Cinema Purgatorio 5 (August 2016)

Cinema Purgatorio #5

The movie fan in me resents Moore’s title for the Cinema Purgatorio story–The Time of Our Lives, just because it reminds me of The Best Years of Our Lives and Moore isn’t doing a commentary on that film. Instead, he’s doing a thing about post-WWII culture in America, but more the fifties than the late forties. That caveat aside, it’s a solid entry from he and O’Neill. Nothing too exciting, just solid.

This issue’s Code Pru is similarly okay. Nowhere near as good as the Purgatorio but a not bad possession story. It’s unfortunate because Ennis can’t help but hint at what might be in a better Code Pru book, not just this truncated version of the concept. Decent art from Caceres but nothing too outstanding.

The Modded from Gillen and Calero is simultaneously awful (Gillen rips off Mad Max this time, not Scott Pilgrim) and competently illustrated. It’s a shame Calero doesn’t get better writing.

Ditto the More Perfect Union entry. Though DiPascale does some fantastic art this entry. Brooks barely has a script, but every panel is gorgeous. Maybe the less writing Brooks does, the better chance DiPascale has to turn the strip into something tolerable. Mildly tolerable.

And Gage and Andrade’s Vast is more tolerable than usual as well, just because there’s a little more story in this Pacific Rim rip-off.

I guess this issue of Purgatorio is something of a let down after the last one, but when doesn’t this anthology disappoint. At least there’s solid art. And Modded goes by somewhat quickly. It’s easily the worst of the bunch thanks to Gillen’s writing.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, The Time of Our Lives; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, Your Mother Knits Socks in Hell; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Ignacio Calero. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Michael DiPascale. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Lazarus 24 (August 2016)

Lazarus #24

It’s a perfectly good issue of Lazarus but it feels a little slight. Rucka’s trying to do too much at once–Forever’s story, little Forever’s story, the family, then the action stuff… it’s just too much. Lark’s good at expressive action from characters and the juxtaposition of young and regular Forever is cute, but it’s not enough.

Lazarus has been running so lean for so long, having an issue where Rucka spins a bunch of subplot wheels for future development is a little strange. He’s moved the book away from Forever’s point of view and hasn’t returned to her. Everything’s still strong–like I said, perfectly good–but it feels off. Taking Forever out of the action–especially since the action sequences are just assassination missions–makes the action seems a lot less salient.

With so much going on in the book now–I mean, there are two Forevers, double the usual amount–I suppose an unevenly paced issue is inevitable. Or maybe I just want Forever, the real Forever, back in action.

CREDITS

Cull, Part Three; writer, Greg Rucka; penciller, Michael Lark; inkers, Lark and Tyler Boss; colorist, Santiago Arcas; letterer, Jodi Wynne; editor, David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

I Hate Fairyland 8 (August 2016)

I Hate Fairyland #8

How much magic is there in I Hate Fairyland? An endless amount. Young’s reinvigorated on the book, with Gert doing a done-in-one where she tries to get out of Fairyland again. Does it work, does it not, doesn’t matter so much as the comic is actually moving. It might not be moving overall, but it’s giving this great “questing” illusion of moving.

Plus there’s the wacky video game fight sequence by guest artist Jeffrey “Chamba” Cruz. It shows how well Young actually writes this book. The banter is just as good when the art style is completely different. Fairyland just fires on all cylinders.

I can’t even think of a complaint. It’s the perfect length, the ending is hilarious. I like this new approach to the comic–it’s Young not just giving readers what they want from Fairyland (namely Gert being a badass), it’s the best way to tell this story. Gert’s like Conan. Conan needs lots of adventures.

CREDITS

Writer, Skottie Young; artists, Young and Jeffrey “Chamba” Cruz; colorist, Jean-Francois Bealieu; letterer, Nate Piekos; publisher, Image Comics.

Manifest Destiny 22 (August 2016)

Manifest Destiny #22

No way, Sacagawea gets something to do. Not a lot, but Dingess actually gives her something to do. Then he skips out on the leads of Manifest Destiny and heads into the past for the flashback. Lots and lots of flashback. The longer it goes on, the more fantastic Dingess is going to have to tie it into the present action. Something really lame with the journal from the flashback, perhaps. Though it makes no sense at this point how the guy could be journaling his adventures.

There’s some great art from Roberts and Tony Akins and Stefano Gaudiano because there’s always great art in Manifest Destiny. This issue doesn’t have much but great art. Well, it does have one surprise choice. I mean, there are a lot of “twists” this issue in the flashback, but it only has one surprise. Unfortunately, Dingess has used up any goodwill when it comes to expecting his cliffhanger moments to go somewhere good. Destiny is a plodding book these days.

