Peanuts: A Tribute To Charles M. Schulz (October 2015)

Peanuts: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz

Peanuts: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz. “Over 40 artists celebrate the work of Charles M. Schulz.” It says so right on the cover. And Tribute is a fine celebration of Peanuts. There are some great cartoonists who contribute pieces for the collection. It’s 144 pages, which means contributors average less than three and a half pages each.

Collections of Peanuts strips, like the Fantagraphics Complete Peanuts, have three strips a page. So Schulz would have ten or eleven strips in similar page count. It shows just how magical he was with pacing those strips day-to-day.

There are some good strips, some okay strips, some cool strips. The Paul Pope Snoopy and Schroeder strip? Very cool. But given the whole grab is Pope doing these realistic looking Pope characters and them still operating on Peanuts logic. When Schroeder worries Lucy’s going to show up… well, Snoopy’s cute and all but I’d much rather see Pope Lucy. Beautiful art, though. Because Pope’s a lover.

There aren’t any strips non-Peanuts loving strips in the book. There are even strips just about loving Peanuts.

A few strips after Pope is Roger Langridge, who does a Snoopy the flying ace strip from the perspective of enemy pilots. It’s cute. It’s not great. Raina Telegemeier does a one page thing right after. Langridge got four pages. Her’s is cute. It’s not great. But she does it in one.

Stan Sakai and Julie Fujii do one of the best longer strips in the book, Escapade in Tokyo. Charlie Brown gets separated from the class on a school trip and spends the day with a cool Japanese girl. It’s anti-crap on Charlie Brown (most of the book, if not all of it, is anti-crapping on Charlie Brown) and it’s a nice story. Sakai and Fujii give it just the right amount of nostalgia and sentamentality without sacrificing the humor.

Terry Moore does something similar. Lucy vs. Charlie Brown only this time Charlie Brown’s going to kick that football. Moore mimicks Schulz’s style but sort of not enough to get away with the strip. Charlie Brown winning has to be perfect, like Sakai and Fujii did.

Chynna Clugston Flores does a “Why I Love Peanuts” strip. It’s good. It’s just a “Why I Love Peanuts strip”. There are some more in the book and Clugston Flores’s is probably the best but… Tribute is just a tribute. Sometimes the cartoonists interact with the characters, sometimes with the media itself.

Evan Dorkin and Derek Charm do a “Cthulhu comes to Peanuts” long strip and it’s inventive, beautifully illustrated (the style homage ages like Schulz’s did as the strip goes on), and kind of thin. Not many contributors do a riff on Peanuts without staying in Schulz’s constraints.

Except then there’s Melanie Gillman’s beautiful Marcie strip addressing her relationship with Patty. Liz Prince had a nice Patty strip earlier, but nowhere near as ambitious. Shaenon K. Garrity’s long, color strip about Patty taking on Lucy is good. It’s mostly in Peanuts constraints, just with some visual storytelling differences.

Peanuts: A Tribute is a good book for a Peanuts fan. To check out from the library. It’s a great proof of concept for a more ambitious project. I didn’t realize I wanted other cartoonists doing Peanuts until I read it. But I want them doing more, trying harder.

I also wish, given it just being this assortment of homages, Boom! had printed it more coffee table size.

CREDITS

Contributors, Mike Allred, Art Baltazar, Paige Braddock, Megan Brennan, Frank Cammuso, Derek Charm, Colleen Coover, Evan Dorkin, Chynna Clugston Flores, Shaenon K. Garrity, Melanie Gillman, Zac Gorman, Jimmy Gownley, Matt Groening, Dan Hipp, Keith Knight, Mike Kunkel, Roger Langridge, Jeff Lemire, Jonathan Lemon, Patrick McDonnell, Tony Millionaire, Caleb Monroe, Terry Moore, Dustin Nguyen, Molly Ostertag, Lincoln Peirce, Paul Pope, Hilary Price, Liz Prince, Stan Sakai + Julie Fujii, Chris Schweizer, Ryan Sook, Jeremy Sorese, Raina Telgemeier, Richard Thompson, Tom Tomorrow, Lucas Turnbloom, Jen Wang, and Mo Willems; editors, Alex Galer and Shannon Watters; publisher, KaBoom!.

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The Fall of the House of West (2015)

The Fall of the House of West

The Fall of the House of West is heavy stuff. There’s a little bit of comic relief with Aurora’s friend Hoke having a crush on her, but it doesn’t get much attention. Writers Paul Pope and J.T. Petty don’t want to let up on the reader, which is a little surprising.

Maybe the big character development for Aurora at the end of the comic sways things, but–by the end of the book–the reader knows Aurora less well than at the beginning of the comic. Her character arc is huge and Pope and Petty don’t deal with the full ramifications here. There isn’t time for it. Her journey is the point, the reader’s experience of that journey is the point. Plot twists aren’t the point.

Similarly, Pope and Petty leave the MacGuffin unresolved as well. They’re able to get incredible emotional response from the reader only to belay any resolution. It keeps the reader invested. There’s a definite commercial quality to the comic–and Aurora West as a character–but they aren’t chasing a movie deal. They’re chasing the reader. They’re trying to get their readership invested.

David Rubín’s art is decent. Most of the comic takes place at night, which is fine, but Rubín’s got a lot more personality on well-lit subjects. The panel composition is fantastic, though; it really helps the comic be so welcoming.

West demands the reader’s attention, in a very entertaining way. It’s excellent.

CREDITS

Writers, J.T. Petty and Paul Pope; artist, David Rubín; letterer, John Martz; publisher, First Second.

The Rise of Aurora West (2014)

The Rise of Aurora West

The Rise of Aurora West is simultaneously original and not. Paul Pope and J.T. Petty have a derivative adventure for an entirely original character, even though her back story is derivative. Sort of. The details are derivative.

Aurora West is the teenage daughter and sidekick to Haggard West. He’s a science hero. Just like Tom Strong. Except he fights monsters in a way quite similar to Bruce Wayne. So some of Aurora West is really just Batman and his teenage daughter hunting down criminals. Except they’re monsters.

But with a lot of science and Aurora growing up in a world with monsters, there’s just enough difference to let her not be Robin or anything like a Robin. So then some of Aurora West has nothing to do with Batman and his teenage daughter. There’s too much comedy for it to just be a riff. Pope and Petty maneuver Aurora very carefully through the book–the comedy relieves pressure, keeps the pace set, gives the reader a chance to reflect. It’s beautifully constructed.

David Rubín’s art is nice. He’s not as good as Pope but does a decent imitation, with the black and white lending to some of the more Eisner-like imagery.

It’s an extremely ambitious narrative presented easily. Neat comics, as usual, from Pope.

CREDITS

Writers, J.T. Petty and Paul Pope; artist, David Rubín; letterer, John Martz; publisher, First Second.

100% 5 (July 2003)

100% #5

Wow.

I remembered this issue being amazing, just because Pope has such a fantastic closing moment. But he's also got a lot going on throughout the issue with how he handles the narration.

