War Stories 16 (January 2016)

War Stories #16

It’s a new War Stories story, this time on a gunboat patrolling the English Channel during World War II. Ennis doesn’t do a lot of boat stories, so it stands out for that reason. Very, very static art on the sea battles from Aira, which is too bad. It’s not a particularly compelling story and having visually jarring action doesn’t help anything.

Ennis opens the issue with a lot of exposition about the gunboats. It’s very interesting stuff and Aira’s accompanying panels make for a good informational comic. I’m learning something (or would be if I didn’t already have some familiarity with World War II history). But after the history lesson? Ennis hasn’t got anything else.

He plods through some talking heads scenes–he doesn’t like his characters, stuck-up British Navy officers and he doesn’t have any interest in them. So spending the last fourth or so of the comic with them hanging out and trying to pick up unsuspecting British gals?

It’s yawn-inducing, but academically interesting just to see how little Ennis’s putting into it.


Send a Gunboat, Part One: The Dog Boats; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

The Spire 6 (January 2016)

The Spire #6

This issue of The Spire is a weird read. It takes place outside the city, with Shå in disguise and acting as a bodyguard. A forbidden, unknown bodyguard, but bodyguard nonetheless. There’s a lot about the religious fanatics, setting them up as villains–with the awkward shortcut of comparing them to Christian fundamentalist bigots. But while Spurrier’s setting all that stuff up in the wasteland, he’s also keeping some wheels of intrigue running in the city.

With the setting, with the wasteland, Spurrier and Stokely have this foreign but very familiar comic book sci-fi setting. It’s just the right mix of everything, so beautifully brought together with Stokely’s organic artwork. He’s got the right level of detail, though he does go deeper with it on the wasteland half of the issue. It’s a voyage of discovery not just for the reader, but the characters as well. The reader has finally become a Spire city dweller.

But since Shå is in disguise the whole issue, the comic sort of doesn’t look like The Spire. Shå, as a character, changes. Her actions read differently with a different face. I’m curious if Spurrier’s going to do anything with it or I was just surprised to see the viciousness in an altered context.

Great finale with Shå interrogating an evil priest guy. Very unexpected finish.


Writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Jeff Stokely; colorist, André May; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Cameron Chittock and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Providence 7 (January 2016)

Providence #7

Robert Black is not a likable protagonist. He’s a sympathetic protagonist, with Moore pulling on the heart strings a little in Black’s sanctimonious stupidity, but he’s not likable. He’s a self-important tool and his inability to change makes his troubles somewhat sympathy inducing, but not enough to overshadow the rest of the book.

And, in this case, by rest of the book, I don’t even mean the illustrated portions of the comic, but more of the written back matter. Moore’s trying, with the back matter, to teach the reader how to read Providence, how to imagine Providence. It’s almost like Moore’s giving us his notes and asking for our opinion.

Of course, the comic matter of this issue of Providence is excellent. Moore does two or three surprise reveals in the back matter–things Burrows illustrates in order to hide something for later, thereby changing not just one understanding, but affecting all subsequent ones. I do wish I had read the book once without any of the back matter. I wonder if I wait long enough after the series finishes, if I can see how it works just as the comic.

Some great art from Burrows. Nice mixed media approach. And Moore introduces one of Providence’s first lovable characters. He’ll probably eat Robert in the last issue.

It’s another great issue. Providence is superb.


The Picture; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Cry Havoc 1 (January 2016)

Cry Havoc #1

Yeah, wrong Simon Spurrier. How common a name is Simon Spurrier? It seems somewhat specific. I suppose one could do some cross referencing via Google but whatever. I read this comic, Cry Havoc, because I thought it was the other Simon Spurrier writing with Ryan Kelly on art.

I’m pretty sure it’s the regular Ryan Kelly, though his colorists do a lot of work. He has three, one for each setting. The comic is the story of a punk violinist who gets bitten by a werewolf and goes to work for the American government. I think she might be British.

I think I’m going to keep reading it, even though none of the colorists complement Kelly’s art particularly well. The pop London stuff gets tired, the war stuff doesn’t look right. I suppose the “Red Place”–I can’t believe I’m going to try reading a werewolf comic. Good grief.

It’s almost okay. Spurrier takes himself way too seriously, but Cry Havoc is almost okay. What’s strange is how impersonal Kelly’s art comes across.


Dog Days; writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Ryan Kelly; colorists, Nick Filardi, Lee Loughridge and Matt Wilson; letterer, Simon Bowland; publisher, Image Comics.

