Review Soundtrack: I suggest reading this review while listening to Wicked Ways, by Garbage (Spotify, YouTube).
Shutter, written by Joe Keating and illustrated by Leila del Duca, though quite enjoyable was my least favorite of the three. It follows closely on the success of Saga, with a wild combination of science fiction and fantasy tropes. Kate Kristopher, the main protagonist, lived many adventures in exotic worlds with her father when she was a young girl. Now, twenty years after, her past is trying to catch up with her even if she wants to forget and live a quite life.
I found the first issues to be a bit rushed, and the story becomes much more interesting when flashbacks of the life of Kate are introduced to provide context. The art is very good, with some moments of sheer brilliancy, and it only gets better with each issue. All in all, a good (but not excellent) comic-book that would benefit from a slightly slower pace. I might be reading the next volume, but I'm not exactly holding my breath to know what happens next.
I did like The Wicked + The Divine, written by Kieron Gillen with art by Jamie McKelvie, better. The premise is amazing (a pantheon of gods that, every 90 years, "possess" young boys and girls giving them divine powers), although not completely exploited in this first five issues, which are a bit uneven. For instance, some of the characters are just fascinating (especially Luci) while others are not that well developed. The plot meanders a bit and ends with a cliffhanger that is not very surprising, but that leaves the story at a really interesting point.
The art is, as in the case of Shutter, very good. I just love the covers, for instance, and all the imagery of the gods as pop-stars is superb. Again, this works better for some characters than for other, but it is quite consistent through the volume. There are also some intelligent page compositions that really add a lot and help telling the story. Despite the pace problems, this is one I will most surely be reading when the next volume comes out.
And we arrive at my favorite of the three: C.O.W.L., written by Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel and illustrated by Rod Reis. Imagine Watchmen meets The Wire and you will get a close idea of what the plot of this comic-book is about. The C.O.W.L. of the title is, in fact, a union of super-powered people that work for the police department of Chicago in the '60s. They have just been able to put the last super-villain into jail and now they face a new era in which they might be not so necessary. The plot focuses on the political, social and economic problems that arise in this new situation.
The atmosphere, the pace of the story and the development of the characters are almost perfect, as is the art, which shows a lot of personality. The first issues are a bit difficult to follow, but once we get to know the main protagonists it is impossible to stop reading. The end of the first volume is not exactly surprising, but is the only possible resolution given the facts and I'm really looking forward to seeing how everything develops.
Image does not disappoint and these are three comic-books that I really recommend checking out, especially C.O.W.L. for its overall quality and The Wicked + The Divine for its potential. I, for one, will keep a close eye on anything published by Image.