Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Quick Critiques – May 23, 2011

Posted by Don MacPherson on May 23rd, 2011

Booster Gold #44 (DC Comics)
by Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund

There are those who’ve said that one of the keys to storytelling in a shared super-hero universe is accessibility, and writer/penciller Dan Jurgens has certainly taken that to heart with his script for this Flashpoint-connected story arc. Not only does he offer an accessible introduction to the altered DC Universe in which the event takes place, he even recaps the title character’s history (both his origin and how he came to be the guardian of time). For those of us familiar with these story elements, the script ends up being a little dull, but given that the tie-in to Flashpoint is bound to attract new readers (and that regular readers of the title might not be familiar Flashpoint #1), I think it’s a good move. Aside from Booster’s discovery that time has been altered and that he’s going to have to do without his usual resources to deal with the problem, not much really happens here. It’s all set-up, but given how much there is to set up, I can understand that.

As the credits note, Jurgens created Booster Gold, so it’s a pleasure to see him return to the character, which is probably at its zenith of popularity these days (and with recent appearances in two TV shows to boot). Jurgens does a solid job of portraying Booster as a well-meaning average guy who’s perpetually in over his head. Despite his future-laden, sci-fi origin, he’s a fairly relatable character. Jurgens’ crisp, clean super-hero artwork is a lot of fun, but to be honest, the more grim nature of the world of Flashpoint really calls for a slightly darker tone. Jurgens doesn’t really convey the pall that looms over the world. Jurgens’ style certainly conveys a strong sense of place; there’s plenty of detail in the backgrounds. 6/10

Planet of the Apes #2 (Boom! Studios)
by Daryl Gregory & Carlos Magno

I enjoyed the first issue of this new series, much to my surprise, and I enjoyed this second issue even more. Writer Daryl Gregory offers up a much more sophisticated and challenging premise than any of the Apes ever undertook. This is about a civil war in a fractured society. It’s also about zealotry, religion and history. What helps this second issue to stand are the introduction of several fascinating new characters who bring more intensity, color and depth to the socio-political and historical elements than we’ve seen already. The plot advances quite quickly, but at the same time, it never feels as though the story is rushed. I continue to be impressed with the parallels between Council Voice Alaya and Sully, the “mayor” of Skintown. Both are endeavoring to do what they think is right, though Alaya is driven by grief and anger. Both also have discussions with what appear to be dangerous characters, one whose dark past id documented, and the other whose past is veiled in mystery. Gregory’s well-crafted script not only is built on parallels but interesting contrasts as well.

Carlos Magno’s photorealistic artwork reinforces the notion of an entire society that’s been created from scratch here. I love the gritty, grimy detail of the secret workshop that Sully visits and the uneasy stillness and relative cleanliness of the Skintown church demonstrate his meticulous eye for detail. the character designs are striking as well, especially for Nix. Magno conveys the power, intellect and anger that define him. Nolan Woodard’s colors are appropriately muted in tone. They add to the tension. Since he doesn’t employ bright tones or starkly dark ones, he manages to add to the melancholy, despair and tension that seem to permeate every corner of this world. 8/10

Uncouth Sleuth (Fulp Fiction Inc.)
by Charles Fulp, Craig Rousseau & Norman Lee

I’ll give writer Charles Fulp credit for one thing: when it came to producing a self-published, full-color comic book, he managed to get professionals to help him achieve his goal. In addition to the professional, established comic artists who handle the linework, the colors are by Liquid! and the letters by Comicraft. That’s about the only redeeming quality about this original graphic novella, which features the satirical misadventures of private-eye Harry Johnson. And yes, the protagonist’s name is indicative of the kind of low-brow puns that serve as the foundation of the entire book. Fulp squanders the credibility that the established talents bring to the book for a series of obvious, groan-inducing gags and puns about sex. Harry’s a private eye hired to find a missing scientist, so the book transforms from noir P.I. satire to an Indiana Jones riff for no apparent reason. A lot of the humor stems from the notion of women as objects, though I suppose it could be argued that Fulp is actually satirizing pop culture’s inclination to do so slightly more subtly than he does. All I know is that the script here is so low-brow, it could furrow its navel (you know, if it was a person… a very weird person).

Rousseau’s style manages to shine through despite the fact that he didn’t come up with the character designs (those are attributed to Dean Yeagle, who also handles the cover artwork). He maintains an appropriately bright and comedic tone; nothing in this book is to be taken seriously, and nothing looks serious, thankfully. Mind you, if Rousseau ever uses a compass when illustration, it got quite the workout on this project, thanks to the repetitive, balloon-influenced character designs for the women. It’s kind of hard to stir up any enthusiasm for the artwork when it’s used to bring such boorish material to life. Still, I have to admit that the variety of settings and the goofy, cartoony manner in which some are depicted offered fleeting glimmers of fun in an otherwise trying reading experience. 2/10

This comic is slated for release in August. For more information about this self-published book, visit the Fulp Fiction website.

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4 Responses to “Quick Critiques – May 23, 2011”

  1. Augie De Blieck Jr. Says:

    Is “Uncouth Sleuth” just a repackaging of the original comic that they did a decade ago? I remember buying this book with a different title and cover at San Diego Comic-Con. Must have been 2002 or somewhere close to that. Liquid! and Comicraft were involved back then, too. Why do I get the feeling it’s getting a reprint now to drum up Hollywood interest? (Paging Jim Carrey…)

    If it’s all new material, I stand corrected and will pick it up for the pretty art someday…

  2. Don MacPherson Says:

    Yes, I think you’re right. I remember a press kit from a few years ago for a book called Harry Johnson (the name of the lead character in Uncouth Sleuth. The kit came with a golf ball with the Harry Johnson logo on it.

    And you’re right about Hollywood interest. The latest press kit I got with Uncouth Sleuth touts Charlie Sheen‘s interest in the property.

  3. El Extranjero Says:

    … So comic critics keep an eye on each other(no pun intended)..glad to hear from both of my favorite comic´s review sites, it´s hard to decide who’ll get my hard earned pesos each week and this site and the guys at Ain’t it kewl become really helpful, anyway, I’d like both of you guys check on Joey Casey´s Butcher Baker and give me your reviews..

    Greetings from Mexico city DF!!

  4. Don MacPherson Says:

    You can read my thoughts on Butcher Baker here.