War Stories 13 (September 2015)

War Stories #13

Garth Ennis is on it for War Stories this arc. It’s Ennis doing American soldiers in World War II; if there’s a war movie genre standard, it’s the World War II setting, from the American perspective. At least as far as English language World War II movies go.

But I don’t think Ennis has ever done one of these stories. At least not one about American fliers–it’s almost like Ennis is doing populist. He’s doing accessible. There might even be a reference to Pearl Harbor assuming the reader is familiar with it due to the movie. Strange coming from Ennis, strange on War Stories.

It’s really good. Ennis does accessible really well. Ennis trying to invite new readers instead of put them off? He doesn’t do it often, frankly. So seeing him be so welcoming is strange. But excellent. Ennis might not have the enthusiasm for the subject–that searching exploration he sometimes does with War Stories–but he does have enthusiasm for his skills and his narrative authority. He likes being able to tell a good war story. As he should.

As for the art. Tomas Aira gets away with a bit because the setting–fliers doing attack runs from Iwo Jima to Tokyo–is so striking. He doesn’t do well with the faces, which just shows the skillfulness of Ennis’s dialogue, because the talking heads scenes in the issue are phenomenal.

It’s so good. Even though War Stories has its missteps, Ennis needs to have this outlet as a creator. The comic book medium needs him to have this outlet.


Tokyo Club, Part One: Yardbirds; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Providence 5 (September 2015)

Providence #5

This issue of Providence has the creepiest experience for protagonist Robert Black yet–and he still isn’t getting his precarious situations. Moore brings in some other Lovecraftian elements I recognize–a toxic meteor and a peculiar fellow working in a university’s medical department–and I imagine the big twist for Robert Black, dream sequence or not, is out of a Lovecraft story.

At five issues, however, Moore and Burrows have successfully reached a point where the homage is tertiary. Black’s story, how Moore is positioning the comic as both a comic and a literary work–I think the back matter this issue takes longer to read than the front matter–those elements are what makes Providence such significant work. The Lovecraft stuff is the questionably necessary MacGuffin.

Providence is a mystery, but one where the protagonist is blissfully unaware (even after this issue) of the dangerous situations his ignorance lands him in. It gives Moore the chance to be funny while still preparing the reader to be terrified.

The contrast between the scenes as realized by Burrows and how Moore presents them in the protagonist’s diary is, as always, wonderful and disquieting. The scariest part this issue comes in the prose back matter. I’m not sure if Moore and Burrows are lulling me or not, but the idea of first person fear over third person is an engaging one.


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

From Under Mountains 1 (September 2015)

From Under Mountains #1

I like Sloane Leong’s art. I really do. She’s got a great way of doing movement, whether characters or environmental. And her expressions are fantastic.

But I’m not sure about From Under Mountains. It’s fantasy, or at least full of fantasy gobbledygook names–the comic comes to life when it’s actual fantasy, something about a maleficent spirit (gorgeous movement from Leong on those parts)–but the rest of it is boring.

The protagonist is a princess who has no rights, no power. Her brother gets to do all these exciting things, she just has to get married off. Her dad’s a jerk. Her brother’s sympathetic but he’s deceiving the father too for something else so he doesn’t get involved. And besides the spirit, there are enemies attacking their palace.

The “story” is okay. It’s Claire Gibson’s script. It’s way too obvious, all of the time. Leong’s art helps Mountains get through, but there’s just nothing there. It’s too slight.


Writers, Marian Churchland and Claire Gibson; artist, Sloane Leong; letterer, Ariana Maher; publisher, Image Comics.

The Spire 3 (September 2015)

The Spire #3

The Spire continues to impress, though this issue shows the first time Spurrier lets the size of the comic get ahead of him. The lead, Shå, shows up on the fourth page or so–some beautiful double page spreads from Stokley here–but she’s just leading the reader through procedural stuff. Stokley’s composition is so strong, it overpowers the character stuff with she and her royal girlfriend bickering. The Spire is a big book, big story.

For the last third of the book, after some political stuff–the non-humans coming and pledging their loyalty to the humans–is all Shå’s, which is good, because Spurrier gets the balance right here between moving the plot forward and letting the comic have a protagonist.

The comic succeeds not just because Spurrier can eventually pull it around, but because he and Stokely work so well together. Stokely’s art makes some of the longer expository scenes visually dynamic enough to move. It’s a good comic, it just meanders a bit as Spurrier tries to define the boundaries of the setting.


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

Invisible Republic 6 (September 2015)

Invisible Republic #6

There’s some very good stuff this issue. Not all of it, but some of it. Bechko and Hardman have get a couple good surprises in—the most impressive aspect of Invisible Republic (so far) is how thoughtful and controlled their narrative moves. It almost reads like an adaptation of something else—a novel—thanks to that thoughtfulness. There’s a depth to the comic, even though some of it seems standard.

