City of Dust #4 Review

nov084232fSteve Niles is beginning to pull all the pieces together in this tightly written penultimate tale. He spent the first two issues building this futuristic world where religion and fanciful stories are illegal, for the safety of the populace. Then he moved on to developing the motivations of the characters, namely cop Philip Khrome, who had his father imprisoned after he read a children’s book to him.

Finally, he’s moving onto reigning in all the sub-plots, for next issue’s ultimate showdown. In this issue, Khrome spends time with Ajax, a banished scientist, who with Khrome’s father developed bio-sapiens. These creatures made in the image of fantastical beats were meant to inspire citizens to heights of imagination once more. However, Ajax discovered that some of his creations were taking their “roles” too seriously, becoming bloodthirsty in the process.

Khrome leaves Ajax’s lab horrified, but not without hope, as a Frankenstein look-a-like tells the overwhelmed cop that he is “not like the others.” Khrome then visits his father for the first time, who is now a shadow of a man, drooling in is wheelchair in solitary confinement. But in a subtle yet cool sequence, Khrome soon discovers that his old man is not as useless as he would have the guards believe, and is told that it’s now time for Prime Directive Asimov. As the Frankenstein creature argues with his “father” about the morality of murder and the nature of animals, they are interrupted by creations gone wild.

With its horror meets sci-fi concept, plus some great thought provoking themes this series could easily have become a mish-mash of ideas, achieving none well. Niles rises above that. With a deft hand, he is able to take just the right amount of ingredients from each genre to form an eclectic, yet electric adventure story. With Khrome finally awakening to the breaking chaos around him, and others like Ajax, discovering that perhaps they’re not as smart as they thought, you just know a mad battle is on the way, with the fate of the city at stake. I can’t wait.

With three different artists at work here (Brandon Chng, Zid and Garrie Gastonny) the story could easily have fallen apart by a distracting variation of styles. That’s not the case thankfully. They all have a similar clean line, painterly approach, creating rich environments and detailed characters of the human and not-so human variety. It works, as the art always does with Radical’s books. Next issue will be a bloodbath I’m sure. It will also be a shame as it’s the last we may see of Khrome for a while. Hopefully Radical is already scratching their heads over another mini-series with Khrome and co.

Faces of Evil Overview

Faces of Evil is DC Comics’ attempt to put the spotlight on a few of their villains this month. With several one-shots and a few villain-centric issues in some of their regular titles, it’s  a mixed bag. Here are my faves.

detective852coverDetective Comics #852

For my money this series has been far more entertaining than Morrison’s now complete R.I.P. With Batman and Hush battling with fists and wits in equal measure, with the life of Catwoman hanging in the balance, Paul Dini has crafted a taut adventure in the recent Hearts of Hush arc. This issue, aptly titled Reconstruction has Tommy Elliott, Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend, and now mad and envious adult enemy Hush, as he begins to rebuild his life. As we saw recently Selina Kyle, AKA Catwoman, has exacted her revenge for being put at death’s door, by taking Hush’s vast wealth and scattering it across the globe. Here, Hush discovers though he’s penniless for the first time in his life, his operation to look like Bruce Wayne has immediate benefits and its not long before he starts the climb to the top. With art by Dustin Nguyen this is an ish worth grabbing.

I reviewed Faces of Evil: Prometheus here, but I will say that I adored this issue. Prometheus was a great villain when Grant Morrison brought him in as the anti-Batman to the DCU back in 1998. He hasn’t been seen much as of late but this tale tells you all you need to know and actually has a ret-con that makes sense. It’s written by Supergirl’s Sterling Gates, with moody art by Federico Dallocchio.

action-comics-20090113044633005-000Action Comics #873. I always liked Lex Luthor. In this issue by Geoff Johns, with great art by Pete Woods and Renato Guedes, he’s able to put his scientific awareness and keen manipulation to good use, despite his current prisoner status. Working with, or rather for, General Lane (Lois’ father) to battle the 100, 000 Kryptonians that have now “invaded” earth, Luthor has found a renewed purpose. When I first heard the idea behind Johns’ latest arc (the introduction of a city of Kryptonians) I wasn’t impressed. However, Johns has used this tale of family bickering gone to the next level, it shows in a new light how unique Superman truly is. With Supergirl starting to make tough choices and become a hero Johns has proved once more that he knows what he’s doing. Superman’s titles haven’t been this exciting for years.

On a similar note, not a Faces of Evil issue, but one focused on a DC villain. This month’s issue of Batman Confidential (number 25) continues the look at Joker’s early days. I like Scott McDaniel’s pencils, but Joker doesn’t seem as menacing as Andrew Kreisberg’s script would have us believe. Despite Riddler being on the cover, he only shows up in the last few pages and doesn’t do much. It also doesn’t sit right with current continuity, but I guess it’s passable since it’s a Batman satellite tale. Here it’s revealed that Joker is the first patient in the refurbished Arkham Asylum, which just doesn’t sound right. Also, he mentions Grey’s Anatomy. The problem with that is that the unwritten rule of DC (and comics in general) is that stories are always told with a beginning point of about 10 years ago. So Bruce Wayne became Batman 10 years ago, Peter Parker was bitten by that radioactive spider 10 years ago, and so on. Since Grey’s Anatomy only debuted in 2005 that reference just seems out of synch. Maybe it’s just me being too geeky, but these missteps are noticeable.