Stray Bullets 17 (November 1998)

Stray Bullets #17

Something is changing in Lapham’s art. His figures and faces are getting more streamlined, less thorough and there are a lot of almost all black panels.

Perhaps he’s rushing. But only on the art.

He’s still working hard on the story. This issue has a woman whose drunk husband comes home, followed by a bunch of acquaintances from the bar looking for money. Most of the issue is this oddly dangerous situation, since the acquaintances are drunk cops.

These characters might tie in to previous issues, but I can’t remember. Lapham gives the married couple a lot of back story; he handles it really well in the dialogue and I’m hoping he doesn’t waste the time doing an issue on it.

As the strange evening progresses, there are plot developments, characters bonding, characters not bonding. It’s a really great issue. The hopefulness even matches the streamlined, rounder faces Lapham draws.

A 

CREDITS

While Ricky Fish Was Sleeping…; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Dragovic; publisher, El Capitán Books.

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Stray Bullets 16 (August 1998)

Stray Bullets #16

Lapham starts fresh this issue, set a few years before the Virginia and Beth storyline; this time the protagonist is a hen-pecked husband who breaks down and kills someone. The experience proves a boon for his ego and he changes his life. Actually, he mostly starts drinking, sleeping with some other guy’s wife, hangs out at strip clubs, romances a stripper with a heart of gold.

It’s almost really good in a lot of ways, but some of them seem mutually exclusive–at least how Lapham’s structured the narrative. For example, it could be a great story about a cheating husband whose plans fall through, but there’s the murder thing at the open. And the character doesn’t exhibit confidence in any way other than the philandering. Maybe there just needs to be more of it.

Also, Lapham rushes the second half of the issue or so. The first half’s gold though.

B 

CREDITS

Two-Week Vacation; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Dragovic; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 15 (July 1998)

Stray Bullets #15

It’s another great issue. Lapham’s uneven overall, but when he does a great issue, it’s truly great.

No surprise, Virginia is the center of the issue. Lapham sets it a year later than the previous issue with its cliffhanger, with Virginia and Beth living in California. Beth’s trying to make deals, usually with guys, upsetting Virginia. Lapham writes the narration like Virginia’s doing a journal entry, but with lapses in reality.

It’s great.

What’s even better–and where Lapham does make Stray Bullets into a cohesive series–is how Virginia has changed. There’s new depth when she’s bullying some kid, just like she was bullied back in her first appearance. It does sort of make her actions confusing if one hasn’t read it all, but Lapham’s not going for new readers.

Then the second half of the issue or so is a madcap action sequence, funny and disturbing.

Phenomenal issue.

A 

CREDITS

Sex and Violence (Part 1); writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Dragovic; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 14 (August 1997)

Stray Bullets #14

A lot of stuff comes to a head this issue, which is double-sized, and even has some backstory on how the characters ended up in Seaside. Maybe it was during that first party issue. At least it seems to be the result of it. I think. If it’s so important, Lapham should have included CliffsNotes.

Otherwise, besides the issue being way too full, it’s pretty good. It’s definitely exciting as about half of it is a chase sequence. Orson, the current male lead, is on the run from the bad guys from the early issues. Beth and Virginia don’t get much to do. Too bad as they’re the best characters. Except Lapham does give Rose a lot for her cameo, revealing far more depth than expected.

The Seaside supporting cast figures in a lot, not very well. They’re backseat to the returning guest stars.

Rushed art too.

But okay.

B- 

CREDITS

You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 13 (April 1997)

Stray Bullets #13

Lapham does integrate Virginia (who called her Ginny, I can't remember) into the Seaside cast. And all of a sudden, if it weren't for the meth heads or whatever they are trying to rape a thirteen year-old girl (they're the comic relief, actually), Stray Bullets would be almost a sitcom. A quirky one, sure, but a sitcom nonetheless.

While there's still the aforementioned actual danger, Lapham's very upbeat about life in this one. Virginia bonds with Nina, Beth's friend who somehow got them all in trouble. Then there's lovable Nick. And darn if Orson and Beth aren't the cutest odd couple.

