The Man-Thing 4 (April 1974)

The Man-Thing #4

Abel inks Mayerik even better this issue; occasionally there’s an almost Eisner-like roundness to the figures and the faces. The hair too–the hair’s not Eisner-like, but there’s often a lot of phenomenal hair.

Gerber continues with the Foolkiller, recounting his origin. It’s a tad much, actually. There’s some anti-religion, anti-military propaganda in Gerber’s story for the character and it’s not effective. It might have been a big deal at the time, but it’s really just a shortcut to not having to do much character work.

The art and the rest of the comic smooth out those bumps. The outlandish humor aspect–down to the Foolkiller having a van and car setup from “Knight Rider” (but before the television show; wonder if Marvel got a check for it)–and the way Gerber doesn’t try to do anything with Man-Thing except as the lumbering deus ex machina… it all works out.

Works out well.

B 

CREDITS

The Making of a Madman!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Jack Abel; colorist, Linda Lessmann; letterer, Dave Hunt; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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Stray Bullets: Killers 4 (June 2014)

Stray Bullets: Killers #4

It's all connected! It's all connected! And why shouldn't Virginia Applejack fall for the kid from the first issue of Killers once he's grown up? It makes everything so neat and tidy, even if Lapham does skip over the actual romance because it'd be too hard to establish it. And even if Lapham does turn the guy's mom into a shrill knock-off of Virginia's evil mom.

There's still a lot of good stuff in the comic, maybe even some great stuff; the connections almost seem added later. Lapham really tries hard to make Killers, save Virginia, its own interconnected thing.

Why?

Because he still hasn't realized interconnected stories don't necessarily make something good.

It's a fine issue, but more of what I expected from Killers than Lapham has been doing. Until now, the nostalgia has been subtle. Here, it's forced. It's still above average until the desperate third act.

B 

CREDITS

Sorry; writer, artist and letterer, David Lapham; editors, Renee Miller and Maria Lapham; publisher, Image Comics.

The Flash 296 (April 1981)

The Flash #296

What’s strange about the feature is how much better Bates writes Elongated Man and Sue Dibney than he does Barry and the Flash. There’s a lot of charm to his characterizations of the Dibneys and it breathes a lot of life into the story.

Of course, the story also has Carmine Infantino artwork and every page has one or two phenomenal panels; Infantino is able to turn anything the Flash does into a moment of comic gold, whether it’s a fight scene or just a costume change. It’s not just how much movement Infantino implies, it’s how he composes each panel to have a narrative flow to it.

It also doesn’t hurt the story’s a genuine surprise with a great reveal.

The Firestorm backup has Conway trying too hard to make the protagonist likable, but some ambitious artwork from Starlin. Rather unfortunately, the detail doesn’t live up to the composition.

B 

CREDITS

The Man Who Was Cursed to the Bone!; writer, Cary Bates; penciller, Carmine Infantino; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Gene D’Angelo. Firestorm, Rain, Rain, Go Away… Come to Kill Us Another Day!; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Jim Starlin; inker, Bob Wiacek; colorist, Jerry Serpe. Letterer, John Costanza; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

C.O.W.L. 2 (June 2014)

C.O.W.L. #2

This issue of C.O.W.L. doesn’t so much have scenes as it has snippets of scenes. The whole thing plays like a movie trailer for itself.

Higgins and Siegel open with the two plainclothes guys dropping on of them’s kids off for school. The kid gives his dad crap for not having a costume. Think it comes back in a dramatic fashion? Big time.

Then there’s some corruption stuff and some scheming stuff. All of these scenes hint at something ominous going on but ominous ongoings don’t make the story move. The characters should make the story move, only Higgins and Siegel barely let the characters breathe. The best scenes in the comic are the conversation scenes wiht the guy investigating the corruption. The political stuff is terrible.

“The West Wing” it ain’t.

Worse, the plainclothes guys stuff is bad because they don’t get enough time.

Luckily, Reis’s art holds up.

