Comics, Comics, Everywhere

I never read comics as a kid, aside from the occasional Betty & Veronica Double Digest. The world of graphic novels and illustrated serials only opened to me a few years ago, around the time I bonded with a particular group of friends. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman was my first, and in the four years since, my love of mythology- and literature-based comics has grown to include The Unwritten, Fables, Locke & Key, and more. Despite growing popularity, a lot of people are surprised to discover there’s more to comics than superheroes – though there’s nothing wrong with the classics.

Now, every month or so, my friends and I get together for the Great Media Exchange wherein we strive to spread the joy of new geeky discoveries, or share old favorites with those yet-to-be converted. (Which is how I came to read all thirteen novels of the Dresden Files in two months.) Now that we’re all more or less caught up on our continuing series, I’ve started the hunt for new ones. I’m even buying single-issues for the first time. Having been the one to bring the twisted-but-brilliant horror-thriller Morning Glories into the mix, I can’t help wanting to find the group’s next shared comic.

To that end, I wandered the racks at Golden Apple, and looked for series that were just starting out. But why should my friends be the only ones to get the benefit of my excellent taste? If you’re also a narrative comics fan looking for your next read, allow me to guide you:

Title: Memorial Issue #1
Publisher: IDW
Author: Chris Roberson (Fables, Cinderella: Fables Are Forever, iZombie)
Artist: Rich Ellis

Summary: Amnesiac Em is just putting her life back together when she stumbles over one of those trans-dimensional junkshops that are never in the same place twice – you know the type. Thanks to an unusual key that she finds inside, Em becomes the target of a statue mob (literally, a mob of statues), which is ostensibly controlled by the shadowy queen of the Everlands, a world that absorbs pieces of other worlds, and likely Em’s original home.

Opinion: Roberson has written some great comics in the mythos category, so I jumped on his new one, which, genre-wise, suits me more than his Vertigo title, iZombie. Memorial has all the ingredients to be a favorite, I’m just not sure the cake’s been baked to the right temperature. It’s hard to judge an entire story by a single issue, but there were just some aspects of the comic that struck the wrong note. The use of a third-person narration distracted from the illustrations – I felt that a lot of the exposition could have been shown in the panels, or ignored all together. When you set up a story in a world with magic, you don’t have to explain everything right off the bat. Problem number 2 was Em herself. Hopefully the next issue will give her the chance to show a bit more personality. I guess blandness is one of the risks you take when your protagonist starts the story with amnesia.

Overall I’ll say that while it didn’t leave me desperately waiting on the next issue, I will pick it up when the time comes, and according to a USA Today article, Roberson promises a lot of what I’m looking for in the future. I’m a sucker for ‘literature-comes-to-life’ stories with a healthy dose of magic, a talking cat, and statuary assassins. It does remind me a lot of The Unwritten, though I’m not sure that’s a good thing. But I do like Rich Ellis’s illustrations, and he put a TARDIS on page 19, which earns him some geek points. (Not that he needs them.)

 

Title: Jack Avarice is The Courier Issue #1
Publisher: IDW
Author/Artist: Chris Madden 

Summary: “Drunken loser extraordinaire” Jack Avarice spends the comic in a beach bar on one of the Hawaiian islands, while a mysterious, scarred super-spy nick-named ‘The Fox’ breaks out of a Cuban prison. Basically, the Fox is living Jack’s dream life, running from guns and explosions, having a quickie in the jungle with a hot assassin named La Contessa Snypra, and exchanging witticisms with antagonist spy ‘The Shark.’ Jack and the Fox only cross paths in the last few pages, but I won’t spoil it by telling you how.

Opinion: It’s pretty good spy-fare, aside from the fact that one of the good guys looks like a cliche bad guy. In novel format, this wouldn’t have been an issue, but in the comic, I found it confusing. This is another comic that’s hard to judge by its issue, as Issue #1 is basically a pilot for what could be an entertaining series. Jack Avarice is only a 5-issue mini, so if you enjoy the first, it’s probably worth finishing. It’s a bit too on-the-nose for my tastes. Nice illustrations, Madden has an interesting style that seems to incorporate the initial sketch as part of the final product.

 

Title: The Occultist One-Shot + Issue #1 
Publisher: Dark Horse
Author: Tim Seeley (Hack/Slash)
Artist: Victor Drujiniu and Jason Gorder

Summary: College student Rob Bailey touches a magic book and finds himself with a glowing green hand symbolic of having the power of “The Sword” which seems to be code for all information everywhere. Unfortunately, becoming one with the Sword brings out a whole host of ‘hit mages’ who compete for the opportunity to kill him in imaginative ways.

Opinion: There’s a one-shot that precedes the first issue, which apparently debuted a year earlier. Trust me when I say, the one-shot is pretty important to understanding the first issue, so start there. Interestingly, Dark Horse tapped into Tim Seeley’s Hack/Slash fan base and got some advanced opinions on The Occultist, with one reader comparing Rob Bailey to the whiny Luke Skywalker of A New Hope. I agree with this assessment. Bailey is not the world’s most likable protagonist. He doesn’t accept the ‘great responsibility’ part of his great power, and instead uses it to mind-rape his ex-girlfriend. Future comics will tell if he grows with his abilities. The best draw of this comic is the dark side; by which I mean the villains. Lead bad guy does some fun stuff with technomancy, and the collection of mercenaries all have their own unique stamp – and an odd sort of competitive camaraderie that reminds me of the commercials I see for Storage Wars on A&E. I think it’s worth getting again.

 

So while I didn’t find a comic I absolutely loved in this batch (tune back in soon for my thoughts on the comic continuations of the Whedon-verse), I did find a couple to pique my interest, to tide me over until the next volume of The Unwritten comes out.

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