Detectives Inc.: A Terror of Dying Dreams 1 (June 1987)

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I feel like A Terror of Dying Dreams should be a little better. Gene Colan does the art–just pencils, no inks; it’s good art but Don McGregor’s script doesn’t just play to Colan’s strengths, it plays to his standards. Inexplicably enormous scary mansion in the New York area? Check. Urban blight? Check. Even the one fight scene looks like every Colan fight scene.

There’s some reality to those sequences usually absent from Colan’s mainstream work. The fight scene is a social worker fighting back against an abusive husband who’s targeting her. The urban blight is one of the leads, Rainier, hanging around at nudie bars on Broadway. McGregor’s trying hard to update the miserable detective but doesn’t have much for him to do.

The other lead, Denning, is dealing with his mother’s illness. Those scenes are beautifully written, but Colan’s out of his element on them.

Still, ambitious stuff.

B 

CREDITS

Cheerful Lies and Desperate Truths; writer, Don McGregor; artist, Gene Colan; letterer, Mindy Eisman; editor, Catherine Yronwode; publisher, Eclipse Comics.

Revenge 1 (February 2014)

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Ah, redemption. Jonathan Ross wimps out with Revenge, instead letting Ian Churchill’s gross-out art do the dirty work.

The concept is a seventies action star who gets his comeback thanks to an Expendables like hit when he’s seventy-two. His trophy wife convinces him to get an experimental facelift, but she really wants to torture him because when she was a kid he seduced her mother away from her father.

Sounds like our protagonist is a bad guy, but no… he donates money to his daughter’s zoo and she knows he’s turned the corner into goodness. And the wife isn’t just doing it to be evil, she really wants his money.

With the lifeless Churchill art and its lack of personality–the comic, besides the gore, looks like action figure packaging–Revenge was never going to soar, but it’s unfortunate Ross isn’t committed to the meanness. Exploitation it ain’t.

D 

CREDITS

Writer, Jonathan Ross; artist, Ian Churchill; colorists, Arif Prianto and Churchill; letterers, Jimmy Betancourt and Richard Starkings; publisher, Image Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 44 (October 2002)

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Jones does a familiar ruse but then explains the whole bit, which makes it a lot better than not. His secret organization after Banner is still a tad too Bond and a tad too much. But it’s definitely an amusing issue; he just needs to make Bruce half as interesting as any of the other characters. Even the villain gets to sweat this time.

Oh, and he needs to own his cliffhanger resolutions. One of them gets a followup and Jones dismisses the mystery of it in a matter-of-fact way. While it’s matter-of-fact for the characters, Jones is writing for the reader, isn’t he?

No. No, he’s not. That lack of interest in how the reader perceives things is Jones’s greatest strength and weakness on Hulk. Well, one of his weaknesses–Bruce’s too passive a main character.

Very nice Stuart Immonen art too. The comic entertains.

B- 

CREDITS

Now You See It; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, Stuart Immonen; inker, Scott Koblish; colorist, Studio F; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Hawkeye 15 (April 2014)

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How stupid can Clint get? Thanks to Aja’s page layouts, it’s hard to tell. The art’s beautiful, but the way Aja does flashes–rapidly cut comics–it’s unclear if he was really dumb or if the bad guy was just good. Fraction wants the reader to think Clint’s dumb, to make him lovable. That arrangement is strange–it means the reader can’t truly root for the protagonist.

This issue also has a fairly big Big Lebowski vibe thanks to Clint’s brother hanging around. It’s more Lebowksi than “Rockford.” It needs to be the other way around. Fraction’s got three guest stars popping in to tell Clint he’s stupid. Too many.

Otherwise, of course, the issue’s a delightful read. Fraction has a great pace, great twists, great everything. He can’t visualize the story through his protagonist’s perspective. It also could be the incredibly fractured narrative.

Fraction’s hit the ceiling with Clint.

B 

CREDITS

Fun and Games; writer, Matt Fraction; artist, David Aja; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Devin Lewis, Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis 4 (September 1991)

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Going into this issue, I realized I not only did not care about the resolution, I didn’t even remember all the terms for the Atlantis artifacts. It has something to do with these little pearls of energy. They have a silly name.

