The Fall of the House of West (2015)

The Fall of the House of West

The Fall of the House of West is heavy stuff. There’s a little bit of comic relief with Aurora’s friend Hoke having a crush on her, but it doesn’t get much attention. Writers Paul Pope and J.T. Petty don’t want to let up on the reader, which is a little surprising.

Maybe the big character development for Aurora at the end of the comic sways things, but–by the end of the book–the reader knows Aurora less well than at the beginning of the comic. Her character arc is huge and Pope and Petty don’t deal with the full ramifications here. There isn’t time for it. Her journey is the point, the reader’s experience of that journey is the point. Plot twists aren’t the point.

Similarly, Pope and Petty leave the MacGuffin unresolved as well. They’re able to get incredible emotional response from the reader only to belay any resolution. It keeps the reader invested. There’s a definite commercial quality to the comic–and Aurora West as a character–but they aren’t chasing a movie deal. They’re chasing the reader. They’re trying to get their readership invested.

David Rubín’s art is decent. Most of the comic takes place at night, which is fine, but Rubín’s got a lot more personality on well-lit subjects. The panel composition is fantastic, though; it really helps the comic be so welcoming.

West demands the reader’s attention, in a very entertaining way. It’s excellent.

CREDITS

Writers, J.T. Petty and Paul Pope; artist, David Rubín; letterer, John Martz; publisher, First Second.

The Rise of Aurora West (2014)

The Rise of Aurora West

The Rise of Aurora West is simultaneously original and not. Paul Pope and J.T. Petty have a derivative adventure for an entirely original character, even though her back story is derivative. Sort of. The details are derivative.

Aurora West is the teenage daughter and sidekick to Haggard West. He’s a science hero. Just like Tom Strong. Except he fights monsters in a way quite similar to Bruce Wayne. So some of Aurora West is really just Batman and his teenage daughter hunting down criminals. Except they’re monsters.

But with a lot of science and Aurora growing up in a world with monsters, there’s just enough difference to let her not be Robin or anything like a Robin. So then some of Aurora West has nothing to do with Batman and his teenage daughter. There’s too much comedy for it to just be a riff. Pope and Petty maneuver Aurora very carefully through the book–the comedy relieves pressure, keeps the pace set, gives the reader a chance to reflect. It’s beautifully constructed.

David Rubín’s art is nice. He’s not as good as Pope but does a decent imitation, with the black and white lending to some of the more Eisner-like imagery.

It’s an extremely ambitious narrative presented easily. Neat comics, as usual, from Pope.

CREDITS

Writers, J.T. Petty and Paul Pope; artist, David Rubín; letterer, John Martz; publisher, First Second.

Miracleman by Gaiman & Buckingham 2 (November 2015)

Miracleman by Gaiman & Buckingham #2

Funny thing about this issue of Miracleman–Gaiman lets his didactic storytelling take it over. The issue has a couple stories, both showing the lives of “regular people” living in Miracleman’s “Golden Age.”

How regular? Well, one is a lighthouse keeper who has a secret affair with Miraclewoman. He’s a dumpy British jackass who only wants to date supermodels and has to dump women as they age, or when he discovers any physical imperfection.

Gaiman’s trying really, really hard with it. Does Miraclewoman cure him of his problem? Sure. After giving him superhero sex on multiple occasions and once with her alter ego. It’s painful, watching Gaiman go for something so desperately. The obviousness makes it awkward.

The second story is about kids living in the Miracleman future. There are a couple fun ideas, but nothing for a story. Though Buckingham certainly has a good time with it.

So far, Gaiman isn’t bringing anything special to Miracleman. By not telling Miracleman’s story, he gets to delay any significant action and judgement.

CREDITS

Book Four: The Golden Age; writer, Neil Gaiman; artist, Mark Buckingham; colorist, D’Israeli; letterer, Todd Klein; editor, Cory Sedlmeier; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Spire 3 (September 2015)

The Spire #3

The Spire continues to impress, though this issue shows the first time Spurrier lets the size of the comic get ahead of him. The lead, Shå, shows up on the fourth page or so–some beautiful double page spreads from Stokley here–but she’s just leading the reader through procedural stuff. Stokley’s composition is so strong, it overpowers the character stuff with she and her royal girlfriend bickering. The Spire is a big book, big story.

