Welcome to Off The Beaten Path, a weekly column reviewing comics some of you might not generally pick up. Here you will not find (most of the time) reviews of Marvel, DC and generally mainstream comics. Occasionally I will attack review a mainstream comic, mostly this column will consist of what I find interesting.

Some of you might remember this column from a few years ago on the Pulp Fiction website, for you, I can say “Expect more of the same.” For the new readers, this isn’t your normal review column. Despite Ryan and Maxwell’s protestations. I will trash a comic if I feel it deserves it. The ‘if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all’ idiom doesn’t apply in this column, be prepared.

Today’s selection consists of an old title I grew up with, a new Noir series and a once ground breaking series on its second arc. As always, Enjoy…

Title- ‘We Who are About to Die’ Strikeforce: Moritri (Damn, that’s a long title)
Publisher- Marvel (originally from 1986)
Writer- Peter B. Gillis
Penciler- Brent Anderson
Format- One shot -Trade Paperbacks coming in the following months
Price- $.99
Shipping- It’s a 1 shot, it’s in stores now.

The Basics- Strikeforce Morituri was one of the first comic book series I got into. The story was new and exciting to me (for those of you comic PHD’s, yes, it is strikingly similar to a comic from the late 60’s early 70’s. If you want to know, use google) then, and it still is today. We open with a scene of destruction. Shortly we are informed of earth’s battle with an alien race (sorry if you view this as a spoiler, too bad, the cover is pretty self explanatory) the results of which are not in our favor, followed by an introduction to what may be the ‘main character’. A talented writer (possibly of comics) by the name of Harold. Harold has made a decision, one that will change his life forever. I’m intentionally being vague here, the title should give you a clue as to the direction of the storyline and the characters.

The Art- Typical 80’s Marvel art, simple, simple, simple. For a page with 10 frames, 3 will have medium detail, the other 7 are colored shapes. I exaggerate, only a little, for dramatic effect. At the time it was published, I was awed by the art, the use of color and single page scenes. Today, it brings a smile to my face. When they need to, the detail is spot on. Who could ask for more?

The Verdict- I would call this a science fiction comic, others may call it a superhero comic. Both are correct. Overall, the story is interesting and entertaining. It’s an 80’s comic, so it has all of the earmarks of an 80’s Marvel book. The art, the character development, the need for the series to run on infinitely, etc, etc. All of those things we loved to hate then are incredibly fun to indulge ourselves in today. I personally am looking forward to the trade paperbacks. We who are about to die, Strikeforce: Morituri, just saying the name gives me goosebumps.

Title- Kick-Ass 2 (currently pissed off at issue #6)
Publisher- Icon/Millarworld
Writer- Mark Millar
Penciler- John Romita Jr. (according to Maxwell)
Format- Ongoing/Mini Series (I know this is confusing, tell Millar)
Price- $2.99
Shipping-Every 6 weeks (it actually comes out sporadically)

The Basics- It is my belief that Mark Millar has ceased caring about the actual content of his comic creations, and like Lorne Michael’s before him, uses the forum to sell scripts and crappy merchandise (I gotta admit, not all of it is crappy, some of it is ok). Kick Ass was a novel idea, one that I feel had a ton of potential. It almost delivered in it’s first incarnation. This story arc should not be called Kick Ass, it should be called Hit Girl (A Hit Girl Spinoff is on it’s way). This arc picks up a little while after the first arc finished, we find Kick Ass joining a ‘team’ and Hit Girl trying to be a normal pre teen. The new villain is the son of the previous villain (last seen geting his ass kicked by, wait for it…Kick Ass). This arc promises to be more violent and genre breaking than the previous. Yay. Read the previous statement with thick sarcasm. It is more violent, for the sake of violence…as for genre breaking. ehhh. There is violence, did I mention that? It is mildly humorous and sets up many, many spinoffs, TV shows and Movie sequels.

The Art- The art seems to be simplified for quick publication, too bad it hasn’t helped. The publication schedule is still erratic. I guess that makes sense, since Millar is selling the movie rights to books he hasn’t even written yet. If I was geting paid to just spew ideas, I doubt I’d publish anything on a regular basis, ever. The art may be exactly the same as the first arc of Kick Ass, simple is good. The brutality of the violence is conveyed nicely. I particularly like the color use, basic palette. You can never go wrong with basic.

The Verdict- Despite the negativity of my previous comments, I say it’s worth a look, since it comes out sporadically, you won’t be overwhelmed by all of the negative aspects. Think of it as a guilty pleasure you indulge in once every 3-4 months.

Title- Fatale
Publisher- Image
Writer- Ed Brbaker
Penciler- Sean Phillips
Format- Ongoing/Mini Series 12 issues
Price- $3.50 (initial sticker shock)
Shipping-Every 6 weeks (it actually comes out sporadically)

The Basics- It’s Brubaker and Phillips. LIke Chocolate and peanut butter, you can never go wrong with that combination. If you;ve read Criminal (one of my personal favorites) or any of Brubaker’s Noir themed books, then you know what you are getting into. For those of you not educated in the Brubaker way, this is a fantastic jumping on point. I know it’s the first issue, we have 11 more to go. Yet I feel like I’m stepping into a well worn, wrought with holes, comfortable robe. Brubaker opens with a funeral, a main character, a woman (read Femme Fatale) and a mystery. Like any good Noir, the characters and story are laid out pretty clearly. The formula is bullet proof, what Brubaker does is add his flair for storytelling. Not everything is as it appears, the timeline jumps around a bit, the characters, well, the characters instantly feel familiar.

The Art- Phillips art matches Brubaker’s Noir storytelling perfectly. The dark tones, the muted colors, cinema style closeups, it’s all there. The details in each panel neither detract or distract from the focus of the page. The Femme Fatale is as all femme fatale’s should be, stunning and mysterious, other characters are grizzled, uninterested in short, they all feel alive.

The Verdict- It’s gotta be pretty obvious by this point what I’m gonna say here. Buy this comic, then go and buy Brubakers previous Noir works in trade paperback. If you are a fan of good, traditional storytelling, and engaging art, this book is for you.

 That’s it!
Anthony Dominguez