Doomsday + 1 3 (November 1975)

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…

Doomsday + 1 2 (September 1975)

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…

Doomsday + 1 1 (July 1975)

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…

Rocketeer Adventures 2 4 (June 2012)

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.…

The Untold Legend of the Batman 1 (July 1980)

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…

Captain America 255 (March 1981)

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…

Captain America 254 (February 1981)

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…

Captain America 253 (January 1981)

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…

Captain America 252 (December 1980)

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…

Captain America 251 (November 1980)

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…

Captain America 250 (October 1980)

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…

Captain America 249 (September 1980)

The Dragon Man cliffhanger really does not resolve well. All Stern can think of to get it over with promptly is for Cap to throw his glove in Dragon Man’s eye. Then Dragon Man heads off to confront Machinesmith and Cap tags along. This sequence, from the cliffhanger resolution to Machinesmith’s hide-out, is visually fantastic. Stern doesn’t even cloud it over with narration or exposition, we just get to see the Byrne and Rubinstein art. Unfortunately, the Machinesmith stuff is far less satisfying. Three quarters of the issue is Cap fighting a robot (or a piece of a robot) only to discover…

Captain America 248 (August 1980)

Steve Rogers as mild-mannered commercial artist is a little off at first, but once he settles in with his friends—and a girl, I sort of remember him dating Bernie Rosenthal when I was a kid—it gets a lot more comfortable. Stern starts with more about him being wowed by the era, but it quickly dissipates and the issue’s a lot stronger than the previous one had suggested it could be. Dragon Man shows up and a big rooftop fight scene ensues. Machinesmith is still an annoying villain, but he eventually goes away. I mean, Dragon Man tries to eat Steve’s shield. It’s…

Captain America 247 (July 1980)

Byrne does a great job with everything this issue except Cap. He draws him a little like a big dope. There’s just something bland and dully affable about him. And he’s always in costume, so clearly Byrne is doing a good job of drawing him that way since he never gets to fully illustrate an expression. The issue is about Cap recovering his memory, which might also lead to the dull part. He thinks he’s got false memories and he discovers the truth in a few pages, leaving him ready to fight Baron Strucker. There’s a really cool bit about Nick Fury…

Hellboy: Seed of Destruction 4 (June 1994)

Rasputin still doesn’t get identified by name—but based on all the expository dialogue, it’s surprising Hellboy couldn’t figure it out. I guess he never took any history classes. The series winds down with some more big action sequences, one involving Abe and Liz Sherman. Well, not exactly Liz Sherman. Mignola and Byrne had very little use for her (Hellboy talks about her in the narration more than she talks in dialogue). It makes her feel like a fifth wheel, only around because the comic book readers must have a pretty face. Also interesting is how passive Hellboy and Abe are in the…

Hellboy: Seed of Destruction 3 (May 1994)

Adams (sorry, starting with him again, I know) must intentionally draw bad faces. Everything else is so detailed… faces not. So it’s a choice. A bad one, but a choice. Mignola and Byrne get a lot of content into this issue. I don’t think Rasputin ever even gets named, just his history introduced—the majority of the issue, besides an opening fight scene, is expository dialogue. The best thing in the issue is a two page scene with Abe seeing these frog monsters take their human mother down into the bog. It’s the only time Byrne and Mignola take the time to do…

Hellboy: Seed of Destruction 2 (April 1994)

You know, if Adams stuck to the way he draws in medium long shots… he’d make a good comic strip artist. Sorry to talk about the Monkeyman backup, but I thought I should open with a nice comment about Adams. It’s probably never going to happen again. The Hellboy part of the issue is very strong. There’s the problem with the narration again, like Byrne can’t find a voice for Hellboy—also when they switch over to Abe Sapian’s narration and the narration boxes are the same format. And there’s some weak art from Mignola, but weak even in the Mignola sense. The…

Hellboy: Seed of Destruction 1 (March 1994)

All right, so Mignola and Byrne conceive Hellboy as sort of a hard boiled detective. Not in the content so much, but in the first person narration Byrne writes for him. It also doesn’t really match the way Hellboy talks in dialogue either. But the big problem is the way the story’s split. It opens with a mostly text (though illustrated) telling of Hellboy’s origin. Then it switches to a regular narrative (where presumably main characters is instead killed off before he can resonate). The modern day stuff is all action too—except the end reveal—and the issue wouldn’t feel like it had…

Dark Horse Presents 57 (December 1991)

