Barrier #5 (July 2017 / May 2018)

Barrier #5

Barrier #5 finally translates Oscar’s dialogue. He and Liddy are both plugged into the aliens’ heads and, after Liddy’s flashback–revealing what had happened to her husband, though without dialogue–the aliens talk for a bit in Spanish then it’s Oscar’s flashback. With English dialogue.

Given how important not translating Oscar’s dialogue has been the entire series, it’s a little weird to see his tragedy unfold in English. Especially when it turns out Vaughan and Martin only hinted at the actual tragedy. Well, didn’t really hint. Lied. They lied about the tragedy. Unless you read the Spanish? It’s unclear.

There’s some good art. It’s not exactly good comic art. It’s good art though. I can’t even remember how the book read when the visual pacing was so good. None of its here, even though there’s a lot of art. There’s no opportunity for that kind of pacing anymore, not with the narrative.

Then comes the twist ending.

It’s an eye-roller. And makes the English translation even more of a cop-out.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate (2017) / Image Comics (2018).

Lazarus #28 (May 2018)

Lazarus #28

Once again, Lazarus is fine. It’s fine where Rucka’s going with the book–turning exiled, thought-dead Jonah into a real hero, for example–but there’s something else going on too.

The art. Lark and Boss are drawing less, the colors are doing more; the backgrounds have a dullness to them. By the end of the issue, the characters look like animation cels. It’s real obvious.

The issue itself, with Jonah’s new “family” going to war right after his baby is born, is also fine. It’s effective, well-paced. Kind of manipulative, but sure, fine. Rucka has oodles of goodwill on Lazarus and doing an interlude away from the main plot doesn’t spend as much as a regular issue.

But the art. The art isn’t there. It’s distressing by the end of the issue, because it gets progressively worse. The finale sends Jonah into the new “main” arc, a single parent who’s survived through determination and the good fortune of family medicine. It’d be exciting (kind of, he’s now even more a trope), but all the art promises for what’s next is lessening quality.

Frankly, it’s bumming me out. I’d rather Lark exit gracefully than go out this way.

CREDITS

Fracture, Prelude: Part Two; writer, Greg Rucka; penciller, Michael Lark; inkers, Lark and Tyler Boss; colorist, Santiago Arcas; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

Barrier #4 (March 2017 / May 2018)

Barrier #4

They get to talk again. The aliens dump them in a different area of the ship where there are other aliens and those aliens are mean.

Barrier doesn’t refer to language barrier, does it?

The issue delves into Oscar’s back story, undoubtedly much more if you can read Spanish, but there’s still some discernible information if you don’t. His family’s in Los Angeles, so he’s going to Los Angeles. The people in his hometown make fun of him since he doesn’t speak any English.

Barrier indeed.

The Texas comes out in Liddy at just the right time–though she’s barefoot in this alien forest, I find it hard to believe the grass is all nice and soft and not tearing up her feet considering there are starfish monsters around.

It’s okay. It reads in about three minutes, which is fine when you’re a “pay what you want” e-comic and not a four dollar floppy.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate (2016) / Image Comics (2018).

Barrier #3 (December 2016 / May 2018)

Barrier #3

The aliens speaking makes human ears bleed to the point of deafness. Blows the ear drums? So now Liddy and Oscar can’t talk to each other. They just have to communicate with body language and expression. Or Liddy just takes Oscar’s stuff because… she can?

There’s some “character development” like the revelation Liddy’s husband was (maybe) murdered. And we find out why Oscar wants his red notebook so bad. And the aliens don’t like fire. Maybe not personally, but their ship’s sprinkler system is all kinds of crazy.

So there’s no talking in the book, just visuals. There’s a little bit more of a visual tempo than last issue but nothing compared to the first. Martin’s alien ship designs aren’t very interesting. The ship’s empty. Martin does well with little details. The ship doesn’t have any.

Clearly the creators are invested–at least Martin anyway (he’s drawing a lot), it’s hard to imagine the script was longer than a couple pages unless Vaughan writes Moore style–but the result is fairly underwhelming. There have been far better “silent” comic books; it isn’t even ambitious.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate (2016) / Image Comics (2018).

