Additional reviews

MULTIPLE WARHEADS: DOWN FALL #1 (Image, 2013) – This review is scheduled to appear at The Comics Alternative.

HAMMER OF GOD #4 (First, 1990) – I enjoyed this more than I expected to. Mike Baron’s influence on the plot is clearly apparent; the story has his typical combination of exciting action and silliness. Epting’s artwork is heavily derivative of Steve Rude, even imitating The Dude’s use of establishing shots from a bird’s eye view perspective. So this issue reads kind of like a Nexus comic even though it’s not nearly as good. Grade: B-

JSA #41 (DC, 2002) – Slightly better than previous issues of JSA reviewed here. I like that Captain Marvel and Black Adam play a prominent role in this issue; I think Geoff Johns is the only writer who has succeeded in integrating the Marvel Family into the DC Universe. However, the Captain Marvel/Stargirl romance annoys me a bit because as cute as Stargirl is, Johns often writes her as an excessively perfect and flawless character, and Billy’s crush on her seems to be intended as a way of underscoring how awesome she is. Another nitpick I had with this issue is that the plot revolves around a particle accelerator experiment which is being run by a private corporation in a major city; I don’t think that would be feasible in real life. Grade: B+

BATMAN AND ROBIN #7 (DC, 2010) – This issue was vastly superior to the previous issue. I noticed a colossal improvement in the artwork even before I realized the artist was Cameron Stewart. Due to Alex Sinclair’s highly three-dimensional style of coloring, Stewart’s artwork here looks very different from his artwork in Catwoman, but his gift for storytelling is very clear. The story is also more interesting, since it guest-stars Knight and Squire, two characters I really like. (As I read this issue, I kept visualizing Squire drawn by Alan Davis; I wonder if he ever actually did draw this character or if she just looks like a typical Alan Davis character.) This issue also included some awesome puns, the best of which was a Welsh villain named Dai Laffyn. Grade: A

BATMAN AND ROBIN #6 (DC, 2010) – The primary appeal of this issue for me was the funny interaction between Damian and Batman (who I didn’t realize was Dick Grayson, not Bruce Wayne, until halfway through the issue). The story is difficult to understand, being the third part of a three-parter, and excessively violent. Grant Morrison’s writing is as witty as ever, but I’ve gotten sick of his work lately; I think he’s part of the problem with DC, not part of the solution. Philip Tan’s artwork here is not especially good, and is sometimes ineffective in terms of storytelling. Grade: B-


DETECTIVE COMICS #827 (DC, 2007) – I’m thinking of teaching Arkham City next semester, so I wanted to read some Paul Dini Batman comics. This one does have a minor connection to Arkham City in that it takes place in the Iceberg Lounge. I understand that Paul Dini deliberately structured his Batman run as a series of single-issue stories, and this issue, which introduces a new Ventriloquist, works fairly well as a self-contained story. However, it raises more questions than it answers: Batman thinks he recognizes the woman who’s adopted the role of the Ventriloquist, but we are not told who she is. I definitely want to read more of this run. Grade: B+/A-

ADVENTURE COMICS #10 (DC, 2010) – The best thing about this comic (another one that I bought when it came out but never read) is the Joe Quinones cover. The only reason the story is interesting to me is that it includes a Legion guest appearance. Even then, the only Legionnaires who play a prominent role are Quislet and Mon-El, and while I would ordinarily be thrilled by a Quislet guest appearance, I don’t think that Robinson and Gates captured his speech pattern correctly. There is also a backup story which is pointless and overly violent. Grade: D+/C-

NUMBER OF THE BEAST #1 (Wildstorm, 2008) – I must have gotten this for free as a convention exclusive. The only redeeming quality of this comic is the Chris Sprouse artwork, and even that can’t save the story, which is completely unreadable. New characters appear on every single page, with no explanation of who they are or what they have to do with each other. Evidently this story assumes knowledge of some earlier series, but I’m not clear on which one. Also, the dialogue is dreadful; a typical exchange is “Think there’s anything good on?” “Reruns most likely, Sergeant. Same crap, different day.” Grade: F

TOR #3 (DC ,2008) – I bought this comic when it came out but never got around to it, largely because the story looked kind of dumb. It turns out that the story is pretty minimal and makes little logical sense. It doesn’t help that all of the characters except Tor are anonymous and there’s no dialogue, only narrative captions which are rather overwritten. The artwork, however, is fantastic, especially the last page in which a tentacular monster rises out of an underground pool. The artwork made this issue worthwhile, though I would still rather be reading Kubert’s ‘70s comics. Grade: B

SUICIDE SQUAD #67 (DC, 2010) – I bought this issue years ago and never bothered to read it (this is also the case with the three comics reviewed above it), so I was surprised by its quality. Gail Simone and John Ostrander are listed as co-writers, and I suspect that each of them wrote the dialogue of his or her respective characters. So in a weird way this issue reads like both a Gail comic and an Ostrander comic. I have only read one issue of Gail’s Secret Six, but she writes those characters with such wit and humor as to make me want to start collecting this series. Grade: A/A-

HAWKEYE #13 (Marvel, 2013) – I am having trouble keeping the continuity of this series straight, or reconciling it with that of Young Avengers. I thought Kate moved to California and took Pizza Dog with her, and yet here they both are in this issue. Other than that, this was another exemplary issue of the best current Big Two comic. Fraction and Aja do a great job of depicting Hawkeye’s grief and confusion about Grills’s death. I’m glad that this series will now be coming out more frequently because Aja will be alternating issues with another artist. Grade: A

THREE #1 (Image, 2013) – This review is tentatively scheduled to appear at The Comics Alternative.

