Black Magick (Volume One) by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott – A Book Review

Black Magick kept earning all sorts of praise so I finally got a copy of the first volume entitled Awakening.  The premise is that Rowan Black is a tough-as-nails detective by day and a witch by night.  Not the flying on the broom kind, but rather the sort who communes with nature and is able to tap into realities beyond normal human understanding.

Greg Rucka is an above average writer who particularly excels at crisp dialogue that often progresses a story line logically and engagingly.  He has created a cast of well-rounded characters that will surely become even more interesting as the series continues.

Nicola Scott is a phenomenal artist with a superb grip on anatomy and, like Rucka, knows how to pace her drawings to always move the story forward fluidly and fetchingly.  Her colors are also subtle yet they set the tone magnificently in more hues of grey than I thought possible.

But even with all that being said I can’t say Black Magick particularly captured my interest.  I’m not excited to read the next installment and really don’t find myself all that invested in Rowan Black’s ensuing tale.

That’s not to say you won’t like it, though.  If hard-nosed detective stories with a dash of the supernatural are your thing, you may very well enjoy it.  After all, Black Magick features the work of two of the best in the industry.

Image result for black magick volume one cover

 

Black Science: The Beginner’s Guide To Entropy by Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera – A Book Review

This beautiful hardcover collects issues 1-16 of the Black Science comic book series.

You may remember I reviewed a collected edition of Black Science encompassing issues 1-6 back in 2014.  At the time, I loved the art, I loved the concept, I loved the colors, I just didn’t love the characters – I never felt connected or invested.  If you’re unfamiliar with the book, rogue scientist and terrible father Grant McKay creates a machine called “The Pillar” which allows travel between planes of reality.  The machine activates unexpectedly, though, and Grant, his team, his two children, and two corporate malcontents are taken on an unexpected,and possibly fatal, trip through realities.

I do have to say that this edition, which I got for free through Amazon Vine, included 10 more issues than I’d read before.  I must admit that it introduces an entirely new concept, one that is absolutely riveting.  Somewhere between issues 6 and 16, Remender moves beyond simple interdimensional travel and delves into string theory, parallel dimensions, and even multiple versions of people destined to repeat cycle after cycle.  It adds a layer of depth to both the story and characters that I didn’t pick up on in the first 6 issues.

The book itself is gorgeously produced.  It’s over-sized which amplifies the already magnificent art.  It’s got great weight, and the hardcovers are solid and resilient.  The back of the book includes alternate covers from the single issues, sketches and designs, and actual scripts.

With a $49.99 cover price, I imagine you’ll need to be a huge fan of the book or the creators to purchase on your own.  However, this could make a great gift for the serious comic book fan in your life or the science fiction aficionado.  It will definitely be considered an appreciated luxury item by book lovers.

 

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.

Wytches by Snyder and Jock – A Book Review

The hype for this book may have set it up to disappoint.  After all, MTV News called it, “The most terrifying comic you’ve ever read” and USA Today said, “Dark and brutal, Wytches are like nothing horror fans have ever seen.”

I’m a Scott Snyder fan.  I enjoy his work on Batman, love American Vampire, and hold his short story collection, Voodoo Heart, in the highest regard (seriously – read it).  But, to be frank, the blurbs on the Wytches back cover exercised such hyperbole that it created impossible expectations.

Is this a good book?  Yeah, it’s okay.  To be honest, it’s not great, nor is it the scariest thing I’ve ever read.  Personally, I didn’t even find it all that original.  For me, the best part were Snyder’s notes at the end explaining the idea’s origination.

The idea is that Wytches are a primal force of nature, inexplicably advanced horrors that wear no clothes and incessantly click their teeth.  They live underground, eat people, and come out through trees.  People can sacrifice other people to gain power from these monsters, though it’s never remotely explained how or by what means this “advanced” technology unfolds.  In the end, this story is about a troubled teenager hunted by these creatures and her troubled father’s attempts to save her.

I generally love Jock’s artwork.  Though his angles and layouts are not groundbreaking, they are always pleasing to the eye, dynamic, and they progress the story well from panel to panel, page to page.

Matt Hollingsworth’s colors were a controversial aspect of the book for me.  On the one hand, I’ve never seen coloring like his.  At the core of each panel, you have traditional coloring.  However, each panel or complete page is overlaid with splotches of colors.  I can only describe it as sort of a “trippy” lens flare.  I love the concept, the daring, and the originality of this method, but I can’t say I love its practical application.  It proved really distracting from the overall tone and story.

I appreciate Image Comics because the publisher is willing to try out titles like Wytches, and I hope they continue to do so.  And, had I not read the overzealous blurbs before reading the book, I could have formulated a different opinion.  As it stands, though, Wytches is an entertaining read that, for me, did not live up to its hype.

Prophet: Joining (Volume 4) – A Book Review

Joining is gloriously indecipherable.  I’ve followed this series since the beginning, and its utter disregard for the audience’s sensibilities and needs are refreshing.

This is science fiction at its frustratingly best.  When you open a volume of Prophet, you are doing so on the narrator’s terms.  You are entering a universe you do not recognize, and, such as with the real world, life goes on and has always done so despite your opinions on the matter.

