kinski

Kinski 2 (June 2013)

Kinski #2

The strangeness of Kinski continues. Hardman sort of wraps the narrative around itself, with the protagonist going back to the same motel from the previous issue, having another encounter with one of the dog’s actual owners. But these similar situations play fresh, thanks to all the character work Hardman does on his protagonist.

And that character work, which Hardman is doing mostly in art, not in dialogue, is one of Kinski’s most striking qualities. It’s a character study masquerading as a more traditional epical story, with Hardman doing the former in the art and the latter in the narrative. Hardman’s not a mad scientist, but he’s definitely experimenting with traditional comic storytelling.

For the most part, the art is outstanding. Hardman never rushes himself; the panel compositions and layouts are great. Until the last scene, where he ends with a full page spread after rushing the previous page.

Still….

A- 

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Gabriel Hardman; publisher, Monkeybrain Comics.

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judge-dredd eagle

Judge Dredd 10 (August 1984)

Judge Dredd #10

This issue reads a lot smoother, with Dredd again a fugitive, leading the revolt against the crazy new chief judge. Unfortunately, Wagner goes for absurdity at every turn–the new chief judge is so crazy he appoints a fish as his deputy–and it’s never believable the other judges would follow the new leader with such blindness. It’s almost like Wagner saw he couldn’t make the story work straightforwardly, so he introduced the lunacy to at least make it funny.

And there are a couple decent comic moments but there’s also a lot of laziness.

Of the three pencillers, Brett Ewins does the best on his pages. He captures the mania of Wagner’s script and the enthusiasm helps a lot. The pacing gets the better of McMahon, who handles the beginning of the issue (and the setup); he can’t keep up.

If Wagner had fuller scenes, it’d probably work better.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; pencillers, Mike McMahon, Brett Ewins and Brian Bolland; inkers, McMahon, Ewins and Garry Leach; colorist, John Burns; letterers, Tom Frame and Jack Potter; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

drifter

Drifter 1 (November 2014)

Drifter #1

After one issue, all Drifter has done is establish itself as another sci-fi Western. It’s not a new genre. Nic Klein clearly works at the art, so while the design work reminds of other sci-fi movies, TV shows and comic books going back forty years, at least he’s visibly committed.

And writer Ivan Brandon seems committed too. Unfortunately, he shows that commitment with truncated narration and dialogue–Drifter reads like a pulp novel with its tough guy (and girl) dialogue. Ditto the protagonist’s narration. Instead of establishing characters, Brandon goes with caricatures.

Only the comic is about some guy who wakes up in a settlement on an unknown (to him) desert planet. Without Klein’s illustration–which seems fit more for covers to old science fiction paperbacks than it does to sequential narrative–Drifter wouldn’t have much going for it. It’s blandly inoffensive, unimaginatively derivative. There’s just no meat.

B- 

CREDITS

Hanging On; writer, Ivan Brandon; artist, Nic Klein; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Sebastian Girner; publisher, Image Comics.

judge-dredd eagle

Judge Dredd 9 (July 1984)

Judge Dredd #9

It’s something of a lackluster issue.

The opening resolves the Cursed Earth storyline, but it’s the final chapter and probably should’ve somehow been fit in with the rest of the Cursed Earth issues. Especially since it’s extremely anticlimactic, though Mills does attend the character relationships he’s developed.

Then Wagner takes over with Dredd on trial, followed by Dredd as a fugitive, followed by Dredd redeemed, followed by Dredd versus a conspiracy. The compiled nature of the series comes through way too much–every few pages it stops and starts, sometimes going in a wildly different direction.

And Wagner’s characterization of Dredd, who’s shouting off one-liners, seems too forced. Wagner’s characterizations of the rest of the cast is similar–he’s rushing. There are some occasional high points, like Dredd’s showdown with a robot duplicate, but otherwise it’s a problematic outing. The constant Dredd in danger cliffhangers get tiresome really fast.

B- 

CREDITS

Writers, Pat Mills and John Wagner; pencillers, Brian Bolland, Brendan McCarthy and Mike McMahon; inkers, Bolland, Dave Gibbons, Brett Ewins and McMahon; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

batgirl-35

Batgirl 36 (January 2015)

Batgirl #36

It’s another solid issue, with Babs stumbling onto a crime on campus. Stewart and Fletcher also introduce a few more supporting cast members–the issue ends with a sitcom-like tag with all of them, sans Dinah, who’s clearly a guest star. It gives Batgirl a nice feel, though the more impressive stuff comes just before.

