Somerset Holmes (1983-84)

Somerset Holmes

In his foreword, writer and publisher Bruce Jones talks about his goals for Somerset Holmes. It’s a lot of text and a lot of ego, but I think the point is he wanted to go to Hollywood and thanks to Brent Anderson’s amazing artwork, he was able to get there on Somerset Holmes. Though I’m sure, given the ego, there’s a lot about his writing and publishing.

And Jones isn’t wrong. Somerset Holmes is pretty awesome. It gets long in places, but once Jones has established his style–even if the comic is supposed to be cinematic, his narrative plotting is so episodic each episode has a different guest star, you can wait it out. You can just look at the art a little more. You can wonder who had the forethought to put the little bowl under the leaky stop valve in the scummy small town bar where the pig bartender wouldn’t lend the distressed lead a dime to make a phone call.

Somerset considers.

Because there’s always at least two things going on with Somerset Holmes–Anderson’s exceptionally thoughtful artwork; Jones might think it’s cinematic or whatever but it’s beyond cinema, it’s comics, it’s sight gags, it’s understanding how a reader processes information. And it’s raw. Anderson’s experimenting, often because Jones has such “movie” moments, so he has to change the visual tone immediately. It’s awesome.

The other thing always going on is how every guy in Somerset Holmes is kind of a complete scumbag. Or insane. Because the introduction of the book isn’t the eventual action thriller it becomes, it’s a psychological horror thriller. In the context of a comic book issue, it might seem a little less weird–Somerset Holmes originally had an Al Williamson serial backup, which maybe sort of could affect how the feature reads after a certain reveal–but in the Graphic Album? It’s relentless. Jones is positively cruel with how naively he portrays the protagonist; even her daredevil prowess, which saves her life multiple times, is derided. The supporting cast treats it like a disability. It’s heavy.

Somerset’s eventual traveling companion, Barbie, finally gives the book an honest relationship.

Because the book is called Somerset Holmes. Okay, it’s called Somerset Holmes: The Graphic Album, which is appropriate, because it’s see Brent Anderson draw Somerset Holmes. Occasionally too much of her because it’s an early eighties Bruce Jones production and there’s going to be some cheesecake only it gets to be a little much in the collected setting. Especially after the bisexual prostitute she ends up partnering with scopes her out. Somerset Holmes passes Bechdel with flying colors, only it then turns around to be really homophobic but in a “sexy” way since it’s ladies after all.

And then they walk some of that back and they get away with it because Brent Anderson. And also because, even though there are literally men speaking exposition all the time–some of it just dangerous nonsense (Somerset Holmes would be great if Jones weren’t just a pragmatic writer)–Jones does work on Somerset’s character development. It’s “on page” but it never gets the dialogue time it deserves because there are all these dudes explaining, lying, or apologizing. Usually the same dude. The sidekick.

Somerset. Okay. Let’s talk about Somerset first, then deal with the sidekick situation.

Brett Anderson doing nine panel for “cinematic” pacing… in 1983.

The comic opens with a woman getting hit by a car. She’s walking down the road, gets hit by a car. Beautiful art, setting expectations high for what Anderson is going to do. The comic becomes about whether or not it’s always going to look so amazing, as well as Somerset. The two things are tied, especially since Anderson is so careful with her presentation. She’s the visual star of the book, even when the dudes are talking. She’s navigating through their noise. And word balloons.

Over the course of the story, there are all sorts of revelations–including some where Jones doesn’t even slow down to look at the connotations (though it turns out the Graphic Album isn’t a full reprinting of the six issues, so maybe things got cut)–and it turns out Somerset’s a great protagonist. Jones basically uses her like a Technicolor Hitchcock damsel only she’s an active lead. She’s not waiting for her manly sidekick to rescue her, which is good for a couple reasons. He’s a dope and he also tries to rape her the first time they meet.

But in a playful, wrestling sort of way.

Somerset and Brian. He’s lying to Somerset again. He’s the closest thing to a good guy in the comic.

And I just now realized how gross it turns out to be when you factor in the later revelations. Jones’s lack of character continuity is a problem. It’s more a problem with his writing in general than anything in Somerset Holmes because to mess up Brett Anderson’s art on this book, you’d have to be intentionally malicious. And Jones isn’t malicious, he’s just not interested enough. Not in making the characters have internal logic, not in the flow of the story. Maybe it reads better in the floppies, but collected, it’s start and stop, start and stop.

