The Maze Agency 22 (July 1991)

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Young Jason Pearson handles the pencils. He tries very hard to compose interesting panels, which he usually does, though often a few details get forgotten. He can’t draw hats, for example.

The mystery concerns a role-playing game company; Barr is trying really hard to make the book seem accessible. He also tones down the annoying romance between the leads. They’re still together, engaged even, but Barr plays them off other characters to great success.

The mystery itself gets fairly confusing; Barr takes a long time to introduce all the suspects and their motives. It’s kind of a messy way to set up the comic–I think it’s the first time he’s ever not had the suspects sorted out–but the issue definitely has a romantic comedy appeal. Barr’s finally got some idea how to use Gabe and Jennifer as a couple.

Mostly by removing focus from Gabe.

Whatever works.

CREDITS

Magic & Monsters–and Murder; writer, Mike W. Barr; penciller, Jason Pearson; inker, Mike Witherby; colorist, Michelle Basil; letterer, Vickie Williams; editor, David Campiti; publisher, Innovation.

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Harbinger 14 (July 2013)

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Dysart has an interesting solution for returning the title to its characters. He manages to do it rather cleanly too, extricating it from the Harbinger Wars crossover. Dysart also wrote that crossover and, while this issue isn’t exactly hostile to being a crossover issue, it definitely returns the focus to what the series is about.

It’s about the characters in this book–specifically about Faith and how her attitude binds the team together. Dysart takes his time revealing his structure; it reads like the expected crossover issue, then all of a sudden a narrator with personality shows up. Faith. In some ways, she’s actually the easiest character just because the others aren’t as developed or real–but Dysart always does amazing work with her. Just amazing. He sells it sentiment with her.

Sadly, the Evans and Hairsine art gets occasionally lazy. Especially when they’re drawing faces.

Otherwise, a fine issue.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Dysart; artists, Khari Evans and Trevor Hairsine; colorist, Ian Hannin; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Josh Johns and Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.

Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker 6 (December 2011)

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Ennis ends the series, his summing up of Butcher, with a quote from Unforgiven. He also includes a reference to himself in the comic, apparently when he was trying to get work at the superhero companies back in the eighties.

Anyway, ending on a quote from Unforgiven just shows how little Ennis cares about this comic. I knew he didn’t care when he totally skipped over a Boys version of Spider-Man, which would have been awesome… at least if Ennis had been doing it towards the beginning of the run, before he’d lost interest.

What’s so amazing about the quote–I had other complaints, but it really overshadows them–is how it forces a comparison between the work Ennis has done and the work the movie’s done. And Ennis hasn’t done any work.

It’s easily the lamest thing I’ve ever seen him do. It’s stunningly incompetent, desperate and unprofessional.

CREDITS

Everyone of You Sons of Bitches; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Darick Robertson; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Sex Criminals 2 (October 2013)

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Yawn. Why yawn? Because Fraction doesn’t have a story. He’s still explaining the Force. Sorry, the Quiet. In Sex Criminals, it’s the Quiet. It’s where our too cool leads go when they orgasm and then they do all sorts of stuff. Like rob banks or hangout at adult bookstores.

Fraction goes on and on with the guy’s life story and only gets up to him being like fifteen. None of it’s particularly interesting, but it’s all supposed to be very funny. And it might have been funny back in 1993 before Clerks, certainly before Superbad.

There’s also the situation with the female protagonist. She’s always making these little asides to the reader, but without forcing her personality on everyone, Fraction doesn’t realize she’s boring.

He’s got a concept, a cast and absolutely nowhere to go with it. Worse, the issue reads way too fast since he’s trying to hide stuff.

CREDITS

Come, World; writer, Matt Fraction; artist, Chip Zdarsky; colorists, Christopher Sebela and Zdarsky; editor, Thomas K.; publisher, Image Comics.

Detective Comics 800 (January 2005)

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Gabrych writes and writes and writes and writes. His Batman narration goes on forever, hitting the same beats again and again. Batman’s alone–everyone left him, the cops hate him, it’s just like when he started out, only he’s older. On and on it goes. Gabrych got the job of summarizing all the “War Games” fallout. It’s a thankless task.

There’s a regular story too. Heroin has hit the streets again and Batman has to investigate. The investigation proves confusing because Gotham’s crime world has restructured, setting up Black Mask as the big villain. Gabrych sort of tells the issue in vignettes, but not enough. Batman keeps losing his train of thought.

The ending’s a little too weak, too forced. Gabrych tries to make Batman make sense and he can’t.

The backup is a depressing bit from David Lapham. It’s mean and nasty and rather well-done, if entirely unpleasant.

