The Spire 5 (December 2015)

The Spire #5

Politics, romance, danger, The Spire.

Five issues into the series and it still has a lot of surprises. Not just in the plot or a twist, which this issue ends on, but in how Spurrier is going to approach it. This issue is very straightforward, nearly noir with Shå having to figure some things out while trying to protect her girlfriend, her queen, not to mention having to get her sidekick back.

It’s a lot. And it’s packed because Stokely’s drawing this amazing setting–Stokely and Spurrier even do full page spreads, which is a little weird for The Spire. And Stokely’s not great at them, quite frankly, but I like seeing them. I like seeing Spurrier and Stokely open up The Spire. It feels like the series is still growing.

Spurrier’s writing is outstanding. Shå’s becoming something of a great character, which I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting.

CREDITS

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

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I Hate Fairyland 3 (December 2015)

I Hate Fairyland #3

Young’s a bit of a show-off this issue. He works on his subplot–the queen conniving to rid Fairyland of Gert–and gives Gert what seems to be a standard adventure. Until it isn’t. And then Young goes crazy with this lengthy sequence–it seems to take place over decades (or a day). It’s phenomenal.

Except it isn’t just that sequence, it’s what he follows it with. He uses the time transition to bring Gert into the queen’s subplot. It’s a great script.

And the way the subplot plays out leads to a battle royale between Gert and her erstwhile nemesis. It’s a lot for a third issue, but Young has thought out all these places he wants to go with the book. He’s moving quickly, but still deliberately.

Young’s pretty much gotten to where he can’t make any storytelling missteps as long as he at least tells it right. The content doesn’t matter, the visuals are so strong. It could be anything and he would find a way to make it visually compelling.

I Hate Fairyland is an excellent book.

CREDITS

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

Johnny Red 2 (December 2015)

Johnny Red #2

The issue’s a little too slight. Not in the middle, but once Ennis wraps it up. He finds Johnny Red’s momentum–the stuff with the Russian fliers, not when it’s narrated, but when it’s the action, is excellent. Like, some of Ennis’s better war writing in a while. It’s real good.

But then the soft cliffhanger comes around and it’s a lame one. Ennis is doing this reboot of Johnny Red, he’s got the constraints for trying to deliver to an existing audience; all of his bad choices make sense. They’re all to be more commercial. And Ennis isn’t anti-commercial in the rest of it, he’s just doing a milder book. The character potentials of the extreme situation (a Brit flying with the Soviets) are where he excels.

As for Burns’s art, most of the WWII stuff is great. The bookend scene in the modern day is bad. Rushed, like an afterthought. It’s a weird waste of a page or two.

Once the action hits, Burns is on point. He can draw exciting dogfight panels. He’s got just the right balance of movement and detail. The grit just furthers what Ennis is doing anyway. It’s a great pairing of creators.

CREDITS

Mrs. Redburn’s Little Boy; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Keith Burns; colorist, Jason Wordie; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Kristen Murray and Steve White; publisher, Titan Comics.

A Train Called Love 4 (December 2015)

A Train Called Love 4

It’s so funny. How can it be so funny? Ennis isn’t even trying this issue. He’s gotten through two bombshell reveals in the previous issue and here he sort of takes a break from comic narrative and instead goes for easy laughs.

And it works. Something about Ennis’s style, something about Dos Santos’s artwork–Train Called Love is this leisurely, self-indulgent, cheaply funny (in a smart way) fun (big) little comic. Ennis enjoys the scenes. He drags them out; the characters are funnier the longer they’re on page, which is awesome. Dos Santos is responsible for a lot of the narrative pacing; he’s got a lot going on in, movement, expression, placement. His style’s simple (Saturday morning cartoon almost) but he knows what he’s doing with it.

Even though not all of this issue connects as much as it could–the pillow talk sequence feels forced–the conclusion is awesome. Ennis wraps up the issue’s plot (a little), moves a couple subplots forward, including a big one, and then manages to end on another surprise. If A Train Called Love manages to keep this speed and quality for all of its twelve issues, it might actually end up being one of Ennis’s most impressive limited series.

CREDITS

Everybody Knows That I Love You; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Marc Dos Santos; colorist, Salvatore Aiala Studios; letterer, Rob Steen; editor, Rachel Pinnelas; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Auteur: Sister Bambi 5 (December 2015)

The Auteur: Sister Bambi #5

I don’t know. I’m not sure what other response one should have to Sister Bambi’s conclusion, just because—well, first off, it has almost nothing to do with this series and instead serves to close off the entire Auteur franchise (unfortunately)—but because the comic is so strange.

Spears splits the (double-sized) issue between a script for what seems more like the final issue of Sister Bambi and regular comic story. The regular comic story has Rex battling it out with what seems to be his creator (only Spears only writes the book, so maybe it’s supposed to be Callahan). Is it a reflection on the state of the creator and the creation? Of the artist’s place in the twenty-first century? Or is it just Spears and Callahan being gross?

The comic works, to some degree, on all three levels, but never all the way. Even though Callahan puts a lot of work into the art, the story isn’t particularly engaging. Especially not when juxtaposed against Spears’s other script, which one can easily imagine visualized and it would be rather funny.

