(Click title to go directly to the review)
RIVERDALE #1 (One-Shot)
SAVAGE THINGS #1
RIVERDALE #1 (One-Shot)Story: Roberto Aguirre Sacasa
Script: Brian E. Paterson (Archie), Britta Lundin (Betty), James Dewille (Veronica), Will Ewing (Jughead)
Art: Elliot Fernandez (Archie). Jim Towe (Betty), Thomas Pitilli (Veronica), Althia Martinez (Jughead)
Publisher: Archie Comics
Reviewer: Justin Burkhardt and @justinburkhardt on Twitter
Six episodes in, and I think it’s safe to say that The CW’s RIVERDALE TV show is an absolute hit. From viewers to critics, RIVERDALE has gotten rave reviews for its new take on Archie & the gang. When the show premiered, I decided to give it a chance with no expectations. Outside of sports, I don’t have a show that I normally watch on Thursday nights, so I figured why not give it a try? To be honest, I never dug into the old Archie comics. Sure I read a few as a child, but I had only basic knowledge of Archie. To me, Archie was more known for publishing the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLE ADVENTURES comics.
Fun fact: When I was in high school, I won a game of Trivial Pursuit because I knew that Archie went to Riverdale High School…however I remembered that answer from THE SIMPSONS episode where Homer Simpson was dumped on his front lawn by Archie & the Gang and was told by Moose to, “Stay out of Riverdale”. My willingness to give the television show a chance was also because how different it seemed from the original comics. Archie Comics has been on a roll lately with the changes they’ve made to the Archie universe. From AFTERLIFE OF ARCHIE to CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA, Archie Comics has made some unique changes that just work and have brought new life to the Archie-verse.
And you know what? RIVERDALE the television show works too. It’s kind of like Twin Peaks meets 90210. It’s ridiculous and a bit campy, but in all the best ways. This is not your parents Archie! I also know from talking to a few guys at my LCBS that quite a few comic book readers surprisingly love this show. There is also a lot more to explore within the RIVERDALE universe (I’m still waiting to see what they do with Sabrina), so it’s no surprise that they have released a comic book related to the show.
The RIVERDALE one-shot prequel comic features four mini-stories each one revolving around one of the main four characters (Archie, Jughead, Betty, and Veronica). The four stories show us what each character was up to during the summer before this current school year/TV season. It’s clichéd as hell and yes this comic that’s based upon a show based upon a comic book is extremely meta. These stories also give us a glimpse into things we haven’t seen on the television show yet, which is quite rewarding for fans of the show. We also get to see just how important the day of July 4th was to all of these characters. The one-shot stories are by show runner Roberto Aguirre Sacasa, and each one has a different writer and artist.
The Archie story (Written by: Brian E. Paterson. Art by: Elliot Fernandez) shows us how Archie Andrews transformed from a scrawny read head into a buff red head. It also explores more of his relationship with Mrs. Grundy, his father, and Jughead.
Betty’s story (Written by: Britta Lundin. Art by: Jim Towe) shows Ms. Cooper on her summer internship in LA. We also get to see/hear about Polly again, which is nice since show watchers don’t yet know a lot about her.
With Jughead’s story (Written by: Will Ewing. Art by: Althia Martinez) we find out more about Jughead’s back story in regards to working at the Starlight Drive-In. We also learn more about what has driven Jughead & Archie apart and how it has affected Jughead.
My favorite of the four stories was Veronica’s (Written by: James Dewille. Art by: Thomas Pitilli). When we first run into the Lodges, we see them living in the famous Dakota in NYC. Veronica’s father, Hiram is currently an unseen character in the RIVERDALE show, but here we get a first glimpse of him. We also find out that July 4th wasn’t just a big day for the citizens of Riverdale, but also for the Lodges in NYC as well.
