Prophet Earth War 3 (April 2016)

Prophet Earth War 3

There’s something inexplicable about this issue of Prophet Earth War. It doesn’t redeem the series or correct the trajectory or make up for a bad ending to the previous series, but it does reward the reader for sticking through. Like it’s nothing, writers Graham and Roy tell a rather good issue of Prophet about Rein and Diehard. It’s during the Earth War thing, but it’s also a return to that beautiful storytelling, that magical storytelling, this series once had.

This issue isn’t as great as I want it to be. It runs a little long, Graham and Roy waste some pages before they get to the personality. The Grim Wilkins art is fantastic though, so it appeals to the visual imagination. It’s a wonderful world Wilkins renders, full of strange life, perfectly complimenting Graham and Roy’s exposition.

It’s a solid effort, sincere, careful, reserved. Graham and Roy never go too far. There’s such a sadness about the characters, even when they’re laughing or happy, there is always a sadness. As a Prophet fan–even though I forgot what it meant to be a Prophet fan–I love this issue. Is it so bad to wish it was always this good, Earth War or not?

The backup, from Sean Witzka and Ian Macewan, is fine. It’s a future heist thing with a Paris Hilton knock-off and a decent Alien reference. Macewan’s art is excellent. He fits in a lot of procedural detail while maintaining a fun personality for the characters. Witzka’s script is a tad boring. So much exposition. So many narrators.


Writers, Brandon Graham and Simon Roy; artist, Grim Wilkins; colorists, Joseph Bergin III and Lin Visel; letterer, Ed Brisson. Back up story, The Azimuth Job; writer, Sean Witzke; artist, Ian Macewan; colorist, Sloane Leong. Publisher, Image Comics.

Velvet 14 (April 2016)

Velvet #14

Brubaker just did the Brubaker thing where his narrating protagonist finds something out but the reader can’t know about it so instead the protagonist just talks about how this piece of information is earth-shattering. It might not even be the first time Brubaker’s used this device in Velvet. It just sticks out because it involves the kidnapping of Richard Milhouse Nixon, who’s a vaguely likable dope here. Certainly far more likable than Ford, who also shows up for a second to get blackmailed.

The Nixon appearance, the Ford appearance, the guy at the end who is either the Sean Connery from The Rock stand-in or maybe he’s just supposed to be Sean Connery James Bond, it’s all a bunch of nonsense. I mean, it’s pretty nonsense to be sure. Even though Epting doesn’t have much to draw here, he draws it all very well. The kidnapping of the President is real boring. Brubaker sort of rushes through it. He hurries, let’s say he hurries. It doesn’t give Epting anything to do with it, except occasional (and awesome) Nixon reaction shots.

But the comic ends with the guy who’s after Velvet tracking down Velvet. Sure, she knows more than she did before, sure, James Bond might now be involved, but who cares. It’s a bridging issue. The red herrings are just there to distract from how little is going on.

Like I said, it’s Brubaker doing a Brubaker standard. I wasn’t surprised or even disappointed. Just a little tired. If only Epting had something great to visualize, the issue might’ve worked out a lot better.


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

Johnny Red 6 (May 2016)

Johnny Red #6

How long is Ennis going to keep Johnny Red going? I assumed it was six issues, but it seems much more like eight at this point.

There’s no moss on this one, no wasted panels. Ennis and Burns have a lot to do. They have a sensational cliffhanger to resolve and then explain. The explanation sequence–the secret policeman laying it all out for Johnny Red and his squadron–is excellent. It’s a lot of history (is it?) and Ennis keeps it lively with some reaction moments for the supporting cast, but, really, he’s giving Burns a lecture to illustrate engagingly.

And Burns succeeds. Just like Burns succeeds later on with the big action sequence. The squadron, reunited with Johnny, trapped behind enemy lines, feels removed from everything around them. They’re in a bubble, which occasionally makes the issue seems a little disconnected, but Ennis has to get through this material. It’s one part of the series’s pay-off (and coming before the final issue is a nice surprise).

I’m hopeful Ennis will land Johnny Red successfully, whenever he gets around to it, issue seven, eight, or twelve. But I’m not worried at all about Burns. Again, on the ground, he manages to impress more than he ever did in the air.


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

The Baker Street Peculiars 2 (April 2016)

The Baker Street Peculiars #2

I’m not sure what Langridge is shooting for as far as minimum age requirement for Baker Street. It’s a fine issue, with great art from Hirsch and some wonderful scenes from Langridge, but it gets rough. And one of the Peculiars seems to be ten or eleven and, I don’t know… it just seems scary. I found it disturbing, I mean. Langridge ostensibly kills off a couple characters on page.