For the last third of the book, after some political stuff–the non-humans coming and pledging their loyalty to the humans–is all Shå’s, which is good, because Spurrier gets the balance right here between moving the plot forward and letting the comic have a protagonist.

The comic succeeds not just because Spurrier can eventually pull it around, but because he and Stokely work so well together. Stokely’s art makes some of the longer expository scenes visually dynamic enough to move. It’s a good comic, it just meanders a bit as Spurrier tries to define the boundaries of the setting.

CREDITS

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

Invisible Republic 6 (September 2015)

Invisible Republic #6

There’s some very good stuff this issue. Not all of it, but some of it. Bechko and Hardman have get a couple good surprises in—the most impressive aspect of Invisible Republic (so far) is how thoughtful and controlled their narrative moves. It almost reads like an adaptation of something else—a novel—thanks to that thoughtfulness. There’s a depth to the comic, even though some of it seems standard.

For example, this issue is mostly talking heads. It’s Maia in the journal flashback doing talking heads, it’s the reporters in the present doing talking heads. Neither element is particularly interesting (save the two or three reveals the writers get in) but Hardman’s art is strong enough it doesn’t matter much. He creates a perfectly reasonable sci-fi setting for these events, which would read (in summary) like twentieth century European political history otherwise.

The one big problem with the comic is the disconnect between Hardman’s style and the present day reporter protagonist. The guy is too lame and Hardman draws him too clean. The reporter, Babb, is a punchline, yet Hardman doesn’t have that kind of humor in his art.

It’s a solid, gorgeous book.

CREDITS

Writers, Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko; artist, Hardman; colorist, Jordan Boyd; editor, Brenda Scott Royce; publisher, Image Comics.

Island 3 (September 2015)

Island #3

This Island, after opening on José Domingo’s quirky, fantastical, intricate look at an island, ends with the most depressing thing possible. After almost eighty pages of fantasy, Kate Craig’s story of a stranded hikers brings the comic–and the reader–back to reality. A depressing reality.

Overall, most of the stories this issue are undercooked. Malachi Ward and Matt Sheean have slightly future story where everyone’s linked into “the Service;” it’s too bad they didn’t just brand it as a certain fruit-named company. (Or do whatever Bill Amend did in “Fox Trot”). They spend too much time on exposition for what’s actually a simple concept. The narrative meanders–the protagonist, cut off from the instant, useless knowledge of the Internet, finds himself in an ominous situation. It’s all right, but clearly in need of an editor.

Dilraj Mann does this punk thing, one character leading to another character, leading to another character. Looping around. It makes you want to either read Love and Rockets or just look at Love and Rockets covers, because Mann’s art isn’t there and his storytelling isn’t either.

Amy Clare’s art is problematic for a comic–there’s a certain flatness to it and she doesn’t scale it well–but it’s good. Her writing is intentionally obtuse; she wants to make the reader work at getting into her story about a female enforcer in a vague dystopian future, only she takes really obvious shortcuts to exposition. The protagonist, after a year of slipping under the customs radar, gets busted for the story. I think. Like I said, Clare makes the reader work at it.

Tessa Black does an H.R. Giger thing. It may read entirely different to others, but if you’ve seen Species, it’s an H.R. Giger thing.

So it’s definitely a mixed bag this issue of Island but what’s impressive is how worthwhile, even with the unevenness, the comic remains.

CREDITS

Contributors, José Domingo, Malachi Ward, Matt Sheean, Dilraj Mann, Amy Clare, Tessa Black and Kate Craig; publisher, Image Comics.

The Auteur: Sister Bambi 4 (September 2015)

The Auteur: Sister Bambi #4

I enjoyed this issue of Sister Bambi. The soft cliffhanger, especially considering the comic opens with a comedic bookend, is annoying but in a pointless kind of way. Spears is still chasing something with the series, even though once you bring in zombie triceratops, you’ve sort of given up.

