Welcome back to Kabooooom’s weekly comics review round-up! There’s a whole lot of good reads out this week as our trio of reviewers give us the scoop on Image’s East of West #5, DC’s latest digital offering, Injustice: Gods Among Us #31, Titan’s B-movie send up It Came!, and finally the beginning of a new arc for Marvel’s Fearless Defenders. Let’s dive in!
EAST OF WEST #5/ Written by JONATHAN HICKMAN/ Art by NICK DRAGOTTA/ Colors by FRANK MARTIN/ Letters by RUS WOOTEN/ Published by IMAGE COMICS
Review by MARCUS HAMMOND
The dust has settled in New Shanghai as Death is reunited with his tortured bride, Xiaolian. This serves as the hinge for the intense plot developments and dramatic revelations in East of West #5. Hickman skillfully slows the pace down to dabble in the mysterious background of his apocalyptic gunslinger. In doing this, Hickman shows (as he has time and time again) that the smallest bits of development can be the most rewarding.
East of West #5 feels like a transitional issue. In the previous issues Death and his dark accomplices marched towards New Shanghai to rescue his bride from her megalomaniac father. Having accomplished that task Death’s motives become unclear. That is until Hickman deftly drops a major revelation about Death’s relationship with Xiaolian and that revelation’s role in the schemes of the Seven Nations of America. Though the issue relies less on action and more on dialogue, the reader will feel entrenched in the drama and emotion.
Dragotta’s art and Martin’s colors remain a consistent combination of crisp, clear images and atmospheric shading. This adept combination serves to enhance Hickman’s story at every page turn.
Dragotta shows impressive skill at portraying the emotional and physical tones of Hickman’s words. As Death implores Xiaolian to return to his side, it is clear through Dragotta’s line work that such submissive actions are unfamiliar and painful. There is also a very deep juxtaposition exposed in how Dragotta draws Death covered in grime and blood from the previous onslaught as he remains in his submissive state. This contrast fits perfectly into the epic storyline that is transforming around the visuals. Martin’s coloring truly shines in this issue as Hickman moves from present dialogue to flashback. Even though the color palette remains the same, Martin creates a unique opacity within the flashback panels that provide ethereal movement throughout the story.
The contributions of each creator in this issue provide such thought provoking, significant, and enjoyable development that the reader will feel immersed in all facets of the story.
IT CAME! #1/ Written by DAN BOULTWOOD/ Art by DAN BOULTWOOD/ Letters by DAN BOULTWOOD/ Published by TITAN COMICS
Review by ANNE MORTENSEN-AGNEW
There’s nothing quite as fun as a cheesy sci-fi B-movie from the 1950s. Writer and illustrator Dan Boultwood is aware of this, and It Came! is a brilliant throwback and tribute to those films. The entire book proposes itself not as a comic book you are reading, but as a real movie you are watching – and one filmed in EYEBALL-O-RAMA-VISION, no less! Boultwood isn’t listed as the writer and artist but as the director, and the “movie” was produced at Pinetree Studios, England. There are even fake IMDb– er, IFaS pages for the two “stars”, and fake ads for cigarettes and another Pinetree Studios film, My Reptillian Bride. Boultwood goes the extra mile to sell this as a real B-movie – even his fun, lively art is in black and white. He draws everyone with big expressions, evoking cartoonishness along with the requisite bad acting.
In terms of story and character, It Came! is essentially The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra of comics; a giant alien robot crash lands in a small town in England and goes on a rampage, as giant alien robots tend to do. It runs into our two clichéd heroes, Space University professor Dr. Boy Brett (just call him Boy) and his girlfriend Doris Night, who enjoys womanly things like make-up and fainting. The two go about, as you would expect, spewing ridiculous dialogue and nonsensical comparisons, as well as being generally clueless to the obvious, surrounding danger until it shows right up in their faces. The dialogue ranges from the typically cheesy – Boy explains to Doris that space is very big indeed – to the absurd – two locals who couldn’t tell it was Elizabeth II on a pound note, not George VI in a ballgown.
Boultwood offers twinges of awareness and comedy beats that don’t rely on B-movie schlock, and the vast array of humor makes It Came! an enjoyable and genuinely hilarious book. If he keeps it up, the second act will be even better and B-er than the last.
