Gabriel Hardman

Deep Gravity

Deep Gravity 1 (July 2014)

Deep Gravity #1

Deep Gravity is missing something rather important–a hook. It’s a sci-fi series about people working on a different planet, mining its resources and bringing them back to Earth. The explanations all sound scientific, but it doesn’t seem to actually be scientific, so the hook isn’t it being “hard science” sci-fi.

The protagonist is some guy who goes to the planet to talk to his ex-girlfriend. It’s a three year trip so he’s dedicating six years just to talk to her again. Their relationship is fairly lame so it’s not a hook either.

Then there’s the art, from Fernando Baldó. This other world is some crazy mostly ocean place where plants and animals are the same thing. Apparently. Except none of the designs are particularly good. Baldó’s got a lot of issues with people, places, things. So the art’s not the hook.

So far Gravity’s painfully mediocre.

C 

CREDITS

Writers, Mike Richardson, Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko; artist, Fernando Baldó; colorist, Nick Filardi; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Shantel LaRocque and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

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Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm 12 (August 2013)

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So did Boom! cancel,Cataclysm, did the writers quit or did the license go away? Something obviously happened. This issue jumps three years ahead of the previous one, then another five years from where it opens.

Bechko and Hardman follow Professor Milo (from the second movie) so they can avoid having to have Charlton Heston appear. He gets a mention, but then they focus the issue on what was going on with the spaceship during the second movie. To explain the third, in other words.

It seems like the natural last issue for the series, but they seem to have jumped ahead quite a bit. Cast members from Cataclysm sort of pop in for cameos, but it’s much more a movie tie-in. It’s trying to logically explain what Heston only agreeing to second sequel if the world ended broke.

It’s well-written enough, but it’s a terrible last issue.

CREDITS

Writers, Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman; penciller, Damian Couceiro; inker, Mariano Taibo; colorist, Darrin Moore; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editor, Dafna Pleban; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm 11 (July 2013)

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Big reveals, small reveals. Along with the biggest of them all–the twelfth issue is the finale, something I didn’t realize.

Bechko and Hardman have always have problems with their Apes series because they’re direct–sort of direct–prequels to the first movie and they still haven’t really got everything set up. The ape society is still too… believable. The movie didn’t have a believable thing going on. Bechko and Hardman are moving towards something similar to it, but haven’t gotten close yet.

They do resolve the talking human and a lot of the political intrigue, but none of it plays particularly well. They give Couceiro way too much to do in the second half of the issue. The riot scene and its resolution could have actually been an issue on its own. There’s just not room for it here.

The comic’s got its strong points, but it’s definitely stumbling.

CREDITS

Writers, Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman; penciller, Damian Couceiro; inker, Mariano Taibo; colorist, Darrin Moore; letterer, Deron Bennett; editor, Dafna Pleban; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm 10 (June 2013)

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Maybe killing the talking human is why Cornelius doesn’t remember her when Chuck Heston shows up, but it’s hard to say. But she doesn’t die this issue, just gets her throat slit. Meaning maybe her vocal cords are damaged… which seems like it’s been in an Apes comic somewhere before.

The problem with this issue is boredom. Bechko and Hardman don’t have anything exciting going on, no exploration, just politics. Oh, and they bring back some guys from the series before Cataclysm. They just don’t recap it so the whole reveal confuses.

Couceiro’s art is still excellent, he just doesn’t have anything good to draw here. It’s not like when he doesn’t have a lot, here he simply doesn’t have anything new or challenging.

The writers have reached a point where all they have left is the political intrigue plot line and it’s not enough to keep the series running.

CREDITS

Writers, Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman; artist, Damian Couceiro; colorist, Darrin Moore; letterer, Deron Bennett; editor, Dafna Pleban; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm 9 (May 2013)

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I can’t believe I’m going to make this statement–Bechko and Hardman are playing too loose with Apes movie continuity. I don’t even like the movies. But they’ve got a talking human here eight years before Charlton Heston shows up and Cornelius sees and hears her.

Kind of changes things up.

As an issue, of course, it’s fine enough. The writers don’t give Couceiro much interesting to draw, but he does well with what he’s got. All the mundane story stuff is just because it’s a bridging issue.

Let’s see–they set up Zira ready to revolt, Mrs. Zaius with a master plan for peace and then the talking human. It’s a lot of setup without any payoff whatsoever. Ergo, a bridging issue.

