Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Quick Critiques: More All-New, All-Different Marvels

Posted by Don MacPherson on December 13th, 2015

Last week, I wrote a trio of quick reviews about some of Marvel’s new titles, launched as part of its “All-New, All-Different” line, the latest in its series of rebrandings, relaunches and renumberings. While I believe this never-ending effort to start over, do over and overflow store shelves with first issues focuses on short-term gains rather than the growth of a longterm audience, I do welcome the fact that the publisher seems more willing to try new approaches to its long-standing properties. Of course, by going with such a limiting term as “All-New, All-Different” sends a clear message that this direction will be as fleeting and short-lived as those that preceded as those that came before it.

In any case, just as there’s no shortage of new Marvel books to read, I’ve got no shortage of thoughts on them. On to the reviews… Read the rest of this entry »

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Suicidal Ideations

Posted by Don MacPherson on December 12th, 2015

We’re in a Golden Age of other-media adaptations of comics properties, with success after success leading movie producers to tap not only the A-list household names in comics fiction, but the B and C-lists as well. I had a great time when I went to Ant-Man this summer, each episode of The Flash is a viewing experience I relish and Jessica Jones has earned what seems like universal kudos. To think there are more live-action options available than animated ones is amazing.

Of all the upcoming TV and movie releases, one that has perhaps piqued my interest the most is director David Ayer’s vision of Suicide Squad. I was a huge fan of the John Ostrander-penned/Luke McDonnell-illustrated comic series of the 1980s (which was the second incarnation of the Suicide Squad, as it started out as a military/adventure property in the Silver Age). I own a couple of pages of McDonnell’s original art from Suicide Squad, and I’ve always checked out subsequent takes on the concept (though none of them boasted the same hook and skilled storytelling as Ostrander’s run). Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques: All-New, All-Different Marvels

Posted by Don MacPherson on December 7th, 2015

While the blog has been silent in recent months, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading comics or had many thoughts on what I’ve been reading. Now that I’m trying to renew my efforts to write about comics (and related pop culture) more frequently, I’ve been jotting down some quick notes about various recent releases, and I realized a number of the things I wanted to say revolved around recently launched (or relaunched) Marvel titles as part of its new “All-New, All-Different” initiative/branding. With so many of Marvel’s titles being priced at $3.99 US or higher and including a digital download code, I’ve been more willing as of late to give some of the publisher’s new efforts a shot, since I can recoup some of my costs.

So, away we go… Read the rest of this entry »

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Avengers Assem… Wait, Is That Superman?!?

Posted by Don MacPherson on December 3rd, 2015


Do you dare enter… the Avenger Zone?! It’s a safe bet you wouldn’t be welcome if you’re a lawyer specializing in copyright matters. Read the rest of this entry »

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It Was a Dark and Stormy Knight

Posted by Don MacPherson on November 27th, 2015

Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1 and Dark Knight Universe Presents: The Atom #1
Writers: Frank Miller & Brian Azzarello
Pencils: Andy Kubert & Frank Miller
Inks: Klaus Janson
Colors: Brad Anderson & Alex Sinclair
Letters: Clem Robins
Cover artists: Kubert & Janson (regular edition)/Too many to list (variant editions)
Editor: Mark Doyle
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $5.99 US

I’ll be honest — I really enjoyed the inaugural issue of DK2, the first wholly unnecessary sequel to Frank Miller’s landmark The Dark Knight Returns, but subsequent issues saw the storytelling fall apart. Not only did it pale in comparison to the creative achievement from which it flowed, but it just wasn’t a good comic book in any sense. Miller’s subsequent forays into the super-hero genre have disappointed as well (*cough* Holy Terror *cough*). So when Dark Knight III, with its unfortunate subtitle “The Master Race,” was announced, I had no interest in reading it, even with writer Brian Azzarello attached to it. And then I wrote an essay about Jessica Jones, and it got me wanting to write about comics again. The site’s been dormant for months, but I’ve got so many words building up in the tips of my fingers, I just had to let them out. Reading Dark Knight III seemed like something topical to keep things going.

