Barbarella #6 (May 2018)

Barbarella #6

It’s another good issue. Because Barbarella’s always good. It’s so good Carey can get away with spending half (but sort of most) of the issue with the evil prospector family. Mostly the evil prospector, whose dead wife is now digital and lives inside his gun.

So Carey and Yarar are doing that weird side of the story–the futuristic rustic prospecting family–while Barbarella and the scientist dude are stuck in another dimension. Their side of the story is mostly action. When it’s not action, it’s only because the book’s pausing for a big panel establishing shot. Otherwise Yarar’s always keeping it moving.

He’ll do multiple panels of the same scene, from different angles (sometimes the same angle again later), and the story just flows between them. Much like how Carey’s script is nimble enough for humor even when it’s all propelling the plot forward, Yarar’s got the right movement and detail to do the same. It’s so good. Like, the thing about Barbarella is it doesn’t need to be so good but it’s always exceptional. Superior comics creating going on here.

And an amazing cliffhanger. Can’t wait for next issue.

CREDITS

Hard Labor, Part Two: Rust Never Sleeps; writer, Mike Carey; artist, Kenan Yarar; colorist, Mohan; letterer, Crank!; consulting editor, Jean-Marc Lofficier; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Barbarella #5 (April 2018)

Barbarella #5

Kenan Yarar returns to Barbarella with the start of a new story arc. Barbarella has gotten her ship fixed, taken an unseen shower as the comic never gets piggish with its cheesecake, gotten almost a full night of sleep in a comfortable bed, and received a message from a ghost friend of hers.

Even though Carey goes in depth about the mineral Barbarella goes off to mine, the ghost thing is just a given. There are ghosts.

The ghost tells her to go to mine some R.U.S.T., which turns out to be a space-time mineral. A large amount has been found on some desolate planet. On the planet Barbarella encounters some redneck prospectors and a scientist sidekick. Carey’s got a lot of exposition about the R.U.S.T. for reader edification, which Barbarella’s pet can apparently “hear.” At least when it suits comic effect.

There’s a bunch of good art, a bunch of good writing, and the end of the issue comes way too fast.

Barbarella is a gem.

CREDITS

Hard Labor, Part One: After tge Gold Rush; writer, Mike Carey; artist, Kenan Yarar; colorist, Mohan; letterer, Crank!; consulting editor, Jean-Marc Lofficier; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Barbarella #4 (March 2018)

Barbarella #4

Barbarella #4 is a done-in-one and the best issue of the book so far. Like, wow, best issue. Carey runs a very tight narrative–Barbarella (and Vix, her fox who repeats words but isn’t sentient, unfortuantely) is traveling as a passenger on a “planet moving” ship. Not many other passengers, just a sexy blue empath dude who can projection feelings as well as read them. So they go to bed.

Unfortunately, the planets (there are five the ship’s dragging) start shaking and it means trouble.

In a normal book, here’d be your cliffhanger. Carey and new artist Jorge Fornés don’t stop there. They don’t even stop at the big reveal. They go all the way until the end of the trip. I kept waiting for it to cut off and it never does. It just keeps getting better and better.

Carey’s keeping some distance on Barbarella’s character development. The narrative follows her around as she encounters these aliens and those aliens and this adventure or that one and it’s always from her outward perspective. At least in this issue.

But there’s character development work going on. Carey’s writing on this book is real strong.

And Fornés art is great. His style is different than what the book had before. He’s got nice thick (digital) lines. Realism, but still personality. Especially during the action scenes.

So Barbarella. It’s still good, possibly now awesome. Fingers crossed Carey’s got enough ideas.

CREDITS

Pest Control: Fire and Sword; writer, Mike Carey; artist, Jorge Fornés; colorist, Celeste Woods; letterer, Crank!; consulting editor, Jean-Marc Lofficier; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Barbarella #3 (February 2018)

Barbarella #3

Carey and Yarar finish the first Barbarella story just right. Barbarella gets half the issue; she’s recovering from the cliffhanger and trying to figure out how to stop the foreign agents from killing all the religious nutjobs’ babies. The other half of the issue is the foreign agents as they execute their plan.

Their scenes create the tension. Barbarella’s scenes create the fun. Starting with her little space Chihuahua. Then she gets a surprise sidekick. Carey has a lot of fun with both.

