Month: February 2013

Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows 1 (November 2009)

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This issue is exactly the kind of thing I wouldn’t expect from Joe Hill. It’s the ghost of Sam Lesser–who Hill turns into an extremely sympathetic character (who knew Locke & Key would be such a good example of feminist storytelling)–versus Dodge in his (or her) ghost-state.

They talk a lot, they fight a lot, the talking and fighting lead to changes in the relationship. It reads like Hill found out he got renewed so he wanted to do something different. Only, Hill and Locke are already successful so such a self-indulgent comic seems out of place.

All of these goings on are distinctly wrong for the comic book medium. They’d be fine in a movie (or TV, wink wink). It’s talking heads without heads. The characters’ voices aren’t distinctive enough for this device to work.

Gabriel Rodriguez tries, but can’t make up for the writing misfire.

CREDITS

The Haunting of Keyhouse; writer, Joe Hill; artist, Gabriel Rodriguez; colorist, Jay Fotos; letterer, Robbie Robbins; editor, Chris Ryall; publisher, IDW Publishing.

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Star Trek 9 (May 2012)

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The secret to reading Star Trek is to concentrate on the words. Not on what people are saying, but the actual visual text. Focusing on the balloons and boxes, one can ignore the art. For a panel or two, I thought Molnar had improved since his last issue.

He has not. He oscillates between bad and worse. His photo-referenced faces lack any personality, but it’s nowhere near as technically lacking as when people need to make expressions. Then Molnar makes the faces even more static.

Johnson’s script isn’t bad. He paces things well.

There’s something particularly compelling about this issue, which doesn’t just update an old episode’s story, it updates technology. For “Trek” fans, it’s a familiar technological visual. Even though Molnar’s creating the new design, it excites the imagination a little… an internal review over a classic item revised.

That process is the neatest thing about this Trek.

CREDITS

The Return of the Archons, Part 1; writer, Mike Johnson; artist, Stephen Molnar; colorist, John Rauch; letterer, Neil Uyetake; editor, Scott Dunbier; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Bloodhound 4 (December 2004)

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It’s the conclusion to the first arc–and an astoundingly bloody one–but also the origin issue. Jolley’s able to work in some background information on Clev, which probably provides the issue with most of its dialogue.

Otherwise, it’s Clev and the bad guy beating the crap out of each other. It’s a vicious fight, lots of blood for a DC book. Even for a tough one. It makes for a good read; Kirk and Riggs outdo themselves.

But there’s a downside. Jolley doesn’t reward the reader. He goes for a realistic ending–or maybe one to direct the series to its next story arc–but the result is downbeat. Even with the funny end joke.

Narratively, the move is probably appropriate, but in a populist sense, the finish is undeniably lacking.

The first four issues might’ve worked better as five. Though maybe not. Jolley paces it tight.

Bloodhound’s good.

CREDITS

Catharsis; writer, Dan Jolley; penciller, Leonard Kirk; inker, Robin Riggs; colorist, Moose Baumann; letterer, Rob Leigh; editor, Ivan Cohen; publisher, DC Comics.

Marlene (1998)

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Marlene is an awesome comic. It’s far from perfect–the story anyway–but it’s definitely awesome.

To get the problems out of the way, it’s Peter Snejbjerg’s protagonist. He’s a brilliant but aging tough guy detective who can take anyone in himself, but can’t bring himself to call his wife. Even though the comic takes place in Denmark, the cop has basically every stereotypical detail.

He even sleeps with the subject of his investigation, Marlene.

And there the comic gets interesting. Sure, there’s the obsessed cop standard, but Snejbjerg brings in a great supernatural element. It only works because of the art, however–especially after Snejbjerg hints at the supernatural from the first or second page.

The pay-off is wonderful.

Snejbjerg shows a great sense of humor too, with a deranged painter who offers a lot of comic relief.

Besides the cop story problems, it’s a masterfully done comic.

CREDITS

Writer, artist and letterer, Peter Snejbjerg; publisher, Slave Labor Graphics.

The Secret History of D.B. Cooper 5 (July 2012)

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Well. There are two red herrings, one predictable reveal and one rather lazy tying off. And a convenient death (or two) and a nonsensical reveal. Churilla manages to end well without much originality.

Throughout the series, Churilla has made Cooper sympathetic but not particularly likable. Everyone around him–save the doctor–is more unlikable, so Cooper floats to the top on that one. Those scenes with the cute bear provide all the buoyancy.

