Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Archive for July, 2014

Quick Critiques – July 28, 2014

Posted by Don MacPherson on 28th July 2014

Variant coverAfterlife with Archie #6 (Archie Comics)
by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & Francesco Francavilla

In a way, this is the most interesting issue of the series thus far since the first, mainly because writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa shifts horror sub-genres here with his focus on Sabrina the Teenage Witch. After its hiatus, the title moves from zombie apocalypse to a thoroughly Lovecraftian conflict. I’m a bit surprised the writer didn’t opt for slightly veiled references to the Cthulhu literary legend, but here, he’s opted not just to lift the veil but to shred it and burn it. It lets the reader know exactly where s/he stands, which puts the audience well ahead of our heroine. I like the psychological horror here, and the mystery of exactly what’s befallen Sabrina. Aguirre-Sacasa even manages to inject some of the more mature, darker character exploration of these Archie Comics icons. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about Sabrina for it really to resonate. Other than her aunts and Salem, I don’t have a clue about her supporting cast. Read the rest of this entry »

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Out of Africa

Posted by Don MacPherson on 23rd July 2014

Tüki #1
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Jeff Smith
Publisher: Cartoon Books
Price: $3.99 US

Jeff Smith is a member of select club of comics creators who have worked almost exclusive for themselves, who focus their efforts on creator-owned properties and have managed to find great success with work they’ve written and illustrated themselves. Smith, with his epic Bone, has already carved out a spot of honor for himself in the history of the medium alongside such stalwart talents as Dave Sim, Terry Moore and more. But fortunately for those of us who appreciate his craft. I also appreciate the breadth of genres and material he’s opted to explore over his career. I’m pleased (but not surprised) to report Tüki boasts the same sense of wonder and humor that made Smith’s landmark Bone such a success. Tüki stands apart from the original runs of its older siblings in that it’s being presented in full color, and it’s a wise choice. The format for this comic is also a noteworthy difference. Tüki offers just about everything Smith’s fans love about his storytelling, but it still finds ways to do it in new ways. Hopefully, its release on the same day that this year’s Comic Con International opens in San Diego will ensure it’s not overlooked by a wider audience. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Indy/Small Press | 3 Comments »

Flea Market Finds: Spirits of the Earth

Posted by Don MacPherson on 19th July 2014

Spider-Man: Spirits of the Earth original hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Charles Vess
Letters: Gaspar Saladino
Editor: Jim Salicrup
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $18.95 US/$22.95 CAN/£11.50 UK

The local Sunday flea market was defunct for a few weeks as it searched for a new venue, its previous locale becoming unavailable to it a little while ago. It found its summer home at a downtown curling club, and when I drove by a couple of times, the parking lot indicated sparse attendance. A few weeks ago, I found myself in the area on a Sunday afternoon, and looking at the time, I realized there was about a half hour left before it wrapped for the day. I had nothing on the agenda at that moment, so I pulled in and checked it out. There wasn’t much in the way of comics to be found. I saw one vendor who specialized in some back issues, all priced pretty too high. One doesn’t go into a flea market looking for comics valued by means of a price guide. One is after bargains; once in a blue moon, I haul some boxes to the flea market and blow them out, most of them for 50 cents apiece.

On my way out after a quick 10-minute reconnaissance of the market, I spied something on a table just 15 feet from the door. It looked like Spider-Man, and it looked like a book, so I took a closer look. Sitting there in pretty good shape was a hardcover copy of Spider-Man: Spirits of the Earth, a graphic novel of which I was aware in mostly a passing fashion. On top of that, it was a first printing of the 1990 book. The dust jacket showed a little wear but no tears, marred only by what I assumed was dried little bits of Play-Doh that flaked off easily. The price tag: three bucks. With only minutes left before the venue closed, I offered the grizzled old guy behind the table two, and he accepted. I fished a toonie out of my pocket, gave it to him and made off with what I felt was practically treasure (at least at that price). Read the rest of this entry »

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Admit It, You’ve Always Wanted to Get Into My Pants…

Posted by Don MacPherson on 18th July 2014

Just about everyone I know is well aware of what a huge comic-book enthusiast I am. My friends, my colleagues at work, strangers on the Internet — my comic-geek cred is apparent for all to see. As a kid, it was something I often kept to myself, but the 21st century has brought about an acceptance of geek culture, as non-comics readers have shown interest ranging from mild curiosity to hearty embracing of the medium for which I have such a passion. Those closest to me accept and acknowledge my interest, and in recent years, I’ve almost always received a few comics-related Christmas gifts — from my wife, my parents, even my mother-in-law. It’s genuinely touching.

