Sunday, February 12, 2006


Lots of books, and I’m behind. What else is new?

Written by Peter David and Drawn by J.K. Woodward
Published by IDW

The origin of our heroine continues, as does her serious drinking. David gives us our first glance into what the true role of a guardian angel is as pertains to the heavenly host, and it’s a tragic one. In the meantime, the son that she convinced everyone to be dead has decided to show up in Bete Noire and screw up the works. The lesson? Never give up your mystical child, because he may grow up to be a priest and have his existence threaten yours. Or something like that.

Levity aside, this book has reached and surpassed the first volume, both in depth and quality. Set free, David has sharpened up the knives and really begun telling the story his own way. Plus, the book looks fantastic, IDW’s excellent production values matching nicely with Woodward’s painted art. This weekend, Peter noted that even at the higher price point, FALLEN ANGEL at IDW is outselling the DC version. Living well is the best revenge.

Written by Keith Giffen and Alan Grant and Drawn by Rael Lyra
Published by Boom Studios

When some nasty aliens stage a prison break to remember, the warden and his aides decide to free another prisoner: Jeremiah Harm. Harm is no charming fellow himself, but he has one thing going for him: he’s the guy who captured the escapees’ ringleader to begin with. Making matters even worse: the escapees have escaped to a nasty, dirty, backwater world by the name of Earth, where they intend to loot, destroy, and pillage everything in sight. What else could Harm do but to take the warden up on his offer and head home?

HARM gets off to a bit of a rough start, in part because is struggles with how it looks on the page. In portraying this rough, hard future, the bland, green/khaki color scheme blunts some of the effect the violence and depravity are meant to give the reader. That’s too bad, because Lyra turns in an amazingly detailed job on the art, calling to mind the work of guys like Geof Darrow. The places where he struggles are in depicting facial expressions and body language; because of that, what humor is dropped in to this grim story loses its impact. Still, nothing here suggests that there’s no room to grow and gain that skill. Call issue one a decent effort and see where ti goes from here.

Written by Doug Wagner and Chuck Dixon
Drawn by Brian Stelfreeze, Rob Haynes, and Phil Noto
Published by Image Comics

Owing to injury and other factors, we finally get part two of Wagner and Stelfreeze’s magnificently insane tribute to the correlation between sex and violence. GUNCANDY was a notorious project from the start; the cover to the first issue (of this flip book series) depicted the teenage assassin/heroin in a blatantly sexual pose, and the story didn’t back away from following through. Laci spends her part of the book driving, running, shooting, and masturbating her way through killing an extraordinary number of baddies. But you have to bear in mind that this is, first and foremost, a satire. (Which we’ll get into even more in the next review down.) Taking this seriously would be hazardous to your common sense. I got a good laugh out of all of it, which shows that I’m either very bright or completely detached from reality. Your mileage may vary.

Sadly, GUNCANDY eats up so much of your energy that it’s difficult to invest much of yourself in Dixon’s THE RIDE tale. It looks great, and the story is solid, but it would have been far better off living on its own and not having attention sucked away from it. Still, any book that contains art from both Stelfreeze and Noto is worth more than the price on the cover, no question.

Written and Drawn by Jimmie Robinson
Published by Image Comics

Speaking of satire… wow, is this book going to set off some alarms for people who don’t get it. Hell, I get it, and it set off alarms for me. The Bomb Queen is a supervillain who has won; at this point in time, she effectively rules the city of New Port, and the citizens have no problem with it. There are designated “crime zones,” the advertising has gone almost strictly pornographic, and the Queen occasionally just likes to blow some shit up or kill some folks for fun, but her- that’s the price you pay for security, right? And the razor-edged wit only starts there. There’s also the question of her costume, which is so ludicrously skimpy that it not only satirizes comics as a whole, but it is really taking a pointed jab at the worst excesses of the company publishing the book itself. (See: Blade, Witch.)

There are those who are going to argue that Robinson simply skips the idea of true satire and is just publishing a magnificent piece of exploitation and having us all on, and I can’t dispute that it would be easy to read the book that way. Still, I think he more than presses the satire button, especially considering the thrust of the overriding plot: someone in the town, a candidate for mayor, has hired a superhero to come in and clean the Queen out. Given that idea, it feels like Robinson is taking the route of examining our focus on celebrity as authority figure and America’s sad nature to give up liberty in the face of fear. So far, I’m onboard, interest piqued.

Written and Drawn by Eric Larsen
Published by Image Comics

After a long hiatus, thanks to Larsen taking on the duties of Publisher at Image, his long-running superhero masterwork returns to the stands. When last we left Dragon, his powers were fading, his wife had lost hers, his daughter had grown to the size of an eight-story building, and Dragon had been involved in a crazy run for President on the same ticket as a guy named “Urass.” Oh- and there was a giant killer robot on the way from Iraq to Washington.

One of the hallmarks of SAVAGE DRAGON has always been that Larsen packs as much into each issue as he possibly can. There’s no decompression in DRAGON; it’s all compression, all the time. There’s a genuine focus on plot movement and bang for the reader’s buck, and nothing has changed as the book makes its return. Actually, that’s not entirely true; if anything, the one problem with this issue is that it almost feels like there’s too much going on. This book is so dense that some of the plot points feel kind of rushed and unexamined.

Still, that beats the alternative. And I expect that Larsen will get back into his traditional groove quickly enough. For now, I’m guessing he’s just happy to be back. I think his readers feel the same.

Written by Chris Kirby and Drawn by Alan Robinson
Published by Devil’s Due

Issue two of this title gets away from the one-and-done format of issue one and starts the title onto a longer story arc. That has both good and bad consequences for the title. On the one hand, it allows the book to spread its wings and explore the characters and their backgrounds a bit more, which is a solid idea. On the flip side, none of the characters really jump up and spring to serious life yet, so it may be a test to get the reader emotionally invested in the long run.

The LOST SQUAD is a group of soldiers charged with handling missions with occult overtones during the Second World War. That makes the book something of a cross between SGT. ROCK and INDIANA JONES. (By the way, that’s a great way of pitching it to Hollywood, but I digress.) This story arc begins “Operation: Crystal Ball”; the Nazis have gained control of a device that acts as a “window” into the future, allowing them to change the direction the war is taking and mold it to their advantage. Therefore, our brave and expendable heroes must wade into a sea of Nazis, possessive spirits, and walking dead in the hopes of stealing or destroying the Axis’ new toy.

A book like this fairly demands that you shut off your brain and simply enjoy the proceedings. Expecting things like a narrative that makes exacting sense and severe story logic will only make your head hurt. LOST SQUAD is simple, dumb fun, and should be enjoyed only as such.