Secret Origins Special (1989)

Secret Origins Special

I always forget how much Neil Gaiman threw himself into the DC Universe when he’d write in it. This Secret Origins Special is all about Batman’s villains; a TV investigative journalist has come to Gotham to do a special. Gaiman seems to enjoy writing those scenes–the ones with the behind the scenes, the Batman cameo, the anecdotes about living in Gotham City and the DC Universe in general. He doesn’t do well with the characters though, not the TV reporter and his crew. These framing scenes have art by Mike Hoffman and Kevin Nowlan. They do better at the start than they do the finish. By the finish, they’re getting tired and the detail from the opening isn’t there anymore.

Alan Grant writes the Penguin’s origin story, which isn’t a straight origin. There’s something modern to all of the Secret Origins here. Penguin’s grabbed a childhood nemesis–who just happened to grow up to be a gangster too–and Batman’s trying to find the guy while the Penguin’s torturing him. It’s an okay script, not great, but the Sam Kieth artwork is gorgeous. Kieth does action, he does Batman, he does Penguin, he does gangsters–he does kids. The best part of it is the tenderness Kieth shows when he’s doing the kids. I always forget Kieth really does know what he’s doing.

A self-reflected Riddler. Art by Bernie Mireault and Matt Wagner.
A self-reflected Riddler. Art by Bernie Mireault and Matt Wagner.

Gaiman handles the Riddler’s origin, which ties in a lot to the framing plot. The TV crew goes to interview him. Bernie Mireault on pencils, Matt Wagner on inks. Gaiman’s enthusiastic but misguided. Lots of monologue from the Riddler, but never particularly interesting. The details about the giant objects used in Gotham’s advertising in the past is more interesting than the Riddler teasing the TV crew with the truth. The art’s solid though and gets it over the bumps.

Then there’s the Two-Face story. Mark Verheiden writing it, Pat Broderick and Dick Giordano on the art. Broderick’s pencils are full of energy and light on restraint. It’s a messy story and a fairly cool one, focusing on Grace Dent (Harvey’s wife) and her side of the story. Verheiden doesn’t write the TV crew well and Grace Dent’s a little too slight, but it’s a solid enough story. The art is brutally violent and full of anger. Everyone looks miserable and angry about it.

Harvey Two-Face and Batman graphically wail on each other. Art by Pat Broderick and Dick Giordano.
Harvey Two-Face and Batman graphically wail on each other. Art by Pat Broderick and Dick Giordano.

The issue would’ve been better with stronger art throughout from Hoffman and Nowlan and either more or less from Gaiman. The TV crew ceases to be characters after the introduction, like one of the stories came in a page or two short and Gaiman was padding it out. But the Penguin story is good, the Riddler story could be a lot worse and is technically strong, the Two-Face story is super-solid mainstream DC eighties stuff. It’s good stuff.

CREDITS

Writer, Neil Gaiman, Alan Grant and Mark Verheiden; pencillers, Mike Hoffman, Bernie Mireault and Pat Broderick; inkers, Kevin Nowlan, Matt Wagner and Dick Giordano; artist, Sam Kieth; colorists, Tom McCraw and Joe Matt; letterers, Todd Klein, Albert DeGuzman, Mireault and Agustin Mas; editor, Mark Waid; publisher, DC Comics.

Rocketeer Adventures 2 3 (May 2012)

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Did IDW run out of people to hire for Rocketeer Adventures? The Kyle Baker story, done a little like a serial episode, is great, but it’s Kyle Baker. He doesn’t just get how to do comic action, he can actually write Betty. And his Shadow cameo is rather fun too.

But besides Baker, this issue’s awful. Chris Sprouse’s art is good on the first story, if a little underwhelming. David Lapham scripts it; it’s a terrible script about Cliff and Betty realizing they don’t want to be a farm family. In short, Sprouse is drawing a lot of farm equipment. Not a good use of him.

Still, anything is better than the last story. Eric Canete’s style seems to be rushed, line heavy and animation influenced. Matt Wagner only writes narration–since it’s a “Jetsons” story–and Canete’s art complements it perfectly. Neither are good.

Baker aside, the issue’s crap.

CREDITS

“Coulda been…”; writer, David Lapham; penciller, Chris Sprouse; inker, Karl Story; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Shawn Lee. Butchy Saves Betty; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Kyle Baker. History Lesson; writer, Matt Wagner; artist, Eric Canete; colorists, Canete and Cassandra Poulson; letterer, Lee. Editor, Scott Dunbier; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Dark Horse Presents Fifth Anniversary Special (April 1991)

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This special is far from an accurate representation of Dark Horse Presents. Everything looks very professional.

