Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Archive for the 'Reviews – Miscellaneous' Category

Dead Mag Walking

Posted by Don MacPherson on 24th October 2012

The Walking Dead Magazine #1
Contributors: Dan Auty, Stuart Barr, Tara Bennett, Bryan Cairns, Dan Bura & Jay Bonansinga
Editors: Toby Weidmann & Martin Eden
Publisher: Titan Magazines/Skybound Entertainment
Price: $9.99 US/CAN

It’s not often I’m sent review material under embargo, but given the huge success of the Walking Dead TV series, the property has become something of a mass-media powerhouse, and the contents of this magazine were meant to be hush-hush until this week. After perusing its pages, I’m really not sure why there was such an emphasis on secrecy, because this magazine dedicated to The Walking Dead in all its forms (and produced by its co-creator) really doesn’t offer any insight into the stories or the pop-culture phenomenon. It doesn’t feature any spoilers of note for upcoming episodes of the TV show or comic book. Its purpose here seems fairly clear: to continue fuelling the money-making machine by celebrating and spotlighting every single piece of merchandise infected by the zombie-genre success story. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mag-nification

Posted by Don MacPherson on 21st June 2012

Within the past couple of weeks, a pair of new publications hit the stands primarily (and perhaps exclusively) in comic-book shops. Both were the same size as comic books, but they’re purposes was something other than that. Bleeding Cool Magazine #0 and Creator-Owned Heroes #1 debuted this month, and they can really be described as magazines more than comics (even though the latter features two comics stories). In an age when online media seems to dominate material about the world of comics, it was interesting to delve into print publications trying to do the same. Both carry with them a lot of promise, but the execution is a bit off to varying degrees. Read the rest of this entry »

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How I Read My Mother

Posted by Don MacPherson on 31st May 2012

Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama original hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Alison Bechdel
Editor: Deanne Urmy
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Price: $22 US

Considering Alison Bechdel’s previous graphic novel was the critically acclaimed Fun Home, which is about her father, and this new project focuses on her mother, comparisons are unavoidable. As such, I won’t even try to avoid them, even though the two books are significantly different in tone and approach. Given the strength of Fun Home and the apparent similarity in subject matter, I really looked forward to delving into Are You My Mother?. Now, I thoroughly enjoyed Fun Home. When considering the experience of reading Bechdel’s new graphic novel, “enjoyment” isn’t a term that leaps to mind, but don’t misunderstand me: it’s a worthy creative endeavor. Are You My Mother? is more of a challenge. It demands a great deal from the reader, and it sticks with the reader. While I wasn’t as engrossed in Bechdel’s exploration of motherhood and her own insecurities, I found the book made me think. I thought about it. A lot. And not just when I was reading it. At work. Lying awake in bed. As I drove. It’s as much an exploration of the written works of thinkers and authors she enjoys as it is as examination of her relationship with her mother, and while I found the many text excerpts halted the flow of the narrative, I appreciated the book for how thought-provoking it is. Read the rest of this entry »

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I Feel Like a Neuman

Posted by Don MacPherson on 20th October 2011

Mad #511
Writers/Artists: The Usual Gang of Idiots
Cover artist: Charles Akins
Editor: John Ficarra
Publisher: E.C. Publications
Price: $5.99 US/CAN

I was first introduced to the world of comics back in the late 1970s thanks to a particularly nasty arm fracture that required me to be hospitalized for a couple of days. My brother and two neighbor friends brought me a comic book each to occupy me in my hospital bed, and by the time I finished Batman Family #19, I was hooked. Which brings me to October 2011, and my most recent hospital stay (which explains why there were no updates to Eye on Comics from Oct. 6-14). Among regular visits from my wife and son was a quick one from a friend at work, who dropped off other material to pass the time: a Sudoku book and an issue of Mad. It’s been years — decades, really — since I’d read an issue, and my colleague, who’s aware of my love of comics, clearly thought she’d try to tickle my funny bone and appeal to the imp in me. It was interesting to delve back into the world of Mad again, if only to see how much the magazine has remained the same over the years… and how much it’s changed. Read the rest of this entry »

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Generally Speaking

Posted by Don MacPherson on 3rd January 2011

Two Generals original hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Scott Chantler
Publisher: McLelland & Stewart Ltd.
Price: $24.95 US/$27.95 CAN

