Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

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Quick Critiques – The Son of All-New, All-Different Marvel

Posted by Don MacPherson on 16th January 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 »

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Quick Critiques: More All-New, All-Different Marvels

Posted by Don MacPherson on 13th December 2015

Last week, I wrote a trio of quick reviews about some of Marvel’s new titles, launched as part of its “All-New, All-Different” line, the latest in its series of rebrandings, relaunches and renumberings. While I believe this never-ending effort to start over, do over and overflow store shelves with first issues focuses on short-term gains rather than the growth of a longterm audience, I do welcome the fact that the publisher seems more willing to try new approaches to its long-standing properties. Of course, by going with such a limiting term as “All-New, All-Different” sends a clear message that this direction will be as fleeting and short-lived as those that preceded as those that came before it.

In any case, just as there’s no shortage of new Marvel books to read, I’ve got no shortage of thoughts on them. On to the reviews… Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques: All-New, All-Different Marvels

Posted by Don MacPherson on 7th December 2015

While the blog has been silent in recent months, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading comics or had many thoughts on what I’ve been reading. Now that I’m trying to renew my efforts to write about comics (and related pop culture) more frequently, I’ve been jotting down some quick notes about various recent releases, and I realized a number of the things I wanted to say revolved around recently launched (or relaunched) Marvel titles as part of its new “All-New, All-Different” initiative/branding. With so many of Marvel’s titles being priced at $3.99 US or higher and including a digital download code, I’ve been more willing as of late to give some of the publisher’s new efforts a shot, since I can recoup some of my costs.

So, away we go… Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – June 2, 2015

Posted by Don MacPherson on 2nd June 2015

VariantConvergence New Teen Titans #2 (DC Comics)
by Marv Wolfman, Nicola Scott & Marc Deering

After the fiasco that was Convergence #0, I decided I’d been skipping DC’s March and April event title, but several of the two-issue spinoff titles definitely caught my eye, some for the characters and some for the creators. This revisitation of the classic New Teen Titans characters and comics of the 1980s drew me in for both reasons. I was a huge fan of the title and Marv Wolfman’s writing, and I thought Aussie artist Nicola Scott was an excellent choice as a stand-in for such classic Titans artists as George Perez, Eduardo Barreto and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. Wolfman definitely crafted this comic with longtime Titans fans such as myself in mind — and only for them, as there’s little here that newer readers would fully appreciate. Wolfman picks up on the conflicts and connections that made New Teen Titans such a landmark book. In fact, he tries too hard to give the entire cast moments in the spotlight. The Kole/Jericho subplot is vague and uninteresting, and it’s not at all clear what the reader is meant to take away from it. The Nightwing/Starfire relationship is conveyed just perfectly, as is the brotherly bond between Cyborg and Changeling. Those subplots stand out as the book’s greatest strengths, as the main plot is forced and rather predictable. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – March 15, 2015

Posted by Don MacPherson on 15th March 2015

All-New Hawkeye #1 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Jeff Lemire & Ramón Pérez

This comic book interests me for a couple of reasons. The first is the fact it’s written by Jeff Lemire, who’s been one of DC’s go-to guys for the last several years. That he’s branched out to include Marvel among his mainstream comics work strikes me as a significant development. Mind you, it’s not particularly relevant in terms of the creative quality of this comic, which, fortunately, is quite solid. The other reason this new title was of such interest to me was that I was quite curious how Marvel planned to follow up on its much-lauded but oft-delayed Hawkeye series by Matt Fraction, David Aja and others. My impression was that previous run simply ran out of steam, so I wondered if this relaunch would follow its cues or head off in a new direction. The answer proved to be a little of both. Through some telling flashbacks, Lemire dwells on the relationship between the original titular character and his brother, while mirroring it with an adventure between the hero and his kid-sister-in-spirit Kate Bishop. While the Barton boys’ tale of an abusive childhood comes off as a little too familiar (the notion is one that’s used quite often in fiction), it nevertheless rings fairly true. With the two Hawkeyes, Lemire seems to have left the everyday, street-level conflict behind and embraced an international-intrigue genre vibe, which helps to distinguish this from the previous run while he nevertheless maintains a certain synergy with Fraction’s stories. Read the rest of this entry »

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Which Witch Is Which?

