The Auteur 2 (April 2014)

The Auteur #2

I'm hesitant, but I'm pretty sure The Auteur is reprehensible. Gloriously so, of course, but just completely reprehensible. Spears sends his Hollywood producer to court to defend a serial killer–so the serial killer can consult on a horror movie, natch–and comes up with this great argument about how a serial killer represents a natural predator in the human ecosystem.

Then there's this hilarious blaming of the victim and it's terrible, of course, since the victim was brutally murdered. But Spears has some great details. And he's not just making jokes at the expense of the squares, he's also got some great ones at the expense of his protagonist. The protagonist's a hilarious, awful human being, so it's fun to laugh at him too.

This issue might be the series's peak and it's a peak Spears and Callahan should be proud of surmounting.

It has a great pace too. Just great.



Presidents Day, Part 2 of 5: Survival of the Fittest; writer and letterer, Rick Spears; artist, James Callahan; colorist, Luigi Anderson; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

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Stray Bullets 2 (April 1995)

Stray Bullets #2

There’s an odd thing to this issue of Stray Bullets. Even though Lapham never suggests things are going to go all right at all, even though he takes the reader through various intense situations and they always get worse, he creates a hopefulness. It’s a useless one, of course, but it’s there.

The reality of the comic starts with the Star Wars banter and carries over into the family relationship. The lead is a middle school girl who witnesses a murder and breaks down. Lapham handles all of the relationships perfectly; people are selfish and self-serving. Not a single moment is off. It’s astoundingly depressing.

It’s not just good because it’s depressing. It’s great because Lapham perfectly constructs this situation and setting and the inevitability of it all. He has opportunities to foreshadow a happy ending, but skips them.

He’s trying to ruin the reader’s day. He does.



Victimology; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.


The Star Wars 7 (April 2014)

The Star Wars #7

This issue isn't bad. It's got some of Mayhew's best art on the series–though not his giant Wookie battle, but the moments before those scenes–and Rinzler keeps the action going. But the comparisons to the original films, particularly Return of the Jedi, reveal just how much texture Rinzler has sacrificed to fit this comic into eight issues.

For example, there are these attempts at banter between Annikin and Artwo and they're incredibly forced–it's as though Rinzler remembered at the last minute Artwo could talk here and had to get something in.

The issue is preparation for the Wookie battle, which includes the introduction of Chewbacca and his single dialogue exchange with Han Solo (who's just around to give Luke Starkiller someone to talk exposition with), the huge Wookie battle, kids getting kidnapped, Darth Vader interrogating, Annikan infiltrating the Death Star stand-in.

Too bad Dark Horse couldn't give Rinzler twelve issues.



Writer, J.W. Rinzler; artist, Mike Mayhew; colorist, Rain Beredo; letterer, Michael Heisler; editors, Freddye Lins and Randy Stradley; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Review of an Atari Force comic book, a series published from January 1984 to August 1985 by DC Comics.

Atari Force 10 (October 1984)

Atari Force #10

Interesting tidbit in the letter pages this issue–maybe there have been more and I missed them, but the book is intended to be an ongoing with a twelve-part opening story arc. It gives Conway some more leeway with bringing in all this exposition–there isn’t much this issue, actually–because it’s at such an awkward part in a maxi-series. Doesn’t the problems with too much exposition, but it’s intentional anyway.

This issue has Dart’s lover coming back and he’s got a story for her about their escape. After a conjugal visit. Conway likes to shock with this one, apparently. Even more is when the guy–Blackjak–includes a nasty detail in his story. He takes advantage of one of García-López’s cute aliens. It’s a mean, harsh sequence.

The issue’s mostly Dart and her guy’s flashback and then surfer dude on the New Earth planet. Conway writes at a great pace; the cliffhanger’s pleasantly sudden.



Home Is the Hero; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, José Luis García-López; inker, Ed Barreto; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Bob Lappan; editor, Andy Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.

a voice in the dark

A Voice in the Dark 6 (April 2014)

A Voice in the Dark #6

Taylor's been setting up a murder for so long I can't even remember how many people get killed in it. The format's the same every issue; he opens in the present, with Zoey cleaning up after the murder, and then flashes back.

This issue concentrates solely on Zoey as she prepares to commit the murder. Or a murder. Part of Dark's charm is how Taylor is able to build a lot of backstory in his issues, even though there's not a lot of exposition lately. There's usually a talking heads scene or two–this issue has one–and it's enough to move things along. It's like there are whole b and c plots happening off panel, with Taylor ready to bring them in once they've percolated enough.

The story continues to be engaging–with Zoey getting a love interest now–but this arc's getting a little too long. Hopefully it'll wrap sooner than later.



Killing Game, Part Four; writer, artist and letterer, Larime Taylor; editor, Duncan Eagleson; publisher, Image Comics.


Stray Bullets 1 (March 1995)

Stray Bullets #1

With a very strange sense of humor, you could call the first issue of Stray Bullets a comedy of errors. Two guys working for a crime boss (it’s never too clear, which is nice) have a simple task. They have to dispose of a body. Unfortunately, they have a flat.

Then it turns out one of the guys isn’t all there, mentally. David Lapham takes the story from bad to worse, dragging the reader not just into the world view of the mentally disabled guy, but into the distorted world view of his partner. And once Lapham has the reader in that mindset, he doesn’t let up until the end. He controls the reader through a lengthy, packed story–lots of panels on lots of pages.

The ending’s a bit of a letdown as Lapham lets everyone breath. It’s like he pauses to admire his craftsmanship a little much.

But still….



The Look of Love; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.


All-New Doop 1 (June 2014)

Doop #1

Oops, was I supposed to read “Battle of the Atom” first? Even though I never read writer Peter Milligan’s X-Force, I figured Doop was from there and he finally got his own series. Given the mass crossover just in this issue–X-Men of all eras–I was able to guess some of the series’s intent.

Only, if it’s just Doop’s side adventures to this crossover, it’s unclear what kind of mileage Milligan will be able to get out of it. There’s some funny bickering with the various Iceman incarnations, but nothing to make the issue itself worthwhile.

Similarly, the David LaFuente art is pretty good, both for the action and the comedy, but it’s not enough on its own to recommend the comic.

The concept’s a fine enough idea–a side sequel to a big Marvel mutant event–it just doesn’t have much to offer except to diehards.



The Real Battle of the Atom; writer, Peter Milligan; artist, David Lafuente; colorist, Laura Allred; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editors, Devin Lewis and Nick Lowe; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Review of an Atari Force comic book, a series published from January 1984 to August 1985 by DC Comics.

Atari Force 9 (September 1984)

Atari Force #9

First observation–Conway and García-Lopez are aware they’re stocking the team with adorable, mischievous space aliens. It’s kind of weird. Must be a way to make the comic more likable at a glance.

This issue, nine issues into the second series, recaps events from the first series. Pertinent events. Surfer boy has gone back to New Earth to talk to people–hopefully he’ll bring the team back some fresh food and toilet paper–and besides a bonding session with his shrink, it’s all back story.

The art in the rest of the comic makes up for the rush job on the flashback. Conway checks in with some of the rest of the cast and treads a bit of water preparing for the surfer to get back. The likability helps the treading go smoothly.

It’s a slight issue and Conway overdoes the flashbacks but he’s got the series firmly footed.



Memory Lane; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, José Luis García-López; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Bob Lappan; editor, Andy Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.


Shutter 1 (April 2014)

Shutter #1

Shutter needs to take a breath. Between Leila Del Duca’s frantic, detailed art and Joe Keatinge’s hip, artificial plotting and dialogue, it’s an adventure comic without any sense of adventure. When the lead complains life is boring, even though there are mythical creatures living among humans and some kind of futuristic steampunk thing going on… it makes sense. Shutter is actually pretty boring so why wouldn’t the protagonist be bored too.

It’s odd in some ways too how Keatinge pays lip service to it being post-gender–the lead follows in her father’s footsteps, who follows in his mother’s, etc–but then his details for the protagonist are generic single woman stuff.

More odd is the first backup–there are two, neither good, but the first one opens with the mother of all curse words. After a very YA appropriate feature. Guess they don’t actually want crossover audience.

Shutter misfires.



Writer, Joe Keatinge; artist, Leila Del Duca; colorist, Owen Gieni; letterer, Ed Brisson. Mungore; writer and artist, Ryan Alexander-Tanner; colorist, Catherine Peach. Tiger Lawyer, Sidebar; writer, Ryan Ferrier; artist, Felipe Torrent. Publisher, Image Comics.

Review of a The Incredible Hulk comic book, a series published by Marvel Comics, written by Bruce Jones.

The Incredible Hulk 76 (October 2004)

The Incredible Hulk #76

It’s hard to feel bad about Doc Samson getting his butt kicked after he just lectured the Hulk on the importance of corporal punishment for children.

Did Jones even think about what he was writing? Did his editors read the scripts?

Braithwaite and Reinhold are back on art. Sometimes they’re a little better than usual, but Braithwaite’s Hulk is still awful.

I guess Jones’s wrap-up of his huge conspiracy story line makes “sense.” It’s not a good wrap-up, but it’s better than where he tries to leave Bruce Banner at the end of it. Maybe the closing line–with someone being real mean in a Hulk description–calls back to an earlier comic. I hope so, because, otherwise, it’s just a crappy line.

Jones leaves the comic much in the place he started it. He wipes the slate clean and leaves Bruce Banner far less a character than he started out with.



Shattered; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, Dougie Braithwaite; inker, Bill Reinhold; colorist, Raul Trevino; letterer, Randy Gentile; editors, Cory Sedlmeier and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Flash Gordon

Flash Gordon 1 (April 2014)

Flash Gordon #1

Another Flash Gordon? Hasn’t this license well been long tapped dry? Based on this first issue, maybe not. Oh, it’s got problems–the soft cliffhanger is a disaster, turning the residents of Arboria into Ewoks (so far), and writer Jeff Parker digs himself a hole with the narration structure–half the issue in the past, half in the present, all the big invasion events in expository dialogue–but it’s not bad. A lot of it’s pretty good.

The past stuff sets up the characters in the modern context, which is both good and bad. The scenes are fine, they just don’t really introduce the characters, only the changes Parker has made bringing them into the twenty-first century.

The good stuff comes once Flash, Dale and Zarkov are on the run on Mongo. Parker writes their character interactions well.

Decent art from Evan Shaner–great scenery.

It’s problematic but okay.



The Man From Earth; writer, Jeff Parker; artist, Evan Shaner; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Nate Cosby; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Review of an Atari Force comic book, a series published from January 1984 to August 1985 by DC Comics.

Atari Force 8 (August 1984)

Atari Force #8

Given Atari Force is Conway’s series, it’s too bad the best issue so far isn’t one he writes. He plotted for Andy Helfer and gave him a choice issue. It’s a done-in-one, the first of the series, and it manages to be both gritty and affable.

Babe, the sentient mountain baby–who’s basically just a huge egg with a lot of power and no anger–gets stranded on a planet. He’s got the Hukka (the adorable sort of pet who fills some of the R2-D2 cuteness) but he’s lost.

Helfer juxtaposes Babe’s trials against the team’s. They’re going through lots of drama; even those concerned for the missing Babe don’t realize he apparently can’t be hurt. Babe’s in the middle of a planetary invasion, it turns out.

The art’s lovely, the story’s gentle without ever being condescending. It’s an impressive issue, raising the bar for the series.



Babe’s Story; writers, Gerry Conway and Andy Helfer; penciller, José Luis García-López; inker, Ricardo Villagran; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Bob Lappan; editor, Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.

Rocky and Bullwinkle

Rocky and Bullwinkle 2 (April 2014)

Rocky and Bullwinkle #2

Something is amiss in Frostbite Falls.

Evanier keeps his structure from the first issue–first part of Rocky and Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right, then the second part of Rocky. Only this time, the first part of the feature is weak. It feels tired, down to all the references to post-smartphone soullessness. Rocky and Bullwinkle come across a magician who can’t get a job anymore and, dang, if it’s not all apps and CGI’s fault.

The cliffhanger’s too deliberate and then the Dudley Do-Right tries too hard for a single laugh. It gets two but the first is mostly because of goodwill. By the end, the goodwill’s gone.

Then the second half of the feature is even worse than the first. Evanier reduces Rocky to an almost dialogue-free part in the feature and the narration is terrible.

Langridge doesn’t bother mustering much enthusiasm.

It’s a pedestrian licensed comic, which the first issue wasn’t.



Writer, Mark Evanier; artist and letterer, Roger Langridge; colorist, Jeremy Colwell; editor, Sarah Gaydos; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Review of a The Incredible Hulk comic book, a series published by Marvel Comics, written by Bruce Jones.

The Incredible Hulk 75 (October 2004)

The Incredible Hulk #75

Here I thought Darick Robertson and Tom Palmer on the art would help….

It does help for a while. But the issue’s double-sized and once Doc Samson shows up, maybe a quarter of the way in, the art starts sliding.

Jones reveals the mastermind behind all of Bruce Banner’s troubles. It gets sillier when the villain explains all of it; the ludicrousness of Jones’s conspiracy doesn’t hold up well under examination.

There’s a slightly interesting gimmick, which Jones shuts down so he can bring back the supporting cast. I’m not sure how Nadia–just a regular small business owner in Nevada or somewhere–can get to L.A. in a matter of hours to help save the day. Worse, Tony Stark is around to hang out with Doc Samson. Wouldn’t it make more sense for Tony to help as Iron Man? Or maybe call the Avengers.

It’s a lousy comic.



Wake To Nightmare; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, Darick Robertson; inker, Tom Palmer; colorist, Raul Trevino; letterer, Randy Gentile; editors, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.