Copperhead 9 (July 2015)

Copperhead #9

Faerber does another Western standard this issue and it’s yet another success for Copperhead. The sheriff is leading a posse (her, three androids, one of the native guys–I think he’s a native guy, I can’t remember) to rescue Boo. It’s a standard Western. Only the androids have their own thing going on–two are bodyguards, one is the loner who’s been in the series hanging out and helping out.

And the sheriff’s human. And a woman. Faerber doesn’t mention those last two details; to make it work, he has to bake it into the comic. He does. With Godlewski’s expressions–not exactly detail to faces, but considered expressions–there’s os much to the posse’s hunt.

The sheriff isn’t the flashiest character in most of the issues, but she’s still the protagoni:ccst. Faerber is deliberate with how he showcases her. She’s responsibly reckless.

Copperhead continues to be a great read.

CREDITS

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

Howard the Duck 31 (May 1979)

Howard the Duck #31

What a bad comic. Whether it’s Mantlo’s rhyming of adjectives and nouns, the lamebrain fight scene, Bev’s silly way of resolving her situation–it’s all bad. It’s all bewilderingly disconnected, not just from the series, but from the other elements of the comic. It’s like Mantlo can’t even figure out how to move these characters in relation to one another.

And I want to be positive about it. Like anyone would be in trouble trying to followup Gerber but Mantlo does a bad job. Independent of not being Steve Gerber, he does a bad job. Howard acting like a snarky sitcom character isn’t Howard. He and Bev get together again it’s not even a scene. Regardless of having Colan on the pencils (though Milgrom’s inks weaken quickly), it doesn’t feel right.

Howard’s big adventure ends and it’s not even Howard anymore. It’s a clueless imitation. Marvel Nurse Ratchet’d him.

CREDITS

The Final Bong!; writer, Bill Mantlo; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Al Milgrom; colorist, George Roussos; letterer, Irving Watanabe; editor, Jim Shooter; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 4 (September 2015)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #4

Aguirre-Sacasa doesn’t mess around this issue. He keeps taking Sabrina down its dark path, spending the entire issue dealing with what happens when witches have to make a regular person disappear. Because if you’re a witch, sometimes you need to make hard choices and significant sacrifices to the Dark One.

While all this darkness is circling the regular cast, the kids from Riverdale show up–it’s not a full fledged Archie crossover but Aguirre-Sacasa does hint at future complications.

On one hand, the comic is just masterful horror. Hack’s art is simultaneously luscious and horrifying. The script–and the narrative design choices–are great. It’s terrifying while still being assuring. Aguirre-Sacasa finds the exact balance to keep it going just on the edge.

But he’s also doing a very aware reinvention of a (somewhat) familiar franchise and negotiating all those implications.

Sabrina is awesome. Just plain awesome.

CREDITS

The Crucible, Chapter Four: Harvey Horrors; writer, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; artist, Robert Hack; letterer, Jack Morelli; editor, Jamie Lee Rotante; publisher, Archie Comics.

We Stand On Guard 1 (July 2015)

wsogWe Stand On Guard is what Future Taylor of Crossed +100 might call “Really, REALLY Wishful Fiction.”

Similar to that series, Brian K. Vaughan has imagined a future one hundred years and change from now, but his speculations aren’t nearly as realistic. Imagine a future where not only has Canada NOT been assumed into the United States, they’re also a multicultural utopia. Oh, wait, that’s what Canada is supposed to be today, right? What if I told you it’s also full of brave men and women ready to stand up and take arms – you know, if they had to – against American Imperialism, after we’ve invaded them for their water? This book is such a perfect illustration of uniquely Canadian delusions it should be taught in Canadian Studies classes a hundred years from now.

Vaughan incorporates Canadiana, of course – Tim Hortons, French Bilingualism, Canadian Tire – but the two biggest cultural touchstones of the issue are an early conversation between parent and child about the War of 1812, and later, one between freedom fighters about the nationality of Superman. In the former, Vaughan momentarily tries to trick readers into thinking his story is anything but a hacky Anti-American screed by having a child informed that Canada’s burning of Washington was really by the British, because Canada “wasn’t even a country back then.” Why? “For trying to steal this land.” As if unlike the rest of North America, the British had a moral and legal right of ownership to what would one day become Canada because there weren’t any Native Americans above the 49th Parallel to kill or subjugate. Sorry, “First Nations Peoples.”