But it works too. Lapham pretty much pulls it off. He makes a good comic, even though he's got Virginia writing in her diary as the exposition and his story behind the Seaside town makes everything sillier. Against the odds, it works.

Lapham's just forcing the quirky too much.

B 

CREDITS

Farewell, Fair Cow!; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 12 (January 1997)

Stray Bullets #12

Ginny finally gets to Seaside and truly meets the cast there. Havoc ensues. Madcap havoc. There’s violence and there’s a little bit of evil, but Lapham plays it all for humor. Not even surreal humor. He’s got a cast of supporting characters he mocks and mock them he does.

The evil comes in the form of the local sheriff. He presents what seems to be a serious threat, what with him willing to attack kids in front of hundreds of witnesses. He also has his gun out and shoots at lots of things. Between him and the comically creepy guys patrolling the fair for girls, Lapham lets Bullets become farce.

It’s not bad as farce. Lapham still has enough good will on Beth for her to get through the issue all right and Ginny introducing herself as “Amy” is worth a smile. The story’s just a little too slight overall.

B 

CREDITS

Hugs, Not Drugs or Hugs on Drugs; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 11 (October 1996)

Stray Bullets #11

It’s back to reality, but Lapham keeps his new formula for figuring in interconnected exposition. Maybe Beth and her friend are the girls from the night of the first party. I kind of hope not, because it makes her meeting Orson–who thankfully doesn’t appear this issue–way too contrived.

The issue has Beth and the friend out swimming, only they end up fighting because they’re both going crazy on the run. Then Beth has this crazy adventure with a movie star and her odd entourage. The end brings everything together with devastating result. It’s like Lapham took a while to figure out what stories to do–and how uncomfortable to make things. He’s got a great balance this story.

He’s finally turning Beth into a decent character. She was one note as Orson’s angry girlfriend but Lapham hasn’t given her room to stretch until now. It works out well.

B+ 

CREDITS

The Supportive Friend; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 10 (August 1996)

Stray Bullets #10

It’s the best issue of Stray Bullets so far and it’s an Amy Racecar issue. I’ll pause for a moment and let that situation sink in. The fictional character of one of Lapham’s fictional characters has the best issue in ten.

Okay, here we go. Amy, or little Ginny, ends up in Seaside. Seaside is that truck stop-centered place from the last issue. Luckily, none of the regular cast appears–for a few pages, I was worried Lapham was having Ginny project Amy Racecar around her–except Spanish Scott. Of course, he’s called something else because Ginny never found out his name. This issue is her still disturbed from what she witnessed–and all the crazy stuff following it (and predating it, turns out her mom’s always been a nutter).

There’s action, there’s comedy, there’s great writing and great art. Lapham keeps piling it on and he keeps on selling it through.

Phenomenal.

A+ 

CREDITS

Here Comes the Circus; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 9 (May 1996)

Stray Bullets #9

I don't know if I'd say Bullets is back on track, as Lapham's been relatively uneven so it's hard to know what kind of track he's trying to keep the series on. But this issue's definitely an improvement, just in terms with how tightly he tells the story.

It's set in the trailer park from the previous issue, but following around a new character, a local loser who takes Orson out to the nearby truck stop. There's nothing else to do but hang out at the truck stop. The issue's protagonist is an unlikable bully (though Lapham never gives the reader the satisfaction of Orson going off on him) and his adventures, set over a day, are mostly comical.

The end is a little bit of a surprise, not so much the last page, which Lapham goes for humor, but the bully's big moment.

It's a solid, if unremarkable, issue.

B 

CREDITS

Twenty-Eight Guys Named Nick; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 8 (February 1996)

Stray Bullets #8

The interconnected thing is exhausting because Lapham has to take time out from the story to fill the reader in on the connection. For example, Orson the high school kid is now on the run with the girl he met at the end of his first issue for stealing coke from crime boss Harry. At least I think she’s the girl from the end of that issue. Anyway, it probably takes Lapham three pages to get that information out of the way.

