The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night’s Dream 4 (May 2011)

The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night's Dream #4

Glass finds another unexpected direction for Midwinter–a much wider look at the world. He still checks in on familiar cast members, with Pilot’s return being simultaneously unwelcome and narratively strong. The reader knows the character to be villainous, yet one hopes for the sake of Pilot’s newest marks he’s changed.

This issue marks the second without Cassius and Karic and Glass is still showing just how strong the series is on its own. He doesn’t need his protagonists; jumping from Pilot to Aquila to the Templar priesthood, Glass is able to move three subplots forward. Midwinter seems focused on establishing the series’s tapestry.

The issue gives Santos the chance to do a lot of “widescreen” panels, like the rat army on the march. There’s a great action sequence involving a centipede as well, but Santos and Glass seem to be enhancing the visual scope of the comic.

Ambitious stuff.



Three Blind Mice; writer, Bryan J.L. Glass; artist, Victor Santos; colorist, Veronica Gandini; letterer, James H. Glass; editor, Judy Glass; publisher, Image Comics.

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Prophet 45 (July 2014)

Prophet #45

I can’t believe it… Prophet ends with a weak setup for the subsequent sequel series. I never would have guessed it, not even as the issue progressed and old John and new John started on their collision course.

They don’t exactly collide, they team up, which is kind of worse, because Graham and Roy are now playing towards a imagined reader expectation. I say imagined because I don’t think any reader wanted them to flush all their creativity and ingenuity in plotting for something predictable. At this point, I don’t think I’d be surprised if the lizard girl ends up with the android.

The pacing is all off on the issue, both narrative and visual. After a minuscule nod towards how they used to identify objects with footnotes, the action beings racing, then slowing to a full page spread, then racing towards the next.

For Prophet, it’s a stunning flop.



Writers, Brandon Graham and Simon Roy; artists, Farel Dalrymple, Giannis Milonogiannis and Roy; colorists, Joseph Bergin III and Sandra Lanz; letterer, Ed Brisson; publisher, Image Comics.


Trees 3 (July 2014)

I have something called the “Oh, Hell, No” rule. When a writer uses those three words to show how much stronger his (or her) female character is compared to someone else or her situation… well, there’s a line is all. And Ellis steps over it with this issue of Trees. His super strong, gang leader’s girlfriend who’s really smart but also soulful is hideous and lazy.

She’s stalking an old professor–who loves books–because she needs mentor. In the post-apocalypse, books are very important. Trees is turning out to be nothing but Ellis regurgitating ideas he gets from elsewhere. Some of them seem familiar, like he’s regurgitating himself; it’s a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. With pretty art.

Except this issue, Howard’s art is lazy, lifeless and hurried. Without him, Trees loTrees #3ses its single saving grace; outside muted, hostile condescension, Ellis isn’t bringing anything to it.



Writer, Warren Ellis; artist, Jason Howard; letterer, Fonografiks; publisher, Image Comics.


The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night’s Dream 3 (March 2011)

The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night's Dream #3

While the issue is dedicated to Brian Jacques (of the Redwall series), Santos spends more of his time in homage to M.C. Escher. Mice in mazes and Escher–it’s fabulous. But Santos’s art isn’t just great for that playful and intricate composition, it’s everything this issue. He’s been building up with Midwinter and here he just lets loose.

Speaking of letting loose, Glass goes a very unexpected route. He abandons Cassius and Karic and heads forward a little with the Templar camp from the previous two issues, but most of the issue is about the people–sorry, the rodents–in the capital. There are even weasels this time; lots of developments, lots of great character work.

Glass is almost showing off–Mice Templar has hit the point where the adventure hook of young Karic isn’t necessary anymore.

It’s a wonderful issue. Action, romantic longing, political unrest, rodent bigotry–it’s both comfortably excellent and entirely unexpected.



Royal Division; writer, Bryan J.L. Glass; artist, Victor Santos; colorist, Veronica Gandini; letterer, James H. Glass; editor, Judy Glass; publisher, Image Comics.


Fatale 24 (July 2014)

Fatale #24

Given all the series’s problems as of late, I didn’t expect Brubaker to finish Fatale well. I knew it’d be problematic, but I hoped he’d go for satisfying at least.

Instead, he pretends he’s been writing a lot of third person exposition in purple prose so he can finish the comic with a rumination on the beauty of a sunset or some such nonsense. But it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Fatale’s been on a downward trajectory for a while and a rushed one–not ending would have been satisfactory. The writing’s just been too reductive.

