Monthly Archives: October 2010

Halloweek – Hellboy/Beasts of Burden #1

Variant coverHellboy/Beasts of Burden: Sacrifice one-shot
Writers: Evan Dorkin & Mike Mignola
Artist: Jill Thompson
Letters: Jason Arthur
Cover artists: Thompson/Mignola (variant cover)
Editor: Scott Allie
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $3.50 US

Well, it’s the day before Halloween, and I needed something else fitting my Halloween theme to review on the site, so as I thumbed the stack of comics on my desk, I happened upon something perfect: a comic featuring two fun properties that are firmly entrenched in supernatural adventure. This Hellboy/Beasts of Burden one-shot hits all of the right notes. There are enough dark, creepy elements to make for a deliciously dark atmosphere, but it’s balanced nicely with some strong personality and goofy interplay among some colorful characters. The creators pull off this crossover quite well, but this is a natural pairing of concepts and characters. While I wouldn’t want to see Dorkin, Thompson and Mignola return to this trough too often, I also hope this isn’t the last time these characters cross paths.

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Halloweek – Marvel Premiere #28

Marvel Premiere #28
“There’s a Mountain on Sunset Boulevard!”
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Pencils: Frank Robbins
Inks: Steve Gan
Colors: Janice Cohen
Letters: Karen Mantlo
Cover artist: Unknown
Editor: Marv Wolfman
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: 25 cents

As I noted earlier this week, I was lucky enough to happen upon a treasure trove of 1970s and ’80s comics at a recent flea market, and this one — cover dated February 1976 — was among the 100 comics I picked up from that vendor. As I thumbed through the box of old, tattered comics, this one jumped out as being the perfect fodder for another review in my Halloweek series. Mind you, despite the lineup of characters, this really isn’t a horror comic. On the surface, it has the trappings of a super-hero team story, but the plot doesn’t play out that way either. Instead, Mantlo’s weird plot about a space-faring, prehistoric human’s return home evolves into a tragedy about four cursed men whose failures to see beyond themselves doom them all over again. It’s always a pleasure to find unconventional and novel storytelling in comics such as this one, crafted about 35 years ago.

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Halloweek – Vertigo Resurrected #1

Vertigo Resurrected #1
Writer: Warren Ellis
Pencils: Phil Jimenez
Inks: Andy Lanning
Colors: James Sinclair
Letters: Clem Robins
Plus other stories and art by Brian Bolland; Brian Azzarello & Essad Ribic; Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely; Garth Ennis & Jim Lee; Steven T. Seagle & Tim Sale; Peter Milligan & Eduardo Risso; Bill Willingham; and Bruce Jones & Berni Wrightson
Cover artist: Tim Bradstreet
Editors: Axel Alonso, Shelly Bond & Alisa Kwitney
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo imprint
Price: $7.99 US

A week of reviews of horror comics, in honor of the approaching All Hallows Eve, continues, and this time, I’m turning my attention to a recent release from DC Comics’ Vertigo that’s noteworthy for a couple of reasons. One is that it’s one of the earlier forays into DC’s new “100-page spectacular” reprint format. Under the DC Universe banner, they’re called DC Comics Presents (resurrecting a Superman teamup title of the 1970s and ’80s), but as part of DC’s mature-readers label, this comic has been titled Vertigo Resurrected, in keeping with the imprints origins as a home mainly for horror comics. I’ve sampled a couple of books in the format, and while I don’t always agree with the content that DC editors have chosen for them, I do appreciate the format and its pricing. Fortunately, I don’t have much of a beef with the array of stories selected for reprinting here. Really, this is something of a snapshot of the state of talent working or emerging at Vertigo more than a decade ago, and most of the talent represented here remains on the A-list even today.

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Halloweek – Abattoir #1

Abattoir #1
Writers: Rob Levin & Troy Peteri
Artist: Bing Cansino
Colors: Andrei Pervukhin
Letters: Troy Peteri
Cover artist: Tae Young Choi
Editor: Renae Geerlings
Publisher: Radical Publishing
Price: $3.99 US

As we continue our eerie journey this week to All Hallows Eve, I turn my attention from a horror comic of the past to a brand new instance of gore galore put to paper. Radical Publishing timed the release of this new title well, no doubt to intentionally coincide with the leadup to Halloween. The title of this new six-issue limited series alone ought to garner some attention given the approaching holiday, as I would imagine some people are in a horror frame of mind at the end of October. As I read this issue, I was struck by the gratuitous nature of the opening. I thought I was in for a disappointment, but once the real plot got underway, a different kind of horror story began to unfold. The premise is a solid one, and by the end of the issue, I was genuinely engrossed in the story of a down-on-his-luck realtor and the chilling conflict with which he was suddenly faced. While the art, rendered in a pseudo-painted style that’s been typical of many Radical titles so far, didn’t grab me, I nevertheless found this to be one of the burgeoning publisher’s best efforts so far, if not the best.

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Halloweek – Ghosts #101

In just a few days’ time, Halloween will be upon us. To mark the occasion, I thought I’d adopt a theme for the days leading up to Oct. 31 and focus on some spooky (or supposedly spooky) comics. While comics are more usually associated with the super-hero genre, horror and the macabre have been hallmarks of the medium for decades as well. Thanks to strong traditions cemented by EC Comics in the 1950s, horror and suspense comics will always be with us despite those efforts years ago to eliminate them.

