March of the Number Ones

It's been a while since I reviewed some new number ones; consequently, some new series have gotten to #2! So without further ado, let's look at what's recommendable out there from the previous month (still in stores, I'm sure!)...
Jem and the Holograms by Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell for IDW. That's right, Jem. I'm not ashamed of saying I read this comic, or even that I watched the 80s cartoon (it was the top-rated animated series of its day, after all), not that I necessarily remember much about it. 30 years after it premiered as a toy and series, it's back, and writer Kelly Thompson has correctly identified that Jem was really about the "modern woman". Except that concept has changed since 1985, and Thompson promises to update it for 2015. The premise hasn't changed though - it's still about four sisters in a rock band going up against the ethically challenged Misfits with the help of holographic tricks. On the show, lead singer Jerrica used the holographic Jem persona to escape her own popularity, but in the comic, she uses it to combat crippling stage fright, which adds an interesting layer of complexity because Jerrica's fear seems to stem from what she thinks of her appearance. Will Thompson explore this insecurity? Possibly. We can't exactly say the book pushes a certain body image; pleasantly, the characters represent different body types, which isn't always par for the course in comics. Campbell's art has an anime-inspired style that works well for intimate conversations, humor and quiet, wordless moments - I was actually a little sad to see the genre stuff barge two-thirds in because it worked so well as soap drama.
Recommended? You certainly don't need to know the cartoon to enjoy the comic, and this seems a nice aspirational fantasy series, not just for young female readers, but for everyone who likes well made all-ages (which isn't to say "children's") comics.
Secret Identities by Jay Faerber, Brian Jones and Ilias Kyriazis for Image. Superheroes in Toronto? Marvel needs to put out an Alpha Flight ongoing to compete with DC's JLU and Image's Secret Identities! Of course, the Front Line isn't strictly a Canadian team - the U.S. president's daughter is on the team - but it's based there in one of the craziest HQs I've ever seen. Secret Identities is the story of what happens when an established super-team inducts a traitor into its ranks, one who wants to learn every member's secrets in order to destroy them. And boy, do they have secrets! Every character on the team has something interesting to say, and I'm doubly glad to see none of them are Justice League or Avengers clones. Faerber and Jones' heroes are built on interesting premises in and of themselves, and could legitimately make up a coherent and varied comics line. Kyriazis' art is pleasant and expressive, full of little touches, a perfect fit for a series about a group of superheroes we have to "get" right away. One issue in, and I was as invested in this world as I might be in a long-running universe like DC or Marvel.
Recommended? Straight up superheroics with interesting characters that provide neat twists on the usual tropes. It's a winner.
Ei8ht by Rafael Albuquerque and Mike Johnson for Dark Horse. I'm a sucker for a time travel story, and this one's conceit is that things can get lost through time (think of the Bermuda Triangle, for example) and all end up in a timeless plane called the Meld. Such is the fate of our protagonist Joshua, a time traveler who soon seems trapped in a predestination paradox. Albuquerque and Johnson are weaving a complex tale that, like its subject matter might suggest, goes forwards and backwards through time from page to page. Joshua has flashbacks to help fill the holes in his memory, but the comic also goes back to the beginnings of the human community in the Meld. To help guide the reader, each time frame is color coded, forcing Albuquerque into a distinctive Spartan palette. And of course, there's a mystery surrounding the number 8, which is also the infinity symbol. It's all pretty intriguing, especially as the story strands come together and double back on one another. Presumably, it'll read differently when it's all said and done and the second-turn reader knows what's happening. Like the best time travel stories.
Recommended? Time travel fanatics should find something they like; SF fans as well. Nice art, interesting story.
Howard the Duck by Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones for Marvel. I wasn't sure about this one, going in. After all, Howard hasn't REALLY been relevant since Steve Gerber wrote him, and I've never grown accustomed to his "movie" look (now that Disney owns Marvel, why can't he look like Donald Duck again?). And hey, I miss the cigar. But Zdarsky hasn't tried to recreate Gerber's duck tales, he's bringing his own brand of comedy... and it's hilarious! A cheeky series poking fun at comics from both sides of the Marvel/DC divide and comics tropes besides. When you don't think it can get any crazier, it does. Howard may be a private detective at the start of the story, but he's on a big tour of the Marvel universe, so that's not any kind of status quo. Don't worry about it and just enjoy the ride.
Recommended? I'll recommend any comic that's made me laugh out loud.

March was a big month. More to come...



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