It’s the most Wegener-ific week ever! Not one, not two, but three (four, if you count Free Comic Book Day as part of this week) comics illustrated by the inimitable Scott Wegener! If Atomic Robo, Killer of Demons and Human Torch aren’t enough to get you excited, I also picked up a few other comics, too: Buffy, Daredevil Noir, Jersey Gods and Marvel Zombies…
This week begins on a high note with Atomic Robo and the Shadow from Beyond Time #1, the first issue of Volume 3 of the series. As other reviewers have noted, everyone in the Robo creative team deserves to be mentioned by name when discussing this excellent comic: Hilarious writer Brian Clevinger, stellar artist Scott Wegener, Eisner Award-nominated colorist Ronda Pattison and legend of lettering Jeff Powell. While this issue didn’t begin with as much of a bang as volumes 1 or 2, it fits well within the style of story it is telling (pulp-influenced Sci-Fi in the early 20th century) and still manages to serve up plenty of laughs along the way. Clevinger continues to impress me with his ability to make Robo sound so naturally human, and Wegener’s eldritch horrors are instantly recognizable while still exhibiting a unique aesthetic charm. If you can find this, don’t hesitate to pick it up (and if you can’t find it, tell your local comic shop to yell at Diamond until they get it!)
BONUS! My personal Free Comic Book Day experience was a bit disappointing in some ways (I wasn’t able to get to my LCS until 1:00, by which time very few free comics remained) but I was able to pick up this year’s belle of the ball, the Atomic Robo and Friends FCBD 2009 issue. This was actually even more entertaining than the first issue of vol. 3, though decidedly less developed in terms of story scope and depth. The feature story is a battle between Robo and Dr. Dinosaur (whom you might remember from this sketch,) a raving lunatic who claims to be a time-traveling genius from the age of the dinosaurs. The dialogue is laugh-out-loud funny, the action is dynamic and exciting, and the artwork is exceptional (especially for a free comic). I may not have been able to pick up the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reprint, the Love & Rockets special or The Stuff of Legend preview, but this issue of Atomic Robo alone made my FCBD experience a success.
Back to the land of non-Scott-Wegener-illustrated books, Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 8 #25 finally wraps up the story of Dawn’s unfortunate curse and strange transformations. Doug Petrie manages to plot a decent story, but his dialogue feels more like someone trying to parody Joss Whedon than someone imitating him. Everybody is a little too snarky (almost Gilmore Girls-y) and many of the jokes can be seen coming from three pages away. The art is on par with recent issues, with the most stand-out piece being the Jo Chen cover you see above. I can’t help but think of the muppets when I see that version of Kevin! If you’re a completist or a Dawn fan, this one is worth picking up. If not, you might be better of skipping this one and jumping back on next issue.
Over in the Marvel Noir universe, the story of Daredevil Noir#2 continues to close the gap between the opening (where Daredevil and Kingpin discuss what led them to their final standoff) and the rest of the plot. Some classic DD elements are on display here, including Matt touching a woman’s face to “see” her (you can cut the sexual tension with a knife) and rushing off to save the life of another damsel in distress while begrudging his dual identity. The action scenes are much better this time around, though, courtesy of Tomm Coker’s fantastic artwork. I also enjoy Daniel Freedman’s use of benday dots in the coloring, which give the book an olde-tyme aesthetic. I’m confident that this series will read well when collected, but this issue suffered greatly from middle-issue syndrome.
One of the pleasant surprises of this week was Scott Snyder, Scott Wegener and Ronda Pattison’s Human Torch Comics (70th Anniversary) #1, a one-shot tale of the original Human Torch (the robot one, not Johnny Storm) and his struggle to find his way in a world that is only beginning to experience superheroism. Snyder’s story calls to mind another Torch origin (from Kurt Busiek’s Marvels,) but manages to paint a somewhat brighter picture, if only in the beginning. This brightness is accented by the stellar work of Wegener and Pattison, whose animation-friendly character designs and sepia-tone color palette inspire a sense of nostalgia, even for those of us who never had fond memories of the character from our youth. Wegener’s Torch stands out even more when not in human form, thanks to Wegener’s detailed work on the robotic exoskeleton and Pattison’s striking flame coloration. No color is as bright as the Torch’s flame, which complements the story perfectly. As Marvel one-shots go, this is one of the best I’ve read in years.
The two plots of Jersey Gods $4 are beginning to converge once more, after having separated near the beginning of the series. This is fantastic, because the book is at its best when it is smashing the elements of planet Neboron and the Garden State together. Whether intentional or not, Glen Brunswick’s earth-bound subplot (wherein Zoe stumbles upon an illegal counterfeit clothing wholesaler) is far more interesting and compelling than his cosmic war A-plot (though Mark Waid’s back-up stories are going a long way toward making the interplanetary war exciting and emotionally charged.) Next issue promises to bring the story to a head, and will be so action-packed that there’s no room for a back-up! Don’t miss it!
Hey, who’s that gentleman in the Atomic Robo T-shirt eating a sandwich on the cover of Killer of Demons #3? Why, it’s series artist Scott Wegener, of course! The fun contained within this series finale may not be as silly as the cover, but it’s certainly even more action-packed. Dave Sloan (the Killer of Demons) has a final showdown with his boss, the evil demon Astaroth (known to men as Kent Atchison, creative director.) The demons try their best to cast doubt on Dave’s actions, nearly convincing him that he is in fact insane, but in the end good manages to win out over evil. A few threads are left open (presumably for a follow-up series) and several questions are left unanswered, but Chris Yost does an excellent job blending epic good-vs.-evil action and cubicle humor to provide a satisfying finale to this fantastic series. Look for my comparison of this series to Steven Grant’s Mortal Souls (also about a lone human who can see the demonic beings posing as humans among us, and is charged with killing them by an angel) in the near future.
The threat of demonic undead creatures spills over into Fred Van Lente and Kev Walker’s Marvel Zombies Vol. 4 #2, where Morbius’s Midnight Sons (2.0) attempt to shut down the plans of Black Talon and The Hood before the Marvel Zombie plague can be unleashed upon our world. This issue isn’t quite as compelling as the series opener, but still features some exciting action scenes (including an excellent splash where Morbius succombs to his bloodlust) and some witty one-sided banter between the head of Zombie Deadpool and the mute zombi, Simon Garth. If you’re a fan of the Marvel Horror characters (or the Marvel Zombies, or just Deadpool,) this series should scratch all the right itches.
Wel, that’s it for this week! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. If you know where I can pick up the FCBD comics I missed, please let me know!