Thursday, January 28, 2016

Rant-Reviews: Six Debut Comics From An Assortment of Publishers

More New Stuff!
There are always new comics--and especially new first issues. There are countless books that never get close to even achieving double-digits, but all books have to start with that first issue--even if a publisher does something coy like call it a, "Zero issue,' or list it with a higher number and have the issues count-down. With this in mind how so often new comics start, I thought it might be fun to review six new comics from six different publishers.

Half-A-Dozen Books
The newest comic from recently-launched publisher AfterShock (the folk who have published that, "InSeXts," comic I like a lot), this is best described as an action-comedy set in fantasy world (or is it the world after ours was destroyed? It is kind of left open to interpretation). Written by Justin Jordan (of, "Luther Strode," fame) and illusrtated by Juan Gedeon, "Strayer," at first blush seems like another book about an evil fantasy-government ruling everyone with an iron fist, but that is just the flavor-text which helps set-up a much more personal tale.

Essentially our hero, the man known as Strayer, can help fight horrible monsters, and within this issue does so, impressing a witch. That sounds bland but thanks to the quite humorous way Jordon writes Strayer the book takes on quite a funny tone, with everyone acting so deadpan and concerned about everything whilst Strayer just kind of does-how-he-does. Gedeon's art is a bit plain, but the writing of Jordon helps elevate the so-so apperance into a book that is quite enjoyable. Should you be a fan of Jordan or tired of your traditional fantasy worlds where everyone is so deadly serious about everything, this is worth a read.
4 out of 5 stars.

Valiant has a difficult task here for a variety of reasons but handles it well. The first challenge is that this is a 1st issue that wants to appeal to new readers who have been drawn-in by Valiant's promotion of the book and its unique aspect of having a plus-size female super-hero as the main character, but the character has been around and been in other event-comics and team books, so making a book that is new-reader friendly but also respects the past is important. Thankfully, Valiant turns in a story that references what has occurred before in the life of Faith, but is still understandable if you've never read a Valiant book or just have read some of them(I am a bit familiar with Valiant, so it was fun seeing Archer from, "Archer and Armstrong," pop-up in the book). By moving the main character to a city that is new to her (Los Angles) Valiant can have a bunch of things be new, but have a good excuse for it.

The other challenge Valiant faced was as I mentioned how this is arguably one of the first comics to have a plus-size female as the main character. There have been plenty of comics with plus-size females playing a role (the pre-Nu52 Amanda Waller) but as the title heroine? That's basically unheard of. Thankfully, we get a good story from the writing of Jody Houser who doesn't even bother to do something so crass as go, "Look, we have a bigger woman as the main character, let's comment about it!" Instead the story just proceeds with introducing us to Faith, showing us her cares and desires, and otherwise making our titular super-hero someone easy to like and care about. This results in a book that is great for those who are brand-new to the character of Faith or the publisher, Valiant, and a comic that is also wonderful if you've been following the company's comics already. A great read.
4 out of 5 stars.

Prophet: Earth War #1
It seems like forever since we last read an issue of Brandon Graham's comic, "Prophet," but the man has been busy with his duties such as putting out the consistently intriguing anthology, "Island," as well as all his other works. Thankfully the saga that he began back in 2012 with his riffing-on old 1990's Image comics but in a whole new, futuristic way, has started its final arc (at least that is how its been advertised). So, I'll admit that this is really more of the next chapter in a story than it is a debut, but it still is the first entry in quite awhile within this saga, so I'm counting it as a fresh comic and if you don't like it you can quit reading my blog (please don't quit reading my blog, I crave your approval). How is this comic after such a long wait though? Still pretty damn good.

While reading this it feels like Graham never took a break, still firing on all cylinders as he takes a hokey bunch of characters from the 90's and morphs them into elaborate sci-fi concepts whilst still acknowledging the past. This issue is a lot of set-up, telling us of the coming war and showing what forces the original Prophet will have as he tries to take on the evil Earth Empire. It's a quiet issue, but you can really feel how it is the mellow moments before an enormous storm, and it gets me excited for the long-overdue and sure-to-be-epic conclusion.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Amazing Forest #1
Another science-fiction type comic like the just reviewed, "Propher: Earth War," but put out by IDW. This book is more of an anthology...but from two writers on every story who get different artists for their its' like a show-case? Look, I'm not sure of the best way to describe what this, "Is," other than to say that is is generally good. With stories that run the gamut from aliens to werewolves, robots, and strange owls with human faces, each yarn is quite different, but they seem to have a unified theme in that most are pretty depressing. Three of the stories have the main characters yearning for something, but discovering it can never be theirs. The only story with a somewhat happy ending is the werewolf one, which has a bloody twist I honestly did not see coming and is dark, but in a weirdly-joyful way. Writers Erick Freitas and Ulises Farinas provide us with some impressively melancholy and morbid tales, but I found myself wishing for many of the stories to be more fleshed-out. Were we to only get two stories that were longer I would have been perfectly okay with that too, as some of these entries feel a bit rushed in getting to their conclusion. Still, an interesting title, and I'm curious what stories the second issue may hold.
3 out of 5 stars.

Devolution #1
Well, that's a clever hook. Basically the idea of this comic is that humanity got so stupid and full of hubris it dropped a bomb that made people and animals devolve into their most primal forms, and within about a year life as we know it basically ended save for a few key people who were immune. This leads to us following the main character named Raja as she treks across the country in what we learn is the hope to reverse everything. In the meantime however we witness her stumbling upon a camp of humans populated by a lot of people barely putting up with each other in the name of survival (a very cranky Neo-Nazi finds himself working in the camp with a variety of other races, much to his chagrin). It is a great concept, but I feel like the plot itself is lacking. Still, perhaps after doing a bunch of work for Marvel this creator-owned project by Rick Remender just needs some time to find its legs. I mean, the artwork by Jon Wayshack is suitably hideous, with the devolved people and animals looking equally dumb and dangerous, so I tip my hat to the publisher, Dynamite, for finding a writer who works this well with their artist.

A lot of time is spent giving us background-info which is appreciated, but maybe if the comic slowly showed us everything instead of just telling the reader what happened that might be a bit more fun than the massive exposition-dump at the start of the book. The really clever idea and artwork help keep things interesting however, as well as a hint of a grander conspiracy taking place that makes me think this book may be one to watch. For now though, it is just kind of average.
2.5 out of 5 stars.

Man Plus #1
Published by Titan and created by writer/artist Andre Lima Araujo, "Man Plus," has apparently been in the works for some time. The effort shows because this comic is flat-out gorgeous. Between the futuristic building and vehicles, Robots and androids fighting, and just generally looking awesome, this is a feast for the eyes. The story has caught my attention too, with a special law-enforcement agency dealing with a potentially rogue android that has a mysterious group of highly-armed individuals after it in addition to the police who are attempting to understand just what exactly is going on. This first issue really caught my attention and I look forward to seeing what comes next.
5 out of 5 stars.

We're Finished!
That was six new books from six different publishers. Time will tell which ones last and reach a natural conclusion and which are suddenly canceled. I of course which all the books the best.

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