Catching up on Image Comics Collections

Featuring: Jupiter’s Legacy, Rat Queens, Saga, Southern Bastards, StarlightVelvet

JupitersLegacy-Vol.1JUPITER’S LEGACY, Vol.1

Writer: Mark Millar | Artist: Frank Quitely

The children of the world’s greatest superheroes may never be able to fill their parents’ shoes. When the family becomes embattled by infighting, one branch stages an uprising and another goes into hiding. How long can the world survive when one family’s super-powered problems explode onto the global stage? Just in time for the launch of the prequel series JUPITER’S CIRCLE comes this collected edition from storytelling masters Millar and Quitely.

Collects: Jupiter’s Legacy #1-5

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this — I have had very mixed experiences with Millar’s work in the past. Luckily, Jupiter’s Legacy is a pretty interesting take on super-heroes. Specifically, it’s a great look at the legacy of heroes and their families — what happens when later generations have completely different interpretations of the hero’s responsibility and the solution to the world’s problems? It’s fast-paced, nuanced and action-packed in equal measures. It’s not perfect, and there were some strange or clunky moments, but for the main Millar reigns in his… well, Millar tendencies: there was nothing here that suggested Grant Morrison’s influence was still in evidence. The violence is particularly brutal and graphic, true, but it’s not daft or stupid. Recommended for fans of, among others, Mark Waid’s Irredeemable.

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RatQueens-Vol.2RAT QUEENS, Vol.2 – “The Far Reaching Tentacles Of N’Rygoth”

Writer: Kurtis J. Wiebe | Artist: Roc Upchurch, Stjepan Šejić

This booze-soaked second volume of RAT QUEENS reveals a growing menace within the very walls of Palisade. And while Dee may have run from her past, the bloated, blood-feasting sky god N’rygoth never really lets his children stray too far.

Collects: Rat Queens #6-10

The first Rat Queens book was a very pleasant surprise: it mixed up and twisted a whole host of fantasy tropes, creating something both familiar and refreshingly new. It was also wonderfully irreverent, but not to the point where gags overwhelmed the story. In this second collection, Wiebe and Co. up the ante, as the Queens get to the bottom of what’s actually happening to Palisade. It’s a very fast-paced story, with action and humour aplenty. The creative team do a very good job of not letting the story get completely ridiculous, but it’s certainly a grand, fantastical tale with magic and mayhem — playing with tropes in a rather tongue-in-cheek manner, while maintaining the sense of wonder and fun that drew oh-so-many people to fantasy in the first place. Highly recommended for all fans of fantasy, great storytelling and humour comics. Excellent.

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Saga-Vol.4SAGA, Vol.4

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan | Artist: Fiona Staples

Visit new planets, meet new adversaries and explore a very new direction, as Hazel becomes a toddler while her family struggles to stay on their feet.

Collects: Saga #19-24

Saga is one of the few ongoing series that I’m still following — at least, beyond the second collection (I often find that it when a series will either sink or swim). This series has been lauded far and wide, so it’s probably no surprise that I, too, absolutely love it. It’s just the right amount of crazy, just the right amount of faithful to the science fiction genre, but also funny, warm and expertly crafted. In this fourth volume, the strain of running and living in hiding gets too much for our couple of protagonists. Meanwhile, Alana is making it in entertainment, Marko is struggling to remain hidden while raising Hazel. Oh, and bounty hunters and crazy TV-headed royals are still after them. So there’s plenty to keep you entertained. Still a superb series, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. A must-read.

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SouthernBastards-Vol.2SOUTHERN BASTARDS, Vol.2 – “Gridiron”

Writer: Jason Aaron | Artist: Jason Latour

The hit new crime series SOUTHERN BASTARDS returns for its second volume, and pulls back the curtain on the dark and seedy history of Craw County and its most famous and feared resident, the high school football coach turned backwoods crime lord Euless Boss.

Collects: Southern Bastards #5-9

If HBO developed Friday Night Lights, this could be the result. A grim look at Southern football culture, blended very nicely with small-town secrets and brutality. A worthy follow-up volume to the first, shifting perspective and focus. This is a really interesting series, and highly recommended.

