The GeeksverseFirst Impressions | The Crow: Curare, Joe Hill’s Thumbprint, Six-Gun Gorilla, Wild Blue Yonder, and more

First Impressions | The Crow: Curare, Joe Hill’s Thumbprint, Six-Gun Gorilla, Wild Blue Yonder, and more
Published on Wednesday, June 19, 2013 by
It’s time once again for Zedric and Troy to review a new round of series debuts. This week, we take a look at The Crow: Curare #1, Joe Hill’s Thumbprint #1, The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys #1, Six-Gun Gorilla #1, and Wild Blue Yonder #1. NOTE: Unless otherwise indicated, all reviewed issues were digital copies provided free-of-charge by their respective publishers.

The Crow: Curare #1 0f 3 (IDW, $3.99) [EDITOR’S PICK]

  • Crow_curare01-pr-001Writer: James O’Barr
  • Artist: Antoine Dodé
  • Letterer: Shawn Lee

While James O’Barr’s The Crow is a sentimental and nostalgic favorite from my adolescence, I’ve never really felt all that interested in the various film, print, and television iterations and spin-offs of the property that have come down the line after the cult-favorite small press comic’s iconic protagonist blew up as a pop culture phenomenon in the wake of Alex Proyas’ excellent 1994 film adaptation. The very same qualities that made The Crow such a huge international success as a comic book and a film—the basic revenge-from-beyond-the-grave conceit, the protagonist’s simple-yet-effective character design, the ties to popular music favored by youth who fancied themselves as outcasts from mainstream culture—also contributed to the ease with which the property descended into a hackneyed, one-note trope and eventual South Park punchline.

Last year, O’Barr returned to writing new Crow stories in earnest after a hiatus that stretched all the way back into the previous century with IDW’s The Crow: Skinning the Wolves, a three-issue miniseries set in a Nazi concentration camp during WWII. Strains of the supernatural horror and revenge fantasy of the original book were there, but it was evident in that work that O’Barr wanted to distance the miniseries from the “pop culture goth” aspects that The Crow had accrued in the decades since it was introduced. With The Crow: Curare, O’Barr seems even more determined to refashion the raw emotional power and supernatural aspects of the original in new and interesting ways. Set in the 1970s, Curare revolves around a down-and-out cop’s investigation into the rape and murder of a child and the role the child’s restless spirit may play in the pursuit of her assailant—I actually felt a little nauseated after one particular sequence, not because of explicit gore or violence, of which there’s actually little in the issue, but because of how bluntly and effectively O’Barr presented the evidence of said violence “offscreen” in a coroner’s matter-of-fact report. Exploring the story from the perspective of a person who would normally be a de facto sidekick to whoever takes up the mantle of The Crow—the detective drives the narrative and the first issue is as much about his character development as it is about plot advancement—gives the whole affair the hybrid feel of a classically-styled ghost story and a pulpy hardboiled murder-mystery.

Antoine Dodé’s character designs and facility with depicting gesture and emotion help reinforce the perception that Curare isn’t a typical Crow tale. Detective Francis Joseph Salk doesn’t look like your average comic book hero, his physique calling to mind the decidedly unathletic proportions and valiantly struggling hairline of Dennis Franz’ Andy Sipowicz on NYPD Blue, while his demeanor vacillates between sad-sack veteran who’s seen too much and angry, grimly determined crusader.

With The Crow: Curare, O’Barr and Dodé have managed to recreate the emotional resonance and supernatural horror of the original Crow comics, all without drawing from the superficial features of its prior reiterations and derivatives. The miniseries’ first issue is very promising, and given that the self-contained, standalone tale is supposed to run at a very efficient (and economical) three issues, fans of The Crow in print and film, and fans of horror comics and crime comics in general. should find many reasons to see this story through to what should be a very satisfying end.

