This was the first week in a while where I found myself wondering what the hell I’m supposed to be reviewing. I looked back at all the stuff I’d been doing for the column and realized that there aren’t a lot of books still surviving. On the one hand, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. Other hand, sometimes I wake up at night and I can swear I still smell their innocent blood.
Writer: Steven Grant
Artist: Emilio Laiso
Colors: Gabriel Cassata
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Still not quite sure what to make of 3 GUNS. I know I really like it, but trying to describe it to the average comic book ready is a task. It’s not because it’s terribly weird, but more because it’s so… basic? It’s an action/crime comic, for sure. But that’s literally it. Kind of nice, actually, to read something that does one thing and does it damn well.
3 GUNS doesn’t lose any momentum from the end of issue one, kicking off two pages reminding us that the two main characters are double agents, then briskly segueing into a terrific sequence illustrating how intense the Russian mobster is, after which there’s a weird little bit of drama between the two protagonists. The dialogue’s a bit basic and I’m not really sure I remember the last issue being quite so vanilla in terms of character interactions. That being said, it’s also not painful either, coming off as just being a comic full of very busy criminals with no time for witty repartee. Which is a bit disappointing. It doesn’t help that the Russian is an overblown stereotype whose dialogue, while certainly funny, is out of place in a book full of passive-aggressive jerks. There’s a couple of twists in this issue that, while certainly inevitable, were executed cleverly and I can’t fault the energetic narrative. I just wish the dialogue was funnier.
That being said, the artwork makes up for that particular flaw quite well. Laiso is a very strong artist who must have an insane work ethic to pack all the stuff he manages into each panel. It’s actually an exception to see a panel without a background in this book and just about every page has one really lavish background you can’t help but appreciate. His style is very realistic but in a story like this, that’s fine. You know that, going into the comic, it’s going to look and feel like an action movie and Laiso nails that. What I also have to commend Laiso for is his bravery in working the characters into swimwear just about every page. It makes sense with the setting but what surprises me is that, even though there are two female characters, there’s way more beefcake here than anything else. BOOM! gets a commendation from me for that, as it’s so hard to find comics that give readers more than T&A to gawk at. The coloring, via Cassata, is right on point, seamlessly rendering Laiso’s work into a colorful seaside paradise ripe with visual beauty. Cassata deserves more recognition here than just an acknowledgement; another artist would’ve been eating Laiso’s dust but Cassata really does make every page sing with life.
Overall, 3 GUNS is a true pleasure to read. I could ask for better dialogue but the book is so busy telling a lightning-fast story that it really just skips the niceties in favor of sharp writing. BOOM! generously spares us any ads until the last few pages and that’s in a pretty thick package, just right for the price tag. Unless the next issue gets really tedious or the art takes a dive, I suspect 3 GUNS will be a bullseye.
Writer: Gary Gerani
Artist: Flint Henry
Paintings: Earl Norem
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Sometimes I just don’t know what to make of comic books. Take DINOSAURS ATTACK! for example. The first few issues were reprinted comics from an earlier era with a few embellishments like reprints of the original cards that the series was based on. This latest issue…
The story continues the onward march of dino mayhem in some pretty impressive ways; we get a horrifying intro scene that I won’t spoil which kicks off the comic thrillingly, almost topping the bits from the previous issue. When that’s over, it’s off to the frontline of the human vs dino war where an Army general reveals that he thinks the dinosaurs are using strategy, an idea that nobody believes because it’s ludicrous, obviously. Just as ludicrous as dinosaurs suddenly reappearing on Earth? At this point, it’s just kind of silly that everyone thinks he’s crazy, as they must all be pretty well beyond thinking ANYTHING is too crazy to be believed by now. It gets a bit sillier from there, surprisingly. We get a scene of the main protagonist, Professor Thorne, in a flashback where he loses faith in god thanks to his brother dying before his eyes in a hospital bed. In a series that hasn’t even remotely touched on the topic of god, it’s a weirdly preachy scene that feels somewhat forced. Awakening from his dream-memory, Thorne finally encounters the sentient, intelligent dinosaur that has been ominously foreshadowed since issue one. It’s revealed that the dinosaurs also have a god who is responsible for the whole disaster, which kind of seems to excuse the prior bit but not entirely. Thorne wakes AGAIN and discovers he’s found a solution to the problem in his sleep. There’s a short bit after that about the journalist from the last issue, then the book jumps to the residence of the Throne family, whereupon Thorne’s family is threatened by the dinosaurs. The writer, Gerani, has an ear for horror movie dialogue despite his strange insistence on bringing god into a cheesy horror comic.
