REVIEW: Predator #1

Script: John Arcudi
Art: Javier Saltares
Colors: Wes Dzioba and Andrew Elder
Lettering: Blambot!
Cover Art: Raymond Swanland
Variant Cover Art: Chris Warner and Wes Dzioba
Editor: Chris Warner
Associate Editor: Samantha Robertson
Book Design: Stephen Reichert
Art Director: Lia Ribacchi
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a Predator movie or read a Predator comic book. I think the last comic book I read with these insane alien hunters in it had to be over fifteen years ago. I wasn’t an early adopter of the comic book series, but it was fun. I think it got a little over exposed, but it was still a fun comic book to read. Fast forward to 2009 and Dark Horse is bringing the alien hunters with the awesome weapons and funky infrared lens and giving new and old readers alike something they can sink their teeth into.

The issue opens up in East Africa where a convoy is attacked and everyone is pretty much slaughtered. The story then moves to a hired security force much like Blackwater is being debriefed on the convoy attack and their preparations for another convoy and how they plan on tightening up the security. The preparation leads into another attack and insanity spins out of it all.

The great thing about this issue is that readers are left wondering ‘where are the Predators’. No. You get them pretty early in the issue and you continue to see them throughout the issue. While I enjoy the need for them to sneak around and hunt their prey, seeing them out in the open really adds more to the story. We’re not wondering what is attacking the soldiers. We know without actually being told, and I appreciate John Arcudi not toying around with us, the readers. There’s no need to be secretive about the Predators. We know they’re there, and boy are they!

Arcudi has put together an entertaining story. I don’t think you can open up a new Predator series and have it been one that the readers need to think about a lot. There is an expectation by readers of what they want to see in a comic book like this, and Arcudi brings it out quickly. Now, if he wants to take a few steps back next issue or the one following that and begin to develop some strong characters that will really add a lot of depth to the story. We’re already seeing some characters take the lead and it will be interesting to see if these are our lead characters or just red herrings for something else.

Javier Saltares provides the pencils for this issue with Wes Dzioba and Andrew Elder on colors and Blambot! Providing the lettering. Artwise, this is a good book. The firefight scenes are great. The colors really jump up off the pages. After I finished read the book I had to go back over it and take some time on the art. Saltares has always been one of those artists that seems to pop up where you least expect them and really knock an issue out of the park. I think the whole art team did a great job with this issue and I can’t wait for more.

Predator as a franchise has a solid history at Dark Horse. I like that we’re getting new stories about this species as well as their Alien counterparts. I think if Dark Horse can continue to have talent work on these titles go for broke with every issue, we’re going to be seeing these titles for a very long time. The fans will come – new and old.

REVIEW: Gotham City Sirens #1

“Union”

Writer: Paul Dini
Artist: Guillem March
Colors: Jose Villarrubia
Letters: Steve Wands
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Covers: Guillem March and J.G. Jones
Publisher: DC Comics

If you listened to Episode 92 of the show you know that this book was not high on my list of books I wanted to read out of the whole “Batman Reborn” group of books. I have nothing against the creators. I think they’re some of the industry’s finest. I just really didn’t think we needed a series about Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn working together. I guess this is DC’s version of Cable/Deadpool, but with cleavage. So, sitting down and reading this issue I was already looking to write it off. The question really is – did I?

The story in this issue spins out of several events that have been happening over the last few months in various Batman titles. The main storyline being in Detective Comics with Hush having Catwoman’s heart removed in order to work over Batman. In my opinion that was one of the most messed up stories I’ve read in a while, especially in a Batman title. I liked it for the powerful impact it had on the characters involved and the way it showed that Hush would stop at nothing to destroy Batman. I was really hoping that we would hear more about the after effects of what happened to Selina, and we do get that in this issue. I expected nothing less from Paul Dini to create a story and to keep it fresh and meaningful to the characters involved. That’s why I like reading a series of Dini stories because they build on one another.

The villain in this story is basically a throw away character only put into the story to bring the characters together. I say that because normally that would be true. Will we see more of Boneblaster in the future of this series? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t put it past Dini to bring him back a few times. But, for the sake of this issue he’s used only to bring everyone together and to show that Catwoman is not quiet herself and is still suffering from the effects that Hush’s brutality had on her. Again, Dini’s writing and characterization is solid. There’s no denying it.

The art in this issue is something that really stands out to me. Guillem March, Jose Villarrubia, and Steve Wands really have done a really good job with this issue. The panel layouts are simple and well placed. Nothing is over the top. The action really flows well from panel to panel and it really adds to the overall storytelling. I am curious to see this art team six months from now or a year from now and compare it to this issue. I love seeing how an art team can come into a book having not worked with a set of characters before and to see how they progress over time. I have high hopes for this team.

