Yes it is that time again, time to rip into a new week of comic book releases. A handy guide to how you should spend your money at the comic store and also a great excuse for me to ignore my wife and family. I assume an oversized pull list is not grounds for divorce. One small note about this weeks edition, when I got home (stack of comics in hand) a power outage forced me into reading them all by candle light, just like Amish comic book fans! Hey, it was either that or learn to churn my own butter and how am I suppose to do that without access to Wikipedia?
As another calendar year is about to wrap I’ve been reading a lot of speculation on the comic industry in 2012. My opinion? I think it’s going to grow and flourish. Not the heady heights of the speculative driven market of the early 90s but it will thrive. Six months ago there was a lot of doom and gloom about the future of comics, sales where shrinking, readers where starting to drop off and, the whole industry seemed stagnate (and also Marvel fired a bunch of support staff, always a bad sign.) Now? Sales are up, hitting some highs even, and say what you will about digital, it is a evolution of the industry and is apparently reaching new readers. Yes, I am old fashioned and prefer the ever growing stacks of comics that crowd my office. I also have an iPad filled and each week seem to buy at least one or two books digitally.
One last thought on 2012 in comics, and that is Free Comic Book Day! Mark your calendars kids, the next one hits on May 5th, 2012 – the day after Avengers debuts in theaters – so it should be a damn exciting time to be a comic nerd. If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s Jim Lee’s t-shirt design to mark the event.
Looks good, love the return of the thought bubble (so… the ‘Y’ is thinking about what year it is?), just… I know this is old news and we’re all suppose to be over it by now, but… damn it. Superman looks naked without the red underoos on the outside.
We should probably get to reading some comics today, shouldn’t we. Ok, this week we’ve got a whole new number one from DC’s New 52 to go through. It’s something old that is new again, for like the 9th time, I’ll warn you my expectations are low. Also, Marvel’s latest hero vs hero slug fest kicks off with a shot so we’ll see who fired first and if we really should care. The last two, horror comics seem to be hitting a renaissance of sorts so we’ll check back in on a book that helped make that happen and a new one that looks so damn nice.
Your 4×4 fast and furious reviews start after the jump.
THE RAY #1 (OF 4)- DC COMICS – Written by JUSTIN GRAY and JIMMY PALMIOTTI, Art by JAMAL IGLE and RICH PERROTTA, Cover by JAMAL IGLE
Expect to see more books just like The Ray from DC’s New 52. As the company’s new continuity starts to grow, they will go back to old titles and characters and revamp them. I suspect most will be like this one, totally new takes with nothing to do with the previous version(s). The Ray? Well, there has been a handful over the years and while I wouldn’t say I was a huge fan, I did enjoy most versions of the character (for more on the others check out the Agent of S.T.Y.L.E. article over at Newsarama).
Other than an off hand reference to the first Ray (Langford “Happy” Terrill) there is no connection to be had here to what was before. New(ish) powers and this time he’s a Korean American. Honestly, I do like the initiative to make comic books more diverse and reflect the modern world, why am I pussy footing around, I like that not all superheros are white men these days.
Now just to see if I like this Lucien “The Ray” Gates dude.
I’ll say this, I didn’t hate it. It was a fun little origin, if not very original. Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti give us a by the numbers ‘now I am superhero, how will I learn to use these powers? What will my girlfriend say?’ story, but its not without it’s charm. As we quickly get to know the cast of characters around Lucien we meet the best friend, the oddball hippie parents, the requisite girlfriend, it sounds stock but the dialogue lets us have a little fun with familiar setups. Plus the bad guy at the end seems very interesting and fresh and he punches right through someones head! (what? sometimes I am easily amused)
Jamal Igle’s art is great throughout and if I was to table one complaint, it’s the new Ray’s costume. I don’t know it just doesn’t do it for me. Maybe I was hoping for something more akin to the previous versions of the Ray or maybe I just haven’t warmed up to it just yet. It looks awfully generic and 90’s.
VERDICT: Like I said, it was good. Will I pick up issue 2? I’d say chances are high. If you are deep into the DCnU and want to watch and read while it grows, give this book a try. Will the new Ray work? My call is he’ll be just like the ones before him, fighting to be a B lister and have a back row seat in a team book sometime soon.
THE STRAIN #1 (OF 11) – DARK HORSE COMICS – Writer: David Lapham, Guillero del Toro & Chuck Hogan, Artist: Mike Huddleston, Colorist: Dan Jackson, Cover Artist: Mike Huddleston
As tired as I am of Vampires these days, I have to admit I was excited about this books release. It’s Guillero del Toro, damn it. Plus it only cost a buck and you are getting a damn fine comic here for that price.
