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 compelling. It’s especially distressing how little Alec cares about his neighbors.
Broderick has a lot of little art problems–very small heads on big people and so on.
The backup–with Mike Hoffman art–is fine. It’s just page filler, but Hoffman’s art is good.
Threads; writer, Stephen R. Bissette; penciller, Pat Broderick; inkers, Ron Randall and Eduardo Barreto. Traiteur; writer, Bissette; artist, Mike Hoffman. Colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Bob Pinaha; editor, Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.
I can’t tell for sure, but it doesn’t seem like Doug Moench’s thrilled to have Batman saddled with Jason Todd. He writes the kid sympathetically–this issue is set approximately a month after his parents died–but Moench can’t wait to leave him behind at Wayne Manor.
Batman heads off on an urgent case and Jason doesn’t make another appearance.
The issue has a great pace. It opens with a teaser of the villain, moves to the next morning, then the rest of the issue takes place over the day. There’s a lot of Batman in the daylight (so much there’s exposition about how effective he comes off) before Moench tightens up the pace.
The villain’s fairly weak and the C plot with Gordon’s heart troubles is too obvious, but it’s pretty otherwise good. Don Newton comes up with some excellent action layouts and he matches Moench’s procedural pace well.
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 could almost forget the issue is part of a longer, more traditionally minded narrative.
It’s also the first Swamp Thing-centric issue in a while and Moore juggles the character through tender relationship scenes, which are almost human, to the inhuman Parliament scenes.
It’s masterful work.
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.
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 tuber.
There are a bunch of visual references to the original Swamp Thing series, but it’s from fill-in artists Woch and Randall… which tempers my enthusiasm somewhat. They do some excellent work, but cameos from the first series deserve Bissette and Totleben.
It’s another great issue.
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 and good humor. He ends it on a joke. Moore’s often his most startling when he’s doing light comedy. It’s nice.
Ron Randall does the Abby bookend art. It’s the best work I’ve seen from him.
But he’s nowhere near Wrightson.
And Wein’s nowhere near Moore.
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 same negative take on the team when he was writing them originally.
All in all, it’s a good issue.
The Ron Randall art isn’t great, but Randall knows how to tell a story.
It’s fine, though way too unnecessarily negative about itself. Conway should have some pride.
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 that fact? Regardless, it’s still a waste of good art.
Randall and Verheiden finally finish The Ark here. It’s yet another double-sized installment and, wow, Verheiden’s writing is really awful here. Randall still manages to turn in some decent work (except on the aliens, they’re boring).
Predator, Demon’s Gold; story by Ron Marz; art by Claudio Castellini; lettering by Gary Kato. My Vagabond Days; story by Steven T. Seagle; art by Stefano Gaudiano; lettering by Charity Rodriguez. The Ark, Part Four; story by Mark Verheiden; art by Ron Randall; lettering by Kato. Edited by Randy Stradley and Terry Waldron.
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 to do Trekker–is a fine artist at this point, sort of an almost Paul Gulacy.
As for Smith and Cariello’s Tres Diablos? I tried having an open mind and Cariello’s artwork’s quite good, but Smith is an awful writer.
This issue stinks.
The Ark, Part Three; story by Mark Verheiden; art by Ron Randall; lettering by Gary Kato. Tres Diablos, Spirit of the Badlander; story by Beau Smith; art and lettering by Sergio Cariello. Edited by Randy Stradley, Ben Abernathy and Terry Waldron.
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 The Mark, but he’s not particularly good. He’s not bad, he’s just mundane. Barr tells the whole thing in flashback, which seems like a bad choice, especially for readers unfamiliar with the character.
Verheiden goes on, again, forever with The Ark. At least Randall has some good panels.
Carson of Venus, Part Three; story by Darko Macan; art by Peter Doherty; lettering by Ellie DeVille. The Mark, Bedtime Story; story by Mike W. Barr; pencils by Ivan Reis; inks by Rick Ketcham; lettering by Gary Kato; edited by Ben Abernathy. The Fall, Part Five; story by Ed Brubaker; art by Jason Lutes. The Ark, Part Two; story by Mark Verheiden; art by Ron Randall; lettering by Gary Kato. Edited by Randy Stradley, Jamie S. Rich, Abernathy and Terry Waldron.
