Friday, October 24, 2008

Cyblade #1 Review

Cyblade #1
Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov
Pencils by Rick Mays
Inks by Sal Regla
Colors by Guru-eFX
Letters by Troy Peteri
Edited by Rob Levin
Published by Top Cow

Cyblade was one of two books fans voted for in Pilot Season 2007 to get its own series. The creative team who worked on the Pilot issue, writer Joshua Hale Fialkov and artist Rick Mays, return to work on the series. French born Dominique Thiebault is a former team member of Cyberforce and was once a blatant rip-off of Psylocke. The new series, however, is a prequel to her adventures on that team. Now we meet nineteen year old Dominique, whose ability to generate electromagnetic blades manifests during an armed attack on her school. After some years pass, Dominique becomes a "Special Hazardous Operations Cyborg" or S.H.O.C. trooper for the malevolent corporation known as "Cyberdata", who provides her with the cybernetic upgrades that turn her into assassin/warrior Cyblade. It isn't until she leaves Cyberdata to join Cyberforce that she realizes the extent of the crimes she has committed in Cyberdata's name. Fialkov's series is set in the beginning of Dominique's career as a S.H.O.C., as the hero gradually becomes aware of her employer's choosing. With the help of a spy sent to infiltrate the company, Cyblade has broken free from Cyberdata's control. She must find a way to escape from their clutches for good, while trying to discover who she really is beneath and choose her own destiny.

If any of this sounds familiar, it's because it should. The assassin with amnesia bit has been slightly played out through the years. From Wolverine to Jason Bourne, and with Christian Slater's new gig on "My Own Worst Enemy" added to the list, it seems a tad passe. The obvious main difference is that this time it's a young girl who is the killer/weapon instead of some middle-aged male. I never got around to reading the one-shot last year since the name "Cyblade" brought back bad memories of the oh so gritty 90's. I recently tracked it down in one of my local shops, in the $1.50 bin, so there wasn't much to lose. To be honest, I surprised myself and rather enjoyed it, though I kept reminding myself I paid what was basically half-price for it.

I digress. Cyblade: Agent of Cyberdata is just so-so. It's definitely not the best, nor is it the worst out there. The dialogue is well-written, even if it's not the most original concept on the market. Mays' pencils are solid. . . most of the time. There are times where his figures look awkward and uncomfortable. The coloring is hit and miss as well. The laser blast and shower effects look spectacular. However, when it comes to Steven Rashall (the agent helping Dominique plan her escape) and his shirt, it looks as if he is sealed inside of it.

The book has plenty of room for potential and improvement, though I admit I'm intrigued on where they plan to take Dominique from here. While reading one thought kept crossing my mind-- of all the characters, why do just one, and so one-dimensional? It is clear that even the smallest characters can have the biggest fans. And hey, at least it's not a Bloodwulf spin-off.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Smallville, 8.5 "Committed"

"Guess the Olsen's not so wholesome." -- Lois Lane (Erica Durance), "Committed"

This is the second week in a row that Smallville touches on the subject of love and romance. After they leave their engagement party, Chloe and Jimmy get kidnapped by an emotionally-scarred jeweler who has become twisted by his wife's infidelity. Now, he gets his kicks by abducting couples and subjecting them to a kryptonite-enhanced lie detector that shocks them if they lie. It seems to me, that as the series progressed, meteor rock or as it's finally been called it's true name, "kryptonite" is more commonplace than the phrase "my friends" at a McCain rally. Can you just buy this stuff at any old gas station or Big Lots? Also, things at the Luthor manor, Tess investigates where that mysterious e-mail came from...could Lex be alive?

I digress however. On the hunt for their friends, Lois and Clark disguise themselves as a recently engaged couple to try to ensnare the kidnapper, whose playset looks like something out of the "Saw" franchise, though confusing Oliver as they stumble into him walking into the same jewelry store that has a possible connection with the disappearance of Jimmy and Chloe. It was fun to watch the interaction between Lois and Clark. This is Durance's fifth season playing Lois, and I think this time around she's really grown as this character and made it her own.

