After an extended vacation, The Haul has returned. Yeah, I know, some of these books came out almost a month ago, and these mini-reviews aren’t in the order the books were released. Sue me. They’re still good readin’, so shut yer yap and pick ‘em up.
A Very Sammy Day (Image)
Canadian writer/artist Azad brings us the next installment featuring his unlucky jewel thief, Sammy Little. Forgoing the atypical mini-series in favor of a 48-page one-shot, this time out Azad takes us back a few years for Sammy’s offbeat origin. As a mob informant in hiding, Sammy turns to his childhood pastor for help, who sets him up with a place to live via his friend, Mr. Ellis. In true Sammy fashion, it turns out Mr. Ellis is actually the uncle of someone Sammy turned over for an immunity deal. Of all the luck. What ensues is a fight for his life against a local gang who doesn’t like rats in their territory, which takes a turn for the better when Sammy crosses paths with a black cat called Lucky.
Azad’s art is, as always, clean and crisp, and the sepia-style tones in favor of standard black and white (and gray) add a nice visual punch. His textbook humor and smart characterization are also intact, giving us a bit of insight into Sammy’s rotten bouts with karma. (4.5/5)
All Flee (Top Shelf)
Written by Gavin Burrows, All Flee is a mildly humorous romp involving an aging, Godzilla-esque monster who, in the first story, laments that his teaching of classic terrorizing to a younger generation of tramplers is falling on deaf ears. In the second story, for which the book is named, our beloved behemoth takes on a new challenge: love. The third and final story, while a nice distraction, seems terribly out of place here. “Cruisin’ With the Dorks” stars, well, a dork. A nameless cousin to a seeming goth kid, the dork recalls the tale of how he was once in a band that started a trend of dorkiness that spanned the nation. The art by Simon Gane throughout reminds one at times of Jason Asala (Poe, Nut Brown Roasters), but has its own distinct visual appeal. (3.5/5)
The Losers #13 (DC/Vertigo)
Beginning a two-part story called Sheikdown, we find our merry band of Losers captured by secret service agents in the Arabian nation of Qatar. Their captor, Sheik Abdul Aziz Ibn-Al-Walid, makes himself known and offers the group the one thing they’ve been wanting since the beginning: the identity of the mysterious Max. But it comes with a price. He needs the Losers to step between a terrorist group and the CIA, both parties he’d gladly like out of his hair. The set-up was nice, but the story concludes next issue. Not sure how writer Andy Diggle will pull off this kind of tale in two issues, but he hasn’t disappointed thus far, so I have few worries.
Though regular artist Jock is credited with layouts, the pencils by fill-in artist Nick Dragotta took me out of the game rather quickly. Could’ve just been his inks, which were heavy and overstated. Guess I’m just spoiled by Jock. (3/5)
Dang! (Top Shelf)
Dang! is a collection of bizarre, yet inviting and sometimes humorous vignettes by writer/artist Martin Cendreda. The first, “A Pant’s Life,” is a six degrees of separation-style tale that shows how fickle trends can be. “Ted” focuses on a loudmouth who doesn’t seem able to coordinate his diet with his exercise. “Blunt Hat” casts a dingy light on teenage rebellion, while “Balls” is a punchline without the unnecessary joke. Even the front and back covers tell a wordless tale.
While I can’t say I disliked Dang!, neither can I say I was wowed. For me, it was a tad bland, but I can see Cendreda’s potential, so I’ll keep my eye on him. (2.5/5)
The Gray Area #1 (Image)
I have much love for artist John Romita Jr. His takes on Marvel characters from the Hulk to Daredevil to Spider-Man have been the stuff of legend. So it was that I found myself extremely excited to learn he’d be releasing his first creator-owned work to date, The Gray Area, through Image Comics. I’m sad to report it wasn’t worth the wait.
At $5.95, I was hesitant to pick up this first issue. That’s a lotta bones to be throwing down for 32 pages of art and story, and some sketchbook material. But it’s JR Jr., so I did it anyway.
