This week’s comics brought to you in the themes of Reformation and Reanimation!
This week I bring you reformed supervillains, a zombie apocalypse in New York City, a deadly movie theatre, and a fairy tale Christmas like no other… A nice eclectic mix, I think you’ll agree?
Reviewed herein: Incorruptible Vol.01, Key of Z #1-3, The Theater #1-3, Grimm Fairy Tales Holiday Special 2011
Incorruptible, Vol.01 (Boom)
What if the world’s greatest supervillain decided to become the world’s greatest hero?
Meet Max Damage, Sky City’s most notorious super-powered criminal. Known for everything from manslaughter to terrorism, no one could match Max’s appetite for chaos. But that was before the Plutonian, the world’s greatest hero, turned his back on humanity and slaughtered millions, leaving Max a changed man. Now, the world’s salvation may lie in the hands of its most infamous supervillain. Can someone who once ruined so many lives now truly become Incorruptible?
With the release of the Artist’s Edition of Incorruptible #1 from Mark Waid and Jean Diaz (cover below), I thought it would be a perfect time to review the first collected volume of the series, which contains issues #1-4, a cover gallery, and a 10-page sample of Waid’s Potters Field series.
Incorruptible is a companion series to Waid’s longer-running Irredeemable. I’ve already read the Irredeemable Definitive Collection Vol.1 (which is a massive hardback, collecting the first three volumes of that series, as well as a short story about Max Damage), but that review is scheduled to go live after this one. Needless to say, if you like comics, superheroes and great writing, you need to be reading Irredeemable. Seriously: it’s incredible.
Anyway, back to Incorruptible. I guess the question many people will want to know, if they are familiar with Irredeemable, is how it stacks up. Some people have said it’s not as good, but I actually really liked this as well. I’ve read more of Irredeemable and while that has a premise that is more obviously original and interesting, Incorruptible manages to stand up alongside it very well.
It’s got a different tone, obviously, and because of Max’s past, the people who are around him aren’t the most noble or respectable – take his sort-of-girlfriend, Jailbait, whom he rescued from a brothel (see the short story in Irredeemable Definitive Collection). She’s an interesting character – petulant, still young (hence her name), slightly ADHD, clearly smitten with Max, but having difficulty with reconciling their past and his new good-guy ethics. She also has a lot more difficulty giving up her old ways, and offers up some funny frustrations for Max. Her character and place in the story are well done – it’s common for villains to take advantage of these types of characters, which Max has clearly done in the past, but now he’s trying to reform her as well. It’s a nice spin on the usual “baddy’s cute totty” trope. It’ll be really interesting to see how she develops in the future.
Armadale, Max’s unwitting police contact, is another interesting character, who is having difficulty reconciling this new version of Max Damage. He refers to Max’s change of heart and new mission as “like… Katarina apologiz[ing] for New Orleans”. Nevertheless, he slowly comes to accept Max’s help – after all, who’s going to say no to a guy with a diamond-hard, impervious body?
Faced with a post-Plutonian, post-apocalyptic city filled with petrified survivors, Max starts out on his new path, putting a stop to the machinations of those who would prey on people’s fear for profit. Clearly, this isn’t going to be easy. At the same time, we see a weary resignation in Max, as he has to deal with people’s understandable trigger-happy reaction whenever they see him – he’s trying to make things right, but people only see the supervillain and insist on shooting him. Repeatedly. (It’s so hard, being a reformed villain…) It’s a little difficult to get a bead on him, which is probably intentional – he’s a brooder, not given to vocalising what’s going on inside, so we’re left to understand him largely by his actions and outward appearance.
Thankfully, Diaz’s art speaks volumes. It’s very good throughout, and is expertly put together – visually very pleasing, and compliments the writing perfectly. The style is clean and clear, without being exaggerated or ridiculous. The characters are drawn realistically and in proportion. There’s a high level of attention paid to detail. Diaz is easily among the best artists whose work I’ve seen. Waid’s writing is crisp and fluid, with plenty of nice turns of phrase. I really don’t know why Irredeemable and Incorruptible haven’t made a more significant cross-over into the non-comic-reading population (a la Watchmen, etc.).
