John Byrne

batman-moench

Batman 400 (October 1986)

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I hate this comic. I hate how DC used it, I hate how Moench writes it, even if it was an editorial decision.

There are nods to Moench’s run, but only so far as he gets to give each of his characters a page to sort of say goodbye. There’s no closure on any of the story lines, not a single one.

There’s also a lot of crappy art. It’s an anniversary issue with a lot of big names drawing either poorly or against their style. Rick Leonardi and Arthur Adams are some of the worst offenders, but not even Brian Bolland does particularly well. Ken Steacy is the only decent one.

Moench’s writing for a different audience than usual, the casual Batman reader, not the regular. Apparently he thinks the casual readers like endless exposition and incredible stupidity. It’s a distressing, long read; a terrible capstone to Moench’s run.

D- 

CREDITS

Resurrection Night!; writer, Doug Moench; pencillers, John Byrne, Steve Lightle, George Perez, Paris Cullins, Bill Sienkiewicz, Art Adams, Tom Sutton, Steve Leialoha, Joe Kubert, Ken Steacy, Rick Leonardi and Brian Bolland; inkers, Byrne, Bruce Patterson, Perez, Larry Mahlstedt, Sienkiewicz, Terry Austin, Ricardo Villagran, Leialoha, Kubert, Steacy, Karl Kesel and Bolland; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterers, John Costanza and Andy Kubert; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

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Doomsday + 1 3 (November 1975)

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Joe Gill sure doesn’t have many ideas. Worse, the lack of them cuts into what Byrne gets to draw. For example, this issue has visuals out of the first issue–the space stuff–and the second issue–the robots. Gill gives it a different context (these robots are intergalactic peacekeepers investigating the destruction of Earth) but Byrne doesn’t really do anything new.

He still has some great panel compositions and has some wonderful layouts. Thanks to Gill’s writing inadequacies, Doomsday doesn’t have enough to offer without engaging artwork. There are maybe three character moments in the whole issue and all of them are dumb. Intentionally or not, Ken is completely unlikable–he nukes the aliens as a first resort–and Gill basically just has the women around for a love triangle (or quartet).

Doomsday should be a no-brainer to pull off, especially with Byrne, but Gill totally fumbles it.

CREDITS

The Peace Keepers; writers, John Byrne and Joe Gill; artist and letterer, Byrne; editor, George Wildman; publisher, Charlton Comics.

Doomsday + 1 2 (September 1975)

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So Barbie is falling in love with the thawed cave man. I doubt Gill will be able to sell it, though it does give his characters something interesting. There’s nothing otherwise. The Ken guy gets kidnapped by an evil Soviet cyborg and it’s all painfully boring.

Gill only continues the ravaged world exploration thing for a couple pages. Mostly he’s just got armies of robots attacking the survivors and then they hop a fighter jet to Mother Russia. There, they have another lengthy fight scene. There’s some talking, but it’s Ken and the cyborg. Very boring.

Byrne does have some wonderful composition this issue, however. Even though his details on people aren’t particularly special–he rushes on the people–the rest of his art makes up for it. Doomsday + 1 almost has a good setting; instead of developing it, Gill fills it with action.

Byrne’s art deserves much better storytelling.

CREDITS

A Faceless Foe; writer, Joe Gill; artist and letterer, John Byrne; editor, George Wildman; publisher, Charlton Comics.

Doomsday + 1 1 (July 1975)

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It’s the end of the world as we know it… and John Byrne’s drawing it. I’m not sure what the series’s title, Doomsday + 1, has to do with the content. The premise is simple–three astronauts return to Earth after a nuclear war. Writer Joe Gill doesn’t know much about nuclear warheads, because the radiation’s dissipating real fast. Not so fast the astronauts just get to come back, but fast enough Gill can move the story along.

There are two Ken and Barbie astronauts and then the Japanese woman. She’s in love with Ken; she doesn’t know why, probably because of his Aryan superiority. It doesn’t matter much–Gill abandons all the subplots pretty quick to get into the action. The ice cap got hit and prehistoric beasts are thawing out.

It’s a nice enough mix of apocalyptic and lost world stuff. Byrne’s got some beautifully composed panels in here.

CREDITS

They Live Again; writer, Joe Gill; artist and letterer, John Byrne; editor, George Wildman; publisher, Charlton Comics.

The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones

The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones 2 (February 1983)

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Denny O’Neil takes over scripting from Byrne, who sticks around to pencil, and adds xenophobia and misogyny. Not to mention Indy talking for the first half of the issue in expository paragraphs.

Ever wanted to see Indiana Jones gleefully kill members of a bronze age tribe? Here’s your comic. Or to see him buddy up with Nazi sailors? Again, this comic’s the one for you.

O’Neil seems entirely ignorant of archeology, so ignorant it’s as though he didn’t even see Raiders of the Lost Ark, which isn’t exactly real archeology but it’s better than what O’Neil writes about here.

