July 2016

Cinema Purgatorio 4 (July 2016)

Cinema Purgatorio #4Holy shit, is Gillen’s Modded a GamerGate thing? Are we supposed to hate the women for telling the sweet little dude what to do? I really hope not. I hope it’s just a dumb scene. Gillen’s writing on this story is already so lame, I’d feel even worse if he were actually trying something subtle with political commentary and just failing at it. Fine enough art from Calero as usual.

Way too short Vast from Gage and Andrade. Again, fine art, crap writing. But Gage really doesn’t have any time to do anything. It’s almost not fair to call the weak writing weak.

And then the Max Brooks thing. DiPascale’s greyscale digital art is too flat this entry. It’s a weak script with the giant ant fighting but there should have been more personality to it.

Notice I went through all the weak stories in this issue of Cinema Purgatorio first? Because the good stories are worth their own time and some due respect.

First, Garth Ennis. And Code Pru, the most disappointing thing in Cinema Purgatorio. Ennis and Raulo Caceres started it as its own thing, got to a promising place, flubbed it when they went to this anthology. It’s not a supernatural book anymore, it’s a monster comic. Maybe Ennis is doing a movie tie-in, who knows. It doesn’t come across. What does come across is good writing though and this issue’s entry of Pru has some great Ennis dialogue. It just doesn’t involve Pru or her partner. He’s not interested in them because all they do is exposition. It’s a mess but there’s still some Ennis goodness. Caceres’s art is too dark for black and white though.

Finally, Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill doing an homage to Willis H. O’Brien and King Kong. It’s lovely and makes me wish Moore and O’Neill could do this book forever. It’s a shame the other stories in the anthology have anything to do with movies. Moore and O’Neill deserve far better co-creators. Great art on it, some wonderful writing from Moore. It has to be seen to be believed. It makes the issue–this somewhat disastrous Avatar anthology–an essential comic book. Moore’s a show-off with Purgatorio. O’Neill less but he’s still very confident, but Moore’s having a great time with reader expectation. They’re doing great work.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, A King at Twilight; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, Mommy’s Boy; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Ignacio Calero. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Michael DiPascale. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Providence 10 (July 2016)

Providence #10Well. Providence. Robert Black gets his comeuppance for a lot of inept behavior earlier in the comic. He also finds out Lovecraft is a bigot, not to mention how sometimes the universe rewards endeavors. It’s not a weird comic because what’s so great about the reveals is how Moore started building towards them so long ago, but still keeps them relevant. It’s a masterfully written comic book. The only thing Moore takes more seriously than the Lovecraft stuff is the humor. It’s so sad and it’s so funny.

Burrows plays into that success–he’s got a lot of wonderful detail on protagonist Black as he’s having revelations about what’s really going on. There’s visible intensifying of the character’s stress; it might be as obvious as sweat or just how he’s holding his hands. Burrows’s art is phenomenal, which is even more impressive when one takes into account how strange the comic gets.

Moore opens with horror, then he goes over to uncomfortable social stuff, only to go further and start thinking about the end of the world. Then he closes with a horrifying, hilarious final reveal–amid what should be the ominous ceremonies to bring back an Elder God or whatever. It’s nuts.

And then the back matter is awesome. Moore and Burrows have fully trained the reader by this point to accept the comic book narrative as truer than the commonplace book back matter, so when they flip how it works, it’s just great.

It’s an excellent comic; of course it’s an excellent comic, it’s Providence.

CREDITS

The Haunted Palace; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

A Train Called Love 10 (July 2016)

A Train Called Love #10What is this lovely comic? It’s not just lovely in terms of Ennis basically doing an extended happy ending, exaggerated as much as he can, it’s lovely in terms of the pacing. He resolves story threads and then gets things moved along as the reader gets to enjoy the result of all the trauma. And it’s love.

It’s so… nice. And positive. And hopeful. It’s not just slightly hopeful like one thing goes all right, it’s a happy ending where pretty much everything works out all right. It’s comedic, sure, but it’s all really sincere. Ennis has a real affection for these characters.

And the bunny. He and Dos Santos have the cute little bunny in the issue a lot. It’s weird. What the heck is this comic? Ten issues of A Train Called Love and I can’t figure it out. But I hope Ennis and Dos Santos have something else planned. Nothing with zombies or monsters though.

I really hope Dynamite collects this series well because I can’t wait to give it a single sitting read someday. It’s delightful. It’s got a lot of gross-out humor and ultra-violence, but it’s heart is in a nice place. Train’s a wonderful comic. Ennis’s writing is on, Dos Santos’s art is on. The gimmick is the sincerity. They apparently wanted to do a great comedic, ultra-violent, gross-out humor romance comic.

Success.

