CHEW 52

CHEW #52
Written by John Layman and Illustrated by Rob Guillory
Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Avril Brown

“The Pope has converted.” Only in CHEW, man, only in CHEW. In this plot-advancing issue readers are not only treated to some interesting background info on Mason, but we also bore witness to the latest twist in the long term plans of the Church of the Immaculate Ova. Now that she has His Holiness backing her up, the High Priestess Alani Adobo is on quite the roll…and the final page gives a clear reason for her determination.

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The sneak peek into Mason’s history gives us confirmation of what many CHEW readers already knew: that he has a very strong personal motivation for discerning the truth behind the avian flu. The origin and meaning behind the flu outbreak is shrouded in secrecy and corruption on all levels of the government, but with a tiny nibble taken out of the cognominutus Carlton Cardamon, a man who can read menus in every language, a ray of light is being shed. Poor Carlton’s power was also his undoing, as he could read the alien language which mysteriously appeared in the sky, but his brain couldn’t deal.

There is still the matter of Amelia’s foreshadowed demise, which seems to be confirmed with angel Toni’s commiseration over ‘poor Amelia’s’ fate. Methinks it has something to do with the vast amounts of the freaky gallsaberry fruit she’s been snacking on while she writes her otherworldly bestselling novels (or are they biographies?). I’m sure whatever it is I won’t see coming, because CHEW is many things but predictable is not one of them.

CHEW 51

CHEW #51
Written by John Layman and Illustrated by Rob Guillory
Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Avril Brown

Oh glory be and halle-food-jah, CHEW is back! After the heart-wrenching, knife-twist of an epilogue from the previous issue, issue 51 is refreshingly lighthearted and action-packed; just how I like my CHEW. In a rare fast-forward move (apart from that time they randomly jumped ahead like eight issues), this new story arc picks up two years after The Fight with the Collector. Amelia is on the best seller list and Chow Chu is getting a bit of comeuppance in an interesting and very CHEW fashion.

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You know this issue was going to be made of win when our favorite deceased Chu makes an appearance. Toni barrels through the fourth wall to say ‘hi’ from Heaven while cavorting with an odd group of winged miscreants. If you thought South Park was odd for having Gandhi in hell, you’ll be agog at whom Layman elected for the land of free wifi.

Back on Earth we get a glimpse into Olive’s current day job: cutting carrots for the POTUS alongside a ditzy stoner who gets high off of psychedelic skunk farts (oh you CHEW). By all appearances a lowly kitchen intern, Olive naturally is hovering around the White House for slightly more badass purposes, which we are treated to later in the issue.

Not only do we have the expected yet still beloved hilarious background jokes, we also have Olive in her ass-kicking glory, high as fuck sidekicks, a platypus mascot wielding an Uzi and an Ian Malcom shout out. Oh yeah, CHEW is back and more CHEW than ever before. Hold on tight, ladies and gents, it’s gonna be one crazy ass final ride. As Joe from Family Guy once enthusiastically encouraged: BRING IT ON!

BEAUTY-PLUTONA

BEAUTY/PLUTONA
Written by Jeremy Haun and Jason A. Hurley and Drawn by Jeremy Haun
Written by Jeff Lemire and Drawn by Emi Lenox
Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Two new terrific debuts to take a look at…

As the year begins to take its final lap and we start building best-of lists, I suspect that THE BEAUTY #1 will make more than a few. I know it’s going to make mine.

What a concept!

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Two years ago, a new sexually transmitted disease called “The Beauty” appeared, and this one has starling side effects: it physically changes its victims, getting rid of fat, baldness, wrinkles, bad skin, the whole nine yards. Essentially it delivers physical perfection, and the only side effect is the running of a constant fever. As you might imagine, many people went out and got the disease on purpose, while many others have rebelled against this unnatural change. There is division within society over it… and that’s just the setup.

Here in issue one, we meet a pair of detectives assigned to what initially is reported as a bombing, but turns out to be much more. What has happened involves The Beauty, and to tell you more would be a disservice. Just rest assured that it involves action, terrorism, and a highly unfortunate moment for both of our cops.