The Barbarella scenes should nullify the tension–since she’s never deterred or worried–but they don’t. Carey paces the various reveals well and Yarar’s wacky art matches them perfectly. Yarar’s always got a lot of detail, whether it’s in movement or background; it keeps Barbarella distinct without ever slowing the book down. In fact, because of Yarar’s panel transitions, the distinctiveness usually helps the momentum.

And the wrap-up is good. Carey gives the characters time.

Barbarella keeps impressing.

CREDITS

Red Hot Gospel, Part Three: Fire and Sword; writer, Mike Carey; artist, Kenan Yarar; colorist, Mohan; letterer, Crank!; consulting editor, Jean-Marc Lofficier; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Barbarella #2 (January 2018)

Barbarella #2

This issue of Barbarella is a smooth read. Carey has Barbarella’s newfound, partially cyborg sidekick narrating at the start. It’s kind of nice–a chill reflection on Barbarella. Some exposition. Implications of genetic improvements and whatnot. The narration is calm against the thrilling action.

The book’s only on its second issue, so it’s hard to say what’s the norm. Yarar’s art is phenomenal, blending genres–sci-fi and witch trials; Barbarella is constantly in motion. Carey and Yarar occasionally are maintaining the momentum on their own, but it never slows down. Even when Carey does an aside with a robot terrorist, formerly a robot veternarian.

Barbarella gets a little character work, even though she’s mostly the subject here. Carey keeps a lot of narrative distance. It gives Yarar space to fill in with art, but it also keeps the characters surprising.

The cliffhanger’s a cheat, but its lead-up is well-written and the art is beautifully paced. So Barbarella. Still excellent. How.

CREDITS

Red Hot Gospel, Part Two: The Fall From Grace; writer, Mike Carey; artist, Kenan Yarar; colorist, Mohan; letterer, Crank!; consulting editor, Jean-Marc Lofficier; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Betty Boop 1 (October 2016)

Betty Boop #1

Upon reading this first issue of Roger Langridge and Gisèle Lagacé’s Betty Boop relaunch, it occurred to me I have never seen a full “Betty Boop” cartoon. I have no idea what to expect from it. What the comic delivers is some cute jokes and some cute songs. Betty Boop’s more the subject of the comic than the protagonist, which makes it a little weird.

But it’s a fine comic. I don’t know how excited I’d be if it weren’t Langridge–I hope he someday can get an album together of all these songs he’s been doing over the years in comics. Lagacé’s art is solid. Betty Boop as a character has a lot more polish than any of the other ones in the book and it almost seems like a licensing thing.

The story has to do with ghosts and evil lizards and home foreclosures. It’s not as imaginatively plotted as those elements would need to come off; again, I don’t know Boop so maybe Langridge is pacing it off the cartoons?

It does not, however, get me interested in watching “Betty Boop” cartoons at all, which I sort of thing I should be doing.

CREDITS

Enter the Lizard; writer, Roger Langridge; artist and letterer, Gisèle Lagacé; colorist, Ma. Victoria Robado; editors, Anthony Marques and Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

A Train Called Love 10 (July 2016)

A Train Called Love #10

What is this lovely comic? It’s not just lovely in terms of Ennis basically doing an extended happy ending, exaggerated as much as he can, it’s lovely in terms of the pacing. He resolves story threads and then gets things moved along as the reader gets to enjoy the result of all the trauma. And it’s love.

It’s so… nice. And positive. And hopeful. It’s not just slightly hopeful like one thing goes all right, it’s a happy ending where pretty much everything works out all right. It’s comedic, sure, but it’s all really sincere. Ennis has a real affection for these characters.

And the bunny. He and Dos Santos have the cute little bunny in the issue a lot. It’s weird. What the heck is this comic? Ten issues of A Train Called Love and I can’t figure it out. But I hope Ennis and Dos Santos have something else planned. Nothing with zombies or monsters though.

I really hope Dynamite collects this series well because I can’t wait to give it a single sitting read someday. It’s delightful. It’s got a lot of gross-out humor and ultra-violence, but it’s heart is in a nice place. Train’s a wonderful comic. Ennis’s writing is on, Dos Santos’s art is on. The gimmick is the sincerity. They apparently wanted to do a great comedic, ultra-violent, gross-out humor romance comic.

Success.

