Comic BooksReview

All the Full Volume Reviews We Forgot About Because of Summer Break

Phillip Morgan ‘18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

0u3fL3NXW8AAAAABJRU5ErkJggg==
Image Source: Tumblr

Really, the title of this article speaks for itself. We’ve been way too busy this summer reading comics, eating pizza, sleeping long past noon, and raging/fangirling over the various Comic Con trailers to get to all the full volume reviews we would’ve liked. We apologize, because there’ve been some amazing releases over the summer that you should check out immediately, the most recent of which we’ll get to in their own reviews soon. But for now, here are the full volumes at the head of the indie comics world that deserve your attention. Summer might be over, but good comics are forever.

The Life After Volume 1

STK653603-665x1024

 

Writer: Joshua Hale Fialkov

 Artist: Gabo

 Publisher: Oni Press

 

 

Image Comics and BOOM! Studios have been dominating the independent comics scene for quite some time now, but The Life After is proof that Oni Press isn’t going down without a fight. The idea that the afterlife is one colossal bureaucracy that borrows from all religious faiths is pretty fun on its own, but then Fialkov and Gabo set the weirdness to maximum, throwing in alien races, an army of deceased infants bent on revenge, and Ernest Hemingway as  Jude’s Obi-Wan Kenobi (?!). The story begins with Jude accidentally tapping himself out of purgatory’s artificial environment to discover everyone in his sector is reliving their suicide on repeat, and the only ones who see the truth are him and Hemingway, dressed in his finest Mr. Rogers cosplay. As we explore some of Purgatory’s other sections and meet more of the Afterlife’s Bureaucracy, we discover that not even death has saved people from the crushing oppression of a rigid class system, and the “angels” seem way more interested in maintaining the status quo than reassessing who really belongs where (especially when Jude’s touch reveals how people died and why they are in their particular section, often with heartbreaking results). Fialkov’s writing chops are in full force as he writes a believable and funny Hemingway, to say nothing of the rest of the fantastic cast, and Gabo’s art brings all the charm and creepiness of the Great Beyond centerfold. There’s nothing quite like The Life After out there right now, so we strongly suggest putting down your copy of The Sun Also Rises and checking it out.

Final Score: 9/10

Roche Limit Volume 1: “Anomalous”

RocheLimit_Vol1-1

 

Writer: Michael Moreci

Artist: Vic Malhotra

Publisher: Image Comics

 

Image Comics is rarely in short supply of sci-fi titles, but this is shaping up to be the most well-written and unique one in the pile (that isn’t Saga). In the not-too distant future, thanks to some founders of questionable optimism/intentions humanity has finally cracked deep space travel, setting up the Roche Limit colony on the distant planet Dispater. Sadly, the people’s susceptibility to greed and vice followed them, and soon Roche Limit went from being the purported way station for further exploration into the cosmos to a crime-ridden hellhole bent on manufacturing an extremely powerful hallucinogen called Recall from Dispater’s minerals. Also there’s a creepy space anomaly hovering near the planet that’s driven anyone who’s tried to investigate it to suicide, insanity, or… well, why ruin the horrific surprise? Enter Alex, the man who first discovered how to make Recall and is therefore the most wanted man on Roche Limit and Sonja, an NYPD detective whose come to the colony to find her sister (who is also Alex’s girlfriend). Together, they take on the entire criminal element of Roche Limit, including a drug lord who is also a Russian Samurai and the unstable scientist who’s figured out the terrifying secret connection between Recall and the anomaly… that we’re definitely not gonna tell you. With influences ranging from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Bladerunner to Cowboy Bebop, this first arc of the Roche Limit Trilogy packs enough dark, high-brow science fiction, socio-political commentary, and crushing emotional stakes to easily soar to the top tier of Image Comics’ catalogue. If you read only one sci-fi series this year (that isn’t Saga), this is the one to pick up.

Final Score: 9/10

Wayward Volume 1: “String Theory”

WaywardVol01Cover-FRONT-HC

 

Writer: Jim Zub

Artist: Steven Cummings

Publisher: Image Comics

 

In the foreword to the first volume of Wayward, writer Jim Zub stresses that he and artist Steven Cummings aim to showcase the “real Japan” in this series. Not the outlandish, ultra poppy, and bizarrely sex-crazed nation pop culture has convinced us is Japan, Zub and Cummings strive to portray an accurate representation of the country they’ve grown so fond of… while also taking advantage of Japan’s claim of “most haunted country on Earth” and filling Tokyo with as many yokai as they can in all their horrific glory. Joining the rapidly growing list of kickass heroines in indie comics is Rori Lane, a half-Irish half-Japanese teenager who’s moving to Tokyo for the first time following her parents’ divorce. The culture shock is already pretty staggering, but then while exploring Tokyo Rori is accosted by some would-be molester who turn out to be Yokai in flesh suits. But it’s ok because not only does she discover she has weird teleportation powers based around tracking lines of spiritual energy only she can see, but she also meets a girl who can turn into freaking cats (eat your heart out, internet). She meets two more supernaturally-aware teenagers as the yokai continue attacking her, and unfortunately the drive to set them up as a fledgling super team does give way to slipshod pacing. We don’t spend nearly as much time with her mother as we probably should, and a huge bombshell about Rori is dropped on her first day at school and is frustratingly never addressed again. But overall, this is a fun start to an exciting new series for people who want supernatural Japan without the anime insanity.

