From former high-school friends on a mischievous adventure to a water-breathing environmentalist, from a playboy billionaire inventor to black-ops soldiers enhanced with alien biology, this week’s cluster of comics runs the gamut of genre, publishers and quality.
by John Allison & Christine Larsen
Creators John Allison and Christine Larsen have tapped into a universal experience as the foundation of a weird adventure story. Something weird unfolds in the final moments of this issue, but before that point, the script is all about that miserable grind that befalls one in early adulthood, when you have to take a low-level job as you start out after your education. Jane is an incredibly relatable character. She’s stuck in a menial job that’s beneath her education, and she’s just as stuck in her hometown. And then there’s Heather, her one-time friend from her school days who’s never really grown up. What builds toward a story with sci-fi elements starts out quite grounded. My one qualm with the characterization here is Jane’s inconsistent reactions to Heather. At one point, she wants to avoid her and is driven to distraction by her, and at the next, she’s doing everything the rebellious young woman suggests. Jane’s failure to resist Heather or see her for what she really is was a bit off-putting, but not so much so that I wasn’t interested to see what comes next.
Larsen’s cartooning boasts a real indie appeal, and her simple style effectively conveys the youthful nature of the two main characters quite well. The minimalist approach makes the book look a bit like an all-ages read, but really, it’s more appropriate for readers in their late teens and early 20s. 7/10
by Ron Marz & Siya Oum
The late Michael Turner built a strong niche brand with Fathom years ago, but the property was like many other 1990s heroines, perhaps embodied (pardon the pun) the most by Witchblade, the main appeal of the character and comic appeared to be the lithe and buxom form of the titular (again, no pun intended) protagonist. But in recent years, the Kewl characters of the 1990s Image age have undergone revamps that have endeavored to undo the excesses of the era. With this new Fathom series, that doesn’t appear to be Aspen Comics’ approach. I’ve only skimmed through a Fathom comic or two in the past, and I was surprised Ron Marz’s script doesn’t go far enough to fill potential new readers in on this sea-faring heroine, especially since this is a first issue. I didn’t even get a clear sense of what Aspen’s powers are. The bulk of this issue focuses on a discussion between Aspen Williams and her new government liaison/protector, and it irked me to no end that within moments of meeting her, he was calling her by her first name, as if they had some deeper connection.
From an artistic perspective, the good news is that Siya Oum has opted to depict the female characters a little more realistically than Turner did, who always seemed to imbue his female figures with impossibly waif-like waists and inflatable breasts. But Oum’s efforts here are just a little more palatable. The focus remains squarely on the contours of the three women in this story. I understand that Aspen Comics wants to maintain its die-hard fanbase, but it also needs to grow its audience if it wants to thrive. This isn’t the way to achieve that goal. 3/10
by Dan Slott & Valerio Schiti
While I was disappointed in his finale with Invincible Iron Man #600, Brian Michael Bendis’ long tenure writing the adventures of various incarnations of Marvel’s Shellhead was thoroughly entertaining and well-crafted from a characterization perspective. Now, we’ve got Dan Slott, who almost single-handedly revitalized Amazing Spider-Man over the past several years, guiding Tony Stark and his armor. He definitely takes a different tack here. It’s light and fun and goofy, and it dives into somewhat obscure Marvel continuity and characters. It was entertaining as well, but in a more superficial and traditional way. The highlight of the script is Slott’s new take on Jocasta, one-time Avenger initially created to be the bride of Ultron, but she’s used mainly here to deliver jokes. Iron Man is depicted as being implausibly powerful and vulnerable at the same time, with Slott’s depiction of his tech focused on cool visuals more than anything else. What struck me the most of about this inaugural issue is how appropriate it is for an all-ages audience. This would have fit in just fine with the publisher’s now defunct Marvel Adventures line aimed at younger readers.
Schiti’s artwork here reminds me a great deal of the style of Mark (Fables, Peter Parker: Spider-Man) Buckingham. He certainly captures the energy and light-hearted vibe of the story nicely, but I’m not so sure if his style is suited to the sleek, high-tech world in which these characters live. I’m also completely confused why Marvel chose the artwork of Alexander Lozano for the regular cover and to adorn many of the alternate covers (of which there are a ludicrous and insulting number). His dark style and brooding depiction of Tony Stark runs completely contrary to the content within. 6/10
by Warren Ellis & Jon Davis-Hunt
About 10 or 15 years ago, I’m convinced The Wild Storm would be dominating online comics discussion. Back then, I believe, Warren Ellis was at the height of his popularity, and this complex and harsh reinvention of the Wildstorm Universe would have grabbed the dark imaginations of his expansive fanbase. These days, Ellis isn’t the omni-present force in the online fandom community he once was, but it’s clear from this series that he hasn’t lost the inventive and gruesomely imaginative cynicism that made him such a strong voice in the medium. What’s struck me about his writing for The Wild Storm is the depth of the quiet and relatable humanity he’s instilled in these edgy, superhuman characters, and that’s particularly apparent as he introduces us to Alexandra Fairchild in this issue. Her encounter with Lynch mirrors the latter’s unsuccessful meeting with a malevolent former operative, so this more peaceful yet tragic moment was incredibly effective.
I’ve been relishing the meticulous and unflinching artwork of Jon Davis-Hunt since I first saw it on the superb Clean Room series he did with writer Gail Simone. The slow-motion choreography of Zealot’s shootout with invading forces in the opening scene was wonderfully executed (no pun intended), and it reminded me of the ground-breaking visuals of The Matrix. 9/10