The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 4 (March 2016)

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #4

I’m only going to complain a little but I am going to complain. North really can’t handle this arc; I mean, this issue isn’t a bridging issue, it isn’t an anything issue. It’s too much a part of the story arc–Squirrel Girl back in time trying to stop Dr. Doom from taking over the future–so nothing else really builds. There’s also not much to do build in the past. Or at least North isn’t going that route.

Instead, he’s got a lot of talking heads. Lots of planning, lots of Doom ranting. Just lots of talking. There’s some good art–Henderson can keep up with the talking, but she also gets to do a bit of variety–future Doom-world, 1960s New York. Henderson is really pushing things here, which is good. The book needs energy from somewhere.

Some of the issue might just be Dr. Doom saturation. He’s such a “fun” villain, but he’s got limited character possibilities. While North gets to a good cliffhanger with Doom this issue, he takes forever to get there.

CREDITS

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

A Train Called Love 6 (March 2016)

A Train Called Love #6

And, lo it was with the sixth issue of A Train Called Love did the Ennis awaken. Or something of that nature.

Wow. Wow. How did I forget how gross Ennis could get? I mean, he excels at it. And in this issue, he and Dos Santos excel at it through horrific sight gags. It’s awesome. Dos Santos impresses all over the place this issue. His faces have so much expression, so much humor. It’s like Dos Santos’s job is to make sure there’s no question about Ennis’s jokes.

But it’s not just this gross out Ennis book with a Nazi villain–because of course there’s going to be a Nazi villain, it’s Garth Ennis. It really does feel like a Preacher-era Garth Ennis thing done later on. What if it’s City Lights? It would be hilarious if Train Called Love was City Lights.

It can’t be.

Anyway. It’s still Train Called Love, it’s still these great characters having these absurd and awful and hilarious conversations. It just has a supervillain in it now. One with a Nazi sidekick.

I love it.

CREDITS

Mein Fuhrer, I Can Walk; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Marc Dos Santos; colorist, Salvatore Aiala Studios; letterer, Rob Steen; editor, Rachel Pinnelas; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Spire 7 (March 2016)

The Spire #7

The Spire is racing. Or maybe it isn’t. Maybe it was always headed to this place, where Spurrier rushes everything. Every subplot, every character, the cliffhanger resolution, the mid-issue reveals, everything is rushed. When it gets the final panel and ShÃ¥ says “it all ends tonight,” Spurrier and Stokely are out of breath. It’s an exhausting read.

Stokely does better than Spurrier. There’s some rather good art moments, visual moments, while Spurrier’s got almost nothing going in the script. When he does have the opportunity to really write a scene, he goes the other way and lets Stokely figure it out visually. The Spire is a good comic, no doubt about it, it’s well-executed, it’s inventive. It’s just too much this issue. Spurrier wants it to do too much.

There’s enough story here for two issues. With the pacing, with the reveals, Spurrier could do two issues. There’s a whole Pug subplot Spurrier races through. It’s penultimate issue, wrap-up stuff.

I’m assuming (and hoping) Spurrier’s got a stronger narrative next issue. I want The Spire to end well. Stokely–and Spurrier–have done some excellent work on this book.

CREDITS

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

Johnny Red 5 (March 2016)

Johnny Red #5

Burns might have just done one of the best comic book action sequences. The way he and Ennis pace out the issue’s second half, with Johnny infiltrating a German compound to rescue his men, is unbelievable. They get so much done. They identify the compound, they land a plane, they get Johnny to the compound, to his men, to the cliffhanger. Burns is good at the plane stuff, but he’s peerless pacing out that ground stuff. Johnny Red moves beautifully.

It also has time to resolve the previous issue’s cliffhanger, establish what Johnny’s sidekicks are doing, and how Johnny knows a Red Baron-type German flier. It’s a brilliantly paced comic. Ennis even gets in a reference to the flashback framing device, which doesn’t even get half a page this issue.

Johnny Red is great Ennis World War II stuff with an artist who is able to take it beyond what Ennis is usually able to achieve. And it’s a relaunch of an existing brand no less. Excellent stuff.

CREDITS

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

Prophet Earth War 2 (March 2016)

Prophet: Earth War #2

What is this comic? It’s definitely a Prophet comic. It reminds of when Graham and Roy would follow up some great issue with an inexplicable, but also great, fill-in. Only this issue of Earth War isn’t great. It’s all around pedestrian, which is a painful thing to say but… less painful than the comic (at least in the context of Prophet overall).

The story is simple. There’s one of the bad guy John Prophets who decides to kill all the Earth Mothers. So he does. There’s a little more to it, but not much. The issue is a series of fight scenes with minimal exposition and even less character. Nothing interesting about the setting. The backup tries to compensate for the feature’s lack of exploration, but it’s too little, too late.

Eventually, the one really bad ass Earth Mother comes to Earth to fight the bad John Prophet, who was multiple arms and looks more like a Rob Liefeld creation than anything in the comic, which is a Liefeld creation, has to date. I’m using “Liefeld creation” as a pejorative (hopefully the tone made it clear).

