War Stories 18 (April 2016)

War Stories #18

Ennis pushes through to the end of his gunboat arc and it’s a bit of a chore. Aira doesn’t do well with the second half of the issue, which is where there’s all the action. It’s not exciting action; these characters aren’t sympathetic, they’re obnoxious and annoying and intentionally so. It’s so strange to see Ennis go out of his way to make these characters so unlikable. I wish there were some deeper commentary to it and there may be, but it doesn’t come across.

The strangest thing about the issue is Aira’s art. Not the stuff on the boat, which is confusing and there’s a couple panels where the side of a guy’s head disappears, but some of the long shots in the early part of the issue. If it weren’t so poorly computer colored–War Stories and its digital shading for perspective are the pits–and if it were in black and white, there might be something to it. Aira’s shapes, in the distance, have presence.

I wish someone knew what to do with this comic book. It doesn’t seem like anyone–Avatar, Ennis, Aira–have the slightest idea what War Stories should be doing. It’s a shame.

CREDITS

Send a Gunboat, Part Three: Commence, Commence, Commence; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 5 (April 2016)

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #5

Squirrel Girl. Squirrel Girl vs. Dr. Doom, which feels like the longest absurd battle of all time. It just seemed like it was going to go on forever. This issue makes it all worth it, this issue has North bringing all the elements together–and there are a lot of them and he creates more problems to solve here–and presenting them to the reader. There’s so much time travel stuff. North is thoughtful about it but not overly serious about it. It’s a great time travel storyline. In Squirrel Girl. Involving Dr. Doom.

Henderson has a lot of different stuff to draw, but she’s got to keep up an insane pace. North is hurrying the reader. He’s not in a hurry, he’s intentionally hurrying the reader to control expectation. It requires Henderson to convey a lot of information without taking up room, both on the page and in the reader’s imagination.

I really like this comic. It started pretty strong and North and Henderson just work to make it better and better. Even with a silly villain like Dr. Doom, they’re able to turn in some excellent mainstream work.

CREDITS

Writer, Ryan North; artist, Erica Henderson; colorist, Rico Renzi; letterer, Travis Lanham; editors, Chris Robinson and Wil Moss; publisher, Marvel Comics.

A Train Called Love 7 (April 2016)

A Train Called Love #7

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

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

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

I’m eagerly awaiting the next issue.

CREDITS

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

Hot Damn 1 (April 2016)

Hot Damn #1

Didn’t I just read a Hell series lately? Or was it a Heaven series? One or the other. Or it’s both. Hot Damn is sort of both. Ryan Ferrier writes, Valentin Ramon illustrates. It’s the story of some guy who ODes on coke and dies. He goes to Hell. Hell has thousand year twelve step programs (regular sinners promoted to demons), it has gross junk food, it has crappy apartments, it’s generally icky. With lots of fluids.

Ramon does a fine job with all the Hell stuff. He does a fine job with all the Heaven stuff (angels getting stoned, mostly). It’s detailed and never too icky. There’s far more implied grossness than actual.

But is Hot Damn any good? Eh.

It’s okay. It’s not the worst “slacker goes to Hell” story in the world. It’s not the best. Ferrier’s a problematic writer, but he actually doesn’t do much here. The jokes are all pretty standard, there’s nothing of particular note about the characters. I thought the Devil was going to be interesting, but no. He’s just a boring office guy so far. Sure, Hitler, Stalin and Mao are all in his office being tormented but it’s Hell. Stalin, Mao and Hitler in Hell are all tropes.

Maybe something interesting will happen next issue. But, sadly, I sort of doubt it.

CREDITS

Writer, Ryan Ferrier; artist, Valentin Ramon; editor, David Hedgecock; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Prophet Earth War 3 (April 2016)

Prophet Earth War 3

There’s something inexplicable about this issue of Prophet Earth War. It doesn’t redeem the series or correct the trajectory or make up for a bad ending to the previous series, but it does reward the reader for sticking through. Like it’s nothing, writers Graham and Roy tell a rather good issue of Prophet about Rein and Diehard. It’s during the Earth War thing, but it’s also a return to that beautiful storytelling, that magical storytelling, this series once had.

This issue isn’t as great as I want it to be. It runs a little long, Graham and Roy waste some pages before they get to the personality. The Grim Wilkins art is fantastic though, so it appeals to the visual imagination. It’s a wonderful world Wilkins renders, full of strange life, perfectly complimenting Graham and Roy’s exposition.

It’s a solid effort, sincere, careful, reserved. Graham and Roy never go too far. There’s such a sadness about the characters, even when they’re laughing or happy, there is always a sadness. As a Prophet fan–even though I forgot what it meant to be a Prophet fan–I love this issue. Is it so bad to wish it was always this good, Earth War or not?

