Southern Bastards Vol. 1: Here Was A Man (Image Comics)
Written by: Jason Aaron
Art by: Jason Latour
If you have your ear to the ground in the comics world, chances are you have heard of Image Comics Southern Bastards. This book is one of few in recent memory that expertly reinforces that comic books are a powerful medium for storytelling. Sure this 4 part story arc would have worked on TV, but I don’t think it would be able to carry the emotional weight and visual impact the comic allows. Southern Bastards vol. 1 is a sheer masterpiece in storytelling and thankfully it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Southern Bastards follows Earl Tubbs, a hardnosed older southern man as he returns home to Craw County, Alabama to deal with his Father’s estate after his death. Craw County seems like your typical southern town where BBQ and high school football is king. So when Earl starts to realize his old home town is being corrupted he decides to try and take matters into his own hands, luckily for him those hands are carrying a very big stick.
Jason Aaron’s Southern Bastards at its heart is about family. He perfectly weaves in Earl’s past issues with his father and juxtaposes them with Earl’s current situation. The idea that Earl wants nothing more than to leave this town behind but can’t out of sheer obligation is a powerful one. Especially when set against the backdrop of his father who as Earl puts it; gave a damn more about Craw County than he ever did his son. Aaron is able to keep you on the edge of your seat with a rather simplistic story. In issue 4 things really start to come together as Aaron turns the knife unexpectedly and you realize this story is just beginning.
Jason Aaron’s script is an awesome feat in storytelling and only made more compelling by Jason Latour’s art. Latour makes Aaron’s south an ugly, disgusting and dirty place. His character designs and backgrounds are not a pleasant esthetic, but they work so well in the context of Aaron’s script. Nothing and no one here is beautiful. Latour makes you feel like Craw County is a place you’d never want to visit, let alone live in and makes you wonder why anyone would call this place home. Although it does feel gritty grimy and devoid of beauty, it also feels very real, as you have likely run into one or two of these characters if you’ve ever ventured east of The Mississippi. Latour’s art is the perfect companion to Aaron’s story and both have created a piece of work that we will be talking about for years to come.
Southern Bastards may not be your normal comic book fair, especially if you’re used to super powers and capes, but it’s certainly worthy of your attention. This book is a testament to what one can do when left to their own devices and makes a grand statement as to why creator owned books are taking over the world. Don’t hesitate, don’t delay, don’t even think about it just go read this book now it will change the way you think about what comics are and supposed to be.
*Review by Casey Walsh
Rat Queens #8 (Image Comics)
Writer: Kurtis Wiebe
Art/colors: Roc Church
If you’ve ever played or watched even a single session of a dungeons and dragons game (any version or even Pathfinder for that matter) you will thoroughly enjoy reading this and the previous issues. This is a comic series about 4 female party members set in a world resembling a D&D game, complete with unfiltered language and not so witty comebacks and jabs. Though this issue doesn’t see any progress with the current story (campaign), we take a moment to read about the character back story (something that many players enjoy creating). Every character has a story to tell, and issue 8 of the Rat Queens looks back at one of the party member’s past, Violet the stereotypical player race/class of a dwarven fighter.
For a comic to be about high fantasy, involving an epic (in scope) story line (ancient tentacle deity breaking through the planes to destroy all), you need to have artwork to flesh out the rest of the world. Each individual that you see in this world is memorable. They have features and body types that perfectly fit their molds, letting you know their roles (and rolls too if they don’t seem charismatic or intelligent…). The dwarven kingdom of the Blackforge Clan looks wonderful as a setting as do the beings who make up the kingdom.
Now knowing some of the reasons for why Violet is who she is, and at least a little bit of why she is an adventurer, I cannot wait to see how all the Rat Queens came together, though it is briefly shown how Violet encounters another member of the Rat Queens. All of this issues pages takes place during Violet’s unconsciousness (probably bleeding out). If all of that level of back story can be told during a single issue and what probably amounts to seconds (or a round in game time), I can only imagine the the story becomes something that will be impossible to put down.
*Review by Cory Anderson
Written By: Caleb Monroe
Illustrated By: Mariano Navarro
Colors By: Gabriel Cassata
Picking up right where issue one of this four issue miniseries left us, Adam the “boy wonder” of magic tricks is asked to join a covert spy group called the Cloaks, or be arrested and tossed in jail for stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. With the answer being obvious (and Adam already escaping/being released from his handcuffs), his real training begins again, by his former magician mentor. Adam and the reader, are briefed on some of the parameters that the Cloaks work under, when the action and what Adam is being trained for, comes to the Cloaks.