But this issue marks the end of what appears to be the original run of Herb Trimpe’s art as well as the last of the distinctive and awesome painted work by Norem. What we’re left with is a guy by the name of Flint Henry, and he’s just not up to the task of what this series demands. Gone are the detail-packed panels of the last two issues, and the scenes of the space lab seem to utterly lack the energy Trimpe infused them with. Even more telling, there’s no gore at all beyond the first five pages and that’s inexcusable in this comic. This is a pulp sci-fi horror comic so it’s to be expected that there’s cheesy melodrama and inane scientific exposition but this is the equivalent of castration. None of the characters are interesting enough to pull the whole book and Henry’s art, while not terrible, just doesn’t have what it takes to pull off the slow, tedious story.
DINOSAURS ATTACK! is, I’m afraid, has lost the offensive and is now surrendering. Unfortunately, Comic Execution is a take-no-prisoners column and this book, from issue #3 on, is dead to me.
Writer: Kurtis J. Wiebe
Artist: Roc Upchurch
Publisher: Image Comics
So here’s an unusual debut I hadn’t heard about at all from the Shadowline imprint of Image Comics. For those unfamiliar, Shadowline is a mature-oriented, mini-series focused line of comics managed by Jim Valentino, famously known for creating the second-generation Shadowhawk, character who Spawn essentially riffed on. Shadowline has been putting out a lot of great, unorthodox titles such as ‘Miniature Jesus’. Yet I haven’t been keeping tabs on what’s coming from them, so it was to my delight that I spotted this clear D&D parody sitting on this week’s shelf of new comics.
And there is no question as to whether this is a parody; it’s a full bodied riff on everything games like Pathfinder and D&D represent. Fortunately, it’s also clever enough to be a fun story as well. It follows a band of “adventurers” called the Rat Queens, an all girl group who embodies the term “ragtag.” There’s a wonderful introduction to the Rat Queens that both summarizes their current situation and colors in their individual personalities, after which they’re assigned to taking care of a goblin infestation, naturally. While there’s a slow bit of character development as they travel to the cave, it’s energized by truly hilarious dialogue and a gruesome assassination elsewhere. When the assassin attacks the Rat Queens, there’s a quip-laden battle that ends spectacularly. I really can’t emphasize how whip-smart the character writing is and the pacing is formulaic but engaging in the context of a medieval fantasy story. The rest of the cast are colorful enough and the world, while certainly relying on the D&D template, plays it hard and fast.
The art is equally bold, packed to the brim with animated expressions and diverse character types, though the backgrounds seem to be strictly obligatory, serving their purpose well enough. When the action kicks in, it’s got a lot of dynamic movement as well as some bloody but cartoony violence. I like that the panels are, for most of the comic, in an undistracting format until the battles, where they transform into angular cuts that emphasize the back and forth. Overall, it’s a very strong debut that might be a bit focused on character and not enough on filling in the world itself but, given that it’s a generic setting, that’s forgivable.
I love the first issue of RAT QUEENS and, if it maintains the laugh-a-minute pace and the ultra-fun visuals, I can definitely see the second issue being a worthwhile read, especially since it’s an Image title and, thusly, priced to move with nary an advert interruption. That said, I think this book could be greatly enhanced with the addition of a background artist. It’s a small gripe for a debut that stands up right alongside similar medieval fantasy parodies like ‘Skullkickers’ and ‘Pathfinder: Goblins.’