Sleeper: Season One (2003-04)

Sleeper Season One  2009

Some of Sleeper doesn’t age well. There’s a whole plot line about the secret society running the world and, in 2020, it seems like a very dated trope. To be fair, it was dated in 2003 when Sleeper came out, but writer Ed Brubaker was at least utilizing the trope to sabotage it. There’s also the lack of Internet-backed technology in the futuristic setting, which was apparently where what all futurism somehow missed. And when they try to mainstream the book in the last few issues, brightening up Sean Phillips’s blacks, slimming his lines, it’s a mistake. Ditto going from the handwriting font for the protagonist’s narration to a really slick italicized font. Doesn’t read well in the context of a collection; there ought to be a footnote about how they were desperate to save the book from cancellation.

I’d also forgotten the book takes place in the Wildstorm universe, featuring TV news cameos from The Authority; Brubaker does a great job of not making those connections matter much, outside providing an established universe with super-powered good guys and bad guys. The crossover character is Machiavellian crime boss Tao (created by the Original Writer himself!), which doesn’t come up much throughout and even when Tao’s giving his origin story it’s barely a footnote.

Origin stories are a big deal in Sleeper, something the protagonist, Holden Carver—good guy spy turned double agent, posing as a bad guy super-powered spy for Tao’s organization—and his colleagues do when they’re bored. The villains sit around and tell their stories. Except it’s only for the newbs and Holden hangs out with the seasoned veterans so it takes a while to coax their origins out of them, whether it’s Holden’s best bud, Genocide Jones, or his lady friend, Miss Misery.

Where Sleeper doesn’t age—can’t age—is in Brubaker’s plotting of the series, which spends the first nine or so issues with a two steps forward, one step back approach to revealing Holden’s story. We don’t find out how exactly he got roped into the super secret mission—and we still don’t know how his handler, Lynch, got put into a coma right before the series started. Issues take place weeks apart, sometimes following up on the previous issues’ cliffhangers and finales, sometimes not. Brubaker and Phillips end each issue for effect, sometimes dramatic, sometimes tragic. So it really burns when the narration lettering gets cheesy at the end, just as Holden’s having some big moments of revelation. You want the personality of the character in those passages, not feeling like you’re being handled so DC can try to sell the book to its stupider readers.

Sorry, it’s been sixteen years but I’m still not okay with how badly they bungled this series.

The first issue does a fine job establishing Holden and some of the world, enough about his mission, enough about Tao’s villainous organization, but focuses on Holden’s friendship with Genocide. Genocide’s an indestructible big lug thug. After Holden starts sleeping with Miss Misery—a chainsmoker who needs to inflict pain or damage in order to live, literally—Genocide’s the only one he can tell about it because Holden shouldn’t be sleeping with his coworkers. Especially not when she’s an occasional squeeze to Tao and Tao’s right hand man, Peter Grimm, mad crushes on her and already hates Holden.

Holden’s basically indestructible, thanks to an interdimensional artifact. His body heals, but builds up a charge of pain energy (he doesn’t feel physical sensations anymore, unless there’s some kind of pleasure and pain mix, which makes him perfect for Miss Misery). He zaps people with the pain energy; it can be lethal. Otherwise he shoots people a lot. There’s a lot of shooting in Sleeper. It’s not the most exciting visual (at some point you wonder how Phillips is still ginning up the enthusiasm for the action sequences, given none of the main characters is actually capable of being hurt).

The book starts getting really good in the last third, after the illuminati subplot, as it becomes clear just how much Holden is breaking down undercover and what’s going to happen when a lifeline appears. He’s got to question whether the lifeline’s real, but then the further question becomes… is it better or worse if the lifeline’s real. Has Holden crossed the line in his undercover operation. Sure, Genocide Jones and Miss Misery are far from the worst compatriots in a hive of scum and villainy—Genocide’s likable and even sympathetic, while Miss Misery gets the very odd combination of female tragedy and male gaze (even if it’s arty Phillips male gaze… there’s a lot of it in the comic)—but what does it say about Holden.

Brubaker’s character development work on Holden is somewhat ramshackle, thanks to the fractured timeline and narration, but once he reveals himself to be something of a softy, it’s not at all unexpected. Or unwelcome. A little sincerity goes a long way in Sleeper, which is effective, engaging, excellently executed (enough Es), but definitely feels like commercial product. Brubaker’s scripts reward the reader’s attention without ever dragging things out too long. Holden’s narration cushions the plot twists and reveals, with Phillips art capturing what usually ends up being sadness in the moment. He’s really good at tragedy and desperation. Less so the super-powered gun fights or the occasional superhero fights. They’re not bad in any sense, but they’re not where Phillips excels in the book. You can tell he’s not interested in them. The supervillain outfits, for example, get a good setup panel and then otherwise seem like a chore.

But there’s a lot for Phillips to draw in this book and it’s impressive how well he gets through it all. Like, he’s got to be doing supervillains and superheroes one panel and then Disneyland two panels later. It’s seriously globe-trotting, which isn’t always great as far as the character development goes but… delayed gratification on that front. Brubaker and Phillips don’t work to make Holden a sympathetic protagonist even after things start falling apart. He’s presented matter-of-factly, which probably hurt the book’s commercial potential to some degree. Though who knows. If the last sixteen years of DC Comics has revealed anything, it’s they actually didn’t have a chance with their dedicated reader base.

Sleeper was also one of the first comics to do the “Season One” thing, even though it wasn’t intentional… they had to try for a new number one to get the series some interest because trying to force good comics to become hits is difficult. The “season” ends on an interesting narrative note for what’s to come for sure, even if the thinner Phillips line work and the gaudy lettering leaves it in a visually far less interesting spot than it started.

Did it read better month-to-month back in 2003 and 2004? Probably. But it holds up rather well, especially given the many aforementioned caveats….

Like, I think there’s at least a boob every issue, which makes you wonder if it was an editorial mandate… did DC have data on how many copies they sold based on bare boobs? And while they’re sometimes arty boobs—Phillips is classically trained, after all—sometimes they’re just boobs for boobs sake, maybe three lines. It gets to be an eye-roll after a while.

Though… it’s not like there’s much characterization to the (two) female characters in the comic, which maybe you can get away with because it’s Holden’s perspective and all, but them both being exhibitionists is a little weird. No fetish shaming just… what are the odds. Are there odds? Do female espionage agents prefer exhibitionism? It, like an apology for that second lettering font, needs a footnote at least.

Dollar Binging

Spider-Boy Team Up #1
Amalgam Comics, June 1997

Hawkman Comics #12
DC Comics, Feb/Mar 1966


Spider Boy Team Up  1997  1Spider-Boy Team Up #1

Probably the last of its ilk, Amalgam Comics will be known as the final example of Marvel and DC co-publishing anything. The 12 one shots that made up this line were all amalgamations of concepts of both companies, complete in single issue stories, and a couple of them stood out.

