Trees 3 (July 2014)

I have something called the “Oh, Hell, No” rule. When a writer uses those three words to show how much stronger his (or her) female character is compared to someone else or her situation… well, there’s a line is all. And Ellis steps over it with this issue of Trees. His super strong, gang leader’s girlfriend who’s really smart but also soulful is hideous and lazy.

She’s stalking an old professor–who loves books–because she needs mentor. In the post-apocalypse, books are very important. Trees is turning out to be nothing but Ellis regurgitating ideas he gets from elsewhere. Some of them seem familiar, like he’s regurgitating himself; it’s a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. With pretty art.

Except this issue, Howard’s art is lazy, lifeless and hurried. Without him, Trees loTrees #3ses its single saving grace; outside muted, hostile condescension, Ellis isn’t bringing anything to it.

C- 

CREDITS

Writer, Warren Ellis; artist, Jason Howard; letterer, Fonografiks; publisher, Image Comics.

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The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night’s Dream 3 (March 2011)

The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night's Dream #3

While the issue is dedicated to Brian Jacques (of the Redwall series), Santos spends more of his time in homage to M.C. Escher. Mice in mazes and Escher–it’s fabulous. But Santos’s art isn’t just great for that playful and intricate composition, it’s everything this issue. He’s been building up with Midwinter and here he just lets loose.

Speaking of letting loose, Glass goes a very unexpected route. He abandons Cassius and Karic and heads forward a little with the Templar camp from the previous two issues, but most of the issue is about the people–sorry, the rodents–in the capital. There are even weasels this time; lots of developments, lots of great character work.

Glass is almost showing off–Mice Templar has hit the point where the adventure hook of young Karic isn’t necessary anymore.

It’s a wonderful issue. Action, romantic longing, political unrest, rodent bigotry–it’s both comfortably excellent and entirely unexpected.

A- 

CREDITS

Royal Division; writer, Bryan J.L. Glass; artist, Victor Santos; colorist, Veronica Gandini; letterer, James H. Glass; editor, Judy Glass; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale 24 (July 2014)

Fatale #24

Given all the series’s problems as of late, I didn’t expect Brubaker to finish Fatale well. I knew it’d be problematic, but I hoped he’d go for satisfying at least.

Instead, he pretends he’s been writing a lot of third person exposition in purple prose so he can finish the comic with a rumination on the beauty of a sunset or some such nonsense. But it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Fatale’s been on a downward trajectory for a while and a rushed one–not ending would have been satisfactory. The writing’s just been too reductive.

But worse, Phillips’s art is rushed. He’s got lots of little panels and not enough detail on the people in those panels. He does a lengthy action sequence and it’s boring–it’s not entirely his fault, Brubaker’s rushing through the scene as far as tension.

It’s an unfortunate ending. It ignores everything good about the comic.

C- 

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 15 (August 1983)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #15

Conway and Broderick do exceedingly well on the action part of the issue. The first half has Firestorm having to get free from Multiplex and then fight him and Enforcer. It’s a great action scene, both in terms of pacing and art. It really seems like Broderick is going to turn in an excellent issue.

Until the second half of the comic, when Broderick has to draw the civilians and immediately it’s strange body proportions and hair helmets. It’s like he and Rodriguez entirely check out when it’s not superhero stuff and it doesn’t work.

The second half of the issue is also messy because Conway splits it between boring, connected conspiracies–one against Martin and Ronnie and one involving c-level supporting cast member Senator Walter Reilly. Plus, Conway brings back a stale story line he never watered enough.

The strong start only can make up for so much.

B- 

CREDITS

Breakout; writer, Gerry Conway; pencillers, Pat Broderick and Rodin Rodriguez; inker, Rodriguez; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, Adam Kubert; editors, Nicola Cuti and Conway; publisher, DC Comics.

Day Men 4 (July 2014)

Day Men #4

Day Men is on its fourth issue. About a year after its first issue. No one’s going to tell Brian Stelfreeze to hurry up and try to do a monthly and it seems the writers know the score on that one, because they still haven’t gotten over establishing the ground situation.

Gagnon and Nelson aren’t refreshing or starting over with this issue; they’re following up on all their old plot lines and story threads. But they’re definitely aware it might be the first issue a reader is picking up and they’re writing it for that casual reader, not the one who’s been around. Because there’s no other reason to introduce major plot points–like the protagonist having the unintentional hots for his vampire clan leader woman–other than to make Day Men seem fresh.

