Identity Crisis

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I’ve always preferred Japanese manga to Western comics.  Something about mainstream Western comic art style and story-telling always felt lackluster to me.  There are exceptions of course, but by and large they’re not something I’d waste time or money on.  Identity Crisis may be one of those exceptions.

The first discussion point is what is most immediately obvious about any comic book: the art.  I would not say the art was as nice as 1602 Witch Hunter Angela, but it certainly seemed a step above a lot of traditional comics.  I can’t recall any one particular frame that made me think “ick,” which is an accomplishment in and of itself.

Next comes the story.  My friend raved about The Killing Joke, which ultimately ended up being a letdown in how predictable I found it.  As such, I approach comics with low expectations.  Perhaps it was because I had low expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised by the actual story of Identity Crisis.  There was still predictable parts, sure, but there was enough that I didn’t guess to keep it interesting, and it’s obvious some thought was put into it.

I did borrow this book from the library, and I’m not sure how re-readable it is, so I can’t say I’d suggest paying a lot of money on it, but if you can find it for cheap or borrow a copy, it’s worth your time to read.

Rating: 7/10

SpoilerAlert

I enjoyed how this comic gave attention to the loved ones of super heroes, specifically to the danger they’re in.  Sure, you have comics when Louis Lane or whoever gets kidnapped, but often the danger feels like a simple plot device or excuse, with the main focus still being on the hero versus the bad guy.  In Identity Crisis, heroes relationships with their loved ones and the threat to the lived ones’ safety is central and felt throughout the story.  And not just heroes: a brief but surprisingly sincere reunion story between Captain Boomerang and his illegitimate son is also featured in the book.

The focus on these relationships makes it more impactful when we finally learn that the culprit behind Sue Dibny’s murder is The Atom’s on-again-off-again lover, Jean Loring. The extra whammy behind it is that Jean insists she didn’t mean to kill Sue, she just wanted to rough her up so the heroes would get worried and spend more time with their loved ones.  So the villain isn’t your classic villain, but rather someone with mental/emotiona; issues that are just coming to light.

Witch Hunter Angela (Complete Series)

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I started following this comic book series on a whim.  The cover art was pretty, and when I flipped to a couple of random pages inside, I was surprised to find that the panel artwork was also appealing.  Since it’s rare for comic book art to interest me, I decided to give this series a shot, and I’m glad I did.

1602: Witch Hunter Angela” takes place during the Secret Wars storyline on Battleworld.  Angela and her companion Sera hunts witches, aka “witchbreed.”  They investigate a new threat called “Faustians,” and try to find the one responsible for them.  A threat is made against Sera, which looms over their heads for much of the series.

First, the art.  This series actually employs two art styles.  The dominant art style is kinda… softer, dreamy?  Like if A-Force and traditional comics look like something inked, then Angela looks like it was painted.  At times it’s a bit too dark/muddy, but most of the time it’s pretty.  The other art style is lighter and more cartoon-y, which when juxtaposed with the main art style made one particular scene/panel quite memorable.

Second comes the characters.  In short, I liked them.  Coming into the series, all I knew about Angela was that she was part angel and somehow related to Thor or Thor’s world/story.  I’d never heard of Sera, and I hadn’t read any works containing Angela or Sera.  With no prior experience to compare them to, I liked the way they were portrayed.  Angela came across as tough, competent, and maybe a little rigid, but not heartless.  Sera seems to be a 4th-wall breaker and comic relief, as well as being the heart and emotion of the duo.  I also liked the guest character appearances, even if they weren’t fleshed out that well.

That leads me to my next point: alternate universe fun-times.  I was tickled by some of the little puns, name switches, etc. that the series used to demonstrate the timeline and world it was dealing with.  For example, the Guardians of the Galaxy show up, but Groot wouldn’t have really fit this series, so the writers turned him into Goodman Root, a silent priest.  An iron maiden torture device makes an appearance, but the characters call it an “iron man,” and it resembles – you guessed it – Iron Man’s old armor.

Now for the plot.  It wasn’t exactly rocket science, but it was serviceable, and I did feel its threads throughout the series.  That is another way it excelled over A-Force, which on multiple occasions felt like it was just shuffling between scenarios that would let the writers stuff in more cameos.

What about the negative?  Well, there was more than one occasion where I wasn’t sure what order I was supposed to be reading the frames in.  That could’ve been my comic book newbie-ness showing, but I don’t think it was.  Also, I admit a significant portion of my enjoyment came from seeing how they made characters fit the setting; I don’t know how much I would’ve liked it without that.

Overall: 8/10

SpoilerAlert

There’s a scene in the first volume where Angela stabs and drowns a Witchbreed.  The Witchbreed is Logan (Wolverine).  Between Logan’s wriggling, Angela’s matter-of-fact actions, and the cartoony art style used for the scene, it was perfect.

Secret Wars: A-Force (Complete series)

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When I started reading the “A-Force” series, the only other comics I had read were “Serenity: Leaves on the Wind” and a handful of Free Comic Book Day comics.  Based on that, “A-Force” really impressed me.  But then I started reading “Bloodthirsty: One Nation Under Water” and “1602: Witch Hunter Angela,” and my opinion of “A-Force” dropped somewhat.  And when the series finally ended and I had time to reflect on it as a whole, my final opinion wasn’t what I originally expected it would be.

