ODY-C 1 (November 2014)

ODY-C #1

ODY-C is Matt Fraction and Christian Ward’s retelling of The Odyssey as a space opera, in a matriarchal society. I didn’t know about it being an adaptation going in and it just seemed like Fraction doing a science fiction comic with fantasy nomenclature instead of futuristic stuff.

I didn’t even catch it when the Greek gods showed up. Then, a page later, I got it. And ODY-C stopped being Fraction doing some fantasy crap like everyone else or a indie sci-fi book like everyone else. No, he’s doing a straight adaptation of one of the major classic literary works.

And not just any classic literary work, one most of his readers will be familiar with. ODY-C will be read as it compares. Inventive adaptation is more important than actual writing with such a major work to adapt.

It’s a preplanned event, a reasonably decent one.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Matt Fraction; artist, Christian Ward; colorists, Ward and Dee Cunniffe; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; publisher, Image Comics.

Judge Dredd 18 (April 1985)

Judge Dredd #18

Not a lot happens this issue–well, there’s a lot of block warring and very little the judges can do about it–but there doesn’t seem to be an overarching story. Except why everyone wants to fight in a block war. I was sort of hoping Wagner or Grant would lay out the battles with some connections, but they just hop around.

The blocks all have memorable names–everyone and everything in Judge Dredd has a memorable name–and the initial conflict does have some block vs. block motivations, but pretty soon everything goes crazy and they don’t much matter.

There’s a lot of good art from McMahon and Smith and the writers definitely keep the comic moving–not the easiest task as it’s a compilation–but it’s all action. There’s personality, sure, and some great details, but there’s not a lot of ambition (even measured, Dredd ambition) going on.

B 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artists, Mike McMahon and Ron Smith; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 17 (March 1985)

Judge Dredd #17

The issue has two stories–one from Mills, one from Wagner, both with art by Ron Smith. The first story, Mills’s, has a regular citizen turning into a were-dinosaur. It’s kind of dumb, but Mills’s plotting of the story is fantastic. The way he starts external to the eventual characters and moves in–presumably from chapter to chapter in the original 2000 AD progs.

The big showdown between Dredd and the monster happens in Old New York City, which looks a lot like seventies New York City (fire escapes, rooftops). It’s good Mega-City One has so many locations because the showdown wouldn’t look good in the futuristic settings… but tragically haunted man wandering rainswept New York? It works.

The second story has Dredd investigating a television game show. Wagner does a great job with both the mystery and the solution. The setup is rather imaginative too.

Excellent issue.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writers, Pat Mills and John Wagner; artist, Ron Smith; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 16 (February 1985)

Judge Dredd #16

One of Dredd’s cases comes back to haunt him, with the sole survivor of a criminal family hunting judges. He’s a Cursed Earth mutant–with an evil super rat as a pet. McMahon draws them both very creepy.

And Wagner’s script plays up that creep factor. The villain is methodical, with Wagner showing his aptitude for the crimes. It creates a sense of foreboding, especially after the villain successfully assassinates a judge. Between the action itself (which Wagner immediately sets up as a big deal) and the eventual kidnapping of Judge Hershey, Wagner definitely implies this story–a collection of chapters from 2000 AD– has high stakes.

There’s a lot of action in the story too, with McMahon toggling between suspense and brawling. It’s an excellent longer story.

The other story, with Garry Leach on art, is short, to the point and successful.

Overall, it’s an excellent issue. Rather excellent.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, Mike McMahon and Garry Leach; colorist, John Burns; letterers, Tom Frame and Tony Jacob; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 15 (January 1985)

Judge Dredd #15

The issue has Wagner looking at various aspects of the future–block life, block wars, reasoning apes, what happens when a judge needs to retire–but none of them really stand out.

The first story, resolving the Judge Child storyline while Dredd deals with a block war, has art from Brian Bolland. It’s gorgeous, but too static, too constrained. Bolland doesn’t have any fun with the future, but he also doesn’t have any fun with his composition.

