New Comics Wednesday

I got four.

Had lunch with a friend recently and afterwards went to a comic store with him. While nothing hit me on the the mainstream rack, the indies had me curious. So here, in no particular order, and possibly not as new as “this weeks long underwear books”, is a smattering of what caught my eye, and got me to purchase them.

Pope Hats #4,5– when I got home, I discovered I had issue 4 in my “stack”, so I read ‘em both. Hartley Lin, current master of short stories about everyday people with issues, goes with an anthology style of shorts in 4 with good results. A half a dozen quick narratives are the stomping ground, with a huge swath of characters and some poignant conclusions on them. While each has a distinctness of it’s own, it s in issue 5 where Lin lets his inner talents loose with a lengthy 60 page story all about his well realized Frances, a young lady who’s watched her bff/roomie move away for work, and now deals pretty much alone with her position as a law clerk at a huge firm. While I could say it’s a more complicated version of Betty and Veronica, the love he has for the fate of Frances is more than communicated with a warm, formal, cartooning style that nearly brought me to tears here more than once. I now love Frances, I just can’t help myself.

Black Hammer-Age of Doom #8– while I picked up this middle issue cold, I was still familiar enough with the concept and the group here enough to catch on to the endless reboot theme thats underlying here. While there’s not terribly much meat on this comic, Dean Ormstrom’s art carries it, along with just enough willingness on my behalf for patience to see where Jeff LeMire is going with this. On the edge of teetering from it’s own weighty premises, Black Hammer gives something for those too crazy or stupid to give up on superhero comics.

House Amok #5 – one of those favorite Vertigo replacement series from Black Crown, Chris Sebela manages to take a fast paced crazy family story with likable characters and just about kill all the momentum he built in the first four issues. Not the ending I wanted, but Shawn McManus’ great cartooning helps digesting this mess immensely. Decent first four issues, though, the train wreck that composes issue 5 kills it.

Lodger #2 – Another Black Crown book, noir styled authors Maria and David Lapham relate a story here about a nomadish guy that gets involved with certain peoples lives, mostly for a bad ending for them. Lapham’s experience with down trodden folks and a love for depicting real violence give this one a convincing tone, and makes me curious for another.

All in all, not bad. Makes me want to try it again sometime. The threat of walking into a comic series cold was balanced by enough talent, and for the exception of Black Hammer, the ability to read a copy of something and get a warm fuzzy feeling while experiencing comics again, enjoying the random issues.

Black Hammer: Age of Doom #2 (May 2018)

Black Hammer: Age of Doom #2

Black Hammer goes Vertigo. At least Lucy’s half of the comic. Not only does she go Vertigo and to Hell, she meets a former costumed hero-type who’s now in Hell as well. Lots of almost rhyming, sorry.

Wasn’t a former hero type in Hell a Swamp Thing plot point back in the day?

Lucy’s story is kind of an odyssey, but only after she gets sent to Hell, and only taking the cliffhanger into account. Otherwise, she’s just become a superhero–moments earlier–and is now on a crappy first adventure. With a lot of talking and not much of it relating to the Black Hammer story.

Meanwhile, back on the farm, it’s a Barbalien and Gail issue. They go to the library to investigate the empty books Lucy found last series. They’re in for a surprise. There’s also the moment when Gail tells Barbalien about an illicit romance… which got introduced in one of the spin-off books and really doesn’t have any emotional impact here.

It’s kind of concerning. But it’s also Ormston art and Black Hammer Prime has miles of goodwill to burn through. It doesn’t really burn any here, just implies it might.

Fingers crossed Lemire’s got some plans. Right now, it doesn’t seem like he’s got any plans.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Dean Ormston; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Brett Israel and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows #3 (May 2018)

Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows #3

I suppose this issue–where Doctor Star discovers he’s inadvertently inspired the creation of the Green Lantern Corps (different name, same exact idea)–is the best so far in the series. There’s a lot of dramatics and a lot of interstellar stuff.

The dramatics are more flashbacks with Doctor Star coming home. He argues with his wife, goes to Vietnam looking for his son, then finds his son in the hospital (presumably stateside). These scenes have a lot more dramatic fodder than the present day, where Doctor Star is trying to save his son from cancer. Why Lemire skipped out on the more dramatic stuff for the melodramatic tropes… just another of Doctor Star’s mysteries.

The space stuff is at least cool looking, thanks to Fiumara. It’s all a knock-off of Green Lantern now, but whatever, it does look good.

