July's Number Ones Part 2

Been a while longer than I'd planned - got distracted by a certain map - but here's the second part of my capsule reviews of new series that came out in July. For what it's worth, it'll probably spread to three. Anyway, are these things you'd be interested in? If not, save a dollar; if so, spend one.
Storm by Greg Pak and Victor Ibanez for Marvel. I'm all about Marvel's commitment to giving female heroes their own books, and Storm is a good-looking entry that doesn't seem to tie too much into X-shenanigans, which for me, is often a reason not to follow a book. Nightcrawler, for example. Other mutants are present, but it really is about Storm and not some meta-arc. But can they promise me it'll stay that way? One thing the book fails to do is present a clear premise or status quo. What will the title be ABOUT? I have no clue. Reading between the lines, it perhaps links back to Storm's status as a "goddess", and will treat her heroism as a vocation. In the first issue, she saves a village from a tsunami, gets involved in a fight against a military regime and connects with one of her students. It's all over the place, but thematically linked. I've heard some readers complain that Storm's skin is too thin, letting herself get angry and/or motivated by hurtful words. Maybe Pak is trying to characterize her as volatile and mercurial, like the weather. That's also a sound approach. It just hasn't all come together yet and this first issue feels like a spotlight issue or one-shot special. Where do we go from here?
Keep reading? On the fence. Pak hasn't sold me on his series, but he hasn't turned me off of it either.
Ragnarok by Walt Simonson for IDW. Ok, took me a second reading to latch onto the premise, but this is the Thor story that could never happen. Ragnarok, the Norse apocalypse, has happened, and we pick the saga up centuries(?) later. The Gods are dead, the Nine Worlds have fallen, what takes their place? Simonson's protagonist is a blue-skinned Elf assassin on a mission to kill a dead god (ostensibly, Thor), but it's the scenes from Ragnarok itself (Thor vs. the Midgard Serpent) that shine brightest. I'd hope for more "flashbacks" in future issues. The art is indisputably gorgeous, though - and I may be alone in this - I've always found Simonson works best with flat old school coloring. While colorist Laura Martin does an excellent job by modern standards, for me, it makes Simonson's art too detailed, harder to read. Regardless, it's an uncompromising dive into material Simonson knows extremely well, immersive and with few explanations. It's not as mainstream as Thor was, but promises to be a comparably epic journey.
Keep reading? Hard to get into, I fear this reader may need to catch himself up with each published issue, so... wait for the trade and read bigger chunks of the saga all in one go?
The Devilers by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Matt Triano for Dynamite's Creators Unleashed label. In the rash of new books about people battling the occult (Doctor Spektor, Outcast, The Empty Man, etc.), The Devilers is an immediate favorite. We're presented with a world at war with the forces of Hell itself, the Vatican in flames, and people with extraordinary abilities must be assembled to fight them. Pleasantly, while the Catholic Church's holy ground is ground zero, the Devilers have members from all the great religions. The story has a darkly humorous tone, but promises epic battles that would be at home in superhero comics, and found myself loving its irreverence. Triano's art fits the subject matter, in his element whether he's drawing facial expressions or really crazy demons. In issue 1, we get to know one of the Devilers rather well, and I would look forward to exploring the others as we move forward. Lots of potential.
Keep reading? Definitely. Looks to be a great action-horror series. Unleash all the creators you want, Dynamite!
The Life After by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Gabo for Oni Press. Fialkov has a SECOND series dropping in July, and I'm not entirely sure what to think of it. Which is kind of exciting, really. And I'd hate to blow the book's surprises, but it's hard to talk about it without doing so. I'll try to keep the spoilers as mild as possible. But then, if this is a vision of the afterlife, I'm not entirely sure how it works yet. My spoilers might yet be disproved. So okay, the story seems to fit at the crossroads of the Matrix, Dark City, the Diving Comedy and Second Life, and our protagonist's dreary, repetitive life is shaken up when he gets off the bus at the wrong stop, from which point, it's like a page of From Hell. What's going on? I'll have to get a second issue to find out. All the while, Gabo's anxious art gives the book an indie feel I respond to, detailed and only slightly surreal.
Keep reading? Another religiously-themed winner from Fialkov, it gets a second issue by virtue of the questions it asks. Hopefully, I'll like the answers.
Spread by Justin Jordan and Kyle Strahm for Image. Essentially a zombie apocalypse narrative, the Spread reimagines the threat as an infection that turns living beings into Lovecraftian monsters. It's also a survival piece, because the damage is long done and the protagonist, a silent badass called "No" (I find this a little confusing, personally) is "Spread immune" and fighting to keep a baby called Hope (not coincidentally) alive. That's right. It's Lone Wolf and Cub with monsters, and just as gory. Jordan's set-up works well enough, but the real star at this point is Strahm's art, bringing a sense of graphic fun to the insane graphic violence he produces for the book. The snowbound locations also create a stark contrast with the bloody creatures and their victims. It's like an amped-up version of Sweet Tooth.
Keep reading? Yes, I'd be interested in seeing how far they can take it. In the text piece at the end, Jordan talks about societies in decay and gives the Mad Max trilogy as an example, showing he's thinking about the long term. If he can mutate this book like the Spread mutates people, he might be able to sustain interest for a while yet.

Next time, and I won't make you wait long, five more #1s to close out the month.


Brigonos said...

Ragnarok was the Thor tale that was already told - half by Dan Jurgens in a hasty finish to a long-running arc that was aborted by editorial to do the Disassembled event, and then half again by Jurgens' replacement - Michael Avon Oeming - in the Disassembled tie-in story "Ragnarok" that wrapped up the character until JMS' revival years later.

Still, it's good to see IDW letting old hands like Simonson do the stories they never got around to in their day jobs.

Anonymous said...

I agree 100% about flat coloring. There are lots of artists whose work looks amazing with complex coloring- Esad Ribic, JH Williams III, Fiona Staples, etc.- but most older artists' work just looks muddy when over colored.

Worse is when older comics are recolored using modern methods. I was excited to finally read Dave Stevens's Rocketeer only to discover that the brilliant line work everyone loved was buried beneath too-prominent colors.

I like modern coloring, especially Jordy Bellaire's work. I just would like to see it applied more judiciously.

- Mike Loughlin

Siskoid said...

I had the same feeling about Simonson's Thor run in Marvel Visionaries. Super-bright colors and glossy paper made the 3-color dot process pop in a most distracting way. Felt like the days of Flexographic all over again.

Delta said...

Well, at the moment I'm re-reading the Simonson Thor Omnibus and I'm not offended by the color change there. Either side has its strengths in places to appreciate (kind of like a cover of a great song). I actually do appreciate things like the saturation level, the put-on-your-shades glowing rainbow bridge, etc. Maybe I'm just an easy audience.

Siskoid said...

Is the Omnibus on matte paper like the Kirby Omnibi? Because I don't mind that format at all. Possibly because it was recolored as well.

The Marvel Visionaries books were on glossy paper and I don't think recolored anything, so the red/yellow/blue dots showed up a lot, as opposed to looking like opaque washes of the proper shade.


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