Echo #9 (Abstract Studio): Echo is simply one of the best books out there at the moment. It flies quietly under the radar, amid the flashy, vapid spectacle of Final Dark Infinite Secret Crisis Invasion Reign. Terry Moore is methodically churning out issue after issue with clear storytelling, realistic dialogue, an intriguing premise, and exacting pencils. Aspiring creators, whether they’re writers, artists, inkers, or letterers, could easily attend this monthly tutorial and learn much of what the medium demands in order to be successful. Though the opening scene is clearly telegraphed, the demonic dream sequence plays nicely off of themes found in the narrative – yearning for freedom, with a touch of the parable about flying too high and getting burned. Even amid mindless banter and subtle flirtation, Moore finds a very natural ear for his dialogue that’s really unlike any other creator. Lines like “Another mouth to feed” provide perfect and quick characterization in the simplest, most effective, and effortlessly elegant manner possible. There’s really no action in this issue; it is, in fact, mostly talking heads. It’s clearly “all middle” within this story arc, yet through sheer diligence of craft we’re compelled to care about these people and pay attention to every single line of dialogue and flick of the pencil on the page. I suppose I could understand if this story wasn’t appealing to every type of fan out there, but there’s no arguing its perfect execution. Grade A.
X-Force #11 (Marvel): I didn’t really care for the artist on the previous (issues 7-10) arc; Mike Choi was it? Yeah, I skipped those issues, but was pleasantly surprised to read that (original series artist) Clayton Crain was listed on art chores for forthcoming arcs. I assume the re-introduction of him in this issue signifies a rotating art team on the book(?) This one-shot interlude is a nice segue back into his art, which I really enjoyed. This incarnation of X-Force was surprisingly entertaining, and I’d like to continue on with it. I always felt that Crain’s dark and murky style (though overly CG-ish in spots) suited this title tonally. The flashback sequences here, courtesy of Alina Urusov, about Eli Bard are well done. The style employed reminds me of early issues of NYX art, or that of the Luna Brothers. It’s soft and washed out, but retains a nice level of detail. Kyle and Yost need a touch of help with their common vocabulary mistake; remember that “insure” (to secure indemnity to in case of loss or damage) and “ensure” (to make sure or certain) aren’t interchangeable. Not to micro-manage the dialogue, but the line “now be off with you” could have been smoothed over with “now be off” or “off with you” or even “off with you, child” for a little flourish, but as is (really, say it out loud – “now be off with you”) is a little clunky. I also detect a bit of inter-title inconsistency; is Selene really an “External,” or maybe an Eternal, like Apocalypse? Anyway, Eli Bard’s origin and his cliffhanger offer is a nice way to tie together the recent Hellfire re-emergence in Uncanny X-Men, Caliban’s recent death, and link to The Purifiers in the first arc. Overall, this is a filler issue, but it’s good set-up filler nonetheless. Grade B.