The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 28 (October 1984)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #28

And now it's Joey Cavalieri scripting from a Conway plot. The most visible change in the scripting is the personality Cavalieri gives Firestorm's two sides. Martin is dismissive of how Ronnie does things and Ronnie is irresponsible.

There's a great line with Martin mocking Ronnie and Firestorm's romance with Firehawk.

The issue eventually has some great action art, but the opening has lots of problems. Someone–either Pablo Marcos or Rodriguez–doesn't do well finishing faces for Kayanan. All the civilian scenes are plagued with characters with awkward, too static expressions.

The issue's villain is goofy but just a mercenary and the action plays out rather well.

There are some hints of character development at the beginning for Ronnie and his high school problems but Cavalieri doesn't follow through. He's getting to be unlikable, mostly because he's barely present.

Ditto the turgid conspiracy subplot–it desperately needs its resolution. The sooner the better.



The End of His Rope; writers, Gerry Conway and Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inkers, Pablo Marcos and Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, John Costanza; editors, Janice Race and Conway; publisher, DC Comics.

Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland 1 (August 2014)

Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland #1

In Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland, writer Eric Shanower includes something very strange, something Winsor McCay never bothered with. A narrative. This series's Nemo isn't just a kid who has amazing dreams and wakes up when he falls on the ground, he's the kid chosen by Slumberland to be the princess's playmate.

If it sounds like a Wizard of Oz-type thing, don't worry, the opening scenes in Slumberland feel like Oz too. They don't look like it; Gabriel Rodriguez does a wonderful job mimicking McCay's style. And Shanower makes up for a bland inciting action too. Once the issue itself starts mimicking the McCary's strips–each ending with Nemo waking up and getting back into the existing dream narrative the next night–it's fantastic. Shanower gets it, Rodriguez gets it.

But then the issue's over and has nothing to show for it; Shanower can't do a narrative and not have any progression.



Writer, Eric Shanower; artist, Gabriel Rodriguez; colorist, Nelson Daniel; letterer, Robbie Robbins; editors, Chris Ryall and Scott Dunbier; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Letter 44 3 (January 2014)

Letter 44 #3

Soule ups the intrigue this issue. Not so much out on the Clarke as they investigate the alien presence–though there is an ominous asteroid to explore–but on Earth. Soule concentrates on the political intrigue and it’s really effective.

Cynically speaking, one could describe Letter 44 as a mix of Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton and Arthur C. Clarke. This comic is only indie because the industry can’t figure out what to do with an accessible title. And Soule goes out of his way not to just make it accessible, but also enjoyable. There are at least two great comic moments in this issue.

Alburquerque’s art is getting better too. It steadily rises throughout the issue; the big shock panel at the end is actually half excellent and half mediocre. He has movement down, but not how to deal with detail in movement.

The comic is a slow, strong burn.



Writer, Charles Soule; penciller, Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque; colorist, Guy Major; letterer, Shawn DePasquale; editor, Jill Beaton; publisher, Oni Press.

Dredd: Underbelly (January 2014)

Dredd: Underbelly

Dredd: Underbelly is the comic book sequel to Dredd, the movie, which is based on Judge Dredd, the comic book. So why make a big deal out of a comic book, in this case Underbelly? Well, Judge Dredd wears his new movie outfit and the designs are based on the movie, not the comic. Writer Arthur Wyatt tries to tie the issue's story to the movie, but it's thin at best.

Wyatt has a big problem with the narration. Dredd doesn't narrate, some kind of omniscient third narrates and it's often too expository and stilted. Another obvious problem is Dredd. He's not a character so much as an occasional jaw; writing Dredd to match the movie means somehow imbuing the comic with a sense of Karl Urban's performance. Without it… no go.

So Wyatt doesn't deliver much. Artist Henry Flint does better, though he has some shaky sequences as well.



Writer, Arthur Wyatt; artist, Henry Flint; colorist, Chris Blythe; letterer, Ellie De Ville; editor, Matt Smith; publisher, Rebellion.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 27 (September 1984)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #27

Paul Kupperberg fills in writing the last arc of the Black Bison and Silver Deer arc–which I affectionately call “the attack of the Native American super-terrorists.” Silver Deer proves so evil she even horrifies the Soviets with her behavior.