This happens mere seconds before Ottawa 2112 is bombed by the US, mere minutes after the White House is attacked. It’s either ludicrously lazy writing, or, more likely, setup for some end-of-the-first-trade reveal about the attack being faked as a pretext of military invasion – you know, like 9/11. Given that the villains of Vaughan’s incredibly overrated Saga are thinly veiled caricatures of Bush and the Saudis, it wouldn’t be a surprise.

The dialogue about Superman is a little more layered. This one smug Anglican defends his ’S’ tattoo as a mark of Canadian pride because although the city of Cleveland is, like Vaughan himself, “just where the writer was from,” the guy “who did all the real work” was “born and raised in Toronto” and that’s “actually what the entire comic is about!” So not only do you have Vaughan disparaging his own half of the craft AND Cleveland just to let this twerp make his flimsy stretch of a point, he goes on to say that America is like Metropolis – “this huge wonderland that’s mostly run by greedy bastards like Lex Luthor” while Canada is “like the planet Krypton, this peaceful place that sends our most amazing people out into the universe.” Desperate bluster like this reminds of the times I’ve been told by Canadians that guys like Jim Carrey were “stolen” by the US; any rationalization is preferable to the idea that someone born there might have good reason not to stay. Oh and by the way, Joe Shuster left Toronto around age 10 and moved to – yeah, you got it – Cleveland, where he later met Jerry Siegel in high school. No doubt the subtext of Canadian values and virtue was a frequent discussion between them during the creation of Kal-El.

Post-Trudeau Canadian pride isn’t a real belief; it’s the post-colonial self-hatred of an incredibly lucky colonial inheritance with nothing to replace it but jealous contempt for the older brother who moved out of their parents’ house instead of waiting for them to die of old age. The surest defense against existential uncertainty is to define oneself in opposition to others. We Stand On Guard will no doubt be an unwittingly thorough treatise on how Canadians can only define themselves in comparison to the big, mean USA, replete with Vaughan’s TV sitcom beats and Joss Whedon quality characterizations.

Steve Skroce’s art is really good. Awesome mechs. Matt Hollingsworth’s colors are almost as boring as Canada so good job there too, eh?

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Steve Skroce; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Fonografiks; Coordinator, Eric Stephenson; publisher, Image Comics.

Howard the Duck 30 (March 1979)

Howard the Duck #30

Al Milgrom inking Gene Colan. And it’s not bad. It looks like Milgrom does a lot of work on Howard’s face–his lines are smoother than everything else–but otherwise, it’s not a bad job inking at all.

Milgrom’s not the only change. Steve Gerber’s gone and Bill Mantlo’s scripting. He changes some details about Howard’s current predicament, immediately removing the complications for Howard and Beverly, and gets going with the adventure.

Howard gets a suit of Iron Man armor to fight Dr. Bong. It’s really dumb and it’s hard to believe it won’t some day end up in a Marvel movie with Robert Downey Jr. doing a $100 million five minute cameo.

At one point in the issue–which is terribly written–Mantlo gives Howard a line about how death is preferable to humiliation. Howard might survive without Gerber, but Mantlo’s humiliating the poor Duck, page after painful page.

CREDITS

If This Be Bongsday!; writer, Bill Mantlo; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Al Milgrom; colorist, Michele Wolfman; letterer, Elaine Heinl; editors, Mark Gruenwald and Jim Shooter; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Island 1 (July 2015)

Island #1

Island is an anthology series. I didn’t realize it was an anthology series with multiple creators and stories per issue. It feels like Dark Horse Presents, actually. Maybe a bit more indie, but basically it’s DHP. And being the new DHP is fine because the new DHP hasn’t done it.

There are three stories–one from Emma Rios, one from Brandon Graham (who’s also the editor of Island) and one from Ludroe. They’re all open-minded so they can continue. Two of them are all right. Ludroe’s skating thing isn’t my cup of tea. There’s no writing to it (besides alleycats being a gang of talking cats), no constraint.

Rios’s story is okay. The sci-fi setting being background to the characters is nice and some of the art’s good (not the action though).

