Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Archive for August, 2014

Flea Market Finds: Superman v.2 #35

Posted by Don MacPherson on 24th August 2014

Superman v.2 #35
“Visions of Grandeur” & “the Racer’s Edge”
Writer: Jerry Ordway
Pencils: Curt Swan & Kerry Gammill
Inks: Dennis Janke
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Letters: John Costanza
Cover artists: Gammill & Janke
Editor: Mike Carlin
Price: 75 cents US/95 cents CAN

Those original 1989 prices listed above may seem like an incredible bargain by today’s standards, but I got this quirky, quarter-century-old (!) comic book at a local flea market along with three other 1980s books for a mere two bucks. Money well spent. This particular post-Crisis comic is noteworthy for a number of reasons. First of all, there’s the participation of the late, legendary Curt Swan, whose work in the 1960s to the early ’80s defined the look of the Man of Steel for a couple of generations. But more interesting is the unconventional, divided approach to the storytelling. Jerry Ordway has crafted two tales here, one occupying the top half of each page and the other, the bottom. Each is illustrated by a different penciller and focuses on a different character, but what’s so novel about it is how the two stories and their visuals mirror on another. Read the rest of this entry »

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When You Get Your Name In Lights

Posted by Don MacPherson on 24th August 2014

When it comes to other-media adaptations of comic-book properties, I think it’s safe to say we’re something of a Golden Age of quality entertainment, unrivalled and unseen since the days of the many movie serials of the 1940s. Technology has caught up with the imaginations of the men and women who crafted super-hero adventures for years, and movie producers have realized that not only is there a thirst for good super-hero adaptations, but they’re looking at comics for projects other than that genre for which the medium is best known (at least in Western markets).

The biggest movie blockbuster of the summer is the supremely entertaining Guardians of the Galaxy. The most watched show on television is The Walking Dead. Marvel owns super-hero genre adaptations on the big screen, while this fall, DC Entertainment is poised to reign supreme with a full slate of shows — Arrow, The Flash, Constantine and Gotham — on various networks. Fans who grew up with comics in the 20th century could never have imagined such an embarrassment of riches when it comes to seeing beloved characters brought to life.

But speaking of embarrassment and riches, this seemingly unyielding trend of comics adaptations has stoked the flames of controversy, at least among followers of the comic-book industry: respect (or a lack thereof) for the people who actually crafted the characters and concepts that Hollywood is using to harvest big bucks. Read the rest of this entry »

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Grant Me the Wisdom

Posted by Don MacPherson on 21st August 2014

The Multiversity #1
“House of Heroes”
Writer: Grant Morrison
Pencils: Ivan Reis
Inks: Joe Prado
Colors: Nei Ruffino
Letters: Todd Klein
Cover artists: Reis & Prado (regular)/Chris Burnham, Bryan Hitch and Morrison (variants)
Editor: Rickey Purdin
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US

Until I saw a six-page preview of this comic book online last week, I had no idea Grant Morrison’s long-awaited super-hero epic was about to begin publication; I thought it was starting much later in the fall. Nevertheless, I was thrilled to know it was nigh, and I was even moreso after reading the preview. Grant Morrison has a way of writing comics that I don’t fully understand — in some cases, they completely befuddle me (I’m looking at you, The Filth). But that puzzlement never dampened my enjoyment of those comics. In fact, sometimes it made the experience all the more rewarding, because the intellectual exercise of delving into the writer’s meta-textual concepts made me a better reader and demonstrated the versatility and untapped potential in comics storytelling. My hope for The Multiversity was that it would offer a similar experience. That hope was fulfilled. Not only is the adult intellectual comics reader satisfied, but the kid who loved DC’s super-hero books of the 1970s and ’80s is elated as well. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – Aug. 16, 2014

Posted by Don MacPherson on 16th August 2014

Avengers World #11 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Nick Spencer & Raffaele Ienco

A few days ago, I praised the writing in another Avengers title, noting Jonathan Hickman’s of an impossible but intriguing ethical question really served as a nice payoff of his run on that title. Avengers World features another one of Hickman’s larger-than-life Avengers concepts, but this one is at the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of strength. Written by Nick Spencer (with whom Hickman co-wrote this title for a time), it features the young future heroes from the Avengers Next direct-to-video animated movie coming back to the past to save the day in one facet of the multiple-hotspot crisis the title team has been facing over the course of this title. This aspect of the conflict with A.I.M. is resolved thanks to a miraculous plot device that I would imagine any hero, not only those travelling through time, could have employed. Why these future heroes had to come back to deal with the crisis is never made clear. Furthermore, while we’re meant to believe it, they’re never portrayed as particularly more powerful or adept than their present-day predecessors in the Avengers dynasties. Read the rest of this entry »