The reformed villain is not a new premise, but Waid manages to keep things fresh and engaging, and has put an original spin on this theme. I thoroughly enjoyed this, and can’t wait to read the second volume in the series (if I read them quick enough to catch up, I’ll definitely have to add individual issues to my reading schedule).
Highly recommended, alongside Irredeemable (which you should probably read first).
Key of Z, #1-3 of 4 (Boom)
From the creators of THE AMORY WARS and KILL AUDIO comes a deadly new vision of New York City! The zombie apocalypse has transformed the city into two separate battle-hardened fiefdoms! And only one man stands between these two warring factions. Ewing is man who has come back from nothing, intent on bringing pain to those who cost him his wife and child! In zombie-ravaged New York City, the tables are about to be turned! Witness revenge amongst zombies in the third issue of the series that is redefining the zombie apocalypse genre!
The first issue starts out with an idyllic young family’s Christmas scene. It is Christmas Eve. Outside the window, they see Santa eating a passerby…
Ok. So it’s not the real Santa (erm?), but things are clearly not alright in New York City. That’s the night everything went to hell and got back up to shamble around the city. Time jumps forward a few months, and then again five years. The issue offers a very useful and concise explanation of where we are, how we got there, and what’s going on. It doesn’t feel info-dumpy, but it’s clear the scene is being set for bigger things to come. The second issue also jumps about a little bit in time, as we get more backstory and our understanding of what happened during the five year gap is fleshed out a little more.
There are some great ‘sound-effects’ written into the story, particularly when the characters attack the zombies. Ever wondered what a baseball bat to an undead head sounds like? Well…
That’s baseball bat’s important, actually, as many of the citizens of New York have separated into groups, finding safety from the “sleepers” in the various stadiums around New York. The series offers some social commentary on the socio-economic divisions between the New York City Boroughs, and after the zombie plague there’s basically a real-estate struggle, as new leaders arise who try to carve up the city to their liking. Let’s just say, the Greater Good is one of the first casualties. But, add to the mix someone who’s willing to fight back against a terrible wrong committed in the name of real estate… This is Nick Ewing’s story, just as much as it is New York’s.
The artwork’s just slightly cartoony at times, but for the most part pretty great. It’s a little rougher around the edges in a couple of frames, but it maintains a clear style. The scene framing is great, with multiple perspectives, viewpoints and angles used to create a consistent-yet-diverse feel. It’s a very nicely put together comic, that is visually engaging. This complements the writing extremely well, which is some of the best post-apocalypse zombie stuff I’ve ever read. I’d originally been a bit wary that it would be par-for-the-course tropism throughout, and while some necessary reference to common themes and tropes feature, I like the original elements the creators have put into this – there’s a coming of age story, there’s discussion of self-respect and people’s willingness to accept tyranny in direst of situations. Each issue ends on a cliff-hanger, and overall each issue adds further layers. The ending of the third issue is particularly poignant, and really makes me impatient for the fourth and final issue!
If you want something a little different to The Walking Dead, then Key of Z would be a great alternative (and I think I prefer it, although I must admit that I haven’t read too much of The Walking Dead). This far exceeded my expectations, and I’d certainly recommend it. It’s a pity there’s only one more issue to go.
I think I’m going to have to check out the creators’ other series, The Amory Wars (also published by Boom Studios), when I get the chance and have enough free time – it sounds pretty interesting.
The Theater, #1-3 (Zenescope)
#1 – In a quiet New Jersey town there sits a small, old-fashioned movie theater. But this unassuming theater holds a deep dark secret, one that threatens the lives of anyone who dares enter it. And when an unsuspecting couple decides to visit the old movie house to watch some horror films, they soon will find that something full of horror is also watching them.
