The Comics Fondle Podcast | Episode 13

And here Vernon and I thought we were running late but we’re just on time for the latest episode.

We talk about a whole bunch of indie books–I don’t think there’s a single Big Two issue covered, sorry folks–and then move on to discussions of online comics reviewers and how they get their copies, not to mention our argument over Suicide Risk.

Give it a listen.

you can also subscribe on iTunes…

The Punisher 9 (December 2000)

The Punisher #9

Enter the Russian and Ennis bringing in another weak villain, but one he can try to use for humor. Why use him for humor? Apparently there’s not enough comedy with the Punisher caring about his neighbors. The scenes with the neighbors are all soft, sensitive scenes. I thought Frank was going to tell the overweight guy to eat healthy.

The villain gives the mob story some freshness and then the detectives get some freshness and it feels like something might be happening. But it’s not really happening, it’s just Soap and Molly talking and Ennis trying to figure out the most rewarding moments. Rewarding to the reader, not to the story, which is the big problem.

Even the good scenes don’t hold up. Ennis has Frank too jaded, given though he’s clear about the series not being too jaded. They’re probably supposed to be black humor moments but they flop.

C 

CREDITS

From Russia with Love; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Kelly Lamy and Nanci Dakesian; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Furious 5 (May 2014)

Furious #5

I don't know where to start. I'm not sure about the epilogue. It's a very cute and nice epilogue, but Glass has just got done dragging the reader through a very rough opening action sequence and then an extremely taut issue. With Furious, Glass has always made sure to keep the series's reality very dangerous. So anything can happen.

He sets up two, maybe three, dangerous anything can happen moments this issue. These moments come during this phenomenal action sequence. The whole issue is an action sequence, but it's not one without content–Glass and Santos get a lot out of every panel, every page. Santos's artwork is just fantastic.

Glass takes a less is more approach with the revelations in the issue too. The emphasis isn't on the origin pay-off, it's on what's happening next. And that emphasis is why the epilogue can still work.

Furious is a fantastic comic.

A 

CREDITS

Fallen Star, Part Five, Catch a Falling Star; writer, Bryan J.L. Glass; artist, Victor Santos; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Spencer Cushing and Jim Gibbons; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Stray Bullets 33 (May 2004)

Stray Bullets #33

Here’s another example of Lapham slacking off. And it’s on a Virginia issue too, which is upsetting because he usually treats her better.

It’s in high school, with Virginia setting off the jocks against the greasers. Because Grease, right? I don’t know what else to say about it, actually. I mean, aside from the fighting, there are a lot of lengthy action montages–who knew throwing rocks at a window was worth a page–and not much else. Lapham is back to treating the comic like a parody of itself. Virginia is the superhero.

The most annoying part has to be the appearance from her mother. Lapham’s totally ignored Virginia’s home life. At this point it seems like he’s too cowardly to do it. Instead he just has the high school where kids are allowed to castrate each other.

But seriously, his lame handling of Virginia post-kidnapping is unforgivable.

D 

CREDITS

Donnybrook; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Renee Miller; publisher, El Capitán Books.

The Star Wars 8 (May 2014)

The Star Wars #8

If the letters pages didn’t swear Rinzler was sticking to the original rough draft, I don’t think I’d believe it. Because this issue–adapted from a script written in the early seventies–has the standard modern action movie third act thing going on. When they attack the Death Star (it’s called something else, I think), Annikin and Leia are still on the station. They’re fighting to get away.

The original movie doesn’t try to overdo the dramatic tension–though Return of the Jedi basically does the aforementioned tension boosting. It reads more like what came later, in the genre created by Star Wars, than Star Wars itself.

There are some interesting twists and turns this issue too. The problem is more the length–Rinzler could have used two more issues for all the stuff he works out in this one–but The Star Wars concludes a somewhat successful curiosity.

