Reborn 1 (October 2016)

Reborn #1

Highly derivative fantasy sci-fi afterlife tripe. An older woman dies and discovers she’s Amethyst, Reborn in a Terminator/LOTR knock-off fantasy world. Capullo’s dragon and dropship art is stronger than his people. Millar’s writing isn’t strong on anything. He even rips off some Watchmen here.

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Greg Capullo; inker, Jonathan Glapion; colorist, FCO Plascencia; letterer, Nate Piekos; editor, Rachael Fulton; publisher, Image Comics.

Velvet 15 (July 2016)

Velvet #15

No more Velvet. At least not for now; this arc ends with the end of Velvet’s initial storyline. I really should have known if it was just intended for fifteen issues. I always want that Brubaker ongoing, he always goes twelve to twenty. Or in that range. Enough to make fans out of the book, but then not to fully deliver on its possibilities.

Except with Velvet. The comic has always been very upfront about what it’s doing–it’s a spy thriller, it’s got Epting art, it’s not too creative in terms of the narrative. It’s a “cool” book. Brubaker and Epting doing a mainstream, “cool” indie title. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt Velvet is prime for media development. It is 2016, after all.

And, Velvet, the character, has never been much more than cool. She’s a great protagonist, but Velvet isn’t about her being likable or even relatable. It’s about her being cool and doing cool things, usually involving guns, car chases, subterfuge, explosions and gliding. When Brubaker returns to her narration of the book for the last few pages, it had been so long since Velvet had that kind of internal self-examination, I forgot it was one of the book’s narrative devices. And it’s been fine without it. Less ambitious maybe, but not by much.

Brubaker, Epting and colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser deliver, because of course they do. Brubaker’s mastered comics pulp and always has the right artist for it.

CREDITS

The Man Who Stole the World, Part Five; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors; Sebastian Girner and Eric Stephenson; publisher, Image Comics.

Pretty Deadly 10 (June 2016)

Pretty Deadly #10

Pretty Deadly wraps up its second arc with the series’s standard mix of action and humanism. Standard isn’t a pejorative; creators DeConnick and Rios have always taken a singular approach to genre with the comic. They refuse to firmly foot in any–this arc is a WWI story and the story of a black family in 1918(?) America–they also refuse to rely on any genre tropes, yet there’s always a familiarity with them. Pretty Deadly is an intentionally tough comic to digest. The digestion process is where DeConnick and Rios are able to affect the reader the most.

About half this issue is resolution to the arc, which suggests a single sitting read of the arc might be in order, and the other half is mostly action. Except it’s Rios’s mystical, yet very physical, action. There’s a fluidity to the movement in the mystical action–the reader has to find their own entry point and then follow the movement across the page. Lots of full page spreads here–again, it’s the last issue in the arc, so there need to be money shots. Rios fills them with glorious dread.

While DeConnick wraps up for the arc’s new characters, she does make a few hints to Deadly’s future. But as Pretty Deadly moves across time periods–it started as a Western–DeConnick opens it up more. The implications of the mystical world of the Reapers aren’t just how it relates to the present action of the arc. DeConnick and Rios are gradually introducing a much bigger world.

Pretty Deadly is simultaneously loud and quiet, thrilling and reserved. It’s an excellent comic.

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Sigrid Ellis; publisher, Image Comics.

Velvet 14 (April 2016)

Velvet #14

Brubaker just did the Brubaker thing where his narrating protagonist finds something out but the reader can’t know about it so instead the protagonist just talks about how this piece of information is earth-shattering. It might not even be the first time Brubaker’s used this device in Velvet. It just sticks out because it involves the kidnapping of Richard Milhouse Nixon, who’s a vaguely likable dope here. Certainly far more likable than Ford, who also shows up for a second to get blackmailed.

The Nixon appearance, the Ford appearance, the guy at the end who is either the Sean Connery from The Rock stand-in or maybe he’s just supposed to be Sean Connery James Bond, it’s all a bunch of nonsense. I mean, it’s pretty nonsense to be sure. Even though Epting doesn’t have much to draw here, he draws it all very well. The kidnapping of the President is real boring. Brubaker sort of rushes through it. He hurries, let’s say he hurries. It doesn’t give Epting anything to do with it, except occasional (and awesome) Nixon reaction shots.

But the comic ends with the guy who’s after Velvet tracking down Velvet. Sure, she knows more than she did before, sure, James Bond might now be involved, but who cares. It’s a bridging issue. The red herrings are just there to distract from how little is going on.

