touch and adds something to the general narrative while fleshing out the character herself, but generally speaking the story does not read as cohesively as an introductory issue should. HYPERNATURALS still offers plenty of characters with interesting powers and complicated personal lives, not to mention an entirely new world and reality-altering bad guys, but it’ll need to clean up and clarify its story if readers are to follow.



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.


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.

BOOM REVIEWS

BOOM! Reviews


By Avril Brown


Irredeemable #33
Written by Mark Waid and Illustrated by Diego Barreto

‘Irredeemable’ opened with the world’s greatest, and more powerful, hero flipping out to an extreme degree as he murders several of his former teammates and millions of people. Building upon that amazing introductory issue this book has evolved into one of the most entertaining superhero dramas available on the racks today.

The Plutonian has been through a lot since his little tantrum on Earth, and now after working as alien slave labor, battling (and recruiting) his way through an intergalactic insane asylum and sneaking a teleport back to Earth, readers finally learn his origin. We know why the Plutonian snapped, we’ve seen some of his past, but now we witness his origin and what made him a hero.

‘Irredeemable’ is at a great point right now for new readers as the crossover between its sister series, ‘Incorruptible’ is in full swing, and as they both are explaining the beginnings of their title characters it allows first-timers a chance to enjoy the story without getting confused by continuity.

Incorruptible #25
Written by Mark Waid and Illustrated by Marcio Takara

The writing on ‘Incorruptible’ has not been as consistently entertaining as that on ‘Irredeemable,’ but I do still enjoy watching Max Damage attempt to figure out what the hell he is doing. The concept was intriguing enough from the beginning: a super villain goes straight after watching the straightest superhero eviscerate several continents, and after two years of up and down story lines I feel like the book is finally getting somewhere.

Max has been a little slow on the uptake since he went un-evil, but although he does not always go about things the smartest way he does seem to genuine want to do good in the post-Plutonian world. Now his actions are shrouded in mystery as he has been cut off from every person he ever trusted and invested himself on an unknown project.

As with ‘Irredeemable,’ this book is primed for new readers due to the origin crossover happening now for both titles, and with the next issue of ‘Incorruptible’ it will be concluding, hopefully with one hell of a bang. All readers, both fresh and vintage, will be granted new information about Max Damage, and hopefully inspiring new creative avenues for this former bad boy.

7 Warriors #1-2
Written by Michael Le Galli and Illustrated by Francis Manapul

I was intrigued by the idea of a title starring seven women warriors, but two issues in and I am not impressed. Seven warriors are recruited in a monarchial society by a worried queen who wishes her son to be transported to a safe location, where he is to breed with the healthiest and most genetically viable high-born woman there to preserve the royal line.

SPOLIER ALERT: The fact that these seven top female warriors are serving as stud-escort aside, three of them also happen to die by the end of the second issue, thus confusing me as to why this title is called ‘7 Warriors.‘ I will give it a couple more issues to see if ‘7’ fleshes out anymore, but I was hoping for a bit more from such a promising premise.

Key of Z #1-3
Written and Created by Claudio Sanchez and Chondra Echert, and Illustrated by Aaron Kuder

Attempting to bring in ‘yet another zombie comic book’ in this saturated market means the book needs a good strong start and something new to bring to the zombie-infested table. Though it has yet to be confirmed, three issues in and ‘Key of Z’ would hint as to possessing both.

There is a supernatural aspect to this book, besides the obvious, in the form of some form of musical mind control over the undead. Politics and weapons dominate almost every zombie story at some point or another, and this one is no different. ‘Key’ also takes place in Manhattan, which is unoriginal but practical for a post-zombie apocalyptic world as it provides lots of architectural variety within a smaller space.

Time will tell if ‘Key of Z’ will be able to hold its own against the other zombie books present today, but ideally there are enough different subsets within the zombie world that ‘Key’ will be able to present itself as a fresh concept worthy of a comic book and/or zombie lover’s attention.

PLANET OF THE APES 1-2

PLANET OF THE APES #1-2
Written by Daryl Gregory and Illustrated by Carlos Magno
Published by BOOM! Studios

Reviewed by Avril Brown

Fans of the ‘Planet of the Apes’ series should check out BOOM!’s new comic of the same name and concept. Set twelve hundred years before the events in Charlton Heston’s ground-breaking original ‘Planet of the Apes’ movie released in 1968, the balance of power between the apes and humans has already begun to shift in the apes’ favor. As more humans are being born mute and the human culture disintegrates, the apes are well on their way to becoming the dominant creatures on the planet.