I love that this RIVERDALE one-shot rewards its readers with little tidbits we don’t yet know from watching the show. If you’re a fan of the television show, you absolutely need to check this out. If you haven’t watched RIVERDALE yet, what are you waiting for?
AMERICA #1Writer: Gabby Rivera
Artists: Joe Quinones
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
Hey, who doesn't want to read a comic about “a super-strong queer brown girl who can punch star-shaped holes between dimensions”? As I hope you can guess, those are Marvel's words not mine. Because if there is one thing this comic is filled with, it's sassy and pep like that. Something that seemingly everything young super heroine comic is filled with these days. It even has a touch of 'pop culture reference' talk to it, again something overly popular in young hero books. Gabby Rivera, known for a young adult novel, JULIET TAKES A BREATH, is our writer and Joe Quinones, who has been bouncing around for a while (last on HOWARD THE DUCK) is our artist.
Now as every hero is someone's favorite, you'll have to forgive me as this is my first time reading America. Who comes from an alternate universe, where her parents were apparently big fans of Italian map makers. Since they named her America. America Chavez has no superhero id, and wears red, white and blue all the time (insert Church Lady, “Well isn't that special.”). Even though America is popular enough to get her own series, they mention several times though out the book, who she is. It could just be me, but once was enough.
Based on that, you can tell this is, in fact, a set-up issue. Along with repeatedly telling us who she is, it starts by getting rid of her, up to now, life: (Spoiler time) She quits the Ultimates, breaks-up with her girlfriend (rather dickishly), and enrolls in superhero “Hogwarts” Sotomayor University (named for the Supreme Court Justice- which is pretty dam impressive to get a university named after you while you are still alive). She reunites with a former teammate, the former mutant Prodigy, who is also going to the school. Prodigy is trying to build a time machines, add-in America's dimension powers and she's punching out Hitler. So yeah, no real plot, just set-up. I'm sure Rivera would say the story is America herself, not a specific plotline though, fair enough.
Overall though, this issue seems to try too hard to be all that and bag of chips. It's sassy hero is tough, yet damaged inside. She's very hip and always on the go (how do you not see her as a role model/dream BFF?). And everything she is involved in is amazing: other dimensions, superhero school, hologram everything and time machines. To which I say, the best thing about this issue is Quinones' artwork. There are a few pages and panels that I found inelegant, but my guess is, he was having trouble translating the script. But more over his figure work is great, and the map spread of the school is very nice. Just really nice simple work.
Hopefully, this series will improve upon it's over exuberant set-up issue. If not, I don't see too many people beyond the 'too hip for school, young heroine' fans being interested in this title.
SAVAGE THINGS #1Writer: Justin Jordan
Artist: Ibrahim Moustafa
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate writer Justin Jordan for two things; his ungodly cute man love for his fluff ball cat, Tom Waits, and his genre blending writing style. Now, not everything he’s scripted has been something I’ve found to be my cup of tea, but when something of his works for me, it super duper works for me, usually because of the influences they’re channeling like LUTHER STRODE’s blending of Charles Atlas meets Dragonball Z action in a Takashi Miike film or his rendition of Sherlock Holmes with an endless supply of Adderall in JOHN FLOOD. Unfortunately, this does lead to people like myself to always want to play “connect the fictional work” and figure out where the influence is being drawn, and that sometimes just unfairly distracts from the work at hand and what it is trying to do within itself. And his newest work, SAVAGE THINGS from Vertigo, is one of those works that stands taller on its own machinations than playing the sum of its parts guessing game as to what works could be persuading it (even if there is totes a bit of a DEXTER meets THE KINGSMEN vibe going on).
