A Train Called Love 8 (May 2016)

A Train Called Love #8

Train Called Love is approaching the finish, which might be why Ennis takes something of a breather here. Following the transportation analogy, this issue is mostly talking heads. Characters are summing up, thinking through their decisions, having introspective moments. The comic–I almost called it “the film,” following through on my suspicions it’s Ennis’s attempt at writing outside comics returned to comics–the comic is gearing up, but also winding down. It’s a bridging issue in a series where bridging means character work. Ennis loves this character work.

There’s a lot of humor, of course. Ennis also loves the absurdist humor. Maybe even moreso than usual because Train takes place in the “real” world. Dos Santos’s cartoon-influenced style just highlights the desperate reality of it all.

I do wish I better remembered the characters’ names. Maybe in a single sitting, they’ll stick through. But regardless of them having memorable names, there are some great moments for these characters. Marv’s suffering lady friend, for example. Ennis gives her so much quiet sadness, punctuated by so much ugliness in the world around her. Ennis is daring the reader to hope for the characters. It’s always a dare in this kind of comic.

It’s a mellow issue. There’s no flash, just deliberate writing, deliberate art.

CREDITS

All the Burning Bridges That Have Fallen After Me; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Marc Dos Santos; colorist, Salvatore Aiala Studios; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Anthony Marques, Rachel Pinnelas and Matt Idelson; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Cinema Purgatorio 2 (May 2016)

Cinema Purgatorio #2

With the exception of Moore and O’Neill’s lead story, this issue of Cinema Purgatorio is shockingly rough. Even Ennis seems to be phoning in his story, which has paramedic Pru meeting up with Frankenstein’s Monster (called Francis) as the NYPD roughs him up. Ennis only has a few pages so he emphasizes the action, which one wishes the other writers in the issue would do as well.

First, the Moore story. I love how Cinema Purgatorio is a comic about how movies suck life away written by Alan Moore, who’s never been particularly interested in turning comics into movies. This issue is a philosophical musing from a couple Romans turned into an existential nightmare. O’Neill has a good time with it. Moore is comfortable with it. It’s a fine open to a problematic comic.

Then it’s Code Pru. Ennis doesn’t put in enough work on the NYPD brutality, but he still has it overshadow the monster aspect of the comic. It feels like he’s doing this one as a favor, it really does. It’s got a lot of Ennis ideas without space to go anywhere. The Caceres art is fine. Again, it’s rushed; Caceres would probably do better with twice as many pages. Ennis would probably need three times as many for all the notions he has going on.

The rest of the book is a writing disaster. The art is all solid, but the writing is a mess.

Gillen’s gamer thing is a bunch of jargon. Calero’s art is technically good, but he doesn’t have any narrative pacing to it. It’s a whirlwind of visuals and dumb dialogue.

Brooks and DiPascale’s Civil War thing is terrible. Clearly Brooks wants to write some kind of Civil War epic so doing it in a comics anthology probably isn’t the right place. It’s all talking. Two installments in and it’s all talking. When you’ve only got eight pages, it’s not enough. DiPascale’s art is okay. It’s the least impressive in a lot of ways, maybe because it so clearly doesn’t look right in black and white.

Then there’s Gage and Andrade’s incredibly boring Pacific Rim knock-off. Only without the monster fights. Instead, there’s a lot of talking about monster fights. Andrade’s art is fantastic but it’s a complete waste of his time. There’s nothing for him to draw.

Cinema Purgatorio having a significant sophomore slump wasn’t something I would’ve expected. Hopefully it turns around. Or Moore and Avatar find writers who know how to write stories in six or eight page installments.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, And Lost in the Darkness and Distance; 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. Publisher, Avatar Press.

Providence 9 (May 2016)

Providence #9

This issue of Providence manages to be the most quintessential of the series, if such a thing can happen in a twelve issue series, while also being the least horrifying. After briefly introducing H.P. Lovecraft previously, Moore now sets Lovecraft and protagonist Robert Black on a long walk through Providence together and there’s this uncanny sense of alter egos.

