Veil 3 (May 2014)

Veil #3

I tried. I really wanted to be wrong about Veil because Fejzula’s style is so unique but no, no way.

Rucka’s hiding this lame story about big business hiring some guy to conjure a demon in the comic, which ostensibly is about the titular protagonist but isn’t at all. It’s about the evil magician, the dumb businessmen, the really dumb mercenaries–these guys wouldn’t have made it to the special forces, they’d be cleaning latrines–and rats. I think Rucka uses the rats because animal cruelty still gets a result. Cruelty to humans doesn’t.

Did I mention the bad dialogue yet? Rucka writes a lot of really bad dialogue here. It might be because he doesn’t know how Fejzula’s going to bring the scenes together. I’ll extend that possibility, though I don’t really believe it. The dialogue’s atrocious.

Rucka doesn’t use Fejzula well either. The art’s interesting, but doesn’t fit.

D- 

CREDITS

Writer, Greg Rucka; artist and colorist, Toni Fejzula; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Shantel LaRocque and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Veil 2 (April 2014)

Veil #2

The first issue of Veil just had present action scenes, no exposition. This issue, Rucka adds exposition. He adds rapist cops–and their compliant partners, he adds fundamentalist Christian preachers who make deals with demon conjurers–and he adds a lot of dialogue.

Oddly, it also gives Fejzula a lot less to do. More stuff, but less interesting visuals.

Unfortunately, all of the additions are bad and they’re all at the expense of the title character. Veil, this issue, just sits around until she conveniently goes off–doesn’t like waffles. The guy helping her talks to himself the entire issue and his dialogue’s terrible.

There’s an early moment to forecast the problems–the guy freaks out because he can’t climb over a dumpster to escape the cops. Not the rapist cops. Presumably regular ones. Why can’t he climb over the dumpster? Nice pants?

It’s so bad it’s not even disappointing.

D 

CREDITS

Writer, Greg Rucka; artist and colorist, Toni Fejzula; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Shantel LaRocque and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Veil 1 (March 2014)

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I’m hesitant to wonder if Greg Rucka and Toni Fejzula are going to be able to maintain Veil’s success into a second issue and beyond. Fejzula’s art approximates watercolors, which is a complete disconnect from the issue’s content. Lovely watercolor panels set against the story of a woman who wakes up naked in an abandoned subway and then in a bad neighborhood.

Rucka and Fejzula are challenging the idea of Sturm und Drang with it, not to mention with the girl–the titular Veil–actually finding a nice person. Even in the moments of ultra violence (watercolor ultra violence is another new one), Veil retains some positivity.

For that reason, along with its deliberate, self-indulgent (yet justified) pace, Veil is one of the best things Rucka’s ever done. He and Fejzula aren’t pushing the comics medium’s limits, but they are knocking it over to see how it works.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Greg Rucka; artist and colorist, Toni Fejzula; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Roxy Polk, Shantel LaRocque and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Stumptown 5 (January 2013)

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I get Rucka’s enthusiasm for Stumptown. It’s his thing, he’s proud of it, he wants everyone to be excited for it so he does this silly final issue where he wraps things up and sets up the next story.

But he doesn’t do those things well. Rucka’s been in comics more than long enough and has worked with the guys Southworth is supposed to be aping (Michael Lark and Stefano Guardino)–Southworth comes off like a middle school fan of them, but whatever–so Rucka should know it’s not coming together. If he likes Southworth fine, but don’t write for someone else.

Southworth’s art is bad–he’s going for a digital paint style now, always good to change art styles during a limited series–but the comic reads fast.

The last few pages are all cute, either literally or plot-wise, which is annoying. Rucka should be embarrassed of Stumptown.

CREDITS

The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case, Part Five; writer, Greg Rucka; artist, Matthew Southworth; colorists, Rico Renzi and Southworth; editor, James Lucas Jones; publisher, Oni Press.

Stumptown 4 (December 2012)

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Oh, wow. I think this issue might be the worst independent comic I’ve ever read. At least put out by a recognized publisher. Rucka embraces television standards all right, as in “A-Team” stupidity.

Most of the issue is a car chase, with Southworth doing double page spreads. The only thing worse than a lazy digital artist? A lazy digital artist doing double page spreads, with a lot of color no less. Actually, he might have brought down the visibility on his line work just to show the color. Or I’m just trying to find the artistic possibility.

