FF #4 (Marvel Comics)
by Jonathan Hickman & Barry Kitson
When Marvel announced this new direction for its Fantastic Four characters, I was quite interested, even a little excited — not because the publisher was “killing off” the Human Torch, but rather than the new Future Foundation — with a larger lineup of characters and new designs — seemed like something fresh for a concept that’s basically gone unchanged for five decades. Writer Jonathan Hickman has brought some fun ideas to the series, not the least of which is a council of villains looking for ways to stop and/or kill Reed Richards and the inclusion of Spider-Man as part of the team. But after four issues, I’m not interested or excited. The driving force behind the opening story arc seems to be elements from Hickman’s first story arc on Fantastic Four, namely alternate versions of Reed that lack the moral center of the “real” Reed. I wasn’t interested in the Council of Reeds storyline when it was first introduced, and its return here didn’t do much for me either.
Barry Kitson’s clean linework certainly works well for the pristine, even antiseptic look of the Future Foundation’s costume designs and headquarters. He also handles the younger characters quite well. The villain council scenes are appropriately dark, but the rest of the book lacks the edge and intensity that regular series artist Steve Epting instilled in the first three issues. Furthermore, the backgrounds are often lacking. I remain a fan of Kitson’s work, mind you, but maybe it was my disinterest in the story that led to a corresponding disappointment in the visuals. 6/10
Fly #1 (Zenescope Entertainment)
by Raven Gregory & Eric J
Raven Gregory seems to have been carving out for himself a small but sustainable niche in the comics market with his Grimm Fairy Tales titles, but the cheesecake art adorning many of the writer’s comics kept me from checking them out. Actually, Fly is the first Gregory comic and the first Zenescope title I’ve read, so I really didn’t know what to expect. While it took me a while to warm to the writing, once the premise revealed itself, I was quite impressed with the concept and the storytelling here. Gregory does an excellent job, especially when it comes to the flashback scenes. It’s difficult to relate to the main characters in the opening scene set in the present, but his effort to demonstrate what a decent guy Eddie is and how he came to find himself in dark and unenviable circumstances later in life was quite successful. It’s vitally important to connect addiction with regular people. Too many out there think those who’ve succumbed to addiction chose that path, that they were wretched and pathetic to begin with. Gregory humanizes the face of addiction immediately after showing how ugly it can be.
The biggest problem with this comic book is visual, but I’m not referring to interior artist Eric J’s work. Most of the cover artwork for this debut issue (and there are several covers) play up a T&A factor that just isn’t as prominent or present in the actual story. I realize that in general, sex sells, but it can serve as an obstacle as well. I was ready to pass on reading this comic book. I figured it was just another bad-girl comic, inspired by similar properties from the 1990s. The covers, save for Eric J’s vision of the protagonist’s fall from the skies, just don’t convey the drama and strength of the characterization and plotting to be found within. J’s work on the interiors is a little uneven at times, but it effectively captures the harshness and desperation of addiction. This stuff in the opening sequence looks a bit like a cross between the styles of George (Secret Seven) Perez and Jim (Secret Six) Calafiore. I also appreciated the shift to a brighter, more cartoony style for the flashback sequences, marking a time when the characters were innocent and untouched by the corrupting influence of the core premise of the series. 7/10
Strange Adventures #1 (DC Comics/Vertigo imprint)
The shop where I buy my comics every week is called Strange Adventures, so I was practically required to pick up the first issue of this new anthology book from DC’s mature-readers imprint. Of course, there were other reasons I bought it as well, not the least of which was the participation of such creators as Jeff Lemire, Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso. Like most anthologies, the stories here are a mixed bag, but I was surprised to find that the stories I enjoyed more tended to be from the lesser-known or unknown creators. Azzarello and Risso’s “Spaceman” short story was a bit disappointing. there was a strong Blade Runner riff at play, but Azzarello’s sci-fi slang and Risso’s noir art hide what’s happening from the reader rather than telling a story. Lemire’s reintroduction of Ultra the Multi-Alien in a melancholy segment recapping his origin was fun but ultimately offered no conflict, only spotlighting his sadness and hopelessness.
The first thing that struck me about this comic book was just how uninteresting the cover logo is. The intrusive nature of that Green Lantern movie banner doesn’t help either; it’s OK on Green Lantern comics, but it completely detracts from the art on this book. Obviously, this anthology book reminded me a lot of the anthology comics DC/Vertigo published in the 1990s. In fact, these stories reminded me so much of Flinch and other such comics that I couldn’t help but wonder if some of this material had been sitting in a drawer and this incarnation of Strange Adventures was meant, in part, as a way clear out some of that backlog of unpublished material. 6/10
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