Flash Gordon 8 (January 2015)

Flash Gordon #8

I’m really hoping there’s an explanation for Flash Gordon, like Dynamite’s licensing deal changed or something along those lines. Because it’s hard to believe Parker and Shaner put all their previous effort into a comic where the majority of pages went to advertisements for upcoming comics. And their amazing Flash Gordon adaptation only gets something like twelve pages to finish.

Shaner gets to do some nice Alex Raymond nods and Parker gets in one to the movie, but there’s no enthusiasm anymore. They aren’t doing anything original (actually, I’m not sure if Parker did it intentionally, but he does rip off the ending of a recent British cult television series).

Of course, if the explanation is a licensing deal, they are kind of stuck. Maybe Parker and Shaner will go on to something without such a disappointing finish. Best of luck on future projects and so on.

It’s gorgeous, empty.

CREDITS

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

Gotham by Midnight 3 (March 2015)

Gotham by Midnight #3

On second thought, maybe seeing Templesmith fully realize the Spectre isn’t a good idea for Gotham by Midnight. He has to handle big supernatural action this issue and it doesn’t come off. It’s too constrained and his style is no good for discerning the action without narration.

Templesmith’s regular action–in this issue, it’s a flashback to a hostage crisis of sorts–works out fine. The personality carries it, makes it worth figuring it all out. But the big stuff? Not so much.

As for the story, it’s Fawkes still building the B plot. The A plot has Corrigan and Drake (the names are good enough to be memorable, which is no small compliment–though, of course, Corrigan doesn’t count) heading to a hospital for a possession or something. And Drake’s flashback.

It all ties together in time for a haunting soft cliffhanger.

It’s consistently entertaining, with mostly good art.

CREDITS

We Become What We Fight; writer, Ray Fawkes; artist, Ben Templesmith; letterer, Saida Temofonte; editors, Dave Wielgosz and Rachel Gluckstern; publisher, DC Comics.

Abigail and the Snowman 2 (January 2015)

Abigail and the Snowman #2

Abigail and the Snowman continues with Langridge a little more focused than last time. The story takes place over a couple days, with Claude (the Yeti) going with Abigail to school on her birthday.

Langridge actually fits in a bunch of information–both through dialogue, like Abigail talking briefly about her deceased mother, and through implication, Abigail’s father not letting her go to work. Meanwhile, there are the Men in Black trying to find Claude, who’s a big hit with all of Abigail’s new classmates (they can see Yeti, adults cannot).

The issue’s pacing is phenomenal; Langridge gets in multiple set pieces, including elaborate ones like Abigail arriving at school with Claude and his later run-in with the Men in Black. It’s a full issue, but there’s also a nice density to the stuff around the scenes. Langridge even trusts the reader to remember a throwaway line.

It’s superb.

CREDITS

Writer, artist, letterer, Roger Langridge; colorist, Fred Stresing; editor, Rebecca Taylor; publisher, KaBOOM!.

The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw 3 (January 2015)

The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #3

Busiek finally seems to be going somewhere with The Autumnlands. It’s unfortunate he needed a human to get the story moving, but Busiek turns what appears to be a contrived new character into just the thing the series needs.

The human savior from the past is a soldier with cybernetic implants or something. I’m sure Busiek will get around to explaining; he hints at a lot of stuff here, including have the guy use slang. And speak the language of the beast. It gives the reader better access to the world of the characters.

Speaking of characters, there’s a lot of good character development this issue. Busiek concentrates, he doesn’t look around too much, he doesn’t try focusing on anyone too much. Not even the teenage dog kid who was apparently once protagonist but not anymore.

Dewey’s art is still gorgeous, with one exception. He doesn’t draw humans particularly well.

CREDITS

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

Judge Dredd 30 (April 1986)

Judge Dredd #30

It’s a tough issue. Not in a bad way, but in a post-Apocalypse War, the future is a tough place, tough issue. Wagner, Grant and Ezquerra do both stories. The writing is better than the art, but Ezquerra does pretty well with it. There’s humor and humanity. Can’t ask for much more.

The first story has Dredd dealing with a robot city’s tyrannical ruler. Wagner and Grant manage to make it silly and still rather affecting; maybe because Dredd seems to be in actual danger after a point. And the handling of the War’s aftermath is fantastic.

