Author Archives: Patrick Healy

Review: The Walking Dead: Alien

twd_thealien_bigFresh and fast-paced, The Walking Dead: The Alien books captures all the excitement of The Walking Dead.

If the slowing, shuffling pacing of The Walking Dead’s narrative has begun to make you feel a bit like a walker yourself, Alien is a chance to revisit what it felt like to start reading the series. Of course, the greatest horror is that it’s only one issue. But, still, it’s an issue written by Brian K. Vaughan.

Taking place near the beginning of the outbreak, the story follows Jeff as he tries to survive Barcelona. After being rescued by the armored Claudia, the two begin to decide what the next course of action should be.

The absolute best aspect of this book is the way it puts zombies back at the forefront of the threats our characters face. It’s not bogged down with trade agreements, or putting on a fair. It takes the premise readers all know and love and puts it a new scenario with characters we don’t absolutely know are going to survive.

Obviously a great deal of credit has to be given to Robert Kirkman for everything he’s done with these stories for the past 13+ years. However it is such a breath of fresh air to see the story through the eyes of a new creative team. The reader races through the story in anticipation, eager to recapture the sense of not knowing what would happen next. As the story is a one-shot, I won’t tell you, either.

To make it all the sweeter, you can buy the book right now from PanelSyndicate. You pay whatever you want. You can even send Brian K. Vaughan and  artist Marcos Martin a note before checkout, if you like. So if you’re a Walking Dead fan, click the link above and treat yourself. It might even wash out the taste of the season finale.

Once you read it, let us know what you think either in the comment section below or on Twitter!

Story: Brian K. Vaughan Art: Marcos Martin
Story: 8 Art: 8 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

Review: B.E.K: Black Eyed Kids #1

STL000944This issue sets out to establish tone more than anything else. Focusing on a young sleepwalking boy named Michael, the story also encompasses locals noticing the appearance of black-eyed kids (yes, even if it’s in the title, I still have to say it) as they make their presence known in the community.

Mostly just by walking around being black-eyed kids.

This book is #1.99. In an era of rising prices, with DC and Marvel hitting the $4.99 mark, $1.99 is a big deal. So, here’s the $1.99 review: This book is a fast read that delivers on its creepy-kid concept. It’s dark and doesn’t shy away from violence. Hopefully once the story builds, this horror concept will make this a gripping book. For $1.99, it is well worth the investment and the fun.

Here’s the review without any consideration of price: The book is called Black Eyed Kids and it delivers that and only that. Who are the black eyed kids? They’re… the kids with black eyes. What do they want? I… I don’t know. Who’s Michael? Well, he’s the main character, I guess, which is to say he’s the only character who has his name said more than once. He sleeps walks and has a sister and neither of those statements are always true.

So, the problem is, if you aren’t holding that book in your hand aware of what an amazing deal you got it… if you’re one of those people who grabs a stack of books and pays for them without knowing what each one cost… you’re going to feel gypped. This book fails to go much further than its pitch. Actually, it doesn’t get that far because a pitch usually has a twist or a plot summary. This is somebody saying, “I read a creepy pasta about kids with black eyes and I think I know someone who could draw that.”

That sounds super cynical. Maybe it is. When I started buying comics they were a dollar. If Magneto bloviated through most of the issue, it didn’t matter, it was drawn by Jim Lee and I’d only spent a dollar. If the artist broke his hand halfway through but kept drawing, it didn’t matter because it was only a dollar. If it was ridiculous that Batman was fighting a guy with marionette, it didn’t matter because it was a dollar. The era of rising prices means we get to demand more from comic books. Marvel and DC see it as a way to cover their losses, not an obligation to match their quality to their price.

It’s not a bad thing to say B.E.K.: Black Eyed Kids #1 is $1.99 and worth every penny. It’s a good thing. We’re supposed to be able to pick up a bunch of comics for $20 and go home and enjoy them, not four books for $20 that “pave the way” to a tie-in to a movie based on a story I’ve already spent $50 on!

