April's Number Ones Part 2

Ready for another round of new first issues?
Solar Man of the Atom for Frank J. Barbiere and Joe Bennett for Dynamite/Gold Key. Seeing as I enjoyed the reality-gone-wrong premise of Jim Shooter's still recent revival of Solar at Dark Horse, and even Krul's very Solar-y Captain Atom at the New52, I wasn't entirely sure I needed another Man of the Atom book. However, the other Gold Key books have been very solid, so... We don't start with yet another origin(TM) and Solar's powers, expressed as pure physics, are capable of anything. It's cleverly done and still requires the hero to think, but it's a precarious tight rope. He soon loses control of his powers, which I hope isn't a sign of consistent nerfing to come. As in previous versions of the story, the hero has a woman in his life, this time an estranged daughter, which creates a dynamic we don't often see in superhero comics. What sold me on it though was that they managed to reference the terrible green skin from the old Whitman days. Barbiere's going into this with real love for the character.
Keep reading? It's almost too bad there aren't more Gold Key properties; I'd end up following them all.
The Eltingville Club by Evan Dorkin for Dark Horse. Can a 2-issue mini-series be called a series at all? When I'm trying to make you pick it up, it is! Evan Dorkin returns to characters originally developed for animation, and featured in his Dork series, to give them one final, pathetic send-off. Comics' four worst fans are more dreadful than ever in this absolute take-down of comic book store culture's darkest side (which unfortunately, is still with us in some quarters if I believe my Twitter feed). The quartet is bad, but the store owner is worse. See if you recognize people you know. Hilarious, twisted, and as with everything Dorkin, DENSE.
Keep reading? Just one more to go. An easy yes. I want to see these guys get their comeuppance.
Caliban by Garth Ennis, Facundo Percio and Sebastian Cabrol for Avatar. The Caliban is a mining ship at warp, with a bitchy skeleton crew overseeing the trip while everyone else sleeps. Then, disastrous first contact with an another species when an alien ship materializes partway inside it. It's Alien, but with more than a pinch of Lovecraftian horror. (And no Xenomorph figure as far as I can tell; the similarities end there.) For those who'll always remember Ennis for pushing the limits of good taste in Preacher, Punisher, etc., his recent work has kept it in its pants, so to speak. Just solid horror fare and strong characters. Rover Red Charlie is a favorite; could Caliban turn out as well? Percio's art is okay - I definitely like his alien stuff more than his human figures, but they're not unexpressive - the colors are a bit murky, however, and could use a subtler touch.
Keep reading? He's got me for a second issue at least. We'll see if Caliban is an Alien or if it's an Event Horizon.
Translucid by Claudio Sanchez, Chondra Echert and Daniel Bayliss for Boom! On one level, this is about a young boy with a hard life escaping through his superhero fantasies. On another, it IS those superheroes fantasies, strange ones that pit the armored Navigator and the super-criminal known as the Horse. There's a lot of lunacy at work here, and all beautifully drawn, with a slight indie sensibility. I love weird superhero stuff, and this fits the bill. The Horse is the best new villain of 2014 too. Where is this going? I have no idea, but that's why I want to be along on the ride.
Keep reading? Definitely.
Conan the Avenger by Fred van Lente and Brian Ching for Dark Horse. Okay, cards on the table: I am not really a Conan fan. I like him in the abstract, but have rarely been able to follow his adventures for long. There's something about sword & sorcery comics that doesn't appeal to me for some reason, and that extends to Conan, the best S&S franchise of them all. Brian Wood created an exception. I loved his Conan the Barbarian (or as it might have been called, Bêlit's Boyfriend Conan). By exploring his relationship with the pirate queen, Conan became a character rather than a cipher. Now that phase of his life is over and Dark Horse renumbers with The Avenger. I might have skipped it entirely as I have every other Conan project, but Fred "Do No Wrong" van Lente is writing it. He does no wrong, but I'm back where I started, wondering if I want to read about the Conan's aimless wandering WITHOUT Bêlit. And I probably don't. The first issue is all right, I suppose. It definitely follows from the events of the last series; Bêlit is in Conan's thoughts. Van Lente is always good at creating outrageous threats for his characters, and the injection of voodoo into the series could be fun. Ching's art is a bit sketchy and needs to be bolder, in my opinion, or perhaps I'm just distracted by his making one character look like Dr. Strange just walked in from one of the nether dimensions... on a boozer.
Keep reading? I'm willing to give a second issue a try, but the book's direction needs to become clear soon.
Elektra by W. Haden Blackman and Michael del Mundo for Marvel. This book tries way too much to look and sound like Elektra: Assassin. Del Mundo affects a style reminiscent of Bill Sienkiewicz, though less abstract, and Blackman's narrative boxes evoke Frank Miller's. Now that Miller's gone and lost his head, can't we just stop with the FM fetishization? DC is all Dark Knight Returns these days, and now this. At least Daredevil has escaped Millerization. The plot isn't quite as street-level as Miller's Marvel stuff though, as it features a cannibal assassin and a dinosaur island, but the style takes the insane joy out of it for me. It feels retrograde.
Keep reading? It's not bad work, it's just not for me.
The 7th Sword by John Raffo and Nelson Blake II for IDW. Owing more to samurai films than science-fiction, The 7th Sword nevertheless mashes the two together. A village is under siege from a wicked warlord's robots and artificial beings and our hero, Daniel Cray, reluctantly pulls his legendary sword out of its scabbard to help. Raffo is normally a scriptwriter (he wrote Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, for example) and this his first comics work. As such, it's fine, though he perhaps throws too many ideas in the pot when it comes to the warlord's forces (leave some for later, why don't you?). Blake does a good job with the art, but it's not always as visceral as the material might want it to be. In short, it could leave you cold. I was furthermore put off by some of the "screenwriting" going on - ham-fisted exposition, an Asian story told with Caucasian characters, and weak roles for women. Those are movie tics I could have done without.
Keep reading? I'm sorry. It's not uninteresting, but just doesn't have enough to keep me going.
Southern Bastards by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour for Image. It starts with a splash page of a dog pooping by the side of the road and goes from there... So it's a surprise that Southern Bastards isn't quite as irreverent as page 1 would make it out to be. We follow Earl Tubb, just returned to his small Southern town where he isn't wanted. The book avoids being straight-up hicksploitation thanks to Latour's cool art. The colors are moody and stylish. The transitions cleverly show how Earl lives in both the past and the present; he's a man haunted. But I'm not necessarily connecting with the material. Aaron and Latour are both southern boys, and ex-pats at that, but I can't tell if Southerners will find the portrayal amusing and recognizable, or smug and insulting. I've lived in central Texas, but people weren't like this obviously, so my experience of "good old boys" is rather limited. Perhaps that's why this world doesn't particularly engage me?
Keep reading? Based on the art and the mysteries set up in the first issue, I might be willing to try another. We'll see.

So that wraps up April's number ones for me. Did you try these and like them/hate them? Did you try any others? Say, Inhuman or Sinestro? You might let us know what you thought in the comments.


Rex Kidd said...

Eltingville Club is the only one of these I read (not counting Aquaman and the Others from the previous post), and to be honest it's the only one I care about.

I wish I was a good worder like you because it's for real like dude the best

Siskoid said...

It's definitely the best book on here.


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