COMICS: John’s Wednesday Winners for 4/8/09

This was a bit of a light week for comics (can you hear my wallet breathe a sigh of relief?)  but a lack of quantity is no reflection of quality.  Great stuff from Warren Ellis and Fred Van Lente, as well as some enjoyable franchise entries:

Daredevil Noir #1

Daredevil Noir #1

We begin this week with Marvel’s latest entry in the Noir sub-imprint, Daredevil Noir #1 by Alexander Irvine and Tomm Coker.  While I was initially wary of this push to Noir-itize all of Marvel’s most successful properties, both X-Men Noir and Spider-Man Noir proved to be thoroughly entertaining variations on the now archetypal themes embodied by these characters.  Unlike either of its predecessors, Daredevil makes the adjustment to noir-style storytelling with very few changes.  The Hell’s Kitchen of the 1930s-40s is remarkably similar to the Hell’s Kitchen of the present, with only a few minor details separating the two.  This reimagined Matt Murdock is still the blind son of a murdered prize-fighter, but the chemically-induced “sense-vision” and ninja training have been excised.  Courtroom drama is played more realistically as well, with Murdock playing Archie Goodwin to Foggy Nelson’s Nero Wolfe rather than being an attorney himself (because, as the book points out, a blind orphan from Hell’s Kitchen can’t exactly afford Law school.)  The story begins near its end as Daredevil finally corners Kingpin, triggering a series of flashbacks that form the core of the 4-issue miniseries.  While the plot is failry generic by Daredevil standards (rumor has it that this project was pitched in the regular continuity before being booted over to Marvel Noir) what makes it stand out are a few little narrative touches and Tomm Coker’s fantastic artwork.  Coker’s visual style fits the genre and period better than Spider-Man Noir, and is more clearly visible and easy to follow than X-Men Noir.  It has a gritty, pulp-like sensibility to it, and Coker’s “camerawork” does an excellent job of replicating noir hallmarks.  If you’re a fan of Daredevil stories or of the noir/crime genre, you would be remiss not to pick up this issue.

Ignition City #1

Ignition City #1

By now you’ve come to expect that pretty much anything written by Warren Ellis will receive a glowing review from me, and Ignition City #1 is certainly no exception, but I think that it’s not just the fanboy in me talking.  This is a genuinely entertaining first issue, one that promises a rich and interesting world that blends the aesthetics of his Ministry of Space series with some unmistakably Firefly-inspired trappings.  The year is 1956, but not the 1956 we remember.  This is a mid-20th century where the Russians have backed out of East Berlin because of fantastic advances in rocket science, allowing for all manner of air and space travel that’s not quite steampunk, but shares a few aesthetic similarities.  If the machine shops of WWII started churning out spacecraft instead of aircraft, they would look something like protagonist Mary Raven’s “The Fat Pigeon,” seen in the background of the picture above.  Indeed, the wraparound cover does much to sum up the first issue, showing not only the struggling space-faring world that Mary and her associates live in, but the harshness of everyday life in a world where humans were essentially kicked out of space by other alien races (note the gentleman using the hairdryer-sized flamethrower on the left.)  Gianluca Pagliarani does a fantastic job bringing the world of Ignition City to life, doing more to build the world on every page than chapters full of text-only description possibly could.  If you enjoy comics where the setting is a character unto itself, or if you just love the way Warren Ellis writes cheeky bastards and chain-smoking brits, Ignition City is this week’s must-buy.

Marvel Zombies 4 #1

Marvel Zombies 4 #1

While I thoroughly enjoyed Fred Van Lente and Kev Walker’s Marvel Zombies 3 from the first page onward, this latest volume is taking slightly longer to kick into gear.  Gone are the machine-based heroes Aaron Stack and Jocasta, replaced by a monster-themed team of Marvel Horror alumni such as Hellstorm, Werewolf by Night, Man-Thing and Daughter of Satan, led by Morbius the Living Vampire.  The issue mainly serves as a recap of previous series and an introduction to the new team, and suffers from an overabundance of expository scenes.  Thankfully, the head of Zombie Deadpool (sans body) saves the comic from complete mediocrity by providing hilarious comic relief.  Fear the wrath of the Merc with Only A Mouth!  The jury is still out on this title, but hopefully it will pick up now that the boring stuff is over and done with.

Transformers Spotlight: Drift

Transformers Spotlight: Drift

Rounding out the week is the Shane McCarthy-penned and Casey Coller-illustrated Transformers Spotlight: Drift.  The first issue of Spotlight to tie directly into McCarthy’s current arc of Transformers (the remarkable All Hail Megatron), this story helps provide essential background information on the Transformer mythos’s newest addition: Drift, an ex-Decepticon-turned-Independent-turned-Autobot who fights with blades instead of blasters.  McCarthy does his usual amazing work here, rising above the Transformers setting to tell a compelling story about inner conflict and second chances that just happens to feature giant robots for characters.  Casey Coller does an excellent job rendering what must be some of the most pain-in-the-!@# characters to draw in all of comicdom, and this spin-off issue fits perfectly with the style and tone of the main series.   If you’ve been enjoying All Hail Megatron, this issue might not necessarily be essential, but is certainly welcome and enjoyable.

Well, that’s it for this week’s comics.  Happy Spring Holiday of your choice, dear reader!

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