Scooby Apocalypse 1 (July 2016)

Scooby: Apocalypse #1

I wouldn’t call Scooby: Apocalypse so much good as successful. It’s Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis doing a “grown-up” version of Scooby Doo, which isn’t something I would’ve thought there’d be an audience for but now I’m not so sure. All of Giffen and DeMatteis’s instincts when it comes to the characters are spot on. They’re “grown-up” and modernized but still annoying in the same ways.

And Howard Porter’s art is an interesting choice. Velma and Scooby are the most successful, with Daphne and Fred being somewhere in the more obvious realm and Shaggy being a riff on eighties Mike Grell Green Arrow for whatever reason. In look, not characterization. As far as characterization, it remains to be seen if Giffen and DeMatteis have arcs for the characters or just a lot of solid banter.

The story’s fine–it’s the team’s origin story, Scooby is a failed Army super-dog experiment, Daphne and Fred are lame TV journalists, Shaggy is Scooby’s hopefully stoned handler. I didn’t notice any bud though. If Giffen and DeMatteis can get away making Shaggy and Scooby actual stoners… well, it’d be funny.

Even though Porter’s visualizations of characters are sometimes weird, his art’s totally competent. He puts work into it and he does get how to pace out the script’s jokes.

It’s not a great comic, but it’s not a bad one at all.

CREDITS

Waiting for the End of the World; writers, Keith Griffen and J.M. DeMatteis; artist, Howard Porter; colorist, Hi-Fi; letterer, Nick J. Napolitano; editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Johnny Red 7 (June 2016)

Johnny Red #7

It’s an action issue and not much of one. Lots of exposition, lots of scenes, lots of flying and getting nowhere. Ennis doesn’t lose the series’s momentum, but it’s the first Johnny Red in a while to not leave me stunned. The achievement is probably not losing their momentum.

Because there’s nothing to this comic. It’s a bunch of plot stirring, a bunch of poking the bear. Ennis teases the reader over and over again. It’s gently manipulative but in obvious enough ways one can just look past it. Ennis has to get through the issue, he has to move the characters to certain places, position the story a certain way. He drags it out.

The worse part is how much Burns’s art suffers with the pacing problems. He’s got a lot of pages to fill with action and the occasional air battle suspense, but he doesn’t have much in the way of a story.

I’m hoping Ennis lands this one all right. I’m sure it’ll be at least “all right.” I’m not sure it’s going to go down as his essential World War II story though, something I was previously hopeful about.

CREDITS

Straight In and No Messing; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Keith Burns; colorist, Jason Wordie; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Jess Burton and Steve White; publisher, Titan Comics.

Letter 44 25 (May 2016)

Letter 44 #25

I think I just read my last issue of Letter 44, at least as a monthly. I’m not one hundred percent, but I’m a lot closer than I’ve been. Because this issue is where Soule shows just how good he is at dragging it all out. He’s really good at the pacing, bringing in just about everyone for this issue. There’s scene after scene with the Builders, the astronauts, the President, the reporter from a few issues ago. Then there’s this really manipulative cliffhanger and I just don’t care.

There needs to be a point to all the manipulation and there’s not. At least if Soule stuck with the Christian allegory stuff, he’d be doing something. Instead, he’s treading water. Lots of scenes, lots of exposition, a couple big pointless scenes (like the first one in the comic). If he can’t even work up enthusiasm for the story, why read it?

Letter 44 has always had one big disconnect–Soule’s a much better writer than Alburquerque is an artist. The book is all Soule. It’s a Soule-ful book, one might say.

Wokka wokka.

It’s not like Alburquerque swoops in and ups the art game to save it. The book’s wandered around too much, the characters are all jerks, who cares if the world blows up; at least they’d stop being jerks.

CREDITS

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

Afterlife with Archie 9 (July 2016)

Afterlife with Archie #9

This issue of Afterlife has a couple surprises. It’s mostly just a really tightly told tale from Aguirre-Sacasa, with some great art from Francavilla, but there’s a strange development at the end. Aguirre-Sacasa isn’t just doing Archie and zombies, he’s doing a horror comic. While zombies are part of it, the human cost is a bigger part.

This issue centers around Reggie, who I barely remember from my limited Archie exposure. He’s the dark Archie (who really quickly gives him up for dead and replaces him with Kevin, which just seems un-Archie) and Aguirre-Sacasa structures the comic around Reggie’s revelations to Kevin, his first person narration, and his deep fear of being a sociopath.

When the Bride of Cthulhu shows up to convince him to join the dark side… well, it’s unclear why Reggie’s choice is a surprise, but Aguirre-Sacasa makes it one. Even though Reggie shouldn’t be sympathetic, Aguirre-Sacasa writes him like a scared, confused kid. It results in a sympathetic character.

It’s an unpleasant issue. There’s no gore, there’s a lot of self-depreciation, there’s a lot of awkwardness. Aguirre-Sacasa utilizes a lot of flashbacks to tell Reggie’s story and, much like how the character’s mind operates, a lot of the book takes place in the imagination.

