Friday, November 30, 2012

Catching Up Big Time. Batman, Saga, etc...

Saga #7 
Written by Brian K. Vaughan 
Art by Fiona Staples 
Lettering by Fonografiks 
Published by Image Comics 
Review by Lan Pitts 
'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

After a month-and-a-half break, the creative duo of Saga brings it back and not a moment too soon as I was suffering from heavy withdrawals. If you've been missing out, there's no worry as you're brought up to speed in the first couple of pages with the backstory of the war between Alana and Marko's races.

When we left off, we had just been introduced to Marko's parents and needless to say the union between the main characters is more than frowned upon. Despite the alien worlds, the relationships and correlation among the characters is incredibly human. It's only seven issues into the series, and if feels as if I've known these people for years. That is Vaughan's magic at work. Though this issue concentrates on establishing Marko's parents' relationship (if you can call it that) with Alana, it also touches on the subplots of The Will in mourning from The Stalk's death and Prince Robot still trying to capture our heroes. It also adds dramatic tension to the story with Marko's father, Barr, who has a secret revealed at the end of the issue, making if very difficult to have to wait until next month.

While the pissed-off mother-in-law is a slight trope, Klara definitely has her reasons to be angry at her son for marrying someone who is involved with a bloodfeud with her race. Barr comes across as more level-headed, but with his secret revealed to Alana, it's understandable why he would want to make peace. Once again, Fiona Staples delivers compelling art that could tell the story all by itself. Staples puts emotion into her art and that's obvious here.

The use of facial expressions are spot-on and riveting. How she captures all the emotions of the initial encounter between Alana, Barr, and Klara should be commended. She breathes life into these otherwise 2-dimensional characters, and makes them seem so animated and real. Her flair for alien design is in full front and it's plain out ballsy at one point.

Saga is a rare kind of book these days with rich, imaginative worlds and solid character development. The pacing hasn't let up and yet there is still so much left to explore in this universe. Here's hoping there isn't another delay in the near future. My sanity almost depends on it.


Batman #14 
Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV 
Art by Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, Jock, Dave Baron, and FCO Plascencia 
Lettering by Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt, and Sal Cipriano 
Published by DC Comics 
Review by Lan Pitts 
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

This issue is heavy, and primarily shows two things: Scott Snyder's Joker is a force of chaos (if you didn't know already), and things are about to get so much worse. This issue basically acts as a set up for things to come, but we see more of the famed Batman and Joker dynamic, as well as a hint of Joker's plans in action with the back up by Snyder and James Tynion IV.

Snyder has been building up to this moment for the great Joker story of his career, and if this issue is any indication of what is to come, it could be his opus. The issue is non-stop chaos with the Joker having laid out his dominoes and now watching each one fall and crash into another setting up a chain of events that really tries Bruce as a person and hero. We find out Alfred's fate and it's not pretty. Bruce almost goes into shutting down so he can operate solely as Batman to get the job done and his father figure back from the clutches of his arch-nemesis. Joker is the boogeyman of the DC universe and in the hands of Snyder, he's molded into a walking nightmare.

The banter between Joker and Batman is something to behold and Joker seems to be the one that actually "gets" their relationship. There's a nice nod to Dark Knight Returns with Joker greeting Batman as "darling", but it also evokes Joker's Peter Pan analogue from the previous issue. The events of the issue make this a real page-turner and the pacing works great, even if a little verbose at times. The lettering on Joker is great, too, giving him a sort of cackle even when he talks normally.

What can be said about Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, and FCO that hasn't already been said? Here they're just as dynamite and visceral as ever, with great detail going into every panel. Near the end, things get a little too cluttered with Batman and Joker's face off, but nothing that warrants more than a half shrug and you move on to the next page. The close ups of Joker are disturbing as ever. You can see the madness in the eyes and his body language. How Capullo uses Joker's posturing tells the whole story in a few panels: he is a sick, sick puppy. Even if you're a rare example of nerdom and have no previous experience with the Joker and his madness, you get the idea loud and clear.

