The GeeksverseFirst Impressions | Veil, Starlight, Moon Knight, Rogue Trooper, The Returning, and more

First Impressions | Veil, Starlight, Moon Knight, Rogue Trooper, The Returning, and more
Published on Monday, March 17, 2014 by
Troy and Zedric look at some of the newest #1s from Dark Horse, Image Comics, Marvel, BOOM!, IDW, Oni Press, and Arcana, including the debuts of Veil, StarlightMoon Knight, Stray Bullets: KillersWorth, The AuteurRogue TrooperThe Returning, and more. 

First Impressions is our (more-or-less) regular and spoiler-free look at first issues, one-shots, and other “entry-point” comics. Unless otherwise indicated, all reviewed issues are digital copies provided free-of-charge by their respective publishers, publicists, or creative team personnel.

Veil #1 (of 5; Dark Horse, $3.50) [EDITOR’S PICK]

  • veil01finalcoverStory: Greg Rucka
  • Art: Toni Fejzula
  • Publisher’s summary: A beautiful girl wakes up in an abandoned subway station with no memory of how she got there. When men try to hurt her . . . they wind up dead. Where did she come from? And what is she capable of?

Zedric Dimalanta: Sixteen(!)-time Eisner Award nominee and four-time Eisner Award winner Greg Rucka has earned a reputation as one of comics’ best writers of strong female characters with his work on titles like Whiteout (a personal favorite), Queen & Country, Stumptown, Elektra, Black Widow, Gotham Central, Lazarus (another favorite), and the webcomic-to-crowdfunded print comic success Lady Sabre & the Pirates of Eneffable Aether. I will admit that the jaded fan in me is almost expecting the day when Rucka starts descending into unintentional (or perhaps even deliberate) self-parody. If the first issue of Veil is any indication, that day has yet to arrive.

This isn’t to say that Veil is patently similar to or derivative of any of his prior comics with female leads. If anything, the eponymous protagonist is a breed apart from what some readers might have come to expect from “Rucka’s women.” Veil, as she is introduced in this debut issue, is clearly a damaged individual to a degree more obvious than any of Rucka’s previous creations. She wakes up naked and alone in the subway, seemingly afflicted with amnesia, exhibiting echolalia and other speech disorders, as well as what looks to be signs of a more generalized schizoaffective disorder. The circumstances of the character’s introduction, too, are quite different from what some readers familiar with Rucka’s prior work might expect. Veil is placed in a couple of situations with the potential for sexual violence early on, one of which requires the aid of a male passer-by, although it is clear that the scenario is put in play in the interest of establishing context and forwarding the narrative, not cheap prurience.

Toni Fejzula’s use of gray tones and washes in a full color comic combines solid linework with a soft and lush texturing, all while avoiding turning the pages into a muddy, mushy mess. I was put in mind of the work of Jay Anacleto and Mico Suayan—artists who approach the task of comics illustration with similar aesthetic tendencies.

A twist towards the issue’s end gives Veil what looks to be a hybrid-horror bent, and it’s that surprise revelation, the novel protagonist, Fejzula’s solid rendering chops, and the accumulated weight of Rucka’s past successes that has me confident in the book’s quality and entertainment value moving forward.

Moon Knight #1 (Marvel, $3.99) [EDITOR’S PICK]

  • MoonKnight001-000Story: Warren Ellis
  • Illustrations: Declan Shalvey
  • Colors: Jordie Bellaire
  • Publisher’s summary: Marc Spector is Moon Knight!… Or is he? It’s hard to tell these days, especially when New York’s wildest vigilante protects the street with two-fisted justice and three—that’s right, count ‘em—different personalities! But even with the mystical force of Khonshu fueling his crusade, how does the night’s greatest detective save a city that’s as twisted as he is? The road to victory is going to hurt. A lot. Marvel’s most mind-bending adventure begins NOW as Moon Knight sleuths his way to the rotten core of New York’s most bizarre mysteries!
  • NOTE: This comic was purchased by the reviewer.