Great science fiction always tells us about our current society, and THE BEAUTY definitely does just that. It brings up issues of body image, sexual choice, fears about the modern terrorist state, and does so in interesting and unique ways. The scripting by Jeremy Haun and Jason A. Hurley is tight, the dialogue rings with truth, and Haun’s art is quite lovely, telling the story in an effective and impactful way. As soon as I finished reading it, I went right back and read it again, because I immediately wanted more and that was the best I could do at the time. I give this book my highest recommendation.

Sometimes it’s an unusual creative pairing that catches your eye, and that’s the case with PLUTONA #1, which is written by Jeff Lemire and drawn by Emi Lenox. Lemire has been spreading his wings quite a bit as a writer over the last few years, so it’s no surprise to see his name top-lining a new release. But we haven’t seen a whole lot from the always terrific Lenox lately, so it’s is a happy thing to see her at the artistic helm of a new creator-owned work.

It doesn’t hurt that’s it’s rather good, either.

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The book opens up with a quick page of mystery before diving in to what looks to be our primary cast: four young kids with wildly varying family backgrounds who are somewhat friendly with one another. One day after school, their paths intersect, and in the process they discover something in the woods involving the superheroine known as Plutona.

More mystery follows.

Rich in characters – Lemire’s dialogue sounds like he recorded it on a playground – and gorgeously drawn, PLUTONA gets off to a strong start, whetting the reader’s appetite and making them want more.


CHEW 49-50

CHEW #49-50

Written by John Layman and Illustrated by Rob Guillory

Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Avril Brown

One of the only good things about coming back from a whirlwind European vacation is catching up on my comics. One of the only bad things about catching up on my comics is the ending to CHEW’s latest story arc, ‘Blood Puddin’, and by bad I mean good, but bad…it’s all very emotionally convoluted.

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In issue 49 we get to see some more of Olive Chu kicking some supreme ass, with the help of her mentor Savoy and stepmother Amelia. While Olive takes on the Collector’s army one faction at a time, with the assistance of Savoy’s Belushi-like nimbleness and Amelia surprising skills with an automatic, the later is also writing about the foods she eats at each locale, thus giving Tony a trail of breadcrumbs to follow. One of the best parts of this issue, if not this series, is the glorious neon sign stating ‘comics are ridiculous’ hovering invisible but so unsubtle over the exchange between Tony and Cesar. When Tony proudly explains how his lady is keeping him in the loop, Cesar’s all, ‘She could’ve texted you the address.’ Nothing tickles me more than a person or medium acknowledging their own absurdity.

Regardless, the issue ends on an up and disgusting note, when it turns out that (hopefully) the sacrifice of Poyo will not be in vain, as him ending up on a plate was dear deceased Toni’s final reveal. As it turns out, to kill a ruthless, psychopathic food power collector, you have to eat a ruthless, psychopathic rooster. Go figure.

Issue 50 is The Fight. The final showdown between Tony Chu and The Collector is here, and it does not disappoint. There are weapons, badass moves, angry fighting words and a most excellent finish. Basically it is everything you want to see regarding the faceoff between the flawed hero and the hated villain, and perhaps a bit more than you wanted to hear via the final dialogue, especially given the very last page of the issue.

I am a happy ending kind of gal, so my knee jerk reaction to even a hint that one of my favorite series in the last four years might not achieve that goal is straight up rage. RAGE. However, I LOVE this series. CHEW brings everything to the table: humor, romance, action, powers and comic book ridiculousness along with the acknowledgement of said ridiculousness, making the book even sexier. My heart is already aching for what is (potentially? PLEASE Layman, say it ain’t so) to come, but I remain a loyal CHEW follower, and as eager as ever, particularly now that it is in it’s final lap, to see this series to the finish line.

SCI-FI IMAGES

SCI-FI IMAGES

Written and Drawn by Various

Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Two intriguing new science fiction series rolling out from Image…

As far as high-profile books go, they don’t get much bigger than a new one from writer Brian K. Vaughan. Add the return of artist Steve Skroce to doing comics work, and WE STAND ON GUARD #1 is pretty much a beast hitting the shelves.

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The story: in the year 2112 (which is surely a tribute to legendary Canadian rockers Rush) the United States blames Canada for a terrorist attack on its soil and invades its neighbor to the north. Twelve years later, a young woman who survived the initial attack on Ottawa finds herself wandering the wilderness and searching for her brother, who has been captured by the Americans. Conflict – and an absence of hilarity – ensues.

