Batman 385 (July 1985)

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With Chuck Patton helping, the pencils are occasionally tolerable. Even Alcala inking can’t fix whatever Hoberg does wrong with Batman’s cowl, unfortunately.

There are a couple big scenes this issue–besides the resolution of the Calendar Man arc, which features Moench’s least annoying characterization of him. He’s not blathering to himself throughout. It’s nice.

There’s a big scene for Vicki Vale. She’s telling off her suitor. It’s not bad, though Moench’s either got her babbling about eighties diet fads or she’s joined a cult. She’s been a pointless character for dozens of issues now… maybe he’ll turn her around.

The other big scene is Bruce and Jason. Jason is arguing for his job as Robin; Moench is clearly trying to rationalize the character. It doesn’t work–the argument, which Jason wins, is ludicrous stuff.

Hopefully Moench has all this foster parenting, adoption, job dynamics nonsense out of his system now.

C- 

CREDITS

Day of Doom; writer, Doug Moench; pencillers, Rick Hoberg and Chuck Patton; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

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Batman 383 (May 1985)

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After my many complaints Moench never writes Bruce Wayne at length (and sensible, as he did write him at length and ludicrous during the Jason Todd adoption thing), he dedicates an entire issue to Bruce.

It’s a day in the life and it’s a comedy. There are angry women, parent-teacher conferences, buffoonish builders, not to mention the eventual street thugs. All the while, Bruce just wants to get some sleep.

It’s not rocket science and it’s often contrived, but contrived is kind of the point. It’s a funny enough concept and Moench executes it quite well. I’m just shocked how much fun he makes of Batman and Bruce Wayne. It’s humorous, yes, but it also suggests the character is often acting out of sleep deprivation rather than intelligent thought.

Gene Colan is an odd penciller to do light comedy but it works out.

Batman as sitcom… Thankfully sans camp.

B 

CREDITS

Just As Night Follows Day…; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterers, Ben Oda and Albert De Guzman; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman 381 (March 1985)

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Moench neatly ties everything together–including Bruce setting up Nocturna for an unnecessary fall–and it’s hard to remember why any of the threads are important at all. They weren’t important to the characters, except Nocturna (and maybe Alfred); Moench’s frantic pace keeps the issue engaging but it’s not fulfilling in any way.

Then there’s the matter of the art. Hoberg’s back and he’s better than the previous issue but he’s far from good. It’s a strange situation–does the story deserve better art… would it read better with better art or has Moench exhausted the comic too much.

It’s hard to say for sure at this point–Hoberg’s only done two issues and Moench is finishing up a somewhat lengthy arc–but all hints are to the latter. Moench’s melodramatic antics just obscure his lack of ideas for the characters to develop.

Batman’s getting to be a tedious bore.

C- 

CREDITS

Darkly Moved the Pawns; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Rick Hoberg; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman 380 (February 1985)

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What an odd turn of events. One can’t help but note Moench is following a number of story beats–corrupt politician, villain masquerading as Batman–Gerry Conway did immediately prior in his lengthy run, not to mention other writers before them.

Rick Hoberg takes over the pencils for the issue (just this one, I hope) and he makes things feel very generic, very superhero. Moench tries character scenes for Jason and Nocturna, which doesn’t work out too well with the pencils, and the mind-bending scenes are just silly.

Moench also has a real problem with the villain, the Night-slayer–he’s a lousy villain. Facing off against Dr. Fang, Moench’s problems with lame villains is just too obvious. Plus, all the events hinge on not just Nocturna being incapable, but Jason and Batman too.

Without a good penciller, Moench’s weaknesses are just too much. The issue can’t overcome them.

CREDITS

End of the Bat; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Rick Hoberg; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman 379 (January 1985)

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It’s a crazy issue. The last half has not just Robin telling Nocturna he’d love her as a man would if he were older, it’s got Batman blathering on to her about… no, I’m wrong. That thing with Robin telling his newly adopted mother he’d have the hots for her, Moench never tops that one.

