Singles Going Steady 6/10/2014: Big Trouble or Big Ups?

A comic review article by: Taffeta Darling, Riagain27, Jason Sacks, Lisa Wu

Singles Going Steady

Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin's weekly single issue review roundup. 

Click here to read our review team supreme's opinions on Original Sin #1.

The Rise of the Magi #1

(Marc Silvestri / Sumeyye Kesgin; Top Cow/Image Comics)

3 stars

Hop on your Firebolts and grab your pipe-weed, Potter and LOTR fans, because Top Cow founder Marc Silvestri (Witchblade) and newb comic illustrator Sumeyye Kesgin are teasing wannabe wizards and witches into the magical world of Rune. Quickly, our unwilling magic carpet repairer protagonist Asa Stonethrow is forced on an epic journey to save our mundane world when a Palantír-looking orb is compromised. Why should we fear the “Palantír”? This orb holds all the magic in the world and, if destroyed, everything will just cease to exist. Poof! What was confusing during the ominous description and history of the orb was the brief mention of the term, Big Bang.

So, yes, the orb can destroy, but term suggests that with destruction comes life. Doesn’t seem as bad with that perspective. Despite this passing contradiction, the fast paced and chaotic nature of the story didn’t leave much time for reflection, especially when few sophomoric bites were thrown to lighten the mood. Kesgin’s energetic and expressive artwork ties perfectly along with the action packed storyline. Though the storyline is somewhat predictable, The Goddamn Wu doesn’t mind hitching a ride on this magic carpet.

- Lisa Wu


Big Trouble in Little China #1

(John Carpenter / Eric Powell / Brian Churilla / Michael Garland; BOOM! Studios)

5 stars

He’s Jack Burton in the Pork Chop Express, and talkin’ to whoever’s listenin’ out there– and I’m listenin’.

Or readin’.

First off, you should know that I’m a fan of John Carpenter. You should also know that I’m a Kurt Russell fan; but even more so you should know that I’m probably the biggest Big Trouble in Little China fan in the world!! At least in my world. When I read that John Carpenter was teaming up with Eric Powell of the Goon fame to bring me more BTiLC!, I lost my shit. I mean, it’s not a retelling or a different take on the movie; it’s a brand new fucking story, the continuing Adventures of Jack Burton and The Pork Chop Express!! So after months of anticipation and teasing from the crew at BOOM! Studios, here’s my assessment of BTiLC, Issue One.

The thing that I loved most was Powell’s take on Burton. He wrote him so perfectly, transferring his classic and cult-favored style and his mannerisms to text brilliantly…

Just another Sunday in Valencia.

Just another Sunday in Valencia.

#1 starts off exactly where the end of the movie ended nearly 30-years ago. It opens with Jack driving during a rainy night preaching those a Burtonisms via CB radio. There isn’t a recap of the the movie. So if you’re one of the sheltered few that haven’t seen it, IT’S ON NETFLIX!!!! Powell also doesn’t explain the events leading up and knows his audience. Most people picking up this new series are a fan of the movie and will have an understanding already as to what’s going on.

After decades of wondering what old Jack has been up to, and we find him traveling — demon intact on the back of the truck — back to San Fran with unresolved questions that need answers. He arrives in town just in time to see his old pal Wang tie the knot. As in true BTiLC fashion, the event gets interrupted and Jack Burton must save the day. There’s a distinct look to these classic characters, and Brian Churilla (Hellbreak) does a fantastic task of not missing the ball. Jack Burton looks like Kurt Russell which is what this Dutchess wants and how it should always be. Kurt is Jack, Jack is Kurt! The fighting scenes are full of energy and Michael Garland (Robocop: Last Stand) nails it with his distinct colors.

Fans of the movie will really enjoy this. I’ve highly recommended this to everyone coming in to my shop and we’ve sold out the issue in two days.