Barry takes over writing completely this issue and it feels a little smoother. Maybe because there aren’t any attempts at anything or even hints Barry might attempt something. The comic is more secure in its status as complete nonsense.

At some point, around halfway in, the true problem with Atlantis becomes clear. It’s a video game adaptation. A video game where the player is an active participant, now turned into a comic book where the reader is passive. But that base story is still geared toward active instead of passive.

It’s also way too full of content–and never the most interesting parts.

Unsurprisingly I suppose, it fails.

D 

CREDITS

Writers, William Messner-Loebs and Dan Barry; artist and colorist, Barry; letterer, Gail Beckett; editor, Mike Richardson; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Star Trek 30 (February 2014)

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Besides Liang’s art problems–she can’t make the photo-referencing look good and the female McCoy is a disaster–and an illogical cameo, this issue of Star Trek has got to be the best in the series so far.

Johnson’s got a lot of easy jokes, except they’re still honest jokes, so he can get away with all of them. He’s also unconcerned with written–though visual ones get through–nods to the original series. The characters, confronted with their gender opposites, are fully defined. I only wish it were the start of an arc where Johnson traded Chekhov for her female counterpart. She’s less annoying.

A lot of the art is fine. Liang still does well with most of the female characters (except regular Uhura, of course) and she has positive, playful vibe to her work.

Johnson writes a bunch of good scenes.

The issue’s a very successful outing.

B+ 

CREDITS

Parallel Lives, Part Two; writer, Mike Johnson; artist, Yasmin Liang; colorist, Zac Atkinson; letterer, Gilberto Lazcano; editor, Sarah Gaydos; publisher, IDW Publishing.

The Incredible Hulk 43 (September 2002)

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Some people want to make a Hulk comic, some people want to talk about eighteenth century English poets. Some people want to do both. Jones is in the latter category. There’s a whole thing in this issue about Coleridge and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Why? Because Jones thinks it’s appropriate. Is he right… sort of.

It works for the story he’s telling. But it doesn’t work for the characters. There’s no reason Bruce Banner should be a poetry expert. Throw in a line about him loving Coleridge in college. There’s no reason the cop lady should be a Coleridge expert either. Maybe if her mom had been one….

But Jones doesn’t waste any time with establishing backstory or character knowledge. He goes for the best thing in the moment and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Weeks doesn’t draw for that philosophy though.

It’s ludicrous, but good.

B- 

CREDITS

The Beast Within; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, Lee Weeks; inker, Tom Palmer; colorist, Studio F; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Furious 2 (February 2014)

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What a very strange comic book. It’s got a lot of humor; Glass writes some really funny details and rejoinders. Funny, funny guy. It’s got a lot of pop culture commentary. Glass makes some perfectly good observations about how celebrities get treated. It’s thought out too. He backs it up with good flashbacks. It’s got the Santos artwork. There are some problems I’ll mention later, but otherwise, very solid artwork. Santos handles motion beautifully and there’s a lot of motion in Furious.

It’s also a very cynical look at the world. Glass implies a certain misogyny involved in how the public interprets Furious as a superhero. He’s not obvious about it, but it’s a rather bold observation to make.

And the comic’s very violent. The protagonist is a vicious psychopath with control issues. She’s very sympathetic too.

Santos can’t handle the violence. His blood’s too cartoony.

Otherwise, Furious is impressive.

B+ 

CREDITS

Fallen Star, Part Two, A Dream of Flying; writer, Bryan J.L. Glass; artist, Victor Santos; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Spencer Cushing and Jim Gibbons; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis 3 (July 1991)

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This third issue is the pits. Well, maybe not. Fate of Atlantis has been steadily sinking (sorry, had to do it) since the first page of the first issue. There’s no reason to think the last issue won’t be even worse than this one.

The problem, besides Barry’s pencils and composition, is the script. The writers tell most of the story in summary. One night, Indy is on watch so he talks to himself to fill in all the information the readers don’t know but should. He does it another time too. It’s past lazy, it’s incompetent.

