The Incredible Hulk 51 (May 2003)

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I do admire Jones’s dedication. He resolves my concerns over the appearance of contrivance by revealing the conspiracy to be even more convoluted than he had previously suggested. But he doesn’t stop with the conspiracy, he makes this issue’s plot even more convoluted and surprising.

The issue has a couple strange turns of events–not to mention a few of those false cliffhangers Jones uses to keep the reader engaged in what’s basically a setup for things to come. Jones doesn’t come off as gimmicky because those plotting decisions are what his Hulk is all about. He never wants the reader to feel he or she is on firm ground; the surprises, even if they’re only important for five or six pages in the story, are essential.

Consciously playing with reader expectations is an interesting move. If the reader buys in, it still means the payoff needs to be substantial.

B 

CREDITS

Dark Mind, Dark Hearts, Part Two: Killing Season; writer, Bruce Jones; artist, Mike Deodato Jr.; colorist, Studio F; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Warren Simons, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 50 (April 2003)

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Oh, Bruce Jones, did you really set Bruce Banner up with the Abomination’s wife? It’s kind of a spoiler–though not really because Jones reveals it before the end of the issue (going out on a soft cliffhanger instead)–but it’s just about the most contrived thing one could imagine.

So long as Jones owns the contrivance, I imagine it’ll work out. And new artist Mike Deodato Jr. does draw Bruce rather handsome and heartthrob so I guess it’s conceivable the woman’s going to go for him. Hopefully it’s all part of the giant conspiracy I don’t really like.

Those obvious complaints aside, it’s a solid issue. Not much happens–secret agents go see the Abomination, Bruce finds the woman in a roadside cafe–but Jones gets a full issue out of it. I think he gears up to cliffhangers, ratchets down, does more story, ratchets up again.

It works.

B- 

CREDITS

Dark Mind, Dark Hearts, Part One; writer, Bruce Jones; artist, Mike Deodato Jr.; colorist, Studio F; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Warren Simons, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 48 (February 2003)

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In one panel, it really looks like Immonen and Koblish are doing an homage to Byrne-style banner. It’s kind of cool, actually.

With the exception of the opening involving some secret agent in a dinky town, this issue is one of the standard Jones talking heads during an action sequence Hulk. It’s a fine enough example of one, where the biggest problem is how Immonen illustrates the villain. He’s full of Hulk blood–thank goodness they were the same type–and he’s mutating. Immonen shows that mutation, but Jones’s dialogue doesn’t recognize it (as a continuing condition anyway). So there’s a big disconnect.

Jones also gets in a big cliffhanger. Will the Hulk be able to save the day? It’s an odd cliffhanger; the one with the least stake in it is Bruce. Jones really needs to work on that failing–Bruce needs to be active, not entirely reactive.

B- 

CREDITS

From Here to Infinity; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, Stuart Immonen; inker, Scott Koblish; colorist, Studio F; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, John Miesegaes, Warren Simons and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 47 (January 2003)

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I don’t know how he did it. Jones made everything mysterious literal and still the comic works. It’s a great explanation, but his presentation–more talking heads, but this time during a road trip (with awkward pauses)–is what sells it. He’s got a frantic pace, with Bruce always in some kind of danger, and the exposition just makes it move quicker.

What Jones also does is reward the reader. He brings up all the big moments he’s been repeating, either in flashback and dream sequence, and he lets the reader figure it out. Or, more accurately, figure out how he told the story.

The art makes it all possible. Immonen and Koblish can switch genres immediately–there’s another great action sequence at the end of this issue–and the story needs it. Bruce Banner is never on firm ground and Jones doesn’t let the reader get comfortable either.

Awesome.

B+ 

CREDITS

Transfer of Power; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, Stuart Immonen; inker, Scott Koblish; colorist, Studio F; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, John Miesegaes, Warren Simons and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 46 (December 2002)

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Jones is bound and determined to confuse. Not only does he make it work this issue, he even makes his returning villain–previously rather lame–engaging. The villain kidnaps Bruce and takes him, inexplicably, to a morgue to investigate the latest murder charges against the good doctor.

