Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Archive for the 'Reviews – Image' Category

Voice Lessons

Posted by Don MacPherson on 14th April 2014

A Voice in the Dark #s 1 & 2
“Blood Makes Noise” parts 1 & 2
Writer/Artist: Larime Taylor
Editor: Dannty Donovan
Publisher: Image Comics/Top Cow Productions
Price: $3.99 US each

That’s right, I’m back after a long hiatus. The dormancy of Eye on Comics doesn’t stem from site issues, personal illness or some ’round-the-world excursion or anything. More pressing, everyday concerns seemed to trump my writing about comics, and honestly, I think I was a bit burnt out on it. But after writing yesterday’s review, I felt re-energized, and with the snow melting, I needn’t worry about snowblowing, wood-fetching or deck-clearing. What follows below is a review I had mostly written when the Big Break happened, so I’m behind a bit on the series. But don’t let that mislead you into thinking the comic book discussed here is one that should be overlooked.

I’ll be honest: the Top Cow brand isn’t one to which I pay much attention. Defined by its titles that represent the Kewl excesses of the 1990s (such as Cyberforce and The Darkness), Top Cow Productions has rarely offered a title that’s really held my interest (at least of the ones I’ve sampled over the past 20 years). So when I saw the promotional material in my Inbox for this particular Top Cow book, I didn’t expect much. Still, I decided to take a few minutes to “thumb through” a digital copy of the first issue. A few minutes turned into 30, as I drank in the first issue and then the second. And then I read a message from the writer/artist/creator in the back of the first issue. The broad concept cover blurb quote — describing A Voice in the Dark, as Dexter meets Strangers in Paradise — isn’t a bad description, but it really only scratches the surface of this powerful, character-driven sample of storytelling. Read the rest of this entry »

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Waste Management

Posted by Don MacPherson on 26th June 2013

Variant coverLazarus #1
“Family, Part One”
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist/Letters/Cover artist: Michael Lark
Colors: Santi Arcas
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I haven’t been watching advance solicitations as of late. Often, new titles will turn up on the shelves of my local comic shop and take me by surprise. “I can’t believe So And So had a new book out and I didn’t know” or “Wow, that comic is out already? I thought it was months away.” I was vaguely aware of the approaching release of Lazarus #1, but I had absolutely no idea what it was about, and I honestly, I didn’t care. It was a new comic by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, creators whose past works I’ve enjoyed, notably their previous collaboration on Gotham Central. I was eager to sample a new creator-owned work from them, and the notion they might disappoint never entered my mind. And they didn’t disappoint, but they did take me off-guard. I was expecting something else, something more grounded, something more rooted in or at least connected to the crime genre, given their previous projects. But Lazarus is, if described in broad terms, a science-fiction book, or, more specifically, a dystopian book. It’s certainly a smart book, and it has some strong messages. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Kids Are All Might

Posted by Don MacPherson on 27th April 2013

Jupiter’s Legacy #1
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Frank Quitely
Colors/Letters: Peter Doherty
Cover artists: Quitely/Bryan Hitch/Dave Johnson/Phil Noto/J. Scott Campbell/Christian Ward
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US

While still boasting an over-the-top approach, Jupiter’s Legacy mercifully seems a bit more toned down in its more extreme approach to the super-hero genre than Millar’s other more recent super-hero satire/deconstruction projects, such as Kick-Ass and Nemesis. There’s a lot more subtext to be found here, as Millar isn’t really telling a super-hero story. The intent is clearly of a cultural and socio-political commentary on the state of America in the 21st century. There’s an interesting balance of hope and cynicism to be found here that allows Jupiter’s Legacy to stand apart from other “Millarworld” fare. Mind you, while the themes and ideas are engaging and thought-provoking, what the storytelling boasts in the way of subtext, it lacks in terms of subtlety. But that’s OK… who’s expecting subtlety from a Millar script? Also coming as no surprise is the strength of Frank Quitely’s linework. Though I wish his character designs included a more diverse array of body types, he imbues the cast with powerful presences and intensity. Read the rest of this entry »

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Don’t Look a Gift Horseman in the Mouth

Posted by Don MacPherson on 30th March 2013

Ghost variantEast of West #1
“One: Out of the Wasteland”
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist/Cover artist: Nick Dragotta
Colors: Frank Martin
Letters: Rus Wooton
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.50 US

