They’re Not Like Us 1 (December 2014)

They're Not Like Us #1

Not to be too reductive, but the proper response to They’re Not Like Us appears to be “OMG! It’s like a real life X-Men.” Only, apparently, the gifted youngsters don’t use their powers for good, but for selfish reasons. Writer Eric Stephenson sort of foreshadows said youngsters–really a collection of twenty something hipsters–using their powers to harm others. Just like Professor X, the leader has rules… the first being to kill everyone who you knew before you join the team.

Will the Jean Grey-esque protagonist join with them, killing her family (who misunderstood her superpowers as schizophrenia)? Who cares. No one’s forcing me to read the comic, so I have no stake in it. Stephenson certainly doesn’t care about making his characters worth reading about.

Simon Gane’s artwork is good. A little self-indulgent, but good.

Like Us is a concept in search of a story.

B- 

CREDITS

From Despair to Where; writer, Eric Stephenson; artist, Simon Gane; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Fonografiks; publisher, Image Comics.

She-Hulk 11 (February 2015)

She-Hulk #11

Well. A She-Hulk versus Titania issue. With Volcana thrown in for good measure. It’s sort of fun, seeing Pulido do a huge fight sequence. He uses double-page spreads, half double-page spreads; it all looks pretty great.

Unfortunately, even though Soule likes writing Titania’s banter, there’s nothing to the issue. It’s an all action issue without a gimmick. Pulido drawing the fight is fine, but they end up in the middle of nowhere, which is safer for collateral damage… and visually boring. Pulido’s looking at how the fight mechanics work between the two of them. And it just makes the whole thing a little tired.

Of course the mystery bad guy is going to hire Titiana. Who else would he hire?

And there’s no real pay-off with the final reveal because Soule takes the moment away from the regular cast. It’s amusing, but thin. It’s all thin.

B- 

CREDITS

Titanium Blues; writer, Charles Soule; artist, Javier Pulido; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Jeanine Schaefer; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Star Spangled War Stories 5 (February 2015)

Star Spangled War Stories #5

Lovable. Star-Spangled War Stories and G.I. Zombie are lovable. I’m not sure if it’s what Gray and Palmiotti intend–I assume so, since they go out of their way to make the comic read like a familiar, pleasantly inventive amusement. It’s the genial procedural of comic books.

None of the details really matter–it doesn’t matter that G.I. Zombie works for the feds and isn’t a private eye–because Gray and Palmiotti just have to string together the little scenes. The great moments of the comic where the benefit of an undead hero comes in handy. There’s even time for him to catch up with an old–human–friend this issue.

It’s awesome, start to finish. Gray and Palmiotti have found something special with this approach, because it’s not a horror comic and it’s not an action comic, but it borrows from both.

And Hampton’s art looks absolutely fantastic.

A 

CREDITS

Door-To-Door Delivery; writers, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray; artist and colorist, Scott Hampton; letterer, Rob Leigh; editors, David Piña and Joey Cavalieri; publisher, DC Comics.

C.O.W.L. 7 (December 2014)

C.O.W.L. #7

The issue starts off a little rocky. Reis gets a big action sequence and it’s all style and no substance. Then Higgins and Siegel gradually ease the substance out of that scene as the rest of the comic progresses. Because they’re now introducing the supervillains, or what goes for a supervillain in C.O.W.L. and things are getting very interesting.

There’s a lot of subplot building, between the murdered union member, the union boss making a deal with the villains, the guy getting out of the hospital. There’s a lot–so much when there’s this thing with one of the regular superheroes and a cop talking, it’s just too much to track. But Higgins and Siegel keep it in line and constantly surprising.

And Reis gets another good action sequence.

Then the cliffhanger brings in a whole other issue, since it’s a reveal no one knows but the reader.

Very cool.

B+ 

CREDITS

The Greater Good, Chapter One: At the Brink; writers, Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel; artist, Rod Reis; letterer, Troy Peteri; editor, Andy Schmidt; publisher, Image Comics.

Letter 44 13 (December 2014)

Letter 44 #13

Soule frames the issue around a speech from the President, revealing the existence of the aliens. He’s also got some scenes in space–the majority of those scenes are useless by the end of the issue–and some earthbound political intrigue.

He also has the United States and Germany going back to war and nothing happens from it. It’s an exceptionally interesting idea, one with a lot of promise, but Soule just uses Germany as this little group of villains. It’s a strange misstep, given how smart the rest of Soule’s political intrigue usually goes.

