Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Quick Critiques – May 20, 2008

Posted by Don MacPherson on May 20th, 2008

Brothers in Arms #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)
by Mike Neumann, David Wohl & David Fabbri

I’ve never played the videogame from which this comic book derives its title, and I have no idea what point the licensing aspect of this comic is, at least from a storytelling perspective. I suppose it has value as a marketing tool, but the story doesn’t read much like a videogame. And that’s fine. Writer Mike Neumann and David Wohl offer up a fairly standard World War II war story. Fans of DC’s war comics of the 1960s and ’70s might find this a rather interesting trip back to a different era in comics storytelling (albeit without the PG approach to language and visuals). The script does a good job of conveying how regular, everyday people end up in the horrific circumstance of war, not to mention the high cost they pay. Where the writing goes astray is in its failure to really distinguish among the various characters. They come from different places and backgrounds, yes, but as characters, they all seem the same. Sure, we’re offered a few visual cues, and I like the Cold Case-esque flashback approach to the G.I.s’ divergent looks. But for the most part, they’re all carbon copies of one another. Everything else seems pretty much by the numbers. If I was a war comic aficionado, I’d probably opt for Sgt. Rock reprints over this new product. 5/10

Igor Movie Prequel #1 (IDW Publishing)
by Dara Naraghi & Grant Bond

I hadn’t heard of the animated movie upon which this comic book is based, but it boasts the kind of dark but cute characters and atmosphere that make Tim Burton’s and Henry Selick’s stop-motion animation properties so much fun. Fans of that fare will no doubt enjoy Igor, which is just as oddly touching and twisted. Igors are disposable assistants to a society of rockstar-like mad scientists, but one Igor in particular aspires to be something more; he’s a scientist at heart as well, though lacking the cruel streak his potential masters have. The whole look of Igor — from character designs to color palette to backgrounds — is reminiscent of Burton’s and Selick’s work as well, but it never comes across as mimicry. There’s also a hint of a Warner Bros. cartoon sensibility as well. The book is accessible, entertaining and well-paced. Artist Grant Bond does some solid work. We meet multiple Igors, and while they all look alike, there are subtle differences distinguishing them apart from one another. The dark colors set the mood perfectly but they never go so far as to instill a chilling and nasty atmosphere. The film from which this comic derives its inspiration is computer animation, but the style translates well to traditional illustration. My only qualm with the book is actually its front-cover logo. At first, I thought the comic was entitled Gor, because I didn’t recognize the ‘I’ structure as being (a) a letter or (b) connected to the logo. It’s a minor quibble, and I suspect IDW was given the logo by the studio producing the movie. 7/10
Note: This comic book is slated for release later this month.

Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four #1 (Marvel Comics)
by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Barry Kitson, Mick Gray, Scott Hanna & Paul Neary

It’s clear that this limited series was launched so the Secret Invasion tie-ins to the world of the Fantastic Four wouldn’t interrupt the Mark Millar/Bryan Hitch stint currently underway in the main FF title. It’s a decent approach to publishing, as crossovers shouldn’t derail or impede storylines that already unfolding in regular titles. I get the impression this story is going to stand up pretty well on its own, separate from Secret Invasion, as the characters are physically separated from the rest of the Marvel Universe in this plot. I like the emotion that comes out as a result of the mindgames the Skrulls’ play with the heroes, and including the “Fantastic Kids” in the action really makes the heroes seem a lot more vulnerable. I get the impression that the main point of this series, or at least one of its purposes, is to deal with FF continuity, specifically when it comes to the team’s dealings with one particular Skrull more than a decade ago. Longtime FF readers will no doubt be pleased, but the big revelation will no doubt fall flat for newer or casual readers. Kitson’s art starts off nice and strong; the depiction he and the colorist offer of the invisible forcefield effects looks great. But the use of multiple inkers weakens the visuals, bringing slight inconsistencies to the art. Ultimately, I’m left with the feeling that the events in this title won’t be integral to the main crossover plot, so I’m not inclined, based on that and my middling reaction to the storytelling here, to read the rest of this limited series. 6/10

Wildguard: Insider #1 (Image Comics)
by Todd Nauck

Wildguard is an odd property, something truly unique in the super-hero genre. It both lampoons the genre and celebrates its color and character. A lot of Nauck’s characters are rather corny, one-note jokes, but he manages to get a lot more mileage out of them than one would expect. Wildguard is incredibly silly, but it’s earnest as well, enabling it to win over readers. This comic book includes new material and it reprints some online Wildguard strips. Nauck also includes strips focusing on single characters, illustrated by other artists. Overall, I’m impressed with the accessibility, charm and campiness of all of the material. Nauck’s imagination and love for the genre are comparable to those of Robert Kirkman; Wildguard puts me in mind of Kirkman’s Invincible, for example. The writer/artist brings the same kind of frenetic energy, multiple plotlines and diversity of players that one finds in Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon as well. Nauck’s cartoony style certainly brings out the goofier side of the story and characters, but his art also conveys the wonder, energy and color of a world full of super-heroes. Nauck’s got a great eye for design. Some are merely cute or silly, others are dynamic and visually striking. There’s a nice variety of looks to be found here. One problem with the storytelling, though, is that we’re really only given the barest of teases of plotlines that arc beyond a couple of pages. Despite building on previous limited series, this comic book doesn’t require the readership to be up on all that’s come before. Nauck’s script provides plenty of exposition to fill us in on who various heroes are, and given the number of characters in this book, that’s saying something. 7/10

2 Responses to “Quick Critiques – May 20, 2008”

  1. Paul Says:

    I was pretty pleased with the SI:FF issue. In the past, Marvel has thrown these sort of tie-in minis together and the creative teams have been mediocre. With this we get a writer that wrote the FF for about three years and an A-List artist (good point about the inkers, though), plus Alan Davis covers. The X-Men tie-in looks to be good, too. Mike Carey and Cary Nord are the creators on that, with Dodson covers, so it continues this trend in quality.

  2. Tom Waltz Says:

    Don,

    Thanks for taking the time to review IGOR: MOVIE PREQUEL #1. It really is a fun book and it only gets better in subsequent issues. Grant and Dara a true professionals, and I’m having a blast editing their work (not that they need any help from me). I really do hope readers take a moment to check out IGOR — it’s perfect for kids of all ages and really has the potential for being a surprise hit on both the silver screen and the funny pages.

    Thanks again!

    Best,

    Tom Waltz
    Editor
    IDW Publishing
    http://www.idwpublishing.com