At my local comic shop, there’s a slightly unusual entry on my pull list: “Anything by Jonathan Hickman from Image.” I don’t need to know what a new Hickman creator-owned title is about; I don’t need to know who the artist is — I know it’s going to be something I want to read, and East of West continues that track record. It’s certainly an ambitious storytelling experiment. Hickman is no stranger to developing alternate histories in which to set his stories, but this transformation of America into seven separate nations seems particularly ambitious. But the story’s not really about an America moulded by prophecy, the Civil War and spiritualism. What this is really about is the apocalypse — or to be more precise, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I really don’t think the hero of the story has even presented himself yet, but I’m definitely captivated by the intensity of the plotting and characterization. Hickman plays around with genre to great effect, but it does make for a complex and challenging read at times. Fortunately, it’s a challenge well worth taking on. Read the rest of this entry »

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You Don’t Know Jake

Posted by Don MacPherson on 15th November 2012

Where Is Jake Ellis? #1
Writer: Nathan Edmondson
Artist/Cover artist: Tonci Zonjic
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.50 US

Who Is Jake Ellis? was one of the most fun, intelligently written and stylistically impressive comic books I read last year, so I was eagerly anticipating the property’s return with this second limited series. Writer Nathan Edmondson has crafted an international intrigue comic that feels like something Greg Rucka could have written, spiced up with superhuman/supernatural elements. It’s interesting to note the indicia page for this debut issue labels it as the sixth chapter of an ongoing story, but a shift in the dynamics and a jump ahead in time from where we left off with Who Is Jake Ellis? allows this to stand on its own. It’s also quite accessible. While I definitely got a charge by revisiting with these characters and seeing how they’ve changed, Edmondson offers a two-page “Previously in…” spread consisting of pages from the previous series, a novel way to bring new readers up to speed and to refresh the memories of those of us who’ve been along for the ride from the start. There’s a fun and undeniable Jason Bourne riff at play in this book, but the fantastic elements Edmondson’s added and the understated intensity that artist Tonci Zonjic instills in the characters set it apart as well. Read the rest of this entry »

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Let’s Talk About Sax

Posted by Don MacPherson on 30th September 2012

Variant coverHappy! #1
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Darick Robertson
Colors: Richard P. Clark
Letters: Simon Bowland
Cover artists: Robertson (regular)/Michael Allred (variant)
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I’m always up for a new Grant Morrison project, and it’s nice to see him return to creator-owned projects after such a long stay in the DC Universe. That he opted to offer new, original work through Image Comics goes a long way to solidify the publisher as the home of new, unconventional and strong creator-owned work. The core premise of this new series — the juxtaposition of the hard-boiled crime genre and a cartoony fantasy element — is fairly simple and on the surface, seemingly clever. But the two disparate sides of Happy! just don’t seem to mesh well. Furthermore, the gory, unrelenting scenes of underworld violence — even before the opposite element comes into play — turned me off. Morrison plunges us in the middle of a situation in which a group of awful people do awful things to one another, and what’s left out is a reason for the reader to care about any of them. Read the rest of this entry »

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Girl, It-terrupted

Posted by Don MacPherson on 21st August 2012

It Girl and the Atomics #s 1 & 2
“Dark Streets, Snap City”
Writer: Jamie S. Rich
Artist: Mike Norton
Colors: Allen Passalaqua
Letters: Crank!
Cover artists: Michael Allred/Darwyn Cooke (variant for #2)
Editors: Jamie S. Rich & Eric Stephenson
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US each

The first issue of this series was released earlier this month, and writer Jamie S. Rich was kind enough to send along a review copy, along with an advance review file of the second installment. I’ve always enjoyed Rich’s writing, but I approached these comics with some trepidation. While Mike Allred’s Madman comics (from which these characters hail) are understandably held up as examples of strong, unusual and fun comics storytelling, I’ve never really connected with Frank Einstein and his zany world. It’s not that I think they’re not well-crafted comics; it’s just that the surreal and loopy elements just didn’t seem to be my bag. Rich and artist Mike Norton certainly do a solid job of instilling some of those qualities into this spinoff book, but it comes off as a bit more accessible, not only in terms of plotting but in tone as well. This is a fun tribute to Silver Age super-hero comics, with a touch of 21st century culture and technology thrown in for good measure. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pedometer of the Damned

Posted by Don MacPherson on 11th July 2012

The Walking Dead #100
“Something to Fear, Part Four”
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Gray tones: Cliff Rathburn
Letters: Rus Wooton
Cover artists: Charlie Adlard, Marc Silvestri, Frank Quitely, Todd McFarlane, Sean Phillips, Bryan Hitch & Ryan Ottley
Editor: Sina Grace
Publisher: Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US/CAN ($9.99 US/CAN chromium cover)

