Barrier #5 (July 2017 / May 2018)

Barrier #5Barrier #5 finally translates Oscar’s dialogue. He and Liddy are both plugged into the aliens’ heads and, after Liddy’s flashback–revealing what had happened to her husband, though without dialogue–the aliens talk for a bit in Spanish then it’s Oscar’s flashback. With English dialogue.

Given how important not translating Oscar’s dialogue has been the entire series, it’s a little weird to see his tragedy unfold in English. Especially when it turns out Vaughan and Martin only hinted at the actual tragedy. Well, didn’t really hint. Lied. They lied about the tragedy. Unless you read the Spanish? It’s unclear.

There’s some good art. It’s not exactly good comic art. It’s good art though. I can’t even remember how the book read when the visual pacing was so good. None of its here, even though there’s a lot of art. There’s no opportunity for that kind of pacing anymore, not with the narrative.

Then comes the twist ending.

It’s an eye-roller. And makes the English translation even more of a cop-out.


Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate (2017) / Image Comics (2018).

Lazarus #28 (May 2018)

Lazarus #28Once again, Lazarus is fine. It’s fine where Rucka’s going with the book–turning exiled, thought-dead Jonah into a real hero, for example–but there’s something else going on too.

The art. Lark and Boss are drawing less, the colors are doing more; the backgrounds have a dullness to them. By the end of the issue, the characters look like animation cels. It’s real obvious.

The issue itself, with Jonah’s new “family” going to war right after his baby is born, is also fine. It’s effective, well-paced. Kind of manipulative, but sure, fine. Rucka has oodles of goodwill on Lazarus and doing an interlude away from the main plot doesn’t spend as much as a regular issue.

But the art. The art isn’t there. It’s distressing by the end of the issue, because it gets progressively worse. The finale sends Jonah into the new “main” arc, a single parent who’s survived through determination and the good fortune of family medicine. It’d be exciting (kind of, he’s now even more a trope), but all the art promises for what’s next is lessening quality.

Frankly, it’s bumming me out. I’d rather Lark exit gracefully than go out this way.


Fracture, Prelude: Part Two; writer, Greg Rucka; penciller, Michael Lark; inkers, Lark and Tyler Boss; colorist, Santiago Arcas; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

Barrier #4 (March 2017 / May 2018)

Barrier #4They get to talk again. The aliens dump them in a different area of the ship where there are other aliens and those aliens are mean.

Barrier doesn’t refer to language barrier, does it?

The issue delves into Oscar’s back story, undoubtedly much more if you can read Spanish, but there’s still some discernible information if you don’t. His family’s in Los Angeles, so he’s going to Los Angeles. The people in his hometown make fun of him since he doesn’t speak any English.

Barrier indeed.

The Texas comes out in Liddy at just the right time–though she’s barefoot in this alien forest, I find it hard to believe the grass is all nice and soft and not tearing up her feet considering there are starfish monsters around.

It’s okay. It reads in about three minutes, which is fine when you’re a “pay what you want” e-comic and not a four dollar floppy.


Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate (2016) / Image Comics (2018).

Barrier #3 (December 2016 / May 2018)

Barrier #3The aliens speaking makes human ears bleed to the point of deafness. Blows the ear drums? So now Liddy and Oscar can’t talk to each other. They just have to communicate with body language and expression. Or Liddy just takes Oscar’s stuff because… she can?

There’s some “character development” like the revelation Liddy’s husband was (maybe) murdered. And we find out why Oscar wants his red notebook so bad. And the aliens don’t like fire. Maybe not personally, but their ship’s sprinkler system is all kinds of crazy.

So there’s no talking in the book, just visuals. There’s a little bit more of a visual tempo than last issue but nothing compared to the first. Martin’s alien ship designs aren’t very interesting. The ship’s empty. Martin does well with little details. The ship doesn’t have any.

Clearly the creators are invested–at least Martin anyway (he’s drawing a lot), it’s hard to imagine the script was longer than a couple pages unless Vaughan writes Moore style–but the result is fairly underwhelming. There have been far better “silent” comic books; it isn’t even ambitious.


Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate (2016) / Image Comics (2018).

Barrier #2 (September 2016 / May 2018)

Barrier #2So pretty much everything I liked in Barrier #1 is gone in Barrier #2. The issue opens at NORAD, with a couple officers talking in acronyms about how they’re not going to report a UFO even though they saw a UFO.

Close Encounters it ain’t.

Independence Day it ain’t even.

Vaughan thinks the acronym-heavy banter is enough to get through the scene. Can’t understand them, just like English readers can’t understand Oscar’s Spanish dialogue. The difference is Spanish is a real language and one assumes Vaughan is making up UFO acronym speak.

Then it’s back to the leads, who are now in space (or at least on an alien spaceship). They find each other, they fight, they bond, the aliens separate them. Yawn.

All of Martin’s visual pacing from the first issue is gone. There are War of the Worlds nods, Alien nods, probably other things, but it doesn’t make up for flow.

Oh, and it’s not Liddy’s daddy whose ranch she ranches, it’s her dead husband’s. Martin’s shockingly bad at drawing her face, by the way. He doesn’t have any depth to her features (most of the time). Same thing last issue but the visual pace made up for it.

No glorious visual pace here; nothing to make up for it.


Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate (2016) / Image Comics (2018).

Barrier #1 (November 2015 / May 2018)

MARCOS MARTIN Cover01 colAs a visual piece, Barrier #1 is all kinds of awesome. Marcos Martin’s pacing is sublime; the comic is “widescreen”–or landscape–with Martin sometimes using the whole page, sometimes filling it with as many panels as possible, sometimes splitting a single “shot” into panels. The visual reading experience is sublime.