Graham’s story is craziness and wonderfulness. He gloriously trumps continuity and expectation with ambition and exploration.

CREDITS

Contributors, Marian Churchland, Emma Rios, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Brandon Graham and Ludroe; publisher, Image Comics.

Howard the Duck 29 (January 1979)

Howard the Duck #29

Gerber writes the script from a Mark Evanier plot.

It starts with Howard in Cleveland again, though it doesn’t look like Howard. Will Meugniot and Ricardo Villamonte’s art is strange; Howard’s reality is gone. It’s a comic strip. Meugniot’s got fine enough composition, but zero detail.

The story doesn’t have much Cleveland–Howard almost immediately ends up in Las Vegas where he’s going on television because some idiot Vegas lounge act thinks Howard’s a kid with a strange disease. You know, a disease where he looks like a duck.

How did this one not get turned into the movie? Maybe it did. I don’t think I’ve ever finished the movie.

Anyway… it’s not exactly bad. The art’s not good. Gerber’s dialogue is funny but detached. And the satire is pretty tepid. There’s no great diatribes, no passion, just easy targets.

It feels like a pitch for a TV show.

CREDITS

Help Stamp Out Ducks!; writers, Mark Evanier and Steve Gerber; penciller, Will Meugniot; inker, Ricardo Villamonte; colorist, Michele Wolfman; letterer, Joe Rosen; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Godzilla in Hell 1 (July 2015)

Godzilla in Hell #1

I’m curious how writer-artist-colorist-letterer (hah to the letterer credit but more on it in a bit) pitched Godzilla in Hell to IDW. Or did they ask him to pitch?

If so, did they ask him to pitch a comic with nothing but Godzilla walking around and fighting. If so, did they ask anyone else to pitch it, because I can’t imagine anyone but Stokoe making Hell a workable prospect.

The comic consists of Godzilla arriving in Hell. He walks around. He fights a couple monsters. He has to weather a huge storm of human bodies (presumably souls). He’s Godzilla. He kicks butt, he takes names, he uses his atomic breath.

There’s no narrative–it feels like a level in a video game, actually–but there’s gorgeous Stokoe art. Whether it’s the highly detailed damned storm or just Godzilla in a long shot, it’s a gorgeous comic book. Goes nowhere, doesn’t have to.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, James Stokoe; editor, Bobby Curnow; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Howard the Duck 28 (November 1978)

Howard the Duck #28

Carmine Infantino on Howard the Duck. It works out rather well. He’s got Frank Giacoia on inks. They have fun. It helps the story is fun too–these people who run into Howard go to the same psychiatrist, which wraps the flashbacks. Howard’s story has him breaking in to an army base. The army is experimenting on the populace.

With the Infantino pencils and Mary Skrenes’s over-the-top dialogue for all the squares, this issue of Howard doesn’t feel like Gerber’s usual work on the comic (he edits the issue) but it’s not bad.

It’s sort of one note and predictable and a little too cute, both in terms of plot coincidences and Howard and Bev (it’s out of continuity apparently). It’s Howard the Duck with artificial sweetener. All the anti-establishment stuff is there in exposition, but not in the storytelling.

But it could be much, much worse.

CREDITS

Cooking With Gas; writers, Marv Wolfman and Mary Skrenes; penciller, Carmine Infantino; inker, Frank Giacoia; colorist, Glynis Wein; letterer, Bruce Patterson; editor, Steve Gerber; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Where Monsters Dwell 3 (September 2015)

Where Monsters Dwell #3

Garth Ennis is being a silly guy. There’s no other way to describe Where Monsters Dwell; it’s silly. It’s well-written and Braun’s art is great, but it’s silly. There’s not so much a story as a series of good jokes, ending in a funny hard cliffhanger. It’s not even a dangerous one because Ennis doesn’t care about his characters and he doesn’t ask the reader to care. He’s just having a good time telling this story.

Maybe if it weren’t a Marvel comic, maybe if Ennis were doing something serious (or even hinting at something serious), it wouldn’t be as amusing. But Ennis still takes the time to get in strong characterizations and the way he paces out the humor is excellent. It’s a beautifully executed, completely unambitious amusement.

