Friday, March 16, 2012

REVIEW - X-23 Issue 21

X-23 #21
Story: Marjorie Liu
Art: Phil Noto
Cover: Kalman Andrasofszky

Approaching this issue as a standard issue just isn't possible. Whilst it leads on from the end of #20, it's more of an epilogue or a side-note than a true finale. Completely silent, it's more an artistic issue than a story one. Noto's art alone is all that's needed to move the story along, and he delivers.

After the events of #20, when Laura has decided which team she has chosen, she gets on a bike and rides off to her new life. One night she camps in the wilderness, and her dreams are invaded by wolves, giving her a strange sort of signal, one which leads to an important personal discovery, and perhaps even some inner peace

Liu's dialogue-free script and Noto's art work beautifully together in this issue. No words are needed, because some of the meaning is crystal clear. Laura is naked for a good part of this issue, yet it never feels exploitative or ridiculous. Noto's art is natural and his use of angles and Laura's long hair to avoid showing anything that might be considered 'rude' is cleverly done. It could only have worked with a few artists, with Noto being one of the few. I feel that it wouldn't have worked anywhere near as well with, say, Sana Takeda on art - the art style just wouldn't work that well.

My only gripes? Well, aside from Andrasofszky's cover which once again misrepresents the story and looks relatively poor, I don't really think I have any. It's quite a deep issue that passes quickly, so without knowledge of what it references (I believe Wolverine had a similar story), some of its meaning may pass readers by, as it did for me, but for those aware of the story it may provide some deeper meaning or just be quite a neat thing.

In conclusion, a good issue with a very personal focus, but sadly one with very limited appeal. Some of the panels were absolutely beautiful, and there's a panel on the penultimate page that really made my day. Recommended to those who've read the previous issues - there's little for anyone else, I feel. But I loved it, and definitely one of the best single issues I've recently read.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

REVIEW - Superman/Supergirl: Maelstrom

Superman/Supergirl: Maelstrom TPB
(Collects Superman/Supergirl: Maelstrom 1-5)
Story: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
Art: Phil Noto
Colours: Phil Noto & Rob Schwager
Covers: Phil Noto

A vicious Apokolptian villain known as Maelstrom has arrived on Earth to kill Superman so that she might become The Bride of Darkseid! Superman and Supergirl join forces to battle the villain but at what cost to Metropolis? From Earth to Apokolips and beyond, Superman and Supergirl face unexpected challenges in this action-packed tale examining what it means to be a hero.
- Synopsis for Issue 1

Before I start this review, I'd like to apologise for the lack of panels. There aren't many easily available for me to requisition, and those I found were of poor quality. So, Superman/Supergirl: Maelstrom is a trade I picked up earlier this year, and as part of my current aversion to novels, I decided to re-read it.
The story is basically this; Maelstrom wishes to prove herself worthy of Darkseid's respect, and even his love. Her initial attack on Metropolis is thwarted by Superman (after she's caused a lot of destruction and practically incapacitated Supergirl with a furious attack, including a laser bolt to the boob), and this causes the story to split. Superman and Supergirl take off to an alien planet where their powers are useless in order for Supergirl to learn more about herself but also her role as a superhero, whereas Maelstrom returns home and is imprisoned. She returns to Earth later with Granny Goodness' Female Furies, just as the heroes are recovering from their journey.

It is, if nothing else, a very cheesy story and one I would perhaps have expected from the '70s, not 2009. Whilst the particulars of Palmiotti and Gray's script were good, in the wider picture it isn't particularly great. Supergirl is incapacitated quite easily, and Maelstrom manages to almost lift a hospital by its corner - neither of which seemed particularly likely nor sensible. If I'm perfectly honest, I felt the whole side-story with Maelstrom and Darkseid was just not all that good. The catalyst for Supergirl's apparent failure could have been done much better, and it would have resulted in a smoother and perhaps more sensible mini-series.

Whilst I generally love Phil Noto's art, I can't help but feel the art in Maelstrom is a little wobbly. The end result has semi-frequent moments of disconnection in which the script and art don't match up at all. This tended to happen with regards to facial expressions and the dialogue. For example, there is a full-page panel in which Supergirl is supposed to be shouting, but her facial expression is fairly blank. There's also an earlier scene in which Superman is flung into a river, and if you look carefully he appears to be smiling and care-free, which would be fine except both he and Supergirl were under attack from a dangerous creature, and the river appears to have a very strong current. In general, the art works somewhat well for the majority of the story, but the Earth-based action sequences were very inconsistent in quality, so much so that I felt it dampened my enjoyment.

