Monthly Archives: September 2007

Say Uncle

Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters v.2 #1
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Artist: Renato Arlem
Colors: Rob Schwager
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artist: Dave Johnson
Editor: Tom Palmer Jr.
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.65 CAN

This new ongoing title flows from the previous eight-part limited series of the same name from late 2006/early 2007, and I’m pleased to find it maintains some of the same themes and strong characterization that made the first series so entertaining and interesting. Among those credited with the creation of the first limited series was writer Grant Morrison, and though his name’s been dropped from the credits here, his surreal and challenging influence is still being felt. The biggest shift in this new title comes with the artwork. Daniel Acuna’s bright, energetic artwork is replaced with a darker approach, but it reinforces the more mature side of this socio-political study, dressed up as a super-hero adventure.

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More Dollars and Sense

With the Canadian dollar (affectionately known as the loonie north of the 49th parallel) slightly surpassing the U.S. buck in value this week, U.S. comics publishers that list separate U.S. and Canadian prices on their publications plan say they plan to address the inaccurate divide between those prices.

U.S. comics publishers such as Marvel Entertainment, DC Comics and Image Comics list different prices in U.S. and Canadian dollars on the covers of their comics, and DC and Marvel list separate U.S. and Canadian prices on their hardcover and softcover graphic novels and collected editions. The Canadian price on their products range about 12 to 25 per cent higher than the U.S. price. The Canadian dollar actually surpassed its American counterpart by a minute margin in trading Monday, and it held steady at that level Tuesday.

Eye on Comics inquired with major U.S. publishers about the discrepancy.

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Quick Critiques – Sept. 24, 2007

Countdown to Mystery #1 (DC Comics)
by Steve Gerber, Justiniano & Walden Wong/by Matthew Sturges & Stephen Jorge Segovia

This ended up on my pull list by accident, as DC’s previous forays into this new two-feature format (Mystery in Space and Tales of the Unexpected) didn’t appeal to me. I was pleasantly surprised to find that both features here, despite their connections to recent DC crossover events, really piqued my interest. The main feature, featuring a new Dr. Fate, is really, relating the there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I tale of an unfortunate soul. Despite this new Kent Nelson’s sins, he’s a sympathetic figure because anyone can relate to his ennui. The Eclipso story is the biggest surprise in the book. I haven’t cared for this incarnation of the character, but her corruption of such a bright and light character as Plastic Man made for a solid, suspenseful story. Sturges not only explores Eclipso as an insidious figure, but he uses the new female spin on the character as something of a dark siren. The art in both features is also well done. Justiniano’s exaggerated, elongated linework suits supernatural plot elements well. Wisely, the general Fate design is maintained for this new incarnation of the character; it’s a smart move, as the sharp but simple design helmet design ought to be preserved. Segovia — a new but notable name in super-hero comics art — does an excellent job of bringing a chilling tone to the story, one that’s definitely called for by the script. Eclipso’s convoluted history is summed up nicely, and the confrontation between villains at the end of this opening episode is a riveting one for readers familiar with the DC Universe. 7/10

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Dollars and Sense

Something historic happened Thursday, something the world hasn’t seen in more than 30 years. During trading Thursday, the Canadian dollar actually achieved parity with its U.S counterpart. For a brief time, $1 Cdn was equal to $1 US. It’s bad news for Canadian exporters and businesses that count on U.S. tourist revenue, but it’s a boon for businesses that import U.S. goods and other aspects of the Canadian economy.

But there’s a specific impact on those in the publishing business and those who sell books and periodicals. Unlike most goods, books, magazines and, yes, comics have retail prices printed right on the product, often with separate prices for U.S. sellers and Canadian ones, to account for the difference in the currencies. But that difference has faded as of late.

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One Candle

A year ago today, I launched Eye on Comics.

I’ve been writing comics reviews and commentary online since December 1995. After working on such sites as Psycomic, the incarnation of Comics Newsarama and The Fourth Rail, the less frequent updates and more selective approach to review material have made the past year something of a learning experience. It’s been great not to be shackled to a specific schedule, dictated by new comics release dates and efforts to be the first site to offer advance reviews of key titles.