The present action is extremely minimal. Lewis and Clark are interchangeable. Dingess has killed the pace of the comic. Yet it’s hard not for the book to compel on some level–Roberts doing this Corps of Discovery Expedition with monsters, it’s really a cool thing. There’s also some really uncool magical stuff.

Manifest Destiny desperately needs editors who can reign Dingess in, who can help break out a story, who can keep the book on track. Until then, I go into every issue expecting it to be my last.

CREDITS

Sasquatch, Part Four; writer, Chris Dingess; penciller, Matthew Roberts; inkers, Tony Akins and Stefano Gaudiano; colorist, Owen Gieni; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Arielle Basich and Sean Mankiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

Kong of Skull Island 2 (August 2016)

Kong of Skull Island #2

This issue of Kong of Skull Island is a moderate disappointment. The book was off to a surprisingly strong start after its premiere issue, only to stumble through every page of this second one. Occasionally, Asmus and Magno hit a stride for a couple pages, but there’s always another drop off. Asmus loses his strong protagonist for the issue, whether she’s present or not. The opening has her, but it’s a mess of an action scene. Magno has some really cool art of the Kong, but not much else. He’s rushing through what should be the character moments.

There’s way too much with a royal wedding involving the protagonist’s boyfriend. He’s marrying a more appropriate princess. It’s annoying stuff and paced entirely wrong. When the Kong trainer does show up again, the comic’s almost over. She’s just there to have a fight with the prince dude before something else happens.

Asmus doesn’t connect with any of the material this issue. He’s adapting, so the plot isn’t his fault, just his inability to find a way to write it with personality.

I really wish the comic had been better. It’s almost there on the art–Magno has some great stuff, he really does, but better art isn’t going to fix the writing.

CREDITS

Writer, James Asmus; artist, Carlos Magno; colorist, Brad Simpson; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editors, Alex Galer and Dafna Pleban; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Johnny Red 8 (August 2016)

Johnny Red #8

Garth Ennis has made me cry before, I’m sure of it. Definitely wet eyes at some tragic war story. Not what I was expecting from Johnny Red, especially the way he brings in the present day stuff, which I’ve never liked in the book. But Ennis has this licensed property and he goes very big with it for the final issue. He gets schmaltzy, he gets as close to saccharine as he probably gets. But then he pulls back a little and starts talking about the idea of the comic–the idea of Ennis doing a Johnny Red comic in 2016, being the Garth Ennis who puts so much work into his war stories.

And he goes somewhere else. He and artist Keith Burns have already softened the reader. Burns’s art isn’t strong on the open, either. He rushes through the cliffhanger resolution and just throws the schmaltz at it. It’s not artful schmaltz. It’s pulpy and Johnny Red is supposed to be pulpy, right?

No. It’s supposed to be serious and Ennis spends the last three-quarters of the book being very serious. He talks to the reader about the war story, asks the reader to look at it in a certain way, not another. To question the whole idea of the comic. It’s really deft, really great stuff from Ennis. It puts Johnny Red high up on his post-Punisher work. It gets to be the longer form war comic Ennis does right.

And out of nowhere, right? Titan Comics! Who knew.

CREDITS

Za Rodinu; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Keith Burns; colorist, Jason Wordie; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Jess Burton and Steve White; publisher, Titan Comics.

Kill or be Killed 1 (August 2016)

Kill or be Killed #1

What if the Punisher weren’t an ex-Marine, what if he were just some emo rich(ish) white dude grad student who had to kill to keep a demon from killing him? As punishment for trying to commit suicide. There’s the gimmick to Kill or be Killed. The draw is gorgeous Sean Phillips New York City artwork–he seems more taken with the setting than the characters, in fact. The characters he rushes with occasionally, the setting is always perfect.

But how’s Ed Brubaker’s writing? It’s not great. It might not even be good. Kill or be Killed is a really strange way to do this story. Not in how Brubaker structures it–the narration from the protagonist is obvious but not in a bad way. No, it’s in what Brubaker does with that narration. He makes the protagonist really, really, really annoying.

It’s not even clear if Brubaker is just making him annoying for melodramatic purposes or if he’s making him annoying because the reader is supposed to find him annoying. It’s up in the air. At one point, the lead is talking about cops killing innocent black kids, then next he’s whining about being a trust fund baby who didn’t get to go to NYU grad school until he was twenty-eight. And, guess what, the girl he likes didn’t like him back.

It might work out, it doesn’t seem impossible it could work out. But it seems unlikely. Especially since Phillips has got no time for the demon. Kill’s demon is a visual tranquilizer.

The comic’s not terrible, it’s just terrible obvious. But the art’s real good. It does have the art going for it.

Oh, no. It’s an ongoing series.

