It’s Wednesday and that means new comics. Let us steer your wallet in the right direction with reviews (and preview pages) of titles out today from Image, Dark Horse, IDW, Boom! Studios, Archie, MonkeyBrain, Oni, Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, Action Lab, and more!
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Christian Ward
Colored by Dee Cunniffe
Lettered by Chris Eliopoulos
A classic myth transforms into shiny science fiction in this psychedelic, gender-swapped retelling of The Odyssey. Odyssia won the war of a lifetime and sets out on the long trek home, but the gods of this universe are bored and petty. A small slight is all the goddess Poseidon needs to set the warrior queen off course on an epic journey made even more grandiose in the infinite scale of space.
The story progression in this premier issue is as gorgeous and chaotic as its color palette. Neons spill out in liquid swirls, turning outer space into a prismatic ocean, which is appropriate considering Poseidon is the goddess of all that void through which Odyssia is cutting her voyage home. Panels bleed into the background, tumble into black holes, or twist around each other like clock gears. The entire comic seems to actually move and breathe as the reader’s eye is drawn every which way across the pages.
Character designs lack defining lines or traditional structure in close-up and instead appear to be made from the same stuff as the universe around them. Nearly every character from the original tale has traded genders, with the exception of more peripheral characters. The Olympians are still recognizable but with fewer togas and more Barbarella. Zeus, for example, is a buxom diva with thigh-high boots and lustrous long hair in lieu of a beard.
The review .PDF of this comic was missing the giant foldout spread in the beginning that told the story of the Troiian war. However, having read The Odyssey, I knew exactly where I was in the plot when Odyssia convenes with her fellow conqueror queens. In fact, despite guys being gals and all the futuristic space ships, this seems like a very literal adaptation of the original tale. The general narration comes off like lines from an epic poem. The heavy-handed oration is as cold as Odyssia, who thus far comes off a bit stiff. There’s a lot of potential for a comic with a cast of such powerful women as long as they approach the plot with as much artistry as the setting.
– Sarah Register
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Capture Creatures #1
Written by Frank Gibson
Art by Becky Dreistadt
Inked by Kelly Bastow
Colored by Tracy Liang
Lettered by Britt Wilson
BOOM! Studios .
Capture Creatures is an adorable and fun riff on Pokémon by way of Cartoon Network’s current style that’s going to make a great graphic novel, but only an okay single-issue comic. Tamzen is getting ready to leave the country to go live with her mother in the city, leaving behind her father who is busy trying to stop the waterfront from eroding into the sea due to earthquakes emanating from a mysterious island just offshore. Visiting with her father, she meets his intern Jory, who knows a lot about the seaside but has never visited it. Together they meet a strange (and incredibly cute) creature and embark on a trip to the island.
I really love the characters here. While both Tamzen and Jory easily fall into the standard stereotypes of “tomboy” and “nerd” they still feel like actual people and not caricatures. A lot of that comes through with the art, which is a nice mix of ’70s television-style anime and current Cartoon Network fare (see also: Steven Universe) that gives the characters weight. There’s also a lot of hilarious physical comedy, including a bike chase that made me laugh out loud in spots. Becky Dreistadt builds up so much goodwill in the art that it’s a shame the story just kind of stops after thirty pages. It’s like they took a fully realized graphic novel and picked a point to hack it up into single issues. That doesn’t make it a bad comic, but it does make it a disappointing one. I get that the economic realities of publishing new properties in original graphic novels are very dicey, but the story just doesn’t benefit from being cut up like this. Regardless, this is a fun comic that is a good, if abbreviated, start to a potentially great new series.
– Jason Urbanciz
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The Transformers: Drift: Empire of Stone #1
Written by Shane McCarthy
Art by Guido Guidi
Empire of Stone (what’s with all these “Stone” titles I’m reading lately?) is a strange throwback to the older days of IDW-style Transformers. Shane McCarthy was the author of their big All Hail Megatron relaunch back in 2008. His creation, the Autobot Drift, has had a big year: after a series of appearances in James Roberts’ More Than Meets The Eye that revitalized the character, he made it to the big screen, played by The Actual Ken Watanabe, in this summer’s Age of Extinction. Rumors are also circulating of an appearance in the upcoming Transformers animated series. So a Drift miniseries is a pretty great move at this point in time to remind us all of the original version of the character. With McCarthy writing, though, the situation is almost exactly analogous to putting Rob Liefeld on a new Deadpool book.