Even with all the terrible names.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, J.W. Rinzler; artist, Mike Mayhew; colorist, Rain Beredo; letterer, Michael Heisler; editors, Freddye Lins and Randy Stradley; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

The Punisher 8 (November 2000)

The Punisher #8

It’s kind of a talking heads issue. There’s some action with Frank having to save Dave and he bonds a little with Joan. Ennis has problems working Frank into the humor. He’s the Punisher is the punch line to too many of Ennis’s jokes.

There’s also a lot with Soap and Molly. They don’t serve a purpose in the story at all, so Ennis just fills out with them. They’re another enjoyable part of Ennis’s big Punisher story, which ostensibly should have been about him getting Ma Gnucci.

She’s not a good villain though. So Ennis has to do really awful things around her to make her seem like a good villain. The secret of this series is its shallow depth. Ennis is just doing enough character work to make it seem substantial, but he’s really just trying to get done with his twelve issues.

And he’s doing relatively fine.

B- 

CREDITS

Desperate Measures; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Kelly Lamy and Nanci Dakesian; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Red Team 7 (March 2014)

Red Team #7

I think they must have wanted to sell it to cable. Ennis does a great season one finish. Not, you know, like a good narrative finish or something. But a good commercial one. You can just see it on the TV screen.

But Ennis has lost his characters. They’re secondary to his big action sequence and it’s not a good one. It doesn’t play well in a comic. Ennis goes with short lines of dialogue and they don’t resonate when being read in a row. There’s not enough content. It’s all flash.

Cermak does a little better with the action. Except his art seems much slicker than before. There’s not as much energy to the comic and it needs a bunch for this last issue.

Ennis peaked early on this book but the conclusion is far worse than one would have thought. The ending feels tacked on and wholly artificial.

C- 

CREDITS

The Rules (Reprise); writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Craig Cermak; colorist, Adriano Honorato Lucas; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Hannah Gorfinkel, Molly Mahan and Joe Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Stray Bullets 32 (May 2003)

Stray Bullets #32

Lapham hasn’t just run out of ideas, he’s now doing reruns. This issue of Stray Bullets reminds of a few others, but in bits and pieces. So less a rerun, I guess, and more a remix.

Some classmates of Virginia–who also remember her before she ran away (in a school district with so much assault going on, wouldn’t there be a lot of runaways and not just one)–are goofing off while waiting in a parking lot and they piss off the wrong guy.

This wrong guy works for the unseen criminal boss Harry.

The guy spends the rest of the issue torturing the kid who heckled him from the car window. There’s actually a chance for Lapham to do something with it at the end and he doesn’t. He goes the safe route, the Stray Bullets route. The comic’s practically a parody of itself.

Loose art too.

D 

CREDITS

Shenanigans; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Karen Hoyt; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Star Trek 33 (May 2014)

Star Trek #33

I read this entire issue without paying attention to the story arc title on the cover. I'm glad I ignored it.

Here's the problem–the art. I wonder how Joe Corroney's art would be if he didn't have to mess around with all the actors' faces. He doesn't do them well, either, so there's no real point to it. The expressions are just terrible because the mouths can't move too much or it won't look like whatever photo he was referencing.

Bad, bad choice. On IDW's part, not on Corroney's.

Still, it's a fun issue. Johnson just writes a little episode where the crew is excited to get off the ship. It's got elements of "This Side of Paradise," some actual personality from Kirk, an ill-advised Return of the Jedi nod. In short, it's exactly what a Star Trek comic should be.

Except for the art, which is just unforgivably misguided.

B- 

CREDITS

Lost Apollo, Part One; writer, Mike Johnson; penciller, Joe Corroney; inkers, Corroney, Victor Moya and Rob Doan; colorist, John Rauch; letterer, Neil Uyetake; editor, Sarah Gaydos; publisher, IDW Publishing.

The Punisher 7 (October 2000)

The Punisher #7

Should I call this a bridging issue or maybe I should call it a highway interchange issue because Ennis is bringing so much together. This subplot meets this other subplot and leads into the connection to the next subplot. It goes on and on.