Daisy gets close third, close second, with Pope juxtaposing it against her gastro dancing. She hasn't been a mystery to this point, but she's definitely been closed off. Opening her up in narration comes at just the right time, same with Eloy getting close second person narration. Instead of the established characters getting narration–John and Kimberly–Pope flips it. He flips it and opens up the comic.

Because 100% isn't about the future or the gastro dancing or the international boxing circuit or the hinted at world wars, it's about these people. And Pope figures out an amazing way to tell their story amid all the hubbub and noise. And he visualizes noise this time.

It's peerless comics.

A 

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Paul Pope; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, John Workman; editors, Mariah Huehner and Shelly Bond; publisher, Vertigo.

100% 4 (October 2002)

100% #4

Pope tries so much different stuff with this issue–he's got one scene in here where he seems to be homaging Charles Schulz. Everything he tries is successful; some of it is more wildly successful than the rest, but it all works.

He has his cast set. He has lovers, John and Daisy; he's serious about them, she's not. He has potential lovers, Kim and Eloy–she won't compromise and he needs to decide whether or not he's going to compromise his artwork. Very little thing but Pope makes it hugely consequential, even as he skims over the future society details.

Then there's Strel, who gets a bunch of pages again since her husband is back. The backstory is both confusing and not–Pope has a great way of getting in the exposition.

He's also doing things with narration–flipping flopping who gets first and third–and ambitious panel pacing for scenes.

It's brilliant stuff.

A 

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Paul Pope; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, John Workman; editors, Mariah Huehner and Shelly Bond; publisher, Vertigo.

100% 3 (October 2002)

100% #3

This issue has three things going on. First is the boxer who's Strel's ex-boyfriend. He gets a couple chapters–Pope splits 100% into chapters and there are a lot of them in this issue. Anyway, the boxer gets a couple chapters. They're mostly for mood and exposition.

But then John and Daisy get to go on their date (after some flirtation earlier on) and John has managed to swipe Daisy's panties from work. Quite innocently, of course. Between this problem and Kimberly's date with Strel's cousin to get sushi, the comic feels like Love and Rockets. Not in the art, but in how Pope presents the little adventures of the cast.

It's sort of meandering. There's a lot of personality and mood, but Pope's muted. And then, out of nowhere, he executes the exceptional sex scene and all of a sudden the issue's the best in the series.

Just crazy good.

A 

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Paul Pope; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, John Workman; editors, Mariah Huehner and Shelly Bond; publisher, Vertigo.

100% 2 (September 2002)

100% #2

Pope introduces a few new characters this issue, including a couple fairly substantial ones. He opens the issue on some guy who's calling Strel; she doesn't want to talk to him. Later on, Pope introduces Strel's cousin, who's interested in Kim. Kim doesn't exactly narrate her scenes–Pope uses close third person, which really brings the character into focus.

For focusing on Strel, on the other hand, Pope uses her home-life. Strel in the club or even hanging out with Kimberly isn't as vibrant as her at home with her family.

But this issue also has Daisy and John and their blossoming mutual interest. John's the other lead–narrating in the first person, explaining gastro dancing to the reader. There's a wonderful disconnect in John's queasy explanation and the beautiful Pope visualization.

Pope plays the medium too–he's especially focused on sound. How to create sound in the comic book panel.

It's awesome.

A 

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Paul Pope; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, John Workman; editors, Mariah Huehner and Shelly Bond; publisher, Vertigo.

100% 1 (August 2002)

100% #1

What's 100% about? It's about this club–the Cat Shack. One of the characters is a dancer there, another is a manager, another is a busboy, another is a prospective dancer. Writer and artist Paul Pope uses the club–which also has a dancer get murdered at the start of the story–as a central location; it's the embodiment of the setting. But Pope gets away from it enough throughout, it never feels forced.

Maybe because the opening scene is away from it. Pope's panel composition and flow are so intricately executed, it would be no surprise if he made sure he kept away from the club just as carefully.

The issue, which introduces the four main characters, has a couple narrators. One is busboy John, the other is dancer Kimberly. They don't intersect, except glancingly. Pope starts the characters deep, then just fills them out to show how deep.

It's phenomenal work.

A 

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Paul Pope; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, John Workman; editors, Mariah Huehner and Shelly Bond; publisher, Vertigo.

Battling Boy (2013)

Battling boy cover

Battling Boy appears to be Paul Pope’s answer to all the young adult Joseph Campbell stuff coming out in the last ten years. Only, of course, since it’s Paul Pope, it’s so much better.

The big thing Pope plays with in Boy, right from the start, is the fear of the unknown. He’s not dealing with these frightening monsters in prose, where he can hint at their hideousness; he’s drawing them, he’s visualizing them for the reader, but still has to make them terrifying in the imagination. The book opens with the Ghoul Gang, who are half dressed as mummies, have with these face covering rag cloaks. They kidnap kids.

Why?

Pope doesn’t go into it. Better left unsaid, especially in a book targeted for the youth market. It also allows Pope to play the monsters for laughs sometimes. There’s a monster bar where they all hang out and it’s a glorious mix of disgusting and hilarious.

The titular Battling Boy is a kid from another universe, sent to Earth to save the world from monsters… kind of like high school. When these kids hit puberty, off they go to some world or another.

There’s a lot of action, a little bit of character development (mostly on a female supporting cast member) and just wonderful artwork. Pope’s so strong, his full page panels showing simple events are still awesome. Boy is another fantastic Pope pairing of storytelling and artwork. They drive one another beautifully.

I’m already impatient for the sequel.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Paul Pope; colorist, Hilary Sycamore; publisher, First Second.

Wednesday Comics 12 (23 September 2009

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One should never hope for too much from finales. Especially not from an extremely uneven anthology series like Wednesday Comics.

Batman’s bad. Kamadi flops. Superman apparently only remembered after twelve installments he had a wife at home.

Deadman is okay. One of the better mediocre strips. Green Lantern is bad. Metamorpho is lacking; Gaiman tries too hard for nostalgia.

Teen Titans is awful, Adam Strange is great. Supergirl is cute again, but Metal Men goes out too dreary. I still have no idea what story Caldwell told with Wonder Woman.

Sgt. Rock’s lame again, but in a syrupy way now. Good Flash comic, though confusing, and an almost okay finish to The Demon and Catwoman. Hawkman is severely lacking too.

The winner of Wednesday Comics is easily Paul Pope for Adam Strange. The losers are just as easy–the inept team of Eddie Berganza and Sean Galloway for Teen Titans.

