ZOMBIES, NINJAS and DUCKS
KEY OF Z #1 of 4 (BOOM! Studios) Claudio Sanchez and Chondra Echert, writers. Aaron Kuder, art. Covers: Nathan Fox and Tony Moore
Can there ever be enough Zombie Literature?
Some will say never; while others crave no more after getting their fill. Me, I’m about 3/4 tank full on zombies right now after watching the Season 1 final episode and Season 2 opener of THE WALKING DEAD on AMC TV and then sampling several zombie movies during their Fear Fest which runs every day through October. That just means it’s time to read about them for awhile. I’ll always welcome another addition to the zombie offerings as long as I receive a good story and/or good art.
KEY OF Z starts off promising and looks to deliver a good story through it’s 4-issue run. The art is already great, and reason alone to keep an eye on this book. The style of artist Aaron Kuder is very creative, will remind you a little of Moebius and Quitely, and make you catch your breath with some of its more subtle touches and details. Kuder is definitely somebody to keep the spotlight on.
Writers Sanchez and Echert certainly didn’t impress me based on their past credentials. They previously worked on the ARMORY WARS and KILL AUDIO titles for BOOM! (haven’t read them) and are associated with the rock band COHEED AND CAMBRIA (haven’t listened to them). What impressed me are the script skills I see on display here in KEY OF Z #1. The book begins with a very heart-warming scene that instantly makes a connection between most readers and Nick Ewing, the main character. And the verbal exchanges between Nick and Eddie Alvarez , the other regular character come across as real and sincere rather than clichéd and forced.
KEY OF Z is a post-apocalypse tale set in New York City a few years from now. The city has sustained a plague of zombies and the survivors form gangs/clans (Yankees Lavoe and Jackson Mets) and live together in two compounds (both using sports stadiums). Both of these gangs has a dictator in charge and utilize street/thug methods in attempting to further establish and fortify their compound. The back-story hints at a third group that was more of a religious/Christian gathering led by a motivational speechmaker named Atwater. They made Madison Square Garden their home base, but the storyline implies that they are no longer in existence and/or Nick went his separate way from them.
You’ll find scenes and setting that will remind you of DMZ and WALKING DEAD comics, and THE WARRIORS movie.
Nick lost his family in a Christmas eve tragedy. Both story and art work together in an at first warm and peaceful, family atmosphere which quickly morphs into a violent , bloody mob scene on the streets. Here is where the art of Kuder will make you stop and take note, especially the beautifully detailed panel where the onrushing police car is seen in the pupil of Nick’s eye. Nick now lives alone and apart from both gangs. He bands together with Alvarez, when he narrowly escapes with Nick’s help from a reluctant gang assignment that went wrong. Alvarez needs rescued a second time as the book reaches the final pages.
The advance information hints at Nick possessing an artifact that gives him power. Based on the title of this series, the Christmas gift Nick received, and the item at the pitcher’s mound on the variant cover - - I’m guessing it’s a harmonica. Guessing a little more and thinking that Nick will mesmerize the zombies by playing the harp - - a la the Pied Piper of Hamlin. Guess I’m coming back next month to see if I’m right.
SAMURAI’S BLOOD #5 of 6 (Image / Benaroya) Owen Wiseman, story. Nam Kim, Matthew Dalton & Saki Yukon, art. Jo Chen, cover.
If you’ve been reading my previous reviews of SAMURAI’S BLOOD, then this may begin to sound like a broken record to you . . . . . .
Currently SAMURAI’S BLOOD is my #1 candidate for Best New Series of 2011 and Issue #3 is the front-runner for my Best Single Issue Story of 2011. The reasons are multiple: 1) Art that is not only breath-taking to view but that is perfectly in sync with the storyline and helps to enhance and embellish the impact the writer intended; 2) a history lesson of feudal Japan is enmeshed into the story which provides education and entertainment at the same time; 3) a better understanding of Eastern philosophy and the Samurai code of honor runs throughout the books in narrative captions as the story drives home its points; 4) it’s a marvelous part of a trio of debut efforts from a small company (Benaroyo) that is beginning to attract big attention; and 5) while it’s best appreciated as a whole it’s a tale that can be enjoyed in parts. You can pick up any single issue of this book and still catch on.
