Friday, December 16, 2005

COMICS: At last, the return of Quick Comics Reviews

Here's a roundup of some good new comics that have premiered lately...

Local #1, 2

Image hosted by Photobucket.comWriter Brian Wood and artist Ryan Kelly are the talents behind this novel 12-part series, which is a series of loosely-related slice-of-life stories, each issue taking place in a different part of the country, all somehow relating to one girl's life. I'm one of the few who haven't read Wood's DEMO, the toast of the blogosphere last year (although I've got the collection on order right now, hurray!). But "Local" doesn't require any sort of introduction — you just dive right in and enjoy the tale. #1's bittersweet script features a girl named Megan at a crossroads in her life, and her lightning-quick thoughts about which ways she might go. #2 catches up with Megan, now in Minneapolis, and her strange flirtations with a mystery man. Each story is light on plot, but big on honest, real moments and details.

Wood's script is given life by great, weighty art by Ryan Kelly, whose thick and fluid, detailed style is a thing of beauty. Many comic artists can't draw anything not in spandex or exploding, but Kelly handles the many little permutations of real life. Panels are packed with tiny, telling fragments of the characters' lives. The setting in a different city each issue is a nice touch -- the first issue was Portland, Oregon, which I'm pretty familiar with, and the second, Minneapolis, where I've never been, but in both issues Kelly's art makes you feel like you've visited the city. #2 includes a cool page of hip "factoids" on Minneapolis written by a local (I wish #1 had done the same for Portland and hope this feature continues). I'm curious to see where "Local" is going, if there's a giant overarching story or more a series of moments, but either way, it's shaping up to be one of the best independent comics on the market. I can't wait to read my copy of "DEMO" and catch up with the Wood bandwagon. Search this one out if you're interested in something new — and go check out the creators' blog, here. Grade: A-

Jonah Hex #1, 2

Image hosted by Photobucket.comWesterns are one of those genres like romance and war comics that used to be everywhere, but are now rare species. Jonah Hex is one of the great Western heroes, a scarred lone gunman wandering through the dangerous West having grim adventures. (The recent big thick DC Showcase: Jonah Hex book is a fab collection of his early '70s tales.) Now, a new series starring the dark gunslinger is out, and it's solid, if not quite revolutionary fun, worth checking out if you're a fan of westerns. Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray take a refreshing tactic by having the first two issues be self-contained stories rather than sprawling epics, down 'n' dirty tales of Hex wandering into town and, well, people usally end up dying. This series boasts absolutely gorgeous, near-photorealistic art by Luke Ross (who draws Hex as a dead ringer for Clint Eastwood). The only thing about it is that it can all seem a bit formulaic (Hex + bad guys = corpses) and runs the risk of getting stale without some innovation. But it's executed with marvelous skill, and worth supporting. Grade: B+

X-Factor #1

Image hosted by Photobucket.comHey, what we need is more mutants! OK, while I don't read 90% of Marvel's overwrought X-Men spinoff books, I quite like Peter David's writing, and last year, his "Madrox" miniseries was a highlight. This ongoing series spins off of "Madrox," which featured Jamie Madrox, whose mutant power is to create duplicates of himself. Madrox has now opened a detective agency together with several other oddball second-banana mutants. What makes "X-Factor" click is David's witty, self-aware stories, which have been a fascinating examination of what life would be like if you could duplicate yourself - particularly if the "dupes" have different aspects of your personality. This first issue of the ongoing series is mostly set-up, introducing the players. Somewhat obnoxiously, though, it does spin out of Marvel's latest endless crossover "House Of M." David does a nice job establishing the status quo for those of us (um, like me) who passed that latest "must-have" up. Good, clean art by Ryan Sook and David's fine writing, combined with a novel take on the mutant idea, make this above-par superhero comix. I'll check it out for a few more issues and see if it lives up to its potential. Grade: B

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