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City of Heroes (2005 Series) #14

October 21, 2011 Leave a comment

June 22, 2006

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Awakenings Part Two

The Circle of Thorns’ latest plot will need a world of heroes to thwart!

Writer: David Wohl
Pencils: Roman Cliquet
Inks: Blond
Colors: Blond
Letters: Troy Peteri
Cover Art: Rodolfo Migliani
Publisher: Image Comics/Top Cow

A prison breakout in Brickstown brings the Freedom Phalanx together with Foreshadow and his visiting heroes from Asia. While the heroes are stopping the breakout, though, the Circle of Thorns is gathering the elements it needs to bring Hell to Earth.

As always, the fun of this comic is watching the heroes undertake missions you yourself may have taken as a player in the video game. The climactic confrontation with the Circle is a perfect example – we watch the heroes meet a contact, descend into the Circle’s caverns, wait while one of their number turns the others invisible… all elements that translate perfectly from the game to the comic.

The big problem with this issue is the artwork. Roman Cliquet’s style isn’t as clean or clear as we usually get with this comic – the pages are very inconsistent and Blond’s inking is far too heavy in many scenes, while the faces are too light and ill-defined in others. It’s not terrible, but the artwork in this series is usually far better.

The comic still gives you a really great feel for the game, but this isn’t that strong an issue. Hopefully the next issue, or the next arc, will get back on track.

Rating: 7/10

Common Grounds #5

September 9, 2011 Leave a comment

August 28, 2011

Title: Where Monsters Dwell & Lovelife

Writer: Troy Hickman
Pencils:
Angel Medina, Dan Jurgens
Inks:
Jon Holdredge, Al Vey
Colorist:
John Starr, Beth Sotelo, Guy Major
Letterer:
Robin Spehar, Mark Rosian, Dennis Heisler
Cover Artist:
Rodolfo Migliari
Editor:
Scott Tucker
Publisher:
Image Comics/Top Cow

I’ve mentioned before my love for Troy Hickman’s series Common Grounds, but it’s time for me to do it again. Back in 2004, Top Cow released this six-issue miniseries, featuring a coffee shop chain where superheroes and villains alike could come in under a banner of truce, have a cruller and a cuppa joe, and let a little steam off. Inside this concept, which is a little silly at its core, Hickman managed to tell stories of love, loss, courage, redemption, and utter terror at any given moment. It was a bravura piece of storytelling, and this issue was no different. In “Where Monsters Dine,” Hickman does a loving tribute to the silly giant monster comics Marvel turned out in the late 50s and early 60s, before Superheroes took over the company again. What does a monster do when his time is over? How does he get by in a world that’s so small? The story is funny as hell, and a little sad at the same time. In “Lovelife,” we meet the Eternal Flame. This immortal hero saves a suicide and brings him in for a heart-to-heart talk about what’s really important. This story has a humorous bent to it, but the message is far more poignant – if you’re immortal, if you watch everybody you care about grow old and die, why would you bother with love? There’s actually an answer, and it’s a good one. Hickman took all the classic superhero tropes and, in this series, used them to tell strong stories that run deep. I don’t know if he – or Top Cow – would ever return to this series, but if they did, I’d sure as hell read it.

Rating: 9/10

City of Heroes (2005 Series) #13

July 9, 2011 Leave a comment

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May 4, 2006

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Awakenings Part One

Heroes from another land pitch in as the Circle of Thorns rises again.

Writer: David Wohl
Pencils: James Raiz
Inks: Blond
Colors: Blond
Letters: Troy Peteri
Cover Art: Rodolfo Migliari
Publisher: Image Comics/Top Cow

Manticore is back with the Freedom Phalanx, and perhaps a bit too eager to prove himself as he leads his teammates into battle with a group of characters from overseas that turn out to not quite be what he thought. Meanwhile, the Circle of Thorns is up to no good.

This issue takes an interesting turn. Usually, the fun of this series is seeing the characters and environments you’re used to from playing the video game in action. This time out, the focus is squarely on a group of characters that have not (to my knowledge) appeared in the game, at least not yet. The new superhumans from Korea have a history with our heroes, and their leader in particular has a very intriguing backstory. It’s different from what we usually get, but it is nice to see a bit more of the world the game is in. Sure, City of Heroes is all about Paragon City, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other facets of this universe worth exploring.

The artwork is a little sub-par this week. James Raiz pencils are fine, but the inking by Blond is a little sketchy and muddy at times, with excessive detail lines and flat facial expressions. Migliari’s cover, as usual, is quite nice.

I do so enjoy this series – I’ve got to wonder, though, if it’s because I love the game so much or if that’s just a nice bonus.

Rating: 7/10

The Weapon #4

May 23, 2011 Leave a comment

November 2, 2007

The Weapon #4 (Platinum Studios/Top Cow Productions)
By Fred Van Lente & Scott Koblish

This highly underrated little miniseries comes to an end. With his holoform projector running out of power, Tommy Zhou will have to rely on his wits and his skill to rescue Megan Dean-Hughes from the cult of the Lin Kuei and retrieve the Scroll of Chi Mastery. Van Lente did a nice job with this story of setting up what appeared to be a rather standard martial arts story (which would have been good enough) and managed to work in a nice twist that turned out to be a genuine surprise. Koblish‘s artwork is fantastic, and the character here is really likeable. This ends the miniseries, but hopefully, the Weapon will be back for round two.
Rating: 8/10

Hero By Night (2007 Series) #3

May 11, 2011 Leave a comment

May 17, 2007

Quick Rating: Very Good

With Roz in the clutches of the Iron Talon, Jack has to make his stand.

