Howard the Duck 11 (April 1977)

Howard the Duck #11

It’s Howard without Beverly–in a delirious state he assumes she has run out on him with one of the hairless apes but it’s really innocent (or so we hope)–and that change in balance would be enough to get the issue done. It’s Howard fending for himself and all. Gerber could easily fill the pages with that angle.

Instead, Gerber adds to it–Howard’s still sort of delirious, even though he’s a little better, but then he’s on a bus with a collection of spiritual types and a fetching, lisping lady and his nemesis, the kidney lady. It’s weird. And it moves. Gerber and Colan do the movement of this bus beautifully. The pacing is just stunning.

And Gerber ignores all the plot points one might assume in the issue. He even goes out on an entirely unexpected hard cliffhanger, but displays it as a mild ending.

Amazing work.

CREDITS

Quack-Up!; writer and editor, Steve Gerber; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Steve Leialoha; colorist, Janice Cohen; letterer, Jim Novak; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Howard the Duck 10 (March 1977)

Howard the Duck #10

Steve Gerber tears down comics and rebuilds them in this issue of Howard the Duck. Well, maybe just in the first ten pages of the issue. He hangs out in the rebuilt part for the rest of the story. Real quick–Gerber’s Duck is an idea of where mainstream comics should go. And it’s a rejected idea. Seeing all the potential the medium and industry squandered is depressing.

The comic has Howard dreaming about his current psychological predicament. Gerber makes it a story about a duck out of water without ever showing the reader the water. It’s all inferred (Howard’s home) and it collides with all the political commentary Gerber is doing. It’s awesome work. So, so good. So thoughtful.

This issue also gives Colan a bunch of strange stuff to draw. He does it. Colan is realistically rendering the absurd while still keeping it absurd. It’s awesome work too.

CREDITS

Swan-Song …of the Living Dead Duck!; writer and editor, Steve Gerber; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Steve Leialoha; colorist, Janice Cohen; letterer, Jim Novak; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Howard the Duck 9 (February 1977)

Howard the Duck #9

The cover promises the action of Howard the Duck battling a giant beaver at Niagara Falls. The comic doesn’t disappoint; that sequence, beautifully rendered by Colan and Leialoha, ends the issue. But it comes after an extremely goofy and sort of sad adventure for Howard and Bev.

He’s lost the election, which is unfortunate, and he’s got to clear his name. More, he’s got to clear Bev’s name–a photo of them bathing together was leaked to the press. It’s a fix though. She doesn’t like the smell of wet feathers. Gerber has a beautiful way of keeping the reader off balance, revealing this strange details of Howard and Bev’s “regular” lives. It’s a neat idea, to acknowledge the characters have time off from the reader’s scrutiny.

The investigation leads them to Canada. Gerber has a lot of good Canada jokes. He doesn’t have to get mean with them either.

CREDITS

Scandal Plucks Duck; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Steve Leialoha; colorist, Michele Wolfman; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Archie Goodwin; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Howard the Duck 8 (January 1977)

Howard the Duck #8

This comic is difficult to believe. Not the content of the issue, where Gerber just goes wild with a look at American presidential candidacy, but its very existence. Marvel Comics published a comic about the American public rabidly anticipating the assassination of political candidates. They let Gerber get away with it, they even paid Gene Colan to draw it. It’s amazing in its existence.

As a comic, it’s pretty good. Gerber’s plotting is strange. The issue really just is a series of assassination attempts on Howard’s life. There’s barely any character development. Gerber is just moving Howard and Bev from one setup to another. It’s efficiently done too, which is cool. It feels like a race.

The art, from Colan and inker Steve Leialoha, is awesome as usual. But this issue gives Colan and Leialoha a lot of thriller sequences they also have to make somewhat amusing. They confidently succeed.

