Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Don’t Take Me Out to the Ball Game…

Posted by Don MacPherson on October 24th, 2016

The premiere of Season 7 of The Walking Dead TV show on AMC has evoked some extreme reactions, as social media exploded Sunday night and into Monday with people talking about not just what happened, but how vividly and gruesomely it was depicted. I spent a good chunk of the day Monday discussing the episode with some colleagues at work, and I also spent some time actively not discussing it in front of others who hadn’t had a chance to see it. In that spirit, I should note there will be some spoilers in this essay, but they’re all contained after the front-page break. Please consider this fair warning for anyone who hasn’t viewed the episode in question — or even for those who might be way behind on their reading of the original comic-book incarnation of The Walking Dead or viewing of past seasons. Also, there are a couple of images (and some language) found after the break that will definitely prove to be too intense for some… Read the rest of this entry »

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Fear, Kitty Kitty Kitty…

Posted by Don MacPherson on October 23rd, 2016

VariantDie Kitty Die #1
Writers/Pencils: Fernando Ruiz & Dan Parent
Inks: Rich Koslowski & J. Bone
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Letters: Janice Chiang
Cover artists: Parent and Ruiz (regular editions)/Darwyn Cooke, and Ruiz & Parent (variants)
Publisher: Chapter House Comics/Astro Comix
Price: $3.99 US

I’ve been hearing about this project for a year or so, and I’ve been quite curious about it. It was originally released digitally, but I prefer comics on paper. Anticipating a print release, I waited, so I was pleased to find it on my local comic shop’s shelves this week. I hope Die Kitty Die proves to be a small-press success, because its commentary on comics publishing, pop culture as product and the poor treatment of creative forces, though a familiar refrain, merits further exposure and discussion. Archie Comics talents Dan Parent and Fernando Ruiz not only offer a sendup of their usual employers and its characters, but also target the comics industry as a whole, even including pastiches/homages of little-used Harvey properties, such as Casper the Friendly Ghost and Hot Stuff. One thing is abundantly clear from this comic: its creators really had a blast putting it together. There’s an exuberance evident here, one that flows, I assume, from the catharsis of expressing and letting go of their professional frustrations. Read the rest of this entry »

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Steve Dillon, 1962-2016

Posted by Don MacPherson on October 22nd, 2016

Like a lot of North American comics enthusiasts, my introduction to Steve Dillon’s art was in the pages of DC’s Hellblazer in the mid 1990s. I had just finished with my post-secondary education, and I was emerging into full adulthood. Relocation, independence and a burgeoning career. A real paycheque meant my love for comics could be indulged further. I remained (and still do) a fan of super-hero comics, but my eyes had already been opened to more mature fare exploring other genres. I’d discovered Neil Gaiman’s Sandman during my university years. I think it was in 1994 that someone at the comic shop I was frequenting at the time insisted that I look at Hellblazer. I wasn’t all that familiar with or enthralled by John Constantine, as I hadn’t been a reader of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, which introduced the character.

I don’t specifically recall if it was the first Garth Ennis/Dillon issue I read or not, but the memory that sticks with me to this day was Constantine’s journey through a nightmarish American purgatory, guided by the grotesque, post-assassination form of John F. Kennedy. (A quick web search reveals it was the “Damnation’s Flame” storyline from Hellblazer #s 72-75). Though I’m not an American, I immediately recognized that the use of Kennedy, open head wound and all, as a key figure in the storyline would be practically blasphemous to my neighbors to the south. I was struck by the daring of it, by the sheer gall and bravery of the storytelling choice. Read the rest of this entry »

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Eye in Comic

Posted by Don MacPherson on October 20th, 2016

VariantVariantCave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #1
“Part One: Going Underground”
Writers: Gerard Way & Jon Rivera
Artists: Michael Avon Oeming
Colors: Nick Filardi
Letters: Clem Robins

“Super Powers”
Writer/Artist: Tom Scioli

Cover artists: Oeming (regular)/Matt Wagner and Brennan Wagner, & Bill Sienkiewicz (variants)
Editor: Molly Mahan
Publisher: DC Comics/Young Animal imprint
Price: $3.99 US

Of the three Young Animal titles to be released thus far, this stood out as my favorite thus far. While it’s still weird and mature, it’s probably also the most grounded and relatable of all of Gerard Way-led new titles. The fact that it’s far more rooted in the DC super-hero universe, with its inclusion of oddball characters and concepts, probably doesn’t hurt either, given my lifelong affinity for DC properties. Despite the obscurity of the characters here, Way and co-writer Jon Rivera don’t offer up a lot of exposition about their back stories, but the script is nevertheless accessible. One is able to piece together the relevant character bits pretty well from information that woven organically into the dialogue. Furthermore, there’s an air of mystery that’s fostered by the writers’ decision not to explain every little detail, not to offer deep background on the players in this drama. Ultimately, what drew me in was the character study of Cave Carson himself – not the mystery of his cybernetic eye, not the question of what the corporate EBX is plotting, but rather his sense of loss. That relatability really anchors a truly weird and even playful story. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – Oct. 15, 2016