It’s amusing. Ennis writes it well. The stupid priest thing has the detectives in it and they’re still funny. Whenever Ennis writes loser guys and their female partners who don’t want them romantically, it’s good. He should really do a series of just them.

Oh, yeah, Frank’s neighbors–who he mocks in his first person narration–once again get the kid glove treatment from Ennis. Dave and Joan are protected characters. Ennis coddles them; it’s a strange thing, since they’re the most obvious characters for him to coddle.

Still, it’s pretty good. Mr. Payback and the Elite are both funny. Ennis’s clearly exercising entertainment over ambition.

B 

CREDITS

Bring out Your Dead; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editor, Joe Quesada; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Red Team 6 (November 2013)

Red Team #6

It’s a bad issue. Ennis rushes through the entire thing, only gets in a single moment of personality. I guess he tries to open with personality, with the female cop apparently doing a mock eulogy for a terrible cop. But it’s way too forced. It’s Ennis on a soapbox and one he doesn’t care about. Red Team is not a deep rumination on the NYPD or police officers. Not sure why Ennis feels the need to pretend here.

Then it’s immediately into a contrived hurrying up of the resolution to the big plot twist. It’s like Ennis thought the series would go on longer and then found out, this issue, he had two more to go and then he was cancelled.

But it’s a limited series so Ennis should have paced it better. All of the personality is gone from the characters, even the supporting ones act rather differently.

Boo.

C- 

CREDITS

The Fallen; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Craig Cermak; colorist, Adriano Honorato Lucas; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Molly Mahan and Joe Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Stray Bullets 31 (April 2003)

Stray Bullets #31

Lapham does some really tight art this issue. I don’t think his figures have ever been so precise. It’s a shame the story’s not there.

This issue has Virginia returning home and, once home, she runs into some kid she had a conversation with during her first issue. Is it too much synergy? Yes, it is too much synergy. But given the comic also has her at a high school where the kids attempt murder on two or three times a day and there’s no accountability–these are incidents where police reports would definitely be filed–too much synergy is the least of the problems.

It’s like Lapham is trying to do a high school story with that “Stray Bullets flavor” and it comes off like a cheap imitation.

As usual, he doesn’t cheap out on Virginia the character and she can hold the comic, regardless of its problems. Not ideal, but….

B- 

CREDITS

Derring-Do; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Karen Hoyt; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Nightbreed 1 (May 2014)

Nightbreed #1

What just happened here? In this comic book running approximately twenty-two pages? Nothing, not a dang thing. Unless a couple unsubstantial characters are actually going to be the protagonists of the comic, which seems difficult since they seem to be living in different time periods.

There's an escaped slave who gets turned into one of the Nightbreed–oh, I forgot, Nightbreed is another Boom! Clive Barker licensed title. It's got the built-in <u>Fangoria</u> audience, which may explain the art. Piotr Kowalski does a good job. He doesn't have a lot of interesting things to draw, but he excels at them.

Anyway, this girl gets turned into an evolved monster before her part of the issue wraps up. Meanwhile, a senator who frequents a Nightbreed prostitute.

How are these two things connected? Who cares.

Writer Marc Andreyko actually does bring some tone, just no gravitas.

Who needs another licensed comic anyway….

C 

CREDITS

Writer, Marc Andreyko; artist, Piotr Kowalski; publisher, Boom! Studios.

The Punisher 6 (September 2000)

The Punisher #6

The issue starts so much better than it ends. It opens with everyone but the Punisher and the serial killer priest. There’s a little with Frank thinking about how he needs to move and some comedy with his neighbors, but not a lot. Ennis almost makes it seem like he’s switching over during that comedy and then pulls away again. The two cops are getting a lot more important.

Then comes the big action scene and Dillon doesn’t do great with it. He does okay, but not great. All the first person Frank stuff is comparing his current life to Vietnam and it doesn’t work. Ennis is making fun of the character at this point. The whole issue has had a wink about Frank. But no one else. Everyone else Ennis takes seriously.

