Leave it to Kevin Smith to try to make Batman sound hip. He also sounds really self-aware, which doesn’t really work for the character. I was half expecting Smith to make a gay joke, but then remembered it’s the one thing DC editorial won’t allow.
This issue has Batman teaming up with Robin in flashback, then Nightwing in present, then heading off on his own to Arkham. All while Smith overdoes the narration. His Batman is desperate to stay relevant–making notes to check pop culture references and so on–while he thinks about retiring the Robin mantle.
If it weren’t for Walt Flanagan’s art, if DC had paired Smith with an established comic artist, Widening Gyre might not read like a vanity project. But with Flanagan–who’s competent but clearly not professional–Smith’s script feels like a long joke at the reader’s expense.
He does pace it okay though.
Turning and Turning; writer, Kevin Smith; penciller, Walt Flanagan; inker, Art Thibert; colorist, Art Lyon; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Janelle Siegel, Mike Marts and Dan Didio; publisher, DC Comics.
Okay, starting at the beginning. Ennis jumps ahead five or six years, then fills the reader in on Anna and Mouse’s time since the war. Specially how Anna got out of her cliffhanger.
Now they’re in a different war–training North Korean pilots to fly against the Americans–and there’s not much appreciation for either woman.
When things start to go bad, Anna reacts poorly, making things much, much worse.
Ennis uses the issue not to do a standard war comic, but a specific one about the Soviet Union and how they treat their soldiers (and women). Then he puts in these little moments of humor, which give the comic lots of texture but also make the comic even more devastating.
Given how bad things are going, I almost don’t want to read the last issue.
Russ Braun does fantastic work. His facial expressions are great, especially for Anna.
The Fall and Rise of Anna Kharkova, Part Two; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Russ Braun; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.
Collins reveals Arcane’s master plan. After a hundred plus issues, dying multiple times, going to Hell, escaping Hell, going back to Hell, old Anton has exactly the same plan he had when he first appeared.
But the lack of ambition from penciller Braun actually helps out here. One can’t confuse Swamp Thing with a good comic anymore, not with Arcane dragging hostage Abby out like the Bride of Frankenstein at the end, not with Collins turning the guy Abby went out with once into the love of her life.
Not with Braun giving Constantine some slicked back nineties hair.
The comic’s a joke. Laughing helps one get through it. Collins has seven or eight characters to manage in the issue and she does awful with them. There’s not a single honest conversation; though she does get in a pointless origin of a villain.
Pointless sums it up in general, actually.
Dead Relatives; writer, Nancy A. Collins; penciller, Russell Braun; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterers, Tim Harkins and John Costanza; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.
Interesting, now Carey’s using the final .5 issue to set up something else forthcoming. He introduces the reader–for the first time–to a peon in the Cabal. The protagonist this issue, Danny, is a thoroughly underwhelming English major who ends up working in the big reading room for the Cabal. Lots of the big events in the series occur, giving the reader a sense of the time passing.
There are a couple major bumps–it ties directly in to the story arc Carey finished the previous issue–and it’s a fine setup. It’s a little too much of a setup, but Carey does give the character an interesting story and perspective on this world. He’s entirely believable as a dimwit college student. It’s interesting to see the mundane in the Unwritten world.
Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s art is good. The settings all feel very British.
It’s a thoroughly good comic.
Gospel Creatures; writers, Peter Gross and Mike Carey; artist, Gabriel Hernandez Walta; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Joe Hughes and Karen Berger; publisher, Vertigo.
The war in Europe’s almost over and Ennis brings back Anna the pilot to do a story about that period.
She gets shot down in the first few pages and ends up in a prison camp. Ennis keeps it all incredibly simple. The scenes are during her recovery, the only other character the medic. He’s a British Jew. There’s a lot of talking about the war and the different countries.
It’s a talking heads book masquerading as a war comic. The two heads talking have to be interesting and Ennis carefully presents both his actors. Anna occasionally has unexpected reactions, while the Brit is patient and polite to the last.
Then Ennis finds an unexpected hard cliffhanger. Even though he foreshadows to it–and Anna should, it turns out, know what’s coming–it’s a surprise. There’s only so much horror one wants to imagine for the characters.
Very good stuff.
