Archive for the ‘Comics You Should Be Reading’ Category

John Cassaday Chronicles Avengers History with Uncanny Avengers #19 Variants

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of The Avengers, five variant covers drawn by John Cassaday will be released for Uncanny Avengers #19, which comes out September 11. Each cover pays tribute to a different era of the team’s existence. The five covers are embedded below.

Source: Newsarama

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Don’t Stand So Close To Me – A Superman: Earth One, Volume Two Review

TITLE: Superman: Earth One, Volume Two
AUTHOR: J. Michael Straczynski
PENCILLER: Shane Davis
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $22.99
RELEASED: October 31, 2012

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Superman: Earth One, Volume Two was the first of these Earth One books that actually lived up to some of the hype surrounding it.

These books are supposed to be fresh new looks at these iconic characters. But Batman: Earth One was borderline offensive because of how inept its Dark Knight was. It was as if they’d cast Wile E. Coyote as Batman. Meanwhile, despite having fantastic art by Shane Davis, Superman: Earth One was simply J. Michael Stracznski’s spin on a story that has been trampled to death time and time again in the last 10 years alone. Plus, at the end of the day, it wasn’t nearly as good as all the critics harped.

But if Straczynski had given us a little bit of the character work we see in Volume Two, I might have been a more receptive to the whole Earth One thing from the start. As Clark Kent struggles with his reluctance to allow people to get close to him, we see the Earth One debut of the Parasite, who is determined to feed his insatiable hunger for power. And who has more power than Superman? All the while, the American government is preparing its contingency plans in the event the Man of Steel ever goes rogue.

What I enjoyed the most about Volume Two was that it gave us some solid reasons as to why hoodie-clad Clark Kent was so moody and broody in the first book. This book shows us that he’s had to suppress himself in almost every way since high school so as not to draw attention to himself. Despite having an extraordinary IQ, he intentionally got average grades. Though he could obviously overcome any kind of human attacker, he constantly allowed bullies to pound on him. We see he’s very trepidatious about sexual contact, which implies he’s never had a romantic relationship. Clark Kent has intentionally repressed a portionof his emotional growth because he’s afraid his abilities will either hurt others, or put the ones he cares about in danger. The book shows a tear jerker of a scene where we see that one of Clark’s only childhood friends was his pet cat. At one point, we also see a furious Superman fantasize about incinerating a tyrant with his heat vision.

Over the years, Superman writers have tried to play up the isolation angle by talking about how’s from another planet, and how he’ll never really be human. That idea has never held much water with me. Clark Kent looks human, he was raised by humans, and he more or less identifies himself as a human. In truth, the only apparent difference between humans and Kryptonians is on a cellular level. The whole “you’re not really human!” thing seems far too black and white. The idea that Clark is the one isolating himself from humanity, and not the other way around, seems to make more sense. Humans don’t like things that are different, and Superman is different to say the very least.

The book sets the stage for a Clark Kent/Lois Lane romance in an interesting way. After Clark grabs the first interview with Superman (wink wink), Lois becomes suspicious of Clark and his squeaky clean records. This leaves us with a dynamic we’re not used to seeing. Traditionally, Lois is so fascinated with Superman she barely notices Clark. That gets turned on its head here. It opens the door for even more character work if Lois continues to poke around in Clark’s life.

Straczynski gives us the government vs. Superman angle here, and does it pretty well. Outside of the American government feeling paranoid about this godly figure seemingly popping up and doing as he pleases, Straczynski also floats an idea about Superman not being welcome in foreign countries, and every nation having the right to solve its own problems. That concept is played with here, but I get the impression it could have its own book down the line.

From a writing standpoint, the only major issue I have with Volume Two is the Lisa Lasalle character (Lana Lang, Lois Lane…see the pattern?), who upon meeting Clark for the first time is so flirtatious and outright sexually charged its almost irritating. Obviously, her purpose in the story is to test the walls Clark has placed around himself. And in all fairness we are given a reason she’s so sexual later in the story. The problem I have with the scenario is that she seems to want to sleep with him after knowing him for only two minutes. Clark says he’s a writer, and she replies: “I think it’s sexy…You get to touch people with what you write, and it comes from deep-deep-deep inside.” C’mon JMS, porno flicks have better dialogue than that.

