Monthly Archives: June 2018

What About Bob?

Sentry #1
“Sentry World, Part 1 of 5”
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Kim Jacinto
Colors: Rain Beredo
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Travis Lanham
Cover artists: Brian Hitch (regular)/Kim Jacinto and Pyeongjun Park (variants)
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

I don’t get it.

When writer Paul Jenkins and artist Jae Lee introduced the Sentry in 2000, it was an interesting experiment in genre storytelling – a super-hero who’d been erased from continuity because it turned out he was as big a threat to reality as he was its savior. The problem arose when Marvel’s writers and editors decided to make use of the character beyond the initial limited series. The character was wisely killed off in the Siege event book eight years ago. And now he’s back, because… because… Why the hell did Marvel bring him back? Jeff Lemire doesn’t offer an explanation for how Bob Reynolds survived his supposed death, nor is there a clear purpose to this deeply depressing story.

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It’s Not Easy Being Green

A Study in Emerald hardcover graphic novel
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artist/Cover artist: Rafael Albuquerque
Adaptation script: Albuquerque & Rafael Savone
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Todd Klein
Editor: Daniel Chabon
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics/Dark Horse Books
Price: $17.99 US/$23.99 CAN

This comics adaptation of a Neil Gaiman short story from 15 years ago blends the seminal works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and H.P. Lovecraft that captures the atmospheres, intelligence and, in the case of the latter, pervasive horror in a riveting read. I hadn’t been aware of the previous piece of prose work by Gaiman, so artist Rafael Albuquerque’s decision to revisit the material opened my eyes to something I’d unfortunately missed. Now, I have to be honest — I’ve not read any of Lovecraft’s writing, only about his writing. The good news is that one can appreciate and thoroughly enjoy this story with even only a passing familiarity with his darkly surreal stories of ancient evil. Though creepy and unsettling throughout, the story is oddly playful as well, and Albuquerque’s loose linework brings the Victorian period to life perfectly.

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What a Dick

Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer #1
Writers: Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins
Artists: Marcelo Salaza & Marcio Freire
Letters/Editor: Tom Williams
Publisher: Titan Comics/Hard Case Crime imprint
Price: $3.99 US

I’m of two minds when it comes to this revival of a classic detective character. Writer Max Allan Collins, apparently adapting an original Mickey Spillane story, certainly captures a classic period private-eye piece. Elements that would otherwise come off as cliche instead feel campy and nostalgic. On the other hand, the effort to stay true to the original character and material belies a tone that just doesn’t feel entirely appropriate for 21st century pop entertainment. There’s a blatant misogyny at play that’s understandable given the source material, but it’s also clear there’s a clear choice not to evolve. Combined with some stiff artwork, and I was left feeling a bit let down.

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Water, Water Everywhere…

Little Girl # 1
“Chapter One: Shalt Not”
Writer: Pat Shand
Artist/Cover artist: Olivia Pelaez
Colors: Fran Gamboa & J.C. Ruiz
Letters: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Devil’s Due Comics/1First Comics
Price: $3.99 US each

Pat Shand is most closely associated with the Zenescope brand, and it’s one that’s been built on buxom reinterpretations of storybook characters, and that doesn’t appeal to me. But as Shand demonstrates with this horror title, he’s capable of more mature and interesting fare. At first glance, Little Girl is a comic that seeks to capitalize on the prevalence of the image of the drenched, creepy, long-haired girl in Japanese horror films and Western adaptations, and in a text piece in the back of the first issue, Shand acknowledges the inspiration. But he does something a little different with it here. I was drawn in by the story, more from the fact that every player in the drama is deeply flawed and dishonest. Nevertheless, the writer makes them relatable, even sympathetic, as they make poor choices and struggle with relationships. This is a mature and thoughtful story, illustrated perfectly in an angular, exaggerated style that amps up the tension – both interpersonal and supernatural.

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Better Red Than Dead

Shanghai Red #1
“Chapter One: Life Among the Rats”
Writer: Christopher Sebela
Artist/Colors: Joshua Hixson
Letters: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Cover artists: Hixson (regular)/Tyle Boss (variant)
Editor: Andrea Shockling
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I was fortunate enough to get a chance to look at a preview copy of this comic book for review purposes. Here’s how good it is: upon its release, I bought the first issue at my local comic shop and added it immediately to my pull list. Shanghai Red (a reference to the main protagonist) is a dark and grisly piece of historical fiction, but it’s absolutely riveting. It reads a little like what might arise if director Quentin Tarantino were asked to deliver a spin on Pirates of the Caribbean. Mind you, there are no pirates here, only sailors and slave labour, and the inherent conflict that would arise from such circumstances. This may very well be the best comic book I’ve read in weeks, and what’s truly surprising is that it flows from the talent of creators who are completely unknown to be.

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The True Origin of Black Lightning

As those with an interest in comics history (and specifically when it comes to the super-hero genre) know, Black Lightning is an African-American super-hero created by writer Tony Isabella with artist Trevor Von Eeden for his own short-lived title under the DC Comics banner back in 1977. While it was one of many casualties of the DC Implosion, which saw the cancellation of a slew of titles, the character has lived on through the decades, both under Isabella’s guidance (sporadically, due to conflicts with the publisher over the years) and in stories penned by other writers.

Recently, the character’s profile in the broader pop-culture consciousness has seen a huge bump with the success of the first season of the Black Lightning television series on the CW.