Troy Osgood: I’m a big Warren Ellis fan. Huge. I feel I need to get that out of the way. I’ve also always been a little curious about this “All-New Marvel NOW!” take on Moon Knight. I’ve read a few of the (many) series he’s been in over the years—Wikipedia says that there have been five “main” Moon Knight series since 1980 if we count the Marc Spector: Moon Knight series that ran from 1989 to 1994, the most recent one ending two years ago—and he’s an interesting character, although the whole “split personality” angle gets old after awhile. This probably helps explain why, despite the fact that the character has had multiple ongoing series over the past three decades, he remains something of a cult-favorite character.

Ellis and Moon Knight is an interesting pairing. Maybe I’m biased, but I think Ellis is the only one that could have pulled off this particular take on Moon Knight. Ellis does away with the multiple personae and the hand-waving, fully mystical explanations prior writers have tried to ascribe to his mental quirks, and instead resorts to a motivation rooted in a somewhat more clinical explanation that gives a greater sense of the character but doesn’t completely dismiss the Egyptian mythology associations. Ellis’ Moon Knight doesn’t have Dissociative Identity Disorder, although he remains an avatar of Khonshu who possesses and expresses all the aspects of the ancient Egyptian god, giving the outward appearance of a somewhat fractured psyche. It’s an interesting approach and helps ground the character—the most recent Moon Knight series, written by Brian Bendis, portrayed Spector as a full-blown psychotic, to the character’s ultimate detriment. The result is an invigorating, interesting adventure: From Moon Knight’s interactions with the police to his gripping confrontation with the issue’s serial slasher villain, it all has a fresh feel to it.

Shalvey’s art is perfect for the book. It’s dark, atmospheric, and moody, but doesn’t sacrifice rendering detail. The sequence showing the aforementioned confrontation with the slasher is excellently paced and perfectly laid out, with each panel contributing to build-up for the sequence’s payoff sequence. Shalvey been making a name for himself in recent months with all the work he’s been doing for various publishers, but I think this could be the book to propel him into the “upper-tier artist” discussion.

I’m hoping that the creative team (especially Ellis) sticks around on this title for a long time.

Starlight #1 (Image Comics, $2.99) [EDITOR’S PICK]

  • starlight-01-covAStory: Mark Millar
  • Illustrations: Goran Parlov
  • Colors: Ive Svorcina
  • Cover: John Cassaday
  • Starlight created by: Mark Millar and Goran Parlov
  • Publisher’s summary: Forty years ago, Duke McQueen was the space hero who saved the universe. But then he came back home, got married, had kids, and grew old. Now his children have left and his wife has passed away, leaving him alone with nothing except his memories…until a call comes from a distant world asking him back for his final and greatest adventure. This issue launches the much-anticipated Millarworld Universe. Get in on the start of something MASSIVE!

Zedric: The minute I heard about Starlight and its creative team late last year, I knew I was going to like at least the visual aspect of it sight unseen, as I’ve been beating the drum for the case that Croatian illustrator Goran Parlov is one of the best comics artists of his generation for quite some time now. It isn’t just his effortless and clean rendering style reminiscent of Jordi Bernet at his peak, Parlov also has a talent for visual storytelling: He stages scenes, poses figures, and depicts expressions in ways that make what’s happening unambiguous and clear, but never at the cost of dynamism and novelty. His is a “camera” that is truly cinematic in its scope. What I wasn’t expecting was that I’d get drawn so quickly into Mark Millar’s story as well, as I’ve found the Scotsman’s work to be hit-and-miss: For every Millar book that I end up liking such as the graphic novel Marvel 1985 or his Image Comics’ title Jupiter’s Legacy, there are entries in his bibliography like Kick-Ass and the Civil War miniseries that I hold in various degrees of negative regard (I’d even go so far as say that the latter is probably one my least-liked Marvel comics of the past ten years, if not of all time).

In some ways, Starlight‘s set-up is steeped in a number of familiar tropes, but that doesn’t diminish the emotional resonance of the story. The book’s protagonist, retired Air Force captain and test pilot Duke McQueen, has had his life stuck in a year-long holding pattern since the death of his loving wife of 38 years. His adult sons can’t be bothered to call him beforehand to inform him that they can’t make it to the home-cooked dinner he prepared for them and their families in the anniversary of their mother’s passing. While still healthy and seemingly in perfect possession of his mental faculties, the gray-haired Duke is nonetheless a stark and uncomfortable reminder of their own mortality that they’d rather ignore. Millar doesn’t overplay the sentiment in these expository sequences—there’s a restraint to the dialogue and characterization that prevents the whole affair from falling into maudlin territory.