There’s an awkward sequence with the superheroes in their civilian identities going to a political reception. Kupperberg skips the scene where Lorraine explains how she’s met Firestorm’s two halves. The senator father inexplicably goes along with it.

But the Kayanan and Rodriguez art is often great and always above average. Even with the odd action finale–flying characters in closed spaces never plays well on the page; it all works out reasonably well.

Until the last page, when Kupperberg rips off the end of Superman III–Firestorm returning the Statue of Liberty to its proper form. The rip-off is vaguely okay but then Firestorm goofily salutes the statue.



Spell Dance; writers, Carla Conway, Gerry Conway and Paul Kupperberg; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inker, Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Duncan Andrews; editor, Gerry Conway; publisher, DC Comics.

John Carpenter’s Asylum 6 (June 2014)

John Carpenter's Asylum #6

Oh, no, Asylum isn't over yet. I had thought this issue, which awkwardly ends with the heroes driving off into the sunset to hunt down Lucifer and his minions as they wreck havoc on the world of man, was the last one.

Too bad. With Bruce Jones completely off the book, the dialogue and plotting takes a couple more hits. Sandy King and Trent Olsen's dialogue is real bad, though given the subject matter, no one could make it much better.

The writers get way too confrontational about validating the religiousness of the concept and skip over all character development. The lengthy final montage, with the guys reviewing their mission, doesn't offer any new content.

The Manco art helps considerably but even he's rushing to get done with this comic (this issue is his last). The double page spreads unfortunately get some of the least detail.

Asylum is pretty bad.



Writers, Sandy King and Trent Olsen; artist, Leonardo Manco; colorist, Kinsun Loh; letterer, Janice Chiang; editor, King; publisher, Storm King Comics.

Tom Strong 25 (May 2004)

Tom Strong #25

The guest writers continue with Geoff Johns. He has John Paul Leon on the art for a pseudo-eclectic story of a Tom Strong fan who has the power to reshape reality when he’s upset.

Somehow Johns, who does give the guy a backstory, doesn’t realize the universe would be in shambles. Johns even mocks the guy–the reader is supposed to mock the guy. He’s unlikable in his desperation.

Still, it’s okay. Johns writes the cast well–he too is obviously a Tom Strong fan and Leon’s art is an interesting forced mismatch with the series style. There’s rain in a lot of the issue. Leon does well with rain.

The conclusion has a lot of problems, but not too many to overshadow the story’s other strengths. It shows what a strong cast and setting Moore has set up.

Though it really doesn’t support the weight of silly magic.



Tom Strong’s Pal, Wally Willoughby; writer, Geoff Johns; artist, John Paul Leon; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Kristy Quinn and Scott Dunbier; publisher, America’s Best Comics.

The Life After 1 (July 2014)

The Life After #1

What a downer. Not because of the big reveal at the end, but because of how writer Joshua Hale Fialkov compares the mundanity to normal existence to purgatory. For a while, it seems like The Life After is just a gentle Matrix riff, with some often really good art from Gabo. The art's not always great, but it's always competent and the ambitious stuff makes up for the rest.

The way Fialkov handles revealing the truth to the reader–and to his protagonist–is to aggressively force the reader to examine everything he or she has read already in the comic. For the protagonist, it's a different experience. Fialkov juggles the two responsibilities–one to the reader, one to the protagonist–well. Even with a surprising guest star at the end, Life After is grounded.

Without the guest star, the comic could actually just be a one shot. Fialkov's plot construction is very strong.



Writer, Joshua Hale Fialkov; artist and colorist, Gabo; letterer, Crank!; editors, James Lucas Jones and Ari Yarwood; publisher, Oni Press.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 26 (August 1984)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #26

Not much happens this issue past cliffhanger resolution, the villains teaming up with the Soviets and Lorraine and her father doing their every issue recap of his career problems. In some ways, it’s impressive how little gets done but how well the Conways and Kayanan do the issue.

There’s a chase sequence where Firestorm has to fight the Statue of Liberty. It should be cooler than it turns out and then the repercussions of Firestorm destroying it should probably be dealt with too.

The political stuff with the Soviets is goofy and doesn’t get handled well. The Conways’ villains this issue are Native American activists–admittedly, they’re super-powered terrorists–but it’s still a little odd to see them portrayed with so little sympathy.