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StarlightSTARLIGHT

Writer: Mark Millar | Artist: Goran Parlov

Forty years ago, Duke McQueen was the space hero who saved the universe. But then he came back home, got married, had kids, and grew old. Now his children have left and his wife has passed away, leaving him alone with nothing except his memories… until a call comes from a distant world asking him back for his final and greatest adventure.

Collects: Starlight #1-5

Once again, I was surprised by a Millar book — this one is a nostalgic look at golden-era heroes and sci-fi like John Carter of Mars. The nostalgia lies not only in the setting, but the story itself — Duke McQueen is getting old, he’s buried his wife, and is feeling lost and alone. His family don’t believe him about his earlier adventures. Now, though, the planet he saved decades ago has been conquered by a brutal race of… well, sadists. Called back to help, Duke gets to relive his glory days and, hopefully, do some more good. I really enjoyed this — much more than I expected. Highly recommended for long-time fans of super-heroes and classic science fiction fantasy.

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Velvet-Vol.2VELVET, Vol.2 – “The Secret Lives of Dead Men”

Writer: Ed Brubaker | Artist: Steve Epting & Elizabeth Breitweiser

Everything Velvet Templeton ever believed about the worst night of her life has turned out to be a lie, and now she’s coming back to London, taking the hunt back to the hunters, to find the truth or die trying. Don’t miss the second volume in the adventures of comics’ favorite new super-spy!

Collects: Velvet #6-10

Brubaker and Epting worked on my favourite Captain America storylines (Winter Soldier and Red Menace), so I was very much looking forward to Velvet, when it was first announced. The first collection was a great introduction to the characters and the start of Velvet’s investigation into the situation with her husband. In this second book, there’s action and espionage aplenty, while never stinting on the character development and story itself. It’s a fantastic series, frankly. As the book progresses, we learn just a little bit more about Velvet’s goals, not to mention a rather excellent switch-up at the end. Very highly recommended, this is a must for all fans of spy stories and thrillers. Easily one of the best ongoing series at the moment.

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Quick Reviews: EGOs, THE FUSE, NAILBITER, SHUTTER, SOUTHERN BASTARDS, UMBRAL (Image)

EGOs-Vol.01EGOs, Vol.1 — “Quintessence”

Writer: Stuart Moore | Artist: Gus Storms

Far-future action meets midlife crises as an aging hero rebuilds his former team. But to do so, he must cross a line with his wife that cannot be uncrossed.

 

Collects: EGOs #0-4

This was an interesting comic. It has a lot going for it — big space action, some humour, quirky artwork and design. The colour scheme is, well, very much as you can see on the cover — soft, pastel shades. It’s a big story, touching upon nostalgia (the readers’ and also the characters’) and mashing together super-heroes and space opera. It dragged a bit at times, and the momentum was a little uneven throughout. But, it’s also an out-of-retirement origin story of sorts. By the time the book ends, everything and everyone is in place for a larger, continuing story. I’ll come back for volume two, I’m sure, but of the books reviewed in this post, it was not my favourite.

Still. If you like space opera, weird science and super-heroes, then it’s well worth checking out. There’s a bit of an older Guardians of the Galaxy vibe to it, too.

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Fuse-Vol.01THE FUSE, Vol.1 — “The Russia Shift”

Writer: Antony Johnson | Art & Cover: Justin Greenwood

22,000 MILES UP, THERE IS NO BACKUP.

Working homicide on an orbiting energy platform, in a five mile long jury-rigged steel city stuffed with a half million people, and no help from your so-called colleagues back on earth, is more than tough… it’s murder.

Colletcs: The Fuse #1-6

A crime thriller in space! I rather enjoyed this. It took a little while to sink into the story, however, but once I did I really started to dig the premise and location of the story. It’s Law & Order: Orbital Unit. The detectives are cool and varied (one is a near-retirement woman, which certainly is not your usual protagonist for comic series, regardless of sub-genre). The eventual solution was not what I’d expected. Perhaps a shade over-the-top and implausible,  but it nevertheless is successfully executed. A great blend of sci-fi and crime thriller that really works. There’s political and social commentary, and very well-paced storytelling. Definitely recommended.

