REVIEW: Aliens #1

Script: John Arcudi
Pencils: Zach Howard
Inks: Mark Irwin and Zach Howard
Colors: Wes Dzioba
Lettering: Blambot!
Associate Editor: Samantha Robertson
Editor: Chris Warner
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

If you’re like me, it’s been a while since you’ve read an Aliens comic book. I think the first Dark Horse comic book I read was either an Aliens or Predator series. I’ve grown accustomed to seeing Dark Horse’s label on titles like Star Wars or Hellboy or even B.P.R.D., but its Aliens and Predator where it all started and it feels good to be back.

This issue starts a four-part miniseries that starts out quiet and is suddenly overrun by the alien creatures we’ve come to know. We’re only a handful of pages into the issue at this point, and then we switch gears to see a spacecraft and its crew awakening from a long deep sleep while they have been traveling to the Chione System. They are coming to excavate at a site on a planet that has something that looks like ancient structures. What they are unaware of is what they will find themselves caught up in once they land planet side and meet the mining company that has taken the planet as their own and selling the excavation rights to the highest bidder.

The one thing that a writer finds hard to convey with an Aliens comic book is to find that horror and suspense feel that the movies have. This is hard to do with any type of characters in comics, but to do it with these alien creatures is even harder because of the expectations they bring. This issue doesn’t really present too many of those moments that a reader may feel are all that suspenseful, but there are a couple surprising moments that you expect from the films and John Arcudi does a good job with portraying these moments.

I will applaud Arcudi’s writing in this issue that it keeps me intrigued in what’s happening. The set up for what’s to come is good and he has me interested in coming back for the next issue. All of that is good, but its Zach Howard’s art that really sells me on this issue. Howard’s pencils are great in this issue. I really like his character designs. The characters have their own look and feel. Adding with Howard’s pencils is Mark Irwin’s inks, Wes Dzioba’s colors, and Blambot’s lettering and this is a very nice looking package by the art team and that is really what sells me on this issue.

Aliens is such a strange property and it takes a certain creative team to pull it off. I think this creative has what it takes, and this issue is evidence of that. I really felt I was over any kind of comic book about these alien creatures, but Arcudi pulls me back in and I’m ready for more.

REVIEW: Gotham Gazette: Batman Alive? #1

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Art: Dustin Nguyen (the Veil), Guillem March (Vicki Vale), ChrisCross (Stephanie Brown), Jame McKelvie (Leslie Thompkins), Alex Konat & Mark McKenna (Harvey Bullock)
Letterer: Steve Wands
Colorist: Guy Major and Guillem March
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics

If you have been following along with the entire “Battle for the Cowl” event for the last few months then this issue is sort of a wrap up of those events from the Veil’s point of view as she is trying to speak, or interpret, what Gotham City is thinking and feeling since Batman’s ‘death’ and ‘resurrection’. Each of the stories within this issue are not conclusions of the stories that were started in the Gotham Gazette: Batman Dead one-shot, but sort of the ending of the first act of sorts leading to more stories in the future. These stories will be playing out in the pages of the returning titles as well as the new titles that will be beginning in June.

While I won’t put all of my feelings about the entire “Battle for the Cowl” event in this review I will say that this issue does act as a bookend for this act, and I’m hoping that what comes next gives me a little more than I got here. While I don’t think what I’ve read in this issue is bad in any regards, it did not feel compelling other than a most unexpected vignette – Vicki Vale. I try my best to keep all of my reviews as spoiler free as possible I will say that Vale’s big reveal, or her new hobby I should say, will be interesting to watch unfold as we move forward in the lives of Gotham City. That part of this whole issue grabbed me enough that I want to see it played out more.

There are reasons that these stories are being told. It’s up to the reader to figure out why these stories are important. It’s up to the writer, Fabian Nicieza, to make the reader want to figure it all out. Again, I can’t say that anything I read in this issue other than Vale’s reveal at the end of the issue really made me want to read more about them. If they show up in the books I’m reading I’ll follow along, but I’m not inspired to go seek them out.

I’m happy to see “Battle for the Cowl” end because I want to get on with this new status quo. I didn’t care for the road it took for us to get here, but I understood it needed to happen. I liked some parts, and didn’t like others. I hope what comes next is worth this event.

REVIEW: Dellec #0

“Deliver Us From Evil”

Writers: Frank Mastromauro and Vince Hernandez
Pencils: Micah Gunnell
Inks: Rob Stull
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Letters: Josh Reed
Dellec Creators: Frank Mastromauro and Vince Hernandez
Publisher: Aspen Entertainment

Dellec is the latest series from Aspen Entertainment. This zero issue is a 12-page story for $1.99 and while some people would think paying $1.99 for a comic book is awesome, I think only getting twelve pages of story is a bit expensive. I will say that the first issue of the series due out in late July will only have a cover price of $2.50 and that more than makes up for this issue’s price point.