But over the holidays in 2013, my now-four-year-old gave me what may be my favorite comics-connected present ever: Superman underpants. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – July 17, 2014

Posted by Don MacPherson on 17th July 2014

Dark Engine #1 (Image Comics)
by Ryan Burton & John Bivens

Image Comics has garnered a strong reputation for superb, cutting-edge comics, but the titles that get the most attention, understandably, are those by established talents in the comics industry. So it’s easy to sometimes overlook other titles being offered by newer names, relative unknowns. Dark Engine is one such comic book, and it shows a lot of promise, both from writer Ryan Burton and artist John Bivens. Dark Engine kind of strikes me like a cross between East of West and Prophet. It’s got an interesting contrast going between a cerebral tone and a sense of brutality and savagery that grabs the reader’s attention. The purple prose that characterizes the narration and the dialogue for the dragon figure at the beginning of the book is, I have to admit, a bit off-putting. I was immediately taken back to a number of Thor stories set in Asgard that I didn’t like — too many flourishes and lofty phrases in the script. The human characters who appear later in the issue temper that a bit, as they speak more normally, offering just a hint of something familiar with which the audience can connect. The use of lower-case lettering for the narrative captions is an unfortunate choice, as the font doesn’t work well with the harshness of the premise and book’s overall look. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mushroommate

Posted by Don MacPherson on 16th July 2014

Seconds original hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Bryan Lee O’Malley
Drawing assistant: Jason Fischer
Colors: Nathan Fairbairn
Letters: Dustin Harbin
Publisher: Ballantine Books/Penguin Random House
Price: $25 US

Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim books are undeniably a master work in the medium of comics, and I fully appreciated his approach in those books. That being said, they weren’t graphic novels that really clicked for me, though it was certainly no fault of O’Malley’s. The young, slacker, characters and the immersion in gamer culture were just so alien to me. I didn’t and couldn’t connect with the title character and his world. Nevertheless, I was anticipating this new O’Malley project just as much as other comics enthusiasts. Imagine my pleasure and surprise to find one of the key elements emerging in its opening pages was the protagonist’s sense of generational isolation from the younger people working in her restaurant. I immediately connected with Katie, and the message at the heart of this book is a philosophy I’ve observed for years, ever since my professional and personal lives came into focus in my 30s. Read the rest of this entry »

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Letter Bugs – Anderson Laments the End of Marvel

Posted by Don MacPherson on 13th July 2014

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.)

It’s been almost four years (!) since I last explored this feature, but some time spent sifting through a box of assorted back issue picked up at a flea market brought me back to a bunch of letter pages, and to a couple of pre-pro fan letters. The last time I wrote about these little lettercol treasures, we visited with Astro City writer Kurt Busiek long before he broke into the comics industry. This time, his Astro City artistic collaborator steps into the “Letter Bugs” spotlight. Read the rest of this entry »

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Artful Dodges

Posted by Don MacPherson on 12th July 2014

I’ve grown more and more interested in collecting original comic art over the past couple of years, and I’m slowly gathering a collection of original pages. My budget is limited, so I’m always on the lookout for bargains. I’ve managed to land some great deals by keeping a close eye on eBay listings, and I’ve managed to pick up quite a few pages for less than $100 apiece on the auction site. In my quest for those bargains (and as part of my general interest in the hobby and market), I think I’ve managed to develop a general sense of appropriate ranges of values for many kinds of pages by various artists. So when I happened upon a listing for a Captain America page from 1992, pencilled by the late Rik Levins, I was taken aback. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – July 10, 2014

Posted by Don MacPherson on 10th July 2014

Daredevil #5 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Mark Waid & Chris Samnee

Daredevil, as guided by Mark Waid and his creative partners on these various series, continues to stand out as one of Marvel’s best titles, mixing Silver Age fun and traditions with more modern, sophisticated sensibilities. That being said, this was one of the more lackluster issues in Waid’s tenure. This episode answers the question as to how and why Foggy Nelson’s death was faked in between the previous series and this relaunched one, but it wasn’t such a deep mystery that it required a full flashback issue. Still, there are some strong characterization bits to be found here. I am starting to get a bit tired of Waid’s repeated use of the original Ant-Man as a cure-all for any sci-fi/super-hero-genre plotting challenge that arises. If Waid took the time to foster a stronger link between the title character and Hank Pym, a developing friendship, his repeated appearances mightn’t seem so jarring. Mind you, I can’t deny that Waid’s use of a wider and more colorful array of characters and concepts from across the Marvel Universe in Daredevil’s previously small little corner of it continues to entertain.

Samnee’s art is a wonderful match to that more wondrous feel. Most striking visually in this issue was his depiction of Foggy, thin and frail but not seemingly deathly ill. He seems so much like a regular guy, and the way his body moves under Samnee’s hand looks quite natural. Read the rest of this entry »

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