The GeeksverseFirst Impressions | Powerpuff Girls, Buzzkill, Hit, Brain Boy, and more

First Impressions | Powerpuff Girls, Buzzkill, Hit, Brain Boy, and more
Published on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 by
In today’s First Impressions, Joe, Moira, Troy, and Zedric take a look at the premiere issues of Resident Alien: The Suicide Blonde, Powerpuff Girls, DC Universe vs. The Masters of the UniverseHit, Brain Boy, Buzzkill, Kiss Me, Satan!, Eternal Warrior, and more. NOTE: Unless otherwise indicated, all reviewed issues were digital copies provided free-of-charge by their respective publishers.
Love Stories (to Die For) one-shot (Image, $4.99)
  • lovestoriestdf01_coverA_and_BStory: Dirk Manning
  • Illustrations: Rich Bonk (“Bloodlust: Deceiver of the Gods”), Owen Gieni (“Symptom of the Universe”)
  • Colors: Sean Burres (“Bloodlust: Deceiver of the Gods”), Owen Gieni (“Symptom of the Universe”)
  • Cover: Rich Bonk (upright orientation cover), Owen Gieni (“flipped” cover)
  • Publisher’s summary: Two full-length stories in one double-length flip book! First, a desperate monk pits a band of savage Vikings against a pack of rabid vampires in a frantic attempt to protect an exceptionally precious child. In the second story, a woman trapped on a space station overrun by aliens must chose whether to save the second seat on her two-person escape pod for her aloof but heroic husband or for her passionate, forbidden lover.

Moira Hunger: Love Stories (to Die For) is a flip-book comic—read the story on one side, turn the book over and upside down and then read the second story. “Bloodlust: Deceiver of the Gods” is set in 10th century Germany and features monks, pagan warriors and… vampires. The second story, “Symptom of the Universe,” is set in a space station in an undefined future. Both stories explore different types of love: familial love, romantic love, religious love that has turned into fanaticism, the love that forms among warriors, and that fuzzy line where respect meets but hasn’t quite turned into love. When given a choice between historical fiction and hard science-fiction, I’ll take the former, so I fully expected to love “Bloodlust: Deceiver of the Gods” and to hate “Symptom of the Universe,” but as it turns out, it didn’t end up that way.

symptomoftheuniverse_samplepage

A page from “Symptom of the Universe,” featuring art by Owen Gieni.

I was so disappointed in “Bloodlust: Deceiver of the Gods.” So disappointed. Frisian warriors protecting an abbey from an onslaught of supernatural forces? How could a story like that go wrong? Well, the characters are flat, the dialogue is awkward to read, and the plot twist seems to come from nowhere. No groundwork had been laid at all prior to the revelation that the bad guys are not who we thought they were. Not even a hint, buried in a line of throw-away dialogue or in the background of one of the panels. I wish that I could say more about the art, but it was rather bland. The battle scenes were tough to follow, which is a shame because they could have been spectacular. Vikings versus vampires in the snow-covered forest? I weep for what might have been. I get where Manning was going with this story, I do. And I like ideas behind the conflicts, but I wonder if perhaps this tale was better suited to a short story format, rather than a comic book format.

“Symptom of the Universe,” on the other hand, was a much better read. The writing was better, the art was better, and they were perfectly suited to each other. I was pleasantly surprised at how good of a story it was after reading the other side of the book. We are dropped into a tale at the back end of the situation and, while none of the characters are exactly likeable, their actions and decisions seem fully fleshed out and the lack of backstory doesn’t matter. We trail along the ship seeing death and destruction everywhere and when we finally see the creatures that did this, they are suitably alien and scary looking. The ending of the story is unsurprising, but was still effective.

Preview gallery (NOTE: The images below are from the story “Bloodlust: Deceiver of the Gods”):

Resident Alien: The Suicide Blonde #1 (of 3; Dark Horse, $3.99) [EDITOR’S PICK]
  • resal2n1p0Story: Peter Hogan
  • Art: Steve Parkhouse
  • Publisher’s summary: A straightforward suicide… or a murder? At first, undercover alien Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle thinks the local police have this death solved, and then things get personal when one of his only human friends becomes a suspect. Also: The feds figure out that Harry’s hiding in the Pacific Northwest!

