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Boom Studios

Written by Christopher Golden and Tom Sniegoski and Drawn by Paul Azaceta

Nicholas Dane, the man who survived a plane crash only to have his fellow passengers’ skills and memories shunted into his head, readies for a final confrontation with the mysterious agents chasing him and trying to finish the crash’s job as TALENT concludes. He’s fixed a marriage with a phone call and saved a boxer’s wife from imminent harm, but his next tasks will be a bit more difficult to mix: watch the opening night of a dead playwright’s newest effort… and take bloody revenge on those who are after him. One is a bit more pressing, as you might guess, since the plane was blown out of the sky for the purpose of killing the assassin whose thoughts of vengeance are now dominating Dane’s mind.

TALENT has always been a clever concept, but the risk at its core was that it could be dragged out forever with little resolution. After all, with hundreds of passengers, Dane’s labors could put Hercules to shame. Wisely, however, the creative team put the focus on the most pressing aspect of the story, the original target of the crash, Guerra. The assassin had undergone a change of heart after a recent assignment and wanted out, something his masters could not stomach. By having Nicholas turn his eye towards Guerra’s affairs, it allows the story to come to a rousing conclusion and achieve some resolution that pleases the reader.

The script is tight, and as you’d expect, Dane begins to assimilate and understand what is happening to him a bit easier, making him a more effective agent for the dead. It also allows his final battle with his opponents to be more believable. Azaceta delivers on this stuff big-time, showing that he too has assimilated a bit more as the series has progressed. He’s very close to becoming an “A”-list talent, and with a few more series like this, he’ll be there.

The ending provides exactly what it needs to, and if you were watching this as a film, you’d say it leads you wide open for a sequel, or more obviously, a television show. After all, there is still a larger fight looming over Dane beyond Guerra’s masters, and hundreds more souls clinging to his body. The possibilities for TALENT’s future are wide open, even as this book concludes. And that is a pretty good thing.

Marc Mason

Written by Andrew Cosby and Michael Alan Nelson and Drawn by Greg Scott

When a college professor buys a sets of old books and discovers an old Enigma code from World War Two within one of them, he sets in motion a series of events that leads to multiple murders in ENIGMA CIPHER, the latest from the creative team that’s currently bringing you X ISLE from Boom as well. When the professor assigns his students to break the old Nazi code, it puts government assassins on their trail, and only young Casey Williams survives their silencers. Now, on the run, she must find a way to save her life and to figure out exactly why they want her dead.

“Person on the run from government assassins and framed for crimes they didn’t commit” is a classic genre at this point, whether in movies (ENEMY OF THE STATE, PELICAN BRIEF) or on TV (NOWHERE MAN, THE FUGITIVE), so what counts is how the story is executed and what the macguffin is. In ENGIMA CIPHER, we get an appealing character in Casey (she’s smart enough not to get caught in the traditional ways) and a genuinely intriguing mystery- just what the hell does that old code have to say, anyway? Plus, the pacing has to be swift; you cannot afford to give the audience time to over-think the plot, or they’ll start nitpicking. Cosby and Nelson really do a good job at that, almost dragging the reader along with Casey and not giving you a chance to breathe.

I’ve been fairly critical of the team’s other series, X ISLE, so it’s nice to see the trio turn out a book that really sizzles with energy and fun. I’ll be genuinely interested to see how the back half of this series plays itself out.

Marc Mason

Written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis and Drawn by Julia Bax

Never content that they’ve brought the maximum amount of “bwa ha ha” to our lives, Giffen and DeMatteis return to the scene of one of their recent crimes, the PLANETARY BRIGADE series that delved into the background of HERO SQUARED’s Captain Valor and showed a bit more about his life before he came to the HS universe and began making his counterpart Milo into the most miserable man on Earth. Now, the dynamic writing duo has put to the page the exact take of the Brigade’s gathering and becoming a team. And as you would expect, it’s funny, snarky, and lightweight fun.

The Brigade origin takes its cue from the actual origin of the Hulk. A punk kid wanders into a bomb test site, but in this story, he isn’t alone; his twin brother is with him, and when the explosion merges the two men together, they discover that they now have great and horrible powers that they will use for evil. Amongst those powers? The ability to command mutated prairie dogs as his personal army. Needless to say, that draws the interest of the various heroes that populate the world, and the fight is on.

As with most “bwa ha ha” books, the battle is secondary, though. The heart of the book rests within the characters, their interplay, and the absurdist dialogue that spews out of their mouth. In fact, as far as story goes, this may be one of the weaker efforts we’ve seen out of Giffen and DeMatteis recently, but the word balloons carry this book to victory. Additionally, Boom all-star Julia Bax really delivers some excellent work on the page, and this BRIGADE books looks miles better than the first series. With two issues to go, the story has some time to cohere into something brilliant, but if it doesn’t, this will still be worth reading.

Marc Mason

TAG #2
Written by Keith Giffen and Mike Leib and Drawn by Kody Chamberlain and Chee

TAG had an incredibly strong first issue, introducing us to Mitchell Tanner and delivering his predicament: a zombie-looking fellow approached him on the street, told him “Tag, you’re it,” and left Mitch to die… and then wake up.

Now, aided by his ex-girlfriend Izumi, he has to figure out not only why he has been given this curse, but he must also figure out who he is supposed to pass it on to, and to find them before his body decays past the point of being able to “resurrect” itself after he’s paid if forward.

Issue two has seen a serious delay, which sort of robs a bit of the momentum from the story from a reader standpoint. But there’s some balance, in that this middle chapter explores more about the curse itself, as the duo discovers a website where one man describes his experience with his own “tagging.” The living death seems to be a product of “just desserts”, as each person sends it on to someone who screwed them over at some point in life. The “tag” turns out to be something you deserve.

Helping to get the book back on schedule, Leib and Chee step in to help finish the book, but thankfully there’s no drop-off in quality. Wisely, there’s also no easing in the relationship between Mitch and Izumi, as even though she helps him, the tension level between the two is brutal. Hopefully, with the creative help, TAG will end its scheduling stall and deliver the anticipated conclusion sooner, rather than later. Both the book and its readers deserve it.

Marc Mason

Written and Drawn by Various

First came zombies, then came Cthulhu, and now Boom’s anthology series brings pirates to the page. With ninjas on the way as well, if you’re looking for a common thread of any sort, give up. The real common thread is that the anthologies are the publisher’s calling card, and that as long as they can keep providing decent material on the page, they’ll keep selling well enough to make more. And who knows? We haven’t seen anything like a “space” anthology, so there are plenty of genres out there waiting to be tapped for the line.

PIRATE TALES sees the usual mixed bag of stuff; the majority of the stories take the traditional pirate milieu (18th century, the high seas, etc.) and play with it, but the most interesting story in the book, from the pen of screenwriter John Rogers, is set in present day and deals with modern pirates attacking a cruise liner (it still happens, folks). Johanna Stokes and Julia Bax provide a story that pulls a nice reversal on the classic feminine role in the pirate story, and in another fine story, Michael Alan Nelson puts a twist to the romance novel. Fun stuff.

There are a couple duds, as there always are, but the good material here outweighs them. The Cthulhu anthology left me cold, and I was wondering if maybe the Boom anthologies were played out, but PIRATE TALES shows there’s life in this line of books yet. Worth your money, for sure.

Marc Mason

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