Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye by Gerard Way, Jon Rivera, and Michael Avon Oeming- A (Comic) Book Review

It’s not often I buy a single-issue comic book (or, as I affectionately refer to them – floppies), but I could not resist this issue due to the title alone.  Cave Carson would not have garnered my curiosity, but Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye?  Yes, that’s the kind of title that demands my attention.

I remember Cave Carson from my old Who’s Who comic books.  I don’t think I ever actually had a comic book with Cave in it, but reading about him in Who’s Who made me consider him a strange character.  Not quite a hero, but not quite a regular guy, either.  I categorized him in there with the Challengers Of the Unknown or the Sun Devils.

Gerard Way and Jon Rivera have taken what I would consider an obscure character and made him riveting.  Part of the fun of Cave Carson is that most of us don’t remember a single thing about him.  I’m 39, and I recall from my childhood him having underground adventures with his team, but that’s about it.

Cave Carson is now a widower.  His wife, and also teammate, died of an illness, and his daughter has grown into an independent college student.  Strangest of all, he has a cybernetic eye, something new to the character.  Why does he have a cybernetic eye?  That has yet to be revealed, but the eye is causing him all kinds of problems because it’s acting almost of its own accord.

Carson is depressed, purposeless, and suffering psychedelic visions that may or not be real.  Way and Rivera set up ample plot opportunities, develop interesting, engaging characters, and provide several satisfying guest appearances.  I won’t spoil it for you, but the very last page offered the return of a much beloved, equally obscure character from my childhood.

But do you know what really sets this book apart?  Micheal Avon Oeming.  Way and Rivera’s script might have been rather pedestrian in the hands of a lesser artist, but Oeming has a unique, weird style to his art that suits a book such as this perfectly.  His art is slightly cartoonish due to odd perspectives and angled characters, but it sets the tone so perfectly while catching the eye’s attention – it’s magnificent to behold.  Somehow Oeming makes characters simply taking to each other dynamic.  That’s the sign of a great sequential artist.

Best of all, there’s some really fun stuff in the back of the book.  Again, I won’t spoil it for you, but they did something totally fresh that took me back to my younger days of DC readership.

Though it’s been out for a few weeks, I absolutely recommend Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #1.  It’s one of the most original comic books I’ve read in some time.  In fact, this title has made me enthusiastic for the other Young Animal imprint’s titles.  I’m going to see if I can still find some of those first issues.

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The Hellblazer: Rebirth #1 – A (Comic Book) Review

The Hellblazer: Rebirth #1 is one of my favorite comics so far in the Rebirth initiative because it’s very well written and very well drawn.

I’ll admit, though almost 40 years old, I have very limited knowledge when it comes to John Constantine.  I think my first encounter with him was the 2005 movie.  I then got to know him a little in Justice League Dark.  And though it wasn’t perfect, I really enjoyed his NBC show.  I’ve always meant to go back and read the classic stories, particularly the ones by Ennis and Azzarello.  Ah, so much to read, so little time …

This issue worked really well because it cut to the core of Constantine’s character, displayed unusual, interesting art, and also proved to be very well constructed.

Constantine is not really a decent man.  He is a master of the dark arts, he’s not particularly nice, he’s rather selfish, he has lots of bad habits pertaining to all kinds of things, and he couldn’t care less about much of anything.  I won’t spoil it, but this issue brings all of that to the forefront in an organic way that progresses the story without bopping you atop the head.

Also, Moritat’s art is so beautifully weird.  I caught myself studying every panel in this comic book for all the little details peppered throughout, and those pages with throngs of people in the background mesmerized me.  I can’t remember the last time I saw an artist depict so many diverse people in a single panel.  The art is a little cartoonish, a little creepy, yet magnificently rendered with cool angles, layouts, and, best of all, facial expressions.  Maritat is the master of facial expressions.

I think what I enjoyed most about this comic book, though, is the way Oliver constructed it.  It’s not a linear story, but, by story’s end, it all makes sense.  It hints at things past and things to come, yet it concludes satisfactorily.  It is packed with different scenes, characters, and conflicts, but it all feels cohesive and unfolds smoothly.  I groaned a little when I flipped through it and saw a few colorful cameos, but Oliver managed to make their appearances interesting and used them to further his characterization of Constantine and even lay down some potential plot threads.

