Fast-Shot Comics Reviews 10.12.2014

This segment is proving to be quite interestingly popular in certain corners, and I still am taken with how it allows me to cover so many more comics than I would otherwise be able to. It is suitably time-intensive as well, which can sometimes wear on me when I have so much more to do, but not such a big deal. Plus, choosing which comic to feature here, while a challenge, is also quite a fun process in and of itself, so that’s something as well.

The picks for this week are: Brides of Helheim #3, Chastity #4-6, Dredd Uprise #2, Hexed #5, Spider-Verse Team-Up #2 and Prometheus: Fire and Stone #3-4. Lots of catch-up on the reviews this week, as you can see!


Brides of Helheim #3:

Cullen Bunn and Joelle Jones have been mov pretty steadily on their second Helheim title, Brides of Helheim as they continue to explore Rikard as a character, a great warrior who was denied Valhalla at the moment of his death and now lives an unlife as a Draugr, a monster, hunting down other monsters and even rogue magicians, as the current arc shows us. And mixed into all of this is a young woman named Sigrid, who has taken quite the fancy to Rikard, more so since he killed the monster who killed her father and practically hero-worships him now.

In this past week’s Brides of Helheim #3, Cullen goes further along this arc as Rikard brings the sorcerer Raevil back to the witches he works with these days, and we learn more about all the characters involved. For a new reader to this series like me, the details are teased out a bit slowly, but Cullen is pretty on-point with these characters, and I liked how he addressed the various relationships, such as that between Sigrid and Brand, or Sigrid and Rikard, or Rikard and the witches and so on. Pretty good stuff there all the way.

Joelle Jones and Nick Filardi outdid themselves once again with the art this issue, especially when it came to showing the various monsters of this world. They’ve had a good handle on that since the first issue of Brides of Helheim and this one is no different. Of course, what with Rikard and Raevil travelling inside the belly/mouth of a sea-monster subservient to Rikard, there are lots of opportunities to go wild with the environments and the characters themselves and the artists certainly don’t skimp out.

Probably my most favourite issue of the three as yet. Loved the twist at the end and can’t wait for more.

Rating: 9.5/10

More Brides of Helheim#1, #2,

Chastity #4-6:

Marc Andreyko and Dave Acosta’s Chastity has had a pretty good run so far. It has certainly been one of my top series this year, with a large part of that due to the story that Marc has written, though the art has been fairly good as well. In the previous issues we have seen how Chastity Marks’ world is turned upside down when her literary hero turns out to be a vampire and assaults her and her family in their home, killing all of them, though Chastity and her brother end up being half-breed vampires in the process. And it hasn’t really been a fun ride for either of them. They are both struggling with their identities and who they are, and as Marc and Dave end their first arc in the fifth issue, we see just how far it all goes.

In the fourth issue, we see how Chastity deals with her school-life, with everybody gossiping about the murder of her family and projecting their own insecurities on her. In addition to that, we see how Alyce is treating Chas’ young brother and even how the Vampire elders get involved in the whole matter. No twists just keep happening and Marc never lets up, but that’s fine since I loved how he charts out Chas’ real brush with vampirism, and even how it all draws her into a bigger mess than she is already in.

In the fifth issue, which is the final issue of the first arc, we see a big confrontation between all the characters involved. The Vampires’ council, tired of Alyce Stonecliff’s repeated attempts to unthinkingly expose the entire race to the world through her careless attacks, finally takes action against her in a major one-two punch. Chas learns more about who she is, what she is, now and finds herself a mentor in the process. Chas has a reunion with her brother and then has a big showdown with Alyce herself.

There’s so much going on in this issue and Marc’s script never wavers. He makes it the best issue on the series to date, and it is pretty obvious that he’s had a blast doing this too. This issue might be the end of the first leg of Chastity’s journey, but by no means is the journey itself over, and there’s a sense of there being more “behind the curtain” here. The pacing is quick, as I expected it to be, and the characters all get a decent turn-out by issue’s end.

In the sixth issue, we see the start of a new phase in Chastity’s life. Apparently she’s been abroad in Europe, fighting the good fight against various monsters, and now she returns to New York at Christmas time, taking in the sights and sounds of a city that has changed so much in her absence, and yet reminds her of everything she lost here. It is a rather melancholic issue, even when there’s a twist early on and Chastity finds herself confronting a child-kidnapper who has been terrorizing the streets in the holiday season.

From a story point, this was a fairly good issue, though it left me wanting more. I wanted to know more about her time in Europe, even see some of what she did there, but we don’t see anything like that and Marc takes us straight into the new story. Though I must say that while the pacing is slow and sometimes tiring, he does end things on a good note and shows that despite everything that has happened to her, everything that she has become, Chastity still retains her humanity and her love for people. That’s good!

