Marvel NOW! Point One #1
Alright, let’s get some BS out-of-the-way before I get into a series of mini-reviews within this review.
Marvel .1 issues are about 99% useless and are nothing but a cash grab. “Point One” issues for a title were normally released on the same day the actual regularly numbered comic came out (and sometimes a week or two later). Either way, this scheme made readers pay for two issues of the same title in one month. Calling a comic Marvel NOW! Point One #1 is one of the most asinine things that Marvel has ever done.
A #1 .1 issue. Fucking hell. The comic also has a $5.99 price tag, which is fucking ridiculous. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Marvel has no shame left and is counting on the chumps who make up the majority of their readership to willingly take a regular ass blasting and come back begging for more.
OK, moving on…
As I mentioned in the rant above, this review will consist of a bunch of quick (and I mean really quick) mini-reviews. The issue is an anthology issue with a bookend story that weaves in and out. I found this the easiest and sanest way for me to review this comic shit-burger.
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Luke Ross
This story is the best written and most interesting of the bunch. I will admit to finding my feelings kinda surprising– primarily since I stopped reading all of Nick Spencer’s comics ages ago, since they were no longer well-written or interesting. This story is also a good intro to the comic for the 5 or so new people (that’s a rough estimate) who are reading it because they enjoyed the Marvel movies. It stars Nick Fury Jr. (who conveniently looks like Samuel L. Jackson), Agent Coulson (who I didn’t even know existed in the 616 universe) and Maria Hill.
Good dialog, decent art, cool premise. This story leans into the new Secret Avengers comic (which I never liked enough to actually pick up).
Guardians of the Galaxy
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Steve McNiven
8 pages, 47 panels, 46 words and 0 shits given.
Story takes place 20 years ago when Star-Lord was a kid. It’s also just one big action scene. Completely pointless. This entire story could’ve easily been told in a flashback (and I am sure it will be) in the upcoming Guardians series.
I would also like to point out that Jack Kirby would’ve told this entire story in 3/4 of one page. He also would have gotten paid 1/1000 of the amount these guys did. Pretty sad when you think about how much the hack writing this probably got paid. And when did Steve McNiven get so terrible? He wasn’t that good to begin with… But still.
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Ed McGuinness
Read my Wolverine #313 review from a couple of weeks ago. Pretty much exactly how I feel about this story. (Don’t want to waste any more words than I have to on Loeb.)
I wonder how all the fans of the Marvel Abnett and Lanning cosmic titles feel about two of the worst writers in the history of comics taking over these books? Can’t be feeling good.
The New World
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artists: Jaime McKelvie, Mike Norton
Story takes place on Earth-212. I have no idea who this Miss America is but I already like the character. She meets up with Kid Loki from our universe. They eat Chinese food and then fight. 100 times better than any Bendis Avengers comic I have read. Seems like Loki is putting together a new Young Avengers team and I like the clever way Kieron Gillen lets the readers know who else Loki will by trying to recruit.
The art bt Jaime McKelvie is quite nice. I hate to admit it but I am a little interested in reading the new Young Avengers book when it comes out. This was a very enjoyable story… And I wasn’t expecting to write those words anywhere in this review.
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Mike Allred
This story is about an angry and sad Scott Lang Ant-Man. On the third page, Scott begins talking about how depressing and pathetic his life is. On the last panel of the page (after all of his whining), he tells the reader, “If you want a Super Hero, go read another comic.”
Reading that, I was more than happy to oblige “writer” Matt Fraction. I then skipped the rest of the story.
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Gabriel Hernandez Walta
This was a fun story– but it was pretty much solely because I actually KNOW who Forge is and I’ve always liked the character. It does nothing to let new readers know who he is or even that he is a mutant. Cable showing up at the end almost ruined it. If Forge is going to be featured in the new Cable comic… I would be tempted to read it for free.
