Published on May 22nd, 2014 | by JCDoyle0
Image Comic Reviews 21/05/2014
It’s a busy week for Image Comics with some big hitters coming out and a juicy new morsel from Mark Millar. Here’s a few I’ve picked up:
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Steve Epting
‘Before the Living End’ comes to a close as Ed Brubaker answers a few questions surrounding his title character’s past while opening up the conspiracy against her. This issue is mostly flashbacks showing the reader the early life of Velvet from her time at the training school through to her previous missions with Richard, aka agent X-14. What happened between Velvet and Richard is revealed in this issue and it’s a tense moment when the climax comes. Even in her own retelling of the story there is a twist that opens her eyes and deepens the tragedy. Brubaker makes you feel the gut wrenching shock that Velvet feels and this will be the basis for the reader’s sympathies for her as she goes down a road that will be morally questionable at best, if Brubaker’s past works are anything to go by.
Brubaker revels in this kind of ‘slow reveal’ plotting as he has previous demonstrated and the narrative is expertly planned out to the point that everything feels relevant. The reader is forced to pay attention to each speech bubble and each shifting shadow in the background.
The intrigue and paranoia of Velvet’s world is brought to life in Steve Epting’s shadowy art. The large areas of black are used to great effect and there is fluidity to his pencil work that keeps the action flowing from one panel to the next. Don’t let the first three pages fool you, the bright, happy characters that are portrayed there are designed to disarm you, to soften you up for the action ahead.
‘Before the Living End’ is the set up for Velvet’s journey and it’s going to be interesting to see where she goes from here.
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Duncan Fegredo
Issue 1 of Mark Millar’s new ‘kind of’ superhero comic is a straight up origin story that introduces the hero, Roscoe, and shows how the collapse of his life leads him to his life with superpowers. There is a prologue set some 30 years before which sets the scene and then it’s straight into the murky drug pusher’s world. Roscoe is a well meaning street punk who has a plan for his future and even after his initial stitch up, he holds onto his dream. But this safety is slowly eroded away giving our hero the reason to take MPH, a street drug with unknown origins and affects.
The artwork is brilliantly handled by Duncan Fegredo whose bold, black lines reflect the brashness of the central characters. He has a limited set to play with, most of the action takes place in a prison wing, but by subtly altering compositions he is able to depict Roscoe’s fall into despair.
The script is surprisingly muted for a Mark Millar comic and lacks the sensationalism usually linked to his work; this is not necessarily a bad thing. There are moments when the script feels a little forced by trying to info dump the reader when it isn’t necessary, especially in the voice over. Apart from that it’s a fairly tight script that won’t disappoint Millar fans and may even attract some new ones
My only concern for this comic is that after this initially sedated introduction to Roscoe’s world, Mark Millar will vamp up the action, and the violence, and probably the sex and turn it into just another Millar World comic. This would be a shame as MPH starts off strongly which isn’t something that can be said for a lot of Millar’s work.
East of West #12
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Nick Dragotta
Death and the Horsemen take a break this week but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot going on. Xiaolian has called a meeting of every Nation and she intends to declare war.
Like a lot of Jonathan Hickman work, if you’ve not been reading it isn’t easy to just bound on board, even his Avengers run with Marvel requires some dedication but he is the master of ‘pay-off’. A good portion of this issue is taken up with political chatter, cultural innuendo and misdirection but when the pay-off from the opening sequences comes, it’s very bloody.
If it wasn’t for Nick Dragotta’s amazing ability to imbue the faces of the characters with so much emotion then this issue could be a chore to read, especially the first half. However, he gouges so much emotion and depth into the furrows of the cast that the script is given an exuberant life.
This series reeks of Manga’s influence especially in the design of Xiaolian’s costume and Solomon’s inner demon. This issue will not disappoint the fans and if you’ve not been reading pick up the first Trade and catch up because the pages of this comic have now become “dipped in blood and stained forever”. A big pay-off is coming.