by Doug Smith
Life is actually slowing down a little bit, and the mountain of trade paperbacks weighing down my bookshelf are finally getting some love and attention. Following my Y: The Last Man marathon, I tackled a few done-in-one books, and a smaller run on a “catch-up” title. Pleasant surprises were to be found in this stack o’ books! So grab the popcorn and get ready for reviews of Sorrow; Sub-Mariner: Revolution; The Phantom: Man Eaters; and a bunch of Cable & Deadpool.
Oh, and because we're always looking for more hits here at the Bad Genious...look kids! Boobies! That's right, I have no shame.
Sorrow trade paperback (Image Comics) by Rick Remender and Seth Peck (writers) and Francesco Francavilla (artist)
Image publishes a lot of miscellaneous miniseries, most of which slip under my radar. I came across some of Francavilla’s artwork online recently, and was impressed enough to order the trade collection of this four-issue series that he did last year. Sorrow tells the tale of four young people who stumble into a town filled with vengeful spirits. The story is nothing radical – angry Indian spirits aren’t exactly a new concept – but the writing is solid and the dialogue has punch; the quality is akin to something from the Showtime series Masters of Horror or the current NBC anthology Fear Itself. I was very impressed with the artwork though, which is quite creepy and gruesome. Francavilla employs an old-school style, which I found ironic since it’s a very different style than what drew me to his work in the first place; there are definitely some Joe Kubert influences here and at times his inks remind me of Tom Palmer, one of my all-time favorites. Francavilla is certainly an artist to keep an eye on. Grade: B
Sub-Mariner: Revolution trade paperback (Marvel) by Matt Cherniss and Peter Johnson (writers) and Phil Briones (artist)
Another book where the artist is the star. I was familiar with Briones thanks to his work on the recent White Tiger miniseries, but he really took a step forward on this six-issue miniseries featuring Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Briones embraced a more “classic Marvel” style here, heavily indebted to John Byrne in his heyday; there’s even an homage page to one of Byrne’s classic Namor covers. (Note: the image presented here is a cover by the late and much-missed Michael Turner.) The writing is nothing to sneeze at though; Cherniss and Johnson tackle Namor’s post-Civil War status quo with a nice mix of political intrigue and superhero action, deftly moving their setting in time back and forth to foreshadow a fairly daring climax. I would imagine that some people would have a problem with Namor’s decisions and actions at the end of this series, but I thought they made sense for a character who has never really defined himself as a “superhero”. A much better book than I expected, and I’d like to see a follow-up by this same team. Grade: B+
Cable & Deadpool trade paperbacks Vol. 3 “The Human Race”, Vol. 4 “Bosom Buddies”, and Vol. 5 “Living Legends” (Marvel) by Fabian Nicieza (writer) and Patrick Zircher, David Ross, Lan Medina, Ron Lim, and Reilly Brown (pencillers)
Proof that mega crossovers do work! When Marvel first launched this series several years ago, I read the first two issues and walked away unimpressed. I didn’t read it again until it crossed over with Civil War, and I was amazed to find myself really enjoying it. The book found itself on my pull list and stayed there until its recent cancellation. I’ve gone back and filled in the sizable gap in my collection with the trade paperbacks. Throughout the run of the series, Nicieza spices things up with just the right amount of humor (sometimes wildly inappropriate humor) and has a blast writing Deadpool. Cable is a harder character to make work, as he’s just…well…boring. Nicieza gives him a fascinating raison d’être as a Christ-like mutant savior of humanity, but Nathan Dayspring Summers is just such a blank slate personality-wise that it never really achieves its potential. But Nicieza still acquits himself well here; he avoids the continuity-slog and over-plotting that marred his Thunderbolts run and focuses more on moving his protagonists forward, an impressive trick considering the deep ties these two characters have with the X-universe. Patrick Zircher is the main penciller in these volumes; I’ve always thought he was very underrated and I’m glad to see that’s he’s currently getting some higher-profile work with a series of Thor one-shots. Grade: B
The Phantom: Man Eaters graphic novel (Moonstone) by Rafael Nieves (writer) and Vatche Mavlian (artist)
This is an interesting twist on the graphic novel, as it’s actually a prose story with illustrations; each two-page “spread” features prose with a “strip” of artwork running through the middle of the pages. The story concerns the Phantom tracking a pride of man-eating lions that have ravaged a small African village, but this being a Phantom story, the real enemy walks on two legs. Nieves delivers an impressive writing job, keeping the story moving briskly without sacrificing detailed descriptions and characterization; given the confines of the format, it’s a nice trick and I’m sure it wasn’t easy to pull off. Mavlian provides moody artwork that compliments the writing. All in all, a fulfilling read. Grade: B
by Doug Smith