Single-Minded: Boom! Studios Comics for 12-07-11

Welcome to another "issue" of Single-Minded, looking at comics as they come out, rather than in trade form.  I'm once again looking at some upcoming Boom! Studios releases, available on December 7th.  Let's see what I think is worth getting...

 Valen the Outcast #1.  Written by Michael Alan Nelson.  Illustrated by Matteo Scalera.  Valen created by Ross Ritchie.

Valen leads his people in a desperate battle against the undead hordes of a mortal foe.  Captured and turned against his own kind in a perverted revenge, Valen can only swear defiance--a defiance he finds with the help of a mysterious witch.  But Valen's people have turned against him, seeing him as one of the many hated undead that plague them.  Rejected by his former subjects and hunted by those whose control he's evaded, Valen is outcast.

I really love the premise of this series, because while it does wander into the zombie trope, the take on it is very different.  The problem is that Nelson has so much to explain to the reader that it bogs down a bit, as we're told the things that we need to know to understand the story.  I think that will change over time, however, as the issues progress.  This is marketed with a special $1 issue, and I think it's worth the time of anyone who is a fan of Conan or similar stories in that vein.,  While there's more promise than execution right now, the promise is huge and I think it will be worth waiting for.  If nothing else, it's nice to see a pulp-style comic that is NOT based on someone else's creation.  It does need to move more into action and less exposition, however, as we move into issue two.

 Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes #2.  Written by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman.  Illustrated by Gabriel Hardman.

General Aleron's trial begins, for the shocking murder of a fellow officer whose motives still remain in the dark.  He's easily convicted, and sent to a prison camp, where terrible things await, especially at the hands of his enemies.  Meanwhile, the human subject of Dr. Cato remains on the run, holding the key to everything--but how do you unlock the secrets from a savage animal?  Someone doesn't want the truth revealed as we continue the Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes.

This continues to be the biggest surprise for me of all the Boom! comics I am reading right now.  I mentioned last time my general wariness of licensed comics, but between this and some of IDW's Star Trek books, I'm slowly coming around to the idea.  We don't get a lot of shocking revelations in this issue, but the pieces are starting to slide into place.  Why must Alderon be taken off the board?  What happens if Dr. Cato's secrets get out?  How has Ape Law been perverted to the point?  I can't wait to get the answers in the next two issues.

Hardman deserves a lot of credit for his work on this one.  The flight of Alderon is a great set piece, as are the scenes in the prison, which looks positively terrifying from the outside when we first see it.  There are a lot of little panel choices that drive the story in ways that compliment the text.  Definitely a great mini-series that anyone who is a fan of mysteries should be reading.

 Irredeemable 32.  Written by Mark Waid.  Illustrated by Diego Barreto

It's the conflict we knew was coming some day:  Max versus Tony in a knock-down, drag-out fight.  We got a hint of that in Incorruptible, but as soon as I found out the Plutonian was back, I knew it would come to this.

There's only one problem:  As of the end of this first part of the crossover, Max is nowhere to be seen!  What the heck, Waid?  Instead of a battle of strength on strength, we get a battle of wills, as the Plutonian fights against two creatures who claim responsibility for his creation.  Ordinarily, I'd be all over that, but right now, I just want a battle royale in the tradition of Hulk-Thing, Superman-Doomsday, Hal-Sinestro, and the like.  I'm sure we'll get it, but man, this was such a tease on Waid's part.

The story itself provides a new wrinkle into Tony's life, and furthers my idea that Waid's premise is to show that not a single person in this book has any heroic qualities.  It's not just the Plutonian that's Irredeemable, it's everyone in this entire universe.  I love that Waid can seem to drag everyone down even further as the series progresses, but c'mon, sir--give us a battle in part two.  Please?

The Rinse 4 (final issue).  Written by Gary Phillips.  Illustrated by Marc Laming.

The fire Jeff's been playing with is coming dangerously close to burning him, as the goons from Vegas ruthlessly scour San Francisco for Jeff and the money he's laundering, stopping at nothing to get their way.  Meanwhile, the IRS wants their pound of flesh--or at least a legal cut of the action.  Can Jeff pull off this difficult job without dying or sharing Al Capone's fate?  Find out in the final issue of The Rinse.

One of the interesting things about Boom! as a publisher is not only do they do big name projects such as the Stan Lee books or Hellraiser or projects such as Irredeemable, they also find room for small series like this one that tell a complete story in just a few issues.  I had the pleasure of getting to read all of The Rinse over the weekend, and I was impressed by what a solid modern noir story it was.  Jeff is the perfect anti-hero, working against the law but also with a moral code that makes him better than the really evil people he must evade in the plot.  He's a criminal with a heart of gold, which makes it okay if he escapes capture.

Obviously, starting with the final issue isn't the best idea.  If you can, see if your LCS or digital provider of choice has the back issues available.  I'm hoping Boom! gives this a trade, so I can give it a longer review.  Fans of crime comics really need to look up this underrated gem.

Elric The Balance Lost #6.  Written by Chris Roberson.  Illustrated by Francesco Biagini.

As the balance between law and chaos continues to spiral out of control, with universes merging and collapsing due to the actions of the prior issues, our heroes start to center themselves at the heart of the issue, almost certainly ready to clash in the name of what they champion--or at least what they oppose.  Is the balance lost for good?  It sure looks like it!

I mentioned to Roberson over Twitter today that while I've tried to like Elric over the years, I never could get into the character.  This time, it's clicking for me, perhaps because I find the premise of the Multiverse and its preservation by the balance of chaos and order far more interesting than moping about lost Kingdoms.  The stakes are higher here and the reasons for the actions of the characters give me a better sense of investment.

This issue formalizes the ideas that Roberson has been working on in the past five issues, with Biagini providing cool--and sometimes creepy--visuals as we learn just how bad things are about to get.  Biagini is clearly a big fan of P. Craig Russell, frequent adapter of Moorcock's work, and his linework shows that.  The coloring also takes a page out of Russell's playbook.

I think you could jump on here and be fine, but if you want the first part of the story, Boom! is also releasing the first trade this Wednesday, which I hope to review soon.  Anyone who likes Moorcock or stories involving alternative universes (with a touch of horror thrown into the fantasy) really needs to be reading this book.

That's what looks good to me from Boom! this week.  How about you?  Thanks again as always to Boom! Studios for providing review copies for me to read and talk about.  If you are interested in having me read your comic, please don't hesitate to contact me at