Is three pages too much? Well, when it’s split between panels throughout the whole issue, yes, yes it is too much.

It turns out the whole issue is actually about Orson and the girl having relationship problems. They resolve them at the end of the issue after a crazy public outburst, but it’s supposed to be cute.

The whole thing’s kind of cute. Stray Bullets cute is ugly.

C 

CREDITS

Lucky To Have Her; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 7 (November 1995)

Stray Bullets #7

It’s more adventures of Ginny, the girl with the terrible mother–not like “ha ha” terrible, but like abused one. Her dad gets cancer. Her dad who literally has to protect her from her mother and her sister. So the scary part is his leaving her, which Lapham sort of ignores.

Instead, he goes through day after day of the father getting worse and Ginny watching from the hallway. She’s totally inactive in the second half of the comic–I’m also confused about the passage of time, but whatever. It’s a wrenching experience as one goes through it, even if Lapham never tries to get it to add up.

It appears Amy Racecar would be a story Ginny writes, though Lapham never draws too much attention to it.

It’s like Lapham’s toying with giving Stray Bullets a main character. It might not be the best idea. Ginny’s sympathetic, but thin.

B 

CREDITS

Freedom!; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets: Killers 2 (April 2014)

Stray Bullets: Killers #2

Lapham calls back big time to the original Stray Bullets this issue. He works it in as background, very, very discreet background. His expository dialogue is good enough a new reader could walk right in. The neat part of not going overboard with a callback is it doesn’t make the comic seem too forced. It feels far more organic.

The story concerns a teenage runaway who stops in with her aunt. The aunt’s got some problems going on, the runaway’s got some problems going on, but there’s this wonderful sense of history between the two women. Lapham infers it all, both through his composition and the dialogue.

There are complications–the girl meets a boy, the uncle is nearly catatonic–and Lapham does work his way to a sensational finale. But the things along the way are even better. He’s writing these fabulous scenes between his characters; good plotting is just gravy.

A 

CREDITS

Sweet Jane; writer, artist and letterer, David Lapham; editors, Karen Hoyt and Maria Lapham; publisher, Image Comics.

Stray Bullets 6 (September 1995)

Stray Bullets #6

And here we get the first Amy Racecar story. Amy’s probably a stand-in for the little girl with the scars, given how silly some of the details of the story get. Amy’s a thirty-first century outlaw on a Dillinger-esque crime spree. So it’s a child’s fantasy. Also, Amy eventually gets scars on her face from her awful mother.

It’s only the sixth issue of Stray Bullets. It seems a little soon for Lapham to escape into sci-fi, gangster metaphors for an entire issue.

The Amy story’s a little easier to digest, however, since no one’s a real person. The terrible things they do and say aren’t as bad as in the regular issue. It’s an imaginary story.

The good moments–Amy has a vision of God and it causes everyone who sees it (because it’s the future you can see people’s experiences) goes insane. And it’s got a good, despondent finish.

B- 

CREDITS

“How I Spent My Summer Vacation” or “The Rocket Ship Of Life Is Going My Way” or “Three Cheers For God – He’s Certainly a Swell Guy” or “Home Is Where Mom Lives” or “I Don’t Care, As Long As I Gots Me Space Munchies” or “Nothing From Nothing Was Something”; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 5 (August 1995)

Stray Bullets #5

Lapham goes for mood a lot this issue. Only, he doesn’t do it with the art, he does it with the lettering. He does it with the “sound” going around, the dialogue. It’s a fantastic sequence. It takes place during a party, which is sort of confusing as many of the guests seem to be the same as the other party from a previous issue. But it’s definitely a different party.

Probably.

Doesn’t matter.

The protagonist of the issue is a teenager who witnesses a car accident. He falls in with an older woman who knows Spanish Scott and Monster (we later learn) but mostly the story is the kid’s. He’s got an overbearing mom, a rebellious younger sister, an ineffectual dad. Lapham does a great job showing his frustration at his inability to take control of his life.

