Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Comics Capsule Reviews

5/7/14 Books
Book of the Week

Alex + Ada #6
Alex + Ada #6: The Book of the Week? Of course it is. Alex has unleashed android Ada’s sentience and she is discovering the world sensation by sensation. Together they test every sensory input imaginable (except the big one, an elephant in the room at this point). Ada likes every food in the house except for oranges (presumably, they’re too tangy for her electronic taste buds). She slaughters Alex at video games. She experiments with touch, tickling and goosebumps on Alex’s skin. She desperately wants to go outside, but Alex asks her to hold off for now. They don’t want to give away that her consciousness has been awakened. If discovered, that could result in jail for Alex and the scrap heap for Ada. Bored when Alex leaves for work. Ada decides to be a vicious rulebreaker and do some gardening in the back yard. And runs smack dab into a nosy neighbor.
Still groundbreaking and sensational, Alex + Ada bursts with new and interesting ideas on every page. The book successfully looks at humanity through the lens of science fiction.

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars

Madame Frankenstein #1
Madame Frankenstein #1: In the 1930s, Courtney Bow is an attractive young debutant. Vincent Krall is a handsome scientist desperately in love with her. When Courtney is killed while taking a roadster joyride, Vincent is devastated. Cut to a few years later. Courtney’s body lies naked, scarred and sewn together on a table--a familiar scene to any horror movie enthusiast. Infused with electricity, she actually comes back to life, and just like Frankenstein’s monster, she is disoriented and confused. Using fire to subdue her (‘cause, you know ... fire bad), Vincent welcomes her back to the world. That’s a lot for a first issue, and writer Jamie S. Rich handles the events smoothly without rushing. Artist Megan Levens’s work is a bit simple and cartoony, but not bad and probably fitting the light tone (so far) of the story. This is not high drama, but is interesting enough that I will stick around for the second issue.

Rating: *** stars out of 5

Original Sin #1
Original Sin #1: I don’t read any DC comics anymore, and precious few Marvels. I enjoyed the Free Comic Book Day Original Sin #0, so thought I would dip my toes into Marvel’s latest big event. The book had mixed results.

Uatu the Watcher, a character created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the ‘60s, has been watching Earth ever since. Forbidden to interfere in human affairs, he does so anyway, regularly and brazenly. When the Watcher’s house on the moon explodes, Nick Fury (the real one, not the politically correct movie Fury Marvel has shoehorned into their books) gathers a team of Avengers to go see what happened.  In a particularly gory two-page spread, they find the Watcher dead and two bloody spots where his eyes used to be.

Noticing that a few of the Watcher’s more destructive sci-fi gadgets are missing, Fury decides they have to play detective and find who murdered Uatu and stole all of his wonderful toys. Writer Jason Aaron shows he has a decent handle on Marvel’s big guns and artist Mike Deodato gets better every year. I can’t say I like the overall plot—is killing a 50 year-old character really the best choice for a “big event” subject? The worst part—and not Aaron or Deodato’s fault—is the horridness of modern Marvel superhero costumes. Captain America looks awful—like he’s a transformer or something. His original costume worked for 70 years for a reason—it was cool. Iron Man’s armor is now mostly black, I’m sure because there is not enough black in superhero costumes. Change for a reason is fine. Change for change’s sake or to be exactly like the movie is stupid and ineffective.

This story does have my attention, and for now I’ll follow to see where it goes.

Rating: *** stars out of 5

The Woods #1
The Woods #1: I don’t think I am the audience for this book. Good writers can take almost any concept and, while they may have a specific audience in mind, make it enjoyable to general readers. Writer James Tynion IV seems to have the modern teenager in mind here and no one else.

It’s a normal day at Bay Point Preparatory High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The class clown/jock is streaking through the hallways, a popular cheerleader bemoans her unplanned pregnancy, the gay kid is ... gay, and the nerds want to be popular. In the blink of an eye the entire school is transported to another world, a planet of dark forests and flying bat-things that want to eat you. The only man-made thing in sight is a big metal arrow pointing north. To what? Are they supposed to follow it? Wait for their captors? Who knows? A general vote decides that the students and teachers will stay put, but a small group shows initiative by deciding to follow the arrow and see what happens.

This first issue does a good job of setting up the theme of the book and giving us a sample of the characters and their personalities. Unfortunately, the book is somewhat rote and derivative. This type of story has been done many times, most notably in the Japanese manga The Drifting Classroom, from which The Woods borrows heavily. The characters are a bit flat and the exact same as the characters in The Breakfast Club and a hundred other teenager movies. The mystery is intriguing—what happened? Who transported the school? What do they want? Where exactly are they? But I’m not sure I am interested enough to hang around to find out. It doesn’t help that the art is mediocre at best.

Rating: *** stars out of 5 

Chaos #1

Chaos #1: Chaos, a comic book company that went out of business some years ago, sort of returns with all of their signature characters in one book, courtesy of Dynamite. The most popular characters; Purgatori the vampire and her significant other Evil Ernie, are aiming to bring on Ragnarok (I didn’t even know they were Nordic). The Chosen, a group of humans with supernatural powers, are fighting to stop them. I’m not sure if Chastity knows what side she’s on—I certainly don’t. I like some of these characters in their original incarnations, and I always appreciated that they never took themselves too seriously. They don’t here, either. This miniseries means to bring the characters out of ...um, purgatory ... and give them something to do. The art could be better, but the story is fun and serviceable enough. Welcome back, Chaos!

Rating: *** stars out of 5

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