Team Batman is setting up a DC event here and the first steps always hit the hardest. With Batman #14 there's a sure sign that what lies ahead might be Bruce's hardest and most dangerous fight since he donned the cowl. Joker has never been this complicated, and possibly psychotic. Snyder definitely has something to prove with handling the first Joker story of the new DCU, but if this is where things start, this'll join the ranks of some of the great Bat stories ever written.


Shadowman #1 (Published by Valiant Comics; Review by Lan Pitts; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Shadowman was one of the old Valiant's top tier books and has an acclaimed team behind the title, yet it balances a fine line between great visuals and cliched moments that we've seen a dozen times elsewhere. The continuation of Jack Boniface being a legacy character is a nice touch; he's younger, not a jazz musician, but still a bright (no pun intended) young man trying to find himself. Justin Jordan handles the mythos of the character well enough, but it's weighed down by a lot of exposition and a choppy ending. Patrick Zircher and Brian Reber elevate the dialogue with some heavy gore and a great battle scene; definitely the stars of the show. There's enough here for me to take a second look, but it really has to start picking up from here.


My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic #1 
Written by Katie Cook Art by Andy Price and Heather Breckel 
Lettering by Robbie Robbins
Published by IDW 

Review by Lan Pitts 
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Strange things are ahoof in Ponyville, and your favorite characters from the Hub's My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic are on the case. The creative team of Katie Cook and Andy Price mesh together perfectly, and the comic adaptation captures all the wonder and fun of the series that doesn't stray too far.

Creator Katie Cook has captured fans' attentions with her webcomic Gronk, as well her famed "mini-paintings" and her unique, cartoonish style. Here though, she takes up the writer's reins for the most part (she does have her own short story at the end of the issue) and nails the world of Esquestria with a fine hammer. Her sense of humor plays well into this world. Not really having any laughing out loud moments, but did make me smile. Each pony has their distinctive voice, and Cook is pitch perfect with each one. The story itself plays like an Invasion of the Body Snatchers homage, and even takes a little continuity from the show (they mention the royal wedding of Shining Armor and Princess Cadance) as an old enemy reemerges.

It's difficult not to hear the ponies' voices from the show as you dive in reading. Cook certainly has a handle of each one's characteristics and nothing sounds off or different from what you'd expect. Near the end, it begins to get a little too wordy and artist Andy Price's pages seem to get cluttered with word balloons. Nothing too horrible, but definitely something to take down a notch further down the road. Speaking of Price, he excels here and compliments Cook's words magnificently.

For what is deemed a comic just for kids, there is a lot of detail into every page. Even the backgrounds look very well put together and if you look carefully, you can see Price and his wife, along with Cook in the midst of Ponyville Square. You have to appreciate the expressions going on here; a true sign of a highly skilled cartoonist. Heather Breckel's colors are impressive to say the least. Each page is just bright and makes the book all that much enjoyable. Price and Breckel's styles work together well here and neither overshadows the other.

The biggest fear adult fans are probably having is whether or not they'll "get" it. Is this geared towards them or the younger audiences? Simply put: both. Much like the nature of the show, it has comic sensibilities for the young and young at heart. Yes, there are mentions to other pop culture staples in here, but doesn't go overboard with them. Cook has made this first issue accessible to all sorts of readers. It's fun, magical, and captures your imagination. While I do think non-fans of the series would be a tad confused on who's who, fans of the show will love this to pieces, and with good reason.


Courtney Crumrin #7 (Published by Oni Press; Review by Lan Pitts; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): With Courtney and Calperina on the run from the Coven, things are looking pretty dim for them, especially having Courtney's uncle Aloysius' true colors apparently revealed. The tension is definitely building for a head-on collision at some point, but things take an interesting turn here. Ted Naifeh has always had a good eye for design for his creatures, and this issue is a primary example of the things rattling in his brain. Where colorist Warren Wucinich usually brought color and brightness to this series thus far, here, there's nothing really go on. The issue takes place at night and it's understandable to use darker colors, but it just feels overdone here and some character details are lost.