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Assault on the Senses

Posted by Don MacPherson on 13th August 2014

Batman: Assault on Arkham direct-to-video animated movie
Writer: Heath Corson
Voice actors: Kevin Conroy, Neal McDonough, Hynden Walch, Troy Baker, CCH Pounder, John DiMaggio, Jennifer Hale, Giancarlo Esposito, Greg Ellis & Nolan North
Directors: Jay Oliva & Ethan Spaulding
Producer: Warner Bros. Animation/Warner Premiere Home Video
Rating: PG-13

I was a huge fan of John Ostrander and the late Kim Yale’s Suicide Squad series of the 1980s, and with that in mind, I was rather looking forward to Warner Animation’s latest DC-based direct-to-video release. Despite Batman’s top billing, Assault on Arkham is definitely a Suicide Squad/Task Force X flick (set in the Batman’s video-game universe), and in several ways, the filmmakers get a number of elements of the super-villain strike force concept right. But it misses the mark in others. Ultimately, the most disappointing aspects of the movie are the gratuitous sexual elements when it comes to the female characters and the over-the-top, in-your-face violence. This could have and should have been a much more palatable entertainment experience, and it could have been so without losing the property’s dark edge. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Unthinkable

Posted by Don MacPherson on 11th August 2014

Variant coverNew Avengers #22
“We Are Not Brothers”
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Kev Walker
Colors: Frank Martin
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Dale Keown
Editors: Tom Brevoort & Wil Moss
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

This issue of Jonathan Hickman’s New Avengers (which really ought to be titled Marvel’s Illuminati, because this group’s actions aren’t really those of heroic Avengers) struck me as a particularly noteworthy one. In terms of story, it’s one of the strongest episodes in the run, getting to the heart of the real conflict this gathering of Larger Than Life Men has contended with from the start of the series. And visually, it stands out as one of the weakest of the run, in that the style in which the characters are presented this time is a wholly conventional one for the genre. Hickman sums up the central theme of this series perfectly here, but artist Kev Walker’s approach to this sullen and dramatic script seems like a poor fit for the subject matter. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – Aug. 4, 2014

Posted by Don MacPherson on 4th August 2014

Variant coverJustice League #32 (DC Comics)
by Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke & Keith Champagne

I lost interest in Geoff Johns’s take on DC’s premier super-hero team in the buildup to the “Trinity War” storyline and paid it little heed during the Forever Evil event. However, the ideas that emerged in Justice League in the wake of the crossover definitely piqued my interest. Though it’s been a surprisingly slow build (given it’s a fair accompli in promotional material on other DC titles), the incorporation of Lex Luthor and Captain Cold as members of the League is definitely an unconventional development for mainstream super-hero team comics. We’re not talking about reformed villains joining a team, a la Cap’s Kooky Quarter in Avengers in the Silver Age. Instead, we have two men are still clearly in villain mode making the shift. I’m also enjoying Johns’s introduction of the Doom Patrol in the New 52. the characters are all likeable and generically heroic, but it’s the take on the Chief as having an agenda driven by personal interest rather than altruism that stands out. Slight tweaks to the characters of Elasti-Girl and Negative Man make the characters even more tragic and even just a little bit creepy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Still Crazy After All These Years

Posted by Don MacPherson on 2nd August 2014

Variant coverBodies #1
Writer: Si Spurrier
Artists: Meghan Hetrick, Dean Ormston, Tula Lotay & Phil Winslade
Colors: Lee Loughridge
Letters: Dezi Sienty & Taylor Esposito
Cover artists: Fiona Stephenson (regular)/David Finch (variant)
Editor: Shelly Bond
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo imprint

Vertigo has become a very different entity than it was when it was first formed. The days of long-running horror or mature-readers titles penned by stalwart talent are over (or at least are coming to an end), and instead, it seems to be populated by various limited series and one-shots. Fortunately, as the Eisner-winning The Wake recently demonstrated, it can still be home to some unconventional and even challenging storytelling. The first issue of Si Spurrier’s Bodies seems like the beginnings of a similarly strong and intriguing story. The premise of a serial killer’s activities spanning decades and even centuries is a decent hook but didn’t seem altogether novel, but Spurrier populates this comic with a number of strong character studies that make me want to see more. Read the rest of this entry »

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12 Per Cent of a Plan

Posted by Don MacPherson on 1st August 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy
Actors: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro, Djimon Hounsou and the voices of Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel and Josh Brolin
Director: James Gunn
Writers: James Gunn & Nicole Perlman
Studio: Marvel Studios
Rating: PG

It didn’t disappoint.

To say I was looking forward to this movie is an understatement. Like many comics fans, Guardians of the Galaxy held a special place in my heart because it was a major movie release featuring something other than household names in terms of comics characters. As such, I did something last night I never do: I went to an opening-night showing. The plotting here is by the numbers, but the cast and dialogue really help this movie stand out. It’s a safe bet it’ll be an eternal favorite, the kind of flick that one would eagerly sit for multiple viewings. Read the rest of this entry »

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