Archive for the ‘Comics’ Category

Into the Longbox

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Will Eisner’s The Spirit #22, Aragones, Evanier, Hardin, Faucher. The creative team is finally starting to grow on me. If anything the plot was a little too needlessly intricate, but overall a good Spirit yarn that moved right along. A nice issue.

Captain America #43, Brubaker, Ross, Laguna, D’Armata. A new arc begins, and things seem a little posed. Presumably that’s to let new readers climb on here, and it seems like a good place to do so. Ross’s pencils seem a little stiffer than Epting’s, which underscores the stiff nature of the story. Still, no issue with Batroc the Leaper in it can be all bad. A good place to hop on a fun title.

Madame Xanadu #5, Wagner, Hadley, Friend. The art’s still gorgeous and integrated tightly to the story. However, I’m finding myself less and less interested in the story as we go. I suspect that Wagner’s laying groundwork he’s going to need later, but each arc feels the same. We check in to a historical period, the Stranger shows up, something bad happens that Madame Xanadu plays a role in, some DC Universe connections are made, and then we’re off to the next period. Unfortunately this leaves us little room for a supporting cast. Worse yet, I find the relationship between the two leads difficult to fathom. Wagner makes it clear that Nimue is intelligent and well versed in the occult, but she’s both obsessed by and unable to find out anything about one of the most powerful beings in the magical DC Universe. It doesn’t seem consistent somehow. Hopefully either I’ll figure out what I’m missing, or things will improve. It’s still gorgeous.

Sandman: The Dream Hunters #1, Gaiman and Russell. I have the version of this that Gaiman and Amano did a few years ago. The story is great, but I know it. I’m primarily buying this to see how Russell interprets the goings on. It’s beautiful and interesting to see how Russell attacks the same problems Amano did.

Secret Six #3, Simone, Scott, Hazelwood. Great fun. There’s nothing particularly deep about Secret Six, but it’s consistently entertaining. The characters are all lively and fun, and the action is completely over the top. And behind the fun is the understanding that these folks are not the good guys, whatever decency they may occasionally show. Anything can happen to a villian, and these folks are playing way out of their league. It’s tough not to admire their pinache as they do it, though.

Sinfest: Obama for comics geeks

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Sinfest this Sunday cast Obama very nicely for comics geeks.

Into the Longbox

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

Once again, a few weeks of comics together.

Will Eisner’s The Spirit #21, Aragones, Evanier, Hardin, Faucher. This read like a pretty good Spirit story to me. That’s never a negative thing to say about a story. It moved along crisply; the characters acted like the Spirit cast; the art looked good. Overall, I liked the issue, but I didn’t love it. I guess these guys don’t inspire me, but it seems solid work.

Captain America #42, Brubaker, Epting, Ross. A big arc ties up this issue with plot front and center. Overall, it felt a little rushed. Considering how measured the pacing of the arc has been up until now, things reached a head awfully quickly. No one steps out of character and there are plenty of threads still out there to pull the story forward. Still a great series, but maybe not the greatest issue.

No Hero #1, Ellis and Ryp. The plan here seems to be an exploration of how much humanity one loses to become superhuman. This is the same team that brought us Black Summer, and the same sorts of strengths and weaknesses are on display here. The writing is solid enough but the subtleties of the art aren’t there. We’ll see where this goes.

Top Ten Season Two #1, Cannon and Ha. Top Ten is one of my favorite series: it’s Alan Moore writing Hill Street Blues in a city populated entirely by super-heroes. It’s fairly daring in that screwing either part of it up breaks the spell completely. Top Ten was both the character-driven serial and a clever, affectionate send-up of the super-hero genre. Alan Moore pulled this off brilliantly in words while Zander Cannon and Gene Ha’s incredibly detailed art filled the panel with both believable characters and obscure in-jokes.

As if to show how difficult this is, there was an attempt at a sequel by Paul Di Fillippo and Jerry Ordway that was unreadable if you’d read the original.

I picked up this attempt because of Cannon and Ha’s clear ties to the material. It’s not bad. The art’s gorgeous, and the characters all act like they should. The plot seems less subtle than Moore might have done, but it’s Top Ten. We’ll see how it develops, but I’ll stick around for another issue.

If you’ve never read Top Ten, I recommend picking up one of the trade paperbacks from the original run.

Doktor Sleepless #9, Ellis & Rodriguez. New arc in the Doktor Sleepless story after the revelations in issue 8. We jump ahead 2 months and add a new character. It’s worthwhile to see Heavenside from a new perspective and the plot’s moving ahead. Good issue.

All-Star Superman #12, Morrison & Quitely. While this wasn’t the front-to-back joy that some of the other issues in the series was, it kept the tone and warmth that brought the Silver Age to life. There were several genuinely moving moments and it tied up the series perfectly. This series captures the world of Silver Age Superman with the eyes of compassionate fans who show it to the world through those eyes. It’s really a great series.