Like I said, it’s Brubaker doing a Brubaker standard. I wasn’t surprised or even disappointed. Just a little tired. If only Epting had something great to visualize, the issue might’ve worked out a lot better.

CREDITS

The Man Who Stole the World, Part Four; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors; Sebastian Girner and Eric Stephenson; publisher, Image Comics.

Pretty Deadly 9 (April 2016)

Pretty Deadly #9

Pretty Deadly is such a strange book. Rios’s art is perfect. She’s got a fable to do, the World War I battlefield, the mystical stuff. It’s all perfect. She’s controlled in showing the horrific nature of combat, very precise. The comic is visually unsettling, which is an ideal match for DeConnick’s approach to the script. It’s meticulous while still being confusing.

With Deadly, I always wonder if reading it three times an issue, then again in the trade, would be the best way to get all of it. DeConnick has so much going on–and toggles between things (you’ve got to love how she basically is doing traditional, juxtaposed comic book action), plus there’s the fable to figure in.

It’s serious work. I think I love that aspect of Pretty Deadly the most. It’s very, very serious. Rios and DeConnick aren’t messing around. If there’s a smile in the issue (and I don’t think there is one this issue), it’s because DeConnick is letting the reader have it. Mystical embodiments of war and death aren’t funny. The First World War isn’t funny. It’s not a gag. It’s a backdrop for DeConnick and Rios’s explorations.

I’ll read all again someday, once it’s finished. I want that experience.

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Sigrid Ellis; publisher, Image Comics.

Criminal: Tenth Anniversary Special (April 2016)

Criminal: 10th Anniversary Special

Wow.

On its own, Criminal: Tenth Anniversary Special is objectively excellent. Writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips do the touching story of a boy and his jerk criminal dad. Set in 1978. And there’s a juxtaposing of an old Marvel-esque kung fu comic. It’s scary, it’s funny, it’s sad. It’s a great story.

But there’s so much texture to it all, as the special ties into the old Criminal books. It’s not a haphazard anniversary issue by a couple excellent creators; it’s an excellent anniversary issue, its creators taking it all very seriously. Brubaker and Phillips aren’t congratulating themselves with this Special, they’re awarding the reader with it. It’s this perfectly paced, perfectly conceived gem of a book. It’s got beautiful art from Phillips. He has this way of protecting the son whenever his father is around, implying it through the composition and the panel layouts. It’s such a smart comic.

It’s also fun. The kid meets a girl. She’s precocious. Brubaker hinges the whole comic on her–it’s a pre-teen romance of sorts–and he does a great job on her character. He presents the readers two views into the story, one through the kid’s, one through the girl’s. He does it with this wonderfully prompt pacing–Brubaker and Phillips and colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser (who’s become an essential part of the team) take advantage of every page, every panel. It’s flawlessly executed.

The Criminal: Tenth Anniversary Special is a class act and a great comic.

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Pretty Deadly 8 (February 2016)

Pretty Deadly #8

Pretty Deadly has become a book I savor. DeConnick and Rios have lost their Western setting–though it does still play a part visually and thematically–and gotten into World War I. The trenches. Deadly has become a war comic.

Except the magic is different. It’s still evil, bad magic, but it doesn’t affect the war comic’s protagonist in the same way it did in the series’s first arc. He’s far more the subject of the plot than an actor in it. That narrative distance works because of both DeConnick and Rios’s individual contributions.

When the comic moves between subplots, Rios has subtle changes in style. Sometimes in the level of detail, sometimes in figures’ fluidity. There’s a flow to Deadly, weaving between the subplots.

Pretty Deadly is a confusing, dense read. DeConnick relies on Rios to help make it easier to read while also contributing to the density. DeConnick doesn’t want any grounding to the supernatural. It’s not science, it’s not quantum physics, it’s supernatural. Accepting it–and not dwelling on it–is one of the series’s agreements with the reader. DeConnick doesn’t allow any alternatives.

And, yet, she isn’t hostile about it. Pretty Deadly goes out of its way to be welcoming. It’s endearing–and even makes the really disturbing villains endearing.

It’s really good. This issue isn’t one of the best either. And it’s still really good.

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Sigrid Ellis; publisher, Image Comics.

