1 vs 1: Red Sonja vs Surviving Megalopolis

vs Red Sonja & Surving Megalopolis

1 vs 1 is where two comic books battle it out in a winner takes all contest to see which one I’ll continue to purchase and which one gets dropped.except when I decide to keep reading the second one anyway.

Winner: Three way tie between Red Sonja and Gail Simone and Marguerite Bennett

The Contestants

There are so many first issues out this month with so many interesting story lines it seems overwhelming.

The Favorite(s)

Gail Simone. Not only is the writer for Surviving Megalopolis, she had an amazing run on  Red Sonja and coordinated Dynamite’s cross over event Swords of Sorrow which set the stage for Marguerite Bennett to begin her run on Red Sonja.

So while only one of these two walks away. Gail Simone has a share in both. So she wins either way. An historic first if this completely made up competition that is less than a year old.

Marguerite Bennett has had what I consider an amazing (and overlooked) run on Marvel’s Angela. Both in Angela Assassin of Asgard and Angela Queen of Hel. Angela is a character that is not dissimilar from Red Sonja. And Bennett has done some remarkable storytelling on those titles. Having her follow Simone on the title is equal parts: good fortune and a no brainer.

The Match

  • Red Sonja
    • Doesn’t explain the change in Red Sonja’s wardrobe. And it doesn’t need to. Good call on Bennett. The last thing the story needs is 6 panel explanation on why a warrior needs to wear cloths. If any explanation is owed it is the previous chain mail bikini that needs to be explained. And not by the writer. By me. To my wife… So this is the first time a print version of Red Sonja made it into my house. (Digital is a totally different story).
    • There were a couple pages where I didn’t understand the sequence, which took me out of the story as I tried (and failed) to understand what was going on. I don’t mind not understanding a sequence, as long as I’m not supposed to understand it based on what I’ve read. But this had the feel that I should have known.
    • Red Sonja’s characterization had it’s moments, but it also had a few moments where I wondered if Red Sonja was being written too soft. But at the end of the story we begin to see a familiar Red Sonja emerge. There’s potential that this could carry through well into the next issue. I hope that’s the case, but I’ve had my hopes crushed before so I won’t hope to the point of convincing myself that the second issue will be action packed Red Sonja madness.
    • The Art by Aneke was fantastic.
  • Surviving Megalopolis
    • Little did I know that Surviving Megalopolis is a continuation or follow up to Leaving Megalopolis. It looks brilliant. Both in terms of art and storytelling. It’s just not a great place to start the series from.

What Others Think

Red Sonja Vol. 3 sold out. So, retailers have good things to say about Red Sonja. Surviving Megalopolis hasn’t received that many reviews, so eh.

Final Thoughts… a Question Really

I noticed the variant covers for the new Dynamite titles can be put side by side to form a larger image. An obvious tactic to cross sell titles. Each of the covers for Surviving Megalopolis are a piece of a larger image. Is this part of Gail Simone’s play book?

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1 vs 1: America Town vs DC Comics Bombshells

vs americatown & DC Bombshells

Note: Like many entries on issue47 this one is about 70% complete. I’d rather publish it now than let it sit in my drafts folder for months.

1 vs 1 is where two comic books battle it out in a winner takes all contest to see which one I’ll continue to purchase and which one gets dropped.

Winner: Americatown

The Contestants

I have been waiting all summer for DC Comics Bombshells (written by Marguerite Bennett). I could have purchased it earlier in three digital installments, but this was an issue I wanted to own in print.

I loved the concept of re-imagining DC heroines in the WWII era, and giving them origins independent from their male counterparts.

Americatown (written by Bradford Winters and Larry Cohen) was another interesting concept which portrays Americans as immigrants in a South American country in the not too distant future. I imagined this would be more social commentary and drama than virtuous heroism.

The Favorite

DC Comics Bombshells. All summer I waited!

The Match

DC Comics Bombshells has lots of promise and I’m sure will be a well crafted story with characters that fans will love for decades….. but to be honest I had problems with the first issue. Lots of problems.

I don’t set out to write negative reviews, and my opinion on this issue is certainly in the minority. I also still hold all the people I know who enjoyed the issue in high regard (including you to dear reader).

So what were my problems?

