The Comic Queen

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Single-Panel Reviews 11/8/05

Surrogates #1 (of 5)
Top Shelf $2.95
Writer: Robert Venditti; Artist: Brett Weldele
The year is 2054 and the vast majority of the population live out their lives vicariously using surrogates, or cybernetic human forms. The crime rate is down, quality of life is up, and things are status quo. That is until two surrogates are found dead, and what first looks like “natural” causes turns out to be murder—the first in 15 years—and Lt. Greer and Sgt. Ford are on the case.

This is one of the best comics I’ve read, and not just for the sequential art, either. The book includes an essay from the fictional “Journal of Applied Cybernetics;” pinups from Duncan Fegredo, Ben Templesmith, and Becky Cloonan; and a great ad for surrogates on the back cover, making this an incredibly well-packaged comic all around.

The story is a touch science fiction but mostly drama/mystery. The art is sketchy and edgy mirroring the feeling within the story. This is a very promising first issue—the premise, characters, and feel are well established, readers are just waiting for the mystery to unfold. I love the concept—when you can place a story in a not-so-distant future, but definitely futuristic society that still feels believable, you’ve really accomplished something and strengthened whatever comes next, as well.
Bottom line: A

What Were They Thinking?!
Boom Studios $3.99
Writers: Keith Giffen and Mike Leib; Artist: Wally Wood and Bill Molno
When I was a kid, every once in a while for cheap entertainment, my dad would take the evening paper and create word balloon comments for the people in the photos. Then he’d pass the paper on to my mom and me, and we’d add our own two cents. It was a riot every time.

The same concept is used in What Were They Thinking?!. Giffen and Leib take an old Wally Wood war comic, remove the dialog and commentary, then insert their own to create all-new, silly plots. It’s a fun idea—like I said, I’ve had a great time with the concept myself. In this comic, however, it was done with mixed results. There were definitely laugh-out-loud moments, but it would have been more effective if they could have had more variance in subject. Two of the four stories relied heavily on effeminate/gay-centered jokes. Used in moderation they would have been funny, but, in general, relying on one type of joke too much, you can run the risk of sounding like a little kid who finds never-ending amusement by repeating the word “butt.” Don’t get me wrong, this comic is pretty funny, and worth a read, I just think with a little more imagination, it could have been more successful.
Bottom line: C+

Easy Way 4-issue series
IDW $3.99 each
Writer: Christopher E. Long; Artist: Andy Kuhn
This is a good read in the comic genre I like to call “slacker action adventure” with nice art by Kuhn (which reminded me of Jim Mahfood’s work). Added to the traditional black and white was a nicely effective red duotone color wash. The four-issue series follows Duncan, a regular guy in rehab looking to turn things around to win his wife and daughter back. Thinking some money would go a long way to mend wounds, Duncan gets talked into one last deal by fellow rehab mate Raz. Of course it’s not that simple—mainly complicated by a psychotic coke dealer. It’s a good read—paced well, good characterization, and nice art. This seems to be an overlooked little series definitely worth picking up.
Bottom line: B+

Batman Jekyll & Hyde 6-issue series
DC $2.99 each
Writer: Paul Jenkins; Artist: Jae Lee
Whew, this was a dark Bat story. And one I enjoyed quite a bit. Two-Face is more conflicted, and hence more dangerous, than ever. Basically, Batman’s trying to solve the mystery of what Two-Face is up to and trying to reach out to Harvey for what seems to be one last time. There is more to the story, though, and it’s a good one. If you’ve been disappointed by Batman stories lately, and like a good, dark story (i.e., lots of gory crime scenes), then this is one to read. The art is a strong feature of the mini-series--it’s grotesquely beautiful, disturbingly gorgeous. Maybe I’m a little harsh with a solid B rating, but it reverted to some conventions, like poisoning food to make the populace go mad, that have gotten stale over the years.
Bottom line: B

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