Manifest Destiny 23 (September 2016)

Manifest Destiny #23

As a series, Manifest Destiny started up and slowly traveled down. Though sometimes it has charged downhill in terms of plotting quality. But Roberts’s art has always been a draw. It’s always been something the series can lean on when Dingess’s writing isn’t cutting it. Until now. Roberts is either in a rush or as bored with the story as I am. He hurries through and it looks bad. Not all of it, but enough of it.

The issue has the crazy flashback guy on a mission from the evil inter dimensional bird god thing. Lewis and Clark are meeting with a Native American tribe to figure out where they’re camping for the winter–I remember when this comic had the momentum of the expedition. It’s shocking how Dingess has let it flop on the deck.

For every solid moment in the Lewis and Clark story, and there are only a handful, there’s something even worse with the flashback guy. It feels like a bad Tales of the Black Freighter knock-off, both in terms of narration as it contrasts reality and the art design.

I don’t think I can do Manifest Destiny anymore.

CREDITS

Sasquatch, Part Five; 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.

Manifest Destiny 22 (August 2016)

Manifest Destiny #22

No way, Sacagawea gets something to do. Not a lot, but Dingess actually gives her something to do. Then he skips out on the leads of Manifest Destiny and heads into the past for the flashback. Lots and lots of flashback. The longer it goes on, the more fantastic Dingess is going to have to tie it into the present action. Something really lame with the journal from the flashback, perhaps. Though it makes no sense at this point how the guy could be journaling his adventures.

There’s some great art from Roberts and Tony Akins and Stefano Gaudiano because there’s always great art in Manifest Destiny. This issue doesn’t have much but great art. Well, it does have one surprise choice. I mean, there are a lot of “twists” this issue in the flashback, but it only has one surprise. Unfortunately, Dingess has used up any goodwill when it comes to expecting his cliffhanger moments to go somewhere good. Destiny is a plodding book these days.

The present action is extremely minimal. Lewis and Clark are interchangeable. Dingess has killed the pace of the comic. Yet it’s hard not for the book to compel on some level–Roberts doing this Corps of Discovery Expedition with monsters, it’s really a cool thing. There’s also some really uncool magical stuff.

Manifest Destiny desperately needs editors who can reign Dingess in, who can help break out a story, who can keep the book on track. Until then, I go into every issue expecting it to be my last.

CREDITS

Sasquatch, Part Four; 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.

Manifest Destiny 21 (July 2016)

Manifest Destiny #21

Has this arc always had the little year tags to toggle between the flashback and present action? Maybe it did, but I feel like it didn’t, because the transitions were confusing. They’re still confusing, what with the guy in the past having a journal and there’s supposed to be a journal in the present action from Lewis or Clark but Dingess has forgotten about it. But there’s an effort to be less confusing. The effort is nice. It’s a shame it’s still visually confusing; maybe it’s colorist Owen Gieni but the transition from flashback and back is still way too gentle.

That problem isn’t the big one with the arc–or the flashbacks–no, it’s Dingess’s writing. He’s so fixated on the story in the past, he’s ignoring the main characters of the comic book. There’s an infuriating moment this issue where Sacagawea basically offers to go kill all the attacking cyclops bigfoot monsters and she doesn’t get to go. Why? Because Dingess never, ever lets her loose, which is weird–as always–because Sacagawea the warrior was a promise of the first issue.

Then again, Dingess also promised Lewis and Clark would be characters. They’re irrelevant to the comic now. This whole story arc idea, which does package the comic a little better, is making Manifest Destiny irrelevant itself. Sure, Roberts’s art is awesome and the concept is still okay and Dingess does have his moments as a writer, but it’s not adding up to anything.

The issue ends with promise of revelation and thrills next time. Whoopie. They’re never do enough to make up for the book running on fumes.

CREDITS

Sasquatch, Part Three; 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.

Manifest Destiny 20 (June 2016)

Manifest Destiny #20

I had assumed Manifest Destiny doing a story arc titled Sasquatch meant creators Dingess and Roberts were going for more visibility and media attention, but this issue might prove me wrong. Because the Big Feet turn out to be Cyclopses. Cyclopses humans enjoy consuming. It’s so weird, it doesn’t feel commercially minded. So I apologize for that cynical view of this story arc’s ambitions.

