Sunday, December 19, 2010

Review Haul

The Darkness: Four Horsemen #2
Written by David Hine
Art by Jeff Wamester, Jason Martin, and Felix Serrano
Lettering by Troy Peteri
Published by Top Cow
Review by Lan Pitts

"I can feel it. The hunger, the rage, the burning fire of terminal disease running through my veins. The awful emptiness of death, opening a void in my soul...and the Darkness screams.

I guess I should make it clear that going into this, I was a bit weary. I am not David Hine's biggest fan. I found his recent arc on Detective Comics to be a bit stale. However, him taking Jackie Estacado's reins and running wild with them had me floored. Essentially, Jackie is up against the Biblical Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who are re-interpreted as Hell's Angels biker types. Jackie isn't sure at first if these guys are the real deal, but soon gets a taste of their medicine.

The Darkness that is one of those characters that few writers "get", in my opinion. Either he sounds like the Punisher on steroids, or Batman possessed by Satan. He is neither of those things. He is a hitman who is cursed by his birthright. Hine gives Jackie the proper voice here, with a sarcastic tone in his voice, but somebody who understands that he is the embodiment of shadow. He comes across as the anti-hero he is billed as and not some demonic jerk.

Hine's dialog for the Horsemen is just as sharp as Jackie's. They play games with hostages and curse people randomly. The idea behind Famine, or Ronnie as his name is here, is interesting. Usually Famine is envisioned as a frail individual, but here he's loud, boisterous and quite rotund. The thing about Famine here is not that you are starved to death, it's that he controls your hunger and you never stop eating and you eat yourself to death. The imagery alone was something I wasn't expecting.

Speaking of imagery, Jeff Wamester soars on art. He handles the Darkness armor with precision and doesn't over-render the look or ruin it. It comes across as slick, but still gives the impression it offers protection. The Horsemen's designs are superb and they come across as a valid threat. How Wamester shows each of the Horsemen using their abilities is horrific and doesn't come across as pointless. The violence displayed is their big "hello, world, we've arrived" message to the population.

Darkness: Four Horsemen is one of those books where anything can happen. The Top Cow universe has seen apocalyptic scenario after the other, but can Jackie fight off the heralds of the end of the world by himself? I'm not the world's biggest Darkness follower, but this series has me hooked.


Okko: The Cycle of Air #3 (Published by Archaia; Review by Lan Pitts): I went into this book blindly, knowing little to nothing about the franchise. As a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender, I knew I'd be drawn to something of this nature. Boy, was I right. While there's no way to tell what's been going on in previous installments and the book just sort of happens, but once it gets going, it gets going. Some parts of the dialog seem a bit forced and out of place. The villain of the story, the demon hunter Kubban Kiritsu, is the most fleshed-out by comparison. The art by Hub and Emmanual Michalak is absolutely gorgeous that flows wonderfully on the page. There's an intense battle scene that just moves as smooth as a Japanese ink brush and the colors are just dynamite. If you can find the other two previous installments, please do, because if you're anything like me who is enamored with oriental mysticism and Samurai history, you'll love this series.


The Incredibles #14 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Lan Pitts): If you aren't picking up this book for yourself, or for a young reader trying to get into comics, for SHAME! Landry Walker's snappy character work and dialog is pure aces. While there is typecast as a mere "kids" book, it packs a lot of punch. Ramanda Kamarga and Marcio Takara give us some amazing art, with a minimalist style that delivers time and time again. The visuals come across as crisp and clean as you can get and convey each of the characters' powers and abilities. A great book that is a mix of adventure, fun, and a hint of danger.


The Green Hornet: The Golden Age Remastered #3 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Lan Pitts): Color me enthusiastic on this novel idea. Take some old Green Hornet comics from the 40's, dust them off, re-master them and publish them for this and future generation to enjoy. The original art is intact, with the coloring spruced up. Four classic tales that anybody who is an old-school fan of the Green Hornet or somebody just getting into the character can easily enjoy. Any fan of old style pulp comics will surely get a kick out of this as well. The Fran Striker stories have never looked better.


Vampirella #1 (Published by Dynamite; Review by Lan Pitts): Vampirella has one of those iconic comic book looks. Whether you know little or a lot about the character herself, her costume is easy recognizable. That being said, I guess Dynamite is in the business of pulling a Wondy and deviating from the popular bathing suit design to something a bit more contemporary, or as I like to say, TV-friendly. The thing about it though, is that the wardrobe change doesn't phase me in the slightest or hinder the story. Writer Eric Trautman (DC's Mighty Crusaders) gives Vampi here a Batman-like voice. Lots of inner dialog that moves the story along, while getting an idea of who this revamped (pun not intended) Vampirella is. The real star in this book is Wagner Reis. His panel layout reminded me of older Batman books and the George Perez era of DC. It's not crammed to the teeth with panels, and he keeps things interesting with great use of angles and such. I love the heavy inking in the book and the play with shadows. If you're looking for a flat-out origin story, don't look here. If you're looking for an entertaining read that's also pretty to look at, check out Vampirella #1.


