There were lots of great books this past week. I thought Spider-Men #3, Conan the Barbarian #6, The Massive #2, Batman #11, The Shade #10, Avenging Spider-Man #9, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Nine #11, Captain America #14, and The Crow #1 were all good reads. The following were either my favorites of the week, or in the last case, a truly big surprise. Beware of Spoilers.
PUNK ROCK JESUS #1
Vertigo (DC) Comics
Written & Illustrated by Sean Murphy
This was my favorite read of the week for a number of reasons. First of all it was fresh, original, twisted, and told extremely well. Secondly, it marks another big release for Vertigo, and that is an imprint in need of a few more excellent books like this one.
Thomas grows up in a family whose members were with the IRA. His family is slaughtered and he goes to live with his uncle, but not before he accidentally shoots his own father. Years later OPHIS is looking to clone Jesus from the DNA in the Shroud of Turin. They select a virgin girl to be impregnated by the clone and turn it into a reality TV show spectacle. With death threats on the rise it is apparent the man behind this whole thing is not a good man at all, and the twist concerning the birth should make interesting reading in subsequent issues.
The characters are realized wonderfully. The head Scientist/Doctor working on the project, Thomas, Gwen, and the others offer three-dimensional portrayals without catering to the stereotypical. I definitely appreciated the way this issue gave a good background and setting for the rest of the series. Lots of first issues do not lay the foundation as well as this one did.
Anyone with any Christian religious background might make some guesses as to where the story is going. Thomas has grown up and is now head security for the project. He is a hard and violent man. I have no question he will be the “doubting Thomas” figure. I am also expecting the story to jump ahead a number of years next issue since the story is called Punk Rock Jesus. He can’t play punk rock without growing up after all.
This is a crazy concept and Sean Murphy tells the story amazingly well. The dialogue works, the plot never loses the reader, and the illustration is some of Murphy’s finest. He really is amazingly talented and I will probably pick up whatever he does next, right after I am done eating this story up.
FINAL WORD: My favorite issue of the week!
CHEW: SECRET AGENT POYO #1
Written by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory
I had extremely high expectations for this one. It had starred one of the best characters created within the Chew Universe, and it was a story by the actual creators on Chew. How could I not have high expectations? And you know what? This comic exceeded all of those expectations. It. Was. Glorious.
While doctors attempt to save Poyo after he had been shot multiple times we visit Hell and see that Poyo is not afraid to take on all manner of demons in the afterlife. The government saves Poyo by giving him cybernetic implants. (That’s right, they built him better, stronger, faster…) Soon this awesome Rooster is facing a Mad Man who cannot only make it rain cats and dogs, but more importantly, sheep as well. Death by raining livestock. It might be the greatest evil mastermind of a plan ever devised. (Take that Doctor Doom!)
Poyo is a true hero. Men want to be him. Women and genetically engineered Frog/Chickens (named Frickens) love him. He is both the hero we deserve and the one Gotham City needs right now. (Wait, what?) And this entire issue reinforces the character’s brilliance.
John Layman and Rob Guillory offer a hilarious and engaging tale. Perfect for those that read Chew and even for those that have not tried it yet. It is an effortless read, incredibly enjoyable, and will have you smiling throughout. I would save this issue to read right after you read something depressing, mediocre, or outright bad. It will restore your faith in comics. Promise.
FINAL WORD: One of the best single issues I have read in quite some time.
Written by Duane Sweirczynski
Pencils by Manuel Garcia with Arturo Lozzi
Bloodshot, like X-O Manowar, is a wonderful reinvention of the Valiant character for the modern age of comics. It is well drawn and the script is incredibly smart. Now I never read the original Bloodshot (I had read some of X-O’s original Valiant run), so I honestly do not know how much was lifted from the first iteration.
Ray has been called upon by his country to rescue a former friend now held captive in Afghanistan. He leaves his wife and son, but promises to return. Due to the opening inside page of the comic we get some background information on Nanites and their military application. We can assume from this that Bloodshot has them because he is able to change the pigment color of his skin, can camouflage himself to look like other people, and he has an extremely powerful healing capability. (The initial way this is revealed is perfect and I think will grab new readers especially as a result.) Ray is captured and the evil scientist type hooks electrodes up to Bloodshot’s head and steals all of the secrets of Bloodshot’s previous missions.
The ending of this book is where the story goes from “good” to “great” though with a wonderful storytelling twist. The evil scientist hints to Ray that his family is not real, and even after Bloodshot escapes, the US Military almost confirm this by neutralizing Bloodshot for a new memory wipe. The importance of this cannot be thrown away. In the first issue our hero’s powers and motivations are explored, we are introduced to a cunning enemy, and shown Bloodshot’s allies are also suspect.
As far as I am concerned this is another solid win for Valiant. X-O Manowar was great, but it did take two issues to get the main character in his suit. This comic wastes no time in throwing the reader into the deep end of the pool and I appreciated the creators doing so. The story twists felt genuine and the art was perfect in its detailed violence. It reads like a cross between The Punisher and Wolverine and that is a very good thing.
FINAL WORD: Another winner for the new Valiant. Everyone should really be giving these books a shot!