War Stories #26 (January 2018)

War Stories #26

War Stories #26 is the last issue. Ennis and Aira go out strong. Most of the issue is a dramatic action sequence. Ennis has to keep it interesting, Aira has to keep it moving. Both succeed. Thanks to the omnipresent narration, Ennis is able to lay groundwork for the finale. Even though there’s still one last reveal.

Or maybe not last reveal but first. This story, “Flower of My Heart,” is some of Ennis’s most saccharine, but most humanistic work. The character study of the protagonist as he watches this foreign country change around him–as Italy goes from being fascist to Allied occupied–and how war changes or doesn’t change him.

Because protagonist Robin is a warmonger. Only he’s not. He’s forever scarred with what he’s seen, but he’s still naive. He only can exist for the one thing. Or can he?

It’s an excellent finish. War Stories has had its ups and downs, but Ennis really brought it together for the last two stories. And, while Aira is rushed with the talking heads here, he’s got the emotions of the characters down. Their faces, rough or not, intensely convey their feelings.

I’m going to miss this comic. Well, War Stories but not so much #26; I resent Ennis when he makes me cry because I know he knows he’s doing it.

CREDITS

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

War Stories #25 (October 2017)

War Stories #25

Ennis’s gentle story continues. Robin, the British WWII flier, reflects on his life while flying missions in Italy. Italy’s just capitulated, the Allies have taken Rome, everything’s going fine. Except Robin doesn’t have anything else going on except the flying.

His Italian pal, whose life is fairly destroyed, maintains a more positive outlook. He encourages Robin to try to meet a woman, which Robin does. So a bunch of it is nervous Robin preparing for his date.

Aira’s art is rushed, but he takes the time on the expressions in close-up. There’s a very stylized feel to the talking heads scenes, the characters’ expressions, how much the visuals focus on them and nothing else. Some of it is probably just less backgrounds, but the emphasis works. Ennis is doing a character study, after all.

It’s good. Ennis doing this non-battle oriented War Stories arc has excellent result.

CREDITS

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

Cinema Purgatorio 12 (September 2017)

Cinema Purgatorio #12

Moore and O’Neil open the issue with a story about stunt men. It’s set to It’s a Wonderful Life–like the plot beats–only it’s about how George Bailey’s guardian angel is really a stuntman. It’s rushed, without much content–though some real nice art from O’Neil–and Moore concentrates more on the mysteries of the movie theater. It is, however, past the point it can disappoint. Cinema Purgatorio has long since passed that point.

Ennis and Caceres do a bait and switch on Code Pru. The opening graphic is a lot more intriguing than the actual entry, which ends up riffing on a very popular “monster” movie. There’s some okay art, but the strip is too far gone.

Modded has a lot of nonsense speak from Gillen for the gaming and some nice art from Lopez. Not nice enough art its worth reading the comic, but it’s nice art.

Oh, I forgot A More Perfect Union, which actually manages to be the least thoughtful comic in the whole issue. Everyone else is doing something really complicated–or at least somewhat complicated–Brooks isn’t with Union. He leverages Andrade’s art against his “historically accurate” Civil War against the giant ants.

Yawn.

The Vast has evil Russian(?) kaiju. Who cares. It’s funny, Andrade’s art is perfect in black and white on Union, but it really needs color on The Vast. Or better inks.

It’s Cinema Purgatorio; I’m going to keep reading it, but I’m never hopeful it’s going to come through again.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, It’s a Breakable Life; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, Clever Girl; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Nahuel Lopez. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Andrade. Letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

War Stories 24 (June 2017)

War Stories #24

Ennis gets downright poetic with this issue. Well, his protagonist gets downright poetic, but Ennis takes the comic along with him. Aira gets beautiful skies to draw, while the protagonist remembers what his new drinking buddy–an Italian enemy flier turned ally and liasion–talks about. It’s detached from the war, but intricately part of it. I’m getting rather curious where Ennis is going with it; it’s a lovely comic.

CREDITS

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

Cinema Purgatorio 10 (May 2017)

Cp10

Cinema Purgatorio is getting rather long in the tooth, not just for each of the five stories–The Vast might actually be showing signs of rejuvenation, actually–but as a concept. It was always a loose anthology, but when Garth Ennis is writing a cameo for a Predator in Code Pru, it’s clear exhaustion has long since set in.

The Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill feature is about some kids in a British kids movie–there’s history related to the British film industry, which restricts interest on its own–and their encounter with a giant hair thing. I think it’s supposed to have gotten on the film itself and they’re interacting with its physical effect on the print, but whatever. O’Neill’s got some nice establishing panels, but Moore’s beyond phoning this one in.

