This week’s comic book corner was full of variety for us. From hard case crime books to funny superhero books to satirical takes on being a preteen, we found books that we loved, that we liked, and that we found deeply disappointing. There’s a lot in this week’s issue, so let’s get down to it.
Breakneck Issue 2, Hard Case Crime
Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Artists: Simone Guglielmini & Raffaele Semeraro
Colorist: Chris Chuckry
Cover Artist: Simone Guglielmini & Raffaele Semeraro
Luke: I have been loving crime comics lately. I have two crime titles this week alone! Seeing Hard Case Crime putting out some strong titles has been very exciting for me, and you’ll be seeing reviews of their collections over at Graphic Novel Weekly. Curious about how the story got to issue two? Check out my review of the massive first issue. Spoilers below!
Our not-so-fearless protagonists has just shoved a heavily sedated federal agent out of a window at the agent’s suggestion, and the good news is he didn’t kill him. Now, they have to race across the city to uncover who has the unidentified weapon that will devastate the city. Of course, things go quickly awry as the two men’s mess personal lives get interwoven with their chase. Is Joe’s wife sleeping with Scott, the federal agent? Will there be an uncomfortable car ride that involves accidental discovery of adult paraphernalia? Probably!
Breakneck continues to be a lot of fun, if also rather bizarre. Swierczynski seems to be riding the line between hard boiled crime and Tarantino-esque bizarre crime, in a way that is mostly successful. The friction between Scott and Joe is being ramped up to extremes with some intense use of previous sexual encounters to hurt one another, and that part fell flat for me. However, when the story line wraps back around to the crime and the countdown, the story finds its legs again. The art functions well in telling the story, but feels more workmanlike rather than standout. That said, I’ll take effective workman art, especially when it puts the story first.
This is an interesting series. If you like offbeat thrillers, I would encourage giving Breakneck a go.
Labyrinth Issues 9 & 10 (of 12)
Story: Simon Spurrier
Writer: Ryan Ferrier
Illustrated: Daniel Bayliss with Irene Flores
Colors: Joanna Lafuente
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Kay: At this point, I really don’t know what to say about Labyrinth: Coronation anymore. At the end of Issue #8, we saw a direct parallel between the ball that was being held at the beginning of Issue #1, before Maria’s baby was stolen, and the ball that takes place after Sarah takes a bite of the magic peach. Both the balls end. The characters in both sides of the story make their way to the Goblin City. They are both stopped by massive doors. Maria does not know how to pass through. A goblin tells Sarah which way to go.
In the original movie, we never learned how Sarah managed to follow Jareth into the Escher maze of stairs and platforms where Toby has been hidden. This small moment gives us that transition, though I’m not sure what it adds to the overall story. We also see that the goblin taking care of Toby and the goblin taking care of Maria’s baby are the same.
But at this point, I’m trying to figure out why I’m reading this story. I had hoped by now to have more of a parallel than “Two women trying to get back a baby.” If there’s more to this, I’m not seeing it.
The art is consistent, and in panels that mirror the movie, is capturing the essence of those frames without being slavishly devoted to it. The lettering of the tangle is driving me absolutely up the wall and I’ve basically stopped bothering to read its dialogue.
I’m going to read the last two issues, because 10 out of 12 is too far for me to quit, but unless something spectacular happens in the last two issues, I’m going to have a hard time recommending the series in trade, at all.
Auntie Agatha’s Home For Wayward Rabbits, Issue #2
Writer: Keith Giffen
Artist: Benjamin Roman
Cover Artist: Benjamin Roman
MAJK: In Issue 1 Julie encounters thugs Raquel and Naomi that want to force Julie’s grandmother to sell the home. Issue 2 picks up with Sawyer outside the house looking for the exchange rabbit. Apparently Sawyer is under the impression that all rabbits from Okunoshima know martial arts and there for figures that’s the key to driving off Naomi and Raquel.
Meanwhile we get to meet Annette, a rabbit with a flair for decor and serious anger management issues. She’s quite distressed over the fact that the hutch is Blue. She’s decided that Ecru is a far more appropriate color, and she’s not one to tolerate dissent well. This feels completely unnecessary until nearly the end of the issue.