As for character development, there’s zip. It’s a bridging issue and not an interesting one. It’s a good looking one, thanks to Kayanan and Rodriguez, sometimes really good looking.



Give Me Liberty–Give Me Death; writers, Carla Conway and Gerry Conway; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inker, Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Adam Kubert; editors, Janice Race and Gerry Conway; publisher, DC Comics.

Star Trek 36 (August 2014)

Star Trek #36

I love how static Shasteen draws all the faces. It looks like he's going through either publicity photos or maybe screen grabs and picking the ones he thinks are closest to the emotions the characters should be feeling.

Actually, I do not love anything about Shasteen's art. I was being sarcastic in an attempt to feign enthusiasm for talking about this comic book.

It is barely a Star Trek issue in terms of being about the new movie franchise crew; it's more of a "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" comic it turns out. Is it a good "Deep Space Nine" comic?


As a writer, Johnson continues to confuse concept with imagination. Just because the Paramount rep okayed crossing over with the "Star Trek" shows isn't reason enough to do so.

Johnson can't even get any mileage out of Bones and Spock banter. It's pedestrian and pointless with lifeless art.



The Q Gambit, Part Two; writer, Mike Johnson; artist, Tony Shasteen; letterer, Neil Uyetake; editor, Sarah Gaydos; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Tom Strong 24 (March 2004)

Tom Strong #24

What did I just read? Hogan’s back writing again and he does a decent enough job scripting, but the plotting is a disaster.

It starts okay–Tom Strong’s ex-girlfriend (from the thirties) turns out to be a cryogenically preserved ice person and he’s trying to help her. So he brings her home. One might think it would lead to all sorts of interesting scenes between his wife and the ex-girlfriend, maybe Tesla and the ex-girlfriend but no… nothing. Hogan knows he should be doing that story because he hurries through a scene between Dhalua and the ex.

Instead, he sets up some possible future story. Not an important one, because he also doesn’t show how the ex-girlfriend’s reappearance has affected Tom (other than him trying to help her); there’s simply no weight to the story. It ought to weight six tons.

The art is gorgeous but the story is insincerely executed.



Snow Queen; writer, Peter Hogan; penciller, Chris Sprouse; inkers, Karl Story and John Dell; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Kristy Quinn and Scott Dunbier; publisher, America’s Best Comics.

Godzilla: Cataclysm 1 (August 2014)

Godzilla: Cataclysm #1

I wanted Godzilla: Cataclysm to be good. Not before I started reading it, but as I read the first few pages where writer Cullen Bunn sets it all up. It’s got an intriguing ground situation–after the monster war, humans have to make do in their wrecked world. So it’s post-apocalyptic but not futuristic.

And there’s no attempt at explaining the monsters.

Dave Wachter’s monster art is decent too. Giant monsters fighting, lots of detail in the panels. It’s good stuff.

Then the issue gets going and it gets worse and worse as it goes along. Like Bunn not establishing characters; characters need to be interesting even if giant bugs don’t attack them. The bugs would’ve been an adequate menace for the issue, but Bunn can’t help upping it.

Only Wachter doesn’t want to up his game–instead of detail, he does huge sound lettering as backgrounds.

Cataclysm indeed.



Writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Dave Wachter; letterer, Chris Mowry; editor, Bobby Curnow; publisher, IDW Publishing.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 25 (July 1984)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #25

Twenty-five issues into the series and Conway still hasn’t figured out a balance between the superhero stuff and the regular people stuff.

Ronnie and Martin get no more time this issue developing their civilian characters than the supporting cast cops get. One of the Conways–presumably Gerry because Carla is just credited with plotting–is so out of it he or she forgets Ronnie’s best friend at high school’s name. The high school scene reveals a glaring problem–the book’s a lot better when it doesn’t have any high school in it. Lorraine (and Firehawk) works better as a supporting cast member than the high schoolers. At least the way Conway’s been treating them.

The issue’s pretty good, though Romeo Tanghal’s inks take the perspective out of Kayanan’s pencils. They’re reductive, which gives it a distinct look; the result’s not entirely unsuccessful but it’s too static for action.

It’s simultaneously distracted and competent.



Black Bison Rides Again!; writers, Carla Conway and Gerry Conway; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inker, Romeo Tanghal; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterer, Adam Kubert; editors, Janice Race and Gerry Conway; publisher, DC Comics.

