Cinema Purgatorio 4 (July 2016)

Cinema Purgatorio #4

Holy shit, is Gillen’s Modded a GamerGate thing? Are we supposed to hate the women for telling the sweet little dude what to do? I really hope not. I hope it’s just a dumb scene. Gillen’s writing on this story is already so lame, I’d feel even worse if he were actually trying something subtle with political commentary and just failing at it. Fine enough art from Calero as usual.

Way too short Vast from Gage and Andrade. Again, fine art, crap writing. But Gage really doesn’t have any time to do anything. It’s almost not fair to call the weak writing weak.

And then the Max Brooks thing. DiPascale’s greyscale digital art is too flat this entry. It’s a weak script with the giant ant fighting but there should have been more personality to it.

Notice I went through all the weak stories in this issue of Cinema Purgatorio first? Because the good stories are worth their own time and some due respect.

First, Garth Ennis. And Code Pru, the most disappointing thing in Cinema Purgatorio. Ennis and Raulo Caceres started it as its own thing, got to a promising place, flubbed it when they went to this anthology. It’s not a supernatural book anymore, it’s a monster comic. Maybe Ennis is doing a movie tie-in, who knows. It doesn’t come across. What does come across is good writing though and this issue’s entry of Pru has some great Ennis dialogue. It just doesn’t involve Pru or her partner. He’s not interested in them because all they do is exposition. It’s a mess but there’s still some Ennis goodness. Caceres’s art is too dark for black and white though.

Finally, Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill doing an homage to Willis H. O’Brien and King Kong. It’s lovely and makes me wish Moore and O’Neill could do this book forever. It’s a shame the other stories in the anthology have anything to do with movies. Moore and O’Neill deserve far better co-creators. Great art on it, some wonderful writing from Moore. It has to be seen to be believed. It makes the issue–this somewhat disastrous Avatar anthology–an essential comic book. Moore’s a show-off with Purgatorio. O’Neill less but he’s still very confident, but Moore’s having a great time with reader expectation. They’re doing great work.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, A King at Twilight; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, Mommy’s Boy; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Ignacio Calero. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Michael DiPascale. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Providence 10 (July 2016)

Providence #10

Well. Providence. Robert Black gets his comeuppance for a lot of inept behavior earlier in the comic. He also finds out Lovecraft is a bigot, not to mention how sometimes the universe rewards endeavors. It’s not a weird comic because what’s so great about the reveals is how Moore started building towards them so long ago, but still keeps them relevant. It’s a masterfully written comic book. The only thing Moore takes more seriously than the Lovecraft stuff is the humor. It’s so sad and it’s so funny.

Burrows plays into that success–he’s got a lot of wonderful detail on protagonist Black as he’s having revelations about what’s really going on. There’s visible intensifying of the character’s stress; it might be as obvious as sweat or just how he’s holding his hands. Burrows’s art is phenomenal, which is even more impressive when one takes into account how strange the comic gets.

Moore opens with horror, then he goes over to uncomfortable social stuff, only to go further and start thinking about the end of the world. Then he closes with a horrifying, hilarious final reveal–amid what should be the ominous ceremonies to bring back an Elder God or whatever. It’s nuts.

And then the back matter is awesome. Moore and Burrows have fully trained the reader by this point to accept the comic book narrative as truer than the commonplace book back matter, so when they flip how it works, it’s just great.

It’s an excellent comic; of course it’s an excellent comic, it’s Providence.

CREDITS

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

A Train Called Love 10 (July 2016)

A Train Called Love #10

What is this lovely comic? It’s not just lovely in terms of Ennis basically doing an extended happy ending, exaggerated as much as he can, it’s lovely in terms of the pacing. He resolves story threads and then gets things moved along as the reader gets to enjoy the result of all the trauma. And it’s love.

It’s so… nice. And positive. And hopeful. It’s not just slightly hopeful like one thing goes all right, it’s a happy ending where pretty much everything works out all right. It’s comedic, sure, but it’s all really sincere. Ennis has a real affection for these characters.

And the bunny. He and Dos Santos have the cute little bunny in the issue a lot. It’s weird. What the heck is this comic? Ten issues of A Train Called Love and I can’t figure it out. But I hope Ennis and Dos Santos have something else planned. Nothing with zombies or monsters though.

I really hope Dynamite collects this series well because I can’t wait to give it a single sitting read someday. It’s delightful. It’s got a lot of gross-out humor and ultra-violence, but it’s heart is in a nice place. Train’s a wonderful comic. Ennis’s writing is on, Dos Santos’s art is on. The gimmick is the sincerity. They apparently wanted to do a great comedic, ultra-violent, gross-out humor romance comic.