Then there’s the secret origin–with evil, abusive witches–of Code Pru. Caceres works on the art. It’s just so rushed, there’s not much point in that care. And then that Predator cameo… I mean, at this point, maybe Ennis and Caceres should just do a Predator comic. Why not? Pru isn’t going anywhere.

More Perfect Union gets back into the actual Civil War history, which doesn’t help it. Brooks still has some big ideas; they don’t seem likely to translate to comics any better than his last big ideas on the strip. Andrade’s giant ant art is gross and cool.

Lopez’s art continues to help Modded immensely. Gillen’s story is still meandering, albeit with a monster fight this time, but it’s still meandering. Reading Modded is just part of the Cinema Purgatorio experience.

As for the improving Vast, Gage has moved the action to kaiju training. Still abjectly unoriginal and derivative, but at least it’s more amusing. Andrade’s art does well with the sterile conditions. He can concentrate.

I was really hoping this issue of Cinema Purgatorio would be the last, if not for the series itself, than at least for Moore and O’Neill. They’re hacking out the material without much inspiration lately.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, The Picture Palace Mystery; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, Havin’ Me Some Fun Tonight; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Nahuel Lopez. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Andrade. Letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

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.

Cinema Purgatorio 9 (March 2017)

Cinema Purgatorio #9

If Cinema Purgatorio were “shown” in a marathon, I think we’ve hit the point where even Alan Moore’s asleep. Garth Ennis too. But a couple of the backup guys are doing better. Sort of.

Anyway.

Purgatorio is about Thelma Todd’s death. Sadly Moore’s script for it is really boring. It’s like something didn’t work out. He thought it’d be more interesting but, instead, he’s just got occasional Batman visual cues because Todd’s lover made a movie called The Bat, which supposedly inspired Bob Kane (and, you know, Bill Finger) but whatever. So? I don’t think anyone ever doubted Kevin O’Neill could draw a giant bat.

It’s kind of fine, but in an unambitious sort of way. Moore might have peaked on Purgatorio.

So too might have Ennis. He’s got a lot of content for Code Pru but nothing he’s fixated on. It’s zombies. And not even Crossed, so it’s not even cute. Ew. Crossed and cute. But he’s just churning it out. I think there’s even a reference to the Code Pru “pilot” where she was a witch, which I don’t think he’s done before. Caceres’s art is fine. It’s not on him.

Now, I make that complaint and it usually means Ennis is going to do something really cool next issue. Fingers crossed.

More Perfect Union. Brooks doesn’t have his history text piece anymore, which is great, but his exposition is getting more verbose. Are they connected? I don’t care. It just means it’s a lot more maybe made up, maybe just for Civil War enthusiasts’ information. It’s noise. Really nice art from Andrade. He’s got good detail. It’s sort of impersonal, but the strip is also a parade of boring visual concepts.

And then Modded, which I hate having to enjoy, is once again pretty fun. Gillen’s writing characters. They’re obnoxious and thin, but with the personality from Lopez’s art, it doesn’t matter. There’s still way too much lingo and it feels like a dated post-apocalypse, so I don’t love it or anything, but I almost look forward to it. I don’t mind it, which is something; I used to loathe Modded.

And The Vast is The Vast. Great art from Andrade, little kaiju, big kaiju. Again, not personality but this time because it’s so poorly paced. Gage has somehow set up this comic one wants to like, but just can’t because it’s humorless. There’s nothing fun about it. Gage seems miserable and bored.

Cinema Purgatorio is getting to be a chore; I liked the book before Moore showed he could do awesome and amazing comics with it. I also miss liking Pru. She was really cool there for a while.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, Revelations of the Bat; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, Night Without Dawn, Day Without End; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Nahuel Lopez. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Andrade. Letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Providence 12 (March 2017)

Providence #12

Providence is over. In less than two years, Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows (and Avatar) have gotten out this series. No offense, but none of them are known for being speedy. But it’s finished. It gets to go on a shelf soon, next to the other Alan Moore hardcovers. It’ll make it into bookstores, it’ll make it into libraries; given it has a Lovecraft “hook,” it’ll be discovered and rediscovered through that connection.

But it won’t permeate, which is fine. We don’t live in a world deserving of Alan Moore appreciation.

There’s going to be time to read the comic again, in one sitting. There’s going to be time to read it again in whatever other way Avatar figures out how to package it. Gigantic hard cover. Late, of course.

And there’s going to be more to find, because Moore works in serial narrative to provide a cohesive finite reading experience too. Who knows what kind of panel echoes there will be throughout Providence next time.

