100th-Avengers

100th Anniversary Special: The Avengers (September 2014)

100th Anniversary Special: The Avengers

Marvel really let James Stokoe do an Avengers comic? He sets it in 2063–a hundred years from the first Avengers comic (identical to the thing Paul Pope did with Batman: Year 100 but who’s counting)–and sets this team of Rogue (immortal thanks to Wolverine somehow), Beta Ray Bill (immortal because he’s a god) and Dr. Strange (immortal through incarnation) on an adventure. Well, some of it is just them going to check up on Tony Stark, who’s brain is now in a giant Iron Man building.

It’s crazy, crazy stuff but it isn’t until the end of the issue where Stokoe’s actually visionary. The future setting, the odd cast–those are just Stokoe standards. He’s not trying anything new here, he’s just bringing some eclectic enthusiasm to a commercial comic.

Except his resolution with the guest villain. Stokoe makes a profound observation about superhero comics–Marvel or not, Avengers or not–with it.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, artist, colorist and letterer, James Stokoe; editor, Jon Moisan; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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mice-templar-volume-iii

The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night’s Dream 2 (January 2011)

The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night's Dream #2

Glass is having some real problems with cliffhangers in Midwinter, if this second issue is any indication. After not just going through the main plot, but also introducing the supporting cast back from the previous volume, Glass quarantines these first two issues (for protagonists Cassius and Karic, anyway). He’s moved the players from point A to point B and now he’s ready to get started again.

It’s like a soft reset, with the ground situation now changed. It feels like a combination of treading water and contriving trouble.

There’s still a lot of strong material in the issue–some fantastic action art from Santos–and Glass’s character moments are excellent. He’s just all over the place. This issue it becomes clear Cassius hasn’t been the protagonist these first two issues so much as subject; his lost love has a whole lot more going on and self-awareness.

Hopefully things will get started now.

B 

CREDITS

Consequences; writer, Bryan J.L. Glass; artist, Victor Santos; colorist, Veronica Gandini; letterer, James H. Glass; editor, Judy Glass; publisher, Image Comics.

Deep Gravity

Deep Gravity 1 (July 2014)

Deep Gravity #1

Deep Gravity is missing something rather important–a hook. It’s a sci-fi series about people working on a different planet, mining its resources and bringing them back to Earth. The explanations all sound scientific, but it doesn’t seem to actually be scientific, so the hook isn’t it being “hard science” sci-fi.

The protagonist is some guy who goes to the planet to talk to his ex-girlfriend. It’s a three year trip so he’s dedicating six years just to talk to her again. Their relationship is fairly lame so it’s not a hook either.

Then there’s the art, from Fernando Baldó. This other world is some crazy mostly ocean place where plants and animals are the same thing. Apparently. Except none of the designs are particularly good. Baldó’s got a lot of issues with people, places, things. So the art’s not the hook.

So far Gravity’s painfully mediocre.

C 

CREDITS

Writers, Mike Richardson, Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko; artist, Fernando Baldó; colorist, Nick Filardi; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Shantel LaRocque and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

firestorm v2

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 14 (July 1983)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #14

Until the silly eighties toys show up at the end–the villain rides around in absurd tank–it’s a decent enough issue. Well, the villain–Enforcer (Conway remembering his old Spider-Man days perhaps)–is lame, but some of it might be the art. Broderick starts the issue strong and then loses his grip by halfway through. This time it’s worse than bad faces, it’s goofy bodies and so on.

But the issue itself isn’t bad, Conway’s initial plot–Ronnie and Martin getting the newly unemployed scientist a job at Ronnie’s burger joint–works. He just keeps adding on to the plot until the issue is bloated. He doesn’t give anything enough time and keeps throwing in hints at future subplots.

The action finish–that tank–is silly and poorly conceived. All this action in a confined space cuts down on action possibilities for Broderick.

It’s a rather problematic issue.

B- 

CREDITS

Enforcer; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, Adam Kubert; editors, Nicola Cuti and Conway; publisher, DC Comics.

Low

Low 1 (August 2014)

Low #1

Low is a gorgeous comic. Greg Tocchini doing sci-fi. It’s just gorgeous, especially the double page spreads.

Unfortunately, it’s clear from the first few pages of the comic writer Rick Remender is not bringing the same caliber of work. Instead, he’s writing a derivative, wordy, knock-off of “Lost in Space,” only set underwater.

The issue opens with lots of marriage banter between the narrator and his upper class wife. He’s just the guy who drives the ship–in this case, the ship is the bubble city humanity survives in. He wants to teach the daughters to drive, the wife doesn’t. I didn’t think Remender was so cheap he’d use tragedy to endear the reader to the family in the first issue but I was wrong. Remender’s a really cheap writer.

If it were just bad dialogue or dumb plotting, the art might make it worthwhile. But not both.

D 

CREDITS

The Delirium of Hope; writer, Rick Remender; artist, Greg Tocchini; letterer, Rus Wooton; editor, Sebastian Girner; publisher, Image Comics.

