Judge Dredd’s Crime File 1 (August 1985)

Judge Dredd's Crime File #1

Judge Dredd’s Crime File has three stories in this first issue, all written by John Wagner. They all have good art–John Byrne, Ron Smith, Colin Wilson–they all have slightly different art. Wilson’s future landscape is more stylish than Byrne’s, for example. Ron Smith is the most rounded for what Wagner’s trying to do with the differing stories.

The most significant thing about these stories in relation to Judge Dredd is the lack of Dredd. The second story, with the Smith art, has the most Dredd–it’s about these alien plants people are growing but the plants turn into little alien monsters. Dredd is investigating. But in the first story, the one with the Byrne art, Wagner goes way more into the game of the future than Dredd’s quelling of a footballer-like riot.

The third story–Wilson’s–has some guy going crazy and shooting up civilians. It’s about urban plight in the future. It’s not Dredd’s story (even though the guy ends up gunning for Dredd in a very cheap action movie revenge manner).

For the unfamiliar Dredd reader, Crime File might seem an odd collection of stories but it’s actually some of Wagner’s best work.

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, John Byrne, Ron Smith and Colin Wilson; colorist, John M. Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

The Comics Fondle Podcast | Episode 27

I’m stunned to discover Vernon and I managed to get TWO episodes out in one month. We certainly thought we were behind, which got us to hunker down and talk about some rather good comics.

These are the books we talk about.

  • Providence 3
  • Auteur 3
  • Minimum Wage 4
  • Dark Corridor 1
  • This Damned Band 1
  • The Fiction 3
  • Airboy 3
  • The Spire 2
  • Kaijumax 5
  • Hip Hop Family Tree 1
  • 8house Arclight
  • The Island 2
  • Beauty 1
  • Letter 44 19
  • Lazarus 18
  • Rebels 5
  • Velvet 11
  • Sons Of Anarchy 23
  • Copperhead 9
  • Casanova 3
  • Cluster 5
  • Injection 4
  • Eltingville Club 2

Then we talk about some problems with indie books before wrapping up with a discussion of the best comic book writers working today.

you can also subscribe on iTunes…

Manifest Destiny 16 (August 2016)

Manifest Destiny #16

Talk about not much of an issue… Dingess’s pacing never impresses on Manifest Destiny but I think he might have set a new record for himself.

The comic has five or six scenes–plus a flashback–and reads in just a few minutes. The most interesting part has to be the Sacagawea sequence, which has the flashback to her youth when she starts the warrior’s path (to fend off the white man), and just shows how wasted she’s been in the comic. It’s like Dingess has been saving her for something awesome from the second issue but it’s gotten to the point there’s no way there can be enough pay off.

Speaking of pay off, during the rest of the issue–which involves the blue bird people–Dingess hints the monsters might have come from another world to ours. Kind of boring, actually. The Americas being a mythic place of violent megafauna? Interesting. The Americas being invaded by monsters from another dimension? Cop out.

As always, it’s an amusing enough read and the art is spot on. Something about the content makes me not want to give up on Manifest Destiny having real potential but every issue convinces me I need to adjust my expectations.

CREDITS

Writer, Chris Dingess; penciller, Matthew Roberts; inkers, Stefano Gaudiano and Tony Akins; colorist, Owen Gieni; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editor, Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

Providence 3 (July 2015)

Providence #3

It’s so good. It’s so painfully good. Not just in how Moore gets to all the somewhat familiar Lovecraft moments. Again, the disclaimer–I haven’t read Lovecraft, just read or seen Lovecraft-inspired stuff–so when I recognize something, it’s because it looks like In the Mouth of Madness all of a sudden.

But Burrows goes away from the traditional 1920s cities to a rural town, which raises these questions about how things are going to develop. Moore’s script, Burrows’s visuals, they engage the reader to ask more theoretical questions. If Moore’s actually doing some kind of “prequel” to Neonomicon (which is fast getting to be the dividing point in Moore’s post-ABC career, from Top Shelf eccentric to redefining horror comics), how much does it connect? Is it an actual connection or just Moore enthusiastically showing off tonal connections for the equally enthused Moore reader?

Of course, Moore never makes it feel like a fan club newsletter. His connection with fandom, just as it was back in the Swamp Thing days, puts craft and work above all else. Story, both in writing and in art, is king.

So, as a comic, Providence is great.

