Thursday, June 21, 2018

Rant-Reviews: Popularity Contest

Much-Discussed as Well as Little-Known
When comic-books are coming out (and long after their release) some find themselves with immense popularity and others struggle to gain much recognition. A number of factors can play a role here, from advertising, to word-of-mouth, how well-known the creator of a book is, what company publishes it, and plenty more elements. The quality of a book matters too, obviously, but there are a ton of critical darlings just as smash-hit garbage can exist too. With the idea of how some comics get immense buzz and others fly under the radar a concept inn mind let's review some assorted books of varying popularity!

The Books Many (or Few) Have Read
Babyteeth #11
While the writer of this series (Donny Cates) might be writing some red-hot titles for Marvel where he signed an exclusivity deal (his time on, "Thanos," sold like hotcakes), this little book he's been working away on for Aftershock (he started it before the deal, hence being allowed to continue it) hasn't quite gotten the same degree of buzz since a bit of interest when it first launched. The concept has been great--a teenage girl named Sadie gives birth to an Antichrist she names Clark and lots of people have motives relating to that--and the series has had Cates mixture of wit, action, and heartfelt moments. Perhaps because the book lacks any big-name superheroes people just aren't as aware of this as say, his re-launched version of, "Venom." That's as shame as the series continues to be a great read, using this issue to tell us about what is basically a version of Hell that Clark has ended-up within whle Sadie and others hope to go into to rescue him. As this issue makes clear however that isn't going to be an easy feat. It's a quieter issue that serves more of a purpose of setting-up the next big conflict (going into Hell)  than anything else, but Cates always keeps things interesting.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Black Hammer: The Dark Age #3
Jeff Lemire's comics about the world of, "Black Hammer," have been a certifiable surprise hit for Dark Horse, with a variety of spin-off books either having come-out or in the process of starting-up whilst the main series wrapped its first arc and then launched into this new, "Dark Age." The series has always been interestingly meta and minimalist, with heroes who defeated a huge evil force finding themselves stuck for years in a weird happy little town that's almost like an otherwordly limbo--one they want out of. Lemire has thankfully kept interesting developments coming quickly enough with shocking twists and turns (and just enough answers that this doesn't feel like a never-ending barrage of mysteries) that I've been loving the book. As I mentioned this has been a meta-styled comic, and that is ever the more apparent here as a character finds themselves peeking-in at various, "Stories," with some looking quite familiar (I see you, "Sweet Tooth," another work of Lemire!). It is discussed how all stories are in a way true and its delightfully odd. It serves as yet another example of why, "Black Hammer," has been such a fantastic comic and will hopefully continue to be a rollicking read.
5 out of 5 stars.

Damage #6
A lot of books launched as a part of DC's, "New Age of Heroes," and sadly many of them have either done modest numbers or outright flopped hard enough that it looks questionable if a single title will even make it to issue #12. That's a shame as despite some weaker books coming out there has been some solid reads such as the horror-comic within the DCU, "The Curse of Brimstone," the joyfully weird, "The Terrifics," and of course the comic I'm reviewing here, DC's kinda-Hulk, "Damage." The main character is a main named Evan who every 24 hours can transform into a big monster. He's on the run from the Government and in the process has bumped into all sorts of DC heroes and villains. Like, almost too many, with it feeling a bit like the comic is throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what--if anything--will stick. I can practically hear DC going, "Maybe have Damage fight Poison Ivy? No wait, Gorilla Grodd? Throw in some Swamp Thing too perhaps, something has got to boost sales!" As it is, this is a solidly entertaining comic and it is sad to see it along with most other of the newest DC books not quite finding their footing in the same way as re-launches of popular properties such as, "Justice League," seem to be succeeding.
3 out of 5 stars.

