Monthly Archives: September 2012

Let’s Talk About Sax

Variant coverHappy! #1
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Darick Robertson
Colors: Richard P. Clark
Letters: Simon Bowland
Cover artists: Robertson (regular)/Michael Allred (variant)
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I’m always up for a new Grant Morrison project, and it’s nice to see him return to creator-owned projects after such a long stay in the DC Universe. That he opted to offer new, original work through Image Comics goes a long way to solidify the publisher as the home of new, unconventional and strong creator-owned work. The core premise of this new series — the juxtaposition of the hard-boiled crime genre and a cartoony fantasy element — is fairly simple and on the surface, seemingly clever. But the two disparate sides of Happy! just don’t seem to mesh well. Furthermore, the gory, unrelenting scenes of underworld violence — even before the opposite element comes into play — turned me off. Morrison plunges us in the middle of a situation in which a group of awful people do awful things to one another, and what’s left out is a reason for the reader to care about any of them.

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Quick Critiques – Sept. 26, 2012

Geek-Girl #0 (Actuality Press)
by Sam Johnson & Sally Thompson

The writer and creator of this project, Sam Johnson, sent along a review copy, and the title boasted a campy charm, so I figured I’d enjoy what I assumed was a satirical take on the super-hero genre. There’s definitely a tongue-in-cheek quality at play throughout the comic book, but the story seems to toe the line between satire and convention. What’s off-putting about Johnson’s writing here is his characterization. Just about every character is distasteful in some way. The title character comes off as opportunistic and petty, determined to steal what eventually becomes the source of her power in order to stick it to a guy she doesn’t like. Supporting players in the story come off as being just as shallow, if not moreso. By the time I got to a thinly veiled reference to casual anal sex in the script, I felt completely alienated by the writing. The scene transitions are awkward as well. The unfortunate thing is the core premise is kind of cute and would resonate somewhat in genre fan culture.

Sally Thompson’s artwork boasts an initial appeal. At first, there’s a softness to the title character’s features, and Thompson’s style at first reminded me of Takeshi Miyazawa’s cute, Amerimanga artwork. But as the story progressed, the quality of the linework seemed to deteriorate. By the end of the book, it looks as though the art was inked using a finger rather than a fine brush or nib. The design for the heroine’s costume is gratuitous in nature, but it’s obvious Johnson’s property is about exploring (or poking fun at) a bookish kind of sexuality that’s popular in geek culture. Geek-Girl strikes me as an amateur effort that would benefit from some editing guidance and more artistic experience. 3/10

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Wooing the Reaper

Thanos: The Final Threat #1
“The Final Threat” and “Death Watch”
Writer/Pencils/Cover artist: Jim Starlin
Inks: Joe Rubenstein
Colors: Petra Goldberg
Letters: Tom Orzechowski & Annette Kawecki
Editor: Archie Goodwin
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US

Earlier this month, Marvel released a one-shot collecting the 1990 two-part limited series Thanos Quest. I didn’t pick it up, because I bought and read the original issues back … Jesus, 22 years ago. I enjoyed them, just as I enjoyed quite a bit of Jim Starlin’s cosmic super-hero comics of the time. But I’ve always wanted to read his classic Thanos story from the late 1970s from Avengers Annual #7 and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2. I was thrilled to learn those two comics were being collected in this one-shot, separate from other Thanos stories I’ve read and already own. These 1977 scripts certainly show their age, but they’re also well-crafted in other ways. Starlin’s accessible stories are full of action and energy, but maybe what makes this reprint one-shot really stand out is the title character. Though almost cartoonish in his villainy, Thanos’ motive is oddly compelling. It’s not often a nihilist is driven to commit crimes on an unspeakable scale simply because he’s lovelorn for an abstract concept. Despite their overwrought qualities, these are great comics that every fan of the super-hero genre should experience.

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People Are Strange, When You’re a Stranger

Phantom Stranger #0
“A Stranger Among Us”
Writer: Dan DiDio
Pencils/Cover artist: Brent Anderson
Inks: Scott Hanna
Colors: Jeromy Cox
Letters: Travis Lanham
Editor: Wil Moss
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

It was clear from the title character’s appearance in DC Comics – The New 52 FCBD Special Edition #1, he’s intended to be a part of a larger event-driven story, likely the first of DC’s New 52 continuity, as he’s been linked to Pandora, the mysterious woman who appeared in all 52 first issues of the line back in September 2011. And judging from this origin issue, DC is employing the Phantom Stranger as a catalyst to bring more of its classic characters into the New 52 fold. There’s just one problem: the Stranger doesn’t seem to have much of a story of his own. Sure, there’s his effort to redeem himself by performing divine tasks to rid himself of his cursed coins, but his real purpose appears to be to make things happen for other characters. And it all seems rather pointless.

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The Con of the Art

Super-hero comics artist Aaron Lopresti made an interesting and disconcerting discovery late last month when browsing through listings on eBay. He happened upon an online auction for a piece of original comic art he’d crafted — the cover for New X-Men #19 (2005), featuring the characters Magik and Hellion. The seller described the piece as being pencilled and inked by Lopresti and as being “published original art on 11×17 comic art board.”

There was just one problem. Lopresti knew the seller didn’t have the piece in question because he still had it.

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Quick Critiques – Sept. 3, 2012

Green Lantern Annual #1 (DC Comics)
by Geoff Johns, Ethan Van Sciver, Pete Woods & Cam Smith

This annual certainly feels as though it merits the label. It feels like an important moment in the series, offering not only an end to the previous storyline — the Sinestro/Hal team — but also a launching point for the larger “Rise of the Third Army” crossover story about to run through all four of DC’s Green Lantern-related titles. Unfortunately, the Sinestro/Hal plot isn’t allowed to resolve on its own, and in order to follow this comic book, one is really required to be well versed in the past few years of GL continuity (notably, Blackest Night and the ethical deterioration of the Guardian of the Universe in its wake). There’s something surprisingly satisfying about seeing the Guardians become the villains of the story rather than simply an authoritarian obstacle for the title character to overcome. There’s something downright anti-Republican about their mission to make everyone in the universe to be and think just like them that somehow allowed this space-opera/fantasy story to resonate a little more with me, especially given current events in the United States. I continue to enjoy and appreciate Black Hand as a villain, which 20-30 years ago, when I first encountered the character, I would’ve thought to be impossible. Nevertheless, I can’t shake the feeling the reader has to be a devotee to Johns’s GL comics over the past few years to really get the most out of this story (and so many others before it).

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