CREDITS

Open Season!; writers, David Anthony Kraft, Don McGregor and Steve Gerber; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Steve Leialoha; colorist, Janice Cohen; letterer, Irving Watanabe; editor, Archie Goodwin; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Order of the Forge 3 (June 2015)

The Order of the Forge #3

It’s the end of the Forge, but hopefully there will be more adventures of “tubby” Benjamin Franklin and “dick” Paul Revere and “loyal to the King” George Washington as they fight supernatural evil before the American Revolution.

Gischler has a lot of fun, as usual with the comic, but it’s hard for it not to seem rushed. Reading the first two issues of the series, it felt like it at least needed five parts. Instead, it gets three and the ending of this issue–which plays like The Goonies finale–isn’t enough.

The issue opens abruptly and–besides a kiss between George and his lady friend, who gets so little character development I forgot her name–closes with a bad action sequence. Besides the girl and (tubby) Ben Franklin, Bettin draws everyone about the same. So you’ve got four lookalikes having a fistfight.

It’s still amusing, just way feels abbreviated.

CREDITS

Writer, Victor Gischler; artist, Tazio Bettin; colorists, Bettin and Enrica Eren Angioliniletterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Ian Tucker and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Howard the Duck 7 (December 1976)

Howard the Duck #7

It’s an amazing issue. Primarily because it ends with Howard the Duck being made a Presidential candidate, but also because Gerber hits every right note throughout the issue. He introduces politics into the comic after finishing up the previous issue’s cliffhanger. It involved a giant gingerbread man attacking Howard and Bev after being brought to life by a seven year-old mad scientist.

And this issue is political intrigue mixed with absurdist humor. Okay, I suppose there’s some absurdist humor to the gingerbread man but it’s somewhat broader. And there’s the built in classiness of that sequence–unexpected as it may be–because Gene Colan adds class to everything.

But the way Gerber sets up Bev and Howard in this political convention, the time he takes setting everything up; he layers the entire second half of the comic with plot hints and moments of character development.

It’s brilliantly done stuff.

CREDITS

The Way the Cookie Crumbles!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Steve Leialoha; colorist, Marie Severin; letterer, Jim Novak; editor, Archie Goodwin; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Howard the Duck 6 (November 1976)

Howard the Duck #6

Part of me desperately wishes Gerber and Mary Skrenes (who helped with plotting) just gave Colan a scary house script and then had the absurdism added later. Because if you took out the word balloons and the narration boxes, it would seem like Howard and Beverly had ended up in a twisted Marvel horror comic. Tomb of Dracula almost, though the scene where fundamentalist Christian cult kids threaten Howard is scarier than anything in Dracula.

The beautiful part of the script–all of the art is beautiful; Colan does some great work–but the script’s beauty is in how little humor Gerber goes for. He doesn’t make any of the obvious jokes. He plays everything straight, which just makes it funnier.

He does some nice character development on Beverly this issue. She and Howard are on the outs over a cigar squabble.

Gerber changes up Howard; it works out great.

CREDITS

The Secret House of Forbidden Cookies!; writers, Mary Skrenes and Steve Gerber; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Steve Leialoha; colorist, Glynis Wein; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Archie Goodwin; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Fade Out 7 (June 2015)

The Fade Out #7

The Fade Out doesn’t feel like anything but itself. Seven issues in and Brubaker and Phillips have shed any comparisons to their previous work; it’s another in their line of collaborations, but it’s wholly independent from them. One of the factors for it standing on its own so quickly is the lack of fantastical elements. It’s about creating the fantastic through “regular” human ugliness.

This issue opens with Charlie and Maya off on the beach enjoying a getaway weekend. Phillips has his delicate sex scenes, which give each panel a certain weight and pacing of their own, and even when Brubaker hints at the main plot lines, it’s gentle, conversational. The reader is on a getaway too. But, like Charlie, the escape can only last so long.

It’s not really a getaway so much as a scenic bridge. And maybe the best bridging issue I can remember, thanks to Phillips.