My wife loves History Television (Canada’s answer to the History Channel in the United States), but I like my TV to be more amusing or escapist in nature. When she’s watching it, I sometimes tease her for watching “Nazi TV.” While I’m familiar with the broad strokes of the history of World War II, I’m not all that keenly interested in learning more. At least, I thought I wasn’t. While my interest in that period of history (and many others) is limited, I’m a big fan of the work of writer/artist Scott Chantler, so I didn’t hesitate t pick up Two Generals when it hit bookshelves in stores. Chantler’s quite comfortable with historical fare when it comes to his storytelling. Most of his work — Northwest Passage, Days Like This and Scandalous, for example — is constructed around history. But Two Generals stands apart because this is Chantler’s foray into real history, not historical fiction. It’s also an incredibly personal story — that of his late grandfather — but Chantler doesn’t seem to embellish or elevate the man. He just tells his story, opting to leave melodrama aside and let the facts speak for themselves. Read the rest of this entry »

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Economics Comic

Posted by Don MacPherson on 5th December 2010

The Adventures of Unemployed Man original graphic novella
Writers: Erich Origen & Gan Golan
Pencils: Ramona Fradon, Rick Veitch & Michael Netzer
Inks: Terry Beatty & Joe Rubenstein
Additional artists: Benton Jew, Thomas Yeates & Shawn Martinbrough
Colors: Lee Loughridge
Letters: Thomas Mauer, Clem Robins & Tom Orzechowski
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Price: $14.99 US/$16.99 CAN

This super-hero fable about corruption in politics and commerce and about a country immersed in a recession is a surprisingly effective review of recent American history and economics, though clearly left-leaning in its perspective. The writers manage to maintain a simpler, Silver Age quality in the storytelling but at the same time they avoid dumbing down the complexity of a tenuous socio-economic situation. The book is also succinct in its approach, which is a wise choice, as the blend of super-heroes and social commentary in the form of gag characters has the potential to wear thin in a hurry. Fortunately, it never got to that point. But what I really enjoyed the most about this book was the artwork. I was impressed with the array of experienced comic-book industry talent that’s associated with this book. Honestly, I was expecting an awkward, clunky combination of super-hero cliches and ham-fisted social commentaries, but instead, I found an effective and amusing graphic novella that’s already garnered more mainstream media attention than probably any other comic book this year. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Tour Through Terror

Posted by Don MacPherson on 9th September 2009

The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation
Writers: The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
Artist/Cover artist: Ernie Colon
Editor: Sid Jacobson
Publisher: Hill and Wang
Price: $16.95 US/$21 CAN

I purchased this graphic novel a couple of years ago but never got around to reading it until now. Given the approaching anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, this seemed like a good time to delve into this piece of documented history. Perhaps what surprised me the most about the book is how it’s about a lot more than that dark day eight years ago. It’s about the political and cultural decisions and developments that led up to the attacks — what motivated them and what made them possible. It also covers the chaos and heroism that arose at the sites of the attacks, and what’s happened (or more importantly, hasn’t happened) in the years since. Still, for those looking to be touched, saddened or inspired by the amazing and heart-wrenching personal stories that arose as a result of 9/11, this is not the book for them. There’s an appropriate tone of detachment throughout most of the narrative in this graphic novel, and since this is an adaptation of an official government commission report, that’s how it should be. This isn’t storytelling, it’s documentation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Future Perfect, Past Tense

Posted by Don MacPherson on 17th August 2009

Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow original hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Brian Fies
Editor: Charlie Kochman
Publisher: Abrams ComicArts/Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
Price: $24.95 US/$27.50 CAN

I don’t know what it is about Brian Fies’s projects, but I always seem to find out about them well after their release. I was late getting on the Mom’s Cancer bandwagon but was thrilled with what I found after I finally got my hands on a copy of the hardcover collected edition of his touching webcomic. And for some reason, this second project flew under my radar for a couple of months as well. As soon as I saw it, though, I grabbed a copy off the shelf at my local comic shop, eager to delve into what I expected was more personal storytelling. I did find that to a certain degree, but Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?, while exploring emotional reactions to a history of 20th-century American technology and innovation, lacks a more resonant, personal tone. Helping to maintain that barrier between the reader and the main character is Fies’s meticulous detailing of the history he clearly wants to share with and impart upon his audience. It’s a shame that the execution here falls a bit short, as Fies experiments with content and even production values to great effect. This is an interesting book, but perhaps its biggest problem is that it gives away the entire premise and the moods to be found within with its very title. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pain in the Asterios

Posted by Don MacPherson on 30th July 2009

Asterios Polyp original hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: David Mazzucchelli
Publisher: Pantheon Books
Price: $29.95 US/$34 CAN

Like most comics readers, I associate the name “David Mazzucchelli” with Daredevil and Batman: Year One, the artist’s collaborations with writer Frank Miller. Those were much-lauded (and deservedly so) super-hero genre projects, but those who have read them shouldn’t consider them any kind of indication of what they can expect from Mazzucchelli and this book. Not only is this character- and philosophy-driven graphic far removed from spandex costumes and crime-fighting fisticuffs, it also boasts a radically different visual style.