However, it’s still not particularly good. Dingess splits between boring stuff in the present–we get it, the criminals on the Lewis and Clark expedition are going to revolt, all the time, as the comic’s only steady subplot–and boring stuff in the past. A Spanish explorer ghost tells the pre-Lewis and Clark explorer guy in the past to eat the Cyclops and to feed it to the rest of the men. Strong cannibalism taboo for Manifest Destiny, which Dingess is going to get the split narrative for the whole arc. And keeping it is a bad idea. Because it’s boring.

Manifest Destiny is a comic book with giant monsters roaming the countryside and it’s boring. It’s talky, but it’s not talky in any sort of interesting way. Dingess used to present the fantasy historical information in exposition. He doesn’t even bother with that information anymore. It’s still competent and Roberts’s art is still gorgeous but Sasquatch has the series stalled out.

CREDITS

Sasquatch, Part Two; 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.

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.

Manifest Destiny 18 (October 2015)

Manifest Destiny #18

Dingess takes Manifest Destiny somewhere new and unpleasant. Even though he’s dealt with the unpleasantness of the characters before, this issue–the last in the second “volume” of Destiny–forces the reader’s complicity in that unpleasantness. It’s well-done and should’ve been predictable (Roberts butchers the final page with an exclamation point) but isn’t really. The beginning of the issue’s distractingly strong.

One almost forgotten element of Destiny has been the imaginative wildlife Lewis and Clark find on their voyage. This issue reimagines the traditional vampire as some kind of decapitating, head-stealing flying monster. It’s a neat concept, not too gory in Roberts’s art but still striking. And it makes for a great action sequence.

The subsequent scenes in Destiny remind of Return of the Jedi as Lewis and Clark and company return to the bird people village; it’s why Dingess is able to get away with a big twist. He’s letting the reader enjoy the comic. It starts with a great action sequence, why not celebrate. It’s a trick and a good one.

But Dingess has raised a lot of questions in the comic (just not in this issue) and he doesn’t get any of them answered. They’re starting to get annoying. Otherwise though, it’s just about the best issue of Manifest Destiny yet.

CREDITS

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

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.

CREDITS

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

Manifest Destiny 16 (August 2016)

Manifest Destiny #16

Talk about not much of an issue… Dingess’s pacing never impresses on Manifest Destiny but I think he might have set a new record for himself.

The comic has five or six scenes–plus a flashback–and reads in just a few minutes. The most interesting part has to be the Sacagawea sequence, which has the flashback to her youth when she starts the warrior’s path (to fend off the white man), and just shows how wasted she’s been in the comic. It’s like Dingess has been saving her for something awesome from the second issue but it’s gotten to the point there’s no way there can be enough pay off.

Speaking of pay off, during the rest of the issue–which involves the blue bird people–Dingess hints the monsters might have come from another world to ours. Kind of boring, actually. The Americas being a mythic place of violent megafauna? Interesting. The Americas being invaded by monsters from another dimension? Cop out.

As always, it’s an amusing enough read and the art is spot on. Something about the content makes me not want to give up on Manifest Destiny having real potential but every issue convinces me I need to adjust my expectations.

CREDITS

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

Bloodshot 13 (July 2013)

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Swierczynski takes a peculiar approach to dealing with Bloodshot’s side of the final Harbinger Wars issue. He makes it as lame as humanly possible.

It’s actually not even Bloodshot’s issue, it’s his sidekick Kara’s issue and his sidekick Kara hasn’t had much presence during the crossover event. She’s his voice of reason, not much else. Babysitter for the kids too.

Speaking of the kids, after spending a couple issues establishing them, Swierczynski dumps them to instead focus on really bad dream sequences. They’re an afterthought to the issue. Valiant must have really wanted to do a crossover special, but by not doing it straightforward, these issues are weak.

The art’s also got problems. Kitson’s has three inkers (himself included) and each of them makes the finished art look different.