I guess it’s something of a bridging issue, with the humor disguising the lack of plot momentum. Regardless, real fun.

CREDITS

Tipping the Velvet; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Russ Braun; colorist, Dono Sanchez Almara; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Jake Thomas and Nick Lowe; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Howard the Duck 27 (September 1978)

Howard the Duck #27

Howard is mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore. So what does he do? He stops the Circus of Crime. Why? See the first sentence. Is he mad at the Circus of Crime? Not so much. Is he worried about his friends being hospitalized? Not so much. Does Howard finally admit he’s got deep feelings for that hairless female ape Beverly? Sort of.

Did Marvel just not let Gerber get crazy with Howard’s affections for Beverly? There’s got to be an explanation. Because this issue isn’t just strange–it’s an action comic, one with good art and good dialogue, but an unambitious action comic. And Gerber is usually all about the ambition for what an issue can do.

So when this one doesn’t do much, the mind has time to wonder what else is going on with the comic. Hence my questions.

Though troubled, it’s solid.

CREDITS

Circus Maximus; writer and editor, Steve Gerber; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Klaus Janson; colorist, Phil Rachelson; letterer, Gaspar Saladino; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Sons of Anarchy 23 (July 2013)

Sons of Anarchy #23

This issue of Sons of Anarchy doubles down on everything wrong about the comic.

Not wrong about it overall, but wrong in terms of the creative direction of the book. For example, Bergara doesn’t take enough time with the panels, so what’s this issue’s solution? Over-stylize him. It feels like a spoof of “Miami Vice” at times. The heavy stylization doesn’t even try to hide the lack of detail in the art.

And Ferrier’s script brings in the IRA, because it’s actually a comic book from the past. It’s set in the late 1980s, early 1990s when you just brought the IRA into something so you could have a familiar looking guest star but nothing too exotic. Only it’s a comic book and doing a gimmick like IRA vs. SAMCRO is astoundingly unimaginative.

There’s actually some decent stuff with one guy in a trailer park. Everything else is crap.

CREDITS

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

Howard the Duck 26 (July 1978)

Howard the Duck #26

Well… last things first. Winda gets assaulted and Gerber shucks it off page. After her startling–and entirely unnecessary–attack, Gerber just mentions her in Howard’s summing up of the issue’s misadventures.

Most of the comic involves him running around with the Circus of Crime and how he gets away from them. Gerber, Colan and Janson do a rather good human drama subplot too, which one of the Circus’s victims drunkenly reacting.

But then Gerber ties it all together and there’s not enough room to do it in scale so Colan is left to rush through it. And if anyone is going to do reaction shots instead of action shots, Colan should be the one to do them; he gets a lot of energy in them. It still feels like an unsteady issue. Gerber has enough story for two issues or at least one and a half.

It’s mostly good.

CREDITS

Repercussions…!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Klaus Janson; colorist, Janice Cohen; letterer, Irving Watanabe; editors, Jim Shooter and Gerber; publisher, Marvel Comics.

C.O.W.L. 11 (July 2015)

C.O.W.L. #11

I guess C.O.W.L. is over. I really should be reading back matter, apparently, as I went through the issue with no idea it was wrapping up after just two arcs. Especially since the story’s weighted with an emphasis on the supporting cast and not the big plot. It seems like it’s a setup for whatever comes next.

Only nothing comes next.

Higgins and Siegel do all right with most of the issue. The last scene’s odd and a little lame and worse after realizing it’s the last scene in the series. But the rest of the comic has some good scenes and some excellent art from Reis. It’s amazing how he’s able to imply movement in his static, design-oriented work. Wish more people could.

C.O.W.L. never really hit its potential. Higgins and Siegel (and even Reis) developed over the run of the book. It just didn’t run long enough.

CREDITS

The Greater Good, Chapter Five: Coming to Terms; writers, Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel; artist, Rod Reis; letterer, Troy Peteri; publisher, Image Comics.

Birthright 9 (July 2015)

Birthright #9

It’s like Terminator 2. Birthright, at least this issue, reads like watching Terminator 2 for the first time. Well, parts of it; the really good action parts. Something about Bressan’s composition and the level of detail to figures in motion–the action scenes in the comic feel like a really well-executed movie action sequence.