What may be the best-selling North American comic book of the year is a fairly run-of-the-mill chapter of the long-running, popular zombie-apocalypse series, but it’s nevertheless a satisfying one for fans and followers. Kirkman’s focus here is on shock value. He tries to shock his readers with the casual callousness and corruption of a new villain. He tries to shock us by writing against the expectations he’s built up over the past few months. And he tries to shock the audience with the death of a major character. While the storytelling is visceral and effective, it’s not really shocking — at least not for those who have been paying attention over the course of the series. Read the rest of this entry »

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Keep This Secret

Posted by Don MacPherson on 15th April 2012

Secret #1
“Chapter One: Teeth With Which to Eat”
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Ryan Bodenheim
Colors: Michael Garland
Letters: Rus Wooton
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.50 US

When I saw this comic book on the most recent new releases list a few days ago, I had no idea what it was. But as soon as I saw Jonathan Hickman’s name attached to it, I knew I wanted it. Hickman’s creator-owned work is so strong, I told the manager at my local comic shop to add any Hickman-penned Image title to my pull list. I won’t miss any future projects should they fly under my radar again. Secret marks a bit of departure for Hickman, at least in terms of subject matter. I normally associate him with meticulously crafted science-fiction stories (Red Wing) or stories with a strong focus on social commentary (The Nightly News). With Secret, he offers up a story of intrigue. It boasts a convincing and intense tone. It feels a bit like The Firm meets Mission Impossible (and no, I didn’t pick two Tom Cruise flicks for the comparison on purpose). Maybe what’s most interesting about the first issue of this limited series is there are no good guys to be found. All of the characters seem corrupt or dangerous in some way, but their conflicting (and for some, unknown) motives are what create the drama. Read the rest of this entry »

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Must Bleed TV

Posted by Don MacPherson on 12th April 2012

America’s Got Powers #1
Writers: Jonathan Ross & Bryan Hitch
Pencils: Bryan Hitch
Inks: Andrew Currie & Paul Neary
Colors: Paul Mounts
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: Hitch (regular)/Leinil Yu (variant)
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US

The only competition-based reality show I watch with any regularity these days is The Amazing Race, and I have a serious aversion to those performance shows, such as American Idol, Insert Country Here’s Got Talent and Dancing With the Stars. As such, the title and apparent premise of America’s Got Powers didn’t appeal to me. On the other hand, Bryan Hitch’s artwork does. With that in mind, as well as Image’s track record of inventive new titles, I decided to give the first issue a look. After reading it, I find I’m of two minds. Jonathan Ross’s plot and script feels a little… formulaic. There aren’t any story developments in this debut issue that are particularly surprising (though it wasn’t exactly predictable either), and there are too many one-dimensional, cliched characters we’ve seen too many times before. However, I was also impressed with his commentary on the ugliness of Western culture, about its excesses and the ease with which people adopt prejudices and class distinctions. Hitch’s photorealistic art certainly works well with the subject matter, but it’s occasionally a bit difficult to follow. Read the rest of this entry »

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Claw the Unconquered

Posted by Don MacPherson on 30th March 2012

Queen Crab original hardcover graphic novel
Writer: Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Artiz Eiguren
Cover artist: Sas Christian
Editor: Amanda Conner
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $12.99 US

I’m a lucky guy because the manager of my local comic shop is forever directing my attention to unusual and lesser-known comics and graphic novels he think I might find interesting, and this Kickstarter project of Jimmy Palmiotti’s definitely flew under my radar. I like it when Palmiotti takes on these personal, unconventional projects, so I was quick to grab a copy. It turns out the small chain of comic shops where I get my books was also a strong supporter and sponsor of Queen Crab, so my book was signed and included a couple of prints (one by Palmiotti and another by Amanda Conner). It was a nice bonus, but I was far more interested in this book with the unusual cover. Despite the premise of a woman who wakes up one day to find she has crustacean claws instead of hands, it’s really more of a slice-of-life book that examines the life of a woman who’s settled for a lesser life. Most of the book is a bit of a bummer, but in a resonant way. It’s an interesting character study that’s marred somewhat but some awkward pacing, but it merits a look just because it’s such a change of pace. Read the rest of this entry »

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Book This Steal

Posted by Don MacPherson on 8th February 2012

Thief of Thieves #1
“Chapter One, The Thief and His Apprentice”
Writers: Robert Kirkman & Nick Spencer
Artist/Cover artist: Shawn Martinbrough
Colors: Felix Serrano
Letters: Rus Wooton
Editor: Sina Grace
Publisher: Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment
Price: $2.99 US