One more issue to go. There’s nowhere for Lemire to go at this point. But at least the book has stopped being as disappointing, though only because it’s a moot point now.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Max Fiumara; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Brett Israel and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

The Terrifics #3 (June 2018)

The Terrifics #3

The Terrifics #3 is completely false advertising. There’s nothing terrific in the comic at all. Certainly not the art; Joe Bennett and the three inkers have bad expressions and static figures. Not the characters. Plastic Man’s obnoxious, Mr. Terrific is a jerk, Sapphire Stagg is enabling her megalomaniac father, Simon Stagg is a megalomaniac, Metamorpho is dim; Phantom Girl is all right. The caveman is all right. Otherwise, no. And the writing isn’t terrific.

It’s kind of stunning how fast this book ran out of steam. Apparently all it had going for it was the promise of Tom Strong being integrated into the DCU. That promise isn’t worth sitting through the rest of the material.

The worst thing about the three different inkers–these aren’t terrible inkers either, at least two of the names are people who’ve worked on fine books (and I don’t recognize the third)–is there’s no visual continuity. There’s Bennett’s busy and visually uninviting composition and everyone looks a little bit different every few pages.

Terrifics has gotten to be anything but.

CREDITS

Meet the Terrifics, Part 3 of 3; writer, Jeff Lemire; penciller, Joe Bennett; inkers, Sandra Hope, Jaime Mendoza, and Art Thibert; colorist, Marcelo Maiolo; letterer, Tom Napolitano; editors, Andrew Marino and Paul Kaminski; publisher, DC Comics.

Black Hammer: Age of Doom #1 (April 2018)

Black Hammer: Age of Doom #1

Not a lot of content in Age of Doom #1 but it’s sure nice to have Dean Ormston back on Black Hammer. He didn’t ever really leave but the book’s been on hiatus awhile and you don’t realize how much you miss his sad superheroes’ faces until you see them again.

No, Jeff Lemire doesn’t solve the Black Hammer riddle. Lucy Weber, new Black Hammer, solves one riddle–though it’s unclear how she solves it, whether it’s because she discovered something or just found out when she got the hammer–and finds herself in a new one. Before she has a chance to tell anyone what’s going on.

So the regular cast is basically just regrouping–though them making a concerted effort is new for them–and getting their drink on.

It’s a little fast of a read and while Ormston does do a lot of detail in his panels, he doesn’t do very big panels. But it’s very nice to have Black Hammer Prime back.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Dean Ormston; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Brett Israel and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Gideon Falls #2 (April 2018)

Gideon Falls #2

Gideon Falls #2 does not have a good pace. It also doesn’t have very good dialogue. Or interesting scenes. Or engaging characters. I was halfway through the issue before I fully remembered what was going on last time and why I thought the book had potential. It burns all of it off this issue. All of it.

Probably before the halfway point.

Sorrentino’s art also gets a little trying here. Especially with the expressionist angles for the character who’s not delusional but really knows what’s going on with the black barn, whether his therapist believes him or not. The lines–it’s hard to explain, but there are thin white lines (vertical white lines) over all the art. It’s a Photoshop filter or something, but it also brings nothing to it. However, compared to when Sorrentino does composition stuff with the panels… well, give me the little white lines.

Generic dialogue, bad plotting, big yawn. It’s too bad since the book had some promise after the first issue.

CREDITS

All the Sinners Say Hallelujah!; writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Andrea Sorrentino; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Steve Wands; editor, Will Dennis; publisher, Image Comics.

Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows #2 (April 2018)

Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows #2

What’s really bad is I barely have any memory of Doctor Star #1 other than it not being particularly good and a Starman homage, certainly not for a Black Hammer brand title.

The second issue isn’t much better but it’s at least got space aliens.

Doctor Star is a terrible father. Well, not exactly. Not intentionally. But his dying son wants nothing to do with him; the issue’s got some flashbacks to the early fifties to explain it all. I suppose it gives Fiumara some cool stuff to draw, but then Lemire pulls him back to the mundane. Fiumara does better with the fantastic. His mundane is boring.

Outside being a crappy (but not exactly) dad, Doctor Star doesn’t have much character. He’s sad and he’s sorry. Nothing else. The flashback scenes showing him being busy dad to his son (as a kid) and loving his wife doesn’t make him into a character. It fleshes out the caricature with more caricature.

I suppose the book’s in a better place than it was after the first issue, but it’s a long way from solid.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Max Fiumara; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Brett Israel and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

The Terrifics #2 (May 2018)

The Terrifics #2

I wish The Terrifics were terrific but it’s not. It’s perfectly fine. It’s gorgeous DC superhero stuff. Reis’s art doesn’t particularly invite dwelling, but if you decide to dwell, you get reasonably rewarded. As for the story, it’s very much part two of the series opener.