It’s weird, since Birthright is a fantasy book. But it’s a fantasy setup put into an eighties action movie. Even the brother’s adventure (the little big brother) feels like an eighties action movie. These comparisons aren’t slights; Williamson’s writing a wonderful homage to that era and, more specifically, sentimentality to it.

It’s got to be intentional.

Anyway, at the same time, Williamson is building some other things (specifically the mom’s character as well as the complexities of the politics in the fantasy world). It works out. I still don’t like the cliffhangers, but good issue.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Williamson; artist, Andrei Bressan; colorist, Adriano Lucas; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Mike Williamson and Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

Howard the Duck 25 (June 1978)

Howard the Duck #25

Well, Bev’s back this issue and… Gerber has her and her new husband getting it on. He plays it for laughs, starting with Bev complaining about being stuck in a square marriage like her mother’s and ending with the creatures of Bong’s island peeping on them.

So it’s kind of like if Sue married Doom to save Reed and then was happy about it. It’s weird.

Meanwhile, Howard’s other pals are back (after ten issues, which is way too long), and they’re hanging out in New York society.

The issue’s okay enough. Howard’s no longer the lead in his own book–not sure why Gerber thought Paul Same, failed artist, was better than Howard the Duck for a story protagonist; not much of Gerber’s moves this issue make sense.

With the Colan and Janson art, however it’s hard to get too upset. Like I said, it’s okay enough, just not special.

CREDITS

Getting Smooth!; writer and editor, Steve Gerber; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Klaus Janson; colorist, Janice Cohen; letterer, Irving Watanabe; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Letter 44 18 (July 2015)

Letter 44 #18

There’s a distressing glibness to this issue of Letter 44. Soule’s pushed so far past the reasoned, “West Wing” with aliens gimmick, he’s actually managed to bring the series out on the other side. Soule’s lost the verisimilitude. The comic might not need it, but it sure made Letter 44 a lot more ambitious.

The stuff Soule’s doing here? A “rematch” between the United States and Germany over World War II? It’s lame. For a number of reasons. Not least of which is Alburquerque doesn’t get any time with the battle. It’s done in summary. It’s a silly detail drug out.

At the same time, the space stuff is better this issue. A lot better, even with some lame characters and not great art.

Letter 44 has become an amusing comic book. It’s not fulfilling its potential. It’s still okay. It’s good to have some solid genial reads out there.

CREDITS

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

Invader Zim 1 (July 2015)

invaderzim1Jhonen Vasquez is back. It sounds peculiar to make that cliche statement about a small press comics auteur who lucked into a subversive Nickelodeon cartoon almost 15 years ago. He hasn’t been heard from much since, and these days even Johnny Ryan can get a Nickelodeon cartoon. Suddenly, Invader Zim returns to Jhonen’s medium of choice and although he isn’t drawing it, how would you tell? Aaron Alexovich’s pencils ape his style as well as the most skilled of the DeviantArt generation who grew up imitating Zim. In a way, he’s drawing to look more like Vasquez’s infamously graphic, gut-bustingly hilarious and occasionally profound Slave Labor Graphics series from the late 90s, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, Squee! and I Feel Sick, the latter of which was a direct statement of his feelings immediately following two seasons on Zim. He – and Alexovich – are more expressive than the lumbering limitations of TV animation. Simon “Hutt” Troussellier’s colors are slightly more varied than the stylized pink, green and purple tri-tone scheme of the show while Megan Lawton’s inks are also more skilled than the show’s digital uniform. Warren Wucinick’s letters complete the attention to detail in replicating the Jhonen / Johnny feel.

The comedy is what you’d hope for from Vasquez, who is long out of practice making explicity bloody and angry humor comics but hasn’t lost any of the instincts for humorous insanity that landed him the kids’ show. The comic’s audience is presumably the 13 year old children of Invader Zim fans who were conceived during the show’s brief run: on the first page a hoodied little twerp named Recap Kid who breathlessly summarizes the premise of Zim like a geek convention fanboy who ends his rant with a characteristically Jhonen Vasquez kind of statement: “…Zim is really awful at being an INVADER. Ahahhahah! HE’S SO AWFUL AND THAT’S WHY I LAUGH!” More than a replicating the surface character and background designs, Alexovich’s art flows comfortably within Vasquez’s often lightning fast pacing of dialogue using lots of panels, and mock-cinematic beats. The sole misstep in the entire script is a half page 80s movie training montage joke, but every page is crackling with energy.

