Paper Cuts: Vampirella Part 1

Mark Millar. Grant Morrison. Warren Ellis. James Robinson. Kurt Busiek. Alan Moore. Jeph Loeb. Amanda Conner. Jimmy Palmiotti. Tim Sale.

If I told you all those comic legends have given their talent to the same character that has been around for nearly 50 years, would you be able to guess the character? With all those creators working on the same property, you may think that it was a classic, iconic comic that currently dominates toy shelves and the big screen.

This icon was introduced in 1969 – just six years after, Avengers #1 – but she was not wearing tights. She was clad in a skin tight, red bikini.  It was the comics’ most infamous vampire, Vampirella.

It is hard to imagine that so many creators have worked on her over the years, yet the book for most comic circles goes relatively unnoticed in most comic circles.

For this very special edition of Paper Cuts, I wanted to tackle a couple issues of Vampirella in honor of Vampirella #0 which hit shelves last week and relaunch her series yet again.

Vampirella: Monthly Series Preview Edition #1 (Harris)

This could be arguably the most iconic team to work on the title. Grant Morrison and Mark Millar on writing duties, with art provided by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti.  While this was only a preview, the sole purpose of this was to get readers on board with the new launch and new direction of Vampirella.

The Amanda Conner art was clearly before the full height of her artistic powers, but still wonderful to marvel over. Her classic cartooning is very present, but the dark inks and heavy shadow cover the art, when they should have been highlighting her line work.

The story was engaging and felt more like a noir instead of your standard horror affair.

If you can find this preview issue and were looking to get into Vampirella, this is the perfect jumping on point. While it honors the continuity placed on it from years of storytelling before, the story is easy to follow for a new reader and gives you a fun timeline to follow in the back.  There are also interviews with the entire creative team.

Had this been the first issue I picked up of Vampirella ever, I may have been converted to a regular reader.

Ratings: 4.5 out of 5

Vampirella #0 (Dynamite)

The newest launch for Vampirella is written by Paul Cornell, who has written everything from Wolverine to Doctor Who. He also follows in the steps of classic Vampirella writers being from over the pond.  Jimmy Broxton tackles the art duties. He has worked with former series artist, Jimmy Palmiotti.

While this preview issue certainly sets the stage, it trots out one of my least favorite tropes: characters referencing their old continuity as a literal storybook of their past. While it will work once in a while with more tongue and cheek books like Die Kitty Die, here it felt a bit a forced.

Overall, the story does not give much away as far as the direction this book is going to head in so it is hard to grab one and really want more solely based on this issue alone which makes it a bit of a stumble. However, it is well-written with enough intrigue that it should be able to hook people who were interested in the series in the first place, whether that be a long time fan or someone discovering the character for the first time.

I really enjoyed the art, which had the very same aesthetic as the classic vampire comic, 30 Days of Night. It also felt like it belonged in the film universe of Day Watch and Night Watch. It’s a credit to Broxton that he is able to give a feel to the book so quickly in a short page count.

This zero issue also is packed full of interviews in the back. Unfortunately they are for all other books not named Vampirella.

Overall, it is hard to argue against buying this book since it carries a cover price of $0.25.

Ratings: 3.5 out of 5

Stay tuned for next week, when we take a look into a couple other re-launches of Vampirella, as well as some classic anthology stories.

Paper Cuts: 2/6/17

Aliens: Defiance #9 (Dark Horse)

The last time I checked in with the Aliens series was during the initial launch of the Prometheus line back in 2014.  It is not that those comics were bad, but there were a bit wordy. If I remember correctly, it was just not compelling enough to keep reading after the first several issues.

I rarely will mention cover art in these reviews, but it was beautiful, dark, and creepy.  It was drawn by Stephanie Hans whom I have enjoyed since she first appeared in the interior of a Superior Spider-Man one shot.  Hans has a water color, painted style that is soothing and haunting.

Brian Wood continues to be one of the most workman, versatile writers in the entire comic industry.  Wood can write post-apocalyptic landscapes, Viking and Revolutionary warriors, and major two characters as well as anyone else.  All of these previous stints make Wood the perfect writer for a well thought-out Alien series.  This book had all the markings of what has made the series a lasting icon.  A small desperate cast, an emotionless android, government schemes, and the lurking notion that an xenomorph is lurking on a ship in cold black space.

The interior art is not only great on its own merits, but compliments the story well.  It was done by Wood’s long time DMZ collaborator Tony Brescini.  Each character wears their emotions, or lack of, on their face across the entire book and could tell a story even without any dialogue.  Brescini’s art in this book is simple and compelling.

