November 2015

Rocket Girl 7 (November 2015)

Rocket Girl #7It’s probably too soon to say Rocket Girl is back. A lot of it seems back, whether it’s Reeder’s artwork (amazing as always, like Blade Runner meets The Rocketeer for kids), or just how much Montclare gives Dayoung to do. She’s the hero and she needs to be treated as such.

Once again, the comic toggles between past and future. Well, present (1985) and past (2025 or something). The future stuff really isn’t interesting. Montclare doesn’t give the teen detectives any character beyond playing with cop and young adult stereotypes. It feels like a lame cartoon.

But the past? The past is just amazing, at least this issue. One of the nicest textures of it is how Dayoung isn’t just stuck in a time before teen detectives, but she’s in a culture different from the reader as well. I’m not sure how well Montclare does with it (I wasn’t a teen of the eighties), but it reads fine. Though who knows how much Reeder’s art affects it. The comic wouldn’t work without her.

Rocket Girl needs her.

CREDITS

Now What?!; writer, Brandon Montclare; artist, Amy Reeder; publisher, Image Comics.

Johnny Red 1 (November 2015)

Johnny Red #1I wonder how long Johnny Red is going to go. Unlike writer Garth Ennis’s usual war comics, he gives this one a modern-day frame and an American protagonist (in the modern day). I think Ennis used to give his historical series some kind of frame, but I haven’t seen one lately (or ever in War Stories), so it’s weird.

But Johnny Red isn’t just another war comic. It’s Ennis doing a relaunch, something he doesn’t do as often as one might think (especially lower profile).

On the art, Ennis has Keith Burns. It’s a fine pairing. Burns handles the larger than life aspects of the plot, but he also has extremely detailed, extremely realistic air battles. There’s an energy to Burns’s art, an enthusiasm to his lines. He’s excited about the contrast–the present-day settings, the flashbacks to the forties. Ennis puts those connections entirely on Burns this issue, comparing modern Russia to early Soviet.

There’s a lot of dialogue before the flashback too. Ennis has a good time with it. He’s practically breezy with Johnny Red; it’s serious, but somewhat removed thanks to the framing.

CREDITS

P7089; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Keith Burns; colorist, Jason Wordie; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Kristen Murray and Steve White; publisher, Titan Comics.

Pretty Deadly 6 (November 2015)

Pretty Deadly #6I missed Pretty Deadly. I forgot what it was like to read a comic aware of its genre possibilities, acknowledging of them to some degree, but entirely disinterested in taking part. As a result, the comic is its own thing, something strange and ethereal and beautiful from DeConnick and Rios.

This issue definitely starts off a new arc, dealing with the descendants of the previous characters (set in World War I, at home and in France). DeConnick doesn’t introduce or reintroduce anyone (the text prologue has very little to do with the majority of the issue). Instead, it’s just time to read Pretty Deadly again.

The amount of work Rios and DeConnick put into the visual construction of the comic is reason alone to read it. It’s cohesive, yet full of little visual sequences–not subplots as much as narrative tangents–all with a mildly different approach.

DeConnick’s thoughtful, deliberate characterizations keep it from ever getting too hostile to distracted readers. Even though there’s a fantastical, dreary, magical world, because the characters are able to navigate it, so is the reader.

It’s great to have it back.

CREDITS

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

Letter 44 21 (November 2015)

Letter 44 #21Even with a fill-in artist (Ryan Kelly), Soule sticks to the Letter 44 standards. It’s a flashback issue, so he does a couple characters. It’s Letter 44 so there’s a lame cliffhanger.

The series didn’t always have lame cliffhangers. It used to have characters. When it had characters, those cliffhangers worked. Though I don’t think this one would work regardless. It’s some painfully obvious lionizing of one of the characters. Of course, this character doesn’t appear in his own flashback–I’m not hiding the name, I just can’t remember it–until those last few, bad pages. Otherwise, it’s good. The whole issue’s pretty good.

Kelly’s art matches the book’s unfortunate, cartoonish style, but Kelly’s got his composition and depth figured out. There are detail problems, but no visual flow ones.