Posted by Don MacPherson on 13th October 2014

Last week saw the release of a number of impressive and strong samples of comics storytelling, and two of the titles I picked up, both debut issues for new series, had a lot in common: witches. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Wytches were both engaging reads delving into witchcraft, supernatural lore and the overwhelming challenges of adolescence, but they were also far from carbon copies of one another. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – Sept. 17, 2014

Posted by Don MacPherson on 17th September 2014

VariantAvengers #34.1 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Al Ewing, Dale Keown & Norman Lee

This Hyperion-focused standalone story, as my online reading indicates, wasn’t intended as an Avengers comic, but it was ultimately decided more units would move as a part of that series, which is a fair bet. Fortunately, writer Al Ewing builds on the seeds already planted by regular series writer Jonathan Hickman, so there’s a certain logic to its inclusion under this banner. Ewing’s take on Marvel’s Superman stand-in is an interesting spin on the near-omnipotent Man of Steel, and I rather enjoyed the reflective tone of the script. I also appreciated the fact that the seemingly infallible Hyperion is shown to be somewhat human, given the moments of rage that lurk at the periphery of his stoic yet imposing demeanor. I also enjoyed Ewing’s use of a rather obscure and quickly forgotten villain from the Matt Fraction-penned Invincible Iron Man run from a few years ago. Ultimately, while the ending promises a new direction for solo adventures of the central protagonist, it seems unlikely that’s going to come to pass. Furthermore, it seems almost certain Hickman’s plotlines on the various Avengers titles will come to an end at some point, so I’m doubtful this new status quo and mission for Hyperion will last. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – Sept. 6, 2014

Posted by Don MacPherson on 6th September 2014

Variant coverCloaks #1 (Boom! Studios)
by Caleb Monroe & Mariano Navarro

I need to make a point of paying attention when Boom! releases other four-part limited series such as this one. The publisher has scored with them in the past (Talent and The Foundation come to mind immediately), and now Cloaks is another such entertaining story. Cloaks fires on all cylinders. Writer Caleb Monroe has crafted a thoroughly (almost incredibly) likeable protagonist in the form of teenage street magician Adam D’Aquino. His sense of justice, his self-reliance, his love of people and his dazzling skills all combine to make a shining hero. In many ways, he’s a formulaic comics protagonist, but the conventional, arguably overused elements are quickly forgotten thanks to the character’s infectious appeal. The crime and intrigue elements are a lot of fun as well, and Monroe has done a good job of incorporating modern digital culture into the mix. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – Aug. 16, 2014

Posted by Don MacPherson on 16th August 2014

Avengers World #11 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Nick Spencer & Raffaele Ienco

A few days ago, I praised the writing in another Avengers title, noting Jonathan Hickman’s of an impossible but intriguing ethical question really served as a nice payoff of his run on that title. Avengers World features another one of Hickman’s larger-than-life Avengers concepts, but this one is at the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of strength. Written by Nick Spencer (with whom Hickman co-wrote this title for a time), it features the young future heroes from the Avengers Next direct-to-video animated movie coming back to the past to save the day in one facet of the multiple-hotspot crisis the title team has been facing over the course of this title. This aspect of the conflict with A.I.M. is resolved thanks to a miraculous plot device that I would imagine any hero, not only those travelling through time, could have employed. Why these future heroes had to come back to deal with the crisis is never made clear. Furthermore, while we’re meant to believe it, they’re never portrayed as particularly more powerful or adept than their present-day predecessors in the Avengers dynasties. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – Aug. 4, 2014

Posted by Don MacPherson on 4th August 2014

Variant coverJustice League #32 (DC Comics)
by Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke & Keith Champagne

I lost interest in Geoff Johns’s take on DC’s premier super-hero team in the buildup to the “Trinity War” storyline and paid it little heed during the Forever Evil event. However, the ideas that emerged in Justice League in the wake of the crossover definitely piqued my interest. Though it’s been a surprisingly slow build (given it’s a fair accompli in promotional material on other DC titles), the incorporation of Lex Luthor and Captain Cold as members of the League is definitely an unconventional development for mainstream super-hero team comics. We’re not talking about reformed villains joining a team, a la Cap’s Kooky Quarter in Avengers in the Silver Age. Instead, we have two men are still clearly in villain mode making the shift. I’m also enjoying Johns’s introduction of the Doom Patrol in the New 52. the characters are all likeable and generically heroic, but it’s the take on the Chief as having an agenda driven by personal interest rather than altruism that stands out. Slight tweaks to the characters of Elasti-Girl and Negative Man make the characters even more tragic and even just a little bit creepy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – July 28, 2014

Posted by Don MacPherson on 28th July 2014

Variant coverAfterlife with Archie #6 (Archie Comics)
by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & Francesco Francavilla

In a way, this is the most interesting issue of the series thus far since the first, mainly because writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa shifts horror sub-genres here with his focus on Sabrina the Teenage Witch. After its hiatus, the title moves from zombie apocalypse to a thoroughly Lovecraftian conflict. I’m a bit surprised the writer didn’t opt for slightly veiled references to the Cthulhu literary legend, but here, he’s opted not just to lift the veil but to shred it and burn it. It lets the reader know exactly where s/he stands, which puts the audience well ahead of our heroine. I like the psychological horror here, and the mystery of exactly what’s befallen Sabrina. Aguirre-Sacasa even manages to inject some of the more mature, darker character exploration of these Archie Comics icons. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about Sabrina for it really to resonate. Other than her aunts and Salem, I don’t have a clue about her supporting cast. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – July 17, 2014

