Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Archive for the 'Reviews – DC/Vertigo' Category

Knock knock

Posted by Don MacPherson on 11th June 2013

Astro City #1
“Through Open Doors, Part One”
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Anderson
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Comicraft
Cover artist: Alex Ross
Editor: Kristy Quinn
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo imprint
Price $3.99 US

The 1990s wasn’t a good time in the world of comics — and to be specific, in super-hero comics. It was an era that emphasized style over substance. It was an era that celebrated dazzle over storytelling. It was an era of gimmick covers, countless crossovers and a bunch of new publishers and imprints, all chasing the speculator craze. A lot of money was made from short-term gains leading to long-term losses of readers and black marks on an entire genre. On the other hand, the 1990s also gave rise to Astro City (or as it was originally and appropriately known, Kurt Busiek’s Astro City). Busiek’s title was and remains a celebration of comics and the people who crafted icons for us. It’s also a deconstruction of super-hero archetypes, and it offers some strong social commentary. But ultimately, what makes Astro City work, what makes it such an engaging read and what’s allowed it to last for almost two decades (yes, you read that right) is the strong character work Busiek brings to each and every issue.

And it’s back. That’s awesome. Read the rest of this entry »

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Forget Who — Where Are the Fairest of Them All?

Posted by Don MacPherson on 7th March 2012

Fairest #1
“Prince of Thieves, Chapter One: Wide Awake”
Writer: Bill Willingham
Pencils: Phil Jimenez
Inks: Andy Lanning
Colors: Andrew Dalhouse
Letters: Todd Klein
Cover artists: Adam Hughes (regular)/Jimenez & Lanning (variant)
Editor: Shelly Bond
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo imprint
Price: $2.99 US

While I loved the first few years of the series, I dropped Fables a while back, not long after the war with the Adversary/Emperor/Gepetto came to a close. It was a major turning point in the series, and I just wasn’t as taken with the new direction of the book then, though I still appreciated the overall premise. I had also lost interest in the spinoff Jack of Fables series, so I left Willingham’s characters (or his take on these characters) behind. When I saw this new spinoff title on my comic shop’s shelves this week, I felt prompted to venture back into the enchanted forests and valleys I’d visited with Willingham before, mainly because the notion of an all-female cast of protagonists appealed to me. I was also curious to see what Willingham had been up to with these characters. After reading the first issue, I can safely say I enjoyed what I found, but I must also admit I found it puzzling. For a comic book that purports to be about a number of fairy-tale women, the first issue is almost completely devoid of female characters. It seems like an odd choice and a misstep. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Best Years of Your Strife

Posted by Don MacPherson on 15th March 2011

Vertigo Resurrected: Finals #1
Writer: Will Pfeifer
Artist/Cover artist: Jill Thompson
Colors: Rick Taylor
Letters: Rick Parker
Editor: Joan Hilty
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo imprint
Price: $7.99 US

I have to admit that my overachieving days came to an end when I finished high school. The sort of unabashed ambition and academic aggression that are such integral parts of the story in finals certainly wasn’t reflective of my post-secondary experience, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the comedy, satire and symbolism that make up this noteworthy project. Originally released 12 years ago, Finals was something of a mid-range Vertigo limited series that got a lot of praise, and I’m kicking myself now for missing out on it the first time around. A few years after the original release of this book, Will Pfeifer carved out a career as a go-to writer for DC’s super-hero line, the high point of which was the underrated H.E.R.O. and the low point of which was the much-maligned Amazons Attack event book. If that’s all one knew of Pfeifer’s work, he wouldn’t make much of an impression. Now that I’ve read Finals, though, I’ve had a glimpse of the inventiveness and extremism of which he’s capable. I hope the revival of this obscure, avant-garde book offers the writer a chance to bring us something just as zany and challenging in the near future. Read the rest of this entry »

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Halloweek – Vertigo Resurrected #1