CREDITS

Else the Puck A Liar Call; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Marc Dos Santos; colorist, Salvatore Aiala Studios; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Kevin Ketner, Anthony Marques, Rachel Pinnelas and Matt Idelson; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

A Train Called Love 9 (June 2016)

A Train Called Love #9

There’s so much action, so much ultra-violence–Ennis looses his Nazi contractor (who’s working for the black guy villain, because–come on–it’s Ennis) in a shopping mall. It’s blood, guts and severed heads everywhere. And it’s glorious. Dos Santos goes crazy with it. There’s so much action, so much physical comedy. Oh, yeah. The four dumb guys are all running around naked. Because Ennis.

And it turns out Train Called Love is only ten issues. So it’s all over soon, which is tragic. Ennis has created such a fantastic cast of characters, with Dos Santos able to make them downright loveable through their absurdity. I wanted three more issues. Alas, poor me, just one more.

It does make sense, however. The way Ennis paces this issue, I should’ve guessed it wasn’t going to twelve. There’s a bit of character stuff in the background–none with the four doofuses because they’re doofuses–but Marv’s girlfriend (Penny?) gets to build towards something and then there’s the romance between the spy and Penny’s sister.

The comic’s hectic but never too hectic. It’s never jumbled. It’s Dos Santos’s best art in the book, just because there’s so much for him to keep in motion.

I just wish it wasn’t ending so soon.

CREDITS

Never Mind the Bollocks; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Marc Dos Santos; colorist, Salvatore Aiala Studios; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Kevin Ketner, Anthony Marques, Rachel Pinnelas and Matt Idelson; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

A Train Called Love 8 (May 2016)

A Train Called Love #8

Train Called Love is approaching the finish, which might be why Ennis takes something of a breather here. Following the transportation analogy, this issue is mostly talking heads. Characters are summing up, thinking through their decisions, having introspective moments. The comic–I almost called it “the film,” following through on my suspicions it’s Ennis’s attempt at writing outside comics returned to comics–the comic is gearing up, but also winding down. It’s a bridging issue in a series where bridging means character work. Ennis loves this character work.

There’s a lot of humor, of course. Ennis also loves the absurdist humor. Maybe even moreso than usual because Train takes place in the “real” world. Dos Santos’s cartoon-influenced style just highlights the desperate reality of it all.

I do wish I better remembered the characters’ names. Maybe in a single sitting, they’ll stick through. But regardless of them having memorable names, there are some great moments for these characters. Marv’s suffering lady friend, for example. Ennis gives her so much quiet sadness, punctuated by so much ugliness in the world around her. Ennis is daring the reader to hope for the characters. It’s always a dare in this kind of comic.

It’s a mellow issue. There’s no flash, just deliberate writing, deliberate art.

CREDITS

All the Burning Bridges That Have Fallen After Me; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Marc Dos Santos; colorist, Salvatore Aiala Studios; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Anthony Marques, Rachel Pinnelas and Matt Idelson; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

A Train Called Love 7 (April 2016)

A Train Called Love #7

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

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

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

I’m eagerly awaiting the next issue.

CREDITS

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

A Train Called Love 6 (March 2016)

A Train Called Love #6

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

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

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

It can’t be.

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

I love it.

CREDITS

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

A Train Called Love 5 (February 2016)

A Train Called Love #5

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

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

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

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

It’s excellent again.

CREDITS

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

A Train Called Love 4 (December 2015)

A Train Called Love 4

It’s so funny. How can it be so funny? Ennis isn’t even trying this issue. He’s gotten through two bombshell reveals in the previous issue and here he sort of takes a break from comic narrative and instead goes for easy laughs.

And it works. Something about Ennis’s style, something about Dos Santos’s artwork–Train Called Love is this leisurely, self-indulgent, cheaply funny (in a smart way) fun (big) little comic. Ennis enjoys the scenes. He drags them out; the characters are funnier the longer they’re on page, which is awesome. Dos Santos is responsible for a lot of the narrative pacing; he’s got a lot going on in, movement, expression, placement. His style’s simple (Saturday morning cartoon almost) but he knows what he’s doing with it.

Even though not all of this issue connects as much as it could–the pillow talk sequence feels forced–the conclusion is awesome. Ennis wraps up the issue’s plot (a little), moves a couple subplots forward, including a big one, and then manages to end on another surprise. If A Train Called Love manages to keep this speed and quality for all of its twelve issues, it might actually end up being one of Ennis’s most impressive limited series.