CREDITS

Batman; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, Eduardo Risso; colorist, Patricia Mulvihill; letterer, Clem Robins. Kamandi; writer, Dave Gibbons; artist, Ryan Sook. Superman; writer, John Arcudi; artist, Lee Bermejo; colorist, Barbara Ciardo; letterer, Ken Lopez. Deadman; writers, Vinton Heuck and Dave Bullock; artist, Bullock; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Jared Fletcher. Green Lantern; writer, Kurt Busiek; artist and colorist, Joe Quinones; letterer, Pat Brosseau. Metamorpho; writer, Neil Gaiman; artist, Mike Allred; colorist, Laura Allred; letterer, Nate Piekos. Teen Titans; writer, Eddie Berganza; artist and colorist, Sean Galloway; letterer, Nick J. Napolitano. Adam Strange; writer, artist and letterer, Paul Pope; colorist, Jose Villarrubia. Supergirl; writer, Jimmy Palmiotti; artist, Amanda Conner; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, John J. Hill. Metal Men; writer, Dan DiDio; penciller, Jose Luís Garcia-Lopez; inker, Kevin Nowlan; colorist, Mulvihill; letterer, Lopez. Wonder Woman; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Ben Caldwell. Sgt. Rock; writer, Adam Kubert; artist, colorist and letterer, Joe Kubert. The Flash; writers, Brendan Fletcher and Karl Kerschl; artist, Kerschl; colorist, Dave McCaig; letterer, Rob Leigh. The Demon and Catwoman; writer, Walt Simonson; artist and colorist, Brian Stelfreeze; letterer, Steve Wands. Hawkman; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Kyle Baker. Editors, Chris Conroy and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Wednesday Comics 11 (16 September 2009)

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Azzarello writes Batman as a rube while Risso tries to ape Sin City as a Batman. Gibbons once again summarizes the action too much on Kamandi. Sook’s barely got anything to do.

Superman is bad. As usual.

Deadman’s okay, Green Lantern’s awful. Ditto, respectively, for Metamorpho and Teen Titans. Hope respectively, in that sense, means Titans is the awful one.

Good (not great) Adam Strange. Poor (not terrible) Supergirl.

For the first time, Garcia-Lopez is too busy on Metal Men. All the large scale action hurts it. And Caldwell breaks out of his little panels for Wonder Woman. It’s a mistake.

Sgt. Rock is okay, The Flash is great. Demon and Catwoman sucks–it’s Simonson’s fault. Stelfreeze just doesn’t have anything good to draw.

Awesome Hawkman–the art’s astounding. Baker really outdoes himself.

Wednesday Comics is wrapping up. Shame most of the creators have no idea how to close.

CREDITS

Batman; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, Eduardo Risso; colorist, Patricia Mulvihill; letterer, Clem Robins. Kamandi; writer, Dave Gibbons; artist, Ryan Sook. Superman; writer, John Arcudi; artist, Lee Bermejo; colorist, Barbara Ciardo; letterer, Ken Lopez. Deadman; writers, Vinton Heuck and Dave Bullock; artist, Bullock; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Jared Fletcher. Green Lantern; writer, Kurt Busiek; artist and colorist, Joe Quinones; letterer, Pat Brosseau. Metamorpho; writer, Neil Gaiman; artist, Mike Allred; colorist, Laura Allred; letterer, Nate Piekos. Teen Titans; writer, Eddie Berganza; artist and colorist, Sean Galloway; letterer, Nick J. Napolitano. Adam Strange; writer, artist and letterer, Paul Pope; colorist, Jose Villarrubia. Supergirl; writer, Jimmy Palmiotti; artist, Amanda Conner; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, John J. Hill. Metal Men; writer, Dan DiDio; penciller, Jose Luís Garcia-Lopez; inker, Kevin Nowlan; colorist, Mulvihill; letterer, Lopez. Wonder Woman; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Ben Caldwell. Sgt. Rock; writer, Adam Kubert; artist, colorist and letterer, Joe Kubert. The Flash; writers, Brendan Fletcher and Karl Kerschl; artist, Kerschl; colorist, Dave McCaig; letterer, Rob Leigh. The Demon and Catwoman; writer, Walt Simonson; artist and colorist, Brian Stelfreeze; letterer, Steve Wands. Hawkman; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Kyle Baker. Editors, Chris Conroy and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Wednesday Comics 10 (9 September 2009)

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Batman versus dogs, Azzarello’s inspired and Risso can’t even draw a cool Batmobile. Kamandi comes back a little; there’s a big battle scene, lots of panels. Arcudi misses a great Superman: The Movie homage on his dumb Superman strip.

Deadman’s okay, though all the action seems inappropriate. Green Lantern is lame; Busiek doesn’t understand weekly one page pacing. Metamorpho is competent but lame. Teen Titans is awful. Galloway’s a terrible writer.

Pope’s Adam Strange rocks. He’s clearly wrapping it up. Supergirl’s weak again. Too much plot, not enough cute. The Metal Men has some great art and a touching final couple panels. The Wonder Woman is once again confusing but still good. Maybe Caldwell just needs more space to tell the story.

The Sgt. Rock is okay. Far better than the strip’s worst. Decent Flash; very sci-fi.

Predictably lousy Demon/Catwoman and great Hawkman.

Comics is almost over.

CREDITS

Batman; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, Eduardo Risso; colorist, Patricia Mulvihill; letterer, Clem Robins. Kamandi; writer, Dave Gibbons; artist, Ryan Sook. Superman; writer, John Arcudi; artist, Lee Bermejo; colorist, Barbara Ciardo; letterer, Ken Lopez. Deadman; writers, Vinton Heuck and Dave Bullock; artist, Bullock; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Jared Fletcher. Green Lantern; writer, Kurt Busiek; artist and colorist, Joe Quinones; letterer, Pat Brosseau. Metamorpho; writer, Neil Gaiman; artist, Mike Allred; colorist, Laura Allred; letterer, Nate Piekos. Teen Titans; writer, Eddie Berganza; artist and colorist, Sean Galloway; letterer, Nick J. Napolitano. Adam Strange; writer, artist and letterer, Paul Pope; colorist, Jose Villarrubia. Supergirl; writer, Jimmy Palmiotti; artist, Amanda Conner; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, John J. Hill. Metal Men; writer, Dan DiDio; penciller, Jose Luís Garcia-Lopez; inker, Kevin Nowlan; colorist, Mulvihill; letterer, Lopez. Wonder Woman; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Ben Caldwell. Sgt. Rock; writer, Adam Kubert; artist, colorist and letterer, Joe Kubert. The Flash; writers, Brendan Fletcher and Karl Kerschl; artist, Kerschl; colorist, Dave McCaig; letterer, Rob Leigh. The Demon and Catwoman; writer, Walt Simonson; artist and colorist, Brian Stelfreeze; letterer, Steve Wands. Hawkman; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Kyle Baker. Editors, Chris Conroy and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Wednesday Comics 9 (2 September 2009)

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The art on Batman’s good. Risso’s aping Frank Miller, but it’s a stylish fight regardless. Kamandi continues to have story problems and poor Sook has nothing active to draw. Crap Superman. Nice Deadman. It might be Comics’s underdog strip.

It’s the best Green Lantern, which says little for the strip. Metamorpho‘s periodic table gimmick is so tired in its second week, Gaiman’s even bored writing it. I think someone told Berganza he was writing a kids’ cartoon for Titans, not a comic strip.

Good Adam Strange. Pope hasn’t topped his Earthbound Adam development so it’s kind of underwhelming.