The story here, penned by “R.K. Sternsel”, is obviously an amalgam, I’m guessing Roger Stern, but thats all the thought I’m going to put into it. While “Stern” does a decent job of hitting all the right notes of this sort of thing, including a horseshoeing in a bit of the Christmas Carol, I’m giving him extra points for the five hundred or so of the Legion of Superheroes look a-likes and their catchy names, keeping it moving yet inventive and fresh for this usually mind wiping of exercises. All the different costumes gave a great new jazz too, but that was up to-

Penciller Ladronn, with some great embellishments by Juan Vlsaco. These two were working themselves up to quite a frenzy previously in Cable, but here they are fully ensconced, full steam ahead, with an inventiveness and attention to minute detail that Geoff Darrow would poop his pants about.

This 20 page pablum, packed with a dense, continuously moving and bright script by “Roger Stern”, and the offspring of Ladronn and Vlasco at the peak of their collaborative powers make this one a steal at a buck. Smoke some weed and read this.


Hawkman  1964  12Hawkman #12

While a lot of the Silver Age hasn’t aged well, Gardner Fox, one of DC’s sci-fi writers itchin’ to write comics in his spare time, lays out the usual paces in this 24 page, 3 chapter melodrama, its once again it’s the work of the visual end, Murphy Anderson, to pull the weight needed here for me to be able to finish this.

Fox has pretty much stretched out your basic superhero plot, complete with holes, not much story development (I don’t think this was a prerequisite in the 60’s), but given just enough characters and action to keep Anderson busy.

And busy he is. Every panel of this eye candy is beautifully rendered with what can only be labeled some of the most graceful human figures to grace a comic book. While backgrounds are not common in action scenes, when an establishing shot is needed, Anderson shows why he is one of the masters of the silver age. We would be so lucky to look like the macho Katar Hol and the gorgeous redheaded Sheyera. In their masterful poses, they make humans dressed like hawk people a normal and wonderful thing to witness.

Call me an old reprobate, but there is so much drawing here that I think most modern comics artists would puke if they knew how much time and effort was spent on this. Hawkman stories are generally a snooze, but our fearsome duo flying around in their wonderfully designed costumes and masks is worth the buck alone.

Realistic Flintstones: Anthro

DC Showcase #74

DC Showcase #74
Anthro issues #1-6
DC Comics
1968-69 12-15 cents ea.

Deep within the recesses of DC’s late sixties explosion of titles, a unique direction for mainstream comics occurs. I’m referring to Anthro, Howie Post’s take on prehistoric living.

Post, a gag cartoonist, who first started drawing comic books in the golden age, was an animation director, did a stint working on scary stuff for pre-Marvel Atlas comics in the fifties, and is best known for his long running syndicated strip, The Dropouts (1968-81). Just before that he ended up proposing to DC his version of what caveman life was like. Within this framework, he eschews a natural interpretation of history, bringing along dinosaurs, some modern slang, and our protagonist, Anthro, who with his immediate family, venture forth and survive the tests of daily living.

This family unit includes his parents, his grandmother, and younger brother Lark, to complete the set. Post creates an exciting, semi realistic set of challenges for them, along with modern takes on their relationships, including Anthro’s father losing arguments regularly with his mother in law, the dangerous and regular hunt for sustenance, and his continuing distraction with those curved cavemen, known as women, whom his father claims are the most dangerous of beasts to be wary of in this challenging world.

Anthro #1

Each issue tells a chapter of his tale, from his early encounter with thwarted love, helping his father protect his miniature clan from starvation as well as attacks from wild beasts, surviving contact with superior races, culminating in a trek across many lands to avoid the “ice age”, and ultimately, his reunion with Embra, his first contact with someone of the female species of his own age. Anthro is strong enough for the challenges, yet always uncertain of their outcome, and rarely confident in his ability to win the day.

Post provides a galloping ride to the proceedings, never sitting still long before the next menace comes, keeping the plot fresh and fun to follow. His cartooning, a scratchy, yet easy on the eye type of line work, creates caricatures that while type cast, have a certain grubby charm of their own. Post keeps a light feel to the proceedings, despite the ever lurking dangers, as well as a wonderful contrast between the somewhat handsomeness of Anthro, and the primitive, Cro-Magnon look of his father and others. The girls here, are depicted with a similar grace, cute when needed, and realistically homely when the humor demands it. None of the men or women however, are sparred the indignity of at least mild unattractiveness.

Anthro #2

What sets this series apart from your “typical” adventure series is the overall warmth generated by Anthro and his family. Whether they argue about the indignities of “nuclear family” life, or teaming up to protect one another from harm, there is a genuine camaraderie about them that is fully convincing.

Here within is Post’s strong suite, taking the average and mundane, and giving it life to make us care about it. Sure, death is around every corner, but they will face it with the limited skills available, along with the earnestness of a group that really cares for one another. Post manages to tell a legitimate tale of an early family, along with an atmosphere of lightheartedness that keeps you vested in their survival.

Not too airy and not too deep, Anthro is an honest read in its aims to entertain, yet not hit us over the head with it’s wild premises and bends of reality. There is a bit of Post’s personal involvement with all the characters here, and it pays off in a mild mannered, breezy read, that brings you completely into it’s world and keeps you warm and fuzzy. The series only flaw here being it’s premature ending, with solid yet contrasting inks this issue by Wally Wood, most likely brought about from the intrusion of Post’s new gig as a syndicated cartoonist, a step up for artists, with a much better paycheck.

Anthro #6

And that’s plenty for me.

If you’re lucky enough to sample Anthro (not sure its EVER been reprinted), and enjoy it as I have, click on the link here for an interview with Post to find out how exactly alike he and his creations are.

http://twomorrows.com/comicbookartist/articles/05post.html

Anthro. A real charmer of a sixties comic, for those of us that revel in such things, as well as a taste of a comics era that will most likely never be seen again. Sadly, it’s all the poorer for it, I think.

Batman’s Junk

Batman: Damned #1
DC comics, $6.99, 48 pages
2018

Ok then. The arrival in DC’s new line of “mature” titles featuring their biggest characters starts with an expressionistic take on the dark, forbidden knowledge portion of the Batman mythos. Not that it’s a new idea, Bats has been something various writers have stretched as far as editorial will let them after what, 75(?) years of Batman stories. Where do you go from there? In it’s quest to reinvent itself for a new generation and relevance in today’s pop culture, DC has decided a more original, adult approach is supposedly an idea whose time has come.

After reading the story, which features a trio of DC mystical characters that cameo in Bats attempt to help with the books plot, facing an unknown part of his life, that provide the impetus here. Sadly, not much is really new or different. Lots of overly used metaphors abound, along with John Constantine’s new and annoying, mysterious
narrative dialogue that pretty much abandons his former accent and smart ass attitude.