Ostensibly because maybe they could recover from their deaths in a later issue. There’s magic involved, very inventive magic. Langridge does Baker Street with thirties enthusiasm, Sherlock Holmes enthusiasm and magic enthusiasm. Very specific magic enthusiasm, which he’s excited to share. The comic doesn’t feel didactic but it feels quite smart.

The first half of the issue, bringing all the Peculiars back together, sending them to get their mission–it’s real strong. Langridge and Hirsch don’t have anything but good moments. There’s a charm in the writing, a charm in the art. They’re similar but different enough for Baker Street to have just the right level of enthusiasm. Even though everything in the second half is good, it’s never as seamless as the first. Langridge gets a little lost in all the exposition, then the severe danger.

But it’s a dang good comic regardless.


The Case of the Cockney Golem, Chapter Two: The Lion, the Lord, & the Landlady; writer, Roger Langridge; artist and letterer, Andy Hirsch; colorist, Fred Stressing; editors, Cameron Chittock and Sierra Hahn; publisher, KaBOOM!

Johnny Red 5 (March 2016)

Johnny Red #5

Burns might have just done one of the best comic book action sequences. The way he and Ennis pace out the issue’s second half, with Johnny infiltrating a German compound to rescue his men, is unbelievable. They get so much done. They identify the compound, they land a plane, they get Johnny to the compound, to his men, to the cliffhanger. Burns is good at the plane stuff, but he’s peerless pacing out that ground stuff. Johnny Red moves beautifully.

It also has time to resolve the previous issue’s cliffhanger, establish what Johnny’s sidekicks are doing, and how Johnny knows a Red Baron-type German flier. It’s a brilliantly paced comic. Ennis even gets in a reference to the flashback framing device, which doesn’t even get half a page this issue.

Johnny Red is great Ennis World War II stuff with an artist who is able to take it beyond what Ennis is usually able to achieve. And it’s a relaunch of an existing brand no less. Excellent stuff.


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

Prophet Earth War 2 (March 2016)

Prophet: Earth War #2

What is this comic? It’s definitely a Prophet comic. It reminds of when Graham and Roy would follow up some great issue with an inexplicable, but also great, fill-in. Only this issue of Earth War isn’t great. It’s all around pedestrian, which is a painful thing to say but… less painful than the comic (at least in the context of Prophet overall).

The story is simple. There’s one of the bad guy John Prophets who decides to kill all the Earth Mothers. So he does. There’s a little more to it, but not much. The issue is a series of fight scenes with minimal exposition and even less character. Nothing interesting about the setting. The backup tries to compensate for the feature’s lack of exploration, but it’s too little, too late.

Eventually, the one really bad ass Earth Mother comes to Earth to fight the bad John Prophet, who was multiple arms and looks more like a Rob Liefeld creation than anything in the comic, which is a Liefeld creation, has to date. I’m using “Liefeld creation” as a pejorative (hopefully the tone made it clear).

Now for the even more unpleasant part. Ron Ackins’s art. It appears painted (but I don’t think it is actually painted) and it’s a bad fit for Prophet. Earth War sort of feels like Prophet Lite and the lack of detail in the art enables that negative sentiment. There’s a dullness when Prophet needs to be sharp.

The aforementioned backup, with art from Aaron Conley and a script by Shannon Lentz, is at least an attempt at a Prophet tale. It’s detailed, it’s got intricate exposition, it’s gross. But it’s also not enough.

Earth War feels lost.


Writers, Brandon Graham and Simon Roy; artists, Ron Ackins; colorists, Paul Davey and Ackins; letterer, Ed Brisson. Back up story, The Shape of Tools to Come; writer, Shannon Lentz; artist, Aaron Conley; colorist, Joseph Bergin II. Publisher, Image Comics.

Ganges 5 (February 2016)

Ganges #5

Huizenga. Ganges. It’s been ages. I don’t even think I’ve read the previous issue.

An issue of Ganges operates on many levels. There’s what Huizenga is doing as a cartoonist, what he’s doing with the art. But then there’s why he’s doing it. This issue has a history lesson and a science lesson. Huizenga should probably just do a bunch of science books. They would catch on. He’s great at presenting these complex ideas in welcoming, understanding artwork.

