Prophet Earth War 1 (January 2016)

Prophet Earth War #1

Prophet. Earth War. Finally.

After months of waiting, how is it?

It’s eh. Prophet Earth War is eh.

Writers Brandon Graham and Simon Roy stubbornly ignore characters, ignore anything except expositional dialogue. They really want readers to understand what’s going on. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why. If you aren’t already a Prophet reader, Earth War isn’t going to convert you. Setting the action on a desolate planet (kind of like where Kirk fought the Gorn) is real boring.

The artists–Giannis Milongiannis and Roy–pack each page; there’s no grand Prophet panels here. It’s overpacked. Nothing gets enough space.

And Old John Prophet and Young John Prophet. They don’t have any chemistry. Graham and Roy try to force it throughout the issue, but there’s just no spark. They stand around and talk about the prospect of battle; it’s mostly talking heads. And it’s a bore.

It’s also an improvement over the last Prophet, however long ago, so hopefully the uptick continues.

CREDITS

Writers, Brandon Graham and Simon Roy; artists, Giannis Milonogiannis and Roy; colorists, Joseph Bergin II and Lin Visel; letterer, Ed Brisson; back up story, Sarah Horrocks; publisher, Image Comics.

The Humans 3 (January 2015)

The Humans #3

Now this issue is really good. Keller and Neely are both on fire. Keller gives Neely a bunch to do–exploring the world of the Humans but also doing Johnny’s story in Vietnam. Keller’s dialogue is a lot better this issue once he’s just doing the story of the guy in his unit. There’s no politics in The Humans–so far, anyway–which makes the Vietnam story very different. It fits in a certain genre, but it’s detached from it.

There are multiple action set pieces, each with a different narrative pacing so Neely has to do something for each one. He does. The issue’s really good all around. The present-day stuff with the Humans as a biker gang is good, Johnny’s stuff in the present is good. Keller gives Neely a lot of art opportunities, past or present, and Neely runs with them all.

The Humans is just getting better and better. It’s a complex, smart, fun book.

CREDITS

Long Road Back From Hell; writer, Keenan Marshall Keller; artist, Tom Neely; colorist, Kristina Collantes; publisher, Image Comics.

The Rook 1 (October 2015)

The Rook #1

Seventies and eighties comic book sci-fi is some solid stuff. The Rook tries to tap into the genre to get some nostalgia points and it isn’t hard–artist Paul Gulacy drew a lot of good seventies and eighties sci-fi. The classics, if you would. And I’ll bet Steven Grant even wrote some of them.

Not sure if ROM counts.

Sci-fi in comics has gotten a whole lot more mainstream–especially in indie books–so what do returning giants Grant and Gulacy bring to the genre? It’s nearly camp. It nearly feels like a sci-fi comic from the early nineties because of all the references (“Quantum Leap,” “Back to the Future,” Time Machine actually playing a part of the plot), only the style is from a different era.

But then, The Rook is set in 2015, so Grant’s doing this nineties look at college life. You expect someone to call another kid a square for not drinking the spiked punch. And it doesn’t feel like camp in those moments, because Grant’s just not caring about his cast. They’re not as important as the gimmick. Only the gimmick’s not particularly good.

The Gulacy art carries it all, even after Gulacy starts rushing (somewhere in the second half of the issue). Gulacy has the chops to make the characters likable and sympathetic, even if their dialogue doesn’t give them any personality.

The plot’s amusing, the dialogue’s weak, the art’s good. The Rook isn’t the project Gulacy deserves, but he excels with what he’s got.

CREDITS

Writer, Steven Grant; artist, Paul Gulacy; colorist, Jesus Aburto; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Ian Tucker and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

I Hate Fairyland 4 (January 2016)

I Hate Fairyland #4

It’s a solid issue. Young doesn’t do anything crazy like he did in the previous one, he just sets Gert out on a quest. She muscles her way through it. Young’s formula for Fairyland is just enough detail to make readers gag on the saccharine nature of it, but not too much to get caught up in it. He breezes through the details. His art is always more important that the associated text.

The issues work like big pieces Young is arranging. He doesn’t just have to move Gert, he’s also got to move the supporting cast. Fairyland is like a busy stage play. The hurried nature of it is part of the charm.

