Category Archives: Reviews – Image

Guitar Pick

Twenty Seven #1
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Renzo Podesta
Letters: Shawn DePasquale
Cover artist: W. Scott Forbes
Editor: Kristen Simon
Publisher: Image Comics/Shadowline imprint
Price: $3.99 US

Image Comics has been doing a great job of introducing new talent and new ideas into the comic-book industry, and this new comic, presented in Image’s oversized, magazine-style format (dubbed its Golden Age format), is the latest example of that trend. I hadn’t heard about this book until Bleeding Cool ran a piece about its rising value and speculator interest in it. The potential to own a valuable collectible isn’t what caught my attention though (I’m a reader, not an investor). What drove me to buy this comic book was the premise that the afore-mentioned website included in its brief coverage. The development of a mystery and an air of conspiracy around the fact that a number of talented rockers have died at the age of 27 appealed to me. Now, the plot in this first issue wasn’t what I expected — it’s supernatural and gothic in tone, whereas I pictured something else — but it was solidly entertaining and deliciously dark. It looks as though I’ve got to add another title to my regular pull list at the local comic shop.

Continue reading… →

Howdy, Konnyeje wa, Goddag

Cowboy Ninja Viking #1
Writer: A.J. Lieberman
Artist/Tones/Cover artist: Riley Rossmo
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Editor: Kristen Simon
Publisher: Image Comics/Shadowline imprint
Price: $3.50 US

Image Comics has had a number of sleeper hits as of late, among them, Chew, Viking and the resurrected King City. All are unconventional comics that seem much more at home in under the Image banner than they’d be at Marvel or DC Comics. Cowboy Ninja Viking is another such comic book, and it has all the potential to be another surprise hit for the publisher. A.J. Lieberman’s plot, premise and script — all of which are reminiscent of Matt (Invincible Iron Man) Fraction’s creator-owned work such as Casanova and Rex Mantooth — demonstrate he’s got his tongue planted firmly in cheek as he merges three cool adventure genre archetypes into one bizarre character. Riley Rossmo’s sketchy, gritty art style tempers the weirder, ridiculous qualities of the book nicely, adding a certain intensity that keeps the storytelling from turning into a farce. All told, this is an entertaining and morbidly fun comic book with minor flaws that will hopefully fade as the series continues.

Continue reading… →

Haunted and Unwanted

Ottley variant coverCapullo variant coverHaunt #1
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Layouts: Greg Capullo
Pencils: Ryan Ottley
Inks: Todd McFarlane
Colors: FCO Plascencia
Letters: Comicraft
Cover artists: Todd McFarlane/Greg Capullo/Ryan Ottley
Editors: Jen Cassidy & Tyler Jeffers
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3 CAN

I’d originally decided some time ago that when Haunt was finally released, I’d pass on it, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my interest in Robert Kirkman’s and Ryan Ottley’s storytelling outweighed my disinterest in Todd McFarlane’s and Greg Capullo’s artwork and my disappointment in the uninspired nature of the title character’s design. I should’ve stuck with my original instinct. Haunt maybe a super-hero title, but it’s devoid of any sense of fun, even morbid, dark fun. It’s full of nasty characters — gratuitously nasty ones, to be honest. The plot and players are dark for the sake of being dark. The creators aren’t selling the audience a story. The creators themselves are the product, and a compelling read was clearly low on the list of priorities. The contributors clearly set out to create something intense and Kewl, and they succeeded, but only when it comes to those purely superficial goals.

Continue reading… →

You Say Stalagmite, I Say Stalactite

Underground #1
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist/Cover artist: Steve Lieber
Colors: Ron Chan
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.50 US

While writer Jeff Parker’s name is a fairly prominent one at Marvel Comics these days, it was the strength of the artist’s reputation on this creator-owned book that caught my attention and drew me in. I’ve been a fan of Steve Lieber’s work since reading Whiteout about a decade ago, and any new work from this talent is cause to celebrate. Underground is no exception. Given the title, the plot and characters are fittingly down to earth. While the plot incorporates action and a level of tension one doesn’t usually encounter in everyday life, there are other elements in the core conflict that are quite familiar and credible. I’m most interested in the conflict between conservationism and community economics, as it’s easy to see and appreciate both sides’ arguments. Ultimately, what sells the story are the characters, and they’re quite well realized, both in concept and visually.

Continue reading… →

To Be Me, or Not to Be Me

Existence 2.0 #1
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Ron Salas
Colors: S. Steven Struble
Letters: John Lowe
Editor: Kris Simon
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.50 US

Writer Nick Spencer has developed a novel premise that blends science and the supernatural, and he’s used it as a catalyst for a crime story rife with intrigue and conspiracy. The premise is sharp and full of potential; this could be the first of many limited series featuring different characters dealing with the core concept in different ways. Despite these strengths, I came away from this debut issue feeling less than entertained. I immediately recognized the problem: I can’t stand any of the characters in the story. The main character — a scientist who’s willing to work for any client, break any law (natural or institutional) and only interested in his own hedonistic whims — is detestable, and it’s hard to root for him. Impossible, really. The story is exciting, the script accessible and effective, and the art captures the edgy, dark qualities nicely. I just can’t get past how thoroughly unlikable the protagonist is.

