Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Review 4-pack

Mystery Society #1
Written by Steve Niles
Art by Fiona Staples
Letters by Robbie Robbins
Edits by Bob Shreck
Cover by Ashley Woods
Published by IDW Publishing
Review by Lan Pitts

"Origin stories are so boring. It's not like we were exposed to explosive radiation or born on another planet...we were just exposed to hidden truths that bound us as a couple and that gave our lives purpose." -- Nick Hammond, aka Nick Mystery

With a title like "Mystery Society", you'd think it would be an assembly of villains of supernatural origin from the Golden Age of comics. Or at the very least, a gang who would fight Hanna Barbara's "Birdman". Well, if you thought either of those, I'm not sorry to disappoint because what the Mystery Society is, is way more imaginative and not at all sinister.

To sum it up, an eccentric couple come into a lot of money and form their own club that hunts out the mysteries of the world and expose them as either fake or fraud. Though in the first issue, we see something went wrong and Nick is tried for his actions which leads into a quasi origin story dealing with a Area 51, a new addition to the Mystery Society, and just some really cool gizmos and action. All of it make for a good read on a book that already had so much buzz and didn't disappoint.

Right off the bat, you'll notice the thrilling, stylish art of Fiona Staples. Her style has changed dramatically since we her work on Wildstorm's Hawkmoor series. Believe me, it's for the better. There's an angular style to it that's not too polished, but not overly rough. There's a dynamic sense to the world she's drawn, from the character design, to the spygear, to her page layouts that do wonders for the flow of the story. Speaking of story, here is Steve Niles simply at his best. Both Nick and his wife, Anastasia have a distinct voice and you get a real sense of who they are as individuals and as husband and wife with their flirting and nonchalant towards the macabre, ie how somebody could steal Edgar Allan Poe's skull.

This mini-series is sadly that, just a mini-series. I hope the creative team has its chance to tell the story they had envisioned because it has unlimited potential to become one of the books to talk about. I'm hearing the first printing has sold out, so hopefully you got your hands on this one. I'm looking forward to what this book can really do.

Teen Titans #83 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Lan Pitts): I can't wrap my head around how awful this book is. I guess it's because I don't understand how a title that is centered around teen superheroes, with some having been around for almost twenty years or more, yet they seem to have just lost their voice that made them distinct. There doesn't seem to be a direction for the team, especially Superboy, who just comes across a lot more arrogant as usual. It is as if Felicia Henderson watched "The Hills" and decided this is what teens act like and should be. The art is pretty standard, nothing really to write home about or talk about. I have to admit, the saving grace of this book is the co-feature with the Coven (Black Alice, Traci 13, and Zach Zatara) by Rex Ogle and Ted Naifeh (of Oni's Courtney Crumrin). I wonder why the Coven are the co-feature of this particular book since those three don't really have anymore Titan's business going on. I guess it's because that they are all teenagers as well. I'm not sure if Naifeh is holding back or whether he's adapting his style to be a bit more "mainstream", but it's different from anything he's worked on. Rex Ogle has worked on comics for a few years now, but hasn't really made his mark, so hopefully this co-feature will get his name out.

American Vampire #3
Written by Scott Snyder (co-feature by Stephen King)
Art by Rafael Albuquerque
Colors by Dave McCaig
Letters by Steve Wands
Published by Vertigo
Review by Lan Pitts

"You know, I was gonna burn you alive that wreck, but on second thought...why don't you come out and play!" -- Pearl Jones

Color me entranced by this book. You have to admit that Scott Snyder takes very little time with getting with the action, yet still manages to move along the story. There's no "talking at a table" scene here, you just get to witness newly-made vampire Pearl following her instincts and getting the job done. She still has a hint of humanity in her, but when it comes down to going after her own kind (or at least another species), she doesn't even blink. Snyder has some creative ways on the old vampire on vampire violence and it's extremely entertaining.

With Stephen King handling the Skinner Sweet backstory, and Snyder doing the main story, we see how both Sweet and Pearl handle being so-called creatures of the night. The interesting part here is how Sweet is depicted by both authors. While Snyder has him come across as a malevolent mentor, King has him sort play the bad ass. An amalgam of Wolverine, Batman, and Freddy Krueger. Essentially, somebody who you wouldn't want to cross in a dark alley. I sort of see him as the Vic Mackey of comics: somebody who you wouldn't want to be friends with, but you end up rooting for him anyways.

Rafael Albuquerque and Dave McCaig are masterminds, plain and simple. Two parts of the issue, two stories, with two completely different styles. On Pearl's feature, we have a more polished, traditional look with lovely hues of red and desert yellow to diamond blues, all looking marvelous. With Sweet's tale, McCaig uses a more painted vision, almost dreamlike and it paints an entirely new picture of the world Snyder has conceived. All the while, Alburquerque's pencils still hold the tone and visceral feel of the book.

I can't help but wondering where this book will go from here. It's a great concept, with wonderful visuals. If you're not reading American Vampire, you have my sympathy, because you are truly missing out on some bloody good times.

Iron Man: Noir #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Lan Pitts): Second issue in of this four-part series, I find it interesting we've only seen the Iron Man suit of this universe only once and it wasn't even utilized. The cover comes across as misleading since it's not even in this issue at all, so I can understand if some people feel let down. I, on the other hand, am enjoying this adventure that really wouldn't qualify as "noir" as it comes across more as a 1930's serial, or as an Indiana Jones-like tale. Nazis, mysticism, Atlantis, and all. Where previous installments of Marvel's "noir" line have more to do with the artistic approach, this take on Iron Man is definitely more writer-centric. Not to say there's anything wrong with Manuel Garcia's style, it's rough and fits the story, but nothing to really write home about. This has been my favorite in the "noir" series since the first X-Men: Noir run and looking forward where Tony takes us next.

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