Worse, the scenes the writers do concentrate on aren’t any good. This issue there’s a desert tribe and Indy and the girl spend a bunch of time with them. Why? Why is the desert tribe more interesting than the treasure hunt… no idea. It’s just another bad choice.

It’s all a bad choice.

D- 

CREDITS

Writers, Dan Barry and William Messner-Loebs; penciller, Barry; inker, Karl Kesel; colorist, Lurene Haines; letterer, Gail Beckett; editors, Diana Schutz and Mike Richardson; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Robocop: Beta 1 (February 2014)

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I feel bad for the creators on Robocop: Beta, it’s not their fault the comic fails, it’s just the nature of pointless movie tie-ins. Otherwise it’s not a bad comic. It’s even got a good reveal at the end, it just doesn’t have anything else going for it. Ed Brisson’s able to give it a solid three act structure and Emilio Laiso’s art is decent.

Well, the art is decent for digest size. It’s hard to explain why, but it seems too big for the standard comic page. At a smaller size, it’d be a lot more effective. But it’s still perfectly serviceable art and the way Laiso draws the Michael Keaton character is nice. Not too photo-referenced but still recognizable.

Brisson can’t do anything with the comic because the comic is, as a part of the conclusion, supposed to be disposable.

It’s pointless and everybody knows.

C- 

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brisson; artist, Emilo Laiso; colorist, Michael Garland; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editors, Alex Galer, Ian Brill and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

The Incredible Hulk 42 (August 2002)

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I wonder if Jones had been putting off doing a Hulk rampage because he knew it would be boring under his watch. Bruce finally hulks out big time here–destroying much of the setting from the last two issues–and it’s really, really boring.

Maybe it’s because Weeks’s too realistic and his vision of destruction doesn’t get in Jones’s subtext. There’s no emotion to the destruction, not even forced stuff. It’s mind-numbing and it appears Jones is going to go out on this terrible action scene. It’s not like Weeks is composing the pages well either. He does big panels or full page spreads and it’s just pointless filler.

But Jones doesn’t end things with the destruction or the hard cliffhanger for Bruce. He goes further and shifts focus over to the lady cop, then back again to Bruce. For practically the first time. It’s an amazingly effective save.

B 

CREDITS

All Fall Down; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, Lee Weeks; inker, Tom Palmer; colorist, Studio F; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Pariah 1 (February 2014)

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I don’t have time for Pariah. Writers Aron Warner (is he famous? He alone gets his name above the title) and Philip Gelatt devise the most annoying dialogue and narration juxtaposition imaginable and seem to think it’s awesome. It’s not awesome, it’s terrible.

They start a thought in narration, trail off with an ellipses and pick up a totally different subject in dialogue, all in the same panel. I’m not sure what kind of art is necessary to make putting up with such an atrocious narrative device worthwhile, but this comic doesn’t have it.

Artist Brett Weldele isn’t bad. He’s kind of like Ben Templesmith lite. Nothing lite is going to be good enough.

I think they’re trying to be different, to somehow make Pariah immediately compelling and, if so, they don’t just fail, their editor fails too.

Pariah is the kind of comic you’d want to return for cash.

F 

CREDITS

Writers, Aron Warner and Philip Gelatt; artist and letterer, Brett Weldele; editor, Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis 2 (May 1991)

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I can’t tell if Barry helping with the script is making things better or worse. Probably worse, since this issue is a breakneck race around the world for artifacts from Atlantis without any texture whatsoever.

I take that texture remark back partially–there is texture in the New York scenes. It’s when the story gets to exotic locales things are too rushed.

Fate of Atlantis is a good example of a bad adaptation. Barry and Messner-Loebs turn the girl into the protagonist, which is fine–they write her a lot better than Indy, who comes across as a brutish numbskull–but they don’t commit to it. It’s either her or Indy, only when they use Indy, they pull back too far from him.

As for the art, Barry’s pencils continue to lack charm. The scenery, while period specific, looks like something out of a Gold Key comic.

Atlantis stinks.

