Singles Going Steady

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

[NOTE: The review score above is the average score for all reviews in this column. Each comic also has its own score below]

For reviews of this week’s Original Sin and its its tie-ins, look here.

Robin Rises: Omega #1

(Peter Tomasi / Andy Kubert; DC Comics)

Oooookay- let me break it down: This story actually started over a year ago with the Death of Damian Wayne (and even further, if you want to count Grant Morrison’s entire Batrun from Final Crisis and beyond) and I have been expecting closure on this for some time. Unfortunately, Robin Rises: Omega #1 offered me nothing of the sort, instead feeling more like an unnecessary, albeit forced story. Peter Tomasi‘s opening feels far too long-winded and wasted, too, summarizing what most fans already knew before picking up this one-shot.

Despite some high-octane action — with some even crazier team-ups (i.e. League of Assassins + ?????) — the story otherwise feels flat, not all that accessible and, more honestly, this Dutchess is still trying to understand what the shit was I just read. As a long time fan of the former Green Lantern Corps writer, I expected more than one long brawl. It was also disappointing to see the few cool moments wasted in this one issue, only to learn that the Damian’s body still doesn’t belong to Bruce, or even the Second Best/Worst Choice.

Instead, we’re flummoxed with fluff…

Robin-Rises-Omega-01-01
The saving grace of this issue is Andy Kubert‘s art. The former X-Men and Captain America artist brings the life and vitality to an otherwise boring story. My absolute favorite scene was Batman punching Shazam right in the face, as the Dark Knight shows even he can only handle so much loss. His course of action, obviously, comes across with the vivacity needed to get his point across. It’s a wonderful addition to have Kubert sketching the continuous search for Damian, but if the writing is anything as it was in Robin Rises, a lot of the weight may wind up on those visual shoulders.

Overall, fans who’ve been following this run will be disappointed. Sure the art is fantastic and there are some tie-ins to the current events going on the in DCU with Bats ‘n Supes, but really it’s all just pointless. I get that Damian Wayne is everyone’s new favorite Robin, but is it really worth a road this shitty just to get there?

Sorry fellow Batman diehards, I love these characters.

I just hated this issue.

- Taffeta Darling


The X-Files: Year Zero #1

(Karl Kesel / Greg Scott / Vic Malhotra; IDW)

3.5

Moody gone did it again. You know whenever I get the chance to review something of David Duchovny’s it sure is a treat. This is the man whose recent TV portrayal inspired your One and Present Monignor.

Now, despite the fact I love The X-Files as much as the next — having recently rewatched the first 7-seasons within the past year or so — I have never read one single X-Files comic. It’s nothing against licensed adaptations, because what’s the difference between that and reading Spider-Man for the 3,971st time?

Black and white sketches from Vic Malhotra.

 

 

Year Zero #1 marks the point of a very good “jumping-on” point for a couple of reasons. As you can tell by the title, it’s Year Zero. No, it’s no knock of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s fantastic Zero Year run on Batman, nor does it take Fox Mulder and Dana Scully back to any sort of spooky childhood experiences. No, Karl Kesel (Daredevil, Fantastic Four) actually provides origin to an entirely different time period of X-cases, an FBI that is more appropriated with post-WWII politeness than the fancy banter between our favorite e.t. crime-solving duo.

The best compliment I could probably give Mr. Kesel is that his dialogue feels like the television series. It’s pretty much on-point with how Mulder & Scully would interact– and even funnier to watch the agents receive text messages and reference Google. Sure, it may sound kind of forced, but this is The X-Files of the present day, with a bit of Tarantino-styled flip-back to the 40s. This five-issue miniseries can only do better to add more segues between the different eras. I also found it witty on Kesel’s behalf to parallel “Year Zero” with the name of the intended antagonist.

If it’s cheesy, it’s probably an X-File.