And the stuff in space isn’t great. The issue has some of Alburquerque’s best art at the beginning during a boxing match, but then the encounter with the aliens is poorly illustrated. There’s no depth or perspective to the art.

As for the aliens… Hopefully Soule has something more going than what he does here.

B 

CREDITS

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

Manifest Destiny 11 (October 2014)

Manifest Destiny #11

In some ways, this issue of Manifest Destiny is stronger than I thought Dingess and Roberts would ever actually do. It’s not high concept in the plot–Lewis is simply trying to free the ship of being stuck in the river and to get them away from the giant monster toad.

But it’s high concept in Dingess plots out this action issue. There’s the tension over the situation, but there are all these other things going on. Dingess has done so well in layering in the subplots, he can easily refer back to them with just a panel or two of Roberts’s close-ups on various characters.

Sacagawea, for example, only shows up for a couple silent appearances in panels but she’s still a presence in the comic. And the banter between Lewis and his new love interest is brief and fantastic.

Plus, there’s Lewis and Clark bonding.

Excellent stuff.

CREDITS

Writer, Chris Dingess; artist, Matthew Roberts; colorist, Owen Gieni; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editor, Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

Gotham by Midnight 2 (February 2015)

Gotham by Midnight #2

For a good fifth of this issue, which Templesmith paces out well, it seems like the Spectre might show up. He does, but Templesmith doesn’t show him. But for a while, it seems like Templesmith is going to show the Spectre. It’s really cool.

And Fawkes and Templesmith know what they’re doing with it. Fawkes constructs a whole flashback not just around the origin story of the nun, but also of the villains–and the Spectre gets to show up. Sort of.

The rest of the issue just isn’t long enough. Fawkes has the nun and another cop with a couple possessed kids at home, then Corrigan and the bean counter (who, surprisingly, isn’t regular cast yet) fighting the big bad of the issue. The action gets the emphasis, but one wants to see Templesmith do it all.

Fawkes has his bumpy moments, but Gotham by Midnight’s really compelling.

CREDITS

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

Rumble 1 (December 2014)

Rumble #1

Right off, it’s fairly clear the focus of Rumble isn’t going to be the writing. Not for the reader, anyway. Writer John Arcudi does have some amusing, incisive dialogue. The opening exchange between a bartender and customer has its high points. But it isn’t going to be a talking heads comic.

It’s also not going to be an action comic, because artist James Harren doesn’t spend a lot of time on the act. His panels are somewhat static, very much snapshots in how Harren catches the characters moving.

In those panels, Harren creates an expressive world for Arcudi’s slightly off characters to inhabit. There’s a whole lot of mood; even though Harren’s style is playful, there’s an ever present danger. Maybe because of the giant swordsman chasing down a barfly.

There’s not a lot of meat to Rumble. Arcudi does fine, but Harren is the reason to read the comic.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, John Arcudi; artist, John Harren; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; publisher, Image Comics.

Ms. Marvel 10 (February 2015)

Ms. Marvel #10

In some ways, the more rushed Alphona gets on the art, the better the art gets. The energy in the rushing moves the comic along. Wilson goes for inspirational superhero talk quite a few times this issue, which drags it out. And it’s good she drags it out, because the story consists of a fight scene and the aftermath. Not a long time.

What’s so shocking about the issue is how traditional it gets. It’s a nice, solid Marvel superhero book. Wilson has gotten Ms. Marvel, after ten issues, to a comfortable point where she has enough built-up character to not worry about big steps in character development. Here, Kamala just gets to apply her knowledge, knowledge the reader knows about at this point so there’s not a lot of exposition related to. It.

Wilson and Alphona also the sell the heavily foreshadowed ending, but still comes off affecting.

B+ 

CREDITS

Generation Why, Part Three; writer, G. Willow Wilson; artist, Adrian Alphona; colorist, Ian Herring; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, Devin Lewis and Sana Amanat; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Manifest Destiny 12 (December 2014)

Manifest Destiny #12

It’s a fantastic issue, maybe the best in the series so far. Manifest Destiny works best when Dingess is doing more than one thing at a time. This issue doesn’t have much in the way of action, unless one counts arguments and thrown soup, but it still moves at a nice, brisk pace, with the constant threat of danger.

The issue opens with a two page recap of events since the previous issue. Not much has happened. Then the expedition comes across a Native American tribe and they go talk to them. At the same time, Dingess looks at tensions with the wounded aboard the ship and flashes back to how Lewis and Clark got the job in the first place.

