Top 5 Indie Comics for Week of 3/13/13

Reviews of Nowhere Men #4 (Image), Hoax Hunters #8 (Image), Buddy Cops #1 (Dark Horse), Star Wars #3 (Dark Horse), and Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror #2(IDW)!

Well, at least a couple of us decided to try something new this week, namely with Nowhere Men #4 and Hoax Hunters #8 (both via Image). There was some serious hilarity in Dark Horse’s Buddy Cops #1, soem vintage goodness in Star Wars #3 (Dark Horse), and some quality golden-age cartoon goodness with Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror #2(IDW).

Buddy Cops #1 (Dark Horse)

Story: Nate Cosby

Art: Evan Shaner

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I needed this book. I needed it so bad. Buddy Cops #1 is like a palate cleanser. In any given week, my ever-increasing pile of comics is capes, capes, and more capes. And when it’s not capes it’s self-loathing or sci-fi or swords or something similar. Why don’t I buy more humor books? Do I not like to laugh? Good Lord, are my comic buying habits actually a cry for help? (don’t answer that)

For real, though, putting aside the tenuous grip on mental health that I have on any given Wednesday, Buddy Cops #1 is pretty darn funny. Regular readers of Dark Horse Presents may want to stay away, as, y’know, you’ve already read the stories that are contained in here. Unless, of course, you’re completists, in which case you’ll probably want to buy this for the two or three page framing device that opens and closes the book, as I’m pretty sure that’s new. Completists in comic book fandom? Ridiculous! I find it hard to believe, myself…

No, honest, I’m gonna talk about the comic now. Buddy Cops is the touching story of two NYPD officers, and their unlikely friendship through good times and bad, large monsters and larger. We have Uranus, an intergalactic champion demoted to the NYPD (ouch) for being a drunk, who also has a perplexing habit of quoting lines from the first Wu Tang Clan album. We also have T.A.Z.E.R. (that’s the Technical Android Zoned for Efficient Resolution for those of you who simply must know). I’ll leave it to you to figure out who is the stodgy, by-the-book cop and who is the loose cannon.

Buddy Cops quite deliberately hits as many ridiculous “buddy cop” clichés as it can fit in each brief story (there are three), not to mention familiar tropes from sitcoms, monster movies, and superhero comics, all of which are deployed for maximum ridiculous comedic effect. The jokes are pretty low, but that’s exactly why they’re funny. Buddy Cops is more than a send-up, it’s also a tribute to the kind of ridiculous camaraderie we’ve come to expect in stories like this, and Cosby delivers in fine fashion. Evan Shaner is one of those guys who is constantly popping up in my field of vision, and it seems whenever I ask myself “Who is the brilliant cartoonist that delivered this little bit of four-color perfection” almost half the time, it turns out to be him. So, even if you’re, I dunno, a robot or something, and don’t find Buddy Cops funny, you can still buckle up and enjoy the hell out of the art.

Review by: Mike Cecchini

Story: 6/10

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Art: 8/10

Overall: 7/10    

 

Star Wars #3 (Dark Horse)

“In the Shadow of Yavin: Part 3”

Script: Brian Wood

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Art: Carlos D’Anda

Colors: Gabe Eltaes

You may have heard a bit of Star Wars news the past few months. It’s all terribly exciting, and, you can count on things reaching a fever pitch for Star Wars fandom in the next few years as plot details and characters are announced. That being said, it seems that Dark Horse Star Wars comics have a soon-to-expire shelf date on them. Dark Horse was the company that kept the Star Wars franchise on life support between Return of the Jedi and the Phantom Menace, and when Lucas’ universe finally moves over to the Disney owned Marvel, it will truly be the end of an era for Dark Horse. In the meantime, Dark Horse has turned to one of the most prolific writers in comics to guide the adventure of Luke, Leia, Vader, and Han. Right now, Brian Wood is penning the world’s most famous barbarian, two alternative versions of the X-Men, a dystopian tale of environmental disaster, and a story about a disgraced super volleyball star. Why not add Star Wars to the mix?

Wood’s exemplary character work shines in this issue. His Han sounds like Han, and the smuggler’s interactions with Chewbacca are a joy to read. This isn’t easy to pull off, because in a comic, the dialogue can easily become a monologue when one of the characters doesn’t talk. One dialogue trick that doesn’t work is when Wood resorts to technical jargon. In the films, when the characters start with the technobabble, there is usually something happening on screen that diverts the viewer’s attention. The dialogue adds color to an exciting sequence, but in a comic, when Leia and Wedge explain how an X-Wing works; the reader is forced to trudge through meaningless jargon. What works in one medium does not always translate into another.

