Hero Squared X-tra Sized Special 1 (January 2005)

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Hero Squared is not high concept. Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis’s approach to it, however, is high concept. The plot’s simple–a Superman (and Captain Marvel) analog ends up in an alternate universe where Earth has no heroes (I think it’s Earth-3, pre-Crisis) and has to deal with his powerless alter ego. Oh, and the hero? He’s just a comic book hero on this Earth.

Except his powerless alter ego is a floundering, feckless twenty-something incapable of adult emotion. And the superhero? His entire universe has just been destroyed and he’s dealing with those events while trying to maintain the hero thing.

It’s excellent stuff. It’s a little awkward, pacing wise, since it’s a one shot, but Giffen and DeMatteis write fantastic dialogue; they establish their characters in two lines. Outstanding writing.

Joe Abraham’s art is mostly quite good, it’s sometimes off a little. But mostly good.

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Jennifer Blood 6 (November 2011)

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Ennis’s time on Jennifer Blood does not end well. Not well at all. He doesn’t just not bring back the diary, like he promised, but he also totally changes the narrative approach.

This issue, for the most part, is a monologue from Jennifer Blood. There’s a little with the neighbor, which ends poorly as well. Ennis’s humor for the issue feels like watered down Preacher, plus watered down Punisher MAX violence.

What’s so inexplicable about Jennifer Blood is Ennis’s lack of interest in the series. He seems to have come up with the idea–the suburban housewife Frank Castle–and then immediately gave up on the series.

Baal isn’t any good on the talking heads stuff, but he could be a lot worse. I never thought I’d be saying it… but the issue’s problem isn’t the weak art, it’s Ennis.

It’s a waste of time for Ennis and the reader.

Jennifer Blood 5 (October 2011)

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Kewber Baal takes over on art. They should have just gone with a different artist each issue. It would have, hopefully, encouraged Ennis to give each issue a specific tone. Instead of what he does now… regurgitating each previous issue with less effort.

This issue gives the reader Jennifer Blood’s backstory, which includes the revelation Jennifer was the mother’s name and Jennifer Blood refers to her parents by their first names. It doesn’t fit. It’s also incredibly confusing because Ennis is all of a sudden expecting the reader to remember the bland character names he’s been using in the series.

Baal’s art is more ambitious than his talent delivers. He draws all his women the same and doesn’t know how to do transitions. Between him and the flashbacks, the issue confounds.

There’s little narration here, which Ennis comments on. Pages late, sure, but at least he woke up to notice.

Jennifer Blood 4 (September 2011)

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Marz takes over Jennifer Blood and the results are disastrous.

He’s incapable of drawing human anatomy (everyone’s way too tall) and it kills anything the issue has going for it. Ennis introduces the Ninjettes this issue; they’re teenage hit girls so already he’s being somewhat derivative of Kick-Ass, which is sad. I don’t want to read derivative Ennis.

He spends a lot of time on them, maybe because Jennifer has so little going on this issue. He’s even cutting back on her first person narration and, with that reduction, Blood becomes more interesting to examine than to read. Maybe Ennis was contracted for an original property to Dynamite. I hope we get more Battlefields out of it.

The ending does come alive, a teensy bit, with the pervert, Nazi-looking neighbor. Had Ennis kept Blood in suburbia, it might have worked better because his revenge plot is dreadfully uninspired.

Jennifer Blood 3 (May 2011)

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If I wanted to give Marcos Marz the benefit of the doubt, I’d say his style is meant to resemble those shampoo advertisements in hair saloons. The eighties looking ones with the sparsely illustrated woman in sunglasses.

But I don’t think he’s going for that effect. I think he’s really just a bad artist and Dynamite lower the page rate even more on Jennifer Blood.

It’s hard to talk about the issue once Marz takes over. Batista’s not a good artist, but he’s not as astoundingly bad as Marz.

The switch coincides with Ennis’s interest waning. He’s reusing old Punisher MAX set pieces, the plot’s getting predictable and the big reveal is sounding a little weak.

If this comic weren’t from Garth Ennis, there’d be no reason to read it. But as an Ennis comic, it’s more just a peculiarity than anything.

I’m not even invested enough to be disappointed.

Jennifer Blood 2 (March 2011)

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Ennis is still being a little coy about Jennifer Blood’s backstory–she’s not really a vigilante, she’s out for revenge against her crime lord uncles. She’s killing one an issue, which means things either need to complicate soon or it’s going to get boring.

It seems, from this issue, the complication might come from Jennifer’s new neighbors. The husband’s going to be an alpha male psychopath or something. The issue’s worst moment is when Ennis expects the reader to believe Jennifer’s husband would actually ask the Nazi-looking dude if he’s a bird-watcher.

I was expecting Jennifer Blood to get repetitive, but not on the second issue.

Ennis also runs into some more troubles with the diary-based first person narration. Is he really expecting the reader to believe Jennifer goes through it to remember to do items?

And Batista’s art seems to be getting worse. The issue’s art problems are immediately obvious.

Jennifer Blood 1 (February 2011)

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Is Garth Ennis trying to make some Hollywood money? Jennifer Blood seems perfect for a movie or, better yet, an FX series. A suburban super-mom is secretly The Punisher. “Weeds” with guns instead of pot.

Ennis has written strong female characters in the past–sometimes exaggerating them to ludicrous extremes–but I think Blood is his first modern female protagonist. He had at least one in Battlefields. He goes out of his way to make Jennifer very normal, but it ends up getting him into trouble.

He does first person through her diary and doesn’t go far enough. The issue ends with her husband getting randy in the middle of the night and Ennis doesn’t give any insight into her boredom. Or maybe Adriano Batista’s art just fails.

Batista’s not ready for prime time in general.

The comic’s interesting, but only because it’s Ennis. On its own, it’s not.

Prophet 21 (January 2012)

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Prophet is crazy even before the titular protagonist has sex (consensual sex) with the hideous alien. She also confirms Prophet is eating a human drumstick, adding genial cannibalism to the list of the issue’s crazy.

Like most people who aren’t completely insane, I never read Rob Liefeld’s original Prophet series and have no idea how this new one fits into continuity. Writer Brandon Graham seems to be starting from scratch. Prophet wakes up; he’d been in a time capsule, buried in the Earth. He’s got the save the planet, of course, from the alien invaders who seem to have reduced the humanoids to cattle. Hence his drumstick.

Graham’s script and Simon Roy’s art turn Prophet into a true indie book, not just in the disgusting details, but also in the visual storytelling. Roy simply creates some lush landscapes.

Prophet is icky and amazing. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

B+ 

CREDITS

Prophet; writer, Brandon Graham; artist, Simon Roy; colorist, Richard Ballermann; letterer, Ed Brisson; publisher, Image Comics.

Adventure Time 1 (February 2012)

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It’s impossible to explain Adventure Time‘s joyous insanity. The comic’s licensed–presumably the cartoon also owes a lot to “SpongeBob SquarePants” in terms of the lunacy–but the issue never feels derivative. It’s just nutty fun.

It opens with an introduction to the characters, which isn’t particularly important (yet), and moves quickly into the first bit of craziness. Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb’s art is full of little details, complimented with writer Ryan North’s occasional footnotes talking to the reader about the page’s events.

The two protagonists are purposefully infantile, but good natured and enthusiastic–it’s impossible not to enjoy their bantering. Some of North’s footnotes about them reveal Time‘s actual audience is not kids (though it’s from Boom!’s kid label, Kaboom!) because kids wouldn’t care about his jokes.

My only complaint is it’s too short.

Then Aaron Renier has a great, if completely gross, back-up story.

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