2000 AD 4 (19 March 1977)

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Pat Wright takes over the art on Invasion and it’s immediately less interesting. Gerry Finley-Day’s writing isn’t terrible, but without dynamic art, the cracks show a lot clearer.

Flesh still has great art from Sola. Ken Armstrong’s writing is even worse than usual, especially the dialogue. And they rip off Westworld whole sale. It’s a chore when dinosaurs aren’t on page.

Gibbons has a great opening splash page for Harlem Heroes. Tully concentrates on making the game seem real; while not exciting, the dedication to the concept is something. They could have cut a lot of corners and they don’t.

Dan Dare is lame. I guess Belardinelli does do well with gross alien creatures. Not a lot of space shots either.

Pat Mills is back writing M.A.C.H. 1. Artist Enio’s apparently scared to make the Arab villains look too Arab. It’s awful.

Dredd’s fun. McMahon compacts his visuals well.

CREDITS

Invasion, The Resistance, Part Four; writer, Gerry Finley-Day; artist, Pat Wright; letterer, Tom Frame. Flesh, Book One, Part Four; writer, Ken Armstrong; artist, Ramon Sola; letterer, Bill Nuttall. Harlem Heroes, Part Four; writer, Tom Tully; artist and letterer, Dave Gibbons. Dan Dare, Part Four; writer, Kelvin Gosnell; artist, Massimo Belardinelli; letterer, Jack Potter. M.A.C.H. 1, To Kill a President; writer, Pat Mills; artist, Enio; letterer, John Aldrich. Judge Dredd, The Brotherhood of Darkness; writer, Malcolm Shaw; artist, Mike McMahon; letterer, Nuttall. Publisher, IPC.

The Superior Spider-Man 8 (June 2013)

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Well, Slott recovers this issue. Big time.

He must have watched “ER” too–all you need to make something touching is a sick child, add a megalomaniac like Otto being touched by said sick child? One’s sympathies for the story and its characters go through the roof.

There’s also the big Avengers fight, which is funny afterwards because all Otto’s ramblings of them being morons are accurate. Ramos proves the right artist for it too. He draws everyone like a giant baboon.

The resolution with Cardiac is outstanding too, though Slott still isn’t addressing all his ongoing subplots. He also addresses the Ghost Peter thing–which is a big surprise this early–and uses it for his hard cliffhanger.

And so I have to eat a little crow. Slott does know what he’s doing, though this issue and last would’ve been better as a giant-size instead of two issues,

CREDITS

Troubled Mind, Part Two: Proof Positive; writer, Dan Slott; penciller, Humberto Ramos; inker, Victor Olazaba; colorist, Edgar Delgado; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor, Ellie Pyle and Stephen Wacker; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Swamp Thing 145 (August 1994)

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And now Millar’s changed his approach. Alec’s not really the protagonist anymore; for his half of the comic–Colonel Strong, the monster hunter, gets the other–Alec’s just the biggest name in a disaster movie. Millar sets up a lot of little characters, quite well too, before putting everyone in a bad situation.

While that bad situation is precisely executed, it’s obvious he’s spending more time on Strong. There’s a distinct flashback, a lot of lead up to its revelations; Millar’s creating a supervillain. Though it’s unclear how much Alec’s the hero anymore. Besides his concern for human life, the human appearance makes him somewhat unrecognizable.

A lot of the strangeness is from Hester’s pencils. Swamp Thing is not a beautiful book about plants and mystical mysteries anymore… it’s dark and scary. Every page has some disturbing detail. I’m not sure Hester draws a single smile in the whole issue.

CREDITS

Big Game; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

2000 AD 3 (12 March 1977)

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Ramon Sola does the art on Flesh and all of a sudden it looks great. The dinosaurs, the landscapes, even the cowboys. All the strip needed was good art to make it palatable.

Belardinelli handles the art on both Dan Dare and M.A.C.H. 1. He doesn’t do a good job on either, but Dare is better thanks to the space scenes. He can draw the space stuff, just not humanoids interacting.

