Reviews: Rachel Rising, Superior Spider Man + The Manhattan Projects

I’ve been pretty lucky recently. A lot of the trade paperbacks I’ve been picking up have been absolutely excellent. Here are three of my new favourites.

Rachel Rising. Volume 1 The Shadow of Death (2012) Abstract Studios. Written and illustrated by Terry Moore.

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Rachel wakes up at sunrise on a shallow grave in the woods and discovers the freshly murdered body in the dirt is her own. With events of the previous night a blur, Rachel seeks out her boyfriend Phillip. But Phillip has a new girl now and Rachel is beginning to suspect she rose from the grave for a reason… revenge! Collects issues 1-6.

This is without a doubt one of the most underrated comics on shelves right now. It’s a dark and mysterious tale and it had me captivated from the very first few pages.

Rachel Rising is unsurprisingly about a girl named Rachel. Rachel is not your average girl though. She was dead and now she’s not. However before you get any wrong ideas, this is not a zombie comic. Rachel is not undead. She is alive again, with only a scar around her neck and bloodshot eyes as evidence of what happened to her. She’s a very mysterious character, you don’t find out a lot about her write away, revelation are slow and deliberate building onto the overall suspense of the story.

This comic is extremely dark. There is a lot of death and destruction and it will shock you. BUT it is not gory by any means, which is an impressive feat – to make me gasp in surprise without resorting to gore. The art is also completely in black and white. I wasn’t sure about this at first. It’s normally not my thing, but in this case I couldn’t imagine this comic in colour. The black and white and simple style really add to the creepiness of this story. It’s something terrible happening in the most normal of places.

If you enjoy horror, ghosts stories or simply comics with a lot of suspense I highly recommend Rachel Rising. It’s one of my new favourites.

Superior Spider Man Volume 1: My Own Worst Enemy (2013). Marvel. Written by Dan Slott. Art by Ryan Stegman & Giuseppe Camuncoli

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THEN!…Peter Parker spent a lifetime living up to the responsibilities his powers foisted upon him, but his story finally ended dramatically in the historic Amazing Spider-Man #700. NOW!…The new Amazing Spider-Man has arrived, and he is better in every single way. Smarter, stronger…Superior. And he’ll prove it, both to himself and the world, when he faces down the all-new Sinister Six! But is this all-new Spider-Man in cahoots with J. Jonah Jameson? And has Carlie Cooper figured out the Superior Spider-Man’s secret identify? Plus: Spider-Man and Mary Jane…reunited?! All this and the return of the villainous Vulture! It’s an all-new era of web-slinging excitement, and it all starts NOW! Collecting Superior Spider-Man 1-5.

The problem with characters that have been around for decades is that often times their stories can feel recycled or repetitive. So I really have to hand it to Dan Slott from bringing us a unique and daring new Spider Man plot arc.

Peter Parker is dead. That alone is enough to throw this series through a loop. But to make matters even more interesting, Doc Oc has taken over his body and taken up the mantel of Spider Man. And of course, being the self-important, genius that he is, Doc Oc believes he can be a superior Spider Man. And for a little while he manages it.

I like Peter Parker. I really do. I think that he is funny, and good natured and an all around great character. But I also love reading things from the villains point of view. I love when writers allow readers to really get inside the villains head and find out more about them, and that is exactly what Slott has done here. Is this new Spider Man a nice guy? Not really. He’s still helping people sure, but his motivations are a little more suspect. But he is an interesting character, who faces his own challenges, desire and obstacles.

I know this plot arc is rather controversial but I actually think it’s a nice change. It’s already been announced that Peter Parker will be returning eventually, so why not sit back and enjoy this look into the psyche of one of his most famous villains?

The Manhattan Projects Volume 1: Science, Bad (2012). Image Comics. Written by Jonathan Hickman. Art by Nick Pitarra. 

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What if the research and development department created to produce the first atomic bomb was a front for a series of other, more unusual, programs? Collecting the coolest new series of the year into one super science package. Collects The Manhattan Projects issues #1-5.

This is one of those comics that I feel like everyone is reading and yet I knew almost nothing about the story (except for the line above) before I cracked open Volume One. I actually thought it was about aliens. Like Area 51 inside the Manhattan Projects.

And there are sort of aliens. But there is much much more to this comic than that. Jonathan Hickman is incredibly good at making me believe the incredible. The Manhattan Projects centres around real people, but he takes some major liberties with their biographies. For example, Robert Oppenheimer. In the context of this story Oppenheimer is a twin, and his twin brother, Joseph, is also quite brilliant. However Joseph’s brilliance is more along the lines of Dr. Moreau or Dr Jekyll and he’s goes more than a little mad. The way this is written was so realistic I actually had to google it to make sure there wasn’t actually a Joseph Oppenheimer. I think that’s what makes this series so compelling. It may be filled with over the top science fiction but it is twisted up with real life people and facts and it makes you want to believe (like the X-Files).

The art is also quite unique. It has a way of throwing you off balance, and making you feel a tad uncomfortable. In this way it adds to the bizarre nature of the story.

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The end of this volume will leave you desperate for more. You’ll need to know what else this group of mad scientists were getting up to behind closed doors.

Archives: “Comix Reviews: Week of September 4th, 2013”

Originally posted on September 6th, 2013.