Spears is no longer bothering trying to find absurd humor in Hollywood movie-making. He’s barely trying to find humor. He’s certainly not sensationalizing the reader anymore. Instead, he’s just running amuck on Bambi, which is fine, because it gives Callahan stuff to do. Unfortunately, even though the book’s best as an example of Callahan’s skill and inventiveness, the script forces Callahan to be too inventive. Spears doesn’t give him enough room for all the lunacy. So there are these battles between the serial killer guy and the zombie lions, tigers, and bears, and Callahan has to do them in these little panels. They’re great little panels. But I’ll bet he’d have done better not illustrating them on postage stamp scale.

Let’s see if I missed anything–some lame one-liners, lots of crazy action, a too obvious subplot–nope, I got it all. Sister Bambi has gotten to the point I don’t remember much between issues, which is good; I’d also remember when the series was a lot better.

CREDITS

Live in the Moment; writer and letterer, Rick Spears; artist, James Callahan; colorist, Luigi Anderson; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

Manifest Destiny 17 (September 2015)

Manifest Destiny #17

It’s almost as though Dingess is refusing to do a full story in the issue. The Sacagawea subplot, which takes up a scene–with flashback–is more complete than the main plot of the issue, with the landing party waiting to see if the blue bird person and one of the humans can make beat the monster. It’s a talking heads book, just with everyone talking about what the reader gets to see for him or herself when Dingess takes the action to the bird person and the human.

Manifest Destiny is not a story with a strong supporting cast. Dingess rarely deals with the supporting cast, which is enormous. And they aren’t particularly distinctive. Even though Roberts goes out of his way to make some visually distinctive… there are like five or six memorable people here, no more. So a talking heads book with random people talking.

The hard cliffhanger will undoubtedly get resolved quickly next issue and that issue will then have its own weak, hard cliffhanger. Dingess doesn’t let the reader enjoy the book, which is unfortunate. He’s too manipulative when he doesn’t need to be. It almost feels desperate that this point.

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.

The Fade Out 9 (September 2015)

The Fade Out #9

I don’t know if I’d noticed before but probably not–Brubaker’s narration for Fade Out has the possibility of not just being a noir touch but also an actual part of the narrative. There’s like a single use of “you” referring to the reader so I’m reading a bunch into it like part of the mystery is figuring out who’s telling the story at the end. I’m probably wrong.

But if Brubaker was going to wait to reveal that narrative device, this issue would be the one to reveal it in. Gil and Charlie duke it out and the flashback reveals their back stories, separate to some degree, but mostly together. And the reveals make you want to go back and reread the earlier issues to see how Brubaker constructed it all.

There’s a lot in the flashback. Even though the present action takes place in a couple hours–at most–and is largely just one conversation leading up to the soft cliffhanger, Brubaker is able to make the issue dense with that flashback. It takes place over a decade or so, Phillips getting to illustrate a variety of settings, Brubaker able to work up tension in the flashback itself and not just how it relates to the present action.

Very cool; very good issue.

CREDITS

Living in a Memory; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Crossed + One Hundred 8 (August 2015)

crossedonehundred8The good news of Crossed + One Hundred number eight is that the story does has someplace to go. Alan Moore’s “Series Outline” credit has been proven creditable, and the new arc is shaping up in a logical way to the groundwork laid out in volume one. Simon Spurrier’s future-English dialogue is still not as diabolically punny as Moore, but he’s playing around with some new details. This issue spends time with a new character’s dialect that’s a mishmash of Bostonian and Jersey twang. There’s also a monologue from one of the Salt-Crossed, probably the longest speech we’ve heard from any of them, and it reads how you’d hope it would: brutal, scary. After their near-absence in issue seven, Moore seems to have figured out how to continue revealing their insanity gradually, to maintain the creep factor.

That monologue reveals an important new plot point, which is also the turning point where Crossed + One Hundred justifies its ongoing existence. The Salt-Crossed’s organizational skills open up a whole new slew of dramatic possibilities, based on what is actually a fairly unique sci-fi/horror hybrid idea: if a burgeoning civilization were centered around the celebration of sadism, how could such a civilization function? The question slightly nudges the franchise out of the realm of pure horror and into a more philosophical kind of terror that’s not exactly a zombie tale any longer. It’s more akin to 1984, The Man in the High Castle or The Handmaid’s Tale, where the horror comes from contemplating the ruthlessness of an insane society. Future Taylor isn’t nearly as fucked as Winston Smith or even Evey from Moore’s V For Vendetta, but she’s got her work cut out for her in trying to stem the rising tides of Salt water.

