Wacky Raceland 5 (December 2016)

Wacky Raceland #5

The drivers all eat mushrooms and flashback to “The Butcher Shop,” where they got their abilities or cloned or resurrected or whatever. Pontac’s enthusiastic enough but he doesn’t have enough content. Manco’s art is, of course, fantastic and carries most of the issue. While thin, it’s amiable.

CREDITS

The Butcher Shop, Part One: Revelations; writer, Ken Pontac; artist, Leonardo Manco; colorist, Mariana Sanzone; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Wacky Raceland 4 (November 2016)

Wacky Raceland #4

It’s the first issue of Wacky Raceland I don’t really care about. The racers end up in post-apocalyptic Las Vegas–complete with a comb-over gang fronted by someone wanting to put up a wall to protect Vegas–and one of them gets the rest in trouble. Will the cars, which talk into the same colloquialisms as the Vegas gang members, be able to save their racers.

The idea of the cars talking to each other, which I don’t remember from any other issues but maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention, is pretty cool. Unfortunately, it’s a lot cooler than anything the regular cast does in the issue. They get captured, they have to fight gladiator-style, Manco’s art is great. But there’s no momentum to the issue–the Vegas trip is shore leave, basically, and there’s not enough character development to make it matter. So it’s just a pause.

If it weren’t for Manco’s art, this issue wouldn’t have anything going for it. It’d be fine, I suppose, it just wouldn’t be worth reading. Not the place to be for the fourth issue. Hopefully Pontac’s got some better ideas on the horizon.

CREDITS

What Happens in Vegas…; writer, Ken Pontac; artist, Leonardo Manco; colorist, Mariana Sanzone; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Wacky Raceland 3 (October 2016)

Wacky Raceland #3

Once again, I’m left a little perplexed by Wacky Raceland. It’s still not wacky, unless they’re trying to rebrand “wacky” as something out of a Mad Max movie, which would make sense. Wacky Raceland feels like corporate synergy on overdrive but it doesn’t matter because writer Pontac’s ideas are engaging enough. Oh, and because Leonardo Manco’s art is awesome. There’s not a lot of original design, just good execution of the standards for post-apocalyptic societies with old cars. Lots of examples for that setting.

And Pontac does try to build the characters. He has a pattern now–a few characters get a story, the other ones fight well-drawn but a little too obscure monsters, then things wrap-up. Every issue is kind of a done-in-one.

This issue’s character is some girl who ran away from a bad situation and things went even worse because of the apocalypse. Manco does that story as a Greek fable. It’s not successful. It’s well-intentioned, but it’s not successful.

But it barely slows the comic down just because of the momentum Pontac and Manco work up in the rest of it. Wacky Raceland’s a cool comic.

CREDITS

Poseidon’s Toilet; writer, Ken Pontac; artist, Leonardo Manco; colorist, Mariana Sanzone; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Wacky Raceland 2 (September 2016)

Wacky Raceland #2

Wacky Raceland continues to be a zany, antisocial, mildly disturbing wondrous mess. There’s action all over the place, but Manco keeps it all in check. It’s like he can do wild, but it’s contained wild. It’s the perfect mix.

But Pontac comes through on the story too. He’s got this depressing, awful flashback into one of the racers’ pre-apocalypse lives. Turns out being sympathetic to the characters might be a mistake. This issue’s flashback is for Dick Dastardly and it’s part of the main story instead of a back-up. It works better this way; it makes Pontac have to do expository about the setting and it means Manco gets to draw different things in combination with one another. Manco has a very classical style and his uniform application of it–sci-fi and horror, for example–brings disparate visual elements beautifully. It’s fun to look at Wacky Raceland. It’s well done, but it’s also fun to see this stuff.

There’s also the Hanna-Barbera element. You never take Wacky Raceland too seriously, you never worry about some development being a disappointment. It’s a prime gig as far as reader expectation (if it were bad, it’d be the reader’s fault for buying it–come on, DC doing grim and gritty Hanna Barbara titles), but Pontac and Manco are still doing a great job with it.

CREDITS

A Night at the Opera; writer, Ken Pontac; artist, Leonardo Manco; colorist, Mariana Sanzone; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Wacky Raceland 1 (August 2016)

Wacky Raceland #1

I’m going to make a bold statement.

Wacky Raceland is the best soulless corporate synergy comic book of all time. I’m not sure how many serious competitors it has, because for this kind of corporate synergy you need a comic book company–DC–another company to license properties from–Hanna-Barbera–and another company with some kind brand reference–Warner Bros. Wacky Raceland is a Warner Bros. subsidiary mash-up, with writer Ken Pontac and artist Leonardo Manco not referencing a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, but instead bring Mad Max to comic books. Mad Max: Fury Road being a Warner Bros. film. And, you know, Warner owns DC.

