One Two Review: Snow Blind

One Two Review is a series that reviews the first two installments of a comic book as one whole.

Snow Blind is a 4 issue crime/mystery written by Ollie Masters with art by Tyler Jenkins and published by Boom Studios.

Why I Picked this Title

Aside from super heros, comic books produce a couple other genres. My experience (which is minimal) is that Horror and Crime are the two other genres that are regularly published. But since they are almost never published by Marvel or DC, they aren’t nearly as accessible. Especially Crime. There maybe a handful of titles a year that are published by the smaller companies.

So I feel pretty compelled to pick up a crime story when one comes out.

What Others Thought

Most of the reviews I’ve read have been positive. I can’t recall a single negative review. More importantly, both issues have received reviews from sites that normally focus on super heros.

What I Thought

I mixed feelings about the first issue’s story, or set up. After reading the second issue it becomes clear that this is one story told in four installments. Not 4 stories that when read together becomes 5. That works for me. For these types of titles, I benefit from rereading the previous installments before reading the current one.

The pace is good, the characters are never in one place for too long. And the dialogue doesn’t dominate over the art. These are two very important elements for any comic book, but seem particularly hard to pull off in a crime story.

One thing I noticed was that there was a polar bear on the cover and in the story the news in the background covers a wild animal that viewers are advised not to approach. But we never see the animal. Is the wild animal the wolf or fox we saw in the first issue? Or is it the polar bear on the cover? It’s a clever device, and I hope it leads somewhere.

The art by Tyler Jenkins is a healthy stylistic departure from the familiar comic book art. What I find interesting is that the characters are always easily identifiable, which is challenging for a non-super hero book (that’s why super hero’s have distinctive costumes).

So with two down and the story building, picking up the second half of the installment is a no brainer. If you haven’t started the series, it may be worth waiting for the TPB.

Would I read it to my kids?

No. The violence feels a little too real for an 8 & 5 year old. But it’s not overly dominate. When they start showing interest in crime dramas they might enjoy it, but then at that age I probably won’t be reading to them.

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One Two Review: Sherriff of Babylon

One Two Review is a series that reviews the first two installments as one whole.

Everyone knows that Comic Books are the medium that do super heroes the best. It’s so prevalent I often wonder why we haven’t started calling them Super Hero books instead. But other types of stories that are published in the comic book medium. Some are extremely impressive. Like The Sherriff of Babylon written by Tom King and published by Vertigo.

It is set in Baghdad, but clearly feels like a western. I’m pretty confident that was the intent because it has the word “Sherriff” in the title. It also blurs the line between detective and crime fiction.

In any case, the premise is that one of the trainees from the new Iraqi police was murdered and his body was left in the Green Zone. And since it is a trainee the American trainer (Chris) needs to handle the body… and really the murder investigation since Baghdad is lawless at this point.

And the the rest of the explores that lawlessness. In gritty and suspenseful detail. Most of the time the reader witnesses this violence away from the main character, so readers know way more than the main character does. This is a common device in writing and Tom King leverages it masterfully at the end of the second issue. We know the person assisting the main character is a deeply disturbed individual. So when he says to the main character, to stay outside while he enters a sketchy apartment, we know nothing good is going to happen in that apartment.

Not surprisingly the main character comes charging in with his gun drawn. But there’s a little bait and switch. The other guy is saying things that are out of place. So out of place that I went back a page to see if I missed something about a cat. Then I just assumed that something caused the guy to come completely unhinged. This goes on for several panels and then at the end it all makes sense (holy moly do something about the freaking cat!)

The end of the second issue has had me thinking for the last several days. The story is so well written that I am fully engaged in it, but can’t make any my normal wild speculations because it feels like anything can happen and everything is at stake.

The one speculation I’ll make is that I don’t see happy ending to this story.

The Sherriff of Babylon would make a great movie, if a movie studio was willing to send a production crew and A list actors to Baghdad for months of filming. The cinematic feel is owed to the impressive work of artist Mitch Gerads. For now the only medium this story will be available for you to enjoy is as a Super Hero Comic Book.

Will I Read it To My Children?

I try to answer this question at the end of each review. The short answer is No. But I will probably recommend it to them when they’re older.

