Gabriel Hardman

kinski

Kinski 6 (November 2014)

Kinski #6

Hardman brings the story to a satisfactory, if somewhat unreasonable conclusion. He jumps through time a lot–a year total–and skips over the more interesting parts of his protagonist’s experiences. He also stops with the character study aspect of Kinski and treats the whole issue as an epilogue.

So while the narrative has a neat tie at the end, Hardman never really did anything with it. The point was the reading experience, something he succeeded executing. But the comic often feels like it could go further–and not explaining means Hardman can’t fail. However, as a narrative where he never tries to explain, it all feels too traditional.

Still, it’s a beautifully illustrated, often really well written comic book. Hardman got six issues out of a relatively slight idea–one he never significantly expanded on. It’s just a little too bad he didn’t try for more with the series.

B 

CREDITS

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

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kinski

Kinski 5 (October 2014)

Kinski #5

Hardman finds a better mix of the character work and the action, with his protagonist sharing a car ride with the dog’s owner and finding out a little more about her life. There’s nothing more about the protagonist (except his willingness to talk himself into bad situations). Instead, Hardman expands the supporting cast through the protagonist’s journey.

It’s almost a soft boot of the series, which started as the protagonist’s story, moved into more action oriented episodes and is now a look at the dog’s actual owners and their lives. Though Hardman does manage to get in some more action at the end of the issue.

Whether or not there’s a satisfactory conclusion, Hardman has definitely shown he can get a lot of mileage out of a simple idea and a good setting. His dialogue and character work this issue are phenomenal. And his action composition is masterful as always.

B+ 

CREDITS

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

kinski

Kinski 4 (February 2014)

Kinski #4

So now the action moves to the RV park, or RV gathering–it’s unclear how it’s working but the RVs aren’t parked in any sort of sensible way. Not to harp on it, it’s just strange. And the sidekick even says he needs to leave to get back to real life.

This issue is when Kinski goes from being real and strange to just being strange. It’s a tragedy now, with contrivances just to make the plot move. Bad luck following around the protagonist, who gets almost nothing to do this issue–except his action scenes. And an issue like this one, set over a half hour or less, it just… it’s too slight again.

There’s a good scene at the open with the dog owner, with Hardman taking a moment away from the missing dog (in the RV park) main plot. Its writing has personality, the rest… far less.

B- 

CREDITS

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

kinski

Kinski 3 (September 2013)

Kinski #3

It’s the equivalent of an action issue for Kinski. Hardman resolves the previous issue’s cliffhanger, putting the protagonist and his friend back on the road. There’s some slight character drama–and a way too obvious plea for exposition from the friend–before Hardman gets to the rest stop.

Because they’re stuck in traffic; I forgot they were stuck in RV traffic. It’s a little much, though the image of the one car amid a bunch of RVs does seem like a gritty Far Side cartoon or something.

Hardman doesn’t have much in the way of character work or action this issue. All the character stuff is forced and when he finally does get to a silent scene, it’s the action scene. There’s no talking, but there’s no character work in the art, just running. Lots and lots of running.

Hardman’s timing for the panels is great… the issue’s just slight.

B 

CREDITS

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

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.

kinski

Kinski 1 (May 2013)

Kinski #1

Kinski is a strange comic. The content–a business guy on the road doing a pitch and finding a lost dog–is strange. It’s even stranger given Gabriel Hardman’s stark, realistic black and white art. Hardman’s writing also ignores the quirky nature of the story and goes for realism. The awkwardness of the protagonist, now obsessed with the dog, is both off-putting and tragic.

The comic reads rather fast–besides a montage sequence in the middle of the comic, most of the issue is when the guy finds the dog and then asks other people if they know the dog. That scene ends with animal control setting up and Kinski getting even stranger.

By the end of the comic, Hardman has introduced a few suggestions of danger, some immediate, some just under the surface. But while the protagonist is often difficult to sympathize with, the comic itself isn’t disagreeable.

A 

CREDITS

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

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.

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.