6 Jul 2013

Caught In The Web: Roundup 06/07/2013

In Caught In The Web, we set aside the printed funny books temporarily to delve into the world of digital and web comics. Here we 'roundup' a selection of releases that have been launched into cyberspace over the past few weeks.

BATMAN '66 #1
Writer: Jeff Parker
Art: Jonathan Case

Matt C: DC finally get on board the transitioning comics bandwagon with Batman '66, and while there's probably a discussion to be had about why it's taken them this long, and why they're essentially aping what others have done before with this technology (including Marvel), it's probably best to ignore all that an focus on the actual issue itself. Let's leave the arguments for another time - Batman '66 doesn't deserve to be overshadowed by them because its actually really good. Parker gets the campy, knowing tone of the television show down to a T and Case nails the visual aesthetic perfectly, complete with the sound effects bursting out and filling the screen. There's something quite gratifying about DC starting to embrace new technology with a tale that's so decidedly retro (although I'm sure that wasn't the intention) and while I'm currently steering clear of the New 52 I'm more than happy to tag along with a book as enormously fun as this. 8/10

Writer: Kenny Jeffery
Art: Joe Badon

Matt C: So, honestly, is there anyone out there who's never wondered who would triumph if Japanese gangsters were pitted against teeth-gnashing, anthropomorphic reptiles? Okay, maybe there are a few of you, but if you were one of the aforementioned then you need not ponder on it any longer as Jeffrey and Badon show you all you need to know in this delightfully off the wall issue. The script is loose and deranged, creating a sense of entertaining lunacy that's matched by the visuals. Is this a post-modern meditation of the endless cycle of 'versus' properties or just an excuse for hilariously over the top carnage? I'll leave that for you to decide once you've sampled this delightfully bonkers comic. 8/10

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Art: Marcos Martin & Muntsa
Panel Syndicate $?.??

Matt C: One of the (many) things I love about The Private Eye is its perfect pacing, the way it glides so smoothly along, pulling the reader with it as it goes. It's an irresistible ride, and while the story so far has involved a number of chase sequences that are all about the pacing, even the more static moments have a rhythm to them that keeps the whole thing moving. This is all helped by the gorgeous, super-slick visuals, a bright colour palette and some delicious inventive twists on familiar genre staples. At its core it’s pure noir, but the layers that surround it make it so much more than that. A thrilling, classy contender for best new series of 2013. 9/10

Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Jason Howard

Matt C: Collecting the digital comic originally serialized on the writer’s website, Scatterlands marks Image’s first foray into digital-only publishing. That’s a move that should be immediately welcomed as Image are pretty much leading the way with original, exciting creator-owned books at the moment. It’s just a shame that it proves to be such disappointment and seems to be almost intentionally obtuse. I love Warren Ellis, and when he’s on form few can match him, but here he seems to be making minimal attempts to engage the audience, some florid wordplay not really helping the admittedly decent art form into a cohesive narrative. The book it most resembles, or at least the book it reminded me of the most, is Prophet, but where that also has the ability to confuse the reader, it’s the sheer force of imagination on the page that makes it such a magnetic joy. Shatterlands, on the other hand, just confuses, and starting off on that foot isn’t the best way to go, regardless of how much weight your name carries. 5/10

Writer: Tim Gibson
Art: Tim Gibson

Matt C: What initially seemed to be a series that would use the political machinations and skulduggery of the Chinese Civil War to fuel its story seems to have taken a surprising, but utterly welcome turn into territory that pushes it into the realms of science fiction. The Chinese Civil War of course remains the backdrop, but now that wider storytelling possibilities have opened up I literally have no idea where this series is headed, which is the kind of the position I like to find myself in but rarely do. The character’s aren’t what they seemed at first, their true motivations gradually being revealed, and the sense of mystery and menace building up through both the visuals and the initiative deployment of panel transitions, works wonders. A bold, imaginative and absorbing series, and one of the most enticing propositions in the world of digital comics right now. 8/10

Writer: James Tynion IV
Art: Jeremy Rock & Nolan Woodward

Matt C: The further we get into this series, the creepier it becomes. There has been a question over whether the First Lady of the United States is simply hallucinating the freaky nastiness we bear witness to or if there are more sinister forces at work (even though we know deep down it’s likely to be the latter), but in this instalment we see things starting to manifest themselves in the real world, suggesting the horror quotient is about to be upped considerably. Rock is doing great work sprinkling disturbing imagery throughout an otherwise normal looking tour through the Oval Office and beyond, and the panel transitions help generate a feeling of nervous tension. Shaping up to be a very good scary story indeed. 8/10

Writer: Mark Bertolini
Art: Allen Byrns

Matt C: A lot of writers have taken the basic narrative template of the Batman origin to fashion it into something new, some have succeed while others have failed (often spectacularly so), but on the evidence of this first issue, Bertolini and Byrns have elected to approach things from an angle that is already producing mesmerising results. Broken deals with a child who witnessed his parents being murdered in front of him, but rather than making his life’s mission to rid the world of crime he initially seems to find himself falling into a life of crime, although there may just be an ulterior motive at play here. Byrns is coming from the same school of artistry as Ben Templesmith, but his visuals are less expressionistic and his use of colour to reflect shifting moods is spot on. Masterfully handled and able to retain the element of surprise, Broken easily escapes the shadows of its influences to shine in a way that will get these creators noticed. 9/10

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