Brian Michael Bendis
Michael Avon Oeming
The newest series from the creative team behind Powers has been four issues of building an alternate reality of a mob controlled America, with shoot outs and double crosses between the growing cast. After multiple attempts on their lives, our main characters Jagger Rose and Valentine Gallo have decided to go on the run after being framed for the murder of a US Senator, an indefensible crime even for a made man.
The book opens with a flashback to a bloody encounter that inspires the mob to turn the World Trade Center into a casino, where our present day story resumes. Oeming continues to deliver his trademark angular, heavily shadowed style artwork in this series, but a new addition to this creative team, colorist Taki Soma, is the creator taking the most risks in this series. The flashbacks are often portrayed in black and white with splashes of color. By comparison, the scenes taking place in present day are so much more rich as to make the flashbacks seem flat by comparison. This is especially evident when the story takes our main characters to Vegas, with a breathtaking double page spread of the cityscape that elevates the art to new heights. It is a striking image that is a perfect blend of the creative team’s strengths: Bendis, a traditionally wordy writer who gives plenty of challenging dialog to letterer Chris Eliopoulous in this series, lets the art speak for itself here, and Oeming crafted a page drenched in black, leaving Soma’s jewel-toned coloring of the city lights take center stage. If you are at all unconvinced to pick up this comic for lack of interest in crime stories, then buy it for what every reader should crave: a rare moment in comics where each creative contribution is in perfect balance. I’ll keep reading for more of this.
(Note: I have intentionally left out the image of the double page spread because I believe it really must be seen / read in context to be truly appreciated, though I would 100% hang it on my wall. Just buy this book already!)
Velvet is the story of Velvet Templeton, a woman who up until recently was working as the personal assistant to the Director of the Agency. As the story unfolds, we find that her relationship with the Agency is much more complicated.
This issue begins the second story arc in the series, The Secret Lives of Dead Men. Velvet is still on the lam and the gears of her next move are set in motion. At the same time, we’re given flashbacks about a past mission (revelation from Issue #5) and the fallout that took its toll on her. The story and art continue to be solid, especially if you like spies, double agents, and conspiracies. One of the best parts about this issue is the introduction of more strong female characters who fit into the story as passing roles or are more involved in the story line. When I first started reading this as part of my women’s comic discussion group, one of our critiques was that we would like to see more women. Not only are we seeing more, they’re varied and smart and strong characters.
Overall, a good solid title. When I started out, I didn’t expect it to be part of my single issue reads, but issues like this get me coming back for more.
The Fade Out follows the period style that Ed Brubaker (Fatale, Velvet) does so well. This story sets us in 1948 Hollywood, starting with a crime noir that’s a fallout from a debaucherous party. And, that’s not anything out of the ordinary.
I’m not going to lie, I bought the issue because it has a typewriter on the cover and my better half collects them. I had no idea about the story, but I’m familiar with Brubaker’s work, so I thought I’d give it a go. Unfortunately, the Hollywood crime noir is not my dish. This isn’t Brubaker’s fault as the story has merit. My taste for it ends with Vertigo’s American Vampire Volume 1 and Pearl’s story. And, after watching Women as Background Decoration, the starlet murder death rang an ill chord, especially considering she was one of two female characters.
For me, this falls into the bucket of a solid comic, but not for necessarily for me. Although I probably won’t pick up issue #2, when the trade comes out I’d consider giving it another chance when it hits my local library.
By now you may have heard that Gail Simone is leaving Batgirl. She’s turning it over to the very capable Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr (with a name like that, she was born to work on Batgirl). It’s a bittersweet moment. I’m sad to see her go, I’ve really enjoyed her work on Batgirl but I’m also excited to see what a new team brings to the table and what Simone will be writing next.
There has been a lot of build up to the final confrontation in this issue. Batgirl has been fighting Knightfall off and on, in one way or another, for awhile now, but they’re about to go head-to-head one last time. It’s a winner-takes-all scenario and the prize is Gotham. However, this time Babs has a bit of an advantage. She’s called in the calvary. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who squealed with delight to see Batgirl reunite with Black Canary and Huntress a few issues earlier. That was nothing compared to the epic team-up that happens in #34. Everyone is here. And I mean everyone—Catwoman, Zatana, The Movement, Wondergirl, Starfire… the ladies of Bat-verse (and beyond) have come together to save the day. I loved that these were the people Batgirl called when she needed help. Not Batman or the Robins, but the women in her life.