This entire issue was a tad boring. Once Annette marched in and interrupted Naomi and Raquel, I was expecting to see the duo ejected with a few rabbit kicks for offending Annette. Alas, the issue ends with a tedious discussion of Ecru vs Blue.
To sum it up, the bulk of this issue is cultural insensitivity and discussions of Ecru. If something doesn’t change in the next couple of issues this might fall off my review list. It has so much potential for fun but currently it’s about as stimulating as the color Ecru.
Writer: Ron Marz
Artist: Roberto Castro
Colorist: Salvatore Aiala
Cover Artist: Bart Sears
Luke: Turok is one of those fascinating characters with a deep and problematic history across a number of publishers. Turok really hit his stride when he was published by Valiant. When Valiant closed its doors, the rights bounced around before ending up with Dynamite Entertainment. While I don’t always hold a lot of love for the direction Dynamite tends to take its characters in (just check out my review of Red Sonja Holiday Special), I did really enjoy Turok: Dinosaur Hunter written by Greg Pak. I was intrigued to see that this new series is being written by Ron Marz, who I have enjoyed in the past on titles such as Green Lantern and Witchblade, and I always love me some dinosaurs, so I figured I would give this new Turok a shot.
When soldiers are traveling through Colorado hunting down Turok and using his brother as bait, it’s only a matter of time before things get out of hand. Turok attacking was expected. A raptor eating one of the soldiers was not. As Turok and his brother run from the soldiers, they enter a whole new world.
Things I liked about Turok #1: Dinosaurs. Action. Dinosaurs.
Things I had concerns about in Turok #1: Next to nothing happens.
There is some room for excitement here, and I have hope for the future, but very little actually occurs. Turok attack the soldiers holding his brother, grabs his brother, runs away. Final page cliffhanger.
I have a very strong feeling, at this point, that Turok will read better in trade.
Unfortunately, Dynamite doesn’t always get a ton of sales, and this title may get cancelled before the trade sales results are in. So if you really want to see more dinosaur fighting action, give this title a shot. If you’re on the fence, trade-wait and hope for the best.
Man-eaters Issue #5
Writer/Creator: Chelsea Cain
Pencils: Kate Niemczyk
Inks: Elise McCall
Colorist: Rachel Rosenberg
Kay: After the hot mess that was last month’s issue of Man-Eaters, I was happy to see this issue go back to the actual story of Maude and how she and her friends were avoiding the estrogen water that was designed to keep them from menstruating. The issue starts with Maude and her friends in the bathroom talking about girl things – like Nietzsche, math, and whether or not someone’s eyeliner was straight. One of their friends is in a stall – and disappears. The school immediately evacuates due to the possibility of a panther attack. It is also discovered that Maude has been caught drinking Estro-Pop, the estrogen free water designed for boys. Her father brings her home.
In the present day, Maude’s (divorced) parents continue to try and understand the recent cat attack in town. The trace evidence from the scene is showing something truly bizarre. And the last scene of the book features Maude’s father, asking her if it’s “time.” For the first time, I’m wondering if Dad is in on Maude’s decision to avoid the estrogen water supply…and if he’s helping her stay safe.
I’m continuing to enjoy where this book is heading. The same sense of wry humor – for example, there are two lists, side by side, of what boys aren’t allowed to do in school, and what girls aren’t allowed to do. Boys can’t run in the halls; girls have extensive, contradictory dress code requirements. Also, there’s a page where Maude runs through all the advice her father’s ever given her, including:
- Watch all the Star Trek Original Series episodes in intended order, not broadcast order (true)
- Skip the monster of the week episodes of the X-Files to watch the mythology episodes in order (nonsense) except “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” (brilliant episode, I’ll allow it)
- and that their family is a Marvel family, not a DC family. Given the way Marvel has treated Chelsea Cain, this surprises me. Maybe she’s not so “dead to them” after all?
The only thing I’m starting to really wonder about Man-Eaters is this: who is the intended audience, really? Cain’s statement since the beginning has been that she wants this book to interrogate periods, and why we shame middle grade girls for them so hard. But I know my 11 year old is completely disinterested in this book. As an adult uterus-owner, I am intrigued by the concept – but if this book isn’t really for kids, then the trans-exclusive nature of the book makes me much more frustrated than if it was truly targeted for cis-girls.
