ROSE AND THORN ISSUE 1 DC ANYONE who is familiar with Gail Simone's amazing work on `Birds of Prey' can easily attest that one of, if not the most, eagerly anticipated December debuts of 2003 has got to be her take on `Rose and Thorn'.
With Rose and Thorn, Simone delivers some really dark stuff with a mature, gripping work that doesn't need to resort to exploitation to get its message across.
Rose and Thorn takes place inside a mental institution for dangerous young girls, and it introduces us to Rhosyn (Thorn's future alter-ego), a dangerously violent young woman lashing out in the wake of her parents' murder.
In the institution, her rage grows at the fact that her parents' killers were never caught.
Like Batman, this trauma will haunt and shape her destiny, when her dual personality begins to manifest itself.
When an opportunity for an early release opens up, Rhosyn wastes no time in signing up for a radical therapy conducted by a creepy psychiatrist - Dr Chritlow.
Soon, however, the therapy is showing some seriously unexpected results.
There is an appealing humanity in all of Simone's work, where each character gets layers both profound and subtle.
And this interplay makes for a rich experience when you pick up something this gifted writer pens.
Everybody, no matter how small the role, gets some layers in Simone's books.
The character of Ashleigh is a great example.
What could have been just another 2-D hateful villain ends up being a really conflicted, tragic supporting character.
And Simone added these layers in just two remarkable panels.
Of course, it's a team effort and the work of Adriana Melo and Dan Green go a long way in bringing the impact of this story home.
Melo works well in showing the emotions and thoughts of the character via the eyes.
Then there is the visual contrast between the gritty, scarred world of Thorn and the more, clean superhero comic look of the world of Rose.
This is a great example of an artist using different visual styles to move the story forward and take the audience into the head of the protagonist.
Simone again proves that she's got the talent to be a really great storyteller.
This looks set to be a rich, rewarding psychological thriller...
you can either wait for the trade, or like me, just need to pick up these individual chapters each month.
The choice is yours, but, either way, make sure you check out her work.
And meanwhile, while you're at it, make sure to check out her work on Birds of Prey, if you haven't already.
In February 2004, we'll see the release of Birds of Prey: Of Like Minds, which collects Simone's first major arc on the book; Issues 56 to 61.
Chronicling the ongoing saga of the Oracle, Black Canary and The Huntress, the trade explores their battle with a super-genius (or so he'd like to think) Savant and the fall-out of that battle.
It is this aftermath/epilogue moment which takes the story from being really good...
to truly great.
There we see conflict between Oracle and the Canary, but rather than allowing it to devolve into some cheap soap-operatic mush, Simone intelligently lets it play out to its organic and natural conclusion.
Birds Of Prey is a smart balance of character development, humour and suspenseful super-hero action that while being fantastic, never forgets to allow itself a grittier edge.
THE ULTIMATES ISSUE 12 MARVEL THIS issue is basically one long, epic battle between the Ultimates and the invading alien army.
It is certainly very interesting to see the Marvel superheroes portrayed in this unflinching light.
But the gaps between the issues do take their toll as the tension is dissipated greatly by the long pauses.
The payoff will be better felt when this superhero epic is collected in one trade paperback.
Then you can sit down and be adequately blown away in one reading.
BATMAN ISSUE 621 DC THIS is shaping up to be an exceptional story arc from the best writer and artist team working in comics today.
Artist Eduardo Risso and writer Brian Azzarello's work blend so well it's hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.
The words and pictures of their work merge into one perfect, singular organic entity that you would swear these two men were thinking with the same remarkable brain.
Taking over from Joseph Loeb, Jim Lee and Scott Williams was never going to be an easy job, but these two have outdone themselves.
Rather than delivering a story that follows in the tone of Hush, their Broken City is a harder and more ruthless trip into Gotham that fans are used to.
But this is by far the closest we have gotten in recent years into seeing what a dangerous life Bruce Wayne leads, and many who have read the first two chapters of Broken City feel that this is the definitive Batman.
The story follows Bats' investigations where after a woman's body is discovered partially eaten, Batman's investigation leads him to Killer Croc.
After questioning the villain, Batman turns his attention to the person who hired Killer Croc to kill this woman.