What is translating is the growth of characters whose every aspect of their being is so familiar that there is almost nothing left to surprise readers. Yet, Wood shows how Luke grew from a farmboy into a hero between Star Wars and the Empire Strikes Back. Luke is a brash and cocky young man still exalting in the victory of the Death Star. Wood shows readers the effects of the trauma Leia had to endure as Vader forced her to watch Alderaan be destroyed. This is the most gripping moment of the comic, as the films never lingered on what this would do to Leia. While Leia struggles with her loss and Luke must learn the meaning of heroism, Han is Han. Every scene he is in promises action and bold moments. 

So, while the Star Wars news is coming fast and furious, don’t forget the fine work Wood and Dark Horse are doing as we transition into the next era. Some exciting stuff from the people who kept Star Wars vital in the years between the films. And, yes Alex Ross, do more Star Wars covers, please. Wow.

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Review by: Marc Buxton

Story: 7/10

Art: 6/10

Overall: 7/10

 

Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror #2 (IDW)

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“These Troubled Times”

Writer: Roger Langridge

Artist: J. Bone

As much fun as Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror is, has been, and probably will continue to be, it’s doing something that I’m seriously going to hold against Roger Langridge and J. Bone, and they’re gonna regret it. It’s making me kind of desperate for a Doc Savage comic by Langridge and Bone. Yeah, I know. File under: things I never knew I wanted until it was dangled right in front of me.

As is generally the case in pretty much any Rocketeer story, folks are trying to get their grubby mitts on Cliff’s rocket pack. It happens. What’s great about this particular variation is that the guys trying to do the gettin’ are employees of the pack’s inventor, who, in case you don’t know, would be legendary pulp superman Doc Savage. Yes, I realize that if you only know the Rocketeer via the wonderful Joe Johnston film, you probably associate the tech with Howard Hughes and not Clark Savage, Jr. That’s fine. I forgive you. After all, Dave Stevens didn’t really refer to Doc and friends by name in his original stories anyway, a tradition which Langridge and Bone keep up here…even though that’s TOTALLY “Monk” Mayfair and “Ham” Brooks busting Cliff’s chops in this issue!

Anyway, I digress. What is it (aside from Doc Savage) that makes me want to just give Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror #2 a hug? It could be Langridge’s perfect pacing and dialogue, or it could be J. Bone’s even more perfect cartooning. Would you want to be the creative team to follow Mark Waid and Chris Samnee on a book like this? No. Of course you wouldn’t. But Langridge and Bone are doing a fine job, and deserve just as much acclaim as the fellas who usually get all of the love.

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The story itself kinda ambles along, as Cliff and Betty are trying to figure out the reason Betty’s roommate disappeared, all while cult-leader/mad scientist Otto Rune (who sure does look a bit like Grant Morrison when he gets all dressed up) aggressively solicits donations for his doomsday cult, with some hefty Cthulu-like overtones. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Langridge and Bone have combined elements of the Rocketeer, Doc Savage, and the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, apparently by reading the manual on “how to get Mike to gush about your comic by referencing stuff he likes.”

If you aren’t buying these IDW Rocketeer minis, I suggest you correct this fundamental flaw in your Wednesday buying habits as close to immediately as possible. Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror is perfectly accessible to new readers, or folks who are only familiar with this world through the film, but it’s also a nice treat for folks who wish Dave Stevens was still with us. And, y’know, maybe if we buy enough of these, IDW will give us a Doc Savage comic!

Review by: Mike Cecchini

Story: 7/10

Art: 8/10

Overall: 8/10

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Hoax Hunters #8 (Image)

Writer: Michael Moreci

Artist: Axel Medellin

Color Artist: Charo Solis

I have to admit this was my first time picking up Hoax Hunters. We all have that comic we have been checking out on the shelf week after week but we never pick up. For me, that was Hoax Hunters. See, I adore shows like Monster Quest, Is It Real? and other “mystery” shows. So that’s exactly why I was in love with the concept of Hoax Hunters, which deals with a television show that seeks to separate fact from fiction while, of course, simultaneously covering up evidence of the supernatural and fantastical. It’s a bit like Monster Quest meets the X-Files with some Men in Black for good measure.