Where the first issue was all about displaying the showmanship and not revealing how Adam pulled off his magical tricks, this issue shows us more of a behind the scenes look into how he will be performing his newly acquired talent set (reading people, disarming bombs and shooting guns). Every page felt like it was in non-stop motion, flowing from panel to panel with well-illustrated action during each drawing. The few times that people and objects weren’t constantly moving, was when some sleight of hand and important story information were unfolding.
With Adam looking serious and having the illustration and colors to match, the story is starting to build up an opposite for him to compete with. His opposite being revealed as an ex-Cloak operative and the bubbly and good looking Evy, his “friend” he met at his last public “event”. But before Evy gets painted in a bad light and too much is assumed about her, she drops a metaphorical bomb on Adam. The implications of what she stole and what she has found out leave us with a cliffhanger wanting to know more about the Cloak and what they really are.
*Review by Cory Anderson
Guardians 3000 #1 (Marvel Comics)
Written by: Dan Abnett
Art by: Gerardo Sandoval
Colors by: Edgar Delgado
If there was one book I was excited about this week it was Guardians 3000. You’d think I’d say Thor, but I’m a massive Guardians of the Galaxy fan and for you fans who have only seen the movie, these guys were the original Guardians. It’s a very confusing story on how they were the original ones though as this story takes place 1000 years in the future (3014 A.D.)! These guys ended up going back in time and met Star-Lord and Rocket yada yada it’s a long story, but you can read version 1 & 2 of GotG to get some back story. Also, this version of Guardians is where Yondu comes from!
This book is pretty fun to say the least. It starts off with a massive Badoon ambush that doesn’t look good for our heroes. You get introduced to each Guardian through the eyes of a new character Sweetgenes (or Geena) who is the centerpiece in this story. We get to see the Guardians each doing their thing, showing readers how awesome they are. Eventually this comic gets set up for where it is going to go in the next few issues. It literally turns into Edge of Tomorrow with less Tom Cruise. You may be sick of the Groundhog Day trope, but I absolutely love when there is time relapse occurring around a character who recognizes it. If you know the original Guardians, you should be used to this as Starhawk is nothing but messing with time.
Dan Abnett is writing this series in a way that should make other sci fi writers jealous. It’s like his boss told him to make the characters talk in future slang the whole book and leave it up to the readers to make sense out of it. He uses phrases like “Big Grat”, “Maxiflark”, “Dinkwaft”, “Nil Data”, “Oh my Dei!” & my favorite “Whatevermind”. Abnett has to be having fun just pulling these words out of his “gark” and making them mean something in this story. Like I said he’s writing it with a Groundhog’s Day like story, so it’s bound to be fun and interesting. The Art and Colors by Gerardo Sandoval and Edgar Delgado is great and they draw the Guardians to look just like they were designed back in the day. They get to draw some familiar faces in this as well. Overall this book is fantastic, it’s longer than most the books released this week and definitely worth a pick up if you want more Marvel Cosmic Universe.
*Review by Everett Harn
Thor #1 (Marvel Comics)
Written by: Jason Aaron
Art by: Russell Dauterman
Colors by: Matthew Wilson
This is the beginning of the big Thor change that caused waves of thunder roll across the internet a few weeks back, and it picks up right after Thor: God of Thunder #35 and Original Sin #8 left off. Thor has been on the Moon for weeks trying to lift Mjolnir and saying nothing and this bring the All-Father back from his self-appointed exile to attempt to set everything back the way it should be. Well this doesn’t really work for Thor or the All-Mother Freyja, who had been keeping Asgardia afloat quite fine without Odin. We still don’t get to see who picks up the hammer in this issue, but we get some clues to who it could be!
I couldn’t say enough about how awesome Jason Aaron’s writing is no matter how hard I tried. Hell, Casey even talks about how awesome his writing is for another book on this same review page! There isn’t much to say here except Aaron is doing a fantastic job setting up this new chapter in Thor’s book (titled Unworthy) giving us some humor and some insight into some of the King Thor scenes in God of Thunder. To go along with the amazing writing in these books is always some of the comic world’s top notch artists like Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson. These Thor books are always gorgeous and a true feast for the eyes. I could go on and on about how fantastic the Marvel NOW! Thor books have been, but you need to find out for yourself. This is your chance to start a brand new Thor series from #1, so go pick this book up!
*Review by Everett Harn
Written by: Cullen Bunn
Art by: Joelle Jones
After a terrific limited series with Helheim last year, Cullen Bunn and Joelle Jones, are back with another gothic Norse adventure with the big resurrected Rikard in Brides of Helheim #1 from Oni Press. Left to wander the earth as an undead draugr with Valhalla beyond his grasp a new challenge comes knocking on his door in another thrilling supernatural tale.
