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Image Comics

More Image Reviews

Written by Jeff Amano and Drawn by Andy MacDonald

A badass former spook named Tolik has left Mother Russia behind and is doing a little work for the Americans these days. But when a series of killings that point towards a former Spetsnaz, he is called upon to attempt to turn a Russian Mafiya princess into an asset for the U.S. Government. But what he doesn’t count on is falling in love with the girl and discovering that the killer and his employers have more in common with him than their nationality.

RED WARRIOR is a taut, solid thriller. Mixing the trappings of a classic mob flick (with well-researched facts, demonstrated by the bibliography at the back of the book) with the fighting techniques of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the book is a hybrid of the best kind, a mish-mash of genres that offers something interesting from both sides. But what makes RED WARRIOR truly stand out is that the emotional core of the book works; you never waver in your belief in how much Tolik and Elena love each other, even as their paths require them to put their lives apart in jeopardy… and their life together on hold.

Amano’s script is solid, delivering the exposition painlessly, and offering dialogue that feels authentic and natural. Tolik is a fascinating character, a man of two worlds who truly belongs in only one but stumbles blindly, trying to reach and fit in the other. It is MacDonald who proves to be the surprise here, though, as he delivers the best work I’ve seen from him. His NYC MECH material has always been good, but what we see here is that he can do people, and he can do them amazingly well. The stark black and white world he creates to flesh out Amano’s script is outstanding. This is definitely a book worth seeking out.

Marc Mason

Written by Jeff Amano and Drawn by Craig Rousseau

Less successful, sadly, is this effort from the pen of Amano. Here, Gepetto is not a man who has created a little boy from wood. Instead, he is a man who, like many, has decided to try and make a better life for his child in the late 19th century by moving from the old country and settling in America. Unfortunately, the boy, Victor, takes ill early into this new life, and he isn’t long for the world. That is, until a friend offers Gepetto a way to perhaps save his son through a combination of sorcery and science.

That combination? Transferring Victor’s soul into a golem. But, as you might imagine, that doesn’t quite goes as planned, which means there’s a monster on the loose. Killing, maiming… the Victor golem is bad news, and worse, there may be no way of stopping him. So Gepetto must face his demons and come face to face with the cost of his efforts to not outlive his child… the only remnant of what’s left of his family.

THE COBBLER’S MONSTER is replete with compelling emotional moments; you can feel Gepetto’s pain and understand his actions fully. But the pacing of the story is jumpy, and you are never quite given the opportunity to fully invest in that pain. You reach a crescendo in one panel, and then he next page veers the story and loses that momentum. There are also issues with the body count; not that there is one and that it’s very high, but that it never really fazes you. The dead characters aren’t drawn fully enough for you to care, making most of the cast the equivalent to the “red shirts” on STAR TREK. They’re there to die, and that’s their sole purpose.

I could see what Amano was aiming for with the story, and Rousseau did a nice job of trying to pull it off, but ultimately, the pieces of COBBLER’S MONSTER are far greater than their whole.

Marc Mason

Written by Joe Casey and Drawn by Tom Scioli

This is a title that has taken its time in growing on me. Out of the gate, it worked from a deficit; I’ve never particularly enjoyed Joe Casey’s work, and I’ve had a distinct distaste for Scioli’s pure pastiche of Jack Kirby’s style. That made reading the early issues of the series more than a bit of a chore.

But as time passed, I began to see a little bit what Casey and Scioli were really doing with this book. Take this volume: super-powered Adam Archer and his sisters, along with their alien-dog ally Maxim, are faced with varying threats that include a hipster robot, a human who believes blowing up Manhattan with a giant pyramid will help the world ascend to his God (“J’Rhogan”- Joe Rogan???), and a disembodied head that is first kept in a cooler and later transplanted onto the body of a woman whose head was blown off. Plus, Adam learns the true origin of the known universe and who “Iboga” really is. In short, it’s all rather insane.

But… that’s why it works. Having worked my way through this first year of issues, I believe that what makes GODLAND so entertaining is that it embraces what it is in ways that many series don’t. It reads like Casey and Scioli are sitting right across from the reader and saying, “It’s a comic book! It loves being a comic book. It has no other purpose than to be a comic book.” There’s no naked grab at getting a cartoon made or a feature film option. GODLAND revels in its comic-ness, and I respect that. And in that fashion, I can also recommend it.

