Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Letter Bugs – Anderson Laments the End of Marvel

Posted by Don MacPherson on July 13th, 2014

The world of comic books is made up of two separate but equally important groups: the people who work in comics and the fans who read them. Sometimes, members of the latter group cross over and end up working in the industry. And occasionally, in the letter columns of back issues, one can find fan letters written by these readers-turned-pros. These are their stories. (Apologies to Law & Order.)

It’s been almost four years (!) since I last explored this feature, but some time spent sifting through a box of assorted back issue picked up at a flea market brought me back to a bunch of letter pages, and to a couple of pre-pro fan letters. The last time I wrote about these little lettercol treasures, we visited with Astro City writer Kurt Busiek long before he broke into the comics industry. This time, his Astro City artistic collaborator steps into the “Letter Bugs” spotlight. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Features | No Comments »

Artful Dodges

Posted by Don MacPherson on July 12th, 2014

I’ve grown more and more interested in collecting original comic art over the past couple of years, and I’m slowly gathering a collection of original pages. My budget is limited, so I’m always on the lookout for bargains. I’ve managed to land some great deals by keeping a close eye on eBay listings, and I’ve managed to pick up quite a few pages for less than $100 apiece on the auction site. In my quest for those bargains (and as part of my general interest in the hobby and market), I think I’ve managed to develop a general sense of appropriate ranges of values for many kinds of pages by various artists. So when I happened upon a listing for a Captain America page from 1992, pencilled by the late Rik Levins, I was taken aback. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Features | 1 Comment »

Quick Critiques – July 10, 2014

Posted by Don MacPherson on July 10th, 2014

Daredevil #5 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Mark Waid & Chris Samnee

Daredevil, as guided by Mark Waid and his creative partners on these various series, continues to stand out as one of Marvel’s best titles, mixing Silver Age fun and traditions with more modern, sophisticated sensibilities. That being said, this was one of the more lackluster issues in Waid’s tenure. This episode answers the question as to how and why Foggy Nelson’s death was faked in between the previous series and this relaunched one, but it wasn’t such a deep mystery that it required a full flashback issue. Still, there are some strong characterization bits to be found here. I am starting to get a bit tired of Waid’s repeated use of the original Ant-Man as a cure-all for any sci-fi/super-hero-genre plotting challenge that arises. If Waid took the time to foster a stronger link between the title character and Hank Pym, a developing friendship, his repeated appearances mightn’t seem so jarring. Mind you, I can’t deny that Waid’s use of a wider and more colorful array of characters and concepts from across the Marvel Universe in Daredevil’s previously small little corner of it continues to entertain.

Samnee’s art is a wonderful match to that more wondrous feel. Most striking visually in this issue was his depiction of Foggy, thin and frail but not seemingly deathly ill. He seems so much like a regular guy, and the way his body moves under Samnee’s hand looks quite natural. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Quick Critiques | 2 Comments »

Exorcize Regimen

Posted by Don MacPherson on June 29th, 2014

Outcast by Kirkman & Azaceta #1
“A Darkness Surrounds Him”
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist/Cover artist: Paul Azaceta
Colors: Elizabeth Breitweiser
Letters: Rus Wooton
Editor: Sean Mackiewicz
Publisher: Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment
Price: $2.99 US

There are a number of creators whose new works I’ll check out no matter what, and both writer Robert Kirkman and artist Paul Azaceta are on that list. While they don’t necessarily reinvent the wheel with this new horror-genre comic, they blend misdirection, mood and characterization to deliver a solidly entertaining read. Kirkman always seems as though he’s in tune with the pulse of pop culture, and the possession premise at the heart of this new series ought to make the most of that paranormal trend that’s still prevalent today. I’ve never been terribly interested in the exorcism niche of the horror genre — I’ve never seen The Exorcist — but what held my interest here was the challenging construction of this inaugural issue as well as Kirkman’s decision to ignore cliché and convention specifically when it comes to the development of a key character. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Image | No Comments »

Orphan Back

Posted by Don MacPherson on June 26th, 2014

Bombshells variantVariant coverSuperman #32
“The Men of Tomorrow, Chapter One: Ulysses”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: John Romita Jr.
Inks: Klaus Janson
Colors: Laura Martin
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Cover artists: Romita & Janson (regular & variant)/Ant Lucia (variant)
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

DC’s big marketing push proclaiming not only the arrival of John Romita Jr. at the publisher for the first time but his association with the most iconic super-hero character of all time was a merited one and a smart move. I was certainly interested in what he’d do with Superman. Furthermore, pairing Romita with DC exec and top writer Geoff Johns was another wise choice. It’s heartening that what’s making this comic book an important one for DC is the talent, not necessarily the story. That being said, the story here struck me as somewhat generic, but a bit clever, but it’s not enough to keep me coming back. However, the art is exciting and fun, and Johns has instilled some strong characterization bits that have definitely piqued my interest. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - DC | No Comments »