- Taffeta Darling


Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files: War Cry #1

(Jim Butcher & Mark Powers / Carlos Gomez and Mohan; Dynamite Comics)

 

So here we are with another Dresden Files comic from Dynamite. Time to see how it compares to the books. War Cry takes place between books seven and eight, Dead Beat and Proven Guilty. My first thoughts on it are the appreciation of the art and the attention to detail on the characters. Like the previous book Ghoul Goblin everyone looks almost exactly how you would expect them to based on their descriptions in the novels, down to the new Michael Jackson impersonation that Harry sports on his left hand due to events in Blood Rites. My one gripe about the art comes from the bottom of page thirteen where Harry suddenly doesn't look like Harry but instead like a strange amalgamation of Adam Sandler in Eight Crazy Nights and a young Adam Yauch.

 

Now you've seen it and can't unsee it.

But what about the story. How does that stack up? Well the story this time is pretty interesting from the get go as opposed to the previous comic. Harry and a small group of junior wardens to include fan favorite Carlos Ramirez are tasked with protecting and evacuating a group of mystic librarians known as the Venatori from a remote location out in Iowa before they are killed by the Red Court, one of four different groups of vampires in the Dresden Files universe. Upon arrival the group is almost immediately attacked by a large contingent of vampires and it looks like it's going to be a long night for the heroes as they hole up in the house that the Venatori had as their base. It's a good setup, and I'm left wondering at the end of the issue exactly what the characters are, "What is so important about these people that makes the vampires want them dead so badly?" I'm looking forward to the next issue to find out the answers.

Once again though, I have to gripe about Dresden not acting like Dresden. Not a single joke cracked by him the entire issue. The only humor comes out of Ramirez' and Meyers' mouth, often with Harry taking the role of the straight man to their banter. What kind of crazy upside down world is this where Harry Dresden is forced into the role of the straight man?! Yes one could argue that it's because he's feeling the pressure of command in this situation, but then again that's literally never stopped him from mouthing off and being a smartass before. For that reason alone I have to give this book a lower rating than I would like to. It's got great potential with a good lead in for the rest of the story, but I want to see the main character act like he's been characterized in both the past and future of this franchise.

 - Riagain27


The Darkness: Close Your Eyes #1

(Ales Kot / Marek Oleksicki; Top Cow/Image Comics)

4.5 stars

This the beautiful origin story of Adelmo Estacado, an ancestor of Mafia hitman, Jackie Estacado, scripted by Ales Kot (Secret Avengers) and illustrated by Marek Oleksicki (Judge Dredd) that deserves a foot washing from this awed fangirl. Although both the writing and artwork are understated, they are powerful… So powerful that one can taste the dry California dust and sweat on Adelmo’s skin and hear the beating of the oil rigs and the crackle of fire, much like Steinbeck transporting readers to the Salinas Valley in his short stories and novels.

Although The Darkness never truly appears because it is set before and on the day of Aldemo’s 21st birthday, the day that The Darkness blesses and curses the Estacado male line. However, this ancient is alluded to through the sad story of Aldemo’s conception, his response to some Yo’ Mama taunts, and of course, most artfully by the mention of the poet Rimbaud (Thank you for that Easter egg, Kot, from Literature geeks everywhere). Oh, and The Darkness is also a motherfucking video game. Again, TGW thanks Kot and Olesicki for classing it up and proving once again why comics are a valid literary medium that isn’t just about hot superheroes in tight clothing beating up bad guys.

- Lisa Wu


The Superannuated Man #1

(Ted McKeever; Image Comics/Shadowline)

4 stars

We're so lucky to have Ted McKeever, the poet laureate of weird-ass, wacko comics, working in our industry. His work reminds us that comics work on so many levels, probe deeply into our unconscious and bring a wonderful dreamlike state to the reader.

Like the best McKeever comics, The Superannuated Man is cryptic and bizarre, full of deep, all-encompassing blacks that seem to suck the reader down into a maw of rich black tar, or maybe an ocean that contains froglike creatures in high-top shoes, endless pollution and – oh yeah – a skin diver who talks to inanimate objects.

McKeever seems at first to be deliberately alienating the reader from the events he depicts, with the book opening with the talking frogs and the aforementioned diver speaking gibberish. But the book turns a few pages in when it gives readers a special kind of "tell", a moment of real human contact when the diver – who looks just like McKeever—turns to the reader with a smirk that seems to tell us "don't take none of this as real, just go along for the ride" while babbling some gibberish about crapping acid.