Velvet 13 (February 2016)

Velvet #13

Epting gets a little loose this issue, but it’s some great action art. The thing about Velvet is how well the creators understand what they’re doing. Brubaker occasionally pushes too far–The Rock Sean Connery thing–but Epting never does. His seventies action is perfect.

Brubaker does a talking heads book, mixed with some stylized action and dramatic–but uniquely underplayed–story beats. It’s a strange book–the situations aren’t spy movie, but spy novel. There’s no way, CG or no-CG, you can do some of Velvet’s stunts. So, instead, Brubaker and Epting have figured out how to perfect the spy comic. Same basic genre, only they get to take advantage of the comic book medium’s particularities to further the tale.

Velvet’s potential successes are limited–it’s pulp, there’s only so much anyone can do with just pulp–but Brubaker and Epting take it seriously. They’re pushing at the boundaries of the genre. Seeing them take it seriously is part of why Velvet is so much fun to read.

CREDITS

The Man Who Stole the World, Part Three; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editors; Sebastian Girner and Eric Stephenson; publisher, Image Comics.

Cry Havoc 1 (January 2016)

Cry Havoc #1

Yeah, wrong Simon Spurrier. How common a name is Simon Spurrier? It seems somewhat specific. I suppose one could do some cross referencing via Google but whatever. I read this comic, Cry Havoc, because I thought it was the other Simon Spurrier writing with Ryan Kelly on art.

I’m pretty sure it’s the regular Ryan Kelly, though his colorists do a lot of work. He has three, one for each setting. The comic is the story of a punk violinist who gets bitten by a werewolf and goes to work for the American government. I think she might be British.

I think I’m going to keep reading it, even though none of the colorists complement Kelly’s art particularly well. The pop London stuff gets tired, the war stuff doesn’t look right. I suppose the “Red Place”–I can’t believe I’m going to try reading a werewolf comic. Good grief.

It’s almost okay. Spurrier takes himself way too seriously, but Cry Havoc is almost okay. What’s strange is how impersonal Kelly’s art comes across.

CREDITS

Dog Days; writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Ryan Kelly; colorists, Nick Filardi, Lee Loughridge and Matt Wilson; letterer, Simon Bowland; publisher, Image Comics.

The Humans 4 (February 2015)

The Humans #4

It’s The Humans version of a bridging issue, except because of how Keller paces it out, it’s just the plot perturbing. Each issue of The Humans has revealed another potential of the comic and this one is no different. The ability to further the plot while distracting the reader with a solid “done in one” situation is getting rarer, but Keller certainly knows what he’s doing.

He and Neely work for readers’ dollars. It’s a little surprising to see such concern for the reader, actually. The Humans is a complex book, with lots of characters, lots of C plots, lots of scenery. Keller and Neely make sure the reader can digest all of it. There’s a lot of effort and value in the content.

Still, and it’s the pessimist in me, I hope Keller doesn’t do these performances too often. The Humans is high concept (sci-fi Planet of the Apes, home front Vietnam stuff) and Keller seems more than willing to work at that high concept. He ought to have fun, but not at the expense of the book’s more serious qualities.

CREDITS

Welcome to the Skin-Cage; writer, Keenan Marshall Keller; artist, Tom Neely; colorist, Kristina Collantes; publisher, Image Comics.

The Humans 3 (January 2015)

The Humans #3

Now this issue is really good. Keller and Neely are both on fire. Keller gives Neely a bunch to do–exploring the world of the Humans but also doing Johnny’s story in Vietnam. Keller’s dialogue is a lot better this issue once he’s just doing the story of the guy in his unit. There’s no politics in The Humans–so far, anyway–which makes the Vietnam story very different. It fits in a certain genre, but it’s detached from it.

There are multiple action set pieces, each with a different narrative pacing so Neely has to do something for each one. He does. The issue’s really good all around. The present-day stuff with the Humans as a biker gang is good, Johnny’s stuff in the present is good. Keller gives Neely a lot of art opportunities, past or present, and Neely runs with them all.

The Humans is just getting better and better. It’s a complex, smart, fun book.

CREDITS

Long Road Back From Hell; writer, Keenan Marshall Keller; artist, Tom Neely; colorist, Kristina Collantes; publisher, Image Comics.

The Humans 2 (December 2014)

The Humans #2

The Humans is something else. Keller does a lot with the script. I know last issue I was more impressed with Neely, but this issue is all Keller’s show. Even with it stumbles, it’s stumbling because Keller’s trying really hard to do something.

