Single-Minded for 5/18/16: New Books from IDW

I haven't looked at IDW book in a while, but seeing that there were three new #1 issues that interested me, I decided to take a short look at each of them. Each has something really interesting to offer.

Archangel #1
Created by William Gibson and Michael St. John Smith
Script by William Gibson
Art by Butch Guice
Inks by Tom Palmer with Butch Guice
Colors by Diego Rodriguez
Letters by Shawn Lee
Published by IDW Publishing

Archangel is an opportunity to see science fiction legend William Gibson bring his ambitious ideas to comics.  Here he teams up with a strong art team, led by the terrific Butch Guice, to create something that's fun and atmospheric, and puts together "time travel" and "World War II story" which is one of my favorite combinations of story elements.

It's a dystopian version of 2016 where everything has gone to hell (so not so different from our world) and the Vice President of the United States goes back in time to enact an evil plan which involves impersonating his own grandfather (makes one wonder about that Grandfather Paradox). Most of the story takes place during World War II as military personnel during that time deal with some pretty unusual goings-on.

This is an engaging first issue. Mysteries abound here, such as what the villain's plan is and how our past affects this dark present. I believe this is Gibson's first foray into comics (the book is co-created with Michael St. John Smith), so given his legendary status as a science fiction novelist I'm more than a little intrigued to see where he goes as a comics writer.  I thought this was a pretty well-paced first issue and not too wordy (something you worry about when a songwriter or a novelist decides to write a comic).  The story is well-paced and the world also feels fully realized.

Guice, Tom Palmer (on inks) and Diego Rodriguez (on colors) do very strong work in this first issue.  I'm a big fan of Butch Guice's work on books such as Captain America and others, and am happy to see him working here. Guice has a style reminiscent of Steve Epting (in that without being photo-referenced, his depictions of people feel like real people) or Bryan Hitch (in that he's capable of big, cinematic storytelling). That most of this issue takes place during World War II suits Guice's style (and Palmer's inks) well, as the book has a moody, atmospheric feel to it (I'm also rmeinded of the strong work Simon Coleby did in the World War II-set The Royals: Masters of War). Rodriguez does great work in coloring this book as the war-torn settings in Europe are given an effectively ragged, lived-in color palate (as does theslightly roug line work) that conveys that Europe is still a war zone, and all of these locales have seen better days.

There are some intriguing mysteries unfolding, and it's clear that a number of factions have an interest in the events of 1945.  Archangel is off to a strong start.

The Biggest Bang #1
Written and Co-Created by D.J. Kirkbride
Illustrated and Co-Created by Vassilis Gogtzilas
Lettered by Frank Cvetkovic
Published by IDW Publishing

The Biggest Bang is a follow-up to the entertaining 2014-2015 miniseries The Bigger Bang by the same creative team (my review of the first issue of that series here).  In that series, a being known as Cosmos emerged in a new universe and fought to become the hero and protector of that universe. Cosmos is sort of like Superman (last survivor of a doomed world, super powers, cape) meets Galactus (last survivor of a doomed universe, minus the planet-eating).

The first issue of The Biggest Bang revisits the characters from the prior series, as Cosmos has shared his cosmic power with another hero and they both take on new threats to the universe.  What I enjoyed about the series last year, and what I enjoy now, are the non-obvious choices taken by the creative team here.  The character of Cosmos is one that could be mournful and brooding, but he's not. His focus is on using his powers and helping others.

One might also expect a more traditional superhero artistic choice, but Vassilis Gogtzilas provies a much more interesting, gorgeous look to the story. Gogtzilas has a exaggerated, scratchy, dreamlike line and color palate that reminds me of Bill Sienkiewicz (while being very much Gogtzilas' own style).  Kirkbride doesn't have to emphasize a slightly moody, etheral tone in the writing because Gogtzilas' beautifully expansive work does all of that. Lest you think this is a dour book, it's not, there are moments of real light and humor throughout the issue. I particularly enjoyed the planet of rabbit-people that are saved by the heroes (they had something of an Usagi Yojimbo) look to them, along with funny, absurd alien dialogue.

The Biggest Bang is a fun, interesting, idiosyncratic read, and I recommend picking it up along with going back and reading The Bigger Bang.


Brutal Nature #1
Written by Luciano Saracino
Art by Ariel Olivetti
Lettering by Chris Mowry
Translations and Edits by Carlos Guzman
Published by IDW Publishing

If you've ever thought to yourself "wouldn't it have been great if the indigenous tribes of South America had animal-based super powers in order to fight back against the cruel Spanish Conquistadors", then I have great news.  Brutal Nature is the first issue of a dramatic, gorgeously illustrated historical fantasy series that addresses this (very) specific question.

This story is well-written by Luciano Saracino (with translation and editing from Carlos Guzman), with sad, almost poetic narration and dialogue and character interactions.  I can't speak to the verisimilitude of either Spaniards from centuries ago, or members of the indigenous population, but the story feels authentic. The dialogue of the Spaniards feels more formal and flowery, and the dialogue of the native Colombians feels more naturalistic. The tension and drama in the story is high from the get-go, as an indigenous woman is being chased by cruel Spaniards, and we subsequently meet the remarkable Ich, who has the ability to assume the forms of different animals based on various masks he wears.  Throughout this first issue we see Ich struggle with both his amazing abilities and his limitations.  He's only one man, and he can't repel an entire conquering army by himself.
As strong as the story is here, the selling point is the art from Ariel Olivetti.  Olivetti has a painted style (it reminded me a little of the work of Mike Del Mundo, though Olivetti's work here is less stylized and more grounded), and there's an incredible amount of detail in each panel.  A bird's eye, the sky at sunset so bright it looks ablaze - Olivetti has painted some incredible images.  He's specifically brought a tremendous amount of care to character design and appearance, as the jungle where this story is set feels alive, hot, and dangerous, like a place teeming with life and the unknown.  Where violence is depicted, it's visceral (but not excessive), sometimes cruel, and feels entirely consequential.

I've occasionally noticed in comics with painted art that while the comic contains a number of stunning images, it feels less like a work of sequential storytelling and more like a collection of beautiful images.  Thankfully in this instance that's very much not the case, as Olivetti is a strong sequential storyteller.  You can read this isue in one of two ways - it's well-paced, so you can focus on the strong, emotional storytelling as the story moves you along, or you can linger on the remarkable detail in each panel.  Either way, Brutal Nature is a strong, dramatic, beautiful debut.