Redneck 2 (May 2017)

Redneck #2

It’s an intense issue. Cates has a nice way of foreshadowing–Redneck, with one exception, is basically a one-set play here, and Cates positions characters throughout the set and the present action in sublime ways. Estherren stumbles a few times. He doesn’t do well with the arguing scenes, like he’s getting bored of the talking heads, but it’s mostly good art. Cates handles reveals nicely too.

CREDITS

Writer, Donny Cates; artist, Lisandro Estherren; colorist, Dee Cunniffe; letterer, Joe Sabino; editors, Arielle Basich and Jon Moisan; publisher, Image Comics.

Black Hammer 9 (May 2017)

Black Hammer #9

It’s a depressing issue. Lemire knows he’s going to do a depressing issue–he set it up with the previous issue’s cliffhanger–but he just drags the reader through it all. David Rubín fills in on the art, which is a fantastic mix of psychedelic and cartooning. His expressions on Colonel Weird, in a flashback to the Colonel’s younger, Adam Strange days, are phenomenal. It’s practically comic relief, which Lemire desperately needs for the comic. Black Hammer can be depressing, it can be despondent, but when something actually sad happens… it’s almost too much to bare (thanks to all the other stuff). It’s a solid issue with some great art.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Lemire; artist and letterer, David Rubín; editors, Cardner Clark and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Dead Inside 5 (May 2017)

Dead Inside #5

Arcudi brings Dead Inside to a rather unsatisfactory conclusion. He’s got a big reveal for the mystery, he’s got a resolution for the ongoing prison riot; neither come off well, especially not when he ties them together so absurdly. Fejzula runs a little wild with the art–the loose lines don’t matter because the resolution is already taking the book off its rails. And the awkward, happy-go-lucky denoument doesn’t help anything either.

CREDITS

Writer, John Arcudi; artist, Toni Fejzula; colorist, André May; letterer, Joe Sabino; editors, Cardner Clark and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Batman: Gotham Noir (2001)

Batman: Gotham Noir

Gotham Noir is a Jim Gordon story. Only he’s ex-cop Jim Gordon, divorced ex-cop Jim Gordon, just trying to get by as a private investigator. Only he’s a drunk. It’s 1949 and Gordon had a bad time in the war. Bruce Wayne was there. Bruce Wayne knows the secrets. Lots of secrets in Gotham Noir. Writer Ed Brubaker has this endless drawer of revelations to throw in to explain why a character did or said something ten pages before. The Noir is heavy.

Some of the comic is Gordon narrating why he’s on the run from the cops. Corrupt politicians have pinned a murder on him, a murder he’s trying to solve. Because when a man’s partner gets killed… oh, wait, no, wrong story. Gordon’s trying to figure out what happened because he woke up from a bender next to a dead body. Though his motivations waver and do a 180 at some point in Noir. Brubaker likes threatening and victimizing to get a reaction in the book, which is really too bad. There’s a lot of gimmick–the Batman cast back in the late forties, complete with Selina “The Cat” Kyle and a guy named Napier who ends up the ill-advised, last minute supervillain.

And Harvey Dent’s around, of course. And some crime boss. And some dirty politicians. And who knows who else.

Gordon heads to the newspaper stand in 1949 Gotham City.

With Sean Phillips’s beautiful, post-war urban Americana noir art–ably colored by Dave Stewart–Noir shouldn’t be able to go off the rails. Unfortunately, Brubaker runs out of mystery a lot sooner than he should. He goes for sensationalism for impact, instead of ingenuity of solution. It’s not like Gotham Noir’s Jim Gordon is particularly smart. He’s not smart, he’s not charming, he’s just pitiable. Strange setup for a protagonist, which Brubaker enables by keeping the rest of the cast obtuse. They’re obtuse to Gordon, who recognizes it and doesn’t care, and to the reader, who probably should care because it’s supposed to be a mystery after all.

There are some similarities to Batman: Year One in terms of cast list and general plotting. And Phillips’s detailed, lush art… well, it doesn’t break the reminder.

Déjà vu.