Lee Bermejo’s art, while technically accomplished, seems odd in places, perhaps with a tad too much realism to get the viewer fully engaged, being more distracting than complimentary. The Elseworlds approach used to always display to the reader this was a different type of story, not necessarily bound to the established canon with the characters. This quite often was a successful approach, with an inner sense of logic that would satisfy, and got you from point a to b in a satisfying manner.

Not that there isn’t craft of some sort operating here. It’s just that it’s not particularly original or well serviced, with a slightly askew dc universe different from the others just because it can be. All the characters seem off, not really themselves, and by not knowing a purpose for this interpretation, keeps me at a distance to care. I’m not sure where the story aims after 48 pages, and other than an interesting take on Zatanna, I’ve still got nothing invested after reading it. Murky stories and hyper realistic art aren’t a substitute here for a story I can get enthusiastic about, or even keeping me curious enough to want to read the second issue.

Then there’s the “mature” part of the story, really the only “mature” part of it, and it doesn’t add to the proceedings at all. To give this new “Black Label” an edgy, adult look and feel, we’re forced to see Batman’s full frontal junk in three shots (that I can tell, anyway), that seem ridiculously gratuitous in their inclusion. I didn’t know Bruce walked around the Batcave naked, and not sure I needed to.

Why this even exists in a Batman story is totally beyond me. I’m not a puritan, and if you gave me a valid reason to see Batman’s John Thomas I’m sure I’d go along with it. Sadly, this isn’t it. The only reason I can guess is that it gives you a reason this week to buy the new Batman comic.

Adding fuel to the fire, the week the book came out, that’s really all folks could talk about, simply because it was the only thing that made this Batman comic different from the rest. Not better or even equal, just different. The cheesy mechanization that led to this editorial decision for attention and sales elude me, and it seems this just creates more questions and problems going forward.

This brings up imaginary scenarios of my former life as a comic book retailer, where more than once I’d be confronted by a parent whose child reads Batman and wonders why this comic wasn’t out on the racks for little Joey to peruse. Following would be me demonstrating the graphic content, with the inevitable hopeless defense of why they’d make Batman inaccessible to anyone under 21 in the first place.

After all, once you get to see Batman’s junk, what’s next? Selina’s stuff?

Pass, unless you’re investing in it for speculative purposes. Even then, sell quick, cause you know this won’t be the last time we’re going to see this new, mysterious, provocative portion of Batman’s life at 7 bucks a pop.

How The West Was Really Won. At Least In Comics

DC Showcase #76

DC Showcase #76, Bat Lash #1–7
DC Comics, 12–15 cents ea. 1968

Ah, Westerns.

For me, Westerns have always been that convenient, handy, all purpose source of fiction that utilizes Americans utopian, noble, and utterly romantic interpretations of ourselves and our history. A uniquely North American period of time, Westerns give forth the vision of how we wish to depict ourselves, generally in the best fashion, to the rest of the world. Filled will grandiose stories featuring our self imposed spirit, they can be not only ironic, but a glimpse into to the American psyche itself.

The timing of their popularity comes in the 50’s after the Second World War, and was solidified in pop culture by films, the expanding cultural icons of television, and the handy and cheap format of the comic book.

While it could be said the best representations of the American Western themes succeeded the most where the big money was, with films by John Ford far out-lapping the rather pedestrian fare found on episodic television shows.

Comics tread a similar path, with the best of the form saved for the better paying, self copyrighted newspaper comic strips, with outstanding examples being Rick O’Shay by Stan Lynde, or The Cisco Kid, by Jose Luis Salinas. This level of craft was later supplanted by the Belgian/French series Blueberry, by Jean Michel Charlier and Jean Giraud, their mastery of the American Western period perhaps the apex of the form for me.

In 1968, while the popularity of superhero comics was hitting its peak, DC and Marvel were expanding their empires of comics publishing, adding ever more titles to compete with each other and starve off rack space from the second tier publishers. They tried a lot of odd, sometimes goofy approaches to comics, throwing lots of stuff at the walls to see what would stick.

While many of the “bronze age” of American comics were still mired in commercial and semi conservative boundaries, this was a good time to grow, trying many avenues of approaches to see if there were readers of comics outside the tried and true superhero genre.

And among these oddities was Bat Lash.

Brainchild of gag writer Sergio Aragones (of the Mad magazine border cartoon fame), scripter Denny O’Neil (whose English and command of dialects was better than Aragones), and house artist Nick Cardy (whose art style didn’t need to change no matter what he was drawing), came yet another attempt to revisit the Western comic book.

Bat Lash, neither fish nor fowl of the typical Western epic and characters, brought a new game to it. While most American Western comics were visually flat and dull as dirt with leads and stories to match, Bat Lash always gave his cowboy a chance to shine, utilizing the typical attributes of the old west, yet adding some spice to it. Bat Lash was a handsome devil, he had an unerring direction towards the ladies, providing a continuous weak point for his goals, as well as being a bit of a selfish cad. As much as he liked the females, Bat Lash never prioritized them over the creature comforts of money and the opportunity to move on to the next one. In fairness to the apparent misogyny here, it can be said that most of the females depicted had the same attitude towards Bat, moving on once his usefulness to them was over with.

The world of Bat Lash is populated with a stereotypical cast, but one used effectively in relation to the lead, who was selfish in the extreme, yet highly appreciative of beautiful women and a gourmet meal. While demonstrating a typical Western drawl, he also possessed a vocabulary far beyond the yoklesque townies.

First published in an issue of DC’s anthology title Showcase, he then went on to a short lived seven issue series, each one a complete tale, but giving clues about Bat and his history along the way. Aragones provides great plots as only a lover of the Western genre can, O’Neil flourishes it with dialogue thats genuine and unique to each character, and Nick Cardy’s art perfectly compliments the proceedings, utilizing a messy brush that depicts the dirtiness of the old west, but also using fine pen lines to soften Bats features and give the women a delicate sweetness that put Bat Lash’s weakness on constant display.

Another feature in this series that gave it spice was its constant dedication to humor, an almost non existent entity in Westerns, at least on this level. Never quite taking itself too seriously, yet also providing grit in the realistic manner of how life could be cheap and over soon. It balanced the inevitable violence of the drama with a warm sense of humor that smoothed out the edges and make it an entertaining, positive read.

While not quite on the aesthetic level of Blueberry, this is one commercial comic book with a sense of identity in its hands that was consistent throughout. It’s never overly serious, yet always fully involved in its need to tell a story compellingly. You can’t accuse it of being a work of high art, but Bat Lash is certainly a work of high craft. Lovers of Westerns will recognize all the familiar elements here, mixed with added ingredients that provide fresh zest for the meal, as Bat Lash would surely appreciate.

