Monthly Archives: November 2009

Quick Critiques – Nov. 23, 2009

Variant coverAmazing Spider-Man #612 (Marvel Comics)
by Mark Waid & Paul Azaceta/Joe Kelly & J.M. Ken Nimura

While I don’t follow this title faithfully, I do have to give Marvel credit for its novel publishing approach for the series as of late. With rotating creative teams for each story arc, it allows casual readers such as myself to cherrypick which issues we want to read; in other words, I get to follow creators instead of the creation. The main story is the handiwork of two creators I like to follow: Mark Waid and Paul Azaceta. They’re already proven that they work well together (see Boom! Studios’ Potter’s Field), and I love the noir tone they establish in the opening scene. The story takes an unexpected turn after that, as Waid taps into American frustrations over corporate bailouts to transform a classic Spidey villain into something of a hero of the people. It’s a weird, unexpected development, but I have to admit that I enjoyed the incorporation of a highly topical element into this super-hero plot. Azaceta’s work here reminds me of the loose, moody linework that Tommy Lee Edwards contributed to the unusual but entertaining Marvel 1985 limited series penned by Mark Millar and published last year.

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Dead Heads

As Diamond’s sales figures for October attest, DC’s Blackest Night brand is proving to be a major marketing and sales success story for the Time-Warner comics publisher. While some of the BN comics published up ’til now evoked some lukewarm responses from yours truly, overall, I’m genuinely enjoying the event, the simplicity of the concept and the structure of the conflicts among and co-operation of various Lanterns of Many Colors.

This month, however, marks a shift in DC’s approach to the event in that it’s spreading out beyond dedicated limited series to intrude on various ongoing super-hero titles. In another sharp marketing move, DC has helped comics retailers to move these tie-ins with plastic ring giveaways (I love me my rings, I must admit), but is that reason enough to buy these comics? The first of these tie-ins — last week’s Doom Patrol #4 — didn’t quite work. With this post, Eye on Comics examines the next two tie-ins in this month’s series of seven: Booster Gold #26 and R.E.B.E.L.S. #10.

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‘That’s Just Icky’

With The Dark Knight and Watchmen, the masses have become more familiar with an approach to super-hero storytelling with which those of us who read comics have been familiar for years. Darker, more mature and more violent plots and characterization has been in vogue for about a quarter century, pretty much since the publication of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen in 1986. Many have argued — justifiably — that the trend has taken things much too far.

Even Dick Giordano, notable comic artist and editor for decades, says things have grown too dark in the genre. In a recent interview with The Toronto Star, Giordano admits as much, even taking some responsibility for the trend.

Many point to the unnecessary Dr. Light/Sue Dibny rape scene in Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales’s Identity Crisis in 2004 as a prime example of the excesses of the grim-n-gritty trend. This week, as I thumbed through the pages of a recently released super-hero comic, I happened upon another such “Eww” moment.

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Pixar on the Page

Wall-E #0
“Working to Dig You Out”
Writer: J. Torres
Artist/Cover artist: Morgan Luthi
Colors: Digikore Studios
Letters: Jose Macasocol, Jr.
Editor: Aaron Sparrow
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Boom Kids! imprint
Price: $2.99 US

While I enjoyed Mark Waid’s take on The Incredibles for Boom! Studios, I found it paled in comparison with the movie that inspired it (which happens to be my favorite Pixar flick). Boom’s Toy Story comics were cute but clearly aimed the younger set and therefore lacked the all-ages appeal of the movies. And as for the publisher’s take on Cars, well, I didn’t care for the movie and therefore had no interest in the comic-book spinoff. So it was with some hesitation that I approached this latest Pixar-inspired comic book from Boom! Studios, especially given the fact that the premise imposes severe limitations as far as characters and dialogue are concerned. To my amazement, writer J. Torres has done for a Pixar comic book what Roger Langridge did for a Muppet comic book. Torres overcomes the challenges inherent in adapting what one could view as essentially silent film and captures the same kind of cuteness, curiosity and innocence that allowed a computer-generated robot character to mesmerize millions.

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Quick Critiques – Nov. 8, 2009

Abe Sapien: The Haunted Boy one-shot (Dark Horse Comics)
by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Patric Reynolds

My wife and I had planned on renting a scary movie on Halloween but didn’t get around to it. I still enjoyed a nice spooky story, though, as I read this Abe Sapien one-shot that night. At first, it felt as though I was making my way through a fairly predictable story, as it seemed clear the ghost child would reveal to Abe that his friend, the one who avoided drowning in the lake, was the one responsible for his death. Writers Mike Mignola and John Arcudi rely on the reader’s assumptions about the “haunted boy,” and it works perfectly. While there’s really no sense of danger for the title hero — given that the story is set in 1982 and we know Abe’s still kicking in the present — the plot is effective all the same. I really like this alienated, melancholy take on the title character, and I wish there’d been more space for the writers to explore the emotional fallout for the families affected by the tragedy and the supernatural developments.