The Limits of Infinity

Posted by Don MacPherson on June 14th, 2014

Variant coverInfinity Man and the Forever People #1
“Planet of the Humans”
Writers: Keith Giffen & Dan DiDio
Pencils: Keith Giffen
Inks: Scott Koblish
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Travis Lanham
Cover artists: Giffen & Koblish (regular)/J.G. Jones (variant)
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I’ve never really been a big fan of the late Jack Kirby’s Fourth World characters, which he created while working for DC Comics in the 1970s. I later appreciated the quirky, bizarre flavors of those ideas later in life, but they still weren’t something that excited me like other super-hero characters did. When I have been interested in those characters, it was usually through the interpretations offered by other comics creators. For example, I thought Keith Giffen and Dan DiDio’s short-lived OMAC series in the first wave of the New 52 was an underappreciated and entertaining series that celebrated Kirby’s concepts, updating them while also staying true to them. So when DC announced Infinity Man and the Forever People, featuring another revival of a Kirby-created property by the same creative team, I was immediately intrigued. I just picked up a shelf copy at my local comic shop this week rather than add it to my pull list earlier, and I’m glad I did. The reason: I won’t be reading the second issue. While I appreciated the personality the writers brought to the characters as well as some of the tweaks they’ve made to the original source material, there’s not a lot of story here to hook a reader. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - DC | 1 Comment »

The Beast Within

Posted by Don MacPherson on June 13th, 2014

Chicacabra original graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Letters/Cover artist: Tom Beland
Editor: Chris Ryall
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Price: $17.99 US

It’s no secret that I’m a major fan of Tom Beland’s storytelling. His autobiographical series True Story Swear to God is one of my all-time favorite comics and always will be. That I would delve into this first fictional creator-owned work was a given, but in advance of its release, I wondered if it would grab me as much as True Story did. The work for which Beland is best known is an incredibly personal one, about him, his wife, his family. He shared his greatest joys and fears in True Story, but Chicacabra isn’t about him. Beland has written fantastic fiction in the medium before, specifically for Marvel Comics. Those were thoroughly entertaining and fun comics as well, but they weren’t as personal, as revealing. But really, one wouldn’t expect any wholly resonant characterization from one-shots featuring long-standing super-hero icons that are designed to be static. So the question remained — would Chicacabra, which lingers on the edge of the super-hero genre, lack the same touching humanity?

The answer is a clear “no.” The cast of Chicacabra may not be real, but they are Tom Beland. As someone familiar with his work and who he is, the characters, inner conflicts and familial concepts here flow directly from Beland’s everyday world and experiences. The framework for those ideas is a piece of fantastic fiction about a young woman and a chance encounter with a powerful, near-mythological and majestic beast, but the story itself is about family and loss, about surviving and thriving. Beland’s message is abundantly clear: to isolate oneself from others is to die, and to connect with people is to live. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - IDW | No Comments »

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (Fighting Evil)

Posted by Don MacPherson on April 20th, 2014

Lumberjanes #1
Writers: Noelle Stevenson & Grace Ellis
Artist: Brooke Allen
Colors: Maarta Laibo
Letters: Aubrey Aiese
Cover artists: Noelle Stevenson/Maddie Flores/Lauren Zuke
Editor: Dafina Pleban
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Boom! Box imprint
Price: $3.99 US

I’m far from the target audience for this book, but there was such a positive buzz around it, I opted to fork over my four bucks to give it a look. I figured if I didn’t dig it, I could probably flip it on eBay to get my money back. After reading it, I definitely get why it has struck a chord with readers. Lumberjanes, as its title suggests, is a playful adventure book featuring a cast made up entirely of strong, entertaining female characters. It’s appropriate for pre-teen readers up to adults, and I’d be amazed if Boom! wasn’t eyeing this property as something that could spin off into other media. That being said, I don’t think I’ll be following the series — not because I don’t think it’s a good comic book. It is a good comic. It’s just one that doesn’t really appeal to my sensibilities. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Boom! Studios | No Comments »

Voice Lessons

Posted by Don MacPherson on April 14th, 2014

A Voice in the Dark #s 1 & 2
“Blood Makes Noise” parts 1 & 2
Writer/Artist: Larime Taylor
Editor: Dannty Donovan
Publisher: Image Comics/Top Cow Productions
Price: $3.99 US each

That’s right, I’m back after a long hiatus. The dormancy of Eye on Comics doesn’t stem from site issues, personal illness or some ’round-the-world excursion or anything. More pressing, everyday concerns seemed to trump my writing about comics, and honestly, I think I was a bit burnt out on it. But after writing yesterday’s review, I felt re-energized, and with the snow melting, I needn’t worry about snowblowing, wood-fetching or deck-clearing. What follows below is a review I had mostly written when the Big Break happened, so I’m behind a bit on the series. But don’t let that mislead you into thinking the comic book discussed here is one that should be overlooked.

