I’m usually pretty reserved in any Bagley praise—Bagley hands are one of the more frightening things in comics—but he does give Jonah a great expression here. There’s no dialogue and he and Bendis take most of a page to do it and they make this great moment where the reader can tell what Jonah’s thinking from his expression.
The issue’s incredibly frustrating, but in a good way. Gwen moves in (or comes over for a sleepover while her dad’s away) and Mary gets pissed off. Peter’s confused; plus he’s got a Spider-Man impersonator committing crimes. I can’t remember if it’s Ultimate Mysterio.
So after all the buildup—the fight with Mary Jane, the oddness of having Gwen around—then Peter heads off to fight the impostor.
And gets shot by the cops.
And Bendis ends the issue. It’s exceptionally frustrating, but if it weren’t, it wouldn’t work.
Stolen Identity; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inker, Art Thibert; colorist, Transparency Digital; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, C.B. Cebulski, Brian Smith and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.
Okay, so the Rhino is a Spider-Man villain. I thought he was, but couldn’t remember for sure.
Bendis turns the issue into something of a joke. He introduces Ultimate Rhino, all right, but it’s got very little to do with Spider-Man. In fact, Peter’s inability to escape his daily life to fight Rhino is the entire issue.
Only a little of the issue is actually spent on Peter though. Bendis gives Gwen a nice showcase—though Bendis’s crying sounds, mixed with the Bagley art, made me think she was throwing up and I didn’t remember them making Ultimate Gwen Stacy pregnant (that development was a 616 one, right?).
Once it becomes clear what Bendis is doing, it’s hard to get upset about him wasting an issue on it… because it’s so much fun. Bendis’s ability to waste space but still deliver an enjoyable read is his saving grace.
Sidetracked; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inker, Art Thibert; colorist, Transparency Digital; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, C.B. Cebulski, Brian Smith and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.
All writers have limits… and it’s too bad Gates’s limit is writing Cat Grant as a likable human being. He just can’t do it. He tries and tries here, but he ends up making Superwoman more likable than Cat. It’s a strange disconnect. There’s just something so hateful about her, he’s gone beyond a point where he can even bring a glimmer of humanity to her.
That statement made, it’s a wonderful issue. It’s a Christmas issue, ending up in Smallville (it’s hard to tell Kara’s supposed to be the one in the glasses—I thought they were still drawing Ma Kent with blonde hair or something). Gates and Igle get in the action, they get in some drama….
They wrap things up beautifully (it’s their last issue). It’s really too bad they didn’t get a chance to do the comic, instead getting stuck with crossover tripe.
Still, lovely work.
Day of the Dollmaker, Part Two: End of the Line; writer, Sterling Gates; penciller, Jamal Igle; inkers, Jon Sibal and Robin Riggs; colorist, Blond; letterer, Travis Lanham; editors, Wil Moss and Matt Idelson; publisher, DC Comics.
Gates really humanizes Cat Grant here (I didn’t know she had a dead son, for example) and it comes a little late. If he’d done it earlier, she wouldn’t have seemed so shrill. Besides that delay in characterizing, it’s a good issue.
Igle does a great job with Supergirl, as usual, but something about his approach is a little different. This issue is the first in forever not to be laden with New Krypton scenery or props; it gives Igle a chance just to do the superhero stuff and he does it really well.
Gates’s pacing is a little off too, I suppose. He’s going for dramatic emphasis more than content.
Oh, now I remember how this issue ends… with Lois going to visit her psychopathic sister. It’s undoubtedly a setup for something, but it takes the issue away from Supergirl and Cat.
Regardless, it’s a good little Christmas issue.
Day of the Dollmaker, Part One: Toying With Emotions; writer, Sterling Gates; penciller, Jamal Igle; inker, Jon Sibal; colorist, Blond; letterer, Travis Lanham; editors, Wil Moss and Matt Idelson; publisher, DC Comics.
For the annual, Gates sends Supergirl to the future. The whole new Legion of Super-Heroes continuity is incredibly difficult to understand. Every time they guest in a book, I get even more confused. But Gates does a good job doing a done-in-one adventure. The story moves, has a lot of scenes, and has Supergirl and Brainiac 5’s relationship develop a little.
What’s bad is Matt Camp’s art. He draws everyone like they’re twelve—making the Supergirl kisses Brainiac 5 scene a little confusing—and it draws attention to things one shouldn’t be minding.
