Recent IDW Series (Comic Review)

I went for several years reading almost no IDW comics. They were expensive, and as the company drifted towards more and more licensed properties, I lost interest. But after a decade of holding their prices steady, IDW’s comics are now no more expensive than most DC and Marvel ones. Even more importantly, over the past year they’ve been bringing in more writers and artists who I really like. I tend to follow talent more than I follow specific characters, so this was enough to get me checking out series that I never would have expected to buy. I’ve already talked about the modern Popeye series, and here are reviews of the others I’ve been reading over the past year.

cover to The Adventures of Augusta Wind #1

The Adventures of Augusta Wind

The Adventures of Augusta Wind

The one original, non-licensed title here is The Adventures of Augusta Wind, and unfortunately it’s also the weakest one. It’s the brainchild of J. M. DeMatteis, a man who habitually comes up with great ideas to explore our humanity and emotions… and then fails at the execution. Augusta Wind is a story about the power of stories, like a Vertigo version of a children’s comic. (And while it’s not R-rated like most Vertigo titles, Augusta Wind is definitely still aimed at adults.) I do really like the status quo that DeMatteis creates here, but unfortunately it isn’t explained until the end of this five-issue series. For the first four issues, Augusta wanders around a complex web of worlds, experiencing constant twists and betrayals while other characters pop in just long enough to berate her for not understanding what’s going on. Then they leave without explaining anything. It’s another well-meaning mess from DeMatteis.

The art emphasizes both the strengths and weaknesses of the series. Vassilis Gogtzilas draws wild and distinctive pages, and is definitely responsible for the unique feel of this comic. On the other hand, the chaotic linework and hard-to-follow action just made me feel more lost every time the writing threw in another sudden twist or betrayal.

Now that things are explained, and I like the actual ideas that DeMatteis has for a story about people who use stories to create, I’m tempted to stick around. On the other hand, after that final issue explained what was going on, it also had the most disappointing moments of the miniseries. Augusta has a sudden spiritual experience, which is something that DeMatteis likes to include in his endings. But where he made that work in stories like Moonshadow and Brooklyn Dreams, which spent careful time building up a structure to help explain the numinous and unexplainable, here it’s just thrown in as an unjustified afterthought. If DeMatteis isn’t going to put any effort into even his favorite tricks, then this probably isn’t going to go anywhere interesting.

Grade: C-

cover to Godzilla: The Half-Century War #1

Godzilla: The Half-Century War

Godzilla: The Half-Century War

The main concept of Godzilla: The Half-Century War isn’t actually Godzilla. It’s James Stokoe does Godzilla. This insanely talented young writer and artist puts his heart into everything he does, including hokey old monsters. As the name implies, this is the story of the whole lifetime of a soldier dedicated to stopping Godzilla attacks, and so it has plenty of changes of scenery and technology.

Admittedly, the characters and plot are not very strong. The hero is the standard brash soldier who ignores orders and gets the job done, and nothing about the cast feels Japanese at all. It’s fortunate that the story doesn’t slow down to look at the people at all, because they’re all ridiculous, including the over-the-top villain who summons more Kaiju in an attempt to weaponize them.

Really, though, this is supposed to be about Godzilla. And that’s where Stokoe shines. Every issue has at least a few pages that manage to present the sheer scale and terror of a giant monster destroying cities. At this point, we’re numbed to the idea of Godzilla, but the camera angles and movement still give you glimpses of what these attacks must be like for the people in the scene. Plenty of pages still seem a little silly on their own, as I don’t think anyone can make a giant dinosaur who shoots mouth-beams seem cool all the time. But those surprising moments made the series worthwhile.

It’s probably not fair for me to judge, since I don’t have experience with any other Godzilla stories, but it seems to me that Stokoe has created iconic Godzilla images. I still wish it had a better story to go with it, but Half-Century War is still an example of what the right art can do for any character.

Grade: B-

cover of Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom #1

Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom

Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom and Hollywood Horror

I wish this didn’t feel so repetitive, but my take on two new Rocketeer stories is similar to my take on Stokoe’s Godzilla: They’re fun, and the talented creators lived up to expectations, but Rocketeer comics just don’t seem that interesting in the end. These provide simple pulp action with light-hearted characters and a self-aware take on the gender stereotypes of eighty years ago. They are fun, and it’s refreshing to see self-contained stories that don’t aim for anything more than entertainment, but $4, four-issue series can’t quite replace stories crammed in a single ten-cent issue, no matter how hard they try.

Cargo of Doom’s main selling point is Chris Samnee, who’s art is excellent as always. It could be argued that he brings a little too much realism to this title, but his excellent character portrayals retain a little bit of the hamminess expected from the Rocketeer. Mark Waid writes this, and I’m actually a little disappointed by the results. He is the perfect person to do a respectful, character-driven story that makes no excuses for the Golden Age naivety that this title represents, but the climax involves the hero vaporizing a bunch of dinosaurs with super-guns. Between their scientific value and the awesomeness of dinosaurs, there are reasons both in and out of the story for him to look for a way to preserve these creatures.

cover of Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror #1

Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror

Hollywood Horror has decent art, this time by J Bone. It’s a Saturday Morning Cartoon style with fluid movement, and it seems at times to be more appropriate for the story than Samnee’s modern look. The stylized characters often seemed off-model to me, though, and I’m far from a Rocketeer expert. This series is written by Roger Langridge, though, and his comics are always worthwhile. It’s energetic and fun, with smooth banter and characters who feel charming and comfortable as soon as they are introduced. The superhero action is lacking here (Cliff loses his jetpack for a while, thanks to some people who beat him up but turn out to be friendly), but I would happily read more of Langridge’s take on the supporting cast.

Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom: B-

Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror: B-

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