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Review: Throwaways #14

It’s a story Abby and Dean know well – a popular politician, a lone gunman, and lives shattered. But that’s where the story they know stops, because when ULTRA is involved, nobody is innocent, dead people don’t tend to stay that way, and Dean is about to meet the Alpha subject who’s been haunting his dreams for months – with earth-shattering results.

The trouble with writer Caitlin Kittredge’s Throwaways #14 is it’s inconsistency. Kittredge’s writing style tries to be clever but comes off tedious, cliched, and overly wordy. The creative team seems to forget that a comic is a collaborative effort where the story and panels complement each other to create something wonderful. This is more tell than show, losing some of the strength of the graphic medium. Kittredge seems to be solely interested in showing how many pop culture references and smart quips she can squeeze on a page, which would be fine if she wasn’t relying on just the words and provided some context or substance to back it all up.

Not only does Kittredge insist on telling you everything every character is thinking, and everything they are doing as they are doing it, the dialogue is also hella wordy and downright boring. The action is few and far between which would be fine except the story is so uninspiring that by the time anything happens you no longer care.

Throwaways #14 is a true waste of an interesting premise with strong female leads who seem to be slowly developing but, instead of giving the characters something to work with, the reader gets stuck with unrealistic dialogue that makes all of the characters come off as a hive mind clone.

The story itself isn’t all bad but, the characters are forced to speak some truly horrendous and unbelievable lines. In a tense scene, a character, who has been drugged and essentially kidnapped, decides to escape his parental characters by engaging in a pages long discussion before trying to leave. When he does this he is immediately shot back down because, as his captor tells him, he is drugged. This would be fine except, less than two pages later he actually just walks out the door and as he leaves he says, “oh, you know what… F*** you both”. Not only is the dialogue ridiculous, the pacing is. How is someone too drugged to leave and then twelve sentences later, perfectly OK? Why would anyone, in any situation, say that?

Steven Sanders art work is basic but probably the most interesting thing about Throwaways #14. Sanders went with lackluster muted earth tones , that were supposed to convey the despair of the situation but, because the dialogue is so bad, it just drains the reader more. Taken on their own, the panels would something fun to look at, unfortunately some of the delicious panels are so filled with dialogue bubbles you don’t get to see a lot of it. This issue focuses on an assassination attempt of this arcs big baddy but there’s a convoluted subplot and some background chaos going on that is supposed to shake things up but, instead adds to the chaos.

Throwaways #14 is a bit of a disappointment which sucks because I had high hopes for this series. It seems that even after a few issue hiatus on my part, things haven’t gotten better and the creative team has doubled down on everything that made this comic draining.

Story: Caitlin Kittredge Art: Steven Sanders
Story: 6.1 Art: 6.0 Overall: 6.0 Recommendation: Read

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Matt Fraction & Steven Sanders’ Five Fists of Science Back in Print this September

Matt Fraction and artist Steven Sanders will release a new paperback edition of Five Fists of Science this September.

True story: in 1899, Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla decided to end war forever by joining forces to rid the world of evil. With Twain’s connections and Tesla’s inventions, they went into business selling world peace. The tale of what unfolded next can only now be told: the duo collided with Edison and Morgan, an evil science cabal merging the Black Arts and the Industrial Age.

Turn-of-the-century New York City sets the stage for a titanic battle over the very fate of mankind in this graphic novel, back in print once again this fall.

Five Fists of Science (Diamond code: JUL170742, ISBN: 978-1-5343-0436-9) arrives in comic book stores Wednesday, September 13th and bookstores Tuesday, September 19th. The final order cutoff deadline for comics retailers is Monday, August 7th.

Throwaways is “One to Keep” When the Trade Comes out in December

Writer Caitlin Kittredge and artist Steven Sanders will release the first volume of their high-speed, high-stakes spy thriller Throwaways in trade paperback this December.

Abby Palmer and Dean Logan are two broken people with something in common: they’re both victims of a brutal government mind control experiment—and they’re the only two who escaped alive. When the program finds them again, each becomes the other’s only chance to survive. The program gifted them both with abilities beyond a normal human’s imagination, and as Dean and Abby realize what was done to them, they’re determined to use those abilities to destroy the program and its sinister architect once and for all.

Throwaways, Volume 1 (ISBN: 978-1-5343-0029-3) hits comic book stores Wednesday, December 21st and bookstores Tuesday, December 27th, and will be available for $9.99.