It’s a bad issue and left me wondering why anyone would ever want to read another one. It’s rough and pointless.

CREDITS

Living the Dream; writer, Duane Swierczynski; penciller, Barry Kitson; inkers, Stefano Gaudiano, Kitson and Mark Pennington; colorist, Brian Reber; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Jody LeHeup and Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.

Bloodshot 12 (June 2013)

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I’ve only read a few issues of Bloodshot but it seems like a big part of what Swierczynski does is have contrived scenes with Bloodshot and the men who wrong him in the past. It’ll seem like Bloodshot is finished, his nanites unable to repair him, but then he’ll magically come through thanks to the perseverance of the human spirit.

Especially against the very evil bad guys.

It’s really boring, especially since Swierczynski never comes up with good places for these action sequences. This issue’s takes place in a mechanized slaughterhouse. Feels a little like the end of the first Terminator movie, only without any drama.

Meanwhile, the kids and their babysitter are under siege in their transportation vehicle. The bad guys can remotely control the vehicle’s auto-lock system. It’s real silly and really dumb.

The art from Kitson and Gaudiano is quite good. Swierczynski’s script not so much.

CREDITS

Writer, Duane Swierczynski; penciller, Barry Kitson; inkers, Stefano Gaudiano and Kitson; colorist, Brian Reber; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Jody LeHeup and Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.

Bloodshot 11 (May 2013)

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I like the way Valiant–or Swierczynski in this case–is handling the Harbinger Wars crossover. He’s using this issue of Bloodshot to flush out the relevant scenes in the main book; it’s expensive if a reader buys all the issues, but it also means it doesn’t have to be expensive. Each piece of the puzzle isn’t integral to getting a story.

As for the story here? There’s not a lot. It’s an all-action issue, though Bloodshot is also arguing with the evil little boy who lives in his head and tells him what to do. The art from Kitson and Gaudiano is so downbeat, the scenes don’t even play goofy.

Speaking of the art, the savage action violence gets a lot of focus here. Swierczynski seems to go for the grossest scenes possible for Bloodshot and he’s regenerative powers.

There’s not much to the comic, but it’s fine.

CREDITS

Writer, Duane Swierczynski; penciller, Barry Kitson; inkers, Stefano Gaudiano and Kitson; colorist, Brian Reber; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Jody LeHeup and Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.

Harbinger 12 (May 2013)

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Could this issue have uglier art? Maybe Evans and Hairsine split responsibilities? One was responsible for the heads, one for the bodies and poor Stefano Gaudiano got saddled with the task of trying to make everything seem seamless?

He didn’t. It’s ugly, ugly, ugly art. Especially since they make the colorist do the perspective in some panels. Very unfortunate.

Otherwise, it’s a decent issue. Dysart sends the regular Harbinger cast–calling themselves the Renegades now–in to meet the psiots holding the hostages in Las Vegas. There’s a nice sequence where all the regular cast meet someone knew; it’s like play dates for the psiots, even though the regular cast eventually disappears into the action. How Peter got through such an enormous hotel to stop Torque….

But it’s a decent enough issue. The flashback stuff is… well, it’s still a big company crossover. There’s only so much anyone can do.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Dysart; pencillers, Khari Evans and Trevor Hairsine; inkers, Evans, Stefano Gaudiano and Hairsine; colorist, Ian Hannin; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Josh Johns and Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.

Bloodshot 10 (April 2013)

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Stefano Gaudiano is a great inker, though not really one I think of for action comics. Barry Kitson is a great action penciller, but not one I think of for a lot follow through. Together… together they make a very nice pair, especially since this comic takes place entirely at night so everything’s very dark.

Writer Duane Swierczynski figures out one way to make an all action issue take a while to read. Lots and lots of characters–talkative little kids, an annoying female sidekick–even though Bloodshot does talk quite a bit, he mostly just has to react.

Swierczynski only has one big action set piece, even though technically it’s all action–they’re walking through the desert after all. The action sequence has a lot of conflict and character moments.

For an all action issue, in other words, it doesn’t feel empty. There’s a lot of personality.

It’s good.

