The Best Comics in February: Russian Space Mystery and Lara Croft

Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review.

The Fuse #1 Easily the best book in February is Antony Johnson's epic new sci fi mystery series. The story follows a new detective on a Russian space station who immediately finds himself embroiled in strange murder involving the homeless population that lives among the wiring. Detective Dietrich is a no-nonsense cop with an iron moral code who finds himself paired with the more capricious Klem. The veteran is still getting over the retirement of her old partner, and finds Dietrich's supercop routine extremely amusing up on the perversely understaffed Midway City Police Department.

Right off the bat the book grabs you with a great mystery and perfect timing between the two police officers. The space settings lends a new layer to a pretty old pulp story story of murder on the beat, bu it's Johnston's dialogue that is the most potent ingredient in gripping a reader. Justin Greenwood's art can take a little getting used to, but it's pretty clear Klem is his favorite character as she is lovingly rendered as a cross between Baba Yega, David Bowie, and the Ninth Doctor. Combined with the amazing characterization of Johnston and she's a gift of a hero.

Rating: 9 of 10

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Fantastic 4 #1 To be honest, i picked up the new Marvel Now relaunch of Fantastic 4 purely to contrast it with recent statements by producer Michael Vaughan about the next film adaptation. Among comments that it won't be "a stretchy guy and a guy running around in rock that looks like it's made of polystyrene" the fandom is all a twitter that some sort of radical re-imaging of the group and their powers is on the horizon. other rumors, such as a female Dr. Doom that would involve herself in a love triangle with Reed and Sue Richards has fans flinching.

Sorry to say that the latest comic doesn't really gear me up toward being more involved in the lives of the four famous heroes. Reed remains an unlikable ass except at a few turns. Johnny Storm is still just little more than a cartoonish example of kid brotherism, and Ben Grimm gets only a tiny amount of time in the spotlight. As usual in the modern era, it's only Sue that really offers any sort of character growth, though it's still mostly along the lines of just putting up with the emotional damage her teammates inflict on each other and themselves.

If any character has ever screamed out for a solo series where she wanders the world finding herself and dropping the baggage she's been saddled with then it's The Invisible Woman. If thus series is supposed to show us the fall of the Fantastic 4, then for her sake I can't wait for that fall.

Rating: 5 of 10

Rat Queens #5 I do not read Kurtis J. Wiebe's Rat Queens for any other reason than the fact I love watching a band of women warriors go completely Wolvie-berserk style on everything that gets in their way and then celebrate in the bar later. It's an insane, bloody book that is literally every trope of the sword and sorcery genre thrown up against the wall and given a sex-change operation.

I haven't dived into the book for several months and frankly I felt like I was reading the exact same issue at times. Why are they fighting? What is the quest? I couldn't honestly tell you. It's a book of rage and arrows and blood and sex and all of it as glorious as you could possibly ask for. I can't get enough of Rat Queens.

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Tomb Raider #1 There is no single book I've been more looking forward to than Gail Simone's take on the reboot of Tomb Raider. It was my favorite game of 2013, and I just recently replayed the whole thing through from beginning to end for the third time. I couldn't wait to see what one of my favorite writers would do with the new and improved Lara Croft.

Haunted by survivor's guilt over all the friends she watched die in the course of the game, Lara sets out to come to the aid of her friend Jonah, one of only three members of her crew that made it off the island of Yamati. Jonah has secluded himself far off in an American desert, and warns Lara that more supernatural forces are coming for them. He's proven right when the desert is suddenly flooded with a mysterious tidal wave.

Lara Croft as she appeared in the game stands as the complete opposite of Simone's own famous Women in Refrigerators list of female characters brutalized to give male heroes an emotional story arc. I'm very impressed with Simone's ability to show off the survivor that Lara became at the end of the game, but still allow her the instability and vulnerability you would expect of a character that was just 21 years old and had survive such a traumatic event.

If Simone could get Barbara Gordon and Lara together in the same book I wager it would be the best female-fronted comic ever. Until then, Tomb Raider is wonderful.

Rating: 8 of 10

Super Dinosaur #22 For my money Super Dinosaur is easily one of the top five all-ages comic books ever written and the fact that it hasn't been made into an animated series just goes to show you what's wrong with the television industry. It's been some time since I checked on Derek and his robot-armored pet tyrannosaurus, but it's still the same great adventure.

Derek's mom was rather conspicuously absent in the early issues, and I never thought much of it. Turns out she was actually erased from the memory of her son. Now she's back just as Derek and his friends are desperately fending off a dinosaur man invasion. Now she may be the key to turning back the fight, but at a great cost.

I try very hard each month to bring readers at least one superior all-ages book, but I can honestly say that few come close to the consistent brilliance of Robert Kirkman's boy-meets-dogdinosaur story. Jason Howard's art is delighful, and the book maintains just the perfect amount of lightheartedness chased with the pain of growing up to make it speak to everyone.

Rating: 7 of 10

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.


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