Saturday, November 18, 2017
Home  >  Features  >  Number 1 Bullets Comic Reviews: January 18, 2017

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Geoff takes a look at a new batch of first issues, this week it's CURSE WORDS #1, GOD COUNTRY #1, THE FEW #1, MONSTERS UNLEASHED #1, THE MIGHTY CAPTAIN MARVEL #1, and JLA REBIRTH: THE RAY #1.

 

 

CURSE WORDS #1 (Image Comics)-

3.0 Stars

Crazy wizards are dropping into modern New York City in the magical first issue of Charles Soule's new series from Image Comics, CURSE WORDS #1. Wizord might have one of the most uninspired names for a wizard I have ever come across but he definitely has a sense of style. The issue opens with what is basically the classic wizard archetype exchanging spells for money in a fully modern New York. While this is rather comical and quirky the real bulk of the issue is told via a flashback to his arrival in our world. Appearing out of thin air in Central Park, Wizord is initially hostile and cruel as he stumbles through the city completely lacking the context and language to properly interact with those around him. Over the course of a few weeks his desire to destroy this world is softened as he begins to sense the peace and good nature of the people in it. When he decides to spare his new found home those who sent him on his mission send another evil wizard to finish what he started and the ensuing clash is just the start of the violence to come.

What began as a rather lighthearted farce of a comic evolved into something quite dark by the end of the first issue. Soule has created a world that is rather absurd on the surface but hides some real depth when you look closer at the story being told. Wizord arrives on Earth on a mission to destroy it, dispatched by the evil lord of The Hole World. It is this connection that will come back to haunt him, both physically and emotionally as the member of his former cadre are sent one by one to finish the job he started. The one who began his journey as a destroyer has not become the savior of our planet. While I really do think this is an interesting setup for a series the issue as a whole still fell rather flat. Wizord is interesting and quirky as a character but I did not find anything new in this issue that really spoke to me as a reader. A wizard coming to our world as a super powered being and deciding to fight for it is a story we have all seen countless times as comic book readers. Same with the idea that he as rebelled against his masters and more dark wizards will be coming in the future for him to fight. For a writer of Soule's caliber I was rather surprised to be as uninspired by this new series as I am.

The art from Ryan Browne does not help the situation either. His work is adequate but lacks the sense of scale one would expect from wizards dueling amongst the skyscrapers of New York City. The rough style of the pencils and the rather plain backgrounds do a competent job of telling the story but did not leave an impression on me in any way. Soule is a great writer with an established track record of excellent work so there is a good chance this series will rise to that caliber over time but as a first issue meant to grab readers I found it rather rote.

 

GOD COUNTRY #1 (Image Comics)-

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The new release from Image Comics, GOD COUNTRY #1, mixes a level of raw emotion rarely seen in comics with far more common trope of cosmic good and evil. Written by Donny Cates this story is told via an unknown narrator that relates the tale to the reader. It is done in this familiar style like an old friend telling you a story and it immediately sets the tone for the series. Emmett Quinlan is suffering from Alzheimer's Disease and his son Roy has returned to the small Texas town in which he grew up to take care of him. The struggle with the disease comes to a violent head just as a strange storm blows through town and deposits a demon like creature that immediately goes after Roy and his family. The storm also brought with it a magical sword that finds its way into Emmett's hands, imbuing him with god like powers and seemingly curing his Alzheimer's.

I meant what I said in regards to how hard this book hits on an emotional level. Donny Cates begins this issue with a very real look at how Alzheimer's can tear families apart. Emmett is angry and violent and his son has uprooted his entire family in an effort to care for him. After one particularly bad episode involving the police Emmett's outbursts finally cross the line as he lashes out at his own granddaughter. The way this particular scene is written and drawn is harrowing. Emmett is depicted like a monster, both in his words and his appearance. The encounter is so harsh that Roy's wife delivers an ultimatum to either put Emmett in a home or she is leaving with their daughter. Again, Cates writes this exchange with such raw emotion that it is almost painful to read. The horrible decision Roy is now faced with is only alleviated by the sudden storm that sets the science fiction aspect of this story into effect. Truth be told the family's struggle with the disease was far more compelling than the gods and monsters conflict at the end of the issue. Though the magical sword seemed to cure Emmett I hope that the very real story about how Alzheimer's impacts families is not relegated to this one introductory issue.

Geoff Shaw draws the hell out of this issue. His style is sketchy with lost of cross hatching and use of blacks but it is done to great effect. The 'acting' from the characters via his art is really good and the way that he draws Emmett as a literal monster is so well done I just feel that I cannot mention it enough. GOD COUNTRY #1 is a good read that I hope continues to focus on the family dynamic that is far more interesting than the swords and monsters portion of the story. I think this issue was a strong start for a new series and I will definitely be sticking with it for issue number two to see where it goes.