Except it’s not just a comic because Moore’s got more of the protagonist’s diary (in prose). The comic’s third person, the diary is first person. The differences, which Moore still somewhat uses to shock but not much… well, those differences change Providence again. Moore’s not satisfied with making “horror comics” a real genre, he needs to break it into an entirely different genre.

And never makes it seem like showing off.

CREDITS

A Lurking Fear; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Island 2 (August 2015)

Island #2

Simon Roy starts a story this issue. Some sort of futuristic thing with the plants having grown over everything and people living a savage existence. With cannibalism, he hints, but also secret replicators and lasers. It’s cool. It’s really well-done. It’s just too soon to tell if he’s got anything amazing up his narrative sleeves. With Roy’s level of detail–it’s gorgeous art–it’s hard not to think style above substance, but he’s so careful with the content… maybe it’ll be something great.

And Emma Rios finishes up her mind-transfer story. It’s okay. The art overly stylized–black and white but with different colors for the black depending on scene (and not dark colors, like light red)–but Rios’s panel compositions and her panel transitions are amazing. The story’s kind of bleh, but the structure of the visual narrative makes it worthwhile.

I forgot to mention the Ludroe story about the cats and the skaters. It’s back. It’s dumb. I think I liked the art more this time but the story’s even stupider. I’m definitely not the audience for it.

CREDITS

Contributors, Will Kirkby, Ludroe, Simon Roy, Emma Rios and Robin Bougie; publisher, Image Comics.

The Fiction 3 (August 2015)

The Fiction #3

The Fiction only has one issue left, which is sort of good. Pires doesn’t exactly run out of ideas this issue–it’s just once he gets his regular cast together it does remind all of a sudden of Unwritten and then it’s hard to think of Fiction on its own.

Also because it’s almost over. It goes one more issue, so reading this issue, it feels like the grand setup for the finish. Pires does maybe four flashbacks, one flash forward and then two asides with the evil monster thing running the otherworld place. It’s even got a hard cliffhanger with the three good guys about to face off with their evil friend.

Like I said, while Pires might not entirely be out of ideas, it really seems like he let the impulse run its course. It’s an eighties cartoon all of a sudden.

The comic’s not compelling exactly when it needs to be most compelling.

CREDITS

Where the Sky Hangs or Four Years Gone; writer, Curt Pires; artist, David Rubín; colorist, Michael Garland; letterer, Colin Bell; editors, Jasmine Amiri and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Birthright 10 (August 2015)

Birthright #10

As usual for Williamson–and easily the most frustrating thing about his writing–the issue reads too fast. This issue of Birthright is some female bonding and a lengthy fight sequence. At the end of the fight sequence comes a big surprise. And it’s a good big surprise, but it’s not good enough to forgive the issue taking place over five minutes.

Especially since Bressan is wasted on a slow fight scene. Bressan’s an imaginative artist and instead of letting him visualize cool things, this issue has him visualizing a scene out of an eighties fantasy action movie. Released by Cannon.

Speaking of which, as a compliment, Williamson and Bressan should search out a licensee for the property who’ll honor that eighties vibe.

I really like Birthright. It just never fully delivers. Maybe Williamson’s just writing for the trade (and the YA audience in book stores), which would be smart. It’s an incredibly accessible book and one with a wide range of potential reader.

CREDITS

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

Peanuts (July 1952)

Peanuts

Funny thing about this Peanuts collection, which contains two hundred and forty strips (of a possible four hundred and fifty or so), is it doesn’t open with the first Peanuts cartoon. The cartoon, introducing Shermy, Patty and Charlie Brown, with Shermy saying how much he hates Charlie Brown, doesn’t appear. In fact, whoever picked the strips for this collection made sure no ones ever too mean to Charlie Brown.

Charles M. Schulz had a certain pattern in the early days of the strip. He rewarded regular readers with themes and new variations on said themes, either involving Patty and Charlie Brown or Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Peanuts, in this collection, feels cohesive. Even though there’s no connection between strips–other than Violet appearing and Schroeder not just appearing, but learning the piano and starting to walk (and talk)–the collection presents the strip in some particular ways.

There’s an adult humor to Peanuts, a comic strip often about nothing, often with some very open punchline panels where Schulz just invites the reader to reflect back on what’s come in the previous three panels (this collection arranges the strip into squares–two by two, instead of four across–which also changes reading behavior). But the collection never pushes the adult humor aspect of the strip. Instead, its subtle, running beneath the more easier Snoopy jokes.