Starlight 5 (August 2014)

Starlight #5

I didn’t realize Starlight was a limited series. I guess it makes sense, given the creative team, but Millar sure didn’t pace it well for a finite run. Subplots would have been cool. I just thought he was padding it out.

This issue is all action. There’s a minute amount of character development for Duke, but it’s really just old man action movie stuff and it’s fine. Millar writes it well enough and Parlov draws it beautifully. It’s too bad Millar’s plotting isn’t better because most of the action takes place in a gas fog and all the activity is in long shot.

The tediously setup cliffhangers have the supporting cast in shackles and Duke on his way to save them. Duke surviving an off-panel death might be a spoiler but Millar doesn’t actually present it as a possibility. It’s a narrative trick.

They’re all tricks, but effectively executed.



Writer, Mark Millar; artist, Goran Parlov; colorist, Ive Svorcina; letterer, Marko Sunjic; editor, Nicole Boose; publisher, Image Comics.

Tom Strong 23 (January 2004)

Tom Strong #23

Sprouse is back for this fast-paced done-in-one with Tom, Tesla and Val on the moon helping Svetlana find her missing husband. There’s a nice opening with Telsa and Val–he’s still learning English and it’s frustrating her. Even though it’s Peter Hogan writing, he manages to continue Moore’s light comedic touch, but always with some seriousness behind the humor.

But then there’s a kidnapping and a flashback. The flashback offers some insight into new father Tom Strong, something I don’t think Moore’s ever really covered. Hogan gets to show some cracks in the impervious Tom Strong skin and then shows how they get sealed.

The resolution keeps all the humor, not to mention Hogan referencing a nineteenth century newspaper hoax, but it goes further. He shows the depth of the friendship between Tom and Svetlana, as Tom quietly digests a big surprise.

It’s a fantastic, tender outing.



Moonday; writer, Peter Hogan; penciller, Chris Sprouse; inker, Karl Story; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Kristy Quinn and Scott Dunbier; publisher, America’s Best Comics.

Ghosted 12 (August 2014)

Ghosted #12

I’m having a little trouble counting the reveals in this issue. It’s either three or four. Two of the biggest ones come before the end of the issue and then the cliffhanger reveal doesn’t even have the inkling of context. Williamson is having some fun.

This issue is setup for the next arc–with Goran Sudzuka continuing on art–and Williamson goes all out. There isn’t just a little setup, it’s the entire issue. He opens with a ghost event out in the world and follows up on it, ties it into the discussion, for the end of the issue. It’s not cliffhanger material, just interesting material.

But while he’s doing all this setup, Williamson is moving his protagonists forward. It calls back to previous issues, but the comic is essentially a soft boot. It works out rather well.

Even the most hackneyed character comes off as charming and vibrant.


Writer, Joshua Williamson; artist, Goran Sudzuka; colorist, Miroslav Mrva; letterer, Rus Wooten; editors, Helen Leigh and Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 24 (June 1984)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #24

Even with some very questionable character design, a big action finale without any setting and a way too cramped issue in terms of panels, the issue is a considerable success. Conway takes some time to develop Ronnie–pairing him up with Firehawk’s alter ego, Lorraine–but also some time to work out their civilian relationship. It’s incomplete but it’s a good start.

And as problematic as the villains look this issue, Conway comes up with a good story for them and an even better resolution. Over half the issue is Ronnie trying to figure out the situation he’s in, which gives it a fresh feel.

Oh, I even forgot about the silly action sequence to setup Firehawk’s subplot. Even it can’t distract from the issue’s strengths. The Kayanan pencils make it look great, regardless of Conway forcing it into the comic.

The new Firestorm–with Kayanan and Firehawk–is excelling.



Terminal Velocity; writers, Carla Conway and Gerry Conway; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inker, Romeo Tanghal; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterer, Adam Kubert; editors, Janice Race and Gerry Conway; publisher, DC Comics.

Princess Ugg 3 (August 2014)

Princess Ugg #3

Naifeh partially recovers Ugg this issue with a fantastic flashback about Ülga’s motherhood and then he sets her up with a friend at school. One of the teachers is actually going to help her. That sequence, with her conversations with the teacher and the flashback, is excellent and it seems like the issue is going to go well.