Success.

CREDITS

Else the Puck A Liar Call; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Marc Dos Santos; colorist, Salvatore Aiala Studios; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Kevin Ketner, Anthony Marques, Rachel Pinnelas and Matt Idelson; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Manifest Destiny 21 (July 2016)

Manifest Destiny #21

Has this arc always had the little year tags to toggle between the flashback and present action? Maybe it did, but I feel like it didn’t, because the transitions were confusing. They’re still confusing, what with the guy in the past having a journal and there’s supposed to be a journal in the present action from Lewis or Clark but Dingess has forgotten about it. But there’s an effort to be less confusing. The effort is nice. It’s a shame it’s still visually confusing; maybe it’s colorist Owen Gieni but the transition from flashback and back is still way too gentle.

That problem isn’t the big one with the arc–or the flashbacks–no, it’s Dingess’s writing. He’s so fixated on the story in the past, he’s ignoring the main characters of the comic book. There’s an infuriating moment this issue where Sacagawea basically offers to go kill all the attacking cyclops bigfoot monsters and she doesn’t get to go. Why? Because Dingess never, ever lets her loose, which is weird–as always–because Sacagawea the warrior was a promise of the first issue.

Then again, Dingess also promised Lewis and Clark would be characters. They’re irrelevant to the comic now. This whole story arc idea, which does package the comic a little better, is making Manifest Destiny irrelevant itself. Sure, Roberts’s art is awesome and the concept is still okay and Dingess does have his moments as a writer, but it’s not adding up to anything.

The issue ends with promise of revelation and thrills next time. Whoopie. They’re never do enough to make up for the book running on fumes.

CREDITS

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

Prophet Earth War 5 (July 2016)

Prophet Earth War #5

This issue of Earth War feels a little like Prophet-lite. At least writers Graham and Roy know where they should be focusing their attention this issue–there’s three plot lines at least, including the tedious Earth War itself–but they don’t have enough space. The story is way too rushed. It’s the Earth War version of a bridging issue. A bunch of fast paced nonsense to move some characters around while doing some expository somewhere else.

And then there’s the art–there are four different artists and no rhyme or reason to what they’re handling. It looks like Prophet art (because it’s by a bunch of great Prophet artists), but not under close inspection. There’s no detail, there’s no joy. Everyone on Earth War is just trying to get it finished, which is unfortunate, because there’s still some great possibilities in the comic.

There’s a page filling backup–I was kind of hoping the issue would keep going to get towards the end of the series faster (the Earth War stuff is really frustrating, Graham and Roy race through it so fast there’s negative personality). As someone how loved nearly every issue of the Prophet series, I just want Earth War to finish without damaging the original’s legacy….

CREDITS

Writers, Brandon Graham and Simon Roy; artists, Graham, Grim Wilkins, Giannis Milonogiannis and Jenna Trost; colorists, Joseph Bergin II, Lin Visel and Graham; letterer, Ariana Maher; back up story, Mike McGhee; publisher, Image Comics.

I Hate Fairyland 7 (July 2016)

I Hate Fairyland #7

Funny thing about Young and I Hate Fairyland. It’s even better when it’s toned down a little. This issue isn’t too gross, isn’t too mean, has a handful of really easy jokes, and it’s maybe the most pleasant experience of the series so far. Or maybe Gert is finally just a character. But we’re getting to better meet the citizens of Fairyland and they’re more amusing than the royalty too. It’s almost an entirely different book.

But Young doesn’t lose anything. He’s gotten the series to a point where the implied, off-panel humor is as funny as if he renders it, which isn’t an easy trick. It’s a very comic strip trick and not one he’s previously seemed concerned about. But Fairyland has always had more potential than what Young was doing with it.

Not anymore, though. Now he’s trying with the book and he’s off to a great start. Some of it works because no one’s particularly bright. Not even the bee. He’s kind of dumb too; it makes the relationship somehow more stable. It’s really cool and it helps with the narrative. It lets Young use expository dialogue. He’s good at the expository dialogue, he’s got a lot of wit, but it still should flirt with tedious and it never does.

Because it’s I Hate Fairyland; it’s brilliant in its saccharine putridity.

CREDITS

How to Drain Your Dragon; writer and artist, Skottie Young; colorist, Jean-Francois Bealieu; letterer, Nate Piekos; publisher, Image Comics.