It’s not an exciting issue, however, not narratively speaking. It’s excellent work from Aguirre-Sacasa and Francavilla though. Assured, deliberate, freaky.

CREDITS

Betty: R.I.P., Chapter Four: The Trouble with Reggie; writer, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; artist and colorist, Francesco Francavilla; letterer, Jack Morelli; editors, Victor Gorelick and Jamie Lee Rotante; publisher, Archie Comics.

Kaijumax: Season Two 1 (May 2016)

Kaijumax: Season Two #1

Because if there’s one thing Kaijumax needs to be, it’s more depressing. Only this time it’s not prison depressing, it’s out of prison depressing. And Zander Cannon is exploring what it’s like to be a monster on the outside.

This issue has three storylines. First, the Kaijumax escapees holing up with a known associate who’s on parole. Cannon’s got a wonderful amount of detail for these scenes, how a giant monster goes about his or her daily life. Very sad stuff. Apparently Season Two of Kaijumax is going to address the bigotry against giant monsters, which seems slightly problematic. The regular people in Kaijumax are problematically portrayed in general, but in Season Two they’re basically all complete asshats. They abuse the paroled monsters, relishing in humiliating them. Like I said, not a happy book.

Then there’s the giant monster fighting robot whose brother is on Kaijumax and she’s writing him a letter about her human pilot. Cannon tries to do a whole lot as far as introducing new elements (life on the outside, life as a regular kaiju hunter, man or machine) and it’s not always successful. The art helps with a lot, but Cannon’s relying a lot on phrase references to Godzilla movies and so on. It’s just a lot, with characters blathering just to blather and to drop a Godzilla: Final Wars reference.

And that reference is fun and cool, it just doesn’t do anything for the book.

The third storyline is the disgraced prison guard. He has a decent enough scene, not too expository even though someone’s trying to tell him about life, but it doesn’t resonate. Nothing resonates yet. It’s all just histrionics and great art.

CREDITS

Same Ambergris, Different Day; writer, artist and letterer, Zander Cannon; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

Future Quest 1 (July 2016)

Future Quest #1

Jeff Parker. Doc Shaner. Steve Rude. Hanna-Barbera. Future Quest.

Three of those five phrases give chills or can (and certainly do in conjunction with one another) while one of them seems a little odd. Hanna-Barbera. But then you look at Future Quest and there’s nothing better looking than Shaner illustrating the Florida swamp playground of Jonny and Hadji. They’re flying around on jetpacks and bantering. It should be amazing and it does look amazing and it’s certainly all right, but Parker’s script for Future Quest is more competent than inspired. He’s teaming up Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters in a DC comic with Shaner and Rude art. He succeeds. But there’s nothing else to Future Quest.

So is it worth the price of admission for wholly competent scripting and glorious artwork? Sure. It’s got a lame, shoehorned hard cliffhanger and I’m a little perplexed why they teamed Shaner and Rude. Their styles for the book are near identical, so was it because Shaner had too many pages to do? Did Rude really want to do some talking heads? Because not much happens this issue. There’s a little bit of action, some sci-fi exposition stuff, character setup, but not much else. There’s no character development. It’s sort of sad to think of how well Parker can do a hodgepodge team book and then there’s this erstwhile event comic with a hodgepodge team and no connection with it.

Jeff Parker. Doc Shaner. Steve Rude. Those creator names are magical. But Future Quest isn’t magical, even though it’s got a lot of the right ingredients to be magical. It’s hard not to be a little disappointed. Especially considering how much better it might be if the characters actually had time to bond and truly interact, instead of move from set piece to set piece.

CREDITS

Lights in the Sky; writer, Jeff Parker; artists, Evan Shaner and Steve Rude; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Dave Lanphear; editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

[CBF] Comics Best Fondled! The Newsletter! Vol. 1! No. 1!

LOVE AND ROCKETS

No. 1 Sept. 1982

The first issue of Love and Rockets is six parts Beto (or ’Bert as he’s credited here) and five parts Jaime. Beto shows a flair for long, rambling narrative–five of his six chapters are parts of Bem, which features giant monsters, the Amazonian Luba, mind control, a film noir private eye, psychics, boyfriends, girlfriends, and gorilla suits. It’s enthusiastically weird but completely different from Jaime’s approach to mise-en-scène. Jaime invites the reader to enjoy the inventiveness, Beto keeps the reader distant from it. Since it’s the first issue and Beto’s other story actually feels more like one of Jaime’s–and I frankly can’t remember if his style changes–it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

Obviously, the idea of going through all of Love and Rockets isn’t new. But when I got into L&R, the new editions hadn’t come out yet. The original collections were still in print, not the story-centered stuff, which really just tried to bring L&R to manga reading teens. I hope it worked but I don’t think it did. At the same time, these collections dropped anything not Maggie and Hopey or Heartbreak Soup.