Sorry… Back on topic.

Pick this book up and enjoy it. It’s only $1.99!

Disagree? Thing I’m old because of what comics used to cost? Care to tell me how much they were when you started buying? Tell me in the comments or on Twitter.

Story: Guy Major Art: Marshal Dillon
Story: 5 Art: 7 Overall: 6 Recommendation: Buy (Seriously, just do it!)

Aftershock Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Dept. H #1

STL001111This is the story of Mia as she is sent down to the undersea science facility known as “Dept. H” to investigate the murder of her father. The title is very clever. Stop reading there.

First, let’s start by saying that the art is amazing. The textures of the paper, the faded tones of the watercolor, it all gives this book a delightfully vintage look and that makes it fun to flip through. It is a wonderful demonstration of the Matt & Sharlene Kindt team. If only one thing could be said about this book, it’s that it is a visual work of art and enough truth would be in that statement to let it go.

However, if a second consideration was required, it would be hard to look away from how this story feels forced. Half the book consists of Mia visiting men who tell her she shouldn’t go down to Dept. H only for her to dryly assert that she will, in fact, go down there. It feels like a dry reading of a script that the actor’s aren’t really excited to be a part of. Considering the book begins with Mia going down there, and these scenes are all in the past, they serve only to slow the story from taking off.

“But isn’t exciting to see a truly gifted investigator solve a case that effects them so personally?” you ask. Yeah, maybe. And if Mia were the Sherlock Holmes of undersea facilities, that might take you somewhere. However, it’s stated that the real reason for sending her down there is that it is personal for her. It’s almost as if to say, “Yeah, we have a really good private investigator, law enforcement should go down there and ask some questions and God knows our insurance company would typically send a team of people down there to ascertain liability… but it turns out nobody really cares so we’re just sending his daughter. You’re free, right?”

After that, Mia meets the crew, she goes alone to investigate the crime scene because no one cares enough personally or professionally to go with her to see their dead co-worker floating around their workplace, and then she comes back and we meet the crew again. The saddest part is the revelation that her father was apparently Steve Zissou from The Life Aquatic.

Now, this may sound like nitpicking. However, this is a main character who doesn’t stand out on her own and must shoehorn in supporting characters from her personal life in an attempt to try to make her accessible rather than interacting with the crew who will be the book’s suspects. It’s like offering personal references on a resume. Sure, they may give some fantastic insight in to who you are, but no one really knows them and we’ll probably never hear from them again.

All in all, this a great book to flip through, to encourage an aspiring artist. If you are looking for plot or character development, this book has little depth.

Disagree? Hate that last pun? Tell me in the comments below or on Twitter.

Story & Art: Matt Kindt Art: Sharlene Kindt
Story: 4 Art 8: Overall: 6 Recommendation: Pass

Dark Horse provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Fight Club 2 #10, a Non-Spoiler Review

Fight Club 2 #10Fight Club 2 comes to an end this issue. Like a truly talented escape artist, the interest was not in how Chuck Palahniuk would escape the death-trap he had placed himself in last issue but rather in being there to witness his spectacular and gruesome death.

And, like a truly talented escape artist, he somehow managed to pull it off.

Years of stale marriage between Marla Singer and Sebastian led to the return of Sebastian’s alter-ego, social-terrorist Tyler Durden. Tyler kidnapped their son, demonstrating his ability to transcend the bounds of his old host and live immortal as an idea. Sebastian and Marla each pursued their own leads to track down and save their son from the growing threat of Rize or Die, Tyler’s own private army. Though they each reached their son, they failed to stop Tyler’s plan to destroy the world in order to grow a new one.

After the last issue, there was a sense of anger and betrayal that accused Palahniuk of self-indulgence. In the final pages, the writer began communicating directly with Sebastian in order to save the day. That filthy term “deus ex machina” may have been used once or twice. In fact, the climax to the story felt like a great disappointment considering the caliber of the story until that point.

