Bloodshot 13 (July 2013)

Swierczynski takes a peculiar approach to dealing with Bloodshot’s side of the final Harbinger Wars issue. He makes it as lame as humanly possible. It’s actually not even Bloodshot’s issue, it’s his sidekick Kara’s issue and his sidekick Kara hasn’t had much presence during the crossover event. She’s his voice of reason, not much else. Babysitter for the kids too. Speaking of the kids, after spending a couple issues establishing them, Swierczynski dumps them to instead focus on really bad dream sequences. They’re an afterthought to the issue. Valiant must have really wanted to do a crossover special, but by not doing…

Bloodshot 12 (June 2013)

I’ve only read a few issues of Bloodshot but it seems like a big part of what Swierczynski does is have contrived scenes with Bloodshot and the men who wrong him in the past. It’ll seem like Bloodshot is finished, his nanites unable to repair him, but then he’ll magically come through thanks to the perseverance of the human spirit. Especially against the very evil bad guys. It’s really boring, especially since Swierczynski never comes up with good places for these action sequences. This issue’s takes place in a mechanized slaughterhouse. Feels a little like the end of the first Terminator movie,…

Bloodshot 11 (May 2013)

I like the way Valiant–or Swierczynski in this case–is handling the Harbinger Wars crossover. He’s using this issue of Bloodshot to flush out the relevant scenes in the main book; it’s expensive if a reader buys all the issues, but it also means it doesn’t have to be expensive. Each piece of the puzzle isn’t integral to getting a story. As for the story here? There’s not a lot. It’s an all-action issue, though Bloodshot is also arguing with the evil little boy who lives in his head and tells him what to do. The art from Kitson and Gaudiano is so…

Harbinger 12 (May 2013)

Could this issue have uglier art? Maybe Evans and Hairsine split responsibilities? One was responsible for the heads, one for the bodies and poor Stefano Gaudiano got saddled with the task of trying to make everything seem seamless? He didn’t. It’s ugly, ugly, ugly art. Especially since they make the colorist do the perspective in some panels. Very unfortunate. Otherwise, it’s a decent issue. Dysart sends the regular Harbinger cast–calling themselves the Renegades now–in to meet the psiots holding the hostages in Las Vegas. There’s a nice sequence where all the regular cast meet someone knew; it’s like play dates for the…

Bloodshot 10 (April 2013)

Stefano Gaudiano is a great inker, though not really one I think of for action comics. Barry Kitson is a great action penciller, but not one I think of for a lot follow through. Together… together they make a very nice pair, especially since this comic takes place entirely at night so everything’s very dark. Writer Duane Swierczynski figures out one way to make an all action issue take a while to read. Lots and lots of characters–talkative little kids, an annoying female sidekick–even though Bloodshot does talk quite a bit, he mostly just has to react. Swierczynski only has one big…

Harbinger 11 (April 2013)

Dysart sort of splits the issue between the kids and Harada. I say kids but I guess they’re all eighteen plus, right? Peter and the gang. Only the Harada stuff is mostly set in the past, with Dysart fleshing out the P.R.S. history with him. In the present, Peter and company are still recovering from their misadventure in Georgia. He then discovers his Harbinger War related destiny of saving the kids, which kicks off a lot of debate in the group. Dysart does something very interesting this issue with Torque–he’s not a particularly good guy and it remains to be seen if…

Harbinger 10 (March 2013)

Now here’s a great issue. Dysart manages to turn the all-action issue into something with some content, probably because he’s got enough characters doing different things it can be a rewarding reading experience. He opens with narration from Peter, but splits the issue between him and Faith. They have to do a rescue mission, only Faith’s the one who’s got to do the superhero stuff. The way Dysart splits the responsibility between them is part of the issue’s brilliance. His plotting here is exceptional. It’s so good, the issue can even withstand the awkward finish. Dysart tries hard to reestablish Peter as…