Barrier #2 (September 2016 / May 2018)

Barrier #2

So pretty much everything I liked in Barrier #1 is gone in Barrier #2. The issue opens at NORAD, with a couple officers talking in acronyms about how they’re not going to report a UFO even though they saw a UFO.

Close Encounters it ain’t.

Independence Day it ain’t even.

Vaughan thinks the acronym-heavy banter is enough to get through the scene. Can’t understand them, just like English readers can’t understand Oscar’s Spanish dialogue. The difference is Spanish is a real language and one assumes Vaughan is making up UFO acronym speak.

Then it’s back to the leads, who are now in space (or at least on an alien spaceship). They find each other, they fight, they bond, the aliens separate them. Yawn.

All of Martin’s visual pacing from the first issue is gone. There are War of the Worlds nods, Alien nods, probably other things, but it doesn’t make up for flow.

Oh, and it’s not Liddy’s daddy whose ranch she ranches, it’s her dead husband’s. Martin’s shockingly bad at drawing her face, by the way. He doesn’t have any depth to her features (most of the time). Same thing last issue but the visual pace made up for it.

No glorious visual pace here; nothing to make up for it.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate (2016) / Image Comics (2018).

Barrier #1 (November 2015 / May 2018)

MARCOS MARTIN Cover01 col

As a visual piece, Barrier #1 is all kinds of awesome. Marcos Martin’s pacing is sublime; the comic is “widescreen”–or landscape–with Martin sometimes using the whole page, sometimes filling it with as many panels as possible, sometimes splitting a single “shot” into panels. The visual reading experience is sublime.

The script? Eh.

Barrier is from late 2015. It’s creator-owned, originally digital. So far, politically-speaking, it dates poorly. Though, frankly, some of those questionable characterizations were always going to be questionable.

The first issue is an introduction to the main characters, Liddy and Oscar. Liddy is a Texan rancher, ranching her daddy’s place no doubt because tropes, and she’s having problems with a drug gang. She thinks. It’s unclear.

Oscar is from Honduras. He’s sneaking into the States, onto Liddy’s land eventually, and his entire story is in Spanish. No translation. Its success is–like the comic–a showcase for Martin’s art.

The stuff with Liddy getting drunk and maybe hiring an ex-military type to “deal with” her problem? Not so successful.

Of course, given how the issue ends, it’s entirely possible nothing this issue is going to matter.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate (2015) / Image Comics (2018).

The Dead Hand #2 (May 2018)

The Dead Hand #2

Mooney has some real problems with faces. They’re way, way too static. He’s usually strong with detail and body language–though the double-page spreads recounting super spy behavior (with only the “hero” wearing a mask so it really is just him being a dork) are overkill.

Not a lot happens in the issue. The sheriff deals with the hiker. The teenage girls wonder what’s going on; turns out one of their mom’s is a former spy with a history with the sheriff. And knows what’s going on in the town. And is more in charge than the sheriff.

There are a couple surprises, with the second one being what seems to be a big ol’ twist, and Higgins handles it all quite well. The comic would read better if Mooney could do the talking heads without the characters overacting, but Dead Hand still has a strong hook to keep interest.

The way the issue ends, however, gives no clue as to where the book is going, which is fine… just strange given it’s a limited. Kind of a soft boot.

CREDITS

Writer, Kyle Higgins; artist, Stephen Mooney; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; publisher, Image Comics.

Flavor #1 (May 2018)

Flavor #1

Flavor is a fantasy comic about a chef. There’s also not so much fantasy as mystique of cookery. It’s very strange, because it also operates with some loose reality to allow artist Woon Jin Clark sight gags involving the protagonist’s pet dog. He’s a good dog. Snoopy-esque, but without thought balloons.

And writer Joseph Keatinge waits to do the reveal on the dog. He and Clark pace out the revelations on how Flavor is going to tell its story, regarding the dog, regarding expectations, regarding everything.

Because it’s not just a fantasy comic with cooking instead of magic, it’s a teenager fantasy comic. Lead Xoo’s parents aren’t able to take care of her, themselves, or their restaurant right now. It turns out to be important for the issue and–presumably–the comic, but Keatinge waits to do the reveal. It’s adult stuff and Xoo isn’t an adult, even if she’s got lots of responsibilities. She’s at the mercy of the state.

