(Click title to go directly to the review)
THE OLD GUARD #1
INHUMANS VS. X-MEN #5
THE BELFRY #1
THE OLD GUARD #1Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Leandro Fernandez
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez, in their own way, represent a bit of an “Old Guard” to myself as they were two talents that were doing work in an era where I was just getting back into comics and that I have held in high esteem ever since. Obviously, they worked together before on QUEEN AND COUNTRY but Greg Rucka’s work on the DC Icons he was doing at the time and Leandro Fernandez’s contribution to the greatest swath of Punisher stories ever told ala the Ennis MAX run on the character are books I always look to fondly on my bookcases. So it feels kind of long overdue to see these talents coming together, and of course they’re doing it at Image, because that’s just how these things work these days. And they’re doing it with THE OLD GUARD, which ended up being pretty much the style of book you would expect to come out of their talents joining forces once more.
THE OLD GUARD also starts with a little bit of the “team getting back” together, except in this case the team is a bunch of centuries old warriors that will tear through their targets like so little tissue paper. We don’t really get into the individual introductions and hellos, but mainly get to the business after a little bit of a flashback montage to crash course us into what exactly this book is going to be channeling. In just a couple pages we are shown flashes of fierceness of the group we’re about to be spending time with but also the jaded side of the equation, as we’re shown fierce scenes of slaying and lovemaking from the past that eventually just trickle down to a meaningless one-night stand and the group meeting together for coffee to discuss a potential mission like it’s the weather. That’s really the power of getting two folks like Rucka and Fernandez together who are such veterans of the medium and why it’s easy to get excited about a book like THE OLD GUARD, because in just about four pages and a couple dozen panels, we more or less have the low down on the group’s back-story, even though how they exist this way is still a mystery.
Admittedly, though, after that the book does progress forward pretty methodically for like eighty percent of the remaining. The group, lead by the lady captain Andy (in case you forgot this was a Rucka book already), basically takes on a job from some old CIA connections in order to infiltrate and rescue some kidnapped girls and do whatever dirt is necessary from there to get them back. Calls are made, equipment is procured, we see some badass helicopter landing and so on and the mission is on. But, again, these guys know the game, so they drop several in a big revelation, a double cross, and some moments of personality revelation that really fill out the book. Bored and world-weary as the group may seem to be, Andy’s warrior fire is rekindled to do the mission once the target of girls positioned to be enslaved or whatever terrible thing is to happen to them is revealed, which could easily be a view into her past. Also, while the gang is gearing up we get an interlude in Afghanistan that pays off in a cliffhanger that I should have seen coming a mile away. But, again, because Rucka and Fernandez know what’s up, throws what little we know about our little band of eternal warriors into some turmoil that they probably won’t even see coming while they focus on the immediate threat in front of them, that of being outted for what they are to whoever it really was that set up the false mission and all the bloodshed that implies.
Overall, this ends up being a solid little debut for THE OLD GUARD the book and for the talent. It is a bit more of a straightforward script from Rucka than usual given that his material tends to be a bit more atmospheric like the majesty his Wonder Woman commands or the noirish overtones something like a BLACK MAGICK has, but I can see how with the main point of the book being to emphasize these somewhat exasperated immortals and their equivalent of a “daily grind” to tone things back a little and let the violence and its methodology do most of the tone work. Likewise, Leandro Fernandez is as detailed and visceral as every, but some of his expressions are a little bit looser than his previous work. There are some pretty giant schnozes adorning the faces of some of these characters and there are mouths that take up half a face, but he still packs a crap-ton of detail into every panel, though some of it gets lost a little bit in some pretty bright and monochromatic coloring work since his lines are so soft. Altogether, though, we get just the right amount of everything to make THE OLD GUARD work, from the action to the little bit of character personality that creeps in from the edges, and the mysteries of how these characters have lived for so long and who is it that wanted the confirmation of what they are and to what purpose. All of that and just the general craftsmanship of this debut make it real engaging read, even if barely scratches at the bombastic quality we know Rucka and Fernandez can pull off.
Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, The MySpaces, Facebookand a blog where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.
INHUMANS VS X-MEN #5Writers: Charles Soule & Jeff Lemire
Artist: Javier Garron
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
I'll just start by saying it, this is the best Marvel crossover in a long while (Ok, SECRET WARS was pretty d@mn cool). Soule and Lemire have created a mess (so to speak) for the mutants and the Inhumans, with no clear good guy or bad guy. Even the characters themselves have come to this realization last issue. This is how a frick'n superhero fight book should be!