Winter Soldier 9 (October 2012)

I can’t believe I forgot about the Brubaker fake arc. It’s when he identifies something as an arc, but it leads directly into the next issue, which starts another arc. He usually uses a hard cliffhanger (and does so here too). It’s always vaguely frustrating because Brubaker uses the expectations to fool the reader. It’s mostly a Marvel phenomenon for him and it’s always a little hostile. With an extremely fast-paced issue–like this one–it leaves one wondering why bother reading it at all. The recap in the next issue will have all the pertinent information, since Brubaker doesn’t have a single character…

Winter Soldier 8 (September 2012)

Once again, I’ve got to question Brubaker’s approach. He splits this issue of Winter Soldier between Bucky and the bad guy. The bad guy has kidnapped Natasha and he’s going to brainwash her. It’s unclear why he hates Bucky so much–Brubaker plays fast and loose with that logic a lot. He tries to “realistically” update seventies Marvel comics, but he doesn’t take into account the character motivations. Except when Bucky’s fellow SHIELD agent wonders why Bucky would be dating Black Widow in the first place. Bucky and SHIELD are trying to find Natasha, which provides some fight scenes. Nothing too fantastic, just…

Winter Soldier 7 (August 2012)

Brubaker uses Bucky as narrator here, but mostly Bucky just waxes on about Natasha. It’s filler. I wanted to make a joke about it seeming almost as romantic as Jeph Loeb’s Superman/Batman narration but it’s insincere. Brubaker has no reason to try to convince the reader of Natasha’s skills as a super-spy. He’s just filling some exposition boxes. Otherwise, the issue’s great. It’s Michael Lark drawing a superhero spy book. There are no super powers, so the threats are all a lot more grounded. Lark maintains the realistic mood while still doing the absurd action too. It makes Winter Soldier even more…

Winter Soldier 6 (August 2012)

As usual, Ed Brubaker excels when not telling a story about his lead character. In this issue, instead of focusing on Bucky, Brubaker follows around one of his former proteges. The protege has a nice backstory and then an interesting side story to Bucky’s. Brubaker plays with the timeline to get a good ending and it works. It’s such a strong story for the Russian agent, it doesn’t matter Bucky and Natasha barely have a presence this issue. They talk a little bit and they do some investigating from the SHIELD (or whatever organization they’re with) control room. Brubaker’s running into a…

Winter Soldier 5 (July 2012)

Tom Palmer is a very strange inker for Guice. Gaudiano shows up for a bit, at the beginning and end most noticeably, but Palmer handles the big action scene. It’s Bucky, Natasha and Doctor Doom versus the Super-Apes and some other bad guys. With the Palmer inks, it looks like something out of a seventies Marvel comic. It’s glorious action in the Marvel style. This issue makes up for the lackadaisical pacing in the last few and it’s not even Brubaker’s fault. It’s all Tom Palmer. Even more, when he does the quiet scenes, he brings age and gravity to Bucky. I…

Winter Soldier 4 (June 2012)

Wait a second… at no time during Marvel’s attempts to “toughen up” the line did anyone ever stop to consider Doctor Doom having nuclear weapons is a lot more dangerous than the Hulk? Sorry, I just gave away Brubaker’s big reveal for the issue. Sadly, it’s a lame one. Otherwise, the issue’s okay. The pacing is still bad. Bucky and Doctor Doom head to beat up a Doombot, which leads to some excellent art from Guice and Gaudiano. They’re an interesting pair for Doctor Doom and he looks great. The mass destruction chase scene at the U.N. is good too. It’s just…

Winter Soldier 3 (May 2012)

So, if the good guys are going to figure out the identity of the bad guy–bad girl, actually–before the issue starts, why bother making it a mystery? In addition to that silly plotting, this issue is the first where Brubaker’s pacing is too hurried. There’s a mission briefing, there’s the mission, then there’s the surprise ending. Except it’s not a particularly good surprise. Maybe in the Marvel Universe, there just aren’t any good surprises. I mean, it’s good comics and it’s fun and Brubaker writes Doctor Doom really well, but the end isn’t a surprise. I guess there’s some more filler–the bad…

