Posted by Don MacPherson on March 3rd, 2012
Glory #23 (Image Comics)
by Joe Keatinge & Ross Campbell
“Everything is different now.” I’ll say. I’ve developed a newfound respect for Rob Liefeld for his decisions to place his genre comic properties in the hands of indie/alt-comics talent. I snapped up the resurrected Prophet series thanks to the involvement of Brandon (King City) Graham and Simon (Jan’s Atomic Heart) Roy, and I couldn’t resist the Ross (Wet Moon) Campbell in Glory. Joe Keatinge’s a well-known and respected figure in comics but is best known for his work as an editor on the lauded Popgun books. I was pleased to find he delivers a strong script for this (essentially) first issue that achieves a nice balance between the extreme fantasy of super-hero comics and more relatable, character-driven elements. Keatinge brings the title character down to earth by frequently focusing on her through the eyes of a journalism student who feels drive to seek out the missing heroine. Furthermore, the script builds up Glory as mythic and unstoppable throughout the issue, which makes the impact of the revelation at the end of the issue all the more potent.
I was a little disconcerted by my first glimpse of Campbell’s interpretation of the Wonder Woman knockoff who serves as the title character, as I found her to be far too babyfaced. That child-like look atop a bulky, powerful form seemed a bit unnatural, but Campbell quietly instills maturity in her face as the issue (and time) progresses. Campbell’s style is an unconventional choice for a super-hero book, but that’s what I enjoyed the most about it. Despite the more exaggerated aspects of his style, there’s a rich level of detail to be found in the character designs and settings. Overall, there’s a melancholy look to the art, matching the same tone in the story, and it’s surprisingly enticing and engaging. I think I may like this book even better than Prophet. 8/10
Infestation: Outbreak #1 (IDW Publishing)
by Chris Ryall, Tom Waltz & David Messina
This comic book was released last year, part of IDW’s Infestation crossover. A review galley’s been lying around here for a little while, and I finally got a chance to look at it. I thought Infestation was meant to be a zombie-apocalypse crossover event featuring such licensed properties as G.I.Joe, Transformers and others, but with this spinoff, the focus is instead on such lesser-known comics concepts as CVO and Groom Lake (moreso the former than anything else). The Covert Vampire Operations premise — featuring a team of apparently government-sponsored monster killers — is a solid one, but with this first issue, we meet the team in flux. Everything is in disarray due to the characters’ recent encounter with what I can only assume are other elements from the Infestation concept. Despite information provided in a tee-up page and in the script, I’m not entirely sure what happened to these characters or how specifically they’ve been changed. My biggest problem with this story, though, is the characterization. There’s not a single likable character in the bunch, save possibly for Britt, who’s little more than a blank slate in this script. Though this was branded as a first issue, it was clearly not for the uninitiated.
Messina boasts a fairly clear style, one that was definitely developed with super-hero comics in mind. His art on this book reminds me of the styles of such artists as Matthew Clark, Brian Stelfreeze and the like; it’s a photorealistic approach featuring dynamic and even impossibly perfect figures. Messina offers up fairly standard genre artwork, but it’s also not particularly remarkable either. It serves the story well, and since the story doesn’t serve the readers (or at least new ones) well, neither aspect of the book resonates particularly well with the audience. 4/10
Simpsons One-Shot Wonders: Ralph Wiggum Comics #1 (Bongo Comics)
I stopped watching The Simpsons years ago. Though still wildly popular, I felt the show said all it could and would either repeat itself or trot out gimmicks that no longer held my interest. That being said, I remain a fan based solely on the many seasons I did follow (mainly in syndication), and I can’t imagine anyone wouldn’t love the comedic wonder that is Ralph Wiggum. His appeal is clear: his innocence draws one to him despite his immense stupidity, but there’s also an occasional harsh edge to him that’s hilarious as well. When I saw this one-shot on the stands of my local comic shop, I just couldn’t resist, based solely on the dialogue balloons on the various covers. While the cover art remains the same, I saw at least three different versions of the balloon on the cover (I grabbed my favorite — the one in which Ralph proclaims “I’m in mint conditioner!”). The various writers who craft the short stories in this comic book clearly recognize the power Ralph’s innocence, both as a comedic vehicle but also as a heartening reprieve from the cynicism in which we find ourselves every day. They also make room for the sort of classic lines that have helped to make Ralph so memorable, such as this golden nugget: “Dog biscuits taste like liver and sand.” Poetry. Stupid, stupid poetry.
