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

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

Bloodhound 4 (December 2004)

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 … Continue reading Bloodhound 4 (December 2004)

Marlene (1998)

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, … Continue reading Marlene (1998)

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

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

Bloodhound 3 (November 2004)

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 … Continue reading Bloodhound 3 (November 2004)

Ultimate Spider-Man 65 (November 2004)

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. … Continue reading Ultimate Spider-Man 65 (November 2004)

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

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

Bloodhound 2 (October 2004)

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 … Continue reading Bloodhound 2 (October 2004)

Ultimate Spider-Man 64 (October 2004)

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 … Continue reading Ultimate Spider-Man 64 (October 2004)

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

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

Bloodhound 1 (September 2004)

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 … Continue reading Bloodhound 1 (September 2004)

Ultimate Spider-Man 63 (October 2004)

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 … Continue reading Ultimate Spider-Man 63 (October 2004)

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

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

Swamp Thing 95 (May 1990)

Wheeler tries so hard and it just doesn’t go quite right. Some of the problems are with the art. Broderick gets more ambitious in his composition with conversations, but he can’t visualize the stranger parts of the story. The issue involves Chester and Liz picketing a toxic waste plant, Alec and Abby’s parenting troubles, little Swamp Babies, Alec versus the toxic waste plant… and some other things. Wheeler never takes a moment to breath; the issue’s only calm sections are when he’s using the exposition to talk about pollution. He does manage to get some decent moments out of the … Continue reading Swamp Thing 95 (May 1990)

The Secret History of D.B. Cooper 1 (March 2012)

Brian Churilla has either seen Dreamscape or somehow picked it up in the ether. The Secret History of D.B. Cooper features a D.B. Cooper who travels into people’s psyches through dreams and assassinates them. The CIA pays him for it (another Dreamscape connection) and he hangs out with a cute little, talking teddy bear. In other words, it’s not the most original thing, but Churilla handles it beautifully. He opens the issue with a flash forward–he plays a lot with time–and retells the hijacking story. He also does very well with the seventies time period, especially the Soviets. Not a … Continue reading The Secret History of D.B. Cooper 1 (March 2012)

Ultimate Spider-Man 62 (September 2004)

I don’t even think Peter shows up in this issue. Mary and Gwen get a good scene together, something Bendis’s two month fast forward makes problematic. It’s hard to believe they haven’t seen each other in that amount of time… not with Peter giving Gwen a message for Mary Jane. But anyway, it’s a good scene. Bagley’s action might be a little boring and his horror is nothing special, but he’s good at the expressions Bendis needs to make the scenes work. Besides that scene though, the issue’s nothing special. Ultimate Carnage shows up and appears to be some kind … Continue reading Ultimate Spider-Man 62 (September 2004)

Swamp Thing 94 (April 1990)

Wheeler’s evening out. His ambition here is constrained–some kind of monster in a different wavelength of reality is the patron to a serial killer. It likes to hear jazz while people get murdered. Alec comes across some victims and investigates. There are some other plot contrivances–Abby in danger, Chester and Liz pop in–but the main story is good. Abby’s dialogue isn’t even bad. It’s a little too expository (Wheeler uses her to remind the reader of past events), but it isn’t bad. Of course, the whole thing succeeds because Kelley Jones is filling on the art. His style works perfectly … Continue reading Swamp Thing 94 (April 1990)

Ultimate Spider-Man 61 (August 2004)

The best part of this issue has to be how little time Bendis gives Ultimate Punisher. There’s a fight scene–not a particularly good one, Bagley loses track of the criminal the Punisher is after–but there’s no personality to Ultimate Frank. It’s all from Peter’s perspective, even though Bendis could have gotten away with a little Frank. Even though Ultimate Spider-Man is a fast read and is the comic book equivalent of tasty junk food with a good aftertaste… Bendis is serious about it being Peter’s book. There’s also a neat little bit with Curt Conners being Peter’s emergency doctor. The … Continue reading Ultimate Spider-Man 61 (August 2004)

Snarked 8 (May 2012)

Langridge brings the arc–it’s a journey arc, which is somewhat unexpected since there are so few navigation references in the issues–to a close. Once again, Langridge focuses on the action of the issue. The evil Gryphon finds the heroes and sets loose a sea monster on the ship. And, once again, Langridge uses it as an opportunity to develop the Walrus as a character. There are little character bits throughout the issue, but the end clarifies–it’s all about the Walrus. For that ending, Langridge unexpectedly promotes one of the supporting cast to more of a main role. Snarked has been … Continue reading Snarked 8 (May 2012)

Swamp Thing 93 (March 1990)

Good grief, Wheeler’s just trying to wrap himself in Moore and Veitch’s runs now. He brings back one of Abby’s old jobs–along with an unlikable but nice woman who rehires here, which I think is from Veitch’s run–and also the kid terrorized by the monkey demon, one of Moore’s first stories. Not to mention Wheeler frames the issue around notes from the brother (or cousin) of the guy who took the tabloid pictures of Abby and Swamp Thing. Another Moore storyline. Wheeler’s writing Swamp Thing like he’s doing a wrap-up or some kind of delayed sequel; there’s nothing original to … Continue reading Swamp Thing 93 (March 1990)

Ultimate Spider-Man 60 (August 2004)

