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tooth-and-claw

The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw 3 (January 2015)

The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #3

Busiek finally seems to be going somewhere with The Autumnlands. It’s unfortunate he needed a human to get the story moving, but Busiek turns what appears to be a contrived new character into just the thing the series needs.

The human savior from the past is a soldier with cybernetic implants or something. I’m sure Busiek will get around to explaining; he hints at a lot of stuff here, including have the guy use slang. And speak the language of the beast. It gives the reader better access to the world of the characters.

Speaking of characters, there’s a lot of good character development this issue. Busiek concentrates, he doesn’t look around too much, he doesn’t try focusing on anyone too much. Not even the teenage dog kid who was apparently once protagonist but not anymore.

Dewey’s art is still gorgeous, with one exception. He doesn’t draw humans particularly well.

CREDITS

Writer, Kurt Busiek; artist, Benjamin Dewey; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterers, John Roshell and Jimmy Betancourt; publisher, Image Comics.

ODY-C

ODY-C 2 (January 2015)

ODY-C #2

With the second issue of ODY-C, which is definitely easier to follow than the first, it’s still unclear why one should read the comic. Unless he or she is really, really interested in Homer and The Odyssey. Because Fraction and Ward moving the story to a matriarchal galactic adventure really isn’t enough.

Not with Fraction relying on occasional curse words and breaking out of the “space classical” language of the regular exposition to wake up the reader.

For people who love Ward’s art, it might be worth it. But Fraction isn’t doing anything new here. A distant Odysseus who comes off as unlikable? No, that one’s never been done before. Fraction doesn’t have a different take on the characters, he just puts them in different clothing. And it’s not like it’s Gone With the Wind or something subtly familiar.

It’s The Odyssey. It’s been adapted for hundreds of years.

CREDITS

Writer, Matt Fraction; artist, Christian Ward; colorists, Ward and Dee Cunniffe; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; publisher, Image Comics.

Ghosted

Ghosted 16 (January 2015)

Ghosted #16

It’s a done-in-one setting up the next story arc, with Williamson following the villain through his evil plans in a small German town. Juan Jose Ryp does the art, which leads to some crazy riot scenes, but the best moments of Ryp’s art are actually the kids playing. It’s a strange thing to see from Ryp (and in Ghosted) and it’s rather nice.

Actually, Ryp now does a lot of points for shading on faces and it gets annoying fast. Like it’s a Photoshop filter or something.

The story’s decent. Williamson has a lot of fun not just with the villain but setting up the situation in the town. When Jackson finally does appear towards the end of the comic to get the set up going, he’s out of place.

Williamson doesn’t just have fun with the issue, he crafts it very well. It feels enthusiastic and finished.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Williamson; artist, Juan Jose Ryp; colorist, Miroslav Mrva; letterer, Rus Wooten; editors, Helen Leigh and Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

copperhead

Copperhead 5 (January 2015)

Copperhead #5

Faerber wraps up the first arc–and the sheriff’s first case–in a rapid-fire issue of Copperhead. Most of the scenes only take three or four pages so there are a lot of them; they’re all fantastic, starting with the opening scene between the sheriff and the android.

There are a number of surprises in the issue, but Faerber handles them all gradually. His characters are thinking and acting; it’s all incredibly active. It’s an interesting way to handle a procedural because the solution to the crime isn’t as interesting as how the characters go about reacting to it, both the police solving it and the survivors processing it.

And Godlewski basically gets to recap all the settings of the previous issues–starting with some fast action in the desert–so the comic always looks great.

Faerber ends the arc with his cast in place. Copperhead’s great stuff.

CREDITS

Writer, Jay Faerber; artist, Scott Godlewski; colorist, Ron Riley; letterer, Thomas Mauer; publisher, Image Comics.

lazarus

Lazarus 14 (January 2015)

Lazarus #14

Rucka deals with some really big issues in the front half of the issue–like finally making it clear where Forever comes from (or at least where her brother says she comes from), not to mention the resolution to the kidnapped brother arc.

The second half of the issue has a little psychological fallout and then the big political fallout from the first half. Unfortunately, Rucka overplays the political fallout. It’s interesting stuff, but it’s not dramatic. Lark can do talking heads. Instead of doing talking heads, though, Rucka has him do… listening heads. It’s just not dramatic, it’s hard to keep interest.

