FVZA: Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency #1 (Radical Comics)
by David Hine & Roy Allan Martinez
This is another one of Radical’s big $4.99 US comics, and it does deliver a solid value (though it bills itself as offering 56 pages, there’s really 42 pages of story and art). Writer David Hine offers an interesting alternate history of the United States, exploring a world in which vampires and zombies exist (or at least existed), though the impact on culture isn’t really felt. Still, it’s an interesting script with some appropriate creepy moments. Still, this first issue is all about setting up the conflict between a newly revived government agency and the monsters that would threaten to overrun the country. The storytelling is solid, but I found I had to get over a bit of hurdle before I could really enjoy the story. The problem: the title. “Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency” sounds, well, silly and fun. Instead, the creators play the concept straight, and given the title, it’s just not what one expects. The historical fiction elements might make some readers uneasy, but they’re novel and make sense in the context of the world of FVZA.
The art is in keeping with Hine’s approach to the story rather than the lighter, oddball tone of the title, appropriately enough. Given the prominence of the monsters in the plot, there are a number of thoroughly gruesome and gory visuals. His realistic style certainly drives home the horror of the vampire and zombie concepts. He captures the gothic appeal of vampire characters with ease, but his zombies are far more interesting fro a visual standpoint. 7/10
Justice League: Cray for Justice #3 (DC Comics)
by James Robinson & Mauro Cascioli/Len Wein & Federico Dallocchio
I give up. I wanted to like this series, I really did. I was drawn in by the fact that writer James Robinson revisits a couple of his Starman characters in this title, but the sort of sharp, reflective writing from that series for which he was well known isn’t to be found here. For heroes who want to be proactive and hunt villains down, they do an awful lot of standing around and posturing. Robinson’s plot is advancing at a snail’s pace; it’s incredibly frustrating. We don’t even have the full lineup of team members in place yet, and Mikaal Tomas and Congo Bill don’t seem like they’re ever going to connect with the other protagonists. The most perplexing aspect of the script is the antagonism among the heroes. Robinson assumes the reader is up on the New Krypton storyline in the Superman books, and really, I don’t understand why it’s even mentioned in this context, as it has no real impact on the story. The dialogue’s emphasis on what a B-list villain Prometheus is seems odd as well, given that when it was introduced, writer Grant Morrison built him up as an almost unbeatable opponent. The backup feature, detailing the villain’s origin, contradicts it as well.
Mauro Cascioli’s painted artwork certainly conveys the dark, bitter atmosphere that serves as the book’s foundation, but it’s stiff. And the opening page’s focus on Supergirl’s breasts and bare midriff is irksome and runs contrary to the intense and tense mood called for by the story. Furthermore, It threatens to undo good will that’s been sown by creators on the regular Supergirl series, who have purposefully set out to tone down the sexualization of its teenage title character. this issue includes backup material just as those before did, and while I see the value in presenting extra background on key characters, Robinson’s essay and the brief origin story feel more like filler than bonus material. 4/10
Solomon Grundy #7 (DC Comics)
by Scott Kolins
This has proven to be an unusual but entertaining limited series starring the weirdest freaks running around the DC Universe, and that commonality of character alone was enough to sustain my interest. As the story reaches its climax and conclusion, that recurring motif is abandoned, and understandably so. The revelation of the identity of Cyrus Gold’s murderer isn’t that much of a shock or twist, given that no suspects were presented to the reader in the six issues before this one, but the revelation is a satisfying one nonetheless. Still, this is probably the weakest issue of the series, and the reason for that is the same one that will likely make this the best-selling or most popular issue of the series. The Blackest Night angle is a logical one for the title character, in that he’s undead and is a Green Lantern foe, but the Black Lantern element at the end of this issue just doesn’t fit the tone that had been established from the start of the series.
The greatest strength of this series all along has been the weird, exaggerated and emotive artwork of Scott Kolins, and that hasn’t changed with the final issue. He captures the gruesome and powerful nature of the title character incredibly well. Michael Atiyeh’s colors add a lot to the visuals too. I love the contrast between the bright but eerie green tones of Green Lantern’s powers against the murky darkness of Solomon Grundy’s corner of the world and his flesh. 5/10
The Torch #1 (Marvel Comics/Dynamite Entertainment)
by Mike Carey, Alex Ross & Patrick Berkenkotter
Mike Carey and Alex Ross’s story of another Golden Age Marvel hero who’s revived in the 21st century is nicely grounded. It’s easy to relate to Tom (Toro) Raymond’s frustration and anger, and I rather enjoyed the sense of mystery that the Golden Age Vision brings to the book. The Mad Thinker’s theories about a conspiracy surrounding the connection between the original Human Torch and his sidekick bring a modern-day maturity and complexity to the characters as well. Of course, Tom’s lamentations seem rather familiar; haven’t we already heard both Captains America pine about being men out of time? Did we need another one? This story also lacks a key element, the absence of which was distracting throughout the entire issue: exposition. Carey’s script the reader little indication of how the previously deceased Toro ended up alive in the 21st century. I don’t know if this is a spinoff from Avengers/Invaders or some other story. I assume it’s the former, given that Alex Ross and Dynamite Entertainment were involved in that series and this one, but it does make for a confusing read.
Berkenkotter’s is photorealistic in tone. While his work is penciller unlike Ross’s usually painted work, it’s definitely presented in what one might see as a Ross house style. It’s similar in tone to the linework in Avengers/Invaders and several of Ross’s Project Superpowers titles. It tells the story effectively, but it also comes off as somewhat generic and flat at times. It rarely really grabs the eye. 5/10
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