There are some pages where the cars are racing in front of their speedometers. It sounds okay, but it doesn’t work. At least not how Southworth does it.

Stumptown is a bad comic book. I’m not even sure I recognize all of the ways. My brain’s probably hiding some of them from me.

CREDITS

The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case, Part Four; writer, Greg Rucka; artist, Matthew Southworth; colorists, Rico Renzi and Southworth; editor, James Lucas Jones; publisher, Oni Press.

Stumptown 3 (November 2012)

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Southworth has a co-coloring credit this issue, which might explain why all of a sudden the coloring has to do sixty percent of the art’s work. It’s not just shadows, it’s perspective on people, it’s depth, it’s terrible.

Sadly, the corresponding rise in writing quality–when Southworth’s art gets even worse–doesn’t happen here. So it’s not corresponding, last issue was a fluke.

Rucka breaks the issue out into scenes. There’s a big scene with multiple stages, a small scene, another small scene, then the cliffhanger. Maybe something else happens in between but the cliffhanger shows Rucka doesn’t get the downtrodden detective genre.

He ends the issue with Dex up. Except it’s issue three so clearly she’ll have a reversal of fortune.

Another odd thing about the book is the lack of personality to the setting. Southworth draws landmarks; Rucka doesn’t do anything with them, they’re just photo references.

CREDITS

The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case, Part Three; writer, Greg Rucka; artist, Matthew Southworth; colorists, Rico Renzi and Southworth; editor, James Lucas Jones; publisher, Oni Press.

Stumptown 2 (October 2012)

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The art gets worse this issue. Much, much worse. Southworth quits drawing noses all of a sudden. And the comic being in color does nothing to help it. In black and white, Southworth would have had to do some work, to finish an object. Instead, he lets the colors fill in the blanks and they can’t because Southworth hasn’t got the objects in place to be colored.

Ugly, ugly comic.

But this issue’s a little better. There’s a definite surprise at the end. Even the bad stuff–like Dex flirting with a possible suspect–isn’t as bad as it could be. Maybe because Rucka opens with the worst possible scene, a DEA agent warning Dex off the case.

Maybe if Rucka were trying something different with Stumptown, instead of doing a genre standard. It reads like a TV show, which seems to be Rucka’s goal, but not a successful one.

CREDITS

The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case, Part Two; writer, Greg Rucka; artist, Matthew Southworth; colorist, Rico Renzi; editor, James Lucas Jones; publisher, Oni Press.

Stumptown 1 (September 2012)

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I was trying to figure out what was wrong with this issue of Stumptown–other than Greg Rucka being really too excited with the idea of a rock and roll case for his detective (he and Matthew Southworth pace the comic like a detective show) and then I noticed.

Southworth drew this comic on a computer. A tablet computer, one of those tablet things you plug into a computer, whatever… His line work is atrocious. It’s boxy and there’s no attention to detail.

It’s really ugly looking.

As for the story, Rucka does a little character work with Dex, the detective, and some bad work with the supporting cast. In the text back matter, he talks about “The Rockford Files” but he’s got Southworth creating his actors. And Southworth doesn’t create interesting actors.

The case, which is seemingly innocuous, immediately becomes dangerous. It’s poorly paced and way too busy.

Yuck.

CREDITS

The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case, Part One; writer, Greg Rucka; artist, Matthew Southworth; colorist, Rico Renzi; editor, James Lucas Jones; publisher, Oni Press.

The Punisher 6 (February 2012)

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I’ve got to say… Rucka’s never going to be able to recover from the Punisher having a snow outfit. It’s like Batman & Robin or something. Next he’ll have ice skates in his boots.

This issue’s pretty lame. Once again, Frank is silent. But more, Lady Punisher is mostly silent too. The big predictable set piece happens and Rucka (along with new artists Matthews Southworth and Clark) channel their nineties John Woo. Is John Woo still cool enough to channel? I don’t think so.

There’s nothing particularly terrible about the comic. Oh, sure, the white snowsuit Punisher costume (perfect for an action figure variant at the Disney Store) is dumb and the two Matthews have lots of art problems, but it’s not offensive.