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Nailbiter-Vol.01NAILBITER, Vol.1 — “There Will Be Blood”

Writer: Joshua Williamson | Art & Cover: Mike Henderson

“Where do serial killers come from?” and why has Buckaroo, Oregon given birth to sixteen of the most vile serial killers in the world? NSA Agent Nicholas Finch needs to solve that mystery in order to save his friend, and he’ll have to team up with the infamous Edward “Nailbiter” Warren to do it.

Collects: Nailbiter #1-5

I’m not really sure what I was expecting from this series. What I found, though, was superb. A town that has produced a surprisingly high number of serial killers, and an investigating copy has become obsessed with uncovering the mystery of Buckaroo. After he disappears, Finch rolls into town, makes an impression, and starts digging. The most recent, infamous murderer gets drawn into the investigation, as does the local sheriff. Excellent pacing, great storytelling, some wonderfully atmospheric, moody artwork… Nailbiter is really quite excellent. The book ends with some surprises, and some superb promise for the future. Very highly recommended.

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Shutter-Vol.01SHUTTER, Vol.1 — “Wanderlost”

Writer: Joe Keatinge | Art & Cover: Leila Del Duca & Owen Gieni

Kate Kristopher, once the most famous explorer of an Earth far more fantastic than the one we know, is forced to return to the adventurous life she left behind when a family secret threatens to destroy everything she spent her life protecting.

Collects: Shutter #1-6

This was… a bit of a disappointment, sadly. It’s a riot of urban fantastical and weird elements, which while very creative and ambitious, is also a bit of a mess. There’s a lot to love about it — the lead character is interesting and the mystery about her father and family is certainly interesting. There are cool secondary characters (Harrington, for example), but there’s so much thrown at the reader that it’s difficult to know what to expect. I’ll check back for volume two, but it’s not a high priority. Maybe this will end up being like Vertigo’s Hinterkind: a disappointing establishing volume, followed by a stellar second collection?

If you like your comics zany and filled with the mad and clashing fantastic, then Shutter should appeal. I usually do, but I think this just goes that little bit too far.

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SouthernBastards-Vol.01SOUTHERN BASTARDS, Vol.1 — “Here Was A Man”

Writer: Jason Aaron | Artist: Jason LaTour

Welcome to Craw County, Alabama, home of Boss BBQ, the state champion Runnin’ Rebs football team… and more bastards than you’ve ever seen. When you’re an angry old man like Earl Tubb, the only way to survive a place like this… is to carry a really big stick.

Collects: Southern Bastards #1-4

This is a pretty grim and gritty series. It’s brutal, gripping, frightening, and absolutely not a tourist pamphlet for the American south… The town is dominated by the high school football coach, who rules with an iron fist and seems to keep crime under control (and profitable for him). When Earl Tubb returns to clear out his recently passed father’s home, he gets tangled up in the injustices of small-town southern America. It does not end on a happy note. It’s a strangely uncomfortable read, in some respects, but it’s good — brutally honest, unvarnished. The artwork is appropriate — at least, that’s how it feels, fits the story and tone very well.

Recommended if you like your comics based more on reality than the fantastical.

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Umbral-Vol.01UMBRAL, Vol.1 — “Out of the Shadows”

Writer: Antony Johnston | Artist & Cover: Christopher Mitten

The young thief called Rascal witnesses the horrific and brutal murder of the royal family— now the world’s dark legends will be relived, and only Rascal even knows it’s happening!

Collects: Umbral #1-6

This was an interesting book. The tone is interesting — there’s a mix of adventure, action, conspiracy, and some amusing, poking-of-fun at the genre. The humour is gentle and there are a fair number of chuckle-worthy asides and quips. The premise is pretty interesting, and the story flows quite well. That being said, I think it started to lose steam towards the end of the collection. There are some surprises, nicely revealed, but also some things that just didn’t progress enough. The world-building is interesting and well-done. The artwork is very good, too — especially for the Umbral (which are nicely creepy and weird).

An opening act, to be sure, with plenty going on. I am interested enough to return for the second collection.