In Issue 1, we meet Rudy Chance, a dirty cop who loses his wife and kid for trying to extort money from a local drug lord. In an attempt to exact revenge, Chance himself is killed (along with his partner whom he dragged along), but it’s not the end for him. In the afterlife, he’s approached by a man named Jordan who escorts him to a place where it appears a host of souls clamor for him.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen this story before. I’m instantly reminded of Top Cow’s Midnight Nation by J. Michael Straczynski and Gary Frank. I’m sure we’ll get more details along the way (such as what the device attached to Chance’s lapel on the cover is for), but I can’t help but feel a little ho-hum about it so far. The art by Junior is fabulous as always, but the script by Glen Brunswick is a bit underwhelming. The dialogue is stiff and reads like an early-80s Marvel comic, which is what I was hoping Romita would shy away from.
You’ve got one more issue to reel me in, fellas. (2.5/5)
Seaguy #1-3 (DC/Vertigo)
The reviews for Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart’s Seaguy have been glowing. Haven’t read a negative one to date. But I can’t seem to figure out what it is about this three-issue mini that has people so mesmerized. Maybe I’m just not “smart” enough for this book, but I don’t get it. I don’t think I can even accurately give a synopsis of the series, because I’m not entirely sure there is one. It seems to me a host of disconnected events strung together haphazardly with some kind of hidden meaning just under the surface. I’ve read interviews that suggest it’s a riff on a comic industry that takes its super-heroes far too seriously. I suppose I gleaned that much from it, but had I never read an interview with Morrison himself, or several pieces by reviewers who seem to be inside Morrison’s head, I would’ve walked away scratching mine. Strangely enough, I did that anyway.
At least the art by Cameron Stewart was fabulous. (2/5)
Challengers of the Unknown #2 (DC)
Not sure what I was hoping for from this book, but I’ve been let down. Issue 2 was far better than Issue 1 (I’m thinking they should have scrapped the first issue altogether and went with this one as the intro to the series), but I still haven’t been dragged into the story. For some reason, I keep comparing this book to Andy Diggle’s The Losers, and Howard Chaykin’s fantastic art aside, it comes up way short. Sorry, Howard. I’m dropping it. (2.5/5)
Sleeper Season Two #1 (Wildstorm)
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips up the ante in the second “season” of their crafty cult hit, Sleeper. Super-powered deep cover agent Holden Carver receives a message from his old boss, I.O. head John Lynch, whom he thought in a coma. Turns out Lynch is indeed active again and looking to set up a secret meeting with Holden. But Holden would rather Lynch take a flying leap for getting him into his current mess. Holden’s new boss, Tao, wants to exploit that by setting up the meeting and using it as a tool to destroy Lynch.
As much as I loved “Season One” of this intriguing espionage tale, I can’t wait to see where Brubaker takes it this time. (4/5)
Autumn #1 (Slave Labor Graphics)
Autumn is writer/artist Tommy Kovac’s ancient witch trapped in the body of a young girl. In this first issue, we learn that she’s been exiled to The Nameless Village, just inside the impassable and deadly Black Wood. By whom she was exiled we’re not certain, but we do know that the town she now calls home is full of humans afraid to show their faces for fear they’ll be taken by the beasties of the Black Wood. To this end, everyone wears masks and call each other by assumed names when not indoors. Autumn quickly meets a woman named Schizandra whom she has to coax magically into taking her and her quivering squirrel familiar Widdershin in.
We don’t learn much beyond that, but it’s an entertaining little story nonetheless. The art is darkly quirky, the inking heavy on feathering, giving it an almost carved wood block feel. If I had one complaint overall, it’s that Autumn herself isn’t a very likable character thus far. She’s pushy, abrasive and not the least bit charming. I’ll likely give a second issue a shot for fun, but I don’t see being hooked by these characters or their story. (3/5)