With last week being light on debuts and convention obligations to prepare for, ONE OR DONE took a bye week. What a comeback though! Greg Rucka debuts THE early contender for book of the year, alongside The Visitor from Dark Horse, IDW drops another Angry Birds, and more.
Read our review of The Visitor #1 from Dark Horse here.
The Old Guard #1
Art: Leandro Fernandez
Colors: Daniela Miwa
Letters: Jodi Wynne
Publisher: Image Comics
Some things are just givens. In comics, it’s the Greg Rucka is gonna write great stories. Which means, to no one’s surprise, The Old Guard from Image comics is incredible.
Even the first page of the book, which typically only exists for credits and legal mumbo jumbo, sends a chill down your spine. It opens with a simple but telling line: “This is a fairy tale of blood and bullets.” The Old Guard is the story of Andy, Nicky, Joe, and Booker; soldiers in the curse of immortality with no explanation. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a comic with as much character as this. Readers get to explore just how empty the multiplication of years can make life feel. The people you’ll encounter in this issue take you through all the motions in such a small amount of real estate. Wrapping all the heavy existential conflict is a –business of war–setting where these immortals make their lucrative living as mercenaries. By the debut issue’s final page we’re set on a path that will see the status quo of these characters implode, but telling any more than that would go into big spoiler territory.
What makes The Old Guard brilliant is the complete package supporting Rucka’s story. Leandro Fernandez’s sequential art is powerful. When not trying to animate a scene, panels feel like true McCloud moments frozen in time, radiating emotion. On top of the superb art is color work by Daniela Miwa. Often times colorists aren’t stars of the comics they work on. This isn’t the case with Old Guard. There’s a level of mood which simply wouldn’t exist without the clashing of cool and warm tone pallets taking place during flashbacks. It’s simply loaded with more distinctly stylized work in these pages than any book to come out this year.
Certainly, The Old Guard isn’t a story for the squeamish. It’s layered with violence, which though it serves the narrative, definitely won’t be something you should show impressionable young readers. That’s really all one can say for any flaws found in this issue and even then typing that felt like a stretch.
The Old Guard is thus far the best original comic of 2017. If you took the noir style of 100 Bullets and combined it with the science fiction of Highlander then topped it all off with the emotional resonance of Criminal you’d still only get part of how good this book is.
[WON] The Old Guard #1 is a master class in how to make comics.
Highlander: The American Dream #1
Story: Brian Ruckley
Art: Andrea Mutti
Colors: Vladimir Popov
Letters: Chris Mowry
Are you between the ages of 31- 96? Then you might recall a lot of B-movie science fiction. Particularly, the Highlander series. Remember “There can only be one” even though there was usually more than one right? Otherwise why even have a movie.
Incase your local book depository doesn’t have a print of the Highlander film starring Raiden himself, Christopher Lambert. The story went like this: Connor MacLeod is an immortal Scottsman born some 400 years ago. Every number of years, he’s pulled into The Gathering where other immortals fight to the death by cutting their opponents heads off. Highlander: The American Dream tells a tale of MacLeod in Gettysburg 1863 at the height of the American Civil war. Writer, Brian Ruckley does an admirable job of trying to map an engaging plot into a franchise that never had a good one to begin with. The problems with the comics are born out of its tunnel vision targeting of the niche fanbase these movies and TV shows have. Without necessary exposition of these characters, the lack of a gripping hook is even more apparent. I imagine if you’re a diehard fan of Highlander, you’ll find an easter egg or two that you’ll be delighted by. If you’ve never heard of it before, or like me are someone indifferent to the thing; there isn’t much of a reason to get on board.
The only saving grace of this debut is the art of Andrea Mutti. After being introduced to the artist through the stellar historical comic series, Rebels; Highlander: AD is much of the same quality slice of life style of art. The 1863 sequences are incredible well researched sequential pieces of comic book art. Looking at it just gives you all sorts of history feels that tell story on their own.
Sadly, it’s just not enough. Fantastic art can sometimes make up for storytelling short comings, but it’s just not one of those times. A debut issue should be easily accessible or welcoming to new readers, which Highlander: American Dream is neither.
[DONE] Highlander: American Dream #1 caters to such a niche group. Fans of the cult property might find a couple of things to enjoy but even then, you really really have to be a fan to enjoy it.
