Monday, May 8, 2017

Rant-Reviews: Five #1 Issues and an Annual

Debuts and a Special for 2017
I always enjoy discussing first issues of comics as it is fun to wonder what could come next and talk about if the beginning was promising or disappointing (and how that bodes for the future). Annuals can be fun as well considering they generally either set-up a story or are their own individual yarn, giving readers a, "Taste," of sorts for what they could expect from the general comics. Well, I just recently read  five premiere issues of some comics and an Annual, so I thought I would offer my thoughts on them.

What I Read (And Now Will Write About)
Youngblood #1
This was something interesting. We take a series from when Image first came about and which is loaded with history, then acknowledge that history to some degree, but make something mostly fresh with an attempt at having minimal baggage. The result is a comic that rewards folk who read all the old, "Youngblood stuff," but also is pretty friendly to individuals utterly fresh to the franchise. I'm somewhere in-between those two extremes, and found myself pretty pleased with this book. We have a lot of old characters introduced as well as some new heroes, a mystery here-and-there, and two concepts I've seen comics explore meshed-together.

The two ideas are people ordering help from super-heroes via an app and super-hero registration. The clever format here is that heroes don't necessarily have to register via any law, but the, "Help!" app makes it appealing to do so as then they can have folk who need help posting their desires, assuring the heroes are busy as opposed to just aimlessly patrolling (at least that is how the app is ostensibly, "sold," to heroes). It's a great notion that I imagine will be further dug-into in further issues and happily has solid plotting and characterization to go with it. I quite enjoyed this latest re-launch of, "Youngblood," and admire its balancing of old-and-new along with its handling of a variety of concepts. Good stuff.
4 out of 5 stars.

Pestilence #1
The concept we were sold in the solicits is as simple as it is inspiring: Zombies in the Middle Ages. It's a phrase that inspires exciting images of knights fighting the undead, their swords cutting through rotting-flesh, all that good stuff. Unfortunately this issue doesn't really bring the zombies in till right at the end, instead focusing more on introducing our team who works for the Vatican as problem-solvers of sorts and showing them on a standard mission, meting out their brand of religious justice.  It is by no means a bad issue, but I just found myself disappointed there was whole lot less Medieval zombie-bashing than I had expected. Aftershock has put out a number of good books so I imagine issue #2 will be a great time (as the actual undead-squashing hopefully commences) but for now this was pretty dull.
2 out of 5 stars.

Bane: Conquest #1
Chuck Dixon created Bane back in the 1990's and has done a lot of comic-book work for a variety of publishers. For awhile he seemed to not be doing anything for Marvel and DC and would make mention of not being welcome for a variety of reasons (some folk said he was hard to work with, he claimed the fact he leans-right politically causes issues, and so forth). Whatever problems there were keeping Dixon from working for DC seem to have been at least somewhat resolved however, as he is now doing a 12-issue maxi-series in the form of, "Bane: Conquest," a tale focusing on Bane as he works to defend Gotham City (I'm not exactly sure why) and does slightly heroic things in an extremely villainous and murder-filled manner. Dixon has done a ton of great stuff but this read was generally just alright--not amazing, not terrible, but okay.

Despite this being a first issue it isn't exactly friendly to brand-new readers. This clearly is taking place in DC's current continuity but little explanation if offered as to how Bane ended-up living in Gotham City, why he's working to defend it now, etc. We get some flashbacks to Bane's childhood but little context is given for much of the events in the book. The proceedings themselves are interesting to read and competently-written because this is Chuck Dixon and he's got skills. Still, I think my biggest obstacle is how I haven't really been keeping-up with the events of DC since rebirth outside of the trade paperbacks (and, "Deathstroke") so I'm a good six-months-to-a-year behind on lots of what is going on in the comics. This was still perfectly alright though and I think worth reading at least another issue of.
2.5 out of 5 stars.

Hero Killers #1
Dynamite has done of number of comics under the, "Project Superpowers," banner, be it their nostalgia-driven stuff that had a lot of contributions from Alex Ross, or their horror-tinged, "Blackcross," mini-series that Warren Ellis wrote. Now within that theme (and I think again in its own world) we have Ryan Browne giving us the comedic, "Hero Killers." The gist here is that Libertyville U.S.A. was once a crime-ridden Hellhole, so they offered to pay superheroes to come and fight crime, even awarding bonuses for superb crime-prevention and stoppage. Years later there are too many heroes and basically no crime for them to fight. The situation is even more depressing if you're a sidekick, getting zero respect from the public or your supposed mentor.

This, "Too many heroes," idea has occurred before, but it usually is a fun thing to explore and Browne is pretty skilled at comedy within his comics. This book was for sure zany and silly, before taking a bit of a dark-yet-still-kinda-funny turn at the end where we see that the hero-killers in question are going to be (spoiler alert, even though solicits basically gave it away) the disrespected sidekicks. When a comic advertises that its focus is to be funny it essentially lives or dies based on its jokes. Thankfully, a lot of the jokes within, "Hero Killers," land even if some significant duds are in there too (the whole, "Whisper-yelling," gag is just dumb). There is more good stuff than bad in this, so I would say I liked it and am at least moderately curious enough to want to read the next issue.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Predator: Hunters #1
The afterword in this first issue makes the focus of this mini-series clear: Normally in a, "Predator," movie or the comics the plot follows humans who don't know anything about the aliens, and then eventually at the end of the story realize all they need to know in order to prevail. This series flips that on its head. This time we have humans who know everything about the Predators and their whole intention is to hunt the aliens who usually are the hunters. The, "Hunter becomes the hunted," idea is such a cliche, but as far as I know it never actually have been done with the Predators, who are arguably the greatest hunters of all. Therefore, what normally would seem played-out actually is kind of fascinating sounding in this particular case.

Much of this issue is set-up, with us meeting all the characters, hearing their stories of how they survived encountering a Predator, and getting the layout of the plan to turn the tables on these aliens and make them feel what it is like to be the prey. It's completely necessary but results in an issue that is a bit slow other than an action-packed opening that for now seems mostly removed from the rest of the story but I imagine will play an important part later. It's a very solid issue, and I know things are going to get immensely violent and brutal soon, so I'm perfectly understanding of this quiet before the storm.
3 out of 5 stars.

Jungle Fantasy Annual 2017
That dependable publisher Boundless, giving me some good ol' cheesecake. There have been a number of, "Jungle Fantasy," mini-series so far, making this Annual that brings the stories of previous characters back whilst also introducing some new folk a stellar idea. As there are so many individual characters however it feels like everyone gets a pretty brief story before, "To be continued," pops-up encouraging us to buy future books set in this Universe. The stories are by no means bad however, with some featuring a lot of sex, some having exciting dino-fighting, and general heaping-doses of the tongue-in-cheek fun we've grown to expect from Boundless. Still, I did find myself at times a little annoyed by how short each story was, wishing they could be a bit more in-depth. There are plenty more, "Jungle Fantasy," books on the way though, so the wait for more shall be brief.
4 out of 5 stars.

Writing Concluded
I have now offered my thoughts on these total of six books, with some being quite impressive and others struggling to make much of an impact for me. One constant thing though is I always like reading comics and I of course enjoy sharing my impressions with all of you as well.

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