The Boys 36 (November 2009)

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Once again, Ennis avoids the big question the flashback raises. Hughie and Mother’s Milk are still talking–I think Hughie went for coffee–and there’s a bit more back story. Not a lot. Ennis skips about fourteen years. He does get in a big fight scene, which Robertson draws quite well.

But the issue–as none of the Mother’s Milk stuff really matters–is about the plans to put up the Freedom Tower in New York. Or whatever it’s going to be called. Ennis is using The Boys to talk about it being a dumb idea; given the last page, one would assume he’d go for rebuilding the World Trade Center.

As Brad Pitt once put it… “But you make it one floor taller.”

It’s an interesting use of a periodical and a love letter to New York City from an aficionado. Shame there isn’t a compelling story too.

CREDITS

Nothing Like It In The World, Part Two; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Darick Robertson; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Hawkeye 2 (November 2012)

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The second issue isn’t what I was expecting. Fraction doesn’t exactly give Clint a lot more personality–he’s from Iowa, to answer my question from last issue and he’s not playing protector of the downtrodden here. Actually, even though he hires an assistant, it’s unclear what Clint’s doing.

If he’s just playing good guy to the people who don’t usually get helped–he has a crime board after all, like a consulting superhero or something–it’s fine. Fraction and Aja have done something similar before (Iron Fist) and the character works for the niche; why not run with it?

And it continues to be a lot of fun. Fraction doesn’t go overboard with the quips, peppering them in mostly, until a big quip-filled conversation between Clint and his assistant (the female Hawkeye). Aja comes up with a checkerboard for their conversation and it all works great.

Hawkeye’s good fun.

CREDITS

Vagabond Code; writer, Matt Fraction; artist, David Aja; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor, Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Before Watchmen: Comedian 4 (December 2012)

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And another good one. Azzarello likes doing war comics; he should stick to them. Even though there are some confusing parts to the narrative–Azzarello fractures it without establishing the bookends–and the song lyric excerpts don’t work, it’s a successful issue.

Towards the end, Eddie and his gang drop acid before going on patrol. If Azzarello had structured the whole comic around the trip, it would have integrated much better. Instead, it feels like Azzarello’s just explaining a series of events. That approach is good since the writing’s good, but the fracture structure feels too forced.

And there are some changes to Eddie. Azzarello never goes into how the changes really effect him, but some are very obvious. There’s no judgment in Comedian. Following his movie inspirations, Azzarello just lets Eddie and company personify the insanity of the Vietnam War.

It’s not original at all, just darn good writing.

CREDITS

Conquistador; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, J.G. Jones; colorist, Alex Sinclair; letterer, Clem Robins. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, Wide Were His Dragon Wings, Part Six; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 123 (September 1992)

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I think Eaton thinks he’s doing a Steve Bissette impression. If so, it’s not producing any good art. Lots of static panels and busy line work don’t make up for some actual movement.

There’s story movement though. Collins sends Chester away this issue–after Eaton’s practically turned him into an action hero, at least physically–and the evil Sunderland corporation is moving full steam ahead against Alec.

Except Alec knows about them, so why doesn’t he jump into a fern at their corporate headquarters? Because Collins makes him very, very weak except in the elemental action scenes. She’s pretty much spent all of her good momentum from when she took over. A three parter about a doctor moonlighting as a brainwashed assassin isn’t a good Swamp Thing.

The writing on Abby is getting weak too. With the nanny around, Abby’s become completely disinterested in her kid.

It’s dreadfully tepid stuff.

CREDITS

Punctures; writer, Nancy A. Collins; penciller, Scot Eaton; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, DC Comics.

The Boys 35 (October 2009)

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Ennis gets to Mother’s Milk’s story–and hints at something to do with the Female’s. M.M.’s story is a doozy. Ennis takes a somewhat traditional story–the giant corporation knowingly poisoning people with toxic waste–and adds the superhuman element.

It’s devastating at times, even with some of the more amusing visuals. It’s like Ennis and Robertson are setting up jokes, then knocking the reader for being shallow enough to prepare for them.

The only real problem is how Mother’s Milk tells the story. He just tells Hughie. It’s not just without prompting, Hughie’s busy asking about other things. M.M. just ignores those questions. The lack of a good delivery system is what hurts the story–especially since there’s no resolution to the big question the story raises.

Still, it’s a darn good issue. Robertson does some outstanding art; additionally, Ennis’s thoughtful 9/11 observations need airing.

CREDITS

Nothing Like It In The World, Part One; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Darick Robertson; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Hawkeye 1 (October 2012)

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I realized, finishing the first issue of Hawkeye, is how little the comic has to do with Hawkeye. It’s about Clint Barton, New Yorker. For some reason I always assumed Clint was a West Coast kind of guy, but Matt Fraction writes him as a empathetic New Yorker. And David Aja draws a great New York City. It’s not seventies gritty, but eighties grimy. It’s a great setting.

Wait, I lost track. The comic not being about Hawkeye. I guess it isn’t much about Clint either, at least the reader’s expectation of the character. It’s practically a superhero “Seinfeld.” Clint tries to do the right thing, without resorting to the costume, and has a number of misadventures involving his Russian mafia landlord.

It’s funny, touching, everything one would want from an inexpensive Marvel Studios Hawkeye movie. And Fraction and Aja do a great job doing a soft relaunch slash pilot.

CREDITS

Lucky; writer, Matt Fraction; artist, David Aja; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor, Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Before Watchmen: Comedian 3 (November 2012)

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It’s another surprisingly good issue.

Eddie’s on leave in Hawaii after he aggravated a riot while on leave in L.A. Azzarello structures the whole issue around him telling Bobby Kennedy (his strongest government supporter) about it.

Going between race riots and war protests, Azzarello manages to look do a nice little history issue. There’s not a lot of facts, but he definitely investigates the complications behind these things. And Eddie even gets a little character.

Eddie can’t have too much character, however, as Azzarello is moving him through the series as the reader’s guide through history. The other Watchmen superheroes haven’t shown up yet–and the brief mention of them this issue is a surprise–because they don’t work with what Azzarello’s doing.

This Comedian series is half done; it’ll be interesting to see if Azzarello can stay so gleefully disentangled from the original series in the second half.

CREDITS

Play With Fire; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, J.G. Jones; colorists, Alex Sinclair and Tony Avina; letterer, Clem Robins. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Evil That Men Do, Part Five; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 122 (August 1992)

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Collins doesn’t improve here. Eaton might a little, even though his pencils become incredibly static. He finally puts noses on the cast, which outweighs his other inabilities at a talking heads issue.

But Collins. She splits the Sunderland threat apart–one from the maniacally evil Sunderland daughter herself and another, tangentially related one from the gubernatorial candidate Alec embarrassed–but both threats are idiotic. Even if Alec can’t sense when people are plotting against him–all he does this issue is bond a little with Lady Jane–they still don’t need to use goofy plans.

Swamp Thing hasn’t felt so contrived in a long time. Collins is mostly just using keywords and catchphrases. I hope so she recovers soon, because when she turns pacifist hippie Chester into Rocky Balboa, the issue just collapses. It becomes a spoof of itself.

Even cliffhanger’s absent any tension. Collins is spreading everything too thin.

CREDITS

The Eye of the Needle; writer, Nancy A. Collins; penciller, Scot Eaton; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, DC Comics.

Ultimate Spider-Man 71 (March 2005)

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And here’s the rewarding turn of events. It’s entirely depressing–maybe even beyond depressing–as Peter confronts his greatest fear… he’s going to get everyone killed.

Bendis doesn’t even try to end the comic on an okay note. Peter’s consumed with despondence; it’s palpable and Mary showing up to complete the bookend from the last issue just makes it worse. Bendis has all of a sudden turned the book into a look at the (super) human condition and he doesn’t have anything nice to say.

The Ultimate Dr. Strange stuff, which probably takes up half the issue, is great. Bendis practically hands the comic over to him; it works quite well. The character’s amusingly vain but still likable and sympathetic.

Bagley and Hanna change up the art occasionally, for Peter’s nightmare panels, and it’s rather effective.

For Peter, the whole thing is, quite literally, hellacious; Bendis drags the reader along.

