October 8, 2014
The first volume of “FBP” wound up being a comic that I wanted to like. This second one pretty much misses the mark. As the latest round of cutbacks hit the organization, Adam, Rosa, and Cicero head up to Nakeet, Alaska, to assist in the shutting down of research facility. Said facility happens to be run by an old friend of Cicero’s who happens to have created her own “quantum can opener” to explore the nature of reality. However, the actual “shutting down” of the facility is relegated to playing a small but critical role in the story as Adam and Rosa work out their own personal issues during their downtime. He’s getting some traction on finding out about the person who may be behind his dad’s disappearance, and she has to deal with the fact that this isn’t her home dimension. Their problems wind up coming back to haunt them in Nakeet, as Adam’s show up with guns and “shoot to kill” orders, while Rosa may have just found the solution to hers. Meanwhile, Cicero has to deal with how his former guy friend is now a girl and the difficulty in keeping Adam and Rosa’s reality supplied with diesel.
Reading this story, it felt like the wrong time to dive into a six-issue arc where the characters expound about and confront their problems. Better to keep building this world in bite-sized chunks while setting up things for the long game of an ongoing series. I’m left feeling this because “Wish You Were Here” felt like a directionless slog for a good portion of its length. Lots of talking without a lot of purpose behind it will sap even the best series of its momentum, to say nothing of one like this that’s still trying to find its footing. You’ve also got the fact that the nature of the reality being explored by Adam and Rosa isn’t explained that well, with both being treated as valid even though we know that there’s only one that really matters. The two agents also seem unaware of this fact even though it’s something they signed up for. What we get in this volume does little to convince me that this series will find its groove anytime soon, or before it comes to a premature end due to low sales of its single issues.
October 7, 2014
Even as I become more disillusioned with the college-otaku core of this title, the characters keep me coming back for more. Take the last volume: It ended on an interesting cliffhanger as hardcore otaku (and series mainstay) Madarame found himself in the Genshiken club room again with Saki, the girl he’s had a crush on who not only has a boyfriend, but not a single fangirlish bone in her body. The previous times the two were in the clubroom alone happened to be some of the most illuminating for Madarame’s character, and quite memorable for the series as a whole. Was the third time going to be the charm, or represent one too many trips to the well?
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October 6, 2014
Sometimes, it’s pretty easy to tell why certain creators took on a particular project. Take Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, still tearing it up on Marvel’s “Daredevil,” and their take on Dave Stevens’ creation “The Rocketeer.” Inspired by the pulp fiction heroes of the 30’s and 40’s (as well as Bettie Page), Stevens had can’t-catch-a-break pilot Cliff Secord getting his hands on an experimental rocket pack and becoming the crime-fighting hero known as the Rocketeer. Waid and Samnee don’t mess with that setup, or the supporting cast of cantankerous mechanic Peevy and Cliff’s long-suffering girlfriend Betty, and are clearly happy to be playing around in this particular toybox. Not only does it give them a chance to tell an uncomplicated tale of straightforward heroism, but one that also involves dinosaurs (sometimes with jetpacks)!
While Cliff is dealing with the ramifications of an FAA inspector’s investigation, a ship pulls into the L.A. harbor with a unique cargo. After hearing about this mysterious Rocketeer person, the fancy-dressed man who is overseeing the shipment figures that his rocket would make a great addition to his plans. The cargo hails from Skull Island -- home of King Kong -- so this winds up being a bit of a pulp crossover as the island’s other inhabitants get to take a bite out of L.A. and Cliff winds up getting to take a bite back thanks to interesting tech that was being shipped over along with them. (If you thought this book’s title was kidding…) The whole thing is a fast-paced and downright gleeful romp that is well aware of the ridiculousness of its “The Rocketeer Vs. Dinosaurs in L.A.” setup and embraces it wholeheartedly. It’s clear that Waid and Samnee were having a ball with this idea and the sense of fun is infectious.
I’d have no problem recommending this to fans of the character and the creators of this story, save for the fact that it’s an 88-page story padded out with some of Samnee’s layouts with a cover price of $25. In the interests of full disclosure, I found this for half of that price at Comic-Con. This is an entertaining comic, but you’ll have to decide for yourself whether you’re enough of a fan of Waid, Samnee, or the Rocketeer himself to fork over that much cash for it..
