Comics Reviewed! Thor, Scarlet and more!


Scarlet #1 (Icon, $3.95)
By Jeb D.

Spoiler-phobe that I am, I hadn't really known what to expect from this new creator-owned comic by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev. All I knew was the cover image, which suggested we were heading down the Jinx/Alias/Powers path, with a dangerous and damaged female protagonist; the turf might not be exactly fresh, but Bendis has usually done a pretty good job finding new variations on that character, and I was looking forward to enjoying it.

And enjoy it I did, in large part because of Maleev's astonishing art, which is up there with anything he's has ever done. But here's the interesting part: what I enjoyed most about it hasn't actually happened yet.

The story opens with the red-haired heroine brutally killing a man. Not entirely unexpected, given the heat she's packing on the cover; what is a bit surprising is her immediate breaking of the fourth wall to start explaining what we've just seen-the surprise due, in no small part, to the fact that she's not a secret government agent, professional hit woman, or other typical comic-book ass-kicker. As she goes on to tell us her story, her "normalcy" contrasts sharply with what we've seen of her, and Bendis captures the rhythm of her life with his usual sharp ear for dialog, while he and Maleev play with some nice layout choices and graphic surprises that make the book feel fresh and exciting (not unlike some of Jonathan Hickman's best work). The city of Portland becomes an important character in the book, with its contrast between the tourist city many of us know and the "real" city inhabited by Scarlet and her friends.

Of course, the darker side of any Bendis city's going to contain brutality, and it comes to the fore here, with blood, death, and abuse of power of the sort you'd find in many of today's crime comics. What's different is Scarlet's reaction: she's not The Punisher-ette, out for simple revenge on those who have hurt her and hers, and the call to action at the end cements that. There's something bigger and more complex at work, and in reading the interview that Bendis provides in the back of the book, you can see the size of the canvas he's starting to paint on here, and a re-read of the first issue, in light of that interview, suggests that he's laid the groundwork for an ambitious story that, despite its surface resemblance to some of his past work, actually looks to be quite unlike anything he's done before.

Now, at this point, I really don't want to give any more specific detail: I'd much rather you have the experience of seeing if the first issue is able to subvert your expectations as it did mine. If nothing else, the book is absolutely essential for Maleev fans, because so much of the story is ABOUT perspective and point of view, and his choices in that regard are impeccable.

I don't know if Scarlet can become the ambitious epic that Bendis and Maleev appear to have in mind, which is why I'm not going all-out on the recommendation: most of what I loved about first this issue is its potential, and when Bendis goes off the reservation, things can get mucked up (see Halo, the oft-delayed Powers, the not-quite-groundbreaking Spider-Woman, etc.). If it lives up to that potential, though, it could be my favorite new series of 2010.


Thor, The Mighty Avenger #1 (Marvel Comics, $2.99)
By Devon Sanders

Here's a name: Thor.

You're going to be hearing it a lot over the next few years. From being a semi-dead comic book property just a short while ago to becoming what publisher and movie producer Marvel hopes will become a summer 2010 tentpole flick, now, more than ever is the time to be a god of thunder. Better yet, an integral part of The Avengers franchise. Hence, new all-ages (and out-of-regular-continuity) title, Thor, The Mighty Avenger #1.

A rainbow flashes over the night skies of Oklahoma and museum curator Jane Foster's worldview is about to change in a big way. A young, tall hooded man, screaming in a foreign language and brandishing a massive club comes crashing into her life. At first, he seems nothing more than crazy but following a fight with the villainous Mister Hyde, Foster will soon find there's more to this man in search of a hammer.

Writer Roger Landridge (The Muppet Show) writes a fun and clever tale any diehard Thor fan or comics civilian could simply enjoy. His Thor is every bit the man-of-honor and action we've come to know but also infused with a boyish charm that too many writers seem never to take into account. His Jane Foster is this book's true gem, firmly rooted in the reality of her life as museum curator yet willing to suspend belief long enough to take in the fantastic. If she were real, I believe she'd make an excellent comic book fan.

Artist Chris Samnee (Queen and Country, Siege: Embedded)once again shows himself to be one of comics' most versatile artists. His command of pacing and layout is top-notch, perfectly complimenting the words upon the page. Samnee's Thor isn't the highly muscled God of Thunder we've been taught to expect and yet, he manages to infuse his Thor with a bearing that more suggests the power at his command.

Thor, The Mighty Avenger #1 is a fun adventure comic I'd be quite happy to read myself and better yet, pass along to some lucky kid.


Hit-Monkey #1 of 3 (Marvel, $2.99)
By Jeb D.

I was out of the loop for Hit-Monkey's first appearance with Deadpool, but just the name and a glance at the cover suggested to me that we were going to see a black-comic John Woo-style riff on the Pet Avengers or some similar high-concept idea (although it seemed to me that Atlas' Gorilla Man had that pretty well staked out already). I'm not entirely sure what I'd have expected or enjoyed out of a comic like that, but… well, that's not what this is.

Again, I don't know how much of this is integral to the character's previous appearance (this would appear to be his "origin" story), but writer Daniel Way has evidently decided that he is going to take the concept of a vengeance-seeking primate packing twin .45's, and anthropomorphize it the very minimum necessary, and no more. So, despite the cover, the simian assassin in the actual comic doesn't look like, say, Mojo Jojo… he looks like a monkey. He stands like one, seems to move like one, even holds the guns the way a monkey might, arms out from his body at funny angles, pistols almost drooping from his long fingers. Artist Dalibor Talajic grasps the notion perfectly, and he gives this story of mayhem and revenge, that spans Japan from its jungles to its cities, something like the feel of a classic Caniff adventure strip, but with fast and bloody action that would have caused ol' Milt to blanch.

All well and good, with one exception: our titular protagonist is enough like a "real" monkey that he doesn't speak. Nor does he carry on the internal monolog that has become the lingua franca of the American comic book. This would not be a problem if this were something like a Pride of Baghdad, with the animals' perspective dominant, so that the humans appear the "others," and language isn't essential. Unfortunately, the story being told here is a very complex and human one of betrayal and murder, so that virtually every significant point needs to be told to us by one of several human characters standing around talking-a LOT of talking-- rather than just being carried along by Talajic's brilliant art. That's not to say that the book lacks action scenes; just that it drags pretty significantly between them.

The appearance of the surprise guest star in the last panel suggests that Hit-Monkey's future is likely headed down the darkly wacky path toward that cover image, including the suit and tie. And who knows? Hellboy was born as nothing more than a cool-looking convention sketch, so maybe Hit-Monkey has a future as a somewhat tongue-in-cheek simian badass. But I'd prefer that future feature fewer talking heads (even if some of them wind up with big holes in them).

Source: JoBlo.com



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