Sunday, August 30, 2015

Comic Capsule Reviews

Beauty #1
Beauty #1: Beauty has a movie-ready high concept—two years ago, a sexually transmitted disease exploded on the world stage; an STD people actually wanted. The “Beauty” STD cleared up bad skin, reversed hairlines and weight gain, and made men and women the best possible physical versions of themselves. The only downside was a constant low fever, but none of the victims seemed to mind. Perfect physical beauty was only one sexual encounter away. When a Beauty “sufferer” implodes on a New York subway train, NYPD detectives Foster and Kara are called in to investigate. Finding leads quickly, they follow the trail to an angry anti-Beauty protester. The encounter swiftly turns to violence. 

Beauty has a unique concept, with brilliant art and an execution that pulls the reader deeply into its world. Circumstances allow the disease to affect both Kara and Foster personally. One of these incidents is the last-panel cliffhanger, which will definitely bring me back for issue #2. A captivating book with plenty of mysteries to explore. 

Rating: **** out of 5 stars 

The Fade Out #8
The Fade Out #8: This series was a bit slow to find its footing, but since it did it has been firing on all cylinders. In this issue, writer Charlie Parish attends another soulless Hollywood party, only it’s Halloween now and everyone’s in costume. We find out more about the past of Charlie’s girlfriend, actress Maya Silver, as she hustles Charlie from the party to rescue her Mexican ex-husband from a heroin-induced haze. It’s pointed out that her ex, a talented musician, used to work with the Desi Arnez band. When Charlie drags home, a blackmail note is waiting, threatening to expose the truth about the death of actress Valeria Sommers, which Charlie has been investigating since day one. 

Questions again abound this issue. Why does Charlie receive the note? And why does he think he knows who sent it? Writer Ed Brubaker answers each question with another, more complex query about these characters and their motives, all the while examining Golden Age Hollywood at its seediest. Fantastic stuff. 

Rating: **** out of 5 stars 

Manifest Destiny #16
Manifest Destiny #16: Will this comic ever slow down? It’s easily one of the most fun and innovative books on the market. Writer Chris Dingess and artist Matthew Roberts take a fantastical look at Lewis & Clark exploring a Louisiana Purchase full of monsters and magic. Currently their exploration party is in the area now known as St. Louis. Making common cause with a sentient (and human-eating) bird tribe, Meriwether Lewis leads a band of volunteers from their exploration group to destroy a mutual enemy. They may have bitten off more than they can chew. Meanwhile, Clark stays at the camp with Sacajawea, who is pregnant and ill with visions from her Shaman grandfather. 

Dingess knows how to ratchet up the tension and make it believable that anyone in the group, including Lewis and Clark, may not be returning home from this grand adventure. And Roberts can illustrate any monster or act of magic thrown at him. Highly recommended for lovers of real and bogus history. 

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars 

Stray Bullets: S&R #7
Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #7: Occasionally writer/artist David Lapham will go off the rails and publish a ridiculous fantasy instead of his usual gripping crime story. I love those times. Tied intrinsically to the main narrative, this issue portrays fantasy versions of all the usual main characters with Lapham’s traditional over-the-top anti-heroine, Amy Racecar. Amy Racecar stories are whimsical, LSD-daydream tales of tongue-in-cheek death and carnage. Like most readers I’m sure, I used to shake my head at Amy Racecar stories, usually appearing out of nowhere in the middle of multi-issue epics, and wonder if Lapham was having a laugh. Until I read the origin of Amy Racecar in the Stray Bullets world. I no longer laugh them off. Amy Racecar is one of the most disturbing creations I’ve ever experienced in any media. Why she was created and what she was intended to cover up is truly horrific. It makes me nauseated to think about it. David Lapham can make readers feel something, and that is a rare talent. 

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars 

Seven-Per-Cent Solution #1
The Seven-Per-Cent Solution #1: Even though I am a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, I’ve never seen director Nichols Meyers’ Holmes flick The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (Meyers also directed Star Trek II – the good one). Here writers David & Scott Tipton adapt Meyers’ original novel of the same name into a comic miniseries. 

It turns out that the battle of Richenbach Falls may not have been so fatal for Holmes’ most enduring nemesis, James Moriarty. Holmes is obsessed with finding Moriarty and stopping him before he can return to his evil ways. He becomes so obsessed in a fog of cocaine he can’t tell friend from foe or reality from hallucination. Dr. John Watson, Holmes’ physician and friend, happens to hear about a new treatment for such maladies from a doctor ... of the mind. The most accomplished such doctor is a gentleman from Vienna—one Sigmund Freud. 

How Holmes and Freud will clash will be an interesting meeting. Despite being dragged to Vienna by Dr. Watson, I’m not sure Sherlock will appreciate having someone tramp all over his mind and explore his childhood. That should be a hoot. We’ll see next issue. 

Rating: *** ½ out of 5 stars 

We Can Never Go Home #4
We Can Never Go Home #4: Still on the run from the events of last issue, Duncan and Madison are stuck in yet another nondescript hotel room in Buttcheek, America. They have killed people, robbed drug dealers and stolen a fleet of cars in their run from authorities. After a nasty argument, Maddie storms out. She returns a moment later and locks lips with Duncan. If you think that doesn’t sound like something Maddie would do, you would be right. 

Turns out crime bosses tend to keep super-powered people around them for cases such as this; and a shapeshifter is about to end Dunc’s life on the run. She actually makes him an offer, but it looks like it’s one he can refuse, because he does. When Dunc and Maddie (the real one) are tracked down by the F.B.I. five minutes later, they get another offer. Will they refuse this one too? Or will they spend the rest of their lives in maximum security? If they accept a job, will they go to work for the bad guys or the worse guys? The huge cliffhanger ending is a clue, but I don’t think these two crazy kids have totally made up their minds either way. A fun, if amoral, read with little redeeming social value. I loved it. 

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars

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