The Fall and Rise of Anna Kharkova, Part One; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Russ Braun; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.
I assumed Collins would handle the return of Arcane, Alec’s embrace with Lady Jane and everything else this issue rather poorly. But she outdoes herself. It’s even worse than expected–possibly because Arcane reveals himself here, which seems somewhat early. But there are a lot of suspects for Collins’s worst move.
First, Alec and Lady Jane get busy. Alec thinks about how much better it is than with Abby. Meanwhile–a day or two after leaving her family–Abby’s going out on a date with some guy. Now, an implication could be neither wanted the romance (and Collins directly suggests it in a flashback) but just got thrown into it.
Then, you know, they had a kid. Except both ignore the kid to get busy with members of their own species and bad things happen.
Russell Braun’s pencils don’t help things either. All his figures are stunted.
It’s entirely dreadful.
Cross Pollination; writer, Nancy A. Collins; penciller, Russell Braun; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.
Maybe Tom seems like an action hero because of his outfit. He’s got suspenders for some reason, looking a little like Bullitt.
It’s a Tom and Pullman issue. There’s some action, but there’s mostly just Pullman messing with Tom. Pullman–and Carey–promise some great revelation, but it’s unclear how much of it Pullman is just keeping to himself. The issue doesn’t exactly raise questions about Leviathan and the nature of the universe, but it doesn’t answer any either.
There’s a big change–possibly two–for the series at the end (and maybe even some little ones throughout). Carey, Gross and Perker do such a good job throughout, one can ignore the entire arc has basically just been a way for Carey to soft reboot the series. He could just as easily done a “One Year Later,” since he doesn’t even bother with subplots this arc.
Still, it’s fine stuff.
Tommy Taylor and the War of Words, Part Five; writers, Peter Gross and Mike Carey; pencillers, Gross and M.K. Perker; inker, Perker; colorist, Chris Chuckry; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Joe Hughes and Karen Berger; publisher, Vertigo.
Everything ties up nicely for the finish. I’m still trying to determine how Langridge made this take on The Rocketeer. He’s turned Cliff into a young doofus, added Groucho Marx as the narrator and so on… yet it’s definitely the Rocketeer.
There’s a big action scene to resolve everything. It takes most of the issue and Langridge has to fill it out with some minor twists and turns. Some of his intimations are still too vague for me–though I think maybe Doc Savage makes an appearance.
Without being identified, of course.
The Bone art probably does hurt the comic’s commercial viability–the non-realistic comic strip influenced art doesn’t scream sales–but it’s impossible to imagine the series without it.
Langridge and Bone should be very proud. There are all sorts of great little details, but the overall result is outstanding too. It’s an excellent series, start to finish.
A Night at the Altar; writer, Roger Langridge; artist, J. Bone; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Tom B. Long; editor, Scott Dunbier; publisher, IDW Publishing.
Let’s see. Of all the lame turns in this issue, I think Tefé all of a sudden being old enough to form questions is the worst. She’s concerned about Alec, who has rooted in his sorrow at Abby’s leaving him.
Abby, meanwhile, has already found a new romantic interest thanks to Constantine. It’s all very contrived–and unclear how the new guy is a better choice for her than Chester, except maybe he’s taller. Collins is all of a sudden cheapening the relationship between Alec and Abby. It’s unclear why, especially since it’s requiring her to make big changes in the characters. Not just as how others wrote them, but how she herself did.
Oh, and Arcane is possessing Sunderland. It combines Swamp Thing’s two main villains, but removes half the personality. It’s a really lame move, like all the other ones this issue.
The comic’s become a train wreck.
Marital Problems; writer, Nancy A. Collins; penciller, Scot Eaton; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.
The issue reads a little like “Wilson Taylor: Year One.” Gross and Carey give him a decent origin story, set in the trenches of World War I. Carey concentrates on the soldiers’ experience, hitting all the effective standards, but making them tie into Unwritten.
Actually, the questions he raises about stories, perceptions and reality during war are really interesting ones. He probably could get a decent limited series out of the concepts.
Gary Erskine’s art is good. The battlefields are either obviously frightening or Erskine just infers it. There’s a lot of refocusing but Erskine makes Taylor distinct enough to stand out.