Posted by Don MacPherson on 28th October 2010

Vertigo Resurrected #1
“Shoot”
Writer: Warren Ellis
Pencils: Phil Jimenez
Inks: Andy Lanning
Colors: James Sinclair
Letters: Clem Robins
Plus other stories and art by Brian Bolland; Brian Azzarello & Essad Ribic; Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely; Garth Ennis & Jim Lee; Steven T. Seagle & Tim Sale; Peter Milligan & Eduardo Risso; Bill Willingham; and Bruce Jones & Berni Wrightson
Cover artist: Tim Bradstreet
Editors: Axel Alonso, Shelly Bond & Alisa Kwitney
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo imprint
Price: $7.99 US

A week of reviews of horror comics, in honor of the approaching All Hallows Eve, continues, and this time, I’m turning my attention to a recent release from DC Comics’ Vertigo that’s noteworthy for a couple of reasons. One is that it’s one of the earlier forays into DC’s new “100-page spectacular” reprint format. Under the DC Universe banner, they’re called DC Comics Presents (resurrecting a Superman teamup title of the 1970s and ’80s), but as part of DC’s mature-readers label, this comic has been titled Vertigo Resurrected, in keeping with the imprints origins as a home mainly for horror comics. I’ve sampled a couple of books in the format, and while I don’t always agree with the content that DC editors have chosen for them, I do appreciate the format and its pricing. Fortunately, I don’t have much of a beef with the array of stories selected for reprinting here. Really, this is something of a snapshot of the state of talent working or emerging at Vertigo more than a decade ago, and most of the talent represented here remains on the A-list even today. Read the rest of this entry »

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Vertigo’s Other House of Mystery

Posted by Don MacPherson on 22nd January 2010

Joe the Barbarian #1
“Chapter 1: Hypo”
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist/Cover artist: Sean Murphy
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Todd Klein
Editor: Karen Berger
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo imprint
Price: $1 US

DC once again debuts a new Vertigo first issue at the rock-bottom price of a buck. But let’s be honest… given the talents of the creators involved, you know you’d pay three or four times that to sample their latest project. Grant Morrison’s been better known as of late for his intellectual approach to and celebration of the traditions and icons of the super-hero genre, but he really built his reputation and audience with fare set outside that genre (or at least on the sheer periphery of it). With this project, Morrison once again demonstrates the diversity of his storytelling, but this isn’t something as surreal and experimental in tone as The Invisibles or The Filth. This is a more straightforward project that examines the importance of fantasy in our mundane or dreary lives, and it’s beautifully and meticulously illustrated as well. Read the rest of this entry »

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How the Other Riffraff Lives

Posted by Don MacPherson on 9th October 2009

Filthy Rich original hardcover graphic novel
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Victor Santos
Letters: Clem Robins
Cover artist: Lee Bermejo
Editor: Will Dennis
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo Crime imprint
Price: $19.99 US/$24.99 CAN

I picked this book up shortly after its release, and I was interested in DC/Vertigo’s new noir, crime-fiction imprint; furthermore, I’m a fan of Brian Azzarello’s writing. He’s quite comfortable in this genre, as he’s demonstrated time and time again with his work on 100 Bullets. The small hardcover format makes for an attractive package as well. Unfortunately, what’s inside that package isn’t nearly as strong as I’d hoped. The plotting seems a bit scattered, but the biggest problem with the storytelling is the inconsistent and occasionally confused artwork. Still, Azzarello’s examination of the culture of celebrity from America’s past demonstrates that tabloid journalism and paparazzi predators aren’t only a modern phenomenon. Read the rest of this entry »

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Unwritten Rules

Posted by Don MacPherson on 13th May 2009

The Unwritten #1
“Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity”
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Peter Gross
Colors: Chris Chuckry
Letters: Todd Klein
Cover artist: Yuko Shimizu
Editor: Pornsak Pichetshote
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo imprint
Price: $1 US