Still, it was a little disappointing to see such a traditional narrative after last issue’s nuttiness. There are a lot of good jokes, as Gert explores the dark side of Fairyland, but Young drags them out. He’s even got a pattern–little in text, little in art, lot in art–in how he tells them.

They’re good jokes and often quite funny, they just aren’t particularly creative ones to make. Young coasts through this issue and gets out without even using a third of his built-up goodwill.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Skottie Young; colorist, Jean-Francois Bealieu; letterer, Nate Piekos; publisher, Image Comics.

The Humans 2 (December 2014)

The Humans #2

The Humans is something else. Keller does a lot with the script. I know last issue I was more impressed with Neely, but this issue is all Keller’s show. Even with it stumbles, it’s stumbling because Keller’s trying really hard to do something.

He’s doing a “Twilight Zone” episode, basically, and a rather good one. He’s got this societal stuff because, even though he’s doing the traditional ape species breakdowns from Planet of the Apes (with, beautifully, zero explanation), he’s taking it into account when he populates Humans’s 1970 Bakersfield. This issue has Johnny, the guy thought dead in Vietnam, coming home. It’s really ambitious.

And Keller does stumble. The talking heads scenes are hard going because he’s trying to get serious after being goofy. He doesn’t shift gracefully. Or maybe Neely doesn’t. Humans is thoughtful but still raw. Two issues isn’t enough to establish a pattern.

It’s another excellent issue. The Humans has more potential than I thought.

CREDITS

Return of the Living Dead; writer, Keenan Marshall Keller; artist, Tom Neely; colorist, Kristina Collantes; publisher, Image Comics.

Johnny Red 3 (January 2016)

Johnny Red #3

Johnny Red has a strange organization to its messy narrative. The issue opens with a history lesson–in present-day monologue–about the Night Witches and how they figure into the series’s ground situation. It goes on for pages. It goes on for so long I forgot the book was about Johnny Red and instead thought Ennis was doing an impromptu Night Witches fill-in.

But he isn’t. Because after telling readers to look at the bunnies on the left, Ennis then spins them right by about ninety degrees and tells them to look at something else, something entirely new to them. And then he does it again at the end of the issue. There are three big things going on here and at least two subplots. Johnny Red is Ennis doing an edifying comic. He’s assuming his readers aren’t familiar with the subject matter and he’s teaching them about it.

At the same time, for all the traditional Johnny Red fans–if traditional Johnny Red fans are a thing–Ennis is breezy enough with the history lesson not to condescend. He’s showing his street cred as a WWII storyteller. It’s simultaneously showing off and being humble. It’s a great approach.

Johnny Red might be Ennis’s best WWII comic in a while.

CREDITS

Witches Over Stalingrad; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Keith Burns; colorist, Jason Wordie; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Jess Burton and Steve White; publisher, Titan Comics.

I Hate Fairyland 3 (December 2015)

I Hate Fairyland #3

Young’s a bit of a show-off this issue. He works on his subplot–the queen conniving to rid Fairyland of Gert–and gives Gert what seems to be a standard adventure. Until it isn’t. And then Young goes crazy with this lengthy sequence–it seems to take place over decades (or a day). It’s phenomenal.

Except it isn’t just that sequence, it’s what he follows it with. He uses the time transition to bring Gert into the queen’s subplot. It’s a great script.

And the way the subplot plays out leads to a battle royale between Gert and her erstwhile nemesis. It’s a lot for a third issue, but Young has thought out all these places he wants to go with the book. He’s moving quickly, but still deliberately.

Young’s pretty much gotten to where he can’t make any storytelling missteps as long as he at least tells it right. The content doesn’t matter, the visuals are so strong. It could be anything and he would find a way to make it visually compelling.

I Hate Fairyland is an excellent book.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Scottie Young; colorist, Jean-Francois Bealieu; letterer, Nate Piekos; publisher, Image Comics.

The Humans 1 (November 2014)

The Humans #1

The Humans revels in itself, in its gimmick. Keenan Marshall Keller and Tom Neely love the idea of their comic–a sixties biker gang on a “planet of the apes”-type situation–and their enthusiasm comes across. Better than coming across, it never comes across forced. This issue builds, with Keller and Neely introducing ideas–visual and narrative devices–as it all unfolds.

Neely does great action scenes and he does great medium shot talking scenes. He handles crowds well, finding different ways to compose for the best effect. He’s the star of the book. Someone else might be able to do the gimmick, but Neely makes The Humans better than just its gimmick.