Even the teacher’s assignment–Ülga needs to make friends with her enemy–is interesting and could lead to a decent plot line. But then he immediately reminds the reader this other princess is hideous. Not mildly hideous, but completely so. He’s never shown a single redeeming value to the character and he makes it worse here.

So the solution has to do with Ülga taming a unicorn; because all a comic needs is equestrian training.

There’s some really nice art and the flashback’s wonderful, but the comic is still on shaky ground.


Writer and artist, Ted Naifeh; colorists, Warren Wucinich and Naifeh; letterer, Wucinich; editors, Robin Herrera and Jill Beaton; publisher, Oni Press.

Tom Strong 22 (December 2003)

Tom Strong #22

Moore brings it all together for the Tom Stone finale. He even gets around to a scene or two I really wasn’t expecting. It turns out there are drawbacks to a more emotional Tom Strong or Tom Stone. They play out unexpectedly for the characters, but maybe expectedly for the superhero comic book medium.

Ordway proves the perfect artist for the issue–and the arc–given the vast number of guest starring science heroes. They’re everywhere during some of the issue, with Ordway getting to do very different Bronze Age superhero action composition. It’s very cool, even if Moore’s successful at the scenes being emotionally devastating.

With all the time travel and alternate universes, it’s initially odd Moore wants to close off the Tom Stone storyline. The conclusion, where he actually gets to develop Tom Strong a little more, wouldn’t work without treating the arc rather seriously.

It’s excellent work.



How Tom Stone Got Started, Part Three: Crisis on Infinite Hearts; writer, Alan Moore; penciller, Jerry Ordway; inkers, Ordway, Sandra Hope and Richard Friend; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Kristy Quinn and Scott Dunbier; publisher, America’s Best Comics.

Terminal Hero 1 (August 2014)

Terminal Hero #1

Maybe it’ll all be a dream. Not the comic but me having spent the time reading it. Actually, that dismissal is a little unfair; I want to keep going with Terminal Hero, just to see if writer Peter Milligan ever finds anything original to say.

He has some hints of personality when the protagonist is discovering his bad self (versus his good, pure self). There’s also some decent dialogue.

There’s also a lot of scenes out of “ordinary man gets extraordinary powers” pop culture familiars, like Hollow Man and The Fly most obviously. There are probably more. Milligan isn’t trying hard at all.

Even though it’s a Dynamite comic, it feels a lot like a nineties Vertigo comic. Something forgettable or failed; given the protagonist’s telekinetic control over matter and his flaming hair, I wonder if it was supposed to be a Vertigo Firestorm relaunch.

Piotr Kowalski’s art’s nice enough.



No More Trouble; writer, Peter Milligan; artist, Piotr Kowalski; colorist, Kelly Fitzpatrick; letterer, Simon Bowland; editors, Molly Mahan, Hannah Elder and Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 23 (May 1984)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #23

Conway edits himself on Firestorm, which might by why no one told him having the female businessperson use “she” instead of “one” (referring to a hypothetical lawyer) sounds both sexist and dumb. Evil feminists out to get Firestorm, what can our hero do to stop them!

Otherwise, the issue’s somewhat indistinct. Conway has another conspiracy going against Firehawk. It’s too bad because he actually writes her well and giving her repeat story lines doesn’t help.

Ronnie has high school trouble again–with he and his girlfriend apparently back together (I thought she got mad at him big time a few issues ago) and his problems with the class jerk going again. It doesn’t feel particularly original, but the scenes are amusing enough.

There’s a big finish at a computer convention with Firestorm fighting an electricity monster. Conway’s pacing is too rushed but the Kayanan pencils help it move right along.



Byte; writers, Carla Conway and Gerry Conway; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inker, Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterer, Adam Kubert; editor, Gerry Conway; publisher, DC Comics.

Thomas Alsop 3 (August 2014)

Thomas Alsop #3

If you think about it longer than fifteen seconds, Miskiewicz’s big reveal about 9/11 is offensive. It’d be offensive if it were about the death of Elvis Presley or the Battle of Verdun; he’s hijacking a real event to drive his story. See, 9/11 is apparently about these bad warlocks in the eighteenth century planting haunted wood on Manhattan.

Is it not supposed to be offensive because it’s magical and stupid? Maybe. But it’s definitely magical and it’s definitely stupid and it’s also still offensive. Miskiewicz is latching on to the biggest event in U.S. history in decades. It isn’t to better Thomas Alsop, it’s to give the comic a story.