October 5, 2014
After putting out over 110 mostly excellent issues of “Ultimate Spider-Man,” there should be no doubt that Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley work really well together. While they’ve collaborated on a few projects outside of that title, nothing they’ve done yet has managed to equal that legendary run. That holds true for their work on the first volume of “Avengers Assemble” and their creator-owned title “Brilliant.” Neither are essential reads, but there’s still entertainment to be had from experiencing them. That’s even more true if you can find them for half of their cover price like I did.
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October 3, 2014
After a certain point in the first volume, this title’s twists started working against my expectations and I came to enjoy its story of superhuman combatants in WWII. Having got the setup out of the way, writer Kieron Gillen sets about adding further complications for all sides in the war. The volume is effectively split into three parts, with the first taking us into the Pacific theater and witnessing how the Japanese utilize their superhumans to blunt the U.S.’s advance. Things develop into a kind of high-risk stalemate, with the twist at the end being the discovery of this story’s “Steve Rogers,” in theory. Then we head over to the Russian front and witness Stalin’s brutal, but effective, method of creating a hundred superhumans of his own. This includes maimed former sniper Katyusha who does not take well to being asked to give more for her country then she already has. Meanwhile, over in London, development on their own superhumans continues apace, even as the Nazis make a desperate gambit to end the war at the cost of one of their Battleships.
The part I liked most about the first volume is how it presented this new superhuman element in the war to not be an instant win button for any side. Here, we see that it has developed further into its own kind of arms race with each side trying to find new applications for these fighters, ways to refine the process, or methods to catch up after falling behind. WWII has become exponentially bloodier as a result of these beings, and artist Caanan White spares no detail as we see all of the gore on the page. It is an Avatar book after all, and not one for the squeamish. I do wish he was better with the characters as they tend to come off as a little stiff on the page. Also, Gillen’s emphasis on plot and the establishment of this new status quo in the war appears to have come at the expense of characterization. Most of the cast are familiar character types, such as the Japanese soldier driven by honor or the American soldier who hasn’t yet come to grips with war. Only Katyusha and two of the German Battleships, Siegmund and Sieglinde, receive enough development to take them out of their established roles. What I’m saying is that while “Uber” is good and I’d keep reading it for its new take on WWII alone, there’s still room for it to become even better.
October 2, 2014
(The follow-up to this.) Mohiro Kitoh's series about kids who give their lives to pilot a giant mech is at its best when it goes where other series of its kind don't. Which I wish it did more often.
October 1, 2014
This French graphic novel came to my attention after the film that was based on it won the Palme D’Or at Cannes last year. It tells the story of a high school girl, Clementine, who is living a normal life until she meets the blue-haired Emma first in passing and then again in a bar. The woman with the unnatural hair color stirs feelings in the younger girl that she’s never experienced before and the two begin a relationship that changes both of their lives. What’s most striking about the book is how natural writer/artist Julie Maroh makes the girls’ relationship feel. Yes, there’s plenty of angsting from Clementine and some prejudice from her friends, but you really get the feeling that what’s happening between these two women is meant to be. It’s a story that argues for the freedom of love to be had by all regardless of boundaries, nationalities, or genders and does it with a lightness of touch that most other stories with a message on their minds would envy.
At least, that’s how it is for the first three-quarters of the narrative. Then there’s a shocking development and a jump forward in time to a point where Clementine and Emma’s relationship has cooled. Seeing how this transformative relationship withered and exploring how the women grew apart isn’t an unworthy subject to explore. It suffers here because not only does Maroh not have the time to develop it, but the execution his hamstrung by her apparent need to force a particular ending on this story. Suffice to say there’s cheating, a drug habit and medical condition that come out of nowhere, and a tragic death to make things extra heartbreaking for all involved. That was clearly the idea, the reality is underwhelming. Things would’ve been better served if this story was told over two volumes -- there’s a clear opportunity for a break at page 129 -- with one covering the relationship’s early years and the other covering the later ones. In its current form, “Blue is the Warmest Color” is still worth reading to see how its very human characters respond to love from an unexpected place even as it ends in a way that drags the whole experience down.