December 10, 2013

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Single Minded Returns! Edison Rex 12, Quantum and Woody 6, Shadowman 13, and TMNT Villians 8

I realized I had so much fun getting back to doing some single issue reviews on Panel Patter while doing Monkeybrain on the Brain that it was time to bring back Single Minded, where I talk about comics as they come out in single issue form, rather than the collections I usually do here on the blog.

I'm a little late getting to this for last week, but in the future I'm going to try to time this to hit on Wednesdays, so you know what to grab at the comics shop or on your favorite digital reading device.

Let's start off with my favorite Monkeybrain title (and that's saying something), Edison Rex

Edison Rex 12
Story by Chris Roberson and Dennis Culver
Words by Roberson, Art by Culver
Monkeybrain

Once upon a time, Teenpeace were the bane of Edison Rex and his cronies. Now they have to put aside their differences to stop a threat that might be more than it first seems in an issue that shows the first cracks in Rex's armor.

First off, how awesome is that cover, if you've been a comics fan as long as I have? It's another great homage piece by Culver in a series that understands how to juggle long continuity, even as the pair of them make it up as they go along. Culver continues to be absolutely amazing, whether it's showing Rex's unbridled enthusiasm and desire to be liked playing out all over his face or creating headshots for the Marvel Handbook style end material for each issue. He juggles a large cast well here (I think this is the biggest group of characters to show up yet), combining with Roberson's dialogue to give each character something to do and making them feel unique and needed.

There are a few points where the dialogue feels a bit forced, to go along with a team-up that's equally cliched, but I think it's intentional, given what we learn by the end of the issue. Roberson and Culver deal Rex a body blow here--without even knowing he's been hit yet, because everything happens exactly the way he wants it to. The next set of issues have lots of potential paths to take, and it will be interesting to see where Edison Rex heads as it moves into a new arc.

Quantum and Woody 6
Written by James Asmus
Illustrated by Ming Doyle and Jordie Bellaire
Valiant Entertainment

Eric gets a gig that's too good to be true, and the voice of reason is--Woody? Man, they're so screwed.

It's really hard to top Fred Van Lente's Archer and Armstrong for "Best Valiant Book" but James Asmus, paired with Ming Doyle, is coming awfully close. With visual gags flowing fast and furious thanks to Doyle's great skills at showing physical comedy and verbal jokes that make me laugh even as I cannot believe Asmus pushed the envelope this far, this is a comic I always look forward to reading.

As much as I enjoyed Tom Fowler, Doye is more than a match for him on this book. Whether it's Woody holding on to a moving car door (flapping in the wind like a perfectly proportioned and perspective human flag), Eric's masked face when he lands himself in a mine field (showing a range of emotion that makes me wish they'd give her a run on Spider-Man), or a goat with American flag make-up (don't ask), she's able to keep the pace frantic while drawing incredibly intricate panels that give the work a depth it might otherwise lack.

Her best work is in creating facial features that match Asmus' lines. Doyle isn't afraid to have her characters mug for the reader, making it look like they really are reacting to the unusual situations they find themselves in, such as when 69 asks her clone sister the best way to efficiently dispose of a body, keeping only "the most useful elements." Lines like that one or comments such as "You're like--crazy loud when you talk to yourself, chief" as Woody gets himself into trouble--just as he's trying to get Eric out of it--really make this book work in a way that a lesser artist could not.

The main plot is all about exploiting Eric for profit, which when you consider his race is both ballsy and a way to make commentary underneath the comedy, and allows Asmus to throw out text one liners such as "Black Op" and end with one of the best nose-thumbs at racists I've seen in a comic in ages that left me in stitches. Like Van Lente, Asmus gets that comedy alone is not enough--you have to have a story, too, and Quantum and Woody has it in spades, burying the reader in a ton of fun that's highly recommended.

Shadowman 13
Written by Peter Milligan
Illustrated by Roberto de la Torre and David Baron
Valiant Entertainment

Jack Boniface is coming unhinged as the force behind Shadowman exploits secrets he'd buried and not even the punkest Voodoo Queen you'll ever see can help him as this new arc takes the book down an even darker path.

This jumping-on point issue sets the new status quo for Boniface, turning him into something he doesn't want to be and making the story about ridding himself of the demon that plagues him. This could be a bit jarring to folks who enjoyed the lighthearted story by Jim Zub for Halloween and I do wonder a bit about why the significant tonal shift when you knew this arc was coming.

I'm not sure if turning on a dime is a good strategy, but fans of dark books will have a lot to like in Milligan's story and de la Torre's art. We very quickly see that Boniface is in a bad fix and will have to stoop to desperate measures to try and save himself--if he can. What I really liked was that while some writers might have drawn out this opening chapter, saving the action and spreading it out, Milligan isn't afraid to tell a complete story in one issue. It's extremely refreshing and works well, as we move from grave robbing from necrophiliacs to a character I desperately hope we see again. By the end, we know that Boniface is in it deep and not even traditional magics can save him.

De la Torre's art won't be for everyone, as it has a lot of rough edges, not unlike Alex Maleev. It also looks as though the color was applied directly to the pencils, though I can't swear to that. Unlike in a lot of cases, the team of de la Torre and David Baron make it work well. Baron understands that dark doesn't mean bleak and bland coloring. He uses a wide variety of shades from page to page, and even when we're in the darkest woods, there's a clarity that lets us fully appreciate the linework of de le Torre. Baron's not afraid of colors other than Brown, and the variety really enhances the comic.

The biggest highlight for me is the design of the witch, however. Looking a bit like 1980s Storm and with an attitude that matches John Constantine, she's a visual treat and not at all what anyone--including Boniface--would be expecting. Folks who enjoy their magic on the evil and corrupting side should check this one out, if they aren't already.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Villain Micro-Series #8: Shredder
Story by Dan Duncan and Paul Allor
Words by Allor, Art by Duncan and Ian Herring
IDW

Shredder is on top of the City, but his goals are far more wide-reaching, as this look into his afterlife reveals in a one-shot that's pretty trippy for a TMNT comic but plays well with the nature of fate.

Duncan and Allor start off with a tie-in to the current storyline, then Shredder takes off his mask and ventures into private territory where he learns that Pogo's saying can hold hidden truth. During one of his periods of rebirth, the main foe of the Turtles fights in the realm of the dead to prove himself. What he learns there drives the disgraced ninja when he's back in reality.

It's incredibly philosophical in nature and I think it's pretty awesome that IDW let them run with the idea, rather than making this a re-hashing of how badass the character is. Instead, we see that he's all-too-human and haunted by dreams, just like the rest of us--except we don't (well, *I* don't) go dressing in fetish gear and attack other people.

Duncan's art is suitably loose for a story like this one, with all the images feeling just a bit unreal. I love his depiction of the warning demon, and his action scenes show Shredder at his finest, such as when he's leaping across the heads of his friends and foes alike. He does a solid job of panel structure, especially in key scenes. Like de la Torre above, it's not going to be to everyone's taste, but it works for this story. In other circumstances, I don't know that it might.

These Micro-Series are an interesting way to extend the story without dragging out the main book's arcs and have overall been very solid. This one is no exception.

That's it for this week! Tune in soon for more Single Minded!