Punks Not Dead #1 (February 2018)

Punks Not Dead #1

Punks Not Dead #1 opens with the protagonist–Fergie–introducing himself. And talking about he’s got a punk rocker ghost friend named Sid. Yes, Sid looks like that Sid but he’s not that Sid. He thinks he’s that Sid. It’s all writer David Barnett’s back matter.

Anyway.

The comic sets up the kid, Fergie; he and his mom are reality show actors. They’re at the airport, Fergie discovers he can see the ghost, Sid. Sid gets tethered to Fergie. A comic book will ensue.

But then there’s this government agency–British government, it’s U.K.–for paranormal investigation and there are demon imps and ghosts and whatever else. The supernatural is real. So maybe Sid the ghost isn’t just some figment of the imagination or even a real ghost friend.

And it’s cool. Both sides of the story work. The teenage stuff, the secret agency thing–there’s a new guy starting, working for the tough lady who’s run it for years. Barnett’s setup is outstanding.

And Martin Simmonds art accentuates both the teenage stuff as well as the supernatural. The supernatural elements–the way Simmonds visualizes them alongside the mundane–it’s outstanding.

Oh, right. The kid might be a wizard too. He’s got magic of his own.

Another good one from Black Crown.

CREDITS

Teenage Kicks, Part One: Don’t Let Them Take You Alive; writer, David Barnett; artist, Martin Simmonds; colorist, Dee Cunniffe; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

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Kong on the Planet of the Apes #4 (February 2018)

Kong on the Planet of the Apes #4

Maybe a quarter of the way into Kong on the Planet of the Apes #4–really makes me hope there’s a Son of Kong Beneath the Planet of the Apes sequel–but about a quarter in, I couldn’t help but wonder why I’m reading such a depressing comic. It’s not like there’s a happy ending for a Planet of the Apes story or a King Kong story. This issue doesn’t just have a captured Kong crying–dashing hopes of him stomping Ape City–it’s got the gorillas kidnapping one of the Skull Island natives and then a big twist for fans of the original movies. Especially the first three movies.

Of course, not all in the first quarter. The first quarter just has kidnapped native and crying Kong.

But I kept reading. Because even though reading some depressing sociological look at a fictive future society seems not just pointless but downright unpleasant… Ferrier writes sociological looks at fictive future societies quite well. He covers a lot. Religion. Hucksterism. Science. Military. The intersections of the four. It’s a smart script. It just happens to be for a mostly disposable licensed franchise crossover.

The last quarter of the issue is far more action-packed, with Ferrier and Magno pacing it beautifully.

I knew I read this comic for better reasons than I’m a sucker for Kong.

CREDITS

Writer, Ryan Ferrier; artist, Carlos Magno; colorist, Alex Guimarães; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editors, Gavin Gronenthal and Dafna Pleban; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Punisher: The Platoon #6 (April 2018)

Punisher: The Platoon #6

Here’s the thing about Garth Ennis. His story arcs might read well in trade. His limited series might read great in a sitting. But he writes comic books. He paces comic books. And Punisher: The Platoon #6 is one hell of a comic book.

Ennis goes an unexpected route resolving the previous issue’s cliffhanger. He uses the frame a lot, revealing the frame isn’t a frame so much as a perch. It’s the reader point of view, whether they know it or not. Ennis has his epical story arc and juxtaposing and it flows nicely, but these things aren’t the most important thing. The most important thing is how the comic has read and reads.

Because Ennis delivers. He confirms he made a promise earlier in the series–one entirely without verbalization–and he delivers on it. He shows he can do this comic and do a war comic and also do a Punisher comic and then he moves past proving he and Parlov’s abilities to someplace else.

Or maybe Ennis just wanted to make a bunch of grown men cry. With the added bonus it’s a Punisher comic making them cry. It’s one hell of a comic.