CREDITS

Else the Puck A Liar Call; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Marc Dos Santos; colorist, Salvatore Aiala Studios; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Kevin Ketner, Anthony Marques, Rachel Pinnelas and Matt Idelson; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Manifest Destiny 21 (July 2016)

Manifest Destiny #21Has this arc always had the little year tags to toggle between the flashback and present action? Maybe it did, but I feel like it didn’t, because the transitions were confusing. They’re still confusing, what with the guy in the past having a journal and there’s supposed to be a journal in the present action from Lewis or Clark but Dingess has forgotten about it. But there’s an effort to be less confusing. The effort is nice. It’s a shame it’s still visually confusing; maybe it’s colorist Owen Gieni but the transition from flashback and back is still way too gentle.

That problem isn’t the big one with the arc–or the flashbacks–no, it’s Dingess’s writing. He’s so fixated on the story in the past, he’s ignoring the main characters of the comic book. There’s an infuriating moment this issue where Sacagawea basically offers to go kill all the attacking cyclops bigfoot monsters and she doesn’t get to go. Why? Because Dingess never, ever lets her loose, which is weird–as always–because Sacagawea the warrior was a promise of the first issue.

Then again, Dingess also promised Lewis and Clark would be characters. They’re irrelevant to the comic now. This whole story arc idea, which does package the comic a little better, is making Manifest Destiny irrelevant itself. Sure, Roberts’s art is awesome and the concept is still okay and Dingess does have his moments as a writer, but it’s not adding up to anything.

The issue ends with promise of revelation and thrills next time. Whoopie. They’re never do enough to make up for the book running on fumes.

CREDITS

Sasquatch, Part Three; writer, Chris Dingess; penciller, Matthew Roberts; inkers, Tony Akins and Stefano Gaudiano; colorist, Owen Gieni; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Arielle Basich and Sean Mankiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

Prophet Earth War 5 (July 2016)

Prophet Earth War #5This issue of Earth War feels a little like Prophet-lite. At least writers Graham and Roy know where they should be focusing their attention this issue–there’s three plot lines at least, including the tedious Earth War itself–but they don’t have enough space. The story is way too rushed. It’s the Earth War version of a bridging issue. A bunch of fast paced nonsense to move some characters around while doing some expository somewhere else.

And then there’s the art–there are four different artists and no rhyme or reason to what they’re handling. It looks like Prophet art (because it’s by a bunch of great Prophet artists), but not under close inspection. There’s no detail, there’s no joy. Everyone on Earth War is just trying to get it finished, which is unfortunate, because there’s still some great possibilities in the comic.

There’s a page filling backup–I was kind of hoping the issue would keep going to get towards the end of the series faster (the Earth War stuff is really frustrating, Graham and Roy race through it so fast there’s negative personality). As someone how loved nearly every issue of the Prophet series, I just want Earth War to finish without damaging the original’s legacy….

CREDITS

Writers, Brandon Graham and Simon Roy; artists, Graham, Grim Wilkins, Giannis Milonogiannis and Jenna Trost; colorists, Joseph Bergin II, Lin Visel and Graham; letterer, Ariana Maher; back up story, Mike McGhee; publisher, Image Comics.

I Hate Fairyland 7 (July 2016)

I Hate Fairyland #7Funny thing about Young and I Hate Fairyland. It’s even better when it’s toned down a little. This issue isn’t too gross, isn’t too mean, has a handful of really easy jokes, and it’s maybe the most pleasant experience of the series so far. Or maybe Gert is finally just a character. But we’re getting to better meet the citizens of Fairyland and they’re more amusing than the royalty too. It’s almost an entirely different book.

But Young doesn’t lose anything. He’s gotten the series to a point where the implied, off-panel humor is as funny as if he renders it, which isn’t an easy trick. It’s a very comic strip trick and not one he’s previously seemed concerned about. But Fairyland has always had more potential than what Young was doing with it.

Not anymore, though. Now he’s trying with the book and he’s off to a great start. Some of it works because no one’s particularly bright. Not even the bee. He’s kind of dumb too; it makes the relationship somehow more stable. It’s really cool and it helps with the narrative. It lets Young use expository dialogue. He’s good at the expository dialogue, he’s got a lot of wit, but it still should flirt with tedious and it never does.

Because it’s I Hate Fairyland; it’s brilliant in its saccharine putridity.

CREDITS

How to Drain Your Dragon; writer and artist, Skottie Young; colorist, Jean-Francois Bealieu; letterer, Nate Piekos; publisher, Image Comics.

Velvet 15 (July 2016)

Velvet #15No more Velvet. At least not for now; this arc ends with the end of Velvet’s initial storyline. I really should have known if it was just intended for fifteen issues. I always want that Brubaker ongoing, he always goes twelve to twenty. Or in that range. Enough to make fans out of the book, but then not to fully deliver on its possibilities.

Except with Velvet. The comic has always been very upfront about what it’s doing–it’s a spy thriller, it’s got Epting art, it’s not too creative in terms of the narrative. It’s a “cool” book. Brubaker and Epting doing a mainstream, “cool” indie title. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt Velvet is prime for media development. It is 2016, after all.