The $1 cover price is a solid promotional approach for this new series. The Vertigo brand doesn’t turn as many heads as it did when it debuted 16 years ago, so anything DC Comics can do to attract attention to a new series is a smart move. What attracted my attention to this comic on the shelves of my local comic shop was the fact that there more copies of this comic than any other among the new releases. I took a closer look and discovered the price. I grabbed a copy without even glancing inside or inquiring about the premise. I’ll check out any professionally crafted comic for a buck, especially one written by Mike Carey and illustrated by Peter Gross. As strong as the storytelling is in this comic book, if the series succeeds, it’ll be due in no small part to this cheap cover price. Read the rest of this entry »

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Last Man Standing Ovation

Posted by Don MacPherson on 1st February 2008

Y: The Last Man #60
“Alas”
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Pencils: Pia Guerra
Inks: Jose Marzan Jr.
Colors: Lee Loughridge
Letters: Clem Robins
Cover artist: Massimo Carnevale
Editor: Will Dennis
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo imprint
Price: $4.99 US/$5.99 CAN

I didn’t see that coming, and I’m not referring to the slight twist in the ending of this issue but rather to how the series as a whole came to a close.

Brian K. Vaughan diverges from the flow of the series as a whole and provides a series of epilogues, giving his readers a glimpse of who the various characters become years, even decades, after the main story took place. What first grabbed my attention abut this issue was Vaughan’s effort to embrace just about every hot-potato, controversial issue of ethics that occupies the minds of the world at the moment and making them real rather than hypothetical. From cloning to euthanasia, these touchy subjects are not only incorporated into the plot but treated casually. The world of Y is a very different place from that in which we live, but there are also so many familiar elements that one can’t help but relate to it. Ultimately, Vaughan seems to point out that the embittered debates about the most difficult issues with which we struggle today will nature dissipate as society evolves. Read the rest of this entry »

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With Friends Like These…

Posted by Don MacPherson on 1st May 2007

DMZ #18
“Friendly Fire, Part One”
Writer/Cover artist: Brian Wood
Artists: Riccardo Burchielli & Nathan Fox
Colors: Jeromy Cox
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Will Dennis
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo imprint
Price: $2.99 US/$3.65 CAN

Writer Brian Wood and his collaborators launch a new story arc in this issue, and it’s quite new-reader-friendly. It also marks a dramatic but fascinating shift in focus. Previous stories in this series focused on war from unconventional points of view. Wood explored the power of the media, the politics of war and the perseverance of the human spirit earlier in DMZ. But here, we meet the soldiers, the men who are fighting an unjust and confusing war that they don’t understand. Wood taps into an old-school, war-comic vibe in this issue, but he also explores issues of great relevance. The sins of wars past and present are examined in this story of a war of the not-too distant future. We meet a man who had a hand in a massacre, whose hands are stained with the blood of the innocent, but Wood nevertheless manages to cast him in a sympathetic, relatable light. This stands out as the most powerful, riveting issue of DMZ yet, and given the quality of the series from the start, that’s no small feat. Read the rest of this entry »

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Immaculate Perceptions

Posted by Don MacPherson on 17th January 2007

American Virgin #10
“Wet, Part 1 of 5″
Writer: Steven T. Seagle
Artists: Becky Cloonan & Christine Norrie
Colors: Brian Miller
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover artist: Joshua Middleton
Editor: Shelly Bond
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo imprint
Price $2.99 US/$4 CAN

I know it’s only been three months since I wrote a full review of an issue of American Virgin, but the strength of this script and how it made me think about faith, religion and prophets wouldn’t allow me to let this issue just pass by without commentary. This title is a shining achievement for the creators and for DC’s Vertigo imprint, and the good news for those who haven’t sampled the series yet is that this 10th issue reads well all on its own. I was actually surprised to find this was the first chapter in a new five-part story arc rather than a standalone issue designed to expose the protagonist’s childhood. Seagle’s script is accessible and telling when it comes to the main character, but more importantly, he examines what it really means to connect with God and to represent Him. This story is full of sin, profanity and anger, yet somehow, it’s surprisingly Biblical in its depiction of one man’s relationship with God. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tribal Counsel