No question, everything about WE STAND ON GUARD is top-notch. Gorgeous art that tells the story in a dynamic way. Great character design. Witty and clever script. While this one may not reach SAGA-level heights of popularity, it’s going to settle in for a good, long run. But…

There’s also some missed opportunity here. By setting the story so far in the future, it takes some interesting ideas for how this conflict might play out off the table. I wasn’t convinced that this really needed to be far-flung sci-fi, because the concept works no matter when you tell the tale. Maybe future issues will address some of those concerns. And I’ll be reading those issues, no question. This stuff is quite good.

But when you talk Image and science fiction, you absolutely must start with Brandon Graham’s run on PROPHET, which has been the most consistently imaginative thing the genre has seen in the past four or so years. In 8HOUSE: ARCLIGHT #1 Graham once again delivers on what he has shown he does so well (not just in PROPHET, but also in KING CITY): build a science fictional world that is wildly unique.

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In the land of Krev-Ropa, a young woman named Sir Arclight escorts her Lady through the wastelands in search of… something. We do not know. But what we do know is that the Lady has a head made up of tentacles… and that this is not her own body. Whose body is it? Why is she in it? Where is her body? The questions pop into the reader’s head in rapid succession. Yet at the same time, you sit back, relax, and enjoy the magnificent artwork that Marian Churchland delivers to help build this world.

This is a book that expects you to pay good attention to what is going on, and Graham and Churchland infuse it with so much imagination that you have no choice but to go along with them on the ride. I’m excited to see what happens next.


EMPTY ZONE-STARVE

EMPTY ZONE/STARVE

Written and Drawn by Jason Scott Alexander

Written by Brian Wood and Drawn by Danijel Zezelj

Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Two interesting new efforts from the Image offices…

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Writer/artist Jason Scott Alexander certainly knows how to set a mood, and he demonstrates his gifts in that area repeatedly in EMPTY ZONE: CONVERSATIONS WITH THE DEAD #1. Set in a dystopian world that is familiar – and yet still unique in its execution – we meet a young bounty hunter named Corinne who is possessed of a robotic right arm.

She is also somewhat possessed by the ghosts of the dead. They don’t want to allow her a moment’s peace… or a good night’s sleep.

Trying to fully explain the plot isn’t quite possible, but what I can tell you is that there is sex, violence, mystery, an unusual seduction, and an extremely unpleasant law enforcement robot in the mix. Corinne is mysterious, yet she is also captivating. You definitely get through the book interested in her and her fate. She smart and resourceful, the kind of protagonist you can develop a solid rooting interest in.

And the art? GORGEOUS. The care and meticulous detail in Alexander’s work is quite impressive, and his use of color is top-notch. A strong first effort.

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The best way I can describe STARVE #1 is “Transmetropolitan if it starred Anthony Bourdain.” A famous TV chef named Gavin Cruikshank is living a happy life off the grid when a helicopter from his network tracks him down and brings him back to the world in order to get him to finish the last eight shows he owes them.

Hilarity does not ensue.

Instead, Gavin must re-acclimate to a world that has changed in his absence, attempt to connect with his daughter, and deal with the fact that the wife he left behind hates him at an evangelical level of passion. Plus (and this is a SPOILER, but something that could really upset some readers) he’s given the task of making haute cuisine out of a dog.

There are aspects of STARVE that really work. Gavin is a strong lead character, and the chef angle gives the book something different than anything else on the stands. Plus, Zezelj’s art is absolutely phenomenal, the pages a true feast for the eyes. At the same time, the more unseemly aspects of the story (the dog, the shrewish wife who is so cliché it’s painful) ensure that the book isn’t exactly entertaining to read.

So it’s a toss-up. If the darker edge is your thing, I think you’ll like it. If you’re a card-carrying member of the ASPCA, you won’t.


MYTHIC INJECTION

INJECTION/MYTHIC

Written by Warren Ellis and Drawn by Declan Shalvey

Written by Phil Hester and Drawn by John McCrea

Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Marc Mason

What does Image Comics do best?

Give top-notch creative talents the freedom to do whatever they want to do. And when that works… damn, does it work well. Such as in the case of two new outstanding books that have hit shelves in the past couple of weeks.

