Singles Going Steady

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

Lazarus #10

(Greg Rucka /Michael Lark; Image Comics)

5 stars

Lazarus so far has been a very tightly knit story with one arc quite seamlessly flowing into the next. But for the first time we actually get a standalone story that details what the traitorous Carlyle family member Jonah, has been up to since he frantically escaped from his parents' compound in Los Angeles. 

In this issue, we go back in time a few issues to just after Jonah tried to instigate a war between the Carlyle Family and the Moray family by blowing up his sister, and the family Lazarus, on Moray ground. The issue manages to get across the basic information of the world and premise without a lot of it feeling forced and the character writing for Jonah is very nicely handled as he tries to find safety for what he has done but is obviously not finding any.

The new character of Jakob Hock is introduced and he’s very intimidating in his first real appearance. He seems very calm and calculating but also very menacing in the way that he tells Jonah that there’s nothing he can give him that he doesn't already have. He’s already an interesting character and it will be interesting to see where his character goes and what plans he seems to have for Jonah in the future.

The art by Michael Lark is once again beautiful. He does a wonderful job with the scenery in this issue as we get to go farther east in the country and see what has become of New York and a bit of the land just beyond the Mississippi river. The wasteland looks rough and ugly and like it’s an awful place to live, and New York also looks more high tech and impressive but very oppressive and cold with giant “OBEY” signs all over the place and guards always monitoring the situation at hand. Special note should be paid to the design of Jakob Hock, it’s got an interesting cross going between the Vulture and Hannibal Lecter and it perfectly fits.

Lazarus in its short time on the stands has managed to become one of Image Comics' best ongoing series. This issue is a great sampling of everything that Lazarus has in store for fans and new readers alike. It’s an interesting world with interesting characters and perfectly matched art.  Image has been on a roll for the last year or so with great books like Sex Criminals, Saga and East of West. And I am happy to say that Lazarus is just as good or maybe even better then all three of those great series. 

Jordan Glazer

Captain Victory & The Intergalactic Rangers #1

(Joe Casey / Ulises Farinas / Nathan Fox / Jim Rugg; Dynamite Entertainment

4 stars

Though this sounds like the title of a terrible, yet somehow awesome, cartoon that you would have sat around watching in your pajamas whilst eating sugary cereal on Saturday mornings, it is in fact a new comic book from Dynamite Entertainment. The fresh take on Captain Victory, written by Joe Casey (Cable, Wild C.A.T.S., Godland) has a very classic yet somehow very fresh feel to it. The legendary Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko influence is oozing from the gorgeously colored layouts on every page, which is truly the book’s major strength.

As for the story, it does what most first issues do: asks more questions than it does give answers. That being said, they are good questions that the reader does want answered. This sci-fi adventure has everything from cloning, to crazy space animals, to violence, and some mystery to boot! As first issues go, it’s pretty awesome, but flawed in the way all first issues are: so much information, so little time.

- Ryan Scott

Hack/Slash Son of Samhain #2

(Michael Moreci / Steve Seeley / Emilio Laiso; Image Comics)

Hack/Slash is a horror comic book series which, like a good rock band plugging in a new vocalist or a super star athlete going to a new team, re-invents itself periodically. I guess a good concept is something difficult to ignore, which in the case of Cassie Hack's adventures, is most definitely a good thing.

Tim Seeley created Hack/Slash and the series went through a number of one-shots and an ongoing run at Devil's Due before being picked up by Image. I have to confess to not having followed the latest Image series, having grown weary of radical changes in the plot and the characters, but it is great to get reacquainted with Cassie Hack, a character I put right at the top of the pantheon of kick-butt, take-no-prisoners comic book female protagonists behind only Buffy, Wonder Woman and Kate Spencer (Manhunter.) Yes, she's that engaging, but her reincarnated adventures have yet to recapture the full impact of her previous contributions to the genre.

Issue #2 of Hack/Slash Son of Samhain continues last month's reimagining of Cassie's new post-slasher hunting existence, finding our protagonist coping with everyday banalities like her new profession as a bounty hunter and having to adapt to a new partner and an existence where some of the people in her life are but a distant memory.  Because the character has a long history, new writers Michael Moreci and Steve Seeley spend a lot of time in exposition and recapping not only her origin — a task that is easily dispatched by the colorful credits page — but also her motivations for getting back into the monster hunting game, something that's not all that apparent at first.

