Though he’s far better known for his more inventive work on such titles as Promethea, Batwoman and Sandman Overture, it was from his work as the regular artist on the short-lived but beloved series Chase in the late 1990s that I became a fan of the art of J.H. Williams III. While the prices being asked for pages from the aforementioned titles are out of reach for me, Williams’ work from Chase is more affordable, and I decided to pick up a couple of boards from a dealer through an online transaction recently.
Iron: Or the War After original graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: S.M. Vidaurri
Editor: Rebecca Taylor
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Archaia imprint
Price: $19.99 US
I’ve found that over the many years I’ve been reviewing comics, one of the benefits has been the opportunity to sample storytelling that might not have otherwise come to my attention. As of late, whenever I experience something surprising, unconventional and decidedly different from the usual fare offered in mainstream comics, the source is often a graphic novel published by Boom! Studios. Iron: Or the War After is another such instance. Taking a page from such cartoonists as Art (Maus) Spiegelman, creator S.M. Vidaurri uses anthropomorphic animal characters to bring a poignant and touching story of socio-political and cultural relevance to life. This graphic novel is challenging; Vidaurri doesn’t provide all of the pieces of the puzzle at first, making the ultimate images that appear by the end of the book something of a mystery at first. But it’s an engaging journey, as the melancholy mood that permeates the book envelops the reader.
Man and Superman 100-Page Super-Spectacular #1
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artist/Cover artist: Claudio Castellini
Letters: Tom Orzechowski
Editors: Brian Cunningham, Peter Tomasi & Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $9.99 US
This is another one of those instances for which I’m thankful that I have a savvy comics retailer from whom I buy my comics, because he brought this book to my attention. I hadn’t heard about it at all, when I looked at it on the shop shelf last week, I hesitated at dropping 10 bucks on it. But the manager at the shop said writer Marv Wolfman had proclaimed it to be his best Superman story, and that the collection of the previously unpublished four-part story was already sold out at the distributor level. So I decided to take a chance on it, despite the fact that I already have far too many comics and graphic novels – both read and unread – cluttering my house.
I’m pleased I did. Wolfman – who had a solid run on Adventures of Superman in the late 1980s – wasn’t exaggerating when he dubbed this his best Super-story, and that’s because it’s not a tale about the Man of Steel. It’s about Clark Kent, and it’s powerfully resonant and relatable. The only aspects of the writing that kept this from being perhaps Wolfman’s greatest oeuvre was the thinness of the conspiracy plot and the depiction of journalism. But those weaknesses were minor as compared to the strength of the characterization and universal tone of the rest of the book.
Comics inker Mark McKenna brought a particular eBay listing to the attention of his Facebook friends and followers this week. The item was billed as “John Romita Jr. original art,” and it appeared to be a Daredevil drawing, the sort of quickie head sketch one might get from an artist at a convention.
Cellies Volume One trade paperback
Writers: Joe Flood & David Scheidt
Artist: Joe Flood
Editors: Amanda Meadows & Andrea Colvin
Publisher: The Lion Forge
Price: $14.99 US/$19.99 CAN
This book caught my eye because of its promise of a workplace comedy, and I thought the title’s play on words — incorporating a term meant to represent a cellphone store and inmates bunking together — was cute and succinct. But when I delved into the story itself, I found it populated by an array of people almost devoid of redeeming qualities. I wouldn’t want to spend any real amount of time with these characters in the real world, and that means I didn’t much care for spending time reading about them either. I think there’s great potential in the concept behind Cellies, but just about every conflict arises from the characters’ selfishness. Furthermore, the premise is rife with comedic potential, but it’s never all that funny. Cellies is a missed opportunity.
If there’s one thing I can say for certain about the Oscars is that they’ve never been delayed due to snow. It was hectic week here at Eye on Comics, between regular work and snow removal in recent days. But a lazy Sunday afforded me the chance to finish the second half of the 2018 Glass Eye Awards. Previously, I covered the best comics and graphic novels of the year (as best my review of material available to me and memory allowed), and but now, I’m looking at the creators whom I thought had the best year creatively. Your mileage may vary, of course, and this is by no means meant to be a comprehensive or definitive list.