Babs’s investigation leads her to a showdown with the bad guys, which is the second action scene in the comic. Between two action scenes and a lot of character stuff for Babs–not to mention Batgirl investigating–it’s a full comic book. The plotting is fantastic.

And, slowly, it’s starting to come together. Stewart, Fletcher and artist Tarr are trying really hard to establish Batgirl as a hip, yet incredibly competent comic book. Unfortunately, Babs is the single aspect of the book without a lot of character yet. She’s indistinct; getting better, but indistinct.

B 

CREDITS

Tomorrow Cries Danger; writers, Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher; pencillers, Stewart and Babs Tarr; inker, Tarr; colorist, Maris Wicks; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Dave Wielgosz and Chris Conroy; publisher, DC Comics.

judge-dredd eagle

Judge Dredd 8 (June 1984)

Judge Dredd #8

The resolution to the Las Vegas cliffhanger is a little lame. Dredd just happens to get there in time to challenge the sitting judge and there just happens to be a good resistance movement in place to help out. The whole subplot–the mob being the corrupt judges of Vegas–is weak anyway.

But then Mills does a long flashback of Tweak (the alien) and his full story. It’s a nice diversion, leading to some nice character moments in the present action, as well as some affecting ones in the flashback. It’d be the highlight of the issue, if not for the finale.

There’s a contrived battle scene in Death Valley. Dredd and company versus war robots. The setup stinks and the actual sequence is fantastic. Great pacing and writing also make up for the art getting too confused.

Although the open is rough, the issue turns out quite well.

B 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Pat Mills; pencillers, Mike McMahon and Brian Bolland; inkers, McMahon, Dave Gibbons and Bolland; colorist, John Burns; letterers, John Aldrich, Gibbons and Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

mph

MPH 4 (November 2014)

MPH #4

There’s quite a bit of talking in this comic. Not just the lead characters, who talk a whole bunch, but also the government guys out to catch the lead characters. There’s also a revelation scene, which Millar doesn’t do particularly well. It’s a talking heads issue and Millar is just dumping exposition to set up for the finish.

He opens the issue with the secret government agency explaining most of the backstory to the drug and to the mysterious prisoner, who’s been so unimportant he’s barely memorable. Millar plays some tricks, since he’s dealing with fortune telling and, presumably, next issue will have a big surprise or two, but the problem with MPH is the characters.

They aren’t just unsympathetic at this point, they’re annoying and tedious. Millar didn’t set them up strong enough and without development–especially after all the talking–they’re just dragging the comic down.

Too bad.

B- 

CREDITS

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

judge-dredd eagle

Judge Dredd 7 (May 1984)

Judge Dredd #7

It’s Dredd versus a dinosaur. Not just any dinosaur, but the offspring of the dinosaur from the early issues of 2000 AD. Mills spends more time writing from the dinosaur’s perspective than he does from Dredd’s, which makes for a vaguely annoying, while still engaging enough outing.

The pacing is off in this one though, with the episodic origin of the story too obvious. Dredd’s story stops and starts with the dinosaur stuff. Mills likes it way too much considering it’s so goofy. Except his flashback to the origins of modern dinosaurs reads a lot like Jurassic Park, just twelve years early.

Then Wagner takes over for Dredd in Las Vegas, which ends up being the issue’s cliffhanger. Everyone in Vegas bets on everything; it doesn’t seem particularly insightful, but McMahon’s art has enough energy to get it through. Ditto the first part; without McMahon’s eccentricities, the issue’d stall out.

B- 

CREDITS

Writers, Pat Mills and John Wagner; artist, Mike McMahon; colorist, John Burns; letterers, Tom Frame and John Aldrich; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

big trouble

Big Trouble in Little China 6 (November 2014)

Big Trouble in Little China #6

And Big Trouble is back. Powell is setting up a new storyline, but he’s also back with his core cast–or maybe just developing his core cast. It feels less like a direct sequel to the movie and more like a real one.

Maybe just because Powell finally gets to explaining what’s going on with Gracie Law, who was inexplicably missing from the first story arc–until now–but also because he’s developing. He’s developing Miao Yin (the kidnapped girl from the movie) and the friendship between Jack and Eddie.

The humor’s stronger too. Powell holds on to jokes and gets all the laughs he can from them; there are also fish people and dumb bikers. The only place where Powell stumbles is with the new villains–men in black–but not significantly.

Churilla gets a lot stuff to draw–the fish people–and some good action.