- Zedric Dimalanta

Preview gallery:

Joe Hill’s Thumbprint #1 of 3 (IDW, $3.99)

  • Thumbprint_01-pr-001Written by: Jason Ciaramella
  • Artist: Vic Malhotra
  • Based on the novella by: Joe Hill

Thumbprint is the latest series from Joe Hill, Jason Ciaramella and IDW. It’s the fourth title that Ciaramella and Hill have done together at IDW (The Cape one-shot and mini-series, the Road Rage miniseries and the Kodiak one-shot). Again, Ciaramella adapts a Hill novella. The previous ones have all been very strong, standing on their own as comic books. The only novella I have read so far is Road Rage and the comic was a very faithful adaption. The story is an interesting one and the comic makes me want to read the novella. PFC Mallory Grennan is back from a tour of duty in Iraq where she participated in things she’s not happy about. The stories you’ve heard about how the prisoners are being treated? If this was real, Mallory would be in the middle of those stories. Instead of concentrating on the horror of those acts, Hill and Ciaramella concentrate on the toll it takes on the people that do them.

This weren’t necessarily bad people and the duo show that with Mallory. We get the impression that Mallory is letting the dark overtake her, letting it push her down. She stands by and does nothing when a man robs a friend of her father’s. It’s only when she receives the letter that contains the thumbprint that she shows any signs of life.

There isn’t much action in this first issue, no indication of who or why the thumbprint is being sent. The issue is all Mallory and her life now along with some establishing flashbacks to let us know what she did in Iraq. There is no true hook in this first issue but then there doesn’t need to be, because Mallory is the hook. They’ve created a strong character, one that you want to root for even as you watch her doing horrible things. You want to see her climb out of the darkness and hopefully that is what will happen at the end of this.

I should mention Malhotra’s art because it is excellent. Reminds me a lot of Michael Lark and Antonio Fuso’s stuff. He does a great job of capturing the emotion, or lack of in some parts, of the characters. IDW has a very good track record of finding excellent artists; David Messina, Valerio Schiti and can add Malhotra’s name to the list.

- Troy Osgood

Preview gallery:

The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys #1 0f 6 (Dark Horse, $3.99)

  • killjoys1p0Writer: Gerard Way, Shaun Simon
  • Artist: Becky Cloonan
  • Colorist: Dan Jackson

uhm… uh… What happened here? This was one confusing book. The word isn’t set up properly and the narrative jumps from location to location in a way that doesn’t work. Isolated events that don’t seem to connect. That can be okay, because it usually means the pay-off comes later, but in this instance, the pacing of them just doesn’t work. The flow of the story is jumpy, not allowing the reader to ease into it.

The only thing I liked about it, besides Cloonan’s art, was the cat.

*******************

All that is what I thought of the book when I first read it on Tuesday night. Since then I’ve learned that it’s a sequel to an album by Way’s old band, My Chemical Romance. Does that change my opinion? No. Not at all. In fact, it worsens what I thought about the book. It makes the book too dependent on listening (and even more important, understanding Way’s intent) to the album. It’s bad enough when you’re forced to read an older comic to understand the new one, but to have to listen to an album by a band like MCR? I’m not a fan of their stuff and won’t be picking up the album.

There is zero world building in the first issue. I was left with the impression that Way expected the readers to understand everything and now it makes sense. Basically this is a book that only those that listened to the album will understand.

- Troy Osgood

Preview gallery:

Six-Gun Gorilla #1 of 6 (BOOM! Studios, $3.99) [EDITOR’S PICK]

  • 6GG_01_preview_Page_1Writer: Simon Spurrier
  • Artist: Jeff Stokely
  • Colorist: André May
  • Letterer: Steve Wands
  • Cover artist: Ramon Pérez

Inspired by an obscure (not to mention bizarre) character that debuted in 1939 in a 15-part serial story in the British pulp magazine Wizard, Si Spurrier’s Six-Gun Gorilla #1 is the kind of genre-mashing, “mad ideas” comic that earns an initial, curious look for its freakish premise and leaves the reader engrossed, mind buzzing with just enough questions to merit following the series for at least the next couple of issues.

Spurrier’s Six-Gun Gorilla isn’t just a straight-up remake of the 1939 original. As noted in the press release trumpeting the miniseries’ launch, the book is set in the distant future of the 22nd century, on an alien planet called The Blister that is

“… a hotly-contested source of fertile land and natural resources long ago exhausted on Earth. In this new frontier, a rogue [simian] gunslinger and his companion wander across a wilderness in the grips of a civil war, encountering lawlessness, natives, and perversions of civilization in a world at the crossroads between the past and the future.”