One of the other things that Justin Jordan gets across really well in his works are “sinister” things. Villains, the actions they perform, sometimes just an overall atmosphere full of the S-word; Jordan comics usually channel that disturbing feeling in some aspect that puts the book on an edge. That is basically the first feeling SAVAGE THINGS generates and then holds on to for a solid two-thirds of its length. The first smacking of menace comes literally two panels into the book where we’re introduce to our lead, who we come to know as Abel, via flashback and he’s gleefully staring at a fire he started in a field. That’s approximately a 2/10 on the “kind of fucked” scale when the next page literally confronts Abel with his parents slain as he arrives home and then has a completely nonplussed conversation with their murderer, apparently there to recruit him for whatever shady purposes to come. Then the book keeps driving down Disturbing Lane with a series of present day, grotesque murders committed overnight in a Manhattan hotel designed to send a message on par with a Christmas card from Leatherface.
There’s a methodological pacing to how all these disturbing events play out in SAVAGE THINGS that really emphasizes the dread these acts inspire, but there’s also some sadistic glee on display as well. On one hand it makes a person wonder if that delightfully playful cat of Jordan’s is all that is keeping him back from having a freezer full of non-cat lovers, on the other it ramps up all sort of tension once you get what the book is playing for with Abel’s origin story and how it relates to these horrendous murders. Basically, as I alluded to earlier, we start off with the back story of a potential serial murderer in Abel but watch him and SAVAGE THINGS uniquely transform into an espionage laden story involving a clandestine organization that makes disturbed children like Abel into highly efficient agents. When you find out the hotel murders are the blowback and people like Abel and those who trained him are the catalyst, you start to enjoy the fucked up storytelling possibilities a book like this can have in those circumstances. Not to overshadow what Jordan’s script is doing here because it does stand on its own, but imagine if the government had a strike force of highly trained, highly functioning sociopaths ala a Dexter Morgan to unleash hell on whatever target put in their sights and question yourself for the kind of sadistic glee that potential for storytelling instills in you. When the ramifications of such a black op and what they tried to accomplish is forty brutal murders in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world, you see a lot of scope for the plot and many more opportunities to tell some disquieting yet intriguing material surrounding such a horror show of a program and people like Abel.
Ibrahim Moustafa is tasked with bringing this macabre action tale to life in the art and there is some damn good pencil work on display here. Moustafa has a very detailed and somewhat “matter of fact” line work style that just gets down to business and really emphasizes what Jordan’s script is playing at. It never lingers on the disturbing imagery or fetishizes the gore, it just shows you something fucked up as it moves onto something else fucked up and the way it models it off just makes you go “well, that’s fucked up” and then you progress forward with the story. It’s got a disconnection with the brutality that the main characters carry and puts you in a weird place as you journey deeper into what Jordan and Moustafa are striving for with the book. SAVAGE THINGS cuts at you in weird ways, given its visceral nature, but the control it exerts in trying to keep you as the reader as detached as the characters performing these savage acts is impressive. It’s a comic that’s as gripping as it is sadistic in what it actually shows and what it even more disturbingly implies, and I’m looking forward to seeing how far things can in all aspects, from its intrigue to its, well, savagery.
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.
EXTREMITY #1Writer and Artist: Daniel Waren Johnson Publisher: Image Comics
Guest Reviewer: Saint Saucey
All through life we are told not to judge a book by it's cover. But with Comics, most of the time that's exactly what I do. Like a lot of readers, I have a pull list that I don't stray too far from. I try to stay in a budget when buying comics and I'm already buying too many. But one of my Image books was ending this week (fare thee well NAILBITER) and the cover of EXTREMITY has been looking mighty sexy in the back of all my other Image books. I didn't do any research on the book or the story I just added it to my pull list. I wanted to go in completely uninformed with an open mind.
The book itself is a standard revenge tale with a bit of (I'm going to say TANK GIRL meets "Let That Be Their Last Battle Ground" from Star Trek the original series). There is a war between Roto and the Paznina and it is clear the Paznina are winning. In the opening pages the star character, a young girl (though the art didn't make that entirely clear) named Thea, talks about her life before the first(?) attack. She was her clan’s greatest artist. So of course, during the attack/raid her drawing hand is cut off. Flash forward to a raid on a Paznina War Machine and the Roto score a victory in battle.