Madame Xanadu #3 & #4, Wagner & Hadley. I approach every new Madame Xanadu twice. First I read through and enjoy the story that Hadley and Wagner are telling, and then I go back and gawp at the layouts and art. It’s amazing how much subliminal storytelling is going on in Hadley’s art. The plots are getting a little more rooted in the DC Universe than earlier issues (though that was Jason Blood wandering around Camelot).

It’s a nice mix for me. The comics snob in me gets to revel in the balanced storytelling and the comics geek in me gets to say “look it’s the StarHeart!” If you enjoy comics on either level, pick this up.

Secret Six #2, Simone, Scott, Hazlewood. This is probably my favorite book coming out these days. In just two issues I’ve gotten wrapped up in the lives of the Six and I’m pulling for them as they are wending their fast-paced way through their latest caper. And that’s really what this is: a well-executed caper movie set in the DC Universe. A great caper movie’s tough enough to carry off in the real world, but in the twisty passages of DC continuity it can be even trickier. They’re willing to ground the goings on in the DC world without making readers spend a week in Wikipedia to keep up. The book’s full of smart, clever dialog and expressive art that tells the story both at the scale of who’s doing what to who and how each character’s reacting to the goings on. It’s something of a trifle, yet, but so well done that one could easily expect more. Even if this is all there is, it’s an awful lot.


Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Jeffrey Rowland’s Overcompensating has long been a favorite web comic of mine, but the election seems to be bringing out the best in him.  His alter ego is on the stump, and debating some familiar figures.  That second one is honestly the funniest Palin image I’ve seen; my visual cortex keeps transforming her into the comic image now.

By the way, that’s Kerry Edwards in the strips – Jeffrey changed his name to save money on bumper stickers.  That kind of thinking makes him the candidate for me.

Man, I hope Catbank is weathering the crisis OK.

Opus ending

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

It’s been pretty clear from content, but Mike Sterling points out that it’s official: Opus is ending 2 November. I’d like to be more broken up about this, but I haven’t been a very big fan of the Opus run. Breathed just couldn’t seem to find a groove that kept the material fresh and interesting for me. I did laugh a few times, and the art’s honestly quite good. Overall, I’m glad to have the space for someone new to impress me. And all those good Bloom County strips are still out there.


Monday, September 22nd, 2008

While overall Sinfest can be a little raw, I’ve been really enjoying its last few Sunday strips. Tatsuda Ishida has done a fine job on Sarah Palin and the big buyout. It’s not often that a Celine Dion song is the structure for a satire rather than the victim. Well done.

Into the longbox

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Will Eisner’s The Spirit #20, Aragones, Evanier, Smith, Wong.  As critical as I’ve been of these guys, I have to admit this issue was enjoyable.  It’s a nice, quirky mystery featuring the Spirit cast in all their likable glory.  Not a world changing story, but a fun way to pass some time.  Nicely done.

Gravel #3 & #4, Ellis, Wolfer, Jimenez.  I thought I’d talked about issue 3, but I don’t see the comments.  This probably isn’t for me.  I’m just not drawn into the world and so the limitations seem more apparent.  There’s a lot of gore and violence that are for their own sake, and the art’s not dynamic enough to make it visceral for me.  I did like the spooky tone in issue 3, but issue 4 is just a fight scene.  I’ll see how the first arc turns out.

Captain America #41, Brubaker, Epting, Magyar, D’Armata.  Continued high quality.  Hard to believe that Brubaker killed the title character 15 issues ago, and that there’s so much excitement in the book that one hardly notices he’s missing.  Well, that’s not quite true; I would like to see Cap back, but this book is continually solid.

Doktor Sleepless #8, Ellis & Rodriguez.  As the first book ends, there are revelations galore, not all of which can be taken at face value.  Still, there’s plenty going on; some mysteries explained (though perhaps not resolved) and some new angles revealed.  Lots of words this issue, but perhaps a telling image or two.  I think that Rodriguez’s clean art could be used to greater effect.  The images seem drawn to spec rather than being a result of collaboration, but that may be my poor vision.

Lots of interesting ideas here about what’s sane and what’s real.  Fun stuff.

Secret Six #1, Simone, Scott, Hazlewood.  Whee-ha this was fun: it’s everything Gravel isn’t.  A cast of dysfunctional but strangely likable villains stumbling toward some kind of team/family bond, an eerie opponent, and an impossible jailbreak on the horizon.  These are genuinely broken people, but you can’t help but root for them as they feel their way through life (and perhaps toward each other).  It helps that the dialog is whip-smart and that the images reveal the minds behind the words. The words and pictures make these people sympathetic and real, even though they’re not admirable. I’ll be back to see how they do.

More Kirby Art

Monday, September 1st, 2008

On the anniversary of Jack Kirby’s birth, The Comics Reporter posted a bunch of his art.  It’s a fantastic range of great stuff.  Link from Mike Sterling.

Into the Longbox

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Will Eisner’s The Spirit #19, Aragones, Evanier, Armstrong, Amancio, Austin, Rivoche. I should probably drop this. Three short stories with different artists in which I didn’t like any of the visuals and found some of the writing both uninspired and unbelievable.