But it doesn’t really matter, because Brett Anderson.

So the dude sidekick is a gross, rapist, early eighties cheeseball. Turns out he’s even worse. But he’s still her sidekick who ostensibly is helpful in Somerset’s attempts to find herself.

I forgot to mention she has amnesia, didn’t I? Sorry. She has amnesia.

Somerset’s friendship with Barbie gives the character her only choices not directly related to survival.

The other sidekick, the bisexual prostitute turned Somerset stan–is so much better. Jones’s handling over everything is so exploitative, but it’s still better than “if she’s not wearing a wedding ring, she must want it” man. Somerset Holmes is kind of jaw dropping in how messed up it gets just because Jones is so disinterested in writing it well as opposed to packaging it right for Anderson. But the female sidekick is at least nice. She’s at least a nice character to have in the comic. Once she forces herself on a sleeping Somerset… well, okay. She at least apologizes. She gets a lot better after that turn. The dude sidekick just keeps explaining, lying, and apologizing.

So. It’s problematic. Somerset Holmes is a problematic, exceptional piece of work. Jones mixes a bunch of genre elements, bunch of genres, throws it all to Anderson, who makes that mess visually seamless. And, despite his other problems, Jones does give Anderson all the right material to make Somerset Holmes a captivating experience.

CREDITS

Writers, April Campbell, Brent Anderson, and Bruce Jones; artist, Anderson; colorists, Anderson and Joe Chiodo; letterers, Gary Cody and Ed King; editor, Campbell; publisher, Eclipse Books.

Ragamuffins 1 (January 1985)

Ragamuffins #1

Ragamuffins is a very strange comic. It’s unfortunate it’s strange, because in addition to being strange, it’s a lovely effort from Don McGregor and Gene Colan.

McGregor writes first person narration to introduce each of the three stories, which start in 1951 and then follow up with the protagonist some years later to show how he’s grown up. The problem is how well the stories work–Colan doing small town Americana is just phenomenal and McGregor writes the heck out of the scenes–so when the last one has a forced finish, it’s very obvious.

If McGregor had done a fourth story, or even put the three stories in a different order, it might work out. But for there to be two successful transitions between stories and then a failure on the last one. It hurts.

But the comic’s successful right up until the last page. Wonderful mix of nostalgia and reflection.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Don McGregor; artist, Gene Colan; colorist, Steve Oliff; letterers, P. Bernard Jr. and David Cody Weiss; editor, Dean Mullaney; publisher, Eclipse Comics.

Detectives Inc.: A Terror of Dying Dreams 3 (December 1987)

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The ending is worse than I expected and I wasn’t expecting much. McGregor plotted these issues awkwardly, with way too much material before the actual investigation. The stuff with following the wife beating husband around in the last issue was pretty much pointless. McGregor didn’t need it to make the mystery work. In fact, he might have done it all backwards.

There are some okay moments here. There’s good banter between the leads, though McGregor doesn’t give them enough time together. They seem familiar, sure, but McGrefor never just lets them relax together. He’s always working in exposition or some plot point.

There’s some action, some unlikely surprises and a truly terrible villain. The postscript is ludicrous too, but McGregor does get some sympathy for his characters so he can sell it. The nonsense before? He can’t sell that nonsense.

Okay Colan art. Some nice angles, but too static overall.

C 

CREDITS

The Corpse In the Bloodstained Body Bag; writer, Don McGregor; artist, Gene Colan; letterer, Mindy Eisman; editor, Catherine Yronwode; publisher, Eclipse Comics.

Detectives Inc.: A Terror of Dying Dreams 2 (September 1987)

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The fight scene is painful. It goes on for three or four pages–at least, two, anyway–and is impossible to comprehend thanks to Colan only doing pencils. It’s like a sketch of a fight scene, not an actual realized sequence.

There’s some good art, of course. Colan isn’t going to do a comic without some good art in it. Most of the good art is for the establishing pages at the beginning of each chapter–there are three or four this issue. More than two. Colan takes his time with the scenery. His pencils are less rough too. There are definite lines.

As for the story, again the best part is when Denning is off on his date. It’s a very awkward romantic sequence, not too graphic, but trying very hard to be suggestive. McGregor’s writing an honest scene though. The rest of the issue feels perfunctory in comparison.

