Don’t have time for long reviews of comics? Then check out Graphic Bits: bite sized chunks of comic book goodness designed to get behind the panels and into your hearts.
This is Graphic Bits.
As the new golden age of comic book sci-fi continues, Rafael Albuquerque and Mike Johnson, take us to a future where Joshua is on a pioneering journey back through time. Suffering temporary memory loss, the reader is cleverly put in the same position of the lead in having pieces of an ‘alien landscape’ revealed to him as fragments of memory slowly return. As much the enigma as Jeff Lemire’s Trillium, or this month debuts of Matt Kindt’s Divinity and Grant Morrison’s Nameless, this first chapter is almost entirely a series of puzzle pieces. It’s already a book where the uncovering of these pieces is a rewarding pleasure. From an art perspective, it’s American Vampire‘s Rafael Albuquerque who is the star here, with his distinctive character designs and disparate time periods. Fusing his own narrative sensibilities with the art, colour is used with intent in this book: from the opening page we are told “The past is green. The present is purple. The future is blue. The Meld is something else entirely.” The first issue is filled with fragments of each, and it is a rare thing for a comic to use colour so effectively, creating something that is both utterly aliens and comfortingly familiar.
Bottom Line: EI8HT is a stunning and evocative new series from one of the best artists working in the business. The compelling premise takes familiar tropes and turns them on their head, asking readers to trust in it. Given the cliffhanger ending and plethora of questions left unanswered, we’re in for the long haul. Highly recommended.
Secret Identities #1
Is there anything left to mine in the superhero genre? Jay Faerber (Graveyard Shift) and Brian Joines (Krampus) seem to think so. Reflecting on the genre within the confines of the comic medium is nothing new, and revisionist takes within this post-Dark/Contemporary Age of comics is almost mandatory. By Joines’ own admission in the notes to this book, his main storyline (a mole in the ranks of a super team) has been done before as well. What makes this fresh is that it chooses to focus on both the private lives of heroes, and makes the mole the main character. Here it’s Front Line, a Canadian based team who vaguely resemble heroes you’ve seen before. Yet their unmasked lives are rich and complex, from the US President’s daughter to the speedster who maintains two secret wives and entire families by using his powers to run between the coasts. These are threatened with exposure when Crosswind, the newest member of the team, is revealed to readers as a mole. Artists Ilias Kyriazis and Charlie Kirchoff separate these lives with different colour temperatures for each of the crew, but maintains the bright and enthusiastic feel for the wider action shots of the team “working”.
Note: Richard has also written an extended review for this title over at Newsarama.
Bottom Line: The debut of SECRET IDENTITIES plays with the conventions we are all familiar with, but sets up enough mysteries for us to expect the unexpected in months to come.
Marvel, Robbie Thompson (writer), Stacey Lee, Ian Herring (artists)
Spinning (see what we did there?) out of the threads (again?) of the terrific Spider-Verse event, SILK offers the first new ongoing series for the character introduced first introduced in the pages of Dan Slott’s The Amazing Spider-Man. More than just a new character, Cindy Moon represents a fundamental change to one of the most famous origin stories in comics history. As the second person to have been bitten by that radioactive spider, a cynic might think she is simply part of a similar wave that has been dubbed the “Batgirling of the DCU“. Instead, it’s a smart and funny book, feeling for all the world like a television pilot, complete with Spider-Man cameo. The rapid fire back-and-forth dialogue that they share, a trademark of Spider-Man, is something we hope is a staple of this book too. Quibbles may be had over her needing to be “saved” by Spidey in the first issue of a new book with a female lead, and it was an odd move, but the book offers a chance to relive the early adventures of a hero, one still finding her feet in the shadow of a more famous forebear. In this sense, it’s the “Ms. Marvelling” of the Marvel Universe, and given the consistently high standard of G. Willow Wilson’s book, this can only be a good thing. Stacey Lee’s art is fabulous too, a youthful mix of cartoon styles, given a deliciously retro flavour by colour artist Ian Herring. A relative newcomer to the comics world, having been seen on some Spider-Man & the X-Men covers and a piece in the wonderful Imaginary Drugs, she is exactly the tone Marvel need for a fresh new title like this.
Bottom Line: After the multiversal madness of Spider-Verse, SILK is a return to a simpler style of Spider-story, one that involves great power, great responsibility and a whole lot of fun.
The Multiversity: Mastermen #1
The vision of Hitler sat upon his toilet, straining in contempt while reading a Superman comic, is up there with the eye-catching pieces of imagery writer Grant Morrison has concocted over the years. Following the amazing run of Pax Americana, Thunderworld and the magnificent Guidebook, the universe shuddering The Multiversity takes a turn towards a kind of Golden Age with THE MULTIVERSITY: MASTERMEN. Taking place entirely on Earth 10 (or Earth-X), it’s a variation on the other entries in that the metafictional elements are distilled to the Führer’s choice or reading material. Here a Kryptonian rocket landed in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1938, and 80 years later, Overman and his New Reichsman (Leatherman, Brünhilde, Blitzen and Underwaterman) oversee a German victory that has lasted since the Second World War. It might be that it is lacking in the multiversal elements that have made the last few issues so spectacular, or maybe it is just than the New Reichsman and their battle with Uncle Sam and his Freedom Fighters is not that compelling, but this might be the least of the series to date. There are some gripping bits of drama, and the explosive finale is cinematic. Indeed, this is where blockbuster artist Jim Lee shines, albeit through a battalion of inkers and colourists, and the heavy style of the artist suits the dictatorial nature of the world they live in
Bottom Line: Ultimately, it’s difficult to become invested in the Nazi “heroes”, a fulfilment of Frank Miller’s fascist visions of Superman and Batman but without the filter of 1980s pop culture. Morrison has woven a complex web of worlds in his grand plan, although one can’t help but feel that the Multiverse would have done just fine without too much attention paid to Earth-X.
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