[Image Comics] First issues, part 1.

Last year I did two separate lists, The Good and The Bad. This year I will separate the posts, but not based on quality, as much as the fact that there are just too many of them. I will still order them by rating, but the rating is as much objective, as it is a comparison between the best and the worst. The reason for that is that, honestly, there wasn’t much good to pick from. I might be getting pickier with my comic books, but I noticed that the stories in at least half of this year’s batch were so similar that they could have been from the same universe. Also, there were two main trends that were entirely too visible: cults and werewolves. As well as the fact that I found the art on most of the issues just plain ugly.

Snotgirl #1Snotgirl #1 (2016)
Author: Brian Lee O’Malley

As gross as the title sounds, Snotgirl is absolutely the best first issue I read from this year’s Image comics Humble Bundle.

For starters, the art is gorgeous! Even when it’s kind of disgusting, it’s also drawn with style.

I had theories about the plot, but I didn’t manage to crack what’s actually going on with Snotgirl, but it a completely positive way, because I’m now very excited to continue reading on.

And also, happy to say that Brian Lee O’Malley is as awesome as ever!

Demonic #1

Demonic #1 (2016)
Author: Christopher Sebela

Not a spectacular one, but definitely enjoyable. Also, the fact that a lot of the rest were so bad made it stand out.

It’s a classic story of possession, confusion and a feeling of impending doom, but somehow, it offers a nice twist on the regular story. I felt almost claustrophobic, following the hardships of the main character, and having to experience how doomed he is when his family is on the line. It was not a pleasant feeling, but I think the story was built well enough to create it, so it must be doing its job well.

Also, I am still curious about some of the things that the character mumbled about only vaguely. Even though I smell a cult coming in the future.

Rockstars #1Rockstars #1 (2016)
Author: Joe Harris

This one is related to the cults and gods that I mentioned earlier. There have always been theories about rockstars being devil worshipers, about secret meanings in their music, songs being played backwards, etc. The protagonist of Rockstars is especially interested in that and is trying to solve the disappearance of two girls who went to a rock concert, one of them to later be found dead and the other one never to be seen again.

I was curious, still am, about where the story is going to go, so I would say that this is the second best issue from the bundle. The art was also very pretty, especially the way they drew the female characters.

My problem with Rockstars is that this story was not necessary. People could have continued their lives without needing it. I will probably forget I read this, despite my interest. And also, I hated the main male character. He was just such a weirdo, and not in a cute way. (I imagine him as those people who stare at you on the bus, only to make you uncomfortable.)

Shutter #1Shutter #1 (2014)
Author: Joe Keatinge

Now this comic book has great art and lots of potential!

From the vert first page I knew this is different than the other things I read until I got to it. I really enjoyed the art as well as the concept, or what I got from it.

My problem with Shutter is not what I did find in it, it’s what I didn’t. For a comic book set in a world so much different than ours, there should have been a bit more introduction, and there was none. I just got the major idea that this is not our world, at least not our world today, and that the main character and her father used to be adventurers. Aside from that, it still remains a mystery to me.

However, I would say that if you are a fan of Saga, this might be a good comic book for you!

Black Road #1

Black Road #1 (2016)
Author: Brian Wood

Viking frontier? That’s what it felt like. The story takes place after the spread of Christianity in Norway (Norskk).

There’s nothing really spectacular about the story itself. It really reminded me of the setting of one of the comic books I read last year, The Goddamned. A tough, war-hardened viking takes a journey on a road full of dangers, blood and enemies.

What I did not dislike was the art. In comparison to some of the other issues, it was great. And that is to say, objectively speaking it’s not much more than mediocre. However, as a fan of the Vikings TV show, I saw a familiar setting and background, so I was cool with it.

The Black Monday Murders #1The Black Monday Murders #1 (2016)
Author: Jonathan Hickman

Another cult one!

I think there might a bright future ahead of this comic book. However, the first issue was so overwhelming. Remember what I said about Shutter above? Well, this is the opposite. There’s too much information, even though you have no idea what is happening. There are diagrams, sketches, names, dates, dictionary entries, historical facts.

Yeah, sure, the reader gets the gist of the story, but there’s also so much information that remains just hanging there, because you don’t know the characters, you don’t know the settings, you don’t know the symbols. What about the girl who kept talking gibberish? There was a family tree of the Rothschild line with some someone added with every generation? Was that her? What is that supposed to mean for me, as the clueless reader?

Also, there was a stark difference between the drawings of the men and the women. The females looked well drawn, while the males were usually a lot of messy lines and just blackness.

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And last, but not least: WHY IS TAYLOR MOMSEN IN THIS?