CREDITS

The Sound of Waves; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Howard the Duck 5 (September 1976)

Howard the Duck #5

If you’re a duck stuck in the Marvel Universe, how are you going to earn some quick cash? Wrestling, of course. Everyone knows fighting crime doesn’t pay and you’ve got to look out for number one!

Howard and Beverly are having money troubles–I love how Gerber gets around to discussing the obvious logic problems in Howard (I can only hope there’s the sleeping situation issue)–and Howard tries finding a job of his own.

Beverly’s modeling gig isn’t going to make them millionaires, after all.

His misadventures get him on TV–fighting a clown (the clown did hit him with a cream pie)–and then working as a collection agent. Not any kind of work for a respectable duck, hence the wrestling for ten grand.

There’s a lot humor, but Colan’s pencils really show the humanity of it all. Gerber works some considerable magic with Howard the Duck’s thoughtfulness.

CREDITS

I Want Mo-o-oney!; writers, Martin Pasko and Steve Gerber; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Steve Leialoha; colorist, Michele Wolfman; letterers, Gaspar Saladino and Irving Watanabe; editor, Marv Wolfman; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Howard the Duck 4 (July 1976)

Howard the Duck #4

Gene Colan pencils this issue and does a good job of it. He’s not a definitive Howard illustrator except he does manage to draw everything besides the duck perfectly. And his duck is really good, it just doesn’t have as much personality as it could.

The story this issue has Howard and Beverly happening across their groovy, narcoleptic artist neighbor who fights crime while he’s sleep-walking. Again, Gerber figures out a way to look at some comic book superhero stuff without having to leave the issue. As for the Cleveland locations, Gerber and Colan don’t concentrate on it. It could be any city. Bigger or smaller.

There’s eventually a lot of action with a variety of forms for the antagonist. Gerber just happens across these amazing situations for Howard. His being a duck is still immaterial to it, one forgets he’s not just a human in a duck suit.

CREDITS

The Sleep… of the Just!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Steve Leialoha; colorist, Michele Wolfman; letterer, Annette Kawecki; editor, Marv Wolfman; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Gotham by Midnight 5 (May 2015)

Gotham by Midnight #5

I asked for Templesmith Spectre and Templesmith Spectre I got. I shouldn’t have asked for so much. Giant Spectre deciding whether or not to judge Gotham City. It seems like it should be okay, but it’s not. Maybe because the giant monster is just a blob of ghosts or something. Maybe because Batman figures into it and Templesmith can’t bring the cinematic scale to a Batwing attack and it just doesn’t work.

Or maybe because the drama of the issue is whether or not the boss of the unit is going to shoot Corrigan in the head to stop the Spectre. Worse, Fawkes feels the need to go with a shock soft cliffhanger. There isn’t much personality to the issue either.

It’s a disaster issue by a couple guys who don’t seem to know how to scale one out.

The art’s nice, the writing’s okay enough; it just doesn’t connect.

CREDITS

Judgment on Gotham; writer, Ray Fawkes; artist, Ben Templesmith; letterer, Saida Temofonte; editors, Dave Wielgosz and Rachel Gluckstern; publisher, DC Comics.

D4VE 3 (February 2014)

D4VE #3

This issue of D4VE is the very definition of a bridging issue. Nothing happens. D4VE starts the issue getting ready to go to war against the alien invaders, he ends the issue getting ready to go to war against the alien invaders.

Except he makes up with his wife and he and his son bond. Why? No reason. At least the son is hanging out with him so the reader gets to see some of the bonding, but the wife just up and calls and forgives him for being terrible.

Except D4VE hasn’t really been terrible so it’s a pointless thing for her to apologize for. D4VE is clearly going to be right about the aliens–Ferrier shows the aliens plotting against the robots, shows the robots being too dumb to catch on. It’s a treading water issue.

There’s some decent art from Ramon but the issue grinds along painfully.