That brings me to the art. There were some panels where the team of Greg Scott (Case Files: Sam & Twitch) and Vic Malhotra (Thumbprint) capture the correct essence of the duo’s interaction, sort of akin to the inner-precinct style of Gotham Central. Then something Greg Landish happens: An off-kilter Fox smile appears before the dialogue response (remember how facetiousness Duchovny plays his characters). Further confusing matters, readers will witness a not-so-menacing panther that moves/lands in the strangest ways (maybe it’s alien?), and the grim color scheme often makes it difficult to tell which stories appear in 1946 and in 2014. And yet despite all these cool devices the FBI gets to use now, the panels still look mid-90s– not entirely giving us a nice contrast between the tech-forward and the old fashioned.

Despite a few nuisances, reading this comic is the next best way to continue The X-Files lore until Chris Carter convinces 20th Century Fox that the next movie will actually be good.

- Travis Moody


Umbral #7

(Antony Johnston / Christopher Mitten; Image)

4 stars

Chris Mitten’s opening shot instantly brought to mind the work of Guillermo Del Toro, and that ominous organic vibe continues through the dark depths, the vistas of light, and the crimsons of blood magic rituals.

I think it’s Eisner Nomination time for Thomas Mauer. I’ve been astounded by the magic symbolettering in previous issues, and here it’s the subtlety of the letters fading out, and then back in as Rascal is transported to the Umbral. Shayim continues to be a favorite character, the tension vs. the Yuilangans, although now there’s doubt being cast her way as a secret plot shifts external attention from Dalone to Rascal, the suggestion of a traitor in their midst, though it could be an early red herring. It’s a great writing move, letting the audience in on information that some of the cast isn’t yet aware of. I also really enjoy the gender politics embodied by her and Rascal, the way Rascal feels she needs to bite her tongue out of character in order to protect her party.

It’s probably no surprise that I need to comment on Antony Johnston’s writing, specifically some of his word choices. “Shit on your mother’s arse!” is a particularly choice goat-fucking phrase (hello, Wasteland readers!) that shows how an invented colloquialism effectively convinces us of a different time, place, and culture. There’s also a playful nature to the script, taking words we think we know, but then subverting them toward a different meaning, like what a “whispering” truly is. That’s a simple flick of writing, but is fairly brilliant. There’s another map in this issue, to orient us as Rascal journeys through different parts of Fendin to assumedly destroy the Oculus, and it made me draw the obvious comparisons to seminal high fantasy inspiration like Tolkien or Martin, and then consider structure.

The first arc of Umbral was something of a “gathering” story, it’s the dinner party at Bilbo’s house, it’s Gandalf coming to The Shire for Frodo, it’s Robert Baratheon travelling to Winterfell to kick the plot into motion. I’m not accusing Johnston of swiping by any means, I’m merely fascinated by the universality of the structure, I wonder if in his plot outline it’s broken down like this, arc 1 is the gathering, arc 2 is the journey, arc 3 (or 4 or 5 or whatever) is casting the Oculus into Mount Doom or whatever the Umbral equivalent is. Anyway. The first Rascal cosplay wins a piece of original art! That’s huge! Get on it! #KeepYourTitsOn

- Justin Giampaoli


Doberman #1

(Jack Lambert / Scott Marder / Rob Rossell / Bernard Chang; IDW/DarbyPop

3 stars

“L.A. is a junkyard. Meet the dog.”

Yeah, yeah, it’s a throwback ’80s nostalgiafest from writers Jack Lambert (not the legendary 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker), Scott Marder and Rob Rossell – three writers from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Unsupervised — and artist Bernard Chang (Green Lantern Corps, Demon Knights). With his long hair, sexy way with the ladies, cool car and kick-ass ways, Frank “Doberman” Doberano is the ultimate male wish fulfillment fantasy. But when his partner and him get involved in a drug deal gone bad, the partner is viciously killed by the bad guys.