The good news is that DKIII isn’t terrible. It’s fairly clear and it’s even somewhat accessible if one isn’t all that familiar with The Dark Knight Returns. Mind you, I can’t imagine anyone who hasn’t read TDKR wanting to read DKIII, save for perhaps some random white supremacists who could happen upon the book and be drawn in by the subtitle. While DKIII #1 continues the trend of exploring DC heroes as myths in yet another climactic endgame, it’s a rather mediocre comic that fails to say anything new about the icons populating its pages. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Importance of Jessica Jones

Posted by Don MacPherson on November 26th, 2015

It’s been 14 years since the first issue of Alias by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos was released in comics shops. I was taken with the book immediately, which came as no surprise, as I was hungry for anything Bendis penned at the time (and I continue to follow some of his mainstream Marvel work today). When an adaptation of that series was announced as one of the TV series to be developed by Marvel and Netflix, I was pumped and eager to see what would arise.

Jessica Jones, the said streaming TV show, was released a week ago, and like so many others, comics lovers and non-readers alike, I binge-watched my way through it fairly quickly. What I found was something that, in terms of plot, was quite different from the Bendis/Gaydos source material, but thematically and tonally, it was consistent and just as compelling. The story is different, but the subject matter is the same.

Something else has changed, though, and that’s cultural context in which I experienced this adaptation of Alias. Read the rest of this entry »

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Scheduling Conflicts

Posted by Don MacPherson on June 6th, 2015

In recent years, schedules have emerged as vitally important cogs in my everyday life, personal and professional. Routine is key in childrearing, so we have a schedule to which my wife and I adhere pretty closely every day, every week. My boss laments the monthly scheduling of staff in the newsroom, but without that complicated labor, some of the myriad of tasks and assignments that need to be done daily would no doubt slip through the cracks. I have to keep an eye on the schedule to ensure my usual duties haven’t been trumped by a fill-in shift of some kind, covering for one editor or another.

In publishing, keeping to the schedule keeps the business going. Deadlines exist for a reason. There are penalties for missing press times at the printers. If one thing goes amiss, the whole endeavor can fall flat. But when it comes to scheduling, the release of the first volley in DC Comics’ latest rebranding and relaunch demonstrates the publisher has completely missed the point of the benefits of good timing and the pitfalls of bad timing. Read the rest of this entry »

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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. Read the rest of this entry »

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Election, Extortion & Exsanguination

Posted by Don MacPherson on May 18th, 2015

Captain America: War & Remembrance trade paperback
Writers: Roger Stern & John Byrne
Pencils/Cover artist: John Byrne
Inks: Joe Rubenstein
Colors: Bob Sharen & George Roussos
Letters: Jim Novak, John Costanza & Joe Rosen
Editor: Jim Salicrup
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $12.95 US/$15.75 CAN

If the cover price cited above seems a little low for this softcover collection of a classic run from Captain America from 1980-81, there’s a good reason for that. This review is of the first printing of this trade paperback, originally released in 1990 (a quick Google search reveals the book was reprinted several times in the years since, including in what appeared to be a hardcover edition). I’ve got stacks of comics, graphic novels and collected editions lying around my place I’ve never gotten around to reading, the reasons being as numerous and varied as the material itself. The books have amassed as a result of impulse purchases, bargains and review copies I’ve received over the years. I’ve been meaning to put a dent in my figurative and literal pile of unread comics, and that’s why War & Remembrance made it into my reading rotation recently. Read the rest of this entry »

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‘Verge of a Breakdown

Posted by Don MacPherson on April 2nd, 2015

VariantVariantConvergence #0
“The God Machine”
Writers: Dan Jurgens & Jeff King
Artist: Ethan Van Sciver
Colors: Marcelo Maiolo
Letters: Travis Lanham
Cover artists: Van Sciver (regular edition)/Tony Daniel & Mark Morales, Patrick Zircher and Adam Hughes (variants)
Editor: Dan DiDio & David Piña
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US

I’ve been reading DC titles since the late 1970s, and the notion that this new event would bring back so many of the iterations of the DC characters I’ve come to know and enjoy over the decades appealed to me. As we moved closer to Convergence, my interest in it slowly grew. And now that I’ve waded into these waters, my interest has been eliminated altogether. I know DC’s multiverse quite well through my years as a DC reader, and I had no idea what was going on here. Convergence is the latest answer to DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths from 1985, during which the multiverse was done away with. It was meant to simplify a publishing line that really wasn’t all that complicated. Convergence ends up complicating something rather simple. Read the rest of this entry »

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Time in a Butthole

Posted by Don MacPherson on March 29th, 2015

VariantPast Aways #1
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Scott Kolins
Colors: Bill Crabtree
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artists: Kolins (regular edition)/Kindt (variant)
Editor: Brendan Wright
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $3.99 US

