Staff Picks – Week of 23/04/2014

Original Sin #0
Mark Waid (w) / Jim Cheung (a) (Marvel)
Marvel

Taylor says: Yes, I’m picking a Marvel event book. I feel so dirty.
But this is a cool comic. Sure, the choice they make with Uatu is not dissimilar to what DC did pre-Nu52 with the Guardians, exploring the guilt and remorse of the near-omnipotent, but dammit this book has heart! Waid crafts lovely relationships, and making the current teenage Nova a mirror for Uatu is a masterstroke. The Watcher has for too long been a non sequitur lurking on the cosmic fringes, wheeled out to make us think events are important. By depicting him as a loyal son ever vigilant for a chance to repair his father’s legacy, he becomes a lonely symbol of hope, someone we might actually care for if harm befalls him.
Waid is also playing to Jim Cheung’s strengths. There are only really two characters, Uatu and Nova, the other Watchers are described as looking the same as Uatu, and then there are a couple of pages where many characters are shown in not too much detail. So we get to enjoy Cheung’s undeniably fine design work, his smooth layouts, and we don’t get too bugged out by all the faces looking the same. Great! Considering some of the crazy stuff that’s been done in older Marvel comics when depicting the Watcher’s abode, Cheung pulls off a tricky and easily ridiculous location in a cool, believable way, too.
Purely on the strength of this issue, I’m optimistic that Original Sin may come closer to being a House of M or a Civil War, rather than a Fear Itself.

Elektra #1
W. Haden Blackman (w), Michael Del Mundo (a)
Marvel

Liz says: I’m increasingly impressed with Marvel’s current output of good new books, and especially so when I see them putting heavyweight up-and-coming talent on female-led solo books. Black Widow, Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel and now Elektra are all hot properties, and many of these books have been put in the hands of exciting writers and artists on the rise in their careers. The team behind Elektra may not be big names yet, but from this first issue I’d say that might not be the case for long.
W. Haden Blackman’s script is tight, making quick work of character introduction and setting up plot. But the star of this show is Michael Del Mundo, whose exquisite artwork elevated this issue from good to spectacular. What truly stands out about Elektra is how absolutely gorgeous it looks. Particularly breathtaking are the opening pages beneath Elektra’s introductory monologue; Elektra trains, ribbon dancing as snapshots of her past seep hazily through the backdrop. As her memories darken so does the page, until the swirling red ribbon becomes streams of blood, the delicate washes of blues and reds become hard chaotic lines, capturing the deadly beauty intrinsic to the character. Del Mundo’s style channels artists like J.H Williams , Jerome Opena and Bill Sienkiewicz, but still makes it’s own distinct impression. This is an artist to watch, and a book to pay attention to.

Conan The Avenger #1
Fred Van Lente (w) Brian Ching (a)
Dark Horse Comics

Ryan says: There was a time where Conan was really kicking ass, in my eyes, and I was picking up the issues religiously. Then all of a sudden, the quality of the book took a turn and I lost interest. It’s been a good while since I’ve even bothered picking up a copy, but seeing “Conan The Avenger” on the shelves this week (with it’s awesome cover art by Star Wars concept artist Iain McCaig), I thought I’d try dipping my toes back in… and I was NOT disappointed.
Taking place after the events of the “Black Coast” story arc (which is summed up pretty concisely within this issue), Conan mourns the loss of his pirate-queen lover, Bélit, and turns to wine to heal his emotional wounds. Passing out drunk, it’s not long until a group of thieves take this rare moment of weakness as an opportunity to strip our hero of all his possessions, leaving him to wake in a filth-ridden gully. A furious Conan now seeks to regain his possessions, and get sweet revenge against the crooks that wronged him.
It’s rich, gritty, and violent when it needs to be; and pays a true homage to the classic Frazetta character without trying to emulate him, which I think makes this all the more enjoyable. This looks to be a perfect jumping on point for anyone new to the Conan comics, and likewise any fans of the character who are looking to get back into the series.

Donald Duck: Trail of the Unicorn
Carl Barks (w/a)
Fantagraphics

Chris says: Well, thanks, Ryan for stealing my pick … While Conan The Avenger #1 was easily the best single issue of the week, Ryan’s betrayal at least gives me the opportunity to spotlight something else you might have missed – and that’s Fantagraphics’ wonderful reproductions of the classic Carl Barks Duck stories. This week saw the release of the latest volume in the series, Donald Duck: Trail of the Unicorn, and once again it’s a testament to the enduring popularity of the characters, as well as Barks’ wonderful storytelling and expansion of the Disney mythos. As always, the quest for the unicorn is inspired by Uncle Scrooge’s never-ending greed, but it is Donald and his nephews who provide the heart and soul of the story. These are comics to be read for pleasure – to be pored over and enjoyed – but if you look a little deeper than you can start to see and appreciate the real craft Barks puts into his work. It’s easy to take comics like this for granted, but these lovingly compiled Fantagraphics collections show you otherwise, particularly thanks to all the detailed story notes at the back. You may not need the whole series (like I do) but your collection won’t be complete without at least one of these on your shelf.

Over Easy
Mimi Pond
Drawn & Quarterly

Camila says: Over Easy is described as a ‘fast-paced account of diners, drugs and California in the 1970s’.

I’m only about 30 pages into it now, but I can’t wait to have some time to curl up in a comfy chair and read the rest. Even though I hadn’t read anything by Mimi Pond up to now, I can say I’m a fan already. Her writing, here illustrated to beautiful green washes, is simply a joy to read, and this debut semi-autobiographical graphic novel is sure to be a fun and truly interesting read.

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