Spurrier’s scripting, besides the adequate continuation of the future-speak, is not as good as Moore’s in terms of panel and page pacing, but come on. Whose is? The highlight once again is his bookending of Future’s latest sci-fi book review around her situation at hand.

The only missing component from the equation is, once again, Fernando Heinz’s art. The technical skills are mostly there – despite one distracting perspective problem on the opening splash page which makes a character appear armless, he actually nails a lot of tricky angles from high aerial perspectives as Future travels around by hot air balloon.  But his particular manga-influenced style is just too unserious. Future still looks weirdly younger than she did in the first arc, despite it taking place a year after the taking of Chooga and characters occasionally just look cute. One of the Crossed, leering maniacally, vaguely resembles a heavy from Dragonball Z. Even Future’s expressions of fear are a little too aesthetically appealing. It doesn’t ruin the whole package, but undermines the moments of grave seriousness.

Despite the aesthetic setback, Crossed + One Hundred is still compelling reading.

CREDITS

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

Judge Dredd’s Crime File 6 (January 1986)

Judge Dredd's Crime File #6

Gibson finally gets a story with content matching his style to my liking–lizard-men aliens who zap you and make your worst fears attack you so you lose your mind. Very fantastical stuff in a very fantastical setting–a housing block designed to be a maze, only its abandoned because no one could find their way around (thanks to hoodlums pulling off the directional signs).

Oddly, after coming up with such a strange setting, Grant and Wagner don’t do anything with it. It’s a lame shoot out and then a “rah rah” Judge Dredd twist at the end. It makes a fine final panel for the comic (in its last issue here), but the story’s a flop. Except for that Gibson art.

Gibson illustrates the other four stories in the issue to various effect. Grant and Wagner cowrote all of them as well. There are the humanizing ones–like when Dredd’s got to save his niece or when Walter gets into trouble (I missed Walter)–and the funnier ones–Dredd and a fascist alien, Dredd and, oddly, a dirty judge (it’s funny by the end), so it’s a good mix of what Grant and Wagner do with the character and setting.

I’m just upset Mazny Block wasn’t better utilized.

Writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner; artist, Ian Gibson; colorist, Janet Landau; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

The Fiction 4 (September 2015)

I don’t understand The Fiction. I don’t understand what Pires is going for. This final issue, which is so movie-ready the black guy realizes he’s the third wheel in a meta-moment, dumbs down the story. It’s like Pires wanted to make The Unwritten simpler. This issue I also noticed the numerous similarities to Stephen King’s It.

But what Pires doesn’t seem to get is how mismatched Rubín is for that approach to the material. Rubín can’t do craven commercialism, which is what Pires asks this issue. The result is a funny looking comic with no visual rhythm. It doesn’t help there are four or five endings, starting about five pages into the issue.

In all The Fiction has been a disappointment. But Pires is getting better. I don’t think I finished his last book for BOOM!. Will his next series be better? Probably. I mean, he doesn’t threaten another series of The Fiction, which is a good start.

CREDITS

Neverending or Until We Can’t (Let’s Go); writer, Curt Pires; artist, David Rubín; colorist, Michael Garland; letterer, Colin Bell; editors, Jasmine Amiri and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Judge Dredd’s Crime File 5 (December 1985)

Judge Dredd's Crime File #5

Some real good art from Dave Gibbons closes this issue of Crime File. His story is the least in terms of writing–Wagner’s script is rushed–but it’s very cool to see young Gibbons on Dredd. Unlike the rest of the issue, which has good (though awkwardly not great) art from Barry Mitchell, Gibbons even keeps the Ian Gibson chin for Dredd. It’s just not so cartoonish.

Mitchell has some great panel composition and layouts, but his judge figures seems out of place. They seem a little too small, a little too static for the panels, which are rather detailed otherwise. Still, he knows how to tell a story and it works.