The script? Eh.

Barrier is from late 2015. It’s creator-owned, originally digital. So far, politically-speaking, it dates poorly. Though, frankly, some of those questionable characterizations were always going to be questionable.

The first issue is an introduction to the main characters, Liddy and Oscar. Liddy is a Texan rancher, ranching her daddy’s place no doubt because tropes, and she’s having problems with a drug gang. She thinks. It’s unclear.

Oscar is from Honduras. He’s sneaking into the States, onto Liddy’s land eventually, and his entire story is in Spanish. No translation. Its success is–like the comic–a showcase for Martin’s art.

The stuff with Liddy getting drunk and maybe hiring an ex-military type to “deal with” her problem? Not so successful.

Of course, given how the issue ends, it’s entirely possible nothing this issue is going to matter.


Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate (2015) / Image Comics (2018).

The Dead Hand #2 (May 2018)

The Dead Hand #2Mooney has some real problems with faces. They’re way, way too static. He’s usually strong with detail and body language–though the double-page spreads recounting super spy behavior (with only the “hero” wearing a mask so it really is just him being a dork) are overkill.

Not a lot happens in the issue. The sheriff deals with the hiker. The teenage girls wonder what’s going on; turns out one of their mom’s is a former spy with a history with the sheriff. And knows what’s going on in the town. And is more in charge than the sheriff.

There are a couple surprises, with the second one being what seems to be a big ol’ twist, and Higgins handles it all quite well. The comic would read better if Mooney could do the talking heads without the characters overacting, but Dead Hand still has a strong hook to keep interest.

The way the issue ends, however, gives no clue as to where the book is going, which is fine… just strange given it’s a limited. Kind of a soft boot.


Writer, Kyle Higgins; artist, Stephen Mooney; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; publisher, Image Comics.

Flavor #1 (May 2018)

Flavor #1Flavor is a fantasy comic about a chef. There’s also not so much fantasy as mystique of cookery. It’s very strange, because it also operates with some loose reality to allow artist Woon Jin Clark sight gags involving the protagonist’s pet dog. He’s a good dog. Snoopy-esque, but without thought balloons.

And writer Joseph Keatinge waits to do the reveal on the dog. He and Clark pace out the revelations on how Flavor is going to tell its story, regarding the dog, regarding expectations, regarding everything.

Because it’s not just a fantasy comic with cooking instead of magic, it’s a teenager fantasy comic. Lead Xoo’s parents aren’t able to take care of her, themselves, or their restaurant right now. It turns out to be important for the issue and–presumably–the comic, but Keatinge waits to do the reveal. It’s adult stuff and Xoo isn’t an adult, even if she’s got lots of responsibilities. She’s at the mercy of the state.

The state brings Xoo’s uncle in as a temporary with option to permanent guardian and care-giver. There’s not a lot of time for the uncle Geof and Xoo to bond, the issue’s got to end, Keatinge’s got to do a final surprise as far as tone goes, plus the restaurant needs to open.

There’s a beautiful montage on the last few pages.

Flavor’s really neat. There’s a lot of effort from both creators. It’s enthusiastic. I’m hopeful for Flavor.


Writer, Joseph Keatinge; artist, Wook Jin Clark; colorist, Tamra Bonvillain; letterer, Ariana Maher; publisher, Image Comics.

Maestros #6 (May 2018)

Maestros #6Two big surprises this issue. Not counting the little, almost expected double-crosses. No one is particularly nice in Maestros. Except Willy, his mom, and his girlfriend. The Devil’s daughter isn’t so bad either.

It’s the end of the universe, with Willy battling it out with the magical elf for the control of not just the universe, but creation itself. Lots and lots of magical action, all beautifully realized by Skroce. It’s a shame he couldn’t do more of the battle scenes, which are awesome when they’re the wizards, but even better when they’re the hordes. Maestros has such great design on its hordes.

The surprises both come at the end. First, it turns out this issue, #6, is the penultimate issue. Skroce’s had a very successful book to this point and all he’s got to do with the finale is wrap it together for a trade. He ought to be able to do it, based on how well he paces out the action and twists in this one.

Because there’s a big cliffhanger, brought on by the other big twist.

Maestros has been one hell of a book. Skroce’s done some excellent work.


Writer and artist, Steve Skroce; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Fonografiks; publisher, Image Comics.

Evolution #6 (April 2018)

Evolution #6And after its best issue, Evolution returns to its regular level. A little rushed–or, more accurately, a little abrupt–and all setup for something coming in a future issue. Delayed realization.

Once again, the art becomes the most important thing about the comic. Infurnari delivers, though it’s not a lot of interesting stuff. L.A. diners and New York hospitals are only so visually stimulating. The infected, evolved monsters are out of John Carpenter’s The Thing, which is fine–maybe they should’ve done a licensed title instead–but nothing new.

This issue has a big twist at the end involving the one doctor who knows what’s going on. He was previously the closest thing the comic had to a protagonist (unlike the other two plot lines, he gets two plots an issue–so maybe two writers too). It’s not a great twist. In fact, it’s one of those “do I still want to read this comic” twists.


Writers, James Asmus, Joseph Keatinge, Christopher Sebela, and Joshua Williamson; artist, Joe Infurnari; colorist, Jordan Boyd; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Arielle Basich and Jon Moisan; publisher, Image Comics.

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