First up is an issue of a horror anthology published by DC. This particular issue, a delightful and inexpensive flea-market find, takes us back to 1981…

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Quick Critiques – Oct. 25, 2010

Variant coverGreen Lantern Corps #53 (DC Comics)
by Tony Bedard, Tyler Kirkham & Batt

I have to give Tony Bedard credit here for crafting a great new Green Lantern villain and using existing elements and continuity as the foundation for him. The Weaponer has a great gimmick and a great motivation. The Weaponers of Qward have essentially served as little more than cosmic henchmen, never posing a real threat to DC’s heroes over the years. Transforming one of them into an unstoppable force works very well. Furthermore, Bedard’s script is quite accessible. Even if one hadn’t heard of the Weaponers before, one wouldn’t have any trouble following this story. Everything the reader needs to appreciate the plot is to be found in the script. I still find Kyle Rayner to be the least interesting of the Green Lanterns. He seems wholly defined by his romantic relationships these days, and his personality pales in comparison to what we see in such characters as Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner. Still, he works well in the context of this story, though really, almost any GL could’ve stood in in his place in this plot (though he definitely has more vested in the outcome).

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Battle of the Knockoff Stars

Regular coverVariant coverJustice League of America #50
“JLA: Image, Part 1 – Worlds Collide”
Writer: James Robinson
Pencils: Mark Bagley
Inks: Rob Hunter & Norm Rapmund
Colors: HiFi
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artists: Ethan Van Sciver/Bagley & Hunter/Jim Lee & Scott Williams
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US

That I’m not a regular reader of Justice League of America is something of an indicator of how DC has mismanaged this property. I’m a lifelong super-hero comics reader, and some of the comics that made me that way were the JLA comics of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Gerry Conway and Dick Dillon helped to draw into a world that contained parallel universes, colorful characters and cosmic threats. I’ve always had a soft spot for DC team comics, but I haven’t bothered to reader this title regularly in a couple of years. But I find I really want to like Justice League of America, so when I noted that a new story arc was getting underway here and read some reports online that writer James Robinson’s run was improving, I decided I take another peek at DC’s top-tier team book. What I found was thrilling in some respects and disappointing in others. Things have definitely improved, as Robinson seems to embrace a more traditional approach to plotting this title, but I’m still having trouble seeing past a lackluster cast of characters.

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Hammer Time

Marvel’s hitting its customer base fast and furious with Thor comics these days, and anyone familiar with Marvel Studios’ slate of upcoming movies can tell why. Just as it did with its Iron Man franchise when the movie of the same name launched a couple of years ago, Marvel is pumping out the Thor material in anticipation of a demand that could arise after the Kenneth Branagh-directed Thor flick is released next year. I would’ve thought Thor would be a hard sell to a mass-media audience, but after seeing the trailer, I see the potential for a big hit. Anyhoo, let’s turn our attention to three recent Thor comics…

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Letter Bugs – Kurt Busiek Loves Marvel’s ‘Hoohah

The world of comic books is made up of two separate but equally important groups: the people who work in comics and the fans who read them. Sometimes, members of the latter group cross over and end up working in the industry. And occasionally, in the letter columns of back issues, one can find fan letters written by these readers-turned-pros. These are their stories. (Apologies to Law & Order.)

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Zero’s Tolerance

Soldier Zero #1
Writer: Paul Cornell
Artist: Javier Pina
Colors: Alfred Rockefeller
Letters: Ed Dukeshire
Cover artists: Trevor Hairsine, Dave Johnson, Phil Noto & Kalman Andrasofszky
Editor: Bryce Carlson
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Price: $3.99 US

Back before Eye on Comics went on hiatus a few months ago, one of the last pieces I wrote was an editorial in which I expressed some scepticism about Boom! Studios’ plans for a new line of super-hero comics spearheaded by Stan Lee. Well, the time is almost upon us for those comics to see publication, and first out of the gate is Soldier Zero. At first glance, the premise is derivative… far too familiar in several respects. It’s comparable to a wide variety of other projects, from Avatar to Blue Beetle to X-O Manowar. Fortunately, there’s some character-driven content in the script that helps to set it apart. Writer Paul Cornell’s exploration of the experiences of a disabled person rings true and makes for some strong interpersonal moments in the story. That’s enough to hold my attention and for me to see how the whole alien-armor riff plays out.

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Quick Critiques – Oct. 15, 2010

Kubert regular coverSook variant coverBatman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #5 (DC Comics)
by Grant Morrison, Ryan Sook, Pere Perez & Mick Gray

I have a brother who sometimes tells some stories and jokes that prove to be thoroughly frustrating experiences. His problem is that occasionally, he skips over parts of the story. he’s always amused because he has full access to all of the pertinent details in his head, but he doesn’t realize he hasn’t conveyed it all verbally. His audience is left puzzled because pieces are missing. That’s what reading this particular comic book felt like. One can tell there’s an ambitious, weird and wonderful story unfolding here, but writer Grant Morrison seems to lunge ahead, skipping key elements (or at least expecting his audience to remember details from past issues of this series and other Batman scripts he’s written in the past few years).

Ryan Sook’s art is effective at capturing the noir, Sam Spade-esque atmosphere that the writer endeavors to use as the backdrop for this issue. It would seem Sook didn’t have the time to render all 32 pages of art, as Pere Perez fills in for pages 22-31. The shift in styles isn’t too jarring, as Perez clearly tries to maintain a consistent tone. Still, there are panels in which the divide between the two artists’ storytelling abilities is apparent. Once again, Andy Kubert offers up an image for the regular cover that isn’t reflected in the interior art, which is a bit disappointing. I love that three-piece suit with the bat-vest. 5/10

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