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Viper Comics


VILLAINS #4
Written by Adam Cogan and Drawn by Ryan Cody

I’ve been fairly vocal about my disappointment with VILLAINS so far, and with one issue to go, I was skeptical that the series could find a way to recover from the deep hole I felt it had dug itself. The primary problem? The lead character, Nick Corrigan, is useless and uninteresting, which is unfortunate… because the other characters, like Cobb (the supervillain Nick has been blackmailing) make for good reading. However when issue three ended, it looked like Cobb was about to beat Nick to death, so there was actual hope in the air.

Sadly, Nick is SPOILER ALERT allowed to live. But, showing some wisdom, Cogan moves Cobb to the forefront of the plot in this last issue, and it pays off with a genuinely entertaining and satisfying climax. Part of the problem to start was that is was difficult to believe that Cobb would allow Nick the upper hand for too long, or that he would let his old adversary the Flying Ace, to lord his superiority over him without retaliating. But those things are addressed here, and the answers are acceptable, which I admit to being genuinely surprised (and pleased) about.

Local Phoenix homeboy Cody grew quite a bit through the progression of the series, and issue four shows a little of what he learned. There’s an action sequence late in the book that really crackles, as Cody uses some effective pacing and panel layouts to add some scope to the proceedings. Which draws it back to the book as a whole: there’s a ton of potential here, it just needs to be tapped. The ending suggests a sequel could be along in short order, so it will be interesting to see if both creators take from the lessons they learned here to produce a next-level book in that future effort.

Marc Mason

EMILY EDISON
Written by David Hopkins and Drawn by Brock Rizy

Like many kids, Emily Edison is the product of a divorced family. But unlike many children of divorce, her situation involves more than just the standard “mom and dad don’t want to be together anymore” scenario. That’s because her father is a genius appliance repairman from Earth, and her mother is an inter-dimensional traveler.

What does that mean for Emily? Well, super-strength, invulnerability, flight… and every other weekend in another dimension with her mother, half-sister, and evil grandfather.

That’s the basis of EMILY EDISON, a charming and comedic take on one super-powered girl’s attempt to navigate modern family life. The pitfalls are many, mainly because her grandfather resents that Emily lives on Earth with her father; so his plan is to destroy the planet so she has to come back and live with her mother. (Never under estimate the ill-based logic of the elderly.)

For the most part, the book is very entertaining and smart. Emily doesn’t angst about her powers, which is nice; however she does angst about the boy she likes and the presence of her half-sister whom she doesn’t trust or get along with (a missed birthday party plays a role). There are some missteps, though, particularly when the creative team injects themselves into Emily’s story. That falls horrifically flat and makes it look like they don’t trust their own material, which is a shame.

EMILY works on its own devices and by its rules, and can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. It has snappy dialogue and fun art and should particularly appeal to the manga crowd. Give it a look.

Marc Mason

A DUMMY’S GUIDE TO DANGER #1
Written by Jason Burns and Drawn by Ron Chan

Private eye Alan Sirois is one of the best in the world at his job, yet he’s a laughingstock to those who know him. Why so? Because his partner is a ventriloquist dummy named Mr. Bloomberg, whom Alan believes was shot in the spine and left paralyzed when the bullet stuck there. And if you think that sounds odd, you’re right… but it also makes for a really compelling and interesting dynamic that you haven’t really seen in a comics protagonist before.


Sirois and Bloomberg specialize in tracking down the most vile of criminals; pederasts, serial killers… the scum of the Earth. But they don’t spend all their time tracking down villains; the duo also has plenty of time to bicker, worry about one another, and even for Alan to go on a quasi-date. However, that date is interrupted when Alan gets a mysterious call leading him to the dead body of a famous female pop star.

GUIDE finds its footing in the complete oddity of Sirois and Bloomberg’s relationship. Sirois is amazing at what he does, but he clearly does believe that Bloomberg is alive and acting as part of his life. That means Sirois is definitely skipping a beat mentally, even if his schizophrenia is so acute that he can solve crimes by essentially talking to himself.

The book works, and is compulsively readable, because Burns never once winks at the reader. You take the book seriously because it is written seriously. Tongue never meets cheek. And Chan delivers art that matches the severity of the action, making this a book to keep a close eye on. Excellent work.

Marc Mason

VILLAINS #2-3
Written by Adam Cogan and Drawn by Ryan Cody

When last we left Nick Corrigan, he had lost his job, lied to his girlfriend about it, and had begun blackmailing his neighbor, a former supervillain named Hardliner, into teaching him the tricks of the trade. And by the way, he’s our “hero”.


I make light there, because there’s absolutely no reason you can’t develop a rooting interest in someone bad. We do it all the time in pop culture, from Darth Vader to Sawyer on LOST, bad is good. But the problem with Nick is that he isn’t quite bad… or good… enough.

Issues two and three see Nick beginning to grow into the part of villain, as Hardliner begins putting him through the paces. However, his plans are already beginning to implode slowly, as trouble is sprouting up around him. The FBI is investigating Nick’s armed assault of the boss who fired him in issue one, and has dragged his girlfriend into it. Plus, Hardliner is none too happy about his life being pissed upon, and he’s been selling out Nick to the local superhero The Flying Ace.

VILLAINS isn’t a bad read by any stretch. The story itself is filled with fine moments, and I’ve enjoyed reading each issue so far. The older Hardliner, Nick’s girlfriend, the supporting cast… they’re all solid. But I can’t get behind Nick, and that’s an issue. Nick’s noncommittal attitude towards his life of crime, his inability to fully embrace what he’s doing, makes me have that reaction to his character. Perhaps as the series races towards a close, we’ll see that out of him, and he’ll achieve something transcendent as a character. But until then, I’m reserving judgment.

Marc Mason

RANDOM ENCOUNTER
Written and Drawn by Nicc Balce

Three video game-loving friends have their lives turned completely upside-down one evening; when hanging out at the convenience store owned by one of the crew’s parents a dead girl drops onto the store’s roof, followed by strange, inky creatures who display some bad intent. Then things get even weirder as the dead girl resurrects herself and begins showing off skills that the gang has only seen in their favorite games.

RANDOM ENCOUNTER is part of the current wave of “game logic” comics, along with such books as SHARKNIFE and SCOTT PILGRIM. This type of book combines comics motifs with bits taken from the video games, such as when Migo, the male lead, eats a magic leaf and you see his “life force” “top off”. You also have moments during fights where notations about hit points and the effects certain moves have on opponents. When I read the original issues, I found myself disliking those bits, believing they interfered with what was already a reasonably decent narrative. Now, reading the series as a whole, I still could go either way with it. The story is strong enough on its own, without the game element, yet taken on their own merits, there is a certain charm to how the game stuff reads.

The star here, though, is Balce’s art. His Ameri-manga style is absolutely perfect for the action sequences that RANDOM ENCOUNTER is packed full of. Wild fights, explosions, attractive characters… Balce renders each piece of his book with care and just enough detail to give you a sense of whatever type of motion (loco or e) he’s attempting to get across.

Having read RANDOM ENCOUNTER in both its floppy and collected form, I think it’s interesting to see how truly different a book can read in varying presentations. Taken in four pieces, this series was inconsistent and lacked focus. But brought together under one cover, it’s pretty entertaining. And with the ending left wide open for more adventures with these characters, I suspect we’ll get another chance to see how the book reads in different formats again.

Marc Mason


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