On the way, there’s a lot of talking. Jones also employs some flashbacks to heighten to uncanny factor. The villain recaps the previous issue, sort of confirming the reader’s memory to him or herself, and then Jones doesn’t solve it. He’s got this incredible situation–pardon the adjective choice–and he makes it work in the context of the somewhat silly situation (Bond villain organizations) he’s set up.

The finish has a good soft cliffhanger or two and a nice action sequence from Immonen and Koblish. It’s all bad guys–Bruce is an observer; the artists’ skill makes it so good.

Excellent issue.

B+ 

CREDITS

Multiple Organism; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, Stuart Immonen; inker, Scott Koblish; colorist, Studio F; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 45 (November 2002)

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About ninety percent of this issue is good. Jones should have spread it out over two parts–Bruce gets hit by a car (but doesn’t Hulk out?) and the lady who hit him takes him in and nurses him back to health. It opens with a text recap reminiscent of the TV show, which is awesome.

Juxtaposed against Bruce’s recovery–he’s really loopy, lots of strange dreams, which Immonen and inker Scott Koblish do well with–is someone crossing the country, encountering various unfortunate people. Sadly, Jones has a reveal at the end and it’s lackluster to say the least.

The confused Bruce thing is fantastic stuff. The lead-up to it is moody and effective. It feels perfect–rainy streets, Bruce Banner all alone with a strange alluring guest star… why Jones has to ruin it with a scene out of The Terminator, I don’t know.

The rest’s awesome.

B 

CREDITS

Remember Me Never; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, Stuart Immonen; inker, Scott Koblish; colorist, Studio F; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 44 (October 2002)

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Jones does a familiar ruse but then explains the whole bit, which makes it a lot better than not. His secret organization after Banner is still a tad too Bond and a tad too much. But it’s definitely an amusing issue; he just needs to make Bruce half as interesting as any of the other characters. Even the villain gets to sweat this time.

Oh, and he needs to own his cliffhanger resolutions. One of them gets a followup and Jones dismisses the mystery of it in a matter-of-fact way. While it’s matter-of-fact for the characters, Jones is writing for the reader, isn’t he?

No. No, he’s not. That lack of interest in how the reader perceives things is Jones’s greatest strength and weakness on Hulk. Well, one of his weaknesses–Bruce’s too passive a main character.

Very nice Stuart Immonen art too. The comic entertains.

B- 

CREDITS

Now You See It; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, Stuart Immonen; inker, Scott Koblish; colorist, Studio F; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 43 (September 2002)

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Some people want to make a Hulk comic, some people want to talk about eighteenth century English poets. Some people want to do both. Jones is in the latter category. There’s a whole thing in this issue about Coleridge and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Why? Because Jones thinks it’s appropriate. Is he right… sort of.

It works for the story he’s telling. But it doesn’t work for the characters. There’s no reason Bruce Banner should be a poetry expert. Throw in a line about him loving Coleridge in college. There’s no reason the cop lady should be a Coleridge expert either. Maybe if her mom had been one….

But Jones doesn’t waste any time with establishing backstory or character knowledge. He goes for the best thing in the moment and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Weeks doesn’t draw for that philosophy though.

It’s ludicrous, but good.

B- 

CREDITS

The Beast Within; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, Lee Weeks; inker, Tom Palmer; colorist, Studio F; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 42 (August 2002)

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I wonder if Jones had been putting off doing a Hulk rampage because he knew it would be boring under his watch. Bruce finally hulks out big time here–destroying much of the setting from the last two issues–and it’s really, really boring.

Maybe it’s because Weeks’s too realistic and his vision of destruction doesn’t get in Jones’s subtext. There’s no emotion to the destruction, not even forced stuff. It’s mind-numbing and it appears Jones is going to go out on this terrible action scene. It’s not like Weeks is composing the pages well either. He does big panels or full page spreads and it’s just pointless filler.

