Adam Hughes

Betty & Veronica 1 (September 2016)

Betty & Veronica #1WTF.

Or, as Archie Andrews, as written by Adam Hughes would say, “double-yoo, tee, eff.” Because it kind of pretends to be an all ages comic; the idea of Hughes doing this 21st century good girl art version of Betty and Veronica requires it to be ostensibly all ages. Except Hughes isn’t writing it at all for kids. He’s got a bunch of pop culture references–opening with Archie and Jughead doing a Fight Club riff is only slightly more ambitious than having Jughead’s dog narrate half the issue.

As a brand, Archie Comics is about to crossover. It’s about to be mainstream in a way no one thought Archie Comics could ever be. Hughes isn’t doing anything for that effort. He’s doing this weird pseudo-retro book, smartphones but still the idea the kids of Riverdale are going into the freaking army instead of Oberlin, lots of weak anti-hipster blather while Archie compares Jughead to Wimpy over his hamburger fixation. Sex jokes about Moose and Midge but not really. Hughes also writes Moose like the Hulk, which is dumb.

What should be frustrating is the art is fantastic. Except on Betty and Veronica, who Hughes just does his good girl art poses on. They look like they’ve cut and pasted from a pin-up, not interacting with the scene around them. In the middle of the issue is two empty pages where the characters read the comic–Betty and Veronica, removed from the narrative. How meta. How lame. But how much better than the rest? A lot, it’s a lot better than the rest. The comic is so dumb, the great art doesn’t matter. Hughes not integrating his–air quotes–protagonists into the art or narrative flow (it’s either the dog or Archie or Jughead after the first act) isn’t even a problem. If they were integrated and the art were even better, the writing would still be bad.

And if Hughes’s dialogue weren’t terrible? The plot would still be meandering. He just wants to fill frames and talk.

I’m not sure I wanted to like this comic. But I did want to have some respect for it. Doing a 21st century Betty & Veronica well would be something, even if I didn’t want to read it. But Hughes is wrong for it. He’s bad at writing this comic book, he’s bad at these characters. He’s fine drawing them, of course, but so is almost every artist. There’s even a gallery of the variant covers from a bunch of other artists at the end of the book and they’re all good. So what? The writing isn’t there. Hughes doesn’t take it seriously at all.

CREDITS

Why Can’t We Be Friends?; writer and artist, Adam Hughes; colorist, José Villarrubia; letterer, Jack Morelli; editors, Stephen Oswald, Jamie Lee Rotante and Mike Pellerito; publisher, Archie Comics.

The Maze Agency Annual 1 (August 1990)

340992The annual has three stories. The first has Rick Magyar, Darick Robertson and William Messner-Loebs illustrating a Spirit homage. It’s a lot of fun; Barr’s script for it is very fast. Gabe’s on a mission, runs into Jennifer, both having Spirit references in their appearance. It’d be impossible to tell the story without the art angle. Very nice opening.

Sadly, the second story just goes on and on. Allen Curtis is a mediocre artist and Barr asks him to do a lot. The mystery involves a corpse in a moving box. It takes forever to get going, then Barr rushes the big finale. Curtis doesn’t draw characters distinctly enough; two suspects look exactly the same, making the end confusing.

The last story–with Adam Hughes pencils and Magyar inks–is a reprint of a convention special. The mystery’s solution is confounding, but the excellent art makes up for it.

B- 

CREDITS

A Night at the Rose Petal; artists, Rick Magyar, Darick Robertson and William Messner-Loebs; colorists, Michelle Basil and Susan Glod; letterer, Vickie Williams. Moving Stiffs; penciller, Allen Curtis; inkers, Keith Aiken and Jim Sinclair; colorists, Basil and Glod; letterer, Williams; Murder in Mint Condition; penciller, Adam Hughes; inker, Magyar; colorist, Glod; letterer, Bob Pinaha. Writer, Mike W. Barr; editors, Michael Eury and David Campiti; publisher, Innovation Publishing.

The Maze Agency 12 (May 1990)

275577Hughes is back this issue; he concentrates on mood more than faces, which is odd for a detective comic. At least it seems odd for Maze Agency. Oh, there are some good shots of Jennifer and Gabe, but some of the suspects are completely indistinct.

