Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Archive for October, 2006

And Now For Something Completely Different

Posted by Don MacPherson on 30th October 2006

Superman/Batman Annual #1
“Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One…”
Writer: Joe Kelly
Pencils: Ed McGuinness, Ryan Ottley, Sean Murphy & Carlo Barberi
Inks: Dexter Vines, Cliff Rathburn, Sean Murphy, Don Hillsman II, Bob Petrecca, Andy Owens & Rodney Ramos
Colors: Guy Major
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artist: McGuinness & Vines
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US/$5.50 CAN

A reader posted a comment on my site recently, longing for the days of fun comics, in which super-heroes acted like heroes. I recommended a couple of new comics, noting that such comics haven’t disappeared altogether. I can now add another newly released comic to that short list of recommendations, and it’s Superman/Batman Annual #1. DC readers who love tightly scripted stories that maintain a strong sense of continuity won’t much care for this book, but there’s definitely an audience that will want to seek this comic out. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - DC | 3 Comments »

That’s News to Me

Posted by Don MacPherson on 29th October 2006

Nightly News #1
“Chapter One: I’m Mad as Hell and I’m Not Going to Take This Anymore”
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Jonathan Hickman
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.35 CAN

I’m a journalist by trade, and I don’t mean my comics criticism writing. I cover the court/crime beat for a daily newspaper, one that’s owned by a corporation that owns every English-language newspaper in the province. People often ask me about my work and how that corporate, regional monopoly affects it. I tell them it doesn’t. But I’m not naive. Though it hasn’t occurred in my experience, it’s a global reality now that the media is sadly subject and vulnerable to manipulation by political and business interests. Nightly News is about lashing back against that corrupted information network. Creator Jonathan Hickman — whose work on this new title holds him out as the comic industry’s new Brian Wood — makes a bold statement by telling a story of homegrown terrorists fighting against the co-opted conscience of democracy. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Image | 11 Comments »

Quick Critiques – Oct. 26, 2006

Posted by Don MacPherson on 26th October 2006

7 Brothers #1 (Virgin Comics)
by John Woo, Garth Ennis & Jeevan Kang

I couldn’t resist — though I’m not as taken with his recent works, writer Garth Ennis’s name on a comic book always gets me to pause and take a glance. I’m pleased I did so in this case. This introductory issue is pure setup, but there’s enough going on and enough character elements to pique my interest. This debut issue comes off as a cross between a standard super-hero group gathering plot and a Quentin Tarantino crime script. There’s an emphasis on a much more multicultural cast of characters, and despite space constraints, Ennis’s script allows us to get to know a bit about each of them. What really hooked me on the book is the sense of history and mystery established in the opening scene, flashing back to centuries ago in China. The script and art converge perfectly in that opening sequence. The art puts me in mind of Denys (The Question) Cowan’s art, to a certain degree. The colors help to reinforce the dark, gritty qualities in the main part of the book, but they are outstanding in that opening sequence, really driving home an ancient and historical atmosphere. 7/10 Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Quick Critiques | 2 Comments »

Donner’s Party

Posted by Don MacPherson on 25th October 2006

Action Comics #844
“Last Son, Part One”
Writers: Geoff Johns & Richard Donner
Artist/Cover artist: Adam Kubert
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Matt Idelson
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$4 CAN

Marvel Comics has made a lot of noise about its ability to lure TV and movie talent into the world of creating comics, especially as of late. DC has had its fair share of contributing talent coming in from other media (such as Kevin Smith and Brad Meltzer), but much more has been made of blockbuster movie director Richard Donner’s collaboration with Geoff Johns, his one-time assistant turned sought-after comics scribe. Donner’s probably best known as the director of Lethal Weapon, but almost three decades ago, he mesmerized moviegoers with Superman and Superman II. There’s definitely a more cinematic tone to the pacing of the plot, the way the dialogue plays and the simpler, more traditional characterizations for the supporting cast. Fans of recent, in-continuity Superman stories might find this story to be a bit frustrating at times, but viewed outside of that context, Donner and Johns’s story is fun and yet promises something epic in tone. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - DC | 15 Comments »

Be All That You Can Be… Eventually

Posted by Don MacPherson on 25th October 2006

[The scene: a nondescript storefront in Small Town Main Street America.]