This series has a great premise – the deadly movie theatre. Each story is semi-set within the theatre, but it’s not yet clear how this will develop in the future. It has the opportunity to be endlessly creative, as the movies shown can be from any genre and any time. Over the course of these first three issues we get to see some of that potential realised. It’s only in the third issue when something happens to the main characters in the theatre, for example. I’ve broken this review down into three, but one general remark I can make is that this is a very good series – one I would highly recommend.
In the first issue, the aforementioned couple watch a movie with an interesting spin on the zombie horror storyline: The zombie virus apocalypse has been beaten, and humanity has re-exerted their dominance over the world. Special controls have been put in place to prevent any future zombie outbreak. All zombies have been destroyed. Except for one…
The movie makes up the vast majority of the issue, and I think it was really well done (we see the ‘whole’ movie with the couple). This was an interesting decision for the writers, as we only see one page’s worth of story that suggests there’s something hokey going on with the theatre itself, and that’s the last page. Despite this, I thought the movie they watched was a great idea, and I really enjoyed reading it (would have made an interesting comic in and of itself).
The art comes in two forms – the movie’s presented in a more sketch-like format. It’s still clear and engaging throughout. It’s also very well-written and interesting. It felt like there was plenty of story packed into the issue, too, which was nice.
Variant Covers #1
The Borden Theater is about to close its doors forever, but sinister plans are in the works as a premiere event may turn out to be a bloodbath... Meanwhile a struggling writer finds the means of breaking into the business... one death at a time.
In this second issue, the movie playing at the theatre is the premiere of a huge thriller movie, a real coup for the tiny movie theatre. We see a little bit of set-up, as the manager plans things out, discussing the event with her father, the owner. Then the star arrives, and we go straight into the movie, which again makes up the majority of the issue. In contrast to the movie in first issue, this one has a more straight-forward thriller slant, and it’s a really good one: An author is killing of their competition in order to make it onto the bestseller list. It’s well executed – ingenious murders, and solid plot-progression – as well as some commentary on the less-attractive side of publishing.
On one page, there’s a great list of big-name “bestsellers”, each of which is slight twist of an actual bestseller – it was kinda fun to spend a moment figuring out who was who.
After closing the Borden theater for the evening, two young employees decide to have some late night fun. Little do they know they are not alone. Elsewhere, a broken, middle-aged man finds a hole in the ceiling that leads to a dimension not of this world. Featuring over 30 pages of content!
This was another interesting issue. It wasn’t entirely clear how the man with a hole in his ceiling fit in with the Theater, but it was an interesting, weird story. We also see the start of how messed up the Theater actually is, with an arresting final frame. I’m looking forward to the next issue, to see where this is going.
The art throughout is very good, and the writing is tight and manages to get a lot into each issue. Certainly feels like we’re getting a lot of comic for our money, and in the case of each of these issues, it felt like a more substantial reading experience than we get in many 30-page comics. This is a very interesting new title, and I’ll certainly be following it in the future.
Writer: Ralph Tedesco & Patrick Shand | Artists: Reno Maniquis, Anthony Spay, James Lyle & Jim Rodgers
Sela puts her own spin on the classic holiday tale while trying to teach a future princess of Myst a valuable lesson.
Elizabeth Sellers is a movie/TV star diva. In the first few pages we come to see how much of a bitch she is, her self-importance, and the contempt she feels for others. See where this is going? Yup, it’s A Christmas Story re-written for the bitchy celebrity age! After drinking herself senseless, Elizabeth is visited by the ghost of a dead friend, who tells her that she’ll be visited by three beings. I like the way the story’s put together, and the slightly more horrific things Elizabeth is put through by the three visitors (all characters from Zenescopes Grimm Fairy Tales series – one I’d really like to read more of). It’s a great holiday read.
The artwork is pretty varied in this special – put together by multiple artists, who appear to each take on a specific part of the story (one for each visitor, for example). It adds a nice variety to the story.
A great gift for all fans of the Grimm Fairy Tales line of titles, and any comic fan looking for a more festive read should enjoy it, too.
Variant Cover (which I think I prefer)