Category Archives: Reviews – Image

Book This Steal

Thief of Thieves #1
“Chapter One, The Thief and His Apprentice”
Writers: Robert Kirkman & Nick Spencer
Artist/Cover artist: Shawn Martinbrough
Colors: Felix Serrano
Letters: Rus Wooton
Editor: Sina Grace
Publisher: Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment
Price: $2.99 US

People who enjoy Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ various Criminal comics will enjoy Thief of Thieves. People who enjoy such titles as Who Is Jake Ellis? and The Rinse will enjoy Thief of Thieves. Here’s the thing, though: Thief of Thieves isn’t quite as good as those other book. Thief has a lot going for it, not the least of which is Shawn Martinbrough’s crisp, dark artwork and Nick Spencer’s sharp, pitter-patter scripting in the second act. Unfortunately, the big build-up to the cliffhanger moment is for naught, because it’s obvious where things are headed. Thief of Thieves is clearly taking some inspiration from some great crime and intrigue comics (and likely stories from other media), but the first issue can only purport to be good, not great.

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Turning a Prophet

Prophet #21
Writer: Brandon Graham
Artist: Simon Roy
Colors: Richard Ballermann
Letters: Ed Brisson
Cover artists: Marian Churchland (regular)/Rob Liefeld & Andy Troy (variant)
Editor: Eric Stephenson
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I never even thumbed through a single issue of the previous volumes of this Rob Liefeld-created comic title in the 1990s. His work and that of other artists who worked on the book, including Stephen Platt, just didn’t boast styles that appealed to me at the time. Furthermore, nothing about the concept made me want to take note of it either. When it was announced Liefeld was resurrecting the property more than a decade into the 21st century, one wouldn’t have thought I’d have any interest either, but it’s clear this isn’t the same comic it was 15-20 years ago. Tapping King City writer/artist Brandon Graham to helm this new take on the title character got me excited. I’ll read anything Graham touches, it’s a policy that’s never steered me wrong. I’m also thrilled to see Simon Roy illustrating Graham’s story. Roy made a real impression on me with his graphic novella Jan’s Atomic Heart, and it was fun to see him back in action. His and Graham’s styles definitely complement each other, and the two Canadian creators have brought a distinctly European sensibility to this once bombastic and wholly American property.

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A Grizzly Discovery

Reed Gunther #5
“Reed Gunther and the Freakshow Showdown!”

Reed Gunther #6
“From Cowboy to Cowman!”

Writer/Letters: Shane Houghton
Artist/Cover artist: Chris Houghton
Colors: Ciaran Lucas & Jose Flores (#5)/Josh Ulrich & Jose Flores (#6)

Not long ago, I was thumbing through comics recent comics and files I’d received, looking for something a bit off-beat to read, specifically for review purposes. I was putting together one of my Quick Critiques posts, and I wanted to bring some variety to it with a non-super-hero property published by an outfit other than DC and Marvel. I never have a shortage of possibilities, and these two issues of Reed Gunther were near the top of a reading list I had on my desk. So I decided to check them out, not knowing what to expect. Man, have I been missing out on an irreverent, all-ages comic that serves as another example of the strength and diversity Image Comics has to offer those with a love of comics. The Houghton brothers clearly have a passion for comics and for light, goofy adventure. Each issue — hell, each panel — exudes so much personality and whimsy, one can’t help but smile at the title character’s triumphs and gaffes. I was so pleased with what I found in this title, I felt the need to write a full review rather than just a capsule.

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Second Chance at Afterlife

Haunt #19
Writer: Joe Casey
Artist/Cover artist: Nathan Fox
Colors: FCO Plascencia
Letters: Comicraft
Editor: Jen Cassidy
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US

When Todd McFarlane and Image Comics released their original teaser/promotional image for this property, I was unimpressed with how uninspired the character design was, with how it basically combined the looks of the two characters with which McFarlane is most closely associated: Spider-Man and Spawn. When the first issue was released a little more than two years, I remained unimpressed, even though Robert (The Walking Dead) Kirkman was the writer and co-creator of the series. That was the last I looked at Haunt, and I never expected I’d give it a second look or thought. And then, with Kirkman and artist Greg Capullo’s withdrawal from the book, the new creative team was announced, and I was immediately intrigued. Artist Nathan (DMZ) Fox boasts an unconventional, indie-flavored style that couldn’t be more of a departure from what we’ve seen from other McFarlane creations, and Joe Casey, while no stranger to mainstream super-hero comics, also has a reputation for offbeat, even challenging fare. I couldn’t resist checking out such a dramatic shift in creative direction.

