Monthly Archives: November 2017

Quick Critiques – Nov. 20, 2017


Bug! The Adventures of Forager #5 (DC Comics/Young Animal imprint)
by Michael Allred & Lee Allred/by James Harvey

The only truly disappointing thing about this comic was the blurb at the end of the main story indicating the next issue will be the final one. This issue of Bug!, like those before it, was another loving tribute to the work of the late Jack Kirby, this time examining an even weirder incarnation of OMAC and Brother Eye. The plot is rather difficult to discern, as has been the case throughout this case. The Allred brothers have been offering up a seemingly stream-of-consciousness approach to fringe super-hero storytelling, and that continues here with almost random story concepts. But they’re wild, campy and entertaining concepts. I particular enjoyed how the writers linked the Mother Box of the Fourth World characters to Brother Eye. Mike Allred’s linework is perfect for the bizarre Kirby concepts on display here, but it would be for nought if Laura Allred’s brilliant, primary color palette didn’t enhance that energy.

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High in the Sky

Void Trip #1
Writer: Ryan O’Sullivan
Artist/Colors: Plaid Klaus
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Cover artists: Klaus (regular)/Sarah Suhng, Caspar Wijngaard, Alessandro Vitti & Mike McKone (variants)
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Image Comics is such a radically different beast than what it was when it launched a quarter century (!) ago. Them, it was home to creator-owned properties by some of the most popular talents in the industry, but it was basically a super-hero publisher, offering the same sort of fare as Marvel and DC. It’s finally evolved into what it was meant to be: a haven for creator-owned work across many genres, both crafted by the best-known writers and artists in the industry but also by new names. Void Trip falls into the latter category. Image has had such a solid track record as of late, it makes me want to sample all of its titles, but if there’s any problem with its publishing plans, it’s that it’s pumping out too many comics. Nevertheless, I like to try something new from Image from time to time, and I’m thoroughly pleased to chose to peruse Void Trip. This sci-fi comedy reads like someone took elements from the Star Wars franchise, threw them into a blender with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and hit purée.

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League Rules

Justice League
Actors: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Neilsen, Joe Morton, J.K. Simmons, Billy Crudup & Amber Heard
Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: Snyder, Chris Terrio & Joss Whedon
Studio: Warner Bros.
Rating: PG

Yes, I saw it, and it filled me with joy.

Almost every element of the new DC cinematic universe (save for the Suicide Squad) turns up in this movie, and as I saw name after name of A-list actors in the opening credits, I wondered how all of these characters and a story that could link them all could fit coherently and comfortably in a two-hour movie. But they did, they do. People who haven’t cared for director Zack Snyder’s earlier movies in the DC franchise should be pleased with what they find here; this boasts the fun they sought. And for those who did enjoy Man of Steel and Batman Vs. Superman, Justice League builds on those foundations well, acknowledging them and evolving from them to offer something brighter.

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All-Stars Game


A DC comic came to a DC television show, but it only “flashed” on screen for a couple of moments. In this week’s episode of The Flash on the CW (CTV in Canada), we catch a glimpse of super-hero-in-training Ralph Dibny (not yet dubbed the Elongated Man) reading a comic book. I spied right away that it was an issue of Young All-Stars, a 1980s comic set during World War II.

A quick search online yielded a screen capture (seen above), and then a perusal of the Young All-Stars cover gallery on the Grand Comics Database uncovered a match to issue #20 (released January 1989), written by Roy and Dann Thomas, with art by Michael Bair, Ron harris and Tony DeZuniga. Its appearance as a prop in “When Harry Met Harry,” episode six of Season Four of The Flash, was a delight for this longtime DC reader.

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Comic Art Listing Looks a Bit Sketchy

The market for original comic art, commissioned comic art and sketches by noted professionals in the medium has exploded in recent years. Pieces that were once valued at less than $100 are now selling for hundreds more. Four- and five-figure prices for sought-after art and artists is commonplace these days. With the rise in demand and corresponding rise in prices comes an unfortunate side effect: fraud.

Phony comic art has definitely circulated in the marketplace, so buyers have to be knowledgeable and aware so as to avoid being fleeced. In addition to reading comics, I’m a collector of original art, and as such, I’m always scanning the marketplace for affordable pieces. Ebay has been a great resource to get bargains, so I peruse the original comic art listings on the site almost on a daily basis.

I stumbled across a piece Sunday that caught my eye; well, truth be told, it was the listing title that caught my eye: “BLACK CANARY FULL FIGURE original art commission by DARWYN COOKE (BEAUTIFUL).” I have three sketches from the late artist in my convention sketchbook, and I’ll always treasure them. As a fan of his work, I’m always up for a glance at something else he did.

