All posts by Don MacPherson

It’s a Nice Day for a Weird Wedding

The Ludacrats #1
“I. The Fine and Ludicrous Institution of Matrimony. Also. Murder.”
Writers: Kieron Gillen & Jim Rossignol
Artist: Jeff Stokely
Colors: Tamra Bonvillain
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Editor: Chrissy Williams
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US

After I began to draft this review, providing an advance look at this new title from Image Comics, Diamond Comic Distributors announced it was halting shipments of new comics to stores following this week. That means it’ll be well beyond April 1 before many will get a chance to see it (a shame, as April Fool’s Day would have been perfect timing for this title’s release). Though it may be some time before comics enthusiasts can get their hands on this book, they’d do well to remember the title. This stands out as incredibly unique, an exuberant belch of creativity and a celebration of taboos and poor taste, all dressed up for a murderous prom.

Kid’s Critique: Hex Vet: The Flying Surgery

Editor’s note: It’s been two years since my son, Callum, has posted a review on this site, but in this time of self-isolation and cancelled, we decided it was a great time to do some writing. Feedback and comments are welcome.

Hex Vet: The Flying Surgery original graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Sam Davies
Editor: Bryce Carlson
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Kaboom imprint
Price: $9.99 US/$11.99 CAN

I think that this book is a nice mix of magic and veterinary medicine. The story elements go together very nicely. I also think I will read it again because it is so original; it’s almost like a whole new genre! If it were in the real world, it would be pretty cool. I like to think of it as an explosion of themes. And I liked how the characters said things; it was pretty good too. 

Ready, Fett, Go!

Star Wars: Bounty Hunters #1
Galaxy’s Deadliest, Part 1: Ghosts of Corellia”
Writer: Ethan Sacks
Artist: Paolo Villanelli
Colors: Arif Prianto
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Travis Lanham
Cover artists: Lee Bermejo (regular)/Dave Johnson, Kaare Andrews and Michael Golden (variants)
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

Given the popularity of The Mandolorian as part of the Disney+ streaming service’s launch last fall, it should come as no surprise that Marvel is releasing a bounty-hunter title set in the Star Wars universe. And while I don’t follow Star Wars comics much, my interest was piqued thanks to appreciation of The Mandolorian. Now, this title doesn’t feature that character, but rather Boba Fett and Bossk, a couple of bounty hunters from the original trilogy, but I decided to give this comic a go anyway. Unfortunately, I found little here to hold my attention. The plot – about a bunch of nefarious characters looking to get even with a former ally – feels hackneyed, and the art seems more focused on cool poses and pinup moments rather than telling a clear story. This is a wholly forgettable story that will likely appeal only to the most dedicated Star Wars fans and completists.

Frail, the Conquering Hero

Strange Adventures #1
“Chapter 1: They floated above the ground”
Writer: Tom King
Artists/Colors/Cover artists: Mitch Gerads & Evan “Doc” Shaner
Letters: Clayton Cowles 
Editor: Jamie S. Rich
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US

When people find out I’m into comics, they inevitably ask me who my favorite super-hero is. After I note that I’m into all sorts of genres in the medium, I add that I don’t really follow characters anymore, but creators. One of the creators whose work I follow intently these days is writer Tom King. I’m inclined to say he can do no wrong in my eyes, but that’s not entirely true (Heroes in Crisis, while rife with potential, was awkwardly executed). Nevertheless, after the thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking Mr. Miracle series, I was eager to see what King would do with another second-tier DC character. His take on Adam Strange boasts a lot of the qualities that made Mr. Miracle so compelling… in fact, it almost features too much of what made that prior project so good. The beats, plot and structure here elicit far-too-easy comparisons, and while King offers a novel interpretation of Strange, it doesn’t feel all that distinct from his exploration of Scott Free.

Coming Clean

Superman #18
“Truth”
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Ivan Reis
Inks: Joe Prado
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover artists: Reis & Prado (regular)/Bryan Hitch (variant)
Editor: Mike Cotton
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I had a keen interest in this issue, as it brings together to major interests and influences in my life: the super-hero genre and journalism. The latter element isn’t as examined as prominently as I’d hoped in this issue, but it’s felt nevertheless as part of Clark Kent’s identity. Ultimately, this is the sort of story I was hoping we’d see when it was announced Bendis would take the reins of DC’s Superman titles. The focus here is on character above all else, as he shakes up the status quo of an iconic character’s existence. There’s an inspirational, hopeful tone to Superman’s confession to the world here, and it made for an enjoyable reading experience. But there are other questions to be explored – ethical failings and potential fallout that I hope Bendis examines in coming issues.