Now if I could just figure out what the hell’s going on…

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Mudslinging (and I Mean That in a Good Way)

Mudman #1
Writer/Artist/Letters/Cover artist: Paul Grist
Colors: Bill Crabtree
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.50 US

When I saw a promotional image for this comic book (which I think was the cover image), I was drawn to it immediately. Obviously, I had an interest in any new project from Paul (Jack Staff, Kane) Grist, but there was something more to it. The title and concept comes off as fairly simple, but there’s also something… innocent about it. I think, like me, many young readers of super-hero comics have created their own characters, drawn them on lined looseleaf and brightened those crude sketches with colored pencils. A friend and I built a whole universe — Energy Man, Tornado Man, the Cougar and more — in homemade comics drawn on newsprint that just happened to be the right size for a standard comic book. Not that I’m suggesting there’s anything childish about Grist’s craft here. He offers a charming tribute to the Silver Age while concurrently turning some of those decades-old super-hero conventions on their head. Grist has instilled a sense of mystery and history into this origin story. It’s clear Mudman (at least the costume and the power) has been around for some time, and I look forward to Grist’s construction of a myth for the title character as well as fun adventures.

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Eve of Destruction

Pherone softcover graphic novel
Writers: Patrick Baggatta, Jim Sink & Viktor Kalvachev
Artist: Viktor Kalvachev
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $14.99 US

In some respects, Pherone demonstrates the versatility and strong artistic possibilities that lie in computer-enhanced comic art. In some respects, Pherone reads like an adolescent boy’s idea of the perfect action story — one with a lot of sex. In some respects, Pherone is a worthy sibling to such crime/espionage books as Sin City, 100 Bullets and Criminal. In some respects, it’s really about atmosphere above story, about the surface rather than substance. There’s a lot to like about Pherone, but there are also a lot of elements in the book that made me roll my eyes. Pherone is nevertheless a lot of fun in its own gratuitous way, but maybe what’s most interesting about it is its history. The story was originally published in serialized form in Kevin Eastman’s revived Heavy Metal magazine, and I can see this material fitting in perfectly with that publication. After all, if Heavy Metal was about anything, it was about sex and violence. And that’s what Pherone offers in spades.

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Hahn’s Maid’s Tale

All Nighter #3
“Stealing Boyfriends”
Writers/Artist/Cover artist: David Hahn
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US

The first issue of this five-part series was good but really didn’t stand out all that much, maybe because I thought it was going to be about a couple of punks who got kicks from stealing from others and breaking into other people’s homes, but the issues that followed have really grabbed my attention. This series just keeps getting better and better, because those subsequent episodes of All Nighter have focused on the relationships in the main character’s life. David Hahn has crafted a tremendously compelling collection of characters and interpersonal dynamics, and his simple cartooning style has made for some attractive but believable figures. I’m thoroughly enjoying this series, in part from an unusual mystery but mostly because I’m interest in seeing Kit learning from the mistakes she’s making. Ultimately, this series seems to be about a girl maturing into a woman, not from a physiological or sexual perspective, but from an emotional one.

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Booty Call

The Vault #1
Writer: Sam Sarkar
Artist: Garrie Gastonny
Colors: Sakti Yuwono
Cover artist: Bagus Hutomo
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.50

The creators of The Vault aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel here with their story about treasure hunters who happen upon something paranormal and, I’m assuming, deadly. But as I made my way through the opening pages, I was thrilled to find some real-world history and culture from my corner of the world — Atlantic Canada — playing a significant role in the plot. The Oak Island treasure and Sable Island references really pleased me and drew me further into the story. Of course, writer Sam Sarkar and artist Garrie Gastonny can’t count on Oak Island buffs (or, you know, people like me who’ve just heard of it) to make up their entire audience. The real-world history that serves as the foundation of the story is a strong one, strong enough to keep a relatively formulaic plot interesting enough to hold the reader’s attention through some generic plot developments and the customary cast introductions. This is essentially a cheesy popcorn movie put to paper, and if you enjoy flicks from The Mummy to Virus, you’ll probably enjoy The Vault.