Ding-a-ding

Man Off Street: Hi, I was wondering if I could use the can?

Recruitment Officer #1: Hi there! Welcome to the Civil War Recruitment Office.

Man: Um, hi. I really gotta take a whiz…

Recruitment Officer #1: I’m Happy Hogan, and this is Pepper Potts.

Recruitment Officer #2: Hi! I have freckles!

Man: Sure. They’re nice. You got a bathroom here or what?

Recruitment Officer #1: Absolutely! But first, why not fill out a form? Pepper’s got pens!

Recruitment Officer #2: I have blue ones and black ones, Happy! And I keep drugs in this one, just like the FBI guy on Prison Break!

Man: Who names people Happy and Pepper?

Recruitment Officer #2: Stan did! Are you finished with your form?

Man: What’s this for?

Recruitment Officer #1: Well, in case you haven’t read the TV or watched a newspaper, America’s at war! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Features | 1 Comment »

There’s Strife After Death

Posted by Don MacPherson on 24th October 2006

Afterlife Vol. 1 original graphic novel
Writer: Stormcrow Hayes
Artist/Letters/Cover artist: Rob Steen
Editor: Luis Reyes
Publisher: Tokyopop
Price: $9.99 US/$12.99 CAN

This is my first Tokyopop book.

As best as I can recall, I’ve never read one of Tokyopop’s graphic novels. I am not a manga fan, and Tokyopop is known as a manga publisher, but more recently, it’s been branching out beyond Japanese adaptations. Afterlife is a U.S., homegrown horror graphic novel. It’s clearly inspired visually and conceptually by Japanese comics fare, but it stands up well on its own as an original and thought-provoking premise. Writer Stormcrow Hayes explores faith and ethics from a unique perspective, challenging his readers to question their own moral and social beliefs. The plot and characters are somewhat diverting, but the larger questions posed here stand out as the book’s greatest strengths. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Tokyopop | 1 Comment »

Adrenaline Junkies

Posted by Don MacPherson on 22nd October 2006

Adrenaline #1
Writer: Tyler Chin-Tanner
Pencils/Colors/Cover artist: James Boyle
Inks/Letters: Fabio Redivo
Editor: Wendy Chin-Tanner
Publisher: A Wave Blue World Inc.
Price: $2.99 US

This small-press comic’s title tells the reader nothing of what to expect from it, and the cover art isn’t much help either. That makes the novelty of the premise to be found within all the more surprising. This first of eight issues is the setup for a competition between the villain and a reluctant heroine. The machinations to arrive at that premise are somewhat far-fetched, but I was surprised at how much I was drawn in by the international flavor and the strengths of the two main characters. This comic looks and feels like something we’d see from Devil’s Due Publishing, and honestly, I think it would appeal to that high-adventure, high-action fanbase. There’s potential in this book, but it’s not really in the premise. Instead, the potential lies in the skills of the creators and their room for development. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Indy/Small Press | Comments Off

Quick Critiques – Oct. 22, 2006

Posted by Don MacPherson on 22nd October 2006

Civil Wardrobe one-shot (Brain Scan Studios)
by Rich Johnston & various artists

There’s a key reason why Internet comics columnist Rich Johnston’s satire of Marvel super-heroes and the publisher’s late-shipping crossover event is so successful: it’s more than a satire of super-hero comics. Johnston takes aim at pop culture, politics, big-box commerce, celebrity-sponsored spirituality and so much more in this one-shot. Some of the most biting satire is reserved for creations that sexualize children or force an artificial maturity and darkness into properties that were originally designed to amuse grade-school kids. The constant shifts in visual style make sense in the context of Johnston’s one-page-gag framework. It’s great that Johnston has managed to recruit the talents of some top industry professionals for this humor book, but the disadvantage is that the more polished, professional artwork makes for a sharp contrast with the more amateurish cartooning. While knowledge of Marvel’s Civil War event (both in terms of plot and publishing gaffes) will definitely add to the reader’s appreciation of this book, Johnston wisely broadens the book’s focus beyond that niche appeal. 7/10 Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Quick Critiques | Comments Off