The comic’s twist is that McQueen is also a former “science hero”-type who apparently had fantastical adventures in some far-off galaxy during his test pilot days, although his public insistence that his off-world exploits really happened led to him being branded a loon and eventually being forced to resign his commission. The issue closes with what looks like an opportunity for McQueen to reprise his role as the alien savior to a distant space-faring civilization, and with not much of anything to keep him rooted to this world, I think it’s safe to say that the widower will be donning his costume and packing his ray guns sooner rather than later.

For me however, the engaging story is simply icing on the cake that is Parlov’s first major American comics foray outside of Marvel’s superhero titles and his crime and military-themed work for Marvel’s mature readers-rated MAX imprint and DC’s Vertigo Comics. The issue’s pulp sci-fi flashbacks allow us a peek at a side of Parlov’s work that the majority of North American readers haven’t previously glimpsed, and it’s a treat to see the artist work in some seeming nods to the work of the late French artist Moebius in his costume, architecture, and creature designs.

As the premier title of what Millar calls his new “Millarverse” stable of comics, I’m hoping that new issues of Starlight come out on a more frequent and regular basis than the aforementioned Jupiter’s Legacy, but even if they don’t, I’m still fully onboard this series.

Worth #1 (Arcana, Free on Comixology) [EDITOR’S PICK]

  • Worth 001-000Story: Aubrey Sitterson
  • Illustrations: Chris Moreno
  • Colors: Cirque Studios
  • Worth created by: Trevor Roth
  • Publisher’s summary: During the 1960’s, Grant Worth’s ability to control machines made him a legendary figure in Detroit. But when Worth’s powers become obsolete because of society’s own progress, he is forced to discover what happens when a superhero can no longer be super…

Troy: I was looking through the list of new releases on Comixology and came across this book.  I somewhat remember seeing the preview on Comic Book Resources last summer. Obviously, the preview didn’t do enough to catch my attention then, but the price of this issue (free!) did. And I’m glad I did, as Worth is a worthy (sorry!) read.  The book’s star, Grant Worth, is a hero from the 1960s, endowed with the power to control machinery, an ability he used to protect his home city of Detroit, standing up to criminals, corrupt cops, crooked politicians, and all manner of villains.

Fast forward to the present-day and Worth is no longer worth much (that’s the last “worth”-related pun, I promise). What good is the power to talk to and control machinery when everything is powered by complex electronics and computers now?

Aubrey Sitterson does a great job of showing what happens when you’re no longer special.  It’s a struggle for Worth to remain relevant, as computers don’t work with his powers. It’s also a bit of an obvious metaphor for technology outpacing older generations’ ability to keep up, but it also makes the character particularly sympathetic. You want things to work out for Worth, after all the good he did. Beyond the characterizations, Sitterson also does a great job showing life in Detroit through the eyes of a young boy. The setting is almost as much a character as the people who reside in it.

The illustrations by Chris Moreno are very good,  I especially love how Worth’s powers are depicted.

This first issue is terrific, even without the added and significant incentive of it being a free comic (note that the second issue is listed for $1.99). I’ll be adding this to my read list.

Stray Bullets: Killers #1 (Image Comics, $3.50) [EDITOR’S PICK]

  • stray-bullets-killers-01Story & art: David Lapham
  • Publisher’s summary: One of the most acclaimed crime series ever returns! When Gary Goldsmith and his young son Asa are involved in a deadly hit and run, their night goes from bad to worse when their grisly deed is witnessed by a disturbing stranger. Find out what thirty dollars, a dirty diaper, and a girl named Yummy will reveal about the true meaning of life in a little story we like to call “The Love Ride.” Featuring the return of Spanish Scott! This new arc of stories about life and love and all the things we do to kill them starts out in the best noir tradition, then turns the genre on its ear. Would you expect any less? If you’ve never read STRAY BULLETS before, jump in here. Hell, jump in anywhere. Every issue always presents a complete story that fits into a larger whole.

