Comics Review: Uncanny X-Force #1

So the long awaited Uncanny X-Force #1 has arrived and it is pretty kick-ass as far as first episodes go. The most recent and widely lauded incarnation of X-Force set fire to an X-franchise needing a new direction. With Marvel’s Dark Age in full effect, it was only natural that a no-holds-barred, clandestine group of X-Men surfaced. Charged with the elimination of all immediate threats to the rapidly endangered mutant population, X-Force, led by Wolverine and supported by X23, Warpath, Wolfsbane, Elixir, Domino, Archangel, and the Vanisher, were disbanded by Cyclops after the conclusion of Second Coming.

Uncanny X-Force #1Unbeknownst to Cyclops, Wolverine has formed a covert strike team to continue proactive, protective agenda of X-Force. This incarnation includes Archangel, Psylocke, Fantomex, and the controversial Deadpool. Deadpool’s inclusion on the team is ironic given that he was one of X-Force’s original nemeses, under the creative control of Rob Liefeld in the early 1990’s. Archangel and Psylocke are not surprising given their budding romance and general popularity. More surprising is the mysterious thief, Fantomex, who in previous guest roles has helped when needed but appeared content to follow his own agenda. Deadpool has recently become more X-ish and less mercenary in his associations and it doesn’t hurt that his solo title is selling well.

Rick Remender (Punisher: Frankencastle) has held the hot hand recently for Marvel so bumping him up to an X-title was a no-brainer. The first chapter to this title, The Apocalypse Solution, brings us the return of one of the X-Men’s greatest foes, Apocalypse, though not in the form you might think. Joined by Jerome Opeña and Dean White, Remender is laying down a solid foundation injecting the right balance of humor and unease one should expect from a group that has such a grim agenda. Uncanny X-Force doesn’t have the visual confection that the recent run of X-Force had. Crain, Choi, and Oback were very skilled in the use of computer-enhanced graphics and blood-stained pages. However, Opeña and White offer clean lines, realistic renderings, and just the right level of darkness this title needs.

Aside from the opening storyline and a potential love-triangle (Archangel, Psylocke, Fantomex), it is not clear what lies ahead for the group. An overarching thread should undoubtedly appear in the next few issues but to what end. Can the Uncanny X-Force team survive as a long-standing unit where so many others have come and gone? Though this title has some promise, it is difficult to imagine a situation in which the team remains a secret for long, which will lead to a reinvention and of course a #1 launching of some “New X-Force” or “Uncannily Newer X-Force” or some clever play on former X-nomenclature. So enjoy Uncanny X-Force while you can and mark your calendars for December 2013 when its last issue will be released.

Uncanny X-Force #1
Uncanny X-Force #1
Written by: Rick Remender
Illustrated by: Jerome Opena, Esad Ribic
Cover by: Esad Ribic
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: Oct 6, 2010
Story: 7/10
Art: 9/10
Cover: 9/10
Overall Rating 7/10

Comics Review: Driver for the Dead #2 (2 of 3)

Driver for the Dead #2 keeps the peddle to the metal adding layers to an already interesting plot, but letting up on the gore, suspense, and action. Writer John Heffernan settles you into moments of quiet discomfort and then whips your neck with startling twists (some characters suffer the twists on your behalf)! Illustrator Leonardo Manco is still delivering the goods, having fun by playfully building in characters with likenesses to prominent super stars. Last issue, Morgan Freeman appeared to be the template for the now deceased Moses Freeman. In Issue #2, we are introduced to Aunt Sadie, whose grin is none other’s than Oscar Winner Mo’Nique.

driver for the dead 2The story continues where it left off as the titular hearse driver, Alabaster Graves, picks up the Freeman’s corpse from the township of Shreveport, Louisiana, with Freeman’s great-granddaughter, Marissa. Meanwhile, Uriah Fallow, the scavenger zombie, has been hunting down powerful mystics to steal their special gifts by replacing his rotting body parts with their own. Unfortunately, Graves and Marissa are hunted down by Fallow on their way to Freeman’s final resting spot. Freeman’s body and Marissa are taken by Fallow as Graves is left behind to nurse his wounds with the help of an elderly mystic ally. The story of how Graves became a ‘driver for the dead’, Marissa’s birthright, and Fallow’s intent to take the Freeman’s spiritually-gifted heart as his own are finally revealed. The set-up for the next issue is even better: in order to kill Fallow, Graves cannot rely on his mundane set of ammunition. Rather, he must hunt a cursed werewolf which has in its possession an artifact powerful enough to end Fallow’s atrocities.