I realize that might sound like I’m panning this project, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. This is an intellectual work about a flawed intellectual, and with it, Mazzucchelli proves that there are some stories that can only be told through the medium of comics. Asterios Polyp is an engrossing, challenging work. Everything about the book — the characterizations, the plotting, the art and the lettering — shows incredible vision and ambition on the creator’s part, and it demonstrates just how well he knows this medium. Harvey Pekar meets Scott McCloud in this fascinating tome, one that will not only amaze lovers of comics but will change the way they think about them. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pickle of the Litter

Posted by Don MacPherson on 26th March 2009

Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom original graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Eric Wight
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Price: $9.99 US

Eric Wight is one of those artistic talents whose work is seen far too rarely in the industry. DC Comics readers have seen snippets of his art in recent years in such comics as Justice League of America #0 and Action Comics Annual #10, but his standout work has to be his original graphic novel, My Dead Girlfriend Vol. 1. It was a charming, entertaining and cute piece of work, and we were meant to see further episode. Sadly, publisher Tokyopop inexplicably put the kibosh on planned followups. Wight has since turned his attention to a new hero and premise, and it’s one he’s explored through a more traditional book publisher than comics publisher. While I describe this first Frankie Pickle as an original graphic novel, it’s really a blend of prose for kids and some comics work. The shifts between media in this one volume actually work quite well, given the context. The Closet of Doom is cute, just like Wight’s My Dead Girlfriend, but I wouldn’t describe this latest effort as an all-ages book. This is definitely better suited for kids rather than adults, as there’s really no surprises for the grown-up crowd to be found here. Still, there should be a strong market for this material, and I hope it catches on and finds a wide, mass audience. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hardy Attack

Posted by Don MacPherson on 11th December 2008

Hardy Boys #14: Haley Danelle’s Top Eight original graphic novel
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Paulo Henrique Marcondes
Colors: Laurie E. Smith
Letters: Mark Lerer
Editor: Jim Salicrup
Publisher: Papercutz
Price: $7.95 US/$8.95 CAN

Like many boys, I grew up on Franklin W. Dixon’s series of Hardy Boys mystery novels for young readers. I didn’t have a complete collection, but I had a bookshelf full of them. I rather enjoyed them, and my parents were thrilled that I read them, as they had a hard time getting me to read anything other than comics. Papercutz has purported to update the Hardy Boys concept for the 21st century, retooling them with a manga look and more modern sensibilities. The thing is, this “Undercover Brothers” (yes, that the subtitle for these books) series of graphic novels doesn’t really update the well-known characters; it completely reshapes them into something pretty unfamiliar. While they’re still teen sleuths, they’re not amateurs anymore. Associated with a secret crime-fighting organization and armed with gadgets that James Bond would covet, these Hardy Boys seems more like super-spies or super-heroes than down-to-earth, well-meaning sons of a law-enforcement officer. To make matters worse, the mystery the characters set out to solve isn’t really a whodunit, as the answer is revealed rather than deduced. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cooke Book

Posted by Don MacPherson on 17th September 2008

Retroactive: Darwyn Cooke 1998-2008 hardcover
Artist/Cover artist: Darwyn Cooke
Publisher: Brandstudio Press

One of the hottest items at this past summer’s Comic-Con International San Diego was Darwyn Cooke’s new art book, Retroactive. It’s my understanding that the print run was limited to 1,000 copies and that Cooke sold out of the 500 copies he brought with him to the convention. I was unable to attend the San Diego con this year, but I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy thanks to my local direct-market comics retailer. I’m not usually one for comics art books. I tend to be more focused on the stories and characters in comics over the visuals. I’m a huge fan of Cooke’s work, though, so I decided to plunk down some extra cash for this retrospective of past projects and gallery of unseen or little-seen work. Retroactive is only 48 pages long, and I worried I might not feel as though I was getting my money’s worth when I decided to pick it up. Those concerns quickly faded as I began to thumb through its pages.