Patric Reynolds proves to be a good choice for this one-shot, as it makes for a consistency in style for the Abe Sapien brand. A previous Mignola-verse limited series — Abe Sapien: The Drowning — was illustrated by Jason Alexander, and Reynolds employs a style here that’s highly reminiscent of his predecessor’s. Furthermore, since the emotional conflicts in the story are really more important and interesting than the supernatural elements, a more realistic, gritty style helps to focus the reader’s attention on characters, whereas a Mignola’s esque style tends to envelop the reader in the dark, creepy, gothic visuals and atmosphere (which can be entertaining as well, of course). This more grounded look is a nice change of pace from the more stylized work of such artists as Mignola and Guy Davis who work on other Hellboy-related titles. 7/10

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Special Olympus

Assault on New Olympus Prologue #1
Main story
Writers: Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente
Artist: Rodney Buchemi
Colors: Guillem Mari
Letters: Simon Bowland
“Godmarked, Part 1: The Oldest One”
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Gabriel Hardman
Colors: Elizabeth Breitweiser
Letters: Tom Orzechowski

Cover artist: Adi Granov
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Those who have followed plotlines from Incredible Hercules and Agents of Atlas (as well as Mighty Avengers and Amazing Spider-Man, to a lesser extent) will no doubt enjoy this one-shot. It features the same strong sense of personality and adventure that made those titles such entertaining reads as of late. However, I’m at a loss to understand why these two stories were packaged in this standalone comic book, sans a connecting title, without any clear indication of its connection to those ongoing plotlines.

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Here Today, Oregon Tomorrow

Stumptown #1
“The Case of the Girl Who Took Her Shampoo But Left Her Mini, Part One”
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist/Cover artist: Matthew Southworth
Colors: Lee Loughridge
Editor: James Lucas Jones
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $3.99 US

Writer Greg Rucka isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel with this latest creator-owned project. Fans of his work will recognize his heroine Dex Parios. Maybe not her name or face, but the archetype. Rucka clearly has a fascination with the strong but flawed female investigator character type. It’s easy to see such Rucka-associated characters as Renee Montoya, Bridget Logan, Carrie Stetko and others in Dex. This new feisty private eye even appears to be gay, making it even easier to compare her to Montoya (whom Rucka has written for years, from Gotham Central to 52 to Detective Comics). Nevertheless, the familiarity of the archetype doesn’t detract from the compelling characterization and engrossing mystery. Rucka has teamed with an artist whose style is akin to others with whom the writer has collaborated on crime comics in the past, so not surprisingly, the two creators’ approaches mesh nicely. Stumptown is as fascinating as Queen and Country, Rucka’s last creator-owned title for Oni Press, but it’s even more grounded. I’d only learned about this title this week, having missed any previous announcement, but I’m thrilled with the discovery.

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War Games

Drone #1
Writer/Editor: Scott Chitwood
Artist/Cover artist: Randy Kintz
Colors: Garry Henderson
Letters: Troy Peteri
Publisher: Red 5 Comics
Price: $3.50 US

I rented one of the Call of Duty video games for the Wii a few months back. While I enjoy a good first-person shooter, I’ve always found that the guys who play those online war games get way too good at them, which makes the multi-player mode of such games a less-than-fun experience for more casual players such as myself. So while I have a general disinterest in such war games, I have to give the guys at Red 5 Comics credit for developing a comic book that explores the implications of the gaming generation on a military industrial complex that’s becoming more and more intertwined in technology in the 21st century. Writer Scott Chitwood examines the natural evolution of warfare and technology with the notion of a remote-controlled soldier. Artist Randy Kintz’s style is more in keeping with the grounded-gamer connection than the grisly nature of warfare, but it works pretty well, despite the lack of definition. Overall, Drone is solidly entertaining, exceeding its seemingly superficial, generic qualities with a good premise that’s intelligently executed.

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Con Comic

The Troublemakers original hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist: Gilbert Hernandez
Cover artist: Rick Altergott
Editor: Gary Groth
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Price: $16.95 US

While I’m not as well versed in the works of Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, notably their various Love and Rockets comics over the years, I do occasionally take note of their efforts. I usually prefer the storytelling of Jaime Hernandez over his brother’s, but something about this graphic novel caught my attention (perhaps the title). I’m pleased it did, because in these pages lies a challenging, meticulously crafted story of grifters in the middle of a con. Not surprisingly, Hernandez populates his story with some thoroughly grounded and intriguing figures, but what’s fascinating about the plot is how it criss-crossed over on itself so that not only do the characters remain unaware of who’s conning who but so does the reader. The plot is an intricately woven web of lies and truths, and it’s peppered, of course, with Hernandez’s trademark touch of raw sexuality. Fans of such crime comics as Criminal and 100 Bullets would be well advised to give this graphic novel a chance; they won’t be disappointed.

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