One Two Review: Saga Vol 1 & 2

One Two Review is a series that reviews the first two installments (in this case trade paper backs) as one whole.

It seems the praise for Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and art by Fiona Staples is inescapable. It makes all sort of lists for greatest comics of all time. It seems the reviews scream that everyone should be reading this series all the time day and night, because it’s Saga people haven’t you heard!

A Dose of Reality

Everyone should not read Saga. It is for level 9 comic book fanatics and definitely not for new comers to the medium. Much the way The Dark Night Returns and The Watchmen, two other highly praised series, are not for casual readers of the medium.

At this point, I am probably a level 6. I was able to enjoy parts of it, admire some of the writing. But overall I walked away from the title thinking how incredibly weird it was. Volume 2 does a much better job of bringing order to the weirdness.

Weird and absurd storytelling isn’t bad. In fact, I kind of like it. Maybe it’s the fact that the comics make are a more visual medium of storytelling that made me not as excited about this title. Probably not, because most of the absurd stories I have enjoyed are movies.

It comes down to execution.

Again, this is a comic book for comic book fans.

One Two Review: Dark Corridor

One Two Review looks back at the first two issues of a series and reviews them as a whole. (more details).

Like most of my reviews, this one is about 70% complete. I’m hitting publish now, because if I don’t it will wind up sitting in my drafts folder long after its expiration date.

The first issue of Dark Corridor won an upset over issue #1 of the Shadow in a 1 vs 1 review. How does the series hold up after 2 issues? My answer is: better than most, by a long shot.

The Numbers

Each issue so far has had 2 stories. Based on their titles alone, it would seem that only the

  • Issue #1
    • The Red Circle: Part One: Animal Control.
    • 7 Deadly Daughters: Greatest Hits Volume One: Marie Castella
  • Issue #2
    • The Red Circle: Part Two: Carter’s Misfortune
    • 7 Deadly Daughters: Greatest Hits Volume Two: Nicole Breccia

Technically that’s 4 stories in 4 issues, but I count more. The two stories in Issue #1 thread together so there’s 1 more. Plus another: Carter’s misfortune refers to events that happened in both of issue #1’s stories. And one more because the Nicole Breccia story in issue #2 ties into the Animal Control story in Issue #1.

So that’s 3 additional, making it 7. And since all the stories are tied together I’d count that as 1 more. Bringing the total to 8.

No doubt some will say that I’m stretching things a bit, but for me it feels that after 2 issues I’ve read about 8 different stories and the brilliant part is that it didn’t feel dense.

I’m completely sure my counting totally conforms to Cantor’s Set Theory.

The Suspense

Neither issue leaves us with a cliff hanger, but I am waiting for issue 3 with just as much anticipation.

The Genre

The crime genre isn’t for everyone, but for anyone interested in it this is a great read.

The Art Style

I wasn’t distracted as much by the art style in the second issue as I was when I read the first issue. In fact, the second issue drew me more into this world than I had expected. Plus, the style makes each person in the growing cast easily recognizable. Which is always a benefit to the reader.

What I’m looking forward to

I’ve been recently introduced to the principle of “Chekhov’s Gun”, which in summary states

“If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” – From Gurlyand’s Reminiscences of A. P. Chekhov, in Teatr i iskusstvo 1904, No. 28, 11 July, p.¬†521.

I hope Rich Tommaso, adheres to this principle, because there are so many guns in the first two issues. Combined with this stockpile and Tomasso’s brilliantly executed action sequence in the Nicole Breccia story (2nd story of issue #2) it will hopefully be something amazing to look forward to.

Side note: I don’t use the word brilliant very often and when I do it is deliberate. The action sequence I referred to is reason enough to buy issue #2. Most action sequences I have read are a page, maybe 2. The one in Nicol Breccia is 6 pages! (and that’s without the wacky counting I was using before).

Other Thoughts

On the second read of issue two I found Carter’s spending pattern humorous. Going from overly practical to overly excessive. In one frame, alcohol is harmlessly introduced and in subsequent frames the night just gets progressively wilder from there.

But Carter doesn’t act drunk. It clearly impacts his decision making, but not his coordination or his mental faculties. Although he passes out at one point, so maybe he is prone to blacking out when he drinks. It’s not specifically called out in the art, but it seems to fit.