C 

CREDITS

Knishes and Boardwalk Surveillance; writer, Don McGregor; artist, Gene Colan; letterer, Mindy Eisman; editor, Catherine Yronwode; publisher, Eclipse Comics.

Detectives Inc.: A Terror of Dying Dreams 1 (June 1987)

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I feel like A Terror of Dying Dreams should be a little better. Gene Colan does the art–just pencils, no inks; it’s good art but Don McGregor’s script doesn’t just play to Colan’s strengths, it plays to his standards. Inexplicably enormous scary mansion in the New York area? Check. Urban blight? Check. Even the one fight scene looks like every Colan fight scene.

There’s some reality to those sequences usually absent from Colan’s mainstream work. The fight scene is a social worker fighting back against an abusive husband who’s targeting her. The urban blight is one of the leads, Rainier, hanging around at nudie bars on Broadway. McGregor’s trying hard to update the miserable detective but doesn’t have much for him to do.

The other lead, Denning, is dealing with his mother’s illness. Those scenes are beautifully written, but Colan’s out of his element on them.

Still, ambitious stuff.

B 

CREDITS

Cheerful Lies and Desperate Truths; writer, Don McGregor; artist, Gene Colan; letterer, Mindy Eisman; editor, Catherine Yronwode; publisher, Eclipse Comics.

Detectives Inc. 2 (April 1985)

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I love this comic. McGregor throws a whole lot of story at Rogers–I don’t think I’ve ever read another comic with one or two page “chapters” where there’s so much content. Rogers is probably fitting two to four pages of content onto each page. It’s amazing stuff, especially given Rogers also has a lot of design going on. And the dialogue; Detectives Inc. is a talking heads book where the people move around a lot.

But what’s so good about the issue is McGregor’s determination. He loses track of Denning, who actually does the investigating, and concentrates on Rainier, whose self-examination following hostility towards their lesbian client brings him to a new place.

McGregor only hints at all the factors at play–basic machismo, post-divorce wounding, being a vet–yet the subtlety all works. The mystery resolution’s somewhat anti-climatic, but who cares… McGregor and Rogers rock.

A- 

CREDITS

A Hostile Poolside Universe; writer, Don McGregor; artist, Marshall Rogers; colorist, Tim Smith; letterer, Tom Orzechowski; editor, Tom Orzechowski; publisher, Eclipse Comics.

Detectives Inc. 1 (April 1985)

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Marshall Rogers packs an incredible amount of information onto each page of Detectives, Inc. He’s got tiny little action panels, tiny little reaction panels, but every one of them works. His detail is precise while he’s still designing these great pages.

Don McGregor’s script is good and confrontational. There’s a lot of purple prose for exposition, but it definitely adds to the hard-boiled, world-weary tone. But the confrontational aspects are different–the leads are a black guy and a white guy, Army buddies who form a detective agency. The black guy’s better adjusted, while the white guy has an odious racist ex-wife.

Their case–McGregor opens with the resolution to one, which is neat–involves a lesbian couple. McGregor takes the time to examine how the white guy’s reacts. It isn’t just McGregor not avoiding something, he’s really doing a thorough examination of his character.

Good comic.

A- 

CREDITS

A Remembrance of the Threatening Green; writer, Don McGregor; artist, Marshall Rogers; colorist, Tim Smith; letterer, Tom Orzechowski; editor, Tom Orzechowski; publisher, Eclipse Comics.

Miracleman 16 (December 1988)

Moore bites off a lot for this final issue to the arc. It isn’t enough Miracleman and company will turn the world into a utopia, Moore has to sell it. He uses great detail–like the Warpsmiths liking the Inuit language the most–to make things process. He also throws in a lot of personality. Heavy metal gangs turning Kid Miracleman into a sensation; it’s unnecessary but perfect.

And Liz. How Moore deals with Liz is crazy good. Winter comes back, but she’s kind of comic relief. Liz figures in differently. One has to wonder if Moore always had this plan for her.

There’s a bit of joking at Thatcher’s expense. Moore is having a good time, after all.

Miracleman is not a superhero comic. Maybe Moore never intended it to be one, just let it pretend like on Gargunza’s tapes.

Fabulous work from Totleben too. The art is breathtaking.

A+ 

CREDITS

Olympus, Chapter Six: Olympus; writer, Alan Moore; pencillers, John Totleben and Thomas Yeates; inker, Totleben; colorist, Sam Parsons; letterer, Wayne Truman; editor, Letitia Glozer; publisher, Eclipse.