I’ll be honest: the Top Cow brand isn’t one to which I pay much attention. Defined by its titles that represent the Kewl excesses of the 1990s (such as Cyberforce and The Darkness), Top Cow Productions has rarely offered a title that’s really held my interest (at least of the ones I’ve sampled over the past 20 years). So when I saw the promotional material in my Inbox for this particular Top Cow book, I didn’t expect much. Still, I decided to take a few minutes to “thumb through” a digital copy of the first issue. A few minutes turned into 30, as I drank in the first issue and then the second. And then I read a message from the writer/artist/creator in the back of the first issue. The broad concept cover blurb quote — describing A Voice in the Dark, as Dexter meets Strangers in Paradise — isn’t a bad description, but it really only scratches the surface of this powerful, character-driven sample of storytelling. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Image | 2 Comments »

Eternal Torment

Posted by Don MacPherson on April 13th, 2014

Variant coverBatman Eternal #1
Writers: Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV
Consulting writers: Ray Fawkes, John Layman & Tim Seeley
Artist: Jason Fabok
Colors: Brad Anderson
Letters: Nick J. Napolitano
Cover artists: Jason Fabok (regular)/Andy Kubert & Jonathan Glapion (variant)
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I wasn’t planning on picking up this weekly series, but a light week at the comic shop, an appreciation for weekly titles and a somewhat deluded sense that a $3 comic is a bargain in the 21st century all converged to get me to give it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised with what I found within — a story that focuses on supporting characters in Batman’s world rather than the title character himself. I was also expecting a simpler approach in the artwork, given the tight publishing timeline on which is series is set to unfold, but artist Jason Fabok has injected a meticulous level of detail into this inaugural issue. The comic definitely has its flaws, but it succeeds in the most important aspect for a weekly serial: it had me curious about what happens next. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - DC | 6 Comments »

The Doctor Is Quinn

Posted by Don MacPherson on December 6th, 2013

Variant coverHarley Quinn #0
“Picky Sicky”
Writers: Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti
Artists: Amanda Conner, Becky Cloonan, Tony S. Daniel & Sandu Florea, Stephane Roux, Dan Panosian, Walter Simonson, Jim Lee & Scott Williams, Bruce Timm, Charlie Adlard, Adam Hughes, Art Baltazar, Tradd Moore, Dave Johnson, Jeremy Roberts, Sam Keith, Darwyn Cooke and Chad Hardin
Colors: Paul Mounts, Tomeu Morey, John Kalisz, Lovern Kindzierski, Alex Sinclair, Lee Loughridge, Dave Stewart & Alex Sollazzo
Letters: John J. Hill
Cover artists: Amanda Conner (regular)/Stephane Roux (variant)
Editor: Katie Kubert
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I’m a few weeks late writing about this recent release, but I had a number of thoughts about it and wanted to jot them down. First off, I must point out I thoroughly enjoyed this comic book, not because I have a particular interest in the title character, but moreso because I enjoy the work of the writers and many of the artists who contributed. That being said, while I found this comic entertaining, I’m not entirely sure it was a good idea. Sure, a Harley Quinn is definitely a marketable property with mainstream recognition, and Palmiotti and Conner’s sensibilities are a great fit for the character. But this zero issue of the series really isn’t about Harleen Quinzell. Instead, it’s about the mainstream comics industry itself and the friendships the writers have formed over the years. As someone with an interest in the industry, as well as the personalities behind the stories and art, I was quite taken with this fourth-wall-breaking jaunt through the craft of comics. But I question if that cachet will appeal to the wider audience DC is no doubt looking to hook. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - DC | 3 Comments »

Inmates Ruining the Asylum

Posted by Don MacPherson on November 24th, 2013

Doing Time original graphic novel
Writer: Brad Sullivan
Artist: Amilton Santos
Colors: Tiago Fernandes & Oracle
Letters: Fred C. Stresing & Adam Wollet
Publisher: Back Row Comics

Doing Time is the sort of genre story that clearly has its origins in the title itself. The writer has taken a phrase about a prison term and imposed a new, dual meaning on it, making the “time” part refer to time travel. At its heart, it’s a simple and even fun concept, and the good news is that writer Brady Sullivan’s plot and characters never take themselves or the premise too seriously. For an independent project, the production values here are pretty solid — professional-level lettering, fairly clear though standard comic-art art style — and there’s a sense of diversity in the cast of characters. There’s just one problem: those characters are pretty much all loathsome. I get that when the central plot is about a prison break (even one through time), the protagonists aren’t all going to be palatable, but even the one non-criminal in the bunch is unlikeable. Sullivan seems to have as his foundation here the punny premise and a clear ending he had in mind, and on that foundation, he piled hate, misogyny, stupidity, sex and as much gratuitous violence as he could fit in a graphic novella (which was clearly originally crafted as a three-issue limited series). There’s potential in the storytelling here, but the writer and artist could definitely have used some guidance and input to refine their efforts. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Indy/Small Press | No Comments »