My 11 year old detests single issues, however; I plan on getting this book in trade, and I’ll try again to get her to read it then. If she’s really the intended audience, I hope it does a better job of reaching her that way.
The Warning Issue #2
Writer: Edward Laroche
Artist: Edward Laroche
Cover Artist: Edward Laroche
MAJK: The same sober feel of The Warning Issue #1 carries through in Issue #2. Laroche’s writing carries the authority of a man familiar with weapons, death, and the toll that it takes out of a man to be an Elite Soldier. Whether Laroche knows this from first-hand experience or not, his writing comes of authentic in this aspect to someone with twenty-years of growing up around the military.
This issue is setting us up for something big. That much is clear. We start with a hell of a dogfight. Switchblade is our focus. The hawk and prey panels intermingled offer an existential feel to the back and forth of the fight. The fight is tense and mass civilian casualties are incurred. The fight ends and we time jump – backwards.
The bulk of this issue is devoted to getting to know Gladiator, who appears to have been our “unknown soldier” in the last issue. We see him training and prepping at Edward Airforce base. Gladiator is a very stoic but introspective character. He thinks deeply and he fights hard is the message that comes across. It’s clear he’s no dumb grunt, and his word for what he’s feeling tells us there’s a lot more to him.
The book overall is a very tense, taunt story. Don’t look for flippant fun here. The soldiers are serious. The weapons are top tier. And, if the scene after Gladiator and his team passed through the event horizon is any indication, the threat is very serious.
Low Road West Issue #5
Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Colorist: Miquel Muerto
Cover Artist: Flaviano
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Everything is on the line. Prophecies are beginning to unfold, transdimensional beings are entering the fray, and an angry man with a gun is threatening to end everything for our intrepid group of adolescents. How will everything end up?
I have loved Low Road West, from my not so intentional beginnings with issue one through to the massive climax of issue four. This final issue was not all I had hoped and dreamed. The story was left feeling unfinished, with major plot points even barely touched on or left pretty unresolved. There was a feel that this final issue should have been three issues, to give these elements proper screen time.
I loved most of Low Road West, and the ending was a bit of a let down. I would still encourage people to snag a copy, because the journey to the conclusion is amazing. But I think I’ll always be left wondering about what could have been.
Robots Vs Princesses Issues 1 & 2
Writer: Todd Matthy
Illustrator: Nicolas Chapuis
Kay: I grabbed this title primarily because the title sounded cool. Robots fighting princesses, and princesses fighting back? YES. Give me that. But two issues in, I’m calling it quits.
Here’s what’s happened so far. The “princesses” are preparing for some sort of thing where they entertain people by singing and having animals with them. One princess, Zara, doesn’t have an animal, because she thinks all the animals are boring. She decides to go into the dangerous forest, where no one ever goes, because she’ll find an animal there.
In the forest are robots. They’re evil because…robots are evil so that princesses can fight them, I guess? One robot hates the other robots…because? So he decides to go beyond the forest, so the robots can’t be mean to him anymore. They meet up, he turns into a dragon, she makes him her animal. He goes with her to the performance because she’ll turn him back into a robot after. But the other robots attack the performance…because? And then the dragon-robot flies a few of the princesses to safety.
No robots have fought any princesses at the end of issue #2. But some guy has charged the robots with a sword.
There’s nothing I could manage to like by the second issue of this book. The art style doesn’t work for me; there’s little line work in some sections, and the colors seem overwhelming. I’m just not feeling it.
The Empty Man Issue #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Jesus Hervas
Colorist: Niko Guardia
Cover Artist: Vanesa R. Del Ray
MAJK: In 2014, Cullen Bunn captivated readers with an unflinching look at a dystopic vision of a world gone mad. It was the we know, but one in which everyone is losing their minds due to a disease dubbed The Empty Man.
In November of 2018, Bunn brought us back to that world with The Empty Man #1. This comic welcomes new readers and longtime fans back to a world where the terrifying disease has been deified by cults while the FBI and CDC hope to piece together clues that will uncover a cure.
The cause is of the Empty Man disease is unknown. The symptoms include fits of rage, hideous hallucinations, suicidal dementia, followed by death, or a near lifeless, “empty” state of catatonia. Melissa’s family knows this all too well. When Melissa becomes sick, the next step should be isolation. Her husband also knows, however, that since the Government mandated quarantines began those who enter the system are never seen or heard from again. He can’t bear to see this happen.
