And the round-up is back! And it’s quite the exciting round-up, too, with each of the books reviewed – Black Dynamite #1, Rat Queens #4, Thunderbolts #20.NOW – packed full of action! What are you waiting for? Dive in!
BLACK DYNAMITE #1/ Written by BRIAN ASH/ Art by RON WIMBERLY/ Inks by SAL BUSCEMA/ Colors by JM RINGUET/ Letters by CHRIS MOWRY/ Story Consultant JILLIAN APFELBAUM/ Published by IDW PUBLISHING
HE’S A POWDER KEG OF COOL BLACK RAGE!
AND NOW HE’S ON YOUR COMICS PAGE!
LET ALL THE TURKEYS LOOKING FOR A FIGHT
BEWARE THE POWER OF BLACK DYNAMITE!
The brainchild of writer/actor Michael Jai White, Black Dynamite was a hilarious satire of seventies blaxploitation and kung-fu films while also being an enjoyable action story on its own terms. Those already familiar with the 2009 film Black Dynamite or the Adult Swim animated series will find that Black Dynamite #1 offers more of the same material that made the movie and cartoon cult classics. This comic was likely written for fans but is easily accessible to those unfamiliar with the source material.
For those who don’t know, Black Dynamite is the biggest, baddest ex-CIA agent ever. He makes Super Fly and Shaft look like a pair of thumb-sucking five-year-olds. But all is not well in The Neighborhood and Black Dynamite is having the closest thing a cool cat can have to a crisis of faith. After an altercation with yet another jive-ass turkey out to cause trouble, Black Dynamite is forced to ask himself a question – “Do I do more damage than the jive-ass turkeys I’m trying to stop from causing trouble?”
Brian Ash’s script seems set to satirize Bronze Age Marvel Comics as closely as the film and cartoon parodied the blaxploitation genre. The idea of the ever-confident Black Dynamite questioning his mission may seem blasphemous to fans of the character but in this context it works. And the over-the-top villains we see Black Dynamite fighting in the flashbacks are as gloriously ludicrous as any of the urban-themed bad guys Luke Cage wrestled with back in the days when he still wore the disco headband.
The art by Ron Wimberly and Sal Buscema is largely excellent. Buscema’s inks in particular help to highlight the mood and action well. The only real flaw is that there is some inconsistency in the look of things from panel to panel. While Wimberly generally does a good job caricaturing Michael Jai White, there are some panels – particularly in the fight scenes – where Black Dynamite appears too thin and angular.
So what’s the score? If you can dig it and aren’t uptight, best pick up a copy of Black Dynamite!
RAT QUEENS #4/ Story by KURTIS J. WIEBE/ Art by ROC UPCHURCH/ Letters by ED BRISSON/ Published by IMAGE COMICS
Image has undeniably put out some stellar and hugely popular titles over the past two years, but Rat Queens is not quite one of their big name books – it’s not a Saga or a Sex Criminals. Which is a shame because Queens is one of the most consistently good, funny, and downright enjoyable books on the shelves from any company. Rat Queens #4 continues with our heroines’ horribly violent and hilarious escapade dealing with intracity conspiracies and assassination attempts, and climaxes with the gals defending their city against a troll army siege led by a victim’s angry girlfriend. Issues one through three have been fantastic, and issue four is no disappointment either.
Rat Queens’ strengths are in its ensemble cast, its humor, and its action. Queens is very much a character-driven series, and the Queens are each a delight to read in their own way. Picking up where the last issue ended, Betty gets somewhat more of the spotlight than her buds. The little halfling has an almost childlike earnestness and good spirit about her – when not battle. In battle, she is a murder machine, making her easily the most endearing and hysterical of the four while alone. But as fun as Betty is on her own, she and the other Queens work best together, as mercenaries and as characters.
Wiebe was on top of his game in comedy this month, and this issue was even funnier than the previous three. The timing and dialogue were better and made Rat Queens #4 just a blast to read. The action, as well, was something else, pitting the Queens against another horde of enemies, which they slaughter, horribly and bloodily. Roc Upchurch’s battle scenes are brutal and bloody and flow so well, perfect for the Queens’ fighting style and slaughtering of whoever and whatever is in front of them.
If terrific fights and a great cast pique your interests, Rat Queens is almost certainly right up your alley.
THUNDERBOLTS #20.NOW/ Written by CHARLES SOULE/ Art by CARLO BARBERI/ Colors by ISREAL SILVA/ Letters by JOE SABINO/ Published by MARVEL COMICS
By rights, this book should suck. It should be really, really bad. The latest incarnation of Marvel’s Thunderbolts stars the woeful Red Hulk character, paired with “grim and gritty” stalwarts Punisher, Venom, and Elektra. The omnipresent Deadpool is thrown in for good measure. With a cast of walking clichés, Thunderbolts is setup to be a potent stew of vapid comic fail. Yet somehow, this book does not suck. It’s good. It’s fun. It’s totally worth checking out.
The bulk of the credit falls to writer Charles Soule. Soule takes a wretched cast and produces snappy dialogue, interesting characterization, and solid team dynamics. Red Hulk, a character that I wish with all my being did not exist, is presented here with a kind of Ron Swanson-like straightforwardness, delivering dialogue that’s crisp and dryly humorous. Punisher and Elektra carry on with cool kid aloofness. Deadpool cracks wise but isn’t annoying. Even the Red Leader (groan) is made compelling.
There’s a lot to be said for Soule’s economic storytelling. The team is introduced, their situation recapped, and a new adventure takes flight. It’s not quite one-and-done, but it’s a solid and satisfying first chapter. Soule brings classic Ghost Rider Johnny Blaze into the mix in the later pages (I’d say spoiler alert, but he’s on the cover.) and the issue’s end sets things up wonderfully for the next installment.
Carlo Barberi’s art is good and moves the issue along, although the table-setting necessitated by a first issue doesn’t play to his strong suits. Barberi’s lines are primed for action. He gives each character an angular form and a distinct look. Backgrounds are sparse and some of the panel positioning a bit awkward, but the overall look fits the title. Here’s hoping the action ramps up in the next issue and Barberi has more of a chance to let loose. What’s teased here looks great and leaves the reader wanting more.
Thunderbolts #20.NOW is a fun package that stands out as one of the better efforts to come out of the All-New Marvel NOW! initiative. Writer Charles Soule breathes life into a questionable cast and Carlo Barberi looks poised to launch them into action. I came into the book scoffing and closed it surprisingly wanting more. Marvel, more NOW! issues like this please.