There’s also a full mix of the real world and the Glut, which doesn’t come off as well it should. Churilla’s clearly pressed for time–had he halved that filler issue a few back, he’d have room. The action scenes are fast-paced and often confusing; it doesn’t help Churilla usually tries to avoid one of the unfulfilled plot threads.

Cooper does work–Churilla just tries too hard to be clever. He needed to trust his material.

CREDITS

Writer, artist and colorist, Brian Churilla; letterer, Ed Brisson; editor, James Lucas Jones; publisher, Oni Press.

Bloodhound 3 (November 2004)

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For lack of a better phrase, one could call this issue the “eureka” issue. Clev and his partner–Agent Bell–do their investigating and realize what they need to realize. Jolley’s able to make it even more dramatic since Clev is a muscle bound grotesque and just having him talk to people makes for a scene.

Jolley doesn’t give the reader too much information on the bad guy and instead makes the issue’s villain the FBI boss. It leads to some funny scenes and some violent ones, but misguided FBI agents aren’t the best villains. Even temporary ones.

Kirk and Riggs’s artwork is, as usual, fantastic. There’s a great mundane scene at a mall, but also more action-oriented one on a freeway. The Southern scenery helps a lot, giving Bloodhound multiple visual personalities.

And Jolley and Kirk end it with a great hard cliffhanger on a one page spread.

CREDITS

Sphere of Influence; writer, Dan Jolley; penciller, Leonard Kirk; inker, Robin Riggs; colorist, Moose Baumann; letterer, Rob Leigh; editor, Ivan Cohen; publisher, DC Comics.

Ultimate Spider-Man 65 (November 2004)

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It’s a great Ultimate Spider-Man until the end.

Bendis apes The Breakfast Club a little, putting Peter, Mary, Liz, Kong and Flash in detention. Then he flashes back to reveal what got them there, then he lets people say some things. Mostly Mary, put also Peter.

It’s one of those awesome talking issues Bendis does every once in a while.

But then he feels the need to rush Peter’s mourning arc and he cheapens the whole thing. Bendis assumes his readers are smart enough for the first three-quarters, but too dumb to let it finish gracefully.

It’s a conflicting issue. It’s mostly excellent, but it’s also a flop. At least it’s a believable flop–the big finish isn’t contrived, it’s just too soon.

That character work he gets done is fantastic, though. He reveals just as much about the speakers as their subjects. It’s a very impressive sequence.

CREDITS

Detention; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inker, Scott Hanna; colorist, Jonathan D. Smith; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Nick Lowe and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Secret History of D.B. Cooper 4 (June 2012)

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It’s a breezy read, probably the breeziest of D.B. Cooper (so far). Churilla’s in the end run now, tying into the famous plane hijacking–or setting up for the tie in. The issue opens with a big action scene, takes a little breather with some talking heads, then moves into two chase sequences. They tie together too.

There’s not a lot of exposition, which is nice. While having the doctor around to explain things is a good way to get out the expository dialogue, actual conversations are better.

It remains to be seen if Churilla’s going to be able to tie up all the loose ends satisfactorily. He practically added one an issue–and started with a few–so he’s up to seven or eight now.

For the finish, he loosens up the art in the real world scenes. He tended to be controlled before, now he’s going wild.

CREDITS

Writer, artist and colorist, Brian Churilla; letterer, Ed Brisson; editor, James Lucas Jones; publisher, Oni Press.

Bloodhound 2 (October 2004)

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I like a lot of this issue. Jolley opens it well, the middle part is good, most of the ending is good. He goes out on a joke, which doesn’t work, but there’s some great stuff just before the finish.

In other words, Bloodhound is a good book. Jolley puts it all together quite nicely, as the protagonist reacquaints himself with old friends and his new colleagues.

But the most impressive thing in the issue is the way Kirk and Riggs draw a pair of hands. It’s not supposed to be a subtle panel, it’s supposed to be clear, but the technical drawing skill of it is just wonderful.

Jolley sticks to Clev, the protagonist (and the titular Bloodhound), but he does excellent work with his FBI handler. I can’t remember her name yet, but Jolley’s writing of her is great.

Besides the underwhelming last page, it’s an excellent comic.

CREDITS

(Un)leashed; writer, Dan Jolley; penciller, Leonard Kirk; inker, Robin Riggs; colorist, Moose Baumann; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editor, Ivan Cohen; publisher, DC Comics.

Ultimate Spider-Man 64 (October 2004)

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So Curt Conners let Ben Reilly know Peter Parker is Spider-Man? Wow, Ultimate Curt Conners is really a tool. Just when he at least tries to redeem himself, turns out he’s already set more damage in motion.