But some of the beauty of Love and Rockets is in the process, in how Jaime and Beto develop as creators. For example, Jaime uses a comic strip punchline device for Locas Tambien, keeping the action off page and having Maggie and Hopey talk about it. I’m hesitant to establish any kind of style to talk about these stories, but at the same time, I don’t think rambling between them without structure is going to be much fun.

So, Bem. Giant monsters, big boobs, hard sci-fi, film noir p.i., relationship troubles. Five chapters of it. And then there’s Bem. Bem is an entity, who may or may not occasionally wear giant gorilla suits (implying a humanoid shape), who causes reality to rearrange. He’s a “horror,” which is kind of like a really scary supervillain. And it’s a weird story. Beto gets the reader into it initially with a girl having psychic disturbances because of Bem. Each chapter builds towards a different point, introducing people who want to capture a giant monster who’s coincidentally escaped. Luba (with the big boobs) is an evil Amazon, basically, who wants to rule the world. The giant monster has gotten smart though (it’s an insect, but now a smart, talking one). The film noir detective has nothing to do with the monster at this point, because he’s busy hunting down Bem. Beto brings it all together eventually, by extreme coincidence.

But the coincidence doesn’t matter because Beto treats his characters as objects to be regarded. The reader is supposed to identify with the characters’ situations more than with the characters themselves. Beto keeps a distance.

In Beto’s second story, Music for Monsters, he doesn’t have as much distance. I didn’t even realize it was Beto. I just thought it was Jaime doing a different style; I don’t think the two protagonists gets named (at least not often enough for it to stick) and one of them acts a lot like Penny Century. I figured it was Jaime and it’s not. It’s Beto doing a fun story. Bem isn’t fun, Bem is occasionally funny, but it’s serious.

For Mechan-X, the second chapter of this first issue (Maggie and Hopey’s origin story!), Jaime goes for fun. Meticulous, conversation-based, sight gag-based, sci-fi infused fun. It’s all about Maggie going back to work as a mechanic. Hopey makes her do it (Maggie’s not doing well with her other jobs). At the job, Maggie meets hunk prosolar mechanic Rand Race. She also gets held hostage by a bad mechanic. Or at least Rand’s nemesis, who seems like he should be a bad mechanic. Before it’s over, Jaime also introduces Penny Century. Remember her for a paragraph.

Next up is Barrio Huerta, which is a Spanish language single page story, subtitled Hoppers 13. Until this point in the comic, Love and Rockets may have had some Spanish dialogue, definitely Spanish surnames, but depressing slice of life in almost all Spanish language (and the English dialogue being nonsensical)… it’s something else. Jaime uses language to force attention.

Then comes a one page Penny Century story. Penny’s daydreaming about being a superhero. It gets her fired. Her literally devilish gentleman admirer tries to console her, but she just wants to be a superhero. It’s Jaime mixing all kinds of style–superhero, glamour, romance–along with this wonderful character moment for Penny.

Jaime then does old dark house style for How to Kill a … by Isabel Ruebens, which is about an author (Isabel Ruebens presumably) having trouble figuring out something she’s writing. She has a hallucination. It’s very moody, very effective. Jaime does really well with dark. He doesn’t go for so much detail with it, content to let the absence of detail encourage the imagination.

Finally, there’s Locas Tambien, which only runs four pages but since it’s got a flashback and the aforementioned comic strip punchline style, it sticks out. It’s sort of Maggie and Hopey’s first adventure together. It’s not a particularly strong narrative; Hopey and Maggie hang out with Izzy, who’s annoying to Maggie. Then Joey sort of freaks out. Jaime tries to spin it as a non sequitur ending but he’s stretching it. It doesn’t matter–he goes out on an awesome punk rock panel (literally)–but it’s interesting to see the attempt.

It’s an incredibly lean comic book. There’s no wasted panels much less wasted pages. Both Jaime and Beto fill the page with panels–it’s a bigger page too (8.5“ x 11”), which gives them some more room. They also both let big visual events happen in small panels. There’s such detail in those smaller panels too, it helps the reader get lost in the story.

Bem’s the most finished effort in the comic. It’s the most successful too. Then Mechan-X, then Music for Monsters. The rest of Jaime’s stuff is a mix of strong and very strong, but he’s a little bit too distracted by his imagination. He’s letting the fun get in the way. You can’t really hold it against him. It’s a lot of fun.

Right from the start, Love and Rockets amazes.

CORNBOY

June 2011

Cornboy clear has some kind of interesting history. Pamela Corkey gets a creator credit on the cover and a “from an original screenplay by” credit on the inside front. Joshua Dysart gets credited as writer on the cover and “graphic novel by” on the inside front. Edison George gets an “art” credit both places. In other words, there’s some kind of story to it. Not to mention it’s from Dynamite Entertainment (with co-publishers), but come on… something without a variant cover? What’s Dynamite doing with it?