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Review: Throwaways #4

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Issue #4 of Throwaways fills us in on some of the characters backstory. Up until now, Kimiko has kind of been an Asian stereotype sidekick. In this issue through a flashback, we learn how she started working for the NSA, we also discover that’s pretty much the Throwaways version of Penelope Garcia of Criminal Minds. Alice takes Palmer on a mission to gather some facts about her past and that turns into chaos and murder until Kimiko comes to rescue Abby before things get worse. Logan and Dean get in some more antagonistic father – son bonding time that ends with Dean staging a coup and taking a hostage. Plus, we’re treated to some Kimiko and Abby Bechadel test passing bonding time.

Caitlin Kittredge‘s writing in this episode seems familiar and thoughtful. She seems to have found her stride and voice and the characters are rounding themselves out and becoming real complex characters that the reader cares about. There are no wasted moments or panel filler pop culture facts in this issue, the references and throwbacks seem authentic and Kittredge calls them out within the dialogue itself. Throwaways is starting to feel more like a story to follow than a fluff piece.

Steven Sanders‘ artwork is starting to mesh better with the story and the panels seem to  be not only more detail orientated but purposeful. You can tell the mood of each part of the story based on the colors he uses and there is a distinct change in tone. His style makes the shift from past to present and scene to scene feel  seemless in their transition so that the reader doesn’t get thrown off or feel jarred into a new scenario.

Overall I feel like the Throwaways is starting to find its voice and I really enjoy listening to it. It’s a deep read and as the story progresses it’s becoming more and more interesting and involved.

Story: Caitlin Kittredge Art: Steven Sanders
Story: 9.1 Art 8.6 Overall: 8.8 Recommendation:Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

Review: Throwaways #3

Throwaways03_Cover.jpg*Warning Spoilers Below*

Issue #3 of Throwaways starts with a flashback. We’re treated to a young Dean making his way through the woods. He’s retelling the day his father was captured and the feelings he had. We flash forward to Palmer still in pretty bad shape, they’re not sure what to do about her infection they just know that they can’t let the government take her back. In Palmer’s infection-induced fever dream, she thinks of her mother and being rescued after a long, painful , almost life ending trek through over the Af-Pal border.

The rest of the crew is unsure about how best to take care of her and decide to steal some antibiotics from a nearby vet to help her get back to something close to normal. Palmer is still seeing the ghosts of the dead she left behind but, her condition seems to be getting better after Kimiko secures the needed meds.

Meanwhile, Alice is on a mission to break Logan out of prison and she has him and is headed back to tier base camp for what I’m sure will be more than a father – son reunion. She breaks the news to Logan that his son still hates him for what he’s done and, a happy reconciliation or him joining in on his master plan is probably not in the cards. Upon Alice and Logan’s return to the compound, Alice hides Logan and checks on Palmer’s condition. Palmer is more than a bit angry at her current state but, Alice is more than willing to provide her with answers about her past and her lost memories. However, I’m pretty sure Alice is not the most reliable narrator and may be trying to cloud Palmer’s mind so that she will help her and Logan with their end game and , I’m sure that involves more than a family reunion.

Speaking of family reunions, Logan confronts Dean on a bridge as he tries to get a hold of his girlfriend. There is a tension in the conversation and a lot of anger. Logan tries to make jokes to lighten the mood and connect but, Dean is having none of it. A fight ensues and Logan gets the upper hand and explains to Dean that the program that took and changed him won’t ever stop trying to get him back. Logan tries to explain to Dean that he’s a special Alpha subject. The fighting continues and Logan pushes his son over the bridge so that he can activate his powers in a “gentler” way than the program would have done. As a reward, Dean punches Logan and sets him straight on the fact that the man he has become will never be like him. Before things get too heated between the two, Alice shows up to let them know that Palmer is awake.

Caitlin Kittredge‘s writing is on point in this episode and Throwaways seems to have gotten over their sophomore slump. The story is solid and not weighed down by trying too hard clever quips. The story flows seamlessly between flashbacks and present time and tells the story from all points of view without being bogged down.

Steven Sanders‘ artwork is pretty solid and deliberate. A nice muted palette to match the tone of the story keeps things somber and interesting. It also serves to keep the reader attached the story and invested.

Overall, Throwaways #3 has everything I loved about the first issue and turned the dial up to 11. We’ve got bad ass , complex women, interesting characters, a smart story and the story seems to have hit its stride with this issue and I hope it keeps going in this direction. This issue is more cohesive and character orientated making it a quick, deep read and it puts the Throwaways train back on track.

