Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Jason Howard
It almost goes without saying that we are in a glorious heyday of great science fiction comics with books like Saga, Manhattan Projects, and East of West on the stands. Now Warren Ellis has thrown his hat in the mix with Trees and an opening issue that is slow to start but gives us the creepiest aliens comics has seen in a long time. The extraterrestial life, the so-called trees, are gigantic black monoliths that descended all over the world and then … did nothing. For ten years, these terrifyingly blank proofs of alien life have been standing there silent and humanity has had to cope with their existence. As someone who found the monoliths from 2001: A Space Odyssey to be absolutely creepy, this is a great idea for a comic series to get me hooked.
The first issue sets up the basic premise of the comic without giving too much away on what’s going to happen next. The highlight is definitely the opening action sequence in Rio de Janerio, where Jason Howard’s art absolutely shines. The scene has a tight, thrilling pace and the colors are beautiful. Warren Ellis’ script takes a backseat to the art this issue, which works because the art does a much better job illustrating the otherworldly size and utter weirdness of the ‘trees’ better than any description could. There’s only a hint of who some of the major characters may be in the series, including a candidate for mayor in New York City, but I can only hope that these cursory appearances are expanded on in later issues. This first issue doesn’t telegraph just what sort of story Ellis and Howard will be telling here or what the greater mystery of the trees may be, but the concept is creepy and beautiful enough that I’m hooked in and eager to find out.
Writer: Jay Reiter
Artist: Vince Locke
This comic has a killer cover. A blood-stained young girl stands with hands clasped, eyes downcast — she’s having a bad day. Behind her stands a lanky man with a sawed off shotgun slung over his shoulder and partly shaved head. The font used for the title must be called BLOOOOD because it’s blood spatter — it caught my eye and I picked up this first issue of the strength of it alone. That might have been a mistake.
While the story is a perfectly suitable entry to the zombie apocalypse — mysterious rustling in the bushes, friends and colleagues disappearing one by one — and I can’t say anything against the tone or pacing, Arise made me uncomfortable. Here’s why: the comic opens with a man stalking a deer. Narration reveals that, “He was beautiful. So commanding. As if he ruled everything around him.” We don’t see the man or the narrator, just the deer as it looks up and is shot. “I was infatuated with him from the moment I laid my eyes on him. Too bad things had to end up the way they did.”
Who’s speaking? That’s not immediately clear — the story shifts gears from portentous to everyday, with our protagonist Thanatos (ha ha, groan) loading the carcass in his truck and taking it to work with him. The remainder of the issue is occupied with character development, and later, the zombie rising. We learn that he’s a bit difficult. That he has a teasing, big brother relationship with Dinah, the girl from the cover. That he can gank a zombie when it comes down to it. That our narrator from the start of the issue is … Dinah?
Look, a crush is a crush, but this one sounds a bit too Fifty Shades for my liking. He’s so commanding — despite being, before the zombie uprising, a nobody at a go-nowhere job. He’s so beautiful — though the art, expressive but all the sepias and close ups lend it a meloncholic air, doesn’t seem to emphasize his physical or spiritual beauty. It’s just a weird note to go out on, in an otherwise unremarkable zombie thriller. Unfortunate implications abound.
— Megan P
Writer and Artist: Dan Parent
Veronica Lodge has a cousin! In most franchises, giving a main character a new relative with whom she purportedly has a close relationship with, would be grounds for groaning about retcons. But not in Archie! What do we even know about the Lodges, anyway? Not much, and Dan Parent neatly slots in his new character, fashion designer Harper Lodge. Well, fashion designer/children’s author/advice columnist (she was inspired by real life Toronto author Jewel Kats). She’s obsessed with fashion and boys and is a bit sassy. Unlike Veronica, though, this Lodge has a heart of gold she didn’t have to buy.
Harper, you may have heard, is the first lead character in an Archie story to have a disability, she uses a wheelchair and leg braces due to a childhood car accident. What hasn’t been mentioned in the news coverage is that Harper is also a woman of colour — and although Archie’s come a long way in the last decade in terms of diversifying Riverdale, it’s still a little light on lead characters of colour. So Harper, both a woman with a disability and a woman of colour, whose primary role in the story is to have romantic hijinks, not serve as an object lesson — although she does that too, because Archie.
