Star Wars: Thrawn #4 (July 2018)

Star Wars: Thrawn #4

All of a sudden, Thrawn is about Thrawn again. The issue covers a few years, sometimes emphasizing some of Thrawn’s achievements, sometimes just hopping ahead. It’s just really nice to have Thrawn and sidekick Vanto back. They’re so fun together.

There’s also the analytical stuff, which is what makes Thrawn engaging. Not the action or intrigue–the issue even determines Thrawn’s no good for intrigue–but the plotting and the contemplation. Well, the contemplation when Thrawn gets to quiz Vanto about it.

It’s such a nice return to form, it barely matters the issue doesn’t really go anywhere, just does a bunch of summary to set up the next issue. It’d be even nicer if writer Houser had employed a similar tactic on the previous issue, which lost its leads to world build.

Good art from Ross. He’s able to mix in some silly composition choices–floating heads talking across an action panel–to reasonable success. Thrawn isn’t strict; Ross uses its fluidity to good result here.

So. Perfectly fine stuff. Especially for a licensed tie-in novel adaptation.

CREDITS

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

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Star Wars: Thrawn #3 (June 2018)

Star Wars: Thrawn #3

Thrawn really isn’t important this issue of Thrawn. Instead, it tracks the adventures of a young woman from the Outer Sim who ends up on the Imperial homeworld and discovers corruption and manipulation in politics. But she sees an opportunity for advancement, and calls on Thrawn to help her.

For a while, it’s a decent issue. It seems like Houser is building to something. He might be–the issue has a hard cliffhanger–but he’s immediately overdue on it. An indulgence issue. Maybe it’s to the eventual trade paces out well. But in floppy? It’s a little much.

Especially since it’s so confusing. There’s so much dialogue, so much exposition. But then an event will occur and it won’t seem like anything previous discussed. And you reread the previous discussions and it certainly doesn’t seem like they’re talking about planning the immediately occurring events. The issue’s lead–the new woman–keeps a lot to herself.

The book is getting to be a bummer. But Ross’s art is awesome this issue.

CREDITS

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

Star Wars: Thrawn #2 (May 2018)

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One of the amusing franchise realties for Star Wars is Imperial officers aren’t bright. The movies established early on only Darth Vader had any brains. Darth Vader, then the Emperor. Otherwise, the Imperials were twits.

So Thrawn, which has a genius alien ascending the ranks of the racist Imperial Navy, has a somewhat peculiar problem. How can writer Houser show Thrawn’s ability to excel amid a group of twits. Even allowing for some intelligence, they’re still a bunch of racist twits. It’s kind of an interesting thing. Houser doesn’t really explore it because you don’t get to acknowledge a problem with a franchise in a licensed title. Well, whatever Star Wars is to Marvel.

It’s a successful issue. Maybe a little less impressive than the first; Houser thinks the big reveal is a lot more dramatic than it turns out to be. Thrawn is still all about Thrawn and his human flunky, Ensign Eli. Eli’s supposedly Thrawn’s handler (and is his assigned aide), but Thrawn’s really two steps ahead. Or ten steps. Whichever. Eli’s not too bright.

Decent art from Ross. Little too much with the computer shading, but decent art. He doesn’t do the action well. Like when there are fistfights and prison breaks and whatever. Those scenes, which are rushed in the script, are confusing on the page. Too little information and not the best panel subjects.

But a fine enough, sci-fi comic. It’s a little Star Wars, but not a lot Star Wars. It’s just the right amount.

CREDITS

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

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.

Dark Horse Presents Annual 1998 (September 1998)

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The annual opens with Mignola doing a retelling of Hellboy‘s origin. I guess it’s all right. Kind of pointless, but fine.

Weissman finally gets a two page Phineas Page and shows why he should have stuck to a page.

Van Meter and Ross team for the first comic book appearance of Buffy. The writing is more lame than not, but it’s maybe the best Ross art I’ve ever seen.

Watson’s Skeleton Key is a fairly charming little story about a witch and a little kid. I’m assuming the character’s a witch, otherwise it’d be pointless. Some wacky art mistakes though.

The Ark is a long setup with aliens as pay-off. Verheiden’s got some okay writing and Randall’s art isn’t bad.

Guadiano’s art is the primary selling point on he and Seagle’s My Vagabond Days. It’s not terrible though.

Burke and Bolton’s Infirmary is confounding, but Boltan’s art is gorgeous.

CREDITS

Hellboy, The Right Hand of Doom; story and art by Mike Mignola; lettering by Pat Brosseau. Phineas Page, The Bookshelf Phantom; story and art by Steven Weissman. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, MacGuffins; story by Jen Van Meter; pencils by Luke Ross; inks by Rick Ketcham; lettering by Steve Dutro. Skeleton Key, Witch; story and art by Andi Watson. The Ark, Part One; story by Mark Verheiden; art by Ron Randall; lettering by Sean Konot. My Vagabond Days; story by Steven T. Seagle; pencils by Stefano Gaudiano; inks by Pia Guerra; lettering by Charity Rodriguez. Infirmary; story by Matthew Burke; art by John Bolton; lettering by Ellie De Ville. Edited by Randy Stradley, Jamie S Rich and Ben Abernathy.

Captain America 605 (June 2010)

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With the exception, obviously, of the Luke Ross art, this issue of Captain America is the best in story arc. I’m not sure if it’s the best part of the backup story, because–again–I couldn’t stomach it. Shockingly, Ross is a better artist than whoever does the backup.