CREDITS

Everybody Knows That I Love You; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Marc Dos Santos; colorist, Salvatore Aiala Studios; letterer, Rob Steen; editor, Rachel Pinnelas; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

A Train Called Love 3 (December 2015)

A Train Called Love #3

What is this comic book? Back in the nineties, did Garth Ennis really want to write a whacked out sitcom? A Train Called Love isn’t set in the nineties, of course, but it feels like it could be. There are just some technological alterations.

It’s a strange book from Ennis because it’s the first time I’m aware of him fully embracing his knowledge of pop culture. And he’s not doing pop culture references, he’s creating something in that vein. He’s showing up Kevin Smith, for example. He’s showing you can do these stories with the pop culture reference being transparent and all encompassing.

I really hope it works out. I can’t imagine it won’t. This issue, which has two outrageous things in both subplots–though to varying level of pressure–is a combination of inventive and, to some degree, realistically acceptable because of Ennis’s skill. But he does set up some characters for big changes.

This one had better go six issues.

CREDITS

What A Lady, What A Night; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Marc Dos Santos; colorist, Andrew Elder; letterer, Rob Steen; editor, Rachel Pinnelas; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

A Train Called Love 2 (November 2015)

A Train Called Love #2

Did Ennis lose a bet? Because A Train Called Love is an astoundingly weird choice for him. Once again, it reads like if all of a sudden there were really good cartoons with short runs. Dos Santos’s art has that vibe as well, but it’s really because of Ennis’s dialogue. The comic is Ennis showing off at how well he can write talking heads. And that aspect, the obvious revelry in his ability, is why I wonder if Ennis lost a bet and had to write the book. Like someone said he couldn’t do a comedy comic book to rival the “hang-out” film. And he said, “All right, read Train Called Love.”

Because it’s hard stuff he’s doing here. Ennis is getting away with extreme, obvious jokes. He’s going after the humor people don’t want to acknowledge liking, much less thinking about, and he’s excelling. That success comes from the character work. Train’s “cast,” thanks to Dos Santos and Ennis, have a lot of personality. Yes, Ennis paces the dialogue to let each person make an impression; yes, Dos Santos’s composition makes them more sympathetic. It’s the synthesis though. I really want to know if Ennis gives Dos Santos compositional instruction in the script or if it’s Dos Santos.

So good.

And then, in addition to this late twenty-something comedy at a bar, there’s this amazing action subplot with some girl and a secret agent.

It’s all so good.

CREDITS

Black Beauty; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Marc Dos Santos; colorist, Andrew Elder; letterer, Rob Steen; editor, Rachel Pinnelas; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

A Train Called Love 1 (October 2015)

A Train Called Love #1

What is A Train Called Love? It’s Garth Ennis’s most original, least ambitious (in terms of setting), comedic nonsense in ages. It’s Garth having a piss (as I think the saying goes) and doing a big, multi-character story. If it weren’t Ennis, it’d seem like someone desperately chasing nineties Quentin Tarantino only it isn’t because it’s Ennis.

When Ennis does comedy–and pop culture references–he’s always very careful. Train is no different. There’s a somewhat involved Terminator 1 reference and he and artist Marc Dos Santos make it rewarding to those readers familiar enough with the material to appreciate it and, for those not familiar enough, they keep it accessible. All of Train is accessible, in no small part thanks to Dos Santos’s art.

Dos Santos does it in a cartoon-ish style (good grief, Train would make an amazing cartoon) and it draws attention to the reality in the characters’ situations. Ennis usually has some humor but Train is the first one where, thanks to the art style, it feels like he’s trying out an actual comedy.

It’s really good. Even if the cliffhanger is way too opaque.

CREDITS

Did You Wanna Be Bonnie and Clyde?; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Marc Dos Santos; colorist, Andrew Elder; letterer, Rob Steen; editor, Rachel Pinnelas; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers 6 (March 2015)

Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers #6

I wish Joe Casey loved Jack Kirby a little less. Captain Victory ends with the origin of Captain Victory (as the young version sees it unfold). What’s it like? Well, there are nods to Darkseid, the New Gods, probably something from Marvel, whatever. It’s a bunch of Kirby homage and it’s all in summary and none of it’s in scene.

There are eight guest artists doing this history section and it’s disconcerting. It never lets the issue find of good visual vibe because Fox is back on the space ship and not doing much in the series’s actual settings. Well, there’s one great shot of the World Trade Center.

Is it a good finish to the series?

Not at all. Everything goes toward the homage aspect. Casey doesn’t care about any of his characters.

Is it a good Kirby homage?

