A mixture of catch-up titles and also a handful of new releases. A nice selection, too, ticking off fantasy, sci-fi, military action, thrillers, and more – not only that, they were all pretty good issues as well.
Reviewed: After the Fire Special, Battle Beasts #1, The Cape 1969 #1, The Crow #1, G.I.Joe #15, Magic The Gathering: Spell Thief #1, Memorial #6, Smoke & Mirrors #4, Snake Eyes #14
After the Fire Special
Detective Shane Collins is a good cop who has been brutally murdered. Given a second chance to seek vengeance against his killers, Shane’s spirit walks the dark line between life and death, honour and betrayal, where nothing is as it seems, and the truth can hurt far worse than the lies.
This is a pretty good, bleak supernatural revenge story – complete with crooked cops, a grim-and-gritty story, and a wronged protagonist brought back to life. A fair few elements and scenes will be familiar – Waltz hasn’t ventured far from the genre tropes at all – but as a whole this is a well-written story.
Sadly, I don’t really have anything else to say about it.
Battle Beasts #1 of 4
It’s just another average day for Bliss, an ignored linguist at the Department of Defense. However, when Bliss unlocks the secret translation of an ancient scroll, terror rains from the sky... in the form of the BATTLE BEASTS! Relentless creatures who know only a life of combat, they’ve brought their unquenchable thirst for battle with them! The only thing that can stop them is a gentle word from the one woman who can understand them — Bliss!
I came at this series with eyebrow firmly raised, but I must say I warmed to it very quickly. The camaraderie and banter between the heroes is well done, and the premise is just weird enough to keep me reading. The events in the synopsis don’t actually open the issue – instead, we’re dropped into the world of the Battle Beasts, with our heroes camped out and discovered by the enemy! Then Bliss unlocks two strange artifacts, calling the Beasts to Earth. And all hell breaks loose.
There’s a ton of action, and even some pretty great humour (when one craft crashes on Earth, for example, the cops on the scene run through a round of “Not it!” to decide on who goes up to investigate the weird vessel that crashed into a city.
This is great fun. It’s also daft. But I’d definitely recommended if you want something a little silly, but a blast to read.
Apparently, there was a line of Battle Beast toys in the 1980s… I did not know this.
The Cape 1969 #1
Writer: Jason Ciaramella | Artist: Nelson Daniel & Zach Howard | Original Story: Joe Hill
The Story So Far: The year is 1969. Twenty years from now, a broken and vengeful Eric Chase rediscovers a cape he had as a child, and finds it holds a very special power. A power that consumes him. A power he uses to destroy the people who loved him most. The magic in the cape has remained a mystery – until now. This is the story of how it all began.
I thought Joe Hill’s The Cape was an excellent, dark tale of a nobody who gains superpowers and can’t handle the power, which goes straight to his head and brings out the worst of his character. The series was shocking and in-your-face, and rendered really well. Therefore, when this series was announced, I was definitely interested to see how someone else handled the ‘history’ of the titular Cape.
This issue has far more in common with a Vietnam war story than a super-hero story, but that’s not to say it lacks its strange and unnatural moments. It follows the story of Eric’s father in Vietnam, as part of a helicopter patrol, and his chopper gets shot down in the jungle. He and his surviving comrade flee the crash-site, observed by a strange, tattooed fellow. Things really don’t go well for the two survivors at all.
An interesting start to this prequel, and I’m definitely interested to know what happens next. Highly recommended.
The Crow #1
Writer: John Shirley | Crow Created By: James O’Barr | Artist: Kevin Colden | Colours: Matthew Wilson
In this opening issue, we’re introduced to Haruko Tatsumi and her boyfriend, Jamie Osterberg. We learn of a conspiracy going on behind the scenes at Haruko’s employer, Bio-Trope, and what could be a body-swapping experiment. When Haruko is kidnapped, Jamie must find out what’s happened to her. Unfortunately, others want to stop him, and he will be born again as the Crow.
It’s an interesting issue, one that ticks a lot of boxes, but also one that takes a little while to get going. I’m not sure how long this series is going to be, of course, so maybe in the grand scheme of things this won’t actually be too slow. Nevertheless, the Crow only surfaces on the final page, and the rest of this issue fills us in on Haruko and Jamie’s relationship and their lives in Japan.
I’m not 100% sold on this just yet, but it does have promise. I’ll withhold any more of an opinion until I’ve read the second issue.
Writer: Chuck Dixon | Artist: Will Rosado | Colours: Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
G.I. Joe is in trouble: after Cobra’s invasion of a Southeast Asian country was carried out successfully, G.I. Joe’s budget was slashed, General Hawk was relieved of his command, and the existence of the covert unit was revealed to the world at large. Now, Duke steps into the leadership role and plans to get the G.I. Joe team back on its feet…
Scarlett, anxious for action after the disappearance of Snake Eyes, leads a mission to disrupt Cobra’s mining operations in South America, but the mission goes quickly awry. Scarlett is captured, and Stalker and his team are forced to work in the mines. Scarlett escapes into the facility, Mainframe sneaks in wearing a Viper disguise, and Stalker and his team decide to make a break for it farther into the mines, in the hope of finding another way out...
