Archive for the ‘Comics’ Category

So Long Dwayne

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

I found out that Dwayne McDuffie died today. I’ve never met him, and only knew him through his work.  But I’m very sad that the fellow who introduced me to Virgil Hawkins passed away.

I haven’t read a lot of McDuffie’s other work, but Static was enough to convince me that he was a man who remembered what it was like to be a kid and could communicate how comics made that fun.  Static had that great mix between fantasy and reality, childhood and adulthood that makes you remember your own childhood more fondly.  The stories were short, intelligent, and fun with the best parts of late 70’s Marvel to them.  They were the kinds of stories you could both admire and lose yourself in.

I’m sorry to hear the man who gave me the chance to read those is gone.

So it goes.

Into The Longbox

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

These get more irregular all the time. Nonetheless:

Will Eisner’s The Spirit #32, Ploog & Green. Some nice Eisner-esque visuals, but really too much going on to too many characters I didn’t care about. This is drifting towards dropable.

Doktor Sleepless #13, Ellis & Rodriguez. This was a nicely ominous issue signaling that the pot that’s been simmering is going to boil over. As a single issue, not much happened (though I suppose one extremely interesting thing did), but in the big picture, I think this is a necessary and elegant timing issue.

Doom Patrol #1-2, Giffen, Clark, Livesay. Interesting. Giffin’s usually interesting, and I like his pragmatic take on everyone’s favorite set of misfits. It’ll be another issue or three before I’m sure I’m happy with all the subplots and new characterizations, but so far I’m interested. There are some Giffin repeating motifs – or pet ideas – bobbing around in there. I think that the director of the supercollider is a nod to an old Heckler character, for example. There seems to be enough fresh stuff in here to keep me around. And there’s a Giffin, DeMatteis, Maguire Metal Men backup, that’s basically a JLI flashback. It’s almost trying too hard, but it’s still fun.

Incognito #6, Brubaker & Phillips. The ending felt a little rushed, but not too much so. Zack squeeks a little more redemption out than I was quite willing to believe, but overall the run was a lot of fun. I’ll show up for the next series. And it dragged me over to Criminal, too.

Batman & Robin #3, Morrison & Quitely. There’s a lot to admire about this book, but I don’t feel its heart yet. I guess it’s the nagging feeling that this is just a fill-in run until the main Batman gets back. I don’t know how you make readers care about characters when their fate is known to some extent, but no breakthroughs yet. Still, it’s beautifully drawn and tightly plotted. There’s a lot to like here, and I’m sticking around.

Secret Six #12 & 13, Simone, Scott, Hazelwood. Certainly my favorite book on the racks these days. Unlike most superhero stuff, I barely notice the plots – they’re fine – but seeing what these characters will do in a given situation is always exciting. Every single issue makes me laugh, sigh, and shake my head with disappointment at an all too real human error. This is really great stuff that doesn’t take it self too seriously. Or too lightly.

Into the Longbox

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

Man these are way less regular than I imagine them to be. There’s a lot to catch up on, so:

A bunch of Captain America, Brubaker, et al. (Specifically, Captain America #50, #600-601 and Reborn #1). These all feel kind of hiccoughy. Honestly the reason I’m lumping them together here is that they’re all lumped in one mass in my brain as well. The pacing isn’t right and one gets the impression that the coordination of this arc with the rest of the Marvel Universe is throwing Brubaker’s usual pacing off. The fanboy in me will stick around to see Steve Rogers come back, but the critic in me isn’t very pleased. I note that #601 features art by the legendary Gene Colan, and that’s always worth seeing.

Batman and Robin #1-2, Morrison and Quitely. I’m a sucker for these two. However, despite several nice touches in Morrison’s writing, I’m really not getting involved in the central arc of the story so far. Maybe it’s because Damien’s so uniformly unlikable. Maybe it’s because I’ve been out of touch with Dick so long. Maybe it’s because someone else being Batman automatically feels like an Elseworlds. I’ll stick around a couple more issues, but this could easily drop off the list.

Secret Six #11, Simone, Scott, Hazlewood. I suppose that I could say that I’ve finally found something to dislike in Secret Six in that every difference of opinion among the Six leads to fisticuffs, but that’s kind of a genre thing. Still, the protagonists can punch each other once an issue if I get Artemis’s soliloquy on gulags or Jeanette’s simple clarity in rescuing someone she hates from a situation she finds unconscionable. Pitch perfect characters in a genre world.