Zedric Dimalanta: Resident Alien, Vol. 1: Welcome to Earth is in the conversation as one of my favorite trade paperbacks of 2013 so I had very, very high hopes going into this issue, the first of a brand new Resident Alien miniseries, The Suicide Blonde. As with Welcome to Earth, Peter Hogan has set up another absolutely entrancing cozy mystery, with the unique distinction of course, that the sleuthing protagonist also happens to be a refugee alien hiding from a shadowy government agency by pretending to be a small town physician and its de facto medical examiner. Oh, and his nurse, who seems to have some supernatural abilities, has now confirmed the suspicions she first developed in Welcome to Earth that her boss might not be of this world, but keeps this knowledge secret from everybody, including from “Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle.”

While this second miniseries has everything that made the first Resident Alien story so entertaining, the stakes are much higher this time around. Besides the fact that one of Dr. Harry’s friends is a suspect in a new small town murder, the federal agents introduced in the prior miniseries seem to be getting a better fix on his location as well. There’s certainly a foreboding sense of tension all around, including some from what might be a brewing romantic subplot, but the writing nevertheless maintains a jauntiness about it, the humor in the fish-out-of-water situations Dr. Harry finds himself in and his occasionally clumsy attempts to blend in with human society has yet to get old.

Steve Parkhouse’s art is, as expected, well-executed. One of the best measures of a comics artist’s visual storytelling skill is how well he or she can keep “talking heads” sequences—which this issue has a lot of by virtue of it being a cozy mystery-type tale—interesting to look at, and Parkhouse pulls them off superbly.

If I do have a qualm about this issue (and it’s a minor one that has nothing to do with the quality of the work on the comic), it’s with the publisher’s decision to split off what I think is a very important prologue in a separate book: A three-part short showing the inner workings of the federal agency tracking the eponymous Resident Alien appeared in the Dark Horse Presents anthology earlier this year and was collected in last month’s Resident Alien: The Suicide Blonde #0, something Dark Horse also did with Welcome to Earth. Readers can hit the ground running without having read Resident Alien: The Suicide Blonde #0—it certainly adds more depth to the story, though—but I think it would have been a great idea if an abbreviated version of the zero issue was included in this issue, if only for Dark Horse to show appreciation to the folks who buy the single issues and may not be aware that the series numbering on this title actually starts with #0 and not #1.

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DC Universe vs. The Masters of the Universe #1 (of 6; DC, $2.99)
  • DCU-vs-MOTU-Print-CVR-AandBStory: Keith Giffen
  • Art: Dexter Soy
  • Cover: Ed Benes
  • Publisher’s summary: After narrowly escaping his last battle with He-Man, Skeletor has fled to the most unexpected realm to recover: EARTH! Once there, he sets a plan in motion to siphon off Earth’s core magic. Forging an unlikely hunting party, He-Man and company go in search of Skeletor. Finding themselves at odds with the heroes of the DC Universe, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe must find a way to stop Skeletor and his mysterious new master!
  • NOTE: This issue was personally purchased by the reviewer.

Joe Milone: Misleading cover alert! Despite the connecting variant covers (see the image above) showing Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Cyborg battling He-Man, Teela, Man-at-Arms, and the rest of the Masters of the Universe, the Justice League’s heavy hitters don’t actually appear in this issue to do battle with the champions of the planet of Eternia. [I wonder if the image was originally intended for a single fold-out cover, but management figured they could probably sell more copies of the comic by splitting it up as separate variant covers, since neither individual cover looks solid—they both look like something more interesting is happening “off-panel” when viewed on their own. In any case, it’s not a very well-composed image… the perspective is wonky and all these guys apparently graduated from the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy—ed.]

I find the premise that Eternia is a part of the DC Multiverse intriguing, though, and I like the idea presented in the book that the Earth’s John Constantine and Eternian villain Skeletor are known to some segments of the population in their respective worlds. It does make sense in terms of the established Masters of the Universe canon, He-Man’s mother Queen Marlena is a former astronaut from Earth, after all.