I’ve had a few sponsors in the past year, and my thanks go out to them for their support. A number of other comics blogs and sites have also supported my efforts by linking to my content, bringing my work to the attention of some who might not otherwise have stumbled upon my new digs on the Internet. But even more than that, I appreciate the readers. Those who take the time to post comments add to the experience for me; I like the conversations and the interaction. Even without the feedback, it’s gratifying to know that thousands take the time to stop by the site and see what I have to say.

This post is actually the 200th on the site (pay no attention to the URL; some early draft posts were deleted as I developed the site). We’ll just have to see if I can pump out another 200 over the next 365 days.

If only I was marking the first birthday of Eye on Comics with something more celebratory than chemical preparations for a colonoscopy. Oy.

G.I. Robot

Atomic Robo #1
“The Will to Power”
Writer: Brian Clevinger
Artist: Scott Wegener
Colors: Rhonda Pattison
Letters: Jeff Powell
Cover artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Publisher: Red 5 Comics
Price: $2.95 US

As I read the background text in the inside front cover of this issue, describing the title character and his history, I was struck by how much the character has in common with Hellboy. The main difference between the pair is that Hellboy has supernatural origins, while Atomic Robo’s foundation is to be found in history of science and science-fiction. As I delved further into the comic, I found that the similarities hold true, save for the fact that the creators here play things up much more for laughs. If anything, Atomic Robo is reminiscent of another Mike Mignola project. It’s rather like The Amazing Screw-On Head Light. The simpler tone of the art is in keeping with the more irreverent side of the property as well. I can’t say that Atomic Robo is the most original comic book I’ve stumbled across, but it is entertaining. Hopefully, future issues will bring more ambitious and original plots while preserving the property’s comedic appeal.

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Catch a Falling All-Star

The mercury has begun to drop, and in my neck of the woods, we’ve even been issued the occasional frost warning in the evenings from time to time. Summer’s over, so many of us bid adieu to barbecues, bathing suits and sunburns. This past summer was also significant in the world of comics — and specifically to DC Comics — because summer 2007 was the announced release date of a much-anticipated project designed to light the comics sales charts on fire: All-Star Wonder Woman.

[…] It seems someone missed her cue. A-hem. I said, “All-Star Wonder Woman!”

Hmm, apparently, she’s a no show.

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Close the Window, I Feel a Draft

Drafted #1
Writer: Mark Powers
Artist/Cover artist: Chris Lie
Colors: Joseph Baker
Letters: Brian J. Crowley
Editor: Mike O’Sullivan
Publisher: Devil’s Due Publishing
Price: $3.50 US

To say Drafted is an ambitious project would be putting it lightly. Former X-Men editor Mark Powers has crafted a story in which every corner of the globe serves as a setting, and individuals from all over the world, from a diverse array of backgrounds, serve as the expansive cast of characters. While there are science-fiction elements in the story, Powers’s plot is more about sociological speculation and the politics of the apocalypse. It’s really quite intriguing and, like I said, ambitious. The problem is that it’s too large in scope. Powers spreads the story out over too many locales and too many characters. There’s a scattered quality to the plotting, and the reader is never given a central figure to latch onto. The art certainly captures the immensity of the story, conveying the detail of disaster effectively. Artist Chris Lie achieves a somewhat realistic look… until one looks at the characters’ faces. Devil’s Due is to be commended for experimenting with genre and subject matter here, but there are glitches in the experiment that interfere with the results.