Reading issue ten was like sitting on the couch until sunrise, knowing your roommate went out, got drunk, wrecked your car and had sex with your girlfriend. It was like drinking cup after cup of increasingly stale coffee to see what he would have to say for himself when he walked in the door confused and embarrassed.

It was like having your roommate walk in clear-headed and calm and explain to you exactly what he had one.

Then you sit there, take one more sip and say, “Okay… I get that.”

Last month, I told people to pass on issue #9. There really seemed to be no explanation to redeem the frustration I felt having read the climax after all my eager anticipation. This pre-release review, this spoiler-absent review, is intended to assure you that if you did pass on issue #9 and do not plan to buy #10, you should make amends now.

Fight Club 2 #10 does not expunge what happened last issue. In fact, it further breaks from traditional storytelling, especially within the comic medium. However, it’s direction is challenging precisely in the way a real story should be challenging. It is an organic and authentic progression that makes clear the disappointment and frustration that came in the last issue was just the death pangs of leaving behind the confines the story still lived in. It has become, like Tyler, something more.

Need more convincing? Ask in the comments or on Twitter and I will assure you.

Story: Chuck Palahniuk Art: Cameron Stewart
Story: 9 Art: 8 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

Dark Horse Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: International Iron Man #1

Patrick HealyWith Brian Michael Bendis doing what the does best, creating natural and engaging dialogue and another beautiful reunion with artist, Alex Maleev, International Iron Man #1 starts right.

Before whatever total chaos is going on in the Marvel Universe these days, Tony Stark was a student abroad. As you might imagine, he spent more time trying to learn about women than he did the subjects at hand (or, at least, that’s what the narrative would have you believe). If I were to tell you much more than he meets one whom he finds to be particularly interesting, I’d spoil the story. Fortunately, this issue is not really story-heavy.

Anytime you see the names Bendis and Maleev appear on the same cover, it’s natural to hope the book will recapture the mature themes, dark tones and refreshing character portrayals that characterized their Daredevil run. While their work on Moon Knight lent itself more to confusion and Scarlett a bit more monologuing like a third-act villain, this book seems primed to recapture their golden era.

The charm of Bendis’s dialogue with its fast-paced back-and-forth is what makes his comics fun even when his characters are just living their normal lives. It allows the reader to become invested in the tone and setting rather than quickly bore them as often happens when a writer chooses to lead with establishment and introduction. It also makes the book more accessible to people who may not know the character and would have a difficult time jumping on otherwise.

Alex Maleev’s work is always interesting and perfectly matched to a story compelled by intrigue and the human experience. He has shed some of the grit of his previous work for a cleaner look, one more suitable to the life of a playboy rather than the grunge of Hell’s Kitchen. Paul Mounts colors go a long way to capturing the beauty of the world, off-setting Maleev’s love of ink with vivid gradients and lovely hues. Mounts’ work truly bring the pages to life.

Again, this issue is almost entirely backstory so there’s not a lot of room to review plot or even conflict, but given the quality of what’s on the pages and the reputation of the creative team, this book is perfectly executed and is highly recommended.

Feel like I missed something? Still upset about what I said about Negan from the Walking Dead? Tell me in the comments below or on Twitter!

Story: Brian Michael Bendis Art: Alex Maleev
Story (well, script): 8 Art: 8 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

The Walking Dead: Who’s Afraid of Negan?

5-things-we-ve-learned-from-the-walking-dead-episode-6-13-the-same-boat-889507Negan’s arrival in The Walking Dead promises to renew the sense of horror the story inspired, while casting aside the goofy “I am Spartacus” element introduced in this week’s episode. The problem is, I no longer think Negan is the bad guy.

For years I have feared and desperately yearned for the arrival of Negan in the television show. The day issue #100 of the series came out, showcasing his arrival, is still an acutely painful memory. I was sitting in line for a panel at the San Diego Comic Con, surrounded by other convention-goers. It was the only book I had bought yet. As I closed it, having witnessed Negan’s brutality, his amusement at his own sadism, his detachment from characters I had grown to love and long invested in, I was sick to my stomach. Somehow, in that crowd of excitement and joy, I suddenly felt very much alone.

