The All New, All Different Last Week’s Comics 8/21/2013

Saga #13

(Written by Brian K. Vaughan. Art by Fiona Staples. Published by Image Comics.)

Each issue of Saga is like a revelation, where a small fold of the universe writer Brian K. Vaughan has created is lifted, giving readers more glimpses at the depth of Vaughan’s creativity and the spectrum of his originality. This is more setup for later stories, but the comic is still as magnificent as ever, in both its sharp writing and continuously impressive images.

In addition to adding another layer to his tale (this one involving paparazzi-type characters), Vaughan writes some of his best dialogue to date – both between characters and internally by Hazel. The characters’ conversations are often hilarious, but also heartfelt and deep, particularly The Will’s encounter with a love whom he lost. While she provides him with some much-needed insight, he may be too stubborn to listen. Seeing them together again is enough to twang at your heart strings.

The same can be said about Alana and her mother-in-law, Kiara. Clearly, Kiara doesn’t care for Alana (and any reader of the series knows this). But Vaughan continues to show what a strong female Alana is, despite her continuous confrontations with Kiara. In fact, the book is populated with strong female characters, including Gwendolyn and the newly named Sophie. Men are brutish and bumbling; women, however, rule the universe.

The comic is also continuously gorgeous with Fiona Staples’ art. Each image is clean and smooth, utilizing thin inking and solid composition. Not one image looks blurry or uneven. Plus, Fonografiks continues to provide lettering that gives life to Hazel, who, at this point, can only cry (even though she’s telling the story from the future). A lot of her personality comes out in the lettering, and Fonografiks seems to realize and capitalize on this.

Saga is an Eisner Award winner for a multitude of reasons, but its heart is really where it succeeds. Marko’s grief for his dead father is palpable. Alana’s love for Marko is tangible. And Vaughan’s creativity is boundless. Every single issue of Saga has been a home run, and I’m delighted to see the series keep up its level of excellence as it moves beyond the 12-issue mark.

Comics like this are unusual, so they should be celebrated, especially because they’ll lead people in other directions. Saga is a watershed in comics history; hopefully, people are paying attention.

Brian Bannen

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Subatomic Party Girls #2

(Written by Chad Bowers and Chris Sims. Art and colors by Erica Henderson. Published by Monkeybrain Comics.)

When I first read about Subatomic Party Girls, I thought it sounded a lot like Josie and the Pussycats meets Lost in Space. So yeah, that sounded pretty damn awesome to me! Cleo, Libby and Vette make up Beryllium Steel, the biggest power pop band on Earth. The trio were supposed to play the first rock show on the moon; however, their evil manager had them rocketed into deep space so she could capitalize on their tragic loss. Now the band is stranded on the far side of outer space on the lookout for home and their next gig. In their travels, the girls find their way to an advanced civilization of cat people and have to play a show for the powerful Boss Drixly.

Subatomic Party Girls #2 is easily the funniest comic book I read last week. Sims, Bowers and Henderson deliver a comic full of big sci-fi ideas, rock ‘n roll and death traps! The creative team plays off each other’s strengths and gels together really well in the second issue. Sims and Bowers’ dialogue, coupled with Henderson’s storytelling, flows at a brisk pace. This is a comic that starts in 1988, then flashes to outer space in the present and never misses a beat. Henderson paces out the action as the band walks through a giant empty room. The lack of anything on the walls or in the display cases proves ominous, but when Vette picks up her guitar, the mood instantly changes.

Whenever Beryllium Steel plays, Henderson’s visuals are full of frantic rhythms of guitar, keytar and drums selling the book’s vibe. Subatomic Party Girls is a lot of fun. It’s a direct follow-up from the first issue, so if you haven’t read #1 yet, pick them both up. At 99 cents each, it’s a steal. I came for the hijinks and stayed for the cutout doll section at the end of the issue. Don’t judge me.

Ian Gonzales

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Batman #23

(Written by Scott Snyder. Art by Greg Capullo. Colors by FCO Plascencia. Published by DC Comics.)

With every issue of “Zero Year,” Batman is inching closer to the moment when Bruce Wayne becomes the Dark Knight and runs around Gotham city at night, terrorizing criminals, beating them with terror and might, taking back some of the fear that has been growing in the years after his parents’ death. We know he’s going to become Batman, but Scott Snyder has shown us the depth of his commitment and the drama of making such a choice, not only on Bruce’s own life but on the lives of others, particularly those people who care about him.

Where the comic does its best work is in its villains. The Red Hood provides solid connections between Thomas and Martha Wayne’s death and the sudden rise in crime in Gotham. Furthermore, the villains in this arc are more than just one-dimensional antagonists. They’re shaping Bruce, molding him into the man he will become, and Snyder’s ability to craft powerful dialogue makes the comic such an engaging read.

The comic is split into three acts: Bruce’s encounter with the Red Hood, Philip Wayne’s connection with Edward Nigma and Bruce and Alfred’s need for each other. Each moment provides a little more depth to the story, particularly with Bruce and Alfred. Christopher Nolan really capitalized on Bruce’s need for Alfred in his Batman trilogy, and Snyder seems intent on doing the same. The heart of the story is in Alfred and Bruce’s relationship, and their connection seems to provide Bruce with the guidance he needs to make his final transformation.

Greg Capullo is phenomenal in this issue, delivering some of his best work. The story is occasionally brutal, and Capullo doesn’t hold back. He gives us some cringe-worthy violence and provides a visceral level to the visuals. Additionally, FCO Plascencia provides beautiful colors in this issue, giving the imagery a polished luster in some very important moments. Snyder writes the comic well; Plascencia makes it come to life.