D 

CREDITS

Writers, Dan Barry and William Messner-Loebs; penciller, Barry; inker, Karl Kesel; colorist, Lurene Haines; letterer, Gail Beckett; editors, Diana Schutz and Mike Richardson; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Vandroid 1 (February 2014)

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I was hoping Vandroid was going to be about a van with the mind of a killer HAL or Colossus, but apparently it’s just a Terminator knock-off. As knock-offs go, it’s not bad at all. Writers Tommy Lee Edwards and Noah Smith do an excellent job with the eighties setting. Their dialogue’s funny and they’ve got a great roving eye for some of the issue. It’s when the reveal happens, just over halfway through, it becomes clear the comic doesn’t have enough gas.

The art, from Dan McDaid, is good and appropriate for the content. Vandroid feels more fully realized than the narrative suggests. There might be something better to come along, it’s just too soon to tell. The next issue will be the decider.

It’s hard to know what to make of a comic where so little gets established the first issue, especially for a limited series.

C+ 

Writers, Tommy Lee Edwards and Noah Smith; artist, Dan McDaid; colorist, Melissa Edwards; letterer, John Workman; editors, Ian Tucker, Daniel Chabon and Jeffrey Mariotte; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 41 (August 2002)

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Maybe two things happen this issue. Or three. Jones’s use of “decompressed” storytelling is somewhat interesting–not effective, but interesting–in how he plots the story around it. He’s being intentional here. There’s no way to do this story with any other pacing, it would miss the point.

And Jones gets pretty obvious with the point here. He’s got a couple moments of way too much exposition from the cast. It’d be hard to miss.

But the comic’s not bad at all. Weeks does a great job with the expressions and his pacing of the events is flawless. There just aren’t enough events for a filling read.

Jones remains unsure how to present Banner to the reader. Once again, he doesn’t let Bruce run the comic. Instead, Bruce reacts to everyone else. And when he finally does show enough agency, the issue ends.

It’s problematic to be sure, but serviceable.

B- 

CREDITS

Poker Face; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, Lee Weeks; inker, Tom Palmer; colorist, Studio F; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The White Suits 1 (February 2014)

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I’m trying to imagine worse writing than Frank J. Barbiere’s dialogue in The White Suits. There’s got to be some out there but it’s so shockingly terrible, my mind is clouded over. Lines from this issue repeat themselves, kind of like a hammer to the temple.

And it’s a shame, because Toby Cypress does a really solid Paul Pope impression. I can’t say he’s Pope-lite, like a lot of people these days, because much of his detail work is an impression. His dollar bills look like Pope’s dollar bills in One Trick. But whatever, Cypress makes it all look good.

I actually thought the art would make the book tolerable. Like it could somehow overshadow the lousy writing. It can’t.

I’m beginning to think all these highly affected dialogue and narration styles are just to hide the bankruptcy of ideas. Suits’s Dark Horse; I inexplicably expected more from them.

D- 

CREDITS

Writer and letterer, Frank J. Barbiere; artist and colorist, Toby Cypress; editors, Shantel LaRocque and Chris Warner; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis 1 (March 1991)

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It’s very hard not to think William Messner-Loebs is just cashing a paycheck with Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. There are some incredible logic holes. First and foremost, Messner-Loebs can’t write Indy’s interaction with the female sidekick. Or, more accurately, her interaction with him. He severely damages her business and reputation and she just forgives him because he’s cute.

Except, the way Dan Barry draws Indy, he’s not cute. He’s got a long face, a funny nose and odd hair. I can understand not doing photorealistic renderings of Harrison Ford, but at least match what people think when they think of the character.

The story itself, based on a video game, is a little weak. Messner-Loebs is in a hurry and Barry doesn’t layout the pages very well. There’s not natural progression to the comic.

Uninspired, even for licensed material, might be the best description.

C- 

CREDITS

Writers, Dan Barry and William Messner-Loebs; penciller, Barry; inker, Karl Kesel; colorist, Lurene Haines; letterer, Gail Beckett; editors, Diana Schutz and Mike Richardson; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

A Voice in the Dark 4 (February 2014)

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Taylor’s either got a new stylistic flourish–people in the background being in grey–or I just haven’t noticed it. It’s a fine enough development, either way, as Taylor’s spending more time on his foregrounds.

