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cowl

C.O.W.L. 4 (August 2014)

C.O.W.L. #4

Stéphane Perger joins Reis on the art this issue; their styles compliment one another, but are still distinct. The art is both more stylized and emotive over all and it helps the issue immensely.

As for Higgins and Siegel’s story, it’s phenomenal. They’re apparently comfortable enough in C.O.W.L. to let some subplots rest without getting full recaps and minimal motion. There’s some quiet family drama, there’s some quiet relationship drama. It’s all very quiet; even though it’s about the superheroes picketing the police department.

Real quick–the picket lines meet a predictable conclusion when it’s one law enforcement agency picketing and another one not. Higgins and Siegel find a whole lot to talk about this comic and not much of it has to do with flying men. They aren’t turning C.O.W.L. into a history lesson, they’re instead using it as a discussion piece about history.

The comic’s really shaping up well.

A- 

CREDITS

Principles of Power, Chapter Four: Unity; writers, Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel; artists, Rod Reis and Stéphane Perger; letterer, Troy Peteri; editor, Andy Schmidt; publisher, Image Comics.

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Wayward_01-1

Wayward 1 (August 2014)

Wayward #1

Wayward is awful. I wish it weren’t, because Steve Cummings’s art is awesome. With the single exception of the teenage girl protagonist looking about the same age as her mother. But otherwise.

So why is Wayward so bad I can’t even stick with it for the art?

Writer Jim Zub. Unless he’s trying to do a “girl power” comic with some deceptive objectifying of women and some really bad dialogue, all the writing is a disaster. Every word. Down to Marshall Dllon’s lettering choices.

The dialogue sounds like a combination of protracted, insincere soap opera expository writing and poorly translated subtitles. At times, Wayward really does feel like Zub is trying to mimic a bad subtitle job. There are some goofy plot developments–like the fantasy ninja girl wanting strawberry milk.

As for the sexism, Zub’s characters are generic, predictable fetish objects. Sadly, Zub’s serious and not mocking the genre.

D 

CREDITS

Writer, Jim Zub; artist, Steve Cummings; colorist, John Rauch; letterer, Marshall Dillon; publisher, Image Comics.

Wicked-+-Divine

The Wicked + The Divine 3 (August 2014)

The Wicked + The Divine #3

Something is a little off this issue. Gillen has maybe run out of establishing stuff to do and he’s getting underway with the actual story. This young woman investigating the gods and just happening to see some amazing stuff like a god-fight.

The fight, which is full of banter between the gods, is just filler. Gillen’s strengths on the comic clearly aren’t going to be the investigative scenes and this issue doesn’t have much besides those. Except the protagonist and her sidekick recapping what they know at the end. It doesn’t go over well either.

A lot of the problem is McKelvie. Most of the issue feels like someone trying to carefully mimic his style and even when it does feel like him… it feels very rushed. And without solid art, Wicked + Divine’s problems start to show. You start looking behind the curtain for the Wizard.

It’s too bad.

B- 

CREDITS

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

manifest destiny

Manifest Destiny 9 (August 2014)

Manifest Destiny #9

There's just enough disgusting creativity to pull the issue through–even if it's far from original. Dingess still has he problems with pacing and plotting, but he does get around to a few characters this issue. He's got Clark and a bunch of people stranded, while Lewis tries to figure out how to get rid of the giant monster frog. So there are a few scenes for Lewis, but a lot for the landing party.

Clark actually doesn't get much to do until the end of the issue. Instead, there's a new friend for Sacajawea and then some more rumblings of mutiny. But the big thing (pardon the pun) has to be the giant insects; they bring back Manifest Destiny's pulse in the second half of the issue.

Dingess writes some good scenes for the cast, he's just taking too much time on everything. Roberts's art can't carry the comic alone.

B 

CREDITS

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

Stray Bullets: KIllers

Stray Bullets: Killers 6 (August 2014)

Stray Bullets: Killers #6

Well, it’s far from the worst issue of Killers. It’s more with Virginia and her mostly lame boyfriend Eli; Lapham does very little to show why Eli’s any good as a boyfriend other than he’s usually sweet to Virginia.

This issue has him not being sweet for the first time and it’s an awkward scene. Usually outburst scenes in Stray Bullets lead to some kind of murder scene. This time it leads to teenage angst.