This first issue is really all about exposition and laying down the groundwork for the rest of the miniseries. I do think that the series has some potential for good, old-fashioned “when worlds collide”-type fun, especially when you consider that Superman has traditionally been portrayed as being vulnerable to magic, and a lot of the Masters of the Universe use enchanted weapons and are proficient magic-users. If only for that, I’ll be checking out the next issue.

Preview gallery:

Eternal Warrior #1 (Valiant Entertainment, $3.99)
  • EW-001-000Story: Greg Pak
  • Illustrations: Trevor Hairsine
  • Colors: Brian Reber
  • Cover: Clayton Crain
  • Publisher’s summary: Across ten millennia and a thousand battlefields, Gilad Anni-Padda has traversed the darkest, most mysterious corners of history. But the horror and bloodshed of constant warfare has finally taken its toll on the man myth calls the Eternal Warrior…and he has abdicated his duties as the Fist and the Steel of Earth for a quiet life of seclusion. But when a blood vendetta from the distant past suddenly reappears in the modern day, he must decide if he will return to the ways of war…for the child who betrayed him thousands of years ago…
  • NOTE: This issue was personally purchased by the reviewer.

Troy Osgood: Valiant Comics (a.k.a. Valiant Entertainment), when it relaunched last year, got off to a very strong start after years of its properties being mired in trademark/copyright limbo. Each release had top-notch writing and art. The stories were great and it was exciting to be in on the ground floor of a growing shared universe. Year Two of the Valiant Entertainment era hasn’t been as strong—the novelty of the successive launches of new titles has obviously worn off—but the comics are still good. Pound for pound, in terms of the total number of titles the company publishes and their relative quality, Valiant has to be one of the more consistent Diamond-affiliated work-for-hire comics publishers, with many more hits than misses.

That being said, Eternal Warrior #1 is more of a miss then a hit, for me.

I’ve always been partial to the Eternal Warrior. I love the idea of an ageless warrior fighting through the centuries. I love Highlander, and the Eternal Warrior definitely falls in the same camp, theme-wise. I always liked that he was the “fist and steel” of the Earth, protecting the Geomancer and fighting for the Earth itself. So when the new Valiant introduced the character of Gilad Anni-Padda in Archer & Armstrong #5  in December of last year, I was excited. I liked the way he showed up, I liked how Fred Van Lente wrote his character, I pretty much liked everything about it. I even liked the new Geomancer. I knew it would only be a matter of time before the Eternal Warrior got his own book and I was looking forward to his adventures.

I try not to anticipate things too much with my favored characters, though, as it usually sets me up for disappointment if the stories don’t head in the direction I expect them to go. Unfortunately, such seems to be the case with the relaunched Eternal Warrior: I’m a bit dismayed in the book’s seeming direction based on what we’ve been shown thus far. The decision to start things off with Gilad quitting as the Geomancer’s protector doesn’t readily make a whole lot of sense given how the new Geomancer is such a novice. Granted, this is just the first issue, but still…

I do like that Pak shows some of Gilad’s early adventures. It’s a good way to introduce his children and how different/similar they are. Pak is able to establish the preexisting conflict within the family and foreshadows future problems for Gilad. But the flashback seems overwhelming—it’s jarring when we come back to the present and we see Gilad living alone in the African jungles and Xaran’s reappearance isn’t a shock so much as it’s out of place. The dialogue in the flashback isn’t the strongest, having a very modern tone to it that seems at odds with the setting. Hairsine’s art is solid, though, and it works well in both the flashback scenes as well as in scenes set in the present day.

All in all, Eternal Warrior #1 isn’t a bad comic but it’s not really all I had hoped it would be as an Eternal Warrior fan.