I’m confident Bechko and Hardman know what they’re doing, I’m just used to them having an engaging A plot in each issue. Here it’s talk, talk, talk.

CREDITS

Writers, Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman; artist, Damian Couceiro; colorist, Darrin Moore; letterer, Deron Bennett; editor, Dafna Pleban; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm 8 (April 2013)

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The story arc, so far as it involves the ape expedition to the valley–I’m liking Bechko and Hardman not getting locked into actual titled arcs–comes to a close.

There are a lot of surprises. One of them is somewhat confusing, as it either should have been clear and wasn’t due to the art or it was never supposed to be clear. I feel like Couceiro could have handled it, so it must be a writing thing. There’s such a thing as being too subtle.

But the surprises are otherwise pretty good revelations. The writers know how to pace these things well, which I’m always saying about them. Cataclysm is never a slight, fast read.

The other subplots don’t have much going on. Zaius and Zira’s subplots start their inevitable dance; at the end of the issue, Cornelius cuts in for a soft cliffhanger.

The series continues to impress.

CREDITS

Writers, Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman; artist, Damian Couceiro; colorist, Darrin Moore; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editor, Dafna Pleban; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm 7 (March 2013)

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It’s funny how the Zaius subplot is actually where Bechko and Hardman have the most problems, even though it’s mostly a talking heads subplot. They’re keeping the Zaius subplot… well, it’s kind of the soil. It feeds into the other two plots and presumably could make major changes for them when they all collide. But it’s separate; the Zira subplot is separate too, but it won’t affect anything.

And the writers just can’t make it interesting. Zaius is impotent and too proud to listen to his wife, who actually knows what she’s talking about. One has to wonder who made that decision, Bechko or Hardman.

The Zira subplot this issue features a community meeting, not particularly interesting, but there are some really nice character moments. Cataclysm works because of these details from the writers.

The Cornelius subplot is action-packed and exciting. Great visuals from Couicero and Taibo help lots.

B- 

CREDITS

Writers, Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman; penciller, Damian Couceiro; inker, Mariano Taibo; colorist, Darrin Moore; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editor, Dafna Pleban; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm 6 (February 2013)

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As far as expansive mythology goes, Planet of the Apes doesn’t have much. The standards repeat themselves very quickly. But Beckho and Hardman manage to repeat one of those very same standards and hide it all until the final reveal. They raise all sorts of other possibilities–this issue of Cataclysm, almost against itself, has a lot of adventure to it–and then reveal something extremely logical.

The writers keep their three way split. Zaius gets his own subplot (having his wife school him is awesome), Zira gets her own and then Cornelius–with Dr. Milo along–gets a third. There’s also Zaius’s son, who figures into the Cornelius plot; he’s not a lead, but he’s close.

The only real problem is an art one and penciller Damian Couceiro–with Mariano Taibo ably inking–can’t fix. The chimps look alike. I kept confusing Cornelius and Milo.

Otherwise, it’s fine stuff.

CREDITS

Writers, Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman; penciller, Damian Couceiro; inker, Mariano Taibo; colorist, Darrin Moore; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editor, Dafna Pleban; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm 5 (January 2013)

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Bechko and Hardman continue their setup for the first Planet of the Apes movie with… well, I guess it’s kind of a post-disaster story. They’ve introduced all of the primary apes from the first movies, except maybe the nasty gorilla from the second one, and are doing a mundane prequel.

There’s action, sure. There’s a giant mutated bear or some such thing. Couceiro illustrates a fantastic action sequence involving it attacking the apes journeying to a different settlement. There’s a lot of content in this issue–the writers band together this team of explorers and introduce their mission in the first two thirds of the issue, while dealing with some other things, then send them off.

Not all of the writers’ choices are good ones. The food shortage and the greedy gorillas feel forced. But there’s a great scene with Milo the scientist to compensate.

It’s still surprisingly okay.

CREDITS

Writers, Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman; artist, Damian Couceiro; colorist, Darrin Moore; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editor, Dafna Pleban; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm 4 (December 2012)

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Are you kidding me? The grand reveal is so obvious I had it figured a page into the sequence.

