Sunday, 23 October 2011

Batman #1 / Wonder Woman #1

Here are two more comics I downloaded from Comixology.  Two more comics from DC’s ‘New 52’, in fact.  Considering I had very little interest in DC’s recent reboot, I seem to have downloaded rather a lot of their new number ones, don’t I?  So far, I have downloaded Action Comics #1 (didn’t like it), Frankenstein Agent of SHADE #1 (not bad), Animal Man #1 (also not bad), Swamp Thing #1 (pretty good), and now these two.  That’s all the ones I was even remotely interested in apart from All-Star Western #1, the title I was most interested in, which I probably won’t download at all now as I am intending to buy the eventual trade paperback collection (but I bet the bastards at DC release it as an overpriced ‘deluxe’ hardcover first and make me wait about a year for the TPB).

I started off not liking Batman #1 very much.  It began with yet another breakout at Arkham Asylum and Batman, with a little help from a friend, taking down several of his greatest foes – Killer Croc, The Riddler, Mr Freeze, Two-Face, Scarecrow, Professor Pyg, etc. – over the course of just a few pages, which makes you wonder how this lot ever managed to give Batman so much trouble in the past.  Writer Scott ‘American Vampire’ Snyder’s narration also seemed a bit heavy handed to start with, and I wasn’t particularly taken with Greg Capullo’s art during the breakout, as it seemed a bit too much like the Jim Lee-inspired art on display in a lot of modern DC comics (which is fine if you like that sort of thing, but I don’t – Jim Aparo is the best Batman artist ever, as far as I’m concerned, and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise).  However, as the comic went on, I warmed to it.  Snyder’s Dark Knight Detective seems to be just that – a detective – and after the initial, obligatory action sequence in Arkham, he goes on to investigate a (very gory for a mainstream DC comic) murder using just his smarts and billions of dollars worth of forensics equipment, rather than beating information out of informants, etc., which makes a change (although I’m sure he will get to do some beating as the story goes on).  What also makes a change is Bruce Wayne’s plans to use his fortune to redevelop some of Gotham’s poorer areas, which might prove a more effective way to combat crime than dressing up as the world’s most expensive bat and punching poor people.  Greg Capullo’s art grew on me as the story went on, too.  I think I just didn’t like the way he drew all the super-villains in Arkham, but everything else was rather nice.

Like most of the other ‘New 52’ comics I read, this doesn’t seem like much of a reboot at all.  I mean, this doesn’t even try and restart the Batman franchise from day one.  Not only is there no new origin for Batman himself, most of his old foes seem to already be well-established criminals, plus former-Robin Dick Grayson is already Nightwing, former-Robin Tim Drake is already Red Robin, and Damian Wayne is already the current Robin, so this Batman has clearly been around long enough to burn through a couple of sidekicks.

To tell the truth, I am not a massive Batman fan and therefore I am not the target audience for this comic.  I only bought it because it had received some good reviews and because it was written by Scott Snyder, and I didn’t really expect to like it that much.  In the end, though, I thought it was pretty good.  I’m not sure if I will bother buying the second issue, but if I ever see the TPB in my local library, I will definitely check it out, and I’d quite like to read some of Snyder’s earlier Batman work, too, as I keep hearing good things about it.

Wonder Woman #1 looked amazing, thanks to artist Cliff Chiang, and writer Brian Azzarello (who I’ve always considered a bit overrated) has written the least boring Wonder Woman comic I’ve ever read.  But that isn’t really saying much.  This issue was action-packed, violent, gory, and even a little bit sexy, but I didn’t really understand what was going on.  Some horses were beheaded, some creatures grew from the horses’ neck-stumps, they tried to kill a girl, Wonder Woman saved her.  I’m sure it will become clear who this girl is in the next issue, or at least several issues down the line, but I’m not sure if I can be bothered to stick around and find out.  Again, though, I’m not really a Wonder Woman fan, am not really the target audience for this comic, and only really bought it because it had received a lot of good reviews.  Azzarello, perhaps wisely, has set this series firmly in the world of Greek mythology, so if you are in to such things, you may enjoy this comic more than I did.  Unfortunately, my interest in such things is low.  I might read the TPB if I saw it in my local library, but if it weren’t for the great art, I probably wouldn’t bother.