Shane Davis reinvents the Parasite for this go-around, and I’m not displeased with what I see. Davis’ version looks more alien and scary than what we usually see from this character. The irony in the Parasite being the villain here is that while Clark is afraid he’ll hurt people if they get close, Raymond Jensen is a character that literally sucks the life from anyone within close proximity. In that sense, the Parasite is a twisted mirror image of Superman.

Still, Davis makes it easy to fall for Lisa Lasalle. He gives her a dirty girl next door look that perfectly fits her purpose in the story. Davis’ stylish Clark Kent, i.e. the trendier 20-something reporter with thick glasses and cute hair, is obviously back here. I didn’t mind him as much this time around, and I think that’s because we had more time to get used to him. We only saw him briefly at the end of the first book, and I got a bad first impression of him. For the life of me I couldn’t get that stupid grin out of my head. The look is more tolerable now that it’s broken in a bit more.

Traditionally, the first act of a play sets everything up. It introduces the characters, the conflict, the setting, etc. Then in the second act, the conflict shifts into high gear. When you take this into account, it’s no surprise that comic book movie sequels like The Dark Knight, Spider-Man 2 and X2: X-Men United are often considered better than their predecessors. Even though without the first film, the second film wouldn’t have been possible. It’s the same principle here. I resented Superman: Earth One for being yet another rehash of a story that has been done to death. In truth, I still find the Earth One concept to be needless and redundant. But after Volume Two, I’m inclined to go easier on the whole thing. Or at the very least, less apprehensive about opening the next book.

RATING: 7.5/10

For more Superman, check out Superman and the Men of Steel and Superman: Grounded, Vol. 1.
Front page image from dccomics.com. Image 2 from scans-daily.dreamwidth.org. Image 3 from comicbookresources.com. Image 4 from insidepulse.com. Clark Kent image from comicvine.com.
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First Impressions: Hit-Girl, Before Watchmen: Nite Owl

TITLE: Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #1
AUTHORS: J. Michael Stracynski, Len Wein
PENCILLERS: Andy Kubert, John Higgins
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: June 27, 2012

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Full disclosure: I’m still mad at J. Michael Stracynski for bailing on Superman and Wonder Woman awhile back so that he could be the umpteenth writer to rehash the Man of Steel’s origin with the exceedingly mediocre Superman: Earth One. His take on Nite Owl isn’t anger inducing, but it’s not quite on par with Darwyn Cooke’s work on Minutemen and Silk Spectre. Having seen this issue, and the Comedian issue, I’m starting to wonder if DC should have just let Cooke write the whole damn thing. His work has been the best this line has produced thus far.

This issue gives us a look at Dan Dreiberg’s backstory. We see that he had an abusive father, who ridicules his fascination with the superhero Nite Owl. We then learn how Dan inserts himself into the world of the real-life Hollis Mason, and how they take on a master-apprentice relationship. The issue also shows us his first night out as the new Nite Owl, and his first encounters with Rorschach and the Silk Spectre.

From a storytelling standpoint, this book is pretty solid. Giving Dreiberg an emotionally domineering father explains how he became such a soft spoken adult, despite being a friggin superhero genuis. It also gives him a commonality with Rorschach, whether the two characters know it or not.

Ah yes, Rorschach. This issue marks the first time in Before Watchmen that we spend any time with him. I’m conflicted on what Stracynski does with him. When we see the characters meet for the first time, one of the first things Rorschach does is mention how among all Nite Owl’s gadgets, the one thing he doesn’t have is someone to watch his back. He’s obviously volunteering himself for the role. This struck me as odd, given what a natural loner Rorschach is. PI co-founder Eric floated the idea that this was simply Rorschach forcing his will on Nite Owl, as he often did to characters in Watchmen. But it struck me as odd that he’d so anxiously toss the idea out.

Nite Owl also has a pair of cheesy lines in this issue, both of which revolve around his first meeting with the Silk Spectre, his love interest from Watchmen:

- ” –I just had this feeling, when I saw her…I got chills.”
- “I just felt the strangest sense of connection to her…like we were fated to be together…”

Really? We’re playing the fate card? That’s not as bad as the unnecessary Comedian/Moloch connection we saw from Brian Azzarello and J.G. Jones last week. But this kind of foreshadowing does seem to fall under the “unnecessary, unneeded, cliche stuff we see in prequels” category. We already know Dan Dreiberg and Laurie Juspeczyk end up together. There was no need to wink at the audience about it, especially with something as cheesy as “we were fated to be together.”