Prophet Earth War 1 (January 2016)

Prophet Earth War #1

Prophet. Earth War. Finally.

After months of waiting, how is it?

It’s eh. Prophet Earth War is eh.

Writers Brandon Graham and Simon Roy stubbornly ignore characters, ignore anything except expositional dialogue. They really want readers to understand what’s going on. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why. If you aren’t already a Prophet reader, Earth War isn’t going to convert you. Setting the action on a desolate planet (kind of like where Kirk fought the Gorn) is real boring.

The artists–Giannis Milongiannis and Roy–pack each page; there’s no grand Prophet panels here. It’s overpacked. Nothing gets enough space.

And Old John Prophet and Young John Prophet. They don’t have any chemistry. Graham and Roy try to force it throughout the issue, but there’s just no spark. They stand around and talk about the prospect of battle; it’s mostly talking heads. And it’s a bore.

It’s also an improvement over the last Prophet, however long ago, so hopefully the uptick continues.


Writers, Brandon Graham and Simon Roy; artists, Giannis Milonogiannis and Roy; colorists, Joseph Bergin II and Lin Visel; letterer, Ed Brisson; back up story, Sarah Horrocks; publisher, Image Comics.

I Hate Fairyland 4 (January 2016)

I Hate Fairyland #4

It’s a solid issue. Young doesn’t do anything crazy like he did in the previous one, he just sets Gert out on a quest. She muscles her way through it. Young’s formula for Fairyland is just enough detail to make readers gag on the saccharine nature of it, but not too much to get caught up in it. He breezes through the details. His art is always more important that the associated text.

The issues work like big pieces Young is arranging. He doesn’t just have to move Gert, he’s also got to move the supporting cast. Fairyland is like a busy stage play. The hurried nature of it is part of the charm.

Still, it was a little disappointing to see such a traditional narrative after last issue’s nuttiness. There are a lot of good jokes, as Gert explores the dark side of Fairyland, but Young drags them out. He’s even got a pattern–little in text, little in art, lot in art–in how he tells them.

They’re good jokes and often quite funny, they just aren’t particularly creative ones to make. Young coasts through this issue and gets out without even using a third of his built-up goodwill.


Writer and artist, Skottie Young; colorist, Jean-Francois Bealieu; letterer, Nate Piekos; publisher, Image Comics.

Johnny Red 3 (January 2016)

Johnny Red #3

Johnny Red has a strange organization to its messy narrative. The issue opens with a history lesson–in present-day monologue–about the Night Witches and how they figure into the series’s ground situation. It goes on for pages. It goes on for so long I forgot the book was about Johnny Red and instead thought Ennis was doing an impromptu Night Witches fill-in.

But he isn’t. Because after telling readers to look at the bunnies on the left, Ennis then spins them right by about ninety degrees and tells them to look at something else, something entirely new to them. And then he does it again at the end of the issue. There are three big things going on here and at least two subplots. Johnny Red is Ennis doing an edifying comic. He’s assuming his readers aren’t familiar with the subject matter and he’s teaching them about it.

At the same time, for all the traditional Johnny Red fans–if traditional Johnny Red fans are a thing–Ennis is breezy enough with the history lesson not to condescend. He’s showing his street cred as a WWII storyteller. It’s simultaneously showing off and being humble. It’s a great approach.

Johnny Red might be Ennis’s best WWII comic in a while.


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

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 2 (January 2016)

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #2

I’m not an expert on time travel stories. I like them, with all their in-jokes and so on, but I don’t really care. They’re a special event and should be rare ones. So I wasn’t expecting Ryan North to write the best time travel story, in terms of in-jokes, references and so on, since Back to the Future. Doreen and Tippy get sent back in time to just before the dawn of the Marvel Age. Maybe by Dr. Doom. Doesn’t matter; the details are never going to be as awesome as North’s execution.

Henderson’s art is essential–the mood and pace of the time travel tropes North acknowledges, utilizes, and ignores get conveyed more in how Henderson breaks out the page than in how North scripts the scene. It’s action-packed talking heads.

But North also has Nancy in the present trying to find her. Amid the great time travel story, there’s this neat (not as exceptional, but really neat) look at how technology has changed since the Internet. Squirrel Girl is a comic with real constraint–it’s about Squirrel Girl–but North and Henderson do deliver a very modern “retro” comic. It’s sixties Marvel done for the Twitter age.