Bloodstrike: Brutalists #0
The early Image comics of the 1990's were of course big sellers, and they have been reinterpreted many times by creators at the publisher since. However, when I heard Michel Fife (a creator whose work I love) was going to be bringing his interesting art sensibility often found in more indie-circles to the quite mainstream, "Bloodstrike," I was intrigued to see this artsy-meets-commercial creation. Well, having the read first AKA zero issue I had a stellar time reading this! Fife gives everything a nice retro vibe mixed with his modern sheen and a few short pieces by other talented creators such as Benjamin Marra and Charles Forsman help round-out this delightfully oxymoron futuristic take on the past. It's some good stuff.
5 out of 5 stars.

Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #110
"Tarot," is not a massively popular property by any means. You don't see merchandise of the character in Target like other big-name entities, after all. That said, "Tarot," is probably the closest thing to an exact definition of a cult-favorite comic-book than anything else you'd come up with. After all, this series by Jim Balent and Holly GoLightly has been in print for over a decade and has gone past 100 issues--a major accomplishment for any comic, be it put-out by a big publisher or small one. A lot of success is owed to how, "Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose," has its general focus on Wicca and enjoyable cheesecake imagery, but besides that the comic is not beholden to any specific storytelling genres. Sometimes the book is more fantastical, other times scary, it maybe riffs on super-heroes, or has a humor-focused issue. It has its foundation but always builds interesting and new things upon this base, and that keeps readers coming back. This issue is in the vein of a big and epic story, with a lot of text accompanying various images. It is more Tarot-y goodness and sure to please any fans of the series!
4 out of 5 stars.

Thor #1
While there was a time his comics were doing so poorly Marvel actually killed him off for a couple years, Thor has lately been big business thanks to his movies and a number of high-profile comic events. We've got yet another re-launch of the book with the generally-great writer Jason Aaron at the helm (as he has been for a good deal of Thor's adventures lately). A new Marvel #1 generally sees a boost in sales, but does the latest relaunch of, "Thor," at least justify this stunt after Marvel made such a fuss about big ol' numbering for the failure that was, "Marvel Legacy," or is it a hollow effort? To answer that question, I'll say the comic is fine, but nothing screams that its some brand-new epic start to the saga of Thor. He still isn't, "Worthy," of holding the hammer as he has been dealing with lately, but is going by Thor again after Jane Foster has finished her stint as the character. It feels like we are just joining a lot of stories-in-progress in the main part of the comic and a back-up story reintroducing some characters from yet another run on a, "Thor," book Jason Aaron did before is solid too, but nothing amazing. It's just a passable comic that doesn't really make it clear why a, "#1," was needed as if marking some kind of special occasion. It'll still sell a ton of copies I bet though.
2.5 out of 5 stars.

Uber: Invasion #13
"Uber," and its sequel series, "Uber: Invasion," have been steady sellers for publisher Avatar Press, as writer Kieron Gillen imagines an Earth where World War II was horrifically prolonged by the development of Superhumans by the Nazis and then other nations as they struggled to catch-up. This series has been as dark and depressing as you could imagine, bringing a Garth Ennis-level detail to discussing warfare tactics within the comic plus a mixture of gruesome gore as these human, "Battleships," rip into one another. While this isn't some mega-seller, in terms of the kind of profits a smaller comic-publisher might like to achieve, "Uber/Uber: Invasion," has been a consistent winner. This issue moves the plot along, introducing some new wrinkles to fighting on, "The Eastern Front," as the Soviets find themselves beginning to struggle further in the war. Also, we meet one of the most hideous and deformed powered-characters yet, a design that is as interesting to witness as it is disgusting. I mean, "Uber," has never been known for skimping on gore or twisted flesh along with interesting alternative-takes on history, and this is more of that which is sure to continue being a solid seller for Avatar.
4 out of 5 stars.

Becoming Renowned or Possibly Suffering in Obscurity
Sometimes a comic is a hit, other times its a steady-seller, cult classic, or just kinda fails. I said quality matters, and I mean that, but we all know that one big element of comic-books is how at the end of the day it is a bit of a popularity contest. We all want the, "Hot," books and the ones less sought-after end-up in a dollar bin. It is nice when something is great and sells a bunch of copies too, of course. I just get sad when the things I love are cancelled, but so it goes.

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