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Batgirl 37 (February 2015)

Batgirl #37

There’s a somewhat pointless plot twist at the end of this issue. It’s sensational, when the writers haven’t actually set up a point for it. They aren’t asking profound questions or making profound statements, they’re actually just making fun of their villain.

Which is, to some degree, a Batgirl thing to do.

Until that point, the issue is pretty good. There’s too little interaction between Barbara and Dinah though. Stewart and Fletcher use Dinah–to good effect–for comic relief, but they don’t have her functioning as a real character, which hurts this issue. Especially at the end when she pops in just because they need snark.

There’s some rather nice art from Stewart and Tarr during Batgirl’s action sequences too. Lots of foreground and background information important to the panel; they’re a good team.

It’s a rather well-executed comic, with lots of great moments… and a weak conclusion.

B 

CREDITS

Double Exposure; writers, Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher; pencillers, Stewart and Babs Tarr; inker, Tarr; colorist, Maris Wicks; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Dave Wielgosz and Chris Conroy; publisher, DC Comics.

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Star Spangled War Stories 4 (January 2015)

Star Spangled War Stories #4

Okay, so G.I. Zombie is kind of lame when he’s on his own. Not the comic, but the character. When he’s running around this issue, talking to himself, it’s really lame. If Gray and Palmiotti want to have some reason he speaks to himself in expository dialogue, they should introduce it. His origin is still in question… if he’s a motormouth, so be it. But establish it.

Otherwise, not much happens in the issue. The army shows up and the zombie crisis gets contained to some degree. The better stuff is with G.I. Zombie’s partner, Carmen. She’s got the flashback at the beginning of the issue, she’s the one who gets to find the domestic terrorists’ amazing Bond villain base.

There are some decent moments with G.I. Zombie, but the writers put too much emphasis on his lame dialogue and not enough on his experiences in the issue.

It’s annoying.

B- 

CREDITS

Exit Strategy; writers, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray; artist and colorist, Scott Hampton; letterer, Rob Leigh; editors, David Piña and Joey Cavalieri; publisher, DC Comics.

star-spangled-war-stories

Star Spangled War Stories 3 (December 2014)

Star Spangled War Stories #3

I still don’t know why I like Star Spangled War Stories so much. Maybe it’s because of Gray and Palmiotti’s pace. This comic–featuring the cast of “Duck Dynasty” unleashing a zombie plague on the United States (the rural United States)–moves at a breakneck pace. About the only time it calms down for a moment is when G.I. Zombie’s partner, whose name I don’t remember, stops at a diner and there’s character development between her and a domestic terrorist whose organization she’s infiltrated.

Otherwise, it’s all action. Only it’s G.I. Zombie running through this small town, trying to help people–Gray and Palmiotti establish the characters and settings quickly (sometimes during action sequences) but they still stick.

It’s kind of like a monster movie from the fifties, only with a lot of action and some very modern sensibilities.

Plus, the strangeness of Hampton doing big action still works wonders.

B+ 

CREDITS

Small Town Welcome; writers, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray; artist and colorist, Scott Hampton; letterer, Rob Leigh; editors, David Piña and Joey Cavalieri; publisher, DC Comics.

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Gotham by Midnight 1 (January 2015)

Gotham by Midnight #1

Thanks to Ben Templesmith’s art, Gotham by Midnight works a lot better than it should. A lot of Ray Fawkes’s dialogue is generic cop show stuff, but Templesmith has a way of visually rushing some of the conversations through how he positions the characters. In other words, he makes the problem spots shorter than they’d otherwise be… and it helps immensely.

Some of this first issue plays like Templesmith’s famous, mysterious (and unfinished) cop comic Fell. It does not seem unintentional. The story beats for the first few pages read like a remake.

Fawkes introduces a bunch of characters and a lot of story. The final investigation sequence is a little rushed–in the script, not the art–because Fawkes has an idea for an effective cliffhanger. It’s a little forced, but once the comic switches into full procedural mode, a lot of the seams start showing anyway.

Not bad.

B 

CREDITS

We Do Not Sleep; writer, Ray Fawkes; artist, Ben Templesmith; letterer, Dezi Sienty; editors, Dave Wielgosz and Rachel Gluckstern; publisher, DC Comics.

batgirl-35

Batgirl 36 (January 2015)

Batgirl #36

It’s another solid issue, with Babs stumbling onto a crime on campus. Stewart and Fletcher also introduce a few more supporting cast members–the issue ends with a sitcom-like tag with all of them, sans Dinah, who’s clearly a guest star. It gives Batgirl a nice feel, though the more impressive stuff comes just before.

Babs’s investigation leads her to a showdown with the bad guys, which is the second action scene in the comic. Between two action scenes and a lot of character stuff for Babs–not to mention Batgirl investigating–it’s a full comic book. The plotting is fantastic.