CREDITS

Writer, Duane Swierczynski; penciller, Barry Kitson; inkers, Stefano Gaudiano and Kitson; colorist, Brian Reber; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Jody LeHeup and Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.

Harbinger 11 (April 2013)

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Dysart sort of splits the issue between the kids and Harada. I say kids but I guess they’re all eighteen plus, right? Peter and the gang. Only the Harada stuff is mostly set in the past, with Dysart fleshing out the P.R.S. history with him.

In the present, Peter and company are still recovering from their misadventure in Georgia. He then discovers his Harbinger War related destiny of saving the kids, which kicks off a lot of debate in the group. Dysart does something very interesting this issue with Torque–he’s not a particularly good guy and it remains to be seen if the altruistic adventuring will stick.

I almost think not, just because he’s so shallow. The former exotic dancer is kind of shallow too, but in a completely different way.

Dysart doesn’t spend a lot of time on character development, but the few nods are enough.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Dysart; pencillers, Khari Evans and Trevor Hairsine; inkers, Evans, Stefano Gaudiano and Hairsine; colorist, Ian Hannin; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Josh Johns and Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.

Lazarus 3 (August 2013)

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Besides the incest twins playing it up like Bond villains, this issue features Rucka’s best writing on Lazarus. It kind of features Lark’s worst art on it–he really doesn’t take a lot of time with the incest twins but who would–but it’s still quite good art as it’s Lark.

The issue even manages to survive Rucka’s negotiation scene, which reminds way too much of Dune. But before that scene, Rucka has an interesting scene with Forever and another family’s Lazarus. Wait, I’ve said it all reminds a little of Dallas too, right?

Anyway, this issue’s actually got talking, thinking adversaries for Forever to interact with, which helps a lot. Rucka’s got all his plots within plots; those don’t do any good for honest scenes. He usually asks the reader to suspect everyone and every scene, not just read the comic.

Lazarus isn’t great, but it’s finally nice reading.

CREDITS

Family, Part Three; writer, Greg Rucka; penciller and letterer, Michael Lark; inkers, Lark, Stefano Gaudiano and Brian Level; colorist, Santiago Arcas; publisher, Image Comics.

Harbinger 10 (March 2013)

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Now here’s a great issue. Dysart manages to turn the all-action issue into something with some content, probably because he’s got enough characters doing different things it can be a rewarding reading experience.

He opens with narration from Peter, but splits the issue between him and Faith. They have to do a rescue mission, only Faith’s the one who’s got to do the superhero stuff. The way Dysart splits the responsibility between them is part of the issue’s brilliance. His plotting here is exceptional. It’s so good, the issue can even withstand the awkward finish.

Dysart tries hard to reestablish Peter as the lead in the comic and he only partially succeeds. He still hasn’t made Peter function on his own, he always needs to be playing off someone. And the character works great with that constraint.

The art’s okay (credit should go to M. Hands).

Great, great issue.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Dysart; pencillers, Matthew Clark, Álvaro López, Dimi Macheras and Brian Thies; inkers, Clark, López, Macheras, Thies and Stefano Gaudiano; colorist, Mouse Baumann; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Jody LeHeup and Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.

Winter Soldier 9 (October 2012)

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I can’t believe I forgot about the Brubaker fake arc. It’s when he identifies something as an arc, but it leads directly into the next issue, which starts another arc. He usually uses a hard cliffhanger (and does so here too).

It’s always vaguely frustrating because Brubaker uses the expectations to fool the reader. It’s mostly a Marvel phenomenon for him and it’s always a little hostile.

With an extremely fast-paced issue–like this one–it leaves one wondering why bother reading it at all. The recap in the next issue will have all the pertinent information, since Brubaker doesn’t have a single character moment in this issue. It’s all setup for what’s next.

If Brubaker’s Marvel career has been rehashing the books he liked in the seventies, Winter Soldier is more just rehashing his own earlier Marvel work. Bucky’s got a nemesis. Big whoop.

It’s okay, albeit unrewarding.

