Sunday, December 04, 2011

Comics Round-Up (Nov.30)

20111130-ComicsRoundUp

A varied bunch of comics I picked up this week

I’ve decided to diversify the range of comics I’m reading. I’ve been focusing an awful lot on DC’s New 52 (which have been awesome, by the way), but I think some diversification is needed – there are an awful lot of comics out there, and I don’t want to miss out. With that in mind, here are four reviews of comics from a larger variety of publishers (ok, and one new DC title). The more time I spend paying attention to the comics market, the more publishers I’m finding that release some really intriguing comic books. Some seem to focus on tie-ins, some focus on darker and grittier fare, while all seem to have their own distinctive style and tone. Always someone keen to find more stuff to read, I dove right in…

Reviewed herein: A Game of Thrones #3, Seraph #1, Seven Warriors #1, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1

Game of Thrones #3 (Dynamite)

MartinAbraham-GameOfThrones3

Writer: Daniel Abraham & George R.R. Martin | Artist: Tommy Patterson

King Robert has come to Winterfell, accompanied by his Lannister queen, Cersei; her son, Prince Joffrey; and her brothers, Jamie and the dwarf Tyrion, called the Imp. In their train come intrigue, treachery, and attempted murder that will shake House Stark to its very foundations.

Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea, the marriage between Daenerys Targaryen and the Dothraki horselord Khal Drogo wins her brother Viserys a dangerous new ally in his quest to reclaim the Iron Throne.

This was a very good issue, and builds nicely upon the groundwork laid by the first two. It involves two of the more important early events of the story going forward – Bran’s discovery of Cersei and Jamie’s secret, and also Daenerys’s wedding to Khal Drogo. Both are handled very well, I thought.

The first half of the issue dealing with events in Winterfell, as Arya rebels against the role society wishes her to play as a girl and woman, while her sister seems to effortlessly fulfil the role of future queen. Arya, naturally, resents her, and seeks out John Snow’s company for comfort. We start to see other people’s impressions of Joffrey (“a little shit” seems to be the consensus). We also start to see the tensions within the Lannister family, as Tyrion drops hints of what he knows that he shouldn’t, and his loyalties are questioned.

The second half (well, not quite a whole half, but almost) deals with events across the Narrow Sea. I thought it was great that the artists chose a different colour palette for the different setting – more warm, earthy and fiery tones, as opposed to the blues, greys and greens for Winterfell. Dany and Drogo’s wedding night is also handled far better than in the HBO series, in which Drogo basically forces himself on Dany. This version offers a more tender encounter, in which Drogo seems to allay Dany’s fears, rather than realise them.

It really is a very nicely put-together comic adaptation. The writing is good (save the couple of typos), and the plot keeps moving at a steady pace. The colouring and the art are also very nice – clean, not overly stylised or distinct, they do a great job of bringing the setting to life.

If you’re a fan of the HBO series and want more detail, this is a good option if you’re daunted by the heft of the novels. If you’re a fan of the novels, then the comic series will offer you an alternative perspective of the story.

Overall, I think this is very good.

Seraph #1 (Top Cow/Image)

TCImage-Seraph-01Writer: Lance Briggs & Phil Hester | Artist: Jose Luis

The angelic warrior now known only as Seraph was once a sinner. After living a life of selfishness and sin, personal tragedy drove him to kill himself. Plucked on his way to Hell by Heaven, the man was made Heaven's soldier in an endless battle. Charged with fighting an ancient war, but bound by God's law, can Seraph triumph over opponents not restricted in the same way and regain his faith in the process?

Seraph is one of eight one-shot titles released by Top Cow as part of their “Pilot Season” initiative (which dates back to 2007): a small number of comics are released, and then voted on by readers – the winner becomes an on-going comic series. This is both awesome and frustrating… Awesome, because the successful title will be chosen by readers. Frustrating, because I really want the winner to be one I like… (To be fair, I’ve only read this one, so I’ll have to get my ass in gear and try the others.)

Seraph, I thought, was pretty great, and I think the premise has a lot of mileage. It taps into a popular trope – that of the battle between Heaven and Hell – but it’s done in a grittier, harder-edged way than I’ve seen for a long time. It’s grimier, certainly, but rendered in some really great art – the style is similar to what I’ve seen in other Top Cow/Image releases, and is one of the most consistent and eye-catching styles I’ve seen.

The new Seraph has no memory of what’s happened to him, save that he remembers killing himself (on page one). He’s not overly familiar with his new powers and abilities, and there’s nobody around to guide him (though someone does drop in on one occasion to give him some advice and a pep talk). This was a good choice, as it meant the reader learns alongside Seraph, and we’re never subjected to clunky or weighty exposition.

The story offers up some social commentary and also criticism of religion, politics, and society as a whole. It’s not preachy, but it offers a hint of hope in the darkness, and Seraph’s dubious allegiance – he was plucked from the side of Hell at the very last moment by a meddling Angel – could make for some interesting self-examination and confusion in later issues. The issue was long, well produced (very nice paper), and was a very satisfying read.

This should appeal to fans of Supernatural, Spawn, Constantine, and anything related to the war between Heaven and Hell.

I really enjoyed this. Highly recommended.