Miracleman 15 (November 1988)

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What’s incredible–and possibly singular–about how Moore approaches Miracleman is his distance. There are moments this issue where another writer might wink at superhero comics. Moore doesn’t. Even in those moments, he’s only writing this one. More so, he’s only writing this moment, even though it’s technically a flashback.

London is destroyed, decimated. There is no happiness. Moore pulls Miracleman away from humanity even more; tellingly, Totleben doesn’t do any of his “beauty of Miracleman” panels. The visual poetry is violence and blood. Even in the small panels.

Moore caps it off with Miracleman’s final shedding of his human self, possibly through the most humane act possible. It’s so sad it makes one despondent. Not the act or event itself, but how Moore and Totleben tell it.

I think there are slow parts to the issue. Maybe too much time spent on filler. But it doesn’t matter… it’s amazing.

A 

CREDITS

Olympus, Chapter Five: Nemesis; writer, Alan Moore; artist, John Totleben; colorist, Sam Parsons; letterer, Wayne Truman; editor, Letitia Glozer; publisher, Eclipse.

Miracleman 14 (April 1988)

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As far as the art goes, it’s near perfect. Moore’s script (presumably with panel arrangement), Totleben’s art, it’s outstanding.

And most of the issue is excellent too. The stuff with the Moran family, the stuff with Miracleman and the other super-powered beings setting up their club… well, actually that decision is Moore’s second most questionable this issue. Miracleman, Miraclewoman, the other aliens, they set up a superhero club, something apparently all worlds with superheroes do. It feels too obvious.

The real problem is with how much abuse Moore throws at Billy Bates. He’s been being tortured by other kids for a number of issues now, always resisting the urge to turn into Kid Miracleman. Moore goes too far with it; it’s too much torture. Moore’s practically martyring the kid.

The bookends flow throughout the issue; during one recollection, Miracleman dances. It’s crazy, fantastic; easily makes up for the bumps.

A- 

CREDITS

Olympus, Chapter Four: Pantheon; writer, Alan Moore; artist, John Totleben; colorist, Sam Parsons; letterer, Wayne Truman; editor, Letitia Glozer; publisher, Eclipse.

Miracleman 13 (November 1987)

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It’s an awesome issue. Not just in the flashback plotting and reveals, but with how Moore structures Miracleman’s narration from the present. Even though the present day stuff is all static and all summary, Moore manages to get in an amazing finish for this issue. Moore doesn’t try to frustrate the reader with foreshadowing, he instead overwhelms.

Miracleman and Miraclewoman go to the galactic council or whatever it’s called and there’s a bunch of political stuff set to Totleben’s trippy alien designs. Miracleman often has smaller panels, so it’s impressive how much Totleben’s designs resonate even if they don’t get close-ups.

But there’s also stuff with Billy and Liz and how it will all shake out to get the story to the future bookends. Moore juggles the otherworldly and the human; he brings them together in the soft cliffhanger.

It’s an outstanding issue. Definitely the best with Totleben’s art.

A 

CREDITS

Olympus, Chapter Three: Hermes; writer, Alan Moore; artist, John Totleben; colorist, Sam Parsons; letterer, Wayne Truman; editor, Letitia Glozer; publisher, Eclipse.

Miracleman 12 (September 1987)

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More hints at what’s to come–both in the bookends and in the present action. Moore’s pretty slick with one of the reveals–so quiet maybe it’s a typo–but the other, revealed on the last page but suggested much earlier… Well, things might just get really dramatic here in a bit.

This issue reveals Miraclewoman’s back story. It involves the evil scientist, of course, which sadly reminds one of Chuck Austen’s terrible conclusion to that story arc. This issue continues with Totleben, who does quite well. He’s really getting the idea of Miracleman as an Adonis, not just a regular superhero.

There are the surprises, some great panels–big and tiny, Moore’s got Totleben doing these practical thumbnails with great composition–and some really odd, nice moments with the supporting cast. The insect people are interesting, but Moore’s clearly saving more for later.

Excellent comic, though it ends abruptly.

A- 

CREDITS

Olympus, Chapter Two: Aphrodite; writer, Alan Moore; artist, John Totleben; colorist, Sam Parsons; letterer, Wayne Truman; editor, Letitia Glozer; publisher, Eclipse.

