Abe Sapien vol. 5: Sacred Places

February 27, 2015

Spoiler Warning:  These “Sacred Places” aren’t really all that interesting.  Much like the previous volume, the majority of the stories here lack a clear direction to tell us why we should care about the title character’s ongoing journey.  After freeing a captured woman, Grace, in the opening story, she follows Abe as he gets mixed up with some people looking for a healer, a crazed woman with removable body parts, and returns to the place where he got shot and began his latest transformation.  There’s lots of portentious talk, a dream sequence with Hellboy and Langdon Caul -- Abe’s previous self -- and a bunch of monsters that either need a beatdown or to be vanquished by spiritual means.  In short, a lot of the stuff that makes the Mignolaverse so unique and appealing.  Problem is, most all of this is done better in “B.P.R.D.” as it would appear that co-writer John Arcudi is much better with establishing narrative goals and working towards them with snappier dialogue.  “Abe Sapien” co-writer Scott Allie hasn’t really measured up in that department yet.

However, all is not lost as the opening issue, “The Garden (I),” shows that Mignola and Allie can tell an interesting story here when they really put their mind to it.  The story introduces us to Grace and her captor and slowly chronicles her eventual rescue at Abe’s hands.  Yet its the way the tale is told which makes it interesting.  It unfolds through images presented through three horizontal rectangles evenly spaced throughout each page and narrated through text boxes.  You don’t know what’s going on at first, but the slow reveal of information is captivating and you can’t help but be drawn in by the slow unraveling of the characters and their histories.  It’s also one of Max Fiumara’s better artistic efforts as each image carefully moves the story forward and his characters look less misshapen than usual.  It’s the high point of the series so far for me, and I wish the rest of it were as focused and daring.

glickscomicpicks@gmail.com

X-Force by Spurrier vol. 2: Hide/Fear

February 26, 2015

Only one volume left in Si Spurrier’s run on this incarnation of “X-Force.”  Sadly, sales on this title managed to crater even faster than the previous run so it would appear that there really isn’t room in the market for an irreverent, quirky take on the most militant and proactive of mutant teams.  I’m disappointed by this news.  Spurrier’s run -- much like his work on “X-Men:  Legacy” -- stands apart from the other X-titles and makes for a refreshingly different read.  Assuming, you know, its quirkiness and overall strangeness are to your liking.  Oh!  Also if you’re interested in reading one of the most blackly comic issues in recent Marvel history.

Read the rest of this entry »

Marvel Previews Picks: May 2015

February 25, 2015

I have yet to watch the finale of “Agent Carter” as I sit down to write this.  Given the “never quite as good as it should be” quality of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” this event series has been more consistently entertaining and utilized its Marvel Universe setting in a far more satisfying way.  While the whole “Peggy has to clear Howard Stark’s name” setup was good enough to get things going, the series has thrived by keeping its focus on the title character and her travails.  From struggling against the sexism of the S.S.R., bantering with Jarvis, or diving into combat with the Howling Commandoes, Peggy has emerged as a fascinating character that I’d love to see more of in the future.  Of course, that’s also due to how star Hayley Atwell nails just about every scene she’s in.  While the series has done well by incorporating a lot of elements from the Marvel Universe here -- in addition to the aforementioned Stark, Howling Commandoes, and Jarvis, we’ve also been introduced to the likes of Dr. Faustus and Leviathan here -- there’s enough to the series that it doesn’t feel like it’s trading on them.  That’s something it took “S.H.I.E.L.D.” until its second season to pull off well.  No, the story being told in these eight episodes isn’t all that fresh, and most of the O.S.S. crew are just an assemblage of cliches, but I’ve actually been looking forward to each new episode instead of being annoyed at how watching TV leaves less time for games.

Meanwhile, “Secret Wars” gets underway in these latest solicitations.  It’s the end of the Marvel Universe as we know it!  For the next few months, anyway.

