Jason’s Comic Reviews #4

Welcome back to my ever-evolving comic reviews. Each week I will review a few new releases you may have missed on new comic Wednesday. As things change, mostly my mood, so will this column. Some weeks may be several new comics from various publishers or sometimes just one. There might be a time when it’s a longer review for a book I’m really excited about, and every now and then I may throw in a review of a retro book from years past. You never know!

This week we’ll look at three diverse releases from IDW and then everyone’s favorite Hellspawn from Image.

Amber Blake #1

  • IDW
  • Written by Jade Lagardere
  • Art by Butch Guice

The last issue saw Amber recruited by a do-good spy organization. After mostly recovering from her tumultuous past, Amber is ready to begin her new life. She and former classmate, Matt, track down a sex trafficker in Japan. Both aren’t quite sure they’re ready for a mission of this magnitude, especially since interrogation is involved. As you can imagine things don’t go quite as planned. However, with each mission, Amber gets closer to her goal of gaining revenge against her former headmaster.

This series was my first review when I started this column. We even talked about it on the latest episode of Drawn & Paneled. Issue two picks up where number one left off. We are thrust in Amber’s world again. The character development is strong in this issue. Amber and Matt are beginning to be more comfortable in their new roles. Also, some unrequited feelings begin to reveal themselves and are soon resolved. Not only are the characters evolving but this world is continued to be built right in front of us. This has the makings of a great spy thriller.

I will try not to make it a habit to review the same titles all the time. This may be the exception. Amber Blake has for two issues now given us a whole lot of content in a single issue. The gorgeous art,  the continued character and world building make this my favorite title of 2019, so far.

Dick Tracey Forever

  • IDW
  • Written By Michael Avon Oeming
  • Art By Michael Avon Oeming

The square jaw detective and his yellow hat are back. In this newest interpretation of the classic comic strip, Dick Tracy does his best to keep crime at bay while trying to make it to his date with Tess Trueheart on time. We follow Tracy through three short stories involving kidnapping, Nazis, and other evil-doing. Each story is loosely connected and we see Dick carry the world on his shoulders as he seeks justice.

This is quite a fun read. These stories take place in the 30s and capture the era rather well. Dick Tracy is your

typical “justice at all costs” type of cop. Though he’s aware that he’s too invested in the job. He does take the time, when he can, to smell the roses or in this case watch a Chaplin film. We get the opportunity to see three tales written and drawn by Michael Avon Oeming (Powers) in a bright and unique way. The art is the highlight here, it captures the old strips but offers some very unique and dynamic perspectives and panel layouts. There’s even a fun scene in black in white with a sci-fi bent to it after Tracy receives a bump on the head. I did think the love interest, Tess, looked a little off compared to the rest of the cast though. The dialogue works for the most part but at times might be a little too dated.

I am mostly unfamiliar with Dick Tracy. I remember the 90s films and I know he was originally a newspaper strip. That’s about it. I had fun with this book. It’s a pretty good intro to the character. I enjoyed the art. Some might find it “cartoony” but it fits the character’s roots. If you have any interest in Dick Tracy, this is worth picking up.  Oh, and there’s a fun crossword and maze in the book too if you don’t mind writing in your comics. 

Ghost Tree

  • IDW
  • Written By Bobby Curnow
  • Art By Simon Gane

Ghost Tree Completes our IDW entries for the week. This story starts in Japan as a young boy, Brandt, is playing at his grandfather’s house. Grandfather takes Brandt to a strange tree deep in the woods. His grandfather tells him that he must promise to visit this tree 10 years after he passes. Brandt promises. Years go by and a much older Brandt, seemingly unhappy in life, returns to Japan. He tries to reconnect with grandmother and his cousin.  He eventually travels to the old and his reunited with his Grandfather among other spirits drawn to the tree.

I was drawn by the title of the series and the cover. The haunting specter on the cover is certainly intriguing. This is an interesting first issue or a four-issue miniseries. To me, it feels like a small independent film. Everything is very understated. The art has an off-kilter vibe that fits the story, though the colors are a bit muted for my taste. The facial expressions are fantastic, you know what a character is feeling without them saying it. The character interactions are fun, especially between Brandt and his overbearing grandmother. The story could end after this issue but we’re introduced to a new character that could change things for Brandt.

This series has some buzz already. The issue is reported to be sold out at the retailer level. So hopefully you got to your shops in time to snag it. A second printing has been set for a May release though. I enjoyed this issue but I’m not sure it totally hooked me yet. 

Spawn #296

  • Image
  • Written by Todd McFarlane and Jon Goff
  • Art by Jason Shawn Alexander

Todd McFarlane’s Spawn marches toward issue 300. This issue starts a new arc, the History of Spawn. We start with an assembly of emissaries of Heaven and Hell discussing what to do with Spawn. Apparently, old Al Simmons has been a thorn in both realms’ sides from day one. We are given a recount of Spawn’s history from the perspective of mostly Heaven. It seems that Al Simmons had a stronger will than anyone anticipated. He has become an unstoppable force. The two warring Realms are united in their desire to put an end to Spawn.

I was aware this was coming, I was curious what a history of Spawn would look like. This is not your traditional comic. Instead of panels, we get mostly splashes reflecting different periods of Spawn’s history accompanied by dialogue placed in various locations on the page. This falls more into the illustrated novel than an actual comic. While it would have been cool to see McFarlane’s illustrations for the history of his character, Jason Shawn Alexander does a fine job here. He has room on each page to go into detail. His artwork has a scratchy look to it. This has the look of a horror book and possibly an accurate reflection of how Heaven and Hell view Spawn.

As a casual fan of Spawn, I thought this was a good recap. I was lost once or twice but there’s a page by page breakdown giving you the lowdown everything you’re looking at. This first part covers Spawn #1-100. This is a pretty good use of pages to cover such a vast number of pages. If you want a down and dirty look at Spawn, this is a good issue to start with. 

Hope you enjoyed this week’s reviews. I’ll be back with a new crop of reviews. For more comic reviews, insight, and commentary on comics old and new check out the Drawn & Paneled podcast wherever you get podcasts!

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About The Author

Jason Jason is a "not quite GenX'er." He's a self proclaimed comics expert, film buff and beer aficionado. All of which are true in his own mind. Jason has also been accused of being a pizza snob. Those accusations are not without merit.

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