Jeff Ritter's Reviews

O.C.T.: Occult Crimes Taskforce #1
Writers: David Atchison with Rosario Dawson
Artist: Tony Shasteen
Publisher: Image/12 Gauge Comics

If it hasn’t sunk in yet, go ahead and read that writing credit again…yeah, we’re talking about THAT Rosario Dawson! The lovely star of Sin City and Clerks II lends herself to this entertaining comic in more ways than one. Not only is she bringing her cinematic expertise to the storytelling process, she’s the visual muse of Tony Shasteen’s art.

Rosario, a lifelong comic reader, stars as Sophia Ortiz, a police officer who finds herself involved in a case that decidedly unconventional. In fact, it’s unholy. Luckily, the O.C.T. is there to meet these kinds of challenges. If you’re a fan of TV police dramas like the Shield, sci-fi/horror like the X-Files, or comics like Gotham Central, you’ll find a lot to like here. Atchison and Dawson’s story moves briskly, but like the beginning of any movie there’s a bit of exposition to get through so you can identify the players and set up the scene. Things should really start to fly next issue. The art is rendered in a realistic style, so you can enjoy all of the Rosario goodness like she was right there on your lap. Dressed like a beat cop. With cuffs. What are you still sitting there reading this for, go get it already! And did I mention that this issue includes the Occult Crimes Taskforce Officer Training Manual? It’s a nifty six-page primer on the history of the Taskforce. It’s like getting the “special features” section of the DVD right in the comic. I’d love to know more about the system of collaboration between Atchison and Dawson. I think it’s always something special when two people can strike a nice harmony in a writing endeavor, like Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning or Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray. Here’s wishing David and Rosario that kind of comic writing success!

Grade B

The Escapists #1
Writers: Brian K. Vaughn and Steve Duin
Artists: Philip Bond, Eduardo Barreto, Jashar Awan with font and back covers by Frank Miller and Brian Bolland, respectively.
Publisher: Dark Horse

I’m always on the look out for something new, and of course the Frank Miller cover caught my eye. I saw the name Brian K. Vaughn on the cover and thought, “I wonder if that guy is any good?” I kid, of course. Y the Last Man, Ex Machina Runaways – he’s not just good, he’s one of the best two or three writers in the biz today. And he’s taken a pretty off-beat approach to this book.

The Escapist is the Golden Age creation of writer Sam Clay and artist Joe Kavalier. Now, I hear you out there whispering, “Sam Hill? Joey Cavaleri?” No, think “The Sentry” and you’ll get the trick. the fact Sam and Joe never existed, and neither did the Escapist. Not until famed novelist Michael Chabon (Wonder Boys) created them in his Pulitzer-winning “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.” Since then, the Escapist as bounded into comics lore retroactively. His “The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist” title, published by Dark Horse (publisher Mike Richardson knows a winner when he sees it, you know), is a quarterly that brings some of the best writers and artists in the business to flesh out the history of Chabon’s characters. This includes some short essays about the trials and tribulations of Golden and Silver Age publishing, and the many starts and stops of Kavalier and Clay’s hero. Is that about as clear as mud? Trust me, it’s not so bad if you get from the source (hint hint: go get it) – the quarterly book is a very fun read with a nostalgic feel in the vein of The Spirit or vintage Green Lantern or early Batman.

But that is not exactly what THIS book is about. This one is a bout a young man named Max Roth. Max is heir to a relatively small fortune and a near-complete collection of Escapist comics and memorabilia. And it’s his mission to bring The Escapist back to prominence. Brian K. Vaughn creates a bit of romantic tension for Max and begins to peel back the curtain on a start-up comic company. It reminds me of great independent titles like Teenagers From Mars. It’s unconventional to do a superhero comic about the creative team and not the hero himself, and it’s off to a good start. For those who haven’t been reading “The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist” this issue gives a bit of the history I described above, and introduces us to the young talents who will bring The Escapist into the modern comic market. And in the spirit of the quarterly, there’s a short essay by Steve Duin that provides even more “shoe-horned history.” See what Chabon and Paul Jenkins (The Sentry) started? The art is terrific through out. Bond draws the modern scenes, Barreto brings the flashbacks, Awan helps embellish the Duin piece with visual aids.

What? You’re still not sure this is for you? Dude and/or dudette, Frank Miller and Brian Bolland did the front and back covers for you! Still not enough? *sigh* OK, fine, because Mike Richardson loves you, this whole bundle of fun is only ONE DOLLAR!! What a bargain for you! You could get a burger for a buck somewhere and get food poisoning with it. Or you could get “The Escapists” and read a damn fine comic, and if you’re still really hungry, I guess you could eat it. Heck, the roughage would probably do you good. But take out the staples first. And wrap it in Mylar before you swallow it, you know, in case you want to read it again later.

Grade: A

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