Evolution #6 (April 2018)

Evolution #6

And after its best issue, Evolution returns to its regular level. A little rushed–or, more accurately, a little abrupt–and all setup for something coming in a future issue. Delayed realization.

Once again, the art becomes the most important thing about the comic. Infurnari delivers, though it’s not a lot of interesting stuff. L.A. diners and New York hospitals are only so visually stimulating. The infected, evolved monsters are out of John Carpenter’s The Thing, which is fine–maybe they should’ve done a licensed title instead–but nothing new.

This issue has a big twist at the end involving the one doctor who knows what’s going on. He was previously the closest thing the comic had to a protagonist (unlike the other two plot lines, he gets two plots an issue–so maybe two writers too). It’s not a great twist. In fact, it’s one of those “do I still want to read this comic” twists.

CREDITS

Writers, James Asmus, Joseph Keatinge, Christopher Sebela, and Joshua Williamson; artist, Joe Infurnari; colorist, Jordan Boyd; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Arielle Basich and Jon Moisan; publisher, Image Comics.

Evolution #5 (March 2018)

Evolution #5

Evolution just passed an interesting landmark—the comic is no longer reliant on the art. First and foremost, it’s been an interesting looking book—until now. This issue has the best writing so far in the comic, on each of the separate plot lines. The characters have finally been around long enough to be compelling.

Which means I hope the comic doesn’t get too ambitious with series length. After five issues, the gaggle of writers have got the book into a great spot. They’re not going to be able to keep it there forever.

It’s a fantastically plotted issue. The development work in each plot is outstanding, the art is good, the dialogue is fine. The series is paying off. Of course, it would’ve been nice if that success weren’t so surprising to me. The writers really pull off a good issue here.

CREDITS

Writers, James Asmus, Joseph Keatinge, Christopher Sebela, and Joshua Williamson; artist, Joe Infurnari; colorist, Jordan Boyd; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Arielle Basich and Jon Moisan; publisher, Image Comics.

Evolution #4 (February 2018)

Evolution #4

Evolution #4 shows off the possiblities of the format–multi-writer, one artist. Each writer has a subplot they do, while artist Infurnari gets to draw the gross.

People are evolving only into monsters and there’s some Cthulhu-ish undertones of course. Because there are always Cthulhu-ish undertones.

The comic opens with a talking heads scene between Claire, who’s the protagonist of one of the subplots (and writer’s contributions), and her mysterious benefactor. I think she just saw this guy kill a monster a couple issues ago. Now he’s doing a backstory exposition dump and giving her a check. Infurnari gets the mood just right. It’s creepy but maybe not dangerous. But maybe dangerous.

Then it’s off to Rome to check in on the nun-on-the-run. She’s just seen the Church cover up some of the monsters. Her story is the most sympathetic, if only because Claire (who’s in L.A.) doesn’t realize the danger around her. The nun gets it. She goes off to see a priest who’s left the church (maybe he’s left, it’s unclear). And then there’s her backstory exposition dump.

The only story with an exposition dump is the scientist. He’s already had his backstory reveal. Now he’s just ranting to himself about how he’s going to stop the evolution and the monsters. His subplot is Evolution’s weak link. It makes sense–in that disaster movie sort of way, you need someone to do exposition dumps as things happen–but he’s an unlikable character. You can be working to save the world and be unlikable, apparently.

Evolution’s gross–Infurnari does blood, guts, and tendons enthusiastically; he also does general creepiness well–but almost a pleasant reading experience. None of the writers try too hard. It’s a methodical, “anthology” horror comic. The writers embrace the constraints to decent result.

CREDITS

Writers, James Asmus, Joseph Keatinge, Christopher Sebela, and Joshua Williamson; artist, Joe Infurnari; colorist, Jordan Boyd; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Arielle Basich and Jon Moisan; publisher, Image Comics.

Evolution #3 (January 2018)

Evolution #3

The story develops. The characters react to what they’ve experienced. But not much else happens in Evolution #3.

The nun discovers the Church is going to try to silence her, restrict her from trying to help. The doctor realizes the epidemic is worse than he thought. The two young women in California fight about their future, luckily detached from the worst of the horrors.