Dark Horse Presents 138 (December 1998)

Wow, the first Terminator story in Presents. I thought they’d gone through all the licenses, but no. It’s not terrible. Grant’s writing is adequate and Teran’s art has an energy to it. He’s a little confusing in action scenes (Grant’s plotting hurts there too) but he’s got some great designs. Martin and Rude’s The Moth is just a lot of fun. It borrows some Batman elements and I think Rude does an homage to Spider-Man in one panel. The Moth’s a superhero (maybe) posing as a supervillain and playing mobsters against each other. Rude’s art would make anything good, but Martin’s writing…

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 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 113 (September 1996)

I was trying to remember where I knew Leialoha from… he inks now. He pencils and inks Trypto, which has a superhero dog splash page and then a rather traditional story. It’s about a stolen dog being forced to dogfight. Mumy and Ferrer’s script is fine and Leialoha has some imaginative composition, but his art doesn’t carry it. Seagle and Gaudiano’s My Vagabond Days is set in the late sixties; it concerns a disrespectful young kid learning those soldiers in Vietnam are over there dying for his freedom. Seagle’s writing is, politics aside, lame. Worse, Gaudiano doesn’t work very hard on the…

Dark Horse Presents 98 (June 1995)

I’m tempted to mention Cooper’s one page strip first because it’s a page and I don’t really have anything to say about it. Oops, there I went and did. Brubaker and Gaudiano finish up Here and Now. It’s got a bit of a surprise ending, which makes perfect sense, but for whatever reason (probably a combination of Gaudiano’s realistic illustrating and Brubaker’s occasional summary storytelling), it works perfectly. The story really deserves to be collected (though the private detective angle detracts in some ways). Rennie and Langridge’s Kabuki Kid features a story about Japanese products and their dismissal of the human worker.…

Dark Horse Presents 97 (May 1995)

I wonder what Rennie’s Kabuki Kid scripts look like. This installment has a setup, introduces some villains, then it just goes wild. Langridge has the Kabuki Kid and his sidekick fighting an army of adversaries (though it does get weeded through fast). It’s funny and fast, even better than the first installment. Schutz and Pander have three pages of filler set at a jazz club. Pander’s art’s good, but the entry’s pointless. Unless maybe it was a real place. Then Brubaker and Gaudiano continue their dysfunctional private investigator in Here and Now. It’s an exceptionally depressing piece. I also wonder if it…

Dark Horse Presents 96 (April 1995)

I’m not sure if Presents has ever had such a good issue. They may have… but this one’s rather excellent. Brubaker and Gaudiano’s Here and Now is a detective story, but one with an introspective, lost in his thoughts not his cases detective. Gaudiano’s artwork is fantastic–it’s basically a guy walking around most of the story, but he makes it compelling. Brubaker’s writing narration for the first half, then introduces a bunch of plot. It’s great. Rennie and Langridge’s Kabuki Kid is a strange sort of samurai comedy. I’m hesitant to say samurai because Rennie throws in some Chinese stereotypes too (but…

Immortal Weapons 2 (October 2009)

What a stinker. The whole thing plays like a bad Marvel horror comic from the seventies, with a team of mercenaries (they have matching outfits, of course) out to retrieve a spider. It’s not any spider, it’s one of the Bride of Nine Spiders’s spiders. There’s a bit of a continuity break, showing the Bride to always be beautiful, when in Immortal Iron Fist flashbacks she wasn’t shown as such. So, it’s an action horror comic instead of a kung fu horror comic. Bunn’s writing is occasionally okay—his dialogue is fine—but he’s establishing all these characters in a single issue. The Bride…

Immortal Weapons 1 (September 2009)

