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Devil's Due Publishing

Devil's Due 1

Written by James Farr and Drawn by Nate Lovett

In a far-off future, humanity faces extinction, thanks to a war with an enemy that has never-ending supply of soldiers: zombies. After all, every human that dies becomes one. But as the situation becomes critical, a new element is introduced. Years ago, a young human girl named Zoe disappeared, only to return with tales of a sentient zombie protector named Dirge. Her reports were dismissed as being made up, but when the humans are attacked by another sentient zombie, those in charge realize Zoe might not be full of it after all. So now the humans must hunt down Dirge, in the hopes that he’ll assist them against his fellow flesh-eater. If only things were that easy…

I reviewed issue one over at the blog when it came out, and felt quite favorable about it; with the enormous glut of zombie books on the stands right now, finding a fresh approach is difficult. But XOMBIE REANIMATED definitely does; the future setting is different, the nature of the zombies is different, and the artistic approach is different. This book bursts with color, both in the characters and on the page, as opposed to the stark, lifeless WALKING DEAD, for instance. The mixing of sci-fi and traditional zombie tropes also works nicely; these humans are technologically advanced enough that they don’t fully have to live in fear… until the new sentient zombie steps into the breach, that is.

You also don’t usually see a younger kid at the heart of a zombie story, either. It’s actually somewhat assuring, even in the face of the cliffhanger at the end of the issue, because it promises something unusual lies ahead for the book. If Farr and Lovett can hold it together, they could have a real long-term winner on their hands.

Marc Mason

Written by Larry Hama and Drawn by Mark Robinson

Thomas Arashikage has lived on both sides of the fence. He’s worked as an operative for Cobra, hoping that selling his soul briefly to the devil would help him find needed information for a life’s mission. He’s worked for G.I. Joe, redeeming himself alongside his spiritual brother Snake Eyes, putting his misdeeds right. But now, he’s on his own, and while such an idea might sound promising and relaxing, this ninja’s life will never resemble any of those things. Now he’s in the crosshairs of an international organization that wants to know what he knows, and they’re willing to kidnap a kid to do it. Of course, Thomas is more than willing to kill every last single one of them, so that sounds like a reasonably fair trade-off.

Larry Hama returns to the character he created in this new ongoing series featuring the popular Joe character, and it’s as comfy a fit as you might imagine. He sets up a little plot, drops a macguffin into the chase, and lets Mark Robinson loose to fill the pages with loads of action and a rapidly escalating body count. And honestly, what else would you expect or want from a series about one of the world’s two deadliest ninjas? Twenty-two pages of Tommy serving tea?

So is this a deep book with rich characters? No. Is the plot compelling beyond anything you’ve ever seen? No. Does it deliver exactly what it promises? Absolutely. Sometimes you go to the movies just because you want to see some shit get blown up. STORM SHADOW blows some shit up.

Marc Mason

Written by Joe Casey, Mike O’Sullivan and Andrew Dabb
Drawn by Josh Medors and Tim Seeley

Joe Casey’s 18-issue run on the Joes concludes with issues 17 and 18, as the team regroups from the insidious attack by the Phoenix Guard. The Guard had been recruited and created by a disguised Cobra Commander, now acting as Presidential Chief of Staff thanks to technology provided by Zartan. But even if they clean up the mess and bury the dead, the question of how to go forward after their entire operation has been compromised remains to be answered.

It took me a while to fully warm to Casey’s run on the book. It was clear early that he had the action part down in his scripting, but at heart, the ongoing JOE book has always been as much about the military soap opera drama as it is about the action. But with this final arc, he finally found true balance, and in doing so, delivers his best work. Cobra Commander has never seemed smarter or deadlier, and his plan is so good that you wonder why it took him so long to think it up. As a side effect, Casey finally sets up a strong outside force between the Joes and Cobra: the Baroness gets fleshed out more than she ever has in the history of the series, and you also find reason to sympathize and understand with her about why she is the way she is. And she now has a mad on for both players, which will surely draw Destro into the fray on her behalf as well, adding to the possibilities for the character’s path. Very solid stuff.