It’s just juvenile. Rucka finally was making some progress on the book and he’s completely flushed it. He still hasn’t made Frank Castle a character.

The Punisher‘s pointless.

The Punisher 5 (January 2012)

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It’s a slightly odd issue. Whoever thought a Punisher Thanksgiving special would be good, but Rucka uses the holiday to give some insight into the cast.

Three months have passed since the last issue and Rucka is catching the reader up with the cast, including the Punisher’s ten-year old sidekick. The sidekick will likely be Frank’s conscience at some point.

I’m not a fan of this boy band Punisher–Bendis’s Ultimate Punisher from Team-Up certainly wasn’t boy band–but Rucka does well with the supporting cast. He works a little on his Lady Punisher storyline, taking his time, kneading the subplot gently. His female characters are better than his male. The guys are just stereotypes, the women have actual depth.

Checchetto’s art is still solid without being sensational or entirely on target. There isn’t a single memorable panel.

The Punisher is professional and competent, but otherwise rather uninspired.

The Punisher 4 (December 2011)

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It occurs to me, four issues in, I have almost no opinion of Checchetto. He’s a fine enough artist, he hits the mood Rucka’s going for… but he doesn’t bring anything to The Punisher. When he does try an elaborate design, it kills the pace of an issue.

Anyway, I just realized I barely talk about him.

Now, to Rucka. Rucka’s Punisher is a little like the Shadow, with a network of people indebted to him or otherwise inclined to help him. Even with Frank talking, Rucka goes out of his way to remove any personality from the character. They really need to get a Spider-Man cameo in the book, just the liven up the dialogue.

Rucka’s doing well the supporting cast except the senior detective. The reporter (Rucka’s best character) gives the detective a nickname–“Sherlock Homie.”

It’s an awkward racial nickname; it flops.

Rucka can do better.

The Punisher 3 (November 2011)

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Big Frank’s first words? Not worth the wait.

Rucka and Checchetto turn in an all action issue. It’s like Rucka’s trying not to let people decide whether they want to like the book or not.

Frank versus some mutant version of the Vulture? Kind of cool. But not because of anything Rucka brings to the table. Once again, he’s counting on the reader’s recollection of a previous Punisher he or she liked and so will care about Frank’s exploits here.

It’s very cheap.

Reading the airborne fight scene, it got me wondering what else Rucka has in store for the future. Good action sequences, probably with decent guest stars.

Only towards the end of the issue, with the introduction of a possible Lady Punisher and a new friend for Frank does the issue finally get interesting.

Rucka hasn’t been predictable on the book; I hope he doesn’t miss good opportunities.

The Punisher 2 (October 2011)

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Still no dialogue out of Frank.

Is Rucka just waiting for some big reveal or has he just not figured out his approach yet. Checchetto has decided his approach, however. Frank Castle looks like he’s in a boy band. Or, was in a boy band and is planning a come back. Not the toughest looking Frank, not even a weathered one.

Still, Rucka maintains professional competence and Checchetto is a decent artist for this urban kind of thing. The Punisher is readable, but totally indistinct. It’s like Marvel wanted to sell old Punisher trades so they put this series out–it just reminds the reader of better older comics he or she can go purchase in trades.

Rucka’s cliffhanger, which is boring in terms of the narrative (since Frank doesn’t talk), should be telling. He’s going to have to define his interpretation of the character.

At least, one would assume.

The Punisher 1 (October 2011)

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It’s hard to have any opinion of Greg Rucka’s Punisher because Frank Castle isn’t really in the issue. Instead, Rucka follows around a couple cops who are investigating a sensational shooting.

Only one of the cops is really working for Frank so there’s finally a non-speaking appearance from the Punisher at the end.

Everything about the comic is generic–not bad, just generic. Rucka’s got his young white cop and his seasoned old black cop (hey, just like Seven). Frank doesn’t talk, he’s just a criminal’s nightmare or whatever.

The Marco Checchetto art is good–Rucka’s clearly going for a Gotham Central vibe and Checchetto helps it. But The Punisher isn’t Gotham Central. Frank isn’t Batman. What makes or breaks a Punisher comic is the writer’s handle on the character and Rucka’s apparently trying to delay having to have any opinion on him.

It’s not bad… it’s just vacant.

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