People who enjoy Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ various Criminal comics will enjoy Thief of Thieves. People who enjoy such titles as Who Is Jake Ellis? and The Rinse will enjoy Thief of Thieves. Here’s the thing, though: Thief of Thieves isn’t quite as good as those other book. Thief has a lot going for it, not the least of which is Shawn Martinbrough’s crisp, dark artwork and Nick Spencer’s sharp, pitter-patter scripting in the second act. Unfortunately, the big build-up to the cliffhanger moment is for naught, because it’s obvious where things are headed. Thief of Thieves is clearly taking some inspiration from some great crime and intrigue comics (and likely stories from other media), but the first issue can only purport to be good, not great. Read the rest of this entry »

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Turning a Prophet

Posted by Don MacPherson on 22nd January 2012

Prophet #21
Writer: Brandon Graham
Artist: Simon Roy
Colors: Richard Ballermann
Letters: Ed Brisson
Cover artists: Marian Churchland (regular)/Rob Liefeld & Andy Troy (variant)
Editor: Eric Stephenson
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I never even thumbed through a single issue of the previous volumes of this Rob Liefeld-created comic title in the 1990s. His work and that of other artists who worked on the book, including Stephen Platt, just didn’t boast styles that appealed to me at the time. Furthermore, nothing about the concept made me want to take note of it either. When it was announced Liefeld was resurrecting the property more than a decade into the 21st century, one wouldn’t have thought I’d have any interest either, but it’s clear this isn’t the same comic it was 15-20 years ago. Tapping King City writer/artist Brandon Graham to helm this new take on the title character got me excited. I’ll read anything Graham touches, it’s a policy that’s never steered me wrong. I’m also thrilled to see Simon Roy illustrating Graham’s story. Roy made a real impression on me with his graphic novella Jan’s Atomic Heart, and it was fun to see him back in action. His and Graham’s styles definitely complement each other, and the two Canadian creators have brought a distinctly European sensibility to this once bombastic and wholly American property. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Grizzly Discovery

Posted by Don MacPherson on 21st December 2011

Reed Gunther #5
“Reed Gunther and the Freakshow Showdown!”

Reed Gunther #6
“From Cowboy to Cowman!”

Writer/Letters: Shane Houghton
Artist/Cover artist: Chris Houghton
Colors: Ciaran Lucas & Jose Flores (#5)/Josh Ulrich & Jose Flores (#6)

Not long ago, I was thumbing through comics recent comics and files I’d received, looking for something a bit off-beat to read, specifically for review purposes. I was putting together one of my Quick Critiques posts, and I wanted to bring some variety to it with a non-super-hero property published by an outfit other than DC and Marvel. I never have a shortage of possibilities, and these two issues of Reed Gunther were near the top of a reading list I had on my desk. So I decided to check them out, not knowing what to expect. Man, have I been missing out on an irreverent, all-ages comic that serves as another example of the strength and diversity Image Comics has to offer those with a love of comics. The Houghton brothers clearly have a passion for comics and for light, goofy adventure. Each issue — hell, each panel — exudes so much personality and whimsy, one can’t help but smile at the title character’s triumphs and gaffes. I was so pleased with what I found in this title, I felt the need to write a full review rather than just a capsule. Read the rest of this entry »

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Second Chance at Afterlife

Posted by Don MacPherson on 4th December 2011

Haunt #19
Writer: Joe Casey
Artist/Cover artist: Nathan Fox
Colors: FCO Plascencia
Letters: Comicraft
Editor: Jen Cassidy
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US

When Todd McFarlane and Image Comics released their original teaser/promotional image for this property, I was unimpressed with how uninspired the character design was, with how it basically combined the looks of the two characters with which McFarlane is most closely associated: Spider-Man and Spawn. When the first issue was released a little more than two years, I remained unimpressed, even though Robert (The Walking Dead) Kirkman was the writer and co-creator of the series. That was the last I looked at Haunt, and I never expected I’d give it a second look or thought. And then, with Kirkman and artist Greg Capullo’s withdrawal from the book, the new creative team was announced, and I was immediately intrigued. Artist Nathan (DMZ) Fox boasts an unconventional, indie-flavored style that couldn’t be more of a departure from what we’ve seen from other McFarlane creations, and Joe Casey, while no stranger to mainstream super-hero comics, also has a reputation for offbeat, even challenging fare. I couldn’t resist checking out such a dramatic shift in creative direction.

Now if I could just figure out what the hell’s going on… Read the rest of this entry »

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