Andru’s back for exactly the type of comic I expected with the title Atari Force. It’s roughly eighteen pages–I’m not counting the double-page spreads–and most of those pages is like watching someone else play a video game. Only it’s an Atari game, so the designs are pretty childish. (Not to knock Atari game designers, but how many bits of graphics did they have? Two?).
The issue recounts the victories of a fighter pilot who singlehandedly shuts down an evil alien species mining planets with slave labor. The regular cast does make some appearances, but only once do Conway and Thomas bother giving them any depth in their scenes. And that one instance is never resolved. The rest of the issue makes that scene moot anyway.
It’s generally competent, licensed material dreck. Andru’s art isn’t interesting, but endless space battles with goofy ships isn’t going to be interesting.
Phoenix; writers, Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas; penciller, Ross Andru; inker and editor, Dick Giordano; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Costanza; publisher, DC Comics.
Starlight is not an original idea. Goran Parlov’s composition even mimics The Incredibles when establishing the protagonist, one Duke McQueen. He’s not a John Wayne character, he’s Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers. Except he’s gotten old. His kids are selfish little pricks–again, not original–but he’s pushing through.
He’s also exceptionally well-established in just one issue. Mark Millar uses flashbacks to his adventuring to show who he was and then little scenes in the present to show how he hasn’t changed too much.
Is Duke going to go and save the galaxy again? One hopes–oh, wait a second, didn’t Garth Ennis do Dan Dare with this treatment. Like I said, not original.
But it’s earnestly done. Parlov’s art is fantastic. The fantastical stuff gets pushed further thanks to Parlov’s realistically minded but not realistic stylings. So obvious the Earth stuff works.
It’s light reading, but wonderfully so.
Writer, Mark Millar; artist, Goran Parlov; colorist, Ive Svorcina; letterer, Marko Sunjic; editor, Nicole Boose; publisher, Image Comics.
I do admire Jones’s dedication. He resolves my concerns over the appearance of contrivance by revealing the conspiracy to be even more convoluted than he had previously suggested. But he doesn’t stop with the conspiracy, he makes this issue’s plot even more convoluted and surprising.
The issue has a couple strange turns of events–not to mention a few of those false cliffhangers Jones uses to keep the reader engaged in what’s basically a setup for things to come. Jones doesn’t come off as gimmicky because those plotting decisions are what his Hulk is all about. He never wants the reader to feel he or she is on firm ground; the surprises, even if they’re only important for five or six pages in the story, are essential.
Consciously playing with reader expectations is an interesting move. If the reader buys in, it still means the payoff needs to be substantial.
Dark Mind, Dark Hearts, Part Two: Killing Season; writer, Bruce Jones; artist, Mike Deodato Jr.; colorist, Studio F; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Warren Simons, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.
I’m hesitant to wonder if Greg Rucka and Toni Fejzula are going to be able to maintain Veil’s success into a second issue and beyond. Fejzula’s art approximates watercolors, which is a complete disconnect from the issue’s content. Lovely watercolor panels set against the story of a woman who wakes up naked in an abandoned subway and then in a bad neighborhood.
Rucka and Fejzula are challenging the idea of Sturm und Drang with it, not to mention with the girl–the titular Veil–actually finding a nice person. Even in the moments of ultra violence (watercolor ultra violence is another new one), Veil retains some positivity.
For that reason, along with its deliberate, self-indulgent (yet justified) pace, Veil is one of the best things Rucka’s ever done. He and Fejzula aren’t pushing the comics medium’s limits, but they are knocking it over to see how it works.
Writer, Greg Rucka; artist and colorist, Toni Fejzula; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Roxy Polk, Shantel LaRocque and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.
Even though the characters are still visually bland, Atari Force gets Gil Kane on the art and he knows what he’s doing. It’s a big read instead of a long one. Writers Conway and Thomas split the issue into three chapters, but it’s more like two–there’s even a cliffhanger mid-point.
For this issue, there are no more flashback introductions. Instead, there’s a somewhat weak flashback explaining the alien planet they find. It’s bumpy but passable.
Conway and Thomas to continue their rather serious look at what should be a goofy comic. One of the characters is a pacifist, burnt out by all the warring on Earth, and he doesn’t give up his convictions. There’s not a lot of fallout from it, but the writers do return to it a few times and the guy does turn out to be right.