In fact, the book being so successful is what gets it through this first issue. It has excellent pacing–until the rushed denouement and soft cliffhanger–more than it has anything else in the writing. Keller has some good dialogue, but the flow is more impressive. It moves, but Keller and Neely make sure readers have everything they need to keep up.

I’m excited to see what they do next.

CREDITS

Humans for Life – Humans Till Death; writer, Keenan Marshall Keller; artist, Tom Neely; colorist, Kristina Collantes; publisher, Image Comics.

The Comics Fondle Podcast | Episode 30

We’re late, but we brought the Best of 2015 with us! Please forgive the echo and so on.

Here’s what we talk about.

  • Archie Comics
  • Sandman Overture
  • Miracleman
  • Red One
  • Airboy/James Robinson
  • Brandon Graham’s Universe
  • Ghosted
  • Mind Mgmt
  • Unwritten
  • Sons of Anarchy
  • Nameless
  • Rat God
  • Archie/Jughead
  • Casanova:Acedia
  • Sixth Gun ?
  • War Stories
  • Letter 44
  • Manifest Destiny
  • Curb Stomp
  • D4VE
  • OYDC
  • Phonogram
  • Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
  • Invisible Republic
  • Decender
  • Injection
  • Order of the Forge
  • Spire
  • Where Monsters Dwell
  • Hip Hop Family Tree
  • Auteur -Sister Bambi
  • Star Spangled War – GI Zombie
  • Starve
  • BPRD Universe
  • Prez
  • Strange Fruit
  • Over the Garden Wall
  • Tokyo Ghost
  • Klaus
  • Monstress
  • Wrenchies gn
  • Love and Rockets vol 7
  • Inner City Romance collection
  • Life After
  • Copperhead
  • Lazarus
  • Crossed +100 (issues #1-6)
  • Humans
  • Velvet
  • Big Man Plans
  • Satellite Sam
  • Kaijumax
  • Minimum Wage-So Many Bad Decisions
  • Harrow County
  • Princess Ugg
  • Empowered vol 7 + Pewpewpew one shot
  • Providence
  • Eltingville Fan Club
  • The New Deal gn
  • Borb! gn

you can also subscribe on iTunes…

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 3 (February 2016)

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #3

There’s something so great about Dr. Doom as buffoon. Maybe because Dr. Doom as loquacious villain gets boring fast. But does anyone actually use him as anything but a buffoon anymore? Squirrel Girl marks the second thing I’ve read from Marvel in the last year featuring Doom–and I’m pretty sure I’ve only read three Marvel series–so he appears, as comic relief, in two-thirds of the Marvel comics I read.

And they’re better for it.

The thing about North is he loves his characters. He loves Doreen, he loves Nancy, he loves Tippy. He loses track of himself with the characters, even when he has this rather complex time travel story with Doom. It’s not present Doom, it’s past Doom, going into even further past, pre-Marvel Age era. I’m not even sure I get it all. But it’s cool North has this much thought for his time travel paradox. It’s care. Squirrel Girl is made with care.

Henderson’s art does a great job with the flashback setting. She initially conveys the era just through clothing (before opening up to exteriors for the fight scene) and it’s awesome.

Squirrel Girl is a good comic.

CREDITS

Writer, Ryan North; artist, Erica Henderson; colorist, Rico Renzi; letterer, Travis Lanham; editors, Chris Robinson and Wil Moss; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Johnny Red 2 (December 2015)

Johnny Red #2

The issue’s a little too slight. Not in the middle, but once Ennis wraps it up. He finds Johnny Red’s momentum–the stuff with the Russian fliers, not when it’s narrated, but when it’s the action, is excellent. Like, some of Ennis’s better war writing in a while. It’s real good.

But then the soft cliffhanger comes around and it’s a lame one. Ennis is doing this reboot of Johnny Red, he’s got the constraints for trying to deliver to an existing audience; all of his bad choices make sense. They’re all to be more commercial. And Ennis isn’t anti-commercial in the rest of it, he’s just doing a milder book. The character potentials of the extreme situation (a Brit flying with the Soviets) are where he excels.

As for Burns’s art, most of the WWII stuff is great. The bookend scene in the modern day is bad. Rushed, like an afterthought. It’s a weird waste of a page or two.