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The Discipline #1The Discipline #1 (2016)
Author: Peter Mulligan

*** 1.5 stars ***

CULTS.

Here it starts getting bad all over.

The Discipline, solely based on the cover, seemed somewhat spooky, so I was pretty excited for it.

It’s just SO CHEESY!

I would say it’s more or less Supernatural 50 Shades of Gray. The main character is a neglected, dumb 23-year-old housewife who is sorely lacking sex, so she, instead, likes to gaze at paintings with elements of bestiality. Until a mysterious stranger comes along, flashes his D(iscipline), and starts training her for a sex pet. Or something.

Romulus #1Romulus #1 (2016)
Author: Bryan Hill

*** 1.5 stars ***

Wolves! Secret orders! Cults!

The art is not bad. On the story I call bullshit. A secret order has super-ninja wolf-women, even though they also have much more formidable soldiers, and they keep the wolf-women until the women themselves are about to cause problems. Which implies that before that, they were preferred, instead of the super-soldiers. Okayyy…

Also, lots of angst, insecurity and “I’m not my mother”s.

Basically, I lost my patience with this one. I don’t see the point behind it being made. The story doesn’t have anything touching or badass, or even a thing you could root for.

Kill Or Be Killed #1Kill Or Be Killed #1 (2016)
Author: Ed Brubaker

This one begs the question: BUT WHY?

An extremely pathetic guy decides to kill himself because… because… well, uh, I guess because his best friend, a girl, is not in love with him? Or because she pities him? Something like that? And he is so f*cking pathetic that he fails at that too, by the way. As a result of his failed suicide attempt, a monster/demon starts visiting him to ask for souls, in exchange of his. And he finds out that he is a bloodthirsty psychopath.

There you have it. Whether you would enjoy something like that, or not, is up to you. I was facepalming the entire time.

“Revival, Vol. 1: You’re Among Friends” by Tim Seeley

Revival, Vol. 1: You're Among Friends(Author: Tim Seeley) + (Year: 2012) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Pretty good, in comparison with a lot of the things that I have read recently. Revival is not mind-blowing, but it definitely has a lot of potential.

What is original about Revival is that it’s not your classic zombie story. Yes, the dead come back. But they are not this:

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Not totally, anyway.

The dead have risen, and they seem to be acting normally. Have they received an extra life? Does everyone get a second chance? Are they okay? They seem to be. Until they don’t. Until people start noticing something off about them. Something in their behavior. A strange spark in their eyes…

If you have read Pet Sematary or Handling the Undead, you would not regard this as an original concept. However, the approach is different, especially in the medium of comic books.

I can’t deny that I was very curious about the peculiar representation of death and what lies beyond; and also, of how people, the “normal” ones, that is, act when they are put in such a situation. From the ones who try to rationalize it, to the ones who turn it into a sign of providence. So undeniably, Revival has interesting and colorful characters, the development of whom I will enjoy following in the other volumes, as well.

And although we get a lot more of Dana, than of Em, I’m pretty sure that Em is the character to follow in this series. She is, I think, the face of the moral issue in this comic book. I don’t necessary say that she is likable, as a person, but she is definitely the more vivid and deep character. And, of course, the crazier one.

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What did I not like about Revival, then? As I said, it’s not mind-blowing. It works, but it could also not work. There’s a story going on, but the first volume is separate incidents that have yet to add up to a story. The protagonist, Dana, is not the most consistent character. She’s a good caring mother and a dutiful cop in one scene, a random lady looking for casual sex in a bar at the next. (And honestly, how is that supposed to work in a small town in Wisconsin? Who do you think you will meet there, woman?)

However, I’m more than eager to continue reading and see where this journey goes…

“The Lover” by Marguerite Duras

The Lover (The Lover, #1)(Author: Marguerite Duras) + (Year: 1984) + (Goodreads)

(Around the World: Vietnam)


Review:

The prose of The Lover is beautiful. It opens for the reader a window into the sensual thoughts of a young girl, thirsty for passion and desire; haunted by the sad reality in which her family lives, but also obsessed with being loved, being noticed, being adored.

This semi-biographical novel tells the story of young Duras, wild, untamed and passionate. But as far as others see the main character as such, she, herself, is a ghost in this world. She is torn between what she craves in life, and what her duties are. She certainly doesn’t want to do what people tell her, but being born in the time she was, she is not always in control of her life. That role often belongs to her brother, a gambling spoiled brat who respects no one and nothing but his own desires; or her mother, a woman distraught by her poorness, but unable to decline her son’s every wish, be it attention or money.

That being so, the young girl is never really alive, and always too alive, too bright, overshadowing everyone around herself, and drowning in their shadow. And this girl falls in love, or is full of desire for a young Chinese heir who can never be more than her lover. As everything about her, this love is also quite the opposite, it is often a fiery hate. It is doomed, but it can also never be any other way.

Because of that, The Lover is a tragic letter to things lost a long time ago, from that love, to youth, innocence and family comfort.

This book, however, defies my beliefs about humanity. Or rather, what I strive to believe in. I don’t want to fully give in to the notion that people can be as horrible, cruel and cold as they are in The Lover. I remain opposed to the idea that humans can be gorged out of emotions in such a way. I don’t want to believe that beauty can only be found in tragedy. Nor that the human is so selfish and powerless.

“The Whale Rider” by Witi Ihimaera

The Whale Rider(Author: Witi Ihimaera) + (Year: 1987) + (Goodreads)

(Around the World: New Zealand)


Review:

In all honesty, this was a peculiar little book. I both liked it, and didn’t like it. I’m saying this in the sense that while I was reading The Whale Rider, I wasn’t bored out of my mind. However, at the same time, I can’t say that I actually enjoyed myself.

So in a way, this book just was. 

The story was interesting in its entirety and the fairytale quality of the entire novel. There are two stories between which the narration shifts: “current times” and the birth of Kahu, a little girl who possesses the spirit of Maori mythology, but is not loved by her grandfather, who, as the “chief” of the community, wants a grandson and is always displeased with little Kahu; and the stories from the Maori legends about the whale riders, and the pain of a whale which was ridden by the last whale rider.

As you can imagine, Kahu’s story is very endearing and cute, and the whales’ story has more of a surreal quality. However, this would be an oversimplification of how exactly wild this book gets at times. It’s a wildness in the method and narration, rather than one in the actual events, but ultimately leads to a very fairytale-ish world of collision between myth and reality.

This, however, can also be confusing, as I wasn’t sure how I’m supposed to take the story: utter fiction? Mythological reality? Fairtytale? My confusion lead me to that awkward moment which one experiences when they meet someone who seems to be insane and one doesn’t know if that person is joking/sarcastic, or really mentally unstable. (In all fairness, I’m in this situation more often than I should.)

The other thing which a story like this heavily influences is the depth of the characters. Mythological characters are rarely very deep and well-developed, so in a book which is unsure about its allegiances with reality, expectedly, the characters were not really three intentional.

Lastly, while I enjoyed the stories about Kahu, I was rather bored with the whale narration and the general repetitiveness of the book. Every encounter with Kahu and her grandfather, or the two of her grandparents just ended up being the exact same chapter over and over again, down to the actual expressions.

On the positive side, I learned very interesting things, albeit minor ones, about the Maori culture and the belief system they have, to a degree. So, while this was not the most successful encounter, it was definitely not without virtues.

“Sandman Special #1: Orpheus” by Neil Gaiman

Sandman Special #1: The Song of Orpheus(Author: Neil Gaiman) + (Year: 1991) + (Goodreads)


Review:

This was pretty cool.

I know that I should have probably stated with the original Sandman, and then gone to the specials, but I found this, and saw no reason not to go ahead. Considering that it’s not tightly related to Morpheus, I don’t think that I missed out on anything.

Note: Even though I hadn’t read the Sandman comic books, a couple of years ago, while binge-reading Neil Gaiman’s works, I did read a script for a Sandman movie. Keeping that in mind, I might not be explicitly familiar with the story, but I am more or less familiar with some of the characters from the script, and of course, with the rest from mythology.

I really liked this short story about Orpheus and Eurydice. It seemed kind of a random starting point for my adventures into the Sandman world, but then again, it was a pretty cool read.

What really bothered me, and this is actually pretty hilarious, was the style. Everything was good, except that… even in mythology, they were devastatingly 90’s, or even 80’s. The hair of all of the characters seemed so out of place that I, as a reader 20+ years later cringed at basically every illustration. It might seem mean to judge, considering that the comic book does belong to that period. But… no.

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Most of all, Edward Scissorhands over here:

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As far as the story goes, it’s a very sad one, of course, and also quite revealing as to the personality of Morpheus. His relationship with his wife and son was a very unpleasant one to read, and testified to the fact that he is not so much a deity, as he is a force of nature, of sorts. And one that doesn’t really comprehend human emotions.

However, I had two favourite scenes in this book. One was of Orpheus meeting Death, which was just so… well, cool! Him, in his Thracian outfit, and her, as a 90’s punk rock chick. And then there was one of the final scenes, that of Orpheus meeting the Bacchante. I don’t even know what that was supposed to be, but it was unexpected, gruesome and creepy, with a spoonful of gross.