Harper is in Riverdale to visit her cousin Veronica and to have fun. Parent gets the introductions out of the way efficiently, with a brief side trip for disability politics. Veronica says, “I never think of you as a girl with a disability,” and Harper responds, “My disability is a part of me! I wouldn’t change it in a flash! I love my disability because it makes me think outside the box.” It’s a little awkward and a lot Archie, but Parent has condensed, for his very young audience, some of the biggest debates among persons with disabilities. Is your disability something to be cured, or something to be proud of? Is it something to be forgotten, or something to be showcased? It’s all very PSA and there are times where it verges on offense — not sure if want runaway wheelchair jokes! — but it’s all delivered in Archie’s trademark, straight faced cornball style.
Only Archie could be so breezily corny about theses issues, and then send its debaters off to a dance.
It’s there that Harper meets perennial jerkface Reggie Mantle, her new paramour. He’s stunned by her beauty and sass. She thinks he’s a cute, nice boy. There’s, somehow, a detour for a runaway wheelchair gag, and for Veronica to attempt to sabotage their new love. Ah, romance! Spoiler alert: after some twists and turns, and a broken leg for Reggie, our lovebirds do get back together and wheel off into the sunset.
Harper’s intro aside, I think what this issue should go down in history for is Reggie Mantle’s single, many tear of sorrow.
— Megan P
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Clay Mann
I was not thrilled with the “Jubilee finds and adopts an adorable little orphan baby and brings him home to the X-Men” plotline from the beginning. Now that it’s heading toward its resolution, I’m not any more eager. I have been dealing with feelings of guilty discomfort reading the writing of Brian Wood, and this latest issue just makes me glad he’ll be departing in only a few more issues.
The women in this book have been sniping at each other, griping at each other, and each pretty much going their own way. Kitty Pryde didn’t last as a member past “Battle of the Atom.” Monet joined up after the end of the previous run of X-Factor, and Rachel’s been taking shots at Storm’s leadership. Psylocke apparently has been dating someone holographically in the Danger Room, and Jubilee — the new mom — is still wearing a variation on her old “let’s make fun of Robin” costume, only with a full body suit because not only is she a new mom, she’s also a vampire. Yes, there have been some great moments in the Arkea arc.
But this current arc is boring me to tears. The bad guy is an assassin called The Future, and he’s human. No powers. But yet he’s able to waltz into the mansion that Juggernaut has trouble getting into. There’s also the fact that there’s been an almost all-boys backup story called “Bromo Superior”. Really? So much for the book being all women all the time. I don’t dislike Shogo himself. He’s just a baby and hasn’t developed any personality on the page yet.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Chris Bachalo
The Uncanny title is starting to get interesting, though. The new kids Tempus, Triage, and (twitch — that codename!) Hijack all seem to be getting more to do. The outcome of the Mystique/Dazzler subplot had a satisfying end, leaving a very, very pissed off Dazzler who is declaring she should have never tried to be anything other than what she is — an X-Man.
The “who’s throwing Sentinels at us” subplot is also wrapped up, finally, and in a rather confusing way. Still satisfying, though. Oh, and the Cuckoos are now Neopolitan haired: one’s blonde, one’s brunette, and one’s a redhead. Bachalo’s art remains beautiful but mundane; with so many blondes on the team, especially if the Dazzler joins, they will need more unique outfits if a reader’s going to tell them apart.
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Mike Allred
Another writer who gives me guilty discomfort, but I can’t fault that the story here is fun and whimsical. The first arc finishes. Dawn and Norrin have found out that the Incredulous Zed is not the fun guy he seems to be. While the Surfer seeks to help and rescue the Never Queen, Dawn got busy helping various other prisoners escape. Once they reunited, they handled the problem at hand with a coolness. Dawn’s earthbound lack of understanding the Power cosmic is a high point, as is the name she calls the Surfer’s board. The Allred art makes this a delight to look at — a retro Hanna-Barbera vibe that makes me think of Nexus, Space Ghost, and the Herculoids.