Reviews by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)
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 October 31, 2012.
Superman: Earth One – Vol. 2
What it’s about: He may be the world’s first mainstream superhero, yet we've seen Superman’s popularity fall to the wayside. Characters like Batman, Spider-Man, and Wolverine have taken his spot as the industry’s mascots. But in the Superman: Earth One series of graphic novels, writer Joseph Michael Straczynski attempts to rectify that by bringing the Man of Steel into the modern era and humanizing the character a bit.
The first volume in the series was an admirable, if not somewhat formulaic, retelling of the character’s beginnings. In this second volume, Straczynski far exceeds his original effort and actually makes us care about the man behind the cape for the first time in quite a while.
The book's main plot is somewhat typical superhero fare: A new villain named Parasite shows up in Metropolis who is capable of draining Superman’s powers, so it’s up to Supes to fight off this new menace and save the Earth. We’ve all read that story before countless times, but it’s Straczynski’s underlying themes and sub-plots that make Earth One work so well. Here we see how world leaders see Superman as a potential savior, and also a potential threat. They are uneasy with the thought of an all-powerful alien working without borders or flags, and the U.S., in particular, makes preparations in case he goes rouge. And furthering this real world feeling, Superman deals with a corrupt dictator in a foreign country in a way that isn’t very Superman-esque. This new attitude is a refreshing change of pace for such a buttoned-up character.
Politics aside, Earth One's real highlight comes when Straczynski shows Clark struggling with his complicated romantic feelings for his new neighbor and wondering how someone as powerful as Superman can have casual sex with a human. Readers are even treated to an awkward flashback of Clark’s adopted father telling him how he could accidentally kill a woman during rough lovemaking. As odd as it sounds, this scene provides a look at the real problems a character this powerful would actually face. Moments like this make Superman seem more human than he has in many years.
Oddly enough, the action-packed fights with Parasite are dreadfully dull and rushed here, but Shane Davis' artwork is absolutely tremendous. Battle scenes pop off the page like a Hollywood blockbuster, and emotional moments are handled with the care of a delicate auteur. He's aided by Straczynski’s script, which plays to Davis’ strengths, and even challenges him to show us a side of Superman we’ve never seen before. This is widescreen art at its finest as Davis delivers visuals that are both pulse-pounding and heartfelt.
Superman: Earth One – Vol. 2 isn’t about action and mayhem. It’s really focused on peeling back the layers of Clark Kent’s psyche and how he adjusts to being a god among men. If you’ve never been a Superman fan, this book might just change your mind about him. And if you’re a longtime follower, Earth One is an interesting take on the mythos. Now, if only DC could replicate this type of story on a monthly basis.
What it’s about: Happy is Grant Morrison’s debut for Image Comics, and if you’ve been following his career over the years, it’s filled with the same lofty ideas and high concepts as all of the work he has done previously in the industry. The book follows Nick Sax, a former police-officer-turned-mob-hit-man who works solely to buy more booze and eczema medication.
After being shot while on the job, though, he was brought to a local mob hospital with the hopes that he would divulge some valuable information. And that’s where he met Happy, a miniature talking blue horse that only he can see and that's looking to save his life.
What to expect this month: Happy continues to trot along in a deliriously demented path, as Sax and his cartoonish companion try to escape the mob hospital using any means necessary. The interplay between the horribly jaded Sax and his saccharine sweet partner is really where the strength of the book lies. It’s just so bizarre to see this blood-soaked sociopath teaming up with a character more suited for a Hanna-Barbera cartoon than a crime comic. In no other scene is this dynamic better displayed than during a poker game that is both hilarious, as well as an insight into their bizarre relationship.
This issue's only downside is that it’s more about establishing the conflict between the two leads than it is about plot development. There are still plenty of questions left to be answered and characters left to debut, but Morrison’s ideas are so fresh and sharp that we fully trust him to deliver a more fleshed-out plot in the next issue.
Powering Happy #2 forward is Darick Robertson's art. He employs a revamped style that's different than what we’re accustomed to seeing from him, and it compliments Morrison’s writing perfectly. The details in everything, from backgrounds to characters, are lush and vibrant. This serves the issue well, especially when it comes to the outrageous violence that happens early into the issue. We’re not quite sure how Happy is going to end up yet, but we’re enjoying the ride so far.
What it’s about: Mixing both horror and noir, Ed Brubaker’s Fatale has transcends genre barriers and manages to create something wholly unique. The book focuses on a seemingly-immortal woman named Josephine and how her effect on men, as well as her run-ins with a mysterious cult, have left a trail of destruction in her wake. Fatale spans decades and cities, but the one constant throughout is the undeniable mood that Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips have brought us.
What to expect this month: Fatale’s second story arc marches towards its conclusion as Miles and Josephine ready themselves for an assault of The Bishop and the rest of the Method cultists. But as the plan begins to form, we’re also shown Suzy’s grisly fate, while Handel begins to grow in power and brutality.
As fans have grown accustomed to in previous issues, Fatale #9 moves along at a typically slow pace. Brubaker never fills these issues with too many plot developments too quickly. This allows the big events that do happen a little more time to really make an impact, such as Suzy’s death and the surprising revelation about Josephine’s family. What Brubaker does so well in this series is he keeps pounding us with new wrinkles and developments with each issue. Like we said, he doesn’t overdo it, but they’re always shocking when he does. And if you’ve been closely following Fatale, the last few pages should make the wait until next issue simply irritating.
On the art side, this issue showcases illustrator Sean Phillips' most impressive work on the series yet, especially with some of the wider shots he provides. The heavily-shadowed version of L.A. is so authentic and believable that even the more fantasy-based elements of the story seem real. This is an invaluable advantage that Brubaker has to work with as Phillips is the perfect battery mate for this title.
Reviews by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)