He’s doing a “Twilight Zone” episode, basically, and a rather good one. He’s got this societal stuff because, even though he’s doing the traditional ape species breakdowns from Planet of the Apes (with, beautifully, zero explanation), he’s taking it into account when he populates Humans’s 1970 Bakersfield. This issue has Johnny, the guy thought dead in Vietnam, coming home. It’s really ambitious.

And Keller does stumble. The talking heads scenes are hard going because he’s trying to get serious after being goofy. He doesn’t shift gracefully. Or maybe Neely doesn’t. Humans is thoughtful but still raw. Two issues isn’t enough to establish a pattern.

It’s another excellent issue. The Humans has more potential than I thought.

CREDITS

Return of the Living Dead; writer, Keenan Marshall Keller; artist, Tom Neely; colorist, Kristina Collantes; publisher, Image Comics.

The Humans 1 (November 2014)

The Humans #1

The Humans revels in itself, in its gimmick. Keenan Marshall Keller and Tom Neely love the idea of their comic–a sixties biker gang on a “planet of the apes”-type situation–and their enthusiasm comes across. Better than coming across, it never comes across forced. This issue builds, with Keller and Neely introducing ideas–visual and narrative devices–as it all unfolds.

Neely does great action scenes and he does great medium shot talking scenes. He handles crowds well, finding different ways to compose for the best effect. He’s the star of the book. Someone else might be able to do the gimmick, but Neely makes The Humans better than just its gimmick.

In fact, the book being so successful is what gets it through this first issue. It has excellent pacing–until the rushed denouement and soft cliffhanger–more than it has anything else in the writing. Keller has some good dialogue, but the flow is more impressive. It moves, but Keller and Neely make sure readers have everything they need to keep up.

I’m excited to see what they do next.

CREDITS

Humans for Life – Humans Till Death; writer, Keenan Marshall Keller; artist, Tom Neely; colorist, Kristina Collantes; publisher, Image Comics.

The Fade Out 12 (January 2016)

The Fade Out #12

Well, it’s definitely great. The last issue of Fade Out is a great comic. And it’s a great close to the series. But does it elevate Brubaker and Phillips to that superior level of comic book creators, the ones only mentioned with hushed tones and reverence? I don’t know.

I don’t know yet.

I’ll have to reread The Fade Out someday, in one sitting, and decide. Because the pacing of this issue is key and I’m reading it in a single dose, but it was clearly broken out in plotting as part of a bigger whole. As a single serving, it’s that great success I just said. Brubaker and Phillips wrap things up and then wrap them up again. In doing so, they take readers through not just a recap of the story, but a recap of the experience of the comic, making them reexamine their own interpretations of the comic.

It’s really good writing. Brubaker’s comfortable with the cast, comfortable readers will get their sometimes abbreviated appearances. There’s a lot going on this issue, with Brubaker dropping two revelations (both make a reread seem like a good idea).

Phillips excels through all those complications. He even has this wonderful “Is that Clark Gable? I know that’s George Sanders” forties Hollywood visual in-joke element. He and Brubaker are doing a film noir as a comic, but stepped back, but still using film noir visual queues.

I don’t know what a perfectly finished Brubaker comic feels like (or, if I do, I can’t remember), but The Fade Out comes the closest.

CREDITS

Tomorrow, When the World is Free; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Rocket Girl 7 (November 2015)

Rocket Girl #7

It’s probably too soon to say Rocket Girl is back. A lot of it seems back, whether it’s Reeder’s artwork (amazing as always, like Blade Runner meets The Rocketeer for kids), or just how much Montclare gives Dayoung to do. She’s the hero and she needs to be treated as such.

Once again, the comic toggles between past and future. Well, present (1985) and past (2025 or something). The future stuff really isn’t interesting. Montclare doesn’t give the teen detectives any character beyond playing with cop and young adult stereotypes. It feels like a lame cartoon.

But the past? The past is just amazing, at least this issue. One of the nicest textures of it is how Dayoung isn’t just stuck in a time before teen detectives, but she’s in a culture different from the reader as well. I’m not sure how well Montclare does with it (I wasn’t a teen of the eighties), but it reads fine. Though who knows how much Reeder’s art affects it. The comic wouldn’t work without her.

Rocket Girl needs her.

CREDITS

Now What?!; writer, Brandon Montclare; artist, Amy Reeder; publisher, Image Comics.