CREDITS

Alone At Night; writer, Andersen Gabrych; penciller, Pete Woods; inkers, Cam Smith and Drew Geraci. In the Dark; writer and artist, David Lapham. Colorist, Jason Wright; letterer, Phil Balsman; editors, Michael Wright and Bob Schreck; publisher, DC Comics.

Harbinger Wars 4 (July 2013)

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Dysart brings Harbinger Wars into the station and it’s entirely unclear why they bothered with the trip at all. Besides–apparently–cutting down on cast members, the crossover event did very little. Dysart doesn’t even seem to pretend it did anything. He leaves a lot unresolved so readers have to keep going with the main series (the point of a crossover book after all); it means there’s nothing to do the story itself. Dysart can’t fake it and make Wars seem worth it.

There’s some decent art; it’s a whole lot of action. There’s not even time for character moments, especially since Dysart only gives his regular Harbinger cast the slightest attention. Even the idiotic H.A.R.D Corps guys get more attention and they’re indistinguishable, despite codenames and different physical characteristics.

Dysart tries hard to keep the battlefronts clear, but it still doesn’t work.

I’m just glad the series’s finally over.

CREDITS

The Battle for Las Vegas; writers, Duane Swierczynski and Joshua Dysart; artists, Clayton Henry, Pere Perez and Mico Suayan; colorist, Brian Reber; letterer, Dave Lanphear; editors, Josh Johns Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.

Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker 5 (November 2011)

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Mallory shows up–the first time Robertson has drawn him–and the series becomes about what I expected in the second half. Sadly the first half mostly consists of Butcher reading his wife’s diary where she talks about the Homelander attacking her.

The diary goes on and on for pages. Not sure why Ennis thinks anyone would believe Mrs. Butcher had no idea what Butcher saw in her, which is how he ends the diary reading. It’s like he had the diary as one thing and then the character in two issues of the comic as someone else entirely. It’s weak writing.

The finish, with Butcher on his first mission for Mallory, is pretty good stuff. It’s Robertson doing something more akin to regular Boys, which is nice. Candlestickmaker hadn’t been giving him exercise lately. This issue lets him shine.

Still, it’s unclear why Ennis needed more than two issues.

CREDITS

Here Comes a Candle to Light You to Bed; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Darick Robertson; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Tom Strong and the Planet of Peril 4 (December 2013)

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This issue doesn’t really have enough content to be a full issue, except Hogan has decided he wants to do a couple serious things and they’re going to be worth the cover price.

And they are worth that cover price.

Without spoiling, the first thing has to do with Tom Strong, the character. Hogan makes a quiet, direct statement about what makes this comic different. He sort of drops Tom and Val into the middle of The Road Warrior and finds a different result. Why? Because with Tom Strong, anything is possible.

The second thing has to do with heroism and aging. It also relates back to Tom, who both ages and performs acts of heroism, but they’re ingrained into the character, not often discussed. Hogan figures out a way to talk about them a little.

Hogan is enthralled with writing the character, which really does set the comic apart.

A 

CREDITS

The Cavalier’s Attitude; writer, Peter Hogan; penciller, Chris Sprouse; inker, Karl Story; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Jessica Chen, Kristy Quinn, Ben Abernathy and Shelly Bond; publisher, Vertigo.

Detective Comics 799 (December 2004)

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Besides a vaguely amusing Jesus Christ Superstar reference in this issue, there’s not much else to it. Things continue to go wrong with Batman’s plans for the “War Games” crossover, the sidekicks continue to have panel or two cameos to remind readers to pick up their solo books and Leslie has a scene. Oh, and the new commissioner is stick of Batman.

In other words, the status quo for the crossover.

Batman’s plan this issue involves putting every Gotham supervillain in the same place at once. Did the Batman editors watch The Warriors before they decided to subject the world to this crossover? How Batman didn’t anticipate something going wrong… I mean, Killer Croc is there. It’s an absurd scene.

Gabrych can’t sell it. Woods and inker Cam Smith do okay though.

The Riddler backup finishes. Castillo’s art is a little better, but it’s still a terrible story. Just terrible.

CREDITS

War Games, Act 3, Part 1: Good Intentions; writer, Andersen Gabrych; penciller, Pete Woods; inker, Cam Smith; colorist, Jason Wright; letterer, Jared Fletcher; editors, Michael Wright and Bob Schreck. Low, Part 3; writer, Shane McCarthy; penciller, Tommy Castillo; inker, Rodney Ramos; colorist, Tony Avina; letterer, Nick Napolitano; editor, Wright. Publisher, DC Comics.

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