The cynical take is Hughes was hurrying through and skipping faces sped things along. Even so, the result is a peculiarly wonderful looking book. The lack of focus puts the reader off to the side of the story while still inside it, like things overheard. It’s very interesting.

The mystery itself isn’t particularly interesting. There are some good character moments for Gabe and Jennifer–Hughes doesn’t rush through their scenes and his facial expressions are amazing–and a funny little “Remington Steele” nod.

The wrap-up, however, is a little rushed. The comic feels like it’s missing a page or two. But it’s fine work.

CREDITS

Murderer’s Mask; writer, Mike W. Barr; penciller, Adam Hughes; inker, Rick Magyar; colorist, Susan Glod; letterer, Tom Addis; editor, David Campiti; publisher, Innovation Publishing.

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan 4 (April 2013)

898459More 2001 visual references–heck, maybe even a 2010–and Hughes gets over his aversion to Jon’s big blue penis… but it’s a lackluster finale issue.

Straczynski has to tie into the original series, which means bringing in Adrian, and the whole thing becomes a bore. He not only doesn’t do anything interesting with Jon–the monolith epilogue should have been the whole issue–he writes a very annoying Adrian.

For the first time in the series, Dr. Manhattan feels like just a tie-in comic. All the originality Straczynski previously showed is gone. It becomes perfunctory. It’s too bad.

The series’s big question–what does Jon want out of his existence–never gets addressed. And unlike Moore, Straczynski doesn’t play it like a precisely choreographed graphic narrative experience–Jon has too much character to just get pushed aside for Adrian.

Still, the series’s previous successes outweigh the lame finish.

CREDITS

Changes in Perspective; writer, J. Michael Straczynski; artist, Adam Hughes; colorist, Laura Martin; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Chris Conroy, Camilla Zhang and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan 3 (February 2013)

886063In a lot of ways, Straczynski has turned Dr. Manhattan into a neatly disguised rumination from a fictional character questioning his relationship with his environment. Jon wants to change his personal narrative to make it a happy one, which turns out to end the world. One has to wonder why he didn’t just try to remove the costumed adventurers all together… as in our reality (all Straczynski’s quantum mechanics has got me talking like he does), there was no nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States.

It would’ve been too cute maybe.

Straczynski continues to write Jon quite well. He captures some of the isolation and melancholy from Moore’s characterization and expands upon it. The whole family history thing is fantastic.

This spin-off is probably the best thing Straczynski has written.

Great Hughes art (he wimps out on the detailed blue penis though).

Awful pirate backup.

CREDITS

Ego Sum; writer, J. Michael Straczynski; artist, Adam Hughes; colorist, Laura Martin; letterer, Steve Wands. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, Wide Were His Dragon Wings, Part Nine; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Chris Conroy, Camilla Zhang and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan 2 (December 2012)

879897Straczynski and Hughes aren’t satisfied with just playing with Watchmen here–Hughes does a lovely montage featuring imagery from the prequels and the original–they also feel the need for a 2001 reference. Dr. Manhattan is interesting because of that ambitiousness.

For example, Straczynski’s writing is concerned with being smart and thoughtful. The series is an informed layperson’s rumination on quantum physics. He’s designing the whole comic around the idea Jon can unmake the universe based on how he choses to perceive it. That idea’s a big one–and Hughes is the perfect artist for the fantastic reality of it–but it’s not necessarily tied to Watchmen.

Instead of wrapping himself around the original’s mythology, Straczynski takes some characters and details and goes off in an entirely independent direction. Even when he does tie into the other prequels, it feels organic.

It’s nice.

The pirate backup even looks quite good.

CREDITS

One Fifteen P.M.; writer, J. Michael Straczynski; artist, Adam Hughes; colorist, Laura Martin; letterer, Steve Wands. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, Wide Were His Dragon Wings, Part One; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Chris Conroy, Camilla Zhang and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan 1 (October 2012)

874365There’s something cool about Dr. Manhattan. Not just because Adam Hughes does the art–though the way he’s able to be stylized and still fluid is impressive; I wasn’t expecting him to do sequential so well.

