Ultimatum: Spider-Man Requiem 2 (September 2009)

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…

Predator 4 (March 1990)

Street gangs versus the Predators. It’s actually a good battle scene. It takes up a good third of the issue; Verheiden definitely comes up with exiting visuals for the artists to realize. The comic’s pretty lame though. Verheiden front loaded it with characters who disappear–the black police captain shows up again here; why’s he memorable? He’s black. It’s lazy writing and unbelievable. The narration from the family man cop is pretty dang good though. Verheiden never gets into Schaefer’s head this issue and it works out. The family man has a lot better observations about the situation, far more emotionally charged. There’s…

Predator 3 (November 1989)

So Schaefer gets kidnapped by a drug lord and has to break out. Meanwhile his partner is trying to let everyone know there’s an alien invasion coming. Lots of warships cloaked in Manhattan, you know… the norm. Occasionally Verheiden will give Warner some awesome scene to draw–the Pam Am building being a meeting place for the aliens and the military–but a lot of the comic is the South American stuff. It’s a bridging issue is all and a four issue series shouldn’t need one. Especially not since Verheiden contrives the whole thing with the drug lords. It would have been more natural…

Swamp Thing Annual 4 (June 1988)

The weirdest part of the annual–which is mostly a Batman story, which doesn’t suit Pat Broderick’s pencils as well as the Swamp Thing–is Chester getting stoned with Labo. I always understood Labo to be a stand-in for Alan Moore… so Stephen R. Bissette wrote a scene with Alan Moore getting stoned? The scene doesn’t work. Labo’s presence is too strange at Chester’s, too much like a sitcom. Otherwise, it’s a fairly okay issue. It’s not much of an annual. Bissette does write Batman as a violent madman, which is sort of interesting, but Swamp Thing’s got so little to do it’s never…

Swamp Thing 47 (April 1986)

So the artists on the first appearance of the Parliament of Trees are Woch and Randall… They do a fantastic job and all, but it shows how comic book series are actually organic and susceptible to outside pressures; they do better loose, not planned. Moore concentrates on the Parliament visit, which is dense with exposition and amazing visuals. Woch fills the panels with these astounding former plant elements; they’re eerily without speech and the art conveys the relative silence of the jungle setting. Also in the issue is a developing subplot about Abby and Swamp Thing being photographed. Without it–and Constantine’s appearance–one…

Swamp Thing 44 (January 1986)

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…

Swamp Thing 43 (December 1985)

Moore introduces Chester this issue; I’d sort of forgotten when he came into the series. Chester will be a member of the supporting cast, but for now, he’s simply the protagonist in a fill-in. He finds one of Swampy’s tubers and investigates it. Now, Chester, in addition to being a hippie nature lover, is a drug dealer. His customers really like the idea of the tuber and take it. It gives Moore a chance to not just have a lovely little story about a dying woman’s last night with her husband, but also one where an annoying jerk goes nuts off the…

Swamp Thing 33 (February 1985)

So while Swamp Thing has his adventure in “Pog,” Abby has her own one here. Except she’s mostly just in a framing sequence, not quite an adventure. For whatever reason, Moore brought the original appearance of Swamp Thing into continuity with this issue. So there’s a few pages of Abby with Cain and Abel–Moore’s starting to explore the nature of storytelling a little, something he’d later expand on in Promethea–and then a reprint of the Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson House of Secrets Swamp Thing. The end ties it all together, but the story isn’t consequential at all. It’s Moore mixing playfulness…

DC Retroactive: Justice League of America – The ’80s 1 (October 2011)

Conway goes out of his way to remind the reader this Justice League isn’t the real Justice League. It’s the eighties Detroit League no one likes. But then his script presents this team overcoming a lot of odds not just to save the day, but to save the kids on a school trip to visit their headquarters. Just because the Detroit League is a dumb idea, it doesn’t mean the scene-by-scene execution is going to be dumb. More than any other Retroactive title, in fact, this one has me wanting to check out the old issues. I assume Conway didn’t have the…

Dark Horse Presents 137 (November 1998)