Seven Warriors #1/3 (Boom)

Boom-7Warriors-01Writer: Michaƫl Le Galli | Artist: Francis Manapul

In 6th century Libya, the capitol of an ancient nation is surrounded by the Persian and Byzantine armies. Seven are chosen to save the heir to the kingdom. Seven Warriors. Seven… sexy, gorgeous women?

As the Libyan capital comes under siege, it’s protection is put in the hands of mercenaries. It is an uneasy situation for Libyans, especially their royal house. A handful of Samartian warriors are chosen to transport the royal heir to safety to a secret city. Meanwhile, the Queen appears to be plotting something to do with the unborn heirs to the throne, although for now the reader doesn’t know much more than that (we can guess, given the nature of the characters, though).

This is quite an interesting title. A blend of 300, Red Sonja, Prince of Persia and Dungeons & Dragons (complete with dungeon traps, of the flame pit and ocean of sand-variety), all mixed together with plenty of ancient Middle Eastern atmospherics and aesthetic as well as Amazonian warrior women and their customs.

Quite formal language used for the dialogue, which gives it a slightly stilted vibe. One can forgive this given that much of the issue is royalty talking with people they consider below them (mercenaries, servants, etc.), but when the journey starts, I would have thought formality would have become a lesser concern than surviving traps and the like. The artwork is nice – not too clean, quite roughly done. There were a couple of panels where it wasn’t entirely clear what had happened, but they are minor and the story wasn’t ruined.

It’s a nicely put together comic, and the story could be quite interesting in the long run. The premise is quite interesting and, as long as the author doesn’t appeal too much to the teenage-boy-brain, then it could become something rather impressive. I’m not sure where the story will be going in the future, as not a whole lot happens in this first issue. There’s one thing I didn’t really understand: why is the first page a sex-scene? It seemed totally irrelevant to the story and what came afterwards.

I’ll keep my eye on Seven Warriors and let you know how things progress. I would say that it’s going to get the Three Issue Test, but as there are only going to be three issues in this series, it’s somewhat redundant. It’s good enough to stick with for that long, so I will. Check back in a few weeks for a review of issue two.

[Three Issue Test: Where I give a title three months to decide on whether or not I want to stick with it. Most of the comics I read will receive three issues to impress, but some – as frequent readers might have noticed – just don’t appeal after one or two issues.]

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1/6 (DC)

DC-THUNDERAgents-1Writer: Nick Spencer | Artist: Wes Craig & Andy Kubert

What kind of people willingly become Super Heroes, knowing that their powers will eventually kill them? That's the question this new 6-part miniseries will explore as the team must face off against the Warlord and his Subterraneans!

This is a really intriguing title. I wasn’t really expecting too much from it, having never heard of the series before. But, after reading this first issue I find myself, well, quite intrigued. There is some allusion to what I assume happened in Volume One (now available as a Trade Paperback collection, and something I’m seriously considering getting), and the beginnings of an explanation of what’s going on. That being said, it’s not clear why or how the powers these people are given will eventually kill them. Or why they are given the powers in the first place, knowing that they’ll be killed. It would have been nice to know a little more of these details, but we do get some of the background. There are hints laid throughout the issue of what is to come, particularly in the Subterranean region, where a riot is brewing and quickly gets out of hand. It’s still not entirely clear by the end of this issue what the bigger problem’s going to be, or what they’re fighting about, but it has certainly whet my appetite for more. I really liked the writing and dialogue, and the art was pretty good, too – slightly old-fashioned, rough-around-the-edges, and good colouring as well.

Despite the remaining gaps in my knowledge, this nonetheless felt like a substantial issue and a satisfying read. It’ll be interesting to see how much they can cram into a six-issue series. If you’re looking for something a little different from DC, then this would be a good start.

*     *     *

Next week, I’ll be bringing you the last weekly DC New 52 reviews I’ll be able to do for a while. It’s unfortunate, because I’ve enjoyed my weekly trips to the NY comic stores. At least the three titles are pretty big ones: Detective Comics (one of the best so far), Action Comics, and also Swamp Thing (which I’ll roll into one big four-issue catch up review).

Also on the radar is one of the most hotly anticipated new titles of the year, and one I’m particularly excited about: Valen The Outcast (formerly just “Outcast”) from Boom Studios. This has been described as perfect for fans of Conan and Game of Thrones, both of which I like, so I have very high hopes for it. (In fact, I already have the first issue, and I can tell you it is pretty great. If I get the time, I may review this early, in its own separate post.)

A smaller selection, it’s true, but a pretty good one, I think you’ll agree. There are a couple others that I may consider (Batwing, of which I’ve already reviewed earlier issues; Animal Man, which would be completely new to me), but the four mentioned above are the ones I’m most interested in, and due to both time and financial constraints I’ve had to limit myself.

So, for the rest of December and most of January, there will be fewer reviews of single issues, and more reviews of collected editions. In particular, I’ll be sinking my teeth into Mark Waid’s Irredeemable and Incorruptible series. I have it on good authority that the two semi-parallel series are pretty great, so I’m excited to get started on them. Speaking of those two titles: they’re published by Boom Studios, and having investigated their backlist and current titles catalogue, I think it’s safe to say you’ll be seeing a lot of Boom reviews coming up on the blog.

2 comments:

  1. Get volume #1 of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS.

    It is phenomenal, and tops my list of best comics I read all year.

    Absolutely amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yeah? Ok, it's going on the list, but for January/February.

    Any other suggestions?

    ReplyDelete