Pretty Deadly 8 (February 2016)

Pretty Deadly #8

Pretty Deadly has become a book I savor. DeConnick and Rios have lost their Western setting–though it does still play a part visually and thematically–and gotten into World War I. The trenches. Deadly has become a war comic.

Except the magic is different. It’s still evil, bad magic, but it doesn’t affect the war comic’s protagonist in the same way it did in the series’s first arc. He’s far more the subject of the plot than an actor in it. That narrative distance works because of both DeConnick and Rios’s individual contributions.

When the comic moves between subplots, Rios has subtle changes in style. Sometimes in the level of detail, sometimes in figures’ fluidity. There’s a flow to Deadly, weaving between the subplots.

Pretty Deadly is a confusing, dense read. DeConnick relies on Rios to help make it easier to read while also contributing to the density. DeConnick doesn’t want any grounding to the supernatural. It’s not science, it’s not quantum physics, it’s supernatural. Accepting it–and not dwelling on it–is one of the series’s agreements with the reader. DeConnick doesn’t allow any alternatives.

And, yet, she isn’t hostile about it. Pretty Deadly goes out of its way to be welcoming. It’s endearing–and even makes the really disturbing villains endearing.

It’s really good. This issue isn’t one of the best either. And it’s still really good.

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Sigrid Ellis; publisher, Image Comics.

Code Pru 2 (January 2016)

Code Pru #2

Code Pru wraps up this issue–the series continues as part of the upcoming Avatar anthology Cinema Purgatorio, which seems kind of odd for Garth Ennis. Garth Ennis is the name and Code Pru, with Caceres perfectly creepy art on it, the book seems like it has a lot of potential. Running it into an anthology? Bold move and a good sales pitch for Purgatorio.

Ennis isn’t dealing with religion here. He’s dealing with monsters. Old god monsters, sure, but monsters. But the way he approaches them is the same as he did religious issues. He’s branching out, with less interest in religious commentary and more on his characters. Plus, he gets to tell a lot of dirty jokes from unlikely characters. It’s fun. It’s also scary.

It’s more scary because Ennis didn’t even do a pilot episode for what’s coming. He did a prologue. It’s a cute idea and such a genial, friendly read, Pru can get away with it. But there’s no indication of what’s coming and my expectations are through the roof.

CREDITS

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

Velvet 13 (February 2016)

Velvet #13

Epting gets a little loose this issue, but it’s some great action art. The thing about Velvet is how well the creators understand what they’re doing. Brubaker occasionally pushes too far–The Rock Sean Connery thing–but Epting never does. His seventies action is perfect.

Brubaker does a talking heads book, mixed with some stylized action and dramatic–but uniquely underplayed–story beats. It’s a strange book–the situations aren’t spy movie, but spy novel. There’s no way, CG or no-CG, you can do some of Velvet’s stunts. So, instead, Brubaker and Epting have figured out how to perfect the spy comic. Same basic genre, only they get to take advantage of the comic book medium’s particularities to further the tale.

Velvet’s potential successes are limited–it’s pulp, there’s only so much anyone can do with just pulp–but Brubaker and Epting take it seriously. They’re pushing at the boundaries of the genre. Seeing them take it seriously is part of why Velvet is so much fun to read.

CREDITS

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

Kennel Block Blues 1 (February 2016)

Kennel Block Blues #1

Prison comics are, often from Boom!, now a thing. Ryan Ferrier and Daniel Bayliss’s Kennel Block Blues is an animal kennel–a cross-species animal kennel–as a prison. It’s one of those books I sort of wish I’d see from Vertigo. Well, Vertigo a few years ago. Something media-friendly without being prepackaged for other media. It’s mainstream pop culture, but the more erudite varieties.

It’s also excellent.

Ferrier’s protagonist, whose name I don’t remember–Buddy, maybe–is freshly incarcerated. He’s the entry point. Through him, we meet the other canine inmates–the cats are the dominate species in Blues. There’s male and female inmates together. Not even a thought, presumably because they’re all spayed and neutered.

There’s funny pet stuff, there’s depressingly bleak prison stuff. Ferrier’s got the right tone and he’s got the right artist. Bayliss has been kicking around for a while and Blues has his work the tightest I’ve seen it. He gets to be busy but still restrained, still focused on moving the story forward.

Knowing Ferrier, the ride will be rocky but rewarding–or maybe he’s got a better plot line this series. Blues is a confident, assured comic. The creators, the editors. It’s deservedly slick. Ferrier’s gotten to be a writer I look forward to reading. And Boom!’s brand comes with some built-in respect these days.

