Michael DiPascale

Cinema Purgatorio 7 (November 2016)

Cinema Purgatorio #7Well, it’s not the best issue of Cinema Purgatorio. Not the best at all. It’s not really the worst either, I don’t think. I mean, this installment of Modded is probably Kieron Gillen’s strongest writing. But it’s not a particularly distinct issue.

Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill explore the American Western, which is fine. There’s nothing amazing about it. It’s actually a little obvious; it’s light, which is strange.

Code Pru is okay. Ennis is trying a little harder. It doesn’t really come to anything. Maybe he if he had even two more pages, he’d be able to get someplace better with it. It’s actually an improvement over the earlier stories, it’s just still not clicking.

Like I said before, Modded is Gillen’s best writing. Nice art from Nahuel Lopez. It’s a side story from the main plot, so of course it’s going to be better than usual. Gillen still manages to screw it up at the end, of course.

A More Perfect Union has a really nice double-page spread from Michael DiPascale and some stupid Civil War reference from Max Brooks. I don’t care. No one cares, Max Brooks, no one cares. If they cared, if Avatar is really pitching Cinema Purgatorio to Civil War enthusiasts, well, those guys all left during Code Pru and Ennis’s sex positivity.

And The Vast is a reprint from last issue. I think. I don’t even care. If it’s not, nice art from Gabriel Andrade. If it is, nice art from Gabriel Andrade.

Moore and O’Neill worked up some momentum on this book and if they’re running out… well, Cinema Purgatorio is more often disappointing overall than not, it’s just they had a couple really great stories. And Ennis seemed like he was getting with it. As always, it’s too bad it’s not better.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, After Tombstone; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, Men; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Nahuel Lopez. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Michael DiPascale. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Cinema Purgatorio 6 (September 2016)

Cinema Purgatorio #6If there’s meant to be an ideal Cinema Purgatorio, this issue comes closer than I’d ever imagine the comic would get. Even with the occasionally phenomenal, usually good, always fine features from Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, there’s not much of a feel to the comic. It’s an anthology without tone, not even in terms of the story selection. It feels like Alan Moore inserted into a bad Avatar idea.

Until this issue. It’s not like Gillen’s Modded is any better, but Nahuel Lopez’s artwork is less complicated than the last artist’s and it makes it read better. It might not make it better, I feel like Lopez isn’t ambitious as much as functional while the last guy was ambitious, but it makes it read better. It makes Modded less of a letdown when you get to it.

Because it’s not just like the Moore and O’Neill feature is great, Code Pru is actually pretty awesome. Pro is having dinner at the Nighthawks diner and she has a talk with a reject from a bad eighties Terminator/Highlander knockoff. It’s funny, it’s kind of touching, it’s kind of strange. It’s Ennis finding something cool to do with this usually devastatingly series. Ennis doesn’t have a handle on this comic, maybe because of the length, maybe because of whatever, but this time out, he finds it. He finds his character. Caceres’s art is fine. It doesn’t end up fitting well enough, but it’s fine.

A Most Perfect Union is dumb but DiPascale’s on a role with his art, both in terms of the narrative pacing and of his character expressions. He’s developing a visual tone for the comic even though Brooks’s script is weak. And The Vast is cute. Andrade’s art gets confusing, but Gage actually paces out a fight scene well.

So Cinema Purgatorio is finally a diverting read. Not rewarding in all its parts, but diverting in them. But it all hinges on Moore and O’Neill. This issue of Cinema Purgatorio opens with a political bombshell. Moore and O’Neill tell the story of the Warner Brothers–you know, the guys whose company now owns DC Comics and has made lots of bad movies off of Alan Moore’s comic books, which he infamously hates being involved with. I actually thought he was going to go further, but he stayed classy. Heinous individuals get proper treatment. There’s a lot in the story–a couple times O’Neill just gives up and lets the dialogue and visual references take over. I couldn’t help reading the feature–Moore casts the Marx Brothers as the Warner Brothers, which brings in even more politics. Today Warner owns the MGM library, including the Marx Brothers movies (at least for home video distribution, I actually have no idea if they lease them or own them or what, not the point)–so is Moore making a deeper jab at Warner? Was his King Kong feature a couple issues ago a jab at Warner? Am I reading too much into it? It’s Alan Moore, after all. Aren’t I supposed to read into it?

