Monthly Archives: August 2008

Crisis Counselling

DC Universe: Last Will and Testament #1
“Last Will and Testament: Conversions”
Writer: Brad Meltzer
Pencils: Adam Kubert
Inks: John Dell & Joe Kubert
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artists: Adam Kubert & Joe Kubert/Adam Kubert & John Dell
Editors: Eddie Berganza & Dan Didio
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US/CAN

Meltzer delivers more of the same that he’s offered DC readers in the past: solid storytelling that rewards longtime readers but leaves the uninitiated out of the loop. To get the full impact (and understanding) of this story, one has to be familiar with some past DC stories, especially “The Judas Contract” by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, published in Tales of the Teen Titans more than 20 years ago. That’s a pretty distant footnote and a big hurdle for new readers. I’m not one of those new readers, though, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this story. Last Will and Testament, despite lacking the Final Crisis label, is the kind of story DC should have given us in Final Crisis: Requiem. What was lacking from that story is to be found here: a grounded perspective of an Armageddon-like situation from the hero’s point of view, some real emotion and, well, a plot. The art is a bit on the inconsistent side as two inkers are employed to embellish Adam Kubert’s pencils, but when one of those inkers is his father, the legendary Joe Kubert, it’s hard to be dissatisfied with the artwork.

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Quick Critiques – Aug. 24, 2008

Blade of the Warrior: Kshatriya #1 (Virgin Comics)
by Arjun Gaind & R. Manikandan

Virgin Comics continues its efforts to incorporate East Indian mythology into the pop-culture consciousness with this new limited series about a warrior and his battle with his corrupt brother. I have to give writer Arjun Gaind credit to driving home the ancient nature of the story and characters by making Alexander the Great the audience for the story within the comic. It not only drives home the eons-old quality of the backdrop, but it also reinforces the longevity of East Indian culture. This is a Conan-esque barbarian story, and R. Manikandan’s artwork suits it incredibly well. His style puts me in mind of Barry (Storyteller, Conan the Barbarian) Windsor-Smith’s art, as well as that of Michael (Sandman) Zulli. The visuals are full of rich detail, but the artist doesn’t necessarily strive for a realistic look either. He captures the supernatural elements incredibly well with his slight sketchy style, and the muted colors aid him in that effort.

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The Tangled Web They Weave

Amazing Spider-Man #568
“New Ways to Die, Part One: Back With Vengeance”
Writer: Dan Slott
Pencils: John Romita Jr.
Inks: Klaus Janson
Colors: Dean White
“Fifth Stage”
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Adi Granov

Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: John Romita Jr./Alex Ross (regular covers) and John Romita Sr. (variant)
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US/$4.05 CAN

I checked out the first issue of the new thrice-monthly Amazing Spider-Man in January, and I didn’t find it strong enough to lure me to read further issues in the new direction and format. However, with the debut of a new storyline and the addition of a couple of strong creators (John Romita Jr. and Mark Waid) to the creative team with this issue, I decided to give it another look. I’m glad I did. While the creators haven’t reinvented the wheel or anything, I can’t deny that I was entertained by and interested in the story. This is a solid super-hero story that stays true to the traditions of the title character, but what really held my attention was the shakeup in the status quo of newspaper scene in Spidey’s New York.

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Jonah Hex’s Good Luck

Jonah Hex #33I recently had the pleasure of reading a great short story in DC’s Jonah Hex. What drew me to the story — an intense tale of survival in the Canadian wilderness, penned by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray — was the art by Darwyn Cooke. Cooke is, of course, a superstar in the industry these days, and I always keep an eye out for new work from him.

Shortly thereafter, I discovered that J.H. Williams III, the stalwart artistic talent from such books as Promethea and Batman: The Black Glove, has contributed art to be featured in the 35th issue of Hex, on sale Sept. 3. Those familiar with the series are also well aware of the frequent contributions from legendary Spanish comics artist Jordi Bernet. Seeing his work in North American comics has been a rare occurrence in recent years, and he’s provided some amazing visuals for the DC western title.

It occurred to me… what’s attracting these high-profile artists to this little series? Jonah Hex is far from one of DC’s top performers; it doesn’t even make it into the Diamond Comic Distributors Top 100 on any given month. So why is talent of this caliber — artists who would pick and choose whatever project they choose, including any Top 10-selling title — contributing to what seems like the runt of the DC Universe litter? Eye on Comics talked to a couple of the creators to find out what’s going on.

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The Amazing Racer Men

I’m a huge fan of The Amazing Race. The Emmy award-winning reality show has always struck me as the most interesting, most entertaining and most genuine source of human emotion in a game-show setting. Aside from its disastrous “family edition” season of the show, The Amazing Race has always enthralled me with its adventure, humor and fast-paced drama.

And now, it’s going to feature not just one of us, but two.

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Quick Critiques – Aug. 18, 2008

Air #1 (DC Comics/Vertigo imprint)
by G. Willow Wilson & M.K. Perker

When DC first launched its Vertigo imprint, I was on board for everything that bore the brand. I was a diehard Vertigo fanboy, converted early on thanks to Neil Gaiman and Morpheus. I remained a fan during its second and third wave of titles and anchor writers, but in more recent years, I’ve been more selective in my Vertigo selections. I knew little about Air and its creators when I first read the initial promotional efforts for the title, and it didn’t grab my attention. I didn’t plan on buying the book, but DC plunked a review copy in my lap. Writer G. Willow Wilson certainly doesn’t believe in starting slow or decompressed storytelling. This unusual story about a secret war for control of security of the skies is definitely unique, undeniably smart and oddly puzzling, but by the end of the book, it seems like a romantic fantasy, something of a Harlequin romance for conspiracy theorists. I’m intrigued, mostly because I’m not sure everything is as it seems; there’s a surreal tone at play that makes me question what the writer and the characters are telling me. Ultimately, I find I’m a bit torn about the book, as I was nagged by the feeling that the central character — a flight attendant who gets swept up in a weird, shadow war — ends up accepting too easily the extreme and impossible circumstances in which she finds herself all of a sudden. Furthermore, Air seems a little past its prime. Perhaps had it been a couple of years ago, when the events of 9/11 reverberated more strongly in the social subconscious, it might have seemed more relevant and urgent.