With Kane, Force is all around competent now.
Enter — the Dark Destroyer!; writers, Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas; penciller, Gil Kane; inkers, Dick Giordano and Mike DeCarlo; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Giordano; publisher, DC Comics.
Lapham sets up a perfectly good–by perfectly good, I mean predictable–cliffhanger and doesn’t use it. He doesn’t even use it when he’s building up to the cliffhanger. Instead, he goes with a logical choice. It’s not the most dramatic he could, it’s just the right one to do.
All of Juice Squeezers plays out similarly. Lapham never goes for the big money shot or the most drama. He’s patient with it, patient with how he develops the character relationships and the subplots. He’s restrained. It’s never cheap. Not once.
This issue has huge developments with a new member joining the team, some investigation into gossip about the teacher and one of the kid’s moms, not to mention the romance subplot actually taking off. And Lapham puts all these behind the giant bug plot, which also has some new developments.
Juice Squeezers’s fabulous. Great vibe to the art too.
The Great Bug Elevator, Part Three: Going Down; writer and artist, David Lapham; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Nate Piekos; editor, Jim Gibbons; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.
Oh, Bruce Jones, did you really set Bruce Banner up with the Abomination’s wife? It’s kind of a spoiler–though not really because Jones reveals it before the end of the issue (going out on a soft cliffhanger instead)–but it’s just about the most contrived thing one could imagine.
So long as Jones owns the contrivance, I imagine it’ll work out. And new artist Mike Deodato Jr. does draw Bruce rather handsome and heartthrob so I guess it’s conceivable the woman’s going to go for him. Hopefully it’s all part of the giant conspiracy I don’t really like.
Those obvious complaints aside, it’s a solid issue. Not much happens–secret agents go see the Abomination, Bruce finds the woman in a roadside cafe–but Jones gets a full issue out of it. I think he gears up to cliffhangers, ratchets down, does more story, ratchets up again.
Dark Mind, Dark Hearts, Part One; writer, Bruce Jones; artist, Mike Deodato Jr.; colorist, Studio F; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Warren Simons, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.
I wanted two more pages of content in this book. There’s a double-page spread for effect and it and really good effect but I still wanted two more pages. Pulido does this tour of Jennifer’s new offices where he has her and her landlord walking through a long panel… backwards, actually. They walk backwards, getting the reader to the starting point for the bottom row of panels.
In other words, even though I want two more pages, everything in the book is excellent. Pulido does an outstanding job.
And Soule does a great job writing the issue. But a lot of it goes to Patsy Walker, which is fine. Soule seems to be setting up a supporting cast for the comic and he sets up two supporting members this issue. Unfortunately it’s instead of really developing Jennifer’s currently situation.
It’s a small quibble. The comic’s skillful, outstanding and fun.
…And?; writer, Charles Soule; artist, Javier Pulido; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editors, Frankie Johnson, Jeanine Schaefer and Tom Brennan; publisher, Marvel Comics.
Noam Chomsky it ain’t.
With Evil Empire, Max Bemis is out to show how the United States could become an evil empire. Not sure exactly why he didn’t base it off of other societies who became “evil empires,” seeing as how there are two or three really good examples from the twentieth century alone.
Instead, Bemis does a liberal’s pipe dream about a Republican admitting to murder, in front of a cross no less.
Bemis has his leads–the secretly earnest white guy Democrat who wants to date–professionally and personally–this Beyonce-like underground political rapper. Empire isn’t just not Noam Chomsky, it isn’t just not “West Wing,” it’s not even Mars Attacks! in terms of rational political imagination.
Not to be too negative, of course. Bemis’s dialogue is okay about thirty percent of the time and Ransom Getty’s art’s fine about seventy. The comic’s just a moronic idea.
Writer, Max Bemis; artist, Ransom Getty; colorist, Chris Blythe; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editors, Jasmine Amiri and Dafna Pleban; publisher, Boom! Studios.
King Conan is a fine enough Conan comic, I suppose. Timothy Truman has the lingo down, Tomás Giorello and José Villarrubia do well on the art. It’s moody while still appropriately classical.