Issue #4 represented a defining mid-point in the storyline, as our trio of fugitive clan members also survive their initial trials, growing in the process while beginning to doubt they have what it takes to see their mission through and become who they want to be. It’s the learning curve of life. They get a splash in the face of hope in Issue #5 with the re-introduction of a powerful character who will help guide them the rest of the way.
Flashback to Issue #1 and the destruction of Aiwa village. All did not perish who remained behind. The last man standing was revealed to be Koga Iemutsu, who when surrounded by invading Samurai dispels them all away with his words, planting seeds of doubt and much fear in their minds. He is the fabled “Edo Ghost”. As one solider expressed it: “Gods do not die. They only wait.”
From there, Iemutsu walks a slippery slope of deception, presenting himself to the enemy camp as a mighty ninja and pretending to be there to assist the local warlord in ascending to Shogun ranking. Not fully trusting him, the warlord assigns Araku to shadow him. Everything has consequences. Ieumutsu’s evasive actions led to the very capture of Yuko in Issue #2. As the captions teach us: “Kago Iemutsu was accustomed to directing the rivers currents . . .. And so he had forgotten that a sword raised to strike may cut things of which the main wielding it is unaware.”
The themes for Issue #5 are redemption, fate, and honor versus vengeance.
More gems of Samurai wisdom from Issue #5: “Put two of anything in a cage for long enough and one of them ends up dead. . . . And sometimes for some men of great pride and great power, even the whole world is too small of a cage to live in together.”
The Edo Ghost succeeds in his deception, makes a powerful ally, and gets the choice assignment from the suspicious warlord to recruit a young street fighter, Haniya Toshimitsu, to lead his men in battle. And thus is Iemutsu re-united with his son Katashi. Their conversation leads Katashi to thoughts of abandoning his samurai quest and to take on the ninja mantle as his father did.
Iemutsu says “between honor and vengeance, I choose vengeance. If you cannot give up the pretensions of the samurai, then take this dagger and open your stomach, as you know you must. . . If your blood burns inside you, as mine burns within me, then return to your family. Our vengeance is at hand.” Katashi makes his choice.
Nest Issue: The Righteous Vengeance of Clan Sanjyo. Seems like the concluding Issue #6 is going to be a blood bath. Be there !
DUCK TALES VOLUME 1: RIGHTFUL OWNERS TPB (KaBOOM! Studios) Warren Spector, writer. leonel Castellani, Jose Massaroli, Ruben Torreiro, Magic Eye Studios, art.
As a way to introduce younger readers to comics – you just can’t go wrong by offering them a Disney comic. It’s been that way for decades, since the beginning of WALT DISNEY COMICS & STORIES from Dell, and Boom! Studios upholds that legacy by maintaining the same quality of writing and art. Their entire line of young reader books is outstanding.
DUCKTALES: RIGHTFUL OWNERS TPB is a great introduction to the world of money-hoarding Scrooge McDuck and his assortment of characters including aviator Launchpad and Huey, Dewey and Louie – his mischievous trio of nephews. It’s the museum opening celebrating the fabulous collection of treasures and artifacts acquired by Scrooge during his history of adventurous travel. The story open with a tour of the museum and a little trip/summary down memory lane before it gets into high gear, as various agencies conspire to steal and/or return these treasures to their original homes. I only had time for a short preview of this book, but it’s a great introduction and should provide great fun for adults lucky enough to read this to their young nieces and nephews.
OTHER TITLES WORTH EXPLORING THIS WEDNESDAY:
BATMAN #2, DARK HORSE PRESENTS #5, DEADPOOL MAX 2 #1, FEAR ITSELF #7, FREAKANGELS: VOLUME 6 TPB, H P LOVECRAFT: THE DUNWICH HORROR #1, HELLRAISER #5, JUSTICE LEAGUE #2, WARRIORS THREE: DOG DAY AFTERNOON TPB, WONDER WOMAN #2.