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Big Girls #1

Aug 14, 2020

Sometimes big problems require big solutions. Similarly, behind every giant monster, there’s an equally giant woman, waiting to kick its ass and save the day. This is a world where there are people larger than life—literally. Big Girls is a new but familiar Kaiju story which is a mix between the worlds of Pacific Rim movies and Paper Girls comic and it’s packed with action, solid world-building, and enough political intrigue to make it a good reading experience. BIG GIRLS SET UP: Set in the future where a science experiment gone wrong unleashes a great threat to humanity, the danger of megaorganisms upon the world. These monsters mutate from males who are born with a condition that causes them to grow to colossal proportions and change into a monstrous countenance. But humanity has hope, The Big Girls. When a girl is born with the condition they too gain size, but keep their humanity and form unimpaired. This leads these rare women to be the last line of defense against the skyscraper-sized engines of destruction that used to be men. How this situation came to be is shrouded in mystery as all those involved in the research that brought the megaorganisms into being died in the world’s first encounter with the monsters. Due to a near-pathological fear of what experimentation might bring any new disaster, no one has continued research into the creatures and on finding a cure. The comic follows Ember — the latest Big Girl, a group of giant women dedicated to protecting the world from giant monsters. The synopsis for the comic is “When men become giant monsters hellbent on destroying the world, only girls can stop them—BIG GIRLS. Meet Ember—she writes poetry, loves to read, and she’s a 300-foot-tall full-time monster killer! She and the other big girls are all that stand in the way of our world’s complete annihilation!”. The publisher described the tale as a cross between John Wick, Godzilla, and HBO’s Girls, which sounds like a great mix of genres. BIG GIRLS: CHARACTERS AND STORY Big Girls starts off with a bang, both literally and metaphorically it wastes no time, throwing readers right into the deep end of events that will get a bit dark. It’s appropriate for the setting, and it goes a long way in establishing the stakes. A world suffering from an undisclosed virus with only one safe place where bold decisions make a difference, called “The Preserve.” A society where pregnancy is given extra medical scrutiny to prevent the birth of any new monsters. It slightly nods to political issues too, which even includes a line “Not to point fingers, but there’s no more arguing about what’s wrong with the world. It’s men.” There are only a few characters in this self-contained comic. Some of the main ones include James Tannik High Marshal of The Cube, Preserve’s central command, a Big Girl named Ember who is on her first civilian investigation with the marshal. The measure of preventing humanity from becoming monsters has turned to take the form of High Marshal James Tannik. Marshal Tannik searches out people who may be harboring young males who present signs that they might turn into megaorganisms aka ‘Jack.’ When discovered, those situations are resolved brutally. Whether or not the actions taken by Tannik and The Cube are truly necessary can be questioned, especially since working to try to discover a cure for the condition is forbidden. One way or the other, Tannik comes across as merciless having little remorse for his severe actions. The titular Big Girl Ember’s character is exactly what this world needs. She balances out all of the dark, providing a human element in a world that is rapidly losing its reason to care. Big Girls like Ember, protects humanity and keep the streets of The Preserve safe from the ‘Jacks’ of the outside world as well as assisting in investigations of finding future megaorganisms inside The Preserve. Ember sees herself as one of the heroes who believe in having a purpose. And she certainly fits the part. Caring and brave she willingly faces the threats of humanity head-on. But when she assists Tannik in an arrest things take a turn she isn’t ready for. This event completely shakes her deeply and leaves her more than a bit rattled. Making Amber question herself and feel not special or human. However, before she can delve too deeply into what this moment means to her future a mega-organism is spotted approaching her city. Then we get a big battle sequence that ends with her finding herself in a more tough and critical situation. There’s still a lot to learn about Amber’s character, and the world that she lives in. The title of the series implies that there will be more than one like Ember, but so far we only meet Ember and there are a couple of other names mentioned who might be important in the coming stories. MERITS AND DEMERITS: The beginning of Howard’s manmade Kaiju story makes a case of promising compelling character drama in between all the gigantic battles. The comic has few setbacks as it’s already a heard story with slight differences making it predictable, and the story narration is descriptive. But it’s cleverly interwoven with the panel reveals and cool pacing. It’s largely a non-issue for the first issue of a new comic, as long as it manages to promise an interesting setup for the future. Luckily that is the case for Big Girls #! The first issue is all about world-building but it lacked enough substance to get the readers hooked when it comes to characters. The comic definitely has an interesting group of characters but it might not be enough to make its readers fall in love with the characters as yet. It did succeed in making a good first impression with a composition of the intriguing universe and cool artwork. Hopefully, the coming issues will get more interesting with more plot than setup. The first chapter spends time introducing the numerous complex motivations and conflicts within the small cast of primary characters. The character motivations are described very briefly and the backstory is told through a series of quick bursts, yet it’s efficient for explaining everything that has happened, as well as leaving hints for what is likely to come in the future. The story is not a new one, but the only distinctive thing is having a story of a good giant versus a monstrous giant, which offers a different dynamic where the cause of both giants is human-made. On top of that, only females who are born with the condition will stay human, whereas males turn into monsters, which is a unique spin on post-apocalyptic monster stories. The creator himself compared this comic to a few popular properties which are spot-on. It’s also a little bit reminiscent of The Last of Us video-game, with the similarity of a disease that causes people to turn into monsters. It also brings to mind the Pacific Rim movie, where there’s a special unit to take care of the monsters. Jason Howard is a great creator so non-surprisingly he provided his own unique flair to a Kaiju story in Big Girls. Hoping that trend continues. ARTWORK SHOWCASES JASON HOWARD’S BRILLIANT CREATIVITY: Jason Howard’s utilization of visuals is what makes this comic interesting. He handled the panel layouts with exciting pacing with every turn-of-the-page. Throughout the comic, he smartly pictured the framing of a panel which includes any giant from below, in a normal spectator view so that we can feel the sheer scale of the giants. Normally we see that in monster movies, but seeing that inside a comic is really fun. The cinematic change of scales works very effectively and it is a brilliant choice by Howard. Howard’s artwork is bold, heavily textured and it’s great for this ruined-future action-adventure series. The linework is incredibly rough too, giving the art a rushed feeling to it. There’s a lot of unnecessary lines in a lot of the images, which often seem to serve an unknown purpose. It sounds like I am bashing the style of this comic, but I’m not. Some may not find this art very appealing, but I think this is exactly what sells this comic’s game and this is what Howard’s intention is. Because the rougher details and designs of the various characters, ruined environments, and lesion-covered monsters suit nicely to this falling apart the dystopian world. I honestly think the artwork is what saved the more boring expository reading. The coloring here is respectable, but all in all a solid performance. It mostly contains dim colors nothing bright and very shady. The giant action sequences are specifically colored in orange and yellow. Also, whenever a character expresses an aggressive mood or shouts or suddenly, the panel color changes which is a smart technique. While nothing is unique about the letter work, Fondgrafiks’ lettering provided a sense of balance and stability to this world. CONCLUSION: WORLD OF BIG GIRLS IS FASCINATING While the specifications of the Big Girls #1 scenario are admittedly unique, its themes feel similar and cliche. While none of its story elements are particularly bad, they feel a bit obvious. A huge part of why Big Girls is a must-read is because of what we were shown. Jason Howard’s skills as both a writer and an artist allowed him to craft a story that utilizes the medium’s ability to combine visual storytelling, with distinct artwork and great world-building. The reason for what caused this monster situation and why people are turning into giant monsters is not revealed…just yet. I am more than interested to find out those answers. Either way, this first issue will successfully grab your attention given that you will like the artwork and in my case, it held firmly. The debut issue of Big Girls is certainly not that excellent but it is a good and promising start for the fascinating monster-filled comic series.

