Monday, October 3, 2016

Rant-Reviews of the 2nd Issue of Comics!

Issue #2 You Say?
I have done a good number of reviews in regards to the first issue of comics. It could be argued however that while the debut of a series is obviously important, a lot can be learned from the follow-up issue. After all, something can start strong but quickly lose steam or begin in a mellow manner before really taking off. With that in mind I thought I would review issue #2 of a number of series and see what I liked (or didn't like).

Part Deux Reviews
Briggs Land #2
I have extremely mixed feelings about Brian Wood as more and more unpleasant things about him have come to light over time. That said, I found, "Starve," to be a decent read and wanted to give, "Briggs Land," a shot with it sounding like a potentially interesting book with its focus on a family dealing with drama...while leading a Separatist Nationalist group living in a compound in the United States. Yeah, that's a weird and fun-sounding mixture.

In practice, the comic has been okay, with the 1st issue setting the scene as the family Matriarch overthrows any remaining power of her currently-incarcerated husband and takes-over ruling Briggs Land; this is followed by a second issue full mostly of negotiations between family members about just how the peace will be kept (and if it actually will be). There also are some FBI agents investigating everyone who lives in Briggs Land and frankly these two issues have been most scene-setting and a lot of dragging-along.

The only character I find especially interesting is the youngest son of the Briggs clan, who actually went away and joined the United States Military, much to the chagrin of his separatist family. He's back home and I wonder what his motivations are. These two issues have been a bit slow and I'm thinking I'll probably wait for the trade and see if future reviews indicate things pick-up before I pursue reading much more. As it is now, this is a purely average comic.
2.5 out of 5 stars.

Kingsway West #2
Greg Pak generally knows how to tell a good story. In his first issue he introduces us to all the characters and in this one starts giving us the, "Meat," of the conflict, with his ability to tell a good story keeping me interested throughout that first issue all the way to the end of this one. Basically it is an alternate past where the discovery of a powerful, "Red Gold," has split the United States into various regions controlled by the Chinese Empress, the Mexican Empire, or New York with assorted uncontrolled territories as well.

This could be confusing, but Pak eases us into all this Geography gently and knows to keep the focus on his fascinating characters, such as the titular Kingsway West who is possibly the most dangerous gunslinger to ever live, as well as his wife Sonia who herself has skill in combat. Between mysterious pasts and the ominous Red Gold a lot is going on, but it is all understandable and fun. Some good stuff!
4 out of 5 stars.

Black Monday Murders #2
The first issue of this series was a big book that thankfully justified its $4.99 price-tag with a ton of pages full of weird content involving what appear to be deals with the devil and how they relate to money (which is, after all, arguably the root of all evil). The 2nd issue is actually just as large (and expensive) which surprised me as while Jonathan Hickman is a solid writer he is often prone to having some of his books (especially ones from Image like this title) face horrendous delays that kill any momentum. Lots of pages equal lots of writing and artwork, but thankfully he seems to have a number of scripts, "In the bag," for this series as he and artist Tomm Coker (who always does solid work) have this second issue out in good time after the release of the 1st and a 3rd one coming in two-or-so weeks. Does this second issue keep the strange horror of money, politics, and murder going that started up previously though? Yes, and quite well.

"Black Monday Murders," with its weird mixture of horror and economics creates something that is quite enjoyable and incredibly weird. With its continuing to vary between text-pieces and comic-segments as well as the table of contents at the start of every issue it really gives everything the feel of a large and dramatic novel that has been cut-up into various parts (e.g. these monthly comics). Just where this seemingly-epic book in the making will go however remains to be seen. That said, this is the first new work by Hickman that has made me really excited in a while--so that makes me happy.
5 out of 5 stars.

Jungle Fantasy: Ivory #2
The previous, "Jungle Fantasy," series re-launch only went for two issues but was clearly successful enough that publisher Boundless is now releasing this mini-series focused on the character, "Ivory," that is going to go for six issues, I think. This series continues the setup of the earlier one however, not telling a single ongoing story every issue but instead having multiple short pieces/vignettes that carry-over from issue to issue and which maintain the usual Boundless theme of tongue-in-cheek humor and plenty of lusciously illustrated T&A.

The two stories contained within the comic are a bit linked thematically in that they mention how Ivory is searching for her missing son, but other than that the focus varies. The first story in this issue continues the trend in issue #1 of having assorted pin-up style pages with Ivory in various states of undress and fighting prehistoric monsters whilst telling the story of her trying to track-down her son. The 2nd story is about Ivory having to fight against a tribe of people who live in tree-huts and who are really, really horny. I'm interested enough in the story of Ivory tracking-down her son to want to see what happens, and a little gratuitous sex-scene every now and then (as we see in the tree-people story) can be fun too.

These kind of comics are basically like the B-movies shown at 2nd-run theaters that are a step above the porno ones but a step below your usual Regal/AMC. They are a guilty pleasure without a doubt, but the hint self-awareness about how zany everything is gives the book a feeling like it is saying, "Hey, this is pretty silly, but we're all having a good time so just roll with it." I do indeed just roll with it, and found this issue to be delightfully absurd.
4 out of 5 stars.

Lady Killer 2 #2
Joƫlle Jones continues to bring us the story of a 1950's housewife who also dabbles in murder-for-hire. I don't know why, but this issue failed to grab my attention as much as the first one. Perhaps it is how the book has to go through a process of awkwardly setting-up a bunch of plot-points for the mini-series to follow with its discussion of a union of assassins, but this felt more like a ton of a set-up than anything else. It is clear some exciting things will be happening soon, but as it is this issue was just kind of dull other than Jones' amazing artwork continuing to impress.
2.5 out of 5 stars.

Kill or Be Killed #2
I in fact had not really read the solicits for this comic before the first issue came out, I simply saw it was the usually surefire team of Brubaker and Phillips and said to my comic-shop, "Put me down for a copy!" Therefore, based on the artwork and title I thought this was going to be more of a hard-crime comic in the vein of, "Criminal," or such. That made the supernatural elements that popped-up in the first issue and which continue in the 2nd all the more surprising and unexpected. What  is most shocking of all is how well the otherworldly mixes with the, "Normal," considering how another surreal comic by Brubaker and Phillips--Fatale--was quite the let-down for me compared to most of their work.

The first issue featured a young man named Dylan attempting to kill himself, being happy he fails at it, and then being told by a strange otherwordly Demon  (that says it saved him) he has to start killing, "bad," people or he himself will die. Dylan doesn't believe this but becomes progressively sicker until it becomes apparent he might just has to do whatever that dark force instructs. The first issue opened far in the future with a lot of guns and violence, but this issue is a lot quieter except for a dramatic conclusion where it becomes clear that Dylan is quite ready to kill so that he isn't killed. It's Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, this is almost for sure bound to be amazing and I'm excited to see what happens next. Two issues in and I'm ready to follow it to the end.
5 out of 5 stars.

As these reviews illustrated, the second issue of a comic can be as important as the first to keeping a reader interested. The 2nd issue can be where people decide to quit reading for now ("Briggs Land,"), when a reader gets fully hooked ("Kill or Be Killed,") or can simply be a solid entry that continues to build upon what the debut issue gave us. I hope my reviews of these 2nd issues entertained you enough and maybe got you interested in the books, because after all, you've only missed one issue so far should you choose to dive-in to a particular series!

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