In 2001 fans marveled at his spidery art and insane sense of humor being well translated into a Nickelodeon series acceptable for broadcast standards. In 2015 the marvel is the creator’s return to cartooning in any medium, let alone comics. Vasquez acknowledges the comeback by making the debut issue about the series’ protagonist kid genius Dib (one remembers, momentarily, the proliferation of kid genius characters around this time) who has become an obese shut-in waiting for the return of Zim – the real one, not the cartoon, although one also remembers Vasquez mocking his cult in his comics even before he had a TV deal. When Zim returns, Dib returns by getting back into fighting shape. An author’s auto-critique? Unlike all his comics work, the cartoon never expressed a personal point of view, and that’s one thing which a new comic can aspire toward.

I don’t think Invader Zim necessitated a new comic book, but hey, whatever draws out its talented recluse of a creator.

CREDITS

The Returnening; writer, Jhonen Vasquez; penciller, Aaron Alexovich; inker, Megan Lawton; colorist, Simon “Hutt” Troussellier; letterer, Warren Wucinik; publisher, Oni Press.

Howard the Duck 24 (May 1978)

Howard the Duck #24

I have a lot of fundamental problems with this issue of Howard the Duck. I don’t mind it being great, but I don’t like how Gerber’s not just able to get away with finally addressing the Bev situation he’s also able to get sympathy from it. The effectiveness of Howard walking the streets sad is incredible. It’s an introspective look at how the character works. Gerber’s laying it all out for the reader to examine.

It’s amazing. It’s an amazing comic book. And I don’t like how Gerber’s able to get away with it. Just because he can get away with it doesn’t mean he should. It’s frustrating.

Howard the Duck–with its realistic Colan pencils (with Palmer inks, natch)–is all of a sudden Henry Miller the Duck and it’s awesome. Gerber sells it all. He even gets to a truly great soft cliffhanger.

Frustrating or not, it’s phenomenal.

CREDITS

Where Do You Go — What Do You Do — The Night after You Save the Universe?; writer and editor, Steve Gerber; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Tom Palmer; colorist, Janice Cohen; letterer, Joe Rosen; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Crossed + One Hundred 6 (June 2015)

Crossed + One Hundred #6

Reading the last issue of this arc (as I guess it’s continuing somehow), I couldn’t stop thinking about the finale of Garth Ennis’s original Crossed run. How he mixed humanity with desperation without exactly going for sympathy.

Moore does something similar with this issue. It’s not the unimaginable horror show the quiets in the series promised, however. It’s a Crossed horror show to be sure, but it’s not unimaginable. Moore and Andrade concentrate on the story, they concentrate on the explorers as they’ve been doing. These characters don’t see it as a horror show; it’s life. The trick is how Moore and Andrade work the reader’s perspective without desensitizing.

+ One Hundred has always been a strange concept–Alan Moore doing a special series of an Avatar franchise. The finale is just as thoughtful, just as unexpected as the rest of the comic’s been. Great writers write great, regardless of material.

CREDITS

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

Howard the Duck 23 (April 1978)

Howard the Duck #23

Leave it to Steve Gerber to do the impossible here. Wow. He takes this peculiar story arc (which ties back to Howard’s first appearance and ignores everything else in the series so far) and throws in these (intentionally) painfully obvious Star Wars references and then goes loose with it all.

The result is a good Spaceballs. The result is the perfect mix of subversive material, mainstream gags and storytelling intelligence. The comic’s called Howard the Duck and the duck’s been paddling around in a circle. Why’s Gerber do it? To make the return to him here work. It’s a strange thing–this issue is so tied to the previous one, it might have worked better as a single issue. Maybe double-size.

Because this comic–with gorgeous Mayerik art (wonderful depth)–is amazing. It’s “space humor” done better than anyone’s done it since or before. Even Dark Star.

It’s magnificent.