Once the action hits, Burns is on point. He can draw exciting dogfight panels. He’s got just the right balance of movement and detail. The grit just furthers what Ennis is doing anyway. It’s a great pairing of creators.

CREDITS

Mrs. Redburn’s Little Boy; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Keith Burns; colorist, Jason Wordie; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Kristen Murray and Steve White; publisher, Titan Comics.

Crossed + One Hundred 12 (November 2015)

crossedonehundred12Six issues into the Simon Spurrier run, Future Taylor is undergoing unexpected adaptions to life that echo what Alan Moore put her through at the conclusion of his initial arc. The difference is that small surprises of this busy installment aren’t as shattering as the gradually revealed unknown unknown of Bosol’s prophecy, they’re the logical tipping points of every development since then. The most gripping turns are within Future herself. Her exhaustion is forcing some radical choices and it’s some of her most significant character development in the entire series. All her decisions feel like the natural results of who we’ve know her to be, combining with where the story has taken her. It’s incredibly satisfying and occasionally startling.

There’s a combat scene towards the end which echoes, perhaps unintentionally, a very similar sequence at the climax of Garth Ennis’ original Crossed wherein the protagonists are, at least momentarily, relieved of all their pain through the simple satisfaction of killing their hated enemies. The war may go on forever, but if battles can still be decisively won then the struggle has not been in vain. Spurrier and Rafael Ortiz convey all that in a few panels where Ennis and Jacen Burrows took a page of internal narration, which isn’t to say that they did it better, rather that they’ve successfully harkened back to a very Ennis-esque emotional peak within the context of Alan Moore’s spinoff from his original concept.

Ortiz is maybe the best artist for Crossed + One Hundred since Gabriel Andrade, for all the opposite reasons. Andrade illustrated the post-apocalypse with technical skill that made you believe in the world’s details, Ortiz goes for the rickety chaos of life post-sacking-of-Chooga. You feel the desperation and turbulence in everyone’s faces. He can also stage elaborate action scenes. Both are heavily required at this point in the story and he absolutely delivers. It’s thrilling how Spurrier and Moore constructed all the drama that’s transpired to build up into these simultaneous interpersonal and external conflicts. I would never recommend jumping into this series from anywhere except the very start, but you could do worse than here.

If I recall correctly, this is the first issue not to identify, via Future, the wishful fiction novel from whose title each issue is borrowed. “Behold The Man” is – according to our own pre-surprise Wi-Fi Encyclopedia, Wikipedia – a 1966 novella by Michael Moorcock, in which a time traveller with a messiah complex meets Jesus of Nazareth and it turns out he’s not the messiah, just a very naughty boy. So the time traveller takes his place, effectively becoming the legend. Beyond the classic sci-fi trope of a predestination paradox, it’s a very Alan Moorish kind of story, speaking to the idea that the meaning of life is storytelling. I don’t skull the connection to the events of this particular Crossed + One Hundred chapter but it’s worth noting that Moorcock was an avowed anarchist and the tactical limits of pacifist religion have very much become a focus in this comic. The loss of blind faith and forging of a more pragmatic one may have something to do with it. Or it may all hinge on the last-page cliffhanger revelation of a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; series outline, Alan Moore; artist, Rafa Ortiz; colorist, Digikore Studios; lettering, Jaymes Reed; publisher, Avatar Press.

The Dark Knight III: The Master Race 2 (December 2016)

4960053-dktmr_cv2_ds-1The only unpredictable turn of this comic is that DC actually does allow Miller & Azzarello to acknowledge the existence of The Dark Knight Strikes Again – which is looking better every day compared to The Master Race’s cowardly underwhelmingness. Issue two rehashes virtually everything from the previous one. The only addition is the introduction of a villain behind the bottled city of Kandor’s titular Übermenschen, in a twist everyone should have seen coming. What’s more disappointing is how Miller’s greatest hits are still being dusted off for what’s shaping up to be more of a soft reboot of the “Dark Knight” brand than anything singular. Ellen Yindel interrogates Carrie Kelly in a jail cell copied straight out of Sin City, and then the Bat-tank returns for an action scene. Bruce Wayne is revealed to still be alive, spoiler alert, though this revelation might be the only hope the series has for entertainment value as nobody writes Batman as batshit as Frank. But to tease Batman as being truly dead and then back away from the idea is fake boldness, as seeing Kelly carry on without Bruce would be intriguing. Alas.

