(Marguerite Bennett / Rafael de Latorre / Rob Schwager / Marshall Dillon)
AfterShock has built its reputation on clever ideas well executed. Each of their series has an immediate hook that grabs readers, but even the best hook is worthless without strong execution. Each of the three books I’m reviewing show that reputation is well deserved.
Animosity is the story of a world where all the animals have human intelligence and the ability to speak. This is a plot concept that has all the makings of a painful, annoying satire if the wrong writer took it on. Thankfully Marguerite Bennett has the writing reins on this series. She invests Animosity with an intelligence and heart that leads to a strong sense of, yes, humanity among its characters (is there a word for being human-biased?). All the beasts are written in character for both their species and their personalities. This issue might be the most impressive in terms of beasts staying in character. Bennett does a delightful job of showing the eerie way bees swarm, communicate and protect their queen. Pages like the one above show how well Bennet has thought out her world, and the cliffhanger at the end of this issue shows there are many more surprises to come. Robert de Latorre’s art, complemented by Rob Schwager’s colors, brings the world to fascinating life. de Latorre is wonderful at conveying subtle emotions that pack a powerful punch.
Jimmy’s Bastards #3
(Garth Ennis / Russ Braun / John Kalis / Dave Johnson)
There are a lot of powerful punches thrown in Garth Ennis’s Jimmy’s Bastards, though with a bit less heart than Bennett delivers in her comic. Ennis’s new jam is a two-fisted pastiche of James Bond, as we watch Jimmy and his female ally save Idi Amin (!) from a group of terrorists who have had his testicles removed (!!) for reasons still unclear.
Co-created with artist Russ Braun, Jimmy’s Bastards is a classic Ennis adventure comic: a crazy quilt mix of satire, cold blooded action, mystery, romcom and gun porn. We’ve seen many of these elements before from Ennis but never quite in this way and never quite with this sort of “who the fuck cares” verve to the storytelling approach. Between the jokes about masturbation and missing bollocks is the core of a thrillingly wild action story, thrillingly rendered in a smartly realistic style by Russ Braun. This is no Preacher but this is still wild and crazy Ennis, and isn’t that enough?
(Adam Glass / Dennis Calero / Adriano Augusto / Corey Breen)
Speaking of high concept ideas, we get Normals. Imagine if you had the craziest day of your life, and during that terrible day you discovered that you and your family were robots, on the run from an evil corporation. That’s a concept that can’t fail to grab the attention of any reader and send chills down his or her spine.
Adam Glass delivers a slow-moving thriller that pokes, prods and gets under the reader’s skin with its spooky mood and its take on a perfect American family whose lives have gone terribly wrong. If this whole issue has a dreamlike feel, with killer clowns and mysteriously generous strangers, it all serves the larger purpose of keeping the reader off guard and terrified about the fate of the family. Dennis Calero’s art feels off-center, out-of-kilter and sometimes vague. We seldom see faces clearly in Calero’s art, as if everyone is hiding secrets from society and from themselves. So much is shadowy in these illustrations, and those hold the promise of incredible revelations yet to come. The perfect American family is a fraud, the shadows hold mystery, and the Normals are incredibly abnormal.