So there you have it. An overpriced comic that is not even close to being worth the cover price. If your retailer is trying to get rid of his overstock next week (because smart people were unwilling to pay full price for it) and is selling it for $1… I would say pick it up. If not, wait for it to hit the quarter bins for the 3 good stories. Because, you know… Fuck Marvel. – Jose Melendez
Writer: Ann Nocenti
Artists: Rafa Sandoval,
I’m about to unleash a completely different Ian here… One that I don’t think I have ever let loose on Inveterate Media Junkies™ before:
Ian MacMillan– Inveterate Fanboy.
The few times I’ve talked about sex on this site (not as often as you think, believe me)– there’s one thing I know that is a recurring theme. I really, really, really love women. I adore them. I worship them. I think they are their most sexy when they’re intelligent, goofy and righteously indignant… And I think they are especially to die for when they get angry and kick some holy ass.
So, given that– is there any way in the world that Ian MacMillan doesn’t admire Catwoman?
Selina Kyle is the quintessential ass-kicker. More so than Wonder Woman (Sorry, J.), primarily because she possesses NO super strength… Just an awesome catsuit and some sharp claws.
I am about to make a really big statement here: I don’t know if anybody has ever drawn Catwoman as well as Rafa Sandoval does in Catwoman #13. His artwork is so vibrant and so dynamic that it completely overpowers Ann Nocenti’s rather simple story. And while this would be the point where “Regular/Bitter/Old” Ian would start ranting about how the story doesn’t seem like a Prelude to anything (let alone the Death of a Family crossover coming to the Bat books)… I just can’t.
Sandoval’s layouts are so fluid, so filled with excellent POVs and points of action (yes, some of them are cheesecake-y), I could care less about the story. I don’t know how his art looks on the printed page– but on my iPad it felt like Catwoman was jumping out at me from every other panel. I’ve heard and read some fairly harsh things about Nocenti’s return to comics but it was fine here… Mainly because it never got in Sandoval’s way.
Which is exactly the way it should be. Comics are a visual medium. – Ian MacMillan
Marvel Zombies Halloween #1
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Alessandro Vitti
The Marvel Zombies line hasn’t been the same since Robert Kirkman and Sean Phillips left after the first volume. I’ve tried to read some of the comics here and there, as I think the concept is funny… But for the most part, the books are junk.
It’s been at least a few years since I’ve read anything Marvel Zombie related. But, as some of you may know– I Love Halloween. I think it’s a perfect holiday for Comic Fans. Since we all escape into the different worlds our comics offer up every week, what’s more fun than taking that one step further and dressing up as a character we like? (Obviously not that much, since most larger comic conventions have huge cosplay contests.)
I spend every October celebrating Halloween… So when I saw Marvel was publishing a Marvel Zombies Halloween One-Shot this week, I knew this was the book I needed to review. But I should also warn you: I’ve read many Halloween comic specials in my day, and most are just as bad as the majority of the Marvel Zombies books… So going into this review, I didn’t have high hopes. It sucks that comic creators (and let’s face it, the companies too) don’t get more excited about Halloween… Or better understand the correlation between the Holiday and the Hobby– and publish lots of scary stories this time of year.
I’m glad I didn’t have high expectations, because what I read was… Serviceable. It wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t great. It was serviceable. The art was… There… I guess. Not much to say about it either. It didn’t stand out as bad work, but it also didn’t have that spark good art has. All in all, the comic did what it was supposed to do. I didn’t get bored reading it. I never wanted to light it on fire because it was garbage. At the end, I just felt indifferent about the whole thing.
The book takes place in a town filled with zombies and focuses on a mother and her son surviving the zombie apocalypse. The kid has never experienced Halloween and somehow convinces his mom to celebrate. (Isn’t “Halloween” happening outside 24/7?) Anyway, one thing leads to another and the kid is left alone and almost eaten by zombies. In the end, everything works out… And we discover the mother is a familiar character in the Marvel U. I think it’s supposed to break our hearts that she is all alone with her little boy.
What I will give writer Fred Van Lente credit for: Nobody dies at all. Amazing, since at least one person always dies in a zombie comic. It was very unexpected to have everyone live.