If you’re a fan of Andy Kubert’s, then this issue will give you new respect for what an inker can contribute to a comic book. Andy is backed up by his father, the great Joe Kubert, whose presence really makes a difference in the artistic presentation. His inks are a strong selling point for this book.

That being said, I’m torn on whether I want to come back for more. Thus far, the only one I’m definitely picking up again is Minutemen, with Silk Spectre a likely addition. Nite Owl is in the maybe column. But hey, that’s a better place than where Comedian ended up. That one’s a definite no.

***

TITLE: Hit-Girl #1
AUTHOR: Mark Millar
PENCILLER: John Romita Jr.
PUBLISHER: Icon Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: June 27, 2012

Yeesh. Look at that tag line. Millar wasted no time being crass this time around.

Actually, Hit-Girl #1 isn’t too bad on that front, which is ironic considering she’s definitely one of the more violent and vulgar characters to come out of the Millarverse. Our story takes place between Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, and sees Mindy Macready trying to adjust to life as an average girl. Indeed, the murderous 10-year-old vigilante who’s been trained in various manners of combat and escape, and has spilled the blood of more crooks and mobsters than she can likely remember, is having trouble dealing with snotty pre-teen girls. That’s actually kind of cute in a weird way, isn’t it? All the while, Hit-Girl and Kick-Ass are planning their next move against the mob. But they’d best not forget about their old enemy Red Mist.

For the most part, this issue is exactly what you’d expect it to be. It’s this character whose young life up to this point has consisted of mostly violence and mayhem, trying to get used to things as simple as being around kids her own age. Something tells me that we’re going to see Mindy put at least one Kardashian wannabe in her place in this story. And let’s be honest, who hasn’t wanted to put an obnoxious pre-teen girl in her place at least once in their life? For me, it’s actually been several times.

One source of confusion for me in this issue was exactly how old Mindy is. This character is supposed to be 10 or 11 years old, right? If that’s the case, then the top left panel in the accompanying interior page seems off. In that image she looks like she might be seven or eight. I suppose she might be a little short for her age, but it’s still confusing. Then later we see a scene where she’s sitting at a school lunch table with Dave, a.k.a. Kick-Ass. Dave is supposed to be between 16 and 17. Is one of them visiting the other at school? Does this school teach both elementary and high school? It doesn’t make or break the story, but it’s a head-scratcher.

Other than that, no major complaints with Hit-Girl. I’m sure this story is destined to become yet another bloody, brutal Millar massacre. But in Hit-Girl, we have a truly unique character that has an undeniable charm about her. That’ll be the key to the success of this story, regardless of how much blood she spills.

Front page image and interior image 1 from author’s collection. Interior image 2 from ifanboy.com. 

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First Impressions: Before Watchmen: Minutemen

TITLE: Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1
WRITERS: Darwyn Cooke, Len Wein
PENCILLERS: Darwyn Cooke, John Higgins
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: June 6, 2012

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

*sigh* Alright, this is happening. Let’s all just be brave here…

As a Watchmen fan, Minutemen wouldn’t have necessarily been my first choice to kick off DC’s big Before Watchmen line. But I can see why they made the choice. Telling the story of the Minutemen helps to set up the world of Watchmen, and helps give the rest of the books a bit of context. But with Darwyn Cooke on this first title, everybody else now has an extremely tough act to follow.

In Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen graphic novel, the Minutemen were America’s original team of superheroes from the ’40s. In this issue we meet them all. Our narrator is Hollis Mason, a.k.a. the original Nite Owl. Through his eyes we meet Hooded Justice, Sally Jupiter, Captain Metropolis, the Silhouette, Dollar Bill, Mothman, and of course our old friend the Comedian. Mason’s words run parallel to some extremely effective looks at who these characters are, and how their personalities work. For instance, we see Sally Jupiter smiling for the cameras after busting up a robbery, the Comedian beating up a bartender for no apparent reason, etc. The real meat of the story hasn’t begun yet, but by the end of the issue we have a strong feel for all the players, and Captain Metropolis has the gears in motion for the first meeting of the Minutemen.