So how’s the comic? It may be a little divisive. Moore has a very personable, loose writing style when he wants. Is life but a dream… sadly no. But reading should be. It’ll be interesting to see how that theme echoes through the whole series. Moore doesn’t cheap on the comics for the issue though. He and Burrows deliver a great finish. The art is crazy controlled. Providence has always needed an oversize printing, but this last issue just goes further with it.

Providence probably should be read when wearing a VR headset and each panel filling your field of vision. The detail’s so good, it should be immersive. But it’s the last issue of Providence and one wants to read it, not dwell on every background detail. It’s the end of the world, everyone gather round.

Providence is done. I wonder when the hard cover comes out.

CREDITS

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

Cinema Purgatorio 8 (February 2017)

Cinema Purgatorio #8

It’s an okay issue, which–for Cinema Purgatorio–usually means there’s something lacking.

First, Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s feature is the history of Felix the Cat “creator” Pat Sullivan, who was a scumbag both professionally and personally. O’Neill does a fine job on the art, but Moore’s script feels like he’s just hitting various details.

Garth Ennis has a similar problem with Code Pru. There’s a long setup involving ghosts for a full page visual gag payoff. Fine art from Raulo Caceres; there’s just no depth.

Gabriel Andrade takes over the art on More Perfect Union. He does all right, though he’s a little too fixated on human character design and not enough on giant ant action. Though the Max Brooks script doesn’t really offer any good giant ant action, just boring giant ant action.

And Modded is a lot less annoying than usual, maybe because Kieron Gillen’s script goes for brevity. Nahuel Lopez’s art is awesome.

Finally, The Vast. Boring, poorly paced, but with excellent art from Andrade. Very different from his Union art; he puts time into Vast. The other was a rush. The Christos Gage script is all right, I suppose, just disposable.

When Cinema Purgatorio doesn’t have a great Moore and O’Neill feature, the whole issue feels a little too rote.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, And the Blackness Moved; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, Somethin’ Weird, an’ It Don’t Look Good; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Nahuel Lopez. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Andrade. Letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

War Stories 22 (January 2017)

War Stories #22

Aira draws the arc’s “lead”–ranking officer, basically–four or five different ways this issue. Down to him having different color hair at one point (and bushy blond eyebrows instead of pencil thin brown ones). But it doesn’t matter, because Ennis’s script is good. He goes for repeated, honest gut punches. It’s awesome. And Aira’s solid enough on the rest. War Stories is finally great.

CREDITS

Vampire Squadron, Part Four: Down in the Drink; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

War Stories 21 (November 2016)

War Stories #21

Aside from some rushed art on the talking heads–but still great composition from Aira–and the romantic subplot not paying off, this War Stories arc is pretty fantastic. Ennis is comfortable with the characters and the setting. He looks at the fliers and their fears more than anything else.

CREDITS

Vampire Squadron, Part Three: The War Effort; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Providence 11 (November 2016)

Providence #11

Reading this issue of Providence, I expected a lot of things. Moore didn’t do any of them. Even when he hinted at maybe doing something in the direction of an expectation, he didn’t do it. He weaves this beautiful closure to everything he’s been doing not related to the Lovecraft. And he gets to the Lovecraft too a little bit, but it’s less subtle. It’s not forceful, but it is more obvious to the reader. The other things, as they relate to Robert Black specifically, aren’t obvious to the reader or to Black. But the comic isn’t just about Robert Black’s story, it’s about Lovecraft and the Lovecraft world and what Moore’s doing with this series. Providence is about Providence.

Moore takes the pomposity associated with Watchmen, pomposity he never intended that comic to sustain, and he applies it to Providence. Providence is big. Alan Moore’s comics for Avatar are downright cinematic and this issue of Providence is a CinemaScope epic complete with musical accompaniment. I should probably listen to the song.

Yeah, listen to the song and read it again.

But the point is that Moore does something big and unexpected. He’s got an entirely different finish for Providence than he suggested. And given the importance of the commonplace book, it was definitely meant to be awesome, but also be distracting. Moore has distracted the reader just as Black has been distracted. It’ll be interesting to read it through again.

Great art from Burrows, of course. A perfect issue of Providence, which is just about as perfect as a comic can be.

CREDITS

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

Cinema Purgatorio 7 (November 2016)

Cinema Purgatorio #7

Well, it’s not the best issue of Cinema Purgatorio. Not the best at all. It’s not really the worst either, I don’t think. I mean, this installment of Modded is probably Kieron Gillen’s strongest writing. But it’s not a particularly distinct issue.

Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill explore the American Western, which is fine. There’s nothing amazing about it. It’s actually a little obvious; it’s light, which is strange.

Code Pru is okay. Ennis is trying a little harder. It doesn’t really come to anything. Maybe he if he had even two more pages, he’d be able to get someplace better with it. It’s actually an improvement over the earlier stories, it’s just still not clicking.

Like I said before, Modded is Gillen’s best writing. Nice art from Nahuel Lopez. It’s a side story from the main plot, so of course it’s going to be better than usual. Gillen still manages to screw it up at the end, of course.

A More Perfect Union has a really nice double-page spread from Michael DiPascale and some stupid Civil War reference from Max Brooks. I don’t care. No one cares, Max Brooks, no one cares. If they cared, if Avatar is really pitching Cinema Purgatorio to Civil War enthusiasts, well, those guys all left during Code Pru and Ennis’s sex positivity.

And The Vast is a reprint from last issue. I think. I don’t even care. If it’s not, nice art from Gabriel Andrade. If it is, nice art from Gabriel Andrade.

Moore and O’Neill worked up some momentum on this book and if they’re running out… well, Cinema Purgatorio is more often disappointing overall than not, it’s just they had a couple really great stories. And Ennis seemed like he was getting with it. As always, it’s too bad it’s not better.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, After Tombstone; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, Men; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Nahuel Lopez. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Michael DiPascale. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

War Stories 20 (September 2016)

War Stories #20

It’s another excellent issue. Ennis has got a lot of exposition in the dialogue but there’s no better place for it than a war comic; it’s not just for his narrative, it’s for the history too. Script’s steadily paced and Aira’s art flows quite well this issue.

CREDITS

Vampire Squadron, Part Two: The War Effort; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Cinema Purgatorio 6 (September 2016)

Cinema Purgatorio #6

If there’s meant to be an ideal Cinema Purgatorio, this issue comes closer than I’d ever imagine the comic would get. Even with the occasionally phenomenal, usually good, always fine features from Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, there’s not much of a feel to the comic. It’s an anthology without tone, not even in terms of the story selection. It feels like Alan Moore inserted into a bad Avatar idea.

Until this issue. It’s not like Gillen’s Modded is any better, but Nahuel Lopez’s artwork is less complicated than the last artist’s and it makes it read better. It might not make it better, I feel like Lopez isn’t ambitious as much as functional while the last guy was ambitious, but it makes it read better. It makes Modded less of a letdown when you get to it.

Because it’s not just like the Moore and O’Neill feature is great, Code Pru is actually pretty awesome. Pro is having dinner at the Nighthawks diner and she has a talk with a reject from a bad eighties Terminator/Highlander knockoff. It’s funny, it’s kind of touching, it’s kind of strange. It’s Ennis finding something cool to do with this usually devastatingly series. Ennis doesn’t have a handle on this comic, maybe because of the length, maybe because of whatever, but this time out, he finds it. He finds his character. Caceres’s art is fine. It doesn’t end up fitting well enough, but it’s fine.

A Most Perfect Union is dumb but DiPascale’s on a role with his art, both in terms of the narrative pacing and of his character expressions. He’s developing a visual tone for the comic even though Brooks’s script is weak. And The Vast is cute. Andrade’s art gets confusing, but Gage actually paces out a fight scene well.

So Cinema Purgatorio is finally a diverting read. Not rewarding in all its parts, but diverting in them. But it all hinges on Moore and O’Neill. This issue of Cinema Purgatorio opens with a political bombshell. Moore and O’Neill tell the story of the Warner Brothers–you know, the guys whose company now owns DC Comics and has made lots of bad movies off of Alan Moore’s comic books, which he infamously hates being involved with. I actually thought he was going to go further, but he stayed classy. Heinous individuals get proper treatment. There’s a lot in the story–a couple times O’Neill just gives up and lets the dialogue and visual references take over. I couldn’t help reading the feature–Moore casts the Marx Brothers as the Warner Brothers, which brings in even more politics. Today Warner owns the MGM library, including the Marx Brothers movies (at least for home video distribution, I actually have no idea if they lease them or own them or what, not the point)–so is Moore making a deeper jab at Warner? Was his King Kong feature a couple issues ago a jab at Warner? Am I reading too much into it? It’s Alan Moore, after all. Aren’t I supposed to read into it?