Posted by Don MacPherson on 17th July 2014

Dark Engine #1 (Image Comics)
by Ryan Burton & John Bivens

Image Comics has garnered a strong reputation for superb, cutting-edge comics, but the titles that get the most attention, understandably, are those by established talents in the comics industry. So it’s easy to sometimes overlook other titles being offered by newer names, relative unknowns. Dark Engine is one such comic book, and it shows a lot of promise, both from writer Ryan Burton and artist John Bivens. Dark Engine kind of strikes me like a cross between East of West and Prophet. It’s got an interesting contrast going between a cerebral tone and a sense of brutality and savagery that grabs the reader’s attention. The purple prose that characterizes the narration and the dialogue for the dragon figure at the beginning of the book is, I have to admit, a bit off-putting. I was immediately taken back to a number of Thor stories set in Asgard that I didn’t like — too many flourishes and lofty phrases in the script. The human characters who appear later in the issue temper that a bit, as they speak more normally, offering just a hint of something familiar with which the audience can connect. The use of lower-case lettering for the narrative captions is an unfortunate choice, as the font doesn’t work well with the harshness of the premise and book’s overall look. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – July 10, 2014

Posted by Don MacPherson on 10th July 2014

Daredevil #5 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Mark Waid & Chris Samnee

Daredevil, as guided by Mark Waid and his creative partners on these various series, continues to stand out as one of Marvel’s best titles, mixing Silver Age fun and traditions with more modern, sophisticated sensibilities. That being said, this was one of the more lackluster issues in Waid’s tenure. This episode answers the question as to how and why Foggy Nelson’s death was faked in between the previous series and this relaunched one, but it wasn’t such a deep mystery that it required a full flashback issue. Still, there are some strong characterization bits to be found here. I am starting to get a bit tired of Waid’s repeated use of the original Ant-Man as a cure-all for any sci-fi/super-hero-genre plotting challenge that arises. If Waid took the time to foster a stronger link between the title character and Hank Pym, a developing friendship, his repeated appearances mightn’t seem so jarring. Mind you, I can’t deny that Waid’s use of a wider and more colorful array of characters and concepts from across the Marvel Universe in Daredevil’s previously small little corner of it continues to entertain.

Samnee’s art is a wonderful match to that more wondrous feel. Most striking visually in this issue was his depiction of Foggy, thin and frail but not seemingly deathly ill. He seems so much like a regular guy, and the way his body moves under Samnee’s hand looks quite natural. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – Sept. 29, 2013

Posted by Don MacPherson on 29th September 2013

Forever Evil #1 (DC Comics)
by Geoff Johns, David Finch & Richard Friend

I’m a sucker for big super-hero events that bring disparate and normally unconnected colorful characters together — or at least, I used to be. I’ve been cooling to the event book for years now, but I have to admit, Forever Evil had its moments. The four-page spread featuring the Crime Syndicate’s address to the world’s super-villains was fun and reminded me a great deal of Crisis on Infinite Earths #9, the villain-driven issue. I also appreciated the opening scene featuring Luthor as a ruthless businessman and the closing scene in which we see him both cast in the role of the hero and longing for his longtime enemy to arrive to save the day. That being said, Forever Evil is an inherently flawed concept that just doesn’t work. the villains tell the masses the Justice League is dead; the reader knows this to be untrue. There’s never a moment of real tension for the audience, but it knows How These Things Work. How the heroes will return or the day will be saved, we don’t know, but we do know those things will happen. Maybe writer Geoff Johns will take us on an interesting journey at arrive at that destination, but I fear it’s shaping up to be a long road trip during which many will keep asking, “Are we there yet?” Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – Aug. 2, 2013

Posted by Don MacPherson on 2nd August 2013

Variant coverCollider #1 (DC Comics/Vertigo imprint)
by Simon Oliver & Robbi Rodriguez

When Vertigo founder and editor Karen Berger left DC Comics, many feared what it would mean for the publisher’s mature-readers imprint. Recent evidence would seem to indicate Vertigo is in good hands with longtime editor Shelly Bond, as recent releases have offered entertaining, intelligent and exciting creator-owned stories. Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s The Wake as proven to be a bonafide hit for the imprint, and people who enjoy that title ought to give Collider a look. Similar in tone to The Wake, Collider reads a lot like a Warren Ellis comic. It should also appeal to readers who are into Image’s Nowhere Men and The Manhattan Projects, with its realistic take on super-sciences and the smart people who create/deal with it. Oliver’s hero, Adam, is almost too perfect; he’s living an idyllic life full of action (both on the job and socially), but the writer humanizes him by rooting him in his connection to his late/missing father. Oliver’s move to blend manipulative politics into a world of physics gone haywire makes the impossible notions in the plot easier to connect with socially and intellectually. Read the rest of this entry »

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