Now for the even more unpleasant part. Ron Ackins’s art. It appears painted (but I don’t think it is actually painted) and it’s a bad fit for Prophet. Earth War sort of feels like Prophet Lite and the lack of detail in the art enables that negative sentiment. There’s a dullness when Prophet needs to be sharp.

The aforementioned backup, with art from Aaron Conley and a script by Shannon Lentz, is at least an attempt at a Prophet tale. It’s detailed, it’s got intricate exposition, it’s gross. But it’s also not enough.

Earth War feels lost.

CREDITS

Writers, Brandon Graham and Simon Roy; artists, Ron Ackins; colorists, Paul Davey and Ackins; letterer, Ed Brisson. Back up story, The Shape of Tools to Come; writer, Shannon Lentz; artist, Aaron Conley; colorist, Joseph Bergin II. Publisher, Image Comics.

Kennel Block Blues 2 (March 2016)

Kennel Block Blues #2

Kennel Block Blues has that predictable Ferrier drop in quality the second issue. I’m fine with it. What’s weird–and I was expecting Ferrier to have a drop because he’s stretched three issues worth of story to four issues before–is how well Blues contains the explosion. The story this issue–involving a terribly planned prison break (I mean, one really has to question the intelligence of this dogs)–rearranges the characters. It doesn’t develop them, it moves them to different places in the narrative. Actually, it’s weirder than I thought….

Well, in rearranging the characters’ conflicts, it acts more as a postscript to the first issue than it’s own part of a whole. It’s a treading water issue, only really, really fast treading. Ferrier has a lot to get through. He and Bayliss don’t just have the prison break to stretch out, they also have the way they introduce the plan. It’s awesome visual pacing from Bayliss. It’s not particularly effective because there’s no content, but the art’s great.

So, even though it’s not a great comic, it’s a well-produced mediocre one. Ferrier hasn’t found the right editor. Or I’ll be wrong and the next issue of Blues won’t recover; I think it will though.

CREDITS

Writer, Ryan Ferrier; artist, Daniel Bayliss; colorist, Adam Metcalfe; letterer, Colin Bell; editors, Mary Gumport and Eric Harburn; publisher, Image Comics.

The Baker Street Peculiars 1 (March 2016)

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The Baker Street Peculiars is pure delight. Of course it is. Baker Street is Roger Langridge finding a wonderful collaborator in artist Andy Hirsch. Both creators have separate enthusiasms for the comic, in addition to where their enthusiasms coincide. The setting, for example, is a place where Langridge and Hirsch both find ways to get excited about their respective contributions. Langridge has all sorts of narrative and dialogue flourishes, while Hirsch has them on the art. The book has a fantastic energy.

Langridge opens in the middle of a chase sequence, bringing the three leads together. They’re an ideally mismatched bunch–shop-keeper’s granddaughter, rich kid, Bengali street urchin–who are each adventurers, but almost in a non-fantastical “kid’s adventure” sort of way. Their team-up leads them into a truly great adventure. Though, as Langridge and Hirsch have fun showing, any adventuring in 1930s London is going to be pretty awesome.

Of course, I’m not talking about everything with the book because I’m not sure where it’s going to go next issue. If the big twist–which is beautifully handled–is resolved next issue, I’ll spoil. Otherwise, I’m waiting until the finish. Needless to say, Langridge does wonders with the expectations he and Hirsch build throughout the comic to deal with the twist. It’s expertly done.

CREDITS

The Case of the Cockney Golem, Chapter One: A Beast in Baker Street; writer, Roger Langridge; artist and letterer, Andy Hirsch; colorist, Fred Stressing; editors, Cameron Chittock and Sierra Hahn; publisher, KaBOOM!

Swamp Thing 1 (March 2016)

Swamp Thing #1

Len Wein. Creator, with Bernie Wrightson, of Swamp Thing in the seventies. Len Wein. Editor of various other Swamp Thing projects in the eighties. Relaunching the book forty-four years later. Wow, right?

He writes Swamp Thing as a pro-wrestler. A bad, eighties pro-wrestler who talks trash and sells beef jerky. It’s startling. Because the rest of the comic isn’t a gag, it’s a very straightforward–if bright–callback to the mainstream chiller comics of the seventies. Only with Kelley Jones art and out of sync Kelley Jones art. Jones has done Swamp Thing before, to great effect (I think), but… here? No. The colors are wrong, but no. Still no. Jones and Wein are out of sync.

The comic isn’t what I was expecting. I was expecting much better, not Swampy talking trash to an alligator named Albert, not cruddy narration, not too cheap exploitative cliffhangers. Swamp Thing is dumb.

Plus, Wein’s got very limited imagination for what he can do in the book. Swamp Thing on a case. Who cares?

It’s a complete and utter misfire, which is simultaneously comforting and distressing.

CREDITS

The Dead Don’t Sleep; writer, Len Wein; artist, Kelley Jones; colorist, Michelle Madsen; letterer, Rob Leigh; editor, Rebecca Taylor; publisher, DC Comics.

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