It’s kind of bad and kind of great. Moench can’t do this story, he just can’t make it work–Nocturna wanting to be a crime fighting family with Robin and Batman–but he tries so hard. And then there’s a lot better stuff with Alfred feeling like he’s losing his daughter even more. That bit is good.

The Mad Hatter returns, but not with enough page time for much personality. The Hatter-Zombies are kind of a neat touch.

Sadly, Newton and Alcala go lazy from time to time. There’s way too much going on.

CREDITS

Bedtime Stories; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman 378 (December 1984)

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I’m kind of hoping Moench’s got a good back story saved up for Nocturna. She gets what I think is her first interior monologue–if not first, first significant one she’s come back–where she’s questioning her motives. There are hints at some strange origin. It would help.

Batman too gets a lengthy internal monologue as he tries to figure out how to kill time after Nocturna’s adoption of Jason goes through. Moench even goes through Bruce’s thought processes on deciding what case to investigate. That sequence, still problematic due to the adoption thing, is nice.

The Mad Hatter also gets a subplot–he’s the cover villain–and Moench writes him rather well. He’s far more engaging than most of the regular cast.

I really wish Alfred had smacked Vicki Vale for disparaging his daughter though. Moench’s pushing the hostility between the women and it’s getting long in the toothi

CREDITS

One Hat Madder!; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 544 (November 1984)

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What an issue. How to even start. Okay, so Moench is having so much trouble figuring out why Bruce Wayne wants to adopt Jason Todd, he actually has a scene where Nocturna “tempts” him with the promise of a ready-made family.

They’ll get married, adopt Jason, be Batman and family. It’s inexplicable stuff, with Moench going full steam trying to make the characters act sensibly… only there’s no sense to it.

The Nocturna art–Alcala inking Colan–is wondrous. The rest of the issue, mostly Batman trailing a thug, is nowhere near as impressive.

There’s also some stuff with Jason himself, but it’s not memorable. This adoption plot line is a complete misfire. Moench can’t even give Batman and Nocturna chemistry, mostly because she talks like such an insane flake.

As for Green Arrow? McManus’s art is still fantastic. It’s actually not particularly intelligible, but it’s definitely great looking.

CREDITS

Deceit in Dark Secrets; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy. Green Arrow, It’s No Fair II: Fair from the Madding Crowd; writer, Joey Cavalieri; artist, Shawn McManus; colorist, Jeanine Casey. Letterer, Todd Klein; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman 377 (November 1984)

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Moench runs directly into that Bruce Wayne problem he’s been having for a while. He has to have Bruce decide he wants to sneak around with Nocturna; it comes after a lengthy conversation with Alfred. Moench does fine with that conversation–the art from Newton and Alcala is fantastic, Newton’s compositions this issue are amazing–but he hasn’t established any of Bruce’s romances well.

It doesn’t help the issue starts with an absurd courtroom scene with Bruce acting nuts.

As for Nocturna–who Bruce apparently picks over Vicki (who he hasn’t seen romantically in five or ten issues) and Alfred’s daughter (Moench avoids a mention of her when Alfred’s talking to Bruce)–Moench basically just makes her Catwoman. The back and forth about her life of crime sounds like Batman and Catwoman.

Moench’s digging himself a deeper hole, but Newton’s apparently more than capable of getting him out of it.

CREDITS

The Slayer of Night; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterers, Ben Oda and Alcala; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 543 (October 1984)

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Wow, what’s Moench thinking? He’s done some great, ambitious stories since he started writing the Batman comics but… a supervillain adopting Jason Todd? Noctura is back–she looks like a vampire, something I assume they came up with for Gene Colan–and she wants to adopt Jason.

It’s actually no less absurd than Bruce Wayne wanting to adopt him. Moench writes some odd scene with Bruce and Julia (Alfred’s daughter) too. Strange stuff. Lovely art, but strange stuff this issue.