Magdalena #4 (Published by Top Cow; Review by Lan Pitts): It looks like Patience has gotten herself in one hell of a pickle yet again. While following the trail of the so-called Antichrist, Patience and Kristof are ambushed and tricked by demons, and the young Antichrist, Anton. Of course things get even worst for our heroine as her spear is taken from her. The cover for the next issue looks incredibly foreboding. It's no secret that Ron Marz wanted to get on this book the moment he got into Top Cow, and in his patience (pun intended) we are rewarded with one fine book. Nelson Blake II does an excellent job showing Magdalena's fighting skills while expressing her grace that I think a descendant of Christ would possess. Also, great detail on the architecture around Paris. Marz's style has always been show and not tell, there's not that much inner dialog as usual and you get a sense of realism with the characters with their vernacular. Top Cow just keeps churning out with these great titles and if you're checking them out, you are REALLY missing out.


Witchblade #140
Written by Ron Marz and Saurav Mohapatra
Art by Stjepan Sejic
Lettering by Troy Peteri
Published by Top Cow
Review by Lan Pitts

"Come on, we didn't see this coming." -- Sara Pezzini, Witchblade

I'm sure it's been said that nothing is more powerful than an imagination of a child. Or something along those lines. However, it's hardly said that a child's imagination could form the horrors that Sara and Gleason end up facing in Witchblade #140. If you haven't been following the events of Artifacts, first of all, for shame, and second of all, no worries. This issue concentrates more on the standard operations of two of New York's finest solving unknown mysteries and dealing with strange occurrences. So you won't be left out of the dark when you pick this up.

The issue starts off pretty standard from what we've seen before: Sara and Gleason investigate a brutal crime scene of some nightmarish creature and nothing but question marks emerge. A night doorman was horribly slaughtered, which is found unusual since the part of town was quite lavish. Sara and Gleason have a viewing of the security camera footage and it's not pretty what they find. Eventually they take to door-to-door questioning and run into a pair of some very, very odd children. The children like to draw and Gleason finds a comparison of one of the children's pieces to the creature that slaughtered the doorman. Of course we find out the real origins of the creatures and the two detectives find themselves surrounded.

From beginning to end, it reads like a classic set up. I love the little winks and nudges to fans. The paper the doorman is reading has hints of Dragon Prince. Also, the children's art work were really done by children, including two of Marz's kids. Marz delivers more of the police side of Sara, and a bit of her humanity in a sincere moment in an elevator. While she admits it's not easy being her partner to Gleason, Marz shows that Sara needs him in her life. Stjepan Sejic conveys that emotion through his great use of facial expressions.

It is still a mystery to me on why Witchblade is not on everybody's pullbox. This is a good jumping point for new readers that have been curious about the buzz. It's engaging, accessable, and feeds that supernatural need that you might not be getting elsewhere.


Starborn #1
Created by Stan Lee
Written by Chris Roberson
Art by Khary Randolph and Mitch Gerads
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire
Covers by Gene Ha, Humberto Ramos, Khary Randolph, and Paul Rivoche
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by Lan Pitts

Imagine The Last Starfighter, meets the Never Ending Story, and you get Starborn.

Benjamin Warner appears to be your average wannabe hard sci-fi author that just can't seem to catch a break. His first book was rejected as it was too close to an existing author's work he was unaware of. I can't even tell you how many times that has happened to me. Yet, he continues to strive and write and do his best to get noticed in the world of literature. When he gets rejected again, that's when story starts really coming into motion. Benjamin comes face to face with one of his own creations at work and one of his childhood friends comes to his aid, for she is not what she appears as well.

Immediately, the striking style of Khary Randolph will hit you Not quite Humberto Ramos or Eric Canete, but his art represents the best of what I love about both of those artists. The way the characters move across the page from the simple motion of checking the mail, to dodging a would-be knock out punch, it just comes at you. And fast. The character design for the aliens and other out-worldy creations look stunning and unique. Adding the colors of Mitch Gerads to it and it's kicked up to another level. The look to creatures' skins or the wonders of the majesty of outer space look tremendous. Seriously, a great combination.

The script itself hearkens back to classic Stan Lee stories of the everyman thrown into a not-so-everyday situation. Chris Roberson excels here as I can empathize with the character and has set up an intriguing story, that I hope get its time to tell.


Rainbow in the Dark #1 and 2 (Published by KaBlam!; Review by Lan Pitts) Talk about a do-it-yourself project. Written, art, and lettering by indie sensations Comfort Love and Adam Withers comes another one of their unique tales that is a mix of fantasty, with Bohemian philosophies with a drop of Rainbow Brite. Donna White is your average teen, who lives in a normal world of black and white, that's not bad, or really exciting. That changes on her way to school when colorful creatures break through into her world, as well as even a more colorful band of freedom fighters that take rescue Donna and take her back to their world, full of feelings and emotions she hasn't felt before. Or dangers she's ever faced. At first readthrough, it feels a lot like the Wizard of Oz meets the forementioned Rainbow Brite. The character designs resemble rock and roll and rave fashions, and one of the characters even reminds me of Andre 3000 from OutKast. The story is intriguing enough to where I felt hooked and fell into the second issue where the world and the "Gloom" is explained. The dialog is thought out and sincere and the art truly fits the story being told. You might have seen this couple at numerous conventions across the country, and Rainbow in the Dark can be available online at their site, with .99 per issue. So if you're looking for something really different, I can easily recommend this title.

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