Phill Norwood

Dark Horse Presents Fifth Anniversary Special (April 1991)

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This special is far from an accurate representation of Dark Horse Presents. Everything looks very professional.

The Aerialist and Heartbreakers installments are both long needed establishments of the series’ ground situation.

I even liked the Heartbreakers one (Bennett’s writing is far stronger from the clones’ perspective, versus their creator).

There’s also lots of disposable stuff–Concrete, The American and Black Cross are all weak, though Warner’s art is better on Cross than I’ve ever seen it. Chadwick and Verheiden use their stories to blather about American culture.

Of the two Miller’s–Give Me Liberty and Sin City–I almost prefer Sin City. Liberty‘s a little overbearing, though the Gibbons art is nice.

Prosser and Janson do a great adaptation of an Andrew Vachss. The Roachmill, Aliens and Aliens vs. Predator entries are all fantastic.

I’m a little peeved Bob the Alien is on the cover but not in the issue.

CREDITS

Give Me Liberty, Martha Washington’s War Diary: April 16, 2012; story by Frank Miller; art by Dave Gibbons. Concrete, Objects of Value; story and art by Paul Chadwick; lettering by Bill Spicer. Aliens; story by John Arcudi; art by Simon Bisley. The American; story by Mark Verheiden; pencils by Dougie Braithwaite; inks by Robert Campanella; lettering by Pat Brosseau. Roachmill; story and art by Rich Hedden and Tom McWeeney. Placebo; script by Jerry Prosser, based on a story by Andrew Vachss; art by Klaus Janson; lettering by Michael Heisler. Black Cross; story and art by Chris Warner; lettering by Jim Massara. The Aerialist, Part Three; story and art by Matt Wagner; lettering by Kurt Hathaway. Heartbreakers, The Prologue; story by Anina Bennet; art by Paul Guinan; lettering by Willie Schubert. Aliens vs. Predator; story by Randy Stradley; art by Phill Norwood; lettering by Brosseau. Sin City, Episode One; story and art by Frank Miller. Edited by Stradley.

Dark Horse Presents 36 (February 1990)

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The Aliens vs. Predator story is most impressive for Norwood’s illustration… but not of aliens or Predators. The story opens on some alien world and it’s just breathtaking. Once the actual story starts (Stradley’s two conversationalists talking about hunting experiences while Predators hunt aliens), it can’t compete with those visuals. Still, for what amounts to shameless self-promotion, these prologues are very successful.

Davis’s Delia & Celia features a number of young women “playing” the two leads. Davis can’t maintain faces for them to the point he must have been photo-referencing. Each panel, they get a new, distinct face. The writing is nearly interesting this time… but Davis fumbles it.

This installment of Heartbreakers kind of makes the clone thing clear–there’s two groups of clones, one tough, one not as tough. But it’s not clear if they’re clones of the same person (just with different haircuts). It’s inoffensively mediocre.

CREDITS

Aliens vs. Predator; story by Randy Stradley; pencils by Phill Norwood; inks by Karl Story; lettering by Pat Brosseau. Heartbreakers, Ceiling Zero; story by Anina Bennett and Paul Guinan; art by Guinan; lettering by Willie Schubert. Delia & Celia, The Great Marsh; story, art and lettering by Gary Davis. Edited by Randy Stradley.

Dark Horse Presents 35 (December 1989)

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The Predator story opening the comic gets it off to a good start (it’s really just part of the prologue to the first Aliens vs. Predator series). Stradley writes an excellent conversation about social Darwinism between these two pilots, which Norwood then adapts into something featuring Predators fighting for dominance. Well, it was probably the reverse, right? Marvel style?

The first Heartbreakers story is mildly incomprehensible–it’s packed with detail, all about cloning, interoffice politics and the future. I like Guinan’s art, but I can’t tell if the soldiers are all supposed to be identical clones. His visual reference all seems to be Vietnam War, so it’s weird to see it as a future story.

The final story, from Inabinet, is this incredibly dense–there’s almost so much text it could just be prose–fable about the adventures of a Muslim scholar in the Middle Ages. Inabinet does masterful work.

CREDITS

Predator; story by Randy Stradley; pencils by Phill Norwood; inks by Karl Story; lettering by Pat Brosseau. Heartbreakers, Only Angels Have Wings; story by Anina Bennett and Paul Guinan; art by Guinan; lettering by Willie Schubert. A Tough Nut to Crack; story and art by Sam Inabinet; lettering by Karen Casey-Smith. Edited by Randy Stradley.

Dark Horse Presents 34 (November 1989)

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Race of Scorpions gets even more amazing this issue… Duranona tells the reader what happens to the story’s protagonists in a little text paragraph at the end of the story. The actual story was spent on some supporting cast members. It’s sort of amazing how poorly plotted this story gets. Dark Horse really just didn’t care what they printed. Lots of perspective failures here. Just a dreadful read.

Zone is getting more dramatic–this issue the reporter gets hurt near a fire and Zone saves him, so all the threads are coming together. Unfortunately, Kraiger’s art, which was no great shakes to begin with, is weakening. His faces are poor here and there’s a lot of them because of the talking about the fire. But it’s not terrible.

Stradley and Norwood’s Aliens story is just a conversation over Norwood’s awesome artwork. It’s probably shouldn’t be effective, but it works well.