But Jones doesn’t end things with the destruction or the hard cliffhanger for Bruce. He goes further and shifts focus over to the lady cop, then back again to Bruce. For practically the first time. It’s an amazingly effective save.

B 

CREDITS

All Fall Down; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, Lee Weeks; inker, Tom Palmer; colorist, Studio F; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 41 (August 2002)

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Maybe two things happen this issue. Or three. Jones’s use of “decompressed” storytelling is somewhat interesting–not effective, but interesting–in how he plots the story around it. He’s being intentional here. There’s no way to do this story with any other pacing, it would miss the point.

And Jones gets pretty obvious with the point here. He’s got a couple moments of way too much exposition from the cast. It’d be hard to miss.

But the comic’s not bad at all. Weeks does a great job with the expressions and his pacing of the events is flawless. There just aren’t enough events for a filling read.

Jones remains unsure how to present Banner to the reader. Once again, he doesn’t let Bruce run the comic. Instead, Bruce reacts to everyone else. And when he finally does show enough agency, the issue ends.

It’s problematic to be sure, but serviceable.

B- 

CREDITS

Poker Face; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, Lee Weeks; inker, Tom Palmer; colorist, Studio F; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 40 (July 2002)

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Lee Weeks and Tom Palmer. Thank goodness. Even if Weeks isn’t great on the facial details–it’s a very intense talking heads issue (hostages and so on) but talking heads nonetheless–but his composition is strong and he gets the job done. Palmer’s inks seem a little harsh for the story Jones is telling but, again, the art’s not bad at all.

Jones juxtaposes Bruce Banner getting to a town and getting involved in a hostage situation with one page scenes of people contemplating or preparing to commit suicide. It doesn’t feel like “a very special episode” just because Jones presents everything so bluntly. It’s not particularly successful, just because you can’t really muse in a Hulk comic. The attempt is notable, however.

And, as an intense talking heads book, it works okay. It’s way too decompressed of course.

The Call of Duty backup is fine. Jones’s dialogue is good.

B- 

CREDITS

Boiling Point; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, Lee Weeks; inker, Tom Palmer; colorist, Studio F; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 39 (June 2002)

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I’m not sure how much more contrived Jones’s setup for the series could be… Maybe if he’d make the Hulk somebody’s dad. But he doesn’t. He makes someone else somebody’s dad.

Once again, Jones doesn’t let Bruce have the issue. One of the bad guys gets the issue and she gets to tell Bruce all about this strange situation he’s found himself in. Of course, if you’re Bruce Banner and you’ve been hulking out for years, strange situations shouldn’t seem strange. But Jones acts like he’s come up with sliced bread.

He hasn’t. He’s come up with a really contrived story and hasn’t taken any time in the issue to do anything else. It’s the last in the arc, the setup for the next one, so not doing anything else would usually be okay. But he hasn’t been doing anything else for issues.

This arc could’ve easily run two issues.

D 

CREDITS

Tag… You’re Dead!; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, John Romita Jr.; inker, Tom Palmer; colorist, Studio F; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 38 (May 2002)

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So what have we got here? What are Jones and Romita serving this issue? Sorry, it takes place in a roadside cafe. I’m just in the spirit.

Jones has bad guys who can come back from the dead and there are apparently more of them than he previously told the reader about. He’s also got Doc Samson borrowing an outfit from the Village People. Romita has nothing. Terrible backgrounds. There’s an action scene but Jones cuts away so who knows how Romita would do with it.

Here’s the problem–there’s nothing with Bruce. Either the bad guys run the issue or Samson runs the issue. Bruce just sits around. Jones writes the character perfectly well–better this issue since he’s not moping about the kid he may or may not have killed–but doesn’t do anything with him. He reacts, never acts.

Everything’s way too convenient to get concerned about.