Of the eight issues produced, my faves were issue two with Bat as a reluctant father figure, along with some of the best art found in a commercial comic; issue five, with a mirror themed antagonist comically named and depicted as Sergio Aragones with double crosses supreme, and the sixth issue, featuring none of the usual humor in a story that relates how Bat Lash come into being, with an ever present sadness that’s absent in the rest.

Perhaps the best thing about Bat Lash is that you really don’t have to have a soft spot for Westerns to enjoy it. But while its execution in style and craft overwhelm any need to adhere to a genre formula, it instead relishes in its submersion and loves it.

Good Oaters…

Batman: White Knight #8 (July 2018)

Batman: White Knight #8

White Knight is fine. Murphy finishes it fine. The art is great, there’s some really cool action–imagine if a Schumacher Batman movie vehicle setpiece were good–and the dialogue’s occasionally really strong.

It’s not great. The sequel setup stuff is weak and a copout as far as character work goes. There are other copouts on the character work; Barbara and Dick are accessories, so’s Gordon. There’s nothing to them.

Other than the art. And Murphy’s love of all things Batman.

After dawdling through multiple issues, Murphy runs out of time in this one. Not just the sequel setup nonsense, but also with the action sequence. Nightwing gets lost. And the action sequence develops to something Murphy could really go wild with and he doesn’t.

It’s too bad White Knight wasn’t great. The art’s great and there’s some really cool things about it, but it didn’t achieve that initial promise of a new great Batman comic. Murphy should have tempered his ambitions, as they all turned out to be empty anyway.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Sean Murphy; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Maggie Howell and Mark Doyle; publisher, DC Comics.

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #5 (July 2018)

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #5

It’s the penultimate issue. I forgot there were six. I was hoping for five. Especially since the comic opens with the Soviets–in the fifties–talking about how eventually America will elect a complete idiot president and then they’ll nuke us. Or something. If Russell wanted to correlate with modern day stuff, he needed to do it. Not just as a throwaway joke to distract from the endlessness of Exit Stage Left.

This issue has a big speech from Snagglepuss to Congress. Tragedy has struck and S.P. is dismantling his life so he can speak the truth. It’s not a rousing speech. I mean, if it were a rousing speech or if he gotcha’d the senators, it’d be something. But it’s nothing.

At the same time as S.P.’s testimony, his play has its opening night. The recent tragedy informs the play, the rousing speech informs the play, yada yada.

If only some of it were good.

The art didn’t bother me as much as usual. I don’t know why. I don’t think it’s better, but it might be. Maybe I’m just so thrilled it’s almost over.

CREDITS

Opening Night; writer, Mark Russell; penciller, Mike Feehan; inker, Sean Parsons and Jose Marzan Jr.; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Diego Lopez and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

The Terrifics #3 (June 2018)

The Terrifics #3

The Terrifics #3 is completely false advertising. There’s nothing terrific in the comic at all. Certainly not the art; Joe Bennett and the three inkers have bad expressions and static figures. Not the characters. Plastic Man’s obnoxious, Mr. Terrific is a jerk, Sapphire Stagg is enabling her megalomaniac father, Simon Stagg is a megalomaniac, Metamorpho is dim; Phantom Girl is all right. The caveman is all right. Otherwise, no. And the writing isn’t terrific.

It’s kind of stunning how fast this book ran out of steam. Apparently all it had going for it was the promise of Tom Strong being integrated into the DCU. That promise isn’t worth sitting through the rest of the material.

The worst thing about the three different inkers–these aren’t terrible inkers either, at least two of the names are people who’ve worked on fine books (and I don’t recognize the third)–is there’s no visual continuity. There’s Bennett’s busy and visually uninviting composition and everyone looks a little bit different every few pages.

Terrifics has gotten to be anything but.

CREDITS

Meet the Terrifics, Part 3 of 3; writer, Jeff Lemire; penciller, Joe Bennett; inkers, Sandra Hope, Jaime Mendoza, and Art Thibert; colorist, Marcelo Maiolo; letterer, Tom Napolitano; editors, Andrew Marino and Paul Kaminski; publisher, DC Comics.

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #4 (June 2018)

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #4

If Exit Stage Left were any better, it might be full on problematic. Some of Russell’s juxtapositions and analogues should cause more intellectual consternation. They don’t, however, because the comic isn’t better. It’s perplexingly mundane.

This issue opens with the government woman who wants to force Snagglepuss’s cooperation in the witch hunt out visiting the nuclear test grounds in Nevada. There she discovers the U.S. government is lying to the American people about their chances of survival in a nuclear attack. So, she’s already a bit of a tool, long before Russell demonizes her in a juxtaposition later.

Then the Snagglepuss stuff is basically his fake wife and his boyfriend getting pissed at him and so he does something about it. It’s like the C plot though. The comic really belongs to Huckleberry Hound, who gets a really depressing storyline this issue.

It’s become clear, four issues in, some of Exit Stage Left’s problem is the art. Feehan and Parsons are competent but uninspired. Russell’s already doing drab history with the inclusion of anthropomorphized cartoon animals supposedly going to make it special, the art should at least be enthusiastic. It’s not.

What’s worse is the art on the backup, Sasquatch Detective, is a lot more enthusiastic. Gus Vasquez is on the art this time. Brandee Stilwell is still writing. Still not a funny strip. And the cameo isn’t funny either.

Exit Stage Left has two more issues. Expectations keep plummeting. It’s not a bad comic, it’s just utterly pointless.

CREDITS

Doom Town; writer, Mark Russell; penciller, Mike Feehan; inker, Sean Parsons; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Diego Lopez and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman: White Knight #7 (June 2018)

Batman: White Knight #7

Murphy really likes deus ex machina plot devices. He uses three or five of them in White Knight #7.

Given where the series goes, I’m not sure he really needed eight issues–this issue seems like the always intended, not drawn out, penultimate issue. There’s a lot going on, a lot of crowded rooms with exposition, a lot of rushed character moments, a handful of revelations. Murphy recenters White Knight on Batman this issue, which almost comes as a surprise. Whether or not it’s successful is going to depend on the finale–Batman makes some hard promises as he gets out of Arkham and teamed with Jack Napier. Murphy’s going to have to keep some of them.

He can’t just have it turn out Thomas Wayne was a secret agent fighting the Nazis. The series’s early success came from Murphy’s willingness to reveal red herrings to be real herrings.

There’s a lot of awesome art–including the “Batman” TV show Batmobile getting some action–but the panels are mostly tiny. Grizzled Batman gets way too many big panels while Murphy’s gorgeous design work gets relegated to little ones. It might be Batman’s comic again, but it doesn’t mean he’s the most interesting thing to see. I mean, Jake Napier’s Jokering out uncontrollably, which Murphy does like a hybrid homage to Bolland and Sienkiewicz. It’s awesome art.

So Batman: White Knight might make it. Not the heights it initially promised, but some significant ones.