So it’s synergy.

And it’s soulless, right? It has to be soulless. Wouldn’t it be amazing if it weren’t? Wouldn’t it be amazing if instead of just being really cool, somehow Pontac actually conveys an important storyline. I don’t think it’ll happen, but what if it did. It’d be amazing. But it’s already amazing. Does it need to be more amazing? Is there a place for purely entertaining entertainment, where the artistry is in how digestibly involving the material reads or plays?

I mean, Manco’s art is phenomenal. I’ve always liked him, but he juggles a lot of intentionally contrasting visualize styles and he rocks the Grim and Gritty Hanna-Barbera apocalypse. If DC’s Hanna-Barbera move is meant to answer Afterlife with Archie and other inventively done “pop culture” series, Raceland is the first sign they might have the secret weapon–enough pop culture properties, brands and icons to overwhelm the competition.

And Pontac’s essential here too. Because Raceland is a lot all at once. Pontac concentrates on making the story pleasing to read before anything else. He’s got a great pace to the endless dialogue, which is almost never expository.

It’s kind of awesome. If only Pontac could come up with a cliffhanger. He fails. But then there’s a cool backup where they riff on The Revenant. Because pop culture awareness is important and this book gets it. It’s great entertainment.

CREDITS

Writer, Ken Pontac; artist, Leonardo Manco; colorist, Mariana Sanzone; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

John Carpenter’s Asylum 5 (April 2014)

John Carpenter's Asylum #5

It isn’t enough for there to be one exorcism this issue, Jones has to flashback to a previous exorcism. The flashback does get some of the back story between the priests out of the way, which is good, but it’s a whole lot of demonic art. Manco has almost nothing to draw except demons in various stages of upset this issue.

As for Jones, for the most part he’s just got to write priests saying lines out of Exorcist movies. Not particularly heavy lifting for him. Manco at least has a lot to do. There’s a double-page spread of angels and demons–it’s totally useless as far as narrative value, but it’s very detailed work from Manco.

There are some big plot developments and big things for cast members. Unfortunately, there’s so little concern for the cast it doesn’t really matter who’s in danger.

Besides Manco, Asylum’s running near on empty.

C- 

CREDITS

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

John Carpenter’s Asylum 4 (February 2014)

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

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

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

C 

CREDITS

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

John Carpenter’s Asylum 3 (October 2013)

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

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

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

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

C- 

CREDITS

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

John Carpenter’s Asylum 2 (July 2013)

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

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

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

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

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

Asylum’s mediocre enough.

C 

CREDITS

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

John Carpenter’s Asylum 1 (May 2013)

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

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

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

It’s an interesting mess of a comic.

C 

CREDITS

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

Hellraiser 1 (March 2011)

Hellraiser_01.jpg

Okay, the comic is at least a sequel to the first and second movies. I’ve seen some of the other ones, but I can’t remember what happens in them. What’s going on here (if I understand correctly… Barker and Monfette’s attempts at giving the cenobites—if you don’t already know, don’t ask—formal speech is somewhat painful) is Pinhead wants to be human again so he’s going on a question. Juxtaposed is the girl from the first two movies who apparently has gotten a lot better since then (she’s now an artist, painting Pinheads and getting engaged).

Manco does a good job with almost everything… except Pinhead. Manco’s approach is so finished, so photo-referenced, it looks like they’re adding a still to the panels and he’s drawing around it. But the rest of the visuals are strong.

While better than I thought it would be, I wasn’t expecting much.

CREDITS

Pursuit of the Flesh, Part One; writers, Clive Barker and Chris Monfette; artist, Leonardo Manco; colorist, Charlie Kirchoff; letterer, Travis Lanham; editor, Ian Brill; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Hellraiser 0 (March 2011)

H0.jpg

Now… I know I’m not the target audience (though I do love Leonardo Manco from some of his nineties work), but even so… I wish Boom! had gotten someone better than Christopher Monfette to clean up Clive Barker’s dialogue.

It’s unclear how Barker and Monfette split the duties, but something about the lame dialogue makes me think Barker’s got some kind of a hand in it.

Again, I’m not the Barker audience. I like good writers.

Boom! has done something interesting with the zero issue—it’s a freely available PDF (you can download it here if interested). I’m pretty sure it’s the highest profile “digital only” release to date and it’s nice Boom! released it in an open format.

Though Manco’s art probably looks even better on the printed page.

It’s free and he nearly makes it worth a look. Or if you just want to snicker at the dialogue.

CREDITS

At the Tolling of the Bell; writers, Clive Barker and Chris Monfette; artist, Leonardo Manco; colorist, Juan Manuel Tumburús; letterer, Johnny Lowe; editor, Ian Brill; publisher, Boom! Studios.

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