And then the cliffhanger, which could have been really dramatic, is quizzical. Rucka assumes readers are rather familiar with the supporting cast without giving them any reminders. It’s written for the trade–not in terms of not enough action, but that familiarity.

But the first half’s awesome.

CREDITS

Conclave, Part Four; writer, Greg Rucka; artists, Michael Lark and Tyler Boss; colorist, Santiago Arcas; letterer, Jodi Wynne; editor, David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

nailbiter

Nailbiter 9 (January 2015)

Nailbiter #9

Somehow, Williamson can turn an exciting cliffhanger resolution into a boring comic. I mean, it’s interesting. Even if Henderson doesn’t get as much good to draw as usual because there’s the cliffhanger resolution and then another scene in the same location. Then it’s a bunch of interiors–the sheriff’s house, where Williamson works on his B plot involving the local preacher, and the school bus, the issue’s ostensible A plot.

That A plot is just to get Williamson to another big cliffhanger, presumably one he’ll resolve quickly next issue and not just not offer any resolution but also use to get hostile about the idea of the reader connecting with the comic.

Nailbiter is far too removed from itself; Williamson doesn’t want to focus on his main characters because he’s bored with them. Everyone else is far more interesting. Hopefully, he’ll be able to refocus the comic on something engaging.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Williamson; artist, Mike Henderson; colorist, Adam Guzowski; letterer, John J. Hill; editor, Rob Levin; publisher, Image Comics.

Nailbiter 8 (December 2014)

Nailbiter #8

Williamson and Henderson deliver a lot more in the mood of the issue than anything else. Between Williamson’s eerie town history and Henderson’s eerier art, Nailbiter succeeds in creating a wondrous setting. It also ends up hurting the reading experience because Williamson’s writing often feels like it doesn’t take full advantage of that setting.

This issue has a bunch of subplots brewing. The sheriff has trouble on a couple fronts, the titular serial killer is under more scrutiny than usual, and then the FBI guy is doing his investigating thing. And that investigating thing leads to a very unlikely stand-off with a civilian.

But Nailbiter often isn’t about being reasonable. It’s about well-written characters and good art. This issue delivers some of the former and a lot of the latter. Williamson just can’t hide he’s doing a bridging issue and spinning his wheels for time.

It’s mostly fine.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Williamson; artist, Mike Henderson; colorist, Adam Guzowski; letterer, John J. Hill; editor, Rob Levin; publisher, Image Comics.

birthright

Birthright 4 (January 2015)

Birthright #4

Williamson keeps improving with Birthright. He never loses what he’s already done, but he develops further–and not with his flashbacks to fantasy land, which get tiresome (something the father realizes too, in a great scene). Instead, he’s able to reveal things about the family without having to use a flashback. It comes up in the conversation, with the older brother reminding Conan of their lives before fantasy land.

What’s particularly compelling about Birthright is how seriously Williamson takes both sides of the story. I’m dismissive of the fantasy elements because I’m not interested in them. But he’s still doing a tough story about this sword and sandal alternate reality; he never forces the tough. There’s an idealism, but a grounded one.

And the family stuff is just getting better. It’s getting so good, actually, Bressan’s a little too clean for it.

Birthright isn’t just impressive, it’s getting more so.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Williamson; artist, Andrei Bressan; colorist, Adriano Lucas; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Helen Leigh and Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

Fade-Out

The Fade Out 4 (January 2015)

The Fade Out #4

Even though there’s sensational material in the issue, the issue itself isn’t sensational. Brubaker is very measured. He’s meticulous in the plotting, giving just enough hints and just enough callbacks to the previous issues to get to some big surprises. By the time the issue ends, The Fade Out is something of a different comic than it was before.

There are three big reasons. First, the previous issue where Brubaker changed up format. Second, the sensational material–the Red Threat in Hollywood. Third, the use of actual celebrities as characters. Brubaker’s very subtle about how he uses the last one and it works out beautifully.

And Phillips. Phillips gets some great stuff to draw this issue. Not just the period scenes, clubs, talking heads banter, but a flashback to World War II and some more information about protagonist Charlie. It might turn out to be a great comic after all.

CREDITS

The Word on the Street; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

theyre-not-like-us

They’re Not Like Us 1 (December 2014)

They're Not Like Us #1

Not to be too reductive, but the proper response to They’re Not Like Us appears to be “OMG! It’s like a real life X-Men.” Only, apparently, the gifted youngsters don’t use their powers for good, but for selfish reasons. Writer Eric Stephenson sort of foreshadows said youngsters–really a collection of twenty something hipsters–using their powers to harm others. Just like Professor X, the leader has rules… the first being to kill everyone who you knew before you join the team.

