Book Reviews

Scribbling Scrivener Reads: Three Comics

This month I decided to do something a little different and will review three different comic volumes contain the first 4 to 5 issues of a series. I recently picked these up at Heroes Con for a reduced price, figuring it was a great way to see if I might find one or two or three recently launched series I could get into. I’m not the biggest comic book person. Only as an adult have I discovered a few series with well-developed characters and can appeal to people of all ages.

First I read The Tithe Volume I by Matt Hawkins, Rahsan Ekedal, Bill Farmer, and Mike Spicer. The plot is a group of four people, referring to themselves as Samaritan, decide to rob some prominent megachurches. They do this not because they disagree with religion or church itself, rather because the leaders of those megachurches are criminal hypocrites misusing the donations for personal gain. They are led by Sam, a hacker who donates most of the money stolen to charities. The other members are her boyfriend, his junkie younger brother and his equally junkie girlfriend. They act as the muscle while she is the brain.

Chasing them are FBI agents Jimmy Miller and Dwayne Campbell. Dwayne is straight-laced, by-the-book agent who also happens to be Christian so the case is more complex than it is for his partner. Jimmy is a former hacker himself, eventually hired by the FBI, and is an unknown contact to Samaritan. Jimmy and Dwayne clash as Jimmy is sympathetic to Samaritan’s cause viewing it as not as bad as the leaders of the megachurches swindling their parishioners. Meanwhile Dwayne recognizes the criminal behavior on both sides. They work very well together and have a lot of mutual respect with Jimmy being friendly with Dwayne’s family.

Volume I covers issues 1 – 4 and it moves at a quick pace. In fact they resolve one storyline while setting up what I’m assuming is the rest of the series by the end of issue 4. Yet even though it moves quickly, the writer manages to not only give the reader fully fleshed out and sympathetic characters, but also starts planting the next plot line.

I also enjoyed the art work. It has a gritty tone to it with browns and dark greens used primarily yet feels realistic. People are drawn proportionally which makes sense since this story takes place in the real world rather than a fantastical one.

Overall I’d give The Tithe Volume I three and a half pencils out of five. It’s something I’m looking forward to reading the next volume.

Next I read something completely different from The Tithe. Rasputin: The Road to the Winter Palace by Alex Grecian, Riley Rossmo, Ivan Plascencia, and Thomas Mauer covers the first 5 issues of the series. It spins the idea of Rasputin as The Mad Monk, transforming him into a man who has some kind of supernatural abilities. It bounces back and forth between the night of the many attempts to kill him and a fictionalized version of his life. This shouldn’t be considered historical fiction or even alt history as there are many details missing from the narrative. This isn’t a bad thing as this is a reimagining of the legend of Rasputin.

Throughout the issues we see how even as a young boy Rasputin uses the ability to heal and revive people and animals. The first time he does this is when his abusive father battles a bear. He uses his ability sparingly, sometimes without realizing what he’s doing. Naturally, it scares him and he tries to hide it from people. Eventually rumors of what he can supposedly do reach the Tsarina and high-ranking MI6 officials as World War I commences. Not much time is spent within the Winter Palace and healing the Tsar’s son, Alexi, from his hemophilia even though this is what most know about Rasputin.

The artwork is very different from The Tithe. It’s a little sketchier and angular which fits the tone of the story giving it an irregular beauty. Since this is a more fantastical version of Rasputin, much of the artwork supports this. I really enjoyed the panels which integrated Russian folklore.

While it deviates from the blurry history we have of Rasputin, I think the writer captured the spooky, complicated, magnetic personality he’s known for. The writer has also made him a more sympathetic person, one the reader can understand and feel more of a connection with.

Overall, I’d give Rasputin: The Road to the Winter Palace three pencils out of five. Like The Tithe, I’m interested in picking up the next volume and following The Mad Monk around.

The final comic book volume I read was Sovereign Volume I by Chris Roberson and Paul Maybury. This is set in a fantasy world with a group called The Luminari setting out for the Lowlands to warn the king of impending doom, the King’s three very different sons, and an envoy from another part of the world sent to study the city of Khend.

A lot happens with the reader introduced to a large ensemble. The Luminari are an ancient religious order whose primary job seems to be re-killing un-cremated dead people before they rise up as demon infected zombies. A trio is sent out by the order to warn the Khendish king of something called The Convergence, an event which will eliminate everyone and usher in a new age. The King’s three sons have scattered to various parts of the world, although two of them have remained close having spent a lot of time together in battle and in the capital city. The third set of players is a trio coming to Khend from a very long distance. Two of them are warriors with the third member being an intellectual charged with learning more about Khend for some reason that isn’t made clear other than “Because it’s there.”

It was difficult for me to get into this one. Very little about it intrigued me from the shoddy artwork to the large cast of characters to the plots. I liked a couple of the characters, mainly Goodman Ravenstone and Lady Joslyn Evrendon, as well as their plot line, but while it proclaims itself to be along the same vein as the novel series A Song of Ice and Fire, it’s nowhere near the quality or depth that series possesses. Perhaps that’s the biggest flaw; too quick of a pace to set up an epic fantasy in five issues instead of introducing one, maybe two, of the groups that will be important to the story.

Another major flaw is the artwork itself. The best thing I can say about it is the color scheme changes when we switch from group to group. I appreciate that as it signals to the reader not only a shift in subplot, but allows the reader to see how visually different each part of the world of Sovereign are. Other than that, it’s not very well drawn and I found some of the action in scenes to be confusing and almost physics defying.

Overall, I give Sovereign two pencils out of five. Not interested in reading anymore as I don’t really care about any of the characters.


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