Driver for the Dead is proving to be a fantastic page turner and with Halloween around the corner, it’ll be fun to see a Driver for the Dead party popping up somewhere… please!!

Driver for the Dead #2 (of 3)
driver for the dead
Written by: John Heffernan
Illustrated by: Leonardo Manco
Cover by: Leonardo Manco
Publisher: Radical Publishing
Release Date: Sept 29, 2010
Story: 9/10
Art: 9/10
Cover: 7/10
Overall Rating 9/10

Comics Review: Time Bomb #2 (2 of 3)

It seems these days that an “original” idea is nothing more than a synthesis of established genres. Take Time Bomb from the creators Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (Freedom Fighters, Power Girl) and artist Paul Gulacy (Jonah Hex) of which issue #2 is released today. Combining time-traveling sci-fi appeal of works like Stargate or Dr. Who with historical fiction, Palmiotti and Gray are betting that the sum of science and history will be greater than the parts.

time-bomb2_coverTime Bomb started with a bang. Issue #1 introduced the dilemma: a preserved World War II city under Berlin was unearthed, which in turn resulted in the accidental firing of a doomsday Omega missile carrying a viral load that was quickly decimating the world’s population. The scientific community had only one solution for this disaster: an experimental device called a “time bomb”, believed to successful send its occupants back into the past. They hoped to prevent the triggering of the doomsday missile, except they had no way of controlling the destination of the time-travelers. Four special operatives were selected for the task with the understanding that this trip may be one way. At the conclusion, the operatives find themselves smack in the middle of World War II Germany in sight of a concentration camp approximately at the time the missile was being developed.

Issue #2 continues the action as the team split up to find the underground bunker and somehow thwart the Nazi plan. Given the sensitivities of time-travel, the team is aware that every action and contact they make will have repercussions in the future. Nevertheless, the team is proactive in rescuing captives of a concentration camp and killing several Nazis along the way. Not fully explored in this issue is the time-lost creator of the Time Bomb, who may yet make an appearance and have more to do with the Omega bomb than has thus far revealed.

Admittedly, Time Bomb has an intriguing premise not unlike an extended “What If” issue. Palmiotti and Gray do have a tendency to overly explain the set-up to their stories dampening the stretches in the issues that are usually more action-driven. The characters appeared interesting at first but their significance quickly become secondary in this plot. The team consists of Jack, the team leader, Ken, a pretty boy with dubious morals and the recently divorced couple, Christian and Peggy. The dialogue can get a bit stifling at times but the pulse of the book ought to be in the urgency to find and disarm the omega bomb the Nazis were secretly building. Palmiotti and Gray skirt the edges of content regarding World War II Nazi Germany perhaps playing it safe so as not to inadvertently alienate their readers with controversial historical reinvention.

As a bridge to the final chapter, Issue #2 brings much of the expected action but does little to bring the reader closer to the climax of the plot. One hopes that Time Bomb eventually surges with greater drama and the plot twists readers are looking for in this promising but thus far, dissatisfying series.

Time Bomb #2 (2 of 3)
Time Bomb #2
Written and Created by: Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray
Illustrated by: Paul Gulacy
Covers by: Paul Gulacy, Rain Beredo
Publisher: Radical Publishing
Release Date: Sept 15, 2010
Story: 6/10
Art: 8/10
Covers: 7/10
Overall Rating 7/10

Comics Review: Kill Shakespeare #5

For creative writers, its all about the idea – that spark of ingenuity that generates a piece of art worthy of the time and effort, both to create and consume it. Shakespeare seemed to have that amazing gift to produce successive works that stood the test of time and served as the archetypal model inspiring others. It seems that few creators have since proven clever enough to break the Shakespearean mold when working within this genre. However, Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col, have struck gold in their ode to Shakespearean greatness, Kill Shakespeare (IDW). As Sondheim did with the Brothers Grimm when producing the musical Into The Woods, McCreery and Del Col mine and weave the various works of Shakespeare into this ambitious story. With issue #5, Kill Shakespeare remains as rich as the source material that inspired it.