Overall, this story is a mixed bag. The discussions between Superman and Supergirl about attitudes, morality and so on were really interesting and well done, but they were sandwiched between a not-so-great additional storyline and complimented by some inconsistent art. I'd recommend it to those who like comics with a more personal feel, but for those wanting a more traditional tale or a high-octane adventure then there's little here but disappointment

Rating: Superman Smiling In A River
Not that you can tell, of course. Sorry.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

REVIEW - Morning Glories: For A Better Future

Morning Glories: For A Better Future TPB
(Collects Morning Glories 1-6)
Story: Nick Spencer
Art: Joe Eisma
Colours: Alex Sollazzo
Covers: Rodin Esquejo

Morning Glory Academy is one of the most prestigious prep schools in the country... But behind it's hallowed doors something sinister and deadly lurks. When six brilliant but troubled new students arrive, they find themselves trapped and desperately seeking answers in a place where nothing is what it seems to be!

Like X-Men: Pixie Strikes Back, Morning Glories was a series I initially didn't take to. Aside from the slightly creepy covers by Esquejo, I just didn't see what was there that made the series so popular. However, with Easter coming up, I chose a copy of the second trade collection as a gift, and I felt it was time to re-read the first collection in preparation.

It's a fairly interesting series on paper. Six students are chosen to enter a prestigious school, and nothing is as it seems. There's two spoiled brats (Ike & Zoe), a geek (Hunter), a child prodigy (Casey), the token 'emo' (Jade) and a more mysterious character (Jun), and they must work together to work out what's going on, but perhaps to also escape. On top of this, we are shown that stranger things are happening behind the scenes, and that sinister forces may be involved.

In practice, however, it feels a little confusing and half-explained, although maybe this is an intentional device in order to add suspense. For example, in a later issue there is a scene involving the characters rebelling and using some materials, yet we were never shown or told how they knew about the materials in the first place.
Jade and Casey
I have to admit I quite liked the art, but I found parts of it a little odd. With the girls in particular, there's a lot of inconsistencies with the covers and the interiors. Casey is shown to be round faced and a little perky on the covers, but in the interiors she's got a more angular face, and something similar exists for Jade. She looks as if she has freckles or some sort of scarring on her cheekbones, but it can often make her look strange on the interiors, and the marks are wholly absent on the covers. The girls all tended to have the same figures, too, and I found their tops to seem to cling a little too much, often giving too much of a shape to their chests (and it tended to make them look bra-less, not that it's a bad thing) and I found it a little unnecessary.
Cover designs; Click to enlarge
With regards to the writing, it's a little hard to say. I feel as if Nick Spencer introduced some concepts a little too early, which tended to add to the confusion. The characters, however, seemed to be quite diverse and I didn't feel that they could be easily confused. The plot is a little unclear, but I felt that it was still being laid out by the time the sixth issue ended.

In conclusion, I feel Morning Glories: For A Better Future was - on a re-read - a fairly interesting yet bizarre read. I still have some doubts about this series, but I will be continuing for now. I have a feeling that this series may be best read in one go rather than as a monthly series or as the trades come out.

Rating: One Slightly Lost-Looking Redhead
I don't remember this panel, oddly. Probably from volume 2. I don't care, though.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

REVIEW - X-Men: Pixie Strikes Back

Issue #1 Cover (also used for the collection)
X-Men: Pixie Strikes Back TPB
(Collects X-Men: Pixie Strikes Back Issues 1-4)
Story: Kathryn Immonen
Art: Sarah Pichelli
Colours: Christina Strain
Covers: Stuart Immonen (with Justin Ponsor for #4)

Pixie, X-23, Armor, Mercury and Blindfold face a new kind of hell: high school! Things get even worse when Pixie's mother shows up on Utopia demanding to see her daughter. Discover the truth about Pixie, including the answer to something even SHE doesn't know: the identity of her father- one of the most dangerous X-Villains ever! Who is he? Here's one hint: HELLFIRE.

Pixie Strikes Back is one of those stories that is, if nothing else, an acquired taste. After my first few reads, I was still left with little idea as to what truly went on in it, but I gave it another shot last night and I went from apathy to almost falling in love with it.