CREDITS

Strange, Part Two of Two; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inker, Scott Hanna; colorist, Jonathan D. Smith; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Nick Lowe and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Superior Spider-Man 5 (May 2013)

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I guess I didn’t realize it before, but “Brand New Day” Peter Parker is supposed to be unbelievably good looking. Otto lucked out in the bod department, apparently.

This issue features a really nice scene where Otto has dinner with his “tutor,” a very charming woman who happens to be a little person. Ghost Peter never says it, but there’s a definitely implication he’d never give her the time of day whereas Otto’s able to see past it.

Otto’s also able to see the benefit of coordinating with others (shouldn’t Peter have learned a little of that practice in The Avengers). Slott’s definitely developing Otto’s character in unexpected, thoughtful ways. Even the ending, which implies Otto’s megalomania hasn’t gone away he’s just using it for the greater good.

And who’s Otto to determine the greater good? Slott’s establishes him as the ideal choice as it’s a conscious effort.

Excellent issue.

CREDITS

Emotional Triggers; writer, Dan Slott; penciller, Giuseppe Camuncoli; inkers, John Dell and Camuncoli; colorists, Edgar Delgado and Antonio Fabella; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Ellie Pyle and Stephen Wacker; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Before Watchmen: Comedian 2 (September 2012)

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Yeah, Azzarello definitely enjoys writing Comedian. There’s a lot of Vietnam War history here, a little American political history and almost no Watchmen connection. The Comedian could just be anyone. Azzarello never gives him anything superhero specific.

So, as a comic, it’s good, but–and I can’t believe I’m saying it–it fails as a Before Watchmen title. Eddie’s a corrupt, kill-happy advisor. Azzarello gives him no special personality, not even a real character moment in the entire issue. There’s a little with him hanging out with Bobby Kennedy, but not enough to make an impression.

It’s a war history comic. Jones’s art isn’t great for the subject, but he handles it better than superhero stuff I guess. There’s definitely a morose tone to it.

I’m hoping Azzarello doesn’t even try tying into the original series.

The pirate backup, shockingly, has a plot point. I didn’t they even bothered.

CREDITS

I Get Around; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, J.G. Jones; colorist, Alex Sinclair; letterer, Clem Robins. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Devil in the Deep, Part Eight; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 121 (July 1992)

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Oh, good grief. All those nice things I said about Collins and this issue’s how she repays me.

Lady Jane has moved in. She apparently knows to read Tefé storybooks; there’s an implication Abby never did. Collins seems to have forgotten how she wrote Abby just a few issues ago (you know, as a protagonist and not a jerk).

Collins brings back Sunderland in the form of a previously undisclosed daughter to the late general. She’s out to get Alec, except she hasn’t been keeping tabs on him over the years. It’s all a coincidence she discovers he’s still around. Instead of, I don’t know, performing in Las Vegas. It’s idiotic.

Then, to make matters even worse, Collins brings in a goofy-named villain. It’s maybe Swamp Thing’s first goofy-named villain. It shouldn’t have any.

Eaton’s art is terrible. He’s painfully flat.

Just like the rest of the comic.

CREDITS

Laissez les Bon Temps Rulers; writer, Nancy A. Collins; penciller, Scot Eaton; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, DC Comics.

Ultimate Spider-Man 70 (February 2005)

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Bendis must have been going light on the Gwen mentions to save up for this issue. Here we find out Peter’s studies have been even worse since her death–he’s cutting class to web-sling the grief away. This particularly day he runs into the Ultimates–which is a little odd, especially since Bendis tells most of it in summary–and gets a fresh assignment from Jameson.

The best thing about the issue is how Bendis layers in Jameson being pissed at Urich and saddling him with Peter as a sidekick. It’s the only thing subtle in the entire issue.

There’s an uncanny tone once Peter finds out the assignment–interviewing Dr. Strange (whose Ultimate origin is maybe the most inventive of any Ultimate character and it’s just a rip of DC’s eighties stuff). Bagley handles that tone far better than the Ultimates action scenes.

It’s okay, if thoroughly unrewarding.