C 

CREDITS

Last Chance Cafe; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, John Romita Jr.; inker, Tom Palmer; colorist, Studio F; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

John Carpenter’s Asylum 4 (February 2014)

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I was worried I wouldn’t remember what was going on with Asylum because it’s been so long since I read the previous issue but since nothing happens in this one, there’s a lot of time to pay catchup. And Jones is good making sure there’s enough information for a casual reader to get by. There’s a cop, there’s his partner, his kid, the Church, the demons… all these things get vague enough recaps one can get by.

But for what purpose? The plotting is questionable–Jones’s hard cliffhanger raises a few of questions but the issue preceding it suggests none of them will get answered. The stuff with the cop’s kid is sad and all but the kid’s just fodder to get compassion. The hook is still the John Carpenter association. There’s been no slippage in Jones’s script.

And Manco manages to be competent but boring–the composition’s mind-numbing.

C 

CREDITS

Writer, Bruce Jones; artist, Leonardo Manco; colorist, Kinsun Loh; letterer, Janice Chiang; editor, Sandy King; publisher, Storm King Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 37 (April 2002)

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This issue is definitely better, but only because Jones takes time to give Samson stuff to do. He hangs out with this bullied kid while Bruce goes hitchhiking and has an adventure. Of course, since things are very convenient, the assassins get caught up in the adventure too.

I just realized how much Bruce looks like Mister X, which sort of points out how lame Romita’s art is for this book. Mister X through the heartland might be cool. But with Romita? Every page is a bore, worse when he’s got to do action.

Jones is way too unfocused–the assassins, Samson, Bruce–and there’s no tension to the issue. There’s no suspense and he’s basically trying to do a suspense story, just one set during the day for whatever reason.

I’m also very confused about Bruce’s laptop and how come he doesn’t know it’s tracking him.

But it’s okay.

C+ 

CREDITS

You Must Remember This…; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, John Romita Jr.; inker, Tom Palmer; colorist, Studio F; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 36 (March 2002)

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There’s not a lot of Bruce in this issue. Except when he’s freaking out about the kid dying–only, there’s always something suspect about Hulk casualties. It’s one of those things a writer can’t concentrate too hard on because the logic holes become too obvious. There’s no Hulk, expect on TV.

There’s also a lot of bad art from Romita. Jones introduces two assassins out to get Bruce and then Leonard Samson is on the case. He sticks with them for the majority of the issue, which is too bad. Romita draws all three poorly. At least his Bruce is… consistent.

But Jones hinges the issue on these assassins, on the hunt for Banner picking up, and it’s lame. Bruce’s self-loathing doesn’t work with the nonsense.

There’s some amusing stuff at the beginning with the female assassin. The rest of it isn’t visually dynamic enough to justify the pace.

C- 

CREDITS

The Gang’s All Here!; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, John Romita Jr.; inker, Tom Palmer; colorist, Studio F; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 35 (February 2002)

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I both love and dislike this issue. It was one of Marvel’s “’Nuff Said” titles, which actually allows Jones to really concentrate on his pacing. He loves the choppy fast pace.

Sadly, he doesn’t have the artist for it. Romita does much better than I would have expected but the art is still the problem. Especially when the Hulk shows up. It’s supposed to be an awesome sequence but Romita doesn’t break out the action well.

The issue ends happily, abruptly. Given Jones has a lengthy quiet period at the opening, he could have structured it better.

There are threats this issue, but they’re all boring. Jones has a quick plot for no talking, but there’s no room for those threats.

The nicest part is how Jones has just the right amount of pressure on the “Bruce Banner as a nice guy” moments.

It’s successful in spite of the art.

B- 

CREDITS

Silent Running; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, John Romita Jr.; inker, Tom Palmer; colorist, Studio F; editors, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 34 (January 2002)

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And here we have Bruce Jones trying to do a very gritty, realistic story and the art just not servicing it. John Romita Jr. does handle a lot of Jones’s cinematic influences okay, but his page design is too simple and his world is way too soft. Romita always safely curves his lines at some point.