In Pixie Strikes Back, we meet all five main characters in high school. Everything seems to be normal, but the odd strange thing happens. When Cessily points out how bad she looks in the mirror, we begin to see just how abnormal everything is. Reflected in the mirror, the girls all look like their X-Men selves, except for Ruth who maintains her appearance. Whilst this is occurring, Anole and Rockslide are trying to track down the five girls, yet only find Ruth alone in the girl's bathrooms in front of a mirror. At the same time, Psylocke and Nightcrawler come into contact with a woman claiming to be Pixie's true mother, and she refuses to believe they don't know where she is. From then on, it's up to Emma Frost, Nightcrawler and Psylocke to find the girls and to unravel the mystery.
Ouch - I bet Armor's back will hurt in the morning.
The story is as strange as it sounds, and it feels a little weak as portions aren't explained. It feels as if bits of the plot or backgrounding were cut in order to fit it into a four-issue series. I feel a fifth issue would have helped, as it could have been used to fill in some of the blanks and to clarify a few moments (particularly with regards to the events of the fourth issue, but also Blindfold/Ruth's sudden appearance in part of Issue #2). However, any weak moments in the story were made up for by the absolutely brilliant tone set by Kathryn Immonen, as well as the characterisation which is easily on the level of writers like Bryan Q. Miller and Marjorlie Liu. She put in some very touching moments, and some brilliant dialogue ("Pretty kitties go boom!"). Let me sum up the brilliance of Immonen's writing in one way - she manages to make Emma Frost enjoyable.
First page of issue #2 - Mercury, X-23, Armor and Pixie
Sarah Pichelli and Christina Strain did a really good job on the art, the pencils/inks and colours mixing really well to create a very interesting style. It sometimes felt a little unclear in bigger scenes, but largely the scenes are smaller and more intimate. Whilst moments were a little wobbly, both Pichelli and Strain helped bring Immonen's writing to life and added considerably to my enjoyment of the story.

Overall, I think Pixie Strikes Back is a noble effort, but a flawed one. If one can look over the weakness of various parts of the story, and the rare moments of weak art (or its unusual style in general), then there's definitely something fun to be had here. It's a chick movie in comic form, it's full of little jokes and humour that may illicit a smile, though I wouldn't think it would really make you laugh out loud. It may take a few reads before it fully 'clicks', but when it does then it goes from an average comic to a potentially-brilliant read and a type of comic that Marvel (and DC) really should do more of.

Rating: One Mercury/Armor Kiss
(Yes, it totally happened. Shut up.)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Digital Comics Mini-Reviews: Round Two

Today I'll be continuing with my series of mini-reviews of various zero/first issues and previews of comics, largely found upon the ComiXology app.

Note: This was originally going to be longer, but like a complete genius I deleted half of the comics I'd read.

Abiding Perdition 10-Page Preview
Arcana Comics - Writer: Nick Schley - Art: Filipe Aguiar, Pedro Delgado, Adam Frizzell, Carlos Gomez - Colours: Bob Pedroza
I'd never really heard of Abiding Perdition, but it looked interesting. I believe it's a take on Red Riding Hood, but it's hard to gauge by such a short preview, and one that acts as a sort of prologue at that. The main character is riding in a coach with her grandmother when it's attacked in a dark, haunted forest. Her grandmother and the coach driver try and fend off the attacker whilst the protagonist tries to escape. I quite liked the clarity and spookiness of the art and the writing wasn't too bad, either. I'm definitely going to look into this, as the protagonist - when older - looks to be a female warrior.

Amber Atoms Issue #1
Image Comics/Creator Owned - Art & Writing: Kelly Yates - Colours: Michael E Wiggam
This was definitely an enjoyable read, albeit one I'll likely only finish digitally (if available) due to never being collected as a trade. It's a sci-fi adventure with a pretty funky aesthetic to it, with a very capable female lead. The art was absolutely amazing, and I liked how the aliens looked. It had two different stories - one detailed the fall and rise of an antagonistic civilization after their defeat, whilst the second focused on the relationship between Amber and her father.

I would love to continue reading this series, and I hope I can find a way.