There’s some fill-in work from Marco Rudy and Rudy looks a little like Chris Samnee (though nowhere near as good) and those pages work really well. He draws the cast like people, not these weirdos with too young heads and too mature bodies.
It’s nice Gates can competently do this continuity nonsense.
Supergirl & the Legion of Super-Heroes; writer, Sterling Gates; artists, Matt Camp and Marco Rudy; colorists, Blond and Brad Anderson; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Wil Moss and Matt Idelson; publisher, DC Comics.
Dorkin continues to get better this issue and Haspiel nicely evens out. It’d be hard to get much worse than last issue, so at least he arrested the art decline.
It doesn’t become clear what Dorkin’s really doing with Yancy Street until the last few pages and, once it is clear, well… It’s unfortunate.
For all his repetitive Ben Grimm standards the first couple issues, Dorkin actually tries to do something significant (it’s irrelevant because, based on the time period, it’s clear the story was never in continuity) with the character.
And Haspiel is the wrong match.
I mean, Dorkin needs a strong editor on the series to reign in some of the nonsense and to sharpen the narration and to pace out the last two issues… but the series could have been something amazing.
Instead, Yancy Street’s a mildly interesting effort, one with the wrong art for the script.
Writer, Evan Dorkin; penciller, Dean Haspiel; inker, Wade Von Grawbadger; colorist, Matt Madden; letterer, Tom Orzechowski; editor, Andrew Lis; publisher, Marvel Comics.
It’s really too bad, but as Dorkin’s writing gets better, Haspiel’s art continues to get worse. This issue is frequently hideous, what with the Sandman having an all new costume. It looks like a cross between a jester’s outfit and something from the sixties “Batman” TV show.
Dorkin’s trying—finally—to bring some authentic New York flavor to the comic, which doesn’t work particularly well, but at least he’s trying. He also foreshadows (or maybe not, maybe it’s just predictable) the death of Ben’s squeeze. Dorkin also takes another crack at dealing with Ben and Alicia’s relationship like it’s important. He does better, but not well.
I assume the final issue will have more troubled art (Haspiel and the superhero outfits is complete failure) and all questions will be answered. Well, the questions raised this issue. Dorkin either didn’t bother before or just executed those scenes incompetently.
It’s nearly mediocre.
Writer, Evan Dorkin; penciller, Dean Haspiel; inkers, Haspiel and Wade Von Grawbadger; colorist, Matt Madden; letterer, Tom Orzechowski; editor, Andrew Lis; publisher, Marvel Comics.
Dorkin’s pacing is still excellent this issue, maybe even more than in the last one. And I guess this issue is somewhat better, even if Haspiel’s artwork fails to impress (he does a lot of superhero stuff in the second half and most of it falls flat). What’s troubling is Dorkin’s characterization of Ben.
The series, regardless of it being a Startling Stories title or having an indie creative team, seems to be shaping up to being about Ben cheating on Alicia. Dorkin comments on it, then handles it like Ben’s an adolescent. The series is set during the period when Johnny was dating Crystal, which I think was in the seventies. In other words, Dorkin has a wide timeline to work with and chooses the temporal setting for a reason.
Then he handles it like a Saturday morning cartoon.
Still, the series is getting better, thought not particularly good.
Writer, Evan Dorkin; artist, Dean Haspiel; colorist, Matt Madden; letterer, Tom Orzechowski; editor, Andrew Lis; publisher, Marvel Comics.
I’m not particularly literate in Fantastic Four, but even I have read this comic before. It’s Ben Grimm all upset about being the Thing so he hoofs it back to Yancy Street so he feels better about himself.
It’s pretty much every Thing comic stereotype thrown into an issue, with the possible exception of a new love interest (after Ben storms out on Alicia… she was being nice to him again).
The only other difference is it’s from Evan Dorkin and Dean Haspiel, which I guess is to give it an indie edge. Given Ben’s a talking wall, I’m not sure how anyone could draw him without some kind of indie sensibility and the Haspiel artwork is lovely.
As for Dorkin, I’m as unimpressed as I usually am with his writing. He overwrites the narration (in a misguided Stan Lee homage?), his observations are trite but it is paced well.
Writer, Evan Dorkin; artist, Dean Haspiel; colorist, Matt Madden; letterer, Tom Orzechowski; editor, Andrew Lis; publisher, Marvel Comics.