Pair Necessities

Posted by Don MacPherson on October 27th, 2013

Showcase Presents: DC Comics Presents – Superman Team-Ups Vol. 1 trade paperback
Writers: Mike Barr, Cary Bates, Paul Levitz, Dennis O’Neil, Jim Starlin, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Gerry Conway, Steve Englehart, David Michelinie & Martin Pasko
Pencils: Murphy Anderson, José Luis García-López, Jim Starlin, Joe Staton, Curt Swan, Rich Buckler & Dick Dillin
Inks: Dan Adkins, Murphy Anderson, Vince Colletta, José Luis García-López, Joe Giella, Steve Mitchell, Jack Abel, Dick Giordano, Frank McLaughlin & Frank Chiaramonte
Letters: Ben Oda, Clem Robins, Todd Klein & Milt Snapinn
Cover artist: José Luis García-López
Editor: Julius Schwartz (original)/Ben Joy (collected edition)
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $17.99 US/$22.99 CAN

I’ve amassed a small collection of DC’s Showcase reprint editions and some selections from Marvel’s Essential line, and I’ve only recently started really delving into them. I find I’m enjoying these phone-book-like collections of Silver and Bronze Age material as much as some of the better modern comics on my pull list today. Mind you, I’m definitely judging these books through a different filter, from a different perspective. These are not sophisticated comics, not by a long run. The writers take some ridiculous shortcuts to get the plots where they want them to go at times, and some of the stories definitely bite off more than they can chew for a one-off, standalone story. But they are incredibly fun, especially when they include such forgettable villains as Dr. Horus and the De-Volver. Perhaps the best thing this black-and-white reprint edition has going for it, though, is how it spotlights the incredible talent of artist José Luis García-López, arguably the best comics talent the Bronze Age ever produced. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - DC | No Comments »

Trading Burgers for Brains

Posted by Don MacPherson on October 20th, 2013

Afterlife With Archie #1
“This Is How the End of the World Begins…”
Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Artist/Colors: Francesco Francavilla
Letters: Jack Morelli
Cover artists: Francesco Francavilla (regular)/Francavilla, Robert Hack, Andrew Pepoy & Tim Seeley (variants)
Publisher: Archie Comic Publications
Price: $2.99 US

Though I thumbed through the pages of Archie digests on the can when I was a kid (just like everyone else in the Western Hemisphere, I think), I’m not much of a reader of the publisher’s comics these days. Nevertheless, it succeeded in piquing my curiosity with this comic, despite its gimmicky nature and obvious effort to capitalize on one of the big pop-culture trends of the day. But Francesca Francavilla’s art should be more than enough to draw the attention of any modern enthusiast of the medium. On top of that, my local comic shop participated in the store-specific variant promotion, and I always like to show my support when it invests in such an item. Not surprisingly, the visuals are impressive throughout this first issue, but what took me aback is the strength of the writing. Though the broad concept is clearly something of a stunt designed to spark interest outside the publisher’s base audience, the storytelling doesn’t treat it like a gimmick at all. Instead, we get a much more grim, mature take on these characters. Honestly, the zombie-genre bits weren’t what held my attention, but rather the strong characterization writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa brought to bear here. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Archie | 1 Comment »

Weird Webs

Posted by Don MacPherson on October 8th, 2013

Variant coverMarvel Knights: Spider-Man #1
“99 Problems… One of Five”
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Marco Rudy
Colors: Val Staples
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Rudy (regular)/Carlo Barberi (variant)
Editor: Tom Brennan
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

Marvel decision to revive its Marvel Knights brand is well timed, as it’s given the publisher an opportunity to publish a Spider-Man comic for Peter Parker purists who might prefer their Spideys amazing rather than superior. I’m also pleased to see the Marvel Knights label is being reserved for somewhat unconventional material and to emphasize the talent crafting the comics rather than the icons in the stories. Matt Kindt’s star is definitely on the rise, as is Marco Rudy’s — oddly enough, mainly for work they’ve done on DC titles. I found their take on Spider-Man to be unexpected, unusual and experimental, and I’m always pleased when I find something new in the world of a decades-old character and a genre that many could easily argue has seen it all. That being said, there are more than “99 Problems” in this story, as a couple in the plot and art kept me from connecting to the material as much as I wanted. Still, that Marvel and these creators took the chances they did with these characters is a welcome development that merits a look. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Marvel | No Comments »