Bechko and Hardman–and I know I’ve complimented them on their adherence to Apes movie mythology–try way too hard to bring everything together with Cataclysm. They fail, most obviously, because they leave it with it with a cliffhanger for their next series, but they also fail for the lack of imagination.

The point of licensed properties is to expand on the canon. Bechko and Hardman instead wrap it in on itself. They use Cataclysm to tie the first movie to the second and the fifth to the first. Except they use their comic to validate the bad ideas in the movies, not emphasize the good.

Again, the writing’s fine on the scenic level and Couceiro’s art’s fantastic–this issue might even be his best. But the plot’s pointless and contrived.

CREDITS

Writers, Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman; artist, Damian Couceiro; colorist, Darrin Moore; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editor, Dafna Pleban; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm 3 (November 2012)

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Boom! needs better editors. Maybe they just didn’t want to piss off Hardman, who’s very high profile even if he is just writing the book, but someone should have–strike that one, needed to–tell he and Bechko not to fake a subplot. The issue opens with the revelation of a great conspiracy. The issue’s big moments all deal with its repercussions and it’s a weak move.

Otherwise, the issue isn’t bad. It’s relatively engaging, with the writers’ disaster situations being compelling enough. They do fail Couceiro, however. They don’t give him time to properly establish the setting. The art looks great, but the ape civilization never feels fully realized.

The series started pretty strong and it’s still very well-done, only it misses the mark a lot. Couceiro deserves a lot better material; Bechko and Hardman definitely take the Apes property seriously, they just need some help with structure.

CREDITS

Writers, Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman; artist, Damian Couceiro; colorist, Darrin Moore; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editor, Dafna Pleban; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm 2 (October 2012)

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With Cataclysm‘s second issue, Bechko and Hardman run into a predictable problem. They’re explaining something about a licensed property. In this issue, the reader learns why the ape civilization changes so much in the original Apes movies. So what? They don’t create any memorable characters–even returning cast like Dr. Zaius isn’t used as the protagonist; he’s just part of the disaster movie cast they’ve got going on.

Bechko and Hardman take twenty-two pages to do what they could have in four or five. Couceiro’s art is excellent, but having good art doesn’t excuse the wasted pages. He does come up with some stunning disaster imagery, however, especially as it ties into the familiar Apes visual mythology.

One can’t fault Cataclysm as a piece of licensed property–the team does an outstanding job tying into Apes. Bechko and Hardman just don’t have any story for an actual comic book.

CREDITS

Writers, Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman; artist, Damian Couceiro; colorist, Darrin Moore; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editor, Dafna Pleban; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm 1 (September 2012)

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Corrina Bechko and Gabriel Hardman come up with something unexpected here in Cataclysm. Historically, Planet of the Apes comics have one big problem–there’s not enough material from the movies to translate into a serialized narrative. Bechko and Hardman have a neat solution–a disaster. Not just any disaster, but one tying into the movies’ canon.

Sort of. One could be picky about it, but I was so impressed with where they go, I can’t imagine one would want to be.

Cataclysm is the best kind of licensed property comic. It relies on the source material, relies on the license holder’s comics, and mixes the two with some creativity to encourage the reader’s imagination. Licensed properties have to be unexpected to succeed, otherwise they’re just fanfic. Bechko and Hardman succeed. Cataclysm engages.

Very nice art from Damian Couceiro too. He does well both with the talking heads and the action.

CREDITS

Writers, Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman; artist, Damian Couceiro; colorist, Darrin Moore; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editor, Dafna Pleban; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Exile on the Planet of the Apes 4 (June 2012)

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Bechko and Hardman wrap things up quickly, maybe even getting their Apes series in a place where a sequel might not be pointless.

The issue itself concentrates, with the exception of the good chimps ambushing the gorillas with science, on events cursory to the battle scene. There’s the discussion of the leaders, there’s the follow-up to it, but none of the actual battle makes an impression. Maybe because there’s nothing to invest in Exile.

The best thing about the comic is its last few pages and only then because they imply that better sequel I mentioned.

Laming’s artwork continues to impress, though he doesn’t have very much to do. It’s a fight in an office park. A post-apocalyptic office park, but an office park just the same.

But the finish does give Laming a brief chance to try out new Apes settings and he does well with them.

CREDITS

Writers, Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman; artist, Marc Laming; colorist, Darrin Moore; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editor, Dafna Pleban; publisher, Boom! Studios.