The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 43 (January 1986)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #43

What is it about Kayanan? Why does he never gets the right inker on Firestorm? Mike Machlan is better than the last couple guys, but still not great. For a lot of the pages, Kayanan seems to avoid a lot of close-ups because Machlan butchers the faces.

The story has Ronnie and Martin at college, with Ronnie adjusting to college freshman life and Martin's thought balloons covering his unease as a new professor. He doesn't really get a story, however. And Conway gives Ronnie too much. Between football tryouts, which Kayanan doesn't break out well, his girlfriend and his high school nemesis plotting his downfall… it's too much. What's really bad is how ineffectual the girlfriend is as a character; Conway basically reinvents her every seven issues.

The other plot–villain Typhoon's return–as awkward. Conway wants him to be both dangerous and sympathetic, but goes to far in the first direction.

B- 

CREDITS

Night of Tears, Sky of Sorrow; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inker, Mike Machlan; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Carrie Spiegle; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.

Prometheus: Fire and Stone 1 (September 2014)

Prometheus: Fire and Stone #1

Maybe doing a sequel to an in name only movie franchise isn’t a good idea. Because Paul Tobin’s script for Prometheus doesn’t have much to do with the movie. Anything yet, actually. Except the planet. It’s actually a sequel to Aliens, the movie, not the comics (near as I can tell).

Tobin sends a group of varied scientists and military personnel and some other things–no warrant officers so far–to the planet. Someone’s investigating the death of Guy Pearce from the movie but it’s set 130 years later or something because no bumping into the unmade but planned Prometheus sequel.

It’s predictable alien planet exploring. I’ll bet there’s some stuff with the goop and, hey, look, a ship of aliens from Aliens. I’m shocked.

Juan Ferreya is way too gentle for the art too.

Tobin’s script is boring and forced from the first page. Fire and Stone sinks fast.

D 

CREDITS

Writer, Paul Tobin; artist, Juan Ferreyra; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Ian Tucker and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Hulk / Wolverine: Six Hours 2 (March 2003)

Hulk / Wolverine: 6 Hours #2

Kolins goes more into detail this issue than he did in the first. The exterior Canadian mountains are precise and intense; it makes Six Hours a distinct-looking comic, even when Kolins occasionally has problems. He doesn’t deal with movement particularly well.

The story is reasonably successful, although Jones introduces an absurd villain and gives him crappy dialogue. Kolins runs with the art on the guy, who wears a hood and has an extended arm with claws on it. No doubt he’ll get into it with Wolverine one of these issues.

And Wolvering finally gets to come into the issue, but he and Bruce Banner are just around to move the other story. Banner and Logan have no stories (so far) in Six Hours, they’re just caricatures. It’s the supporting cast who Jones most concentrates on, including a worried family and a mob boss.

It’s a peculiar, but reasonably successful, approach.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Bruce Jones; artist, Scott Kolins; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editor, John Miesegaes; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Letter 44 9 (August 2014)

Letter 44 #9

Soule has a big cliffhanger at the end and a bunch of little ones throughout. He lets his subplots thread out even further and some of these threads practically establish them as their own plot lines. For instance, who would have thought the previous President ever would have been such a big character?

I think I said before Letter 44 would be just as interesting without the aliens and the science fiction aspect–the MacGuffin–because the way Soule plays things on Earth are just phenomenal. He’s adding layer after layer to the characters and their relationships and flushing readers’ expectations of where the story might go.

As for the sci-fi element, Soule initially seems to be rushing things this issue but then it does turn out he has a plan. He wants to have two big cliffhangers and an even bigger final one.

Letter 44 is an aggravatingly compelling comic book.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Charles Soule; penciller, Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque; colorist, Dan Jackson; letterer, Crank!; editor, Robin Herrera; publisher, Oni Press.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 42 (November 1985)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #42

It’s a thoroughly decent Crisis crossover. Firehawk and Wonder Girl are trying to find loved ones in New York and they run into all sorts of problems since New York City is split between different eras.

Akin and Garvey don’t do great on the inks but they do better than they ever have before. The people’s faces don’t look two dimensional anymore. The action stuff is good and Kayanan breaks out a very nice flying sequence.