I want to say I enjoy everything about this issue. I really want to, but I don’t. I can appreciate and respect the craft of it all. It’s well done. The writing is done well. The art is really good. I can’t take anything away from that. This is a well put together book, but it’s just not something I can read month in and month out. There is an audience for this series and I have a feeling that this creative team will make that audience happy every month. I’m just not part of that group.

REVIEW: Usagi Yojimbo #121

“the Hidden Fortress”

Writer and Artist: Stan Sakai
Front Cover Colors: Tom Luth
Publication Design: Cary Grazzini
Digital Production: Ryan Hill
Assistant Editor: Brendan Wright
Editor: Diana Schutz
Creator: Stan Sakai
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Usagi Yojimbo has been a series that I have always wanted to read, but the fear of starting on a series that’s over a hundred issues really had me afraid to try it. So, with a little help I grabbed this issue to read and what I found was me looking in on the journey of a ronin that obviously had a beginning, but is moving forward and now is as good of a time to begin reading his adventures as any.

The story in this issue seems pretty straight forward. Usagi walks upon a massacre in the forest with only one survivor. Usagi attempts to help the survivor and get him medical attention. The injured warrior leads Usagi to a hut in the forest that he and his men had found while hunting a bandit and his men. The story seems fairly simple until the necessary twist happens in the story and things get very complicated for Usagi.

There are obvious plotlines that have led to this moment that as a new reader I’m unaware of, but it really doesn’t take away from the story. As I said before, this journey had to start somewhere and I’m just now looking in on Usagi and seeing what his life is like right now. He seems to be a very content warrior who is very skilled with his mind as well as his sword as we see in this issue. Usagi’s the kind of character I could enjoy reading if given the opportunity. With so many comic books out there it’s hard to take a chance on a series even with its accolades as Usagi Yojimbo has.

I have heard a lot of Stan Sakai’s talent as a writer and as an artist and I have to agree with everyone in saying he is definitely a skilled storyteller in both words and art. I think the idea of animals acting like people seems a little too farfetched for many readers. What Sakai does with these characters makes you forget what you’re looking at and you just see the story playing out in front of you.

Usagi Yojimbo has everything I enjoy in a comic book. There’s strong storytelling. The characters are interesting. The art is good. For a first issue for this reader, I cannot find any fault in this book, and I think I’ve found a new series to add to my pull list.

REVIEW: Ultimatum: Spider-Man Requiem #1

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencilers: Mark Bagley and Stuart Immonen
Inkers: Scott Hanna and Wade von Grawbadger
Colorists: Pete Pantazis, Justine Ponsor, and Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Art: Stuart Immonen
Production: Paul Acerios
Editor: Lauren Sankovitch
Senior Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics

** Possible Spoilers Ahead **

The Ultimatum event is now over and what is left of the Ultimate Universe wraps up in a series of Requiem one-shots. At the end of Ultimate Spider-Man readers are left to believe that Spider-Man has died after fighting the Incredible Hulk. While we won’t know if ‘dead is dead’ in the Ultimate Universe for Spider-Man until later in the summer, we are left with this one last story about Spider-Man’s heroism and how Spidey’s action have changed J. Jonah Jameson’s life.

Before I go into this review I did want to say I have yet to read the Ultimatum miniseries. I have it set aside to read because I wanted to read it all at one time. I just have not had the chance to read it. I do keep up with the other Ultimate titles so I know what happened in the miniseries by reading those titles. I know Peter Parker has apparently died while battling the Incredible Hulk. My personal feelings aside, this changes everything.

Brian Michael Bendis continues to provide one of the longest running stories in comics. In this run there has been little stagnate storytelling. From the word ‘go’ this series has been pushing forward with a lot of energy and entertainment. Sure, this series has not been for everyone for whatever their reasons are, but for me – I’ve enjoyed it immensely.

This two-part miniseries seems to be a good ending to a series many readers have enjoyed over the years. Bendis continues, even in these last moments, to provide strong storytelling and adds just that little push to these characters that develops them just a little more in their own ways. The final page of this issue really is one of the more powerful pages we’ve seen in a while and it really leaves the next issue with so many possible directions. This version of J. Jonah Jameson has always been a more sober depiction of the character and I’ve enjoyed reading him. I find that in the end, Jameson is the one that has the last word on Spider-Man.

Ultimatum: Spider-Man Requiem #1 is a fitting end to this series. I hate seeing titles end only to be relaunched months later, but I think Bendis has said all he can say with this series. I’m curious to see what’s to come once Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man is launched. I’m looking forward to it.