See, out of nowhere, Brubaker decides this storyline should be about Bucky and the crazy evil fifties Cap. Sure, there’s the silly moment at the end when Sam tells him not to worry about being like the crazy Cap, but the comic is once again about Bucky being unsure of himself.

Brubaker’s whole thing with Bucky–initially–was that unsureness. Then he dropped it. And I guess I forgot about it (until it came back) because I was still reeling from Reborn and because Ross’s art was making my eyes bleed.

While Brubaker’s losing his touch, he hasn’t lost it yet.

CREDITS

Two Americas, Conclusion; writer, Ed Brubaker; penciller, Luke Ross; inker, Butch Guice; colorist, Dean White; letterer, Joe Caramagna. Conjunction, Part Four; writer, Sean McKeever; penciller, David Baldeón; inker, N. Bowling; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterer, Joe Sabino. Editors, Lauren Sankovitch and Tom Brevoort; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America 604 (May 2010)

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Another three minute read.

It’s better this time, as Brubaker follows the Falcon for a lot of the story and he’s writing the Falcon a lot better than Bucky here. This story, Bucky’s coming off like a moron.

There’s some awful artwork again–it kind of reminds me of the really bad Don Perlin Werewolf by Night stuff–but those comics took like fifteen minutes to read. Not three.

And they had interesting stories.

Brubaker’s crazy evil Captain America? Most boring villain ever. Though I do like the inference anyone who thinks like he does must be insane. It’s like if Glenn Beck became Captain America.

I’m trying to think of something else positive to say….

A Brubaker Falcon series might be good reading–far better than this Captain America.

I’m not sure if it’s intentional, but Brubaker’s making the case Steve Rogers really needs to take his shield back.

CREDITS

Two Americas, Part Three of Four; writer, Ed Brubaker; penciller, Luke Ross; inker, Butch Guice; colorist, Dean White; letterer, Joe Caramagna. Conjunction, Part Three; writer, Sean McKeever; penciller, David Baldeón; inker, N. Bowling; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterer, Joe Sabino. Editors, Lauren Sankovitch and Tom Brevoort; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America 603 (April 2010)

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Wow. Four bucks for a comic I read in three minutes. I guess one of those bucks is for the Nomad backup, but I skimmed it then gave up on it. It’s not just poorly written, it’s incompetently illustrated.

Now, calling the backup story incompetently illustrated seems unfair given the Luke Ross pencils on the main story. Even with Butch Guice inking, it’s just hideous artwork.

I remember when Brubaker joined Marvel, it was so exciting. Now it’s just depressing. As far as I remember, he never phoned it in at DC. At Marvel, it seems like he does nothing but write mediocre, disinterested stories.

Strangely, he could have earned back some respect here, if he’d had the racist call Sam (the Falcon) a racial slur. As it reads, the scene in question is laughably off.

I remember when I looked forward to this comic. Now I want a refund.

CREDITS

Two Americas, Part Two of Four; writer, Ed Brubaker; penciller, Luke Ross; inker, Butch Guice; colorist, Dean White; letterer, Joe Caramagna. Conjunction, Part Two; writer, Sean McKeever; penciller, David Baldeón; inker, N. Bowling; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterer, Joe Sabino. Editors, Lauren Sankovitch and Tom Brevoort; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America 602 (March 2010)

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So this is the issue with the “tea baggers,” the issue Brubaker apologized for.

Did he apologize for the rest–how he portrays people in Idaho as psychotic anti-government racists, just waiting for a Hitler to lead them? Because I don’t think he did.

It’s a lead-in story, a ramp-up. I’m pretty jaded on Brubaker’s Marvel plotting style for ongoing series, since they’re usually fake arcs to trade easily but the story just goes on and on.

I guess it’s fine. It’s not particularly interesting though, especially not after the lackluster Reborn.

Bucky doesn’t even get any good moments and he usually gets at least one an issue.

Luke Ross’s art is lame, which is no surprise.

And the less said about the backup story the better, it seems to be for an all ages audience.

Brubaker kept Bucky as Cap. This issue says it’s a mistake.

CREDITS

Two Americas, Part One of Four; writer, Ed Brubaker; penciller, Luke Ross; inkers, Butch Guice and Ross; colorist, Dean White; letterer, Joe Caramagna. Conjunction, Part One; writer, Sean McKeever; penciller, David Baldeón; inker, N. Bowling; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterer, Joe Sabino. Editors, Lauren Sankovitch and Tom Brevoort; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America: Who Will Wield the Shield? 1 (February 2010)

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How did Marvel resist putting Obama on the cover of this issue?

It’s actually–besides the awful Luke Ross art, which is just terrible–a good issue of Captain America. Bucky and the Black Widow do their thing, Steve does his (showing up at the White House looking like an Ed McGuinness drawing).

There’s a nice fight scene with the two Captain Americas, the Black Widow and Mister Hyde. There’s some good dialogue between Bucky and the New Avengers and Steve and Sharon (she hasn’t apologized for shooting him I notice)–plus, Steve Rogers has sex. How’s do you like that one, Disney shareholders? Nookie, nookie.

But it’s all just a prelude to Siege, which seems lame. Is Steve going to become Nomad again? That one might be funny. Or U.S. Agent. I always liked that costume.

Or is there going to be a whole other big event summer 2012?

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brubaker; artists, Butch Guice and Luke Ross; colorist, Dean White; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, Lauren Sankovitch and Tom Brevoort; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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