CREDITS

Writer and letterer, Ryan Ferrier; artist, Valentin Ramon; publisher, Monkeybrain Comics.

Howard the Duck 3 (May 1976)

Howard the Duck #3

What’s so great about Howard the Duck–or one of the great things, as I’m now discovering there are a lot of them in the comic–is how Gerber is able to use the absurdity of the concept to examine comic book reality. Howard and Beverly exist in a world with the fantastical nature of the Marvel Universe, but without any of the magic.

This issue has some of the magic spilling over in a kung fu master. It’s an entirely absurd, hilarious, beautifully drawn sequence but Gerber’s able to do it sincerely too. Howard, a blowhard closet intellectual, is a real character. He just looks like a duck and talks to Sam Spade. And Beverly’s already showing more depth than expected.

John Buscema does the art this issue. It works out well, though he doesn’t have the detail (or the Donald references) Brunner brings to Howard.

Another great comic.

CREDITS

Four Feathers of Death!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, John Buscema; inker, Steve Leialoha; colorist, Michele Wolfman; letterer, Annette Kawecki; editor, Marv Wolfman; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Howard the Duck 2 (March 1976)

Howard the Duck #2

What an amazing comic. Gerber tells the story straight–so it’s this very simple tale of a talking duck, this girl he likes, this boy who likes the girl the talking duck likes and then the talking turnip who controls the boy who likes the girl who the talking duck likes.

The turnip and the duck don’t know each other. But they must do battle, as is the way of the world.

In the meantime, Gerber gives the boy this great overdone sci-fi space odyssey through his own mind as the turnip takes over. Gerber imaginatively–and not hostilely–snickers at sci-fi.

Of course, there’s also the talking duck. And his lady friend. They have a great relationship between Gerber never writes Howard as anything but a jerk yet Beverly always falls for it. She’s an optimist, clearly.

Great Brunner art–dirty Donald at times.

Very good comic.

CREDITS

Cry Turnip!; writer, Steve Gerber; pencillers, Jim Starlin and Frank Brunner; inker, Steve Leialoha; colorist, Michele Wolfman; letterer, Tom Orzechowski; editor, Marv Wolfman; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw 6 (June 2015)

The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #6

I’m not sure why Busiek feels the need for Dusty; he’s the puppy guy who’s sort of the protagonist of the comic. He only ever uses him to deceive the reader. In this issue, the human is doing something he doesn’t tell Dusty about so there’s that surprise for reader and character, but then Busiek’s got Dusty doing something the reader doesn’t know about. So he’s not reliable and not because he’s shifty, but because Busiek’s just using him as a vantage point.

It’s an okay issue of Autumnlands. Dewey does rather well with the disaster and action sequences (the human still doesn’t look good); his art makes the comic. Without it, Busiek would just be spinning his wheels.

There’s more political intrigue this issue. There’s more coincidences leading to big changes in the political spectrum. There’s more implied characterization than actual. It’s slight. It’s gorgeous looking, but Autumnlands’s shallow.

CREDITS

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

Howard the Duck 1 (January 1976)

Howard the Duck #1

It’s not clear if it’s going to be the secret of the series or just the secret of this issue, but the way writer Steve Gerber makes Howard the Duck work is by coming up with this hippie political commentary plot and except have it narrated by Sam Spade.

Only Sam Spade isn’t a P.I.

And it’s not Sam Spade. It’s Howard. The talking duck. Gerber moves Howard through the comic like a forties heavy. He’s Edward G. Robinson chewing on scenery while Gerber spins this crazy story of a powerful magician who also happens to be a complete square who wants to use a cosmic calculator to rearrange the universe.

And there’s a girl.

And a Spider-Man cameo.

And gorgeous art from Frank Brunner. Gerber gives him a lot of weird stuff to draw but it’s all weirder going together and Brunner nails it every page.

Awesome comics.