Atomic Robo & Friends - Free Comic Book Day 2011
Red 5 - Writer: Brian Clevinger - Art: Scott Wegener
Atomic Robo is one of those series that gets a lot of good press. It's got a great sense of humour, and some really good art to back it up. In this issue, Atomic Robo is a guest judge at the National Science Fair, and all seems to be going well until Dr. Dinosaur interrupts and causes a whole load of chaos. Atomic Robo has to deal with him whilst minimising the risk to the children and other innocents at the fair, but one girl just doesn't stop interfering.

I thoroughly enjoyed this, from the apparent Back to the Future reference in the panel above (does it look like the Flux Capacitor, or is it just me?), to numerous Doctor Who jokes and - well - it was just fun in general.

I've got a few more Atomic Robo comics to read, and perhaps I'll look into starting it properly.

Beautiful Creatures Issue #1
Red 5 - Writer: Kurtis J Wiebe - Art: Ash Jackson - Colours: Frank Zigarelli
First in a two-part series, I believe. Four girls are out having a good time whilst elsewhere in the world, some people are finding a power awakening inside them. As luck would have it, these four friends all have powers, and they only find out once their night is ruined.

Some pretty funky art, but I felt the characters were all the same colour. The girl in the headscarf (in the picture above) is, I believe, Iraqi yet her skin colour and facial features are largely the same as those of the other girls. Other than that, I felt the art was generally pretty good, as was the writing. Some good comedy and some potentially-compelling characters.

I may pick up the next issue at some point.

Danger Girl Issue #0
IDW - Writers: J. Chris Campbell & Andy Hartnell - Art: J. Scott Cambell
Okay, who doesn't know Danger Girl? With its risqué humour and over-the-top sexualised art, it's one of those series that catches the eye. Whilst I'm generally not a fan of such art styles, I found it to work quite well in this zero-issue. It's little more than a scene-setter and a hint of what's to come. This is Danger Girl, this is the bad guy, there's history between them, bam, end.

I may continue with this series at some point, however. The cheeky humour may work better in full issues, and some are illustrated by one of my favourite artists, Phil Noto, so I may very well find a new series to enjoy here.

Mind the Gap - Prologue
Image Comics - Writer: Jim McCann - Art: Rodin Esquejo & Sonia Oback
Not sure what to make of this. A supernatural thriller of sorts which sets the scene for the upcoming (at the time of writing) series of the same name. Elle Peterssen is attacked for no apparent reason, and is left in a coma. In this prologue, we are given an idea of the sinister nature behind the attack, but also how it will affect her friends and family.

Some good art, but I didn't find any part of it particularly remarkable in any way. There's just nine pages here, which doesn't give much of an idea of what the series will be like.

If and when the trade comes out, likely next year, I may take a chance.

The Walking Dead Issue #1
Image Comics - Writer: Robert Kirkland - Art: Tony Moore
Ah, The Walking Dead, one of the biggest names in independent comics at the moment. With a hit TV series now in its second series and with a third confirmed, as well as an upcoming video game by Telltale Games, it's definitely a big deal. Main character Rick Grimes wakes up in a hospital, only to find it seemingly deserted. There's no patients, doctors or anyone around. Rick soon comes face to face with the new residents, a group of zombies, however and flees for his life only to find an equally hostile world.

I quite liked Moore's art. It worked really well, and the black and white was quite a refreshing change from colour. Kirkland also seemed to spin a fairly interesting tale, too. I'm not sure I'll continue with The Walking Dead, however, as zombies just aren't my thing. I can certainly see why it's so popular, though.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Demo Thoughts

So, this week sees the release of Mass Effect 3, one of the most anticipated and biggest releases this year - and it's only just turned March. Set a short while after the events of Mass Effect 2, we once again take the boots of Commander Shepard and this time the fight is not for equality, a place in the universe or even for good or evil. This time, you fight to save the galaxy.

My first ever experience with Mass Effect was one of disappointment. I'd just gotten an Xbox 360, and for my birthday I was given a copy of Mass Effect. I tried it and gave up within a very short time. For some reason, I just didn't like it. Fast forward a year or two later, and I went into a GAME. I picked up the PC version of Mass Effect (I'd heard a lot of good about it, and wanted to give it another go) and from then on I was very much a fan of the series. I completed Mass Effect 2 the weekend it came out - I actually own two copies of it - clocking up a staggering 18 or so hours in just two days. I bought all of the content (still missing some of the promotional/pre-order content), played it all. Had a good number of hours in the Mass Effect series.
Mass Effect 2's Knights of Badassdom - My (old) Shepard, Zaeed and Garrus.
Then comes Mass Effect 3. At this point, I'd lost most of my faith in BioWare's ability to deliver. Retrospect killed my like for Dragon Age: Origins, I saw Mass Effect 1 and 2 as highly flawed but enjoyable games with absolutely no consistency in tone, setting and art style. I just wasn't sure Mass Effect 3 would be any good, and with all of the revelations about character changes, gameplay changes, Kinect support for the Xbox 360 and so forth, I just wasn't confident it'd be good.