Like I mentioned earlier, the masked kidnapper plays little games with his prey. Enforcing his code that lies only hurt the one you love, so he asks questions retaining to the loyalty and love that the abducted couples has to answer. If they fail the test, the other gets heavily shocked. Jimmy and Chloe get asked these questions, one actually stems from last week's Maxima episode. In the line of questioning, Chloe gets asked if she loves anybody else but Jimmy. To my surprise, the lie detector does not go off. Now we all know that Jimmy and Chloe do not end up together, so I'm wondering how this will play out in the end. Though, Chloe's answer to Jimmy as she passed the test seriously tugged at my heartstrings. After that, they are deemed truly in love and the kidnapper returns them home.

Back at Luthor Manor, Oliver visits Tess and offers to make peace over dinner. Though, in classic Smallville style, the two soon start combating with pool sticks. This scene to me was kind of...not put together well. As a theater major, you eventually learn the basic moves for stage combat, and what they did was pretty basic and simple. I would have thought of all people Oliver Queen would have been a better fighter. Especially up against the person who was supposed to be Lex's replacement on the show, to make her seem more intimidating. I personally would have gone with a different fight choreographer. After the skirmish, Tess is the victor and accepts Oliver's invitation to dinner and we delve more into the history of the two. Apparently, Oliver cheated on Tess years ago and she still holds it against him. Hell hath no fury...

So, Lois and Clark finally get kidnapped and are subjected to the same line of questions we witnessed Jimmy and Chloe go through. Clark tries to escape, but the twisted kidnapper just happens to wear a kryptonite bracelet and is rendered powerless. The questioning takes an interesting turn when Lois confesses to the man that herself and Clark are not really a couple, though he continues playing his sick little game. When the kidnapper asks if Lois sincerely loves Clark, she answers "yes". To Clark's bafflement, the machine does not go off. Getting into close range, the kidnapper gets headbutted by Clark and he then removes the kryptonite bracelet and throwing it down a drain. And like clockwork, Clark gets his powers back and saves the day. Back over with Jimmy and Chloe, Jimmy confesses that his parents aren't coming to the wedding. After the ordeal that they just endured, he has decided to be honest with Chloe. His father is not the rich man he made him out to be, but a drunk mechanic, and as for his mother? He's never even met her. Chloe doesn't care because she comforts him in knowing she is all the family he will need.

Later at the Daily Planet, Clark confronts Lois since he's been worried she might be avoiding him. Lois explains that she took off the sensor for the machine, so the kidnapper really did not get a straight result and would spare him the electrocution. I'm tempted to use my TiVo and watch it again, just to see if Lois is lying. We all know how this ends though. I almost wish they had added Lois around season six instead of four. Clark really hasn't had need of a "love interest" since either Lana, Chloe or Alicia were around to take that role. Also, I kept on hearing on how Tess will overshadow Lex's villainy. I, for one, would like to see more of her so that she becomes a more prominent fixture instead of just being Lex's replacement.

In conclusion, "Committed" was a so-so episode. We've seen these sort of things before, though it had a nice view of things to come. I'd like to ask the readers what they found appealing or annoying about this episode, and wonder when was the last time you were hurt by a loved one through deceit.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Lock and load! 13 Chambers and Green Lantern #35

13 Chambers
Created and Written by Christopher "mink" Morrison
Art by Denis Medri
Coloring by Romina Denti
Covers by Paolo Parente
Lettering by Michael David Thomas
Published by Image Comics

Recently, Newsarama interviewed the creator and writer of this series, Christopher "Mink" Morrison, and he explained what it was all about. Well, I read the first issue this week and I'm interested in how it will play out. "Chambers" is a western set in an alternate history during 1860's. In this universe, thirteen U.S. marshalls, each carrying a high-tech 13-chambered pistol, have been enforcing the law until a new president deemed the weapons too dangerous. 13 Chambers is the point of view from the 13th Marshall, who was assigned to retrieve the other weapons and return them to President Jackson so they could be archived. All is going according to plan, until the Marshall arrives in a town known as Four Corners, where a tyrannic mining tycoon named York has killed the 12th Marshall and stolen one of the Peace Keeper pistols. Now, the Marshall must retrieve the pistol and bring the tyrant to justice...or die trying.