I'm not going to go through the entirety of the comic for you. That would ruin the fun. I'll tell you the art is very pretty (other than the fact that I was uncertain the lead was female). The story was a new fun take on an old genre. It's a clash of clans that we have seen in CONAN, GAME OF THRONES, STAR WARS, FIREFLY, STAR TREK and countless other SciFi stories. It's got a female lead, but even that is old hat by this day and age. At least her wardrobe is a nice design. Something new for young girls to Cosplay as at conventions.
My two gripes are these; she is an artist and her drawing hand is cut off. I know the book is called EXTREMITY but that cliché is borderline criminal. My other complaint is this; the front of their ship. Not her little speeder bike it is alright looking. The clan ship that rams the war machine. It's pictured on the back fold of the wrap around cover. It looks like Chibi Edward Elric from FULL METAL ALCHEMIST. It's not at all menacing. If I saw that charging at me in battle I'd probably keel over laughing. The leader of the Roto clan—the "Abba" has a bad ass looking battle mask that resembles the "creature" from the village. Paint that shit on the cover of your war ship fellows.
That's my review. I enjoyed the book and will most certainly pick up issue 2. I don't know how long it will last which is one reason I hesitate to pick up any new Unknown Properties but I hope the writer is able to tell his whole story.
FAITH #9Writer: Jody Houser
Artists: Kate Niemczyk, Marguerite Sauvage
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man
Valiant's number one female hero continues to be an entertaining read. Issue nine here is a bit of a time-out issue, and the plot made me think; this is the kind of stuff DC should be doing with Superman. Also, one of my complaints about Faith in the past has been about the lackluster art. Good to see Kate Niemczyk maybe putting an end to that. Niemczyk was the artist on the canceled too soon MOCKINGBIRD for Marvel series.
You know, I'll start off with a complaint, as this issue really highlighted it. Valiant needs to simplify her name. As you may know, Faith is Faith Herbert, aka the superhero Zephyr. When Faith is not Zephyr, she's Summer Smith. An average woman working for an online magazine. Why? Because everyone knows Faith Herbert is Zephyr. In fact, the name Zephyr is barely used in the comic. The news media calls her Faith, but still people refer to her as Zephyr (talking in the comic here). Ohh Valiant, it's time to ditch “Zephyr” and start using Faith as her superhero name (even though DC had a Faith too). It just makes sense. The name Zephyr adds nothing to the story and changing a heroes name often doesn't harm the property, just ask the newest Captain Marvels.
Ok back to the issue at hand, Niemczyk does a really nice job with this issue. Despite it's lack of action (as I said, it's basically a time-out issue), each page looks really nice. Her figures all look great, and while she could kick things up a bit with more creative compositions in the dialogue scenes, her figure work carries each page well enough.
As to the story, spoiler time. It's some office/superhero shenanigans. As Faith's two friends, and her boss, who know she's Faith, work on protecting her ID from a new hire. This is something DC could have done with Superman for years, if they just had the guts to admit, Lois, Jimmy and Perry (heck maybe even Steve) knew he was Clark. It would have been a great new dynamic. Anyway, back to Faith. We also get some inner dialogue from Faith's friends. Fleshing out their desire to help Faith. Marguerite Sauvage draws the usual nice fantasy scenes here, as they envision themselves 'really' helping Faith. In the end, the new hire turns out to be more than what she appears (again makes me think of a classic Superman story), and her friends save the day.
I always enjoyed time-out issues. If you like a character, just spending time with them is often cool enough. Learning more about their world and their relationships. Mind you, not too much, because we all want action in a superhero book. Still these breaks in between epic slug-fest are always nice. Assuming they are handled right, and Houser here does a good job of it.
Like most of Valiant's books, FAITH is always a solid read. While not must read material, you'd be sorry if you never gave it a try.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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