Hopefully, cliffhangers are the next thing he works on. A Voice in the Dark improves every issue–which is really cool, even if it’s in little ways. But this issue’s lack of drama hurts it, even if the scenes are better. There’s another murder, there’s a dispute with the evil sorority girls, there’s a death penalty debate… there’s just not much forward motion. And Taylor’s got this story in a frame, so clearly it’s going to get interesting eventually.

Why put it off?

One more thing–well, three if I count the two cops with goatees–the college being the serial killer capital of the world? It’s idiotic, but palatable. Taylor’s adjusted reality just enough.

B- 

CREDITS

Killing Game, Part Two; writer, artist and letterer, Larime Taylor; publisher, Image Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 40 (July 2002)

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Lee Weeks and Tom Palmer. Thank goodness. Even if Weeks isn’t great on the facial details–it’s a very intense talking heads issue (hostages and so on) but talking heads nonetheless–but his composition is strong and he gets the job done. Palmer’s inks seem a little harsh for the story Jones is telling but, again, the art’s not bad at all.

Jones juxtaposes Bruce Banner getting to a town and getting involved in a hostage situation with one page scenes of people contemplating or preparing to commit suicide. It doesn’t feel like “a very special episode” just because Jones presents everything so bluntly. It’s not particularly successful, just because you can’t really muse in a Hulk comic. The attempt is notable, however.

And, as an intense talking heads book, it works okay. It’s way too decompressed of course.

The Call of Duty backup is fine. Jones’s dialogue is good.

B- 

CREDITS

Boiling Point; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, Lee Weeks; inker, Tom Palmer; colorist, Studio F; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Undertow 1 (February 2014)

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I would have liked to open with the similarities between Undertow and “Battlestar Galactica” (the new one) but I can’t. Instead I need to open with writer Steve Orlando’s dialogue. He writes it with modern English slang–oh, sorry, the series is apparently about ancient Atlantean explorers coming to the surface (it could go on to be a workplace sitcom, I’ll never know).

Tackling an ancient, made-up language is never easy but combined with the bad pacing and Orlando’s terrible narration… Undertow quickly becomes intolerable. Assuming Orlando gave artist Artyom Trakhanov descriptions of each panel, the comic gets even worse. The narration isn’t over story panels, it’s over cinematic establishing shots. Orlando writes a script out of a bad Gold key comic, but doesn’t even let Trakhanov illustrate it.

Or maybe Trakhanov made that choice. It’s highly stylized art and not bad, just pointless. Much like the comic itself.

F 

CREDITS

Messiah Ward; writer, Steve Orlando; artist and colorist, Artyom Trakhanov; letterer, Thomas Mauer; publisher, Image Comics.

Rover Red Charlie 3 (January 2014)

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Every once in a while, Garth Ennis must decide he has to do something to remind everyone how thoroughly raunchy he can get. Unlike a lot of his recent work, his raunchy moment in this issue of Rover Red Charlie works a lot like how it worked in Preacher. With witnesses echoing the reader’s plea for Ennis not to take things there.

It’s foul, but the foul isn’t bad. It’s just foul and gross and sticks in one’s mind’s eye even after the page–and comic–has passed.

Of course, having Dipascale’s sweet art for that moment makes it even more intense.

This issue, Ennis introduces a lot. Characters, ideas, about the only thing he doesn’t introduce are new dog vocabulary terms. There are a few, but nothing as memorable as before.

Sorry to be so myopic….

The issue’s solid, formulaic but still engaging. The soft cliffhanger’s too ominous though.

B 

CREDITS

God Backwards; writer, Garth Ennis; artist and colorist, Michael DiPascale; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

The Terminator: Enemy of My Enemy 1 (February 2014)

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Dan Jolley and Jamal Igle doing a Terminator series. You know what you get? A decent plot, good characters, some awesome art. The way Jolley and Igle are doing Enemy of My Enemy is very cinematic. Igle does a lot of establishing panels. Part of the book is these guys doing a Terminator book and the reader getting to go along for the ride.