‘Wild’ Grant MorriStorm

Posted by Don MacPherson on 20th October 2006

This week marked the release of not one but two new ongoing titles by noted comics writer Grant (Seven Soldiers, 52) Morrison. And it marked the release of not one but two new titles from DC’s Wildstorm Productions.  And not one but two new titles in the Wildstorm “WorldStorm” line. Yeah, I’m talking about the same two comic books: The Authority #1 and Wildcats #1. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - DC/Wildstorm | 22 Comments »

Challenge of the Super-Friends

Posted by Don MacPherson on 19th October 2006

DC’s year-long super-hero epic, 52, is a significant exercise in myth-building on the publisher’s part. The weekly schedule and the effort to incorporate continuity elements from DC’s entire super-hero line must be daunting for the series’s four writers, several editors and many artists. It’s a massive undertaking, but one that’s clearly paying off for the publisher, as is evident in the monthly sales charts from Diamond Comic Distributors.

One of the reasons the book is proving to be such fun is that writers Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka and Mark Waid have included such a diverse (even odd) array of characters from throughout DC’s publishing history. The most recent issue features not only such well-known characters as Green Arrow, Martian Manhunter and Firestorm, but Ambush Bug and the Bulleteer.

After reading 52 Week Twenty-Four, it struck me that this title reminded me a lot of a guilty-pleasure comic book from my youth: DC Challenge. The brainchild of writer Mark Evanier, the notion was to tell an unpredictable, epic super-hero story, with each issue being penned and illustrated by different creators. Now, while, 52 reportedly has clear plans and plots to guide it from beginning to end, the challenge of DC Challenge was that each writer would have no idea what the previous issue’s scribe had planned. Each issue also ended with a cliffhanger intended by the writer to be seemingly impossible to resolve for the man at the helm of the next issue. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Editorials | 4 Comments »

Dead Men Wear Kimonos

Posted by Don MacPherson on 18th October 2006

Zombee original graphic novel
Writer: Miles Gunter
Artist: Victor Santos
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $12.99 US

Man, there are a lot of zombie comics hitting the stands these days. Is it due to the success of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, I wonder, or is it indicative of a resurgence of the genre in pop culture in general? In any case, one could argue we’ve got a glut of zombie fare piling up these days (tough to argue, though, given the predominance of super-hero stories in comics), and it would be easy to dismiss the newer stuff as offering the same old tales of gore and survival. This new graphic novel manages to offer a new spin on the undead standby by taking the action, horror and humor back a few centuries to feudal Japan. Still, it’s not the unusual setting that makes this story an entertaining read but the banter among the three heroes who fight against the forces of decay and destruction. The book is plagued (pardon the pun) by one main problem: for a full graphic novel, it’s a rather light read. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Image | Comments Off

Let Me Count the Ways

Posted by Don MacPherson on 17th October 2006

12 Reasons Why I Love Her original graphic novel
Writer: Jamie S. Rich
Artist: Joelle Jones
Letters: Douglas E. Sherwood
Editor: James Lucas Jones
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $14.95 US/$18.95 CAN