Parlov’s art is on, of course. There are a lot of talking heads moments cut into the big action–with the narration and the talking heads so strong the big action flashback panels are almost intrusive. They don’t break the pacing because they’re supposed to be intrusive. Ennis is sort of doing the Wizard of Oz reveal on how the comic works and he needs to get the reader alert.

Damn.

What a comic. The issue and the series. Ennis and Parlov.

Damn.

CREDITS

6: Happy Childhoods; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Goran Parlov; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Kathleen Wisneski and Nick Lowe; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Barbarella #3 (February 2018)

Barbarella #3

Carey and Yarar finish the first Barbarella story just right. Barbarella gets half the issue; she’s recovering from the cliffhanger and trying to figure out how to stop the foreign agents from killing all the religious nutjobs’ babies. The other half of the issue is the foreign agents as they execute their plan.

Their scenes create the tension. Barbarella’s scenes create the fun. Starting with her little space Chihuahua. Then she gets a surprise sidekick. Carey has a lot of fun with both.

The Barbarella scenes should nullify the tension–since she’s never deterred or worried–but they don’t. Carey paces the various reveals well and Yarar’s wacky art matches them perfectly. Yarar’s always got a lot of detail, whether it’s in movement or background; it keeps Barbarella distinct without ever slowing the book down. In fact, because of Yarar’s panel transitions, the distinctiveness usually helps the momentum.

And the wrap-up is good. Carey gives the characters time.

Barbarella keeps impressing.

CREDITS

Red Hot Gospel, Part Three: Fire and Sword; writer, Mike Carey; artist, Kenan Yarar; colorist, Mohan; letterer, Crank!; consulting editor, Jean-Marc Lofficier; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Star Wars: Thrawn #1 (April 2018)

Star Wars: Thrawn #1

Even through Thrawn gets a fair number of close-ups in Thrawn #1, I finished the issue feeling like he didn’t. Thrawn is a Star Wars comic–one of the new official ones so all those old official ones from Dark Horse starring Thrawn are out of continuity. Though, since they’re all based on Timothy Zahn novels, there’s got to be crossover.

This issue deals with how blue super-intelligent alien Thrawn gets into the Imperial Academy. There’s even a cameo by the Emperor (which is maybe the comic’s only draggy scene). Otherwise, it just moves and moves.

Some of the brevity is thanks to the narrator. It’s not Thrawn, but some Imperial cadet who gets stuck translating and babysitting him. The cadet’s not a jerk, but he’s completely disinterested in his assignment. Writer Jody Houser uses the cadet as the reader’s vantage point, but the cadet’s got more information than he’s sharing in narration. Got to keep it dramatically compelling.

And Houser and artist Luke Ross are able to keep it compelling. Even when the comic hits a second or fourth talking heads sequence. There’s sporadic action, but most of it is just seeing how Thrawn reacts to this new world around him. There’s Star Wars minutiae but the better, not-created-by-George-Lucas minutiae (i.e. the Galactic language being called Basic–it’s immediately self-explanatory).

It’s an exceedingly competent comic book. Good art, good scripting.

CREDITS

Writers, Timothy Zahn and Jody Houser; artist, Luke Ross; colorist, Nolan Woodard; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Heather Antos; publisher, Marvel Comics.

VS #1 (February 2018)

VS #1

Despite a rather boring cover, VS is all about the art. Specifically the Esad Ribic art. Pretty much every panel of the comic looks like some awesome seventies sci-fi book cover. Not awesome sci-fi book, but its cover. Though maybe it does read like some of those seventies sci-fi books….

Brandon’s script is perfectly servicable. It starts like it’s about a futuristic alien war–except the aliens all look mostly human or at least are buff like humans (see, sci-fi book cover). But it’s not. It’s really about a sporting event. “War has become a spectator sport,” says the publisher description.

The first half is a battle, then Brandon switches over to focus on the protagonist. Who–gasp–appears to die at the end of the issue. Probably won’t. Not based on next issue’s cover, which is included.