But worse, Phillips’s art is rushed. He’s got lots of little panels and not enough detail on the people in those panels. He does a lengthy action sequence and it’s boring–it’s not entirely his fault, Brubaker’s rushing through the scene as far as tension.

It’s an unfortunate ending. It ignores everything good about the comic.



Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.


The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night’s Dream 2 (January 2011)

The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night's Dream #2

Glass is having some real problems with cliffhangers in Midwinter, if this second issue is any indication. After not just going through the main plot, but also introducing the supporting cast back from the previous volume, Glass quarantines these first two issues (for protagonists Cassius and Karic, anyway). He’s moved the players from point A to point B and now he’s ready to get started again.

It’s like a soft reset, with the ground situation now changed. It feels like a combination of treading water and contriving trouble.

There’s still a lot of strong material in the issue–some fantastic action art from Santos–and Glass’s character moments are excellent. He’s just all over the place. This issue it becomes clear Cassius hasn’t been the protagonist these first two issues so much as subject; his lost love has a whole lot more going on and self-awareness.

Hopefully things will get started now.



Consequences; writer, Bryan J.L. Glass; artist, Victor Santos; colorist, Veronica Gandini; letterer, James H. Glass; editor, Judy Glass; publisher, Image Comics.


Low 1 (August 2014)

Low #1

Low is a gorgeous comic. Greg Tocchini doing sci-fi. It’s just gorgeous, especially the double page spreads.

Unfortunately, it’s clear from the first few pages of the comic writer Rick Remender is not bringing the same caliber of work. Instead, he’s writing a derivative, wordy, knock-off of “Lost in Space,” only set underwater.

The issue opens with lots of marriage banter between the narrator and his upper class wife. He’s just the guy who drives the ship–in this case, the ship is the bubble city humanity survives in. He wants to teach the daughters to drive, the wife doesn’t. I didn’t think Remender was so cheap he’d use tragedy to endear the reader to the family in the first issue but I was wrong. Remender’s a really cheap writer.

If it were just bad dialogue or dumb plotting, the art might make it worthwhile. But not both.



The Delirium of Hope; writer, Rick Remender; artist, Greg Tocchini; letterer, Rus Wooton; editor, Sebastian Girner; publisher, Image Comics.


The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night’s Dream 1 (December 2010)

The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night's Dream #1

Besides the cliffhanger, which is too manipulative, A Midwinter Night’s Dream is off to a great start. Glass has a lot of territory to cover just getting the story going–there’s lengthy expository narration at the beginning, along with some fantastic art by Santos. For the flashbacks, Santos only gets a few panels to make his point and he does every time.

The issue isn’t just well-executed flashbacks, of course. Glass does some character drama, some more action and a little romance–not to mention another creepy full page spread of the lead character having to negotiate with the bugs to survive during the day time. Santos isn’t a creepy artist so the bugs aren’t gross, but they’re still disturbing. Maybe just because Glass still hasn’t shown them angry yet.

Glass uses the supporting cast to both build the mythology and move the action.

It’s another excellent Templar comic.



Precious Burden; writer, Bryan J.L. Glass; artists, Michael Avon Oeming and Victor Santos; colorist, Veronica Gandini; letterer, James H. Glass; editor, Judy Glass; publisher, Image Comics.


The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night’s Dream 0 (November 2010)

The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night's Dream #0

As a zero issue introducing the new Mice Templar volume, this issue isn’t effective. There are some really effective things about it–Bryan J.L. Glass and Victor Santos retell the finale of the previous volume from a different perspective and Santos gets in some wonderful pages–but the comic itself is too slight.

Running about eight pages, it might just be too short to be anything but slight, but Glass takes an odd approach. One of the knights saving the citizenry from the tyrant king is questioning his orders and the idea of a savior and so on. If it were a full issue–and the protagonist were better defined–it might work as a rumination on events. But, like I said, it’s too short.

The Santos art makes it easily worth a look and Glass’s script coasts on built-up good will towards the series. It’s hard not to be a little disappointed though.



Faith in Miracles; writers, Michael Avon Oeming and Bryan J.L. Glass; artist, Victor Santos; colorist, Veronica Gandini; letterer, James H. Glass; editor, Judy Glass; publisher, Image Comics.


Velvet 6 (July 2014)

Velvet #6

Brubaker starts Velvet’s second arc and it’s just as clear as with the first one, there’s something just a little off about it. Epting doesn’t get much opportunity for the period piece stuff this issue either, which is too bad.