Black has seen all these things but his mind cannot bring itself to comprehend them. Lovecraft can imagine all these things but cannot see them. Black’s commonplace book journaling just confirms it–Lovecraft can’t see what’s all around him. It’s very strange, as the reader, to comprehend more than the protagonist and the fictionalized creator of the subject. The journaling also talks a bit about the power of words; the issue leaves one wondering what kind of comment Moore is in the process of making on Lovecraft. There’s simultaneously admiration for his imagination and dismissal of his closed-mindedness.

Of course, Lovecraft and Black can’t see the ultraviolet monsters swimming through the air in Providence, which would probably help them open those minds.

It’s a very talky issue. Burrows has peculiar framing for the scenes–the traditional Providence first person from Black’s perspective, but also some very strange stagings of characters. The strangeness of poses is far more unsettling than the “monsters,” which calls back to previous issues, and further gives this issue that quintessential feel. Only the exposition isn’t for Black, it’s for the reader. It ought to be for Black, it ought to be for Lovecraft even, but it’s for us. We’re more in on Moore’s imagination than his characters. No pun intended, I assure you.

Moore demands active mental participation. If characters move in between comic panels (I think Dave Gibbons made that observation), Providence develops between the issues. The commonplace book back matter controls the reader’s consumption of the main story, so even if you’re bulk reading, Moore’s able to slow you down.

It’s breathtaking.

CREDITS

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

Letter 44 25 (May 2016)

Letter 44 #25

I think I just read my last issue of Letter 44, at least as a monthly. I’m not one hundred percent, but I’m a lot closer than I’ve been. Because this issue is where Soule shows just how good he is at dragging it all out. He’s really good at the pacing, bringing in just about everyone for this issue. There’s scene after scene with the Builders, the astronauts, the President, the reporter from a few issues ago. Then there’s this really manipulative cliffhanger and I just don’t care.

There needs to be a point to all the manipulation and there’s not. At least if Soule stuck with the Christian allegory stuff, he’d be doing something. Instead, he’s treading water. Lots of scenes, lots of exposition, a couple big pointless scenes (like the first one in the comic). If he can’t even work up enthusiasm for the story, why read it?

Letter 44 has always had one big disconnect–Soule’s a much better writer than Alburquerque is an artist. The book is all Soule. It’s a Soule-ful book, one might say.

Wokka wokka.

It’s not like Alburquerque swoops in and ups the art game to save it. The book’s wandered around too much, the characters are all jerks, who cares if the world blows up; at least they’d stop being jerks.

CREDITS

Writer, Charles Soule; artist, Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque; colorist, Dan Jackson; letterer, Crank!; editor, Robin Herrera; publisher, Oni Press.

Kaijumax: Season Two 1 (May 2016)

Kaijumax: Season Two #1

Because if there’s one thing Kaijumax needs to be, it’s more depressing. Only this time it’s not prison depressing, it’s out of prison depressing. And Zander Cannon is exploring what it’s like to be a monster on the outside.

This issue has three storylines. First, the Kaijumax escapees holing up with a known associate who’s on parole. Cannon’s got a wonderful amount of detail for these scenes, how a giant monster goes about his or her daily life. Very sad stuff. Apparently Season Two of Kaijumax is going to address the bigotry against giant monsters, which seems slightly problematic. The regular people in Kaijumax are problematically portrayed in general, but in Season Two they’re basically all complete asshats. They abuse the paroled monsters, relishing in humiliating them. Like I said, not a happy book.

Then there’s the giant monster fighting robot whose brother is on Kaijumax and she’s writing him a letter about her human pilot. Cannon tries to do a whole lot as far as introducing new elements (life on the outside, life as a regular kaiju hunter, man or machine) and it’s not always successful. The art helps with a lot, but Cannon’s relying a lot on phrase references to Godzilla movies and so on. It’s just a lot, with characters blathering just to blather and to drop a Godzilla: Final Wars reference.