Final Score: 8/10

Low Volume 1: “The Delirium of Hope”

516INbxH3pL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Writer: Rick Remender

Artist: Greg Tocchini

Publisher: Image Comics

Now on an indefinite hiatus from Marvel Comics, the writing guru who made Sam Wilson the new  Captain America and penned runaway indie hits Deadly Class and Black Science returns with his latest offering for Image Comics, Low. Set in a distant, bleak future where humanity has fled underwater to escape a now poisonous sun, consumed by vicious pirates and their own lack of hope… except for Della Cain. She’s an optimist in a dying world, and determined to get her family to safety, even if it means going up against the most dangerous pirates under the sea (that look vaguely like Scottish Aquaman) to rescue her two daughters… only one of which she actually finds. But don’t worry, they have mech-suits that put the Big Daddies in Bioshock to shame, and Remender’s script is still the blend of razor-sharp wit, high-octane violence, and emotional sucker punches we’ve come to love. Joining him is yet another superstar artist, Greg Tocchini, whose muted colors and more fluid linework give Low an aesthetic reminiscent of a watercolor painting, appropriate for drawing a world plagued by uncertainty and despair in the dark depths of the sea. Between the gripping family drama (even more so than in Black Science) and the intriguing setting that bravely answers the question, “What if Waterworld had been cool?” it seems Rick Remender is Image Comics’ own personal Jesus. And he’s still got one more on the horizon.

Final Score: 9/10

The Woods Volume 2: “The Swarm”

22609177

 

 

Writer: James Tynion IV

Artist: Michael Dialynas

Publisher: BOOM! Studios

 

 

When The Woods first hit the shelves, we thought we were getting a story about six kids struggling to survive long enough in the mysterious forest to discover why their entire high school was beamed to another planet, encountering all manner of hellish alien flora and fauna along the way (sort of like a sci-fi/horror version of Stand by Me). Then the medieval hunter bros showed up at the end of issue #4 and instead of a haphazard trek through a forest filled with death (and minty green tiger-bears), Volume 2 shows us flashback stories about our six heroes during the school’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream while the LARPers Three discuss “The Swarm,” the alien race that allegedly brought them to The Woods and has been guiding Adrian to them with the markers from Volume 1. The entire value of the second volume comes from Dialynas’ art (still as beautiful and creepy as ever) and the character work, especially in the flashback vignettes that are as revealing as they are heartbreaking (poor Calder). Unfortunately, the main story can’t quite measure up. We’re not shown or given any reason to fear The Swarm other than “GAH THEY’RE ALIENS RUN AWAY,” and excessive focus on the tension between the kids and the Hunters severely curtails the unnatural dread of the forest. This is still worth checking out for the character moments alone, but it looks like anyone who was hoping for The Woods to embrace its horror leanings may be in for disappointment going forward.

Final Score: 7/10

 

Southern Bastards Volume 2: “Gridiron”

SouthernBastards_tp_02

 

Writer: Jason Aaron

Artist: Jason Latour

Publisher: Image Comics

 

 

If you haven’t read Volume 1 of this amazing, emotionally devastating series yet, leave now and go fix that. As for the rest of you, welcome to the world without Earl Tubb, who was brutally murdered with his own stick by the ruthless Craw County Football Coach/Mob Kingpin Euless Boss. If you were thinking Aaron and Latour were gonna take a moment to slow down and address the emotional fallout of losing our would-be protagonist… they do, but in a way so horrifying any other series would find it absurd: from the perspective of Euless Boss himself. Buckle up kids, because the “Gridiron” story arc dives headfirst into Boss’ psyche, showing just what pushed him this far into the darkness. The short answer (predictably) is his borderline obsessive love of football. The long answer is everything else, and the trip down memory lane is not afraid to show you the South at its absolute worst. There’s racism, child abuse, blood, hazing, and all kinds of heinous violence, and that what makes young Euless’ training with wise old Big all the more tragic. We know how it all ends, and it’s even more terrifying, which leads us to the unthinkable: we sympathize with young Euless. Sure, he’s a far cry from the reluctant hero Earl grew into, but his drive to become the best linebacker Craw County has ever seen is moving, and his relationships feel real and raw, even if they’re all tainted by hatred. Don’t expect any happy endings for anyone involved, but fans of the first volume can attest that this is a series that’s just so intense about its emotional turmoil and nonchalant about its bloodshed that we can’t bear to look away, and neither should you.