Anyway, the feature’s great. Beautifully visually, beautifully in terms of dialogue and the Marxist banter. It flows so nicely into Ennis’s Code Pru, it’s impossible not to be generous with this rest of the comic.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, A Night at the Lawyers; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, Big Jimmy C.; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Nahuel Lopez. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Michael DiPascale. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Cinema Purgatorio 5 (August 2016)

Cinema Purgatorio #5

The movie fan in me resents Moore’s title for the Cinema Purgatorio story–The Time of Our Lives, just because it reminds me of The Best Years of Our Lives and Moore isn’t doing a commentary on that film. Instead, he’s doing a thing about post-WWII culture in America, but more the fifties than the late forties. That caveat aside, it’s a solid entry from he and O’Neill. Nothing too exciting, just solid.

This issue’s Code Pru is similarly okay. Nowhere near as good as the Purgatorio but a not bad possession story. It’s unfortunate because Ennis can’t help but hint at what might be in a better Code Pru book, not just this truncated version of the concept. Decent art from Caceres but nothing too outstanding.

The Modded from Gillen and Calero is simultaneously awful (Gillen rips off Mad Max this time, not Scott Pilgrim) and competently illustrated. It’s a shame Calero doesn’t get better writing.

Ditto the More Perfect Union entry. Though DiPascale does some fantastic art this entry. Brooks barely has a script, but every panel is gorgeous. Maybe the less writing Brooks does, the better chance DiPascale has to turn the strip into something tolerable. Mildly tolerable.

And Gage and Andrade’s Vast is more tolerable than usual as well, just because there’s a little more story in this Pacific Rim rip-off.

I guess this issue of Purgatorio is something of a let down after the last one, but when doesn’t this anthology disappoint. At least there’s solid art. And Modded goes by somewhat quickly. It’s easily the worst of the bunch thanks to Gillen’s writing.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, The Time of Our Lives; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, Your Mother Knits Socks in Hell; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Ignacio Calero. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Michael DiPascale. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

War Stories 19 (June 2016)

War Stories #19

Whenever Garth Ennis does WWII and he does something with the UK, I assume it’s a little bit of a capitulation. What does one expect from Ennis except WWII and UK war comics? I mean, really. There’s even squabbling among the airmen based on one not being from the same part of the UK. It’s exactly what one would expect.

And it’s pretty darn all right. He doesn’t do much with the characters–thankfully Tomas Aira gives them different enough uniforms and body types, but it’s not like Ennis is throwing a lot of character development in. He’s playing for the scene. The draw is the subject matter, which is the RAF putting together their night fighter squadron. Ennis even opens it with a text introduction to the era.

It works. It all works out. Aira’s fine on the airplanes and his composition for the talking heads scenes are getting better. War comics need good composition for briefing sequences. It’s a lot to juggle; Aira doesn’t have the detail on faces and the coloring is still War Stories atrocious–I really hope Ennis has it in some contract if these things catch up commercially, they’ll get recolored–but it’s the best first issue of a War Stories arc the series has had in ages.

It’s also a four-parter, instead of the traditional three. The cynic in me wonders if it’s a drawer script Ennis has had around for a while.

CREDITS

Vampire Squadron, Part One: A Barrel of Guinness; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

War Stories 18 (April 2016)

War Stories #18

Ennis pushes through to the end of his gunboat arc and it’s a bit of a chore. Aira doesn’t do well with the second half of the issue, which is where there’s all the action. It’s not exciting action; these characters aren’t sympathetic, they’re obnoxious and annoying and intentionally so. It’s so strange to see Ennis go out of his way to make these characters so unlikable. I wish there were some deeper commentary to it and there may be, but it doesn’t come across.

The strangest thing about the issue is Aira’s art. Not the stuff on the boat, which is confusing and there’s a couple panels where the side of a guy’s head disappears, but some of the long shots in the early part of the issue. If it weren’t so poorly computer colored–War Stories and its digital shading for perspective are the pits–and if it were in black and white, there might be something to it. Aira’s shapes, in the distance, have presence.

I wish someone knew what to do with this comic book. It doesn’t seem like anyone–Avatar, Ennis, Aira–have the slightest idea what War Stories should be doing. It’s a shame.

CREDITS

Send a Gunboat, Part Three: Commence, Commence, Commence; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Cinema Purgatorio 4 (July 2016)

Cinema Purgatorio #4

Holy shit, is Gillen’s Modded a GamerGate thing? Are we supposed to hate the women for telling the sweet little dude what to do? I really hope not. I hope it’s just a dumb scene. Gillen’s writing on this story is already so lame, I’d feel even worse if he were actually trying something subtle with political commentary and just failing at it. Fine enough art from Calero as usual.

Way too short Vast from Gage and Andrade. Again, fine art, crap writing. But Gage really doesn’t have any time to do anything. It’s almost not fair to call the weak writing weak.