The second story–the much longer one–has a fungus outbreak putting the struggling Mega-City One in danger and Dredd has to race to stop it. It’s a rather good story, with Wagner and Grant roaming with the focus for a while.

The toughness never feels overdone or tongue in cheek.

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artist, Carlos Ezquerra; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Sons of Anarchy 17 (January 2015)

Sons of Anarchy #17

Every third or fourth issue of Sons of Anarchy, I write something about how it’s amazing what Brisson is doing with this licensed title, especially one about bikers, which doesn’t seem the most natural fit for a comic.

I need to change up that practice as of now.

Sons of Anarchy is the best book people aren’t reading. What Brisson does this issue in terms of narrative plotting–executing a bunch of little twists to turn the book from a talking heads to a montage to an action story–is exceptional. And Bergara’s art is essential too. So much happens and he fits it all in.

Brisson is committed to not let Anarchy be disposable. The issue he and Bergara create here is fun, tough, subtle. And Brisson plots it out as only a comic can be plotted out.

He’s using a licensed comic to advertise the medium’s unique strengths.

CREDITS

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

Crossed + One Hundred 2 (December 2014)

Crossed + One Hundred #2

Moore takes the comic to Graceland–sans Elvis cameo–because even though Moore has a lot of pop culture references in Crossed, they’re never cheap. They’re never too obvious, they’re never forced. A few of them had me wondering where Alan Moore would have heard about them, given I don’t picture him on Facebook reading memes.

The comic continues to be fantastic. The language he’s using for the future apocalypse is still fantastic. He even paces out the comic to have a good finish. Even though he’s doing a limited series, the issue itself satisfies with its conclusion. Once again, shocking to see Moore putting so much thought and effort into work-for-hire. He even gets in some really nice character moments.

As for Andrade’s art… it works out. It’s not the best it could be, but he gets how to break out the story for it to succeed.

CREDITS

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

ODY-C 2 (January 2015)

ODY-C #2

With the second issue of ODY-C, which is definitely easier to follow than the first, it’s still unclear why one should read the comic. Unless he or she is really, really interested in Homer and The Odyssey. Because Fraction and Ward moving the story to a matriarchal galactic adventure really isn’t enough.

Not with Fraction relying on occasional curse words and breaking out of the “space classical” language of the regular exposition to wake up the reader.

For people who love Ward’s art, it might be worth it. But Fraction isn’t doing anything new here. A distant Odysseus who comes off as unlikable? No, that one’s never been done before. Fraction doesn’t have a different take on the characters, he just puts them in different clothing. And it’s not like it’s Gone With the Wind or something subtly familiar.

It’s The Odyssey. It’s been adapted for hundreds of years.

CREDITS

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

Batgirl 38 (March 2015)

Batgirl #38

Something happens this issue of Batgirl. The gimmick starts to get a little old. Barbara using Batgirl to be popular on social media, Barbara going after a reality TV bad boy, Barbara dating a cop who thinks Batgirl is a menace. All of a sudden–and having Dinah point out all Barbara’s inconsistent behaviors doesn’t help–all of a sudden, Stewart and Fletcher seem like they’ve gone too far.

They’ve lost Barbara Gordon. Their new Barbara isn’t so much a soft reboot as an entirely new character. One who isn’t very bright, who’s kind of shallow, who’s not a particularly good protagonist. The reader is supposed to be second guessing her throughout the entire issue. Why read a comic where you’re not supposed to worry about the protagonist but about her being dumb?

There’s still some charm thanks to Tarr’s artwork, but the story apparently is stuck on loop play.

CREDITS

Likeable; 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.

Ghosted 16 (January 2015)

Ghosted #16

It’s a done-in-one setting up the next story arc, with Williamson following the villain through his evil plans in a small German town. Juan Jose Ryp does the art, which leads to some crazy riot scenes, but the best moments of Ryp’s art are actually the kids playing. It’s a strange thing to see from Ryp (and in Ghosted) and it’s rather nice.

Actually, Ryp now does a lot of points for shading on faces and it gets annoying fast. Like it’s a Photoshop filter or something.

