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cowl

C.O.W.L. 5 (September 2014)

C.O.W.L. #5

It’s a decent enough issue–with Reis doing a lengthy Sienkiewicz-inspired action sequence–but it’s a little light.

C.O.W.L. is a hard-sell, which makes writers Higgins and Siegel’s accomplishments more significant, because it’s a comic book about a labor union and union politics and union negotiating. The superhero aspect of the comic doesn’t come into play much throughout the issue, with Higgins and Siegel saving it for the finale.

But even then it has a lot to do with the union and its problems.

Most of the art is highly stylized, but Reis never gets in the way of the story. He keeps the talking heads scenes visually interesting. Even with its problems, the issue is impressive. Higgins and Siegel find time for character scenes, they find time for conspiracies, they just don’t have enough A plot for the issue.

Slightness aside, it’s still perfectly good stuff.

B 

CREDITS

Principles of Power, Chapter Five: Sacrifice; writers, Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel; artist, Rod Reis; letterer, Troy Peteri; editor, Andy Schmidt; publisher, Image Comics.

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Wicked-+-Divine

The Wicked + The Divine 4 (September 2014)

The Wicked + The Divine #4

Well… let’s see… where to start–the issue is two and a half scenes. The first has our protagonist, the human girl detective investigating on Lucifer’s behalf, with her sidekick interviewing Baal. He’s evil but irresistible. Only it’s not really an interview scene, it’s to get the protagonist into see all the gods and ask them for help with Lucifer’s wrongful imprisonment.

McKelvie makes a very interesting choice with the gods’ hangout chamber. It looks like Tron. Not a little like Tron, exactly like it. Only the protagonist is too young to make the reference.

So then there is a lot of talking and a lot of banter from the various gods and none of it’s good. Gillen spends almost half the issue on exposition he could summarize in a paragraph.

The second scene is the protagonist and Lucifer. It’s even slighter.

It’s all about the gimmick, not the protagonist.

B- 

CREDITS

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

velvet

Velvet 7 (September 2014)

Velvet #7

Leave it to Brubaker–my favorite issue of Velvet so far and she isn't even in her own comic. Instead, it's Brubaker chronicling the efforts of two guys working for the agency (and neither seem to be the corrupt faction out for Velvet) trying to find her.

There's really good narration from the first guy, Colt, as Brubaker takes him through the first half of the comic. The guy's figuring out how Velvet's working, which is subtle at first but then gets more important. He's also surprised at himself–the character, not Brubaker–for missing the signs of Velvet being a master spy.

The second guy is Colt's boss and he's also got a path to go on to figure things out. Brubaker never forces the narration, never does anything obvious. When the boss figures out Velvet's next step, it's a huge surprise for the reader.

It's an outstanding issue. Brubaker nails it.

B+ 

CREDITS

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

manifest destiny

Manifest Destiny 10 (September 2014)

Manifest Destiny #10

Dingess just can't stop with the cliffhanger problems. Manifest Destiny always has these fake cliffhangers, where Dingess is teasing what ever is going to happen next and it usually is a character's intention, not an outside event. It's an interesting narrative device, but Destiny isn't character driven. If it were, such cliffhangers might make sense.

Most of the issue is good. There's a blowout between Lewis and his female assistant and it's pretty good stuff. Dingess definitely knows how to do the talking heads scenes to give them weight; they're nice and layered. Sadly, it comes right before a confusing montage. Roberts visually implies a mutiny, which doesn't correspond to the actual scene content at all.

There's some good Sacajawea action, even though it's off-screen–Dingess can't seem to figure out what to do with her.

But the series feels a little stuck… appropriate given the expedition is, quite literally, stuck.

B 

CREDITS

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

the-field

The Field 4 (September 2014)

The Field #4

Well, it’s definitely a predictable ending because Brisson sets it up for two possibilities. I had been hoping for a third result, but no luck. Instead, The Field concludes more visually than anything else. Brisson gives Roy something to do, but it’s not much. If it weren’t for Roy’s ability to stretch the material… it wouldn’t work out as well.

Nothing happens, of course, because Brisson goes with an all action finale. There’s no point to thinking too hard about the science–which I had sort of forgotten at the beginning exactly. Brisson deftly fills them in, then later on brings up the cultural ramifications of everyone living in Groundhog Day. And that idea is more potent than the series itself.

So, not the best finish, but well-executed from both Brisson and Roy.

It’s just too bad it doesn’t have more oomph. The protagonist is just too slightly rendered.

B 

CREDITS

Writer and letterer, Ed Brisson; artist, Simon Roy; colorist, Simon Gough; publisher, Image Comics.

mph

MPH 3 (September 2014)

MPH #3

Will the real Mark Millar please stand up…

After a couple relatively good issues, MPH starts to have some major problems. First and foremost, Millar has given up on characters for this issue. He has his protagonists robbing banks and sharing the takings with the people of Detroit, but the characters have no personalities. Oh, the one guy is jealous of the guy and the girl, but it’s very hard to care.

Presumably, Millar thought he did enough character work in the previous two issues to establish the characters but he didn’t. The comic is written, very much, for the trade–and that trade is written, very much, to be sold to Hollywood. This issue is all events, all gags, all gimmicks. The ending is idiotic.

Millar has a lot of ideas–and Fegredo does a fabulous job visualizing them–he just doesn’t have a story. He’s generating a property.

C+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Millar; artist, Duncan Fegredo; colorist and letterer, Peter Doherty; editors, Jennifer Lee and Nicole Boose; publisher, Image Comics.

lazarus

Lazarus 11 (September 2014)

Lazarus #11

Not a torture issue, thank goodness; instead it's a Lazarus issue with a lot of well-done political intrigue. There's not a lot of fighting, but there are some stylized stand-offs. Lark can do talking heads, he can do stand-offs. The issue's the perfect medium grade Lark–he's not stretching, but he's surpassing all goals.

