Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mid-May update. Reviews and interview, ahoy

Last Mortal #1 (Published by Top Cow; Review by Lan Pitts): When an opening scene for a comic is a man committing suicide, it really sets the stage for the rest of the issue. The story is told through the point of view of Alec King, a good for nothing hoodlum that takes a job with his friend, Brian, to assassinate a mayoral candidate, Robert Callahan. However, when the job gets botched, Brian is killed and Alec is on the run. Faced with the guilt of Brian's death, Alec tried to kill himself, only finding out he can't die. Written by John Mahoney and Top Cow publisher Filip Sablik, Last Mortal comes across as one part noir, and one part mystery. The black and white art by Thomas Nachlik, gives off an Alex Maleev vibe that seems fitting for the story. I liked the gritty, etchy look to it. The story itself has me intrigued, but sometimes the dialog felt a bit flat, but provided a proper set up that left me wanting to be around for the second helping.


The past year and a half has not been kind to Daredevil, having been possessed by a demon and manipulated by the Hand in the Shadowland event, and turning away from his friends. Leaving Hell's Kitchen in the hands of the Black Panther and recovered, he is trying to find himself again, as a man and as a hero. Back in March, it was announced that Daredevil was slated for a relaunch in the summer. Little has been announced with what direction the title will take, besides having Matt Murdock getting back to his roots.

Along with contemporary legend Mark Waid, it was revealed that Paolo Rivera he would be part of the creative team with the relaunched title. Paolo Rivera has built quite the name for himself in the past few years. Having worked on numerous Marvel projects in the past (Mythos, Amazing Spider-Man, Fear Itself, The Twelve). Newsarama sat down with Rivera to talk about what lies ahead for Matt Murdock and what's like working on such a classic character.

Newsarama: You've worked on Spider-Man, produced some Daredevil covers, an original story Mythos that was published by Marvel, so who made the call to put you on Daredevil?

Paolo Rivera: That would be Steve Wacker. He was my editor since about 2007, we started working together on Mythos, and Amazing Spider-Man and he mentioned Daredevil to me about last year, but we weren't sure when everything was going to fall into place with everyone's schedules. As soon as he told, I said I was in. Just say when and where and I'll be there.

Nrama: On Andy Diggle's recent run on Daredevil, you did most of the covers. In this new volume, will you deviate from what you've done before?

Rivera: Well at least for the first three issues, the covers will be fully-painted as I usually do. As for the interiors, I will just be penciling while my dad will be inking, and I believe Javier Rodriguez on colors. As for the actual art work, I don't have a particular goal, except do what I normally do and try to make the best comic book I can. I've done some character sketches of Daredevil that I'm going to redesign, like his billy club, I also have a extra surprises in store that I was talking to Mark Waid about the other day and he seemed to like I'll leave it at that.

Nrama: The other individual on the art team is Marcos Martin, what is it like collaborating with him?

Rivera: I've been a fan of his work since the first time I came across his stuff for The Oath. The second time I came across his stuff was on Amazing Spider-Man just before I started working on it myself. His issue with, what I think is, the Paperdoll, I saw that on the stands, thought that was a beautiful cover and he quickly became one of my favorite artists. So when Steve came to us and said it's going to be you two doing three issues on, three issues off it was perfect. I mean I couldn't ask for anything better. I love his work and it's a bit of some friendly competition [laughs].

Nrama: Were you always a big Daredevil fan growing up?

Rivera: I wasn't a huge Daredevil fan, but I slowly came around to him. I was a big fan of Joe Quesada and when I came across his "Guardian Devil" story with Kevin Smith, that is when I think that was the first book I ever read with Daredevil in the starring role. Other than that I haven't read that much, but I have read the big ones so to speak. "Man Without Fear" and "Born Again", with "Born Again" being the main thing when I think of Daredevil.

Nrama: Mark Waid has mentioned that Daredevil has gotten a little too dark and he wants to try and bring Matt out of the darkness a bit to have some old-fashioned Daredevil adventures. Do you think this direction will effect how you present your story artistically?

Rivera: I think automatically between me and Marcos we already sort of have a, I don't want to say "cartoony" feel-

Nrama: [laughs] I think "cartoony" is completely okay to say.

Rivera: [laughs] Good! We love cartoons and our styles are more conducive to the type of story we're going for. Steve knew that and knew what Mark's take on Daredevil was going to be. I mean, it's still going to have crime with a noir edge with him fighting the mob and drug dealers, in addition to that, we're going to have him fight supervillians, and major ones at that. You know what? Superheroes, too. In issue 2, he'll fight a major superhero as well. A famous one.

