April's Number Ones Part 1

Save you a dollar, cost you a dollar. Will this month's recommendations (or condemnations) get you to pick up a new series or give one a pass in spite of your initial interest? Let's see, shall we?
Aquaman and the Others by Dan Jurgens, Lan Medina and Allen Martinez for DC. While intellectually, I'm quite happy to see a second Aquaman book on the stands, the story line that introduced the Others was the one that made me finally quit the home book. While the art was pretty and I'm a big fan of the King of the Seven Seas, the writing was already decontracted enough that spending time with so many new characters that were apparently important in Aquaman's life before just felt like it slowed everything down to a crawl. But is there hope for a series that's actually dedicated to these guys, or are they doomed to become the next Outsiders with Aquaman in the Batman role? Well, at least the Others, disparate as they are design-wise, have a better connection than being in Markovia for one reason or another on the same day. They each use artifacts from the same Atlantean treasure trove. Otherwise, some pretty different guys - a masked soldier who calls on ghosts, a jungle girl with a pet panther, an aging superspy, and a Native American shaman. Interesting skill sets. They're brought together again because the artifacts are failing, and as with most of Jurgens' efforts, it's solid superhero stuff. It's also a testament to Geoff Johns' initial concepts that each of them could hold his or her own, probably short-lived, series. That's both a plus and a minus. A plus because I think they each have a lot of potential. A minus because thinking of them as solo stars is a product of their heterogeneous designs.
Keep reading? At least in the short term, because Jurgens' "solids" can, over time, become a little dull.
Iron Fist the Living Weapon by Kaare Kyle Andrews for Marvel. I was a huge fan of Immortal Iron Fist, so the new series really needed to wow me. As far as the art goes, it does. It's gorgeous work. Pretty, moody, clever and exciting. Danny Rand is a man, like his building, who is still standing, but is more or less an empty shell. He needs a new purpose, and this series hopes to give it to him. The themes work, as do the crazy action beats. I'm less enthused about spending so much time on Iron Fist's origin (and it looks like it'll be serialized over several issues), because that's a story we've seen before, and fairly recently too. I don't begrudge new readers a chance to learn about an admittedly lesser-known superhero, but Immortal did such a good job with all things K'un-L'un and the Iron Fist legacy, I'd rather we move forward. I'm also not keen of Brenda introduced in the issue, a bimbo who shares a night with Danny only to find herself embroiled in events. Look, wrong place, wrong time, let's just leave it at that and let this vapid nymph go home while she's ahead, ok?
Keep reading? Yes, if only for the art and the loyalty I owe the character.
Nightcrawler by Chris Claremont and Todd Nauck for Marvel. I recognize a lot of elements from when I was an avid reader of the X-Men, i.e. Chris Claremont's original run up to the point where the book and team split in two in the very early 90s. Nightcrawler's classic look, the cute Bamfs from Kitty's Fairy Tale and Kurt's mini-series, Amanda, some Excalibur love as well. I just don't understand how they fit in the impenetrable jigsaw the X-books continue to be. With the X-characters, I always feel a bit lost, which is why I dropped Wolverine with the renumbering and won't give All New Doop a try even if it would probably tickle my sensibilities. It looks like I'm not just judging Nightcrawler here, but every new X-related book likely to come out (Cyclops, etc.). That's not to say the issue is at all bad. Claremont clearly loves the characters and lends the book a sense of fun, and Nauk feels like a perfect fit, bringing the same energy to Nightcrawler he did to Young Justice way back when. I just can't seem to care about the world the characters are living in.
Keep reading? Not me, but X-fans will find a lot to like, I think.
Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis and Brooke Allen for Boom! Moonrise Kingdom meets Juice Squeezers meets Adventure Time with an all-girl cast and crew! Lumberjanes is about five friends, each this world's equivalent of a "girl scout" who like to go out in the woods at night and have adventures. The woods turn out to be rather fantastical, but the characters more than able to take care of themselves. But can they tell their camp counselor about the ravenous three-eyed foxes they fought? One of my very favorite comics of the month, Lumberjanes is charming, funny, dynamic and completely off the wall. In a single issue, the characters are smoothly differentiated both through looks and personality, and you're never sure what the junk is going to happen next. This is the year for female-led books, and Lumberjanes is going to be a quirky and awesome little gem in that vein.
Keep reading? You bet.
Shutter by Joe Keatinge and Leila del Duca for Image. Another female-led book, this one about Kate Kristopher, raised to follow in her family's foot steps and become a great explorer. As a child, she was. As an adult, she's a bit listless and doesn't know what she wants to do. I suppose this is about imagination and the loss thereof. I like Kate, and the flashbacks to her youth feature some of that crazy, anything-can-happens stuff I like from my comics. However, the book might go just a little too far. I wonder if exploration is really that amazing a life in a world where creatures and aliens seem to walk the streets like it's all normal. Or maybe that's the point? I can't quite tell. I suppose I'd rather that anything-goes quality have wonder and not feel common place, if that makes any sense. I was debating whether to give Shutter a recommendation when some back-up strips happened. Not only do these add value to the book, they're really quite fun, especially Tiger Lawyer.
Keep reading? Yes, but I won't be patient forever. Hopefully the craziness will feel more and more thematic as the story moves along. It can't just be random ideas thrown at the page.
Skinned by Tim Daniel, Jeremy Holt and Joshua Gowdy for Monkeybrain. The SF premise is an interesting one. Everyone is fitted with contact lenses that allow them to change the way they see reality by choosing different "skins", some ready-made, some custom, some even black market. It certainly has potential, and Gowdy's pretty, indie art lends itself well to visual experimentation. But that's not the story. The story is, at this point anyway, a forbidden romance between a rich girl and street boy, and very much wrapped up in social norms we as readers are only finding out about. Aldair's parents have just "lensed" her newborn sibling and that's apparently a sore point as well. At the very least, we've got a world to explore, while following the plot beats of a rebellious teenage romance. It worked for Saga.
Keep reading? Oh you know me and Monkeybrain. Of course I'll keep reading.
The Field by Ed Brisson and Simon Roy for Image. This four-issue mini starts with our protagonist waking up naked in a wheat field with no(?) memory of what's happening, who is chasing him, or who's sending him text message warnings. He's soon picked up by a rather perverse and unstable character and it goes on from there. The Field #1 plays like the first act of a thriller, and asks a lot of questions. Answers are forthcoming. The more extreme things get, the more you question the reality of the situation, so it could yet turn into a Twilight Zone or Outer Limits episode. I don't know yet. What I do know is that The Field has my attention, and I'm hoping it turns into as solid a "comic book movie" as, say, Diggle and Jock's Snapshot.
Keep reading? I'm probably in for a second issue, but I can't confirm it. Probably dependent on a quick flip-through first.
Rai by Matt Kindt and Clayton Crain for Valiant. Back in the old Valiant days, I loved both Magnus and Rai, the two "Robot Fighters". With Magnus going to Dynamite's Gold Key imprint, I remember thinking it was too bad Rai wouldn't get a revival. Valiant's decided to go ahead anyway, but they're really made Rai's future world distinct from the one in, well, any version of Magnus' comics. The robots in future Japan can more or less pass off as human, except for the tell-tale circle they have in their foreheads, and it seems to be Rai's job to keep the piece between man and machine. He's got a circle in his forehead too, so I guess he's a machine as well, but there's just so much world-building going on that it's hard to latch onto anything solid about the lead character at this point, which is unfortunate. We're mostly in Lula's head, a young girl whose life suddenly intersects Rai's, and she's good at explaining what's going on. I just feel like I'm always playing catch-up is all. Crain's delivers painted artwork on this book, which isn't my favorite thing in the world even if it is quite pretty. It just contributes to the book's density as far as I'm concerned, and could mean this book will be late in the future, or else suffer from wildly shifting aesthetic.
Keep reading? I'm gonna give it one or two more issues, because I liked the original Rai series and trust Kindt as a writer, but it's got to gel for me fast.