Lame Supergirl (too wordy), okay Metal Men. Wonder Woman’s fine, Sgt. Rock’s not awful.

Oh, The Flash. Fletcher and Kerschl homage various comic strips. It’s fantastic. Best thing this issue except Baker’s Hawkman versus T-Rex panel.

And The Demon/Catwoman is awful again. Its quality’s plummeted.

CREDITS

Batman; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, Eduardo Risso; colorist, Patricia Mulvihill; letterer, Clem Robins. Kamandi; writer, Dave Gibbons; artist, Ryan Sook. Superman; writer, John Arcudi; artist, Lee Bermejo; colorist, Barbara Ciardo; letterer, Ken Lopez. Deadman; writers, Vinton Heuck and Dave Bullock; artist, Bullock; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Jared Fletcher. Green Lantern; writer, Kurt Busiek; artist and colorist, Joe Quinones; letterer, Pat Brosseau. Metamorpho; writer, Neil Gaiman; artist, Mike Allred; colorist, Laura Allred; letterer, Nate Piekos. Teen Titans; writer, Eddie Berganza; artist and colorist, Sean Galloway; letterer, Nick J. Napolitano. Adam Strange; writer, artist and letterer, Paul Pope; colorist, Jose Villarrubia. Supergirl; writer, Jimmy Palmiotti; artist, Amanda Conner; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, John J. Hill. Metal Men; writer, Dan DiDio; penciller, Jose Luís Garcia-Lopez; inker, Kevin Nowlan; colorist, Mulvihill; letterer, Lopez. Wonder Woman; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Ben Caldwell. Sgt. Rock; writer, Adam Kubert; artist, colorist and letterer, Joe Kubert. The Flash; writers, Brendan Fletcher and Karl Kerschl; artist, Kerschl; colorist, Dave McCaig; letterer, Rob Leigh. The Demon and Catwoman; writer, Walt Simonson; artist and colorist, Brian Stelfreeze; letterer, Steve Wands. Hawkman; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Kyle Baker. Editors, Chris Conroy and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Wednesday Comics 8 (25 August 2009)

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Batman’s bad; Azzarello’s desperate to make it a noir and he just can’t. Kamandi’s mediocre. Still nice art but the story’s stalling. Superman has no story and is bad too. Deadman’s got some great art.

Oh, Green Lantern. It’s weak again. Metamorpho’s fun, with a periodic table gag, but there’s no story. Teen Titans is inexplicable and bad. Adam Strange is confusing and fantastic. Supergirl’s tiresome. Very nice art on Metal Men from Garcia-Lopez, even if Didio’s run out of character moments.

Wonder Woman’s nearly comprehensible, even if Caldwell wastes most of his page. Sgt. Rock’s lame but not bad, The Flash is good. Oh, The Demon and Catwoman. Stelfreeze is wasted on such big panels. His work looks better when it’s precise, not emboldened.

Baker’s got a neat Hawkman, spanning two or three genres. Interesting Batman rendering too.

Comics’s moving along.

CREDITS

Batman; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, Eduardo Risso; colorist, Patricia Mulvihill; letterer, Clem Robins. Kamandi; writer, Dave Gibbons; artist, Ryan Sook. Superman; writer, John Arcudi; artist, Lee Bermejo; colorist, Barbara Ciardo; letterer, Ken Lopez. Deadman; writers, Vinton Heuck and Dave Bullock; artist, Bullock; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Jared Fletcher. Green Lantern; writer, Kurt Busiek; artist and colorist, Joe Quinones; letterer, Pat Brosseau. Metamorpho; writer, Neil Gaiman; artist, Mike Allred; colorist, Laura Allred; letterer, Nate Piekos. Teen Titans; writer, Eddie Berganza; artist and colorist, Sean Galloway; letterer, Nick J. Napolitano. Adam Strange; writer, artist and letterer, Paul Pope; colorist, Jose Villarrubia. Supergirl; writer, Jimmy Palmiotti; artist, Amanda Conner; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, John J. Hill. Metal Men; writer, Dan DiDio; penciller, Jose Luís Garcia-Lopez; inker, Kevin Nowlan; colorist, Mulvihill; letterer, Lopez. Wonder Woman; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Ben Caldwell. Sgt. Rock; writer, Adam Kubert; artist, colorist and letterer, Joe Kubert. The Flash; writers, Brendan Fletcher and Karl Kerschl; artist, Kerschl; colorist, Dave McCaig; letterer, Rob Leigh. The Demon and Catwoman; writer, Walt Simonson; artist and colorist, Brian Stelfreeze; letterer, Steve Wands. Hawkman; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Kyle Baker. Editors, Chris Conroy and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Wednesday Comics 7 (19 August 2009)

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Batman is a little better than usual. Not the art, but at least Azzarello writes two scenes. On the flip, this Kamandi strip is probably the weakest. Still good, but pointless.

Superman’s crap, Deadman’s pretty but slight, the Green Lantern is pointless. The Metamorpho, however, is weird in a good way. Crappy Teen Titans, but amusing–Berganza says Starfire is almost seven feet tall, Galloway draws her shorter than Robin. Great Adam Strange. Pope has really made the strip his own thing. Supergirl–with the Aquaman guest appearance–is weak again.

The Metal Men strip is still charming, but it’s starting to drag on. There’s a bunch of stuff in Wonder Woman but I’m not sure I understand it. Caldwell writes a great Etta.

Sgt. Rock is a little better, The Flash’s interesting again. Demon/Catwoman is lacking.

Baker rips off Jurassic Park but Hawkman’s still wonderful.

CREDITS

Batman; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, Eduardo Risso; colorist, Patricia Mulvihill; letterer, Clem Robins. Kamandi; writer, Dave Gibbons; artist, Ryan Sook. Superman; writer, John Arcudi; artist, Lee Bermejo; colorist, Barbara Ciardo; letterer, Ken Lopez. Deadman; writers, Vinton Heuck and Dave Bullock; artist, Bullock; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Jared Fletcher. Green Lantern; writer, Kurt Busiek; artist and colorist, Joe Quinones; letterer, Pat Brosseau. Metamorpho; writer, Neil Gaiman; artist, Mike Allred; colorist, Laura Allred; letterer, Nate Piekos. Teen Titans; writer, Eddie Berganza; artist and colorist, Sean Galloway; letterer, Nick J. Napolitano. Adam Strange; writer, artist and letterer, Paul Pope; colorist, Jose Villarrubia. Supergirl; writer, Jimmy Palmiotti; artist, Amanda Conner; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, John J. Hill. Metal Men; writer, Dan DiDio; penciller, Jose Luís Garcia-Lopez; inker, Kevin Nowlan; colorist, Mulvihill; letterer, Lopez. Wonder Woman; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Ben Caldwell. Sgt. Rock; writer, Adam Kubert; artist, colorist and letterer, Joe Kubert. The Flash; writers, Brendan Fletcher and Karl Kerschl; artist, Kerschl; colorist, Dave McCaig; letterer, Rob Leigh. The Demon and Catwoman; writer, Walt Simonson; artist and colorist, Brian Stelfreeze; letterer, Steve Wands. Hawkman; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Kyle Baker. Editors, Chris Conroy and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Wednesday Comics 6 (12 August 2009)

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Let’s get started. Batman–Risso’s artwork is weak. It’s loose when it needs to be strong and vice versa. Fun Kamandi but Gibbons isn’t giving Sook enough room for the content. Superman’s the opposite. Too much room, too little content. Deadman’s mediocre, probably its worst strip (it’s a wee trite).

