Digital Ash 1/1/14: Secrets, Lies and RevelationsA comic review article by: Jason Sacks
The Bunker #5
(Joshua Hale Fialkov / Joe Infurnari)
Joshua Fialkov and Joe Infurnari's passion project The Bunker wraps up its run in digital form before it moves to print later this month from Oni Press, and you can see their love for it on every page. The Bunker is one of those series that give us a complicated conundrum to figure out, as five friends discover a time capsule that appears to have been sent back from the future that shows that all of them will take actions that will lead to the end of the world. Is that revelation real? Will anyone take action to keep the world from being destroyed? What's special about these friends? And how will this revelation change their relationships with each other?
Fialkov delivers the first five chapters of this graphic novel with an intriguing mystery and complex characters. I've twisted my mind into knots trying to figure out how the capsule was returned through time, and who the heroes are here (or even are there any heroes?). Infurani's art is a nice fit as well. Drawn in a loose style that implies as much as it directly shows, his earth-tone coloring and love for close-ups emphasizes the emotions that are at the center of what makes The Bunker so absorbing.
This has been one of my favorite digital comics each month. It's cool that Fialkov and Infurani will hopefully get this material a wider audience, because The Bunker deserves more readers.
Buy The Bunker #5 on Comixology.
(Vernon Smith / Derec Donovan)
One seemingly ordinary morning a teenager named Kevin steps out of his shower to discover a seemingly impossible experience: his loving father viciously swinging a baseball bat straight at Kevin's head. Kevin escapes his dad's attack and runs to his sister's bedroom, where he discovers his mother shredding his five-year-old sister with a knife. Running from the house, he learns the whole town has gone crazy in the same way. What the hell is going on in this town?
Vernon Smith has created a terrifying concept, one that resonated with me as a parent (and former kid). The sheer, unadulterated horror of the events of Hide knocked me back on my heels, and the rapid pace and light art style, combined with the bright primary colors that he uses, provides a striking contrast with the grimness of the tale he's telling. Smith's art is still a bit crude – there's some awkward figure drawing and he can use some work on his perspectives – but the core idea he's presenting is so scary and interesting that I have to read more, if just to have some idea of how poor Kevin will get out of this incredible horror.
Buy Hide #1 on Comixlogy.
(Erica Schultz / Vicente Alcazar)
Machiavella Maria Marcona is an amazing woman: beautiful, exotic and brilliant, she's also a hired assassin with terrible emotional pain in her distant past and a trail of bodies in her recent past. When the CIA captures her, secrets of Maria's life come out. But even as revelations spill from her background, more mysteries are uncovered.
It's become a bit of a cliché these days for comics to be based on unproduced screenplays, and that can often be an awkward fit: the result is frequently neither fish nor fowl, neither an actual film nor really a satisfying comic book. But Schultz's story reads like a comic script that contains filmic elements: scenes are well staged, characters "act" in compelling ways on the page, and at times we can "hear" background music swell and ebb in our minds as the events proceed, but there's never any feeling that this wasn't intended to be printed rather than filmed. M3 is cinematic in the comic sense rather than the sense of being created for film and simply transposed to the comics page.
Much of the success for this book comes from the artwork by Vicente Alcazar. A longtime comics pro with decades of experience in the industry, Alcazar delivers meticulous art that gives Schultz's story a deep feeling of realism and scene setting. Alcazar is wonderful at the kinds of facial expressions that help drive this gripping tale and give the intriguing script its bite.
Who knows what additional secrets M3 has in her heart? Based on those deeply contemplative eyes on the final page, she's seen more than her share of horrors, and we'll enjoy exploring those horrors in future issues. M3 #1 gives readers lots of mysteries that we will enjoy uncovering.
Buy M3 on Comixology.
Strange Symmetry vol. 1
Ariel Tesla is a high school girl who's tortured and full of angst about her life. Ariel is forced to move to the Twin Cities after her parents' divorce, and is frustrated in her efforts to make new friends at her new school. But as Ariel comes home after the first day of school, she's shocked to see that her mom is poisoned by a cake that has been given to her by a coworker. Running out of the house to seek help, Ariel is transported to someplace very different from her quiet neighborhood: she finds herself in an alternate demon dimension where a mysterious teenager named Xigi lives with his talking cat.
There are interesting revelations and secrets throughout Strange Symmetry. It's drawn in a manga style and contains some of the mystery of my favorite manga: strange events barely explained, odd characters with amazing abilities, and a fascinating psychological underpinning that gives depth and power to the story that Dennis Lo tells. More than anything, this first issue accomplishes what it needed to: it creates questions in the reader's mind, presents him or her with mysteries that s/he wants to see illuminated, and the promise of complex answers that will make this comic worth rereading.
Strange Symmetry is a bit confusing and weird but an entertaining, quick read with a passionate heart.
Buy Strange Symmetry on Comixology.
Watson and Holmes #6
(Brandon Easton / N. Steven Harris)
I've been enjoying this different take on the Sherlock Holmes stories that places Watson and Holmes as a pair of African-American New Yorkers dealing with terrible urban crimes. This month the usual creative team steps aside to give Brandon Easton and N. Steven Harris the chance to explore a scandal that involves sexual slavery, the Russian mafia, secrets and lies among the political elite and – maybe inevitably – murder.
It's no insult to say that Watson and Holmes #6 reads like a really good police procedural. After all, this is the best era ever for quality TV shows and because we all have a certain level of comfort in the tropes of that medium that allows the creators to bring out the revelations in a smart and well considered way, hitting the story beats nicely and keeping the scandal growing with a well-measured cadence. The art is effective while the script has a passion that shows Easton's emotional investment in the story he's telling, a deep-seeded anger that we can read about in more depth in the included text page.
Though this issue isn't created by the usual creative team, it's an intriguing and terrifying narrative that makes an important point about society and is true to the lead characters.
Buy Watson and Holmes on Comixology.