I read Cornboy because of Dysart. He’s done a lot of little stuff over the years–not much in the way of licensed comics, which is good, but definitely these odd ball projects with histories (he also scripted Neil Young’s Greendale comic for Vertigo). Other than it having a Dysart script, I didn’t really have much interest. Not to knock the concept–a teenager who is half corn has to contend with scientists wanting to cure the planet with his high fructose corn syrup blood.

Okay, not really the high fructose corn syrup thing, but you get the idea. Dysart’s kind of perfect for it since he did write Swamp Thing for a while and Ethan the Cornboy does have a similarly green hue.

Cornboy runs around ninety-six pages, which means it could roughly have been four issues, depending on ads. It doesn’t seem like it was done as a limited series though–even with occasional time jumps (my copy had a misprint so I kept wondering if I missed an explanation about Ethan losing an eye to science). It’s got a solid flow about it, at least until the third act when the government comes in and there’s no humor to it.

Because Cornboy is a bit of an absurd gross-out comedy. It definitely starts as one, with some rather risqué scenes. George has a lot of fun with them. As the book progresses, George has a lot less energy and a lot less fun. It’s often very nice art, but there are only four or five regular cast members and if they aren’t in a lab, they’re running around outside. The biggest action in the book is a car going over a hill.

Going into Cornboy–maybe not when I bought it back in 2011–but reading it, I knew Dysart was just doing the scripting duties. There are some good scenes and the characters are reasonably strong, at least until the all start acting silly but George’s style doesn’t do anything absurd. It’s like he forgot how to do a visual gag by the end of the book, which does it no favors.

It also doesn’t help none of the characters are likable. Ethan is underdeveloped–or undercooked (wokka wokka)–his love interest, Renee, is intentionally unlikable. The villains, who should be played for laughs, are too thin played as actually dangerous.

Cornboy is a strange book. It’s wholly competent, somewhat ambitious, but it runs out of energy way too soon. I’m assuming that stall out, given it’s a narrative issue, is from the source screenplay. Or I’m wrong and it’s all Dysart’s fault. I doubt it though. But who knows. Only the Cornboy knows. But not really, because he’s not a superhero.

Providence

Act 1 Feb. 2016

After hearing about Providence, waiting for Providence, finally reading Providence, I quickly determined it was a book I’d want to read again. Not serialized, but in a sitting. Or, at most, two. Though, based on how long it took me to read this Act 1 collection–which consists of the series’s first four issues, of an eventual twelve–reading all of Providence will probably be an eight or nine hour commitment. One I look forward to sometime in the future.

Providence is so dense, its back matter so important, it’ll be interesting to see if there’s anything special about the final collection. Act 1 is a very traditional collection of an atypical book. Fairly sure the back matter for the third issue had writer Alan Moore raging against the idea of narrative reality over narrative verisimilitude. It’s a little bit in a lot of back matter, probably a couple sentences, but it sticks out. The back matter, being the journal of the protagonist, New York Herald reporter Robert Black (née Schwartz, which matters more than I remember), is where Moore does the most work these four chapters. There’s a lot going on in the actual comic, but Moore is asking the reader to think about it all again. He even gets playful in how he uses the back matter; it’s an integral part of Providence. Moore paces out Black’s journal entries to create tension and interest and relief. Black isn’t a likable protagonist. He’s a sympathetic one, but he’s a jerk. Moore doesn’t care. He’s an interesting jerk.

Going back to read the first four issues of Providence, in a marathon session, when the series isn’t even finished does bring some perspective. It definitely makes one more appreciative of Moore’s dedication to the project. There’s some hilarious stuff in the back matter, which either got lost the first time I read it or I’d forgotten it. Providence, in its first act–the collection does end on an excellent note–has a leisurely pace. Black’s a tourist, the reader’s a tourist. It’s a survey into the possible (something Moore juxtaposes against Black’s story ideas in his journal). There’s no danger, something I remember from reading it in floppies. At this point, even as Black writes about being the sap in a mystery in his journal, there’s still the possibility for some kind of escape, some kind of rescue.

Artist Jacen Burrows does a fantastic job, of course, but I particularly noticed his execution of the setting. Providence takes place in 1919. Everything Burrows visualizes in the modern age hums with excitement. Everything he visualizes in podunk New England is different. It’s more familiar (just with slightly different inhabitants). It creates a very different contrast in the second half of Act 1.

Moore’s approach to the back matter, how much work he does with it–whether making the protagonist more relatable, revealing more about the protagonist, revealing more about events, guiding reader expectation, riffing on story ideas or concepts–it’s Providence’s secret. The back matter, the thoughts of the protagonist, are what Moore wants the reader to keep in mind, not necessarily the events as Burrows visualized them. Or at least Moore wants the reader to question everything. It’s patient, thoughtful, enthusiastic writing. Of course it’s great.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 5 (July 2016)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #5

Has it been a year since the last Sabrina? I guess it has been. Thank goodness Aguirre-Sacasa opens with a text recap (though I didn’t read it closely enough, which caused me some minor confusion).