This was kind of a hard review for me. There was nothing really wrong with the story. The more I think about it, I think the plot isn’t that bad– just missing something… Something that Kirkman and Phillips understood when they created the series. Maybe it’s missing some of the satire Kirkman brought, I’m not sure. Whatever the case, this book isn’t the best or the worst comic I’ll ever read… Just another Marvel book I will quickly forget. – Tom Devine
It Girl and the Atomics #3
Writer: Jamie S. Rich
Artist: Mike Norton
My entry into comics was multi-phasic. One of those phases occurred in early to mid elementary school when a friend found these thin hardcovers of Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Hulk and Captain America in the older kids (5th and 6th graders) section of our school library. They had the introduction comic for all those characters and the next three important issues of each character’s series. So my grounding in comics really came more from the original 60s comics than the 90s comics I grew up with.
Every month when I read It Girl and the Atomics, I remember my long school bus ride home– ending at the third to last stop– and my constantly reading and re-reading those great stories. All these comics share something that has been lost in the industry for a good long time: Simplicity.
Comics, like all forms of literature, are constantly evolving and raising the bar of expected quality. Through that, new tools are created– adding to the many ways both writers and artists can create a tale. All these tools add complexity upon complexity. The good creators can control them, but the rest create the bulk of comics that are published. It Girl and the Atomics– or more specifically, Jamie S. Rich and Mike Norton— remind us we don’t need complex storytelling to have a fulfilling story experience.
I say a lot that comic book art is secondary to me. Comics can be filled with stick figures for all I care. One of the reasons I say this: I often read comics and feel the art is more about style than function. Since this is a visual medium, I understand why this is– to a point. But when I can read only the text in a comic (while just glancing over the images) and still understand the story as much as a person who pays attention to the art… Then the art serves little or no function in telling the story.
Rich and Norton make you pay attention to everything. You can’t just look at the pretty pictures… You can’t just read the words… You have to experience both. As much as you learn about It Girl in the story, she is revealed just as much through her reactions in the artwork. Facial expressions, body language and her placement in the various scenes are all important factors (and I’m not talking about the overused expressions of shock and anger that seem to plague most superhero comics).
Many people see simplicity as not being substantial. I disagree. As MTV Unplugged proved in the 90s, if you can’t do something great and/or compelling in the most simple form possible… Then your work will lose its meaning and importance over time.
It Girl and the Atomics will never have that problem. – W.D. Prescott
Minimum Carnage Part 3:
The Madman & The Microverse
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Declan Shalvey
If you’ve been following this IMJ Capsule Reviews column (if not, you can find them all here), you know I’ve been having a little affair with– of all things– Marvel’s Venom comic book. This is primarily because I caught it just as Cullen Bunn was taking over scripting chores from Rick Remender… And since I normally enjoy Remender’s sense for the absurd in the comics medium– I was chuffed to see Bunn continue the crazy… Even while staying fairly true to Marvel’s pre-packaged superhero format.
But all that’s over… Sorta. (And I think it’s only temporary.)
It’s also not Bunn’s fault. I don’t know who came up with the idea to team Venom and Scarlet Spider (I’m guessing it was to prop up sales and create more buzz around the characters), but this is yet another Marvel crossover idea better chucked in the dumpster. It probably sounded like a good idea… On paper. (Try to figure that out.) But Christopher Yost’s Scarlet Spider is such a boring book, so mechanically achieved… This crossover is finally taking the piss and vinegar out of the Venom comic too.
Here’s where I probably should note I’ve never given a shit about Carnage. I’ve stopped myself from mentioning it in my 3 other Minimum Carnage reviews– but I just don’t care for this homogenized serial killer… Mainly because a deadly goon like Cletus Kasady would have been ICED by any sane society years ago. It’s sorta the same way I feel about the Blue and Red Daleks introduced in Doctor Who over the last several years. While they look cool the first few times you see them… Are they really necessary? Or are they just marketing gimmicks devised to spawn new toys? (Notice I didn’t bitch about the Gold Daleks… I still sorta like those kooks, they’re so glittery.)
