Monday, January 24, 2011

Streets of Gotham #19 review

Streets of Gotham #19
Written by Paul Dini
Art by Dustin Nguyen, Derek Fridolfs, and John Kalisz
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
Review by Lan Pitts

"Remember what Aristotle says, 'a common enemy unites bitter enemies.'" -- Tom Elliot, aka Hush

For the past twenty years, Paul Dini has more than penned great Batman stories; he's added to the overall mythos of the character. His and Dustin Nguyen's Heart of Hush arc from three years ago, remains one of my favorite Bat-stories of the decade. Dini and Nguyen and company may have caught lightning in a jar once again with the ongoing House of Hush arc.

The thing about this particular issue is that there is so much character depth added, that it makes the overall story that much enjoyable and lively. From Hush's past, to his ties with the Wayne's and the rise of his criminal factions, to even a scene that ties Thomas Wayne and John Zatara together, it's more fleshed out than how most comic writers handle Batman and company. Batman just isn't Bruce Wayne, Prince of Gotham. Batman is also about the city he protects and how each denizen has a thread that weaves a bigger web.

Streets of Gotham #19 gives a good deal of insight to the Anthony Marchetti character as Dini establishes more of the character's past and tells the story of a one-time encounter with Gotham's favorite clown, the Joker. Truth be told, this issue is more of a character piece that explores a little-known character and expands what we should know, adding to the criminal underground, and also adds to what we already knew: the Joker is bat-nuts crazy. There is not a single fight scene or action sequence. Just a story of a child that grew up in the crime business in Gotham, but still somebody who Hush considers valuable to align himself with. Batman (Bruce Wayne) doesn't show up until almost at the end, where the Thomas Wayne/Zatara scene comes into play.

This creative team is one of the best working in comics today. Dini never disappoints, and Dustin Nguyen is a workhorse that knows no limits. His use of painted art-deco backgrounds adds that extra bit of beauty that certainly makes it stand out. Derk Fridolfs inks over Nguyen's pencils are superb. I've seen others try to handle Nguyen's style, but none quite capture the angular look that Nguyen brings without looking jagged or too sharp. John Kalisz adds the perfect color pallet that complements both Nguyen and Fridolfs, but that's exactly breaking news, as he's another colorist who is always on top of his game.

With Streets of Gotham coming to a close soon, I'm sure the finale will deliver the proper curtain call that this book has deserved.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Devil and the Witch: Daredevil: Reborn #1 and Witchblade #141 two-for

Daredevil: Reborn #1 of 4
Written by Andy Diggle
Art by Davide Gianfelice and Matt Hollingsworth
Lettering by VC's Joe Caramagna
Cover by Jock
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Lan Pitts

"Doesn't take a genius to figure this town has secrets, but it's not my problem. I can't help them. I can't help anybody." -- Matt Murdock

Matt Murdock is a man without a city. Possibly without a purpose, but trying to find one.

It's interesting to see Matt Murdock in a more "waffle house" sort of environment, and taken out of the urban jungle of Hell's Kitchen. It seems very en vogue to have super heroes on nomadic journeys of self-discovery, though, if anybody really needs a sabbatical, it's definitely Matt Murdock. The Shadowland event took its toll on Murdock's soul as he found himself fighting against other heroes and losing himself to the darkness that was the Hand. I guess after making myself the jerk of the year, I'd want to leave town as well. In the vein of the Incredible Hulk television series, we find Matt struggling with his past and figuring out the next move, like an author who just finished the last chapter of a long book, and has no clue what to write next.

Of course, even in a small backwards town, it doesn't take long for trouble to find Matt. After he takes a beating from a few white trash hoodlums, Matt figures something isn't right when even the police don't help him out and try to get him out of town. Being the detective that he is, Matt decides to investigates, and the shocking mystery about the town has just begun. When the police shrug off Murdock as not being a threat, they are in for quite the surprise.

Andy Diggle threw me for a loop in Shadowland, and in the worst way possible. I had enjoyed his run on the main Daredevil title, but for all the hype and my personal excitement invested, I was left, for a lack of a better word: bored. Boredom turned into complacency, and then borderline resentment. Daredevil: Reborn is another story. It's the Matt Murdock I enjoy reading. He's not Marvel's answer to Batman, he's not trying to be. He's not trying to be the hero he once was, but the man under the costume. Diggle provides the right words, and a great set up.