Star-Trek--Harlan-Ellison's-The-City-on-the-Edge-of-Forever--The-Original-Teleplay

Star Trek: The City on the Edge of Forever 2 (July 2014)

Star Trek: The City on the Edge of Forever #2

Not only is Janice Rand back, she kicks butt.

There are a few more big changes in this issue, with Kirk and company beaming up after time has changed to find themselves on a mercenary freighter or some such thing. It’s where Yeoman Rand reveals her fighting skills.

It’s very hard to take City seriously with this sort of distraction, although it does feature some decent action art from Woodward. Not great, because painted fight scenes just don’t move, but decent. Yeoman Rand kicks butt and all.

The rest of the issue has Kirk and Spock going back in time and getting into some trouble with thirties rabble rousers. This comic shouldn’t be made just for people familiar with the original episode, but the creators certainly aren’t making it accessible otherwise. The whole soft cliffhanger hinges on that familiarity.

It’s a mediocre comic and its curiosity value is waning fast.

C 

CREDITS

Writers, Harlan Ellison, Scott Tipton and David Tipton; artist, J.K. Woodward; letterer, Neil Uyetake; editor, Chris Ryall; publisher, IDW Publishing.

mice-templar-volume-iii

The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night’s Dream 1 (December 2010)

The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night's Dream #1

Besides the cliffhanger, which is too manipulative, A Midwinter Night’s Dream is off to a great start. Glass has a lot of territory to cover just getting the story going–there’s lengthy expository narration at the beginning, along with some fantastic art by Santos. For the flashbacks, Santos only gets a few panels to make his point and he does every time.

The issue isn’t just well-executed flashbacks, of course. Glass does some character drama, some more action and a little romance–not to mention another creepy full page spread of the lead character having to negotiate with the bugs to survive during the day time. Santos isn’t a creepy artist so the bugs aren’t gross, but they’re still disturbing. Maybe just because Glass still hasn’t shown them angry yet.

Glass uses the supporting cast to both build the mythology and move the action.

It’s another excellent Templar comic.

B+ 

CREDITS

Precious Burden; writer, Bryan J.L. Glass; artists, Michael Avon Oeming and Victor Santos; colorist, Veronica Gandini; letterer, James H. Glass; editor, Judy Glass; publisher, Image Comics.

afterlife-with-archie

Afterlife with Archie 6 (October 2014)

Afterlife with Archie #6

It’s not hard to identify Aguirre-Sacasa’s influences for this issue, which tracks the story of Sabrina (the teenage witch) following her brief appearance earlier in the story.

The issue is Lovecraftian homage, sort of by way of The Wicker Man, which works out splendidly.

In some ways, the issue should be predictable to Lovecraft afficonados, with Aguirre-Sacasa hitting a lot of familiar notes. It’s just the presence of Sabrina–as she tries to figure out what’s going on (is naming her doctor Lovecraft just homage or is there more to it)–it distracts from the narrative beats. Even for someone who’s never read Lovecraft, just seen or read a handful of adaptations. Aguirre-Sacasa knows what he’s doing.

And Francavilla does a beautiful, beautiful job. It’s gorgeous and tragic. Aguirre-Sacasa’s script has some dream sequences and flashbacks so Francavilla gets a whole bunch to draw.

Phenomenal stuff.

A 

CREDITS

Betty: R.I.P., Chapter One: Witch in the Dream House; writer, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; artist and colorist, Francesco Francavilla; letterer, Jack Morelli; editor, Jamie Lee Rotante; publisher, Archie Comics.

firestorm v2

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 13 (June 1983)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #13

Firestorm is turning into a were-hyena and his plan is to go to Africa to find the cure. Why doesn’t he call the Justice League and have the many scientist super heroes help him? Because Conway wants to do a story about corrupt African nations? Because DC was docks writers pay if they used too many guest stars? Some third option?

Suffice to say, the plot of this issue doesn’t make sense. It removes Firestorm from being the active character in his own comic for quite a few pages–he’s delirious or he’s a hostage or just an enraged jerk. He is turning into a were-hyena after all. Good thing it’s really cute. Broderick and Rodriguez make the transformed Firestorm adorable. It’s weird.

Conway throws in a couple scenes developing the civilian subplots, but it’s not enough. This issue drags an unsuccessful plot out one issue too far.

C+ 

CREDITS

Split!; writer, Gerry Conway; pencillers, Pat Broderick and Rodin Rodriguez; inker, Rodriguez; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterers, Andy Kubert and Adam Kubert; editors, Nicola Cuti and Conway; publisher, DC Comics.

star-spangled-war-stories

Star Spangled War Stories 1 (September 2014)

Star Spangled War Stories #1

Star Spangled War Stories. G.I. Zombie. Neither of those titles suggest the comic is going to open in the present day, set in Louisiana, but writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray don’t do anything predictable in this first issue. Not the first twist, not G.I. Zombie, not the cliffhanger. Not the zombie scene.

