The Rook 1 (October 2015)

The Rook #1

Seventies and eighties comic book sci-fi is some solid stuff. The Rook tries to tap into the genre to get some nostalgia points and it isn’t hard–artist Paul Gulacy drew a lot of good seventies and eighties sci-fi. The classics, if you would. And I’ll bet Steven Grant even wrote some of them.

Not sure if ROM counts.

Sci-fi in comics has gotten a whole lot more mainstream–especially in indie books–so what do returning giants Grant and Gulacy bring to the genre? It’s nearly camp. It nearly feels like a sci-fi comic from the early nineties because of all the references (“Quantum Leap,” “Back to the Future,” Time Machine actually playing a part of the plot), only the style is from a different era.

But then, The Rook is set in 2015, so Grant’s doing this nineties look at college life. You expect someone to call another kid a square for not drinking the spiked punch. And it doesn’t feel like camp in those moments, because Grant’s just not caring about his cast. They’re not as important as the gimmick. Only the gimmick’s not particularly good.

The Gulacy art carries it all, even after Gulacy starts rushing (somewhere in the second half of the issue). Gulacy has the chops to make the characters likable and sympathetic, even if their dialogue doesn’t give them any personality.

The plot’s amusing, the dialogue’s weak, the art’s good. The Rook isn’t the project Gulacy deserves, but he excels with what he’s got.

CREDITS

Writer, Steven Grant; artist, Paul Gulacy; colorist, Jesus Aburto; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Ian Tucker and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

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Providence 6 (October 2015)

Providence #6

Moore is such a show-off. He really does manage to include the reader in the appreciation of his deft moves. It’s that eighties vibe. Look what we’re going to do, me by writing, you by reading. Moore makes Providence feel like he’s just coming up with it after every scene change. It’s stream of consciousness only it can’t be.

The main part of the story has some really creepy art from Burrows–after an awesome open with Robert in a presumably dangerous situation–as Robert reads. A lot of the comic is about someone reading. And the read material doesn’t factor in. It’s all about the visual pacing. Moore talks about the read material at length in the back matter, which works beautifully.

There’s a big awful, amazing scene in the last few pages. Robert finds out what’s going on. Some of it. Only it’s not the stuff the reader already knew about, the stuff Robert is too oblivious to notice. It’s big Providence stuff, showing Moore definitely has something in mind for the entire series.

It’s so good. Moore finds a way to make horror incredibly accessible, not too gory, and infinitely disturbing. With Burrows’s able assistance, of course.

CREDITS

Out of Time; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

War Stories 14 (October 2015)

War Stories #14

This issue is a combination of fighter action and talking heads. And Ennis doesn’t have much to say with either of them. He’s doing a history lesson about the U.S. bombing runs on Japan. Nothing else. His characters don’t matter; he doesn’t even try to keep them straight. All they say is exposition. They don’t need to be distinct.

Aira’s art is better, as far as detail, on the fighter battles. Not in terms of composition. In terms of composition, he’s doing all right with the talking heads. Just not on the detail. But the last third of the issue is an air battle full of intrigue and disaster and Aira can’t break any of it out.

Maybe the most frustrating thing about War Stories–when it isn’t good–is how much Ennis throws at Aira without any acknowledgement of the artist’s strengths and weaknesses. War Stories is into its second year. Aira’s been on the book for a long time. Ennis is completely checked out with the final air battle, which is incredibly important visually (and should’ve been the whole comic with flashback inserts), just so he can get to his history lesson in the closing narration.

War Stories, with a real editor, could be consistently spectacular. Instead, it’s just frequently exasperating.

CREDITS

Tokyo Club, Part Two: Black Friday; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Where Monsters Dwell 4 (October 2015)

Where Monsters Dwell #4

It’s not deep, it’s not in good taste, it has nothing to do with Marvel Comics, it has nothing to do with Secret Wars, but it’s funny. Where Monsters Dwell is funny. Ennis has a good time–not a great time, because he’s clearly just spinning his wheels to make some smoke and not actually trying anything–and Braun’s art is excellent. Amazons, pygmies, giant sharks, dinosaurs–is Disney aware of this title?

Maybe the only reason Marvel brought Ennis on for Secret Wars was to show they still had some autonomy.

But Monsters Dwell is, four issues in, something of a strange book. The protagonist is a complete jackass, which is Ennis’s point of the character. Only, he’s the protagonist. The comic follows him around, being a jackass. Ennis doesn’t spend any real time with the female lead. She’s joined the Amazons and is off panel most issue.

Seeing how Ennis handles the battle–there’s a battle–one does wish he’d have taken it a little more seriously. I’m sure he would’ve had some great details for the prehistoric warfare.

Instead, it’s just fun.

