7 Warriors #1 (Boom! Studios)
by Michael Le Galli & Francis Manapul
Judging from the information in the indicia, this appears to an English translation of a French language comics originally published in 2008. Of course, the reason why this project is making its way to North American audiences now is clear: the comic is illustrated by Francis Manapul, an artist who’s risen in popularity in the industry thanks to his well-received work on both the current and previous incarnations of DC’s Flash title. Unfortunately, those hoping to find the sort of unique, novel visual storytelling the artist has been offering up as of late will be disappointed with what they find here. Manapul’s work on 7 Warriors is nicely detailed, but ultimately, it’s rendered in a conventional style that failed to hold my interest. His current style is almost unrecognizable here. Furthermore, the script calls for some gratuitous nudity that adds little to the story — clearly meant to titillate rather than offer any real insight into the culture of the warrior women from which this three-issue mini-series derives its title.
Le Galli’s story is properly constructed in some regards. He introduces the cast of characters fairly clearly, and the Indiana Jones-esque tunnel of booby traps makes for some fun reading. But ultimately, the historical setting and warrior ways of the protagonists — the elements that serve as the foundation of the story — are alienating. There’s nothing in the story with which to connect. I found the first act failed in its goal to convey the politics of war that serve as the catalyst for the plot, and that sense of confusion never faded. Furthermore, considering the moody adventure that serves as the focus of the third arc in this episode, the story and characters seem to take themselves too seriously. There’s no sense of wonder or excitement to be felt. 4/10
Avengers #18 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Brian Michael Bendis & Daniel Acuna
I’ve always found Daniel Acuna’s style to be quite attractive, and I’m always pleased to get a chance to sample it again. The painted look he brings to his super-hero genre artwork makes for an interesting contrast with the simpler aspects of his figures. In some respects, he captures an impressive level of detail and realism in some elements of his work, but there’s also a cartoony approach to be seen, especially in the characters’ expressions. In this issue, the first of his stint as regular artist on the series, I believe, he conveys the aftermath of terrible violence, casting an appropriate pall over the story. The thing is, Acuna’s style is a rather static one, so it’s not always the best for the action of the genre. Movement isn’t always his forte; it’s just a quality of his style. Fortunately, this is a completely conversation script. There is no action, and as such, Acuna really shines.
Many of my favorite Bendis-written comics are the ones that focus on character interaction rather than action, so suffice it to say I enjoyed this transitional issue of this series. There are definitely some problems. The issue doesn’t fulfill the promise set out on the cover — no new lineup is revealed, and the selection process isn’t even begun here. Furthermore, the main plot that reveals itself at the end of the issue demonstrates Bendis is simply telling one long, extended story with no end in sight. Nevertheless, the meat of this issue focuses on the disarray in the Avengers’ world and how it’s affecting the cast of characters. 6/10
Flash #2 (DC Comics)
by Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato
The second issue of this relaunched series proves to be even stronger than the first. Co-writers Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato bring a novel approach to the iconic speedster character, exploring not only the notion of physical speed but intellectual speed as well. Sure, other writers have touched upon the concept before, but the way in which the script describes the phenomenon of faster-than-light thought conveys the impossible incredibly well. I’m also enjoying the fact this title is spotlighting a much younger, less experienced Barry Allen. The reader is experiencing his new discoveries regarding his powers along with him, and somehow, an unmarried Barry seems more relatable. The Mob Rule plot running through the book is diverting, but it’s the character-driven stuff and the examination of how the Flash’s powers work that serve as the real meat of the issue.
The novel approach to describing the notion of the cognitive impact of super-speed on human perception wouldn’t have been nearly as effective without some unconventional artwork. Manapul’s novel panel layouts in key scenes crystallizes the freeze-frame point of view the title character experiences in this issue, and Buccellato’s colors help to distinguish the moment from the rest of the storytelling. Pairing the colorist and artist for this series as co-writers is paying off creatively. Comics are often — especially when it comes to mainstream, corporate super-hero comics — a collaborative effort, but with Flash, the collaboration is more concentrated, and it seems to allow Manapul and Buccellato to experiment and innovate when it comes to their storytelling. 8/10
Spaceman #1 (DC Comics/Vertigo imprint)
by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso
I was thrilled to learn the creative team behind 100 Bullets was reunited for a new concept from Vertigo entitled “Spaceman,” and it was the main reason I picked up the Strange Adventures #1 anthology comic featuring its debut. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by what I found there, finding the storytelling to be a bit impenetrable. It turns out the brevity of the segment in the anthology teaser was the problem, as this full issue spells out who the protagonist, Orson, is and what he’s all about. Azzarello’s hero — a genetically engineered man created to travel to Mars and cast aside after he was no longer of use to the space program — is surprisingly easy to relate to despite the science-fiction trappings of the premise and plot. I felt the reason it was so easy to connect to Orson’s melancholy and sense of isolation is because he represents the unemployed. Given the economic situation in which the world finds itself these days, I can’t help but this was exactly what Azzarello intended with this character. I’ve been on the dole myself once or twice in the past, and Orson’s sense of lacking purpose and dark, self-destructive moods are just the sort of thing one can experience when out of work.
Risso has crafted a vision of the future that’s both alien to the real world of today yet somehow still familiar. The two-page spread early in the issue combines modern American architecture with visions of poverty from other parts of the world. The wet, dreary cityscape conveys a message about the inevitable dangers of unchecked pollution and climate change. Trish Mulvihill’s colors add to the depressing atmosphere (literally), but they also allow the Mars scenes to really pop, making the distinction between Orson’s memories/dreams and the sorry state of his life back home all the clearer. 8/10
Follow Eye on Comics on Twitter.