Locke and Key post header image by Gabriel Rodriguez
Welcome to Wednesday Comics Pull-List, here on Tor.com! Every week we post reviews of a select handful of this week’s comic releases.
This week’s batch includes:
- The Calling: Cthulhu Chronicles #2
- Captain Action: Season Two #1
- Dust Wars #3
- Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #1
- Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom #1
- Morning Glories #1
- One #1
- Shadowland: Blood on the Streets #1
- Ultimate Avengers 3 #1
- Walking Dead #76
To an astonishing degree, this week’s issues concerned themselves with re-exploring old battles (World War II, communists, vampires...) and senses of déjà vu. We can only recommend 5 out of the 10 books we read, but you’ll have to read on to find out which ones!
The Calling: Cthulhu Chronicles #2
Written by Johanna Stokes and Michael Alan Nelson
Art by Christopher Possenti
Annie says: The theme of my reviews today is déjà vu! I was lucky enough to read not one, not two, but THREE titles that revieed previously! I loved Cthulhu Chronicles #1, so when I saw it on the new comic list for this week, I needed to pick it up.
This second issue does not disappoint. It’s a little bit wordy but still maintains the level of suspense that the first issue had. We’re only given a little bit more information as to what killed the passengers on the cruise ship Paradise, but we get introduced to a new character, Stefano Nero, who has the same eye/octopus looking tattoo that several of the cruise ship casualties had. Stefano claims to be a messenger from the “Dreamer” (the man showing up in the photographs of Clay and his sister). Stefano is definitely going to be major in answering some questions regarding this story, and issue number three has been set up to deliver the same suspense and awe that the first two issues projected.
Captain Action: Season Two #1
Written by Steven Grant and Rafael Nieves
Art by Manuel Martin and Steve Scott
Chris says: So, it turns out President Obama has been a superhero in disguise for these past few months, as the real President was possessed by an alien menace known as the Red Crawl and is currently healing up from that encounter.
Or at least, that’s how things are going in Captain Action’s universe which, despite its modern day setting, feels very classic in that it’s a universe where the threats are black and white, one’s course is always clear, and you play with techno-toys and costumes that could fit easily into the DC Universe.
As “season two” of Captain Action opens it turns out we’re dealing with superpowered Russians, the other red menace. How these Russians got their powers is a mystery, but whatever the cause, they succeed in stalling Captain Action long enough to steal the real President. A back-up story serves as a bit of an afterschool special, as Captain Action helps cheer up a kid who calls himself “Action Boy” and gets beat up for doing so. (Probably deservedly.)
This comic is perfectly serviceable, but couldn’t quite hold my interest. In many regards it’s very old-fashioned, and straightforwardly so, without the edge or energy that similar titles like the rebooted Magnus: Robot Fighter or Superman contain. Unless you’re already a fan, I would pass.
Dust Wars #3
Written by Christopher Morrison
Art by Davide Fabbri
Chris says: For those unfamiliar, Dust Wars is a comic spin-off of the popular Dust table game created by Paulo Parente (who does the cover to this issue), itself a role playing war simulator akin to Warhammer. Dust functions in a World War 2 setting, except with femme fatales, pin-up girl soldiers, and mechs.
That said, newcomers and longtime fans of the game should save their pennies on this one. (Do you pay for comics with pennies? That is hardcore.) For newcomers, there’s not enough story here to justify what is essentially a long commercial for concepts that have since been copied in other media. (You can find a better war story, you can find a better alternate reality war story, you can find a better robot story, you can even play this story on your computer or console, if you’re so inclined.) For longtime fans, the comic doesn’t provide the same kind of intense action that game-playing sessions would undoubtedly produce, and doesn’t manage to invest you in its characters otherwise.
Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #1
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Fernando Pasarin
Annie says: Oh good! A new chapter in the Green Lantern saga! You know, the “Sinestro Corps War,” “Blackest Night,” and “Brightest Day” just weren’t cutting it.
Relax, fanboys and girls, I’m just kidding. It’s hard to complain about favorites like Green Lantern because it’s such a staple in the comic book community. This first issue does not deviate too far from comics prior. The adventure is still there but Tomasi seems to take a slower means of introducing us, once again, to Guy Gardner. We’re given the information about where he lives, what he does, and what his motivation for this adventure are...to the point where, if you weren’t really interested in the ups and downs that this series will inevitably take, you could probably just assume everything will end well.
But that’s not what we’re looking for, right guys? We want the adventure and all the dirty details. No spoilers...this series promises them, tenfold.
Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom #1
Written by Joe Hill
Art by Gabriel Rodriguez
Hi readers. I feel like we’re close enough now where I can confide in you. Truth be told, I was sort of a weird kid. I spent a lot of time in my own head, creating adventures based solely out of my imagination. I never had any issue making friends but I was really only interested in the ones who were willing to pretend their bikes were space ships and the hills in my neighborhood were actually galaxies filled with aliens and dangerous planets.
Now that that’s out of the way, I’d like to introduce you to Bode Locke, my favorite comic book character of all time. Bode is weird. Seven years old and wickedly smart, but pretty weird. He spends most of his time hanging out by himself, creating worlds out of his imagination and games that only he’s interested in playing. Case in point? The second panel of this comic depicts Bode laying in the snow, explaining to a group of kids his age what he’s doing, “I’m pretending someone unlocked my head, opened it up, and took out all my thoughts and memories. Now I’m so completely empty-headed I’ve lost the ability to think for myself to stand up, or even control my bodily functions.” WHAT?! Bode! We need to hang out, little man.
Readers are given some background information before diving into this first issue. Mr. Locke was ruthlessly murdered by someone close to the family, Zack. Zack wants to find a key that will unlock the “Black Door.” What the Black Door does, we’re not sure. But when Bode finds a key that unlocks a portal that turns him into a sparrow, the adventure begins.
This comic is perfect. It’s unique, it’s witty, and the language is intense, almost to the point where it transcends typical comic dialogue and becomes a vocabulary lesson. (You’d kind of expect that from Joe Hill aka Stephen King’s son.) When was the last time you saw the word “befoul” in a comic? Coming out of a seven year old’s mouth? I am willing to bet on never.
The artwork is phenomenal and, though the words are a real treat, the pictures do most of the storytelling. Rodriguez eloquently depicts parts of the story that the dialogue could never sufficiently master. We are shown the innocence of Bode while battling the pure evil of Zack all in the same frame.
Morning Glories #1
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Joe Eisma
Chris says: Here’s the pitch for Morning Glories. Think of The Prisoner, but in a prep school setting.
That’s it. And really, that’s you all you need. Morning Glories is a singular idea that bears a surprising amount of fruit in its very first issue. Six kids of varying origins, some sweet, some disastrous, get accepted to an exclusive prep school with a bright demeanor and extremely sinister nature. As the issue opens, one of its cleverer students manages to rig an escape...only to find that the school itself is more clever by far.
The setting presents menace and mystery very well, and the six main characters are very engaging. (Think Gossip Girl except with a much wider range of intellect and origin.) Each of the six kids gets a two page origin that absolutely nails their character while allowing for organic character humor. Emo-kid Jane (or “Jade”, as she insists on being called) has a notebook full of the kind of tortured prose you’re glad you threw out years ago. Trust fund sociopath Ike is hilarious despite his cartoonish, world-weary evil. The nerdy Hunter falls immediately for the poised physicist Casey after they collide in a hallway, prompting Casey to cover her eyes and conclude:
...and I’m sorry, I just don’t have the time for something like that, you know? I’m just not ready for a will-they, won’t-they thing. So look, just...just shake my hand. Good.
Which should come off arrogant, but instead comes off very sweetly, thanks to the pacing and craft of Nick Spencer and the expressive art of Joe Eisma. The writing is succinct, the dialogue is natural, and the setting is extraordinarily creepy. I HIGHLY recommend getting on board with this title.
Written by Davide Rigamonti and Giuliano Monni
Art by Pasquale Qualano and Alessia Norera
Chris says: High fantasy comics are pretty rare (Surprisingly so, considering how visual and serialized both genres are.) so I had to pick One up, despite the copious amount of mangled T&A on the cover.
The art is very much a mixed bag inside the issue, as well. Pasquale Qualano and Alessia Norera do vistas and settings very well, but their figure anatomy and sense of movement between panels is amateur. The former is particularly noticeable whenever a woman is on the page and the latter tends to crop up during scenes of dialogue, where the speakers will shift orientation inside a panel without reason and interrupt the flow of dialogue while you pause to try and figure out who said what.
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t make up for that lack of consistency. We’re not given a reason to be interested in this world or its people aside from the betrayal of its main character. And even there, that particular plot affected me on a more general level. This book seems well-suited for someone just getting into comics and fantasy, but it’s a weak effort if you’re already familiar with either media or genre.