Doubt it; he’d probably prefer people get a good read.

CREDITS

Writer, Joe Casey; artists, Nathan Fox and friends; colorist, Brad Simpson; letterer, Simon Bowland; editors, Molly Mahan, Hannah Elder and Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers 5 (February 2015)

Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers #5

Connor Willumsen contributes maybe four pages to this issue of Captain Victory and, wow, it really doesn’t help the comic. The comic’s all right–it starts sci-fi heavy (something about Fox’s art doesn’t match the Kirby designs in the denser areas)–and the main action in New York City is great. Except when it’s Willumsen’s pages. He draws cute.

The issue has the young Victory clone and his vigilante mentor fighting an evil pig monster. Willumsen draws the pig monster cute. He also draws young Captain Victory cute. Well, more than cute. Pretty. Willumsen draws Victory as a pretty teenage girl with a short hair cut. It’s really, really weird.

But Fox is back soon enough and he and Casey do all right. The issue ends with a lot of alien tech art and not a lot of story. It’s not a good cliffhanger. But the rest works out.

CREDITS

Writer, Joe Casey; artists, Nathan Fox and Connor Willumsen; colorist, Brad Simpson; letterer, Simon Bowland; editors, Molly Mahan, Hannah Elder and Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Flash Gordon 8 (January 2015)

Flash Gordon #8

I’m really hoping there’s an explanation for Flash Gordon, like Dynamite’s licensing deal changed or something along those lines. Because it’s hard to believe Parker and Shaner put all their previous effort into a comic where the majority of pages went to advertisements for upcoming comics. And their amazing Flash Gordon adaptation only gets something like twelve pages to finish.

Shaner gets to do some nice Alex Raymond nods and Parker gets in one to the movie, but there’s no enthusiasm anymore. They aren’t doing anything original (actually, I’m not sure if Parker did it intentionally, but he does rip off the ending of a recent British cult television series).

Of course, if the explanation is a licensing deal, they are kind of stuck. Maybe Parker and Shaner will go on to something without such a disappointing finish. Best of luck on future projects and so on.

It’s gorgeous, empty.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Parker; artist, Evan Shaner; colorist, Jordi Bellaire; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Nate Cosby; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers 4 (January 2015)

Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers #4

Fox gets to do a lot on the art. There’s a lot of drama to the Earth stuff; between it and the adventures of the barbaric Captain Victory taking down a big monster, Fox gets to shine. Less, of course, with the subplot involving the guys on the ship. It’s really annoying this issue, with Casey desperately filling their dialogue with expository details.

Once things get moving, then get to the Benjamin Marra-illustrated flashback to Captain Victory as a boy (it’s a huge, wonderful Kirby homage but with an absurdly tough mentor ranger narrating), the issue just clicks.

Casey introduces a great subplot to the Earth stuff too, with the scientists creating a monster. In some ways, Captain Victory is too much going on at once and there’s never a chance to lock on any of the characters. In other ways, it’s smartly done fluff (with dashes of content).

CREDITS

Writer, Joe Casey; artists, Nathan Fox and Benjamin Marra; colorist, Brad Simpson; letterer, Simon Bowland; editors, Molly Mahan, Hannah Elder and Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Flash Gordon 7 (December 2014)

Flash Gordon #7

Well, if this issue of Flash Gordon feels a little light, it might be because Parker and Shaner’s story clocks in at something like fifteen pages. The rest of the comic is promotional material.

As for the Flash comic… it’s fine until the end, when Parker tacks on a questionable cliffhanger–after racing through some other scenes. Flash, Dale and Zarkov have an adventure with Vultan and the Hawkmen but Parker doesn’t have much story for them. There’s some talking head, some science with Flash is asleep and some banter and very little else. Shaner gets a few awesome things to draw and some average ones. It’s a pretty story while it’s going on.

It’s just too short. And the cliffhanger is just too abrupt. Parker is done with Flash Gordon an issue early; there’s no more character development–there’s no Ming this issue either. It’s a rather lazy outing.

B- 

CREDITS

Skyfall; writer, Jeff Parker; artist, Evan Shaner; colorist, Jordi Bellaire; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Nate Cosby; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers 3 (October 2014)

Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers #3

Even though Casey is incredibly derivative–the Close Encounters nod is simultaneously cute and too much–Captain Victory continues to be a nice diversion. It’s not exactly a fun read, just because Casey doesn’t let his cast enjoy anything. There is some banter with the scientists on Earth who are looking at one of the spacecraft, but it’s over in a page.