Cost: As was the case with all the other ‘New 52’ comics I have bought, I downloaded these from Comixology.  This time, though, instead of getting drunk and downloading them on the day they were released, I waited a month and got them a dollar cheaper than I would have done if I’d been less patient / less sober.  In other words, these cost me $1.99 each.    

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Locke & Key: Clockworks issues 1 & 2

Being a rather impatient fellow, when I saw that Comixology have now started selling downloads of IDW comics and had copies of Locke & Key: Clockworks issues 1 and 2 for just $1.99 each (cover price $3.99 each), I downloaded them right away.  I’m still going to by the next hardcover collection when it comes out, but that probably won’t be out until next spring, at least, and who can wait that long?  Well, not me.  I like this series a lot and, as I said, I am rather impatient.

In Clockworks #1, in a story set in Lovecraft, Massachusetts, in 1775, we finally discover the origin of the various magical keys hidden around the Keyhouse.  In this particularly bloody issue, shortly after seeing his parents hung by the British for treason, locksmith’s son Benjamin Locke and his sister, Miranda, flee to the caves beneath Lovecraft to aid the revolutionaries hiding there, only to discover that there are worse things than the British – yes, really – hiding behind the ‘black door’.  Several revolutionaries are possessed by demons and go kill-crazy, and Benjamin Locke is inspired to create a padlock to hold the black door shut, and 100 magical keys, from some material that came from behind the door.  I enjoyed this issue a lot, and was quite disappointed to find that #2 was set in the present day, like all previous issues of this series, until I remembered where the last book, Keys To The Kingdom, left off – with the body of the youngest Locke sibling, Bode, now inhabited by the evil being formally known as Dodge.

Evil Bode establishes his evil credentials fairly quickly, dispatching one of his classmates, who has figured out that Bode is no longer Bode, by the second page of the issue.  From there, Evil Bode sets about looking for the key to the black door – the Omega Key – and accidently sets free his sister Kinsey’s fear and sorrow, which have been trapped in a jar, believed drowned, since they were removed from her head in L&K Vol.2 (yeah, I know that all sounds a bit odd, but I haven’t got time to fully recap the entire series – Clockworks is L&K Vol.5 – so you’ll just have to read it all yourself or go with me for now).  Kinsey’s fear and sorrow get into oldest Locke sibling Tyler’s head and cause a bit of trouble, but most importantly, by the end of the issue, the Locke kids have found yet another key and Evil Bode has the Omega key in his hands (I do wonder why Dodge / Evil Bode never just tortured the location of the Omega key out of Tyler, instead of putting so much effort into pretending to be a normal kid – going to school, etc. – in order to find it). 

This is a really good series, cleverly / wittily scripted by Joe Hill (I’ve read all his novels and enjoyed them, too – particularly the short story collection ‘20th Century Ghosts’ – but L&K is better) and with great, detailed art by Gabriel Rodriguez.  I can’t wait for the next issue, which I think is out next week, and I will probably download that, too, just as soon as the price drops to $1.99 or less (because I feel weird spending more than $1.99 on a comic with no resale value).

Note: I would like to point out that Comixology do not sponsor this blog – although, if they want to, they are more than welcome to do so – even though it might seem like it at the moment, what with all the downloads I keep reviewing.  I do still read paper comics and still have piles of unread graphic novels to get through, but even though the graphic novel / TPB remains my preferred format, I really can’t be bothered with paper periodical comics anymore, so most of the new serial comics I review from now on are likely to have been downloaded.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Love and Rockets: New Stories #4

This latest issue of Love and Rockets: New Stories is another great one.  It’s not quite as good as the previous issue, but then, few comics are.  Once again, Gilbert tells two seemingly-unconnected-but-actually-connected stories.  The first, ‘King Vampire’, is a vampire story (duh!) starring Guadalupe’s daughter, Killer, and Fritz, while the second is a story in which a younger Fritz chats to an old boyfriend about various topics, including the possible end of reading and writing within our lifetimes, atheism, and a vampire movie Fritz has been offered a role in but can’t take on for another seven years, because she’s locked into a contract.  The sexy / violent vampire story was okay – well, it looked really good – but I enjoyed reading Gilbert’s second story more, even if it wasn’t necessarily a memorable one, and wasn't as visually exciting as the vampire story.  The real star of this issue, though, once again, is Jaime, who offers a sort-of sequel to last issue’s amazing ‘Browntown’ story called ‘Return To Me’ and also concludes last issue’s ‘The Love Bunglers’.  