Eventually there’s a Tomahawk guest appearance when they find themselves in colonial America Manhattan. There’s some adventure with Firehawk and Wonder Girl helping the troops against the British. Conway presents both time periods well; when they go to colonial time, it feels like they’re guesting in a Tomahawk story.

There’s a big narration thing from Firehawk about her embracing life as a superhero. It’s not great, but it’s serviceable. It’s a crossover after all.

B- 

CREDITS

A Long Night’s Journey Into Day; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inkers, Ian Akin and Brian Garvey; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Carrie Spiegle; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.

Juice Squeezers (December 2013)

Juice Squeezers

David Lapham takes a really interesting approach with this first Juice Squeezers one-shot. He doesn't try to do too much. He opens the comic with new Juice Squeezer, Lizzy Beedle. She's the only girl on the team of high school students who kill all those giant bugs the world doesn't know about. He changes points of view quite a bit, but it's always Lizzy who's at the center of the character stuff.

Then there's the way the kids go out and hunt the bugs. It's simultaneously scary and safe, with Lapham skipping from character to character. He doesn't go too far establishing any of the other characters, usually just giving them distinct names and personalities, but not entire scenes to themselves. He doesn't want to lose the focus.

The conclusion nicely ties up this introduction issue while keeping things open.

Great art too. The movement is outstanding, the bugs creepy.

A 

CREDITS

Squish; writer and artist, David Lapham; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Nate Piekos; editor, Jim Gibbons; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Hulk / Wolverine: Six Hours 1 (March 2003)

Hulk / Wolverine: 6 Hours #1

Writer Bruce Jones takes great care plotting out this first issue. He reveals the significance of the Six Hours title towards the middle of the issue, during the first intense, action set piece. There are a couple of those set pieces, with the beginning of the issue instead dedicated to setting up the supporting cast.

Bruce Banner is on the run and just happens to be at the airport when the men in black are after him so why not hop a flight to Canada. Things don’t go well on that flight, which Jones set into motion during the first quarter of the issue. He also moves between different characters and scenes through similar dialogue; it’s all very deliberate and it definitely creates tension.

The Wolverine appearance so far is inconsequential to the story. Jones is teasing.

Scott Kolins art is an odd fit for a wilderness story, but successful.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Bruce Jones; artist, Scott Kolins; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editor, John Miesegaes; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Nightworld 2 (September 2014)

Nightworld #2

The second issue of Nightworld has even better art than the first. Leandri doesn’t have as many things to draw, but his huge chase sequence between the hero demon and the speed demon adversary is fantastic. There’s a lot of the speed demon on a cross-dimensional treasure hunt with a nice Raiders homage.

The only problem would be McGovern’s script. There’s a lot of humor in it, but none of it is particularly funny. The grandfather in the supporting cast sort of talks in puns and vague rhymes. Is it amusing? It’s cute, not sure about amusing. Definitely not amusing enough to carry a scene.

And the speed demon gets tiresome rather quickly too. Nightworld has a disconnect–the writing is nowhere near as strong as the art and scenes can be simultaneously gorgeous and exasperating.

But McGovern does mean well and he’s got a lot of enthusiasm. It evens out.

B 

CREDITS

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

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 41 (November 1985)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #41

The issue is simultaneously likable and shallow. The first half has Firestorm moving the Pittsburgh and Conway introducing the new supporting cast on the book. Conway gives Martin a whole new supporting cast of colleagues and teaching assistants, while Ronnie has his cast held over. His high school girlfriend, his high school rival. The former works out but the latter feels way too forced.

Speaking of forced, the second half of the issue is the Crisis tie-in and Conway is rapidly cycling in place. Firestorm goes a little kooky because of Psycho Pirate and Harbinger has to calm him down. So what? And it’s the finish of the issue too. There’s not just no more character stuff with the supporting cast, there’s no character stuff with Firestorm.

Ah, tie-ins.

Akin and Garvey’s inks are a little better than usual. Some of the panels are excellent; Kayanan’s composition shines.

B- 

CREDITS

Storm Warning; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inkers, Ian Akin and Brian Garvey; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Duncan Andrews; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.

She-Hulk 8 (November 2014)

She-Hulk #8

Soule pulls one over on the reader. It’s a beautiful job of it too, because he sets the reader up and then distracts him or her from the inevitable.

