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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.

B- 

CREDITS

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

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Wicked-+-Divine

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.

B

CREDITS

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

Dark-Engine

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.

D 

CREDITS

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

Mice-Templar-Volume-II

The Mice Templar Volume II: Destiny 9 (May 2010)

The Mice Templar Volume II: Destiny #9

A couple quick observations. The first I should have made a long time ago–I wonder if having templar in the title and it being the name of famous knights affects people’s initial impression of Mice Templar. I see it as being a dismissive thing and, after reading Glass’s amazing success here… no one should be dismissing this comic.

Second, again one I should have made already, has to do with Santos’s art and how he deals with scale. The way he makes the reader the size of the mice changes how one reads Mice Templar. He makes the world dangerous and fantastic subjectively, not objectively. The comic’s not on zoom, in other words.

As for this issue, which does setup the sequel–Glass hits a home run. Every time he needs a plot twist or not, it works. Every action sequence is perfectly paced.

It’s assured and wholly successful. It’s great.

A 

CREDITS

The Festival of Samhain II; writer, Bryan J.L. Glass; artist, Victor Santos; colorist, Veronica Gandini; letterer, James H. Glass; editor, Judy Glass; publisher, Image Comics.

Mice-Templar-Volume-II

The Mice Templar Volume II: Destiny 8 (April 2010)

The Mice Templar Volume II: Destiny #8

Glass has a lot to deliver with the resolution to this series and he knows it. This issue is just he and Santos upping the ante over and over. They already have a difficult setup and they try for more.

Cassius meets up with his men as he invades the palace. It gives him a bunch of Templar on his side, but it also give Glass more opportunities for swashbuckling and plot twists. Speaking of plot twists, the resolution to the one from the previous issue has a lot of unexpected turns–Glass excels at never taking the predicted route but always taking the more sensible one. Even if the sensibility isn’t clear.

There’s also Karic’s attack with the zombie cat and his friends and family’s side of the story. Not to mention the evil king’s plot coming together with everything else.

It’s awesome; I just hope the finish succeeds.

A 

CREDITS

The Festival of Samhain I; writer, Bryan J.L. Glass; artist, Victor Santos; colorist, Veronica Gandini; letterer, James H. Glass; editor, Judy Glass; publisher, Image Comics.

Ghosted

Ghosted 11 (July 2014)

Ghosted #11

It’s kind of a fill-in issue, with Williamson doing the origin of Agent Anderson (I think her name’s Anderson), only it has original artist Goran Sudzuka. So it’s not exactly a fill-in. It’s definitely filler, with Williamson spending most of the issue telling the story of an utterly unlikable character.

There are also some problems with Williamson’s first person female point of view. They might not stand out if the story itself were okay. But it isn’t. The series isn’t oriented well for this kind of issue; Williamson writes big, this issue is small and contrived–bikers who are human traffickers? How original.

Then the comic changes gear to reveal the context of Anderson’s monologue and I just realized it would have worked had Williamson really written it as a conversation. There’s something missing–the banter between her and the protagonist.

It’s a bad issue, but the series’s fine.

C 

CREDITS

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

Mice-Templar-Volume-II

The Mice Templar Volume II: Destiny 7 (February 2010)

The Mice Templar Volume II: Destiny #7

It’s hard to know where to start with this one because Glass comes up with a monster cliffhanger. Big twist and some interesting ramifications for what Glass has already revealed, not to mention whatever his explanation will be. It sort of overshadows everything else.

The issue starts with Karic being difficult. It’s the closest Glass has come in a while to him being an annoying teenager, but that sentiment passes quickly. Once it’s clear he’s got some really good ideas and it’s Cassius who’s being obtuse, the issue flows. It flows right into an awesome action sequence with the zombie cat as Karic reveals his plans.

Glass skips over to the castle and the setup for the arc’s grand finale. He hits on all the subplots he put in earlier and let sit–not too much exposition either; having royal dialect and mystical mumbo jumbo helps.

Once again, an outstanding issue.

A- 

CREDITS

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

Mice-Templar-Volume-II

The Mice Templar Volume II: Destiny 6 (January 2010)

The Mice Templar Volume II: Destiny #6

Glass continues the series on its way, with some subtle observations from Karic about his lot in life. Having Karic the more mature, thoughtful one–especially as he finds himself amongst old Templars–is still a bit of a surprise. It’s a fine transition, it just changes the series more than I was expecting. With it, Mice Templar loses a number of its similarities to other works.

The issue also has a lot of action, whether it’s Karic and an old Templar against bugs and bats (physically against bugs, intellectually against the bats) or Cassius leading troops against a scorpion invader. Oh, and Glass really knows how to bring in the danger of the nature; it’s something he’s quietly established but hasn’t run wild with until this issue.

The characters are mice. They have lots of predators, swords or not.

The third act’s a little soft, but it’s strong stuff.

B+ 

CREDITS

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

Satellite-Sam

Satellite Sam 9 (July 2014)

Satellite Sam #9

Until the cliffhangers, Fraction has Sam back on course for the most part. Sure, he doesn’t know what to do with Michael, but everything else is going well enough as long as he has something, it’ll be enough. Or so one would think, because instead it’s just Fraction trying to inch the murder mystery forward without much commitment.