Continue reading… →

Over the Lips and Past the Gums…

Chew #1 coverChew #2 coverChew #s 1 & 2
Writer/Letters: John Layman
Artist/Colors/Cover artist: Rob Guillory
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US each

If one were to look at John Layman’s recent works (Puffed, Tek Jansen, Army of Darkness/Xena), it would be easy to view him as something of an oddball comics writer (aren’t they all?! Haw! [rimshot]). Well, this latest effort isn’t going to change that impression one bit, and that’s a good thing. Layman brings a twisted perspective to storytelling that’s definitely unlike the majority of crime or genre fiction. Chew blends a dark, compelling crime-fiction atmosphere, biting political satire and over-the-top, absurdist humor to arrive at an entertaining and surprisingly compelling bit of storytelling that almost defies description. Rob Guillory’s exaggerated artwork mirrors the unusual tone of the script and plot perfectly. While his figures are far from familiar or grounded in appearance, they reflect the distorted, disturbing nature of the premise and plot points nicely.

Continue reading… →

Days of Age

Age of Bronze #s 27 & 28
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Eric Shanower
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.50 US

Age of Bronze is one of those rare titles that deserves to be mentioned in the company of such indy success stories as Bone, Strangers in Paradise and Cerebus, but it isn’t, probably because it’s been published under the Image Comics banner. It’s a remarkably ambitious project for the medium, let alone in the episodic, “floppy” comic-book format. Shanower’s research into the subject matter, history, culture, personalities and warfare is meticulous, and he holds back no detail so as to recreate the events of ancient times for his readers. His artwork is as detail-oriented as his writing. So dense is it, in fact, that it leads one to conduct multiple readings, not just of the entire comic but of individual panels as well. Mind you, many of these strengths also act as hindrances in Shanower’s work. Age of Bronze certainly isn’t an easy comic, and I can’t help but wonder if the sheer volume of information the creator tries to impart isn’t something of an albatross around the book’s neck.

Continue reading… →

Bring Out Your Dead

Walking Dead Vol. 9The Walking Dead, Vol. 9: Here We Remain trade paperback
The Walking Dead #s 55, 56 & 57

Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist/Cover artist: Charlie Adlard
Gray tones: Cliff Rathburn
Letters: Rus Wooton
Editor: Aubrey Sitterson
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $14.99 US (trade)/$2.99 US each (individual issues)

I’d missed an issue or two of this series last year and lost touch with it for a while, but last week’s release of the latest trade-paperback collection offered me the chance to get caught up. I opted to read them all in one sitting the other night, right before I went to bed. Big mistake. My God, the nightmares — they were unrelenting. And really, that may be the best compliment I can give to storytellers Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard. The horror — both physical and psychological — bored into my brain and was persistent in its successful to influence my unconscious thoughts. After reading Here We Remain and subsequent chapters in the ongoing zombie epic, I was reminded of the powerful plotting and characterization that have made The Walking Dead such a success, and of the synergy between writer and artist that’s been an integral part of that success.

Continue reading… →

B’s Side

Phonogram: The Singles Club #1
“Pull Shapes” and two backup features
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Jamie McKelvie, Laurenn McCubbin & Marc Ellerby
Colors: Matthew Wilson
Cover artist: Jamie McKelvie
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.50 US

Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie return to their world of music magicians, but they explore their creation in a radically different way than last time. The first Phonogram series was something of a redemption quest for a rogue, steeped in dark and dangerous tones that were alluring in their own way. This issue is more of a character study, and it’s incredibly grounded. Penny B is a figure who’s both heartening and pitiful at the same time, and she exemplifies the portrait of a young adult who still has a lot of growing up to do. The fact that she’s a phonomancer, a magic user who relies on music for her power, is really quite secondary to the story. Ultimately, Gillen shows us there’s plenty of everyday magic in music in the right circumstances. Though there’s a sad quality to Penny B’s character, the overall tone of the main story is really a hopeful and celebratory one. Those who enjoyed the first Phonogram series will find the same strong storytelling here, but they’ll also find a much different kind of story as well.

Continue reading… →

Cull of the Wild

Elephantmen: War Toys trade paperback
Writer: Richard Starkings
Artist: Moritat
Letters: Comicraft
Cover artists: Boo Cook & Ladronn
Publisher: Image Comics/Active Images
Price: $9.99 US

Reprinting the three-part War Toys limited series set in Richard Starkings’s world of Hip Flask, this story features a plethora of science-fiction elements, the powerful visuals of some well-designed anthropomorphic animal characters and unrelenting action that’s bound to grab the attention of many readers. But the more fantastic, over-the-top aspects of the book, no matter how many of them are, can’t hide the true nature of the story. This is a war story, and in many ways, it’s an old-fashioned war story, the kind of fare one would have found in DC’s Our Fighting Forces, G.I. Combat or Men of War decades ago. It’s about how a conflict that started out as political can become personal all too easily for those forced to fight. It’s about how each soldier is both a hero and a villain; the difference simply falls to perspective.

