Reviews A-F

Title: 30 Days of Night: Omnibus Vol. 1

Publisher: IDW

Writers: Steve Niles

Artist: Ben Templesmith

Rating: ★★★★½

Review by: Eric Stuckart

Bleak and sparse, 30 Days of Night is the type of vampire story that should be told more often. Rather than try too hard by showing a lot of flash and overdoing the action, it broods. It breathes its icy black breath on every page. And the pages are dark as they come. It doesn’t have to try; it gets its point across just by being, making it quite the page turner.

In this colllection, the first three stories of the 30 Days saga are included, the self-titled first story, along with sequels Dark Days and Return to Barrow. With the first story, the duo of Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith had something terrifyingly special on their hands. The story is simple. In the quiet Alaskan town of Barrow, a group of vampires comes up with a plan that no vampire has ever tried before. They decide to drop in on the townsfolk during the short period between November 18 and December 17 when the sun doesn’t rise — the titular 30 days of night. Without a sun coming up to make the vampires return to hiding for a month, Barrow becomes a free-for-all, an all-you-can-eat buffet for the vampires. This is the story of how those townsfolk fight back. (more…)

Title: All-Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder: Volume 1

Publisher: DC Comics

Writer: Frank Miller

Artist: Jim Lee

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Review by: Bill Jones

It’s hard to imagine with this being the first series published under DC Comics’ All-Star banner that the imprint lasted long enough for Grant Morrison to produce the fantastic All-Star Superman. All-Star allows the writers and artists to tell stories with key DC characters outside the general continuity of the DC Universe (or any other continuity DC has going, for that matter). And with creators of the likes of 300, Sin City and Batman: Hush, one would think this would be met with promising results. Jim Lee’s art gets the job done, for sure, but it’s hard to believe Volume 1 of All-Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder was written by the same Frank Miller who produced The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One. (more…)

Title: Action Comics #900

Publisher: DC Comics

Written by: Paul Dini, Damon Lindelof, Paul Cornell, Pete Woods, Richard Donner, and Geoff Johns

Illustrated by: Pete Woods, Ryan Sook, RB Silva, Gary Frank, Miguel Sepulveda, and Matt Camp

Rating: ★★★★☆

Review by: Matt Peters

I was genuinely surprised by Action Comics #900. Now that the initial reaction from the media has died down regarding Superman “renouncing” America, I was able to go back and read the comic for what it’s intended to be: entertainment.

The first thing to note is that the book’s main story contains the finale of one story and the middle chapter of another. “How’s that possible?,” you may ask. Well, it’s nothing compared to the shield numbering system that was utilized throughout the 1990s, but it can still be a little confusing. Since DC’s Blackest Night storyline, Action Comics has prominently featured Lex Luthor in a leading role. The power he tasted as an Orange Lantern has left him hungry for more, and serves as the basis of the arc. (more…)

Title: Fall of Cthulhu: Vol. 5: Apocalypse

Publisher: Boom Studios

Writer: Michael Alan Nelson

Artist: Mateus Santolouco

Rating: ★★★★☆

Review by: Archie Easter

Based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, the Fall of Cthulhu series has thus far chronicled the story of a small band of people (and beings) determined to stop the end of the world at the hands of the ancient cosmic entity, Cthulhu. The fifth volume of the series, Fall of Cthulhu: Apocalypse returns to the story of Cy, Luci, Sherriff Dirk and the mysterious keeper of secrets known as the Harlot, as they attempt to stave off the apocalypse at the hands of a now awoken Cthulhu and his many dark underlings. One of which, the “crawling chaos” known as Nyarlathotep, has put into effect a plan that will use Cy to put an end to humanity once and for all. The Harlot has amassed her own army however, and the ensuing battle will decide the fate of both the waking word and dreamland dimensions. Even though this comic wraps up the first major story arc in the series, seeds are planted for later events. Overall, this was a satisfying ending to the major story arc that began in Vol. 1. The comic uses a very heavily inked style that gives it a very dark feel, and Santolouco’s colors really seem to give life to the stark landscapes of the dreamlands. (more…)

Title: The Adventures of Unemployed Man

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Writers: Erich Origen and Gan Golan

Artists: Ramona Fradon, Rick Veitch, Michael Netzer, Benton Jew, and Thomas Yeates

Rating: ★★★★★

Review by: Aaron Ray

Job loss and homelessness are serious business and are often no laughing mater. Comedy is the flipside of tragedy, however, and this is what makes Erich Origen and Gan Golan’s story so thought provoking, heartwrenching and fantastically hilarious. Using superheroes and villains as thinly veiled metaphors for social classes, abstract concepts and political/economical/social ideologies, The Adventures of Unemployed Man shows us how the crumbling economy affects real people every day. (more…)

Title: The Broadcast

Publisher: NBM Publishing, Inc.