For example, this issue is mostly talking heads. It’s Maia in the journal flashback doing talking heads, it’s the reporters in the present doing talking heads. Neither element is particularly interesting (save the two or three reveals the writers get in) but Hardman’s art is strong enough it doesn’t matter much. He creates a perfectly reasonable sci-fi setting for these events, which would read (in summary) like twentieth century European political history otherwise.

The one big problem with the comic is the disconnect between Hardman’s style and the present day reporter protagonist. The guy is too lame and Hardman draws him too clean. The reporter, Babb, is a punchline, yet Hardman doesn’t have that kind of humor in his art.

It’s a solid, gorgeous book.


Writers, Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko; artist, Hardman; colorist, Jordan Boyd; editor, Brenda Scott Royce; publisher, Image Comics.

Island 3 (September 2015)

Island #3

This Island, after opening on José Domingo’s quirky, fantastical, intricate look at an island, ends with the most depressing thing possible. After almost eighty pages of fantasy, Kate Craig’s story of a stranded hikers brings the comic–and the reader–back to reality. A depressing reality.

Overall, most of the stories this issue are undercooked. Malachi Ward and Matt Sheean have slightly future story where everyone’s linked into “the Service;” it’s too bad they didn’t just brand it as a certain fruit-named company. (Or do whatever Bill Amend did in “Fox Trot”). They spend too much time on exposition for what’s actually a simple concept. The narrative meanders–the protagonist, cut off from the instant, useless knowledge of the Internet, finds himself in an ominous situation. It’s all right, but clearly in need of an editor.

Dilraj Mann does this punk thing, one character leading to another character, leading to another character. Looping around. It makes you want to either read Love and Rockets or just look at Love and Rockets covers, because Mann’s art isn’t there and his storytelling isn’t either.

Amy Clare’s art is problematic for a comic–there’s a certain flatness to it and she doesn’t scale it well–but it’s good. Her writing is intentionally obtuse; she wants to make the reader work at getting into her story about a female enforcer in a vague dystopian future, only she takes really obvious shortcuts to exposition. The protagonist, after a year of slipping under the customs radar, gets busted for the story. I think. Like I said, Clare makes the reader work at it.

Tessa Black does an H.R. Giger thing. It may read entirely different to others, but if you’ve seen Species, it’s an H.R. Giger thing.

So it’s definitely a mixed bag this issue of Island but what’s impressive is how worthwhile, even with the unevenness, the comic remains.


Contributors, José Domingo, Malachi Ward, Matt Sheean, Dilraj Mann, Amy Clare, Tessa Black and Kate Craig; publisher, Image Comics.

The Auteur: Sister Bambi 4 (September 2015)

The Auteur: Sister Bambi #4

I enjoyed this issue of Sister Bambi. The soft cliffhanger, especially considering the comic opens with a comedic bookend, is annoying but in a pointless kind of way. Spears is still chasing something with the series, even though once you bring in zombie triceratops, you’ve sort of given up.

Spears is no longer bothering trying to find absurd humor in Hollywood movie-making. He’s barely trying to find humor. He’s certainly not sensationalizing the reader anymore. Instead, he’s just running amuck on Bambi, which is fine, because it gives Callahan stuff to do. Unfortunately, even though the book’s best as an example of Callahan’s skill and inventiveness, the script forces Callahan to be too inventive. Spears doesn’t give him enough room for all the lunacy. So there are these battles between the serial killer guy and the zombie lions, tigers, and bears, and Callahan has to do them in these little panels. They’re great little panels. But I’ll bet he’d have done better not illustrating them on postage stamp scale.

Let’s see if I missed anything–some lame one-liners, lots of crazy action, a too obvious subplot–nope, I got it all. Sister Bambi has gotten to the point I don’t remember much between issues, which is good; I’d also remember when the series was a lot better.


Live in the Moment; writer and letterer, Rick Spears; artist, James Callahan; colorist, Luigi Anderson; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

Manifest Destiny 17 (September 2015)

Manifest Destiny #17

It’s almost as though Dingess is refusing to do a full story in the issue. The Sacagawea subplot, which takes up a scene–with flashback–is more complete than the main plot of the issue, with the landing party waiting to see if the blue bird person and one of the humans can make beat the monster. It’s a talking heads book, just with everyone talking about what the reader gets to see for him or herself when Dingess takes the action to the bird person and the human.

Manifest Destiny is not a story with a strong supporting cast. Dingess rarely deals with the supporting cast, which is enormous. And they aren’t particularly distinctive. Even though Roberts goes out of his way to make some visually distinctive… there are like five or six memorable people here, no more. So a talking heads book with random people talking.

