Black Magick 1 (October 2015)

Black Magick #1

I desperately want Black Magick to be good. I don’t have any investment in liking it–I’m not much of a Greg Rucka fan in general (though in specific) and I don’t think I’ve ever read a Nicola Scott comic before. Saw her on a panel a few years ago, but never seen her art until Black Magick.

But I want the comic to be good because I trolled Lazarus through its first arc and it’s gone on to become one of my favorite series right now. So I want to be very careful with Black Magick.

And I’m going to have to be, because it isn’t good. Is it bad? Not really. Scott’s art is hurried in the “mainstream artist doing an indie book for the first time” kind of way. There’s no chemistry between Rucka’s writing and Scott’s art. I’m surprised to see them co-owners on the copyright.

What’s wrong with Black Magick? There’s a non-concept pretending to be a concept worth having a whole comic book about. The protagonist is a cop with a secret. She’s a witch. What kind of witch? The kind who meets in the woods all very Crucible-style only it’s modern day with cell phones. She’s got a good looking dude partner who doesn’t know she’s a witch. Her captain worries too much about her. And her two worlds–hero cop and secret witch? They’re about to collide.

Yawn.

It would be fine if the protagonist were amazing, but she’s not. She’s a tough female cop. Maybe Sandra Bullock could play her in the movie or if it just goes to TV, there are plenty of people. Black Magick feels constrained by its potential for a Hollywood option.

Anyway… my hopes for the comic are pretty much dashed. I probably won’t be back until someone tells me I need to get back.

CREDITS

Awakening; writer, Greg Rucka; artist, Nicola Scott; colorists, Scott and Chiara Arena; letterer, Jodi Wynne; editor, Jeanine Schaefer; publisher, Image Comics.

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Manifest Destiny 18 (October 2015)

Manifest Destiny #18

Dingess takes Manifest Destiny somewhere new and unpleasant. Even though he’s dealt with the unpleasantness of the characters before, this issue–the last in the second “volume” of Destiny–forces the reader’s complicity in that unpleasantness. It’s well-done and should’ve been predictable (Roberts butchers the final page with an exclamation point) but isn’t really. The beginning of the issue’s distractingly strong.

One almost forgotten element of Destiny has been the imaginative wildlife Lewis and Clark find on their voyage. This issue reimagines the traditional vampire as some kind of decapitating, head-stealing flying monster. It’s a neat concept, not too gory in Roberts’s art but still striking. And it makes for a great action sequence.

The subsequent scenes in Destiny remind of Return of the Jedi as Lewis and Clark and company return to the bird people village; it’s why Dingess is able to get away with a big twist. He’s letting the reader enjoy the comic. It starts with a great action sequence, why not celebrate. It’s a trick and a good one.

But Dingess has raised a lot of questions in the comic (just not in this issue) and he doesn’t get any of them answered. They’re starting to get annoying. Otherwise though, it’s just about the best issue of Manifest Destiny yet.

CREDITS

Writer, Chris Dingess; penciller, Matthew Roberts; inkers, Stefano Gaudiano and Tony Akins; colorist, Owen Gieni; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Arielle Basich and Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

The Spire 4 (October 2015)

The Spire #4

It’s a bridging issue. It’s a decent bridging issue because Stokely’s art is awesome, but it’s still a bridging issue. What does Spurrier do besides humanize the protagonist a bit? He hints at more dread down the line. So what?

There’s a great fight scene and then Stokely gets to do a lot of narrative design stuff through composition, but it’s a light issue. It relies so heavily on the art, it would probably read better with almost no text. Especially the scenes between the protagonist and her royal love interest, just because Spurrier wants to hint at a secret and a problem but doesn’t want to have to deal with them here.

Why not?

Because it’s a bridging issue. And nothing gets done in bridging issues; Spurrier introduces some okay things to deal with later. But it’s light stuff.

I’m still excited about The Spire but it definitely feels like BOOM! shouldn’t have given Spurrier eight issues. Four might not have been enough (as this issue’s the fourth) but eight is way too many.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Jeff Stokely; colorist, André May; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Cameron Chittock and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Catwoman 4 (April 2002)

Catwoman #4

How does noir work when the villain is a Clayface rip-off. I say rip-off because Catwoman is a Batman spin-off and Clayface is a Batman villain. Brubaker knew the similarity. It also gives Cooke something fantastic to draw. Selina in this gross pink muck–the leftover transformative flesh of the villain? Great stuff. Lots of movement in the art.