CREDITS

Star Waaugh; writer and editor, Steve Gerber; artist, Val Mayerik; colorist, Janice Cohen; letterer, Irving Watanabe; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Hawkeye 22 (September 2015)

Hawkeye #22

I can’t even remember when this issue of Hawkeye was supposed to come out. I can’t even remember what issue twenty-two was supposed to be when the comic was going to alternate Kate and Clint and then didn’t because… well, I don’t really read the letter pages but I assume people got too busy.

And Hawkeye didn’t sell well enough after a while, which doesn’t make sense, since a lot of the comic is great. And this issue is great. It’s a great last issue. It doesn’t just bring Kate back to it, it integrates her adventures away from Clint. It sets up for a great sequel and there can’t be one.

So Hawkeye will just be that (mostly) great mainstream comic Fraction and Aja did. Hopefully there will be a nice collection, because I’ve been wanting to read it in one sitting since issue three.

Good night, Hawkeye.

CREDITS

Writer, Matt Fraction; artist, David Aja; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Devin Lewis and Sana Amant; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Mantle 2 (June 2015)

The Mantle #2

Okay, Brisson takes the route I guess I was hoping he’d take and he immediately goes unexpected places with it. Maybe not entirely unexpected–the idea of the new Mantle meeting up with the old Mantles, if possible, for inspiration, isn’t unexpected. But how Brisson gets there is a complicated and crazy. And it’s what gives the comic some energy.

Because the villain? The Plague guy whose very touch makes people’s arms fall off? He’s an awful villain. Brisson gives him a bit of personality, which doesn’t help because it gets the reader curious about answers to questions Brisson isn’t even raising yet.

There aren’t a lot of questions in The Mantle. Brisson does a good job staying on track, so when he loses control of a scene, it stands out.

The art is, once again, decent. Level has personality if not the detail (or time) for all of it.

CREDITS

Writer and letterer, Ed Brisson; artist, Brian Level; colorist, Jordan Boyd; editor, Laura Tavishati; publisher, Image Comics.

Howard the Duck 22 (March 1978)

Howard the Duck #22

I’m not sure Howard is back on track so much as Gerber has found someplace to take it. The existing narrative of the series is on hold; this issue continues Howard’s first appearance (and death) over in Man-Thing. Now he’s back with Man-Thing, Jennifer Kale (Man-Thing’s blondie girlfriend), a blond Conan and an old wizard. His mission, save the universe.

In a very Star Wars fashion. It’s a little weird to see Gerber so obviously–and appreciatively–aping Star Wars at the same comic book company printing a monthly Star Wars comic book. Maybe Howard would have had legs as a zeitgeist parody, but it’s only because Gerber brings such personality to the homage.

Val Mayerik is back on pencils, which is cool, especially given the integral Man-Thing guest appearance, which works so well because it’s got Gerber writing it.

It’s a solid issue. Real solid.

CREDITS

May the Farce Be with You!; writer and editor, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Bill Wray; colorist, Janice Cohen; letterer, John Costanza; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Mantle 1 (May 2015)

The Mantle #1

I want to know where The Mantle is going more than I want to read where it’s going. The way writer Ed Brisson sets up the end of this first issue, it could either go in two paths. One where the series is very episodic, one where it isn’t. Would I not continue reading depending on the former or the latter… No.

But I want to know. I want to know how to digest the material.

Simple setup. Superheroes are real. They just hide and fight their enemies in the middle of nowhere. It’s unclear how long they’ve been around, but at least a decade because the titular Mantle is like the Green Lantern rings.

Only the villain is hunting down the Mantle holder before they can get comfortable.

Brian Level’s composition is better than his detail, which gives it all a certain distinct personality.

Mantle’s okay. I think.

CREDITS

Writer and letterer, Ed Brisson; artist, Brian Level; colorist, Jordan Boyd; editor, Laura Tavishati; publisher, Image Comics.

Howard the Duck 21 (February 1978)

Howard the Duck #21

It’s a better issue than the recent norm, but Gerber still doesn’t have Howard on much of a path. At one point, Howard all of a sudden seemed like the perfect cultural relic from the Carter presidency, but it’s not.

Instead, it’s like Gerber is showing how much he can abuse the reader as far as the plot is concerned. Howard meets up with Beverly Switzler. Not Howard’s Beverly, but her uncle. What a joke. Gerber gave a fat dude Beverly’s name and ran him into Howard.