CREDITS

Broken Arrow, Part Three; writer, Ed Brubaker; penciller, Michael Lark; inkers, Brian Thies and Stefano Gaudiano; colorist, Bettie Breitweiser; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, Jake Thomas and Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Winter Soldier 8 (September 2012)

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Once again, I’ve got to question Brubaker’s approach. He splits this issue of Winter Soldier between Bucky and the bad guy. The bad guy has kidnapped Natasha and he’s going to brainwash her. It’s unclear why he hates Bucky so much–Brubaker plays fast and loose with that logic a lot. He tries to “realistically” update seventies Marvel comics, but he doesn’t take into account the character motivations.

Except when Bucky’s fellow SHIELD agent wonders why Bucky would be dating Black Widow in the first place.

Bucky and SHIELD are trying to find Natasha, which provides some fight scenes. Nothing too fantastic, just Bucky beating the crap out of thugs. Again, logic. A super-spy is hiring thugs from waterfront bars? Because it’s the 1940s? Later, Bucky’s metal arm saves his butt. It made me question how good he’d be without it.

As usual, it’s great looking, fun and problematic.

CREDITS

Broken Arrow, Part Two; writer, Ed Brubaker; penciller, Michael Lark; inkers, Brian Thies and Stefano Gaudiano; colorists, Bettie Breitweiser and Mitch Breitweiser; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, Jake Thomas and Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Winter Soldier 7 (August 2012)

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Brubaker uses Bucky as narrator here, but mostly Bucky just waxes on about Natasha. It’s filler. I wanted to make a joke about it seeming almost as romantic as Jeph Loeb’s Superman/Batman narration but it’s insincere.

Brubaker has no reason to try to convince the reader of Natasha’s skills as a super-spy. He’s just filling some exposition boxes.

Otherwise, the issue’s great. It’s Michael Lark drawing a superhero spy book. There are no super powers, so the threats are all a lot more grounded. Lark maintains the realistic mood while still doing the absurd action too. It makes Winter Soldier even more interesting to read, to see how Lark bridges the disconnect.

The issue probably does read a little fast and the busy middle of the night mountain highway seems a tad much, but it’s very exciting. Shame Brubaker felt he needed to blather on in the narration.

CREDITS

Broken Arrow, Part One; writer, Ed Brubaker; penciller, Michael Lark; inkers, Brian Thies and Stefano Gaudiano; colorist, Bettie Breitweiser; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, John Denning and Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Winter Soldier 6 (August 2012)

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As usual, Ed Brubaker excels when not telling a story about his lead character. In this issue, instead of focusing on Bucky, Brubaker follows around one of his former proteges. The protege has a nice backstory and then an interesting side story to Bucky’s. Brubaker plays with the timeline to get a good ending and it works.

It’s such a strong story for the Russian agent, it doesn’t matter Bucky and Natasha barely have a presence this issue. They talk a little bit and they do some investigating from the SHIELD (or whatever organization they’re with) control room. Brubaker’s running into a problem of how to define Bucky post-Captain America and all, but who cares? It’s a good issue.

But I can’t forget the Michael Lark art. It’s Lark inked by Stefano Gaudiano. It’s beautiful art; incredibly confident heroics. Lark’s preppy hair cut for Bucky is strangely awesome too.

CREDITS

Broken Arrow, Prologue; writer, Ed Brubaker; penciller, Michael Lark; inkers, Stefano Gaudiano and Brian Thies; colorist, Bettie Breitweiser; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, John Denning and Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Winter Soldier 5 (July 2012)

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Tom Palmer is a very strange inker for Guice. Gaudiano shows up for a bit, at the beginning and end most noticeably, but Palmer handles the big action scene. It’s Bucky, Natasha and Doctor Doom versus the Super-Apes and some other bad guys. With the Palmer inks, it looks like something out of a seventies Marvel comic. It’s glorious action in the Marvel style. This issue makes up for the lackadaisical pacing in the last few and it’s not even Brubaker’s fault. It’s all Tom Palmer.

Even more, when he does the quiet scenes, he brings age and gravity to Bucky. I love Gaudiano, but with Palmer… Winter Soldier is a whole different book.

Brubaker writes some great Nick Fury and Doctor Doom banter–they need a team-up series, obviously–and maintains Bucky’s questionable morality.