Anyhoo… I just don’t see the need for Carnage. Marvel obviously does, since they adopted a “WWE Sensibility” when it comes to their villains long ago. One month they’re very, very bad people… Then a couple of months later, they’re heralded as heroes– with virtually all past misdeeds forgotten by everyone… Except, of course, Captain America. (That cranky high-and-mighty bastard never seems to forget even the most minor slight.)
I guess I’m most depressed by what this comic might have been– without Carnage or Scarlet Whatever-his-name-is. Somebody here definitely has a fondness for Marvel’s Microverse… And I think the whole story would’ve been better served by allowing Venom (and therefore, writer Bunn) to go there alone. There’s at least one too many Spider-Man related entities in this tale… Making it feel like it could have taken place anywhere.
Which begs the question: If you are going to set a comic in the Microverse– why populate it with so many Macroverse characters that it seems like it could have played out in New York City, Houston… Or even a Hooters restaurant?
Both Bunn and artist Declan Shalvey are better served when they are allowed to go a little crazy. Unfortunately the MC plot doesn’t call for that too often. Venom is still miles above Scarlet Spider in content, intent and execution… But I’m looking forward to the day this (sadly) ill-conceived mess is over.
Seriously, both titles are firmly in the Microverse now… But Spider and Venom haven’t met up again after some 30 pages? Mark that down as another thing I can’t stand about some faux Team-Up comics: Heroes teaming together, only to be sent caterwauling off in opposite directions. If they are going to team-up, they should damn well team-up– at least 95% of the time. Keeping them apart (even for an issue or two) disjoints the story.
Keeping them together forces the stakes to rise exponentially… And also forces the menace to become bigger and badder faster. As plotted, Minimum Carnage could’ve easily encompassed THREE very exciting, taughtly written comics. But here we get SIX books (including two over-sized Alpha and Omega comics).
It’s just not necessary. Which brings up the other comic demon I flog incessantly: The Demon Decompression. Screw that noise– I’m done. Yes, you read that right. I’ve read Minimum Carnage Alpha, Scarlet Spider #10 and Venom #26… And I’m finished. Despite the money invested and the time spent reading/reviewing these books– I don’t care how this story ends.
Venom will live to fight another day… So I’ll come back to the comic once this Microverse romp concludes… I’m still that huge of Cullen Bunn fan. If they blow Carnage and the Scarlet Spider to Hell in the meantime… More power to ’em.
– Ian MacMillan
Billy The Kid’s Old Timey Oddities
& The Orm of Loch Ness #1
Writers: Eric Powell, Kyle Hotz
& Tracy Marsh
Artist: Kyle Hotz
This is the first issue of the second mini-series by Eric Powell and Kyle Hotz starring Billy the Kid and a group of Oddities (think carnival sideshow from the late 1800s). If you didn’t read the first series, I definitely recommend it. The first mini really introduces these characters and this second series takes place right after the first one.
The Loch Ness Monster (or as I like to call her, Nessy) is a creature I’ve always found interesting. So going in, I figure this is a great subject for Powell to tackle (and for me to read).
I am happy to confirm Powell continues to hold onto his spot as the Top Dog in Monster Comics for this generation. Besides “The Rot” stuff at DC, I can’t think of another book that consistently shows me disgustingly awesome monsters. Keeping with this theme, Hotz’ Loch Ness Monster is very different from the old black and white photo everybody thinks about. This Nessy is a real monster… And at the end we find it might be a something very different from what we are familiar with.
But let’s not skip to the end just yet.
Billy the Kid is a lot like Franky from The Goon. He’s a loudmouth trickster who never has a problem saying exactly what’s on his mind. But unlike Franky, Billy’s a stubborn cowboy. I like reading Billy’s dialogue in a deep southern accent… It always makes me laugh a little more. Billy and the gang talk about heading to the Loch. The crusty cowboy thinks it’s terrible idea, but they go anyway. What follows is an entertaining fictionalization of past events surrounding the Loch Ness Monster legend. After this set-up, the comic continues kicking ass– as Billy and the Oddities get into trouble with some Irish Monks protecting the Loch. And like I said up above, the end of the issue features a big revelation about the Loch Ness Monster.