Chu (2020) #1

Jul 23, 2020

New spinoff series Chu promises to be a delectable cat-and-mouse story and will stand on its own for new readers, but delight longtime fans of the Chew universe or the Chewniverse. It is a great starting point to jump into this world, you don’t need to be a Chew reader to enjoy this comic. Chew centers on a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agent/detective, Tony Chu who is a cibopath (pronounced “see-bo-path”). Tony can solve crimes by receiving psychic impressions from what he eats, it can be food or even people. It means he can read the memories and history of everything he consumes. Set in a world that has banned poultry following a catastrophic outbreak of avian flu. But this is not a new Tony Chu story, instead, it’s a new story featuring Saffron as the lead. Saffron is a crook and a cibopars, able to learn secrets from who she eats with. This premise is the flip side of Chew, now an odd-powered female criminal instead of a food powered male cop. And the Chu will be a felonious new food-noir comic about cops, crooks, cooks, cannibals & clairvoyants. Tony Chu is a cop and Saffron is a criminal and they are on a collision course. This is a great start for the new Chu spin-off and as expected, writer John Layman returns to this crazy world of food, crime, sci-fi, and slapstick humor with a bang. He also promised that as the story progresses Chu will be fundamentally different from Chew and more character-driven. So this new spin-off is going to be a fun-filled ride. Right from the start, the readers will find themselves getting ready for a delicious feast. IS CHU AS GOOD AS CHEW? Yes, it is totally Chew level good. The Chu, like Chew comics, can make the readers hungry for more. For new readers, it may not be enough to get them interested to start reading the 64 previous comics of Chew – but it is intriguing enough to make them stick with this new series. If the upcoming issues are done as well as this one, maybe after the first volume of Chu, the readers might want to dive deep into the Chewniverse. Saffron Chu’s character is completely absent in the Chew comics. The Chu will be the story of Tony’s secret sister, the black-sheep-of-the-family, who has her own food-based powers who seems to have a different career path entirely. How can she learn secrets from who she eats with? This will be answered moving forward. Saffron looks like an absolute badass and I am interested in knowing about her more. John Layman is offering a tale of a crime story that sees a brother and a sister on the opposite ends. Well, that is how the initial storyline of this series looks like. Layman maintained the same energy of the original in this. It is balanced with action, humor, and seriousness. Layman himself lettered this comic. The action is shown in the simplest way possible without too much gore. Dan Boultwood’s art style is reminiscent of his previous work and it fits perfectly well with this story. The Chu is filled with vibrant and striking colors that are eye-popping. The usage of colors and character designs are classy and gave this comic a feeling of watching a classic animated show. Boultwood is a great artist and even in the absence of Chew’s artist Rob Guillory, the first issue gave the assurance that this is in great hands. The first issue of Chu: The First Course part 1 accomplishes its goal by delivering a solid story and catchy artwork. I definitely recommend picking up Chu issue #1. CHU #1 My Overall Rating: 9.5