Bendis doesn’t have anything this issue. Well, he doesn’t have much. He introduces Ultimate Jeanne De Wolf, but otherwise… nothing. There’s a dream fight between Spider-Man and the Lizard, there’s a way too long fight–with Bagley wasting space on double page spreads–with some villain Bendis doesn’t even bother to give a name and then there’s Peter and Curt Conners hanging out for a bit. Two things stand out. First, during the big fight scene, Peter and the dumb villain are breaking precious museum items. After the fight, all the hostages of the big dumb villain forget about the artifacts–and how … Continue reading Ultimate Spider-Man 60 (August 2004)

Snarked 7 (April 2012)

I didn’t count but I don’t think the North Pole-South Pole romance in this issue took Langridge more than seven or eight panels. Spread throughout the issue, of course. But it’s a devastating little romance. It’s sweet, heartfelt and melancholic all at once. It’s quite lovely. This issue our heroes find themselves trapped on an island with the last surviving dodos. Everyone manages to get him or herself in a bit of trouble–except the usually troublesome little prince, actually–and Langridge keeps them moving. It all takes place–the island stuff, so not counting the first act–in a couple days. Langridge never … Continue reading Snarked 7 (April 2012)

Swamp Thing 92 (February 1990)

Wheeler is getting rather predictable. As far as Abby and Alec go–you know, Swamp Thing’s main characters–he has no idea what he’s doing. But he’s ambitious and enthusiastic. And well-versed in Swamp Thing. He seems to have read a lot of it; he just can’t write it. This issue concerns the bayou reversing to how it was back in the thirties, before the oil companies, before the infrastructure, before the boob tube. Besides a terrible monologue from Abby–she’s not by herself, she’s with Alec… Wheeler just doesn’t know how to write a real conversation–and some interior monologue from Alec, Wheeler … Continue reading Swamp Thing 92 (February 1990)

The Maze Agency 5 (April 1989)

Barr establishes a bad first here–he has his leads accuse an off-panel suspect. The reader finds out the suspect’s identity at the confession. Overall, it’s a troubled issue. The format keeps it going, but there are art problems (Al Vey isn’t the best inker for Hughes) and lots of story ones. The art ones aren’t too bad–Vey just doesn’t suit Hughes, the art isn’t bad. But Barr’s story? It’s weak. First, the romance subplot between leads Gabe and Jennifer. They’re dating other people but making out once an issue. When Gabe dates someone else, Jennifer gets upset. Barr’s solution to … Continue reading The Maze Agency 5 (April 1989)

Snarked 6 (March 2012)

Langridge presents the heroes with a single challenge–a single one they know about, Langridge opens the issue with the Gryphon’s plotting–and, over the course of the issue, creates a second one for them. He creates it subtly, but on the page, during a big action sequence. This issue introduces a pirate ship, crewed by familiar characters from Alice in Wonderland. Langridge gives them a lot of funny dialogue, making up for his regular cast being too busy in the action scene to have a proper conversation. It’s a rather good issue; the two crews give Langridge a lot of variety … Continue reading Snarked 6 (March 2012)

Swamp Thing 91 (January 1990)

Ew. I guess Broderick is getting a little better with the people, but now his Swamp Thing is an awkwardly shaped disaster. There’s no grace to the form, no majesty. Alec looks like a Mad Magazine caricature. As for Wheeler’s writing? Well, he’s doing the Three Wise Men, with Woodrue as one of them. Except Woodrue’s an idiot here–Wheeler can’t write him. The other wise men are just goofy and vaguely racist. The comic’s vaguely homophobic too. I’m trying to think if Wheeler does anything well and it definitely seems like not. His foreshadowing is painfully obvious, his attempts at … Continue reading Swamp Thing 91 (January 1990)

The Maze Agency 4 (March 1989)

One of the most impressive things about The Maze Agency is how Barr manages such a large cast. He has two leads, one or two regular supporting players and then all the murder suspects. In this issue, concerning a Jack the Ripper copycat, he has something like eight suspects. Obviously, the art plays a real factor. Hughes has to make each of the suspects distinct but believable. There’s one page identifying all the eventual suspects–every person gets a little description–and it all matches up beautifully. The reader can infer based on profession and appearance (and name, if one’s really playing … Continue reading The Maze Agency 4 (March 1989)

The Dark Knight Returns – A Podcast Special

To “celebrate” the conclusion of Warner Premiere’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns adaptation, Matt (of Cinemachine and my co-host at An Alan Smithee Podcast) and I thought it’d appropriate to do a special podcast talking about the original comic and the animated adaptation. We say a number of nice things about the comic book (most of it, anyway) and a few nice things about the animated adaptation. Ten years ago, I doubt anyone would have imagined a Dark Knight adaptation, something we talk about a little during the podcast. You can download the episode directly–or just subscribe to “An Alan … Continue reading The Dark Knight Returns – A Podcast Special

Snarked 5 (February 2012)

Langridge sets this entire issue–with the exception of the prologue featuring the villains–aboard ship. The heroes have set sail for dreaded Snark Island, but they haven’t told the crew where they’re going yet…. There’s also the matter of sea sickness, the Cheshire Cat popping in, an angry crocodile who follows the ship and then the crew themselves. Oh, and the little prince getting eaten by said crocodile. So, while the entire issue takes place in a day and most of it in a morning, Langridge manages to keep it quite full. He also gets in some excellent character work, particularly … Continue reading Snarked 5 (February 2012)