I have made very little effort to hide the fact I like a lot of what Aspen publishes and has published over the years. I think there are some really wild ideas and fun stories being told. I think there are a lot of Aspen’s lead characters have a lot of heart, but I’m not too sure about the lead character in Dellec. Actually, I’m not sure who the lead character in Dellec is because this issue doesn’t make it very clear. I can make some assumptions on which it is, but I really shouldn’t have to do that – should I? I would think it would be made clear in a preview story, but I could be wrong.

The art in this issue is what really made me stand up and pay attention. Micah Gunnell has done a bit of work at Aspen over the last few years; most notably on the series Shrugged. Shrugged is a much lighter series in tone as compared to these pages of Dellec and Gunnell’s style really seems to fit fine with the change in pace. Gunnell’s character designs are really good. The situations that Gunnell draws the characters in are pretty gruesome and it makes for a good looking comic book.

I think Dellec is Aspen’s attempt at publishing a dark series that is a departure from the other titles like Fathom and Soulfire that people immediately think of when Aspen’s name is mentioned. I think if this series is done well and can meet its shipping dates, this is the book I would hand to people who think they know what Aspen’s all about. Dellec has the potential of changing readers’ minds.

REVIEW: Captain America #50

“Days Gone By”

Script: Ed Brubaker
Pencils: Luke Ross
Inks: Rick Magyar & Luke Ross
Colors: Frank D’Armata
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Associate Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Do you pick up ‘milestone’ issues and sort of shudder a bit wondering what mess you’re about to get into? I get that way because there seems to be some need to celebrate every milestone issue with some sort of altering story that readers ‘must read’. I have to say that Captain America #50 is not like that. I’ll admit I continued to be worried throughout the whole issue waiting for the twist, and it never happened. What did happen was a great story about Bucky Barnes and a look back on few of his birthdays growing up and how his life has never been ‘normal’.

Ed Brubaker. It’s hard to really say something about his writing that hasn’t been said before. While I’ve not written many reviews on his work, the same words pop in my head and they’re the same ones that everyone else is saying. Captain America is the series that Brubaker needed to write because I don’t think anyone else could give us these stories. I don’t think many of us would be reading Captain America if it wasn’t for what Brubaker has done within the pages of this series. I think there are a lot of talented writers within the industry that could have given us some great Captain America stories, but not these stories.

This issue continues to give readers more insight on who Bucky Barnes was before he became Winter Solider and it continues to show readers how much pressure Bucky puts on himself by being Captain America. I really enjoy reading issues like this because their one-and-done and you get so much out of them. On top of the story, we get such great artwork by Luke Ross, Rick Magyar, Frank D’Armata, and Joe Caramagna. I know a lot of people like Epting and Lark on this series, but I really like what Ross has brought to the series while Magyar and D’Armata keep the feel of the book consistent from issues to issue regardless of the artist. This whole book is a team effort and it shows. This is such a stunning series to look at each month.

There is a second story within this book that has Marcos Martin providing the pencils and Muntsa Vicente on colors that gives readers a history lesson on Captain America and Bucky from their origins to present day. It’s done in stunning one-page spreads. Martin is a rising star at Marvel and its really nice to see him do something like this. I think it is something better than a reprint of an old issue of the series, or some clippings from various titles retelling this history. I don’t mind paying the extra buck for solid material like this.

Captain America continues to be a great series each and every month. We’re fifty issues and I can’t see Brubaker slowing down any time soon. Next issue we see a change in the series as the title goes back to its original numbering with issue #600. I’m an old reader so I’m glad to see this happening, but it’s not necessary. Fans are going to read this title regardless because it’s good.

REVIEW: Unthinkable #1

Writer: Mark Sable
Artist: Julian Totino Tedesco
Colorist: Juan Manuel Tumburus
Letterer: Ed Durkshire
Managing Editor: Matt Gagnon
Cover Artists: Paul Azaceta & Nick Filardi (Cover A) and Kristian Donaldson (Cover B)
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Created by Mark Sable

There are conspiracy theorists everywhere. Some are subtle. Some just like to question things. Some go into great detail. Some go to the extreme and everything has a hidden meaning. Unthinkable isn’t about conspiracy theories about things that have happen already. No. Unthinkable is about theorizing what the conspiracy would be before something happens. What if ‘this’ happened, and how would ‘this’ happen?

I consider myself to be fairly open-minded and not one to take anything at face value that I hear on television, radio, or the Internet. I don’t think everyone’s out to get me or anything. I actually like to give everyone the benefit of a doubt and play devil’s advocate. I like to hear both sides of a story and then weigh the evidence. My wife hates this about me.

