Fred Van Lente

Weird Detective: The Stars Are Wrong (2016)

Weird DetectiveA friend of mine describes Weird Detective as the best J’onn J’onzz story ever told. It’s entirely possible, though the protagonist in Weird isn’t an alien from Mars, he’s a different kind of visitor. Weird Detective is Cthulhu and Lovecraft, not little green men.

Though the protagonist is sort of a little green man in his home dimension.

Writer Fred Van Lente gives the protagonist a lot of back story and some great first person narration. He’s come to Earth on a mission, one with a somewhat mundane resolution–humorously mundane, however; Van Lente likes his wry jokes. I mean, the protagonist–Sebastian Green (great noir cop name)–telepathically communicates with his cat. Just a regular cat too. Not a special one. It’s often very funny, but it also goes a long way in giving the book some personality. Because without it, a lot of Weird Detective would otherwise just be a cop comic.

Tentacles vs. Sea Monsters.
Tentacles vs. Sea Monsters.
Albeit one with Lovecraftian sea witches and monsters and so on. The personality carries it through, whether it’s how Van Lente uses the first person narration to get across all these creepy extra-dimensional mind powers Greene has or how artist Guiu Villanova occasionally will play with composition to control the reading pace. It’s a thoughtfully executed book.

The detective gets a partner, who’s secretly investigating him, which he knows about because he’s from another dimension. They have decent but not great chemistry. Van Lente is using the partner as a narrative device to reveal not just Greene’s back story–as she investigates, he reveals to the reader–but she also serves as an expository tool to tie a couple of the plot lines together. She’s not even part of it, just there to voice the exposition. It’s too bad, but far from a dealbreaker for the comic.

Vilanova and the colorists–Maurício Wallace and Josan Gonzalez–do a fantastic job with the setting. It’s this sunburnt New York City, modern but kind of like a colorized film noir with the saturation turned up. Even when Van Lente gives the partner, Fayez, her origin–at the very end too, right before a weak and confusing reveal–and it’s ultra-modern terrorism and police corruption stuff, Vilanova still makes it look like that colorized noir. The book’s got a lot of personality–protagonist, voice, plot, and art. It all comes together quite well.

Bogie offers some advice.
Bogie offers some advice.
In the second half, Greene and Fayez are after the same big bad–sort of, Weird Detective is almost as confusing as The Big Sleep in terms of confusion (there’s a whole Mr. Big creep who’s apparently just around in case there’s a sequel series)–but they’re not working together. Keeping them apart in their investigations means a little bit more filler, but the book doesn’t get anything from it. It’s almost like Van Lente forgot about the bigger mystery until about halfway through. He was having too much fun with the concept before that point.

Van Lente tries hard to make the reader like certain characters. Some of it is just character development, some of it is plot development, some of it is manipulation. Van Lente’s greatest success is in delivering, with Vilanova, a supernatural cop story with a real Lovecraftian bent. Hopefully they’ll do a sequel someday.

CREDITS

Writer, Fred Van Lente; artist, Guiu Vilanova; colorists, Josan Gonzalez and Mauricio Wallace; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Kevin Burkhalter and Spencer Cushing; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

The Incredible Hercules 141 (April 2010)

herc141.jpg
No.

Effing.

Way.

They rip off a line from Braveheart? Does Marvel even have an editor reading this book? The second or third most recognizable line from a blockbuster Oscar winner gets past the editor? Seriously? Pak and Van Lente are some lazy writers. Though I guess the very non-Edith Hamilton reveal is a bit of a surprise.

And I guess I wasn’t expecting Amadeus Cho’s “girlfriend” to be such a useless character. I figured Pak and Van Lente might actually pull that one off all right. Big shock, they didn’t.

I think this issue’s the last, which is good, because reading such drivel puts me in a bad mood.

Even the Agents of Atlas story concludes without much dramatic heft. It’s a capital b big deal, but it’s told in layered, third-person summary to give it that heft and it’s all pretty eh, which makes me sad.

CREDITS

Assault on New Olympus, Finale: Everybody Dies; writers, Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente; artist, Rodney Buchemi; colorist, Guillem Mari; letterer, Simon Bowland. Godmarked Part 5: To Battle A God!; writer, Jeff Parker; artist, Gabriel Hardman; colorist, Will Quintana; letterer, Tom Orzechowski. Editors, Nathan Cosby, Jordan D. White and Mark Paniccia; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Incredible Hercules 140 (March 2010)

herc140.jpg
The full onslaught of chatter between Amadeus Cho and Hercules has to be one of the most astoundingly stupid things I’ve ever read. Still, there’s some moderately okay drama in this issue. The art’s still atrocious though, so it’s hard to muddle through.

The issue’s pacing is really funny, as the characters are racing against time, only to have more than enough time for everything.

