Aphrodite IX #1 by Matt Hawkins – Double Review [Shadowhawk/Bane of Kings]

Aphrodite IX 01

Shadowhawk and Bane of Kings review the first issue of the rebooted Aphrodite IX series from Top Cow/Image Comics, available in May for Free Comic Book Day and .

“Defined by Sejic’s amazing art, this is a great first issue, and if things continue, then Matt Hawkins himself is set to become one of my favourite writers.” ~Shadowhawk, The Founding Fields

An excellent free opening to some great cyberpunk fun with fantastic artwork. Certainly a series to watch. ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields

Shadowhawk:

In contrast to what Bane says as below, I’ve read a few Top Cow titles prior to this book. David Hine’s The Darkness: Rebirth Volume 1 and Ron Marz’s first four volumes of Artifacts have been some of the top-level comics (or graphic novels rather, I should say), I’ve read since getting back into comics last year. Aside from the writing, which I’ve found to be quite excellent, easily comparable to what the top talents at DC and Marvel are writing (such as Gail Simone, Jason Aaron, Brian Wood, Geoff Johns and Scott Snyder), the art has been highly impressive as well. Based on my experience with The Darkness and Artifacts, I recently bought several more Top Cow/Image graphic novels and I’m looking forward to reading all of them. Fun times.

Last month, as part of their New Comic Book Day offering, Top Cow offered the first issue of their newly relaunched Aphrodite IX series as their one freebie and I picked up the digital copy as soon as I could, the physical copy having run out by the time I got to my store. Getting single issues in general is quite problematic for me since the store stocks only a handful, and they are all primarily DC and Marvel titles, highly selective ones at that. I actually wasn’t able to read Aphrodite IX #1 until just a few minutes prior, since even though I’ve been wanting to read it since I picked it up, it kept slipping my mind. Hence why I picked it as my review title for today.

I haven’t read anything that Matt Hawkins has written prior to this book. He is currently also writing Top Cow’s Think Tank series, which has been getting a lot of fan acclaim of late, and its certainly gone on my reading list, so that’s another book I’m looking forward to. What attracted me to the book was the titular character, who plays a major role in Marz’s Artifacts and was one of my favourite characters in the series as well. Another was the fact that Stejpan Sejic was doing the art on the book. He is one of Top Cow/Image’s premier artists and everything I’ve seen of his work, whether on Artifacts or on his creator-owned project Ravine with Ron Marz, has been impressive (although, as I mentioned in my review of the first volume, there were some negatives on Sejic’s art for Ravine).

So that’s two points already in favour of the book, and nothing against it. And when I read the book, I came away with the positive experience that I wanted out of it.

I’m not conversant with much of Aphrodite IX’s previous comics history, outside of what I’ve read in Artifacts, so this issue is a great starting point. Instead of a more contemporary setting, like what we’ve seen before, Hawkins takes the character into the future, to a post-apocalyptic Earth where the Human race is now divided into two factions constantly engaged in a war of attrition on each other. We are introduced to two new characters, Marcus and Lina, right off the bat as they lead a raiding party of drake-riders towards a stronghold of their enemies, with the intention of destroying an enemy transport ship. Returning from the raid, which sees his mount take a fatal wound, Marcus crash lands and accidentally discovers the vault where Aphrodite IX is kept in stasis. What follows is typical Aphrodite IX kick-ass action, with a cliffhanger ending that makes me want to read #2 immediately.

Hawkins’ writing is, for the most part, quite good. Aphrodite IX’s commentary gives us a quick overview of the setting, and here Hawkins shows his skill with balancing brevity and providing enough detail without it coming across as an info-dump, while his dialogue is both casual and fitting for the characters speaking it. The overall effect is one that eases the reader into the characters and the setting without an overload. I can see Marcus and Lina both becoming important supporting characters to Aphrodite IX in future issues, and I look forward to their development as characters, particularly Lina since she got the least screen-time here, compared to Marcus.

Aphrodite IX also gets a fairly good outing, and the simple easy way in which Hawkins conveys her disorientation with the “new” world and her adjustment to it, was another point in his favour. Aphrodite IX is pretty much a walking talking super-computer/cyborg, to put it simply, and the issue plays to her strengths. And her weaknesses, as the cliffhanger ending points out.

