Shane's Number Ones! - June 2009
For the moment, however, I wanted to take a look at some of the number ones that I've read recently. I got my June shipment about a week or so ago (for my July and future orders I've switched to bi-weekly, but June was monthly), and there were quite a few new titles there, so I figured I should give them a basic rundown, in case any of you were interested.
Dead Run #1 (of 4) - BOOM! Studios
Oh, how I wish that this was an ongoing series (and I even thought that it was, before this issue came out). Anyway, a quick comparison, so that you get a sense of the story--Mark Millar's Old Man Logan story in Wolverine? How he and Hawkeye basically take a road trip through a dangerous world? Well, that's this, and I definitely noted a few similarities. However, because this is an independent comic, the focus isn't on exploring the future of the Marvel universe--instead, we get to look at this world, where the roads are incredibly dangerous, and many couriers between the safe cities meet rather unpleasant ends. That's the premise--our hero, a somewhat successful courier, needs to get from Las Vegas to San Francisco. Not too bad of a drive, right? Except for the fact that only one person has survived that trip. One. Out of many. And the survivor? He's not telling. So our hero needs to make the run without the advice that would probably save his life. The high mortality rate for the route has earned it a rather cheery moniker--"The Dead Run". The art is a perfect fit for this book--it's darker, with plenty of browns, emphasizing the barren setting of the book. The characters, of course flawed, are intriguing, and I instantly felt that this book would have a lot of potential. As I said, I'm disappointed that it's a limited series--although they can't be on this one trip forever, I'd hoped that they might go elsewhere--but with luck, it might continue. This is one title that I highly recommend, especially if you enjoy stories where the world seems lost.
...on another note, I'm disappointed that I didn't get this cover--instead, I got Cover B, which is just a pinup of the main character. It's certainly not bad, but I do like this one much better. Oh well, that's what I get for ordering online, I suppose!
Chew #1 - Image Comics
Chew has already been reviewed, so I'll keep it brief. This is another book set in an alternate (and unpleasant) future, although civilization has survived much better here than it has in Dead Run. I don't have much experience with writer John Layman, but his House of M: Fantastic Four miniseries was one of my favorite books from that event, and, well, he's sure to be a very in-demand writer now. Ah, if only I'd opted for weekly shipping, I could've sold my first printing for a very pleasant profit...oh well. Basically, the writing is great, the art is great, all of these things make for a very good book, one that, if the quality keeps up, I can see myself buying for quite some time to come.
Werewolves on the Moon vs. Vampires #1 - Dark Horse Comics
This is a book that I wouldn't have even paid a second glance. But, on BC's last Wednesday, we all sat around poking fun at it, and as tribute, I decided to buy this three issue miniseries. And it's certainly not bad. I find it amusing that I read three "poor future" stories in a row, but while the other two were excellent, this...not so much. As I said, it's not a bad comic--but it's certainly not a great book, either. There were a few strong moments--humor ("Mommy, do you fink daddy brought me a prethent from earf?" "I hope he brought a speech therapist."), as well as the notion that both werewolves and vampires believed the other to be mythical. The art is much the same as seen on the cover--I doubt it will win an award anytime soon, but it's serviceable, and you can always understand what's going on. The lettering isn't traditional, possessing a much rougher quality than what one might find on a major publisher, but here, it worked, because this is obviously not a book we're meant to take seriously. The creative team is clearly aware of how ridiculous the premise is, and they run with it. Had I not read both Dead Run and Chew right beforehand, I probably would've given this title solid marks, but in comparison, it just doesn't hold up. I plan to buy the remaining three issues (well, they're already ordered, so there's not much I can do either way), but for those on a budget, stick to the above titles instead.
