Even though I live on the West Coast and I am not attending NYCC like most of our staff here at ComicBooked.com, this is still an insanely busy weekend for me (hey, someone has to stay behind to edit this tsunami of news). This was one of the best weeks for new comics in recent memory, and I wanted to write reviews of them all, but time just won’t allow that this week. Instead, I’m going to take a page from our “Bullet Reviews” playbook and write up some short reviews of a few of the awesome comics that dropped this week. This will also give you a little insight into the diverse array of comics I read on a weekly basis. To avoid any confusion, let’s call these “Rapid-Fire Reviews.” Ready… Aim… FIRE!
The comic I was anticipating the most this week was Transfusion #1 from Steve Niles, Menton3, and IDW Publishing. Transfusion paints a bleak picture of a deadly future world in which killer robots and vampires have hunted humanity to the brink. With resources starting to run very thin, confrontation and battle become unavoidable. I loved everything about this debut issue (#1 of 3). Steve Niles exposition here has an almost somber poetic quality that pairs up perfectly with Menton3’s art. The art itself is very atmospheric, with the moody earth tones occasionally interspersed by contrasting splatters of crimson blood. This is a dark and wickedly-gorgeous comic that feels like glimpsing a horrific scene through a dreamy haze. After just one issue, I find myself sad that this will only be a three-issue miniseries, but take comfort in the fact that Niles and Menton3 will be collaborating again soon on the LUST Kickstarter project from 44Flood.
Creator-Owned Heroes #5
From Transfusion, we will segue into another title that Steve Niles is involved in, Creator-Owned Heroes from Image Comics. This title teams Niles and Jimmy Palmiotti up with various talented artists to create short serial comic stories that unfold over a few split-issues. That’s right, two comic stories in one title, plus a selection of various interesting articles, interviews, and mind-spills. Creator-Owned Heroes #5 is the start of two brand new stories: Killswitch, an assassin’s tale with a twist from Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Jerry Lando, and Paul Mounts; as well as Black Sparrow, an Old West tale of an executed man sent to his grave and the price we pay for love, by Steve Niles, Jay Russell, and Andrew Ritchie. As an added bonus, this issue features a third comic; a preview of Retrovirus from Palmiotti, Gray, and Norberto Fernandez, that promises to make readers rethink their perceptions of secret experiments and Neanderthals. This issue also features an interview with the amazing Amanda Conner, questions for Jimmy from Twitter, tips for writing comics from Steve, and thoughts on collaboration from Justin Gray. These creators are generously giving you the information you need to DIY and create your own comics. Creator-Owned Heroes not only has great comics, it is empowering! I have reviewed every issue of this title so far, and I am running out of ways to encourage you to READ THIS COMIC. Creator-Owned Heroes should be preordered and on everyone’s pull lists by now.
Punk Rock Jesus #4
Punk Rock Jesus (#4 of 6) is written and illustrated by Sean Murphy and published by Vertigo Comics. This title, about a clone (from genetic material collected from The Shroud of Turin) of Jesus created to star on a reality TV show, has been one of the surprise hits of the year. After an apparent divine intervention at the end of issue #3, things really get crazy in this issue as the story kicks into overdrive. A couple of characters, sadly, will not make it out alive as the story finally starts to live up to its title when J2 (aka Chris) is exposed to the good stuff (hard, loud, fast music and thought-provoking books) that has corrupted many an angry youth at one time or another (myself included), thus guiding him to find salvation. Sean Murphy has created something unlike anything else on the market. His black and while art is a joy to behold, with many of the panels showing true genius in regard to perspective and motion. This was the best issue of Punk Rock Jesus yet!
I never even realized that I liked the detective/noir genre until I read the first volume of Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth’s Stumptown from Oni Press. At long last volume two is here, and this is the second issue. This time around, our sharp and sassy PI, Dex Parios, is trying to track down a musician’s beloved missing guitar. Of course, as Dex’s luck would have it, things are never simple. Why is the DEA taking an interest in this case? Is there more going on here than meets the eye? What isn’t her client telling her? This tale is starting to pick up. Greg Rucka is obsessed with PI stories, and he spins a pretty good one himself. I love how Matthew Southworth (whom I had the pleasure of meeting again a few weeks ago at the Jet City Comic Show) illustrates architecture. In this issue there is an illustration of the Paramount Theater that looks spot on. At times in this volume, the facial illustrations seem a bit sparse for my tastes. I can’t tell if that is due to the coloring in this volume. I almost think I prefer Mr. Southworth’s art without the coloring. The coloring does seem to work to better effect on the darker panels. In any case, this volume still doesn’t seem to be living up to the last volume, but I’m not sure if that’s because I’m reading it in single issues instead of all in one shot in a collected hardback edition. Stumptown is starting to pick up and I’m still onboard, but I’m waiting for this series to really “wow” me.
It seems like all I have been hearing about lately is the return of the Joker in Batman #13 from Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and DC Comics. After being so careful not to spoil it on social networks, Capullo seemed a tad miffed when an early Joker image was released by the publisher a while back. The Joker is one of the fans’ favorite villains in Batman’s rogues’ gallery–and for good reason. Of course his return is going to be a big deal. By most reports, Batman #13 was sold out by the afternoon on the day is its release in most locations. My social networks erupted with an outpouring praise. People said this issue was powerful. The best thing they had ever read. Nearly every review was giving it 100%, 10/10, 5 stars, and on and on… Yeah, Batman #13 is a good issue. I enjoyed it. But it certainly isn’t the best comic ever, or even the best comic out this week. It almost feels like DC fans are so starved for good comics that they are willing to elevate solid issues to a dizzying status, but I know that’s not true as DC has many great titles. That’s just my opinion. Feel free to rip me in the comments below. To read a different view, check out my colleague’s review here. From the opening pages you can feel the tension. Something big is afoot. The signs are all there. Rivers flow backwards. A lion cub is born in the Gotham Zoo with two heads. Wasting no time, the Joker quickly attacks the Gotham Police HQ. You can tell that this Joker is more violent. More twisted. After reclaiming his facial skin that had been cut off earlier in DC’s “New 52,” he fashions it into a gruesome mask which he straps to his head, and sets of to do what he does best—spread chaos and fear. Will Batman be able to foil this vicious new incarnation of his most infamous rival? Before heading into a backup story that sheds some light on the main story, we are left with a great cliffhanger.
I’m not trying to troll or say that there was anything wrong with this issue, but let’s not have the praise become hyperbole. Don’t get me wrong, I love Greg Capullo’s art. I have for a long time, going back to Quasar, Spawn and The Creech. I remember just a couple of years ago when you could walk up to his booth at a convention without navigating a line that snaked around the entire convention floor. I remember when everyone who is currently losing their sh*t over his art wasn’t reading other titles that he worked on like Haunt. I’m not trying to pull an, “Oh, where were you all earlier?” nerd card either. His art is amazing, and he deserves to have everyone finally take notice. But much of the work in Batman is almost tame by his standards. His breakdowns are still interesting, but more traditional these days. I kind of miss his art that seemed like it couldn’t be contained in the panels. Together Snyder and Capullo have created a great Batman title. Batman #13 is a very solid issue, but let’s not proclaim it to be the start of the greatest arc ever created just yet. I’m very interested to keep reading and see where “Death of the Family” goes from here.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to sound off in the comments below and let us know about some of the comics you checked out this week.