Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

The Mage Runner

Posted by Don MacPherson on July 21st, 2017

Mage, Book Three: The Hero Denied #0
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Matt Wagner
Colors: Brennan Wagner
Letters: Dave Lanphear
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $1.99 US

I have to admit I’m only a casual reader of Matt Wagner’s comics. I’m broadly aware of the two creator-owned properties for which he’s known – Mage and Grendel – but I’ve read only a few comics from the various runs of those titles over the decades. There’s no denying there’s a fanbase out there for this material, though, so Wagner’s choice to return to Kevin Matchstick and company isn’t surprising. What drew me to this comic wasn’t so much my past exposure to Mage or the strength of Wagner’s work, but the cheap price, to be honest. While entertaining and diverting, it manage to hook me, so I don’t know if I’ll be moved to seek out subsequent issues.

Creepy little monsters still lurk in the dark corners of the world, and a new generation of heroes has arisen to deal with them, heroes like the hover-boarding millennial known as “the Steeze.” The cocky, young champion encounters Kevin Matchstick and is determined to show the old-timer a thing or two, but it doesn’t take the experienced hero long to teach him a thing or two. Still, the Steeze struts away, confident he saved the day, but Kevin knows the new generation hasn’t even scratched the surface of nefarious threats out there. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Image | 1 Comment »

Exit, Stage West, Even

Posted by Don MacPherson on July 17th, 2017

Calexit #1
“Chapter 1: If You Wanna Scream, Scream With Me”
Writer: Matteo Pizzolo
Artist: Amancay Nahuelpan
Colors: Tyler Boss
Letters: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Price: $3.99 US

This may be the first Black Mask title I’ve sampled, as I haven’t been as engaged with comics-publication news in recent years, but the cover and name for this comic book really grabbed my eye when I glimpsed it on the stands last week. While I’m not as engrossed with the latest developments in the industry, I’ve become far more immersed in American political news, and this thoroughly topical reaction to that real-life news piqued my interest immediately. It’s a capable piece of fiction and commentary on the state of the world today and potentially going forward, but it also wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. And not necessarily in a bad way. Ultimately, this is character-driven story, which means the political and military status of a fractured America isn’t detailed in depth. But it’s intriguing and can spark important discussions about the ever-increasing issues of concern in the not-so-United States. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Indy/Small Press | 1 Comment »

Artful Obsessions: Meeting the Challenge

Posted by Don MacPherson on June 22nd, 2017

The Challengers of the Unknown have been with us for 60 years (!), having debuted in Showcase #6 (cover dated February 1957). The characters enjoyed a few more appearances in Showcase before moving onto their own title the following year. It’s noteworthy in that it’s one of the many long-lasting creations of the King, the late Jack Kirby. It’s actually such a beloved DC property, I’m surprised a Challengers one-shot wasn’t listed among the planned comics DC is publishing in August to mark what would have been the legendary writer/artist’s 100th birthday.

Now while a Kirby page (of any description) isn’t with my budget when it comes to comic-art collecting, I did manage to acquire a Challengers page recently for an affordable price on eBay. And it was from my favorite incarnation of the Challengers: the 1997-98, Steven Grant-penned series featuring a new lineup of Challengers. It boasts a cool X-Files vibe, featuring paranormal investigations against the backdrop of the DC Universe. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Features, Original Comic Art | No Comments »

Death Metal

Posted by Don MacPherson on June 17th, 2017

Dark Days: The Forge #1
Writers: Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV
Pencils: Jim Lee, Andy Kubert & John Romita Jr.
Inks: Scott Williams, Klaus Janson & Danny Miki
Colors: Alex Sinclair & Jeremiah Skipper
Letters: Steve Wands
Cover artists: Jim Lee & Scott Williams (regular)/Andy Kubert and John Romita Jr. & Danny Miki
Editor: Mark Doyle
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US

This is not a good comic book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, mind you, but it’s awkwardly crafted.

