January's Issue Ones Part 1

Now more than a month since I read a single new comic book, but the blog has been known to provide motivation. So what I'll do is focus on comics whose first issue came out in the last month and a half and report of them here. Are they Gets or Passes?
Doc Savage by Chris Roberson and Bilquis Evely for Dynamite. I'll give any of Dynamite's pulp characters a try, but Doc Savage, though one of the most famous along with the Shadow, is a hard sell for me. I read more than my fair share of his stories as a youth, but it always bugged me that he had to share the page count with his five acolytes who all seemed so interchangeable to me despite their Newsboy Legion-like differences. I don't know why. Was it that they all had some sci-tech expertise? Doc was so smart and competent, you'd hardly think he'd need them around. Does the comic use visuals to fix that aspect? Not really. In some ways it makes it worse. See, Doc Savage himself isn't drawn with the iconic Man of Bronze look, and I tended to confuse him with Tom as both (and the rest of the team) raced to figure out who was using radio waves to cause riots. That's disappointing.
Keep reading? Roberson is good at doing tributes for age-old characters, and I'm intrigued by the notion that each issue will unfold decades apart, but there's little to push me to read a second issue.
The Saviors by James Robinson and J. Bone for Image. Our hero is a small Midwestern town stoner who runs afoul of an alien invasion, which could be a pretty ordinary story if not for J. Bone's excellent two-tone art. In places, he's channeling Darwyn Cooke and makes long silent sequences shine, and he's got the cartoonist chops to make it humorous as well as exciting. So unlike James Robinson's other work, it looks like Bone has as much to do with the collaboration's success.
Keep reading? Yes. It's lovely B-movie stuff.
The Deceivers by Steven Grant and Jose Holder for Boom! A dense and rather talky tale of thieves, spies and con men set in Europe. By dense I mean hardly any character is who they pretend to be, so it's like having to assimilate twice as many characters. The art is a bit underwhelming, but not inappropriate. I think this will work better read straight through once the 6-issue mini-series is collected.
Keep reading? No, but I might be willing to wait for the trade.
Dead Boy Detectives by Toby Litt, Mark Buckingham and Gary Erskine for Vertigo. By now, I don't remember a whole lot about the Dead Boy Detectives from the old Sandman days, and some of the references in the first issue made me shrug, though they're there mostly to let go of the status quo. Otherwise, it was nice to let myself be charmed by the schoolboy duo all over again as they return to the boys' school where they lost their lives in the first place. The focus is however on the "new girl", not a ghost (will she be?), but the daughter of these insane, wealthy performance artists, which provides a lot of intellectual laughs. No surprise Buckingham is a good artist for this.
Keep reading? Yes!
Black Widow by Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto for Marvel. I actually read the first two issues, and while the first one didn't convince me, the second may have. First, I knew Edmondson could deliver on the black ops/spy element. The Activity was a solid and well-researched foray into the genre. But it seemed like Phil Noto's pretty painted art was the main reason to get the first issue. Widow's done-in-one mission was solid, but didn't make the next a must-buy. As of the second issue, which looked even more gorgeous, I'm ready to recommend the series. The Widow's lawyer, Isaiah, is an intriguing and mysterious character; I hope the cat featured in both issues continues to be in the series; and the series' theme of guilt and redemption is starting to float up to the surface. I'm interested, though I hope the art remains this strong. In mainstream comics, that tends not to be the case.
Keep reading? Yes. I liked the Widow's previous series and I like this one. Rare that a series doesn't start on some dilated and padded story-for-the-trade. I'd support the book on that basis alone.
All-New Invaders by James Robinson and Steve Pugh for Marvel. When it comes to Golden Age heroes, I like them all, but Marvel's Golden Age roots have always been on the bottom, somehow. Maybe it was that Frank Robbins art on 70s Invaders comics which I found ugly as a kid (I'm in the process of reevaluating Robbins now, which seems to be the trend), or that a lot of those characters were in the modern day anyway, so didn't feel special. Or maybe they really were less interesting than the heroes who made up the JSA and the All-Star Squadron. But James Robinson, champion of the obscure hero, could do them a world of good, right? Well, not really. Though there is a flashback to WWII, the series takes place in the present-day, with the original Human Torch, Captain America, Winter Soldier and Namor as loose members of the group (like Robinson's Earth2, there's no attempt to make them a team in the first issue, perhaps ever), fighting the Kree of all people. They might as well be another subgroup of the Avengers. Can't they make superhero comics that take place in WW2 anymore? I'm disappointed.
Keep reading? I want to say no, but I expect I'll probably read one or two more issues to better gauge Robinson's direction.
Black Dynamite by Brian Ash, Ron Wimberly and Sal Buscema for IDW. I'm a fan of film, so obviously, I'm interested in the 4-issue comic book mini-series. As far as the look goes, they're doing this weird intermittent thing with out-of-phase coloring and big 4-color dots to make it as retro as the exploitation look of the movie, but it's not quite as good. The tribute covers are a better wink to the past for sure. As far as the story goes, we pick up sometime after Dynamite beat Nixon in the film, and now wacky villains are popping up everywhere to face him and he's become a(nother) burden on the black community. Most of the humor comes from a catchphrase-heavy script, full of puns and references, but you'll have to supply your own delivery. It's amazing how much of the feel of Black Dynamite came from music and cool voices.
Keep reading? I'm not gonna call it the book of the year, but at only 3 more issues, I think I can dig it.
Lunar Lizard by Art Baltazar and friends for Thrillbent. Baltazar without Franco? It works! This collection of strips about a reptilian rocket scientist and his astronaut monkey Quigley is as charming as anything F&B have done together in the last few years. Would make a keen animated series too.
Keep reading? I don't know if there's more coming, but if there is, Baltazar can count on my support.

Watch for Part 2 later this week!


Matt Celis said...

Annoyingly I had a character called Black Dynamite about 20 years before the movie that was nearly the same...!

Noto art is almost enough to make me buy a Marvel comic.

Siskoid said...

I feel the same about Fables and Unwritten stealing my college ideas, and Warehouse 13 for launching months after my Warehouse 23 role-playing campaign wrapped.

Martin Gray said...

What an eclectic bunch. Have I got it right! that In Black Widow Natasha is trying to make amends for bad deeds by helping people as an assassin for hire. I must have that wrong!

Siskoid said...

Martin that is exactly right. She kills bad people so we don't have to! (Truth is, she gives the guy to the cops in the first issue, after hurting his goons, though I guess a couple others do die, and gets jumped by a bad guy, wanting revenge for his dead brother, who survives to fight another day in the second.)

Death toll's pretty low.

Martin Gray said...

Thanks. How I wish they'd go old school and make her Madame Natasha again, all furs and fags.

Siskoid said...

Some day...

Pendulum's bound to swing back our way SOME time, right?

Anonymous said...

Doc Savage would trade all his acolytes for Alfred Pennyworth in a heartbeat.

Anonymous said...

Doc Savage's sidekicks, especially Monk and Ham, existed solely to provide comedy relief. As for the Invaders, setting the series in the present seems pointless. The contemporary Marvel Universe is already so crowded with superheroes that they trip over each other while trying to fight a menace that any one of them could defeat single-handed.


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