Not only am I looking forward to issue number 10, but also looking forward and going back and catching up on the entire series.  If one main reason for licensed properties is to get readers to further engage in the universe, anyone who reads this book will be lining up at the doors of the theaters in May.

Ratings: 4.5 out of 5

Quick Cuts:

Zenescope launched the third volume of Grimm Tales of Terror.  It was standard affair for that series with serviceable art and Tales of Crypt one shot storytelling.

Ratings: 2.5 out of 5

Spell on Wheels from Dark Horse delivered a lackluster issue in what was one of my favorite miniseries of the years. I’m hoping the final issue delivers like the first three issues.

Ratings: 3 out of 5

 

She Wolf from Image launched a new arc with #5 and the art alone is worth a read, but this entire series is worth catching up on as well.  The best comparison would be a cross between Archie and Twin Peaks.

Ratings: 4.5 out of 5

Paper Cuts: 2/2/17

Monsters Unleashed #1 (Marvel)

In a rare treat, a proper Marvel U book makes it to this week’s reviews.

If you are a fan of strange monsters appearing from nowhere and causing total havoc, this comic will scratch the Godzilla-sized itch you need to have scratched.

If you are or were a fan of Marvel comics, then this comic feeds that hunger.

The premise is very simple: giant kaiju monsters are falling from the sky.  Every team across the Marvel Universe looks to defeat them with their own signatures that every fan can recognize.  For readers who are not current, it also serves as a very soft reintroduction to the current state of the Marvel universe without beating you over the head with it.

Steve McNiven on art is simply breathtaking.  His monsters are weird while maintaining the wackiness of horror monsters from the 1970s and before.  In the wrong hands this book would come across as ridiculous, but it manages to take the most absurd and turn it into threatening, real life danger for all the Marvel Universe.

There is also a little bit of mystery built into the storytelling with Else Bloodstone – the Monster Hunter – interesting and compelling even when there are not giant monsters tearing up major cities.

This is an absolutely amazing, cross-genre mash up that is great for kaiju horror fans, kids who love current Marvel comics and everyone in between.

Ratings: 4.5 out of 5

Hook Jaw #2 (Titan)

You had me at shark.  The combination of sharks and comics – while not the easiest to execute – is the easiest sale to me that you will ever make.

Yet,  Hook Jaw is a baffling book.  While there were no hints that it was not taking itself seriously in issue #1, in this issue, it beats the reader over the head with the unsubtle self-awareness.  It mentions that Hook Jaw was once a 1970s comic book.  It highlights the fact that the hard-assed, no-nonsense character is pulled straight from an 80s movie.  It then proceeds to bring in every trope under the sun; from dolphin loving hippies to CIA conspiracies.  There is nothing to grab onto from a character or writing standpoint. Without those things, it just makes this a mindless book about sharks

If you are going to have a mindless book about sharks, the art needs to be so amazing and captivating that it can overcome a lack of a coherent story or poor writing, but the art is passable at best.

I do not like to judge books so harshly, but it’s hard not to compare this to White. Between these two shark books, one is clearly superior to the other, and Hook Jaw most definitely does not win that battle.

Ratings: 2 out of 5

Ex Mortis #1 (451 Media)

While this first issue was released back in November, the third issue comes out this week on Friday, so I thought I’d circle back and highlight this series. It’s always good to check out these smaller independent books.

There is nothing earth shatteringly original about this book.  If you are a fan of Hellboy and the BPRD, Marvel’s The Howling Commandos, or DC’s Frankenstein: Agent of Shade, this books follows in that tradition.  It’s World War 2 and monsters are being developed and deployed from both sides.

The art in this book is black and white, and is rather well done.  The artist clearly has an affinity for Jeff Lemire’s shading style.  Sometimes the line work came across as unfinished, but that could be because this was a PDF format from the publisher and not the finished comic.  The only other critique is that there was a lot of ink on the board, and I’m not sure it added anything special to the art.

Overall, absolute fun story and good art.  Give this series a read.

Check it out here.

Ratings: 3.5 out 5

Paper Cuts: 1/30/17

 

Richard Corben’s Shadows on the Grave #2 (Dark Horse)

This book still stands out with beautiful black and white, classic horror style art.

The first issue’s strength were the chapters coming before the main overarching tale. This issue’s strength came from the ongoing and absolutely terrifying and brutal art of the Cyclops monster.

This book is for any fan of classic horror art or films like Jason and the Argonauts.