The story has Bruce Banner on the run, as usual, and living in a crappy motel in a bad part of town. There’s a little about how close the cops are to catching him, but mostly it’s this story about Banner and a local tough. The kid’s fallen in with a gang, Bruce is trying to convince him to reform.

It’s decent with the Romita art–the issue overall–but the right style would have helped a lot more. Jones tries to focus on the collateral damage but, unfortunately, Romita doesn’t try to agree.

C+ 

CREDITS

The Morning After; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, John Romita Jr.; inker, Tom Palmer; colorist, Studio F; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

John Carpenter’s Asylum 3 (October 2013)

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I’m not sure where Jones and company really expect Asylum to go. The issue ends on its first natural comic soft cliffhanger, but it also ends with one of the main characters becoming completely irredeemable. These aren’t great characters to beg with, so why hang around for more with the guy….

The story is a mix of End of Days and John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness and Vampires. It might have worked better if they had just done a comic spin-off of Darkness, actually, then the comparisons would be natural.

There’s a lot of demonic action this issue, which Manco does a fine enough job with. I only notice a handful of those weird low angle shots–they’re still bad, but the demonic action makes up for them.

Jones is mostly just writing action scene dialogue; I wonder if he got bored with it. Asylum’s just paced all wrong.

C- 

CREDITS

Writer, Bruce Jones; artist, Leonardo Manco; colorist, Kinsun Loh; letterer, Janice Chiang; editor, Sandy King; publisher, Storm King Comics.

John Carpenter’s Asylum 2 (July 2013)

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Manco has all these low angle panels looking up at the detective. They’re obviously for emphasis–he uses them to establish the gun fights too–but they somehow don’t fit with the rest of the style.

If Asylum has a style, I mean; this issue is just as jumbled and packed as the first, maybe even more so.

This issue continues the chase–priest (excommunicated, it turns out) and cop after the Devil, who is jumping from person to person when the scene needs it and not when it doesn’t. Jones sort of keeps the perspective fixed as to not raise too many questions about the comic’s internal logic.

There are adaptation problems, of course. The comic doesn’t have a three act structure, since it’s in the second act of the larger one; that looseness hurts it.

There’re a couple pages of bad dialogue, but otherwise fine.

Asylum’s mediocre enough.

C 

CREDITS

Writer, Bruce Jones; artist, Leonardo Manco; colorist, Kinsun Loh; letterer, Janice Chiang; editor, Sandy King; publisher, Storm King Comics.

John Carpenter’s Asylum 1 (May 2013)

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Asylum is kind of a strange book. First, it’s a John Carpenter movie property turned into a comic. Bruce Jones writing, Leonardo Manco illustrating, these are guys with a lot of experience doing comics. They should be able to properly break out a comic.

But they don’t. This issue is incredibly rushed. Manco’s doing something like ten panels on some pages, mixing little horizontal ones where you can’t follow the action and then tall ones where he’s showing the conversation. Jones has a lot of conversation in the issue; it feels like he’s adapting a script (the credits aren’t clear).

Even with those considerable problems–Manco’s even skipping establishing shots–the comic isn’t terrible. It’s The Exorcist with cops and naughty priests. It’s slightly scary, thanks to the art, and Jones does establish the leads well. He just doesn’t write them well together.

It’s an interesting mess of a comic.

C 

CREDITS

Writer, Bruce Jones; artist, Leonardo Manco; colorist, Kinsun Loh; letterer, Janice Chiang; editor, Sandy King; publisher, Storm King Comics.

Batman: Through the Looking Glass (2012)

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One must assume Batman: Through the Looking Glass was a Legends of the Dark Knight story arc DC didn’t get around to publishing. It’s hard to imagine reading it in issues though, since Bruce Jones’s script is so geared for one sitting. It’s Batman guest starring in Alice in Wonderland, with wonderful art from Sam Keith. It shouldn’t work, yet it does.

A lot of the success is due to Keith. His style fits a Wonderland adaptation, especially this one–characters, depending on the panel, are either fully rendered as anamorphic or their human traits come through. And seeing a forcibly playful rendering of Batman’s habitat is a lot of fun.