It’s highly inventive stuff, with Palmiotti and Gray changing genres from military to federal agent procedural. Zombie’s setup–a female federal agent and her new partner, the only zombie in the world–is ready for a television pilot next season but that commercial appeal doesn’t hinder the issue at all. Having Scott Hampton on the art helps immeasurably; Hampton does a focus thing with the art. The backgrounds feel painted and distant, the characters sort of move on top of it. It’s an excellent effect.

There are some third act pacing problems, but it’s off to a strong start.

B 

CREDITS

Writers, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray; artist and colorist, Scott Hampton; letterer, Rob Leigh; editors, Kyle Andrukiewicz and Joey Cavalieri; publisher, DC Comics.

transformers-vs-gi-joe

Transformers vs. G.I. Joe 1 (July 2014)

Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #1

Scoli and Barber’s madness continues and amplifies. What I love is how they put in some sense of a narrative–there’s a subplot involving Snake Eyes and what he’s been doing since he left G.I. Joe, not to mention how the Joes’ plan doesn’t get revealed until it’s already underway via flashback. Because the rest of the comic is a madhouse–Scoli gives the big non-action story scenes small scale panels to save room for more action. The result is big dramatic moments in small panels.

There’s one crazy full page spread where the characters move down the page, without much visual hinting; Scoli’s intentional lack of depth just makes Transformers vs. G.I. Joe even more gorgeous.

The comic doesn’t require any enthusiasm about the franchises themselves, just how Scoli and Barber are approaching the subject matter. A pseudo-simplistic illustrated toy commercial; it’s like a new genre, but not.

Scoli’s rocking it.

A- 

CREDITS

Writers, Tom Scioli and John Barber; artist, colorist and letterer, Scioli; editor, Carlos Guzman; publisher, IDW Publishing.

mice-templar-volume-iii

The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night’s Dream 0 (November 2010)

The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night's Dream #0

As a zero issue introducing the new Mice Templar volume, this issue isn’t effective. There are some really effective things about it–Bryan J.L. Glass and Victor Santos retell the finale of the previous volume from a different perspective and Santos gets in some wonderful pages–but the comic itself is too slight.

Running about eight pages, it might just be too short to be anything but slight, but Glass takes an odd approach. One of the knights saving the citizenry from the tyrant king is questioning his orders and the idea of a savior and so on. If it were a full issue–and the protagonist were better defined–it might work as a rumination on events. But, like I said, it’s too short.

The Santos art makes it easily worth a look and Glass’s script coasts on built-up good will towards the series. It’s hard not to be a little disappointed though.

B- 

CREDITS

Faith in Miracles; writers, Michael Avon Oeming and Bryan J.L. Glass; artist, Victor Santos; colorist, Veronica Gandini; letterer, James H. Glass; editor, Judy Glass; publisher, Image Comics.

transformers-vs-gi-joe

Transformers vs. G.I. Joe 0 (May 2014)

Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #0

Transformers vs. G.I. Joe is not serious. It is not a realistic examination of an elite international military organization battling sentient robotic beings from another star.

It is Tom Scioli capturing the sensation of being a six or eight year-old boy watching afternoon cartoons, getting excited for that cartoon’s toys being advertised during commercial breaks. Seeing as how it’s a comic book and a printed medium (sort of), Scioli even integrates nods to action figure packaging. Even though this issue is just the promotional zero issue of a subsequent limited series, Scioli has done something no one else has done. At least not sincerely.

Because the visible sincerity of the comic–just look at Scioli’s amount of detail and thoughtfulness of panel composition–is what makes it singular. If Scioli were doing it all as a joke, it wouldn’t work. He and co-writer John Barber are masterfully realizing boyhood fantasy. It’s breathtaking.

A 

CREDITS

Writers, Tom Scioli and John Barber; artist, colorist and letterer, Scioli; editor, Carlos Guzman; publisher, IDW Publishing.

firestorm v2

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 12 (May 1983)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #12

Broderick and Rodriguez continue to have problems with Ronnie’s civilian adventures. For whatever reason, they’re fine with Martin and his supporting cast, it’s just the teenagers who have awkward, flat expressions.

The story has a slowly transforming Firestorm trying to stop the double Hyena threat. Conway spends more time coming up with witty exposition–and some of it’s quite good–than he does on the characters. Ronnie has a scene at his part-time job, one with his friends, but none have any resonance. It’s especially bad with the girlfriend.

Martin, on the other hand, gets fired and then possibly gets blackmailed. Conway’s building that story slowly, with one exaggerated setup scene but otherwise it’s moving well.

As for Firestorm versus the Hyena? The opening fight has some good visuals but the final one is a little confused. Broderick just doesn’t plot out the action well.

Still, it’s reasonably compelling.

B 

CREDITS

Howl; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, Ben Oda; editors, Nicola Cuti and Conway; publisher, DC Comics.