Will the Jean Grey-esque protagonist join with them, killing her family (who misunderstood her superpowers as schizophrenia)? Who cares. No one’s forcing me to read the comic, so I have no stake in it. Stephenson certainly doesn’t care about making his characters worth reading about.

Simon Gane’s artwork is good. A little self-indulgent, but good.

Like Us is a concept in search of a story.

B- 

CREDITS

From Despair to Where; writer, Eric Stephenson; artist, Simon Gane; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Fonografiks; publisher, Image Comics.

cowl

C.O.W.L. 7 (December 2014)

C.O.W.L. #7

The issue starts off a little rocky. Reis gets a big action sequence and it’s all style and no substance. Then Higgins and Siegel gradually ease the substance out of that scene as the rest of the comic progresses. Because they’re now introducing the supervillains, or what goes for a supervillain in C.O.W.L. and things are getting very interesting.

There’s a lot of subplot building, between the murdered union member, the union boss making a deal with the villains, the guy getting out of the hospital. There’s a lot–so much when there’s this thing with one of the regular superheroes and a cop talking, it’s just too much to track. But Higgins and Siegel keep it in line and constantly surprising.

And Reis gets another good action sequence.

Then the cliffhanger brings in a whole other issue, since it’s a reveal no one knows but the reader.

Very cool.

B+ 

CREDITS

The Greater Good, Chapter One: At the Brink; writers, Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel; artist, Rod Reis; letterer, Troy Peteri; editor, Andy Schmidt; publisher, Image Comics.

manifest destiny

Manifest Destiny 11 (October 2014)

Manifest Destiny #11

In some ways, this issue of Manifest Destiny is stronger than I thought Dingess and Roberts would ever actually do. It’s not high concept in the plot–Lewis is simply trying to free the ship of being stuck in the river and to get them away from the giant monster toad.

But it’s high concept in Dingess plots out this action issue. There’s the tension over the situation, but there are all these other things going on. Dingess has done so well in layering in the subplots, he can easily refer back to them with just a panel or two of Roberts’s close-ups on various characters.

Sacagawea, for example, only shows up for a couple silent appearances in panels but she’s still a presence in the comic. And the banter between Lewis and his new love interest is brief and fantastic.

Plus, there’s Lewis and Clark bonding.

Excellent stuff.

A 

CREDITS

Writer, Chris Dingess; artist, Matthew Roberts; colorist, Owen Gieni; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editor, Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

Rumble

Rumble 1 (December 2014)

Rumble #1

Right off, it’s fairly clear the focus of Rumble isn’t going to be the writing. Not for the reader, anyway. Writer John Arcudi does have some amusing, incisive dialogue. The opening exchange between a bartender and customer has its high points. But it isn’t going to be a talking heads comic.

It’s also not going to be an action comic, because artist James Harren doesn’t spend a lot of time on the act. His panels are somewhat static, very much snapshots in how Harren catches the characters moving.

In those panels, Harren creates an expressive world for Arcudi’s slightly off characters to inhabit. There’s a whole lot of mood; even though Harren’s style is playful, there’s an ever present danger. Maybe because of the giant swordsman chasing down a barfly.

There’s not a lot of meat to Rumble. Arcudi does fine, but Harren is the reason to read the comic.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, John Arcudi; artist, John Harren; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; publisher, Image Comics.

manifest destiny

Manifest Destiny 12 (December 2014)

Manifest Destiny #12

It’s a fantastic issue, maybe the best in the series so far. Manifest Destiny works best when Dingess is doing more than one thing at a time. This issue doesn’t have much in the way of action, unless one counts arguments and thrown soup, but it still moves at a nice, brisk pace, with the constant threat of danger.

The issue opens with a two page recap of events since the previous issue. Not much has happened. Then the expedition comes across a Native American tribe and they go talk to them. At the same time, Dingess looks at tensions with the wounded aboard the ship and flashes back to how Lewis and Clark got the job in the first place.

Not to mention Sacagawea getting a very cool little subplot of her own.

It’s a smart, carefully executed issue. Dingess and Roberts are full of surprises; rather good ones.

A 

CREDITS

Writer, Chris Dingess; artist, Matthew Roberts; colorist, Owen Gieni; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editor, Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.