She-Hulk takes Captain America’s case–except it’s old Captain America, Steve Rogers in his nineties. They’re off to L.A. to the hearings and so on and there’s a lot of setup with the cast members and with She-Hulk. Soule writes old Steve Rogers as a special guest star, but an old man of one. He’s presented entirely from Jennifer’s perspective. It’s not just a great guest star, it’s an exceptional way of handling a guest star.

Especially for a Marvel comic.

The Pulido art is essential for the whole thing, but specifically for making Jennifer’s arrival in Los Angeles distracting enough to hide the foreshadowed reveal. Pulido’s composition for those scenes, told in summary and often silently, is outstanding.

It’s great stuff.

A- 

CREDITS

The Good Old Days, Part One; writer, Charles Soule; artist, Javier Pulido; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Jeanine Schaefer; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America/Thor: The Mighty Fighting Avengers (May 2011)

Captain America/Thor: The Mighty Fighting Avengers

It's not a complicated story–writer Roger Langridge sends Captain America (from World War II) and Thor (from the present day) back to Camelot. They discover Loki has wormed his way into King Arthur's court and there's some trouble.

Good thing there are a couple superheroes to deal with it.

Langridge doesn't worry about establishing the relationship between Cap and Thor, he moves right into Loki, the Knights of the Round Table and the adventure. He's got a lovely Empire Strikes Back homage going too for the heroes versus a three-headed dragon. You'll just have to read it.

At its core–with Chris Samnee on the art, doing a wonderful job–it's an issue of Thor: The Mighty Avenger with Cap (the Fighting Avenger version) thrown in. Langridge does make a little time for a Thor and Jane character development subplot and, while lovely, it begs for more.

So it's a functional success.

B+ 

CREDITS

Once and Future Avengers!; writer, Roger Langridge; artist, Chris Samnee; colorist, Matthew Wilson; letterer, Rus Wooton; editors, Sana Amanat and Michael Horwitz; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Concrete Park: Respect 1 (September 2014)

Concrete Park: R-E-S-P-E-C-T #1

As much as I like the Demolition Man reference, there are a whole lot of problems with Concrete Park.

I’m nearly sure co-writer and artist Tony Puryear does the art digitally; it would be hard to explain why the heads look so pasted on the backgrounds and why so much of the too thick line work looks artificial. Those artificial lines really hurt the comic, which occasionally resembles a Love and Rockets tangent with unfortunate coloring.

The story has to do with a prison planet where the prisoners have all formed gangs. It’s unclear why anyone would bother putting people on a prison planet if they aren’t going to do any labor–why wouldn’t they just kill them?

Doesn’t matter.

Puryear and Erika Alexander’s script is enthusiastic but too problematic and unoriginal to do much. The dialogue’s weak too; feels too “unsold screenplay.” But it’s not a terrible comic. Just blah.

C 

CREDITS

Writers, Eric Puryear and Erika Alexander; artist, colorist and letterer, Puryear; editors, Roxy Polk and Philip R. Stone; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 40 (October 1985)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #40

For the first time in a while–maybe ever–Conway dedicates over half the issue to Ronnie. He’s in trouble at school because he did too well on his final exams. He and Martin figure out it’s leakage from Martin, when they’re fused as Firestorm.

There’s also a lot of stuff with his high school classmates–an argument with his girlfriend (the teenage one, Firehawk has been absent for a while) and then a fight with his adversary. Conway seems to have forgotten he’s already done the fight with the high school antagonist, but it lets him “mature” Ronnie in a matter of scenes than to do actual character development.

Conway’s narrative construction is fine and if the art were better the issue would be a whole lot more successful. But the art’s weak. Mike Clark guest pencils; his lethargic composition gets no help from the inkers either.

Too bad.

C+ 

CREDITS

Graduation Day; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Mike Clark; inkers, Ian Akin and Brian Garvey; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Duncan Andrews; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.

Southern Bastards 4 (September 2014)

Southern Bastards #4

What a surprise ending!

Except for Aaron tacking on the epilogue so as to set up the next arc. Aaron’s giving the illusion of doing something original while really not; with the epilogue on there, he even retroactively makes it predictable. The reader can go back and look for all foreshadowing to the big surprise.