But the problems with Gotham Noir aren’t from it cribbing Year One’s climax or Harvey Dent. The problems are with Brubaker’s handle on the whole thing. He sets it up to be interesting with Batman and then has to fall back on a Batman villain to make it interesting. Gordon’s a bystander in much of the story, which is fine for a hard-boiled p.i. story, but the other characters don’t make up for it. They’re boring. Selina The Cat’s a yawn fest–and the hinted love triangle (Bruce, Selina, and Gordon) never manifests into anything. Gotham Noir is a bunch of hints not manifesting into anything.

It’s got some good art and is wholly readable, but Batman: Gotham Noir is “just” another Elseworlds book.

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Dave Stewart; editor, Ivan Cohen; publisher, DC Comics.

The Killer Inside Me (2016-17)

Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me

The Killer Inside Me revels in its degeneracy. There aren’t any happy moments in the entire series–a five issue adaptation of Jim Thompson’s 1952 novel–but the first issue is jarringly, hostilely unpleasant. Writer Devin Faraci does lengthy talking heads sequences–back and forth, back and forth–with artist Vic Malhotra keeping them interesting. Interesting or not, the content is so dark and Faraci dwells in it so much–this content can’t be visually rendered, it’s too dark–the first issue ends up being a tolerance gauntlet. Is all this darkness worth it for the story of viciously smart psychopath Lou Ford, a small-town Texas sheriff who’s got everyone fooled into thinking he’s a dopey nice guy.

Killer is dark noir, but it’s also brightly lighted rural Texas dark noir. There’s not just sunshine, there’s also the precise settings. Those back and forth conversation sequences take place in offices, houses, hospitals, and Malhotra keeps them all compelling. The comic’s tone comes less from the content of Faraci’s dialogue (or is it Thompson’s) than it does Malhotra’s panels.

Lou is not a nice man.

Lou narrates the story, revealing to the reader all the awful things he thinks. Lou’s a relatively reliable narrator–Faraci suggests at some point he’s writing a letter, but the series doesn’t start with that narration constraint. It’s just the awful stuff, ranging from nasty thoughts about the townspeople to fond reminiscences of atrocities committed. About five pages in is when Faraci (and Malhotra) start pushing the ugliness. Lou’s already been somewhat established as a character, his narration’s already been somewhat established, so when he becomes not just a villain, but a reprehensible one… well, like I said, hostilely unpleasant stuff. And then it just gets worse a few pages later. Like, it shouldn’t easily be able to get worse, but it certainly does.

Faraci has some trouble keeping all the characters sorted in the first issue. Killer Inside Me is the kind of book where a character appears on a couple pages in the first issue and won’t be back (or be important) for another issue and a half. It’s something of an adaptation problem; of course narrator Lou can keep everything straight, and maybe it’s paced differently in the novel to add to reader retention, but it’s a lot for a first issue. Especially after all the unpleasantness.

The cheerful banality of the psychopath cop.

The problem sort of goes away in the second issue, which has a strange but phenomenal pacing. Faraci’s breaking points in the story aren’t on natural story beats. The issues come to their closes with the narrative arc still in motion. So while Killer Inside Me is a five issue series, the first issue and a half are “part one.” Part two kicks off over halfway into the second (with the same talking heads participants who kick off the story proper in the first issue). Malhotra has such a great time with the talking heads sequences. There’s a lot of personality in everyone’s expression. Except protagonist Lou, since he’s a vicious psychopath. He’s stone. Everyone else is guarded but Malhotra’s expressions are almost lush. The awkward conversations, their weights and silences, all come through because of the art.

The third issue is where Faraci gets around to making an excuse for Lou. I assume it comes from the source novel and Faraci does get through it somewhat quickly, but it’s a bit of a pothole. Regardless of if it’s in the novel, the comic doesn’t need the rationalizing. It doesn’t slow the momentum, it’s just a little dishonest. Especially once Faraci gets around to revealing all the surprises in the last issue. Killer Inside Me has a number of reveals throughout. The final ones force the reader to question Lou not just as a narrator but as a character. He’s already the villain–though Faraci and Malhotra certainly make Lou’s “nemesis” an unlikable fop–he’s just not the villain he (or the reader) expected.

Flashback: Why Lou isn’t a nice man.

