Monthly Archives: October 2011

War Is Ellis

SA #17 variantSA #17Secret Avengers #s 17 & 18
“Beast Box” & “No Zone”
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artists: Kev Walker (#17)/David Aja & Raul Allen (#18)
Colors: Frank Martin (#17)
Letters: Dave Lanphear
Cover artist: John Cassaday
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US each

I stopped reading this series a few months ago. Despite my appreciation for previous writer Ed Brubaker’s work, I lost interest in the characters. But more importantly, I’ve lost interest generally in regular-sized comics priced at $3.99. I was lured back, though, and the reason can be summed up with two words: Warren Ellis. Every now and then, he revisits the super-hero genre that helped to establish him as one of the industry’s strongest writers (and beyond), and he almost always does something novel with the concepts. His recent brief stint on Secret Avengers hasn’t been an exception. The appeal here isn’t to sample Ellis’ take on Marvel’s various super-heroes. No, instead, they’re tools that allow him to explore science-fiction concepts that challenge the intellect and even send a couple of shivers up the reader’s spine. Adding to the experience is how Ellis has been teamed with some top artistic talent that are well matched to the subject matter of each individual story.

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Back to the Future

Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes #1
Writer: Chris Roberson
Pencils: Jeffrey Moy
Inks: Phil Moy
Colors: Romula Fajardo Jr.
Letters: Robbie Robbins
Cover artists: Phil Jimenez/Keith Giffen/Gabriel Rodriguez (variants)
Editor: Chris Ryall
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Price: $3.99 US

Now this is more like it. Both of DC’s New 52 titles featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes have proven to be disappointments, which came as a surprise and a letdown to this longtime Legion fan. But the good news is writer Chris Roberson got the Legion right for this crossover limited series from IDW Publishing. He and his artists embrace the inherent fun and adventure of the traditional Legion and the original incarnation of Star Trek to arrive at a light, entertaining result. Mind you, not much happens in this inaugural issue, as Roberson’s script is understandably divided between two casts of characters dealing with the same problem from opposite ends, so I suspect the series will read better as a collected edition. But I was nevertheless tickled by the campy, nostalgic approach to these two properties and look forward to the second issue.

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I Feel Like a Neuman

Mad #511
Writers/Artists: The Usual Gang of Idiots
Cover artist: Charles Akins
Editor: John Ficarra
Publisher: E.C. Publications
Price: $5.99 US/CAN

I was first introduced to the world of comics back in the late 1970s thanks to a particularly nasty arm fracture that required me to be hospitalized for a couple of days. My brother and two neighbor friends brought me a comic book each to occupy me in my hospital bed, and by the time I finished Batman Family #19, I was hooked. Which brings me to October 2011, and my most recent hospital stay (which explains why there were no updates to Eye on Comics from Oct. 6-14). Among regular visits from my wife and son was a quick one from a friend at work, who dropped off other material to pass the time: a Sudoku book and an issue of Mad. It’s been years — decades, really — since I’d read an issue, and my colleague, who’s aware of my love of comics, clearly thought she’d try to tickle my funny bone and appeal to the imp in me. It was interesting to delve back into the world of Mad again, if only to see how much the magazine has remained the same over the years… and how much it’s changed.

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Quick Critiques – Oct. 14, 2011

Action Comics v.2 #2 (DC Comics)
by Grant Morrison, Rags Morales, Brent E. Anderson & Rick Bryant

Grant Morrison’s vision of Superman as a Rebel Without a Costume continues to impress. The writer focuses this second episode on Superman’s limits and Lex Luthor’s stubborn personality. It’s a great read in which Superman’s physicality is pitted against Luthor’s intellect. Morrison offers a not-so-subtle commentary on the U.S. military’s recent use of interrogation methods many consider to be torture, but more importantly, the pain to which the Man of Steel is subjected makes him seem much more like a man than steel. I was surprised at how similar Morrison’s new origin for John (Metallo) Corben mirrors the one Geoff Johns crafted in Superman: Secret Origin, but in both cases, giving Corben a more intimate and personal connection to Superman’s extended circle of friends and enemies makes a lot of sense. While the greatest source of entertainment remains Superman’s wilfull opposition to authority, the most novel new spin on the Superman mythos is the notion his discovery of his origins arise not as the result of his adoptive parents’ resourcefulness but from a more malevolent source.