Invasion is okay enough–Blasco’s still the best art. The writing’s a little wonky, but not terrible. Harlem Heroes is inoffensive sports stuff, if a little dumb. And Gibbons’s art is problematic on the athletics.

Judge Dredd, with Kelvin Gosnell writing–McMahon is still on art–is little better. It helps if one reads it as some kind of riff on a Dick Tracy comic strip, some comedically self-aware future one.

AD’s definitely improving.

CREDITS

Invasion, The Resistance, Part Three; writer, Gerry Finley-Day; artist, Jesus Blasco; letterer, Jack Potter. Flesh, Book One, Part Three; writer, Ken Armstrong; artist, Ramon Sola; letterer, Bill Nuttall. Harlem Heroes, Part Three; writer, Tom Tully; artist and letterer, Dave Gibbons. Dan Dare, Part Three; writer, Kelvin Gosnell; artist, Massimo Belardinelli; letterer, Potter. M.A.C.H. 1, Battleship; writer, Nick Allen; artist, Belardinelli; letterer, Tony Jacob. Judge Dredd, The New You; writer, Gosnell; artist, Mike McMahon; letterer, John Aldrich. Publisher, IPC.

The Superior Spider-Man 7 (June 2013)

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This issue Ghost Peter discovers he can influence his old body and also make enough noise to distract Otto. Sadly, Slott uses that trick three times at least this issue to save someone from Otto’s wraith. Well, maybe twice with the third just being a little wink.

But it’s not a particularly good issue. In fact, it’s the first one where Slott doesn’t deliver a worthwhile narrative. Otto beats up some superhero who steals medical equipment to save poor people and then the Avengers confront him.

There’s nothing else to the issue. It’s a short opening, a long, poorly illustrated fight scene with Otto’s megalomania taking over, and the Avengers finale. And that finale’s just the cliffhanger.

Subplots aren’t just absent, Slott doesn’t even acknowledge the series has any.

It’s a rather upsetting turn of events. I sort of thought Slott could do no wrong on Otto’s adventures; he can.

CREDITS

Troubled Mind, Part One: Right-Hand Man; writer, Dan Slott; penciller, Humberto Ramos; inker, Victor Olazaba; colorist, Edgar Delgado; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor, Ellie Pyle and Stephen Wacker; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Swamp Thing 144 (July 1994)

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Now solo on the book, Millar’s approach is to make Alex the lead. He’s cut off from the Green and, for whatever reason, Millar’s not bringing back the supporting cast from before Collins purged them.

And then there’s the new power–Alec can form himself human bodies now. He’s hanging out in New York dressed as Matt Cable.

Millar is going back practically to the first series; I’m not sure Abby is mentioned by name while Linda Holland comes up multiple times. It’s a little uncanny, with Hester’s art working beautifully for the vibe, and it’s new. Millar might be ignoring continuity, but he’s making everything unpredictable.

There’s a bit of talk about Gotham–the biggest continuity tie–with the government hiring a monster hunter to go after Swamp Thing. And the Parliament of Trees, which used to be so hippy and loving, is also after Alec.

It’s rather different.

CREDITS

A Hope in Hell; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

2000 AD 2 (5 March 1977)

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Once again, Invasion is the best strip, M.A.C.H. 1 is the worst and Harlem Heroes is the strangest.

Starting with Harlem… Gibbons’s art is better this time, but the future setting is poorly thought out (Harlem’s a bad neighborhood even after future retrofitting?). It’s not a traditional storyline though, which is nice.

Flesh is a little better too, with Armstrong getting into some of the day to day of dinosaur hunting. Boix’s art is still iffy.

Dan Dare is crappy again. Bad writing, bad art. The art’s probably worse than the writing.

That Blasco art on Invasion makes up for the hurried pace. It’s a great looking strip. The art on M.A.C.H. is a little better too.

The first Judge Dredd finishes the programme. Peter Harris’s writing is weak, Mike McMahon’s art is indistinct. Dredd’s second seat to the villain even. From mundane beginnings….

