Welcome to The Round-Up! This week, we have a lengthy column for you that kicks off with the final issue of Butcher Baker, The Righteous Maker!
Some comics just exist on a different plane. Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston’s Butcher Baker surely does.
It’s a superhero comic that isn’t concerned with whether you like superhero comics or not. Considering it’s characters (which include Dick Cheney, Jay Leno and a villain named Jihad Jones amongst others), is it meant to be a social or political commentary on the state of America orality and values? Maybe. Considering the mature nature of it’s imagery, is it meant to challenge your ideas about the human body and what’s appropriate in the 21st century? Sure, if cosmic hermaphroditic entities and freely hanging man-meat will do that for you. Considering the panel layouts, story ideas and shifting art styles, is it meant to challenge traditional methods of comic book storytelling? Again, maybe.
The final issue features Baker’s showdown with Jihad Jones, the redemption of Arnie Willard and maybe the Righteous MAker’s last hurrah as well. Casey’s plot is simple (it’s literally summed up in one sentence on the recap page) but his methods are crafty. The final battle takes a few turns and ends up in absolutely psychedelic territory. Butcher Baker’s narration is what makes the book and in an age of comics where most caption boxes are overused and overwrought, it’s exciting to see a writer actually use them effectively.
The book would be nothing without Mike Huddeston’s impassioned artistic style. The first half of the book is a little choppy because of the shifts between more traditional cartooning and the action that takes place in painted panels. But the second half sings. Huddleston’s perfect marriage of Eastern and Western comics influences enables him to tell stories without the limits of structure or expectation. The art is beautiful and even when the pacing is a bit uneven, it’s still coherent and a pleasure to read.
Butcher Baker is firing a lot of cylinders but the only ones that matter are the ones that matter to you.
“So we’re taking our infant child to outer space. In something made of wood.”
Issue six feels very much like a season finale to Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ weird odyssey about families, war, loyalties and everything in between. Finally, things are looking up for our favorite fugitive family. Having made it to the Rocketship Forest, Marko and Alana have escaped Cleave. The Stalk is dead, but her murder has sent The Will on a vengeful crusade against Prince Robot IV. His Royal Highness has uncovered an important clue as to where Marko, Alana, their baby and ghost might be heading. And, the new family is growing yet again as Marko’s parents make an unexpected house – I mean, rocketship call. It all reads very much like a teaser of things to come, doesn’t it? And if their second season will be anything like the first, Saga is well on its way to being one of the best comic books. Period.
Vaughan’s storytelling is both personal and outlandish. Everything in Saga is at once achingly familiar and bizarrely surreal, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The artwork in this book continues to astound me. There’s nothing Staples can’t draw: touching quiet moments, beautiful and expansive two page spreads, intense moments of action, and hilarious character reactions. Saga will surely live up to its name as the book includes a little of everything, and I cannot wait to see what genre, what familiar trope, what universal ideal they mix in next.
James Stokoe not only writes a fast-paced, explosive story that wastes little time getting to the meat of it, but he backs it up with an artistic tone that lives up to the gargantuan standards that a giant-lizard title brings.
The issue picks up right before the original Godzilla film takes place, and introduces two unlikely heroes in Ota Murakami and Kentaro Yoshihara that look to be the centerpiece of this story line. The pair operates a Sherman tank and manages to save a sizable portion of the city through ballsy heroics, which yields plenty of action through creative panel placement, speech bubbles and unique text art. Stokoe also drops plenty of hints that the book is going to coincide with the classic film franchise as he subliminally refers to the first two movies in the series.
As stated earlier, the art is fantastic. It has a distinct manga feel to it that mostly focuses and the giant lizard and the destruction that follows him. I don’t even count myself among the manga faithful and I enjoyed the hell out of it.
Overall, this book is fantastic, and that’s without any sort of Godzilla fandom spewing out. If I were to add that in, I would tell you to stop reading my bull and go by this bad boy immediately.
After last issue’s dramatic ending, Mark Waid welcomes Mike and Laura Allred on for a flashback issue that doesn’t disappoint.
Mark Waid’s Daredevil has quickly elevated the downtrodden character to a top-tier hero that constantly juggles humor, wit and heart. By incorporating the five senses into a reading experience Waid has redefined what makes Daredevil an interesting character by adding heavy doses of quirky into each issue. Issue #17 is full of tongue-in-cheek jokes that play with Daredevil tropes that have been defining features of his character for the past few years. By making this issue a flashback we are treated to a story that builds upon Matt and Foggy’s relationship that adds gravity to last issue’s revelations and the forthcoming consequences.