And then the Max Brooks thing. DiPascale’s greyscale digital art is too flat this entry. It’s a weak script with the giant ant fighting but there should have been more personality to it.

Notice I went through all the weak stories in this issue of Cinema Purgatorio first? Because the good stories are worth their own time and some due respect.

First, Garth Ennis. And Code Pru, the most disappointing thing in Cinema Purgatorio. Ennis and Raulo Caceres started it as its own thing, got to a promising place, flubbed it when they went to this anthology. It’s not a supernatural book anymore, it’s a monster comic. Maybe Ennis is doing a movie tie-in, who knows. It doesn’t come across. What does come across is good writing though and this issue’s entry of Pru has some great Ennis dialogue. It just doesn’t involve Pru or her partner. He’s not interested in them because all they do is exposition. It’s a mess but there’s still some Ennis goodness. Caceres’s art is too dark for black and white though.

Finally, Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill doing an homage to Willis H. O’Brien and King Kong. It’s lovely and makes me wish Moore and O’Neill could do this book forever. It’s a shame the other stories in the anthology have anything to do with movies. Moore and O’Neill deserve far better co-creators. Great art on it, some wonderful writing from Moore. It has to be seen to be believed. It makes the issue–this somewhat disastrous Avatar anthology–an essential comic book. Moore’s a show-off with Purgatorio. O’Neill less but he’s still very confident, but Moore’s having a great time with reader expectation. They’re doing great work.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, A King at Twilight; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, Mommy’s Boy; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Ignacio Calero. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Michael DiPascale. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Providence 10 (July 2016)

Providence #10

Well. Providence. Robert Black gets his comeuppance for a lot of inept behavior earlier in the comic. He also finds out Lovecraft is a bigot, not to mention how sometimes the universe rewards endeavors. It’s not a weird comic because what’s so great about the reveals is how Moore started building towards them so long ago, but still keeps them relevant. It’s a masterfully written comic book. The only thing Moore takes more seriously than the Lovecraft stuff is the humor. It’s so sad and it’s so funny.

Burrows plays into that success–he’s got a lot of wonderful detail on protagonist Black as he’s having revelations about what’s really going on. There’s visible intensifying of the character’s stress; it might be as obvious as sweat or just how he’s holding his hands. Burrows’s art is phenomenal, which is even more impressive when one takes into account how strange the comic gets.

Moore opens with horror, then he goes over to uncomfortable social stuff, only to go further and start thinking about the end of the world. Then he closes with a horrifying, hilarious final reveal–amid what should be the ominous ceremonies to bring back an Elder God or whatever. It’s nuts.

And then the back matter is awesome. Moore and Burrows have fully trained the reader by this point to accept the comic book narrative as truer than the commonplace book back matter, so when they flip how it works, it’s just great.

It’s an excellent comic; of course it’s an excellent comic, it’s Providence.

CREDITS

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

Cinema Purgatorio 3 (June 2016)

Cinema Purgatorio #3

Cinema Purgatorio, the comic I want to be able to love–the comic I want to be able to like–and I just can’t. This issue reveals the series’s two major problems. First, the artists (with at least one exception) aren’t doing black and white well. Their art is meant to be colored at some point, not appreciated on its own. Stories in Cinema Purgatorio have what should be great art, but it ends up being incomplete. Second, the pacing. Each of these stories–even the lamest ones–would be fine as a back-up in a decent comic. Not even a great comic. They aren’t installments for an anthology, they’re back-ups. They’d justify an extra buck on the cover price. They don’t justify a comic to themselves.

Starting at the top, Moore and O’Neill’s Cinema Purgatorio “feature.” It’s good, not great, but really good. It’s a serial, the hero keeps turning back time, there’s a lot of precise work from O’Neill. It’s not deep, it’s not musing. The biggest revelation is Purgatorio’s protagonist uses the ladies room. But it’s good. If it were the intro story to a better comic, it’d be great. Still, it’s Moore and O’Neill riffing on pop culture of the forties, one can’t complain.

Then there’s Code Pru, which is the only comic in the anthology with its own story title. I don’t know why, Ennis isn’t doing anything with them. Maybe if the story title somehow tidied up the poorly paced story, but no. It’s just a title. And Code Pru once again feels like if it had another four pages it’d be great. Instead, it’s an Alien rip-off. Ennis doing riffs on famous horror isn’t a bad idea, but it needs its own book and it needs Caceres’s art with color. It’s too busy and not detailed precisely enough for black and white. It’s not even effective as gore.