Green Lantern’s continuing to sink too. Busiek’s Hal is an unlikable narrator. Gaiman and Allred cheat on Metamorpho–half the page is a board game. It’s cute, but clearly there’s not much story.

Oh, Berganza’s Teen Titans. He gives Blue Beetle the internal monologue of the Taco Bell chihuahua. It’s offensive in addition to awful.

The Adam Strange is amazing. Bringing him back to Earth, Pope finds a great twist. The Supergirl’s weak (relying on Aquaman jokes). Metal Men’s good, Wonder Woman’s half-amazing, half-incomprehensible. Weak Rock, okay Flash, weak Demon, great Hawkman… Baker’s artwork is absolutely phenomenal here.

CREDITS

Batman; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, Eduardo Risso; colorist, Patricia Mulvihill; letterer, Clem Robins. Kamandi; writer, Dave Gibbons; artist, Ryan Sook. Superman; writer, John Arcudi; artist, Lee Bermejo; colorist, Barbara Ciardo; letterer, Ken Lopez. Deadman; writers, Vinton Heuck and Dave Bullock; artist, Bullock; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Jared Fletcher. Green Lantern; writer, Kurt Busiek; artist and colorist, Joe Quinones; letterer, Pat Brosseau. Metamorpho; writer, Neil Gaiman; artist, Mike Allred; colorist, Laura Allred; letterer, Nate Piekos. Teen Titans; writer, Eddie Berganza; artist and colorist, Sean Galloway; letterer, Nick J. Napolitano. Adam Strange; writer, artist and letterer, Paul Pope; colorist, Jose Villarrubia. Supergirl; writer, Jimmy Palmiotti; artist, Amanda Conner; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, John J. Hill. Metal Men; writer, Dan DiDio; penciller, Jose Luís Garcia-Lopez; inker, Kevin Nowlan; colorist, Mulvihill; letterer, Lopez. Wonder Woman; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Ben Caldwell. Sgt. Rock; writer, Adam Kubert; artist, colorist and letterer, Joe Kubert. The Flash; writers, Brendan Fletcher and Karl Kerschl; artist, Kerschl; colorist, Dave McCaig; letterer, Rob Leigh. The Demon and Catwoman; writer, Walt Simonson; artist and colorist, Brian Stelfreeze; letterer, Steve Wands. Hawkman; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Kyle Baker. Editors, Chris Conroy and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Wednesday Comics 5 (5 August 2009)

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Lame Batman, good Kamandi (Sook does a good Planet of the Apes), lame Superman (though Bermejo’s a little better), okay Deadman (one of the book’s steadiest strips), lame Green Lantern (after always being mediocre before)….

I’m trying something different since these comics usually provide so little to really talk about.

Metamorpho’s a little better, Teen Titans is a little worse. Great Adam Strange, just featuring Alanna. Pope gives her a nice strip to herself. And Supergirl’s turning into one of the better strips in the series overall. Palmiotti’s tone for it is perfect and Conner’s art is engaging. Another good Metal Men, another interesting and confusing Wonder Woman, another crappy Sgt. Rock. I wonder if Joe Kubert just wasn’t willing to draw very much.

The Flash is fine, ice art from Kerschl. The Demon and Catwoman is completely passable. Hawkman recovers too, great action page.

The quality’s plateaued.

CREDITS

Batman; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, Eduardo Risso; colorist, Patricia Mulvihill; letterer, Clem Robins. Kamandi; writer, Dave Gibbons; artist, Ryan Sook. Superman; writer, John Arcudi; artist, Lee Bermejo; colorist, Barbara Ciardo; letterer, Ken Lopez. Deadman; writers, Vinton Heuck and Dave Bullock; artist, Bullock; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Jared Fletcher. Green Lantern; writer, Kurt Busiek; artist and colorist, Joe Quinones; letterer, Pat Brosseau. Metamorpho; writer, Neil Gaiman; artist, Mike Allred; colorist, Laura Allred; letterer, Nate Piekos. Teen Titans; writer, Eddie Berganza; artist and colorist, Sean Galloway; letterer, Nick J. Napolitano. Adam Strange; writer, artist and letterer, Paul Pope; colorist, Jose Villarrubia. Supergirl; writer, Jimmy Palmiotti; artist, Amanda Conner; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, John J. Hill. Metal Men; writer, Dan DiDio; penciller, Jose Luís Garcia-Lopez; inker, Kevin Nowlan; colorist, Mulvihill; letterer, Lopez. Wonder Woman; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Ben Caldwell. Sgt. Rock; writer, Adam Kubert; artist, colorist and letterer, Joe Kubert. The Flash; writers, Brendan Fletcher and Karl Kerschl; artist, Kerschl; colorist, Dave McCaig; letterer, Rob Leigh. The Demon and Catwoman; writer, Walt Simonson; artist and colorist, Brian Stelfreeze; letterer, Steve Wands. Hawkman; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Kyle Baker. Editors, Chris Conroy and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Wednesday Comics 4 (29 July 2009)

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Baker gets awkwardly jokey on the Hawkman, which is otherwise all right. He’s got a great looking space battle involving the JLA satellite.

Speaking of art, Bermejo’s Superman is particularly awful this issue. He’s apparently incapable of drawing Ma Kent. He draws her for three or four panels, each worse than the last.

Metamorpho makes a slight recovery; at least Gaiman’s got actual panels and something of a narrative. It’s all a tease, but it’s better than it has been.

The most reliable strips are Pope’s Adam Strange, Bullock and Heuck’s Deadman (it’s never great, but always decent), Gibbons and Sook’s Kamandi and some others. Metal Men, by Didio and Garcia-Lopez, continues to impress. Didio really does fit in some good character dialogue, even with all the action.

Berganza and Galloway’s Teen Titans actually manages to be worse, which seems unimaginable.

The issue’s quality’s up. The strips are stabilizing.