As girls the human Sullivan and the ape Alaya were orphans both adopted by a kindly older ape they called ‘grandfather.’ Believing in a world where ape and human lived together in harmony, the well-respected Lawgiver was in a position of great power and influence and he remained a friend to the humans…until he was gunned down by a human assassin using extremely deadly ‘old tech.’ Someone has been manufacturing these lethal tools in Southtown aka ‘Skintown,’ and though both Alaya and Sullivan are hunting the same killer, their methods differ vastly, and Alaya’s choices especially will have long-reaching consequences.

Filled with action and intrigue, these two introductory issues have gotten off to an addictive start. Gregory has weaved a believable world fraught with change and tension, and the story is nicely nestled between the time periods of the very first ‘Apes’ and the upcoming ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ (where apes first gain advanced intelligence), thus insuring an unique story in an original setting. Magno’s art is slightly gritty yet so rich in detail and vivacity, making him the perfect artistic compliment to this brand new chapter in the saga of the ‘Apes.’ All eyes back on ‘Apes’ with the latest movie coming out in August of this year, and thankfully BOOM! was smart to get such a successful team on such a noticeable, and enjoyable, title.



STARBORN 1

STARBORN #1
Plot by Stan Lee, Written by Chris Roberson and Illustrated by Khary Randolph
Published by BOOM! Studios

Reviewed by Avril Brown

STARBORN is by far the most promising series to come of the recent epic conversion of the brilliant comic minds Stan ‘The Man’ Lee and Mark Waid, editor-in-chief of BOOM! Studios, one of the most successful publishers of new independent titles. This latest story idea offers a fresh take on the tried and true concept of a super-powered individual who is unaware of his own history and capabilities, and it does so with an unique artistic style and fast-paced plot.

Benjamin Warner is an aspiring writer stuck in a dead-end job trying to make ends meet while he anxiously awaits an acceptance letter from a publisher regarding his first novel. His characters and the universe he writes so passionately about is nothing but a fictional gold mine…or so Benjamin tries to tell himself. That is, until he is attacked at his workplace by entities straight out of his ‘imagination,’ turning his entire life and what he has was convinced of to be the truth, upside down. Even his childhood crush is not what she seems as Benjamin suddenly finds himself immersed in a battle he would have never believed possible.

Roberson takes the reader from Ben’s imagination, to his actual life, to his dreams and back again on a quick pace, but nothing is left behind. There is an immediate sense of sympathy this reader, at least, felt for Benjamin; a fellow slightly down on his luck yet nevertheless determined to follow his aspirations to the end, no matter the cost. Randolph’s artwork for Benjamin’s present world is slightly choppy and bland compared to his simply breathtaking illustrations of the other alien races and worlds, giving the story an added vivacity in the arena where it seems the book will spend a fair amount of time: Benjamin’s supposedly mythical universe. There is strong potential contained within STARBORN I wish to see put to good use.

STAN LEE’S THE TRAVELER 1

THE TRAVELER #1
Written by Mark Waid and Illustrated by Chad Hardin
Published by BOOM! Studios

Reviewed by Avril Brown

From the brilliant comic book minds of Stan ‘The Man’ Lee and Mark ‘He Who Writes Kick Ass Books’ Waid comes THE TRAVELER, a new superhero book about a mysterious cloaked gentleman who has the ability to manipulate time. The Traveler, also known as Kronus, just happens to arrive on the scene of strange, destructive happenings caused by people he calls the split-second men and rescues seemingly random bystanders from gruesome deaths utilizing his mad skills and a sarcastic wit.

When it comes to new superhero titles what truly matters is not necessarily fresh new powers, but rather novel and engaging protagonists and a script that can hold its own. With that in mind, THE TRAVELER has captured my attention. Starting with one of these supposed ‘random’ victims of the split-second men’s violent tendencies, it is clear from the beginning the villain is targeting her specifically and Kronus’s (a name the damsel in distress assumed was his due to a frayed patch on his costume) spot on timing is somewhat suspicious.

While the mystery surrounding the reason why Kronus and the split-second men are plaguing the people of Richmond, Virginia is intriguing, it is Kronus himself that will keep me coming back. Though he has the superhero tendency to monologue, an occasionally necessary evil (especially in a premier issue) in order to get the lay of the land, he also has no qualms about insulting the people he is rescuing and injecting a smidgeon of humor in the situation. Hardin’s artwork supports the story style as well, and the tricky time-warp scenes are done with clarity and finesse. The last, gruesome panel is a good cliff-hanger ending and a great way to kick off the series. I am going to keep an eye on THE TRAVELER to see how the mystery unravels and how this saucy new hero, who clearly knows more than he lets on, develops.