Dave Acosta is the artist on these issues, with Thiago Ribeira on colours, Marshall Dillon on letters, and the covers by Emanuela Lupacchino and Ivan Nunes. In the fourth issue, the art is pretty much on the same level as the previous three, and while there are some good gems in there, there isn’t much to really talk about. However, I really loved the art on the fifth issue, when compared to the sixth one. It was an absolute visual feast, with all the mood/scene changes reflected extremely well with the colours, and the dangerous characters all looked suitably badass. And watching two vampires go at each other, with a werewolf thrown in for good measure, well that’s just icing on the cake really. The sixth issue I’m less favourable on, but mostly because there’s no context for the weird outfit that Chastity has taken to wearing, and because the villain wasn’t so appealing either. After all, when you go from an all-out badass vampire like Alyce Stonecliff to someone more mundane, it will leave you somewhat unsatisfied.

Still, both issues are fairly good in the long run and that’s what matters!

Review: 8.5/10

More Chastity: #1-3.

Dredd Uprise #2:

Last week, when I read Dredd Uprise #1 and reviewed it in the previous iteration of this feature, I mentioned how good the story was and, mostly, how good the art was as well. As someone still relatively new to Dredd comics, whether in the pages of 2000AD Prog or the various Dredd series from IDW, but a big fan of the Karl Urban movie, Dredd Uprise #1 proved to be a really good tale of Judge Dredd handling yet another mini-crisis in Mega City One, the Big Meg as it is often called.

And after reading Dredd Uprise #2 this past week, I can definitely say that this was a great story indeed. Arthur Wyatt’s story is pretty focused on the end-game since this is a two-issue story only, but he makes sure in the final half that you really get to see behind the masks of the characters to who they are. Judge Dredd is as he often is, but the other characters also get to shine in their own way, especially the villain, who turns out to be a rogue Judge getting kickbacks from a big corporation involved in the crisis. The story of how Dredd and his new allies take down the corrupt Judge and then solve the crisis in the Spit is only going to leave you wanting more, that’s the kind of story it is in this issue. And the fact that it is all over in just two issues means that the story here was very fast-paced, which is fine with me, since it kind of reflects on Dredd’s character at large, though not how he is in this story. It is a nice juxtaposition I think.

Paul Davidson, Chris Blythe and Simon Bowland are still as good in this one as were on the previous issue, though I think that they improved in some areas, such as their characterwork, rather important for the Judge characters since their only really expressive areas are their chins under their masks, and their body language. Good job there.

This issue also had a small backup written by Rob Williams and drawn by R.M. Guerra, Giulia Brusco and Annie Parkhouse. It focuses on an insane criminal who is sending people to their deaths from the height of a multi-story building and features a rather rough look at the character of Dredd himself. It is a decent story at best, and the art really isn’t on the same level as that of the main story either.

Rating: 8.5/10

More Dredd Uprise: #1.

Hexed #5:

Last month Michael Alan Nelson and Dan Mora wrapped up their first arc on the new Hexed, ending things on a pretty damn good note. Leading up to the conclusion, we saw some really incredible stuff, both in terms of the story and the art, easily making Hexed one of my favourite comics of the year, by a good margin and putting it in some great company I must admit.

This past week the duo launched their new arc as the trio of Raina, Val and Lucifer adjust to their change in status quo, what with Val’s gallery having been burned down by Cymbaline and all of them basically having no secure base of operations anymore. Hence their new digs, on top of a rock club. With this new issue, we see a much different Raina than before, someone who has accepted the dangerous world that Val and Lucifer inhabit, hunting down and locking up dangerous pieces of art. She is a full member of the team now and with the new arc Lucifer takes her on an retrieval for the first time, giving her a direct taste of exactly what it is that their work now entails.

But of course, there’s a mystery at work here since Lucifer and Raina are cut off during their mission from their prize, and on the other side of the world Cymbaline is having some issues with her continued existence and goes to consult with the Graeae, whom she calls Mothers, and who are probably the Crones of Greek Mythology. It is all an interesting turn of events, and shows that Michael is definitely invested in keeping things fresh as he moves forward with these characters, giving each of them a new outlook and a new purpose in the new arc.

Dan Mora’s artwork, with Gabriel Cassata’s colours and Ed Dukeshire’s letters, is definitely the best it has been so far. I just love the fact that there’s a comic on the shelves starring four incredible female characters where the artists are able to do all the justice to them that they deserve. The linework is perfect, the body language is perfect, the expressions, the colour palette, and so on. The scenes dealing with magic are some of the best in this issue and Dan’s work with the Graeae stands out as well.