CREDITS

Batman; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, Eduardo Risso; colorist, Patricia Mulvihill; letterer, Clem Robins. Kamandi; writer, Dave Gibbons; artist, Ryan Sook. Superman; writer, John Arcudi; artist, Lee Bermejo; colorist, Barbara Ciardo; letterer, Ken Lopez. Deadman; writers, Vinton Heuck and Dave Bullock; artist, Bullock; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Jared Fletcher. Green Lantern; writer, Kurt Busiek; artist and colorist, Joe Quinones; letterer, Pat Brosseau. Metamorpho; writer, Neil Gaiman; artist, Mike Allred; colorist, Laura Allred; letterer, Nate Piekos. Teen Titans; writer, Eddie Berganza; artist and colorist, Sean Galloway; letterer, Nick J. Napolitano. Adam Strange; writer, artist and letterer, Paul Pope; colorist, Jose Villarrubia. Supergirl; writer, Jimmy Palmiotti; artist, Amanda Conner; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, John J. Hill. Metal Men; writer, Dan DiDio; penciller, Jose Luís Garcia-Lopez; inker, Kevin Nowlan; colorist, Mulvihill; letterer, Lopez. Wonder Woman; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Ben Caldwell. Sgt. Rock; writer, Adam Kubert; artist, colorist and letterer, Joe Kubert. The Flash; writers, Brendan Fletcher and Karl Kerschl; artist, Kerschl; colorist, Dave McCaig; letterer, Rob Leigh. The Demon and Catwoman; writer, Walt Simonson; artist and colorist, Brian Stelfreeze; letterer, Steve Wands. Hawkman; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Kyle Baker. Editors, Chris Conroy and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Wednesday Comics 3 (22 July 2009)

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This issue has even less good strips than before. Sgt. Rock in particular falls off, with Joe Kubert’s art getting way too loose. Gaiman and Allred’s Metamorpho doesn’t recover either.

In other words, at issue three, Wednesday Comics is already downhill.

Azzarello and Risso’s Batman manages to be worse, as does Arcudi and Bermejo’s Superman. Kamadi by Gibbons and Sook, however, is awesome. It’s perfect as a comic strip.

Nice Adam Strange by Pope, nice Metal Men by Didio and Garcia-Lopez. Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner’s Supergirl is rather cute; being well-intentioned and competent compensates for its lack of ambition.

Sadly, Kerschl and Fletcher’s Flash falters. They concentrate on a dramatic cliffhanger instead of an amusing one.

Kyle Baker quizzically turns his Hawkman into an “aliens were behind 9/11” thing. I hope that theme doesn’t stick.

The issue’s tiresome. The standouts don’t make up for the failures.

CREDITS

Batman; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, Eduardo Risso; colorist, Patricia Mulvihill; letterer, Clem Robins. Kamandi; writer, Dave Gibbons; artist, Ryan Sook. Superman; writer, John Arcudi; artist, Lee Bermejo; colorist, Barbara Ciardo; letterer, Ken Lopez. Deadman; writers, Vinton Heuck and Dave Bullock; artist, Bullock; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Jared Fletcher. Green Lantern; writer, Kurt Busiek; artist and colorist, Joe Quinones; letterer, Pat Brosseau. Metamorpho; writer, Neil Gaiman; artist, Mike Allred; colorist, Laura Allred; letterer, Nate Piekos. Teen Titans; writer, Eddie Berganza; artist and colorist, Sean Galloway; letterer, Nick J. Napolitano. Adam Strange; writer, artist and letterer, Paul Pope; colorists, Jose Villarrubia and Lovern Kindzierski. Supergirl; writer, Jimmy Palmiotti; artist, Amanda Conner; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, John J. Hill. Metal Men; writer, Dan DiDio; penciller, Jose Luís Garcia-Lopez; inker, Kevin Nowlan; colorist, Mulvihill; letterer, Lopez. Wonder Woman; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Ben Caldwell. Sgt. Rock; writer, Adam Kubert; artist, colorist and letterer, Joe Kubert. The Flash; writers, Brendan Fletcher and Karl Kerschl; artist, Kerschl; colorist, Dave McCaig; letterer, Rob Leigh. The Demon and Catwoman; writer, Walt Simonson; artist and colorist, Brian Stelfreeze; letterer, Steve Wands. Hawkman; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Kyle Baker. Editors, Chris Conroy and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Wednesday Comics 2 (15 July 2009)

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So even some of the better ones from the previous issue are losers this week. Specifically Neil Gaiman and Mike Allred’s Metamorpho. They flop on the format.

Still strong are Pope’s Adam Strange, Baker’s Hawkman, Dan Didio and Jose Luís Garcia-Lopez’s Metal Men (no, really) and Catwoman by Walt Simonson and Brian Stelfreeze. Oh, and Kamandi by Dave Gibbons and Ryan Sook. The biggest surprise has got to be The Flash from Brendan Fletcher and Karl Kerschl. They split it between Iris and Barry and have a very unexpected, but fun, twist.

Deadman, from Vinton Heuck and Dave Bullock, is another nice one.

The lousy ones remain lousy (or worse). Azzarello and Risso’s Batman stinks; Risso’s art wastes the large size. Arcudi and Bermejo’s Superman is probably worse, just because it’s so poorly written. Berganza and Galloway’s Teen Titans has to be the worst one overall.

Another mixed bag.

CREDITS

Batman; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, Eduardo Risso; colorist, Patricia Mulvihill; letterer, Clem Robins. Kamandi; writer, Dave Gibbons; artist, Ryan Sook. Superman; writer, John Arcudi; artist, Lee Bermejo; colorist, Barbara Ciardo; letterer, Ken Lopez. Deadman; writers, Vinton Heuck and Dave Bullock; artist, Bullock; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Jared Fletcher. Green Lantern; writer, Kurt Busiek; artist and colorist, Joe Quinones; letterer, Pat Brosseau. Metamorpho; writer, Neil Gaiman; artist, Mike Allred; colorist, Laura Allred; letterer, Nate Piekos. Teen Titans; writer, Eddie Berganza; artist and colorist, Sean Galloway; letterer, Nick J. Napolitano. Adam Strange; writer, artist and letterer, Paul Pope; colorist, Jose Villarrubia. Supergirl; writer, Jimmy Palmiotti; artist, Amanda Conner; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, John J. Hill. Metal Men; writer, Dan DiDio; penciller, Jose Luís Garcia-Lopez; inker, Kevin Nowlan; colorist, Mulvihill; letterer, Lopez. Wonder Woman; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Ben Caldwell. Sgt. Rock; writer, Adam Kubert; artist, colorist and letterer, Joe Kubert. The Flash; writers, Brendan Fletcher and Karl Kerschl; artist, Kerschl; colorist, Dave McCaig; letterer, Rob Leigh. The Demon and Catwoman; writer, Walt Simonson; artist and colorist, Brian Stelfreeze; letterer, Steve Wands. Hawkman; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Kyle Baker. Editors, Chris Conroy and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Wednesday Comics 1 (8 July 2009)

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Wednesday Comics really needs a stronger editorial hand. While some of the creators get the concept, others completely fumble it. The successes (and the mediocrities) make up for the bad patches.

In the “no idea how to do the format” section, the issue has Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso on Batman, John Arcudi and Lee Bermejo on Superman (thumbs down to Bermejo’s interpretation too), Eddie Berganza and Sean Galloway on Teen Titans (Galloway’s art is atrocious) and the Kuberts on Sgt. Rock. At least the art’s good on Rock from Joe.

The best entries are–no shock–Paul Pope and Kyle Baker’s. Pope does Adam Strange, Baker Hawkman. They both gleefully approach the newspaper sized medium, pacing their entries differently–though most of the better stories don’t spend this page setting up a plot. The worst ones do.

