John Totleben

Miracleman 16 (December 1988)

Moore bites off a lot for this final issue to the arc. It isn’t enough Miracleman and company will turn the world into a utopia, Moore has to sell it. He uses great detail–like the Warpsmiths liking the Inuit language the most–to make things process. He also throws in a lot of personality. Heavy metal gangs turning Kid Miracleman into a sensation; it’s unnecessary but perfect.

And Liz. How Moore deals with Liz is crazy good. Winter comes back, but she’s kind of comic relief. Liz figures in differently. One has to wonder if Moore always had this plan for her.

There’s a bit of joking at Thatcher’s expense. Moore is having a good time, after all.

Miracleman is not a superhero comic. Maybe Moore never intended it to be one, just let it pretend like on Gargunza’s tapes.

Fabulous work from Totleben too. The art is breathtaking.

A+ 

CREDITS

Olympus, Chapter Six: Olympus; writer, Alan Moore; pencillers, John Totleben and Thomas Yeates; inker, Totleben; colorist, Sam Parsons; letterer, Wayne Truman; editor, Letitia Glozer; publisher, Eclipse.

Miracleman 15 (November 1988)

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What’s incredible–and possibly singular–about how Moore approaches Miracleman is his distance. There are moments this issue where another writer might wink at superhero comics. Moore doesn’t. Even in those moments, he’s only writing this one. More so, he’s only writing this moment, even though it’s technically a flashback.

London is destroyed, decimated. There is no happiness. Moore pulls Miracleman away from humanity even more; tellingly, Totleben doesn’t do any of his “beauty of Miracleman” panels. The visual poetry is violence and blood. Even in the small panels.

Moore caps it off with Miracleman’s final shedding of his human self, possibly through the most humane act possible. It’s so sad it makes one despondent. Not the act or event itself, but how Moore and Totleben tell it.

I think there are slow parts to the issue. Maybe too much time spent on filler. But it doesn’t matter… it’s amazing.

A 

CREDITS

Olympus, Chapter Five: Nemesis; writer, Alan Moore; artist, John Totleben; colorist, Sam Parsons; letterer, Wayne Truman; editor, Letitia Glozer; publisher, Eclipse.

Miracleman 14 (April 1988)

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As far as the art goes, it’s near perfect. Moore’s script (presumably with panel arrangement), Totleben’s art, it’s outstanding.

And most of the issue is excellent too. The stuff with the Moran family, the stuff with Miracleman and the other super-powered beings setting up their club… well, actually that decision is Moore’s second most questionable this issue. Miracleman, Miraclewoman, the other aliens, they set up a superhero club, something apparently all worlds with superheroes do. It feels too obvious.

The real problem is with how much abuse Moore throws at Billy Bates. He’s been being tortured by other kids for a number of issues now, always resisting the urge to turn into Kid Miracleman. Moore goes too far with it; it’s too much torture. Moore’s practically martyring the kid.

The bookends flow throughout the issue; during one recollection, Miracleman dances. It’s crazy, fantastic; easily makes up for the bumps.

A- 

CREDITS

Olympus, Chapter Four: Pantheon; writer, Alan Moore; artist, John Totleben; colorist, Sam Parsons; letterer, Wayne Truman; editor, Letitia Glozer; publisher, Eclipse.

Miracleman 13 (November 1987)

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It’s an awesome issue. Not just in the flashback plotting and reveals, but with how Moore structures Miracleman’s narration from the present. Even though the present day stuff is all static and all summary, Moore manages to get in an amazing finish for this issue. Moore doesn’t try to frustrate the reader with foreshadowing, he instead overwhelms.

Miracleman and Miraclewoman go to the galactic council or whatever it’s called and there’s a bunch of political stuff set to Totleben’s trippy alien designs. Miracleman often has smaller panels, so it’s impressive how much Totleben’s designs resonate even if they don’t get close-ups.

But there’s also stuff with Billy and Liz and how it will all shake out to get the story to the future bookends. Moore juggles the otherworldly and the human; he brings them together in the soft cliffhanger.

It’s an outstanding issue. Definitely the best with Totleben’s art.

A 

CREDITS

Olympus, Chapter Three: Hermes; writer, Alan Moore; artist, John Totleben; colorist, Sam Parsons; letterer, Wayne Truman; editor, Letitia Glozer; publisher, Eclipse.

