Welcome back to Kabooooom’s weekly comic review round-up! Loki grows up in the latest Young Avengers, we’re introduced to the shy but dangerous secretary Velvet Templeton in Velvet #1, and follow along with the continuing quests of the Rat Queens. But first! Jack is back in debut issue of Samurai Jack.
SAMURAI JACK #1/ Created by GENDY TARTAKOVSKY/ Written by JIM ZUB/ Art by ANDY SURIANO/ Letters by SHAWN LEE/ Published by IDW
For fans of Samurai Jack, the Emmy award winning cartoon, there is finally more. Merely learning of Samurai Jack #1’s release sparks excitement, even among people with only a minute amount of Cartoon Network nostalgia. In some ways this book is everything a Jack fan could want, but it has some first issue uneasiness.
Samurai Jack #1 is, unsurprisingly, about Jack’s continuing quest to journey back into the past to vanquish the evil, shape-shifting wizard, Aku. The issue focuses on a potentially longer quest to find pieces of an ancient thread that Jack can weave to recreate a history without the tyrannical Aku, yet the pacing of the story feels rushed when compared with a stand alone episode of the 22 minute cartoon. There’s no balance established between action and dialogue, and due to this there are some moments that interrupt the natural flow of reading.
The abruptness of this issue may also be because there are nearly eight pages of advertisements at the end of a $3.99 book. Three of these pages are ads for Samurai Jack! The very book you have just finished reading! Of course, the publisher should promote their other series but those extra pages could have been used to smooth out the flow of the story.
Despite the awkwardness of the story in Samurai Jack #1, it is saturated with fantastic coloring and art. Andy Suriano could have delivered this book with a carbon copy of the style, lines, and coloring that made the television show iconic, but instead, he presents a different stylized presentation of his own that upholds the demeanor of the story. Now, there are a number of similarities like Jack’s gestures and body language, but the angles translate to the comic format really well. The line work is thick and open so that not every edge or line must lead into another, and this makes the brush strokes appear very natural and confident.
The coloring in Samurai Jack #1 is incredibly deep as it uses warm colors that are appealing while not being over-stimulating or contrasting to one another across a page. But, there are some pages in Jack #1 that the sequence of images and panels come off as a bit unnatural, especially regarding battle scenes. This will hopefully improve as the series progresses with art and story settling into its own.
Overall, it’s exciting to see this series in print with Andy Suriano, one of the shows collaborators, but this may be a book better suited for a trade paperback read as opposed to single monthly issues, even with its breathtaking incentive covers.
YOUNG AVENGERS #11/ Written by KIERON GILLEN/ Art by JAMIE McKELVIE/ Inks by JAMIE McKELVIE, KRIS ANKA & MIKE NORTON/ Colors by MATTHEW WILSON/ Letters by VC’s CLAYTON COWLES/ Published by MARVEL COMICS
The Young Avengers have been on a whirlwind tour of late tracking down the vile parasite, Mother, and now needing to rescue Hulking from her clutches, again. Jumping from multiverse to multiverse, the gang has learned much about each other and have grown close. Even to the point that they may all actually trust, Loki, the trickster in their midst–well, almost.
Trusting Loki typically leads to no good, just ask Leah, former handmaiden of Hel. She was BFFs with Loki until he had her sent back in time to the beginning of existence. It was a somewhat selfless attempt on his part to save her from all the terrible things to come, what with him regaining the consciousness of the original, elder, evil Loki. (Asgardians, it’s complicated.)
Leah has come seeking her revenge though, and is revealed to have been manipulating Mother behind Loki’s back, all while he was was under the impression Mother was being double-crossed by him. And as all these dangling plot threads begin coming together it’s a blessing Kieron Gillen is the one pulling the strings. Having established Kid Loki back during his run on Journey Into Mystery, Gillen masterfully continues Loki’s development from misunderstood youth to full-on trickster god.
And while Loki gets the most focus, and undergoes the most dramatic change, Gillen doesn’t leave the other YAers’ on the sidelines. A good team book needs a writer capable of handling a large cast and making use of each piece of the ensemble. Gillen does this easily, switching from Billy’s concern for Teddy and growing suspicion of Loki, to America’s frustration and Kate’s fears. All of this is juggled while at the same time keeping the humor in the face of adversity that’s made Young Avengers such an enjoyable read thus far.