The result is less rewarding than it should be… but it’s still amazing how hard Ennis works.

B 

CREDITS

Spit out of Luck; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editor, Joe Quesada; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Daredevil 3 (July 2014)

Daredevil #3

It’s so bland. Why am I reading it? It’s so bland. Even the ending is bland. It’s sort of an all-ages Daredevil comic written for adults. And Samnee is the perfect artist for that tone. But it doesn’t have to be so bland–Waid doesn’t have anything going under the surface here. Foggy popping in from witness protection is just Foggy being so darned lovable again.

Even the Owl–after all this foreshadowing about his appearance, there’s zero pay-off. Maybe Waid is pacing it out for next issue, like he transforms or something, but the damage is already done. There’s already been a boring showdown with the Owl. Who cares if he Larry Talbots?

Once again, the only thing special about Daredevil is the Samnee art. It’s beautiful stuff–I wish there had been more exterior scenes–but it’s just not enough to keep the comic going.

Waid’s Daredevil’s like eating stale junk food.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Waid; artist, Chris Samnee; colorist, Javier Rodriguez; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editor, Ellie Pyle; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Stray Bullets 30 (March 2003)

Stray Bullets #30

Here’s the thing I love about Stray Bullets–and it’s been kind of hard to love the comic lately, due to Lapham’s scurry into exploitation (intentionally or not)–even when he’s being cheap, Lapham has created a number of such excellent characters the cheapness can’t hurt the comic.

For instance, this issue is a prequel to the pointless (and exploitative) “kidnapped by a pedophile” arc Lapham is wrapping up. So his last chapter to the arc is a prequel to the arc. It’s a cheap move, because he’s showing the reader who wonderful Bobby and Virginia’s lives were before the bad choices she made to get Bobby kidnapped and abused.

But it doesn’t matter because Bobby and Virginia are both fantastic characters. There’s a whole subplot to the issue involving Bobby working on Amy Racecar comic spin-offs. The issue’s got a fantastic pace, then an amazing, touching finish.

Even if it’s cheap.

B+ 

CREDITS

Happy Ending; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Ghosted 10 (May 2014)

Ghosted #10

Busy, busy issue. Very busy. So busy Williamson can kill people off without it resonating just because there’s so much other stuff going on. And a lot of it goes on at the end; this issue has two cliffhangers, one hard, one soft. Very busy.

But the rest of the issue is awesome as usual. And the busyness is just overkill, it’s not bad. Williamson does a whole lot of callbacks in the last few pages, even for the resolution to the story arc.

What remains to be seen–since Williamson hasn’t exactly established a cast outside Jackson and his ghost–is where Ghosted will go next. This arc certainly shows it can go unexpected places, but with the flashbacks shining light into Jackson’s unrevealed backstory, I hope Williamson doesn’t choose to dwell too much. Constantly looking backward is boring.

The series continues to be a lot of harsh fun.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Williamson; artist, Davide Gianfelice; colorist, Miroslav Mrva; letterer, Rus Wooton; editor, Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

The Punisher 5 (August 2000)

The Punisher #5

Ennis develops Frank this issue and it’s unexpected. He’s fully aware of his mental state. He knows he kills criminals to feel a little better, a little more in control, whatever. He’s even mad at Giuliani for lowering crime in New York.

It’s an odd line. Even with all the odd stuff with Frank walking around the city bemoaning his situation, the Giuliani thing is still odder. Maybe it’s because all these other murderous vigilantes, each attacking different segments on the community. The priest hits the sinners, the Payback guy hits Wall Street crooks, the Elite guy gentrifies with a vengeance. I feel like there’s another one.

Maybe not. It doesn’t matter. Ennis is playing up the comedy, even though he still stays respectful of certain things. His principal supporting cast for Frank–the lovable apartment dwellers–Ennis doesn’t quite sell them out. Soap and Molly are seemingly safe too.

