Welcome to Wednesday Comics on Tor.com! Every week we post short reviews of a select handful of this week’s comic releases.
We also have guests dropping in from time to time to read along. This week we welcome Annie Gala!
This week’s batch includes:
- Age of Reptiles: The Journey #4
- Astro City: Silver Agent #1
- The Calling: Cthulhu Chronicles #1
- Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom #1
- Gorilla Man #1
- Lady Robotika #1
- Strange Science Fantasy #1
- Superman #701
- The X-Files: 30 Days of Night #1
- X-Force: Sex + Violence #1
It was a pretty heavy week for science fiction and general strangeness. But first...dinosaurs!
Age of Reptiles: The Journey #4
Written and drawn by Richard Delgado
(Dark Horse Comics)
Chris says: Epic T-Rex fight!!!
Age of Reptiles is a silent mini-series—no dialogue, no sound effects—that follows a pack of herbivorous dinosaurs as they search for warm and bountiful grazing land.
In that regard, the story is very loose, but you’re not supposed to be paying attention to that. Richard Delgado’s art is the appeal here. His style isn’t flashy or energetic, but it is extremely detailed, consistent, and solid. This allows him to give us enormous two-page vistas of a tyrannosaurus having a massive beachside throwdown with an ichthyosaur, a vast field full of every kind of herbivore at play, and a rock outcropping in the ocean absolutely swarming with pterodactyls (or are they pterodons?). That last one in particular kind of blew my mind. I wish I had seen depictions of dinosaurs like this when I was a child. I would have had a much better, and grander, sense of how they fit into our world.
The final issue comes out today and features all of the above and more. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Astro City: Silver Agent #1
Written by Kurt Busiek
Art by Brent Anderson
(DC Comics / Wildstorm)
Annie says: Great first comic about an honest, hard-working middle class guy (Alan Jay Craig) who is born with a disability, finds a super silver coin and turns into the Silver Agent. So basically, take the standard formula for superhuman creation, add an artifact and viola! You have a super hero!
This comic was good but it has certainly been done before. It’s awfully reminiscent of Spiderman: Blue and Peter Parker’s relationship with Mary Jane and Gwen. Except the Silver Agent is only really in love with one woman, and she’s married to his brother. So really, it’s like the classic comic book formula infused with Jerry Springer, which, to me, doesn’t sound bad at all.
The Calling: Cthulhu Chronicles #1
Written by Michael Alan Nelson & Johanna Stokes
Art by Christopher Possenti
Annie says: I cannot say enough good things about this comic. It’s interesting, it’s suspenseful and written well. You can’t ask for more. (Except maybe, more information.) I appreciate the vague aspect of this comic because it adds to the suspense of the story the writers are trying to follow. Pharmaceutical rep, Clay Diggs, finds out that his sister has admitted herself into the largest psychiatric hospital in the region. When he goes to investigate he is shown a series of images depicting a cloaked man shadowing his sister around the world. Cut to another part of the world, where an entire cruise ship has grounded itself, with all of its passengers found dead. Something is coming...
If that doesn’t make you want to read more, I’m not sure what will.
Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom #1
Written by Jim Shooter
Art by Dennis Calero
(Dark Horse Comics)
Chris says: This is not the first time writer and notorious comic industry figurehead Jim Shooter has revived Doctor Solar. His first shot was in 1991 with Valiant Comics, a then-new comic company that he created in 1989 and was ousted from in 1992. He tried again in 1999 through Acclaim Comics (formerly Valiant), but never got past the third issue.
And now, today, he takes a third swing at it. Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom represents the first showing of a planned roll-out of old Gold Key titles (like Mighty Samson and Magnus, Robot Fighter) from Dark Horse, helmed by and in some cases written by Shooter.
So far, though, this current revival still seems to be finding its feet. The new series is obviously meant to invoke the pulpy science fiction of the Gold Key comics from the 1960s (and indeed, the entire first issue from the ’60s run is included here). There are aliens stealing thoughts, atomic supermen, and awkward jokes (At one point the villain jokes that he’ll “plant some raspberries in [Solar’s] honor someday. And then when they ripen I’ll steal some ice cream.”), but the book’s efforts at giving the character of Solar deeper characterization within this fall a little flat. Dennis Calero’s art is broad and colorful, but skimpy on movement and facial expressions, which further hinders the story in this regard.
In regards to pulpy sci-fi it doesn’t quite hold up to what’s currently out there (See: Strange Science Fantasy below), and I’m not sure there’s enough substance in this first issue to appeal to longtime Solar fans. This might be a wait-and-see title.
Gorilla-Man #1 (of 3)
Written by Jeff Parker
Annie says: Meet Ken Hale, otherwise known as Gorilla-Man. He’s a midwestern orphan who got picked up by some ridiculously wealthy man (J. Avery Wolward) to act as a business liaison. Talk about luck, right? At some point he went from being Wolward’s lackey to devolving into a gorilla.
The best part of Gorilla-Man is that Ken Hale is still picking up chicks, having normal conversations with humans, riding motorcycles and taking down bad guys. All while being a gorilla. It’s fair to say this is one of the best things I have ever read, ever. What’s more is that at the end of the comic, they’ve featured segments from the original Gorilla Man, Arthur Nagan, who fought the Defenders with the Headmen. What’s nice is that there is a clear distinction between the two stories and Jeff Parker is capitalizing on that while maintaining the history of comics.