As his efforts manage to unearth the guilty party we see Batman dealt a devastating blow when his efforts to capture this fleeing criminal results in a haunting recreation of the tragedy that robbed him of his parents.
This is a decidedly different Batman from Hush...
there is a sense of darker and grittier elements.
It may take some time for readers to re-orient themselves with this. Batman packs a genuine sense of menace, and the whole environment feels charged with something nasty.
Broken City opens with Batman's monologue...
and it sets the tone for the rest of the book.
Like the first chapter, we see Batman again extracting information (and teeth) from the Killer Croc...
and then we get the famous femme fatales that Risso does so well.
The first issue ended with a shocking scene, one done smartly and you probably won't see it coming.
Clearly, Azarello is aiming to peel away some safe psychological terrain to show us the murky depths of Batman's soul.
Brutal and unforgiving, with moments of pure symbolic brilliance... Broken City is destined to be a classic.
This is Batman as he should be, where even the readers/audience are terrified of him.
Bats gets down and ever dirtier as he tears Gotham's underworld apart looking for the murderer Angel Lupo.
If Lupo only knew the significance of the murder he has just committed, he would be very, very afraid.
RUNAWAYS ISSUE 9 MARVEL BRIAN K.
Vaughn's Runaways continues to thrill and surprise.
The official synopsis is as follows: Teenager Alex Wilder and five other children find out the true identities of their parents when they see the adults murder a young girl in some kind of dark sacrificial ritual.
The teens soon learn that their parents are part of a secret organisation called The Pride.
The Pride is a collection of crime bosses, time-travelling despots, alien overlords, mad scientists, evil mutants and dark wizards.
Just trying to imagine the insanity that can come out of this concept is thrilling enough.
It's made even better with the fact that Vaughn takes it everywhere we want it to go and then some.
After stealing weapons and resources from these villainous adults (including a mystical staff, futuristic gauntlets and a genetically engineered velociraptor named Old Lace), the kids run away from home. Hence the title of the series.
Unlike the parents, the kids have a pretty strong moral foundation, and as confused as they are, they vow to bring their parents to justice.
This sets up the most dramatic premise for a superhero book for 2003 from Marvel.
The kids soon learn that their parents are the super-powerful bad guys for a reason, as the adults quickly frame their children for the murder they commit.
The fugitive Runaways are now forced to retreat to a subterranean hideout nicknamed The Hostel.
Using their diverse powers and skills they inherited, the Runaways now hope to atone for their parents' crimes by helping those in need.
The kids are led by Alex and each of them have taken on rather creative alter-ego names.
Each character is remarkable detailed when it comes to their personas... and we quickly form a bond with them as each is distinct and the mechanics of how they click together is a joy to watch.
This is clearly seen in the recent events of the kids stumbling onto a shoplifting in progress and the action that follows as they try to stop the robbers.
Stopping at an all-night convenience store, four of the incognito Runaways inadvertently interrupt a robbery-in-progress.
Though they scare away two of the seemingly superhuman thieves, a third is left behind.
It soon turns out that this remaining masked man is actually the other two criminals' son...
a teenager named Topher.
Topher claims his evil parents forced him to accompany them on their heists.
Recognising a kindred spirit, Alex welcomes this fellow troubled youth to their club.
Vaughn wastes no time in providing a pay-off to the introduction of Topher.
The new kid brought into the Runaways' hideout reveals his true colours in this issue's shocking cliffhanger.
It is a payoff for those who have been speculating if this guy was good or evil.
Also, we see the inevitable clashes within the group as the teens are slowly realising that life away from home isn't going to be as easy as they thought it would be.
Plus, teenagers will be teenagers...
thus jealousy and raging hormones mixed with super-powers proves to be a volatile combination.
Also, over at Vertigo, Vaughn continues to amaze with Y-The Last Man.
The latest issue is an interesting chapter in a really terrific series which sees Paul Chadwick stepping into the guest artist chair to illustrate story which deals with how people are coping in the aftermath.
Basically you get a lovable male monkey, a small appearance by Yorick, a Ninja and post-apocalyptic theatre...
watching it all come together is great stuff.
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"A thorn in her mind." Asia Africa Intelligence Wire 31 Dec. 2003. General OneFile. Web. 8 Sept. 2010.
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Causes Gail Simone Supports
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