Initially this book frustrated me. When I originally closed this book I wanted more of an idea of what the actual story was going to be, much like what you’d get with a typical first issue. But Watchmen wasn’t a typical story, was it? Plus, it’s hard to be mad at Darwyn Cooke. He’s a natural fit for this book. His style is so well suited to retro era stories like this, as illustrated by his work on books like DC: The New Frontier and Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter. What he does with the first two pages is really clever, using a semi-circle in the center of all his panels to help illustrate how Mason’s view of the world has progressed overtime. First the half-circle takes the form of a baby carriage, then a view of a city through a tunnel, then a look at the solar system, then Dr. Manhattan’s forehead and insignia. Finally we pull out and see a ticking clock, an allusion to an image Watchmen fans are more than used to seeing. It makes for a hell of a sequence. I thought the introduction of Hooded Justice was particularly strong. Cooke shows us just how brutal he can be as he tosses a gangster out a window. The Silhouette also has a heck of a scene, pulling in more page time in this single issue than she got in the 12 that made up Watchmen.

We also get the first installment of The Curse of the Crimson Corsair by Len Wein and John Higgins. Curse will be the continuing backup story going through all the Before Watchmen issues. Not much to go on with this one yet. In the English navy circa 1771, we see a shipman keelhauled for stealing a ration of rum. Obviously, grim things lay ahead. Perhaps the most notable element of Curse is the fact that John Higgins, the colorist for Watchmen, handles the art here.

Obviously, fanboys have made a lot of negative noise over Before Watchmen. God knows Alan Moore isn’t happy about it. But this issue gives me a little hope that, even though the project is somewhat blasphemous, at least it can be well executed, nice looking blasphemy.

Front page/interior image from comicvine.com. 

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Comics You Should Be Reading: The New 52 Edition

By T.J. Frenzel
Staff Writer, Kessel Runner

DC’s much-discussed New 52 has managed to pull me back towards superhero comics. Unlike previous events, I think the top-to-bottom relaunch of the DCU has at least a chance at a lasting, positive influence on the franchise.

Rob has been covering the New 52 with some great feedback, and I wanted to chime in and share my top picks so far.

TITLE: Batwing #1-2
AUTHOR: Judd Winick
PENCILLER: Ben Oliver
PRICE: $2.99 (per issue)

As much as I love DC, they have a pretty spotty track record with issues of diversity. Most recently the spotlight has been on the portrayal of female characters as, basically, sex robots (reference Catwoman and Starfire), but race is a tough issue too — so it surprised me that DC’s official Batwing description was “the first black character to wear the Batman mantle.”

Talking about race is tough because a lot of it can depend on perception. For instance, in Mister Terrific #1 the title character says something like “How about just saying, ‘Thanks, black guy!’”

Some people were offended by that, but I have a black friend who sprang to mind immediately because he says things like that all the time, in much the same situation (levity, not rescuing people from a guy in a stolen mech-suit). It’s just his way.

Now me, I’d have stopped at calling him the Batman of Africa, which he is. Why make a big deal of out saying “Hey, we made a black guy Batman!” I’m not actually offended, I just think it’s odd.

But at the same time, I was intrigued. How would a Bat-affiliate in Africa operate? What’s his story? Plus, Judd Winick is writing, and I’m a fan of his work, so I checked it out.

My first impression on reading issue #1 was Wow — I don’t know who this Ben Oliver guy is, but he kicks ass. I don’t always dig the photo-realistic look, but it’s stylized enough here that it works for me. Also, I find the Batwing design to be really cool. I’m not sure why it’s more practical for Batwing to wear the (apparently) heavier armor — and is he flying?  — but it looks nice.

It isn’t until issue #2 that we start to see Batwing’s character step away from being a Batman clone, but I’m starting to see it; Batwing is a bit younger, more impulsive — not dissimilar from an early Nightwing. Maybe Judd thought we needed a gradual departure from a traditional Bat-title rather than throwing us in willy-nilly, but I hope it continues in that direction.

I’m a fan of the Bat-family, and so far Batwing is sitting towards the top of that pile (aside from Batman himself, of course).

TITLE: Demon Knights #1
AUTHOR: Paul Cornell
PENCILLER: Diogenes Neves
PRICE: $2.99

It’s only one issue in, but so far Demon Knights is a welcome departure from what I normally read from DC — which is part of the attraction. I love men in tights — er, kevlar? — as much as the next guy, but so far my favorite part of The New 52 has been trying out some of the other genre titles.

