firestorm v2

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 48 (June 1986)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #48

Firestorm hasn’t cratered or anything so severe, but Conway does seem to have found a new level for the book. It’s a little low, sure, but he’s hitting it consistently.

And even though Brozowski and Machlan leave a lot to be desired in the art–creativity–the book does look okay. It doesn’t look much like a DC comic this issue, however; it looks a lot like an eighties Spider-Man, which is fine.

Conway doesn’t do anything fresh or inventive. Firestorm is getting sued by Ronnie’s stepmother-to-be and she’s real impressed with his speech in court. Of course she’s impressed, otherwise the story might do something unexpected. Ditto the introduction of another girl in Ronnie’s life. Could she be the bow-wielding vigilante plaguing Pittsburgh’s mob?

Conway doesn’t even make that one a surprise.

It reads okay in parts, not okay in others. It’s bland superhero stuff.

B- 

CREDITS

Moonbow; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Joe Brozowski; inker, Mike Machlan; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Carrie Spiegle; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.

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war stories

War Stories 2 (October 2014)

War Stories #2

There’s something slightly off about the second issue of War Stories. Keith Burns’s art isn’t great, but it’s all right and Ennis’s script is strong enough to get over any visual bumps. Except the effort Burns puts into the aerial battles–there’s a lot of detail, but there’s no narrative to the illustration. So it contributes to that slightly off vibe, but not entirely.

The real problem is Ennis. He doesn’t actually have a story. He has some great scenes and anecdotes for bomber crews and the protagonist’s relationship with a British widow makes for a good scene, but Ennis doesn’t have a narrative. He’s just stringing these scenes together and hoping the protagonist’s narration will somehow get it through. And it doesn’t. The narration has a couple excellent moments, but they’re jagged too.

It’s not a cohesive issue. It’s a bridging issue in a three issue arc. But good.

B 

CREDITS

Castles in the Sky, Part Two of Three; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Keith Burns; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

captain victory

Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers 3 (October 2014)

Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers #3

Even though Casey is incredibly derivative–the Close Encounters nod is simultaneously cute and too much–Captain Victory continues to be a nice diversion. It’s not exactly a fun read, just because Casey doesn’t let his cast enjoy anything. There is some banter with the scientists on Earth who are looking at one of the spacecraft, but it’s over in a page.

Otherwise, the comic is very serious. And having Jim Mahfood do the adventures of a cat-man on a slightly hostile planet without any humor is too much. The comic has some great art–Fox some outstanding work–but Captain Victory isn’t actually ambitious sci-fi. It pretends to be ambitious sci-fi; Casey’s script is very traditional stuff. Even the artists’ page layouts are very traditional (even when trying to appear otherwise).

It’s an acceptable, enjoyable comic. But the artists deserve a balls to the wall script.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Joe Casey; artists, Nathan Fox, Jim Mahfood and Farel Darlyrmple; colorist, Brad Simpson; letterer, Simon Bowland; editors, Molly Mahan, Hannah Elder and Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

sally-of-the-wasteland

Sally of the Wasteland 4 (November 2014)

Sally of the Wasteland #4

It’s another solid issue of Sally. There’s a lot with her and Tommy, which is nice because Sally cares a lot about him and Gischler handles their flirtation (for the first time, joint flirtation) really well.

Most of the issue takes place in a flooded city and artist Bettin does fine with the buildings and even the mutants, but he has some problems with the cast. Their faces become too generic at times; it reads fast, which helps a lot. Until it becomes clear Gischler has written himself into a hole and he’s going to get himself out as fast as possible.

So much happens over so few pages, it reads like Gischler is getting tired, which is too bad. Sally has been a great ride–and even continues to be, albeit too fast of one here–hopefully he’s got a nice finish for the series.

It really deserves one.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Victor Gischler; artist, Tazio Bettin; letterer, Tom Williams; publisher, Titan Comics.

firestorm v2

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 47 (May 1986)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #47

It’s not a bad special guest star issue, just another pointless one. Blue Devil and Firestorm are now teamed up–after a couple issues of mistaken fighting–against all of Firestorm’s villains.

Brozowski continues to do a very clean, obvious approach with the composition; he and inker Mike Machlan don’t have a single outstanding panel in the comic, but there also aren’t any lemons. It’s straightforward superhero stuff and, given there’s a hallucination sequence with demons, the art works out okay. Never anything more… but okay isn’t terrible.

As for Conway’s script… he tries a little character development (Ronnie’s dad and stepmother-to-be are hostages of all his villains, along with a mention of one of the villain’s failed rehabilitations), but it’s mostly action. It’s not great action; the giant-size computer showroom is goofy.