One of Mark's things is with Matt coming back to New York is that he needs to get past [Shadowland] and so he's just going through his life he needs to and whatever is necessary. However, not all of his friends and colleagues in New York are ready to let him do that. He did some pretty bad stuff and not everybody is ready to forgive him.

Nrama: Shadowland took Matt to a dark place, some say as far as he has ever been, which reflected in Billy Tan's style with the heavy inks and lots of shadows. How will your story differ from that?

Rivera: We're not going to do full left rudder here, just slightly in a different direction from where he is now, but still having the classic stuff in there as well. We're bringing Matt back to basics. You know, when talking to Mark and we want to make it our own book and at the same time, we don't want to completely change Daredevil. We just want make a solid book month after month. It's going to be the Daredevil you know and love, but it's also going to be our book.


Starborn #6
Written by Chris Roberson
Art by Khary Randolph, Matteo Scalera, and Mitch Gerads
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by Lan Pitts

I never thought I would see the words "Space Hitler" in a comic, yet here we are.

I've been feeling that Starborn has needed a little something plot-wise to really detour what has been almost the same thing in each issue, though I have been praising the pace that Roberson has had. I was more than just surprised as the story takes a slight dark turn here with the ambiguity of the Benjamin's quest. The issue primarily consists of Benjamin fighting off aliens and learning more about the oversuit's abilities, and what the symbol behind what he actually possess.

While Roberson may have hinted something isn't exactly benevolent about Benjamin's suit and gauntlet, Benjamin himself obviously has been fighting the good fight, at least in his mind. It adds another level of characterization to him as to see that even not knowing the full story, he wants to be the good guy. I guess the real challenge here is how the rest of the series will play out, now that Benjamin knows his family history and what his proclaimed destiny is all about.

Roberson sticks to his use of narrative that has been used since the beginning, but it's lessened since and I feel that's a good thing as we finally have a sense of who Benjamin is. Roberson has also set in motion another subplot with, what looks to be, an invasion angle on Earth. Khary Randolph and Matteo Scalera really dive into their full potential here and just all around solid. Randolph's angular style really heightens the fight scenes and goes perfectly with the alien technology. The panel layouts are strong and intense that really use different points of perspective, and he's really hit his stride. Mitch Gerads is another part of the equation here as he adds great depth to the background that adds so much to the environment. I love the use of warm colors and how he puts a little something extra here and there that makes the alien technology feel real.

Starborn started off reminding me of The Last Starfighter that is turning out more than what I think anybody thought it would be. Benjamin Warner and company have been a great cast thus far, and as I mentioned I'm curious on where this where lead next. For those who have been thinking it's been lacking action, give this issue a peep.


Witchblade #144
Written by Ron Marz and Filip Sablik
Art by Stjepan Sejic and John Tyler Christopher
Lettering by Troy Peteri
Published by Top Cow
Review by Lan Pitts

This issue takes a step back from the current Artifacts event and goes back in time to take a peek inside what it was like working with Sara Pezzini, via her old partner, Jake McCarthy's point of view.

This is actually a layered issue, with the main story featuring Lieutenant Phipps, the troublesome IA officer who has been looking into Sara for a while now, finally has access to Jake's lock box, which contains a detailed note explaining what it is like working with Sara, and the Witchblade. Considering this is Witchblade's 15th year anniversary, it's nice to see a bit of a refreshing course in Witchblade 101.

Jake's memo is sweet and enduring. He gives the impression that before she took the possession of the mystical gauntlet, she was still a kick-ass cop, who did not take any garbage from thugs, to her captain at the time. Which, let's face it, she's still the same person. I've often compared Sara at times to Vic Mackey from the Shield, only less corrupt. This issue had me reminiscing about the show and I found it on par with the tense drama of Sara's secret being found out, and the cliffhanger at the end.

Stjepan Sejic really rolls out the memories here. Even taking on her infamous red dress. The layouts are impressive, if a bit subdued, since this feels more like a one-shot, but still gives us a glimpse of the bigger picture. Sejic never really draws Sara and Jake's early years, so this was fun to see him do something a bit different.

The best thing about this issue is that Marz has crafted a great jumping on point. Sara's background is explained and a brief history of the Witchblade itself is mentioned. One thing holding it back, I feel, is the back up feature by Filip Salbik and John Tyler Christopher. It's a short story involving Sara's current boyfriend and partner, Patrick Gleason. I guess it's only relevant since the book covers Sara's former partners and it seems fair to talk about where she's from to where she's at. It just wasn't clear it was Gleason until his name was mentioned.