In Demon Knights, we’re quickly shown Jason/Etrigan’s origin before skipping forward to the Dark Ages. Fans of Batman: The Animated Series may recognize The Demon Etrigan (originally created by Jack Kirby), who is merged with Jason Blood by the wizard Merlin (yes, that Merlin) in the time of King Arthur’s court.

Comically, Paul Cornell’s setup for the series is to have Jason and a young Xanadu meet several familiar characters in an inn, much like the standard D&D campaign.

Like most of The New 52, Demon Knights is only one issue in, but Cornell’s use of humor and Diogenes Neves’ fantastic art are a great combination for a fantasy title. And although I didn’t expect it at first, Demon Knights may end up being a sort of team book — he’s hinted that we haven’t met all of the cast yet, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do with this slightly off-kilter title.

TITLE: Detective Comics #1-2
AUTHOR/PENCILLER: Tony Daniel
PRICE: $2.99

As I mentioned before, I’m a fan of the Bat — but seriously, four Batman titles is a bit much for me. I managed to whittle it down to two: Detective Comics and Batman proper.

Scott Snyder has received a lot of accolades for his work on Batman titles, but surprisingly I thought Tony Daniels’ Detective Comics #1 had the better debut. Tony provides both art and story, and gets off to a great start with issue #1 — a classic Batman tale that introduces The Joker, Commissioner Gordon, and others into the New 52. It also has a great Gotham noir sensibility to it that I found extremely gratifying, and issue #1 ended on a great note.

Issue #2 had a couple of bumps. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like DC is trying to shoehorn a couple of soap opera pages into every freakin’ issue. Sure, there’s always a love interest, but seriously: Batman’s juggling a reporter and Catwoman, Batwoman pines for Renee Montoya (while dating), Mister Terrific has a catfight over him brewing in the background — what gives? Did they hire all the ghost writers that are looking for work after All My Children? I don’t need my superheroes to read like The Bachelor, thank you very much.

But aside from that, I’m looking forward to seeing where Tony is going with Joker and The Dollmaker, who is (as far as I know) a new villain for The New 52.

TITLE: Huntress #1 (of 6)
AUTHOR: Paul Levitz
PENCILLER: Marcus To
PRICE: $2.99

I’m not ready to proclaim Huntress a breakout hit quite yet, but I’m on a bit of a quest to find a female character I can…err, get behind, and so far Huntress seems like the best candidate.

As I said before, there’s a bit of controversy over how women are portrayed in the DCU — deservedly so. I wasn’t exaggerating when I referred to Starfire as basically a sex robot  — she’s already slept with both of her male team members, has no emotional connection to sex, and oh — she has trouble telling men apart. Sex. Robot.

Anyway, after talking with a friend I realized that Harley Quinn is the only female DC character that I really like — or at least the only one I could come up with on the spot. I’m not really a Wonder Woman fan, and honestly I’d be okay with Catwoman being done away with entirely (take Damian along with you, thanks).

Huntress is a character I’ve always like the idea of, even if she isn’t always executed well. In most cases she tends to be a little too one-note; she’s super angsty about wanting to take out the mob in all its forms, and her willingness to kill is always a point of conflict with other superheroes. Perhaps it’s because she isn’t well known that creators tend to want to re-introduce her each time out, but it gets a little tiresome.

But so far Levitz has managed to avoid that trend, portraying her as not only martially competent but pretty suave as well, able to get things done both in and out of costume.

Huntress #1 takes place in Italy, and as a guy who’s never left the continental US I can authoritatively say that Levitz and artist Marcus To manage to imbue Helena with a sophisticated European attitude that can be sexy without feeling icky, and so far her story doesn’t suck.

Brief aside: If you’re a fan of the Bruce Timm cartoons, the Huntress/Question episodes of Justice League Unlimited are excellent.

This one might be too early to call, but so far I prefer it over Batwoman and Batgirl, so I’ll be checking out issue #2.

TITLE: O.M.A.C. #1
AUTHOR: Dan Didio
PENCILLER: Keith Giffen
PRICE: $2.99

Dan Didio and Keith Giffen’s O.M.A.C. is fast becoming one of my favorite new titles. Also originally created by Jack Kirby, the new acronym stands for “One Machine Attack Construct,” a type of bio-tech that has infected the body of Assistant Manager Kevin Kho.

