Now that my body has finished a full week in cryotherapy recovery chambers from the SDCC, it’s time to get back to talking about debuting comics. The end of July/beginning of August is loaded with quality books, making it impossible to pick a single best or worst one, so let’s make up for lost time by talking about three.
WWE: Attitude Era 2018 Special #1
Written By: Ryan Ferrier, Andy Belanger, Aaron Gillespie, Julian May
Art By: Michel Mulipola, Andy Belanger, Hyeonjin Kim, Kendall Goode
Colors: Doug Garbark, Jeremy Lawson,
Published by: Boom! Studios
The late 90’s were a golden age boom period for wrestling, specifically WWE. It gave the world the Stone Cold Stunner, turning things sideways and shoving them up candy asses with The Rock, and the crotch choppy outrageousness of Degeneration-X. Boom! Studios is trying its hand at exaggerating the most kayfabe time in wrestling with WWE: Attitude Era 2018 Special #1. The book tells four stories about some the Attitude Era’s most notable names Lita, Stone Cold, Mick Foley, and D-X.
Like all the short story collections Boom! has published with different WWE themes, there are definite highs and lows. The Table For 3 themed short “3 Faces of Foley” by Kevin Panetta and Dominike Stanton is a cleaver and fun tale in WWE Network style that tells you a bit of Mick Foley’s history as Dude Love, Mankind, and Cactus Jack. It’s almost like the WWE’s version of being John Malkovich as it recalls moments like losing a piece of his ear or the infamous Hell in a Cell fall.
Not all of the book is a hit. Two of the most iconic wrestling moments picked to tell stories from have some translation issues. Reading the first tale about the time The Rock dropped Steve Austin off a bridge into a river was a neat little bit of nostalgia for diehard wrestling fans but if you’re new to wrestling, it’s just a weird crime scene. One that makes you wonder how a man wearing two full leg braces and denim shorts didn’t get murdered by the star of Rampage when he was dropped in a river that looks like the fall from Get Out? It’s a Stone Cold vignette but the choice of not actually seeing The Rock feels like it’s only telling half a moment. Later in the book, a short by Ryan Ferrier and Kendall Goode about the infamous D-X invasion angle would show a completely different problem. It omits a bit of history by leaving out the 9th Wonder of the World, Chyna. Perhaps the bigger miss is the creative team trying to come up with too cartoony of a narrative, as readers are given the beginnings of a sinister take over plot of wrestling as a whole by Triple H’s group and The NWO in WCW. WWE Network’s documentaries have talked about “what if” scenarios from the invasion angle, particularly one in which it would have benefited WCW immensely to simply let D-X into the arena on Monday Nitro. Had that happened it could have changed the direction of the Monday Night Wars and here would have made for an entertaining what if story here.
Like WWE booking today, WWE: Attitude Era 2018 Special #1 is a 50/50 book. Faces of Foley along with Trish vs. Lita are well-done bits that faithfully channel the period it shot for, but the other half of the book’s tales are too flat to justify being part of the collection. If you’re looking for consistently good WWE stories, stick to the monthly series by Dennis Hopeless.
THE RAID #1
Writer: Ollie Masters
Artist: Budi Setiawan
Colorist: Brad Simpson
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Titan Comics
Japanese action film, The Raid took audiences by storm. Never before had a foreign action movie been incredible and easy to digest for American audiences. Every fight scene beautifully choreographed octane, but at the same time its main character, Rama, had a unique presence and stillness to him that I’ve never seen in any other film. Now Titan is adapting events from the film’s sequel, The Raid 2, into a medium that it shouldn’t be able to accommodate. Somehow writer Ollie Masters and artist Budi Setiawan deliver something that works.
The comic tells a bit of an expanded story from the events of The Raid 2. Series protagonist, Rama, is deep cover in a Jakartan prison. Maintaining his cover proves to be more difficult when Uco, a mobster/son of a police investigator, winds up in the same jail. Rama has to maintain his cover while still protecting Uco, who could expose his identity at any moment.
This series’ opening takes a big chance. It would have been easy to simply put together a storyboard of events from the movie which then becomes a simple collection of action shots. Instead, Masters and the creative team put more effort into dialogue and fleshing out characters who, on film, live minimally. There’s still plenty of the film’s touchstones in these pages but the explosiveness belongs to colorful characters like Claw Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man, assassins who give readers the violent moments which let you know this is very much The Raid you know.
Particularly interesting is the book’s choice in visual translation. With its constant dollying and tight shots, the film speaks a language you can’t simply put on a page. Budi Setiawan has to play with the film style by using additional animated panels to convey what the filmmaker brought to cinemas. In the comic these shots are often seen as an x-ray bone break or sliced panel snuck into a page that already has a lot happening on it. When you combine those touches with sunset color choices of Brad Simpson, it gives these pages a mood that justifies its place in this Raid world.