I was expecting the book to consist mainly of unpublished work — concept art for pitches that didn’t fly, rough sketches for better-known work and early efforts perhaps seen only by a select few. That didn’t prove to be the case entirely. There are a number of images I found here with which I was quite familiar, such as Cooke’s recent Heroes Con poster and covers for small-press books such as Spellgame and Comics Festival. Still, the oversized nature of this hardcover encourages closer examination of these images, and their inclusion didn’t lead to any kind of disappointment. Read the rest of this entry »

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Every McCloud Has a Silver Lining

Posted by Don MacPherson on 23rd July 2008

Zot! 1987-1991: The Complete Black and White Collection trade paperback
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Scott McCloud
Letters: Bob Lappan
Editor: cat yronwode
Publisher: HarperCollins
Price: $24.95 US/$26.95 CAN

I missed out on the original run of Scott McCloud’s Zot! comics, but I’m not a stranger to the concept. I picked up a cheap trade-paperback edition of his early Zot! color issues a while back, but this new HarperCollins edition of the subsequent black-and-white run of the landmark series is new territory for me. To suggest I was enthralled by McCloud’s pop commentary about hope and beauty in the world would be to embrace understatement. Zot’s adventures and the relationships among him, Jenny and a circle of friends from two sides of the same mirror are vastly different in tone but equally well crafted, entertaining and even challenging. Clearly inspired a great deal by Osamu Tezuka’s work, Zot!, at first glance, seems like Astro Boy with a human in the main role of the boy hero. But there’s a lot more to Zot!, and it’s apparent early on in the book. Ultimately, it’s a parable about the importance of hope, innocence, kindness and joy. The energy that jumps up from the page is infectious, and that’s really what the book is all about: encouraging others to see the beauty and goodness all around them. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Valiant Effort

Posted by Don MacPherson on 9th June 2008

X-O Manowar: Birth hardcover
Writers: Jim Shooter, Steve Englehart, Bob Layton & Jorge Gonzalez
Artists: Barry Windsor-Smith, Sal Velluto, Mike Manley, Mike Leeke, Steve Ditko, Joe Quesada, Bob Layton, John Holdredge, Mark Moretti, Tom Ryder, Kathryn Bolinger, Ted Halsted, Ralph Reese & Jimmy Palmiotti
Colorists: Chrysoula Artemis, Rob Ruffolo, Anthony Castrillo, Jorge Gonzalez, Paul Autio & John Cebollero
Letters: Jade, Ken Lopez & Sorah Suhng
Cover artists: Sean Chen & Bob Layton
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Price: $24.95 US/$26.95 CAN

Flashback 15 years, and Valiant Comics was riding high in the comic-book industry. It was a boom time for the business, and Valiant threw its hat into the ring at just the right time (but ultimately, at just the wrong time). Valiant is back, and to mark its return, it’s published this collection of X-O Manowar comics from 1992 and 1993. I’m not sure why Valiant Entertainment opted to turn to X-O as its coming-out party, though I suspect it might have something to do with the fact that one of the issues collected here featured early work from artist and now-Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada. (Correction: I’m told this volume was preceded by a Harbinger hardcover.) I’d never read an issue of X-O before, and I was surprised to find a truly novel and fascinating premise at the core of the storytelling. Unfortunately, the execution leaves a lot to be desired, which comes as a surprise, given some of the stalwart creative names involved in the crafting of the story. The plotting lumbers forward, often without bothering to provide key background information or logic, and the art is inconsistent at best. Read the rest of this entry »

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Beyond Belief

Posted by Don MacPherson on 25th May 2008

Beyond #1
Writer: Ron Marz
Artist: Edison George
Colors: Parasuraman A.
Letters: Sudhir B. Pisal
Cover artist: Luke Ross
Editor: Gotham Chopra
Publisher: Virgin Comics
Price: $2.99 US

Though unfortunately sharing a title with a recent cosmic super-hero adventure published by Marvel Comics, this new Virgin Comics property — created by self-help guru Deepak Chopra — is an oddly grounded story about loss and desperation, with touches of mystery and spirituality to keep the plot moving along. After reading this first issue, I honestly have no idea what’s going on, but Ron Marz’s script is effective enough that I want to know and am eager to discover what happens next. Artist Edison George’s work is new to me, but his storytelling is solid. There’s something of a Twilight Zone riff at play in the story, and like many other Virgin releases, the script and plot also immerse the reader in Indian culture, fortunately in an accessible, gradual manner. Virgin’s comics have run hot and cold for me, but after sampling this introductory issue of Beyond, I’d have to say it’s the one of the publisher’s stronger offerings, second only to the recently relaunched Dan Dare. Read the rest of this entry »

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