What was apparent to me from the get-go was the notable absence of Vlad. Where's Vlad? Did our lovable big hunk of meat muscle wither and die in previous storylines? Like I said, I am guilty of having failed to keep up with the Image series prior to this reboot and the writers have not yet gotten around to covering the fate of Vlad and other characters from previous installments. This will be just fine with new readers but for those long time fans, if they missed some of those Image books, this may be a glaring omission.

Apart from drastic supporting character changes (most notably Cassie's new partner, a seasoned monster hunter named Delroy who calls himself "rought around the edges") this is a solid start to the new series with amazing artwork handled by regular penciler Emilio Laiso and one seemingly overwhelming evil opponent and his formidable deity for our heroes to contend with. The task of rendering all the giant monsters found within the book's pages is a job Laiso is more than capable of succeeding in. However, I am not convinced that the new creative team has nailed the formula which made all the previous Cassie Hack adventures so infectious: A delicate balance between standard horror tropes, the bizarre and the chronicling of the chaotic, nomadic lifestyle of being a slasher hunter, and the relationship between the titular heroine and her supporting cast.

In this issue gore and the blood are there in spades, and there is a nice segment where Cassie and her new partner exchange philosophical banter amidst name calling, but sadly, this gives way to frenetic monster bashing and action sequences way to soon. I think once new readers have been sufficiently filled up on the backstory, and once the new creative team gets a better handle on the book's pacing, regular readers may be in for a consistent treat.

- Ariel Carmona Jr

Howltoons: [Re]Ignition #1

(Fred Van Lente / Tom Fowler / Jordie Bellaire; Image Comics)

4 stars

Image Comics’ Howtoons [Re]ignition by Fred Van Lente (Action Philosophers, Incredible Hercules, Marvel Zombies 3 & 4), with art by Tom Fowler (Revolution of the Planet of the Apes), was an amazing, scientific adventure. This fun, diverse, educational comic really blew my marbles!

Co-created by Nick Dragotta (East of West), this story begins with Tuck and Celine. Their parents put the whole family in suspended animation to ride out the ecological apocalypse occurring on planet Earth. However, when the kids wake up, they discover Mom and Dad are missing. Thus begins their journey to search for their parents. I found this comic immensely intriguing and entertaining. It’s filled with fabulous “how-to’s,” since Tuck and Celine can only use their “Howtoons tools” to survive. A marshmallow gun made out of tubing, a face mask made out of plastic, and a working flashlight made out of cardboard! Thank you Image Comics for putting out a great piece of literature that is not only informative about our planet’s eco-system, but also teaches kids how to be inventive and MacGuyver-like.

- Eva Ceja

Blood Queen #3

(Troy Brownfield / Fritz Casas / Kirsty Swan; Dynamite)

4 stars

Blood Queen is a comic book with a central female protagonist who compels the reader to follow her progression from issue to issue as a practitioner of blood magic and a character who seems grounded on her convictions against a patriarchal society bent on destroying witches.

There are a myriad of conventional fantasy book tropes going on here, but their familiarity do not detract from the reader's enjoyment of the book because the characters are engaging and the pacing by writer Troy Brownfield seems right for this type of enchanted milieu.

Rather than giving the reader a ton of swordplay and action sequences, Brownfield practices a form of pacing and storytelling that reveals glimpses of the story and characters while revealing nuggets of secrets and character motivations, giving the readers just enough information while also adroitly advancing the story.

The art style of the comic is also pleasing. Fritz Casas captures the medieval fantasy setting of this book with competence, setting up the environments and tone quite well, enhanced by the hues and tones employed by colorist Kirsty Swan. One gets the sense that the lighting of some scenes in the comic enhance the proceedings. For example there is the opening narration depicting the vote of the council of kings regarding the banning of magic where the bright colors and light golden strokes combine to produce a sense of royalty, secrecy and power.

The main thrust of this month's issue is the clash between Elizabeth and the knight of purity, a powerful member of the kings' court who goes on a rampage to cleanse the lands of witches. Their confrontation is told as a flashback, but clearly conveys Elizabeth's power and purpose.

A secondary sequence further advances Elizabeth's dealings with John Hunter, but even here the reader can sense that the protagonist is a strong-willed woman, dealing with Hunter on her own terms and playing against the archetype of the damsel in distress, or the passive female foil to a heroic knight or adventurer, which is the norm in relationships and interactions often found in fantasy settings. These scenes play out in precise contrast to the opening, within the dank and dark walls of the King's chambers. Deceit, reconnaissance and strategizing are the prevue of all the characters involved and they snare the reader in expert fashion.

