Hobby Hole: Sept. 18, 2013 Comic Reviews

Swamp Thing no. 23.1 Arcane no. 1 by Charles Soule and Jesus Saiz | DC | $3.99/$3.99

The first five issues of Arcane are absolutely brilliant. I can't stress this fact enough. Not only the opening spread, where Arcane is seemingly staring at us with a look never before seen on his face, but the whole section; seeing his own private Hell, where a bunny ripped to shreds could live again, was a real treat and an excellent character study.

However, as much as I loved those pages, the story weakened a bit once Abigail was reintroduced and we were ushered down a dark and dreary memory lane of cringe-inducement macabre--some of the darkest yet in the series. In truth, the issue played more akin to a Snyder issue than one by Soule, as it's relatively light on humor and relied more on shocking awe than anything else.

Though the story was somewhat weak, the art deserves special mention as, especially on those first few pages, the book is absolutely gorgeous and plays a fine line between gritty detail and grim obscurity. I doubt the introduction could have worked as well were it presented in a different style by another artist, but I'm glad I don't have to worry about that. Jesus Saiz has just found himself a new fan.

Hobby Hole score: 9.1/Fantastic

Justice League no. 23.3 Dial E no. 1 by China Mieville and Various | DC | $3.99/$2.99

It wasn't the most well-executed series, but I was fond of Dial H before its cancellation and was one of the few to purchase all fifteen issues. So, it was with some nostalgic glee I picked up Dial E, a coda of some sort to the series. Well, though I suppose it could be considered precisely that, Dial E simply misses the mark.

In premise, the issue's widely publicized gimmick was sound: twenty different artists tackled each of the book's twenty pages, each of which introduced a different villain. Unfortunately, while that may prove this issue a new favorite for autograph hunters at upcoming cons, the effort heavily damages Dial E, resulting in an issue seemingly overloaded with fill-in artists. Don't get me wrong, the individual pages are great on their own (it was especially joyous to take a trip back to Jeff Lemire's Underwater Welder, however briefly) but taken as a whole, they lack visual consistency and only weaken the underwhelming storyline, which seemed solely designed to foster the gimmick.

Dial E thankfully picked up some steam toward its conclusion as an open thread from the series proper was reintroduced (and quickly concluded), but it was too little, too late and not the greatest outro. Though I'm gracious DC gave Dial H this addition, I almost it hadn't soured the series' memory.

Hobby Hole score: 5.4/Forgettable

Action Comics no. 23.3 Lex Luthor no. 1 by Charles Soule and Raymund Bermudez | DC | $3.99/$2.99

In my review of Forever Evil no. 1, one of the book's most bothersome faults was the introduction of a seemingly free Lex, though we had seen him fully incarcerated but a week earlier. Well, Lex Luthor no. 1 answers that question in spades--by devoting an entire issue to it.

Acting as something of an expository prequel to the event series, the issue nonetheless makes a great effort to declare its relevancy, despite the fact its only real contribution is "Lawyers." and an incredibly efficient group of plastic surgeons. Still, the book's other moments were the true icing on the cake, as we get to see Luthor at his worst, demonstrating just how evil a man lacking any true superpowers can be in a world without Superman.

The art proved nearly perfect for demonstrating Lex's cold, calculative nature, and offered several well-presented page turning surprises. One in particular was rather cold and, though I somewhat expected the outcome, I was still taken aback by the dark turn. My only gripe with Bermudez's art was the issue sole double page spread, which had an odd layout that made it difficult to follow and a premise wholly at odds with the calm, business-like nature of the rest of the book that proved altogether detracting. I suppose Luthor's devious machinations weren't enough to satisfy some, so an excuse for action justifying the cover had to be inserted. It certainly wasn't needed otherwise.

Hobby Hole score: 8.0/Great

Zero no. 1 by Ales Kot and Michael Walsh | Image | $2.99

Like most of the Image comics I pick up (and there are quite a few, as noted at the bottom of this page), I knew very, very little about Zero prior to reading it on a whim. I had seen the title on a few sites, most notably Bleeding Cool, but hadn't decided to purchase it until I was in my shop and snagged the last copy.

What made my sudden decision (besides the low price) so easy was the mesmerizing art, which is akin to Sean Phillips' work on Criminal in its loose definitions and thickly inked lines. The work of colorist Jordie Bellaire vastly enforces the comparison, as each of the pages truly pops. Coupled with the exposition-light narrative, though, I had difficulty discerning some of the plot's finer details due to the lack of refined pencils. These were made clearer by issue's end, so I'm certain it will read much better the second time round, but were the pencils slightly more defined, I doubt I would have had any problem at all.

Coming in clean, I certainly wasn't disappointed and I can't imagine I would have been if I had planned on reading Zero from the start. What may have impressed me the most was the book's contrite storyline, which read more as a one-shot rather than a premiere. While it seeds plenty of growth opportunities, I could never come back to the book and be completely fulfilled. Though I think I'm leaning more toward coming back, if anything.

Hobby Hole score: 8.5/Great