I think the problem is simpler than I would have thought–by problem I mean why Conway’s not as on the ball with the series anymore. He’s not even taking the time to script, just plot. Andy Helfer’s got the inglorious task of scripting. It’s hard to hold the issue against Helfer, the series’s breaking.
Atari Force works when it’s about the characters and García-Lopez’s approach to sci-fi. There’s a lot of villain stuff–it’s just Bond villainy at an intergalactic level. Maybe with some Road Warrior thrown in. Boring.
Worse, the character stuff this issue is tepid. Dart being patient with Blackjak isn’t engaging, especially not with Helfer’s very calm, almost feminist approach to his betrayal. And surfer boy’s trial scene is really weak.
There’s a lovely Keith Giffen backup with surfer boy’s pet though, just lovely. It’s kind of a parable.
Hopefully the series will improve.
Revelations!; writers, Gerry Conway and Andy Helfer; penciller, José Luis García-López; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Bob Lappan; editor, Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.
You know, Dale Eaglesham does do a great job on Sinestro. I wouldn’t subject my brain to another issue of this prattling, but Eaglesham’s art is really good.
Writer Cullen Bunn has the task of bringing Sinestro back from a self-imposed exile. For all the endless expository narration from Sinestro, I’m unclear why exactly he’s in exile. It’s kind of hard to care too, because Bunn doesn’t make him a particularly interesting lead. He fights lions or tigers, talks to some inexplicably scantily clad lady with writing on her and then they go off and have a space adventure.
Apparently the comic’s supposed to be engaging because Sinestro’s an anti-hero–he only saves people of his planet from being killed, not the other people he could also save.
So he’s a bastard, who cares? Maybe if Bunn put him in an interesting situation, but he doesn’t.
Blackest Day, Brightest Night; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Dale Eaglesham; colorist, Jason Wright; letterer, Dezi Sienty; editors, Chris D. Conroy and Matt Idelson; publisher, DC Comics.
Being interconnected can be a real problem when it’s all you’re going for. This issue, Lapham brings in characters from the previous issues at different times in their lives, showing where they’ve gone or showing how they ended up where they’re going. For the most part, they’re supporting cast, which is good.
The problem is Lapham doesn’t have anything going on for his lead characters this issue. It’s a couple young, dumb, small time crooks who throw a party. The whole issue revolves around the party and the party isn’t interesting. Lapham goes for non sequitur surprises with some of the party moments; good approach, but not great moments.
He’s got a problem–his little criminals aren’t sympathetic characters and they aren’t compelling ones either. Why care about their problems? Their stories for the issue don’t grab. Lapham seems to know it too, using cheap stunts more often than not.
The Party; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.
Wilson does some really cool stuff this issue–having Kamala not just deal with the possibilities of her superpowers, but also what the ability to shape shift means for her identity–but she also gets way too after school special melodramatic. She’s mixing too many subplots together.
And she goes for a really cheap hard cliffhanger. It’s an effective one, sure, but in a cheap way, especially given all the complicated connotations of it given the overdone subplot combination.
Alphona’s art is particularly good this issue, something I don’t want to forget to mention either. The superhero stuff almost feels like a dream. Ms. Marvel is definitely not the standard Marvel comic.
What Wilson does best, at least for this issue, is give her plot gravitas while focusing on Kamala. One really sees the story from her perspective, even when there are diversions with other cast.
It’s just too complicated.
Side Entrance; writer, G. Willow Wilson; artist, Adrian Alphona; colorist, Ian Henning; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, Devin Lewis and Sana Amanat; publisher, Marvel Comics.
There’s very little personality to this issue. About the most of it comes from Babe–the rock creature–who apologizes at one point. It shows something going on besides the main plots, which are three.
First, there’s the deception on the team. It’s all really predictable and Conway doesn’t spend any time trying to make it palatable because it’s not. It’s too obvious and Conway can’t focus on it without making the characters seem too dumb.
Second, there’s surfer dude in captivity and the people around him. Again, not very engaging stuff because it’s a bunch of supporting cast members talking about a main cast member and the main cast member not doing anything.