The story’s decent. Williamson has a lot of fun not just with the villain but setting up the situation in the town. When Jackson finally does appear towards the end of the comic to get the set up going, he’s out of place.

Williamson doesn’t just have fun with the issue, he crafts it very well. It feels enthusiastic and finished.

CREDITS

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

Star Wars 1 (March 2015)

Star Wars #1

There’re a lot of politics in the first issue of Star Wars. Some of it is just Jason Aaron trying to make the Star Wars universe makes sense for thinking reader, which is always been a problem. Star Wars is not deep.

And Aaron’s script for Star Wars turns out not to be very deep either. He has the obligatory Darth Vader appearance, some throwback references to the last movie. Marvel’s Star Wars series is set immediately following the original movie, just like that Marvel Star Wars series from the seventies. So why read another one? Is it supposed to be the John Cassaday art?

Hopefully not, because the art is pretty lame. Cassaday doesn’t have a lot of enthusiasm for the spacecraft or the setting and he goes for photo reference on the main cast but gets lazy almost every third panel.

Star Wars is lame, lazy and redundant.

CREDITS

Skywalker Strikes; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, John Cassaday; colorist, Laura Martin; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Charles Beacham and Jordan D. White; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Nailbiter 9 (January 2015)

Nailbiter #9

Somehow, Williamson can turn an exciting cliffhanger resolution into a boring comic. I mean, it’s interesting. Even if Henderson doesn’t get as much good to draw as usual because there’s the cliffhanger resolution and then another scene in the same location. Then it’s a bunch of interiors–the sheriff’s house, where Williamson works on his B plot involving the local preacher, and the school bus, the issue’s ostensible A plot.

That A plot is just to get Williamson to another big cliffhanger, presumably one he’ll resolve quickly next issue and not just not offer any resolution but also use to get hostile about the idea of the reader connecting with the comic.

Nailbiter is far too removed from itself; Williamson doesn’t want to focus on his main characters because he’s bored with them. Everyone else is far more interesting. Hopefully, he’ll be able to refocus the comic on something engaging.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Williamson; artist, Mike Henderson; colorist, Adam Guzowski; letterer, John J. Hill; editor, Rob Levin; publisher, Image Comics.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 1 (March 2015)

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1

Ryan North fits a lot of story into this issue of Squirrel Girl. Not only does he set up Squirrel Girl as a crime fighter, introducing her new life as a regular college student, he introduces her roommate, a possible love interest and gives her a great fight with Kraven.

Things move a little fast at times–Squirrel Girl has a few realizations where North doesn’t draw the reader a logical path–but there’s enough personality to make up for those rushed moments. Squirrel Girl’s sidekick squirrel, for example, grounds the scenes. Seriously. The talking squirrel (only to Squirrel Girl) grounds things.

The comic, at least in this first issue, has limited appeal. There’s a lot of Marvel trivia and it sometimes overshadows Squirrel Girl, but North tries to plot the issue so anyone can appreciate it.

Nice art from Erica Henderson–lots of personality to her New York City.

CREDITS

Writer, Ryan North; artists, Erica Henderson and Maris Wicks; colorist, Rico Renzi; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editors, Jacob Thomas and Wil Moss; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers 4 (January 2015)

Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers #4

Fox gets to do a lot on the art. There’s a lot of drama to the Earth stuff; between it and the adventures of the barbaric Captain Victory taking down a big monster, Fox gets to shine. Less, of course, with the subplot involving the guys on the ship. It’s really annoying this issue, with Casey desperately filling their dialogue with expository details.

Once things get moving, then get to the Benjamin Marra-illustrated flashback to Captain Victory as a boy (it’s a huge, wonderful Kirby homage but with an absurdly tough mentor ranger narrating), the issue just clicks.

Casey introduces a great subplot to the Earth stuff too, with the scientists creating a monster. In some ways, Captain Victory is too much going on at once and there’s never a chance to lock on any of the characters. In other ways, it’s smartly done fluff (with dashes of content).