Sabrina is on trial for cavorting with mortal boy Harvey, who is now dead. She wants to bring him back, unknowingly enlisting her nemesis to aid in the effort. And then Aguirre-Sacasa has a big surprise for that part of the story too. Sabrina is full of surprises and none of them are good for its protagonist, which is sort of weird. It feels like a melodrama, more than anything else, it feels like Aguirre-Sacasa is doing this giant teenage period piece melodrama with witches. It’s awesome.

Excellent art from Hack, who gets to do a nice variety of things here. There’s the witches trial, there’s the high school, there’s some other stuff. It’s great looking. There’s a lot of humor in the art this issue too. Hack’s having fun.

Sabrina is an excellent book. It has to be to be worth this kind of wait.

CREDITS

The Crucible, Chapter Five: The Trial; writer, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; artist, Robert Hack; letterer, Jack Morelli; editor, Jamie Lee Rotante; publisher, Archie Comics.

Manifest Destiny 19 (May 2016)

Manifest destiny #19

It’s good to have Manifest Destiny back, even if it’s a bit of a messy issue.

Two things are immediately different this issue–a story arc subtitle (Sasquatch) and a flashback to a previously troubled expedition into the wilds of North America. Dingess and Roberts do some solid juxtaposing between expeditions, but it’s strange to come back to the book and for Lewis and Clark to have so little to do.

Let’s not even get into Sacagawea’s utter lack of anything to do, once again. And the other female character has disappeared, because with the story arc subtitle, Dingess is all about setting up the eventual Sasquatch. Just like he once set up Sacagawea. It’d be hilarious if the Sasquatch has almost nothing to do.

Roberts, inked by Tony Akins and Stefano Gaudiano, does have some excellent visuals and the book’s pace is fine. It’s just a bit messy. Not opening with the regular cast might work fine in the eventual trade, but in a single issue, it doesn’t work. I even spent the first half of the comic wondering if Lewis and Clark had died off page since the last story arc, which doesn’t seem historically possible but there’s not a timeline to explain the comic opens in a flashback.

Maybe I just don’t care about Manifest Destiny doing a Sasquatch story line. Dingess does have a way of accelerating to a good place. Hopefully this arc is just warming up.

CREDITS

Sasquatch, Part One; writer, Chris Dingess; penciller, Matthew Roberts; inkers, Tony Akins and Stefano Gaudiano; colorist, Owen Gieni; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Arielle Basich and Sean Mankiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 5 (April 2016)

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #5

Squirrel Girl. Squirrel Girl vs. Dr. Doom, which feels like the longest absurd battle of all time. It just seemed like it was going to go on forever. This issue makes it all worth it, this issue has North bringing all the elements together–and there are a lot of them and he creates more problems to solve here–and presenting them to the reader. There’s so much time travel stuff. North is thoughtful about it but not overly serious about it. It’s a great time travel storyline. In Squirrel Girl. Involving Dr. Doom.

Henderson has a lot of different stuff to draw, but she’s got to keep up an insane pace. North is hurrying the reader. He’s not in a hurry, he’s intentionally hurrying the reader to control expectation. It requires Henderson to convey a lot of information without taking up room, both on the page and in the reader’s imagination.

I really like this comic. It started pretty strong and North and Henderson just work to make it better and better. Even with a silly villain like Dr. Doom, they’re able to turn in some excellent mainstream work.

CREDITS

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

Prophet Earth War 4 (May 2016)

Prophet Earth War #4

This issue of Prophet Earth War isn’t the best of the series so far but it’s far from the worst. The front half, which summarizes various warring elements, slogs along a little. But there’s great art from Giannis Milonogiannis, Simon Roy and Grim Wilkins, who manages to make Earth War feel more like Prophet than ever before. Yes, the titular Earth War is incredibly lame so far, but at least the art matches Graham and Roy’s tone for the issue.

Where the issue takes off is in the second half and not just because there’s the romance between Diehard and Rein, because it doesn’t figure into this issue at all. But it is because there’s some humor to the characters, some gentleness, a whole lot of personality. It’s not just the characters, it’s the pacing.

Graham and Roy give their characters a solvable, difficult problem and they have to solve it. There’s a bunch of danger and some humor. There’s a self-awareness to the writing, an enjoyment of the moment. Prophet is at its best when Graham wants to see something expertly visualized. It’s not about being wowed by scenery, it’s about being wowed by how things exist and interact with that scenery.

Really impressive art from Ian Macewan on this issue’s backup. It’s another part of some future thing with a heist and a lot of bland characters. Witzke’s script is fine for a backup, but there’s nothing compelling. Except Macewan’s good art.

CREDITS

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

Kennel Block Blues 4 (May 2016)

Kennel Block Blues #4

Ferrier tries really hard to get this issue to the finish. It doesn’t really happen. Oh, he and Bayliss get there, but there’s nowhere for them to be. The characters never resonate; definitely not the protagonists, who have almost no chemistry. Ferrier takes it out on an even bigger downer note.