The upshot is that it puts him at the mercy of the technological entity Brother Eye, who can transform Kevin into the hulking blue O.M.A.C. at will, using him to do its bidding.

O.M.A.C. is a great example of how fun a comic can be. Though Brother Eye and O.M.A.C. have a storied history at DC, they’re essentially approachable for the new reader at this new “jumping-on” point — and perhaps importantly, just fun to read.

This title is something of a throwback in the best possible away, with plenty of nods to comic legend Jack Kirby and that era of comics in general. I keep expecting the exclamatory narration at the top of the panels: Will Kevin regain control of his life? What else will Brother Eye throw at him? Find out next time!

It’s fun, and Keith Giffen does a great job channeling that energy. Props to the rest of the artist team for a great looking comic, as well.

Front page image from whatculture.com. The Huntress #1 page from insidepulse.com.
For more from T.J. Frenzel, check out 2BitGeek.com.  

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Comics You Should Be Reading: Indie Titles Activate!

By T.J. Frenzel
Staff Writer, Kessel Runner

When we think of comics, most of us automatically think superheroes. It’s an understandable reflex; larger-than-life characters like Superman and Captain America have permeated our society on almost every level, from Spider-Man undies to an actual Batmobile being auctioned on eBay.

But comics fans are lucky, because there’s so much more to comics than your standard superhero fare. Don’t worry, I’m not dogging anybody here, much less your favorite man in tights (mine’s Batman).

What I’m getting at is that like many people, my reading tastes go through phases. My last detour went through some darker material like Sleeper and Criminal, but lately I’m on an indie comics kick. They aren’t completely bereft of spandex, but you won’t find anything by DC or Marvel here…not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Abyss: Family Issues

One of the first indie titles I picked up was Atomic Robo by Red 5 Comics. Primary Ignition’s own Seth Miller has already done a write-up on Atomic Robo, so I’ll simply say: Good Stuff. So good, in fact, that I explored Red 5′s backlist a little and found Abyss.

Abyss is, technically, a superhero comic — but not a mainstream one. It’s penned by Kevin Rubio of Tag & Bink fame, and he does a stellar job of spoofing the masked-hero tropes we all know and love while delivering a great story in its own right.

The first Abyss mini-series (2007) introduced us to Eric Hoffman, who is dropped into the world of supervillian intrigue when his super-rich father dies unexpectedly. Eric must face his father’s secret legacy — action and hilarity ensue.

The current mini-series is called Abyss: Family Issues, which is in comic shops now. Following the events of Abyss, Eric must now explore his mother’s side of the family–which isn’t what it seems.

The art by Lucas Marangon (initial mini-series) and Alfonso Ruiz (Family Issues) has its own sense of humor; you’ll find tons of easter eggs in both minis, from character cameos to visual gags.

I encourage anyone who likes A) comics and B) laughter to check into Abyss and Abyss: Family Issues. It feels weird to be recommending what could be considered a humor comic, but think about how heavily recent superhero movies like Iron Man and Thor have depended on humor. It keeps things from falling too deeply in the mire of angst and darkness; after all you can’t live there — Batman doesn’t need a roomie (and if he did, it wouldn’t be you).

Abyss and Abyss: Family Issues are both 4 issue miniseries; the first mini is available in trade paperback, while Family Issues #4 is scheduled for release on 5/11.

Incorruptible

Mark Waid is a name you’re probably familiar with; he’s worked for both DC and Marvel, but of late he’s been working on a couple of series with BOOM! Studios. Irredeemable and Incorruptible share a universe and work as two sides of the same coin in both concept and plot.

Irredeemable poses the question: What if the world’s most powerful superhero (think Superman) were to turn on us? The obvious answer is that you’d have a huge Oh @!$& moment, and that’s exactly what happens.

For more on Irredeemable, check out Rob’s previous write-up. Definitely recommended.

Incorruptible is the companion to Irredeemable; it stars criminal hardcase Max Damage, who’s been re-evaluating his life in the wake of the potential Plutonian Apocalypse. I bet you see where this is going.

What I like most about Incorruptible is that even though Max has flipped his leaf and decided to be a good guy, he isn’t immediately embraced by anyone. Well, that’s not strictly true — his female sidekick Jailbait wants to do some, uh, embracing — but now that he’s gone straight, he’s deemed her off-limits.

