All books courtesy Image Comics.
BEYOND AVALON #2
Written by Joe Pruett and Drawn by Goran Sudzuka
Issue one of this title showed a lot of promise, with its entertaining plot and strong appeal to young female readers. When we left Princess Megan at the end of that tale, she had left her mystic island home to go off into the bigger world in search of adventure (and her missing father).
Her second issue finds her on a new island and in the company of something of a local flim-flam man. He takes her under his wing and decides to use her for his personal quest: slaying a dragon and stealing its gold. Megan’s charming combination of naiveté and thirst for adventure make her something of an easy mark, even though she knows that Jerome (the ne’er do well in question) is seedy and somewhat full of shit.
This is really a delightful little book, and the second issue reinforces its perfect appeal to young girl readers. There are so few books on the stands (that aren’t manga) aimed at that demographic, that you can’t help but hope when a new one hits the stands it will succeed (and not suck). BEYOND AVALON doesn’t suck. I hope it succeeds. Grade: B+
Written and Drawn by Paul Harmon
Issue one of this title, on the other hand, left me sort of ambivalent. I thought it was an alright start, and Harmon’s artistic talent is really terrific. But story wise, it was a little thick, and it felt like Harmon was trying to shoehorn too much stuff in without enough explanation.
That’s a strange criticism on the surface, and I know that. No one is sicker of decompressed comics than I am. But I also understand the need to let your story breathe.
Issue two actually does do a better job of letting the story breathe a bit, but it still ran into problems right out of the gate. And the biggest problem was the fact that I needed to go read my review of issue one to remember anything about the book.
For all of Jim Shooter’s faults, his motto that “every comic is someone’s first” is more applicable (and important) today than it ever has been. With so many comics fighting and clawing for retail shelf space, you have to give readers a reason to buy your book, especially if they never have before. And one way to make sure they never do buy it… is to not tell them a single thing about what’s happened previously and leave the new reader clueless and not caring. Anyone picking up MORA #2 would have absolutely zero clue who the characters are, or why there’s a tortoise and hare narrating the book or anything else. Not having a recap page is just a huge error on Harmon’s part, and it made enjoying the book difficult. He’s a dynamic talent, and the book is very, very beautiful, but better planning is required here. Grade: C+
THE ATHEIST #1
Written by Phil Hester and Drawn by John McCrea
This is an immediate contender for the year’s best new series.
Antoine Sharpe is an unusual professional. His specialty? Debunking the supernatural. However, his rigid sense of logic is about to undergo a huge test, as there’s an epidemic striking random people all over the world: they’re suddenly speaking with different voices, the voices of people long dead and who claim to be possessing the living.
From its stirring opening sequence where a phony John Edward-type psychic suddenly really starts communicating with the dead to the exhilarating sequence where Sharpe destroys a doomsday cult by talking the leader into committing suicide, this book fires on every cylinder. To make matters even more exciting, the risen dead and their possessed bodies are congregating en masse in Winnipeg, Canada for an unknown (but likely sinister) purpose.
ATHEIST is a fantastic piece of entertainment, and it solidifies a personal feeling for me: as much as I can appreciate Hester’s artistic talents, I find him far more interesting behind the keyboard. Solidifying this book’s look on the artistic end, McCrea tones down some of the more gonzo aspects of his art and delivers dark, brooding pages that enhance the drama of Hester’s plot. I could go on about this book, but what it boils down to is that, when I was finished reading it, I wanted the next issue Right. Fucking. Now. Grade: A
FLAMING CARROT COMICS #2
Written and Drawn by Bob Burden
Only Bob Burden can do what Bob Burden does.
More than most creators in the business, Burden creates such a unique product that it’s damned near impossible to homage it, mock it, or duplicate it. And partially, it’s because FLAMING CARROT is already full of self-mockery and strange homages.
The Carrot himself is such a strange creature that you must move well beyond suspending disbelief to read the book. This issue finds pygmies building a giant ear on the outskirts of town, Carrot’s personal zombie following him everywhere and causing chaos, Carrot sleeping with a hottie reporter writing an expose of his insane life, a two-headed female pop star, and a baloney-shooting gun. And in Bob Burden’s world, it all makes perfect nonsense.
I’ve been reading CARROT since its earliest days, and while I understand that the book is a serious acquired taste, I still love it immensely and get a smile on my face whenever I sit down to read a new adventure featuring the character. If you read that previous paragraph and held your nose, I have no problem with that. But if that even remotely appealed to you, I encourage you to seek out an issue and give the book a try. Grade: A-