It’ll probably make a good trade. It could be a great movie (but not one of those animated ones… and most certainly not a live action one with Ben Affleck and Jared Leto).

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Sean Murphy; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Maggie Howell and Mark Doyle; publisher, DC Comics.

The Terrifics #2 (May 2018)

The Terrifics #2

I wish The Terrifics were terrific but it’s not. It’s perfectly fine. It’s gorgeous DC superhero stuff. Reis’s art doesn’t particularly invite dwelling, but if you decide to dwell, you get reasonably rewarded. As for the story, it’s very much part two of the series opener.

Oh, and Tom Strong is a red herring. Let’s just get it out of the way. After the cliffhanger “resolution” with him, it’s backstory on Phantom Girl. Then it’s action, action, action, quick romance (I mean, Rex and Sapphire have to kiss, don’t they), then a little more action. The last bits of action aren’t particularly exciting, as they’re expository action. Reis and Lemire pulling them off so (relatively) well showcase that rare quality of the superhero comic book–it lends itself to expository action.

The cliffhanger involves why the team is now a team.

Good writing. Plastic Man is starting to grate. But only slightly. Lemire’s writing for him seems like a series of postscript quips to scenes. Too many of them. Though Plastic Man’s not wrong about Mr. Terrific being a bit of a dick (but not too much of one, Lemire keeps everyone affable).

We’ll see. So far, it’s totally solid DC superhero stuff. Might even end up being worth reading.

CREDITS

Meet the Terrifics, Part 2 of 3; writer, Jeff Lemire; pencillers, Ivan Reis and Jose Luis; inkers, Vicente Cifuentes and Jordi Tarragona; colorist, Marcelo Maiolo; letterer, Tom Napolitano; editor, Jessica Chen and Paul Kaminski; publisher, DC Comics.

The Ruff & Reddy Show #6 (May 2018)

The Ruff & Reddy Show #6

It’s over. It’s really, really over. Finally. In what’s got to be the best issue since the first–I can’t go back and look, I don’t want to remember too much about the experience of reading Ruff and Reddy. I’m ready to forget. Ha.

So this issue has very little of writer Chaykin trying to offer commentary on show business. There’s talk about commentary on show business, but it’s bluster. The bluster works better than when Chaykin’s actually trying. This issue opens with a pseudo-Ain’t It Cool News website page. Because Ruff and Reddy apparently thinks AICN is a thing still. But other than that painful exposition tool? There’s not a lot of nonsense here. When Ruff and Reddy go on TV, Chaykin sticks it out and has a real scene.

And on it goes, with the character development Chaykin’s avoided for four issues, before a nice, sort of funny finish. I mean, if it weren’t vaguely homophobic. It might have actually been a good start to the series but, no, Chaykin plotted the thing out disastrously and it’s possible the only reason I’m a wee bullish on the finale is because it is the finale.

I never have to read Ruff and Reddy Show again.

I can’t believe I read it this time.

Nice enough art from Rey. He really deserves a better project than this one.

CREDITS

A Cautionary Tale In Six Parts, Part Six; writer, Howard Chaykin; artist, Mac Rey; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editors, Michael McCalister and Joey Cavalieri; publisher, DC Comics.

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #3 (May 2018)

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #3

I think this issue the series’s best so far. But it has jack to do with Snagglepuss. There’s a TV interview bookend with he and Huckleberry Hound and Snagglepuss is in most of the issue, he’s just not important to any of it. Not when there’s a Marilyn Monroe cameo, a full-on Joe DiMaggio first person flashback, not to mention the implication Snagglepuss is responsible for Clint Eastwood’s success.

Oh, and he finds Huckleberry Hound a boyfriend finally; because gay bar. Where Snagglepuss pisses off his Cuban lover with some of his comments on the Cuban Revolution.

Russell’s writing is strong and anti-dramatic. It’s a tedious read, even when it’s just a scene. Like the DiMaggio flashback. It’s interesting, historically, but dramatically inert on its own and entirely puzzling in Exit Stage Left.

If Russell wanted to do some creative nonfiction about how McCarthyism hit New York, he should’ve just done it. Throwing the cartoon characters in does nothing for it.

Decent art from Feehan, who’s better at people than anthropomorphized dogs and cats.

And the Sasquatch Detective backup is odd. It’s got to be perplexing to readers not versed in the right pop culture trivia and, even if they are, it’s still unlikable and not funny.

CREDITS

<p style="font-size:11px;">Actors and Stars; writer, Mark Russell; penciller, Mike Feehan; inker, Mark Morales; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Diego Lopez and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

The Ruff & Reddy Show #5 (April 2018)

The Ruff & Reddy Show #5

The Ruff and Reddy Show continues. It continues to get more and more embarrassing for writer Chaykin, who apparently decided to add some commentary on Hollywood sexual assault and harassment. Only not really, just for the opening summary page.

Then the issue is a series of not funny scenes with Ruff and Reddy in various television pilots. They’re all terrible modern television shows. Chaykin handles it all dispassionately. He’s just churning through. The reader, the writer, they get to churn through the pages without dwelling. Poor Rey has to illustrate this nonsense.

Chaykin finishes the comic with an almost decent scene at Comic Con with Ruff and Reddy getting into a fight. It’s not a decent scene, but it’s almost decent.

Barely almost.

I can’t believe I’ve made it through five of these comics.

CREDITS

A Cautionary Tale In Six Parts, Part Five; writer, Howard Chaykin; artist, Mac Rey; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editors, Michael McCalister and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

The Terrifics #1 (April 2018)

The Terrifics #1

I’m hard-pressed to find anything wrong with The Terrifics. It seems like a quirky DC series spun out of a major crossover event. They’d done a bunch of these series over the years. The Terrifics has a few different things going on, of course. Ivan Reis doing Plastic Man. Reis’s style shouldn’t work with the wackiness of Plastic Man. But it does, because it’s Ivan Reis.

And so there’s a varied principal cast–Mr. Terrific (hence The Terrifics), Metamorpho (the only time the issues stumbles is too much time spent with the Stagg family), a female Legion of Superheroes-looking hero. Jeff Lemire and Reis share a “storytelling” credit but I think one can still assume Lemire’s doing most of the writing. Lemire brings them all together in a witty, exposition-friendly style. There’s banter. Mr. Terrific’s the straight man, et cetera.

It’s perfectly good superhero comics.

It also is introducing Tom Strong into the DC Universe, which is morally problematic. Worse, given it’s Reis and Lemire and Terrifics is fine so far, what if they integrate Strong all right? If they fail, it’ll be just desserts. If they succeed, well. It’ll be a testament to the original creator’s ability to create characters.

I guess I’m curious enough to find out.