Witchblade #144 opens the doors for new fans with a sense of understanding of the world of Sara Pezzini, and at the same time gives them a story to follow up on. Sounds like a good anniversary gift to us fans.


Courtney Crumrin Tales: The League of Ordinary Gentlemen
Written, illustrated and lettered by Ted Naifeh
Published by Oni Press
Review by Lan Pitts

It's been a while since we've seen a story from the world of Courtney Crumrin. Creator Ted Naifeh recently collaborated with Spiderwick Chronicles author Holly Black to create the young adult graphic novel series, Good Neighbors, he had a brief stint on the Teen Titans back up featuring the Black Alice, Traci 13, and Zach Zatara, as well as wrote another chapter to his series Polly and the Pirates. So needless to say, he's had a lot going on, and its good to see him return to this macabre world.

Like the previous installment of Courtney Crumrin Tales, this too, is a story involving a young Aloysius Crumrin's, Courtney's uncle, early years. This explores more of his relationship with Alice Crisp, as well a bit of the history of the town of Hillsborough. We see Aloysius, undercover for the Anti-Sorcery Society, working with Alice Crisp, who soon finds out his secret. We also see a bit more of Aloysius' heritage and how magic works in this world.

Naifeh's art is distinct and you can definitely see he his back to what he knows best. Scenes with elaborate gowns, and goth architecture. Characters who just seem and look out of this world. His use of facial expression is different from what I'm used to seeing from him in the past. Fans of the series, now almost a decade old, will enjoy a delightful cameo from a certain goblin.

I thoroughly enjoyed "League", as it added another chapter to a series, and explored a bit more of the world. Naifeh really hit his stride here, and was able to be a bit darker than earlier stories. Portrait of a Young Warlock, the previous issue to this story came out about six years ago, so new fans who are trying to jump on to this, might want to hold off. It's not necessary, but even the title comes from "Portrait," and they may want the whole story. I know I would.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Moriarty #1

Moriarty #1
Written by Daniel Corey
Art by Anthony Diecidue
Lettering by Dave Lanphear
Published by Image Comics
Review by Lan Pitts

I am sure almost everybody knows of Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty: one of the greatest literary rivalries of all time. Yet, what is a villain without a hero? Moriarty takes a peek at what happened when the fateful death to both Homles and his arch-nemesis, turned out to just end Holmes and left Moriarty wandering for a purpose. In his travels and life without an adversary, the legendary professor has evolved into something that mirrors Holmes. The idea intrigued me and was immediately sucked in.

The book starts has an interesting timeline, and is set during pre-WWI, around the time of the assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand, and talks of his killing and the association with the Black Hand are the talk of the nation. We see Moriarty, now under the alias of Trumbold, working as a somewhat businessman that still carries some ties to the criminal underworld. Without Holmes, Moriarty has become complacent and a little bored.

It's not long before the government comes around and asks for his services to find Sherlock's brother, Mycroft. Who is he to refuse the chance to hunt down another Holmes? Better yet, they are aware of who he is and what he is capable of. This is where the story picks up its stride. We see inside the mind of Moriarty, we see his tactics, his self-imposed rules of getting things done. Doyle wrote Moriarty as the equivalent to Holmes and now we see why that is. The hung for Mycroft leads the reader and the old professor into a series of events that hint at a bigger picture, and the fact he soon as a shadowy figure of his own to conquer.

I do love the touch of knowledge Daniel Corey brings to the script, however, where I think the story falters, and this is me nitpicking here because I did rather enjoy it, is the actual narrative. To quote a line from Amadeus, "there are too many notes". While Dave Lanphear executes the lettering layout wonderfully, I think somethings just did not need to be said as they were specifically shown via Anthony Diecidue's art. While I do understand that this is Moriarty's story, but at the same time, I think most readers could deduce what is going on.

Speaking of Anthony Diecidue's art, this is a perfect example of a great collaboration of story and artist. Even in the slower parts of the issue, Diecidue elevates the bits with his mysterious tone with heavy sketch lines and rendering that give this early Guy Davis vibe. The layouts and scenery in old London town have an edge of macabre with lots of shadowy effects that perfectly set the stage for a mystery.

Moriarty is a great example of something that is for people who are not really into superheroics or mega-events. With the Big Two both with event-heavy series, this could be the one for people who want to try something a bit different from the norm. I can't wait to see where this goes.