Time is weirdly out of joint in the DKU. Bruce Wayne and Ellen Yindel look exactly the same as we saw them in ’86, which wouldn’t necessarily be distracting except for dialogue when she actually points to her face and calls herself old, despite Andy Kubert obviously not having aged her a day. His art is still nothing if not professional; the 1989-style Gotham City looks terrific and the double-page reveal of Kandor’s formerly teensy, newly enlarged inhabitants is worth a pause. Where he falters is character work. There’s not an iota of humanity in anyone’s closeups. In particular, an extreme closeup of The Atom’s face (how ironic) is unpleasantly mannequin-like. Again, one wishes for the raw muscle of Miller’s pencils over Kubert’s cold slickness. Maybe the worst thing about the second chapter of The Master Race is how Miller didn’t even pencil the inset comic, the conceptual highlight of issue one. Artist Eduardo Risso’s action scene between Wonder Woman and daughter Lara is adequately staged but stiffly posed, with flat detailing worsened by Trish Mulvihill’s flat colors.

I’m neither a fanboy of, nor a hater on Frank Miller. His contributions to Batman’s history are invaluable. But he and Azzarello need to justify this series, quick, because if someone as open-minded to the venture as me is already frustrated, I can only imagine how unimpressed the average young reader must be so far. Miller’s sentimentally terse flavor of writing barely registers, and with the broken promise of at least getting new art from him once per issue in a mini-comic, there may be no compelling reasons to ride this cash-in all the way through.

CREDITS

The Dark Knight III: The Master Race Book Two; story, Frank Miller & Brian Azzarello; pencils, Andy Kubert and Eduardo Risso; inks, Klaus Janson; colorists, Brad Anderson and Trish Mulvihill; letterer, Clem Robins; publisher, DC Comics.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 2 (January 2016)

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #2

I’m not an expert on time travel stories. I like them, with all their in-jokes and so on, but I don’t really care. They’re a special event and should be rare ones. So I wasn’t expecting Ryan North to write the best time travel story, in terms of in-jokes, references and so on, since Back to the Future. Doreen and Tippy get sent back in time to just before the dawn of the Marvel Age. Maybe by Dr. Doom. Doesn’t matter; the details are never going to be as awesome as North’s execution.

Henderson’s art is essential–the mood and pace of the time travel tropes North acknowledges, utilizes, and ignores get conveyed more in how Henderson breaks out the page than in how North scripts the scene. It’s action-packed talking heads.

But North also has Nancy in the present trying to find her. Amid the great time travel story, there’s this neat (not as exceptional, but really neat) look at how technology has changed since the Internet. Squirrel Girl is a comic with real constraint–it’s about Squirrel Girl–but North and Henderson do deliver a very modern “retro” comic. It’s sixties Marvel done for the Twitter age.

It’s quite good.

CREDITS

Writer, Ryan North; artist, Erica Henderson; colorist, Rico Renzi; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editors, Chris Robinson and Wil Moss; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Letter 44 22 (January 2016)

Letter 44 #22

Oh, come on. First of all, Alburquerque has seemingly forgotten how to draw President Blades. He who was the protagonist of Letter 44 when it seemed like it was going to be a better comic book. It’s distracting, Alburquerque forgetting, because it makes Blades seem even less like himself. Given he’s President over World War III after starting as an Obama stand-in, Soule and the book need everything they can get to try to convince the reader its the same character.

Because, really, Letter 44 feels like a TV show with a completely different tone in the second season. Except it’s been Soule. And this issue might be where he finally jumps the shark. After a sturdy and encouraging start, the book has descended into a mix of sci-fi tropes, but well applied. Until this issue. Soule throws out logic (oh, yeah, there was some science at the beginning too, right?) and goes for the melodrama.

Only, since none of these characters act the same or even look the same, there’s no melodrama to be had. It feels like a dumb soap opera and looks like a worse one. I don’t think Soule’s ever been so cheap with the characters before–Blades and the First Lady, I mean–he’s short-changed them for a dozen issues or more, but he’s never been cheap.

Until now.

CREDITS

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

Swamp Thing 1 (March 2016)

Swamp Thing #1

Len Wein. Creator, with Bernie Wrightson, of Swamp Thing in the seventies. Len Wein. Editor of various other Swamp Thing projects in the eighties. Relaunching the book forty-four years later. Wow, right?

