Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Turn the Page, If You Dare…

Posted by Don MacPherson on March 28th, 2015

Grant Morrison’s various Multiversity comics for DC for the past few months have had at their foundation a key concept: nostalgia. This week’s The Multiversity: Ultra Comics #1 — a pivotal chapter in this unconventional event series — adopts that approach as well, and the previously established characters that turn up here are among the most obscure of all of the historical DC properties with which Morrison has played. But the nostalgia factor that struck me the most was likely an unintentional one, arising not from DC’s long publishing history, but rather from the Children’s Television Workshop… Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – March 15, 2015

Posted by Don MacPherson on March 15th, 2015

All-New Hawkeye #1 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Jeff Lemire & Ramón Pérez

This comic book interests me for a couple of reasons. The first is the fact it’s written by Jeff Lemire, who’s been one of DC’s go-to guys for the last several years. That he’s branched out to include Marvel among his mainstream comics work strikes me as a significant development. Mind you, it’s not particularly relevant in terms of the creative quality of this comic, which, fortunately, is quite solid. The other reason this new title was of such interest to me was that I was quite curious how Marvel planned to follow up on its much-lauded but oft-delayed Hawkeye series by Matt Fraction, David Aja and others. My impression was that previous run simply ran out of steam, so I wondered if this relaunch would follow its cues or head off in a new direction. The answer proved to be a little of both. Through some telling flashbacks, Lemire dwells on the relationship between the original titular character and his brother, while mirroring it with an adventure between the hero and his kid-sister-in-spirit Kate Bishop. While the Barton boys’ tale of an abusive childhood comes off as a little too familiar (the notion is one that’s used quite often in fiction), it nevertheless rings fairly true. With the two Hawkeyes, Lemire seems to have left the everyday, street-level conflict behind and embraced an international-intrigue genre vibe, which helps to distinguish this from the previous run while he nevertheless maintains a certain synergy with Fraction’s stories. Read the rest of this entry »

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Artful Obsession: A Weakness for Weekly

Posted by Don MacPherson on March 7th, 2015

When I started collecting original comic art on a more active basis a few years ago, there were a number of “categories” I was keen to include in my collection: team-up title art, Amalgam comics and journalism-related subject matter, among others. I’ve also always wanted to acquire pages from Action Comics Weekly. Don’t ask me why; I just have an affection for that limited run of the title from the 1980s as a serial anthology. I recently found just such a page on eBay and struck a deal with the seller — for what turned out unexpectedly to be a lot of two consecutive pages from the same issue of Action Weekly. Read the rest of this entry »

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Terror Plot

Posted by Don MacPherson on March 7th, 2015

VariantThe Multiversity: Mastermen #1
“Splendour Falls”
Writer: Grant Morrison
Pencils: Jim Lee
Inks: Scott Williams, Sandra Hope, Mark Irwin & Jonathan Glapion
Colors: Alex Sinclair & Jeromy Cox
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artists: Lee (regular edition)/Aaron Kuder, Howard Porter and Grant Morrison (variants)
Editor: Rickey Purdin
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US

This is the first of Grant Morrison’s Multiversity comics that disappointed me, and that makes it unique in a line of rather unique and unusual comics. Like Morrison’s other works, Mastermen is full of great and mad ideas, and there’s a powerful commentary to be found in its pages. Unfortunately, it’s marred by a couple of major flaws, the most obvious of which is Jim Lee’s art. It just isn’t up to the task of conveying something beyond traditional super-hero fare, and I think we can all agree Morrison’s approach to the genre is far from traditional. The other issue is an occasionally casual, even silly approach in the portrayal of the horrors of Nazism. The depth and dire nature of the history with which the writer tinkers here seems ill-served somehow by some of the choices Morrison makes in his script. Read the rest of this entry »

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Comic Book Wisdom: Belief Systems

Posted by Don MacPherson on February 7th, 2015

It’s been that kind of week at work, so when I read the following in my stack of comics this week, it sang to me…


(From East of West #17, written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Nick Dragotta.)

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Eyes Spies

Posted by Don MacPherson on January 24th, 2015

VariantG.I.Joe: Snake Eyes, Agent of Cobra #1
“Snake Eyes, Agent of Cobra, Part One: The Tin Man”
Writer: Mike Costa
Artist: Paolo Villanelli
Colors: Joana Lafuente
Letters: Neil Uyetake
Cover artists: Villanelli (regular edition)/Drew Johnson (subscription variant)
Editor: Carlos Guzman
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Price: $3.99 US