Oh, and Tom Strong is a red herring. Let’s just get it out of the way. After the cliffhanger “resolution” with him, it’s backstory on Phantom Girl. Then it’s action, action, action, quick romance (I mean, Rex and Sapphire have to kiss, don’t they), then a little more action. The last bits of action aren’t particularly exciting, as they’re expository action. Reis and Lemire pulling them off so (relatively) well showcase that rare quality of the superhero comic book–it lends itself to expository action.

The cliffhanger involves why the team is now a team.

Good writing. Plastic Man is starting to grate. But only slightly. Lemire’s writing for him seems like a series of postscript quips to scenes. Too many of them. Though Plastic Man’s not wrong about Mr. Terrific being a bit of a dick (but not too much of one, Lemire keeps everyone affable).

We’ll see. So far, it’s totally solid DC superhero stuff. Might even end up being worth reading.

CREDITS

Meet the Terrifics, Part 2 of 3; writer, Jeff Lemire; pencillers, Ivan Reis and Jose Luis; inkers, Vicente Cifuentes and Jordi Tarragona; colorist, Marcelo Maiolo; letterer, Tom Napolitano; editor, Jessica Chen and Paul Kaminski; publisher, DC Comics.

The Terrifics #1 (April 2018)

The Terrifics #1

I’m hard-pressed to find anything wrong with The Terrifics. It seems like a quirky DC series spun out of a major crossover event. They’d done a bunch of these series over the years. The Terrifics has a few different things going on, of course. Ivan Reis doing Plastic Man. Reis’s style shouldn’t work with the wackiness of Plastic Man. But it does, because it’s Ivan Reis.

And so there’s a varied principal cast–Mr. Terrific (hence The Terrifics), Metamorpho (the only time the issues stumbles is too much time spent with the Stagg family), a female Legion of Superheroes-looking hero. Jeff Lemire and Reis share a “storytelling” credit but I think one can still assume Lemire’s doing most of the writing. Lemire brings them all together in a witty, exposition-friendly style. There’s banter. Mr. Terrific’s the straight man, et cetera.

It’s perfectly good superhero comics.

It also is introducing Tom Strong into the DC Universe, which is morally problematic. Worse, given it’s Reis and Lemire and Terrifics is fine so far, what if they integrate Strong all right? If they fail, it’ll be just desserts. If they succeed, well. It’ll be a testament to the original creator’s ability to create characters.

I guess I’m curious enough to find out.

CREDITS

Meet the Terrifics, Part 1 of 3; writer, Jeff Lemire; penciller, Ivan Reis; inker, Joe Prado; colorist, Marcelo Maiolo; letterer, Tom Napolitano; editor, Jessica Chen and Paul Kaminski; publisher, DC Comics.

Gideon Falls #1 (March 2018)

Gideon Falls #1

Gideon Falls is a mystery. Some of it is urban, with a young man with a history of mental illness searching the city for bits and pieces of wood. And nails. The rest of it is a disgraced but not in that way priest reassigned to some rural town–Gideon Falls. There he finds himself in a mystery, involving the ghost of the previous priest and something related to the city guy’s quest.

So. It’s a mystery. It’d be nice if writer Jeff Lemire has it planned and plotted out and it’ll be a smooth read. Andrea Sorrentino’s art is smooth and moody. It’s got some weird digital texture lines thing going on but otherwise it works just fine.

It’s too soon to tell with the comic though. Is it a great hook? No, but it’s a fine one. There’s going to be a lot of religious imagery, which doesn’t seem particularly edgy so hopefully Lemire’s got a good backstory for the priest.

Who knows. Too soon to tell. As a first issue, it does its job. It makes you want to read the second issue.

CREDITS

The Speed of Pain; writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Andrea Sorrentino; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Steve Wands; editor, Will Dennis; publisher, Image Comics.

Peanuts: A Tribute To Charles M. Schulz (October 2015)

Peanuts: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz

Peanuts: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz. “Over 40 artists celebrate the work of Charles M. Schulz.” It says so right on the cover. And Tribute is a fine celebration of Peanuts. There are some great cartoonists who contribute pieces for the collection. It’s 144 pages, which means contributors average less than three and a half pages each.

Collections of Peanuts strips, like the Fantagraphics Complete Peanuts, have three strips a page. So Schulz would have ten or eleven strips in similar page count. It shows just how magical he was with pacing those strips day-to-day.

There are some good strips, some okay strips, some cool strips. The Paul Pope Snoopy and Schroeder strip? Very cool. But given the whole grab is Pope doing these realistic looking Pope characters and them still operating on Peanuts logic. When Schroeder worries Lucy’s going to show up… well, Snoopy’s cute and all but I’d much rather see Pope Lucy. Beautiful art, though. Because Pope’s a lover.