There are a lot of Dracula references, from character names to how Noctura approaches Jason. So clearly Moench is thinking. He just can’t make that Bruce Wayne character work. It’s too bad. Great art though, like I said before.

Speaking of great art, McManus inks himself on Green Arrow this issue. While Cavalieri’s story annoys as usual, it’s packed with awesome, Eisner-inspired panels. McManus delivers something outrageous and great.

CREDITS

Shadows of Vengeance; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda. Green Arrow, It’s No Fair!; writer, Joey Cavalieri; artist, Shawn McManus; colorist, Jeanine Casey; letterer, Bob Lappan. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman 376 (October 1984)

Batman 376

Moench has a lengthy conversation between Alfred and Bruce about the state of affairs–Jason, Bruce’s love life, a little with Batman–and it’s a decent scene. Even though much of the content is absurd, with Bruce mentioning he hadn’t thought through the legalities of being Jason’s guardian, it’s a good enough scene.

The main plot has to do with a group of thieves masquerading as party monsters–they dress as monsters for rich people’s parties. It’s decent enough stuff. Newton and Alcala do a fine job on the art. The best might be this mid-flight dive Batman takes out of a window though. Something about it is just very striking.

But there’s not much else to the issue. Jason gets a little moment where he’s rude to his new foster mother, Vicki and Julia bicker. Same old, same old.

The villains aren’t much good either.

Still, not terrible.

CREDITS

Nightmares, Inc.; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman 375 (September 1984)

Batman 375

It’s not the best issue. It’s maybe the weakest art I’ve seen from Don Newton (with Alfredo Alcala inking him). A lot of the art is still amazing–most of it probably, but there’s also a lack of detail in a lot of places. Not like Alcala’s rushed because he still over-inks a couple faces. Very strange art this issue. Unfinished or over-cooked.

But then there’s the story itself. Or, how Doug Moench tells it. He tells it in a rhyming homage to How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It’s hilarious and wonderful. The opening is good and poetic–Moench’s narration, I mean–but later on it gets funny. It’s extremely creative and Moench has some great couplets.

There’s also some good stuff with Vicki and Alfred’s daughter teaming up for an adventure. Moench writes them better than Jason and Bruce; he hasn’t found a good chemistry for them.

CREDITS

The Glacier Under Gotham!; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Todd Klein; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman 374 (August 1984)

Batman 374

This issue is particularly strong. There’s great art from Newton and Alcala on the Penguin, but there’s also a lot of good stuff from Moench.

After many issues of ignoring the supporting cast, he’s got great scenes for Vicki Vale, Alfred’s daughter and even Bullock. The Vicki Vale one is the best though–the Penguin comes in looking for her to take his picture as a promotion of his crime spree; she’s the best photographer in the city, it’s going to be art.

It also sounds a lot like the Tim Burton Batman movie with a character change.

Moench nearly brings Bruce Wayne in, something he’s not comfortable doing normally. It’s like Jason Todd was an addition to keep Bruce from having any actual stories. But here, there are a few hints Moench might change his approach.

Again, the art’s simply gorgeous. Newton and Alcala outdo themselves on this issue.

CREDITS

Pieces of Penguin!; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman 373 (July 1984)

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It’s a strange issue. It’s gorgeous–Colan and Alcala doing a Scarecrow issue is going to be gorgeous–but there’s so much mood, it’s like Colan forgot to break out a reasonable action sequence. After the first act, when Batman and Robin get into it, Colan and Moench are in a hurry. The leads drop into an existing action scene–the Bat-Signal calling them directly to the courthouse–and it doesn’t feel right. Colan’s compositions are more static than usual too.

Then there’s how much time Moench wastes explaining the Scarecrow. First he explains why the Scarecrow is mad at the other Batman villains, then he does a recap of the Scarecrow’s origin, then he explains the new fear juice. It’s just too much.

The subplots–Vicki, Alfred’s daughter, Dr. Fang–they do get some play, but not enough.