Kill Shakespeare #5The story stems from a prophesy that a “Shadow King” in the form of a young Hamlet is destined to find and possibly kill Shakespeare, therefore saving the characters from his omnipotent control. Many characters, including a villainous King Richard and the manipulative Lady MacBeth, have a stake in seeing the prophesy realized. In his quest, Hamlet is occasionally accompanied (or hampered) by various Shakespearean characters. A comical Falstaff, a formidable Othello, a treacherous Iago, and the leader of the civil rebellion, Juliet Capulet, have all made cameos.

Not quite matching Mike Carey’s creativity in The Unwritten, McCreery and Del Col nonetheless successfully execute their narrative tapestry without significant sacrifice to the integrity of the Shakespearean characters. Make no mistake: the writing here is not Shakespeare, but neither should it be. In fact, the accessibility of the language and story encourages the reader to accept that the voices here are what the characters are truly like if they were not constantly manipulated by Shakespeare’s quill. Andy Belanger’s artwork has been generally strong, though he is best at sinister (Lady MacBeth) and comical (Falstaff) and occasionally underperforms when the characters have few distinctive characteristics (Hamlet).

Thus far, Kill Shakespeare has had some nice highlights such as the likeable and entertaining Falstaff and MacBeth’s demise at the end of issue #3, but the story has meandered down a dull path as Hamlet ventures out on his own and soon has to confront his inner (or perhaps real) demons. Unfortunately, Hamlet, as written by McCreery and Del Col, is not very compelling so the story drags. Hamlet is best served with a company of friends (or enemies), so that the weaknesses in his character are more easily digested. If the authors remain true to their formula (clever mash-ups + clean plot – character development) and do not try too hard to add on to the Shakespearean mythos, Kill Shakespeare might make an enduring read in its own right.

Kill Shakespeare #5
Kill Shakespeare #5
Written by: Conor McCreery, Anthony Del Col
Illustrated by: Andy Belanger
Cover by: Kegan McLeod
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Release Date: Sept 8, 2010
Story: 7/10
Art: 6/10
Covers: 6/10
Overall Rating 9/10

Comics Review: The Last Days of American Crime #3 (3 of 3)

If you mix Heist with a dash of Sin City and American Psycho you might end up with a shallow version of Rick Remender (Punisher, Fear Agent) and Greg Tocchini’s miniseries The Last Days of American Crime from Radical Publishing. The plot is simple enough: a small-time con, Graham Bricke, sets up a bank robbery, where the stakes are a device capable of adding endless amount of funds to charge cards. Graham enlists the help of fellow con, Collins, but needs two others with special skills. Enter the hacker, Shelby, and her boyfriend safe-cracker, Kevin. Graham’s score is complicated by a significant socio-political event: in the wake of a massive terrorist attack on US soil, the government has created the American Peace Initiative. The A.P.I. is a radiowave broadcast meant to disrupt a person’s ability to volitionally conduct a crime. Graham’s job must be completed before the A.P.I. broadcast or the team would be unable to finish it. The series counted down the events leading up to and concluding the heist.

The Last Days of American Crime #3 Greg Tocchini Remender’s closing salvo crackled with suspense. He masterfully wrapped up Graham’s associations with the Mexican mafia as well as expanded Graham, Shelby, and Kevin’s backstories. We learn that the ex-con, ex-user Graham is really a momma’s boy at heart. He hopes to use the money from the score to cure his mother of Alzheimer’s and to assuage his guilt over getting his brother, Rory, killed years before. Perhaps due to Tocchini’s art and the fact that Graham spent so much time bandaged up, aesthetically, Graham was reminiscent of Marv from Sin City. Older, introspective, a weak spot for women, red-necked but clever – Graham was heart and soul of the caper. After reading some of his work on Frankencastle over at Marvel, you can appreciate that Remender has a gift for writing character’s that are by nature good but are comfortable with thrusting themselves into violence to suit their needs.

The most interesting and engaging character of the bunch was Kevin. In Issue #1 there were glimpses that something seethed under the seemingly cool exterior of Kevin’s character. It became evident from the events of Issue #2 that Kevin was a sadistic and disturbing presence. But clarifying the earlier ADD diagnosis that didn’t quite fit his persona, Kevin is finally revealed to be a sociopath: much more cunning and dangerous than Graham ever anticipated. Imagine Patrick Bateman of American Psycho intruding on Graham’s plot and joining the fray just to see how much havoc he can wreck at the end of the day.

