So many comics, so little time, but I managed to squeeze some capsule reviews of four new debut issues that were released this week Alisik, The Beef, Lockjaw and Mera: Queen of Atlantis.
Alisik #1 (Titan Comics/Statix Press)
by Hubertus Rufledt & Helge Vogt
The publisher, in its promotional material, bills is comic book as cross between Coraline and Emily the Strange, and I can see the comparison easily. The story is about Alisik, a girl who discovers she’s dead and trapped in a phantom-like state in a cemetery along with a number of other undead ghouls who have dubbed themselves Postmortals. The plot, about a saddened ghost girl and her connection with a living boy, feels a little familiar and predictable. Still, the melancholy atmosphere drips off the page, and the colorful personalities of the acclimated Postmortals makes for a nice balance with that sullen side.
The biggest problem with this comic book is the artwork. While it’s appropriately dark and eerie throughout, artist Helge Vogt’s portrayal of the titular character is unsettling — and not in a supernatural way. It seems clear that Alisik is a teenage girl; her rounded face and her connection with what clearly seems to be a teenage boy offers no other plausible interpretation. But the artist has chosen to oversexualize his depiction of the character, and there appears to be no reason for it. In fact, every female character seems to boast an impossibly perfect bosom. This isn’t a sexy story, but sexuality — and specifically, female sexuality — is ingrained in the artwork. 4/10
The Beef #1 (Image Comics)
by Richard Starkings, Tyler Shainline & Shaky Kane
Writers Richard Starkings and Tyler Shainline deliver a highly intelligent, informative and sociopolitical story about the food industry in western society and how we seem to be willing participants in the poisoning of our own bodies. However, the script doesn’t come off as all that preachy, but it is incredibly negative in tone — so much so that I found it wore me down page after page. Everything about the story is brutal and unkind — the bullying, the inequity of class warfare, the gore of the slaughterhouse, the tragedy of immigration issues, and the unfairness the pitfalls to which the main character is subjected through no fault of his own. I was surprised to find at the end the story is actually intended as a super-hero origin of sorts, drenched in social commentary. The writers make some poignant points here, but there’s so much ugliness in the script that I found it impossible to enjoy the real substance of the story.
Artist Shaky Kane boasts a style that looks like a blend of the work of Gilbert (Love and Rockets) Hernandez and Daniel (Wilson) Clowes. There’s a real indie tone to Kane’s linework that’s in keeping with the sociopolitical qualities of the script. I think Kane portrays the adult Chuck Carter, the protagonist of the story, as a little too old at times, mainly due to the gray color of his hair and an overly grizzled face. There’s a harshness in the art that’s in keeping with the message of the story as well. 5/10
Lockjaw #1 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Daniel Kibblesmith, Carlos Villa & Robert Poggi
I’ve always loved Lockjaw. Who doesn’t? He’s a giant, lovable teleporting dog. But honestly, what prompted me to check out this new title wasn’t that lovable pooch, but rather the writing of Daniel Kibblesmith. I enjoyed his work on the new Quantum and Woody series from Valiant, and his comedic sensibilities seem like a good match for the inherent goofiness of the inhuman canine. However, while I love the concept, there are some inherent limitations in spotlighting such a nonverbal character. Fortunately, Kibblesmith overcomes this by pairing Lockjaw with an obscure D-list superhero who finds himself washed up and immersed in a self-pity party over a recent breakup. D-Man brings a lot more humor to the book, but the funniest element in the book is the horde of alien rodent invaders that he and Lockjaw repel later in the issue.
The artwork by Villa and Poggi is clear and effective. Lockjaw is a challenging character to illustrate — of this I have no doubt. The artist takes a simpler approach to the canine character, and his adorability comes through nicely. Mind you, their take on Lockjaw pales in comparison with that offered by Ed McGuinness on the regular cover. There’s a little more detail when it comes to the other elements in the book. D-Man’s haggard, neglected appearance conveys his morose and pitiable situation, but there’s still a dynamic quality in him that makes it easy to accept when he shifts from lethargy to action. The designs for the alien invaders are just as striking as the goofiness of the concept. 7/10
Mera: Queen of Atlantis #1 (DC Comics)
by Dan Abnett, Lan Medina & Richard Friend
Given Amber Heard’s recent portrayal of Mera in the Justice League movie and her return to the role in the upcoming Aquaman film, it’s no great surprise DC decided to publish a Mera mini-series. What is surprising is just how compelling her story is, how accessible it is for someone who isn’t reading the regular Aquaman series and how a villain’s plotline might actually be even more fascinating than the heroine’s. Writer Dan Abnett spells out Mera’s plight and her inner conflict between her duty and her desire for peace and happiness. He makes a rather Shakespearean character’s personality and circumstances relatable. The same can be said for how he reintroduces and explores a classic Aquaman villain in the opening and closing scenes of this issue. While Mera dedicates herself to her role as an exiled queen while setting aside the normalcy she earns, that villain has achieved that peace and contentment but finds himself in a position where he feels drawn back into duty and conflict. I loved the opposing plotlines. Given the complexity of the backstory leading up to this point, the writer has crafted a script the provides all the exposition one needs to get up to speed and does so in a way that works well with this new story.
Like most new super-hero comics these days, this issue boasts a regular cover and a variant cover. I’m puzzled why the editors responsible for commissioning these covers didn’t ensure that they didn’t end up looking so similar to one another. The interior art is crisp and clear, and the collaboration of Lan Medina and inker Richard Friend has given rise to a look that’s quite similar to the style of regular cover artist Nicola Scott. The action scenes are exciting, but the softer tone in the linework works best in reinforcing the emotional and political conflicts that the main players experience. 8/10