This collection does have some of Snoopy’s initial forays into a more human existence, like a satellite antenna for better TV reception.

It’s an awesome introduction.

CREDITS

Cartoonist, Charles M. Schulz; publisher, Titan Books.

Howard the Duck 5 (October 2015)

howard5Oh look, Chip Zdarsky crapped out enough Howard issues for the first trade. Andrew did a good job taking the relaunch’s debut to task even before reading the original Steve Gerber series, and I would like to add my two cents now as someone who grew up on them and holds Howard very close to my heart.

What Marvel has let happen to Howard hurts, bad. Howard isn’t Spider-Man or the X-Men. He’s not yet another beefcake in colored underwear who’s fought dozens of other pro wrestlers under the auspices of hundreds of writers and artists since 1963, standing in line to be played in live action by a Hollywood prettyboy as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe thousand-year reich. He’s a unique icon with a very short history. And half that history has been a disgrace because Marvel doesn’t know or care what to do with him. Also sprach Zdarathustry.

I’m not opposed on principle to the series being written by someone other than Gerber. I don’t doubt it could be done competently. However, Andrew’s descriptions from the first issue of the comic as “soulless” and “mercenary” and that “(Zdarsky) doesn’t care” all fit the bill pretty well. “Fit the bill,” by the way, is exactly the level of humor Zdarsky aims for, just so he can acknowledge his own ironically unfunny duck puns. The scripting really does tap into the same vein as the movie, of which Zdarsky has admitted some fondness towards in interviews.

All that a post-Gerber Howard would require to succeed is very simple: a point of view. A writer with an opinion on the world who could use the absurdity inherent in a cartoon duck living amongst us as the ultimate outsider – a minority of one, to quote Gerber’s second issue – and thereby as a mouthpiece for commentary on our own “world he never made.” The big problem with that is that every Marvel property, especially since Disney’s acquisition of them in 2009, is now having every rough edge shaved down in the name of family entertainment. With a few rare exceptions like Deadpool – who has never had a family friendly image – or Guardians of the Galaxy – who were too obscure for close corporate scrutiny – no Marvel movie is going to be about anything except CGI fight scenes punctuated by formulaic melodrama.

The Disney factor is an especially cruel irony for Howard, who was forced in the early 80s to start wearing pants forevermore when the company threatened lawsuit against Marvel for his alleged similarity to Donald Duck. It sounds like a joke, but to quote Gerber just once more,  “Life’s most serious moments and most incredibly dumb moments are often distinguishable only by a momentary point of view.”

James Gunn included a quick Howard cameo in the Guardians of the Galaxy film because, presumably, he was a fan and Marvel didn’t object. Comic books are so marginal compared to movies that this one brief cameo relaunched a Howard comic, like a piece of bait thrown into the waters to perhaps catch some future movie buzz. Apparently Chip Zdarsky took the job solely for the opportunity to write jokes around other Marvel characters because there has literally not been a single issue so far that stars Howard, solo, in his own title. He’s a second banana in his own series to She-Hulk, Spider-Man, the Guardians, Doctor Strange, etc, etc. Just look at the cover. They’re not even pretending to be interested in the titular “star.” The fact Howard is a comedic character has been taken as license to reduce him to a harmless LOLrandomWTF mascot for Marvel, their preferred role for him. He’s cranky, but impotently so. No content, no opinions. He’s a stooge. A eunuch. A sitcom foil for a snarky sitcom version of Marvel Comics.

Chip Zdarsky is very much a talentless sitcom writer at the Big Bang Theory or Family Guy level of glib nerd-pandering pap. Every issue so far abandons whatever the last issue was about to shoehorn in more cameos and banter for short attention spans. Actual exchange from this issue: Mr. Fantastic – “Johnny! What’s the situation?” Johnny Storm – “I said ‘I got this!’ And then I didn’t get this, okay?”