Doberman drops out of society, wanders to Canada and finds himself breaking up white slavery rings. Yeah, it’s easy to see the fingerprints of a Hollywood action vehicle in this comic, some new Van Damme or Couture flick that’s short on the irony and long on the action.

It’s also easy to see why it never got made. This dog does a lot of growling but it never quite bites.

- Jason Sacks


Harley Quinn Invades Comic-con International #1

(Jimmy Palmiotti / Amanda Conner; DC Comics)

4.5 stars

All I can say is easter eggs… easter eggs everywhere. Remembering way way back to Harley Quinn #0 from late last year, husband and wife scribes Jimmy Palmiotti (All-Star Western) & Amanda Conner (Power Girl) had set out to make a book that was just a lot of fun, starring everyone’s favorite clown-girl, and practically no plot. This time, they wised up, and made HQICCSD #1, which is a lot more fun, starring Dr. Quinzel and a loosely put-together plot. And for what it is, I think DC is successful yet again.

The great part about this book is Harley plays just about every role you can play attending Comic-Con. She’s treated as a cosplayer, actively looking to get a portfolio review as an artist, worked a booth as a retailer, was utterly confused about Dick’s Last Reso– err “Rude Rick’s Hateful Hideaway” as a tourist, and ends the book hunting for all the unnecessary comics and statues we’re all guilty of wasting our money on every year. No matter what role you play at Comic Con, Harley feels for you. The best part of the comic is definitely all the easter eggs. From the two Doctor Who fans glaring at each other on the cover, to all the “not-exactly-Marvel” cosplayers in the background, HQICCSD is worth your time in multiple read-throughs. Of course, Harley ends up meeting big DC names like her creators Bruce Timm, and Paul Dini, DC Co-Publisher Dan Didio (who had my favorite dialogue in the entire book), Demi-God Geoff Johns with his signature baseball cap, and many, many more. Bringing back the multiple-artist schtick for these whimsical books is a great idea, and it really flows well dividing them by each day spent at the Con. This book is a lot to take in through one read, and after going through it, I’m already exhausted for my own 4-day visit.

- Gabe Carrasco


Manifest Destiny #8

(Chris Dingess / Owen Gieni; Image Comics)

Manifest Destiny seems to be getting stronger and stronger with each successive issue. There’s a killer cover team-up on this issue, which hints at the frenetic nature of the Corps of Discovery’s escape from the river creature they last encountered, as well as the increased attention to Sacagawea’s characterization. It’s great that she’s a bad-ass, but it’s not played in an overstated way that feels like audience pandering or gender tokenism, she’s smart, she has home turf advantage, and her lines are typically delivered in such a straightforward fashion that it almost plays like deadpan humor: “Two times. Two times I have saved you.”

The work of Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts and Owen Gieni is one of those rare examples of composed parts working in perfect harmony to create something greater than themselves. It’s what happens when all of the cylinders are firing in perfect sync. It’s the ring of accuracy to the historical fiction writing, the way the impressive art and some of the best coloring happening in the industry right now creates stark contrast between the metals and bold colors of the soldiers in relief against the greens and browns of the natural world, the hook of the high concept hook, the invention of the zipline(!), and how one big fucking mosquito create one of the best series of 2014.

- Justin Giampaoli


The Squidder #1

(Ben Templesmith; 44Flood/IDW)

4 stars

If there’s a great fantasy video game/comic book franchise named The Witcher, why not go with…The Squidder? Ahh, I can hear the porn jokes already. Luckily for readers of post apocalyptic sci-fi/adventure/horror/(which should be pretty much ALL of you), there’s few laughing matters when it comes to the terror of Ben Templesmith‘s The Squidder #1.