I had some G.I.Joe action figures when I was a kid in the early 1980s, even a playset/vehicle or two; my brother and I shared them, as I recall. I also have a soft spot for the G.I.Joe cartoon of the 1980s, not for the stories or characters so much, but for the fact each episode advertised an actual Marvel comic book on network TV. Overall, I wasn’t really a Joe fanboy; I read few of the comics, and I wasn’t obsessed with collecting the toys. In any case, I don’t have the strong nostalgic connection with the property that a lot of guys my age have, but a couple of friends have urged me to check out some of IDW’s Joe comics, remarking in particular that the Cobra series was particularly good. I still haven’t delved into that title, but I had a chance to peruse this title, which I presume is something of a spinoff title. The ever-silent Snake Eyes was always the coolest of the Joes, and the character was ground-breaking in a couple of ways. In a lot of ways, Snake Eyes epitomizes the Kewl, edgy characters of the 1990s, and he was ahead of the curve on that particular trend. Furthermore, in the world of comics, the character is probably most noteworthy as the star of the wordless issue of Marvel’s G.I.Joe that made so many readers aware of the possibilities inherent in and strengths of the visual medium. Agent of Cobra offered a premise that piqued my interest and offered a chance to dip my toes in the waters of this world once again. Overall, the storytelling here is solid, but it didn’t ignite a newfound interest in these characters either. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bend It Like Bendis

Posted by Don MacPherson on January 21st, 2015

Powers #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Colors: Nick Filardi
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: Oeming (regular edition)/David Mack and David Marquez (variants)
Editor: Jennifer Grünwald
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment/Icon imprint
Price: $3.99 US

I’m an early adopter — not when it comes to technology, per se, but with a number of comics titles that have debuted outside of the mainstream over the years. Powers debuted at Image Comics back in 2000, before co-creator Brian Bendis was a vital cog in the Marvel machine. The creator-owned has soldiered on and prospered from Bendis’s rise in the industry, even following him over to Marvel. I was a big fan of the series from the start, and it debuted at the height of my reviewing “career”; I think I’ve even got a pullquote on the first edition of the first collected edition. Somewhere along the line, I lost touch with Powers, though. Either I missed an issue, or I maybe I decided since newer issues didn’t seem to make it to the top of my reading pile on a given week that it was time to move on. My memory is that the stories started seeming a bit repetitive to me, perhaps more in terms of atmosphere than actual plot. Like I say, I’m a bit fuzzy on the details. Read the rest of this entry »

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Powers to the People

Posted by Don MacPherson on January 18th, 2015

The First Hero #3
Writer: Anthony Ruttgaizer
Artist: Phillip Sevy
Colors/Letters: Fred C. Stresing
Cover artist: Lee Moder
Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

Action Lab Entertainment has been steadily beefing up its lineup of comics, and my perception is that the investment is proving to be successful. It also seems to me its partnership with writer/artist Jamal Igle, who’s now in marketing with the small-press comics publisher, is paying off, because the publisher certainly seems more visible these days. I’ve been meaning to sit down and peruse one or two of the many review copies Action Lab has sent in recent months, as it’s been a while since I did so (Igle’s fun Molly Danger was my last foray into Action Lab’s world). The First Hero definitely held my attention, and it was a refreshingly accessible read. However, I also found it to be a bit too familiar, with elements I’ve seen explored time and time again in other super-hero comics, albeit in a slightly different way. The First Hero serves to highlight that its unknown creators show a lot of promise that could be fulfilled in the near future, perhaps with a little bit more editorial guidance. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Tale of Two Daredevils

Posted by Don MacPherson on January 17th, 2015

For about four years now, writer Mark Waid and his artistic collaborators (mainly the amazing Chris Samnee, as of late) have been crafting what is almost universally hailed as Marvel Entertainment’s best (or one of its best) ongoing super-hero titles, Daredevil. Waid’s novel take on the title character’s sensory powers, his exploration of some more obscure Silver Age characters, the incorporation of the title character into the larger, more wondrous elements of the Marvel Universe and the various artists’ brighter approach to the character to match the fun tone in the writing have all combined to achieve something new and interesting that’s spiced with a love of the old. It’s a wonderful read, and I just finished reading the latest issue — another entertaining and surprising bit of fantastic fiction.

And it just might be the wrong Daredevil comic for Marvel to publish at the moment. (But not really. Stick with me.) Read the rest of this entry »

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Which Witch Is Which?

Posted by Don MacPherson on October 13th, 2014

Last week saw the release of a number of impressive and strong samples of comics storytelling, and two of the titles I picked up, both debut issues for new series, had a lot in common: witches. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Wytches were both engaging reads delving into witchcraft, supernatural lore and the overwhelming challenges of adolescence, but they were also far from carbon copies of one another. Read the rest of this entry »

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Not a Bullseye

Posted by Don MacPherson on October 5th, 2014

The Charlton Arrow #1
Writers: Paul Kupperberg, Roger McKenzie, Michael Mitchell, Lou Mougin, Steven Thompson, Mort Todd & Larry Wilson
Artists: John Byrne, Sandy Carruthers, Javier Hernandez, Rick Stasi & Barbara Kaalberg, Michael Mitchell, Joe Staton & Mort Todd
Colors: Javier Hernandez, Michael Mitchell, Mort Todd & Matt Webb
Letters: Mort Todd & A. Machine Jr.
Editor: Fester Faceplant
Publisher: Comicfix
Price: $6.99 US