The Empty Man #1 starts with a clear view of just how much of a mess the world is via several disturbing scenes that drive home the horror this disease visits upon its victims as they lose their minds and commit atrocities. The violence they do to themselves or others makes it clearer the danger the infected present.
Then Bunn shows us this world through the eyes of Vicki, Melissa’s daughter. Bunn’s storytelling mastery plays well here as the state of this world is now scarier viewed through the eyes of a vulnerable middle school girl. She faces a choice between losing her mother forever or watching her mother becomes an insane monster. It’s a choice that she has little say in given her father’s determination to protect his wife at all costs.
Night Moves Issue #2
Writer: V.J. Boyd and Justin Boyd
Artist: Clay McCormack
Colorist: Mike Spicer
Color Artist: Chris Burnham
Chris and his cop pals are in a whole lot of trouble when they are captured by an organized crime group that is using demons to gain power. However, after a shocking ending to their captivity, the story jumps forward a year, as Chris encounters the sister of a dead friend and must go back down the dark, demon-possessed path he went down the year prior.
I feel like Night Moves might be losing a little bit of steam here. The story is still engagingly written, but the one-year jump part way into issue two of a five issue series does make this story feel a little too chopped up. I would like to see a little bit more of a through-line to tie this all together an not feel like it is just bits and pieces pasted together sloppily to avoid having to move characters around.
That said, there is hope for the future of this series. The mixing of crime fiction and demonic possession is working well here, and is setting up for a major conflict in the future. Give this series a chance, and I think it could be a pleasant surprise!
West Coast Avengers Issue # 7
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Daniele Di Nicuolo
Colorist: Triona Farrell
Cover: Eduard Petrovich
Kay: West Coast Avengers continues to be my favorite team book ever, which is pretty great. The last issue finished with Kate being discovered in M.O.D.O.K.’s secret lair by Noh-Varr, aka Marvel Boy, aka Kate’s ex (and yet another deep cut to Young Avengers, I love you, Kelly Thompson). This issues with the team whooping super villain butt, America and Ramone finishing up their date with a swoony kiss, and Johnny being made Very Uncomfortable by Noh-Varr’s presence in the house.
But that’s not really what I want to talk about.
Did you know Clint Barton, the original Hawkeye, is deaf? I didn’t for a long time, but in the Fraction/Aja run a few years back, Fraction made a point of it. There’s a couple issues where Clint has to make do without his hearing aids, and has to make people turn towards him, has to read sign…it got a lot of positive attention.
It’s really made me happy that Thompson has kept this up. It’s not a huge focus – but when Hawkeye shows up, for example, he gets hit in the head, and his Starktech goes on the fritz. He makes Kate pause in what she’s saying until he gets his regular hearing aids in. It’s just a small moment, but (I think, I’m not d/Deaf or HOH) it’s something like seeing America and Ramone kiss. It feels like being seen.
In this issue, Kate realizes that the team’s powers are being sapped by a sonic attack. She gets back to her team mates and, hiding in a semi shadowy area, gets Clint’s attention. She signs “Remove. From. Ear.” Clint takes his hearing aid out – and can fight again. He lets the others know what’s up, and they defeat the villains.
There’s other stuff happening here. Gwen may be hooking up with Quentin because she thinks she’s more likely to survive if she’s got a love story. Kate’s father (heavy duty evil) may be working with the villains. It’s cool. I’m all in. I love this book. I’m getting used to Di Nicuolo’s art style, and she does expressive faces that I love, so I can forgive the reappearing hip holes. (Seriously, Marvel, get rid of the hip holes, I’m begging you.)
I cannot wait for the next issue.
Go-Bots Issue #2
Writer: Tom Scioli
Art and Colors: Tom Scioli
Cover Artist: Tom Scioli
Go-Bots everywhere are beginning to overthrow their programming and rebel against their human taskmasters, who have used them and then left them to die. A small contingent of Go-Bots, led by Leader-1, remain loyal to humans, and fight to protect them. A major battle between Leader-1 and Cy-Kill, leader of the rebellion, is on the rise. Who will win? Who will fall? And how will it shape the future of human/Go-Bot relations?
