The Shadow 1 (May 1986)

The Shadow #1

Howard Chaykin's The Shadow. He takes an interesting approach to bringing back a World War II era costumed adventurer–he lets everyone age while the Shadow is away. Most of the issue has various agents–people in their later years–getting viciously murdered.

One of the Shadow's agents has had a daughter who works for some crime bureau place and she recognizes the pattern and goes to save her father. There's a fantastic action sequence that time. Chaykin's composition throughout the comic is phenomenal; the comic is always moving, with Chaykin's page layouts helping the reader get through the pages quick enough.

Only the villains get much development–the good guys are either getting killed off or trying not to get killed off. Chaykin's got a certain level of absurdity for the mega-rich villains but he keeps it in reasonable check. It's like an enthusiastic, extremely bloody and mean James Bond movie.

It's awesome.



Blood & Judgment, Part One; writer and artist, Howard Chaykin; colorist, Alex Wald; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editor, Andrew Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.

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Wildfire 3 (August 2014)

Wildfire #3

Sejic’s art is a lot better for about half the issue. Instead of doing the CG shading on characters faces, she just colors them. All of a sudden Wildfire looks like animation cels, but it works. Sejic apparently does give her characters expressions, but then the complicated coloring ruins them.

For a lot of this issue, when she’s not doing the CG depth, the expressions work. It’s rather a nice change.

Hawkins goes full Irwin Allen this issue–along with Michael Bay by bringing in the military and starting the countdown to further disaster clock. But it all works. Somehow Hawkins is able to take the most obvious, familiar disaster story tropes and make them feel entirely fresh. Even his characters aren’t original, but something about his presentation immediately deepens them, immediately makes them sympathetic.

Hawkins is a fantastic comic book writer, simply fantastic.

And Wildfire continues to exceed.

Great stuff.



Writer, Matt Hawkins; artist, Linda Sejic; letterer, Troy Peteri; editor, Betsy Gonia; publisher, Top Cow Productions.

firestorm v2

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 36 (June 1985)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #36

Whatever magic Kupperberg had been working on the inks is over now. All of a sudden, he’s doing a bad job. The faces in particular. The features aren’t in the right places on faces. It’s an ugly comic, which is a shame because it’s got some great settings and should look amazing.

Worse are the talking heads moments, when Kayanan and Kupperberg are doing the civilian side of things. The figures look tacked on to the backgrounds, then the faces look tacked on too.

It’s a peculiar issue. Conway shows how Ronnie can handle the world on his own–the villains have Firestorm knocked out and they escape, leaving him to recover (why wouldn’t they kill him?). When he does come to, Martin isn’t part of the Firestorm matrix, Ronnie’s flying solo.

Sadly, Conway immediately invalidates the personal growth while apparently dismissing other subplots too.

It’s ugly, messy, but okay.



Slowly I Turned… Niagara Falls!; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inker, Alan Kupperberg; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Helen Vesik; editors, Janice Race and Conway; publisher, DC Comics.


C.O.W.L. 4 (August 2014)

C.O.W.L. #4

Stéphane Perger joins Reis on the art this issue; their styles compliment one another, but are still distinct. The art is both more stylized and emotive over all and it helps the issue immensely.

As for Higgins and Siegel’s story, it’s phenomenal. They’re apparently comfortable enough in C.O.W.L. to let some subplots rest without getting full recaps and minimal motion. There’s some quiet family drama, there’s some quiet relationship drama. It’s all very quiet; even though it’s about the superheroes picketing the police department.

Real quick–the picket lines meet a predictable conclusion when it’s one law enforcement agency picketing and another one not. Higgins and Siegel find a whole lot to talk about this comic and not much of it has to do with flying men. They aren’t turning C.O.W.L. into a history lesson, they’re instead using it as a discussion piece about history.

The comic’s really shaping up well.



Principles of Power, Chapter Four: Unity; writers, Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel; artists, Rod Reis and Stéphane Perger; letterer, Troy Peteri; editor, Andy Schmidt; publisher, Image Comics.

sensational she-hulk

The Sensational She-Hulk 1 (May 1989)

The Sensational She-Hulk #1

John Byrne finds a nice approach for Sensational She-Hulk–it’s a gag. He doesn’t just go for humor, he finds the right balance between humor for the characters and the reader. It’s entertaining, which is the point, but very expertly executed in how he delivers that entertainment.

He never lets She-Hulk be a joke or her comics history–in fact, some of Byrne’s handling of crowd (this issue mostly takes place at a circus) reminds of Silver Age Marvel. But there’s also the Byrne art. He gives himself a cast of peculiar characters to illustrate and does well with them. The final reveal takes it a little far, but the whole circus setting is fantastic.

It’s not a deep comic and there’s not much character development, but it’s a lot of fun and the art’s good. Byrne’s attitudes–both to his narrative and to his protagonist–are strong.



Second Chance; writer and penciller, John Byrne; inker, Bob Wiacek; colorist, Glynis Oliver; letterer, John Workman; editor, Bobbi Chase; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Flash Gordon

Flash Gordon 5 (August 2014)

Flash Gordon #5

Odd issue. Parker splits it in two–with Sandy Jarrell and Richard Case on art for the first part and Shanier on the second. The first part, which is just Flash, Dale and Zarkov in their spaceship trying to get to the next world, has a lot of personality. There’s banter, there’s Ming megalomania. Even with the art change, it feels like the Flash Gordon comic Parker and Shanier have been working towards. Jarrell and Case do well too.

But the second half–where Shanier actually does the art–feels way off. The cast lands on Skyworld and gets into immediate trouble. Parker paces it terribly. While the art is good, the content isn’t expansive enough to make the abbreviated story worth it. Parker makes Dale the de facto protagonist but doesn’t give her anything to do but whine.

Like I said before, odd. It’s likely just a bump. Hopefully.



Writer, Jeff Parker; artists, Sandy Jarrell, Richard Case and Evan Shaner; colorists, Jarrell and Bellaire; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Nate Cosby; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

firestorm v2

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 35 (May 1985)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #35

Conway doesn’t just address Ronnie and Martin’s partnership as Martin has to move for work, he also makes time to give Ronnie’s father both a personality (or hints of one) and a girlfriend. There’s also intrigue at Martin’s new job. Lots of subplots this issue, including two villains.

The opening cliffhanger resolution, with Firestorm having to escape the new Killer Frost’s trap even figures into the later talking heads scene between Ronnie and Martin. Conway seems to be taking a new look at his characters, a fresh one without as much baggage.

It’s a strange approach, given he’s over thirty issues into the series, but it does work.

Kayanan and Kupperberg’s art has its moments–like the action scenes or the date scene for Ronnie’s dad–but the talking heads sequence doesn’t work out. With too many faces to ink, Kupperberg gets a little lazy.

It’s a thoroughly solid issue.



Winter Frost; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inker, Alan Kupperberg; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Ben Oda; editors, Janice Race and Conway; publisher, DC Comics.


Star Spangled War Stories 2 (October 2014)

Star Spangled War Stories #2

G.I. Zombie likes to talk to himself. A lot. He and his partner spend the issue working on separate parts of the same mission; she gets to talk to the bad guys, he gets to kill them and talk to himself. A lot.

It doesn’t make much sense, since Palmiotti and Gray open the issue with G.I. Zombie narrating it. Why change from perfectly reasonable narration to the guy talking to himself while on his stealth mission? No idea. It doesn’t make sense.

The big finish is similarly confusing. Palmiotti and Gray do pace the issue rather well. Although it takes place over an hour or so, it’s a very busy hour and there are a handful of nods towards character development. But the ending is a mess. It’s too fast and too slight.

Also a problem is Hampton’s art. He maintains the cool style, but he’s slacking in detail.



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


Groo vs. Conan 2 (August 2014)

Groo vs. Conan #2

So Groo vs. Conan is already an imaginary story wrapped in the adventures of Sergio Aragonés as he runs around with (presumably) temporary dementia. But then he and co-writer Evanier feel the need to wrap another imaginary element around the finish. The last few pages, where Groo and Conan fight, are all in the imagination of one of the townspeople.

The mix of art, with Yeates’s Conan often in front of Aragonés Groo backgrounds, is mildly successful. Each artist does fine on their own, but the combination is distracting. It isn’t supposed to look real and it doesn’t… it also doesn’t come off as the most imaginative way to fuse the two styles.

The best stuff in the comic is Sergio’s adventures running around half naked as he tries to escape Evanier and his doctors.

Aragonés and Evanier don’t seem to know how to best exploit the series’s gimmick.



Writers, Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier; artists, Aragonés and Thomas Yeates; colorist, Lovern Kindzierski; letterer, Richard Starkings; editors, Dave Land, Katie Moody and Patrick Thorpe; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

savage she-hulk

The Savage She-Hulk 4 (May 1980)

The Savage She-Hulk #4

What an awful comic book. It gets dumber as it goes along, with Jennifer’s dad joining forces with the guy who killed his wife in order to kill She-Hulk. The villain isn’t a regular mobster, he has a huge Bond villain subterranean fortress. It’s not too big, however, since She-Hulk is able to find everyone right after she breaks in.

The comic also has the further adventures of She-Hulk’s Rick Jones, the Zapper kid. It’s really dumb, especially as Kraft tries to show She-Hulk predisposition towards rage. Except she doesn’t change when she’s angry, she changes when she’s in pain or danger.

I also need to address the art, even though there’s nothing nice or interesting to say about it. Volsburg and Stone produce some severely lacking artwork this issue. The action scenes can’t compete against bad composition.

It’s a bad comic. Slow, dumb and ugly.



The She-Hulk Strikes Back!; writer, David Anthony Kraft; pencillers, Mike Vosburg and Chic Stone; inker, Stone; colorist, George Roussos; letterer, Joe Rosen; editor, Mary Jo Duffy; publisher, Marvel Comics.

firestorm v2

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 34 (April 1985)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #34

The Kupperberg inks continue to give Firestorm all the emotion Conway’s scripts have been lacking. Only this issue has some emotion in the script–Ronnie having a talk with ex-girlfriend Doreen (who he jilted for Firehawk)–and the result, even though Conway cops out for a conclusion, is fantastic. Kayanan’s panel composition and Kupperberg’s details make for a great talking heads scene.

There’s a lot of movement with the subplots too, more than with the action plots. At least for this issue, Conway’s doing something of a shift–the action is spectacular but finite, while the character moments get a lot of space, whether it’s Martin, Ronnie or just the supporting cast.

The art also has a lot of fluidity, whether it’s how the characters talk or how Firestorm handles threats in the action sequences. Kayanan seems to be composing for his inker too, which makes the work better.



The Big Freeze!; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inker, Alan Kupperberg; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Phil Felix; editors, Janice Race and Conway; publisher, DC Comics.


Star Trek: The City on the Edge of Forever 3 (August 2014)

Star Trek: The City on the Edge of Forever #3

The bottom falls out this issue. Given nothing compelling to illustrate–unless one counts the various odd jobs Kirk and Spock perform–Woodward is left with talking heads, where he seems to be painting panels directly from pauses of old “Star Trek” episodes. The result? Terrible, static figures. Even worse, he’s rushing, so there’s a lot of loosely rendered, terrible, static figures.

As for the writing, there’s some angry banter between Kirk and Spock. It’s real bad; either from the original Harlan Ellison teleplay or the Tipton brothers adaptation, the characters have no chemistry. Combined with the static faces, it makes for terrible comics.

Even worse is when the love interest arrives. The flirting scene between her and Kirk is atrocious, but Woodward’s so insistent on the Joan Collins reference, the character never fits in the environment.

Edge has been a consistently problematic effort, but this issue really tanks it.



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

savage she-hulk

The Savage She-Hulk 3 (April 1980)

The Savage She-Hulk #3

Well, Kraft certainly doesn’t turn things around this issue. He might make them worse–nothing this issue gets a full breath. The big ending, which should be an exciting fight between She-Hulk and her first superpowered villain, flops because of the setting. A beach house isn’t the place for a visually dynamic brawl.

There’s some subplot development with Jennifer’s dad and then a little bit more with the villain, but nothing with Jennifer herself. The idiotic “faked her own death” plot turn gets even worse with her opposing counsel, also a confidant in that plot, harassing her. And then there’s Jennifer’s good buddy, Zapper, who gets to play dude in distress.

The art, from Volsburg and Stone, is also weak. The action’s too small but they couldn’t handle anything more. Volsburg doesn’t have any sense of style to his composition either. It’s confused and unpleasant.

It’s a trying read.



She-Hulk Murders Lady Lawyer!; writer, David Anthony Kraft; pencillers, Mike Vosburg and Chic Stone; inker, Stone; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterer, Michael Higgins; editors, Mary Jo Duffy and Al Milgrom; publisher, Marvel Comics.


Wayward 1 (August 2014)

Wayward #1

Wayward is awful. I wish it weren’t, because Steve Cummings’s art is awesome. With the single exception of the teenage girl protagonist looking about the same age as her mother. But otherwise.

So why is Wayward so bad I can’t even stick with it for the art?

Writer Jim Zub. Unless he’s trying to do a “girl power” comic with some deceptive objectifying of women and some really bad dialogue, all the writing is a disaster. Every word. Down to Marshall Dllon’s lettering choices.

The dialogue sounds like a combination of protracted, insincere soap opera expository writing and poorly translated subtitles. At times, Wayward really does feel like Zub is trying to mimic a bad subtitle job. There are some goofy plot developments–like the fantasy ninja girl wanting strawberry milk.

As for the sexism, Zub’s characters are generic, predictable fetish objects. Sadly, Zub’s serious and not mocking the genre.



Writer, Jim Zub; artist, Steve Cummings; colorist, John Rauch; letterer, Marshall Dillon; publisher, Image Comics.