The Last Days of American Crime #3 alex maleevIn contrast to his depiction of male characters, Remender does not have the touch for writing Shelby, the female protagonist. Initially, Shelby, as rendered by Tocchini, seemed young, gutsy, and a potentially hazardous femme fatale. But Shelby’s character began to shrink: fragile, untrusting, and sad, the quadruple-crosser became more clichéd with each episode. Ultimately, Shelby was nothing more than a junkie with daddy issues needing to be rescued. If you are appalled by how women are depicted in comics, Last Days does not provide counter-evidence in any way. If the series hopes to make a successful transition to the big screen – and why wouldn’t it? – they will have to inject a bit more substance and strength into Shelby’s character in order to balance the heavy dose of testosterone oozing from every page.

Much credit for that oozing testosterone must be given to Greg Tocchini who did not hold back at all in depicting a dilapidating Los Angeles and the mix of cultures and powers that clash under the pressures of a rapidly deteriorating nation. The pages reek of the smells of sweat and blood, the stress of the plan emblazed across Graham’s face, The Last Days often felt like the proverbial last days. Together, Tocchini and Remender used the winding clock to their advantage, pulling all their characters and subplots together into the crucial and successful climax at the heist.

Ultimately, a story like The Last Days of American Crime should have serious longevity. It is a successful collaboration with the right scope and the right entertainment value. Last Days will keep your blood-pumping and maybe drive you to work on that anti-mind-control device – after all, Government is crazy, and you never know when The Last Days will come!

The Last Days of American Crime #3 (3 of 3)
The Last Days of American Crime #3
Written and Created by: Rick Remender
Illustrated by: Greg Tocchini
Covers by: Alex Maleev, Greg Tocchini
Publisher: Radical Publishing
Release Date: Sept 1, 2010
Story: 9/10
Art: 9/10
Covers: 10/10
Overall Rating 9/10

Graphic Novel Review – The Unwritten Vol. 2: Inside Man

Mike Carey once again proves that comic books are not the exclusive domain of superheroes with The Unwritten Vol. 2: Inside Man. The story of a seemingly ordinary man, who becomes the reluctant embodiment of his missing father’s fantasy novels, is filled with enough twists, mystery and clever references to have you questioning the reality of the world around you. Carey’s healthy use of literary references to create a fantasy tale is a step above The League of Extraordinary Men by Alan Moore. This tale is just as immersive for the reader as it is for Tom Taylor who can’t avoid living out the fantasy life of his storybook counterpart Tommy Taylor, a fictional boy wizard created by Tom’s father. Volume 2 is a darker tale that is fully realized in the character art of Peter Gross.

theunwritten_2The Unwritten Vol. 2: Inside Man collects issues #6-12 in the series. In Volume 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity, we were introduced to Tom Taylor, a cavalier man who was living off his father’s Tommy Taylor novels. While fans believed Tom to be the living-breathing version of the wizard in the book, Tom merely used the belief to make money off of autograph signings and appearances at conventions. When a woman named Lizzie Hexxam leads the world to believe that Tom Taylor is a fraud and not really the author’s son, Tom’s life spirals out of control. His search to uncover the truth leads him to a house party with several famous authors, where he is framed for their murder.

Volume 2 picks up with Tom being sent off to Donostia prison in southern France. Carey continues to blur the lines between what is perceived reality and the mysterious truth Tom Taylor is trying to uncover. While in prison, Tom starts life begins to reflect that of Tommy’s even more. We start to see various artifacts and characters from the Tommy Taylor series come to life. Later on in the book we journey to a historical version of Nazi Germany that appears to be just as mixed up as Tom. A Jewish novel, Jud Suss, comes to life and threatens to destroy Tom. The feel of this section is very reminiscent of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Essentially, creative works have power – both positive and negative.

In Volume 1, we saw several comparisons with Tom’s life to excerpts from the Tommy Taylor series. In Volume 2, Carey adds in The Song of Roland, an epic tale whose underlying truth lies buried in history. Tom begins to see similarities between himself and Roland, but only when he mentions it.