One is, well, one of the titles that GG Studios launched overseas and is now bringing to the U.S., along with this week’s A Skeleton Story. (Which we weren’t able to procure.) I’d really like to see this happening more often, especially if it’s exploring genres that comics tend to steer away from, so I’m disappointed that One doesn’t quite deliver on that.
Shadowland: Blood on the Streets #1
Written by Antony Johnston
Art by Wellington Alves and Francesco Mattina
Annie says: After reading Chris’ review from July 8, my interest was definitely piqued for this new Shadowland series. We’ve got an author and artwork change-up for Blood on the Street, with Antony Johnston (of Daredevil fame) and Wellinton Alves (Thunderbolts) bringing a grandiose new battle to the streets of New York.
Not only is Shadowland: Blood on the Streets capable of holding your attention, it also does a thorough job of keeping the reader well informed. I have to agree with Chris when he says that this comic is reader friendly. The first page gives you a pretty detailed synopsis of what has happened in previous books and “case files” from the NYPD’s office explain who each character is and what role they play in the series. Johnston even goes so far as to asterisk specific text boxes that refer directly to previous issues. It’s basically idiot-proof.
On top of being an easily comprehensible story, it is an adventure to the very core of the definition. The parallel journeys that Johnston has managed to create between the main characters is some of the best writing I’ve seen since I started doing these reviews. The reader expects that these characters will eventually cross paths but remains unclear as to how it’s going to happen. The artwork is perfect. It encapsulates New York City with shadowing and dark colors but at the same time embraces the positive characteristics that some of these characters possess. This is definitely a series worth reading and, even more so, worth following.
Ultimate Avengers 3 #1
Written by Mark Millar
Art by Steve Dillon
Chris says: Mark Millar’s writing style is hyper-masculine and always striving to be modern. He tosses out big ideas as if they are mundane and not worth spending more than a couple panels on, and he always seems to be building towards a blockbuster ending. This style was absolutely electrifying when Marvel debuted The Ultimates title, and he had a large hand in pulling Marvel Comics out of the creative bankruptcy it found itself in at the time.
It’s sad to see that style so devolved into self parody in Ultimate Avengers 3. (Which is the third volume of the new Ultimate Avengers title, which is really just Millar doing Ultimates 3 without having to start a fight over his old title. I think I just gave myself a tummyache writing that.) It might be that Millar’s focus isn’t really on the title, since he’s pissed that the current X-Men titles might have stolen the storyline he’s writing here. Or it might be that he has just one trick and we’ve seen it play out too many times to be excited.
The story here? Oh right, that. Turns out there are vampires in the Ultimate Universe, and Blade hunts them much like he does in the regular Marvel Universe. We’re also introduced to a new Daredevil, who has almost exactly the same origin as the Marvel Universe Daredevil. They’re both going after a new head of the vampires by the name of Anthony, who is trying to make the Ultimate superheroes into vampires. Cue Nick Fury and his black ops team of Ultimates. One of them is already a vampire. The scariest one. I won’t spoil it for you, but if you’ve seen solicitations of future issues then you already know who it is.
Although, honestly? I would just skip it. The characters introduced here are complete stereotypes and the action itself is very flat. It’s certainly not worth putting $4 down. There might be something bigger and more interesting being built to here, but considering that Millar is firmly in his own paces in this issue, that doesn’t seem likely.
Walking Dead #76
Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard & Cliff Rathburn
Annie says: If you remember from last time, Rick had gotten himself into a real predicament by attacking Pete and trying to keep fleeting justice in check as things got more and more dismal. Here, Heath and Glenn watch as a group of survivors sacrifice one of their own to a group of roamers, which adds an entirely new level of desperation to this story.
If I’m honest, this issue feels like more of a filler than anything else. It is necessary to go into the repercussions of Rick’s attack on Pete but that basically absorbs the entire comic. Maybe I’m being too judgmental but, from a marketing standpoint, if this comic is so close to premiering as a television show, you would think there’s a way to make the issues meatier while still remaining true to the story. Sure some secrets are revealed but the truth of the matter is, the reader spends the bulk of this issue reading panels that don’t really do much to carry on the story. Heath and Glenn’s adventure in D.C. isn’t really built up anymore than it was in #75, so I imagine that’s what #77 will deal with.
We do find out, however, that Rick believes he is beginning to lose control. For those who read #75, shall we let out a echoing “duuuuh”? Come on, Kirkman, the pressure is on, let’s bring some real fire to #77.
Chris Greenland isn’t a physicist, but he will headbutt you in the hallway, so watch out for that.
Annie Gala works for Macmillan, reads a lot, writes a little and loves Batman.