I’m not sure if the series has just gotten too tame (this issue has Howard battling the nicest, most likable murderous cult leader ever–one who even gets sympathy from the reader when Howard’s being sexist) or Gerber’s just lost interest.

But, it’s a better issue than usual. Carmine Infantino guest pencils. He and Janson are a neat team; contrasting while still complimenting.

CREDITS

If You Knew Soofi…!; writer and editor, Steve Gerber; penciller, Carmine Infantino; inker, Klaus Janson; colorist, Glynis Wein; letterer, Irving Watanabe; publisher, Marvel Comics.

8house 1 (June 2015)

8house: Arclight #1

First part of the story and it’s clear Arclight is going to be something else. There’s something so human about it–when the magician (or witch) sits down to read a book with her recently resurrected goose? It’s a calm moment for the mysterious character. She’s royalty on a strange world (artist Marian Churchland does a gorgeous job of the place, desolate but full of life) and has apparently lost her humanity through some magical tragedy.

Writer Brandon Graham never gives too much away and, given the format (8house is an anthology book, Arclight has a limited number of issues), maybe he never will. With that mix of fantasy and mundane and the visual pacing of the comic, Arclight is a mysterious thing. That mystery is part of the pleasure of reading it.

Given Graham and Churchland’s skills, Arclight will always be an interesting, worthwhile read; but it’s good too.

CREDITS

Arclight, Part One; writer, Brandon Graham; artist, Marian Churchland; letterer, Ariana Maher; publisher, Image Comics.

Howard the Duck 20 (January 1978)

Howard the Duck #20

I’m seeing the problem with Howard. Gerber is refusing to get Howard into a comfortable situation at all. Bev is still out of the picture, but so is the new girl. Bong is even out of the picture. Howard just happens into an entirely new situation with a new supporting cast.

The problem isn’t the fluidity, it’s how little Howard cares about it all. He’s not worried about Bev being married to a Doctor Doom knock-off, he’s curious why said knock-off isn’t more enthusiastic about her. Gerber doesn’t acknowledge Howard isn’t enthusiastic enough about her. It’s weird.

The comic is nearing its two year mark and Gerber himself only seems enthusiastic about one thing–treading water as far as Howard’s character development goes. It’s stopped. But so has the plot development.

It’s too bad because Colan and Janson knock the art out of the park on this one.

CREDITS

Scrubba-dub Death!; writer and editor, Steve Gerber; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Klaus Janson; colorist, Janice Cohen; letterer, John Costanza; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Big Man Plans 4 (July 2015)

Big Man Plans #4

Powell and Wiesch double down with the torture this issue of Big Man Plans (the last in this series, hopefully not ever) and it’s darn unpleasant. Powell seems to try to think of grosser and grosser panels to compose every few pages.

In between the torture is the flashback to the idyllic days of Big Man’s life, back when he loved a girl. The first girl, because this issue has hints at his current (or at least recent) girlfriend; she’s from his home town, she marries the sheriff. The story is sensational and horrifying but not really original. It doesn’t need to be original. What’s original is Powell and Wiesch just got people to read a whole comic about punitive torture.

And it’s not a trick. The writers get the reader to buy into it. It’s what this issue is all about.

It’s an effective comic; not sure about good.

CREDITS

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

Howard the Duck 19 (December 1977)

Howard the Duck #19

Howard’s adventures as a human continue, but Gerber sets him down a particular path. Howard ends up at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, which puts him in contact with a particular set of humans and maybe not the most interesting ones.

After a certain point–Howard is back in a hippy girl’s apartment–one has to wonder if Colan really just wanted to try out drawing someone doing yoga; the issue’s mostly talking heads, mostly Howard (the human) unable to understand the human condition while his fowl alter ego eggs him on to act more ducky. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

It’s really depressing stuff, actually. Gerber, Colan and Janson capture the misery in the bus terminal–Howard teams up with a homeless guy refused a seat in a coffee shop due to smell. The dysfunctional hippies are actually a mood booster in contrast.

The finale’s small joy is a big help.

CREDITS

Howard the Human!; writer and editor, Steve Gerber; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Klaus Janson; colorist, Phil Rachelson; letterer, Irving Watanabe; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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