Reviews for 9-4-15

9-15-15

These reviews are for comics I read starting on September 4. As usual, I read these comics on Friday when I was exhausted from a week of teaching, and my memory of some of them is not entirely clear. This time around I’m going to do “best thing in the issue” instead of “best moment in the issue.”

SILVER SURFER #14 (Marvel, 2015) – This was my most anticipated comic of the week, but it turned out to be disappointing. There was too much plot and not enough humor, and the Surfer/Dawn scenes were kind of sappy. Also, this comic is hampered by being too closely tied to Secret Wars. Best thing of the issue: the page with all the inset panels of weird-looking aliens.

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #2 (DC, 2015) – This issue is divided into three segments with three different artists. Easily my favorite segment is the first, which introduces the Bombshell version of one of the best DC superheroines, Mera. I don’t have much interest in the Supergirl/Stargirl story, and the Poison Ivy/Zatanna story just seems like a boring pastiche of Cabaret. I didn’t realize until just now that this section was drawn by Ted Naifeh. One nice thing about this series is that it has some quality talent, which is becoming somewhat rare at DC.

GROOT #4 (Marvel, 2015) – Groot heads for Eris’s ship to rescue Rocket, and acquires some companions: a robot gas station attendant, three incompetent Skrulls, and Numinus, the incarnation of wonder. I was surprised to see this last character because her only previous appearance was in a bad Power Pack story. In that story, she was based on Whoopi Goldberg, but Brian Kesinger’s version of her doesn’t look like Whoopi Goldberg at all. Anyway, the scenes with all these characters are alternately funny and touching, which is the dominant mood of this series. And the issue ends with a brilliant homage to X-Men #132. This was one of the better comics of the week. Best moment of the issue: there are several, but I think my favorite is the Mantron’s monologue about how his sole function is to pump fuel, but he dreams of greater things.

PLUTONA #1 (Image, 2015) – Jeff Lemire’s second current Image series is off to a good start. The premise of this series is that a bunch of high school kids discover the corpse of a superheroine, but that doesn’t happen until the end of this issue, so the real focus is on the interactions between the kids. Jeff Lemire does an amazing job of writing teenage dialogue; a particular highlight is the awkward conversation between the two girls about the jacket. You get the impression that he has either made close observations of kids in their early teens, or has a strong memory of being that age himself. The artwork helps add to the realism of the character interactions because Emi Lenox is very good with facial expressions. I look forward to reading more of this. Best moment of the issue: the surprising revelation that Plutona is a single mother who works as a waitress.

WE STAND ON GUARD #3 (Image, 2015) – When someone asked about this series the other day, I said that I was enjoying it but it wasn’t Saga. As of this issue, that’s still mostly accurate. I still like the premise and the Canadian setting, and BKv writes some witty dialogue, but this series is not generating the same level of excitement as Saga. The main feeling that this issue inspired in me was utter revulsion at the horrible tactics the American military commander was using. Best moment of the issue: there really wasn’t one, but I like the old hobo on the train.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #6 (IDW, 2015) – This is Sophie Campbell’s last issue for now, but thankfully she’s returning with issue 11, as revealed in the letter column. This story offers a satisfying conclusion to the initial story arc: Jem and the Holograms get expelled from the Battle of the Bands because of the food fight, but they do a show anyway, which is a massive success. I’m glad that I can’t hear the music in this comic because the lyrics are kind of stupid, but the creators make effective use of lettering and coloring and other cues to suggest what the music sounds like. Best moment of the issue: Aja hitting Kimber with a pillow.

TOIL AND TROUBLE #1 (Boom/Archaia, 2015) – This was originally called The Third Witch and that title appeared on my DCBS order form. I don’t know why it was changed. I’ve never heard of any of the creators of this comic, and I get the sense that none of them have much experience. But the premise of the comic is fascinating – a retelling of Macbeth from the witches’ perspective – and the creators know the play inside and out. Best thing in the issue: Harpier’s crab form is really cute.

PROVIDENCE #3 (Avatar, 2015) – As I already mentioned, the worst thing about this series is the text entries at the end. They’re a chore to read because they’re too long and they’re lettered in an illegible font. I wouldn’t mind if they were removed entirely. This issue’s story is based on Lovecraft’s “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” and is funny and creepily disturbing at once. In terms of its mood, it reminds me of some of Alan’s earlier work, but I can’t think what exactly – maybe Jack B. Quick. Best thing in the issue: the name “Negathlia-Lou.”