The fight itself was a little chaotic as it constantly bounced from character to character and it was all over rather quickly, but, nevertheless, I had fun reading it. It felt like the perfect send-off for not only Gail Simone (who I imagine had a blast while writing this) but this darker chapter of Batgirl’s life. At the end of this issue a lot of weight has been lifted off her shoulders and, even though I’ve enjoyed the last few plot arcs, it was refreshing to see Babs smile and laugh once again. This issue may not have been perfect but Gail Simone certainly went out with a bang. Fletcher, Stewart, and Tarr, the torch has officially been passed.
Michael Alan Nelson
Hexed is the story of a girl named Lucifer—and no, you may not call her Luci. She’s a professional thief who specializes in magical objects, such as the enchanted picture frame she’s sent to retrieve at the beginning of this issue. In the process she accidentally sets a man in the painting free and he then proceeds to steal the soul of her colleague, Raina. In order to save Raina, Lucifer has to go into an alternate dimension called The Shade, which is about as dangerous as it sounds. It’s a lot of story packed into one issue, but it works. From page one the reader is dropped into the centre of the action. There are no long pages of exposition, no voice overs explaining who Lucifer is and how her abilities work. Information is woven into the story itself. Instead of getting bogged down with the details, you’re able to simply sit back and enjoy the story as it unfolds.
I never read the original Hexed, so I can’t make any comparisons. But this comic is off to a strong start. The story is interesting and there is a great cast of complex female characters. All of them have very different personality types and it will be interesting to see how those types clash and/or work together in subsequent issues. The art though satisfactory is a bit unremarkable, but I loved the use of colours. The palette changes depending on the tone of and type of action in a scene and the effect is eye-catching and unique. Between the story, the characters and the colours I’m definitely on board for issue #2.
Jen Van Meter
Roberto de la Torre
Death-Defying Dr. Mirage starts out with a woman off to the side of a group of people, texting. Not the most exciting start, right? But then they start talking, and you’re dumped into a canyon of breathtaking pain, of loss. The first woman is Dr. Mirage, and she can talk to the dead.
It sets up her meeting with a reclusive billionaire with a mysterious project, and things quickly go downhill. There are strange relics and a chained creature behind a curtain, talk of other plans. It reminds me a bit of old Dr. Strange comics. Death-Defying Dr. Mirage certainly doesn’t lack ambition.
The writing drew me in and I love the art. There’s an odd, off-kilter palette of greyed-out, bluish greens and golds punctuated with brilliant purples and reds as the sets change. The lines are loose and fluid, filling each character’s face with overlapping lines that give them an anxious feel. The main character, Shan Fong, is a woman of color, and her story is tragic. The only spirit she can’t communicate with is her dead husband, Hwen. Dr. Mirage is outfitted like a superhero while everyone else is in normal clothes. She claims the armored jumpsuit affords her protection in her line of work, but it’s a little jarring when everything is rendered so authentically normal. Minor quibble aside, I’ll definitely be picking up more issues.
Eman Casallos, Aikau Oliva
Cover by David Mack
The cover of this comic is gorgeous in the Sandman vein; watercolour painting, cutouts, golden embellishment, Alice Cooper looking Mona Lisa-inscrutable. Alice Cooper seems like a nice man, I liked his music when I heard it in Wayne’s World, I’ll give this comic a try!
The first double page spread is, left page: a snake talks to Alice Cooper’s spooky corpse. Cool. Right page: BABES! YOWZA!!!!!!!!!! Slightly mournful with lust! And they’re feeding a man grapes and wine as his face shares a panel with two pairs of breasts and he says “Big, juicy . . . SLOPPY melons!”
Fuck off, mate. I’m out.
Plus the colouring’s got that dismal greyish tinge that comes of a poor understanding—or underutilisation—of colour theory.
Cezar Razek, Salvatore Aiala Studios
Cover by Amanda Conner (DON’T BE FOOLED)
See above, basically? Sonja arrives in town, people are trying to rapeishly strip a beautiful bouncing blonde, Sonja yells at them and then a panel of her ass tells us how people just instantly respect her. I quit. Everything is greyish and gloomy, but that might be on purpose this time.
P.S. Look out for a full review of this issue by one of our new staffers in about… four hours time!