There are four stories in this Crime File. The first might be the best–irresponsible kids bouncing around the city in giant plastic pinballs–though the showdown between Dredd and a psychic insurance criminal is pretty cool in the second. Mitchell does better with Mega-City One from the rooftops than the streets (it feels too reserved).

It’s a solid issue. Very readable, some good Dredd punchlines, even if Wagner and Grant (who co-writes on one of the stories) aren’t trying very hard.

CREDITS

Writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner; artists, Dave Gibbons and Barry Mitchell; colorist, Janet Landau; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

8house 3 (September 2015)

8house #3

Should it go without saying 8house is a little weird? Is there some expectation of weirdness just from the title itself; Brandon Graham’s involvement alone probably should account for some of that weirdness.

This issue starts a new story, Kiem. The protagonist is a soldier on a desolate planet where the soldiers do a mind-transfer into a organic-mechanical (presumably… it is Graham, after all) mech and they battle. Only Kiem has a different mission.

Graham gets co-writer credit; Xurxo G. Penalta also does the art. The art’s real good. Penalta gets lost in panels, which encourages the reader to do the same.

Most of the issue is a big lead-in to the “twist” and it’s not the most original sci-fi as far as the narrative details. Penalta’s rendering of this planet is the draw, along with he and Graham putting solid thought into the characters. But comic ends with Kiem sort of soft-booting itself for the next one; hopefully Penalta and Graham’s story has some connections to the details in the first half of this issue, otherwise why read it.

Except the gorgeous art, of course.

CREDITS

Kiem, Part One; writers, Brandon Graham and Xurxo G. Penalta; artist, Penalta; publisher, Image Comics.

Judge Dredd’s Crime File 4 (November 1985)

Judge Dredd's Crime File #4

Ron Smith only illustrates a fourth of this issue. Then “big-chin” Ian Gibson takes over for the rest. Something about Gibson’s cartoony style doesn’t work for me on Dredd. He goes too obviously to the humor and if Judge Dredd is nothing but a laugh, it can’t sustain itself past a punchline.

The writing–of three stories–in this issue is decent. Not so much the last story, which has to do with a game show where contestants try to top each other’s couples’ confessions to felonies. Something about it doesn’t work. Writers Wagner and Grant don’t give it any charm and Gibson makes everyone so visually repugnant, there’s no sympathy to it. There’s no hook.

The first story is the best. And not just because it has the Smith art. It’s Dredd hunting down dirty cops in the candy trade. All of a sudden Crime File has the problem of too much picking and choosing on the 2000 AD source material. The assembled stories for this issue don’t go together well. They seem too forced a compilation.

The second story, with Dredd defending cute aliens slaughtered for part of their brains, is okay. Gibson does real well on the cute aliens. Wagner and Grant are a tad too cynical for the story though. It goes for an ironic cheap cuteness; it gets there, but another creator team could’ve gotten it further with sincerity.

CREDITS

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

Letter 44 20 (September 2015)

Letter 44 #20

It’s all right. I mean, Soule is still carting the Dubya analogue around–turning him into a Bond villain, which (thanks to Alburquerque’s art) comes off like a cartoon. Not in a good way.

And Soule borrows quite a bit from every sci-fi book and movie where the Earth is faced with imminent disaster. Alburquerque hurts the more visual of those moments. Letter 44 has passed the point where I think about how Soule’s better scenes would play with better art. The last scene, though, the “surprise”–which might get Soule another ten issues out of the comic, which is incredible since this one was pretty solidly ready to go as the penultimate–it would be nice to see it with better art.

The most annoying thing about the issue is how much Soule utilizes his better parts of the comic book, only he doesn’t use them–the characters–he reminds the readers they cared about them. The first lady, whose own story arc was inexplicably flushed, pops up for a visual gag and it all of a sudden makes Letter 44 so much more engaging. It’s mercenary, obvious, but competent. It’s part of the cover price.

Like I said, it’s all right. I’ll complain about Soule writing half a comic with two and a half times too much story, I’ll complain about the art–which never will sync properly with the book–but I’ll be back every issue. Because Letter 44 hasn’t given up, even after the point its clear it isn’t going to hit big or get optioned by Hollywood. It won’t be the zeitgeist, it won’t be a series I go back and reread in ten years. But it’ll be a comic I fondly remember reading when it came out.