There aren’t any strips non-Peanuts loving strips in the book. There are even strips just about loving Peanuts.

A few strips after Pope is Roger Langridge, who does a Snoopy the flying ace strip from the perspective of enemy pilots. It’s cute. It’s not great. Raina Telegemeier does a one page thing right after. Langridge got four pages. Her’s is cute. It’s not great. But she does it in one.

Stan Sakai and Julie Fujii do one of the best longer strips in the book, Escapade in Tokyo. Charlie Brown gets separated from the class on a school trip and spends the day with a cool Japanese girl. It’s anti-crap on Charlie Brown (most of the book, if not all of it, is anti-crapping on Charlie Brown) and it’s a nice story. Sakai and Fujii give it just the right amount of nostalgia and sentamentality without sacrificing the humor.

Terry Moore does something similar. Lucy vs. Charlie Brown only this time Charlie Brown’s going to kick that football. Moore mimicks Schulz’s style but sort of not enough to get away with the strip. Charlie Brown winning has to be perfect, like Sakai and Fujii did.

Chynna Clugston Flores does a “Why I Love Peanuts” strip. It’s good. It’s just a “Why I Love Peanuts strip”. There are some more in the book and Clugston Flores’s is probably the best but… Tribute is just a tribute. Sometimes the cartoonists interact with the characters, sometimes with the media itself.

Evan Dorkin and Derek Charm do a “Cthulhu comes to Peanuts” long strip and it’s inventive, beautifully illustrated (the style homage ages like Schulz’s did as the strip goes on), and kind of thin. Not many contributors do a riff on Peanuts without staying in Schulz’s constraints.

Except then there’s Melanie Gillman’s beautiful Marcie strip addressing her relationship with Patty. Liz Prince had a nice Patty strip earlier, but nowhere near as ambitious. Shaenon K. Garrity’s long, color strip about Patty taking on Lucy is good. It’s mostly in Peanuts constraints, just with some visual storytelling differences.

Peanuts: A Tribute is a good book for a Peanuts fan. To check out from the library. It’s a great proof of concept for a more ambitious project. I didn’t realize I wanted other cartoonists doing Peanuts until I read it. But I want them doing more, trying harder.

I also wish, given it just being this assortment of homages, Boom! had printed it more coffee table size.

CREDITS

Contributors, Mike Allred, Art Baltazar, Paige Braddock, Megan Brennan, Frank Cammuso, Derek Charm, Colleen Coover, Evan Dorkin, Chynna Clugston Flores, Shaenon K. Garrity, Melanie Gillman, Zac Gorman, Jimmy Gownley, Matt Groening, Dan Hipp, Keith Knight, Mike Kunkel, Roger Langridge, Jeff Lemire, Jonathan Lemon, Patrick McDonnell, Tony Millionaire, Caleb Monroe, Terry Moore, Dustin Nguyen, Molly Ostertag, Lincoln Peirce, Paul Pope, Hilary Price, Liz Prince, Stan Sakai + Julie Fujii, Chris Schweizer, Ryan Sook, Jeremy Sorese, Raina Telgemeier, Richard Thompson, Tom Tomorrow, Lucas Turnbloom, Jen Wang, and Mo Willems; editors, Alex Galer and Shannon Watters; publisher, KaBoom!.

Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows #1 (March 2018)

Ds1

Doctor Star and The Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows is a Black Hammer tie-in book–more a sidequel, with the WWII setting showing Abraham Slam and Golden Gail in their respective youths. It starts out a Starman homage (I assume, I’ve never read it but the protagonist’s name is James Robinson and his outfit is similar so… it’s pretty obvious).

Robinson narrates. Writer Jeff Lemire lays on the melancholy, which artist Max Fiumara visualizes quite well. Doctor Star never looks better than when it’s about some intense sadness and desperation. Not even when there are superhero things going on.

So the intense sadness should be the best part. And it’s not. It’s just intense and sad, something Lemire does exceedingly well with on Black Hammer and exceedingly poorly with Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows. Just think about that title. It’s so sad. Everything is so sad.

Other than being sad, being Starman homage, and having minor Black Hammer tie-in… there’s nothing to Doctor Star #1. Not good when there are only four issues.

CREDITS

Star Child; writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Max Fiumara; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Brett Israel and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil #4 (January 2018)

Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil #4

I wasn’t particularly concerned about Sherlock Frankenstein #4 going into it. I knew Lemire would have something good cooked up.

And he does. He and Rubín don’t just do the history of Sherlock Frankenstein, they do the history of the Black Hammer universe, at least in the twentieth century. It goes from Golden to Silver to Bronze. Lemire doesn’t break out all the heroes it goes through, just gives Rubín space to show off some familiar–and not familiar–designs.

