Eric's Image Comics Reviews: Super Dinosaur Origin Special, Green Wake #2, Gladstone's School #1, Red Spike #1, Intrepids #3, Artifacts #7
Published: May 3, 2011 - 8:49pm
This week Image Comics gives away new Robert Kirkman's all-ages origin story, delves deeper into the mysteries of its weirdest locale, takes young villains to school, has adrenal glands cranked up to 11, interrogates a cyborg abomination, and has the forces of nature battle it out!
Super Dinosaur Origin Special (Free Comic Book Day Offering)
While it would suffice to say, a “The creator of The Walking Dead and Invincible brings forth another issue of his newest all-ages title and it's free,” I'll go one step further in posting a full review. With Super Dinosaur, Kirkman has channeled the gods of old school Saturday morning television. It's a fun offering that should provide amusement for young readers and maybe even their parents. It's a cliché statement, yet true. In this offering, the prolific writer offers up an origin the likes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with incomprehensible science and set pieces. It's unabashedly presented as a means to an end. Protagonist Derek Dynamo is a ball of energetic confidence that may come off to some as unappealing, yet his demeanor can also remind one of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. I prefer the latter. The dialog conveys enough emotion and personality for young readers to engage and find some attachment to the characters. Older folks may find a lack of depth, but intended audience must be considered in that assessment.
While one can't truly gauge a creator's dedication to a title, Jason Howard seems to be having a lot of fun with the art of Super Dinosaur. With this story, he creates images that play to the reader's point of perspective. Using film as a reference, the action and characters are constantly pointed at the camera. It keeps things visually intense and engaging. It's a device that's used well with plenty of explosive panels that any reader can enjoy! Howard has created a design that is similar in complexity to Kirkman's script in that it is detailed but never complicated.
Also offered are a few bio pages for each of the characters in the new series, which provides a nice introduction for anyone visiting a local comic shop on May 7.
Did I mention it's free?
Story: Robert Kirkman
Art: Jason Howard
Cover: Jason Howard
32 Pages/ FC
In Stores May 7 for Free Comic Book Day!
Green Wake #2
Green Wake #2 delivers on the promise presented in its premier issue by providing some well-crafted fiction, which goes a bit beyond telling a good story. While the latter my entertain or inform, the former allows escape and reflection. It is the difference between observation and participation. This happens because of excellent execution with each of the title's components. It begins with a setting that is eery with the allure of mystery. While many books can boast an eery environment, Green Wake is a place that beckons to be explored. To act upon this urge, characters are placed into the comic that have accepted the idiosyncrasies of the place, yet are uncovering clues with the reader. It gives them the authority to drive the plot with knowledge close to that of the reader. They are also given an internal narrative that brings forth new puzzles.
This all benefits from a pace that presents each answer with a new enigma in a way that continually merits further interest. Though incomparable in content, in quality and tone, Green Wake is now giving warm reminiscence of Neil Gaiman's seminal work Sandman. It is definitely way too early to completely make such classification, but it is something of which to take note.
Similar superlatives can be said of the art which retains a demeanor of elasticity. Riley Rossmo bends to the whims of Wiebe's script with a stunning amount of dexterity. Whether drama, action, supernatural, or horror are required, everything flows from one panel to the next with ease. It makes the more fantastic elements of the work more acceptable with a flare of sophistication and depth. It promotes and compliments everything described in the first paragraph. The partnership between both artists is evidenced by the work brought forth. And what wonderful work it is!
Story: Kurtis Wiebe
Art: Riley Rossmo
Cover: Riley Rossmo
On Sale May 4!
Gladstone's School for World Conquerors #1
A story about a school for up and coming super-villains, Mark A. Smith's Gladstone's School for World Conquerors combines the familiar trappings of Harry Potter with a charming cast of unique characters to create an all-ages title worth attention, even from those past adolescence. The most endearing aspect of the writing is in its charm, which is found in spades in dialog that takes the emotions of its characters seriously while not delving into melodrama. The author performs the rare task of casting a wide demographic net and it actually working. Seasoned comic vets will appreciate the comic's seeming knowledge of the superhero genre; young readers can empathize with fiction that relate with their feelings while making them laugh. All this is combined in a package that also includes well handled action, a backstory that warrants exploring, and just the right amount of darkness. There's a wealth of talent here that looks as if they can accomplish the oft wanted mission of gaining a new readership for the medium. When purchasing a copy for one's self, this would definitely be worth picking up an extra for the uninitiated in one's family or social circle (I.e. A niece, friend's kid, etc.).
The universality is further put forth with an accessible art style from Armand Villavert that mixes a bit of Kirby with Saturday morning cartoon. The color palette is bright with varying shades of neon and primary colors disarming the reader with an infectious sense of fun. It allows one to see past the surface craziness of a world of costumed evil doers and get at the heart of whatever is going on with the characters. It also provides extra depth and creepiness to the darker elements in a way that brings about the eeriness found in much classic youth literature, like Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It's an inviting style that is not completely unfamiliar, but is unique all the same.
Story: Mark A. Smith
Art: Armand Villavert & Carlos Carrasco
Cover: Armand Villavert
32 Pages/ FC
On Sale May 4!
