Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Rant-Reviews of Some Notable First Issues Part Two--Smaller Publishers

Smaller-Scale Publishers with New Titles
Besides the comics from the bigger companies I mentioned (in the previous post) there are many other publishers, all varying in size from the much-smaller to the still-pretty-sizable. They all put out new first issues too a good deal of time so why not review some of those?

Big Fun from Smaller Publishers
Left Empty #1
This new release is from smaller-press publisher Birdcage Bottom Books, a company I've discussed a fondness for previously. This first issue of "Left Empty" is written by Alan King and expertly illustrated by J. Vayda. A true story about when King lost his wife, the comic opens in the present as we see him not handling her loss well, either drinking or crying and dealing with nightmares when he sleeps. Things then shift to the past and we see how heart-wrenching it was for King and his love, named Krystal, when what seemed like some simple abdominal pain turned into something much worse.

The reader really feels for King, with Vayda's expressive art making the tears sobbed or worried expressions made especially emotive. It's an incredibly sad first issue and goes from a desperate lonely silence to the actual explanation of what happened. It is a format that works spectacularly well, with the reader wondering why King is so upset before it becomes apparent he has lost someone he loved dearly. This is really affecting and worth reading. I only hope the later issues show King getting a little less miserable, for his own sake.
5 out of 5 stars. Should you want to check out Birdcage Bottom Books their website is here.

Cognetic #1
A spiritual-sequel of sorts to the original creative teams, "Memetic," I have to be honest and say that while this series definitely pulls-off its feelings of dread and fear, the plot itself doesn't grab my attention as the previous series did. This newer series, published by "Boom! Studios" touches on the idea of individuality with a strange bacteria/ghost/entity taking control of people and stealing their individuality to instead become a kind of hive-mind.

It is clever, but "Memetic" with its concept of a killer meme just struck me so much more than this story that so far is reading more as a standard alien-invasion type of sci-fi/horror comic. However, the last page reveal does provide a big enough twist that my interest is piqued, and as I mentioned, the tone is nailed so perfectly that even if some things bug me about this debut issue, I feel I can fairly give it...
2.5 out of 5 stars. If you would like to learn more about Boom! Studios follow this link.

Dead Vengeance #1
Dark Horse has a variety of comics they release, with some being more impressive than others, and sadly "Dead Vengeance" did not impress me much at all. It starts with a strong concept where a dead man wakes up to discover he's been missing for 10 years, but then kind of squanders much more storytelling potential with the rest of the issue being a big info-dump where the main character learns who he is far too easily (he even comments as such) and then finding a friend who fills him (and the reader) in on what occurred. Unfortunately, it seems to have been little more than the usual corrupt-politician-taking-out-a-whistleblower kind of story.

Our protagonist was a radio announcer who found himself murdered by the mayor's cronies (it seems) and now will be out seeking vengeance, it would seem (if the title of the series is any indicator). It is pretty bland and doesn't have any elements that capture my attention or any interest. Were it not for some quite good art this would be a pretty big bust of a comic-purchase for me.
1.5 out of 5 stars. For more information on Dark Horse Comics, go here.

The Steam Man #1
While the previous Dark Horse title was not to my liking, this tale of, "The Steam Man," is quite solid, with writers Mark Allan Miller and Joe R. Lansdale working perfectly with Piotr Kowlaski, an artist who has a variety of works I've loved (the astonishingly odd "Sex", for example). A bit of a mish-mash of ideas from things such as, "The War of the Worlds," plus Steampunk and gigantic-robot cartoons, this strange little sci-fi title does a good job of setting the scene.

What is this, "Scene," that is set, you may ask? Well, it is 1899, martians invaded and lost, but now someone known as, "The Dark Rider," is murdering people and a team who control the gigantic contraption known as the Steam Man obviously plan to take him down. It is a relatively straightforward tale so far but Kowlaski's artwork is always a treat and helps elevate this in quality to being a pleasant...
3.5 out of 5 stars. Again, Dark Horse can be found at this link.

Grumpy Cat #1
It is no secret that my wife and I love Grumpy Cat (also known by her official name, Tardar Sauce, purposely spelled wrong). She is just adorable and even if she isn't truly feeling grumpy she is still a treat to witness. There are some very valid questions about if the real Grumpy Cat is possibly being exploited for her unique face caused by an underbite and feline dwarfism so as to make a ton of cash. However, considering how the personality of cats can range from sociable and enjoying traveling to cranky and wanting to stay housebound, I like to think she enjoys meeting new folk in exotic places. After all, while our cat Ginsburg isn't big on crowds or visitors, the more people we have at the house the better, in Clarence's opinion--he has never met a person he doesn't want to go up to, sniff, and demand to receive a pet from.

The awesomeness of Grumpy Cat established, the question now becomes if her new debut comic published by Dynamite starring her (and brother Pokey!) is any good, right? I would say that with three short stories (and an extra one-pager) that have different writers and artists I was more impressed than not with Grumpy's debut. The first story makes Grumpy come off as a bit meaner than people seem to like thinking she is (after all, it's Grumpy Cat, not Mean Cat), but the 2nd and 3rd stories more than make up for that with their humor and zaniness. The sheer absurdity of seeing Grumpy put on a superhero outfit and try to fight crime in the 3rd story is so well-written and silly that it alone makes the comic worth its price. Overall a highly enjoyable read, I would recommend this to any lovers of Grumpy Cat.
4 out of 5 stars. Should you like to see more of what Dynamite has to offer, go here.

Closing Thoughts
As is evident from my duo of posts, both the bigger publishers and the smaller ones are often coming out with new #1's. Whether these are brand-new ideas, popular super-heroes, tie-ins with actual people (or animals), or something entirely different, it is clear that in the end it all comes down to how entertaining the comics are. I mean, that is pretty obvious, isn't it?

That said, whether a bigger publisher or a smaller one sometimes you publish something stellar and other times you really take a swing in an attempt to knock the ball out of the park, but miss horribly (so to speak). In the end, I'm just happy we have such a variety of publishers always putting out exciting new things, because there will rarely be a week at your local comic shop where they isn't at least one new first issue from somebody. That, I feel, is a great thing.

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