REVIEW: Invincible Iron Man #14

“World’s Most Wanted: Part 7 – the Shape of the World These Days”

Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Colorist: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Variant Cover: Marc Silvestri
Assistant Editor: Alejandro Arbona
Editor: Warren Simons
Publisher: Marvel Comics

“World’s Most Wanted” continues with this issue as Tony makes his way to Russia. Maria is making her move and it involves a certain Widow. Pepper makes her move to find Tony. Norman makes his move to follow Pepper. And Madame Masque seems to be keeping ahead of everyone.

There’s a certain joy I get out of reading Invincible Iron Man each month. There are a lot of comics that I enjoy reading, but there are few of them that I have been reading since the mid 1980s that I still read and enjoy. “World’s Most Wanted” is becoming that story that I tell people they need to read if they got upset with Marvel for the treatment of Tony Stark during Civil War and Secret Invasion. I have that thought in the back of my mind that this storyline has the potential of being one of those great Iron Man stories that people talk about for decades, and we’re not done yet.

Matt Fraction has always had a great handling of the characters he writes. There’s that uncanny ability that he wields where he can remind fans why it’s fun to read comic books without making the stories over the top or self-serving. The characters come across very naturally and the dialogue never seems forced. Iron Man needed that kind of treatment. The fans needed that kind of treatment. Fraction brings to the take a good and entertaining story that new and old fans of Tony Stark and Iron Man can enjoy together.

The writing on this series has been top notch since the first issue and the art is no different. Salvador Larroca, Frank D’Armata, and Joe Caramagna come to this series with their A-game and it shows with every flip of the page. The craft of storytelling through art is so important when it comes to comics and these artists deliver.

I could probably read only one Marvel series and have it be Invincible Iron Man. The writing is great. The art is superb. I’m looking forward to a long, adventurous run on this series from Fraction, Larroca, D’Armata, and Caramagna. I hope Marvel lets them.

REVIEW: Red Robin #1

“the Grail” – Part 1 of 4

Writer: Chris Yost
Artist: Ramon Bachs
Colors: Guy Major
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover Art: Francis Manapul and J.G. Jones
Publisher: DC Comics

Before I started to read this issue I wondered if I knew exactly what I would be reading. What would Tim Wayne be like in this new series? Tim has suffered a lot in the last couple of years and where would the conclusion of Battle for the Cowl put Tim? As a reader and a fan of the Robin series I had my concerns because there really isn’t a lot of direction the character could go, and Red Robin #1 didn’t waste any time establishing exactly where Tim’s heading.

Chris Yost is a writer that I see on a series and know that the book is in capable hands. Yost has proven himself to be a solid writer who puts a lot into the characters he writes and drives a story by character development. Tim Wayne has needed some development over the last few years. He has had a lot happen to him and it has definitely taken a toll on him as a person and as a hero. Yost takes that and really pushes it to the limit with this first issue. Yost uses Tim’s own words to let the reader know that he realizes what he’s doing is over the line and past the limits he would have usually stopped short of in the past. It makes for some interesting inner monologue for the reader to read.

Ramon Bachs’ art in this issue is pretty good. I like his layouts and his cityscapes. There are a lot of great background designs and I can really appreciate the time and energy that goes into really building the environment that Tim’s in. Guy Major does a really good job at setting the mood with his coloring. This is not the happy go lucky Tim Wayne anymore. This is a much darker Tim and Bachs and Major really get that across visually.

I have some concerns for this series as a fan of Tim Wayne mainly because of the inner monologue that Tim has with himself in this issue. That’s suppose to happen because you can see what’s happening to Tim, so I’m definitely interested to see what happens next. I think Yost has done a good job with getting his point across as to what will be happening with Tim as this series progresses. Plus, the last page of this issue does raise the stakes even higher, so I’ll be back for more.

REVIEW: Amazing Spider-Man #596

“American Son” – Part 2

Writer: Joe Kelly
Penciler: Paulo Siqueira
Inker: Amilton Santos
Colors: Jeromy Cox
Letters: VC’s Chris Eliopoulos
Assistant Editor: Tom Brennan
Editor: Steve Wacker
Executive Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Laying this issue aside and pondering what to write my mind is all over the place. I read comic books for the pure entertainment value of them. I’m not looking for heavy substance or complex analysis of existence. No. I want plain entertainment. Amazing Spider-Man has been one of the comic books that fall into that slot for me for the last couple of months. I tend to dip in and out from the series depending on if I have any time to read them. When I first saw the teaser images of “American Son” I had no idea what it was about, but it got me curious. I figured this time was as good as any to dip back in and see how things were going. Oh, boy. Was I in for a treat.

