Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Nonsense on the Dollar

Posted by Don MacPherson on January 31st, 2016

Eye on Comics took a look at the effect of currency exchange rates between the United States and Canada on comics retail a few years ago, when the two countries’ dollars were essentially at par. But now, the Canadian dollar (often referred to as the loonie, so named for the image of a loon on the dollar coin) has weakened significant in a rather short period of time. As of this writing, the loonie is worth 72 cents US, or conversely, the U.S. greenback is worth $1.40 Cdn. That means the average $3.99 US comic book costs a Canadian reader $5.58 out of pocket, before taxes or any sort of discounts are factored in.

Given the shift in the currencies in 2016, Eye on Comics opted to revisit the issue and it’s affecting the Canadian comics retail sector. Read the rest of this entry »

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Monsters Ink

Posted by Don MacPherson on January 30th, 2016

American Monster #1
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist/Letters: Juan Doe
Cover artists: Juan Doe (regular)/Dave Johnson, Alexis Ziritt & Phil Hester
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: Aftershock Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Adding another title to my pull list these days isn’t something I’m quick to do in most cases, given rising costs (especially due to currency exchange rates these days), but the manager of my local comics retailer knows how to pull my strings. He points to a new crime title, written by Brian (100 Bullets) Azzarello and illustrated by Juan (Fantastic Four: Island of Death) Doe, and I’m sunk. As a lover of fine comics storytelling, I’m incapable of turning a blind eye to such a combination. Furthermore, this is an early release from a new publisher — Aftershock Comics — staffed by professionals with solid track records in the industry. While the first issue didn’t blow me away, I have to admit I’m quite intrigued. The harshness and intensity of the characters and circumstances of the plot come as no surprise, given they were crafted by Azzarello, and I definitely what to know more about them and what’s going on. Doe’s art took me off-guard, though, likely due to the fact I associate his style with a lighter tone and energy than the ugly world he help to bring to life here. Read the rest of this entry »

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War, What Is It Good For?

Posted by Don MacPherson on January 17th, 2016

Princess at Midnight original graphic novella
Writer/Artist: Andi Watson
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $5.99 US

It’s coming on the three-year anniversary that my family moved into our first (and, we expect, last) house. We absolutely love it. It’s a four-bedroom home, and we only use two of them regularly (one for the wife and me, and the other for the boy). One is a guest bedroom, and that leaves one more. It’s my home office, or at least, it was always intended as such, but it’s only recently that I really set out to make that a reality. I assembled a new bookshelf and have been finally organizing all the softcover and hardcover books — mostly comics — and am working to make it a little haven for myself. As such, I’ve been unpacking a lot of books that have been sitting in boxes since the move three years ago, and I’m rediscovering a lot of interesting gems — books I hadn’t thought about in a long time and even some I hadn’t even read.

Princess at Midnight is one of those falling into the latter category. I’ve always loved Andi Watson’s work, though when I think of his storytelling, it’s usually things such as Slow News Day and Dumped that come to mind, more mature, character-driven works. Still, Watson is an adept teller of stories about and for children, and Princess at Midnight, published by Image Comics in 2008, stands out as a charming example of that strength. It’s actually a surprising book, as it’s not about what one expects at first. It seems to be about a little girl’s dream-haven away from her annoying twin and her unconventional parents, but instead, it proves to be a political story that casts the little girl as the antagonist in her own story. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – The Son of All-New, All-Different Marvel

Posted by Don MacPherson on January 16th, 2016

It’s pretty clear why Marvel keeps relaunching its entire line — it works, at least in the short term, when it comes to shoring up sales. As a long-term collector and comics enthusiast, I find it a bit frustrating. But there’s another aspect to the relaunches that appeals to me: it seems to instill in the publisher a greater willingness to try new things with familiar characters. While Marvel’s “All-New, All-Different” is far from perfect (as I’ll elaborate on below), some of the titles certainly do live up to the label — as limiting as it is. When you call all of your comics “new” and “different,” it’s a pretty clear signal that another relaunch is forthcoming once those descriptions are no longer accurate.

