X Volume One Review

X Big BadDark Horse’s focus on bringing a few more superheroes in to their line as of late makes sense. They are not normally associated with brightly clad cape wearers, but apart from Marvel and DC Comics no publisher is really.

X is a character who debuted in the pages of Dark Horse Presents, and his solo series ran from 1994 until 1996. That was the time I was becoming fully engorged on comics, and I do recall X at the time, although I never picked up any of the character’s tales. It was also a good time for the publisher, with the success of Mask, Barb Wire and Sin City getting attention, and they’ve only eclipsed that success in the years since.

Of course, comics readers are a nostalgic bunch, so bringing back X makes sense, plus there’s already some familiarity with the hard core character.

This Trade Paperback, entitled Big Bad, collects the relaunch which began in April 2013, in particular issues #0-4, plus a few sketchbook pages of character designs. Written by Duane Swierczynski (Cable and X-Force, Punisher, for Marvel), with art by Eric Nguyen (Batman: Arkham Unhinged, based on the Arkham series of videogames), this is a good (re) introduction to X and the nasty city he inhabits.

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Doc Savage #1 Review

It makes sense that Dynamite would eventually publish Doc Savage, one of the most famous old-timey adventure heroes from the pulp era of the ’30s and ’40s. The publisher have had success with creating comics showing new adventures of other characters from that time, such as Zorro, Green Hornet, and The Shadow.

It also makes sense that they’d get Chris Roberson to write the series, as he has an obvious respect for the era, with his previous work in novels, as well as his work on the 8 issues Masks series which sees the aforementioned heroes, and others, team up. (The collection of Masks is sitting on my bookshelf to be read, and I will, seeing as it has Alex Ross’ first interior artwork in years).

It’s a shame that Doc Savage hasn’t been in the forefront of pop culture for the last few decades really. much-maligned film in the ’70s, and an almost Arnie film, but now will become a blockbuster (hopefully) as long-time Savage fan, screenwriter and director Shane Black brings it to the big screen, after his massive success with Iron Man 3.

This first issue handles the complications of the character’s rich history ell, for a newcomer like myself. There’s not a lot of manly heroics here, so don’t expect the ripped, bronze physique of the shirt tearing Doc Savage here, but there’s enough of the supporting cast and the setting to encapsulate a sense of adventure. This debut tells the tale of a disgruntled scientist trying to prove that mankind are nothing but animals, with a device that sets of a specific radio frequency, turning people in 1930s metropolitan America in to crazed brutes who beat each other up.

Savage and his smart friends, who are summed up well with captions and dialogue, sort out the cause and solution rather quickly. To some, this may be an underwhelming issue, expecting more high stakes, glob trotting and machismo fisticuffs, but this is an entertaining and well-rounded intro to Savage’s world. Roberson’s script is text-heavy, complete with old-school inner thought speeches, but with talented newcomer Bilquis Evily’s artwork, it works.  Evily’s clean lines, yet somewhat scratchy approach remind me of Sean Murphy in a way and he fills the pages with spot-on details. The architecture, the fashion – it all looks like ’30s America.

Judging by the description for next month’s issue, this is a done-in-one tale, which means I’m looking forward to further issues and continuing adventures.

Check out a preview of this issue right here.

DocSavage01CovRoss

Hellboy: The Midnight Circus Review

This year is the 20th anniversary of Mike Mignola’s very successful creation Hellboy. There are many ways to celebrate, including reading The Midnight Circus, an awesome new OGN written by Mignola with awesome art by Duncan Fegredo.

You can read my review of this impressive tale at Broken Frontier.

Hellboy MC Cover

The Last Of Us: American Dreams Review

The Last Of Us CoverI’ve been a fan of writer/artist Faith Erin Hicks since her OGN Zombies Calling. If I recall correctly, I picked it up on a whim my first time at San Diego Comic-Con a few years ago, and fell in love with her storytelling ability. She somehow manages to make every character relatable and sympathetic, and there’s great depth in her cartooning style. I’ve pretty much read everything she’s done since my first exposure to her, and when I saw her name in relation to a dark, horror video game title, I was rather surprised. It’s not her normal playground, but I’m glad I gave The Last Of Us: American Dreams a chance.

