By Brandy Dykhuizen, Brad Sun, and Courtney Ryan. Our Week In Review sums up our weekly comic book coverage while taking time for a new review or two before it’s all over. Did we miss your favorite books this week? Well. This is where you need to be.
Cosmic Scoundrels #1
Words and Story by Matt Chapman.
Story and Art by Andy Suriano.
Lettering by Andy Suriano with Comicraft.
BSun: Traveling the galaxy aboard the S.S. Fistpuncher, Roshambo and Love Savage are two unscrupulous rogues in search of fortune and misadventure. If the proper nouns in that synopsis weren’t enough to pique your interest, then Cosmic Scoundrels is not the book for you. As the names imply, this is a comic all about audacious antics and over-the top-bravado. And while issue #1 is populated by larger-than-life characters and nonstop sci-fi spectacle, it’s Andy Suriano’s art that ultimately sells the stylish swagger at the core of this book.
Reminiscent of the great Kyle Baker, Suriano’s loose gestural illustrations radiate with the confidence of a seasoned cartoonist drawing what he loves. His figures are all sharp angles and cool poses, with massive, blocky hands that would make Jack Kirby proud. And with well over half the issue’s pages containing three panels or less, Suriano is able to really push the storytelling dynamics, staging the story’s unrelenting action beats for maximum potency.
But this indulgent pacing also has the regrettable effect of making Cosmic Scoundrels #1 a very quick read. The inclusion of a backup story and a few pages of world-building ephemera compounds the sense that this debut issue might just have too many ideas for its own good. Suriano and his writing collaborator Matt Chapman clearly have no shortage of inspired gags (a distracting, quippy commentary at the bottom of each page is testament to that), but it all adds up to a comic that feels strangely insubstantial. Perhaps a byproduct of the conversion from its original webcomic format to print, these shortcomings don’t quite mar the bold vision and infectious enthusiasm so clearly infused in each and every page. There’s no filler in Cosmic Scoundrels #1, but there’s not much meat on the bone either.
7 out of 10
Royal City #1
Written and Illustrated by Jeff Lemire.
Letters by Steve Wands.
CR: Anyone who’s driven across the Midwest has encountered the formerly prosperous factory hubs that have spent the last few decades rusting into washed-out ghost towns. Dilapidated movie theaters recall forgotten titles on their expired marquees, empty storefronts dot a once prominent road that now leads to Walmart, and the factory’s pledge to bring opportunity and wealth now rings like a tired joke. This is the world of Jeff Lemire’s promising new series Royal City, a world where characters drift through the shadowy remains of their earlier life at the same soft speed as the ghosts who haunt them.
Royal City #1 introduces us to the Pike clan, a family whose adult children attempt to reconvene after their father’s sudden stroke. Tara still lives in town and plans to restore it to its former glory by tearing down the factory and building a massive resort and golf complex in its place. Her brother Pat has moved on and seen some success as a writer but is struggling with his next book (he fails to convince his agent that he can best his first novel, Royal City). Their brother Richie is inflicted by substance abuse and avoids work as well as his family. Parents Peter and Patti are clearly suffering a terse relationship. In short, everyone is unhappy, but Lemire characterizes their unhappiness as trauma caused by the loss of a loved one and unacknowledged grief.
Lemire is both artist and author of Royal City, which serves to beautifully marry the characters’ dialogue and veiled pain through weeping sketches of haggard individuals. The faded colors create a depressive world where the family members’ drooping mouths and sunken eyes reveal how harsh living alongside a ghost has been on their bodies as well as their souls. Royal City #1 is a promising opening to a series that seems set to develop the very real burdens of trauma.
9 out of 10
Savage Things #1
Written by Justin Jordan.
Art by Ibrahim Moustafa.
Colors by Jordan Boyd.
Letters by Josh Reed.
BD: With two timelines, twenty-plus psychos, countless murders and only a few dozen pages, it’s no wonder Savage Things is the kind of book that gets right to the point. Implementing light arson as a page one segue into home invasion and murder, Justin Jordan dives straight into darkness by way of introduction to our central sociopath and the villain who groomed him into a government weapon.
You may think you’ve heard this story before – a cloak-and-dagger bureaucracy molds children into bloodthirsty weapons – but these wee ones are born a few steps ahead of the game, steeped in unmistakably sociopathic tendencies. Jordan and the artistic team of Ibrahim Moustafa and Jordan Boyd work together seamlessly to keep things as icy as you please, underscoring the menace with just the right amount of chatter and visual cues to bring the big picture together.
In this respect, it’s what you don’t see that makes all the difference. Murders are portrayed after the fact, or implied before they go down (in the most chilling scene, a slight smirk is all we see before the doors shut on a massive, to-the-death brawl — what could easily be a pages-long, flashy SWAT team battle is reduced to a few shocking panels highlighting the protagonist’s strength and predatory proclivities). Throughout these toned-down skirmishes, Moustafa and Boyd portray the world in realistic lines with a gunmetal and beige palette, leaving a stark and wintry wash in the wake of chaos.
Savage Things is as cold as an assassin’s humanity, littered with gaps cryptic enough that you’d need a forensic team to fill the spaces, but this somehow all works in its favor. It’s a stunning and unsettling first issue that leaves you wanting more, but I’m totally okay with a little break before round two.
8 out of 10
From earlier this week —
What books did YOU read this week? We want to know! Tell us about those feelings of yours in the comments section below.