DAREDEVIL #17 (Marvel, 2015) – In his long career, Mark Waid has gone through both good and bad periods, and I think he’s currently in the middle of a bad period. I’ve gotten so annoyed with Empire: Uprising that I didn’t order the most recent issue, and if Daredevil hadn’t been about to end, I would have stopped ordering it too. This story demonstrates many of the worst aspects of Mark’s writing: it’s histrionic and theatrical and it’s full of implausible plot twists. Best thing in the issue: Julia Carpenter reminding Shroud that she’s not a hostage.

DAREDEVIL #18 (Marvel, 2015) – This is the last issue of what was easily the best run of Daredevil comics since “Born Again.” However, as the previous review suggests, it’s not a satisfying conclusion to the Waid/Samnee era. I wish that this run had ended four issues earlier. In this story, Matt defeats the Kingpin and rather implausibly gets his normal life back. But he doesn’t really seem to have learned anything from his assholish behavior over the past few issues, and he doesn’t suffer any lasting consequences, except that he loses his law license (for about the third time). So this isn’t even an ending, just a return to the status quo. Throughout his career, Mark’s major flaw has been his inability to write effective endings, and this issue suggests that he has yet to overcome this flaw. Best thing in the issue: Chris Samnee’s art.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS #1 (Action Lab, 2015) – This spinoff is perhaps even better than the series it’s based on. Reading this issue and the next issue, I realized that Jeremy Whitley has quietly become one of the best dialogue writers in the industry. His writing is witty and cute and he has a good handle on how people actually talk. And somehow Raven is a more intriguing character in this series than in her previous appearance in Princeless. As a minor but important point, this issue has much better lettering than the regular Princeless series does. Best thing in the issue: “MY CABBAGES!” This is just a quick one-panel homage but it makes me think that if Gene Luen Yang ever stops writing Avatar comics, Jeremy would be a good replacement for him.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS #2 (Action Lab, 2015) – Unexpectedly, this was the best comic of the week. The new characters, Sunshine and Cookie’s bratty daughter Jayla, are distinctive and intriguing; one of Jeremy’s strengths as a writer is his ability to create a wide and diverse range of female characters. But the clear highlight of the issue is the recruitment scene. This parody of Internet misogyny is perfect because it’s so spot-on – every one of the rejected crewmen says things that I could imagine people saying on Twitter, or that I’ve actually heard people say. And the best thing in the issue is the dude who says “not all men” and then complains about misandry. I suppose Jeremy might face some hostile criticism for this scene, but really, anyone who objects to it will just be proving its point. I am very excited for the next issue of this series.

SILK #7 (Marvel, 2015) – I liked this issue, but I’m just not feeling highly excited about this series. The problem may be Robbie Thompson’s overly compressed writing style. This issue has a compelling (and deliberately frustrating) narrative structure in which Silk learns where her brother is, but keeps getting sidetracked from reaching him. It’s disappointing, though, that the Pokemon dude has to rescue her from being trapped under a pile of rubble – it would have been far more appropriate if she had lifted the rubble off herself, like in Amazing Spider-Man #33. Best thing in the issue: Cindy Moon going to a psychiatrist. This is something that Marvel characters do very rarely unless the psychiatrist is Doc Samson.

CAPTAIN MARVEL AND THE CAROL CORPS #1 (Marvel, 2015) – I have the first three issues of this, but I didn’t bother reading them because the premise seems kind of boring. This issue was okay, but I still haven’t felt motiated to read the next two. What I do like about this issue is that the central plot point is Carol’s desire to “see what’s on the other side of the sky.” Kelly Sue has said “Everything about Carol wants to go up. Chin up, head up, heart up, up, up, up,” and that’s exactly why she’s driven to ignore her superiors’ orders and find out what’s outside her world. Best thing in the issue: Lieutenant Trouble as Thor.

THORS #3 (Marvel, 2015) – My favorite thing about this series is the extreme contrast between the film noir aesthetic, on the one hand, and the characters and the artist involved, on the other hand. Thor is not a character you would typically associate with gritty, realistic police procedural fiction, and Chris Sprouse has spent much of his career drawing very bright and optimistic superhero comics like Legionnaires, Supreme and Tom Strong. So there’s a basic incongruity here, which is the central joke of the comic. Although I should say that I talked to Chris Sprouse at Cincy Comic Con last weekend (a terrible convention, but more on that later), and he said that he hadn’t been consciously trying for this incongruous effect; he was deliberately trying to draw much darker than he usually does. So maybe the effect that I’m describing here is unintentional, but I like it anyway. Best thing in the issue: Throg, Frog of Thunder, riding on the shoulder of Thrr, Dog of Thunder.