It makes sense that Scott Snyder would helm an event-driven book for DC. He’s been the publisher’s most bankable writer for some time now thanks to his work with Batman. Here, he and James Tynion IV work to build on some of those Batman stories to develop a cosmic level event, but they also mine the 1980s for the raw material here as well. They tap a couple of rich veins of nostalgia, and that’s one of the reasons I was so entertained. It would seem these writers read and loved the same comics I did when they were kids. Batman and the Outsiders. Crisis on Infinite Earths. It’s a delight. But the problem with the carts full of nostalgic ore is that they don’t have a proper mechanism in place to refine that yield (OK, that metal metaphor has been soundly beaten to death). This script is inaccessible, and as the title suggests, it’s unfortunately dark. Given the recent success of the Wonder Woman movie, I suspect we’ll see DC pivot to a lighter, more traditional tone in its storytelling in the months ahead. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - DC | No Comments »

Preschool Princess of Themyscira

Posted by Don MacPherson on May 31st, 2017

Be a Star, Wonder Woman! hardcover children’s book
Writer: Michael Dahl
Artist/Cover artist: Omar Lazano
Publisher: Capstone Publishing/Capstone Young Readers imprint
Price: $15.95 US
I was provided with a digital review copy of this incredibly cute and timely Wonder Woman book for kids. While I didn’t have a physical copy, the nature and layout of the story and art led me to believe this is what they call a “board book.” It skews to a very young reader (the little Wonder Girl is depicted as being kindergarten age), so I would expect a heavy, cardboard-like stock would be the most likely medium for this quick read (Capstone’s website refers to this book as being “paper over board”). It’s wonderfully charming and cute, both visually and in terms of the message it offers its young audience. While the motif here — juxtaposition of super-hero action with the daily endeavors of a little kid, trying to learn and develop — is far from original, it’s certainly effective. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Miscellaneous | No Comments »

Spencer So Dire

Posted by Don MacPherson on May 29th, 2017

Spencer & Locke #2
“Every Rose Has Its Thorns”
Writer: David Pepose
Artist/Cover artist: Jorge Santiago Jr.
Colors: Jasen Smith
Letters: Colin Bell
Editor: Nicole D’Andria
Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment/Danger Zone imprint
Price: $3.99 US

Hey, do you love Calvin and Hobbes, the beloved newspaper comic strip that celebrated childhood innocence and precociousness while also offering biting social commentary? Oh, me too. And speaking as someone who loved Bill Watterson’s landmark and impeccably crafted oeuvre, allow me to tell you, my fellow enthusiasts, the following: do not read Spencer & Locke. This comic casts the familiar, innocent figures from Calvin and Hobbes in a hard-boiled cop drama, and it totally doesn’t work. It taints everything special about Watterson’s work and demonstrates creator/writer David Pepose’s complete failure to appreciate what made the strip that serves as his inspiration special. The truly unfortunate thing about it is that his writing and plotting aren’t bad at all, and the visuals are exciting, gritty and involving. But the initial decision to link this weird buddy-cop story to Calvin and Hobbes mars it all and blocks any chance the reader has at finding a sense of entertainment or escape. I suppose if one weren’t familiar at all with Watterson’s work, one might find this to be a novel, even diverting effort, but any awareness of the larger context of the book will preclude that possibility. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Action Lab | No Comments »

Stag Party

Posted by Don MacPherson on May 28th, 2017

Batman/Shadow #2
“Batman/Shadow, Part Two”
Writers: Scott Snyder & Steve Orlando
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Colors: Ivan Plascencia
Letters: Clem Robins
Cover artists: Rossmo (regular)/Chris Burnham & Tim Sale (variants)
Editor: Mark Doyle
Publishers: DC Comics & Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US
I’ve been trying to limit the number of four-dollar comics I’m buying these days, as they can make for expensive weekly trips to the local comic shop. However, given Scott Snyder’s and Riley Rossmo’s involvement in this series, I couldn’t resist the first issue. I was pleased enough with what I found to seek out the second issue this past week. And now I’m hooked on the series. Not surprisingly, Snyder and Steve Orlando don’t disappoint with their take on the Batman and his dark world, but I’m quite intrigued by this eternal, supernatural take on the Shadow. I really don’t know all that much about the anti-hero who knows what evil lurks within the hearts of men, but I rather enjoyed him as a figure who throws the Dark Knight off his game. Rossmo’s exaggerated and dynamic interpretation of Batman and Gotham are as sharp as ever, but his fluid, elongated portrayal of the Shadow and his eerie presentation of the serial-killing antagonist of the book really grab the eye as well. This is a thoroughly accessible and entertaining inter-company crossover that clicks in no small part because of the compatibility of the two title properties. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - DC, Reviews - Dynamite | No Comments »