Empire of Stone picks up after Drift was kicked off the Lost Light due to events in MtMtE #16. The story space provided by his exile has offered McCarthy the opportunity to jettison most of the “New Age” persona that Drift picked up in that book. A little less excusably, Drift hints that it was partly an act anyway, a bit of insincerity that clashes with both McCarthy’s and Roberts’ takes on the character.
If I sound frustrated with McCarthy, it’s because he always gets the story so close to being great, but misses something crucial. I’ll give you an example. One thing McCarthy has picked up on is the brilliant relationship that developed between Drift and Ratchet in the pages of MtMtE. When Ratchet goes after Drift to try to bring him back to the Autobot fold, he creates the bounce and the conflict that couldn’t have existed in a “Drift as lone wolf” action series. Unfortunately, while quipping does indeed ensue, dropping Drift’s hippy-dippiness eliminates the natural conflict he had with the empirical atheist Ratchet in the first place. There is still a connection between the characters–they are the two most humanist and compassionate Autobots. But, with the original source of their conflict downplayed, McCarthy has to manufacture conflict by having the characters trade the role of “the compassionate one” back and forth from panel to panel! First, Ratchet wants to risk his life for some Decepticons, and Drift drags him away. Then, moments later, Ratchet wants to leave a Decepticon to be killed, and Drift waves him off and charges in to save the guy. There is no underlying logic to the disagreements other than that Drift makes the “right” decision both times.
Still, you can do a lot worse than a humanist action series about robots with swords, and in that respect Empire of Stone doesn’t disappoint. Guido Guidi is a fantastic Transformers artist and he goes a slightly more stylized route than usual here. While the choreography is a little shaky at times, he still delivers much more intricate and beautiful fight scenes than in The Transformers or More Than Meets The Eye, in a more traditional style than the wacky fast-paced antics of Transformers vs. G.I.Joe. Compared to the talky Transformers and the action-heavy Godzilla books from IDW, this issue’s balance of action and story is the most satisfying I’ve experienced in a good while. It’s a throwback to be sure, and an imperfect one, but well worth reading, particularly if you think a robot samurai movie would be a Rad Thing.
– Patrick Stinson
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ElfQuest: The Final Quest #6
Written by Wendy and Richard Pini
Art by Wendy Pini
Lettered by Nate Piekos of Blambot
Colored by Sonny Strait
ElfQuest: The Final Quest #6 feels like the eye of a hurricane. Ember, Cutter, and the rest of the Wolfriders pause for breath after the dramatic rescue of last issue. However, their peace is fleeting. But before we talk about The Final Quest, we should rewind to a previous ElfQuest story, 1990’s Kings of the Broken Wheel, in which the power-mad Rayek stole the magical Palace of the High Ones and transported it ten thousand years into the future.
This event was a shattering status quo change, and unlike superhero comic tradition, there were no retcons or resets—ElfQuest played for keeps. While some major characters survived the time-jump (it’s handy, being an immortal elf), many did not, and others still had their final fates lost in the fog of time. The impact of Kings of the Broken Wheel is felt heavily in The Final Quest. Not only are the surviving Wolfriders still adjusting to a new, uncertain world full of militarized humans, but they are still learning about the deaths of fallen comrades. This issue finally answers one of ElfQuest’s most burning questions: what ever happened to Kahvi?
Of course, you should read the issue and find out for yourself. Kahvi was one of my favorite characters in the original ElfQuest series: she was a brave, brash, but bloodthirsty warrior chieftess, an anti-heroine who was never softened by love, or even her children. This is an extremely difficult character archetype to handle well in fantasy comics (a lesser book would have, at the very least, made her wear a metal bikini), but Kahvi was always a ready example of the complexity and diversity of ElfQuest’s large female cast. This issue features some of Wendy Pini’s best work in The Final Quest so far, darting from the rocky mountain terrain of Ember’s “New World” to the arctic wasteland where Kahvi tells her final tale. The resolution to Kahvi’s story may not be what fans would have expected, but it still feels appropriate to the character who said, “If your tribe’s living and dying well, you’re doing your job.”
– Kayleigh Hearn
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