Besides the lionized guy, the other flashback is the mission astronomer. How did he get on the mission and so on. It’s interesting to compare to the army guy’s flashback because the latter is all about the recruiter, not the recruited. It’s a nice contrast and Soule takes them both seriously.

Clearly, Soule cares about Letter 44, which is what always makes it so frustrating when it never manages to boil above the mediocre level anymore.

CREDITS

Writer, Charles Soule; artist, Ryan Kelly; colorist, Dan Jackson; letterer, Crank!; editor, Robin Herrera; publisher, Oni Press.

The Fade Out 11 (November 2015)

The Fade Out #11Ed Brubaker is about to deliver. He and Sean Phillips are break the skylight and get onto the roof. The Fade Out, an entirely grounded detective story set in Hollywood, is about to be where Brubaker joins the very small group of comics writers who I will buy regardless. Because what they do will be something special, even if its mainstream, because their styles may not reflect how comics are progressing as a narrative art form right now, but they will in a few years.

It’s like if Sleeper: Season Two had actually been as good as the first series. It’s like if Captain America really were as good as Catwoman. Brubaker jumps between projects with impatience. He gets excited for the new shiny. Only Fade Out doesn’t have the shiny, it just has the skills. It has the writing and the art and the writer’s understanding of what the art is going to do to this story. Brubaker understands how the comic book is going to read and he lets it inform how he’s writing.

It’s entirely commercial, entirely artistic and sublimely elegant.

He could screw it all up next issue, of course.

That would be very sad.

As for the comic itself, Brubaker gets around to revealing some things Gil should have known about from Charlie. Not to mention the reader. The reader should have known too. Except it works better here defining Charlie as a person, making him more understandable. It’s a genre standard and Brubaker pulls it off.

Then it’s Gil and Charlie on an adventure. It’s amazing. And Charlie’s narration of it, with how the plot progresses and then how Phillips illustrates it, that adventure is where Brubaker and Phillips do something extraordinary. They show how comics noir is its own genre. They prove the argument of their last ten years of work.

Even if The Fade Out flops next issue, Brubaker and Phillips have done something extraordinary with it.

CREDITS

Anyone Else But Me; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

I Hate Fairyland 2 (November 2015)

I Hate Fairyland #2I Hate Fairyland continues to be an awesome bit of storytelling from Skottie Young. It’s so awesome, there’s nothing wrong with it. Every page has something purely delightful in it–whether or not it’s the issue’s narrator realizing he’s in for a lot of trouble given the protagonist is Gertrude or Gertrude getting hammered and hitting on a frog prince. By making Fairyland all sorts of annoying and awful on its own, even without Gertrude’s kidnapping figuring in, Young has set up the comic to just be wish fulfillment for the reader. Here’s this lame saccharine fairytale situation, just wait for Gertrude to come along and chop it up.

Literally.

While she’s hammered. And she looks like she’s eight.

However, the comic is so successful, there’s really not a lot to talk about. Young works B and C plots–Gertrude’s (unknown to her) nemesis and said nemesis’s more visible agents–perfectly. The villains have a measure of self-awareness, which the background players don’t get to have; Young’s humor works on multiple levels.

And the art is gorgeous.

Once again, I love I Hate Fairyland. There’s nothing not to love about it.

CREDITS

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

Birthright 11 (November 2015)

Birthright #11Williamson surprises a little bit with this issue of Birthright because he positions the Conan character as sympathetic. Or at least inviting sympathy. There’s this flashback to when he was Kid Conan and coming into his own adventuring and all that fantasy nonsense and he’s a likable character. The gimmick of Birthright is two-fold. There’s that initial hook of doing a really solid modern fantasy thing and then the followup punch of having it all be an evil deceit.

After ramping up the secondary part of the gimmick for so long, Williamson lets the book be fun for an issue. Kid Conan rescues a kidnapped princess or something. She’s not a princess, but you get the idea. It’s neat. And Bressan’s art is awesome.

