Sunday, January 8, 2012

First reviews of the new year! Hello, 2012!

We're almost going on four years here at the Basement. It's still

American Vampire #22 Written by Scott Snyder Art by Rafael Albuquerque and Dave McCaig Lettering by Jared Fletcher Published by Vertigo Review by Lan Pitts 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10 Twenty-two issues in and almost two years later, American Vampire is still one of my go-to books that I recommend to a person looking to get into reading comics, and this issue is a prime example on why that is. If you haven't been following the book since it came out, there's nothing to really stop you here. It's the beginning of a new arc, new characters, but adds to the mythos of what the American vampire really is. Here, we have Travis Kidd, a greaser-type nineteen-year-old that just happens to be quite adept at killing vampires. Of course his past comes to light and a certain vamp has wiped out his family and everyone he loves. Travis is a bit different from the slayers we've seen before. He's quick, agile, and a slight bit eccentric. He's a troubled youth, but his narration shows he is wise beyond his years. Set in the 1950s, which is almost where I thought a book like this would thrive as it was the beginning to American pop culture. There are some minor clich├ęs here, but the set up is so clean, you can't help but root for Travis in the other three issues to come in the arc. Agent Hobbes sneaks in and his presence is the one thing that ties everything mostly together. There's no Pearl, Henry, Skinner or Felicia, but there doesn't need to be. Snyder has taken the concept of vampires here and taken them nationwide, and not just pigeonholed into any one part of the country. Everything in this issue feels self-contained and would be easy on a new reader's brain. Having Rafael Albuquerque back in the artistic driver's seat is like watching one of your favorite movies and falling back in love with it. While Jordi Bernet effectively did his thing and worked out some of the best visuals the book has had during its run, Albuquerque almost seems like he was born to recreate Smalltown, USA with a slice of macabre. His art has never been more kinetic here as the level to detail on everything from hot rod game of chicken to an old-fashioned rumble in a diner, nothing comes across as mundane. Dave McCaig's colors here with his usual pallet, but concentrates more on blues and purples, rather than the warmer choices he's more prolific with. It adds a certain layer of moodiness that fits right in Albuquerque's heavy shadows. With the original dream team that first made this book the hit it is back together, it makes you wonder how comics could get any more perfect. As mentioned, if you've heard all the buzz about this book but not sure where to start and intimidated by books in their double-digits, fear not. American Vampire #22 reads just as good and strong as it were a first issue. So hop in, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

Witchblade #151 (Published by Top Cow; Review by Lan Pitts; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Imagine you're going to see a sequel to a movie, and you're hyped. You loved the first one and even though there is a different director, you remain hopeful that the vision and characters stay intact. However, you notice that the characters you've cared about have a different voice and direction and it deviates from what you had expected, leaving you slightly deflated. That's how I felt after I put down Witchblade #151. Having molded Sara Pezzini and the Witchblade galaxy into something mature and intelligent for the past six or so years, Ron Marz has left the book, and in his place step up writer Tim Seeley (Hack/Slash) and artist Diego Bernard (know from his work on Dynamite's The Man With No Name). I'll give it to Seeley, as he does play to his strengths with a throwback to the Michael Turner-era of Witchblade, but it felt very by the numbers. I think the first-person narrative is a bad idea; it's overwritten, and at times almost comes off as parody of hard-boiled narrative. The story's direction isn't bad, but it feels overcomplicated, like a completed puzzle that still has a few extra pieces. Bernard's art, though, is top notch. It's still weird to see Sara in this light again, but his attention to detail is strong and Sara's new world looks pretty good. I know it will probably take a while for Seeley to find Sara's groove, but this wasn't the first impression I had wanted.

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