CREDITS

Invasion, The Resistance, Part Two; writer, Gerry Finley-Day; artist, Jesus Blasco; letterer, Jack Potter. Flesh, Book One, Part Two; writer, Ken Armstrong; artist, Joan Boix; letterer, Bill Nuttall. M.A.C.H. 1, Vulcan, Part Two; writer, Robert Flynn; artist, Enio; letterer, Potter. Dan Dare, Part Two; writer, Kelvin Gosnell; artist, Massimo Belardinelli; letterer, Nuttall. Harlem Heroes, Part Two; writer, Tom Tully; artist and letterer, Dave Gibbons. Judge Dredd, Judge Whitey; writer, Peter Harris; artist, Mike McMahon. Publisher, IPC.

The Superior Spider-Man 6 (May 2013)

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Been a while since I read an Humberto Ramos comic. Between steel fortitude and Slott’s writing, I didn’t get sick.

The issue continues the “Spidey is going too far” theme, with Mayor Jameson setting Otto loose on some superpowered Internet pranksters. There’s also the stuff with Otto and his tutor, which is wonderful.

The Jameson stuff plays to the reader’s expectation of him being a boob and deserving getting pranked. The Spidey too far stuff–the Avengers cameo–plays to the storyline in general, but the stuff with Otto and his tutor is where Slott is doing something different.

Whatever his end game is for Superior Spider-Man, one hopes Slott has a good resolution for the tutor romance in mind.

It’s a fast read; Otto doesn’t show up for a little while and Ghost Peter spends his time watching flashbacks of young Otto being bullied.

Ramos aside, good stuff.

CREDITS

Joking Hazard; writer, Dan Slott; penciller, Humberto Ramos; inker, Victor Olazaba; colorist, Edgar Delgado; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor, Ellie Pyle and Stephen Wacker; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Swamp Thing 143 (June 1994)

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The Parliament of Stones? What’s the Parliament of Stones?

Morrison and Millar end the issue on a couple ominous notes, the aforementioned new Parliament being one of them. They also have the handful of strange guys playing handheld video games (the video games have to do with Alec’s quest).

The rest of the issue is an awesome action issue. Phil Hester doing Swamp Thing monster action needs to be seen. He manages the brutality, the size and the various plant roots quite well.

And it’s good the writers have the end surprises, because there’s really not much else to the issue. Abby and Alec break up again, after he saves her. Apparently, Morrison and Millar change continuity a little–Abby lost Tefé to the Parliament of Trees, she didn’t abandon her–and the break up feels like a repeat of a few issues ago.

It’s fun. Fake smart, but fun.

CREDITS

Desert Hearts; writers, Grant Morrison and Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

2000 AD 1 (26 February 1977)

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There’s definitely some weird stuff in the first issue of 2000 AD. Quite a bit of silly stuff too. Pat Mills wrote–either solo or with a partner–every story in the issue so the lack of creativity on some of the series might just be exhaustion.

The first one, Invasion, is the strongest. Great art from Jesus Blasco. It’s about some Eastern European country invading Britain; very methodically told. Looks great.

Flesh is about dinosaur hunters from the future. Joan Boix’s art has more personality than quality. It’s likable enough, as it’s cowboys and dinosaurs.

The Dan Dare is lame. Massimo Belardinelli has problems with figures, the writing’s dull.

Nothing’s as lame as M.A.C.H. 1 though. It’s a “Six Million Dollar Man” knockoff. Enio’s art is pretty weak.

Harlem Heroes is the nuttiest–a future version of the Globetrotters. Young Dave Gibbons on the busy art.

CREDITS

Invasion, The Resistance, Part One; writer, Pat Mills; artist, Jesus Blasco; letterer, Bill Nuttall. Flesh, Book One, Part One; writer, Mills; artist, Joan Boix; letterer, Nuttall. Dan Dare, Part One; writers, Ken Armstrong and Mills; artist, Massimo Belardinelli; letterer, Nuttall. M.A.C.H. 1, Vulcan, Part One; writer, Mills, artist, Enio; letterer, Nuttall. Harlem Heroes, Part One; writers, Tom Tully and Mills; artist, Dave Gibbons; letterers, Gibbons and Nuttall. Editor, Kelvin Gosnell; publisher, IPC.