 

The 30 Days of Night co-creator conveys much of the same harsh realities him and his oft-collaborator Steve Niles go for– you know, those conveyors of anti-corruption who have their own demons to deal with. Thankfully, Ben’s art is as satisfyingly glum as his story. His art style (yeah, Templesmith does it all in this issue, even the lettering) looks like hell straight out of a sketchbook. This is Jason Stratham stepping into Arnold territory, with cybernetic action blended in with subtle defiance; his Squidder comes off like a medieval Mad Max as well, gun by the hip, sword tied to his back. With foes that hold as many secrets as hostages in the Dark Father and Squid Queen, you best bet our buddy’s gonna need all the help he can get. Making matters worse, the ever-dismal atmosphere rains down on both the dystopian struggles and readers at hand. Lights come from flames; hell comes from within. If you’re sick of all the dark and dreary, too bad. This comic is on par with stellar sushi grade calamari. Enjoy the silence.

- Travis Moody


Dark Engine #1

(Ryan Burton / John Thomas Bivens; Image Comics)

3 stars

Let’s cut to the chase on this one. Dark Engine #1 has some great artwork. Hell, it’s absolutely brutal. I had to read through it twice just to understand what really happened– because I was so busy looking at all the blood, gore and breasteses that were popping out everywhere.

This comic, written by Ryan Burton (Dead End Boys) with the naughty penciling via ohn Thomas Bivens (Popgun), is about a time travelling dame that literally pops into new time zones through another living being, leaving said animal shred into itty bitty pieces! She then kills everything in sight with a bad-ass giant bone sword (starting with the dinosaurs and ending in ancient Egypt). Sure, there was a whole plot that went along with this madness but it bored me pretty quickly. I mean, with all the blood and boobies, what kind of self-respecting man even can pay attention to the story arc?

- Mark Majndle


Black Market #1

(Frank J. Barbiere / Victor Santos; BOOM! Studios)

4 stars

I love it when a comic seems like it’s going to go one way, then suddenly goes a completely different direction. This new comic by Frank J. Barbiere (Five Ghosts, New Avengers) and Victor Santos (Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Mice Templar), first seems like it’s going to be one of those introspective real-world super-hero tales full of long captions and deep, dull brooding. Then it seems on the verge of the “normal human in a world of super-powers” stories that seem like they’re all the rage, then it gains some heart and seems to be a bit of slice of life that has real heart and passion, before it turns all hardcore and crazy and completely unexpected.

Yeah, he’s done it again. Just as he’s done with the awesome Five Ghosts, Barbiere takes familiar tropes and then zigs and zags all over the tropes in a way that makes ordinary comics seems a little too quiet after reading all the dense thrilling adventure of this tale. By squeezing all these ideas together in one story, he makes them all fresh and new, thereby showing us why we liked this stuff in the first place. Santos’ art doesn’t quite work for me in this story – some pages are confusing and the lack of background detail is frustrating – but Barbiere’s ideas come tumbling out at such a breakneck pace that the reader either has to hold on or get out of the way.

- Jason Sacks


The Devilers #1

(Joshua Hale Fialkov / Matt Triano; Dynamite)

3 stars

What can be Holier than attending Church on Sunday? For Zom it would be reading Joshua Hale Fialkov (I, Vampire) and Matt (Sherlock Holmes) Triano‘s new Dynamite series, The Devilers.

The best part: Fialkov chooses a most interesting angle for this Hell Up in Vatican story. Despite the whole “wer’e doomed” mindset, there still lies a relaxed feel as to how it all unfolds. Instead of the usual single-player narration, readers will witness all the horror from their so-to-speak living rooms, as the initial — and quite dynamic — conversations are further broadcast into supernatural madness. You might just pick up a little of Hellblazer (now on NBC as Constantine), Supernatural, and even some Dead or Alive from the comic’s overall vibe. Triano’s artwork was a tougher sell. Despite the cool-as-fuck demon frog giving Padre the finger, the pages are almost TOO HOT– I don’t mean that in the best way. There’s almost too much color in every panel and not enough detail — maybe blame that on colorist Mark Roberts. Even one character appeared to resemble a Chewbacca-bleeding hair demon. Sorry, father; I was sort of done after that. Thankfully Fialkov’s premise is interesting enough to give these Devilers another few Hail Mary’s for next month.