Read the rest of this entry »

Prophecy vol. 2

February 24, 2015

Two volumes in and it still feels like I know exactly where this series is going to go.  This is mainly because it’s striking to see how movie-like “Prophecy’s” pacing is here.  Volumes one and two really do read like the first two acts of a feature film.  In the first volume we had the introduction of the cast, the rise of the protagonists and their cause, and the initial efforts of law enforcement to catch them.  Here, we have the Paperboy group setting their sights on a bigger target -- an environmental group that targets Japanese maritime activities -- and nearly getting caught in the act.  Not only are the police closing in, but copycats perpetrating violent acts, and the efforts of a politician to stamp out anonymous messageboards also threaten to put an end to their activities.  The stakes are raised even higher as the group’s leader issues an online death threat to the politician, and one of their own threatens to betray them to save his own neck.

To its credit, “Prophecy” feels like it was made to be on film in a way that few comics do.  Yes, there are plenty of manga that are adapted into movies every year, but this one could make the jump with little to no compromise of the source material.  The pacing is spot-on and even if the characters aren’t all that deep, they have enough personality to get you invested in their stories.  Of course, even if this is slick, well-crafted entertainment it ultimately feels like any movie made out of it would be best enjoyed on a weekend night while channel-surfing or (more likely and appropriately) checking out the latest streaming video options.  Despite its of-the-moment subject matter, “Prophecy’s” narrative doesn’t really go anywhere we haven’t seen before.  In fact, I’d be very surprised if the third volume doesn’t involve the following:  things ending with the death and/or imprisonment of the members of the Paperboy group, the ambitions of the politician exposed as a fraud, police lieutenant Yoshino commenting on the group’s demise with an unexpected amount of regret, and a rebellious act by one or more persons involving the internet to show that the spirit of Paperboy lives on.  Predictability isn’t necessarily a bad thing in storytelling, only when it inspires cynicism more than excitement.  Right now, “Prophecy” is trending a little more towards the former than the latter.

glickscomicpicks@gmail.com

Image Previews Picks: May 2015

February 23, 2015

This is one of those months where the company launches a lot of new titles.  Which… doesn’t make it too different from most of the past ones I guess.  Anyway, Ellis and Shalvey’s “Injection” debuts here along with a few other titles that sound like they have potential.  There are a few that don’t, but I’ll just refrain from mentioning them here.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Activity vol. 3

February 21, 2015

If you like reading about the exploits of military personnel who are really good at what they do, and subscribe to certain political views, then you’ll likely be entirely satisfied by this third (and final?) volume of “The Activity.”  After a flashback to Fallujah during the second Iraq War, things return to the present as the members of Team Omaha are still on the bench after one of their own was arrested regarding a potential security breach on his wife’s part.  After spending some time way south of the border in Rio, helping out some Israeli special forces on a rescue mission, they’re back on the clock as things start heating up in Iran.  Writer Nathan Edmondson continues to show Omaha’s exploits in a straightforward, no-fuss manner that remains blessedly free of personal melodrama, romantic or otherwise.  The stories being told here also have more of a dramatic arc to them than we’ve seen in previous volumes, and also feature some clever means of getting suspects to talk.  I’ve never seen a lap dance used as a means of interrogation, and the setup with the helicopter was expertly played.  All in all, some good drama is mined from the action as Omaha’s considerable skill is pitted against threats they can manage and one they need a little divine intervention (courtesy of the CIA) to surmount.

While I enjoyed this volume on those merits, there are parts of it that leave a sour taste in my mouth.  I was looking forward to finding out the truth behind the intelligence leak that led to one of Team Omaha being arrested, but that thread is dealt with far too quickly to be satisfying.  The bigger issue is that, in the end, this winds up reading like a conservative power fantasy.  Omaha is called in to help dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons program even though such a thing has yet to be proven to exist in the real world.  But I’m sure there are a lot of politicians out there who would love for it to be true and allow us to march into that country, guns blazing, just like we did in Iraq. All this effectively makes me appreciate Garth Ennis’ war stories that much more due to their focus on the bonds between soldiers and general cynicism towards the motivations of their superiors.  “The Activity’s” world is far more black and white and less interesting beyond the methods employed by its consummately skilled protagonists.