Like I said, it’s not too bad. It’s a guest star issue, big whoop.

B- 

CREDITS

Dead Devils Don’t Wear Blue!; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Joe Brozowski; inker, Mike Machlan; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.

little nemo return to slumberland

Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland 2 (October 2014)

Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland #2

Shanower is really dedicated to giving Little Nemo a narrative and it doesn’t help the comic at all. Jimmy (or Nemo) is an annoying kid who Shanower has throughout the entire issue–he’s not having a little adventure and then waking up, he’s around the reader for page after page of adventure and he’s always got something annoying to say. Instead of turning these brief annoyances into the punchline, they’re the pulse of Return to Slumberland.

It’s a far from ideal situation.

Similarly, having this kid be so upset about having to hang out with a girl (the princess) is perfectly appropriate… if Shanower wants to fit into the sexism of previous generations. It would have been something if he hadn’t wanted to embrace that deficiency.

The gorgeous Rodriguez art, meticulous not just in detail but in functioning the same way as McCay’s originals did in reading style, helps immeasurably.

B- 

CREDITS

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

Winterworld-IDW

Winterworld 3 (August 2014)

Winterworld #3

Even with the Guice art and some solid writing in places from Dixon, his approach to Winterworld and its revelations is getting too annoying.

The protagonists have found a wonderful refuge from the ice, but it turns out the people living there have only read an Al Gore book and now they’re crazy about global warming and, apparently, crucifying the heroine.

Maybe if there were more grand action from Guice and not so much of the settlement, which looks like the Greek island from Mamma Mia!, the comic would be more compelling. But without any great visuals and such deceptive, manipulative plotting from Dixon, he gets tired fast.

There’s an unnatural stop and go to the pace–Dixon revs up to get to the cliffhanger, for instance, while dragging through other scenes. The comic always comes off too controlled; Dixon and Guice know what they’re doing, maybe even too well.

C+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Chuck Dixon; artist, Butch Guice; colorist, Diego Rodriguez; letterer, Tom B. Long; editor, David Hedgecock; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Star Spangled War Stories: Futures End

Star Spangled War Stories: Futures End 1 (November 2014)

Star Spangled War Stories: Futures End #1

I’m a little shocked, though maybe I shouldn’t be. For their “Futures End” tie-in with G.I. Zombie, Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti tell the last G.I. Zombie story. Maybe all the “Futures End” are the last issues in imaginarily long series (I don’t think I’ll find out). But what they do here works out.

They’ve got their butt-kicking protagonist, G.I. Zombie, who doesn’t just fist fight or monster fight, he also gets in an old crop duster and has an air battle too. It’s a lot for artist Scott Hampton and the art is fantastic. There’s a lot going on; Hampton excels at it.

But there’s also the sidekick and the nemesis, not to mention the end of the world. It actually would have worked better as a first issue than the third of Gray, Palmiotti and Hampton’s Star Spangled War Stories but whatever… it’s absolutely great comics.

A 

CREDITS

United States of the Dead; writers, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray; artist and colorist, Scott Hampton; letterer, Rob Leigh; editors, David Piña and Joey Cavalieri; publisher, DC Comics.

ragnarok

Ragnarök 2 (September 2014)

Ragnarok #2

Why do I even talk? Why do I ever say nice things like Ragnarök isn’t going to be some non-Marvel Thor knock-off?

Because I then end up with egg on my face when Simonson does the big reveal this issue. No, the comic’s not about the lady elf who kicks butt or whatever, it’s actually about a zombie Thor resurrected in a strange land after the Asgardian gods have fallen.

Yawn.

And Simonson spends the entire issue setting up the reveal of it being Thor, even after he brings the hammer back into it. So the entire comic is one scene, the resolution to the previous issue’s cliffhanger. There is a talking rat, however, and I like rats. But a talking rat is not enough to make this comic–or this series–worthwhile.

Maybe Simonson think it’s his great last Thor comic but the deceptive narration kills it.

C- 

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Walt Simonson; colorist, Laura Martin; letterer, John Workman; editor, Scott Dunbier; publisher, IDW Publishing.

pop

Pop 3 (October 2014)

Pop #3

Even though Copland’s art is better than last issue–he gets really dark here and has a nice panel layout for all the talking heads–Pop has sort of, well, popped. Pires spends more time with not just his supporting cast, but with background characters than he does with his protagonists. He has nothing for them to do here. Except stand around and wait for something to happen.