It’s also one of the first issues–Killers or regular series–where something turns out not to be the worst possible scenario. Except maybe some of those early Virginia issues where Lapham frequently threatens her to keep the tension high. It’s a Stray Bullets comic without the big finish. Very odd.

The art’s really lazy at times; Lapham rushes through the talking heads sequences and it hurts the comic. Ditto the narratively pointless hallucination subplot.

B- 

CREDITS

99 Percent; writer, artist and letterer, David Lapham; editors, Renee Miller and Maria Lapham; publisher, Image Comics.

Fade-Out

The Fade Out 1 (August 2014)

The Fade Out #1

The Fade Out is the story of a Hollywood screenwriter in the 1940s. Ed Brubaker writes the comic’s narration in really close third person. Between Brubaker–who has his fair share of writing predictable twists–and the protagonist–who would probably write even more of them–one of them should have noticed the utterly predictable nature of this issue.

The writer wakes up next to a dead body. Is there any chance he could have something to do with the dead body–a young starlet whose picture he’s working on? He sure doesn’t think so and Brubaker sure tries to make it seem like he’s not involved but guess what… you probably don’t have to guess if you’ve ever seen a single film noir.

I’m being a little hard on the comic, which is well-researched and beautifully illustrated by Sean Phillips. It’s recycled material–James Ellroy deserves an “inspired by” credit at least–but professionally, thoroughly presented.

B 

CREDITS

The Wild Party; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; editor, David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

A review of a Starlight comic book, a series published by Image Comics.

Starlight 5 (August 2015)

Starlight #5

I didn’t realize Starlight was a limited series. I guess it makes sense, given the creative team, but Millar sure didn’t pace it well for a finite run. Subplots would have been cool. I just thought he was padding it out.

This issue is all action. There’s a minute amount of character development for Duke, but it’s really just old man action movie stuff and it’s fine. Millar writes it well enough and Parlov draws it beautifully. It’s too bad Millar’s plotting isn’t better because most of the action takes place in a gas fog and all the activity is in long shot.

The tediously setup cliffhangers have the supporting cast in shackles and Duke on his way to save them. Duke surviving an off-panel death might be a spoiler but Millar doesn’t actually present it as a possibility. It’s a narrative trick.

They’re all tricks, but effectively executed.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Millar; artist, Goran Parlov; colorist, Ive Svorcina; letterer, Marko Sunjic; editor, Nicole Boose; publisher, Image Comics.

Ghosted

Ghosted 12 (August 2014)

Ghosted #12

I’m having a little trouble counting the reveals in this issue. It’s either three or four. Two of the biggest ones come before the end of the issue and then the cliffhanger reveal doesn’t even have the inkling of context. Williamson is having some fun.

This issue is setup for the next arc–with Goran Sudzuka continuing on art–and Williamson goes all out. There isn’t just a little setup, it’s the entire issue. He opens with a ghost event out in the world and follows up on it, ties it into the discussion, for the end of the issue. It’s not cliffhanger material, just interesting material.

But while he’s doing all this setup, Williamson is moving his protagonists forward. It calls back to previous issues, but the comic is essentially a soft boot. It works out rather well.

Even the most hackneyed character comes off as charming and vibrant.

B+ 

CREDITS

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

nightworld

Nightworld 1 (August 2014)

Nightworld #1

Nightworld is off to a fine start. Artist Paolo Leandri does an excellent Kirby imitation, with Adam McGovern’s terse but verbose script–at least at the open–making the comic feel like something out of the seventies. Like a Charlton knock-off of Tomb of Dracula maybe.

Leandri has some issues with the faces–his noses are off and his cheekbones are a little much–but there’s so much flow to his movement, problematic faces barely register.

The story has some doomed soul in a superhero outfit battling a demon for the soul of his beloved. There are villains, like a hellish femme fatale and–in the most obvious Kirby homage–some New God-looking speed demon.

There are the nice humans who take the time to help the tragic protagonist too. I’m sure it’ll be a bittersweet end with the girl.

Nightworld isn’t incredibly original, just very well produced.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Adam McGovern; artist and letterer, Paolo Leandri; colorist, Dominic Regan; publisher, Image Comics.

nailbiter

Nailbiter 4 (August 2014)

Nailbiter #4

Nailbiter isn’t exactly an incomplete read, it’s just three scenes. There’s the ominous prologue, there’s the main action with the two protagonists and then there’s the titular serial killer in his jail cell.