Maybe those parts don’t matter, given the truly awesome artwork.

CREDITS

The Frequency of Fear; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Albert De Guzman; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman 372 (June 1984)

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Moench retells Rocky with a handful of changes. Batman isn’t the biggest one, instead it’s how upfront Moench is about race. The champ’s black, the challenger is white and Moench talks about it length. It’s not just the boxers and their managers, it’s the regular people of Gotham. It’s kind of incredible.

And the majority of the issue doesn’t have anything to do with Batman. He gets something like three or five precent when Alfred’s daughter is jealous Bruce likes Vicki Vale more than her and then a little thing about Jason wearing Dr. Fang’s fake tooth.

Otherwise, the issue is about the boxers. Moench introduces three lead characters–boxers, trainer–and gives them a bunch ambitious scenes together. His conversations don’t always come off. For instance, the hardest talk about race pushes too much on honesty.

But he always tries. Moench doesn’t wimp away from the issues he’s raising.

CREDITS

What Price, the Prize?; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Don Newton; letterer and inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman 371 (May 1984)

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It’s a goofy issue to be sure, with Moench writing Catman as compulsively using words beginning with cat-. It gets annoying fast, probably before Batman even knows up.

As for the Batman and Robin development, there isn’t much to it. Instead, Moench concentrates on some subplot work with Alfred’s daughter maybe liking Bruce, which is icky, and Vicki Vale gets a brief appearance. Dr. Fang comes back for a moment too.

Moench’s Batman is a lot lighter. He’s looking forward to a new case, he jokes about the big street fight from the last issue. Then, once Catman reveals himself the villain, he’s “serious.” Or Robin keeps thinking about how he’s serious. It’s like Moench can’t decide how to characterize him. It’s Batman but Batman never gets to run the comic.

And Jason figuring out where Catman is going to strike from something at school just sounds stupid.

Odd stuff.

CREDITS

Nine Cradles of Death; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman 370 (April 1984)

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Moench certainly does have an interesting take on Bruce Wayne–he ignores Jason, who is trying to fill him in on important Batman and Robin business, because he’s trying to score with Alfred’s daughter.

In front of Alfred. It’s exceptionally seedy and kind of funny. Moench opens the issue with Robin out on patrol by himself (doesn’t make sense, but whatever) so Batman is never really the protagonist this issue. Instead, Moench sticks with Jason throughout. It’s an interesting viewpoint, even if it’s a little silly at times.

And then Bullock reveals himself–it’s not a surprise–and there’s a huge action sequence with Batman and Robin fighting like fifty thugs. Don Newton, Alfredo Alcala, fifty thugs. It looks fantastic. It doesn’t make much sense and it doesn’t matter one bit. The art’s so good, Moench can practically do anything.

And his villain, Dr. Fang, proves it. He’s super lame.

CREDITS

Up Above the Sin So High…; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman 369 (March 1984)

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Moench ends on a literal rough point–Batman smacking Deadshot around for information. The scene just feels wrong, maybe because it doesn’t seem like Deadshot should just reveal the information after one hit.

The issue opens with Alfred and his daughter on the run from Deadshot. This section is the best part of the comic, even though Moench drops too many hints about it being Deadshot after them. The cover kind of gives it away.

Batman shows up around halfway through to help them. At that point, Alfred and the daughter take a back seat to Batman going through all the clues. The clues lead to Deadshot and then Moench does these crazy thought balloons where he tries to explain both men’s motivations. It’s more for him, trying to justify their actions.

Not many subplots–Bullock maybe going dirty again, probably not.

Alcala goes overboard inking; otherwise the art’s good.

CREDITS

Target Practice; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda; editors, Nicola Cuti and Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman 368 (February 1984)

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It’s a very simple issue, but Doug Moench really does pace it all out beautifully. It’s goofy even–Moench hasn’t got down how to get his superheroes not sound silly when talking about being superheroes–but it is beautifully paced. The issue features Jason Todd’s first two nights as Robin, which end in tragedy.