This issue has a musical number and a prison riot. Now, Kennel Block Blues has never shown the human “guards” past some demonic hands. Only they’re people. There is some semblance of functioning reality to the book, as much as Ferrier tries to avoid it, he does need it. Because if there’s not a functioning reality, who cares if these dogs get loose.

Maybe the first half of the issue is solid. Bayliss’s art is good throughout, but Ferrier’s only got story for the first half. Once there’s the prison break, he loses track.

It’s a bumpy book, with great art and not bad zeitgeist gimmickry; Ferrier can’t bring it together for the finale.

CREDITS

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

The Baker Street Peculiars 3 (May 2016)

The Baker Street Peculiars #3

It’s more a cute issue than anything else, which is kind of strange. But it’s Langridge reinforcing the relationship between the kids when he ought to be doing more with them and the plot. Instead, he locks them up for most of the issue until they argue out all their problems. It’s not a talking heads book, but all the tension is their relationship dynamics not their actual danger. It’s weird.

And it’s fine. Langridge does a fine job with it. It’s weird, yes, it feels like meandering, but it’s still well written. He does make the characters more likable, make their relationships stronger. He just doesn’t get anything done while he’s doing it. Peculiars loses a layer.

Good art from Hirsch. He gets to imply a lot more than he gets to actually render for most of the issue. When he does finally cut loose, there’s some glorious golem-ized statues terrorizing London.

Peculiars is a fine comic. It just doesn’t seem to be living up to my expectations of its potential.

CREDITS

The Case of the Cockney Golem, Chapter Three: The Old, Hard Cell; writer, Roger Langridge; artist and letterer, Andy Hirsch; colorist, Fred Stressing; editors, Cameron Chittock and Sierra Hahn; publisher, KaBOOM!

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 4 (March 2016)

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #4

I’m only going to complain a little but I am going to complain. North really can’t handle this arc; I mean, this issue isn’t a bridging issue, it isn’t an anything issue. It’s too much a part of the story arc–Squirrel Girl back in time trying to stop Dr. Doom from taking over the future–so nothing else really builds. There’s also not much to do build in the past. Or at least North isn’t going that route.

Instead, he’s got a lot of talking heads. Lots of planning, lots of Doom ranting. Just lots of talking. There’s some good art–Henderson can keep up with the talking, but she also gets to do a bit of variety–future Doom-world, 1960s New York. Henderson is really pushing things here, which is good. The book needs energy from somewhere.

Some of the issue might just be Dr. Doom saturation. He’s such a “fun” villain, but he’s got limited character possibilities. While North gets to a good cliffhanger with Doom this issue, he takes forever to get there.

CREDITS

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

A Train Called Love 7 (April 2016)

A Train Called Love #7

It’s not a bridging issue. I can’t believe it, but Ennis actually does just an issue in a limited series. Will the wonders of A Train Called Love never cease. I mean, Dos Santos manages to the lame bro leads sympathetic in their plight. He’s working against Ennis, who’s trying to make them hilarious in their desperation; it’s a reluctant sympathy and it works out. It’s a very neat touch in what’s becoming an indescribable book.

Each issue of Train has the things Ennis takes very seriously amid the gross out humor and absurdities. This issue it’s the unrequited love between a couple characters and Where Eagles Dare. There’s an action movie sight reference, then Ennis turns it into this whole rumination on Mary Ure and empowerment. A couple panels of rumination, yes, but serious rumination and careful exposition. He’s got reasons for what his characters are doing.

I just wish I remembered all their names. There are at least twelve characters to track. It’s a lot. Ennis is going crazy, but in this extremely contained, extremely precise manner. I’ve even gotten over how strange it is to see Dos Santos’s amiable, animated style against Ennis’s absurd black comedy. Dos Santos excels at the Where Eagles Dare moment, which sort of makes him an Ennis artist.

I’m eagerly awaiting the next issue.

CREDITS

Known As The Rat; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Marc Dos Santos; colorist, Salvatore Aiala Studios; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Anthony Marques, Rachel Pinnelas and Matt Idelson; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Hot Damn 2 (May 2016)

Hot Damn #2

I’m still undecided on Hot Damn, which I wasn’t expecting. I was expecting to jump off with this issue–something about Ferrier’s writing style for this comic, he’s trying too hard to be flashy. He knows Ramon can really do up the Heaven and Hell scenery and Ferrier pushes it. There is actual nuance to some of the characters, Ferrier just doesn’t want to get caught up.

He wants to be sensational. He wants to do something blasphemous. He fails. Even with Ramon’s art, Hot Damn is just desperate for attention. I’m not even sure what zeitgeist it’s chasing, because Ferrier has original material and then he has tropes he goes through. Maybe it’s something with IDW editorial. Hot Damn is creator-owned but does have an editor.