The state brings Xoo’s uncle in as a temporary with option to permanent guardian and care-giver. There’s not a lot of time for the uncle Geof and Xoo to bond, the issue’s got to end, Keatinge’s got to do a final surprise as far as tone goes, plus the restaurant needs to open.

There’s a beautiful montage on the last few pages.

Flavor’s really neat. There’s a lot of effort from both creators. It’s enthusiastic. I’m hopeful for Flavor.

CREDITS

Writer, Joseph Keatinge; artist, Wook Jin Clark; colorist, Tamra Bonvillain; letterer, Ariana Maher; publisher, Image Comics.

Maestros #6 (May 2018)

Maestros #6

Two big surprises this issue. Not counting the little, almost expected double-crosses. No one is particularly nice in Maestros. Except Willy, his mom, and his girlfriend. The Devil’s daughter isn’t so bad either.

It’s the end of the universe, with Willy battling it out with the magical elf for the control of not just the universe, but creation itself. Lots and lots of magical action, all beautifully realized by Skroce. It’s a shame he couldn’t do more of the battle scenes, which are awesome when they’re the wizards, but even better when they’re the hordes. Maestros has such great design on its hordes.

The surprises both come at the end. First, it turns out this issue, #6, is the penultimate issue. Skroce’s had a very successful book to this point and all he’s got to do with the finale is wrap it together for a trade. He ought to be able to do it, based on how well he paces out the action and twists in this one.

Because there’s a big cliffhanger, brought on by the other big twist.

Maestros has been one hell of a book. Skroce’s done some excellent work.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Steve Skroce; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Fonografiks; publisher, Image Comics.

Evolution #6 (April 2018)

Evolution #6

And after its best issue, Evolution returns to its regular level. A little rushed–or, more accurately, a little abrupt–and all setup for something coming in a future issue. Delayed realization.

Once again, the art becomes the most important thing about the comic. Infurnari delivers, though it’s not a lot of interesting stuff. L.A. diners and New York hospitals are only so visually stimulating. The infected, evolved monsters are out of John Carpenter’s The Thing, which is fine–maybe they should’ve done a licensed title instead–but nothing new.

This issue has a big twist at the end involving the one doctor who knows what’s going on. He was previously the closest thing the comic had to a protagonist (unlike the other two plot lines, he gets two plots an issue–so maybe two writers too). It’s not a great twist. In fact, it’s one of those “do I still want to read this comic” twists.

CREDITS

Writers, James Asmus, Joseph Keatinge, Christopher Sebela, and Joshua Williamson; artist, Joe Infurnari; colorist, Jordan Boyd; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Arielle Basich and Jon Moisan; publisher, Image Comics.

Redneck #12 (April 2018)

Redneck #12

Redneck #12 is a great close to a somewhat uneven arc. Cates’s plotting on Redneck has always had its issues. He tends to rush things. This issue’s a mostly action issue, starting with the cops surrounding the vampire house (in Waco, of course).

Cates starts big and focuses in. He’s got a surprise in store; well, a couple of them, but the issue hinges entirely on one of them. Its successful execution makes everything else possible, including giving Estherren some great redneck vampire action to visualize.

It’d be nice if the book were a little more consistent, issue-to-issue, but Cates always seems to have the finale right. And even if he’s reliable in that regard, it’d still be nice for the arcs to read smoother.

But, as always, arc ends and I can’t wait for the next one to begin.

CREDITS

Writer, Donny Cates; artist, Lisandro Estherren; colorist, Dee Cunniffe; letterer, Joe Sabino; editors, Arielle Basich and Jon Moisan; publisher, Image Comics.

Evolution #5 (March 2018)

Evolution #5

Evolution just passed an interesting landmark—the comic is no longer reliant on the art. First and foremost, it’s been an interesting looking book—until now. This issue has the best writing so far in the comic, on each of the separate plot lines. The characters have finally been around long enough to be compelling.

Which means I hope the comic doesn’t get too ambitious with series length. After five issues, the gaggle of writers have got the book into a great spot. They’re not going to be able to keep it there forever.

