Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Rant-Reviews of Some Notable First Issues Part One--Marvel and Image

Comics From The Bigger Names 
I have an assortment of rant-reviews I would like to post focused on first issues, and there is an assortment of publishers who have stuff I would like to spotlight. I figured for the first post we could cover the big names of Marvel and Image (I haven't read any new #1 issues from DC in awhile) and what exciting (or disappointing) new stuff they have.

Debuts, Both Exciting and Meh
Doctor Strange #1
This is probably the most cheery or, "Fun," I've seen Doctor Strange as written since the Brian K. Vaughn mini-series that occurred awhile ago and is remembered by most as, "That comic where he hooked-up with the Night Nurse and then Bendis kept that plot point going in his 'New Avengers' comic." At least, that is how the internet seemsto refer to it. Anyways, Jason Aaron is (generally) a great writer and Chris Bachalo is always a great artist (even if the "action" of a scene can be hard to follow at times) so with their powers combined and a dash of humor thrown in we get a "Doctor Strange" comic that maybe, just maybe could have enough appeal to get the general populace interested in the good ol' Sorcerer Supreme.

Honestly, this does read a bit like a, "Doctor Strange for New Readers," primer so that once the new movie comes out and some folk go looking for a comic featuring the character a retailer can hand them this and state, "Here, this is good fun and requires little-to-no previous knowledge of the character." Still, even if it reads that way I can't knock it because it really is so damn good. It's--as I mentioned--fun, there is some good humor, the art is gorgeous, and it sets a up a potential big world-threatening mystery that has me intrigued.

Yeah, it seems like this will be a fun comic to follow and...wait, this is $4.99 for a standard number of pages plus an 8-page back-up? Well, I guess for a debut issue I understand as it seems future ones will be $3.99, but that still isn't really a good way to draw-in new readers with such a steep entry fee. Pricing aside this is easily a great...
4 out of 5 stars.

Paper Girls #1
I mentioned Brian K. Vaughn earlier and here he has a weird mish-mash of a 1980's coming-of-age tale and what looks like a story of an alien invasion until a very futuristic item throws a lot of what we've seen into question (if you don't mind spoilers this article breaks things down well). Cliff Chiang of course was killing it on "Wonder Woman" with Azzarello for their run and he continues to be equally impressive in this first issue as he illustrates the late 1980's with aplomb.

My criticism of this first issue it would be that we really don't get too much background on or development of the main characters--our paper girls--with the issue instead going full-throttle with the plot as things get incredibly crazy at the end. I'm not quite certain what to make of this book yet, but think after the 2nd issue things may be a bit more clear. As for right now though, it is kind of an underwhelming first issue considering how stellar a writer Vaughn is and how amazing the first issues of some of his other works have been.
2.5 out of 5 stars.

The Astonishing Ant Man #1
It's labeled as a first issue, but has the same creative team as before, picks up all the plot points from the previous comics that happened to be an ongoing and then a one-shot that related to the ongoing.  So yeah, this really isn't a first issue and with the confusing way Marvel has done the series between name changes and such they really seem determined to make this pretty enjoyable series fail miserably through confusing fans. I mean, the comic makes attempts to explain what is going on, but "Secret Wars" and its forced relaunch of all the books clearly messed some titles up dramatically that seem to have not anticipated that occurring.

Those complaints aside, this continues everything that been occurring previously without much of a problem and if you aren't a truly new reader who sees this #1 and figures, "A brand-new series, I'll read that!" you should be okay--I just wish you good luck if this is truly your first Ant-Man comic. The big twist at the end also illustrates that things should be getting quite interesting as we proceed and results in a comic that would be good, but struggles to both attempt to slightly fill-in new readers while keeping the plot going for old ones. In an effort to do it all successfully, it fails at it all. It is a bummer, but hopefully one the second issue will avoid now that the recaps are out of the way.
2 out of 5 stars.

I Hate Fairyland #1
Skottie Young has done so many sweet and kid-friendly comics that this reads as done by someone who is happy to be finally able to cut really loose or who was pretty wild all along but hid it well in his cute licensed titles relating to the "Wizard of Oz" or baby-sized Marvel heroes. Young both writes and illustrates this story about a little girl named Gertrude who finds herself stuck in Fairyland and wants to leave...and then 27 years have passed and she's nearly 40, but still stuck in a kid's body surrounded by cute and happy creatures she despises. This results in all sorts of violence (she literally blows-up a talking moon) drug taking (she ingests the mushroom-heads of sentient soldiers) and swearing ("Fluff," has never sounded so explicit before this).

If one were to try and get all analytical they could almost argue this looks like Skottie Young is making a statement about how he feels in regards to all the cute and sweet stuff he's drawn over the years, with Gertrude existing as a stand-in who tears it all down in a rage of being unable to escape the colorful-and-peppy world. I honestly don't think it is anything that dramatic however; I believe that Young just wanted to take advantage of the fact he can make adorable imagery and then saturate it in blood and general off-the-wall madness. Regardless of his reasons for creating this comic, Young has something hilariously crass in the form of "I Hate Fairyland" and I would recommend giving it a read should you love saccharine-sweet imagery or despise it and want to see it violently destroyed.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Karnak #1
After his short tenure on "Moon Knight" we again have Warren Ellis writing another Marvel hero for what I imagine will only be six or twelve issues (so we should enjoy it while we can). Karnak is of course one of the Inhuman characters and has a long and confusing back-story (much like the Inhumans themselves) so Ellis thankfully breezes over most of that with a quick mention of some assorted information and then gets to the good stuff of us getting to know Karnak through his horrifically cynical attitude and ability to really hurt people.

I can't quite say why, but this almost reads more like the kind of story you would see in an anthology like 2000AD than it does a Marvel title. It has Marvel characters, obviously, but perhaps the mixture of such a dark tone as well as humor and brutal violence mixed with strange sci-fi stuff gives it that feel not too much unlike something you would see in "Judge Dredd". That, or it is the artwork by Gerado Zaffino that causes the comic to read that way. His scratchy and dark-hued style carries with its a European look that probably played the biggest role in my feeling like I was reading something from across the Atlantic (andEllis is of course British, but I've read plenty of his Marvel stuff before and not felt like it was more, "European," than other stuff).

All this talk about "Karnak" feeling different is by no means bad, in fact I mean it as a compliment because my favorite Marvel titles lately seem to be the ones that are more off-kilter or quirky. If this lacked the art it would just be a teeny-tiny bit above average, but thanks to Zaffino's incredible work this is worth...
3.5 out of 5 stars.

From The First to the Last
As is evident, sometimes you'll get a first issue from someone amazing that is merely okay but most likely worth cotinuing to read as great stuff will probably happen in the future ("Paper Girls"). Other times you get first issues that aren't really first issues at all and the book suffers for it ("The Astonishing Ant-Man"), a reintroduction to familiar characters ("Doctor Strange" and "Karnak"), and there are of course brand-new ideas that really knock it out of the park with their debut ("I Hate Fairyland").

The bigger publishers clearly have some interesting stuff, and the next post I have coming-up will cover the publishers who aren't as big as Image or Marvel but still have some intriguing releases.

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