So I guess I’m on for another issue. There’s some good stuff in the issue, some amusing moments, some very amusing sight gags from Ramon. There’s also a lot of lame stuff in the issue, lame moments, lame sight gags from Ramon. I’m far more curious to see if Ferrier gets anywhere, even somewhere tepid, with Hot Damn than I am to see how the narrative goes. While narrative’s barely passable, the execution’s bewildering.

CREDITS

Writer, Ryan Ferrier; artist, Valentin Ramon; editor, David Hedgecock; publisher, IDW Publishing.

HOT DDDDDDD

A Train Called Love 6 (March 2016)

A Train Called Love #6

And, lo it was with the sixth issue of A Train Called Love did the Ennis awaken. Or something of that nature.

Wow. Wow. How did I forget how gross Ennis could get? I mean, he excels at it. And in this issue, he and Dos Santos excel at it through horrific sight gags. It’s awesome. Dos Santos impresses all over the place this issue. His faces have so much expression, so much humor. It’s like Dos Santos’s job is to make sure there’s no question about Ennis’s jokes.

But it’s not just this gross out Ennis book with a Nazi villain–because of course there’s going to be a Nazi villain, it’s Garth Ennis. It really does feel like a Preacher-era Garth Ennis thing done later on. What if it’s City Lights? It would be hilarious if Train Called Love was City Lights.

It can’t be.

Anyway. It’s still Train Called Love, it’s still these great characters having these absurd and awful and hilarious conversations. It just has a supervillain in it now. One with a Nazi sidekick.

I love it.

CREDITS

Mein Fuhrer, I Can Walk; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Marc Dos Santos; colorist, Salvatore Aiala Studios; letterer, Rob Steen; editor, Rachel Pinnelas; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Hot Damn 1 (April 2016)

Hot Damn #1

Didn’t I just read a Hell series lately? Or was it a Heaven series? One or the other. Or it’s both. Hot Damn is sort of both. Ryan Ferrier writes, Valentin Ramon illustrates. It’s the story of some guy who ODes on coke and dies. He goes to Hell. Hell has thousand year twelve step programs (regular sinners promoted to demons), it has gross junk food, it has crappy apartments, it’s generally icky. With lots of fluids.

Ramon does a fine job with all the Hell stuff. He does a fine job with all the Heaven stuff (angels getting stoned, mostly). It’s detailed and never too icky. There’s far more implied grossness than actual.

But is Hot Damn any good? Eh.

It’s okay. It’s not the worst “slacker goes to Hell” story in the world. It’s not the best. Ferrier’s a problematic writer, but he actually doesn’t do much here. The jokes are all pretty standard, there’s nothing of particular note about the characters. I thought the Devil was going to be interesting, but no. He’s just a boring office guy so far. Sure, Hitler, Stalin and Mao are all in his office being tormented but it’s Hell. Stalin, Mao and Hitler in Hell are all tropes.

Maybe something interesting will happen next issue. But, sadly, I sort of doubt it.

CREDITS

Writer, Ryan Ferrier; artist, Valentin Ramon; editor, David Hedgecock; publisher, IDW Publishing.

A Train Called Love 5 (February 2016)

A Train Called Love #5

It would be interesting–and I’m a little sorry I’ve never done such a thing–but it would be interesting to look at Ennis’s best series each year, best story arcs if he’s doing an on-going. He writes a lot, he actually writes a lot of different genres, but I really do think A Thing Called Love is going to be Ennis’s 2016 highlight.

It’s his sitcom. It’s a Garth Ennis comic populated by all the great supporting characters from his other books given free reign. Dos Santos’s art gives it this absurd distance. It’s a gritty, but peppily animated New York City, which is why I always wonder if Train started as Ennis trying a TV show or film script. It’s so intricate, so precisely paced; a lot of work went into it.

This issue has quite a few funny scenes, which gives Dos Santos a lot of great expressions to draw. He gets through the outlandish to the final (also absurd) talking heads sequence and shows he can do the serious character development too.

If there is such a thing as serious character development in A Train Called Love.

It’s excellent again.

CREDITS

We Can’t Rewind, We’ve Gone Too Far; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Marc Dos Santos; colorist, Salvatore Aiala Studios; letterer, Rob Steen; editor, Rachel Pinnelas; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Punisher 1 (July 2016)

The Punisher #1

What a lousy comic. I mean, I didn’t even care about Steve Dillon’s artwork. His lines get thick during action sequences and lose all fluidity. Dillon’s precise line work always implies movement, entropy, never static. He looks like he’s doing pin-ups this issue. Punisher pin-ups. Is it 1993 or something?

I can’t figure out who Marvel is targeting with this Punisher variation. Let’s go through all the pieces of the pie. First, Steve Dillon’s back. He hasn’t been on the book for a while, right? And he was on the book during multiple good new (or post-Angelic) Punisher titles. So Dillon alone might be a sale. Except now you need a writer–Marvel should’ve just gotten Dillon a ghostwriter for the book, it couldn’t have been any worse and probably would’ve been better–but it’s 2016 and Marvel has a diversity problem. So get Becky Cloonan to write the book. Name female creator. It’s almost an event comic.