It’s an excellent finish to a first arc. Fast and fun but fulfilling.

CREDITS

The Longest Winter, Part Five; writer, Ed Brubaker; penciller, Butch Guice; inkers, Stefano Gaudiano, Tom Palmer and Guice; colorist, Bettie Breitweiser; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editor, Lauren Sankovitch, John Denning and Tom Breevort; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Winter Soldier 4 (June 2012)

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Wait a second… at no time during Marvel’s attempts to “toughen up” the line did anyone ever stop to consider Doctor Doom having nuclear weapons is a lot more dangerous than the Hulk?

Sorry, I just gave away Brubaker’s big reveal for the issue. Sadly, it’s a lame one.

Otherwise, the issue’s okay. The pacing is still bad. Bucky and Doctor Doom head to beat up a Doombot, which leads to some excellent art from Guice and Gaudiano. They’re an interesting pair for Doctor Doom and he looks great. The mass destruction chase scene at the U.N. is good too. It’s just without payoff.

As for Black Widow, she gets a side mission. Unfortunately, she mostly just recounts it in exposition.

And that ending? It’s three times longer than it should be, if not more, and Brubaker hasn’t got any reward for the reader.

Winter‘s technically excellent, but highly problematic.

CREDITS

The Longest Winter, Part Four; writer, Ed Brubaker; penciller, Butch Guice; inkers, Stefano Gaudiano, Guice and Brian Thies; colorists, Bettie Breitweiser and Matthew Wilson; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editor, Lauren Sankovitch, John Denning and Tom Breevort; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Winter Soldier 3 (May 2012)

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So, if the good guys are going to figure out the identity of the bad guy–bad girl, actually–before the issue starts, why bother making it a mystery?

In addition to that silly plotting, this issue is the first where Brubaker’s pacing is too hurried. There’s a mission briefing, there’s the mission, then there’s the surprise ending. Except it’s not a particularly good surprise. Maybe in the Marvel Universe, there just aren’t any good surprises. I mean, it’s good comics and it’s fun and Brubaker writes Doctor Doom really well, but the end isn’t a surprise.

I guess there’s some more filler–the bad guys doing bad things–and a funny primate sight gag, but this issue is thin.

Well, except for Guice and company. The artwork is absolutely amazing, both in how Guice toggles between detail and action and how he composes the pages. Even the filler’s beautiful.

CREDITS

The Longest Winter, Part Three; writer, Ed Brubaker; penciller, Butch Guice; inkers, Stefano Gaudiano, Brian Thies and Guice; colorists, Bettie Breitweiser and Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editor, Lauren Sankovitch, John Denning and Tom Breevort; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Dark Horse Presents 138 (December 1998)

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Wow, the first Terminator story in Presents. I thought they’d gone through all the licenses, but no. It’s not terrible. Grant’s writing is adequate and Teran’s art has an energy to it. He’s a little confusing in action scenes (Grant’s plotting hurts there too) but he’s got some great designs.

Martin and Rude’s The Moth is just a lot of fun. It borrows some Batman elements and I think Rude does an homage to Spider-Man in one panel. The Moth’s a superhero (maybe) posing as a supervillain and playing mobsters against each other. Rude’s art would make anything good, but Martin’s writing is fine.

Seagle outdoes himself on My Vagabond Days, revealing his protagonist to be not just unlikable, but idiotic. This kid is a complete moron. He’s bringing rocks to Canada because Canada might not have rocks. Maybe Seagle is writing him younger than Gaudino is drawing him….

CREDITS

The Terminator, Suicide Run; story by Alan Grant; art by Frank Teran; lettering by Gary Fields. The Moth; story by Gary Martin; pencils by Steve Rude; inks by Andy Bish; lettering by Willie Schubert. My Vagabond Days; story by Steven T. Seagle; art by Stefano Gaudiano; lettering by Charity Rodriguez. Edited by Randy Stradley and Terry Waldron.

Dark Horse Presents 137 (November 1998)

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So Nazis versus Predator and the best Marz can come up with is a story set in South America? Castellini’s art makes up for some of it—even though he can’t draw the Predator, the rest of it looks good. But Marz’s writing is pretty dumb.