On the whole, the book was another fun adventure from Powell and crew. Hotz’ cartoonish style is a perfect complement to the story’s tone– drawing mightily from Powell’s early work on The Goon. Writer and Artist meld extremely well. I enjoy reading comics that are funny, and this one had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion.
One of my favorite lines was, “A Real Man has eat horse once or twice in his life.” I won’t say why (you have to experience it for yourself, should you decide to jump in) but that line sums up what kind of person Billy the Kid is.
I did have a few minor problems with the book though… Not huge issues, but worth mentioning. I didn’t think the creators did a great job introducing the cast. Even though this is a Number One (and the start of a new series)– Powell/Hotz/Marsh really expect you to have read the first mini. (I have, so it didn’t bother me.) But this assumption is a big one, especially when you realize the first Billy The Kid’s Old Timey Oddities series was published way back in 2005. If you have no idea who the Oddities are, you may have a problem understanding exactly what’s going on– as some of them seem to pop up out of nowhere. And even though the Loch Ness Monster reveal is a big one, I don’t know if it’s the best choice for the book’s direction. Plus, I’m not certain there’s really any reason why Billy and the Oddities are going to The Loch– beyond the fact that it’s a good setting for adventure.
Even with these small nitpicks, I really enjoyed this comic. Interesting characters in outlandish situations always makes for a good time. – Tom Devine
Justice League #13
The Secret of the Cheetah Part 1
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Tony Daniel
A couple of months ago the entire IMJ Capsule Review Crew gave our opinions on Justice League #12. The popular consensus was that the book sucked… Hard. And while the other reviewers have had good enough sense to stay away from this follow-up issue (although Ian did review JL #0, a Shazam! origin masquerading as a team book)– I can’t say the same about myself. My reason to come back for more is quite simple: While JL #12 had a somewhat competent artist in Jim Lee, Justice League #13 has the not-so-good Tony Daniel on art– and I was curious to see if it was possible for a terrible comic title to become even worse.
To be honest, I was briefly thankful for the fact that Daniel was NOT writing the issue as well as doing the art (like he’s been doing on other DC titles for a while). But to be more honest, if you had told me Daniel DID ghost write this issue I would have believed you. That’s just how bad Geoff Johns’ script is for this book.
There are superhero comic scribes who can tell a compelling and enjoyable romantic story in between all of the flying fists. (Greg Rucka and Robert Kirkman spring immediately to mind.) Then there are some writers who should stay as far away from adding any romance to their stories as they can– and it is abundantly clear that Johns is one of those writers. All the complaints I had about the forced Wonder Woman and Superman romance in JL #12 are still prevalent here. Unfortunately, for those hoping to see that romance taken a bit further– you’ll get none of that in this comic.
Here is the most passionate thing this issue had to offer as far the Supes/Wonder Woman romance goes. I’ll even be so nice as to transcribe the dialogue for you, using the actual words (unlike my Issue #12 review).
The dialogue here is funny enough on its own:
Bella: What happened a few days ago, Superman. It just happened.
Edward: I know, it was a kiss. Not a commitment.
Edward: But it was nice, Bella.
Bella: It was.
And in the last panel they just stare at each other, with their faces hidden in shadow. As soon as I finished reading that page, I rolled my eyes harder than they have ever been rolled before. That is some really passionless, shallow, (not to mention horrible) dialogue… But trust me when I say there’s more where that came from. Except for some brief action at the beginning and end, this issue is filled with almost nothing but talking heads… And angst. Again, so much fucking angst. I actually disliked these characters more than I did in the last issue. I must commend Johns for this feat, as I wasn’t even aware I could be more annoyed by them.
The art is all over the place– just like last issue. Issue #12 did have like 6 inkers, so it had an excuse. Issue #13 only had two– so I think I’ll go ahead a place all the blame on the penciler. Lines in some panels look alright and have some moderate weight to them… While other panels resemble the shaky line work of Charles Schultz late in his Peanuts career. I won’t go into the awful overuse of cross hatching because I know that is just something I do not prefer either.