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My Favorite Martians

The Martian Confederacy original graphic novel
Writer: Jason McNamara
Artist/Cover artist: Paige Braddock
Colors: Brian Miller & Paige Braddock
Publisher: Girl Twirl Comics
Price: $15 US

The Martian Confederacy isn’t your typical science-fiction story. It’s hard to nail down. It’s humorous. It’s political. It’s action-packed. It’s touching. It’s off the wall. This quirky, small-press effort has a lot to offer its readership, but it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to be all things to all people. McNamara’s characters and dialogue are a lot of fun. Even the villains have a certain charm. The book as a whole is definitely light-hearted, but it boasts a couple of nastier, gory moments that make for not-unpleasant jolts in the flow of the narrative. The Martian Confederacy and its creators face some challenges. Some fans of small-press or indy comics might think a sci-fi graphic novel isn’t something that would appeal to them, just as fans devoted to more mainstream action-comics fare mightn’t be drawn to it either. Ultimately, both factions would be well advised to give it a chance. It’s undeniably fun, and it just gets more entertaining and enjoyable the further one gets into the book.

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Print’s Charming

There’s been some talk in the comics blogosphere recently about the viability of printed products in the 21st century, with suggestions arising that print is dead or is dying. It’s hardly a new notion or argument. Funerals and wakes have been held for print media time and time again, and they started in the 1990s. A decade later, we’ve yet to see the paperless society that many touted as the wave of the future. That wave is never going to make it to shore.

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Quick Critiques – Aug. 6, 2008

Final Crisis #3 (DC Comics)
by Grant Morrison & J.G. Jones

Some readers may feel this is something of a slow issue, that not much happens in this third episode of the series. It’s an understandable impression, given the explosive nature of the previous issue’s events and the focus on some quiet, personal moments for the characters in this one. Nevertheless, Grant Morrison’s tribute to the late Jack Kirby’s Fourth World myths gallops ahead. This is about Darkseid’s ultimate victory, cracking the Anti-Life Equation and moving toward physical and intellectual dominance over all things. It really helps to have a grounding in the Fourth World to appreciate what’s happening here, though. J.G. Jones’s art is lovely, but the density of the plot is apparent in the visuals. This is a big event book, but the artist has few opportunities to deliver big visuals, such as splash pages. The coloring looks a little washed out in this issue, not as crisp as what we saw last month. I remain puzzled by the disconnect between several of Jones’s cover images for this series and the actual content. For example, Supergirl’s prominence on one of the covers for this third issue doesn’t jibe with the minor moment the character has in this issue.

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Highway to Hell

The Black Diamond: Get in the Car and Go trade paperback
Writer: Larry Young
Artist/Colors: Jon Proctor
Cover photographer: Mimi Rosenheim
Publisher: AiT/Planet Lar
Price: $19.95 US

AiT/Planet Lar graphic novels have always been worth a look. Publishers Larry Young and Mimi Rosenheim have an eye for unusual projects and strong creative voices. Among the talent they’ve worked with are now high-profile names in the industry, such as Matt (Invincible Iron Man) Fraction and Brian (DMZ) Wood. AiT/Planet Lar first got off the ground with Young’s Astronauts in Trouble title, and he returned to writing comics recently with this title, collected here. While AiT/Planet Lar was built mainly on the philosophy of publishing original graphic novels, it’s strayed from that model from time to time, and this is the most recent instance of that. I liked the premise of The Black Diamond in that its premise flows from socio-political issues, and that real-world, smart quality is to be found throughout this book. Unfortunately, the story is derailed in part by the artwork. Jon Proctor’s stiff illustration is appealing at times, but the action doesn’t unfold clearly at all. Without vital cues in the dialogue, there are times when it’s impossible to tell what’s going on. The story’s pacing is a bit off as well, but I’m pretty sure I understand why that might have been something of a necessary evil.

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Origin of the Species

newuniversal: 1959 #1
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artists: Greg Scott & Kody Chamberlain
Colors: Val Staples
Letters: Ed Dukeshire
Cover artist: Brandon Peterson
Editor: John Barber
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US/$4.05 CAN

Kieron Gillen impressed those of us who read his Phonogram from Image Comics, but his assignment on this one-shot from Marvel Comics really served as his introduction to a much wider North American comics-reading audience. So how did he do? Well, not only did he offer an intense period piece set on the fringes of a burgeoning super-hero continuity, thereby proving his mettle to readers unfamiliar with his work, he’s provided a great boost for Marvel’s newuniversal brand. If this story of paranoia, fear and the unfortunate ethics of evolution doesn’t make you want to immerse yourself in Warren Ellis’s retooled vision of the “New Universe,” nothing will. Gillen provides a story that does more than follow in step with Ellis’s work; it exceeds it. It’s too bad that this will likely only appeal to existing newuniversal readers. It’s a shame Marvel didn’t offer this book at a lower price point, even as a loss leader, as it would no doubt have ignited a great deal of interest in Ellis’s first newuniversal limited series, the new newuniversal: shockfront title and the further spinoffs set for release in the months ahead.

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