(Laugh track)

I suppose Marvel told Zdarsky at some point early on that, understandably, they’d like to see another book similar to The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Squirrel Girl is funny in a way that’s simultaneously sincere and deconstructive of Marvel super hero tropes, incorporating Marvel’s big cast of characters and throwing plucky, carefree Squirrel Girl up against guys like Kraven the Hunter and Galactus. That works for two reasons that don’t apply to Howard: 1) she was created in the early 90s era of grimdark edginess as a deliberately lighthearted counterpoint to industry trends of the times, and 2) however goofy her squirrel powers may be, they are still superpowers. Zdarsky is totally hung up on Howard’s lack thereof, having his cape cameos take endless potshots at his powerlessness. The final insult of this “arc” is Howard’s discovery that his Beverly Switzler surrogate, a tattooed hipster named Tara, actually has superpowers too, and in light of this he happily declares himself her sidekick.

What the everloving duck? (Haha, see what I did there?) (Self-aware conversational parenthetical asides are funny, right Chip?)

Plus, writer Ryan North clearly cares about making Squirrel Girl’s alter-ego Doreen Green empathic. Howard, who is he who is, is too busy sharing page time with the rest of the Marvel universe to have anything resembling a fleshed-out personality.

Joe Quinones’ art, Rico Renzi’s colors and especially Joe & Paolo Rivera’s inks are all nice to look at, though Howard’s tiny-eyed, pseudo-photo-realistic redesign is merely one more indignity. At this point I’ve lost count.

Chip Zdarsky’s Howard the Duck is smug, shallow, lazy, unfunny and disrespectful to the original in every conceivable way. It does for Howard what Space Jam did for Bugs Bunny – makes you wish he could rest in peace rather than be whored out by cash-grabbing hacks.

CREDITS

Super Hero Battle for the Fate of New York and Possibly the World; writer, Chip Zdarsky; artist, Joe Quinones; colorist, Rico Renzi; inks, Joe Rivera with Paolo Rivera, letterer, Travis Lanham, editor, Wil Moss, assistant editor, Jon Moisan; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Eltingville Club 2 (August 2015)

The Eltingville Club #2

Is there something better than this issue of The Eltingville Club? Probably. It’s only my second issue of the book and it’s the last one ever. Supposedly.

Hopefully not.

Because this comic, which comes so long after the first I forgot Dorkin was doing another, is worth the wait. Dorkin puts a lot of work into the art. He puts a lot of work into the writing. His visual pacing of the jokes is phenomenal. The only problem with this comic is choking from all the laughter. It might have even hurt at one point, I was laughing so hard.

The issue takes place ten years after the previous one. The club members have all grown up, all developing further into comic fandom thanks to the Internet and life decisions. Questionable ones, usually.

Dorkin does a great job finishing Club. It’s great in whole, in scenes, art, dialogue; it’s awesome.

CREDITS

Lo, There Shall Be an Epilogue!; writer and artist, Evan Dorkin; colorist, Sarah Dyer; editors, Daniel Chabon and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Kaijumax 5 (August 2015)

Kaijumax #5

It’s a thoroughly okay issue, but there’s way too much information about the setting. One of the prison guards gets in a fight while off duty–so think Ultraman fighting a bunch of fighter jets and mecha-whatevers–and the boss shows up and clears things up. During that clearing up, lots of exposition.

And Kaijumax all of a sudden feels like Pacific Rim. Cannon’s been mixing sixties and seventies kaiju movie visuals and silliness with extremely difficult prison stuff. Then he brought in Pacific Rim and he loses his footing.

The slipping continues as Electrogor is in therapy with his shrink (the human woman who’s in love with his assailant). The scene seems too forced, with Cannon going too hard for the emotional devastation for Electrogor.

Minya’s poisoning of Godzilla is similarly problematic. Cannon’s pacing for it (and the issue) is off.

The issue never connects like it should.

CREDITS

The Mega-Monster Battle at Home; writer, artist and letterer, Zander Cannon; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

Letter 44 19 (August 2015)

Letter 44 #19

This issue of Letter 44 has a couple surprises. One of them is a surprise for a character–the reader having a surprise regarding that same character just a few pages before–the other is a surprise for the reader. So I guess three surprises near the end of the issue.

Soule’s got to do what he can to keep the interest going.

I’m not even being sarcastic. Even though this issue is better than usual–in all respects (Alburquerque’s final reveal page is hideous, however)–it’s still not back to the series’s original standards. Soule does give the President a little more to do here, but he still relies far too much on the Bush analogue. That guy isn’t an interesting character. Soule’s trying hard to make him driven insane by his principles but he can’t sell it.