Pre or post-Crisis Jason Todd was apparently always a lot of trouble (more like the writers finally realized how nuts it was to have a kid running around beating people up). There’s also a cameo from Dick Grayson and Moench, along with artists Don Newton and Alfredo Alcala, figure out how to turn it into a great guest appearance.

Even with iffy dialogue. There’s just so much texture to the characters’ interplay.

The art’s fantastic, the pacing’s fantastic, the dialogue’s problematic… it’s a pretty darn good comic. Except maybe the cliffhanger, Moench tries too hard.

CREDITS

A Revenge of Rainbows; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Nicola Cuti and Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 101 (November 1990)

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Andy Helfer pops in for a nice little issue. Amazing how he’s never written the book before–or worked on it in any capacity (as far as I remember)–yet he does a pitch perfect story juxtaposing Tefé’s spirit form running away and a local woman’s family problems. Helfer even writes Abby well.

Anyway, the issue also has Mike Hoffman on pencils. It’s hard to say how he’ll do on the comic–I think he’s the new penciller–since Alec doesn’t appear in the issue, but he does a great job with the people. This issue is all people, including some complicated scenes like kids playing on a playground. Hoffman infuses that scene with excitement and intrigue, even though it’s mundane.

The issue’s only problem isn’t Helfer’s fault. The Shaman character ludicrously doesn’t have a proper name. Just Shaman. One expects more from Swamp Thing.

It’s a touching, haunting issue.

CREDITS

Keepsakes; writer, Andy Helfer; penciller, Mike Hoffman; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editors, Karen Berger and Stuart Moore; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 100 (October 1990)

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Not much of a hundredth issue celebration for Swamp Thing apparently. Unless you count Wheeler going back and retconning a lot of Moore and Veitch’s details about the Parliament of Trees and the new Earth Elemental storyline. And the time travel storyline. Lots of retconning.

But Broderick can draw trees, so at least the trip to the Parliament looks all right.

Kelley Jones handles some of the other pages, with Swamp Thing in Antarctica searching for Eden. The Jones pages are fantastic, even if he doesn’t have as interesting scenery to render.

Most of the issue’s exposition and there’s a lot of it (because it’s retconning exposition). It makes the issue drag to say the least. None of Wheeler’s new details are any good; they’re all set-up for some future storyline. And they raise the question of whether he’s corrupting the previous writers’ intentions.

The comic fails to resonate.

CREDITS

Tales of Eden; writer, Doug Wheeler; pencillers, Kelley Jones Pat Broderick; inkers, Jones and Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 99 (September 1990)

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Wheeler writes an interesting scene between Alec and Constantine. Alec finally loses control with him and lifts him up, presumably to do him harm. It’s a bit of a shock, since Alec’s always restrained in his anger towards him. Sadly, Broderick’s art ruins the scene.

Strangely, Broderick handles the other plant guy just fine. Wheeler splits the issue between Alec trying to get Tefé’s body back and an escaped plant demon from Hell. Okay, it’s not really a demon but I don’t think Wheeler’s ever provided the right noun.

And on the plant demon and his followers–except the flashback, which both Wheeler and Broderick fumble–Broderick does okay. So there’s clearly something about Swamp Thing he just can’t visualize.

The usual art problems aside, the issue’s not bad. Wheeler can’t write Abby’s scene, but the inability’s no surprise and it passes quickly.

It’s still a child in jeopardy story.

CREDITS

Leaves in a Tempest; writer, Doug Wheeler; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 98 (August 1990)

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Thanks to guest penciller Tom Sutton–and a real understanding of the Arcane character–Wheeler brings his Tefé in Hell storyline to a successful close.

Oh, and Pog. Can’t forgot Pog. Even though Sutton doesn’t draw him as well as Broderick (yes, I’m surprised too), the character really makes this finish work.