The issue starts off with a diagram of what one of the Peace Keeper pistols looks like. Beautifully drawn by Matthias Haddad, it shows how the chambers work with the multiple triggers on the handle. Denis Medri's style resembles a mix between modern artists Mark Brooks and J. Scott Campbell. Amazingly drawn figures as well as solid panels, complemented by Romina Denti's coloring skill, makes for one spectacular looking book. The first issue establishes the tone pretty well. A classic Western tale, similar to Michael Fleisher's run on "Jonah Hex", with a little bit of Indiana Jones sprinkled in.

The line between good and evil is drawn pretty well here. The hero is tough and handsome, the villain is sinister and resembles a combination of Voldemort from "Harry Potter" and Tex Hex from BraveStarr, making it easy to read and recommend. Perhaps I'm slightly biased, being a fan of the western genre, but I really appreciated this book and I am looking forward to what this title brings to the table. With the market saturated with tie-ins and continuity-heavy books, 13 Chambers is a pleasant addition to anyone's pull box.

Green Lantern #35 (DC; by Lan): Issue 35 is the finale of the Secret Origins, and once again the team of Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis and Oclar Albert make for a smashing good read. Interesting though, is that this issue doesn't do the DC usual of the first page being a splash page. There is not a whole lot of action going on in this issue, but the interaction between the rookie Hal Jordan and the more experienced Sinestro left me wanting one thing: a Sinestro origins mini-series showcasing him as the "greatest of the Green Lanterns". It's interesting to see Sinestro, one of comic's most heinous villains, as a hero and a mentor. We've heard the story numerous times about how great he was, but to have seen it is something else. Something great!
Overall, this was a solid issue. It brings some resolution to the arc, tying up some loose ends while giving a tug to a couple other loose ends. We get some nice "continuity nods" that long-time fans should be able to pick up on, that show that this story isn't ignoring what's come before. Even though this is the "post-Infinite Crisis" origin, nothing really changes or maybe I just didn't see it. As the conclusion of a story, I couldn't have been happier, but it gives us a glimpse of what's to come.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Witchblade #121..."Crown Heights" begins.

Witchblade #121
Story by Ron Marz
Art and Cover by Stjepan Sejic
Published by Top Cow

This issue kick starts the three-part "Crown Heights" storyline, in which partial Witchblade wielder(Dani Baptiste, the other half-wielder, is missing in this issue)/NYC Detective Sara Pezzini enters the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn to get to the bottom of some mysterious and gruesome deaths. Sara is also being followed by a mischievous reporter, who is close in finding her proof and revealing Sara's secret to the world. Though after a brief encounter, Sara investigates a nearby house and notices the door cracked open. Inside the women discover, what appears to be, a golem.

Stjepan Sejic is slowly becoming one of my favorite artists. The way how he works panels is almost like film direction. There are some panels that don't have any words or sound effects, but you hear the eeks and creaks of the alleyway. You can feel the steam from the shower and hear the water running full blast. His attention to detail make this issue all more the enjoyable. There's a sense of "being there" when he adds little things like reflections on the car windshields and his use of light is incredible. My only question is, when did Sara start looking like Denise Richards?

Ron Marz continues his legacy as modern master. Honestly, there is not a lot of action or fast-paced fighting in this issue. Though, Marz works his magic to build a story that is character-driven and captivating. The exquisite words and stellar art mesh well to start this event. Marz even treads on somewhat controversial matter with the Jewish and African-America communities and contempt they have for one another. I haven't picked up a Witchblade comic since the hype in the late 90's, though Marz's story-telling brought me back to Top Cow, and Sara just seems more intellegent and realistic since he took over. I'm intrigued to where Marz and Sejic will take this and if it's any indication from this first issue, I cannot wait.