CREDITS

Howard the Barbarian; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller and colorist, Frank Brunner; inker, Steve Leialoha; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Marv Wolfman; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw 5 (March 2015)

The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #5

Busiek’s kind of showing his hand with Autumnlands this issue. Not the plot as, though some of it, but more just how the comic’s going to be, how it’s going to read. It’s magic talk around a bunch of anthropomorphic steampunks. Maybe I’m just sick of Busiek not knowing what to do with the narrator. When he just narrates, it’s really annoying.

The issue’s story is a lot of political maneuvering and double-crossing and so on. It’s competently done, but never interesting or original. There’s a lot with the champion, usually through the narrator’s eyes, with these little asides letting the knowing reader in. If you don’t want a narrator, don’t use one. Don’t undermine him, not unless you want the reader not to like him, which is a perfectly reasonable (if unlikely) possibility.

Dewey’s art seems a little hurried and he’s still no better at drawing the human.

CREDITS

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

Ms. Marvel 15 (July 2015)

Ms. Marvel #15

Okay, what is Wilson doing?

She knows where the story beats are for this issue but she doesn’t hit them. Kamala gets her first broken heart. Wilson gives it the last page and less emphasis than a string of Star Trek and Star Wars references. After a big gamer reference.

Did Marvel’s market research come back on Ms. Marvel or something? Because it’s darned frustrating considering the rest of the issue is pretty good stuff. There’s an amusing “real world” products in the comic book context with Bruno using Siri and Kamala’s phone being better than anything James Bond had in the sixties and maybe seventies. Wilson’s got the chops to do something amazing and, every time something significant comes up, she goes for the cheap shot.

And the overall plotting is getting stretched.

Ms. Marvel’s still an exceptionally likable comic, Wilson’s just making it more likable than exceptional lately.

CREDITS

Crushed, Part Three; writer, G. Willow Wilson; artist, Takeshi Miyazawa; colorist, Ian Herring; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, Charles Beacham and Sana Amanat; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Sons of Anarchy 22 (June 2015)

Sons of Anarchy #22

For the first time since he took over writing the book, Ferrier delivers a good Sons of Anarchy script. He doesn’t waste too much time with his new character–the obnoxious club prospect who turns on them–and he gives everyone else enough to do. He actually works on Jax’s character, which is cool.

Unfortunately, Bergara’s art is just as inappropriate as always. It seems like a Saturday morning cartoon, not a gritty comic book. There’s lots of blood this issue, but lots of blood not a comic book make. The prospect looks like mean Archie, everyone else looks slightly goofy. It’s like Bergara’s saying not to take the comic too seriously and not the sentiment one needs while reading it.

Ferrier’s moves are quite good once the issue gets going–so good it’s almost possible to overlook the art problems–and it ends well. Except the art, of course.

CREDITS

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

Ms. Marvel 14 (June 2015)

Ms. Marvel #14

When I started reading this issue of Ms. Marvel, all I could think was, “I hope Wilson doesn’t make Kamala’s ‘too good to be true’ love interest too good to be true.” Because lumping Kamala in with all the other teen superheroes who’ve fallen for someone they shouldn’t have? I hoped, pointlessly as it turns out, Wilson wouldn’t go down that path.

But I never expected her to do it in one issue. Especially not an issue where she finally turned the brother into a full character (he and Bruno have “the talk”). It sends a really odd message about Kamala actually not being able to think for herself, which I’m sure isn’t Wilson’s goal but it’s definitely what happens.

Miyazawa’s artwork is lovely this issue. Not perfect, but lovely. It’s idyllic, New York trash on the streets romance. It’s a shame Wilson went with the norm and chucked it.

CREDITS

Crushed, Part Two; writer, G. Willow Wilson; artist, Takeshi Miyazawa; colorist, Ian Herring; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, Charles Beacham and Sana Amanat; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Rat God 5 (June 2015)

Rat God #5

The final issue of Rat God has multiple surprises. First and foremost? The conclusion. Corben has the reader’s imagination, he has the unseen horror element down, but the way he uses it is unexpected. He has all this built-up fear to dispell. And he does so with a mix of story and of art. Rat God feels very complete.