He writes Swamp Thing as a pro-wrestler. A bad, eighties pro-wrestler who talks trash and sells beef jerky. It’s startling. Because the rest of the comic isn’t a gag, it’s a very straightforward–if bright–callback to the mainstream chiller comics of the seventies. Only with Kelley Jones art and out of sync Kelley Jones art. Jones has done Swamp Thing before, to great effect (I think), but… here? No. The colors are wrong, but no. Still no. Jones and Wein are out of sync.

The comic isn’t what I was expecting. I was expecting much better, not Swampy talking trash to an alligator named Albert, not cruddy narration, not too cheap exploitative cliffhangers. Swamp Thing is dumb.

Plus, Wein’s got very limited imagination for what he can do in the book. Swamp Thing on a case. Who cares?

It’s a complete and utter misfire, which is simultaneously comforting and distressing.

CREDITS

The Dead Don’t Sleep; writer, Len Wein; artist, Kelley Jones; colorist, Michelle Madsen; letterer, Rob Leigh; editor, Rebecca Taylor; publisher, DC Comics.

The Fade Out 12 (January 2016)

The Fade Out #12

Well, it’s definitely great. The last issue of Fade Out is a great comic. And it’s a great close to the series. But does it elevate Brubaker and Phillips to that superior level of comic book creators, the ones only mentioned with hushed tones and reverence? I don’t know.

I don’t know yet.

I’ll have to reread The Fade Out someday, in one sitting, and decide. Because the pacing of this issue is key and I’m reading it in a single dose, but it was clearly broken out in plotting as part of a bigger whole. As a single serving, it’s that great success I just said. Brubaker and Phillips wrap things up and then wrap them up again. In doing so, they take readers through not just a recap of the story, but a recap of the experience of the comic, making them reexamine their own interpretations of the comic.

It’s really good writing. Brubaker’s comfortable with the cast, comfortable readers will get their sometimes abbreviated appearances. There’s a lot going on this issue, with Brubaker dropping two revelations (both make a reread seem like a good idea).

Phillips excels through all those complications. He even has this wonderful “Is that Clark Gable? I know that’s George Sanders” forties Hollywood visual in-joke element. He and Brubaker are doing a film noir as a comic, but stepped back, but still using film noir visual queues.

I don’t know what a perfectly finished Brubaker comic feels like (or, if I do, I can’t remember), but The Fade Out comes the closest.

CREDITS

Tomorrow, When the World is Free; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

A Train Called Love 4 (December 2015)

A Train Called Love 4

It’s so funny. How can it be so funny? Ennis isn’t even trying this issue. He’s gotten through two bombshell reveals in the previous issue and here he sort of takes a break from comic narrative and instead goes for easy laughs.

And it works. Something about Ennis’s style, something about Dos Santos’s artwork–Train Called Love is this leisurely, self-indulgent, cheaply funny (in a smart way) fun (big) little comic. Ennis enjoys the scenes. He drags them out; the characters are funnier the longer they’re on page, which is awesome. Dos Santos is responsible for a lot of the narrative pacing; he’s got a lot going on in, movement, expression, placement. His style’s simple (Saturday morning cartoon almost) but he knows what he’s doing with it.

Even though not all of this issue connects as much as it could–the pillow talk sequence feels forced–the conclusion is awesome. Ennis wraps up the issue’s plot (a little), moves a couple subplots forward, including a big one, and then manages to end on another surprise. If A Train Called Love manages to keep this speed and quality for all of its twelve issues, it might actually end up being one of Ennis’s most impressive limited series.

CREDITS

Everybody Knows That I Love You; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Marc Dos Santos; colorist, Salvatore Aiala Studios; letterer, Rob Steen; editor, Rachel Pinnelas; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Auteur: Sister Bambi 5 (December 2015)

The Auteur: Sister Bambi #5

I don’t know. I’m not sure what other response one should have to Sister Bambi’s conclusion, just because—well, first off, it has almost nothing to do with this series and instead serves to close off the entire Auteur franchise (unfortunately)—but because the comic is so strange.

Spears splits the (double-sized) issue between a script for what seems more like the final issue of Sister Bambi and regular comic story. The regular comic story has Rex battling it out with what seems to be his creator (only Spears only writes the book, so maybe it’s supposed to be Callahan). Is it a reflection on the state of the creator and the creation? Of the artist’s place in the twenty-first century? Or is it just Spears and Callahan being gross?

