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Comic Book Review Round-Up: One Shots #2

Want to see what other comic books I read each month? Well, look no further: One Shots is my new weekly comic book round-up, covering everything I can’t get to in my regular reviews. This week I’ll be covering books from Image Comics, Black Mask Studios, IDW, and Marvel Comics, so prepare your face for some rapid fire reviews!

hit1957Hit: 1957 #1
Scripter: Bryce Carlson
Artist: Vanesa R. Del Rey
Colorist: Niko Guardia
Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Writer Bryce Carlson and artist Vanesa R. Del Rey return to the mean streets of Los Angeles in Hit: 1957 #1, sequel to 2013’s Harvey Award-nominated Hit. Set two years after the events of the previous series, Hit: 1957 follows Detective Harvey Slater and Bonnie Brae in parallel storylines that are set to collide once again in this brutal noir crime drama. Carlson’s script is well-paced, the dialog drenched in pulp swagger, and Del Rey’s loose, finely detailed artwork brings the world to life. Colorist Niko Guardia’s dark sumptuous palettes makes for a world as grim as the violence that saturates it, balancing murky clubs and back alleys with high-contrast punches of neon color.

The themes and subject matter are certainly clichéd, from crooked LA cops to brutal crime bosses, but overall handled well. Slater and company are stock brooding pulp detectives, complete with ridiculous monologues about whiskey and women. Bonnie Brae, however, is a remarkably well-developed femme fatale who can take care of herself. She’s tough, scrappy, and inclined to the same brutality as her male counterparts, making her the more interesting protagonist to follow. Even for it, some of the sexually-charged violence that peppers the issue’s subplot comes across as a bit cheap and schlocky in its execution. Given the wildly sordid history of sex in pulp fiction, the dependence on this convention is acceptable, albeit a bit uninspired.

Gritty and visually engrossing, with a solid script and some exposition Raymond Chandler would be proud of, this is an entertaining read for pulp fans of all stripes.

ElektraElektra #11
Scripter: W. Haden Blackman
Artist: Mike Del Mundo
Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

W. Haden Blackman and Mike Del Mundo end their year-long run as Elektra squares off with Bullseye for the fate of The Guild. This slow, introspective supernatural adventure brings Elektra’s journey full circle in a visually stunning battle, brought to the page by way of Del Mundo’s dynamic line work and filmic application of color and texture. Blackman’s handling of Elektra’s identity crisis has been incredibly poignant in these final issues, and #11 is no exception. As Elektra wrestles with the weighty themes of life, death, and rebirth in navigating her fractured sense of self, Blackman and Del Mundo make great efforts to cast off the shadow of being “Daredevil’s dead girlfriend” and allow her to put her past to bed.

An introspective journey with a satisfying ending, Elektra #11 is a proper conclusion to this series and a fitting way to send the character off (for now). With its dreamlike visual narrative and surreal, often psychedelic elements, Blackman and Del Mundo’s run has been a memorable one for sure. While certainly not standard cape book fare, I highly recommend this series to anyone looking for an engaging Elektra story.

TheyreNotLikeUsThey’re Not Like Us #4
Scripter: Eric Stephenson
Artist: Simon Gane
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Syd falls further into The Voice’s peculiar rabbit hole in They’re Not Like Us #4, and finds she doesn’t much care for what waits on the other side. While Syd struggles with the idea of killing her family in order to be accepted into The Voice’s cabal of powered youth, her newfound friends are getting restless. Her family continues to delve into her disappearance and The Voice plans to dispose of Syd to cover their tracks, even as Maisie tries to postpone any impulsive action. Tensions within the house begin to fracture the careful alliances the other youths have cultivated, and soon Syd discovers that The Voice holds more power over the others than she realized.

The Voice’s function as a stoic, cult-like figurehead creates a looming threat for Syd. While the last two issues saw her blossoming in the group, she’s now beginning to see the fear that The Voice inspires in the rest of them. Each side character in the house has their own secrets and agendas, making for a greater tension between all the players and Syd. Stephenson’s script makes for an intriguing, well-paced mystery, even though some of the dialogue reads as a bit stiff and exposition-heavy at times. Gane and Bellaire make for a beautiful collaboration, Gane’s intricate and highly-detailed panels wonderfully realized by Bellaire’s judicious application of color and texture.

With its gritty youth culture lens, They’re Not Like Us continues to be an intriguing spin on the superhero genre.

wecannevergohomeWe Can Never Go Home #1
Scripter: Matthew Rosenberg & Patrick Kindlon
Artist: Josh Hood
Colorist: Amanda Scurti
Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Teenage romance and super powers, high school drama and small town rumor mills. None of these story devices are particularly innovative, but somehow the creative team of We Can Never Go Home takes these time-worn tropes and makes something surprisingly clever. This confident debut issue tells the story of Duncan, the school’s resident loner, and Madison, the popular girl who has everything going for her. But these formulaic high school clichés share a secret: they both have powerful and unexplained abilities, leading to a violent confrontation with Duncan’s father that changes their lives. On the run and with no one else to turn to, Duncan and Madison embark on a peculiar journey of love and self-discovery.

Writers Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon navigate the stereotypical world of a small town high school with remarkable aplomb. Duncan and Madison begin as familiar, John Hughes-esque cut-outs, but through their quirky organic dynamic they quickly develop into interesting and relatable characters. The characterizations are strong, but the pacing is a bit too brisk to give a complete sense of the larger setting and circumstances, especially leading into the dramatic conclusion with Duncan’s father. Hopefully this will alleviated in coming issues, as some general exposition would better inform both the protagonists and their plight.

Artist Josh Hood and colorist Amanda Scurti collaborate well through intelligent page design and affective palette choices, making for a very engaging reading experience. Hood’s facial anatomy is individualized and highly expressive, with finely detailed line work that utilizes dramatic shadow well. Thoughtful touches by Scurti, such as rosy-hued noses and dewy eyes, emphasize both Duncan and Madison’s youth and innocence, despite the violence they’re capable of.

An unexpected gem, We Can Never Go Home #1 is a smart and engaging story of teenage runaways. If you haven’t picked it up yet, I highly recommend it.

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