Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Holmes Inspection

Posted by Don MacPherson on August 7th, 2016

Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook #1
Writers: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & Raymond Obstfeld
Artist: Joshua Cassara
Colors: Luis Guerrero
Letters: Simon Bowland
Cover artists: Joshua Cassara/Rod Reis/Rob Farmer/Paul McCaffrey
Publisher: Titan Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I’ve been critical of what I call “celebri-comics” in the past, projects that see the light of day mainly because someone famous from outside the industry has become involved in some way. That being said, NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s association with this comic is one of only two reasons I bothered to read this debut issue (the other being that the publisher provided a digital review copy as well). But it wasn’t Abdul-Jabaar’s involvement in the book that piqued my curiosity, but the rather the complete disconnect between the subject matter and one’s perception of the noted athlete. Victorian adventure and mystery aren’t exactly what come to mind when Kareem’s name is considered. Other such celebri-comics too often place a star in the role of protagonist and often come across as a pitch for a movie or TV series. There’s no such vanity aspect to Mycroft Holmes, which further engaged my interest. Ultimately, while this debut issue is fun, it’s also rather unremarkable. It’s competent, genre-comics fare, but little more. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Miscellaneous | No Comments »

The Biggest Oozer

Posted by Don MacPherson on July 24th, 2016

VariantSnotgirl #1
Writer/Variant cover artist: Bryan Lee O’Malley
Artist/Cover artist: Leslie Hung
Colors: Mickey Quinn
Letters: Maré Odomo
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US

Bryan Lee O’Malley is, of course, best known for his Scott Pilgrim series of graphic novels from Oni Press from several years ago. I appreciated the Pilgrim and acknowledged the high level of craft that went into them, but I had difficulty in connecting with the slacker characters. I was well beyond the irresponsible, early-20s stage of my life that defined the Pilgrim characters. I related much more to the protagonist in his one-off Seconds graphic novel last year. With Snotgirl, O’Malley has crafted another immature, 20-something lead, but to my surprise, I found her much more fascinating. While she’s far from an admirable character, there are aspects of her character with which the reader can identify. It’s an unusual exploration of the Millennial generation, but it’s also an intelligent examination of a superficial and lost soul. Read the rest of this entry »

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Casualties of War

Posted by Don MacPherson on July 16th, 2016

VariantPower Man and Iron Fist #6
Writer: David Walker
Artist: Flaviano
Colors: John Rauch
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Sanford Greene (regular)/Afu Chan (variant)
Editor: Jake Thomas
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

This week, mainstream comics chatter was all about the events of Civil War II #3 — the unexpected death, the ethical debate, the clash between commercial and creative decisions in corporate super-hero comics. It was certainly an interesting and even thought-provoking read, but it didn’t really advance the larger plot of the event all that much. But what seemed to go under people’s radar this week was another Civil War II-related title, one that poses its own engaging and challenging ethical questions and one that touched upon some real-world tumult and controversy. In many (perhaps most) instances, a crossover tie-in issue of an ongoing super-hero title can interfere with the larger plots, characterization and themes of a series, but Power Man and Iron Fist #6 is one of those rare examples in which the writer capitalizes on the crossover concept and does his own thing with it while also maintaining consistency with the concepts imposed upon him or her. I’ve enjoyed this title from the start, but writer David Walker offers up his strongest issue yet with something that starts out poignant and personal, shifts to something satirical and silly, and ends up delving into real and relevant issues. Read the rest of this entry »

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Versus

Posted by Don MacPherson on May 15th, 2016

I managed to get out and see Captain America: Civil War in its second weekend of release, and as expected, it was quite entertaining. However, my Facebook feed was filled through the previous week with raves from the many comic-book enthusiasts and pros I follow on social media. Along with it was a fair bit of some familiar criticisms (even up to vitriol) — not for Civil War, but for Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The new Marvel movie isn’t nearly as polarizing as the DC/Warner Bros. foray into the super-hero genre earlier this year. I don’t understand why so many had such harsh words for the film (especially those who hadn’t seen it), but the comparisons between the DC flick and the Marvel movie were unavoidable.