Young Justice #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Patrick Gleason
Colors: Alejandro Sanchez
Letters: DC Lettering
Cover artists: Patrick Gleason (regular)/Amy Reeder, Derrick Chew, Yasmine Putri, Jorge Jimenez and Evan Shaner (variants)
Editor: Mike Cotton & Andy Khouri
Publisher: DC Comics/Wonder Comics imprint
Price: $4.99 US
One of my favorite super-hero comics is 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, which explored just about every corner of DC’s multiverse, and therefore, just about every character and facet of the publisher’s extensive continuity. But the ultimate purpose was to simply that continuity, to streamline its properties to offer a more accessible product to readers. DC has done so on other occasions since, notably its New 52 relaunch that tried to establish a tighter timeline for its super-hero universe. I completely understood those goals, but as a longtime reader, I rather love DC’s history, and honestly, it was the complexity of the parallel-earths concept that helped to hook me on the genre when I first discovered comics in the late 1970s. With Young Justice, writer Brian Michael Bendis makes it clear that there’s a new approach at play: to turn the long history into an asset, to make use of the interconnectivity of the characters, and to revive or to reshape that extensive continuity.
Gunning for Hits #1
Writer: Jeff Rougvie
Colors/Letters: Casey Silver
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US
Several years ago, there was a short-lived primetime show called Love Monkey. Starring Tom (Ed, The Flash) Kavanaugh, it was a romance show set against the backdrop of the music industry. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the humor, relationship dynamics and the behind-the-scenes glimpse at the process of a music discovery and evolution of an album. Gunning for Hits evoked memories of Love Monkey because both explore the music industry, but Jeff Rougvie, writing from experience, offers a much darker examination of that world. We see it through an ugly, brutal lens, and I couldn’t look away. Gunning for Hits is to Love Monkey what House of Cards is to The West Wing. This harsh reflection is riveting, but at its heart is a genuine love of music and how it can help one transcend the mundane. (I assume the bulk of my readership is now taking a moment to Google Love Monkey; I admit, it’s a fairly obscure piece of pop-culture history).
Are you all abuzz about the Golden Globes? Gearing up for the Oscars? Pshaw! They hand out those awards every year. Truly prestigious honors are only presented every few years — at least that’s the premise I’m going with for this post. Join me as I dole out dusty ocular prosthetics and discuss the top comics and industry creators of 2018.
Eye on Comics hasn’t seen a best-of list in six years, mainly because this is a one-man operation and there’s only so much time for comics. With that in mind, please bear in mind these “awards,” such as they are, are by no means to be considered comprehensive. My picks for the best books of the year are based on nothing but a quick perusal of my files from the past year and my best recollections (which are far from the best they could be).
Heroes in Crisis #4
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Colors: Tomeu Morey
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Trevor Hairsine (regular)/Ryan Sook (variant)
Editor: Jamie S. Rich
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US
While Tom King’s scripting and pacing continues to obfuscate the plot purposefully, this stands out as the most interesting chapter of this event book thus far, exploring emotionally poignant and ethically challenging ideas. However, this also stands out as the most irksome and disappointing issue in the limited series due to a couple of visual choices that objectify strong female characters. This struck me as a major step backward in a genre that’s slowly been evolving, in general, toward a more progressive approach. The most egregious instance of gratuitous sexualization in this issue threatens to blind the reader from the more nuanced and mature notions that King examines here, and it completely detracted from my overall enjoyment of the story and characterization. I felt completely let down by the creators here.
Sincerely, Harriet original graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Sarah Winifred Searle
Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group/Graphic Universe imprint
Price: $11.99 US
Sincerely, Harriet is an unusual book, one that’s difficult to pin down. It’s something of a mystery story, but also a ghost story of sorts. It subtly explores psychological and physical challenges, while also espousing the wonder of reading. Ultimately, it’s a quiet coming-of-age story that’s unlike those you may have read before. Honestly, I was a bit confused by Searle’s writing and art at first, but the more I read, the more vested and interested I became in Harriet’s story. This reads something like a Raina Telgemeier graphic novel filtered through the lens of film director David Fincher, instilling it with a little more tension but maintaining the grounded, relatable qualities that makes it such a pleasure to experience.
Writers: Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, Dave Franchini & Hans Rodionoff
Artist: J.G. Miranda
Colors: Leonardo Paciarotti
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Cover artists: Leonardo Colapietro/Sheldon Goh & Sanju Nivangune
Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US
Whenever Zenescope Entertainment releases a new comic that doesn’t feature a buxom, scantily-clad heroine plucked from fabled stories, it prompts me to pause and take a look. While it’s clear the foundation of the publisher’s business is on such good-girl/bad-girl comics, I always hold out hope it might have something more to offer, something more interesting and less superficial. Conspiracy certainly goes against Zenescope’s usual focus, but doesn’t mean there’s greater depth or quality to be found here instead. Conspiracy is a clumsy exploration of conspiracy theories, lacking the complexity and intelligence necessary to make such far-fetched concepts palatable or plausible. The writers seems to focus exclusively on establishing a foreboding atmosphere, and the plot suffers as a result. The art, meanwhile, is serviceable but ultimately unremarkable.