March 1, 2014

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Single Minded for 2/19/14: Adventure with 3 Great Boom! Studios Books

It’s been a rather Adventurous Time for me as well, as I wrap up my road trip to Portland and begin making plans for the next part of my life. So my readings right now are only  few things here and there. Since I have a few minutes, here’s some thoughts on comics that came out last week, starting with an all-star cast of creators working with Finn and Jake…

Adventure Time 25
Written by Ryan North
Illustrated by Dustin Nguyen, Jess Fink, Jeffrey Brown, Jim Rugg, Shelli Paroline, Braden Lamb, and Chris O’Neill
Published by Boom! Studios

The story of two special gems takes us back to the pre-history of Ooo and the friendship of four special people in a tale that’s a strong capstone on North’s run on the title.

I’m pretty sure North isn’t going anywhere, but if this was his last issue, it was a really strong one, combining an unusually tight plot with the kids of gags we’ve come to expect from the writer of Dinosaur Comics. It gets a bit too cute at the opening, as a T-Rex banters with a raptor, but overall the visual and verbal gags work well.

North has a pre-Princess Bubblegum paired with Marceline as a pair of adventurers who fall out and then back together, as friends can sometimes do. When Finn and Jake uncover the secrets of their friends’ past, the results are an epic battle against an old foe and a realization that the four of them together make for the best Adventure Time.

Pulling the pieces of the story together are some of my favorite creators. Nguyen’s striking lines make the dinosaurs look real, even as they speak in ridiculous words. Fink opens with a Dig Dug homage and her smiling pair of Marceline and Bubblegum just exude fun from every panel. Brown gets the angsty reflection scene, which fits his style perfectly. Meanwhile, Jim Rugg apes Paroline and Lamb so well that I’m not sure where one ends and the other begins. Despite the differences, the story holds together well thanks to each taking a particular scene.

If you ever wanted to see what Adventure Time the comic was all about, this is your issue. It was a lot of fun to read, and no matter where the series goes from here, this run has been great and #25 is no exception.

Kings Watch 4
Written by Jeff Parker
Illustrated by Marc Laming and Jordan Boyd
Published by Dynamite Entertainment

It’s good to be Ming, if just for a day, as the intergalactic ruler sets his eyes (and army) on Earth with only a small band of heroes to stop him as this series continues to keep its foot on the gas pedal.

Jeff Parker upped the stakes to such a high level at the end of the third issue that I was unsure how he’d be able to follow up, as I’m always leery of the “plucky adventurers against unstoppable Empire” plot. However, he does a good job of making the heroes’ counter-attack plausible while upping the ante by the end of the  issue, which is a nice master stroke of plotting. Meanwhile, Marc Laming gets to draw pages upon pages of destruction and weird creatures--and the Phantom looking bad-ass.

As with the past issues, Marc’s page layouts do a lot to aid Jeff’s storyline, allowing them to cover a ton of ground simply by showing what’s happening combined with some well-timed captions. My favorite scenes will always be the ones with the Phantom, who always controls whatever scenes he appears in and gets just the right look for Parker’s lines. Meanwhile, Laming’s Ming looks like a ruler who feels he’s already won, looking almost bored as he deals with what he perceives is an inferior threat. The coloring this time felt a bit dark to me, but that could just be a digital issue.

This one is coming to a head, and while I’ll be sorry to see it finish soon, I can’t wait to see what Parker and Laming have in store for us. If you haven’t tried this one yet and have *any* love for pulp adventure, go back and catch up. Trust me on this one.

Loki Ragnarok and Roll 1
Written by Eric M. Esquivel
Illustrated by Jerry Gaylord and Gabriel Cassata
Published by Boom! Studios

An ill-used Loki is banished to Earth, except that modern Midgard is exactly the kind of place for a witty outsider with charm and great hair in an opening issue that’s got some promise.

