Comic Book Reviews 12-10-2014

Dec 9, 2014

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STK656768Dungeons and Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate #3 (IDW)

Written By: Jim Zub
Art By: Max Dunbar
Colors By: John-Paul Bove

Speaking in terms of a D&D campaign, the party has formed (thankfully not in the typical tavern meet up) and their mission is clearly laid out before them. How they accomplish that goal is completely up to their own creative and skilled ways. The story up until now has been pretty straight forward with the group on the search for Delina’s brother, but prepare for some twists and chaotic events to happen. Again, having Jim Zub writing (acting as our dungeon master), we are provided a story that doesn’t feel like it is on rails but flows naturally and changes with the action.

STK656770Jim Zub is a well-known name in the fantasy role-playing comic book world and is writing this wonderful story that’s been unfolding so far. With this adaptation of the rulebook being a visual adventure, the cityscape and urban dangers need to hold up on their own. With the story making twists and turns, the action needs to have those high drama encounters to back up how meaningful and serious the story development actually is. Not to mention with such an iconic character in the purple tattooed ranger, there needs to be some colors that pop and accentuate the characters.

It is exciting to read a story in which, even though the pages have already been laid out with illustrations and colors, there is still the potential for something to go wrong or not according to the plan. Which if you’ve played D&D, you need to be ready for nothing to go right. Again, even if you haven’t played the game before, the storyline is entirely enjoyable and you are not missing out on anything. Being a player or a fan of the source material just enhances the experience of reading this series. After reading the issue, be sure to check out the bonus pages at the end that provide some character modeling for a few of the party members as well as a layout to one of the scenes. The main chunk of the story and action in this issue occurs within a ballroom where the group bluffed their way into this nobles event, which had some strong resemblances to an old episode of Firefly where the rough and out of their element adventurers “ruined” a fancy event as chaos seems to follow them.

*Review by Cory Anderson


TMNT-41_Cover-ATMNT #41 (IDW)

Story: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow & Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Art: Cory Smith
Colors: Ronda Pattinson

The overall evil plot set years and years ago by Krang, was to terraform Earth into the chaotic atmosphere and environment of his home dimension, Dimension X. Currently, the Ninja Turtles (minus Donatello) along with Master Splinter, have teamed up with the other mutants in their world. With the mutant animals working together, there is progress made in their cooperation but there is still tension as Raph notes “…we’re just mutants here… Family’s a whole different thing.” Meanwhile, Donatello is trying to negotiate with The Shredder and the Foot through a proxy (Metal Head the robot turtle), in order to come to an understanding that Krang is threatening the entire world and the enemy of my enemy is my friend (until this is no longer the advantage).

TMNT-41_Cover-BThere is a lot going on in this issue. From the diplomatic meetings to the mock breaching techniques, bringing together multiple fronts in order to assault Krang as his nearly finished Technodrome (those who are unfamiliar, it is a massive rolling structure with a devastating eye laser affixed the top). Fans of the cartoon series will thoroughly enjoy this issue (and arc) as everything is coming to a pressure point where all the familiar faces are set to collide. It has been interesting to see the progress of characters, where they are no longer just saying how they feel but acting upon it.

The illustrations and art have not changed one bit since this run of comics began. There is nothing worse than reading an arc or series and the art changes mid story and luckily that hasn’t happened in this series. The story and scripting of this ongoing series has been flawless as well, playing upon the well-established personalities and friction between “families” and clans. From the small scale art of the mutants fighting and training to the colossal destruction that is looming only one issue away in the Technodrome. I have been consistently entertained and anxious for each new issue.

*Review by Cory Anderson


PUGG-6-4x6-COMP-SOLICIT-WEB1Princess Ugg #6 (Oni Press)

Written and Illustrated By: Ted Nalfeh
Colored and Lettered By: Warren Wucinich

After spending the first 5 issues playing up the drama and conflict between Ulga and the other princesses, our barbarian fighter in a pink dress finally gets to throw aside her attempts to blend in and finally be her battle hardened self. With the last issue having Princess Ugg and her fellow princesses ambushed and captured, this issue was primed for Ulga to really shine and show the other girls that she isn’t a clumsy lesser person. While a lot of the story is slightly predictable, there is a lot going on with inner trials and struggles that makes Ulga still unpredictable.

The illustrations and story have a lot of heart and soul put into it by Ted Nalfeh, and it shows in the characters that show up in the story. From the battling barbarian Ulga to the damsels in distress, there is a lot of personalities and emotions being thrown around. With the story and illustrations being the backbone of the series, the coloring gives depth to the characters without taking the focus from the writing and characters. Nothing impressive, but substantial enough that there is not a dull moment.