And then I played the demo...

Just to point out that I played the demo on PC on 'Narrative' difficulty and in 'Roleplaying Mode' with a 'Female' Shepard and Squadmate Deaths to 'Numerous'

They changed a lot. Again. The gameplay itself is still very similar to Mass Effect 2's, including the interface. The combat feels pretty much the same, although melee combat has been expanded on a little to encompass two attacks rather than just being a rather weak action to get enemies away. I felt that the game as a whole flowed much better. There's some rudimentary ladder climbing/gap jumping that feels like it's there to vary the action and little else. In terms of levels/abilities, it's an expanded version of Mass Effect 2's, and it seemed to work from what I saw. You have different paths - for example, in one of the skills for soldiers, you can choose to upgrade your weapon damage or your melee damage, which should allow the player to tweak the game to their style a little better than the previous games.

Dialogue seems pretty much the same with the dialogue wheel, but in the few bits shown in-game, it feels... almost wrong. It seemed like cutscenes with pauses for you to make a dialogue choice, and it disrupted the flow a little, and I can't help but wonder if this is due to the addition of new gameplay modes and conversation options. I would have liked the demo to have contained some more dialogue sections in order to get a better feel for how they've changed or improved it.

There was a glimpse of some of the new characters in the demo, specifically James Vega, one of the new squadmates. He seems like Jacob v2.0 in that he's an overly-muscular meathead who is all about protocol and so on. I could be wrong, but first impressions count, and I was not impressed.
James Vega and a slightly too-shapely breast.
But it's still far from perfect. The demo shipped with some shockingly poor textures, so you have these situations where the game looks fine and poor at the very same time. The animations are also really questionable. BioWare seem to have - once again - got them wrong. Shepard lurches around like some kind of gorilla, and it never looks good - it always looks stupid. Facial expressions have improved, but still tend to look poor or insincere rather than genuine. For a game with such a focus on emotions and personalities, I find this rather irritating. I also felt that Shepard had a slightly bigger chest and a top that showed their shape a little too well. Come on, BioWare, she's not wearing body paint. A lot of the models and textures also had a lot of clipping issues, such as when a Reaper walks, you can see parts of its body pass through its legs, and I had a lot of issues with the hairstyle I chose for my Shepard.
Not too sure about Shepard's pose here. Seems very unnatural.
An example of the clipping issues - look at Shepard's left hand.
They've also changed the art style again. Mass Effect was quite dark, and tended towards simplicity and blue. Mass Effect 2 was slightly brighter, orange and much more stylised. Mass Effect 3 continues that, once again changing the colour filter but there's a huge jump in terms of what things look like, what people are wearing and so on. It really grates with me, because there's no consistency there. It's more noticeable in the character creator, as they've totally gone over the hair textures and hair styles again, and they manage to look better and worse. There's new hair colours (purple? REALLY?!), but seemingly no actual 'red' (as in a natural redhead, but you can have bright/dark red), and overall I was not too impressed with the changes to creating one's own Shepard. There wasn't any need for it, and the new creator is too dark to really see what you're doing.

I must say, however, that Clint Mansell's soundtrack is stunning. There's a very emotional part towards the end of the first section, and the soundtrack is absolutely beautiful at that point. I'm definitely interested in how it'll work out with the rest of the game.

Overall, I'm still very much on the fence with Mass Effect 3. They've improved it yet managed to make it worse. I'm now definitely sold on it, but I'm a little concerned as to BioWare's inability to stay consistent with any aspect of it, and this is perhaps influenced by the loss of Drew Karpyshyn after Mass Effect (he moved to BioWare Austin to work on The Old Republic). The tone, setting, style and, well, everything else changed, often for illogical reasons or for the sake of change. I doubt they've addressed the issues of Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, instead just pushing their way forward rather than stepping back and looking at the issues.