In contrast, Mike McMahon goes crazy in the other pages. There’s humor built into the panels and the composition is inventive. The McMahon stories–even Mills’s pointless ape one–come off a lot better; there’s something distinctive about them, whereas Bolland’s is purely functional.

Of course, Wagner’s handling of that first story is a lot more functional and less narratively playful than the rest.

It’s a mixed bag, but with some definite pluses.

B- 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Pat Mills; artists, Brian Bolland and Mike McMahon; colorist, John Burns; letterers, Tom Frame and Tony Jacob; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Gotham by Midnight 1 (January 2015)

Gotham by Midnight #1

Thanks to Ben Templesmith’s art, Gotham by Midnight works a lot better than it should. A lot of Ray Fawkes’s dialogue is generic cop show stuff, but Templesmith has a way of visually rushing some of the conversations through how he positions the characters. In other words, he makes the problem spots shorter than they’d otherwise be… and it helps immensely.

Some of this first issue plays like Templesmith’s famous, mysterious (and unfinished) cop comic Fell. It does not seem unintentional. The story beats for the first few pages read like a remake.

Fawkes introduces a bunch of characters and a lot of story. The final investigation sequence is a little rushed–in the script, not the art–because Fawkes has an idea for an effective cliffhanger. It’s a little forced, but once the comic switches into full procedural mode, a lot of the seams start showing anyway.

Not bad.

CREDITS

We Do Not Sleep; writer, Ray Fawkes; artist, Ben Templesmith; letterer, Dezi Sienty; editors, Dave Wielgosz and Rachel Gluckstern; publisher, DC Comics.

Judge Dredd 14 (December 1984)

Judge Dredd #14

It’s a really weak issue. Both writers–Wagner and Mills–go as melodramatic and sappy as possible. How can Judge Dredd be sappy?

For most of the issue, Wagner focuses on Dredd’s sidekick robot, Walter. The joke with Walter is he is annoying and an issue of Walter stories seems a little too much. The Judge Dredd Christmas story, for example, is about as saccharine as Judge Dredd should ever get it but the subsequent stories take it even further.

In some ways, Mills’s story with Judge Rico’s return is even worse. Most of the story is told in summary with Mills focusing on tender moments from Dredd’s life. The ending is even worse. The difference between Wagner and Mills being Wagner makes Dredd sympathetic in the context of the comic, Mills tries to make him sympathetic overall.

Some nice art from McMahon but this issue is a stinker.

C- 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Pat Mills; artists, Mike McMahon and Brian Bolland; colorist, John Burns; letterers, Tom Frame and Tony Jacob; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Wildfire 4 (October 2014)

Wildfire #4

Wildfire gets across the finish line with a lot of problems. Hawkins still manages to sell the issue, but he’s got some questionable moments throughout. Besides supporting cast members ending up dead, things go pretty well for the protagonists this issue and everything sort of works out. There’s even a time lapse towards the end of the issue to get out of character development.

And that omission is something of a blessing in disguise because Sejic’s art looks like bad cels from a cheap CG kids movie. Like a direct-to-video Disney knockoff. Something about the way she draws the characters this issue, their expressions… it’s like 101 Dalmatians or something.

There’s just enough of Hawkins’s attention to detail to get the story done. He reminds of better moments, better realizations. The series probably needed another issue to really get the ending done well.

But it’s still somewhat successful.

B 

CREDITS

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

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest 5 (December 1984)

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest #5

It’s not a bad ending. It’s not a good one, but it’s also not a bad one. Writers Wagner and Alan Grant–one of them does a terrible job on the first half of the issue, with the resolution to the Angel family, where the writer goes overboard with exposition. Especially about Dredd’s judge training.

The Angel story, with McMahon art, is vaguely pointless. The second half of the issue resolves the Judge Child, but the first half is basically a western. There are a few good moments, but it’s all rather derivative of other, familiar Westerns. The writer doesn’t set up the setting well, which doesn’t help either.

