Tag Archives: image

Review: Manifest Destiny #16

md016Manifest Destiny has been one of the bigger surprises in comics in recent years, and mostly because of its underlying concept.  Comics tend towards a variety of different easily recognizable genres, but this series has mostly defied any single easy definition.  It is an apocryphal anachronistic historical horror that looks at the Lewis and Clark expedition in a completely different light, throwing in zombies, buffalo minotaurs, man eating frogs and a variety of other unconventional threats to the famous duo.  The series has succeeded because of this unconventional approach but underlying the entire experience is that of a complete lack of explanation as to why this happens other than the appearance of the arches.

The previous issues introduced the Fezrons, strange bird like humanoids that also speak English somehow.  The single Fezron was captured but then leads the expedition to a bigger collection of his kind, and they find them ready to eat the expedition’s scout.  A bargain is worked out as the humans agree to help the Fezrons in exchange for the return of their man, but they do so only after having the story of the Fezrons explained to them.  This kind of fits into earlier storytelling of comics, primarily the science fiction anthologies of the 1950s and 1960s when every alien species ever encountered was able to discuss with humans through some form of telepathy or some other convenient trick.  Something similar is alluded to here and perhaps finally giving some actual explanation as to why so much has changed in this version of history.

This series has survived thus far with its fair share of horror, which the crew has either had to fight off or occasionally even had some fun with.  Underlying the horror though was the question of how it was even possible, and with any series built around some underlying suspense or unanswered question, the resolution of that question will probably be the highlight of the series but also its inevitable downfall.  This is the first issue of the series which indicates that there is finally an answer coming to the question of these strange happenings, and true to form, it is of a better quality than previous issue, even if it might also signify the eventual end of the series.

Story: Chris Dingess Art: Matthew Roberts
Story: 8.6 Art: 8.6 Overall: 8.6 Recommendation: Buy

Image provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.  

Review: Morning Glories #47

mg047Although the initial concept for Morning Glories was one that seemed like it was an easy enough mystery, it was always designed to be one of a run of about 100 issues, and thus at issue #47, the series is approaching the halfway point (or might even be past it) but there are not really a lot more answers now than there ever have been before.  This series has always been a literary hydra, by answering one question another two questions come up in its place.  The series has nonetheless been roughly structured to give it some kind of sense, and this issue is evidently one that will be leading up to a bigger moment, although in itself it is not really shooting off in some strange direction.

The story here is pretty basic, as Ike is determined to help Casey win the election, and he has set up a dance party in order to build interest in her.  As opposed to some issues which focus on primarily one character, this issue focuses on a variety of them, including every member of the original team that is still at the school.  There are some allusions to what is happening elsewhere, but the main focus here is on Casey, the series’ protagonist, who now seems destined to win class president.  This is of course the moment that the readers have been waiting for, as it will potentially mean the freedom of Jade as well, though with this series it can be hard to tell what to expect.

The best part about this series is that it always manages to mix the absurd and the unknown with real human moments.  These are children under great duress as members of the Morning Glories Academy, but they are still ones that sneak out in the middle of the night for a party, and who get nervous when they have to ask the pretty girl to dance.  It is what has made this series a standout even when its plot is inexplicable.  The same is true here, as this issue does not really seem very important to the overall direction of the series, but provides the well-written characters a chance to interact with one another, a relative rarity in this series.  Something big seems to be just around the corner, but in the meantime this issue serves as one of the better intermediate issues thus far in this series.

Story: Nick Spencer Art: Joe Eisma
Story: 9.1 Art: 9.1 Overall: 9.1 Recommendation: Buy

Image provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review

Review: Lazarus #18

lazarus018aDuring the course of its run thus far, Lazarus has been a series of slow developments.  Part of this is a necessity, as a comic series it tells the story in a different way, but the course of world building has to take place at a different pace than what one would expect from a novel or a television show.  This makes the pace its own, but as the setting is dystopian, there is also the necessity to build upon concepts which are perhaps more easily identified in a novel format.  The story has focused on Forever Carlyle, the Lazarus for the family Carlyle, but it has also focused on other developments, specifically at the Denver lift, an event were people move from the discarded proletariat to something more in life.  The previous issue hinted at the first time that these sub-plots intertwined, and this issue promised more of the same.

In one location, Michael is introduced to the closest inner circle of the Carlyle family as he searches for a cure to the poison of the family patriarch.  In the other location, and the sub-plot with more of the attention, Forever works side by side with a squad of soldiers, one of whom includes Casey, who unexpectedly also made the lift in Denver.  The story unfolds separately but also together through its previous connections as Forever slowly makes her way through various enemy positions in the stronghold of Duluth.