Posted by Don MacPherson on October 15th, 2016

The Clone Conspiracy #1 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Dan Slott, Jim Cheung, Ron Frenz & John Dell

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the Amazing Spider-Man relaunch with Peter Parker as a global tycoon and philanthropist, so much so that I definitely feel I should have followed the Superior Spider-Man epic that preceded it. That being said, I’m quite surprised that Marvel has chosen to revisit the world of cloning (or whatever analogous scheme the Jackal is up to this time), given how the Spider-Clone saga of the 1990s continues to be mocked and viewed by many as a convoluted low point in the iconic hero’s long history. I’m also a little dismayed this wasn’t just published as the latest issue of Amazing instead of as a new first issue. This is a continuation of the storylines we’ve been following over the past year or so in that title, so a spinoff book seems like little more than a cash grab. That being said, I enjoyed this comic book for a number of reasons, not the least of which is how important Peter Parker’s status as an industrialist remains an important element in this new Jackal storyline. Slott wisely continues to build on the importance of Peter’s overdeveloped sense of responsibility for what happens to those around him. Read the rest of this entry »

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We Are the Champions (Well, Not Us, But Them)

Posted by Don MacPherson on October 8th, 2016

VariantChampions #1
Writer: Mark Waid
Pencils: Humberto Ramos
Inks: Victor Olazabo
Colors: Edgar Delgado
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Humberto Ramos (regular edition)/Alex Ross, Mark Brooks, John Tyler Christopher, Jay Fosgitt, Rahzzah, Art Adams, Mike Hawthorne & Scottie Young (variants)
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Price: $4.99 US

I’ve been a fan of Mark Waid’s writing for a long time, but I have to be honest – what drew me to this comic wasn’t the creative talent, but rather the characters. Marvel’s new generation of teen heroes have been standouts of its line for a while now. Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man (formerly Ultimate), Viv Vision and Amadeus Cho as Hulk have all proven to fascinating additions to the Marvel Universe. Mind you, I was confident that Waid would make the most of these heroes and offer stories in keeping with the established characterizations that made them interesting in the first place. That confidence proved to be well placed. But what surprised me about this debut issue was the fact that it wasn’t these colorful teens who stole the show. Instead, it was a socially relevant message, one of hope and responsibility. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by Don MacPherson on October 3rd, 2016

I happened upon the joke below in a freebie diner/coffee-shop newsletter at lunch today. I share it with you now, and I apologize for doing so.

Follow Eye on Comics on Twitter.

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What Lurks in the Hearts of Men

Posted by Don MacPherson on October 2nd, 2016

The Twilight Zone: The Shadow Vol. 1 trade paperback
Writer: David Avallone
Artist: Dave Acosta
Colors: Omi Remalante
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Cover artist: Francesco Francavilla
Editor: Joseph Rybandt
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $15.99 US

Nostalgia for 1960s and ’70s TV shows has been a mainstay of Dynamite Entertainment’s publishing strategy in recent years, and while I don’t doubt there’s an audience for it (as Dynamite’s adherence to the approach would suggest), it’s not really something that interests me. That being said, the unusual pairing of The Twilight Zone and the Shadow struck me as inventive and potentially intriguing. Ultimately, the schtick is used to force the title anti-hero into introspection, and it’s an effective plot device, even though the results are a little clichéd. They’re still diverting and entertaining, though, and capably executed. The script hits the right beats (though with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer), and the art conveys the concepts — from the mundane to the surreal — clearly. Though not mind-blowing (as the title might suggest), The Twilight Zone: The Shadow represents competent comics storytelling. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – Oct. 1, 2016

Posted by Don MacPherson on October 1st, 2016

VariantBlue Beetle #1 (DC Comics)
by Keith Giffen & Scott Kolins

I enjoyed Blue Beetle: Rebirth #1, which introduced a new status quo for two of DC’s Blue Beetle characters. Honestly, it struck me that Giffen and Kolins simply adapted the Firestorm schtick (young hero with an elder big-brain advising him along the way) for the Beetle property. Since DC isn’t doing much with Firestorm in its new Rebirth line, that seemed fine. That approach continues in this first issue of the ongoing series, but any interest the creators generation with the BB: Rebirth one-shot is lost here with an overly dense, confusing mess of dialogue captions. It’s difficult to discern who’s talking at times. Furthermore, the plot isn’t exactly crystal clear either. We know the Beetles are looking for a missing teen, but how Ted Kord came to know of the issue, why he’s consulting with a teen metahuman gang or how those guys got powers in the first place are never explored or explained. Now, one can’t accuse Giffen and Kolins (co-plotters here) of decompressed storytelling, but their galloping plot ignores the need for some exposition. I am intrigued by the Dr. Fate subplot, but again, it seems to forge forward without laying the proper groundwork to build tension.