Inside Man adds excerpts from various blogs, who are covering the events of Tom Taylor’s life as well as the fictitious Tommy Taylor. “Prison Diary” is a prison blog that gets the first hand scoop on what goes on behind the prison walls. There is also a stand-alone story included at the end of the novel, featuring newcomers Kurt Huggins and Zelda Devon. It is the story of Willowbank Wood and a foul-mouthed bunny named Mr. Bun who threatens to destroy the cuddly lifestyle of the Winnie the Pooh like woodland creatures. Although this appears to be a stand-alone tale, you can most certainly expect every detail to come up in future The Unwritten story arcs.

The Unwritten transcends the run-of-the-mill superhero tale. This book is all about character dynamics and development amidst a slew of literary references. Carey and Gross’s The Unwritten is pure creative genius and a great boon to the comics medium. This is one story that deserves to be on the recommended reading list of book clubs coast-to-coast.

The Unwritten Vol. 2: Inside Man (Graphic Novel – Paperback)
Unwritten Vol. 2: Inside Man

Written by: Mike Carey
Illustrated by: Peter Gross
Cover by: Yuko Shimizu
Publisher: Vertigo
Release Date: Aug 11, 2010
Story: 9.5/10
Art: 9/10
Cover: 9.5/10
Overall Rating 9.5/10

Comics Review: Kane & Lynch #1

Tying into release of the widely advertised Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days, Wildstorm Comics released Kane & Lynch #1 by the team Ian Edginton and Christopher Mitten. You might think that to understand or enjoy this title, you might have needed to play the original videogame Kane & Lynch: Dead Men or perhaps this year’s, Dog Days. However, Edginton has successfully pieced together a riveting story that lets you enjoy what you have while making you infinitely curious about the backstory you might have missed.

kane_and_lynch_1The story begins in Caracas, Venezuela showing that our titular characters have recently survived a blood-bath. It turns out that Kane has an estranged daughter, Jenny, who was kidnapped by revenge-seeking thugs looking for Kane after he stole money from them. Her mother killed in the process, Jenny is traumatized, angry, and wants nothing from Kane. When attempting to chase Jenny down after she creatively flees from their hotel room, Kane is side-swiped by mercenaries out to claim the $10 million prize on Kane and Lynch’s heads. As expected, shotguns, handguns, & rifles make their debut as K&L defend themselves against the bounty-hunters.

The storyline employed by Edginton was incredibly effective. We know Kane and Lynch have already done something to put them at odds with the criminal underworld, we are not quite sure who that is, or even if it matters. What we are posed to understand is that Kane and Lynch do not take being hunted lightly, and are willing to bring the action to their predators. However, the revelation of Kane as a formerly married man with a grown daughter gives the character of Kane, unexpected depth. At first glance, he appears to be an “Office”-type employee, with short-sleaved button-down shirt and tie, who somehow got suckered by a good friend (Lynch) into shenanigans that went viciously and wonderfully violent. Or maybe Kane is the mastermind, the leader of the duo who for 10 years as Jenny hints have been undoing the empires of bad men but for their own profit? Or maybe Kane and Lynch are equal conspirators with different backgrounds and agendas but pulled by circumstances to maintain an unrivaled allegiance despite what appear to be overwhelming odds?

These simple possibilities are enough to push the story forward so that we know there is something more to be gained from reading this comic than enjoying a firefight. Thankfully, with Mitten’s gritty artistic contribution, Kane & Lynch is not lacking in blown chest cavities, knee caps, and jaw lines. There is just enough flair and excitement depicted in these characters and their situation that you wish you did have a game controller to participate in the action. Luckily, you realize you CAN have everything you wish for by playing Dog Days. Pick up Kane & Lynch #1, add to the cult history of this intense duo, and get your fix of shoot-em-up violence for the day!