Unthinkable is an interesting books so far because is sort of reverse engineers what is normally considered a conspiracy theorist. The question in this issue is “who really caused 9/11 and why?” It’s a conspiracy that’s been debated since day one. While there’s not a lot of time that’s spent on answering that particular question, it’s the next question that really pushes the story forward – what happens next? Enter: the Think Tank.

The Think Tank is a group of people who are experts in their field. There is a hacker, an attorney, an economist, a microbiologist, an inventor, a preacher, and a bestselling author. Each of these people are brought together to come up with the answer, “what happens next. While I won’t go into everything that they discuss or what happens to the Think Tank I think it’s an interesting concept. On top of that, Mark Sable brings in the human element to this story through the bestselling author – Alan Ripley. Ripley’s life gets turned upside down when his brother dies on September 11, and finds himself needing an outlet and the Think Tank becomes that. Once the Think Tank project is over, his life sort of falls apart and he becomes lost again. It isn’t until certain events start to play out in the Middle East does he has a new purpose.

I think this issue is a good start for this story. You’re introduced to a lot of characters and given a lot of information. You know the world you’re reading about well enough to not get lost. The players are in place and the wheels are turning. Within one issue, Alan Ripley goes from a character that I found a bit cocky and arrogant about his place in the world and see him change. He’s no longer that character by the end of the issue, and that’s a lot of progress for one issue.

The art in this issue provided by Julian Totino Tedesco, Juan Manuel Tumburus, and Ed Durkshire is great. It’s has that photo realistic style that many of Boom’s titles have without being a ‘house style’ where everyone is mimicking everyone else. It’s a consistency with the art that really adds a strong element to each of their titles.

Unthinkable #1 is a strong first issue. The writing is good. The art is good. The story is put together well. There’s very little I could say I didn’t like about this book other than having to wait for the next issue and see what happens next.

REVIEW: The Unknown #1

Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Minck Oosterveer
Colorist: Fellipe Martins
Letterer: Marshall Dillon
Editor: Matt Gagnon
Published by Boom! Studios
Created by Mark Waid

Catherine Allingham has six months to live at best. She’s suffering from an untreatable tumor in her brain. She knows this and she’s taking on what may be her last case and for some reason, she has brought on a new assistant – a former bouncer who has a knack for reading people. The cool thing is that Catherine has a knack, too. She has a knack for figuring out unsolvable crimes.

Mark Waid continues to be one of my favorite writers in the industry. I want to say that up front because I don’t want there to be any confusion if I like the guy’s writing or not. Believe me – I do. So, I’m a bit bias when it comes to new creations by Waid because I think he’s doing great work when he works from new creations. Books like Potter’s Field, Irredeemable, and now the Unknown are where we really get to see Waid at his best. I say that because Mark Waid has his own knack for being able to create great characters. They seem to breathe in a life of their own with each page. While I love a great looking comic book, give me smart and interesting characters and I’m on board for the long haul. Waid does that every time.

Now, I say that I love a great looking comic book – and it’s true. Unknown is a great looking comic book by artist Minck Oosterveer and colorist Fellipe Martins knock this book out of the park for me. They have created such a moody and book that I really can’t give a comparison to outside of saying there’s a little Paul Gulacy influence in there as well as a little Michael Lark. I think it’s great.

The Unknown is a 4-issue miniseries which I think is good for this story and for readers. I think starting things out with a confine story and doing it in a manageable set of issues helps everyone out because it won’t be a long drawn out story. Things are set up in this issue and we have three more issues to get this case solved. From the looks of things, Catherine already has a lot figured out and that kind of pacing is going to help readers get into this story and hang on for the remaining issues. I’m on board with the hopes we’ll see more in the future.

REVIEW: Fusion #1

“Gods & Monsters” – Part 1 of 3

Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Penciler: Tyler Kirkham
Inker: Sal Regla, Rick Basaldua (page 12), and Livesay (page 19)
Colorist: John Starr
Letterer: Troy Peteri
Designer: Chaz Riggs
Cover Artists: Mike Choi and Sonia Oback
Special Thanks: Tom Brevoort
Published by Top Cow & Marvel Comics

Top Cow and Marvel have had a very successful run of company crossovers through the years. I think they’ve all been pretty fun, well drawn, and overall worth the experience. I think it all started with “Devil’s Reign” back in 1997 which saw Marvel’s Mephisto going to the Top Cow Universe to steal souls so he could become more powerful and rule over the Marvel Universe. While the premise sounds a little weak, the crossover was fun. This new crossover event is a 3-issue miniseries called Fusion where we get to see the Avengers and Thunderbolts from the Marvel Universe and Cyberforce and Hunter-Killer teams from the Top Cow Universe come together for a reason that has not been made clear by the end of this first issue.