Anyway, the feature’s great. Beautifully visually, beautifully in terms of dialogue and the Marxist banter. It flows so nicely into Ennis’s Code Pru, it’s impossible not to be generous with this rest of the comic.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, A Night at the Lawyers; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, Big Jimmy C.; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Nahuel Lopez. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Michael DiPascale. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Cinema Purgatorio 5 (August 2016)

Cinema Purgatorio #5The movie fan in me resents Moore’s title for the Cinema Purgatorio story–The Time of Our Lives, just because it reminds me of The Best Years of Our Lives and Moore isn’t doing a commentary on that film. Instead, he’s doing a thing about post-WWII culture in America, but more the fifties than the late forties. That caveat aside, it’s a solid entry from he and O’Neill. Nothing too exciting, just solid.

This issue’s Code Pru is similarly okay. Nowhere near as good as the Purgatorio but a not bad possession story. It’s unfortunate because Ennis can’t help but hint at what might be in a better Code Pru book, not just this truncated version of the concept. Decent art from Caceres but nothing too outstanding.

The Modded from Gillen and Calero is simultaneously awful (Gillen rips off Mad Max this time, not Scott Pilgrim) and competently illustrated. It’s a shame Calero doesn’t get better writing.

Ditto the More Perfect Union entry. Though DiPascale does some fantastic art this entry. Brooks barely has a script, but every panel is gorgeous. Maybe the less writing Brooks does, the better chance DiPascale has to turn the strip into something tolerable. Mildly tolerable.

And Gage and Andrade’s Vast is more tolerable than usual as well, just because there’s a little more story in this Pacific Rim rip-off.

I guess this issue of Purgatorio is something of a let down after the last one, but when doesn’t this anthology disappoint. At least there’s solid art. And Modded goes by somewhat quickly. It’s easily the worst of the bunch thanks to Gillen’s writing.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, The Time of Our Lives; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, Your Mother Knits Socks in Hell; 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.

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.

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.

Cinema Purgatorio 2 (May 2016)

Cinema Purgatorio #2With the exception of Moore and O’Neill’s lead story, this issue of Cinema Purgatorio is shockingly rough. Even Ennis seems to be phoning in his story, which has paramedic Pru meeting up with Frankenstein’s Monster (called Francis) as the NYPD roughs him up. Ennis only has a few pages so he emphasizes the action, which one wishes the other writers in the issue would do as well.

First, the Moore story. I love how Cinema Purgatorio is a comic about how movies suck life away written by Alan Moore, who’s never been particularly interested in turning comics into movies. This issue is a philosophical musing from a couple Romans turned into an existential nightmare. O’Neill has a good time with it. Moore is comfortable with it. It’s a fine open to a problematic comic.

Then it’s Code Pru. Ennis doesn’t put in enough work on the NYPD brutality, but he still has it overshadow the monster aspect of the comic. It feels like he’s doing this one as a favor, it really does. It’s got a lot of Ennis ideas without space to go anywhere. The Caceres art is fine. Again, it’s rushed; Caceres would probably do better with twice as many pages. Ennis would probably need three times as many for all the notions he has going on.

The rest of the book is a writing disaster. The art is all solid, but the writing is a mess.

Gillen’s gamer thing is a bunch of jargon. Calero’s art is technically good, but he doesn’t have any narrative pacing to it. It’s a whirlwind of visuals and dumb dialogue.

Brooks and DiPascale’s Civil War thing is terrible. Clearly Brooks wants to write some kind of Civil War epic so doing it in a comics anthology probably isn’t the right place. It’s all talking. Two installments in and it’s all talking. When you’ve only got eight pages, it’s not enough. DiPascale’s art is okay. It’s the least impressive in a lot of ways, maybe because it so clearly doesn’t look right in black and white.

Then there’s Gage and Andrade’s incredibly boring Pacific Rim knock-off. Only without the monster fights. Instead, there’s a lot of talking about monster fights. Andrade’s art is fantastic but it’s a complete waste of his time. There’s nothing for him to draw.

Cinema Purgatorio having a significant sophomore slump wasn’t something I would’ve expected. Hopefully it turns around. Or Moore and Avatar find writers who know how to write stories in six or eight page installments.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, And Lost in the Darkness and Distance; 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. Publisher, Avatar Press.

Cinema Purgatorio 1 (February 2016)

Cinema Purgatorio #1I wonder what Cinema Purgatorio is going to be. The first issue has five stories, all by different creators. It’s Alan Moore’s idea, it’s an Avatar horror anthology. The writers are Moore, Garth Ennis, Max Brooks, Kieron Gillen, Christos Gage. Avatar guys. The artists are Kevin O’Neill, Raulo Caceres, Michael DiPascale, Ignacio Calero, Gabriel Andrade. In other words, Kevin O’Neill and some Avatar guys.

