Thursday, March 08, 2012

Comics Round-Up (Mar.7) the Second


Here are a few reviews for the comics I wasn’t able to review before their official release. Three beginnings, and three titles I’ve been really so far – all very varied, which is just what I needed at the time. The more comics series I try, the more I realise that fans of SF/F fiction who don’t read comics at all are really missing out – there’s so much to like in the medium, and especially so in the collected versions which have more story. [I’ve written a little more on this after the reviews, below.]

Reviewed Herein: Hell Yeah #1, The Manhattan Projects #1, Marksman #6, Night Force #1, The Shade #4-5, The Untamed #4, Winter Soldier #3

Somehow, I totally forgot to buy Fairest #1, despite really wanting to read it… I’ll add it to next week’s Tuesday Round-Up.

Hell Yeah #1 (Image)

Image-HellYeah-01Writer: Joe Keatinge | Artist: Andre Szymanowicz

The last generation of heroes is here!

Twenty years ago, the first-ever superheroes debuted without warning and forever altered our global culture! Now, the generation born in their wake fight to claim their place in a world evolved beyond them!

This is quite an intriguing comic. Ben Day appears to be a half-super-hero. As in, he’s “kinda strong, kinda tough”, but that’s about it. He lives in a world where super-heroes arrived a few years ago, promised a better world and delivered on that promise. Ben has always felt a little weird, and out-of-place, and is endlessly getting into trouble. He is lost, and trying to find a place for himself in this super-powered world. That being said, is something else going on? Judging by the final couple of pages, the answer is yes, and it could be a lot weirder than we expected.

There’s a weird cameo by Jonathan Ross. This surprised me a great deal. The artwork is fine – it’s not too stylised, brightly coloured and functional. The writing is pretty good, although there is just a little bit of clunky exposition and telegraphing. Lots of questions are posed, but no answers. I will probably try the second issue, but I’m not yet sure what to make of this series. I’m interested to see where things go in the future.


The Manhattan Projects #1 (Image)

Image-ManhattanProjects-01Writer: Jonathan Hickman | Artist: Nick Pitarra


What if the research and development department created to produce the first atomic bomb was a front for a series of other, more unusual, programs? What if the union of a generation’s brightest minds was not a signal for optimism, but foreboding? What if everything... went wrong?

What if the atom bomb was just one part of the Manhattan Project, and a pretty minor one at that? What if they were messing about with experimental science and other weird stuff, the likes of which we can only imagine? What if Oppenheimer wasn’t the person we thought he was? These are some of the questions posed by this series.

“the Manhattan Project is a research a development program tasked with building and deploying the world’s first atomic bomb. I assure you, Doctor Oppenheimer... the truth is, we are working on much more interesting things.”

This is the first thing I’ve read by this writer. And it’s pretty twisted, in a kind of weird and wonderful way. It’s highly imaginative, and is a complete reimagining of what was really going on inside the Manhattan Project(s) and also Oppenheimer’s mind.

The artwork’s a bit strange – it’s not my favourite style by a long shot. It’s rather rough-looking, with a sketch-like feel to the lines and shading, but I quickly got used to it and there are certainly some very nice touches and flourishes.

The Manhattan Projects is certainly a different type of comic to what I’m used to. If you want something weird and potentially brilliant, give this a try. I’ll give this the Three Issue Test.


Marksmen #6 (Benaroya/Image)

Writer: David Baxter | Artist: Javier Aranda, Garry Leach & Jessica Kholinne

Miniseries Conclusion! New San Diego lies in ruins. The Hyatt, Marriot and convention center gone. Like spoilt children, Duke and Deacon have destroyed what they couldn’t have. However like their predecessors, the Navy Seals, the MARKSMEN don’t EVER give up. Not even in death.

This is a great conclusion to the series – it’s action basically all the way, as the Marksmen and their allies attempt to deal with the Duke and Deacon’s surprise success in the previous issues. A desperate fight for survival against a fanatical enemy, they have to employ all of their strategic knowledge. There’s a climactic battle between the two leaders, a dash for safety and a rousing (though pyrrhic) victory, and a hope for a new future. A good, satisfying ending to this mini-series.

It still suffered a little from the same concerns I had with the first five issues (some of the dialogue’s a bit cliché, little things like that), but it was overall quite a bit better. The action scenes are great, and there are some really eye-catching full-page panels and images. If only it’d been longer, it could have been something really impressive.


Night Force #1 (DC)

DC-NightForce-01Writer: Marv Wolfman | Artist: Tom Mandrake & Leonardo Manco

There’s a conspiracy under way that’s been going on for hundreds of years. One determined cop has unknowingly scratched the surface and suddenly finds himself summoned to Wintersgate Manor. But this chilling menace may prove to be too big even for Baron Winters.

Now this is a very intriguing and mysterious comic. So much so, in fact, that I’m not 100% sure what’s going on…

There are lots of teasing hints throughout, which certainly succeeded in whetting my appetite for what promises to be a very dark and gothic series. I’ll definitely pick up issue two if I get the chance.

As would be expected, this comic is rendered in a very moody style and palette – in content as well as graphically. This issue is full of lots of stunning gothic imagery. It’s not so much Hitchcockian (although I’m sure there’s a smidge of influence there), maybe more occult, Stoker, Shelley, or more likely Poe.

Night Force is interesting, but it’s maybe too early to pass anything but a cursory verdict. One for the Three Issue Test.