Anyway, back to the point — cops still shoot at him, the heroes don’t trust him, and Max actually has no idea how to be a good guy other than doing the exact opposite of what he would normally do. There’s a lot of action, dark humor, and good storytelling.

There’s very little exposition — Waid eschews the obligatory origin stories and getting-to-know-you B.S., opting to drop you into the chaos head-first. The result is an exciting, well-written page turner.

Irredeemable is currently on issue #25; Incorruptible’s current issue is #17. Trade paperbacks are available for each title.

Nonplayer #1

This is a title that’s gotten a lot of buzz, but if you haven’t checked it out, do. Nonplayer is a beautiful comic published by Image and created from the ground up by Nate Simpson.

Nonplayer centers around a futuristic socie ty in which a young girl named Dana Stevens lives a dual life; one in the normal world as a tamale delivery girl, and one in the MMORPG world of Jarvath as an “elite warrior.”

The first couple of pages are silent, cinematic looks at the wonderfully rendered landscape of Jarvath. It’s completely immersive in its detail without being cluttered; Simpson’s background as a concept artist is in full evidence.

Things aren’t as they should be in Jarvath — Nonplayers have their own dialog and, apparently, their own story to tell. They aren’t acting quite as they should, however, and Mr. Simpson has gone on record as saying each nonplayer character in Jarvath is unique (unlike current MMOs like World of Warcraft), so this is more than just software buggery.

Perhaps most surprising for this debut comic its well-crafted storytelling. Mr. Simpson’s background is more art than writing, and he uses that to its full advantage — not only is his art beautiful, but he’s able to communicate a great deal of subtext in his character’s expressions and use of body language.

There’s also another aspect to Nonplayer — Dana’s real-world life. Most of issue #1 takes place in the game world, but Simpson reminds us that the story isn’t just about Jarvath; it’s about Dana and her interaction with both worlds. She may be a sword-wielding adventurer part-time, but she’s also kind of a slacker who likes gaming more than her crappy job.

The only downside to Nonplayer is that since Simpson is flying solo, it’ll be a while between issues — no date yet for #2 — but if he keeps up this level of quality, I’ll wait gladly.

Nonplayer #1 has gone to a second printing that will be in stores on 5/11. If you don’t buy any other comics this week, buy Nonplayer. You don’t even have to thank me.

Each comic in this article is in current publication. Check your local comic shop or digital retailer of choice for more information.


Front page image/Abyss: Family Issues preview from comicbuzz.com, Incorruptible preview from boomtron.com, Nonplayer preview from comicsalliance.com.

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Comics You Should Be Reading: Irredeemable

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

“In superhero comics, pretty much everyone who’s called upon to put on a cape is, at heart, emotionally equipped for the job. I reject that premise.”

Those are Mark Waid’s opening words in his introduction to the Irredeemable, Vol. 1 trade paperback, which was my introduction to one of the most gripping and compelling stories I’ve ever read. But the premise to Irredeemable is even simpler than that, and it’s obvious just a few pages in: What if Superman became a bad guy?

It’s not really Superman, obviously. But The Plutonian, the series’ main character, seems to have all the same powers as the Man of Steel. He’s built like him, has a fairly similar costume, and acts like him (or at least he used to). During the first issue, a character even starts to say: “Look, up in the sky!” So the Superman metaphor is very strongly there, which makes the story all the more powerful.

The series starts a number of years after The Plutonian, Earth’s greatest hero, snapped and became entirely self righteous. In the process, he lobotomizes his former partner, destroys cities, and murders those who were once his fellow heroes. All the while, humanity is powerless to stop him. Humanity’s only hope may be the remaining members of the Paradigm, the book’s Justice League/Avengers equivalent, who are desperately searching for any information that might help stop him. Ironically, they find themselves seeking out Modeus, the only villain who ever scared The Plutonian, as a potential ally, erasing whatever line laid between good and evil.

Art from Fandomania.com.

The great thing about this series is that it traces back to some of the individual moments that drove The Plutonian to madness. We see portions of his childhood, his old girlfriend, etc. Waid and penciller Peter Krause make this character very human and very relatable. It’s easy for the reader to put himself in The Plutonian’s shoes, and ask himself: “If that were me, what would I have done?” To me, making the reader take that kind of introspective look at themselves is one of the greatest things a writer can accomplish in any medium.

