Sunday, March 20, 2005

Portland Comicon Book Reviews

Portland Comicon Special Comic Review

The following three comic books are titles I picked up at the Portland Comicon on March 6. Thanks to Matt Haley for his preview copy, and to the unsuspecting crew at Alias Enterprises who had a nosy reviewer wandering around their booth for a spell, eyeballing all their bounty, without having a clue about it.

G.I Spy “Eyes Only” Preview
Atomeka Comics
Writer: Andrew Cosby
Art: Matt Haley
Colors: Matt Nelson & Pamela Rambo
Letters: John Workman & Ed Dukeshire
Price: $1.99

Rating: 3 stars

G.I. Spy is a comic book that takes concepts from True Lies, Indiana Jones, and the History Channel, throws them in the blender and puts a new twist on them. It doesn’t hurt that Matt Haley’s art is more eye-popping then ever to take a good concept and make it great. The lead character Jack Hunter is immensely likable, and his female opposite number Kaitlin Shepherd is beautiful, but without the usual have to kick the lead man’s ass quality that I loathe.

Andrew Cosby’s script is spare and lean, giving Haley a chance to let his art tell the story where possible. I especially enjoyed the narration by Hunter, which allowed the readers to see that he wasn’t completely egotistical, just charismatic and easy going, with a new career that is sure to test his limits. It is hard to tell from a preview how the character is going to connect with readers long-term, but I get a good vibe based on what I have read here.

Haley’s art is able aided by colorists Matt Nelson and Pamela Rambo, who enhance the delicate parts of his line art rather then overpowering it. I was especially impressed with Haley’s panel work, as it paced the storytelling in a positive way, and gave him room to showcase his abilities in full page spreads.

I enjoyed the preview of G.I. Spy immensely, and am awaiting word of when the first issue will hit the stands so I can make sure and order it through my local retailer. I have heard it will be this summer that the issue will see the light of day and look forward to seeing more of the quality I enjoyed here.

Lions, Tigers, and Bears #2 (of 4)
Image Comics/Runemaster Studios
Writer: Mike Bullock
Artist: Jack Lawrence
Letters: Dave Lanphear
Price: $2.90
Rating: 4 stars

Lions, Tigers, and Bears is the coolest new title out there you haven’t read yet. The concept is unique and the art is some of the most original style I have seen in a long time. I can’t believe this book hasn’t gotten more hype then it has, considering that for once it is justified. When I picked this book up the only thing I knew was that it was something different, and by the time I finished reading the first issue, I was a believer. Issue two does nothing but solidify my opinion.

Joey, a young boy whose mother is moving him away from his Grandma and familiar surroundings to secure a new job, is scared and unsure of how he will get by in a completely new environment. His grandma, sensing his fears, gifts him with a box of stuffed animals called the Night Pride. From minute one, Joey feels a sense of security and closeness to the animals, not just for the comfort of his grandma’s sense of love, but for the way he is instinctively protected by their presence. Imagine his surprise when he goes to bed the first night and finds that his Night Pride is all too real and that he is a key in many ways to future safety and security of children like him everywhere.

The concept by writer Mike Bullock is one that many readers can relate to, having been small children once, whether it is a few years or several. We can all remember going to bed and being frightened by noises and the sheer terror of the dark. The fact that he has tapped into this is incredibly cool, and I could kick myself that I didn’t think of it first! The way Bullock presents the Night Pride as individual, with distinctive personalities is another facet to the puzzle that makes the book interesting. I enjoyed the dialogue and the way the story is moving along at a fun and engrossing pace.

The secret weapon here is artist Jack Lawrence. His art is breathtaking in its originality and quality. When I first opened the first issue, I could scarcely believe my eyes. There is a slightly manga feel, but mostly a whimsical one. Lawrence’s detail work in the characterization in the soul of the book, and his collaboration with Bullock is a winning combination to say the least.

If you haven’t picked up this book yet, go find it and give it a try. It is distinctive and charismatic, and you can share it with younger readers. Joey is a universal character, and his interactions tap something within all of us. I can hardly believe I have such affection for a new comic book, but everything works here. Give it a try, and pass it on to new fans like my husband and I plan to do with our 8 and 11 year old nephews.

Lullaby: Wisdom Seeker #1
Image Comics/ Alias Enterprises
Created by: Hector Sevilla
Writers: Mike S. Miller & Ben Avery
Art: Hector Sevilla
Colors: Simon Bork, David Curiel, and Ulises Arreola
Letters; Bill Tortolini
Price: $2.95
Rating: 3 stars

Imagine that something in your life happens that is tragic and unforeseen, and you find yourself living in a world that encompasses fantasy but also pulls at the heart strings of your worst nightmares, and you will find yourself in Lullaby land. As Alice finds herself through the looking glass, all is not as it seems. From her entrance to this new world from her ascent to First Hand to the Queen of Hearts, Alice knows something is missing, but isn’t quite sure what it is, beginning a journey to get to the bottom of things. Jim Hawkins is her opposite number, a young man with a heart of gold and the mind of a pirate.

From the first page of this book, it is apparent it is not your mother or brother’s fantasy world, but something so twisted it seems too perfect. It has a completely different vibe then Fables in the Vertigo line, as the characters are more alluded to then named. The lead character is not called by her given name at all in the first issue, and the reader is left to use their imagination to find her place. Part of what makes this book so intriguing is what is not said, rather then what is.

Hector Sevilla has created a world that for some would be the ultimate fantasy, but for others would be a total hell. Four sets of cards and two sets of board pieces fight for supremacy in a world where Alice is a fierce warrior and the Queen of Hearts is not an incomparable beauty but a warped version of what we see on the cards we play with. From Alice’s peaceful reality to this new world she must inhabit, there is a gross dichotomy that shows fantasy is not always the best thing to aspire for. The old adage “be careful what you wish for” is more a warning then a premonition.

Writers Mike S. Miller and Ben Avery maintain the mystery by letting Sevilla’s artwork take center stage. As Alice and her cast of characters take shape, the reader is left to draw their own conclusions rather then be told what is happening. It works well here and leaves the readers with a sense of being in charge of the characters destiny rather then the other way around.

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