This week on comic store shelves, we’ve got a whole universe of superheroes in one corner and a new take on military adventure in another. Plus, we’ve got zombies vs. aliens, brother vs. sister, and one super-powered Rock and Roll Legend vs. the end of the world.
IDW Publishing takes center stage this week with no less than four new #1 issues, re-launching and spinning off several franchises. First up is G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files #1. I have a soft spot for G. I. Joe, as it was the first comic I ever bought as a little geek, so I admittedly hold IDW’s treatment of the franchise to a pretty high standard. In the IDW universe, the rebuilt Joe team is fighting old nemesis Cobra on several fronts, and this is the story of their clandestine work against Cobra operatives, headed by the ex-Cobra spy Chameleon. Chameleon, whose real name is Erika Le Tene (it’s refreshing to find out characters from a G.I. Joe story have real names) has defected to the Joes after several attempts by Cobra to assassinate her. She works with long time field leader Flint, rooting out current and former Cobra operatives hiding among us. Le Tene isn’t a character of moral integrity but she does have a conflicted psyche when it comes to her past misdeeds, and she doesn’t see her work with the team any more morally sound than her old job. Whiel she’s not a particularly complicated character (though the writers might like you to think she is, as we first meet her in her psychiatrist’s office in the midst of therapy), she’s still a capable and strong one. In Lady J in this story, we’re also treated to a more world-weary version of a normally stalwart G.I. Joe character, bemoaning the never ending conflict and how little good it might be doing for the world. A sense of regret over the lack of value in the Joes’ work is a theme that populates this book, making for darker and somewhat drier reading than we’ve seen in previous Joe adventures. While I have to admit I’m pleased with IDW for creating a female lead for a G. I. Joe series who breaks the mold and isn’t over-sexualized, I don’t know that the story is original enough, or the characters surrounding her rich enough, to carry this book very far.
IDW’s Dungeons and Dragons: Cutter #1 is a tale set in the Forgotten Realms D&D campaign world, co-written by fantasy legend and frequent Forgotten Realms novelist R.A. Salvatore and his son Geno Salvatore. The leader of a band of Drow renegades is dying, and is set to pass his sword Khazid’Hea – known as The Cutter – to one of his descendants. Competing for the powerful weapon are his son Teirflin and his daughter Doum’wielle, both well trained warriors in their father’s army. The sword itself is a sentient being, possessing of an evil and manipulative soul, and it encourages each of the siblings towards violent ends to win it for themselves. This is a fairly straightforward fantasy tale, but the writing does a good job of creating a plot that’s not easy to see coming. Doum’wielle is written as a patient and intelligent young woman in comparison to her brash older brother; she feels conflicted about using magic to beat him in a straight sword fight, though her father assures her that she was right to compete with everything she had against him. It’s unclear for several pages whether or not we’re supposed to be on her side. The Cutter, with the twists and turns up its scabbard, will put Doum’wielle in mortal peril and have most readers pulling for her by the end. This is a solid fantasy comic, and the gamers and dice-rollers will enjoy it.
With one exception, this week it’s mostly brawny White guys from there on out. The exception is Image’s Invincible Universe #1, as it is populated with so many different characters it was nearly impossible to keep track of them all. Set in the super hero universe of the title character, this book attempts to encapsulate just about every one of that world’s super heroic folk. We’re present for the resurrection of Kid Thor (not related to Marvel’s Thor, and a character I didn’t know was dead), the return of the original Invincible (I didn’t realize there were two), and a talking robot medic who’s reluctant to treat a great villain with a dragon trapped inside of him. All the while, the world’s various super heroes try to stop global flooding set off by the government’s creation of multiple moon sized satellites orbiting the Earth. (Created on purpose, at that, and lacking in ADA compliant bathrooms.) The main character here seems to be a wise, battle hardened old man Cecil Stedman, whose job it is to monitor and control all the super powered people on the planet. Yowza, does this guy have a big job. It would have been nice for all the super people to actually appear in the book, rather than be referred to off panel, as this universe isn’t one majority of readers might find familiar. Frankly, it feels like Image took on a project that was a bit out of its depth, as if they were trying to cram a Marvel or DC style mega-world-changing-cross-over-super-important-EVENT into justone comic. This isn’t Crisis on Infinite Earths, or even A vs. X; it is, however, downright confusing, and not a very good introduction to this world, I’m afraid.
There have been various comic book adaptations and other stories about the alter egos of legendary rock band KISS, but IDW has been in charge of them for some time. Their latest offering is Kiss Solo #1: The Demon. It’s largely a one-off adventure tale about Gene Simmons’ alter ego, The Demon vs. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Gene and The-Four-Who-Are-One (which should be the name of the next KISS concept album, pleasepleaseplease) aren’t specifically a rock band, but seem to be powerful demi-gods. A higher power known as The Elder has pitted them against an evil force referred to only as The Destroyer, whom KISS have defeated n the past. Now, experiencing the world as human beings on their own, each is presumably assaulted by some of the Destroyer’s dark forces. Beginning with Simmons was a smart move, as the other personae are less flamboyant, but there’s not a lot of underlying story here to carry readers from one book to the next. The art is stylized and fantastic, and looks like a metalhead’s drug addled dream come true. Still, while KISS Army members might follow along (and this writer will confess to firing up some KISS in his iTunes while writing, thanks to this issue), comic nerd purists might grow bored with the heavy dialogue and thin plot.
There’s a #0 sneaking into the reading stack this week, and regular readers will know I am a big fan of the prequel concept. This one is X #0, from Dark Horse Comics. The reboot of this hyper-violent vigilante series actually began a while back in the Dark Horse Presents compilation, but this is the return of the ‘90s era anti-hero to his own book. This is a one-off about three violent crime lords who meet their bloody and untimely demise at the hands of the nearly silent hooded vigilante known simply as X. Or was their demise as untimely as we might think? The issue has a nice twist ending and an interesting story frame titled “Pigs” by writer Duane Swierczynski. The three bad guys certainly meet a big bad wolf in X, whose origins in this new series are a mystery so far. Perhaps his impending #1 will enlighten us, but the dramatic and violent art by Eric Nguyen is enough to whet the whistle of hard-core action lovers.
IDW has one last #1 for us this week, and it’s last because it’s most certainly least. The Colonized #1 is something of a spin-off from their Aliens vs. Zombies franchise. This one is somewhat inaccurately described as Aliens vs. Zombies vs. Militia Men, and it’s simply dull. Some rather unoriginal grey-skinned, big-eyed alien types are hovering over the earth, looking for humans to abduct, when they accidentally suck up the recently buried leader of a local anti-government militia group living in a remote part of the American Heartland. The other separatists are undergoing something of a quandary, as the more hardcore among them want to continue their gun-toting anti-government ways, while the son of their recently deceased leader wants to convert the compound into a zero carbon footprint community. The ideological conflict between the various shades of green amongst the separatists is, sadly, the only conflict in this preposterous book, as the undead corpse (who may or may not have been made a zombie by the alien abduction beam, it’s not entirely clear) does most of it’s stalking and devouring onboard the alien spacecraft, completely OFF PANEL! The only action we get to see involves militia men patrolling the woods or sitting on the porch after their Grand Leader’s wake, bellyaching about carbon emissions vs. packing heat and fighting for their Second Amendment rights. Frankly, I’m hoping the zombie-fied aliens eat all of them, and then each other, ending this goofy concept once and for all.