Otherwise, the comic is very serious. And having Jim Mahfood do the adventures of a cat-man on a slightly hostile planet without any humor is too much. The comic has some great art–Fox some outstanding work–but Captain Victory isn’t actually ambitious sci-fi. It pretends to be ambitious sci-fi; Casey’s script is very traditional stuff. Even the artists’ page layouts are very traditional (even when trying to appear otherwise).

It’s an acceptable, enjoyable comic. But the artists deserve a balls to the wall script.

CREDITS

Writer, Joe Casey; artists, Nathan Fox, Jim Mahfood and Farel Darlyrmple; colorist, Brad Simpson; letterer, Simon Bowland; editors, Molly Mahan, Hannah Elder and Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Flash Gordon 6 (October 2014)

Flash Gordon #6

Parker does a great job with the Arboria adventure–with Dale getting to hang out with some Hawkmen and then rescue Flash and Zarkov on her own. There’s a lot of personality for the Arborians–well, the people with the wings, less so for the sirens who don’t have wings. Parker keeps it relatively simple; maybe too much so, but it’s Flash Gordon and it works with simplicity.

He resolves the cliffhanger, moves into Dale’s adventure, has some good laughs at Flash and, especially, Zarkov’s expenses and then brings in Vultan. Now, he and Shaner don’t do a lot of obvious Flash Gordon: The Movie references but something about Vultan’s introduction just screams Brian Blessed. It’s a wonderful touch.

The final has a too abrupt cliffhanger, but then there’s some nice epilogue art with Ming from Greg Smallwood. And Parker’s finally giving Ming some real personality.

It works out well.

A- 

CREDITS

Writers, Jeff Parker and Jordie Bellaire; artists, Evan Shaner and Greg Smallwood; colorist, Bellaire; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Nate Cosby; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers 2 (September 2014)

Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers #2

Casey goes with a four-way split on this issue of Captain Victory. There's the original spaceship, hunting down the Captain Victory clones who are off who knows where. Then there's the full-grown, yet battle damaged Captain Victory who doesn't remember anything exactly; he's getting in fights on a garbage planet. He's not particularly interesting and Casey doesn't give Fox a lot of great stuff to draw on his story.

But then the stuff with the teenage Captain Victory on Earth in a bad neighborhood is awesome. Casey and Fox create this distinct look, where the kid–Victor–has a mentor, has friends, yet still has his goofy mission. It's nice stuff.

The fourth part comes in between Captains Victory on their respective planets–it's the flashback. Michel Fiffe handles the art. It's a boring flashback to Captain Victory's bland space adventures.

Even the garbage planet is better than dull flashbacks.

It's okay stuff.

CREDITS

Writer, Joe Casey; artists, Nathan Fox and Michel Fiffe; colorist, Brad Simpson; letterer, Simon Bowland; editors, Molly Mahan, Hannah Elder and Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Shadow 4 (August 1986)

The Shadow #4

What a terrible comic. Chaykin’s handling of The Shadow reminds of someone trying to catch a hot potato; whenever he does have a hold on it, it’s not for long enough and it always leaves that all right place for an unpredictable direction.

The problem with this issue–besides the big revelations are predictable and idiotic–is the focus on the villains. Chaykin elevates villains maybe deserving of a half issue crisis to a full four issues. All the sex and drugs and violence is supposed to be enough to make up for them not having any depth, but it doesn’t. It’s not even real flash–it’s implied flash.

And Chaykin could try for flash but doesn’t. He doesn’t try with the art. After the art being The Shadow’s single exemplary factor to this point, he gives up for the last issue.

It’s not completely worthless–the art’s still more than decent–but it’s close.

D 

CREDITS

Blood & Judgment, Conclusion; writer and artist, Howard Chaykin; colorist, Alex Wald; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editor, Andrew Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.

The Shadow 3 (July 1986)

The Shadow #3

With his third of four issues, Chaykin gets around to showing what his Shadow comic is actually going to be like.

Tepid.

Lots of ribald talk, lots of innuendo (both verbal and visual) and not much else. There’s one good action sequence, where Chaykin’s sense of design and the toughness of the comic inform how the Shadow fights criminals. But it’s just one scene. Then Chaykin’s got a pointless montage of all the Shadow’s new contacts–he’s got a finite story he’s trying to tell but he’s also got a checklist of old Shadow references to make.

