Sunday, August 14, 2011

Demo Review

AiT/Planet Lar
Softcover Trade Paperback
328 pages
$19.95 (2005) $24.99 (2008)
ISBN 9781932051421

Contributors: Brian Wood, Becky Cloonan, and Ryan Yount

Reprints: Demo #1-12 (of 12)

Synopsis: Twelve stories about unusual young people.  They include:

  1. NYC - A girl and her boyfriend dream of escaping to New York, but she takes medication to hold back dangerous psychic powers
  2. Emmy - A young girl works a terrible job at a gas station.  She is an outcast and deathly afraid of talking - people do whatever she says with potentially tragic, catastrophic results
  3. Bad Blood - A girl attends her father's funeral and is reunited with her half brother.  He wants to share a family secret which will change her life forever
  4. Stand Strong - A young man grew up in a rough, industrial town.  He got in trouble with the law, but now works at his father's factory.  His friends are still up to no good and need his special ability to pull off their latest theft
  5. Girl You Want - A girl is perceived as the physical manifestation of what those around her desire.  She feels lost amidst the gaze of others, but finally meets someone who 'sees' the real her
  6. What You Wish For - A boy growing up in the suburbs feels like an outcast because he's the only Asian kid.  One day he snaps and unleashes an unholy fury
  7. One Shot, Don't Miss - A soldier has the ability to never miss a target, but doesn't want to kill.  What does he do when his family back home is counting on him
  8. Mixtape - A boyfriend finds his girlfriend dead and a mixtape with "For You" on it next to her body.  He plays it and her spirit comes back to spend the day with him.  They rehash their relationship and what led up to her death
  9. Breaking Up - A couple meet over coffee to finally break up and review their relationship through the good times and bad
  10. Damaged - A successful young businessman meets a homeless girl on the street who knows all about his life.  He investigates further to see if she's for real and tragedy strikes
  11. Midnight to Six - Three friends made a childhood vow to remain slackers for life.  Now they are young adults working the midnight shift cleaning a department store.  Two of the three have grown up, but the third can't let go of the past.  Their friendship is about to end
  12. Mon Dernier Jour Avec Toi (My Last Day with You) - Two lovers spend their last night together before jumping off a roof + a story written by Becky Cloonan with art by Brian Wood
Pros: Done-in-one short stories allow almost instantaneous access from any point within the series, Cloonan's art is interesting and she experiments with different styles, Wood gives us simple themes and messages for each story, nominated for an Eisner award - best limited series

Cons: Black and white, somewhat amateurish (most likely on purpose = indie), art is a bit simple/crude at times

Mike Tells It Straight: Wood and Cloonan give us a set of simple stories focusing mostly on teens with extraordinary powers, but also a few with common young adult situations playing out.  The book is pure indie in black and white with all the angsty teen stuff you would expect.  It received a lot of praise and spawned a second series published by DC.  If you're curious to check out an indie book and dig young adult themes then this series is perfect.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Friday, August 12, 2011

Albion Review

DC Comics - Wildstorm
Softcover Trade Paperback
174 pages
ISBN 9781401209940

Contributors: Alan Moore, Leah Moore, John Mark Reppion, Shane Oakley, George Freeman, Todd Klein, covers by Dave Gibbons, and introduction by Neil Gaiman

Reprints: Albion #1-6 (of 6)

Synopsis: A disenfranchised British young man named Danny makes a startling discovery - the silver age comic book heroes he loves to read about really existed.  The proof lands in his lap when he meets Penny, the daughter of a famous hero.  In reality the heroes and villains were imprisoned by a fearful government for over twenty years and their existences were erased. 

Penny and Danny begin piecing together the mystery of the missing heroes/villains.  They uncover an actual villain and plan a daring rescue to find Penny's father.  Meanwhile at the prison, a criminal AI has predicted a cataclysmic event - coincidence or will the golden age of wonder live again because of the dreams of the young?

Pros: Decent premise by Alan Moore, great covers by Gibbons, revives old '60s & '70s British comic book characters, a lot of characters with distinct personalities

Cons: Art is highly stylized (like Phil Hester), premise might not actually work, Alan Moore plotted this story - he did not actually write or script it

Mike Tells It Straight: Moore plots and his daughter/son-in-law layout/script this attempt to revive actual silver age British heroes (owned by IPC Media).  It works as an alternative to traditional hero universes - what if all the heroes and villains were hidden and locked away from the public?  Had some spinoff series including Albion Origins, Thunderbolt Jaxon, and Battler Briton.  Not a bad series, but the covers by Gibbons are misleading as the interior art is not realistic (which would have been a big positive considering the alternative superhero nature of the story).  If you hadn't noticed, the revival didn't really work (mostly because of the pathetic state of pamphlet comics these days).  A decent series, not must-read material, and Moore's proteges didn't completely @#$% it up. 

TO BUY and Recommendations:

We3 Review

DC Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
104 pages
$12.99 (2005)
$24.99 (2011) Hardcover
ISBN 9781401204952

Contributors: Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, Jamie Grant, and Todd Klein

Reprints: We3 #1-3 (of 3)

Synopsis: Lost pets are transformed into deadly cybernetic killing machines for secret US military testing.  The most successful group of test subjects, dubbed "We3" are a trio of dog, cat, and rabbit.  Their cybernetic enhancements give them advanced cognitive abilities like limited speech and weapons to complement their natural traits - the cat has powerful claws, the rabbit "poops" pellet-like land mines, and the dog has a powerful tail pulse cannon.