But it’s just a Conan comic. It’s a pretty one, in line with the other pretty Dark Horse Conan comics, lots of romanticism and heroism. I love how Conan’s not necessarily a good guy but he’s a moral one, which goes far.
The problem’s Truman’s plotting. He’s adapting a novel, presumably faithfully, but he’s done little to make it a dynamic reading experience in the comic book form. There’s a very nice double-page spread and some of the panels are well-done, but the narrative doesn’t compel.
The bookends might be part of the problem. Truman’s playing dangers to Conan without winking at the idea he might get killed. No one has a stake in anything here.
The Black Hand of Set; writer, Timothy Truman; artist, Tomás Giorello; colorist, José Villarrubia; letterer, Richard Starkings; editors, Everett Patterson and Philip R. Simon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.
There’s an astounding amount of exposition this issue and very little inventive art from Stelfreeze. He does very well with what he’s got to do–the protagonist is on the run with a beguiling girl, the vampires are plotting–but none of the art really plays to Stelfreeze’s strength. At one point I even questioned whether or not he was still on the art.
The issue reads fairly well until writers Gagnon and Nelson start the false endings. Every time I finished one of the pages, I waited for the “to be continued.” There are a lot of natural endings in the comic, but the one they go with reveals their willingness to totally waste the readers’ time.
I suppose the action sequence is fairly cool–there’s only one. Stelfreeze does a great job with it. Unfortunately it’s not two pages longer, then it would’ve eaten into some useless exposition.
Writers, Matt Gagnon and Michael Alan Nelson; artist, Brian Stelfreeze; colorist, Darrin Moore; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editor, Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.
The Declan Shalvey art is nice and Warren Ellis gets a kick out of some of the comic, but it’s still just another Moon Knight comic. I’m not sure if there’s anyway to make an exciting Moon Knight comic. It sure doesn’t seem like it.
Ellis has got Moon Knight in a white suit and mask, traveling New York in a driverless limo–so he’s also cool enough to get exclusive Google betas. Ellis doesn’t seem interested in those parts. He doesn’t do them well.
He writes the crime scene investigation stuff well, even if he’s just aping “Law and Order: Criminal Intent.” He’s not visibly interested in those scenes though.
But when he has Moon Knight facing off against Mean Machine’s unhealthy ancestor? Then Ellis is engaged. Shame he follows that part of the comic up with lame Moon Knight retcon (or revelations).
Shalvey alone can’t carry the comic.
Slasher; writer, Warren Ellis; artist, Declan Shalvey; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Ellie Pyle and Stephen Wacker; publisher, Marvel Comics.
This issue covers two more team members–both new members whose little origin stories come right after their introductions–and both of their stories are, once again, rather rough.
First there’s the Indian guy, who only got out of poverty because some British guy mistakenly accused the kid of theft and a tragedy followed. Then there’s the head of security. For her, Thomas and Conway have a really depressing war story. Atari Force, for all its jumpsuits and Atari lingo, is a rather grown-up comic. Not what one would expect from a game tie-in geared at kids (were Atari consoles aimed at kids?).
There’s also the bigger story. The team comes together to travel between alternate realities to find a world for the benevolent Atari corporation to colonize. So no big sci-fi action yet, but soon.
The art’s still a little off, but it’s fine enough.
Berserk; writers, Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas; penciller, Ross Andru; inkers, Dick Giordano and Mike DeCarlo; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Giordano; publisher, DC Comics.
I love the way Robinson is able to use exposition–not to mention Enrique’s internal monologue–the draw the reader’s attention to particular facts. In the most extreme examples, it’s the thought process–showing the reader what they missed by not paying enough attention (though, if the reader did pay enough attention, the pleasure of the lesson wouldn’t be there). But he also uses it for the cliffhanger this issue. He agitates the reader quietly, then ends the comic. It’s a neat device.
Keeping the reader focused on how Enrique experiences the comic’s events also helps with the suspension of disbelief. He changes his mind about something being true between two panels and Robinson’s able to sell it with the presentation of the follow explanations. It’s kind of like Robinson understands how to do an educational comic and applies those rules to Five Weapons.
It’s a rather neat reading experience.
Tyler’s Revenge; writer, artist and letterer, Jimmie Robinson; colorist, Paul Little; editor, Laura Tavishati; publisher, Image Comics.