POWER PACK #3 (Marvel, 2005) – This wasn’t quite as spectacular a reading experience as Power Pack #2, but was still quite enjoyable. Jack seems to be Marc Sumerak’s favorite Power Pack member and he plays a starring role in this issue, although the story is mostly about him screwing up and then learning better. Sumerak also writes the Fantastic Four fairly well (although it’s surprising that they appear in this issue but not Franklin). The Franklin Richards backup in this issue is better than the last one, but still too derivative of Calvin & Hobbes. Grade: A

MORNING GLORIES #33 (Image, 2013) – This issue made more sense than the previous issue and was better written. A particular highlight was the boxing match between Hisao/Jun and Guillaume, another character I‘m not familiar with. I write Hisao/Jun because these two characters have switched places so many times that I can’t keep them straight. With this current run of issues, it kind of seems like Nick Spencer is repeating an established pattern where he devotes each of six issues to a particular character. Which would be a bit annoying because I’m anxious to see the follow-up to the Hunter story in #31. Grade: A-

MORNING GLORIES #32 (Image, 2013) – I couldn’t make much sense of this issue because it focuses on Vanessa, a character who appears in the run of issues that I haven’t read. This only intensifies my sense, which is everpresent when I read this series, that I don’t quite get what’s going on. Still, the cliffhanger, where it turns out that there are two versons of Vanessa, is quite effective. The essays by Matthew Meylikhov (apparently his real name) at the end of each issue are essential for achieving even a partial understanding of the story. Grade: B

SAVAGE DRAGON #47 (Image, 1998) – This issue is not quite up to the level of #49, reviewed below, but still tells a fast-paced and funny story. The pace of the issue is slowed down quite a lot by the inclusion of several pages with 16-panel grids. Other than that, most of the issue is a big fight scene, but I did appreciate the appearance of Horridus, who is perhaps my favorite minor character in the series; I wish Erik would use her more. Grade: B+/A-

ELFQUEST: THE FINAL QUEST SPECIAL #1 (Dark Horse, 2013) – This review is tentatively scheduled to appear at The Comics Alternative.

MY LITTLE PONY MICRO-SERIES #8 (IDW, 2013) – This was a cute story with fairly good artwork, but it suffers a bit from a lack of clear explanation. I guess that the existence of Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns was already established in the show, but I didn’t quite understand why Princess Celestia was personally responsible for it. The story, again, is fairly cute, and sort of hits home for me because it’s about the importance of quality teaching. (The central character, Inkwell, reminded me a bit of one of my favorite high school teachers, Marion Bohnsack, who has unfortunately passed away.) However, like many MLP episodes that take place in Canterlot, this story also reveals what a classist and exclusive place Canterlot is, and I have to wonder why Princess Celestia hasn’t tried to fix that. Grade: B/B-

SCIENCE DOG #2 (Image, 2011) – An appropriate pairing with the comic reviewed just below. As often happens in Kirkman’s work, this comic takes a silly premise and makes something genuinely powerful out of it. Having failed to save the world from being destroyed by his nemesis, Walter, because he was abducted by aliens at precisely the wrong time, Science Dog builds a time machine and goes back in time to try to fix his mistakes. This time, he does save the world, but can’t stop Walter from killing his best friend Daniel. While building another time machine to try to go back in time yet again, Science Dog ignores all sorts of crises that demand his attention, resulting in further death and bloodshed. Finally, Science Dog goes back in time a second time and saves both the world and Daniel: he intercepts the aliens before they would have abducted him, allowing his past self to defeat Walter and save Daniel. The issue ends on a heartbreaking note as Science Dog’s past self returns in triumph from fighting Walter, while Science Dog goes into voluntary exile with the aliens, having saved the world but at such a high cost that he now feels himself to be irredeemable. You don’t expect this level of pathos from a comic called Science Dog. Grade: A

COURTNEY CRUMRIN AND THE COVEN OF MYSTICS #2 (Oni, 2002) – This comic deserves an A simply because the main character spends most of the issue in the form of a kitten. As a representative of the small genre of comics with actual cats as protagonists, this comic is right up there with Sandman #18 and Beasts of Burden. It gives me the sense that if cats had a government, they would have the kind of government that this story depicts. I’m interested in reading more of Ted Naifeh’s work; his stuff blends cuteness and scariness in a way that I find very interesting. Grade: A