The backup, from Sean Witzka and Ian Macewan, is fine. It’s a future heist thing with a Paris Hilton knock-off and a decent Alien reference. Macewan’s art is excellent. He fits in a lot of procedural detail while maintaining a fun personality for the characters. Witzka’s script is a tad boring. So much exposition. So many narrators.

CREDITS

Writers, Brandon Graham and Simon Roy; artist, Grim Wilkins; colorists, Joseph Bergin III and Lin Visel; letterer, Ed Brisson. Back up story, The Azimuth Job; writer, Sean Witzke; artist, Ian Macewan; colorist, Sloane Leong. 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.

The Baker Street Peculiars 2 (April 2016)

The Baker Street Peculiars #2

I’m not sure what Langridge is shooting for as far as minimum age requirement for Baker Street. It’s a fine issue, with great art from Hirsch and some wonderful scenes from Langridge, but it gets rough. And one of the Peculiars seems to be ten or eleven and, I don’t know… it just seems scary. I found it disturbing, I mean. Langridge ostensibly kills off a couple characters on page.

Ostensibly because maybe they could recover from their deaths in a later issue. There’s magic involved, very inventive magic. Langridge does Baker Street with thirties enthusiasm, Sherlock Holmes enthusiasm and magic enthusiasm. Very specific magic enthusiasm, which he’s excited to share. The comic doesn’t feel didactic but it feels quite smart.

The first half of the issue, bringing all the Peculiars back together, sending them to get their mission–it’s real strong. Langridge and Hirsch don’t have anything but good moments. There’s a charm in the writing, a charm in the art. They’re similar but different enough for Baker Street to have just the right level of enthusiasm. Even though everything in the second half is good, it’s never as seamless as the first. Langridge gets a little lost in all the exposition, then the severe danger.

But it’s a dang good comic regardless.

CREDITS

The Case of the Cockney Golem, Chapter Two: The Lion, the Lord, & the Landlady; writer, Roger Langridge; artist and letterer, Andy Hirsch; colorist, Fred Stressing; editors, Cameron Chittock and Sierra Hahn; publisher, KaBOOM!

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.

Kennel Block Blues 3 (April 2016)

Kennel Block Blues #3

I had to reread parts of this issue of Kennel Block Blues because it really does fit my theorized pattern to Ferrier’s four issue limited series. Great open, weak second issue, then strong for the last two. The guy needs to just go with three issue limited series, he really does.

This issue has the hero–Oliver (not Elliot, I think I called him Elliot last time)–in solitary. He’s got to confront the truth about himself in order to become the superhero. It’s not deep because it’s kind of absurd. Ferrier’s trying to do it from the dog’s perspective, but not the anthropomorphized dog, the actual adorable puppy.

Bayliss does a wonderful job with all the art. He’s got three very different tones to bring together and he does–real world, “human” world, hallucination world. Blues becomes a Disney movie for a second, then goes back to being a Miramax movie.

It’s a strange book and not entirely successful. The characters are good, but thin. Ferrier’s relying on the gimmick. Albeit a sturdy gimmick.

Good comic.

CREDITS

Writer, Ryan Ferrier; artist, Daniel Bayliss; colorist, Adam Metcalfe; letterer, Colin Bell; editors, Mary Gumport and Eric Harburn; publisher, Image Comics.

Letter 44 24 (April 2016)

Letter 44 #24

Reading Letter 44, I always wonder, with this issue be my last. Will Soule or Alburquerque do something I just can’t get onboard with. Usually, it’s never anything seismic so I get over it (Alburquerque’s Roman centurion garb for future soldiers) but Soule is tripling down with the religious “message” here. Message gets quotation marks because who cares if the whole thing is just God’s messengers saving some of humanity.

I mean, if I wanted to read some sci-fi along those lines, there’s always the Arthur C. Clarke Rama series of books. Soule doesn’t bring anything to the genre (Christian sci-fi). Even though he does get back to his “West Wing” knock-off a little bit, but it’s been too long. Letter 44 doesn’t get by on charm or ingenuity anymore. I read it because I’m a Letter 44 reader.

And this issue will not be my last. But the next one might be. It’s just too much. Soule’s drained all the humanity from the comic. It’s a bunch of scenes with people you sort of remember caring about at one point.

Oddly, the most startling thing about the issue isn’t the crucifixion imagery or the Jesus imagery… it’s Tupac cameoing in a flashback set in January 2004. Tupac, of course, died in September 1996. Maybe there’s a sci-fi God in the Letter 44 universe, which is fine, but if you’re going to bring in Tupac for a terribly edited cameo, make him surviving part of the comic.

Otherwise, teach the editor of the book how to use Wikipedia. Or Google. Or even Bing. Ask Siri. I don’t know. Something. Edit this book. It’s too late to fix it, but editing would still help a lot.

CREDITS

Writer, Charles Soule; artist, Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque; colorist, Dan Jackson; letterer, Crank!; editor, Robin Herrera; publisher, Oni Press.

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