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Ray, Ray, Go Away; Come Again Another Day

Countdown Presents the Search for Ray Palmer: Wildstorm #1
“The Search for Ray Palmer: Running Wild”
Writer: Ron Marz
Pencils: Angel Unzueta
Inks: Oliver Nome, Richard Friend, Saleem Crawford & Trevor Scott
Colors: Allen Passalaour
Letters: John J. Hill
Cover artist: Arthur Adams
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.65 CAN

DC is offering up several Countdown spinoff books such as this one to introduce readers to some of the parallel earths that make up DC’s resurrected multiverse. It’s not a bad idea, as the high-profile event book is bound to pique the curiosity of readers who have never ventured outside of regular DC continuity. Personally, I was curious to read a story in which the more traditional DC heroes interact with the edgier champions of Jim Lee’s Wildstorm universe. There’s a problem, though: there’s no story here. Ron Marz’s script takes the reader on an uninformative tour of the world of Wildstorm. So there’s no story, next to no information about the Wildstorm characters and no resolution to or advancement of the heroes’ quest. Throw in some loose, distorted artwork and you’ve got the makings of a thoroughly disappointing super-hero comic.

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Quick Critiques – Sept. 16, 2007

Booster Gold #2 (DC Comics)
by Geoff Johns, Jeff Katz, Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund

In the past, I’ve often viewed Norm Rapmund as an inker with a gritty, loose style, which works with some stories but not so well with others. With this series, he demonstrates that he can provide clean, crisp inks, leading me to believe the past instances in which I was disappointed with his inking (such as on Jurgens’s pencils for backup features in 52) were the result of rush jobs. Jurgens’s traditional, larger-than-life style shines through here, and Rapmund’s inks don’t darken the storytelling or bring a harsher edge to the visuals. The colors by Hi-Fi further reinforce the sense that this is a straightforward, fun comic book. The writers have happened upon a good use for the title character. Since Booster Gold debuted in the late 1980s, he wasn’t around in early continuity, allowing him to explore it without being “recognized” by better-known characters. Johns and Katz provide a pleasantly accessible script that explains not only early DC history but recent developments such as the “Sinestro Corps War.” There are also minor acknowledgements in the script to lesser-known and less important points of continuity that serve as a payoff for longtime DC readers without alienating new ones. The most entertaining aspect of the book is Booster’s non-violent means to resolve the conflict. The story is undeniably light and fun, and I was entertained. However, I also felt the story was rather inconsequential; that Booster would prevent time from being changed is an unavoidable result. There’s no suspense here. One never feels anything is at risk because the reader knows the writers will end up preserving continuity as it stands. The premise is amusing, but there is that inherent flaw in it as well. 6/10

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Prenuptial Disagreement

Justice League Wedding Special #1
“Unlimited, Chapter 1: Injustice League”
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Pencils: Mike McKone
Inks: Andy Lanning
Colors: Pete Pantazis
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artist: Ed Benes
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US/$4.75 CAN

There were elements from Brad Meltzer’s run on Justice League of America that I enjoyed, but there were problems as well. That didn’t stop the title from selling like gangbusters, but all the same, I anticipated Dwayne (Fantastic Four) McDuffie’s arrival as the new Justice League writer. This special is essentially his first issue of the regular series, as he launched his first story arc here. McDuffie has impressed as of late with his work on FF and Beyond, as well as his contributions to the delightfully entertaining Justice League Unlimited cartoon, so it seemed that his tenure with the comic-book adventures of the League would be just as strong. That, unfortunately, does not prove to be the case. There’s potential here in the old-fashioned approach to super-hero storytelling, but the script is inaccessible and points out several times that it really doesn’t make sense in the broader context of DC continuity. But the most frustrating thing about this “wedding special” is that it really has little to do with a wedding and doesn’t seem all that special.

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I Want to Wake Up In a City That Never Weeps

In the Shadow of No Towers hardcover collected edition
Writer/Artist: Art Spiegelman
Publisher: Pantheon Graphic Novels (Random House)
Price: $19.95 US

I picked up this graphic novel a couple of years ago. If one has an interest in the medium of comics, Art Spiegelman is a must for one’s bookshelf, and Sept. 11, 2001, was the defining, tragic moment my generation was (unknowingly) waiting for, the kind of historical and cultural milestone that hadn’t been seen since the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But while I had purchased In the Shadow of No Towers, I hadn’t yet cracked it open to read it. With the sixth anniversary of the attacks looming, now seemed as good a time as any to examine Spiegelman’s storytelling and to revisit a horrible moment in time.