Captain America #40, Brubaker, Epting, D’Armata. Not much really happens this issue for the amount that goes on. It’s a fast-paced issue with two sets of foils going at one another concurrently. It’s nice to see Brubaker making jump cuts between the two conflicts using dialog overlaps and other bits of writing. Overall this would be a hard place to jump on, but a fun issue for those of us who’ve been playing along.

Glamourpuss #2, Dave Sim. After Cerebus ended, I didn’t think I’d be reading anything else Sim wrote; as I’ve mentioned before, he can be kind of crazy. But man alive can he draw and write about comics. A student of the medium could learn a fair bit just paging through and looking at the layouts. There are some ramblings on various other topics that are of varying quality, but Glamourpuss is worth it for the art and the discussions of art styles of middle 1900’s comic strips alone. And to be fair, the non-comics stuff has its solid moments as well. The book is remarkably original and remarkably good.

Black Summer #7, Ellis & Ryp. This ended up well enough. The series was an exploration of the envelope of vigilanteism with exercises. Unfortunately, the exercises – that is to say the mayhem – and the ideas didn’t mesh as well as they could have. I think this may be because Ryp’s faces and postures aren’t well suited for conveying subtle nuances of character. His layouts are extremely dynamic and convey the adrenalin rush of combat, but don’t convey soul-searching with any conviction. That’s a shame, because the series should have its share of both. Consequently Ellis’s writing carries the weight of the ideas in this issue. There are a lot of words, and one can see spots where I’d rather have been shown a point than told about it. Overall, the words are worth reading and considering, but the visuals aren’t holding up their end.

Madame Xanadu #2, Wagner and Hadley. These two are in synch. I don’t know if Wagner’s experience drawing is helping with the collaboration or if Hadley’s just remarkably good at doing a lot with her art. Here each page is laid out with a unified theme, usually bled to make use of every millimeter of the paper.  Each page draws out both what’s mechanically happening and what it means to the characters (and the world), and is part of the unified whole of the issue and arc. I’m slighting Wagner’s excellent writing here, but his pacing, plot, and characterization are all right where they need to be to bring out his themes. This is remarkably strong work.

Into the Longbox

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

Two weeks in here:

Captain America #39, Brubaker, De La Torre, D’Armata. The Skull (?) continues his move, but the good guys are moving, too. From a plot perspective things are on the move more than the characterization this issue, but there are still some nice touches. We get to see Sam and Bucky working on the superhero tradition of talking and fighting simultaneously in a sparring session, and Sin find out once again how ineffective she is against real fighters; fortunately she’s a teen-ager and will never notice it. Still great super-hero work.

Madame Xanadu #1, Matt Wagner & Amy Reeder Hadley. Madame Xanadu is one of the many mystic powers of the DC/Vertigo universe who’s never really been a headliner nor a personal favorite, so it wasn’t out of any love for the character that I picked this up. What drew me to it was Matt Wagner who’s been a favorite creator since his Mage days. Wagner doesn’t disappoint in this issue with a fast-paced, introduction of the players and conflicts in this first arc, set in Arthurian times – obviously a setting with which he has some familiarity. The action is brisk and clear, and though the connection to Madame Xanadu is obscure at this point, it’s very diverting. I expected great things from Wagner, but I’ve never read anything by Hadley. Her art is really breathtaking: every page layout conveys the enormities of the settings and powers at play without slowing the narrative; individual panels are clear and crisp. Even the clouds of pixies that surround the magicians are enjoyable rather than annoying. This is a remarkable combination of storytellers. Well worth checking out.

Glamourpuss #1, Dave Sim. The problem with being Dave Sim – or I suppose one of the problems with being Dave Sim – is that you’ve become such an outsized personality that no matter what you set out to do, part of your work will always be judged partially as a reflection of you personally. Given that Sim is perceived as being either ridiculously conservative on women’s issues or downright misogynistic, when I saw what is apparently a fashion magazine parody from him, I feared the worst. Didn’t stop me from buying it, mind you, but I expected some sort of rant trailing off into incoherence thinly disguised as parody. What I got was something else altogether.

Often when a reviewer throws out that phrase – “something else altogether” – they mean that there was a twist in the plot, or a particularly well executed piece of work that elevated it above expectations. Compared to its front cover, Glamourpuss really is something entirely different. (OK, Roy Thomas’s description on the back cover description is accurate, but who would believe it?) The book includes a (workmanlike) parody of fashion magazines in there that does hit the content advertised in the cover blurbs, but basically it’s 25 pages of Dave Sim polishing his considerable art skills by drawing photorealistic pictures of young girls. And he’s very up front about this inside. This is a Dave Sim sketchbook where he’s translating fashion magazine pictures into comics idiom working from lessons from some of the classics of serial comic strips. The word balloons and captions are mostly a discussion of what he’s learning and how he’s executing the work. It’s remarkably diverting and gorgeous to look at.

Whatever one thinks about Sim’s opinions are on Pressing Issues Of The Day, I think his opinions on the study and creation of comic art are fascinating. I think he’s an authentic genius of the comic page and it’s a delight to find him sharing that genius, especially in this bizarre format. A must.