The ending, which is problematic, is also awesome. Lapham really scores.

B+ 

CREDITS

Backin’ Up the Truck; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 4 (June 1995)

Stray Bullets #4

So, with this issue, Lapham does two things. First, he resurrects a previously presumed dead character and fills in, through exposition, the year between stories. But then he also spends the entire issue teasing danger for the character, only to go for a somewhat black, but still comedic relief finish for the issue.

It’s kind of a cop out. Not because there can’t be okay people in the world–or at least people who aren’t complete monsters–but because Lapham spends the whole issue twisting the reader’s perspective. The issue’s a road trip, not a scenic one, but a road trip; only Lapham’s taking the reader for that ride.

There’s some strong character work on the returning character and not so good character work on the new cast member. Lapham is intentionally deceptive. It’s hard to build a character while tricking the reader.

Cop out or not, it’s masterfully done.

B 

CREDITS

Bonnie and Clyde; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 3 (May 1995)

Stray Bullets #3

Being interconnected can be a real problem when it’s all you’re going for. This issue, Lapham brings in characters from the previous issues at different times in their lives, showing where they’ve gone or showing how they ended up where they’re going. For the most part, they’re supporting cast, which is good.

The problem is Lapham doesn’t have anything going on for his lead characters this issue. It’s a couple young, dumb, small time crooks who throw a party. The whole issue revolves around the party and the party isn’t interesting. Lapham goes for non sequitur surprises with some of the party moments; good approach, but not great moments.

He’s got a problem–his little criminals aren’t sympathetic characters and they aren’t compelling ones either. Why care about their problems? Their stories for the issue don’t grab. Lapham seems to know it too, using cheap stunts more often than not.

C 

CREDITS

The Party; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 2 (April 1995)

Stray Bullets #2

There’s an odd thing to this issue of Stray Bullets. Even though Lapham never suggests things are going to go all right at all, even though he takes the reader through various intense situations and they always get worse, he creates a hopefulness. It’s a useless one, of course, but it’s there.

The reality of the comic starts with the Star Wars banter and carries over into the family relationship. The lead is a middle school girl who witnesses a murder and breaks down. Lapham handles all of the relationships perfectly; people are selfish and self-serving. Not a single moment is off. It’s astoundingly depressing.

It’s not just good because it’s depressing. It’s great because Lapham perfectly constructs this situation and setting and the inevitability of it all. He has opportunities to foreshadow a happy ending, but skips them.

He’s trying to ruin the reader’s day. He does.

A 

CREDITS

Victimology; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Stray Bullets 1 (March 1995)

Stray Bullets #1

With a very strange sense of humor, you could call the first issue of Stray Bullets a comedy of errors. Two guys working for a crime boss (it’s never too clear, which is nice) have a simple task. They have to dispose of a body. Unfortunately, they have a flat.

Then it turns out one of the guys isn’t all there, mentally. David Lapham takes the story from bad to worse, dragging the reader not just into the world view of the mentally disabled guy, but into the distorted world view of his partner. And once Lapham has the reader in that mindset, he doesn’t let up until the end. He controls the reader through a lengthy, packed story–lots of panels on lots of pages.

The ending’s a bit of a letdown as Lapham lets everyone breath. It’s like he pauses to admire his craftsmanship a little much.

But still….

A- 

CREDITS

The Look of Love; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Purcell; publisher, El Capitán Books.

Juice Squeezers 4 (April 2014)

Juice Squeezers #4

So how does Lapham end the first Juice Squeezers series? Well, but with too much of an eye on the future. He opens up two new story lines in this issue–one out of the blue–and confirms another one will continue.

Otherwise, the issue is good. Well, except when Lapham tugs on the heart strings. He leaves something else open I forgot about. Spending the last two-thirds of this issue setting up for the next series is rather disappointing. The scenes are still well-written, the characters are still strong. The art is phenomenal, particularly a talking heads sequence where one of the kids confronts the teacher who's in charge of the group.