Now, onto the reviews… Read the rest of this entry »

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What’s DeMatteis With You?

Posted by Don MacPherson on January 10th, 2016

I watched Bruce Timm’s Justice League: Gods and Monsters direct-to-video animated movie not long after its release last year, and I enjoyed the alt-reality take on radically different incarnations of the iconic trinity of DC’s super-heroes. I also watched the three related film shorts released in advance of the movie’s retail release. It occurred to me that Timm’s harsher vision of super-heroes would add to the criticism that DC and Warner Bros. have adopted too dark an approach to their library of super-hero properties. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the shorts as well. However, I didn’t pay any attention to the comics released in conjunction with the movie. That was a mistake on my part.

The trio of one-shots issued by DC Comics featuring solo stories (and backstories) of Hernan Guerra, Bekka and Kirk Langstrom turned out to be some compelling and laudable mainstream comics storytelling. I recently picked them up for a song during a holiday sale at my local comic shop, after having read them, I can admit if I had to replace them, I’d pay full cover price for them. All three were plotted by Timm and comics mainstay J.M. DeMatteis, with scripts by the latter. And without a doubt, it’s DeMatteis who made all three comics well worth experiencing. His trademark focus on self-exploration makes for engaging, character-driven stories. It’s also clear that the fact DeMatteis and Timm were involved in these projects that some top, talented creators lined up to participate. With cover artwork provided by such artists as Darwyn Cooke, Jae Lee, Gabriel Hardman and Franco Francavilla, it’s clear others recognized either the strength of the storytelling offered or the reputation of the writers (or both). Or perhaps DC was recruiting luminaries to attract attention to these comics. I can’t say the publisher was entirely successful, as I don’t recall seeing much chatter about these comics last summer, which is a shame. Read the rest of this entry »

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Seems a Little Fishy to Me

Posted by Don MacPherson on January 3rd, 2016

The Little Black Fish graphic novella
Writer: Samad Behrangi
Artist/Adaptation: Bizhan Khodabandeh
Publisher: Rosarium Publishing
Price: $7.95 US

I acknowledge there’s been a strong focus on DC and Marvel properties in my various posts as of late, and I’ve been meaning to bring more diversity to the subject matter here on Eye on Comics. One of the benefits of having written comics reviews for so long is that little-known, independent and unusual projects pop up in my inbox. I don’t have the time to even scratch the surface of those seemingly endless submissions, but I try to take a look at some here and there. There was something about the email promoting Little Black Fish that caught my eye — the title of the graphic novella in question, to be honest.

This comics project — an inaugural effort by writer/artist Bizhan Khodabandeh — proved to be an education for me. I’d never heard tell of the 20th century fable of the little black fish, penned by an Iranian educator decades ago. The strong message in the parable is a universal one, transcending time, culture and geography. One could argue it could be too ham-fisted and too familiar, but there was something about Khodabandeh’s presentation that kept drawing me further and further into the late Samad Behrangi’s tale. Truth be told, as I made my way through the first few pages of this book, I initially found Khodabandeh’s style to be a little crude, but as I followed the title character along his journey and quest for knowledge, the art won me over. The Little Black Fish isn’t at all like other comics storytelling being produced today, and that alone should merit it a wider audience upon its release in March. Read the rest of this entry »

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Artful Obsession: An Infinite Passion

Posted by Don MacPherson on December 19th, 2015

While I’m always on the lookout for a fun, interesting and attractive piece of original comic art (at a price that fits with my limited budget), there are certain categories in which I have a specific interest. Pages that feature journalism in some way, super-hero team-up pieces, Amalgam boards and others really grab my attention. Another category I’m keen on is DC’s Golden Age/Earth-2 characters. I’ve been fascinated by them since I first got into comics as a kid, so any chance to reconnect with them or new ones building on the same legacies is something I eagerly welcome.