He also has way too big of a cast and sends around eighty percent of the good guy supporting cast off page because he doesn’t want to deal with them. He needs them for a line in a scene, then he disposes of them. It’s very messy and poorly designed.

But the art’s magnificent.

C 

CREDITS

Blood & Judgment, Part Three; writer and artist, Howard Chaykin; colorist, Alex Wald; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editor, Andrew Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.

The Shadow 2 (June 1986)

The Shadow #2

So after an entirely forward-looking first issue, Chaykin gets around to the flashbacks in the second. In some ways, since the Shadow isn’t the most familiar character, an origin is necessary. But Chaykin goes overboard. He feels the need to rationalize the magical city where the Shadow, back before he was the Shadow, finds himself. There’s too much confusion around the Shadow’s identity too; it’s too dense. The origin takes a whole fourth of the series and there’s got to be some stuff in there Chaykin doesn’t need.

It’d be worse if he uses it all, considering how stuffed he makes the origin. All that extra material cuts back on the composition possibilities too. There’s a nice visit to Shanghai, but the out of fuel airplane sequence is a waste of visual time. And the magical city? Chaykin’s too cynical for it.

It’s decent enough, but Chaykin handles it predictably.

B 

CREDITS

Blood & Judgment, Part Two; writer and artist, Howard Chaykin; colorist, Alex Wald; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editor, Andrew Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.

The Shadow 1 (May 1986)

The Shadow #1

Howard Chaykin's The Shadow. He takes an interesting approach to bringing back a World War II era costumed adventurer–he lets everyone age while the Shadow is away. Most of the issue has various agents–people in their later years–getting viciously murdered.

One of the Shadow's agents has had a daughter who works for some crime bureau place and she recognizes the pattern and goes to save her father. There's a fantastic action sequence that time. Chaykin's composition throughout the comic is phenomenal; the comic is always moving, with Chaykin's page layouts helping the reader get through the pages quick enough.

Only the villains get much development–the good guys are either getting killed off or trying not to get killed off. Chaykin's got a certain level of absurdity for the mega-rich villains but he keeps it in reasonable check. It's like an enthusiastic, extremely bloody and mean James Bond movie.

It's awesome.

A 

CREDITS

Blood & Judgment, Part One; writer and artist, Howard Chaykin; colorist, Alex Wald; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editor, Andrew Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.

Flash Gordon 5 (August 2014)

Flash Gordon #5

Odd issue. Parker splits it in two–with Sandy Jarrell and Richard Case on art for the first part and Shanier on the second. The first part, which is just Flash, Dale and Zarkov in their spaceship trying to get to the next world, has a lot of personality. There’s banter, there’s Ming megalomania. Even with the art change, it feels like the Flash Gordon comic Parker and Shanier have been working towards. Jarrell and Case do well too.

But the second half–where Shanier actually does the art–feels way off. The cast lands on Skyworld and gets into immediate trouble. Parker paces it terribly. While the art is good, the content isn’t expansive enough to make the abbreviated story worth it. Parker makes Dale the de facto protagonist but doesn’t give her anything to do but whine.

Like I said before, odd. It’s likely just a bump. Hopefully.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Parker; artists, Sandy Jarrell, Richard Case and Evan Shaner; colorists, Jarrell and Bellaire; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Nate Cosby; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Terminal Hero 1 (August 2014)

Terminal Hero #1

Maybe it’ll all be a dream. Not the comic but me having spent the time reading it. Actually, that dismissal is a little unfair; I want to keep going with Terminal Hero, just to see if writer Peter Milligan ever finds anything original to say.

He has some hints of personality when the protagonist is discovering his bad self (versus his good, pure self). There’s also some decent dialogue.

There’s also a lot of scenes out of “ordinary man gets extraordinary powers” pop culture familiars, like Hollow Man and The Fly most obviously. There are probably more. Milligan isn’t trying hard at all.

Even though it’s a Dynamite comic, it feels a lot like a nineties Vertigo comic. Something forgettable or failed; given the protagonist’s telekinetic control over matter and his flaming hair, I wonder if it was supposed to be a Vertigo Firestorm relaunch.

Piotr Kowalski’s art’s nice enough.

C 

CREDITS

No More Trouble; writer, Peter Milligan; artist, Piotr Kowalski; colorist, Kelly Fitzpatrick; letterer, Simon Bowland; editors, Molly Mahan, Hannah Elder and Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

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