Miracleman 11 (May 1987)

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Wow. Even with Moore’s overcooked prose–it’s from Miracleman’s memoirs–wow.

It opens five years later, with Miracleman somewhere above the Earth in a floating castle. I think (about the location, not the time).

Moore opens with these grandiose images and then brings things down again. New–and lovely–artist John Tolteben can do both fantastical and mundane with ease. The story Miracleman is telling is the continuation from the previous issue. This issue he has a run-in with the space aliens and Moore has a big reveal of a new character.

Except these are relatively small. The battle with the aliens is just a fight scene, Liz in danger is just a thriller scene. Totleben doesn’t let the visuals get too big, so as the bookends work better. He and Moore are off to a great start together.

Moore’s isn’t rigidly constrained; he might even be having fun.

A

CREDITS

Olympus, Chapter One: Cronos; writer, Alan Moore; artist, John Totleben; colorist, Sam Parsons; letterer, Wayne Truman; editor, Cat Yronwode; publisher, Eclipse.

Miracleman 10 (December 1986)

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John Ridgway returns to ink Veitch and it works out nicely. Veitch has fine composition, with the Ridgway inks the panels all have a lot of personality. I love how Mike looks so ancient and tired.

Most of the issue is spent with two aliens who have come to Earth to check on the miracle-people. Turns out there are more of them than Moore previously revealed (at least one more) and the aliens use the alternate universe in a similar way.

The stuff with the baby, while beautifully rendered, gets a little tiresome. Moore amps up the pressure on the characters only to immediately release it when a scene is winding up. The baby’s also not visually around a lot and sometimes when Liz and Mike talk about her, it sounds like there’s a monster in the crib.

Moore uses some lovely storytelling devices here too. Really lovely ones.

B 

CREDITS

Mindgames; writer, Alan Moore; penciller, Rick Veitch; inker, John Ridgway; colorist, Ron Courtney; letterer, Wayne Truman; editor, Cat Yronwode; publisher, Eclipse.

Miracleman 9 (July 1986)

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That is one ugly baby.

Sorry, getting ahead of myself.

This issue features Moore’s returns after a reprints issue and fresh artists. Rick Veitch pencils, Rick Bryant inks. It’s a major improvement over Austen–the panel compositions are once again ambitious–but it’s not particularly great art. Veitch and Bryant do a little Mick Anglo homage and things of that nature, but it’s too broad. Miracleman thrives on visual realism.

The story, which has Liz giving birth to her miracle baby, is pretty good. She goes into labor the first page, then Moore resolves the last of the story arc (more like clean-up) while getting the delivery done. It’s a cute narrative, with Miracleman thinking about the beautiful of life and his place in the universe. Moore manages to sell it too. He’s got an amazing amount of rope on Miracleman.

Oddly, the last panel is the best drawn.

B 

CREDITS

Scenes from the Nativity; writer, Alan Moore; penciller, Rick Veitch; inker, Rick Bryant; colorist, Ron Courtney; letterer, Wayne Truman; editor, Cat Yronwode; publisher, Eclipse.

Miracleman 8 (June 1986)

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The issue opens with Cat Yronwode apologizing for the following reprints. She ought to doubly apologize as there’s a mention of the reprints being what Miracleman is thinking about after the end of his battle with Gargunza. Except none of the reprints feature Gargunza. Apparently when Miracleman thinks about his past, he thinks about unrelated episodes.

These reprints are probably the first Mick Anglo Marvelman I’ve read and, wow, they are stinky. Bad puns abound. Not to mention Anglo draws youthful Micky Moran like he’s fifty-three and an old drunk. There’s some Popeye influence to the art, which is kind of neat at times, but not often enough for it to be any good.

Yronwode keeps reappearing–with Chuck Austen drawing her appearance–to promise Alan Moore will return the following issue. Publishing delays are to be expected, but at least the reprints could’ve been on topic as flashbacks.

D 

CREDITS

Miracleman Combats the Electric Terror; writer, Mick Anglo; pencillers, Anglo and Chuck Austen; inkers, Anglo and Al Gordon; editor, Cartherine Yronwode; publisher, Eclipse.

Miracleman 7 (April 1986)

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I wonder how Alan Moore felt about seeing these finished pages. He turned in a great script, sent it off, got back these Chuck Austen pages. It’s a shock he didn’t quit comics then.