The last thing I will say about this comic: I found the last page so funny I actually laughed out loud for a good 5 seconds. I’m pretty sure that was not the desired effect that Geoff Johns and Tony Daniel had in mind. I didn’t bother reading the back-up… But can you really blame me? Overall, Justice League #13 kinda falls into the trap W.D. Prescott was complaining about last week in his DC reviews… Nothing really happened– which seems to be the ongoing thrust for most of DC’s comics. That would also explain why I’m down to only buying 3 DC books a month.
For 2 issues in a row I have found Justice League a joyless read. If I wasn’t filled with such apathy, it would bother me that the title continues to be one of the top sellers in the industry. – Jose Melendez
Ex Sanguine #1
The Hollow Man
Writers: Joshua Scott Emmons,
Artist: Tim Seeley
When I came back to collecting Hardcovers and Trades several years ago, I was consuming everything. Didn’t matter the subject, I pretty much bought it. And one of the genres I purchased a lot was horror. Thing is, I soon discovered that I didn’t much care for 90% of it. Just like modern horror films, I thought most comic book horror had devolved into slasher stuff… Gross shit that did more to turn my stomach than entertain me. Straight Slasher-Fic in comics seemed useless. I don’t care how well someone draws– if a book’s got no intelligence or a sense of dread… No comic is going to match the expertise of Hollywood’s special effects artists.
Even the Marvel Horror– such a staple of the Marvel U when I was a kid (Tomb of Dracula, The Man-Thing, etc.) had all gone south. Ghost Rider was a mismatch of superhero clichés and mystical bullshit. I pitied anyone who used to enjoy such characters as Daimon Hellstrom (Son of Satan) and Werewolf By Night’s Jack Russell. Anything that made them unique had long since been gutted– and great characters like Doctor Strange were left to languish. (When was the last time you read a decent new comic starring the ex-maybe-still-is Master of the Mystic Arts Dr. Stephen Strange?)
In all this mess, I did discover I still loved the horror-tinged books like Hellboy. And I also discovered a little comic called Hack/Slash by Tim Seeley. Recognizing that he could never match the gross out factor enjoyed by the Horror celluloid kings, Seeley did something even better. He turned the Slasher genre on its ear… While still being smart enough to borrow liberally from the movies and play up an amazing sense of irony and sarcasm in his comic.
Which all leads me to Seeley’s new book Ex Sanguine #1, co-written by Joshua Scott Emmons. I chose Ex Sanguine to review because I thought it would fit perfectly into my quest to expose comics I doubt too many others were bothering to cover. If I’m right– and other comic book sites aren’t reviewing this book in droves– that’s a real shame. Seeley’s name alone should have been a beacon for any horror comic fan.
So picture me, sitting at my computer– about to write my review of Ex Sanguine #1, when a comment from Hack/Slash about the comic pops up on the IMJ Open Thread. I was sort of crushed. I really thought I’d be flying under the radar with this one… But with a screen name like Hack/Slash, you know the frequent IMJ Commenter’s gotta be a big Seeley fan. Plus his description and insight into the comic were both so spot on, I told him I would share it in the review. He gives away a lot more plot than I ever do, but I doubt it harms anything. This is just the start of what looks like a healthy dose of insanity from this comic. So, if anything, his thoughts will only prepare you all for the mayhem yet to come.
I got Ex Sanguine #1 this week from Tim Seeley (Dark Horse) and it was pretty sweet… It’s about a vampire trying to fit in (choosing victims who deserve it?) but after he turns down the call for help from a female serial killer, she frames him for her killing spree while contemplating to have steamy sex with him… I am interested to see where this is going.
I agree Hack/Slash! I’m interested in seeing where this comic leads as well. If there’s one thing Seeley understands, it’s horror. He also has a definite detective streak in him. Both these interests are heavily played up in Issue #1. I am also happy to see Seeley actually drawing again. His art has always been straight-forward, yet dynamic… And he somehow always finds a way to include his bent for the absurd and the sarcastic in his line work. Seeley also knows how to convey a sense of dread and horror without making you want to puke. (A big plus in my book.)