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Time Flies

The Red Wing #1
“Learning to Fly”
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Nick Pitarra
Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Cover artists: Pitarra (regular)/Dustin Weaver (variant)
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.50 US

Oh, how I’ve longed to see that stark, white background/cover design, with the words “www.pronea.com” printed on the back cover under a small crest. Writer Jonathan Hickman has made a strong impression in the past couple of years with his work at Marvel, but even his best work with the super-hero publisher pales in comparison with the creator-owned work published by Image that first solidified his reputation in the industry. I’m thrilled that he’s returned to it with this new project. Marvel clearly values Hickman and has its own imprint for creator-owned comics (Icon), but it’s encouraging to see the writer stick with the one who brung ‘im, so to speak. There’s a fairly straightforward idea at the heart of this science-fiction story — time travel as a means to wage war — but Hickman dresses it up nicely with some smart dialogue. But what makes the story worth reading isn’t the convincing, cool science speak or jaunts into the past, but rather a simple story about one person’s struggle with the conflicting emotions of grief and hope.

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From Rags to Wretched

The Tattered Man one-shot
Writers: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist/Cover artist: Norberto Fernandez
Letters: Bill Tortolini
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $4.99 US

Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have a pretty solid track record in the world of comics right now. While they’re not at the helm of any chart-topping comics, DC Comics clearly sees them as go-to guys for several projects. They’ve entertained me on numerous occasions in the past, so when I saw some of their advance efforts to promote this one-shot, creator-owned comic book, I decided to support the endeavor. Besides, the preview art on Palmiotti’s blog made it look promising. I’m pleased to say he and his fellow creators have kept that promise with The Tattered Man. An exploration of the darkest aspects of humanity, The Tattered Man serves as a gruesome catharsis. The dark premise — which is adeptly presented but nevertheless boasts some predictable elements — is matched with some nicely detailed and moody artwork. This original graphic novella should appeal to diverse spectrum of comics readers, from those with an interest in edgy anti-heroes from the super-hero genre to fans of intense horror comics such as the fare one might find in an Avatar comic.

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Macho Macho Man

Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker #s 1 & 2
Writer: Joe Casey
Artist/Colors: Mike Huddleston
Letters: Rus Wooton
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US

So I was at the local comic shop a couple of weeks ago, and I asked a couple of friends if they’d read Butcher Baker. The manager said he hadn’t and asked what it was like. “I dunno,” I said. “It’s either trash or sheer genius.” Another friend who was helping the manager organize some comics piped up, “It’s trashy genius.” I think he hit the mark… at least when it comes to the first issue. That opening chapter of Butcher Baker was without a doubt misogynist, gratuitous and crude. Nevertheless, I can’t help but admit that it’s entertaining, biting in its commentary and bombastic in its approach to satire. Joe Casey’s plot, premise and script are bound to polarize comics readers, but there’s no denying the power of the personality that he’s poured into them. Fortunately, the second issue doesn’t revel so much in the gratuitous elements and instead offers a more intelligent script, fun character concepts and more hilarity.

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The Land That Forgot Time

Memoir #1
“Memoir: Part One – … Long, Long Road”
Writer: Ben McCool
Artist: Nikki Cook
Letters: Tom B. Long
Cover artist: John Cassaday
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.50 US

It’s been more than two weeks since I posted any kind of review to the site, but it’s not because I haven’t had anything to write about. Other commitments — including (but not limited to) night shifts at work and middle-of-the-night baby-soothing sessions — have either kept me from my keyboard or sapped me of the energy I need to jot down some thoughts. But after a nice nap a few hours ago and a few spare minutes on my hands, I’m ready to sound off. One of the comics I’ve been meaning to write about is yet another interesting new release from Image Comics. My interest in its non-super-hero output has risen significantly as of late, and after seeing a short film online about Memoir, I dashed an email off to the manager of my local comic shop, asking that it be added to my pull list. While the book isn’t without its flaws, I’m looking forward to future issues. Writer Ben McCool has come up with a fascinating and chilling premise, and his creative partner-in-crime for this venture impressed with her black-and-white artwork. There’s been a lot of talk lately about a lack of diversity in the material available in the medium of comics, but I find the argument harder to swallow after I read an interesting and novel project such as Memoir.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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