Based off the novel by del Toro and Chuck Hogan the first issue spends time getting us deep into the main characters with a little back story on what is to come. Starting off back in 1927 with an old Romanian story meant to scare children into going to bed, eating their food, and just plain scaring them, we get a small taste of what the Strain is. Yes, it is sorta vampirey but its a new (not sparkely) take on the tale. You get a few pages in and you know you are in a great horror comic, one that feels like the old EC ones but has a modern tone to it. Mike Huddleston’s art is exactly what you are looking for in a book like this. Unsettling, odd in places, and haunting. This book could be devoid of dialogue and still be a great read.
Speaking of which, writing wise it is good. I did find it a little disjointed and it seemed like it was forcing fast character development at times. Flash to ‘now’ and a Boeing 777 on the tarmac at JFK. Everyone on board appears to be dead. Obviously this puzzles everyone, including our main characters and it nicely sets up some tension and suspense. When they crack the doors and step inside, you get a little chill. Very well done horror wise and a great hook to drag you into the next issue.
The closer connects the past with the now, without being cheap about it.
VERDICT: Horror comics are coming back in a big way, doubly so for vampire based books. Spend the damn dollar on this one, trust me. This is not one of the masses, this is a great read and a true horror comic. Not just a cheap collection of story boards for the eventual film adaption.
THE WALKING DEAD #92 – IMAGE COMICS – story ROBERT KIRKMAN, art & cover CHARLIE ADLARD
I know it was not to long ago that I covered The Walking Dead, and I know I have been less than forgiving about the book (and the TV show), in my defense it has long been a favorite and I just want to see it rise back up, make my palms sweat again and give me that feeling in the pit of my stomach. Apparently this is the issue that’s going to do it.
For last longest while, this book as been at a stand still. The characters just seem to be talking in circles, dealing with the same things again and again with a lot of the tension replaced with mundane repetitive interpersonal drama. Don’t get me wrong, it was the interactions of the survivors that drew me to the book in the first place, but what has been happening lately just didn’t have the same spark. Yes, things have progressed, as the food and supplies started to dwindle in their little post-zombie apocalypse haven, a little conflict was added, but it still seemed directionless.
Michonne and Abraham are caught in a standoff with a hippy looking fellow that a) knows how to fight, hell he hands both of them their respective asses and b) is apparently called Jesus. He’s from another band of survivors, the first we and the characters have seen in a long long time. Are they friends or foes? Kind of seems like this new group might be a little of both, plus it also sounds like there are more collections of the not-dead banded together out there. Oh Kirkman, thank you. This upcoming story arc already looks promising. Add in few nice character moments like Abraham and Michonne enjoy some amusing interaction, nice to see since they really haven’t shared much time together in the past and Carl’s slow journey to recovery and his memory starting to return starts to stir up some serious issues. Yes, this is more like it. Adlard’s art is as usual, great and moody, and yes even he seems to be recharged a little in places as the ink washes start to grow a little more moody.
VERDICT: If you’re yet to pick up The Walking Dead, this issue would make a great starting point. Sure you’ll have some catching up to do, that’s what trades are for. If you are like me and have been a long for the ride the whole time, buckle in. It looks like its about to pick up some speed.
AVENGERS: X-SANCTION #1 (OF 4) – MARVEL COMICS – Story by Jeph Loeb, Art by Ed McGuinness & Dexter Vines, Colors by Morry Hollowell, Letters by Albert Deschesne, Cover by Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines, Morry Hollowell, Joe Quesada, Danny Miki, Richard Isanove, Leinil Yu, Jerry Alanguilan & Jason Keith
Here we go. Cable is back to kickoff Marvels next attempt at being the closest thing to MMA/WWE Pay-Per-View slugfests a comic can be. Here is the prologue to the X-Men vs Avengers mega event. Are we allowed to place wagers on who wins?
My guess is we all lose. With Fear Itself just wrapping up and with an all to Civil War feel with maybe a dash of a few other crossovers mixed in, the coming X vs A event risks wearing the reader out. Trying not to judge it as it just begins but this story has a bit of an up hill battle ahead of it in my books.
So, Cable’s not dead. He apparently was just pushed into the future and now he’s back to save said future, to do it the Avengers must die. He kidnaps Falcon, Captain America follows… If you’ve ever played Marvel vs. Capcom you’ll feel right at home. The whole issue stress action and honestly doesn’t do Jeph Loeb’s usual caliber of writing justice. The whole issue was good, but felt more like something you’d get as a free #0 issue. It is no Marvel Point One, that’s for sure. The whole Archangel/Psylocke side plot was confusing, unsatisfying and underdeveloped. As it bounces back and forth between ‘now’ and ‘the future’ it comes off a little weak in the story telling.
Is this a sign of things to come? Is this whole crossover event really just a fanboy’s wet dream fight scene? I’m not asking for Shakespeare or anything but a little more meat on the story would be nice. As this is just the prologue to the event, hopefully there is more to come.
VERDICT: At best it’s a fun 90’s styled romp. Everyone is screaming, Captain America is shooting guns, Cable is bigger and more cybery… If you are looking for a slam bang bubblegum fight between those two, you won’t be disappointed. If you want something more? You probably will be.
And that’s just about it. See you all next week!