- Richard Zom


The Wicked + The Divine #2

(Kieron Gillen / Jamie McKelvie; Image Comics)

5 stars

It’s quickly becoming obvious that The Wicked + The Divine is poised to be something special. It’ll no doubt be one of those books that has crossover appeal and the mainstream media outlets will be ranking in their best of the year lists. You get the sense that this is really the story that Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie were waiting to tell for years, even back when they first conjured Phonogram out of thin air in a way that seemed to innovative, at a time when not a lot of flash was really coming out of the “old” Image Comics. Phonogram was merely prologue to The Wicked + The Divine, a test-run for the story of cyclically reemerging gods, their witness, and a type of pop mythology that also examines social commentary vis-à-vis the homogeneity of the spiritual and the corporeal.

McKelvie also seems to be stretching his already glorious abilities, infusing the clean austerity of his lines with more static and chatter in scenes like the delightful descent to the underground, and the very nature of The Morrigan. There’s also one of the best renditions of Lucifer this side of him abdicating the throne, tossing Morpheus the key to the gates of hell, and just… leaving in Sandman (which will forever be one of my Lucifer Portrayal Gold Standards). #IntangibleCunnilingus

- Justin Giampaoli


Teen Titans #1

(Will Pfeifer / Kenneth Rocafort; Image Comics)

4 stars

The Teen Titans are back and all-new! Well, no; not really. But there is a new creative team helming the title, with Will Pfeifer(Catwoman, Amazons Attack!) scribing and Kenneth Rocafort (Red Hood & The Outlaws) throwing down the art. The initial plot is pretty straightforward: Terrorists have hijacked a bus full of kids, and it’s up to Justice League: High a.k.a. the Teen Titans to stop them. And don’t let the initial plot fool you, as there is definitely something larger looming underneath of S.T.A.R. Labs.

Though for the most part clouded in mystery, this issue gives each member of the Titans — back as the “Teen” Titans — their own time to shine, which serves as a great introduction for the uninitiated. Rocafort’s art is gorgeous and very well detailed, even if Wonder Girl’s outfit is completely impractical for an adventurer (you DO remember his Starfire, don’t you!??). There’s no way Cassie would stay in that hyper-red-leather-sexualized outfit for long. Still, this is a highly enjoyable — and very modern — first issue that sets up an even more promising run.

- Dana Keels

 

 


Borderlands: Fall Of Fyrestone #1

(Mikey Neumann / Augustin Padilla / Esther Sanz; IDW)

3 stars

I probably have more to say about 2K’s forthcoming Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel video game than I do this comic, but you knew that. Comic books that adapt video games are usually not very good — with last week’s Splinter Cell: Echoes a seeming exception — and video games made into either TV or movies are typically even worse. Thankfully, IDW is holding down this market with an iron fist.

Opening the book up with a Claptrap confrontation was a brilliant idea, seeing how he best captures the series’ not-so-clandestine sense of humor (“It’s possible you’ve embraced a sustenance-free lifestyle,” he chirps to a possible axe-wielding threat). Mikey Neumann, the creative director at Gearbox Software — yes, EVERYONE’s writing comics now — further spurts out the 80s b-movie humor as he introduces any possible Bordervirgins to the Vault Hunters. Lilith’s phasing powers look cool thanks to the detailed linework of Augustin Padilla (GI: Joe, Transformers). In fact, many of the sketches replicate the franchise pretty well. The only thing off about the visual look of this Borderlands comic in comparison to the game is the lack of contrast between the rustic settings and the hyper lo-fi characters and weaponry. Instead, Esther Sanz‘ coloring all seems to blend in. I’d highly recommend this comic to longtime ‘Lands-Fans such as I, but otherwise proceed to this Pandora with a tad bit of caution. –

- Travis Moody