This 106 page full colour TPB collects the recent four issue mini-series based on the game of the same name that was released not that long ago. Dark Horse have a good history when it comes to video games, and although the medium rarely translates well to the silver screen, there have been some great comics based on video games in the last few years, such as Udon’s always good value Street Fighter series, plus the Horse’s own efforts which include franchises such as Mass Effect, and Dragon Age. The publisher have also released some rather pretty art books which are must haves for lovers of concept art and world building, on such games as Bioshock Infinite, Remember Me as well as The Last Of Us.

American Dreams expands that world further. Written by Hicks and the creative director of the game, Neil Druckmann, with art by Hicks, this is set before the events of the game. The writing pair set the world up elegantly. In the first dozen pages, we know who these characters are, and what world they’re living in. Essentially, the city is barricaded by a giant wall against  hordes of diseased citizens called, “infected.” There’s also a rebellious faction calling themselves The Fireflies who are against the new police state, despite the good intentions of its militaristic leaders.

After some initial friction, and lots of swearing, Ellie, the angry new girl, and Riley the more experienced and sarcastic girl team up to escape their new “home.” Riley is about to turn 16 and like all those before her at that age, will be forced to become a soldier for the good of the surviving community. She doesn’t want that life so she escapes the compound with Ellie and introduces her to the older Winston, who lives in a tent in a very rundown shopping centre.

Hicks’ art conveys the emotion of each scene splendidly and isn’t afraid to use silence when necessary. The city that the mischievous pair traverse is deserted thanks to the infected, which are kind of like fast zombies, although there’s not highly detailed exposition within the story itself. On the back cover, however, is a nice setup (19 years ago a fungal outbreak killed most of the world’s population).

Being largely unfamiliar with the game, this tale stands on its own, and by focusing on two teen protagonists, and their interaction with each other, the scary world, the infected, and the hardcore Fireflies, Hicks and Druckmann have crafted a believable world in which people question their values and determination. Fans of The Walking Dead will surely be fond of American Dreams, and Hicks’ artwork is, as always, a pleasure to behold, and the few extra pages of her sketches is a pleasant bonus. At first glance it may seem that her style may not suit the gritty and intense story being told within these pretty pages, but there’s great raw emotion and dynamism at work here. When characters shout, or get frustrated or scared, Hicks superbly renders all those feelings.

The Last Of Us: American Dreams is available from October 30, and you can see a preview here.

The Last Of Us-American Dreams p4

The Last Of Us-American Dreams p5

Unmasked #3 Review

The latest digital offering from the Unmasked series by Gestalt Publishing is out now. My review of the third issue by Christian Read and Gary Chaloner can be found here.

Unmasked-03 Cover

The Devotion of Suspect X

I’ve been trying to read more novels lately. Here’s a brief review of the latest one.

the-devotion-of-suspect-x

I picked up The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino as it was a recommendation from the owner of a small bookstore owner. (I always like to support the non-chain bookstores).

I did notice a handful of grammatical issues, especially in the early pages of the book, which I found surprising. Sure, it’s been translated from Japanese, but this 2011 English version has also been nominated for two awards for its translation.

Set in contemporary Japan, it focuses on Yasuko, a quiet single mother who has moved to escape her former husband. However, when he shows up at her apartment one night, it doesn’t end well for anyone, and when her neighbour Tetsuya Ishigami offers his genius-level maths approach to assisting the young family, the stakes are raised, and the plot becomes complicated, but thankfully, still easy to follow.

It’s the third book featuring the Detective Galileo character, known as Manabu Yukawa, who is an old college friend of Ishigami and whose investigation, coupled with his knowledge of Ishigami’s eccentric behaviour, leads to the novel’s intensity in the latter half. I haven’t read the other two books featuring the detective, and it wasn’t an issue. This is a stand-alone novel that you can delve right in to.

The first half is a bit slow, but it certainly picks up in the last half, and as I got down to the final chapters, I couldn’t wait to finish it. There are surprising developments which work splendidly in raising questions about various characters’ integrity and true motivations.

There are two film adaptations out already, (a Japanese, and South Korean version), with a third American remake on the way. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of one novel spawning that many international adaptations in such a short amount of time.

Although there are crime elements, seeing as it is a murder mystery, it never becomes gory or gruesome. It is a story about murder, sure, but it is more about the exploration of unusual relationships, the line between respect and romance, and the depths one can sink to to rationalise horrific acts, as well as the effects of loneliness and social isolation.

Zombie Cities Violence vs Compassion Review

I reviewed the second Zombie Cities anthology from Australian publisher, Silver Fox Comics, here at Broken Frontier.

Zombie Cities VC

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