Land of the Freaks, Home of the Strange

Undiscovered Country #1
Writers: Scott Snyder & Charles Soule
Pencils/Cover artist: Guiseppe Camuncoli
Inks: Daniele Orlandini
Colors: Matt Wilson
Letters: Crank!
Editor: Will Dennis
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I picked this new title up for two main reasons: I’ve enjoyed the writing of Scott Snyder in recent years, and the comic seemed to offer the promise of some interesting political discourse in the context of genre fiction. The latter proved to be true, but unfortunately, it was only in small measure. Otherwise, what we get is what reads like a fairly typical post-apocalyptic thriller. If I had to sum the book up for someone who hadn’t read it, I’d say it was like Jurassic Park meets Mad Max — at least, that’s what it seems like so far. Undiscovered Country offers a nice little diversion, but at this early juncture, it feels a little too familiar. I was looking for a stronger commentary on the state of America at the moment, but thus far, all Snyder and Soule deliver is a fleeting one lacking in any depth or nuance.

Biorhythms

Martin Peters original graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Patrick Allaby
Publisher: Conundrum Press
Price: $15 US/CAN

This independent graphic novel from a young cartoonist came to my attention because he grew up in the city in which I now live, and he was doing a signing at a local comic shop. I’m always happy to support locally produced comics and talent, and I’ve had the fortune of discovering some truly great slice-of-life comics from the indie scene over the years. As I delved into this book, it wasn’t quite what I expected, and it definitely could have benefitted from some strong editorial guidance. But I have to admit, despite the flaws I found, I was fascinated by the book — not so much in terms of the story, but in witnessing the stylistic and plotting choices its creator made in its development. Patrick Allaby’s inexperience shows through here, but so does the potential for him to grow as a storyteller in future endeavors.

Psychia-tryst

Harleen #1
Writer/Artist/Colors/Cover artist: Stjepan Šejić
Letters: Gabriela Downie
Editor: Andy Khouri
Publisher: DC Comics/DC Black Label imprint
Price: $7.99 US

Black Label, DC’s darker, mature-readers imprint, has been hit and miss for me since it launched, and despite the character’s popularity in recent years, I’m not exactly a Harley Quinn fanatic. However, I have enjoyed the artwork of Stjepan Šejić as of late, and it was interesting to see that the artist was given his own out-of-continuity project to write and illustrate. I think DC’s going a little overboard with the Harley projects – on top of in-continuity stories, we’ve also seen a young-readers graphic novel in recent weeks, and the upcoming Criminal Sanity – but I thought this might be worth a glance. As expected, the artwork is quite sharp, and to my surprise and pleasure, Šejić doesn’t take an overly sexualized approach to depicting the title character. But his inexperience as a writer shows through in the script, which is repetitive and predictable.

Snowfall

Snow, Glass, Apples original hardcover graphic novel
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artist/Cover artist: Colleen Doran
Editor: Daniel Chabon
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $17.99 US/$23.99 CAN

I first discovered Neil Gaiman’s writing almost three decades ago when a copy of The Sandman: The Doll’s House in my hands, and I’ve sought out his writing ever since. Of course, he’s been so prolific, I haven’t been able to keep up with all of his works in various media, and some of his projects have managed to slip by me. This one was almost among them, but I happened to catch a reference to it online a couple of weeks ago, leading me to ask about it at my local comic shop when it was released. I’m pleased I did, as the writer turns a classic children’s story on its ear, approaching it from the perspective of a character typically viewed as the villain. It makes for a fresh take on the Snow White tale, but honestly, what’s most engaging about this book is Colleen Doran’s smooth, soothing yet haunting artwork. She brings a mythic and antiquated look to the work that makes it clear why she’s had such a steady presence in the industry over the years and such a stellar reputation.

The Warriors Three

The White Trees: A Blacksand Tale #1
“Part One: This Is Death”
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist/Cover artist: Kris Anka
Colors: Matt Wilson
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $4.99 US

Judging from the chatter on my comics-related social media feeds, everyone’s mind is turned to the supposedly big twist in this week’s Batman #77 (which I suspect is the beginnings of a bait-and-switch, but time will tell). Personally, my mind’s still blown by a comic that was released the week before. The White Trees #1 is the first of just a two-issue limited series, but it’s a stunning piece of fantasy writing. I’m not usually one for the sword-and-sorcery genre, but this is a truly beautiful story, both literally and conceptually. If you’re a fan of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Saga, which is on hiatus at the moment, then this is the comic that will definitely scratch that particular itch.