So, in the end, Sister Bambi’s conclusion seems to be a mercy killing, which is odd, because if readers made it through ten issues… they might want something better for Rex and company.

Spears and Callahan achieve irreverent and absurd; hopefully they weren’t going profound and sublime. Either way, it’s one heck of a way to end a comic.

CREDITS

None of Us Get Out of Here Alive; writer and letterer, Rick Spears; artist, James Callahan; colorist, Luigi Anderson; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

Code Pru 1 (December 2015)

Code Pru is that traditional college tale of the four girls rooming together and one of them invokes an Elder God to bring about the end of the world. Because another girl, the tech girl, is mean to the magic cult leader girl. Standard stuff.

It’s accessible–writer Garth Ennis never goes too far, he never gets mean in his humor–and it’s likable. Ennis is conveying a mood of affable misanthropy. No one’s perfect, so let’s laugh at everyone. It’s a nice, showy approach. All of the roommates–except the mean girl leader–get some solid characterization, especially tech girl, who’s ostensibly the lead (she’s Pru). But the other two as well. Ennis is showing off. He’s strutting.

Of course, it wouldn’t work with the wrong art so Ennis has something to strut about given Raulo Caceres’s gorgeously creepy, but never gross, black and white artwork. Caceres has some problems with detail from time to time, but he knows how to make them immaterial against the style. His style is key.

Because Code Pru has to be scary but not unpleasantly scary. Even the Elder God–see, I wasn’t kidding, it’s this Lovecraftian thing because, obviously, Avatar–even the Elder God is kind of okay looking. Pleasant looking.

It’s funny, it’s creepy, it’s awesome. Awesome work from Ennis and Caceres.

CREDITS

What’s Past is Prologue; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

War Stories 15 (December 2015)

War Stories #15

I didn’t want to read this issue of War Stories. Not specifically. I mean, I didn’t really care about finishing up this stupid American flier arc where Ennis doesn’t want to tell the story of the action hero. It’s a weird version of a Technicolor fifties war movie, only without a love interest and the narrator doesn’t have a good story for himself. I just didn’t want to read an issue of War Stories where Ennis writes terrible narration.

And he does terrible narration for this issue. The doctor waxes poetic, like a trailer to The Thin Red Line or Saving Private Ryan even. Ennis’s narration sounds trite. The entire arc’s been a hurried mess, but it’s like there are whole missing pieces. The story of the actual flier, the subject of the arc, gets incomprehensibly muddled. Maybe because Aira’s faces are so bad. He draws people so ugly, you don’t even want to look at them (seriously, it’s like something out of Providence), so you rush through the talking heads. It’s fine, because it’s all historical exposition. Ennis could have thrown in some actual charts and had it be more dramatically authentic.

War Stories can be the low budget passion project of the otherwise successful brand (Garth Ennis). But not if Ennis, the writer, can’t muster the enthusiasm to care about it. He should have just alternated arcs with another writer (or writers). It would’ve been better for the brand and it would’ve been better for the book.

CREDITS

Tokyo Club, Part Three: Sun-Setter; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Lazarus 21 (December 2015)

Lazarus #21

Rucka gets so much done this issue, so many plot threads tied up–while introducing a great new one in the soft cliffhanger–I can’t even remember them all. It’s an extra-sized issue, which helps, because there’s a lot going on besides the war comic.

This issue, with Forever and her unit attacking the enemy’s position? It’s a war comic. It’s Michael Lark doing a war comic; sort of future-y, but not really. It’s also Lark doing an action comic. Forever’s in an action movie version of a war; she’s Chuck Norris. It’s awesome, because Rucka maintains the tone, maintains the seriousness. He, Lark and co-inker Tyler Boss are as restrained and careful as ever.

The rest of the comic has the family working on a cure for the patriarch while one of the daughters has to take over for the “in charge” brother because he can’t hack it. It’s almost like an episode of “Dallas,” only with a bunch of military stuff going on. But it’s all off-panel; it creates a lot of tension for Forever.

Lazarus continues to be a fantastic book.

CREDITS

Poison, Part Five; writer, Greg Rucka; penciller, Michael Lark; inkers, Lark and Tyler Boss; colorist, Santiago Arcas; letterer, Jodi Wynne; editor, David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

Birthright 12 (December 2015)

Birthright #12

Ah, a good old-fashioned subway fight. Not New York subway, Chicago subway. The setting should give Birthright some kind of distinction, but it doesn’t. In fact, there’s no distinct this issue, except maybe the first time I’ve seen Bressan rush through a scene so bad he loses his detail. The last seven or so pages feel like an entirely different artist, sort of aping Bressan’s style, but not really.

There’s also nothing special as far Williamson’s plotting. It’s sort of a bridging issue, but nothing happens. Just build-up for something later on, the good guys from Conan-land are going after Birthright’s “hero.” Hopefully his little big brother will stand up for him, but he’s asking questions too.

And the stuff with the mom and the now grown son’s pregnant girlfriend? The pregnant, flying warrior woman girlfriend? They get jumped by these bozo men in black guys. It’s really lame. It’s a weird issue.