But it’s still a Dark Horse licensed comic. There’s a CIA agent on the run picking up assassination work, she comes across a Terminator, she finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy because, apparently, after the first movie the CIA started investigating.

Or something. It’s a standard Dark Horse licensed trope–there was something hidden plot at the time of the movie; it’s finally revealed here. It’s not too bad as Jolley keeps it contained, but it’s still present.

And the book’s better than it.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Dan Jolley; penciller, Jamal Igle; inker, Ray Snyder; colorist, Moose Baumann; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Aaron Walker, Ian Tucker and Brendan Wright; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 39 (June 2002)

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I’m not sure how much more contrived Jones’s setup for the series could be… Maybe if he’d make the Hulk somebody’s dad. But he doesn’t. He makes someone else somebody’s dad.

Once again, Jones doesn’t let Bruce have the issue. One of the bad guys gets the issue and she gets to tell Bruce all about this strange situation he’s found himself in. Of course, if you’re Bruce Banner and you’ve been hulking out for years, strange situations shouldn’t seem strange. But Jones acts like he’s come up with sliced bread.

He hasn’t. He’s come up with a really contrived story and hasn’t taken any time in the issue to do anything else. It’s the last in the arc, the setup for the next one, so not doing anything else would usually be okay. But he hasn’t been doing anything else for issues.

This arc could’ve easily run two issues.

D 

CREDITS

Tag… You’re Dead!; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, John Romita Jr.; inker, Tom Palmer; colorist, Studio F; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Robocop: Memento Mori 1 (February 2014)

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Is Memento Mori the best of Boom!’s terrible Robocop remake tie-ins? Maybe. It’s definitely the first one where the art engaged. João Vieira has the appearance of an interesting style. Cartoonish, almost. He really doesn’t–he just fakes it on the good panels and the rest are really pedestrian. But until one figures out the art, it does keep the mind occupied.

Speaking of minds and occupation, Mori is the story of Alex Murphy, human cop, as the doctors wipe his memory to install Robocop. Frank J. Barbiere apes countless tv shows, comic books and movies as Murphy runs through his subconscious trying to survive. It’s hideously unoriginal and completely nonsensical. Barbiere fakes having a point to the story.

But the comic does read quickly and one forgives the art problems and the unoriginality as things move along. Barbiere manages to promise something engaging… and fails to deliver.

D 

CREDITS

Writer, Frank J. Barbiere; artist, João Vieira; colorist, Ruth Redmond; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editors, Alex Galer, Ian Brill and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Rover Red Charlie 2 (December 2013)

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Ennis brings in the cats. The hisspots. I can’t spoil the twists and turns with them, but he does a great job with it.

He ends the issue on a very melancholy note and one has to wonder if he’s just lost his ability to riff. He needs to be more controlled, more thoughtful, more measured. Like his comics can’t grow organically, they need to be regimented.

And it works for Rover Red Charlie. He creates genuine concern for the three main characters, probably utilizing a reader’s built in sympathy for animals, even though most of his effort is spent expanding the dog mind.

He knows he’s doing it. If it weren’t for the vocabulary, how he uses the exposition, not to mention DiPascale’s art, the ending would flop. Instead, it’s a cheap glorious, but glorious nonetheless.

However, Ennis has four issues left. Lots of time to trip himself up.

B+ 

CREDITS

A Distant Shore; writer, Garth Ennis; artist and colorist, Michael DiPascale; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Bad Dog 6 (January 2014)

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There’s a lot of action but also a lot of character stuff. Bad Dog’s strength has always been Kelly’s character stuff. This issue there’s also a lot of nice art from Greco. He’s got it down… in what appears to be the final issue.

It’s a double-size issue too, with Kelly doing the huge action sequence and giving himself time for cleanup. He also ties things up with all the subplots, he gives Lou the werewolf a chance to change. And so on and so on. It’s a solid comic, mostly because Kelly seems finished with it.

But it’s so solid one wants more Bad Dog. It just remains to be seen if Kelly can find a different story for him and enough hilarity. Maybe hilarity is too strong a word–amusing subplots for the vast supporting cast.