Batwoman

  • 1 page is devoted to Batwoman saving Martha & Thomas Wayne (this was awesome) the next 5 are devoted to Batwoman & Co thwarting a gang from robbing an entire baseball stadium. This sounds way cooler than it actually was. The 1 Wayne page was way more relevant and entertaining then the other 5.
  • I struggled with some of the dialogue. Maybe I was too tired from a long day at work, but there were some word balloons I didn’t understand even after reading them multiple times.
  • An announcer explained that all baseball players must wear masks to protect their identity because not everyone is happy that women are playing professional baseball. I liked the baseball themed Batwoman. The idea stands on its own. It didn’t need this extra corny layer to justify why she wears a mask.

Wonder Woman

  • Story was mostly about Steve Rogers. Admittedly there wasn’t much could do since Wonder Woman is a WWII era heroine that was created independent from a male counterpart.

Supergirl

  • Couldn’t tell Super Girl and Star Girl apart. Both characters look identical (down to the hair style) and wear matching uniforms.
  • There are techniques with word balloons that could have been used to help identify which character was speaking from panel to panel. These were not used, or if they were I failed to notice them on my first read.

Overall

  • I don’t know the premise of the story.

The art is amazing, the concept is amazing. It will probably be amazing in several issues. But to me it was a weak first issue.

Moving over to Americatown. The premise is straight forward and full of drama. Immigrating (or human smuggling) and evading government detection offer so many opportunities for dramatic tension and suspense.

The writer and artists deliver a solid opening chapter. The story is easy to follow and the consequences that each character faces for the risks they take are more extreme than they expect. The story as a whole (from what I gather) is focused on one family, but the first issue had a large and diverse ensemble of immigrants.

I enjoyed the artwork, especially how well some panels would set up the next. Very well planned. It gives me a reason to read again and look for things I may have missed on the first read.

What Others Think

I’m pretty much on my own for Bombshells. Americatown has some fans and some detractors. I found one negative review fascinating and it is worth a read. The author writes:

…when all of this shit isreal, I can’t sit and enjoy some futuristic Think Piece about immigration that uses such an imposing, soul-crushing problem as a foundation to make people with brown skin the bad guys. That’s fucked.

It’s a legitimate point and I’m glad the author drew attention to it. But I didn’t connect with the sentiment. After my day I don’t have the energy or patience to learn how awful the world is from the news media (which for the past several years seems to have been increasingly infiltrated by the political establishment). So if a writer can bring this issue to me in a fictional story that I will consume and consider, I don’t count that as a bad thing.

Also, I like a good “Think Piece”. I enjoy stories that make me think. I just don’t have time to read dense novels. And I definitely don’t have time to read the ones that I need to attend a class to understand. Comic books are literature in this phase of my life.

What others are not saying

Americatown also has a scene involving what appears to be a traumatic sexual assault (at least, at first glance that is how it appeared to me). There are a growing number of readers & reviewers who are vocal detractors for these types of scenes. I have not read any criticism regarding this… yet. Generally speaking my understanding of the criticism is that these scenes are almost always done to show how terrible the bad guy is and the victim is always a woman.

A counterpoint here might be that the scene was used to illustrate the types of circumstances immigrants and refugees place themselves in everyday. Or the terrible conditions that human smuggling can lead to. And by raising awareness this may make the depiction in this book an exception.

Another counterpoint could be that the scene really isn’t a sexual assault at all and and instead is a bone marrow extraction. Frankly, I’m not buying that argument. Yes that may be what the dialogue says, and in some ways the art supports. But overwhelmingly, the art says otherwise.

In the final analysis…

Americatown wins because it’s plot is more accessible, dramatic and engaging, but I wish all the best to the team at DC that produces Bombshells.

1 vs 1: Dark Corridor vs The Shadow

vs Dark Corridor & the Shadow

updated 8/14/15 because my spelling stinks or my grammar is terrible. Possibly both.

1 vs 1: is a contest of #1 issues. The rules are simple, since I make them up as I go along. So far the winner is the one that winds up on my pull list.

Winner: Dark Corridor (But you should still spend $1 to read The Shadow)

The Contestants

I have a soft spot for The Shadow. As a kid, My Mom would bring classic radio shows on tape for long car rides. I’m sure Mom was motivated to provide an alternative to the music I listened to (it didn’t matter if I had walkman because I would sing along). But there was more to her motivations than avoiding my music collection and my singing.