Oddly enough, Austen is better this issue than last. He’s still terrible though. He can’t do a subplot about some former Nazi youth being excited at the arrival of the Aryan Miracleman. Austen hasn’t got an ounce of subtlety. It’s shocking.

He must have been cheap.

The issue finishes up Miracleman’s encounter with his creator. Moore comes up with what should be a beautiful sequence for that particular finale and Austen drops the ball on it. Moore’s trying to go between childlike wonder and visceral violence. Austen doesn’t exhibit the ability for either.

It’s very odd to read a story in a visual medium and be left recalling it more vividly than the artist rendered it.

C+ 

CREDITS

Bodies; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Chuck Austen; colorist, Ron Courtney; letterer, Wayne Truman; editor, Cartherine Yronwode; publisher, Eclipse.

Miracleman 6 (February 1986)

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And here we have the first appearance of Chuck Austen on the art. And wow. Wow. I complained about Alan Davis–who does the first chapter–I complained about his work on faces. But he got the mythic quality of the story. He got how people, even if they aren’t beautifully drawn, do look different.

Austen doesn’t get anything. It’s bad. It’s worse than I… it’s bad.

The story’s good though. Moore neatly ties all the jungle scenery to the finale (or the cliffhanger). Austen butchers it. It should be great stuff but nope. It looks like a crappy eighties cartoon.

Anyway, there are some other really good moments in the modern day story. The art’s not good, but there are good moments.

Then there’s Young Miracleman story with Ridgeway art. It’s more cute than anything else, but it’s good. Moore shows some whimsy, which the main feature doesn’t have.

B- 

CREDITS

…And Every Dog Its Day!; writer, Alan Moore; artists, Alan Davis, Chuck Austen and John Ridgway; colorist, Ron Courtney; letterer, Wayne Truman; editors, Dez Skinn and Cartherine Yronwode; publisher, Eclipse.

Miracleman 5 (January 1986)

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Really, the art’s Alan Davis? Mostly, I mean–John Ridgeway’s back to finish the flashback story–but Davis does the art on most of the issue. And it’s not good. It’s really rushed, really loose with detail. There’s definitely some decent composition, but I just thought whoever came on the art had good composition and not good detail ability.

The story mostly concerns Gargunza revealing Miracleman’s past to Liz. It’s during these parts Davis fails the script the most–Moore clearly wants Liz to have gravitas (even when she doesn’t have any real lines), but Davis doesn’t sell it. It’s too bad.

The writing gets it through. Moore’s a lot more successful with the Gargunza and Liz scenes than with Evelyn Cream. Cream’s supposed to offer a human take on Miracleman (who doesn’t do anything this issue) but Moore’s trying too hard.

It’s a bridging issue. The awesome’s just subdued.

B 

CREDITS

The Approaching Light; writer, Alan Moore; artists, Alan Davis and John Ridgway; colorist, Ron Courtney; letterer, G. George; editors, Dez Skinn and Cartherine Yronwode; publisher, Eclipse.

Miracleman 4 (December 1985)

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And here’s the first mention of Miracleman as a superhero. He’s hanging out in a park, runs across a kid who’s terrified of a nuclear attack, they bond. Great scene from Moore.

Alan Davis does most of the art this issue. It’s very well composed at times, but his figures feel a little two dimensional. John Ridgeway does one of the chapters (these are still Warrior reprints) and it’s a little more effective. It might just be the content–giant magical kingdoms and vampire legions and so on.

The story moves forward a little, but Moore seems a lot more concentrated on the chapter form. Mike Moran only shows up long enough to change into Miracleman. Even Liz has more scenes without Miracleman (or Mike) than with.

It’s still fantastic stuff. It’s just Moore’s writer fingerprints are showing up. He’s artificial with the plotting and pacing. It isn’t organically growing.

A- 

CREDITS

Catgames; writer, Alan Moore; artists, Alan Davis and John Ridgway; colorist, Ron Courtney; letterer, G. George; editors, Dez Skinn and Cartherine Yronwode; publisher, Eclipse.

Miracleman 3 (November 1985)

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It’s a nice issue, sort of finishing out the main questions about Miracleman–how can a fifties-type superhero actually have existed in the modern world Moore operates the series in. The answer is predictable, but Moore’s presentation of the explanation is good.