Scoop

Lois Lane #1
“Enemy of the People, Part One”
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Mike Perkins
Colors: Paul Mounts
Letters: Simon Bowland
Cover artists: Perkins (regular)/Jenny Frison (variant)
Editor: Mike Cotton
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Of this week’s new releases, the first I read was The Walking Dead #193, given the buzz about it being the final issue of the series. It impressed, and I figured it would be the best new book I’d read this week. And then I turned my attention to the DC titles in my pile. I was even more impressed with Superman: Up In the Sky #1 and pleased I finally got a chance to read one of the Wal-Mart exclusives that have only been available in the United States up to this point. 

And then I read Lois Lane #1.

It’s powerful, resonant and relevant. It’s incredibly grounded in our reality, but at the same time, it’s a delightful fantasy for those with a passion for journalism. It’s one of the better takes on the profession I’ve seen in comics, and the only thing about it that disappointed me was the realization that it’ll only run for 12 issues. Greg Rucka not only delves into the importance of the news media here, but also offers a touching and novel examination of Lois and Clark’s relationship.

Continue reading… →

Grimes and Punishment

The Walking Dead #193
“The Farm House”
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist/Cover artist: Charlie Adlard
Gray tones: Cliff Rathburn
Letters: Rus Wooton
Editor: Sean Mackiewicz
Publisher: Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

That Robert Kirkman opted to end this landmark series now is surprising. It’s such a cash cow, for Kirkman and the other creators on the book personally, and for Image Comics corporately, one would expected things to continue for as long as it was commercially viable. That Kirkman ended it ahead of that point indicates that storytelling is what truly drove that decision. It’s also surprising it’s ended so close to the 200-issue milestone, but undoubtedly, it would have been less of a surprise at #200 than #193. And I think Kirkman really did want to take his audience off guard. After all, that’s been one of the keys to the book’s success over the years.

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A Walk in the Clark

Superman Year One #1
Writer: Frank Miller
Pencils: John Romita Jr.
Inks: Danny Miki
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: John Workman
Cover artists: Romita & Miki (regular)/Miller (variant)
Editor: Mark Doyle
Publisher: DC Comics/DC Black Label imprint
Price: $7.99 US

Frank Miller’s importance to comics can never be ignored or forgotten. The only influence from the 1980s that equals his is like Alan Moore’s. However, I think it’s safe to say that Miller’s work in more recent years pales in comparison with his groundbreaking efforts from three decades ago. Still, I couldn’t help but be curious about this latest project, so I decided to peruse its pages. The good news is that this is much better than Holy Terror; there’s no sign of the twisted perspectives that marred that graphic novel. To my surprise, the biggest liability of Superman Year One is that it’s just so… standard. We’ve seen material like this time and time again with retellings of Superman’s early years, and I just didn’t find anything novel in this book. Thirty years ago, this would have been heralded as a poignant interpretation of the kid who would become the Man of Steel, but so many other creators have already told stories such as this one — and they’ve done it a little better, more often than not.

Multiply the Quantum Vector by Pie

Jughead’s Time Police #1
Writer: Sina Grace
Artist: Derek Charm
Colors: Matt Herms
Letters: Jack Morelli
Cover artists: Derek Charm (regular)/Tyler Boss, Francesco Francavilla, Robert Hack and Tracy Yardley (variants)
Editors: Alex Segura & Vincent Lovallo
Publisher: Archie Comics
Price: $3.99 US

There’s something universal about Archie comics. It seems like it’s a cultural baseline for western society (or at least North American society), the sort of thing with which everyone has some degree of familiarity, connection and nostalgia. As such, I like to revisit these characters from time to time, and the oddity of a time-travel title featuring the original slacker caught my eye. To my surprise, as I prepared to write this review, I discovered this is a revival of a concept Archie Comics published almost three decades ago. It doesn’t appear to have taken off back then, but writer Sina Grace delivers a solid sci-fi comedy here that should appeal to younger readers, though the time-travel tropes here won’t likely grab an older audience — though it does serve as a slightly amusing diversion.

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Black and Blue

Silver Surfer Black #1
“Black, One of Five”
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Tradd Moore
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Tradd Moore (regular)/Nick Bradshaw, Gerald Parel, Ron lim and Mike Zeck (variants)
Editor: Darren Shan
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

I haven’t been following Donny Cates’ work at Marvel in the last couple of years, but he’s certainly generated a buzz. So when my local comics retailer urged me to check it out, touting the weirdness and wonder of the book, I decided to take the plunge. Visually, the book doesn’t disappoint. The colors are vibrant, and the fluidity of the linework and designs are dazzling. The story reminds me of the sort of philosophical tone one finds in the scripts of J.M. DeMatteis, and Cates challenges his audience. Unfortunately, everything about the plot — the struggles, both internal and external — is so utterly alien, I found it difficult to connect with the subject matter. I applaud Marvel for taking a chance on something so unconventional for the super-hero genre, but for me, the story didn’t quite stick the landing.

Continue reading… →