Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

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 »

Posted in Reviews - Archie, Reviews - Image, Reviews - Quick Critiques | No Comments »

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 »

Posted in Reviews - Indy/Small Press | No Comments »

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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The Hole Truth

Posted by Don MacPherson on September 10th, 2014

Annihilator #1
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist/Cover artist: Frazer Irving
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Bob Schreck
Publisher: Legendary Comics
Price: $3.99 US

In recent weeks, writer Grant Morrison returned to the forefront of mainstream super-hero comics with the launch of his long-awaited The Multiversity event title from DC Comics. It boasts a bunch of elements that I loved: a diverse array of colorful characters, an affection for and tribute to past super-hero comics for which I hold a great deal of nostalgia, and the challenging qualities of a weird, wild Morrison plot. The Multiversity #1 was a good comic book, but Annihilator #1… it’s a great one. The premise revolves around a somewhat familiar trope, but the sheer madness Morrison brings to the two main characters is mesmerizing as it tickles the funny bone and morbid cartilage. The surreal style of Frazer Irving, Morrison’s artistic collaborator on Seven Soldiers: Klarion the Witch Boy a few years ago, is an ideal choice to bring this mind-trip of the story to life. Given that this title is being released by a lesser-known comics publisher, Annihilator #1 is likely going to fly under the radar of a number of comics readers, and maybe even missed by Morrison fans. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – Sept. 6, 2014

Posted by Don MacPherson on September 6th, 2014

Variant coverCloaks #1 (Boom! Studios)
by Caleb Monroe & Mariano Navarro

I need to make a point of paying attention when Boom! releases other four-part limited series such as this one. The publisher has scored with them in the past (Talent and The Foundation come to mind immediately), and now Cloaks is another such entertaining story. Cloaks fires on all cylinders. Writer Caleb Monroe has crafted a thoroughly (almost incredibly) likeable protagonist in the form of teenage street magician Adam D’Aquino. His sense of justice, his self-reliance, his love of people and his dazzling skills all combine to make a shining hero. In many ways, he’s a formulaic comics protagonist, but the conventional, arguably overused elements are quickly forgotten thanks to the character’s infectious appeal. The crime and intrigue elements are a lot of fun as well, and Monroe has done a good job of incorporating modern digital culture into the mix. Read the rest of this entry »

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Winds of War

Posted by Don MacPherson on September 6th, 2014

White Death original softcover graphic novel
Writer: Robbie Morrison
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Publisher: AiT/PlanetLar
Price: $12.95 US

I see Image Comics released a hardcover edition of this graphic novel at the end of August. I didn’t pick it up, mainly because I already have a softcover edition of the book. Indy publisher AiT/PlanetLar originally published this creator-owned graphic novel back in 2002, and I was a devotee of AiT/PlanetLar books at the time. I’ve been writing comics reviews for a long time, and I recalled I already penned some thoughts about this book 12 years ago. Rather than write a new review, I found the original review, which I’ve reproduced below (with a couple of minor edits). When I was reviewing on TheFourthRail.com at the time, I wrote many more reviews each week and wrote in a much more brief format than I do today.

When I saw this solicited in Previews, I figured, ‘What the hey.’ I enjoyed Adlard’s art, and publisher Larry Young has a solid track record. I’ve been wanting to wade into more original graphic novels and collected editions lately anyway. Little did I know I was ordering one of the most amazing war comics I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Those who enjoyed and appreciated the craft behind Garth Ennis’s recent War Story one-shots will be awe-struck by the quality and vivid storytelling and characterization to be found in White Death. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - AiT/PlanetLar, Reviews - Image | No Comments »

Altered Ego

Posted by Don MacPherson on September 6th, 2014

Dryspell #1
Writer/Artist/Colors/Cover artist/Letters: Ken Krekeler
Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

I have no idea why creator Ken Krekeler opted to call this series Dryspell, as the plot and ideas in this first issue don’t seem to connect with that term in any way, but I suppose it was a good choice. “Dryspell” was catchy enough of a title to grab my attention when Action Lab touched base by email to offer me a chance to look at a digital review copy. What I found was a well-designed, dark and offbeat take on the super-hero genre. Mind you, these more mature spins on the caped crowd are a dime a dozen these days, but Krekeler’s approach to both the art and the script really draw in the audience. I’ve found that lately, I’ve been attracted to darker, bleaker bits of fiction for my entertainment fixes, and Dryspell certainly fits the bill, though it boasts just a hint of black humor, of self-deprecation that helps it stand apart, if only a little bit. The other thing about the book that’s intriguing is how surprisingly relatable it is, as it touches on professional ennui, a sense of being directionless in life, and the challenge of finding and staying true to oneself. I’m at a point in my life at which I have a lot going for me — family, a home, a career I enjoy — but it wasn’t always that way. Anyone who’s felt adrift in his or her own life will find Dryspell to be something of a mirror, even if it’s a reflection of the past. Read the rest of this entry »

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Exit Wounds

Posted by Don MacPherson on September 4th, 2014

Death of Wolverine #1
“Death of Wolverine, Part One”
Writer: Charles Soule
Pencils: Steve McNiven
Inks: Jay Leisten
Colors: Justin Ponsor
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: Steve McNiven & Jay Leisten (regular)/Alex Ross, Pascual Ferry, Joe Quesada, Leinil Yu, Skottie Young & Steve McNiven (variants)
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US

It was inevitable. They killed Captain America. They killed Spider-Man. They killed the Human Torch. But not really. It was just a matter of time before the comics division of Marvel Entertainment got around to “killing off” what is arguably its most popular and bankable character. Does it matter how he “dies?” No. Does it matter who’s responsible? God, no. We know going in Logan isn’t going to die. It’s one of the inherent flaws in intellectual properties and pop-culture icons — they always stay the same, except for those brief periods in which they don’t. But the notion of killing the unkillable character is also a guaranteed way of piquing curiosity. Reading Death of Wolverine is the equivalent of comics rubbernecking. You know there’s nothing for you in it, but you can’t look away. To be honest, from an administrative point of view, I was a bit curious about this limited series, if only about editorial choices, if anything else. Read the rest of this entry »

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