Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Quick Critiques – June 2, 2015

Posted by Don MacPherson on June 2nd, 2015

VariantConvergence New Teen Titans #2 (DC Comics)
by Marv Wolfman, Nicola Scott & Marc Deering

After the fiasco that was Convergence #0, I decided I’d been skipping DC’s March and April event title, but several of the two-issue spinoff titles definitely caught my eye, some for the characters and some for the creators. This revisitation of the classic New Teen Titans characters and comics of the 1980s drew me in for both reasons. I was a huge fan of the title and Marv Wolfman’s writing, and I thought Aussie artist Nicola Scott was an excellent choice as a stand-in for such classic Titans artists as George Perez, Eduardo Barreto and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. Wolfman definitely crafted this comic with longtime Titans fans such as myself in mind — and only for them, as there’s little here that newer readers would fully appreciate. Wolfman picks up on the conflicts and connections that made New Teen Titans such a landmark book. In fact, he tries too hard to give the entire cast moments in the spotlight. The Kole/Jericho subplot is vague and uninteresting, and it’s not at all clear what the reader is meant to take away from it. The Nightwing/Starfire relationship is conveyed just perfectly, as is the brotherly bond between Cyborg and Changeling. Those subplots stand out as the book’s greatest strengths, as the main plot is forced and rather predictable.

Scott’s affection for these characters shines through in the line art, just as her disinterest in other elements. Kole and Jericho are rendered in far more sketchy detail than, say, Dick and Kory. The generic quality of the Tangent Universe’s Doom Patrol pales in comparison with the color and diversity of design of the Titans. Still, I love the youth, personality and energy Scott manages to instill in this classic incarnation of these characters. Scott’s artwork for the regular-edition cover definitely evokes a Perez feel and the sort of images one would find on classic 1980s Titans comics. 5/10

VariantConvergence Wonder Woman #2 (DC Comics)
by Larry Hama, Aaron Lopresti & Matt Banning

One of the things about this two-issue limited series that caught my attention was the creative team — at least, the creative team on the first. It never even occurred to me that might change by the second and final issue. Seeing Larry Hama, best known for his Marvel and specifically his G.I.Joe work over the years, handle a DC icon — and Wonder Woman at that — intrigued me, and seeing artist Joshua Middleton return to super-hero comics piqued my interest as well. The first issue of this short run was interesting. While I thought the art sometimes sexualized the title heroine unnecessarily, I like the distinct and dark look Middleton brought to the Amazon Princess. That he didn’t stick around for a second issue was a disappointment. Aaron Lopresti is no stranger to Wonder Woman, and he does a solid job with the visuals for this closing chapter. But I found the art here to be rather conventional, and I was expecting something less so. It’s not a criticism of Lopresti’s performance, but the letdown of the bait-and-switch colored my appreciation of his efforts here.

Just as the art disappointed as compared to what we got in the first issue, so did the writing. The focus on the first issue was on faith and religion, how the former offers hope and clarity, while the latter can lead to judgment and hatred. But this concluding issue abandons those notions, and in their place are a typical vampire showdown and Diana’s hand-wringing over killing monsters we know are already dead. While the ending boasts more of a bummer tone than I expected and I appreciated the (albeit unexplained) twist when it came to the heroine’s ally, I ultimately was left scratching my head, wondering what the point of it all was. On top of that, early in the story, the vampiric Joker notes he can recover from a staking and can only truly be destroying through decapitation, and then it doesn’t happen. It’s like there was a gun on the wall and no one ever fired it. 3/10

Kaptara #2 (Image Comics)
by Chip Zdarsky & Kagan McLeod

I didn’t see it in the first issue, but it struck me as being thoroughly obvious, ludicrous and hilarious in the second issue. Unless I’m nuts (and even if I am), I’m pretty sure Kaptara is Chip Zdarsky and Kagan McLeod’s love letter/takedown to Masters of the Universe, viewed through the eyes of a gay, cowardly Adam Strange. It’s marvelously over the top and weird, and one can’t help but get a strong Jack Kirby vibe from it as well, referring to his Fourth World phase from the early 1970s. It’s unapologetically bawdy, celebrating how silly and sticky sexuality can really be. Kaptara is like a soft-core porn adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, with Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam and John Waters collaborating on the direction. Our not-so-heroic hero Keith is quite likeable despite his obvious personality flaws, in that he’s relatable and the only normal person onto which the reader can latch. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the book is how many panels and bits of dialogue would make for hilariously pointed and amusing excerpts. The book is made up for a surprising number of nuggets of pure entertainment that stand up well each on its own.

McLeod’s distorted artwork suits the bizarre and absurd tone of the premise, plot and players perfectly. Perhaps what’s most striking about his work here is how much it reminds me of the style of Joe (E-Man) Staton, with his elongated figures and exaggerated facial features. Despite the somewhat loose look of some of the linework, there’s a strong sense of world-building at play. The artist seems to have a fully realized vision of what Kaptara looks like and where it will lead the protagonist. Kaptara is weird but wonderful, a delightful convergence (ugh, DC has ruined that word) of pop-culture influences and the unconventional, skewed perspectives of its creative forces. 9/10

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