In sum, Dynamite's Blood Queen appeals to readers engaged by fantasy as well as those just seeking an original story set in these familiar surroundings. It may not please those seeking all out action every issue as the comic favors character development and a slower pace, which suits me just fine when an intriguing protagonist like Elizabeth is front and center.

- Ariel Carmona Jr.

Usagi Yojimbo Senso #1

(Stan Sakai; Dark Horse Comics)

2 stars

The return of Stan Sakai‘s Usagi Yojimbo was a somewhat entertaining read, albeit a strain on the eyes. The black and white color-way brought some confusion to the panels, as bodies were difficult to make out unless concentrated on only three or four samurais/generals. The art, while technically awesome when you’re able to break down the scene, could have benefitted from some thicker line work to distinguish different characters; a lot of times I was left feeling the work was a bit jumbled. Regardless, the simple text made Usagi easy to understand, so readers of any age will be able to get in on the slice-and-dice action. While definitely unique, blending animals and shogun – there’s a rabbit wielding a katana, riding a horse into war and I’m not even drinking.

While it gains points for being a suitable comic for all ages, that simplicity brings it down as well. The art didn’t do it for me and the blurb at the beginning did not elaborate enough on backstory, so I was questioning names of who was fighting and who was on who’s side. At only six issues you can’t really expect a novel’s worth of character development, but just a little bit more (I mean, why can’t Usagi tell Jotaro he’s his father? Is it because he’s a bunny and she’s a panda?). It would have been appreciated.

- Christine Manzione

Jennifer Blood: Born Again #1

(Steven Grant / Kewber Baal; Dynamite)

3 stars

Jennifer Blood rides again! In Dynamite’s follow-up series to Garth Ennis’ original volume, she continues her one-woman war against the mob.

Vigilante mass-murderer, Jennifer, long thought dead by the world, emerges once more to take on the criminal underbelly of Los Angeles in her typically bloody fashion. Written here by legendary Marvel and DC stalwart Steven Grant (The Punisher, Avengers, The Hulk), and illustrated by rising star and Jennifer Blood O.G. alumni Kewber Baal; this opening issue masterfully replicates the darkly humorous and edgy vibe of an Ennis creation, and with Baal’s artwork effortlessly echoes both the style of Steve Dillon (Hellblazer) and the gritty line work of Carlos Ezquerra (Judge Dredd). The story kicks into high gear with a minimum of exposition, allowing new readers a perfect entry point for those who like their violence funny, and their humor more adult (note: Not mature. I never said mature). Add in some dabblings with a weird religious cult, some S+M, and the requisite copious buckets of blood, and it seems this character and series is in good hands.

- Luke Anderson

Green Arrow #34

(Jeff Lemire / Andrea Sorrentino; Image Comics)

This is it boys and girls! It's the last Green Arrow issue by the creative team of Jeff Lemire (writer) and Andrea Sorrentino (artist). These are the two that saved this title from likely cancellation, starting with issue #17.

In this final issue of their run, Ollie/Green Arrow and John Diggle finally reunite as the team they're meant to be. After Dig is tossed out a window several stories up, by a counterfeit Richard Dragon, Ollie jumps out right after him and shoots an arrow on the ground that cushions their fall with goop, foam, jello,…I'm not exactly sure what it is. But, it's cool!

From there, we find the Clock King with his gun trained on Henry, who he's already shot, and Naomi. Just as he's ready to finish them off, Emiko, Ollie's newly announced ½ sister, shows up and beats the clock King nearly to death. YOU GO EMIKO!!! It's really cool, 'cause she's just a little kid,…kinda reminds you of Damian Wayne. However, Namoi convinces her to stop, right as Killer Moth shows up.

Back to Dig and Ollie,…they run back into the building they'd both just fallen out of, and catch the elevator back up to confront counterfeit Richard Dragon. On the way, Dig shows "he aint playin'", making quick work of two henchmen inside the elevator as the doors open, shooting both directly in their foreheads.

As the story comes to its end, Emiko distracts Killer Moth with an awesome martial arts stance, while Naomi sneaks up behind him and shoots him in the back. Ollie and Diggle battle counterfeit Richard Dragon, and after a knock down drag out, the two prevail. However, Ollie and Dig walk away and it's unclear if Dragon escapes or was left for the police to collect.