Just when you think you have Princess Ulga figured out, with the disheartening drama between Ulga and the other princesses, you would think the weight she puts on her shoulders is uncalled for. However, it is in her blood to fight back. If you haven’t fallen in love with this series by now, then you are missing out. Playing into the stereotypes that have been assumed in the fantasy world, in regards to axe wielding women with a stout stature, it’s not too hard to know where Ulga is coming from and to feel for her as she puts herself in harm’s way to save the people who made fun of her and judged her. There are several potential turning points in this issue where our princess could have just given up or just continued on with her life but she didnt, and that is the real gripping tale being told aside from the battle prowess that we all knew she had the potential for.

*Review by Cory Anderson


comics-eternal-1-1Eternal #1 of 4 (BOOM! Studios)

Written by: William Harms
Art by: Giovanni VallettaColors by: Adam Metcalfe

I don’t often read comics outside of my standard pull list, but the premise of Eternal had me intrigued. In a world where mankind has perfected human cloning to the point that if you die, your clone can recall everything you experienced up to the death. It’s basically gotten to the point where people are no longer afraid to die, because they can just come back to life in another body. A highschool class of the year 2270 celebrates graduation by jumping parachute-less out of a plane. When you live in a world like this, it most often comes with a lot of laws, and let me just say… I wouldn’t want to be living in this police state version of California. The government in this book is militarized and terrifying to the point that “pures”, people with pure DNA that hasn’t been recorded in the government databases, have started a liberation group deemed terrorists to fight back against the state. The main character of this book is Gail Jensen, and she’s the leader of the Human Liberation Front, a known terrorist/liberation group. She has allowed herself to have her DNA encoded allowing her to clone herself for the sole purpose of being the leader who isn’t afraid of death… literally.

UntitledWilliam Harms did a fantastic job creating and writing this story. As I said, I don’t delve into too many of BOOM!’s books, but I’ll be damned if I don’t pick up the rest of this mini-series. Harms had me hooked just with the premise of this book. I’m a sucker for dystopian futures that don’t involve zombies or unlikely teen heroes. This book is like a conspiracy theorists worst nightmare at the same time as everyone else’s dream for immortality. I had to flip through the book to make sure I liked the art, and Giovanni Valletta and Adam Metcalfe don’t disappoint. It has a very old school style to the art and colors, that had me reminiscent of the comics I would see from the 70’s or 80’s while at the same time looking newly drawn. The art style is very bleek and filled with whole pages filtered in one color and the next another. Orange and yellow skies set the mood and I immediately was on the side of the liberation group. I am now excited to check out BOOM! Studios’ weekly release list, because I can’t wait to get the next issue.

*Review by Everett Harn


BitchPlanet-0a25eBitch Planet #1 (Image Comics)

Written by: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art by: Valentine de Landro

When I first saw Bitch Planet announced my initial reaction was “great name.” After seeing Kelly Sue DeConnick was the mastermind of this 70s era sexploitation inspired comic I began counting down the days until its release. Finally the day has come and Bitch Planet doesn’t disappoint. I know that sounds cliché but it’s true. DeConnick has created a world in which she can openly express sexism issues in current society with the backdrop of a sci-fi prison drama. Bitch Planet’s high tension and stressful atmosphere will make you feel uneasy in every good way possible. You immediately sympathize with the inmates of The Auxiliary Compliance Outpost (Bitch Planet) knowing little to nothing about their background or why they have been sentenced to this life. The disrespect and degradation they experience only further emphasizes DeConnicks’ message of a male dominated society and you instantly side with the prisoners of this harsh world.bitchplanet1-3-38f6f

If DeConnick’s spot on writing and smart storytelling isn’t enough to catch your interest than Valentine de Landro’s art will. De Landro creates a realism that this world deserves. His character designs are diverse in every aspect and should be an inspiration to anyone who depicts the female (or human for that matter) body in comics. Not only are his character designs inspired but his style, color and effects perfectly harken back to the 70s era films that were this comic’s inspiration. De Lardo’s use of color was a highlight as it separates our story while also making each setting its own.

Bitch Planet is an in your face, no holds bar comic that deserves your attention. Its realism and aggressive story telling may be off putting for a few but its message is important and its delivery will certainly grab and hold your attention. Bitch Planet is yet another comic from Image that is worth every second you spend with it.