CREDITS

Meet the Terrifics, Part 1 of 3; writer, Jeff Lemire; penciller, Ivan Reis; inker, Joe Prado; colorist, Marcelo Maiolo; letterer, Tom Napolitano; editor, Jessica Chen and Paul Kaminski; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman: White Knight #6 (May 2018)

Batman: White Knight #6

The issue starts a humdrum cops chasing Batman, with lots of fast scenes of the cops (including Nightwing, Batgirl, and the Joker) coming up with ideas and then cuts to the Batmobile. It’s a little obvious, a little tedious. The action pacing isn’t right.

Then the Burton Batmobile shows up and nothing matters for a few pages except getting to see Sean Murphy draw a Batmobile sequence with the Burton Batmobile.

Sigh. It’s like if DC had validated the movie fans when I was eleven.

Then there’s a weak fight scene between the Joker and Batman. Batgirl goes to Mr. Freeze and finds out Papa Wayne was just a secret agent who brought Nazis to the States for science. He’s morally bankrupt but not a Nazi. Mr. Freeze, however, isn’t morally bankrupt–he hated his father, who–retcon alert–hated Freeze’s Jewish wife, Nora. It’s an okay scene though, even if dreadfully cheap. Murphy should just do a Batgirl series.

The end has what ought to be an amazing Joker sequence but flops. Brian Bolland’s safe for now. The problem? Murphy runs out of space. He’s been too busy with his action movie back-and-forth exposition dumping again.

Still. Burton Batmobile alone makes it worth it. For an exceptionally select number of readers.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Sean Murphy; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Maggie Howell and Mark Doyle; publisher, DC Comics.

Dastardly & Muttley #6 (April 2018)

Dastardly & Muttley #6

Ennis does indeed pull off Dastardly & Muttley. The finale is a mostly action book as Dastardly and Muttley fight about how they’re going to save the world. As in, their method. It’s a bunch of good dialogue from Ennis–who has a lot more fun integrating cartoonish dialogue than he has previously–and a great pace.

Mauricet’s artwork is outstanding. He can do Ennis’s cartoons as people humor scenes–though Ennis really should’ve reminded the fox president is George Clooney. Anyway, Mauricet can do those absurdist sequences, he can do the action sequences, but then he can also do the “real life” things. Like the establishing shots and the transition shots.

In a book with either extreme facial expressions or anthropomorphized ones, it turns out Mauricet excels at muted, dramatic expressions.

It’s a neat book. Could be better, sure, but there’s only so much you can do with a Dastardly & Muttley comic book in 2018.

CREDITS

6: You Build me a Thingumabob; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Mauricet; colorist, John Kalisz; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Diego Lopez and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #2 (April 2018)

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #2

So, Snagglepuss. How many more issues of Snagglepuss.

It’s okay? Feehan and Morales’s art is good. Enough. It’s not exciting art. And Russell’s storytelling is more than competent.

But the book is kind of pointless. Sure, Snagglepuss as a gay playwright finding his way into trouble with McCarthyism is an idea, but there’s still no story. Snagglepuss wanders around, hanging out with humans and manimals. Humanimals. He keeps on giving people jobs. He wants to help.

Sometimes even when people don’t want his luck. Like when Huckleberry Hound has a cruising fail. Funny part about that? There’s something to look at when it’s a manimal getting punched in the face–it’s for a (somewhat sad) laugh. Huck’s physical suffering isn’t considered.

Anyway. Snagglepuss, even though he’s a great playwright, is sort of naive when it comes to threats from the government and warnings from his friends.

This book still feels like an underdeveloped idea put to series.

CREDITS

A Dog’s Life; writer, Mark Russell; penciller, Mike Feehan; inker, Mark Morales; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Diego Lopez and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman: White Knight #5 (April 2018)

Batman: White Knight #5

Watching grizzled Batman bicker with White Knight Dick Grayson almost feels like a grimdark version of early eighties Batman but not exactly. Murphy has definitely made White Knight its own thing–down to Harley Quinn being the voice of reason–and there’s only so much to do with it.

Most of the issue has to do with Batman not wanting to join the Gotham Terrorist Oppression (GTO), which is the super-cop team setup by the Joker. The “good” Joker. There’s also Neo Joker, but she’s the replacement Harley Quinn gone rogue.

Then there’s the Neo Joker finding out the Wayne fortune is probably based on Nazi gold. Murphy even suggests there’s going to be some meat on that subplot.

White Knight has three issues left and Murphy could pretty much do anything in those three issues. But there’s no reason he needs eight. Whatever he’s doing he could’ve fit in six, because there’s nothing essential here. There’s some excellent art–with grimdark Batman being the most visually boring character (after Dick Grayson in his GTO uniform).

Murphy’s burnt through all the initial goodwill and is keeping White Knight moving. With issue #5 though, it’s clear it doesn’t really have anywhere interesting to move. Neo Joker might give the series some big set pieces and some drama, but she’s none of the big ideas Murphy promised to tackle at the start.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Sean Murphy; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Maggie Howell and Mark Doyle; publisher, DC Comics.

The Ruff and Reddy Show #4 (March 2018)

The Ruff and Reddy Show #4

Ruff & Reddy has turned a corner. It’s now abjectly pointless. Chaykin has a big twist–which doesn’t come off like a big twist because artist Rey doesn’t make important panels bigger, in fact they’re usually smaller. But it’s also a really lame big twist.

Instead of doing the bickering cartoon animals shtick, Chaykin concentrates on a condemnation of the entertainment industry. Unfortunately, the cartoon animals are a terrible entry into that condemnation–and Chaykin really doesn’t have anything to say about the entertainment industry.

Or, if he does, it’s so bland, predictable, and familiar, the eyes gloss over it. In fact, mine glossed over so much I couldn’t help but notice Rey’s word balloons look funny this issue. Maybe they look funny every issue, but I haven’t noticed until now.

There are two more issues.

I don’t know if I can make it. Not because it’s too bad to read, but because it’s too bland to read.

CREDITS

A Cautionary Tale In Six Parts, Part Four; writer, Howard Chaykin; artist, Mac Rey; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editors, Michael McCalister and Joey Cavalieri; publisher, DC Comics.

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1 (March 2018)

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1

Despite being about show business, Snagglepuss doesn’t have a lot of show. Whenever it comes time for drama, writer Mark Russell moves on. He gives penciller Mike Feehan and inker Mark Morales a couple panels to wrap up with visual suggestion, but no drama.

Considering Exit Stage Left reimagines Snagglepuss as a popular playwright in fifties New York City… some drama might be nice.

Russell’s script is intelligent, Feehan’s layouts are great, there’s just not a lot to the book. We meet Snagglepuss, get some of his ground situation, get some of the McCarthy hearings and its effects, but not much else.

When Huckleberry Hound shows up for a bit towards the end, it feels wrong. Russell has shied away from the cartoon origins of the character and having a guest star? It’s not smooth.

Exit Stage Left is off to an okay start. But, so far, there’s nothing special about it.