Issue one only suffers from a lack of real estate, it doesn’t completely set up how far into the second movie these events intersect. It really relies on you having at least seen the film in order to understand where it will go. Meaning, if you don’t know this world of The Raid, it will be harder to get on board with. If you do love these movies, The Raid #1 is an unapologetic reward for fans of these films and now I even want to watch Mark Wahlberg in Mile 22 because of it.
Writer: John Layman
Art: Nick Pitarra
Colors: Michael Garland
Published by: Image Comics
After reading the first issue of John Layman (Chew) and Nick Pitarra’s new series Leviathan… I have no clue what I’ve just seen yet I haven’t found myself more on board with a book solely based on its opening in ages.
We meet Ryan Deluca, an average millennial with seemingly zero heroic quality. When his party needs a beer run, Ryan’s trek to his local liquor store leaves an opening for a gothic turdbag party crasher to summon a monster that’s a giant red dragon Godzilla claw thing. The book actually gets stranger from there. As an unstoppable monster rampages across a metropolis straight to Ryan’s apartment we find out he has some hero in him. The first issue is Ryan’s quest to get back to his girlfriend Vivian who could be crushed at any moment by the rampaging beast or collateral damage. There’s no magic thing or special power Ryan has, he finds himself as helpless as any normal person would in this situation. It’s the book itself that puts extenuating elements in this character’s world.
Leviathan brings in flavors from Pacific Rim, Godzilla, Cloverfield, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia using an art style that lands somewhere between Darrick Robertson’s work on The Boys and anything Geof Darrow does. The series real magic is that there isn’t anything particularly memorable about it, there’s utter chaos from page to page but before you even have a chance to get tired of it, you’re hit with something like a tease of giant military jagers or political humor to take you away from the carnage for a second. When you’re brought back to Ryan and his posse (do we still use that word?) it’s in the middle of a moment they’re being completely identifiable to people we know in our world; being in love, sending stupid tweets, clamoring to be the center of attention at a party. Ryan and his friends are excruciatingly relatable, it’s just that they’re about to be squished by a flailing rage monster.
Leviathan is the most captivating dumpster fire of a comic I’ve ever held and I’m absolutely on board for more. A must for anyone looking for something new to read.
Here’s the rest of this week’s #1 in box quote form:
STEVEN UNIVERSE HARMONY #1 (BOOM! Studios) (W) Shane-Michael Vidaurri (A) Mollie Rose (CA) Marguerite Sauvage If you're indifferent to Steven Universe, this comic definitely won't make you want to watch the show. DISNEY FROZEN BREAKING BOUNDARIES #1 (Dark Horse) (W) Joe Caramagna (A/CA) Kawaii Creative Studio Mannn, Dark Horse, you're better at making Disney comics than Disney. I didn't even like Frozen and I dug this comic.
SEEDS #1 (Dark Horse) (W) Ann Nocenti (A/CA) David Aja Part apocalyptic disaster, part alien abduction, part love story. This book has a high expectation from the pedigree of its creative team and it absolutely blows that away. PROJECT SUPERPOWERS #1 (Dynamite) (W) Rob Williams (A) Sergio Davila (CA) John Royle ROBOTS VS PRINCESSES #1 (Dynamite) W) Todd Matthy (A/CA) Nicolas Chapuis
TMNT BEBOP ROCKSTEADY HIT THE ROAD #1 (IDW) (W) Ben Bates, Dustin Weaver (A/CA) Ben Bates
INFINITY WARS #1 (Marvel) (W) Gerry Duggan (A/CA) Mike Deodato
CARSON OF VENUS FEAR ON FOUR WORLDS #1 (American Mythology) (W) Christopher Mills (A) Mike Wolfer, Cyrus Mesarcia There's a reason Edgar Rice Burroughs didn't write comics and this book illustrates it.
DOLLMAN KILLS THE FULL MOON UNIVERSE #1 (Full Moon Features) (W) Brockton McKinney, Shawn Gabborin (A) Daniel Pascual, Bridgit Connell (CA) Robert Hack A diminutive space cop commited to fighting a toy box of evil. The absolute dumbest premise yet somehow manages to be quite entertaining.
LONG LOST BOOK TWO #1 (Scout Comics) W) Matthew Erman (A) Lisa Sterle A continuation of a spooky, mountain family story. The fence is a bit high, but if you've followed the first volume it's a great second volume.
LADY DEATH: DEVOTIONS #1 (Coffin Comics) (W) Brian Pulido (CA) Michael DiPascale Lady Death is a character that hasn't aged well in a period where books need more than sex appeal to sell. Devotions doesn't even get risque enough to justify itself as a pinup collection.
PARADISE COURT #1 (Zenoscope) (W) Joe Brusha (CA) Allan Otero A horror premise of a midwest community not being what it seems. It had promise but ultimately feels a bit thin.