Rating: Sad Shepard

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Digital Comic Mini-Reviews

Yesterday I downloaded two more comic apps for my iPod - ComiXology and Dark Horse Comics. By the end of the afternoon, I had over 100 first/zero issues and previews downloaded from a variety of publishers, including titles such as the Luna Brothers' Girls and The Sword, Y: The Last Man, The Walking Dead, Danger Girl and many, many more. I won't be reviewing all of them, but I'll comment on as many as possible. The following reviews are all from comics I found free on the ComiXology app.

Girls #1
Image Comics - Art & Writing: The Luna Brothers
Ah, the Luna Brothers. I've not followed their work much, nor read a lot of it (Spider-Woman Origin #1 & Ultra: Seven Days) but the more I see, the more I'm impressed. Girls is a series I've seen around, but only just looked at. Ethan, the main character, is a bit hopeless. He misreads women constantly, and it gets him down. His life changes, however, when he almost literally runs into a strange and mysterious woman.

Very, very interesting ideas with some excellent art and a definite sense of humour. Will definitely be continuing this when I can.

The Sword #1
Image Comics - Art & Writing: The Luna Brothers
Another very interesting first issue from the Luna Brothers. Dara is a young, disabled woman who is making her way through college. One night, however, her home is invaded and her family killed. She manages to escape death, only to find what the invaders were looking for, a strange, magical sword.

As with Girls, I found this very interesting and I shall hopefully be continuing with it.

Y: The Last Man #1
Vertigo - Writer: Brian K. Vaughan - Pencils: Pia Guerra - Inks: Jose Marzan
This is a series I've had recommended to me a few times. Yorick becomes the titular last man after a mysterious event which kills all males on the planet. I found the writing and the art to both be of excellent quality, and I was very intrigued by what happened. As someone who loves to read about strong women, this should be a series I'll enjoy when I continue with it.

Celadore #1
DC Comics - Art & Writing: Caanan Grall
Must admit I've never heard of this series before, but the first issue was quite good. Celadore is a vampire hunter, but during a fact-finding mission she's killed, and her soul winds up in the body of a comatose 11-year-old girl named Evelyn Massey, ousting Evelyn into a position of an ethereal spirit.
Celadore before her death - Celadore #1
Quite... a silly comic, but in a bit of a dark way. Celadore retains her powers and abilities in Evelyn's body, which leads to this young girl with apparent super-strength and excellent fighting abilities. It's got a good sense of humour and some excellent art, and I will hopefully continue with this.

Dead at 17 #1
Viper Comics - Art & Writing: Josh Howard
Dead at 17 is a zombie comic, but with a teen protagonist. Nara, the protagonist, is murdered by an unknown assailant in her own home. As her death is investigated, they bring her best friend Hazy into it, and reveal to her a side to Nara that she never knew. Whilst this investigation continues, a wave of deaths spreads through the region, the killers unknown (but shown to the reader as zombies).

I'm not a big zombie fan, but I found this enjoyable in its own way. I won't be champing at the bit to continue with it, but if I see a trade collection then I may get it.

AdHouse - Writer: Vito Delsante - Artist: Rachel Freire
If Archie goes for idealised reality, then FCHS goes for pure reality. It follows the last year of high school, and all of the trials and tribulations that come with it. Sex, dating, drinking, sports, romance - all of it's here. I quite liked the preview issue, it certainly piqued my interest. The black-and-white art is clear and works really well due to Freire's Archie-inspired style. I could see this being a series I follow, but I believe it's now out of print, so I doubt I'll ever get to read it all.

Only complaint, really, was that an Italian character had a very bizarre way of speaking, and it ruined the feel a little bit.

Grrl Scouts: Work Sucks #1
Devil's Due Publishing - Art & Writing: Jim Mahfood
Wasn't particularly impressed by this one, but if I found a second issue for cheap I'd give it a shot. Basically, the three main characters are all friends, and one of them decides they should stop selling drugs and tidy up their lives before the recent waves of gang violence affects them, and that they should get jobs and live normal lives. I thought the art was fairly good, but it just didn't grab me, and I just wasn't particularly sure where it would go.

Melody #1
DC Comics - Art & Writing: Ilias Kyriazis
Oh, this was a good read. Melanie, the protagonist, has the music for the greatest song of the world, imparted to her deceased employer after a ritual involving the Muse of Song goes wrong. Everyone seems to be after her song - priests to use it to spread the word of God, a politician in order to bolster his campaign - even a marketing company in order to create the most popular advert there's ever been. I found it - even just this first issue - to contain quite biting representations of how shallow people are. The beauty of the piece was secondary to what it could be used for.