It’s character work, sure, but it’s character work separate from the characters’ functions in the comic. Are the characters going to be compelling enough to warrant their own issue, with the main plot of Evolution stagnant.

Maybe?

Infurnari’s art helps. It’s super creepy, super unpleasant. He makes even the most mundane panel dangerous.

Maybe if the doctor’s section–involving telephone messages and then a phone call with his estranged wife and lots of expository information from her–maybe if it worked a little smoother, this issue wouldn’t feel so clunky.

It’s not bad. It’s just blah. With good art.

CREDITS

Writers, James Asmus, Joseph Keatinge, Christopher Sebela, and Joshua Williamson; artist, Joe Infurnari; colorist, Jordan Boyd; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Arielle Basich and Jon Moisan; publisher, Image Comics.

Evolution #2 (December 2017)

Evolution #2

Evolution reads like a novel. Or it doesn’t. Then it does again. Then it doesn’t. The comic makes the four different writes working on different things–presumably, I still haven’t read the back matter, but there are four different plot threads going. Anyway, sometimes there’s rhythm between the writers. Sometimes there’s none. This one time there’s terrible expository dialogue, while the rest of the book is fine.

Well. Wait. The last scene has the doctor who knows evolution is happening really fast all of a sudden narrating to his journal. It’s kind of obnoxious, especially since he was part of the talky expository dialogue sequence. So whoever writes that one needs a little more editing.

But… that writer also got to do the evolved monster people are congregating in groups in something with micro-face tentacles. Kind of like The Thing but more gross. Infurnari has this beautiful way of doing gross as horror. It’s scary to look at the gross, which makes it more visually compelling.

Evolution is still solid. It’s impressive what they’ve done, four separate writers and all, but the editing could be a little tighter. Not just in the dialogue; the comic still hasn’t found a rhythm. Though it might take a while with all those different writers.

CREDITS

Writers, James Asmus, Joseph Keatinge, Christopher Sebela, and Joshua Williamson; artist, Joe Infurnari; colorist, Jordan Boyd; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Arielle Basich and Jon Moisan; publisher, Image Comics.

Demonic (2016-17)

Demonic

Demonic has enough ideas in it for another twelve issues. Writer Christopher Sebela has six issues and he pretty much gives every couple issues their own subplot. But that subplot is distinct not because of its content but because of how Sebela writes it, how artist Nico Walter visualizes it, or a combination of the two.

For instance, the first couple issues are about a cop and his demon, with a whole bunch of exposition from every single person in the issues. Everyone does an information dump every time they show up. Except Walter’s got this fast, rough pace and he keeps it going. While Sebela’s banter between protagonist Scott and the various women in his life–whether its his wife, partner, or internal demon–it’s always lame. Sebela seems to think Scott’s charming when he’s really just kind of annoying, which helps. Not caring about the protagonist too much when the writing is bumpy isn’t a bad thing, because then you fall back on the art and Walter delivers.

DEMONIC starts as the adventures of Ty and Tandy… wait, sorry, Scott and Aeshma.

Demonic is a crazy book. The first couple issues look like a strange Cloak and Dagger take, with Scott’s vigilante gear basically Cloak but with Freddy Krueger gloves. And his demon is a busty blonde, at least until he feeds her enough souls and then she gets a scarier form. The first issue is so beautifully paced–even though Sebela is exposition heavy, Walter makes all that information dumping work–and the rest of the comic is just watching how Walter is going to handle the next thing and the next thing.

So after it’s Scott and his demon, it’s Scott the cop trying to bring down the cult who raised him and put a demon inside him (there aren’t any Rosemary’s Baby references, which is kind of disappointing, actually). Walter does great stuff with the investigating, counting little visual devices through from the first couple issues, just using them in different ways. Demonic develops visually, which is cool. Walter never disappoints. It’s always visceral, always affecting.

Graphic violence and cultists.

The last bit is a showdown with the cult. There’s other stuff, bringing back the demon–now no longer a busty blonde but a Gigeresque winged she-devil–resolving the subplot with the family, which gets a lot of initial attention but then just becomes a place for Sebela to do the same character development scenes over and over again.

