Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Waste Management

Posted by Don MacPherson on June 26th, 2013

Variant coverLazarus #1
“Family, Part One”
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist/Letters/Cover artist: Michael Lark
Colors: Santi Arcas
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I haven’t been watching advance solicitations as of late. Often, new titles will turn up on the shelves of my local comic shop and take me by surprise. “I can’t believe So And So had a new book out and I didn’t know” or “Wow, that comic is out already? I thought it was months away.” I was vaguely aware of the approaching release of Lazarus #1, but I had absolutely no idea what it was about, and I honestly, I didn’t care. It was a new comic by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, creators whose past works I’ve enjoyed, notably their previous collaboration on Gotham Central. I was eager to sample a new creator-owned work from them, and the notion they might disappoint never entered my mind. And they didn’t disappoint, but they did take me off-guard. I was expecting something else, something more grounded, something more rooted in or at least connected to the crime genre, given their previous projects. But Lazarus is, if described in broad terms, a science-fiction book, or, more specifically, a dystopian book. It’s certainly a smart book, and it has some strong messages. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Image | 2 Comments »

Ultron Legacy

Posted by Don MacPherson on June 22nd, 2013

Age of Ultron #6Age of Ultron #1Age of Ultron #s 1-10
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Bryan Hitch, Brandon Peterson, Carlos Pacheco, Alex Maleev, Butch Guice, David Marquez & Joe Quesada
Inks: Paul Neary, Brandon Peterson, Roger Martinez, Roger Bonet, Alex Maleev, Butch Guice, Tom Palmer, David Marquez & Joe Quesada
Colors: Paul Mounts, Jose Villarrubia & Richard Isanove
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US per issue

I’ve made a point of avoiding big super-hero event books in recent years, and given that DC hasn’t really done one since launching its New 52 line two years ago, that means I’ve steered clear of Marvel’s big event books. I ended up reading the first two issues of Age of Ultron, though, because my local retailer offered them for a buck apiece a few months after their release, and I borrowed the remainder of the series, mainly because I was interested in writing about the book rather than seeing how things turned out. One of the biggest complaints about these event books is how they ultimately don’t matter in the long run, how they promise big, sweeping, universe-altering changes, but those are undone or reversed in short order. Well, Age of Ultron takes that approach to the extreme, hitting a cosmic reset button in the final issue. The events of this apocalyptic and time-travel story really don’t matter. They serve to set up other stories and characters in Marvel’s line of titles that didn’t need this particular catalyst. Ultimately, it’s a waste of time and money. And it suffers from the same flaw so many people are complaining about in regards to the recently released Man of Steel movie: there’s nothing fun about it. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Marvel | 1 Comment »

Stained Steel

Posted by Don MacPherson on June 16th, 2013

Man of Steel
Actors: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Christopher Meloni, Richard Schiff, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Harry Lennix & Ayelet Zurer
Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: David S. Goyer & Christopher Nolan
Studios: Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures
Rating: PG-13

Reaction to the new Man of Steel movie online has been rather divided, from what I can see. Some viewers have applauded it, while others have criticized it for its excesses. Having viewed it in 2D in a rather sparsely attended Friday matinée, I can see validity in both points of view. On one point, I think all would be able to agree that Man of Steel is definitely a spectacle, a huge special-effects extravaganza. In many ways, it’s a tale of two movies, clearly striving to appeal to as wide an audience of blockbuster movies as humanly possible. Ultimately, I appreciated the movie for how it offers an unconventional and unexpected new take on the title character. I love to be surprised, and to come away from a Superman origin flick surprised is something I would have thought to be next to impossible. One flaw with the film is how, in its effort to achieve maturity and legitimacy, it’s failed to leave much room for any sense of fun or joy. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Other Media | No Comments »

Quick Critiques – June 15, 2013

Posted by Don MacPherson on June 15th, 2013

Variant coverBatman #21 (DC Comics)
by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo & Rafael Albuquerque

Because apparently, I’ve created the impression I pan Marvel and DC super-hero comics so I can impress “hipsters”, I thought I’d share some thoughts about this new story arc in DC’s main Batman title. I was quite disappointed in Superman Unchained, not only due to the art, but surprisingly due to being let down by Snyder’s plot. Fortunately, it appears that was an aberration, because his new take on Bruce Wayne’s journey to becoming the Batman here is fantastic. As he did with the Court of Owls, Snyder is building a new mythology and history for Gotham City, and he’s doing so by incorporating and reinventing some familiar characters and concepts. In Batman: Earth One, writer Geoff Johns explored the maternal branches of Bruce Wayne’s family tree by transforming Martha Wayne into a member of the Arkham clan. Here, Snyder does something similar, making her maiden name Kane and giving some of those tree limbs a bit of rot. The opening scene, set six months ahead of the main action, just after Bruce took on the Batman persona, hints at an ambitious story arc, one that promises to be much more over-the-top and tumultuous than what we’ve seen before. I look forward to it. The backup story is solidly executed. It should appeal to the Fast and the Furious fans out there, but peppered in the high-octane, high-speed action is a clever and peppy script that barrels ahead as quickly as the car the protagonist is driving throughout the sequence. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Quick Critiques | 1 Comment »