Story: Caitlin Kittredge Art: Steven Sanders
Story: 8.9 Art: 8.7 Overall: 8.8 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Throwaways #2

IssueThrowaways02_Cover #2 of Caitlin Kittredge‘s Throwaways picks up where the first one let off and dives deeper into Manchurian Candidate territory. The issue starts off with a clandestine meeting featuring the people behind the project that turned Abby into a super weapon. The panels set up a sinister undertone for the rest of the issue and possibly series. When we finally get to see our anti-heroes, Abby and Dean, they’re holed up somewhere and Abby is going to try and use some of her black ops friends to get Dean and herself to safety.

As the story progresses we get a whole lot of flashbacks that reveal more about Abby and her past. The last half of Issue #2 covers Abby’s capture and her Dean aided escape from the very people that turned her into a souped-up version of Jason Bourne. We also get to meet the mysterious voice that’s been “helping” Abby on her quest.

Overall the story is pretty damn solid but, at points, it tends to clunk along and, use a lot of exposition to move the story arc forward. Which is a bit of a bummer because, when the story stays focused it’s a real page-turner. I also had an issue with some of the dialogue. It often feels a bit forced and tries to be overly clever, relying too heavily on pop culture references in a way that makes it feel like it’s trying to remain overly relevant.

Steven Sanders artwork is brilliant in its simplicity although it could be more detailed in some panels but, I think the lack of detail is a side effect of trying to fit so much info into a small bit of panel space. But, when the art works it really works, providing a gritty, urban backdrop to a dark story.

Overall the issue wasn’t half bad and most of the things that I took issue with can be easily fixed with a little bit of tweaking. I came into issue two having high hopes. The story seemed like a nice cross between Manchurian Candidate, The Bourne Identity, Haywire and, Hanna. I loved the idea of a female super weapon wreaking havoc on her creators. I’m all about women taking their lives back from those that seek to control them. There are so many places that this story can go and, I hope that in the issues that come after this are a bit more like the first one & the creators  focus more on the overall story and less on the clever quips.

Discovering that Abby was kidnapped, tortured and, turned into this super bad ass excited me because it opened up all kinds of correlations in my mind about the female body and the act of consent. Yes, she was wounded and, unable to give consent but, the government used her inability to consent to use her body how it saw fit and, the aftermath of her escaping gave them license to retrieve her. This level of the story made me feel almost viscerally connected to Abby. I wanted her to find answers, I wanted her to get payback on the government agency that took away her agency, her sense of autonomy, her power. I wanted to see carnage as the powers that be tried to reclaim her body and put her in a box where they could continue to control her. I loved that the female author of Throwaways made Abby a minority female who had to overcome racism, sexism and, Islamophobia.

Issue #2 wasn’t a flop by any means, I just came into it expecting more after the build up of the Issue #1. I’m still holding out hope that this issue was a placeholder and, it’s purpose was to wrap up all of the character introductions and set up their motivations. I still have hope for this series and want to see it succeed. I know that all the elements of this being a great series is  there and, the writer and artist are extremely talented and are capable of so much more. I just hope that all the promise I saw in the series opener comes back soon.

Story: Caitlin Kittredge Art: Steven Sanders
Story: 7.8 Art: 7.5 Overall: 7.7 Recommendation: Read

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Throwaways #1

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I was a big fan of the late, lamented Vertigo series Coffin Hill, so when I heard that its talented scribe, Caitlin Kittredge, would be plying her trade over at Image Comics in a new ongoing (whatever that phrase even means anymore) series that was going to be well outside her usual supernatural/horror wheelhouse, I was both intrigued and excited. The artist attached to the project, Steven Sanders, was a new name to me, but the subject matter sounded right up my alley — two twenty-somethings thrust into a web of mystery well beyond their understanding but presumably tied in with the CIA’s notorious MK-ULTRA program.

At this point, I suppose, a little bit of explanation is in order for those for whom this term is unfamiliar — in short, MK-ULTRA is real-life mind control, funded by your tax dollars. “The Company” assures us that it’s long since given up on controlling the “space between our ears” (I guess they have television and the internet for that now), but even assuming you take them at their word — which I wouldn’t —the revelations about the program that came to light during the Church Committee hearings in the late 70s were enough to make anyone aghast : sensory deprivation, force-feeding of hallucinogenic drugs, psychosurgery, neural implants — no doubt about it, in their quest to create flesh-and-blood “Manchurian Candidates,” our intelligence “community” resorted to some truly despicable shit.

