Hey there, true believers, my name is Richard Kirwin and I would like to welcome you to my first edition of Heroes and Villains!
It goes without saying that I begin this column with humility and appreciation for the opportunity to do two of my favorite things: read comics and talk about comics. After the passing of longtime writer Glenn Walker, my friend Andy Burns asked me if I was willing to step in and give writing this column a go. Knowing Glenn only through his writing and presence here on the site, it is with all due respect for his work and legacy that I agreed to do it. I know that writing this means something to me and to the friends and colleagues Glenn has here at Biff Bam Pop, so I will do my best to bring you reviews, rants and insights into the world we all love. The world of comics.
This week is an almost all Image edition of the column, with 14 issues and two collected editions available for review. This was a huge eye opener for me as I am only familiar with one of the titles here, the outstanding Deadly Class by Rick Remender. With many issues mid or late story, I dove into the handful of titles that grabbed my attention to see if I could connect with the stories as a new reader. Before getting to those reviews, the one through line I have to comment on regarding the Image “universe” is that the diversity of stories, characters and concepts is nothing short of remarkable. I have prided myself on becoming an Image reader, but with this review list I realize I have only dipped my toe in a company that I feel is in many ways the new “house of ideas.”
Deadly Class, Volume 6
The only book on this list that I have read before happens to also be one of my favourite comics right now, period. Deadly Class, by the team of Rick Remender and Wes Craig, tells the story of a group of teenagers that attend a secret school for assassins. That description doesn’t really do the work justice, as it is as much an examination of 1980s youth culture as it is a gripping, violent action series. Volume 6 picks up with Yakuza heiress Saya captured by her evil brother and series protagonist Marcus, back from the dead and living the good life on a beach. The new class of freshmen—including an axe-wielding, D and D playing German metal-head—continues to develop keeping the series fresh and extending the premise of the school for young killers to different corners of the globe.
I love this book. As a capes and powers guy of some standing, it is stories like this that have expanded my concept of what a graphic novel can be. Full credit to the creative team for crafting a layered work of fiction that resonates both personally and as entertainment. After following writer Rick Remender on Twitter, I have kept up on the recent news that Deadly Class is heading to the small screen. As happy as that makes me for the creators (I hope they get some of that Robert Kirkman money) it is worth being in on the ground floor for this one.
Deadly Class continues to be a book I blew through in minutes, but re-read over hours to catch all the details I missed and to savour those I didn’t. I can’t recommend this book enough, so go read it!
Getting dropped into the second issue of a story can either really work or really not. With four credited writers (James Asmus, Joseph Keating, Christopher Sebela and Joshua Williamson) I was prepared for a trainwreck. What I got instead was a story with a great hook and easy to jump into story lines.
Humanity is evolving, into what it isn’t clear. But, in the shadows of the world, people are turning into monsters out of John Carpenters The Thing. This fact is not public knowledge, so we are invited to view this through the eyes of three central characters: a nun in Italy, two women on the run in LA and a scientist in Philadelphia that is trying to secure proof of what he knows is going on.
With no issue 1 to set the table, I found Evolution to be engaging and worth investing in, I’m very interested to see where this story goes.
Curse Words Holiday Special
This comic was really strange. Taking place in a magical land called “Hole World,” writer Charles Soule invites the reader to a festive gathering of the land’s fairly unpleasant inhabitants. As a holiday book, I imagine an educated reader getting a lot more of this story than I did. Without any preamble or introduction page, Curse Words had to grip my interest with either fantastic art or a compelling story, which I can’t say that it did. While there were some cool visuals, like a Christmas tree with chained up fairies in places of lights, the art by John Bivens stood out, but I found it a little hard to engage with. Similarly, the characters, all of whom spoke with unique voices, were difficult to like or relate to leaving me without an anchor to keep me interested.
In fairness to the creators, I will have to give the regular series a try at some point, but as a fresh set of eyes I didn’t find anything to really spark my interest in this sample.
This small town horror comic by Jordie Bellaire and Vanesa R Del Ray felt like True Blood without the camp and better writing. I didn’t know what was going on, but I wanted to find out. Grim pacing, sharp characterization and a mystery man that eats a guy’s nose all drew me in to this comic.
Particularly worth noting were the “diary” pages that followed the illustrated section of the book. Whether this was a one and done concept or something that has been going on since issue 1 I cant say, but it was a nice piece of writing.
I will definitely be looking to get back into this story.
Having created a comic with flying monkey protagonist, Simon Spurrier and Casper Wijngaard pretty much had me at hello. Huge, high marks for originallity here as I can honestly say I have never seen or read anything like this before.
Aside from the visuals, which are great, the highlight of this book for me was the writers ability to craft a unique pallete of words and phrases for the characters to use. They also say “poop” alot and in some really unique ways.
Angelic had a combination of sweet and dark that made for a very compelling read…. but also flying monkeys.
SOME QUICK READS
Spread #24 – So deep in the story I had no idea what was going on. I did like the last stand on a bridge aspect of the story and the villain with the giant red mouth on his body was suitably gross.
Family Trade #3 – Alternate history with assassins. Highly stylized art really didn’t work for me. Couldn’t get into a book where I don’t want to look at the characters.
Copperhead #17 – I love a good sci-fi story, especially with a heist and aliens thrown in. I can tell there is a really cool world to explore here.
Rockstars #8 – Heavy Metal and dark magic, what could go wrong? Dialogue was a little clunky as was the art, but credit for taking a seemingly obvious concept and making it happen.
Realm #4 – Post-apocalyptic stories are always welcome on my book shelf. A great example of art being able to bridge the gap between a new reader and a story. It helped the opening panel sequence involved cutting the head off a zombie. I’m in.
Girl Scouts Magic Socks: TP – I tried to read this, but it felt like a mess of words and pictures that didn’t sync up. Maybe I didn’t get it, maybe it wasn’t for me, but I can’t say that I would recommend giving it a look.
Also From Image This Week: Dark Fang #2, Genius Cartel #5, The Hard Place #5, Head Lopper #8, Horizon #17 and Invincible #143.
Made Men #4
As somone that watches pretty much whatever HBO puts in the 9 p.m. sunday slot, I feel like can tell when a story is trying to drive into that lane. This book, the story of Jutte Shelly/Frankenstein swung really hard for quite a few familiar fences: referencing classic works (Frankenstein), gratuitous sex and violence, lots of cursing and cops standing around gruesome dead bodies.
The creative team of Paul Tobin and Arjuna Susini have a few great moments in this issue, but many others that miss the mark. I was able to jump into the story and more or less understand what was going on, but poor pacing prevented this from jumping into my pull pile.
So there it is: some must reads, some “meh” reads and some comics I’m not sure I can endorse at this juncture. All in all a buffet of funny book goodness from the folks at Image Comics with a little side dish from Oni Press.
I never want to seem like I’m down on the people that make comics, these are just my opinions, but that’s what I signed up and that’s what I delivered. So, til next time, this has been Heroes and Villains. Cheers!