Thursday, January 26, 2006

Written by Brian Wood and Drawn by Ryan Kelly
Published by Oni Press

The third episode in Wood and Kelly’s slice-of-life series is a quantum leap forward, as it relegates main protagonist Megan to a cameo and explores the featured locale’s population in an expanded role.

We find ourselves in Richmond, VA this time out, home of the band Theories And Defenses, which has broken up after a number of years together. After breaking out from the local music scene, they had hit the big time, left to find their fortunes, and have now returned not so much as conquering heroes, but as legends in exile. Wood’s story follows each band member on their separate journeys back into the community, showing the emotional toll and fallout from the end of such an enduring set of relationships.

Sex. Arrogance. Rampant egotism (there is a difference). No matter how much we love our friends and co-workers, in the end, many of their traits become things we ignore and tolerate, because that’s what love does, and that’s what it takes to make things work. But for Theories And Defenses, there was a breaking point, and while that moment is never defined in the story, it never feels like it needs to be. Wood’s script and subtext tells you everything you need to know, without ever coming close to being explicit. It’s obvious that these four people shouldn’t be together anymore at the point where the tale begins.

Of course, all that subtext would be for naught if Kelly’s expressive artwork weren’t working on all cylinders. As good as the first two issues looked, this is leaps and bounds ahead of them. Even Megan has a little more spring and verve to her body language during her brief appearance. Looking back at his work in GIANT ROBOT WARRIORS and comparing it to this stuff… it’s sick how good this guy is going to be over the span of his career. He’s gone from a question mark to a homerun hitter. Awesome.

I wasn’t sure after the first two issues if the title could sustain itself in the direction it was going, focusing solely on Megan and her travails. However, seeing how the creative team has mixed it up here shows that they’re aware of that limitation, leaving me excited to see how it will all play out.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006


This series got off to a damned shaky start. The first issue was bland, tired, and more than a little derivative. But as the book has progressed, each issue has gotten a little better. Issue five continues that trend.

Written by Brandon Jerwa and Drawn by Emiliano Santalucia
Published by Devil’s Due

The credits page in each issue has been offering up a nod to the story being based upon the work of Larry Hama (in the original Marvel series), and that’s never been truer than in this installment. For those of us who were diehard JOE fans as a kid, we finally get the expanded version of the death of the Hard Master and Snake Eyes’ falling out with Storm Shadow and leaving behind his ninja training. Even though you know (if you were there the first time around) how it all plays out in the basic sense, Jerwa still manages to create a sense of tension, which genuinely surprised me.

What really gets you is how well Jerwa manages to tie together other elements, such as the real beginnings of what Cobra was meant to be. If the whopper of a reveal late in the story was covered in the classic series, it was after I stopped reading. On the surface, it seemed like a bit of a stretch, but after I mulled it over, I found that it worked for me, and fit perfectly with the soap opera underpinnings that G.I.JOE has always been constructed upon.

Unlike ORIGIN, another series that laid bare the background of a beloved character, DECLASSIFIED has played things a lot closer to the vest and been much more involved in delivering what the fans would want and be expecting. I wasn’t sure this would ultimately be the case, but the creative team has really come through with solid work. Throw in an outstanding cover, and this makes for a very good comic.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Top Shelf, maker of fine graphic novels, has recently been increasing their web presence. Not only is co-publisher Brett Warnock blogging, but the company has also added a number of new webcomics to the site.

Written and Drawn by Matt Kindt

Chief among those is the new weekly effort from the creator of 2 SISTERS and PISTOLWHIP. Kindt’s espionage-drenched 2 SISTERS was a surprise hit with me, and seeing him return to the genre with this material was a welcome development. And much like that graphic novel, these smaller tales have plenty of character depth alongside the action and intrigue.

There are four stories in this mini-comic presentation, and the collection leads off with the strongest effort, simply titled “Super Spy.” A young woman who believes she’s found love in her dreary life is about to find out a horrible secret about the man she loves and the friends he keeps. It’s a haunting, dark tale that leaves you sad and grieving with the only ending that would be acceptable. Other stories in the book have a bit lighter touch, balancing out your emotions, but it’s difficult to put aside how you feel by the time you finish chapter one.

Kindt’s art is excellent, presenting the spies in a naturalistic element, and never making them seem anything other than grounded and human. I don’t know if there’s a mechanism in place to put together larger collections of Kindt’s weeklies, but it would be a damned shame if they weren’t. They deserve a place of honor on the shelf next to 2 SISTERS, more excellent work from a creator whose voice I have yet to tire of.

Comic Bloggers' Poll 2005: Winners

Go take a look. I voted. It was fun.

Hats off to Chris Tamarri and friends for doing a kick ass job.


Sunday, January 22, 2006


John’s a friend. So I have to admit that before discussing the book. I’m a full disclosure kind of guy.

Written by John Layman and Drawn by Aaron Lopresti
Published by Marvel Comics

Since their inception, the Sentinels have always been giant homicidal robots with only programming as their guide. Now, actual human beings pilot the new generation of killer bots. This is their story. SENTINEL SQUAD O.N.E. was described to me early on as “Band Of Brothers with giant robots” and that’s a fair enough angle. We’re introduced to the recruiting class for pilots, meet the movers and shakers behind the program, and get a general idea of where the series is going to go. One little tidy “pilot episode” package for your enjoyment.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t speed bumps along the way. With such a large cast, we don’t get much of a chance to develop a rooting interest in any of the recruits, because the exposition is so important to getting the plot moving. Plus, the fact that we need to learn about the recruits to a certain degree pushes the best character in the book to the wayside: James “Rhodey” Rhodes is the man charged with training the motley crew of pilots, and he’s a welcome sight, indeed. The period where I was a big IRON MAN fan coincides with Rhodey’s tenure in the suit back around issues #170-197 of the original series. Good times, happy memories.

What works? Layman does a good job of impressing upon you that his band of recruits are a bunch of body bags waiting to be used. Piloting a huge weapon like a Sentinel is as dangerous a job as you can find in the Marvel Universe, and there’s no room for malcontents or those who refuse to pay attention. He also presents a solid bit of intrigue as to one of the pilots, Lex, as he appears to be hiding his status of a still-powered mutant. But the star here is Aaron Lopresti’s art, which is just about perfect for the book. He excels in presenting all-out action between the robots and the Hulk, yet doesn’t phone it in when it comes time to working with the humans in the cast. Pretty, pretty stuff.

One thing I do need to mention is that there is one complete botch here: the logo. In a market where shelf space is life, this book has been saddled with one of the worst, most generic logos I’ve seen in ages. It’s terrible. If I hadn’t known to look for the title because of its writer, I’d have ignored it completely on the stands. Awful.

There’s a lot of cool stuff ahead in this book. Give it a read.