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Russell; penciller, Mike Feehan; inker, Mark Morales; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Diego Lopez and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman: White Knight #4 (March 2018)

Batman: White Knight #4

This issue of White Knight is pretty much what I was expecting from the book, best case. Murphy’s been excelling past this level and it’s a pretty significant drop.

Especially since I couldn’t tell the mayor from Bullock. They’re both obese white men. Murphy draws them the same.

There’s a lot of “politics” in this issue, but the politics are mostly how Black Gothamites feel like they’re getting the shaft from the rich white people. Murphy teases arguments between people over race, then immediately backs off. It’s kind of annoying. He’s implying edginess, nothing more.

He’s also gotten to the point he doesn’t want to have the Joker as protagonist, but subject. There’s some history with Harley Two, which intentionally makes light of her being suicidal for a sight gag.

On the other hand, there’s a Batman 1989 reference. The two things don’t balance out. Especially not since the Joker’s master plan is similar to Tony Stark’s Civil War plan.

It’s a shrug of a comic. I hope it’s not a trajectory change but the story’s pretty thin. Real Harley’s character development has entirely stopped. Though she and Mr. J do go clubbing a la Suicide Squad, just as yuppies not criminals. Yawn.

And the soft cliffhanger tying the Wayne family fortune to Nazis?

I’m now worried Murphy’s just doing DC’s version of Nazi Captain America.

Or maybe it’ll end with a Jim Gordon monologue about how “all lives matter.”

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Sean Murphy; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Maggie Howell and Mark Doyle; publisher, DC Comics.

Dastardly & Muttley #5 (March 2018)

Dastardly & Muttley #5

Dastardly & Muttley has had its ups and downs, but I didn’t really expect Ennis to pull it all together so well. And he doesn’t do it with restraint. There’s nothing restrained in this issue. It’s happened; the cartoonifying bomb has gone off. Lots of cartoon animals, lots of changes to cartoon logic.

Ennis handles it well. Even if the reveal didn’t end up being so thoughtful, the issue would be pretty good. It’s not laugh out loud funny, maybe Ennis isn’t comfortable without dirty jokes. But it’s pretty good, it’s a nice, amusing read. With good art from Mauricet.

But then Ennis gets to the reveal and it’s rather awesome. It’s a lot. There’s a lot of exposition and a lot of references in that exposition, but there’s also Mauricet’s ability to do sight gags.

Dastardly & Muttley isn’t going to be great; it might end up being a solid Ennis trade though.

CREDITS

5: In an Octopus’s Garden, in the Shade; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Mauricet; colorist, John Kalisz; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Diego Lopez and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Doomsday Clock #2 (February 2018)

Doomsday Clock #2

Upon reading this issue of Doomsday Clock, which is regular length instead of extended like the first, I’ve decided I’m done. I don’t care about the identity of the new Rorschach. I don’t care how Rorschach gets on with Batman. Don’t care how Veidt gets on with Lex Luthor. Or why the Comedian’s back? Or did Dr. Manhattan create the DC Universe–Johns just integrates the big rumors about the series into the book. Why not. There’s nothing else to do.

The jumping off point isn’t the cliffhanger or the trip to Earth One. It’s Batman. It’s Bruce and Lucius Fox arguing over whether or not Batman is necessary. Maybe it’s in current DC continuity, I don’t know. Something about the Superman Theory, which I thought was the name of a bad comics convention bar band, but whatever. Don’t care.

Johns isn’t trying. He’s also got a gross sexist opening he can’t get away with because he’s Geoff Johns and craven and Gary Frank’s art lacks any subjectivity. It’s too objective for gross sexist bank managers. Frank’s art invites a lot of examination Johns’s writing really can’t support. Frank’s at least trying. Johns is not.

So. No more. Clock is stopped for me.

Unless the villain’s Labo at the end and Johns is daring the original creator to sue. But maybe not even then.

CREDITS

Places We Have Never Known; writer, Geoff Johns; artist, Gary Frank; colorist, Brad Anderson; letterer, Rob Leigh; editors, Amedeo Turturro and Brian Cunningham; publisher, DC Comics.

The Ruff & Reddy Show #3 (February 2018)

The Ruff & Reddy Show #3

This issue Ruff and Reddy are tragic and sweet and sympathetic. Meaning Chaykin has changed it up yet again. Three issues, three starts to the comic.

Unless the different approaches are just the gag. Maybe they’re just the point of the comic. We’ll get to the end and the story never gets started; Chaykin will have introduced at least three new subplots and dismissed six by then. There’s something like a subplot development this issue but it doesn’t work. Chaykin hasn’t been working on the subplot at all, so it’s just a cheap twist.

Maybe not even cheap. Cheap’s a determination. Chaykin’s not determined on Ruff & Reddy.

Rey still does quite well with the art. He’s drawing the same things over and over again, but he does them well. Chaykin puts more time into his one-panel talk show spoofs than he does the issue itself. Sorry. Sorry. I was trying to be positive about Rey’s art.

It’s not enough to keep this book going though. Reading it feels like more effort than Chaykin put into writing it.

CREDITS

A Cautionary Tale In Six Parts, Part Three; writer, Howard Chaykin; artist, Mac Rey; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editors, Michael McCalister and Joey Cavalieri; publisher, DC Comics.

New Super-Man Vol. 2: Coming to America (2017)

New Super-Man Vol. 2: Coming to America

Coming to America collects six issues of New Super-Man. Three different two-parters. Coming to America is the middle one. No idea why they’d have picked it other than Eddie Murphy movie. It’s not the best of the two-parters. Might be the worst. Certainly does have the worst faces. Billy Tan pencils most of the issues, first and third arcs. Regular artist Viktor Bogdanovic does America and it’s lazy faces. No one has any personality in those issues. The expressions aren’t as bad as the lack of detail, but they’re not good. They made me–shudder–miss Tan (thinking he was Bogdanovic because I didn’t want New Super-Man to have art problems).

The middle story is also heavy on DC Rebirth continuity, which is a terribly mean thing to do. I want to avoid that nonsense like the plague. So having Lex and Superman Rebirth guest star doesn’t really do much for the comic. It’s kind of filler, just because writer Gene Luen Yang true desire seems to be introducing the New, Chinese Flash. And also because the relationship between Superman Rebirth and New Super-Man? There’s nothing special about it. It has no personality coming from either of them. Superman Rebirth is patient as Christ, New Super-Man is awestruck. Yawn.

But that brand crossover aside, everything else in Coming to America is a success for Yang. He doesn’t just build New Super-Man–Kenan–he also builds the other members of the JL China. Bat-Man and Wonder-Woman. They get this great arc together involving Bat-Man’s little sister and a nemesis. Excellent stuff. Yang seems to do better in pairs–Bat-Man and Wonder-Woman, then New Super-Man and New Flash.