C+ 

CREDITS

Strange, Part One; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inker, Scott Hanna; colorist, Jonathan D. Smith; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Nick Lowe and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Superior Spider-Man 4 (April 2013)

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Well, I’ll eat my rotten onions right off–I miss Stegman. Giuseppe Camuncoli takes over on pencils (John Dell on inks) and it’s not a good move. There are lots of regular people scenes this issue and Camuncoli draws them like it’s an absurdist comedy. He also draws Spider-Man in Batman postures, which works out, but, wow… Not nice art.

The issue skips a head a few weeks from the last with Otto having to deal with a psychopath who Peter let get away. The psychopath is spree killing and Otto vows to stop him. Even Ghost Peter is a little taken aback at what his decision has wrought (which would be Batman’s every day given how violent his villains get).

On the “normal” side, Otto goes back to school for his doctorate. Or Peter’s doctorate.

Slott does a great job writing; shame the art isn’t up to snuff.

CREDITS

The Aggressive Approach; writer, Dan Slott; penciller, Giuseppe Camuncoli; inker, John Dell; colorist, Edgar Delgado; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Ellie Pyle and Stephen Wacker; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Before Watchmen: Comedian 1 (August 2012)

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I thought J.G. Jones was a better artist. I don’t know why exactly, but I did. His figures in Comedian are terrible. People change size, make no sense when standing next to one another. And his faces are even worse. It’s an ugly comic. I guess the editors didn’t think they could tell him to actually work at it.

Reading the creator team, I thought I’d have the problems with Brian Azzarello, but no. It’s all Jones. Azzarello does a really good job with the writing. Eddie’s still unlikable, but Azzarello gets how to make an unlikable character interesting to read.

There’s a great finish; the issue’s got a couple big historical moments. The first is somewhat slight, but Azzarello does wonders with the second.

I can’t imagine he’ll be able to maintain this level of quality plotting.

The pirate backup’s not the worst ever, but strangely annoying here.

CREDITS

Smile; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, J.G. Jones; colorist, Alex Sinclair; letterer, Clem Robins. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Devil in the Deep, Part Three; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 120 (June 1992)

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Bad news, good news. Eaton’s the regular penciller. In addition to Tefé’s undocumented nanny, Lady Jane, not having a nose, none of the other female characters seem to have much of one either. Certainly not enough to make their faces three dimensional.

Good news is Collins can write, which I already knew, but she choses to do so here. She tells Lady Jane’s origin story and she does it a lot better than the rest of the issue. It’s an unhappy story of early industrial age England, told from a woman’s perspective; it’s excellent.

The stuff with Alec being unsympathetic to Abby? Not excellent. Collins skips establishing Alec approving of Lady Jane as a nanny so his position on the matter makes no sense.

It’s only a few pages in the issue, but enough to show–juxtaposed against the Lady Jane origin–where Collins’s storytelling interests lie.

It’s mostly great.

CREDITS

Lady Jane; writer, Nancy A. Collins; penciller, Scot Eaton; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, DC Comics.

Ultimate Spider-Man 69 (January 2005)

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I just got it… Bendis is mixing Ultimate Marvel Team-Up with “Spider-Man No More” to show Peter why he can’t give up being Spider-Man. With yet another issue with no mention of Gwen. Bendis talks around it too much. Mary can tell Gandhi jokes but she can’t talk about Gwen. If it’s an intentional move on Bendis’s part, like a grief handling thing, it’s not working.

Otherwise, the issue’s pretty darn strong. Johnny Storm gets outed as a fire person of some kind or another (Liz Allen is scared he’s a mutant) and he can’t go back to Midtown. There’s a nice little scene with Mary and Liz, a nicer one with Mary and Peter and then the big talking heads scene between Spidey and Johnny.

Peter’s pep talk to Johnny is subtly a rather depressing one. It’s “With Great Power,” but without those words.

It’s good.

CREDITS

Meet Me; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inker, Scott Hanna; colorists, Jonathan D. Smith and Chris Sotomayor; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Nick Lowe and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Superior Spider-Man 3 (April 2013)

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Slott’s starting to edge in on Batman territory here. The Vulture is using children to commit crimes, strapping them into flight harnesses and sending them out. Otto loses it and almost kills him, horrifying Ghost Peter and the police lady.