Note that in the above paragraph, I used the word “madness” as opposed to insanity. I’m not convinced this character is insane. He strikes me as someone who’s lashing out at the world in furious bitterness. The things he does might be considered crazy by most standards, but that doesn’t make him an insane person. He’s almost like Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader in that respect.

As you get into the series, you’ll find that our surviving “heroes” aren’t exactly paragons of virtue in their own right. This, combined with the main Plutonian storyline, raises a lot of interesting questions about heroism, and how doing heroic things doesn’t automatically make you a good person, or even a mentally balanced person.

It also provides what might be some interesting insights into the minds of individuals in power. In the fourth issue, there’s a flashback scene where a hero asks The Plutonian what it’s like to have all the power and responsibility that he does. Later, as he’s about to destroy a major city, The Plutonian tells this same hero to chose ten civilians to save. Out of millions of people, only ten.

“That’s what it feels like,” he says.

I don’t think Mark Waid made a major attempt to base this book in a realistic world, but don’t you think that kind of mindset might apply to someone like…the President of the United States, who has to make decisions that undoubtedly effect whether some will live or die?

Whether you’re reading deep between the lines like I do, or you’re just looking for some damn good comics, Irredeemable is a book you want to check out. Three volumes are currently out in trade paperback, and we’re less than 20 issues into the series, so new readers should be able to catch up fairly quickly.

“You don’t get it. The Plutonian has gone rogue. We’re all going to die.”

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Comics You Should Be Reading: Atomic Robo

“Comics You Should Be Reading” is a new column, exclusive to Primary Ignition, in which Seth Miller talks about the comics that you should pick up RIGHT NOW.

TITLE: Atomic Robo
AUTHOR: Brian Clevinger
ARTIST: Scott Wegener
PUBLISHER: Red 5 Comics

When I go to the comic shop on Wednesday, there are a few comic books that I never leave the store without. Anything Green Lantern related, Captain America, The Goon, and whatever Brian K. Vaughan writes. But there is one comic I will always get no matter what: Atomic Robo.

Granted, the title sounds pretty lame, the book is full humor, action, and references to every concept in sci-fi, comics and geek culture. The series follows the adventures of Atomic Robo, a robot developed in 1923 by Nikola Tesla who develops emotions and goes on to create Tesladyne, a corporation that develops experimental technology and fight threats that no one else can deal with. The book covers Robo’s various adventures from the 1920s to the present day as he fights with enemies like super-intelligent dinosaurs, Nazi scientists, Cthulu, and Stephen Hawking.

Writer Brian Clevinger takes the reader back to a time before comics like Watchmen, when comics were about the insane situations that our characters get into while combining it with some modern sensibilities and smart-ass humor. The storylines are designed for those that want something different than the traditional narrative of today’s comics, which are filled with retcons, deaths & resurrections, Grant Morrison going apeshit on continuity, or just setups for another big event series that is “going to change the comic book universe.” Atomic Robo is a welcome relief to comic fans by not just providing action and storylines free from the trends in other comics, but by giving the fans a comic that sounds like they wrote it.

Atomic Robo #2, page 4. Art from DragonManComics.com.

When Robo fights Nazi robots, giant bugs, or even Thomas Edison; whatever Robo says is pretty much what a comic book reader would say in that situation. In the first issue, a Nazi scientist has a magic heart implanted in his own chest to give him superpowers, and he brags about it. Robo then thanks him for telling him about his weakness and blows the heart up with lightning gun. Robo is speaking for the comic book fan, and the character pulls it off.

The art is good but not as great as the writing. Artist Scott Wegener’s work compliments Clevinger’s writing and does a good job of representing the action in the book. But aside from that there is nothing really that stands out about the art. It’s clear that the art is definitely getting better as the series continues, but it is still not equal to the writing.

While the art may not be the best, Clevinger creates an insane world that is suited for a sarcastic robot whom, despite his vast intelligence, will always solve his problems with the proper balance punches, guns, and smashing cars. This is definitely a cult favorite and it should be the biggest comic on the market. Know how it can become the biggest comic today? It involves you comic book lovers going to your store and demanding that they sell Atomic Robo, and purchasing the trade paperbacks.

For Tesladyne, for action science, for Robo!

Front page image from MichaelMay.us.

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