Not to mention Sacagawea getting a very cool little subplot of her own.

It’s a smart, carefully executed issue. Dingess and Roberts are full of surprises; rather good ones.

CREDITS

Writer, Chris Dingess; artist, Matthew Roberts; colorist, Owen Gieni; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editor, Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

Flash Gordon 7 (December 2014)

Flash Gordon #7

Well, if this issue of Flash Gordon feels a little light, it might be because Parker and Shaner’s story clocks in at something like fifteen pages. The rest of the comic is promotional material.

As for the Flash comic… it’s fine until the end, when Parker tacks on a questionable cliffhanger–after racing through some other scenes. Flash, Dale and Zarkov have an adventure with Vultan and the Hawkmen but Parker doesn’t have much story for them. There’s some talking head, some science with Flash is asleep and some banter and very little else. Shaner gets a few awesome things to draw and some average ones. It’s a pretty story while it’s going on.

It’s just too short. And the cliffhanger is just too abrupt. Parker is done with Flash Gordon an issue early; there’s no more character development–there’s no Ming this issue either. It’s a rather lazy outing.

B- 

CREDITS

Skyfall; writer, Jeff Parker; artist, Evan Shaner; colorist, Jordi Bellaire; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Nate Cosby; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Sons of Anarchy 16 (December 2014)

Sons of Anarchy #16

It’s a really cute issue. Seriously, it’s cute. Brisson manages to tell a cute, life affirming story with Sons of Anarchy. If there’s the Sons equivalent of a teddy bear, he finds it this issue.

The story has the owner of the pot shop in trouble with an ex; now, said pot shop owner is in business with a biker and he calls the biker for help. So then the biker has this whole investigation thing–the comic really does read like a detective story, but the brute force kind, not the meticulous investigation kind–before he discovers the truth and then there’s go to be the reckoning.

Artist Matías Bergara is not ready for prime time. With some of the action panels, he’s not even close. Occasionally, it does look like he’s got a good talking heads thing going, but the colors mess him up.

It’s an awkward issue.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brisson; artist, Matías Bergara; colorist, Paul Little; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editors, Mary Gumport and Dafna Pleban; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Afterlife with Archie 7 (February 2015)

Afterlife with Archie #7

Aguirre-Sacasa continues the story of the Riverdale survivors in a layered narrative. He uses Betty’s diary as a narrative frame, only she’s recreating her diary from memory, so there are multiple levels of flashback. But he starts near the present action before going back. It’s all over the place in terms of timeline, which is sort of compelling.

It’s also a way to fill out an issue with a lot of back story into the character and her emotional history, but not a lot of action in terms of the zombie apocalypse. Most of it comes in expository narration in the diary–a summary of someone else explaining the zombies to Betty.

There’s also the burgeoning romance between Betty and Archie–then Veronica finds out, right before the cliffhanger. It’s almost too intense. The flashbacks humanize the story, but only can do so much.

And Francavilla appears somewhat rushed.

CREDITS

Betty: R.I.P., Chapter Two: Dear Diary…; writer, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; artist and colorist, Francesco Francavilla; letterer, Jack Morelli; editor, Jamie Lee Rotante; publisher, Archie Comics.

Princess Ugg 6 (December 2014)

Princess Ugg #6

Naifeh unleashes Ülga in battle, which leads to some decent pages, but he doesn’t let her do much fighting. The story keeps getting in the way. There are a lot of plot twists for just one issue–the worst being how her nemesis is nasty to Ülga even when she’s saving the day–and the ending is a little too light.

It’s an amusing issue and has a decent presence, but as the conclusion winds down… it’s clear Naifeh didn’t really have much story to tell. To tell the issue right, he would’ve needed twice the space, maybe three times. There are a lot of little battles and all those plot twists.

He doesn’t seem to like drawing the battle scenes, which is problematic since he’s showing how perfect Ülga is for them. And he gets downright lazy with the art on some of the bad guys.

Ugg’s got problems.

CREDITS

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

Dredd: Uprise 1 (October 2014)

Dredd: Uprise #1

Reading Uprise, it’s hard to see the point. It’s another sequel comic to the Dredd movie, which isn’t clear–if one doesn’t read that information on the cover–until the judges show up in their movie costumes. They take a while show up; writer Arthur Wyatt jumps from regular people to judges to bad people to other people to bad judges. It’s all over the place.