Velvet 15 (July 2016)

Velvet #15

No more Velvet. At least not for now; this arc ends with the end of Velvet’s initial storyline. I really should have known if it was just intended for fifteen issues. I always want that Brubaker ongoing, he always goes twelve to twenty. Or in that range. Enough to make fans out of the book, but then not to fully deliver on its possibilities.

Except with Velvet. The comic has always been very upfront about what it’s doing–it’s a spy thriller, it’s got Epting art, it’s not too creative in terms of the narrative. It’s a “cool” book. Brubaker and Epting doing a mainstream, “cool” indie title. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt Velvet is prime for media development. It is 2016, after all.

And, Velvet, the character, has never been much more than cool. She’s a great protagonist, but Velvet isn’t about her being likable or even relatable. It’s about her being cool and doing cool things, usually involving guns, car chases, subterfuge, explosions and gliding. When Brubaker returns to her narration of the book for the last few pages, it had been so long since Velvet had that kind of internal self-examination, I forgot it was one of the book’s narrative devices. And it’s been fine without it. Less ambitious maybe, but not by much.

Brubaker, Epting and colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser deliver, because of course they do. Brubaker’s mastered comics pulp and always has the right artist for it.

CREDITS

The Man Who Stole the World, Part Five; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors; Sebastian Girner and Eric Stephenson; publisher, Image Comics.

Lazarus 23 (July 2016)

Lazarus #23

Rucka employs a lot of structure for this issue of Lazarus. There’s a framing device, then a flashback, then a reveal about the framing device. Only that reveal has absolutely nothing to do with what happened in the flashback and it doesn’t really change the initial frame, it’s just there for Rucka and Lark to do something else cool. There’s a sword fight. Lark does a really, really good job with it. He paces it out perfectly–you can hear the swords clanging looking at his panels–and then when Rucka gets around to the reveal on it? Turns out Rucka’s got some really great ideas too. It’s just a perfect thing in the comic.

It also has nothing to do with the main story. It’s like a glorified subplot, only specially rendered. And, wait, there is something else with some returning characters–maybe this arc is going to go a little bit differently in terms of narrative approach? i.e. Forever won’t be the lead. Something the flashback does address. Lazarus is just an expertly executed book at this point. Rucka and Lark have a phenomenal rhythm.

The flashback, which involves the Carlyle family and their sci-fi soap opera (I mean it in a very good way), has some twists and turns of its own. Rucka’s setting up the arc but he’s also making sure to reward the reader’s patience.

And there’s gorgeous Lark art.

CREDITS

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

Kong of Skull Island 1 (July 2016)

Kong of Skull Island #1

So, when Dark Horse released Kong: King of Skull Island over ten years ago, I bought it. It wasn’t cheap. And I read it. It wasn’t good. Kong of Skull Island is based on that “illustrated novel.” (It was by Joe DeVito).

Anyway–I wasn’t excited about Kong of Skull Island. Artist Carlos Magno is sort of Boom!’s go-to licensed event guy. He’s incredibly competent, incredibly thoughtful, but lacking in anything particularly dynamic. Kong doesn’t give him anything particularly dynamic. It does play to his strengths, however. He gets to do lots of detailed scenery, lots of carefully posed characters in panels so as not to have to carry the comic with their dialogue, lots of giant monsters, lots of awesome quarter page spreads.

Oh, right. The “awesome” factor to Kong. It’s about a bunch of giant apes–who fight, of course–their intellectually and socially (if not technologically) advanced Polynesian keepers and an island with a bunch of dinosaurs. There’s a cool mythology to it, which works in Kong because writer James Asmus isn’t keeping DeVito’s frame. God forbid he does a sequel series, but who knows, I think they might do an all right job of it.

I went into Kong of Skull Island expecting nothing. Instead, there’s some cool Magno art–he does apes well–there’s dinosaurs, there’s an engaging enough tragic Polynesian romance thing, there’s giant apes fighting. It works. I kind of hope Boom! doesn’t screw up this licensed franchise thing. They’re doing all right by Kong.

CREDITS

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

Kaijumax: Season Two 3 (July 2016)

Km23

This issue of Kaijumax might be my favorite. It’s sort of talking heads–the warden faces off with a bureaucrat about how the prison is run–but there’s also a whole subplot for the robot cop. There’s a lot of humanity to the issue and it’s mostly ugly. Even when it’s not entirely ugly, it’s ugly. It’s harsh and depressing and hopefully it’ll be Cannon’s legacy for Kaijumax.