And the first third is awesome. Lapham somehow puts the kids in danger from giant bugs, but the bugs never seem too dangerous. Real death in the comic is unthinkable, something the cast believes too.

The issue mostly works out.

B 

CREDITS

The Great Bug Elevator, Part Four: Bug City; writer and artist, David Lapham; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Nate Piekos; editor, Jim Gibbons; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Stray Bullets: Killers 1 (March 2014)

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With this first issue of Stray Bullets: The Killers, David Lapham reminds everyone why they should feel bad about themselves for not missing Stray Bullets more. It's a new story, but it hits all the best beats the series used to hit and nothing else has hit since.

It opens with a stunning sequence with preteen boys talking about women. Fantastic dialogue, fantastic balancing of dark and not. Then Lapham gets into the protagonist's screwed up home life–deadbeat salesman dad who heads to the strip club while the mom works. The protagonist tags along, hidden in the back of the station wagon.

At the strip club, the kid forms a bond with one of the bouncers. Lapham gets in small town suffocation, the father's levels of guilt, the bouncer's personal morality, the kid's inability to understand any of it.

It's a phenomenal issue. I should've been missing Bullets daily.

A 

CREDITS

No Take-Backs; writer, artist and letterer, David Lapham; editors, Karen Hoyt and Maria Lapham; publisher, Image Comics.

Juice Squeezers 3 (March 2014)

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Lapham sets up a perfectly good–by perfectly good, I mean predictable–cliffhanger and doesn’t use it. He doesn’t even use it when he’s building up to the cliffhanger. Instead, he goes with a logical choice. It’s not the most dramatic he could, it’s just the right one to do.

All of Juice Squeezers plays out similarly. Lapham never goes for the big money shot or the most drama. He’s patient with it, patient with how he develops the character relationships and the subplots. He’s restrained. It’s never cheap. Not once.

This issue has huge developments with a new member joining the team, some investigation into gossip about the teacher and one of the kid’s moms, not to mention the romance subplot actually taking off. And Lapham puts all these behind the giant bug plot, which also has some new developments.

Juice Squeezers’s fabulous. Great vibe to the art too.

A 

CREDITS

The Great Bug Elevator, Part Three: Going Down; writer and artist, David Lapham; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Nate Piekos; editor, Jim Gibbons; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Juice Squeezers 2 (February 2014)

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Oh, look, Lapham includes a cast list with pictures for Juice Squeezers. What an idea, actually giving your readers a reference when you have a lot of characters.

Lapham borrows from Love and Rockets as far dealing with a large cast of similar looking characters. He makes their actions defining, not their appearance, and frequently uses their names to get the reader familiar.

This issue has the team trying to save the old farm–giving the comic a very Hardy Boys retro detail–but the kid on the farm finds them and then finds one of the bugs. Interesting too is how Lapham doesn’t make the bugs scary or evil. It’s all from the team’s perspective, so they don’t scare.

There are the beginnings of a love triangle too and a rather amusing C plot about one of the kid’s paternal heritage.

Finished establishing up the ground situation, Lapham excels.

A 

CREDITS

The Great Bug Elevator, Part Two: The Bug Who Came in from the Cold; writer and artist, David Lapham; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Nate Piekos; editor, Jim Gibbons; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Juice Squeezers 1 (January 2014)

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Cute David Lapham. Who knew.

For what he doesn’t do originally in Juice Squeezers–and a lot is original, he just has problems with the teenage banter scenes–he mimics. What does he mimic? Love and Rockets. And Lapham does handle the whole teenage romantic comedy angst thing well himself.

The setup’s mind-boggling. Teenagers who hunt down the giant insects plaguing a rural California valley. So it’s a fifties sci-fi movie mixed with Tremors, only too young for the drive-in crowd. Wait a second… Squeezers might even be targeted for young teens. David Lapham doing a comic for twelve year-olds. Man’s got to eat.