Pretty Deadly 6 (November 2015)

Pretty Deadly #6

I missed Pretty Deadly. I forgot what it was like to read a comic aware of its genre possibilities, acknowledging of them to some degree, but entirely disinterested in taking part. As a result, the comic is its own thing, something strange and ethereal and beautiful from DeConnick and Rios.

This issue definitely starts off a new arc, dealing with the descendants of the previous characters (set in World War I, at home and in France). DeConnick doesn’t introduce or reintroduce anyone (the text prologue has very little to do with the majority of the issue). Instead, it’s just time to read Pretty Deadly again.

The amount of work Rios and DeConnick put into the visual construction of the comic is reason alone to read it. It’s cohesive, yet full of little visual sequences–not subplots as much as narrative tangents–all with a mildly different approach.

DeConnick’s thoughtful, deliberate characterizations keep it from ever getting too hostile to distracted readers. Even though there’s a fantastical, dreary, magical world, because the characters are able to navigate it, so is the reader.

It’s great to have it back.

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Sigrid Ellis; publisher, Image Comics.

The Fade Out 11 (November 2015)

The Fade Out #11

Ed Brubaker is about to deliver. He and Sean Phillips are break the skylight and get onto the roof. The Fade Out, an entirely grounded detective story set in Hollywood, is about to be where Brubaker joins the very small group of comics writers who I will buy regardless. Because what they do will be something special, even if its mainstream, because their styles may not reflect how comics are progressing as a narrative art form right now, but they will in a few years.

It’s like if Sleeper: Season Two had actually been as good as the first series. It’s like if Captain America really were as good as Catwoman. Brubaker jumps between projects with impatience. He gets excited for the new shiny. Only Fade Out doesn’t have the shiny, it just has the skills. It has the writing and the art and the writer’s understanding of what the art is going to do to this story. Brubaker understands how the comic book is going to read and he lets it inform how he’s writing.

It’s entirely commercial, entirely artistic and sublimely elegant.

He could screw it all up next issue, of course.

That would be very sad.

As for the comic itself, Brubaker gets around to revealing some things Gil should have known about from Charlie. Not to mention the reader. The reader should have known too. Except it works better here defining Charlie as a person, making him more understandable. It’s a genre standard and Brubaker pulls it off.

Then it’s Gil and Charlie on an adventure. It’s amazing. And Charlie’s narration of it, with how the plot progresses and then how Phillips illustrates it, that adventure is where Brubaker and Phillips do something extraordinary. They show how comics noir is its own genre. They prove the argument of their last ten years of work.

Even if The Fade Out flops next issue, Brubaker and Phillips have done something extraordinary with it.

CREDITS

Anyone Else But Me; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Velvet 12 (November 2015)

Velvet #12

Steve Epting is an action artist. It’s what he does, it’s what makes him special. He’s able to do fantastic comic book action, where he makes the reasonable fantastical and the fantastical reasonable. It’s a perfect thing for Velvet, which is a glossy spy thriller set in the seventies after all. The comic’s setting isn’t just good for Velvet as a character, it’s good because it gives Epting so many possibilities.

So when this issue is literally nothing but a windup for a hard cliffhanger promising a big action sequence? Well, it’s not exactly the best use of time. I suppose Brubaker does get a few expository things done, but they aren’t pressing, and he does give Velvet some great narration, which is great and all, but come on….

Give us the Epting action. Brubaker doesn’t even put it on the menu. He sets the entire thing to simmer. The narrative this issue, its possibilities, it’s not going to boil over. He never even suggests it might. So when it does and he stops the comic? Bad form, man, bad form.

Velvet is an entertaining book. It’s not masterful and it’s got problems, but it’s entertaining and competent and visually glorious.

CREDITS

The Man Who Stole the World, Part Two; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors; Sebastian Girner and Eric Stephenson; publisher, Image Comics.

Black Magick 1 (October 2015)

Black Magick #1

I desperately want Black Magick to be good. I don’t have any investment in liking it–I’m not much of a Greg Rucka fan in general (though in specific) and I don’t think I’ve ever read a Nicola Scott comic before. Saw her on a panel a few years ago, but never seen her art until Black Magick.

But I want the comic to be good because I trolled Lazarus through its first arc and it’s gone on to become one of my favorite series right now. So I want to be very careful with Black Magick.