The comic has a haunting quality. Even with all the magic, nothing compares to the lunacy of the war. Carey nicely lets Taylor revolt to jar the reader into paying attention. It’s a very serious issue. I don’t think Carey even goes for a smile. Well, maybe one.
The Whisper Line; writers, Peter Gross and Mike Carey; artist, Gary Erskine; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Joe Hughes and Karen Berger; publisher, Vertigo.
Oh, Langridge is just having too much fun now. He reveals the narrator–Groucho Marx. It’s a hilarious little detail; it doesn’t make any sense yet (how he’s omniscient but he’s Groucho so who cares). There also might a slight Return of the Jedi nod as far as Betty’s outfit goes.
It’s a slower issue than normal, as Cliff has to figure things out. He’s not racing after Betty with believable speed–Langridge writes the characters differently. Cliff is a bit of a dunce. Betty’s the smarter one, which makes her constant peril an interesting contradiction.
The hero is the damsel in distress.
Even the villain’s big reveal scene works beautifully. Langridge and Bone work beautifully together.
The film has a lot of the Golden Age Hollywood feel to it. That Hollywood setting permeates throughout; it’s one of Langridge’s finest achievements on the book. He never forcibly includes the details.
In the Soup; writer, Roger Langridge; artist, J. Bone; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Tom B. Long; editor, Scott Dunbier; publisher, IDW Publishing.
What’s so funny about this issue is how Collins clearly thinks she’s telling it from Abby’s point of view. Besides the physiologically unlikely scene where Alec cries, most of the comic–the significant bits anyway–follows Abby. And Collins also does have Chester perv on her. Literally a moment after she has a big fight with Alec. No wonder Liz left him.
Oh, and Collins does touch on Abby abandoning Tefé. Alec mentions it and Abby tells him not to “throw it in her face” or something to that effect. But she never talks about it. If Collins were telling the story from Abby’s point of view, her decisions would make sense. They might not seem rational, but they would make sense from the character’s viewpoint.
But not here.
It’s a weak issue. Luckily, with Eaton’s hit or miss (mostly miss) art, it almost never reminds of good Swamp Thing.
She’s Leaving Houma; writer, Nancy A. Collins; penciller, Scot Eaton; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.
Perker’s finishes over Gross lead to a somewhat different look for the book. Besides Tom looking more like an action movie star than a twenty-something, there are some weird panel transitions. It’s not bad art, it just doesn’t feel like Unwritten at times.
It’s a combination of an action issue and a revelation one. The leader of the Cabal’s a good Bond villain who explains everything–multiple times–and there are a lot of explosions.
Carey weaves in a surprise–cheating, since the characters know about it but the reader doesn’t, but it plays well. Tom’s maturing as a character, the exposition is good, Lizzie and Richie have a good time. It’s a fine issue, but it just doesn’t wow.
It’s like Carey was giving more thought to the concurrently running .5 issues and letting the main story run on autopilot. Good material, smooth sailing, but not really engaging.
Tommy Taylor and the War of Words, Part Four; writers, Peter Gross and Mike Carey; pencillers, Gross and M.K. Perker; inker, Perker; colorist, Chris Chuckry; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Joe Hughes and Karen Berger; publisher, Vertigo.
Langridge really embraces the Thin Man tie-in. It’s without names, instead of him doing thinly veined homages. It’s a nice touch, sending Betty off on her own adventure without Cliff.
Actually, Betty’s got the much bigger story. She’s the one who has figured out there’s some creepiness with the Scientologist Cthulhu fan–sorry, Cosmicist–while Cliff’s basically just running around dumb. He’s on the run from Howard Hughes’s guys, who want to bring the jet-pack in for a tune up.
There’s some more great work from Bone this issue. He’s got a lot of Rocketeer action, some great reaction shots between Cliff and Betty; that whole vibe, from cartoon broadness to comic strip focus, continues here, if not amplifies.
While Langridge does follow the general IDW Rocketeer continuity, Hollywood Horror never feels forcibly tied in. They’re creating their own thing; so far, better than anyone else has done.
These Troubled Times; writer, Roger Langridge; artist, J. Bone; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Tom B. Long; editor, Scott Dunbier; publisher, IDW Publishing.