I think I might be done with Birthright. I just can’t make the time.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Williamson; artist, Andrei Bressan; colorist, Adriano Lucas; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Arielle Basich and Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

A Train Called Love 3 (December 2015)

A Train Called Love #3

What is this comic book? Back in the nineties, did Garth Ennis really want to write a whacked out sitcom? A Train Called Love isn’t set in the nineties, of course, but it feels like it could be. There are just some technological alterations.

It’s a strange book from Ennis because it’s the first time I’m aware of him fully embracing his knowledge of pop culture. And he’s not doing pop culture references, he’s creating something in that vein. He’s showing up Kevin Smith, for example. He’s showing you can do these stories with the pop culture reference being transparent and all encompassing.

I really hope it works out. I can’t imagine it won’t. This issue, which has two outrageous things in both subplots–though to varying level of pressure–is a combination of inventive and, to some degree, realistically acceptable because of Ennis’s skill. But he does set up some characters for big changes.

This one had better go six issues.

CREDITS

What A Lady, What A Night; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Marc Dos Santos; colorist, Andrew Elder; letterer, Rob Steen; editor, Rachel Pinnelas; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Where Monsters Dwell 5 (December 2015)

Where Monsters Dwell #5

So light. It’s so light. And it’s a sequel to War Is Hell, which I’ve read at least twice and I can’t remember any of it. Not even when there’s a flashback–got to love the Marvel Ennis-verse.

But, even though it’s light, it’s really funny. Ennis is able to run with a joke until it’s funny. He doesn’t wear the reader down by relentlessly hammering it in, he just molds the joke until it’s ready. There’s a maturity to the humor. Even if the joke isn’t particularly high brow.

This issue wraps up the Phantom Eagle’s adventures in the Savage Land. Does it have anything to do with Secret Wars? No. In fact, it’s just Phantom Eagle in the Savage Land. And the Savage Land part isn’t even particularly important. Ennis and Braun show they can get an issue out of almost any material and they do. It’s good material, sure, but it’s not the most compelling. Most of it is a narrated flashback.

Where Monsters Dwell probably reads better in a sitting, just for how Ennis paces out the jokes. But well done, disposable, excellent amusement.

CREDITS

What Comes of Empire-Building; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Russ Braun; colorist, Dono Sanchez Almara; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Jake Thomas and Nick Lowe; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 1 (December 2015)

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1

I didn’t finish the last Squirrel Girl series, which is getting a very soft reboot here. I think there was a Secret Wars crossover. I’m not sure why I didn’t finish it. No good reason.

Doreen, Tippy and the whole gang are back. Including a couple new people who must’ve come into the comic after I stopped reading it.

The first third of the comic is setting up the new ground situation. Doreen is a sophomore, she’s living with Nancy in an apartment. She has a crimefighting partner who controls chipmunks or something. It’s cute. Ryan North writes some gently funny, amiable dialogue for the characters and it’s fine. Erica Henderson’s art’s good.

But it feels very perfunctory. Until the third act, after Doreen’s mom shows up and there’s a superhero fight scene. Not between Doreen and her mom, but between Squirrel Girl and a Hellboy villain. The fight scene isn’t even the good part. It’s after the fight scene, when North shows why Squirrel Girl is a different kind of book.

North and Henderson are fully aware of where they can go for the joke, but they don’t want to go for the low-hanging gags. They work until they get somewhere with the comic. There’s an infectious, precious sincerity to Squirrel Girl.

CREDITS

Writer, Ryan North; artist, Erica Henderson; colorist, Rico Renzi; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editors, Chris Robinson and Wil Moss; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Miracleman by Gaiman & Buckingham 3 (December 2015)

Miracleman by Gaiman & Buckingham #3

Well, it’s easily the best Miracleman from Gaiman so far. Still no Miracleman, but the comic is pretty solid. It’s pretending to be high concept but isn’t (it’s actually the template for lots of the standard, and acceptable, Vertigo series of the early nineties). Gaiman tells the story of Hades in Miracleman’s Golden Age… it’s where the aliens bring back famous dead people.

The lead is the sixth Andy Warhol android. Gaiman avoids the “mystical” skillfully, maybe more skillfully than anything else he does in the comic. A big character reveal in the last few panels changes the comic a little. For the better.

Unfortunately, Gaiman’s Warhol is a weak narrator. The story of an Emil Gargunza android hanging out with Warhol–and Gaiman doing some really obvious looks at how “celebrity” functions–is actually something. Gaiman’s choices are interesting, because Buckingham is more than willing to indulge–and Warhol’s so technically predictable (as an artist), it works for a comic. It’s all on the nose, but it’s a good nose.

Gaiman’s writing of the characters in scene–not that narration–is good. His reserved approach forces involvement and investment from the reader.

It’s a good issue. Even if a solid quarter of Buckingham’s full page spreads are technically wonderful but narrative eye-rolls.

CREDITS

Book Four: The Golden Age; writer, Neil Gaiman; artist, Mark Buckingham; colorist, D’Israeli; letterer, Todd Klein; editor, Cory Sedlmeier; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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