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Hit #1 (of 4; BOOM! Studios, $3.99)
  • Hit_01_preview_Page_1Story: Bryce Carlson
  • Illustrations: Vanesa R. Del Rey
  • Colors: Archie Van Buren
  • Cover: Ryan Sook
  • Publisher’s summary: Los Angeles. It’s 1955. It’s dark; it’s sexy. It’s dangerous. Everyone has an angle. And while infamous gangster Mickey Cohen rots in a prison cell, Los Angeles ignores the blackest parts of the city’s heart… where clandestine groups of LAPD detectives moonlight as sanctioned hitmen knows as “Hit Squads.”

Zedric Dimalanta: Bryce Carlson and Vanesa R. Del Rey’s Hit isn’t the first comic to be issued this year to explore what happens when a cop turns vigilante and starts serving as self-appointed judge, jury, and executioner—Garth Ennis’ Red Team examined the phenomenon of law enforcers engaging in extrajudicial killings, as did Saurav Mohapatra in Mumbai Confidential—but it might yet be the best one in terms of combining comics craft and historical context.

The idea of the investigating constable rendering summary judgment and execution, on the surface, makes a lot of sense: Who is better equipped and qualified to mete out instant justice than the flatfoot who deals with crime on a daily basis? Isn’t this what Batman and virtually every other superhero does? As we’ve seen in the real world however, such power in the hands of a single individual, no matter how well-intentioned, is prone to misuse and abuse. Civilized life, in the modern scale, is only possible because of the various checks and balances that ensure that no one person has the authority to supersede due process, no matter how justified he or she may think this course of action is. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, and “who watches the watchmen,” and so on and so forth, and it’s a sure thing that Carlson will be plumbing the depths of these themes and concepts.

Hit, which is rooted in the real history of the L.A. police department’s infamous “Gangster Squad” of the 1950s, does more than just go over well-trod narrative and thematic ground, however. Towards the close of the issue, a subplot involving the lead’s former flame is introduced that further complicates the already thorny ethical and legal circumstances the protagonist is embroiled in, giving the whole affair a more personal and character-driven hook and making it more than just another fictionalized and stylized historical account of the so-called “L.A. Noir” era.

Hit #1 is a solid noir/crime comic with some excellent artwork by Vanesa R. Del Rey—her version of 1955 Los Angeles is grimy and glitzy all at once, exuding danger and sensuality in every alley and darkened bar. The city is a character all its own. This could all turn out to be a fairly standard hardboiled detective romp, but that’s not a bad thing in and of itself. Here’s hoping that Carlson has more surprises up his sleeves.

Preview gallery:

Powerpuff Girls #1 (of 5; IDW, $3.99) [EDITOR’S PICK]
  • Powerpuff Girls1Story & art: Troy Little
  • Cover: Troy Little
  • Publisher’s summary: Citizens of Townsville, fear not! The Powerpuff Girls are back! In this IDW debut issue Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup are back to take down the meanest of the mean and the ugliest of the ugly! Plus, what fiendish secret is Mojo Jojo hiding? The answer is sure to surprise!

Moira Hunger: I read this with my two boys, who helped me compose this review.

The Powerpuff Girls are back! Townsville, USA faces a threat from Mojo Jojo who is, as usual, quickly defeated by Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup. Since Mojo Jojo is the world’s smartest simian, this most recent defeat, coupled with the Powerpuff Girls’ absolute contempt for him and his schemes leads to an existential crisis for our monkey antagonist. In his desperation, he unexpectedly turns to the one person who can help him… Meanwhile, unaware and unconcerned with Mojo Jojo’s angst, the Girls uncover the long-standing mystery of what happened to the greatest golfer of the game, Jock Scott. Algae and golf puns fly everywhere! I found this issue to be a light, easy read that definitely stays true to the cartoon series. In the two fight scenes the Girls are shown zipping and swooping around the page in very easy to follow action, which occasionally breaks the panel walls. Most of the time I find that sort of thing irritating, but it was subtle enough that I didn’t even notice it until my second read through. The boys loved the book and had a lot of fun reading the sound effects and pointing out what their favorite panel was. The lettering by IDW house letterer Neil Uyetake and Little was very easy to read, even for my first-grader, who sometimes has trouble with the all-caps fonts used in most comics. The only stumbling blocks that we had were some of the bigger words in Mojo Jojo’s monologues and the algae monster’s dialogue, which is written in dialect.