The comic works, to some degree, on all three levels, but never all the way. Even though Callahan puts a lot of work into the art, the story isn’t particularly engaging. Especially not when juxtaposed against Spears’s other script, which one can easily imagine visualized and it would be rather funny.

So, in the end, Sister Bambi’s conclusion seems to be a mercy killing, which is odd, because if readers made it through ten issues… they might want something better for Rex and company.

Spears and Callahan achieve irreverent and absurd; hopefully they weren’t going profound and sublime. Either way, it’s one heck of a way to end a comic.

CREDITS

None of Us Get Out of Here Alive; writer and letterer, Rick Spears; artist, James Callahan; colorist, Luigi Anderson; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

Code Pru 1 (December 2015)

Code Pru is that traditional college tale of the four girls rooming together and one of them invokes an Elder God to bring about the end of the world. Because another girl, the tech girl, is mean to the magic cult leader girl. Standard stuff.

It’s accessible–writer Garth Ennis never goes too far, he never gets mean in his humor–and it’s likable. Ennis is conveying a mood of affable misanthropy. No one’s perfect, so let’s laugh at everyone. It’s a nice, showy approach. All of the roommates–except the mean girl leader–get some solid characterization, especially tech girl, who’s ostensibly the lead (she’s Pru). But the other two as well. Ennis is showing off. He’s strutting.

Of course, it wouldn’t work with the wrong art so Ennis has something to strut about given Raulo Caceres’s gorgeously creepy, but never gross, black and white artwork. Caceres has some problems with detail from time to time, but he knows how to make them immaterial against the style. His style is key.

Because Code Pru has to be scary but not unpleasantly scary. Even the Elder God–see, I wasn’t kidding, it’s this Lovecraftian thing because, obviously, Avatar–even the Elder God is kind of okay looking. Pleasant looking.

It’s funny, it’s creepy, it’s awesome. Awesome work from Ennis and Caceres.

CREDITS

What’s Past is Prologue; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

War Stories 15 (December 2015)

War Stories #15

I didn’t want to read this issue of War Stories. Not specifically. I mean, I didn’t really care about finishing up this stupid American flier arc where Ennis doesn’t want to tell the story of the action hero. It’s a weird version of a Technicolor fifties war movie, only without a love interest and the narrator doesn’t have a good story for himself. I just didn’t want to read an issue of War Stories where Ennis writes terrible narration.

And he does terrible narration for this issue. The doctor waxes poetic, like a trailer to The Thin Red Line or Saving Private Ryan even. Ennis’s narration sounds trite. The entire arc’s been a hurried mess, but it’s like there are whole missing pieces. The story of the actual flier, the subject of the arc, gets incomprehensibly muddled. Maybe because Aira’s faces are so bad. He draws people so ugly, you don’t even want to look at them (seriously, it’s like something out of Providence), so you rush through the talking heads. It’s fine, because it’s all historical exposition. Ennis could have thrown in some actual charts and had it be more dramatically authentic.

War Stories can be the low budget passion project of the otherwise successful brand (Garth Ennis). But not if Ennis, the writer, can’t muster the enthusiasm to care about it. He should have just alternated arcs with another writer (or writers). It would’ve been better for the brand and it would’ve been better for the book.

CREDITS

Tokyo Club, Part Three: Sun-Setter; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Lazarus 21 (December 2015)

Lazarus #21

Rucka gets so much done this issue, so many plot threads tied up–while introducing a great new one in the soft cliffhanger–I can’t even remember them all. It’s an extra-sized issue, which helps, because there’s a lot going on besides the war comic.

This issue, with Forever and her unit attacking the enemy’s position? It’s a war comic. It’s Michael Lark doing a war comic; sort of future-y, but not really. It’s also Lark doing an action comic. Forever’s in an action movie version of a war; she’s Chuck Norris. It’s awesome, because Rucka maintains the tone, maintains the seriousness. He, Lark and co-inker Tyler Boss are as restrained and careful as ever.

The rest of the comic has the family working on a cure for the patriarch while one of the daughters has to take over for the “in charge” brother because he can’t hack it. It’s almost like an episode of “Dallas,” only with a bunch of military stuff going on. But it’s all off-panel; it creates a lot of tension for Forever.

Lazarus continues to be a fantastic book.

CREDITS

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

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