So some interest is good. Even competently if manipulatively executed interest.

CREDITS

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

Crossed + One Hundred 7 (July 2015)

crossed100-7Simon Spurrier isn’t the first writer to have to fill Alan Moore’s shoes on a title, but I can’t recall another writer having to do it quite so immediately, with such an urgency to validate himself. Swamp Thing had a history before Moore, Before Watchmen was done years after the original, and Tom Strong was way more than six issues in before anyone else had to take over. Spurrier’s no slouch; his Wish You Were Here series for the Crossed franchise was about on par with any of Garth Ennis’ arcs. Moore also gave his blessing in interviews, and claimed to have bequeathed extensive notes for the furtherance of the series – which apparently must be true because while Spurrier has the “story” credit, Moore is credited for “Series Outline,” whatever that entails. Still, hardly an enviable position.

Issue seven isn’t an oh-eight level surprise, just mediocre. Gabriel Andrade has been replaced with Fernando Heinz, whose manga influenced style makes Future Taylor look like she’s fifteen. She gets action lines during an emotional outburst in one panel, there’s gratuitous ass shots, a child in a crowd scene looks like he fell out of a Tokyopop book and another ‘Slim looks like Spike Spiegel. It’s all professionally rendered, but tonally inconsistent with Andrade’s designs – it feels less serious, more cartoonish. The coloring helps. Digikore Studios continues their fine work, keeping the bleakly naturalistic palette entirely consistent with what’s come before.

Spurrier’s writing is the big relief. Moore’s amazing post-apocalypse diction created for + One Hundred has more or less been maintained, with all the impish wordplay and a few funny new malapropisms. And but it’s hard to skull if you’ve audied the vernacular so closely now, you’re just used to it, or if Spurrier’s writing it a little easier to read for the first-timers. That’s a fuck possible, since the issue’s biggest problem is that nothing happens. He’s writing for the trade, for volume 2. Future does a big recap of the last issue, and Murfreesboro does a defense drill against a potential churchface attack. Some of them show up at the very end, basically just to realize that Keller lied; Future’s still alive. It actually pales in comparison to an early bit of casual, highly blasphemous worldbuilding about ‘Slim life in Murfreesboro. After so much masterful suspense built up around the revelation of the Bo Salt Crossed tribe, all I want now is to see more of them, but this issue is still just teasing.

Carrying on Moore’s literary studies theme, Spurrier bookends the issue with Future’s take on Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, certainly a sci-fi book more comparable to her own situation than any of the wishful fictions Moore referenced in the initial arc. She acknowledges one of the genre details which Ennis has publicly cited as inspiration for Crossed, that all zombies and vampires can only be so scary if they have well-known exploitable weaknesses. She also acknowledges the similarity of the novel’s twist ending to Moore’s own twist conclusion from the previous issue. It’s thoughtful but almost too deconstructive of itself.

Despite being merely competent + One Issue after Moore, the Fewch of Crossed + One Hundred may still be worth an opsy.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; Series Outline, Alan Moore; artist, Fernando Heinz; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Jaymes Reed; publisher, Avatar Press.

Velvet 11 (August 2015)

Velvet #11

It’s my favorite issue of Velvet in a long time and I’m not entirely sure why. It might just be because Epting drawing an American secret agent with grey temples with a bouffant-ish hair cut reminds me of seventies Marvel black and white Gene Colan. It just feels right.

But the rest of the issue is good too. It’s got Brubaker doing a lot of quick summary sequences with Velvet catching the reader up to what she’s been doing since the previous issue. She’s been getting into trouble, but totally in control of it. It’s a new type of Velvet; she’s not just the protagonist, but she’s in charge of how the narrative affects her (and is aware of it).

Velvet usually reads like a light project for Brubaker, but this issue certainly suggests he’s at least got some ambition for how he tells the story. It’s a great comic.

CREDITS

The Man Who Stole the World, Part One; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editors; Sebastian Girner and Eric Stephenson; publisher, Image Comics.

The Auteur: Sister Bambi 3 (July 2015)

The Auteur: Sister Bambi #3

Well.

Well.

There’s some good stuff in this issue. Rex pleading with Coconut to understand his position–he had to take the financing from the Nazis in order to get his picture made–all while the serial killer guy watches and comments on his failures. As serial killer guy eats a shark raw. Or something like a shark.