There’s a whole bunch of exposition with Velvet explaining her thinking about her investigation–it brings up the perspective question too. Who’s Velvet telling her story? Or is her first person narrative just easy first person narration with no thought about it other than what mood it creates.

The issue is light on action, with Brubaker instead going for cheap visual thrills and innuendos at a London sex club. The short action scene at the end doesn’t make up for the lack of it throughout. Epting isn’t particularly creative on the composition either.

The extreme competency of the series continues to keep it afloat, but it’s still rather dull.



The Secret Lives of Dead Men, Part One; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor; David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

Stray Bullets: KIllers

Stray Bullets: Killers 5 (July 2014)

Stray Bullets: Killers #5

I remember when the Amy Racecar issues of Stray Bullets were wildly imaginative, wonderfully constructed black comedy. This issue, the first Killers issue to bring Amy back… is none of those things. Instead, it’s Lapham doing the “Amy Racecar as painfully obvious analog to Virginia’s life” approach.

It’s depressing–not because of the content, but because Lapham jumps all over the place to tie in to the original series (both the Amy issues and a little not) and to the Killers series. While one could argue the unanswered questions in the Amy Racecar stories are because Virginia herself doesn’t know the answers but it’s possible she’s dwelling on these subjects so they’re okay in the issue, I don’t think so.

Lapham wants this story to inform the rest of the work, not do anything else whatsoever. Not even make the reader laugh or cringe. The vague hints barely register a shrug.



Call Me Gilgamesh or The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face It Was On Your Butt; writer, artist and letterer, David Lapham; editors, Renee Miller and Maria Lapham; publisher, Image Comics.

manifest destiny

Manifest Destiny 8 (July 2014)

Manifest Destiny #8

The problem with Manifest Destiny is too little going on in the action issues. This issue takes place over at least two days, but the way Dingess breaks out the scenes–basically two big sections of little scenes run together and then the action sequences–it just feels too fast.

Some of the problem might be Roberts’s efficiency with visualizing the scenes. There are a few times the fast pace is because the art flows so seamlessly between panels. Destiny is almost too competent at this point; Dingess knows what Roberts can handle and does try to task him with more ambitious sequences. Simultaneously, Dingess isn’t trying to do anything more with the plotting.

This issue has zero character development–unless resentment over Sacagawea counts–even though Dingess splits the cast into more manageable groups.

It almost seems like Dingess is treading water because he doesn’t know where he’s going to take the story.



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


The Wicked + The Divine 2 (July 2014)

The Wicked + The Divine #2

The last few pages are mostly text. It’s decent text, so Gillen can kind of get away with the hard cliffhanger and not actually have to do much. He doesn’t really do much in this issue all together, except write really good characters. He has his protagonist discovering the whole returned god thing as she goes along, which is great since the reader’s doing the same thing. It’s not heavy lifting.

But the concept is sort of heavy lifting and not because of the returned god thing, but because of the history. For whatever reason, giving Wicked a backstory makes the whole series seem deeper than it may actually turn out to measure.

Gillen also knows how to best utilize McKelvie; he does a phenomenal job this issue. Even with the slight illustrations on the text pages. Well, most of them.

It’s a good comic. Not earth shattering, just good.



Writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Jamie McKelvie; colorist, Matthew Wilson; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Chrissy Williams; publisher, Image Comics.


Dark Engine 1 (July 2014)

Dark Engine #1

If I had to describe artist John Bivens's style, I'd say Paul Pope meets Frank Frazetta–warrior women versus dinosaurs with a lot of lines. Unfortunately, Bivens has no narrative storytelling chops so it's one static panel after another. I don't think I've ever read such a boring fight scene involving a dinosaur and a cavewoman.

Except the lead isn't a cavewoman. She's a nearly naked product of genetic engineering. Ryan Burton doesn't answer why she has to be a woman, except perhaps for the constant nude scene possibilities. But his script is entirely undercooked so why expect it….

Dark Engine is set in an otherworldly dimension where Burton wants the reader to remember a bunch of lame fantasy proper nouns but then uses Biblical names for his characters. Who curse in English.

It's lazy, bad writing. Bivens's illustrating skills aside, there's nothing to Dark Engine. It's stalled at the gate.



Writer, Ryan Burton; artist, John Bivens; letterer, Crank!; publisher, Image Comics.