Columns, Comics

New Comic Book Day: Back to the Comic Book Grind

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IDW Publishing

I have a newfound respect for LYT after running the show for a couple of days. I’m generally pretty plugged into the nerdweb, but I felt a whole new level of pressure to…exist as an Internet-only being, I guess? And Jesus, the last time I woke up at 5 in the morning freaking out about Transformers, I was 10 and in my dream I had to grab my Ultra Magnus toy before the red dust got me. But enough toy-based dream therapy – we’ve got comics to read!

This week in comics, the only issues we’re working through are comic issues. Let’s start with…shit, Transformers.

Transformers: Windblade Combiner Wars #4 (IDW Publishing)

There are two things I really enjoyed about this “Combiner Wars” story: the individual personalities given to the Combiners, and the word balloons for the Combiners being the same color scheme as the bots. That’s a really clever, easy way of making it clear who’s talking. Man, I’m such a process nerd.

This issue is the epilogue to an entertaining crossover with a lot of really good art. Livio Raimondelli in particular draws the shit out of some bots. Corin Howell handles pencils on this issue, and while I’m not overly excited by the anime-inspired, cartoonish style she drew the bots in, that’s really just a matter of personal taste. She has a good eye for facial expressions and movement. I just like my bots like I like my dudes – hulking and boxy. Mairghread Scott and John Barber did a good job of making complex political situation on Cybertron make sense and be interesting. I have a really sensitive bullshit detector for interpersonal politics, and I was sucked right into what should have been a ridiculous premise. Overall, “Combiner Wars” could have been really dry and bland, but it ended up being a lot of fun. Building-sized transforming robots punching each other until they exploded really didn’t hurt, though

You can pick up Transformers: Windblade Combiner Wars #4 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

BOOM! Studios

Midas Flesh vol. 2 (BOOM! Studios)

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the creative team who brought us the first 35ish issues of Adventure Time can put together a fun, smart, funny space adventure. Adventure Time as a property is one of the smartest, most entertainingly weird series (comics and cartoon) out there. What really surprised me about Midas Flesh is the art.

Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb’s work on Adventure Time matched the show’s art aesthetic perfectly. Everything was bubbly and soft edges with bright colors, very on-model. On Midas Flesh, the art is much sharper, with the perfect hard, clean lines that you’d expect. It still has a slightly cartoony feel to it, but I love that Paroline and Lamb got a chance to show off what great artistic range they have.

Story-wise, this volume is the conclusion of a story about freedom fighters and their dinosaur scientist fighting against a corrupt government and military that found King Midas’ body and is now trying to weaponize it. Ryan North’s writing is as clever as it always is (and just on the right side of twee to be really entertaining), but the absurd comedy is toned down in favor of smart action. It’s a really clever combination of a serious musing on war and chemical/biological/radiological weapons, and that classic juvenile argument we’ve all had about King Midas’s power – “heh heh how do you think he jerks off if everything he touches turns to gold.”

You can pick up Midas Flesh volume 2 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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DC Comics

We Are Robin #1 (DC Comics)

We Are Robin has one of the most interesting high concepts from all of the post-convergence DC books. It’s taking the traditional Robin role and crowdsourcing it, a sort of Occupy Sidekicks idea. The 8 page preview that DC released looked fantastic. My personal ideal art for Robin is really similar to my platonic Spidey ideal – stylized, angular with a contortionist energy to the figures. Jorge Corona fits that style perfectly. Feathers was great and had all the bouncy fun that a teen sidekick book should have, so I’m really excited to see what he does here.

Lee Bermejo’s always great on art, but less of a known quantity as a scripter. Suiciders is solid, and the high concept of We Are Robin is probably enough to hold my interest even if his scripts are weak. Judging by the preview, though, he does seem to have a pretty firm grasp of the various voices of the Robin collective. Hopefully the fact that no preview pages besides the stand-alone 8-pager are out there isn’t some kind of bad omen, but I don’t expect it is.

You can pick up We Are Robin #1 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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Marvel.com

E Is For Extinction #1 (Marvel Comics)

Before my last rearrange, I used to have a “shelf of honored comics” that had a mix of my personal favorites and the best comics I owned. E Is for Extinction combines two of them from that shelf – Morrison’s New X-Men, and Chris Burnham’s art (Batman, Inc. is also on there). For those of you wondering, the rest of the shelf had Akira, the Dark Tower comics from Gunslinger Born to The Battle of Jericho Hill, Remender’s Uncanny X-Force, Ex Machina by Vaughan and Absolute All Star Superman.