It’s good again.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writers, John Carpenter and Eric Powell; artist, Brian Churilla; colorist, Lisa Moore; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editors, Alex Galer and Ian Brill; publisher, Boom! Studios.

judge-dredd eagle

Judge Dredd 6 (April 1984)

Judge Dredd #6

It’s an excellent issue. Mills sends Dredd on something of a self-discovery; he encounters all different types in the Cursed Earth, with the villainous gangs being the only bad guys. It comes as a surprise to Dredd, but not the reader. Mills has a way of trying to surprise the reader with Dredd’s humanity. He’ll give Dredd a choice and one of them seems obvious if Dredd is just a caricature, then Dredd’ll choose the other option and Mills will gently explain.

Or not so gently. The issue goes out on a real obvious note, but it’s also a strong one.

One of the chapters–the stories take place on different days of Dredd and company’s trip across the Cursed Earth–has Dredd against robot vampires, with some odd developments, but is particularly well-written.

The finale, with an sympathetic alien, devastates. Good work from Mills, McMahon and Bolland.

A 

CREDITS

Writer, Pat Mills; artists, Mike McMahon and Brian Bolland; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Ghosted

Ghosted 15 (November 2014)

Ghosted #15

Gianfelice has some great expressions this issue. Wonderful moments with the characters mid-thought. These moments occasionally make Ghosted seem to light while also making it more accessible. Williamson goes for a lot of exposition this issue. There’s so much talking, the word balloons obscure important visual details (the pacing of the big action scene is all off because of them). It’s too much to digest, especially since most of it’s fluff.

There are some excellent moments throughout the issue but almost as many mundane ones. Williamson tries way too hard to make callous protagonist Jackson lovable. Gianfelice does it in the art already, far more discreetly. Though, to be fair, Williamson doesn’t exercise any restraint. He goes overboard.

The excesses hurt the issue. It reads like Williamson’s asking the reader to come back next time instead of being confident. Bad kind of excess. But it’s still more than adequate.

B- 

CREDITS

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

judge-dredd eagle

Judge Dredd 5 (March 1984)

Judge Dredd #5

Mike McMahon does the art for the first three quarters of the issue, with Dredd getting ready to go on a mission through the Cursed Earth. Writer Pat Mills does a decent job setting up the back story, though once it moves on to preparations for the mission, he and McMahon get wrapped up in showing off the goofy hardware Dredd’s going to have. It’s relatively short sequence–the initial double-page spread of a militarized RV–but it stops the story cold.

And Mills is extremely episodic so every few pages, the story feels a little different (this Dredd series being collections from 2000 AD), but most of those differences are good–if not smooth. Mills’s enthusiasm for setting construction helps one ignore his more derivative details.

For the last few pages, Bolland takes over. He gets a goofy Mount Rushmore battle sequence with mutants but it’s visually gorgeous.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Pat Mills; artists, Mike McMahon and Brian Bolland; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

She-Hulk-(2014)

She-Hulk 10 (January 2015)

She-Hulk #10

Soule wraps up the Captain America story rather nicely. The story doesn’t really belong in a She-Hulk comic, just because it doesn’t have anything to do with Jen (not the explanation of the past nor the current lawsuit, which is just a red herring) but it’s a good Marvel universe story. Soule manages to correct the story arc’s trajectory; it helps he’s sincere.

Even though trial scenes–along with the explanatory flashback–take up the majority of the issue, Soule gets in a rather good postscript (or two) to the courtroom stuff. It almost reads like Soule thanking the reader for enjoying the story with he and Pulido. It’s a good finish, even though it gets a little cute as far as the composition flourishes.

Unfortunately, the cliffhanger suggests Soule’s returning to his–and the series’s–least successful plot line. Who knows, maybe he’ll pull it off after all.

B 

CREDITS

The Good Old Days, Conclusion; writer, Charles Soule; artist, Javier Pulido; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; letterer, Gus Pillsbury; editor, Jeanine Schaefer; publisher, Marvel Comics.

judge-dredd eagle

Judge Dredd 4 (February 1984)

Judge Dredd #4

The feature story, with Mega-City One under attack from mutants from the Cursed Earth, is fairly strong. Wagner foreshadows throughout the story, but gently enough it just looks like he’s doing a lot of texture. He’s enthusiastic about describing the various settings; even when connections seem obvious later, when he’s introducing them, Wagner never draws too much attention.

There’s a weird bigotry against the mutants. It’s very matter of fact and institutionalized. While Dredd is harsh, Wagner–and the comic–subtly work to make sure it isn’t glib. In the second story, a short one about a judge getting killed, Wagner has an unsurprising plot twist at the finish. But Dredd’s reaction to the twist and the story’s resolution are where Wagner most visibly gets to show the sincerity.

Some excellent Bolland art at the beginning–and for the disaster scene; Ron Smith does okay enough on the rest.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, Brian Bolland and Ron Smith; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.