Somewhere along the way, Marvel lost artist Leinil Francis Yu and Javier Garron has filled in for the past three issues. Or maybe this is Marvel's way of keeping this bi-weekly book on schedule. Either way, not a fan of it. Especially since Yu and Garron's art styles don't match. Even though, both are fine artists.
Getting into the story and the spoilers, the Inhumans have finally broken free of the X-Men and are punching back. Karnak makes chump meat out of Fantomex and Gorgon has a nice punch-out with Colossus. As the Inhumans finally escape Limbo (the location of an X-Men school and where they imprisoned the Inhumans), they plan their retaliatory strike on the X-Men. Meanwhile, the so-called Nuhumans, Inhumans recently created by the Terrigan Mist cloud, have learned of the mutant's plight: the Mist is making the world uninhabitable for mutants. So they have switched sides! Helping Forge, who they originally kidnapped, to create a new Terrigan Mist destroyer. But then the X-Men attack, not knowing the new Inhumans are actually trying to help them now. Led by the “Inhumans must pay” Emma Frost doesn't help matters. And then Magneto really doesn't help matters, as he steps up into villain mode to put down the Inhumans (and a few X-Men who are standing in the wrong place at the wrong time).
Just a really good issue, in a really good series. Watching Magneto pull out his inner beast is always fun. You just don't mess with this guy. The Red Skull learned this at the start of AXIS. The biggest question now is, what will Medusa do? Will she agree with the 'Nuhumans' or will she step-up and match Emma Frost, hate-for-hate. While you can kind of guess how this will end, there is a lot of wiggle room for the final two issues. So I'm very curious how it will end and how much carnage it will take to end it. My fingers are crossed though, because, you know, Marvel's track record.
The artwork is good, all around. Just solid superhero work. I feel Garron has actually improved with each issue. The two main fights are well done, as is the scene of Forge working with Moon Girl.
So I'm very impressed with what Soule and Lemire are doing here. Which is funny, because I had a very low opinion of the book before it came out. But they have managed enough story logic for the fight and have each side fighting intelligently enough. Although, emotions are starting to run high now, (as with Magneto) so it looks like logic is going out the window.
THE BELFRY #1 (One-Shot)Story/Art: Gabriel Hardman
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Justin Burkhardt and @justinburkhardt on Twitter
When it comes to comics, I appreciate a good one-shot. There’s something to be said about picking up a book and knowing that you’re going to be reading a self-contained story. Personally, I wish more new one-shots came out on a regular basis.
One that did come out recently is THE BELFRY, a horror one-shot with story/art by Gabriel Hardman. Hardman is best known for his work on INVISIBLEREPUBLIC, which he co-writes with his wife Corinna Bechko. He also drew SAVAGE HULK for Marvel comics and has worked on such films as INCEPTION and TROPIC THUNDER.
Story wise, THE BELFRY is not like any of Hardman’s previous books. It is a dark and disturbing horror story that involves a plane crash in the jungle where everyone escapes with their lives. However, without ruining it, there are monsters lurking in the dense jungle that come for the survivors.
What happens next? I don’t want to give anything else away. The story is simple yet effective. There is no unnecessary character development, just a good, eerie horror-story filled with tension and violence. This book is an absolutely impressive horror-debut for Hardman. The art work and the angles in which the panels are framed, gives you a claustrophobic feel, which is perfect given the story/setting. The artwork feels like the world could come crashing down on the survivors at any moment. Like any good horror story, you’re not sure at times what exactly is going on, but from the looks of it, you know it can’t be good!
If you’re fan of the horror genre, you need to pick this book up immediately. It’s a quick and easy read that you’ll want to re-visit again and again. This is exactly how a one-shot should be.
It’s still early, but THE BELFRY is the leader in the clubhouse right now for best one-shot of 2017. The world Hardman created is simple and creepy, yet there are so many more layers I’d like to explore. Down the road, I hope that Hardman explores the horror genre further, possibly revisiting the world of THE BELFRY again.
HULK #3Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artisits: Nico Leon
Publisher: Marvel Comics
It is apropos that the covers for HULK have focused on the classic grey-coloring of the original character. Grey. The blandest of colors. The trademark for boring. The “Deconstructed” storyline has gone from a slow read to a terrible one. While the previous issues teased us with dark reveals, the third issue of the Jen Walters series fails to provide us with any answers or action.