The warden and the bureaucrat grew up as the kids in a Showa-era kaiju movie. They loved their giant monster until something happened. Cannon’s flashback is perfect, down to the maser cannons. Kaijumax’s version of pulling on the heartstrings lately has been to make readers question their sympathies and this issue is no different. Cannon’s got a complex resolution to the bureaucrat and the warden’s conversation, juxtaposed against the odd sadness of the robot cop.

It turns out the robot cop has her human-sized body too and this issue Cannon introduces a lot of her backstory. He also addresses with the brother issues (her brother is Kaijumax’s version of Mecha-Godzilla) and makes some disturbing observations about people (and kaiju movies) with in regards to her upbringing.

Kaijumax takes a serious look at movies never intended to be serious, which is great and relatively important (relatively because how many English-speaking devote kaiju fans are there out there and how many of them read comics). It’s also really depressing.

CREDITS

Old School; writer, artist and letterer, Zander Cannon; colorists, Cannon and Jason Fischer; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

Scooby Apocalypse 1 (July 2016)

Scooby: Apocalypse #1

I wouldn’t call Scooby: Apocalypse so much good as successful. It’s Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis doing a “grown-up” version of Scooby Doo, which isn’t something I would’ve thought there’d be an audience for but now I’m not so sure. All of Giffen and DeMatteis’s instincts when it comes to the characters are spot on. They’re “grown-up” and modernized but still annoying in the same ways.

And Howard Porter’s art is an interesting choice. Velma and Scooby are the most successful, with Daphne and Fred being somewhere in the more obvious realm and Shaggy being a riff on eighties Mike Grell Green Arrow for whatever reason. In look, not characterization. As far as characterization, it remains to be seen if Giffen and DeMatteis have arcs for the characters or just a lot of solid banter.

The story’s fine–it’s the team’s origin story, Scooby is a failed Army super-dog experiment, Daphne and Fred are lame TV journalists, Shaggy is Scooby’s hopefully stoned handler. I didn’t notice any bud though. If Giffen and DeMatteis can get away making Shaggy and Scooby actual stoners… well, it’d be funny.

Even though Porter’s visualizations of characters are sometimes weird, his art’s totally competent. He puts work into it and he does get how to pace out the script’s jokes.

It’s not a great comic, but it’s not a bad one at all.

CREDITS

Waiting for the End of the World; writers, Keith Griffen and J.M. DeMatteis; artist, Howard Porter; colorist, Hi-Fi; letterer, Nick J. Napolitano; editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Afterlife with Archie 9 (July 2016)

Afterlife with Archie #9

This issue of Afterlife has a couple surprises. It’s mostly just a really tightly told tale from Aguirre-Sacasa, with some great art from Francavilla, but there’s a strange development at the end. Aguirre-Sacasa isn’t just doing Archie and zombies, he’s doing a horror comic. While zombies are part of it, the human cost is a bigger part.

This issue centers around Reggie, who I barely remember from my limited Archie exposure. He’s the dark Archie (who really quickly gives him up for dead and replaces him with Kevin, which just seems un-Archie) and Aguirre-Sacasa structures the comic around Reggie’s revelations to Kevin, his first person narration, and his deep fear of being a sociopath.

When the Bride of Cthulhu shows up to convince him to join the dark side… well, it’s unclear why Reggie’s choice is a surprise, but Aguirre-Sacasa makes it one. Even though Reggie shouldn’t be sympathetic, Aguirre-Sacasa writes him like a scared, confused kid. It results in a sympathetic character.

It’s an unpleasant issue. There’s no gore, there’s a lot of self-depreciation, there’s a lot of awkwardness. Aguirre-Sacasa utilizes a lot of flashbacks to tell Reggie’s story and, much like how the character’s mind operates, a lot of the book takes place in the imagination.

It’s not an exciting issue, however, not narratively speaking. It’s excellent work from Aguirre-Sacasa and Francavilla though. Assured, deliberate, freaky.

CREDITS

Betty: R.I.P., Chapter Four: The Trouble with Reggie; writer, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; artist and colorist, Francesco Francavilla; letterer, Jack Morelli; editors, Victor Gorelick and Jamie Lee Rotante; publisher, Archie Comics.

Future Quest 1 (July 2016)

Future Quest #1

Jeff Parker. Doc Shaner. Steve Rude. Hanna-Barbera. Future Quest.

Three of those five phrases give chills or can (and certainly do in conjunction with one another) while one of them seems a little odd. Hanna-Barbera. But then you look at Future Quest and there’s nothing better looking than Shaner illustrating the Florida swamp playground of Jonny and Hadji. They’re flying around on jetpacks and bantering. It should be amazing and it does look amazing and it’s certainly all right, but Parker’s script for Future Quest is more competent than inspired. He’s teaming up Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters in a DC comic with Shaner and Rude art. He succeeds. But there’s nothing else to Future Quest.