The villain does have something of a noir origin though. G.I. injured, army docs turn him into a monster, it’s like a film noir with shades of fifties sci-fi. It’s really cool.

But Brubaker relies on it almost too much. The script tries to showcase the art, which is fine and dandy and marvelous. Only it makes for some rushed scenes. One less page of the fight and one more page with Selina and Leslie would have been awesome.

The issue starts fast and rushes. The last few pages seem so short because of the action sequence pacing. Those last few pages are exceptional. Brubaker and Cooke figure out how to give noir a superhero. It’s great comic book storytelling.

Even if the fight goes long.

CREDITS

Anodyne, Conclusion; writer, Ed Brubaker; penciller, Darwyn Cooke; inker, Mike Allred; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Sean Konot; editors, Nachie Castro and Matt Idelson; publisher, DC Comics.

Howard the Human (October 2015)

Howard the Human (2015) 001-000This one-shot, like so many, is a thought experiment. Howard’s creator Steve Gerber already did the titular gimmick back in Howard 19 of making him human for an entire issue, demonstrating it’s not the vessel, but the person inside who matters. He also turned Howard into a mouse during his 2001 Marvel Max mini-series official return to the character, just to prove this point after his own creation had been wrested away and humiliated by the likes of George Lucas and Disney. Given Chip Zdarsky’s utterly lackadaisical Howard reboot that Marvel squeezed out earlier this year, could another, better writer restore him to some kind of Steve Gerber-esque integrity?

Well, no. In Howard the Human, Marvel’s new “Howard” is stripped of the superficial resemblance to his avian self (and by corollary, stupid duck-related puns) and becomes solely what the company ultimately regards him as: a cipher for the Marvel Universe all-star parade of cameos by characters who’ve proven profitable in live-action. Skottie Young’s story isn’t even poorly constructed; he’s apparently a good writer as evinced by I Hate Fairyland, of which surely no coincidence is another stranger-in-a-strange land tale. The issue opens with some corporate diarrhea about this particular story’s connection to the new “Secret Wars” / “Battleworld” “event” which presumably explains why Howard is still a private detective but now a human being in a city full of talking animals (“New Quack City” – is Marvel’s target audience supposed to get a blaxploitation movie reference from 1991?) This world also hosts talking animal versions of the Black Cat, Daredevil and the Kingpin, and Howard is entangled in a blackmail/murder frame-up between them. Because what are you going to do, make a Howard story about Howard? If Zdarsky didn’t, why should Young?

I hadn’t even realized until reading this comic that Howard’s recent reboot doesn’t allow him to smoke his beloved cigars anymore. Because CHILDREN might be reading these things, and it would jeopardize all of Marvel’s anti-tobacco advertising dollars. Yet in the opening scene he’s pounding down shots in a bar. Zap! Pow! Comics aren’t just for kids anymore!

Jim Mahfood, who presumably emerged out of the same cryogenic stasis capsule from the 90s that released Jhonen Vasquez, does his Jim Mahfood-y thing on the art and does it well. Justin Stewart’s coloring compliments him perfectly. They’re actually really good choices for the funky 70s vibe the story is aiming towards.

Still, waaagh.

CREDITS

Howard the Human; writer, Skottie Young; artist, Jim Mahfood; colorist, Justin Stewart; letterer, Travis Lanham; editor, Jon Moisan; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Fade Out 10 (October 2015)

The Fade Out #10

Brubaker’s winding up. This issue of The Fade Out is the part of the detective novel where the detective–in this case Charlie, who’s not particularly good at it–is collecting all the final details to have his breakthrough. In fact, the narration hints Charlie’s confident in his conclusions, which means Brubaker’s got next issue to stir it up more and then the last issue to let it all settle. Not a bad structure, but it does mean there isn’t much to this issue.

There’s exposition and some revelation, but there’s no character development. Brubaker sets the issue during the wrap party for the movie, which should be a big thing. It’s not. It’s a logical narrative progression–Charlie using the party for cover on his investigating–as the story wraps up.

The last few issues of The Fade Out have been breathtaking. This issue’s good, narratively important, but it’s not breathtaking. It’s a necessity and it coasts on existing momentum. Fingers crossed Brubaker is able to stir up some speed in the next issue.