Still, it’s not just information for the reader, it’s information for the protagonist, Glenn (Ganges). Glenn is reading some of this history book to his girlfriend, he’s also just reading some of it to himself. Huizenga takes those distinctions seriously. The story whirls the reader around, even during the longer sequences. Glenn has a busy mind (the premise is he can’t sleep because he can’t stop thinking) so the comic itself has to be busy. It also has to be methodical and reasonable because Glenn’s mind is reasonable to itself. Presumably.

It’s a wonderful comic. Huizenga always delivers. Whether it’s the history lesson, the science lesson, the physics lesson, Glenn and his girlfriend almost fighting, a funeral, whatever–Huizenga delivers magnificent scenes and sequences. Ganges. Huizenga. Phenomenal.


Writer and artist, Kevin Huizenga; publisher, Fantagraphics.

Pretty Deadly 9 (April 2016)

Pretty Deadly #9

Pretty Deadly is such a strange book. Rios’s art is perfect. She’s got a fable to do, the World War I battlefield, the mystical stuff. It’s all perfect. She’s controlled in showing the horrific nature of combat, very precise. The comic is visually unsettling, which is an ideal match for DeConnick’s approach to the script. It’s meticulous while still being confusing.

With Deadly, I always wonder if reading it three times an issue, then again in the trade, would be the best way to get all of it. DeConnick has so much going on–and toggles between things (you’ve got to love how she basically is doing traditional, juxtaposed comic book action), plus there’s the fable to figure in.

It’s serious work. I think I love that aspect of Pretty Deadly the most. It’s very, very serious. Rios and DeConnick aren’t messing around. If there’s a smile in the issue (and I don’t think there is one this issue), it’s because DeConnick is letting the reader have it. Mystical embodiments of war and death aren’t funny. The First World War isn’t funny. It’s not a gag. It’s a backdrop for DeConnick and Rios’s explorations.

I’ll read all again someday, once it’s finished. I want that experience.


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

Criminal: Tenth Anniversary Special (April 2016)

Criminal: 10th Anniversary Special


On its own, Criminal: Tenth Anniversary Special is objectively excellent. Writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips do the touching story of a boy and his jerk criminal dad. Set in 1978. And there’s a juxtaposing of an old Marvel-esque kung fu comic. It’s scary, it’s funny, it’s sad. It’s a great story.

But there’s so much texture to it all, as the special ties into the old Criminal books. It’s not a haphazard anniversary issue by a couple excellent creators; it’s an excellent anniversary issue, its creators taking it all very seriously. Brubaker and Phillips aren’t congratulating themselves with this Special, they’re awarding the reader with it. It’s this perfectly paced, perfectly conceived gem of a book. It’s got beautiful art from Phillips. He has this way of protecting the son whenever his father is around, implying it through the composition and the panel layouts. It’s such a smart comic.

It’s also fun. The kid meets a girl. She’s precocious. Brubaker hinges the whole comic on her–it’s a pre-teen romance of sorts–and he does a great job on her character. He presents the readers two views into the story, one through the kid’s, one through the girl’s. He does it with this wonderfully prompt pacing–Brubaker and Phillips and colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser (who’s become an essential part of the team) take advantage of every page, every panel. It’s flawlessly executed.

The Criminal: Tenth Anniversary Special is a class act and a great comic.


Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Kennel Block Blues 3 (April 2016)

Kennel Block Blues #3

I had to reread parts of this issue of Kennel Block Blues because it really does fit my theorized pattern to Ferrier’s four issue limited series. Great open, weak second issue, then strong for the last two. The guy needs to just go with three issue limited series, he really does.

This issue has the hero–Oliver (not Elliot, I think I called him Elliot last time)–in solitary. He’s got to confront the truth about himself in order to become the superhero. It’s not deep because it’s kind of absurd. Ferrier’s trying to do it from the dog’s perspective, but not the anthropomorphized dog, the actual adorable puppy.

Bayliss does a wonderful job with all the art. He’s got three very different tones to bring together and he does–real world, “human” world, hallucination world. Blues becomes a Disney movie for a second, then goes back to being a Miramax movie.

It’s a strange book and not entirely successful. The characters are good, but thin. Ferrier’s relying on the gimmick. Albeit a sturdy gimmick.

Good comic.


