Reads of the Week 4-7-10: “Turf” and “Shield”
Note: Neither of the images I used for this entry are the actual covers for the books involved. They just give you an idea of how cool and creative these books are
Writer: Jonathan Ross
Artist: Tommy Lee Edwards
When I first heard Jonathan Ross’s name it was via the Ricky Gervais comedy “Extras”. He seemed like a funny guy but I had no idea just how cool he would be. I later discovered that the UK television host [For those of you who don't know Ross, Mark Millar described him as a combination of David Letterman, Howard Stern, and Siskel & Ebert] was a huge fan of many of the things I love: punk rock, genre films, and especially comic books. Ross is a huge comic book fan so I wasn’t surprised to learn last year from artist Tommy Lee Edwards that he was working on a comic series with Ross.
The premise of “Turf” is a wildly creative one. It takes place during prohibition in New York City. The gangs are in the middle of a violent turf war. Then suddenly a clan of Eastern European vampires moves in and starts taking out the gangs one by one. A tide of supernatural darkness is about to descend on the Big Apple, when suddenly an alien spacecraft filled with bizarre weaponry crash lands on Earth . ..
In issue #1 of “Turf” it was clear that Ross wasn’t just reading comics for enjoyment all these years. He was studying the storytelling techniques of many of the best creators. He expertly introduces readers to a strange but familiar 1920s New York with a great mix of dialogue and well set up visuals. The cast of characters is also very compelling. In the issue you meet a society reporter who dreams of becoming a crime reporter, a scheming vampire who dreams of wiping out humanity and awakening “The Old One”, and Eddie Falco a mobster who dreams of a life that doesn’t involve killing or crime.
Tommy Leed Edwards’s visuals for Turf are amazing. The artist has done beautiful work on crime, horror, and science fiction stories. Here he weaves all of those pulpy elements together expertly. The expressions of the characters and the action scenes all have a genuine and dynamic feel to them. Edwards also colors his work with a vibrant and tonally appropriate pallet
Probably the best thing about Turf though, besides it’s wild and intriguing premise is it’s length. Turf is not one of those comics you’ll put down in a few minutes. Ross and Edwards visuals and dialogue work together to give you something substantial; something that will take you a little longer to read, but every moment is an enjoyable one. In today’s comic market that’s a rare feat
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Dustin Weaver
I don’t know why I’m always caught off guard by how awesome Jonathan Hickman’s writing can be. I was introduced to his work when I read his mini-series “The Nightly news”, which turned out to be one of the best comic series I’ve ever read (and I’ve been reading them since 1984). His work on “Fantastic Four” and “Secret Warriors” from Marvel have been great too. With “Shield” though it looks like Hickman has another grand slam home run.
Shield #1 one opens in the 1950s. There a young boy named Leonid is picked up by two agents of a mysterious organization. He’s taken to ancient but high tech, bustling metropolis secretly located beneath the streets of Rome. There he meets the head of a secret society that has existed for thousands of years. The head then tells the boy the society’s history and the secret history of the Marvel Universe.
It turns out that the two men who brought the boy to Rome? They’re Howard Stark and Nathanial Richards the fathers of Iron Man and Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. The organization they work for was born in Ancient Egypt when a group of soliders had to come together to repulse an alien invasion. Later we see that the organization continued to save the world from strange and otherworldy threats. It’s members included people like Galileo and Leonardo Da Vinci. In the final bit of the issue we are transported back to the 1950s when the young boy’s father, a mysterious costume clad man named the Night machine, comes to take him away from the organization and burn it to the ground.
This is all in the course of the first issue too! Hickman weaves in enough mystery and cool creative elements to make you want to keep coming back to the series again and again. The characters are also incredibly compelling. You only get a few pages with Leonid and his father, the Night Machine, but they are rendered with such emotion and intrigue that you want to know more about these characters.
Dustin Weaver’s art on Shield is incredible. In one issue he has to render about five different and distinct eras in history and he does so expertly. He also does a great job conveying the emotions his characters are feeling. Complimenting Weaver’s already stellar art is the work of colorist Christina Strain. Her colors add a powerful enhancement to the mood and tone of the book.