Miracleman 12 (September 1987)

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More hints at what’s to come–both in the bookends and in the present action. Moore’s pretty slick with one of the reveals–so quiet maybe it’s a typo–but the other, revealed on the last page but suggested much earlier… Well, things might just get really dramatic here in a bit.

This issue reveals Miraclewoman’s back story. It involves the evil scientist, of course, which sadly reminds one of Chuck Austen’s terrible conclusion to that story arc. This issue continues with Totleben, who does quite well. He’s really getting the idea of Miracleman as an Adonis, not just a regular superhero.

There are the surprises, some great panels–big and tiny, Moore’s got Totleben doing these practical thumbnails with great composition–and some really odd, nice moments with the supporting cast. The insect people are interesting, but Moore’s clearly saving more for later.

Excellent comic, though it ends abruptly.

A- 

CREDITS

Olympus, Chapter Two: Aphrodite; writer, Alan Moore; artist, John Totleben; colorist, Sam Parsons; letterer, Wayne Truman; editor, Letitia Glozer; publisher, Eclipse.

Miracleman 11 (May 1987)

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Wow. Even with Moore’s overcooked prose–it’s from Miracleman’s memoirs–wow.

It opens five years later, with Miracleman somewhere above the Earth in a floating castle. I think (about the location, not the time).

Moore opens with these grandiose images and then brings things down again. New–and lovely–artist John Tolteben can do both fantastical and mundane with ease. The story Miracleman is telling is the continuation from the previous issue. This issue he has a run-in with the space aliens and Moore has a big reveal of a new character.

Except these are relatively small. The battle with the aliens is just a fight scene, Liz in danger is just a thriller scene. Totleben doesn’t let the visuals get too big, so as the bookends work better. He and Moore are off to a great start together.

Moore’s isn’t rigidly constrained; he might even be having fun.

A

CREDITS

Olympus, Chapter One: Cronos; writer, Alan Moore; artist, John Totleben; colorist, Sam Parsons; letterer, Wayne Truman; editor, Cat Yronwode; publisher, Eclipse.

Ultimatum: Spider-Man Requiem 2 (September 2009)

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Eh. Dang it, Bendis.

He structures the whole thing around Jonah’s obituary for Spider-Man, flashing back to Spidey’s first meeting with the Hulk. Oddly enough, back when Peter ran into the Hulk at the end of the original series, he didn’t seem like he remembered this incident. Bendis rips off the school bus scene from Superman pretty well. It’s not the problem.

The problem is when Jonah’s article becomes the cake instead of the icing. The art is then a bunch of pin-ups, mostly by Bagley, which seems inappropriate given how much work Immonen’s done. Scott Hanna’s inks seem a little off on the flashback story too, like he forgot how to do Ultimate Spider-Man.

The finale, with Immonen, takes a couple pages. It’s predictable, without personality. If Immonen had more room, he might’ve been able to make it visually matter.

Bendis strikes again. He’s dreadfully uneven.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian Michael Bendis; pencillers, Mark Bagley, Stuart Immonen, Trevor Hairsine, Ron Randall, Bill Sienkiewicz and John Totleben; inkers, Scott Hanna, Wade von Grawbadger, Danny Miki, Randall, Sienkiewicz and Totleben; colorists, Pete Pantazis and Justin Ponsor; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, Mark Paniccia and Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Swamp Thing 60 (May 1987)

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Ushering in its new format status (better paper), Moore and Totleben do something quite different for Swamp Thing. Forget the comic deviating away from Swampy’s perspective… Moore’s now just using it to experiment with the (comics, not new) format.

It is a prose issue, the story boxes against Totleben’s mixed media prints. DC really should have printed the issue twice, once with story, once without.

Moore’s not taking any shortcuts by going full prose. It’s a mother telling her babies a bedtime story. Only here, the mother is a living electronic planetoid who Swamp Thing happens across. It turns out the mechanical ecosystem works with his plant consciousness. She, the planetoid, then forces herself on him and gets pregnant… before he escapes.

Moore’s prose is stronger than expected. It’s a classic, high concept sci-fi story, relatively concisely told.

It’s a special issue; Moore and Totleben succeed in their attempts.

Swamp Thing 55 (December 1986)

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The issue’s not in the pay-off. The pay-off is great, sure, but the issue is often disconnected from it. Moore’s writing Swamp Thing’s memorial–complete with guest spots from the Phantom Stranger and Constantine and, especially, a slightly mischievous and pervy Boston Brand.