Stumptown 5 (January 2013)

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I get Rucka’s enthusiasm for Stumptown. It’s his thing, he’s proud of it, he wants everyone to be excited for it so he does this silly final issue where he wraps things up and sets up the next story.

But he doesn’t do those things well. Rucka’s been in comics more than long enough and has worked with the guys Southworth is supposed to be aping (Michael Lark and Stefano Guardino)–Southworth comes off like a middle school fan of them, but whatever–so Rucka should know it’s not coming together. If he likes Southworth fine, but don’t write for someone else.

Southworth’s art is bad–he’s going for a digital paint style now, always good to change art styles during a limited series–but the comic reads fast.

The last few pages are all cute, either literally or plot-wise, which is annoying. Rucka should be embarrassed of Stumptown.

CREDITS

The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case, Part Five; writer, Greg Rucka; artist, Matthew Southworth; colorists, Rico Renzi and Southworth; editor, James Lucas Jones; publisher, Oni Press.

Swamp Thing 142 (May 1994)

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Well, Morrison and Millar sort of explain how Alec Holland ended up separated from the Swamp Thing but not really. At least not to anyone who has been reading the comic for a while. And it’s not a particularly visual sequence, so it comes off perfunctory. They wrote themselves into a corner and have to get out.

The Swamp Thing monster doesn’t have a lot of scenes; Alec gets on its trail eventually. Abby has some scenes–she’s on the run–but the writers don’t give her much to do. They try to be very writerly, actually, with this awkward moment with a chauvinist pig.

Most of the issue is talking. Not quite talking heads–Hester does get some good stuff to draw–but it’s the Traveller (a new, long haired mysterious guy versus the Alan Moore stand-in who had a beard) telling Alec about the world.

Just okay.

CREDITS

Soul Train; writers, Grant Morrison and Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Batman: The Widening Gyre 6 (September 2010)

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Maybe DC did the whole “New 52” thing so they’d never have to address the terrible developments in Widening Gyre.

I’d respect them for that motive.

It’s just not a bad finish, with Smith killing off a familiar DC character, but a bad issue overall. Batman breaks into the Fortress of Solitude for a date with Silver. He’s got on his goofy white snow Bat-suit. Smith writes him actual banter with the goat head guy.

Then there’s the callouts to Frank Miller–Smith reveals Batman wet himself in Year One and the idiot shrink from Dark Knight shows up. It’s almost like Smith set out to write a comic to show how not to write Batman.

Oh, I forgot. There’s even banter with Deadshot. Batman ties him up for making a joke, not for committing a crime. It’s hideous.

Smith excessively congratulates himself for his singularly atrocious Batman characterization.

CREDITS

The Blood-Dimmed Tide is Loosed; writer, Kevin Smith; penciller, Walt Flanagan; inker, Art Thibert; colorist, Art Lyon; letterer, John J. Hill; editors, Janelle Siegel, Mike Marts and Dan Didio; publisher, DC Comics.

Stumptown 4 (December 2012)

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Oh, wow. I think this issue might be the worst independent comic I’ve ever read. At least put out by a recognized publisher. Rucka embraces television standards all right, as in “A-Team” stupidity.

Most of the issue is a car chase, with Southworth doing double page spreads. The only thing worse than a lazy digital artist? A lazy digital artist doing double page spreads, with a lot of color no less. Actually, he might have brought down the visibility on his line work just to show the color. Or I’m just trying to find the artistic possibility.

There are some pages where the cars are racing in front of their speedometers. It sounds okay, but it doesn’t work. At least not how Southworth does it.

Stumptown is a bad comic book. I’m not even sure I recognize all of the ways. My brain’s probably hiding some of them from me.

CREDITS

The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case, Part Four; writer, Greg Rucka; artist, Matthew Southworth; colorists, Rico Renzi and Southworth; editor, James Lucas Jones; publisher, Oni Press.

Swamp Thing 141 (April 1994)

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Morrison and Millar open this issue with the Alan Moore Cajun dude stand-in getting killed. The new, mindless Swamp Thing kills him. Cajun Alan Moore dies protecting his family.