And it’s not cool because J. Michael Straczynski tries so hard to ape Alan Moore’s “voice” for Jon. It’s cool because Straczynski actually comes up with something a little different than the rest of these Before Watchmen books.

Well, the ones trying to deal directly with the original series’s events. While Jon’s off on Mars, Straczynski gives him a side adventure. He goes into it without trying to tie it into the original series. It’s like he’s broken the timeline between the original and this prequel.

So between this approach, Hughes’s artwork and Straczynski’s successful aping of Moore’s voice for the character, the issue’s not bad.

The pirate backup, however, is horrendously written stuff.

CREDITS

What’s in the Box?; writer, J. Michael Straczynski; artist, Adam Hughes; colorist, Laura Martin; letterer, Steve Wands. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Evil That Men Do, Part Two; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Chris Conroy, Camilla Zhang and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

The Maze Agency 9 (February 1990)

275574So, for those who don’t know, Ellery Queen is an amateur sleuth, created in 1928 or so, and has had numerous print, film, television and probably radio adventures. This issue of Maze celebrates his sixtieth anniversary and gives him a comic book adventure.

I’m vaguely sure Barr mentioned him earlier in the series as a fictional character, which makes his appearance here strange. It’s a gimmick for mystery geeks… not sure there are a lot of those but whatever, Barr actually does quite well.

He establishes the character’s modernized setting quickly, he gives Queen a fun relationship with the leads (Queen admires Jennifer’s abilities while Gabe follows him around like a lapdog) and produces a relatively interesting mystery.

I say relatively because it’s interesting while reading, but immediately forgettable. The guest stars aren’t the suspects–Barr focuses that spotlight on Queen.

Some very nice work from Hughes and Magyar too.

CREDITS

The English Channeler Mystery: A Problem in Deduction; writer, Mike W. Barr; penciller, Adam Hughes; inker, Rick Magyar; colorists, Carol Van Hook and Kevin Van Hook; letterers, Tom Addis and Vickie Williams; editor, David Campiti; publisher, Innovation Publishing.

The Maze Agency 8 (December 1989)

275573Barr does a lot better introducing Jennifer to Gabe’s world than he did introducing Gabe to her’s. Gabe lives in a crappy New York apartment with an assortment of interesting neighbors. Bringing glamorous Jennifer into it provides a lot of amusement.

There’s also a lot of innuendo, whether it’s the actual sex or Gabe begging for sex. Barr does a good job with it–Gabe is back as Maze’s protagonist.

The mystery involves his neighbors, which also works out. It’s interesting to see a high profile private detective thrown into a more mundane crime setting. The regular police detectives sadly don’t appear; Barr establishes the new ones too fast.

Hughes and Magyar do well with the art. There are no fantastic locations, but Hughes has some nice summary pages of the investigation and its solution.

It’s a good issue. Barr’s excellent handling of the dating makes all the difference.

CREDITS

A New Lease on Death; writer, Mike W. Barr; penciller, Adam Hughes; inker, Rick Magyar; colorists, Carol Van Hook and Kevin Van Hook; letterer, Deborah Marks; editor, Michael Eury; publisher, Innovation Publishing.

The Maze Agency 5 (April 1989)

275570Barr establishes a bad first here–he has his leads accuse an off-panel suspect. The reader finds out the suspect’s identity at the confession.

Overall, it’s a troubled issue. The format keeps it going, but there are art problems (Al Vey isn’t the best inker for Hughes) and lots of story ones. The art ones aren’t too bad–Vey just doesn’t suit Hughes, the art isn’t bad. But Barr’s story? It’s weak.

First, the romance subplot between leads Gabe and Jennifer. They’re dating other people but making out once an issue. When Gabe dates someone else, Jennifer gets upset. Barr’s solution to their tiff is to have Gabe be cruel to his date. It makes both leads unsympathetic.

Then the little things. A cryogenics firm owner’s name is Lazare (as in Lazurus). It’s like Jim Shooter’s writing the comic.

I’m glad it’s the fifth issue and not the first.

CREDITS

Death Warmed Over; writer, Mike W. Barr; penciller, Adam Hughes; inker, Al Vey; colorist, Julia Lacquement; letterer, Deborah Marks; editor, Michael Eury; publisher, Comico.

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