CREDITS

See, the Conqu’ring Hero Comes; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Russ Braun; colorist, Dono Sanchez Almara; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Jake Thomas and Nick Lowe; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Black Magick 1 (October 2015)

Black Magick #1

I desperately want Black Magick to be good. I don’t have any investment in liking it–I’m not much of a Greg Rucka fan in general (though in specific) and I don’t think I’ve ever read a Nicola Scott comic before. Saw her on a panel a few years ago, but never seen her art until Black Magick.

But I want the comic to be good because I trolled Lazarus through its first arc and it’s gone on to become one of my favorite series right now. So I want to be very careful with Black Magick.

And I’m going to have to be, because it isn’t good. Is it bad? Not really. Scott’s art is hurried in the “mainstream artist doing an indie book for the first time” kind of way. There’s no chemistry between Rucka’s writing and Scott’s art. I’m surprised to see them co-owners on the copyright.

What’s wrong with Black Magick? There’s a non-concept pretending to be a concept worth having a whole comic book about. The protagonist is a cop with a secret. She’s a witch. What kind of witch? The kind who meets in the woods all very Crucible-style only it’s modern day with cell phones. She’s got a good looking dude partner who doesn’t know she’s a witch. Her captain worries too much about her. And her two worlds–hero cop and secret witch? They’re about to collide.

Yawn.

It would be fine if the protagonist were amazing, but she’s not. She’s a tough female cop. Maybe Sandra Bullock could play her in the movie or if it just goes to TV, there are plenty of people. Black Magick feels constrained by its potential for a Hollywood option.

Anyway… my hopes for the comic are pretty much dashed. I probably won’t be back until someone tells me I need to get back.

CREDITS

Awakening; writer, Greg Rucka; artist, Nicola Scott; colorists, Scott and Chiara Arena; letterer, Jodi Wynne; editor, Jeanine Schaefer; publisher, Image Comics.

Manifest Destiny 18 (October 2015)

Manifest Destiny #18

Dingess takes Manifest Destiny somewhere new and unpleasant. Even though he’s dealt with the unpleasantness of the characters before, this issue–the last in the second “volume” of Destiny–forces the reader’s complicity in that unpleasantness. It’s well-done and should’ve been predictable (Roberts butchers the final page with an exclamation point) but isn’t really. The beginning of the issue’s distractingly strong.

One almost forgotten element of Destiny has been the imaginative wildlife Lewis and Clark find on their voyage. This issue reimagines the traditional vampire as some kind of decapitating, head-stealing flying monster. It’s a neat concept, not too gory in Roberts’s art but still striking. And it makes for a great action sequence.

The subsequent scenes in Destiny remind of Return of the Jedi as Lewis and Clark and company return to the bird people village; it’s why Dingess is able to get away with a big twist. He’s letting the reader enjoy the comic. It starts with a great action sequence, why not celebrate. It’s a trick and a good one.

But Dingess has raised a lot of questions in the comic (just not in this issue) and he doesn’t get any of them answered. They’re starting to get annoying. Otherwise though, it’s just about the best issue of Manifest Destiny yet.

CREDITS

Writer, Chris Dingess; penciller, Matthew Roberts; inkers, Stefano Gaudiano and Tony Akins; colorist, Owen Gieni; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Arielle Basich and Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

The Spire 4 (October 2015)

The Spire #4

It’s a bridging issue. It’s a decent bridging issue because Stokely’s art is awesome, but it’s still a bridging issue. What does Spurrier do besides humanize the protagonist a bit? He hints at more dread down the line. So what?

There’s a great fight scene and then Stokely gets to do a lot of narrative design stuff through composition, but it’s a light issue. It relies so heavily on the art, it would probably read better with almost no text. Especially the scenes between the protagonist and her royal love interest, just because Spurrier wants to hint at a secret and a problem but doesn’t want to have to deal with them here.

Why not?

Because it’s a bridging issue. And nothing gets done in bridging issues; Spurrier introduces some okay things to deal with later. But it’s light stuff.

I’m still excited about The Spire but it definitely feels like BOOM! shouldn’t have given Spurrier eight issues. Four might not have been enough (as this issue’s the fourth) but eight is way too many.

CREDITS

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

The Fade Out 10 (October 2015)

The Fade Out #10

Brubaker’s winding up. This issue of The Fade Out is the part of the detective novel where the detective–in this case Charlie, who’s not particularly good at it–is collecting all the final details to have his breakthrough. In fact, the narration hints Charlie’s confident in his conclusions, which means Brubaker’s got next issue to stir it up more and then the last issue to let it all settle. Not a bad structure, but it does mean there isn’t much to this issue.