The last half of the issue has Dredd fighting a robot army. It figures into the big plot, but it’s still okay. Again, there are a couple surprises.

It’s too bad the finale is so rushed. It definitely needed more pages.

B- 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artists, Mike McMahon and Ron Smith; colorist, Ian Stead; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Princess Ugg 5 (November 2014)

Princess Ugg #5

Even though Naifeh has sort of reduced the supporting princesses to caricatures–there’s the nice one, the mean one, et cetera–this issue does have a lot going on. Ülga has been included in activities, though not in the other princesses’ good graces, and so Naifeh gets to showcase the contrasts between the cultures.

Of course, she’s also getting better at being a proper princess, which doesn’t offer much narrative weight but does move the story along. And may eventually provide a good humor moment.

Because Ugg needs good humor moments. When Ülga goes up against bandits in the last scene, even though Naifeh doesn’t make the comparison, she’s actually against honest villains. Her other villains are dishonest–the princesses, the condescending school teachers–and there’s little refuge for the character.

All in all, it’s an outstanding issue of the comic, but Naifeh still doesn’t seem to have Ugg’s footing.

CREDITS

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

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest 4 (November 1984)

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest #4

It’s another strong issue, with Wagner giving Dredd a series of imaginative sci-fi encounters. The first one is the most traditional, with Dredd trying to track down a human visitor to a strange alien world. But Wagner has already established the character–who has contracted a strange alien disease–so Dredd has to enter that story.

But there’s also some drama with Dredd and his fellow judges based on his treatment of one of the other judges. Wagner probably could tell this subplot better but it works well enough.

The second big story has Dredd and company against an intergalactic salesman. It’s s silly story, but s fun one. Some very nice start throughout it too. Smith handles the action well.

The last story has the Angel family on a desert planet. It’s a little too much how Wild West Wagner makes the planet.

But it’s still real strong.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, Brian Bolland, Ron Smith and Mike McMahon; colorist, Ian Stead; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Sons of Anarchy 15 (November 2015)

Sons of Anarchy #15

It’s once again amazing how much Brisson is able to do with Sons of Anarchy. Especially this issue, which seems to deal a lot with continuity from the television series. Instead of that continuity dragging the issue down, thanks to Brisson’s rather impressive use of expository dialogue, it makes it better. It provides foundation.

The issue has a rather simple plot. Gemma–the den mother of the club (i assume, still haven’t watched the show)–tells Jax (he’s in charge of the club) to go find her stolen car. The comic plays out over four scenes. Brisson has a big reveal at the end of the issue and the way he simultaneously ties that reveal into everything he’s done in the issue while still keeping it entirely separate is phenomenal.

Even with a simple story, Brisson gets Anarchy running beautifully.

Nice art from Matías Bergara too. Moody but still straightforward.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brisson; artist, Damian Couceiro; colorist, Michael Spicer; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editors, Mary Gumport and Dafna Pleban; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest 3 (October 1984)

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest #3

A lot of the issue is rough going. Wagner tries out a few things on the second two planets–Dredd and company go to three–and has some success. But the adventure on the first planet, which has a bunch of different alien species at war, but as televised entertainment, is tedious.

Still, Wagner somehow distracts from Dredd not getting any clues about the location of the Judge Child. It’s just a trip through the galaxy, really.

The second story is more horror-influenced, which leads to some silly elements (like a giant monster in outer space grabbing Dredd’s spaceship), but the stuff in the scary castle is good. McMahon’s art on this section is utterly fantastic; he revels in the creepiness.

The last planet is prehistoric cavemen, with Wagner narrating from a storyteller’s song. It’s a cool little digression. Nice art from McMahon too.