Ribic’s a great artist.

VS just isn’t great comic. It’s fine. It’s worth it if you’re looking to see some great art. Otherwise. Eh.

CREDITS

Writer, Ivan Brandon; artist, Esad Ribic; colorist, Nic Klein; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editor, Sebastian Girner; publisher, Image Comics.

The Gravediggers Union #4 (February 2018)

The Gravediggers Union #4

Half the action in Gravediggers Union involves the Union members doing research at a library and arguing about what’s an appropriate use of union dues.

The other half of the action is Morgan, daughter of a Union member and prophet of the Black Temple, bargaining with some dead souls for their help in destroying humanity or something. Morgan’s half of the issue is where Cypress gets to go crazy on his art–the dead souls are part of a “ghost-storm,” basically a hurricane; the art’s gorgeous. Even when people are being eviscerated.

Craig’s comedic writing comes through on the other half, the Union half. It’s exposition but well-done. Cypress’s art is strong on it as well, it’s just not a ghost-storm. It’s a trip to the library, with some very pop culture references.

Gravediggers Union continues to be a strong book. Craig’s juxtapositioning of Morgan’s story and her father’s is working out a lot better than I thought it would.

CREDITS

Writer, Wes Craig; artists, Craig and Toby Cypress; colorist, Niko Guardia; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; publisher, Image Comics.

Dastardly & Muttley #6 (April 2018)

Dastardly & Muttley #6

Ennis does indeed pull off Dastardly & Muttley. The finale is a mostly action book as Dastardly and Muttley fight about how they’re going to save the world. As in, their method. It’s a bunch of good dialogue from Ennis–who has a lot more fun integrating cartoonish dialogue than he has previously–and a great pace.

Mauricet’s artwork is outstanding. He can do Ennis’s cartoons as people humor scenes–though Ennis really should’ve reminded the fox president is George Clooney. Anyway, Mauricet can do those absurdist sequences, he can do the action sequences, but then he can also do the “real life” things. Like the establishing shots and the transition shots.

In a book with either extreme facial expressions or anthropomorphized ones, it turns out Mauricet excels at muted, dramatic expressions.

It’s a neat book. Could be better, sure, but there’s only so much you can do with a Dastardly & Muttley comic book in 2018.

CREDITS

6: You Build me a Thingumabob; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Mauricet; colorist, John Kalisz; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Diego Lopez and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Love and Rockets #4 (Fall 1983)

Love and Rockets #4

Love and Rockets #4 opens with Jaime and 100 Rooms, a Locas story. The first page is a recap, sort of, of the previous Mechanics and Locas stories. It’s an introduction from Isabel Ortiz Ruebens, who appears to be a nun. She’s not Izzy (as in Maggie and Hopey’s friend) but maybe she’s the author from a few of Jaime’s stories in #1.

It doesn’t really matter because after the nice intro page, Jaime just drops the narration and goes into the story.

This issue ends up being rather distinct because both Jaime and Beto are going to be doing amazing work. 100 Rooms is a twenty-six page epic. It also doesn’t have any jokes about Maggie being dumb, which is nice. Instead, it’s sort of a Maggie grows or at least Maggie realizes how she wants to grow story.

Jaime opens it with a visit to Tía Vicki, who he has been mentioning maybe since issue one. Vicki. The wrestler who cheated to beat Rena Titañon. Vicki used the ropes. But visiting Tía Vicki isn’t the point. Maggie’s just looking for money. Because she desperately wants some boots. She drags Hopey around town trying to find someone to loan it to her. They come across Penny Century, who has a plan.

Jaime never shows the full exterior of the mansion, instead relying on interiors to show the grand scale of it

That plan lands the girls–Maggie, Hopey, Penny, and Izzy–in billionaire H.R. Costigan’s mansion. In that mansion, lots happens. Like Maggie getting lost and kidnapped. And then there’s a party. And a supervillain fight. And Rand Race.