This Unchained Melody Is Out of Tune

Posted by Don MacPherson on June 12th, 2013

Variant coverVariant coverSuperman Unchained #1
“The Leap”
Writer: Scott Snyder
Pencils: Jim Lee & Dustin Nguyen
Inks: Scott Williams
Colors: Alex Sinclair & John Kalisz
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Cover artists: Jim Lee & Scott Williams (regular edition)/Brett Booth & Norm Rapmund; Bruce Timm; Dan Jurgens & Rapmund; Dave Johnson; Jerry Ordway; Jose Luis Garcia Lopez; Lee Bermejo; and Neal Adams (variants)
Editor: Matt Idelson
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US

The manager at my local comic shop today noted instead of a $5 Jim Lee comic book, I could pick up Gerard Way’s new comic or maybe something more offbeat such as Boom!’s new Six-Gun Gorilla. While I’m interested in those comics, I told him I saw it as spending five bucks on a new Scott Snyder comic, and I pointed to the strength of his work on Batman and, more recently, The Wake. He acknowledged Snyder’s name was a better reason for buying a comic book than Lee’s. But damn, I should have listened to him. I definitely could have done better with my fin than this exercise in excess and confusion. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - DC | 6 Comments »

Knock knock

Posted by Don MacPherson on June 11th, 2013

Astro City #1
“Through Open Doors, Part One”
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Anderson
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Comicraft
Cover artist: Alex Ross
Editor: Kristy Quinn
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo imprint
Price $3.99 US

The 1990s wasn’t a good time in the world of comics — and to be specific, in super-hero comics. It was an era that emphasized style over substance. It was an era that celebrated dazzle over storytelling. It was an era of gimmick covers, countless crossovers and a bunch of new publishers and imprints, all chasing the speculator craze. A lot of money was made from short-term gains leading to long-term losses of readers and black marks on an entire genre. On the other hand, the 1990s also gave rise to Astro City (or as it was originally and appropriately known, Kurt Busiek’s Astro City). Busiek’s title was and remains a celebration of comics and the people who crafted icons for us. It’s also a deconstruction of super-hero archetypes, and it offers some strong social commentary. But ultimately, what makes Astro City work, what makes it such an engaging read and what’s allowed it to last for almost two decades (yes, you read that right) is the strong character work Busiek brings to each and every issue.

And it’s back. That’s awesome. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - DC/Vertigo | No Comments »

Quick Critiques – June 2, 2013

Posted by Don MacPherson on June 2nd, 2013

The Bounce #1 (Image Comics)
by Joe Casey & David Messina

I haven’t read any promotional material about or reaction to The Bounce, so I have no idea if it’s a reworked pitch for Marvel’s Speedball character, but it certainly reads like one. To be fair, though, that’s mainly due to the specific power set of the main character here, so I feel a bit bad about dismissing the origin of this story as something originally designed for another character. I mean, if the lead hero had invisibility powers, I wouldn’t have blown it off as a failed and retooled Invisible Woman proposal. Either way, the storytelling here stands up fine on its own; nothing feels lacking as a result of it being set outside an established shared super-hero continuity. But there is a problem: the hero isn’t terribly likable. The broad concept of a pothead super-hero might have worked as a purely comedic satire, but Casey plays it straight here. As a result, I found it hard to get behind Jasper. There are a couple of intriguing concepts, but by the end of the story, I wasn’t all that interested in what happens next. And when it comes to episodic fiction, getting the reader care about that is key.

David Messina’s artwork tells the story clearly — except when it doesn’t, but that’s OK, because there’s a psychedelic component that comes into play at the end of the issue. Overall, though, he boasts a fairly generic super-hero style. Beyond the apparent influences in his work (I see touches reminiscent of such artists as Terry Dodson and Bryan Hitch here), there’s nothing all that distinct to be found here. The designs for the superhuman characters are rather ho-hum as well. The Bounce is OK, but it’s also quite forgettable. 6/10 Read the rest of this entry »

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Women’s Issue

Posted by Don MacPherson on May 29th, 2013

Variant coverVariant coverX-Men #1
“Primer, Part 1 of 3″
Writer: Brian Wood
Pencils: Olivier Coipel
Inks: Mark Morales & Olivier Coipel
Colors: Laura Martin
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Coipel (regular)/Arthur Suydam, Joe Madureira, Milo Manara, Skottie Young and Terry Dodson (variants)
Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

