I read six comic books today:
WEST COAST AVENGERS #27 – I am a huge fan of Steve Englehart’s writing, but the mid-’80s was not his best period, and this WCA series is sometimes more interesting for its weirdness and unintentional humor than its actual quality. This issue has some effective characterization, which is one of Englehart’s strong suits, but is hampered by an excessive focus on the rather uninteresting villains, Zodiac, and by a needlessly complicated plot that involves both Hawkeye and Tigra being kidnapped and replaced by Zodiac members. The artwork by Al Milgrom is serviceable but very boring.
JLA #34 – This is an excellent issue of the series that made Grant Morrison a superstar. This story involves the JLA dealing with a jailbreak in a supervillain prison, and one of its strong points is its presentation of JLA members from the perspective of one of the minor villains involved. Morrison effectively shows how for the villains, Batman and even Aquaman are truly terrifying figures. I don’t like Howard Porter’s draftsmanship, but I realize now that he was a good choice as the artist on this series because he effectively communicates the epic scale on which the stories are taking place.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #134 — It seems to be fashionable to make fun of Gerry Conway’s writing, but I really like his Spider-Man, which also featured brilliant artwork by Andru and Esposito. This issue features kind of a dumb story in which the Tarantula hijacks a harbor boat (along with his henchmen Juan and “Hildago,” which I guess is a misspelling for Hidalgo, although that’s not a name). However, the story is redeemed by some nice characterization and character interaction. This issue is notable because it’s the second appearance of the Punisher, though only in a one-panel cameo.
TECH JACKET #5 — Apparently Robert Kirkman started this series and Invincible at the same time, but chose to cancel Tech Jacket because Invincible was selling better, and no wonder. This issue is an extreme example of decompressed storytelling: practically nothing happens in the entire issue, almost every panel contains only one line of dialogue, numerous panels and entire panels are wasted on showing things that could be dealt with in one panel: e.g. the artist, E.J. Su, takes two pages to depict the hero falling asleep and then being awakened by intruders. This comic also features some egregious abuse of repeated panels — e.g. in the sequence just mentioned, the same panel of the hero lying in bed is repeated six times. I suppose the artist, E.J. Su, was trying to employ a manga-influenced style of storytelling, but that doesn’t really work in a 22-page monthly comic. Overall, this issue was much less interesting than the Invincible stories in which Tech Jacket made guest appearances.
ORION #19 — This series is possibly the best work of Walt Simonson’s post-Thor career and this issue was excellent, despite being part of the Joker: Last Laugh crossover. The story involves both epic Kirbyesque action sequences and a touching sequence in which Orion is nursed back to health by a bum living in an alley, whom he then protects from mobsters. There is also a backup story with art by Eddie Campbell, which is only interesting as a curiosity.
SNARKED #0 — This may have been my favorite comic of the six. Roger Langridge’s artwork is spectacular, with all kinds of subtle visual puns, and he tells a hilarious story which is clearly heavily influenced by Lewis Carroll. This comic actually inspired me to read both “The Walrus and the Carpenter” and “The Hunting of the Snark” for the first time (shameful, I know). I have several other issues of this series which I bought about a year ago and have not yet gotten around to, and I look forward to reading them and discussing them here.