Robert Kirkman had created a villain to rival his previous masterpiece of horror, The Governor. It didn’t seem possible. After all, I read the stories pitting Rick, Michonne and the survivors against The Governor and Woodbury in a constant state of anxiety. In fact, I was reading the book in a public laundromat. Just as The Governor arrived at the prison with a tank and a small army, someone dropped their detergent and I nearly screamed. That was the fear The Governor inspired in me. Yet the show came along and sought to humanize him, lessen him for the AMC audience. Don’t tell me AMC could have ever made a Governor as horrific as the one who lived in the comic books. I don’t care how “intense” you thought Breaking Bad was. I’ll never forget what he did to Michonne. But I’ll admit to being tremendously disappointed by the pathetic figure AMC’s Governor turned out to be. So, I waited for years for Negan to bring the tension and anxiety that used to characterize The Walking Dead.

Now, here we are, soon to have Negan enter our lives again, and my fear is not the havoc that he will wreak, but the disappointment he will bring.

Commence spoilers for those who are not caught up.

The mid-season arrival of Negan’s men, the leather-clad biker gang, was a promising start. They had our beloved Daryl, our take-her-or-leave-her Sasha and our dialogue-written-by-a-drunken-ten-year-old Abraham. They were outnumbered, outgunned, things were going to go poorly for our survivors. But there was no point in complaining. After all, that’s the path that leads to good fiction, people you love in circumstances you hate. Accept, wait… Daryl toggled through his weapons cache and used a rocket launcher to cleanly kill them all without hurting Abraham or Sasha in the explosion, burning them in the subsequent flames or giving any thought to the motorcycles shrapnel that follows blowing up a motorcycle gang. So, huh… well, I guess those guys weren’t that scary.

After meeting Jesus, (who I’m convinced is just three raccoons in a person-suit) and Gregory on the Hilltop, Negan made another off-screen appearance by way of the carnage he spreads. Inciting others to violence by holding their loved ones hostage, we may not have yet met Negan, but we could tell he was the worst of the worst. After all, he was taking half of everything the Hilltop had and even tried to have Gregory killed. But, wait… Maggie just casually leveraged the same deal with payment up front to kill Negan, a deal which, on paper seems to mean they’ll kill one guy. In Maggie’s mind and the mind of the survivors meant killing a whole group of people in their sleep. So, the same deal plus mass pre-emptive murder.

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“If you ruin this for me, I will eat your face, Morgan.”

When Rick calls every character with a name into Alexandria’s church so he can bully them from the other side of a preacher’s pulpit, he’s too excited to kill another group of people to care about any dissent. After all, he’s been riding high since killing that group Daryl had been running with  in the woods, wiping out Terminus, turning Alexandria on its head (after all, the “ruling” family there was all dead for one reason or another shortly after his arrival and the people who had previously feared him openly now have to fear him very discreetly). So, man… the idea of new person to butt heads with, someone whose people he can kill one by one is probably very exciting to him. When Morgan expresses his concerns about leading the group to war, Rick says he’s going to talk to everyone about it so that they are all on the same page. When Aaron immediately expresses his support, Rick says, “Well, I guess we’re all decided then,” and somehow fights the urge to stick both his middle fingers in Morgan’s stupid, peace-loving eyes.

The group proceeds to seek out Negan’s establishment and with no more planning than drawing a map of a hallway with two rooms, proceed to quietly go through stabbing people in the head while they sleep. This came very easily to the group  though they clearly seemed to realize it was wrong. But they knew they had to do it. After all, Negan was running a protection racket and tried to have a guy killed. And any time someone pointed out, “Hey, aren’t we now running a protection racket on the very same group and killing a great many people?” they were probably met with a quiet “Shh-shh-ssshut up…” or a “Hey, watch how easily I can stick a knife in this person’s head. I think his skull is made of warm butter.”