And, slowly, it’s starting to come together. Stewart, Fletcher and artist Tarr are trying really hard to establish Batgirl as a hip, yet incredibly competent comic book. Unfortunately, Babs is the single aspect of the book without a lot of character yet. She’s indistinct; getting better, but indistinct.

B 

CREDITS

Tomorrow Cries Danger; writers, Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher; pencillers, Stewart and Babs Tarr; inker, Tarr; colorist, Maris Wicks; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Dave Wielgosz and Chris Conroy; publisher, DC Comics.

sandman

The Sandman: Master of Dreams 8 (August 1989)

The Sandman: Master of Dreams #8

Either the reader is going to buy into Gaiman’s setup for this issue or the reader is going to reject it. Even before Gaiman gets into the “meat” of the issue, which is basically a lengthy monologue from Dream about the importance of Death. Both as a natural event and as Dream’s sister.

The issue opens with them seeing each other for the first time after Dream’s escape from captivity and his quest. Gaiman goes really far on the self-aware dialogue, using Death to expound on the comic book and on its protagonist.

He also goes with an inanely cheap ending; many of Sandman’s worst moments are just ones cribbed from Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing (without any of the context).

Once again, Gaiman does a montage of regular people who he doesn’t care about. It’s slightly less tedious than the overdone immortal sibling dialogue.

Dringenberg’s art annoys too.

C- 

CREDITS

The Sound of Her Wings; writer, Neil Gaiman; penciller, Mike Dringenberg; inker, Malcolm Jones III; colorist, Robbie Busch; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Art Young and Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

sandman

The Sandman: Master of Dreams 7 (July 1989)

The Sandman: Master of Dreams #7

Ah, the big fight issue. Doctor Destiny versus Dream for control of the Dreamworld. Or whatever it’s called. After the two stand-off in the diner, after some glimpses of the world going mad, Doctor Destiny has a trippy dream he’s Caesar and then the big fight. It’s the two of them against a white background. Not the most visceral setting for a comic book fight scene.

Gaiman has a lot of problems trying to make this issue work as a comic. He’s so wrapped up in traditions, he doesn’t just not do anything new, he doesn’t do anything worthwhile. The glimpses to the world gone mad don’t create concern, they create distance.

Dringenberg’s pencils don’t help things. The awkwardly proportioned figures change throughout, without rhyme or reason. Sandman gives the pretense of thoughtfulness and depth, but it’s generic.

There’s no sense of scale or character. Gaiman avoids writing Dream.

C 

CREDITS

Sound and Fury; writer, Neil Gaiman; penciller, Mike Dringenberg; inker, Malcolm Jones III; colorist, Robbie Busch; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Art Young and Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

sandman

The Sandman: Master of Dreams 6 (June 1989)

The Sandman: Master of Dreams #6

The issue takes place over a day at a diner. Doctor Destiny is trying to bring about the end of the world and he traps a bunch of people in the diner and slowly drives them mad. Or not slowly.

Gaiman makes the characters distinct, horrific, pitiable. He doesn’t have time to establish them as sympathetic so he doesn’t even try. Some of them he plays for laughs, others for shock value. Dringenberg takes over the pencils; he doesn’t do a particularly good job. There’s no personality to the art, especially not in the horrific scenes. Some of the talking heads stuff is decent.

The issue feels so derivative, so manipulative, it starts to get boring before the halfway point. Gaiman’s using sensational human suffering. Even when he writes a good scene, it’s still just a cheap trick in a bridging issue.

All to avoid giving Doctor Destiny a personality.

C 

CREDITS

24 Hours Diner; writer, Neil Gaiman; penciller, Mike Dringenberg; inker, Malcolm Jones III; colorist, Robbie Busch; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Art Young and Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

sandman

The Sandman: Master of Dreams 5 (May 1989)

The Sandman: Master of Dreams #5

Gaiman’s strings show a little too much this issue. The Justice League guest stars–well, just Martian Manhunter and Mister Miracle. Turns out while Dream was away, someone became a supervillain with one of his gadgets. It ties things into the DC universe a little too much. There’s a great bit where Mister Miracle is dreaming of Apokolips and Kieth and Malcolm Jones III do a fantastic Kirby homage.

But most of the issue is this supervillain kidnapping a housewife and having her drive him to the location of this gadget. It’s in Justice League storage, which is just a storage unit somewhere. No security. It’s idiotic, but fits the issue, where Gaiman goes the predictable route every time.

He does have a handle on the humor. And, oddly enough, Dream barely narrates. It’s like Gaiman doesn’t want him to distract from the winks back to previous comics.

Too bad.

C+ 

CREDITS

Passengers; writer, Neil Gaiman; penciller, Sam Kieth; inker, Malcolm Jones III; colorist, Robbie Busch; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Art Young and Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

sandman

The Sandman: Master of Dreams 4 (April 1989)

The Sandman: Master of Dreams #4

Dream goes to Hell, which requires the Demon as a guest star. Gaiman doesn’t have anything for him to do, past rhyme a little for the protagonist and cause some mischief. It’s a pointless cameo, though Kieth and Dringenberg do fine on the Demon. They don’t do so well later, when they have to draw every demon in Hell. Actually, they do fine on the demons… they lose their hold on Dream at that point. He feels too out of place.