It’s a fantastically plotted issue. The development work in each plot is outstanding, the art is good, the dialogue is fine. The series is paying off. Of course, it would’ve been nice if that success weren’t so surprising to me. The writers really pull off a good issue here.

CREDITS

Writers, James Asmus, Joseph Keatinge, Christopher Sebela, and Joshua Williamson; artist, Joe Infurnari; colorist, Jordan Boyd; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Arielle Basich and Jon Moisan; publisher, Image Comics.

The Dead Hand #1 (April 2018)

Writer Kyle Higgins likes his big concepts. The Dead Hand has a big concept, though that concept isn’t entirely clear yet. In fact, Higgins does some slight of hand to distract from things–though he forecasts the twist just before revealing it, a little too much of the hand showing. Most of the issue is some “rah rah” nonsense with an American CIA agent.

He’s a super spy, but he wears a star mask–like a bandana over his face with a star on it–presumably because he thinks it makes him cool. Or there are other costumed super spies and Higgins really needs to reveal it, because otherwise the super spy seems like a little bit of a tool.

Is the guy a tool? Maybe?

It’s not important yet. What’s important is there’s some big mystery involving a Soviet weapons project and a small mountain town pretending it’s in the United States but it’s really in Russia. Only not Soviet Russia, modern Russia.

Stephen Mooney’s art is all right. His figures get stumpy at times and he’s a little too ambitious with his angles for his depth, but it’s definitely all right.

The Starro mask is real dumb though. Like, I’m not sure it’ll ever live the Starro mask down.

CREDITS

Writer, Kyle Higgins; artist, Stephen Mooney; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; publisher, Image Comics.

Lazarus #27 (April 2018)

Lazarus #27

Lazarus is back. It hasn’t been entirely gone, but the regular series has been on hiatus for a bit. And now it’s back.

And it’s not exactly Lazarus. It’s a two-part prelude to the next arc and is all about brother Jonah’s adventures with the Danes. Forever didn’t kill him; instead she saved him and threw him in the sea. There some Danish fishers find him. They’re a family of fishers under a different capital f Family than Jonah–or his allies–and they nurse him back to health. He works with them, the daughter falls in love with him, his previous life is forgotten.

Until next issue.

The art’s great. Michael Lark doing a dystopian fishing village turns out to be great. The “action”–the fishing–comes off. Along with the drama as the family tries to figure out what to do with Jonah.

Rucka’s writing is fine. It’s all character stuff. Not exactly character work–there’s little character development outside summary panels; the daughter falling for Jonah is, so far, not neccesarily a bad thing. It’ll probably be a bad thing (for her) very soon. But for now, it’s a tranquil existence. In a dystopia.

It’s a sturdy, sure-footed–and very safe–return for Lazarus

CREDITS

Fracture, Prelude: Part One; writer, Greg Rucka; penciller, Michael Lark; inkers, Lark and Tyler Boss; colorist, Santiago Arcas; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

Dry County #2 (April 2018)

Dry County #2

Dry County #2 reveals the mystery and it’s rather unexpected. At least for me. I was expecting some noir. Instead, it’s a kidnapping thriller. Only not a very thrilling one.

The protagonist, Lou, finally thinks things are going to progress with the girl he likes. She’s moved away from her abusive boyfriend, he–Lou–is making things happen at work. Everything is coming together. Then she’s kidnapped. Her roommate is assaulted. She’s just gone. There’s a note with the newspaper cut out letters. Lou starts investigating.

Couple things there aren’t. There’s not a ransom demand. There’s not a followup with the assaulted roommate. The girl’s got another roommate who just goes along with Lou’s “let’s not call the cops and instead stage a different scenario for the assaulted guy” plan. The note says no cops.

Lou’s investigation in the rest of the issue is just him canvasing the city where he thinks the girl might be. Someone keeps trying to run him over, but not seriously. Lou’s always able to get out of the way. He brings along his dumb tough guy friend for muscle, which leads to some genial amusement.

At best, Dry County is genially amusing. It’s not dangerous–it’s not realistic enough to be dangerous–and, as a protagonist, Lou is way undercooked.

Tommaso does instill some charm into the book. But probably not enough to keep it going.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Rich Tommaso; publisher, Image Comics.

Dry County #1 (March 2018)

Dry County #1

The content of Dry County #1 doesn’t really match the subtitle on the cover: “A Lou Rossi Comic – The EVERYMAN Crime Series.” Not to mention the “M” rating. Because there’s no crime in Dry County. There’s not even a whiff of it. Lead Lou Rossi lives in Little Havana, Miami, but it’s basically empty when he’s outside. Lonely guy living lonely existence.

Lou is a comic strip cartoonist at the paper. Between going to work and doing his daily, three-panel gag strip, he gets drunk. Then he meets a girl. Only she’s got problems with her boyfriend. It’s not noir, but it’s noir. Rich Tommaso’s art is extremely mellow. It’s hard to get agitated, even when Lou chases the girl’s abusive boyfriend away.

Tommaso writes it first-person, with Lou’s journal entries in between panels. The entries are on lined paper with neat handwriting; again, not very noirish. It’s too bright and vivid. Not cheerful, but precious.

As mundane slice of life–vividly rendered–Dry County #1 is all right. As the prelude to EVERYMAN crime… well, it’s slow. Especially since the characters are so thin, even the protagonist. Tommaso writes them for occasional gag humor too. It’s hard to imagine it getting bloody.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Rich Tommaso; publisher, Image Comics.

I Hate Fairyland #17 (March 2018)

I Hate Fairyland #17

Well, Young certainly doesn’t go any predictable route. He’s into new territory in Fairyland now, seventeen issues in, and–frankly–the book has lost its charm. There’s still charm to the art, but the writing has lost its charm. It’s lost Gert, for one thing. She’s MIA this issue (for the first time ever) and not even the bug gets a follow-up from last issue.

Instead, it’s Duncan the Dragon’s issue. I can’t remember what’s going on with that kid–he was another kid trapped in Fairyland who maybe fought with Gertie, maybe didn’t–but a refresher would’ve been nice.

Instead, Young just powers through. It certainly seems like he’s wrapping up Fairyland. I’m just not sure I care enough anymore to stick it out until the end. The book has no momentum outside the trouble Gert generates, here and there. Take that aspect away and… it’s just… nothing special.

Not even the art is fun (without Gert).

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Skottie Young; colorist, Jean-Francois Bealieu; letterer, Nate Piekos; editor, Kent Wagenschutz; publisher, Image Comics.

Gideon Falls #2 (April 2018)

Gideon Falls #2

Gideon Falls #2 does not have a good pace. It also doesn’t have very good dialogue. Or interesting scenes. Or engaging characters. I was halfway through the issue before I fully remembered what was going on last time and why I thought the book had potential. It burns all of it off this issue. All of it.

Probably before the halfway point.

Sorrentino’s art also gets a little trying here. Especially with the expressionist angles for the character who’s not delusional but really knows what’s going on with the black barn, whether his therapist believes him or not. The lines–it’s hard to explain, but there are thin white lines (vertical white lines) over all the art. It’s a Photoshop filter or something, but it also brings nothing to it. However, compared to when Sorrentino does composition stuff with the panels… well, give me the little white lines.

Generic dialogue, bad plotting, big yawn. It’s too bad since the book had some promise after the first issue.

CREDITS

All the Sinners Say Hallelujah!; writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Andrea Sorrentino; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Steve Wands; editor, Will Dennis; publisher, Image Comics.

I Hate Fairyland #16 (February 2018)

I Hate Fairyland #16

Uh. So Young opens the issue with Gert talking about how the previous issue’s cliffhanger for Fairyland was manipulative and cheap.

Which is fine. Kind of funny.

But then this entire issue is manipulative and cheap as it undoes that cliffhanger.

The issue’s a dream sequence (basically), not just without anything to move the story forward, but without anything to give Gert good fodder. She gets chased, she gets upset, she gets mean, but there’s no real oomph to the new situation.

And the setting isn’t conducive to Young’s art style. Maybe if it were half the issue (or a third), but an entire issue of boring visualizations. Sure, there’s a little bit of Fairyland, but it’s that happy-go-lucky Fairyland, not the regular bloodbath Gert makes it.

As a series, Young’s worked out how to best play to his (and Fairyland’s) strengths. But now it’s like he’s floundering. And issue #16 isn’t a place to be floundering.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Skottie Young; colorist, Jean-Francois Bealieu; letterer, Nate Piekos; editor, Kent Wagenschutz; publisher, Image Comics.

I Hate Fairyland #15 (August 2017)

I Hate Fairyland #15

Even though Young doesn’t do arcs in Fairyland anymore, he sort of does. And this issue is the end of the arc–i.e. trade–with setup for the next one.

It moves all right, but it’s nowhere near as funny as usual. Probably because Gert is being a good girl (not a spoiler, the trade’s out and it’s called Good Girl or something). Larry the Bug can’t make it funny on his own.

And the legion of enemies out to get Gert? They’re well-drawn, but they’re not funny.

Young lets the story supplant the humor, which isn’t what I Hate Fairyland is about. Usually.

It’s fine. Can’t wait to see what happens next. But don’t really care about what’s happened here (partially because it doesn’t matter). Young’s spinning his wheels through an issue just to get to the cliffhanger.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Skottie Young; colorist, Jean-Francois Bealieu; letterer, Nate Piekos; editor, Kent Wagenschutz; publisher, Image Comics.

Redneck #11 (March 2018)

Redneck #11

Big reveal this issue of Redneck. It seems like it’s going to kick off a flashback issue, but it doesn’t. It just sets up the cliffhanger (for now); first it has a twist. Then the cliffhanger has a second reveal, which Cates has been hinting at for a while.

It seemed like it was going to be a flashback issue–this current story arc, with the Landrys apparently winning once and for all, is dragging. Cates uses Redneck’s deep backstory to enable some of that drag. But it turns out this issue is a different kind of time killer. The whole issue just works to enable the big reveal and subsequent twist.

Still, it’s pretty good stuff. Estherren’s art is great. Whether it’s talking heads, flashback, or action, Estherren’s able to make it all fit his style, all fit the Redneck tone. It’s not his fault Cates has been padding this story for at least two issues, maybe three.

It seems like next issue is really going to deliver the goods. Sure. Maybe. It’ll still be pretty good regardless, I’m sure.

CREDITS

Writer, Donny Cates; artist, Lisandro Estherren; colorist, Dee Cunniffe; letterer, Joe Sabino; editors, Arielle Basich and Jon Moisan; publisher, Image Comics.

The Beef #1 (February 2018)

The Beef #1

Honestly, is there time for The Beef? Shaky Kane’s art is all right, but it’s far from enough to hold up the rest of the book. It’s a middling indie book, juxtaposing this guy’s life with beef (his father worked at a slaughterhouse, he works at a slaughterhouse, everyone eats the slaughterhouse’s burgers in town) and his bad experiences with his bullies.

The bullies get more to do than the lead, because when it’s all the metaphysical exploration of man and beef, it’s nothing about the character specifically. He’s just there. So he can turn into The Beef, presumably. The Beef looks like the Hulk without any skin, just muscles. According to the cover and the single appearance on the last page.

Not sure if what the Beef is going to do to warrant a five issue comic book.

Richard Starking and Tyler Shainline’s script pretends being loose is the same thing as being nimble. The narration is overwrought, which is out of sync with Kane’s art. Of course, Kane drawing grown-up rich kid redneck gangsta bullies is pretty out of stylistic sense.

It’s kind of exhausting. And it’s only the first issue. The Beef is nowhere near as filling as its creators pretend.

CREDITS

Tainted Love, Part One: Fast Food; writers, Richard Starkings and Tyler Shainline; artist, Shaky Kane; letterer, Starkings; publisher, Image Comics.

The Gravediggers Union #5 (March 2018)

The Gravediggers Union #5

Gravediggers Union #5 is just as sturdy an entry as ever. Craig and Cypress have their story down; this issue the Union is investigating the Tom Cruise stand-in (a celebrity in a cult who may or may not bring about the end times). Only the reader knows he’s not going to bring about the end times because it’s Morgan who is the dark prophet.

This issue juxtaposes Morgan having a vision with the Union going into the celebrity guy’s mind to figure out what’s going on. This mind meld happens after the Union has to take out the guy’s army of zombies. Because why not.

Basically it’s just a bunch of awesome Cypress art, doing magic, fighting, dark gods, whatever.

Gravediggers is a hard book to describe. Yes, the art drives it, but Craig’s plotting and pacing gives Cypress the opportunities to excel. Quite good comics.

CREDITS

Writer, Wes Craig; artists, Craig and Toby Cypress; colorist, Niko Guardia; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; publisher, Image Comics.

Gideon Falls #1 (March 2018)

Gideon Falls #1

Gideon Falls is a mystery. Some of it is urban, with a young man with a history of mental illness searching the city for bits and pieces of wood. And nails. The rest of it is a disgraced but not in that way priest reassigned to some rural town–Gideon Falls. There he finds himself in a mystery, involving the ghost of the previous priest and something related to the city guy’s quest.

So. It’s a mystery. It’d be nice if writer Jeff Lemire has it planned and plotted out and it’ll be a smooth read. Andrea Sorrentino’s art is smooth and moody. It’s got some weird digital texture lines thing going on but otherwise it works just fine.

It’s too soon to tell with the comic though. Is it a great hook? No, but it’s a fine one. There’s going to be a lot of religious imagery, which doesn’t seem particularly edgy so hopefully Lemire’s got a good backstory for the priest.

Who knows. Too soon to tell. As a first issue, it does its job. It makes you want to read the second issue.

CREDITS

The Speed of Pain; writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Andrea Sorrentino; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Steve Wands; editor, Will Dennis; publisher, Image Comics.

Redneck #10 (February 2018)

Redneck #10

This issue of Redneck is mostly one of the vampire familiars in an FBI interrogation. Lots of flashbacks to how he met the family and became a familiar. And why he stayed with them.

Otherwise, there’s not much to the issue. Cates takes the action back to the family for the last few pages, to set up the cliffhanger, but it’s filler. It’s good enough filler–Estherren’s art is awesome, particularly in the flashbacks. They’re to Vietnam, they’re to sixties and seventies small town United States. It gives Estherren a new setting; he excels.

The flashback also makes the character–the familiar–more likable. Younger he seems like less background. In the present day stuff, the FBI agent gets far more to do.

Redneck’s a sturdy book. Even when it has filler issues. Cates imaginatively spins his wheels while Estherren visualizes these fast, distinct scenes.

CREDITS

Writer, Donny Cates; artist, Lisandro Estherren; colorist, Dee Cunniffe; letterer, Joe Sabino; editors, Arielle Basich and Jon Moisan; publisher, Image Comics.

Evolution #4 (February 2018)

Evolution #4

Evolution #4 shows off the possiblities of the format–multi-writer, one artist. Each writer has a subplot they do, while artist Infurnari gets to draw the gross.

People are evolving only into monsters and there’s some Cthulhu-ish undertones of course. Because there are always Cthulhu-ish undertones.

The comic opens with a talking heads scene between Claire, who’s the protagonist of one of the subplots (and writer’s contributions), and her mysterious benefactor. I think she just saw this guy kill a monster a couple issues ago. Now he’s doing a backstory exposition dump and giving her a check. Infurnari gets the mood just right. It’s creepy but maybe not dangerous. But maybe dangerous.

Then it’s off to Rome to check in on the nun-on-the-run. She’s just seen the Church cover up some of the monsters. Her story is the most sympathetic, if only because Claire (who’s in L.A.) doesn’t realize the danger around her. The nun gets it. She goes off to see a priest who’s left the church (maybe he’s left, it’s unclear). And then there’s her backstory exposition dump.

The only story with an exposition dump is the scientist. He’s already had his backstory reveal. Now he’s just ranting to himself about how he’s going to stop the evolution and the monsters. His subplot is Evolution’s weak link. It makes sense–in that disaster movie sort of way, you need someone to do exposition dumps as things happen–but he’s an unlikable character. You can be working to save the world and be unlikable, apparently.

Evolution’s gross–Infurnari does blood, guts, and tendons enthusiastically; he also does general creepiness well–but almost a pleasant reading experience. None of the writers try too hard. It’s a methodical, “anthology” horror comic. The writers embrace the constraints to decent result.

CREDITS

Writers, James Asmus, Joseph Keatinge, Christopher Sebela, and Joshua Williamson; artist, Joe Infurnari; colorist, Jordan Boyd; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Arielle Basich and Jon Moisan; publisher, Image Comics.

Maestros #5 (February 2018)

Maestros #5

Willy goes to Hell! To ask for help. Hell gives Skroce a lot to draw. Some gross stuff in terms of blood and guts, some gross stuff in terms of dick and fart jokes. Maestros has such an excellent balance between those two interests.

Skroce splits the issue between Willy negotiating with the Devil–I think he’s got a name, but I can’t remember. The Devil hates Willy’s family because Willy’s dad–the previous maestro–gave him all sorts of weird curses. Skroce goes for sight gags and he goes for jokes in the dialogue. Everything in Hell is very, very good.

The stuff with Willy’s mom and his love interest being attacked by the evil elf wizard? While at a CostCo? Not as good. It’s fine, but it’s not as good. Skroce doesn’t have any humor for it; in fact, most of it’s just distraction given the evil elf’s plan, which gets a cliffhanger reveal.

Good issue though, as usual. Some great art, as usual.

Maestros keeps on truckin’.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Steve Skroce; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Fonografiks; publisher, Image Comics.

VS #1 (February 2018)

VS #1

Despite a rather boring cover, VS is all about the art. Specifically the Esad Ribic art. Pretty much every panel of the comic looks like some awesome seventies sci-fi book cover. Not awesome sci-fi book, but its cover. Though maybe it does read like some of those seventies sci-fi books….

Brandon’s script is perfectly servicable. It starts like it’s about a futuristic alien war–except the aliens all look mostly human or at least are buff like humans (see, sci-fi book cover). But it’s not. It’s really about a sporting event. “War has become a spectator sport,” says the publisher description.

The first half is a battle, then Brandon switches over to focus on the protagonist. Who–gasp–appears to die at the end of the issue. Probably won’t. Not based on next issue’s cover, which is included.

Ribic’s a great artist.

VS just isn’t great comic. It’s fine. It’s worth it if you’re looking to see some great art. Otherwise. Eh.

CREDITS

Writer, Ivan Brandon; artist, Esad Ribic; colorist, Nic Klein; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editor, Sebastian Girner; publisher, Image Comics.

The Gravediggers Union #4 (February 2018)

The Gravediggers Union #4

Half the action in Gravediggers Union involves the Union members doing research at a library and arguing about what’s an appropriate use of union dues.

The other half of the action is Morgan, daughter of a Union member and prophet of the Black Temple, bargaining with some dead souls for their help in destroying humanity or something. Morgan’s half of the issue is where Cypress gets to go crazy on his art–the dead souls are part of a “ghost-storm,” basically a hurricane; the art’s gorgeous. Even when people are being eviscerated.

Craig’s comedic writing comes through on the other half, the Union half. It’s exposition but well-done. Cypress’s art is strong on it as well, it’s just not a ghost-storm. It’s a trip to the library, with some very pop culture references.

Gravediggers Union continues to be a strong book. Craig’s juxtapositioning of Morgan’s story and her father’s is working out a lot better than I thought it would.

CREDITS

Writer, Wes Craig; artists, Craig and Toby Cypress; colorist, Niko Guardia; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; publisher, Image Comics.

Evolution #3 (January 2018)

Evolution #3

The story develops. The characters react to what they’ve experienced. But not much else happens in Evolution #3.

The nun discovers the Church is going to try to silence her, restrict her from trying to help. The doctor realizes the epidemic is worse than he thought. The two young women in California fight about their future, luckily detached from the worst of the horrors.

It’s character work, sure, but it’s character work separate from the characters’ functions in the comic. Are the characters going to be compelling enough to warrant their own issue, with the main plot of Evolution stagnant.

Maybe?

Infurnari’s art helps. It’s super creepy, super unpleasant. He makes even the most mundane panel dangerous.

Maybe if the doctor’s section–involving telephone messages and then a phone call with his estranged wife and lots of expository information from her–maybe if it worked a little smoother, this issue wouldn’t feel so clunky.

It’s not bad. It’s just blah. With good art.

CREDITS

Writers, James Asmus, Joseph Keatinge, Christopher Sebela, and Joshua Williamson; artist, Joe Infurnari; colorist, Jordan Boyd; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Arielle Basich and Jon Moisan; publisher, Image Comics.

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