Only bad Punisher comics aren’t events, they’re the standard. Cloonan and Dillon turn in a lame issue. Cloonan writes Frank with less personality than a slasher movie villain, only Dillon draws him very superhero, very compensation Frank. Cloonan’s got these moron DEA agents who would have been lousy cop characters in the early eighties, much less now. Her dialogue’s thoughtfully written but it meanders in exposition land. Or she just has terrible editors.

Finally, this Punisher is the first series since regular people started caring about the Punisher, thanks to the “Daredevil” TV show. Shock of shocks, a “Punisher” show got announced just a few days before this issue came out. It’s buzzy. It’s Disney (and if Disney just means nostalgia-based brand synergy, so be it). Anyway, buzzy says it needs to be accessible as well as notable. Cloonan’s there for her buzz cred, not because she has some great Punisher story to tell.

Or maybe she does and it really is just another Lethal Weapon riff with war buddies selling dope and one of them having to stop it. But I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt.

Marvel apparently thinks they need it to have mass appeal, which is admirable but impossible. **The Punisher** is pulp, it’s exploitation. For it to succeed, it’s got to have an edge–it can’t be bland. And this book couldn’t be blander.

CREDITS

TITLE; writer, Becky Cloonan; artist, Steve Dillon; colorist, Frank Martin; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, Kathleen Wisneski and Jake Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

War Stories 17 (February 2016)

War Stories #17

It’s another surprisingly bland issue. I say surprising because Ennis does have some enthusiasm for the subject–English channel gunboats in World War II–but only because it’s clear he’s put in his research. This issue doesn’t even have expository explanations. Well, maybe during the ill-advised and very awkward sex scene. I’m not sure if it’s Ennis’s fault or Aira’s fault, but the reader’s supposed to be suspicious of the woman (who’s seducing the good lieutenant of the gunboat) and one of them feels the need to foreshadow every panel. Then cutting to a scene where there’s more foreshadowing.

It’s not all Naval romance, there’s also the gunboat sequences. One battle sequence, which Aira again handles way too static. It might be the digital coloring, but there’s no intensity to the battle. When there’s a big reveal this issue, I had to go back and track it again visually. It’s just too boring.

The other gunboat sequence is just the lieutenant and his sidekick being jerks to some flier they rescue. Ennis doesn’t even pretend to be interested in the characters. They’re stock players, they’re caricatures.

Ennis can’t even muster enthusiasm for the lieutenant going after a German nemesis. It plods along. I’m not expecting Ennis to finish it well.

CREDITS

Send a Gunboat, Part Two: And All the Angels in Heaven Shall Sing; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

War Stories 16 (January 2016)

War Stories #16

It’s a new War Stories story, this time on a gunboat patrolling the English Channel during World War II. Ennis doesn’t do a lot of boat stories, so it stands out for that reason. Very, very static art on the sea battles from Aira, which is too bad. It’s not a particularly compelling story and having visually jarring action doesn’t help anything.

Ennis opens the issue with a lot of exposition about the gunboats. It’s very interesting stuff and Aira’s accompanying panels make for a good informational comic. I’m learning something (or would be if I didn’t already have some familiarity with World War II history). But after the history lesson? Ennis hasn’t got anything else.

He plods through some talking heads scenes–he doesn’t like his characters, stuck-up British Navy officers and he doesn’t have any interest in them. So spending the last fourth or so of the comic with them hanging out and trying to pick up unsuspecting British gals?

It’s yawn-inducing, but academically interesting just to see how little Ennis’s putting into it.

CREDITS

Send a Gunboat, Part One: The Dog Boats; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

The Spire 7 (March 2016)

The Spire #7

The Spire is racing. Or maybe it isn’t. Maybe it was always headed to this place, where Spurrier rushes everything. Every subplot, every character, the cliffhanger resolution, the mid-issue reveals, everything is rushed. When it gets the final panel and Shå says “it all ends tonight,” Spurrier and Stokely are out of breath. It’s an exhausting read.

Stokely does better than Spurrier. There’s some rather good art moments, visual moments, while Spurrier’s got almost nothing going in the script. When he does have the opportunity to really write a scene, he goes the other way and lets Stokely figure it out visually. The Spire is a good comic, no doubt about it, it’s well-executed, it’s inventive. It’s just too much this issue. Spurrier wants it to do too much.

There’s enough story here for two issues. With the pacing, with the reveals, Spurrier could do two issues. There’s a whole Pug subplot Spurrier races through. It’s penultimate issue, wrap-up stuff.

I’m assuming (and hoping) Spurrier’s got a stronger narrative next issue. I want The Spire to end well. Stokely–and Spurrier–have done some excellent work on this book.

CREDITS

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

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: