June 2016

War Stories 19 (June 2016)

War Stories #19Whenever Garth Ennis does WWII and he does something with the UK, I assume it’s a little bit of a capitulation. What does one expect from Ennis except WWII and UK war comics? I mean, really. There’s even squabbling among the airmen based on one not being from the same part of the UK. It’s exactly what one would expect.

And it’s pretty darn all right. He doesn’t do much with the characters–thankfully Tomas Aira gives them different enough uniforms and body types, but it’s not like Ennis is throwing a lot of character development in. He’s playing for the scene. The draw is the subject matter, which is the RAF putting together their night fighter squadron. Ennis even opens it with a text introduction to the era.

It works. It all works out. Aira’s fine on the airplanes and his composition for the talking heads scenes are getting better. War comics need good composition for briefing sequences. It’s a lot to juggle; Aira doesn’t have the detail on faces and the coloring is still War Stories atrocious–I really hope Ennis has it in some contract if these things catch up commercially, they’ll get recolored–but it’s the best first issue of a War Stories arc the series has had in ages.

It’s also a four-parter, instead of the traditional three. The cynic in me wonders if it’s a drawer script Ennis has had around for a while.

CREDITS

Vampire Squadron, Part One: A Barrel of Guinness; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Cinema Purgatorio 3 (June 2016)

Cinema Purgatorio #3Cinema Purgatorio, the comic I want to be able to love–the comic I want to be able to like–and I just can’t. This issue reveals the series’s two major problems. First, the artists (with at least one exception) aren’t doing black and white well. Their art is meant to be colored at some point, not appreciated on its own. Stories in Cinema Purgatorio have what should be great art, but it ends up being incomplete. Second, the pacing. Each of these stories–even the lamest ones–would be fine as a back-up in a decent comic. Not even a great comic. They aren’t installments for an anthology, they’re back-ups. They’d justify an extra buck on the cover price. They don’t justify a comic to themselves.

Starting at the top, Moore and O’Neill’s Cinema Purgatorio “feature.” It’s good, not great, but really good. It’s a serial, the hero keeps turning back time, there’s a lot of precise work from O’Neill. It’s not deep, it’s not musing. The biggest revelation is Purgatorio’s protagonist uses the ladies room. But it’s good. If it were the intro story to a better comic, it’d be great. Still, it’s Moore and O’Neill riffing on pop culture of the forties, one can’t complain.

Then there’s Code Pru, which is the only comic in the anthology with its own story title. I don’t know why, Ennis isn’t doing anything with them. Maybe if the story title somehow tidied up the poorly paced story, but no. It’s just a title. And Code Pru once again feels like if it had another four pages it’d be great. Instead, it’s an Alien rip-off. Ennis doing riffs on famous horror isn’t a bad idea, but it needs its own book and it needs Caceres’s art with color. It’s too busy and not detailed precisely enough for black and white. It’s not even effective as gore.

On the other hand, Calero’s black and white art on Modded is fine. It’s still really tedious to read because Calero’s visual pacing is all wrong, but his black and white line work seems like line work. It’s worth going through the trouble of figuring out what’s going on to appreciate those lines. Gillen’s script is mediocre but inoffensive.

Next up–A More Perfect Union and I’m done being polite. I was polite about DiPascale because I liked his Ennis dog comic but he’s tried my patience. His art for Civil War vs. giant ants–yes, not zombies, ants–is too pedestrian. Writer Brooks is clearly a Civil War buff, if DiPascale is one too, it doesn’t seem to be in the visual elements of the era. Brooks’s script is weak. Again, if it were a back-up, you’d breeze through it. But not in an overfull, undercooked anthology.

Then there’s The Vast. I dig Andrade’s art. He does incomplete black and white better than anyone else in the book (or Caceres and DiPascale–Cinema Purgatorio always seems like there’s a sixth story, maybe because Moore and O’Neill are doing movies in a frame). Gage’s kaiju but not kaiju script is still lame. But inoffensive.

If Cinema Purgatorio were just three dollars cheaper, it’d be great; as an event anthology, it’s kind of a waste. But it’s Alan Moore and Garth Ennis, so you have to read it.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, A Little Something to Lower Your Spirits; 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.