Bunn has been a busy man with various titles, The Sixth Gun, Magneto, and Lobo but fans were clamouring for another Viking story featuring the fierce warrior Rikard. Now seemingly at peace in the woods years after defeating the evil hags that altered his existence Rikard is burdened into fighting a different force that threatens more people. Bunn is a master of myth making and taking a character like the big zombie-like Viking and turning him into a reluctant hero makes for some wide-open storytelling. He surrounds him with engaging characters that help fill out the world beyond the soft-spoken giant.
Joelle Jones is a visionary artist that knows how to direct a scene whether it’s a huge multi-panel fight sequence or simply establishing a location with quiet landscapes. With the eye of a cinematographer the camera work is varied giving the art energy and movement. Jones and Bunn work well together because it’s obvious the writer sets up the artist to do her thing and she comes through marvelously.
Brides of Helheim #1 is a book that new readers can sink into while giving established fans another great supernatural Viking tale. It’s a rare feat when comic books give readers their money’s worth but Brides delivers while leaving readers wanting more. This is definite pull list worthy.
*Review by Enrique Rea
Loverboys (Dark Horse Comics)
Written by: Gilbert Hernandez
Art by: Gilbert Hernandez
In a world away from superheroes, huge corporate publishers and mega-crossover events that reboot their comic book universe for the umpteenth time there are still storytellers that value the beauty of small town people and their relationships. Loverboys is that story and is inherently independent of whatever else is going on in sequential art as an industry. It’s something that writer and illustrator Gilbert Hernandez has made a career out of by following his own vision and caretaking of characters he’s used in multiple volumes. The award-winning creator (along with his brother Jaime co-created the seminal independent comic Love & Rockets) is more interested in the drama and humor in local small town life than some metropolis somewhere.
What is epic for the town of Lagrimas would nary raise an eyebrow in Gotham. A young man in a neighborhood of self-described “loverboys” begins an initially innocent relationship with an older woman who used to be his high school teacher. Soon Rocky and the former Mrs. Paz begin an open sexual relationship and become the talk of the neighborhood. Things get messy, insecurities and jealousies are exposed, and a happy ending is relative for all involved. It’s raw and awkward and as unpredictable as life itself. There is humor and a subplot involving Rocky’s sister who hates her small town so much she wants to blow it up.
Hernandez’s signature black and white artwork is simple, natural and understated but effective in focusing the attention on the characters. Long known for drawing characters of all shapes and sizes to mimic the diversity in real life the same is true in Loverboys. At times funny and sad in others but honest throughout. There may not be any explosions or splash pages full of hyperkinetic violence but the entertainment Hernandez provides is in the details of human frailties and how they elicit joy, passion, pain and loss.
*Review by Enrique Rea
Written by: Tony Puryear, Erika Alexander
Art by: Tony Puryear
When we last saw our hero(?) Isaac, the gang member who crashed landed on the prison planet named Oasis, he was getting a hand from Silas, the mysterious gang leader of Barrio Las Cruces. Now treated as an odd and special celebrity, Isaac is treated like a king as Silas looks to recruit him for his forces. Isaac is skeptical but partakes in Silas’ hospitality anyway. Concrete Park: RESPECT #2 continues to introduce us to this new world with a wave of new characters and you can’t help but wonder how are Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander going to tie up this epic new tale in five issues?
In the tradition of Mad Max and Blade Runner, Concrete Park is an ambitious science fiction series about the inhabitants of a prison mining planet made up of rival gangs in a seemingly lawless environment amid a dry and vast planet. Isaac as the newest arrival has a dark past that still haunts him but is making the transition to this deadly new battleground far removed from the mean streets of Los Angeles. Puryear continues to build this world with odd characters with dubious intentions. As the reader you’re discovering these new environs and people just as Isaac is. It is at times unpredictable and fascinating to see how similar and dissimilar Oasis is from Earth.
It’s difficult to see where the story is headed though. Everyone seems fascinated by Isaac as the interloper unafraid to challenge whomever is placed ahead of him but will he be used to take down the Potato King? Will he join Silas and his crew or will he look for Luca and help her gang? Without demanding all the details there should be some clarity going forward.
Puryear and Alexander have created an extraordinary setting with an imaginative plot, albeit unclear, a diverse population and Isaac seems like the perfect imperfect hero. As an artist Puryear has developed his own style that makes Concrete Park beautiful and like nothing else in comics. His use of color is striking and jumps off the page. The action is quick and definitive.
Concrete Park is an exciting sci-fi comic with great characters and even if the direction is unclear so far just being immersed in this world is a reward of its own.
*Review by Enrique Rea