However, in at least 2 cases the absence of alcohol is when he makes his worst & most violent decisions.

Final Thoughts

For fans of the crime genre the first two issues of Dark Corridor are executed beautifully as one whole. Looking forward to seeing if the next few issues can keep up!

One Two Review: Transference

transference

One Two Review looks back at the first two issues of a series and reviews them as a whole. (more details).

Like most of my reviews, this one is about 70% complete. I’m hitting publish now, because if I don’t it will wind up sitting in my drafts folder long after its expiration date.

When it comes to time travel story telling, I’m equally nostalgic for Back to The Future and frustrated that whatever¬† story I’m abut to enjoy will not hold up to Timescape by Gregory Benford.

One element of time travel fiction is explaining how characters are able to time travel… a Flux Capacitor, a phone booth, getting bumped in the head, an angel trying to earn his wings… etc. That is where Timescape begins to leave all other time travel stories behind.

Timescape goes beyond making time travel believable. Simply put: it makes time travel understandable.

Time travel stories will almost always put the timeline at risk. Timescape is the exception where the risk is *not* adjusting the timeline. Which is extremely tense because the book covers whether or not it is even possible to adjust the time stream.

Seriously, if you want to ruin every time travel story you will ever hear, see or read plus all the ones you have already love; Timescape will come as close to possible to accomplishing that task.

In order to keep on enjoying these stories, I have come to terms that none of them will live up to Timescape, because all of them will contradict Timescape.

Back to Transference. The first issue was solid. It was understandable in one reading, but increasingly interesting for each subsequent read.

Second issues tend to be where a series begins to fail as it over compensate for the lack of details in the first, because the first issue needs to be so thrilling and exciting it lacks details. Its job is to hook you. When done well, the second issue serves as hook’s barb.

A great second issue moves the reader from “This is interesting” to “I want to see where this is going”.

Transference #2 delivers well on this because Moreci’s subtle approach to altering the time stream. In most stories, the foundation is that the present is unaware when the time has been altered because the original history never happened.

This is also the foundation for Transference. Yet somehow things are deviating from this principle. And that begs the very dramatic question all great mysteries need to press: How is this even possible?

Catch that? the question relates to mysteries. And that is truly what Transference is: a mystery. The crimes may not be violations of law, but I have no other way to describe them. Which makes me wonder, how will justice be delivered in the series?

Getting to the Point

Transference is billed as a time travel story, but it’s really a high stakes mystery. And I want to see where this is going.

One Two Review: The Spire

spiremain

One Two Review looks back at the first two issues of a series and reviews them as a whole. (more details).

Like most of my reviews, this one is about 70% complete. I’m hitting publish now, because if I don’t it will wind up sitting in my drafts folder long after its expiration date.

The Story

The Spire is a mini-series that defies the laws of storytelling and comes out ahead. On paper it seems like the story takes on too much for it to work. It doesn’t make sense to me how the creative team has been able to keep this story from collapsing under the weight of their ideas. It’s like they are cramming in 10 seasons of random Star Trek episodes from any series plus the movie about the whales into 8 comic books.

But they pull it off, defying all odds and making me very very jealous.

The Spire is procedural drama centered on a heroine who (and this is just off the top of my head)…

  • is being pushed aside because of old grudges.
  • She’s also in a secret romance with another woman
  • She’s “sculpted”. It’s kind of like being a mutant in the Marvel universe, but more complicated. Technically, she is a Medusi, and the only Medusi in the very crowded Spire.
  • Is a trusted adviser to some members in the royal family, but an enemy to others (see the first bullet point)
  • Is wanted by the Medusi
  • Loves bacon (just like me!)

Clearly there’s a lot going on with the heroine, but even more is going on within the Spire. The Baron has died and there are strict formalities which need to be adhered to between all parties. There are warring factions outside of the Spire, which is interesting because the air outside is toxic. The relationships between the Spire and the outside world are complicated, and the relationships within the socioeconomic classes of the Spire are more so.

Oh and something creepy is murdering characters and doing something to their eyeballs.

In short, we have a complex character who lives in an even more complex world.

