Monthly Archives: March 2008

Underdogs and Overreactions

The comic-book industry was agog at the news last week of Jerry Siegel’s family’s success in its legal fight to regain some copyright control over Superman and some contents of the classic Action Comics #1. Others have commented at length about the decision and what it means for comics, so there’s really no need for me to repeat what’s been stated eloquently (or in the case of some message-board posters, rudely and ignorantly). Besides, the story is far from over. It’s highly doubtful that Time Warner would capitulate in a battle over such a lucrative cash cow from distant Krypton. An appeal is no doubt in the works, regardless of whether or not the appellants have a spandex-clad leg to stand on.

The Siegel ruling is certainly historic for the world of comics, and it may be an important precedent beyond our little corner of pop culture. While creators’ rights have been a topic of discussion for industry insiders and enthusiasts of our little medium for a couple of decades now at least, it’s a notion that’s perhaps never been more prominent in the collective consciousness of Western culture. It was only a few months ago that the Writers Guild of America strike came to end, and that job action impacted just about every household in North America. It wasn’t in any real way that matters, but the public became away of creator rights as a broader principle.

Continue reading… →

Quick Critiques – March 30, 2008

All-Star Superman #10 (DC Comics/All-Star imprint)
by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely & Jamie Grant

This series has been almost universally praised since its debut; the Eisner blurb on the cover is the tip of the iceberg. Some critics felt Morrison’s recent Bizarro story, though entertaining, didn’t boast the same strength as previous issues. With this episode, he returns to the main storyline — Superman’s impending death, and he does so in a surprisingly touching way. This issue is filled with impossible feats of science-fiction, alien culture clashes and rampaging robots. And even with all of those dazzling, wondrous elements, there’s an undeniable undercurrent of emotion. Superman’s determination is accompanied by a quieter sense of sadness about his plight. He seems not so much afraid of death but mournful of what he’ll leave unaccomplished and the pain his demise may cause others. The inclusion of the citizenship of the Bottle City of Kandor carries with it the potential for throwing off casual readers, but Morrison’s script manages to provide just enough exposition for those less familiar with Super-lore to get what they need. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Morrison’s script is how he transforms our own mundane world and its long history into something magical, depicting it as a magical creation. I love how the story comes full circle as well, bringing an interesting metatextual element into play. Quitely’s artwork casts the Man of Steel as an all-powerful god, and it’s fitting, given the experiment that unfolds in his Fortress of Solitude. Quitely’s style is certainly over the top, so he exaggerated the weakness the title character experiences as well. It’s effective, as it drives home the notion of the urgency at play. That’s not easy to do; the readership knows Superman won’t die, not really. But the creators open the door to the possibility that this incarnation just might. 9/10

Continue reading… →

Causes and Effect

Noble Causes #32Noble Causes #s 32 & 33
“Family Dynamics” & “Meltdown”
Writer: Jay Faerber
Artist/Cover artist: Yildiray Cinar
Colors: Ron Riley & Ryan Vera
Letters: Charles Pritchett
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US each

You don’t hear people talking about it much these days, but Jay Faerber’s Noble Causes is a super-hero series that merits attention. The market is overflowing with titles featuring costumed crusaders, and it doesn’t seem to support new series without recognizable characters and/or talent. Just look at Marvel’s The Order, a superb super-hero title with strong social commentary and compelling characterization; it’s been cancelled after only 10 issues, and its lack of “name” heroes is no doubt a factor in its demise. Now consider Noble Causes. It features a wholly original cast of characters with no ties to even lesser icons of the genre. And it’s the brainchild of a writer who, although he’s been active in the industry for several years, could hardly be considered a creative star of comicdom. Nevertheless, Jay Faerber has kept his unusual super-hero soap opera going steadily for more than five years now. With his 32nd issue, he’s endeavoring to reignite interest in the book, employing a five-year gap to introduce new characters and shift the tone of the book slightly. After reading the new issue and the next one as well, I’d say Faerber’s got a good shot at boosting readership.

Continue reading… →

Quick Critiques – March 25, 2008

Judgment Day trade paperback (Checker Book Publishing Group)
by Alan Moore, Rob Liefeld & various

More than 10 years ago, I reviewed the first issue of this event-driven limited series from Rob Liefeld’s Awesome Entertainment, and I wrote that while I didn’t care for Liefeld’s art, I was impressed with Alan Moore’s efforts to build worlds and myths with Liefeld’s stable of extreme, Kewl characters. I compared some of Moore’s work to DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths (I was, and remain, a big fan of that 1986 comic event). Revisiting the story in the 21st century thanks to Checker’s reissue of the trade paperback, I’m left with some of the same feelings. Moore brings some magic to Liefeld’s otherwise flat characters; the links he forges over the course of this unlikely murder mystery/courtroom drama put me in mind of the intricacies of his “Twilight” proposal for DC Comics (which never saw publication). But even Moore’s inventiveness isn’t enough to rescue this book. Liefeld’s designs are uninspired and generic, and his artwork is as painfully inconsistent as you might remember. There are a handful of the multitude of contributing artists who bring polish, brilliance and wonder to the mix, though, such as Gil Kane’s visions of masked heroes in the Old West. The Storybook Smith “testimony” was a highlight of the book as well, both in terms of writing and artwork. I’m not sure how much of an audience exists for this book; Youngblood, even though it’s been relaunched at Image Comics (see below), isn’t exactly at its apex of popularity. In 2008, it’s a little known corner of the super-hero comics market, and I question whether or not Alan Moore’s name is even big enough of a draw to lure readers to buy this mild curiosity. 5/10

Continue reading… →

Kurt Kritiques

Ever since he and an up-and-coming comics painter by the name of Alex Ross brought maturity to the world of Captain America, the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man with Marvels, writer Kurt Busiek has been a prominent creative force in the realm of super-hero comics. Still, his profile has waned a bit as of late, but 2008 promises to be another big year for the writer. This summer, DC will launch Trinity, a new weekly series that promises to recapture the sales heat the publisher saw with 52 and lost with Countdown to Final Crisis. And Busiek will be at the helm.