The only negative for Hawkins’ writing is the way that he writes the antagonist here, someone who has had a long relationship with Aphrodite IX apparently. Whereas Aphrodite IX’s reaction to the “new” world is shown, and commented on, the same is not true with him, and it made me raise my eye. There’s a way in the script that his adjustment can be inferred as being similar to hers, but it is never acknowledged, only vaguely hinted at. That’s really it.

On the art side, I really don’t know what to say, other than that I loved the art, whether its the amazing cover, or the interior pencilling with all its inks and colours. Sejic is definitely a top-notch artist. This issue is a huge step up from his work on the Ravine TPB and none of the complaints that I had on that book are existent here. For me, not as well-read in Top Cow comics as I would like to be, Sejic’s art is the defining visual tone of the Top Cow universe and he justifies that kind of respect and status with this issue. Definitely one of his finest work I have to say. If there’s any one niggle in it, it is a certain panel that shows Aphrodite IX out of her stasis pod. The specific panel has a very seductive vibe to it, and it certainly jarred for me. Hardly a damning point though, since aside from that one minor moment, the rest of the art is all top-notch.

In short, Aphrodite IX #1 is a great first issue and now I’m off to get #2 now, and read through it soon as I can.

Rating: 9/10

Bane of Kings:

Art: Stjepan Sejic | Letters: Troy Peteri

#1 – Aphrodite IX returns for Free Comic Book Day! This first free issue launches a new ongoing series of Top Cow’s fan favorite memory challenged, green haired, questionably human heroine. Hundreds of years after a cataclysmic event scorched the surface, Earth and its inhabitants have been forever altered and a new landscape and political struggle has taken hold with three distinct factions fighting for control. Aphrodite IX is both anachronism and advanced technology in a world that she no longer recognizes. No aliens, just humans and their genetically and technologically altered descendants in a mixture of the best Sci-Fi and Fantasy has to offer!

Aphrodite IX #1 is something of a new experience for me. I’ve never read anything from Top Cow before, and neither have I read any works focused on Aphrodite, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I haven’t read a lot of comics from publishers who aren’t DC or Marvel, which is really something I need to remedy – so I thought, where better place to start than something that’s free, and still free if you missed it on NCBD?

The first thing that you’ll notice is how good the artwork looks. Stjepan Sejic is an artist that I’ve never heard of before, but wow – it looks amazing. Artwork plays a really key part in the enjoyment of a comic and Aphrodite IX #1 is no different, for Sejic knocks it out of the park on that front. It’s clearly science fiction – cyberpunk if you want to be a bit more specific, and the artwork really fits the overall tone of the story.

We are quickly introduced to the two sides present in this book through the narrative, both of which approach life very differently and allow for a great conflict in the story’s potential, as they share contrasting outlooks – for example, one faction is genetically enhanced beings on board creatures that resemble dragons, whilst the others view science as holy and have exchanging body parts with substitutes as parts shut down in order to prolong life. It’s also important to note that there are no aliens here, which was part of the appeal to me – I’m a huge fan of science fiction set in the future that focuses just around the struggles of humanity without having to introduce new species – for example, Joss Whedon’s cult-TV series Firefly is a great example of this.

There isn’t anything here that requires understanding of previous adventures of Aphrodite which why I was a bit hesitant about jumping in at first in case I might be a bit confused, but Hawkins finds a way to introduce readers who have never encountered Aphrodite before, and compels them to read more after #1.

Whilst the characters, Marcus, Lina, Aphrodite are all established well, they don’t really have enough page-time to make a lasting impact on the reader, which I hope is something that later issues will fix – they haven’t really stood out as too memorable to me, and I think that this is just the main flaw that I had with this issue, however – that hasn’t put me off it completely – Aphrodite IX #1 is still a very good opening chapter.

There’s a lot of work to be done introducing this incredibly complex setting, but it never feels like info-dumping at times – the pace is fast pretty much all the way through. The world-building is super, and really enhanced by Sejic’s artwork – both artist and writer have been put under my radar as people I need to read more work by, and as a result – I’ll be following this series before – I’m very interested to see where it goes.

Rating: 4/5

Shadowhawk is a regular contributor to TFF. A resident of Dubai, Shadowhawk reads, reads and reads. His opinions are always clear and concise. His articles always worth reading.

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