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Beaton the Odds

Hark! A Vagrant hardcover
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Kate Beaton
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Price: $19.99 US/CAN

I was a bit late in the game when it came to discovering and appreciating Kate Beaton’s cartooning, as I’m not one to spend a lot of time checking out webcomics. It’s not that I have a problem with them; it’s just that I haven’t the time to read all of the printed comics that cross my path. I can’t imagine where I’d find the time if I expanded my purview to a wide array of webcomics. Still, Beaton’s work is the kind of thing that demands one’s attention. She’s been posting her comic strips online since 2007, and in just four years, she’s really joined an exclusive club of rock-star-level cartoonists and comics creators. Her quick success is a testament to the cleverness of her writing, the accessibility of her work and the simple appeal of her emotive figures. At first glance, Beaton boasts a crude artistic style, but it’s deceptive. This collection of strips — most polished, but some quickly dashed off — demonstrates how she brings texture and nuances to her cartoony cast of historical and literary figures. Hark! A Vagrant covers a diverse array of topics but always with the same inimitable sense of humor. Beaton is a unique talent who merits the acclaim and quick rise in prominence that have come her way.

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DC’s New 52: A Look in the Rear View Mirror

Whew! That was a lot of writing about one publisher’s comics. My New 52 Review Project turned out to be a success, as far as Eye on Comics is concerned. Traffic on the site rose, and I found the tight schedule to review all 52 first issues in the line in a timely manner to be an interesting exercise in writing. I was able to write a lot more about each comic book than I expected, and I think I refined my process as a writer — not just as a comics reviewer, but in writing in general. I pumped out almost 50,000 words between Aug. 31 and Oct. 3, and it’s made me realize provided the right motivation and circumstances, I could pen a book (not about comics) I’ve had on the backburner for some time.

I’ve had a number of readers urge me to write a retrospective piece, to comment on the New 52 line as a whole once I’d read it all. I certainly have some thoughts.

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A New 52 Review: Batman: The Dark Knight #1

Batman: The Dark Knight #1
“Knight Terrors”
Writers: Paul Jenkins & David Finch
Pencils: Finch
Inks: Richard Friend
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Sal Cipirano
Cover artists: Finch & Friend
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I figured when it came time for me to write this New 52 review, I’d be able to refer to my review of the same comic book (at least in name and number) from several months ago. Yes, this is the second Batman: The Dark Knight #1 released by DC Comics this year, both meant as vehicles to spotlight artist David Finch. But this comic book doesn’t suffer only from the fact that it’s a mirror image of itself — it also reflects two other solo Batman comics to be released by DC as part of its New 52 line. The plot is clearly meant to jibe with Scott Snyder’s script from Batman #1, and it unintentionally offers almost identical scenes as Tony S. Daniel’s Detective Comics #1. Whether one enjoyed those comics or not, it begs the question: what do we (or DC Comics, for that matter) need Batman: The Dark Knight #1 for? All that’s left is Finch’s artwork, and while it’s appropriately dark and intense, it borrows heavily from other influences and offers a ridiculous gratuitous vision of a young woman with apparently no qualms about the potential for public (and pubic) exposure.