It’s quite good.


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

Letter 44 22 (January 2016)

Letter 44 #22

Oh, come on. First of all, Alburquerque has seemingly forgotten how to draw President Blades. He who was the protagonist of Letter 44 when it seemed like it was going to be a better comic book. It’s distracting, Alburquerque forgetting, because it makes Blades seem even less like himself. Given he’s President over World War III after starting as an Obama stand-in, Soule and the book need everything they can get to try to convince the reader its the same character.

Because, really, Letter 44 feels like a TV show with a completely different tone in the second season. Except it’s been Soule. And this issue might be where he finally jumps the shark. After a sturdy and encouraging start, the book has descended into a mix of sci-fi tropes, but well applied. Until this issue. Soule throws out logic (oh, yeah, there was some science at the beginning too, right?) and goes for the melodrama.

Only, since none of these characters act the same or even look the same, there’s no melodrama to be had. It feels like a dumb soap opera and looks like a worse one. I don’t think Soule’s ever been so cheap with the characters before–Blades and the First Lady, I mean–he’s short-changed them for a dozen issues or more, but he’s never been cheap.

Until now.


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

The Fade Out 12 (January 2016)

The Fade Out #12

Well, it’s definitely great. The last issue of Fade Out is a great comic. And it’s a great close to the series. But does it elevate Brubaker and Phillips to that superior level of comic book creators, the ones only mentioned with hushed tones and reverence? I don’t know.

I don’t know yet.

I’ll have to reread The Fade Out someday, in one sitting, and decide. Because the pacing of this issue is key and I’m reading it in a single dose, but it was clearly broken out in plotting as part of a bigger whole. As a single serving, it’s that great success I just said. Brubaker and Phillips wrap things up and then wrap them up again. In doing so, they take readers through not just a recap of the story, but a recap of the experience of the comic, making them reexamine their own interpretations of the comic.

It’s really good writing. Brubaker’s comfortable with the cast, comfortable readers will get their sometimes abbreviated appearances. There’s a lot going on this issue, with Brubaker dropping two revelations (both make a reread seem like a good idea).

Phillips excels through all those complications. He even has this wonderful “Is that Clark Gable? I know that’s George Sanders” forties Hollywood visual in-joke element. He and Brubaker are doing a film noir as a comic, but stepped back, but still using film noir visual queues.

I don’t know what a perfectly finished Brubaker comic feels like (or, if I do, I can’t remember), but The Fade Out comes the closest.


Tomorrow, When the World is Free; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Miracleman by Gaiman & Buckingham 4 (January 2016)

Miracleman by Gaiman & Buckingham #4

Here’s the concept for the issue (Gaiman loves his concepts)–Miracleman sells his sperm. Women without children can get the sperm and have star children. Saves the trouble of monoliths and killer computers. You can get a star child real easy.

Some of the issue is about this woman who has a star child and she has a boyfriend who has a regular child. If there’s some deeper message in Buckingham drawing the lady and star child as white and boyfriend and boyfriend’s son as black….

I mean, Gaiman’s Miracleman is on the nose. For what should be an indie comic book, it’s really on the nose. But I can’t believe it’s so desperately on the nose. And, if the comic didn’t go terribly bad at the end, I probably wouldn’t have even thought about the interracial romance aspect as far as Gaiman’s protracted symbolism goes. There’s so much of it elsewhere in the issue, one can only look for so much.

Most of the issue is this “in-world” storybook (with really lame interludes of the lady reading it to the two kids–the star child being, you know, a little flying god) about Miracleman’s baby’s journey across the universe. It’s kind of fun. The storybook aspect. Gaiman does a lot better at writing a pseudo-storybook than he does doing a pseudo-Moore.

Then the reveal. The dude is leaving the lady and her star child told her because her star child has superpowers. It’s all about how this woman thought having a baby would make her life whole and it hasn’t because she had a Miracleman-brand star child.

It’s offensively dumb. When Gaiman was just doing lame characterizations to get to the storybook insert, it was fine. But when he’s doing that storybook to kill pages and take a load of Buckingham and he’s really got some message? One he tries to get through with inept manipulation. At least competent would’ve been interesting to experience. Inept just makes it annoying.

I might be done with Miracleman by Gaiman & Buckingham.


Book Four: The Golden Age; writer, Neil Gaiman; artist, Mark Buckingham; colorist, D’Israeli; letterer, Todd Klein; editor, Cory Sedlmeier; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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