There were two main elements that drew me to this Blue Beetle relaunch: the return of Ted Kord to the DC Universe, and the artwork of Scott Kolins. Kolins has a great, insectoid take on the title character, and he conveys the youth and energy of Jaime Reyes quite well. The designs for the metahuman teens at the end of the issue are inventive, unusual and striking as well. He seems to have a strong sense of the community in which the action unfolds, and it’s always a pleasure to see the previous Beetle’s Bug ship again. The verbose nature of the script really adds a lot of clutter to the visuals, which are already dense and busy to begin with. I also didn’t get a strong sense of the villain’s actions in this issue. I get he has shadow powers, but it was hard to tell what was going on at times between him and the young hero. This issue marked a major misstep for this burgeoning relaunch, but I’m willing to give it another issue or two before deciding its fate (no pun intended), given my affection for the artist’s work and one of the main characters. 4/10 Read the rest of this entry »

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Arts and Lovecrafts

Posted by Don MacPherson on September 30th, 2016

C21st Gods #1
Writer: David Tallerman
Artist/Colors/Letters/Cover artist: Anthony Summey
Editor: Bill Campbell
Publisher: Rosarium Publishing
Price: $1.99 US

I’ve never read any H.P. Lovecraft works, but I feel as though I have, as his work – notably his Cthulhu and ancient gods concepts – is referenced so often in comics and is prominent so often as a key influence on creators. Promotional material for this first issue of a three-part series bills it as a “reimagining” of Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu. As I’ve not read the original source material, I can’t comment on how faithful it is to the plot and themes, but I can comment on how it stands up as storytelling in its own right. For a release from a practically unknown small-press publisher, it’s striking in its professionalism. David Tallerman makes some choices with his script that might not be the right ones, but overall, he offers up a compelling mystery, despite some of the cop-drama cliches that are to be found here.

A police detective and his partner respond to an odd scene where they discover a cultist whose committed a grisly ritual murder and sets out to kill again when coming face to face with the cops. The bizarre and gruesome scenario prompts no end of questions in Detective Connor’s mind, and he’s determine to expose a murderous conspiracies, even over the objections of his obstructionist and paranoid commanding officer. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Kids Are Alright

Posted by Don MacPherson on September 28th, 2016

VariantTeen Titans: Rebirth #1
Writer: Benjamin Percy
Artist: Jonboy Meyers
Colors: Jim Charalampidis
Letters: Corey Breen
Cover artists: Jonboy Meyers (regular edition)/Evan “Doc” Shaner (variant)
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

DC’s Rebirth initiative has proven to be a sales success thus far; of that, there can be no doubt. Creatively, I’ve found it to be something of a mixed bag, but overall, DC has definitely improved and reinvigorated its broader line of super-hero titles. Some of what it’s doing is definitely influenced by adaptations of its properties in other media, and that holds true with its latest relaunch of its Teen Titans team. Teen Titans Go! is immensely popular. My six-year-old can’t get enough of the cartoon, and it’s been around in one form or another long enough so that young adults have some attachment to the Titans, despite a possible lack of familiarity with the comic-book counterparts that gave rise to the animated zaniness. As such, it’s no surprise that DC is giving the concept another go-around.

A number of elements drew me to this relaunch, not the least of which is the acerbic personality of the current incarnation of Robin and the undeniable energy that was apparent in previews of Jonboy Meyers’ art. There’s not a lot to be found in this Rebirth one-shot in terms of plot, but writer Benjamin Percy’s meticulous inner monologues offer excellent introductions to four of the five main characters. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – Action Lab Edition

Posted by Don MacPherson on September 27th, 2016

Lately, I haven’t nearly enough time writing about comics, and when I have, the focus has been, somewhat understandably, on larger publishers. But in the 21st century, we have an array of small-press concerns that appear to be making a solid going of things in the marketplace, carving out a small but hopefully viable niche for themselves.

One of those smaller publishers is Action Lab Entertainment, perhaps best known as the home of Jamal Igle’s Molly Danger property. There’s much more going on at Action Lab (and its Danger Zone imprint) than that, though, as the digital review copies it provided to me demonstrated. I thought I’d write up some capsule reviews of several of the publisher’s offerings, all due out this week. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Action Lab, Reviews - Quick Critiques | 1 Comment »

Artful Obsessions: Gosh Doran It

Posted by Don MacPherson on September 26th, 2016

I was scanning the original comic art listings on eBay several months ago (as I do just about every day) when one in particular caught my eye. A seller had a lot of seven (!) pages from the 2003 Warren Ellis/Colleen Doran graphic novel Orbiter for sale for a surprisingly low opening bid. I marked as an auction I wanted to watch, but I assumed it would end for a price that was beyond my financial reach. A few days later, to my surprise, I noted there had been no bids, and ultimately, the auction ended without anyone taking a single stab at the listing. When I see a plum item such as that one end without bids, I sometimes make something of a Hail Mary pass, contacting the seller of the unsold item and offering to buy it, either for the minimum price or maybe even less. To my elation and surprise, the seller agreed to sell it to me for the minimum opening bid he’d listed! Read the rest of this entry »

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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 | 1 Comment »

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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