Charlton Comics, for the most part, has been relegated to little more than a footnote in comics history, best known as the source of a number of super-hero characters (such as Blue Beetle, Captain Atom and the Question) that DC acquired and that served as the inspiration for the characters in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen. But there was a lot more to the publisher than that handful of heroes, as this tribute comic attests. I knew Charlton published a number of romance, horror and war comics as well, some of which are honored in this thick anthology. But the more important thing to remember about Charlton as a publisher was as a base for some of the top talent in the industry, from the 1960s into the 1980s. John Byrne, Jim Aparo, Dick Giordano and others got their starts there, and it was also home to such established talents as Steve Ditko and Pay Boyette for a considerable period. I got the chance to pick this book up from one of the contributors at a small local comic expo earlier this year, as I was happy to support a friend and a celebration of a noteworthy corner of comics history. Like most anthologies, though, The Charlton Arrow is a mixed bag, with some solid, entertaining comics craft and some that miss the mark. Read the rest of this entry »

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I Think I Know Why They Called Them ‘Losers’…

Posted by Don MacPherson on September 21st, 2014

… Rampant sexism with a dash of racism will do it every time.


(From Our Fighting Forces #166, featuring the Losers, from 1976. Story by Bob Kanigher, art by George Evans.)

To be fair, Gunner, Sarge, Johnny Cloud and Capt. Storm come around about their French female mission leader (who goes into battle in a skirt and fishnets) by the end of the story. Though Johnny never apologizes for the “squaw” comment.

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Buzz Words

Posted by Don MacPherson on September 20th, 2014

With a Buzz In Our Ears We Play Endlessly mini-comic
Writer: Gibson Twist
Artist: Rori! de Rien
Publisher: Live Nude Comics (self-published)
Price: $5 US

My savvy comics retailer put this mini-comic in my hands, suggesting it’s something I’d enjoy and find interesting. I’d been vaguely aware of Gibson Twist’s self-published comics, as my local comics shop carries his work, but I hadn’t delved into it. While I found the price I was quoted to be a little on the high side for such a thin book, I decided to give it a shot all the same. I’m always open to looking at something different, and I’m pleased I did in this case. With a Buzz… is a delightfully simple comic — so much so that one could argue it’s a little on the predictable side. But Twist’s message, despite its simplicity and obvious nature, is one that adults can overlook far too easily in life. I wish the activities depicted in this mini-comic were as commonplace as they’re suggested to be here, as there’s really not nearly enough silliness, innocence and self-satisfaction in the world as there should be. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – Sept. 17, 2014

Posted by Don MacPherson on September 17th, 2014

VariantAvengers #34.1 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Al Ewing, Dale Keown & Norman Lee

This Hyperion-focused standalone story, as my online reading indicates, wasn’t intended as an Avengers comic, but it was ultimately decided more units would move as a part of that series, which is a fair bet. Fortunately, writer Al Ewing builds on the seeds already planted by regular series writer Jonathan Hickman, so there’s a certain logic to its inclusion under this banner. Ewing’s take on Marvel’s Superman stand-in is an interesting spin on the near-omnipotent Man of Steel, and I rather enjoyed the reflective tone of the script. I also appreciated the fact that the seemingly infallible Hyperion is shown to be somewhat human, given the moments of rage that lurk at the periphery of his stoic yet imposing demeanor. I also enjoyed Ewing’s use of a rather obscure and quickly forgotten villain from the Matt Fraction-penned Invincible Iron Man run from a few years ago. Ultimately, while the ending promises a new direction for solo adventures of the central protagonist, it seems unlikely that’s going to come to pass. Furthermore, it seems almost certain Hickman’s plotlines on the various Avengers titles will come to an end at some point, so I’m doubtful this new status quo and mission for Hyperion will last. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Thin Bluelines

Posted by Don MacPherson on September 14th, 2014

The world of collecting original comic art is experiencing a boom in recent years, but there’s more going on than increases in interest and prices. The very nature of original art available out there is changing as well, and a lot of it stems from digital advances in the creation of comics. Finding a page of original comic art with lettering right on the board becomes increasing hard when one turns one’s attention to pages created in the past 20 years, given the rise of digital lettering in the mid 1990s. Today, digital lettering is the industry standard and likely won’t be found other than on some pages that are written, illustrated and lettering by a single creator.

But pages of original comic art without lettering are hardly a new development. However, boards featuring only pencil art or only ink art are becoming more and more common, and while a lack of lettering didn’t impact value in any real perceptible way, separate pencils and inks are definitely changing the market. More and more often, thanks to advances in digital scanning, pencillers will send scans of their pencilled boards, and inkers end up working on what’s usually termed as “blueline scans.” In many cases, that creates two boards that go into producing one page of original art. One could argue one of the reasons original comic art is seen as being so collectible and rare is because each piece is (or at least was) one of a kind. But when it comes to blueline scans, are there now two one-of-a-kind pieces of art? Which of the two boards are the original — the pencils, or the inked blueline scan that was actually used in the production of the comic?

Walden Wong, an inker whose work has appeared in innumerable DC and Marvel titles in the past couple of decades, said inking blueline scans of pencils has its advantages, not only for the publishers but the artists as well. Read the rest of this entry »

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