The finale, which ends–quite frustratingly for a collection–on a big cliffhanger, has New Super-Man Zero returning. He’s the first attempt at a Chinese Super-Man and he’s far more powerful than Kenan. The real overarching story of this collection isn’t the Lex Luthor-funded trip to Metropolis, but Kenan’s relationship with his new mentor as he tries to unlock his superpowers. He’s got all the Superman powers, he just has a blocked qi. Once he’s able to unblock and properly channel his qi, Kenan gets some of the regular powers.

It seems like way too much of a plot device–which the artists integrate into the panels too, showing actual qi meters–but it always works out. Despite his obtuse arrogance, Kenan’s a great protagonist. His heart’s never too far away from the right place and the supporting cast ably brings him around.

Hopefully the art issues get resolved. Someone needs to tell Bogdanovic to slow down and take his time. Because, as distinct as Bogdanovic can be, the mood can be easily duplicated. Tan easily takes over the visuals on the comic. He’s more balanced than Bogdanovic, even if he’s bland. He’s consistent. Consistency is important.

Yang’s got a good pace throughout, he’s got a fantastic attention to character detail, he writes good action scenes. New Super-Man has it all.

CREDITS

Writer, Gene Luen Yang; pencillers, Billy Tan and Viktor Bogdanovic; inkers, Yanqiu Li, Haining, Jonathan Glapion, and Bogdanovic, and Tako Zhang; colorists, Yangfen Guo, Gadson, Michael Spicer, and Ying Zhan; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Paul Kaminski and Eddie Berganza; publisher, DC Comics.

Dastardly & Muttley 4 (February 2018)

Dastardly & Muttley #4

Just in terms of plotting, this issue of Dastardly & Muttley is Ennis’s best. He’s got a lot going on at once–he’s got Dastardly and Muttley in a chase sequence with their former teammates, he’s got a Senate committee, he’s got general stuff going on in the world. Not too much of the last one; Ennis and Mauricet are actually rather reserved in the wacky visuals.

Except when the planet Earth grows mouse ears.

Most of the issue is talking heads, whether it’s a back and forth with the hearing or with the two planes. It’s an airplane chase. Doesn’t matter. Except when it turns into yet another fracturing of reality.

As for the content, not simply the expert plotting, it’s fine. A mild funny. Ennis really proud of some word play he does in the Senate scene.

Mauricet’s art is solid. His expressions aren’t good enough for the talking heads or corresponding emotions, but otherwise everything’s solid. Until it gets hurried. Not a particularly impressive art issue. It’s rote.

Still. Fine comic.

CREDITS

4: Highway to the Danger Zone; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Mauricet; colorist, John Kalisz; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Diego Lopez and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman: White Knight 3 (February 2018)

Batman: White Knight #3

White Knight is all right. Look, it rhymes. There’s less Batman brand reverence this issue, which is kind of too bad since Murphy does it so well (there’s a great panel with various Batmobiles), and there are some plot twists.

There’s a big one and a smaller one. The big one is too much a spoiler (though maybe not depending on where the story goes) and the latter is Dick Grayson being the second Robin. Jason Todd was the first. It’s an interesting detail, but Murphy doesn’t do anything with it. Not yet. It’s unclear if eight issues is going to be enough to get through all the stuff Murphy’s packed into the series.

Frankly, probably not. There’s just too much. Including Murphy going into the cost of Batman’s “War on Crime.”

Murphy’s still raising some interesting questions for a superhero book–especially one like Batman–and his art’s still phenomenal; White Knight is going to make it through its eight issues fairly well. It’s just (still) unclear what, if anything, Murphy’s is going to make with it.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Sean Murphy; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Maggie Howell and Mark Doyle; publisher, DC Comics.

The Ruff & Reddy Show 2 (January 2018)

The Ruff & Reddy Show #2

The second issue of Ruff & Reddy might as well be the first. By the time it’s over, the series is basically in at the point where it should’ve been at the end of the first issue. Or the beginning of this one.

Instead Chaykin plots out this long issue featuring Ruff and Reddy have to go to a pop culture con and sign autographs. They’re being hounded by the young agent but don’t really want to sign on the dotted line yet. They’re too proud.

Even though they’re sad and miserable. The comic goes on forever, without a lot of content. Rey’s digital art is fine, it’s just not at all interesting when all he’s visualizing is the anthropomorphic leads standing or sitting around alone and sad.

Maybe if Chaykin turns out to have a story in mind, the series will recover. From this issue, however, it doesn’t look like he’s got a story in mind at all.

CREDITS

A Cautionary Tale In Six Parts, Part Two; writer, Howard Chaykin; artist, Mac Rey; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editors, Michael McCalister and Joey Cavalieri; publisher, DC Comics.

Doomsday Clock 1 (January 2018)

Doomsday Clock #1

There’s one big problem with Doomsday Clock. It exists.

And a lot of it is worse than one might expect. Apparently, in 1992, after the plan at the end of Watchmen didn’t work out, the United States elected Robert Redford president. Only he isn’t a hippie dippy Robert Redford, he’s President Trump. There’s even a wall.

So, you know, if you want to read Doomsday Clock to make fun of Geoff Johns’s writing… it provides a lot of opportunity. Is it worth reading for that reason? Depends on whether or not you want a lot of fodder for mocking Geoff Johns.

Or maybe you just want to see Gary Frank “Gary Frank” a Watchmen sequel. Only one where the DC Universe gets involved. And that crossover–albeit to a different, somewhat darker DCU (I think, has DC changed Superman’s origin lately)–gets to have the Watchmen panel layout.

You think Frank and Johns weren’t going to ape Watchmen down to the panel layouts. Please. Doomsday Clock is craven and desperate.

It also seems to be implying, after Watchmen, Nite Owl feels so shitty about Rorschach dying he takes up the mask, as it were, and lives his life aping him. Or something. It’s dumb. It’s a Watchmen sequel written by Geoff Johns. Of course it’s dumb.

It’s kind of sad how dumb it gets. Especially when Johns brings in some costumed villain sidekicks for NuRorschach. They’re terrible enough maybe they were in Before Watchmen. But I’ve blocked that previous desperate attempt from DC to turn Watchmen into a brand name from my memory.

I finished Before Watchmen though. I’m not sure I really want to see what Johns and Frank have cooked up for them in After Watchmen.

I do want to know if the team refers to themselves as The Watchmen though. I really, really hope they do. If you’re going to show the world you’re an exceptionally pedestrian writer, you might as well do it on a corporate Watchmen sequel.

Is Doomsday Clock worth the read to intellectually dissect it and roast it? For five dollars? In this economy?

CREDITS

That Annihilated Place; writer, Geoff Johns; artist, Gary Frank; colorist, Brad Anderson; letterer, Rob Leigh; editors, Amedeo Turturro and Brian Cunningham; publisher, DC Comics.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: