COMICS: John’s Wednesday Winners for 2/18/09

Since my pull box only had one title in it this week, I decided to take a walk along the racks and see what jumped out at me.  Some are new, some are a few months old, but all are pretty darned interesting.  There are giant robots, rampaging monsters, pulp-style heroes, villainous janitors, and several different Organizations of United Worlds. Let’s begin with the letter A!

Amber Atoms #1

Amber Atoms #1

This week marked the launch of Image Comics’ Amber Atoms #1, written and drawn by Kelly Yates with colors by Michael E. Wiggam.  The pitch sounds great: A spunky young redhead sets off to become the next pulp-style outer space adventurer, a la Flash Gordon.  Unfortunately, the execution of this first issue was a bit disappointing.  The opening sequence doesn’t seem to connect to Amber’s story at all (though I’m sure it will in subsequent issues) and Amber’s opening scenes are a bit too reminiscent of young Luke Skywalker’s life with Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru.  I nearly expected her to whine about wanting to go to the Toshi station to pick up some power converters!  Nevertheless, the action sequences are dynamic and engaging, and the artwork is far more impressive than the writing.  Wiggam’s name definitely deserves to be on the cover, as the colors are strong and vibrant in a way that many sci-fi adventure books are not.  I would say that it’s not too far from Ronda Pattison’s work on Atomic Robo, which is a pretty big compliment coming from me.  I’ll give this one another issue to pull its plot together.

EDIT: Okay, I re-read it and actually understood the connection between the opening and the rest of the story.  If you keep in mind that the opening is a flashback (and the characters shown are several decades older in the rest of the story) it makes much more sense.  I still wish that had been more obvious at first glance, though.

Gigantic #1

Gigantic #1

Next up, from the recent back issues rack, is Dark Horse’s Gigantic #1, written by Rick Remender and illustrated by Dustin Nguyen and Matthew Wilson.  This one is even better than the cover led me to believe!  Gigantic is cautionary tale about the evils of entertainment-obsessed consumer culture, on an intergalactic scale.  It shares an opening with a South Park episode (Earth is actually a gigantic reality TV show, which explains why we’re so messed up) but then takes things in a completely different direction by having a giant robot crash-land in San Francisco.  This robot is piloted by a human, who has escaped from an intergalactic gladiatorial competition in an attempt to save himself and his planet.  Things don’t go as planned, however, and he ends up accidentally killing hundreds of people while fleeing pursuit and ultimately exploding above the city.  I haven’t been this intrigued by a first issue in quite a while, and plan to pick up the rest of the back issues the next time I visit my LCS.  The scenes where the pilot is forced to accept the fact that his actions are killing so many innocent people is powerful in a way that I’ve never seen giant robot battle books be.  The artwork is incredible, with Nguyen and Wilson giving everything an almost watercolor appearance.  It’s almost as far on the other end of the spectrum from typical anime-styled giant robot books as one can get.

Dynamo 5 #0

Dynamo 5 #0

Calling this issue Dynamo 5 #0  is a bit misleading, since it clearly takes place sometime after the conclusion of Volume 1 (though more likely after the conclusion of the most recent story arc.)  I guess this is a good jumping-on point for new readers, since the original team has just returned after a short absence and  it introduces two of the villains who will play a major role in the next arc.  As issues go, I found the plotting to be rather weak, with more of an emphasis on punching bad guys and less on character interaction than a typical D5 issue.  Still, for 99 cents it does make an entertaining primer to the world of Dynamo 5 (and the text recap pages at the back explain everything that has happened in the series so far.)

Incognito #1

Incognito #1

Time for another trip to the recent back issue rack:  While I haven’t really read much of Ed Brubaker’s Marvel work (Captain America, Iron Fist, Daredevil) and still have yet to get into Criminal (even though everyone who’s ever been in the presence of a copy of the book says it’s a must-read) I figured Incognito #1 might be a good jumping-on point.  After all, it’s Brubaker and Phillips (the team who brought us both Sleeper and Criminal) doing a superhero book about a character who is only moderately super, and barely a hero.

The premise: Former villain enters witness protection in order to escape murderous colleagues, finds that the life of a corporate drone sucks, and goes off his power-suppression meds to find himself stronger than he’s ever been.  What does he do with that power?  He dons a mask and beats up purse-snatchers and assorted other common thugs, mostly because they can’t call the cops on him.

Someone said that Incognito is the book that Wanted and Kick-Ass should have been, and I think I agree. It’s dark in both color palette and mood, and does a much better job of capturing the Fight Club mentality without blatantly insulting its audience for being its audience.  There are some twisted moments, but they’re the kind of twisted that keep you intrigued and engaged.  It’s too bad this book isn’t already being developed as a feature film with an all-star cast and huge budget.  Speaking of, is anyone taking bets on whether or not the final issue of Kick-Ass will be out before the movie premieres?

Johnny Monster #1

Johnny Monster #1

Image comics had another first issue this week: Johnny Monster #1, written by Joshua Williamson and drawn by J. C. Grande.  This one starts off with a fantastic two-page splash of giant monsters battling in the middle of Times Square, and continues the smash-fest at a solid pace.  We find out that our eponymous hero is a professional monster hunter, and the only one in his profession to use non-lethal means of capture and containment.  Monster attacks are becoming increasingly common in the world of Johnny Monster and the public (predictably) can’t get enough of watching it all on TV.  MonsterWatch reporter Sally Meyer uncovers Johnny’s dark secret: He doesn’t kill the monsters at all!  He takes them to a hidden underground habitat where they live and coexist in peace.  Not only that, but he speaks the monsters’ language and has a familial relationship with them!  Scandalous!!!

If this book had come out in the 1990s, you could bet your bottom dollar that one of the major networks would’ve snapped up the rights to turn Johnny Monster into a Saturday morning cartoon.  It’s got the right combination of action, humor and heart, and incredible licensing potential!  I’m sad that it will only be a three-issue mini-series, but hopefully reader interest will convince Image to produce a longer story in the same universe.

Spider-Man Noir #3

Spider-Man Noir #3

Finally, we round out this week’s batch with Marvel’s Spider-Man Noir #3, by David Hine, Fabrice Sapolsky and Carmine Di Giandomenico.  (Hey, that cover looks an awful lot like the cover for Wanted, doesn’t it?)  Ol’ Webhead’s in a mess of trouble now that Ben Urich is dead, but he doesn’t let that get him down.  As The Spider-Man, Peter Parker uses Ben’s files on the Goblin to hit him where it hurts the most: His wallet.  This is the closest we’ve seen to a traditional Spider-Man plotline, as Peter gets more comfortable with his newfound abilities and begins waging a one-man war against New York’s most powerful crimeboss.  The opening of issue #1 is revisited here, and we find out that there was more to that scene than met the eye.  The stage is set for the final conflict between The Spider-Man and The Goblin, and I am on the edge of my seat with anticipation.  Hine & Co. continue to deliver an entrhalling take  on the traditional Spider-Man mythos, making the Noir series some of the best alternate-reality tales ever told in the Marvel universe.  It’s not quite as stellar as Fred Van Lente’s X-Men Noir, but I’ll take this over the current run of Spider-Man any day of the week.  I especially like the Noir version of his costume, similarities to Wanted notwithstanding.

And there you have it, folks!  It was interesting to read some of these back-to-back, as there was an eerily natural flow between Amber Atoms, Gigantic and Johnny Monster.  The first two featured a league of united planets and planetary leaders with less-than-great intentions for our heroes, while the second two featured giant things rampaging through major cities and a media-hungry public.  Crazy!

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