Lots of double page spreads this issue. Rubín goes crazy with it to great success. Lucy and Sherlock’s meeting pays off.

And the ending of the book, which has very little to do with Black Hammer itself, is a perfect finish to this series. Lemire’s been doing a lot with the “supervillains” of BH. The finish embraces that work (more than it does having a Lucy investigates issue).

It’ll be interesting to see what Lemire does with the next spin-off, which is Lucy-less.

CREDITS

The Undying Love of Sherlock Frankenstein; writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, colorist, and letterer, David Rubín; editors, Cardner Clark and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil 3 (December 2017)

Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil #3

The only thing wrong with Sherlock Frankenstein is realizing it’s almost over. I don’t know why I thought it was six issues; just being hopeful, I guess.

Lucy’s investigation continues, even after someone has attacked her in the sanctuary. Real quick–apparently Black Hammer (the character) got his powers from the New Gods? I don’t think the New Gods and their planet were in Black Hammer. Maybe I’m wrong but… it seems like a fresh reveal.

Anyway, the investigation continues and Lucy makes a couple surprise discoveries. The first leads to a lovely scene from Lemire, who really gets to leave Hammer’s sadness aside when he writes Lucy. She’s got sadness, but it’s not that hopeless sadness. It’s a hopeful sort of sadness.

And that scene leads to the big reveal and the soft cliffhanger tag announcing the final issue. Boo, final issue. Yay, Sherlock Frankenstein.

Great art from Rubín, of course, including some fantastic double-page spreads. His little Lucy intro is great too.

CREDITS

Who is the Metal Minotaur?; writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, colorist, and letterer, David Rubín; editors, Cardner Clark and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil 2 (November 2017)

Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil #2

Lemire just won the Cthulhu game. For over ten years, comic book companies–usually indie ones–have been doing Cthulhu stuff. Boom!, Avatar (obviously), Archie, Dark Horse, Image. And Lemire just won it for Dark Horse with this issue of Sherlock Frankenstein.

In searching for her father, Lucy Weber meets Cthu-Lou II. He’s a sewer varient of Cthulhu’s chosen emissary on Earth and he’s not interested. He fights with his wife, who’s got a husband with an octopus head and no interest in super-villainy. They’ve got a sweet daughter, also with octupus head, but in a cute way. It’s just this sad story for Weber to encounter. There are clues too, but it’s really just this sad family.

Lemire couldn’t do it without Rubín though. Not at all. Rubín uses comic strip pacing for some of the issue, which makes the mundane hilarious and the terrifying genial. The expressive faces–it’s a talking heads issue–are wonderful.

It’s a fantastic comic. Lemire and Rubín each do great stuff here.

CREDITS

The Call of Cthu-Lou!; writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, colorist, and letterer, David Rubín; editors, Cardner Clark and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil 1 (October 2017)

Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil #1

The panel composition. David Rubín sometimes spirals the panels in double-page spreads, sometimes just moves action horizontal, always guiding the reader’s eye. It’s a visual treat, which is particularly awesome given it’s a talking heads issue.

Set before Lucy Weber joins Black Hammer, Sherlock Frankenstein and Legion of Evil has her investigating arch-villain Sherlock Frankenstein (think a mix of Sivana and Lex Luthor) in hopes of finding her father and the other heroes. Writer Jeff Lemire paces it well–he clearly loves writing Lucy Weber, the comic’s got first-person narration–and even the hinted revelations have a lot of weight. Though Frankenstein is probably incomprehensible if you haven’t kept up on Black Hammer.

Rubín’s art isn’t just amazing for the double-page spreads, it’s the single panels too. The way he visualizes Spiral City, modern technology amid grime, it’s breathtaking.

So good.

CREDITS

Whatever Happened to Sherlock Frankenstein?; writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, colorist, and letterer, David Rubín; editors, Cardner Clark and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Black Hammer 13 (September 2017)

Black Hammer #13

This issue wraps up the second arc. I haven’t decided if I’m going to wait for the trade or just read the second arc again in one sitting, because Black Hammer has arrived. Lemire and Ormston do New Gods, they do Darkseid (sort of), they do a big climatic finish, and it all works. Even when it seems, for a panel, like the pace is off, all of a sudden it’s right back on.

Lemire sets up a bit for the next arc, moving some characters around, then bakes in how he’s going to do the finale. It’s subtle and thoughtful. And Ormston’s panels are those heartbreaking Black Hammer panels. Lush desolation.