I do have one beef with the comic. The way the credits are arranged, Joshua Scott Emmons gets tops billing in the writing department. Seeley is listed second. This leads me to believe that Emmons is the lead writer on the project… And unfortunately, it shows in spots. Ex Sanguine, while extremely well-plotted– is also the slowest moving of any of Seeley’s indie horror projects. It plods in a few spots where Seeley’s efforts normally thrive and excite. There’s still plenty of craziness on display (which frankly, seem all Seeley created) but unfortunately, the book lacks the Seeley spring in its’ step here and there.
This is by no means a major enough knock to warn you off the series. First issues in comics are almost exactly like pilot episodes of TV Shows. If a book intrigues you and shows promise (which Ex Sanguine shows much more often than it doesn’t)… You owe it to your Inner Comic Geek to keep on going. Creators deserve time to gel and I see no indication here that would make me think these guys can’t integrate their styles into something potentially fantastic.
Me? I’m just happy to see Seeley working his ass off. I’m also happy to see someone other than Dark Horse founder Mike Richardson writing contemporary horror comics for the Publisher. Richardson’s horror comics (The Secret, Living with the Dead, etc) almost always read like feelers/dry-run storyboards for hopeful live-action films. Emmons and Seeley come at their comic a different, smarter way. They know if they produce a great book, Hollywood will come a knockin’ because they’re hot for comic properties.
Cause and effect and all that. – Ian MacMillan
Star Wars: Agent of the Empire –
Hard Targets #1
Writer: John Ostrander
Artists: Davidé Fabri,
Christian Dalla Vecchia
This is another tough call for me. When I read the Iron Eclipse storyline in Star Wars: Agent of the Empire— I really enjoyed it because it never tried to hide it was playing off (a pre-Daniel Craig) James Bond. It was just a fun book that did something never done before in the Star Wars universe.
When I picked up Hard Targets #1, I was expecting more of the same. But it isn’t there. There are still allusions to 007 in the book– but for the most part, the camp is gone. This isn’t wholly a bad thing– it’s still a decent story… Just not what I signed up for.
It’s a much more serious story, examining the function of Jahan Cross and Imperial Intelligence during the height of the Empire. We get Boba Fett, Princess Leia— and the recognition (by some) that a rebellion may soon be in order. But as I read the last few pages, I realized a complete story was told– and I’m not left wanting to see how this will pan out in another four issues.
Well, let me revise that: If what’s coming are four more issues of one-and-done stories set up in the framework of an overall story… I think that would be really cool and I’d be totally down for that. But that idea feels like what an ongoing series would create as a story arc– rather than what a self-contained mini-series would do. And it also doesn’t feel like the direction this series is taking.
Cross’ mission to assassinate the nephew of Count Dooku (unfortunately also known as Count Dooku) seems to be leading to another undercover operation that will take up the next four issues. But since they began this story by taking out a lot of the camp and humor that made the first series so entertaining, I’m not sure what to expect. Therefore, I’m not sure I want to buy.
Had this comic not had the Agent of the Empire logo on the cover, I probably would have had a completely different reaction. It’s one thing to go from a “Sean Connery” Bond to a “Daniel Craig” Bond over the span of several decades… It’s a completely other thing to make such a severe shift within a year between two-story arcs in a comic. Jarring reader expectations– no matter how good the story may be– is a tricky move to pull off.
As weird as this may sound, I’m still not completely sure how I feel. – W.D. Prescott
Legion of Super-Heroes #13
Writer: Paul Levitz
Artist: Scott Kolins
There’s some comic books that DC– pre-New 52 Universe— really screwed the pooch on. One of these was Legion of Super-Heroes… Which has gone through more schizophrenic changes in tone than a three minute auto-tuned Britney Spears song. The most recent change engendering the biggest fan uproar occurred during the brief reign of Joltin’ Jim Shooter on script duty– returning decades later to a title he used to write while still a teenager.
