The Last Days of Animal Man #2 (DC Comics)
by Gerry Conway, Chris Batista & Dave Meikis
I love that Conway has set this story in the future, as it allows him to play around with the DC Universe in ways that the constraints of present continuity wouldn’t allow. I loved the whale Green Lantern. It’s not clear if he’s an alien or an intelligent Great Blue whale from Earth. If other DC writers are smart, they’ll pick up on this character concept in the future. Conway also offers a strong character study in the form of the new villain he introduces here. He could have taken a shortcut and not bothered to delve into what motivates her, as it doesn’t seem as though she’ll have a lasting presence through this limited series. Nevertheless, I found the character intriguing, even in light of her lack of any emotional connection to others. Conway could have written a different, more stereotypical origin for the child of a noted DC super-villain, but he takes her in a different direction — the path of the sociopath, as it were. The title character’s story doesn’t advance all that much, but the new characters introduced here more than make for an engaging read.
Batista’s sleek and striking figures are quite attractive. He conveyed the title character’s age nicely in the first issue when he was out of costume, but I notice that when Buddy’s in Animal Man mode, he still boasts a more youthful look. Since this story is essentially about aging (this issue representing the conflict between generations), clearer cues as to Animal Man’s middle-age status would be warranted. Still, the art is quite eye-catching, even considering the generic tone of the designs for the new villains that have been turning up in this series. 7/10
Swordsmith Assassin #1 (Boom! Studios)
by Andrew Cosby, Michael Alan Nelson & Ayhan Hayrula
One could argue that Cosby’s plot about a master swordsmith seeking redemption for his sins is derivative; it certainly seems familiar. But really, what he and scripter Michael Alan Nelson set out to do is to capture a mythic tone with this story. They achieve that feel to a certain degree, but the predictability and afore-mentioned familiarity temper some of the sense of wonder they’re hoping to elicit from the audience. I do like the diversity of characters and settings. From Japan to war-time Prussia, that cross-cultural approach gives Toshiro Ono’s quest a larger scope and therefore a slightly more mythic feel. Ayhan Hayrula’s artwork certainly suits the dark tone of the plot. His work on the opening scene is meticulously detailed, reminding me of some of Igor (New X-Men) Kordey’s more refined, polished efforts. I like how the art takes on a different tone for the flashbacks set in Japan. The artist certainly seems to have captured the period and the historic locales quite well. Overall, while this four-part limited series isn’t going to set the comic-book world on fire, it’s a solid effort, serving as a nice diversion. 7/10
We Kill Monsters #1 (Red 5 Comics)
by Laura Harkcom, Christopher Leone & Brian Churilla
According to Red 5 Comics (and a Wikipedia entry), writers Laura Harkcom and Christopher Leone were among the creative forces behind The Lost Room, a Sci Fi Channel mini-series starring Peter Krause, Julianna Margulies and Elle Fanning that seemed to be the springboard for an ongoing series that never materialized. It’s too bad; I loved that show. Its novel premise, solid performances and clever plotting had me riveted. Unfortunately, the same strength isn’t to be found in the writers’ efforts here. Instead, we get a story about two less-than-brilliant brothers who find their careers as mechanics are over, and instead, they’re monster hunters in a world that seems to go haywire for no apparent reason. Think Supernatural meets Ash from Army of Darkness. There’s no clear cue as to what this series wants to be. At times, the writers play it straight, and at others, there’s a goofier tone at play. The title leads me to believe they’re aiming for the latter, but they don’t always hit that mark. What does come through is the strength of the relationship between the two brothers. Churilla’s artwork is cartoony in tone, which is in keeping with the lighter approach that occasionally arises, but it’s also quite bright. Even with the sillier side of the story, the nature of the plot and premise seems to call for a darker, edgier look as well. The monster design isn’t the most original or gruesome one either, and purple isn’t a color that inspires fear. Memories of a Sheb Wooley hit from 1958, yes, but not fear. 4/10
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