The issue takes place over three days. There are riots brewing in a slum getting a high rise development. It’s unclear why the story of these riots is worth reading about. It’s a Dredd comic where Judge Dredd just barks at the rookie judge instead of listening to her.

It’s unclear why Dredd, the movie, needs a pointless comic book sequel.

Paul Davidson’s art is pretty good. He doesn’t have anything interesting to draw–but his visual pacing is good.

Shame Wyatt’s plotting isn’t.

C 

CREDITS

Writer, Arthur Wyatt; artist, Paul Davidson; colorist, Chris Blythe; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Matt Smith; publisher, 2000 AD.

Bitch Planet 1 (December 2014)

Bitch Planet #1

The back matter of Bitch Planet describes a bait and switch in the issue. The person writing said back matter doesn’t use “bait and switch” as a pejorative phrase, just a description.

But she is correct–it is a bait and switch–and I’m being pejorative.

Bitch Planet is a really cool idea. Oppressive future society, interplanetary travel, women in prison, but not exploitative. What could be an awesome sci-fi comic–and still can be a good one–is a little too straightforward.

It’s like writer Kelly Sue DeConnick had a property with a sensational title and a great concept and she ran with it as an important property instead of a solid story. The multiple surprises–or bait and switches–are cheap. They distract from what the story could be to instead… I don’t know… give Bitch Planet weight.

Nice art from Valentine De Landro.

It’s rather problematic.

C+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Valentine De Landro; colorist, Cris Peters; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Image Comics.

The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw 2 (December 2014)

The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #2

It turns out the savior of the animal Earth of Tooth & Claw is–shock of all shocks–a human. A savage, but honorable warrior, which makes sense because something about the way Busiek writes the exposition about the savior (before his species was revealed) reminds of Conan.

Oh, and it’s The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw now. I thought it was just a style thing (since the people all crashed down to the ground from the floating cities), but apparently it’s a trademark thing.

The result is the story having, so far, nothing to do with autumn. Actually, the issue takes place in one night with a herd of boar attacking–they’re happy the city-dwellers have been brought low–and the savior hatching. There’s arguing and some character stuff from the previous issue’s protagonist, but Busiek’s going for action and lots of events.

It’s fine, but Dewey’s art makes it worthwhile.

CREDITS

Writer, Kurt Busiek; artist, Benjamin Dewey; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterers, John Roshell and Jimmy Betancourt; publisher, Image Comics.

Crossed + One Hundred 1 (November 2014)

Crossed + One Hundred #1

Who would have thought Crossed + One Hundred wouldn’t just be good, but would be some really strong mainstream stuff from Alan Moore. He gets to create a language–future English–which undoubtedly gave him a lot to think about (since the language also shows how the world has changed since the apocalypse and what’s important and what’s not). And he gets to imagine a future civilization.

Not surprisingly, it’s upbeat. Moore shows the humanity both in his cast of survivors, but also in the crossed. It’s very strange because they’re not sympathetic yet, but he’s got a anthropologic distance from them and it does make them very interesting.

A lot of the details don’t have anything to do with Crossed and are probably just ideas Moore has had kicking around for a while. But he fits them perfectly to the world such a calamity might create.

Gabriel Andrade’s art’s excellent.

A 

CREDITS

Writer, Alan Moore; artist, Gabriel Andrade; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Jaymes Reed; publisher, Avatar Press.

Batgirl 37 (February 2015)

Batgirl #37

There’s a somewhat pointless plot twist at the end of this issue. It’s sensational, when the writers haven’t actually set up a point for it. They aren’t asking profound questions or making profound statements, they’re actually just making fun of their villain.

Which is, to some degree, a Batgirl thing to do.

Until that point, the issue is pretty good. There’s too little interaction between Barbara and Dinah though. Stewart and Fletcher use Dinah–to good effect–for comic relief, but they don’t have her functioning as a real character, which hurts this issue. Especially at the end when she pops in just because they need snark.

There’s some rather nice art from Stewart and Tarr during Batgirl’s action sequences too. Lots of foreground and background information important to the panel; they’re a good team.

It’s a rather well-executed comic, with lots of great moments… and a weak conclusion.

CREDITS

Double Exposure; 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.

Star Spangled War Stories 4 (January 2015)

Star Spangled War Stories #4

Okay, so G.I. Zombie is kind of lame when he’s on his own. Not the comic, but the character. When he’s running around this issue, talking to himself, it’s really lame. If Gray and Palmiotti want to have some reason he speaks to himself in expository dialogue, they should introduce it. His origin is still in question… if he’s a motormouth, so be it. But establish it.