As such, I was a huge fan of the original Infinity Inc. series by Roy Thomas and Jerry Ordway. There was no specialty comic-book store where I lived in the 1980s, so I’d have to wait for trips with my dad to a neighbouring province to get those early issues. My first trip to a comic shop was in 1985 (the year of Crisis on Infinite Earths) when I was in junior high. My father actually dropped me off, telling the store owner before I left, “Yeah, he’s gonna be a while.” I spent three hours in the shop, carefully selecting which comics to buy, focusing on those only available in direct-market stores. A whole lot of the comics in my selected stack were issues of Infinity Inc.

So when DC announced Ordway would be revisiting these 1980s characters as the writer of a two-part Convergence spinoff earlier this year, it was one of the few titles in the event’s lineup that really caught my interest. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques: More All-New, All-Different Marvels

Posted by Don MacPherson on December 13th, 2015

Last week, I wrote a trio of quick reviews about some of Marvel’s new titles, launched as part of its “All-New, All-Different” line, the latest in its series of rebrandings, relaunches and renumberings. While I believe this never-ending effort to start over, do over and overflow store shelves with first issues focuses on short-term gains rather than the growth of a longterm audience, I do welcome the fact that the publisher seems more willing to try new approaches to its long-standing properties. Of course, by going with such a limiting term as “All-New, All-Different” sends a clear message that this direction will be as fleeting and short-lived as those that preceded as those that came before it.

In any case, just as there’s no shortage of new Marvel books to read, I’ve got no shortage of thoughts on them. On to the reviews… Read the rest of this entry »

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Suicidal Ideations

Posted by Don MacPherson on December 12th, 2015

We’re in a Golden Age of other-media adaptations of comics properties, with success after success leading movie producers to tap not only the A-list household names in comics fiction, but the B and C-lists as well. I had a great time when I went to Ant-Man this summer, each episode of The Flash is a viewing experience I relish and Jessica Jones has earned what seems like universal kudos. To think there are more live-action options available than animated ones is amazing.

Of all the upcoming TV and movie releases, one that has perhaps piqued my interest the most is director David Ayer’s vision of Suicide Squad. I was a huge fan of the John Ostrander-penned/Luke McDonnell-illustrated comic series of the 1980s (which was the second incarnation of the Suicide Squad, as it started out as a military/adventure property in the Silver Age). I own a couple of pages of McDonnell’s original art from Suicide Squad, and I’ve always checked out subsequent takes on the concept (though none of them boasted the same hook and skilled storytelling as Ostrander’s run). Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques: All-New, All-Different Marvels

Posted by Don MacPherson on December 7th, 2015

While the blog has been silent in recent months, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading comics or had many thoughts on what I’ve been reading. Now that I’m trying to renew my efforts to write about comics (and related pop culture) more frequently, I’ve been jotting down some quick notes about various recent releases, and I realized a number of the things I wanted to say revolved around recently launched (or relaunched) Marvel titles as part of its new “All-New, All-Different” initiative/branding. With so many of Marvel’s titles being priced at $3.99 US or higher and including a digital download code, I’ve been more willing as of late to give some of the publisher’s new efforts a shot, since I can recoup some of my costs.

So, away we go… Read the rest of this entry »

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Avengers Assem… Wait, Is That Superman?!?

Posted by Don MacPherson on December 3rd, 2015


Do you dare enter… the Avenger Zone?! It’s a safe bet you wouldn’t be welcome if you’re a lawyer specializing in copyright matters. Read the rest of this entry »

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It Was a Dark and Stormy Knight

Posted by Don MacPherson on November 27th, 2015

Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1 and Dark Knight Universe Presents: The Atom #1
Writers: Frank Miller & Brian Azzarello
Pencils: Andy Kubert & Frank Miller
Inks: Klaus Janson
Colors: Brad Anderson & Alex Sinclair
Letters: Clem Robins
Cover artists: Kubert & Janson (regular edition)/Too many to list (variant editions)
Editor: Mark Doyle
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $5.99 US

I’ll be honest — I really enjoyed the inaugural issue of DK2, the first wholly unnecessary sequel to Frank Miller’s landmark The Dark Knight Returns, but subsequent issues saw the storytelling fall apart. Not only did it pale in comparison to the creative achievement from which it flowed, but it just wasn’t a good comic book in any sense. Miller’s subsequent forays into the super-hero genre have disappointed as well (*cough* Holy Terror *cough*). So when Dark Knight III, with its unfortunate subtitle “The Master Race,” was announced, I had no interest in reading it, even with writer Brian Azzarello attached to it. And then I wrote an essay about Jessica Jones, and it got me wanting to write about comics again. The site’s been dormant for months, but I’ve got so many words building up in the tips of my fingers, I just had to let them out. Reading Dark Knight III seemed like something topical to keep things going.

