Top 5 Indie Comics Releases for 1/9/13

The Den of Geek staff's round up of some more favorites from Wednesday, January 9th, highlighted by some winners from Dark Horse, Image, and IDW!

Hard science fiction and horror dominated our staff’s favorite books released on January 9th, 2013. So whether you’re into zombies, kaiju, vampires, psychological horror, or sci-fi, this was your week!

B.P.R.D. #103 (Dark Horse)

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“Hell On Earth: The Abyss Of Time” (part 1 of 2)

Writers: Mike Mignola and Scott Allie

Artist: James Harren

Colors: Dave Stewart

I know. The title, right? I want to start off by reassuring you that there’s no need to be intimidated. The B.P.R.D. books have traditionally been presented as a long string of miniseries, designated with the arc title and the number of the issue within said arc. Beginning with B.P.R.D. “Hell On Earth The Return Of The Master: Part 3 of 5” (Don’t run away. I’m watching you), Dark Horse switched to the more traditional consecutive numbering system. I understand why they did it. The book had reached its 100 issue mark and with all of the re-vamping of DC and Marvel’s titles, issue numbers that high are becoming a rare commodity. Why not wear it with pride?

B.P.R.D. #103 tries to frighten you off on its first page, letting you know that the events within take place before the previous arc. Again, hold your ground. While I wholeheartedly recommend reading the previous arc (and all previous issues, for that matter), you will not be left in the dust if this is your first B.P.R.D. comic. All you need to understand going in, is that the B.P.R.D. investigate paranormal happenings across the globe. You are now up to speed.

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This issue follows a small group of agents as they discover the secret meeting place of eighteenth century occultists, The Heliopic Temple of Ra. The cult had been run out of Europe during the Jack the Ripper murders and they apparently absconded to Chicago, Illinois. Their meeting place is now abandoned, but numerous artifacts were left behind. One of the agents discovers an ancient blade and is knocked out cold upon touching it. The issue then time-warps back to the Stone Age, to follow a tribe of warriors and give us the backstory of the mysterious blade.

Mike Mignola and Scott Allie handle the writing like the seasoned veterans they are. They present their exposition organically and always take care not to alienate new readers. The pace is steady and the dialogue is crisp and natural.

James Harren’s artwork is likewise, approachable. He is as adept at creating quiet moments of impending danger as he is at presenting dynamic scenes of action, blood and fury. His panels are clean, clear, rich and a pleasure to get sucked into. I’d take time to praise Dave Stewart’s colors, but at this point in the game it’d be like saying “Hey water! Good job, being wet!” He is a master of the highest caliber.

Don’t let the title scare you. This is the perfect time to join the party. 

review by: Bob Chamberlain

Story: 7/10

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Art: 8/10

Overall: 8/10

Clone #3 (Image)

Story: David Schulner

Art: Juan Jose

Colors: Felix Serrano 

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Science, cloning, action, heroism…what is NOT to love about Image Comics’ Clone #3? In only three issues, David Schulner has created a gripping, intriguing, and unique story that will keep us coming back for more. For starters, the cover is cool as hell, depicting Luke falling into a pile of his dead clones.

In Clone #3, Luke is led into a holding cell, stuck there while Amelia is attempting to give birth to their baby. In dialogue with Patrick (the man who led him to the cell), Patrick references the biblical story of Esau and Jacob. Afterwards, Patrick leads Luke into a room containing hundreds of Luke’s dead clones below. This page features the most notable artwork in this issue, with Luke and Patrick standing on the bridge over a river of Luke’s dead clones. It’s a chilling site, one that I could not imagine seeing in my life. 

Upon escaping the holding cell, Luke discovers that one of his clones was a torture artist who was in the middle of torturing one of their other clones. Luke decides to rescue the clone, and the two Lukes escape the guards. Luke hears Amelia screaming from down the hall, and runs towards the screams.

Why is Amelia screaming? Amelia is forced into labor with petocin via scientists that are trying to harvest the baby for stem cell research. One of the scientists is only concerned with studying the baby–Amelia and the baby’s life is of no importance to him. The evil-doing scientist tells the other scientist to cut the baby out, but at that moment, Amelia feels the baby coming out, and begins pushing. The end of the issue is the birth of the baby, who Felix Serrano colored a few shades too purple.