There are those who still mourn Warren Ellis’ masterpiece PLANETARY, and those people should go buy a copy of INJECTION #1 immediately. Set in modern Britain and revolving around a group of people whose charge was to explore the strange and unknown, INJECTION most assuredly has a bit of the old Planetary flavor going for it, minus the superpowered humans. Indeed, the characters here are all too human. Maria Kilbride, the leader, is currently in a mental hospital due to her work. Robin Morel has become detached from humanity and attached to the land, forsaking anything like responsibility to his fellow man. Brigid Roth has become a reclusive computer hacker, drowning herself in a bottle.

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Yet in flashback, we see that this is not who these people were meant to be. What went wrong? What destroyed them?

Ellis isn’t telling, beyond the hint he gives with the title of the book: The Injection. Whatever it was, it had staggering consequences for our would-be heroes.

Layering mystery upon mystery, Ellis’ script captivates the reader, but as good as the writing is, the book goes up by numerous notches when you throw in the art by Shalvey (and Jordie Bellaire’s colors). The entire comic is truly a work of art. Gorgeous pages galore for the eye to feast upon. There is very little waste here, and each page is worth examining carefully to see what Shalvey put in and what he left out, as it provides keys to story and character. In short, I loved everything about this. Can’t wait to read the next one.

In the past I have referred to Phil Hester as comics’ most underrated talent, a guy who just makes everything better. John McCrea was the artist of HITMAN, a comic I consider a desert island need, one I will reread over and over for the rest of my life.

MYTHIC #1 brings the two together to work on the same series. How could it be anything less than awesome?

Answer: it can’t. It’s awesome.

MYTHIC introduces us to a trio of characters who work for Mythic Lore Support, and for lack of a better way of putting it, they are essentially janitors who clean up after magic when it goes astray. In this world, science is merely a smokescreen for magic’s true role at the heart of the universe, and it’s science that helps most humans cope. That alone is a nice zinger from the creators, satirizing religious zealotry with a wink and a smile.

mythic 1

After a cool prelude, we jump ahead to the crew being stationed at Yellowstone, investigating a lack of rain. To tell you their solution would be criminal, but needless to say, when the story gets around to telling the reader why there’s no rain, it’s a laugh out loud funny moment in a book already full of them.

With a clever concept, a witty script, and amazing art, Hester and McCrea show that they are as formidable as any duo working together in comics right now. This book is a gas from start to finish. It’ll be at the top of the reading stack with each successive issue.


CHEW 48

CHEW #48

Written by John Layman and Illustrated by Rob Guillory

Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Avril Brown

Oh you CHEW! The ‘Blood Puddin’’ story arc is rolling right along and with it several long awaited, and much appreciated, reunions. When we last saw our heroes Amelia Chu was flexing her muscles and giving Mason Savoy a what-for with a coffee cup and some maternal rage. Naturally Chu is called to the scene to unravel what really went down, and what he sees is hard to swallow…and for him that is saying quite a lot.

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Olive Chu wakes up in time to stop Amelia from inflicting more caffeinated damage to Savoy and decides to come clean about her more than willing relationship with him. Though she’s sporting a rather wicked scar across her face, Olive Chu is far from deterred from her mission against The Collector: she’s inspired. With a little guidance from Savoy, Olive picks up a new food ability to add to her arsenal (the means to create weapons, communication and psychic brain hats with gelatin), takes out a team of assassins and sends a message to The Collector. Though she’s more powerful and confident than ever, Olive is still in danger, and she is just as stubborn as her father.

Things are coming up Colby this issue (I so hoped they would!) as his husband is finally up and walking around (more like cantering, actually), leading to a heartwarming and pervy homecoming for the two lovers. Also, the harsh but mostly true words that Chu ‘heard’ from his daughter are resonating soundly, forcing Tony to realize some important things about himself and his relationships. Though there are still several challenging obstacles to overcome, it looks like we’re on the way to seeing Colby and Chu back in action side by side, the way they were meant to be.

The tone in this issue was finally back to a level my happy-ending heart has been missing, and there were several excellent background nuggets, as well as one of the best lines in a CHEW comic yet. Upon seeing his halved husband sporting a new mechanical horse torso, Colby asks, “So tell me…is that new bionic horse body anatomically correct?” Gold, pure gold.