Final Score: 9/10

 

Sundowners Volume 1

51maHI+P7gL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

 

Writer: Tim Seeley

Artist: Jim Terry

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

 

 

Costumed vigilantes posing on the cover aside, readers looking for a pure indie superhero epic in the vein of Invincible or Astro City may want to back out now, because Sundowners reads more like a dark fantasy/psychological horror hybrid wherein the characters raided a Party City beforehand. In fact, the super team we get to know over the course of this volume isn’t even really a team, it’s a self help group and their self-absorbed, possibly sociopathic group leader who believes all their supposed superpowers are just manifestations of their psychosis. Rather than tell typical “the people in the ward are sane and everybody else is crazy” story, Sundowners excels at blurring the line between superpower and mental breakdown. Concerned Citizen’s in-depth knowledge of the neighborhood may serve him well in defending those traveling at night, but it also fuels his paranoia and ex-wife stalking. Arcanika’s is from an abusive religious cult and believes sinning gives her superpowers due to an ongoing bet between God and the Devil, but it may just be her rationalization for kleptomania. What’s weirdest of all about this series is by the end of the first volume, we still don’t have a definitive answer for if the interdimensional danger our heroes are fighting is real or in their heads, and while that may prove frustrating after a while the sheer insanity of these characters and what they’re allegedly up against is more than enough to hook you in. For now, there’s no figuring out the boatload of crazy that is Dark Horse’s Sundowners, so you may as well just enjoy the ride.

Final Score: 8/10

 

East of West Volume 4: “Who Wants War?”

EastofWest_vol4-1

 

 

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Artist: Nick Dragotta

Publisher: Image Comics

 

 

Like pretty much all of Jonathan Hickman’s work, East of West is one of those comics that’s difficult to judge volume-by-volume due to the massive scope of its story, especially since the latest volume is pitched as “Year Two of the Apocalypse.” The inclusion of a guide to the Seven Great Nations is pretty handy, but that’s not gonna save any newcomers who have no business starting here in the first place. For those who’ve been following East of West, this is not so much a full story so much as a “Where is everybody now?” kind of volume, but fret not, even the briefest vignettes are spot-on and feel like a natural progression for the characters following the high-octane conclusion of “There is No Us.” The Endless Nation’s ominous presence is beginning to come into focus as the technological and political superpower of North America (just ask the freshly decimated Republic of Texas), and we can’t wait to finally get a peek inside in the next arc. But the two pieces that hit the hardest are the vignettes focused on Death and Mao Xiaolin and the haunting final two issues featuring Ezra, Babylon, and Balloon. Easily the most adorable murderous AI since Darth Vader’s new friends, Balloon’s brainwashing of Babylon is some of the most chilling character work of this year, and having a hold on the son of Death is more than enough to cement Balloon as the newest major threat on the playing field. Hickman and Dragotta may just be laying the groundwork for something even bigger here, but that doesn’t mean this volume doesn’t earn its place on the shelves for the readers in it for the long haul.

Final Score: 8/10

 

ODY-C Volume 1: “Off to Far Ithicaa

ODY_C_v01_Off_To_Far_Ithicaa_2015_Digital_T

 

Writer: Matt Fraction

Artist: Christian Ward

Publisher: Image Comics

 

 

Matt Fraction has done it. He’s actually managed to write a comic even more erotic than Sex Criminals, which at one point featured an ex-pornstar stopping time via nipple clamps. The man who made Hawkeye Marvel’s coolest solo title returns to Image Comics with what at first sounds like a simple premise: a sci-fi retelling of Homer’s The Odyssey in which every character is either female or non-binary and the title has become the name of their spaceship. Then artist Christian Ward finds his way to the drawing board and suddenly ODY-C morphs into a psychedelic space trip that would make David Bowie proud and probably become the background screen at a Phish concert a few months later. We’re talking Poseidon wearing a dress made of space itself. We’re talking a cyclops with at least twelve breasts. We’re talking a lesbian pleasure room on the Isle of the Lotus literally made out of giant breasts. And we guarantee you’ll be as freaked out and awed by the scope and majesty of it all as we were (as unsettling as some images are, this is some of the best art we’ve seen this year). In a surprising (and inevitably polarizing) departure from his usual style, Fraction commits to the narrative of the Greek epoch, narrating the adventures of Odyssia and her crew through the gods’ perspective, and the snappy dialogue between the not-so all-knowing goddesses as they scheme to prevent Odyssia from reaching Ithicaa is vintage Fraction wit. Even if you’re still having violent flashbacks from having to read the original story in high school, there’s no reason not to at least give ODY-C a chance. Besides, you know you wanna see the Lotus Pleasure Room.  

Final Score: 9/10

Tags

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Close