The hard cliffhanger will undoubtedly get resolved quickly next issue and that issue will then have its own weak, hard cliffhanger. Dingess doesn’t let the reader enjoy the book, which is unfortunate. He’s too manipulative when he doesn’t need to be. It almost feels desperate that this point.


Writer, Chris Dingess; penciller, Matthew Roberts; inkers, Stefano Gaudiano and Tony Akins; colorist, Owen Gieni; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editor, Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

The Fiction 4 (September 2015)

I don’t understand The Fiction. I don’t understand what Pires is going for. This final issue, which is so movie-ready the black guy realizes he’s the third wheel in a meta-moment, dumbs down the story. It’s like Pires wanted to make The Unwritten simpler. This issue I also noticed the numerous similarities to Stephen King’s It.

But what Pires doesn’t seem to get is how mismatched Rubín is for that approach to the material. Rubín can’t do craven commercialism, which is what Pires asks this issue. The result is a funny looking comic with no visual rhythm. It doesn’t help there are four or five endings, starting about five pages into the issue.

In all The Fiction has been a disappointment. But Pires is getting better. I don’t think I finished his last book for BOOM!. Will his next series be better? Probably. I mean, he doesn’t threaten another series of The Fiction, which is a good start.


Neverending or Until We Can’t (Let’s Go); writer, Curt Pires; artist, David Rubín; colorist, Michael Garland; letterer, Colin Bell; editors, Jasmine Amiri and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

8house 3 (September 2015)

8house #3

Should it go without saying 8house is a little weird? Is there some expectation of weirdness just from the title itself; Brandon Graham’s involvement alone probably should account for some of that weirdness.

This issue starts a new story, Kiem. The protagonist is a soldier on a desolate planet where the soldiers do a mind-transfer into a organic-mechanical (presumably… it is Graham, after all) mech and they battle. Only Kiem has a different mission.

Graham gets co-writer credit; Xurxo G. Penalta also does the art. The art’s real good. Penalta gets lost in panels, which encourages the reader to do the same.

Most of the issue is a big lead-in to the “twist” and it’s not the most original sci-fi as far as the narrative details. Penalta’s rendering of this planet is the draw, along with he and Graham putting solid thought into the characters. But comic ends with Kiem sort of soft-booting itself for the next one; hopefully Penalta and Graham’s story has some connections to the details in the first half of this issue, otherwise why read it.

Except the gorgeous art, of course.


Kiem, Part One; writers, Brandon Graham and Xurxo G. Penalta; artist, Penalta; publisher, Image Comics.

Minimum Wage: So Many Bad Decisions 5 (September 2015)

Minimum Wage: So Many Bad Decisions #5

What the heck is Rob doing? I mean, Minimum Wage has become the most gripping comics narrative I’m reading. More than anything else, I want to know what happens next because I care about Rob. Reading Wage is caring about Rob; liking Rob (most of the time), because it feels like Rob’s Fingerman and you like them both.

And Fingerman puts Rob in an unexpected situation. An unexpected, incredibly dangerous situation. I can’t even imagine how it must read for people familiar with the first series of Minimum Wage–and I’m now upset I didn’t go and read that series in between the previous revival series and So Many Bad Decisions.

Fingerman takes the Bad Decisions to an epic (for Wage) level this issue. It’s crazy and awesome. And, after I was dreading the series only running four issues, I know it isn’t going to run past six. So Fingerman’s got one left, then whatever kind of break.

He sets it up beautifully.


Writer and artist, Bob Fingerman; publisher, Image Comics.

Lazarus 19 (September 2015)

Lazarus #19

It’s so good. Do I always start a Lazarus response with that statement? “It’s so good.” Like every time I read the comic, I’m surprised by how good Rucka and Lark do on the comic. It’s always a surprise too. Rucka hits a new ceiling. He integrates Lark and his abilities in an entirely predictable but entirely unexpected way. It’s great stuff.

Lark’s art is real strong this issue overall. He’s got really varied storylines going on, each needing distinct, immediate visuals. Lark finds a tone for each. What’s really cool–and something Rucka did carefully–was get someone likable into every storyline. Or someone comically unlikable (the evil, incestuous sister). It brings a soap opera element into it. And then Lark and Rucka deliver an action sequence.

Lazarus, very, very discreetly, mixes genres. And Rucka does it really well. It might be why the first arc didn’t connect–it was setting up the situation to allow Rucka all the freedom. The painful exposition about the dystopian future, for example, set up the second storyline, which is where Lazarus started to get good. And now it’s one of my favorite comics.

Awesome last sequence too; just awesome.


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

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