Sunday, April 13, 2014

Comics Capusle Reviews

3/26/14 Books

Alex + Ada #5 - Alex + Ada is the book of the week. The book of the week, the month, and the year so far. Jonathan Luna has done some excellent work with his brother Joshua on books like Ultra and The Sword (I didn’t care for Girls). Here he serves as artist and co-writer with Sarah Vaughn. They knock it out of the park. In the near future, Alex is a successful Yuppie who has recently ended a relationship. His rich grandmother cures his loneliness by sending him one of the new android “companions,” since she enjoys hers so much (Ewwww). At first Alex is appalled and makes plans to send her back. But at the last minute, he changes his mind. As he tries to get to know her, he becomes frustrated with her Stepford Wives obedience and personality. After doing some online research, he finds out that Ada’s particular models have sentience programmed into them, it’s just illegal to activate after the recent sentient Android riots and killings. However, one of the underground Android rights activists will turn her sentience on ... if Alex vows to accept any and all consequences. She will develop her own personality. She may not like him and leave. If the authorities find out, she will be destroyed and Alex will be arrested.

In issue #5, Alex makes the decision and Ada’s sentience is activated. The results are instant and unexpected. After she takes a few shaky moments to acclimate, Alex and Ada walk into the morning sun together to face their new life.

This book does what all speculative fiction should do; present new ideas and look at humanity through the lens of science fiction. And it does so extremely well. Alex is a decent everyman who tries to do the right thing as he sees it. Ada is a machine who so far is just a shadow of human mimicry; now she has free will. Will she stay? Go? Start a Jamba Juice franchise? The future is open and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Especially since Ada must now go to great lengths to hide her newfound will and personality.

The authors have asked some deep questions here and are following them up with strong ideas, dialog and visuals. If you don’t read comics and want to dip your toes in the water, you couldn’t do better than Alex + Ada. If you do read comics, pick this up immediately.

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars

Silver Surfer #1 - Wow, a new #1 issue from Marvel! What a ... er, marvel? I think the #1 on the cover is bigger than the Surfer himself. I kid, I kid. The Surfer hasn’t had a title to himself for a few years, so I think we can excuse it this time. Aside from a ridiculous $3.99 price tag, this is a promising new beginning for the Surfer.

The Silver Surfer has always been a tough sell. Despite being Stan Lee’s favorite Lee/Kirby creation to write, it is basically a silver guy flying around the universe on a surfboard. But the concept has been flexible enough to be serious space opera, straight man in a comedy book and pure science fiction. This version, by Dan Slott with wonderful pop art by Michael Allred, seems to be rather whimsical. Twin earth girls Dawn and Eve are introduced as new characters to the saga. Dawn wants nothing more than to stay in the small town of Anchor Bay for life, Eve wants to travel and experience the world. Twelve years later, Eve is a world traveler and Dawn has never left Anchor Bay, caring for their aged father. While roaming through space, the Surfer is drawn to a crazy world he never knew existed, where the natives blackmail him into becoming their champion. Exactly what he is supposed to champion is a bit fuzzy. But if he doesn’t agree, they will kill the queen of the universe; the recently kidnapped Dawn. Whom the Surfer has never laid eyes on.

That’s a fun high concept, and I will stick around for the second issue.

Rating: *** out of 5 stars

Fatale #21 - The Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips team will go down in history as one of the greatest creative teams in the history of comics. They deliver one hit after another; Sleeper, Criminal, Incognito and now Fatale. Fatale is noir and occult and fantasy and very dark gangster fiction. The protagonist is just what you’d think; Josephine is death to most if not all the men who cross her path. Every man she meets falls in love with her and mostly ends up dead. She is unsure of her own age, at least several centuries. She has been killed many times but always manages to get better. The current storyline deals with Nick, her latest admirer, working with Otto, the one man not affected by Josephine’s charms, to reclaim some merchandise recently stolen from her. And the demon she stole it from originally is working towards the same goal, mostly because the merchandise is that demon’s eyes.

Fatale is the perfect blend of tough guy detective/tawdry dames/demon gangster and occult fiction. Phillips, as always, draws the heck out of it, with believable tired and desperate men chasing drop-dead gorgeous babes. Brubaker is such an astounding writer I had no idea I was interested in reading such a mash-up until I read Fatale.
Rating: **** out of 5 stars

Fables #139 - Fables is that rarest of all rare books; a long-running series by the same writer that is always entertaining and has never taken a wrong step. When every fairy-tale character you’ve ever heard of has their land overtaken by the armies of “the Adversary,” they all head to—where else—New York City. Living under the radar, they all try to get along and keep a low profile. Guess how that works?
This issue, part one of the two-part “The Boys in the Band” storyline, features a few of the Fables musicians gathering to go on a quest. New character Danny Boy approaches his friend Seamus McGuire to return to his Celtic homeland of Hybernia to free it from the Adversary’s forces. Seamus happens to be the Harpist in a band, and his fellow bandmates Peter Piper, Baby Joe Shepherd, Briar Rose and Puss in Boots all agree to come along as well. They fight their way through several hostile dimensions to Hybernia, only to lose (literally) Puss in Boots in a fight with the bad guys. Continued next issue (betcha a fiver Puss is alive).

Writer Bill Willingham is ending this classic series with #150. Again, it is a rare writer that goes out on top after 150 issues without wringing all the fun out of the title. I will miss this dose of fairy tales and fantasy every month. The final storyline will be Snow White vs. her sister Rose Red, and it is shaping up to be a doozy.

**** out of 5 stars

Doc Savage: Man of Bronze #4 - I do loves me some pulp heroes. I grew up with the Doc Savage novels; I also loved the Doc Savage comics, of which there have been several incarnations. The latest is from the company Dynamite, which understands pulp heroes like no other company. Well, except IDW, anyway. Chris Roberson, who loves the pulp heroes as much as I do, is spinning tales about how Doc makes it from the 1930s to the present. In this issue Doc is in the late ‘70s, trying to stop some oil well fires in the Middle East. The daughter of one of the workers is a punk rocker with a bad wardrobe and worse attitude. Doc wins her over through the course of the story and offers her membership on his team. Roberson is the master of the simple, effective adventure story. The script further develops the characters, tells a great tale and gets off the stage. Well worth your valuable time, especially if you like seeing Clark Savage, Jr. back in action. And check out that Alex Ross cover. Wow.

Rating: **** out of 5 stars


  1. Loved-loved-loved the Doc Savage pulps as a young reade. My folks were happy I was reading prose instead of comic books all the time. And my dad was secretly happy I was reading the pulps even though he couldn't say so in front of me mum. (Full disclosure: We're from Maryland, I've never said she was "me mum" before in my life.)

    There was a mini-series a few years back in comic form about Doc. Around the same time Howard Chaykin's The Shadow mini-series came out. Yep, loved The Shadow novels as well - but I gotta say - Doc had better plots and the Fabulous Five were my first introduction to how men from various backgrounds work together.

  2. You might check out the inevitable trade at the library when it comes out, Capt. Penny-Pincher. Roberson has some new ideas for Doc while remaining true to the original characters and themes. It's good stuff!