CREDITS

Writer, Joe Casey; artists, Nathan Fox and Benjamin Marra; colorist, Brad Simpson; letterer, Simon Bowland; editors, Molly Mahan, Hannah Elder and Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Nailbiter 8 (December 2014)

Nailbiter #8

Williamson and Henderson deliver a lot more in the mood of the issue than anything else. Between Williamson’s eerie town history and Henderson’s eerier art, Nailbiter succeeds in creating a wondrous setting. It also ends up hurting the reading experience because Williamson’s writing often feels like it doesn’t take full advantage of that setting.

This issue has a bunch of subplots brewing. The sheriff has trouble on a couple fronts, the titular serial killer is under more scrutiny than usual, and then the FBI guy is doing his investigating thing. And that investigating thing leads to a very unlikely stand-off with a civilian.

But Nailbiter often isn’t about being reasonable. It’s about well-written characters and good art. This issue delivers some of the former and a lot of the latter. Williamson just can’t hide he’s doing a bridging issue and spinning his wheels for time.

It’s mostly fine.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Williamson; artist, Mike Henderson; colorist, Adam Guzowski; letterer, John J. Hill; editor, Rob Levin; publisher, Image Comics.

Ant-Man 1 (March 2015)

Ant-Man #1

My goodness, isn’t Ant-Man likable? Given the economics of the comic book industry, Big Two or not, it’s interesting how Marvel models their comics after the movies, even though the audience for the two is completely different.

But Nick Spencer writes a likable Ant-Man comic. It’s self-depreciating and heartwarming, with Scott Lang endearing himself to the reader through narration. Not to mention Scott’s ex-wife being a harpy but Scott doesn’t want their daughter blaming her. Spencer gets away with a lot on the likability card. But, in the end, besides the rather competent execution from Spencer and artist Ramon Rosanas, the selling point is the gimmick.

It’s about a guy who can shrink himself… what if he lived in a dollhouse? I’m sure this Ant-Man story has been told before. But why not tell it (and read it) again?

Same ant channel, same ant time.

CREDITS

Writer, Nick Spencer; artist, Ramon Rosanas; colorist, Jordan Boyd; letterer, Travis Lanham; editors, Jon Moisan and Wil Moss; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Robocop 7 (January 2015)

Robocop #7

Seeing Robocop run–he gets upgraded–reminds of two things. First, it’s like running zombies. Second, it’s a little like Batman on ice skates. It’s just too much. Magno’s art is stronger than it has been in the last few issues so he’s able to tone it down and keep the action grounded, but it’s still too much.

However, Robocop being faster than a speeding bullet and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound isn’t the emphasis of the issue. The cops finally get around to going after the bad guy; Murphy gets some evidence, Lewis gets some evidence. Williamson’s Mr. Big is going down!

But not this issue. This issue has a boring hard cliffhanger.

Still, Magno does well with all the action and talking heads and so on and Williamson does really well with Lewis’s arc this issue. It’s problematic licensed property stuff, but still worthwhile.

CREDITS

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

The Fade Out 4 (January 2015)

The Fade Out #4

Even though there’s sensational material in the issue, the issue itself isn’t sensational. Brubaker is very measured. He’s meticulous in the plotting, giving just enough hints and just enough callbacks to the previous issues to get to some big surprises. By the time the issue ends, The Fade Out is something of a different comic than it was before.

There are three big reasons. First, the previous issue where Brubaker changed up format. Second, the sensational material–the Red Threat in Hollywood. Third, the use of actual celebrities as characters. Brubaker’s very subtle about how he uses the last one and it works out beautifully.

And Phillips. Phillips gets some great stuff to draw this issue. Not just the period scenes, clubs, talking heads banter, but a flashback to World War II and some more information about protagonist Charlie. It might turn out to be a great comic after all.

CREDITS

The Word on the Street; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Judge Dredd 29 (March 1986)

Judge Dredd #29

It’s a fairly strong issue, with only one weak story–a retelling of Frankenstein, only in Mega-City One; the other three stories are good.

The first couple, with art from John Cooper, shows a kinder, gentler Dredd. The first deals with animal experimentation, the second with the plastic substance they use in the future dissolving. Writer Wagner goes for a final twist in the latter, which doesn’t do it much good (he’s thrown Dredd into a story not needing Dredd), but it’s still a good story. Cooper handles the humor of the situations and the action well.

The last story, with Brendan McCarthy art, opens with a New Year’s Eve thing, then reveals the actual story. It’s still kinder Dredd, but ruthless too.