While I would love to go through and spoil this issue for everyone, I won’t. I hate that I won’t because what’s happening is really good. It’s fun. It’s entertaining. And it has me wanting more. What more do you want in a comic book than that? I will say that last issue Norman Osborn invited his son, Harry, into the Avengers organization and Harry turned him down. Harry learned something very pivotal at the end of last issue which brings us to the opening of this issue with Harry being welcomed into the Avengers and H.A.M.M.E.R. Needless to say, the revelation at the end of last issue was pretty big and it has Harry thinking completely different than before.

I’m glad to see this because Harry’s been fun to read since his return, but there’s not been a lot of direction with him. Sure, there have been moments and stories with him in them where he’s a larger part of the story, but then that’s it. He sort of disappears from the foreground and we’re wondering what next. “American Son” doesn’t seem to be the kind of storyarc where Harry’s going to be disappearing anytime soon, and I’m glad to see it. Will we see Harry in a more sinister role in the near future? I don’t know. We’re not far enough along to be able to put any of that together. What Joe Kelly is doing with Harry really doesn’t lend itself to that kind of speculation. What Harry’s doing seems like a thing he’d do in this kind of situation, but you just don’t know how it’s all going to turn out with Norman and Peter involved.

I don’t want to leave Peter out of the equation either. What he’s done in this issue in order to find out what Harry’s up to, as well as Norman, is pretty cool. It’s one of those moves that just comes out of left field and you’re left saying “of course”. It’s not a shocking move, but one that did surprise me. It’s great storytelling, and really – it’s Joe Kelly. He’s knocking everything he writes out of the park over the last year or more. I really shouldn’t be this surprised!

The art in this issue is great. I was a little saddened by the lack of Phil Jimenez’s art when I started to read this issue, but at the same time I didn’t miss it as much as I got further into the issue. Paulo Siqueira and Amilton Santos do a really good job with this issue. I don’t know if they’ll be back on this issue of Jimenez (or someone completely different), but I’d like to see more of their work in the future. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed in the issues of Amazing Spider-Man is that the art teams really are top notch and no one is slacking off. I applaud the editorial and creative teams that put this series together.

“American Son” is a strange story so far. There’s nothing out of place. We’re seeing the pieces of a larger puzzle come together, and it’s pretty interesting to watch. I’m curious to see ‘what’ Norman is referring to as the American Son program and what it has to do with Harry. I guess I’ll be back here next week to find out. Hopefully you will be, too!

REVIEW: The Boys #31

“The Self-Preservation Society” – Part 1

Writer: Garth Ennis
Illustrator: Carlos Ezquerra
Inker: Hector Ezquerra
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Colors: Tony Avina
Cover Art: Darick Robertson
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment

I’ve been reading the Boys since the first issue. In the beginning it was because it was new and it was suppose to be this over–the-top book, and it was. I finished the last story arc that ran through the Boys #23-30 and I knew things were about to seriously changed in this book. This issue, the first part of “the Self-Preservation Society”, wasn’t holding back as the Boys have become targets and they receive their first defeat in a big way.

If you have not been reading the Boys up to this point, I’m not really sure you would get the impact of this issue. I think the first two years of this series are pretty open to anyone to pick up and give it a try. I think there are pieces of the larger story within those issues, but it isn’t until about issue #23 where things begin to shift and there’s a much larger linear story being told. If you wanted to pick this issue up, you could and I think you would enjoy it if you knew what you were getting into. Garth Ennis does a good job at allowing new readers to come in to the series, but I think you would appreciate it more having at least read the previous story arc.

Darick Robertson takes a much needed break from the series and Carlos Ezquerra and Hector Ezquerra come in to provide the art chores with this issue. There are some brutal pages in this issue and I didn’t feel like the change in artists hindered any of that impact. I think both Carlos Ezquerra and Hector Ezquerra definitely brought their “A” game with them with this issue and have done a really good job at keeping that same intensity that Robertson has provided in this series. I’m unsure of they’ll be on board this whole arc or not, but either way they’ve done a really good job. The emotion of the very last page really shows you that they’ve got the chops to do great work.

The events in this issue really are steering the Boys into a dark direction that will really change the series. The events with one of the Boys as standalone really shows you that things are going to be the same after that. I’ll be honest in saying I was at the point of dropping this series because I really didn’t feel like it was going to change very much. This issue has renewed my interest and I want to see what happens next. It’s been a while since I can say I’ve felt that way about the Boys.