B 

CREDITS

Even Worse Things; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editor, Joe Quesada; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Ghosted 9 (April 2014)

Ghosted #9

Williamson gets away with a lot of exposition. Jackson and the kidnapped, possessed girl are on the run through the jungle of ghost animals–which turns out to be somewhat cute, in an amusing turn–and the girl just talks and talks. But the way Williamson paces out the conversation, it works great. There’s danger and tension and the dialogue fits between. Very nicely done.

Also cool is the finish, when things are looking bad for the heroes. The first person narration is sparing and Williamson usually uses it for humor. Why overuse the acerbic wit, especially when the characters are in great danger. It’d be too jokey. There’s a lot of control with the script.

The ending–and the jungle–wouldn’t work without Gianfelice’s art. He’s got the expressions down, which is important, because so much of the characters’ motivations are unsaid.

The comic’s sturdy, reliably and very entertaining.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Williamson; artist, Davide Gianfelice; colorist, Miroslav Mrva; letterer, Rus Wooton; editor, Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

Stray Bullets 29 (January 2003)

Stray Bullets #29

Ugh. Really, there’s no other word for it. Ugh. Lapham’s colliding of all his story lines and characters continues with Roger the detective–the one who had such a cool dating issue–hunting down Monster to find Virginia. Only Lapham has always used Monster as a force of nature, so having him go up against very real cops is kind of like a horror movie.

There’s also a bunch of lengthy jail interviews between Roger and Beth. Not to mention all the journals from Virginia while she was being held captive.

Lapham is bad with all of it. Why read Stray Bullets for a cop story? Lapham established the series as startling stories about people who experience violence. Roger’s just doing his job.

Worst is how Lapham just apes his plotting for the Beth investigation comic. It’s painfully uninspired. While not as bad as it could be, it’s still terrible.

D 

CREDITS

The Notebook; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.

A Voice in the Dark 7 (May 2014)

A Voice in the Dark #7

Taylor finishes up the arc and he doesn’t shy away from the murders. He’s still working in the severely layered timeline–going back and rereading the arc and understanding how the past and present move through would probably be an interesting experience. I’m sure it reads a little different.

The issue is mostly methodical, with the protagonist going through her plans and then the actual murders she commits. Taylor’s again great at keeping judgment out of the tone, even when the protagonist questions herself. She’s a likable serial killer (and these are bad people).

Only Taylor never goes into the future. The entire five part arc, the contemporary stuff, it ends with the protagonist’s success. There’s a hard cliffhanger to build anticipation but it’s on the boring “other serial killers” subplot. There’s nothing with Zoey’s life outside being an avenging angel serial killer.

Still, it’s a satisfactory finish to the arc.

B 

CREDITS

Killing Game, Part Five; writer, artist and letterer, Larime Taylor; editor, Duncan Eagleson; publisher, Image Comics.

The Punisher 4 (July 2000)

The Punisher #4

I wonder if Molly the detective wears sunglasses so Steve Dillon gets a little less to draw. I assume they’re also there so she looks too cool to hang out with Detective Soap, but still. It’s disconcerting having a character without expressions.

This issue, save the killer priest scene, which is particularly crappy, is rather good. Ennis sets up the detectives teaming up and does a little comedy relief with Soap. But most of the issue is real time with Frank on the run through Central Park. Some of the exposition is odd–Frank pauses to watch polar bears eat a bad guy and Ennis all of a sudden introduces the idea he’s a sadist for sadism’s sake. It’s brief, all by itself and very strange.

There’s a gentleness to how Ennis handles some of it. Frank’s oddly gentle, even when vicious, and Ennis handles Soap gently.

It’s good stuff.

B+ 

CREDITS

Wild Kingdom; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editor, Joe Quesada; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Rocket Girl 5 (May 2014)

Rocket Girl #5

Rocket Girl ends its first arc with an explosion, not a bang. Meaning, there's an explosion in the issue, but Montclare doesn't do anything too outlandish with the story. He wraps up the cliffhanger from the previous issue, with DaYoung discovering the populace is willing the help her. Reeder does a great eighties shopping scene with it.

