Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Read it: American Vampire, Nemesis, Shuddertown

There are quite a few new comics hitting the shelves these days. Since many of these titles are quality work, I couldn't be happier to see such a resurgence in the industry.

As a slightly random aside brought on solely by my love for the book, I will say that if you are still not reading Joe the Barbarian, there’s something bad wrong with you. This one is something truly special. Daytripper, too, has remained pretty dang fantastic.

That being said, here’s a batch of newbies (American Vampire, Nemesis and Shuddertown) that might be worth your time...Or not.

American Vampire- “But Echo,” I hear you say. “You said you were officially sick and tired of vampires.” My response to that is three simple words: “Stephen Fraking King.”

I’m a bit of a King fanboy, so know that anything less than his name being tied to the project would have elicited a pass from me. Seriously, the genre is beyond saturated as of late.

The important thing to keep in mind is that the book is solid. The art, done by Rafael Albuquerque, is phenomenal and the story is intriguing enough to warrant a look-see. The team states flat-out that they aim to reinvent the vampire. You see none of this reinvention in issue one, but that’s forgivable as the story is still being set up.

Broken into two tales, American Vampire begins with a story from Scott Snyder about a young woman in the 1920s who has moved to Hollywood in hopes of becoming a star. Along the way, she runs into a man named Skinner, the focus of the second half of the comic, a story set in the old west when we discover how Skinner first became a vampire.

Both parts of the book leave you wondering what will happen next and the writing is solid. Despite his career as a novelist, I went in unsure whether or not King’s ability to tell a story would translate well to the comic page. Happily, everything seems to be in order.

King will be along for the first five issues, at which point the story will likely move on to some other partner for Snyder to work with. Since the book will explore various decades of American history, I think this is a great idea for the book.

If you can stomach just a little more vampire in this pointy-toothed day and age, American Vampire is off to a solid start.

Nemesis- Next up we have the collaboration between Mark Millar and Steve McNiven known as Nemesis.

I was a little disappointed with this book, but that’s only because, with Millar and McNiven working on this creator-owned project, my expectations were through the roof.

The art (save a couple panels) was bland and the writing is a little cheesy, but I can’t help but wonder if that last bit is on purpose. Despite Nemesis’ plain costume, he’s all about over-the-top theatrics. The supercops he deals with, too, are apple pie eating flag wavers with records that carry nary a blemish. They are exaggerated characters, so time will tell if the exaggerated writing fits the story.

Rather than follow a superhero around, Nemesis (the book) instead tells the tale of the world’s first super villain. Nemesis (the character) has made a name for himself by choosing a top-notch lawman, dropping off a card telling him exactly when he will die, then wreaking havoc through the guy’s city until it’s time to makes good on the assassination threat.

His target for this story is a squeaky clean DC police chief and, well, let’s just say Nemesis makes his appearance on U.S. soil in grand fashion.

While Nemesis, as a first issue, left something to be desired, I can’t help but feel it’s only going to get better from here. I enjoyed the book, but with so little attachment to either of the main characters this early on, the punches just didn’t hit that hard. Here’s hoping issue two brings out the brass knuckles.

Shuddertown- I’ve really gotten into noir over the years, so when I saw Shuddertown sitting on the shelf, it’s dark and emotional cover called out to me.

I’m usually not a fan of photorealistic comic book art and what Adam Geen does with Shuddertown’s pages doesn’t do anything to change my opinion. Not his fault that the style simply isn’t my cup of tea, but I can certainly blame him for some confusing panel flow and sloppy pages.

Geen receives little help from writer Nick Spencer, who sets up a great premise and then falls flat on the storytelling.

Homicide detective Isaac Hernandez has a few bodies lying at his feet with tons of evidence tied to each. The only problem is, said evidence ties each body to a different killer that actually died years earlier. To make matters worse, these “killers” are former murder victims themselves, all from cases Hernandez worked.

By the time Hernandez has popped enough pills to question his own sanity, the book falls into a mess of flashbacks and insights. At least, that’s what I think was happening. At about the mid-way point, I was left with little understanding as to what, exactly, was going on.

I’m giving Shuddertown another issue to pull the pieces together in hopes that what makes no sense now will eventually become clearer. To possible readers, though, I say give this one a pass.


Scott Snyder said...

echo - thanks a ton for the kind words about av. s

-Ryan Winslett said...

Really cool of you to drop by. Looking forward to issue two!