That first story hurts though.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, Mike McMahon and Ron Smith; colorist, Ian Stead; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Wool 1 (June 2014)

Wool #1

Wool opens with one protagonist, then moves on to another, then promises a third. It’s a novel adaptation, which might have handled the transitions smoother, but writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti are a tad abrupt. They do well establishing the setting–a post-apocalyptic future where everyone lives in a huge silo underground and can’t go outside–but the characters and their relationships are confusing.

They don’t, for example, explain how people communicate with one another in the silo. It’s vaguely manipulative writing, intended to create drama instead of be reasonable.

Most of the issue follows the mayor and a sheriff’s deputy on their way to hire a new sheriff (the original protagonist being the previous sheriff). Gray and Palmiotti do a decent job establishing the mayor character, but at the end it’s unclear if she was worth the investment.

It definitely engages and Jimmy Broxton’s art is fantastic.

B 

CREDITS

Writers, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray; artist, Jimmy Broxton; letterer, Bill Tortolini; editor, Matt Hoffman; publisher, Jet City Comics.

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest 2 (September 1984)

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest #2

Wagner takes Dredd and company–though the company is rather indistinct–on an intergalactic quest. They’re in pursuit of the Angel family, who have kidnapped the Judge Child. There’s not a lot on the pursuit, but rather a series of imaginative sci-fi encounters.

The first has Dredd encountering a space station where the computer has taken over. Kind of 2001 with a lot of action. Not entirely original, but it works.

The second encounter, on a planet where the humans can download their consciousness into chips to live forever (another person loans out their body for the consciousness’s usage), is the best. This section is where Dredd gets a sidekick and Wagner gets to write the most.

Since Dredd is hopping from planet to planet, it never feels episodic.

The finale has him against a living, hungry planet.

Some great art from McMahon, Bolland and Smith throughout.

Excellent stuff.

A 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, Mike McMahon, Brian Bolland and Ron Smith; colorist, Ian Stead; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Kinski 6 (November 2014)

Kinski #6

Hardman brings the story to a satisfactory, if somewhat unreasonable conclusion. He jumps through time a lot–a year total–and skips over the more interesting parts of his protagonist’s experiences. He also stops with the character study aspect of Kinski and treats the whole issue as an epilogue.

So while the narrative has a neat tie at the end, Hardman never really did anything with it. The point was the reading experience, something he succeeded executing. But the comic often feels like it could go further–and not explaining means Hardman can’t fail. However, as a narrative where he never tries to explain, it all feels too traditional.

Still, it’s a beautifully illustrated, often really well written comic book. Hardman got six issues out of a relatively slight idea–one he never significantly expanded on. It’s just a little too bad he didn’t try for more with the series.

B 

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Gabriel Hardman; publisher, Monkeybrain Comics.

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest 1 (August 1984)

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest #1

Judge Dredd heads into the Cursed Earth looking for a mutant child who’s going to have to save Mega-City One, or so one of the pre-cogs says. Writer John Wagner comes up with some decent encounters for Dredd–this issue’s primary villain is a “garbage god” who has thousands of slaves mining antiques from pre-apocalypse Memphis for him. There’s an ancient Egypt thing too; it doesn’t make much sense, but the Brian Bolland and Ron Smith are is excellent so it doesn’t need to make any.

The series is more compiled entries from 2000 AD but never feels too bumpy–with Wagner so focused on Dredd trying to find the child, it’s mostly action. The biggest bump comes after the end of the Garbage God episode, with Dredd continuining his hunt into Texas.

That finale, which leads to the cliffhanger, makes the issue seem a tad bloated.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, Brian Bolland, Ron Smith and Mike McMahon; colorist, McMahon; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Kinski 5 (October 2014)

Kinski #5

Hardman finds a better mix of the character work and the action, with his protagonist sharing a car ride with the dog’s owner and finding out a little more about her life. There’s nothing more about the protagonist (except his willingness to talk himself into bad situations). Instead, Hardman expands the supporting cast through the protagonist’s journey.

It’s almost a soft boot of the series, which started as the protagonist’s story, moved into more action oriented episodes and is now a look at the dog’s actual owners and their lives. Though Hardman does manage to get in some more action at the end of the issue.

