Saturday, April 26, 2008

Caliber First Canon of Justice #1

Writer Sam Sarkar
Art Garrie Gastonny
Colorists: Imaginary Friends Studios
Letterer: Annie Parkhouse
Radical Comics, Due in stores April 30, 2008
(A PDF preview was provided by the publisher for review purposes.)

Clarity. Its an important detail when you launch a new comic, not to mention a comic line, to have. There are tons of new comics that come out every week after all. So if you get a reader to read your first issue you better leave that reader with a clear vision of what your series is about. Something that unfortunately Caliber fails at completely.

I've read it three times now, and still am scratching my head to try and figure out what is going on. There is apparently some Native American God who wishes to enforce the law. The law in this case being "white man's law" as being done during the time in history when Native American were being moved to reservations.

It does this through a shaman who is half white and half Native American. Who has visions that lead him to find a magic gun, that will only work for one man who will protect and enforce the law for everyone.

Unfortunately it seems that the shaman gets bad reception on his visions, as he doesn't have much luck finding the right person despite seeing his face.

Its a shame that this series writing isn't a bit clearer, as the art is really lovely. There is lush detail, good panel structure and just an open feel to the art.

Yet the story just lacks that sense of clarity. I don't expect to know where a story is going after one issue, yet I do expect to have a clear idea what type of story I read. This might get clearer with future issues, but I wonder with comic prices and the amount of diversity out there who comes back for the second issue to see if it does.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Hercules: The Thracian Wars #1(of 5)

Writer: Steve Moore
Art: Admira Wijaya
Colors: Imaginary Friends Studio
Letters Todd Klein
Radical Comics, due in stores April 30,2008
(PDF preview provided for Review)

Hercules and his band of friends have come to Thrace to train their army for war. When they find their reception to not be kind, they find themselves in a fight for their lives to survive.

I'm only vaguely familiar with the Hercules myth. Its been many years since I studied them in my younger days and while I remember liking them the details are sketchy. My most recent experience with it being the light hearted TV series starring Kevin Sorbo.

So I was a bit taken aback by the sheer brutality of this take on the series. Not that I was expecting light hearted fare, the detailed showing on page one of crows picking at dead bodies made it clear such would not be the case. Yet I was hoping for something to make me want to read more.

Especially give that the art by Wijaya fit the material well. There wasn't a ton of different facial expressions since everyone was in a bad mood. Yet there was a nice flow to the scenes and it showed the horror in vivid detail.

Still these heroes seem as reprehensible as those they fight. Be it slaying fleeing women who never bared a weapon, killing someone for being dismissive of them, or planning to eat the dead bodies of their enemies as one companion planned. I was left wondering why I should care if these characters lived or died.

Perhaps the intention is to portray a more realistic version of Hercules, and surely in a real world setting the characters would be very brutal and not likable as these were. Yet the take seemed quite cynical, and it just isn't to my tastes at least.

If someone is looking for a more brutal take on Hercules, in the vein of the harsher Conan stories, then this series could be the one for you.

Beyond #1

Created by Deepak Chopra
Scripted by Ron Marz
Art by Edison George
Colors by Parasuraman A.
Lettered by Sudhir R. Pisal
Virgin Comics, Due in stores May 28, 2008
(a PDF preview copy was provided for purpose of review)

Everyone has heard of a story of some family going to a foreign country and all, or parts, of the family just disappearing. Its an urban legend, and like all such stories get passed around, but no one really knows WHO the particular family is. This comic walks that familiar ground and takes it off into a suspenseful, supernatural path full of possibilities.

We follow an American named Michael, who has brought his family to India on a business trip. Michael is the typical "ugly American" visitor who not only can't see the wonders of the world around him, but gets annoyed when his wife and son do.

It was interesting to see how the art showed this closed mindedness by having Michael's scenes take place in small, closed panels . I took it at first to be an artist that didn't know when to pull back to let the scope of a scene show. Yet the more I read and thought on it, the more it actually worked to display that closed mindedness the character had.

Whether it was an elephant crossing in the middle of a street, or the beauty of the lighting of candles ceremony on the water. We never peel back to take in the beauty of it, just as Michael doesn't take in the beauty and wonder around him as well.

When Michael's wife goes missing he must open himself, and this is shown by the panel structure getting slightly more open, to find her. Not only taking in the beauty of the world around him but seeing the dangers as well. At least one danger that is scarily supernatural in origin.

This was a great start to the series, as while I start off disliking Michael a great deal. Seeing him start to change and realize what he faces to lose was engaging. I'm wondering right along with him and his son what exactly is going on, and whether or not he'll ever get his wife back or faces losing even more.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Incredible Hulk: Planet Hulk (Hardcover)

by Greg Pak (Author), Carlo Pagulayan (Illustrator), Aaron Lopresti (Illustrator), Juan Santacruz (Illustrator), Gary Frank (Illustrator), Takeshi Miyazawa (Illustrator)
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Sometimes a book comes along at the right time for a reader, as this one did for me. I've never been the biggest Hulk fan around. I read a good portion of the Peter David run, but wouldn't say I was a huge fan of the character. Yet for a while I've been looking for a solid adventure story, with big fights, direct conflicts and a solid direction.

The Planet Hulk HC came into my hands through my library at a perfect time, as it hit all of those needs that I needed.

Writer Greg Pak, has to have been a big fan of Robert E Howard's Conan and Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter of Mars stories. Given that this Hulk story of the Hulk on an alien world fighting for his survival in gladiator like conditions hits the same vibes of those stories in elegant ways.

The story itself is fairly simple, the Hulk is blasted off Earth by his so called friends, and finds himself on a harsh alien world where his strength and brutality is needed to survive. On his journey he makes friends and enemies, as he forges a new life for himself.

This type of story is exactly why I wish there could be closures to series, instead of the never ending continue to "milk the cow" approach to comics at DC and Marvel. The story will be forgotten eventually since it doesn't overly rely on anything from the past, or have anything lasting that will last very far into the future.

Which is a shame as in and of itself its a fun adventure story. It also offers a telling theme of an over all current shift of approach to its characters at Marvel. Given that in this story the one we are to feel sorry for is the Hulk, who is hindered by Bruce Banner, not the other way around.

Its an odd change in story type, given that nearly all intelligent Marvel characters are now shown with dehumanized approaches to situations. Seemingly showing that brute strength and unwavering blind faith are things to admire over high intelligence. Which has been shown to lead those characters to ruin and betrayel of their friends.

A fairly big change from the time comics were read by mainly nerdy young boys. For whom stories of escape into worlds where intelligence was shown to win out over might were inspiring.