In order to test this issue with the target audience, I asked my boys, ages 4 and 6, what they liked best and what they liked least about the issue and whether or not they’d like to read the next one:

PPG01-cvrB-LOWRES

Powerpuff Girls #1 variant cover B, featuring Bubbles.

Griffen (age 6): recognized the algae monster as “the swamp guy from Superhero Squad!” (Man-Thing), which made him very happy. He liked it when the Powerpuff Girls were fighting the algae monster because it was “fun to look at” and liked Mojo Jojo’s big, sad eyes because they “made him look cute and silly. I like cute monkeys.” He did not like it when Bubbles got covered in algae because “I like Bubbles. She’s cute.” but did find it amusing when the golfers were covered in algae. He very much wants to read the next issue and wants the Bubbles variant cover to this issue (Cover B) to hang up on his bedroom wall. He would like Mojo Jojo to be happy and good and fight alongside the Powerpuff Girls.

Phoenix (age 4): liked seeing Buttercup, because he thinks she’s cute. He also liked the Powerpuff Girls fighting the algae monster because “I like it when they win.” The only thing that he didn’t like about the issue was that I didn’t sound like Mojo Jojo when I read his dialogue. (“Mummy, you’re doing it wrong,” said my child, as he gently patted me on the arm. “Let me do it, ok?”) He is very eager to read the next issue and is extremely disappointed that he has to wait an entire month.

Overall, this issue was a hit with the kids and was an enjoyable read for me. I definitely recommend picking it up if you’re a fan of the show or just looking for a fun, all-ages read.

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Brain Boy #1 (Dark Horse, $2.99) [EDITOR’S PICK]
  • bboy1p0Story: Fred Van Lente
  • Pencils: R. B. Silva
  • Inks: Rob Lean
  • Colors: Ego
  • Cover: Ariel Olivetti
  • Publisher’s summary: When the United States Secret Service needs to stop an assassination before the killer’s even decided to buy a gun, they call the world’s most powerful telepath: Matt Price, a.k.a. Brain Boy. But when the secret agent that can read anyone’s mind finds that a powerful psychic network has been hidden from him, Brain Boy begins to wonder whether he knows everything or nothing at all!

Zedric Dimalanta: My knowledge of 1960s Dell Comics publications is by no means comprehensive, but I do think it is fair to say that the Brain Boy brand, as it were, doesn’t hold much recognition value today. Did Dark Horse have to pay a license holder for the use of the Brain Boy trademark or did they just scoop it up from the public domain? Was Brain Boy part of a package deal when the publisher acquired the rights to major Dell/Gold Key properties like Turok and Magnus the Robot Fighter several years back?

In any event, Brain Boy #1 is a fun, rollicking read that has Fred Van Lente (Action Philosophers, Archer & Armstrong) creatively exploring the tactical and strategic implications of having an actual telepath in an espionage/military context. Readers have become so inured to the idea of telepathy in fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and superhero fiction that they often fail to notice just how often it is poorly and arbitrarily utilized as a character trait and plot device. Telepathy—accurate, literal mind-reading, not whatever it is that Deanna Troi is supposed to be capable of doing—should be a most fearsome power that can allow for any number of feats, but more often than not in comics, writers seemingly forget that telepaths have the ability to pick off information from other people’s minds whenever it is most convenient for the plot.

Van Lente doesn’t make that same mistake here: Matt “Brain Boy” Price uses his mental powers whenever he can to his advantage in his job as a secret agent for the US government—at one point, I wondered if Van Lente was riffing off of one of the scenarios suggested by Patrick Stewart in the riotously funny “I’ve seen everything” scene in Extras—and it is eye-opening to see how the texture of something as mundane as an ordinary conversation between two people can be changed when one of the participants is a telepath.