Will Eisner’s The Spirit #29, Mottler and Rivoche. A one-shot that wasn’t anything marvelous. It was a well told crime story with the Spirit taking a hand, but nothing jaw-dropping. There’s a lot to like here, but not enough to love.

Will Eisner’s The Spirit #30, Oeming. I can’t say I followed the plot closely here, or would have liked it if I had, but Oeming’s dynamic layout and loose, flowing art are really fun to skim through.

Will Eisner’s The Spirit #31, Ploog and Green. While the last two issues have been stories with the Spirit in them, this is a Spirit story – of a sort. There’s the vaguely ridiculous magical caricature running around, mysterious goings on from the government, and The Spirit getting knocked around to a laughable degree. So far Ploog and Green are holding the whole shambling mess together in an entertaining story, but it could easily come apart. Still, Eisner pulled off this sort of thing with some regularity, and maybe these guys can too.

Incognito #4 & 5, Brubaker and Phillips. We’re finding out more about the world that underlies Incognito, and honestly it’s less interesting to me than the noir edge that Zack’s been walking. More plot and less characterization than I think is healthy. The plot’s fairly conventional – and maybe more than I want to suspend disbelief for – but it was fun following a down-on-his-luck super-villain through witness protection. I’ll stick around for the conclusion, though.

Nexus: Space Opera #3 & 4, Baron and Rude. If you’re expecting me to say something bad about Nexus, you can forget it. This little present arrived somewhat out of the blue, and I suspect only Nexus fans and completeists care, but I was happy to see it.

Glamourpuss #8, Sim. Man, can we please get rid of any writing not about comics photrealism? The art’s gorgeous and the history’s interesting (though we’re on a bit of a digression about Margaret Mitchell’s involvement with The Heart of Juliette Jones that I could live without), but the alleged parody just isn’t working at all for me.

Into the Longbox

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #2, Morrison & Stewart. Seaguy continues its reign of oddness, but this issue ends on a hopeful note – unlike any of the others. I continue to like the magical world Morrison & Stewart have created, even with its tone of melancholy and conspiracy. I fully expect to have my spirit crushed along with Seaguy’s next issue, but if so, it will have been intentionally crushed by some good writing and Stewart’s clean beautifully laid out art.

Secret Six #9, Simone, Scott, Hazlewood. Another enjoyable genre tour de force. There’s all the fun of having Blake, Bane, and Ragdoll working a simple mission together, along with more exploration of the series’s subtext of the differences between heroes and villains. Simone’s dialog is funny and also manages to tell us a lot about these characters and expand on the theme all at once. The plot conceit that this is hung on is the idea that Batman’s dead and that someone will be replacing him – perhaps even Catman or Bane. As obvious as it is on the surface that these two aren’t heroes, Simone actually does a few really nice things with the idea. First, at no point does anyone deliver the speech about why these guys aren’t qualified; she shows us conclusively that it’s not the case, but no one preaches at us. She also makes it clear why they want to be Batman without beating us over the head. Finally, she shows us very specifically and very clearly not only why these guys won’t be heroes today, but why they won’t be heroes any time soon despite their earnest desires to play that role. None of this is done in the preachy “Very Special Episode” kind of writing that plagues these sorts of things.

All that and Ragdoll making every phrase sound perverted and some serious Nightwing beefcake. Something for everyone.

Into the Longbox

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

Not many this week, and they’re really from last week, but here we go.

Captain America #49, Brubaker, Ross, Magyar, D’Armata. We spend an issue with Sharon Carter tracking the aftermath of her difficult time with the Red Skull and company. It’s good to see the fallout of living in the Marvel Universe, and Brubaker handles it well – except maybe the contrived trigger that jogs her memory. A few hints at the future seem to be littered about this issue as well. Next issue seems to be another big look at Bucky and his new responsibilities. I hope that’s not the case.

Incognito #3, Brubaker and Phillips. Unlike Captain America, which seems to be slowing down from it’s zippier start, Incognito keeps things moving at a breakneck speed. Characters come and go, as Zack’s situation goes from bad to worse with predictable rapidity. While the plot’s fun to watch, it’s really the well executed noir tropes overlaid on the super-hero world that are the reward here. Good fun. I wandered over to Criminal and enjoyed that as well.

Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #1, Morrison and Stewart. I think Seaguy is genuinely good comics that takes aim at the current storytelling tics with a dead-on satire that exaggerates their failings well beyond the threshold of human hearing. Unfortunately when the failings include a hopeless tone and stagnation it’s hard to read. The hopelessness clings to every panel of Morrison and Stewart’s genuinely wonder-filled world creating a grueling congnitive dissonance. I think it’s well worth the time, but I can understand not reading it.

Into the Longbox

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

Captain America #48, Brubaker, Guice, Ross, D’Armata. I wasn’t as taken with this arc as I have been with the others, but that’s because most of the arcs under Brubaker have been both significant to the characters and well done. The point of this arc seems to be to establish the new status quo. It was well done, but a little drop off in pace. Still, Brubaker’s Namor is a thing of beauty. He manages to capture the Sub-Mariner’s egotism and lust for adventure perfectly: “Finally.. something worth fighting.”

Top Ten Season 2 Special #1, Cannon and Daxiong. A little aside looking at Girl Two’s place in the world after her stint in the precinct. Cannon’s developing a real feel for writing these characters and Daxiong’s art and storytelling are well done. There’s a lot to like here.

Ignition City #1, Ellis & Pagliarani. Ellis’s distopyian sci-fi is solidly built and well executed. This issue sets up the environment and the characters well, but the big question is whether I’ll care about them come issue 3. Pagliarani’s art seems to do the job, other than one panel transition where a car door disappears, but doesn’t seem to be adding too much. I’ll stick around to find out if these characters turn into people, but this isn’t the grabber that Anna Mercury was.

Will Eisner’s The Spirit #27, Uslan, DeSanto, Justinano, Wong. I’m rather enjoying the new team’s update of the Spirit. They’ve grabbed the essence of these characters in a way that the previous team didn’t (for me) while not trying to clone the Eisner characters. I find myself liking the overall picture enough to overlook some of the rough parts of the execution. And there are a non-trivial number of such flaws: the gibberish frequency and the gratuitious Wii scene to name a pair. Still there’s something about how they’ve grabbed the essence of the characters and their zest for writing and drawing that carry me through. I can’t say this is great comics, but it draws me in.

Doktor Sleepless #12, Ellis & Rodriguez. The good Doktor’s plot is beginning to emerge from the fog. Assembling it from the points of view of the characters Ellis has been introducing over the last couple issues is pretty effective. Those introductions slowed the flow somewhat, but this issue seems to be picking the momentum back up. I still have trouble determining who’s on what team in Rodriguez’s crowd shots, which can make untangling the big picture more challenging than it needs to be. At least the major female characters are all color-coded, though Rodriguez never misses a chance to pose them rather than show them as real.

Secret Six #8, Simone, Rodriguez & Bit. This is a little filler issue, but again real fun. Dave Sim once made a comment to the effect that throwing 3 of his characters into a closet and letting them interact could fill out an issue. That’s what we get here as Deadshot and Jeanette double date with Scandal and a new interest. It’s all good fun and we maybe learn a little about the Six as well. There’s some less enjoyable filler featuring Ragdoll and a preview of a Power Girl series that didn’t do much to grab me. But the front story in Secret Six remains a highlight for me every month.

Glamourpuss #3-6, Dave Sim. Apparently my comic shop didn’t pull these for me and doesn’t buy enough for me to see them on the racks. But I have my ways. And Glamourpuss is worth buying, just for the mind-blowing oddness of the thing. I still don’t think much of Dave’s fashion magazine parodies in and of themselves – a little too blunt – but there’s something about interspersing them with the detailed history of comics photorealism that makes the whole package irresistible to me. And, make no mistake, that history and analysis is absolutely fascinating. Sim’s great passion for the material, considerable research, and unique artist’s viewpoint make his insights well worth reading, even for a dilettante like myself. Go buy a couple of these for me, to keep it on the shelves.

Into the Longbox

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

Hey, these are close to on time.

Top Ten Second Season #4, Cannon and Ha. This was downright good. The characterization is all excellent and consistent, both internally and with the earlier season. The art is also a continuing delight. I recommend this if you enjoyed Top Ten. And if you haven’t read Top Ten, you should.