And it’s really funny a Marvel comic book ripped off The Dark Knight. You’d think someone would have noticed it.

Lots of bad Greek god flashbacks again this issue. I can’t figure out who this comic book is made for… someone who likes bad writing and bad art?

The Atlas backup has one of the best one liners from Ken I can remember in quite a while and Parker manages to get in a lot of very solid character dialogue in an action-heavy story.

CREDITS

Assault on New Olympus, Act III: The Fourth Extinction; writers, Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente; artist, Rodney Buchemi; colorist, Guillem Mari; letterer, Simon Bowland. Godmarked Part 4: Oh Hades… It is On!; writer, Jeff Parker; artist, Gabriel Hardman; colorist, Jeremy Roberts; letterer, Tom Orzechowski. Editors, Nathan Cosby, Jordan D. White and Mark Paniccia; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Incredible Hercules 139 (February 2010)

herc139.jpg
Wait, Amadeus Cho is straight? I didn’t want to say they wrote him gay because I thought he might be Marvel’s attempt at a gay mainstream character but if he’s straight… it’s the most incompetent job of someone writing a heterosexual since… well, I don’t know when, maybe… umm… wow. He’s straight, really? And in love with a gorgon?

Anyway, this issue is lame, big shock. Lots of wasted pages with superheroes fighting Greek gods, which is boring as all hell. Edith Hamilton be damned, let’s read some Marvel gods. It’s laughable compared to what Perez did on Wonder Woman, but whatever.

The art’s weak as well. Especially on Amadeus Cho.

The Atlas backup is nice, Parker getting his backup pacing chops going here. There’s some humor, some action. It feels like Atlas. It’s just too bad there’s so little of it, especially given the feature story is such crap.

CREDITS

Assault on New Olympus, Act II: Faithbomb; writers, Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente; penciller, Rodney Buchemi; inker, Reilly Brown; colorist, Guillem Mari; letterer, Simon Bowland. Godmarked Part 3: Jimmy & the Atlasnauts; writer, Jeff Parker; artist, Gabriel Hardman; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Tom Orzechowski. Editors, Nathan Cosby, Jordan D. White and Mark Paniccia; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Incredible Hercules 138 (January 2010)

herc138.jpg
So Hercules isn’t just a moron, he’s got a weird little Asian sidekick who’s super-smart? I mean, what would Wertham have to say about their creepy little relationship? Actually, it’s not creepy. It’s just dumb. But since the Assault on New Olympus prologue killed off so many brain cells, this issue doesn’t seem as bad. It’s a terrible, terrible Marvel superhero comic. But it’s not like Cable or something. It’s not Deadpool.

The Asian sidekick, Amadeus Cho, reads like a sidekick from an eighties television show. Like if “Automan” had a little kid sidekick. Oh, wait, he’s Short Round.

There’s some fighting, some jokes, some Christian propaganda.

The only reason to read it is the Agents of Atlas backup, which is a lot better than last time.

Parker’s got better pacing this time and he’s got the team together (Venus brainwashed was trouble). He pulls the recovery off well.

CREDITS

Playing Gods; writers, Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente; artist, Rodney Buchemi; colorist, Guillem Mari; letterer, Simon Bowland. Godmarked Part 2: Remember the Titans?; writer, Jeff Parker; artist, Gabriel Hardman; colorist, Will Quintana; letterer, Tom Orzechowski. Editors, Nathan Cosby, Jordan D. White and Mark Paniccia; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Assault on New Olympus 1 (January 2010)

assault-on-new-olympus-1.jpg

Marvel dumped the Hulk from his own title to give it to Hercules? Hercules?

He’s an idiot. Reading this special, the Hercules part, is like watching a moron bumble through some superhero adventures; it’s so stupid, it’s sad.

Also sad is the artwork, Rodney Buchemi is a practical–since when did Marvel decide it was all right to run these amateurs on their B-titles. This guy isn’t ready for a Fruit Pie advertisement, much less a lengthy comic book.

His Hercules is just goofy, but his Peter Parker is just awful.

And, as my first unmarried Spidey book in a while… wow, de-aging Peter Parker is a terrible, terrible idea. The character flops.

Unfortunately, the Agents of Atlas backup flops too. It’s too short a story for Parker to really establish anything; instead, it’s just a series of events. It’s not even clear Venus is brainwashed.

Very disappointed.

CREDITS

Assault on New Olympus; writers, Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente; artist, Rodney Buchemi; colorist, Guillem Mari; letterer, Simon Bowland. Godmarked Part 1: The Oldest One; writer, Jeff Parker; artist, Gabriel Hardman; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Tom Orzechowski. Editors, Nathan Cosby, Jordan D. White and Mark Paniccia; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Scroll to Top