This miniseries takes place right after Marvel’s Civil War series has ended so we have an Avengers team consisting of Ms. Marvel, Black Widow, Wasp, Wonder Man, Sentry, and Iron Man. I think this was a safe place to put this story because there was a settling of characters right after Civil War in anticipation what was to come in Secret Invasion. Plus, I feel these Avengers are going to be the best in interacting with the members of Cyberforce and Hunter-Killer. While I would have liked to see Luke Cage and Iron First, we’ve still got two more issues so anything is possible.

Overall, I like this first issue for what it is – a set up. We get introduced to nearly all of the characters we’ll be seeing in the story and what they may be dealing with as the story progresses. It’s still a bit unclear, but it seems to be centering around Ripclaw in some sense. I’m always worried when these things come along, but to see Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning writing it I’m not as concerned. There’s still some reservation just because there are so many characters and it’s out of continuity and when that happens there’s no telling where things will go. I do have trust that Abnett and Lanning will write a fun and entertaining story thought.

The artwork in this miniseries is provided by Tyler Kirkham, Sal Regla, John Starr, and Troy Peteri which is a creative team I’d put on any book given the chance. I think all of these guys bring a lot to the table and this issue is visually entertaining. I really like the look of the layouts and the designs. There’s always an issue with costumes and those signature designs a character has during miniseries, but I don’t see any in this issue. The only nitpick I’d have is Wonder Man’s look. He looks more like Cyclops than Wonder Man, but it’s a nitpick and I admit that. I think Kirkham is a talented artist, I’ve been looking for more of his work and I’ve just not seen it. I guess he’s been hard at work on this mini.

If you’re a nay-sayer about company crossovers, I don’t blame you. A lot of them are there just to get something out there and grab new readers from one company to another. I won’t say Fusion isn’t one of those miniseries, but it’s a fun read if you’re fan of either one of these companies. I think you get the chance to see a great ‘what if’ story with a pretty impressive creative team. I think one of the best things about this issue is the price point – $2.99. Really. In the current price increases in comics, you can get this 22-page story for $2.99 and see a lot of great characters. Well worth it.

REVIEW: War of Kings #3

“The Head That Wears the Crown”

Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Penciler: Paul Pelletier
Inker: Rick Magyar
Colorist: Wil Quintana
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Artist: Brandon Peterson
Assistant Editor: Michael Horwitz
Editor: Bill Rosemann
Publisher: Marvel Comics

When I was growing up and reading a lot of Marvel Comics, I spent a lot of time reading about the cosmic characters thanks to “Galactic Storm” that ran through the Avengers’ titles and various Infinity Gauntlet/Crusade/War stories that followed. I just thought Marvel’s cosmic universe had such potential and a well of characters for writers to pull from that this would be the future of Marvel. Well, I was wrong. It wasn’t until Annihilation and Annihilation Conquest that either Marvel or its readers realized how cool the cosmic characters were, or really how they should be portrayed. Ever since Annihilation these characters have been firing on all cylinders and that continues to be the case with War of Kings.

While I’m a big fan of Marvel cosmic, the idea of a war between Vulcan and anyone else really wasn’t getting me excited. I have my own issues with Vulcan, so that alone would cloud my judgment of any storyline he would be taking a large part in, so War of Kings already had a problem for me. My personal issues with Vulcan were slowly pushed to the side as I began reading this miniseries, as well as the tie-in books in Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy. Throw in a few one-shots and appearances by Quasar and Darkhawk, and I get nostalgic and I quickly forget my reservations and begin to really enjoy what I’m reading.

This issue of War of Kings is a pretty significant one if you’ve been reading along. Since Vulcan is the Shi’ar Emperor his elite guards are the Imperial Guards led by Gladiator. Gladiator has become a fairly major player in this storyline mainly because of his allegiance to the leadership of the Shi’ar, not necessarily to Vulcan. Gladiator has made it very clear from the beginning that he stands with the leadership because that is his place and despite who is in that seat, he is loyal to them. As a reader, you have to respect that kind of determination despite the frustration you may have with blindly following a leader despite the actions they are taking. In this issue we really get to see this loyalty put to its test when Gladiator and Lilandra come face-to-face in a rescue attempt made by the Starjammers and the Guardians of the Galaxy. The result is something you really need to see for yourself.

Abnett and Lanning continue to make these characters matter to readers. You want to know what’s going to happen to them from issue to issue. While there is obviously a lot of action and those ‘blockbuster movie’ scenes in War of Kings, Abnett and Lanning are putting in some really good character moments that really push the story forward. War of Kings continues to be one of my favorite storylines at Marvel and I am very excited to see what the next issue brings and what happens after it’s all over.