I can’t remember her name. It might be Carlie or something; it’s goofy, whatever it is.

There’s the judgment from Ghost Peter and cop lady, but… Otto’s kind of right, isn’t he? If the Vulture has graduated to abusing little kids, the soft-hand tactics are clearly outdated.

There’s also some stuff with Ghost Peter getting into Otto’s memories and discovering Otto’s human side. Those scenes aren’t particularly good, since Otto’s not in them. Not bad though.

The more I think about it, yeah… Slott is just turning Spider-Man into Batman. He’s also showing how Otto’s intelligence was wasted as a criminal. He’s more effective as a good guy.

CREDITS

Everything You Know Is Wrong; writer, Dan Slott; artist, Ryan Stegman; colorist, Edgar Delgado; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Ellie Pyle and Stephen Wacker; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Before Watchmen: Rorschach 4 (April 2013)

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So Rorschach really became Rorschach after the serial killer went after his girlfriend. While this event occurs–which Bermejo shows from the serial killer’s perspective, because he’s apparently supposed to be someone recognizable–the other bad guys are torturing Rorschach. He gets away because of a coincidence.

The one interesting thing Azzarello does is rip off “Kraven’s Last Hunt.” The main bad guy takes the Rorschach mask and fights crime during a blackout.

Not sure how there’d be a blackout with a lot of crime with Nite Owl, the Comedian and Dr. Manhattan around… but, like I’ve been saying, it doesn’t appear Azzarello’s read Watchmen.

Even with all the violence and action, it’s a very boring issue. It’s just too dumb for anything to redeem it.

And, again, whatever editor okayed the story arc as a life changing thing for Rorschach? He or she proves DC’s editors are ironically incompetent.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, Lee Bermejo; colorist, Barbara Ciardo; letterer, Rob Leigh; editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 119 (May 1992)

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For the entire issue–which is incredibly fast paced as Alec and Abby try to find a kidnapped Tefé–Scot Eaton’s pencils are fine. There aren’t any amazing panels, but it all flows rather nicely. Until the final reveal, where Eaton goes entirely flat. It’s a full page too. It ends the issue poorly.

Otherwise, the issue’s pretty. Alec acting as a tracking dog for the cops is unlikely; I don’t believe he can’t sense Tefé’s location–can’t he talk to the trees or grass around her–but it’s dramatically successful. Collins hasn’t found a good balance for his power.

She also has a lot of exposition, which is again about the purple vengeance monster. It’s nothing she didn’t cover in the previous issue and now it’s just text to slow the reader. It doesn’t offer anything.

Collins tries to do too much this issue. She should’ve taken her time.

CREDITS

The Bad Man; writer, Nancy A. Collins; penciller, Scot Eaton; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, DC Comics.

Ultimate Spider-Man 68 (January 2005)

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Johnny Storm goes to Midtown High. Bendis is apparently on the guest star bandwagon right now. At least Gwen gets a mention, with Mary telling Peter to snap out of the funk but he really can’t because all of Ultimate is in one.

Bendis is coasting along here, not really establishing anything–he previously mentioned May and Peter might be moving, but there’s nothing at home here. He opens with the Fantastic Four, no less. Peter and the gang just show up later.

There’s a lot of mention of them being sophomores, more than I can remember happening before, which reads like Bendis is trying to reestablish the ground situation. Kong’s a bit of a bully now, Flash hasn’t changed since Gwen’s death.

The issue’s fun–Bendis knows how to write fun–but the lack of focus hurts it a little. Bendis needs to build again, instead he’s treading water.

CREDITS

Popular; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inker, Scott Hanna; colorist, Jonathan D. Smith; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Nick Lowe and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Superior Spider-Man 2 (March 2013)

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I’m liking Stegman less this issue. Something about him reminds me of Todd McFarlane; he’s busy without content, just a lot blockier than ol’ Toddy.