Now, I'm new to Davide Gianfelice's art, but I have to say, I am more than impressed. His line work lies somewhere between Cully Hamner and a hint of Scott Kolins and Chris Samnee. His figure construction is solid and use of facial expressions and body language complete the storytelling along with Diggle's dialog. Matt Hollingsworth rejoins the fray as colorist, and is in a class all by his own. The desert landscape seems barren and adds the depth of Murdock's solitude. Hollingsworth meshes with Gianfelice well as he doesn't step over his inks, and Gianfelice doesn't over ink the pages, giving Hollingsworth room to breathe.

We've seen "rebirths" before in comicdom. Some of them haven't been rebirths as much as they have been rehashing. Daredevil: Reborn (so far) seems like a restructuring of the character, and I'm not sure where this will lead. Black Panther may be the man without fear for the time being, but Matt Murdock will always be fearless.


Witchblade #141
Written by Ron Marz and Saurav Mohapatra
Art by Stjepan Sejic
Lettering by Troy Peteri
Published by Top Cow
Review by Lan Pitts

Some children just have to have a good spanking to keep them inline. The Nuemann children, Monica and Tripp, has Sara Pezzini after them, and that's more startling than anything my parents threatened.

Last issue we found out the two Nuemann younglings have the power to create whatever Trip would put on paper into the real world. Unfortunately, Trip's imagination mainly concentrated on demonic beasts that would dismember unlucky doormen. When Sara and Gleason approached the children, they wasted almost no time in trying to get rid of them by creating a small horde of monsters.

From the start of the issue, it's an almost non-stop massacre of Sara just laying waste to these oragami-gone-wrong creations. The chemistry between her and Gleason is still in top form, even in the heat of battle. When Gleason pulls out his pistol, Sara quips, "Really, Gleason? That's going to help?" "Can't hurt, right?" The two eventually split up, with Sara handling the creatures and Gleason out to stop the children from making the situation worse. The resolution came to bit of an interesting twist, and works in the situation. Though I wonder what Ron Marz's thing is with demonic children, as there is one haunting around in Magdalena.

As is the usual scenario, Marz, with assistance from Saurav Mohapatra, and Stjepan Sejic deliver a great read that doesn't contain too much backstory to get bogged down in. Sejic really does a wonder on a two page splash and panel construction splitting up the adventure with Sara and Gleason's own confrontations. Sara's armor looks great and the monsters are incredibly rendered and come out horrific. I mean that in the best possible way.

"Paper Monsters" developed into a pretty good read, that I'm sure almost anybody can get into.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New reviews! Starborn! Jake Ellis! etc!

Who Is Jake Ellis? #1
Written by Nathan Edmondson
Art by Tonci Zonjic
Published by Image Comics

"No, it's more serious than that. They waited for the train to start so they would have you trapped. They were waiting for you." -- Jake Ellis

Having grown up loving the James Bond movies, my favorite being GoldenEye, and classic TV shows like The Saint and The Avengers, the spy genre holds a very special place in my life. Also, having said that, I went on a recommendation and jumped into Image's Who Is Jake Ellis?. With the opening scene actually being showed twice, you get a grip on what the story is dealing with, but at the same time you don't. Jon Moore barely escapes with his life after a deal with Spanish mob dealers goes sour. His one defense? A shadowy figure named Jake Ellis that only Jon can see and hear. The Al Calavicci to Jon's Sam Beckett.

From the start, Tonci Zonjic's (Marvel's Heralds) art leaps at you. The minimalist style reminds me of Chris Samnee, with flashes of Cliff Chiang. Heavy use of shading really captures the suspense and feel of the book. I kept on having flashbacks of Powers and Chase. Keep in mind that Zonjic is a one-man-band here, doing pencils, inks, colors, and the cover. In today's atmosphere that is becoming more and more uncommon.

Nathan Edmondson certainly sets the stage here, but for what? Is Moore a spy, or a crook? Why are the Americans after him? I suppose the big question should, of course, be who is Jake Ellis and what is his relationship with Moore? You feel as though you've walked right in the middle of a movie that's been going on for about thirty minutes, but the rest of it is so enjoyable, you really don't mind it. I'm sure that is the point, to build the mystery and fill in the blanks later. Works for me, because the first issue is properly executed.

This book isn't for anybody who likes their stories fully explained to where there is no story, but narration. I found it something interesting and rather unique. I'm not that too familiar with either writer or artist's full bibliography, but I'll definitely keep an eye out for this one. If you dug Archaia's The Killer or a fan of Jason Bourne, I would easily recommend this to you.