At this point, two different people who have been terrorized by Negan have said, “Hey, you guys are worse than Negan.” First, Jesus points out to Maggie that they took their protection payment up front, something even Negan didn’t do, and certainly not after another group had just taken half their supplies. The statement is made again when Rick is trying to find a severed zombie head to present as Gregory’s. When it is said the head they settle on has a slightly different nose, Rick demonstrates having no knowledge at all that the zombie head in his hand has probably been dead for years and punching it repeatedly will not only not cause a bruised, misshaped effect but rather effectively pulverize it like a jack-o-lantern on Christmas Eve. Rick says if anyone asks, the logic should be that when they killed Gregory, he’d broken his assailant’s hand so Gregory’s nose was broken to settle the score. “Yeah, but Rick… we cut his head off. How much revenge do we need?”

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“How much revenge? All the revenge. I’m sorry, I don’t get the question but I like where it is headed.”

What the Hilltop resident actually says is “Negan is scary but you’re worse.”

At no point does anyone react with, “Wow, did you say I was worse than the person I’ve accepted payment to kill? Maybe I should stop and think about that because that was offensive.” Both times, it’s sort of burped off like, “Hey, don’t slow the scene with your moral compass, pal.”

So, all this could really be chalked up to an accurate or sometimes overzealous interpretation of the characters from the book. That changed, however, when Carol and Maggie were taken hostage. And this is the criticism that I know will probably bring me some scorn. Maggie and Carol are taken hostage by three women and one guy, and that was what really killed the momentum towards fighting a “villainous” Negan.

When I see a group of brutal men, I don’t just think, “these guys are physically intimidating”. I notice that there are no women among them. Immediately, I begin to think of them as misogynistic, probable rapists. They don’t integrate, which in mind means they probably consume in a moralistic sense, seeing women as another resource. Once I’ve decided someone is probably a rapist, I just assume they’re a cold-hearted murderer and, yes, that group comprised solely of men is more frightening to me than the integrated group. Negan, in the comic book, is terrifying, but he does have a pretty clear policy against raping women. Yet his men (again all men) are used to threaten to rape Carl in issue #100 (which Carl probably gets tired of hearing, seeing as it was the second time someone had brought it up). I don’t see an integrated group being so evil.

That point was further made with this week’s episode, as the three women in the group were all humanized in one way or the other, in their need to be strong, in their mourning for the lives they would never have. They were fierce and formidable, but the show also showed they were vulnerable. They were not the tyrants and pirates that comprised Negan’s forces in the comic book. They were not people to fear. They were simply another group, like Rick’s, who simply had the idea to run a protection racket first (or maybe concurrently, seeing as that’s essentially what Rick has been doing for Alexandria). After all, they had been attacked first. They could have killed both Maggie and Carol and it may have been frustrating as a viewer to see there was nothing to stop them, but you would not be able to hate them for it.

Even as I read issue #100, I thought to myself, “Negan killed one person… however viciously and called it even. Rick has been killing his men every chance he got. Negan may have broken my heart just now, but I guess it was darkly fair.”

Carol and Maggie got captured because while acting as the lookouts while their friends massacred a group of sleeping people. Maggie had to be held back from partaking in the mass homicide. The friends of the people they helped kill said, “You’re the bad guys,” and instead of hearing that very fair assessment, Maggie and Carol killed them anyway. Were their lives at risk? They did undo Carol’s gag when she was hyperventilating. They weren’t torturing or beating the woman and opposed the one person who wanted to get violent with them. In fact, there’s no reason to really think they could not have been returned safely to their group.

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“Man, this was so much funnier than escaping when we had the chance.”

But it was safer to kill them.

At this point, it’s hard to think of Negan as the villain. He might be a bad guy, but is he kill-twenty-people-in-their-sleep evil? Is he listen-to-a-woman-talk-about-her-dead-family-and-then-shove-a-pipe-through-her-because-she-wouldn’t-run-away evil? Has he ever humorously detonated a group of bikers with a rocket launcher that presumably been used previously by Wile E. Coyote? Probably not.

