Once a month the amazing staff at 8th Dimension Comics selects a pile of the best new releases for us to peruse and judge.
Half Past Danger #1: Jeremy Bulloch of 8th Dimension Comics and I play a little game when he hands me the selections for the months books in the column; He has one sentence or one panel to convince me to try it. In the case of Stephen Mooney's Half Past Danger that sentence was, "Imagine if Indiana Jones had to fight dinosaurs." Wordlessly, it went right to the top of my pile.
The book follows a former WWII sergeant named Thomas Michael Flynn, who lost his whole platoon in the Pacific Theater when they stumbled upon a secret Nazi base surrounded by a tyrannosaur infested jungle. Only he made it out alive, and the now he spends his day drunk on survivor's guilt and brandy. It's sheer pulp genius that is instantly engaging and wonderful.
Mooney hits all the proper old-school notes. There's hulking unstoppable Aryan supermen, wily Asian kung-fu masters, a devious and mysterious femme fatale, and I really can't stress how awesome the dinosaurs are. I don't even want to keep reading this book. I want it in production as a film right this instant. Until then, get yourself hooked right now because Half Past Danger is already a summer hit in my book.
Rating: 10 of 10
Akaneiro #1: Remember American McGee? The guy who gave us those two wonderfully dark Alice games? Well, earlier this year he tackled Little Red Riding Hood and set her in feudal Japan in a PC game. I haven't played it myself, so I can't tell you how it is, but there is a companion comic written by Justin Aclin.
The story involves demonic creatures that invade Japan, and the order of Red Hunters that protects the otherwise peaceful and devout villages. Our hero Kani is a mixed child of a Red Hunter father and a Ainu mother, who leaves her village to join the hunters as a kind of emissary between the two.
It's the sort of set-up that's launched a hundred role-playing games, and indeed that's exactly what reading Akaneiro feels like. You have your opening cinematic, first boss fight with help from more advanced soldiers, the beginning of an epic journey complete with low-level enemies to practice on, hints of the final overlord boss, and collapsing then awakening in a mysterious village for the second act.
Where Half Past Danger uses such tropes very well, Aclin's book just feels somewhat predictable. This in addition to the fact that revamped fairy tales are really getting stale unless Bill Willingham is involved. It's a good genre read, but you'll not find a lot of crossover appeal.
Rating: 5 of 10Flashback Best Comics of March: Lovecraft and the Horror of Growing Up
The Wake #1: If there is one man who can safely be said to be the future of comic books his name is Scott Snyder. His Severed is objectively fantastic, even if the storyline isn't quite my glass of absinthe. All that is badass in the modern Batman can certainly be laid at his door. In this miniseries he teams with Sean Murphy of Punk Rock Jesus, and the result is absolutely spellbinding.
Think of it as Snyder and Murphy's version of The Thing. We get an estranged mom and adventurous cetologist in Lee Archer. She's recruited for a shadowy government agency that has established a research base at the bottom of the arctic, and is currently housing something powerful and very, very alien.
The book is a taut, well-paced story that is almost unbelievably beautiful in Murphy's art, and Snyder once again proves that his true gift as a writer is his ability to keep us interested at a slow burn. One day, Hollywood is going to give him all the money in the world and we'll see things we've never seen before. Until then, get The Wake and settle in for ten months of weird genius.
Rating: 9 of 10
X-Men #1: The new X-Men post-Marvel NOW! is an all-female team consisting of Storm, Rogue, Shadowcat, Rachel Summers, Psylocke, and Jubilee. In her latest reconfiguration Jubilee is apparently no longer a vampire (long story) and has a child she found in a meteor. Being Jubilee she throws the kid in a backpack and heads for the Jean Grey School hoping to find the perfect environment to raise the strange orphan.
Who apparently is a single-cell organism from billions of years ago intent on revenge for being passed over for evolution on Earth. By the end of the book she's possessed the body of the Omega Sentinel and begins her plot to make 'splosions.
Look, I really got into the modern world of the X-Men. I liked Wolverine as a combination hero/Mr. Vernon of The Breakfast Club running the school, and I liked the team of world-killers helmed by Scott Summers. The longer it goes on, though, it just feels like everyone is getting in everyone else's way. You're almost reminded why M-Day happened in the first place. Marvel? For the love of God can you make up your minds what you want to do with the mutants? It's just so unfocused, and it feels like a direct slap when you consider how notable an all-female team of mutants is for the comic world.
Rating: 4 of 10
Sonic the Hedgehog: Worlds Collide #6: Finally, in this month's children's entry we have the epic team-up between Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega-Man of the long-running Capcom game series. I had no idea, but apparently Sonic the Hedgehog is one of the top-selling kid's books in America. It's not in the league of My Little Pony, but it's still a really popular title. When you consider Mario has never had anything but dismal failure in spin-off media that's actually quite impressive.
Worlds Collide is one of those perfect crossover books, and it fits so well I honestly can't believe no one has ever thought of it before. Dr. Wily and Dr. Eggman have teamed up in the most brotastic evil friendship of all time. Seriously, it is almost nauseating how much these two guys love each other. Toasts and evil bro fists are the order of the day.
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Wily has Robot Mastered all of Sonic's friends into the likes of Tails Man. Knuckles Man, etc., and it's up to Sonic and the Blue Bomber to put aside all their initial differences to defeat the combined forces of their nemeses. Nintendo and Capcom need to drop whatever they're doing and make this happen right now as a game. It's child-like, retro, and thoroughly entertaining.
Rating: 8 of 10