After I read the first volume, I was very hopeful for the series.  It had a lot of female characters that I was excited to see kicking butt together in one comic.  There was some team tension, and a new character; all potentially great stuff.  Then I got through the series and was left thinking, ” What happened?  Where’s the rest of it?”  And not because of some cliffhanger.  See, the comic had all this potential, but didn’t actually achieve most of it.  The villain and villain’s motives were predictable; I guessed them in the first volume.  I didn’t really connect with any of the characters.  Emotional depths and quandaries were not explored like they could’ve been.

By the end I felt that “A-Force” was an excuse to stuff as many female heroes as possible into one short series, and then hope that readers would be too busy gushing over the appearance of their favorite character(s) to care about the plot.  And yes, I did my share of gushing, but if I’m going to dish out $4 per volume, I need some more meat to the story.

Ultimately “A-Force” was mindless fun, and certainly not what I’d call bad, but it’s not something I’d be recommending either.

Overall: 6/10

SpoilerAlert

Really, was anyone surprised that Lady Loki ended up being the villain?  Anyone?  As soon as I saw her in the first volume I thought, ” Here comes trouble.”

Bloodthirsty: One Nation Under Water (#1)

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In the spirit of the Halloween season, I am reviewing a comic book with a creepy cover.

Chances are that a lot of people haven’t heard of this comic book, and it’s one you shouldn’t judge by its cover, although that’s basically what I did.  I was drawn to the comic by the fleur-de-lis on the cover, and then opened it and saw some panels clearly depicting a New Orleans setting.  I bought it, thinking I was buying a comic about a zombie apocalypse starting in New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which would’ve been neat.  That’s not what it’s about, but it’s still kinda neat.

Bloodthirsty was funded through Kickstarter and the writer, Mark Landry, is originally from Louisiana.  The story is indeed set in New Orleans, but only the opening takes place immediately after Katrina.  There we meet Virgil, a New Orleans native and member of the Coast Guard who is helping to pull people off rooftops.  Some stuff happens that messes him up, and then we flash forward to the present.  A mostly-recovered New Orleans is facing a new hurricane, and Virgil unwittingly gets caught up in some drama/intrigue.

That’s about as much as I can say without spoiling things.  There are no zombies so far, and I don’t think there will be.  No signs of superpowers either.  There is what appears to be an evil crossdresser/drag queen though – forgive me if there’s a difference I’ve not discerned – to keep things from being too vanilla.

Most of this volume was set-up, but I think it did it well.  I did end up having some connection to Virgil, and I was intrigued by the mystery dangled towards the end.  The artwork is decent too; I’m not sure I’d go so far as to call it beautiful, but I prefer it to the styles common to many mainstream comics, like Marvel’s A-Force.  I intend to try to follow this series.

Art: 6.5/10 (Although still not what I’d call beautiful, I think it’s noticeably better than most common/mainstream comic styles)
Story:
7.5/10
Overall
: 7.5/10

SpoilerAlert

Some stereotypical fat cat politicians and businessmen rose to power in post-Katrina New Orleans.  Virgil’s brother works for one of them named Wolfinger, and when he dies, it’s implied that his death may have been related to some gruesome bodies/murders Virgil stumbled across during Katrina rescues, and that Wolfinger and/or Wolfinger Labs is involved.  Also, the evil crossdresser looks kinda like the city’s mayor, who is close to Wolfinger. However, the how’s and why’s haven’t been revealed yet, so some of this is speculation.

Locke & Key: Volumes 1 and 2

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This series has good reviews, so I decided to give it a shot.  Considering the cover art and the fact that the first volume is called “Welcome to Lovecraft,” I should’ve known that this was a horror series, but for some reason I went in expecting something different.  I am not a horror fan, so the books were already at a disadvantage when it came to impressing me.

One of the main things that stuck with me about the books is the tone of them.  They almost feel like Tim Burton, but turning down the “pure weird” factor slightly and turning up the “violence” factor.  In some ways I feel these books were more violent than a lot of movies, because a movie keeps moving, so you don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on the moment of decapitation, for example.  In these books, if a character is shot or stabbed or whatever, you’re seeing it out the corner of your eye the whole time you’re reading the panels on the open pages.

I felt the story got off to a slow start.  I just assumed the plot would be “move to old house, play with magic keys”; I didn’t realize there’d be more to it until at least half-way through the first volume, or maybe once I started the second volume.  There is a plot/mystery, and of course it’s creepy.

Do I like it?  Meh.  It’s kinda like, I dunno, peeling the dead skin off a sunburn; gross, but oddly fascinating.  I can’t say I like the books, but the story is picking up in the second volume and I’m still reading them, so I guess that’s something.