The issue’s interesting, but barely half successful. There are some real stinkers.

CREDITS

Batman; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, Eduardo Risso; colorist, Patricia Mulvihill; letterer, Clem Robins. Kamandi; writer, Dave Gibbons; artist, Ryan Sook. Superman; writer, John Arcudi; artist, Lee Bermejo; colorist, Barbara Ciardo; letterer, Ken Lopez. Deadman; writers, Vinton Heuck and Dave Bullock; artist, Bullock; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Jared Fletcher. Green Lantern; writer, Kurt Busiek; artist and colorist, Joe Quinones; letterer, Pat Brosseau. Metamorpho; writer, Neil Gaiman; artist, Mike Allred; colorist, Laura Allred; letterer, Nate Piekos. Teen Titans; writer, Eddie Berganza; artist and colorist, Sean Galloway; letterer, Nick J. Napolitano. Adam Strange; writer, artist and letterer, Paul Pope; colorist, Jose Villarrubia. Supergirl; writer, Jimmy Palmiotti; artist, Amanda Conner; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, John J. Hill. Metal Men; writer, Dan DiDio; penciller, Jose Luís Garcia-Lopez; inker, Kevin Nowlan; colorist, Mulvihill; letterer, Lopez. Wonder Woman; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Ben Caldwell. Sgt. Rock; writer, Adam Kubert; artist, colorist and letterer, Joe Kubert. The Flash; writers, Brendan Fletcher and Karl Kerschl; artist, Kerschl; colorist, Dave McCaig; letterer, Rob Leigh. The Demon and Catwoman; writer, Walt Simonson; artist and colorist, Brian Stelfreeze; letterer, Steve Wands. Hawkman; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Kyle Baker. Editors, Chris Conroy and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Deep Cuts (1993-2001)

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Deep Cuts opens a lot more experimental than it finishes. The book is a collection of Pope’s work while traveling for many years. When it starts, stories share themes or locations, which eventually stops.

The first couple stories take place in a dust bowl setting, though they don’t seem to take place in the same time period. Pope’s writing–which Deep Cuts shows is integrally integrated into his art–is lyrical and poetic for them.

He then moves into autobiography–starting with a dream recollection–and makes these wonderful (and sublime) observations about life and its fantastical nature. Every story in Deep Cuts deserves serious consideration. I’m word constrained, I apologize.

Then Pope transitions from a side character out of autobiography to a cute romance. It fits a collection perfectly, even though Pope couldn’t have been thinking about it when he was making the comics. There are two of these cute romances before Deep Cuts gets to the biggies.

There are three big stories–there are little moment stories in between, but nothing like the big three. SuperTrouble is the best Love and Rockets knock-off anyone’ll ever do. It’s a sad moment when one realizes there aren’t any more stories of the one.

Night Job is okay. It’s a genre crime story. It’s Pope experimenting with a more traditional narrative (and action). There’s great art. The Scarf is the synthesis. It’s Pope’s slice of life story as a narrative.

Deep Cuts shows Pope’s develop as an artist. It’s amazing.

A+ 

CREDITS

The Triumph of Hunger; colorist, Dominic Regan. The Zhuk; colorist, Regan. The Armadillo; colorist, Regan; letterer, Lorrie Witte. The Visible Man; colorist, Regan. Portrait of a Girl with an Unpronounceable Name; colorist, Regan. Yes; colorist, Regan. Antigone; colorist, Regan; letterer, Michael Neno. The Scythe; colorist, Regan. Super Trouble; colorists, Scott Mou and Jared K. Fletcher; letterer, Fletcher. Four Cats; colorist, Regan. Night Job; colorist and letterer, Fletcher. The Scarf; colorist, Fletcher. Airplanes; colorist, Regan. Writer and artist, Paul Pope; editor, Bob Schreck; publisher, Image Comics.

The One-Trick Rip-Off (1993-96)

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The One Trick Rip-Off isn’t a failed heist story. Paul Pope plays a lot with that genre, updating it to Los Angeles street gangs. Pope’s Los Angeles setting is an entirely different subject, one I’ll get out of the way. One Trick’s setting is lush–both in Pope’s lines and the colors–always urban, but still somehow organic. Pope’s use of the stars and the city skyline are both great ways to make it breath, especially the stars. The first star scene has the protagonists talking about constellations. They obviously aren’t visible, but Pope convinces the reader to look anyway.

All right, setting out of the way. Back to the genre. One Trick was originally serialized; some of the chapters are more obvious than others, but it also shows how Pope’s unveiling events. It opens with a classic heist planning scene and then Pope does whatever he can do make that scene impossible in the narrative. He later brings it back, which is something of a genre standard. But then Pope breaks One Trick out of the genre with the finish. It’s like he acknowledges what the genre’s limits and bypasses it.

Pope deftly prepares the protagonists for the transition. He spends a lot of time on his characters; the protagonists are actually the least jazzy. They’ve got a good story, especially with the genre shift, but Pope saves the flash for the supporting cast.

As for the art? It’s concurrently sublime and frantic.

It’s a great book.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Paul Pope; colorists, Jamie Grant and Dominic Regan; letterer, Michael Neno; editor, Bob Schreck; publisher, Image Comics.

Dark Horse Presents Annual 1997 (February 1998)

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For a Presents annual (or oversized special), this one has a lot of solid work.

Pearson’s Body Bags is a fun diversion. The art’s great and the story moves. It gets a little visually confusing, but it’s good.

And Verheiden (with Marrinan) finally produces a decent installment of The American. It’s a thoughtful story, very well written.

Arcudi and Musgrove’s The Oven Traveler is dumb. It’s a one page story dragged to four.

Aliens (from Smith and Morrow) is atrocious. It’s Aliens meets Westworld. If it weren’t terrible, it’d be an interesting genre mix—plus, Morrow can’t draw the aliens. They look awkward and goofy, not at all frightening.

Jillette and French’s Rheumy Peepers and Chunky Highlights is overwritten but mildly diverting….

Stephens and Allred’s The Stiff is decent, if too silly.

Then there’s a decent Pope finish. It’s a talking heads story, which seems like a waste of Pope.

CREDITS

Body Bags; story and art by Jason Pearson. The American, The Big Deal; story by Mark Verheiden; art by Chris Marrinan; lettering by Sean Konot. The Oven Traveler; story by John Arcudi; art by Scott Musgrove. Aliens, Tourist Season; story by Beau Smith; art by Gray Morrow; lettering by John Costanza; edited by Bob Schreck. The Adventures of Rheumy Peepers and Chunky Highlights; story by Penn Jillette; art by Renée French. The Stiff, Disappearing Act; story, inks and lettering by Jay Stephens; pencils by Mike Allred. Four Cats; story and art by Paul Pope. Edited by Jamie S Rich.

