Thursday, September 2, 2010

Read it: Locke and Key, The Stuff of Legend, Whispers in the Wall, Hotwire, Scarlett, X-Files/30 Days of Night

It's time for another round-up of comic reviews. Here's a look at a couple first issues and a few more beginnings to new arcs in ongoing series. I've got to start doing these individually. This is way too much content for a single post.

Locke and Key: Keys to the Kingdom
I'm starting to feel like a broken record shouting my love for this series to the mountain tops but, when a team provides such consistently fantastic work, I can't help but want to give them as much attention as I possibly can.

Locke and Key is, quite simply, the best reason to read current comics. Joe Hill has crafted a magical story of loss, love, terror and keys that can unlock more than your imagination. He's accompanied by the obnoxiously talented Gabriel Rodriguez, who puts together panels and pages better than just about anyone in the business. His characters are strong, their expressions speak volumes, the settings are gorgeous and the action is meticulously detailed.

If you haven't read anything from Locke and Key, go out and buy the first three trades as soon as possible. Then, settle in for Keys of the Kingdom. We're just one issue in and it's already proving as entertaining as its predecessors.

Book one of the arc is actually one of my favorites from the entire series. Each page is set up as four vertical panels with a fifth panel serving to provide a background while progressing the story at the same time. Also of note, half of the book, told from the Bode's perspective, is done in a style reminiscent of Calvin and Hobbes. It contrasts perfectly with the more realistic, violent panels taking place in the other half of the story.

This is comic making magic at its finest and therefore receives my highest recommendation.

The Stuff of Legend: Volume II
I have just about as many wonderful things to say about the criminally unappreciated The Stuff of Legend. When a young boy is kidnapped by the Boogeyman, his beloved toys must venture into the unknown in order to save him from the dark.

Wildly imaginative, surprisingly adult, gorgeously rendered and epic in scope, this story is one part Toy Story, one part Lord of the Rings and one-hundred percent quality.

If you're interested in checking it out, however, you really do need to start from the beginning. Luckily, Volume I was only two books long, so there won't be too much catching up to do. These gems might be difficult to track down but I assure you the story and accompanying art are well worth the effort.

Hotwire: Deep Cut
Hotwire is the newest series from Steve Pugh and Warren Ellis and this kickoff to the second arc is just as slick as the original, featuring an intriguing story and plenty of mouth-watering art.

In the future, the dead no longer stay buried as their ghosts, called “Blue Lights” start to rise from the grave and wreak havoc. Most are harmless, but some manage to muster the power to cause some real damage.

Alice Hotwire is back on the case despite battling personal demons both mental and physical (As physical as ghosts can be, I guess.) and, with a little peak at how she became the youngest Detective Exorcist in history, readers are given an unexpected glimpse at what makes this snarky, mean yet likable character tick.

Book one actually does a good job of wrapping up the first arc with some informative front matter, so you don't have to feel the need to go back and get caught up if you missed out. If you've got some extra cash, however, I'd definitely recommend you do exactly that. The first arc was a great read and, so far, arc two is looking every bit as good.

Whispers in the Walls
Whispers in the Walls is an enchanting tale written by David Munoz with art by Tirso and Javi Montes. Alex Donoghue worked on translations as WitW is actually part of a special import project being done by Humanoids. France. It comes from France.

Basically, if someone like Guillermo del Toro were to decide to do a comic, this would be it.

The book takes place during world war two in a mysterious facility where children are being kept and cared for. So far, all we know is that each of their parents have been brutally murdered by mysterious beasts and, in this place that appears one part hospital, one part orphanage and one part secret society, there are dozens of questions with very few answers.

The story focuses on Sarah, who has just woken up in the facility. She is forced to keep to herself but, thanks to secret passages winding all over the facility, she is able to meet up with the rest of the children being kept (or is it imprisoned?) in this strange place.

Book one is out now and, as far as I'm concerned, it should be on the pull list of anyone who enjoys a dark and intriguing story as well as things that go bump in the night.

I've been waiting on this creator-owned collaboration from Bendis and Maleev for quite a while and, honestly, the jury is still out on this one.

I've never been a fan of the “turn a photo into a comic panel” style of art utilized here and, save a few particularly well done panels, Scarlet isn't winning me over to the form. There's just something about that uncanny valley I can't get myself to cross.

Basically, Scarlet is a hardass. She's been wronged by the world and she's going to do her part to make it better with some good old fashioned vigilante justice. The problem with this setup is that I've seen it a few too many times. Add to that the fact her origin story isn't all that appealing and I'm left with little to cling to.

Scarlet breaks the fourth wall, however, and informs the reader that she can only accomplish her mission with their help. This, at least, feels new and intriguing. Book one isn't “bad” so much as too familiar. The writing is strong and, like I said, when the art isn't too blatantly painted over, it has a gritty look I can really get behind. There's also style aplenty.

I'm definitely going to stick around. Scarlet started with a whimper, but I have a feeling it's going to build momentum and end with a magnificent bang.

The X-Files/ 30 Days of Night
This is an easy one to review. Do you like The X-Files? Do you like 30 Days of Night? If your answer to either of those questions was “yes,” you will find a great read in this super-awesome collision of worlds. Doubly so if you answered in the affirmative for both.

Agents Mulder and Scully are called to Alaska when a grisly multiple murder leaves local authorities scratching their heads. A rival FBI team is on the scene, making for a nice bit of tension while everyone's favorite spooky duo tries to figure out why citizens keep popping up with their heads removed and their bodies completely drained of blood.

Some of the dialogue is a little wonky but, otherwise, this reads just like an episode of the show while keeping the hard horror edge you'd expect from 30 Days of Night.

It's fun, and that's one of the best reasons to pick up a comic.

1 comment:

fredsolo said...

Top notch picks. Every one of these books is fantastic in their own way. Hotwire is the best comic series that no one talks about! We praise these titles non-stop on The Fourth Wall Podcast. Check it out, if you get a chance, at