Writer: DJ Coffman
Art: DC Coffman
Colors: Jason Embury
Letters: DJ Coffman
Editor: Paul Cibis & Adam Rosenblum
Cover Art: DJ Coffman & Mark Sparacio
Publisher: Platinum Studios/Top Cow

The Iron Talon has Roz, and Jack has to find some way to save her. He delves into the late Hero By Night’s journals, hoping for a clue to help him save her, but the real answer may lie within himself.

Coffman has done two important things this issue – he’s presented us with the origins of the Iron Talon and Hero By Night, and he’s given us a near-flawless development to show how an average Joe like Jack can find it in himself to at least try to be a hero… and the determination Coffman packs into the last page is enough to make you believe he might actually succeed.

The artwork is still impressive – I really enjoy Coffman’s style applied to this sort of timeless superhero story. As good as the interior art is, though, the cover just plain blows me away. Click on the image here for a bigger version so you can see how great a piece of art this is, with a painted quality that gives it a feeling of realism while still being true to the world that Coffman has created.

I’m really sorry that there’s only one issue left in this series. Yes, I know there’s a webcomic I can visit, but I want an ongoing. Are you listening, Platinum? This book is great. Give us more.

Rating: 8/10

Somebody’s First Comic Book: Common Grounds #2

February 28, 2011 1 comment

Wondering what Somebody’s First Comic Book is all about? The explanation is on this page!

TITLE: Roles

CREDITS:
Writer: Troy Hickman
Penciller: Ethan Van Sciver
Inks:
Jon Holdredge, Roland Paris & Norm Rapmund
Colors:
Brian Buccellato
Letters:
Robin Spehar, Mark Roslan & Dennis Heisler
Cover:
Rodolfo Migliari
Publisher:
Image Comics/Top Cow

PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: Never heard of it before. According to the blurb on the inside cover, it sounds like it’s about a coffee shop where superheroes and supervillains can grab a cup of joe and a donut under a sort of truce where they promise not to fight. Clever concept…

IMPRESSIONS: Two stories in this comic book. The first one is “Roles,” in which we see a young woman  — Jenny — who works at Common Grounds getting off work, only to run afoul of a nasty customer with a knife. This is a really clever story – knowing the reputation this “Common Grounds” place must have gives our heroine an unusual way to get out of her predicament. The artwork is very good too. Jenny is a would-be actress, and the artist really manages to get it across on her face when she shifts into playing a role. The story is very good, but I don’t think it would have worked without a very good artist selling a bit of insanity on Jenny’s face when she needed it.

Let’s check out story #2…

TITLE: Elsewhere

CREDITS:
Writer: Troy Hickman
Penciller: Dan Jurgens
Inks:
Al Vey
Colors:
Guy Major

IMPRESSIONS: “Elsewhere” is a sad little story about a sidekick, the Analog Kid, seeking his lost mentor, Digital Man. The Kid has built a device that traces Digital Man’s last whereabouts to a Common Grounds location, but nobody there has seen him. Meanwhile, we cut over to Digital Man himself, who is trapped on some horrific alien planet with no means of escape. The story packs a very nice emotional punch. It’s essentially about a father and son, separated, but refusing to give up on each other. Troy Hickman manages to mix up these emotional moments with a really great Twilight Zone-style twist at the end that elevates this way beyond the already-strong story that it was.

Amazing comic book – two short stories that are wholly captured in one comic. I loved it.

GRADE: A

City of Heroes (2005 Series) #12

February 13, 2011 Leave a comment

April 16, 2006

Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: Trading Places Part Three

Manticore versus the Freedom Phalanx?

Writer: David Wohl
Pencils: David Nakayama
Inks: Roland Paris, John Livesay & Ryan Winn
Colors: Blond & Tyson Wengler
Letters: Troy Peteri
Cover Art: Rodolfo Migliari
Publisher: Image Comics/Top Cow

Another arc ends for City of Heroes (are they all going to be three issues?) and again really helps to cement these characters as heroes and warriors in their own right, not just generic pastiches of Marvel or DC characters. Manticore has pretended to turn on the Freedom Phalanx, even going so far as to fake kidnapped Sister Psyche and deliver her into the clutches of Lord Recluse.

The massive battle that erupts in Siren’s Call this issue is the sort of thing that this comic has the potential to do very well – while the story is enormous, the scope is actually pretty small. It’s like reading a big “Justice League/Teen Titans” team-up slugfest but viewing the whole thing through the eyes of just one character. And because this book doesn’t necessarily have any superstars, you can get away with telling the story this way in a way you couldn’t with those better-known teams.

Another thing you don’t get when the story is the Justice League? The chance to see your own character show up – at the end we get a nice shot of the Freedom Phalanx with other heroes of Paragon City, characters created by game players. It’s a nice touch, one that makes the comic feel even more like part of the game.

David Nakayama’s artwork is really strong, although he does succumb to the temptation to do the cheesecake shot at times. (I mean really, why would Sister Psyche charge into battle against Lord Recluse standing with her back to him except to show off her butt?) But overall he handles superhero storytelling very well, in a very consistent fashion.

This is your basic, old-fashioned superhero story, with the twist that the heroes involved are ones you may have teamed up with yourself. That’s what makes this comic so much fun.

Rating: 8/10