At one time, it seemed like Pires and Copland were going to explore the mystical with Pop. Instead, now Pires concentrates on making it all realistic and rational, scientifically explained. It’s rather boring. The art’s nice, but the story’s boring.

Worse, there are reminders of when Pires was going to do something more with his protagonists. It’s a concept without anything else to it, which is unfortunate because Copland deserves better and so do the characters Pires created in the first issue.

C 

CREDITS

Shot in the Dark; writer, Curt Pires; artist, Jason Copland; colorist, Pete Toms; letterer, Ryan Ferrier; editors, Roxy Polk, Aaron Walker and Dave Marshall; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Town-Called-Dragon

A Town Called Dragon 2 (October 2014)

A Town Called Dragon #2

How long can Winick go with conversation between interesting towns people and absolutely no story? For 95% of the issue. And he and artist Shaw waste an entire page with the dragon killing a cow. Not sure why it’s a good splash, unless Shaw really wanted to draw a dying cow.

There’s not a lot with the characters from last issue. Winick reduces them to stereotypes–black guy, drunk guy, art girl, crazy guy–but there’s a whole thing with the sheriff’s kids blowing stuff up. Like they’re training to be terrorists or something. I’m sure it’ll come in handy later for fighting dragons.

Unfortunately, the new characters are all weaker than the previously established characters. And Winick rushes the introduction of the dragon. It’s a little unclear if Winick is trying to sell a movie or a TV show, because it’s not a comic, which is really too bad.

C+ 

CREDITS

You Can’t Fight a Monster; writer, Judd Winick; penciller, Geoff Shaw; colorist, Jamie Grant; letterer, Sean Konot; editors, Greg Tumbarello and Bob Schreck; publisher, Legendary Comics.

Letter-44

Letter 44 11 (October 2014)

Letter 44 #11

Soule goes a little nuts with his application of Murphy’s law this issue. There’s a great scene where the President’s former chief of staff–recovering, somewhat, from his attack–lays out the President’s options and there aren’t many (or any). Things are going from bad to worse for the First Lady too, not to mention the soldiers in Afghanistan and then the astronauts.

It’s a great issue in a lot of ways, with Soule letting the reader know, decisively, bad things are going to happen. It’s sometimes hard to remember how serious the comic would be with a different artist; Alburquerque adds a certain cartoonish quality overall (and, again, way too much with those goofy soldier costumes) so there’s a bit of a disconnect.

As for where the comic can go… Soule’s gimmick (Obama, Bush, aliens) is over. He’s into his own territory now and he’s doing quite well there.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Charles Soule; penciller, Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque; colorist, Dan Jackson; letterer, Crank!; editor, Robin Herrera; publisher, Oni Press.

She-Hulk-(2014)

She-Hulk 9 (December 2014)

She-Hulk #9

The trial of Steve Rogers continues and… Soule fumbles it. There’s no other word for how he handles She-Hulk defending Captain America in a civil suit against Daredevil. He fumbles it.

Because there’s the accusation against Steve Rogers and then there are two possibilities–one, Soule is going for a Mark Millar/Brian Michael Bendis “break the Internet in half” crap on Captain America, which seems unlikely (so his responsibility is just to make it seem possible) or, two, he’s going to drag out the courtroom stuff and reveal Captain America had a great, valiant plan up his sleeve the whole time.

It’s hard to dislike the comic, just because the beginning court scenes are so good (before Soule reveals too much with Matt and Jennifer having an entirely unprofessional chat) and because Pulido’s art is so strong. He does wonders with the courtroom scenes.

But it’s dramatically tepid.

C+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Charles Soule; artist, Javier Pulido; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Jeanine Schaefer; publisher, Marvel Comics.

sheltered

Sheltered 12 (October 2014)

Sheltered #12

Can Sheltered work if Brisson doesn’t have any actual sympathetic characters left? He’s bringing in the police, he’ll be bringing in the FBI, the ATF, some kind of child protective services–the issue reads real fast as Brisson and Christmas get to the ending, which sets up the grand finale arc–but he’s taken the “good guy” out of the equation.

So now it’s the man versus a bunch of brainwashed teenagers who killed or helped kill their parents. Who cares. Let them die; the drama is gone.

It’s still a well-executed issue, with the cops not listening to the good girl–who started the series as the protagonist but now I can’t even remember her name–until it’s a little too late. And there are likable cops in danger and all, but… who cares.

Sheltered’s successes aren’t insignificant but the traditional narrative finish is going to hurt.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer and letterer, Ed Brisson; artist, Johnnie Christmas; colorist, Shari Chankhamma; editor, Paul Allor; publisher, Image Comics.