So is it worth the price of admission for wholly competent scripting and glorious artwork? Sure. It’s got a lame, shoehorned hard cliffhanger and I’m a little perplexed why they teamed Shaner and Rude. Their styles for the book are near identical, so was it because Shaner had too many pages to do? Did Rude really want to do some talking heads? Because not much happens this issue. There’s a little bit of action, some sci-fi exposition stuff, character setup, but not much else. There’s no character development. It’s sort of sad to think of how well Parker can do a hodgepodge team book and then there’s this erstwhile event comic with a hodgepodge team and no connection with it.

Jeff Parker. Doc Shaner. Steve Rude. Those creator names are magical. But Future Quest isn’t magical, even though it’s got a lot of the right ingredients to be magical. It’s hard not to be a little disappointed. Especially considering how much better it might be if the characters actually had time to bond and truly interact, instead of move from set piece to set piece.

CREDITS

Lights in the Sky; writer, Jeff Parker; artists, Evan Shaner and Steve Rude; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Dave Lanphear; editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 5 (July 2016)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #5

Has it been a year since the last Sabrina? I guess it has been. Thank goodness Aguirre-Sacasa opens with a text recap (though I didn’t read it closely enough, which caused me some minor confusion).

Sabrina is on trial for cavorting with mortal boy Harvey, who is now dead. She wants to bring him back, unknowingly enlisting her nemesis to aid in the effort. And then Aguirre-Sacasa has a big surprise for that part of the story too. Sabrina is full of surprises and none of them are good for its protagonist, which is sort of weird. It feels like a melodrama, more than anything else, it feels like Aguirre-Sacasa is doing this giant teenage period piece melodrama with witches. It’s awesome.

Excellent art from Hack, who gets to do a nice variety of things here. There’s the witches trial, there’s the high school, there’s some other stuff. It’s great looking. There’s a lot of humor in the art this issue too. Hack’s having fun.

Sabrina is an excellent book. It has to be to be worth this kind of wait.

CREDITS

The Crucible, Chapter Five: The Trial; writer, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; artist, Robert Hack; letterer, Jack Morelli; editor, Jamie Lee Rotante; publisher, Archie Comics.

The Punisher 1 (July 2016)

The Punisher #1

What a lousy comic. I mean, I didn’t even care about Steve Dillon’s artwork. His lines get thick during action sequences and lose all fluidity. Dillon’s precise line work always implies movement, entropy, never static. He looks like he’s doing pin-ups this issue. Punisher pin-ups. Is it 1993 or something?

I can’t figure out who Marvel is targeting with this Punisher variation. Let’s go through all the pieces of the pie. First, Steve Dillon’s back. He hasn’t been on the book for a while, right? And he was on the book during multiple good new (or post-Angelic) Punisher titles. So Dillon alone might be a sale. Except now you need a writer–Marvel should’ve just gotten Dillon a ghostwriter for the book, it couldn’t have been any worse and probably would’ve been better–but it’s 2016 and Marvel has a diversity problem. So get Becky Cloonan to write the book. Name female creator. It’s almost an event comic.

Only bad Punisher comics aren’t events, they’re the standard. Cloonan and Dillon turn in a lame issue. Cloonan writes Frank with less personality than a slasher movie villain, only Dillon draws him very superhero, very compensation Frank. Cloonan’s got these moron DEA agents who would have been lousy cop characters in the early eighties, much less now. Her dialogue’s thoughtfully written but it meanders in exposition land. Or she just has terrible editors.

Finally, this Punisher is the first series since regular people started caring about the Punisher, thanks to the “Daredevil” TV show. Shock of shocks, a “Punisher” show got announced just a few days before this issue came out. It’s buzzy. It’s Disney (and if Disney just means nostalgia-based brand synergy, so be it). Anyway, buzzy says it needs to be accessible as well as notable. Cloonan’s there for her buzz cred, not because she has some great Punisher story to tell.

Or maybe she does and it really is just another Lethal Weapon riff with war buddies selling dope and one of them having to stop it. But I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt.

Marvel apparently thinks they need it to have mass appeal, which is admirable but impossible. **The Punisher** is pulp, it’s exploitation. For it to succeed, it’s got to have an edge–it can’t be bland. And this book couldn’t be blander.

CREDITS

TITLE; writer, Becky Cloonan; artist, Steve Dillon; colorist, Frank Martin; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, Kathleen Wisneski and Jake Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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