Red Spike #1
The value introduction to Michael Benaroya and Jeff Hahn's creation, while not exceptional, gives quite a bit of bang for one's buck (It literally costs one dollar.). It has the feel of GI Joe meets Lethal Weapon. In it, two Casper Van Dien (the guy from Starship Troopers) look-alikes have their adrenal glands hooked up to a doohickey on their wrists to make them super soldiers. It seems that it also gives the incredible ability to quip at each other non-stop during skirmishes. The premise is as far fetched as it sounds, but it's all in good fun. The script never seems to take itself seriously enough to let suspension of disbelief be a concern. This makes it a light read that compliments any normal comic haul. One might notice more comparative references than normal in this review. That's because the title doesn't bring much new to the table, yet distills tropes found throughout popular culture. The buddy/bromance parts consist of the familiar straightman/loose cannon pairing and shady military/scientific dealings follow the same method used by Mary Shelley nearly 200 years ago with a majorly telegraphed plot twist. Despite this, what it lacks in depth, it certainly makes up for in explosive excitement.
Salvador Navarro captures the unbelievable intensity required by the script. Upped adrenalin obviously leads to an immunity to most bullets as the daring duo clash against a small army during their first mission. The art captures each balletic evasion with a sense of grace and brutality. The protagonists kill a small town's worth of opposing soldiers, which is captured in bloody detail. It's good old fashioned celebrated violence. The illustrations are streamlined and smooth renditions of movement. While the characters aren't provided with a super wide range of emotions to convey, the art does its job with what it has to work with. Also, there is a character with the incredible likeness of Patrick Stewart, which is always a plus.
Bottom line, pricing this title at one dollar is a very smart move on someone's part. It's not the best title out there, but it is worth a complimentary pick-up for any person's weekly comic haul. Substantial or not, it is hard to turn down a bargain when it definitely does have some things working for it. Even with it going beyond one's suspension of disbelief and not being completely original, it maintains its sense of fun, which is more than can be said of some full price offerings.
Story: Jeff Hahn
Art: Salvador Navarro & Ifansyah Noor
Cover: Mark Texeira
32 Page/ FC
On Sale May 4!
Kurtis J. Wiebe's series has been picking up steam since it's slightly meager beginning and the third issue continues the momentum. The basic structure of the title hasn't changed (There are still plenty of flashbacks and expository dialog.), but an extra added element of real intrigue that gives the plotting and characters an extra spark. For the first time with this series, it seems as if there is something really driving everything and giving it a distinct sense of purpose. With the exception of a few silly lines, the dialog is on point with this issue. There's some definite mystery involved in which motives are questioned, which keeps the reader engaged with each page. All the while, there is pull back from characters wanting to retain the status quo. This provides for some pretty good back and forth between characters that is believably intense.
Scott Kowalchuck continues to develop his unique art style. He does well maintaining the retro-future 50s pulp vibe. There are some nice visual touches that seem to give the title a sense of time, such as a Wizard of Oz poster on the wall and a conservative one-piece wrestling uniform for one of the female protagonist. He continues to illustrate some excellent pieces of action and, this issue, has an intense interrogation scene that is very well handled. Overall it's excellent work.
The best thing a series can do is progress and continuously build upon itself for the betterment of its fiction. Intrepids does this with each successive issue. It still has its rough spots but at this rate is a title to keep one's eye on.
Story: Kurtis J. Wiebe
Art: Scott Kowalchuck & Donna Gregory
Cover: Scott Kowalchuck & Donna Gregory
32 Pages/ FC
On Sale May 4!
With Artifacts #7, Ron Marz continues to provide an excellent creator-owned alternative to the “big event” storytelling currently popular with mainstream publishers nowadays with Top Cow's extended universe. This is accomplished through a good use of transitions that give an adequate amount of time to each featured plot point/character. It's an established balance that lets each member of the large ensemble shine, while also carrying on with the plot. There's a lot of personality provided with precarious alliances, maniacal bad guys, and a sense of humor. The writer does a great job dropping bits of comedy from the Darkness's characteristic demons and a quick witted cast of characters. There is also the beneficial edge inherent of the property and a huge threat placed that actually seems worthy of the efforts of 13 insanely powerful beings.
One thing that I like about Top Cow is that hey make a constant concerted effort to introduce new readers with any given issue. With this edition, beyond the one page catch up at the beginning is a short story that gives background for the villain of the piece and an illustrated prose page that informs readers of who certain characters are and their backgrounds. One of the problems with such large scale offerings, such as Artifacts, is that it can become a convoluted mess to those with out a previous investment into the property. It is good that each issue can act as a starting point for any reader.
Whilce Portacio's pencils are highly detailed with deep shadows that gives a nice sense of a looming malevolence in each panel. Besides a couple of missed opportunities to show the scope of damage done when it is mentioned in dialog, he bends his art to the whims of Marz's script. Each face coneys the necessary emotion be it through the wide clinched teethed grin of a hell spawn or youthful exuberance of the young tech geek. Sunny Gho gives the colors the appearance of pencil shadings with a subtle palette that allows the supernatural elements to be brought forward with brilliance.
Story: Ron Marz
Art: Whilce Portacio & Sunny Gho
Cover: Whilce Portacio, Joe Weems, & Sunny Gho
32 Pages/ FC
On Sale May 4!