But when perusing a back issue of another DC title recently, I discovered Black Lightning debuted long before 1977. In fact, the name showed up in a DC comic three years before Isabella was even born.

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Winged History

Hawkman #1
“Awakening, Part One: What’s Past Is Prologue”
Writer: Robert Venditti
Pencils: Bryan Hitch
Inks: Andrew Currie & Bryan Hitch
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Cover artists: Hitch (regular)/Stjepan Sejic (variant)
Editor: Marie Javins
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I honestly had no idea what I expect from this latest effort to relaunch DC’s Winged Warrior and to connect with an audience. I’ve enjoyed past takes on the character – notably Geoff Johns’s tenure on the character from the early 2000s – but ultimately, his history in the wake of DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths has been a convoluted mess. The attempt to merge the Golden Age Hawkman with the Silver Age counterpart just never worked properly, and the problem wasn’t just continuity, but clarity in storytelling. Writer Robert Venditti has promised this new vision of Hawkman will be simpler and more accessible, but the script for this first issue doesn’t necessarily bear that out. Nevertheless, I am intrigued. It appears that instead of trying to ignore the many conflicting and diverse takes on Hawkman, the writer will embrace that oddity. My hope is that he’ll arrive at something more focused and new. Meanwhile, the real reason I picked up this comic book didn’t disappoint, and that’s the richly detailed and realistic artwork of Bryan Hitch.

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Hammer Time

Thor #1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: Mike Del Mundo & Christian Ward
Colors: Mike Del Mundo, Marco D’Alfonso & Christian Ward
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Joe Sabino
Cover artists: Del Mundo (regular)/Kaare Andrews; Russell Dauterman; James Harren; Jack Kirby & Vince Colletta; Esad Ribic; and Christian Ward (variants)
Editor: Wil Moss
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US

I’ve been reading Jason Aaron’s tenure on the adventures of Marvel’s God of Thunder for several years now, and it remains as entertaining as ever. He takes a slightly different tack with the main story here, approaching the Norse hero from a sillier perspective at first, and it’s a lot of fun. The backup story also features his ongoing exploration of King Thor of the far-flung future and his granddaughters. Where this comic book goes awry is in regard to something that’s out of the hands of the creative contributors. The marketing and publishing strategy here is all wrong, focused solely on a short-term gain but not on building the readership. This doesn’t work as a first issue in any way. It’s built completely on Thor stories (featuring the Odinson and Jane Foster incarnations) that have come before in recent years. This isn’t an accessible gateway into Thor’s world at present, and any casual fans of the character, especially those driven to this book by a love of the Marvel movies, will be at a loss. Scrawling the legacy numbering (#707) in a little corner of the cover doesn’t rectify the problem.

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Witch Hunt

Witchblade #6
Writer: Caitlin Kittredge
Artist/Cover artist: Roberta Ingranata
Colors: Bryan Valenza
Letters: Troy Peteri
Editor: Eric Stephenson
Publisher: Image Comics/Top Cow Productions
Price: $3.99 US

While not the first comic to come from Image founder Marc Silvestri’s Top Cow Productions, Witchblade was its most successful property. It spawned its own little corner of the Image universe and even had its own short-lived, live-action television series. I was never a fan, though, as Witchblade seemed emblematic of the “Kewl” 1990s super-hero comic: superficially edgy fare the real purpose of which always seemed to be the prominent presentation of tits and asses. Objectification was job No. 1 with Witchblade comics in the past, so when a relaunch debuted this year, I was curious to see if Top Cow would stick with that sexist cachet or try to evolve. The good news is that the latter proved to be the case, but unfortunately, the plotting is rather clichéd, offering some loose-cannon-cop tropes dressed up with super-hero and supernatural elements.

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J’Onzz-ing for a Fix

Justice League #1
“The Totality, Part 1”
Writer: Scott Snyder
Pencils: Jim Cheung
Inks: Mark Morales
Colors: Tomeu Morey
Letters: Tom Napolitano
Cover artists: Cheung (regular)/Jim Lee & Scott Williams (variant)
Editor: Rebecca Taylor
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I’ve been a fan of Scott Snyder’s writing, and no one can resist the attractive linework of artist Jim Cheung, so picking up this new relaunch of DC’s premier super-hero team was a no-brainer. And there’s a lot to like here. Snyder embraces a return to traditions, to moments of lightness and fun, and to a team of dark reflections of the titular heroes. He also offers some strong interplay among the Leaguers and some poignant characterization for a figure that’s been sadly overlooked in DC’s comics for years. But despite those strengths, Justice League #1 is something of an awkward read. Snyder has offered a quick succession of cosmic Justice League stories in the past year, and it’s starting to look as though cosmic fare such as this might not be in his wheelhouse.

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Enter Stellar

Stellar #1
Writer: Joe Keatinge
Artist/Colors/Cover artist: Bret Blevins
Letters: Rus Wooton
Editor: Sean Mackiewicz
Publisher: Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

It’s been a while since I read a comic written by Joe Keatinge — his Glory revamp with Sophie Campbell was great — but what really drew me to this comic was the artist. Bret Blevins was a mainstay of super-hero comics in the 1980s and 1990s, with work on such books as New Mutants, Strange Tales and Superman Adventures. In recent years, I believe he’s been working in animation, so seeing his name on a creator-owned title grabbed my attention. Blevins has always had a more unusual style, and he uses it to great effect here with this sci-fi epic. Stellar is a genuinely mature and challenging science-fiction story that will appeal to fans of European comics fare.

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