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Rating: 6/10

Secret Wars: A-Force #1

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I’m generally not a comic book fan.  Most traditional comic book art doesn’t impress me, and I think comic books are an expensive hobby.  However, when I saw an ad for A-Force in one of my Free Comic Book Day comics, I decided to give it a shot.  I like the idea of an all/majority-female team, and of seeing some female heroes I know less about take the spotlight.  In those regards, the comic didn’t disappoint.

The concept behind Marvel’s Secret Wars is the multi-verses have collided and created one patchwork place called Battleworld.  So all the different universes’ variations of certain heroes can all conceivably exist on the same planet now, in different locations and/or new combinations.  A-Force takes place in an area called Arcadia, where the majority of superheroes are women.  I like this.  It’s fun to see all these different female heroes I like on one team, and to read a plot/story where the women are in charge without the men being reduced to slaves or house-husbands.

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The female hero squad regularly patrols boundaries of Arcadia, and as we watch them make their rounds, we see a number of heroes: Lady Loki, Captain Marvel, Pixie, Spider Woman, and more.  From the cover and various internet summaries I know who the main characters will be, but in this chapter it felt like the most important characters were She-Hulk, Sister Grimm/Nico Minoru, and [Lady] Loki.

We learn that this new world has some new rules, and that breaking those rules have serious consequences.  This is obviously going to be a point of conflict in the series.  There is also a hint at some other unknown danger at the end of the chapter, as well as a mysterious character.  You know, things to get you to tune in next time and buy the next book.  And I definitely will.

Art: 6/10 (Slightly better than average for common comics I’ve encountered)
Story: 7.5/10
Overall: 8/10 (Admittedly, this is partially just due to my excitement of an all-star female team)

SpoilerAlert

Now to head into my thoughts and speculations about some particulars.  First, Lady Loki.  Lady Loki is apparently a guardian/mentor/parental figure to Ms. America – who was apparently taken away/drafted as a result of breaking one of Battleworld’s new rules – and Sister Grimm.  As far as I know, there are very few times where Loki stays a good character.  I anticipate tension at the very least.

The face of trouble.

The face of trouble.

Singularity seems like she’ll be an interesting character.  One of the comics’ creators basically said she’ll provide an outside perspective on the A-Force/human race – think Spock, Q, Castiel, etc. – and will possess the ability to move between worlds/dimensions.  Since breaching the borders of Arcadia – or whatever little piece of Battleworld a character lives in – is one of the new big No-No’s, Singularity presents an interesting potential loophole and dilemma.  And since Sister Grimm is the one that found her, it looks like the comic’s writers are planning to head in that direction.

Free Comic Book Day 2015 – Part 2

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This book actually has four different manga stories inside.  I will review each part separately, starting with Attack on Titan.

Considering all the praise and hype surrounding Attack on Titan, I expected it to blow my mind, but my brain has remained in one piece.  In fact, by the end of the story, I was kinda going “So what?”  Yes, I can see how the story has potential, but the actual part in this manga book was nothing special.  I may watch the series on Netflix, but unless the TV series is amazing, I won’t be reading any more of the manga.

Rating: 6/10

Noragami

This second part is about a homeless, roaming, D-list god.  I was expecting the god to have a Naruto-type personality, or maybe be like Captain Jack Sparrow.  He turned out to be a bit of a jerk and not that interesting, so I didn’t like him.  I like the idea of curses and blessings personified/coming to life, but it’s not enough to get me to spend money to read the rest of the series.

Rating: 4.5/10

VinlandVikings

Viking invasion of Britain.  Meh.  I like medieval fantasy stuff, but this was lacking in the fantasy element.  I ended up skimming the story and nothing really caught my eye.  Nothing of interest here.

Rating: 2/10

inuyashiki

With how unimpressed I’ve been with the majority of my FCBD loot, I was not expecting a story like this.  The story follows an old man, diagnosed with terminal cancer at the very start of the story.  To make things even sadder, his family all either takes him for granted and/or ignores him.  The only character that seems to give a shit about him is the dog.  His situation kicked me right in the feels.

The story’s summary hints that the old man will be getting abilities of some sort, and the ending was pretty cliffhanger-y.  I like stories with a less conventional main character, I like the potential of the story, and I wanted to hug the old man.  Inuyashiki is the first and only story from all of my FCBD loot that genuinely makes me want to buy more to see what happens.

Rating: 8/10

LieinApril

Boring.  The premise described in the summary wasn’t particularly interesting – sounded like a sappy YA novel – and the actual manga wasn’t any better.  A guy finds some girl’s clothes hanging in a tree, and then sees a not-naked girl playing some music for some kids.  That’s it.  I just told you all of what happened in a single sentence.  BORING.

Rating: 1/10

SpoilerAlert

Speculation on Inuyashiki.  I’m not sure how spoiler-y this is, but figured I’d put a warning.  The official summary says that after an incident, the main character – Ichiro – notices something different about himself, and that maybe he’d have a chance to become a man worthy of respect.  The end of the tease implies that he was accidentally killed by aliens, and rebuilt as a robot/cyborg (or something similar).  This could mean that his cancer is gone (I hope), and that he could have all sorts of fun robot/cyborg powers.  Elderly gentleman with super strength and laser eyes,perhaps?  Now that’d be interesting!