 

THE FEW #1 (Image Comics)-

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It is another bleak look at the future of humanity in THE FEW #1 releasing this week from Image Comics. Written by Sean Lewis with art by Hayden Sherman THE FEW #1 is set in an undetermined future in which the United States has collapsed and a new power called The Palace has risen. There is also a reference to a lack of clean water in the map but no mention of this the actual book itself. Edan Hale is a young woman traveling with a group of survivors who are set up by bandits. She escapes along with an infant and stumbles into the good graces of two young resistance fighters that were hiding out in the woods. Having won their trust they reveal to her that they are part of The Few, one of the last militias fighting against The Palace. It is only on the last page and in the character profile at the end of the book that the reader learns that Edan herself is a soldier for The Palace on a mission to infiltrate The Few.

The post apocalyptic setting of this book is nothing new to comics, in face I would argue that is has been an overused plot device in the last few years. With all that said THE FEW #1 still manages to be an intriguing title that sets a good foundation with which to tell a new story. Sean Lewis writes a very cold open for a first issue. The reader is thrown into the comic in the midst of the action and the background we are given is extremely brief. There is little to no world building at all and the little that is provided comes from the map that precedes the comic and the character brief for Edan which comes after the close of the issue. All of this means that readers are left with tons of questions about what in the world is going on and with no idea of where this story is going but I think in this case it really works as a positive. I admit I was frustrated with the complete lack of any characterization or plot but the more I think about it the more I find myself anxiously waiting for issue number two so I can get back to it and learn more.

Hayden Sherman's art perfectly matches the bleak tone of the words. The comic is done in an almost all while color pallet were the splashes of red blood offer a stark contrast. I like Sherman's loose pencils but one drawback to this style is that the action and characters are very hard to make out. Everything blurs together in a sketchy white and blue mess of pencils and characters are very hard to recognize from one panel to the next. This art direction mixed with the thin characters and plot make this a hard book to get into but I do think there is something special here and its lack of details has hooked me enough to give the second issue a shot to see where it goes. The post apocalyptic world has been done to death but if you want to dip your toes into those well traveled waters again THE FEW #1 is a good place to start. The issue is oversized and be sure to read the supplemental material because it will fill you in on key plot points absent in the script.

 

MONSTERS UNLEASHED #1 (Marvel Comics)-

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Civil War II has just concluded and the next big event from Marvel Comics kicks off this week with MONSTERS UNLEASHED #1. Cullen Bunn pens a script which is a nice departure from heroes fighting each other, alien invasions, or super villains. This time it is monsters crashing down from space and wreaking havoc on the population centers all over the world. The various groups of super heroes spring into action all in an effort to stem the tide of destruction. Meanwhile Elsa Bloodstone embarks on a mission to track down the ancient prophecies that have foretold of this event since the dawn of mankind. The final hope may lay in the hands of Kei Kawade, a new character introduced in Totally Awesome Hulk #3 who has the power to summon monsters via drawings. The question is, are these monsters here to help or are they connected to the creatures falling from the sky?

Cullen Bunn covers a lot of ground and includes a huge cast of characters in this first issue. Avengers, X-men, and Inhumans battling crazy space monsters from San Francisco to Wakanda. This issue definitely had the epic scale and feel of a Marvel event book and it lived up to the hype. Serving as a set up for not only the main series but also the side stories that will be covered in individual character books MONSTERS UNLEASHED #1 did a good job of setting the stage for what is to come. The reveal of the monster threat was fun the action was appropriately over the top. Skillfully woven in was the Indiana Jones style adventure of discovery that Elsa Bloodstone is on to trace back the source of this monster invasion. This plot thread was well executed and saves the issue from just being a bunch of splash pages full of fighting and bad super hero quips and one liners. Speaking of one liners, my god this issue is full of really bad ones. I know it is a big action book that should not be taken too seriously but the cheese factor in dialogue of the fight scenes is just over the top and pulls the reader out of the moment as you roll your eyes over and over.

The pencils in this issue are by far the highlight and that should not come as a surprise when they are coming from super star artist Steve McNiven. From cover to cover this book is beautifully drawn and the scale of the event allows McNiven to go crazy with some amazing splash pages full of characters and action. My only critique would the be the design of the monsters themselves. They were designed with too many limbs and seemingly have eyes all over their bodies. It was all too complicated and made some of the action hard to follow as you could never tell whether the monsters were coming or going, it was just a mash up of tentacles and eyeballs all over the page. As an event book MONSTERS UNLEASHED #1 was a nice action packed start to a story that I admit to having little to no interest in. It is well drawn and fun to flip through but nothing about it grabbed me in a way that made me want to invest in it as one of the years tentpole releases. I think readers should at least check out the first issue and see if the story gets its hooks into you but I am going to pass on the rest of the series as well as the tie ins.