We're not done! I'll look at eight other comics that spawned a #1 in April, next week. Make more room on your pull list, folks!


Anonymous said...

The only thing you need to know about "Nightcrawler" #1 is that he's still getting it on with his sister. Thanks Claremont!


Siskoid said...

Complex sexual politics is his bread and butter!

SallyP said...


But Aquaman and the Others...seriously, the "Others" They really aren't even trying! Aquaman and Those People who have Obscure Powers and Only Show Up Occasionally, would be a much better name.

Siskoid said...

It's still... complicated, Sally.

As for the Those People..., they'd have had to change their name because they won't show up occasionally anymore.

Too bad "Outsiders" was taken by Green Arrow.

But really, we could go to names trademarked by DC already. Like, I dunno, Primal Force?

CalvinPitt said...

Nightcrawler was the only new first issue for me this month. I really liked it. Nauck's art looked better to me than it ever has (I recently started picking his and PAD's Young Justice run and Nauck's pretty hit-or-miss even within a single issue).

I get what you're saying about the risk of it being too tied up in other X-Books, but I guess I'm trusting Claremont to go off and do his own thing, only paying attention to whatever suits him. That seems to be the Marvel style these days, anyway. And I trust he can work what he uses in without being too jarring. I may wind up being the fool, though.

Roger Nowhere said...

Perhaps Aquaman and his expendable secondaries would be better?

Personaly I recommend Flash Gordon (Dynamite). The first issue was really good.

Jayunderscorezero said...

Flash Gordon: enthusiastically seconded!

Martin Gray said...

Siskoid, I also jumped off Aquaman with the others, but came back for Jeff Parker's writing. Detect give it a try now.


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