Phillips’s art, of course, is breathtaking. One never has to worry about him.

CREDITS

Where Angels Fear to Tread; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Catwoman 3 (March 2002)

Catwoman #3

It’s a strange issue. It’s a good issue–though it’s certainly the least ambitious so far–but it’s also a strange issue. Selina doesn’t have as much narration as she had before and now she’s doing much different things. She’s the star of a Bronze Age Batman comic, where Batman dresses up as Matches Malone and investigates on the wharf.

It’s a successful issue. Cooke’s in on the Bronze Age vibe of the issue and the art feels very seventies. The content Cooke’s illustrating, anyway. There’s even a sixties thing with a used car dealer. A lot of thought went into the visual presentation of the book. I just wish Brubaker hadn’t been so quiet.

So far, this series has been about Selina evolving into a do-gooder. This issue continues that evolution, but with the exception of the narration in the first few pages, Selina’s experience is absent from the comic. Even when Brubaker brings back the narration later, it’s to establish that Matches Malone sequence.

Like I said, strange. Expertly, enthusiastically done, but with too much confidence in the narrative effect of the comic to worry about the narrative itself. It’s showy.

CREDITS

Anodyne, Part Three of Four; writer, Ed Brubaker; penciller, Darwyn Cooke; inker, Mike Allred; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Sean Konot; editors, Nachie Castro and Matt Idelson; publisher, DC Comics.

War Stories 13 (September 2015)

War Stories #13

Garth Ennis is on it for War Stories this arc. It’s Ennis doing American soldiers in World War II; if there’s a war movie genre standard, it’s the World War II setting, from the American perspective. At least as far as English language World War II movies go.

But I don’t think Ennis has ever done one of these stories. At least not one about American fliers–it’s almost like Ennis is doing populist. He’s doing accessible. There might even be a reference to Pearl Harbor assuming the reader is familiar with it due to the movie. Strange coming from Ennis, strange on War Stories.

It’s really good. Ennis does accessible really well. Ennis trying to invite new readers instead of put them off? He doesn’t do it often, frankly. So seeing him be so welcoming is strange. But excellent. Ennis might not have the enthusiasm for the subject–that searching exploration he sometimes does with War Stories–but he does have enthusiasm for his skills and his narrative authority. He likes being able to tell a good war story. As he should.

As for the art. Tomas Aira gets away with a bit because the setting–fliers doing attack runs from Iwo Jima to Tokyo–is so striking. He doesn’t do well with the faces, which just shows the skillfulness of Ennis’s dialogue, because the talking heads scenes in the issue are phenomenal.

It’s so good. Even though War Stories has its missteps, Ennis needs to have this outlet as a creator. The comic book medium needs him to have this outlet.

CREDITS

Tokyo Club, Part One: Yardbirds; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

I Hate Fairyland 1 (October 2015)

I Hate Fairyland #1

I love I Hate Fairyland. I love it. Skottie Young loves it too, which is good, since he’s writing and illustrating it. If he didn’t love it, I don’t think I’d love it.

Young’s got a particular style–accessible to children but with a lot of detail, not much attention to anatomy. Expressive anatomical representations. But not in the Liefeldian sense. Very tall people, very short people. He could use this style on gritty fairy tales, but instead he still fills Fairyland with wonderment and magic.

And a protagonist who hates Fairyland. And she’s wonderful. She’s one of the only humans (so far) and she got trapped in Fairyland as a kid. Twenty years later, she’s still a kid on the outside, but on the inside, she’s robbing casinos and eating mushroom people. Because, why not? Fairyland sucks after all (and she can’t get home).

There’s no way to tell what kind of story Young has in mind for the comic–one could argue, at the beginning, it’s about the lost girl (Gert) getting home, but not once Young skips ahead twenty years. Then it’s just about her getting into trouble and making trouble of her own.

Beautiful art, hilarious riffs on generic fairy tale standards. Young’s going for the humor in the writing and the magic in the art–though, really, Gert falling into Fairyland and breaking her face on the landing–she’s fine, promise–sets the mood for the rest of the comic.

It’s excellent.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Scottie Young; colorist, Jean-Francois Bealieu; letterer, Nate Piekos; publisher, Image Comics.

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