Black Hammer just keeps getting better.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Dean Ormston; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Cardner Clark and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Black Hammer 12 (August 2017)

Black Hammer #12

David Rubín returns for another issue (maybe a few), with Lemire doing an origin story for Lucy Weber. The entire thing is flashback, starting when Lucy’s a kid (right after the heroes’ disappearance) and going until she starts investigating it as an adult. There’s some talking heads, some exposition, some foreshadowing; Rubín beautifully visualizes it all, making the final reveal–which is somewhat static–emotionally devastating. It’s a different kind of Black Hammer, but Lemire clearly knows how to do all kinds of them.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Lemire; artist and letterer, David Rubín; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Cardner Clark and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Black Hammer 11 (July 2017)

Black Hammer #11

It’s a bridging issue–though it’s still unclear what Lemire’s setting up. Lucy Weber continues her investigation, sort of recapping everything. Nothing new exactly, just some rather nice Ormston art. Barbalien has a showdown–both in the present and in flashback; it’s well-written, but it’s character development, not progressing the overall narrative. Again, some great Ormston art. Gail has the most dramatics, but not character development. Meanwhile Abraham sort of pops in to keep a couple of the other subplots alive. Black Hammer isn’t in idle, Lemire is arranging the pieces to move forward. It’s almost a mellow issue, even if it’s got a lot of emotional heft.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Dean Ormston; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Cardner Clark and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Black Hammer 10 (June 2017)

Bh10

Has Black Hammer not had a big issue lately? Because this issue gives me the “momentous reveal” chills I got reading the first trade. Lemire works the whole thing on multiple levels–you get big moment on a character level for Barbalien, but there’s also a whole “what’s the mystery of Black Hammer” thing going on. And Lemire juxtaposes those subplots against Abraham Slam’s story and flashback. It’s really good.

Wonderful Ormston art this issue too. The flashback is awesome, but the modern stuff is so melancholic and disheartening. Real upper, this comic.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Dean Ormston; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Cardner Clark and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Black Hammer 9 (May 2017)

Black Hammer #9

It’s a depressing issue. Lemire knows he’s going to do a depressing issue–he set it up with the previous issue’s cliffhanger–but he just drags the reader through it all. David Rubín fills in on the art, which is a fantastic mix of psychedelic and cartooning. His expressions on Colonel Weird, in a flashback to the Colonel’s younger, Adam Strange days, are phenomenal. It’s practically comic relief, which Lemire desperately needs for the comic. Black Hammer can be depressing, it can be despondent, but when something actually sad happens… it’s almost too much to bare (thanks to all the other stuff). It’s a solid issue with some great art.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Lemire; artist and letterer, David Rubín; editors, Cardner Clark and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Black Hammer 8 (April 2017)

Black Hammer #8

The strangest thing about Black Hammer, which I can’t believe I hadn’t noticed before–or did and didn’t comment on (or worse, did and did comment on)–is how both Lemire and Ormston excel at the tragedy. The comic is at its best when the characters are suffering their worst. This issue has a little bit of passive suffering–Gail has no happy memories–but also the active, confounded suffering of new addition Lucy Weber. Lemire has her the catalyst for possible change, giving the reader foolishly renewed hope for the characters. It’s a depressing issue, but gloriously so (Ormston has a great time with it); the cliffhanger is an evil shocker too.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Dean Ormston; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Cardner Clark and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Black Hammer 7 (March 2017)

Blach Hammer #7

Lemire gets Hammer’s second storyline–with Black Hammer’s (the dead hero, not the comic itself) daughter showing up in the farm. There’s a lot of comedy, there’s a lot of tenderness (which Lemire and Ormston handle quite well), there’s a lot of flashback on Black Hammer. It’s a great issue with a way too effective soft cliffhanger. It’s like you’ve got an all-new series to read.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Dean Ormston; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Cardner Clark, Brendan Wright, and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Royal City 1 (March 2017)

Royal City #1

After the first issue, which ends on a reveal (of sorts), Jeff Lemire seems to be setting Royal City up as an American tragedy. The small American city losing its manufacturing power and so on and so on. The series will be the story of one extended family coping. There’s a thinly written harpy mom, an ambitious daughter, a deadbeat son, a successful white male novelist son, a suffering dad. Lemire’s got a solid visual pace for the comic, but so far there’s no meat on the story.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Jeff Lemire; letterer, Steve Wands; publisher, Image Comics.