Henderson is getting a little loose with the art, especially during the main action, which doesn’t help things. All in all, the comic actually feels like a quarter of a one hour television show. The cliffhanger isn’t so much worthy of a month long wait as of a three or four minute commercial break.

Another problem is how Williamson has eschewed character development for revelations. His protagonists aren’t developing their relationship together, they’re making expository statements to one another. Even the big reveal flops because Williamson has introduced so many revelations–two to three more in the last six pages of this issue–it’s hard to keep up.

The comic’s entirely lost its texture at this point.

B- 

CREDITS

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

mice-templar-volume-iii

The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night’s Dream 8 (March 2012)

The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night's Dream #8

It's one heck of a finish for the volume. Oeming's back for some of the dream sequences, with Glass finally getting around to explaining what's been going on with Karic. Sort of.

The issue's Karic's battle with the evil druids on a psychic plane. Glass doesn't over explain and he doesn't have to–Templar's sort of biblical in terms of the reality of the mysticism. It's just there and Glass doesn't give the reader any chance at misinterpreting. Here, he doesn't have time to convince, he's got to get Karic through.

It works beautifully because Glass is resolving the unsure young Karic with the now legendary warrior Karic, which has been one of the series's big transitions through the volumes. Glass handles it subtly too.

Some of the issue's events are predictable and it's sort of the ultimate in bridging issues (and series), but it's successful.

Templar's an epic poem now.

A 

CREDITS

The Dream of a Midwinter’s Night; writer, Bryan J.L. Glass; artists, Victor Santos and Michael Avon Oeming; colorists, Veronica Gandini, Serena Guerra and Oeming; letterer, James H. Glass; editor, Judy Glass; publisher, Image Comics.

lazarus

Lazarus 10 (August 2014)

Lazarus #10

It's a torture issue. Sure, it's a torture issue where the guy getting tortured is an odious previous villain in Lazarus, but it's still a torture issue.

What's most surprising about it is Lark sticking on the art for what's essentially a done-in-one fill-in type issue. The rogue son of the main family goes off to another family–who are based in New York City, which gives Lark a chance to do something like Escape from New York for a bit and it's awesome–and it's his bad time trying to defect.

Rucka uses the issue to establish how the world works outside the family he's used to dealing with and to setup either the next story arc or the next few story arcs.

The issue moves a little too fast, but the Lark New York scenes make up for it in art, and the resolution is a decent surprise.

It's fine.

B 

CREDITS

Extraction; writer, Greg Rucka; artists, Michael Lark and Brian Level; colorist, Santiago Arcas; letterer, Jodi Wynne; editor, David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics

mice-templar-volume-iii

The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night’s Dream 7 (January 2012)

The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night's Dream #7

Glass sets another few pieces into place for, presumably, the next volume. There simply isn’t enough time for him to get any of these plot threads resolved in the final issue of Midwinter Night’s Dream.

There’s more treachery from Pilot the traitorous Templar (though so many rodents in Templar are traitorous it’s hard to disparage Pilot just for that character flaw) and there’s the little mice and the King’s former consort both getting involved with the rebel movement. So two and a half things going on, with Glass also throwing in the series’s first nice rat.

But if Midwinter is a bridging series, this issue is a bridging issue in a bridging series. Nothing comes as a surprise (except the nice rat). It’s compelling because of the events, not because of the characters.

Santos’s art is excellent throughout.

It’s too much time on too little; it coasts on stockpiled goodwill.

B- 

CREDITS

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

mice-templar-volume-iii

The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night’s Dream 6 (December 2011)

The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night's Dream #6

It's an all action issue. Glass does spend some time setting up the lengthy action sequence with a rat commander out to redeem his lost pride (during the previous volume), but not a lot. It's all distinct, because Glass is showing more of the rat culture than he's shown before–and hinting at one aspect of Templar culture never before discussed (the mice abandoning their elderly when moving camps).

Then the rats get to the Templar camp where Cassius is caring for comatose Karic and the action starts. It's vicious and lyrical, with Cassius dispatching the rats either directly or through traps. The traps often lead to more intense violence than just the sword fighting.

During the battle, Glass has Cassius narrating–some of it has to do with the battle, but a lot is self-reflection. Glass and Santos are ambitious with their concept.

The ending double twist subtly deepens the issue.

B+ 

CREDITS

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