Seagle and Gaudiano have another My Vagabond Days, this time about the space program. Sort of. Seagle seems to think doing a lyrical narrative about growing up in the Sixties is inherently interesting. Even with Gaudiano’s artwork, it’s not interesting. Seagle, it turns out, didn’t grow up in the Sixties as a teen… have I already mentioned that fact? Regardless, it’s still a waste of good art.

Randall and Verheiden finally finish The Ark here. It’s yet another double-sized installment and, wow, Verheiden’s writing is really awful here. Randall still manages to turn in some decent work (except on the aliens, they’re boring).

CREDITS

Predator, Demon’s Gold; story by Ron Marz; art by Claudio Castellini; lettering by Gary Kato. My Vagabond Days; story by Steven T. Seagle; art by Stefano Gaudiano; lettering by Charity Rodriguez. The Ark, Part Four; story by Mark Verheiden; art by Ron Randall; lettering by Kato. Edited by Randy Stradley and Terry Waldron.

Dark Horse Presents Annual 1998 (September 1998)

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The annual opens with Mignola doing a retelling of Hellboy‘s origin. I guess it’s all right. Kind of pointless, but fine.

Weissman finally gets a two page Phineas Page and shows why he should have stuck to a page.

Van Meter and Ross team for the first comic book appearance of Buffy. The writing is more lame than not, but it’s maybe the best Ross art I’ve ever seen.

Watson’s Skeleton Key is a fairly charming little story about a witch and a little kid. I’m assuming the character’s a witch, otherwise it’d be pointless. Some wacky art mistakes though.

The Ark is a long setup with aliens as pay-off. Verheiden’s got some okay writing and Randall’s art isn’t bad.

Guadiano’s art is the primary selling point on he and Seagle’s My Vagabond Days. It’s not terrible though.

Burke and Bolton’s Infirmary is confounding, but Boltan’s art is gorgeous.

CREDITS

Hellboy, The Right Hand of Doom; story and art by Mike Mignola; lettering by Pat Brosseau. Phineas Page, The Bookshelf Phantom; story and art by Steven Weissman. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, MacGuffins; story by Jen Van Meter; pencils by Luke Ross; inks by Rick Ketcham; lettering by Steve Dutro. Skeleton Key, Witch; story and art by Andi Watson. The Ark, Part One; story by Mark Verheiden; art by Ron Randall; lettering by Sean Konot. My Vagabond Days; story by Steven T. Seagle; pencils by Stefano Gaudiano; inks by Pia Guerra; lettering by Charity Rodriguez. Infirmary; story by Matthew Burke; art by John Bolton; lettering by Ellie De Ville. Edited by Randy Stradley, Jamie S Rich and Ben Abernathy.

Dark Horse Presents 113 (September 1996)

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I was trying to remember where I knew Leialoha from… he inks now. He pencils and inks Trypto, which has a superhero dog splash page and then a rather traditional story. It’s about a stolen dog being forced to dogfight. Mumy and Ferrer’s script is fine and Leialoha has some imaginative composition, but his art doesn’t carry it.

Seagle and Gaudiano’s My Vagabond Days is set in the late sixties; it concerns a disrespectful young kid learning those soldiers in Vietnam are over there dying for his freedom. Seagle’s writing is, politics aside, lame. Worse, Gaudiano doesn’t work very hard on the art—it’s almost like a sketch album.

Thankfully, Brubaker’s Lowlife appears. Is Chris the protagonist the whole time (the Brubaker stand-in)? Anyway, this story chronicles the first day of a breakup. Inventive, human dialogue and some great composition. I’ve read these stories before, and they’re still great.

CREDITS

Trypto the Acid Dog, Wheel of the Broken Voice, Part One, Circle of Fire; story by Bill Mumy and Miguel Ferrer; art by Steve Leialoha. My Vagabond Days; story by Steven T. Seagle; art by Stefano Gaudiano; lettering by Megan Rodriguez. Lowlife, Part One, Wreck; story, art and lettering by Ed Brubaker. Edited by Bob Schreck and Jamie S. Rich.