As I looked at the scan of the sketch included in the auction, I immediately had some questions about it.

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Detective Comic

Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini #1
Writer/Artist/Colors: Cynthia Von Buhler
Letters: Simon Bowland
Cover artists: David Mack, Robert McGinnis, Cynthia Von Buhler & photo cover
Editors: Charles Ardai & Tom Williams
Publisher: Titan Comics/Hard Case Crime imprint
Price: $3.99 US

OK, this may be the best title I’ve ever seen — on a comic, a book, a movie. Ever. That alone should be enough to get just about anyone to pick up this comic book and peruse its pages. Mind you, not everyone should, as this one is definitely not for the younger set, even those with a taste for historical fiction. Writer/artist Cynthia Von Buhler has created something rather unique here, and that’s an even better reason for one to check out this work. The fun and even slightly naughty qualities of this plot actually dress up a more pertinent message (especially in today’s socio-political environment): female empowerment. The protagonist is a woman who refuses to “know” her place in the early 20th century, and the other key players in the drama are women as well. What drew me in the most here was the mystery — not just the mystery at the heart of the plot, but the permeating celebration of the appeal of mystery, and the strong, willful personality of the title heroine had me eager to see her succeed.

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Quick Critiques – Nov. 9, 2017

Batman: Lost #1 (DC Comics)
by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson, Doug Mahnke, Yanick Paquette, Jorge Jimenez & Jaime Mendoza

Even if I had no interest in the Metal crossover event giving rise to this one-shot, I would have been drawn to it just based on the artistic talent contributing to the visuals for this comic. Doug Mahnke and Jamie Mendoza’s meticulous linework has the perfect kind of intensity to it, bringing an edge even to the seemingly wholesome vision of an elderly Bruce Wayne reading to his potential granddaughter. Jorge Jimenez’s exaggerated and stylized art has been a great deal of fun on Super Sons, so it was interesting to see it take on a harsher tone for this story. But the art I enjoyed the most in this book came from Yanick Paquette, who’s had a strong association with Batman during the Grant Morrison runs on various titles. Paquette’s take on the character never fails to put me in mind of the style of Kevin Nowlan. I also appreciated how he tweaked his style slightly to convey different time periods in which the Batman finds himself in this ever-flowing hellscape.

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Bend It Like Bendis

The news broke Tuesday that Brian Michael Bendis, a writer whose name has been synonymous with the Marvel brand for almost two decades, is wrapping up his tenure and creating new work for its Distinguished Competition. It’s a huge development in the American comics industry. I’ve been a big fan of a lot of Bendis’s work at Marvel — mainly the solo titles as opposed to team books — and as a guy who started out reading only DC comics as a kid, I’m excited to see what Bendis will do with some of my cherished childhood icons.

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Textbook Examples

How Comics Work
Writers: Dave Gibbons & Tim Pilcher
Cover artist: Gibbons
Editor: Angela Koo
Publisher: Wellfleet Press
Price: $24.99 US

While best known as the artist on the landmark Watchmen series (though most commonly read as a graphic novel collection for years now), Dave Gibbons has had and continues to enjoy a decades-spanning career, not only as a comics artist, but as an accomplished writer. He’s worked with and learned not only from the best writers the medium has known, but also from the best inkers, colorists, letterers and production people. So who better to guide readers through “how to” book on the craft of comics. The title of this paperback is a bit deceptive. While Gibbons and co-writer Tim Pilcher do touch on how the medium works overall, this book could have easily been titled How to Make Comics. It’s like a textbook, or even a manual on how to put a comic book together from scratch. From the first glimmer of an idea for a story to the printing press, Gibbons and Pilcher take us through the process. It should appeal not only to someone just starting out in the world of comics, but longtime fans of the medium.

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It’s the End of the World As We Know It

Thor: Ragnarok
Actors: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Idris Elba, Karl Urban, Tessa Thompson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Ruffalo & Anthony Hopkins
Director: Taika Waititi
Writers: Eric Pearson and Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost
Studio: Marvel Studios
Rating: PG

It was clear early on from promotional efforts that Thor: Ragnarok was going to be a much different beast than the previous two Thor movies, and that was a wise approach on the part of Marvel Studios, since those earlier Thor flicks, while successful, weren’t among its most popular offerings and often felt a bit stiff. Well, Ragnarok ain’t stiff, that’s for sure, but I’d have to say the studio overcompensated. This is a buddy slapstick comedy dressed up with super-hero elements, and it’s quite a bit of fun. Part of that fun stems from great performances from actors just joining the Marvel cinematic universe for this project. Other aspects of the fun, though, flow from better known players in the silver-screen continuity acting out of character for brief moments. It’s funny, for sure, but ultimately, I left the theatre feeling as though this installment in the Marvel cinema brand was a bit… inconsequential. Don’t get me wrong, it’s worth seeing on the big screen, but it shouldn’t be topping anyone’s list of favorite Marvel movies.