Zedric: For a decade-long period between 1995 and 2005, being a “crime comics fan” was, in many readers’ cases, practically synonymous with being a fan of David Lapham’s Stray Bullets. Not only was Lapham’s self-published comic one of the relatively few crime-themed series that kept going in the wake of the North American comics market’s mid-1990s collapse, it was also one of the best comics in the market regardless of genre, winning back-to-back Eisner Awards soon after it launched—a “Best writer-artist” award for Lapham in 1996 for his work on the title and the “Best Graphic Album, Reprint” plum in 1997 for the Stray Bullets: Innocence of Nihilism collection.

As I detailed in last week’s Leaving Proof article, one of the key strengths of Stray Bullets was its uniquely non-sequential approach to telling stories in the standalone issue format:

[Stray Bullets] an ongoing crime comic, designed to be the ultimate new reader-friendly title. Each 32-page issue is a standalone story with a discrete beginning, climax, and conclusion, but it’s also designed to fit in as part of a larger narrative that stretches from the 1970s all the way to the 1990s. On top of that, the stories aren’t told sequentially—the events portrayed in issue #1 occurred some twenty years after the events portrayed in issue #2, for example—although Lapham starts each issue with the date indicating when the particular issue’s events happened. A reader so inclined can read all the stories in the linear chronological order based on those dates. The genius of how Lapham has constructed the series is that a new reader can jump into Stray Bullets with a random issue and he or she won’t need to be familiar with any prior issues to extract enjoyment from it as a standalone story.

Stray Bullets: Killers #1 marks the beginning of a new “season” of Stray Bullets (the original series concluded with Stray Bullets #41, released the same week) but it nonetheless carries on the storytelling format of its predecessor. Readers new to the series will easily find their footing in the issue’s late 1970s-set story about a kid who sneaks into a strip club, his father’s veiled habits, a teen’s secret double-life, and how it all gets tangled up with Spanish Scott, just one of the many hardened killers in Stray Bullets‘ expansive cast of criminals, desperadoes, and other assorted individuals living on the razor’s edge. As with the best Stray Bullets stories, Lapham mixes hardboiled fiction with a slice-of-life charm and character-driven drama that even readers not particularly drawn to crime comics will appreciate. This issue offers an excellently illustrated roller-coaster of a story that closes with a gut-punch of an ending.

A master-class of concise, effective, and affecting storytelling craft, very highly recommended.

Wolverine and the X-Men #1 (Marvel, $3.99)

  • WOLVXMEN2014001_00Story: Jason Latour
  • Illustrations: Mahmud Asrar
  • Colors: Israel Silva
  • Publisher’s summary: WELCOME TO THE JEAN GREY SCHOOL OF HIGHER LEARNING! The ALL NEW MARVEL NOW smash hit series schools with Jason Latour (WINTER SOLDIER) and Mahmud Asrar (X-MEN) leading the charge with drama, action and homework(?)! World-famous X-Men Wolverine, Storm, and a star-studded faculty must educate the next generation all-powerful, but inexperienced mutants! But with their own lives steeped in deadly enemies and personal crises, how can the X-Men guide and educate—let alone defend—the school? At the Jean Grey School, you never know who will enroll…or who will lead the class! And what mysterious organization waits in the shadows to destroy Wolverine’s mutant sanctuary? These questions and more are answered in the All-New Marvel Now sure-to-be-smash, WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #1!
  • NOTE: This comic was purchased by the reviewer.

Troy: Marvel didn’t leave much space between the end of Jason Aaron’s run on the most recent Wolverine and the X-Men series book and the start of this All-New Marvel NOW! incarnation of the title.

New writer Jason Latour’s run doesn’t start off strong, although the art by Mahmud Asrar is great.

It’s hard for me to pin down what is wrong with this issue, but at the end of the day it just wasn’t a particularly great or memorable comic. It’s a decent enough read, though.