And I’m going to have to be, because it isn’t good. Is it bad? Not really. Scott’s art is hurried in the “mainstream artist doing an indie book for the first time” kind of way. There’s no chemistry between Rucka’s writing and Scott’s art. I’m surprised to see them co-owners on the copyright.

What’s wrong with Black Magick? There’s a non-concept pretending to be a concept worth having a whole comic book about. The protagonist is a cop with a secret. She’s a witch. What kind of witch? The kind who meets in the woods all very Crucible-style only it’s modern day with cell phones. She’s got a good looking dude partner who doesn’t know she’s a witch. Her captain worries too much about her. And her two worlds–hero cop and secret witch? They’re about to collide.

Yawn.

It would be fine if the protagonist were amazing, but she’s not. She’s a tough female cop. Maybe Sandra Bullock could play her in the movie or if it just goes to TV, there are plenty of people. Black Magick feels constrained by its potential for a Hollywood option.

Anyway… my hopes for the comic are pretty much dashed. I probably won’t be back until someone tells me I need to get back.

CREDITS

Awakening; writer, Greg Rucka; artist, Nicola Scott; colorists, Scott and Chiara Arena; letterer, Jodi Wynne; editor, Jeanine Schaefer; publisher, Image Comics.

The Fade Out 10 (October 2015)

The Fade Out #10

Brubaker’s winding up. This issue of The Fade Out is the part of the detective novel where the detective–in this case Charlie, who’s not particularly good at it–is collecting all the final details to have his breakthrough. In fact, the narration hints Charlie’s confident in his conclusions, which means Brubaker’s got next issue to stir it up more and then the last issue to let it all settle. Not a bad structure, but it does mean there isn’t much to this issue.

There’s exposition and some revelation, but there’s no character development. Brubaker sets the issue during the wrap party for the movie, which should be a big thing. It’s not. It’s a logical narrative progression–Charlie using the party for cover on his investigating–as the story wraps up.

The last few issues of The Fade Out have been breathtaking. This issue’s good, narratively important, but it’s not breathtaking. It’s a necessity and it coasts on existing momentum. Fingers crossed Brubaker is able to stir up some speed in the next issue.

Phillips’s art, of course, is breathtaking. One never has to worry about him.

CREDITS

Where Angels Fear to Tread; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Nailbiter 16 (October 2015)

Nailbiter #16

To everything, turn, turn, turn, there is a season… oh, sorry. It’s just Williamson has hit the end of this season of Nailbiter. He ends on an expository note, though there is at least the nod at a subplot about some kids going to the Nailbiter’s house on Halloween.

But everything else? The sheriff, the FBI guy, the serial killers? It all gets wrapped up in talking head scenes. The sheriff’s hospital room is a meeting spot for people looking to get their storylines finished. It’s not so much rushed as drawn out. Williamson could’ve structured it with one of the protagonists–like, maybe the FBI guy since it was originally his comic–but instead, he’s in a rush.

I think I’m done with Nailbiter. Williamson has never really gotten anywhere on the book and Henderson’s art hasn’t either. It’s a competent comic book, but they chased Hollywood to the point they lost anything special.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Williamson; artist, Mike Henderson; colorist, Adam Guzowski; letterer, John J. Hill; editor, Rob Levin; publisher, Image Comics.

Minimum Wage: So Many Bad Decisions 6 (October 2015)

Minimum Wage: So Many Bad Decisions #6

What an issue. I mean. Damn. Fingerman takes all the readers’ built-up affection for Rob, all their built-up hope for him and puts them through the ringer. By the time Fingerman gets the reader cleaned off–and this issue of So Many Bad Decisions is easily the least funny, it’s downright depressing and bare–Rob might be in a terrible place.

Only, logistically, the seriousness of Rob’s situation is only there because how of Fingerman put the readers through the ringer. It’s beautifully constructed. In a lot of ways, it’s Fingerman’s best issue, just for how he’s able to control the readers’ attention through the comic. It’s precise, but never constrained. He’s always encouraging readers to look for more and not pay as much attention to what’s actually going on with Rob’s life. It’s fantastic misdirection.

The issue’s intense. Fingerman fills every page with finality and doom. Seriously, there’s really almost nothing funny about the issue. The one notable time Fingerman goes for laugh relief, he uses it to introduce a new character and then a realization for Rob.

So Many Bad Decisions ends wonderfully. Fingerman shows off, flexes, schmaltzes; it works out.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Bob Fingerman; publisher, Image Comics.

