In a tight economy, it's not always clear what you should spend your hard-earned money on, and with comic books getting more and more expensive, your dollar doesn’t go as far at the comic shop as it did in the past. We here at Complex feel your pain, so we're providing you with a rundown of the best comics coming out on May 30, 2011.
Reviews by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)
BPRD Hell On Earth: The Transformation Of J.H. O'Donnell - One Shot
What it’s about: Set 24 years in the past, BPRD Hell on Earth: The Transformation of J.H. O'Donnell tells the bizarre story of Hellboy’s trip through a haunted house with one of the smartest professors in the BPRD. Written by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and illustrated by Max Fiumara, this book is filled with the type of Gothic horror and humor that has come to typify the character’s adventures over the years.
Being that it's a self-contained story, you don’t need to know the long and complex history of Hellboy or the BPRD to understand what is going on here. This is simply a well-crafted short tale filled with mood, atmosphere, and an uneasy ending that really sells the whole thing.
Like the old Tales from the Crypt or Eerie comics of yesteryear, The Transformation Of J.H. O’Donnell uses its full 22-pages to creep us out and leave us with an O. Henry-type ending. It’s a breezy read, no doubt, but Hellboy fans should be happy to see the character back firmly in his roots.
Truth be told, it’s always disappointing when Mike Mignola isn’t on the art duties for these Hellboy one-shots, but Max Fiumara does such a great job here that it more than makes up for it. Thankfully, he doesn’t just try to be a Mignola clone either. Instead, he brings his own style and atmosphere to the book, especially when it comes to the appearance of Professor J.H. O’Donnell himself. If you take your time with this book and really appreciate the art, The Transformation Of J.H. O’Donnell is a solid callback to the types of stories that used to rule the medium.
America’s Got Powers #2
What it’s about: In writer Jonathan Ross’ world, superheroes don’t fly above the streets saving little old ladies from pickpockets—they entertain the masses in an explosive, and deadly, reality show titled America’s Got Powers. This is a world where everything is for sale, and there is a better chance that these “heroes” will be selling a new line of soft drink rather than using their powers for good. And the new “it” kid is Tommy Watts, an idealistic young hero that is about to be introduced to a cutthroat world of corporate sponsors and a bloodthirsty public.
What to expect this month: In the second issue of America’s Got Powers, Ross continues to explore the commercialization and exploitation of this new super-powered generation of kids with a sharp, satirical tongue that most comic book writers aren’t allowed to show off. And the most interesting part comes when the book highlights the divide between those with powers and those without. This type of class struggle is very reminiscent of when the X-Men comics were at their peak, and Ross portrays it in a way that should hit close to home for some.
Filled with plenty of explosions and political allusions, this book takes the idea of wide-screen comics and presents it in a way that it more thoughtful than its contemporaries. The individual characters tend to get pushed aside in favor of the big ideas in this issue, but those very ideas are so engaging that the story thrives regardless.
This book wouldn’t work nearly as well as it does without the artwork of Bryan Hitch, who seems to be creatively rejuvenated after his last few years over at Marvel. Together, these two creators seem to be on the verge of something very special here; let’s just hope that they can continue to harvest it because America’s Got Talent can be just what the comic world needs.
Exile On The Planet Of The Apes #3
What it’s about: What Boom! Studios has done with the Planet of the Apes license is nothing short of spectacular. Over the course of a few miniseries, and an ongoing series, the company has turned what could have been a cheap movie tie-in into a fully fleshed-out franchise complete with its own burgeoning mythology and style.
Exile on the Planet of the Apes is the company’s latest Apes miniseries, and it continues to carry on the politically-driven plots that its predecessors showed off. Set before the original movie, this series focuses on two warring apes factions: one trying to destroy the humans and one set on creating peace between ape and man.
What to expect this month: The final climactic battle is brewing as the ape army is bearing down on the human sanctuary in The Forbidden Zone. However, the humans are in no shape to fight and their primitive arms and weaponry would prove useless in a real encounter. Thankfully, the renegade apes helping them might be enough to sway the conflict in their favor.
Writers Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko have done a near-flawless job of bringing the social relevance of the Apesmovies to this comic; so much so that this would fit in perfectly with the original movie series. The internal conflict between the apes, and the conflict between apes and man, is so universal here that it’s impossible not to relate to it in some way.
And fans of the original movie will be happy to know that artist Marc Laming recreates the Apes and their tech almost photo-realistically when compared to the original movies. For Planet of the Apes aficionados, Exile on the Planet of the Apes is a true gem, and it even outshines a few of the films as well.
Star Wars: Blood Ties—Boba Fett Is Dead #2 (Warning: Potential Spoilers Ahead)
What it’s about: Boba Fett is dead! The first issue of this miniseries began with the charred, blasted corpse of the galaxy’s most notorious bounty hunter baking in the hot sun for all to see. From there, the mystery behind his murder began to deepen as the men who did the deed started to turn up dead themselves.
Now, the race is on to wipe out all traces of Fett throughout the galaxy. This includes anyone related to him or connected to him. That’s bad news for Fett’s half-brother, Connor Freeman.
What to expect this month: It’s hard to talk about this issue without revealing a major thing or two about the plot. Just put it this way: Within the issue’s first few pages, the entire series is turned on its head. The book quickly morphs from a crime drama into a fugitive story as writer Tom Taylor channels the seedy underbelly of the Star Wars universe in order to craft a tale that is still sci-fi oriented, but also appeals to fans of hard-boiled revenge stories.
Backing up Taylor’s script is the gorgeously painted art by Chris Scalf, who truly owns this universe. His character renders are virtually identical from those of the films, right down to the gears and bolts of a few menacing Star Destroyers. But it’s not just the detail or textures that work here either because Scalf’s storytelling ability is also top-notch. That’s rare for an artist going for this kind of look.
Star Wars comics can be hit-or-miss, especially when it comes to the years of backstory that you need to try and memorize, but Star Wars: Blood Ties—Boba Fett Is Dead has so far proven to be a relatable story for people with only a basic knowledge of the franchise.
Daredevil By Ed Brubaker And Michael Lark - Book 2
What it’s about: When Brian Michael Bendis ended his milestone tenure as Daredevil writer, fans were left with a pitt in their stomach wondering if the next writer could even come close to matching his brilliance. Thankfully, that next writer was Ed Brubaker, and while he didn't surpass Bendis' work, he came about as close as anyone could ever hope to.
Kicking off with a genuinely touching issue revolving around Matt Murdock, a.k.a. Daredevil, and his new wife, Milla Donovan, this book collects the second half of Brubaker's run on the title. The first half of this book, titled "For the Devil, his due" is filled with great drama as Daredevil must defend Melvin Potter, aka The Gladiator, in court after he is accused of a murder that he denies he committed. This story then ties directly into the second half of the book, which happens to be Brubaker's best, titled "Without Fear."
In this story, Daredevil must confront Mr. Fear (think of him as Marvel's version of The Scarecrow) after a drug he administered to Milla causes her to pull off one of the most genuinely shocking acts in a comic that we have seen in years. We won't spoil it here, but this single act sets into motion one of the most tragic chapters in the life of The Man Without Fear as Brubaker further pushes him to his limits.
If you need any more proof that Daredevil is actually the Marvel Universe's most complex and interesting character, then check this book out. This isn't the type of bright and sunny superhero story that the company has put out in recent years. Brubaker's Daredevil is crime, noir, and tragedy all rolled up into a ball of red Spandex and shattered personalities.