The second surprise? A big action sequence. Corben goes wild with this 1920s speeding car chase and escaping danger action. It’s an awesome change of pace for the series. Somehow Corben got the idea to put all these familiar elements together and bring out something entirely unexpected.

He’s very careful, very deliberate. Even though the art is essential, it only works with this writing. Corben’s really putting together some great horror comics. He’s not just leaving his mark on the genre, he’s moving it forward while he leaves that mark.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Richard Corben; colorists, Corben and Beth Corben Reed; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Jemiah Jefferson, Shantel LaRoque and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Rat God 4 (May 2015)

Rat God #4

Having a hero in Rat God is sort of weird. Corben almost wants the reader to still actively dislike Clark; there’s just something annoying about his face. You just don’t like it. And he’s mean to the little native girl who wants to run off with him.

Because Rat God takes place in an uncharted land, even though it’s just up in the mountains of the first issue’s Lovecraftian New England town. But in mixing Lovecraft, Native Americans and hidden protagonists, Corben’s made something sort of new. It’s like a horror story for PBS. If PBS did more original dramatic programming.

This issue moves too. There’s the opening action sequence, which has a lot of lush imagery but Corben doesn’t let it get in the way of the progress. It’s great art this issue. And the end sequence–a costume ball–a Richard Corben creepy costume ball–is simply gorgeous.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Richard Corben; colorists, Corben and Beth Corben Reed; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Jemiah Jefferson, Shantel LaRoque and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Crossed + One Hundred 5 (May 2015)

Crossed Plus One Hundred #5

After so many calm issues, Moore gets around to showing a little of + One Hundred’s plan and it’s a doozy. But the way he shows it is so fantastic.

Moore has lulled the reader into expecting the calm while still imagining some sensible, if horrific, explanation. He gradually reveals the truth here, as Future reads some diaries she finds and everything starts to make sense. While Moore didn’t give the reader enough information to guess it, his style for the book also lulled the reader into not thinking about guessing.

Instead, he spent the entire time making the reader care about the characters. And now, through a masterfully executed reveal, they’re all in trouble. Only Future’s just as calm as always. Why? Because she grew up in + One Hundred and it’s the reader who’s anxious. That aspect, the calm of the damned, is one of Moore’s great moves here.

CREDITS

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

Descender 4 (June 2015)

Descender #4

I’m not sure if I’m more on board Descender after this issue, which doesn’t reveal where Lemire’s going, but does show he’s got some actual ideas. Many of them are, as usual, familiar sci-fi tropes. He just arranges them a little better this issue.

And the story itself feels very comic book. Lemire puts the emphasis on the supporting players, mostly the ship captain, as well as pulling back and letting the reader see the familiar cast members in a new environment. Descender feels a little more solid.

So why aren’t I more excited about it? Because it’s still not clear Lemire’s got anywhere to take this story worth going and this issue features the first less than great Ngyuen art of the series. Where’s the art go wrong? The outer space stuff. Where’s Lemire taking the story? Outer space stuff.

The rest of the issue’s gorgeous.

Descender frustrates.

CREDITS

Tin Stars, Part Four; writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Dustin Nguyen; letterer, Steve Wands; publisher, Image Comics.

D4VE 2 (January 2014)

D4VE #2

It’s a perfectly okay issue of D4VE, it just doesn’t go anywhere. D4VE’s wife is leaving him. Wasn’t she ready to leave him in the first issue? There’s no drama to it. And, given it’s about a bunch of robots, Ferrier’s oddly calm about having characters who are monotonous.

There’s some stuff with D4VE and his son, which is a strange concept–robots building little robots to emulate human behavior (these contradictions, which D4VE sometimes comments on, are some of Ferrier’s stronger details).