Chu (2020) #4

Nov 6, 2020

CHU #4 REVIEW: A Collision Course Begins The Chu is a humor/crime comic written by John Layman and art by Dan Boultwood that had a great start. With the same energy and flow of the first three issues, the latest issue is as sublime as it should be. I am not sold on Saffron's love interest. Even though we don't know the depths of Saffron and Eddie's relationship it is clear that Eddie Molay is not a good match for Saffron. She needs to cut him loose as he is a bad influence on her. He never truly listens to Saffron’s opinion, he makes bad decisions and almost got her sister Sage killed. The first three issues were on par with the Chew comics. Issue #4 is part 4 of "THE FIRST COURSE" The main arc of this five installment series is brewing up to be a delectable cat-and-mouse story. It’s funny, dark, serious, but above all else advances to push itself out of the shadow of the original series. In this issue, both leads Tony Chu and Saffron Chu are about to find each other on the opposite ends. STORY: THE FIRST COURSE- PART 4 of 5 Chu #4 follows the aftermath of Saffron killing the second hitman Mr. Papers. The Bird flu has both direct and indirect effects on Saffron's life which will be a major turning point in Tony's investigation. This series is filled with the familiar tropes but they are twisted in very fun ways that you expect from the Chew universe and still manages to feel fresh. With each issue, the story continues to be more interesting. Along with the story, a simultaneous background narration is going on from the very beginning, it adds a whole new flavour to the story. This issue is divided into parts and told in an interesting order, often jumping back and forth between Saffron and Eddie, Tony and his new partner John Colby and an aquarium which we later catch up on as the story progresses. The prologue begins with Eddie's efforts to get rid of the dead body, he decides to use the last of their savings to find a way to dispose of Mr. Paper’s body. They both take off on separate agendas that are going to affect one another equally. Saffron decides to recuperate their finances. It’s here that we further witness Saffron's con artist skills, shifting her towards criminal status. She goes to a jewelry convention and the whole thing plays out with the usual Layman humour and wittily grouped dialogue. To dupe some jewelry from an unlucky rich guy, she needs to look the part. And Boultwood designed a perfect and appealing dress for her to succeed in the task by distracting the jewelers with her beauty. From there it’s a solid read filled with the usual laughable creative moments you expect from Chu. On this heist, Eddie crosses the line again making him less likable. The next day Eddie suggests splitting the cash and leaving town for a while but Saffron refuses to disappear suddenly. Eddie drops her at Saffron's home once again for Sunday family dinner tradition. Then the story cutbacks to Tony and John investing at the aquarium on a case from which they're about to find out a clue on the Bucatini heist case and it was possible because of the Bird flu. It’s a fast-paced fun read that delivers a lot of information through dialogues and background narration. Similar to the bizarre ending of Chu #3, this issue has a cliffhanger ending which will make you so eager to come back to read the next one. A collision course begins and we are going to see Tony and Saffron against one another in Chu #5. CHU Is Rich In Writing And Art With four books in and it feels like the craziness is just getting started. This is a very well-written comic, packed with many entertaining elements and incredible characters. The new characters so far stand on their own, pretty solidly. Layman proves to be great at creating interesting, unique, and fun characters. The writing and art get better with each issue. Dan Boultwood’s art continues to do this universe justice. Overall, the artwork in Chu #4 is terrific and just makes you want to keep reading this book. His panel layouts are filled with eye-popping colours, quite detailed, clean, and pretty cartoony, bringing a balanced tone to the story. He’s very good at making each character design so distinct. The Chew artist Rob Guillory would be proud. As a whole, this issue was a blast to read and increases your enthusiasm to read the next. It does not spare any time and kicks the story into high gear while supplying plenty of humor and a type of twisted action that writer John Layman always perfectly delivers.

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