On the other hand, Calero’s black and white art on Modded is fine. It’s still really tedious to read because Calero’s visual pacing is all wrong, but his black and white line work seems like line work. It’s worth going through the trouble of figuring out what’s going on to appreciate those lines. Gillen’s script is mediocre but inoffensive.

Next up–A More Perfect Union and I’m done being polite. I was polite about DiPascale because I liked his Ennis dog comic but he’s tried my patience. His art for Civil War vs. giant ants–yes, not zombies, ants–is too pedestrian. Writer Brooks is clearly a Civil War buff, if DiPascale is one too, it doesn’t seem to be in the visual elements of the era. Brooks’s script is weak. Again, if it were a back-up, you’d breeze through it. But not in an overfull, undercooked anthology.

Then there’s The Vast. I dig Andrade’s art. He does incomplete black and white better than anyone else in the book (or Caceres and DiPascale–Cinema Purgatorio always seems like there’s a sixth story, maybe because Moore and O’Neill are doing movies in a frame). Gage’s kaiju but not kaiju script is still lame. But inoffensive.

If Cinema Purgatorio were just three dollars cheaper, it’d be great; as an event anthology, it’s kind of a waste. But it’s Alan Moore and Garth Ennis, so you have to read it.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, A Little Something to Lower Your Spirits; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Ignacio Calero. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Michael DiPascale. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Cinema Purgatorio 2 (May 2016)

Cinema Purgatorio #2

With the exception of Moore and O’Neill’s lead story, this issue of Cinema Purgatorio is shockingly rough. Even Ennis seems to be phoning in his story, which has paramedic Pru meeting up with Frankenstein’s Monster (called Francis) as the NYPD roughs him up. Ennis only has a few pages so he emphasizes the action, which one wishes the other writers in the issue would do as well.

First, the Moore story. I love how Cinema Purgatorio is a comic about how movies suck life away written by Alan Moore, who’s never been particularly interested in turning comics into movies. This issue is a philosophical musing from a couple Romans turned into an existential nightmare. O’Neill has a good time with it. Moore is comfortable with it. It’s a fine open to a problematic comic.

Then it’s Code Pru. Ennis doesn’t put in enough work on the NYPD brutality, but he still has it overshadow the monster aspect of the comic. It feels like he’s doing this one as a favor, it really does. It’s got a lot of Ennis ideas without space to go anywhere. The Caceres art is fine. Again, it’s rushed; Caceres would probably do better with twice as many pages. Ennis would probably need three times as many for all the notions he has going on.

The rest of the book is a writing disaster. The art is all solid, but the writing is a mess.

Gillen’s gamer thing is a bunch of jargon. Calero’s art is technically good, but he doesn’t have any narrative pacing to it. It’s a whirlwind of visuals and dumb dialogue.

Brooks and DiPascale’s Civil War thing is terrible. Clearly Brooks wants to write some kind of Civil War epic so doing it in a comics anthology probably isn’t the right place. It’s all talking. Two installments in and it’s all talking. When you’ve only got eight pages, it’s not enough. DiPascale’s art is okay. It’s the least impressive in a lot of ways, maybe because it so clearly doesn’t look right in black and white.

Then there’s Gage and Andrade’s incredibly boring Pacific Rim knock-off. Only without the monster fights. Instead, there’s a lot of talking about monster fights. Andrade’s art is fantastic but it’s a complete waste of his time. There’s nothing for him to draw.

Cinema Purgatorio having a significant sophomore slump wasn’t something I would’ve expected. Hopefully it turns around. Or Moore and Avatar find writers who know how to write stories in six or eight page installments.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, And Lost in the Darkness and Distance; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Ignacio Calero. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Michael DiPascale. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Publisher, Avatar Press.

The Comics Fondle Podcast | Providence Special

D08B61D5-84FE-4A7A-9B0D-EE1DFD74DC9E-2273-000002740AA95BADAlan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ horror masterpiece Providence has just begun its final act, so what better time to take an in-depth look back at the journey so far with a Comics Fondle Podcast one-shot?

Guest co-host (and occasional Comics Fondle contributor) Matthew Hurwitz of Danger Burger joins to chat for over two hours about Robert Black’s oblivious odyssey through the New England of H.P. Lovecraft. Join us as we take into account the many weird tales interwoven through Moore’s sprawling homage: The Call of Cthulu, The Dunwich HorrorThe Shadow Over Innsmouth, Herbert West: Re-Animator, From Beyond, Pickman’s ModelThe Haunter of the Dark, et all, plus the epic’s origins in Moore & Burrows’ previous Lovecraft comics from Avatar Press, The Courtyard and Neonomicon.