The Aerialist and Heartbreakers installments are both long needed establishments of the series’ ground situation.

I even liked the Heartbreakers one (Bennett’s writing is far stronger from the clones’ perspective, versus their creator).

There’s also lots of disposable stuff–Concrete, The American and Black Cross are all weak, though Warner’s art is better on Cross than I’ve ever seen it. Chadwick and Verheiden use their stories to blather about American culture.

Of the two Miller’s–Give Me Liberty and Sin City–I almost prefer Sin City. Liberty‘s a little overbearing, though the Gibbons art is nice.

Prosser and Janson do a great adaptation of an Andrew Vachss. The Roachmill, Aliens and Aliens vs. Predator entries are all fantastic.

I’m a little peeved Bob the Alien is on the cover but not in the issue.

CREDITS

Give Me Liberty, Martha Washington’s War Diary: April 16, 2012; story by Frank Miller; art by Dave Gibbons. Concrete, Objects of Value; story and art by Paul Chadwick; lettering by Bill Spicer. Aliens; story by John Arcudi; art by Simon Bisley. The American; story by Mark Verheiden; pencils by Dougie Braithwaite; inks by Robert Campanella; lettering by Pat Brosseau. Roachmill; story and art by Rich Hedden and Tom McWeeney. Placebo; script by Jerry Prosser, based on a story by Andrew Vachss; art by Klaus Janson; lettering by Michael Heisler. Black Cross; story and art by Chris Warner; lettering by Jim Massara. The Aerialist, Part Three; story and art by Matt Wagner; lettering by Kurt Hathaway. Heartbreakers, The Prologue; story by Anina Bennet; art by Paul Guinan; lettering by Willie Schubert. Aliens vs. Predator; story by Randy Stradley; art by Phill Norwood; lettering by Brosseau. Sin City, Episode One; story and art by Frank Miller. Edited by Stradley.

Dark Horse Presents 45 (November 1990)

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While the letters page informs me Wagner’s Aerialist isn’t homophobic, but then I wonder why I haven’t seen any comics in Dark Horse Presents where a guy forces a woman to have sex to degrade her. Because the story ends with the boyfriend of the protagonist forcing himself on him (after the protagonist was off having a clandestine meeting with a beautiful woman). A great sociological mind, Wagner is not.

Crash Davis is a lot of fun, even though the Soviets are now backing the American sky pirates. Harris’s approach seems to be a thirties serial, only with some modern sensibilities. Harris also includes the workers’ plight.

I can’t believe John Byrne never pushed DC to sue over Spivey and Mielcarek’s entry. It’s Superman crapping on Lana because he’s with Lois, done in Man of Steel‘s style. Hard to say what’s worse–Spivey’s amateurish, fanfic writing or Mielcarek’s awful art.

CREDITS

The Aerialist, Part Two; story and art by Matt Wagner; lettering by Kevin Cunningham. Crash Ryan; story and art by Ron Harris. Pilgrim Souls; story by Jim Spivey; art by Vince Mielcarek; lettering by Steve Alexandrov. Edited by Randy Stradley.

Dark Horse Presents 40 (May 1990)

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You know, I think Matt Wagner’s Aerialist is homophobic. Every man is forced to be gay. Anyway, it’s not at all impressive, a Rollerball knockoff. When his characters aren’t in costume, Wagner’s art is rather weak. I guess the hot air balloons look good.

Bob the Alien is absolutely amazing as a) Bob moves to a black neighborhood in Brooklyn and b) discovers God. It might be the funniest installment so far. I can’t believe this comic isn’t more appreciated.

The Argosy is a really wordy retelling of Jason and the Argonauts. It’s fantasy, introduces about forty character names in eight pages. It’s a waste of time.

Randall continues his good art on this Trekker installment. Still bad writing–some really silly developments here.

The Wacky Squirrel story’s a waste of pages, but I guess Bradrick’s art is good.

Campbell’s Bacchus features the (presumably true) store of Dom Pérignon. Fantastic.

CREDITS

Trekker; story and art by Ron Randall; lettering by David Jackson. The Aerialist, Part One; story and art by Matt Wagner; lettering by Kevin Cunningham. Bob the Alien, Bob, the alien, Learns About God; story, art and lettering by Rich Rice. The Argosy; story and art by Bruce Zick; lettering by Karen Casey-Smith. Wacky Squirrel, Diet Riot; story by Mike Richardson and Jim Bradrick; art by Bradrick; lettering by Jack Pollock. Bacchus, Gods, Monks, & Corkscrews; story and art by Eddie Campbell. Edited by Randy Stradley and Diana Schutz.

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