Allow me to offer mine, sans spoilers (to the best of my ability). Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Editorials | 4 Comments »

I Miss the Reigns Down in Africa

Posted by Don MacPherson on April 11th, 2016

Black Panther #1
“A Nation Under Our Feet, Part 1”
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Brian Stelfreeze
Colors: Laura Martin
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Stelfreeze (regular edition)/Stelfreeze, Olivier Coipel, Felipe Smith, Alex Ross, Skottie Young, Sanford Greene & Ryan Sook (variants)
Editor: Wil Moss
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US

I’m unfamiliar with the other works of writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, but his CV certainly gave me reason to anticipate this new title and what I expected to be a new take on the King of Wakanda. The character’s mainstream profile is about to take a giant leap thanks to its role in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War movie, and Marvel’s movie to launch a new Panther title ahead of the flick’s release certainly makes a lot of sense. However, many of the storytelling choices made in this inaugural issue don’t make sense. Coates builds on T’Challa’s history here, yes, but that appears to be all he does. This opening chapter in the new series is so completely immersed in the character’s history (especially in the past decade or so) that it promises to be almost completely inaccessible to new readers. Hell, I was a big fan of the complex and challenging BP penned by Priest years ago, and I was often at a loss as I made my way through these new pages. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Marvel | 2 Comments »

[Insert BvS Clickbait Headline Here]

Posted by Don MacPherson on April 3rd, 2016

I didn’t see Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice until about six days after its initial release, so I wasn’t planning on writing a review of the flick. And I still don’t (though I fall squarely in the camp of those who loved it). There was a particularly flawed aspect of the movie that kept nagging at me, as it represents a professional itch that just wouldn’t go away. So I’ve decided to scratch it with a little rant.

While I feel BvS succeeds overall as an action movie, a character-driven drama and an effort to build a larger super-hero movie continuity, it fails in lesser aspects. Chief among them, how it handles the practice of journalism. I’m a newspaper reporter, so clunky depictions of my profession always irk me. And boy, did director Zack Snyder and screenwriters David S. Goyer and Chris Terrio bungle the day-to-day operations of The Daily Planet at just about every opportunity (though there are few of them). Read the rest of this entry »

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Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I’ll Not Love Ya, Tomorrow…

Posted by Don MacPherson on March 25th, 2016

Legends of Tomorrow Anthology #1
Writers: Gerry Conway, Aaron Lopresti, Keith Giffen & Len Wein
Pencils: Eduardo Panisica, Aaron Lopresti, Bilquis Evely & Yildiray Cinar
Inks: Rob Hunter, Matt Banning, Bilquis Evely & Trevor Scott
Colors: Chris Sotomayor, Ivan Plascencia & Dean White
Letters: Corey Breen, Michael Heisler, Tom Napolitano & Steve Wands
Cover artists: Lopresti & Banning
Editors: Jessica Chen, Dave Wielgosz, Amedeo Turturro & Andrew Marino
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $7.99 US

I’ve been enjoying the cheesy (if somewhat awkward) fun of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow on television, and I’m a sucker for a super-hero anthology title. Furthermore, I haven’t been delving into many DC titles as of late, and as someone who came to love comics through the DC brand as a kid, I figured this issue would give me more bang for my buck. I also like to support less conventional and proven avenues at comics publication, so for those reasons, I decided to take a chance on Legends of Tomorrow Anthology (yes, despite the lack of the word “anthology” on the cover, the indicia indicates it’s a part of the official name of this publication). Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - DC | No Comments »

Artful Obsessions: Chang of Pace

Posted by Don MacPherson on February 28th, 2016

I’ve been a fan of the artwork of Bernard Chang since I first saw it on Valiant’s original The Second Life of Dr. Mirage, and he’s only improved over the years. I think his strongest effort was on DC Universe Presents, a short-lived title with DC’s New 52 that featured different characters and creative teams with each story arc (Chang illustrated the Deadman and Vandal Savage arcs).

In recent years, he’s proven himself to be a reliable resource for DC Comics, illustrating such other titles as Batman Beyond, Wonder Woman, Demon Knights, Superman and Green Lantern Corps. Still, seeing his name and work on a comic title always takes me back to Dr. Mirage and even TV adaptation Sliders: Ultimatum (I think I was one of three people who liked that show). That his early efforts on relatively obscure 1990s titles has stuck with me over the course of two decades is a testament to his craft and skill as a storyteller.

In the past few months, I’ve been fortunate enough to pick up a couple of pages of Chang’s original comic art — not from Mirage, Sliders or DC Universe Presents, but solid examples of his style, featuring some familiar super-hero characters. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Features, Original Comic Art | 2 Comments »

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 »

Posted in Features | 4 Comments »

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 »

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

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 »

Posted in Reviews - Marvel, Reviews - Quick Critiques | 2 Comments »

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 »

Posted in Reviews - DC | No Comments »

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 »

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

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 »

Posted in Features, Original Comic Art | 2 Comments »