All that foreshadowing is actually in Aaron’s attention to writing. It’s really good writing as far as the narration goes. It’s just not particularly good plotting. Aaron seems to be assuming his readers haven’t read lot of books or read a lot of his books because the narrative devices are similar to ones he’s used in the past.

And while a new arc is starting next issue, Aaron’s shown his hand as far as how manipulative he’s going to write. If the point is the tricks he can play, what’s the point?

Great art though.

C 

CREDITS

Here Was a Man, Conclusion; writer, Jason Aaron; artist and colorist, Jason Latour; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editor, Sebastian Girner; publisher, Image Comics.

The Shadow 4 (August 1986)

The Shadow #4

What a terrible comic. Chaykin’s handling of The Shadow reminds of someone trying to catch a hot potato; whenever he does have a hold on it, it’s not for long enough and it always leaves that all right place for an unpredictable direction.

The problem with this issue–besides the big revelations are predictable and idiotic–is the focus on the villains. Chaykin elevates villains maybe deserving of a half issue crisis to a full four issues. All the sex and drugs and violence is supposed to be enough to make up for them not having any depth, but it doesn’t. It’s not even real flash–it’s implied flash.

And Chaykin could try for flash but doesn’t. He doesn’t try with the art. After the art being The Shadow’s single exemplary factor to this point, he gives up for the last issue.

It’s not completely worthless–the art’s still more than decent–but it’s close.

D 

CREDITS

Blood & Judgment, Conclusion; writer and artist, Howard Chaykin; colorist, Alex Wald; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editor, Andrew Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.

Sally of the Wasteland 1 (August 2014)

Sally of the Wasteland #1

Sally of the Wasteland is great. It's going to be hard to talk about. Writer Victor Gischler has his post-apocalyptic setting and while it's tough and vicious and has a bunch of mutated animals, it's still humanist. It's thoughtful. Gischler starts with a relatively small cast and grows out from them, revealing the full setting. Or at least as full as he's going to reveal this issue.

He also has two really strong characters (both of them female); one being the titular Sally, the other her alter ego. There's a guy involved, but it's doubtful the alter ego will be interested.

Gischler has a lot of action, a lot of great conversation. Artist Tazio Bettin handles everything well. There are occasionally loose moments where the detail isn't as strong as usual, but overall, the art's great.

The comic's only detriment is the post-apocalyptic nature but Gischler's definitely bumping its ceiling.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Victor Gischler; artist, Tazio Bettin; colorist, Jon Chapple; editor, Steve White; publisher, Titan Comics.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 39 (September 1985)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #39

Even though Conway tries a few things, the issue doesn't work out well. He's got both Martin and Ronnie playing detective, with a transformation into Firestorm a way for them to get out of trouble. It's lazy though–turning into a superhero when the detecting gets too dangerous.

And then there's Martin's love interest for the issue. Just when she starts to make an impression, Conway exits her from the issue and returns to the lame villain, the Weasel. The reveal on him is underdone, maybe because of space, maybe because not even Conway is interested.

There's a lot of Pittsburgh landmark minutiae, which makes little sense since it's New Yorker Martin identifying it all.

The worst part is when Ronnie is talking about how his dad isn't a particularly big part of his life anymore–not that the father has ever had a significant role in the comic.

Weak art too.

C- 

CREDITS

Publish or Perish or the Academic Life is Killing Me!; writer, Gerry Conway; pencillers, Rafael Kayanan and Mike Chen; inkers, Ian Akin and Brian Garvey; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Duncan Andrews; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.

God Hates Astronauts 1 (September 2014)

God Hates Astronauts #1

I'm not sure God hates astronauts, but I'm getting the feeling he hates me. Or I just hate myself. There's no other reason I would subject myself to God Hates Astronauts.

It's a somewhat difficult comic to talk about because Ryan Browne's art is truly fantastic. His composition, his detail–his visual narrative chops aren't great but it's because his narrative is atrocious.

God Hates Astronauts reads like if Beavis and Butthead wrote a comic book. Browne's storytelling sensibilities are pretty simple–bestiality is funny. Anything related to it is funny. You don't actually have to be funny–you just reference bestiality and something is funny.