Kane & Lynch #1
Kane & Lynch #1
Written by: Ian Edginton
Illustrated by: Christopher Mitten
Cover by: Ben Templesmith
Publisher: Wildstorm
Release Date: Aug 4, 2010
Story: 9/10
Art: 9/10
Cover: 6/10
Overall Rating 8/10

Comics Review: American Vampire #5

Sick, twisted, darkly comedic and irrefutably entertaining, American Vampire #5 once again proves that you don’t need the teen melodrama of Twilight and The Vampire Diaries or the over-the-top sexual escapades of True Blood to create a superb vampire series.

americanvamp5American Vampire #5 continues the two-part tale of Pearl Jones in present day 1925 Los Angeles, California by Scott Snyder and the historical tale of Skinner Sweet in 1912 Cruces, New Mexico by Stephen King. Pearl, an abomination by ordinary vampire standards, decides to stage an assault on Bernie’s group of vampires. In issue #4 she found herself outmatched by their numbers, but this time Pearl has brought backup. Pearl teams up with Henry, who is still looking for a date with the undead vixen, to wage war against the Hollywood vampires. Now prepared for a fight, Pearl and Henry fashion wooden stakes to attack Bernie’s where he lives. Artist Rafael Albuquerque once again brings to life a visceral scene filled with torn limbs. Perhaps some of the best moments come from a close up shot of Pearl’s eye and her mouth when Bernie takes Henry hostage.

As for Hattie Hargrove, she’s taken her idolization of Pearl and thirst for fame to the next level. Using the bloodied knife from Issue #4, Hattie injects herself with Pearl’s blood. Though it is not clear whether or not this transforms Hattie into a full American Vampire, we do see that Hattie gets some of Pearl’s nastier abilities, including the extendable spiked-claw-like fingers. Unfortunately, Hattie once again proves to be Pearl’s subordinate in both acting and in vampiredom. Snyder injects some his dark humor into the final moments of Pearl’s showdown with Hattie. Pearl rams the gold star from Hattie’s dressing room down Hattie’s throat, saying, “Eat it… Gold.”

The two stories of Pearl and Skinner are slowly beginning to intertwine more. King’s tale is no longer strictly the story of a novelist recounting Skinner’s past. Skinner makes an appearance at the end of Snyder’s story, asking Pearl to join him. Skinner then shows up at the book signing for “Bad Blood,” the book that is more-or-less based on his life, in King’s 1925 tale. The story goes back to 1912 to recount the final days of James Book, who has now become a vampire too. Book tells Abi that he cannot continue to live his life like this and asks Abi to kill him. Abi agrees, under the condition that James sleeps with her to give her a child. You have got to love King for always adding his unique twist to a story – in this case: barter, sex, murder and fatherhood. King’s story seems to jump fully into the present after Abi kills Book and is shown in 1925 with her grown up daughter. The two stare at Skinner as he leaves the “Bad Blood” book signing. It looks like we’ll be seeing a showdown between Abi and Skinner in the next few issues.

American Vampire once again delivers a winner thanks to the creative team of Snyder, King and Albuquerque.

American Vampire #5
American Vampire #5
Written by: Scott Snyder, Stephen King
Illustrated by: Rafael Albuquerque
Cover by: Rafael Albuquerque
Publisher: Vertigo Comics
Release Date: July 28, 2010
Story: 9/10
Art: 9/10
Cover: 8.5/10
Variant Cover: 8/10
Overall Rating 9/10

Comics Review: Driver for the Dead #1 (of 3)

Driver for the Dead #1 (of 3) by Radical Comics sounded like it was just another comic book hitched to the zombie bandwagon. Luckily, in creator/writer John Heffernan’s (Snakes on a Plane) capable hands, Driver for the Dead succeeds in paying homage to the horror genre by borrowing elements not only from the zombies, but also vampires, demonic possession, witchcraft, and slasher gore. Illustrator Leonardo Manco (Hellblazer) was a nice fit for the project given his background drawing brooding, troubled, unshaven, and wrinkle-suited protagonists. The only set-back to an otherwise entertaining tale was the glaring oversell for this title as a potential Hollywood script.

driver1_mainAt the start of the book set in Louisiana, Moses Freeman, a stoic, aging black man who shares a striking resemblance to Academy Award Winner Morgan Freeman, performs a complicated exorcism of a home in Shreveport, Louisiana. Unfortunately, Freeman does not survive the ritual and sends word that his body be properly handled by Alabaster Graves, a professional hearse driver. Graves is skilled in interring persons of the supernatural persuasion, using a suped-up hearse named Black Betty as his transportation of choice. Graves recognizes that this assignment will be tricky as many would want possession of Freeman’s remains. However, Graves must also deal with Freeman’s great-granddaughter, Marissa, who will not take no for an answer. As it turns out, Graves will be hunted by Fallow, a zombie vampire of sorts, who can absorb the abilities of the supernaturally gifted and has been reviving other entities.