Brian Wood’s return to the world of Marvel’s mutants was a surprising but intriguing development, especially given the all-female lineup for this new title. And since I’m a fan of his writing and Olivier Coipel’s distinct style and figures, I looked forward to delving into this latest iteration of X-Men. I found something in these pages I didn’t expect at all: disappointment. Though the narration boasts a lofty, intelligent tone, the story is rather impenetrable, and Coipel’s artwork, though attractive, is confusing, failing to convey vital information. What defines this series more than anything else is the fact all of the characters are women, but characterization, how these women interact with each other and the weird world in which they find themselves… Wood barely touches upon these elements. This feels like a failed opportunity, but maybe the creators can capitalize on it in future issues (but I doubt I’ll stick around to see them). Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Marvel | 3 Comments »

Johns and His Amazing Technicolor Dream Corps

Posted by Don MacPherson on May 26th, 2013

Variant coverGreen Lantern #20
“The End”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Doug Mahnke, with Patrick Gleason, Cully Hamner, Aaron Kuder, Jerry Ordway, Ivan Reis & Ethan Van Sciver
Inks: Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Marc Deering, Mark Irwin, Wade Von Grawbadger, Tom Nguyen, Doug Mahnke, Oclair Albert & Joe Prado
Colors: Alex Sinclair & Tony Avina
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover artist: Doug Mahnke
Editor: Matt Idelson
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $7.99 US

I haven’t written in a few weeks, but this oversized (and expensive!) issue, concluding writer Geoff Johns’s highly successful run on the title character, sparked me to jot down some thoughts. I was a big fan of Johns’s additions to the GL mythos — specifically, the Corps of Many Colors. It was such a simple idea that breathed new life and legend into the super-hero/space-cop adventures of a classic Silver Age concept. I enjoyed the gradual introduction of the various corps, I enjoyed Blackest Night and I enjoyed the notion of returning arch-nemesis Sinestro to his status as a Green Lantern. All made for entertaining stories, but unfortunately, Johns isn’t going out on a high note. More recent storylines — the introduction of Simon Baz, “The Rise of the Third Army” and now “Wrath of the First Lantern” — haven’t boasted the same strength of simple sense of fun. After nine years, his Green Lantern stories certainly aren’t accessible, as is evident by this last salvo. Nevertheless, this last hurrah boasts some satisfying moments, mostly in the denouement of the First Lantern’s story, and I did appreciate the inclusion of contributions from so many past GL artists from Johns’s tenure on the property. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - DC | 2 Comments »

The Kids Are All Might

Posted by Don MacPherson on April 27th, 2013

Jupiter’s Legacy #1
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Frank Quitely
Colors/Letters: Peter Doherty
Cover artists: Quitely/Bryan Hitch/Dave Johnson/Phil Noto/J. Scott Campbell/Christian Ward
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US

While still boasting an over-the-top approach, Jupiter’s Legacy mercifully seems a bit more toned down in its more extreme approach to the super-hero genre than Millar’s other more recent super-hero satire/deconstruction projects, such as Kick-Ass and Nemesis. There’s a lot more subtext to be found here, as Millar isn’t really telling a super-hero story. The intent is clearly of a cultural and socio-political commentary on the state of America in the 21st century. There’s an interesting balance of hope and cynicism to be found here that allows Jupiter’s Legacy to stand apart from other “Millarworld” fare. Mind you, while the themes and ideas are engaging and thought-provoking, what the storytelling boasts in the way of subtext, it lacks in terms of subtlety. But that’s OK… who’s expecting subtlety from a Millar script? Also coming as no surprise is the strength of Frank Quitely’s linework. Though I wish his character designs included a more diverse array of body types, he imbues the cast with powerful presences and intensity. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Image | 2 Comments »

Odder Couple

Posted by Don MacPherson on April 9th, 2013

Buddy Cops one-shot
Writer: Nate Cosby
Artist/Cover artist: Evan Shaner
Letters: Rus Wooton
Editor: Jim Gibbons
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $2.99 US

This one-shot collects three short stories that ran in Dark Horse Presents #s 14-16, and apparently, I’ve been missing out since I stopped following that title. I stopped reading it regularly because like most anthologies, it tended to be a mixed bag. But apparently, the best features in DHP aren’t just good, they’re great, if these comedic strips are any indication. This over-the-top satire of the buddy-cop genre is peppered with sci-fi elements, making for an experience as surreal as it is silly. And yes, I mean that in a good way. The only truly disappointing thing about this weird and wonderful comic book is a hyphenated term on the cover: “one-shot.” I desperately hope this isn’t the last we see of these oddball, genre cop characters. The dialogue and juxtaposition of so many ludicrous, over-the-top story elements and designs are unrelentingly hilarious. This reprint comic is bound to fly under the radar for many readers, but it’s well worth the effort to seek out a copy. I owe my local comics retailer a big thank you for putting one in my hands. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Dark Horse | 3 Comments »