I love that Asrar utilizes the Bamfs EVERYWHERE.  That was a nice touch.  But where were Idie and Quire hanging out?  On a couch in the middle of a forest?  The setting is never established.  That’s not entirely Asrar’s fault, who is working off of Latour’s script and the editor’s direction, either of which should have perhaps given more specific instructions to the artist.

Eye-Boy is annoying. Quire is whiny. Idie doesn’t sound like Idie. I do like the new girl but that might be because she doesn’t say anything.

And why Fantomex?  Why is Fantomex popular all of a sudden?  I HATE FANTOMEX!!! Stop making Fantomex happen, Marvel!!!  The whole Fantomex sequence in the book is odd. When did Fantomex lock himself into the World? Wasn’t he just out and about and annoying the hell out of me in the recently relaunched X-Force?

Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men run was fun and one of my favorites among the modern X-books. Latour might get to that same level, eventually, but he’s off to a shaky start.

The Auteur #1 (Oni Press, $3.99)

  • auteur001_00Story: Rick Spears
  • Illustrations: James Callahan
  • Colors: Luigi Anderson
  • Publisher’s summary: Fresh off the biggest bomb in Hollywood history, disgraced and desperate producer Nathan T. Rex enters a downward spiral of drugs and depravity in a quest to resurrect his career and save his soul. Over budget and behind schedule on the latest installment of the horror franchise, PRESIDENTS DAY, T. Rex is backed into a corner by bad publicity, a crap project, and a jerk studio exec, but finds salvation at a strip club by huffing glue, and a chance encounter with cable news. Welcome to the most deranged, notorious, and hilarious comic of 2014! We apologize in advance.

Zedric: A biting satire of the Hollywood studio system and the producers that cling to it like so many barnacles, The Auteur‘s jokes and broadsides can easily be applied to other producer-driven popular entertainment industries. Protagonist Nathan T. Rex is ostensibly a pastiche of the stereotypically meddlesome producer, a movie executive with an inflated notion of his creative sensibilities and delusions of artistic grandeur, with little appreciation of theory or the practical and technical demands of craft—an “auteur” in the worst, most pejorative sense of the word.

There are numerous laughs to be had at the expense of the pathologically self-centered, increasingly desperate schlock movie producer “T. Rex” and his attempts to kickstart his pedestrian imagination with psychedelic drugs, although I do wonder if they will dry up at some point, even with James Callahan’s detailed renderings helping proceedings along. This is the first issue of a five-part story and I don’t know how much comedic mileage Spears can wring out of the douchebag lead and the absurd web of self-deception he has woven for himself.

Avengers Undercover #1 (Marvel, $2.99)

  • avengersundercover01_00Story: Dennis Hopeless
  • Illustrations: Kev Walker
  • Colors: Jean-Francois Beaulieu
  • Cover: Francesco Mattina
  • Publisher’s summary: WHEN TEEN HEROES INFILTRATE THE MASTERS OF EVIL, WHO WILL BREAK BAD? Damaged by their experience in Murder World, five conflicted young superhumans go rogue and infiltrate the Masters of Evil, planning to bring the Avengers’ rivals down from within. But the longer the teens spend undercover, the more they descend into darkness, and as they start to build relationships with these multi-layered criminals, the line between good and evil blurs. What will happen first…joining the Masters for real, or getting exposed and killed? If you thought Murder World was dangerous, just wait until “Most Promising New Talent” Harvey award-winner Dennis Hopeless and acclaimed artist Kev Walker surround you with Evil!
  • NOTE: This comic was purchased by the reviewer.

Troy: I thought Avengers Arena, the predecessor series to Avengers Undercover, was overrated.  The core concept of young heroes thrown into Arcade’s Murderworld and turning on each other, Battle Royale-style, was never pushed to its full potential. The whole thing was disappointing. And now we have a sequel.

The solicitations for this issue stated that the survivors, pushed by the guilt of what they did, would band together and try to redeem themselves by taking out the Masters of Evil. That’s not what actually happens. Instead, the kids come together to rescue one of their own from the Masters of Evil, which seems to undermine the whole idea that they’re looking for redemption in the wake of the events of Avengers Arena.