Dark Horse Presents 112 (August 1996)

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One Trick Rip-Off finishes here, the first story in the issue too. It’s pretty clear Pope was thinking, especially here—it has a multi-page wordless sequence for dramatic effect—of a single sitting read, not a one-year one. Some very nice art; some weak sentiment. The finish might read better as a single piece.

Actually, it’s an issue of finale installments—French has Ninth Gland’s strange close next and it’s… creepy and disturbing but not at all horrifying. In fact, if one were to synopsize the series, it would sound strange but not scary.

And then there’s Egg. Lovece writes this installment from the perspective of the egg creature. It’s an alien of some sort. I think Lovece is trying to do something about the cycle of abuse (inferring the kid beat the ugly alien for misbehaving with a crowbar). Well-intentioned or not, the writing’s idiotic.

CREDITS

The One Trick Rip-Off, Part Twelve; story and art by Paul Pope; lettering by Michael Neno. The Ninth Gland, Part Seven; story and art by Renée French. Egg, Part Three; story by Frank Lovece; art by Christopher Schenck; lettering by Sean Konot. Edited by Bob Schreck and Jamie S. Rich.

Dark Horse Presents 111 (July 1996)

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I was expecting The Ninth Gland to be creepier this issue, but I guess French has to save something for the finish. While it’s disturbing, it’s just disturbing imagery. The story itself is rather tame—though I imagine the payoff next issue will be something awful.

Speaking of awful… Egg, Lovece and Schenck after-school special about a father beating his son and the son bringing home a giant monster. This issue is from the father’s perspective and Lovece writes him even worse than he wrote the son. It’s interesting how, in both installments, the whole world is actually out to get the father and son.

Pope’s penultimate One Trick Rip-Off is gorgeous—lots of great panels this time, fantastic movement between them. It’s an action story; a great looking action story.

Too Much Coffee Man is incredibly bland this issue. Wheeler’s observations are straight out of “Dear Abby.”

CREDITS

The Ninth Gland, Part Six; story and art by Renée French. Egg, Part Two; story by Frank Lovece; art by Christopher Schenck; lettering by Sean Konot. The One Trick Rip-Off, Part Eleven; story and art by Paul Pope; lettering by Michael Neno. Too Much Coffee Man; story and art by Shannon Wheeler. Edited by Bob Schreck and Jamie S. Rich.

Dark Horse Presents 110 (June 1996)

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The issue opens with Egg, which is a well-intentioned look at child abuse. The narrator’s father is beating him and the school officials aren’t doing anything to help, even though some are well-intentioned. Lovece’s writing is better in dialogue. Dealing with the narrator’s Stockholm Syndrome, he fails. Also, introducing a giant creature into the situation seems a little cheap. Schenck’s art is fine.

Pope’s One Trick is an action installment. He seems to be ramping up for the conclusion. The art’s great but it’s gone on too long, especially if Pope’s going to load up the ending with action versus story.

The Ninth Gland is getting even freakier—one of the girls is now hallucinating some very disturbing things. Let’s not forget these two girls are hanging around in a hospital basement with the janitor either….

Then Wheeler’s got a page of Coffee Man, who I didn’t miss.

CREDITS

Egg, Part One; story by Frank Lovece; art by Christopher Schenck; lettering by Sean Konot. The One Trick Rip-Off, Part Ten; story and art by Paul Pope; lettering by Michael Neno. The Ninth Gland, Part Five; story and art by Renée French. Too Much Coffee Man; story and art by Shannon Wheeler. Edited by Bob Schreck and Jamie S. Rich.

Dark Horse Presents 109 (May 1996)

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I can’t believe I’m about to make this statement—I liked Milgrom’s story the best. It’s some charming little thing about a guy treating his roaches as pets (after all other attempts at pet owning in New York fail). Milgrom’s style is more comic strip than I’ve seen and it works. Even if the protagonist does look like Peter Parker with a receding hairline.

Pope’s One Trick opens the issue and I remembered all the characters in this installment. One of them was mentioned briefly in the first installment. One Trick doesn’t seem to be meant for a lengthy, interrupted read. Pope’s pacing suggests it should be read in a sitting (I know Dark Horse traded it eventually).

Devil Chef ends this issue… it’s a slightly less annoying read knowing Pollock won’t be back with it next time.

And French’s Ninth Gland? Still no real story, just incredibly, uncomfortably weird.

CREDITS

The One Trick Rip-Off, Part Nine; story and art by Paul Pope; lettering by Michael Neno. Devil Chef, Part Three; story and art by Jack Pollock. The Ninth Gland, Part Four; story and art by Renée French. New York Pets; story and art by Al Milgrom. Edited by Bob Schreck and Jamie S. Rich.

Dark Horse Presents 108 (April 1996)

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Ninth Gland is fairly gross this issue, though French still hasn’t done anything to tell the reader what the story’s about. There’s something growing in the alien horse and the two girls who brought it to the hospital maintenance man will be affected somehow. It’s creepy.

Pollock’s Devil Chef installment is somewhat less annoying than usual for most of the pages, then it has a moronic ending. The concept—the FDA approving food with a parasite in it to force consumers to eat only that foodstuff—is interesting, actually. Too bad Pollock’s writing is awful.

Then Pope’s got problems with One Trick. It’s impossible to keep his characters straight here (I swear he’s changed one character’s hair color from blond to brown). Also, it feels a little padded. Nice last page though.

DeMos and Gillis have an anti-suicide story. Gillis’s art is fine. DeMos wrote two lines of dialogue.

CREDITS

The Ninth Gland, Part Three; story and art by Renée French. Devil Chef, Part Two; story and art by Jack Pollock. The One Trick Rip-Off, Part Eight; story and art by Paul Pope; lettering by Michael Neno. The Perfect Tree; story by Jeff DeMos; art by Scott Gillis. Edited by Bob Schreck and Jamie S. Rich.

Dark Horse Presents 107 (March 1996)

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I’ll start with the worst—Devil Chef. Pollock threatens a second installment. He can draw, this story shows, he just choses not to. It’s an unfunny strip with a lot of details and zero charm.

On the other hand, Purcell and Mignola’s Rusty Razorciam is quite a bit of fun. Mignola’s not a good fit for sci-fi (it’s hard to tell what he’s trying to convey, action-wise, at times), but Purcell’s got an amusing set of characters. The protagonist narrates an incomplete adventure. It’s really rather nice, even with the art problems.

French’s Ninth Gland is weird and ominous. Not much happens this issue (the emphasis is on making the reader uncomfortable), but French’s art is fine; the story works.

Pope’s at a bridging point in One Trick. It’s a Paul Pope talking heads story, actually. It’s a good installment, very cinematically paced.

Geary does another inconsequential page.

CREDITS

Rusty Razorclam; story by Steve Purcell; art by Mike Mignola; lettering by Lois Buhalis. The Ninth Gland, Part Two; story and art by Renée French. The One Trick Rip-Off, Part Seven; story and art by Paul Pope; lettering by Michael Neno. Devil Chef, Part One; story and art by Jack Pollock. Humiliation and Debasement; story and art by Rick Geary. Edited by Bob Schreck and Scott Allie.

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