The setup for the reveal, including a fight with another super-powered individual, cuts between the cast members. Even though Liz doesn’t get any scenes with Mike (or Miracleman), she does get one of the interludes. Moore isn’t forgetting anyone and he’s working to get into as many of the characters’ heads as possible. It’s a nice little moment and a surprise success as the characters aren’t definitively established yet.

Then Moore tells the reveal from the villain’s (narrating) perspective. Moore does raise a couple question he doesn’t answer yet–calling Miracleman a “monster,” for example–but it’s a big success.

Even if Davis is no Leach.

B+ 

CREDITS

Out of the Dark; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Alan Davis; colorist, Ron Courtney; letterer, G. George; editors, Dez Skinn and Cartherine Yronwode; publisher, Eclipse.

Miracleman 2 (October 1985)

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And here’s a great cliffhanger. Again, Moore’s not plotting these stories for a full issue, but it shakes out very nicely this issue.

Miracleman is an odd comic. Moore runs headstrong into the relationship problems between Mike and Liz, he deals with Mike’s strange duality with Miracleman–the way Mike’s able to talk about Miracleman’s rather purple narration is fantastic. Moore presents the tropes of superhero comic books and then integrate a discussion of them into the comic.

There’s also the villain this issue. I can’t remember his name, but he’s a big black guy with funny sapphire teeth–Evelyn Cream (thanks, Internet). Leave it to Moore to make a bad Bond henchman into a great comic book villain.

There’s a lot in each story, the composition, the newly fertile relationship between Mike and the world… it’s a crazy good comic. And these were just shorts when originally published; incredible.

A 

CREDITS

When Gods Cry War…; writer, Alan Moore; artists, Garry Leach and Alan Davis; colorist, Ron Courtney; letterer, G. George; editors, Dez Skinn and Cartherine Yronwode; publisher, Eclipse.

Miracleman 1 (August 1985)

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There’s something magnificent about the way Alan Moore starts Miracleman. Of course, given the issue is a compilation of shorts from Warrior, it must have been even better to read them in that series.

He opens with a retro superhero comic strip, full of fifties silliness and plays it through to the end of the adventure. Gleeful superheroing. When he comes back to it later, with Mike Moran telling his disbelieving wife about it, Moore’s got the reader buying into it. Moran gets full understanding and sympathy because the reader’s been there.

Nicely, Alan Davis does the retro story fifties style and Garry Leach’s art for the modern day is done hyper-realistic. Even the lettering’s nearly type.

Besides an outstanding action sequence–Leach and Moore do a lot in these stories–there’s the quiet scenes with the wife. It’s an awesome issue. Even if the cliffhanger’s too artificial.

A 

CREDITS

Rebirth; writer, Alan Moore; pencillers, Alan Davis and Garry Leach; inker, Leach; colorist, Ron Courtney; letterer, G. George; editors, Dez Skinn and Cartherine Yronwode; publisher, Eclipse.

The Rocketeer (1982-85)

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I’d never read the Rocketeer. Back when I first learned about it, in 1990 or 1991, it was because Comics Scene had a feature on the movie. And I loved the movie (still do) but it never translated to me reading the comics. For a time, they were hard to find, but probably not back then. Though I don’t think there were any new Rocketeer after the movie… oh, there was one (thanks Wikipedia).

But anyway, even though I’m generally familiar with the story and some of the comic’s details, I’d never read it, until now.

Obviously, the art is beautiful. It’s hard to tell what Stevens liked drawing more–Betty or the Rocketeer. Only when he’s drawing Cliff’s adventures, out of helmet so to speak, is there any sense he wasn’t completely deliberate. It’s not just Stevens’s attention to detail, his panel layouts are amazing too. The comic’s always in motion.

The writing has some issues. Not many. There’s a lot of great stuff, like Stevens letting the exposition boxes do narrative chores (the rocket pack doesn’t get visually introduced when Cliff finds it, for example) or how Betty’s pretty much the only one with a lot of thought balloons, which turn the comic into a model’s self-reflections on how to properly navigate relations, romantic and business, with men.

However, Stevens writes the dialogue in a thirties Hollywood dialect, which distracts to say the least.

It’s a small quibble, however, and the Rocketeer is an excellent comic book.

CREDITS

Writer, artist and letterer, Dave Stevens; colorists, Stevens and Joe Chiodo; editors, David Scroggy and Cat Yronwode; publishers, Pacific Comics and Eclipse Comics.

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