ASTRO CITY #5 (Vertigo, 2013) – This issue is a series of miniature stories whose relation to each other and to the ongoing narrative is deliberately unclear. Easily the best thing in the issue is the steampunk superheroine Dame Progress. Kurt depicts this character in a way that shows a deep understanding of the steampunk genre, and people interested in steampunk might want to read this issue just for her. The opening sequence involving the Lovecraftian detectives is almost as good. There also seems to be some kind of bizarre metatextual metalepsis going on here, as the Broken Man keeps warning the reader to stop reading at crucial points. I’m interested to see where Kurt goes with this. Grade: A

ROCKET GIRL #1 (Image, 2013) – I bought this because Brandon Montclare’s artwork is incredibly cute and the premise is fascinating. It was well worth buying. Dayoung Johansson is an engaging and spunky character. As a hardcore Legion fan, I love the idea of the New York Teen Police Department, and I’m curious to see how it came about. I’m going to continue reading this series. Grade: A

CHEW #37 (Image, 2013) – Best line of the month: “I, uh, think you’re eating the wrong toe.” As is becoming typical of this series, this issue is a bizarre combination of raucous low comedy and genuine emotion. It’s ridiculous that Tony is communicating with his dead sister by eating pieces of her toe, but her genuine affection for him is clear. Oh, also this issue includes literal food porn. The “Eroscribopictaros” power is perhaps the most believable food-related superpower yet. Grade: A+

INVINCIBLE #106 (Image, 2013) – This is a rather low-key issue that advances several different plotlines but does not contain anything particularly shocking or status-quo-altering. The best scene here is an extremely awkward encounter between Mark, Eve and Mark’s parents: “Oh my god, you told your dad I’m pregnant?” “You’re pregnant?” “I did, but listen…” “You weren’t going to tell me?” and it goes on like that for the rest of the page. Oh, and then that leads to a double-page splash depicting an arm-wrestling match between Mark and his dad. This was a fun issue but not the best. Grade: A-

MY LITTLE PONY MICRO-SERIES #7 (IDW, 2013) – Possibly the best issue of this series besides the ones written by Katie Cook or Thom Zahler. The new character in this issue, Imp (a member of the shapeshifting species Globulus improbulus) is incredibly cute, no matter what she turns into, and Ben Bates’s artwork is highly attractive and almost painterly. This creative team appears to have a good handle on the characters. I wish that every issue of this series had been up to the level of this one. Grade: A-

HEAVY LIQUID #1 (Vertigo, 1999) – A rather difficult comic. It took me a while to understand who exactly the characters were or what they were doing, and Paul Pope’s artwork here is not as immediately appealing as it is in the last of his comics I read (The Invincible Haggard West #101). The story, about the eponymous drug of unknown origin, is intriguing, but at this point it’s not clear where it’s going or what it’s about. There is a lot of interesting stuff here, but I’m suspending critical judgment until I’ve read more of the series. Grade: A-

SAVAGE DRAGON #49 (Image, 1998) – An extremely fun issue from a quite enjoyable period of this series. Highlights include (1) the revelation of a gay relationship between two characters who are obvious stand-ins for the Adam West and Burt Ward Batman and Robin, and (2) a scene where a character obviously based on Namor attempts to invade the surface world, but his soldiers all start exploding due to the lower pressure. Also (3) the mere presence of Beast Boy and Feezle. Grade: A

THE POWERPUFF GIRLS #1 (IDW, 2013) – I’m not familiar with the Powerpuff Girls TV show, but I find the premise intriguing enough that I was willing to buy this comic. Troy Little seems to have done a fairly effective job of translating this intellectual property into comics. His story is well-drawn, in a style that seems quite faithful to the comic, and humorously written. This is clearly not as successful an adaptation as MLP:FIM, but I may be willing to buy the next issue. Grade: B+

SNARKED #7 (Boom, 2012) – More fantastic stuff. I paid full price for this (in the back issue bin at Criminal Records) and it was worth every penny. In this issue the main characters, who were set adrift at the end of #6, find themselves on a jungle island which, of course, proves to be inhabited by cannibals. This results in some quite funny scenes, especially due to the Walrus and Carpenter’s initial obliviousness about their peril. The surprising part is that one of the natives, a penguin, falls in love with the Walrus. This slightly creepy and inevitably doomed interspecies romance serves to significantly deepen his character by revealing, for the first time in the series, that he has a human side (if that term is appropriate). I will be actively looking for the last five issues of this series. I wonder what other projects Roger Langridge is working on now, besides the Li’l Ernie project from Dynamite. Grade: A+

One reply on “Additional reviews”

Interesting that the increased publication frequency of Hawkeye from having two artists outweighs the disadvantage of stylistic heterogeneity for you. For me, alternating artists is so unnerving that it’s a reason to drop a series. (I haven’t read Hawkeye yet, though.)

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