Saga of the Swamp Thing #21, Moore, Bissette, and Totleben. This is a re-issue of the point at which Swamp Thing stopped being a run-of-the-mill horror title and became a whole new mixture of magic, wonder, horror, and romance. Everything holds up remarkably well, especially the unique and expressive Bissette and Totleben art. Moore’s writing is well known and justifiably praised (often by me), but the spooky images and innovative layouts that defined the art on this run are already there. It’s a great read and a historical moment available for a buck. Grab one.

Into the Longbox

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

I’ve been busy, so once again a couple weeks worth at once.

Madame Xanadu #8, Wagner, Hadley, Friend. The first couple issues of this had great promise, but nothing essential seems to happen and the characters haven’t developed any nuance. Even the art that I found so compelling early on is becoming more pedestrian and dim. Last issue for me.

Anna Mercury #3-5, Ellis & Perico. I finished up the first run all at once. I hadn’t put this on my pull list and missed a few issues as they came out, but was able to catch up. All things considered I liked this quite a bit. It was evident Ellis was trying to end each issue on a cliffhanger, and just seeing how he’d pull that off every issue was fun. At the heart this is a pretty conventional SF thriller and, other than the style points, doesn’t aspire to be much more. It would be more gripping if the visuals of the action sequences were more tightly meshed. It’s often difficult to take in the layout of the areas and see where all the players are. As a result the scenes often seem like Anna dodging about in a hail of bullets until she’s magically where she needs to be, rather than a tense progression across a well-defined place. Even with that shortcoming, this is stylish genre fun.

Captain America #47, Brubaker, Guice, D’Armata. Still superior genre fare, but not a lot beyond that this issue. Not much else to say.

Batman #686: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader, Gaiman & Kubert. Apparently Batman’s dead at the moment in DC continuity, and DC’s taking the opportunity to let Gaiman tell an end-of-Batman story. It’s a little more complicated than that, of course, with a supernatural wake of some kind and several nested tales. It’s all well executed and there’s great attention to the detail of the Batman mythos(es). I’m enjoying it, but it doesn’t have the same feel to me as Moore’s Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow. Perhaps that’s a function of the multiple intentionally inconsistent stories that give the whole thing a feeling of meta-fiction rather than a superhero story. But, I am enjoying it.

Incoginto #2, Brubaker & Phillips. The volatile mix of noir and superhero tropes begins to bubble here, with more than a gritty setting coming from the noir side. There’s a lot to like here from Brubaker’s hard-boiled narration and twisted plot to the expressive blacks and whites of Phillips’s art (yeah, it’s a color book, but the colors aren’t the best part…).

Secret Six #7, Simone, Scott, Hazelwood. The Six’s cross country run and passage through the gauntlet of crazed superhuman killers ends this issue with a little more whimper than bang. We learn what Deadshot was up to, and it is unexpected for him, and most of the immediate plot tangles are resolved. Unlike Madame Xanadu above, these characters are being more defined with each off-the-cuff comment, and changing as the series progresses to boot. I only care a little about how these adventures are plotted out and affect the rest of the DC universe, but these characters are interesting enough to keep me coming back.

Into the longbox

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

Will Eisner’s The Spirit #26, Uslan, DeSanto, Justiniano, Wong. Another new creative team with a slightly different take on our cast. I liked the fast pace and the winks at the Spirit conventions. More compellingly, their Octopus seems like the sort of person who actually could recruit and motivate an international team of terrorists, rather than just being a generic megalomaniac. I also liked the genuine romantic connection between The Spirit and Ellen. A few things seemed a little clumsy – the Spirit’s secret identity isn’t something he’s terribly good at keeping, for example – but really not bad for a new team. I’m worried about the hints that the Octopus and The Spirit share a dark secret will drag things too far into traditional melodrama, but overall this is a promising debut.

Captain America #46, Brubaker, Epting, D’Armata. Despite the underlying links with the past, this issue is all business. A group of professionals is reacting to a threat as professionals, despite the old ghosts moving around. I like how well Brubaker captures the veneer of business that covers the characters’ shared loyalties and beliefs. The exchanges all underline how together they are without coming out and saying much that isn’t directly related to the operation. It’s a nice bit of characterization. I can’t say I’m terribly worked up about this storyline, but I am enjoying the execution well enough.