Posted by Don MacPherson on 4th January 2007

Scalped #1
“Indian Country, Part One of Three”
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: R.M. Guera
Colors: Lee Loughridge
Letters: Phil Balsman
Cover artist: Jock
Editor: Will Dennis
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo imprint
Price: $2.99 US/$4 CAN

Comics scribe Jason Aaron offers up a new ongoing title that works well as a crime drama. There’s an intensity to the plotting and characters that puts one in mind of another Vertigo title, 100 Bullets. Aaron takes us into a violent world where brutality trumps reason and corruption reigns supreme. The artwork captures the setting and violent circumstances quite well. Sounds like another solid winner from Vertigo, right? Well, culture hasn’t factored into the equation yet. Aaron isn’t just bringing a crime story to life; he also invites his readership into an isolated and oppressed culture that, for the most part, remains ignored and abused even in the 21st century. The depiction of the politics of a reservation and its residents didn’t sit all that well with me. Some might dismiss it as liberal white guilt, but I hope we’ll find more balance in the characters and cultural elements in future issues. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mirror, Mirror on the War…

Posted by Don MacPherson on 8th October 2006

The Other Side #1
“If You’re Lucky, You’ll Only Get Killed”
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist/Cover artist: Cameron Stewart
Colors: Dave McCaig
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Editor: Will Dennis
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo imprint
Price: $2.99 US/$4 CAN

As a Canadian, my cultural connection to the Vietnam War is basically limited to knowledge of draft dodgers among my country’s population. I saw some of the movies — I never cared for Platoon or Full Metal Jacket, but I was fascinated by Hamburger Hill. I’ve read about the emotional scars left on the American psyche and how they reverberate even today. I’m obviously aware of Vietnam on a purely factual level, but I’ve never really felt it, not in the way Americans do. Writer Jason Aaron helps to bring the pain and even pride of this scar on the face of history by taking us into not only one American’s journey to and through the war, but a Vietnamese soldier’s experience as well. This two-pronged approach to the storytelling uses the cultural divide as well as the commonalities to really drive home the emotional and social significance of an unfortunate piece of the past. Read the rest of this entry »

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Shattering Boundaries, Protecting the Cherry

Posted by Don MacPherson on 1st October 2006

American Virgin #7
“Going Down, Part 3 of 5″
Writer: Steven T. Seagle
Pencils: Becky Cloonan
Inks: Ryan Kelly
Colors: Brian Miller
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover artist: Joshua Middleton
Editor: Shelly Bond
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo imprint
Price $2.99 US/$4 CAN

Everything about American Virgin is designed to make people uncomfortable. The hero of the series is a youthful evangelist, a devout Christian — not exactly the kind of figure that’s going to appeal to Vertigo readers. The story forces that hero to face corners of the world that violate his Evangelical Christian sensibilities. He’s forced to face the notion that he is no more special than anyone else around him. Adam also makes the world around him uncomfortable. He’s young and attractive. The world should be his sexual oyster, and no one understands why he’s so dedicated to his belief that sex is a marital privilege. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Mane Attraction

Posted by Don MacPherson on 15th September 2006

Pride of Baghdad original graphic novel
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist/Cover artist: Nico Henrichon
Letters: Todd Klein
Editor: Will Dennis
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo imprint
Price: $19.99 US/$26.99 CAN

As U.S. casualities continue to mount in Iraq and the issue impacts the upcoming elections, it comes as no surprise that Pride of Baghdad is turning heads.  All I needed to know was that it was being penned by Brian K. Vaughan.  From his super-hero stuff to more thought-provoking fare in Y: The Last Man and Ex Machina, Vaughan rarely, if ever, disappoints, and this original graphic novel isn’t about to put a dent in that winning streak.  Still, Pride surprised me a bit, as what makes the script interesting is a dichotomous approach that balances harsher story elements with a genuinely innocent tone, something I didn’t expect from this writer. Read the rest of this entry »

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