CREDITS

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

Scooby Apocalypse 2 (August 2016)

Scooby Apocalypse #2

It’s Aliens. Giffen and DeMatteis are doing “Serious Scooby-Doo Meets Aliens.” And it’s pretty good.

This issue has the gang trapped in an underground bunker where they have to crawl through the ceilings but avoid the monsters crawling through the ceilings. There’s a lot of emphasis on the humanity of the situation, but then there’s Porter’s art doing these exaggerated hero poses for the characters. What’s so strange is how little it has to do with Scooby-Doo. Giffen and DeMatteis have almost no interest in the dog (or his interactions with Shaggy). It’s not pop culture fulfillment, it’s a brand relaunch.

Hence the lack of Doo in the title?

It’s strongly plotted, great dialogue, excellent visual style. Scooby Apocalypse is great corporate product. It’s not sublime, but it’s great at what it’s trying to do. I just wonder how long Jim Lee, who’s credited with the concept, worked at it and whether or not he had help (or was filling a request from corporate).

CREDITS

Apocalypse Right Now!; writers, Keith Griffen and J.M. DeMatteis; artist, Howard Porter; colorist, Hi-Fi; letterer, Nick J. Napolitano; editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 934 (August 2016)

Detective Comics #934

What a nice pilot for a new Detective Comics. Batman and Batwoman are partners–their mission is to train the vigilantes of Gotham to fight some new threat. This threat follows them around with little bat-drones, but Batman can’t figure out they’re still being followed. It’s a team book, but with familiar Bat-family members and a decidedly modern approach. Heavy on the one-liners, heavy on implied action, light on actual content.

Is the problem the art or the story? Well, Eddy Barrows’s art isn’t there but it might be with a better inker. Eber Ferreira doesn’t have a feel for the art. He rounds it, reduces it, instead of emboldening it. Would better art make a significant difference? No. Would great art make a significant difference? Sure. But it’s a monthly superhero book and Barrows delivers it.

So is it the writing? Yeah, sure? Sorry to be so noncommittal but Detective Comics feels pretty noncommittal. Writer James Tynion IV mostly gives everyone sound bites instead of dialogue. Spoiler and Robin have a conversation, Batman and Batwoman, Batman and Clayface, but these are quippy, fast conversations. It’s meant to entertain not tell a story, because Tynion doesn’t have a story to tell.

I suppose Detective Comics is better than I was expecting (though nowhere near what I was hoping for). But it’s just a mediocre superhero book (in desperate need of better editing).

CREDITS

Rise of the Batmen, Part One: The Young and the Brave; writer, James Tynion IV; penciller, Eddy Barrows; inker, Eber Ferreira; colorist, Adriano Honorato Lucas; letterer, Marilyn Patrizio; editors, Dave Wielgosz and Chris Conroy; publisher, DC Comics.

Wacky Raceland 1 (August 2016)

Wacky Raceland #1

I’m going to make a bold statement.

Wacky Raceland is the best soulless corporate synergy comic book of all time. I’m not sure how many serious competitors it has, because for this kind of corporate synergy you need a comic book company–DC–another company to license properties from–Hanna-Barbera–and another company with some kind brand reference–Warner Bros. Wacky Raceland is a Warner Bros. subsidiary mash-up, with writer Ken Pontac and artist Leonardo Manco not referencing a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, but instead bring Mad Max to comic books. Mad Max: Fury Road being a Warner Bros. film. And, you know, Warner owns DC.

So it’s synergy.

And it’s soulless, right? It has to be soulless. Wouldn’t it be amazing if it weren’t? Wouldn’t it be amazing if instead of just being really cool, somehow Pontac actually conveys an important storyline. I don’t think it’ll happen, but what if it did. It’d be amazing. But it’s already amazing. Does it need to be more amazing? Is there a place for purely entertaining entertainment, where the artistry is in how digestibly involving the material reads or plays?

I mean, Manco’s art is phenomenal. I’ve always liked him, but he juggles a lot of intentionally contrasting visualize styles and he rocks the Grim and Gritty Hanna-Barbera apocalypse. If DC’s Hanna-Barbera move is meant to answer Afterlife with Archie and other inventively done “pop culture” series, Raceland is the first sign they might have the secret weapon–enough pop culture properties, brands and icons to overwhelm the competition.

And Pontac’s essential here too. Because Raceland is a lot all at once. Pontac concentrates on making the story pleasing to read before anything else. He’s got a great pace to the endless dialogue, which is almost never expository.

It’s kind of awesome. If only Pontac could come up with a cliffhanger. He fails. But then there’s a cool backup where they riff on The Revenant. Because pop culture awareness is important and this book gets it. It’s great entertainment.

CREDITS

Writer, Ken Pontac; artist, Leonardo Manco; colorist, Mariana Sanzone; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

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