Go-Bots is fun. It is exactly the right level of action and self-aware humor that I am looking for out of a light science fiction title. It is also one of the few titles on stands right now that feels like it was intended to be a comic, rather than a chopped up graphic novel. I love how Scioli is really working within the medium to tell a great story. Fans of action science fiction romps should absolutely grab this series!
Lollipop Kids Issue #2
Writer: Adam Glass
Artist: Diego Yapur
Colorist: DC Alonso
Cover Artist: Robert Hack
Publisher: Aftershock Comics
MAJK: In issue one, Nick learns that he’s a child of the sentinels, a legacy Lollipop Kid. Aside from not being to excited about the name, Nick knows he’s not exactly the heroic type. His skill set trends more toward hiding than fighting.
Nick tells them that he’ll keep the secret but he’s not up for being a part of the group. With a thank you, he heads home back to searching for his sister and back, he hopes, to his old, safe, boring life. Unfortunately, once you can see monsters you can’t unsee them. Nick finds his walk home is a lot more terrifying than he expected.
He jumps at every sound and he is certain something is following him. Finally, Nick has had enough and he confronts what’s following him: a gremlin named Expo. Anyone who has seen the movie Gremlins can understand why Nick almost kills Expo! Lucky for Expo, Fresno stops him and explains that the Gremlin is on their side. Hey, Good news! Not all monsters are evil. You know that’s a set up for fun.
Expo’s an adorable little smart-mouthed beastie. He’s not afraid to call Nick out or even Fresno, for that matter. Fresno teaches Nick about the tunnels and gives him a little history lesson about the Lollipop Kids including how they got their name. (Hint: it involves Duke Ellington)
Fresno reveals to Nick that he’s not just a legacy, he’s special because both of his parents were Lollipop Kids. She asks him to join their ranks and to fulfill his destiny, but it’s a lot to take in and Nick’s got a pair of soiled pants to attend to. He declines once more though as he heads home it’s clear he feels more than a little guilty for walking away. Unfortunately, for Nick, there’s more than guilt in his way and it’s certainly not a friendly little gremlin.
Life Is Strange Issue #3 (of 4)
Writer: Emma Vieceli
Art: Claudia Leonardi
Colors: Andrea Izzo
Kay: In the last issue, Max and Chloe had returned to Arcadia Bay, seeing the town destroyed by the storm. Max is continuing to see different timelines; she sees Dana at a version of the diner that hasn’t been destroyed, and at Chloe’s home, she sees Joyce, still alive. At the end of the issue, Max is overwhelmed and passes out, her nose bleeding.
In this issue, she wakes up in Chloe’s room. The girls talk a little more about what’s happening, and they go back to Blackwell for the first time. Looking over the old school, Max sees Warren, also at the wrecked school – but then Warren has died. Then, the two girls see a vision of Rachel Amber, with the entire school in good repair and everyone happy, as if the storm hadn’t ever happened.
Max has a second encounter with Warren, who seems to know what’s going on; he mentions string theory and parallel universes, and Max works out that she’s seeing flickers of alternate realities instead of sliding through time like she was previously. But what that means? Absolutely no idea.
In a move that creeped me all the way out, at the end of the book, Warren is explaining the premise of Quantum Leap to Max (a show I adored when I was a kid), and Max asks how it ends. Warren says that “Doctor Sam Beckett, he … he jumped home.”
In some weird way, this hurts more than almost any other alternate reality storyline any book or movie has ever pulled on me. I sobbed at the final episode of Quantum Leap. I was watching it up on my parent’s TV because no one else in the house wanted to watch it, and I cried so hard I thought I’d die. Because of course – Sam never did leap home.
We have one more issue to go in this mini series, and I have no idea what’s going to happen. I think there’s something that Max has to resolve to get all this to stop. Maybe the way both she and Chloe are still conflicted and worried about whether or not Max made the right choice? I don’t know. I’m feeling a little more sure that this can be resolved now – although, not gonna lie, I’m starting to wish this was a second video game. Alas.
The teaser for Issue #4 on the second to last page says “Chloe…did I ever ask you…what you wanted?”
I might die before the issue comes out and I get an answer to that question. I really really might.
That wraps us up for this week’s Comic Book Corner, folks. As always, if there’s something great you think we’re missing out on, tell us in the comments.