There are also a number of plot developments that honestly leave me bewildered. Arcade publicly releases videos of the kids from their time fighting each other in Murderworld and makes celebrities of them in the process. It seems odd that, instead of shock at the videos’ content, the general reaction to the videos by the public at large is overwhelming sympathy. Sure, sympathy is to be expected, but you’d think the reactions would be a but more diverse. Also, when did Damon Hellstrom join the Masters of Evil? He was last seen in Fearless working with the D.O.A., and it just seems all-too-convienent to have around to control Bloodstone’s demon form.

The Returning #1 (of 4; BOOM! Studios, $3.99)

  • Cover A by Frazer IrvingStory: Jason Starr
  • Illustrations: Andrea Mutti
  • Colors: Vladimir Popov
  • Cover: Frazer Irving
  • The Returning created by: Jason Starr and Andrea Mutti
  • Publisher’s summary: It’s the near future, and some people who have had Near-Death Experiences have come back “changed.” They exhibit extreme behavioral changes, becoming increasingly paranoid and violent, and no one knows why. People who have had NDE’s fall immediately under suspicion, and in some cases, are murdered by justice-seeking vigilantes. It is in this world where Beth, a quiet high school student with a bright future, will learn just how quickly friends and family will turn on her when she has the bad luck of surviving the worst night of her life…

Zedric: Writer Jason Starr and artist Andrea Mutti’s The Returning offers a unique variation on the zombie genre, with a member of the comics’ putative undead population serving as its lead character. The Returning‘s undead, such as they are, aren’t zombies at all, at least not in the typical “reanimated rotting corpses” sense. Rather, the comic’s “changers” are those persons who are revived after being pronounced clinically dead, and who then start behaving erratically and violently not long after their resuscitation.

Starr, whose work we last discussed in the Comixverse in an early retrospective of his Wolverine MAX run, pulls off a neat trick in this issue: Given what he has established as the effects of coming back from clinical death on the psyche and behavior of survivors, readers are left to wonder whether any of the flashbacks and events portrayed through the point of view of protagonist Beth Turner are an accurate reflection of reality, adding a further layer of mystery and intrigue to the horror tale. One has to wonder, however, why paramedics, doctors, and other health professionals in the world of The Returning even bother to attempt resuscitating those on the brink of permanent death, given what seems to be an ongoing epidemic of “changers” going on homicidal rampages post-revival. It’s a glaring plot hole, although I suspect something this obvious was deliberately left for readers to question and will be addressed by Starr sooner rather than later in the miniseries.

Mutti’s art looks great, and it works especially well with Vladimir Popov’s color choices. Panels are mostly rendered by Popov in subdued hues, with one or two select elements being given a more saturated treatment to call the reader’s attention—it’s a subtle, transparently effective way of incorporating color in the visual storytelling.

Secret Avengers #1 (Marvel, $3.99)

  • secretavengers01_00Story: Ales Kot
  • Illustrations: Michael Walsh
  • Colors: Matthew Wilson
  • Cover: Tradd Moore
  • Publisher’s summary: The all-new Secret Avengers are ready to get started. Are they going to be the world’s most effective secret squad? Or will their personal issues tear them apart? U-DECIDE! Three missions kick off at the same time: one in the space, one on the ground…and one in the air. And no one’s ready. Except for the attackers. Russian spa. Helicarrier. Space station. Falling satellites. A hired hitman with nothing to lose. The Fury. WAIT. Yes. THE FURY. Why is Hawkeye still around? And why are these people chasing him? Why are Black Widow and Spider Woman in a Russian spa? Do questions in teasers excite you? RUN THE MISSION, DON’T GET SEEN, SAVE THE WORLD. NOW!
  • NOTE: This comic was purchased by the reviewer.

Troy: I liked the first concept for Secret Avengers that Ed Brubaker came up with as well as Warren Ellis’ subsequent refinement of the “run the mission, don’t get seen, save the world” idea during his his time on the book. Later writer Rick Remender went away from that mission statement however, and the Secret Avengers became just another team of Avengers. Nick Spencer went back to part of the concept, making it a team of spy-Avengers doing espionage for S.H.I.E.L.D., but the execution was needlessly complicated with the whole mind-wipe business.