There’s also a long drug induced hallucination setup and it doesn’t give Schmidt much to draw. The murky visions into the past, flashbacks in flashbacks, it’s just too much.

Maybe it’s too dumb to be offensive. Or not.



The Hand of the Island, Part Three; writer, Chris Miskiewicz; artist, Palle Schmidt; letterer, Deron Bennett; editors, Jasmine Amiri and Ian Brill; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Tom Strong 21 (October 2003)

Tom Strong #21

The Tom Stone story continues with Moore doing a combination alternate history lesson of the twentieth century–with Tom Stone and the good Saveen rehabilitating all the villains instead of fighting them–and wink at the traditional Tom Strong back story.

The most interesting part is how Tom Strong’s mother is basically the only villain in the issue. She’s the one knowingly endangering the fabric of the space-time continuum. But not really, because everything in the Tom Stone world is okay.

And Tom Strong gets to hear all about how he didn’t do things as well as Tom Stone would have done–the deciding factor seems to be Tom Strong’s dad not being as sympathetic as Tom Stone’s–and even he gets tired of it.

There’s not a lot of drama to the issue, something Moore saves entirely for the soft cliffhanger.

It’s competently done, but lacks any momentum.



How Tom Stone Got Started, Part Two: Strongmen in Silvertime; writer, Alan Moore; penciller, Jerry Ordway; inkers, Trevor Scott, Karl Story and Richard Friend; colorist, Wildstorm FX; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Kristy Quinn and Scott Dunbier; publisher, America’s Best Comics.

Nightworld 1 (August 2014)

Nightworld #1

Nightworld is off to a fine start. Artist Paolo Leandri does an excellent Kirby imitation, with Adam McGovern’s terse but verbose script–at least at the open–making the comic feel like something out of the seventies. Like a Charlton knock-off of Tomb of Dracula maybe.

Leandri has some issues with the faces–his noses are off and his cheekbones are a little much–but there’s so much flow to his movement, problematic faces barely register.

The story has some doomed soul in a superhero outfit battling a demon for the soul of his beloved. There are villains, like a hellish femme fatale and–in the most obvious Kirby homage–some New God-looking speed demon.

There are the nice humans who take the time to help the tragic protagonist too. I’m sure it’ll be a bittersweet end with the girl.

Nightworld isn’t incredibly original, just very well produced.



Writer, Adam McGovern; artist and letterer, Paolo Leandri; colorist, Dominic Regan; publisher, Image Comics.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 22 (April 1984)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #22

Sal Trapani inking Pat Broderick. I don’t even know where to start with the result… somehow the people look better than the superheroes, which isn’t how Broderick pencils usually work. Trapani inks them almost like comic strip characters, Ronnie and Martin in particular. It has to be seen to be understood.

The issue itself is a retelling of Firestorm’s origin, with Gerry and Carla Conway adapting the first issue of the 1978 Firestorm series. The context is Firestorm telling Firehawk his origin after she’s nursed him back to health–though the off-page scenes where she’s in her civilian identity hiding the superhero from her dad would have been a lot more amusing.

Maybe the art is supposed to be retro, because the retelling reads very dated. Six years in comics is a long time and the Conways didn’t update the original dialogue or pacing.

Clearly, no one tried with this one.



The Secret Origin of Firestorm; writers, Gerry Conway and Carla Conway; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterer, John Costanza; editors, Janice Race and Gerry Conway; publisher, DC Comics.

She-Hulk 7 (October 2014)

She-Hulk #7

Oh, look, all She-Hulk needs is for Soule to not cop out on a story and for Pulido to come back on the art and the issue's outstanding.

In fact, Soule probably could have gotten away with dragging this story out over two issues except Jen can do the Hulk jumps. It's the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids homage I never knew I was waiting for, with Jen and Patsy shrinking down (with Hank Pym) to rescue a scientist hiding in his backyard. There's a lot of action, a lot of humor and then a huge argument between Jen and Patsy over Jen's willingness to trust.

The Pulido art is fantastic throughout, whether he's breaking out talking heads or he's doing the She-Hulk versus cats sequence. I'm pretty sure there's further homage (Incredible Shrinking Man?) in those panels.

Then Soule wraps it up, sets up the next issue. Easy, right?