It’s a cool book to read because of what Walter does with the art, but Demonic is decidedly pedestrian otherwise. Sebela can’t write villains–he couldn’t write that banter–he does a little better with the cult flashbacks, but he abandons them right after setting them up. He’s got zero insight into his protagonist, cult-surviving cop turned demonically fueled vigilante and bad husband Scott. Everyone else–except the wife, who has no character whatsoever even though she’s supposedly Scott’s confidant (there’s first person narration for a bit)–but everyone else gets these kitchen sink back stories in order to always give them something to do. So they can always be active.

It’s annoying as hell, frankly. Sebela isn’t interested in his characters, he’s interested in his plot, but he’s also interested in facilitating Walter’s art. There’s a certain mercenary selflessness to Sebela’s script, which is work for hire. Robert Kirkman and Mark Silvestri created Demonic, not Sebela and Walter. Crazy good art to get out of someone when it’s not their property.

Narratively undercooked domestic troubles still look good thanks to Walter’s art and composition.

Does the plot get Demonic through the six issues? Well, it definitely could’ve run five. Especially given how Sebela and Walter show off their summarization skills in the first issue. It doesn’t need six. Most of protagonist Scott’s stuff in the last couple issue is just being a bad family man, but in ways his wife just can’t understand are for her benefit. Lame character turns are worse than no character turns at all, but it fills the pages so Sebela goes for it.

The protagonist’s partner is a lazy device more than a character. There was an affair, but it’s now forgotten even though she still wants to make fun of the wife–because no one in Demonic is actually nice enough to care about. So she’s around to play a morality card, which Sebela never integrates well. There’s no question about Scott the vigilante’s morality. Sebela doesn’t chicken out of asking, it doesn’t even occur to him. It’s like everyone was waiting for a demonically powered Batman-type to appear.

Sure, it’s derivative. But it looks great. And looking great is what matters here.

Because they are. Because evil cults and science demons or whatever. The stuff Sebela never gets around to explaining. He overdoes every other explanation but never does the ones potentially interesting one. The cop stuff is background, which is actually a problem, but it still eventually gets smoothed out in exposition. Or Sebela’s equivalent of smoothing out in exposition. He’s not particularly good at it.

And talking heads isn’t Walter’s thing. He rushes to get through them. He needs movement. So, while Walter saves Demonic, he doesn’t really save Sebela’s writing. Not a lot of synchronicity on this one.

By the end, after Demonic has gotten more obvious than it needed to get, the book feels a little too light. Good ideas weakly executed. Bad ideas weakly executed too. The villain is incredibly lame. And the absence of the protagonist’s demon just causes more problems then having her absent solves. Demonic is rushed. Sebela does get a lot in, but it’s still overpacked and he’s still missing better opportunities along the way. It’s overwhelming how much ground situation there needs to be to get anything to make sense. None of the reveals are simple, but none of them are insightful or worthwhile either. Because there’s no one to care about. Not even the kid, because she’s basically being protected by a demon so she’s safe.

But it’s all about Walter’s art. The art’s where Demonic succeeds.

CREDITS

Writer, Christopher Sebela; artist, Niko Walter; colorist, Dan Brown; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editors, Arielle Basich and Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

Escape from New York 1 (December 2014)

Escape from New York #1

I’m trying to figure out how to describe Escape from New York to those unfamiliar with the movie. You wouldn’t buy the comic on a whim, without a familiarity, because if you paged through it, you’d be immediately lost. Writer Christopher Sebela doesn’t really do an introduction, he does a direct sequel to the movie… then immediately invalidates it.

But, let’s say you stuck with it for a few more pages. And then you wondered why Diego Barreto is drawing the main character so blandly. And why is the dialogue so terrible? Sebela rips off a line from Terminator 2. In a sequel to a movie from eleven years before T2. It feels weird. But not totally awful yet.

It gets awful a few pages later with Sebela’s first “I thought you were dead” line from a diner waitress. It’s a terrible sequel; bad, officially licensed fanfic.

It’s wretched stuff.

D- 

CREDITS

Writer, Christopher Sebela; artist, Diego Barreto; colorist, Marissa Louise; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editors, Alex Galer and Ian Brill; publisher, Boom! Studios.

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