May 28, 2014

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Single Minded 3/19: Loki Ragnaroks the Week

Moving right along with the single issue catch-up, here's the books that interested me from 3/19. Make sure you have a look and ensure you didn't miss anything!

Loki Ragnarok and Roll 2
Written by Eric M. Esquivel
Line Art by Jerry Gaylord and Penelope Gaylord
Color Art by Gabriel Cassata
Published by Boom! Studios

Loki's at the top of his game, which doesn't sit very well with the rest of the gods as they try to crash his rock and roll party in another over-the-top issue taking the trickster into a suitable modern setting.

I really love the conceit of this series, where Loki, banished to Earth, rallies the outcasts of the world and makes them believe they're worshiping themselves--when really their faith is in his message, making Loki one of the most powerful gods around. Sure, he talks a good game, but those who know Loki's history can see the cracks starting to show, as his natural arrogance comes to the fore. It's a subtle transition, to be sure, but one that Thor, of all people, notices most quickly.

There's a lot of great things to like here, such as Odin's comments on Loki's heedless recklessness, the idea that Thor slums on Earth when he fights inferior foes, or the portrayal of Thor and Hercules as two impossibly big bruisers who are too stupid to realize they're being played. When a Man of God presses Loki on his supposed affairs with animals, the trickster unflappably pawns it off on being young. It's really great work that's just getting better.

Aided here by Ms. Gaylord, Jerry Gaylord once again gives this series a visual look that fits with Loki's outsider style. His band members have tattoo sleeves, heart-shaped tinted glasses, and an impossibly long pony tail. Loki looks like Jim Morrison reincarnated and has enough chains to anchor a ship. Panel layouts come at the reader from odd angles, keeping their eyes off-balance. There's a thinness to the entire endeavor that reminds me a bit of Immonen, but not quite as slick.

Boom! has a lot of great limited series going on this year. If you skipped Loki to start, go back and grab it. You'll be glad you did.

The Double Life of Miranda Turner 3
Written by Jamie S. Rich
Line Art by George Kambadais
Color Art by Paulina Ganucheau

While Miranda tries to get to the bottom of a cursed acting trouble, her sister discovers a new Boston Brand-ing* trick in an issue that significantly alters the status quo for the two sisters.

Finishing off the series' first two-part story, Miranda and Lindy work the investigation from different angles, ending up at the same culprit who claims to have knowledge of Lindy's murder. Because of the short nature of a Monkeybrain title, this one moves quickly, and the resolution felt a bit rushed. It probably would have been okay to do one more issue on this arc, letting the mystery build a bit and allowing the impact of Lindy's new ability to sink in for the reader.

The line art also didn't seem to click as well this issue, either. Some of the detailing work and innovation was missing this time, with Kambadais going for standard panel design for most of the issue. He has a really cool concept to work with, but in the end, it feels like the colorist, Ganucheau, who carries the heavy lifting, shading the world to reflect Lindy's increased role.

I still really like Miranda Turner, and the dynamic between Lindy and Miranda, already a bit strained due to Miranda trying to carry on her sister's work, just got a whole new wrinkle. It's been two months since this issue came out, so hopefully the time delay will allow it to go back up a notch. Even at this level, it's still a fun comic, but the innovation of the Lego Block issue 1 is slipping a bit.

White Suits 2
Written by Frank J. Barbiere
Art by Tony Cypress
Published by Dark Horse Comics

As the White Suits continue to ravage the scum of the Earth in America, an unlikely alliance between a possible former member and an FBI agent who wants the truth leads them right into the thick of things--but not quite how they'd hoped, as this ultra-violent series continues.

If you're squeamish about visual violence, this is not the book for you, as Barbiere once again has artist Tony Cypress mow down people with abandon, in linework that's as angular and jarring as the plot. The Suits are killing everyone around, but the gangs are about to fight back, leading to some extremely foul mouthed exchanges that veer on the edge of being over the top, but manage to stay just on the right side of things.

Because we're still knee deep in multiple mysteries, it's hard to tell how things will resolve. However, I like the way things are set up and that Barbiere doesn't waste time on a lot of soul-searching. The characters move and act quickly, because to delay is to die.

While we wait for some clues, readers can focus on the layouts of Cypress, who will not be to everyone's taste. Clearly influenced by Frank Miller's Sin City or the work of Bill Sienkiewicz, Cypress's figures are well-defined and yet also abstract, able to shift along their vantage points and either be extremely detailed or fade into the backgrounds. The use of black, white, and red is clever, and those who can appreciate the type of style Cypress is going for will have a lot to enjoy.

White Suits is brutal, but it's a good kind of brutal, telling the story that way because it needs to. Fans of 100 Bullets should give this one a look. I think it's a lot better, but with a similar vibe.

Curse 3
Written by Michael Moreci and Tim Daniel
Art by Riley Rossmo and Colin Lorimer with Tamra Bonvillain
Published by Boom! Studios

Laney's mental dual with the wereworlf turns physical even as the town turns against him as this series moves towards its conclusion, linking things nicely and upping the stakes.

Without giving away too much, I really love the way Moreci and Daniel draw Laney and the werewolf's stories together until they are almost inseparable. Both are driven by demons, in their way, and it looks like both are headed for a tragic ending, especially if Laney can't figure out a way to clear his name. Given the supernatural nature of the real criminal, that seems unlikely.

There's no clear demarcation in terms of art, but my best guess is that it depends on the scene, as there are subtle shifts between present-time moments and those set in the past, especially in terms of the coloring. Both are well crafted in their way, with the flashback moments just a bit looser in construction, with the wolf drawn without worrying about stray lines. Regardless of who drew which page, it's easy to follow the shifting scenes and the wide variety of panel sizes and shapes keeps it visually interesting.

Part of the fun of reading a horror story, especially one set up the way Curse is plotted, is seeing what happens when the characters have dug themselves a hole too deep to recover from. That looks to be the case for Laney here, and I can only imagine how this one is going to wrap up in its final issue.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Utrom Empire 3
Written by Paul Allor
Line Art by Andy Kuhn
Color Art by Bill Craftree
Published by IDW

The origin of Krang finishes and Fugitoid makes a fateful choice as this mini-series wraps up with hints at a future story arc in the main series.

I really like how this series gives Krang a backstory that makes him more than just a tin-plated dictator. Despite his desire to move his people out of the cycle created by his father, Krang to some extent is trapped by it, as he fights new battles to keep things together. Meanwhile, Fugitoid plays a dangerous game, and his character consistency--naivety, shines through as he hopes to do the right thing, even as the reader can predict certain choices won't go well.

Andy Kuhn's work on most of the issue is stellar, but I admit, it's jarring to see his angular Turtles after the smooth, slick work of Campbell on the latest arc. They feel a bit box-like and the emotions are harder to read. He also does not do a good job with April's new hairstyle. However, as with the first two issues, his portrayals of the Utroms give them distinctive looks, and Crabtree's coloring makes everything feel a bit alien without going overboard.

This series did exactly what a mini should do--flesh out a world. Anyone who is a fan of the main series definitely needs to check it out.

*That's a horrible pun. I'm really and truly sorry. If you're asking, "What pun?" then you're Deadman to me.**

**That's an even worse pun. Sorry. I'd say "It won't happen again" but we both know it will.