HULK #3 brings us in after the fact, after grade-A dickwad Mr. Tick has been pulverized. Not that we get to see it occur or any of the aftermath really. The only disclosure of his fate (besides death) we get is a poorly crafted pun involving his name. In one of the series rare moments of hasty pacing, we are taken away from our only instance of actual superhero drama to the ever-crumbling, but never-quite-breaking Jen Walters. Last month I admitted that this was a slooooow read and that there wasn’t much plot development. Now we’ve got a lack of character development. Despite a quick pep talk from Hellcat, Jen ends the issue basically as we found her three books ago: lost and alone. As is her client, the ever-more mysterious Maise Brewn. Both she and Jen have recently suffered great tragedy and trauma that left them near dead. I highly doubt this connection will be played up in any meaningful manner anytime soon as I doubt any matter will be resolved expeditiously at this point.
Terrible pacing and mystery do not make good bedfellows. It doesn’t take much to go from asking “who did it” to “who cares?” Artist Nico Leon is this issue’s only saving-grace. Brewn, her apartment, and its tenants are unnerving. Lurking around a creeptastic abode, its denizens would fit much better in a Tool music video than a series that dulls our senses. I no longer care how Ms. Walters copes. She can either solve this case as a lawyer or as a superhero. What I do want to know is why the hell are mannequin parts the decoration of choice for despicable, otherworldly threats?
Lyzard is Lyz Reblin, a graduate student at Michigan Tech pursuing a doctorate in Rhetoric, Theory, and Culture... which is just a fancy way of saying she plays a lot video games, watches far too many horror films, and then tries to pass it all off as "research."
HIGHLANDER: THE AMERICAN DREAM #1Writer: Brian Ruckley
Artist: Andrea Mutti
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Masked Man
I got to tell ya, I stepped into this with a lot of trepidation. As HIGHLANDER fans know, the first movie is awesome and the TV show passed the first season is very good. Everything else, even the anime and the cartoon are barely watchable. Dynamite's go at a comic book in mid 2000's, wasn't much better (only last 13 issues). Which is odd, because it seems like this is a concept that could do well as a comic book. To that, IDW has stepped into the ring.
The writer is Brian Ruckley, a Scottish writer (should I make a crack about how only a Scotsman can write about a Scotsman?), who is known for his fantasy novels, especially THE GODLESS WORLD. On paper he seems like a perfect fit. The artist is Andrea Mutti, an Italian artist, who has done work on DMZ, IRON MAN and G.I. JOE. His water coloring pages are dynamite, it's too bad he didn't paint this.
Getting into the story, Ruckley and company use Connor Macloed, the character from the original movies. It picks him up right before the start of the Gathering (the immortals final battle, the single winner getting 'the prize'). Oh, I should mention if you didn't know, Highlander refers to the Scottish main character, who is immortal, like several other people in the world. No idea why. An immortal can only be killed by chopping off their head. When one immortal does this to another, they absorb the dead immortals powers (very nondescript powers), in a lightning storm called the Quickening. So this comic takes place right before the first (and only good) movie, which covered the Gathering (or did until a bunch of rewrites to make more movies).
Ok, now for the spoilers: Our main immortal, Connor Macleod gets a visit from an old, some what friendly immortal, Osta Vazilek. As the time of the Gathering is near, he worries whether a good man or an evil man will win the prize. He comes to see if Macleod is still a good man. Macleod convinces him that he is, and then we get the patented HIGHLANDER flashback, showing us when the two first met. It was during the American Civil War, as Osta protected the lost and wandering Macleod from an evil immortal named John Hooke. Osta is living as a monk, but Hooke is so evil he has no respect for holy ground (no fighting on holy ground is one of the immortal rules of combat). We end with Macleod and Osta squaring off against Hooke and his loyal regiment of Confederate soldiers.
The good thing about this issue is, there is nothing bad about it. Ruckley writes a competent story and Mutti draws it well enough. It pretty much starts off like any of the HIGHLANDER television episodes. The bad news is, that's all it is. Nothing really interesting happens in the comic, and there's not much of a hint that anything will. Mind you, if we get to see any consequences for killing on holy ground, that would be interesting. But overall there is nothing note worthy about this issue. Mutti does little to give it any excitement either. Again nothing is bad with his work, it's just overly boring. As if he doesn't really care to be working on it. He doesn't even try to incorporate any visual flare, that the first movie is known for.
Hopefully, Ruckley has a clever idea up his sleeve or I don't see this series going past 13 issue either.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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