There’s exposition and some revelation, but there’s no character development. Brubaker sets the issue during the wrap party for the movie, which should be a big thing. It’s not. It’s a logical narrative progression–Charlie using the party for cover on his investigating–as the story wraps up.

The last few issues of The Fade Out have been breathtaking. This issue’s good, narratively important, but it’s not breathtaking. It’s a necessity and it coasts on existing momentum. Fingers crossed Brubaker is able to stir up some speed in the next issue.

Phillips’s art, of course, is breathtaking. One never has to worry about him.

CREDITS

Where Angels Fear to Tread; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

I Hate Fairyland 1 (October 2015)

I Hate Fairyland #1

I love I Hate Fairyland. I love it. Skottie Young loves it too, which is good, since he’s writing and illustrating it. If he didn’t love it, I don’t think I’d love it.

Young’s got a particular style–accessible to children but with a lot of detail, not much attention to anatomy. Expressive anatomical representations. But not in the Liefeldian sense. Very tall people, very short people. He could use this style on gritty fairy tales, but instead he still fills Fairyland with wonderment and magic.

And a protagonist who hates Fairyland. And she’s wonderful. She’s one of the only humans (so far) and she got trapped in Fairyland as a kid. Twenty years later, she’s still a kid on the outside, but on the inside, she’s robbing casinos and eating mushroom people. Because, why not? Fairyland sucks after all (and she can’t get home).

There’s no way to tell what kind of story Young has in mind for the comic–one could argue, at the beginning, it’s about the lost girl (Gert) getting home, but not once Young skips ahead twenty years. Then it’s just about her getting into trouble and making trouble of her own.

Beautiful art, hilarious riffs on generic fairy tale standards. Young’s going for the humor in the writing and the magic in the art–though, really, Gert falling into Fairyland and breaking her face on the landing–she’s fine, promise–sets the mood for the rest of the comic.

It’s excellent.

CREDITS

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

A Train Called Love 1 (October 2015)

A Train Called Love #1

What is A Train Called Love? It’s Garth Ennis’s most original, least ambitious (in terms of setting), comedic nonsense in ages. It’s Garth having a piss (as I think the saying goes) and doing a big, multi-character story. If it weren’t Ennis, it’d seem like someone desperately chasing nineties Quentin Tarantino only it isn’t because it’s Ennis.

When Ennis does comedy–and pop culture references–he’s always very careful. Train is no different. There’s a somewhat involved Terminator 1 reference and he and artist Marc Dos Santos make it rewarding to those readers familiar enough with the material to appreciate it and, for those not familiar enough, they keep it accessible. All of Train is accessible, in no small part thanks to Dos Santos’s art.

Dos Santos does it in a cartoon-ish style (good grief, Train would make an amazing cartoon) and it draws attention to the reality in the characters’ situations. Ennis usually has some humor but Train is the first one where, thanks to the art style, it feels like he’s trying out an actual comedy.

It’s really good. Even if the cliffhanger is way too opaque.

CREDITS

Did You Wanna Be Bonnie and Clyde?; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Marc Dos Santos; colorist, Andrew Elder; letterer, Rob Steen; editor, Rachel Pinnelas; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

8house 4 (October 2015)

8house #4: Yorris part one

Yorris is tiring. I wish it wasn’t. I also wish it wasn’t a published comic with an “it’s” error. But it’s both of those things–it’s tiring and it’s got an “it’s” error. And Yorris isn’t unimaginative or exhausting, let me be clear–tiring is far better than exhausting. But it is definitely tiring.

Because even though Fil Barlow’s art is careful, detailed, intricate and sometimes wonderful, the story is the kitchen sink approach to originality. Throw in so many tropes–dream creatures, an unappreciated princess (which seems to be a theme for the Brandon Graham “edited” books at Image), and taking the concept of clans to a truly obnoxious extent (working of the term “clan” into nouns)–and there’s nothing to connect with in Yorris. Barlow and co-writer Helen Maier are trying to hard to be accessible, the story doesn’t do anything else.

The back matter explains–in great detail–how Barlow and Maier used to work in animation, which might explain why the dialogue in the book is so bad. Because they’re used to having someone speak it and bring personality to it. Without a vocal performance, however, the narration is mind-boggling. The comic sets up an unbelievable proposition–this princess’s ability to see the astral plain is ignored because she’s a girl, even though she’s the only one in the clan with the gift. And there’s the implication others know of it. Or she’s just schizophrenia, which would be so much better.

I don’t want to be able to read 8house every month. I don’t want to look forward to it. I want to need to read it. I want it to be necessary. And Yorris just shows… it’s not.

CREDITS

Yorris, Part One; writers, Fil Barlow and Helen Maier; artist, Barlow; publisher, Image Comics.