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Artful Obsessions: It’s Pronounced Voit-KEV-itch

Everyone has their favorite incarnation of the Justice League, be it the Silver Age original, the JL Detroit team, Grant Morrison and Howard Porter’s return of the Big Seven, or perhaps (and most definitely in my case) the humor era begun in the late 1980s by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire. I don’t think anyone has ever mentioned the two-year stint on Justice League America from the mid-1990s by writer Gerard Jones and artist Chuck Wojtkiewicz, which saw a new lineup launched in the wake of Zero Hour.

I have very few issues from this run on the title, which surprises me a little, since included in the team roster at the time were Infinity Inc. alums Nuklon and Obsidian, characters I’ve loved since they were introduced in All-Star Squadron in the early 1980s. Despite my lack of connection with this era of the JLA, I jumped at the chance to pick up this board from Justice League America #98. The price was right, and there was a lot about the page that appealed to me.

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Quick Critiques – Nov. 4, 2017

Avengers #673 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Mark Waid, Javier Pina & Paco Diaz

I lost touch with Waid’s Avengers some time ago, but given my interest in his Champions title, I signed back on for this crossover between the two team titles. I love Waid’s writing in general, but I’m just not connecting with this story. Part of the problem is that I’ve always loathed the High Evolutionary as a villain. I find him painfully uninteresting and don’t really get how he’s tapped genetics to transform himself essentially into a near-omnipotent being. I’ve never fully understood what motivates him. Furthermore, the way things stand here, it appears many Marvel heroes are well aware the big bad guy has been perched on Counter-Earth and have done nothing to ensure he doesn’t do exactly what he’s doing in this storyline. The real heart of this story, though, is the conflict between one member of the Avengers and one of the Champions: Vision and Viv. The father/daughter dynamic should be the grounded, relatable aspect of this plot, but it’s handled so… loudly, it just doesn’t seem to serve their story or characters right. Given that Viv was introduced in Tom King’s brilliant and quietly intense 12-issue Vision series not long ago, finally addressing the tension between the father and daughter in this bombastic crossover event seems as though it does a disservice to that foundation that gave rise to the relationship in the first place.

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Justice, Like Lightning…

Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1
“Cold Dead Hands, Part One: Ready to Do It All Over”
Writer: Tony Isabella
Artist: Clayton Henry
Colors: Pete Pantazis
Letters: Josh Reed
Cover artists: Clayton Henry (regular)/Ken Lashley (variant)
Editors: Rob Levin, Harvey Richards & Jim Chadwick
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I took note of this comic book’s release this week because it marks a turning point in a creative relationship between DC Comics and a writer, Tony Isabella. The latter has been quite vocal over the years about his dissatisfaction with how the Black Lightning property has been handled in the decades since it debuted, and how he’s been treated as the character’s main creator. With a Black Lightning TV series set to begin next year and Isabella’s return to pen new BL comics, it’s clear the relationship has been repaired. The problem with such a backstory is that it sets an awfully high bar for a creator’s return to the notable character he crafted, so it begs the question: is the comic any good? I’ll be honest that I was expecting something different — something edgier and far more steeped in socio-political issues than it is. I was surprised to find a rather traditional super-hero comic, not nearly as dark as I anticipated. There’s actually an unexpected playfulness to the titular hero that was a bit of fun. Easily the best thing this comic has going for it is the artwork by Clayton Henry, whose crisp lines, paired with some popping colors, bring as much energy to the story as what we see pouring out of the protagonist’s fingertips.

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Charting a Course


A comic artist with a quarter century of experience in the industry, including memorable projects involving Batman for DC Comics, is heading back to school, but he’ll be the teacher and anybody, anywhere can attend classes.

Bo Hampton — an Atlanta, Georgia-based artist known for such comics as DC’s Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, Batman: Castle of the Bat and Legend of Sleepy Hollow from Image Comics — launched Drawing for Comics on Nov. 1. It’s an online course teaching comics illustration, and Hampton is delivering it through a series of videos, as well as options for live Skype assessment sessions.

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