Then there's some resolution for the future stuff and the laboratory stuff. Montclare does a big WarGames homage, which doesn't make too much sense since the series isn't set in 1983 and there was cable and VHS so it's not like it'd still be playing in the theater. But, who cares, since Reeder does such a fabulous job with the eighties New York stuff.

As for the arc's finish… it's mellow, thoughtful. There's a nice action scene, but the way DaYoung works things through and her revelations about her situation makes it special.

CREDITS

Time Will Tell; writer, Brandon Montclare; artist, colorist and letterer, Amy Reeder; publisher, Image Comics.

Stray Bullets 28 (December 2002)

Stray Bullets #28

Lapham almost brings it back, he really almost does. The comic’s been missing active intelligence from Beth–and Virginia–for quite a while (seriously, Virginia’s been on her own how long and she couldn’t sniff out a pedophile, especially one who looks like Sideshow Bob) but the end of this issue has Virginia come back. It’s fantastic.

There’s a lot of the interconnected nonsense, with Joey and Rose showing up again and reminding of better days. Especially Rose. She’s been one of Lapham’s better characters and he does write her stuff pretty well here. But Joey? He’s annoying. Again. Lapham beats it in like a hammer–remember him being crazy, here’s why.

Anyway, the ending falls off a bit because Lapham goes too long to bring everything together. It could have been a lot better. But it’s far from bad and closer to good.

Even if the art’s really loose.

B- 

CREDITS

The Prize; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Velvet 5 (May 2014)

Velvet #5

Maybe half the issue is really good background stuff with Velvet’s training after World War II and her mentor. Brubaker’s hostile to the new reader–and even to the regular reader with the bad memory–he doesn’t establish the story in context, he just starts out with his alternating flashbacks.

The training and the mentor is the better stuff because of Velvet’s narration. Brubaker gets in about ten percent history, ten percent character building, eighty percent story. The other stuff, with Velvet’s marriage to a fellow spy, is convoluted and done way too subtly. The comic opens with a Dr. No era James Bond homage, there’s no room for subtlety.

The front-heaviness ends up hurting. It’s just a bridging issue, which Brubaker tries to disguise. There’s some good Epting art and the finish is fine–maybe if Brubaker hadn’t revealed the flashback was all due to a single conversation.

B- 

CREDITS

Before the Living End, Part Five; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor; David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

The Punisher 3 (June 2000)

The Punisher #3

Ennis brings in Daredevil for what seems like a bad idea cameo and turns out to be a great one. It’s a lot of talking heads with Frank and Matt Murdock arguing about what’s justice and whatnot. Only Ennis makes sure to bring in some action every few pages so it doesn’t get boring.

Elsewhere, Ennis is building up the black comedy adventures of the cop. There isn’t much to the scenes, but they’re fine. All of the issue, except the serial killer priest, is fine. Ennis doesn’t get ambitious, except maybe with the Daredevil twists; he and Dillon are selling a deliberate product.

The rest of the issue has just Ennis setting up for the Daredevil confrontation. It figures into the big mob family plot tangentially. I think they just wanted to have the cameo. Or guest star. Daredevil’s in here a lot.

It’s a shame about the priest.

B+ 

CREDITS

The Devil by the Horns; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Joe Quesada and Palmiotti; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Auteur 3 (May 2014)

The Auteur #3

What just happened here? It’s like Spears put together two weak ideas–the very Hollywood one of how does his lunatic producer deal with an actress who won’t take off her top and then what happens if the producer’s serial killer sidekick actually kills someone. The result is a pointless, personality-free issue of The Auteur.

Maybe Spears just hit the mid-arc plateau and doesn’t know what to do. A five issue story sometimes needs to be four. Or six. This issue suggests four.