Bendis does some of his creative plotting, maybe to try to convince the reader Carnage has assumed Peter’s identity, maybe to kill a few pages. It doesn’t really matter. The issue’s mostly action and very fast-paced. Bendis’s twisting of the narrative just gives the reader a place to pause and consider what might happen next.

Most likely, an imagined conclusion would be more rewarding than what Bendis comes up with.

It’s not a bad conclusion, it’s just a predictable one. There’s nothing special about it. Everything special in the arc has already happened. Anything after the previous issue would be disappointing.

Though I wasn’t expecting the “Spider-Man No More” finish.

CREDITS

Carnage, Part Five of Five; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inker, Scott Hanna; colorist, Jonathan D. Smith; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Nick Lowe and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Secret History of D.B. Cooper 3 (May 2012)

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This issue is mostly talking heads. Churilla toggles between Cooper in the real world, his CIA nemesis in the real world, and the Glut. The structure helps the issue move, since most of the talking is repeating things from the previous issue. There’s actually a few pages when the CIA nemesis talks about it, then Cooper asks the doctor if the CIA nemesis is out there talking about.

But the structure’s strong enough Churilla’s able to hide seventy percent of the issue is complete filler. The art’s the key to that pacing. When the Glut breaks through to the real world, Churilla’s art is what makes the sequence work. He’s able to do slimy and icky without being gross; the art has menace, but not enough to be unpleasant.

It’s a filler issue and not a bad one as filler issues go.

The teddy bear remains a rather adorable character.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, artist and colorist, Brian Churilla; letterer, Ed Brisson; editor, James Lucas Jones; publisher, Oni Press.

Bloodhound 1 (September 2004)

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Bloodhound takes a while to get bloody. It has to get bloody–most of the issue takes place during a prison riot with the lead characters trying to survive to the exit. When the issue starts, however, it generally feels like a regular DC comic.

I mean, Leonard Kirk and Robin Riggs’s artwork is–while utterly fabulous–definitely mainstream comics art. Kirk has some beautiful panel composition for the reaction shots during conversations and then more during the action scenes.

Dan Jolley’s dialogue has a lot of information to follow, but he never goes overboard with the exposition. There are little comments as people say things to one another and it passes the information. Some of it doesn’t even stick (though I read Bloodhound back when it first came out so I remember some).

The most startling violence comes late, but perfectly timed.

It’s a good, carefully written first issue.

CREDITS

Greenlight; writer, Dan Jolley; penciller, Leonard Kirk; inker, Robin Riggs; colorist, Moose Baumann; letterer, Rob Leigh; editor, Ivan Cohen; publisher, DC Comics.

Ultimate Spider-Man 63 (October 2004)

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It’s as though Bendis knew he couldn’t concentrate on Peter’s mourning, so instead of he concentrates on the rage. I don’t think Peter’s ever been so angry and so uncontrolled in Ultimate Spider-Man as he gets at the end of this issue. One reads it worried he’s going to beat Curt Conners to death. Conners’s guilt makes that prospect welcome.

Bendis instead lets May and Mary go through the confused mourning process. The issue all takes place on the same night as the person’s death and it’s a damn good issue. It’s one of Bendis’s best issues; his narrative shortcuts are all fantastic.

It’s one of those Ultimate Spider-Man pay-off issues. They make his other ones worth it. Bendis has a way of making everything but the story fade into the background (even the art).

The issue’s perfect. There’s not a single thing Bendis could do better.

CREDITS

Carnage, Part Four of Five; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inker, Scott Hanna; colorist, Jonathan D. Smith; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Nick Lowe and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Secret History of D.B. Cooper 2 (April 2012)

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Churilla still hasn’t made the D.B. Cooper detail integral to the comic book. The comic’s called The Secret Life of D.B. Cooper, by the way, so one assumes Churilla knows he has to work it in or piss off readers.

Or maybe not.

D.B. Cooper works just fine without plain hijackings and parachutes and ransom money. Churilla fleshes out the details–the dream world Cooper visits is called “The Glut,” which is a pretty cool name and does distinguish from Dreamscape. He also plays with the monsters and their Soviet analogues, getting in a good surprise this issue.

Churilla even knows it’s obvious the teddy bear is adorable he has to address it in the story.

The last few pages–he ends the issue on a soft cliffhanger masquerading as a hard one–feature more revelations about the ground situation. He handles the exposition well.

And the art’s still great.

CREDITS

Writer, artist and colorist, Brian Churilla; letterer, Ed Brisson; editor, James Lucas Jones; publisher, Oni Press.