CREDITS

Principles of Power, Chapter Two: Self-Deception; writers, Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel; artist, Rod Reis; letterer, Troy Peteri; editor, Andy Schmidt; publisher, Image Comics.

The Man-Thing 3 (March 1974)

The Man-Thing #3

I almost want to cut this issue slack for the art; Jack Abel inking Val Mayerik is an interesting thing. Abel adds not just a lot of detail–to Man-Thing in particular–but comic expressions for most of the characters. Man-Thing all of a sudden seems to recognize its humor.

And a good deal of the issue has Gerber dealing with his human civilian cast. While they aren’t the most engaging people ever, Gerber’s coming up with new situations for them and plotting these situations well. It’s like he can’t ever screw up too much because his storytelling instincts are strong.

But then there’s Foolkiller, who makes his first appearance this issue. Gerber runs him through the issue, tying together all the subplots, but it’s all too obvious. The character feels way too artificial.

The worst part of the issue might be the cliffhanger–because Gerber doesn’t make it a rewarding one.

C 

CREDITS

Day of the Killer, Night of the Fool!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Jack Abel; colorist, Linda Lessmann; letterer, Jean Simek; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Private Eye 7 (19 June 2014)

The Private Eye #7

It’s a bridging issue. It’s got beautiful art, but it’s a bridging issue. Having a bridging issue on The Private Eye seems very strange because it’s self-published and digital and I’ve always assumed bridging issues were to meet some kind of publishing requirement or editorial mandate. Yet Vaughan does one here; maybe once you start doing them, you can’t stop.

A few things happen, I suppose. The kidnapped girl is still kidnapped. The P.I. fires a gun for the first time. There’s a nonsensical pop culture reference. And then the chase sequence, action set piece.

Like I said before, it’s beautiful. Martin does a great job with the chase scene in particular, just because he finally gets to let loose with something besides future design.

But Vaughan has run out of cool things to do with the story. It’s a really light issue and the series can’t support it.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate.

The Flash 295 (March 1981)

The Flash #295

Heck gets lazy on the strangest stuff for the feature in this issue. It’s not the super gorillas or all the different locations in Bates’s script… no, it’s the people. Whenever Heck is drawing a person, it just doesn’t work out. It’s like he spent all his time on everything else and rushed through the faces.

The feature story has an odd structure too and it never quite recovers from it. Bates relies on deceiving the reader to get create drama at the end, but he also weighs down the front of the story. There are a couple lengthy action scenes as Grodd is brainwashing Flash and the good super gorilla; these scenes are quick and pointless and Bates gives them too much time.

He just moves too fast through the story, which is too slight anyway.

The Firestorm back-up has Conway suffering pacing problems too. And the art’s mediocre.

C 

CREDITS

In Grodd We Trust; writer, Cary Bates; artist, Don Heck; colorist, Gene D’Angelo. Firestorm, By the Sea, By the Sea, By the Dangerous Sea; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Jim Starlin; inker, Bob Wiacek; colorist, Jerry Serpe. Letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Ms. Marvel 5 (August 2014)

Ms. Marvel #5

It’s not often I’m reading a superhero comic and think, why don’t they just call the cops, but really… they should have just called the cops.

There’s a kidnapped teenager and house full of deadly robots. You can call the cops on that one. They may just call the Avengers, but you can call the cops. Instead there’s a montage where Kamala trains to save the kidnapped teen. Wilson doesn’t specify how long it takes, but it seems like at least two or three days.

During those two or three days, she’s grounded, which Wilson never talks about once quickly establishing it and the kid could be killed too.

It’s lazy plotting. Wilson’s going for cool sequences instead of a solid plot. And the ending, featuring the reveal of the villain, is an awkward one. Either the villain’s goofy or just looks dumb.

Still, it’s fine–Kamala’s a great protagonist.

B 

CREDITS

Urban Legend; writer, G. Willow Wilson; artist, Adrian Alphona; colorist, Ian Henning; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, Devin Lewis and Sana Amanat; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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