CREDITS

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

War Stories 12 (August 2015)

War Stories #12

When I said this story should have been two issues instead of three, I was wrong. Our Wild Geese Go should’ve been a one shot. I don’t even have the energy to talk about Aira’s artwork, which is simultaneously too fine and too rough for the story. It’s talking heads again, with a couple of the lads in Dutch with the Nazis.

They get away though. It’s not much of a spoiler because their captivity isn’t particularly dramatic. Nothing in the issue’s dramatic. Ennis is just trying to get to the conclusion, which is about the Irish soldiers coming into their own in a way. In a way he could have done much better in one issue without a mildly ludicrous subplot.

All War Stories has got is Ennis. The book isn’t a collaboration between him and Aira. It’s Ennis. Would it be better as a collaboration? Maybe. He might have been able to get away with this story arc if he’d had an artist who could emote through the art, who could sway the reader. It’s not Aira.

The issue–and this story arc–just shows how desperately editors are needed in indie books.

CREDITS

Our Wild Geese Go, Part Three: One by One We’re All Becoming Shades; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Miracleman by Gaiman & Buckingham 1 (November 2015)

Miracleman by Gaiman & Buckingham #1

Miracleman by Gaiman & Buckingham. Will it be the classic always promised? Given how much Marvel butchered its reprints of the Alan Moore issues, will Neil Gaiman–when finishing the comic after twenty-five years–tone it done to make the Mouse happy?

And what do we–the readers–get for a happy Mouse? Not Miracleman, the movie. Do we even get Miracleman the quality collection, with unedited original writer issues?

I am not a Gaiman fan. I am a Moore fan. Going into Gaiman and Mark Buckingham’s Miracleman, I am slightly disinterested. I had forgotten they were going to do it. I had forgotten Marvel had been reprinting Miracleman. They’ve done such a bad job of it, the company clearly stretching its britches past the point of public appropriateness.

What does any of the above have to do with Miracleman by Gaiman and Buckingham? Not much. A little maybe. But definitely not much. Because, so far, there’s nothing to the comic. Miracleman is the granter of wishes. Gaiman writes about people who go see him. Miracleman makes it hard for people to come and ask wishes. But he installs toilets.

Buckingham’s art is cool. It’s an odd pairing with a superhero, but the comic isn’t a superhero book. It’s a pretentious outside-the-mainstream mainstream comic. And an okay one. But, if I were reading it twenty-five years ago, my thought would be the same–there’s only so much time Gaiman can ride on Moore’s steam.

CREDITS

Book Four: The Golden Age; writer, Neil Gaiman; artist, Mark Buckingham; colorist, D’Israeli; letterer, Todd Klein; editor, Cory Sedlmeier; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Judge Dredd’s Crime File 3 (October 1985)

Judge Dredd's Crime File #3

It’s an okay issue. It’s just too uneven.

The first story, with art by Ian Gibson, is a flop. Gibson’s style might be how I always think of Judge Dredd–visibly British, visibly stilted. Such long faces. Literally.

Grant and Wagner’s script is about a Block War, sort of. There’s a simple explanation though and a moral to the story. Dredd might even get touchy-feely at the end. It doesn’t come off with the Gibson art.

But the second story is a major improvement, with Colin Wilson taking over. Wilson makes one bad style choice–he casts one character as a noir villain instead of a luckless sap, which is more appropriate; I think an evil mustache is involved. The story’s solid. Dredd versus loan sharks who keep your loved one in suspended animation until you pay.

The last story, again with Wilson art, isn’t particularly good. It’s better than the first story, with Wilson showing how the right artist can make anything in a Grant and Wagner story work, but Dredd versus hackers is boring. Except how well Grant and Wagner forecast cybersecurity threats.

CREDITS

Writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner; artists, Ian Gibson and Colin Wilson; colorist, Janet Landau; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Providence 4 (August 2015)

Providence #4

Unsurprisingly, Providence continues to impress, but–and maybe surprisingly–this issue doesn’t up the ante much as far as terrifying the reader. There are Lovecraftian elements around and there’s almost realization from the narrator in this issue’s back matter (which has Moore’s most obvious attempt at telling the reader to pay attention; he does it well and necessarily), but it’s not exactly scary.