Writer: Eric Hobbs

Artist: Noel Tuazon

Rating: ★★★½☆

Review by: Aaron Ray

Inspired by the actual panic that resulted from Orson Welles’ original 1938 broadcast of “The War of the Worlds,” The Broadcast is a short and simple story about the lengths that people will go to while protecting themselves from danger. Eric Hobbs and Noel Tuazon craft an engaging story full of relatable characters, suspense, and possibly even a moral or two in among its ink washed pages. (more…)

Title: Dark Rain: A New Orleans Story

Publisher: Vertigo

Writer: Mat Johnson

Artist: Simon Gane

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Review by: Bill Jones

Dark Rain is a New Orleans story, in that its fictional story takes place during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Two ex-cons who meet at a halfway house in Houston try to rob a bank in New Orleans during the disaster, while everyone else is busy trying to survive. They get crossed up with a private military group called Dark Rain, looking out for its own interests during evacuation and cleanup, run into a pregnant woman looking for help out of town and a banker determined to protect his assets even amidst the chaos. It’s an interesting story taking place during a well-known event from recent memory. It’s also filled to the brim with commentary on different types of people and what they do under duress. Problem is, it’s ham-fisted, stating its each and every thought, leaving the reader to derive very little on his own from it, with stereotypical characters. The art is engaging, though, more so because of the choice to only use color for the water. But the panel construction presents nothing new.

Pros: Interesting fictionalization of a big American event. Captivating color scheme.

Cons: Ham-fisted messages. Stereotypical characters. Strange cover art. Predictable elements.

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Pads & Panels received a copy of the book courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.

Title: Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural

Publisher: Marvel

Writers: Rick Remender

Artist: Jefte Palo

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Review by: Eric Stuckart

Brother Voodoo is one of Marvel’s characters that had come and go despite having a great back story and a refreshing angle on the typical superhero aesthetic. With the comic publisher’s recent foray into darker themes, it seemed like a shrewd decision to bring the character back to the forefront. Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly the best starting block for a new era of Voodoo tales. The story starts off with Doctor Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme, passing off the torch to Voodoo. The story quickly disintegrates into little more than an excuse to throw Dr. Doom, Dracula, the Son of Satan and two of the Ghost Riders, among others, into an end-of-the-world story arc involving nightmares being brought to life by none other than Nightmare, ruler of a dream dimension. The story is hackneyed at best, making for one New Avengers tie-in that failed to really spark much interest despite having so much potential to work with. The book also features a number of older comics featuring the character when he was still referred to as Brother Voodoo, all of which are more interesting than the feature story. (more…)

Title: The Authority: The Lost Year (Book 1)

Publisher: Wildstorm

Writers: Grant Morrison, Keith Giffen

Artists: Gene Ha, Darick Robertson, Trevor Scott, Jonathan Wayshak, Brian Stelfreeze, Joel Gomez

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Review by: Eric Stuckart

The story behind The Authority: The Lost Year, is a colorful one. Grant Morrison wrote the first two issues, originally planned to be a bi-monthly, in the timely fashion of nearly half a year, and then promptly moved on to greener pastures, mainly those of the DC Universe. This allowed Keith Giffen to step in, fleshing out the storyline outlined by Morrison, but putting his own twist on it. What readers will get is the tale of how The Authority, a group of superheroes, get shipwrecked on a parallel Earth that’s not quite up to their technological level, encounter Cthulu, and escape, only to get stranded on yet another parallel Earth, one where America is in the midst of a massive civil war, where that Earth’s Authority are the ones leading the splintered factions. The story, while typical in Morrison’s propensity for piling on the crazy ideas without mercy, redeems itself towards the end, but it’s the mixed bag of artwork that really kills the book. Out of the seven issues that comprise this trade, there are six different artists, and while Gene Ha and Darick Robertson knock it out of the park, Jonathan Wayshak’s style makes it quite difficult to take the third chapter seriously. (more…)

Title: Batwoman: Elegy (Deluxe Edition)

Publisher: DC Comics

Writer: Greg Rucka

Artist: J.H. Williams III

Rating: ★★★★★

Review by: Eric Stuckart

DC stories don’t get much better or much more epic than this. Greg Rucka knows how to weave a thrilling tale, and his ability to walk the tightrope between boilerplate action and nuanced drama is bested only by the book’s excellent artwork. Elegy essentially tells three stories weaved into one: Batwoman’s hunt for Alice, the new leader of a crime-based religion, who already tried to kill her once;  an origin tale of how the erstwhile Kate Kane became Batwoman; and a short look back at her childhood, which ends up overlapping into the other two stories in very well-integrated fashion. While Williams’ artwork fantastically tells the story, it’s Dave Stewart’s colors that really steal the show. While most of the book is saturated in deep reds, Batwoman’s scenes with Alice are portrayed in a dreamy color palette, dominated by blues, purples and greens. Especially enjoyable is how the flashback sequences to Kate’s past look more reminiscent of the comics of old, compared to the more modern, gritty present day artwork. As a bonus, the Deluxe Edition of the book features a covers gallery and a few script pages and draft sketches, making Elegy Deluxe worth every penny. (more…)

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