David Schulner has truly written a fantastically creative new title based in the world of science fiction, yet the science fiction portion could actually be a reality in humanity’s future, which is probably the reason we like this book so much. His writing thinks outside of the box, and includes details (such as the use of petocin) which many writers would not have included. As far as Juan Jose’s artwork, it is just as good as the previous two issues. Jose’s artwork isn’t the main focus of the book, Schulner’s story is–but that doesn’t mean Jose’s artwork is lackluster by any means. His art is well drawn and detailed in all of the right places, for the most part. However, his panels can become sloppy, at times. While the sloppiness is minimal, it’s noticeable to the trained eye. As I touched upon earlier, Felix Serrano’s coloring of the baby on the last page shouldn’t have been so purple, but I will forgive the mistake, as the rest of the book looks fantastic. 

Clone #3 is quickly becoming one of Image Comic’s showcase titles. Schulner and Jose make a great team, and have created a unique science fiction based comic that we are beginning to love.  Schulner’s writing is fantastic, and is deserving of a 9 out of 10 rating. Jose’s artwork is well done and deserves an 8 out of 10 rating. Overall, Clone #3 is well deserving of an 8.5 out of 10 from us here at Den of Geek.

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review by: Robert Bernstein

Story: 9/10

Art: 8/10

Overall: 8.5/10

Godzilla #8 (IDW)

“Somewhere, Somehow, Something Is Going To Pay.”

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Writer: Duane Swierczynski

Artist: Simon Gane

Frank Darabont, huh? Frank Darabont is writing a Godzilla movie. While we all recover from our collective geekgasm and are now forced to wait for the finished film, the only real Godzilla material we have is IDW’s Godzilla. Now, non-film Godzilla is always a tricky thing. You need a human narrative center, because you just can’t have 22 pages of buildings being smashed (unless Eric Powell or Art Adams is on art). Coming up with that point-of-view character is complicated because the entire readership came for the kaiju rumble, yet a capable writer must ensure there is an emotional center that will force readers to come back for the human narrative. Yet, any Godzilla fan will tell you that, as a kid, the “people talking parts” were the popcorn or potty break during Monster Week. What to do?

Well, for starters, you create a crew that is funny, tragic, and compelling which is just what Swierczynski did with Boxer and company. Boxer and his son Harrison are part of a small band of specialists that are adept at monster hunting. They try to bring down Godzilla, while the seemingly nefarious Dr. Pohl tries to trap the King for his own means. With the doctor, is his young charge, Hikari, who like all young girls in a kaiju story, takes pity on the monster.

Swierczynski does an adept job of making the reader care for Boxer and company. He focuses on the gruff comedy and obsessive nature of the character and truly makes the audience root for him to succeed. This is where the book shines, in the almost impossible task of making the non-behemoths interesting.

While the race to take down Godzilla goes on, the Mothra twins are held captive in the U.N. (never a good idea). The twins prophesize dire consequences if Mothra and Godzilla are not left alone. Just as the words are spoken, four kaiju menaces land on Earth bent on destruction. All four will be familiar to kaiju fans. The next issue promises a serious monster rumble, but readers will have the extra bonus in that they will care about what happens to Boxer, Harrison, and Hikari while the monsters duke it out. 

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Having the book narrated by Harrison, who never speaks, gives the book an emotional core that is pivotal to giving the monster chaos meaning. Don’t let the human elements scare you away if you were one of those kids that hated the talky scenes, there are plenty of monster splash pages provided by Simon Gane, and page after page of fire and rubble.

review by: Marc Buxton

Story: 8/10

Art: 7/10

Overall: 7.5/10 (9/10 if you’re a Godzilla connoisseur)

Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s The Strain #10 (Dark Horse)

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Writer: David Lapham

Artist: Mike Huddleston

Colors: Dan Jackson

Dark Horse Comics’ The Strain is an adaptation of the 2009 novel by filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth) and author Chuck Hogan (Prince Of Thieves, adapted in 2010 as “The Town” starring Ben Affleck). The Strain is the first book of a horror trilogy, which was continued in 2010 with The Fall and concluded in 2011’s The Night Eternal.