It isn’t fresh. It’s stale. Boom! should’ve just done a graphic novel, regardless of Stelfreeze’s art being awesome.

C 

CREDITS

Writers, Matt Gagnon and Michael Alan Nelson; artist, Brian Stelfreeze; colorist, Darrin Moore; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editor, Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

100th Anniversary Special: The Avengers (September 2014)

100th Anniversary Special: The Avengers

Marvel really let James Stokoe do an Avengers comic? He sets it in 2063–a hundred years from the first Avengers comic (identical to the thing Paul Pope did with Batman: Year 100 but who’s counting)–and sets this team of Rogue (immortal thanks to Wolverine somehow), Beta Ray Bill (immortal because he’s a god) and Dr. Strange (immortal through incarnation) on an adventure. Well, some of it is just them going to check up on Tony Stark, who’s brain is now in a giant Iron Man building.

It’s crazy, crazy stuff but it isn’t until the end of the issue where Stokoe’s actually visionary. The future setting, the odd cast–those are just Stokoe standards. He’s not trying anything new here, he’s just bringing some eclectic enthusiasm to a commercial comic.

Except his resolution with the guest villain. Stokoe makes a profound observation about superhero comics–Marvel or not, Avengers or not–with it.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, artist, colorist and letterer, James Stokoe; editor, Jon Moisan; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night’s Dream 2 (January 2011)

The Mice Templar Volume III: A Midwinter Night's Dream #2

Glass is having some real problems with cliffhangers in Midwinter, if this second issue is any indication. After not just going through the main plot, but also introducing the supporting cast back from the previous volume, Glass quarantines these first two issues (for protagonists Cassius and Karic, anyway). He’s moved the players from point A to point B and now he’s ready to get started again.

It’s like a soft reset, with the ground situation now changed. It feels like a combination of treading water and contriving trouble.

There’s still a lot of strong material in the issue–some fantastic action art from Santos–and Glass’s character moments are excellent. He’s just all over the place. This issue it becomes clear Cassius hasn’t been the protagonist these first two issues so much as subject; his lost love has a whole lot more going on and self-awareness.

Hopefully things will get started now.

B 

CREDITS

Consequences; writer, Bryan J.L. Glass; artist, Victor Santos; colorist, Veronica Gandini; letterer, James H. Glass; editor, Judy Glass; publisher, Image Comics.

Deep Gravity 1 (July 2014)

Deep Gravity #1

Deep Gravity is missing something rather important–a hook. It’s a sci-fi series about people working on a different planet, mining its resources and bringing them back to Earth. The explanations all sound scientific, but it doesn’t seem to actually be scientific, so the hook isn’t it being “hard science” sci-fi.

The protagonist is some guy who goes to the planet to talk to his ex-girlfriend. It’s a three year trip so he’s dedicating six years just to talk to her again. Their relationship is fairly lame so it’s not a hook either.

Then there’s the art, from Fernando Baldó. This other world is some crazy mostly ocean place where plants and animals are the same thing. Apparently. Except none of the designs are particularly good. Baldó’s got a lot of issues with people, places, things. So the art’s not the hook.

So far Gravity’s painfully mediocre.

C 

CREDITS

Writers, Mike Richardson, Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko; artist, Fernando Baldó; colorist, Nick Filardi; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Shantel LaRocque and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 14 (July 1983)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #14

Until the silly eighties toys show up at the end–the villain rides around in absurd tank–it’s a decent enough issue. Well, the villain–Enforcer (Conway remembering his old Spider-Man days perhaps)–is lame, but some of it might be the art. Broderick starts the issue strong and then loses his grip by halfway through. This time it’s worse than bad faces, it’s goofy bodies and so on.

But the issue itself isn’t bad, Conway’s initial plot–Ronnie and Martin getting the newly unemployed scientist a job at Ronnie’s burger joint–works. He just keeps adding on to the plot until the issue is bloated. He doesn’t give anything enough time and keeps throwing in hints at future subplots.

The action finish–that tank–is silly and poorly conceived. All this action in a confined space cuts down on action possibilities for Broderick.

It’s a rather problematic issue.

B- 

CREDITS

Enforcer; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, Adam Kubert; editors, Nicola Cuti and Conway; publisher, DC Comics.

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