 

THE MIGHTY CAPTAIN MARVEL #1 (Marvel Comics)-

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Civil War II is over and it is time for Carol Danvers to get back to the business of protecting the planet in THE MIGHTY CAPTAIN MARVEL #1 from Marvel Comics. Written by newcomer Magaret Stohl this issue finds Carol and Alpha Flight dealing with the current refugee crisis and the looming Chitauri threat. When a shapeshifting bounty hunter attempts to kidnap a young Kree girl from one of the refugee camps Captain Marvel springs into action. With the young girl safe and sound on the Alpha Flight space station Carol consults the council in regards to how to deal with the flood of aliens looking to Earth as a safe haven only to be met with discussions of bureaucracy and budget cuts. All the while the shape changing bounty hunter looms in the background and there might be more to the story of the young Kree child than Carol knows.

This is Stohl's first work in comic books and unfortunately it shows. The overall story is fine but it does not flow well at all from start to finish or even panel to panel. The book is just incredibly disjointed in both plot and structure. There is the awkward opening wherein Carol is overseeing a Captain Marvel TV show, because all of a sudden Alpha Flight is so desperate for funding that she is forced to license her likeness out for a cheesy action show? Then the raid on the refugee site which is initially drawn to show a group of US soldiers perpetrating the attack but when Carol arrives it is now one lone shape changer. The confrontation with the alien has a strange twist in which the moon is drawn on one panel but then in the next it is not a moon but rather a space pod. Finally, the young Kree on the Alpha Flight station interacts and speaks in such an odd way but none of it is conveyed to the reader in a way that lets us know the author's intentions for the character. Is her gibberish intentional or ironic? I read the issue twice and I have no idea, in fact I have no idea of where this story is going at all.

The art by Ramon Rosanas is a step down from the previous Captain Marvel title and suffers from the same poor panel transitions as the story but that could be partly blamed on the script. The pencils lack detail in the character designs and Captain Marvel herself looks really awkward in certain panels with odd facial expressions and some strange anatomy contortions. I have been loving the Captain Marvel books from the last few years so I am disappointed that this new series is off to a rough start. Coming off her starring role in Civil War II and her impending big screen debut I am surprised Marvel Comics handed their premier female character to a creator completely new to the medium. Hopefully the series will improve with time but as it stands now THE MIGHTY CAPTAIN MARVEL #1 is not a good comic book issue and does not live up to the strong track record of the volumes that preceded it.

 

JLA REBIRTH: THE RAY #1 (DC Comics)-

3.0 Stars.gif

The JLA Rebirth series continues this week with JLA REBIRTH: THE RAY #1 from DC Comics. JLA scribe Steve Orlando gives readers another origin story in this build up to the debut of the new Justice League of America title. Ray has been kept out of the light for his entire life. His body absorbs light and releases it with deadly consequences, sometimes completely out of his control. His mother had him convinced it was a disease and that he would die if he ever ventured beyond his front door. A life of feeling invisible comes to a head when Ray finally does push the boundaries of his small world and takes his first steps outside. His first social interaction goes horribly wrong as his powers kick into effect and the absorption of energy causes Ray to vanish in a violent explosion. Having spent his entire life hidden away from the world Ray uses his new found literally invisibility to find escape in the ether. He finally rises to the occasion when his one and only friend is threatened and he leaps into action as The Ray.

Orlando writes a tight origin story that will tell readers all they need to know about one of DC Comics more obscure superheroes. As a child Ray raised on classic heroic tales wherein those with power would stand up for the marginalized and the weak. His time spent invisible traveling the world warped this view as he witnessed humanity's tendency to be cruel to one another and fear that which is different. Ray is given a real arc in one short issue and that is a testament to the strong writing. From a scared child, to a disenfranchised young man, and finally becoming a superhero like the ones he idolized in his youth. With that said, the morality of the issue is rather heavy handed and really brow beats the reader into submission. Real life problems like bigotry should not be off limits to comic books but when it is this in your face it takes the reader completely out of the story. Things were going well until all of a sudden every good character was gay and the antagonist at the climax of the issue was the stereotypical angry while male afraid of change. There is no subtlety at all and the moralizing was annoying at best and patronizing at worst.

The pencils are done by Stephen Byrne and they are extremely well done... when you can see them. The idea of living in the dark was essential to this origin story but the motif was taken a bit to far with the art. The pencil work is really something special but the coloring was so dark that it was almost impossible to see. Even when the story moved out of the stage in which everything needed to take place in blackness the book still looked like you were watching TV with the brightness turned way down. As a one shot origin story this issue worked well even with some faults in pedantic storytelling and some hard to see artwork. As someone not familiar with The Ray as a character I thought the background was useful knowledge though not really essential to the future JLA comic. This is a safe issue to skip except for those really excited about the new series and want to complete the set of 4 Rebirth titles that are building up to the release of JLA #1.

 

Don't just take our word for it. Grab the books yourself and let us know what you think!

 

More Reviews on MightyVille:

Number 1 Bullets Comic Reviews: January 11, 2017

Number 1 Bullets Comic Reviews: January 04, 2017

Number 1 Bullets Comic Reviews: December 28, 2016

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