I bought The Hellblazer: Rebirth #1 out of curiosity, and I’m glad I did.

 

Descender: Tin Stars by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen – A Book Review

Because this title has enjoyed great buzz, I thought I’d give it a try.  Descender is a an interesting science fiction book that explores the meaning of family, humanity, consciousness, and morality.  Of course, these universal topics are unfolding in a universe filled with robots, aliens, and gargantuan mechanical world destroyers.

Tim-21 is an android developed to look like a child and act as a friend to a human companion.  He finds himself alone after a long slumber, cut off from his family, but quickly finds his robot dog and befriends a labor robot called Driller.  Tim-21 may hold the key to understanding the enormous machines that threaten all worlds across the galaxy, which has made him the target of good and bad alike.

The themes of the book are pretty standard to Lemire, though I personally found his dialogue even better than usual.  The story itself is interesting but not necessarily unheard of.  No, what sets this book apart is Dustin Nguyen.

Nguyen’s art in Descender is absolutely beautiful.  The colors, the figures, the layouts – exquisite.  Nguyen’s talent and careful work makes Descender a must-read.

Descender is a book that has broad appeal.  Science fiction fans will appreciate the aliens and robots.  Those interested in the human condition will find the themes and the exploration of what it means to “live” interesting.  Those craving action will be thrilled.  But at the end of the day, if you love comic books, or just art in general, Dustin Nguyen will delight you with every page.

Earth 2: The Dark Age by Tom Taylor and Nicola Scott

If you’re unfamiliar with the DC Universe, Earth 2 is a parallel Earth, one similar to our own in many respects, but different in many others.  DC has employed this parallel universe concept for decades, currently claiming that their are 52 parallel Earths within the DC multiverse.

Once upon a time, Earth 2 existed during WWII and the original incarnations of modern day heroes, such as The Flash and Green Lantern, were still very much active.  From time to time, these heroes would travel to Earth 1, for all intents and purposes, our contemporary Earth.  It proved an opportunity to keep long revered versions of characters around while still focusing on modern incarnations – and it offered some great plot possibilities.  As a kid, I loved it when Earth 2’s Justice Society of America would crossover with Earth 1’s Justice League of America.

A few years ago, DC brought the Earth 2 concept back, but instead of it existing during WWII, it is a world where Darkseid invaded and destroyed much of the planet.  Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman died protecting that world, and now new heroes have emerged, heroes such as Jay Garrick and Alan Scott.  And though these were the original men to bear the mantles of The Flash and Green Lantern in the early 1940s, they have very much been updated and have little in common with their previous versions.  They are young, they are different, and they took some getting used to, but I have grown to appreciate them.

In this forth volume, The Dark Age, new series writer Tom Taylor pushes down on the accelerator and never lets up!  I picked this volume up at the library and meant to read a few pages before bed.  Before I knew it, I’d read the whole book (and stayed up later than intended).  It’s so good, I could not put it down.

For some reason, Superman, previously thought dead, is now in service to Darkseid and destroying anything and anyone getting in his way.  A new Batman has also arisen, more violent than his predecessor, but very much against the evils of Darkseid.  Dr. Fate, the Flash, Hawkgirl, and Sandman are still fighting hard, but now we’re introduced to a new Red Tornado, a queen of Atlantis, Jimmy Olson, and an alien that may turn the tide against the evil Superman.

The beautiful thing about Earth 2 is that it is not trapped in the endless cycle of its characters’ counterparts.  On Earth 2, anything goes, and Tom Taylor has taken full advantage of that fact.  Our heroes are pummeled throughout most of this book with nonstop action, yet Taylor still builds a captivating plot and introduces new mysteries.  Truly, this is one of the most exciting super hero books I’ve read in quite a while.

As always, Nicola Scott’s pencil’s are exquisite.  She uses clean lines, dynamic angles, and fluid pacing.  Furthermore, at one point Barry Kitson helps out with the pencils, and the transition is nearly seamless.  I’ve followed Kitson’s work since the mid-1990s, and he’s never been better!

One thing that drives me away from mainstream super hero comic books, especially those by DC or Marvel, is that no matter how much things change, they will always stay the same.  It’s a necessity to the serialized business.  Parallel universes give publishers and creators the chance to really cut loose and provide unpredictable stories.  Earth 2 is a prime example of how such stories can be successfully executed, and The Dark Age is my favorite installment to date.