I was very taken by this issue, and I'll certainly pick up the rest if I can.

Velocity #1
Top Cow - Writer: Ron Marz - Art: Kenneth Rocafort 
Velocity is a spin-off title of a series from Top Cow/Image Comics series known as Cyberforce, one I have heard of but never really read. This issue was more of a scene-setter, but I found it worked on its own well enough. The art was generally pretty good, but it did have moments where it slipped into the rather worrying poses that plague superhero comics, even to this day, although thankfully they were few and far between. There was some good humour there, too.
Cover for Velocity #1
Again, I'd like to continue with this but I believe it's out of print. Oy. The only gripe I had other than the occasional posing slips was Velocity's costume. I was a little puzzled to see cleavage on display (it looked as though she had a clear panel in her costume in the shape of a lightning bolt), but it didn't entirely detract from the comic.

Jurassic Strike Force 5 #0
Zenescope - Writer: Joe Brusha - Art/Pencils: Julian Aguilera - Colours: Thomas Mason
What. What. Oh dear. This has to be one of the single weirdest things I've read, and I wasn't overly impressed. This zero-issue details the beginnings of the titular group, except... it kinda doesn't. It ends before it should do, and you get no idea of what the series is actually like. It's the sort of story that you expect mid-series when the villain is explaining his actions, not the sort that opens a series.

Not got a lot to say about the art, but if I had the first issue as well, I might be swayed. I mean, come on, anthropomorphic dinosaurs in armour? There is a cast listing at the back - about 10/11 main characters, two of which are female, and both of which have dino-boobs. Yes. Dino-boobs.

Ah, sod it. I'll get the trade. It should be a giggle.

Pirate Penguin vs Ninja Chicken Vol. 1 Preview
Top Shelf - Art & Writing: Ray Friesen
Giggle. This preview was A-W-E-S-O-M-E. It's like a kid-friendly webcomic. Slightly surreal, great art, likeable characters, brilliant jokes. It's a kid's comic, sure, but often they tend to be some of the better ones.
No explanation shall be given
Will definitely try and pick this up at some point, just for giggles.

The Pro 7-Page Preview
Image Comics - Writer: Garth Ennis - Pencils: Amanda Conner - Inks: Jimmy Palmiotti - Colours: Paul Mounts
The Pro. Hm. Yes, I've heard of this, and I must confess I wasn't particularly impressed. I understand it's supposed to be silly and so forth, but I'm not particularly bowled over. The main character is a prostitute who is chosen by a strange alien (The Viewer) to become a sort of superhero, which is when the preview ended. It's a sort of parody, but it didn't feel like one. It felt like a bunch of immature and childish jokes strung together with some good art (Amanda Conner is a good artist, one whose work I quite like from what I've seen), and it just didn't interest me in the slightest.

Unless I come across a copy of the trade for really cheap, I'll be giving this a pass.

So, there we have it - a bunch of smaller reviews of some digital comics. I'm definitely glad I picked up this app, and downloaded these issues and previews. I've enjoyed them, and hopefully I'll enjoy many more in the comic weeks.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Kevin Keller Follow-Up

I recently posted about an organisation making an attack on Archie Comics and toy store Toys 'R' Us over their sale of Life With Archie Issue 16 in which Kevin Keller, the first openly-gay character in the Archie universe, gets married to his same-sex partner.

Kevin Keller's Wedding, from the Archie Marries Betty half of Life With Archie #16
Since that post, things changed.

Firstly, on their Twitter account, Archie Comics (@ArchieComics) tweeted this zinger of a comment, which refers to the American Families Association's previous attack on Ellen DeGeneres (a prominent, out-lesbian comedienne and talk-show host).

Secondly, the issue in question sold out. The news of it selling out was reported on comic-themed sites like Comic Book Resources, on sites such as The Mary Sue (a site which generally focuses on girl geekdom) and even a major British newspaper, The Guardian.

This marks a major success for Archie Comics, but also a victory for LGBT equality.

I still urge anyone with even a shred of interest in this wedding to pick up a copy of Life With Archie #16 (which can be bought via the Archie Comics app) or to buy the recent Kevin Keller hardcover collection, which contains his first appearances in Veronica and his four-issue self-titled miniseries.