*Review by Casey Walsh


Copperhead_04-1Copperhead #4 (Image)

Written by: Jay Faerber
Art by: Scott Godlewski & Ron Riley

Copperhead #4 by Jay Faerber and Scott Godlewski continues to be one of the best comic books available telling an engrossing sci-fi mystery told with precision and unequaled art.

This crime procedural has really immersed its readers into finding the culprits who massacred the Sewell family. The story arc continues as Sheriff Bronson searches for Ishmael to answer some questions while Deputy Boo chases down a lead.

Faerber is holding a lot of information close to his chest as little has been revealed about the circumstances surrounding the Sewell murders. There was a sacred family jewel missing but who has it and why they’d kill for it is still a big question.

Copperhead04-Page3-108a6The dialogue has been natural and clever even during conflicts and the scene between Clara and Hickory is just one example. Even as smoothly executed a mystery so far we await a big reveal, a large turning point to reward the reader for following along intently. In issue five there should be some answers to these ongoing questions.

Scott Godlewski continues to impress with sharp lines and expressive looks but his directorial approach to panels and layouts may be his strongest attribute and that’s saying something. From the traditional stack of panels on one page to the ingenious layout of a video conferencing call on another to the foot pursuit sequence with flashbacks interwoven in the scene the views are varied but always captivating. Godlewski is not just a talented artist but a great storyteller.

Copperhead is the type of comic book that could serve as an example to aspiring writers and artists on how to create an efficient, compelling and wonderfully illustrated story. It’s a straight-forward piece of dramatic sci-fi detective mystery that delivers month after month. And it’s just about to get even better.

*Review by Enrique Rea


awarchie7Afterlife With Archie #7 (Archie Comics)

Written by: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Art by: Francesco Francavilla

Afterlife with Archie is back with a second arc to the brilliant horror series featuring the gang from Riverdale. The innocent charm of Archie, Jughead, and Betty was turned upside down by a zombie apocalypse that was brought on by Sabrina’s forbidden spell. It was a shocking approach for the traditionally saccharin band of schoolmates but writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has created a truly terrifying book as seen through familiar eyes and masterfully illustrated by Francesco Francavilla.

Afterlife #7_14Thanksgiving brings a pause to bury the dead and reflect but also to find some sense of normalcy in a world overrun by the undead. Betty turns to writing in a diary as she once did before her friends like Jughead, or Jugdead as they call him now, turned. Entitled “Betty: R.I.P. Chapter Two” the diary entries provide some background through flashbacks of Betty’s contentious relationship with her sister Polly, her tempestuous friendship with Veronica and how Archie became the tip of this love triangle. It’s a rather slow, contemplative expository of moments that describe how our favorite characters got to where they are but without the campy fun hijinks we’ve known and loved for decades. There is some great character development in this realistic take that gives Betty more depth as her thoughtful earnest feelings about those around her come clearly in focus.

Aguirre-Sacasa clearly loves these characters as the readers do and his characterizations are respectful, introspective and never caricatures. After the mayhem from the last issue when Sabrina was forced to marry Cthulhu this respite to try and observe a holiday is a welcomed one. It allows them to catch their breath and reset which is also a perfect time for new readers to jump aboard this marvelous series. Archie isn’t as conflicted as he’s been historically portrayed in his feelings for both Betty and Veronica. He’s decided and it feels genuine. There is a slow build-up that Aguirre-Sacasa expertly crafts to lull the reader in a sense of serenity only to have that peace shattered by a horde of walking dead. The survivors also recount how they’ve all shared the same dream about Sabrina. As things get weirder the Blossom twins provide another level of creepiness that puts a nice exclamation point of dread on the issue.

ALWArchie-7var-9acffNone of this would be as good as it is without the enormously talented art of Francavilla. His pulpy illustrations and vibrant colors fit perfectly with the nostalgic aura of the Riverdale gang. And no one does monsters and zombies better than Francavilla whose love of classic creature features is lovingly infused in his work. It’s even more revelatory that some of his best work lies not in the bloody clashes from zombies but from subtle nuanced panels of a jealous sister, arms folded looking annoyed towards her favored little sister among her parents. His work conveys so much with so little effort that he’s as much a storyteller as the writer.

Afterlife with Archie #7 is the calm before the storm, a probing look into the dynamics of Betty, Veronica and Archie. The series may have been viewed as a gimmicky genre mash-up before it debuted but instead it’s one of the best comic books in any genre that reinvents beloved long-time characters and fleshes them out into three-dimensional beings much like ourselves with emotions, fears, and personal baggage. We are invested in them and it makes the horror of the day even more shocking and unexpected. This is one series not to be missed.

*Review by Enrique Rea