From Under Mountains 1 (September 2015)

From Under Mountains #1

I like Sloane Leong’s art. I really do. She’s got a great way of doing movement, whether characters or environmental. And her expressions are fantastic.

But I’m not sure about From Under Mountains. It’s fantasy, or at least full of fantasy gobbledygook names–the comic comes to life when it’s actual fantasy, something about a maleficent spirit (gorgeous movement from Leong on those parts)–but the rest of it is boring.

The protagonist is a princess who has no rights, no power. Her brother gets to do all these exciting things, she just has to get married off. Her dad’s a jerk. Her brother’s sympathetic but he’s deceiving the father too for something else so he doesn’t get involved. And besides the spirit, there are enemies attacking their palace.

The “story” is okay. It’s Claire Gibson’s script. It’s way too obvious, all of the time. Leong’s art helps Mountains get through, but there’s just nothing there. It’s too slight.

CREDITS

Writers, Marian Churchland and Claire Gibson; artist, Sloane Leong; letterer, Ariana Maher; publisher, Image Comics.

Island 3 (September 2015)

Island #3

This Island, after opening on José Domingo’s quirky, fantastical, intricate look at an island, ends with the most depressing thing possible. After almost eighty pages of fantasy, Kate Craig’s story of a stranded hikers brings the comic–and the reader–back to reality. A depressing reality.

Overall, most of the stories this issue are undercooked. Malachi Ward and Matt Sheean have slightly future story where everyone’s linked into “the Service;” it’s too bad they didn’t just brand it as a certain fruit-named company. (Or do whatever Bill Amend did in “Fox Trot”). They spend too much time on exposition for what’s actually a simple concept. The narrative meanders–the protagonist, cut off from the instant, useless knowledge of the Internet, finds himself in an ominous situation. It’s all right, but clearly in need of an editor.

Dilraj Mann does this punk thing, one character leading to another character, leading to another character. Looping around. It makes you want to either read Love and Rockets or just look at Love and Rockets covers, because Mann’s art isn’t there and his storytelling isn’t either.

Amy Clare’s art is problematic for a comic–there’s a certain flatness to it and she doesn’t scale it well–but it’s good. Her writing is intentionally obtuse; she wants to make the reader work at getting into her story about a female enforcer in a vague dystopian future, only she takes really obvious shortcuts to exposition. The protagonist, after a year of slipping under the customs radar, gets busted for the story. I think. Like I said, Clare makes the reader work at it.

Tessa Black does an H.R. Giger thing. It may read entirely different to others, but if you’ve seen Species, it’s an H.R. Giger thing.

So it’s definitely a mixed bag this issue of Island but what’s impressive is how worthwhile, even with the unevenness, the comic remains.

CREDITS

Contributors, José Domingo, Malachi Ward, Matt Sheean, Dilraj Mann, Amy Clare, Tessa Black and Kate Craig; publisher, Image Comics.

The Fade Out 9 (September 2015)

The Fade Out #9

I don’t know if I’d noticed before but probably not–Brubaker’s narration for Fade Out has the possibility of not just being a noir touch but also an actual part of the narrative. There’s like a single use of “you” referring to the reader so I’m reading a bunch into it like part of the mystery is figuring out who’s telling the story at the end. I’m probably wrong.

But if Brubaker was going to wait to reveal that narrative device, this issue would be the one to reveal it in. Gil and Charlie duke it out and the flashback reveals their back stories, separate to some degree, but mostly together. And the reveals make you want to go back and reread the earlier issues to see how Brubaker constructed it all.

There’s a lot in the flashback. Even though the present action takes place in a couple hours–at most–and is largely just one conversation leading up to the soft cliffhanger, Brubaker is able to make the issue dense with that flashback. It takes place over a decade or so, Phillips getting to illustrate a variety of settings, Brubaker able to work up tension in the flashback itself and not just how it relates to the present action.

Very cool; very good issue.

CREDITS

Living in a Memory; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Minimum Wage: So Many Bad Decisions 5 (September 2015)

Minimum Wage: So Many Bad Decisions #5

What the heck is Rob doing? I mean, Minimum Wage has become the most gripping comics narrative I’m reading. More than anything else, I want to know what happens next because I care about Rob. Reading Wage is caring about Rob; liking Rob (most of the time), because it feels like Rob’s Fingerman and you like them both.

And Fingerman puts Rob in an unexpected situation. An unexpected, incredibly dangerous situation. I can’t even imagine how it must read for people familiar with the first series of Minimum Wage–and I’m now upset I didn’t go and read that series in between the previous revival series and So Many Bad Decisions.

Fingerman takes the Bad Decisions to an epic (for Wage) level this issue. It’s crazy and awesome. And, after I was dreading the series only running four issues, I know it isn’t going to run past six. So Fingerman’s got one left, then whatever kind of break.

He sets it up beautifully.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Bob Fingerman; publisher, Image Comics.

Island 2 (August 2015)

Island #2

Simon Roy starts a story this issue. Some sort of futuristic thing with the plants having grown over everything and people living a savage existence. With cannibalism, he hints, but also secret replicators and lasers. It’s cool. It’s really well-done. It’s just too soon to tell if he’s got anything amazing up his narrative sleeves. With Roy’s level of detail–it’s gorgeous art–it’s hard not to think style above substance, but he’s so careful with the content… maybe it’ll be something great.

And Emma Rios finishes up her mind-transfer story. It’s okay. The art overly stylized–black and white but with different colors for the black depending on scene (and not dark colors, like light red)–but Rios’s panel compositions and her panel transitions are amazing. The story’s kind of bleh, but the structure of the visual narrative makes it worthwhile.

I forgot to mention the Ludroe story about the cats and the skaters. It’s back. It’s dumb. I think I liked the art more this time but the story’s even stupider. I’m definitely not the audience for it.

CREDITS

Contributors, Will Kirkby, Ludroe, Simon Roy, Emma Rios and Robin Bougie; publisher, Image Comics.

Velvet 11 (August 2015)

Velvet #11

It’s my favorite issue of Velvet in a long time and I’m not entirely sure why. It might just be because Epting drawing an American secret agent with grey temples with a bouffant-ish hair cut reminds me of seventies Marvel black and white Gene Colan. It just feels right.

But the rest of the issue is good too. It’s got Brubaker doing a lot of quick summary sequences with Velvet catching the reader up to what she’s been doing since the previous issue. She’s been getting into trouble, but totally in control of it. It’s a new type of Velvet; she’s not just the protagonist, but she’s in charge of how the narrative affects her (and is aware of it).

Velvet usually reads like a light project for Brubaker, but this issue certainly suggests he’s at least got some ambition for how he tells the story. It’s a great comic.

CREDITS

The Man Who Stole the World, Part One; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editors; Sebastian Girner and Eric Stephenson; publisher, Image Comics.

Nailbiter 15 (August 2015)

Nailbiter #15

Is the explanation for Nailbiter’s town of serial killers going to be Nazi experiments in the forties? I think Williamson is going to go for it, meaning he’s always had an explanation in mind for the comic. He’s also getting even soapier as it (presumably) winds up.

The sheriff has a big secret, which the flashbacks are hinting at.

And Nailbiter can almost handle it. It can almost handle being “Twin Peaks,” “Beverly Hills 90210,” “The X-Files,” and “Criminal Minds” rolled into one. But Henderson’s art is all wrong for it. He can’t do the absurdity in the soap. He can’t handle it. He plays it straight and it makes Nailbiter flop. He does it on a full page spread this issue too.

Just flops.

The mood overpowers the narrative novelty and that novelty’s all Nailbiter has that this point so it’s a problem.

But, it’s okay enough.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Williamson; artist, Mike Henderson; colorist, Adam Guzowski; letterer, John J. Hill; editor, Rob Levin; publisher, Image Comics.

Minimum Wage: So Many Bad Decisions 4 (August 2015)

Minimum Wage: So Many Bad Decisions #4

It’s an (almost) all dream issue. Rob wanders through a lucid dream, filled with his recent conquests and his fears and hopes, all of it very slimy and grotesque. Or absolutely gorgeous cheesecake. Fingerman has a great time with the art on this issue. It’s fully colored too.

But the comic, which eventually deals not just with Rob and his ex, but also with Rob and his ambitions for himself, feels like Fingerman directly addressing the reader. Rob is getting to the point where he’s starting his own Minimum Wage-type comic and Fingerman is finally giving the reader insight into what it’s like to do the comic itself.

It drags a little at the beginning, before the whole dream thing becomes clear, but once Rob is wandering his psyche and aware of it, the issue clicks and sails.

Fingerman manages to make a story about artistic panic entirely assured.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Bob Fingerman; publisher, Image Comics.

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