Mindless Swamp Thing is after Abby next. It’s kind of hard not to read into what Morrison and Millar are doing–violently refreshing the series. An indeterminate amount of time has passed since the Collins run ended too–little Tefé is old enough to call Abby on the phone.

Wish there’d been a panel of a pay phone in the Parliament of Trees.

The writers take a very black magic approach to the series. Nothing gets explained–it’s either wanton violence, mystical mumbo jumbo or Alec Holland’s internal blathering about his scientific research.

Good art from Hester and DeMulder–there’s not a single mundane panel in the whole issue–and the weirdness carry it. The writing is just over complicated.

CREDITS

Bad Gumbo; writers, Grant Morrison and Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Batman: The Widening Gyre 5 (April 2010)

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Oh, no, it’s another one with potential.

Smith doesn’t resolve the cliffhanger–he just has Bruce running off to avoid it. Bruce and Silver in Aspen, even in the few scenes they have, is terrible. Their trip is juxtaposed against Tim Drake Robin narrating. Smith writes all the Robin narrations the same, so it’s bland but not terrible.

Silver barely has any lines, which is great.

And then Flanagan pays an homage to the sixties show and Smith has a Tim Burton movie line in the dialogue… They’re finally being as obvious as they should be. If Gyre’s just lucky fan fiction, Smith should be aware enough to embrace it.

There’s a slight hiccup towards the end, but it has a surprisingly effective close. Smith all of a sudden decides to be authentic with people’s emotions.

It’s the first nearly okay issue.

I’m going to regret making that compliment.

CREDITS

Mere Anarchy; writer, Kevin Smith; penciller, Walt Flanagan; inker, Art Thibert; colorist, Art Lyon; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Janelle Siegel, Mike Marts and Dan Didio; publisher, DC Comics.

Stumptown 3 (November 2012)

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Southworth has a co-coloring credit this issue, which might explain why all of a sudden the coloring has to do sixty percent of the art’s work. It’s not just shadows, it’s perspective on people, it’s depth, it’s terrible.

Sadly, the corresponding rise in writing quality–when Southworth’s art gets even worse–doesn’t happen here. So it’s not corresponding, last issue was a fluke.

Rucka breaks the issue out into scenes. There’s a big scene with multiple stages, a small scene, another small scene, then the cliffhanger. Maybe something else happens in between but the cliffhanger shows Rucka doesn’t get the downtrodden detective genre.

He ends the issue with Dex up. Except it’s issue three so clearly she’ll have a reversal of fortune.

Another odd thing about the book is the lack of personality to the setting. Southworth draws landmarks; Rucka doesn’t do anything with them, they’re just photo references.

CREDITS

The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case, Part Three; writer, Greg Rucka; artist, Matthew Southworth; colorists, Rico Renzi and Southworth; editor, James Lucas Jones; publisher, Oni Press.

Swamp Thing 140 (March 1994)

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Grant Morrison and Mark Millar take over the book, starting with Alec Holland–a human one–waking up in Peru. Swamp Thing was just a bad trip but he’s better now.

It’s a good idea of how to relaunch the character, only they don’t even keep the concept the entire issue. Abby shows up about halfway through, then some people in Chester’s house, then something looking like Swamp Thing.

All while Alec Holland is in Peru getting stoned.

The structure’s a mess–half the comic carefully exploring the new Alec, the other half a lot of action involving the old Alec. Morrison and Millar are obviously trying to get the reader curious, but they don’t actually do anything else.

Phil Hester’s art is nice. He handles the human scenes with a lot of emotion and the horror elements are definitely disturbing.

The lack of personality makes the writers seem desperate.

CREDITS

Vegetable Man; writers, Grant Morrison and Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

So Buttons 1 (2007)

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So Buttons is an anthology of autobiographical anecdotes from writer Jonathan Baylis. They’re long form comic strips, ranging from one page to three usually, each strip with a different artist.

None of the stories are particularly exciting. The first is just Baylis recounting a conversation with his father. There’s some funny strips about dating, there’s some stuff about going to Germany (Baylis’s comic self is Jewish… probably wouldn’t be funny if he wasn’t, it’d be awkward), there’s a piece on his sexual disinterest in interracial encounters.

