Bloodhound 10 (June 2005)

Thank goodness, Kirk is back for this issue, which is unfortunately the last one. Jolley wraps up a little–he got the Agent Bell backstory into the issue unexpectedly–but only what he absolutely has to resolve. Zeiss shows up sparingly and Jolley barely spends any time on him. One can see where Jolley might’ve taken that subplot had the series continued though. The issue’s a little investigation, a lot of talking and a lot of fighting. It’s a strange mix and definitely gives Bloodhound that TV procedural feel again. Agent Bell does the talking, Clevenger does the fighting. Together they’re… well, together they’re…

Bloodhound 8 (April 2005)

Jolley skips ahead a little, giving Clevenger practically a superhero outfit–a special Kevlar shirt, I think–and a little more freedom. Jolley uses Clev’s ex-girlfriend to reveal the information. It’s a nice little device, since it develops Clev a little. Agent Bell gets the most character development in the issue; more of a past revelation, but it makes she and Clevenger’s partnership a lot more interesting. The issue mostly takes place in a small Southern town where the FBI suspect a metahuman arsonist. There’s a lot of investigating, a whole cast of guest stars and a lot of personality to the town. Kirk…

Bloodhound 7 (March 2005)

Kirk tries out a different style for this issue’s extended flashback. I get it’s supposed to be folksy–the flashback takes place on a farm–but it lacks personality. It’s one of those awful farm stories; it’s effective too. Jolley makes the reader remember it and calls it back later. There’s very little mystery to this issue. There’s suspense. Bloodhound is more a thriller book than anything else. Jolley brings a lot of toughness into the DC universe with the title. His concepts don’t fit in superhero books, which is kind of the point. It’s the dirty underside. Jolley’s able to hide his hand…

Bloodhound 6 (February 2005)

Putting Clevenger back in prison proves a good choice for Jolley. He plots it to put Clev out of his comfort zone, which creates some drama on its own, then Jolley amps it up with a good soft cliffhanger. Meanwhile, the FBI agent has some character development scenes and then her own subplot after she finds out a little about what’s happening at the prison. Jolley doesn’t do any character development on Clevenger, which is odd since he’s the protagonist, but more effective. FBI agent Bell is a better guide through Bloodhound. She (and the reader) can be surprised. Clevenger can’t be.…

Bloodhound 5 (January 2005)

Jolley writes Firestorm better in this comic than he does in his own title. Maybe because the Bloodhound stuff just runs off. It’s actually a rather successful crossover issue between two books without any reason to crossover. It doesn’t hurt Kirk and Riggs easily toggle between realistic action violence and superhero stuff. Or how Jolley lets Clev guide the issue–Jolley basically incapacitates Firestorm, which really helps with the plot developments. It reads a lot less silly than it could. But even good art and good dialogue can’t make the villain any better. He’s one dimensional and boring. The issue needs strong characterizations.…

Bloodhound 4 (December 2004)

It’s the conclusion to the first arc–and an astoundingly bloody one–but also the origin issue. Jolley’s able to work in some background information on Clev, which probably provides the issue with most of its dialogue. Otherwise, it’s Clev and the bad guy beating the crap out of each other. It’s a vicious fight, lots of blood for a DC book. Even for a tough one. It makes for a good read; Kirk and Riggs outdo themselves. But there’s a downside. Jolley doesn’t reward the reader. He goes for a realistic ending–or maybe one to direct the series to its next story arc–but…

Bloodhound 3 (November 2004)

For lack of a better phrase, one could call this issue the “eureka” issue. Clev and his partner–Agent Bell–do their investigating and realize what they need to realize. Jolley’s able to make it even more dramatic since Clev is a muscle bound grotesque and just having him talk to people makes for a scene. Jolley doesn’t give the reader too much information on the bad guy and instead makes the issue’s villain the FBI boss. It leads to some funny scenes and some violent ones, but misguided FBI agents aren’t the best villains. Even temporary ones. Kirk and Riggs’s artwork is, as…

Bloodhound 2 (October 2004)

I like a lot of this issue. Jolley opens it well, the middle part is good, most of the ending is good. He goes out on a joke, which doesn’t work, but there’s some great stuff just before the finish. In other words, Bloodhound is a good book. Jolley puts it all together quite nicely, as the protagonist reacquaints himself with old friends and his new colleagues. But the most impressive thing in the issue is the way Kirk and Riggs draw a pair of hands. It’s not supposed to be a subtle panel, it’s supposed to be clear, but the technical…

Bloodhound 1 (September 2004)

Bloodhound takes a while to get bloody. It has to get bloody–most of the issue takes place during a prison riot with the lead characters trying to survive to the exit. When the issue starts, however, it generally feels like a regular DC comic. I mean, Leonard Kirk and Robin Riggs’s artwork is–while utterly fabulous–definitely mainstream comics art. Kirk has some beautiful panel composition for the reaction shots during conversations and then more during the action scenes. Dan Jolley’s dialogue has a lot of information to follow, but he never goes overboard with the exposition. There are little comments as people say…

Planet of the Apes: The Forbidden Zone 4 (March 1993)

In the front matter, Cunningham seems to dare the reader to put Forbidden Zone in continuity. A few pages later, Cunningham has an inexplicable gaff. For a bit, I hoped I could just attribute it to playing with the reader. But as the issue ended, I could not. It’s a slight blight on the otherwise well-crafted series. I wish Kirk had worked harder though. He’s even lazier than usual in this issue, with every one of his human faces bad (instead of just most of them). Cunningham’s big twist this issue, literally bringing every plot point together, is sort of predictable. But…