Top Ten Season Two #2 & #3, Cannon and Ha. I’d missed talking about these when they came out, and may have missed more issues. Cannon and Ha are really doing a good job keeping the spirit and tone of the Moore issues. The pacing seems a little fast to me, but a lot happened in the original run as well, and I may be remembering it different than it is. Still there’s a lot going on here, and some of the characters seem that little beat off-model. It remains better than many super-books out there. And the art functions both as an effective storytelling vector and as a source of in-jokes in the margins. Fun stuff.

Sandman: The Dream Hunters #4, Gaiman and Russell. A gorgeous finish to a beautiful collaboration. There’s nothing in this issue that haven’t been in the other three, but it’s still a joy to read. Russell’s compositions beautifully complement and focus Gaiman’s script. Great stuff. I imagine there will be a retelling under one cover that’s clearly worth buying.

Secret Six #6, Simone, Scott, Hazlewood. Woosh, what a ride. Big plot twist that I didn’t see coming, and am still not sure how I interpret. The problem isn’t that the twist is unbelievable – it’s that many possible interpretations are all believable. There are genuinely dark goings-on this issue, but it’s a natural progression. The humor up to know has definitely been whistling past the graveyard, and this issue kills the streetlights. I haven’t been this surprised by a genre comic in a long time. Great stuff.

Into the longbox

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

Madame Xanadu #6 & #7, Wagner, Hadley, Friend. Still formulaic, and the art’s been forced into dark, dank, boring places. Really tough to keep going. I think I’ll ride along until #10 and drop this if I don’t have a reason to stay by then. Disappointing.

Will Eisner’s The Spirit #23 & #24, Aragones, Evanier, Amancio/Hardin & Fauchier. While I’ve become less impressed with Madame X as time goes on, Aragones, Evanier and their artist team of the month seem to be hitting their stride. Both of these are smooth, fun, clear Spirit romps. Compared to the best of Eisner’s work, they’re feather light, but they have the a breezy amicability that’s hard to resist. Not great comics, but getting to be a solid read.

Captain America #44 & #45, Brubaker, Ross, Laguna & D’Armata/Magyar&D’Armata. These two end the lightweight arc started in #43. A new villian appears, an old friend is kidnapped and we get to see Batroc the Leaper. And oh, how I love Batroc the Leaper… A fun little arc, but nothing too earth-shattering. Hopefully it’s sowing the seeds for some later excitement.

The Spirit Special #1, Will Eisner. Four classic Spirit stories by the master. It’s particularly interesting to compare the two-part Sand Saref story in here to the version done by Cooke, Bone & Stewart in Will Eisner’s The Spirit #12. The core story is almost exactly the same, yet both draw heavily on the visual and cultural idioms of their time to draw the reader in.

Doktor Sleepless #10, Ellis, Rodriguez. It would be nice if Rodriguez could draw more than one female body type. Admittedly, it’s an appealing frame to hang the differentiating hairstyles on, but come on. These couple issues have been more about putting pieces on the board rather than advancing the plot. We’re certainly learning what the good Doktor has been up to lately, but from multiple viewpoints from players being moved into position. Ellis keeps it engrossing by dribbling out the information and introducing interesting new players.

Secret Six #4, Simone, Scott, Hazlewood. Things are getting tough for our protagonists, and they’re not handling it well. That’s to be expected from people, and they continue to be as believable as characters in a super-hero universe can be. There are still chuckles to be had, but the humor’s tending toward the gallows. And, as one might expect, the character with the most integrity is the one with the fewest scruples. Good stuff.

Sandman: The Dream Hunters #2, Gaiman and Russell. Same great story, different beautiful art and visual interpretation. Comics lovers will enjoy comparing and contrasting the visual treatment of Gaiman’s script by two exceptional artists. A casual reader will enjoy the story and visuals on their own. Great stuff.

Incognito #1, Brubaker and Phillips. The creative team from Criminal doing a take on the pulps from the villain’s point of view. I haven’t been reading Criminal, but after this, a trade paperback or two is in order. Gritty, poetic writing with perfect visuals from Phillips. This is the first step into a twisted world, and I’m looking forward to looking around some.