But Spears’s big reveal for the second half of the issue–when Rex tries to wrestle back creative control–is weak. Spears goes for a zeitgeist topic while commenting on going for a zeitgeist topic. At first, it seems like it’s going to be offensive. But then it just ends up being a little lame. He’s trying way too hard on it.

Callahan’s got some good art but his pacing is all off. The first third is too condescended, the rest isn’t condescended enough.

It’s closer to flopping than it should be.

CREDITS

Shock-umentary; writer and letterer, Rick Spears; artist, James Callahan; colorist, Luigi Anderson; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

Kaijumax 4 (July 2015)

Kaijumax #4

Cannon goes the extra step this issue, time and again. By extra step, I mean he distances himself from the gimmick–Monster Island as a prison–and it becomes a prison drama. With all the hard things a prison drama entails.

Sure, there’s the mystery of the kid from Godzilla’s Revenge trying to coax Minya into assassinating Godzilla, but it’s a heavy sequence (full of emotional abuse). It would be the lightest of the four subplots. And there’s a half subplot about one of the Ultraman guards finding he enjoys having the power over the prisoners.

It’s a disturbing comic book.

Cannon’s style, ready for Saturday morning cartoons, along with the wide open vistas of the island (logically, isn’t the island a little small for all the monsters), go against the grit of the story. It just makes the comic all the more affecting.

Kaijumax is rewarding, just difficult reading.

CREDITS

Mutated Out; writer, artist and letterer, Zander Cannon; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

Kaijumax 3 (June 2015)

Kaijumax #3

This issue of Kaijumax is the best so far. Three issues in, Cannon hasn’t really established how the comic reads yet–is it more humans or more monsters, for example. The balance will be worked out eventually. But not yet.

So this issue being the best so far can be something extremely fresh. And it is. It’s Mecha-Godzilla becoming a pacifist and arguing with his father (a human inventor) and older sister (a humanoid giant robot–well, shrunk down this issue) about his past mistakes during a prison visit. And then, lo and behold, the Godzilla stand-in (at least for the Mecha-Godzilla’s story) appears.

Meanwhile, the human guards are on an illegal mission to find a monster and have some crises, physical and emotional. It’s cool stuff from Cannon.

In addition to the great plotting, there are great kaiju movie references in the issue. It’s all fantastic.

CREDITS

No Such Thing as a Halfway Monsta; writer, artist and letterer, Zander Cannon; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

Kaijumax 2 (May 2015)

Kaijumax #2

Kaijumax is something else. It’s so uncomfortable. This issue’s entirely about the corrupt prison guards exploiting the prisoners. Oh, and there’s something with the giant goat monster being in tune with the mountains. It’s unclear where it’s going to go. And there’s a little with the protagonist kaiju bonding with one of the okay prison guards.

But it’s mostly just the bad Ultraman guy shaking down prisoners and abusing them, all while the humans joke about sending them to extinction. And Cannon’s art is so jovial and friendly, it makes Kaijumax such an uncomfortable read.

Cannon’s almost entirely past the “Monster Island as a prison” gimmick just because the evil acts of the humans does so much to, well, humanize the monsters. They’re not just caricatures, the personalities he’s giving them are rather affecting.

The issue doesn’t have much of an ending, which would be nice. It’s still real good.

CREDITS

Ten Thousands Years to Life; writer, artist and letterer, Zander Cannon; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

Cluster 6 (August 2015)

Cluster #6

I wish I enjoyed Cluster.

I like Couceiro’s art. But his sci-fi setting for Cluster is the same generic sci-fi setting with space troopers as Aliens or Starship Troopers. There’s nothing interesting about it. Some of the stuff with the aliens is good, but Brisson spends his time on the humans, so it’s background.

And I like Brisson’s writing. It’s all very competent, but it’s nothing special. The protagonist has gotten lost so Brisson could get to the space revolutionaries and so on. But he doesn’t spend much time on the revolution or anything else. Cluster is too fragmented, Brisson has too many subplots fueling the main plot. There isn’t enough time to care about anything.

Except the characters he’s already killed. They were more memorable than any of the new ones he’s introducing.

Brisson and Couceiro can keep Cluster running in competence, but they’re getting bad mileage.