He also seems disinterested in the time period. His writing read like a resentful employee’s contractual obligation.

Bryne’s panel compositions are interesting. He goes for cinematic. It doesn’t always work, but at least he’s trying.

Also interesting is Indy’s face. Everyone else has Byrne face; not Indy. Maybe Austin drew it.

CREDITS

22-Karat Doom!; writer, Denny O’Neil; pencillers, John Byrne and Terry Austin; inker, Austin; colorist, Bob Sharen; letterer, Janice Chiang; editor, Louise Jones; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones

The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones 1 (January 1983)

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There are a lot of unexpected things in this first issue of The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones. For example, writer and penciller John Byrne doesn’t work at making Indiana Jones likable. He’s a bit of a jerk, really, and definitely irresponsible.

I also wasn’t expecting Indy to be mooning over the absent Marion; Byrne uses the lines for character, not to call back to Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s deft. Not deft is repeating the kidnapping sequence from that film. It’s not predicable either. One would think they would come up with something original.

The villain’s original (and cringeworthy). He’s a big fat black guy named Black. Maybe Byrne was trying to be funny.

The comic does work though. Byrne and Terry Austin’s art is fine, better than most licensed stuff, and the story moves.

Byrne also comes up with an excellent, serial-inspired cliffhanger.

It’s okay enough.

CREDITS

Writer, John Byrne; pencillers, Byrne and Terry Austin; inker, Austin; colorist, Bob Sharen; letterer, Joe Rosen; editor, Louise Jones; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Rocketeer Adventures 2 4 (June 2012)

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John Byrne easily does the best story in this issue. Really. And he can even draw Peevy. He lays out his story well, though the details on the characters aren’t any great shakes. The Rocketeer’s funny looking, while Cliff looks like Snidely Whiplash. Still, Byrne’s clearly enthusiastic about the characters and the setting. The other creators this issue clearly aren’t.

Well, maybe the Simonsons are enthusiastic but are incapable of conveying it. Louise Simonson’s plot isn’t terrible, but her dialogue is unbearable. From the first word balloon, it’s clear the story’s going to be a chore. And Walt Simonson’s art doesn’t help. He’s lazy with everything but Betty, including the action. It stinks.

David Mandel recasts the Rocketeer as Adam Strange for a sci-fi comedy, only Mandel’s not funny. And J. Bone’s style flops on alien worlds.

It’s another lame Adventures, thankfully the last one. IDW fumbled this series.

CREDITS

War Hero; writer, Louise Simonson; penciller, Walt Simonson; inker, Bob Wiacek; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, John Workman. Warlord of Blargon; writer, David Mandel; artist and colorist, J. Bone; letterer, Shawn Lee. Fair Game; writer and artist, John Byrne; colorist, Bone; letterer, Neil Uyetake. Editor, Scott Dunbier; publisher, IDW Publishing.

The Untold Legend of the Batman 1 (July 1980)

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The Untold Legend of the Batman might have good art… but it’s hard to tell. Each page is packed with panels–except one pin-up page, which is pretty good–and it’s hard to get a handle of John Byrne’s pencils (with Jim Aparo inking).

Some of the pages are pretty good though, but it’s certainly not a comic to read for the art. Sadly, it’s also not a comic to read for the writing.

Untold Legend is a streamlined retelling of Batman’s original, adding in all the Earth-One origin developments. It’s excellent as a curiosity (I’d forgotten teenage Bruce Wayne was Robin to some police detective) but Len Wein’s writing is atrocious.

Most of the comic is Bruce retelling his history to Alfred. One would assume Alfred would know some of these events, if not all.

The issue’s painful at times, a shopping list of contrived origin events.

Captain America 255 (March 1981)

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Wow, what a truly awful comic book.

Bryne inks himself here (I guess Joe Rubinstein) was busy and the results are unfortunate. The action lacks any punch and the bland faces have started, years earlier than I thought they would. It doesn’t help his rendition of the first Cap costume is silly.

As for the writing, Stern outdoes himself as far as expository. FDR narrates the beginning of the story (because FDR used to read reports aloud to subordinates) then Stern has the subordinate narrate some more of the issue.

It’s an iconic origin retelling. I remember it from when I was a kid (I think Marvel reprinted it a lot). If this retelling is the best one they had, they were in a sorry state. There’s not a single good moment in the entire comic book.

Every time Stern’s writing seems its worst, he drops it down another notch.

CREDITS

The Living Legend; writer, Roger Stern; penciller, John Byrne; inkers, Byrne and Joe Rubinstein; colorist, Bob Sharen; letterer, Joe Rosen; editors, Bob Budiansky and Jim Salicrup; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America 254 (February 1981)

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What a bunch of trouble to launch a new Union Jack. I guess Stern gets to kill the original Union Jack (and Baron Blood) but the whole thing is just a setup for Marvel UK. Whatever.