Ratings: 3 out of 5

 

Norman: The First Slash #2 (Titan)

Norman is a series imported from Europe about an 8-year-old serial killer.  It is a blend of Dexter and Invader Zim.  The premise and art lends itself to be something you would see on an Adult Swim line up.

Overall, the book is a lot of fun with bright colors that really keep the book light-hearted and humorous despite the subject matter.

The only critique is that before learning this book was translated, the dialogue felt off and I believe that is because the first language was not English, but it was still very enjoyable overall.

If you never read any of the European Editions of this series, you can hop on with issue #1 of The First Slash and be fine.

Ratings: 3 out of 5

Die Kitty Die #4 (Chapter House)

The arc finished and I still cannot say enough good things about this series.

It was my favorite mini-series of 2016.  While issue #4 was a little less tongue-in-cheek and a little more adult, it still was extremely enjoyable.  The pinups and fake ads in this issue make this a must pick up for any comic art enthusiast.

I am looking forward to the next installment: Die, Kitty, Die: Hollywood or Bust, arriving in May 2017. Make sure to pre-order!

Ratings: 4 out 5

White #2 (1First Comics / Devil’s Due)

One of the strengths of this book may actually be the digital format.  The storyboard format helps build the suspense of what lurks in the water below.

On top of the sharks circling below our main character, there is another mystery happening which compels you to keep reading and wondering what is happening.

Sharks and comics are hard, but this series is really nailing it.

Ratings: 4.5 out of 5

Quick Cuts:

Hook Jaw #1 (Titan) was released, and, after reading White, it fell just a little flat.  It felt more like a Jaws: The Revenge or Deep Blue Sea.  Enjoyable, but missing some suspense.

Nailbiter #28 from Image Comics came out last week. It was another fantastic issue. The series is wrapping up with issue #30 and if you have not jumped on at this point, now is not the time to do it.  Check out the first trade for $10 on Amazon or at your local comic shop.  Be on the lookout while we try and celebrate the series once it has concluded!

Paper Cuts: 12/19/16

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Tales from the Suicide Forrest #1 (Amigo)

You may have not read the original “Suicide Forest” published by IDW, but you may be familiar with the story, which was turned into the 2016 movie entitled, The Forest.  It is all based around Aokigahara – or The Suicide Forest – a real area in Japan, where people go to commit suicide often and is believed to be haunted.  Whether you are familiar with the property or not, you can jump in with this one-shot by Amigo Comics.

Tales features two stories told in beautiful black and white art that had some of the most compelling story-telling since Scott Snyder’s Severed.  Very rarely do horror stories weave such stories that leave the reader engrossed and genuinely terrified, but this issue should be read and admired by any fans of the genre.

The characters were so compelling that I forgot where the stories took place and left me genuinely surprised with each ending of the two narratives.

With a small publisher, make sure you get to your local comic shop and ask them to order this book.

Ratings: 4.5 out of 5

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Chimichanga: The Sorrow of the World’s Worst Face #3 (Dark Horse)

Part of the fun of picking up a book with Eric Powell is never knowing what you are going to get.  Eric Powell has two very different story telling styles: one is clearly intended for adults with mean, tough violence, while the other has a juvenile sense of humor.  Chimichanga is on the more fun side of things and intended for all ages.

The other part of picking up a book with Eric Powell is always knowing what you are going to get.  Incredible art.  Whether Powell is on art duties himself or brings someone in – Stephanie Buscema in this instance – there is always a certain style and feel that is familiar, yet absolutely stunning and jaw dropping.

Ratings: Ratings 4 out of 5

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Richard Corben: Shadows on the Grave #1 (Dark Horse)

Shadows on the Grave is a new anthology series from Richard Corben, who most notably worked on Heavy Metal magazine and received several awards for his work on Hellboy.

The first two short tales in this book were absolutely terrifying and may have been even too creepy and disturbing for Tales of the Crypt.

Although Corben has been an artist for many years, the old school art feels fresh amongst many of the horror books currently populating the shelves.

While this book was truly beautiful and told some great tales, the final tale was a bit wordy and disjointed.

Ratings: Ratings 4 out of 5


Overall, this was a big week for horror comics.  Feel free to check out some of the other books that came out this week that did not make the cut.  Die, Kitty, Die #3 came out and still continues to be a fun poke at the comics industry.  If you need some adult Eric Powell books in your life, check out Hillbilly #4.  And if you need your weekly fix of cheesecake, Cinderella: Serial Killer Princess #1 came out from Zenescope.  And those were only some of this week’s horror books.