We also consider the stature Providence could occupy in the context of Moore’s seminal career and speculate as to how he might surprise his readers with the series’ conclusion.

Much trivia mentioned in this recording would not have been ascertained without the starry wisdom of Facts in the Case of Alan Moore’s Providence, whose meticulous research makes the Stella Sapiente’s archival work look like Robert Black’s dream journal.

Cthulhu fhtagn!

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Providence 9 (May 2016)

Providence #9

This issue of Providence manages to be the most quintessential of the series, if such a thing can happen in a twelve issue series, while also being the least horrifying. After briefly introducing H.P. Lovecraft previously, Moore now sets Lovecraft and protagonist Robert Black on a long walk through Providence together and there’s this uncanny sense of alter egos.

Black has seen all these things but his mind cannot bring itself to comprehend them. Lovecraft can imagine all these things but cannot see them. Black’s commonplace book journaling just confirms it–Lovecraft can’t see what’s all around him. It’s very strange, as the reader, to comprehend more than the protagonist and the fictionalized creator of the subject. The journaling also talks a bit about the power of words; the issue leaves one wondering what kind of comment Moore is in the process of making on Lovecraft. There’s simultaneously admiration for his imagination and dismissal of his closed-mindedness.

Of course, Lovecraft and Black can’t see the ultraviolet monsters swimming through the air in Providence, which would probably help them open those minds.

It’s a very talky issue. Burrows has peculiar framing for the scenes–the traditional Providence first person from Black’s perspective, but also some very strange stagings of characters. The strangeness of poses is far more unsettling than the “monsters,” which calls back to previous issues, and further gives this issue that quintessential feel. Only the exposition isn’t for Black, it’s for the reader. It ought to be for Black, it ought to be for Lovecraft even, but it’s for us. We’re more in on Moore’s imagination than his characters. No pun intended, I assure you.

Moore demands active mental participation. If characters move in between comic panels (I think Dave Gibbons made that observation), Providence develops between the issues. The commonplace book back matter controls the reader’s consumption of the main story, so even if you’re bulk reading, Moore’s able to slow you down.

It’s breathtaking.

CREDITS

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

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.

Cinema Purgatorio 1 (February 2016)

Cinema Purgatorio #1

I wonder what Cinema Purgatorio is going to be. The first issue has five stories, all by different creators. It’s Alan Moore’s idea, it’s an Avatar horror anthology. The writers are Moore, Garth Ennis, Max Brooks, Kieron Gillen, Christos Gage. Avatar guys. The artists are Kevin O’Neill, Raulo Caceres, Michael DiPascale, Ignacio Calero, Gabriel Andrade. In other words, Kevin O’Neill and some Avatar guys.

Moore and O’Neill contribute the opening frame. There’s a demented slapstick short, then some musings on film and pop entertainment. I can never tell if Moore knows how strange it is to have him talk about film–when his public comments on film are always about a negative interaction with film–or if he really does just like talking about it grandiosely. It’s a strange kind of grandiose though. Moore’s setting up the concept of the book–demented Saturday matinee.

The other writers approach the matinee differently. With the exception of Ennis and Caceres’s Code Pru, which is sort of sitcom gore, everything else is in some way zeitgeist pop. Gillen and Calero do something with fantasy beasts, cyberpunk and Fury Road villains called Modded (get it, gamer stuff). Brooks and DiPascale do A More Perfect Union, which is probably going to be Civil War vs. zombies because Max Brooks (only with historical “accuracy” for Civil War buffs). Gage and Andrade have The Vast, which is fighter jets versus kaiju and what not.

The Ennis story and the Brooks story are writer pieces. But Gillen and Gage are just setting up their artists for awesomeness. Both Calero and Andrade excel in the black and white sort of horror, sort of fantasy, sort of sci-fi realm. The black and white brings out all the little details, focusing the reader on the violence of the situation. Without color, the fantastic element is gone. The same thing happens with Caceres’s art, but that one is still all about Ennis’s dialogue and scene pacing.

The Brooks and DiPascale story is the least successful. I’m most excited for whatever Moore and O’Neill come up with, but also Code Pru and Vast. Modded will be a fine read with good art.

Cinema Purgatorio is, conceptually, a success. Now they just need to ship it on time.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, The Fatal Officers in “Hushed Up!”; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, You’ll Never Forget Your First Time; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Ignacio Calero. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Michael DiPascale. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Publisher, Avatar 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.

CREDITS

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

Code Pru 2 (January 2016)

Code Pru #2

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

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

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

CREDITS

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

Providence 7 (January 2016)

Providence #7

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

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

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

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

It’s another great issue. Providence is superb.

CREDITS

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

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