Prophet has some of the most detailed technology, alien life forms, and religion I’ve ever read in a book, yet the narrator delivers only the surface level of these things.  Most of it confuses the reader, yet, at my core, I believe there is great depth to everything the reader encounters – we simply don’t understand.  In Prophet, we are the true aliens.

In the hands of different writers or artists, Joining could be an absolute mess.  But it’s not.  There is something beautiful about it, something otherworldly and transcendent.  However, if you asked me to tell you what it’s actually about, I wouldn’t have a clue.

Take heart, though, there is a little guide at the back of this volume that offers accounts of things we’ve previously wondered.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say it explains anything clearly, but it does offer a new perspective.

I’m afraid I am not completely happy with Joining, though.  The characters from Youngblood continue to make appearances in this title.  And while I know they all originate from the same place, Prophet has entered a world all its own and it’s jarring to see characters like “Shaft” and “Badrock” in such an otherwise original work.  Keep in mind, I said the same thing about “Diehard” when he first appeared, but he has now won me over.

I don’t know where this title is going, nor do I particularly care.  I’m simply glad to experience it.

Manifest Destiny: Amphibia and Insecta by Dingess, Roberts and Gieni – A Book Review

This first volume of Image Comics’ Manifest Destiny absolutely blew me away and rocketed to the top of my favorite titles.  If you’re unfamiliar with the work, it follows Lewis and Clark’s expedition into the unknown.  They have been officially charged by President Jefferson to explore and map the region.  Unofficially, however, they are to locate and exterminate any threats to American citizens, both natural and supernatural alike.

In this second volume, author Chris Dingess traps the crew in the middle of the Mississippi River.  Their ship lodged against the top of a great underwater arch, much like the giant floral arch they encountered in the previous installment.  Clark leads some men ashore to explore while Lewis stays behind to figure out how to dislodge the ship.  Unfortunately they soon realize an enormous frog monstrosity hunts these waters, and it enjoys the taste of human flesh.

Furthermore, Clark and his men must battle gigantic mosquitoes that appreciate all the human body has to offer, and it’s more than just blood.

Dingess provides an incredibly satisfying solution to both problems, though the crew suffers greatly before an escape is made.  And though this plot may sound a bit silly, I assure you, it had me figuratively on the edge of my seat.  It’s been a while since a book had me in suspense as much as this title did, especially because Lewis and Clark’s own crew members are far more malicious than the creatures they endure.

Matthew Roberts provides beautiful art.  The entire story takes place in the wilds of America, and he draws Nature untamed perfectly.  Furthermore, when it’s time for over-sized frogs and huge mosquitoes to make their appearances, he draws them as absolute terrors.  Honestly, this is not an overt “horror” title, but there are some horrifying moments, to be sure.

And, just as Roberts knows how to draw our natural world, Owen Gieni always chooses the best colors.  I’ve said this about Gieni before, but how someone can make a title full of earth tones so vivid is beyond me.  I feel colorists are always unappreciated, and so I hope you’ll take a moment to recognize Gieni’s immense talent.

Manifest Destiny has it all.  It’s packed with action, suspense, terrifying monsters, organic dialogue, riveting plots and, as the last issue of this volume proves, some potent moments of hilarity.  By far, this is the most satisfying title I’m currently reading.

Revival: You’re Among Friends by Seeley and Norton – A Book Review

Don’t call this a zombie book, because it’s not.  In Revival, a relatively small number of recently deceased people in a small Wisconsin town inexplicably return to life.  They can now recover from virtually any injury, and range from remaining exactly the same as when they lived in the conventional sense to, well, odd.

Right off the bat, Tim Seeley introduces us to several characters, each with a distinct personality and role to play.  Officer Dana Cypress appears to be the main character from that bunch, but her college sister, her sheriff father, a snow mobile riding punk exorcist, a CDC biologist, and an eccentric old man all demand our attention.  Furthermore there’s a cub reporter who broke the story as well as a celebrity who, at first glance, appears to be based off of Nancy Grace.  That’s a lot of characters in such a short collection, but Seeley paces them excellently and, more importantly, inserts their stories organically.

The revived themselves are a creepy bunch, and some are obviously dangerous as they tear the throats out of their loved ones.  Other are virtually comatose, and still others function as though nothing has happened.  Seeley reveals just enough to keep us reading, to garner our interest, but he also opens up several mysteries that demand our continued readership.  He walks that fine line of giving us important information while also teasing certain plot threads.

Mike Norton’s art is crisp, understated, and laid out very well with smooth sequencing.  I also appreciated the angles he chose to employ in several of his panels.  There’s nothing outlandish, but he’s just unusual enough to keep the eye stimulated.

I think it would be a tragedy to neglect the colorist, Mark Englert. This is a dark story with flashes of the grotesque as well as little moments of morbid humor.  His colors are tame and work well with the story, but they are still interesting and enhance Norton’s art.  Considering that there is snow in virtually every outdoor picture, I believe his talent is to be commended.

To be honest, I picked this book up at the library because Amazon kept recommending it to me and I thought I’d give it a try.  I truly didn’t think I’d like it as I’m a little burnt out on anything related to zombies, yet the original storytelling, interesting characters, and hints at future plot threads absolutely made me a fan. I can’t wait to read more … especially because of that white demon wandering the woods.  I have no idea where that one is going.