Not even Sutton can make the denizens of Hell look frightening or creative. They look like action figure proposals still, but his Hell is fantastic. Some great panel composition too. And I love how he draws Alec as a monster. It’s a static Swamp Thing, but a distinct one.

Wheeler’s layered betrayals and revelations about Arcane’s plotting, his bosses’ plotting and Hell’s mechanics work out here. He’s moving towards a conclusion, not treading water with exposition.

The issue’s not without its problems–some of the guest stars are utterly superfluous–but it’s good. Maybe Wheeler’s best so far.

CREDITS

Family Reunion; writer, Doug Wheeler; penciller, Tom Sutton; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 97 (July 1990)

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Besides Pog, about the only thing Broderick draws well this issue is Etrigan.

Wheeler goes overboard into Hell’s politics as it accommodates new alien inhabitants–it’s really boring stuff and Broderick’s art is just too silly for it. Hell’s not horrifying, it looks like a toy commercial. It’s incredible Broderick couldn’t make bugs scary… scary bugs should be a requirement for Swamp Thing artists.

Alec puts together a crew to help him search for Tefé, but it’s unclear why he picks Abin Sur after learning Sur directed her to Hell in the first place.

While Wheeler ably ties the issue into one of Veitch’s unresolved subplots, he loses major points when he ends on Alec wailing “No!” off-panel. It’s even goofier not to see it.

The comic maintains its momentum–it’s a child in danger story after all–but Wheeler’s trying too hard again; his writing still lacks personality.

CREDITS

Scattered Houses; writer, Doug Wheeler; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 96 (June 1990)

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Interesting… Wheeler is able to sell the impossible here. He does another of his callbacks to Moore’s run–specifically the adorable alien, Pog–and makes it work.

Even more interesting is how it comes after an issue of questionable plotting in regards to Swamp Thing mythology.

Wheeler does a lot with the afterlife, with Arcane becoming a demon. He covers it–the last time Arcane was shown, his tormenters told him it’d go on forever–by saying the tormentors lie. They’re in Hell, after all.

It’s unsuccessful mostly because of the annoying “bug speak” Wheeler uses for one of the boss demons. It gets in the way of reading the issue.

But then Tefé disappears into the Green, following Alec, which prompts Alec’s trip into the afterlife.

Those parts of the issue work really well. Better than they should. So well I didn’t even notice if Broderick’s art is lacking.

CREDITS

Hell to Pay; writer, Doug Wheeler; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 95 (May 1990)

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Wheeler tries so hard and it just doesn’t go quite right. Some of the problems are with the art. Broderick gets more ambitious in his composition with conversations, but he can’t visualize the stranger parts of the story.

The issue involves Chester and Liz picketing a toxic waste plant, Alec and Abby’s parenting troubles, little Swamp Babies, Alec versus the toxic waste plant… and some other things. Wheeler never takes a moment to breath; the issue’s only calm sections are when he’s using the exposition to talk about pollution.

He does manage to get some decent moments out of the issue, but not enough of them. He loses track of Liz and Chester–though he does write dialogue for Liz dialogue for the first time–and the Swamp Babies thing is never clear.

He’s trying with Abby but not quite succeeding.

For Wheeler and Broderick, though, the issue’s not bad.

CREDITS

Toxic Wonderland; writer, Doug Wheeler; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 93 (March 1990)

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Good grief, Wheeler’s just trying to wrap himself in Moore and Veitch’s runs now. He brings back one of Abby’s old jobs–along with an unlikable but nice woman who rehires here, which I think is from Veitch’s run–and also the kid terrorized by the monkey demon, one of Moore’s first stories.

Not to mention Wheeler frames the issue around notes from the brother (or cousin) of the guy who took the tabloid pictures of Abby and Swamp Thing. Another Moore storyline. Wheeler’s writing Swamp Thing like he’s doing a wrap-up or some kind of delayed sequel; there’s nothing original to this issue. Wheeler’s trying to ingratiate himself to the reader and not knowing how to do it.