The issue has maybe the most narration from Dream so far and it gets tedious. He needs to outwit the demons of Hell with riddles and so on. Intentionally or not, Gaiman’s so sincere he doesn’t have any wit. It’s all very heavy and very boring.

Just when things should pick up in the second half, the comic slows, getting more tedious. So far, Dream’s boring as a lead.

C 

CREDITS

A Hope in Hell; writer, Neil Gaiman; pencillers, Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg; inker, Dringenberg; colorist, Robbie Busch; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Art Young and Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

sandman

The Sandman: Master of Dreams 3 (March 1989)

The Sandman: Master of Dreams #3

Dream’s quest brings him into a John Constantine story–and with Constantine comes a return of Kieth’s improbably proportions for people’s legs–but it’s the strongest issue so far. Gaiman writes Constantine really well, with enough nods to his adventures and the DC universe but never to the point he’s just filling in.

And having Constantine and Dream team-up gives the reader a somewhat human perspective on the fantastical things in the issue–especially since Constantine doesn’t know about Dream. He’s experiencing these things for the first time too.

It’s also nice how Gaiman doesn’t go too far outside the issue’s narrative. He doesn’t work on subplots, just the particular quest experience for Dream and Constantine’s strange encounter. It feels more cohesive, but it also feels a lot more organic. Gaiman’s not trying too hard.

Other than the stumpy legs, Kieth and Dringenberg do really well on the art.

B+ 

CREDITS

Dream a Little Dream of Me; writer, Neil Gaiman; pencillers, Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg; inker, Dringenberg; colorist, Robbie Busch; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Art Young and Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

sandman

The Sandman: Master of Dreams 2 (February 1989)

The Sandman: Master of Dreams #2

For the second issue, with Dream ending up needing help from Cain and Abel–who appropriately bookend the tale–Gaiman doesn’t do a lot except continue to setup Dream’s eventual quest. He needs to regain his talismans or whatnot; all the exposition about what’s happened to his world in his absence is secondary.

Until the end of the issue, at least, because there’s where Gaiman introduces the next steps Dream may take. It’s a promised tour of the DC supernatural universe–with Constantine–but also the superheroes. There’s a Batman connection, including an Arkham Asylum visit.

The result is Gaiman doesn’t really do anything to establish the series, which is fine, but he also has a floundering Dream. For a protagonist, in a second issue, it doesn’t help. It leaves the series–and the reader–without footing when relying on the lead.

Nicely, the art’s consistently strong throughout the issue.

B 

CREDITS

Imperfect Hosts; writer, Neil Gaiman; penciller, Sam Kieth; inker, Mike Dringenberg; colorist, Robbie Busch; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Art Young and Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

sandman

The Sandman: Master of Dreams 1 (January 1989)

The Sandman: Master of Dreams #1

Neil Gaiman starts Sandman with the world changing. Except it’s in flashback, so it’s entirely possible the reader has been living in this changed world without realizing it. Except it’s sort of in DC continuity–the Golden Age Sandman shows up–so the reader isn’t really in that world anyway. Gaiman plays with the ideas a little, but doesn’t go particularly far with them.

Sam Keith and Mike Dringenberg’s art is fantastic for these parts of the issue. Creepy, gory, but never overboard with it. They find the exact balance–and retain some physical humor in the art. It’s great.

Then the titular character comes in and, all of a sudden, Keith can’t draw figures in the right proportion anymore. And Gaiman’s narrating from Dream’s perspective (he doesn’t get named yet but still), but only from the second half of the issue or later.

It’s disjointed overall, but pretty good.

B 

CREDITS

Sleep of the Just; writer, Neil Gaiman; penciller, Sam Kieth; inker, Mike Dringenberg; colorist, Robbie Busch; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Art Young and Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

firestorm v2

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 49 (July 1986)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #49

It’s sort of a goofy issue, with Firestorm’s lawsuit ending in the first scene, then the rest of the issue is the Moonbow story. Conway continues the Marvel vibe–maybe it’s because Moonbow (a female college student who moonlights as a vigilante) looks like a Marvel character, but also because there’s no other vibe to the comic.

Conway doesn’t give his protagonists anything to do. Martin has a date, which Ronnie interrupts for a Firestorm outing, and Conway uses the interruption so as not to make any decisions for Martin. It’s more treading water.

There are art problems too–Pablo Marcos and Rodin Rodriguez join Machlan on inks and the issue never has a consistent look to it. Brozowski again does all right with his page composition and the comic moves at a good pace.

Even the ending, with Firestorm and Moonbow finally crossing paths, moves well.

It’s passable enough.

B- 

CREDITS

Justice: Lost and Found; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Joe Brozowski; inkers, Mike Machlan, Pablo Marcos and Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Carrie Spiegle; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.