In the end, the good guys lick their wounds; Henry is taken away in an ambulance and Naomi kisses his forehead, letting him know she cares for him. Naomi and Ollie hug one another, as a goodbye, and Emiko and Diggle meet for the first time,…which is HILARIOUS! Our last page is an amazing pin up of Ollie and Emiko on a rooftop, each with bows drawn facing in separate directions,…she's undoubtedly the greatest sidekick since Damian Wayne! A PEFECT ending to a PERFECT run! Thanks guys!

- Norrin Powell

Superior Spider-Man #32

(Dan Slott / Christos Gage/ Giuseppe Camuncoli / John Dell / Antonio Fabela / Joe Quesada; Marvel Comics)

4 stars

The Incorrigible Spider-Ock may have hung up his spandex a couple months ago, but with anything tried and true at the “House of Ideas” theres no keeping a cash crop of an idea down. The brainchild of Dan Slott (Learn Spanish with Batman: Rogues Gallery 2008) and with a script by Christos Gage (Angel & Faith 2011) so begins the newest and maybe the longest planned of the Spider stories in recent years…. Spider-Verse! Now, if you are a loyal Marvelite following the recent run of The Superior Spider-Man you will remember in issue 19 how the Spider Doctor was transported mysteriously – for what seemed like only minutes – to the unknown. Where did he go? Well, where else but to the 90’s Marvel creation of 2099!

While in the process of arranging his return he lands amid the beginning of the end for all our Spideys across the known multi-verse. Without giving away too much, this issue starts off with Edge of Spider-Verse, a new and actually well thought-out mega event that pits not only Peter, but every known Spidey against an unknown entity that has a thirst for Spiders. Yes, I said every… (besides movies Spideys and a few cartoon Spideys, owned by that which shall not be named… cough, cough, SONY!) Anyway, this first issue was a great starting-off point for the beginning of Spider-Verse, with exceptional art courtesy of the talented Giuseppe Camuncoli (Daken Dark Wolverine) on pencil, and a combo smack-down of John Dell (Magog) inking and Antonio Fabela (Iron Man) coloring this spiderrefic palette. This double-sized issue also comes with a great mini-story by Marvel God himself, Joe Quesada (Everything), featuring an Unfriendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.

- Lance Paul

Batman Eternal #18

(Tim Seeley / Scott Snyder / James Tynion IV / Andy Clarke; DC Comics)

3 stars

I've been reluctant to write a review of Batman Eternal because, let's be honest, this book has been completely hit or miss with all 18 issues so far. One week, maybe two, it's good,…sometimes great! But, you can be sure that the issue that immediately follows the good one or ones is gonna suck. And that sucky issue turns into two or three sucky issues, before we get a good one again. The art, storyline, or sometime both, wind up being subpar, which is consistent with every weekly book DC Comics has ever published. You don't hafta agree,…but, that doesn't make it any less true.

In this issue of Batman Eternal, the art is gorgeous and the story is not bad. We start with Batgirl, Red Hood, and Batwoman in Rio de Janeiro. The three save a small boy working as a sweat shop slave. From there, our heroes infiltrate a toy factory to gain further information regarding who framed Commissioner Gordon. Once inside, Red Hood jokes about emptying a clip into the men who not only enslaved the boy at the beginning of our story, but an entire warehouse full of children. He says something about confusing kneecaps with faces.

Meanwhile, Batman and Jason Bard follow a man into the sewers, who is carrying an unconscious child or woman he calls Jade. Once down there, they find the man lying face down in sewer water,…YUCK,..and a pool of his own blood. They continue on, trying to find this "Jade" and run into Killer Croc. Jason Bard is all over Croc, accusing him of murder, at which time a fight ensues between the three. Batman notices a clue, proving Croc is not responsible for Jade's abduction/possible death, and grabs Croc's head forcing him to see the clue, which proves his innocence,…at least in this case. Batman, Bard, and Croc continue through the sewer tunnels, and as they walk, something unknown and unseen emerges from the shadows behind them.

Back to Rio de Janeiro, Batgirl, Red Hood, and Batwoman stealthily attack the slavers in the warehouse, but Batgirl stumbles upon some guy wearing a Hawaiian shirt with mind control powers. He forces her to attack Red Hood and Batwoman and the story ends there.

Overall, the story is acceptable for a weekly DC published title, and one of the better issues in this series so far.

- Norrin Powell