Jones’s script has three things going on. First, Batman’s tripping his way through Wonderland. Second, there’s a mystery. Third, there’s Bruce’s damaged psyche. In order for Bruce to solve the mystery–or even recognize it–everything’s got to come together. But it’s a small story; there’s a large, complicated cast, but it’s really just Batman and his sidekick, an Alice stand-in. Splitting the story into issues instead of chapters in one volume would just make it more incomprehensible… and it’s fairly incomprehensible now.

While Jones barely gets personal with Batman–the tripping aside–he and Keith do come up with some interesting “revisions” to the Batman legend. Glass ostensibly tells of Batman’s first encounter with the Mad Hatter, but Robin not wearing a mask is far more interesting.

Glass is wildly creative, bewilderingly confusing and a moderate success.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Bruce Jones; artist, Sam Keith; colorist, David Baron; letterer, Steve Wands; editor, Mike Carlin; publisher, DC Comics.

Ka-Zar the Savage 27 (August 1983)

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Gil draws like a man possessed this issue. It’s his first time pencilling in a while and he opens the issue with this reintroduction to the Savage Land. Very scenic, but also very big–only two or three panels a page. By the end of the issue, Gil’s fitting maybe fifteen panels a page. Major action events happen in two inch tall panels. It’s incredible. Gil’s detail isn’t right for Ka-Zar–he’s more suited for horror work–but the enthusiasm is amazing to see.

Some of it must be Jones’s fault. His script has about two issues worth of content, with Ka-Zar’s Savage Land buddies healing him and Shanna. So there’s the future science medical scenes, but then we learn… drum roll… Shanna’s mind is going. So Ka-Zar and friends go into her subconscious to save her.

It’s a busy issue, but Jones and Gil make it work.

Ka-Zar the Savage 26 (May 1983)

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This issue is extremely hectic. The first three-quarters of it pick up immediately following the previous issue–Ka-Zar and Spider-Man duke it out until they decide to be buddies. Then they go save Shanna, which is easier said than done.

But even after Shanna’s rescued, Jones doesn’t let up on the pace. Ka-Zar’s hellbent on getting out of New York immediately and, even though it’s fairly fantastic (and owes a lot to Raiders of the Lost Ark), his scheme works.

The issue’s a particularly nice exercise. Jones establishes Ka-Zar as wanting back to the Savage Land, the cover is clear on the New York exodus… it all comes together quite well.

Except, of course, Frenz’s artwork. It’s not completely awful, but he’s lost the urban touch he exhibited a few issues ago.

The Mayerik-illustrated backup comes to a fine conclusion. Some great artwork in just a few pages.

Ka-Zar the Savage 25 (April 1983)

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Weird issue.

Since Shanna’s basically out of commission (she’s comatose in the second half and insane in the first), Peter Parker is basically the second protagonist. Jones splits the pages between him and Ka-Zar, though Ka-Zar has a lot more going on.

He escapes from the bad guys–Jones doesn’t, unfortunately, give the villains a satisfying send-off–and heads to New York for Shanna. There are obvious pacing problems as Ka-Zar globe trots, but Jones deftly covers that passage of time with Peter Parker. Peter’s taken with Shanna in a believable mix of protectiveness and chaste lust.

It’s too bad Frenz and Gil are lousy this issue, otherwise some of the quiet scenes would have been much nicer.

Aside from Jones’s usual problems with Ka-Zar as protagonist, it’s a fine issue.

The backup, still with waning Mayerik art, is exciting once again. Not shocking like last time, just exciting.

Ka-Zar the Savage 24 (March 1983)

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There’s a lot of action this issue. Jones really puts Hall through the paces fitting it all in. Ka-Zar and his evil lady friend fight the mad scientist and his men in the desert, then in their secret base. There’s also Shanna’s adventures in New York with Peter Parker.

