Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Rant-Reviews: A Hodge-Podge of Comics

Scattered Assortment
I have no particular theme today for these reviews, it is just a random assortment of stuff I've read lately and felt like discussing.

Throw it in the Melting-Pot of Entertainment!

Deathstroke: Rebirth #1
Christopher Priest is a writer who does not get nearly enough credit as he deserves. He has written a ton of stellar books before at times stepping-away from comics to pursue other interests when he gets fed-up with the industry B.S. He's back with DC however now though, and writing about Deathstroke, a random character but one that he tackles handling with his usual craft. I am overjoyed to see him writing a character I generally have had no interest in, because that means he'll be able to use his skill and talent to show me why I should give even a solitary damn about Deathstroke. This issue seems to serve as a prologue of sorts to the main series, being one of the, "Rebirth," one-shots DC is apparently doing--I'm not sure exactly how that all works as this is seriously the only DC book I'm reading now and that is solely down to how I love Priest's work.

It's a great issue, if a tad confusing for someone who knows absolutely nothing about Deathstroke (real name Slade Wilson) or his past. We have flashbacks with when he was still simply a man named Salde, moments in the present where he embarks on various violent missions, and a bunch of mysteries that Priest expertly sets-up about just who certain people are and why Slade seems to care about them--despite the fact he normally doesn't care about anyone but himself. Priest works in a number of jokes, political observations, and basically does in 20-ish pages what most writers can't even do over an entire story-arc: Gives me information about a character, tells me his motivation, shows me an exciting story with this character, and leaves me wanting more. I already said I'm not reading any other of DC's, "Rebirth," books, but this is one I will undoubtedly be picking-up into the foreseeable future.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Trees #14
I don't know if this comic comes out sporadically as I feel it does, but between the breaks during arcs and then sensation of it popping-up only every two or three months thereafter, I have a sensation as if this comic has a somewhat unreliable release pattern. That's annoying as I have been quite liking, "Trees," since it finally made things interestingly dangerous at the conclusion of the first arc--when it became apparent the mysterious alien monoliths were possibly sending out destructive signals via weird black roses. It is all drawn in a wonderfully creepy manner by artist Jason Howard, whose artwork is just at home during scenes of violent action or moments of quiet contemplation (such as when a character eyes the roses with suspicion). The ominous appearance of the roses during this arc in various locations has served as a delightfully eerie foreshadowing of trouble to come, and is complimented well by the assorted political intrigue and futurism that fills the book--which is to be expected when you have a writer such as Warren Ellis doing the story. This is the end of the 2nd arc and Lord only knows when the 3rd one will begin. I don't really mind waiting, however, because this is a solid read anytime an issue eventually comes out.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Paybacks #1
This series is a sort-of sequel to the phenomenal, "Buzzkill," that features the same creative team as that book and a few of the same characters; it also started out at Dark Horse before suddenly ending with its 4th issue and now resuming with a brand-new #1 over at Heavy Metal (the people who put out that big comic-magazine Grant Morrison took over). Considering when we last saw the team were on part 4 of what I recall to be a 5-part arc  I was curious what this re-launch with a new publisher would do in terms of storytelling. When, "The Paybacks," first launched you needn't have read, "Buzzkill," to enjoy the book but could understand some of the references if you had. Now the question becomes if you need to have read, "The Paybacks," at Dark Horse to have a clue what is going on in, "The Paybacks," at Heavy Metal--plus one has to consider if the comic is even good as well. So, is the book possible to follow going in fresh? Kind of. Also, is the book good? Yes, for sure.

New readers are without question going to find themselves overwhelmed and confused, but anyone who was already following this comic is going to be able to pick things up without any problem and continue to enjoy this stellar read. I wouldn't recommend going into this, "Blind," as it were, but would recommend reading the comic for sure after you check out the previous issues of, "The Paybacks," and read, "Buzzkill," too because it is an awesome book.
4 out of 5 stars.

Lady Killer 2 #1
Joelle Jones returns with her wild tale of a peppy 1950's housewife named Josie who was a trained killer for a mysterious company that may or may not have been evil (it probably was), but left it at the conclusion of the last mini-series. She's running her own murder-for-hire business now and the comic continues its jarring mixture of hideous violence and faux-nostalgia for a, "Better time," that the comic actually points out was full of sexism and a myriad of issues. The humor isn't just dark, it is absolutely pitch-black (putting body parts in leftover Tupperware containers from a party, for example), and Jones is as great an illustrator as she is a writer. Fantastically twisted and monstrous stuff.
5 out of 5 stars.

Mockingbird #5
Another comic about a woman who kicks-butts for a shadowy agency, but in this comic written by Chelsea Cain, we finally get some answers after that bizarre first issue that showed us glimpses of the aftermath following issues #2-#4 and now takes us back to the end that we saw in the beginning and oh dear my brain hurts now. Cleverly confusing set-up of the debut-arc aside, this is a great end to the arc, full of the usual humor Cain has brought during the comic as well as a lesson in the biologic history of viruses and a twist-ending I honestly didn't predict. I believe the sixth issue is out today. I'll be sure to read it after this great opening-arc.
5 out of 5 stars.

Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #99
The issue of a comic that occurs before a big event faces an unenviable job. It can either be wholly removed from the big issue that follows it and tell its own story or work to help set-up the big-deal issue after it and basically get zero thanks for its hard work. If it stands alone it is simply a good comic that most people ignore/forget about and if it sets-up the exciting issue following it everyone just talks about how great that issue was and ignores/forgets all the effort the prologue did. Therefore, no matter what the issue #99 of a series does it probably faces the depressing fate of being ignored/forgotten, and that would be shame if that happens with this issue of, "Tarot," because while the exciting big-deal 100th issue is next, this comic's portrayal of events serving as the follow-up to the big wedding between Tarot and Jon is a great piece of entertainment and contains a huge cliff-hanger.

If I may spoil the book, it covers Tarot going to a party within another realm full of faeries in honor of her upcoming wedding. Once there she reminisces about the past with friends and it seems like we will be getting a quiet filler-issue. However, things get very interesting when a shadowy cloaked figure and his/her snake accomplice attack Tarot and via the snake's venomous bites incapacitate our heroine and replace her with a doppelganger who no doubt will be getting up to nefarious deeds. We end this issue on the morning of Tarot's wedding to her beloved, Jon, and are shown that the evil copy is clearly still in place. The importance this 99th issue therefore plays in setting-up the 100th issue results in a book that thankfully won't be forgotten or ignored by fans, as it is clearly a key element in what I imagine will be a huge conflict when the series hits the triple-digits shortly. It's a great read and I tip my hat to the creative team of Jim Balent and Holly Golightly for crafting yet another stupendous issue of, "Tarot."
5 out of 5 stars.

A Medley of Good Stuff
I hope you enjoyed reading about the various comics as much as I did reading them!