Although we’re all about indie and small press comics here at Pipedream Comics, we also love getting our mainstream books digitally. And so as part of a team up with the awesome Paradox Comics Group, their fantastic writers bring you a unique look at some of the best mainstream books currently available on ComiXology.
Publisher: Aftershock Comics Writer: Warren Ellis Art: Phil Hester & Mark Englert Price: $3.99 from ComiXology
James R: When I saw this listed in Previews, I was a little underwhelmed – the pitch gave very little away, and as much as I love Warren Ellis, I feared that this series would see him going through the motions rather than breaking new ground. Certainly there’s some classic Ellis tropes here (a bleeding edge science experiment gone awry, sharp conversations in a diner – tick and tick) but as always with his work there’s something interesting that makes it a compelling read. The book’s protagonist, Dr. Jonathan Shipwright, pursues a man who sabotaged his clandestine mission, but both men have been transformed in some way by the shipwreck – Shipwright can phase through solid objects, whilst his quarry Isham has the ability to warp and corrupt the minds of others. As the issue unfolds, it’s not entirely clear how real any of this is: is Shipwright dead, and now in purgatory? Or is he trapped on a parallel Earth? Ellis has a lot of fun twisting the narrative, and I was utterly hooked. It’s great to see Phil Hester’s work here too – his style is incredibly distinctive, and as usual with Ellis scripts, if the artist is talented they lift things up several notches. As always with the scribe of Southend, this recommendation comes with a warning – Warren Ellis books tend to be beset by delays, cancellations, or sometimes vanishing into the ether. I hope Shipwreck goes the distance, as this first chapter certainly promises a fantastic voyage.
KILL OR BE KILLED #3
Publisher: Image Writer: Ed Brubaker Art: Sean Phillips & Elizabeth Breitweiser Price: $3.99 from ComiXology
Matt C: Could lightning strike twice for this creative crew after the tour de force that was The Fade Out? Well, if you’re familiar with their previous work then you’ve probably come to a similar conclusion that I have: these guys have found a way to capture lightning in a bottle and consequently everything they touch has that electric spark of magic. The way Brubaker burrows into protagonist Dylan’s psyche, and the way Phillips and Breitweiser bring the internal conflicts to the surface, is exceptional. There’s something real, tangible and truthful about these characters that ensures the heightened, fantastical situations slide into believability with ease. Kill Or Be Killed is another effortless winner from Brubaker, Phillips and Breitweiser, and we’d have it no other way.
THE SHERIFF OF BABYLON #11
Publisher: Vertigo Writer: Tom King Art: Mitch Gerads Price: $3.99 from ComiXology
Stewart R: There are some issues of comic book series that take you by surprise even though you’re fully aware of the high quality that may have preceded them. Chapter 11 of The Sheriff of Babylon is one of those examples. As we approach the grand finale this is simply a continuation of the two tense conversations that were taking place just rooms apart in the last issue, but King leaves certain revelations to this point which escalates the tension to crazy levels, sows the seeds of confusion all around and has most of the cast unsure of what might lay ahead. What particularly struck me with the way in which King has built to this moment, is how he’s wound up with the Iraqi cast members dealing with their differences, motives and respective lies separate from the American cast who likewise deal with their lies, perspectives and realisations whilst uncertainty sits just a corridor away. It’s reflective of that chaos that the conflict in Iraq actually produced with no one individual able to exert control amongst the turmoil where anything could go sideways in the blink of an eye as a hundred other unseen machinations overlap. Gerads is on point once again as he plays with the rhythm of the interactions, reusing elements of panels in succession and, at the glorious climax, infusing the piece with dread thanks to those repeating onamtopoeic panels that are just so darn effective. An easy (and essential) contender for series of the year.
HADRIAN’S WALL #2
Publisher: Image Writers: Kyle Higgins & Alec Siegel Art: Rod Reis Price: $3.99
James R: Class always tells. Firstly, all the respect has to go to Rod Reis who is proving that he is one of the great talents working in mainstream comics. I loved his work on C.O.W.L. but he’s gone up another gear on Hadrian’s Wall. Not only does he capture a fantastic 1980s sci-fi aesthetic wonderfully but he conveys the nuance and expression of the characters brilliantly. Reis’ work makes this comic an absolute treat for the eyes, and would be reason alone to pick it up. Fortunately, Higgins and Siegel ratchet up the mystery on board the Hadrian’s Wall and start to deliver on the promise shown by the first issue. In a way, this reminds me of Matt Kindt’s Dept. H, which takes a similar premise (a whodunnit in a sealed, extreme environment) but for me,Hadrian’s Wall feels like a more honed book – the feeling of paranoia and distrust felt by Simon Moore is more tangible, and I was totally engrossed in this issue. Before this series started, I was confident that it wouldn’t be anything less than great, and after two issues, my prediction feels justified. Stellar stuff in every way. 8/10
THE VISON #12
Publisher: Marvel Comics Writer: Tom King Art: Gabriel Hernandez Walta & Jordie Bellaire Price: $3.99
Matt C: I don’t think there was ever any worry that Tom King would suddenly drop the ball on this magnificent series for its finale, and so, unsurprisingly, it ends on the same level of brilliance as it began, providing more than sufficient confirmation that it’s one of the finest tales to have been told in the Marvel Universe this century. The sacrifice that’s central to this closing chapter enhances the air of tragedy that’s permeated throughout the whole series, the genius of it being that the emotional impact is generated via characters who allegedly experience no relatable human feelings at all, and are, supposedly, ‘faking it’. Walta and Bellaire have conjured up some imagery that expertly conveys the subtleties of King’s script, drawing the pathos to the surface so it’s almost tangible. This is why I’ll never quit superhero comics: every time rehashes and lazy clichés seem to be winning out something special will come along to prove the ongoing validity of the genre. The Vision has been exemplary and it’s the best book of 2016.