There's some stuff on the back cover about how this is about one of the few human survivors in a town full of mutated animals, and that's all well and good and gives this story a plot on an objective level.

But what McKeever does best – and what makes this book so wonderful (OK, a lot of things make this book wonderful and this is just one of them) is that he's great at showing the subjective side of the events he depicts, giving us both the interior perception and the exterior reality. And if you approach The Superannuated Man with that attitude – if you allow McKeever to be McKeever and just play with all the lovely, grotesque images, groove on the blacks and allow him to tell the story that he's telling rather than try to interpret it – this is a brilliant comic book.

- Jason Sacks


Vampirella vol. 2 #1

(Nancy Collins / Patrick Berkenkotter; Dynamite)

1 star

If Dynamite wanted to celebrate the 45th Anniversary of Vampirella, then picking horror writer, Nancy Collins (Sonja Blue/Swamp Thing) and artist Patrick Berkenkotter (Avengers/Invaders) to re-launch the sexy, sling-suited, daughter of Lilith seemed like the best way: To return Forrest Ackerman’s overexposed wet dream back to her horror roots with the “Our Lady of Shadows”. However, The Goddamn Wu finds this re-launch to read more like a Sookie Stackhouse story.

Vampirella #1

At least, some of the panels will bring loyal Vampirella fans to hold up the issue to their faces for a look-see. Who doesn’t like to see a sexy vampire left in bondage and branded? This only leads one to wonder which sexual fetish Collins will throw in next. Collins and Berkenkotter can forgo the prescribed self-flagellation if their intent was to be horrifically campy. Until Vampirella returns as the bad-ass we all want to see, this vampire vixen should be left alone with Sookie at Merllotte’s with a bottle of True Blood.

- Lisa Wu


Loki: Agent of Asgard #5

(Al Ewing / Lee Garbett; Marvel Comics)

4 stars

I've been squeeing about this book since issue one. Or I would have at least, if I was the type of person to squee. But I'm not. So I don't. Squee that is. Anyone who says otherwise is lying and has no proof! Anyway moving on! This issue starts with Loki trolling a man on a plane by setting up the classic "There's something on the wing!" gag because these are the kinds of things that Loki finds amusing and I cannot do anything but approve.

Loki needed a group the absolute best to help in the task of breaking into the most secure prison cell in Asgard. With himself, his brother Thor, Lorelei, and series newcomer Verity Willis who can see through any falsehood he has the perfect team to do just that. The entire caper starts with an awesome freefall drop into position, picks up an unexpected 5th crewmember in the middle and ends with a confrontation that everyone has been waiting for since issue #1.

Is there anything bad about this book? Well if there is then I can't find it. The story is great, the art is great, the humor is right on point along with the characterization, and while the end of the book marks the end of this particular arc it sets things up beautifully for the next arc with several unresolved issues that make you want to come back for more. A special kudos by the way, to artist Jenny Frison for a most excellent cover reminiscent of the classic casino caper plot. The only reason I'm not giving this book is because I don't believe in perfection, I'm a crusty, old, curmudgeon that way. So on that note, go buy this book!

- Riagain27


Jirni Vol. 2, #1

(J.T. Krul / Paolo Pantalena; Aspen)

3 stars

This ain’t no Disney. This ain’t no Jejhal Jiniri either. This is Apsen Entertainment’s Jiniri #1—J.T. Krul’s (Fathom) and Paolo Pantalena’s (War of Kinds/Epoch) hot fantasy action version of a genie!

This purple Xena, Ara, struggles to save her mother from the evil grasp of Sorcerer Torintha at the same moment her nature as a jiniri, a female D’jinn (genie), is revealed. Even before Ara graces the pages of this issue, one can anticipate that Krul will counter the typical gender norms by the alternate Cover B with enslaved women wearing only white Brazilian bikini bottoms in the background and the first page with women gathered around a bonfire listening to a member– who I assume as Nylese, a Gabrielle style character, singing Ara’s victories over the Hrugites. The detailed artwork and vibrant coloring really transports you to Ara’s world, as well as the breathtaking illustration that reflects Ara’s bold and soft nature. Every page is cover art quality. The best way The Goddamn Wu can describe this issue is with an old school Xena "Alalae!"

- Lisa Wu

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