Evil is sometimes banal, though–fifties rural Texas or not–there are some big leaps of logic. Faraci doesn’t pay any attention to them, apparently fine leveraging the adaptation status.

The third and fourth issues–excuses aside–are the best in the series. Faraci is sailing with the narration. The too big cast is somewhat under control (it’s easier to remember murder victims than soda jerks) and the unpleasantness has died down. Going so big in the opening, Faraci and Malhotra don’t tone it down as much as avoid it. Lou is far more ominous after the reader has already seen the monster loose.

Artist Vic Malhotra has a great sense of depth when composing his panels.

The finale is a mess of summary storytelling with a fantastic last scene. Malhotra is almost able to pull it off completely, almost able to pave over all the potholes Faraci tries skipping over and can’t. Killer Inside Me is one of those stories–maybe even back to the source material–where it’s far more interesting in how it isn’t told than how it is told. Sure, Lou’s one heck of a narrator, but his narration doesn’t end up being the most interesting part of the story. And Faraci avoids dealing with it. It’s too bad because it’d be something to see how Malhotra would’ve handled it.

It’s a strong, sometimes stomach-turning read, with some lovely art. Faraci just needed an editor who’d let him break more with the source material. Shocking first person narration might not have been passé when Jim Thompson published the book in 1952, but it’s not 1952 anymore. And given the final narrative reveals, however, the creators’ more hostile choices are questionable. Still, Killer mostly works out.

CREDITS

Writers, Jim Thompson and Devin Faraci; artist, Vic Malhotra; colorist, Jason Millet; letterer, Christa Miesner; editor, Denton J. Tipton; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Godshaper 2 (May 2017)

Godshaper #2

Beautiful pacing on this one. Not just Spurrier, but Goonface too. They draw Godshaper out, letting the characters sort of swell with development. Occasionally, they’ll turn the valve for some release on it but otherwise Spurrier is too busy exploring the setting. There’s plot material, sure, but it’s first runner-up. Setting, characters, plot. Goonface makes sure to keep the characters present enough, whether it’s setting stuff or plot stuff. The first issue was good, but this one raises the book’s potential big time.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Jonas Goonface; letterer, Colin Bell; editors, Cameron Chittock and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Copperhead 13 (May 2017)

Copperhead #13

Artist Moss still doesn’t compare well to the original artist, but at least he’s starting to get into the personality of Copperhead. Clara is on a case and nothing’s going to stop her. And what’s up with Boo? Mayor Boo. Faerber is moving really fast–and given Clara’s scary (now really scary) ex is trying to get to her planet–the arc feels like a race. Once you get done, you’re exhausted even though it’s a short read. Some nice twists in the case too.

CREDITS

Writer, Jay Faerber; artist, Drew Moss; colorist, Ron Riley; letterer, Thomas Mauer; publisher, Image Comics.

Bug! The Adventures of Forager 1 (July 2017)

Bug #1

Bug! The Adventures of Forager is a perfectly fine Kirby homage outing from the Brothers Allred. Mike draws, Lee writes. There’s a lot of nice art. There are a handful of funny jokes and the writing never gets in the way of the art. It’s not great, it’s not the best Kirby homage, but it’s not bad and their hearts are in the right place to massage nostalgia. Great colors from Laura Allred.

CREDITS

Domino Effect, Part One: Bughouse Crazy; writer, Lee Allred; artist, Mike Allred; colorist, Laura Allred; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Molly Mahan and Jamie S. Rich; publisher, DC Comics.

War Stories 23 (April 2017)

War Stories #23

Ennis sticks with British fliers and World War II–and four issue arcs. And it works out. The setting this time is Tunisia and some Brits taking over a previously Italian (and German) camp. It still has some Italian officers as prisoners of war, giving Ennis a chance to develop character relationships between opposing sides. There are some Germans around, of course, and not all the Brits are as civilized as the gentlemen pilot; presumably there will be some drama. Aira continues to do balance the book better between talking heads and illustrated war machinery. He does particularly well in the desolate setting. War Stories’s uptick might not survive the whole arc, but it certainly isn’t showing any signs of failing yet.