My parents grew up listening to these stories on the radio. It was a chance to connect to the stories and characters from their childhood, with their child. As far as parenting goes, that is pretty standard practice nowadays. But for them, they had other ways of connecting with their children that didn’t involve imaginative tales of adventure.

My enjoyment for The Shadow comics that I’ve read are all over the board. The Fires of Creation by Garth Ennis ranks up there with my all time favorites and as an amateur writer look at with envy. I can think of another that was a fun uncomplicated read and then there is the one that I’d probably not recommend. All of these comic books were published by Dynamite Entertainment.

This type of variability will either scare people away or draw people in. I’m definitely in the latter group.

The very last reason I picked this title up: It was $1.

All I knew about Dark Corridor is:

  • A crime noir
  • published by Image Comics

As I’ve been veering away from super hero comics, I’m finding an ample amount of crime and espionage stories to pick from. Still nowhere near as many are being published as Superhero titles, so I’m intrigued when new ones come out.

The Favorite

My history with the Shadow would make it hard for me to declare it the loser of this entirely made up contest that has no rules. (There was once a three way tie… still working on that post).

The Match

The Shadow was good. Definitely worth the price of admission. I found myself flipping back and forth between pages looking for hints and clues in the art. But each time, I came back with nothing.

Coincidentally, I did the same thing with Dark Corridor and each time found a nice surprise.

I found the premise of The Shadow’s plot interesting: a conspiracy within a guild of stage magicians pursuing more tangible dark arts, but the delivery was a little shaky. They’re always in their stage costumes.

The other thing that held back my enthusiasm for The Shadow was that nobody from the network of The Shadow’s allies appeared (at least that I noticed).

The Shadow did have a pretty great fight scene, and I liked how The Shadow reveals to the reader what is going on, which avoids the weirdness of the villain telling the hero the plot.

Rich Tommaso used some great writing devices in Dark Corridor. There are multiple plot lines but the characters in the two stories are connected. I’m assuming that each issue will build on this foundation to a larger plot. It’s tempting to say that the delivery of this larger plot is not sequential. But thinking about it, it was.

The artistic style for Dark Corridor resembles a Dick Tracy comic, which I find an unusual choice for a book that has some gruesome scenes. But it wasn’t a distraction from the plot.

Dark Corridor also used a succinct flash back. I’m not the biggest fan of flash back’s, but the second story in the first issue is a model for how I prefer writers to use them.

What Others Posting

The early reviews for both titles were all over the map. Both had some serious detractors. The theme’s for Dark Corridor‘s negative reviews were: 1) The two stories didn’t appear to be connected and 2) It moves slowly for the first issue.

My own observations are 1) The stories are connected and 2) It moves more quickly once the connection is made.

And one more 3) The ways in which the two stories connect are awesome.

Still the plot probably doesn’t move as fast when compared to a typical first issue of a superhero title.

1 vs 1: Indestructible Stingray vs Wolf

Indestructible Stingray vs Wolf

1 vs 1: is a contest of #1 issues. The rules are simple, since I make them up as I go along. So far the winner is the one that winds up on my pull list.

Winner: Indestructible: Stingray

This pairing needs some explanation. I wish I had a better one to offer you than the one you’ll read.

To start, I was excited about Wolf. I had read (or came to the conclusion from reading) that Wolf was a Supernatural Apocalyptic Crime Noir story. And the first issue was super-sized too. I’ve been on a crime noir kick recently and also have been reading some supernatural sci-fi titles as well.  This was the book I picked first, and had favored to win.

But there were no other #1 issues that I knew off the top of my head that I was interested in. I contemplated buying Blacklist but was reluctant because I’ve never watched the show. When licensed comics are done right readers can enjoy the story without all the history from another medium, while at the same time enhancing the story for readers who were familiar with the story from its original medium. But licensed comics aren’t always done right. Too many are depend on the reader already knowing the characters and circumstances. Which can be confusing, if the story has been rebooted in its original medium. (Not that this applies to Blacklist. I’m just passively aggressively rambling.).

While I was weighing all this in my mind I walked around the comic book shop my eyes caught Stingray, a title published by IDW that I was unfamiliar with. IDW comic books have a special place in my household. Every member of our family reads a title from IDW. The company is well known for it’s licensed properties, but has a few originals as well like Onyx (which was in a three way tie in an earlier 1 vs 1).

