It’s Wednesday and that means new comics. Let Deadshirt 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!
Curb Stomp #1 (of 4)
Written by Ryan Ferrier
Illustrated by Devaki Neogi
Color by Neil Lalonde
Letters by Colin Bell
Welcome to Old Beach, a down and out borough protected by a tough pack of ladies in a pulp-inspired, almost dystopian story of gang rivalry and wealth distribution. The comic has a cinematic air about it, which is especially evident in its exploitation-style storytelling. There are cute character introductions for the gang members that reflect their own little schtick and personality. Each lady gets a nickname (like “Machete Betty” and “Bloody Mary”) that flashes over a descriptive scene which, were this a movie, I imagine would be accompanied by a punching sound effect or guitar riff. The grindhouse feel is complemented by the art team’s inspired choices such as a pink and turquoise color palette and retro clothing designs.
Old Beach has been abandoned by law enforcement, and this gal group, known as “The Fever,” has tasked themselves to defend it against both rival gangs from the other nearby boroughs and the interfering sleazeballs from the wealthy center city. For a gang, they’re surprisingly anti-violence and anti-gun, preferring to put out fires instead of start them. Unfortunately, and as the title would suggest, a violent encounter ends with a brutal curb stomping (which, despite sparing us the most gruesome part, still made me cringe into next week). Now Old Beach faces an all out turf war that will endanger the lives and loved ones of The Fever unless they can stop it. This is a gritty, technicolor comic that will grab you by the teeth.
– Sarah Register
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutanimals #1
Written by Paul Allor
Art by Andy Kuhn and Nick Filardi (colors)
Lettered by Shawn Lee
Hey, it’s the Mutanimals! During the peak of the Ninja Turtles craze, there were plenty of imitators and attempts to cash in on the basic premise (Street Sharks, Mighty Ducks: The Animated Series…one where they were talking dogs, I think). (Editor’s Note: Don’t forget Biker Mice from Mars! -Dylan) The Mutanimals were an effort by the TMNT creators to recapture lightning in a bottle, but creating a line of spin-off characters that teamed up with the Turtles from time to time. They achieved modest success, but haven’t been the subject of as many reboots and reinventions as the Turtles. UNTIL NOW.
The new Mutanimals book, which I believe is set in the continuity of the Nickelodeon animated series but I may be wrong, casts the Mutanimals in a little different light. Rather than a generic superhero team of talking creatures, they’re more akin to a mutant liberation front, operating out of vans and secret hideouts and beating up corporate villains with no quarter given. It’s a darker take, to be sure, but it definitely works within the context of the story Allor has set up. It’s also not without humor; Pigeon Pete is a riot, and while classic Mutanimal star Mondo Gecko (the team’s Michelangelo equivalent) doesn’t have a lot to do here, he and the others still get a couple of good gags. Kuhn’s character designs enhance the tone, with a good balance of silliness and style. It’s a look that’s as different from the classic eighties designs as the story is, which suits it well.
The one barrier to entry here is the presence of TMNT-based backstory, which can be hard to parse. Familiarity with the general ideas helps, but the recaps and editors’ notes can definitely allow new readers to get by. It’s a different look at the world of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and I like it a lot.
– Joe Stando
The Transformers: Drift: Empire of Stone #4
Written by Shane McCarthy
Art by Guido Guidi (breakdowns), Marcelo Ferreira (pencils pp 5-10), Stephen Baskerville (finishes), John-Paul Bove (colors)
Lettered by Tom B. Long
Drift: Empire of Stone is a serviceable four-part adventure yarn that commits, in the eyes of Transformers comics fans, a terrible sin. That sin is to be drastically overshadowed by all of its sister books in the franchise, which are each superior in artistic and literary ambition.
The previous issue in the series was probably its best, with the major plot twist revealed, character development for new guy Grit, and an alliance between the good guys and the former big bad. I was hoping this miniseries would beat the odds and deliver a kickass final issue. But ultimately McCarthy can’t surrender either of his fundamentally incompatible ambitions—to make a short, small, fun Transformers adventure, and to deliver a grand statement on the futility of war through Drift, the character he created. The result is an issue that feels overstuffed with dialogue and yet understuffed with story. All of the potentially interesting characters, including the entire “Empire of Stone” itself, seem to get their arcs cut off in favor of information we already know about Drift.
Uncharacteristically, even the action suffers this time. Simply by being less stylized, “Empire of Stone” was delivering the best action relative to the other books. Here, Guidi’s choreography seems unclear, perhaps due to the heavy collaboration indicated in the book’s credits. But some blame must fall on McCarthy as well, who ruins the climactic fight of the book by burying it under monologue and dialogue that was not necessary.
Writer McCarthy excels at short, fast-paced adventures (check out “Spotlight: Drift” and “Mars Attacks the Transformers”) and he has a welcome sense of humor. But he seems like he’s just continuing an old story and old themes that he developed for Drift years ago, in a franchise that now includes Earth getting dragged into an interplanetary cold war in the main book, a Back to the Future II style time travel epic in More Than Meets the Eye, and a little something called Transformers vs. G.I. Joe. Even last year when it was pitched, this book of vaguely retro art from Guido Guidi, explosions, one-liners, and Drift-rospection could have made sense.
Unfortunately, in the context of IDW Transformers’ current ambitions, Empire of Stone is going to be remembered as marking time between two big-deal Windblade series, and cementing fan dissatisfaction with McCarthy’s take on his own original character. The only piece of information likely to be relevant to future stories is stuck on the second-to-last page as a sort of “so there.”
– Patrick Stinson
Criminal: The Special Edition #1
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips
Colors by Elizabeth Breitweiser
Published by Image Comics
Celebrating the series’ return to Image Comics, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have created a special done-in-one issue of their classic noir series, Criminal. Set in the seventies while Teeg Lawless does a stint in the county jail for being stupid, they give us a quick shot of the Criminal world. Interspersed throughout the story, there are bits of the comic that Teeg is reading in lockup, a comic magazine featuring a Conan riff named Zangar. It’s a cool bit of backstory for old readers of the book, and a great way to get into the book if you’re new to the series. Teeg is the father of Tracy Lawless, the closest thing Criminal has to a lead character, and the Lawless family’s history is laced throughout the series. Teeg’s an interesting character, and it’s cool to see him in the lead. While in lockup, someone’s put a hit out on him, and he’s going to have to kill a lot of dudes to keep himself safe while he’s inside. The Zangar story mirrors his own: he’s been betrayed and he has to kill a lot of people to find his way to the truth.
The art in the seventies sections is, as usual, stellar. Phillips is working in his zone, and the dingy world of Criminal has never been more beautiful. The Zangar portions, unfortunately don’t fare as well. Phillips works in black and white (with some brown washes to make it look more “pulpy”), but it looks really rough. I get that he’s not Barry Windsor Smith or Pablo Marcos, but it just doesn’t feel like those old seventies barbarian magazines as much as a flat copy of them. It also shows how much Elizabeth Breitwiser’s colors make the book, especially in a sequence in which Teeg is dosed with LSD and has to fight for his life in a psychedelic nightmarescape. Her colors add a lot of depth to the world of the book, and removing them leaves some of its magic behind.
I’ve really missed the world of Criminal, and am glad to see Brubaker and Phillips revisiting it. Hope this is just a taste of more to come soon.
– Jason Urbanciz