As for the Frankenstein story–Brett Ewins does okay with the art, but it’s still weak. Wagner’s details are better than the plot.

Still, nice overall.

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, John Cooper, Brett Ewins and Brendan McCarthy; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Rocket Salvage 1 (December 2014)

Rocket Salvage #1

Rocket Salvage has a lot of information and nothing going on. The story, from Yehudi Mercado, is a future world out of the The Phantom Menace and a handful of other really popular movies or TV shows. Nothing original there.

The hook–as far as the series concept goes, not as far as it being actually engaging–is a family of futuristic trash collectors. Dad’s a failed racer, Sis is super smart, Bro doesn’t have any luck with the ladies. And where’s Mom? Well, it’s a mystery.

Rocket Salvage isn’t a pilot for a Disney show, it’s a pilot for an “adult” cartoon. Just not a funny one. Bachan’s art is detailed without being interesting. His design for the comic is precise, full of animated personality and nothing exciting.

Mercado is obviously enthusiastic about Rocket Salvage. He just doesn’t seem to realize he’s got to make others enthusiastic for it.

CREDITS

Writer, Yehudi Mercado; artist, Bachan; colorist, Jeremy Lawson; letterer, Deron Bennett; editors, Alex Galer and Rebecca Taylor; publisher, Archaia.

Abigail and the Snowman 1 (December 2014)

Abigail and the Snowman #1

Abigail and the Snowman feels very familiar. Roger Langridge does a beautiful job with the artwork, which has a bunch of great montage sequences and sight gags. The art is great. And a lot of the writing is good. Really good. All of the writing is good, occasionally it’s really good.

Occasionally too, however, the comic feels like a fresh take on a standard situation. Abigail is the new girl at school, she has a single parent–her dad, she sort of has to take care of him, she doesn’t make friends easily. There’s nothing interesting in the ground situation Langridge is setting up. A lot of it is stale.

The titular Snowman appears towards the end of the issue. Presumably he’ll figure in more in subsequent issues…

It’s a good comic from Langridge, but it never even approaches sublime. It’s too constructed, too self-aware of its selling points.

CREDITS

Writer, artist, letterer, Roger Langridge; editor, Rebecca Taylor; publisher, KaBOOM!.

Harbinger: Faith 0 (December 2014)

Harbinger: Faith #0

A lot of Faith, the comic, not the character, comes down to her boyfriend, Torque. Being majorly behind on Harbinger, I had no idea they were dating. I never liked the character and they seem like a questionable fit, which is what the comic turns out to be–Faith realizing her place in the world.

Writer Joshua Dysart takes it seriously too. He puts enough work in so the dumb boyfriend moments like Torque feel like natural dumb boyfriend moments and not artificial ones engineered to move the plot along. They do look like those types of moments, but they aren’t. Dysart keeps the comic sincere.

Artist Robert Gill does a good job too. He doesn’t have a lot of action to do, but he handles it well when it does come up.

Dysart uses a Twitter device. It’s distracting… if only because I couldn’t stop thinking about character count.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Robert Gill; colorist, Jose Villarrubia; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editor, Kyle Andrukiewicz; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.

Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive 1 (December 2014)

Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive #1

It’s strange, but the best thing about Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Direction so far is Rachael Stott’s artwork. And her artwork isn’t particularly good. She does okay with people in action sequences, less with the spaceship stuff, but her talking heads are particularly interesting. She doesn’t go for photo referencing the cast of the original “Star Trek,” but she does capture the actors’ expressions.

And, given writers Scott Tipton and David Tipton are really good at approximately an episode of “Star Trek” in terms of dialogue, the talking heads scenes are rather effective. It feels as much like Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner crossing over with Planet of the Apes in the late sixties as one is going to get.

But what’s the point? So far, nothing. The Klingons go to Apes Earth and cause trouble. Big deal.

Apes is nowhere weird enough for “Star Trek.”

CREDITS

Writers, Scott Tipton and David Tipton; artist, Rachael Stott; colorist, Charlie Kirchoff; letterer, Tom B. Long; editors, Sarah Gaydos and Dafna Pleban; publishers, IDW Publishing and Boom! Studios.

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