Not much to recommend Next Men this time. Byrne handles his violent action sequence well, but he’s also selling a U.S. senator killing a federal agent. Who knows, maybe it’s all a Tea Party thing. Regardless, no longer interested in the series. The Creep is, again, excellent. I can’t believe Arcudi’s writing it. And Eaglesham’s artwork is great. He’s doing this unfinished finished look, hard to explain. Geary does one page. It’s fine. His longer work’s better. Alien Fire is this excellent sixties piece about a Vietnam vet. It’s very quiet, lovely writing from Smith. Vincent’s artwork is good, with some caveats.…

Dark Horse Presents 56 (November 1991)

This oversized issue opens and closes with an Aliens two-parter. Loose art from Guinan and Akins doesn’t help Arcudi’s script. It’s absolutely incomprehensible if you don’t read the Aliens series. Byrne finally produces a Next Men I’m not interested in. It’s two government guys revealing all. The art’s really, really mediocre. It’s like even Byrne doesn’t have any interest in this part of the story, which really makes one wonder why he’s bothering tell it. Duffy and Geary both have nice stories. Duffy (with Chacon art) has an amusing fantasy story, Fancies about a tavern fight, while Geary does the history of…

Dark Horse Presents 55 (October 1991)

Sin City is really bad this time. The amount of white space suggests Miller didn’t spend a lot of time drawing it. It also doesn’t seem like he spent much time writing it. Even with his terrible narration, this installment is a new low. Though I guess some of it does sound a lot like the Spirit movie narration, which doesn’t seem appropriate. Johnson’s art is a little better on this installment of Earth Boys. He clearly worked at it more. But the story itself is still terribly written (by Biggers and Brooks). Byrne continues his Next Men with a decent entry.…

Dark Horse Presents 54 (September 1991)

The big surprise this issue is Byrne’s Next Men. It’s actually pretty solid (though I think it features all four Byrne faces). The art’s great–nice flow of action–and the story’s intriguing. I think it’s the strongest narrative structure I’ve ever read from Byrne (though it might just be because it’s a prologue). Geary’s got a few Transgression Hotline strips. They’re solid, amusing and unremarkable. Geary’s a professional though and they’re well-produced. The Homicide closer from Morrow and Arcudi is fabulous. Morrow transforms the strip from Arcudi’s regular bore to something out of a film noir. During this installment, Arcudi even manages to…

Spider-Man: Chapter One 12 (October 1999)

It’s so bad. It’s so bad I’m not even going to go on a super-rant about it because I think Byrne had to know it was terrible and it doesn’t seem sportsmanlike to kick him after such an absurdly bad comic book. It retells the Sandman story from Amazing, but sets it later in Spidey’s career (I think Marvel intended a sequel, thank goodness they never did one). It also resolves Betty Brant and Peter’s dating–but they weren’t dating in Chapter One (and retcons out her brother)–though, honestly, I can’t imagine why Peter would like Betty. She’s like an anorexic version of…

Spider-Man: Chapter One 11 (September 1999)

Oh, wow. This issue is actually the worst. The dialogue is so unbearably bad, it doesn’t even matter Milgrom’s inks are a little better than last time. Spider-Man gets in a fight with Giant-Man and the Wasp–who Byrne portrays as being entirely narcissistic and without any heroic qualities whatsoever, but still forces the reader to spend time with them–and then they all team up to foul some armored car heist. In the mean time, in actual importance (to the series’s arc), everyone’s turning against Spider-Man… Betty because of Liz Allen (though who cares if Betty is turning against him… Byrne’s characterization of…

Spider-Man: Chapter One 10 (August 1999)

And there you have it… I say something nice and this issue’s my reward. This issue might be the worst. I mean, maybe not in terms of scenic writing, but certainly in terms of plotting and art. Milgrom’s inks here are atrocious. The only panel he doesn’t seem to ruin is a close-up of Johnny Storm. The rest is dreadful, as are the colors–Aunt May looks bad enough, but her bright blue hair is… incredible. But the plotting’s actually even worse. Byrne forgot to tell the reader Peter and Betty are now seeing each other. He also forgot to include a scene…

Spider-Man: Chapter One 9 (July 1999)

This issue might actually be the best one of the series (so far). I mean, the Daredevil appearance at the beginning is awful–actually, wait, the whole beginning is awful. Actually, everything’s awful except the fight in Central Park against Kraven and the Chameleon. And even it has bad art–Al Milgrom is a terrible inker for Byrne. Regardless of how hard Byrne works, Milgrom’s inks make it look like a quick Marvel house style, instead of Byrne art. But the fight with Kraven in Central Park, it works. Maybe because Byrne doesn’t set up a cliffhanger halfway through, instead just telling a lengthy…