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ADRENALINE #1
Written by Tyler Chin-Tanner and Drawn by James Boyle
Published by A Wave Blue World

Dr. Saida Nri laves her medical clinic in Tanzania to chase a poacher and winds up the prisoner of a wealthy media scion in ADRENALINE, a book that means well but has issues with establishing character and motivation.

Dr. Nri’s captor takes her after she boards his helicopter, but his reasoning is absent; since they switch to a plane at some point, and she has no way of identifying him, there’s no reason for him to have done so, besides to be a dick. And that’s just not motivation enough to make him interesting. So when he makes her an offer to compete against him on a television program for money to help her clinics, it all doesn’t quite fit together. There’s absolutely no reason, outside of the money, she would have to cooperate after the first juncture where she can escape. This is a tough corner to write yourself into, and it will be a struggle to get out.

Still, I respect the effort here. Chin-Tanner is putting out a full-color book without idiots fighting in their underwear, and wisely, he’s using a print-on-demand service to do it. Boyle’s work is crisp and clean, and he tells the story well, from character moments to action. This book has an ambitious plan at heart, with plans for the series to run eight issues. I wish them well in getting where they hope to go.

Marc Mason

ALICE IN NEW YORK #3
Written and Drawn by Henry Chamberlain
Published by Alice In New York

ALICE is a book that I suspect, given the chance, I’d like a lot more than I currently do. But first I need that chance.

Henry, from Houston, is visiting New York for the first time and has fallen into the romantic wake of Alice (who he calls Angie for some reason). She has taken it upon herself to show him around and acquaint him with the city she loves, and the groundwork for a quirky romance is laid.

I love a good romance, really, so I was down with the entire proceedings as far as that went. But what I wanted was more of a clue as to what was really going on. I’ve been on my soapbox about this for years now, but I guess I’ll do it again: use a recap page in your comics, folks. There were two issues before this one, and I’d guess one of them explains why he’s calling Alice “Angie.” And they also probably explain the nature of the appearances by other Carroll characters throughout the book. Chamberlain provides a brief blurb of two sentences that tells you nothing about the actual plot, and that was very frustrating.

And that’s too bad, because I liked what I saw here. His art has a sort of rough quality that remains appealing, I liked the characters… this should make an outstanding graphic novel when it’s completed with the next issue. But as a whole, I can only feel mezzo-mezzo about this one piece of the puzzle.

Marc Mason

FRAGILE PROPHET
Written by Jeff Davidson and Drawn by Stephen Buell
Published by Lost In The Dark Press

Having a special gift isn’t always what it sounds cracked up to be. Young Jake, born with the development disorder Fragile X Syndrome (a relative of autism), has an ability that others would kill for: he can see the future. Of course, that’s a slippery wicket in and of itself. But when he sees one woman’s future, and it involves her watching her television and mourning Jake’s death, his older brother Esau must try and find a way to prevent the young boy’s visions from happening.

FRAGILE PROPHET then becomes a story about love versus fate, and which of those forces is powerful enough to dictate terms to the universe. Jake cannot simply turn his gift on and off, which means that his visions react to each move made by his loving older brother to save his life. At the heart of the trouble is the two’s past; early on, to survive, Esau and Jake used Jake’s gift as an act in a traveling circus. Unfortunately, their popularity negatively affected the fortunes of other performers, especially the snake charmer, Scillian. His life in ruins, Scillian decides to take his pain out on the young boy he feels is to blame, regardless of the tragic consequences.

There’s a dark sense of inevitability at the core of FRAGILE PROPHET, even though it is clear that Jake doesn’t always truly understand his visions. It’s a sad tale, though one with a redemptive warmth lurking at the edges. There are a couple of moments in the narrative that don’t quite jibe, including Jake’s late reaction to the situation that doesn’t quite match up with an earlier incident. But for the most part, this works, with properly measured dialogue and characters that act intelligently and logically, and some emotive art from Buell, who continues to grow and improve. A worthy effort.

Marc Mason

THE NIGHTMARIST
Written and Drawn by Duncan Rouleau
Published by Active Images

Beth Sorrenson is an extremely troubled young woman. With a suicide attempt in her past, and soul-sucking group therapy seeming to be her only future, it would seem like things couldn’t get much worse for her. But then The Nightmarist begins appearing in her dreams, claiming to protect her from forces she cannot comprehend… forces that seem to be permeating her waking life as well. Of course, with her mental history, the odds of any of it being real would seem rather miniscule…

That’s the plot that Rouleau hangs his first solo graphic novel upon. He came to prominence as an artist on such wildly varying projects as ALPHA FLIGHT and M-REX, so while NIGHTMARIST is an unusual project, it doesn’t necessarily feel like too much of an artistic stretch. He’s clearly shown that’s he’s a versatile and capable talent, and NIGHTMARIST is a thing of beauty to behold. But as with many artists when they sit behind the keyboard for their first long-form project, the script results aren’t quite as solid.

It isn’t that there’s anything wrong with the plot itself. I’m intrigued by good stories that play havoc with your sense of what’s real and what isn’t. However, in order for those types of stories to truly succeed, there must be a sense of fair play for the reader; you need to be given enough sense and logic in the narrative that you can buy into things and follow the proceedings. Unfortunately, NIGHTMARIST derails at various points in the narrative and becomes confusing to follow. It never stops looking brilliant at any of those points, which is terrific, but I found myself wishing that the events being portrayed were a bit more lucid.

Rouleau does achieve some redemption for these problems by providing a solid emotional resolution to the tale, another area in which many artists turn writers fail. Even with the issues I had with the book, I felt satisfied when I put it down. Rouleau took on a mammoth task and achieved some nice results, and I got a good sense of how much potential he really has as a creative talent if he keeps pushing forward in producing his own material.

Marc Mason

VAMPIRELLA: REVELATIONS
Written by Mike Carey and Drawn by Mike Lilly
Published by Harris Publications

VAMPIRELLA: REVELATIONS collects the recent mini-series that saw Vertigo and Ultimate writer Carey take a stab at clarifying the sexy heroine’s origins. Over the years, the character has seen a number of attempts at explaining her background, and each one only served to muddy up the waters even more. So Carey faced a daunting task in looking at decades of stories and trying to find a plot that would make sense.

Impressively, he succeeded. Carey’s reasoning takes the previous attempts and puts them into a context that makes (comic book) sense. Is she from Hell, is she from another planet? Why would she believe either of those? Carey somehow figured out that there could be good reasons for each theory. Many writers would have looked for an easy way to invalidate the work of others, but Carey approaches this series respectfully and does the job the hard way.

Of course, VAMPIRELLA is generally best known for her prodigious assets and pygmy-sized costume, both of which have overwhelmed any number of other stories, no matter how intelligently they might have been told. Certainly, they’re part of the framework of the character, and you can’t really lose them, or you’ll lose readers. But Lilly avoids overdoing things; the number of stupid cheesecake poses that disrupt the story is infinitesimal, and he concentrates on telling the story. She still looks like Vampirella, but it’s a Vampirella that isn’t embarrassing to read.

The trade comes with extras like Carey script pages and Lilly sketches, making this a solid value. VAMPIRELLA: REVELATIONS is solid entertainment.

Marc Mason


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