Sykman Vol. 1: The Right Stuff (Dark Horse Comics)
Story By: Joshua Hale Fialkov
Pencils By: Manuel Garcia
Ink By: Bit
Colors By: Marta Martinez
Disclaimer, I have found a new favorite writer. Take two popular theme, government conspiracy and superheroes, and blend them until they are one story line. This is a spin-off of the Captain Midnight character that was reintroduced in 2012. With modern technology advancing as the government continues to deal with threats outside its borders, the eventual development (including testing and training of qualified users) of a top secret belt that produces the stereotypical superhero traits is created (flight, strength and speed). It’s not until a few chapters in that we discover how thick the plot is with government cover-ups, unstable technology, and just where the technology came from.
The initial outset of the comic sees a former tester for the “Skyman” suit, go A.W.O.L. to borrow a term, and ends up acting out in rage, which is caught on a cell phone camera and goes viral. Which brings the story to a political and patriotic cover up as Sgt. Reid is selected to be the face of the “Skyman” program. Just the premise alone was enough to get me to turn page after page, as Reid is a military veteran who has begun the long journey to rehabilitation as his spine was crushed and rendered “cripple”, and he is black. And as the story goes along, you see how committed to the project Reid is, but also how naive he is as his handlers use the suit to perform “wet work missions” and end up killing innocent people as they rationalize “sacrifice a few for the many”. From there you can safely assume Skyman will tangle with his superiors and their untested, unfinished and unstable suits.
The art is wonderful, and to borrow another phrase, “you will believe a man can fly” as this is a colorfully drawn comic without the intense one hundred and 6-pack abs seen in nearly every superhero comic. Just like the reason Sgt. Reid was brought in to the “Skyman” program, we see panels and pages that display the heroic nature the Skyman suit, as well as Reid himself. Tying in nicely with the Captain Midnight story, a new level of the plot is introduced as it becomes known that this government conspiracy has been known about for a long time. Ending this volume, the long heated fight between Reid and his handler erupts as it is basically good suit (tested and refined) vs bad suit (unstable and just raw power). Not to close the book on Skyman, one of the last pages shows Skyman Reid’s soon to be arch nemesis rising from the crater.
As the short prologue states, this takes place 20 years into the ronin rabbits future. It doesn’t take much to assume that over the two decades, our hero has become a very skilled warrior as well as meeting many friends and allies. For the most part, each Usagi issue and collected trade is a vehicle for a life lesson or cultural experience of feudal Japan (be it an anthropomorphic one).
If samurai are trained to hone their skills over the ages, then this is a tradition that Stan Sakai followed in his writing and illustrations. The familiar black and white artwork tells the same story (wandering warrior looking for purpose), this time the ronin has found a lord to fight for (and a cause) and a large scale battle ensues, which is fantastically drawn through all the chaos.
This is the beginning to the future of Usagi. As we see the traditional warfare begin, we are also introduced to some advanced machines of war that alter the battlefield. I’m excited to see where this brings Usagi’s never ending battle, especially now that the once ronin warrior has lost his “samurai’s level mind” and begins fighting like a demon, all to save his son. It’s always fun to read a story of a character that has always acted in a standard routine, acting against god better judgment.
Created By: Dave Wachter & James Andrew Clark
Written By: James Andrew Clark & Dave Wachter
Art & Design: Dave Wachter
Welcome to the wild (wild) west, where cowboys and outlaws rule the land, alongside ghosts, Native Americans, Oriental frontiersmen and a slightly maniacal colonel. The idea and setting behind this western gun smoke drama, is that this valley has a secret hidden in it, and the only thing protecting it from falling into the wrong hands are the gunmen themselves. But that is where the connection to the John Wayne classics end as there are supernatural and paranormal events transpiring that amp up the Great American Frontier story.
I loved the foreword by Gabriel Hardman (another writer/artist) as he included his experience with this book and its creative team. Aside from agreeing with everything Gabriel mentioned, I couldn’t help but combine two of my favorite timeless story genres; westerns and superheroes. The writing and illustrations blew me away. It wasn’t the average comic with full page splashes of set scenes, but more of a constant panel to panel event (the best term I can think of to describe the combined art and script that seamlessly kept my eyes moving left to right).
While this is a different style of read (both writing and drawings) from the two big names in comics, and as I had already mentioned it has a lack of big splash pages, the art kept me captivated as there was always a memorable scene in each chapter. Not to spoil a great read, the book comes to an amazing ending where the epilogue assures the reader (and this new fan) that the events in Shadow Valley are not over (at least in the Wild West era…). Be sure to read the afterword and character concepts in the final pages.
G.I. Joe A Real American Hero #205 (IDW Publishing)
Writer: Larry Hama
Artist: S.L. Gallant
Ink: Brian Shearer
Colors: J. Brown
On the backend of a hostage rescue mission (the initial rescue succeeded, now they need to escape) on a high hill in the Olliestan hill country (as the yellow and black box tells us on the first page), the Joes are rushing to the rendezvous point while insurgents take sniper shots at them. Much of the G.I. Joe comics typically deal with them fighting their way to prevent a scheme that Cobra has used to dominate the world, this comic shows a different angle of war.
The typical American hero storyline where the rescuers come under fire and see a back and forth emotional seesaw of hope rising only to have it ripped away. The colors were key to this issue I felt as they were performing this mission at night, but leaving the insurgents in dull gray and browns to mark them as “bad guys”, and the Joes in their colorfully unique uniforms (and call signs) marking them as “good guys”. I also enjoyed the way the warfare was broken down, as far as tactics, what sounds and sights soldiers take into effect and the mentality of the soldier when things don’t go their way.
This story, while not a plot that affects the entire globe, thanks to a lack of Cobra, still has the action and drama to bring the readers (and Joes) on a heart racing and breaking rescue mission. The only problem I had with the story/mission was that it felt pushed along. If this had been spread out over another issue or two, the emotions and hardships would have developed that much further, though I still got what I needed and wanted out of this read.