May's Number Ones

Here we go again... Either the comic book companies are slowing down on launching new series, or I am in checking them out. Whatever the case may be, it's going to be done in a single article, this time.
Mars Attacks  - First Born by Chris Ryall and Sam Keith for IDW. I'm a big fan of Mars Attacks, so this was a no-brainer for me. Except it's missing a little something. The series features an unlikely trio trying to survive after a Martian attack - Uncle Woody as patriarch, his blinded and naive niece, and... a Martian baby! It's a new twist on the franchise, but despite cartoony pastel artwork from Sam Keith, it plays things far straighter than most Mars Attacks projects. And certainly, the cartoon sadism that's been a part of MA! since the original trading cards is almost completely missing. I'm really missing Layman and McCrea here! Still, the next issue promises a bit more invasion action, so it could all balance out in #2. For now, the tone feels a little off even if the story has, arguably, potential.
Keep reading? I try to read every Mars Attacks comic that's put out (strangely, I have no real affection for the film), so yes, but I could end up regretting it.
Deadly Hands of Kung Fu by Mike Benson, Tan Eng Huat and Craig Yeung for Marvel. If the Spider-Island Shang-Chi mini had gone to series, I'd have been all over it. This 4-issue mini? It's pretty awful. Where to begin? Well, how about the fact it begins with the brutal murder of Leiko Wu, Shang's love interest from his classic series, ripped apart by silly "can't pick his nose" villain Razorfist? What is this, the New52? Shang-Chi obviously goes to London to investigate the murder, but not before a gratuitous action scene out of some Jackie Chan movie AND a useless page to cover his plane trip. What bizarre pacing. When Huat draws martial arts, it's usually pretty fun, but the colorist is giving Shang-Chi light brown hair that makes him look distinctly Caucasian. Girlfriend in the fridge dreck, I'm afraid.
Keep reading? No. A major disappointment, full of major fumbles.
Infinite Crisis - Fight for the Multiverse by Dan Abnett, Carl Potts, Larry Stroman and Trevor Scott (then Szymon Kudranski as of issue 2) for DC. This new digital-first weekly has a familiar name, one that has been repurposed for an online superhero game. I haven't tried it, but the series based on it means to offer a non-canon(?) Crisis that could threaten to steal some of the upcoming Multiversity's thunder. Because these come out more quickly than paper comics and are much cheaper, I read the first three chapters and... I think Multiversity's thunder is safe. Look, it's not too bad, as far as these things go. Harbinger is aware evil forces will rend the multiverse asunder and recruits heroes from all over the 52 Earths. The first issue is a big expository scene giving us the context, and the one hero from Earth-Prime recruited is (please refrain from feigning surprise) Batman. Dan Abnett has a huge canvas he can play with, and yet, the world-building is minimal, the choices obvious and absent any risk. If I take, for example, something like Ame-Comi Girls, which also had the ability to recast well-known characters, Infinite Crisis really pales in comparison. By chapter 3, it starts feeling more like Countdown Arena than anything else.
Keep reading? Another failure. It feels scattershot and has bizarrely paced. I'm not going to stick with it. Let me know if a new version of Superman shows up, 'kay?
 C.O.W.L. by Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel and Rod Reis for Image. Well, that wasn't really what the cover evoked, was it? It attracted me with the promise of a pulp feel, and I've liked Kyle Higgins' work in the past, but the sort of Batman Inc. I got, with superheroes getting paid to patrol the city, wasn't quite that and left me wondering if I need to read another deconstructionist superhero book where antiheroes are comfortable with peeing on one another, having affairs, etc. It takes place in the 60s, but aside from a couple references here and there, could be today. Reis' dark painted artwork is distinctive, but doesn't make the CHARACTERS particularly distinctive, and when you're meeting a large cast, that's a bit of an issue. C.O.W.L. ties into Higgins' short film The League, and I'm sure its fans will dig this continuation, but having only seen the trailer, it's not necessarily part of the draw for me.
Keep reading? I'd like to support it, but I don't think I can afford to add a book to my stack that only rates an "ok".
Trees by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard for Image. When it comes to high concept sci-fi, Warren Ellis is the king. Where it goes from the premise, that can vary. In Trees, massive giant trunks have planted themselves on Earth, alien objects/creatures that do not seem to recognize humanity's presence. They're a mystery, and we've learned to live with them despite the occasional danger they still represent. The first issue takes to different places where the Trees have a presence - Rio, New York, China, Spitsbergen - where different characters with different concerns live in the shadow of these great enigmas. With striking art by Jason Howard, this could be a memorable and unusual invasion story from Ellis.
Keep reading? Most definitely.
Doctor Spektor, Master of the Occult by Mark Waid and Neil Edwards for Dynamite. This one has the potential to dethrone Magnus Robot Fighter from its spot as as the best Gold Key revamp published by Dynamite. Doctor Spektor is a reality TV star, going after for-realz supernatural threats on his show, but despite the ratings, plagued by depression and haunted by the spirit of someone he's all but forgotten. Some nice action beats show how someone as rich and resourceful as this version of Spektor would battle occult threats, but Waid is quick to focus on character once those are done. Neat references to the other three Gold Key series as well. This character perhaps doesn't have the star power (ironically) of Turok, Solar and Magnus, but I hope Waid's involvement will bring it to the right readers' attention.
Keep reading? Oh yes, Mark Waid does it again.
Madame Frankenstein by Jamie S. Rich and Megan Levens for Image. This black and white book retells the Frankenstein story in the 30s, with a woman as the monster, but because it does, it fails to feel in any way fresh and surprising. I'm not even sure I buy the doctor's motivation. It seems like he wants to resurrect a woman he cared about, but knows full well she's a different person/thing now, his "perfect woman", so which is it? Unlike the original novel, it looks like this monster will have to go through a My Fair Lady regimen, but in the first issue, it's mostly growling and running around hairless and naked. Not to say it feels exploitative. Levens' work doesn't cheesecake things up, and in general, her art has a lyrical quality in the way it transitions from scene to scene. But what the heck is the bit with the fairies? If I'm frustrated, it's because the book is always in one of two modes - either it's slow-paced and ambiguous, or it's just things happening because they must. In both cases, a little more explanation is needed.
Keep reading? A hard sell. I found some things pleasant, others left me ice cold. So probably not.

Well, that's it for me. I guess I'll see you with new number ones in early July!


SallyP said...

I haven't read it yet, but that cover for Trees, is simply amazing.

Jeff R. said...

So did you manage to luckily avoid Future's End based on technicalities? (First issue was a #0 last month, #1 this month wasn't the first issue, that sort of thing?)

Siskoid said...

Well I won't read EVERYTHING. And I definitely have no interest in Futures End (covered #0 in a Reign of the Supermen column though).

Another gap, covered Justice League United #0 in its own article, but didn't cover #1 in one of these.

But yeah, like, didn't cover Sinestro #1 either. Take it as a non-recommendation if you like.

jdh417 said...

I'm still waiting for a comics adaption of Lady Frankenstein.

Just kidding.


Unknown said...

I might look into Infinite Crisis on a lark, if only to do that thing where I post stupid panels on twitter.

Of these I only read Deadly Hands of Kung Fu and COWL, and I don't think I'll be coming back to either one myself. COWL I think there's a lot to like about on paper but the first issue was just plain boring.


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