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

Letter 44 24 (April 2016)

Letter 44 #24

Reading Letter 44, I always wonder, with this issue be my last. Will Soule or Alburquerque do something I just can’t get onboard with. Usually, it’s never anything seismic so I get over it (Alburquerque’s Roman centurion garb for future soldiers) but Soule is tripling down with the religious “message” here. Message gets quotation marks because who cares if the whole thing is just God’s messengers saving some of humanity.

I mean, if I wanted to read some sci-fi along those lines, there’s always the Arthur C. Clarke Rama series of books. Soule doesn’t bring anything to the genre (Christian sci-fi). Even though he does get back to his “West Wing” knock-off a little bit, but it’s been too long. Letter 44 doesn’t get by on charm or ingenuity anymore. I read it because I’m a Letter 44 reader.

And this issue will not be my last. But the next one might be. It’s just too much. Soule’s drained all the humanity from the comic. It’s a bunch of scenes with people you sort of remember caring about at one point.

Oddly, the most startling thing about the issue isn’t the crucifixion imagery or the Jesus imagery… it’s Tupac cameoing in a flashback set in January 2004. Tupac, of course, died in September 1996. Maybe there’s a sci-fi God in the Letter 44 universe, which is fine, but if you’re going to bring in Tupac for a terribly edited cameo, make him surviving part of the comic.

Otherwise, teach the editor of the book how to use Wikipedia. Or Google. Or even Bing. Ask Siri. I don’t know. Something. Edit this book. It’s too late to fix it, but editing would still help a lot.


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

The Spire 6 (January 2016)

The Spire #6

This issue of The Spire is a weird read. It takes place outside the city, with Shå in disguise and acting as a bodyguard. A forbidden, unknown bodyguard, but bodyguard nonetheless. There’s a lot about the religious fanatics, setting them up as villains–with the awkward shortcut of comparing them to Christian fundamentalist bigots. But while Spurrier’s setting all that stuff up in the wasteland, he’s also keeping some wheels of intrigue running in the city.

With the setting, with the wasteland, Spurrier and Stokely have this foreign but very familiar comic book sci-fi setting. It’s just the right mix of everything, so beautifully brought together with Stokely’s organic artwork. He’s got the right level of detail, though he does go deeper with it on the wasteland half of the issue. It’s a voyage of discovery not just for the reader, but the characters as well. The reader has finally become a Spire city dweller.

But since Shå is in disguise the whole issue, the comic sort of doesn’t look like The Spire. Shå, as a character, changes. Her actions read differently with a different face. I’m curious if Spurrier’s going to do anything with it or I was just surprised to see the viciousness in an altered context.

Great finale with Shå interrogating an evil priest guy. Very unexpected finish.


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

Kennel Block Blues 2 (March 2016)

Kennel Block Blues #2

Kennel Block Blues has that predictable Ferrier drop in quality the second issue. I’m fine with it. What’s weird–and I was expecting Ferrier to have a drop because he’s stretched three issues worth of story to four issues before–is how well Blues contains the explosion. The story this issue–involving a terribly planned prison break (I mean, one really has to question the intelligence of this dogs)–rearranges the characters. It doesn’t develop them, it moves them to different places in the narrative. Actually, it’s weirder than I thought….

Well, in rearranging the characters’ conflicts, it acts more as a postscript to the first issue than it’s own part of a whole. It’s a treading water issue, only really, really fast treading. Ferrier has a lot to get through. He and Bayliss don’t just have the prison break to stretch out, they also have the way they introduce the plan. It’s awesome visual pacing from Bayliss. It’s not particularly effective because there’s no content, but the art’s great.

So, even though it’s not a great comic, it’s a well-produced mediocre one. Ferrier hasn’t found the right editor. Or I’ll be wrong and the next issue of Blues won’t recover; I think it will though.


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

Johnny Red 4 (February 2016)

Johnny Red #4

It’s a bridging issue of Johnny Red, which is sort of fine, sort of not. Ennis concentrates on writing really good scenes–he has them for his leads, he even has one leading up to the cliffhanger (so a good setup scene with some German pilots)–but he lets the plot get very, very loose.

Ennis doesn’t even spend any time on his framing narrative. There’s a page with the modern-day storyteller explaining the found plane isn’t interesting, but what Johnny does next in the flashback. Presumably next issue because nothing’s interesting here. It’s engaging because Ennis knows how to write the comic, but it’s not interesting. It’s a distracting transition, actually, with Ennis apparently using the present-day frame to setup whatever’s next in the flashback. Then he doesn’t deliver anything major.