There’s a lot of fun, a lot of good characterizations. He never draws the bugs too gross (or even too dangerous) and he generates a very positive vibe. There’s a nice mix of light and dark visuals too. It’s a good comic.

B 

CREDITS

The Great Bug Elevator, Part One: Welcome to the Neighborhood; writer and artist, David Lapham; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Nate Piekos; editor, Jim Gibbons; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Detective Comics 800 (January 2005)

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Gabrych writes and writes and writes and writes. His Batman narration goes on forever, hitting the same beats again and again. Batman’s alone–everyone left him, the cops hate him, it’s just like when he started out, only he’s older. On and on it goes. Gabrych got the job of summarizing all the “War Games” fallout. It’s a thankless task.

There’s a regular story too. Heroin has hit the streets again and Batman has to investigate. The investigation proves confusing because Gotham’s crime world has restructured, setting up Black Mask as the big villain. Gabrych sort of tells the issue in vignettes, but not enough. Batman keeps losing his train of thought.

The ending’s a little too weak, too forced. Gabrych tries to make Batman make sense and he can’t.

The backup is a depressing bit from David Lapham. It’s mean and nasty and rather well-done, if entirely unpleasant.

CREDITS

Alone At Night; writer, Andersen Gabrych; penciller, Pete Woods; inkers, Cam Smith and Drew Geraci. In the Dark; writer and artist, David Lapham. Colorist, Jason Wright; letterer, Phil Balsman; editors, Michael Wright and Bob Schreck; publisher, DC Comics.

Rocketeer Adventures 2 3 (May 2012)

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Did IDW run out of people to hire for Rocketeer Adventures? The Kyle Baker story, done a little like a serial episode, is great, but it’s Kyle Baker. He doesn’t just get how to do comic action, he can actually write Betty. And his Shadow cameo is rather fun too.

But besides Baker, this issue’s awful. Chris Sprouse’s art is good on the first story, if a little underwhelming. David Lapham scripts it; it’s a terrible script about Cliff and Betty realizing they don’t want to be a farm family. In short, Sprouse is drawing a lot of farm equipment. Not a good use of him.

Still, anything is better than the last story. Eric Canete’s style seems to be rushed, line heavy and animation influenced. Matt Wagner only writes narration–since it’s a “Jetsons” story–and Canete’s art complements it perfectly. Neither are good.

Baker aside, the issue’s crap.

CREDITS

“Coulda been…”; writer, David Lapham; penciller, Chris Sprouse; inker, Karl Story; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Shawn Lee. Butchy Saves Betty; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Kyle Baker. History Lesson; writer, Matt Wagner; artist, Eric Canete; colorists, Canete and Cassandra Poulson; letterer, Lee. Editor, Scott Dunbier; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Immortal Weapons 5 (January 2010)

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You know who David Lapham can’t write? Danny Rand. You know who he has as his de facto protagonist? Danny Rand.

John Aman—the Prince of Orphans—is secondary to his own issue. Lapham even writes an adventure for Danny and Luke with a wacky miniature villain. I guess Aman gets the opening scene but….

Worse, it’s like Lapham never even read Brubaker and Fraction’s Immortal Iron Fist issues with Aman and Danny to get the relationship down. He just makes Danny a pest—it’s like he’s writing Spider-Man as Danny Rand.

I guess it’s an okay story for not being any good and Lozzi’s art is lovely.

This whole Immortal Weapons series is a waste of time.

And the Swierczynski Iron Fist backup, which started so nice, is a waste. Swierczynski lost hold of the narrative—it’s obvious. And Diaz’s artwork is even worse than before. He’s awful.

CREDITS

Prince of Orphans: The Loyal Ten Thousand Dead; writer, David Lapham; artist, Arturo Lozzi; colorist, June Chung. The Caretakers, Conclusion; writer, Duane Swierczynski; artist, Hatuey Diaz; colorist, June Chung. Letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Alejandro Arbona and Warren Simons; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Immortal Iron Fist 27 (August 2009)

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Swierczynski’s Iron Fist goes out with a whimper. He mimics Fraction’s last issue on the title. I’m not sure Swierczynski should have gotten to close, since he was just following Brubaker and Fraction–not to say his writing wasn’t occasionally quite good, it was just never original.

