Marvel revealed their solicitations for May a few weeks ago and there was one bit of news there that I found particularly interesting. I doubt that it would surprise most people that they’re going to start adapting the rest of Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” novels, and while Robin Furth (plot) and Peter David (script) will be back writing it, Sean Phillips will be stepping in to replace Jae Lee on art. While I’ve really enjoyed Lee’s art on the series, Phillips has always been a personal favorite of mine since he has this uncanny knack for illustrating comics that I want to read and his run on “Hellblazer” showed that he can handle fantastic horror as well as superheroes and noir. The downside of this is that this will likely mean that he’ll be drawing less of “Incognito” and “Criminal” while he’s working on this, and that’s a shame. At least I have the collected edition of “Criminal: The Sinners” to look forward to in the near future. And on that note…
Stephen King’s The Dark Tower (vol. 4): Fall of Gilead: As editor Ralph Macchio remarks in the introduction, with a title like that you know you’re not going to be in for a happy tale. Fortunately the story of Gilead’s fall at the hands of John Farson and co. turns out to be quite compelling despite all of the bad tidings for the older members of this series. That’s due in no small part to the resourcefulness that Roland and his cadre of (barely) gunslingers display in the face of nearly insurmountable odds. Series colorist Richard Isanove takes over for this volume and while his style lacks the eeriness and attention to detail that makes Jae Lee such a perfect fit for the series, he proves to be a capable artist with a style that’s consistent enough to make this volume still pleasing to the eye. This volume also collects the “Sorcerer” one-shot which acts as a showcase for the wizard Marten and fills in some continuity gaps from earlier in the series. While scripter Peter David has done his best to channel King’s voice in the series, there’s been more than one instance where his own style peeks out and says “Hi!” After reading the one-shot, written entirely by Robin Furth in a style best described as “functional,” I’m glad that he has been onboard with this series since the beginning.
Fables vol. 13: The Great Fables Crossover: More of an elaborate joke on the reader than an actual volume of “Fables,” but it’s a funny joke, well-executed. Kevin Thorne, the most powerful of “The Literals” (the living embodiments of literary concepts from spin-off series “Jack of Fables”), has decided to rewrite reality to his liking and it’s up to Snow White and Bigby to stop him. With help from Gary the Pathetic Fallacy and Mr. Revise. Why not Jack? Smartly, writers Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges realized that he couldn’t be bothered to save reality if there wasn’t a reward more tangible than his continued existence. So he heads off to the Farm, and winds up becoming the center of a new cult that has sprung up around Boy Blue’s death and (hopefully) eventual return. Those of you looking for a continuation of the exploits of Mr. Dark from the last volume will be disappointed, but there’s enough comedy here to make this volume an entertaining bit of fluff. The best bits involve Kevin getting help from the different “genres” for ideas on how to end the world and his own, very literal, writer’s block. In the end, it’s more of an installment of “Jack of Fables” with the “Fables” cast, but it’s still entertaining enough to pick up if you’re a fan of either series.
Jormungand vol. 2: Aaaaaaaaaand I’m done. It appears that mangaka Keitaro Takahashi is more interested in delivering nonstop action than digging into the minds of his characters or the morality of their actions. The majority of this volume is the story of two assassins with an affinity for music show up in Dubai to take out Koko the arms dealer. Much shooting occurs and the two assassins are eventually dealt with. In all honesty, I was kind of hoping that they’d succeed because I really don’t care for Koko or the rest of the cast. They’re nothing more than a collection of stock character types and if I have to choose between rooting for them and the people out to kill them, I’m going to root for the side that has a girl who goes around in a skirt without any panties (that’s the assassin’s side in case you were wondering). All in all, it has the feel of “Black Lagoon,” but none of the substance and only a fraction of the style. While the next volume of that series won’t be out until July, this is a poor substitute by any stretch of the imagination.
Biomega vol. 1: This, on the other hand, I wouldn’t consider calling a substitute for “Black Lagoon” because this sci-fi action series is off to a great start. Mangaka Tsutomu Nihei’s most well-known series “Blame!” was a mystery, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in some really great art that ultimately came off as something done more for his own sake than to tell an interesting story. “Biomega,” however, appears to be a different beast entirely. Rather than tease readers with another mystery, Nihei sets out a dead-simple premise: Alien spores are turning the populace into bio-zombies and a masked rider has to save the girl who might prove to be the cure. There’s also a Russian bear who knows how to use a sniper rifle. Why? Why not. The simplicity of the storytelling works in the book’s favor since it allows Nihei to focus on delivering some truly spectacular action sequences that are as exciting as they are unbelievable. No, there really isn’t a lot of depth to be found here; but, it’s a textbook example of how to make “style over substance” storytelling work.
Star Wars: Legacy vol. 8 – Tatooine: It’s a planet that holds great significance in the “Star Wars” mythos, and the focus on another satisfying volume of this series. With the death of Darth Krayt, Cade Skywalker and the crew of the Mynock don’t have a purpose anymore, so they’ve gone back to their old pirating ways. This eventually gets everyone stranded on the title planet with the criminal organization known as Black Sun out to get them. Throw in Imperial agent Morrigan Corde and her daughter Gunner (Cade’s mother and half-sister, respectively) and things only get more complicated from there. Then Cade winds up at an abandoned moisture farm where the spirit of his grandfather confronts him on the lack of direction in his life. More than anything, this volume feels like it’s trying to force a crisis point in Cade’s stubbornness to not follow either the Light or Dark side of the Force and until he does, the ultimate importance of this story to the series has yet to be seen. Still, writer John Ostrander does great work with all the characters and it has turned out to be immensely entertaining to see him work in some of the more familiar elements of the “Star Wars” mythos through unorthodox means. He does this again in the final story, showing us the origins of badass soldier Hondo Karr and his emergence as “Legacy’s” equivalent to one of the mythos’ most popular characters. It’s “Star Wars” done right, and I’d recommend it to any fan.
Amulet vol. 2: The Stonekeeper’s Curse: This second volume of writer/artist Kazu Kibuishi’s all-ages adventure came out late last year and I only picked up recently. After reading this, I won’t be waiting that long to pick up volume three. I liked the first volume well enough, but this volume does a great job in expanding the scope of the characters’ world and the overall story. As Emily and Navin head to the city of Kanalis to find a cure for the poison that threatens the life of their mother, they find out that not only are they wanted by the evil Elf King, but that there’s also a resistance movement that has been told of Emily’s coming as the stonekeeper. It’s a familiar development, but Kibuishi is aware of it and knows when to tweak audience expectations as well as when to let things take their course. It also helps that his art and coloring are top-notch. It’s “all-ages fantasy” feel is highly reminiscent of Jeff Smith’s “Bone,” but make no mistake, this story is its own entity. Excellent stuff for kids, and their parents as well.