It’s an imaginative conclusion and it’s… okay. It’s beneath Moore, sure, and I’m sorry he took such a—there’s no other word for it—fan-fic way out. But it’s okay.
It doesn’t quite make having reread The Courtyard worth it but he comes really close with it.
Moore kind of takes something one might think is completely unsuited for the graphic form and turns it into a comic book. The issue ends with talking heads and it kills the issue’s momentum. The characters explain everything in expository dialogue.
If this series were something Moore actually cared about, he’d have spent the issue a completely different way. I’m thinking about all the time he took with Promethea. He doesn’t bother (and Burrows probably couldn’t have made it look good enough—I like Burrows, but he’s got his limits and he hits them here a lot).
Neonomicon’s a nutty, decent series.
The Lurker Within; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juanmar; editor, William Christensen; publisher, Avatar Press.
How delayed was this book? And it reads in three or four minutes?
Here’s where Moore’s either going to go someplace interesting or he’s going to go the Avatar place….
This issue introduces this awesome possibility for the story, totally different than where the previous issue led it. And, of course, it could all just be a red herring because it does make the reader care about the protagonist and her survival. Usually, I just assume Moore’s going to do the right thing. With Neonomicon, with an Avatar book… one he wrote for tax money… it’s not clear.
Burrows’s art goes from bad to good here. The opening few pages are just awful, then he slowly brings things around.
Moore has the opportunity to—against the odds—turn Neonomicon into something good; it’s just not clear if he cares enough to do so.
I’m upset I’ve got my hopes up.
The Language at the Threshold; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juanmar; editor, William Christensen; publisher, Avatar Press.
Is Moore trying to prove some kind of point?
It’s a little strange seeing Jacen Burrows do an actual Moore script, by the way. I’m used to far more finished artists.
Anyway… this issue is split basically in two.
The first half is Moore doing Lovecraftian fan-fiction. It turns out Neonomicon isn’t set in Lovecraft fiction, it’s about Lovecraft’s fiction. Actually, it’s about what inspired Lovecraft.
And there’s where Moore checks out intellectually. It’s the kind of thing one might except from a far lesser writer… but it’s clear Moore’s just cashing the check and moving things along and it’s not terrible. Though it’s been decades since Moore’s written “regular” people and it’s clear he’s somewhat out of touch.
Then there’s the second half.
Umm. It’s an orgy scene with a giant monster and a lot of violence. It’s revolting, sure, but interesting as far Neonomicon’s a “mainstream” title.
The Shadow Out of America; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juanmar; editor, William Christensen; publisher, Avatar Press.
Now, I think Moore said in an interview he did this comic to pay for some back taxes. It shows, but it’s Alan Moore writing a comic for a paycheck so it still has a good level of competency… if not imagination.
About a quarter of the issue—which is mostly dialogue, as I guess Moore didn’t want to think too hard—recaps The Courtyard. Coming seven years later, I guess it’s good Avatar reprints it all the time because it’s a direct sequel. The settings are mostly the same, the cast returns.
Moore has time for some mildly gross humor. Some of that humor succeeds and some doesn’t. He’s not really trying so Neonomicon reads a little like I imagine first draft Moore reads. Or the notes he jokes on napkins.
Burrows’s art has some problems and the coloring is awful.
But it’s Moore doing Lovecraft exploitation; it’s interesting.
At the Mansions of Madness; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juanmar; editor, William Christensen; publisher, Avatar Press.
Ah, I misremembered. I thought this issue ended with an insanely graphic scene. It doesn’t, it’s all implied… which means on the second reading (or whatever) it’s a lot less intense.
There are three or four double-page spreads here, so I guess Burrows does get to do some work. It’s good he gets to do them, even if they’re gross, because the rest of the issue is pretty boring. It’s mostly scene work, but he’s stuck with the two panels a page and it really doesn’t work for someone walking up a flight of stairs.
The Lovecraft reference—the Cthulhu name-dropping—is clearer in the end, but it comes during an early Photoshop (changing color-tones—I hope Burrows got paid for each page, even though the last three are identical illustrations) and it really doesn’t matter.
I hope Moore bought himself something nice with his Courtyard paycheck.
Writer, Antony Johnston; artist, Jacen Burrows; editor, William Christensen; publisher, Avatar Press.