Spiegelman approaches the subject matter in a number of ways. He shares his own memories of that day, his small part of a terrifying experience in lower Manhattan. He shares his fear, paranoia and bemusement about what it meant, what it could mean and how it affected his neighbors and his government. Spiegelman relies on political commentary, self-deprecation and social criticism to vent as best he can about the event itself and the far more horrific aftermath.

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People Are Strange, When You’re a Strangewell

Maxwell Strangewell original graphic novel
Writers/Artists: Matthew Fillbach & Shawn Fillbach
Editor: Dave Land
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $19.95 US

According to Dark Horse’s website, the Fillbach Brothers’ previous claim to fame is some popular work on the Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures digests. Now, while Maxwell Strangewell is a science-fiction story, it’s a radically different sort of story than some Lucasfilm spinoff. There’s a distinctly philosophical and surreal quality to this book that’s quite appealing. Now, the ultimate granola message of the story is rather obvious (and spelled out far too plainly by the book’s end), but it never fails to amuse. Furthermore, the cast of characters is expansive, and early on in the book, the reader can never be sure if each new character or alien contingent is a protagonist or villain. There’s a complexity to the structure of the dramatis personae that’s appealing. Maxwell Strangewell isn’t quite as deep as it seems at first, but it’s solidly entertaining from start to finish. As I read through the first couple of chapters, it reminded me of other samples of pop culture I’ve enjoyed in the past. Have you ever seen the movie Starman, John Carpenter’s sci-fi love story featuring Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen? Maxwell Strangewell is like that movie, had it been written and directed by Tim Burton.

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Quick Critiques – Sept. 9, 2007

30 Days of Night: Red Snow #1 (IDW Publishing)
by Ben Templesmith

IDW has really been pumping out the 30 Days of Night spinoff series since the success of the original title five years ago, and for a while, I gobbled them up. My interest in those stories waned, though. Obviously, with the advent of the 30 Days movie upon us, IDW is keeping the vampire stories flowing. Red Snow caught my attention, in part because it features the artwork of the original 30 Days artist Ben Templesmith. But what piqued my interest even more is the fact that Templesmith wrote this story as well. He does a great job with the property, offering up the strongest followup since the original limited series. He takes the reader to a different far-north setting from which the property derives its name, but he also takes the audience back in time as well. The result is a fresh take on the notion of vampires running amok during a lengthy arctic night. Three disparate groups — Russian Allied soldiers, German aggressors and frightened Russian villagers — face a horror even greater than the bloodshed of the Second World War. The vampires are clearly the antagonists, but even the victims/protagonists have distasteful souls among their numbers. It makes for a multi-faceted storytelling dynamic that sets Red Snow apart from typical horror fare. Of course, as anyone who’s checked out the original 30 Days of Night knows, Templesmith’s art is perfectly suited to bringing the dark setting and feral villains to life. He does a great job of conveying the remote and decades-old setting. Red Snow boasts an extensive cast of characters, and Templesmith’s three-pronged approach to the story makes for a riveting, unpredictable read. 9/10

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Day Traitor

Amazing Spider-Man #544
“One More Day, Part 1”
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Pencils: Joe Quesada
Inks: Danny Miki
Colors: Richard Isanove
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: Joe Quesada/Marko Djurdjevic
Editor: Axel Alonso
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US/$4.75 CAN

Marvel gets its big Spider-Man event of 2007 underway with this issue of Amazing Spidey. There’s a problem, though… it seems as though this storyline has been underway for some time already. Writer J. Michael Straczynski fails to advance the plot in any meaningful way, making for a frustrating read for those who have been following the series. Straczynski and Marvel editorial seem far too focused on trying to make this Spider-Man story as plausible as possible, and that drive for realism just isn’t necessary. Quesada’s exaggerated approach to the artwork doesn’t suit the grounded tone for which the writer strives. He handles the larger-than-life qualities of super-heroes well, but when it comes to portraying the emotional turmoil of people rather than super-people, his effort falls flat.

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