Instead, good scenes, nice character moments, not much excitement. It’s texture, but it’s also just a bridging issue. Johnny Red, which I think runs six issues, could have run five.

Some nice art from Burns, who has a great sense of movement for the planes in the air, though he gets bored drawing the talking heads parts.

It’s a perfectly solid bridging issue.


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


The Baker Street Peculiars 1 (March 2016)

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The Baker Street Peculiars is pure delight. Of course it is. Baker Street is Roger Langridge finding a wonderful collaborator in artist Andy Hirsch. Both creators have separate enthusiasms for the comic, in addition to where their enthusiasms coincide. The setting, for example, is a place where Langridge and Hirsch both find ways to get excited about their respective contributions. Langridge has all sorts of narrative and dialogue flourishes, while Hirsch has them on the art. The book has a fantastic energy.

Langridge opens in the middle of a chase sequence, bringing the three leads together. They’re an ideally mismatched bunch–shop-keeper’s granddaughter, rich kid, Bengali street urchin–who are each adventurers, but almost in a non-fantastical “kid’s adventure” sort of way. Their team-up leads them into a truly great adventure. Though, as Langridge and Hirsch have fun showing, any adventuring in 1930s London is going to be pretty awesome.

Of course, I’m not talking about everything with the book because I’m not sure where it’s going to go next issue. If the big twist–which is beautifully handled–is resolved next issue, I’ll spoil. Otherwise, I’m waiting until the finish. Needless to say, Langridge does wonders with the expectations he and Hirsch build throughout the comic to deal with the twist. It’s expertly done.


The Case of the Cockney Golem, Chapter One: A Beast in Baker Street; writer, Roger Langridge; artist and letterer, Andy Hirsch; colorist, Fred Stressing; editors, Cameron Chittock and Sierra Hahn; publisher, KaBOOM!

Letter 44 23 (February 2016)

Letter 44 #23

Soule has turned Letter 44 into a metaphor for space Jesus. It’s not a subtle metaphor. There are no subtle metaphors in Letter 44 anymore. There’s nothing subtle. And, as I read it from that resignation, the issue does amuse. Soule doesn’t push me off the book. He’s not too lazy, he’s not too obvious.

Because there is a lot going on in Letter 44 and Soule does keep it organized in a very understandable way. Soule’s storytelling techniques are still on display, just no engaging plotting ones. There’s nothing fresh about the series anymore. The plot developments no longer surprise.

Alburquerque’s art actually manages to be ambitious when Soule’s script doesn’t. Alburquerque tries to have the characters give performances. It’s not entirely successful but it’s energy. Letter 44 is on autopilot.

As usual, autopilot or not, I’ll be back for more, because Soule can impress. He can do excellent work. He’s done it on Letter 44. I want to read more of it because it’s good; I want it on Letter 44 because I miss being excited to read this book. It used to be a thrill and now I dread it.

And then end up not minding it as much as I thought I would.


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

Providence 8 (March 2016)

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Is it possible Providence may not fulfill all those terrifying promises Moore has made to this point? The series is in its second half and Moore just surprised me with the most obvious narrative development–H.P. Lovecraft. Providence can be homage to Lovecraft, but I never thought he was going to pop up. It changes things. Obviously, the protagonist isn’t going to end the series well–does any Lovecraftian protagonist ever end a story well–but the world might not end.

But it’s Moore and Providence does nothing if not surprise, so I’m assuming I’m not going to guess it right. During the comic, Moore doesn’t encourage contemplations about the next reveal. He’s too concentrated on guiding the reader’s experience, letting the issue’s lettering choices pace out its visual consumption. He delights with the exposition, he delights with the way he conveys it.

Moore juxtaposes how he writes to guide the reader’s experience of the book with how he writes about the protagonist’s experiences with guided hypnosis. Again, thanks to the back matter diary, Robert Black has become the eyes the reader uses the experience most of the world of Providence. So Moore wrapping a couple layers around this visually stimulating, jarringly paced jaunt through dreamland? It’s amazing.

Then Moore just goes back to the comic, goes back to the story. The back matter has a couple soft reveals about the events in the issue. Moore’s got a far more amiable tone this issue. He’s enjoying telling the story.

While often disturbing, Providence is just such a well-told story, it gives you the warm tentacle slimies.

Gorgeous Burrows art as always. The way he and Moore pace out the narrative visually is peerless. They’re an excellent, sort of unlikely team. Burrows has a pragmatic feel to his art and Moore utilizes it to better convey the story.

Another awesome issue.


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

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