He’s been writing Superman as well, and a new jumping-on point released last week is what’s sparked this focus on his recent work and my perception of a disparity in quality.

Continue reading… →

Mind the Currency Gap

It finally happened. Last week, DC Comics announced it would revise the pricing of its comics to better reflect the value of the Canadian dollar as compared to its weakening U.S. counterpart. The publisher is just, oh, six or seven months behind currency markets and its biggest competitor, Marvel Comics. Of course, Marvel’s current Canadian price is a shade higher than the American cover price, even though the dollar here in the Great White North is stronger than the Yankee Greenback. (This is an issue Eye on Comics has explored in the past. You can find previous articles on the subject here and here.)

So DC’s announcement, though incredibly late, is welcome news for retailers and customers, yes? Well, not really.

Continue reading… →

Quick Critiques – March 16, 2008

The Lone Ranger & Tonto #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)
by Brett Matthews, John Abrams & Mario Guevara

You know what? I have no idea if this is Dynamite’s second Lone Ranger title, a newly titled relaunch to replace the other book or a one-shot. I wasn’t able to find any information in this comic itself or on the publisher’s website. I hope it’s one of the two former options, because this stands out as the best Lone Ranger comic Dynamite has produced thus far. I attribute my appreciation of the book mainly to my appreciation of the artwork by Mario Guevara. His name isn’t familiar to me, but I’ll be looking for it in the future. His detailed, gritty and sometimes extreme style looks something like an amalgam of the styles of such artists as Joe Kubert, Barry Windsor-Smith and Ladronn.  His linework, along with the colors, really drives home the arid nature of the Wild West landscape. The story doesn’t seem to merit the extra page count (and accompanying price hike), so that might be a bit of a sticker for some. I think my favorite part of Matthews and Abrams’s story is the strong sense of community one gets from the title characters’ interaction with the kindly shopkeepers. I really enjoy the contrast of character between the Ranger and Tonto. The latter is something of a pragmatic adviser, and the former is driven by his idealism and compassion. Perhaps one reason the story worked so well for me is that I’ve seen examples of the kind of eye-for-an-eye attitude of the masses when faced with an unspeakable crime and the reality of mental illness, but the tragedy that drives this simple plot forward is a compelling one. 7/10

Continue reading… →

Terry Moore is Back (back back back back…)

Echo #1
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Terry Moore
Editor: Trey Moore
Publisher: Abstract Studio
Price: $3.50 US

Well, last week saw the return of Jeff Smith with a new, self-published series, and now, we have Strangers in Paradise creator Terry Moore throwing his hat back into the indy comic ring again. March is proving to be a good month for fans of the best self-published writer/artists of the past couple of decades. Moore’s soft, realistic approach to the human figure is back in full force, and it’s just as pleasing to the eye as it’s been in the past. What’s surprising about this new series is the subject matter. Echo is firmly entrenched in the super-hero genre, and while Moore is no stranger to super-hero comics, it’s certainly not what one expects from his self-published, creator-owned work. This debut issue offers a fairly standard origin for the heroine of the series; actually, the plot is rather cliched. What allows Echo to stand out as something more than a stereotypical super-hero title is Moore’s characterization and ear for dialogue. While the action and premise are extreme yet cliched, the characters remain grounded yet intriguing. I’m not so much interested in what’s going to happen to Julie next, but I am interested in who she is.

Continue reading… →

Quick Critiques – March 1, 2008

Action Comics #862 (DC Comics)
by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank & Jon Sibal

The current story arc — “Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes” — stands out as perhaps the strongest writing we’ve seen from Geoff Johns since his earlier projects for DC, such as Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. and The Flash. While there is definitely respect and affection for past DC stories and characters in this story, in this instance, continuity doesn’t seem to drive the plot the way it has in other Johns efforts. Nor is the point of this story a major event, as we’ve seen in Johns’s various Green Lantern comics in recent years. the writer achieves a nice balance between his homage to the Paul Levitz era of the Legion of Super-Heroes and a strong degree of accessibility for readers who may not be all that familiar with these heroes from the far-flung future. Now, the story has been fairly standard, as we’ve been presented with darker versions of bright characters in a dystopian future, but this chapter demonstrates the writer’s recognition of the importance of fun and a sense of wonder. With the inclusion of the Legion of Substitute Heroes, Johns brings a level of humor that was missing from the earlier episodes of this arc. Gary Frank’s designs for these slightly gritty takes on Silver Age characters are sharp, reminiscent of the kind of mature credibility that Keith Giffen brought to the property in the 1990s. Nevertheless, there’s still some campiness to the characters’ looks. Like the script, Frank’s artwork achieves a nice balance between the goofier side of this super-hero adventure and the more serious, dramatic leanings. When it comes to Superman comics today, most eyes are on Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman, and for good reason. But Johns and Frank are playing a somewhat similar tune. 8/10

Continue reading… →