Doom’s Date

Posted by Don MacPherson on May 27th, 2017

Infamous Iron Man #8
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist/Cover artist: Alex Maleev
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

As I’ve written previously, I purged a significant number of Marvel titles from my pull list, ultimately deciding I wasn’t getting enough out of them to merit the $3.99 US price of admission, but there were a few Marvel books that survived the cull, and Brian Michael Bendis’s two Iron Man titles were among them. I enjoyed this issue because its pairing of both the protagonist and antagonist with other Marvel characters with which they share links (either personal or thematic) put me in mind of the classic team-up titles of the 1970s and ’80s I so enjoyed as a kid. Mind you, this issue is low on action and big on dialogue, and as a mature comics enthusiast, I was just fine with it. I continue to follow Infamous Iron Man because it’s essentially a great character study of a long-standing Marvel figure. Unfortunately, that history is also the book’s greatest liability, since the knowledge of the continuity leading up to this point in Doom’s life is rather integral to one’s full appreciation of the story. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Marvel | No Comments »

Extra! Extra! Read All About It…

Posted by Don MacPherson on May 24th, 2017

The Last Paper Route #1
Writers: Sean Jordan & Alex Kennedy
Artist: Dave Howlett
Letters: Jason Loo
Cover artist: Kody Peters
Publisher: Decent Comics
Price: $3.50 CAN

I happened upon this indie, self-published comic while attending the East Coast Comic Expo recently, and it caught my eye for a few reasons, but chief among them was its connection to the newspaper industry, notably how the industry existed a number of years ago. As a reporter for a daily newspaper (and a former paperboy myself), I decided I ought to check it out. The creators offer up an over-the-top tribute to the lost childhood job of newspaper delivery, as well as to the importance of print journalist, albeit to a lesser extent. There’s nothing remotely realistic about their take on the concept of paper routes, but there’s definitely something nostalgic. The Last Paper Route is difficult to describe. I was put in mind of The Goonies and Back to the Future — not in terms of plot, but when it comes to the exaggerated adventure and weird characters that populate an otherwise mundane, suburban backdrop. Read the rest of this entry »

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

Critical Hit

Posted by Don MacPherson on May 22nd, 2017

Torpedo Volume One trade paperback
Writer: Enrique Sanchez Abuli
Artists: Alex Toth & Jordi Bernet
Translation: Jimmy Palmiotti
Cover artist: Bernet
Letters: Amauri Osorio
Reprint editor: Scott Dunbier
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Price: $17.99 US

The manager at my local comic shop pointed out he had a couple of discounted Torpedo books on the store’s clearance racks, and I’ve long been interested in curious about the work, having enjoyed Bernet’s contributions to Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s Jonah Hex series from DC a few years back. I plunked down my cash and happily took it home. Not surprisingly, I found a beautifully illustrated book, boasting a fun pulp-strip approach and deliciously gritty, fitting artwork. But to my disappointment, the clumsy plotting and dark characterization proved to be incredibly off-putting. I was expecting the titular hitman character to be a cool anti-hero, but he’s far from that. In fact, it’s next to impossible to find any character that fits the role of protagonist in any of these short stories. Every player in these crime dramas is so unlikeable that I really didn’t enjoy spending any time in their worlds. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - IDW | 4 Comments »

On the Lighter Side…

Posted by Don MacPherson on January 20th, 2017

Justice League of America: The Ray – Rebirth #1
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist/Color: Stephen Byrne
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Ivan Reis & Joe Prado (regular)/Stephen Byrne (variant)
Editor: Andy Khouri
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

A couple of weeks ago, the cover of the Justice League of America: The Atom – Rebirth one-shot caught my eye, and on impulse, I picked it up. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I started to realize Steve Orlando was a writer I needed to follow more closely. While the recent Vixen one-shot didn’t grab me, there was something about the cover on The Ray and its interior art that drew me in. Once again, Orlando delivers a thoughtful, character-driven story. It’s also a well-timed one, given the political and social climate in the United States as of late. Orlando’s story is about inclusion, about differences adding to society’s strengths and about how xenophobia is a lurking danger that’s emerging from the shadows. The story is something of a dichotomy, boasting a dark tone but ultimately a hopeful message as well. And artist Stephen Byrne stands as a new talent who merits more attention as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - DC | No Comments »