If, for whatever reason, bestiality doesn't make something funny, you have someone swear. Because swearing is funny.

God Hates Astronauts isn't offensive. It's too poorly written to be offensive. Everything is a setup for a joke, usually involving bestiality or swearing. Maybe God just hates bad writing.

F 

CREDITS

A Star is Born; writer and artist, Ryan Browne; colorist, Jordan Boyd; letterer, Chris Crank and Browne; publisher, Image Comics.

The Shadow 3 (July 1986)

The Shadow #3

With his third of four issues, Chaykin gets around to showing what his Shadow comic is actually going to be like.

Tepid.

Lots of ribald talk, lots of innuendo (both verbal and visual) and not much else. There’s one good action sequence, where Chaykin’s sense of design and the toughness of the comic inform how the Shadow fights criminals. But it’s just one scene. Then Chaykin’s got a pointless montage of all the Shadow’s new contacts–he’s got a finite story he’s trying to tell but he’s also got a checklist of old Shadow references to make.

He also has way too big of a cast and sends around eighty percent of the good guy supporting cast off page because he doesn’t want to deal with them. He needs them for a line in a scene, then he disposes of them. It’s very messy and poorly designed.

But the art’s magnificent.

C 

CREDITS

Blood & Judgment, Part Three; writer and artist, Howard Chaykin; colorist, Alex Wald; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editor, Andrew Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.

Big Trouble in Little China 4 (September 2014)

Big Trouble in Little China #4

Even with some amusing jokes throughout, this issue is easily the weakest so far. It’s still pretty darn good–like I said, the jokes are amusing and Powell consistently rewards the reader with them, either big jokes or small. In some ways, Powell is making observations about Big Trouble to its fans, which is fine when the story’s good too.

And the story here isn’t particularly good. There’s a protracted conclusion to the cliffhanger with the stupid monkey guys in the other dimension, then it’s back to Chinatown for the big build-up. Powell awkwardly goes sincere for Jack’s flashback this issue too.

Churilla gets a few cool things to draw; not as many as he should.

The cliffhanger is predictable and unfortunate. It’s a bridging issue and Powell’s enthusiasm can’t maintain it. Powell also has way too many little plot twists and not enough actual content.

It’s entertaining instead of exceptional.

CREDITS

Writers, John Carpenter and Eric Powell; artist, Brian Churilla; colorist, Michael Garland; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editors, Alex Galer and Ian Brill; publisher, Boom! Studios.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 38 (August 1985)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #38

If it weren’t for the lousy inks from Akin and Garvey, this issue would be rather strong. It’s not wholly successful, but it does have Conway trying new things with the series. Martin gets his own adventure, far away from Ronnie; Conway isn’t entirely successful with Martin as lead–there are missteps, like an awkward pop culture reference–but he’s trying.

Conway’s also trying with Ronnie. He sends Ronnie out with his high school girlfriend (never mentioning Firehawk) and it’s nice to see an attempt at a regular scene. Sadly, the art runs a lot of the sequence.

Then there’s Ronnie’s dad and his romance. Again, bad art hurts, but so does Conway’s writing of the dad’s girlfriend. She’s a shallow witch.

Plus there’s a dumb villain called the Weasel menacing Martin. It leads to what should be great action scenes, but are instead atrocious due to the inkers’ ineptness.

B- 

CREDITS

Night of the Weasel; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inkers, Ian Akin and Brian Garvey; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Duncan Andrews; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.

Robocop 3 (September 2014)

Robocop #3

This issue is the best one Williamson’s written so far. It’s not Magno’s drawn; he’s better than last time but there are still a lot of perspective issues. They make the body proportions look off when they aren’t. It’s too bad.

The issue opens with a flashback to villain Killian’s youthful offending days. It’s a good move, since Williamson is able to use information from it to flesh out the character in the present action.

Williamson also gives the cops enough to do. He has a new supporting cast member, a detective–who I really hope stays because she plays off Lewis well–and some actual investigating for Lewis and Murphy. They banter sparingly; Williamson shows restraint but it’s also the most personality he’s given Murphy to date.

The issue’s an excellent mix all around. Williamson opens it up a little, peopling the comic.