Small Victories; writer, Charles Soule; artist, Javier Pulido; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editors, Jeanine Schaefer and Sana Amanat; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Tom Strong 20 (June 2003)

Tom Strong #20

Jerry Ordway guest pencils for a special alternate history story. The shipwreck on the tropical island goes differently and so there’s never a Tom Strong. Instead, there’s a Tom Stone, son of Tom Strong’s mother and the ship captain. His understanding of racism firsthand–and still having the empathy to ignore it and help everyone–allows him to convince Saveen to become a science hero with him.

There’s a lot more, with Saveen marrying Dhalua and they have Tesla while Tom Stone marries some other chick. He’s actually nowhere near as important to the story; Moore realizes he can only get so much mileage out of that character and everyone else is more interesting.

It’s a constantly surprisingly comic, though the final reveal suggests Moore foreshadowed everything carefully throughout the issue. He’s not asking the reader to pay attention, he’s ignoring readers who do not.

It’s a tad manipulative, but definitely engaging.



How Tom Stone Got Started, Part One; writer, Alan Moore; penciller, Jerry Ordway; inker, Karl Story; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Kristy Quinn and Scott Dunbier; publisher, America’s Best Comics.

Tales of Honor 4 (August 2014)

Tales of Honor #4

Hawkins is one cruel writer. Until now, he’s always done an excellent job making Tales of Honor an engaging read, but this issue he works out comic book action tension better than maybe anyone ever has before. He makes the comic a page turner, using long expository paragraphs to pace the reader’s attention.

He’s able to get all this tension even after he’s done an odd jumping on recap of the series–and cast–to date. That recap lulls the reader into a relaxed approach to the comic. It also tells the reader most of the cast is okay, since the protagonist is narrating these memories from ten years in the future.

So basically, Hawkins makes it harder for himself. And then he shoots past any possible expectations. This issue is phenomenally plotted.

Unfortunately, there’s also terrible CG art from Jeong. It’s too bad Honor doesn’t have visuals to match the writing.



On Basilisk Station, Part Four; writer, Matt Hawkins; artists, Sang-Il Jeong and Linda Sejic; letterer, Troy Peteri; editor, Besty Gonia; publisher, Top Cow Productions.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 21 (March 1984)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #21

There’s some more Killer Frost misandry goofiness. But not enough to impair the issue–what’s strangest about Killer Frost as the issue opens is how Conway sets her against another female scientist. He writes the human one fine; it’s just Killer Frost who he can’t seem to write with any sincere, empathetic depth. It’s odd.

Once Killer Frost escapes and goes on a rampage, the issue gets great. Kayanan’s disaster scenes are fantastic and the big fight between Firestorm and Killer Frost is even better; it survives Conway’s odd narration, where he overuses the word “fury,” presumably for branding purposes.

Throw in some real character development for Firestorm–who has a scene with the cops who don’t know what to do with his help–as he (and Martin) come to terms with how unprepared they are for Killer Frost. And her arc is good too, just poorly characterized at the start.

It’s excellent.



Cold Snap!; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inker, Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterer, John Costanza; editors, Nicola Cuti and Conway; publisher, DC Comics.

Tom Strong 19 (April 2003)

Tom Strong #19

This issue, containing three different stories by two writers (Moore on the first and last, daughter Leah on the middle one) and three different art teams (Howard Chaykin on the first, Shawn McManus and Steve Mitchell on the second, regular artists Sprouse and Story on the third), is mostly awesome.

Moore and Chaykin do a domestic adventure for Tom and Dhalau in the first story; Dhalau is kidnapped and Tom has to save the day. Throw in a matriarchal society and Moore gets to explore gender in comics. Chaykin’s exuberant but a tad too loose.

Leah Moore and McManus do a decent enough story with villain Saveen. McManus’s art is excellent but the final twist is too predictable.

The final story is an awesome riff on comic readers and the love of classic comics as objects. It’s funny, smart and mildly disturbing.

It’s a discreetly ambitious commentary on the medium.



Electric Ladyland!; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Howard Chaykin. Bad to the Bone; writer, Leah Moore; artist, Shawn McManus. The Hero-Hoard of Horatio Hogg!; writer, Alan Moore; penciller, Chris Sprouse; inker, Karl Story. Colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Kristy Quinn and Scott Dunbier; publisher, America’s Best Comics.

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