Rucka gets to do political plotting related to the previous issue–the torture one–but also back to the first story arc. All of those awkward opening issues with too much melodrama have laid the groundwork for Rucka to get creative with his storytelling. His requirements are a lot different now.

There's some good character stuff with Forever, which has been a long time coming. She's slowly becoming a worthwhile protagonist instead of just an interesting character.

Lazarus has been on slow burn but it's starting to get downright reliable issue after issue. It's very solid work from Rucka.

B+ 

CREDITS

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

prophet-strikefile

Prophet: Strikefile 1 (September 2014)

Prophet: Strikefile #1

Prophet: Strikefile, after the entire relaunched series, explains a lot of what's been going on in the comic. The writers of Prophet always let in little details about the universe, without ever doing full exposition. Strikefile simultaneously has that full exposition, but writers Simon Roy and Brandon Graham still tell it in a reserved manner. They still rely on the art to subtly infer, for example.

The issue has a lot of different artists, most of them regular artists from the series, so they know how to compose an informative Prophet page.

Roy's opening history of the universe–with Grim Wilkins on art–is so dense, the subsequent pages covering various Prophet people, places and things is all gravy.

In their exposition, Roy and Graham maintain a somewhat playful attitude; it's like they know Strikefile is extraneous but they still want to have fun with it.

And, while entirely superfluous, it succeeds.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writers, Simon Roy and Brandon Graham; artists, Roy, Grim Wilkins, Graham, Sandra Lanz,Matt Sheehan, Malachi Ward, Bayard Baudoin, Onta, Giannis Milonogiannis, Joseph Bergin III, Ron Ackins and Tom Parkinson-Morgan; colorists, Sheehan, Ward and Amy Clare; letterer, Ed Brisson; publisher, Image Comics.

copperhead

Copperhead 1 (September 2014)

Copperhead #1

Copperhead is a Western. It has sci-fi and some elements of police procedural, but it’s a Western. It opens with a new sheriff coming to town on a train and having an unhelpful deputy. It’s a Western.

And it’s a darned good one.

Writer Jay Faerber operates with a “people is people” mentality. Even though the sheriff is human, her deputy and many (or most) of the townspeople are not. Undoubtedly, Faerber will explore the different alien races, but their personalities are what’s strongest now. So while artist Scott Godlewski draws all manner of aliens–cute, scary, in-between–Faerber’s writing defines them.

Well, and Godlewski’s great attention to expression.

Faerber gets a lot done, giving the sheriff a nemesis and a couple cases. She’s also got a kid who just can’t help being helpful. Again, very Western.

I wasn’t expecting anything from Copperhead but it’s an awesome comic.

A 

CREDITS

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

nightworld

Nightworld 2 (September 2014)

Nightworld #2

The second issue of Nightworld has even better art than the first. Leandri doesn’t have as many things to draw, but his huge chase sequence between the hero demon and the speed demon adversary is fantastic. There’s a lot of the speed demon on a cross-dimensional treasure hunt with a nice Raiders homage.

The only problem would be McGovern’s script. There’s a lot of humor in it, but none of it is particularly funny. The grandfather in the supporting cast sort of talks in puns and vague rhymes. Is it amusing? It’s cute, not sure about amusing. Definitely not amusing enough to carry a scene.

And the speed demon gets tiresome rather quickly too. Nightworld has a disconnect–the writing is nowhere near as strong as the art and scenes can be simultaneously gorgeous and exasperating.

But McGovern does mean well and he’s got a lot of enthusiasm. It evens out.

B 

CREDITS

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

Southern-Bastards

Southern Bastards 4 (September 2014)

Southern Bastards #4

What a surprise ending!

Except for Aaron tacking on the epilogue so as to set up the next arc. Aaron’s giving the illusion of doing something original while really not; with the epilogue on there, he even retroactively makes it predictable. The reader can go back and look for all foreshadowing to the big surprise.

All that foreshadowing is actually in Aaron’s attention to writing. It’s really good writing as far as the narration goes. It’s just not particularly good plotting. Aaron seems to be assuming his readers haven’t read lot of books or read a lot of his books because the narrative devices are similar to ones he’s used in the past.

And while a new arc is starting next issue, Aaron’s shown his hand as far as how manipulative he’s going to write. If the point is the tricks he can play, what’s the point?

Great art though.

C 

CREDITS

Here Was a Man, Conclusion; writer, Jason Aaron; artist and colorist, Jason Latour; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editor, Sebastian Girner; publisher, Image Comics.

god hates astronauts

God Hates Astronauts 1 (September 2014)

God Hates Astronauts #1

I'm not sure God hates astronauts, but I'm getting the feeling he hates me. Or I just hate myself. There's no other reason I would subject myself to God Hates Astronauts.

It's a somewhat difficult comic to talk about because Ryan Browne's art is truly fantastic. His composition, his detail–his visual narrative chops aren't great but it's because his narrative is atrocious.

God Hates Astronauts reads like if Beavis and Butthead wrote a comic book. Browne's storytelling sensibilities are pretty simple–bestiality is funny. Anything related to it is funny. You don't actually have to be funny–you just reference bestiality and something is funny.

If, for whatever reason, bestiality doesn't make something funny, you have someone swear. Because swearing is funny.

God Hates Astronauts isn't offensive. It's too poorly written to be offensive. Everything is a setup for a joke, usually involving bestiality or swearing. Maybe God just hates bad writing.

F 

CREDITS

A Star is Born; writer and artist, Ryan Browne; colorist, Jordan Boyd; letterer, Chris Crank and Browne; publisher, Image Comics.

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.

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.