The issue strikes a good balance between serving up exposition, giving us insights into the protagonist’s character, and advancing the overarching plot about a psychically empowered terrorist with unrevealed evil designs on our hero (there’s not really all that much to go on plot-wise at this point). It’s as structurally sound a first issue as any we’ve reviewed these past few months, with solid art by R. B. Silva. It’s early days in the series, but even at this juncture, Brain Boy is looking like it could be one of the more entertaining and engrossing titles in Dark Horse’s ongoing superhero revival.

Preview gallery:

Justice League: Lobo #23.2 (DC Comics, $3.99)
  • lobo1Story: Marguerite Bennett
  • Illustrations: Ben Oliver with Cliff Richards
  • Colors: Daniel Brown
  • Cover: Aaron Kuder with Daniel Brown
  • Publisher’s summary: Deep in the dark corridors of space lives a black-hearted being of unimaginable power. He’s witnessed horrors beyond description and committed unparalleled evils. In all of history, no being has ever been capable of as much chaos and terror as this lone individual. This is the story of the man called Lobo. He’s coming. And he’s bringing all of hell with him.
  • NOTE: This issue was personally purchased by the reviewer.

Joe Milone: I want to preface this quick review by saying I am a big fan of the 1990s-era “Main Man” Lobo in small doses. And I’m not so much going to review this comic as I am going to air my thoughts on the new Lobo design, as the controversy about the whole design is really the only thing worth talking about when it comes to this issue.

So this issue introduces us to the “Newer 52 Lobo.” As we all know “New 52 Lobo” already appeared in last year’s Deathstroke #9, drawn and written by Rob Liefeld [What do we call this latest version? Lobo v2.0? Not-Lobo? Nobo?—ed.] “Newer 52 Lobo” is significantly slimmer, smarter, and, dare I say it, much more conventionally attractive than the Simon Bisley/Val Semeiks design we are all familiar with. However, as you might have surmised from the issue’s cover, “New 52 Lobo” still apparently exists as a separate character. So we’ve got two flavors of Lobo now. And after reading this issue, I have to say, I’d much prefer the old, familiar Lobo, even if the character is a bit of a dated hold-over from the 1990s. It’s not so much that I’m against change or reinvention or that it’s even a bad design when viewed out of context, but “Newer 52 Lobo” is just another illustration of how the current DC editorial brain trust fails to grasp what it is about their characters that readers like.

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Buzzkill #1 (of 4; Dark Horse, $3.99) [EDITOR’S PICK]
  • buzzkill01coverStory: Donny Cates, Mark Reznicek
  • Illustrations: Geoff Shaw
  • Colors: Lauren Affe
  • Publisher’s summary: Ruben is not your average alcoholic; he’s an unstoppable superhero who derives his powers from imbibing MASSIVE amounts of alcohol. After all the disasters it’s caused in his personal life, he’s ready to get clean . . . and the city’s supervillains couldn’t be happier!

Zedric Dimalanta: “God, I wish I had thought of this,” reads the Mark Waid pull-quote on the cover of Buzzkill #1. The idea of an alcoholic superhero isn’t particularly unique and the notion of a superhero who derives his powers from drugs isn’t new, but I’m fairly certain that isn’t the feature of Donny Cates and Mark Reznicek’s creation that prompted an admission of professional envy from one of comics’ most celebrated superhero comics writers. What has likely earned Waid’s admiration is Cates and Reznicek’s combination of both themes and their treatment of the conceit. The metaphor at the heart of Buzzkill can be interpreted and dissected in so many ways: Besides the obvious reading as a commentary on real-world alcoholism as well as the trope of the chemically-induced superpower, it also stands as an exegesis on the self-indulgent nature of art creation and the intoxicating effects of its power as well as the literal intoxication that, for some artists, is a catalyst for the disinhibition that is occasionally required to create art.

Yet, none of this would matter a whit if the dialogue can’t sell the emotional underpinnings of the protagonist’s dilemma, and the writers succeed at this task. Ruben’s despair should be familiar for anyone who has found themselves in a repeating pattern of engaging in an addict’s behavior and rationalizing excesses, but it never comes off as maudlin.