Will O’ the Wasp

Posted by Don MacPherson on January 7th, 2017

The Unstoppable Wasp #1
Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Artist: Elsa Charretier
Colors: Megan Wilson
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Joe Caramagna
Cover artists: Elsa Charretier (regular)/Elizabeth Torque, Nelson Blake II, Skottie Young, John Tyler Christopher & Andy Park (variants)
Editors: Alanna Smith & Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

I was surprised at how quickly the Wasp, only recently introduced into the Marvel Universe, was spun off into her own series, and while I liked the character concept and design, I wasn’t sure I’d bother to check this new book out. Ultimately, I decided to give it a whirl, and I’m thrilled that I did. While some dour drama can dominate more prominent titles in the Marvel title, there’s a small corner of the line that focuses on fun and a broader appeal. The Unstoppable Wasp falls into that latter category, and I hope it develops a following like other recent female-led books from the House of Ideas. Read the rest of this entry »

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Marvel’s Digital Downfall

Posted by Don MacPherson on January 7th, 2017

Marvel announced this week, through a spin-heavy puff piece in Forbes, it was altering its value-added digital code program in its printed comics. Instead of receiving a free digital download code for the comic one purchased, Marvel will now include a code that’s good for downloads for two other, previously released and unrelated comics. The shift begins in February.

The Rob Salkowitz-penned Forbes piece is headlined as “Marvel Sweetens Its Retail Value With New Digital Bonuses For Comic Buyers,” and in the article, Marvel reports it’s changing its digital-code program to benefit brick-and-mortar comics retailers, the folks who sell the tangible comic books that it says is the cornerstone of the industry. At best, it’s a naive endeavor. At worst, it’s a lie. A possible motive for the change in approach is to curb the grey-market sale of the digital codes under the original program and to redirect that business to Marvel’s digital-comics sales avenues. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Editorials | 3 Comments »

When Love Turns to Greed

Posted by Don MacPherson on December 30th, 2016

I was pleased to find my local comics retailer stocked copies of Love Is Love, the softcover comics anthology aimed to benefit the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., earlier this year. I’d informed the manager of the shop that I’d be interested in a copy if his boss had ordered some. It turns out I was quite lucky to get my hands on it, as it’s selling out all over the place. It’s also rising quickly in the ranks of Amazon’s most popular books this week.

The project was spearheaded by comics writer Marc Andreyko, who managed and herded an inordinate amount of talent, and who even got DC Comics and IDW Publishing to facilitate the book’s publication. To call Love Is Love a success would be as major an understatement as referring to the mass shooting that sparked this creative reaction as a tragedy. It clearly brought out a lot from those involved – emotion, personal connections, generosity of time – not to mention what it evokes from and instills in those who read it and appreciate it. There’s a second printing on the way, and Andreyko noted on Facebook that there’s also a third printing in the works.

Sadly, it appears Love Is Love is something quite different out of others: profiteering. Read the rest of this entry »

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Artful Obsessions: Gene Therapy

Posted by Don MacPherson on November 13th, 2016

The late Gene Colan is definitely best remembered and honored for his work on Daredevil, Howard the Duck and, perhaps most notably, Tomb of Dracula. However, because I was exclusively a DC devotee in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I came to discover his work on such books as Batman, Wonder Woman and Night Force. As a kid, I wasn’t all that enamored of his style, to be honest, but over the years, I’ve definitely come to respect and appreciate his craft. His style is incredibly distinctive, and I’m pleased I’ve finally managed to add a sample of his work to my collection of original comic art.

The original comic art board I recently acquired is Page 18 from Jemm, Son of Saturn #6. The 12-part Jemm series is a rather obscure footnote in Colan’s career (though the title character did show up briefly in a villainous role in the first season of the new Supergirl show). A little online research reveals it was originally intended as a Martian Manhunter book before DC editors nixed it (as J’Onn J’Onzz was about to return in the pages of Justice League of America in the early 1980s). Read the rest of this entry »

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