Continue reading… →

Seasonal Work

In the world of television, production companies put together pilots, single-introductory episodes of new shows that they show to prospective buyers, hoping to get picked up for more episodes. With its Pilot Season line, Top Cow Productions, an Image Comics imprint, seems to be trying a similar approach, releasing single issues of new properties, but allowing the readership decide which ones will continue as ongoing series, as I understand it. I’m sure the gimmick is to pump out multiple first issues for the collectors’ crowd and reduce the chance of investing in titles that’ll fizzle. I’m not wild about the concept, truth be told, but the results are interesting. It’s allowed Top Cow to branch out beyond the fare for which it’s mainly known. Judging from the three 2008 Pilot Season books I review below, the experiment brings a little more diversity to the brand.

Continue reading… →

Ottley’s Grubby Hands

Death Grub #1
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Ryan Ottley
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US

When I first glanced at this cover, the title did little to grab my attention. Mind you, there’s no cue that the hero depicted on the cover isn’t a “death grub;” rather, the title is derived from the cosmic threat that drives the plot forward. Still, the cover element that did pique my interest was the blurb on the bottom, proclaiming this to be a 24-hour comic crafted by Invincible artist Ryan Ottley. For those who don’t know, a 24-hour comic is one consisting of 20 or so pages that are written, illustrated and lettered in one period of 24 hours or less. They’re interesting experiments in the medium, and special 24-Hour Comic Days have been held on an annual basis at various comic shops the world over. Ottley’s crafted an entertaining, frenetic and even goofy sci-fi story during his 24 hours last fall. Viewed in comparison with other professional comics projects, one might think of Death Grub as being somewhat weak. However, when one considers the context of how this comic book was created, it’s a resounding success. The artist crafts a great sci-fi satire without relying much on words at all, conveying most of the information the reader needs with illustration and expression.

Continue reading… →

Spaced Out

Studio Space
Interviews: Joel Meadows, Gary Marshall & Andrew Colman
Editors: Joel Meadows & Gary Marshall
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $49.99 US (hardcover)/$29.99 US (softcover)

This book of interviews, from the people behind Tripwire Annual, offers insight into the craft of some of the top artistic talent in comics today. There’s a nice diversity of professionals represented in this book, so there’s bound to be several creative voices profiles of interest to just about every enthusiast of the comics medium. Ultimately though, this book is clearly aimed at artists who admire these artists. The focus is on how these talents became professional comics artists and what tools they’ve used to create so many memorable images over the years. At times, I found that the subjects were speaking a different language. I’m not interested in doing illustration work myself, just taking it in and appreciating it (and occasionally critiquing it). Artists’ thoughts on particular brushes and software features didn’t really hold my interest. However, some of the artists are remarkably forthcoming about frustrations they’ve experienced over their careers and the disappointments (from within and without) that some career-making projects brought to them.

Continue reading… →

Krash Course

Krash Bastards original graphic novel
Writer: Joe Casey
Artist: Axel #13
Letters: Ryan Young & Rob Osbourne
Publisher: Image Comics/Man of Action Studios
Price: $9.99 US

This thoroughly American book takes a decided Japanese approach to comics storytelling, as this book reads back to front as genuine manga (as well as many Western editions of manga books) do. That’s a strong cue of what to expect from this action-oriented property. I’ve reached a point in my comics reading habits that that reverse approach to reading doesn’t faze me anymore. Unfortunately, this book is so focused on a certain cool factor that I felt completely alienated. Writer Joe Casey has crafted a sci-fi/action concept around the notions of celebrity and youth culture. It’s possible Casey means this as a satirical look at what passes for entertainment for youth today, but my sense is that it’s actually targeted at that demographic, explaining why I felt left out in the cold. Honestly, as I read through the pages of this book about a space-faring gang of sword-wielding good guys, I felt old — ancient, really.

Continue reading… →

The Big Chill

The Last Winter graphic novel
Writers: Larry Fessenden & Robert Leaver
Artist/Cover artist: Brahm Revel
Layouts: James Felix McKenney
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $12.99 US

The importance of environmental issues has never been more prominent in the Western consciousness, which is surprising, since we’ve currently got American and Canadian administrations in power at the moment that seem, at times, downright hostile to green policies and practices. Storyteller Larry Fessenden has tapped into that heightened social and scientific awareness to arrive at this unusual eco-horror story. This is actually an adaptation of a 2006 film written and directed by Larry Fessenden. The writers used the storyboards from the film as the launching pad for this incarnation of the project, but it reads as though it was designed for the comics medium from the start. The mysterious and foreboding atmosphere that serves as a major draw here reminds me of the storytelling in such other comics as Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber’s Whiteout and Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith’s 30 Days of Night. The inclusion of a single color with the black-and-white artwork reinforces the cold, isolated nature of the backdrop, and the simpler tone of the artwork is nevertheless effective at achieving a realistic look and intriguing atmosphere.

Continue reading… →