Planet of the Apes: The Forbidden Zone 3 (February 1993)

Kirk appears just to have concentrated his attention on drawing good ape faces, not human. The issue is full of these exquisite ape faces and these terrible human ones. While one can appreciate the former, it’s too bad about the latter. Cunningham continues to impress with his plotting. The most compelling part of Forbidden Zone is seeing how Cunningham weaves it. He brings three of the plots together, with the final one basically staying on its own. Forbidden Zone is a war comic, something like a Civil War comic, and it’s a lot better than it should be. The issue is a…

Planet of the Apes: The Forbidden Zone 2 (January 1993)

Cunningham has four plots this issue (and presumably through the entire series, until the last one). He’s got the peaceful humans and apes, the not peaceful apes, the mutants and then this expedition team. In some ways, it’s like he’s doing a good version of the second Apes movie—without the expectation of a Charlton Heston cameo. With these four plots–a couple are definitely subplots, but assigning them catagories means deciding between the two remaining plots and it seems impossible to give either of them primacy. Anyway, with these four plots, Cunningham is juggling a big cast. Around twenty speaking parts. And he…

Planet of the Apes: The Forbidden Zone 1 (December 1992)

Forbidden Zone is quite a surprise, and not just because a young Leonard Kirk is on the art. It’s surprising because writer Lowell Cunningham takes a departure from the regular Adventure approach (even of their good entries) and goes it alone. This story is set after the regular series and before the movies. It seems to feature an aged version of John Huston’s Lawgiver character (breaking the internal continuity of Adventure’s Apes comics) and deals reasonably with the character. The bad guys are the mutants from the second Apes movie and Cunningham comes up with a nice way to involve them. He…

Agents of Atlas 6 (March 2007)

Parker ends Agents of Atlas with M-11. It’s very appropriate since he’s been the biggest mystery of the series and to the team members. There’s something incredibly tragic and beautiful about the character; Parker goes for it and succeeds. It’s too bad M-11 couldn’t carry a limited of his own. The issue itself, setting Jimmy and the team up as Atlas, is a talking heads book. There’s action and layered narrative, so it doesn’t seem like a talking heads book… but it is one. The big surprise is a surprise, even with the hints, the main one–which would have occurred in the…

Agents of Atlas 5 (February 2007)

And here again, Parker does the improbable. The issue has a relatively short present action, something like a half hour. Maybe a little more, but the big part of then issue isn’t long, as watched on a clock. Well, actually I’m wrong–it’s indeterminate. Parker sticks with Derek as a narrator, which brings–I’m realizing for the first time–the human angle. Jimmy’s the only other regular person, but he’s too extraordinary to be a good narrator. Instead, Derek–already an outsider since he’s from Wakanda–provides a great perspective; he’s earnest, not at all naive, and human. It’s through Derek’s narration, the reader gets to see…

Agents of Atlas 4 (January 2007)

Oh, Jeff Parker, how I love thee. This issue–this modern Marvel comic book–takes place over a week. Maybe even a few days more than a week. Parker resolves the previous issue’s cliffhanger, brings in a new character, has two big action sequences and has time for character development and a bunch of summary action scenes. Derek narrates the issue, bringing a bunch of humor to it, but Parker also uses his narration to move certain story aspects along. For instance, SHIELD is now involved with the team’s activities, but we never have to see them because Parker is using summary storytelling–and the…

Agents of Atlas 3 (December 2006)

After opening with a nice fight scene–it starts with just Jimmy, then brings everyone in–the issue moves to some Atlas investigating. The book’s title still doesn’t make any sense in the context of the content, which is kind of awesome. I wish I remembered what I thought it meant at this point during my first reading. This issue features the most elaborate flashback so far, as Bob tells everyone his recent history. I think it runs for five pages and they’re just these magnificent summary pages. Kirk handles them beautifully, though it takes a while to catch on the flashback projection means…

Agents of Atlas 2 (November 2006)

Derek, the SHIELD agent, narrates this issue. The result is a more procedural issue, like Parker is trying to keep the reader a few steps removed from the principle characters. He does it a few times, more obviously, in the narrative, like when Venus says hello to a changed Bob. A little about the art. I like Leonard Kirk; I like his superhero stuff. He does a good job on this issue and the series so far, but one of the things about coming back to it after Parker’s gone on with the series–it’s clear Kirk isn’t the ideal fit. He’s really…

Agents of Atlas 1 (October 2006)

Coming back to the first Atlas series is a bigger treat than I thought it would be. I don’t remember much about it, but I certainly didn’t remember Parker uses Gorilla Man as the narrator for the first issue. It’s a nice entry to the setup because–strangely enough–Ken is the most human member of the team. His recollections make this issue immediately distinct, even before the second or third page, when he’s revealed as Gorilla Man. But Parker also sets up the mystery really well. I’d forgotten most of that aspect too–SHIELD is trying to figure out what old man Jimmy is…

Avengers vs. Atlas 3 (May 2010)

Once again, I’m opening with a comment about Hardman, because the comic really leaves no other choice. While Parker constructs this elaborate and complicated story (I don’t even know how complicated yet, but it’s the kind of story–a sequel to a forty-year old story–Brubaker does pretty well and Bendis fails on but does try and Millar creates a monstrosity with–Parker does it beautifully, however, simply beautifully), he also gives Hardman this amazing script to visualize. The action, the talking, it’s just so perfect. Parker’s got all these character interactions going on between the Atlas team–the Avengers are, regardless of Gorilla Man, a…