Of course, like the good little reviewer I am, I made sure to at least catch up on the ongoing arc before entering the mysterious world of Hoax Hunters. I have to admit I was a little disappointed. Maybe my expectations were just too high. Or maybe this issue wasn’t the best of the series so far. But I was just a little…bored. And I can’t even believe I’m writing that. How could one be bored when reading about the ethics of destroying evil gnomes? Gnomes which may not be real because they were only brought to existence by the imaginations of the people living in the town of Hauncheyville?!? How could I be bored when presented with witchcraft, golems, and astronaut suits full of crows? I don’t know. But I was.

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Hoax Hunters #8 just didn’t seem to really go anywhere, and that’s a shame because from what I understand, this issue is the last of this arc. It almost read like a soap opera, with just a lot of interpersonal drama and not a lot of actual “hoax hunting.” This issue spent most of its time focusing on the relationships of the hoax hunters and their ethical dilemmas with Donovan, who seems to want to play bad cop to their good cop, and the team isn’t too happy about that. They are attempting to cover up the evidence that Hauncheyville may be one of the few places on Earth where the residents can imagine things into existence, but all their collective imagination could come up with were some flammable gnomes. I think I would have dreamt up some unicorns. I’m not sure what to think about that but needless to say the gnomes are no more by the end of the issue.

But just because I was bored doesn’t mean I won’t try again next issue. After all, coming into a comic fairly cold isn’t the best strategy for a good review, and I recognize that. I’m really hoping that next issue a little more…happens. If the end is any indicator, we might be seeing some zombies next issue. I can only hope! I should mention the art was good. I really appreciate the gnomes on the front cover. It reminds me of a pissed off garden gnome. And it’s one of the reasons I was attracted to the issue in the first place. The art inside is also well done and creative.

So what did you think? Am I totally wrong to be bored? Have any suggestions for indie horror/sci-fi comics I should be reading instead? Comment below!

Review by: Ethan Lewis

Story: 4/10

Art: 7/10

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Overall: 5/10

 

Nowhere Men #4 (Image)

Writer: Eric Stephenson

Artist: Nate Bellegarde

Colorist: Jordie Bellaire

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Lettering Design: Fonografiks

Nowhere Men could be the smartest, most original comic I’m reading right now. I’d give you a “basic, simple” premise to get you started, but “basic” and “simple” aren’t really how this book operates. Is it Mad Men with mad scientists? No, not really. Is it kind a sideways superhero book with a heavy focus on science? Not quite. So, what the hell is it?

The closest parallel I can draw for you if you aren’t already reading Nowhere Men is its similarity to Grant Morrison’s Invisibles. Not in terms of plot, violence, or in it being some kind of self-actualizing magic spell disguised as a comic book or anything like that. I mean in terms of its sly nods to mod culture and fashion, and psychedelic music. The Nowhere Men (who, it should be noted, aren’t referred to as such in the comics) are four super-scientists who, in their younger days, were partners in World Corp., a scientific collective able to advance humanity faster than we could possibly imagine. The parallels in their look and their interpersonal squabbling will immediately bring The Beatles to mind (and early on, “science is the new rock n’ roll” is a repeated motif between them), but the greater similarities are really to the early days of Pink Floyd, emphasized most heavily by Thomas Walker’s physical resemblance to Syd Barrett and his psychedelic explorations and subsequent withdrawal from public life. There are other Floyd-ian easter eggs hidden throughout Nowhere Men, and in this issue in particular, but I leave it to you other freaks to find ‘em all.

Since the story jumps around in time and space quite a bit, it’s rather pointless to try and summarize Nowhere Men #4. However, it should be enough for you to know that the mysterious virus that was transforming the young research scientists on the space station has continued to transform them, even after abandoning ship. And it turns out this virus is so powerful that it can even have “adverse effects” on folks who come into contact with the pieces of the space station, even after they’re, y’know, space station mcnuggets. Meanwhile, one of the original World Corp scientists has awoken from a coma, feeling rather good about himself, and acting like he’s ready to make some serious changes.

There’s some real “body horror” woven through this comic, and Nate Bellegarde’s visuals handle this perfectly. Some characters seem okay with their transformations (no matter how radical), others are seemingly detached from the awful reality of their situation, and some are merely transformed internally…and Bellegarde manages to somehow communicate that as well. Eric Stephenson has, in the course of just four issues, crafted a fully-realized fictional world, just off center of our own. I’m not quite sure how all the pieces fit just yet, but I’ll stick around for as long as it takes.

Review by: Mike Cecchini

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Story: 8/10

Art: 8/10

Overall: 8/10

 

 

 

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