Satellite Sam has a big cast and its inevitably going to be a slow burn as Fraction moves one pan onto one burner and another into the back for an issue, but having your ostensible main plot line be your most boring and narratively loose? It’s a problem.

It’s a shame too, because Chaykin is still turning in some great work on the comic. And Fraction is doing some excellent work too, he’s just meandering and it’s hard to have confidence he knows where he’s going with the series when he’s meandering.

B- 

CREDITS

Out; writer, Matt Fraction; artist, Howard Chaykin; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editor, Thomas K.; publisher, Image Comics.

nailbiter

Nailbiter 3 (July 2014)

Nailbiter #3

No, really, where’s the rest of the comic?

Williamson is only a few issues in with Nailbiter and he’s already losing some of the sensationalism. Instead of outrageous characters, he’s going for outrageous acts. But not even startling outrageous acts, just kind of average ones. Like there are these constant brownouts in the city and a serial killer pops in and out during one of them.

Sadly, Henderson composes the sequence in a long distance profile, which isn’t the best way to get tension going. Maybe that lack of tension is the problem–Nailbiter seems too safe. Even though I think someone else died this issue. It’s a little unclear.

There are a lot of scenes, but none really stick out, which is another problem. Henderson doesn’t have the space to make the town into a character this issue; Williamson is just moving too fast.

He needs to luxuriate some more.

B- 

CREDITS

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

Mice-Templar-Volume-II

The Mice Templar Volume II: Destiny 5 (November 2009)

The Mice Templar Volume II: Destiny #5

It’s a strange issue. There’s this romantic interlude between Karic and a girl mouse; they go swimming together. Glass writes the heck of the scene, showing Karic as a youth while simultaneously establishing his maturity. Not to mention Santos gets to draw a fight scene between the two mice and attacking crayfish. It’s an awesome sequence.

The issue also has some reveals and backstory as it relates to Cassius. He’s getting his own subplot now, his mentorship of Karic forcing him to confront old friends and missed opportunities. Glass also takes the time to show some of the debate between Templar factions. It all comes together very nicely.

The only problem is the rushed feeling to the ending. Karic’s development is progressing at a rapid rate and it’s a struggle to keep up with it. Glass never lets up on the pace.

But it’s an extremely successful comic book otherwise.

B+ 

CREDITS

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

Mice-Templar-Volume-II

The Mice Templar Volume II: Destiny 4 (October 2009)

The Mice Templar Volume II: Destiny #4

Just before the issue ended, I realized Glass had finally delivered what I’ve been waiting for on Destiny–the full forward motion. He’s done with the exposition–even his third person narration is sparse; it immediately informs the reader of the setting. The scenes and characters do the rest.

And Glass is moving away from exposition in a comic with a full flashback to the true story of the fall of the Templar too. The timing of the flashback in the issue is essential and has to do with the character development going on. Karic isn’t just his own character here, he’s separate from his friends and family. That other plot line? It feels liberated too. Destiny is moving forward.

There’s also a lot of fantastic action in the issue. Glass gets to do fight scenes of various flavors and just a bunch of movement. He and Glass’s work is infectiously invigorated.

A- 

CREDITS

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

sheltered

Sheltered 10 (July 2014)

Sheltered #10

I’m all for some manipulation for the sake of narrative effectiveness, but Brisson takes this issue too far. He’s got his two plots going–the kids in the compound and then the freight delivery guy trying to get to civilization–and he tries to have his cake and eat it too.

Or however the saying goes.

Worse, Brisson pushes too hard with the kids. Way too much immediate foreshadowing, way too much effort in getting the reader to try to guess what’s coming next. That cliffhanger is actually something of a surprise because it’s such a pointless one, it’s unclear why Brisson would bother. Except to try to manipulate the reader. And he’d already done it with his other plot so why go for both? Especially when one cheapens the other.

The issue does have some of Christmas’s best art; he’s getting better and better. But the comic’s a mess.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer and letterer, Ed Brisson; artist, Johnnie Christmas; colorist, Shari Chankhamma; editor, Paul Allor; publisher, Image Comics.

Spread

Spread 1 (July 2014)

Spread #1

So what’s the Spread? Well, the monster in Spread is a mix of The Thing and maybe Crossed. It killing you turns you into a shape-shifting zombie monster. But the hero of Spread is a mix of Lone Wolf (with the requisite messiah baby for Cub) and Wolverine. Except, of course, Wolverine’s already a riff on Lone Wolf.

In other words, there’s nothing much original in Spread. It’s possible writer Justin Jordan thinks using an unexpected narrator is fresh, except for, you know, The Road Warrior. But it’s not a bad remixing of old material. The art from Kyle Strahm is awesome. Some of the unoriginal elements might even be his fault, not Jordan’s.

All together, they don’t add up to much. The post-apocalyptic setting isn’t compelling; everyone has those. The anti-hero hero? Everyone’s got those too.

While Strahm’s art recommends Spread, it doesn’t make it worthwhile.

C 

CREDITS

Writer, Justin Jordan; artist, Kyle Strahm; colorist, Felipe Sobreiro; letterer, Crank!; publisher, Image Comics.