The good news is that DKIII isn’t terrible. It’s fairly clear and it’s even somewhat accessible if one isn’t all that familiar with The Dark Knight Returns. Mind you, I can’t imagine anyone who hasn’t read TDKR wanting to read DKIII, save for perhaps some random white supremacists who could happen upon the book and be drawn in by the subtitle. While DKIII #1 continues the trend of exploring DC heroes as myths in yet another climactic endgame, it’s a rather mediocre comic that fails to say anything new about the icons populating its pages. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Importance of Jessica Jones

Posted by Don MacPherson on November 26th, 2015

It’s been 14 years since the first issue of Alias by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos was released in comics shops. I was taken with the book immediately, which came as no surprise, as I was hungry for anything Bendis penned at the time (and I continue to follow some of his mainstream Marvel work today). When an adaptation of that series was announced as one of the TV series to be developed by Marvel and Netflix, I was pumped and eager to see what would arise.

Jessica Jones, the said streaming TV show, was released a week ago, and like so many others, comics lovers and non-readers alike, I binge-watched my way through it fairly quickly. What I found was something that, in terms of plot, was quite different from the Bendis/Gaydos source material, but thematically and tonally, it was consistent and just as compelling. The story is different, but the subject matter is the same.

Something else has changed, though, and that’s cultural context in which I experienced this adaptation of Alias. Read the rest of this entry »

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Scheduling Conflicts

Posted by Don MacPherson on June 6th, 2015

In recent years, schedules have emerged as vitally important cogs in my everyday life, personal and professional. Routine is key in childrearing, so we have a schedule to which my wife and I adhere pretty closely every day, every week. My boss laments the monthly scheduling of staff in the newsroom, but without that complicated labor, some of the myriad of tasks and assignments that need to be done daily would no doubt slip through the cracks. I have to keep an eye on the schedule to ensure my usual duties haven’t been trumped by a fill-in shift of some kind, covering for one editor or another.

In publishing, keeping to the schedule keeps the business going. Deadlines exist for a reason. There are penalties for missing press times at the printers. If one thing goes amiss, the whole endeavor can fall flat. But when it comes to scheduling, the release of the first volley in DC Comics’ latest rebranding and relaunch demonstrates the publisher has completely missed the point of the benefits of good timing and the pitfalls of bad timing. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – June 2, 2015

Posted by Don MacPherson on June 2nd, 2015

VariantConvergence New Teen Titans #2 (DC Comics)
by Marv Wolfman, Nicola Scott & Marc Deering

After the fiasco that was Convergence #0, I decided I’d been skipping DC’s March and April event title, but several of the two-issue spinoff titles definitely caught my eye, some for the characters and some for the creators. This revisitation of the classic New Teen Titans characters and comics of the 1980s drew me in for both reasons. I was a huge fan of the title and Marv Wolfman’s writing, and I thought Aussie artist Nicola Scott was an excellent choice as a stand-in for such classic Titans artists as George Perez, Eduardo Barreto and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. Wolfman definitely crafted this comic with longtime Titans fans such as myself in mind — and only for them, as there’s little here that newer readers would fully appreciate. Wolfman picks up on the conflicts and connections that made New Teen Titans such a landmark book. In fact, he tries too hard to give the entire cast moments in the spotlight. The Kole/Jericho subplot is vague and uninteresting, and it’s not at all clear what the reader is meant to take away from it. The Nightwing/Starfire relationship is conveyed just perfectly, as is the brotherly bond between Cyborg and Changeling. Those subplots stand out as the book’s greatest strengths, as the main plot is forced and rather predictable. Read the rest of this entry »

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