CREDITS

Flower of My Heart, Part One; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Mockingbird: My Feminist Agenda (2016)

Mockingbirdv2

Mockingbird: My Feminist Agenda, the trade, contains five issues. Mockingbird: My Feminist Agenda, the storyline, is three issues. The last two issues are filler because the series got cancelled because comic book readers are awful. Before those last two issues is an afterword on the series from writer Chelsea Cain. Why would anyone want to read filler after finding out this wonderful comic is now gone. Especially since it’s nothing like Cain and artist Kate Niemczyk’s Mockingbird.

So what is Bobbi doing in My Feminist Agenda? Playing some Dungeons & Dragons, doing some light cosplay, taking a cruise, fretting over ex-husband Hawkeye’s murder trial. Oh, and she’s embroiled in a noirish mystery where she’s the detective and the beefcake spy partner Lance Hunter is Ursula Andrews. It’s awesome.

As usual, Cain paces it all out beautifully. The first issue isn’t just Bobbi getting on the boat, but it’s also the entirety of her purpose for getting on the boat. A mysterious Brony has information to help Clint Barton. There’s lots of intrigue, lots of humor, but also quite a bit of melancholy. Times are weighing heavy on Bobbi, regardless of her ludicrous setting or that Lance Hunter is onboard not as a super-spy, but because he’s at a Corgi convention. Not the toy cars, the adorable dogs.

Bobbi starts her getaway trip with Hawkeye on her mind. Or Lance just looks like a brunette Clint.

That first issue gets a lot done, especially for readers coming in without any idea what’s going on with Hawkeye in the greater Marvel Universe. The absurd situation–Hawkeye kills the Hulk–gets positively melancholic by the end of the second issue. The rest of the second issue is a fairly serious, albeit with humorous asides, procedural. Bobbi is investigating a crime with onboard the ship of the cosplay damned. Oh, and there’s a Bermuda Triangle connection. Mostly for fun, though occasionally to let Cain get away with some stuff. Mockingbird is exceptionally precise. Niemczyk is carefully presenting all this information, which includes her own guest appearance as a convention goer and possible suspect.

Cain doesn’t draw any attention to it, it’s just fun detail. Turns out My Feminist Agenda is going to get a little heavier in the final issue of the story arc than Cain forecasted. It also stays fun, because the whole point of Mockingbird is Bobbi Morse’s awesome. Cain and Niemczyk are constantly making absurdities work out. No spoilers, but the tone changes from page to page in the last issue, with Bobbi juggling a lot while still fulfilling her duties as cruise ship detective. Mockingbird presents this fantastic protagonist, who’s sympathetic and relatable, but who’s also smarter than the reader and the story itself. Cain writes My Feminist Agenda, at least as far as how it works as a mystery, with Bobbi as a somewhat unreliable narrator. Some things the reader should be paying more attention about. Other things Cain’s keeping facedown to play later.

Mockingbird and the New Avengers. And corgi-enthusiast Lance Hunter.

And it all wraps up beautifully. Equal parts sweet, spicy, and surreal. Then comes Cain’s afterword–her farewell to Mockingbird and she and Niemczyk’s Bobbi Morse. So thank goodness for the trades, because Cain and Niemczyk’s Mockingbird is one of those cancelled too soon superhero books to be mentioned in hushed reverence.

CREDITS

Writer, Chelsea Cain; penciller, Kate Niemczyk; inker, Sean P. Parsons; colorist, Rachelle Rosenberg; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, Christinia Harrington and Katie Kubert; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Flintstones 11 (July 2017)

The Flintstones #11

Not the best issue of The Flintstones. Not the worst. Not the best though. Russell’s pretty wide with his jokes–hipsters, unpaid interns, vegan restaurants, neighborhood associations–all the stuff he’s referencing feels dated and he’s just doing it for filler anyway. The issue turns out to be all about Gazoo. Everything else is fluff. So clearly something went wrong somewhere with this one. But Pugh’s art is great; even though the style with the Gazoo sci-fi stuff is the same, it’s still sort of different. Pugh’s style changes just a little and it’s a neat perspective thing. Otherwise… it’s a bit of a yawner overall. More than half Russell’s jokes flop and he’s got a bunch of them.