I was curious to see how Snyder would differentiate his Batman from other “Year” stories. I wanted to see if he could do more than give readers a retread of Batman’s origin and the formative moments that helped him make his life-altering decision.

Snyder delivers on all levels with this issue. He establishes Bruce’s humanity, his connection to those around him, and gives more impetus for him to become the hero we know him as. “Zero Year” is an important moment in Batman’s life and further solidifies Scott Snyder’s place in the pantheon of great Batman writers.

Brian Bannen

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Ghosted #2

(Written by Joshua Williamson. Art by Goran Sudzuka. Colors by Miroslav Mrva. Published by Image Comics.)

Ghosted is about a group of thieves and paranormal investigators who are tasked with stealing a ghost from one of the world’s most infamous haunted houses. It’s like Richard Stark’s The Score meets Richard Matheson’s Hell House. Writer Josh Williamson and artist Goran Sudzuka blend elements of crime fiction and horror tales seamlessly into a haunted house heist yarn.

Ghosted #2 is the best kind of second issue. Williamson and Sudzuka bring readers from last issue into the story while catching potential new readers up on the basics. It’s not always the easiest thing to pull off, but they do it flawlessly. Everything one needs to enjoy this issue is there, but knowing what happened in the first issue enriches the experience.

So far, the book’s design has provided most of the scares, as we’re just getting to know the cast. The shadows hang heavy over every page, whether the gang is going over the job or when they are investigating the house. Shadows – an essential part of both noir and horror – are ever-present in Ghosted#2. Sudzuka and colorist Miroslav Mrva play with shadow and make use of the mansion’s vast space to chilling effect.

Williamson and Sudzuka develop their characters in this issue. The last issue’s cliffhanger gave us a glimpse of the spirits living in the abandoned Trask Mansion. This issue opens up with a one-page history lesson that tells the reader just what kind of people the Trasks were. One was a cannibal, others hunters of men and another was a sexual torturer. Each of these is displayed in a different panel. Sudzuka gives readers just enough to tell them what these people were in life without going over the top. The issue then moves into the story, establishing Jackson, the ringleader, and his gang. The team is a good mix, too. Made up of a psychic medium, a skeptic, an old professional con man and two TV ghost hunters, it’s rounded out by Jackson and his employer’s right-hand woman, Anderson. Markus Schrecken, introduced in the last issue, is footing the bill because he wants a ghost in his paranormal collection. Oliver King, the skeptic, notes faulty wiring, which explains why the ghost hunters’ equipment was picking up some odd energy. Edzina Rusnak, the medium, wants to return at night. Given her smirk at the end of last issue and her body language in this one, she probably knows more than she’s letting on.

I am 100 percent on board for Ghosted’s long game. Williamson’s story never loses sight that these characters are out to steal a ghost, and they all know how out there that sounds. And Sudzuka’s ghosts? They’re loose, scratchy-looking forms that clearly have it out for the living. The first time we see one in this issue is towards the end, and it gave me the creeps! That’s a horror comic done right!

Ian Gonzales

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The X-Files: Season 10 #3

(Written by Joe Harris. Art by Michael Walsh. Published by IDW Comics.)

Bannen’s Book of the Week: I found the first issue of IDW’s X-Files: Season 10 to be a bit of a disappointment. It had the elements associated with The X-Files, but it didn’t feel like a real extension of the television series. If you had asked me after the first issue if I would recommend X-Files: Season 10, I would have said no.

It’s good to be wrong.

Since the first issue, the series has ramped up its depth and made lucid and fascinating connections to the mythos. The comic has also revived well-known characters, bringing some back from the dead, giving others new life and, in the end, delivering a fantastic beginning to a series that is growing more promising.

The revelations in this issue are too good to spoil, so trust me when I tell you that you need to read this series. If you’re a true fan of The X-Files, and if you knew the show well over the course of its nine-year run, you’ll find the story every bit as exciting as the best episodes. Joe Harris, working with series creator Chris Carter, returns to some of the more popular aspects of the show: alien/human hybrids, baby William, magnetite and agents Reyes and Doggett. Granted, these are not new ideas, but the show ended without addressing some of its major plot threads, so now it looks like we’re going to get the resolution we’ve been craving.

Additionally, Joe Harris has really found a flow to the writing. The first issue felt very forced, but this issue is clean, fluid and well-paced. As the mysteries are unraveled, Harris has the daunting task of giving readers just enough to jog their memories or catch them up, while at the same time maintaining the momentum he’s building upon with each issue. He does this well, and at no point do we feel as if we’re being swamped with exposition.

And Michael Walsh’s style is growing on me. He’s found a way to use shading to his advantage, especially for tonally-heavy moments. Walsh has a great ability to craft characters akin to their real-life counterparts. He also communicates action well, particularly when Dana takes on a group of hybrid aliens. If people need a reminder of how badass Scully can be, they’ll find it in this issue.

This series is turning out to be a great read. Maybe I’m blinded by my love of seeing Scully and Mulder in action again, but I’m finding the comic a better choice to continue the story Chris Carter ended in 2002. X-Files: Season 10 has all the plot twists, alien oddities and adventure I remember so well from the series, and it’s delivering its revelations with blistering speed, making each issue worth the money.

If you thought Mulder and Scully’s story ended with the series, you’re wrong. The truth is still out there, and luckily enough, IDW is providing the answers.

Brian Bannen

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The truth is out there. Just ask @Oaser. Don’t ask @IanGonzales, though – he gave up on the X-Files around the time the first movie came out.

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