Otherwise, not much happens in the issue. The army shows up and the zombie crisis gets contained to some degree. The better stuff is with G.I. Zombie’s partner, Carmen. She’s got the flashback at the beginning of the issue, she’s the one who gets to find the domestic terrorists’ amazing Bond villain base.

There are some decent moments with G.I. Zombie, but the writers put too much emphasis on his lame dialogue and not enough on his experiences in the issue.

It’s annoying.

B- 

CREDITS

Exit Strategy; writers, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray; artist and colorist, Scott Hampton; letterer, Rob Leigh; editors, David Piña and Joey Cavalieri; publisher, DC Comics.

Copperhead 4 (December 2014)

Copperhead #4

This issue of Copperhead returns the series to its previous level of quality, which is fantastic, because I really wanted to love this comic and it looks like I still can.

It’s a very busy issue. Faerber wasn’t busy last issue (the weak one); he’s busy here, he keeps Clara busy, he keeps Boo busy, he keeps the supporting cast busy. There’s stuff with the doctor–an actual scene before he gets drug into the issue’s primary subplot–and there’s stuff at the beginning, possible back story for Clara. It all works out beautifully.

I say possible back story because Faerber tells this story about her, which may or may not be true, then has a whole montage sequence showing it might be true. It’s just a cool way of plotting out the issue… getting the reader wondering, then busy with other stuff, then delivering.

Copperhead is back on track.

A 

CREDITS

Writer, Jay Faerber; artist, Scott Godlewski; colorist, Ron Riley; letterer, Thomas Mauer; publisher, Image Comics.

Star Spangled War Stories 3 (December 2014)

Star Spangled War Stories #3

I still don’t know why I like Star Spangled War Stories so much. Maybe it’s because of Gray and Palmiotti’s pace. This comic–featuring the cast of “Duck Dynasty” unleashing a zombie plague on the United States (the rural United States)–moves at a breakneck pace. About the only time it calms down for a moment is when G.I. Zombie’s partner, whose name I don’t remember, stops at a diner and there’s character development between her and a domestic terrorist whose organization she’s infiltrated.

Otherwise, it’s all action. Only it’s G.I. Zombie running through this small town, trying to help people–Gray and Palmiotti establish the characters and settings quickly (sometimes during action sequences) but they still stick.

It’s kind of like a monster movie from the fifties, only with a lot of action and some very modern sensibilities.

Plus, the strangeness of Hampton doing big action still works wonders.

B+ 

CREDITS

Small Town Welcome; writers, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray; artist and colorist, Scott Hampton; letterer, Rob Leigh; editors, David Piña and Joey Cavalieri; publisher, DC Comics.

Sally of the Wasteland 5 (December 2014)

Sally of the Wasteland #5

Bettin’s art is a little broad for the finish, which has Sally in a “normal” future environment. She and Tommy make it into safe hands, a huge underground society started by the college professors who knew nuclear war was coming.

Most of the issue has Sally hanging out with the female security chief, though Gischler does get in an action packed conclusion. It all seems little familiar–a little Aliens, a little Terminator, a little Planet of the Apes–but the mix isn’t bad. And the issue, even with Bettin getting lazy as the comic goes on, isn’t bad at all. It’s rather good.

It just doesn’t have an ending for the series. Gischler goes with a big cliffhanger, which sort of leaves Sally adrift. He’s not leaving it open for a sequel or setting up a sequel, he’s cutting out before the story ends. It’s frustrating.

But rather good.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Victor Gischler; artist, Tazio Bettin; letterer and editor, Tom Williams; publisher, Titan Comics.

Judge Dredd 28 (February 1986)

Judge Dredd #28

It’s almost a great issue of Dredd. The opening story, with Wagner and Grant sending Dredd into the Cursed Earth (no longer called Mutieland) with a bunch of cadets for a test, is awesome. Smith’s art is good, the story has a nice flow and the supporting cast of cadets is good. It’s probably the best mix of narrative and Wagner wanting to expound on the judges’ rigorous training.

Unfortunately, the second half of the issue has two Judge Anderson stories and neither of them is particularly good. The first one at least has good art from Kim Raymond. Raymond gives it almost a horror comic vibe, which is appropriate given Anderson is fighting a demon.