Only the cliffhanger flops. It feels too familiar.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Williamson; artist, Carlos Magno; colorist, Marissa Louise; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editors, Alex Galer and Ian Brill; publisher, Boom! Studios.

The Shadow 2 (June 1986)

The Shadow #2

So after an entirely forward-looking first issue, Chaykin gets around to the flashbacks in the second. In some ways, since the Shadow isn’t the most familiar character, an origin is necessary. But Chaykin goes overboard. He feels the need to rationalize the magical city where the Shadow, back before he was the Shadow, finds himself. There’s too much confusion around the Shadow’s identity too; it’s too dense. The origin takes a whole fourth of the series and there’s got to be some stuff in there Chaykin doesn’t need.

It’d be worse if he uses it all, considering how stuffed he makes the origin. All that extra material cuts back on the composition possibilities too. There’s a nice visit to Shanghai, but the out of fuel airplane sequence is a waste of visual time. And the magical city? Chaykin’s too cynical for it.

It’s decent enough, but Chaykin handles it predictably.

B 

CREDITS

Blood & Judgment, Part Two; writer and artist, Howard Chaykin; colorist, Alex Wald; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editor, Andrew Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.

Letter 44 8 (July 2014)

Letter 44 #8

Soule and Letter bounce back big time with an outstanding issue, both for the President and the astronauts on the Clarke. It’s a rocky start, given Alburquerque’s goofy body armor designs. The President has loosed all the futuristic weaponry to get the troops out of the Middle East and Afghanistan; Alburquerque makes the armor look like golden suits of armor. Knight armor. It’s almost like an “SNL” skit set at a Medieval Times.

But it’s easily forgivable because of the political stuff, not to mention Soule’s alternate history doesn’t even need to go with alien invasion and his handling of the politics and world events would still make for a great comic.

As for the space ship, the Clarke, investigating the aliens? It’s mostly character stuff, but deftly done. Soule encourages the reader–in space and on Earth–to question characters motivations and actions. Letter 44 is special because of that approach.

A 

CREDITS

Writer, Charles Soule; penciller, Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque; colorist, Dan Jackson; letterer, Crank!; editor, Robin Herrera; publisher, Oni Press.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 37 (July 1985)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #37

Not a good issue. Joey Cavalieri fills in on writing the main story, which has Ronnie’s nightmares informing his Firestorm adventure. It never gets explained how his nightmares could be so important to a Firestorm adventure, but it involves alien life forms so it shouldn’t be hard.

Cavalieri tries too hard to give the story gravity and weight but there’s a framing sequence informing the reader it’s a flashback. So who cares?

Alex Niño pencils the story, with Duncan Andrews inking, and it’s a vaguely psychedelic experience. Niño and Andrews go crazy with the details but there’s no sense of composition, not to mention a complete lack of natural transitions between panels.

The framing sequence isn’t much better, with Kayanan getting two inkers to replace Alan Kupperberg. Only all new inkers Ian Akin and Brian Garvey bring are flat, awkward faces and strange body parts.

It’d work with better art.

C 

CREDITS

Not In Our Stars But In Ourselves!; writers, Gerry Conway and Joey Cavalieri; pencillers, Rafael Kayanan and Alex Nino; inkers, Ian Akin, Brian Garvey and Nino; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Duncan Andrews; editor, Julius Schwartz; publisher, DC Comics.

Letter 44 7 (June 2014)

Letter 44 #7

Joëlle Jones fills in on art this issue–a flashback to the early oughts when the long distance space shuttle program is getting started up. Her style resembles the regular art, but there’s something different about it. She draws all of her characters the same age; they all look like they’re in their early twenties.

So it looks a little like “Beverly Hills 90210,” because they’re all devastatingly good looking too.

Soule splits the issue between two characters; frankly, if they’re in the current timeline on the series, Soule’s not doing a good job establishing his characters because they seem totally independent from the series so far. Maybe the cast just isn’t memorable enough.

One of them is an anthropologist or archeologist with personal problems, the other is a geologist with debt problems. It’s not an exciting issue but Soule successfully maintains Letter 44 as realistic sci-fi. It’s thoroughly solid filler.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Charles Soule; penciller, Joëlle Jones; colorist, Dan Jackson; letterer, Shawn DePasquale; editors, Charlie Chu and Robin Herrera; publisher, Oni Press.

