Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Quick Critiques – July 3, 2007

Posted by Don MacPherson on July 3rd, 2007

Fantastic Four #547 (Marvel Comics)
by Dwayne McDuffie, Paul Pelletier & Rick Magyar

McDuffie is in the midst of one of the most fun Fantastic Four stints I’ve had the pleasure of reading, and he manages to pull off the impossible. He handles the Torch/Thing interplay incredibly well, but he also manages to make the Black Panther and Storm funny as well. The science-fiction elements he brings to the mix are as inventive as anything one would find in a Warren Ellis script, and McDuffie manages to offer a nice blend of wholesome, playful super-hero fun with some compelling moments of drama and tension as well. McDuffie brings a classic sensibility to the title team despite the unconventional nature of the lineup, and the sense of wonder is infectious. The writer acknowledges other developments in Marvel continuity as of late (such as Civil War and the Marvel Zombies story arc from Black Panther), but knowledge of those minor footnotes aren’t required to appreciate this story. I was surprised that he decided to bring the new FF together with Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman so soon after the team was rearranged, but I love that Reed doesn’t actually interfere with the new leadership dynamic. Pelletier’s art is a perfect match to the enthusiasm and bright, flashy super-hero action upon which the plot is constructed. The cosmic sequences look great and show the artist’s imagination, but he manages to catch the reader’s eye with the characters’ personalities in the everyday sequences. I’m at a loss, however, why Marvel has decided to adorn these comics with covers by Michael Turner. His sleek style (which is thankfully not as sexed here for this cover as it usually is) emphasizes intensity and a certain Kewl factor that just isn’t in keeping with what readers can find beyond the cover art. 8/10

Hellboy: Darkness Calls #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
by Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegredo

Accessibility is something that’s been discussed in the online comics community a fair bit since last week; the catalyst was the continuity-laden script for theĀ Green Lantern Sinestro Corps Special. This weekend, I was catching up on some reading and made my way through the first issue of this new Hellboy limited series, and it serves as a good example of a new story that incorporates references to past tales without requiring the reader to have the old details on the tip of his brain. Darkness Calls refers to past Hellboy adventures and features the title hero outside of the company of his B.P.R.D. comrades. But knowing the plot details of Wake the Devil or how/why the hero parted ways with his friends isn’t needed. Mignola tells a new Hellboy story that’s as classic, entertaining and effective as his past efforts. Hellboy’s blue-collar personality balances his supernatural appearance perfectly, and there’s a healthy dose of history, myth and legend to spice things up. The most intriguing thing about this book is the artwork. Mignola is best known for the dark, gothic art he used to build Hellboy into the widely known property it is today, so it’s interesting to see another artist take on the character. Fegredo clearly takes some cues from Hellboy’s creator, but his own style manages to peek through the dark atmosphere as well. I also felt a strong Arthur Adams riff at play, a playful, colorful tone reminiscent of his work on Monkeyman and O’Brien. Fegredo brings a different quality to Hellboy’s world, and that’s a greater level of detail. That adds to the eerie atmosphere, but the artist is also careful not to lose the property’s dark, visual charm at the same time. 7/10

Repo #1 (Image Comics)
by Rick Spears & Rob G

These creators are really best known for Teenagers From Mars, an indy title that garnered a lot of critical acclaim. I haven’t had a chance to get through the entire book yet, as my copy of the trade paperback is currently MIA in my office, but from the taste I got from the first couple of chapters, it’s easy to see why it generated such a buzz. Repo doesn’t boast the same grounded tone as Teenagers, but its entertainment value is undeniable. The script strikes me as the kind of think one might get if one were to ask Quentin Tarantino for a science-fiction story. It really seems like the sort of result one might have expected from Phillip K. Dick if he ever wrote a comic book. The story is fairly simple, but it’s dressed up with some sci-fi/political elements that add a slightly more cerebral quality to the book’s dominant rough side. A strong Japanese influence is definitely at play here as well, and not just in the script. Rob G’s artwork boasts a loose, manga look combined with a more American look. His work here is rather sketchy at times, and it makes for some inconsistencies. There were a couple of moments that the art struck me as being far too rough around the edges, but for the most part, there’s a strong, indie flavor to the visuals. There were a couple of pages that boasts a strong Becky (American Virgin) Cloonan vibe. The artist really grabs the reader’s attention with a gory vision of government enforcement run amok in a crowd. It’s over the top, yes, but it’s also thoroughly effective in driving home the political climate that’s a part of the story. 7/10

One Response to “Quick Critiques – July 3, 2007”

  1. JohnFoley Says:

    Cripes, Johnny Storm has really been hitting the dumbbells, hasn’t he?