*Reviews may contain spoilers. We just can’t help it. Proceed with caution*

THE DEBUTS

God Is Dead #1
Avatar Press. Written by Jonathan Hickman. Art by: Di Amorim. Issue #1 of 6

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In the year 2015 the major cities of the world have fallen, natural disasters are happening left, right and centre and the gods have returned to rule Earth once again. All the gods – Ancient Greek, Egyptian, Hindu, Mayan and Norse. They are not the merciful, bountiful gods of our current religious systems. These are the blood thirsty, irrationally angry, kind of rapey gods of old.

Things escalate very quickly in this comic. Going from bad to worse in only a few pages. But amidst all the chaos Hickman gives the reader a tiny sliver of hope. Dr Sebastian Reed and a team of sewer dwelling geniuses who are working together to take back Earth for humankind. This series starts off with a bang and I am very curious to see where it is going. I haven’t read Hickman’s other series – East of West – but after reading this I’ll be adding that to my list as well.

4 out of 5

– Christa

VILLAINS MONTH

Action Comics #23.1: Featuring Cyborg Superman
DC Comics. Written by Michael Allen Nelson. Art by Mike Hawthorne. Cover by Aaron Kuder

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I am not at all familiar with the majority of Superman villains but in the spirit of adventure I decided to give Cyborg Superman a try. What I found was this comic was actually two stories in one – the story of Zor-el and the story of Cyborg Superman and one of those stories was infinitely more interesting than the other.

The story of Zor-el was a tragic one. Constantly living in the shadow of his much more successful brother, desperate to save his family he throws his lot in with a crazy man – Brainiac. Of course this ends horribly. By the end I really pitied him. Cyborg Superman’s story on the other hand was kind of dull. He just went around deciding people were unworthy and destroying them. If anything it made me more interested in Brainiac’s story than Cyborg Superman.

3 out of 5

– Christa

Batman #23.1 – Featuring Joker
DC Comics. Written by Andy Kubert. Art by Andy Clarke. Cover by Jason Fabok.

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Andy Clarke knows how to draw crazy well. I love his Joker especially when he does close-ups and the flashbacks felt haunting in it’s messy lines and gloomy color palette. In regards to the story, the only issue I had was the sympathetic back story given to Joker who’s psychotic nature and the previous back stories that only went as far as “he fell in a vat of chemicals and came out crazy” were appealing to audiences BECAUSE he had no real relatable reasons for being mad. This back story made me feel sorry for Joker which made me feel sad because it turned the most scariest villains (one who did what he did for no reason) into a typical villain who’s acting out a shitty childhood.

3 out of 5

– Ardo

Batman: The Dark Knight #23.1: Featuring Ventriloquist
DC Comics. Written by Gail Simone. Art by Derliz Santacruz. Cover by Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray.

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The Ventriloquist and her creepy doll Ferdie are two sick puppies. If you’re a regular reader of Batgirl you may already know this, but if you’re new to the character they may surprise you. Seriously, in many ways she reminds me of the Joker, only with a desire to succeed in showbiz. This issue gives you a brief glimpse into Shauna’s (the Ventriloquist) early life and tensions with her twin brother. There’s an explanation for why she is the way she is but it doesn’t feel like a complete one. I was left with a lot of questions about how exactly she came upon her ability and the logistics of Ferdie. The art was detailed and nightmare inducing. It’s an excellent horror short story but not really a stand out in the hall of DC villain fame.

3.5 out of 5

– Christa

Batman and Robin #23.1 – Featuring Two Face
DC Comics. Written by Peter J. Tomasi. Art by Guillem March. Cover by Chris Burnham.

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I really enjoyed this comic. I liked that throughout it Two Face maintains his rule of letting the coin decide and having others respect the coin’s word which is final. It’s what has Two Face agree to join the Secret Society and ultimately what causes him to part ways with them. I liked the artwork in general but LOVED the first few pages where Two Face is on top of the Bat-signal and March plays with the lighting. Overall, great job.

4 out of 5

– Ardo

Detective Comics 23.1 – Featuring Poison Ivy
DC Comics. Written by Derek Fridolfs. Art by Javier Pina. Cover by Jason Fabok.

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My favourite comic this week goes to Poison Ivy as she takes over Detective Comics. Derek Fridolfs and Javier Pina need to team up for an ongoing Ivy title because this one ROCKED. I want to start with art because I’m just salivating over this one. I’ve been talking about it on twitter and so has a lot of people in regards to the flashback sequences specifically which look gorgeous. The texture of the page is different and it’s lighter in palette with pinks, yellows and light greens. It’s safe to say that Pina used water colors and little Pamela is adorable.

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Fridolfs created a complex and sympathetic character by giving her a story that involves loving mother with a green thumb and a dark cloud of domestic violence hanging over them. I really enjoyed this story and I want more of this team up on either an ongoing series or at least a limited one.

I also think Pina should draw everything in water colors for now on.

4.5 out of 5

– Ardo

Trillium #2
Vertigo. Written by Jeff Lemire. Art by Jeff Lemire. Cover by Jeff Lemire. Issue #2 of 8

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If there is one lesson to take away from the world of comic it is this – when Jeff Lemire both writes AND illustrates a book it is a must buy. The first issue of Trillium introduced us to our two protagonists separately and issue two brings them together. The two could not be more different – she a scientists from the year 3797. He veteran in 1921. But as they slowly begin to realize there is something familiar between them. I love the pacing of this book. You’re given little titbits of information but left desperate for the next issue to find out what’s really going on. And the art is just gorgeous. It’s a fantastic colour palette and worth rereading a few times just to take it all in.

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5 out of 5

– Christa