Pretty Deadly 10 (June 2016)

Pretty Deadly #10Pretty Deadly wraps up its second arc with the series’s standard mix of action and humanism. Standard isn’t a pejorative; creators DeConnick and Rios have always taken a singular approach to genre with the comic. They refuse to firmly foot in any–this arc is a WWI story and the story of a black family in 1918(?) America–they also refuse to rely on any genre tropes, yet there’s always a familiarity with them. Pretty Deadly is an intentionally tough comic to digest. The digestion process is where DeConnick and Rios are able to affect the reader the most.

About half this issue is resolution to the arc, which suggests a single sitting read of the arc might be in order, and the other half is mostly action. Except it’s Rios’s mystical, yet very physical, action. There’s a fluidity to the movement in the mystical action–the reader has to find their own entry point and then follow the movement across the page. Lots of full page spreads here–again, it’s the last issue in the arc, so there need to be money shots. Rios fills them with glorious dread.

While DeConnick wraps up for the arc’s new characters, she does make a few hints to Deadly’s future. But as Pretty Deadly moves across time periods–it started as a Western–DeConnick opens it up more. The implications of the mystical world of the Reapers aren’t just how it relates to the present action of the arc. DeConnick and Rios are gradually introducing a much bigger world.

Pretty Deadly is simultaneously loud and quiet, thrilling and reserved. It’s an excellent comic.

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Sigrid Ellis; publisher, Image Comics.

Manifest Destiny 20 (June 2016)

Manifest Destiny #20I had assumed Manifest Destiny doing a story arc titled Sasquatch meant creators Dingess and Roberts were going for more visibility and media attention, but this issue might prove me wrong. Because the Big Feet turn out to be Cyclopses. Cyclopses humans enjoy consuming. It’s so weird, it doesn’t feel commercially minded. So I apologize for that cynical view of this story arc’s ambitions.

However, it’s still not particularly good. Dingess splits between boring stuff in the present–we get it, the criminals on the Lewis and Clark expedition are going to revolt, all the time, as the comic’s only steady subplot–and boring stuff in the past. A Spanish explorer ghost tells the pre-Lewis and Clark explorer guy in the past to eat the Cyclops and to feed it to the rest of the men. Strong cannibalism taboo for Manifest Destiny, which Dingess is going to get the split narrative for the whole arc. And keeping it is a bad idea. Because it’s boring.

Manifest Destiny is a comic book with giant monsters roaming the countryside and it’s boring. It’s talky, but it’s not talky in any sort of interesting way. Dingess used to present the fantasy historical information in exposition. He doesn’t even bother with that information anymore. It’s still competent and Roberts’s art is still gorgeous but Sasquatch has the series stalled out.

CREDITS

Sasquatch, Part Two; 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.

I Hate Fairyland 6 (June 2016)

I Hate Fairyland #6Based on this issue, which covers the entirety of the reign of Queen Gertrude the First (and Only?), maybe Young shouldn’t do arcs with I Hate Fairyland. He’s so good at summary storytelling, which fairytales rely heavily upon, he doesn’t really need to drag things out. He does amazing things with repeated visuals, repeated jokes. This issue’s narrative mostly takes place off panel but it’s still about as perfect a comic about a homicidal woman-child turned ruler of a fairytale kingdom could be.

The other thing about doing a bunch of short scenes is how much mileage Young can get out of the gore. Gertrude’s not just an evil queen, she’s bad at the job. She’s bad at being an evil queen. So he builds up expectation and then is able to fulfill it quickly before moving on. This issue is like a bunch of little hills. The gory, hilarious payoff is at the peak, but the journey’s the thing. While each gag has its punctuation point, the transitions are awesome too. Young knows how to make funnies.

I Hate Fairyland is high concept, but the series’s excellence isn’t in that concept. It’s in Young’s ability, which is sort of higher concept than the McGuffin. It’s masterful stuff. It just happens to be exceedingly gory and crude.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Skottie Young; colorist, Jean-Francois Bealieu; letterer, Nate Piekos; publisher, Image Comics.

The Spire 8 (June 2016)

The Spire #8There are many impressive things about this final issue of The Spire, but I think the most impressive has to be how Spurrier and Stokely pace the whole thing. It’s got a quick reveal to solve a mystery, but then spins into this third act for the entire series. Not to mention a simultaneously tragic and awesome moment for one of its most endearing characters.

Hero fartslam indeed.

While ShΓ₯ solves The Spire’s mystery internally, there’s also the external (to the Spire) battle raging. Or preparing to rage. Spurrier and Stokely toggle quickly between the plot threads, agitating the reader and the characters. Everything is urgent, everything is important.