Luckily, I’m liking Slott’s writing a lot more this issue. Ghost Peter has a big role here, basically narrating Otto’s narration. Only Ghost Peter can only know what Otto’s narrating, not what he’s thinking, which means Otto can surprise both the reader and Ghost Peter. It leads to a couple nice moments throughout the issue and a great one at the end. Slott’s freaking brilliant with how he uses Otto–Otto’s a long-time Spider-Man reader inside the comic. It’s an awesome device.

And since Ghost Peter’s actually whiney and annoying (he’s the Star Wars Luke Skywalker), having Otto impress him (and the reader) is doubly satisfying. Superior doesn’t work if the reader wants Otto to fail.

Slott makes a moronic idea utterly fantastic.

CREDITS

The Peter Principle; writer, Dan Slott; artist, Ryan Stegman; colorist, Edgar Delgado; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Ellie Pyle and Stephen Wacker; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Before Watchmen: Rorschach 3 (January 2013)

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Travis Bickle guest stars in this issue. Azzarello’s deep, man, he’s really deep.

He also sets up Rorschach’s girlfriend to get killed, which will undoubtedly explain why he loses himself completely in the mask. The Before Watchmen editors clearly didn’t coordinate or they just gave Azzarello free reign. He uses it to write a really lame comic book.

The entire issue reads in a few minutes, even though it takes place over a day. Azzarello doesn’t try to write much in the way of narration here, either because he’s too enthralled with his dumb plot twist involving the girlfriend or because he realized he’s incapable of writing good narration. I’ll assume the former. If it were the latter, there would be other signs of progress in the issue.

I hadn’t realized before, but Bermejo doesn’t draw fluid environments well. When people are interrupted, in dialogue or movement, he flubs it.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, Lee Bermejo; colorist, Barbara Ciardo; letterer, Rob Leigh. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, Wide Were His Dragon Wings, Part Eight; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 118 (April 1992)

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A couple big things happen this issue. First is Collins’s handling of the Parliament of Trees. They haven’t been in the book since she came on and she handles them much differently than her predecessor. There’s practically a line of dialogue about it, about how things are going to be different from now on.

And much better. They’re not warriors or superheroes, but trees.

Then there’s the cat. Tefé kills her pet cat, which has always stuck with me. It kicks off a big arc–as I remember–but it’s a powerful scene. Collins hasn’t gotten into the big stuff with Swamp Thing yet; she’s kept Alec’s stories small. This one implies rather big things as Alec’s not able to rear Teré.

The purple revenge bog monster appears too, with Collins finally wrapping up that story arc (her first). Besides the monster’s (unnecessary) origin retelling, the issue is rather excellent.

CREDITS

A Child’s Garden; writer, Nancy A. Collins; penciller, Scot Eaton; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, DC Comics.

Ultimate Spider-Man 67 (December 2004)

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Not unpredictably, Bendis uses the silliness to bring up a series topic. It’s on the last page and only for a moment, but it’s serious and the lunacy of brain swapping makes it possible.

There’s a lot of funny stuff this issue–until Peter (as Logan) calls the X-Men, I hadn’t even thought of it being a mind swap movie spoof. Bendis does a little bit too good a job making the plot its own thing for it to be obvious. All he needed was a Freaky Friday line, but whatever.

Logan and Peter arguing through a prison break and a fight with a supervillain make for a fun read. Even the resolution to the brain swap is funny because it shows Peter’s complete lack of control of anything around him.

Again, it’s not great–Bendis doesn’t take it seriously enough to try hard–but it’s an amusing read.

CREDITS

Jump the Shark; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inker, Scott Hanna; colorist, Jonathan D. Smith; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Nick Lowe and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Superior Spider-Man 1 (March 2013)

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Once one gets past the entirely goofy brain-swapping detail, Superior Spider-Man is a hoot.

Dan Slott’s success at it comes from his refusal to play too much into Doctor Octopus all of a sudden being a good guy. Otto isn’t out to beat the new Sinister Six because it’s the right thing to do, he’s doing it because they’re using his old bad guy club’s name. He doesn’t run away from a fight because he’s scared or hurt, but because he doesn’t actually care.

He does care about one detail in Peter’s life… Mary Jane. Physically at least.