UNCANNY X-MEN #213 (Marvel, 1987) – Somehow I haven’t read this issue before, probably because it tends to be rather expensive and I’ve stopped buying X-Men Classics reprints. This issue concludes the Mutant Massacre story arc as Sabretooth invades the mansion and is defeated by Wolverine and Psylocke, who is subsequently inducted into the X-Men. Alan Davis’s artwork in this issue is brilliant, but , I kept comparing this issue unfavorably to X-Men #143. In both these issues, a new X-Man is trapped in the mansion together with a horrible, bloodthirsty villain, and has to push her wits and her powers to the limit in order to survive. However, in #143, Kitty saves herself from the N’Garai demon with no help from anyone else, while in #213, Psylocke gets saved by Wolverine and Storm. Her achievement is far less impressive, and as a result, this issue is less of a classic. Best thing in the issue: either the splash page or the cute photograph of Betsy and the New Mutants. In this scene Betsy mentions that Doug Ramsey is in love with her, but I don’t know if Claremont ever did anything with that subplot.

SHUTTER #2 (Image, 2014) – Tof Eklund told me that this was his third favorite comic after Saga and Lumberjanes. So far I haven’t been equally impressed by it, although the idea behind it is fascinating – it takes place in a world filled with every fantastic and science-fictional concept ever. Probably the trouble is that I’ve been reading it out of order. As of Cincy Comic Con, I now have every issue of Shutter except #5, and I think I need to go back and read the entire series in order. Best thing in the issue: the gorilla doctor.

SHUTTER #8 (Image, 2015) – The best thing in this issue is the “Alarmcat Funnies” sequence, a series of comic strip parodies that collectively explain Alarmcat’s origin. After that point, the issue becomes much harder to understand. Kat meets a bunch of siblings she didn’t know she had, and one of them, Kalliyan, demands Kate’s help in finding her (Kate’s) mother.

SHUTTER #9 (Image, 2015) – Like the previous issue, this one begins with a flashback that’s not about Kate. This one takes place in 1889 and involves some characters named Jean-Paul, Magali and Prospero. I don’t understand what’s going on here, though I guess Magali is Kate’s mother. Then Kate and Kalliyan embark on their expedition. Best thing in the issue: Kate and Christopher’s pinky promise.

JONAH HEX #14 (DC, 2007) – Jordi Bernet’s artwork on this issue is incredible. It’s maybe a little too visually similar to Pratt or Toth, who Bernet replaced on Torpedo, but Bernet is a master storyteller. Unfortunately the writing in this issue is not at the same level as the art. Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s story is a series of tired old Western clichés, and their dialogue is equally uninspired.

ANT-MAN #5 (Marvel, 2015) – This is the last issue of this volume, and I don’t plan on reading the rebooted version of this series. Like earlier issues, this one has funny dialogue and excellent artwork by Ramon Rosanas, but is fatally flawed because of its treatment of Cassie. Scott defeats Darren Cross and saves Cassie, but subsequently decides to get out of her life because she’s better off without him. Besides the obvious fact that absenting yourself from your child’s life is the definition of bad parenting, the other problem here is that Scott doesn’t bother consulting Cassie herself about this. It seems like she ought to have some say in whether her father is in her life or not. On top of that, Cassie spends almost the entire issue unconscious and has no lines of dialogue. Nick Spencer denies her any agency of her own. Best thing in the issue: the artwork.

SHUTTER #10 (Image, 2015) – In this issue, Kate and Kalliyan go through the portal and get trapped in some weird dreamworld, and a lot of weird stuff happens that I don’t understand. I need to reread this issue after reading the previous nine issues in the correct order. Also, there’s a Tiger Lawyer backup story which is not as funny as you would expect. Best thing in the issue: the revelation that the entire landscape is Harold Rathborn’s face.

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #44 (IDW, 2015) – This is as funny as every other issue of the series, but also surprisingly poignant. In this issue, the Lost Light crew visits the homeworld of the Necrobot, the Transformers version of the Black Racer, because Rewind wants to find out whether Dominus Ambus is dead or not. I don’t understand who Dominus Ambus is, but it’s touching to watch Rewind struggle over whether he wants to know if Dominus Ambus is alive. The other powerful moment (and the best thing in the issue) is the last page, which depicts a giant field of flowers, each representing a person killed by Megatron.

CASANOVA: ACEDIA #4 (Image, 2015) – Akim Athabadze’s origin story is very powerful, and also very timely because it’s reminiscent of the current refugee crisis in Europe. Also, it’s nice that this entire issue is drawn by Gabriel Bá. The trouble is that I can’t remember who Akim Athabadze is, and so I don’t understand what this story has to do with Casanova Quinn. This series would probably read better as a trade paperback.