When I first learned of this new title, I was immediately interested, given the involvement of artist Scott Kolins. His is such a distinct and strong visual voice in comics storytelling, I’m always up for more work from him. Unfortunately, there was also something off-putting in the promotional material for this series: the title itself. The punny nature of “Past Aways” makes me think the play on words is the starting point for the story instead of an actual plot or cast of characters. It feels like Kindt came up with “Past Aways” and worked his way backward from that. Maybe that’s not the case, but that’s the impression I got when I heard of the book. Nevertheless, I wanted to see what the creators had in store here, and unfortunately, the title pretty much sums up the plot on the nose. I could live with that, but after reading this inaugural issue, I found I wasn’t interested in spending time with these characters. Almost all of them are unpleasant in some way, and that makes it hard to care about what happens to them. Read the rest of this entry »

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Turn the Page, If You Dare…

Posted by Don MacPherson on March 28th, 2015

Grant Morrison’s various Multiversity comics for DC for the past few months have had at their foundation a key concept: nostalgia. This week’s The Multiversity: Ultra Comics #1 — a pivotal chapter in this unconventional event series — adopts that approach as well, and the previously established characters that turn up here are among the most obscure of all of the historical DC properties with which Morrison has played. But the nostalgia factor that struck me the most was likely an unintentional one, arising not from DC’s long publishing history, but rather from the Children’s Television Workshop… Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – March 15, 2015

Posted by Don MacPherson on March 15th, 2015

All-New Hawkeye #1 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Jeff Lemire & Ramón Pérez

This comic book interests me for a couple of reasons. The first is the fact it’s written by Jeff Lemire, who’s been one of DC’s go-to guys for the last several years. That he’s branched out to include Marvel among his mainstream comics work strikes me as a significant development. Mind you, it’s not particularly relevant in terms of the creative quality of this comic, which, fortunately, is quite solid. The other reason this new title was of such interest to me was that I was quite curious how Marvel planned to follow up on its much-lauded but oft-delayed Hawkeye series by Matt Fraction, David Aja and others. My impression was that previous run simply ran out of steam, so I wondered if this relaunch would follow its cues or head off in a new direction. The answer proved to be a little of both. Through some telling flashbacks, Lemire dwells on the relationship between the original titular character and his brother, while mirroring it with an adventure between the hero and his kid-sister-in-spirit Kate Bishop. While the Barton boys’ tale of an abusive childhood comes off as a little too familiar (the notion is one that’s used quite often in fiction), it nevertheless rings fairly true. With the two Hawkeyes, Lemire seems to have left the everyday, street-level conflict behind and embraced an international-intrigue genre vibe, which helps to distinguish this from the previous run while he nevertheless maintains a certain synergy with Fraction’s stories. Read the rest of this entry »

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Artful Obsession: A Weakness for Weekly

Posted by Don MacPherson on March 7th, 2015

When I started collecting original comic art on a more active basis a few years ago, there were a number of “categories” I was keen to include in my collection: team-up title art, Amalgam comics and journalism-related subject matter, among others. I’ve also always wanted to acquire pages from Action Comics Weekly. Don’t ask me why; I just have an affection for that limited run of the title from the 1980s as a serial anthology. I recently found just such a page on eBay and struck a deal with the seller — for what turned out unexpectedly to be a lot of two consecutive pages from the same issue of Action Weekly. Read the rest of this entry »

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Terror Plot

Posted by Don MacPherson on March 7th, 2015

VariantThe Multiversity: Mastermen #1
“Splendour Falls”
Writer: Grant Morrison
Pencils: Jim Lee
Inks: Scott Williams, Sandra Hope, Mark Irwin & Jonathan Glapion
Colors: Alex Sinclair & Jeromy Cox
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artists: Lee (regular edition)/Aaron Kuder, Howard Porter and Grant Morrison (variants)
Editor: Rickey Purdin
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US

This is the first of Grant Morrison’s Multiversity comics that disappointed me, and that makes it unique in a line of rather unique and unusual comics. Like Morrison’s other works, Mastermen is full of great and mad ideas, and there’s a powerful commentary to be found in its pages. Unfortunately, it’s marred by a couple of major flaws, the most obvious of which is Jim Lee’s art. It just isn’t up to the task of conveying something beyond traditional super-hero fare, and I think we can all agree Morrison’s approach to the genre is far from traditional. The other issue is an occasionally casual, even silly approach in the portrayal of the horrors of Nazism. The depth and dire nature of the history with which the writer tinkers here seems ill-served somehow by some of the choices Morrison makes in his script. Read the rest of this entry »

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