The Shadow 1 (May 1986)

The Shadow #1

Howard Chaykin's The Shadow. He takes an interesting approach to bringing back a World War II era costumed adventurer–he lets everyone age while the Shadow is away. Most of the issue has various agents–people in their later years–getting viciously murdered.

One of the Shadow's agents has had a daughter who works for some crime bureau place and she recognizes the pattern and goes to save her father. There's a fantastic action sequence that time. Chaykin's composition throughout the comic is phenomenal; the comic is always moving, with Chaykin's page layouts helping the reader get through the pages quick enough.

Only the villains get much development–the good guys are either getting killed off or trying not to get killed off. Chaykin's got a certain level of absurdity for the mega-rich villains but he keeps it in reasonable check. It's like an enthusiastic, extremely bloody and mean James Bond movie.

It's awesome.

A 

CREDITS

Blood & Judgment, Part One; writer and artist, Howard Chaykin; colorist, Alex Wald; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editor, Andrew Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.

Wildfire 3 (August 2014)

Wildfire #3

Sejic’s art is a lot better for about half the issue. Instead of doing the CG shading on characters faces, she just colors them. All of a sudden Wildfire looks like animation cels, but it works. Sejic apparently does give her characters expressions, but then the complicated coloring ruins them.

For a lot of this issue, when she’s not doing the CG depth, the expressions work. It’s rather a nice change.

Hawkins goes full Irwin Allen this issue–along with Michael Bay by bringing in the military and starting the countdown to further disaster clock. But it all works. Somehow Hawkins is able to take the most obvious, familiar disaster story tropes and make them feel entirely fresh. Even his characters aren’t original, but something about his presentation immediately deepens them, immediately makes them sympathetic.

Hawkins is a fantastic comic book writer, simply fantastic.

And Wildfire continues to exceed.

Great stuff.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Matt Hawkins; artist, Linda Sejic; letterer, Troy Peteri; editor, Betsy Gonia; publisher, Top Cow Productions.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 36 (June 1985)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #36

Whatever magic Kupperberg had been working on the inks is over now. All of a sudden, he’s doing a bad job. The faces in particular. The features aren’t in the right places on faces. It’s an ugly comic, which is a shame because it’s got some great settings and should look amazing.

Worse are the talking heads moments, when Kayanan and Kupperberg are doing the civilian side of things. The figures look tacked on to the backgrounds, then the faces look tacked on too.

It’s a peculiar issue. Conway shows how Ronnie can handle the world on his own–the villains have Firestorm knocked out and they escape, leaving him to recover (why wouldn’t they kill him?). When he does come to, Martin isn’t part of the Firestorm matrix, Ronnie’s flying solo.

Sadly, Conway immediately invalidates the personal growth while apparently dismissing other subplots too.

It’s ugly, messy, but okay.

B- 

CREDITS

Slowly I Turned… Niagara Falls!; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inker, Alan Kupperberg; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Helen Vesik; editors, Janice Race and Conway; publisher, DC Comics.

C.O.W.L. 4 (August 2014)

C.O.W.L. #4

Stéphane Perger joins Reis on the art this issue; their styles compliment one another, but are still distinct. The art is both more stylized and emotive over all and it helps the issue immensely.

As for Higgins and Siegel’s story, it’s phenomenal. They’re apparently comfortable enough in C.O.W.L. to let some subplots rest without getting full recaps and minimal motion. There’s some quiet family drama, there’s some quiet relationship drama. It’s all very quiet; even though it’s about the superheroes picketing the police department.

Real quick–the picket lines meet a predictable conclusion when it’s one law enforcement agency picketing and another one not. Higgins and Siegel find a whole lot to talk about this comic and not much of it has to do with flying men. They aren’t turning C.O.W.L. into a history lesson, they’re instead using it as a discussion piece about history.

The comic’s really shaping up well.

CREDITS

Principles of Power, Chapter Four: Unity; writers, Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel; artists, Rod Reis and Stéphane Perger; letterer, Troy Peteri; editor, Andy Schmidt; publisher, Image Comics.

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