CREDITS

The Neighborhood Association; writer, Mark Russell; artist, Steve Pugh; colorist, Chris Chuckry; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

The Damned 1 (May 2017)

The Damned #1

The Damned is back. Gloriously so. Brian Hurtt art. Gangsters and demons. Who cares if it’s good–it’s good, but when you see a double-page spread of Eddie’s club and it reminds of Casablanca all of a sudden, you know Hurtt’s enough to get it over any of the hurdles. And, really, the only hurdle is Cullen Bunn’s too talky narration. There’s lots and lots of it–which makes sense for the first issue of a relaunch–but it still gets tiring, sensical or not. The plotting’s good, the characters are good, the art’s wonderful. It’s so nice to have Damned back. I didn’t even realize how much I missed it.

CREDITS

Ill-Gotten, Chapter 1; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Brian Hurtt; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Chris Crank; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

Suicide Squad/The Banana Splits Special (May 2017)

Suicide Squad/The Banana Splits Special

Given “The Banana Splits” were a thing in the late sixties, some dated references in Suicide Squad/The Banana Splits Special might make sense. But writer Tony Bedard doesn’t go for sixties or seventies jokes; instead, it’s mid-nineties racial jokes. The Banana Splits reinventing themselves gangsta rap is far less problematic than when the cops are shooting at them because cops don’t care about “Animal Americans.” The editors of the book, who work on the far better Hanna-Barbera books, clearly don’t bring anything to those better books if they let that kind of crud through. Otherwise, it’s lame with mild amusements. Harley Quinn and the Elephant are cute. Ditto Killer Croc and the monkey (almost). Ben Caldwell and Mark Morales’s art is fine, but it’s not like it needs to do much.

However, Mark Russell and Howard Porter’s Snagglepuss backup is awesome. It starts with him telling the HUAC a thing or two, then moves into an inspiration, if sad, lesson for a young writer. It’s awesome. And Porter’s got fantastic detail on anthropomorphized animals. Who knew.

CREDITS

Suicide Splits (Hey, it beats “Banana Squad”); writer, Tony Bedard; penciller, Ben Caldwell; inker, Mark Morales; colorist, Jeremy Lawson; letterers, Troy Peteri and Dave Lanphear. House Fires; writer, Mark Russell; artist, Howard Porter; colorist, Steve Buccellato; letterer, Dave Sharpe. Editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

‘Namwolf 1 (2017)

Namwolf #1

Logan Faerber’s art on ’Namwolf is fine. He’s got a lot of cartooning chops, which works for the setting–the Vietnam war–and he also knows how to keep the action going. Maybe if Fabian Rangel Jr.’s script were stronger. It’s a bland war comic with a gimmick. Faerber can do a lot to cover the bland, but not enough to pull ’Namwolf out of mediocrity.

CREDITS

Writer, Fabian Rangel Jr.; artist, Logan Faerber; colorist, Brennan Wagner; letterer, Warren Montgomery; editors, Tracy Marsh and Eric Powell; publisher, Albatross Funnybooks.

Supergirl: Being Super 3 (June 2017)

Supergirl: Being Super #3

Being Super recovers with this issue. Not extraordinarily, but more than enough. Tamaki doesn’t go the obvious route–every time there’s a chance in the issue for something to go the obvious route, Tamaki takes a different turn. It works out pretty well, even if Kara’s a little longwinded in her observations of her life and newly remembered heritage. As always, nice art from Jones. Being Super’s probably not going to be earth-shattering (that ship has long sailed), but it should finish up nicely for a trade.

CREDITS

Who Are you?; writer, Mariko Tamaki; artist, Joëlle Jones; colorist, Kelly Fitzpatrick; letterer, Saida Temofonte; editors, Paul Kaminski and Andrew Marino; publisher, DC Comics.

I Hate Fairyland 12 (April 2017)

I hate fairyland #12

Gert has turned over a new leaf and she’s going to be a good guy in Fairyland now. Of course, no one better tell Gert how to go about turning over that leaf; she and Larry are ronin on a mission to save a baby. It gives Young a lot of gags outside the norm, plus chances to homage Usagi amongst other samurai classics. It’s kind of slight–there’s a lot of action–but it’s a fun, gross time. Like Fairyland should be.

CREDITS

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

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