Agents of Shield

Posted by Don MacPherson on April 6th, 2013

New Crusaders, Book 1: Rise of the Heroes trade paperback
Writer: Ian Flynn
Pencils: Ben Bates & Alitha Martinez
Inks: Gary Martin
Colors: Matt Herms & Steve Downer
Letters: John Workman
Editor: Paul Kaminski
Publisher: Archie Comics/Red Circle Comics
Price: $14.99 US/$17.99 CAN

I don’t have any particular affection for the Red Circle super-hero characters. I have few examples of past iterations of these characters and comics in my collection, though there’s no denying the long life and staying power of the properties. Writer Ian Flynn (and an editorial committee, judging from the credit given to a “Red Circle braintrust” here) has opted to take a legacy approach to the Crusaders, distinguishing more familiar incarnations of the heroes as a Golden/Silver Age generation and introducing a new group of young heroes who find themselves forced to carry on their parents’/mentors’ mission. Flynn is hardly breaking new ground here, but fans of such heroic legacy stories (once the domain of DC’s Justice Society stories, before its New 52 relaunch) might enjoy what they find here. The overly conventional and familiar tone of the plot and characters, though, combined with a conflict between the visual tone of the storytelling and slightly harsh elements in the plot, left me with kind of a middling feeling, not only once I was finished reading the book but as I made my way from page to page, chapter to chapter. Read the rest of this entry »

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Digital Discounts

Posted by Don MacPherson on March 30th, 2013

The era of the $3.99 standard-sized comic book is upon us, and there’s no sign of it going anywhere. In some cases, it’s an understandable development. When smaller publishers — such as Oni Press or IDW Publishing — ask a higher price for its wares, I can see why it’s needed. They don’t post the numbers larger publishers such as DC and Marvel do, and to ensure the viability of a project and remuneration for the creative talent, it’s easy to get behind such a scenario.

But when it’s Marvel and DC, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. Actually, sometimes, it can feel more like a suppository than a pill. However, when it comes to Marvel’s more expensive, 20-page titles, there’s a way to eliminate the discomfort and even bring your out-of-pocket expense down below the typical $2.99 price many comics customers would prefer. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Features | 6 Comments »

Don’t Look a Gift Horseman in the Mouth

Posted by Don MacPherson on March 30th, 2013

Ghost variantEast of West #1
“One: Out of the Wasteland”
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist/Cover artist: Nick Dragotta
Colors: Frank Martin
Letters: Rus Wooton
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.50 US

At my local comic shop, there’s a slightly unusual entry on my pull list: “Anything by Jonathan Hickman from Image.” I don’t need to know what a new Hickman creator-owned title is about; I don’t need to know who the artist is — I know it’s going to be something I want to read, and East of West continues that track record. It’s certainly an ambitious storytelling experiment. Hickman is no stranger to developing alternate histories in which to set his stories, but this transformation of America into seven separate nations seems particularly ambitious. But the story’s not really about an America moulded by prophecy, the Civil War and spiritualism. What this is really about is the apocalypse — or to be more precise, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I really don’t think the hero of the story has even presented himself yet, but I’m definitely captivated by the intensity of the plotting and characterization. Hickman plays around with genre to great effect, but it does make for a complex and challenging read at times. Fortunately, it’s a challenge well worth taking on. Read the rest of this entry »

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For Better or Norse

Posted by Don MacPherson on March 16th, 2013

Variant coverVariant coverHelheim #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Joelle Jones
Colors: Nick Filardi
Letters: Ed Brisson
Cover artists: Joëlle Jones (regular)/Jones & Chuck BB (variants)
Editor: Charlie Chu
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $3.99 US

I couldn’t get into Brian Wood’s Northlanders. My wife watched the first couple of episodes of Vikings on the History Channel recently, and I was bored. Stories of Norse warriors have rarely held my attention in the past, but when Helheim was announced, I couldn’t help but take note of it. Sure, the genre may not have been my thing in the past, but I’m a fan of writer Cullen Bunn’s work on The Sixth Gun, and Joëlle Jones has never disappointed with her artwork. So I took the plunge into blood-soaked snows from centuries ago once again, and the result was… exactly the same. I just can’t connect with this subject matter, with these characters. I don’t know what it is, but it’s just not something that appeals to me, at least not in terms of plot. The art here, on the other hand, was thoroughly impressive, and not only in terms of design and mood. Helheim represents a significant departure for Jones. The style here is different, the detail more meticulous. She shows us something new, and that’s always interesting to see. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews - Oni Press | Comments Off