CREDITS

Writer and letterer, Ed Brisson; artist, Damian Couceiro; colorist, Cassie Kelly; editors, Cameron Chittock and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

8house 2 (August 2015)

8house #2: Arclight

It’s another good issue of 8house. Graham fans–especially of Prophet–will find the organic technology somewhat familiar, but with Churchland’s art welcome instead of off-putting. Churchland’s art–with her focus on expression, implied movement and landscapes–make the story feel magical. Even when it’s dangerous, possibly gross or scary. It’s gentle.

And Graham doesn’t get particularly gross. He tells a straightforward story. Arclight and the magician lady are in some trouble. Meanwhile, in a floating city ship (made from some kind of animal), Arclight’s former lady doesn’t much like the lord of the city ship. It’s a royal drama. Instead of taking place in the Middle Ages, however, it takes place in some sci-fi world.

But a lot of the issue is just Churchland’s art. The visible hesitation in some of the lines just makes it all the better. Every panel is so thoughtful.

Really impressive comic.

CREDITS

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

War Stories 11 (July 2015)

War Stories #11

I wish Ennis had two parters and three parters in War Stories, because this arc–Our Wild Geese Go–doesn’t need three issues. Most of this issue has the big reveal talking to the closest thing to the arc’s protagonist (if only because he has an antagonist). Talking heads in the forest. Aira doesn’t do well with it. It seems like he’s trying to keep up with all the faces, but by the time the cliffhanger arrives… he’s lost track.

Of course, Ennis has kind of lost track too, which is why this arc would’ve been better at two issues. Ennis has a gimmick–that reveal–and once he shows his hands with it, everything in the comic becomes rather obvious, including the cliffhanger.

The gimmick itself, which I’m trying not to spoil, is a fine enough punchline for a certain type of story. Sadly, Ennis isn’t telling that story.

CREDITS

Our Wild Geese Go, Part Two: Falling Faintly Through the Universe; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Nailbiter 15 (August 2015)

Nailbiter #15

Is the explanation for Nailbiter’s town of serial killers going to be Nazi experiments in the forties? I think Williamson is going to go for it, meaning he’s always had an explanation in mind for the comic. He’s also getting even soapier as it (presumably) winds up.

The sheriff has a big secret, which the flashbacks are hinting at.

And Nailbiter can almost handle it. It can almost handle being “Twin Peaks,” “Beverly Hills 90210,” “The X-Files,” and “Criminal Minds” rolled into one. But Henderson’s art is all wrong for it. He can’t do the absurdity in the soap. He can’t handle it. He plays it straight and it makes Nailbiter flop. He does it on a full page spread this issue too.

Just flops.

The mood overpowers the narrative novelty and that novelty’s all Nailbiter has that this point so it’s a problem.

But, it’s okay enough.

CREDITS

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

Minimum Wage: So Many Bad Decisions 4 (August 2015)

Minimum Wage: So Many Bad Decisions #4

It’s an (almost) all dream issue. Rob wanders through a lucid dream, filled with his recent conquests and his fears and hopes, all of it very slimy and grotesque. Or absolutely gorgeous cheesecake. Fingerman has a great time with the art on this issue. It’s fully colored too.

But the comic, which eventually deals not just with Rob and his ex, but also with Rob and his ambitions for himself, feels like Fingerman directly addressing the reader. Rob is getting to the point where he’s starting his own Minimum Wage-type comic and Fingerman is finally giving the reader insight into what it’s like to do the comic itself.

It drags a little at the beginning, before the whole dream thing becomes clear, but once Rob is wandering his psyche and aware of it, the issue clicks and sails.

Fingerman manages to make a story about artistic panic entirely assured.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Bob Fingerman; publisher, Image Comics.

The Spire 2 (August 2015)

The Spire #2

The Spire continues to go quite well. Some of Stokely’s art seems a little loose–the setting has a lot of design elements and Stokely takes great care with them. Then he’ll rush through a dialogue scene when it comes to the characters’ faces. The panel sizing is great, the composition is great, it’s just loose with the people.

Well, it’s loose after the issue gets to the protagonist. Before her, the issue follows the new ruler of the Spire’s mother. Not sure if Spurrier is hoping to get Helen Mirren but it’d be pretty cool. The relationship between the protagonist and the “queen mother” is fantastic. Lots of discrete character development.

Spurrier and Stokely have found an odd, working mix with The Spire. It’s steampunk, but organic, Western, but sci-fi, a detective story, but political intrigue. Spurrier never pushes the exposition; it’s all naturally revealed.