It’s a ludicrous idea for a comic and Slott pulls it off with apparent ease. He keeps it all very dramatic, even though Otto’s clearly got to do the right thing.

Ryan Stegman effectively handles the art. He could be better; doesn’t matter.

Otto makes a darn fun Spider-Man.

CREDITS

Hero or Menace?; writer, Dan Slott; artist, Ryan Stegman; colorist, Edgar Delgado; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Ellie Pyle and Stephen Wacker; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Before Watchmen: Rorschach 2 (December 2012)

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Azzarello gives Rorschach a love interest. Maybe he didn’t read Watchmen after all. I was kind of kidding before, but now I’m not so sure.

The series is a mix of bad ingredients. Azzarello and Bermejo go for visual realism, whether in the depictions of the city or its people, but then Azzarello writes a goofy bad guy out of an exploitation picture. He’s got a pet tiger and a supervillain name and a skin condition out of Ennis’s Punisher MAX.

The series’s problem is its derivative details, specifically how none of them are derivative of the original series. Rather, it’s stuff Azzarello likes. Or thinks is good. Or just plain wants to rip off.

Maybe if he had a consistent handle on the character, the issues would read a little better. But Azzarello lacks commitment. Rorschach is clearly just a paycheck to him and it shows on every page.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, Lee Bermejo; colorist, Barbara Ciardo; letterer, Rob Leigh. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Evil That Men Do, Part Eight; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 117 (March 1992)

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It’s a strange issue and should be a better one. Alec, Abby, Chester and their friends go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Alec acting like a regular guy plays really well and the issue seems fun. Jan Duursema’s pencils are straightforward, handling the realistic, fantastical nature of the parades and costumes.

Then Alec goes off on his own little side story and all of a sudden it’s page after page of art. No story content, just panels of his journey through Mardi Gras. It’s pointless and lengthy, especially after Collins finishes the subplot.

Poor Abby doesn’t get a subplot except to look for Alec, which seems unfair. The group getting back together at the end is nice, but it doesn’t make up for the wasted time.

Collins introduces a great concept–Alec being able to pretend he’s a guy in a costume–but fails to do anything with it.

CREDITS

The Lord of Misrule; writer, Nancy A. Collins; penciller, Jan Duursema; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, DC Comics.

Ultimate Spider-Man 66 (December 2004)

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When a comic opens with an illustrated version of the writer apologizing for the content… well, it’s not supposed to be a good sign, right? Bendis is going out of his way to ask the reader not to take the story seriously.

The story is Logan (you know, Wolverine) and Peter swapping minds. Peter wakes up in a dive hotel, has to get to Queens. Meanwhile, Logan insults Aunt May, makes out with Mary Jane, pervs on cheerleaders.

Bendis might be doing comedy to relieve the pressure from Gwen’s death–she’s not even mentioned in the issue–or he might just be goofing.

Either way, it’s constantly unexpected and inventive. Putting a character who doesn’t care at all in the place of one who cares too much is bound to create drama.

Even better, given Logan’s mishandling of things, there might be some good aftershocks in later issues.

It’s fine.

CREDITS

Even We Don’t Believe This; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inker, Scott Hanna; colorist, Jonathan D. Smith; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Nick Lowe and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom 4 (November 2012)

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I went into this issue hopeful, I really did. I thought maybe Waid could do something besides Cliff flying around L.A. and killing a bunch of terrified animals.

He does do something else. It’s just not very good. Apparently Betty has been suspecting the sidekicks of being enemy spies–Sally and the black guy. It’s a little too subtle a suspicion because I didn’t get it until the wrap up of that subplot. I thought Betty was just being a shallow bitch.

Apparently, she’s a suspicious shallow bitch.

After four issues, she’s clearly one of the big problems with the franchise. She’s utterly unlikable at length and Cliff’s continued interest in her just makes him seem more shallow too.

IDW should’ve just released a single, wordless issue of Samnee’s Rocketeer versus dinosaurs art. There are some beautiful panels, page after page, in this issue.

Shame Waid’s words ruin it.

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Waid; artist, Chris Samnee; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Shawn Lee; editor, Scott Dunbier; publisher, IDW Publishing.

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