His dialogue for the mundane people scenes is atrocious.

As for Broderick’s art… he doesn’t do much well, but he and Alcala’s collaboration is definitely improving as far as people.

CREDITS

Capturing the Moments of Your Life; writer, Doug Wheeler; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 92 (February 1990)

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Wheeler is getting rather predictable. As far as Abby and Alec go–you know, Swamp Thing’s main characters–he has no idea what he’s doing. But he’s ambitious and enthusiastic. And well-versed in Swamp Thing. He seems to have read a lot of it; he just can’t write it.

This issue concerns the bayou reversing to how it was back in the thirties, before the oil companies, before the infrastructure, before the boob tube. Besides a terrible monologue from Abby–she’s not by herself, she’s with Alec… Wheeler just doesn’t know how to write a real conversation–and some interior monologue from Alec, Wheeler spends the whole issue with the bayou residents. Either they’re narrating or he’s writing in close third person.

The issue’s just a ghost story, which puts it in line with other Swamp Thing comics. Only Alec hasn’t got anything to do with this issue.

CREDITS

La Terre qui Disparait; writer, Doug Wheeler; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 91 (January 1990)

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Ew. I guess Broderick is getting a little better with the people, but now his Swamp Thing is an awkwardly shaped disaster. There’s no grace to the form, no majesty. Alec looks like a Mad Magazine caricature.

As for Wheeler’s writing? Well, he’s doing the Three Wise Men, with Woodrue as one of them. Except Woodrue’s an idiot here–Wheeler can’t write him. The other wise men are just goofy and vaguely racist.

The comic’s vaguely homophobic too.

I’m trying to think if Wheeler does anything well and it definitely seems like not. His foreshadowing is painfully obvious, his attempts at Alec’a internal monologue mirror Broderick in terms of gracelessness. He doesn’t even plot the issue well. It inexplicably stops.

Oh, and he gives Abby postpartum depression to fill some pages.

Maybe it’s a little misogynist too.

I tried to keep an open mind about Wheeler, but it’s slamming shut.

CREDITS

Augurs and Offerings; writer, Doug Wheeler; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 90 (December 1989)

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Alcala’s not the best inker for Pat Broderick. Broderick takes over pencils this issue. Swamp Thing looks fine, so do the plants, but the people look wrong, like there’s not enough detail to them.

Wheeler tries to put Alec on a psychedelic recap of his time travel adventures but it doesn’t work. The one panel callbacks to recent issues can’t compare to Arcane trying to escape Hell. The other modern day stuff–Constantine’s quest and Abby’s labor–overshadow Alec’s trip too.

It’s a simple problem–Wheeler couldn’t do a stream of consciousness piece for Swamp Thing. Either he doesn’t have the character down or it just doesn’t work here, since it’s a forced decision. Alec getting back to the present just takes Constantine and a tuning fork. The rest is indigestible gravy.

Besides the art and the trip, the issue’s pretty good. Hopefully Wheeler will get better at writing Abby.

CREDITS

Journeys; writer, Doug Wheeler; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 85 (April 1989)

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This issue’s extremely confusing. Veitch writes it assuming people know Hawk is Tomahawk’s son. In other words, a specialized audience at the time of its publication and an even more specialized one as time goes on. There are probably eight characters–all of them DC Western characters (except a couple for a surprise)–and Veitch has to introduce them all and their ground situations. And it gets slippery.

For example, the unseen German princes–who hire all the Western heroes–don’t make any sense. In the end, they do, once Veitch reveals everything, but when he’s hinting at it… nope, doesn’t work. He also goes too fast in those character introductions.

The issue’s about the Western heroes, not Alec. It’s too bad too; Alec’s story in the issue is a lot more interesting than anyone else’s. And he’s only in the story for a day.

It’s fine enough, just bewildering.

CREDITS

My Name is Nobody; writer, Rick Veitch; penciller, Tom Mandrake; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

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