Finally, there’s the bad guy. The Atari in Atari Force really comes through a few times because a lot of his dialogue sounds like terrible video game boss dialogue.
The issue’s not awful, just excruciatingly rote.
Betrayal; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, José Luis García-López; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Bob Lappan; editor, Andy Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.
I'm hesitant, but I'm pretty sure The Auteur is reprehensible. Gloriously so, of course, but just completely reprehensible. Spears sends his Hollywood producer to court to defend a serial killer–so the serial killer can consult on a horror movie, natch–and comes up with this great argument about how a serial killer represents a natural predator in the human ecosystem.
Then there's this hilarious blaming of the victim and it's terrible, of course, since the victim was brutally murdered. But Spears has some great details. And he's not just making jokes at the expense of the squares, he's also got some great ones at the expense of his protagonist. The protagonist's a hilarious, awful human being, so it's fun to laugh at him too.
This issue might be the series's peak and it's a peak Spears and Callahan should be proud of surmounting.
It has a great pace too. Just great.
Presidents Day, Part 2 of 5: Survival of the Fittest; writer and letterer, Rick Spears; artist, James Callahan; colorist, Luigi Anderson; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.
There’s an odd thing to this issue of Stray Bullets. Even though Lapham never suggests things are going to go all right at all, even though he takes the reader through various intense situations and they always get worse, he creates a hopefulness. It’s a useless one, of course, but it’s there.
The reality of the comic starts with the Star Wars banter and carries over into the family relationship. The lead is a middle school girl who witnesses a murder and breaks down. Lapham handles all of the relationships perfectly; people are selfish and self-serving. Not a single moment is off. It’s astoundingly depressing.
It’s not just good because it’s depressing. It’s great because Lapham perfectly constructs this situation and setting and the inevitability of it all. He has opportunities to foreshadow a happy ending, but skips them.
He’s trying to ruin the reader’s day. He does.
Victimology; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.
This issue isn't bad. It's got some of Mayhew's best art on the series–though not his giant Wookie battle, but the moments before those scenes–and Rinzler keeps the action going. But the comparisons to the original films, particularly Return of the Jedi, reveal just how much texture Rinzler has sacrificed to fit this comic into eight issues.
For example, there are these attempts at banter between Annikin and Artwo and they're incredibly forced–it's as though Rinzler remembered at the last minute Artwo could talk here and had to get something in.
The issue is preparation for the Wookie battle, which includes the introduction of Chewbacca and his single dialogue exchange with Han Solo (who's just around to give Luke Starkiller someone to talk exposition with), the huge Wookie battle, kids getting kidnapped, Darth Vader interrogating, Annikan infiltrating the Death Star stand-in.
Too bad Dark Horse couldn't give Rinzler twelve issues.
Writer, J.W. Rinzler; artist, Mike Mayhew; colorist, Rain Beredo; letterer, Michael Heisler; editors, Freddye Lins and Randy Stradley; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.
Interesting tidbit in the letter pages this issue–maybe there have been more and I missed them, but the book is intended to be an ongoing with a twelve-part opening story arc. It gives Conway some more leeway with bringing in all this exposition–there isn’t much this issue, actually–because it’s at such an awkward part in a maxi-series. Doesn’t the problems with too much exposition, but it’s intentional anyway.
This issue has Dart’s lover coming back and he’s got a story for her about their escape. After a conjugal visit. Conway likes to shock with this one, apparently. Even more is when the guy–Blackjak–includes a nasty detail in his story. He takes advantage of one of García-López’s cute aliens. It’s a mean, harsh sequence.
The issue’s mostly Dart and her guy’s flashback and then surfer dude on the New Earth planet. Conway writes at a great pace; the cliffhanger’s pleasantly sudden.
Home Is the Hero; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, José Luis García-López; inker, Ed Barreto; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Bob Lappan; editor, Andy Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.
Taylor's been setting up a murder for so long I can't even remember how many people get killed in it. The format's the same every issue; he opens in the present, with Zoey cleaning up after the murder, and then flashes back.