TITHE/LUTHER STRODE/NO MERCY

NEW IMAGES

Written and Drawn by Various

Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Marc Mason

A trio of newbies…

Taking into account THINK TANK, POSTAL, WILDFIRE, and THE TITHE #1 I can only come to this conclusion: Matt Hawkins writes comics damn near specifically for me.

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In THE TITHE, we open up with a quote from disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker, and we slide from there into a magnificent heist story set at one of those horrific mega-churches. A group of people wearing Jesus masks rips the place off, setting the FBI on their tail. Discussions of God, corruption, lapsed faith, and the inner workings of the hacker ring claiming responsibility follow.

What makes this work? Great story, rapid pacing, exciting heist, and absolutely terrific art from Rahsan Ekedal. Hawkins treats the reader like they’re smart, offers up intriguing character bits, and Ekedal delivers the storytelling with a flourish. Like I said: Hawkins makes comics that are right in my wheelhouse. This one is another winner.

Sticking the landing in a trilogy is amongst the most difficult things to do for any creative type, so I was pleased to see that THE LEGACY OF LUTHER STRODE #1 gets off to a strong start. Writer Justin Jordan and Tradd Moore return to put a period on their wildly violent and entertaining saga of a young man who gains massive strength and massive ability to handle/heal pain and the larger world this opens for him. Bloody and over the top, the two previous series were at the vanguard of the recent “fight comics” movement, and were easily my favorite of the genre.

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Happily, this is more of the same.

But, as these things go, it is also grander, more action-packed, funnier, faster-paced, and generally just one of the better issues in the entire series of books. The art by Moore is utterly gorgeous, and his ability to depict action and movement has grown by leaps and bounds over the years. His characters look great, too. Throw in a tight script that sets up the final dominos for the book to knock down, as well as 40 pages of story, and you have a solid winner.

Alex De Campi writing and Carla Speed McNeil on art makes for one of the most interesting pairings to hit the shelves in quite some time in NO MERCY #1. McNeil is best known for her amazing series she both writes and draws, FINDER, so seeing her team with someone else is a rarity.

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It’s also really, really good.

Paired with De Campi, who has a strong track record for doing cool books that are a little off the beaten path, McNeil brings her A-game to this story of a service club’s trip to South America gone horribly wrong. A broad and diverse cast of characters, each with not only their own personalities, but also their own motivations for being part of the journey. Unfortunately, all of that means very little when the ten-hour bus trip meant to take them to their destination suffers… complications.

Wonderfully dialogued and stuffed with fascinating people, and gorgeously drawn in both character and action, I liked this a whole bunch. You will, too.






CHEW 47

CHEW #47

Written by John Layman and Illustrated by Rob Guillory

Published by Image Comics

By Avril Brown

Heads up, foodie fans, the latest CHEW issue is out and with it brings a breath of fresh air…kinda. Though still not exactly light-hearted this book offers a bit more hope for improvement in the lives of our beleaguered heroes…kinda.

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Things are still a bit tense at the office, what with Colby having nightmares revolving over murdering one of his former partners and being persecuted by the other. D-Bear, a thug turned reserve FDA agent and Chu’s new partner, has taken to his new position with excessively rapid aplomb. While I don’t mind glossing over certain details for the sake of speeding up a story, the mysterious twelve hour transformation of D-Bear from amusing yet mostly inept wannabe G-man into an eloquent and efficient special agent who does most of the mental heavy lifting needs a bit more of an explanation than, well, none. A majority of the issue was dedicated to D-Bear narrating the food power villain of the month (a guy who can belch noxious gas if he eats old food), but the most interesting plot points involved the more familiar faces.

Chu is militantly watching over his people as they recover at the hospital, his loved ones, and his enemy. The palatable anger he expresses as he’s standing over Mason Savoy’s seemingly comatose bulk shows there may yet be hope for a Chu/Colby reunion. Chu threatens this man who took his ear, his partner and his daughter, leaving me with fingers crossed that love and friendship will win the day. The issue ends with a truly excellent woman power moment and one hell of a cliffy more dramatic than depressing, giving the distinct impression something big is about to go down. I’m truly looking forward to the next ride on this roller coaster.