What makes the SPECIAL MISSIONS so much fun is that they are completely different than the main book. Where the monthly ongoing JOE is a military soap opera, books like ANTARCTICA are the wide-screen blockbuster stories where a lot of shit gets blown up. Dabb’s tale sends the frozen territory to ferret out a Cobra installation that’s found an oil reserve, and that just can’t be allowed. Ergo: bring in the specialists for this environment, team them with established favorites like Scarlett and Snake Eyes, and “boom!”

Readers who prefer one type of tale to the other therefore have options, though there’s nothing to prevent someone from enjoying both. The one place where the SPECIAL MISSIONS book is stronger than the ongoing is artistically; Seeley’s stuff looks terrific, where Medors’ pages look a little rushed in issue eighteen in particular. Still, for fans of the team, these books represent solid, full-speed ahead stuff.

Marc Mason

Written by Josh Blaylock and Drawn by Corey Zayatz and Joe Dodd

The previous entries in the DECLASSIFIED series have focused on SNAKE EYES, SCARLETT, and the whole JOE team itself, so this peek into the Dreadnoks makes for an interesting change of pace. The villains of the Joe universe usually don’t get much depth in their storylines beyond whatever soapy aspects of their lives and plans provide. Fortunately, Blaylock steps up and delivers a story with enough twists and turns to make the enterprise worth the effort.

We begin the story in media res, as an agent of some sort named Raymond finds himself on the run through the streets of Las Vegas. Who he is, and whether or not we should be hoping for his capture, are left to the imagination. Instead, we get a lengthy flashback that takes us back to the childhood of a young boy who went from a disappointing family situation to super soldier to traitor to his country. It’s a fascinating journey, and even by the time we catch up to the present, the story of the Dreadnoks only seems to be partially in place, proving that it was wise to give the tale room to breathe and develop.

Less enthralling is the art from Zayatz and Dodd. The pages are perfectly serviceable, but there’s a lack of dynamics in the storytelling that jumps out at you. There’s a sequence late in the book where the main character escapes from a military installation and blows it sky high that should have played as an exhilarating, exciting action moment, but the explosion, etc., are dull and plodding on the page. Again, though, the story itself does its best to cover the flaws on the page.

Complaints aside, I’m interested enough to maintain my curiosity, and I look forward to seeing where Blaylock’s story goes next.

Marc Mason

Written by Tim Seeley and Drawn by Various

I’ve been a huge fan and supporter of the HACK/SLASH franchise for some time now. The premise behind it is one of those that make you slap your head because you didn’t think of it first types: the girl who wound up surviving a slasher killer decides to dedicate her life to tracking down and eliminating other slashers, hoping to spare others from what happened to destroy her own life. Thus, Cassie Hack became a monster herself. It makes for rich, fertile character ground, as well as for rousing adventure.

SLICE HARD finds Cassie and her companion Vlad having been captured by a company called Ceutotech. Ceutotech has been going about the business of capturing slashers themselves, but for far different purposes than Cassie. The company, which makes makeup and facial products designed to keep people young, has noticed that slasher killers tend to be able to take a lot of damage and yet regenerate and keep on coming. So, they reason, if they can isolate what in the killers’ genetic profile allows that, they can isolate it, put it in their products, and make a fortune. So their hope is to hire Cassie and Vlad to get on the payroll and instead of eliminating the slashers, bring them is for the company’s use. What they don’t count on, though, is the arrival of another slasher, one that Cassie has already faced, who wants to set his comrades free in the locked down scientific facility to have their way with the staff… and our spunky heroine.

Plot-wise, it’s hard to argue against the idea behind SLICE HARD. Seeley is paying a little tribute to RESIDENT EVIL, absolutely, but it’s a solid concept. But for varying reasons, this HACK/SLASH effort falls a bit short of previous efforts. One, it is extremely plot-heavy, and there’s very little in the way of character, even for Cassie and Vlad. There’s an interesting twist thrown into the potential bargain offered to Cassie, but it gets pushed aside with very little mention later in the book, when it needed more time to be dealt with. Also, the large number of killers actually reduces the tension level, as it plays more like a gory video game, rather than a suspense thriller.

HACK/SLASH: SLICE HARD isn’t the series’ best effort, but it still entertains. I suppose that it’s actually a complement to the series that it has reached a level of character and execution that I expect more and better from it than I got from this book. It’s also a complement that I believe that Seeley will deliver a stronger effort next time out.

Marc Mason

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