Letter 44 6 (April 2014)

Letter 44 #6

Alburquerque definitely does better on the art this issue. There’s not much action; there’s some running, when the landing party returns to the spaceship, and they don’t look good but there’s no other action.

Soule deals with the political stuff and the human interest story for the crew of the spaceship. The President has a really good scene and there are a few developments with the space side, but nothing significant on the latter. Or the former, really. Soule is sort of soft resetting the series, getting it ready for the next arc. It’s unclear why this issue is the end of an arc, however. Things have changed, yes, but the character development is all forced.

Still, there are some decent moments and a couple surprises. The surprises aren’t great, but one is for the characters so Soule is at least thinking about them.

It’s just an artificial pause point.



Writer, Charles Soule; penciller, Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque; colorist, Dan Jackson; letterer, Shawn DePasquale; editors, Charlie Chu and Robin Herrera; publisher, Oni Press.

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Stray Bullets: KIllers

Stray Bullets: Killers 6 (August 2014)

Stray Bullets: Killers #6

Well, it’s far from the worst issue of Killers. It’s more with Virginia and her mostly lame boyfriend Eli; Lapham does very little to show why Eli’s any good as a boyfriend other than he’s usually sweet to Virginia.

This issue has him not being sweet for the first time and it’s an awkward scene. Usually outburst scenes in Stray Bullets lead to some kind of murder scene. This time it leads to teenage angst.

It’s also one of the first issues–Killers or regular series–where something turns out not to be the worst possible scenario. Except maybe some of those early Virginia issues where Lapham frequently threatens her to keep the tension high. It’s a Stray Bullets comic without the big finish. Very odd.

The art’s really lazy at times; Lapham rushes through the talking heads sequences and it hurts the comic. Ditto the narratively pointless hallucination subplot.



99 Percent; writer, artist and letterer, David Lapham; editors, Renee Miller and Maria Lapham; publisher, Image Comics.

firestorm v2

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 30 (December 1984)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #30

It’s another messy issue from Cavalieri. Firestorm gets arrested–I can’t believe they didn’t go with it for the cover–and then gets beat up in jail. He’s recovering from the brainwashing, so there’s not a lot he does in the comic. Instead, the lame villains are back. There’s Mindboggler, who’s doing all the brainwashing–only she’s supposed to be slightly sympathetic because her evil boss (in a hooded robe) energizes her powers through torture.

Then there’s a guy who can transform himself into anyone and then a street gang. Cavalieri takes the time to include the street gang’s leader is also brainwashing him.

These villains do not make an impressive rogues’ gallery. They’re bad.

There’s some subplot movement with the woman planning on suing Firestorm getting a job at Ronnie’s dad’s paper. Contrived doesn’t begin to describe it.

Worse, Tanghal doesn’t ink Kayanan very well. The weaker art significantly outweighs the stronger.



The Depths of Despair; writer, Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inker, Romeo Tanghal; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, John Costanza; editors, Janice Race and Gerry Conway; publisher, DC Comics.


The Multiversity 1 (October 2014)

The Multiversity #1

If Grant Morrison needs help breaking the fourth wall–he does it poorly in this first issue of Multiversity–he should have asked John Byrne. But with the exception of Captain Carrot, Morrison’s references to other comics are all mocking and derisive.

Whatever he says he’s doing with the comic, Morrison is actually trolling for fanboy outrage. Superman isn’t just black, he’s Obama. And all the other superheroes are black. Flash and Green Lantern are gay. Marvel Comics are stupid. Real stupid. Especially the Ultimates, Fantastic Four and Infinity Gems. There are probably a few more.

It’s all very contemporary and hip, but I assume Morrison will get around to throwing poo at Alan Moore and Mark Millar.

There are some amusing moments with Captain Carrot and Ivan Reis and Joe Prado do well on art.

Unless someone’s researching for a book about Morrison’s ego, there’s no worthwhile reading here.



House of Heroes; writer, Grant Morrison; penciller, Ivan Reis; inker, Joe Prado; colorist, Nei Ruffino; letterer, Todd Klein; editor, Ricky Purdin; publisher, DC Comics.


Letter 44 5 (March 2014)

Letter 44 #5

It’s the first issue with a lot of action, both on Earth and in space. Alburquerque doesn’t do well with either. His figures in motion don’t work. He gets so rushed, people become squatter from one panel to the next. It’s unfortunate, especially because the awkwardness affects the pace of the comic.

All the action distracts from a decided lack of character and plot development. Soule reveals what the FBI has been working on, but it seems–so far anyway–an excuse to tread water through an issue to change up the cast a little. There’s a little fallout from the previous issue’s political cliffhanger, but it’s a couple pages and nothing really happens. Good line for the President, not much else.

On the space side of the story, things are worse. Soule ignores most of the astronauts and concentrates on the two exploring. The scientist explorer makes some really dumb moves.



Writer, Charles Soule; penciller, Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque; colorist, Dan Jackson; letterer, Shawn DePasquale; editors, Charlie Chu and Robin Herrera; publisher, Oni Press.


Sons of Anarchy 12 (August 2014)

Sons of Anarchy #12

Brisson sure does have a complicated situation setup. Not bad complicated, good complicated. The regular Sons members are still supporting cast and maybe even moreso with Brisson introducing the father of a guy who died in a meth lab. Either this new character is going to be a long-term player in the arc or short-term but the way Brisson is weaving the plot strands is phenomenal.

There are three subplots and none of them have to do with the Sons of Anarchy, regular or guest starring. Instead, they’re to emphasize the villains. With a different writer, it might give the titular characters less to do, but Brisson still drives the main plot through SAMTAZ and its dealing with the bad guys.

The comic continues–with Couceiro’s as usual excellent art–to be an oddity of a licensed property. Brisson, Couceiro and BOOM! are unfailingly ambitious with the comic.



Writer, Ed Brisson; artist, Damian Couceiro; colorist, Michael Spicer; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editor, Dafna Pleban; publisher, Boom! Studios.

firestorm v2

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 29 (November 1984)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #29

It’s Firestorm versus three really lame villains, one angry businesswoman and one angry high school classmate. I’m not sure what Cavalieri is trying to do–except further the problems with the series. Cavalieri doesn’t even bring Firehawk into the issue, which is odd since I thought they were trying to rescue her missing father the last issue, and she does provide an iota of character development.

Instead, Martin is mad at Ronnie for how he handles being Firestorm and Ronnie is obnoxious in general. He’s obnoxious as Firestorm, he’s obnoxious at school; there are some subplot developments–Martin’s romance and Ronnie’s dad getting fired, not to mention the woman threatening to sue Firestorm for property damage.

The finale has Firestorm fighting hallucinations without knowing he’s hallucinating. There are a few important things Kayanan and Rodriguez fail to make clear and the sequence flops. It’s nonsensical.

There’s some good art, but not enough.



The Assassination Bureau; writer, Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inker, Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Duncan Andrews; editors, Janice Race and Gerry Conway; publisher, DC Comics.


The Fade Out 1 (August 2014)

The Fade Out #1

The Fade Out is the story of a Hollywood screenwriter in the 1940s. Ed Brubaker writes the comic’s narration in really close third person. Between Brubaker–who has his fair share of writing predictable twists–and the protagonist–who would probably write even more of them–one of them should have noticed the utterly predictable nature of this issue.

The writer wakes up next to a dead body. Is there any chance he could have something to do with the dead body–a young starlet whose picture he’s working on? He sure doesn’t think so and Brubaker sure tries to make it seem like he’s not involved but guess what… you probably don’t have to guess if you’ve ever seen a single film noir.

I’m being a little hard on the comic, which is well-researched and beautifully illustrated by Sean Phillips. It’s recycled material–James Ellroy deserves an “inspired by” credit at least–but professionally, thoroughly presented.



The Wild Party; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; editor, David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.


Letter 44 4 (February 2014)

Letter 44 #4

Soule scores big with this issue. He's got a lot of political machinations going on with the President's story–a duplicitous subordinate and then an eerie Lady Macbeth vibe off the first lady–and Soule delivers on them. He doesn't build them up and make the reader wait, he takes care of it in this issue.

But then he's got the space story too and while there's a human component to it as well, Soule finally goes from fact-based science fiction to regular science fiction. Or at least more fantastical science fiction. It's the first time he and Alburquerque try it and it's a definite success. It serves as one of the issue's two hard cliffhangers; while it gets overshadowed by the political plot line, it's well-executed turn.

As for the human side of the space mission, Soule has an unexpected event there as well. Along with–possibly–a Right Stuff homage.



Writer, Charles Soule; penciller, Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque; colorist, Dan Jackson; letterer, Shawn DePasquale; editor, Jill Beaton; publisher, Oni Press.


Black Market 2 (August 2014)

Black Market #2

Two issues into a four issue limited series and I can't figure out why I'm supposed to be reading the comic. Barbiere's writing is–at best–mediocre. Not because there's anything particularly wrong with it, but because there's nothing particularly good about it. He's not just not doing anything original, he's not even trying to be imaginative. He's got his hook, he's running with it and he doesn't mind it being highly derivative.