As part of the ongoing story in this series it is hard to gauge one issue of the series against each other.  It can easily be said though that this issue at least matches what has come before, while slightly shifting the outlook of the series, as has been implied throughout.  At some point Forever will become aware of the lies which are kept from her, but until that point it will be a sequence of slow developments to put all the pieces in the right place.  This issue does that well enough, and manages to find a few ways to shock at the same time.  Fans of the series will not be disappointed, and this issue might be a sign to those who aren’t that they maybe should be.

Story: Greg Rucka Art: Michael Lark
Story: 8.7 Art: 8.7 Overall: 8.7 Recommendation: Buy

Image provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.  

Review: Bloodstrike #1

bloodstrikeThough it defies conventional thinking, there are two Rob Liefelds.  One is a relatively talented comic book creator that can put a decent comic together, both in terms of story and art, and the other is the comic book version of Michael Bay, relying on violence and sex to sell stories.  In terms of what he can accomplish he tends to be all over the place, although he has perhaps been best known for his work on superheroes, some of whom he has supposedly “destroyed” and others for whom he provided a decent run on. Blood strike represented something different, as it was his own creation in its own universe, and thus was under his complete control.

It tells the story of a super assassin who has kind of run out luck.  In fact that is an understatement, as it gives the reader one of the strangest introduction to a character in comic history, as he is restrained, chained to a wall, after he has been cut in two.  It is a strange image, but effective in a sense because of its over-the-top nature.  In terms of being over-the-top though, the issue fails.  Doing over-the-top stuff in comics can be fun for a few panels but Liefeld seems to be going at this with the water hose method of restraint.  There are two separate panels here featuring penises (though somewhat in context) and thirteen decapitations.  It makes for both an exciting story from an action standpoint, though also gory, but it also causes that it is harder to take seriously as the actions that led up to the assassin being hanging from a wall are described.

Unfortunately for this first issue, the story and the art get the Rob Liefeld that causes people to roll their eyes, not the one that causes people to be impressed.  It is too bad, because from a contextual point the story is there, and so is the artistic design.  It just seems as though he did not know where to draw the line, and with less creative control as he has often had under the big two publishers, that he went too far with his own concept.  This therefore comes off as more Michael Bay-like than anything, and it is a failed attempt.  It could have been good, but too much of too much makes it fail.

Story and Art: Rob Liefeld
Story: 4.0 Art: 8.0  Overall: 4.0  Recommendation: Pass

Image Reinvents the Mississippi

When one thinks of the Mississippi River it is evocative of many things.  Some will think of the cities along the river which have given rise to so much southern culture.  Other will think of the passage of the river through vasts tracts of wilderness and farmland, given rise to much of the nation’s green space.  Others still will think of the same passage as that of the route of trade, a superhighway on the water which bisected the interior of the country long before there were railway lines or motor cars.  Others still might think back to its early days and its association with the frontier legends and myths which came to dominate American culture.

What often doesn’t happen to the Mississippi though is that it is used as the setting for stories or fiction.  It is true that there are lots of stories that use the Mississippi River as a backdrop in the cities in which they transpire, but the river itself is mostly ignored when it comes to fiction, save for the works of Mark Twain.  The massive river often just exists as what it is, a body of water that is always moving but not often changing.

miss002In terms of its treatment in fiction, little has changed, except indirectly Image Comics might be challenging that in a small way.  It is hard to say that Image is making a conscious decision to challenge the nature of this river, for Image as a comic company has effectively no control over the creative decisions of its series.  Rather the company puts comics into wide release which are of a certain quality which might otherwise be hard for most comic fans to find.  Nonetheless at the moment the Mississippi does factor into two separate Image series, and neither of them are in the slightest way related.

The river serves as the Eastern boundary of the Carlyle clan in Lazarus.  In this future dystopian series, a series of families have taken over control of the world in place of the former states.  It has returned the people of Earth to a system of semi-feudalism, and where individuals running corporations run large, it can be expected equally that the environment is degraded in unacceptable ways.  As the border between two families, the river is maintained by neither of them and is instead a black moving cesspool, which is swum across at one point by one of the characters, even though the thought of doing so disgusts him.

miss001The other Image series dealing with the river is one which puts it in the spotlight almost all the time.  Although it is often not identified specifically as such, the river forms the route by which Lewis and Clark lead their men after the Louisiana Purchase.  This series is very much different from what we know from the history books, rather it is a fantasy/horror retelling of the adventures of the two American heroes.  Instead of charting the wilderness of the United States, they are forced to fight off against giant mosquitoes, plants that turn people in zombies, buffalo-minotaurs and various other creatures.  It thus becomes not a story of discovery but rather one of survival as the team members die one by one, succumbing to the inexplicable threats.