At this point, Negan seems more like the leader of another group surviving in a hard world. I don’t hate him, or fear him. Unless he showed up in my house and used Lucille to knock over my bookshelves, that probably won’t change. At this point, Rick and his group really seem like the reigning bad guys.

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to tell me in the comments below or on Twitter.

 

San Diego’s Day of Cosplay

Tiffany Caddell, aka Monday Mournings, Hawkeye Kate Bishop cosplay

Monday Mournings as Hawkeye Kate Bishop

“What are you supposed to be?”

For kids, it’s a question you hear once a year on Halloween. For kids that grow up to be cosplayers, you hear it a little more commonly.

“I’m Kate Bishop,” one cosplayer explained, paradoxically to a small child. “I’m Hawkeye. The female Hawkeye, I guess.” The child grimaced like she’d seen someone tell her that previously before trying to sell her a time share and turned back to her laughing father. “I don’t really know how to respond to that,” Monday Mournings said to herself as she turned to keep walking.

Mournings is a personal trainer based out of San Diego. This was her first cosplay event outside of convention appearances.

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Nova Bloom’s pink and purple Mandalorian

It began with a Facebook invite to meet in San Diego’s Balboa Park. The event had been organized by Meredith Grace James and Stephanie Storm. The event garnered the interest of more than a thousand people online, a little more than two hundred who confirmed they’d be there, maybe fewer than a hundred who actually showed up.

Balboa Park on a Saturday morning is hardly a scantly populated location. Cosplayers had to, in some cases, park in adjacent neighborhoods and walk the distance to the Organ Pavilion or the Hall of Champions. Nova Bloom had to park in the neighboring Hillcrest, walk to the event, then return to change from his Boba Fett variation to his Stormtrooper before traversing the distance once more. Of course, walking isn’t the hard part. Turning heads, watching people nervously sneak pictures and avoid you on the sidewalk is the hard part.

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Rae Niks as Supergirl

Or maybe that’s the charm.

Of course, not everyone took the approach of being a hardened bounty hunter or cult-favorite archer. Cosplayer Rae Niks found herself to be a bit more approachable. As Supergirl, she was not only well received by the cameramen but the crowds of people who readily recognized her, and as a result seemed to find her to be a bit less menacing. “I also do Captain America,” she offered up. “I’ve got a vintage look and his Winter Solider costume. I do Lady Odin. I did Doctor Grant from Jurassic Park not that long ago.”

Cosplayer Kaylianna Reeves was easily recognized as Ms. Marvel, while others took more inventive approaches like the steampunk Bishop.

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Kayliana Reeves as Ms. Marvel

“It’s so nice to see so many people who are already friends,” Mournings said. “I like that these people know each other through this, that they can rely on each other to come together for an event like this. I want to start making more friends like that.”

“Hey, can I get your picture?” a young man shouted.

“Sure,” Mournings as Kate Bishop posed for a shot on his phone, a dramatic perspective as she stood a few feet above him. After a few flashes he began to walk away. “Do you mind hashtagging ‘Hawkeye’ when you post that?” She called to him.

“Yeah, watch me do that,” he said without looking back.

Patrick Healy and Monday Mournings as Hawkeye

Monday Mournings and Patrick Healy as Hawkeye

Mournings watched him as he passed through a gathering wedding party that had booked the Organ Pavilion for that time. Suddenly, the group of anime and comic book characters was intermingling with a group of bridesmaids whose gowns flattered her Hawkeye outfit. She smiled and waved, they met her gaze but seemed less amused by the timing.

“Oh, well…” she said. “I’m really just doing this for the fun, anyway.”

For more questions about the event, reach out via the comments below or via Twitter.

I’d also like to thank Tiffany Caddell, DB Pixels, Aldrin Gabriel, Patrick Patton and Commandercait for their participation.