The British writer does some narrative contortions to create analogues with the old-timey Western setting of the original pulp serial which may seem to some like stretching internal story logic a bit too much to accommodate those parallels—the low level of technology on The Blister is explained away as the result of an atmosphere that does not tolerate the use of internal combustion engines and even gunpowder, for instance—but with an already ludicrous foundation, what constitutes a bridge too far in terms of Six-Gun Gorilla‘s worldbuilding and design is most definitely open to interpretation.

Jeff Stokely’s art and character/creature/technology designs mirror the idiosyncratic, contradictory nature of the story premise: Despite being set in the future, the combatants in The Blister’s civil war are garbed in what appear to be 19th century military uniforms and—with the exception of the eponymous primate—are armed with hand-cranked pneumatic rifles that look like misbegotten Victorian Age inventions.

Much of the issue is devoted to establishing the setting, its history, and the workings of the future society (Six-Gun Gorilla doesn’t even appear in full view until the final pages of the issue, but it’s a payoff worth waiting for) and while that doesn’t sound like an enticing debut, Spurrier infuses the whole affair with a sense of humor, an efficacy of storytelling, and even a satirical eye towards contemporary media that makes for engaging, thoroughly entertaining reading.

- Zedric Dimalanta

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Wild Blue Yonder #1 of 5 (IDW, $3.99) [EDITOR’S PICK]

  • WBY_001-pr-001Story created by: Mike Raicht, Zach Howard, Austin Harrison
  • Script: Mike Raicht
  • Art: Zach Howard
  • Colors: Nelson Daniel
  • Lettering: Thompson Knox

Wild Blue Yonder‘s humble beginnings as a Kickstarter comics project belie the excellent craft behind its stylish, beautifully-realized, sci-fi/pulp-inflected world and practiced, economical storytelling. Its Kickstarter page summarizes the book’s premise thus:

“While navigating the dangers of a post-apocalyptic society in the sky, Cola, a teenaged girl fighter pilot and her family fight to protect The Dawn, their flying fortress and home. With the world in chaos, bullets dwindling, and fuel drying up, the few survivors in the sky must use anything at their disposal in order to survive. Battles rage from ship to ship as jet-pack warriors, planes, and crew members scratch and claw to claim the few crumbs society left behind.”

The first thing that stood out to me in this issue is Zach Howard’s detailed rendering that is reminiscent somewhat of Art Adams’ best work and is perhaps the book’s biggest and most obvious strength. It is meticulous and intricate without coming off as cluttered and gratuitously decorative. As with Jeff Stokely’s work on Six-Gun Gorilla #1, the design of the future world of Wild Blue Yonder is strongly informed by the past—Howard seems to have drawn from the same inspirations as the artists and designers of lauded anime such as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Last Exile, and The Sky Crawlers, as the prop-driven aircraft, airborne dreadnoughts, and leather flight jackets used by Wild Blue Yonder‘s future aviators echo the technology and military fashions of the World War I, interwar, and World War II eras. The visual storytelling is cogent and compelling: Howard changes angles and distances during talking head sequences just enough to keep things from falling into tedium whilst keeping the flow of the narrative straightforward, but it is during the action scenes that the artist really impresses, with an excellent dogfight sequence spanning almost half of the issue that begins with a dizzying vista that is easily one of my favorite comics images of the month:

Pages 12–13 from Wild Blue Yonder #1

Pages 12–13 from Wild Blue Yonder #1

Wild Blue Yonder isn’t just about the visual treats, though. In the teenaged fighter pilot Cola, Raicht, Howard, and Harrison have created a strong and believable female protagonist who is not without her flaws, an aeronautical savant who is nonetheless vulnerable because of her youthful impulsiveness, a seemingly willful overconfidence in her abilities, and a devil-may-care attitude that is almost assuredly meant to hide the anxieties brought on by a life immersed in combat. Credit must also be given to Raicht for effectively introducing the setting and background history of the book’s post-apocalyptic future and Cola’s circumstances immediately prior to the events depicted in the issue without resorting to clunky, momentum-sapping, info-dump-style exposition, trusting the reader to fill in some of the blanks.

The series’ debut being a success on every front, Wild Blue Yonder may yet turn out to be one of the best miniseries of the year.

- Zedric Dimalanta

Preview gallery:

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