And that reference is fun and cool, it just doesn’t do anything for the book.

The third storyline is the disgraced prison guard. He has a decent enough scene, not too expository even though someone’s trying to tell him about life, but it doesn’t resonate. Nothing resonates yet. It’s all just histrionics and great art.

CREDITS

Same Ambergris, Different Day; writer, artist and letterer, Zander Cannon; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

Manifest Destiny 19 (May 2016)

Manifest destiny #19

It’s good to have Manifest Destiny back, even if it’s a bit of a messy issue.

Two things are immediately different this issue–a story arc subtitle (Sasquatch) and a flashback to a previously troubled expedition into the wilds of North America. Dingess and Roberts do some solid juxtaposing between expeditions, but it’s strange to come back to the book and for Lewis and Clark to have so little to do.

Let’s not even get into Sacagawea’s utter lack of anything to do, once again. And the other female character has disappeared, because with the story arc subtitle, Dingess is all about setting up the eventual Sasquatch. Just like he once set up Sacagawea. It’d be hilarious if the Sasquatch has almost nothing to do.

Roberts, inked by Tony Akins and Stefano Gaudiano, does have some excellent visuals and the book’s pace is fine. It’s just a bit messy. Not opening with the regular cast might work fine in the eventual trade, but in a single issue, it doesn’t work. I even spent the first half of the comic wondering if Lewis and Clark had died off page since the last story arc, which doesn’t seem historically possible but there’s not a timeline to explain the comic opens in a flashback.

Maybe I just don’t care about Manifest Destiny doing a Sasquatch story line. Dingess does have a way of accelerating to a good place. Hopefully this arc is just warming up.

CREDITS

Sasquatch, Part One; 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 4 (May 2016)

Prophet Earth War #4

This issue of Prophet Earth War isn’t the best of the series so far but it’s far from the worst. The front half, which summarizes various warring elements, slogs along a little. But there’s great art from Giannis Milonogiannis, Simon Roy and Grim Wilkins, who manages to make Earth War feel more like Prophet than ever before. Yes, the titular Earth War is incredibly lame so far, but at least the art matches Graham and Roy’s tone for the issue.

Where the issue takes off is in the second half and not just because there’s the romance between Diehard and Rein, because it doesn’t figure into this issue at all. But it is because there’s some humor to the characters, some gentleness, a whole lot of personality. It’s not just the characters, it’s the pacing.

Graham and Roy give their characters a solvable, difficult problem and they have to solve it. There’s a bunch of danger and some humor. There’s a self-awareness to the writing, an enjoyment of the moment. Prophet is at its best when Graham wants to see something expertly visualized. It’s not about being wowed by scenery, it’s about being wowed by how things exist and interact with that scenery.

Really impressive art from Ian Macewan on this issue’s backup. It’s another part of some future thing with a heist and a lot of bland characters. Witzke’s script is fine for a backup, but there’s nothing compelling. Except Macewan’s good art.

CREDITS

Writers, Brandon Graham and Simon Roy; artists, Giannis Milonogiannis, Roy and Grim Wilkins; colorists, Joseph Bergin III and Lin Visel; letterer, Ariana Maher. Back up story, The Azimuth Job; writer, Sean Witzke; artist, Ian Macewan; colorist, Sloane Leong. Publisher, Image Comics.

Kennel Block Blues 4 (May 2016)

Kennel Block Blues #4

Ferrier tries really hard to get this issue to the finish. It doesn’t really happen. Oh, he and Bayliss get there, but there’s nowhere for them to be. The characters never resonate; definitely not the protagonists, who have almost no chemistry. Ferrier takes it out on an even bigger downer note.

This issue has a musical number and a prison riot. Now, Kennel Block Blues has never shown the human “guards” past some demonic hands. Only they’re people. There is some semblance of functioning reality to the book, as much as Ferrier tries to avoid it, he does need it. Because if there’s not a functioning reality, who cares if these dogs get loose.

