Thursday, July 1, 2010

One Dollar Comic Books

Over recent months I've been picking up a number of $1 'special edition' comic books - Deadpool, Jack of Fables, Ex Machina to name just three. These reissued tales are intended as an opportunity for the reader to 'dip a toe in the water' before deciding whether to pick up a regular priced monthly or collected edition.

These promotions have worked really well for me - they've given me a chance to try some titles I wouldn't normally buy and then once I've read them I've been able to 'recycle' them onto friends and family with a 'you might like this ' - and, unsurprisingly, I'm not alone in my appreciation ...

Alias and Scalped - Guest Review by Simon Breeze

Written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Michael Gaydos and Matt Hollingsworth, letters by Richard Starkings & ComicCraft's Oscar Gongora
Published by Marvel Comics

Written by Jason Aaron with art by R.M. Guera and Lee Loughridge, letters by Phil Balsman and a cover by Jock
Published by Vertigo Comics

As you read this you may or may not be aware of Marvel's Greatest Comics, a fantastic idea where you can pick up the first chapter of some of Marvel's most acclaimed publications for only a dollar (yes, a dollar!). What does this mean for us the reader? It means something that I think is a stroke of genius. Marvel are publishing the first issue of each run of comics associated to a popular graphic novel or traded addition of some of its most popular stories such as Marvel Zombies, Agent of Atlas, 1602, Hellblazer, Scalped, Alias and many more. As a reader this offers us a unique chance to relive those stories we loved or as a new reader, I guess, 'try before we buy'. The two comics that I'm looking at are Marvel's Alias and Vertigo's Scalped.

I'm going to start with Alias, and if your wondering, no, it has no connections to the T.V. show. Alias follows the character of Jessica Jones of Alias Investigations and as a comic falls under the Max Comics titles, so is pretty graphic in places and free with the language too. So if you are easily offend by such things, off the bat, I'd say this is one for you to miss.

The first issue neatly introduces the reader to the complicated world and equally complicated character of Jessica Jones, your more-than-average private investigator. It then looks to set up an intriguing story that continues into the following issues, of what seems to be a straightforward case of a missing person which takes a curious twist right before the end of the issue and leaves you wanting more.

So what did I think?

I thought it was brilliant.

I have already looked into purchasing volume one of the trades, so my hat off to Marvel, and job done as far as I'm concerned. The character of Jessica Jones is an fascinating one that I feel compelled to get to know better. Not only that, something that took me by surprise was that she lives in the Marvel Universe, which in itself sounds like an odd statement. Isn't this obvious? It is a Marvel title after all? Well No. My point is this. I've read a lot of Marvel, and I tend to find with a character of this nature, they are very good at 'distancing' them from the main stream characters. But not Alias: Jessica Jones and her world sit slap bang right in the middle of it, which just makes the story all the more interesting.

I loved this comic and I was hungry for more the moment I put it down and my comment of looking into buying volume one of the trades is a genuine one. A big five out of five for this book.

This takes me into my second comic, the disturbingly titled, Scalped.

The comic is issue one for the story Indian Country and follows the shaven headed, nunchuck twirling, foul-mouthed and hard as nails, Dashiell Bad Horse as he is recruited into the ranks of a Native American 'mobsters' outfit who hold control of Dashiell's old reservation. The mob seem to be into the usual thing of drugs, guns, murder and casinos and the reservation they govern over appears to be rundown and populated by drunks and the the dregs of their culture.

Dashiell is returning to this life after many years away, and through one thing and another ends up working for Red Crow, the untouchable head of the mob and governor for the reservation. Once in his employ as an enforcer of the law, Dashiell's skills and nasty temperament are quickly put to work amongst the population where he encounters familiar faces from his past. The journey ends with a bit of a twist that sheds a new light on Dashiell's actions and his want to return to the world he left behind all those years ago.

At first glance at the awesome cover by Jock I though Scalped would rock my world, a nunchuck wielding Indian? How could it fail? However upon reading my opinion changed a little. Scalped is a very harsh comic, it is very violent and full of angst, to be honest, I didn't expect anything less. Where I struggled was with it being set in a Native American reservation, something I know very little about, add to this the amount of Indian culture involved and it made it a tough read and very difficult for me to get into and relate to the characters.

That is the one drawback for this comic, which I believe sits on my shoulders for my naivety to that culture and way of life, and it is something I only mention in this review as I feel I may not be alone as a new reader to the world of Scalped to feel this way.

Putting this aside, the comic is very well written and illustrated, with fantastic pacing and action scenes, and you can't help but hate the main character of Dashiell Bad horse, which is the point of the story. Dashiell is mean, nasty and merciless as he brutally makes his presence felt amongst the population of the reservation. There is a big story there with a really rich cast of characters that begs for more attention than one chapter can possibly give. With this in mind, I would want to read more of Scalped, as it is something I think I would enjoy a great deal given time with the characters and their world, so I am going to keep my eye out for the graphic novel - Indian Country - and give it a spin.

I am going to give the stand alone first chapter of Scalped an odd rating of a four out of five for the unread future chapters of the graphic novel, as I can see the fantastic potential this story and these characters have.

Once again, my sincere thanks to Simon for another great contribution to Escape from Tomorrow - remember, you can find Simon's work on his new
deviantArt site as well as his work and personal blog.

If, like Simon, you'd be interested in submitting a occasional piece for publication - a review, preview article, or news feature - then drop me an email, I'd be happy to hear from you.