I’m being really harsh and I shouldn’t be. The issue’s not bad—except Cap running around in his outfit, shield in hand, all the time. It just doesn’t work. They should have rethought it. Otherwise, Stern does a fine job mixing horror and superhero and Blood’s death scene is absolutely fantastic.

There’s a strange logic misstep at the end too, with it being unclear how Union Jack survived his first, noisy heart attack (before succumbing to his second, silent one). But the real draw is Byrne’s artwork. Besides Cap’s weak big blues, the art this issue is outstanding. Byrne does a British village, horror, contained action. His composition is comics masterwork. Great looking stuff.

C+ 

CREDITS

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot; writers, John Byrne and Roger Stern; penciller, Byrne; inker, Joe Rubinstein; colorist, Bob Sharen; letterer, Jim Novak; editors, Bob Budiansky and Jim Salicrup; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America 253 (January 1981)

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When Stern isn’t writing too much exposition, he really does a good job. I always forget during those exposition heavy issues.

Cap heads off to the UK to help out the aged former Captain Britain with a vampire problem. Byrne gets to draw the English countryside. The selling point of the issue is really Byrne’s art. The plotting’s fine and the dialogue’s decent, but the art’s just phenomenal. Except maybe the last page, where Cap’s eyes are too wide.

Other than the UK stuff, there’s only a couple scenes. The first is Cap foiling a robbery. Byrne really goes all out for it, using (or creating) iconic poses for Cap. Then Steve and Bernie have their first date. Stern accelerates the courtship awkwardly and kills a lot of the charm. Good will towards the characters helps the sequence pass.

It’s still impressive as an example of excellent superhero comic art.

CREDITS

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot; writers, John Byrne and Roger Stern; penciller, Byrne; inker, Joe Rubinstein; colorist, Bob Sharen; letterer, Jim Novak; editors, Bob Budiansky and Jim Salicrup; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America 252 (December 1980)

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Oh, is Stern’s exposition bad. I mean, it’s real bad. What I can’t figure out is why he bothers with it. It seems the only reason for the endlessly wordy narration is he has to fill space… but he doesn’t. This narration goes in boxes at the tops of panels. Byrne’s art is more than enough to hold the reader’s attention.

The best part of this issue is when Cap and Batroc team up against Mister Hyde. Byrne’s action is fantastic, but the team up also makes sense.

Unfortunately, the issue reads like a proto-“decompressed” narrative. Stern takes forever to get through what’s basically an all-action issue. Again, Byrne saves it.

At the end, there’s a little recap of Cap’s origin and his friends and so on. His apartment gets a page too. They just did an origin recap last issue, so the repeat’s pointless, but competently done.

CREDITS

Cold Fire!; writer, Roger Stern; penciller, John Byrne; inker, Joe Rubinstein; colorist, Bob Sharen; letterer, John Costanza; editors, Bob Budiansky and Jim Salicrup; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America 251 (November 1980)

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Besides Stern inexplicably wasting four or five pages recapping Cap’s origin, it’s a good issue. The origin recap made me wonder if Byrne wanted to get to redo the iconic panels, but they’re really small.

Byrne does a great job this issue, especially once the fight scene gets started at the end between Cap and Batroc and Mister Hyde. The bad guys have teamed up to blackmail the city. The fight takes place on a ship. It just works out great.

Most of the issue is probably dedicated to the bad guys, actually. There’s a prison break sequence and then there’s them bickering about teaming up. Cap has his open, then pulls an all-nighter drawing for his day job. Bernie shows up (but not for long enough).

It seems like all Stern needs to do is write through his wordy exposition; once it’s out of his system, he’s fine.

CREDITS

The Mercenary and the Madman; writer, Roger Stern; penciller, John Byrne; inker, Joe Rubinstein; colorist, Bob Sharen; letterer, Jim Novak; editors, Bob Budiansky and Jim Salicrup; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America 250 (October 1980)

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After some hiccups, Stern finally gets the whole “Captain America for President” idea working. The problem scenes are the establishing ones. It’s Cap talking to the third party guys who want him to run on their ticket. The issue gets good once it’s Steve Rogers trying to figure out if he should run or not.

That opening is so bad, in fact, I thought the whole issue would be a disaster, but Cap’s speech explaining why he will not run is some iconic writing from Stern on the character.

Maybe the awful expository narration for the opening action scene (Cap versus a domestic terrorist) soured me to the issue prematurely.

Rubinstein’s art—Byrne’s credited with breakdowns—definitely has its moments. Unfortunately, the art’s the best while Steve Rogers is helping Bernie Rosenthal move into her apartment. That scene’s a good one anyway though.

It’s a fine issue, brief but effective.

CREDITS

Cap For President!; writer, Roger Stern; pencillers, John Byrne and Joe Rubinstein; inker, Rubinstein; colorist, George Roussos; letterer, Jim Novak; editors, Bob Budiansky and Jim Salicrup; publisher, Marvel Comics.