Not even the jokes are funny. Way too much time is spent on puke jokes. Even the hallucinogenic sequence is weak. Callahan doesn’t have anything to do with it, just some ghosts and a giant bunny. But they aren’t even around long enough to leave an impression.

The issue’s problems are worrisome, like maybe the comic has run out of steam.

I really hope not.

CREDITS

Presidents Day, Part 3 of 5: Unprecedented Realism!; writer and letterer, Rick Spears; artist, James Callahan; colorist, Luigi Anderson; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

Stray Bullets 27 (October 2002)

Stray Bullets #27

How does Lapham resolve a story he didn’t have any reason to do? Poorly.

He fractures Beth’s search for Virginia, cutting in scenes in their past, scenes of Beth’s investigation, lots of little cameos from other cast members. And then he turns it into an action movie. The entire issue has a frantic pace, so having a car chase at the end only seems logical. And having an open ending? Well, it’s Stray Bullets after all.

I don’t think I’ve ever said something has jumped the shark before and it’s unclear if this issue signals a downward trend for the series, but it’s a terrible, terrible comic. It’s inept. Lapham takes one of his two best characters and reduces her to a crying mess before building her into Charles Bronson. But a bad Charles Bronson.

The issue’s a bunch of manipulative scenes strung together. Every one of them is pointless.

How does Lapham resolve a story he didn’t have any reason to do? Poorly.

He fractures Beth’s search for Virginia, cutting in scenes in their past, scenes of Beth’s investigation, lots of little cameos from other cast members. And then he turns it into an action movie. The entire issue has a frantic pace, so having a car chase at the end only seems logical. And having an open ending? Well, it’s Stray Bullets after all.

I don’t think I’ve ever said something has jumped the shark before and it’s unclear if this issue signals a downward trend for the series, but it’s a terrible, terrible comic. It’s inept. Lapham takes one of his two best characters and reduces her to a crying mess before building her into Charles Bronson. But a bad Charles Bronson.

The issue’s a bunch of manipulative scenes strung together. Every one of them is pointless.

F 

CREDITS

Broken; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Prophet 44 (May 2014)

Prophet #44

There was an unfortunate amount of time I spent on this issue waiting for Old John and crew to show up. I should have been appreciating the wonder Graham and artist Dave Taylor were doing instead. Luckily, I caught on in time.

The issue is from the perspective of a being who is part of the empire ruling the galaxy. Graham only hints at how the empire works and who actually runs things and why, but the possibilities he raises are glorious.

The issue is first person, from the perspective of this agent of the empire. She’s got a mission to investigate a planet. On the way she has side adventures and there’s a lot of history to things and Graham has already established the character anyway. He opens on this lovely scene with the protagonist and her lover.

Xurxo G. Penalta’s cute but trite backup can’t dim the issue.

A+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Brandon Graham; artist and colorist, Dave Taylor; letterer, Ed Brisson. Lasersaw Crystal Canals; writer and artist, Xurxo G. Penalta. Publisher, Image Comics.

The Punisher 2 (May 2000)

The Punisher #2

Everything is going swimmingly until the end. Sure, Ennis doesn’t write Frank’s threatening dialogue as well as he writes his narration, which continues to be sublime, but the plotting is phenomenal. Frank methodically goes up the food chain on the mob family, with Ennis showing the steps in Frank’s investigation.

Ennis also brings in some of the supporting cast. He uses them for humor–the poor, unlucky cop and his peers. It’s a good relief valve for the Punisher story. While Frank’s got a certain sense of humor, it tends to make things more tense.

The end, however, is a disaster. Ennis breaks the reality he’s creating for the comic, introducing a villain more appropriate for Preacher. At this point, the comic goes from being Garth Ennis writing Punisher to Ennis writing his “style” in a Punisher comic. Ennis even changes the way humor works for that ending.

Rather unfortunate.

B 

CREDITS

Badaboom, Badabing; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Joe Quesada and Palmiotti; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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