Sunday, August 24, 2014

Comics Capsule Reviews

Rachel Rising #27
Rachel Rising #27: Rachel Rising gets better with every issue. Why this isn’t in the top 10, no, top three comics published I have no idea. Right now it’s not even in the top 100. Work this good should get more attention and sales.

Rachel has returned to life after being murdered in the small town of Manson. She is trying to solve her murder and stop a mystical, demonic takeover of her town. That’s a high concept for a thousand TV shows and movies who would not execute the idea half as well as writer/artist Terry Moore. This issue features a great character moment between Earl and Aunt Johnny about Earl being in love with Rachel’s friend Jet. It also announces the winner of a social media contest offered by Moore to get the book more attention. Winner Jeff Branget had the honor of being brutally murdered this issue by Manson’s resident serial killer, Zoe. And he is. As always, Rachel Rising receives Humble Opinion’s highest recommendation.

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars

Astro City #14
Astro City #14: Astro City is veteran comic book writer Kurt Busiek’s look at a city full of superheroes mostly from the “man on the street” point of view. The book has been around over 19 years now and is storywise stronger than ever. Part of the reason for that is the consistent creative team, Busiek on writing, Brent Anderson drawing, and the great Alex Ross as cover artist. I think last month was the first fill-in artist in the book’s history, Graham Nolan, and he did a bang-up job.

This month is back to style-master Brent Anderson on pencils. Ellie is a kind old woman who loves robots. She collects all kinds and types, mostly left over from some supervillain scheme of world takeover or mind control, and stores them in her desert museum. She gives tours for a few dollars, content to fix them up and spent time with them as her only friends. Enter her ne’er do well nephew Fred. Fred is one of those “get rich quick” continual screw-ups whose ambition only equals his greed. He comes to stay with Aunt Ellie for a few days to get back on his feet. When Fred sees the potential in Ellie’s Robot Museum, he begins to make suggestions for improvements. Then exhibits start disappearing. In a remarkable coincidence, robot crimes start to increase. The day Ellie notices many of her robot friends have disappeared overnight, the cops show up to arrest her. Continued next issue, but time to see if Fred is just a greedy dupe or a villain himself. Knowing Busiek, the answer won’t be what readers anticipate. Great stuff.

Rating: ****½ out of 5 stars

Coffin Hill #10
Coffin Hill #10: More vibrant art and intriguing, three-dimensional characters. The story flashes back between 2012 and the present. In 2012, Eve Coffin discovers the serial killer she is tracking as a rookie cop is using magic to commit murder and stay hidden from the police. She uses her own magic skills to track him down and gets closer than ever. In the present, Eve sits in jail back in Coffin Hill, arrested for a murder she didn’t commit. A few fellow prisoners find out she used to be a cop and try to prove red is the new black. She dispatches them rather easily and shows her physical combat skills for the first time. She suspects the attack wasn’t random but rather a paid hit on her life.

Coffin Hill is becoming more and more onion-like with each issue, as writer Caitlin Kittredge peels back the story of Eve and her friends. This is a satisfying and meaty comic book experience, washed down by some skillful and atmospheric art by Inaki Miranda.

Rating: **** out of 5 stars

Lady Zorro #2
Lady Zorro #2: Esperenza Borges was devastated when Spanish soldiers killed her husband and family for not paying their taxes. Inspired by Zorro, she seeks revenge as the swashbuckling and sword swinging Lady Zorro. In the last issue, Esperenza was forced to kill the evil wife of Capitan Ramon, the Spanish governor. Now the Governor is out for bloody revenge. He captures Lady Zorro’s soldier companion Hugo, then tortures him for her whereabouts. In a Zorro-worthy rescue on horseback. Esperenza seizes him back, carves a few “Zs” and heads for the hills with Hugo.

Writer Alex de Campi's work has impressed me in the past, and here she creates a decent story that moves at a brisk pace. It would be nice if she named her characters occasionally so readers could know who everyone is. The art by Rey Villegas is dull and workmanlike, certainly not worth the $3.99 cover price. If I pick up the rest of the series, it will be for the sexy and dynamic covers of Joe Linsner, whose images tend to leap from the comic page.

Rating: *** out of 5 stars

Star Trek: New Visions - Time's Echo
Star Trek, New Visions: Time’s Echo: Writer/artist John Byrne continues to blaze new trails with brain-expanding stories and eye-popping visuals. This is the third in Byrne’s “photonovel” series featuring the original Star Trek cast. This book includes two self-contained stories, one a time-travel tale of the Enterprise crash-landing to a fiery death on a planet 1000 years ago. The other is a short but poignant tale of why Yeoman Rand left the Enterprise on its original five-year mission. Both tales feature visuals taken from the original series, then Photoshopped into totally new stories. Byrne’s work is so fun here I almost miss the fact that he isn’t drawing them. But this will work for now. These books are a must-see for Star Trek: TOS fan. More like this, please.

Rating: **** out of 5 stars

Vampirella #3
Vampirella #3: This latest relaunch of the long running female vampire character is by novelist Nancy A. Collins and artist Patrick Berkenkotter. They’ve done an excellent job so far, as Vampirella, the “good” vampire, tracks bloodsuckers from different cultures and parts of the world. And kills them. Here she is in Thailand, tracking a Krasue, one of the weirdest and most disturbing creatures I’ve seen in a comic. A Krasue manifests itself as a flying head connected to lungs, heart and a mass of trailing entrails. It’s not pretty, and Berkenkotter portrays it as horrifically as it sounds. Of course the Krasue’s favorite meal is human children, so our heroine is in the Thai city of Pom Klua to destroy it. Collins does a great job with the supporting characters, such as the couple with a young child being attacked by the Krasue, or the Nosferatu assisting Vampy for his own reasons. An enjoyable read that doesn’t skimp on the horror.

Rating: ***½ out of 5 stars

Alex + Ada #8
Alex & Ada #8: BOOK OF THE WEEK: Things are heating up for the best sci-fi book in comics. The government is cracking down on robots with sentience, and Alex and Ada know it is only a matter of time before they get caught. Seeking advice, they go online to the 3D chat rooms run by other folks who enjoy sentient robots. Ada has a virtual drink with some android buddies and confesses she has developed feelings for Alex and wants to take things to the next level. Back in the real world, she builds up the electronic nerve to tell him and ... he rejects her? Idiot. After some heavy thoughts about it, Alex tells Ada that she will never know if her feelings for him are genuine until she experiences some other events and relationships. Devastated, she sits on the couch all night and considers the situation, then makes a devastating decision that may well change the direction of the book.

Another outstanding issue. This story is always thought-provoking science fiction. What's next for Alex and Ada? Will she be discovered and destroyed? I can’t wait to find out. This book has me gleefully hanging on its every plot twist.

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars.

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