Rachel & Miles X-Plain the X-Men has provided a nice historical grounding in early X-continuity that I never had before. I have a fairly comprehensive knowledge of the X-universe from the last 15 or so years, but I haven’t always been able to see where everything fits into the overall narrative – I kind of subconsciously understood that the student thing was a huge part of the history of the X-Men, but I never really saw each student group as reflective of their times until the podcast started talking about early New Mutants. That’s actually helped me appreciate this group better: they’re a grimy, punk, working-class New Mutants that combine millennialist doom and gloom with a teen ennui that, in the soapy-as-hell-X-Men books, should ALWAYS be there. Burnham making Magneto explicitly their leader (as opposed to him pretending to be Xorn’s cousin Xorn pretending to be Xorn posing as Magneto imitating to be Xorn FUCK YOU SO VERY HARD CHUCK AUSTEN) makes that parallel even deeper. Also, Ramon Villalobos’ art looks GREAT.

You can pick up E Is For Extinction #1 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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Titan Comics

Scarlett Couture #3 (Titan Comics)

This book is killing me. The script is good. The dialogue is sharp and snappy and entertaining. The linework is clean, and the action looks like it has a good flow to it. But the colors are TERRIBLE. Everything looks like an animated Disney version of a Bratz cartoon. It just sucks all the energy out of the art and makes it look flat and shiny and shitty as hell. It’s a real shame, because everything else about Scarlett Couture is pretty good – there are a couple of pages that have too much empty space (there’s room on the sides/bottoms for a little more art), but that’s a really minor quibble.

Scarlett is the daughter of the owner of a high fashion house that’s also full of CIA agents, hunting down someone who’s taking out the agents/supermodels one at a time. Look, I didn’t say this wasn’t ridiculous. It’s just a good, fun, cheesecakey kind of ridiculous. Coloring aside. GAH, I wish I could get past that, but when you put everything together, the finished package is just kinda shitty.

You can pick up Scarlett Couture #3 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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Ugli Studios

Ugli Studios Presents #3

Ugli Studios Presents is the third issue in a Kickstartered anthology about a sci-fi Cimmeria and the monsters and freaks who run it. As with all anthology books, it’s a little hit or miss, but the first couple of stories stand out: they’re really polished for a self-distributed comic. Jason Lenox, the artist who founded Ugli Studios, has a very Heavy Metal style to his work. DF Marin, who inked his lines on the first story, is outstanding. His brushwork and lines have an almost textbook influence on the finished art – they add a weight and atmosphere that wouldn’t be there with just pencils, or even with a lighter touch on the inks. That he manages to ink it so heavily (in places) without it getting muddy is fantastic. Lenox inks his own work in the second story, and it’s a little bit looser, but still entertaining and fits the horror tone well.

The first story is a couple of pages of intros followed by a bunch of pinups of villains, and it is absurd. The bad guys are so over the top that I was smiling as soon as I read their names. CyCorn, the last remaining unicorn who’s also a murderous, fire-breathing cyborg, is so perfect that I want it on a t-shirt.

You can pick up Ugli Studios Presents #3 online through Lenox’s web store.

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Image Comics

Wytches vol. 1 (Image Comics)

Wytches is my most reviewed book ever. Congrats, guys, and feel free to throw that on the volume 2 trade. “I’ve talked about this book a lot.” -Jim Dandeneau, ToplessRobot.com.

Seriously, unless you’re talking about giant crossovers and their tie-ins (or Multiversity), I’ve spent more time reading, thinking and talking about this book than any other comic since it launched. And with good reason. It’s the best horror comic I’ve ever read. I touched why a little bit when I interviewed Scott Snyder, but the last couple of issues of the arc really cemented why the writing is so horrifying. This is such a deeply personal book, about the fears you have when you’re a new father, about how freaking terrifying small towns in the Northeast can be, about how hard it is to have a good relationship with your own family, about the professional fears that creative folks have. I’m a really big fan of Snyder’s work – I read Voodoo Heart (the only book of short stories I’ve ever read cover to cover, and I’ve tried pretty much every Stephen King collection) and Severed to prep for the interview, and his Batman is the only book that’s been on my pull list since the DC relaunch without interruption. I’m very comfortable saying that Wytches is my favorite work of his.

Much of the credit for that has to go to the entire creative team. Wytches is so successful because it’s got an insanely talented crew making it, and all of them are doing their best work at the same time. Jock’s art captures all the creepy shadows of a haunted forest and all the simplicity of the prototypical American Dream family life, usually right next to each other. And I’ve said before about the Eisners – I’m not mad that he won’t win, because there are an incredible amount of gifted colorists working in comics today, but that Matt Hollingsworth isn’t even nominated for one is kind of a travesty. It’s like the old sports argument about most valuable player versus best player and how they sometimes aren’t the same person – there may be more talented colorists out there, but no one has completely changed the impact of a comic’s art more than Hollingsworth did on Wytches, in my opinion. And don’t forget about Image’s “first taste is cheap” trade pricing – $9.99 for this arc is like, reverse theft.

You can pick up Wytches volume 1 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

That’s what I’m reading this week. What are you picking up?