Some of the problem with the issue is the aliens. There are lots of aliens. They distract from D4VE’s story, but they also give Ferrier a way to manipulate the reader. It’s sort of deft manipulation, just still obvious.

Ferrier also hints at forthcoming details. There are a couple times this issue it’s all just set up for next time out.

The good art from Ramon helps.

CREDITS

Writer and letterer, Ryan Ferrier; artist, Valentin Ramon; publisher, Monkeybrain Comics.

The Comics Fondle Podcast | Episode 25

YOWSA! BACK from the dead, your Comics Fondle hosts Andrew and Vernon talk about nothing less than 35 TITLES! Can you TAKE IT, pilgrim? We even manage to reveiw ONE Marvel book! So get a beverage of your choice, sit back in your comfy spot, and find out about all the titles you SHOULD be reading! Order of the Forge! Minimum Wage! Kaijumax! And MANY MANY MORE!

you can also subscribe on iTunes…

Big Man Plans 3 (June 2015)

Big Man Plans #3

There’s more torture this issue of Big Man Plans but it’s Big Man doing the torturing, not the other way around. And the people he’s torturing–whether it’s his cousin or his aunt, even though we don’t know what they’ve done to deserve it, we know they deserve it.

Because, if he’s anything, Big Man is the hero of this book. Powell and Wiesch remind the reader of it right off, with Big Man in Vietnam saving a nine year-old girl from the American soldiers. It’s a strange scene, wholly unnecessary but still somewhat amusing. Powell wanted to draw a chopped off weinie I guess. No, not the Oscar Mayer kind.

The rest of the issue–well, before the torturing starts–is Big Man recuperating. There’s some more backstory, more hints at whatever set him off, but no answers yet.

It’s an amusing book, but could be much better.

CREDITS

Writers, Eric Powell and Tim Wiesch; artist and letterer, Powell; publisher, Image Comics.

Airboy 1 (June 2015)

Airboy #1

Remember James Robinson? He wrote a bunch of DC comics recently–according to himself in his new series, Airboy, no one liked. Everyone liked his Golden Age or retro stuff from the nineties. It’s a shame he didn’t have the stones to talk about when he said his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the movie) was better than League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the comic book).

Airboy is about Robinson (the comic book’s writer) and Greg Hinkle (the comic’s artist) trying to make a new version of Airboy. Is the comic true? Probably not. I can’t imagine Image soliciting creators for an Airboy relaunch and Robinson and Hinkle would probably be dead from all the drugs they do in the comic.

It’s okay. Hinkle’s got a nice style and great attention to detail (I loved when Robinson looked out his window for traffic) but, so far, it’s one note and incredibly derivative.

CREDITS

Writer, James Robinson; artist, Greg Hinkle; publisher, Image Comics.

Batman Arkham: The Riddler (May 2015)

rid.pngMost Bat-fans glorify and self-identify with The Joker, but in actuality the average DC Comics fanboy is closer to The Riddler: needy, nerdy, narcissistic and way too smug about the lifetime of meaningless trivia they’ve accumulated.

That said, I love the guy. His gimmick is basically self-sabotage disguised as grandiosity. He’s every overweight dork in jean shorts and a fedora who just spent six months in the gym and studying how to be a Pickup Artist, whose core of vicious insecurity is barely inches below his flamboyantly confident new exterior. There’s a neurotic underdog aspect to his criminal insanity, as opposed to the anarchist self-indulgence or melodramatic tragedy of so many other Batman villains.

Chuck Dixon’s 1995 origin story Questions Multiply the Mystery formally introduced this angle on Edward Nygma, and it’s a real pity it wasn’t included in this first official Riddler “greatest hits” trade paperback. Why not? Where also is the other key Riddler appearance of the modern era, Neil Gaiman’s deft little post-modern 1989 tale When is a Door? Essentially a monologue by an aged, wistful Riddler, he reflects on how everything in Gotham’s gotten so grim and gritty of late and there doesn’t seem to be a place anymore for super-criminals like him who just want to have some goofy fun – rather than rack up a body count. A simple observation, but the entire key to Riddler’s role in a post-Dark Knight Returns world: compared to the rest of Batman’s increasingly depraved Rogue’s Gallery, Eddie is relatively something of a gentleman.