Dark Horse Presents 98 (June 1995)

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I’m tempted to mention Cooper’s one page strip first because it’s a page and I don’t really have anything to say about it. Oops, there I went and did.

Brubaker and Gaudiano finish up Here and Now. It’s got a bit of a surprise ending, which makes perfect sense, but for whatever reason (probably a combination of Gaudiano’s realistic illustrating and Brubaker’s occasional summary storytelling), it works perfectly. The story really deserves to be collected (though the private detective angle detracts in some ways).

Rennie and Langridge’s Kabuki Kid features a story about Japanese products and their dismissal of the human worker. I’ve read three of these stories and I can’t tell if they’re really supposed to be socialist propaganda or if it’s another joke.

Campbell’s Doreen Grey has a strange installment. There’s some great stuff, but it feels incomplete. I can’t believe Campbell can tie it up next issue.

CREDITS

The Eyeball Kid, The Picture of Doreen Gray, Part Five; story by Eddie Campbell; art by Eddie Campbell and Hayley Campbell. Kabuki Kid, Part Three, Assembly Line Apocalypse!; story by Gordon Rennie; art by Roger Langridge; edited by Greg Vest. Nude; story and art by Dave Cooper. Here and Now, Part Three; story by Ed Brubaker; art by Stefano Gaudiano; lettering by Sean Konot. Edited by Bob Schreck and Scott Allie.

Dark Horse Presents 97 (May 1995)

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I wonder what Rennie’s Kabuki Kid scripts look like. This installment has a setup, introduces some villains, then it just goes wild. Langridge has the Kabuki Kid and his sidekick fighting an army of adversaries (though it does get weeded through fast). It’s funny and fast, even better than the first installment.

Schutz and Pander have three pages of filler set at a jazz club. Pander’s art’s good, but the entry’s pointless. Unless maybe it was a real place.

Then Brubaker and Gaudiano continue their dysfunctional private investigator in Here and Now. It’s an exceptionally depressing piece. I also wonder if it wouldn’t have been even more affecting to separate the two stories (the P.I. part and the dysfunctional family).

As for Campbell and Doreen Grey? This installment is even better, with Campbell sort of turning everything on its head. I love how he has characters discuss unlikely plot contrivances.

CREDITS

Kabuki Kid, Part Two, For a Few Noodles More!; story by Gordon Rennie; art by Roger Langridge; edited by Greg Vest. Tuesday Night at the Jazz Club; story by Diana Schutz; art by Arnold Pander; lettering by Sean Konot. Here and Now, Part Two; story by Ed Brubaker; art by Stefano Gaudiano; lettering by Konot. The Eyeball Kid, The Picture of Doreen Gray, Part Four; story and art by Eddie Campbell. Edited by Bob Schreck and Scott Allie.

Dark Horse Presents 96 (April 1995)

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I’m not sure if Presents has ever had such a good issue. They may have… but this one’s rather excellent.

Brubaker and Gaudiano’s Here and Now is a detective story, but one with an introspective, lost in his thoughts not his cases detective. Gaudiano’s artwork is fantastic–it’s basically a guy walking around most of the story, but he makes it compelling. Brubaker’s writing narration for the first half, then introduces a bunch of plot. It’s great.

Rennie and Langridge’s Kabuki Kid is a strange sort of samurai comedy. I’m hesitant to say samurai because Rennie throws in some Chinese stereotypes too (but Langridge doesn’t into the art). It’s violent and funny, with Langridge making his seemingly static panels fluid.

Then Campbell’s excellent Doreen Grey continues with two minor surprises and one major one. Lots of character stuff–I almost thought the Eyeball Kid was going to get a girlfriend.

CREDITS

Here and Now, Part One; story by Ed Brubaker; art by Stefano Gaudiano; lettering by Sean Konot. Kabuki Kid, Part One, A Pot Full of Noodles; story by Gordon Rennie; art by Roger Langridge; edited by Greg Vest. The Eyeball Kid, The Picture of Doreen Gray, Part Three; story by Eddie Campbell; art by Campbell and Peter Mullins. Edited by Bob Schreck and Scott Allie.

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