Moore and O’Neill contribute the opening frame. There’s a demented slapstick short, then some musings on film and pop entertainment. I can never tell if Moore knows how strange it is to have him talk about film–when his public comments on film are always about a negative interaction with film–or if he really does just like talking about it grandiosely. It’s a strange kind of grandiose though. Moore’s setting up the concept of the book–demented Saturday matinee.

The other writers approach the matinee differently. With the exception of Ennis and Caceres’s Code Pru, which is sort of sitcom gore, everything else is in some way zeitgeist pop. Gillen and Calero do something with fantasy beasts, cyberpunk and Fury Road villains called Modded (get it, gamer stuff). Brooks and DiPascale do A More Perfect Union, which is probably going to be Civil War vs. zombies because Max Brooks (only with historical “accuracy” for Civil War buffs). Gage and Andrade have The Vast, which is fighter jets versus kaiju and what not.

The Ennis story and the Brooks story are writer pieces. But Gillen and Gage are just setting up their artists for awesomeness. Both Calero and Andrade excel in the black and white sort of horror, sort of fantasy, sort of sci-fi realm. The black and white brings out all the little details, focusing the reader on the violence of the situation. Without color, the fantastic element is gone. The same thing happens with Caceres’s art, but that one is still all about Ennis’s dialogue and scene pacing.

The Brooks and DiPascale story is the least successful. I’m most excited for whatever Moore and O’Neill come up with, but also Code Pru and Vast. Modded will be a fine read with good art.

Cinema Purgatorio is, conceptually, a success. Now they just need to ship it on time.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, The Fatal Officers in “Hushed Up!”; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, You’ll Never Forget Your First Time; 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. Publisher, Avatar Press.

Rover Red Charlie 5 (March 2014)

Rover Red Charlie #5Ennis sure does like going out on an ominous ending with this one. It’s somewhere between a hard and soft cliffhanger; maybe a soft-boiled one. He hints at disaster earlier too, rather blatantly. Hopefully his time to cop out with a dream sequence has passed.

Not a lot happens in the issue. He skips across the dogs crossing a desert, which seems like it would take quite a while and not just a few panels. The emphasis, besides Red (who isn’t fixed) meeting a lady dog (who looks like Lassie), is on the dogs learning to want for themselves. It’s pretty forced stuff, but Ennis is coasting on good will. Even the lamer scenes, like them coming across yet another dog who knows more about what’s going on, Ennis can coast through them too. His cast is strong enough.

It’s not a bridging issue as much as a shortcut one.

B- 

CREDITS

The Big Big; writer, Garth Ennis; artist and colorist, Michael DiPascale; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Rover Red Charlie 4 (February 2014)

Rover Red Charlie #4Ennis utilizes a very effective device this issue–he has such a great last scene, it overrides the issue’s problem. What problem? Three things happen the entire issue.

One of the friends tries cooking duck, the friends meet an army dog, the friends meet an infected dog. Three things. Ennis drags out the army dog meeting, which doesn’t really service much purpose other than to show how different dogs think. Of course, that level of examination seems more appropriate for an ongoing, not a limited series.

He also makes an effort to hint at whatever has driven the humans crazy. There’s no place in the series to give an answer to the reader–the narrating dog realizes he’s been on his own long enough he wants to know why, but it’s for him (and he wants to know why about many things now).

It’s still good and thoughtful, just slight.

B 

CREDITS

Walked Off to Look for America; writer, Garth Ennis; artist and colorist, Michael DiPascale; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Rover Red Charlie 3 (January 2014)

Rover Red Charlie #3Every once in a while, Garth Ennis must decide he has to do something to remind everyone how thoroughly raunchy he can get. Unlike a lot of his recent work, his raunchy moment in this issue of Rover Red Charlie works a lot like how it worked in Preacher. With witnesses echoing the reader’s plea for Ennis not to take things there.

It’s foul, but the foul isn’t bad. It’s just foul and gross and sticks in one’s mind’s eye even after the page–and comic–has passed.

Of course, having Dipascale’s sweet art for that moment makes it even more intense.

This issue, Ennis introduces a lot. Characters, ideas, about the only thing he doesn’t introduce are new dog vocabulary terms. There are a few, but nothing as memorable as before.

Sorry to be so myopic….

The issue’s solid, formulaic but still engaging. The soft cliffhanger’s too ominous though.

B 

CREDITS

God Backwards; writer, Garth Ennis; artist and colorist, Michael DiPascale; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

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