Saturday, 17 September 2011

52 New Beginnings - The Dark

Demon Knights
reviewed by Kate Townshend

Let me get this straight, Demon Knights has the fall of Camelot, gender bending characters with super shiny armour and an extremely kinky threesome of sorts between an immortal woman and a man and demon who inhabit the same physical space? If this is less than awesome then something has gone horribly wrong somewhere...

So is it awesome? Well, it’s pretty damn good fun if nothing else. The first edition of Demon Knights has the pace and good humour of an adventure movie, combined with some darker moments that prevent me from dismissing it as pure, enjoyable fluff. We romp through time and jump between characters at speed and the distracted reader is liable to struggle to keep up, but the benefit of all this is that this issue reads almost like a particularly detailed painting. The longer you look at it the more eye-catching, idiosyncratic details appear.

The tavern scene is particularly well staged, with a veritable barrage of action and introductions - and really, what tavern scene is complete without the threat of castration hovering over everything?

Etrigan makes a surprisingly likable demon, and Xanadu is complex and long suffering, but with such a volume of character introductions it’s hard to get a real sense of anyone just yet. In itself this isn’t a bad thing, but I hope there is time in between all the action for a little bit more in the way of development.

What Demon Knights doesn’t seem to be just yet, is terribly serious. Demon babies aside, the darker moments are just that: moments. And yet the fall of Camelot echoes religious ideas about the fall of man in general, and there’s scope for a layer of much deeper thought beneath the banter and the drinking. Ultimately, it’s another wait and see factor for me, but as opening scenes go, this is an engaging one.

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
reviewed by Kate Townshend

Of all of my pre-conceptions when faced with a comic book character based on a 19th century novel by a romantic novelist I have a bit of a girl crush on, I never expected to find DC’s crime busting Frankenstein quite so, well, likeable.

Despite the reams of technology, with robots wandering around and teeny tiny space-station-like edifices all over the place, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there is a strong human element (for want of a better phrase) running through this title. Frankenstein deals with very human emotions of rejection and self-protection and this thematic link to its inspirational source material makes the English Lit geek inside me very happy indeed! Even leaving Mary Shelley out of things, it’s also a nice juxtaposition for a story that is ostensibly populated with monsters.

Frankenstein is an ever so slightly tetchy, emotionally buttoned down character who retains an air of jaded romanticism, and I suspect that what he could really do with is a big hug. The chemistry between him and Father Time is rather wonderful, because of rather than in spite of, the fact that ‘Father’ is currently inhabiting the body of a small, somewhat bossy, girl. And the more human elements of the stories really ground it; the little boy fishing with his grandfather for example lends an air of realism despite the far-fetched setting.

It all seems to be setting things up for a clash of two cultures, between traditional ‘super-hero’ territory, the ‘world gone mad’ as Father calls it, and more gritty concerns of family, love and religion. I think this is really interesting, and despite not really expecting to like this title I’m grudgingly curious about how the story might develop.

Resurrection Man
reviewed by Ben Fardon

The Devil is in the details they say. Well, it is certainly the thing that really sticks in my mind about Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's new Resurrection Man. The details. Little things like a different taste in our protagonist's mouth every time he comes back to life. Or the way he uses the magnetic powers he briefly possesses to entertain a scared baby at an airport.

This second detail told me more about Mitchell Shelley in half a page than an entire issue's worth of clumsy exposition told me about O.M.A.C. or Mr (not-so) Terrific. Mitch is a man who hasn't lost his humanity despite the horrific pain of dying and resurrecting on a regular basis or now being pursued by demons and angels.

Every time he comes back he has a whole new power, replacing whatever came before. In this issue he comes back to life twice; first with powers akin to Magneto, then with powers that appear to be like Spider-Man villain Hydro-Man. In the beginning he awakes in a morgue and can taste the metal of the gurney in his mouth. The second time, he can taste pain and tears.

Resurrection Man is one of the finest first issues I've read from the DC reboot. The supernatural elements aren't hokey, but instead invoke the later seasons of the TV adventures of Sam & Dean Winchester. The main character's inner monologue is compelling and the other people he encounters feel real and believable. It reads more like a Vertigo title than a DC superhero book of old. Madame Xanadu sneaks in on the action near the end and elsewhere two interestingly sadistic femme fatales are just getting warmed up...

The art isn't spellbinding, but it fits the tone of the writing well enough. This isn't a book that wants the pencils of Jim Lee after all. Dagnino brings the script to life with a clarity and purpose that is commendable.

I really hope Resurrection Man is a huge success. I love an underdog and this new title is more of a revival than a reboot. DnA created Mitch and they last brought him to our comic shop shelves back in the late Nineties, but the title was sadly cancelled after a couple of years. I fully expect to see graphic novels collections of the previous series being solicited with a year. Because I'm certain that this tale of a wandering hero who keeps coming back to life with a new superpower will find an appreciative audience this time around.

Certainly in the past decade, DnA have found a greater fan base between their work with Games Workshop properties and acclaimed work for Marvel like Annihilation and the various following successes. Resurrection Man #1 shares this fine pedigree and that's evident from the evocative first page.

You can just taste the details.

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