Black Hammer Giant-Sized Annual 1 (January 2017)

Black Hammer Giant-Sized Annual #1

It’s a double-sized (or at least over-sized) annual for Black Hammer, yay. Colonel Weird goes through the Paraverse pursuing a creature (who looks a bit like Starro) and going into flashbacks with each of the characters, with different artists. It’s good art, it’s sad superheroes, there’s lots of implied depth, it’s moody, it’s Black Hammer.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Lemire; artists, Nate Powell, Matt Kindt, Dustin Nguyen, Raw Fawkes, Emi Lenox, and Mike Allred; colorists, Dave Stewart, Sharlene Kindt, and Fawkes; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Cardner Clark and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Black Hammer: Secret Origins (2016)

Black Hammer: Secret Origins

Black Hammer looks like a horror comic. Dean Ormston’s art always suggests there’s something darker going on, even if writer Jeff Lemire didn’t hint at it all the time. There’s something creepy about the comic’s world; the cast of characters doesn’t know what’s going on, the reader doesn’t know what’s going on, Lemire doesn’t really hint at the details, just implies details exist. It makes for a disquieting reading experience, even though there’s nothing too dark going on.

More so, Lemire hints there isn’t anything much darker to be revealed, just sadder. Black Hammer is all about sadness. Sadness and secrets.

It’s also about a bunch of superheroes who find themselves transported to a farm in a rural town after they defeat a great enemy. Lemire bakes in the sadness–the superheroes weren’t happy before they left, so when the comic opens ten years after the event, it’s unlikely anything else is going to make them happy.

Abraham Slam in his younger days.
Abraham Slam in his younger days.

Except maybe Abe Slam, who’s pretty much the protagonist. He’s Captain America without the powers, only he didn’t leave his home dimension in the forties, he left it in the seventies or eighties when he was an old man and felt like he didn’t have a place anymore. Much to the chagrin of his fellow captives, he does find a place, being an old white guy farmer who romances the woman who runs the local diner. Her ex-husband’s the sheriff, which Lemire hints will come into play later, but not yet. Mostly Abe’s just contentedly getting by, mostly because he’s the only one of the captives who can.

The rest are either aliens, robots, mystically de-aged, supernaturally winged, or just plain unstuck dimensionally.

J'onn J'onzz--sorry, Mark Markz--arrives on Earth.
J’onn J’onzz–sorry, Mark Markz–arrives on Earth.

The alien is the Martian Manhunter stand-in–Lemire borrows from both Marvel and DC to fill out his cast, who weren’t a super-team so much as an assortment of superheroes. Barbalien. Turns out his not just hiding his true form, he’s also hiding he’s gay, which leads to some trouble. Because he’s keeping it a secret. Ten years stuck together on a farm and none of the characters seems to be upfront with any of the other. Some of it is the baked in sadness Lemire does, some of it is the sauce for the gander. Black Hammer is a heavy read. There’s not a bright sky in Lemire’s writing or in Ormston’s art. When the comic’s really going for it, it’s impossible to say who’s more effective, Lemire or Ormston. It’s impossible to imagine the comic without the two of them.

The robot is Talky-Walky, who is probably female–she doesn’t get her own issue in this collection–because she’s the sidekick of the unstuck fellow, Colonel Weird. He’s the Adam Strange stand-in who knows more about what’s going on than he can explain but in learning it, he’s gone mad. There’s the implication of unrequited love on her side. Back in the day, they used to travel to other planets and eradicate life because what else were they going to do to aliens in the Golden or Silver Age. Lemire makes a lot of subtle comments on old comics matter-of-factly. Again, he bakes it in.

Captain Weird explores... the weird.
Captain Weird explores… the weird.

Colonel Weird’s issue has some foreshadowing, but mostly it’s a dejected look at how these previously powerful characters can’t have any more power. Even though they do still retain a lot of their powers, if not all of them.

The de-aged person is Golden Gail. She’s a female Captain Marvel (Shazam Captain Marvel). Only she became Captain Marvel in the forties and whenever she changed into the hero, she became a nine year-old. So now she’s a middle-aged woman stuck in a nine year-old’s body. She’s probably the closest thing to comic relief, only it’s all so tragic and all so heavy, it’s never funny. Worse is when it turns out she’s got a crush she shouldn’t have. Lemire’s not happy unless Black Hammer is making someone unhappy; he’s also willing to take on that burden. He’s asking the reader for a lot of emotional investment and is doing so responsibly. There’s not a single time he asks for too much without it being necessary.

Shazam! Oh, you know what they mean.
Shazam! Oh, you know what they mean.

Then there’s Madame Dragonfly. She’s got the wings. She’s a witch consigned to a cabin who went out to save the world because just because she’s a cursed witch doesn’t mean she’s a bad guy. She’s the coolest character in the book. Lemire plays with tropes and standards, but Madame Dragonfly is something entirely her own. What if the narrator of a horror comic, gross with dragonfly wings and eye of newt and zombie dolls, wasn’t a bad guy. Her story finishes the collection; it’s where Lemire hints at things too terrible for even Black Hammer to reveal. Not too terrible in terms of horrific reveals, but too terrible in terms of human reveals. He takes his characters very, very seriously.