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A New 52 Review: Green Lantern: New Guardians #1

Green Lantern: New Guardians #1
“Green Lantern: New Guardians, Part One”
Writer: Tony Bedard
Pencils: Tyler Kirkham
Inks: Batt
Colors: Nei Ruffino
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover artists: Kirkham & Batt
Editor: Pat McCallum
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

As I’ve noted in many reviews before, I’m a big fan of the Lantern Corps of Many Colors concept writer Geoff Johns brought to the Green Lantern titles in recent years, and of the four Green Lantern-related titles launched as a part of DC’s New 52, this is the one that capitalizes on the notion more than the others. That being said, it’s also weighed down by recent GL continuity more than those other titles as well (or just as much as Red Lanterns). That makes writer Tony Bedard’s choices in the opening flashback all the more puzzling. Ultimately, he’s trying to set the stage with this first issue, but as a result, one really doesn’t get a sense of what the story’s meant to be about. Obviously, the title and the cover image suggest the book will be about a team of Lanterns from each facet of the spectrum, but there’s no explanation of why they’ll remain a team or be dubbed the “New Guardians.” The art is capable and clear, but it’s a bit too extreme at times. Furthermore, it shows where DC is at in terms of creative influences and what it wants its super-hero books to look like overall.

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A New 52 Review: Voodoo #1

Voodoo #1
“Keeping Secrets”
Writer: Ron Marz
Artist/Cover artist: Sami Basri
Colors: Jessica Kholinne
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

Months ago, in a pitch meeting at DC Comics that I made up as gimmick to start this review… “So in the first issue, our heroine is a stripper… Yeah, a stripper. She peels off her clothes for money and does the whole ‘private dance’ thing in the back room, which could mean she’s willing to prostitute herself completely. It’s up to the reader’s imagination… What? Oh, she strips cuz she needs the money. OK, so she’s a stripper, but she keeps to herself. But little does she know does she know that government agents are watching… Yes, in the strip club. In fact, one of them gets off on seeing her strip and even pays for a private dance. He’s a real sleaze bag, which makes it OK when the heroine slices him up… Um, no, she doesn’t do anything particularly heroic in the first issue, but she kills a guy who’s all skeevy. Y’see, he went to a strip club and watched a woman strip, so he deserves to die! Get it? … I’ll tell you who’ll want to read it: 14-year-old boys with strong parental controls on their computers, that’s who.”

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A New 52 Review: Flash #1

Variant coverFlash #1
Writers: Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato
Artist: Manapul
Colors: Buccellato
Letters: Sal Cipirano
Cover artists: Manapul (regular)/Ivan Reis & Tim Townsend (variant)
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

While I looked forward to this entry in DC’s line of 52 new and relaunched titles, I thought I pretty much knew what to expect. The previous incarnation of this series was written by someone else, yes, but it was illustrated by the same regular artist. Furthermore, I figured even with the incorporation of some changes to the title character’s continuity, artist and co-writer Francis Manapul was likely to toe the line with the Flash, maintaining the same momentum Geoff Johns did as writer before him and offering the same sort of strong visuals we got before. Instead, the story takes a slightly different tack, focusing even more on the police-procedural aspect of the character and taking the opportunity as the co-writer to try out more inventive and unusual panel layouts and perspectives in the art. He and co-writer/colorist Brian Buccellato succeed and deliver a solid super-hero comic book. It’s not particularly ground-breaking, but it’s quite entertaining and should please fans of the Scarlet Speedster.

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A New 52 Review: All Star Western #1

All Star Western #1
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist/Cover artist: Moritat
Colors: Gabriel Bautista
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

The script for this first issue suggests one of the underlying conflicts is Jonah Hex’s effort to adjust to a different setting, taking from the open spaces of the Wild West and sticking him in an urban setting that’s practically alien to him. But let’s face facts: the reason DC has plunked Hex in Gotham City is an effort to sell more comics. The publisher’s hoping familiar names such as Arkham and Cobblepot will lure in super-hero genre fans. I don’t know if that’ll achieve its goal, but what should is a fun Victorian crime story and absolutely stunning artwork. The influences that shaped Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s story are far from subtle, and the obvious nature of those inspirations actually took me out of the story at times. Nevertheless, there’s enough of what made Palmiotti and Gray’s Jonah Hex fun to please its fans, and the art alone should be more than enough to grab a hold of new readers (and never let go).

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