Maybe the first half of the issue is solid. Bayliss’s art is good throughout, but Ferrier’s only got story for the first half. Once there’s the prison break, he loses track.

It’s a bumpy book, with great art and not bad zeitgeist gimmickry; Ferrier can’t bring it together for the finale.

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 3 (May 2016)

The Baker Street Peculiars #3

It’s more a cute issue than anything else, which is kind of strange. But it’s Langridge reinforcing the relationship between the kids when he ought to be doing more with them and the plot. Instead, he locks them up for most of the issue until they argue out all their problems. It’s not a talking heads book, but all the tension is their relationship dynamics not their actual danger. It’s weird.

And it’s fine. Langridge does a fine job with it. It’s weird, yes, it feels like meandering, but it’s still well written. He does make the characters more likable, make their relationships stronger. He just doesn’t get anything done while he’s doing it. Peculiars loses a layer.

Good art from Hirsch. He gets to imply a lot more than he gets to actually render for most of the issue. When he does finally cut loose, there’s some glorious golem-ized statues terrorizing London.

Peculiars is a fine comic. It just doesn’t seem to be living up to my expectations of its potential.

CREDITS

The Case of the Cockney Golem, Chapter Three: The Old, Hard Cell; writer, Roger Langridge; artist and letterer, Andy Hirsch; colorist, Fred Stressing; editors, Cameron Chittock and Sierra Hahn; publisher, KaBOOM!

Hot Damn 2 (May 2016)

Hot Damn #2

I’m still undecided on Hot Damn, which I wasn’t expecting. I was expecting to jump off with this issue–something about Ferrier’s writing style for this comic, he’s trying too hard to be flashy. He knows Ramon can really do up the Heaven and Hell scenery and Ferrier pushes it. There is actual nuance to some of the characters, Ferrier just doesn’t want to get caught up.

He wants to be sensational. He wants to do something blasphemous. He fails. Even with Ramon’s art, Hot Damn is just desperate for attention. I’m not even sure what zeitgeist it’s chasing, because Ferrier has original material and then he has tropes he goes through. Maybe it’s something with IDW editorial. Hot Damn is creator-owned but does have an editor.

So I guess I’m on for another issue. There’s some good stuff in the issue, some amusing moments, some very amusing sight gags from Ramon. There’s also a lot of lame stuff in the issue, lame moments, lame sight gags from Ramon. I’m far more curious to see if Ferrier gets anywhere, even somewhere tepid, with Hot Damn than I am to see how the narrative goes. While narrative’s barely passable, the execution’s bewildering.

CREDITS

Writer, Ryan Ferrier; artist, Valentin Ramon; editor, David Hedgecock; publisher, IDW Publishing.

HOT DDDDDDD

Johnny Red 6 (May 2016)

Johnny Red #6

How long is Ennis going to keep Johnny Red going? I assumed it was six issues, but it seems much more like eight at this point.

There’s no moss on this one, no wasted panels. Ennis and Burns have a lot to do. They have a sensational cliffhanger to resolve and then explain. The explanation sequence–the secret policeman laying it all out for Johnny Red and his squadron–is excellent. It’s a lot of history (is it?) and Ennis keeps it lively with some reaction moments for the supporting cast, but, really, he’s giving Burns a lecture to illustrate engagingly.

And Burns succeeds. Just like Burns succeeds later on with the big action sequence. The squadron, reunited with Johnny, trapped behind enemy lines, feels removed from everything around them. They’re in a bubble, which occasionally makes the issue seems a little disconnected, but Ennis has to get through this material. It’s one part of the series’s pay-off (and coming before the final issue is a nice surprise).

I’m hopeful Ennis will land Johnny Red successfully, whenever he gets around to it, issue seven, eight, or twelve. But I’m not worried at all about Burns. Again, on the ground, he manages to impress more than he ever did in the air.

CREDITS

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

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