Whether or not there’s a satisfactory conclusion, Hardman has definitely shown he can get a lot of mileage out of a simple idea and a good setting. His dialogue and character work this issue are phenomenal. And his action composition is masterful as always.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Gabriel Hardman; publisher, Monkeybrain Comics.

Judge Dredd 13 (November 1984)

Judge Dredd #13

Wagner finishes the Chief Judge Cal storyline. There are a couple surprises before the end, with Wagner in something of a hurry. Smith doesn’t get much space on the art, which is unfortunate, but he uses the space he gets really well at times. It’s a satisfactory conclusion, but the denouement is way too abrupt.

The next story has Dredd contending with a block where people are reverting back to apes. Wagner gets a lot of good jokes in, especially with how he writes the misadventures of the affected residents. But he’s just as sympathetic when things go really bad. It’s an excellent story, with wonderful art from McMahon. He does well with the ape people in action.

The last story, with Alan Grant and Kelvin Gosnell writing, is a little obvious. Dredd is suspicious of an amusement center where people act out their violent urges.

Overall, it’s fine stuff.

B 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner, Alan Grant and Kelvin Gosnell; artists, Ron Smith and Mike McMahon; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Kinski 4 (February 2014)

Kinski #4

So now the action moves to the RV park, or RV gathering–it’s unclear how it’s working but the RVs aren’t parked in any sort of sensible way. Not to harp on it, it’s just strange. And the sidekick even says he needs to leave to get back to real life.

This issue is when Kinski goes from being real and strange to just being strange. It’s a tragedy now, with contrivances just to make the plot move. Bad luck following around the protagonist, who gets almost nothing to do this issue–except his action scenes. And an issue like this one, set over a half hour or less, it just… it’s too slight again.

There’s a good scene at the open with the dog owner, with Hardman taking a moment away from the missing dog (in the RV park) main plot. Its writing has personality, the rest… far less.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Gabriel Hardman; publisher, Monkeybrain Comics.

Judge Dredd 12 (October 1984)

Judge Dredd #12

It’s a surprisingly awesome issue, with Wagner giving Dredd a big dumb sidekick, but one with a lot of character and comic relief value. They have to get back to the surface (Dredd and company escaped underground), so there’s a decent action sequence when Wagner brings them up against some other judges.

He also explains why the rest of the judges are falling in line with evil, crazy Chief Judge Cal. It’s sort of obvious and should have been handled better, but once Wagner has it out of the way, the rest of the issue’s smooth.

Especially once the focus turns to Dredd’s annoying robot. Wagner is able to follow it through the evil judges’ side of the story and since Chief Judge Cal is crazy, it’s very amusing. His jokes are a lot less forced now.

There’s some great art from Ewins at the end too.

Real good issue.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, Brian Bolland, Garry Leach, Ron Smith and Brett Ewins; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Kinski 3 (September 2013)

Kinski #3

It’s the equivalent of an action issue for Kinski. Hardman resolves the previous issue’s cliffhanger, putting the protagonist and his friend back on the road. There’s some slight character drama–and a way too obvious plea for exposition from the friend–before Hardman gets to the rest stop.

Because they’re stuck in traffic; I forgot they were stuck in RV traffic. It’s a little much, though the image of the one car amid a bunch of RVs does seem like a gritty Far Side cartoon or something.

Hardman doesn’t have much in the way of character work or action this issue. All the character stuff is forced and when he finally does get to a silent scene, it’s the action scene. There’s no talking, but there’s no character work in the art, just running. Lots and lots of running.

Hardman’s timing for the panels is great… the issue’s just slight.

B 

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Gabriel Hardman; publisher, Monkeybrain Comics.