One word: incredible!

Rating: 10/10

More Hexed: #1-2, #3, #4.

Spider-Verse Team-Up #2:

The last issue for Spider-Verse Team Up was a pretty fun issue, by all means. As the name implies, it is about a team-up of various Spider-Men (and Spider-Women) from across dimensions where they all are on a recruitment mission to bolster their ranks for the fight against the Inheritors that they all know is coming and is just around the corner.

In the second issue from this past week, we go back in time a bit as Miles Morales from the comics, Ultimate Spider-Man from television and the 1960’s television Spider-Man all meet-up for a rousing adventure against some of the more dangerous villains from that era of Spider-TV. At first glance, it is a bit of a silly story in many ways and the art also isn’t all that good on the first few pages, but as the story goes on, we start to see the gems as writer Christos Gage gets down into the nuts and bolts of each character and makes their team-up against the villains work really well. It is a chill-out story, a brief humorous interlude from the seriousness of Spider-Verse, and that’s what I ultimately liked it.

The art is by Dave Williams, with Dexter Vines on inks and Chris Sotomayor on colours. As I said, at first the art is a bit off-putting, but that’s also down to the artists trying to capture the visual feel of the Spider-Man cartoon from the 1960s. After a few pages go by, you really get into the art, and the visual differences between all of them really speak out as well. I liked it all well enough.

The second story here deals with the Gwen Stacy version of Spider-Girl, first introduced in the awesome Edge of Spider-Verse #2 a few weeks back. This one sees Gwen go to Earth-21205 where she meets with the Goblin, Peter of that world who went on a villain killing spree after losing Gwen of his world and eventually took on the identity of the Goblin. It is kind of a dark story this time, especially since Morlun’s sister Verna is on the world, hunting for more Spider-totems to feed her hunger and that of the other Inheritors. Lots of insane action this one around, and we also get to see some touching character moments that really resonated with me, especially towards the end there.

Though the ending is rather sad, I also liked how it kind of empowers Gwen and gives her yet another reason to live on and take the fight to the Inheritors. Good stuff.

The art here is by Steven Sanders, with colours by Andrew Crossley (with VC’s Clayton Cowles doing letters for the issue entire). There were times when the art was a bit too simplistic and the backgrounds failed to really do much of anything, but the expression-work was pretty decent, so that’s that.

Rating: 8/10

More Spider-Verse Team-Up: #1.

Prometheus: Fire and Stone #3-4:

Prometheus: Fire and Stone is one of four Fire and Stone comics mini-series recently released by Dark Horse that are sequels to Ridley Scott’s 2012 movie Prometheus, which is itself a prequel to his Aliens franchise. These comics explore the various aspects of this grand universe, and Prometheus: Fire and Stone has particularly dealt with the human crews that came to LV-223 in the wake of the old Prometheus mission. The crews faced one danger after another and right now they are on the run for their very lives, with swarms of Xenomorphs hunting after them and one of the crew, a scientist named Francis, has created a new danger for the group by turning the android Elden into a Xenomorph-like biomechanical monstrosity. Not a good sign.

Issues three and four explore what happens to Captain Angela Foster’s crew, and how they are all betrayed by their fellow crew-mate Galgo and some of the others he’s coerced into helping him. As with all such stories, these two issues show how this particular story ends in extreme tragedy and loss, utterly devastating the crew and cutting off all chances of escape from the cursed world. Being a prequel to Predator: Fire and Stone and Aliens vs Predator: Fire and Stone, we already know some of what happens next, but watching all of it unfold through Paul Tobin’s pen is still enough to give you a right thrill and  also a sense of excitement and the rush of adrenalin. The writing is charged, and it completely pulls you in as well in a way that I didn’t imagine would happen when I first heard about the project.

Juan Ferreyra is the artist here with Eduardo Ferreyra on colours, Nate Piekos of Blambot on letters and David Palumbo on the covers. As I expected from these two issues after the excellence of the previous two, there’s something rather exceptional about the artwork here. The adrenalin rush you feel upon reading the story is heightened by the very art itself, and as the characters stumble on through the jungles to reach their drop-ships, with the swarms of Xenomorphs on their tail, you really start cheering for them, wanting them all to be able to escape. The art pulls you in and makes it really easy to visualize the missing pieces and really envision what is happening to the characters.

Pretty damn excellent work in all ways!

Rating: 9.5/10

More Prometheus: Fire and Stone: #1-2.

More Fire and Stone: Link.


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