The artwork throughout Daredevil has been stellar, often using a simple pallet to express the world surrounding Matt Murdock and a heavy-handed, linear interpretation of Daredevil’s powers in a way that we’d never seen before. Mike Allred’s pencils are chic, yet funky as always, capturing the extremes of emotion. Additionally, his paneling and action sequences are extremely engaging as it keeps you swinging between pages. Laura Allred’s work on the colors in this book adds such an interestingly unique feel to this issue as past artists have kept Daredevil’s colors rather flat. Laura’s colors continually “pop”, making the issue look as quirky as it reads.
Overall this is a fantastic entry into an already fantastic series. While I’m sure we’ll get more forward progression in the coming issues, I certainly hope we see this creative team collaborate again on this book.
Faced with your own terrible future, would you end your life to stop it? That is the crux of the issue and by exploring it, Remender delves a little deeper into Psylocke’s current predicament. She is a broken woman, crushed by her failures and bad choices. It is a compelling portrayal and her determination to end her life is well defined. However, her protracted suicidal escape is too elaborate and it has the potential to pull you out of her plight.
Remender follows with a a conversation with future Betsy and a dream sequence featuring Angel. Both scenes are surprisingly cold in their execution and lack any emotional impact. And the rest of the cast don’t have much to do, though Deadpool’s pop at Punisher is fun.
Visually the book is inconsistent as Julian Totino Tedesco’s moves between graceful and ugly. The first half of the issue with Psylocke being chased is wonderfully staged. Dean White’s muted coloring and lighting effects make Tedesco’s art dynamic. Tedesco succeeds when you don’t have to focus on the details. But his character faces are ugly and off-putting.
As a character piece the issue almost succeeds, but as a chapter in an ongoing story arc it feels too much like filler. Interesting, but flawed.
Confession time, Captain Marvel is the first Marvel comic I’ve ever read. Until now I’ve been DC through and through, but Carol Danvers’ striking new costume and her promotion to Captain over Ms. intrigued me enough to cross the aisle. There’s such a serious lack of female-led, and especially female-written, superhero books I’m excited for Kelly Sue DeConnick to show everyone what we’ve been missing. Captain Marvel is going to prove being a hero has nothing to do with gender.
Right on the cover, at the top of the book are the words, “Earth’s Mightiest Hero,” and Carol Danvers exemplifies what it means to be a hero. Sure, she can kick some serious butt thanks to her Kree powers, but she’ll defend what she feels is right and protects those in harm’s way, no matter who they are. Deconnick shows us Carol’s got those qualities in spades throughout this issue. Whether it’s proving Helen Cobb’s altitude record, grabbing a live grenade and throwing it away from enemy soldiers, or damning the consequences of using her powers in the past to protect those around her; Carol’s truly heroic. It also helps that DeConnick makes her so relatable. I just love her inner dialogue in this issue.
Dexter Soy’s artwork is also very good, but I must admit at first it irked me. I prefer more solid and defined linework and his art is very wispy. Throughout this issue though, it grew on me. I think his coloring and shading is excellent and the emotion he’s able to evoke made me forget his lines are at times a little scribbly. The last two pages in where Carol proclaims herself Captain Marvel and begins raising hell are spectacular and I now really love how Soy’s portraying that new kick-ass costume.
Captain Marvel should be a great read for any superhero fan and just maybe it’ll shut up some of those folks who still believe superheroes are only for boys.
Probably the most anticipated of the Before Watchmen: series, Rorschach #1 does exactly as advertised; Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo set the tone for what looks to be a gritty new angle on a character that’s already as rough around the edges as you can get.
Azzarello takes us back to one of Rorschach’s earlier endeavors involving a serial killer known as The Bard; a murderer that carves little jingles into his victims. While Azzarello does dive into Rorschach’s past a bit through monologue and journal entries, most of this issue focuses strictly at the task at hand, a welcome change from other installments of Before Watchmen that feel too slow at times. Here, there are plenty of beat downs and above-the-law interrogations to keep it moving fast. I also enjoyed the build-up at the end of this issue for the rest of the series. (Spoilers: Rorschach’s pissed.)
The realistic art of Bermejo complements the tone of the book very well. The art doesn’t jump out at you by any means because of that, but it doesn’t particularly need to in a title like this; far more important is the fact that you can really get a feel for the scenes and the environments. The sewers, the back alleys, the grimy peep show booths: it’s all very well drawn.
I’m not sure the direction this title is going in over the next three issues, but rest assured that Azzarello and Bermejo are taking it to the right places, even if that means in some pretty sketchy, shady spots. I mean, would you want a Rorschach book to be any other way?