I’m not sure if Ales Kot will be building on Spencer’s work or if this will be a reowrking of the implementation of the Secret Avengers concept. I don’t have a problem with some of the Avengers working for S.H.I.E.L.D. as they’re bound to have common goals and missions, although I don’t like the “member of the Secret Avengers” thing that Kot has going on in the introductory text boxes. I do like M.O.D.O.K’s portrayal in this issue. He’s funny and a bit pathetic. Just a fun character to have around.

I’ve noticed that “Cheese”, the nickname that Fury’s friend Phil Coulson went by when first introduced, has gone away and that the character is looking more like the Clark Gregg movie/TV character.

I also hated the way Hawkeye was portrayed in this issue. I know Kot is trying to write the character the way Matt Fraction does in the Hawkeye series, but that’s not Hawkeye as I know him. Fraction can get away with writing Hawkeye so differently from how he’s been traditionally portrayed pre-2012 because he’s Matt Fraction, but I’m not sure Kot can. Hawkeye is my favorite Marvel character: He’s been a leader of the Avengers, and he can hold his own in a fight. He wouldn’t have broken a sweat with a squad of A.I.M. troopers.

Still, this debut was a fun issue, but it might have edged into “too much fun” territory. It’s hard to take the threat of the Fury (the Captain Britain villain) seriously with the way Nicholas Fury and Coulson behaved throughout the issue. And I have to wonder if Kot purposefully used the Fury as the issue’s villain just so he could do the joke when Nicholas Fury calls Maria Hill for back-up.

Walsh’s art was nice. It’s another thing on the book that makes me think of Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye. That’s not a bad benchmark for comparison at all, but we’ll just have to wait and see if Kot and Walsh are can do for the Secret Avengers what Fraction and Aja did for Marvel’s resident archer superhero.

Rogue Trooper #1 (IDW, $3.99)

  • RogueTrooper01_cvrAStory: Brian Ruckley
  • Illustrations: Alberto Ponticelli
  • Colors: Stephen Downer
  • Cover: Glenn Fabry
  • Rogue Trooper created by: Dave Gibbons and Gerry Finley-Day
  • Publisher’s summary: Nu-Earth, just another planet ravaged by a galaxy-wide war, its atmosphere poisoned by chemical weapons. Created to fight in such conditions were the G.I.s—genetically engineered infantrymen. But now only one remains, the man known as… Rogue Trooper. IDW is proud to re-introduce Rogue Trooper in this all-new series!

Zedric: I was ready to dislike IDW’s Rogue Trooper. I really was. As much as I enjoyed the first few issues of IDW’s attempt to relaunch 2000 AD comics icon Judge Dredd under its own original series, as the months wore on, the comic increasingly felt like it was missing some vaguely important element of the original. Maybe it’s because Duane Swierczynski’s scripts and stories, while competent and generally entertaining, were missing the pointed satire of Thatcher-era British socio-politics and Cold War paranoia of the best stories from the original 2000 AD serial. Maybe it’s because I couldn’t entirely shake off the (admittedly unreasonable and unfair) feeling in the back of my head that I was reading a minor Judge Dredd spin-off, and that across the Atlantic, the “real” Judge Dredd stories were appearing in the 2000 AD and Judge Dredd: The Megazine comics anthologies.

For whatever reasons, those concerns don’t come into play with my reading of Rogue Trooper #1, another of IDW’s original interpretations of a popular 2000 AD serial. Perhaps it’s because the Rogue Trooper property has been reinvented several times over the course of its publishing history with the “definitive version” of the character and his story up for debate, and the fact that the comic’s original conceit—that of the hardbitten military veteran weary of war—carries with it themes that are relevant and accessible no matter the decade or political climate. It could also just be a simple matter of execution: Brian Ruckley’s writing is effective and efficient, seamlessly weaving exposition into the dialogue without turning it into a distraction, all while providing sufficient characterization for the issue’s principals. Alberto Ponticelli gets the job done on art—it’s not particularly spectacular work, but like Ruckley’s writing, it gets the point across.

A solidly entertaining read that is as good a (re-)introduction to the Rogue Trooper property as anything currently available.

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