But it’s not a recap of the series to date, even though most of the remaining cast members make an appearance of some kind or another, or even a hint of what’s to come.

Had this issue been the final Swamp Thing, Moore would have taken it out on a glorious note. One can nearly hear Also Sprach Zarathustra playing for the finish… it’s cinematic, but Moore wraps it all together through Abby.

And Abby’s the center of the issue. It’s not about Swamp Thing’s death, it’s about her loss.

Veitch, in his most ambitious issue so far, does a lot and does it well.

Swamp Thing 53 (October 1986)

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Sure, Moore’s got an over-sized issue, but he still fits in an amazing amount of content. In this issue, in addition to the Swamp Thing stuff, there’s pretty much an issue of Batman. Moore continues to show how well he writes that character.

But there’s also the pacing of it–Gotham is changing and Moore tells that part of the story disconnected from Swamp Thing. Swampy’s worried about Abby, but he’s also a little enthused with his new power.

The Totleben art, which still has the horror tinges, is wonderful. It’s green and full of life; he also comes up with a bunch of iconic images this issue, including one of Batman.

Other great scenes include Lex Luthor meeting with the corrupt government guys (there’s an oxymoron) and of Chester coming to Gotham. Moore also quietly brings back another character.

It’s maybe the best example of great mainstream comics.

Swamp Thing 50 (July 1986)

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While touted as an anniversary issue, Swamp Thing barely figures into this story. Moore’s upfront about his limited role–the comic opens with Cain and Abel, after all. It again features guest appearances from the DC supernatural set, with a couple deaths involved.

Moore eventually does make it all about Swamp Thing, but in a relatively quiet way. His experiences and questions about himself inform the greater story, which is a really big one. It’s an all action issue, but the most important action is very quiet dialogue.

What’s strangest about the issue is the lack of intensity. Moore’s done a lot with ominous, disturbing details, but they aren’t present here. Demons are again reduced to funny looking creatures, for example. The supernatural landscape is nowhere near as disturbing as the human one Moore’s been moving through.

Moore brings the fantastical down to manageable size.

It’s excellent, if cloyingly existential.

Swamp Thing 48 (May 1986)

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For an end of the world comic, this one’s sort of tame. I guess the world itself does not end here–only a serious foreshadowing of it, especially since Swamp Thing unintentionally helps the bad guys towards that end–but it’s still very dreary stuff.

Yet, the most awful thing in the comic is the cops dragging Abby out in cuffs. They arrest her for cavorting with a swamp monster.

That subplot, which only shows up in the last couple pages, shows the problem… if the world’s going to end, why is Moore spending time on Abby’s problems?

Obviously, the DC Universe isn’t going to end, but Moore’s still supposed to be convincing the reader of that possibility. By expanding Abby’s subplot, which he should be doing under normal circumstances, he draws attention away from the apocalyptic angle.

It’s a good issue, with nice Totleben art, but Moore should’ve focused.

Swamp Thing 46 (March 1986)

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While I love this issue–the way Moore tells the reader the ending is going to be awful, then still manages to make it even worse (without a drop of blood), is awesome–the cover does imply something else entirely. The cover implies, between the banner and the superheroes, a Crisis tie-in.

And I suppose Moore does deliver to some extent. He does send Constantine and Swamp Thing off into regular DC superhero land where they get a mission for helping save the world. But their mission really has nothing to do with Crisis. It’s too disturbing to be mainstream; Moore thoroughly grounds it in reality.

In many ways, even though the issue shows how Swamp Thing doesn’t fit with superheroes, it shows how Moore can make anything work. He brings horror to comedy and vice versa.

It’s excellent work from Moore, Bissette and Totleben… even if it’s superfluous.

Swamp Thing 44 (January 1986)

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I never thought I’d be making this statement–but I can’t tell Randall from Totleben. Randall does some of the inks here and two inkers are seamless at first read. Maybe if I had been concentrating more on the art….

Instead, this issue of Swamp Thing is a big mishmash and, against the odds, it works.

I mean, there’s a scene with Batman bumping into Constantine and Mento (from Doom Patrol) on the street. Moore’s integration of Crisis is hilarious. He acknowledges it, but treats it as inconsequential. I guess they already knew Swamp Thing was safe from a relaunch.

There’s a great scene with Abby being rude to Swamp Thing, then him sulking. But it’s a small moment and the rest of the issue is about a serial killer.

His trip to Louisiana does not go well.

It’s a good issue; however, its parts are better than the whole.