 

Review: Paknadel & Trakhanov’s Turncoat #1 (of 4)

TURNCOATPaknadel & Trakhanov’s Turncoat is an example of the dangers of mixed-genre, a story somewhat driven by its own clichés but in a manner that it is not at all certain where those clichés belong. However, it is entirely possible that some of this confusion could be undone with a different writer/artist pairing.

Marta Gonzalez fought in the war between Earth and the alien-insect presence known as the Management. Pushing back against their occupation, Marta betrayed Management and mankind repelled their forces. However, humanity felt her contribution was more based in her need to be on the winning side, so neither the human resistance or Management see her as anything but a traitor. With the war ten years over, Marta is now a private investigator seeking a missing child, one she believes may be a hybrid between humans and Management.

This is a great example of a story that stubs its toe right out the gate. It’s exposition-heavy, leading with the end of the war. Yet it’s exposition is not entirely clear. The reader understands there was a war, but with whom is entirely uncertain. Though everything seems whimsical or sci-fi, i.e. floating castles (or maybe they were space ships) and the human-alien integration (or maybe they were all human and some of them just look extremely different than the others), you’re never really sure what you’re supposed to be taking in. Artist and co-creator Artyom Trakhanov is one of the most enjoyable talents working today. His work is imaginative and wildly colorful. However, his style with this part-Blade Runner, part-Maltese Falcon story only adds to the disorientation. It seems everything would have been better served starting the story with Marta receiving the case, hinting at her backstory and saving the scenes from the war for later issues when everything else is firmly in motion.

In fact, the art and the script almost seem to be in violent competition with each other. Trakhanov’s inks and colors want to tell a bold fantasy while writer and co-creater Alex Paknadel’s script wants to tell a hard-boiled detective story. Down to lines like “This stinks like motel bed sheets and you know it”, Marta and her narration desperately want to be in a very different kind of story than the one we find them in. If the art matched, it would be much easier to take in the clues being presented to the reader. As it stands, it was hard to tell if the reader was being offered clues or just tremendously stylized visuals.

Let’s take a moment to give Artyom Trakhanov his due, though. Anyone looking to expand their mind beyond the normal, paint-by-numbers approach of many books, should seek out his work here or in Image’s Undertow. He is a brilliant, inspiring talent and every page he offers rewards reflection and consideration. Everyone would benefit with a bit more of dynamic, chromatic storytelling.

The art and story simply trip over each other rather than building one and other.

Story: Alex Paknadel Art: Artyom Traknhanov
Story: 5 Art: 8 Overall: 6
Recommendation: Pass (unless you simply want to bask in the glory of the art)

BOOM! Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Spider-Man #2

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Miles Morales, the new Spider-Man, is the best example of what classic Spider-Man should be. Grounded in real-world dilemmas while still humbled by the other heroes of the world, he’s the boy trying to be a man that had been Peter Parker’s backbone for so many years.

Miles Morales, aka Spider-Man, continues to find his way through his new world. After stepping in to save The Avengers from the demon Blackheart last issue, he wins a little one-on-one time with his hero, Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man. As Blackheart continues to make fumbled attempts at world domination, Morales and Parker revisit the subject of a world containing two Spider-Mans, with young Morales desperately hoping to receive Parker’s approval.

Writer Brian Michael Bendis once again proves to be the voice of any Spider-Man. While breathing the innocence and fun that made Spider-Man so endearing into Morales, he also effectively distances Peter Parker from that same role. That’s not to say Peter Parker is less Spider-Man than before in this issue, only that Parker is now bordering on the unlikeable, showing up to chastise Morales about the financial consequences of his actions. Parker’s transformation into Tony Stark is complete and Miles Morales is in heart and spirit the Spider-Man we all fell in love with.