Could this story be more depressing? Aaron does a decent job on Fat Cobra’s backstory—though he doesn’t go enough into defining Fat Cobra’s Heavenly City. He buys his way back into it at one point and buying one’s way back into a Heavenly City seems a little common. Then there’s all the retconning of Fat Cobra into Marvel Comics history. He was almost an Invader, he was Ulysses Bloodstone’s sidekick and so on and so forth. Aaron’s trying to hard to be cute. When we get to the end of the story and find out the salient feature of Fat Cobra’s (forgotten)…

Dark Horse Presents 51 (June 1991)

I’m having trouble figuring out the big deal with Sin City. I mean, it looks cool and all, but isn’t Marv on the run from the cops a lot like that issue of “Batman: Year One” with the Batman running from the cops. The narration’s overbearing and all… but it’s fine as a stupid diversion. It’s relentlessly unrealistic. Unfortunately, Harlequin wraps up this issue. Gaudiano tries out three different styles, all to great success. He introduces more design to his work here and it’s very successful. Csutoras comes up with a great close for the story (it seems to be paced more…

Dark Horse Presents 50 (April 1991)

Heartbreakers is a little better this issue. Bennett and Guinan still don’t have a good sense of what makes a story interesting. This one implies it had potential to be interesting on the second to last page. Hughes and Story do a few pages, riffing on the idea of pin-up pages. The writing’s far from perfect, but it’s Hughes doing regular comics. It’s technically outstanding, though some of the jokes require a lot of close attention. Csutoras and Gaudiano continue Harlequin. Some of this installment features Gaudiano’s best art so far. The story continues to be somewhat indescribable and very odd. I…

Dark Horse Presents 49 (March 1991)

Geier’s art on the Homicide installment is pretty weak, but Arcudi actually comes up with an interesting case. It is, of course, unfortunate then Arcudi relies on the art for the final panel. I had to read the page three times, staring at it, before I noticed the big reveal. It’s also too bad about Arcudi’s lame dialogue. Edginton writes a regular Downtown here. The holiday special was a lot better. It turns out the protagonist is a zombie private detective and he has all sorts of wacky adventures. The Pugh art is excellent at times, only good at others… but it…

Dark Horse Presents 48 (February 1991)

Between Gaudiano and Pugh, this issue is just an art feast. Csutoras’s writing on the Gaudiano story, Harlequin, is decent, concerning a European living in the States, his loony acquaintances and some intrigue. Gaudiano makes the protagonist’s monologues atmospheric and the regular action somewhat continental in feel. The narrative is intentionally confusing, which may get annoying. But for now, it’s a very solid entry. Pugh and Edginton do Downtown, which is seemingly a British reprint. It’s hard to gauge as a series, since it’s not the first installment. It’s deals a little with the fourth wall and is very funny. They open…

The Immortal Iron Fist 14 (June 2008)

This issue basically brings Brubaker and Fraction’s story to its finish (Brubaker leaves after this one, Fraction hangs around for a little coda then is off). It’s an outstanding issue, both fantastic on its own and as a conclusion to the story arc. Brubaker and Fraction have more pages here and the issue shows they probably should have had this kind of room the entire time. Aja is gone at this point, so it’s up to Kano and Zonjic (I didn’t even notice Mann’s pages) and they do a great job. As Wendell Rand’s story comes to an end quietly with him…

The Immortal Iron Fist: Orson Randall and the Green Mist of Death 1 (April 2008)

Fraction takes on the writing chores here solo but since it’s an Orson Randall story set in the thirties and forties, it’s kind of hard to tell what not having Brubaker around does to it. The majority of the story feels like it takes place in Germany, when Orson shows up at Frankenstein’s castle. I haven’t seen Marvel use the Monster of Frankenstein in a while; Fraction does a great job with the cameo. The art on that section is from LaRosa and Gaudiano and is the best in the issue. The art’s all pretty good, except Breitweiser. Even he gets a…