This issue concentrates solely on Zoey as she prepares to commit the murder. Or a murder. Part of Dark's charm is how Taylor is able to build a lot of backstory in his issues, even though there's not a lot of exposition lately. There's usually a talking heads scene or two–this issue has one–and it's enough to move things along. It's like there are whole b and c plots happening off panel, with Taylor ready to bring them in once they've percolated enough.
The story continues to be engaging–with Zoey getting a love interest now–but this arc's getting a little too long. Hopefully it'll wrap sooner than later.
Killing Game, Part Four; writer, artist and letterer, Larime Taylor; editor, Duncan Eagleson; publisher, Image Comics.
With a very strange sense of humor, you could call the first issue of Stray Bullets a comedy of errors. Two guys working for a crime boss (it’s never too clear, which is nice) have a simple task. They have to dispose of a body. Unfortunately, they have a flat.
Then it turns out one of the guys isn’t all there, mentally. David Lapham takes the story from bad to worse, dragging the reader not just into the world view of the mentally disabled guy, but into the distorted world view of his partner. And once Lapham has the reader in that mindset, he doesn’t let up until the end. He controls the reader through a lengthy, packed story–lots of panels on lots of pages.
The ending’s a bit of a letdown as Lapham lets everyone breath. It’s like he pauses to admire his craftsmanship a little much.
The Look of Love; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.
Oops, was I supposed to read “Battle of the Atom” first? Even though I never read writer Peter Milligan’s X-Force, I figured Doop was from there and he finally got his own series. Given the mass crossover just in this issue–X-Men of all eras–I was able to guess some of the series’s intent.
Only, if it’s just Doop’s side adventures to this crossover, it’s unclear what kind of mileage Milligan will be able to get out of it. There’s some funny bickering with the various Iceman incarnations, but nothing to make the issue itself worthwhile.
Similarly, the David LaFuente art is pretty good, both for the action and the comedy, but it’s not enough on its own to recommend the comic.
The concept’s a fine enough idea–a side sequel to a big Marvel mutant event–it just doesn’t have much to offer except to diehards.
The Real Battle of the Atom; writer, Peter Milligan; artist, David Lafuente; colorist, Laura Allred; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editors, Devin Lewis and Nick Lowe; publisher, Marvel Comics.
First observation–Conway and García-Lopez are aware they’re stocking the team with adorable, mischievous space aliens. It’s kind of weird. Must be a way to make the comic more likable at a glance.
This issue, nine issues into the second series, recaps events from the first series. Pertinent events. Surfer boy has gone back to New Earth to talk to people–hopefully he’ll bring the team back some fresh food and toilet paper–and besides a bonding session with his shrink, it’s all back story.
The art in the rest of the comic makes up for the rush job on the flashback. Conway checks in with some of the rest of the cast and treads a bit of water preparing for the surfer to get back. The likability helps the treading go smoothly.
It’s a slight issue and Conway overdoes the flashbacks but he’s got the series firmly footed.
Memory Lane; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, José Luis García-López; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Bob Lappan; editor, Andy Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.
Shutter needs to take a breath. Between Leila Del Duca’s frantic, detailed art and Joe Keatinge’s hip, artificial plotting and dialogue, it’s an adventure comic without any sense of adventure. When the lead complains life is boring, even though there are mythical creatures living among humans and some kind of futuristic steampunk thing going on… it makes sense. Shutter is actually pretty boring so why wouldn’t the protagonist be bored too.
It’s odd in some ways too how Keatinge pays lip service to it being post-gender–the lead follows in her father’s footsteps, who follows in his mother’s, etc–but then his details for the protagonist are generic single woman stuff.
More odd is the first backup–there are two, neither good, but the first one opens with the mother of all curse words. After a very YA appropriate feature. Guess they don’t actually want crossover audience.
Writer, Joe Keatinge; artist, Leila Del Duca; colorist, Owen Gieni; letterer, Ed Brisson. Mungore; writer and artist, Ryan Alexander-Tanner; colorist, Catherine Peach. Tiger Lawyer, Sidebar; writer, Ryan Ferrier; artist, Felipe Torrent. Publisher, Image Comics.