The art throughout the one-shot is, obviously, in the house style established by Simpsons creator and cover artist Matt Groening, but the most engaging visual aspect of the comic is to be found in the segments written and illustrated by legendary humor cartoonist Sergio Aragones. It’s fun to see him adapt his distinctive style for Simpsons fare, but his own unique flair still manages to shine through. Of course, there are more subtle variations on the familiar Simpsons style, and for someone with an appreciation for comic and animation art, the mix of deviation and consistency is interesting. 7/10
Superman #6 (DC Comics)
by George Perez, Nicola Scott & Trevor Scott
Writer George Perez’s final issue on this newly relaunched series is unfortunately a big disappointment. The script-heavy issue reveals plot elements the audience couldn’t have possibly have guessed. It reads almost like Perez had to completely change the ending of his story to accommodate his early exodus from the series. And if he didn’t change the plot, it definitely affected the pacing. It turns out the menace from the start was a collective of alien nanomachines completely unconnected to Krypton or Metropolis trying to recreate Kryptonian conditions merged with its own alien culture. The revelations with which the reader is bombarded in this issue are dizzying and don’t make a lot of sense, as they touch upon stories in the New 52 continuity that haven’t even been told yet. For a series that started on a strong note, with an interesting focus on character and the changing face of media in the 21st century, the opening story arc ends with an awkward, rushed sci-fi plot that does a disservice to the characters and the audience. It also incorporates Supergirl’s first appearance in Metropolis at far too early a stage in the new continuity. To be fair to Perez, I couldn’t help but note he’s credited with the script only. Whoever’s responsible for the plot is uncredited.
While the script failed to fulfill the promise of earlier issues, the artwork is effective and impressive in its meticulous level of detail. Nicola Scott (and regular series artist Jesus Merino, who was responsible for some previous issues) is clearly taking cues from Perez, either directly or as an inspiration. Scott does an excellent job of instilling a harsh quality into the face of the Angry, Fake Superman and a softer, more human look for the genuine article while still presenting them as being identical in appearance. 4/10
Winter Soldier #2 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Ed Brubaker & Butch Guice
“That gorilla just used a jetpack, right?” Any comic book that includes a line of dialogue like that has gotta be worth reading, don’t you think? With this new limited series, writer Ed Brubaker delves back into the espionage riff that made the first couple of years of his tenure on Captain America so interesting, distinguishing it from other super-hero fare. His Cap writing has since moved into a more traditional phase, and I’m enjoying it (especially since Alan Davis signed on as the penciller). But it’s nice to see Brubaker revisiting the sort of material that made people take notice of Cap’s corner of the Marvel Universe and continuing the personal journey of self-discovery and atonement of the Winter Soldier. This is an espionage book with a few super-hero trappings, but those super-hero elements bring the best of the campy and colorful Silver Age into the mix without disrupting the dark, tense tone. The writer deserves a lot of credit for pulling it off.
It’s also nice to see Butch Guice handling this title character along with Brubaker. His gritty style suits the nastier side of the characters and plot, and his work brings a visual consistency to James Barnes’ larger, 21st-century story. The one aspect of the art that doesn’t quite work for me are the scenes featuring Jasper Sitwell, or to be more precise, the digital displays he uses to illustrate his points. The hazy, digital displays aren’t easy to make out, and the use of bright, intrusive colors to set those elements apart interferes with the overall dark style. Lee Bermejo’s cover image is certainly in keeping with the moody intensity established inside the comic, but it’s such a divergence from the look Guice brings to the story that it seems like a poor fit. 7/10
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