What’s best in this issue is Miles’ reaction to internet fanfare about a the new “black Spider-Man”. Rather than Marvel or Bendis being self-congratulatory about their racial and gender diversity in recent years, they allow Miles to make the excellent point that qualifying a person first by their race is not the point of equality. If you call Miles Morales the “black Spider-Man” or Sam Wilson the “black Captain America”, the entire point of appreciating someone for their inner-worth or contribution is missed. He also addresses racial simplification, another sign of people missing the point of diversity. Though Miles is half Hispanic, he is often labeled “black”. It was such an enriching moment for the character to distance himself from a self-congratulatory culture of faux-acceptance and remind readers that the point of his character should not be tokenism but rather demonstrate the potential of all people, regardless of their racial background.

Though this social commentary stands out strongly, Bendis is really returning to some of his glory days with this title. For a long time, the fact that he seemed to be writing half Marvel’s catalog on top of his other projects was diluting the quality of his work. The sharp dialogue that had always been his calling-card began to feel contrived and his stories began to fall more towards cliché. Whether as writer he’s returning to his former glory or simply rejuvenated by a character he is deeply connected with is unclear. Still, this book, in particular the cartoonish recollection of the previous conversation between Miles and Parker, offers great potential to give the reader the best Bendis has to offer.

Story: Brian Michael Bendis Art: Sara Pichelli
Story: 8 Art: 8 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Fight Club 2 #9

STK693418Fight Club 2 nears its conclusion, taking time for writer Chuck Palahniuk to join the readers in asking, “What happens next?”

After years of marriage, Marla Singer and Sebastian (the narrator of the previous story) have settled down and started a family. Following the return of Tyler Durden, Sebastian’s alter-ego, their boy is kidnapped in order to be Tyler’s new host. Attempting to rescue their boy from Rize or Die, Tyler’s militarized manifestation of Project Mayhem, the two parents set out separately. Now their own resources have brought them together again, facing down Tyler’s new host, Junior.

Does anyone remember the Daffy Duck cartoon, “The Scarlet Pumpernickel”? In it, Daffy Duck is pitching an idea about a swashbuckling hero who doesn’t know how to resolve the climax of his story. Instead, he continues to layer upon tension and story development until he himself is so overwhelmed by expectation he feels compelled to blow his brains out. Chuck Palahniuk plays that role in this story.

Fight Club was amazing story. Fight Club 2 has been amazing, as well. It has built the world of Sebastian and the character of Tyler Durden into an idea that transcends any one man. However, the ideas that drove the story clearly got further than the plot did. As the story climaxes in this issue, with Tyler having begun a nuclear attack intended to cleanse the planet, Sebastian is literally speaking to Palahniuk, receiving instructions on the phone about what to do. Most people will agree a Deus ex Machina is cheap, a thinly veiled one is even more so. However, it such a flimsy device even considered a Deus ex Machina when it fails to deliver the main characters from harm?

The last few pages aren’t spent trying to find out what happens next, eagerly fearing the worst. Instead, the reader begins scanning the last few panels hoping to see any sign the narrative will balance out. It doesn’t. The result is not simply the sense that the story was underdeveloped, it leaves the impression that there should have been a stronger editorial position that ensured the story did not become a writer work-shopping the story during the climax. Which literally happens here.

Climax and conclusion should be a part of the initial proposal for a limited story. It should be presented as evident and logical in the very beginning, long before the book goes to print. What happens instead is the readers spend forty dollars for a story that went out unfinished.

Fight Club 2 is about as high-concept as the original, but when you’re receiving each issue once a month, it takes a moment to try to get all the characters in the right place, to remind yourself the rules of the story. When it’s been several months since the last installment, it’s even more confusing. When the story itself ends with the author throwing his hands up, the stylized flower petals and floating iodine pills are no longer artistic, they are a stylized distraction from what is actually on the page.

At this point, the conclusion in the next issue can’t do much to undo the damage of this issue. The climax has been botched by uncertainty and unwelcome meta-intrusion. If there was no idea how to resolve the conflict and climax of this story, what is the point of the upcoming Fight Club 3?

Story: Chuck Palahniuk Art: Cameron Stewart
Story: 3 Art: 7 Overall: 5 Recommendation: Pass

Dark Horse provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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