I’ve been reading a lot lately and putting aside books that I feel deserve a later write-up. The pile is growing faster than I can keep up with. Rather than wait far too long to give them some attention, I’m going to feature them in the “Lightening Round”. Every book mentioned here is worthy of a longer review. I’m forced to compromise with a shorter summary - - but I hope you’ll check some of these books out.
KIRBY: GENESIS #0 (Dynamite Comics, 6/01/2011 release date)
What a fantastic blend! = some of the lesser-known creations of legendary Jack Kirby as faithfully interpreted and illustrated by the art team of Alex Ross and Jack Herbert. You will drool over this book - - please move the pages a respectful distance from yourself in order to preserve your copy for multiple viewings. Once this series was announced, I anticipated some great visuals. But, I never imagined that a decent story could wrap itself around so many characters. I could be wrong.
In the hands of master craftsman Kurt Busiek this could indeed become not just a new epic, but an engaging tale as well. I love how he incorporated some elements from the KIRBY: KING OF COMICS biography by Mark Evanier. Back in 1971 when the Pioneer IO Jupiter and beyond probe was launched, the Los Angeles Times asked various artists to create some ideas for what should be featured on the plaque that the Pioneer would carry as cargo. Kirby, of course, drew two super-heroes with an Earth and Moon as the only background. Kirby disagreed with the mission and cautioned that Pioneer could be providing a map back to Earth for alien strangers. His words: “My point is, who will come a-knocking – the trader or the tiger?” Busiek has changed history a little, and has the Pioneer probe actually carrying Kirby’s artwork. That should make for a very provocative alien visitations/close encounters tale.
But pick this up in order to have all the time you want to spend with this fabulous art! It’s true to Kirby’s vision and his style shows throughout. It’s some of the best I have seen from the Ross/Herbert team since the AVENGERS/INVADERS Marvel/Dynamite mini-series. Issue #1 of KIRBY: GENESIS comes out this month as well.
THE MISSION #4 (Image Comics, May 2011)
It seemed to me that eventually main character Paul would break down a little and quit resisting so much. This issue opens with a friendlier-than-normal chat with Gabe, who asks “You ever wonder what it’s all about, Paul?” He replies “The truth is I used to wonder. Now I’m not sure I want to know.” Paul gets his next mission handed to him as Gabe responds “You’re not as dumb as you look.”
At least this time Paul isn’t being ordered to kill anyone - - just steal an artifact from a small, unguarded Native American museum. Not so fast! - - - things aren’t as simple and get very complicated following his successful lift of a small ivory box. This is a conflict - - so there are two sides engaged. Paul meets some members of the other team, and they are more experienced as well as ruthless. Just when it looks like Paul has incriminated himself thoroughly, the police officer turns out to be another recruit given an unexplained mission to assist Paul. THE MISSION continues to bring up questions of morality and principles - - and gives examples of what seemingly normal people might do when pushed. Issue #5 comes out this month. Everybody should be reading this book!
RED SPIKE #2 of 5 (Image Comics, June 2011)
If you’re in an impulsive or sampling mood, better pick up this book as well. When Issue #1 came out there may have been some skeptics who passed this up, considering it just an attempt to cash in on the current popularity of the G.I. JOE books over at IDW. (After all, it’s an IMAGE book - - and didn’t they break into the market in the 1980’s with art-driven clones of somewhat familiar super-hero teams?)
RED SPIKE is not just some covert action team knock-off. It goes much deeper in Issue #2 with a neat mix of very revealing flashback sequences that add depth and mystery to the main characters. The seemingly friendly rivalry between super-soldiers Matt and Greg in Issue #1 may not be so friendly. Greg has always been a black sheep and has resented the big brother/mentor role that good soldier/company man Matt has taken on since Day One together. One of these two had a very traumatic childhood, witnessing a sick father shooting his mother and then bloodily taken down by a squad of soldiers. (My guess is this happened to young Matt - - who came under the wing of the government and was raised by them.)
Greg is shown to be impulsive, competitive, jealous and full of rage. He has done jail time for unspecified crimes. In his early days of training, he showed both smarts and consideration for others in his wooing and winning Margaret’s heart. However, Greg seems to have changed since those days - - perhaps accelerated by the augmentation to his adrenal system. His corrective surgery is put to the test and fails. He goes rogue. Meanwhile, the senator from Issue #1 investigating the Red Spike program doesn’t seem to be planning to uncover and close it down - - it’s a political power grab and he wants control. “Curious and curiouser” as my friend Alice remarked. Issue #3 comes out in July.
SUPERBOY #8 (DC Comics, August 2011)
Pier Gallo is back on art, and just in time for the beginning of a new and exciting story arc - - “The Secrets Of Smallville.” His style suits this book so well – as if he is always on the same page as the scripter. The back-story of Smallville that writer Jeff Lemire alluded to in earlier issues and the threat that the Phantom Stranger warned Connor Kent of so many issues ago is coming to the foreground - - and it’s a good one.
Back in the frontier days of Smallville, the Nate Kent family kept the law and the dark and supernatural Eben Took family broke it. The Kents won that feud and the sinister satanic ways of the Tooks came to an end - - although not all family members were captured or perished in the burn-down. They’ve been in the background all this time waiting for their moment to resurface.
Lemire tells this story like a mystery, laying out the pieces one at a time as Superboy assembles them and unravels the puzzle. The Rise Of The Hollow Men storyline begins here with “Part One: Into The Broken Silo".” If you have been waiting for a jumping-on opportunity to pick up this book - - this is it!
UNDYING LOVE #2 (Image Comics, May 2011)
I can’t believe I found this copy in a back-issue bargain bin. Bonus! - - it pays to visit your local comics shop! Now that I’ve read two issues, I’m in for the run - - at least the first story arc for sure.
Writer/artist Tomm Coker is for real. Whenever an artist can illustrate action this explosive and cram it into a small panel format as well - - that makes me pay attention in a hurry. Some of the backgrounds have a photo-realistic detail, and they may have been cropped in and colored differently for effect. No matter. You will enjoy this eye candy.
Partnered with writer/colorist Daniel Freedman this pair have cooked up a fast-paced bloody tale on par with your favorite Hong Kong guns-and-ninjas action movie. The lone gunman, whose name we learn is “Mr. Sargent”, busts up the VIP room at a casino/night club in search of the king vampire Shang-Ji. He gets bit in the process and survives with help from his new friend, the boy/mystic/sage from Issue #1 who seems to be too wise to exist inside such a youthful body (another unnamed character I’m getting attached to - - especially after his impressive but grisly surgical skills.)
Issue #3 comes out this month. Have you noticed that 60% of the books featured in this article are published by Image? Who knew I’d be praising so many of their titles. Our beloved industry is maturing further, it seems. Read more comics.