Category Archives: Reviews – Image

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 “” 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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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