Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wednesday Number Ones 4/11/12

Wednesday Number Ones is a weekly feature here at Top 5 Comics. We take the books that are premiering a first issue from that week and give a quick opinion on them. From time to time we may also include more than issue number ones in this feature. If a noteworthy one-shot or the first issue of a new story arc is released, we may talk about it in this feature as well.

This week, we will cover:  Alabaster Wolves #1, America's Got Powers #1, Secret #1 and Secret Service #1.

Alabaster Wolves #1
Writer: Caitl'n R. Kiernan
Artist: Steve Lieber
Company: Dark Horse Comics
Knowing next to nothing about this series and it's writer other than the fact that she's won some awards and been quite successful in the horror world, my expectations for the first issue were a little low. To simply state it though, the issue blew me away. At it's core, it's a simple little tale of a young girl having a riddle competition with a werewolf. The prize: Her life. The way that Kiernan ratchets up the tension and eases the readers into the tale and the bleak and shades of gray world that she has created is superb. Digging a little deeper after the fact, for those who have read the character and the world, there is a bit of a re-imagining for the land of comics, so it should have something new for everyone. It also doesn't hurt that you have Steve (Underground/Whiteout) Lieber doing the art. The design work that he's given the monsters is top-notch. It's imaginative and has an extremely eerie vibe and an attention to detail that grabs you and drags you further into the story. It's a hell of a first issue and it makes me want to seek out her novels as well.

America's Got Powers #1
Writer: Jonathan Ross
Artist: Bryan Hitch
Company: Image Comics
Part Running Man, part Ultimates. That in a nutshell is what America's Got Powers is minus the corny Arnold moments, though it could have used such a thing. The gist of the story, which revolves around an "Event" that occurs in San Francisco, allows every baby that is born to have a power. There's a bit of class-ism involved and then a no hold's bar brawl in the vein of a television show that sees the Powers go toe to toe with robots called Paladins. Unfortunately, Ross' script is a bit on the bland side, providing few characters to latch onto, which leads to a case of seen it before syndrome going on. The main draw for the book is probably going to be Bryan Hitch's artwork. His style hasn't really changed over the years. It's still the widescreen, hyper detailed work that it's always been. It's not bad by any means, but it's a bit stagnant and the action feels too staged.  For the price, a mere $2.99, you get a hell of a lot of comic. It just isn't a super entertaining comic. 

Secret #1
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Ryan Bodenheim 
Company: Image Comics
Corporate Espionage and Private Security Firms. Not the kind of subject matter that you would think would make an awesomely swanky comic, but you'd be wrong. In a lot of ways, Hickman is like the Steven Soderbergh of the comic world. His stories are varied and do run the gamut on genre. He also has the unique ability to hook you with the first issue. With Secret, the tapestry of back stabbing and quiet character moments does just that. You instantly care about them and are intrigued by the big picture who's surface is only beginning to be scratched. I will also say that there is some harsh violence on the level of Criminal that really makes the teeth gnash. Bodenheim comes out of the gate swinging like a madman here. He has a great handle on what makes a scene pop and the way that he frames the more calm moments, people sitting down in a boardroom, but still makes it tense. The use of huge splashes of color add to the visual appeal. Like Manhattan Projects and Red Wing, Hickman continues the roll that he is on. Fantastic.

The Secret Service #1
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Dave Gibbons
Company: Icon
There's a saying that I've decided on that states, "If you are a fan of Millar, you'll like pretty much anything he writes." It's not the perfect saying, but so far it seems true with what he's done. For me though, while I can occasionally find things to enjoy about Millar's titles, here his tics are on display rather openly. The Secret Service, which is supposed to take a young hoodlum and put him in the shoes of James Bond feels more like a cobbled together version of Wanted held together with pop culture references that already feel dated. None of the characters are particularly likeable. I was hoping for someone like Hit-Girl, but there's a weird seriousness meets over the top vibe going on that provides a real disconnect. I will state however that Gibbons provides some killer artwork for the book. It's slick, has nice presence, and handles the gory nature of the book well. All in all, I'd take a gander at the book for the art, but that's about it.

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