Sunday, December 21, 2008

3 times the fun: Incognito, Impaler, and Courtney Crumrin and the Prince of Nowhere

Incognito #1

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips
Colors by Val Staples
Published by Marvel Comics

From the creative team that brought us Criminal and Sleeper, this is Incognito. An ultra-violent and raw mesh of mad science, superheroes, and classic noir given to us the only way Brubaker knows how. As I read the issue, it was difficult not to hear Ed Norton's voice from Fight Club. Full of malevolence and turmoil, there's a slight twist to this tale. Incognito is a story of a bad guy who begins doing good things and seeing how that would affect his life and his view of himself.

The art direction fits perfectly with the gritty script. There is blood, sex and violence, all looking very visceral, and the coloring scheme reminds me of Watchmen. The use of non-primary colors really stands out and compliments Phillips' style very well. It's not a common black and white story. The main character, Zack, is layered and complex -- a bad guy who knows something is wrong, but enjoys his line of "work" anyways.

This is something for fans that want that little extra dash of malice with their violence. There are no flashy costumes or Batman/Bond gadgets here, just a domino mask and a turtle neck. I really enjoyed the raw feel to the book. Zack is probably one of the roughest guys in comicdom, and probably one of the best things about Brubaker is that he sure knows how to write an all-American bad ass.

Incognito comes out next week, and if you like Sin City, Marvel Zombies or Powers, this books should be right up your alley.

Impaler #1
Written by William Harms
Art by Matt Timson
Published by Top Cow

Fans of the terrifying story that began in the IMPALER VOL. 1 trade paperback will have something bite into as it continues as a new ongoing series.

Millions of vampires have descended upon America. In a desperate bid to defeat them, the U.S. military nuked New York City but, unfortunately, it was too little, too late. The vampire horde had already advanced westward, but how far? A team of soldiers sent to rescue the Secretary of State's plane that crash-landed in New Jersey find out the hard way. Humanity's only chance may rest in the hands of vampire hunter Vlad the Impaler and his new companion, Homicide Detective Victor Dailey, who wishes he was dead.

The concept from start to finish is just plain old-fashioned cool. If it's one company that "gets" the super-natural market, it is Top Cow. From Witchblade, to Darkness, to even Dragon Prince, Top Cow scratches that itch when I'm bored with spandex and crises. The paneling structure that Timson puts down plays out like a movie. His figure construction is solid the art is gritty and bloody, just how a vampire book should be. The way Timson draws the creatures is purely horrific, almost as if they're straight out of a nightmare.

It is interesting to see such an historic icon like Vlad the Impaler be showcased as a true soldier and not just the blood-thirsty tyrant he actually was. To seem him take care of Dailey, like a comrade would to a fellow injured soldier is most unusual. Then again, Vlad is a vampire hunter in this series, given divine powers by angels of the Lord. A nice twist on the old tale, that's for sure.

If you're burned out by cross-overs and looking for something a little different, I recommend you pick up this first issue. Also, if you didn't discover Impaler the first time around, you might want to pick that up too. It's not needed for the story, but it would help with the overall experience of this first issue.

Courtney Crumrin and the Prince of Nowhere
Story and art by Ted Naifeh
Published by Oni Press

Wow. Just when I thought the world of Ms. Crumrin could not get any better, Ted Naifeh blew me away with this story. By the way, I guess I should mention, if you have no idea who or what Courtney Crumrin is, you are sadly missing out. To sum it up, take Harry instead of an awkward, untidy-haired British boy, Courtney is an angsty young girl who is an outcast at school and ignored by her parents. She moves in with her Uncle, who is a great warlock himself, and she discovers she can do magic. It is simply beyond cool. While the premise seems simple and played out, there are many twists and turns along the way that is just great and intriguing tale.

I digress.

Courtney Crumrin and the Prince of Nowhere replaced "Twilight Kingdom" as my favorite in the series. Naifeh has kicked the art and story up every notch possible. On a visit to a castle of her heritage, Courtney meets a young boy named Wolfgang, though something is quite unnatural about him. Courtney doesn't care though, she's been lonely recently and a friend outside of her uncle and cats is what she feels like she needs. She continues seeing Wolfgang, and actually takes the initiative to give him a peck on the cheek. While, Courtney has had "love" interests before, she's never taken the initiative to kiss them. Of course we learn that Wolfgang is in fact "unnatural", and being around him threatens Courtney's life, yet she still yearns to see him.

Just like in any "Courtney" story, things are not what they appear to be. Naifeh is an excellent story-teller and having met the man a hand full of times, you can see the immense pride he has in his work. While my girlfriend has the first three volumes for her kids to check out in her library, the buck kind of stops here for the eleven and younger crowd. There is a discussion between Courtney and a nurse about Christian magic and old magic, before the word of the Lord came to Europe. In this conversation, Courtney out right says she doesn't believe in Christ, which could ruffle some feathers. Though if you have read the series, that really shouldn't come as a surprise.

There are gorgeous castlescapes, wonderful panel constructs and Naifeh has a way of showing great expressions, even for his style, which is so simple and lovely. If you're a Courtney fan, you should not be without this book, and for those who haven't discovered her world yet, I suggest it's time you begun.

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