That last one is as close as Buttons gets to being controversial. Otherwise it’s all quite calm and relaxed. Exactly the kind of thing you might read in a free weekly.

The art’s iffy. T.J. Kirsch and Mr. Alan accomplish the most of what they attempt. David Beyer Jr. doesn’t do well with his realism attempts.

Buttons is bland; it lacks anything distinct.

CREDITS

So… My Dad Got Drafted?; artist, Mr. Alan. So… Racist?; artist, David Beyer Jr. So… the Sun Won’t Come Out Tomorrow; artist, T.J. Kirsch. So… I’m Dating a Comic; artist, Kirsch. So… She Moved In With Me Anyway; artist, Kirsch. So… Heaven Smells Like Bacon; artist, Beyer. So… Only Nixon Could’ve Gone to China; artist, Beyer. Writer, Jonathan Baylis; publisher, Alchemy Comix.

Doc Unknown 1 (2013)

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Not all of Doc Unknown is terrible. Ryan Cody’s designs are pretty good. The series feels a little noirish, with a Killer Croc knock-off as the villain (his design isn’t good) but it feels somewhat retro. The hero, Doc Unknown, feels very Republic serial. And Cody’s art isn’t terrible. At times, the comic at least looks professional.

Sadly, it never reads professional. Writer and creator Fabian Rangel Jr. writes some really bad dialogue. It’s not even bad expository dialogue. He can’t even write a greeting well. He also likes splitting sentences between panels to show ironic turns of events.

It’s the pits.

He also goes for every cheap trick he can find–actually, I think it’s more of a Hellboy with superheroes knock-off than Republic serial. He should’ve hired himself a competent writer.

The backup, about a different superhero suffering depression, is pretty dreadful too.

It’s bad stuff.

CREDITS

The Museum of Madness; letterer, Ed Brisson. The Ghost & The Time Machine. Writer, Fabian Rangel Jr.; artist, Ryan Cody; publisher, Believe in Comics.

Batman: The Widening Gyre 4 (February 2010)

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Uh, oh, there are getting to be things I like here. Smith has turned it into a domestic–Batman fights crime while Silver waits home for him. The stuff with the new goat guy revealing his face to Bruce too soon is dumb; Smith can only rationalize comic book logic so far.

But it opens with a little bit about the relative lack of danger Silver Age goof villains had–before the Joker appeared (while not technically accurate, Smith sells it)–Smith’s trying things a little again. He’s treating Widening Gyre like it’s disconnected from the other Batman comics, which I do like.

He still writes Silver poorly. One can tell he’s writing the dialogue for Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow. He also writes Catwoman poorly–and Flanagan draws her even worse–but he’s trying to give Batman a grown-up problem.

The ambition is nice. Comic’s still lame though.

CREDITS

The Centre Cannot Hold; writer, Kevin Smith; penciller, Walt Flanagan; inker, Art Thibert; colorist, Art Lyon; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Janelle Siegel, Mike Marts and Dan Didio; publisher, DC Comics.

Stumptown 2 (October 2012)

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The art gets worse this issue. Much, much worse. Southworth quits drawing noses all of a sudden. And the comic being in color does nothing to help it. In black and white, Southworth would have had to do some work, to finish an object. Instead, he lets the colors fill in the blanks and they can’t because Southworth hasn’t got the objects in place to be colored.

Ugly, ugly comic.

But this issue’s a little better. There’s a definite surprise at the end. Even the bad stuff–like Dex flirting with a possible suspect–isn’t as bad as it could be. Maybe because Rucka opens with the worst possible scene, a DEA agent warning Dex off the case.

Maybe if Rucka were trying something different with Stumptown, instead of doing a genre standard. It reads like a TV show, which seems to be Rucka’s goal, but not a successful one.

CREDITS

The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case, Part Two; writer, Greg Rucka; artist, Matthew Southworth; colorist, Rico Renzi; editor, James Lucas Jones; publisher, Oni Press.