Posted in Ark, Carson of Venus, Dark Horse, Fall, Mark
Tagged Darko Macan, Ed Brubaker, Ivan Reis, Jason Lutes, Mark Verheiden, Mike W. Barr, Peter Doherty, Rick Ketcham, Ron Randall
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 is a long setup with aliens as pay-off. Verheiden’s got some okay writing and Randall’s art isn’t bad.
Guadiano’s art is the primary selling point on he and Seagle’s My Vagabond Days. It’s not terrible though.
Burke and Bolton’s Infirmary is confounding, but Boltan’s art is gorgeous.
Hellboy, The Right Hand of Doom; story and art by Mike Mignola; lettering by Pat Brosseau. Phineas Page, The Bookshelf Phantom; story and art by Steven Weissman. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, MacGuffins; story by Jen Van Meter; pencils by Luke Ross; inks by Rick Ketcham; lettering by Steve Dutro. Skeleton Key, Witch; story and art by Andi Watson. The Ark, Part One; story by Mark Verheiden; art by Ron Randall; lettering by Sean Konot. My Vagabond Days; story by Steven T. Seagle; pencils by Stefano Gaudiano; inks by Pia Guerra; lettering by Charity Rodriguez. Infirmary; story by Matthew Burke; art by John Bolton; lettering by Ellie De Ville. Edited by Randy Stradley, Jamie S Rich and Ben Abernathy.
Posted in Ark, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dark Horse, Hellboy, Infirmary, My Vagabond Days, Phineas Page, Skeleton Key
Tagged Andi Watson, Jen Van Meter, John Bolton, Luke Ross, Mark Verheiden, Matthew Burke, Mike Mignola, Pia Guerra, Rick Ketchum, Ron Randall, Stefano Gaudiano, Steve Weissman, Steven T. Seagle
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 influenced, but in an interesting, thoughtful way, not the obvious. So it’s all right to look at, it’s just really stupid and pointless. Just rent Jason and the Argonauts or Clash of the Titans.
Sheldon’s “story” is art plates with some text. Art’s good, text’s pointless.
The Argosy; story and art by Bruce Zick; lettering by Pat Brosseau. Trekker; story and art by Ron Randall; lettering by David Jackson. Same Story Told Yesterday; story and art by Monty Sheldon. Edited by Randy Stradley.
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. It’s a waste of time.
Randall continues his good art on this Trekker installment. Still bad writing–some really silly developments here.
The Wacky Squirrel story’s a waste of pages, but I guess Bradrick’s art is good.
Campbell’s Bacchus features the (presumably true) store of Dom Pérignon. Fantastic.
Trekker; story and art by Ron Randall; lettering by David Jackson. The Aerialist, Part One; story and art by Matt Wagner; lettering by Kevin Cunningham. Bob the Alien, Bob, the alien, Learns About God; story, art and lettering by Rich Rice. The Argosy; story and art by Bruce Zick; lettering by Karen Casey-Smith. Wacky Squirrel, Diet Riot; story by Mike Richardson and Jim Bradrick; art by Bradrick; lettering by Jack Pollock. Bacchus, Gods, Monks, & Corkscrews; story and art by Eddie Campbell. Edited by Randy Stradley and Diana Schutz.
Posted in Aerialist, Argosy, Bacchus, Bob the Alien, Dark Horse, Trekker, Wacky Squirrel
Tagged Bruce Zick, Eddie Campbell, Jim Bradrick, Matt Wagner, Mike Richardson, Rich Rice, Ron Randall
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 eight pages rambling, trying to find a point to the story. He fails, there isn’t one.
Bob the Alien is, as usual, a delight. I don’t think I’ve mentioned how important “regular” people are to Bob‘s success. Rice has significant insight into the human condition. It’s just wonderful.
Trekker; story and art by Ron Randall; lettering by Steve Haynie. Bob the Alien, Bob, the alien, Schemes; story, art and lettering by Rich Rice. Delia & Celia, Drelin’s Wager; story, art and lettering by Gary Davis. Edited by Randy Stradley.