The last story, with too busy art from Ian Gibson, is really lame. Grant and Wagner write the final one together, with Wagner writing the first Anderson alone. So he’s worse with help, apparently.

B- 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artists, Ron Smith, Kim Raymond and Ian Gibson; colorist, John Burns; letterers, Tom Frame, Tony Jacob and Steve Potter; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Wool 6 (August 2014)

Wool #6

The last issue reveals Wool doesn’t just have a pacing problem or a perspective problem, it has a scale problem. Palmiotti and Gray never make the silo society seem real enough. They never show the silo in a way to make one believe anyone besides the cast lives there.

It’s not imaginative enough in how they’re adapting the comic. Sure, Broxton’s art is a little claustrophobic, but there’s no opportunity for it to be anything else.

Without a sense of the society, the writers don’t give the characters a setting, so their implied back stories and histories have less–or no–resonance. It hurts the comic immensely and could have been easily fixed.

It’s a fairly good final issue. The tension is honest, the plot twists are not. They never get enough time, but Gray, Palmiotti and Braxton are all professionals. Wool ends competently, but without anything special about it.

B- 

CREDITS

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

Judge Dredd 27 (January 1986)

Judge Dredd #27

It’s an uneven issue. Except the art, of course. Smith does a great job on the art. And Wagner and Grant do have some highs. The issue opens with the low–and the only time there’s a lot of forced symbolism about Dredd and the law. I think it comes up later, but the writers actually counter it.

The highlight of the issue is about Dredd being on graffiti detail. It’s not a violent story at all and it sort of just shows regular life for a kid in Mega-City One. Because Grant and Wagner open with it being a Dredd story, then switch the protagonist, it feels expansive, something these short stories usually don’t.

There’s a so-so story about a cult and then a murder mystery. The latter tries too hard with future details, but it’s solidly written. Wagner and Grant have a good tone this issue.

B 

CREDITS

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

War Stories 3 (November 2014)

War Stories #3

If Ennis had just started out with the story he finishes telling in this issue, it would have been a much more satisfying story arc. He doesn’t want to seem too sentimental, I guess. But he starts narrating it in the past tense, directly referring to the war being over, so his protagonist clearly makes it.

Only the protagonist isn’t really telling his war story. Ennis has this interesting thing–a war story where the narration doesn’t engage with all the visuals, the protagonist has forgotten the details, they’ve ceased to be the important thing about this period of his life. It could have been an awesome little story.

Instead, Ennis tries to correct it all this issue and he rushes through it and it doesn’t work. It’s well-written, it’s just obvious and desperate.

And Burns’s detail on the war battle can’t make up for his terrible human beings.

B 

CREDITS

Castles in the Sky, Part Three of Three; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Keith Burns; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Judge Dredd 26 (December 1985)

Judge Dredd #26

There’s a lot of imaginative Ron Smith art this issue. He does an excellent job mixing action with setting detail, especially since all of Wagner’s stories have something to do with Mega-City One, whether with the block architecture or with the people.

Unfortunately, Wagner’s stories of Dredd and the general public, even when they’re good, are too much of Wagner trying to play up Dredd’s ideals. The first story has a minor crime turn into a major, the second has Dredd showing compassion (while appearing not to show compassion), the third and fourth are Walter stories.

The final story, from Alan Grant and Kelvin Gosnell, is this way too conceptually big, but way too small in terms of pages–and Smith’s scale–story of a runaway mobile traffic thing.

These Mega-City One details, even with good art, are really hard to take one after another. There’s no story.

B- 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner, Alan Grant and Kelvin Gosnell; artist, Ron Smith; colorist, John Burns; letterers, Peter Knight and Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Wool 5 (July 2014)

Wool #5

Wool is a frustrating comic. Presumably to stick with the narrative structure of the source novel, Gray and Palmiotti constantly waste time and pass up opportunities for a better structure.

This issue has protagonist Jules on a mission where she’s diving (in her environment suit) to the bottom of the silo. It’s flooded. It could be a great sequence, but it’s actually a waste of time because all it does is introduce a second sidekick for her. It doesn’t need the emphasis if all it’s going to do is bring in another character.

Or they could have used it as a framing device for the issue. But no.

Then the comic cliffhangs with her previous sidekick, now working for the evil information technologies department, chatting with her on the radio. Yet another possible wonder framing device for the whole series.

It’s got its plusses, but Wool is way too loose.

B- 

CREDITS

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

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