The Mississippi is a piece of Americana, and as the world’s fourth longest river, it does serve as an emblem of what is so large and vast about the American interior.  Equally though, the river is often untouched when it comes to fiction, more often than not simply reduced to the idyllic slice of life from the time of Mark Twain.  Authors often ply their craft simply be reimagining that which is a symbol, and in the case of the two Image series, they are at least challenging what we think about this great river.

Review: Morning Glories #46

mg046One can never really know what to expect from this series, and this issue is evident of that.  Thus far the series although full of the unexplained has generally followed a fairly basic pattern, that of a few issues of surprises and mysteries followed by an issue which jumps the plot forward with a new major revelation.  In terms of this formula though, the series has been a little off in the past few issue, with no major jumping forward point, and those heading into this issue looking for such a moment will be disappointed, even if there is nothing to be disappointed with for the series as a whole.

While previous issue have focused more or less individually on Casey, Jade and Ike, this one focuses on who has mostly been a secondary character, Irina.  The usual out of sequence story telling occurs here with older Casey as Irina’s escort to the training compound, even when this occurred in the past of the present narrative (a previous issue focused on Casey’s transformation into her future/past self).  Irina is shown as ruthless but also no-nonsense as she is shown to be more pragmatic when dealing with this scenario than most others.  It is through this pragmatism that a few revelations are made on the fly, though there is not much to hold them together at the moment as to their overall meaning.

Once again this series manages to warp the minds of the readers by giving them more to think about and to ponder while also trying to keep the intricate story straight.  There is always something more going on with the stories dealing the academy, and while the focus here is mainly away from the academy, it is likely to have a direct effect on it in the immediate future.  The most obvious plot point which everyone want to see resolved is the one with Casey running for class president so that she can save Jade, but the creative team seems happy to get to that when they feel they are ready.  Until then the series continues to both astound and confuse, and maintains the interest that many have in the series.

Story: Nick Spencer Art: Joe Eisma
Story: 8.7 Art: 8.7 Overall: 8.7 Recommendation: Buy

Image provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review

Review: Red One #2

redone002This comic is noteworthy, not for the story itself, but surprisingly for the discussion in the letter column.  The story itself is interesting enough, carrying on the story of the previously introduced Soviet super-soldier masquerading as an all-American girl, but the description in the letter column is even more interesting.  After this second issue, the creative team aims to leave the series for a year, in the European style of comic producing as they say, and to collect each sequence of yearly two issues together into one trade paperback.  It is an interesting approach, though not one that would seem to be as successful in the saturated comic book market in the United States.  In terms of storytelling it also leaves some unresolved questions.

The series as before focuses on Red One as she is after the Carpenter, a megalomaniacal religious nut who is waging war on those in California who he deems to be impure due to their lifestyle choices (he mostly leads attacks against homosexuals in this issue.)  While this is an incendiary enough point for American life, both for this setting in the 1970s as well as for modern life, it also tends to not ever really make a point in relation to this villian, other than to highlight that such behavious is bad.  Equally, the series teeters on making some kind of commentary about the porn industry, either pro- or anti-, but this too mostly comes off as shooting the center without making its mind where it stands on the issue.  The overall effect is one of stereotypical caricatures.

Despite these drawbacks, the issue still manages to succeed to a degree, and in large part thanks to its main character.  While the creative team vaccillates a little in its overall message, the main character is written in a way to look past those defects, as she is an approachable character even despite her talents.  The series lacks a fcous, both in its message and (according to the letter col) in its delivery, but at the very least the creative team has managed in two issues to introduce a character that has a lot of potential for other stories to be told.

Story: Xavier Dorison Art: Terry Dodson
Story: 8.1  Art: 8.1  Overall: 8.1 Recommendation: Read

Image provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review

Review: Morning Glories #45

mg045Morning Glories is one of the most intricate and mysterious comic titles available on the current market.  Over the course of its run thus far it has focused on a group of high school students with unidentified powers, all of whom have been isolated at one equally mysterious private school.  The overall narrative has focused on various philopsphical questions (like divinity) or abstract scientific principles (like time travel), all the while still mixing in aspects of high school life.  Previous issues in this series have focused more on the latter, or at least in the context of this series.  Casey has been running for class president, and while there has been more going on than that, it is still relatively mundane compared to what else has been covered in this series.