To say that Driver for the Dead was cinematic would be an understatement; as everything about Driver for the Dead screams “Make me into a movie! Look Morgan Freeman would be great!” Manco’s work, though excellent in general, here makes the book seem a bit unoriginal. Graves could just as easily be John Constantine. Nevertheless, Heffernan, as he did with Snakes on a Plane, makes what could be a campy tale, into a fast and loose joyride through the supernatural horror-scape. Hopefully, Manco won’t go for the PG-13 version he has produced so far; this could play out like Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the TV show). But it ought to feel more Tarantino/Rodriquez/Roth-ish. That the setting is in Louisiana after the floods, where overturned graveyards abound, just makes for more fun and a huge set of possibilities. Hang onto your seats because Driver for the Dead promises to take you on a helluva ride.

Driver for the Dead #1 (of 3)
The Rising #0
Written by: John Heffernan
Illustrated by: Leonardo Manco
Cover by: Leonardo Manco
Publisher: Radical Publishing
Release Date: July 28, 2010
Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Cover: 7/10
Overall Rating 8/10

Comics Review: The Rising #0

Radical Publishing cleverly peppers the shelves with $1 previews of up-coming titles. Recently they did so with After Dark #0 and this week with The Rising #0. Created and written by E. Max Frye and illustrated by J.P. Targete, The Rising features an Earth inhabited by humans and an alien race called Dracs. The Dracs are named after their home planet, Draconia. The Dracs have established a political state with humans, and positioned themselves as allies for peace. Early on, we are introduced to their military forces who utilize deadly weapons to extinguish rebellions, particularly from those humans who oppose their presence on Earth. Due to the presence of aliens on Earth, religion of deities as an institution has been discredited and usurped by Darwinism, and its mantra: “survival of the fittest.” In order to prove themselves worthy of life, those that continue to have religious beliefs (and therefore, deny the Dracs credibility) are forced to fight to the death.

rising_premiere_mainWe learn that a terrible virus that the Dracs have a cure for plagues humans. Also, a segment of the human population is not convinced of the Drac’s peace-keeping mission. Does any of this sound familiar? It does if you caught the ABC series “V”, featuring malevolent aliens attempting to make peace on Earth and dangling cures for Earth’s ills as a token of their good faith. There are plenty of problems with the modern version of “V”: a very poorly acted remake of the much superior original released in the 1980’s. Unfortunately, The Rising does not offer much of an upgrade in this genre.

One of The Rising’s most significant flaws is the utter lack of character development. There is a military officer in the rebellion that is related to a political figure in cahoots with the Dracs. He overcomes a vicious attack where his battalion is killed or overcome by the effects of the painful virus affecting the world. A Native American woman and her tribe, whose tribal medicines appear to successfully support his recovery from the virus, find his body. This section felt a little Avatar-ish until the tribe, including his supposed love-interest, was decimated by an alien attack. The officer was not killed but captured, later serving time in the desert encampments used to deprogram rebellious humans and to brain-wash them of their religious beliefs. Interestingly, the soldier’s story is told primarily through Targete’s artwork with sparse dialogue providing insight to the character’s motivation, feelings, and intentions. Targete’s artwork is commendable, though not distinctive. Unfortunately, the artwork alone is not enough to cement a relationship with this or any of the characters.

rising_banner

The austere alien race, Dracs, would be more interesting, if Frye’s plot weren’t played so straight to the genre. Is it necessary to name the aliens, “Dracs” and have them possess a very “Draconian” worldview? Targete’s rendering of the aliens in political power is also fairly transparent, obscuring them in shadows but highlighting their malevolent grins. Perhaps this is all intelligently designed by Frye and Targete to intentionally mislead the reader. However, this seems unlikely. The Rising seems too sure of itself and its direction, perhaps because it’s too familiar, treading on conventions we’ve seen in other media. If you’re into reading comics that have a slightly more cinematic flair, (think: V, the Movie), pick up The Rising. But don’t expect a lot of surprises.

The Rising #0
The Rising #0
Written by: E. Max Frye
Illustrated by: J.P. Targete
Cover by: J.P. Targete
Publisher: Radical Books
Release Date: July 28, 2010
Story: 5/10
Art: 7/10
Cover: 8/10
Overall Rating 6/10