‘Return To Me’ tells the story of a teenage Maggie’s return to Hoppers, three years after the events depicted in ‘Browntown’, and her origins as a mechanic, all told from the point of view of a friend.  It’s a good short story, with an unexpected twist in the tail – wisely, it doesn’t try to be another ‘Browntown’ – but the highlight of this issue is the conclusion to ‘The Love Bunglers’, a story about the on / off romance between Maggie and Ray and the return of Maggie’s long-lost brother Calvin.  I don’t want to give anything away but this is great work from Jaime, who has always been a great artist but has now developed into the superior storyteller among the various Hernandez brothers, too, which is certainly not what I thought back in the early days of Love and Rockets (in the 1980s, right up until the end of ‘Human Diastrophism’, and possibly even a bit beyond that, I was always more of a Gilbert guy).  The end of this story feels like the perfect conclusion for these characters and it’s hard to see where Jaime can go from here with Maggie and Ray, at least.  Will future stories focus more on newer characters, like Angel?  Will we see more stories about Penny century instead?  Or will Jaime go somewhere else entirely (actually, I kind of hope so)?  There may even be more Maggie and Ray stories in the pipeline, but whatever happens, I’ll be there. 

Cost:  It seems wrong, somehow, for me to boast about how little I paid for this – which is the usual remit of this blog – so I won’t.  It has a recommended retail price of £10.99 / $14.99.  You could get it for less than that online but I doubt you would regret paying full price for it (unless you have never read a Love and Rockets comic before, in which case you might just end up feeling confused reading this – I have been reading Love and Rockets since at least 1987, even I feel like I need to go back and read everything again in order to fully appreciate this series, and one day I will do just that).        

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Jonah Hex Vol.8: The Six Gun War TPB

The unique selling point of the most recent Jonah Hex series (just cancelled in the DC reboot and replaced with a new Western title, ‘All-Star Western’) was that most issues of the monthly comic contained done-in-one stories, and the eventual trade paperback collections – no fancy deluxe hardcovers for this series – read like short story collections, usually featuring work by multiple artists, even if the stories were always written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti.  The series wasn’t entirely self-contained – I think there were a couple of two or three part stories, and supporting characters frequently recurred, so some familiarity with previous issues of the series was often useful – but it was usually just about possible to pick up a single issue of Jonah Hex and enjoy it on its own, which is more than you can say for most other comics published these days.  However, The Six Gun War, which collects JH issues 44 to 49, was the nearest this series got to a ‘crossover event’, with one story, in which Jonah teams up with several other DC Western characters, running over six whole issues.

The story starts with Hex getting ambushed by plantation owner Quentin Turnbull, who (wrongly) believes that Hex was responsible for the death of his son during the Civil War (not the Marvel one).  Turnbull buries Hex alive and leaves him for dead but, thanks to the timely arrival of some grave robbers, Hex gets free and goes looking for revenge with the help of Bat Lash, El Diablo, scar-faced female bounty hunter Tallulah Black, and some Comanche warriors he encounters along the way.  It’s a bloody, violent book, with some great dialogue in it – I particularly liked some of the insults exchanged between Bat Lash and Tallulah Black (Mexican Bandit: ‘Don’t try to hide, we have you outnumbered!  Give us the woman!’  Bat Lash: ‘Heh, heh, ha ha... give us the woman... heh...’  Tallula Black: ‘Whut’s so damned funny about that?’  Bat Lash: ‘They clearly didn’t get a good look at you.  If they did, they’d be asking for the horses instead.’) – and decent art by Christiano Cucina, who is not as good as some of the artists that have worked on this series, but better than others.

After a six-issue build-up, the ending seemed like a bit of an anti-climax, and I think I prefer the short story format of previous volumes, but this was still an enjoyable read.

Cost: This has a (Titan Books) cover price of £10.99.  I bought my copy from Amazon, where it was (and still is) priced at £9.89, and paid for it using a gift certificate I got by trading in some of my Nectar points, so it sort of didn't cost me anything.  (Top Tip: Not only can you exchange your Nectar points for Amazon vouchers, you can also collect Nectar points on your Amazon purchases if you log into Amazon via the Nectar website.)