The Shade #4-5 (DC)


Writer: James Robinson | Artist: Darwyn Cooke & J. Bone (#4), Javier Pulido (#5)

#4 – In the tradition of the “Times Past” issues of Starman comes a story of revenge, murder and betrayal set in the 1940s! The Shade is just beginning his long criminal career, but when an industrialist who is helping with the war effort is targeted for assassination, the Shade surprisingly seeks to help save the man! Who is this man, and who is the strange woman on this issue's cover? Find out more about the Shade’s true origin.

#5 – The Shade’s quest to find out who ordered his assassination takes him to Barcelona, where he stumbles upon a decades-old feud between a teenaged vampire and her archenemy. What does this feud have to do with the Shade’s origin? A crucial piece of the puzzle is revealed.

The fourth issue is a nice “historical” diversion from the main story-arc, although one that is still connected to the Shade’s present-day concerns. It gives us some answers about The Shade’s relationship to Caldecott, and also the Shade’s family and descendants.

Both of these issues have very different art-styles – the first is given a more vintage feel, which was rather fun to see. I liked it as a change, but I’m not sure I’d like an entire series rendered thus. The same for the fifth issue, which was also an interesting, more simple style – the shading and so forth was less complex and nuanced than earlier artwork in the series. If I’m honest, I preferred the art in the first three issues, but these are still good in their way.

The story remains solid and very enjoyable, and I’d love to read more of Robinson’s work. The Shade is a fascinating character, and is actually becoming one of my favourites.

I am currently working under the assumption that these are going to be the last two individual issues of The Shade I’m going to buy and review. This by no means is because I don’t like the series – I really, really do – I just think it will be more economically sensible for me to wait for the inevitable collected edition and read that instead (it’s a certainty that I’ll buy that). Also, if I keep reviewing individual issues, there are going to be ever-more spoilers cropping up, and I really want to avoid those. Given that the sixth issue is coming out next week, though… I may still get it. [I really have no will-power, it would seem…]


Winter Soldier #3 (Marvel)

Marvel-WinterSoldier-03-ArtWriter: Ed Brubaker | Artist: Butch Guice

Winter Soldier Versus Doctor Doom.

This is another good issue. The series is shaping up quite nicely, although this does suffer from the Third Issue Exposition Syndrome – there’s a bit of an info-dump in the middle, which is certainly necessary, but I think there could have been a better way to do it. Things are set up nicely for what I imagine will be a pretty epic fourth issue.

The artwork is very gritty, as in the previous two issues, but it is also at times very busy – there were a few pages (same as the info-dump), that were so busy as to be constantly distracting. Guice still draws on the limited colour palette that really suits the tone of the story, and the bulk of the issue remains awesome.

If you’re looking for something new in the Marvel universe, with a little more espionage and sneaking about, then Winter Soldier will probably meet your needs. I’m enjoying this a lot.


The Untamed #4 (Stranger)

Stranger-TheUntamed-04Writer: Sebastian A. Jones | Artist: Peter Bergting

A third soul has been reaped by Stranger, but the killing proved difficult. He was a friend, caught in a greater game than either knew. Perhaps not all men deserve to die at Stranger’s hand. And so, a boy is spared – Stutters, the young Kraven con man Stranger reared like a son. Now they both have a choice to make. Revenge or redemption.

The Stranger’s plans are in motion, as he sends Stutters into the belly of the beast to gather intelligence, to learn more of those he fights. We witness a little more of the extent of the conspiracy that resulted in Stranger’s death. Phylax, the Stranger’s brother, dispatches assassins to deal with him, which leads to a running battle through the city (rendered really quite beautifully in the art – Bergting’s work is again amazing, gothic and nuanced).

There’s an interesting shift in dialogue-style in this issue. It felt a little more Shakespearian – not overly so, but the patois was reminiscent of those constructions. The writing remains good, and with only three more issues, I’m wondering how the story’s going to be wrapped up. I’m expecting the final instalments to be pretty awesome, too. This one was a little slower, despite the action, but it didn’t necessarily suffer for it. Recommended.

Stranger Comics are running a pretty cool competition over at Graphicly, where you can also purchase and read a digital copy of the issue for just $0.99 (and back issues).


I decided against picking up the other releases that had been on my radar this week – Action Comics #7, Age of Apocalypse #1, and X-Club #4 – because I thought the ones reviewed above were a good selection and money is very tight this week. I completely forgot to pick up Fairest, but this could be because it sold out and therefore I didn’t see it anywhere and therefore it slipped my mind.

I’ll try to catch up with it next week, although I’m already concerned about the really long list of interesting comics next week: there are 14, but I’m not sure about a number of them as they are #7s in DC’s New 52, which I said I was going to start reducing… We’ll see. I still haven’t made a decision about those (maybe the Batman, Edge and Dark titles, which I really like and have almost caught up on – reviews going up over the weekend, probably).

To refer to what I wrote at the end of The Shade review, the concern about spoilers is very strong in my mind at the moment. I think reviewing the first two or three issues of a series is probably enough to give potential readers a good idea of what a series is like. Because of this, I think I’m going to be strict about not buying and reviewing more than three issues of series. [This excludes series I get review copies for publishers – those I will continue to review as normal, with greater focus on general comments.]

So, ever-more comics-review plans are formulating, while I try to figure out what I want to do. I’ve stock-piled quite a few collected editions, so I may start slowly transferring focus onto these over single issues. They’re just more satisfying to read, and there are so many established or even finished series available in nice collected paperbacks and hardcovers, that I think new readers (and fans of SF/F and other fiction) would appreciate reviews of more than individual issues. We’ll see.

[I’m open to suggestions, of course. Let me know what you think/want to see on the blog in these reviews.]


  1. The Manhattan Projects #1, Hell Yeah #1,The Untamed #4 will have to add to-read.

    *I think your comic reviews round up idea of only reviewing three issues sounds good.*