Starborn #2 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Lan Pitts): With the previous of this series setting the stage, this issue expands the world and gives you truly an idea of what kind of threat Benjamin Warner is now facing. On the run from creatures from the Hive. A civilization that Benjamin had thought he had created for a novel he was writing. As it turns out, his novel may be closer to fact than science fiction. Everything in his novel, the one that had been rejected on numerous occasions, is appearing before him. It is hinted on why that is, but I don't think Warner still gets it. His childhood friend is more than meets the eye as she unveils herself as his guardian and serves as the guide to the more alien scenarios and terminology. While it does sling a bit more information and out-of-this-world jargon at you, you can relate to Warner as he is just as lost and confused. The story is still coherent with Chris Roberson's direction, and the slow revealing of the mystery has great pacing. Khary Randolph is nothing short of amazing here. From layouts to use of shots, nothing is what I would call "mundane". There's a sense of energy and excitement pouring from every page. Mix in Mitch Gerad's colors and it's just stellar on the eyes. With Roberson, Randolph, and Gerad's stock on the rise, be sure to check this book out.


Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time #1.5 (Published by Dynamite; Review by Lan Pitts): As the resident Wheel of Time fan in these parts, I have to say, this series has been hit and miss, and sad to say mostly misses. While it has been a thrill to see characters I've been enjoying since my pre-teens leap on to the page, sometimes it just falls flat. I can't really blame Chuck Dixon, or the late Robert Jordan here. This issue was just a bit odd though. While it introduced the gleeman (read: bard) Thom and the peddler (read: traveling salesman and news bearer) that's basically it and while this issue takes place in between issues 1 and 2, it almost seems like it didn't need to be there at all. Props to Chase Conely for stepping up his game. His backgrounds look incredible and the extra bit of detail really sells the imagery. The only real complaint here is Nicolas Chapuis' colors. They go back and forth from being pretty good, to down right annoying. There are instances here where he does do a great job, but in the same page there will be a panel that is so over-saturated, it's just not pleasant. I'm sure the WoT fans out there are checking this out as I am, but I just wish it was a tad bit better.


Echoes #1
Written by Josh Hales Fiaklov
Art by Rahsan Ekedal
Lettering by Troy Peteri
Published by Top Cow

True, it's only day three of the New Year, but I think I've read my first favorite issue of it. Echoes, not to be confused with Terry Moore's Echo, tells the story of Brian Cohn, diagnosed schizophrenic who makes the most out of life despite his condition. His father is dying and has had complications with Alzheimer's. On his death bed, Brian's father tells him a secret and what Brian finds is earth-shattering and disturbing. Of course the experience is even worse when our protagonist has missed a dose of his anti-psychotics.

Right off the bat you'll notice Rahsan Ekedal's almost watercolor/inkwashed pages. The decision to just go with grayscales enhances the mood and atmosphere the book is trying to convey. It reminded me of Hotel Dusk with it's noir approach, though Echoes has more of a horror edge.

Being the first issue out of a planned five issue series, there is a lot of set-up, I mean, this is primarily all there is here. However, the ending is the hook that will reel you in. Josh Hales Fiaklov has set this up where this could go in a multitude of directions. You can sense the paranoia and confusion going through Cohn's brain. The panel construction is dynamic that utilizes an interesting layout that gives the book the horror feel I mentioned early. With a comic, the wandering eye can spoil pages, but how this is set up, there is still a sense of danger and suspense lingering in the air.

Fiaklov excels at exploring the human brain and how it process such tragedy, even a confused one like Cohn's, which is easily the selling point on something like this. If you're looking for something new, give this a gander. I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

What will 2011 hold?

So 2010 was a bit rough to say the least. It wasn't my most shining example on how I wanted things to go, but here I am. Alive, somewhat sober, and still creating. When I look back on the two years or so it's hard to imagine I was in a different city and state. I've certainly earned my nomad badge, but I feel things are where they need to be now in my life, at least living situation-wise. Now that might change sometime, but I'm happy where I am.

On a professional level, I don't see that much of a change, and that's really unfortunate. I will say that this year I've been to the most cons I have in my entire life with MegaCon, HeroesCon, DragonCon, and Wizard World Atlanta, I've definitely done my share of rubbing elbows and putting my name out there. There's something about surrounding yourself with creative people that you can't help but see the big picture in your life which gives you a more positive outlook. It does for me at least.

This year I am venturing off to the West Coast for the first time in almost 6 years. I'm sure nothing has changed that much since I last went there, but still. I'm off to WonderCon, which I hear is a good show. Laid back, but still pretty massive. HeroesCon of the West Coast? We shall see. I'm excited. I miss traveling. Well, I've done plenty of traveling, but in a more nomadic sense, so I mean more in the way of vacationing and actually experiencing the world instead of just being tossed around by it.

So, here's to the New Year. Hope it brings out the best in everybody.