It’s darned good.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Jeff Stokely; colorist, André May; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Cameron Chittock and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

The Fade Out 8 (August 2015)

The Fade Out #8

It’s another strong issue of Fade Out, which isn’t a surprise. Brubaker and Phillips are doing great work.

But it actually looks like Brubaker is doing something a little different with this series. His famous (are they famous, they should be) aside issues–which I believe he’s been doing since Catwoman–this issue features the first time (at least in my memory) someone else gets caught up on that aside.

Charlie finds out Maya’s story from her aside issue. It’s kind of crazy to see, just the way Brubaker handles it, having two protagonists collide. It shakes things up for The Fade Out, which didn’t need a shaking, but the shaking works out perfectly anyway. Brubaker shows he has the skill to do the series without a lot of leaps and jumps, so when he does those leaps and jumps, they’re all the more impressive.

Fade Out’s turning out great.

CREDITS

A Dead Giveaway; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

The Fiction 2 (July 2015)

The Fiction #2

The Fiction is real close. Pires is there with the script, but artist Rubín is just a little too loose on the characters. He doesn’t age them right. It screws up the narrative flow–it almost looks like he’s trying to echo the characters at different ages (specifically when he’s in flashback to childhood, showing a flash of the adult version).

The problem is Pires’s script has different flashbacks to different times and their order needs to be clear visually and Rubín just confuses.

But the art’s good otherwise.

Pires’s getting tricky with the plot, tricky with some hints. But a good kind of tricky, the kind where he’s not so much showing off as inviting the reader to admire the story alongside him. It’s a really good issue; beautifully paced, so much of the pay-off in the last few pages as it cliffhangs.

Maybe Fiction will be special.

CREDITS

Memoria; writer, Curt Pires; artist, David Rubín; colorist, Michael Garland; letterer, Colin Bell; editors, Jasmine Amiri and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Resident Alien: The Sam Hain Mystery 3 (July 2015)

Resident Alien: The Sam Hain Mystery #3

Hogan has such a wonderful pace with Resident Alien. This issue is a resolution to the mystery–or explanation of it–but it’s not exciting. It’s just Harry sitting around, hearing what’s happened, trying to figure out what he’s going to do.

Resident Alien is incredibly gentle but never too much. Parkhouse’s art has an edge to it and Hogan’s writing relies on that edge. Is what’s brewing under the surface of small town Patience, USA evil? No. It’s humanity. And who better to experience that humanity than the reader (through alien Harry).

The issue has a handful of surprises, some meant to entice the reader back for the next mystery, others just to add texture to the series. Even with the limitations (three issues, having to have the big mystery draw for each limited series), Hogan and Parkhouse do quite a bit with the book.

It’s unassumingly ambitious stuff.

CREDITS

Writer, Peter Hogan; artist, Steve Parkhouse; editors, Roxy Polk and Philip R. Simon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Lazarus 18 (July 2015)

Lazarus #18

I’m getting sick of my Lazarus posts. I hope you all aren’t. They go the same way–hated it for the first arc, then started loving Lazarus and now I await every issue with baited breath and count the hours till its release.

But I’ve got to say all that stuff again. Good thing I already did. This issue’s so good. Even with the most obvious, most manipulative cliffhanger I’ve ever seen. Because Rucka does everything else in the issue so well, even how he structures the cliffhanger–doesn’t hurt having Lark’s awesome art (assisted by Tyler Boss on inks). Lark gives Rucka so much leeway–there’s a Forever action scene. Forget everything else.

There’s Forever versus a bunch of soldiers. By Michael Lark. And it’s awesome. It’s so good. It brings back that old Lark thrill of seeing him realize something for the first time.

As usual, it’s excellent.

CREDITS

Poison, Part Two; writer, Greg Rucka; penciller, Michael Lark; inkers, Lark and Tyler Boss; colorist, Santiago Arcas; letterer, Jodi Wynne; editor, David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

The Comics Fondle Podcast | Episode 26

After missing a month–we have no idea where that episode went–Vernon and I are back with lots of new comics to talk about. All our regular indies–Image, Oni, Ennis and Moore Avatar–and I think we even talk about a Marvel and DC comic. One for each of them. Give it a listen.

you can also subscribe on iTunes…

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