Nailbiter 16 (October 2015)

Nailbiter #16

To everything, turn, turn, turn, there is a season… oh, sorry. It’s just Williamson has hit the end of this season of Nailbiter. He ends on an expository note, though there is at least the nod at a subplot about some kids going to the Nailbiter’s house on Halloween.

But everything else? The sheriff, the FBI guy, the serial killers? It all gets wrapped up in talking head scenes. The sheriff’s hospital room is a meeting spot for people looking to get their storylines finished. It’s not so much rushed as drawn out. Williamson could’ve structured it with one of the protagonists–like, maybe the FBI guy since it was originally his comic–but instead, he’s in a rush.

I think I’m done with Nailbiter. Williamson has never really gotten anywhere on the book and Henderson’s art hasn’t either. It’s a competent comic book, but they chased Hollywood to the point they lost anything special.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Williamson; artist, Mike Henderson; colorist, Adam Guzowski; letterer, John J. Hill; editor, Rob Levin; publisher, Image Comics.

Copperhead 10 (October 2015)

Copperhead #10

Faerber plays loose with the pacing in this issue of Copperhead. He’s going for reader pleasure, not being tied to the characters. The sheriff is out to rescue Deputy Boo from some outlaws; Faerber shows her determination, but it isn’t the story. He’s all about the storytelling mechanics and how they relate to the reader’s experience.

It doesn’t hurt Godlewski gets in a bunch of background detail. Even though there’s nary a subplot seen in this issue–until the end, setting up the cliffhanger–and the supporting cast really doesn’t do much but tag along, Godlewski gives them visual weight. There’s a lot of visual repetition too; Godlewski doesn’t want anyone getting lost.

This issue is also one of the most “Western.” Besides the aliens and laser guns, it’s just a Western. Faerber uses Copperhead’s revisionism (the female sheriff, the context of bigotry against alien species) to provide a large stage for a small story. It’s incredibly assured, incredibly controlled and an entirely awesome read.

CREDITS

Writer, Jay Faerber; artist, Scott Godlewski; colorist, Ron Riley; letterer, Thomas Mauer; publisher, Image Comics.

Minimum Wage: So Many Bad Decisions 6 (October 2015)

Minimum Wage: So Many Bad Decisions #6

What an issue. I mean. Damn. Fingerman takes all the readers’ built-up affection for Rob, all their built-up hope for him and puts them through the ringer. By the time Fingerman gets the reader cleaned off–and this issue of So Many Bad Decisions is easily the least funny, it’s downright depressing and bare–Rob might be in a terrible place.

Only, logistically, the seriousness of Rob’s situation is only there because how of Fingerman put the readers through the ringer. It’s beautifully constructed. In a lot of ways, it’s Fingerman’s best issue, just for how he’s able to control the readers’ attention through the comic. It’s precise, but never constrained. He’s always encouraging readers to look for more and not pay as much attention to what’s actually going on with Rob’s life. It’s fantastic misdirection.

The issue’s intense. Fingerman fills every page with finality and doom. Seriously, there’s really almost nothing funny about the issue. The one notable time Fingerman goes for laugh relief, he uses it to introduce a new character and then a realization for Rob.

So Many Bad Decisions ends wonderfully. Fingerman shows off, flexes, schmaltzes; it works out.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Bob Fingerman; publisher, Image Comics.

Kaijumax 6 (October 2015)

Kaijumax #6

Strange thing about this issue of Kaijumax… Cannon coasts. It’s a good issue and he even reveals an unpleasant reality for Electrogor (in addition to some setup for the Minya stand-in), but it coasts. Cannon’s set up a strong enough comic, he doesn’t always have to excel. In fact, he’s even able to coast past a few things here.

For instance, there’s a big plot development and it’s got a truly bad visualization. One panel from an odd angle to move the plot, then Cannon goes into a–quite good–rap from one of Electrogor’s new buddies. He sets the rap against Electrogor’s flashback, which is problematic, but he gets through it. Even if the flashback is a little rote.

The rap sort of sums up Kaijumax and its self-aware kaiju and their place in the world. Electrogor’s stoner buddy reflects on it in a rather good sequence, the rap coming in and solidifying the idea. Considering this issue is the last of the “season”–the series returning in six months or so–it’s Cannon telling the reader what to expect and declaring his intentions for the comic, maybe for the first time. Before, you had to grok it on your own. Now, Cannon’s telling you his expectations for his readership.

There’s some really good art, in both big and human-sized settings. It’s a good comic. But it’s not an ambitious one. If Cannon really wanted to be ambitious and not pick up pace towards the season finale, he’d have split this issue into two. There’s more than enough story for it.

CREDITS

Into These Forcefields; writer, artist and letterer, Zander Cannon; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

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