HEY KIDS! COMICS!
Written by Andrew Dabb and Drawn by Sal Abbinanti
I wasn’t particularly sold on the first two issues of this series. I felt like they didn’t do a good job of explaining the alternate timeline, and the stories suffered from confusion because of it. However, this is a much better effort. The story is stripped down to essential components, the setup is quick and effective, and there’s a sense of completeness to the proceedings. If ATOMIKA could continue to improve in this manner, I think it’d have a good chance of becoming Speakeasy’s “flagship” title.
THE HUNGER #1
Written by Jose L. Torres and Drawn by Chris DiBari
Instead, this book immediately leaps to the top of the Speakeasy reading pile. Zombie books are all the rage these days, but this one does a fine job of standing out as something different. A poor bastard makes a wrong turn during Mardi Gras and winds up as a zombie in the control of a very bad group of men. But when a torture session goes bad, and his controller dies, suddenly the undead fellow finds himself possessing a small bit of his life’s memories… and an unquenchable thirst for brains. Now he’s on the run with blood on his hands and a bag full of drug money. Believe me, it sounds cool, and it reads even cooler. More books like this, please.
THE GRIMOIRE #3
Written by Sebastien Caisse and Drawn by Djief
This tale of a young witch on the run from her mother and the raccoon who protects her hasn’t gotten much love from the critics, but I’m continuing to enjoy it well enough. It’s beginning to suffer from plot overload; I’d like to see Caisse pull back and put some focus on the main character and her mother rather than continue to throw new mystical threats at her every other page. That’d go a long way towards keeping this book accessible to new readers. That, and a front cover recap of what’s happened previously. I cannot emphasize enough how important that is for a new book in this crowded market.
Written by Brian Augustyn and Drawn by Dub
The first issue of BEOWULF was a nice setup for the series, though it could have been a little tighter in the plotting. Decompression is the last thing a new book from a new publisher needs. This second issue is a far stronger effort, as the title character meets a potential love interest and invades a prison for super-freaks and kicks a lot of ass. Really, when your lead character is an immortal warrior of legend, that’s where the focus needs to be. Give the reader some top-notch action, and you’ll satisfy every month. I hope Augustyn stays on this path.
RANDOM ENCOUNTER #3
Written and Drawn by Nicc Balce
This issue is sort of a rarity: too many mini-series these days have a poor sense of pacing, and don’t have good structure as far as the acts play out, but RANDOM executes itself perfectly. We’re heading for a climax in this story of strange invading monsters and the teen heroes battling them in their small town, and the battle reaches a nice crescendo in these pages. I still don’t have a great idea of what exactly is happening here, but that’s what issue four should provide: the solution to the mystery. I wasn’t fond of this book out of the gate, but each issue has improved steadily. I’m definitely curious how it will end.
ODDLY NORMAL #3
Written and Drawn by Otis Frampton
On the flip side, as much as I’ve enjoyed this series, ODDLY has suffered from some really odd pacing. We have one issue left, and the uber-plot of the book (Oddly’s home and parents vanishing) seems to have completely faded from the book. Now, maybe I’ll be surprised, and next issue will be very tidy; I don’t know. Maybe this is just the first of many planned minis, and that plot has taken a backseat on purpose. But you’d sort of expect some sort of indication. Still, what’s here is really enjoyable. Oddly is a terrific protagonist, and this is a perfect book to give to a younger girl who might be interested in trying comics.
Dark Horse Comics
HELLBOY: THE ISLAND #1
Written and Drawn by Mike Mignola
It’s Mignola. He’s written and drawn a new HELLBOY story for the first time since before the film came out. It’s really fucking good. If you need me to tell you that, you need help. Or you ride a very short bus to work every day. Yummy, yummy, yummy.
Written and Drawn by The Luna Brothers
I dug ULTRA. Issue one of the Lunas’ follow-up series was, on the other hand, damned near a complete disaster. The protagonist was obnoxious, the dialogue was clumsy, and the pace was horridly languid. Issue two is so much better, that you wish they’d scrapped issue one and started the story in media res. In fact, after I thought about it, I went back and read the book again, and there was really nothing stopping them from doing so. I found myself wishing for firmer editorial guidance. However, as I said, this issue really works well, and the ending was a doozy. Now the book has my complete attention. Good job, boys.
IRON GHOST #2
Written by Chuck Dixon and Drawn by Sergio Cariello
The first issue of this series felt like Dixon was basically transplanting Alan Moore’s V FOR VENDETTA into a Nazi Germany milieu. That problem lingers, but Dixon does a better job in creating more interesting characters for the Ghost to kill. In fact, the radio man spotlighted in this issue was so compelling, I actually forgot about the title character/serial killer and was genuinely surprised when he reappeared in the book. Full credit to Dixon there. Cariello’s art is pretty sweet as well. IRON GHOST gets a little more rope from me.
NOBLE CAUSES #11
Written by Jay Faerber and Drawn by Fran Bueno
I’ve talked at length about my enjoyment of Faerber’s superhero soap opera, and of my enjoyment of it, so I’m not going to in this review. Instead, I’d like to take special note of the end of the back-up feature OPPOSITES ATTACK. I’m a longtime fan of Brian “Hollywood” Joines, the writer, and I’ve enjoyed his witty and entertaining work on this strip. He and his artist, Chad Thomas, got the most out of their four-to-six pages every issue, and I hope to see their work collected in a square-bound one-shot of some sort. Barring that, I’d like to see Joines’ promised return to THE 7 GUYS OF JUSTICE happen. It was due a couple of years ago, but has been in a holding pattern since. Image? Speakeasy? Somebody help the dude out.