Sunday, April 3, 2011

Capsule reviews: Comics from 3/30

Jack of Fables #50 (DC/Vertigo, $4.99, Mathew Sturges, Bill Willingham, Tony Akins, Russ Braun) - Um, err... yeah.

This 48-page finale pretty much ties up all the loose ends that have dangling throughout the run of this series.  How it does that will either piss off and disappoint long-time fans, or have them chuckling like they've just been made privy to a really dirty joke.  I'm personally inclined toward the latter, but can understand the reaction of the former.  And no, I'm not giving details - the finale of this series should be read unspoiled, in all of its grotesque and over-the-top wonder.  A strangely appropriate ending to an offbeat series.

King Conan: The Scarlet Citadel #2 (of 4) (Dark Horse, $3.50, Timothy Truman, Tomás Giorello) - An older King Conan reminisces to his chronicler one of his earlier adventures as king of Aquilonia.  It's the second part of a four-parter, so obviously there's no real resolution as of yet.  The pacing of this issue feels a bit by-the-numbers, and it veers dangerously close to pastiche at times (Conan faces giant monster, encounters old foe, escapes from current predicament, encounters yet another giant monster, obligatory shock cliffhanger). Fortunately, if this issue is something of a lull, it's a beautiful lull, wonderfully illustrated by Giorello. Truman's plotting isn't especially noteworthy this time around, but the characterization is still strong, and he does keep things moving along.  Overall, this is still a solid read, and this chapter will probably read better as part of a greater whole once the storyline is finished.

Undying Love #1 (of 8) (Image, $2.99, Tom Coker, Daniel Freedman) - John Sargent is trying to get his girlfriend Mei to Hong Kong, in hopes of ending the continued threats on her life.  A classic hard-boiled concept, except that Mei is a vampire (a sparkle-free one, thankfully), and the opposition John encounters includes talking foxes and mystical samurai. John hopes to kill the vampires responsible for Mei's current state, and to restore her humanity in the process.

It's not a complex scenario, but it looks to be an effective hook for what promises to be a gritty, noir-ish action-horror story.  The writing is tight, and the dialog is sparse, giving us just enough information without overselling it.  Coker's art is moody and evocative, and does an excellent job of drawing us into this shadowy world of violence and vampires, viewed through the lens of Chinese folklore.

This is an excellent first issue, giving us just enough information to care about our two lead characters, without burying us in backstory and needless exposition.  If the rest of the series is equally strong, then this may well be one of the surprise hits of the year.  Highly recommended.

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