Hall does a lot better in New York than he does with the action scenes. He does okay with them, but having Ka-Zar fighting in the desert, against Bond villains in jumpsuits, requires a creativity Hall doesn’t bring.

Most of the writing is good, though Jones relies heavily on expository thought balloons and narration. He’s got a lot of information to get across in addition to the action; he rushes to make it fit.

It’s good, but not particularly compelling.

The backup is positively disturbing and not because Mayerik’s art is losing detail. Jones reveals an alarming detail from Ka-Zar’s youth.

Ka-Zar the Savage 23 (February 1983)

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Jones turns Ka-Zar into James Bond this issue, setting him loose in Casablanca in a clumsy homage to the film. Jones includes lots of little details and nods and is very excited about it, but Casablanca isn’t an obscure film. Instead of witty, Jones’s homage seems overly cute.

His explanation for Ka-Zar’s resurrection is the James Bond stuff and then it’s desert adventure time. Oh, the evil secret agent woman forces herself on him. Ka-Zar is surprisingly risqué (and has been since the first issue).

Meanwhile, Shanna gets to hang out with Spider-Man a little more, but Jones severely reduces her page time in this issue. It’s too bad. Ka-Zar’s story is fantastic, but without emotional connection to the reader, whereas Shanna’s is all about that connection.

Bob Hall’s pencils are occasionally quite good, but usually just okay.

The flashback backup is fine, an excuse for Mayerik art.

Ka-Zar the Savage 22 (January 1983)

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Where the heck is Jones going with this comic book?

First off, the issue is a visual delight. Not because of the quality of the artwork, but because of the intricate page layouts. There is a whole page of a car chase from a birds eye view. It’s absolutely crazy stuff. Candido doesn’t do a great job finishing Frenz’s breakdowns, but with layouts like the ones in this issue… mediocre becomes spectacular.

Peter Parker is the issue’s costar, which is kind of fantastic. And Jones even gets away with Peter and Shanna getting busy.

But the threaten of a Parker dalliance is just a pit stop on Shanna’s journey this issue. She’s alone–with everything being taken from her (besides Ka-Zar dying, Zabu the sabertooth tiger is impounded–and she’s in a hostile environment.

Jones does an amazing job with Shanna as the real protagonist.

It’s a great comic.

Ka-Zar the Savage 21 (December 1982)

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Mel Candido is great inker for Frenz. For the most part, the issue looks great. Not great great, but great for a Marvel house style book, which Ka-Zar has apparently become. Right down to the Romita-style Peter Parker.

While the issue opens resolving the big Ka-Zar versus Kraven fight, it then becomes a conversation issue. Not quite talking heads, because the pacing isn’t slow enough. For example, Spider-Man and Kraven argue over whether they should fight, seeing as how they both worked together to save Ka-Zar.

The issue is then Shanna talking to Peter Parker about her life.

But somehow, it’s all very traditional. Jones doesn’t include any indulgences, but more… it seems like he isn’t interested. It’s a fine issue, but an unenthusiastic one.

However, the flashback backup is amazing. Mayerick’s art on this installment is singular and Jones writes a surprising hard cliffhanger.

Ka-Zar the Savage 20 (November 1982)

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Frenz is far more in his element here, with Ka-Zar having a New York adventure with Kraven the Hunter. They’re swinging around, crashing comic cons and just generally having antics. Jones’s strength is in the details, whether it’s he and Frenz cameoing at the con, the moronic cops Shanna asks for help or Ka-Zar figuring out what’s going on (he’s temporarily mute on top of the bullet lodged in his skull).

It’s the most fun Jones has had writing Ka-Zar as a narrator–he’s too busy trying to figure out his situation to be callous.

There is one major goof–Shanna’s in her jungle outfit, even though she wasn’t last issue. Apparently Frenz wanted her scantily clad.

Kraven’s a weak villain for Ka-Zar, who doesn’t do well in the “grounded” reality of the Marvel Universe.

The issue’s fun, but not particularly special. Though it does put Frenz to good use.

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