There are lots of revelations this issue. Probably half a dozen, maybe a few more, but Spurrier has the reader (and the characters) ready to digest them while in motion. There are no pause points; he never has to go overtly expository. The Spire is sci-fi fantasy noir, using the best narrative devices of each genre.

It’s also the best kind of depressing–symmetrical in its tragedy. Spurrier and Stokely make it move so fast, it haunts the reader without ever having to shock the reader.

The Spire is outstanding. Spurrier and Stokely. Hero fartslam.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; artist, Jeff Stokely; colorist, AndrΓ© May; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Cameron Chittock and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

A Train Called Love 9 (June 2016)

A Train Called Love #9There’s so much action, so much ultra-violence–Ennis looses his Nazi contractor (who’s working for the black guy villain, because–come on–it’s Ennis) in a shopping mall. It’s blood, guts and severed heads everywhere. And it’s glorious. Dos Santos goes crazy with it. There’s so much action, so much physical comedy. Oh, yeah. The four dumb guys are all running around naked. Because Ennis.

And it turns out Train Called Love is only ten issues. So it’s all over soon, which is tragic. Ennis has created such a fantastic cast of characters, with Dos Santos able to make them downright loveable through their absurdity. I wanted three more issues. Alas, poor me, just one more.

It does make sense, however. The way Ennis paces this issue, I should’ve guessed it wasn’t going to twelve. There’s a bit of character stuff in the background–none with the four doofuses because they’re doofuses–but Marv’s girlfriend (Penny?) gets to build towards something and then there’s the romance between the spy and Penny’s sister.

The comic’s hectic but never too hectic. It’s never jumbled. It’s Dos Santos’s best art in the book, just because there’s so much for him to keep in motion.

I just wish it wasn’t ending so soon.

CREDITS

Never Mind the Bollocks; 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.

The Baker Street Peculiars 4 (June 2016)

The Baker Street Peculiars #4As it turns out, I was silly to worry about Baker Street. Langridge has a wonderful conclusion for the series–a little more aimed towards the trade read, but wonderful nonetheless.

Langridge resolves the immediate story in the first third of the comic (or something approximating between third and half) and it’s mostly an opportunity for Hirsch’s art. It’s all action, with a concise visual pacing. The kids have to take down the army of Golems in a fantastic sequence.

But then the comic changes gears as it heads for the finale. Langridge isn’t as interested in the resolution of the Golem invasion as he is in his characters (specifically Molly). Hirsch and Langridge pack the panels with information–foreground and background–as the whole thing turns into an actual argument over responsibility and gender stereotypes.

Once the danger is resolved, Langridge isn’t done. Sure, Hirsch doesn’t get a lot to do in the denouement, but he’s got enough to do and Baker Street is too busy having fantastic dialogue. Langridge has a phenomenal knack for pacing out an argument, which he shows twice this issue.

I’ll have to read Baker Street Peculiars again someday, in a single sitting. But it’s already a significant success in the floppies.

Oh, yeah, there’s a whole Sherlock Holmes deconstruction thing going on too.

CREDITS

The Case of the Cockney Golem, Chapter Four: The Battle of Brick Lane; writer, Roger Langridge; artist and letterer, Andy Hirsch; colorist, Fred Stressing; editors, Cameron Chittock and Sierra Hahn; publisher, KaBOOM!

Johnny Red 7 (June 2016)

Johnny Red #7It’s an action issue and not much of one. Lots of exposition, lots of scenes, lots of flying and getting nowhere. Ennis doesn’t lose the series’s momentum, but it’s the first Johnny Red in a while to not leave me stunned. The achievement is probably not losing their momentum.

Because there’s nothing to this comic. It’s a bunch of plot stirring, a bunch of poking the bear. Ennis teases the reader over and over again. It’s gently manipulative but in obvious enough ways one can just look past it. Ennis has to get through the issue, he has to move the characters to certain places, position the story a certain way. He drags it out.

The worse part is how much Burns’s art suffers with the pacing problems. He’s got a lot of pages to fill with action and the occasional air battle suspense, but he doesn’t have much in the way of a story.

I’m hoping Ennis lands this one all right. I’m sure it’ll be at least “all right.” I’m not sure it’s going to go down as his essential World War II story though, something I was previously hopeful about.

CREDITS

Straight In and No Messing; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Keith Burns; colorist, Jason Wordie; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Jess Burton and Steve White; publisher, Titan Comics.

Scroll to Top