It’s really difficult to use the Norse characters in comics because honestly, Stan and Jack set the bar for Odin, Thor, and the rest of the gang. Most tend, as this one does, to avoid that scene by making Thor as boorish as possible. Esquivel takes it one step further, moving this one as far away from Asgard as possible as soon as he can and making Loki as sympathetic a character as possible. He does this by having Odin set him up for a fall with the Frost Giants, and that’s my only real beef, as that’s hewing awfully close to the first Thor movie.

Once we get to Earth, though, this one really shines. Putting Loki in the underground scene makes perfect sense, and Gaylord’s character designs are comically exaggerated. Everything we see in the club is totally stereotypical (bad nuns, punishment, etc.) but you can’t take it seriously because the linework of Gaylord is so squiggly and the dialogue (and internal monologue) as written by Esquivel is very much over the top. When Loki takes down a guy looking for pain or agrees to go to a vegan bar, it’s just silly enough to hold together.

Gaylord’s Thor is the most amusing thing here, though. His God of Thunder is insanely huge (think Bane as drawn by Kelley Jones), brutish, and cruel. I’m glad to see we’ll get more of him, especially in a modern setting. While I love the heroic god affirmed by Silver Age Marvel, the non-jock in me is looking forward to how the witty Loki pulls one over on the family who spurned him. If you like light-hearted comics, definitely make sure you check this one out.

Godzilla Rulers of Earth 9
Story by Chris Mowry and Matt Frank
Written by Chris Mowry
Illustrated by Jeff Zornow and Priscilla Tramontano
Published by IDW

Monsters clash and Mothra’s keepers give a main character a history lesson in another issue that’s mostly punches and exposition but maintains a sense of fun.

After a battle at sea that leaves many humans dead (off-panel) but none of the main characters, Mowry takes Lucy to the hidden location of Mothra’s people, where a cosmology for the giant beasts is given that completely flies in the face of the idea of atomic testing causing Godzilla and the others to roam the Earth. I liked the idea of them fitting their own table of the elements and having a place in the world, but the dead stop from action to talk about all this is pretty typical of the troubled nature of the overall storyline.

Jeff Zornow clearly has fun drawing giant creatures beating the crap out of each other, and I actually prefer his monster sense to that of Frank, the regular artist. It was much easier to follow the blocking of the battle, as Zornow pans out a bit more to give readers a better view of the proceedings. His King Ceasar is absolutely awesome, and the backgrounds on which the ancient monsters fight is well done. But his people look too much alike, requiring a coloring trick on the dialogue balloons to keep them straight.

Caught between a desire to have a plot and just being lots of things getting destroyed, this one is still not all it could be. But if you like kaiju and don’t care too much about the details, it’s another romp with a few intriguing ideas. I’m still reading, but I admit, it’s only because I like seeing who Godzilla beats up next.

Curse 2
Written by Michael Moreci and Tim Daniel
Illustrated by Riley Rossmo, Colin Lorimer, and Tamra Bonvillain
Published by Boom! Studios

Griffin learns the origin of his captive creature while his sister-in-law builds a case to back her grudge in a second issue heavy on the flashbacks.

This issue didn’t land the punch of the opening, but it gave us a lot of little details that are needed to better understand what’s coming. We learn just why Griffin doesn’t get along with the Sheriff Sister, for example, and that the no-good drifter Philips is likely to cause a problem for everyone involved. The historical connection to the werewolf was pretty cool as well, picking a period of history you don’t see in comics very often.

The art due continues to be strong, doing a lot with shadow and facial close-ups. I’m not familiar enough to know who is drawing which sections, but the fact that I can’t easily tell, either, is really a credit to Rossmo and Lorimer. I also love the use of backwards angles to give certain panels a really dramatic feel. Combined with the pleading or desperation or hate in the eyes of our main characters, the varied panel structure and heavy linework really gives Curse a strong, moody feel.

Curse isn’t your typical horror book, and that’s a good thing. Now that the pieces are in place and the backstory is together, watching where this one goes is going to be fun.

A short week for me because of limited reading time. What should I go back and read?