But the Legion comic is like that. Some of the biggest writers and artists have worked on the book over years. Yet none is arguably any bigger than current LSH scripter, ex-DC President/Publisher Paul Levitz. Paul has a huge history with the title as well (writer for 11 years in the late 70s to almost all of the 80s)… And even used the book as a springboard that would eventually lead to DC’s top spot. If you go back and look at Paul’s Legion stories from the 80s– you’ll find some of the most tightly plotted and adventurous straight-forward super-hero stories of the decade. (Believe it or not– but there was a time when LSH comics were highly sought-after collectibles.)
Thus endth thy history lesson. That was then and now is now… And the old Hollywood phrase, “But what have you done for me lately?” couldn’t be more apropos. The answer is, “Paul Levitz is just fine, thank you… It’s the comics that are broken.”
I’ve said this before but it’s worth repeating: When Jim Lee and Geoff John’s decided (I know I’m leaving Dan Didio out) they needed to cut the cost of DC’s comic books by $1.00 to keep Marvel from running over them like a steamroller– they made a huge error when they cut the page count of almost every DC comic to 20 pages. Huge… As in H-U-G-E huge. In the limited time the Capsule Reviews Quartet has been reviewing new comics here at IMJ, I have found TWO writers that I believe have adapted to DC’s new, shorter story format. The majority of them don’t (or can’t) grasp how to write shorter comics (with a few more still trying).
Levitz fans need not worry on this count. Paul could write a good Legion story in 3 pages. But if you go back and compare Levitz’ LSH stories from the 80s to 2012’s Legion of Super-Heroes #13, you can immediately see he simply doesn’t have the room needed to tell as complex a tale as he used to. And the stories have to be complex because they often involve dozens of characters (the numerous amount of super-powered members in the Legion are, well… legion) and the space-set stories usually involve numerous planets (and their various inhabitants) as well.
It’s a real shame too… Considering there’s such an easy fix.
When a book cries out for more room to tell stories or the talent behind a comic can carry the weight of an expanded title– then DC should make these adjustments. They already charge $3.99 for comics with a 20-page main story and a 10-page back-up. So when circumstances warrant it– they should quit this divisive mumbo-jumbo and allow their top creators to create for the entire 30 pages. In other words, give Paul Levitz the 30 pages he needs to kick some 31st Century butt. You can still have those full-page and double-page splashes you think the kidz are so fond of… And the rest of us might actually get a goddamn complete story that doesn’t feel like it was cut in half.
In other words, I’d rather pay $3.99 for a tight 30-page epic, then spend $2.99 TWICE for two comics featuring a DECOMPRESSED 40-page story. That’s how simple the fix I propose really is.
Given all that, Levitz acquits himself well with LSH #13. It’s a good story, if sorely truncated. But like I said, that problem ain’t Paul’s fault. I could imagine the story to be somewhat impenetrable for a new reader who knows little or nothing about the Legion or its history. But to be blunt– that’s true of almost any Legion comic. There are so many characters with so much going on, you just have to dive right in and figure it out as you go along.
This issue is drawn by Scott Kolins— even though Yildiray Cinar is listed in the Comixology credits for the book. (The comic’s actual credits get all the names right.) I like Scott Kolins’ work. In recent years he has gone to a much looser style– so much so, I’ve been calling him a 21st Century Don Heck. But the loose line work is significantly reigned in here. You can literally tell that someone gave Kolins the instruction to reign it in– as the space-age setting requires a crisper line.
What makes no sense: The pastel coloring job by Javier Mena. I haven’t seen this much candy-colored shit in my life. If this comic was colored like a normal book, then the effects used by Mena would look very nice. As it stands, LSH #13 looks like My Little Pony threw up on this comic– causing everything in the future to be painted some pastel shade of purple, pink or light blue. It’s jarring, it’s stupid and it’s an experiment that should be stopped immediately.
There’s nothing wrong with this comic that ten extra pages and a coloring adjustment couldn’t cure. – Ian MacMillan