Valiant High #1 (Part of Comixology Unlimited)
Story: Daniel Kibblesmith
Art: Derek Charm
Colors: David Baron
Letters: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Valiant (Via Comixology)
Reimaginings are trepidacious things. Sometimes a book, comic, or TV show finds a way to add something interesting not present in the original IP. Hell, I love the new Archie and I’m okay with Riverdale. Other times it’s a hacky gimmick designed to pander to a demographic too far out of reach. Valiant High is a reimagining of the publisher’s superhero universe which lands in a creamy center between innovative and cash grab.
Written by Daniel Kibblesmith, Valiant High takes place in an alternate universe where all the superheroes go to the same school; a super-powered preparatory academy where Aric “X-O Manowar” Dacia is a record-setting running back, Colin “Ninjak” King is a debonair foreign exchange student, and Coach Bloodshot is way, way too into his job. The focus of the story centers around Amanda “Livewire” McKee and her best friend, Faith “Zephyr” Herbert, who have the most relatable personalities of the book. They’re just girls dealing with issues of identity and trying to get through the day without being made to cry by the popular kids. Kibblesmith does a fine job of blending distinct characteristics of these characters with new adolescent versions. Archer is still a child of the Earth, Quantum is still the straight man to Woody’s antics, and Bloodshot is still a hardass.
What’s most appealing about Valiant High’s debut is the art of Derek Charm. In fact, that’s the best way to describe the work in these pages, charming. Heavy cartoon influenced line work is a fine style but above average work nails the little details and Charm puts the level of care in placement of facial details, expression, and seamless action that makes the book flow well. When you combine it with David Barron’s quality color work it equates to something worth your while.
As good as this debut is, it could be elevated a skosh. VH leans on building younger relatable versions of these characters, which it does. My only gripe is wanting to see it push a bit further into straight up Saved By The Bell Jessie Spano on caffeine pills territory. If Faith has to sing “I’m So Excited” while being held back by Ninjak then so be it.
Valiant High is a comic with a lot of promise and for a book already on the right track it’s an exciting proposition. Like any good teen story, there’s a cast of characters so versed it’s easy for young readers to connect with an avatar in this universe. Subtle humor and great artwork combine to give characters thus far only known for dark emotionally intense stories a feel much like the old Archie comics. It’s good, but it hasn’t quite shown its full Degrassi potential.
[WON] Valiant High #1 is the publisher’s love letter to Saturday morning teen shows and it…is…GLORIOUS!
Angry Birds: Flight School #1
Story: Paul Tobin
Art: Corrado Mastantuono, Diane Fayolle
Colors: Nicola Pasquetto
Letters: Pisara Oy
Last time an Angry Birds comic debuted from IDW, it just wasn’t very good for adults or kids. The collection of stories were bland and had no fun with the material. Thus my hopes weren’t high for Angry Birds: Flight School. To my surprise, this comic book was witty, enjoyable, and best of all… short.
This new Angry Birds comic demonstrates how a talented creator can take an over-the-hill IP and tell a good story with it. Writer, Paul Tobin is no stranger to telling video game stories through his work in Plants vs. Zombies and is someone able to write for younger audiences without dumbing down to them. The three short stories in this comic are entertaining but particularly good is “You Got it Backwards”. As the birds celebrate a holiday called Backwards Day, we see just how Red copes with being a bitchy disgruntled bastard and it’s hilarious. While Tobin can write a solid story aimed at any audience, he’s particularly well suited at keeping running gags from going stale.
Illustrated by Corrado Mastantuono and Diane Fayolle, respectively, these tales are in tune with the aesthetic of the game. Overly cartoony, expressive, and easy to digest all the information on the page; it’s a style that’s hard for anyone to screw up. Though the artists certainly add touches that separate them from other illustrators who’ve worked with this property. Particularly, Mastantuono’s work on “Dream of Glory”. The action is incredibly well animated in single panel form.
I had just about given up on IDW’s game based comics, but Angry Birds: Flight School is a step that shows the publisher can get who understand that telling good stories should come before pandering. Picking up this comic book for your children is a must, and you might enjoy it too before they get their food-soiled hands on it.
[WON] Angry Birds: Flight School #1 makes up for The Angry Birds Movie.