Judge Dredd 11 (September 1984)

Judge Dredd #11

Somehow, even though Bolland and McMahon alternate the chapters in this issue–so it’s always very clear when moving from one to the next–the story flows a lot smoother. Maybe because Wagner has gotten into the middle of the story, he’s established the lunatic rule of Chief Judge Cal. He’s moving through instead of building up.

He also focuses a lot less on Dredd and his plans. Instead, it’s mostly Cal and his lunacy, though without as many new absurd jokes. Or, if there are absurdities, Wagner backgrounds them instead of bringing them out front as his focus. It works much better.

And Cal’s lunacy gives McMahon a real chance to show off. In the craziest parts of the issue–usually involving Cal having an episode, sometimes on the air, sometimes just for his weary supporting judges–McMahon just goes wild. It looks great.

It’s a sturdy, steady issue.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; pencillers, Brian Bolland and Mike McMahon; inkers, Bolland, Garry Leach and McMahon; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Kinski 2 (June 2013)

Kinski #2

The strangeness of Kinski continues. Hardman sort of wraps the narrative around itself, with the protagonist going back to the same motel from the previous issue, having another encounter with one of the dog’s actual owners. But these similar situations play fresh, thanks to all the character work Hardman does on his protagonist.

And that character work, which Hardman is doing mostly in art, not in dialogue, is one of Kinski’s most striking qualities. It’s a character study masquerading as a more traditional epical story, with Hardman doing the former in the art and the latter in the narrative. Hardman’s not a mad scientist, but he’s definitely experimenting with traditional comic storytelling.

For the most part, the art is outstanding. Hardman never rushes himself; the panel compositions and layouts are great. Until the last scene, where he ends with a full page spread after rushing the previous page.

Still….

A- 

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Gabriel Hardman; publisher, Monkeybrain Comics.

Judge Dredd 10 (August 1984)

Judge Dredd #10

This issue reads a lot smoother, with Dredd again a fugitive, leading the revolt against the crazy new chief judge. Unfortunately, Wagner goes for absurdity at every turn–the new chief judge is so crazy he appoints a fish as his deputy–and it’s never believable the other judges would follow the new leader with such blindness. It’s almost like Wagner saw he couldn’t make the story work straightforwardly, so he introduced the lunacy to at least make it funny.

And there are a couple decent comic moments but there’s also a lot of laziness.

Of the three pencillers, Brett Ewins does the best on his pages. He captures the mania of Wagner’s script and the enthusiasm helps a lot. The pacing gets the better of McMahon, who handles the beginning of the issue (and the setup); he can’t keep up.

If Wagner had fuller scenes, it’d probably work better.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; pencillers, Mike McMahon, Brett Ewins and Brian Bolland; inkers, McMahon, Ewins and Garry Leach; colorist, John Burns; letterers, Tom Frame and Jack Potter; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Drifter 1 (November 2014)

Drifter #1

After one issue, all Drifter has done is establish itself as another sci-fi Western. It’s not a new genre. Nic Klein clearly works at the art, so while the design work reminds of other sci-fi movies, TV shows and comic books going back forty years, at least he’s visibly committed.

And writer Ivan Brandon seems committed too. Unfortunately, he shows that commitment with truncated narration and dialogue–Drifter reads like a pulp novel with its tough guy (and girl) dialogue. Ditto the protagonist’s narration. Instead of establishing characters, Brandon goes with caricatures.

Only the comic is about some guy who wakes up in a settlement on an unknown (to him) desert planet. Without Klein’s illustration–which seems fit more for covers to old science fiction paperbacks than it does to sequential narrative–Drifter wouldn’t have much going for it. It’s blandly inoffensive, unimaginatively derivative. There’s just no meat.

B- 

CREDITS

Hanging On; writer, Ivan Brandon; artist, Nic Klein; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Sebastian Girner; publisher, Image Comics.

Judge Dredd 9 (July 1984)

Judge Dredd #9

It’s something of a lackluster issue.

The opening resolves the Cursed Earth storyline, but it’s the final chapter and probably should’ve somehow been fit in with the rest of the Cursed Earth issues. Especially since it’s extremely anticlimactic, though Mills does attend the character relationships he’s developed.