Swamp Thing 139 (January 1994)

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Foreman relies heavily on dumb pop psychology to “cure” Alec, but Rebecca Guay on pencils and DeMulder on inks make up for some of it. Black Orchid and her sidekick guest star, traveling through Alec’s mind (literally… he’s turned it into a plant art installation in the swamp).

There’s some really bad dialogue and some strange ideas Foreman never really explores (why does Alec’s superego parrot Superman’s truth and justice ideals). It does read somewhat slow, but the art’s fantastic at the beginning so only the end is sludgy.

Literally nothing is resolved from the previous issue. Alec has just shut down, which probably wouldn’t be allowed since he’s got to protect the Green. Having a Black Orchid tie-in doesn’t fit the story at all. Foreman doesn’t dwell on the dumber leftovers of Collins’s run, however.

It’s not a good comic, but Guay’s great and Foreman’s ambitions aren’t trite.

CREDITS

The Mind Fields, Part Two; writer, Dick Foreman; penciller, Rebecca Guay; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Batman: The Widening Gyre 3 (December 2009)

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This issue’s easily the best and I’m not entirely sure why. It’s a romance montage–Bruce and Silver off in paradise during the day, Batman out at night. There’s some stuff with the goat vigilante, who Smith writes like Brody from Mallrats and that scene is awful… and Smith writes Silver awful and the whole thing of unbelievably rich people romancing is lame… But, somehow, the issue is a lot better than expected.

It’s awful to be sure, but Smith’s trying something in his Batman narration. Bruce is learning. These self-observations are trite and beneath Dr. Phil, but Smith is trying.

Flanagan’s art doesn’t help. He gives all the superheroes besides Bruce long, dirty nineties hair. Tim Drake Robin looks like a girl.

Smith does get in an extra guest star–Aquaman–who he writes a little better than Batman, but not much.

I still loathe the comic though.

CREDITS

Things Fall Apart; writer, Kevin Smith; penciller, Walt Flanagan; inker, Art Thibert; colorist, Art Lyon; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Janelle Siegel, Mike Marts and Dan Didio; publisher, DC Comics.

Stumptown 1 (September 2012)

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I was trying to figure out what was wrong with this issue of Stumptown–other than Greg Rucka being really too excited with the idea of a rock and roll case for his detective (he and Matthew Southworth pace the comic like a detective show) and then I noticed.

Southworth drew this comic on a computer. A tablet computer, one of those tablet things you plug into a computer, whatever… His line work is atrocious. It’s boxy and there’s no attention to detail.

It’s really ugly looking.

As for the story, Rucka does a little character work with Dex, the detective, and some bad work with the supporting cast. In the text back matter, he talks about “The Rockford Files” but he’s got Southworth creating his actors. And Southworth doesn’t create interesting actors.

The case, which is seemingly innocuous, immediately becomes dangerous. It’s poorly paced and way too busy.

Yuck.

CREDITS

The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case, Part One; writer, Greg Rucka; artist, Matthew Southworth; colorist, Rico Renzi; editor, James Lucas Jones; publisher, Oni Press.

Black Orchid 5 (January 1994)

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Oh, good grief. This issue ties in to Swamp Thing, with Black Orchid and Sherilyn the hooker with a heart of gold heading to Louisiana. Black Orchid, it turns out, is a Swamp Thing expert and thinks she can help him through his relationship troubles.

Foreman doesn’t even try to explain how Black Orchid knows so much about Swampy. Maybe she’s been reading the comics.

But until the lame walk through the swamp mind of Swamp Thing (he’s physically creating his thoughts out of plants), Foreman has Sherilyn narrating the issue. Except, however, when he opens it with his idiotic reporter guy.

The reporter falls victim to a laughing fit; a Joker cameo, unfortunately, does not materialize.

Thompson and Woch do okay in the swamp, but all the human scenes–Foreman centers on Sherilyn–are rather rough going. The artists being bored with the writing is never a good sign.

CREDITS

The Mind Fields, Part One; writer, Dick Foreman; pencillers, Jill Thompson and Rebecca Guay; inker, Stan Woch; colorists, George Freeman and Digital Chameleon; letterer, Clem Robins; editors, Julie Rottenberg and Lou Stathis; publisher, Vertigo.