So Nazis versus Predator and the best Marz can come up with is a story set in South America? Castellini’s art makes up for some of it—even though he can’t draw the Predator, the rest of it looks good. But Marz’s writing is pretty dumb. Seagle and Gaudiano have another My Vagabond Days, this time about the space program. Sort of. Seagle seems to think doing a lyrical narrative about growing up in the Sixties is inherently interesting. Even with Gaudiano’s artwork, it’s not interesting. Seagle, it turns out, didn’t grow up in the Sixties as a teen… have I already mentioned…

Dark Horse Presents 136 (October 1998)

Another endless installment of The Ark. Verheiden’s writing gets really padded here, especially with the conversations. With the long page count–sixteen pages an installment–I wonder if it was intended to be a limited series then someone at Dark Horse realized no one in his or her right mind would buy it. So instead they stuck it in Presents, figuring by the time the reader got to this issue–with The Ark taking up one half and the awful Western (I’ll get to it in a minute) taking up the other–it’d be too late for them to give up. Randall–who I just remembered used…

Dark Horse Presents 135 (September 1998)

Macan and Doherty finish Carson of Venus poorly. Doherty’s artwork this installment is particularly bad and, though Macan seems to be trying, the characters are all weak. Macan’s attempts at humor are a woman getting slapped around by her husband. So it kind of goes well with Brubaker and Lutes’s finish to The Fall, all about a guy who wants to murder women. It’s a good conclusion, but it needs an epilogue. While I can understand why Brubaker finished without resolution, he still needs it. It doesn’t compare to the first few installments though. I was excited to see early Reis on…

Dark Horse Presents Annual 1998 (September 1998)

The annual opens with Mignola doing a retelling of Hellboy‘s origin. I guess it’s all right. Kind of pointless, but fine. Weissman finally gets a two page Phineas Page and shows why he should have stuck to a page. Van Meter and Ross team for the first comic book appearance of Buffy. The writing is more lame than not, but it’s maybe the best Ross art I’ve ever seen. Watson’s Skeleton Key is a fairly charming little story about a witch and a little kid. I’m assuming the character’s a witch, otherwise it’d be pointless. Some wacky art mistakes though. The Ark…

Dark Horse Presents 41 (June 1990)

I guess up against Zick and The Argosy, Randall’s writing on Trekker seems really good. Maybe the plotting is a little better this time around from Randall–I wasn’t expecting the ending at all–and he’s still doing a lot of good work on the art. It’s crazy how different Trekker looks from when it started, even if it hasn’t exactly become original. Though the relationship between the female protagonist and her sister gets close. The Argosy is something of a train wreck. The most important thing in the entire story happens in a tiny panel on the last page. Zick’s art is Kirby…

Dark Horse Presents 40 (May 1990)

You know, I think Matt Wagner’s Aerialist is homophobic. Every man is forced to be gay. Anyway, it’s not at all impressive, a Rollerball knockoff. When his characters aren’t in costume, Wagner’s art is rather weak. I guess the hot air balloons look good. Bob the Alien is absolutely amazing as a) Bob moves to a black neighborhood in Brooklyn and b) discovers God. It might be the funniest installment so far. I can’t believe this comic isn’t more appreciated. The Argosy is a really wordy retelling of Jason and the Argonauts. It’s fantasy, introduces about forty character names in eight pages.…

Dark Horse Presents 39 (May 1990)

I think Davis’s Delia & Celia has definitively made me hate all fantasy, if I didn’t already dislike it enough. It’s like he sits around trying to think of how much blathering exposition he can fit in each panel, like it’s a contest to one up himself. The story’s completely incomprehensible at this point, but I’m pretty sure it’s never, ever going to end. On the plus side, Ron Randall’s artwork has gotten fantastic on Trekker. Some of it’s the inking–maybe all of it’s the inking. It’s just gorgeous. Too bad his writing is still terrible. He spends maybe five of his…

Dark Horse Presents 22 (September 1988)

Seriously, a short story? I guess Andrew Murphy provides his own illustrations, but his story is a prose future story about cloning. Not a very logical one either (how do the clones age, for example). I guess it’s not the worst prose story I’ve ever read in a comic, but am I making a compliment? No. Concrete is a thoughtful story of a young village kid in Asia getting ready for Concrete’s walking tour. Chadwick has probably never written a better story. Too bad the illustration is mediocre. He’s barely got any detail to his faces and I can’t remember a single…