Foreman goes back to inking himself (I think) and it looks a little better than usual. It’s a dark, emotive style. Until the Lapham pages. They look out of place and, worse, lazy.

Swierczynski is more concerned getting Danny to the last page–expecting a baby, financially ruined–than doing it in any realistic manner. One has to wonder about editorial mandates, how much was about getting Danny set for his next series or whatever.

It’s too bad Swierczynski did ten or eleven issues on the series and never made an impression on his own. It’s still too much Brubaker and Fraction’s series.

Sparta U.S.A. 6 (October 2010)

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Well… crud.

Lapham explains a lot of the backstory–poorly and needlessly–and then fills the rest of the issue with a useless fight against the Nazis. It’s not even good exploitation–if he’d done football players versus Nazis, for example, it might be something. Instead it’s just a standard resistance, followed by some more fighting. I think the biggest battle is all off-page.

The conclusion is sequel-ready, but in a goofy sense. There’s nowhere for the story to go because Lapham didn’t spend any time making a story anyone wanted to read again. So why conclude like he did?

There aren’t even any comeuppance for the bad guys, which Lapham sort of implied the reader would get.

I’m actually more indifferent to the issue than disappointed. It does make reading the entire series a bit of a waste though.

It would’ve been much better with my dream ending. Or any another ending.

CREDITS

Beyond the Mountain; writer, David Lapham; artist, Johnny Timmons; colorist, Darlene Royer; letterer, Wes Abbott; editors, Kristy Quinn and Ben Abernathy; publisher, Wildstorm.

Sparta U.S.A. 5 (September 2010)

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With one issue left, there’s no way Lapham is going to be able to explain everything. Especially not after this issue, when he reveals the bad guy to be the Pied Piper. Well, I suppose he could reveal it all to be a dream of Colin Farrell’s, which would make it the greatest comic book ever.

But I doubt it.

Sparta‘s not a great comic book, but it’s a good one. It’s completely unambitious, which is nice for a creator-owned titled and absent pretense. It’s Lapham providing a monthly diversion for his readers, keeping them interested, keeping them engaged.

At some point this issue I realized Lapham hasn’t made the reader care about a single character. There’s a hostage situation–a standoff–with an infant here and even it doesn’t cause a lot of concern.

However, I’m wondering if Timmons’s lessening of Colin Farrell likenesses isn’t artistic laziness. The art weakens here.

CREDITS

War; writer, David Lapham; artist, Johnny Timmons; colorist, Darlene Royer; letterer, Wes Abbott; editors, Kristy Quinn and Ben Abernathy; publisher, Wildstorm.

Sparta U.S.A. 4 (August 2010)

Cover Image 3.jpeg

Maybe Timmons just really wanted to draw swastikas?

Lapham has gone far without explaining anything at all about Sparta‘s setting; it’s modern day but there aren’t any cellphones so far and there’s no internet. So when the bad guy shows up at the end with a bunch of Nazi stormtroopers, I’m not sure what to think.

It might be better, overall, if there’s no explanation. Though I’m going to love it if Lapham equates American football culture to Nazism.

This issue is, once again, sort of confusing. Lapham’s killing off characters, revealing secrets, all sorts of busy work. But it really just ends where the third issue could have started. Maybe doing a creator owned four issue limited just doesn’t make sense for Wildstorm, but four issues is about all the story Lapham apparently had for Sparta.

Also, Timmons is toning down all the Colin Farrell likenesses for the hero.

C- 

CREDITS

Chaos Will Out; writer, David Lapham; artist, Johnny Timmons; colorist, Darlene Royer; letterer, Wes Abbott; editors, Kristy Quinn and Ben Abernathy; publisher, Wildstorm.

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