The story revolves around the outbreak of a vampire “virus” that ravages New York City. The biology of these vampires begins with the introduction of a “capillary worm” which incurably alters the human host’s physiology, evolving the victim into a blood-hungry grotesque. The vampires in The Strain are not Euro-trash, they aren’t brooding pretty-boys in trench coats, and they don’t sparkle. They are monsters.

Issue #10 is the penultimate installment of the comic, so if you have not been keeping up-to-date, you may want to do so before picking up this issue, or, y’know, “wait for the trade”.

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David Lapham does a solid job of adapting the prose. The characters feel like they did in the novel and the story beats, while obviously altered to fit the publishing pace of the comic, work well. For me, the only real drawback is that the comic page is incapable of giving the same depth of place, situation and character that the novel does. Ultimately, comic book adaptations of other mediums tend to fall short because the storytelling was never set up to take advantage of comic’s strengths. The end product usually feels either rushed, or in worse cases, cheap. The Strain, as a comic, is absolutely entertaining, but I never felt like I was enriching the experience I already had with the novel.

Lapham is a skilled writer however, so if you plan to experience this story in comic form only, you will get more than your money’s worth out of it. Mike Huddleston’s art style works well with the subject. While the quiet moments seem to feel a little too static and the variety of facial expressions isn’t quite at the level I prefer in a book, the action is fast and the violence is mean, brutal and bloody.

FX has ordered a pilot for a television series of The Strain and I highly recommend you experience the story in one of the printed forms before it airs. While I can’t really recommend the comic version above the original novel, the comic is an acceptable substitute.

review by: Bob Chamberlain

Story: 6/10

Art: 6/10

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Overall: 6/10  

Walking Dead #106 (Image)

Writer: Robert Kirkman

Pencils: Charlie Adlard

After Negan took a hot iron to the faces of his wife and Mark in the previous issue, Walking Dead #106 begins with Carl asking Negan if he can re-wrap his face to cover his hideous eye socket. After Negan denies Carl’s request, the two get into an argument, and Negan threatens to punish the brave boy worse than he’s ever been punished in his life.

After a failed attempt at trying to find Carl, Rick and company return back to base to wallow in their disappointment. Obviously, Rick doesn’t want to give up looking for his son and Negan, but the group convinces him to try again in the morning. In the middle of the night, Rick is woken by Jesus (the character not the religious figure) who tells Rick he knows where Negan and his men are hiding. Rick tells Jesus that Carl has disappeared since Jesus left, and asks if he’s seen Carl at Negan’s compound. Jesus mentions that he heard gunfire as he was leaving Negan’s spot, at which point Rick details that Abraham’s machine gun is missing.

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Rick gathers Michonne, Jesus and Andrea into the group van and heads for Negan’s palace.  Jesus explains how difficult it’s going to be to infiltrate the wall, because Negan has it surrounded by zombies. The group tries to come up with a plan but come up empty until Rick suggests just knocking on the door. Rick wants to do this because it will surprise Negan and throw him off, as well as let Negan know that Rick knows where Negan lives.

While on their way to Negan’s spot, the group actually meets Negan on the road, who is coincidentally on the way to see Rick about Carl. Negan says that he can’t wait for Rick to see what he’s done to Carl.

Kirkman’s story is well written, as usual, minus the few pages of Aaron and Eric’s story. Aaron and Eric are simply too hollow to care about. Other than that, the story is filled with exciting moments. Carl is a tough little man that does not show his fear of Negan. The page where Rick and the group were surrounded by zombies was hectic and exciting. Unfortunately, the void caused by issue #100‘s revelation is still quite noticeable. Glenn was too likeable of a character to just be written out of the book, and without him, the readers don’t have that character they can relate to. I know Kirkman is no stranger to killing off main characters but I’m still seeing a void there.

Charlie Adlard’s art is good, but some of the panels look muddy and rushed. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and I’ll probably get attacked by my followers for this), but I’d like to see Walking Dead make the transition to color. You’re over 100 issues through, and the novelty of black and white is starting to wear off. It’s the perfect time to make the change.

review by: Robert Bernstein 

Story: 7.5/10

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Art: 7/10

Overall: 7/10

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