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Flash ahead to 2016 and homeless San Francisco “crust punk” Dean Logan and PTSD-stricken Afghanistan vet Abby Palmer are pinned behind a car by constant gunfire. Who’s after them, why, and how they got to be in this deadly pickle are questions that Kittredge and Sanders begin answering in due course, but first Dean breaks out some honest-to-Christ super-powers to deal with things in immediate fashion. And so begins Throwaways #1.

Most of the dialogue in this issue has a reasonable air of authenticity to it, and Sanders (who not only handles the pencils and inks, but the colors, as well) has a very appealingly gritty “street-level” art style helped in no small part by some creative and dynamic panel layouts, but the sad truth is that the first few pages of this comic are the best, and it’s sort of all downhill from there. Kittredge borrows the cinematic trope of alternating scenes that take place right now with those from the (very, it seems) recent past, and honestly, even though that’s been done to death, it can still be effective — it just isn’t here. There’s one nice “holy shit!” moment involving Abby’s former CO at a vets group meeting, but apart from that and some potentially interesting dynamics on display vis a vis Dean’s relationship with his obviously-long-suffering girlfriend, this comic just gets duller and duller as it goes along until things wrap with a seriously lackluster cliffhanger.

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I feel kinda bad, truth be told, for not liking this book more simply because it has such strong visual appeal (Rachel Deering’s DIY-influenced lettering is also worthy of note in that regard), but even at a bargain by today’s standards price of $2.99 (and yes, before you even have to ask, I purchased my copy), Throwaways feels like a bit of a — stifle your groan here — “throwaway” read. The premise itself has enough going for it to take things in any number of interesting directions, no question about that, but Kittredge doesn’t follow any of her own material’s juicy leads, and instead has crafted an MK-ULTRA- themed comic that even a dyed-in-the-wool “conspiracy junkie” like me can’t help but find boring. I honestly never thought I’d see the day.

All that being said, I’m not quite ready to jump ship yet. I have enough long-standing confidence in the writer and newly-discovered confidence in the artist to give this series another issue or two (although to be honest, if it was a $3.99 book I’d probably cut tail and run right now), and if Maiko Kuzunishi’s covers continue the “simple but effective” aesthetic on display this time out, that’ll be another plus. So, yeah, Kittredge and Sanders are being thrown a rope from this reader/critic — but it’s a pretty short one. I hope they’ll both use it to pull themselves safely up on deck rather than hanging themselves with it.

Story: Caitlin Kittredge  Art: Steven Sanders
Story: 3 Art: 7 Overall: 4.5 Recommendation: Pass – even though I just said I’m sticking with it for a bit

Caitlin Kittredge, Steven Sanders, Rachel Deering’s Throwaways is a Keeper

Image Comics has announced the all-new, fast-paced Throwaways from author Caitlin Kittredge, artist Steven Sanders, and letterer Rachel Deering. The series was first announced at Image Expo and see release this July.

Abby Palmer and Dean Logan are two broken people. Abby is a veteran with severe PTSD and Dean a burnout trying to escape the shadow of his infamous father-but when they are thrust into a modern-day MK-Ultra conspiracy… They discover they are both Ultra’s human experiments.

Throwaways #1 arrives July 6th.

Throwaways #1

Preview – Our Love is Real

Our Love is Real

story SAM HUMPHRIES, art / cover STEVEN SANDERS

Price: $3.99

The comic book ‘surprise hit of the summer” is back – and Image has it! In wide release for the very first time! See it for yourself – the book that has everyone buzzing: OUR LOVE IS REAL!

THE FUTURE IS HERE! Plantsexuals riot in the streets for equal rights. Humans fall in love with dogs. And crystals are more than just jewelry. A chance encounter on the job changes a riot cop’s life forever as he finds himself caught in a bizarre love triangle that blurs romance, crime, and lust beyond recognition.

OUR LOVE IS REAL is a bold new sci-fi one-shot written by SAM HUMPHRIES (one of Wizard’s “Five Writers to Watch in 2011,” CBGB, Fraggle Rock) and illustrated by STEVEN SANDERS (Uncanny X-Men: The Heroic Age, FIVE FISTS OF SCIENCE).

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