Marc Mason

Written and Drawn by Various

24SEVEN is another top-notch anthology from Image, which has fast become one of the three best producers of the format in comics. As with most anthologies, there’s a theme involved, and this time around, it’s robots; more specifically, it’s that the stories take place in the world of NYC MECH, the robot-world book created by Ivan Brandon, Miles Gunter, and Andy Macdonald. NYC MECH is a world much like ours, but all the inhabitants are mechanical organisms; however, they have the most human of problems, whether it’s their love lives, drug dependency, or struggles on the job. As you might imagine, that makes for fertile ground for other creators to come and play on. Thus, 24SEVEN.

As far as anthologies go, you’re always going to get a mixed bag with the results, but for the most part, 24SEVEN delivers a solid hit across the board. Only a couple of creators seem to have totally ignored the milieu and, well, the point, which in itself is a triumph. On the flip side, though, there are some folks who seem to have gotten it better than others. Unsurprisingly, Gunter, Brandon, and Macdonald swim smoothly in their own pool; but it’s folks like Phil Hester and Jonathan L. Davis who really turn your head with superior work.

The book also boasts one of the most beautiful covers of 2006, a stunning piece of work by the amazing Adam Hughes. Hughes can do just about anything, and in this case, you will believe a robot can be gloriously sexy.

At a time when true science fiction is difficult to find in comics, this book is a true standout and worth the time to track down if you’re a fan of the genre.

Marc Mason

Written by Richard Starkings and Drawn by Moritat

Starkings takes his HIP FLASK world to regular series with ELEPHANTMEN. The HIP FLASK books were some of the most beautiful releases of the past couple of years, showcasing the amazing work of Ladronn and presenting the most European-looking American books you’ll ever see. ELEPHANTMEN isn’t drawn by Ladronn, however, but his presence is felt in the covers and the art direction behind the book. That means the quality of the book must rise and fall upon Starkings’ writing and the work of relative newcomer Moritat.

These two issues contain four stories, and there’s quite a range in the results. The book leads off with its strongest effort, issue one’s “See The Elephant.” The tale manages to combine sadness, horror, violence, and regret in equal quantities, as an Elephant named Ebony finds himself the object of interest to a young girl on the street. But the backup story, “Just Another Guy Named Joe” goes nowhere and is the weakest effort in either book.

Issue two again has a wide split to it. “Shock Croc” is an amusing take on what it would be like to have a Howard Stern character in this future of walking, talking animals. You can imagine that it would be dumb to provoke a crocodile, even one that acts somewhat human. But the flip story, “Behemoth and Leviathan”, bogs down in Starkings’ use of the Bible to narrate it. In both cases, the weak flip sides take away from the overall value and quality you’re paying for.

ELEPHANTMEN is pretty to look at, no question, but could definitely see some improvement as the book goes forward. Raising the level of the flip stories would go a long way towards taking the book from “okay” to “really good”.

Marc Mason

Written by Gary Reed and Drawn by Chris Jones and Laurence Campbell

The diaries in question belong to Marilyn Monroe and the man who murdered her, according to the twisting plot that wraps its way through Gary Reed’s conspiracy thriller. But in order for the staff of Raven, Inc., the group of investigators hired to prove that the young man claiming to be Monroe’s son is the real deal and to find the diaries, to unravel the mystery, they must first put their lives on the line against the mob, the government, and other outside forces who do and do not want the actress’ death and the death of her paramour JFK to be solved.

Sounds like quite a mouthful to get through, and it is; the number of theories and red herrings put forward in the story by Reed seems to grow exponentially as the book runs. That’s both impressive, and yet something that drags the book down. The amount of research and detail the author put into this book is astounding. But because Reed allows the reader to eventually draw their own conclusions and doesn’t let the characters draw one themselves, it ultimately isn’t as satisfying as you’d like. Interestingly, Reed addresses this in a text piece, and it’s a conscious decision on his part. While I didn’t feel I needed everything answered and tied into a bow, I still felt like I wanted more of a solid foundation to work from at the book’s conclusion.

Still, I commend how well it holds together as you read through it. Reed is hampered by some artistic inconsistency that makes some passages of the book feel very dull and plodding; there was more work that could have been done in those sections to liven up the look. But for the most part, this is solid stuff that engages your attention and makes you put a little brainpower into it. Not a bad thing at all.

Marc Mason

Clerks II - July 21, 2006

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