I really enjoyed this issue – as the story winds up to conclusion, things really pick up the pace. The action runs throughout, and we see some pretty nifty tactics and maneuvers. It’s not all rosy for the Joes, however, as Cobra tactical leader Urso has a fair few tricks up his own sleeves, not to mention home-team advantage…
The captured Joes are making their break-out attempt, with the help of some of their fellow prisoners. Mainframe finally finds Scarlett, who has been running around the Cobra base making trouble. He also decides to man-up, which was a nice additional human-interest element to the story. We also see a little more of how the new quartermaster operates – I must say, he’s a really good new character. Totally unexpected operating procedures, which makes him an interesting foil for the straighter-laced Joe brass.
The writing in this issue is very good and tight. There’s no chaff, and every panel moves the story forward brilliantly. The issue has a great cliff-hanger ending, too. Can’t wait for issue #16!
Magic The Gathering: Spell Thief #1
Writer: Matt Forbeck | Artist: MartÍn CÓccolo & Christian Duce | Colours: J. Edwin Stevens & Baileigh Bolton
Dack Fayden, Planeswalker thief, has stolen a valuable artifact from Ravnica, the Ancient Fang. Using his abilities to learn the artifact's secrets, instead he witnesses the destruction of his hometown through the eyes of the villain that committed the act: Sifa Grent. Dack sets out to track her down at her next destination: Innistrad.
Once in Innistrad, he meets a cathar by the name of Ingrid Reichert. Ingrid aids him in tracking down Sifa, who has allied herself with a local vampire Baron. In tracking down the Baron, they learn that Sifa has travelled to Ingrid’s hometown and plans to steal the souls of the inhabitants, just like she did to Dack’s hometown. Dack and Ingrid manage to stop her, but she escapes and planeswalks away. Dack follows and finds himself in front of an enormous castle…
We’re dropped right back into the story, picking up where Forbeck’s first book of finished, and Dack finds himself confronted with a very large, very strange castle. The resident of this castle is not at all what he was expecting, and presents our hero with a very large problem indeed.
The issue also includes a flashback to when Dack was first kidnapped on his adventures (in which we also learn of how his right arm got its red colouring).
This is a pretty intriguing opening issue for a new story arc. It doesn’t move Dack’s quest forward too much (he’s captured, after all), but it does allow the reader to get to know a little more about what drives him and also the extent of his powers – he pulls off a fair bit of awesome magic in here.
I’m really glad this series is still on-going, as Forbeck’s writing is fun and really taps into old-school sword-and-especially-sorcery fantasy that will be both familiar and dear to many readers. One of the best fantasy comics currently on the market.
Em’s journey has brought her to the Everglade, a garden of statues that lies at the very heart of the Everlands, where she finds herself face to face with the power that has disrupted all of reality. But when Em learns who she once was, and why she lost her memory, the answers only raise new questions. Things are not as they have seemed, and Em realizes that her journey is far, far from over.
This is the final issue in what could end up being more Memorial series. I really liked how the story strands are brought together, and how we get a useful Evil Villain Speechifying scene that explains everything that’s happened and also the background. It’s a really original and inspired series. I’ll definitely be buying the collected edition, when it’s available. There were times, while I was reading the series, when I was less-than-impressed, a little frustrated when it wasn’t moving forward enough, but now that I’ve read the whole thing, I do believe this will work very well in a collected form. If you like your comics a little weird and otherworldly, then this is a must.
Smoke & Mirrors #4
Writer: Mike Costa | Illusions: Jon Armstrong | Artist: Ryan Browne | Colours: Aaron Daly
Face to face with his darkest fears, Terry confronts the Trade Circle – and they want answers! In a world where magic is real, how can a sleight of hand artist compete with users of practical spells? And why are they afraid of Terry?!
As with Memorial, above, this issue was a return to form. A couple of the previous issues had been less engrossing, but this one was excellent – we learn more of what’s going on behind the scenes, a little bit more about the magic potential in this new world. There’s also a stunning final page that really opens up possibilities for the next issue(s).
The artwork remains strong throughout, and the writing is top-notch in this instalment. This is a really cool, original and interesting series. I hope the strength of this issue is a sign of good things to come.
Snake Eyes & Storm Shadow #14
Writer: Chuck Dixon | Artist: Robert Atkins & Atilio Rojo | Inkers: Juan Castro, Brian Shearer & Atilio Rojo | Colours: Simon Gough, Juan Fernandez & Joana LaFuente
G.I. Joe thinks SNAKE EYES is dead – but in reality, he’s joined the Arashikage: the ninja clan commanded by his sword-brother, STORM SHADOW. After being betrayed by Cobra, Storm Shadow believes he and Snake Eyes share a common enemy… but Snake Eyes is actually infiltrating in order to destroy the clan. This nearly becomes clear on Snake Eyes’ first mission; he kills the Arashikage ninja accompanying him and fails to reach his target – Cobra’s master of disguise, ZARTAN. But Storm Shadow proves blind to Snake Eye’s treachery… and only the ninja named RIKA sees the threat posed to the clan.
Another great issue in this series – I think it’s probably the best in the G.I.Joe franchise, and I do love the ninja-stuff inside. Snake Eyes and Rika are sent on a new mission to take out Zartan. However, as always, Cobra’s trickster, chameleonic operative is not that easy to pin down or take out.
This is a great, action-packed issue, one that gives us a little more background on Snake Eyes’ past and also his ruthlessness in this new venture and “partnership” he’s formed with Storm Shadow. It’ll be interesting to see how this shapes up in the future.
The issue has really great, sharp artwork throughout, too. Very striking and eye-catching. Does a great service by bringing Dixon’s script to life on the page, filled with nuance and dynamism in equal measures. I’m really enjoying this series.