I’m secretly hoping that IDW produces something mind blowing that is a company original. And that I’ll be able to start with issue #1. So with that sentiment Blacklist didn’t stand much of a chance.

Just to make it a little more convincing, Stingray’s main character is a female lead. It seems like every writer (comic book or otherwise) is trying to crack the code for an action/adventure story focused on a heroine. Some of the stuff produced is awesome, some of it is half hearted. But I enjoy reading these titles, just to see how writers are approaching these stories.

In anycase, I later learned the reason Stingray wasn’t currently on my radar was probably because it was released in May.

Now onto the reading. I found Stingray a little interesting and was impressed with the plot twist, but it wasn’t the mind blowing story that I’m patiently waiting for.

Wolf on the otherhand… I didn’t understand. I’m not one for writing detailed negative reviews, for several reasons. But three main things stuck out for me:

  • There was a lot of dialogue that seemed to go nowhere. I’m sure issue #1 will make sense and be masterful after reading about 10 issues and then rereading #1.
  • The background’s in the panels were frequently bland.
  • After feeling comfortable with the world the writer and artist have built, it abruptly changes. Again, I’m sure this is by design, but personally I don’t enjoy the effect.

I don’t mind not understanding a plot early on. In many cases I prefer it. Unfortunately, Wolf had so many angles of the story that I felt I should be understanding, but wasn’t.

So this week’s winner was Stingray.

It turns out Stingray‘s title is actually Indestructible: Stingray. And that “Indestructible” prefix is actually a series of 10 issues that started in 2013. On top of that Stingray #1 was the last issue published. No idea if others are going to follow.

So while it wins in this 1 vs 1, it isn’t getting added to my pull list.

1 vs 1: 1872 vs Transference

 

1872 vs Transference

1 vs 1: is a contest of #1 issues. The rules are simple, since I make them up as I go along. So far the winner is the one that winds up on my pull list.

This post explores the battle between Black Mask’s Transference and Marvel’s 1872.

Winner: Transference

Honestly, this was a tough call and I was afraid that it would be another tie like last week. But both my wife and pocket book have limits when it comes to purchasing comic books. And I really don’t want to test the limits of either. So I made myself pick one that wouldn’t be added to the pull list (so hard to use the word ‘loser’ in this context because both were good issues).

Transference offered a coherent but challenging time travel story. The plot wasn’t completely inaccessible, and at the end I was interested in the plot as I understood it. That made it worth a second read, which was more enjoyable than the first.

I don’t mind not understanding a plot, when that is the intent. It gets frustrating when I am supposed to understand something, but don’t.

The main drawback to this issue was there were a lot static panels with conversational dialogue. Nothing is really changing except for the (imaginary) camera’s point of view. This is something I struggle with in my own comic book writing. All of which is unpublished… and largely incomplete. Nonetheless, since it is where I need to improve it is something I constantly look for.

The primary reason that 1872 wasn’t a winner is that it re-used characters. I get it. The practice sells more copies than if the characters were unique to the series, and Marvel is in business to boost sales. It just felt that the story could have been better with unique characters or even C list characters.

With all series I read, I consider the second issue to be more important than the first. If the second issue isn’t enjoyable then I probably won’t finish the entire series.

Did you read either of these titles? Tell the internet. Leave a comment.

 

1 vs 1

These last few weeks my newly purchased comic books have been doing battle in a competition I’m calling 1 vs 1. The premise is simple. I purchase 2 #1 issues and pick which one is the winner (which gets the #2 purchased).

As with everything in this blog, it is subject to the demands of my schedule. So basically, there is a concept of a loose framework and no rules.

Here is what happened in the past couple weeks:

  • Week 1: Bizarro (DC) vs Bat-mite (DC)
    • Winner: Bizarro
  • Week 2: Dr. Fate (DC) vs Black Canary (DC)
    • Winner Black Canary
  • Week 3: Mulan: Revelations (Dark Horse) vs literally no other comic books
    • Winner: no other comic books
    • I am now taking a break from buying any comic book based on an advanced review
  • Week 4: We Stand Guard (Image) vs The Spire (Boom) vs Onyx (IDW)
    • Winner: Three way tie

It’s been a fun little thing and I might have a chance of keeping up on. And occasionally I might have time to elaborate on the reasons why one or two books won.