Among my lineup of capsule reviews this time are Calexit #2, Deathbed #1, Infinity Countdown Prime #1 and Spawn #283.
Calexit #2 (Black Mask Studios)
by Matteo Pizzolo & Amancay Nahuelpan
July 2017. That’s when the first issue of this series was published; to ask their audience to wait that long for the second chapter was a significant misstep on the part of the publisher and the creators. Still, it’s a testament to the strength of the story they’re telling that I found myself engrossed in this tale of society, politics and war again so quickly. I was surprised at how quickly I remembered the events of the first issue and how easily I settled back into this harsh and sadly plausible world. This issue was structured so as to compare the so-called heroine of the story, Zora, and the villain, Rossie. Zora isn’t sympathetic at all; all she cares about is her mission, and the people around her are simply fodder for that goal. Conversely, we discover that Rossie does care about certain people, and while he’s revealed as a hypocrite in that moment, the monstrous figure is also portrayed as human. By the end of the issue, I actually found I related more to Rossie than to Zora, and that makes this drama all the more interesting and challenging.
Amancay Nahuelpan’s artwork seems more refined and focused than it did in the first issue. He does an excellent job when it comes to crafting the backdrops for each scene, be it a highway in an arid desert or a rooftop in downtown Los Angeles. This issue features many more character-driven closeups, and the artist really brings out who these people are in their expressions, notably Zora and Jamil. 8/10
Deathbed #1 (DC Comics/Vertigo imprint)
by Joshua Williamson & Riley Rossmo
I hadn’t heard much about this new release from DC’s mature-readers imprint, but when I saw Riley Rossmo’s name on it last week, it caught my eye. Rossmo boasts a unique style, conveying a lot of energy and attitude in his figures. This is especially true with Deathbed, which is even more over-the-top and bombastic than projects we’ve seen from him in the past at DC. Antonio Luna looks like the Most Interesting Man in the World if he were portrayed by the love child of Sean Connery and Dwayne Johnson. I love the madness in his eyes, but I also love the voluptuous and confident Val Richards, hired to tell Luna’s life story. Her bold curves make for an interesting visual contrast to the sinewy angles of Luna’s form. I was also taken with the surreal decor of Luna’s expansive manor.
While not much of a plot has revealed itself as yet, writer Joshua Williamson grabs his audience’s attention with a couple of characters akin to fireworks exploding in the sky with a dazzling display of color and volatility. There’s nothing remotely grounded about Antonio Luna, but there’s a lot of immensely fun and insane qualities to enjoy. Williamson has crafted a character who’s part P.T. Barnum and part Doc Savage. His immense confidence is impossible but intoxicating, and Val’s cynicism and frustration make for an interesting balance. In the end, this is a darkly fun and twisted story that might not offer much in the way of profundity, but it’s certainly not short on entertainment value. 8/10
Infinity Countdown Prime #1 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Gerry Duggan & Mike Deodato
Infinity Gauntlet was a thoroughly satisfying event title from Marvel back in the day, capitalizing on the return of Thanos in its Silver Surfer title. It was six issues long and it was focused and it was fun. It has also served as a thread running through the various Marvel Studios movies over the past decade, and a cinematic version of the Gauntlet story will make its way to audiences this summer in Avengers: Infinity War. As such, it comes as no surprise that Marvel is revisiting the Infinity Stones for another event book. This time, there’s more than just Thanos after them, and that sets the story apart. Some of the plot choices are interesting here; various cosmic-level characters find themselves in possession of Infinity Stones, but Wolverine’s role in the story is unusual. Even more surprising is where the Mind Gem ended up. Mind you, it seems as though writer Gerry Duggan isn’t portraying the Stones as consistently trackable.
Ultimately, by the end of the issue, I was more confused than anything else. I have no idea what was going on with Ultron and Hank Pym, who are key players in this drama. Furthermore, whatever is going on with Captain Marvel and her various dimensional counterparts was a bit nebulous and confusing as well. While there’s a guide to past Infinity Stones stories in the back of this comic, this isn’t an accessible read. Previous knowledge of most of these characters is pretty much a prerequisite, and while I’m quite familiar with much Marvel lore, I was at a loss several times.
Mike Deodato has been a mainstay in Marvel Entertainment titles for years now, and it comes as no surprise to see him illustrating this story. He just came off a run on the Thanos ongoing series so transitioning to this cosmic drama is logical. His style boasts an intensity that’s in keeping with the huge scope and dire tone of this plot. However, the visuals here or somewhat difficult to discern at times. For example, I really couldn’t make out many of the designs of the Ultron henchmen dispatched to deal with Wolverine. 5/10
Spawn #283 (Image Comics)
by Todd McFarlane & Szymon Kudranski
I haven’t read a Spawn comic in more than a decade, so I decided it was high time took a glance to see what Todd McFarlane has been up to as of late. While some knowledge of past Spawn continuity is necessary to follow the story, I wasn’t nearly as lost as I expected to be. I was impressed to find that the story appears to be playing out in real time. Cyan, who was a toddler in the early issues of the series, now appears to be a young woman, boasting psychic powers of her own and playing an integral role in the divine and devilish drama that continues to unfold here. I also like that the titular character, while seemingly nearly omnipotent in his power, has also endeavored to carve out a bit of normalcy in his life. I also like that Al Simmons appears to have allowed himself to form relationships with others instead of exiling himself altogether. McFarlane’s script is a little too wordy at times, and the dialogue doesn’t always sound the way people actually talk to one another. The writer is also listed as the book’s editor, and I think that might be a mistake. His scripting could stand some tightening, as well as a more accessible tone.
Szymon Kudranski boasts an interesting style that’s unlike what I’ve seen in past Spawn comics. While his portrayal of the infernal form of the main character is reminiscent of what we’ve seen from McFarlane and others before, the rest of his art is reminiscent of the style of Jae (Inhumans) Lee. There’s an appropriately grittiness and darkness to his efforts, but also a stronger sense of realism as opposed to the stylistic flourishes that so often defined Spawn’s look in the past. 6/10