8HOUSE: KIEM #3 (Image, 2015) – Xurxo G. Penalta’s artwork in this issue is jaw-dropping. He is a supernaturally gifted draftsman and he has an amazing visual imagination. His cities and alien beings look otherworldly but also believable and internally consistent. As far as I can tell, this is Penalta’s first full-length story, but it demonstrates that he has the potential to become a superstar. As usual with Brandon Graham comics, the story is intriguing and weird but is less important than the art, and I have no idea what Kiem has to do with Arclight. Best thing in the issue: the two-page splash depicting the city of Eurthum (this image also appeared in the previous issue and I initially thought it was by Nate Simpson).

GODZILLA IN HELL #1 (IDW, 2015) – Another beautiful work by the preeminent draftsman in the current comics industry, James Stokoe. This comic has no text, so there’s nothing to distract from Stokoe’s draftsmanship and storytelling. And also there are no humans, and thus no human faces, which are Stokoe’s weak point. The level of graphic creativity here is incredibly high; the best example of this (and the best thing in the issue) is the demon that Godzilla fights, which is completely covered with teeth. I am kind of glad that Stokoe isn’t more prolific because his comics take quite a long time to read.

SUICIDE SQUAD #62 (DC, 1992) – I accidentally read this after #61, which was also in my to-be-read boxes and will be reviewed in the next post. This is the conclusion to a three-parter involving the president of Qurac and Adam Cray, the second Atom. As usual with this series, there is a lot of exciting action and strong characterization in this issue, but I didn’t understand the plot. Best thing in the issue: Aquaman demonstrating that he’s actually useful.

JONNY QUEST #8 (Comico, 1987) – This is a weird one. “The Curse of X-7” consists of a series of scenes set at increasingly remote points in the future – 2016, 2027, etc. In each of these scenes, an increasingly older Jonny Quest combats a menacing assassin named X-7. In the end it turns out that the entire story is a hallucination that Jonny is having, because he and the other characters are being smothered by the fumes of an experimental insecticide called X-7. It’s an impressive narrative trick, although I think I’ve been scarred for life by the image of an adult Haji wearing nothing but a loincloth. Best thing in the issue: it includes a pinup which is the first published work of Joe Matt. On the inside front cover, it says that Joe Matt “hopes to someday write and illustrate his own comic.” Whoever wrote that probably would not have predicted what kind of comic Joe Matt would later write and draw.

FANTASTIC FOUR #186 (Marvel, 1977) – “Enter Salem’s Seven!” introduces the supervillain team of that name, and also reveals that Nicholas Scratch is Agatha Harkness’s son. It’s a rather formulaic and boring story, and in terms of the artwork, it’s not as impressive as George Pérez’s other work from the ‘70s. At this point, though, I’m excited to read even a subpar George Pérez story if it’s one that I haven’t read before. Best thing in the issue: the Impossible Man watching Casablanca.

SUPERBOY #176 (DC, 1971) – “The Invisible Intruder” introduces Superboy’s foster sister Kathy, a little girl who becomes superintelligent thanks to alien technology. It’s a pretty stupid story, but not as stupid as other Superman comics from this era, and Murphy Anderson’s inking is good enough to make even Bob Brown’s boring artwork seem exciting. The main attraction of the issue for me is the Legion backup, which focuses on Invisible Kid and Chemical King, two characters who were used very rarely and would be killed off within a few years. Showing true teamwork, they use their powers collaboratively to defeat a criminal who’s found a way to copy Lyle’s powers. This story is probably the source for Robert Loren Fleming and Chris Sprouse’s classic “The Unique Properties of Condo Arlik” from Secret Origins #47. Best thing in the issue: the last panel, where Lyle shakes hands with Condo and calls him “my pal.”

MIDNIGHT TALES #9 (Charlton, 1974) – This obscure Charlton comic is a hidden gem. It begins with a frame story in which a lovestruck college student is talking to her professor about her term paper, which is about the sorceress Tanya. This leads to three different stories about Tanya’s life, which are illustrated by three of Charlton’s top artists at the time: Tom Sutton, Wayne Howard and Joe Staton. The entire issue is written by Nicola Cuti and displays his typical awkward but cute and heartfelt style of humor. Best thing in the issue: the end of the first story, where a five-year-old Tanya tries to summon a giant panther demon, but only succeeds in summoning a cat with wings.

CASPER SPACE SHIP #5 (Harvey, 1973) – I usually don’t even bother buying old Harvey comics because there are so many of them and they’re all so similar, so building a complete Harvey collection is both impossible and pointless. I do pick them up sometimes, though. The main story in this issue is “Old Whiskers the Wizard,” which is reasonably well-plotted and has a cute (though predictable) plot twist involving time travel. This comic is readable, but it’s nothing special.

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