Santos's art continues to be the comic's redeeming factor, especially since Barbiere gives him an action sequence or two this time. Santos makes the chase sequence, which goes on too long as far as writing, work out beautifully. Though it is Barbiere who comes up with the strong conclusion to the chase.

If Black Market had anything distinctive to it–besides Santos's art–it might be something significant. Or at least compelling. It'd be nice if it were compelling for once.



Writer, Frank J. Barbiere; artist, Victor Santos; colorist, Adam Metcalfe; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editors, Chris Rosa and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

firestorm v2

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 28 (October 1984)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #28

And now it's Joey Cavalieri scripting from a Conway plot. The most visible change in the scripting is the personality Cavalieri gives Firestorm's two sides. Martin is dismissive of how Ronnie does things and Ronnie is irresponsible.

There's a great line with Martin mocking Ronnie and Firestorm's romance with Firehawk.

The issue eventually has some great action art, but the opening has lots of problems. Someone–either Pablo Marcos or Rodriguez–doesn't do well finishing faces for Kayanan. All the civilian scenes are plagued with characters with awkward, too static expressions.

The issue's villain is goofy but just a mercenary and the action plays out rather well.

There are some hints of character development at the beginning for Ronnie and his high school problems but Cavalieri doesn't follow through. He's getting to be unlikable, mostly because he's barely present.

Ditto the turgid conspiracy subplot–it desperately needs its resolution. The sooner the better.



The End of His Rope; writers, Gerry Conway and Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inkers, Pablo Marcos and Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, John Costanza; editors, Janice Race and Conway; publisher, DC Comics.

little nemo return to slumberland

Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland 1 (August 2014)

Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland #1

In Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland, writer Eric Shanower includes something very strange, something Winsor McCay never bothered with. A narrative. This series's Nemo isn't just a kid who has amazing dreams and wakes up when he falls on the ground, he's the kid chosen by Slumberland to be the princess's playmate.

If it sounds like a Wizard of Oz-type thing, don't worry, the opening scenes in Slumberland feel like Oz too. They don't look like it; Gabriel Rodriguez does a wonderful job mimicking McCay's style. And Shanower makes up for a bland inciting action too. Once the issue itself starts mimicking the McCary's strips–each ending with Nemo waking up and getting back into the existing dream narrative the next night–it's fantastic. Shanower gets it, Rodriguez gets it.

But then the issue's over and has nothing to show for it; Shanower can't do a narrative and not have any progression.



Writer, Eric Shanower; artist, Gabriel Rodriguez; colorist, Nelson Daniel; letterer, Robbie Robbins; editors, Chris Ryall and Scott Dunbier; publisher, IDW Publishing.


Letter 44 3 (January 2014)

Letter 44 #3

Soule ups the intrigue this issue. Not so much out on the Clarke as they investigate the alien presence–though there is an ominous asteroid to explore–but on Earth. Soule concentrates on the political intrigue and it’s really effective.

Cynically speaking, one could describe Letter 44 as a mix of Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton and Arthur C. Clarke. This comic is only indie because the industry can’t figure out what to do with an accessible title. And Soule goes out of his way not to just make it accessible, but also enjoyable. There are at least two great comic moments in this issue.

Alburquerque’s art is getting better too. It steadily rises throughout the issue; the big shock panel at the end is actually half excellent and half mediocre. He has movement down, but not how to deal with detail in movement.

The comic is a slow, strong burn.



Writer, Charles Soule; penciller, Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque; colorist, Guy Major; letterer, Shawn DePasquale; editor, Jill Beaton; publisher, Oni Press.


Dredd: Underbelly (January 2014)

Dredd: Underbelly

Dredd: Underbelly is the comic book sequel to Dredd, the movie, which is based on Judge Dredd, the comic book. So why make a big deal out of a comic book, in this case Underbelly? Well, Judge Dredd wears his new movie outfit and the designs are based on the movie, not the comic. Writer Arthur Wyatt tries to tie the issue's story to the movie, but it's thin at best.

Wyatt has a big problem with the narration. Dredd doesn't narrate, some kind of omniscient third narrates and it's often too expository and stilted. Another obvious problem is Dredd. He's not a character so much as an occasional jaw; writing Dredd to match the movie means somehow imbuing the comic with a sense of Karl Urban's performance. Without it… no go.

So Wyatt doesn't deliver much. Artist Henry Flint does better, though he has some shaky sequences as well.



Writer, Arthur Wyatt; artist, Henry Flint; colorist, Chris Blythe; letterer, Ellie De Ville; editor, Matt Smith; publisher, Rebellion.