My girlfriend and I don’t have the best story about how we first met. Our relationship is the result of a happenstance encounter online, and even today, meeting someone on the Internet still carries a stigma for some. We’ve created a slew of memorable funny stories, romantic stories and sad stories in our more than three years together, and we know we’ll be creating many more in the years to come. In 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, writer Jamie S. Rich and artist Joelle Jones tell the stories of another couple, and Evan and Gwen’s are perfect. The banter between the pair is entertaining and perfect, but there’s also an awkwardness in the script at times that really drives home a genuine sound and brings credibility to the characters. Another pleasant aspect of the book is how it introduces readers to the talents of newcomer Joelle Jones. Her sketchy, flowing style is thoroughly pleasing to the eye, and the expressiveness of her characters really helps Rich to tell the story. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Oni Press | 3 Comments »

Quick Critiques – Oct. 15, 2006

Posted by Don MacPherson on 15th October 2006

Annihilation #3 (Marvel Comics)
by Keith Giffen & Andrea DiVito

The series reaches its halfway mark, and the good guys’ war with the Annihilation Wave is over. Three issues to go and it’s over — talk about unpredictable. Giffen’s plotting on this event series is compelling, clever and perpetually climactic. The timing of the storytelling enhances the plot as well. At a time when the “Coalition of the Willing” is fighting an insurgency in the Middle East, Giffen offers up a story in which the heroes end up fighting a guerilla war rather than conventional methods. One problem with the book is that there is a multitude of diverse, unconnected characters running around, and it’s not easy to keep them all straight. Several of them are terribly obscure figures from Marvel continuity, and it makes for a slightly inaccessible quality at times. DiVito’s art is full of jaw-clenched, teeth-gritting macho men, but it works in the context of a war story. I love the color and energy of the cosmic elements the art brings out. DiVito’s performance falls short in one respect, and that’s in the depiction of the Galactus weapon. We don’t get a sense of its immensity, and therefore, the overwhelming, unimaginable fear it must instill in the heroes isn’t conveyed nearly as well as it could have been. 7/10 Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Quick Critiques | 5 Comments »

Solid

Posted by Don MacPherson on 13th October 2006

Rock Bottom original graphic novel
Writer: Joe Casey
Artist/Cover artist: Charlie Adlard
Greytones: Charlie Adlard & Paul Peart
Letters: Josh Richardson
Publisher: AiT/PlanetLar
Price: $12.95 US

We don’t hear as much hype coming out of AiT/PlanetLar these days as we once did; perhaps publisher/propagandist Larry Young is busy with more pressing matters these days. Nevertheless, when I saw that the small publisher was releasing a new Joe Casey/Charlie Adlard project, I had to take a look. It’s too bad Young has dialed down the hype machine, because this project definitely merits the hullabaloo. It has the potential to appeal to a broad audience, not only to the fans of the industry’s dominant super-hero genre, but to supporters of strong, character-based, indy-comics storytelling. Casey’s script makes the idea of a man turning to stone more and more believable as the book progresses. Though this book boasts super-hero elements, it’s not a super-hero story. It’s about a man coming to terms with a health crisis and how the people around him see it as a tragedy and yet an opportunity as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - AiT/PlanetLar | 1 Comment »

The Kids Aren’t Alright

Posted by Don MacPherson on 12th October 2006

Gen13 v.4 #1
“Best of a Bad Lot, Part One: And on the First Day”
Writer: Gail Simone
Pencils: Talent Caldwell
Inks: Matt Banning
Colors: Carrie Strachan
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Cover artists: Caldwell & Banning
Editor: Ben Abernathy
Publisher: DC Comics/Wildstorm Productions
Price: $2.99 US/$4 CAN

I am not a Gen13 fan. Never have been, and I’ve sampled the property at various points in its history, including the initial run. There have been a couple of entertaining stories, but those were the result of talented writers and artists using the title characters as generic super-hero characters. Now, normally I’d pass on a new Gen13 title, but anything with Gail Simone attached as a writer earns a look as far as I’m concerned. Unfortunately, the second issue isn’t going to get a glance. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - DC/Wildstorm | 20 Comments »