CREDITS

Aliens; story by Randy Stradley; pencils by Phill Norwood; inks by Karl Story; lettering by Pat Brosseau. Zone; story, art and lettering by Michael Kraiger. Race of Scorpions, By Water and Stone; story and art by Leopoldo Durañona; lettering by Laura Davis. Edited by Randy Stradley.

Dark Horse Presents 30 (June 1989)

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Oh, good, Race of Scorpions is back and just as incomprehensible as always. It turns out the mysterious stranger is really the brother of the evil emperor. There’s palace intrigue, an assassination attempt, machinations, it goes on. And it’s still awful. Maybe the writing’s a little better. Or it’s at least more understandable.

Luke and Norwood’s Project: Overkill is good. It’s a simple, Terminator thing, but Norwood’s art is excellent. Luke’s writing isn’t bad either, but it’s somewhat confusing. I don’t know if it’s an ongoing feature, but it might help it it is. Norwood is manga influenced, but it’s eighties manga. It’s really long too, but doesn’t feel it thanks to Norwood’s handling of action.

The Bob the Alien story is really short and amusing. Rice only has one real joke but it works out. It’s a shame Bob lost pages for more Scorpions.

Scorpions brings the book down.

CREDITS

Project: Overkill; story by Eric Luke; art by Phill Norwood; lettering by Pat Brosseau. Bob the Alien, Bob, the alien, Gets a Bike; story, art and lettering by Rich Rice. Race of Scorpions, Recollections and a Stabbing; story and art by Leopoldo Durañona; lettering by Laura Davis. Edited by Randy Stradley.

Aliens vs. Predator 3 (October 1990)

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The change in inkers makes Aliens vs. Predator look exactly as drab and boring as I’d expected the first few issues to look. Campanella can’t do much to Stradley’s figures, but he rounds out the faces–not all the time, which makes the art disjointed–but definitely in close ups. Everyone looks like they’ve had the definition erased.

The issue’s a solid effort. Stradley is fully into the action part of the story now, so it’s nowhere near as good as the previous two. He’s strengthening his protagonist (while taking away most of her narration), but measuring her arc. She’s not acting out of character punching out a rancher, we just never got her in that situation the first issue.

The story sticks with the people, which is smart. Too much Predator stuff is boring and Stradley uses the aliens for mass effect, not to be scary.

It’s winding down.

CREDITS

Writer, Randy Stradley; penciller, Phill Norwood; inker, Robert Campanella; colorist, Monika Livingston; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editor, Diana Schutz; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Aliens vs. Predator 2 (August 1990)

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The issue opens with some weak dream exposition. It doesn’t fit the narrator’s voice–Stradley never establishes why he’s using it (I think it’s a callback to the Aliens series where people have nightmares around the aliens)–and it’s a weak opening.

But then Stradley recovers beautifully. Until the end of this issue, Aliens vs. Predator is more a Western than a sci-fi thriller. The sci-fi elements are all well-done, but the narrative tone is straight out of Rio Bravo. He continues strengthening his characters as he introduces the titular elements–lots of aliens and Predator money shots this issue, but it doesn’t feel forced.

Norwood has a lot to do with the art being forceful but not overdone. I won’t say his inability to draw figures is a bonus, however. It’s just how well he composes the panels, how well he implies movement.

It’s good stuff.

CREDITS

Writer, Randy Stradley; penciller, Phill Norwood; inkers, Karl Story, Mark Propst, Brian Stelfreeze, Stine Walsh and Dave Dorman; colorist, Monika Livingston; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editor, Diana Schutz; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Aliens vs. Predator 1 (June 1990)

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Norwood’s very design-oriented–he’s a Hollywood storyboard guy–and the art suffers for it. The setting, the designs of the human settlement on an alien planet, is great. The panel composition is stunning. The figures are awkward and bad. Everyone’s proportions are off a little bit. They’re too stout for their height.

Stradley’s writing here is really strong–he has a female narrator, but makes distance part of her character (I’m not sure if she’s Japanese because it’s a comic from 1990 about the future of corporations or if Stradley used it to add even more distance, this time cultural). But his establishing of the setting is great too. There’s no lengthy exposition, he just sets it up, makes sure to give everyone important a name within a page or two of their first appearance.

The aliens fighting Predators antics haven’t started yet; it’s just solid sci-fi here.

CREDITS

Writer, Randy Stradley; penciller, Phill Norwood; inkers, Karl Story, Mark Propst, Brian Stelfreeze and Stine Walsh; colorist, Monika Livingston; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editor, Diana Schutz; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Aliens vs. Predator 0 (July 1990)

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Stradley’s issue is two bored cargo spaceship having a conversation while Norwood’s art shows us all about the Predators getting ready for the Aliens vs. Predator series. First it’s showing the alien eggs, then it’s a bunch of fighting for dominance. The off panel dialogue back and forth constantly relates to the dialogue-less action going on.

The issue is reprints of prologue stories from Dark Horse Presents, which explains why it’s always a surprise when the story continues following a climax in the conversation, but it works.

I’m not particularly familiar with Norwood but he does a fine job here. A lot of the art is just the Predators, which aren’t the most exciting topic, but the composition and designs of alien worlds are good. Story’s lines are nice too–I’d forgotten black and white forces the attention to the artwork.

Stradley’s dialogue, Norwood’s art–it’s a neat issue.

CREDITS

Writer, Randy Stradley; penciller, Phill Norwood; inker, Karl Story; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Stradley and Diana Schutz; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

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