Batman Arkham: The Riddler doesn’t include either of those gems, or even a single story from 1984 to 2006. As if there wasn’t a decent Riddler comic for 22 years! Absent any apparent legal reprinting issues, this yawning historical gap seems to have been caused simply by editorial ambivalence. The laziness is there at first glance, from the recycled New 52 cover art to the title – who’s “Batman Arkham”? I gather the idea that the collection is akin to a trip to the E. Nygma cell at Arkham Asylum, but there’s not even an introduction describing the character’s legacy, let alone some “Heh, heh, heh! Welcome to Arkham, kiddies!” kind of Cryptkeeper curtain-opener. Of the 14 compiled issues, the first 9 are from the Golden, Silver and Bronze ages of DC and that alone probably makes the book worthwhile overall, especially for Riddler’s 1948 debut by Bill Finger & Dick Sprang, and 1960s revival by Gardner Fox.

The Riddle-Less Robberies of the Riddler from 1966 is a particularly memorable bit of introspective villain psychoanalysis: Riddler decides to stop leaving riddles and just be a normal thief, only to discover his addictive obsession won’t let him quit. A definitive story, but its inclusion is probably chance. Why, for instance, if you’re only going to reprint two Riddler stories from the whole decade of the 1970s, wouldn’t you want to include the one that Neal Adams drew? It’s like they were picked at random. Even the modern age choices feel arbitrary – like an abysmal 2007 Paul Dini issue of Detective Comics which is primarily a Harley Quinn timewaster using Edward Nygma as mere supporting player. No respect. How appropriate.

The contemporary stuff isn’t all bad, however. Scott Snyder & Ray Fawkes’ 2013 Riddler one-shot Solitaire is the only Batman comic I’ve read since the Animated Series spinoffs to build thoughtfully on the conception of Edward Nygma as a conceited intellectual who doesn’t realize he’s also a lunatic.

Batman Arkham: The Riddler is far from the ideal compendium for one of Batman’s oldest, most unique and iconic adversaries, but asks a fair enough price for all his earliest classic battles of wits in one volume.

CREDITS

Writers, Bill Finger, Gardner Fox, David Vern Reed, Len Wein, Don Kraar, Doug Moench, Paul Dini, Peter Calloway, Scott Snyder, Ray Fawkes, Charles Soule; artists, Dick Sprang, Sheldon Moldoff, Frank Springer, John Calnan, Irv Novick, Carmine Infantino, Don Newton, Don Kramer, Andres Guinaldo, Jeremy Haun, Dennis Calero; editor, Rachel Pinnelas; publisher, DC Comics.

Frankenstein Underground 3 (May 2015)

Frankenstein Underground #3

This issue brings the Creature to an underground city, which he–in a delirious state–thinks is Hell. This delirious state also leads to some fight scenes, which Stenbeck rushes through. There’s some better action later on in the comic, but on a grand scale. Stenbeck can’t seem to handle the one on one fight scene, which is too bad.

Mignola’s story stalls out pretty soon after the Creature finds out there are reasoning men living in the underworld too. Then there’s a lengthy expository monologue from the lead reasoning man. Mignola enjoys the pseudo-history lesson and his enthusiasm makes it interesting to read. But it doesn’t really take the comic anywhere.

And the comic goes out on what should be a rather significant cliffhanger but it’s not because Mignola rushed through areas where he should have been foreshadowing better.

It’s okay, but it’s losing ground way too fast.

CREDITS

Writer, Mike Mignola; artist, Ben Stenbeck; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Clem Robins; editors, Shantel LaRocque and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

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