Funded through off-the-books money by a senator up for reelection and meant to replace human combatants in warfare - We3 are decommissioned and Weapon 4 (a cybernetically enhanced bulldog) is green-lighted for mass production.  The scientist in charge of We3 is tasked with their disposal, but has grown attached to them and believes they deserve a better fate.  She allows their escape and the head scientists and US military must stop the powerful weapons before they enter a nearby densely populated city. 

Pros: Stunning art by Quitely, great writing/concept by Morrison, nominated for an Eisner award - best limited series

Cons: Ending is less believable/too nice, quick read

Mike Tells It Straight: This ain't no Homeward Bound because these animals can blow your face off. Morrison's story is well-balanced and has a good anti-cruelty to animals message.  Quitely raises the bar on his art with intricate action sequences meant to mimic pacing found in Japanese manga.  Overall a quirky, interesting read and very well done.  Not recommended for the kiddies due to the gory violence and despite the cute animal heads poking out of the cyberdeath machines.  Deluxe hardcover released this year (2011) with lots of extras.

UPDATE 8/17/2011

The We3 hardcover edition has been released with a ton of extras including:
  • Tons of sketches
  • Ten extra story pages
    • Background on Dr. Roseanne Berry's life including revelation of a recent loss in her life
    • Expanded fights scene with Weapon 4 (bulldog) vs. Weapon 3 (rabbit)
    • Dog and cat realize cybernetic devices are not part of them and take them off

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wisdom: Rudiments of Wisdom Review

Wisdom: Rudiments of Wisdom
Marvel Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
144 pages
$21.99 (2007)
ISBN 9780785121237

Contributors: Paul Cornell, Trevor Hairsine, Manuel Garcia, Mark Farmer, Paul Neary, Joe Caramagna, and Guru eFX

Reprints: Wisdom #1-6 (of 6)

Synopsis: Pete Wisdom (foul-mouthed mutant and former member of Excalibur ) leads a team of misfits for MI-13 dealing with any weird happenings in England.  He is a busy man because things get very weird.  The team includes:
  • Tink - a fairy dissident
  • John the Skrull - a Skrull who likes to impersonate John Lennon of the Beatles
  • Captain Midlands - an English version of Captain America
  • Maureen Raven - a clairsentient
They must deal with a faerie invasion from Avalon, sleeping giants, an ancient dragon in the guise of a petty thug, a plague of Jack-the-Rippers, and an extra-dimensional Martian invasion.  Guest stars Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu along with Captain Britain. 

Wisdom is the greatest architect of self-inflicted misery and his adventures must always end in tragedy.  Building a home at MI-13 and pulling together a team against considerable odds can he possibly break the cycle? 

Pros: Action-packed roller coaster ride, some good dialogue, decent art, Marvel MAX - its got mature themes (swearing, sexual situations), Cornell brings Killraven into main Marvel continuity

Cons: Apparently MAX means more swearing and violence, but no nudity!  No backstory given for any of the characters and events happen so quickly its easy to get lost, art switch from Hairsine to Garcia after two issues is noticeable (especially Wisdom - he's not consistently portrayed), Cornell needs a good editor to reign in his plots a bit

Mike Tells It Straight: Paul Cornell is known for his writing on BBC's Doctor Who television series.  His comic book writing is rough, playing fast-and-loose with plot details to emphasize widescreen action (a la Warren Ellis' The Authority) and shock moments. Marvel did two things right here - got a British writer to write British characters (although this causes some mild confusion for American readers) and put Pete Wisdom in a MAX format book.  Although Wisdom is not compelling or deep enough to carry a solo title he works well on a team, which this book essentially is.  This mini-series was a precursor to Captain Britain and MI-13 (after New Excalibur ended) continuing with writing by Paul Cornell.  Overall a slightly mediocre read due to the writing and art switch, but must-have for CB&MI-13 fans and still entertaining.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cla$$war Collected Edition Review

Cla$$war Collected Edition
210 pages
$24.99 (2009)
ISBN 9781607438168

Contributors: Rob Williams, Trevor Hairsine, Travel Foreman, Len O'Grady, Ed Deighton, and introduction by Andy Diggle & Craig Johnson

Reprints: Cla$$war #1-6 (of 6)

Synopsis: America developed a superhuman program after WWII with the help of a brilliant Nazi scientist and become the undisputed world superpower.  The government created the first superteam - Enola Gay, employing them to safeguard national interests across the world and domestically.  The team enjoys superstar status with all the trappings of fame - drug addiction, impropriety and mental illness. 

Their leader, The American is finally woken from blindly following orders by an ex-black ops agent Isaac, who shows him the truth behind what his country used him for over the years.  Declaring war on his corrupt government, he must now deal with his former teammates who lack the motivation to break their chains in the Cla$$war!

 Pros: Hardcover includes bonus intro story and lots of extras, nice concept and very dark

Cons: One more cynical superhero book with mediocre writing/art

Mike Tells It Straight: Cla$$war is an action-packed mini-series inspired by conspiracy theories and rendering a tainted view of government controlled superhumans.  It suffered from an inconsistent publishing schedule and creative switch with Hairsine drawing the first half and Foreman the latter.  The story was originally planned for a twelve issue run with this book collecting the first half. 

I must say the story is largely derivative of other works (Superman, The Authority, Miracleman), but it gives us a somewhat convincing take on what the government would actually do with its very own superteam - i.e. complete and utter evil!  I'll check out the final half of the series if they ever make it, but it seems highly unlikely unless Com.X suddenly makes money or a film gets produced.

TO BUY and Recommendations: