Peanuts (July 1952)

Peanuts

Funny thing about this Peanuts collection, which contains two hundred and forty strips (of a possible four hundred and fifty or so), is it doesn’t open with the first Peanuts cartoon. The cartoon, introducing Shermy, Patty and Charlie Brown, with Shermy saying how much he hates Charlie Brown, doesn’t appear. In fact, whoever picked the strips for this collection made sure no ones ever too mean to Charlie Brown.

Charles M. Schulz had a certain pattern in the early days of the strip. He rewarded regular readers with themes and new variations on said themes, either involving Patty and Charlie Brown or Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Peanuts, in this collection, feels cohesive. Even though there’s no connection between strips–other than Violet appearing and Schroeder not just appearing, but learning the piano and starting to walk (and talk)–the collection presents the strip in some particular ways.

There’s an adult humor to Peanuts, a comic strip often about nothing, often with some very open punchline panels where Schulz just invites the reader to reflect back on what’s come in the previous three panels (this collection arranges the strip into squares–two by two, instead of four across–which also changes reading behavior). But the collection never pushes the adult humor aspect of the strip. Instead, its subtle, running beneath the more easier Snoopy jokes.

This collection does have some of Snoopy’s initial forays into a more human existence, like a satellite antenna for better TV reception.

It’s an awesome introduction.

CREDITS

Cartoonist, Charles M. Schulz; publisher, Titan Books.

Sally of the Wasteland 5 (December 2014)

Sally of the Wasteland #5

Bettin’s art is a little broad for the finish, which has Sally in a “normal” future environment. She and Tommy make it into safe hands, a huge underground society started by the college professors who knew nuclear war was coming.

Most of the issue has Sally hanging out with the female security chief, though Gischler does get in an action packed conclusion. It all seems little familiar–a little Aliens, a little Terminator, a little Planet of the Apes–but the mix isn’t bad. And the issue, even with Bettin getting lazy as the comic goes on, isn’t bad at all. It’s rather good.

It just doesn’t have an ending for the series. Gischler goes with a big cliffhanger, which sort of leaves Sally adrift. He’s not leaving it open for a sequel or setting up a sequel, he’s cutting out before the story ends. It’s frustrating.

But rather good.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Victor Gischler; artist, Tazio Bettin; letterer and editor, Tom Williams; publisher, Titan Comics.

Sally of the Wasteland 4 (November 2014)

Sally of the Wasteland #4

It’s another solid issue of Sally. There’s a lot with her and Tommy, which is nice because Sally cares a lot about him and Gischler handles their flirtation (for the first time, joint flirtation) really well.

Most of the issue takes place in a flooded city and artist Bettin does fine with the buildings and even the mutants, but he has some problems with the cast. Their faces become too generic at times; it reads fast, which helps a lot. Until it becomes clear Gischler has written himself into a hole and he’s going to get himself out as fast as possible.

So much happens over so few pages, it reads like Gischler is getting tired, which is too bad. Sally has been a great ride–and even continues to be, albeit too fast of one here–hopefully he’s got a nice finish for the series.

It really deserves one.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Victor Gischler; artist, Tazio Bettin; letterer, Tom Williams; publisher, Titan Comics.

Sally of the Wasteland 3 (October 2014)

Sally of the Wasteland #3

Gischler slows down a little too much this issue. Not enough to hurt Sally’s momentum exactly, but enough the cliffhanger feels protracted.

The ship gets attacked again, the cast is shipwrecked again. Gischler and Bettin don’t draw any attention to the similarities–and it does make sense, given the world is full of aquatic mutants (in this issue, they’re cannibals) but there’s only so much Bettin can do with shipboard action sequences.

The issue does move things forward–though somewhat confusingly–for Sally and her crush. Gischler takes an odd approach to the supporting cast–they’re immediately memorable and well-drawn, but they’re really just background to Sally and whoever else is important in a scene. The supporting cast is texture not possible subplots.

The abrupt cliffhanger kills the tone of its scene. But, otherwise, solid stuff.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Victor Gischler; artist, Tazio Bettin; editor, Tom Williams; publisher, Titan Comics.

Sally of the Wasteland 2 (September 2014)

Sally of the Wasteland #2

Gischler finds the perfect mix of all action and enough story to get things along. Sally takes front and center, with her stranded party getting into trouble with some pirates. It leads to glorious ultra-violence, which both Gischler and Bettin relish in. Bettin has some slight problems on the art–it's a little too slick–but he delivers on the action, time and again.

Similarly, Gischler goes for the occasional easy dirty joke–which makes Sally all of a sudden feel like distracted Garth Ennis–but then he'll bring it around with moments of sincerity to his characters. Well, those types of moments but also some great action and great supporting cast stuff. There's a texture to Sally of the Wasteland; Gischler sees the obvious, sometimes engages with it, but he also does the work on everything else.

So, besides the two or three tepid jokes and Bettin's occasionally problematic art, it's awesome stuff.

A- 

CREDITS

Writer, Victor Gischler; artist, Tazio Bettin; colorist, Jon Chapple; editor, Steve White; publisher, Titan Comics.

Sally of the Wasteland 1 (August 2014)

Sally of the Wasteland #1

Sally of the Wasteland is great. It's going to be hard to talk about. Writer Victor Gischler has his post-apocalyptic setting and while it's tough and vicious and has a bunch of mutated animals, it's still humanist. It's thoughtful. Gischler starts with a relatively small cast and grows out from them, revealing the full setting. Or at least as full as he's going to reveal this issue.

He also has two really strong characters (both of them female); one being the titular Sally, the other her alter ego. There's a guy involved, but it's doubtful the alter ego will be interested.

Gischler has a lot of action, a lot of great conversation. Artist Tazio Bettin handles everything well. There are occasionally loose moments where the detail isn't as strong as usual, but overall, the art's great.

The comic's only detriment is the post-apocalyptic nature but Gischler's definitely bumping its ceiling.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Victor Gischler; artist, Tazio Bettin; colorist, Jon Chapple; editor, Steve White; publisher, Titan Comics.

Ordinary 3 (August 2014)

Ordinary #3

After reading the first issue of Ordinary, I was worried somehow Williams would cop out in the finish. Actually, I thought he would cop out in the second issue. Instead, he cops out in the finale of the series. It’s not a one hundred percent cop out, but it’s in the high eighties. Williams gets a high B in coping out.

The comic starts just fine, however, which makes it all the more irritating. Regular guy Michael is still saving his kid, there are some fantastic visuals and some very humorous play off them in Williams’s plotting. It’s going just fine. Until the governments show up to fight over Michael and D’Israeli starts checking out as far as detail.

His composition is weak too. He has too many characters to track and so he just rushes through. The comic might survive it, if it just weren’t for Williams’s writing deficiencies.

C 

CREDITS

Writer, Rob Williams; artist, D’Israeli; editor, Steve White; publisher, Titan Comics.

Ordinary 2 (July 2014)

Ordinary #2

I’m a little surprised how well x and y hold Ordinary together for the second issue. There are almost no pitfalls, which is something considering the big change in reality is gearing up to be a dream or the end of the world.

Hopefully, x won’t try to explain it. He does bring in the scientist to try to figure out what to do–which is difficult because of the fundamentalist vice-president who doesn’t want to do anything about everyone all of a sudden being magical.

X writes the government crisis scenes well. They remind more of Dr. Strangelove than anything else.

Meanwhile the protagonist is still trying to find his son and having little adventures along the way. They’re all disturbing, even the big musical number. X and y do a great job with that musical number.

Only the hard cliffhanger feels off; it’s too much implied danger.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Rob Williams; artist, D’Israeli; editor, Steve White; publisher, Titan Comics.

Ordinary 1 (June 2014)

Ordinary #1

I can’t imagine how Rob Williams and D’Israeli are going to maintain on Ordinary. Actually, let me amend that statement–D’Israeli will maintain just fine. Doing a story about people getting fantastical powers and sometimes not fantastical powers, but always visually interesting ones… Well, it’s got to be a fanciful artist’s dream job.

But Williams might have some problems.

Here’s the setup–likable loser Michael (bad dad, bad friend, bad ex-husband, smalltime crook, owes loan sharks) is the only person not effected when the world goes mystical. Everyone gets crazy powers or crazy experiences. Williams and D’Israeli deserve recognition for the wonderful stuff they come up with in the backgrounds too.

But there’s a story. Michael is trying to find his missing son and Michael is the only one not effected. He’s on a quest. There are many narrative perils ahead. I hope Williams can steer clear of them.

A 

CREDITS

Writer, Rob Williams; artist, D’Israeli; editor, Steve White; publisher, Titan Comics.

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