 

 

The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams – A Book Review

Though I have enjoyed comic books pretty much since the age of three (I am currently 36), I have not bought a single-issue comic book since 2006.  I largely wait for the collections’ debut, and, because these collections often come out a few months after the end of a storyline, must work diligently to avoid spoilers.

I could not risk such a thing with The Sandman: Overture.  I adore everything about Neil Gaiman’s epic Sandman series, and when I heard he planned to revisit the mythos, I knew I had to be right there in the thick of things.  Furthermore, J.H. Williams is an artist in the truest since of the word, from Promethea to Batwoman, his work is both beautiful and frenetic.  Only Gaiman and Williams could bring me back to the single-issue format.

And I am glad they did.  Though I am out of practice with reading such a small installment of the story compared to the collections I typically read, I am no less contented with the first issue of The Sandman: Overture.

Gaiman says that Overture is meant to answer some questions about those first few issues of the original series, and, quite honestly, I cannot wait to see what tribulations Morpheus must endure before his eventual capture.

Overture is beautiful to behold.  Gaiman includes several of our favorite characters along with Dream, a mystery develops, surrealism abounds, and it concludes in such a manner that waiting for the next issue will be a maddening, exuberant plight.

I suspected that waiting for the collected edition of this series would be a mistake, and Gaiman and Williams proved me right.  They make the single-issue experience satisfying again.  I am thrilled to read it as it unfolds.

MY?TERY SOCIETY #1 by Steve Niles and Fiona Staples – A Book Review

I usually don’t review single-issue comic books, but when Hometown Comics contacted me and offered me an advanced copy of MY?TERY SOCIETY in promotion of a visit from author Steve Niles, I counted myself very lucky and jumped at the opportunity.

If you’re a comic book lover, you know Steve Niles.  If you’re not a comic book lover, you probably know Steve Niles because he created the source material for the movie 30 Days of Night.  He’s something of a legend in the business, and excels at the horrific, grotesque, and provocative – but all in a good way.

MY?TERY SOCIETY, as of the first issue, is … well … something of a mystery.  The story features a husband and wife team, Nick and Anastasia, who proactively investigate the arcane, classified, and weird.  They’re trying to build a society, but to what purpose we don’t know.

The story begins with Nick Hammond being transferred to prison, and when he stops to field questions from reporters, he recounts a tale that we presume led to his current situation.  In the flashback, he is raiding Area 51while being navigated by his wife back home.  Soon, he meets with complications that threaten to keep him from his quarry just as his wife must deal with an invader in their home.  Since we’re talking about a periodical publication, we are, of course, left with a cliff-hanger ending meant to entice the reader to return for issue number two.

Niles has created a quirky, fun husband and wife team with snappy banter and plenty of action.  So far, the book reads as less horror and more adventure with some touches of the occult.  I’m most interested in what I can only assume will be a future storyline when Anastasia mentions that someone has stolen Edgar Allan Poe’s skull and that they must track it down.  How cool is that idea?  I was disheartened, though, by the use of Area 51.  It seems as though Area 51 is thrown into the mix whenever this type of story arises, and I could have done without it.  If Niles had called it “Area 52,” perhaps I would have been more forgiving.

The art, by the way, was fantastic.  I’ve never heard of Fiona Staples, but she is a real talent whose style meshes perfectly with Niles’ story.  Since there is no inker or colorist listed, I can only assume Staples pulled triple-duty, which makes her all the more impressive.  I’m a color guy, and hers are gorgeous.  She somehow manages to give us a wide array of colors but keeps them all subdued and dark, which, as I said, compliments the story very well.

So while there are touches of the familiar (Area 51), Niles and Staples have delivered a dynamic first issue that firmly establishes the characters, provides a lot of action, and offers plenty of reasons to come back for more.

And if you happen to live near Edwardsville, IL, be sure to drop by Hometown Comics on 110 East Vandalia from 3:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on June 8th.  Steve Niles will be there signing his work and conversing with fans in promotion of MY?TERY SOCIETY!  Call Doug at 618.655.0707 for more information or visit:

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=114894441885082&index=1