For those that have been waiting for something different, and for what makes this series stand out, they need to look no farther than the cover, one of the most evocative so far in the series.  While this issue does focus a bit on the high school politics aspect of the series for a few pages, it also focuses in on one of the series two standout characters, Jade.  Although she is somewhat relegated by Casey’s popularity, Jade is a complex character whose past is a necessity to discover if there is to be some resolution to this series.  It has been previously noted that Jade can somehow revive people from the dead, and that is what most of this issue focuses around, both from a mystical and from a philosophical standpoint.

This issue ends thus ends up being one of the better ones in the recent run of the series.  While most issues are enticing enough, they also form a greater narrative and thus read better together than separately.  This issue has the benefit of focusing on two of the series stronger points, the more esoteric explanations for the academy as well as one the academy’s more interesting characters, Jade.  While this issue still fits within the overall concept and design of the series, its individual focus results in a better overall read than the few issues that have come before.  As always it is hard to recommend one issue of this series over another as they feed into one another, but this issue does seem to be getting back to the meat of the series.

Story: Nick Spencer Art: Joe Eisma
Story: 9.1 Art: 9.1 Overall: 9.1 Recommendation: Buy

Image provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review

Review: Morning Glories #44

MorningGlories_44-1Morning Glories has much in common with some of the more mind-bending ongoing stories in popular fiction, and this issue encapsulates one of those trends.  Although the previous issues have turned the focus back to Casey and her group of colleagues as she attempts to be voted in as student president, this issue ignores her altogether and focuses on Dr. Richmond and her maternal role in bringing up Vanessa.  The change is a bit of a disappointment in terms of the telling of the binding narrative, but it also functions well to add in some more depth to the occurrences within the academy.

The two aren’t biologically mother and daughter, and her role is one of support to Abraham, who aims to take down the Morning Glories Academy by some unmentioned plot.  This issue is mostly devoid of immediate clues which will reveal what is going to happen, instead giving some background into some of the characters.  At the same time there are nice references here, specifically to a Wrinkle in Time, a book which could be easily linked to the happenings at the Morning Glories Academy.  By the end of this issue it is possible to see where the developments might lead, but for now this serves more as a snapshot of the connection between two characters

As always with this series it is hard to judge the individual issue.  Some are a bit more engaging but have fewer answers, and some are more sedate but contain more clues.  If there is any problem at all with this issue it is that it serves as a distraction to the developments of the previous issue which are likely to be resolved soon enough (as it fits the pattern for the trade paperbacks).  This issue is nonetheless an important one, as are they all, to unlocking the truth behind the Morning Glories Academy, and as with all of the others, would fit better in the overall tapestry of the series, once all of the secrets are revealed.

Story: Nick Spencer Art: Joe Eisma
Story: 8.4 Art: 8.4 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy

Image provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review

Review: Red One #1

redone-carThe medium of comics have found some fertile ground in the golden age of Hollywood.  These stories are told in a crime noir format, but also take a chance to look at Hollywood as a microcosm of society (including modern society) for a time and place that were different but not very different.  Thus series such as The Fade Out and Satellite Same have become critical successes.  While there is something nostalgic about this period, it also begs the question why other periods might not have received any attention.  With Red One, this change of focus finally takes place, across a significant change in this setting, away from crime noir and into the realm of superheroes.

The action instead focuses on the 1970s and the golden age of cinema has been replaced by the age of pornography in the era of Linda Lovelace.  The porn stars act as the destroyers of society, and the opposition to them is just as strong as it is in other sources.  While this acts as an interesting concept for a comic, this series goes a long way further.  Someone is murdering the porn stars, and furthermore this vigilante is being hailed as a hero, or even a superhero.  In a bit of an illogical non sequitur plot a Soviet super assassin, who also happens to be female, is to be sent to the USA to battle the menace that is killing the porn stars in the name of protecting American society.

If it sounds to be a bizarre premise it’s because it is, and while it seems like it wouldn’t work, it strangely works pretty fluidly.  It is the super soldier program that birthed the Black Widow combined with Boogie Night wrapped in a costume that looks like a female Evil Knievel.  The issue takes most of its content to set up the complex story, but once it gets there it starts to run smoothly, specifically in its meta-take on the superhero genre, referencing Batman and Superman in their role in the American psyche.  The concept is maybe far fetched, but the story doesn’t attempt to cover this up but rather revels in it.  Those that look a little deeper while simultaneously removing their logic cap will probably find a worthy read here.

Story: Xavier Dorison Art: Terry Dodson
Story: 8.6  Art: 8.6  Overall: 8.6 Recommendation: Buy

Image provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review

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