Bressan’s art this issue might be the best so far in the series. He does the fantasy stuff great, but he also does these modern-day, “real world” talking heads scenes great. His expressions are full of emotion. It makes the flashback narrative affecting. Good stuff.

And Williamson’s soft cliffhanger suggests it’s going to keep being entertaining. Birthright’s just the right amounts of smart, playful and fun.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Williamson; artist, Andrei Bressan; colorist, Adriano Lucas; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Arielle Basich and Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

A Train Called Love 2 (November 2015)

A Train Called Love #2Did Ennis lose a bet? Because A Train Called Love is an astoundingly weird choice for him. Once again, it reads like if all of a sudden there were really good cartoons with short runs. Dos Santos’s art has that vibe as well, but it’s really because of Ennis’s dialogue. The comic is Ennis showing off at how well he can write talking heads. And that aspect, the obvious revelry in his ability, is why I wonder if Ennis lost a bet and had to write the book. Like someone said he couldn’t do a comedy comic book to rival the “hang-out” film. And he said, “All right, read Train Called Love.”

Because it’s hard stuff he’s doing here. Ennis is getting away with extreme, obvious jokes. He’s going after the humor people don’t want to acknowledge liking, much less thinking about, and he’s excelling. That success comes from the character work. Train’s “cast,” thanks to Dos Santos and Ennis, have a lot of personality. Yes, Ennis paces the dialogue to let each person make an impression; yes, Dos Santos’s composition makes them more sympathetic. It’s the synthesis though. I really want to know if Ennis gives Dos Santos compositional instruction in the script or if it’s Dos Santos.

So good.

And then, in addition to this late twenty-something comedy at a bar, there’s this amazing action subplot with some girl and a secret agent.

It’s all so good.

CREDITS

Black Beauty; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Marc Dos Santos; colorist, Andrew Elder; letterer, Rob Steen; editor, Rachel Pinnelas; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Velvet 12 (November 2015)

Velvet #12Steve Epting is an action artist. It’s what he does, it’s what makes him special. He’s able to do fantastic comic book action, where he makes the reasonable fantastical and the fantastical reasonable. It’s a perfect thing for Velvet, which is a glossy spy thriller set in the seventies after all. The comic’s setting isn’t just good for Velvet as a character, it’s good because it gives Epting so many possibilities.

So when this issue is literally nothing but a windup for a hard cliffhanger promising a big action sequence? Well, it’s not exactly the best use of time. I suppose Brubaker does get a few expository things done, but they aren’t pressing, and he does give Velvet some great narration, which is great and all, but come on….

Give us the Epting action. Brubaker doesn’t even put it on the menu. He sets the entire thing to simmer. The narrative this issue, its possibilities, it’s not going to boil over. He never even suggests it might. So when it does and he stops the comic? Bad form, man, bad form.

Velvet is an entertaining book. It’s not masterful and it’s got problems, but it’s entertaining and competent and visually glorious.

CREDITS

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

Lazarus 20 (November 2015)

Lazarus #20It’s been too long since I last read Lazarus. The comic’s bimonthly and has been for a while. Maybe forever (no pun intended). But, with Lazarus’s big cliffhangers of late, I guess I expected Rucka to be more sensational with this issue. Instead, he’s reserved. He’s not showing off.

This issue is the first one where I decided I’d read Lazarus again. I probably would have made that decision, but not for a while. With this issue, however… I want to go back immediately following its conclusion. Because Rucka’s pacing is strange. It’s deliberate, it’s distracting, but Rucka’s able to maintain an intense ambition to his storytelling.

And Lark gets to do a bunch this issue. A military combat sequence–beautifully constructed–and a nice little hand-to-hand fight. And some nearly noir machinations scenes. Lark’s not the artist to do the fantastical, which helps make Lazarus’s dystopian future realistic, but Lark is the artist who does the work. So it’s fantastical Lark, which seems an oxymoron, but isn’t.

Really good stuff. I hope the next issue comes out sooner than two months.

CREDITS

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

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