Madame Dragonfly helps save the world.
Madame Dragonfly helps save the world.

While most of the issues–except the first–have a single character emphasized, Lemire’s careful to continue his B plots and C plots. It’s a tightly constructed comic, both in Lemire’s plotting and how Ormston visualizes it. The series is upfront about its despondence, upfront in its deconstruction. It’s never overly ambitious. Lemire and Ormston are ambitious with it, but they always hit their marks.

It ends on a cliffhanger of sorts, both for the reader and the characters, which is sort of annoying. Not because it’s not well-executed, but because it means I need to wait for more Black Hammer.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Dean Ormston; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Ian Tucker, Cardner Clark, Brendan Wright, and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Descender 4 (June 2015)

Descender #4

I’m not sure if I’m more on board Descender after this issue, which doesn’t reveal where Lemire’s going, but does show he’s got some actual ideas. Many of them are, as usual, familiar sci-fi tropes. He just arranges them a little better this issue.

And the story itself feels very comic book. Lemire puts the emphasis on the supporting players, mostly the ship captain, as well as pulling back and letting the reader see the familiar cast members in a new environment. Descender feels a little more solid.

So why aren’t I more excited about it? Because it’s still not clear Lemire’s got anywhere to take this story worth going and this issue features the first less than great Ngyuen art of the series. Where’s the art go wrong? The outer space stuff. Where’s Lemire taking the story? Outer space stuff.

The rest of the issue’s gorgeous.

Descender frustrates.

CREDITS

Tin Stars, Part Four; writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Dustin Nguyen; letterer, Steve Wands; publisher, Image Comics.

Descender 3 (May 2015)

Descender #3

I want to be able to keep reading Descender, but I’m getting close to my limit. It’s just A.I. with some flourishes on it. It’s like someone tried to make a comic book sequel to A.I., only instead of taking its visual template, Nguyen is grabbing from Alien and Outland and other seventies to early eighties sci-fi.

This issue has robot Tim dying and going to robot purgatory, where all the souls of the robots from the alien invasion are living. Okay, maybe more A.I. mixed with one of the Ender’s Game sequels, suffice to say, Lemire doesn’t have anything original in this series. And maybe he’s not supposed to, maybe he’s just supposed to sell the option to Hollywood and the comic’s going to sell on Nguyen’s art.

After all, Lemire’s just unoriginal, it’s not bad.

But I don’t know if Nyugen’s art alone is worth the time.

CREDITS

Tin Stars, Part Three; writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Dustin Nguyen; letterer, Steve Wands; publisher, Image Comics.

Descender 2 (April 2015)

Descender #2

Lemire sure does know his sci-fi–this issue of Descender continues the A.I. vibe while throwing in some Outland. He also knows how to go straight for the heartstrings, which he does with a bunch of flashbacks to Tim–21 (he’s the android protagonist) in happier days.

And Lemire does a good job with it. He can get away with almost anything with Nguyen’s art. Descender will always be worth looking at. Nguyen’s color washes give each page a distinct separate feel, even when the action continues between them. It’s a lovely comic.

This issue doesn’t do much to develop the world of the comic, just Tim–21. Lemire’s careful not to give the robot too many emotional observations (again, A.I.) and it’s unclear if he can get legs out of story with a purely sympathetic lead character.

But he’s off to an okay start. It’s gloriously manipulative stuff.

CREDITS

Tin Stars, Part Two; writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Dustin Nguyen; letterer, Steve Wands; publisher, Image Comics.

Descender 1 (March 2015)

Descender #1

Descender isn’t the most original thing under the sun. It’s hard to read it and not be reminded of the Spielberg movie, A.I.. Writer Jeff Lemire borrows major android concepts, but apparently not a lot of emotional heft concepts, which is good. Because, even though it’s got a lot of problems, Descender is far more successful than A.I..

Dustin Nguyen’s art makes the comic. He does this watercolor-looking thing and it’s great. He still has detail in his panels; the painting style doesn’t overtake the lines. It’s fantastic looking.

And the story has some unexpected moments, but there’s a nice collaboration between Lemire and Nguyen going on. Like Nguyen’s got more detail than Lemire’s putting into the story. Even though the story’s somewhat predictable and the details are mostly bland sci-fi things, the comic engages. Nguyen’s art is the right mix of mainstream and not to sell it.

CREDITS

Tin Stars, Part One; writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Dustin Nguyen; letterer, Steve Wands; publisher, Image Comics.

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