Dark Horse Presents 21 (August 1988)

I hate to say it, but Ron Randall’s gotten better. Not as a writer, of course; Trekker has actually gotten to be worse written since Dark Horse Presents started. The story this issue is practically unintelligible. On the other hand, Randall’s inking has gotten a lot better. The art’s still not so great, but the inking… inking’s improved. The Mask finishes up here with Badger killing a CIA agent. His second or fourth. Overall, the series has been sometimes decent, sometimes good–usually the best thing in the issue (this one has a lot of misspellings for some reason). Anyway, it’d probably work…

Dark Horse Presents 20 (August 1988)

This issue is a sixty-four page giant–only most of the extra is filler. They could have gotten away with a lot less pages. The Mr. Monster story is real short (and lame). Gary Davis has a short space alien story showing he’s read some Arthur C. Clarke (it’s long, wordless filler). Rick Geary’s got a nice two page story, which is filler but really excellent filler. Then there’s the start of a Trekker serial. It’s incomprehensible if you haven’t read the Trekker series and probably even if you have. Doug Potter has an excellent story about homelessness. Oh, I missed Bob Burden’s…

Dark Horse Presents 6 (April 1987)

This issue drags. It opens with Trekker‘s story line ending. Hopefully Dark Horse just gave Randall his own series so I don’t have to read any more of it. The story nearly gets okay on the last page, but it’s still got Randall’s awful writing to bring it back down. The art’s real lazy too. Workman’s Roma continues to be a Love and Rockets knock-off, but at least this issue it’s a little more engaging. The strong design sense comes through a lot, creating a nice looking story, but not a particularly good one. I’d like to say Concrete‘s back on track…

Dark Horse Presents 5 (February 1987)

There’s very little to say about this issue’s Concrete story. It’s not a bad story, just another waste of time–though I guess the art is nowhere near as strong as usual. The story’s about this young woman who wants to be an artist and wants Concrete to be her subject. When she meets him, does she overcome her urban withdrawal and talk to him? No. Then there’s John Workman’s Roma. Workman–who’s lettered just about everything at one time or another–initially gives the impression of being a really good artist. Then it becomes clear he’s way too design oriented. As far as the…

Dark Horse Presents 4 (January 1987)

It’s a real toss-up this issue for worst writing. Randall’s script for Trekker is laughably bad, but there’s something almost confrontational about Stradley’s Mindwalk script. It’s like he’s punishing the reader for taking the time to read the story, as though he or she isn’t being punished enough by Emberlin’s artwork. Randall’s Trekker art, on the other hand, isn’t terrible. He’s got some issues with proportions and perspective, but his enthusiasm and persistence are clear. He worked hard illustrating his derivative, atrocious sci-fi story. The rest of the issue is similarly unimpressive. Sure, Chadwick’s Concrete artwork is amazing, but the story is…

Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Annual 4 (November 1984)

Well, I’ve finally found something Bill Mantlo can write–little old ladies. This issue is mostly about Aunt May and her mysterious behavior. Turns out her pre-Ben Parker boyfriend is back and sending her love letters and causing these very distracting walks down memory lane. Of course, New York’s in different shape than it used to be, so Peter and Nathan are freaking out. Spidey follows her, things get resolved. It’s funny how well Mantlo writes May’s stuff, given how he overwrites the rest of the issue (and inexplicably retells Spider-Man’s origin). He doesn’t take any time to make Nathan sympathetic–he seems like…

Aliens 6 (July 1989)

The whole series collapses here, thanks to Verheiden’s absurd sense of self-importance. In six issues, he destroys the planet Earth. Wait, no, he doesn’t. In one issue he destroys the planet Earth. He didn’t really hint at that plan until this issue either. He uses Newt as a narrator again and it’s just as bad as the previous issue. The problem is with the plot. He’s back in summary mode, but he’s just fitting too much into it–and Newt’s not the right narrator of the events he’s showing. It’s a downbeat conclusion (and not a sequel-ready one, which is almost encouraging me…