CREDITS

Writer, Ryan Ferrier; artist, Daniel Bayliss; colorist, Adam Metcalfe; letterer, Colin Bell; editors, Mary Gunport and Eric Harburn; publisher, Image Comics.

Providence 7 (January 2016)

Providence #7

Robert Black is not a likable protagonist. He’s a sympathetic protagonist, with Moore pulling on the heart strings a little in Black’s sanctimonious stupidity, but he’s not likable. He’s a self-important tool and his inability to change makes his troubles somewhat sympathy inducing, but not enough to overshadow the rest of the book.

And, in this case, by rest of the book, I don’t even mean the illustrated portions of the comic, but more of the written back matter. Moore’s trying, with the back matter, to teach the reader how to read Providence, how to imagine Providence. It’s almost like Moore’s giving us his notes and asking for our opinion.

Of course, the comic matter of this issue of Providence is excellent. Moore does two or three surprise reveals in the back matter–things Burrows illustrates in order to hide something for later, thereby changing not just one understanding, but affecting all subsequent ones. I do wish I had read the book once without any of the back matter. I wonder if I wait long enough after the series finishes, if I can see how it works just as the comic.

Some great art from Burrows. Nice mixed media approach. And Moore introduces one of Providence’s first lovable characters. He’ll probably eat Robert in the last issue.

It’s another great issue. Providence is superb.

CREDITS

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

Cry Havoc 1 (January 2016)

Cry Havoc #1

Yeah, wrong Simon Spurrier. How common a name is Simon Spurrier? It seems somewhat specific. I suppose one could do some cross referencing via Google but whatever. I read this comic, Cry Havoc, because I thought it was the other Simon Spurrier writing with Ryan Kelly on art.

I’m pretty sure it’s the regular Ryan Kelly, though his colorists do a lot of work. He has three, one for each setting. The comic is the story of a punk violinist who gets bitten by a werewolf and goes to work for the American government. I think she might be British.

I think I’m going to keep reading it, even though none of the colorists complement Kelly’s art particularly well. The pop London stuff gets tired, the war stuff doesn’t look right. I suppose the “Red Place”–I can’t believe I’m going to try reading a werewolf comic. Good grief.

It’s almost okay. Spurrier takes himself way too seriously, but Cry Havoc is almost okay. What’s strange is how impersonal Kelly’s art comes across.

CREDITS

Dog Days; writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Ryan Kelly; colorists, Nick Filardi, Lee Loughridge and Matt Wilson; letterer, Simon Bowland; publisher, Image Comics.

The Spire 5 (December 2015)

The Spire #5

Politics, romance, danger, The Spire.

Five issues into the series and it still has a lot of surprises. Not just in the plot or a twist, which this issue ends on, but in how Spurrier is going to approach it. This issue is very straightforward, nearly noir with Shå having to figure some things out while trying to protect her girlfriend, her queen, not to mention having to get her sidekick back.

It’s a lot. And it’s packed because Stokely’s drawing this amazing setting–Stokely and Spurrier even do full page spreads, which is a little weird for The Spire. And Stokely’s not great at them, quite frankly, but I like seeing them. I like seeing Spurrier and Stokely open up The Spire. It feels like the series is still growing.

Spurrier’s writing is outstanding. Shå’s becoming something of a great character, which I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting.

CREDITS

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

The Humans 4 (February 2015)

The Humans #4

It’s The Humans version of a bridging issue, except because of how Keller paces it out, it’s just the plot perturbing. Each issue of The Humans has revealed another potential of the comic and this one is no different. The ability to further the plot while distracting the reader with a solid “done in one” situation is getting rarer, but Keller certainly knows what he’s doing.

He and Neely work for readers’ dollars. It’s a little surprising to see such concern for the reader, actually. The Humans is a complex book, with lots of characters, lots of C plots, lots of scenery. Keller and Neely make sure the reader can digest all of it. There’s a lot of effort and value in the content.

Still, and it’s the pessimist in me, I hope Keller doesn’t do these performances too often. The Humans is high concept (sci-fi Planet of the Apes, home front Vietnam stuff) and Keller seems more than willing to work at that high concept. He ought to have fun, but not at the expense of the book’s more serious qualities.

CREDITS

Welcome to the Skin-Cage; writer, Keenan Marshall Keller; artist, Tom Neely; colorist, Kristina Collantes; publisher, Image Comics.

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