The Art

If only the above had been described to me, I would have thought that the style of art that would be required to make this work would be more realistic in order to make it easier for readers to understand. But the artistic style used is much more imaginative and it totally works. Especially in the crowded areas in the Spire.

With two issues in I only know a little about the plot, but somehow these two books are captivating. If you like adventure in fantasy worlds, as well as police drama in fantasy worlds, then pickup this title.

The Spire is written by Simon Spurrier with art by Jeff Stokely and is published by Boom Studios.

Til next time…. Proud Stands the Spire!

One Two Review: We Stand On Guard

WeStandOnGuard_02-1

One Two Review is a series where the first two issues of a series are reviewed as a whole. (more details).

Like most of my reviews, this one is about 70% complete. I’m hitting publish now, because if I don’t it will wind up sitting in my drafts folder long after its expiration date.

The Story

An attack on the US government is a used as justification for invading and eventually occupying Canada for years with no end in sight. The main character was a child when the war started, but as an adult stumbles upon a group of Canadian freedom fighters, all of whom are wearing the latest in resistance militia fashion.

My Thoughts

Parts of the story are inventive. I was a little upset with the first issue because the main character essentially commits a war crime at the end and there aren’t consequences for it in the first issue.

Brian K. Vaughan is a highly regarded writer, so I spent the next several weeks wondering if there would be some consequences in issue two. There was not. But I’m not certain that there won’t be consequences for the action in the series.

One contradiction I’m struggling with: Amber mentions in issue one that freedom forces were wiped out in the first year of the war, but in issue two we are shown a US control room where that is clearly not the case.

Aside from that, the second issue builds nicely on the first one. Characters expand on information articulated in the first issue by different characters. For me it created a higher level of credibility for the reader. Which is important when writers are “world building”.

On the topic for the motivations for the invasion and subsequent invasion, one character posits a theory in the first issue that isn’t confirmed but (more importantly) isn’t contradicted. Basically, Canada has a resource and the US wants it.

The plot of the story moves at a snails pace. I honestly don’t know all that much more about the plot of the series from reading the second issue. In the hands of most writers this would be a problem, but I’m giving Vaughan the benefit of the doubt because the plot of each issue (not the overall story) moves at a more comfortable pace. When done well, slowing the pace of a story can be used to build tension and suspense. It’s frequently used in novels, where a few seconds could be described in 30 pages of text. In comic books, it is more difficult because it is a visual medium. Again, I’m trusting Vaughan on this one.

Wild Speculation

I imagine Canada’s history with Great Britain would also have broader consequences for the Invading and Occupying US. Maybe those consequences will be touched upon in subsequent issues as well as how the scarcity of the resource in the US but the abundance of it in Canada has impacted the relations between the two nations before the war. Maybe in this vision of the future the relationship between Canada and Great Britain have also changed?

At some point I hope we learn that there are Canadian sympathizers in the US working against the war. Maybe even going to the point of serving in the Canadian resistance. Given the tone of this story so far, it wouldn’t surprise me if the US swoops in at the last minute to take credit for solving the problem the US created.

Also maybe fun to see the consequences of a US election on the Occupation (again this goes back to the whole broader consequences).

The Art

The art is very appealing. Definitely one of the strongest qualities in the series. But there are times that it works against the script.

  1. Amber has apparently been living out in the wilderness for sometime and hasn’t showered in a really long time. But I never got this impression until she stated it.
  2. It’s freaking winter in Canada and most of them aren’t wearing winter hats.
  3. Seriously, the uniforms of the resistance is way too stylish. Don’t get me wrong. It looks cool. But it also looks like it’s the Canadian GI Joes, which is different from the tone of these issues.

I still haven’t figured out if this is a mini or an ongoing series. Either way I’m looking forward to the next issue.

Introducing the “One Two Review”

Ever judge a book by it’s cover? Good for you! That’s why there are pictures on covers. But selecting books based on their covers alone will have you reading more than your fair share of dull books, when you could have been reading some amazing stuff.

Same goes with first issues for comic books. First issues are big on action and can afford to be light on details, but not every series can carry the moment of the first issue into the second.

So I’m starting the “One Two Review” on Issue 47 to review the first two issues of a series as a whole. Hoping this will be a nice complement to my already popular1 vs 1” series.