100 Rooms has five parts, not including the one page intro. First part is all about Vicki and the boots with an appearance from Speedy. Speedy is Hopey’s cousin who Maggie thinks is hot. Part two is an intro to the mansion then Maggie finding dangerous romance. Part three is romance plus the girls bonding. Part four is the party setup. Part five is the rest of the party. Each first page of the “chapters” has a big establishing panel. Otherwise Jaime sticks to three rows of three panels. Sometimes he joins two of the panels. But mostly 100 Rooms is read across, down and back, across, down and back. There’s so much with the narrative flow too. The visual transitions. Jaime changes angles between panels to move the story along, but also move the characters in the scene. It’s breathtaking.

And probably should, experimentally, be cut up and read horizontally.

Supervillain action, Love and Rockets style

Once again Hopey gets a lot less to do than Maggie–but more, especially when Maggie’s missing–and Maggie gets this strange, but sexy subplot involving European royalty in exile. The party is where Jaime goes crazy with the action. Before he’s being deliberate but casual with the angle changes. The party is all about being full and action-packed, whether it’s in the establishing panels or the regular ones. Which isn’t to say Jaime doesn’t employ the angle changes to move the action and story along. He just adds to it.

It’s awesome. The best Locas so far.

Next is Beto’s Twitch City. It’s cyberpunk, with noir narration. Emico is the lead. She’s a sixteen year-old cop in New Hiroshima (in South Oregon). It’s a five page story. It covers Emico at work then at home. It’s rather depressing. Beto does a great job with it.

Music and Monsters goes to sea

Then is another Music for Monsters (so the issue has three Beto stories and two Jaime). Inez is babysitting a monster’s egg. For four fifty an hour. The egg is at sea, so Inez is fighting off sea monsters. Bang parachutes in to hang out with her. It’s another short one–four pages this time–but Beto manages to get in some drama over a messed up Errata Stigmata comic. The first issue of Love and Rockets had an Errata Stigmata story.

And, of course, there’s a monster they need to fight.

One of Out O’ Space’s perfect panels

Jaime then has Out O’ Space set in a “Jetsons” future with the lead–a teenage girl named Rocky–hanging out on an asteroid belt with her robot, Fumble. She’s lost, cutting school, and decides to claim her own planet. Unfortunately a rock creature named Patrick has crashlanded on the other side of Rocky’s planet. A turf war ensues. It’s a fun strip with some great art.

And, then, finally, it’s time for Palomar and Heartbreak Soup Part Two. A twenty-one page continuation of the previous issue’s story. Beto takes the first two pages to recap everything in that story. The principals of the story change a little. Gato, who had a lot to do last issue has very little to do in this story. Manuel and Pipo, having made repeat visits to Soledad’s house while he’s out of town, both get a lot. Manuel because he’s breaking Pipo’s heart and Pipo because her heart’s being broken. At the same time Beto is moving along the Luba vs. Chelo storyline.

The tween boys figure in a little, mostly serving to inadvisably gossip within other people’s earshot. Hercalio figures in more than a lot of characters–Carmen, for instance–but it’s mostly just Manuel and Pipo. Or about Manuel and Pipo.

Pipo tells Tipin’ Tipin’ all about Sopa De Gran Pena (Heartbreak Soup)

Beto mixes styles–Pipo and her siblings versus Manuel on the make–or pretty much any of the exterior scenes. Palomar is simultaneously empty but teeming. The story takes a lot of unexpected turns, including in the to the two-page epilogue. There’s also a lot of dialogue. Pipo makes the titular Heartbreak Soup for herself and Tipin’ Tipin’ and tells him all about their lives in Palomar. He’s still around because, in the most minor subplot, Carmen is trying to rehabilitate him.

It’s a sad, aching story. And rather beautiful. And better than the first part.

Love and Rockets #4 is sixty-four pages of phenomenal comics. Jaime and Beto both hit highs with their exquisite storytelling.

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