Then Wagner takes over with Dredd on trial, followed by Dredd as a fugitive, followed by Dredd redeemed, followed by Dredd versus a conspiracy. The compiled nature of the series comes through way too much–every few pages it stops and starts, sometimes going in a wildly different direction.

And Wagner’s characterization of Dredd, who’s shouting off one-liners, seems too forced. Wagner’s characterizations of the rest of the cast is similar–he’s rushing. There are some occasional high points, like Dredd’s showdown with a robot duplicate, but otherwise it’s a problematic outing. The constant Dredd in danger cliffhangers get tiresome really fast.

B- 

CREDITS

Writers, Pat Mills and John Wagner; pencillers, Brian Bolland, Brendan McCarthy and Mike McMahon; inkers, Bolland, Dave Gibbons, Brett Ewins and McMahon; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Batgirl 36 (January 2015)

Batgirl #36

It’s another solid issue, with Babs stumbling onto a crime on campus. Stewart and Fletcher also introduce a few more supporting cast members–the issue ends with a sitcom-like tag with all of them, sans Dinah, who’s clearly a guest star. It gives Batgirl a nice feel, though the more impressive stuff comes just before.

Babs’s investigation leads her to a showdown with the bad guys, which is the second action scene in the comic. Between two action scenes and a lot of character stuff for Babs–not to mention Batgirl investigating–it’s a full comic book. The plotting is fantastic.

And, slowly, it’s starting to come together. Stewart, Fletcher and artist Tarr are trying really hard to establish Batgirl as a hip, yet incredibly competent comic book. Unfortunately, Babs is the single aspect of the book without a lot of character yet. She’s indistinct; getting better, but indistinct.

B 

CREDITS

Tomorrow Cries Danger; writers, Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher; pencillers, Stewart and Babs Tarr; inker, Tarr; colorist, Maris Wicks; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Dave Wielgosz and Chris Conroy; publisher, DC Comics.

Judge Dredd 8 (June 1984)

Judge Dredd #8

The resolution to the Las Vegas cliffhanger is a little lame. Dredd just happens to get there in time to challenge the sitting judge and there just happens to be a good resistance movement in place to help out. The whole subplot–the mob being the corrupt judges of Vegas–is weak anyway.

But then Mills does a long flashback of Tweak (the alien) and his full story. It’s a nice diversion, leading to some nice character moments in the present action, as well as some affecting ones in the flashback. It’d be the highlight of the issue, if not for the finale.

There’s a contrived battle scene in Death Valley. Dredd and company versus war robots. The setup stinks and the actual sequence is fantastic. Great pacing and writing also make up for the art getting too confused.

Although the open is rough, the issue turns out quite well.

B 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Pat Mills; pencillers, Mike McMahon and Brian Bolland; inkers, McMahon, Dave Gibbons and Bolland; colorist, John Burns; letterers, John Aldrich, Gibbons and Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

MPH 4 (November 2014)

MPH #4

There’s quite a bit of talking in this comic. Not just the lead characters, who talk a whole bunch, but also the government guys out to catch the lead characters. There’s also a revelation scene, which Millar doesn’t do particularly well. It’s a talking heads issue and Millar is just dumping exposition to set up for the finish.

He opens the issue with the secret government agency explaining most of the backstory to the drug and to the mysterious prisoner, who’s been so unimportant he’s barely memorable. Millar plays some tricks, since he’s dealing with fortune telling and, presumably, next issue will have a big surprise or two, but the problem with MPH is the characters.

They aren’t just unsympathetic at this point, they’re annoying and tedious. Millar didn’t set them up strong enough and without development–especially after all the talking–they’re just dragging the comic down.

Too bad.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Millar; artist, Duncan Fegredo; colorist and letterer, Peter Doherty; editors, Jennifer Lee and Nicole Boose; publisher, Image Comics.

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