Batman: The Widening Gyre 2 (November 2009)

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More flashbacks, more guest stars… and some fat jokes. The child murderer at the open is practically a lookalike for Silent Bob. Batman keeps thinking of him as the fat guy, but he doesn’t actually catch him, someone else does.

Then Silver St. Cloud shows up. I’m skipping some of the lame narration to get to Flanagan and Smith having a disconnect. Once Silver shows up, Smith’s got Batman going on and on about his age–and Silver’s. Except Flanagan draws them both basically as twenty somethings. Certainly not as people in their late thirties or forties. It’s unclear what Smith’s going for.

Smith writes Silver worse than he writes Batman. He also writes Gordon poorly. Maybe Alfred isn’t terrible. Superman is all right, I guess. But there’s more than enough bad Batman to make up for the rest.

The cliffhanger is a success though, Smith manages a good surprise.

CREDITS

The Falconer; writer, Kevin Smith; penciller, Walt Flanagan; inker, Art Thibert; colorist, Art Lyon; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Janelle Siegel, Mike Marts and Dan Didio; publisher, DC Comics.

Battlefields 6 (May 2013)

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Ennis wraps up Battlefields this issue. Not just Anna’s story, but the series in general–he puts a close on how he’s been telling these war stories. He might be able to pick it up again, but it’ll have to feel different.

He jumps ahead again–Anna and Mouse are in a prison camp for ten or twelve years, wasting away while their nemesis has become their jailer. There’s a lot of back and forth between Anna and the jailer. This issue’s a lot about gender. Ennis does great with it, but Braun wins for the scene where Anna finally loses her cool.

And the ending. It’s long, unpredictable, sad, tragic, glorious. It feels very Russian, at least how people think things are Russian when they mean it as a compliment. Throughout this arc, Ennis has consistently written himself into impossible corners and deftly brought himself out.

It’s wonderful work.

CREDITS

The Fall and Rise of Anna Kharkova, Part Three; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Russ Braun; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Swamp Thing 138 (December 1993)

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I’m not sure Collins’s version of adult relationships would even work in a kids cartoon. Odd place to start, but she really does expect after Abby running off with ponytail guy–willfully abandoning Tefé as a freak–Alec would all of a sudden make house with Lady Jane?

And then there’s Constantine pointing out if Abby really does care about her kid, she’s not really worth much. Except Collins wrote Abby’s adventures with her as the sympathetic protagonist.

Oh, and the hair. Alec gets rid of the grey Swamp Thing look and goes back to the normal one. But then for the finish he grows big long green rock star hair. It’s idiotic.

This issue’s Collins’s last one, thank goodness. Her run started so strong and then got so unbearably bad.

There’s nothing to recommend this issue–though Eaton’s better than usual–except how speedily it reads. It’s simply awful.

CREDITS

And in the End…; writer, Nancy A. Collins; penciller, Scot Eaton; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Tim Harkins; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Batman: The Widening Gyre 1 (October 2009)

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Leave it to Kevin Smith to try to make Batman sound hip. He also sounds really self-aware, which doesn’t really work for the character. I was half expecting Smith to make a gay joke, but then remembered it’s the one thing DC editorial won’t allow.

This issue has Batman teaming up with Robin in flashback, then Nightwing in present, then heading off on his own to Arkham. All while Smith overdoes the narration. His Batman is desperate to stay relevant–making notes to check pop culture references and so on–while he thinks about retiring the Robin mantle.

If it weren’t for Walt Flanagan’s art, if DC had paired Smith with an established comic artist, Widening Gyre might not read like a vanity project. But with Flanagan–who’s competent but clearly not professional–Smith’s script feels like a long joke at the reader’s expense.

He does pace it okay though.

CREDITS

Turning and Turning; writer, Kevin Smith; penciller, Walt Flanagan; inker, Art Thibert; colorist, Art Lyon; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Janelle Siegel, Mike Marts and Dan Didio; publisher, DC Comics.

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