Heroes and Villains: January 19, 2018

Good day comic fans! I’m here in the office in snowy Cobourg, Ontario and that must mean its time for Heroes and Villains!

In today’s column I will be taking a look at the first two volumes of Injection by one of my favourite writers, Warren Ellis, as well as some titles from Zenescope, Dark Horse and Boom Studios. So without any further ballyhoo, let’s talk comics!


Injection Vol 1. & 2
Writer: Warren Ellis; Art: Declan Shevlay

If you go back to my very first post here at Biff Bam Pop, you’ll learn that I am a Warren Ellis mark of the highest order. His ability to craft an X-Men or Avengers story one day and a completely unique creator driven project the next is remarkable. As a writer he is extremely knowledgeable, intelligent and irreverent. Comics like Transmetropolitan and Planetary would be career defining works for most, but Ellis keeps on churning out new ideas from a seemingly endless well of inspiration.

Injection is Ellis in top form, crafting characters and and a world that is rich with insight, history and tension. The story is hard to do justice in the form of a review, but the broad strokes are that a group of different people from an array of fields have come together to create something that will change the world: an injection of mysterious, magical intelligence right into the internet that has consequences none of them could have imagined.

Using a broken narrative that flashes forward and backward between the present and the past we are shown both the creation of the Injection and its fallout. Within this already packed story, Ellis creates a cast of characters with voices, personalities, weaknesses and strengths that are revealed organically and judiciously. Dialogue isn’t wasted and no thought bubbles or narration appear to reveal elements of the plot; the visual part of the storytelling is left to do its own work and Declan Shevlay keeps pace with Ellis every step of the way. As a fan of their work together at Marvel on Moon Knight, it is something special to see two top creators working together when they are not constrained by the Marvel machine. This is their sandbox and they are having a hell of a time playing in it.

I would never say that something is a must read or must not read—enjoying art is subjective after all—but for fans of Warren Ellis this is a perfect example of why he is one of the most prolific and successful writers working in the genre today.

Dark Horse

Mata Hari #1
Writer: Emma Beeby; Artists: Ariel Kristantina & Pat Masimi

I have to admit that aside from a reference here and there, I know nothing about the story of Mata Hari, so this comic is a good introduction. It’s also an extremely well-done piece of historical fiction, crafted by women about a woman. The first story introduces Mata Hari as she goes on trial in France after being accused of being a spy. The story bounces around her life and history and gives readers a tease of what’s to come. There are some NSFW panels, but they aren’t salacious or drawn for shock. The comic has the feel of a high quality HBO or BBC mini-series; it’s well-researched and well-presented. This is a comic I wouldn’t have even thought to read but the first issue was enough of a hook that I am eager for more.


Grimm Fairy Tales #11
Writer : Joe Brusha; Artist: Derlis Santacruz

The last Zenescope title I checked out was Van Helsing vs. Robyn Hood, so its seems like the company is doing a classic characters re-imagined thing, which I will be honest and say I find a little bit of a tired concept at this point. That said, I did want to give this book a chance if for no other reason than it had a “previously in…” paragraph on the first page, which as someone that often enters titles cold I find extremely helpful.

Grimm Fairy Tales follows Skye Mathers (no relation to Eminem so far as I kno ) a woman that has inherited her mothers mantle and grab bag of super powers as the guardian of the nexus… which sounds like it has been done before doesn’t it?

I don’t like to be negative about the work that creative people do, but I can’t help but contrast the presentation of female characters by female creators in Mata Hari and by male creators here. The dialogue is very on the nose: it moves the plot forward, but lacks subtlety or much in the way of characterization. The art, which is a real strength for this book, is held back by the design elements of Skye and her costume. I’ve written before about my trouble with characters wearing underwear as a combat suit and this comic is right on that train. With frills, thigh high boots, exposed butt cheeks and an ocean of cleavage, Skye’s Wonder Woman-coloured outfit looks dated and out of place in today’s market. Why would you go to battle with that much exposed skin? All the magic in the world won’t help if you walk past a rose bush with your ass hanging out. The villains, a ring wraith-looking guy with dark angel wings and a cross between Lady Demon and Witchblade look cool, but again, lack some originality.

I don’t mean to knock this book it continues my similar problems with Van Helsing vs. Robyn Hood. Tt seems like these creators are making books that miss the mark of modern comics. The art is really great, the colours are popping, the concepts are there, but the delivery feels like something I read saw in a wizard magazine when I was a teenager.

Boom Studios

Escape From New York, Vol. 1
Writer: Christopher Sebela; Artist: Diego Barreto

The good folks at Boom Studios have an incredible interface for reviewers, where you can go through their entire catalogue and read what you like (I love this job!). With options like Kong vs. Planet of the Apes, Power Rangers and Big Trouble in Little China, a guy could get lost in there. But if we’re getting lost, the one guy I want having my back is Snake Plissken. Yeah, you’d think he was taller. And, yeah, there is that rumour out there that he’s dead, but the dude is an OG badass.

Okay, so from that you should get that I like the Escape movies, yes, even Escape From L.A. (although after they massacred it on “How Did This Get Made” I don’t know if I can ever watch it again), so you know that I’m giving this book the benefit of the doubt on the way in. Which I did and I was thoroughly entertained.

Was this book fantastic? Nope. The pacing is a little clunky, the art is a little dodgy, but overall it captures the essence of the films: Snake hates everybody, everybody wants a piece of him. No matter where he goes someone captures him and wants him to do stuff. It’s a simple formula and the creative team sticks to it. They also do a nice job of hitting the dark humour of the films, while filling out the world established at the end of the first Escape film.

Not that I would abuse my power as a member of the press, but I will be reading every single issue of this title and not regretting a moment of it.

So that’s a list of the funny books I read this week. Some good, some bad but nothing ugly. Thanks for reading and I’ll catch you geeks somewhere around the multiverse!

Leave a Reply