Lady Robotika #1
Written by Jane Wiedlin & Bill Morrison
Art by Bill Morrison & Tone Rodriguez
Annie says: It would seem that Jane Wiedlin, of The Go-Go’s fame, woke up one morning, thumbed through a some famous science-fiction novels, re-watched Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and decided, “HEY! I’m not doing anything—might as well write a comic book about myself.”
Everything about this comic screams male fan base. The space slaves (Iron Maidens) are clad in skin-tight full iron body suits. Their leader, E’Death is clad in a dominatrix outfit and carries a whip. Lady Robotika herself is part droid, wears a very flattering corset, platform heels and fishnet stockings. It’s as if Jane Wiedlin was walking by the comic book store on new issue day, looked at some of the patrons outside, took note of the orthopedic shoes and Daredevil t-shirts and somehow convinced her artists that this was a good idea. It was not.
It’s a pretty typical first comic. The first few pages set up what will become of #2 and gives you a pretty lengthy back story about how Lady Robotika came to be. In Jane’s world, she’s a relevant, quirky and boisterous rock-star who is abducted by aliens because their Emperor (who resides on the Millennium Falcon—yes, that’s actually what they call it) is a big fan of hers and wants a private concert. Unwillingly (made apparent with lines like “Look probi-wan-kenobi”) she agrees and to celebrate, they pound Colt 45 Malt Liquor. While all of these things are playfully awesome, it is a lot of cheesy jokes packed into what is already a really short comic. It will be interesting to see where Jane takes #2.
Strange Science Fantasy #1
Art & Story by Scott Morse
Annie says: Claiming to be “The Future of Sci-Fi, Built from the Past!”, everything about this comic screams 1930’s science fiction, from the artwork to the choppily written text. Scott Morse has done a fantastic job of building suspense out of a first comic by using vague, broken sentences in a way that might frustrate the reader at first but inevitably pulls the whole thing together at the end. We’re introduced to a post-apocalyptic world where denizens are in search of a hero. That hero, or so Scott Morse is telling us, is The Head Light: a man with a light for a head. It’s hard to tell if it is the vintage charm or the fact that Strange Science Fantasy spits in the face of what other comics are doing right now but either way, issue number two is looking pretty hopeful.
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Eddy Barrows
Chris says: Writer and Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski has had some very notable comic runs in the past two decades, having been the saving grace behind the then-ailing Amazing Spider-Man before moving on to a revival of Marvel’s dormant Thor title. With Superman #701, he begins another run on an iconic character.
It might not be the best fit for him or the title, though. The story finds Superman being pestered with questions as he undertakes a walking tour of the United States—something obvious to the reader but apparently not obvious to any of the other characters in the book. Because he’s Superman, he does good deeds along the way. He fixes a fuel line, cleans up a diner storeroom, and sets a bunch of drug stashes on fire and then tells a child to go threaten the dealers that Superman will be back... Wait, what?
Superman is probably the clearest example of a “perfect” character in comics, and because of that he’s often looked to as an inspiration both in real life and in story. Straczynski’s inaugural Superman issue culminates with this, and in the best possible way. Superman saves a life not with a punch or heat vision, but by listening to the problem’s of the people he encounters. Before this happens, however, he is quippish, dismissive, and negligent to the people he meets. This is mostly felt through the dialogue, and while this kind of style served Straczynski well in Amazing Spider-Man, and he does it extremely well, it doesn’t fit here.
The X-Files: 30 Days of Night #1
Written by Steve Niles & Adam Jones
Art by Tom Mandrake
(IDW / Wildstorm)
Chris says: The X-Files: 30 Days of Night features Mulder and Scully on only a handful of pages, but the title is smarter for making that choice. The issue wastes no time in setting up the paranormal mystery at hand, but set-up is difficult to make interesting, even if you are portraying something forty feel tall and covered in dead bodies, and you only have one issue to hook your reader.
What Steve Niles and Adam Jones do instead is frame the case as a short story from the perspective of the unlucky snow plow driver (are there lucky ones?) who discovers the...thing. They successfully marry the 30 Days of Night concept (every year, the town of Barrow, Alaska goes through 30 days of night, prompting some weird, weird stuff) with the skeptical world of The X-Files. Talking heads and exposition are kept to a minimum in this issue...the meat of the investigation is yet to come. But for now, pity the plowman.
X-Force: Sex + Violence #1
Written by Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost
Art by Gabriele Dell’Otto
Oh, this is a fun one. In recent years, X-Force has been redefined as the book that covers the black ops team of the X-Men: a dark and deadly bunch that goes after threats that need to be quietly shuffled away. Here, they get stuck dealing with some personal business from Domino’s past with increasing violence and increasingly hilarious banter, mostly from Domino herself. To wit:
DOMINO: “Okay, how about you guys put your guns down, I shoot you, and then I talk it out amongst myself.”
Choosing Gabriele Dell’Otto to portray this is inspired, as his paints lend a slick blockbuster movie quality to something that could easily be a by-the-numbers sequence. It looks both more realistic and more stylized, if that makes sense, and this style is key to being able to take this issue’s reveal seriously amidst the happy carnage. (The “Sex + Violence” moniker doesn’t quite mean what you think).
There’s nothing new for you if you’re not already familiar with the characters, but it’s a solid, entertaining read.
Got an opinion on the above? Comment below! Did you read something this week that we didn’t cover? Comment below!
Chris Greenland is glad he doesn’t have to get into epic dinosaur fights anymore. (It’s a long story.)
Annie Gala works for Macmillan, reads a lot, writes a little and loves Batman.