Artist Geoff Shaw is a new name to me, but I’ve become an instant fan with his work on this issue. His energetic linework and dynamic staging achieves the right balance of clarity and novelty. And I don’t know whose idea it was, Shaw’s or colorist Lauren Affe’s, to employ what appear to be simulated Ben-Day dots for the coloring in the issue’s flashback sequences to go with the tighter rendering, but it works real well and adds welcome variation and texture to the issue’s art.

I have a trained suspicion of comics that are attached to celebrity names—I blame Virgin Comics and their line-up of mediocre books “created by” John Woo, Guy Ritchie, Nicolas Cage, and others—and while calling Toadies drummer Mark Reznicek a celebrity may be a stretch, Buzzkill #1 has, at least for now, disabused me of this (mis)conception. A great debut. Highly recommended.

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Empowered Special: Nine Beers with Ninjette (one-shot; Dark Horse, $3.99)
  • empnbn1p0Story: Adam Warren
  • Illustrations: Takeshi Miyazawa with Adam Warren
  • Colors: Takeshi Miyazawa
  • Publisher’s summary: Kick back and have a cold one with hearty-partying Ninjette, Empowered’s Best Friend Forever, as she weaves a boozy yet poignant tale of ninja magic, complete with fighting, flirting, and swing-dancing with the Maidman—not to mention the outwitting of ’Jette’s monstrous thug of a father. Drink up!
  • Click here to read a review of Empowered, Deluxe Edition Vol. 1.
  • Click here to read a review of Empowered, Deluxe Edition Vol. 2.
  • Click here to read an interview with Empowered creator Adam Warren.
  •  A review of Empowered, Vol. 7 can be found here.

Zedric Dimalanta: Interestingly enough, the topic of alcoholism is also addressed in the Empowered Special: Nine Beers with Ninjette one-shot. This issue is primarily about the origin story of Ninjette, a “white girl ninja” from the exotic land of New Jersey, and best friend and crimefighting partner of Empowered. There’s not really much here for readers previously unschooled in the Empowered serial graphic novels, this is DVD-style bonus material that’s strictly for fans of the property, as there’s not a lot of context provided for Ninjette’s narrative. Still, there are context-free laughs and thrills to be had here and there, and even those readers unfamiliar with Empowered will appreciate the contrast of Takeshi Miyazawa and Adam Warren’s manga-influenced art styles, demonstrating that “manga art” isn’t some homogeneous, monolithic school as some commenters would lead one to believe. 

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Kiss Me, Satan! #1 (of 5; Dark Horse, $3.99)
  • kissmesatanjohnsonStory: Victor Gischler
  • Art: Juan Ferreyra
  • Cover: Dave Johnson
  • Publisher’s summary: Cassian Steele is the boss of the werewolf mafia in the Big Easy, and he’s got a problem. The old witch Verona knows his secret and has gone into hiding. Cassian wants her dead. So he sends out the word: An open contract. The first monster to dust Verona gets a big payday. What no one realizes is that Barnabus Black, a demon desperately trying to regain his halo, is her protection.

Zedric Dimalanta: Kiss Me, Satan! sounds like it’s based on a made-for-Hollywood high concept: New Orleans’ werewolf mafia is in the midst of an internal power struggle, and a small coven of witches and a fallen angel get caught in the crossfire as they try to protect the innocent. It seems like a lot of goofy fun, although as we’ve seen in recent releases like Dragon Resurrection: The First Adventure of Jesse and Jack Chang and R.I.P.D., a crazy, genre mash-up premise isn’t necessarily a guarantee that skilled craft or entertainment will follow.

Thankfully, the writing and art on this issue rise well above perfunctory competence. Especially worth noting is Juan Ferreyra’s art, already solid during his acclaimed run on Rex Mundi, looking even better here: his choreography and staging of the issue’s car-chase setpiece is instructive and entertaining.

Kiss Me, Satan! is fun and funny, and knows just how ridiculous it all is without falling into audience-winking territory. That’s a trickier balance to achieve than it sounds, and I’ll definitely be back for the next issue to see where Gischler and Ferreyra are going with this.

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