Captain Blood: Odyssey #1 (of 5) - SLG Comics
This is the most recent adaptation of the famous adventure novel by Rafael Sabatini. You may have seen the various movies, or recognize the character from his appearances in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. This, as the writer makes clear in his afterword, is a very direct adaptation, perhaps closer to a "translation", even--although not everything from a novel can be taken, obviously, this is much closer to the source material. And I can respect that, and I'm sure that many fans of the novel will enjoy this quite a bit. Myself, however? I was not impressed. I picked up the title because it seemed interesting--a series of miniseries', building together the epic story. Here, I did not think that the characters were properly introduced, nor did I feel any connection to their goals. It seemed like simply a series of events, rather than a story. The art was...interesting. The artist on the cover was the artist for the interior--but unlike the cover, the interior had no color, and more drastically, no inks. It was very interesting, and on some pages it absolutely worked--using pencils only can provide a very intriguing mood. However, the artist shaded black with quick scribbles, which was very jarring, and because this is a story set often in dark spaces, such panels were far more frequent than I would've liked. Unless you have experience with the original novel, I would not suggest getting this book. Fortunately, the publication schedule is delayed enough that I was able to remove the title from my pull list. I'm interested in pirate stories, but this doesn't exactly satisfy that need.
Dead@17: Afterbirth #1 (of 4) - Image Comics
Speaking of a series of miniseries', though? Dead@17 was a book launched at Viper Comics (a company that, for anyone interested, is hosting a talent search), but just recently moved to Image to get a higher profile. And I'm very glad that it did--I only picked up this book after reading a four-page preview in the copy of Previews that I got on the final BC Wednesday, and I doubt that it would have had such a spotlight if it was still at Viper. I did, however, grab the Omnibus collection of the first four volumes, and it's a purchase that I'd highly recommend. Some of the earliest stories are a bit rough--grammatical issues and the like--but it's a very good supernatural horror story, and I devoured it in a day (and will be going back to reread soon). The first issue of this new miniseries probably isn't the best point for a new reader, although it does recap as much as necessary to understand it. The premise starts out simple--a girl is murdered, but rises again, only to find that the circumstances behind her death are far more complicated than anyone thought. Stories featuring satanic plots, a war between heaven and hell, and more have been told in this series, and I look forward to future installments. The art is endearing, and because Josh Howard is both writer and artist, the book really shines in a way that you only get with a single creator. I'd say to consider buying this as we approach Halloween--if you get into that holiday, you'll really be in the mood for a good horror comic, and this should fit the bill.
Barack the Barbarian #1 (of 4) - Devil's Due Publishing
Okay, I know, just another comic to mock me for (Youngblood, Sonic the Hedgehog, Werewolves/Vampires, and now this). But as with all of those others, something about it appealed to me, and I maintain that it's worth the few dollars that I pay (this is cover-priced $3.50...then the 40% or so discount, add in the small tax and shipping, etc.) Larry Hama weaves together an interesting mix--it's in part an adventure story, outlandish but straightforward, and in part political satire, with people, places and situations changed just enough to fit into this new reality. It's not a book that I'd follow forever, by any means, but for four issues? I'm amused enough to follow that. Tim Seeley's strong covers are not, unfortunately, reflective of the work inside, but Christopher Schons holds his own--the faces aren't always recognizeable, but the characters are unique and familiar enough to be identified without too much trouble, and as a storyteller he's more than sufficient. The colors are vibrant and playful, exactly what I want in a book like this--as with Werewolves/Vampires, this book is ridiculous, and the creators play to that strength.
Going back to the story, there's clearly a mystery building, and although it's obviously based on real-world history, I'm having trouble figuring out what it is, but I will say that I'm intrigued. The framing sequence for the story is also a unique one, and raises plenty of questions as to the nature of the story. If you have more than a passing familiarity with politics, I'd say to pick this up--it's certainly not a serious comic, but if you can get past the absurdity of it, I think that there's something in here for everyone.
The part that amuses me most, though? The legal mumbo jumbo on the inside cover claims that "BARACK THE BARBARIAN, all associated characters and their respected likenesses are TM and (C) 2009 Devil's Due Publishing. The events and characters presented in this book are entirely fictional. Any similarities to persons living or dead is purely coincidental." Really, Devil's Due? Really?