glickscomicpicks@gmail.com

(There’s also something to be said for the most entertaining story in a series that trafficks in realism and believability to involve C4-sniffing butterflies, but I can’t figure out what it is…)

DC Previews Picks: May 2015

February 20, 2015

I was prepared to talk about the new titles arriving post-”Convergence” in June, but then I read that “Lucifer” was getting a pilot order from Fox today.  Now I really like the Mike Carey-written “Sandman” spinoff that effectively hails from the land of “far better than it has any right to be.”  The problem here lies in the description that the Hollywood Reporter is giving for the pilot is… troubling.  Imagine if you will a Lucifer who abandons Hell and takes up residence in Los Angeles (so far so, good...) where he spends his days amusing himself by helping the LAPD arrest criminals.

Let me put on my “Angry Fanboy” hat for a minute so I can go NO!  NO!  NO!  NO!  NO!  NO!  NO!  NO!  NO!  NO!  NOOOOOOOOOO!

Not only is it an incredibly wrongheaded approach to the character, it’s a reductive one as well.  You take the majesty and grandeur of the character that he had in “Sandman” and his solo title and strip it away to give us another goddamn police show!  This is network television so it’s likely that the driving narrative of “Lucifer,” of the Morningstar’s quest to prove himself better than his creator by embarking on the creation of his own universe, may have been too expensive to pull off and would’ve offended who knows how many religious types.  As if calling a show “Lucifer” isn’t going to do that regardless.  I have no intention of watching “Lucifer:  The Cop Show,” and unless its creative team -- including uberproducer Jerry Bruckheimer, “Underworld” and “Sleepy Hollow” director Len Wiseman, and “Californication” creator Tom Kapinos -- decide to, you know, actually adapt the comic they’ve decided to bring to TV I’ll just keep that hour reserved for when Seth Rogen and Evan Handler’s “Preacher” adaptation hits.

Yeah, that’s enough “Angry Fanboy” for now.  My thoughts on all of the not-”Convergence”-related comics follow the break:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comic Picks #178: Akira

February 19, 2015

There's a lot more to the manga compared to what you saw in the movie.  Maybe not as mind-blowing, but still worth a look.

00:0000:00

Dark Horse Previews Picks: May 2015

February 18, 2015

There’s been some advance word on a couple of titles that bear looking out for from this company later this year:

After being announced at last year’s Anime Expo, the first omnibus edition of “The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service” arrives in August.  (So, two solicitations from now.)  Easily one of the best manga still being published (very irregularly) by the company, and certainly the best localized of them, it has yet to really gain any sales traction in all the years it’s been in print.  While there have been a couple spin-offs of the manga published in Japan, I’m just hoping the release of this omnibus edition gets more people to check it out and keeps the volumes of the main series coming at a more regular pace.

We also have a new work from brothers Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon to look forward to as well.  Titled “Brothers,” and based on a book by Milton Hatoum, it tells the story of Omar and Yaqub.  They’re two siblings with strikingly different mindsets, and the story takes place after Yaqub has returned to Brazil following a particularly violent fight with his brother over their mother.  It doesn’t have the high concept of their excellent “Daytripper” but everything they’ve done, creator-owned and otherwise, suggest that it’ll be well worth reading when it arrives.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ajin: Demi-Human vol. 3

February 17, 2015

Does mangaka Gamon Sakura really know what he’s doing with this series?  That’s the question his characterization of Kei, the title’s protagonist, posed in the previous volume and things only get worse in that regard here.  Granted, all of the stuff regarding the plans that Sato (A.K.A. “Hat”) has in store for the demi-humans of Japan and the government’s own schemes come off pretty well.  The thing is that they’re not the focus of this series.  While “Ajin” hasn’t reached “trainwreck” status yet it only feels like it’s a matter of time before that happens.

Read the rest of this entry »