February 18, 2014

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Single Minded for 2/12/14: Prime-8s is a 10 while The Fuse Blew Me Away

Time for the column I can't seem to ever get done earlier in the week, it's a look at the weekly books from February 12, 2014, starting with one of the best Jack Kirby homages out there, Prime-8s...

Prime-8s 2
Written by Michael Moreci and Steve Seeley
Illustrated by Kyle Latino and Jordan Gibson
Monkeybrain Comics

Secrets are revealed in this pull-back issue that brings a darker side to the story of the Prime-8s that continues to be a love letter to Jack Kirby and one of Monkeybrain's best books.

It's very daring for Moreci and Seeley to hold off on the action for a bit to get into the origin of the team, but it works very well and adds a layer of depth to the romping nature of the plot. Not that there's anything wrong with a romp, but the best comics are the ones that can be fun and yet hit on some serious ideas, too. That was a big part of the appeal of Hoax Hunters, so it's no shock to me that the pair return to the idea here.

Mandrill is our focal character here, and his haunting dreams (given a great set of Kirby Krackle by Latino and bold, almost psychedelic colors by Gibson) lead to a flashback that changes the nature of their mission and probably links to the main villain, unless I miss my guess. Latino continues to make no bones about his comics influences here, right now to including a collage as part of the space narrative. 

A collage!

A mixture of silly (two dog heroes challenge the old, disguised Prime-8s to come clean) and serious (the nature of sacrifice), Prime-8s is a book I look forward to seeing every time I get a list of the new Monkeybrain books for the week. If you haven't tried this one yet, I urge you to do so.

The Fuse 1
Written by Antony Johnston
Illustrated by Justin Greenwood and Shari Chankhamma
Image Comics

A giant space station full of problems is just the place for a young, no-nonsense cop and an aging, cynical partner who doesn't want him--or a set of underclass murders in a first issue that made me stand up and take notice.

There's so much to like about this one, which immediately shows it's going to be full of dry wit when a cute girl trying to escape her tax bill explains this to one very patient policeman. The humor continues when the two future partners meet for the first time over a dead body, trading barbs as the sincere newbie doesn't realize he's pushing around his senior officer. That theme continues as Ristovych banters her way into personal records and argues about just why a man with a 75% clearance rate is coming up to the Fuse, with its lack of resources and high crime.

That's the second piece that Johnston, Greenwood, and Chankhamma get right from the start. Without going into extensive exposition, we get a feel for this near future world by looking around. It's full of normal humans, so there's no magical powers or alien races. The people dress like they do on Earth, and while the technology is a bit more advanced, we're still dealing firmly in a world with the same general class and crime problems as the home planet. Folks don't like being involved in a crime case, but they sure want to gawk. Even the businesses aren't far removed from those you find in the seedier sections of any major city, which leads me to think we'll eventually find the Fuse is just as segregated in terms of class as, say, Baltimore.

Greenwood's character designs are thin, angular, and mobile. That means he's able to use them to frame panels, or keep them active. Even when just standing, they don't pose. He switches easily from long shots to medium views, but isn't big on close-ups. Despite this, there's a lot of expressiveness, thanks to body language and clearly defined eyes and mouths, even when pulling back from the characters.

In some ways, the Fuse hits familiar crime comic notes, so if you are looking for innovative comic work, this isn't going to be your bag. On the other hand, if you love crime comics and want to see the concepts moved out into near space, with colorful characters and a mystery that's going to be bigger than it looks at first, make sure you pick this one up. Speaking as a fan of the detective genre in all its forms, I give this one high marks.

EGOs 2
Written by Stuart Moore
Illustrated by Gus Storms
Published by Image Comics

Duece's plan to save the world is a pale copy of past heroics as things go horribly wrong as one foe Masses against him in a strong second issue of this series that features flawed characters trying to do the right thing.

After the slow build in issue one, I was pleased to see things move much more quickly here, as we open with Pixel realizing that talking to your evil mother about your marital problems isn't the best idea and transition into Deuce's team of clones going after the ultimate big-bad, Masse. Moore's playing a bit off the Galactus template with this villain, but he keeps it to general concepts only, which is good. The battle against him takes up most of the issue, and the reader soon learns that Deuce can't even keep Himselves in check, which means that the universe is in pretty deep shit.

Instead of realizing his mistake, Deuce is about to double down, and it's going to be fun to see just how this plays out, which I hope involves his jaded son, who also continues to serve as the narrator. Moore does a great job of taking a bad situation and making it worse, showing how desperation can make a man go to lengths and lines he should never cross.

I still have some issues with the art on this one. Storms' linework gets the job done, and his absolutely destruction of the clones in battle is well-designed and just a touch horrific, as we see body parts floating around space. I also liked his design for the prison guards and the Legion of Superheroes-like variety in potential applicants for the new team. But in a story as dark as this one, the light coloring touch is jarring and misplaced, especially when combined with the lack of heavy inks. The actions of the characters are serious, but it loses impact in the pastel shades Storms selected for this one.

Despite that slight issue, this one's a sleeper hit that's worth looking at. I'm very curious to see where the story goes from here.

X-Files Season 10 9
Written by Joe Harris
Illustrated by Greg Scott and Art Lyon
IDW

An art change makes a jarring--and negative--impression on another filler story that's starting to become a disturbing pattern for this series that's losing steam.

One of the things that's a problem for licensed books is when the artist thinks the best way to handle this is to heavily photo-reference the characters. One of the things I liked about Michael Walsh was his refusal to do this. Mulder and Scully were recognizable, but they were also clearly his version of the iconic pair.

Greg Scott goes in the opposite direction, opting for hyper-realistic depictions, and it's a huge let-down for me. He's not tracing pictures, because the two are mobile enough to indicate Scott is working off his own layouts. However, it's also very clear he's trying to make them feel like they are the actors themselves, and his pages feel less like a comic book issue and more like a storyboard for a television show that doesn't exist. There's also the problem of obscured views, as either Scott or Lyon overdo the shading for most of the comic, leaving huge swaths of art you can barely distinguish, though it's clear there are things drawn that are just hard to see.

Joe Harris doesn't help any, with a script that feels like a paint-by-numbers X-Files story: Open with a creepy scene, bring in Mulder and Scully, put one of the team in danger (Scully this time), hint at larger factors at work, and bring in the other member of the team to aid in the rescue.There's a few clever quips, but my overall impression was boredom. This one needs to get better fast.

There was some other cool stuff this week, but I'm a bit behind on Think Tank and others, so a short one this time. What did you read this past week that maybe I overlooked? Hit me up in the comments.