INJUSTICE: GODS AMONG US #31/ Written by TOM TAYLOR/ Art by TOM DERENICK/ Colors by SERGI ERRA, FRAN VAZQUEZ, and SANTI CASAS OF IKARI STUDIO/ Letters by WES ABBOTT/ Published by DC COMICS
Review by MATT MORRISON
Desperate times call for desperate measures and things are desperate indeed for Batman and his fellow heroes in the Insurgency. With Bruce Wayne having been publicly outed as Batman and the Martian Manhunter dead at the hands of Superman, Batman has lost his life as well as his best spy and good friend. Worst of all, Batman has received word that Superman and Lex Luthor have completed work on a super-drug that can give ordinary humans the strength and damage resistance of a Kryptonian – just the thing for building an army of soldiers to back Superman’s burgeoning regime. The Insurgency’s only hope lies in a daring raid on the Fortress of Solitude while Superman and the rest of the Justice League are distracted.
Tom Taylor weaves a fine thriller and the heist aspects of this story are interesting enough on their own. Yet, what truly makes this issue (and indeed, this series) worthwhile is Taylor’s take on the characters and his depictions of the interactions between them. Those who have missed the presence of the bombastic, loud-mouthed, fighting-liberal Green Arrow in the New 52 Universe would do well to pick up this issue, as would fans of Gail Simone’s take on Black Canary. There is much in this issue that will satisfy your need for nostalgia and tickle your funny bone. Even Batman makes a joke and the world is much richer for it.
The artwork by Tom Derenick matches Taylor’s script note for note. As Taylor’s characterization and concepts seem to draw off the good old days of the Justice League of America, Derenick’s character designs also draw inspiration from the artwork of that era. Derenick’s characters are big and bold, with facial expressions that are not subtle. Still, the artwork does fit the story and there is little to complain about save for some panels where the heavy inks obscure some of the fine details of the artwork.
Injustice: Gods Among Us defies the truism that comics based on a video game tie-in must suck. Not only is it a good book but it is one of the best books DC Comics has to offer today. Whether you’re a fan of the game who has never read a comic before or an old-school comic fan who longs for the days when Green Arrow had a beard and was overprotective of his “Pretty Bird”, you’ll find something to enjoy in Injustice.
FEARLESS DEFENDERS #8/ Written by CULLEN BUNN/ Art by WILLIAM SLINEY/ Letters by VC’S CLAYTON COWLES/ Published by MARVEL COMICS
Review by ANNE MORTENSEN-AGNEW
The girls are back in business in Cullen Bunn’s Fearless Defenders #8, which hits the ground running. In this issue, Misty Knight and Annabelle Riggs investigate monster killings with the help of Elsa Bloodstone. Of course, everything is a part of Caroline Le Fay’s mysterious evil plots, even the introduction of Zheng Bao Yu, a promising and prideful new villainess outmatched on both sides by the Defenders and Le Fay. There are some good surprises and character moments along the way, as well as an oddly helpful Brood Sleazoid – who, if Val’s sight is anything to go by, may very well join the team. It’s a promising first act to the second chapter of the Fearless Defenders.
As always, the strongest point to Fearless Defenders are the Defenders themselves. Clea, Dani Moonstar, and Hippolyta were absent this issue, but there is no dearth of interaction. The antagonistic banter between Elsa Bloodstone and Misty is a genuine delight. The two women are at odds about everything, from whether if monsters are responsible for the killings to whether or not to kill the helpful Brood soldier, and it’s a nice change to see two women who clash having to work together. Valkyrie and Annabelle no longer have the opportunity to interact because of their shared body situation, but their sole exchange is touching. Annabelle still acts as Val’s leash, so to speak, and stops her from being again overcome with Doom Maiden rage, and Valkyrie scolds Annabelle for trying to control her. Valkyrie still having the Doom Maiden within her is a good story note – there’s nothing like a hero’s worst enemy being themselves. But here’s to hoping Annabelle and Val get their separate bodies again so they can get back into the swing of their relationship.
It’s a solid issue, the only eyebrow-raising problem comes from some aspects of the art. Regular artist Will Sliney returns after Stephanie Hans’ guest stint in #7, and his art is as good as always. He’s even cut down on the spine-bending that was present in the first six issues. Victoria Gandini’s coloring was off at times, in particular for Misty’s face, but otherwise the team is back together and it looks so good. The only big issue is Valkyrie’s new costume. Ditching her breast cups was understandable, even if it does do away with the nod to Brunnhilde’s classic depiction in opera, and a new outfit isn’t an inherently bad idea. But this one is plain, especially on her. Look at the other Asgardians – Sif runs around in eye-catching crimson and silver, Thor has his chainmail, cape, and winged helmet. Is a black and blue tunic and breeches combo the best this goddess of Asgard can do? Still, the art hiccups aren’t enough to ruin the issue, and it remains an exciting and enjoyable new start for the Defenders.