And, Velvet, the character, has never been much more than cool. She’s a great protagonist, but Velvet isn’t about her being likable or even relatable. It’s about her being cool and doing cool things, usually involving guns, car chases, subterfuge, explosions and gliding. When Brubaker returns to her narration of the book for the last few pages, it had been so long since Velvet had that kind of internal self-examination, I forgot it was one of the book’s narrative devices. And it’s been fine without it. Less ambitious maybe, but not by much.

Brubaker, Epting and colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser deliver, because of course they do. Brubaker’s mastered comics pulp and always has the right artist for it.

CREDITS

The Man Who Stole the World, Part Five; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors; Sebastian Girner and Eric Stephenson; publisher, Image Comics.

Lazarus 23 (July 2016)

Lazarus #23Rucka employs a lot of structure for this issue of Lazarus. There’s a framing device, then a flashback, then a reveal about the framing device. Only that reveal has absolutely nothing to do with what happened in the flashback and it doesn’t really change the initial frame, it’s just there for Rucka and Lark to do something else cool. There’s a sword fight. Lark does a really, really good job with it. He paces it out perfectly–you can hear the swords clanging looking at his panels–and then when Rucka gets around to the reveal on it? Turns out Rucka’s got some really great ideas too. It’s just a perfect thing in the comic.

It also has nothing to do with the main story. It’s like a glorified subplot, only specially rendered. And, wait, there is something else with some returning characters–maybe this arc is going to go a little bit differently in terms of narrative approach? i.e. Forever won’t be the lead. Something the flashback does address. Lazarus is just an expertly executed book at this point. Rucka and Lark have a phenomenal rhythm.

The flashback, which involves the Carlyle family and their sci-fi soap opera (I mean it in a very good way), has some twists and turns of its own. Rucka’s setting up the arc but he’s also making sure to reward the reader’s patience.

And there’s gorgeous Lark art.

CREDITS

Cull, Part Two; writer, Greg Rucka; penciller, Michael Lark; inkers, Lark and Tyler Boss; colorist, Santiago Arcas; letterer, Jodi Wynne; editor, David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

Kong of Skull Island 1 (July 2016)

Kong of Skull Island #1So, when Dark Horse released Kong: King of Skull Island over ten years ago, I bought it. It wasn’t cheap. And I read it. It wasn’t good. Kong of Skull Island is based on that “illustrated novel.” (It was by Joe DeVito).

Anyway–I wasn’t excited about Kong of Skull Island. Artist Carlos Magno is sort of Boom!’s go-to licensed event guy. He’s incredibly competent, incredibly thoughtful, but lacking in anything particularly dynamic. Kong doesn’t give him anything particularly dynamic. It does play to his strengths, however. He gets to do lots of detailed scenery, lots of carefully posed characters in panels so as not to have to carry the comic with their dialogue, lots of giant monsters, lots of awesome quarter page spreads.

Oh, right. The “awesome” factor to Kong. It’s about a bunch of giant apes–who fight, of course–their intellectually and socially (if not technologically) advanced Polynesian keepers and an island with a bunch of dinosaurs. There’s a cool mythology to it, which works in Kong because writer James Asmus isn’t keeping DeVito’s frame. God forbid he does a sequel series, but who knows, I think they might do an all right job of it.

I went into Kong of Skull Island expecting nothing. Instead, there’s some cool Magno art–he does apes well–there’s dinosaurs, there’s an engaging enough tragic Polynesian romance thing, there’s giant apes fighting. It works. I kind of hope Boom! doesn’t screw up this licensed franchise thing. They’re doing all right by Kong.

CREDITS

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p style=”font-size:11px;”>Writer, James Asmus; artist, Carlos Magno; colorist, Brad Simpson; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editors, Alex Galer and Dafna Pleban; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Kaijumax: Season Two 3 (July 2016)

Km23This issue of Kaijumax might be my favorite. It’s sort of talking heads–the warden faces off with a bureaucrat about how the prison is run–but there’s also a whole subplot for the robot cop. There’s a lot of humanity to the issue and it’s mostly ugly. Even when it’s not entirely ugly, it’s ugly. It’s harsh and depressing and hopefully it’ll be Cannon’s legacy for Kaijumax.

The warden and the bureaucrat grew up as the kids in a Showa-era kaiju movie. They loved their giant monster until something happened. Cannon’s flashback is perfect, down to the maser cannons. Kaijumax’s version of pulling on the heartstrings lately has been to make readers question their sympathies and this issue is no different. Cannon’s got a complex resolution to the bureaucrat and the warden’s conversation, juxtaposed against the odd sadness of the robot cop.

It turns out the robot cop has her human-sized body too and this issue Cannon introduces a lot of her backstory. He also addresses with the brother issues (her brother is Kaijumax’s version of Mecha-Godzilla) and makes some disturbing observations about people (and kaiju movies) with in regards to her upbringing.

Kaijumax takes a serious look at movies never intended to be serious, which is great and relatively important (relatively because how many English-speaking devote kaiju fans are there out there and how many of them read comics). It’s also really depressing.

CREDITS

Old School; writer, artist and letterer, Zander Cannon; colorists, Cannon and Jason Fischer; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

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