Moore’s suspects–the players in the story–aren’t particularly dangerous as of yet. Maybe because they say they aren’t dangerous to the narrator, who’s just a visitor in their stories, not a participant or person of consequence, or maybe because they show concern. Moore’s doing a lot with the idea of town and country with Providence–which is somewhat strange, given the history and look at how people are treated differently is for New Englanders, not the British. It’s just his dedication to the project.

Reading the lengthy back matter, one has to wonder how much of it will eventually matter and how much of it is just Moore doing his job. He’s making Providence a filling read for its audience. He’s respectful of the reader’s time, respectful of the reader’s attention.

It’s an awesome, mellow comic. The one horror Moore does imply is so outrageous, one can’t truly fathom it so why try. Plus, Moore tells the reader not to try fathoming it. Subtly, but forcefully.

CREDITS

White Apes; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Minimum Wage: So Many Bad Decisions 5 (September 2015)

Minimum Wage: So Many Bad Decisions #5

What the heck is Rob doing? I mean, Minimum Wage has become the most gripping comics narrative I’m reading. More than anything else, I want to know what happens next because I care about Rob. Reading Wage is caring about Rob; liking Rob (most of the time), because it feels like Rob’s Fingerman and you like them both.

And Fingerman puts Rob in an unexpected situation. An unexpected, incredibly dangerous situation. I can’t even imagine how it must read for people familiar with the first series of Minimum Wage–and I’m now upset I didn’t go and read that series in between the previous revival series and So Many Bad Decisions.

Fingerman takes the Bad Decisions to an epic (for Wage) level this issue. It’s crazy and awesome. And, after I was dreading the series only running four issues, I know it isn’t going to run past six. So Fingerman’s got one left, then whatever kind of break.

He sets it up beautifully.

CREDITS

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

Lazarus 19 (September 2015)

Lazarus #19

It’s so good. Do I always start a Lazarus response with that statement? “It’s so good.” Like every time I read the comic, I’m surprised by how good Rucka and Lark do on the comic. It’s always a surprise too. Rucka hits a new ceiling. He integrates Lark and his abilities in an entirely predictable but entirely unexpected way. It’s great stuff.

Lark’s art is real strong this issue overall. He’s got really varied storylines going on, each needing distinct, immediate visuals. Lark finds a tone for each. What’s really cool–and something Rucka did carefully–was get someone likable into every storyline. Or someone comically unlikable (the evil, incestuous sister). It brings a soap opera element into it. And then Lark and Rucka deliver an action sequence.

Lazarus, very, very discreetly, mixes genres. And Rucka does it really well. It might be why the first arc didn’t connect–it was setting up the situation to allow Rucka all the freedom. The painful exposition about the dystopian future, for example, set up the second storyline, which is where Lazarus started to get good. And now it’s one of my favorite comics.

Awesome last sequence too; just awesome.

CREDITS

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

Judge Dredd’s Crime File 2 (September 1985)

Judge Dredd's Crime File #2

Again, it’s an excellent issue. Eagle really puts together a great combination of Dredd–though it isn’t hard with the Smith art. He just gets better and better throughout the issue; the third manages to have almost Eisner-esque thugs, the ultra-realistic future, but then the slightly cartoonish Dredd. It’s awesome.

Alan Grant joins Wagner on the scripts. The first one is a longer story involving Dredd going undercover and a bunch of other stuff. It’s going into space, it’s introducing aliens real quick and criminal interstellar shipping activities. The scenes are good–especially with the aliens; Grant and Wagner don’t hesitate to use them as a mean punchline–but the overall story is a little broad.

The second story, involving alien mobsters wrecking havoc on Mega-City One’s underworld is goofy but the storytelling is really tight. The first story is from two issues of 2000 AD and they aren’t paced well together. The second and third story are so much stronger.

The third story’s sort of the best. It’s just a Dredd action story with great Smith art. There’s some future details, but it’s like Grant and Wagner apply all their action experience, usually done in broad strokes, finely.

It works out.

CREDITS

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

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