Jamie McKelvie’s been drawing these characters since issue one, so there’s no lapse in the quality of the art. And actually, with Kid Loki no longer being such a kid McKelvie gets to try out a new visual spin on Loki, transforming him into edgier, hipper god of mischief. As always the crisp, clear line work may make the artwork seem overly simplified, but were it more pronounced it would only detract from the clever layout designs and Matthew Wilson’s rich coloring. This way characters pop off the page, and not only when in the white void of Mother’s universe.
Young Avengers is a bright spot in the Marvel Universe. It’s a comic where the team interaction is believable and no character is simply filler. It handles serious, dire threats without becoming overly grim, and in the end, never loses sight of telling a compelling and entertaining story.
VELVET #1/ Written by ED BRUBAKER/ Art by STEVE EPTING/ Colors by ELIZABETH BREITWEISER/ Letters by CHRIS ELIOPOULOS/ Published by IMAGE COMICS
Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting seem to know the perfect formula for a captivating, visually stunning comic book story. Their combined work in Captain America resonates, arguably, as one of the best creator runs within that character’s storied history. The creative duo team up once again to bring readers the remarkable story of Velvet Templeton. Velvet is a quiet secretary for a black ops government organization, yet there is more to her than meets the eye. In Velvet #1, Brubaker and Epting present an opening barrage of mystery, murder, and mayhem that will instantly grab the reader’s attention and have them wishing for more.
Brubaker proves he knows how to write a strong female lead with this opening issue. Velvet’s complexity is accentuated by her confident strength within her government role and her instinctual desires within her personal life. She is instantly recognizable as the type of character that successful plays her role within the government hierarchy, yet knows more than anyone gives her credit for. It is this duality that begins building the central crisis of the story.
It would be reasonable to expect a #1 to focus more on character and plot introductions to establish a foundation for upcoming issues. Brubaker, however, uses the complexity of Velvet’s personality to subtly weave multiple storylines without making it feel introductory. There is a significant amount of dialogue establishing the major players within the main plot, yet that dialogue skillfully moves the mystery and murder components forward. This draws the reader into the black ops world surrounding Velvet and her personal motivations.
The only way to describe Epting’s art throughout the issue is lifelike. His attention to detail in each panel, especially when drawing Velvet, is so eye-catching it grips the reader and pulls them into the story. It is amazing how with just a few lines and some well-placed shading, Epting can convey strength, weakness, fatigue, or passion. Breitweiser’s vibrant coloring also helps convey emotion throughout each panel.
The artistic combination of Epting and Breitweiser added into Brubaker’s excellent storytelling makes Velvet #1 feel more like both a piece of artwork that one would pore over in a museum and a masterpiece of prose.
RAT QUEENS #2/ Written by KURTIS J. WIEBE/ Art by ROC UPCHURCH/ Letters by ED BRISSON/ Published by IMAGE COMICS
Fans of adventuring, violence, and foul yet exceedingly creative language need look no further than Rat Queens. This new series from Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch brings an intensity and raunchiness not often found in the fantasy genre. Think less Lord of the Rings and more late night dungeon crawling in Diablo, where characters get chopped to pieces and the expletives fly free.
Rat Queens #2 builds on a sinister plot to wipe out all mercenaries in Palisades. Our “heroes” Hannah, Violet, Dee, and Betty narrowly escape a nasty mountain troll who just so happened to squash their chosen assassin into man-mush. And yes, the Rat Queens are an all-female group of mercs, a fact many are heralding as “refreshing” and “imaginative”, especially given the vulgarness of the comic. Yet, not once is the subject of their gender broached. They’re simply another group of ruthless adventurers for hire, questing by day, then drinking too much and starting bar fights by night. And it’s this nonchalance about having a female-driven fantasy tale that’s truly refreshing.
Brutal honesty is the easiest way to describe the voice of Rat Queens. From colorful insults to examinations of group battle tactics, Wiebe doesn’t pull his punches. The leading ladies are defined within a matter pages, allowing the Rat Queens to be characters rather than boring fantasy archetypes. The humor, too, isn’t added as an afterthought, but comes organically from the situations. Though, not recommend for repeating in polite company.
Matching the unabashedness of the writing is Upchurch’s art. It’s vibrantly colored, especially whenever bright red blood goes splattering across the page (which is often). The violence is gruesome yet somehow beautiful, plentiful and excessive in the best possible manner. The action is amazingly well choreographed which only helps represent the roles each of the Rat Queens play. The whole book, not simply our team of kick ass ladies, is populated with varied and interesting body types. There are no stock characters found here, a consideration not often found in a book so populated.
Rat Queens #2 is brazen, exciting and so delightfully wrong the issue demands to be reread again and again out of sheer enjoyment.