The issue’s got a nice structure too. It’s rather good.

B+ 

CREDITS

What Happens…Stays!, Conclusion; writer, Joe Kelly; artist and colorist, Diego Greco; letterer, Thomas Mauer; publisher, Image Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 38 (May 2002)

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So what have we got here? What are Jones and Romita serving this issue? Sorry, it takes place in a roadside cafe. I’m just in the spirit.

Jones has bad guys who can come back from the dead and there are apparently more of them than he previously told the reader about. He’s also got Doc Samson borrowing an outfit from the Village People. Romita has nothing. Terrible backgrounds. There’s an action scene but Jones cuts away so who knows how Romita would do with it.

Here’s the problem–there’s nothing with Bruce. Either the bad guys run the issue or Samson runs the issue. Bruce just sits around. Jones writes the character perfectly well–better this issue since he’s not moping about the kid he may or may not have killed–but doesn’t do anything with him. He reacts, never acts.

Everything’s way too convenient to get concerned about.

C 

CREDITS

Last Chance Cafe; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, John Romita Jr.; inker, Tom Palmer; colorist, Studio F; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

John Carpenter’s Asylum 4 (February 2014)

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I was worried I wouldn’t remember what was going on with Asylum because it’s been so long since I read the previous issue but since nothing happens in this one, there’s a lot of time to pay catchup. And Jones is good making sure there’s enough information for a casual reader to get by. There’s a cop, there’s his partner, his kid, the Church, the demons… all these things get vague enough recaps one can get by.

But for what purpose? The plotting is questionable–Jones’s hard cliffhanger raises a few of questions but the issue preceding it suggests none of them will get answered. The stuff with the cop’s kid is sad and all but the kid’s just fodder to get compassion. The hook is still the John Carpenter association. There’s been no slippage in Jones’s script.

And Manco manages to be competent but boring–the composition’s mind-numbing.

C 

CREDITS

Writer, Bruce Jones; artist, Leonardo Manco; colorist, Kinsun Loh; letterer, Janice Chiang; editor, Sandy King; publisher, Storm King Comics.

Rover Red Charlie 1 (November 2013)

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I was sort of expecting Rover Red Charlie to be a Crossed spin-off. It’s Garth Ennis doing a story where people go nuts and start killing each other in awful ways. Why not do something sly like a crossover.

You know, for marketing.

Only Charlie is unexpected because Ennis is doing something he hasn’t done much lately and usually not at Avatar. He’s trying. He’s setting up characters, he’s showing his soft side, he’s working in the insane terminology of dogs. It’s crazy inventive as far as the dogs go, not just how their society works, but how Ennis shows their perspective of the apocalypse. It’s awesome.

It helps he’s got Michael DiPascale on the art. The style is just right. DiPascale draws the dogs like it’s a greeting card and the end of the world with fresh eyes. Literally. It’s very clean apocalypse.

Ennis certainly raises one’s expectations.

B+ 

CREDITS

Something Happened; writer, Garth Ennis; artist and colorist, Michael DiPascale; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

The Mercenary Sea 1 (February 2014)

Ms

The Mercenary Sea is a perfect example of why computers don’t help comic books and why mixing mediums is dangerous. Matthew Reynolds does his art on a computer, his style is something akin to flash animation. And the comic looks like cels from an animation, with all the life apparently left in the movement.

Kel Symons has some funny lines and funny ideas but not much else. The story takes place in the thirties in the South Pacific. Should be really cool, except none of the characters have any personality, maybe because Reynold’s doesn’t give them movable faces. He also doesn’t illustrate settings well. He thinks everything is about tone and mood.

He’s wrong.

Symons promises big seas adventures, maybe some monsters, maybe some dinosaurs, but who cares? The setting and story are both stock material. Sea hinges it all on Reynold’s artwork and he’s not up for the task.

C- 

CREDITS

Nice Work If You Can Get It; writer, Kel Symons; artist and colorist, Mathew Reynolds; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editor, Sebastian Girner; publisher, Image Comics.

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