Superior Spider-Man #2
The Peter Principle
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Ryan Stegman
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
20 pages, $3.99
I am not going to beat around the bush with this review. I really do want to finish writing it as quickly as possible so I can move on to reviewing my other comic this week.
Only two issues in, the premise of the Superior Spider-Man series has already gotten old and tiresome. Everything fans have perceived to be wrong with Dan Slott’s Spidey run culminates here in what is just a completely miserable reading experience. Terrible art, pervy situations, characters being written completely OUT of character, a story which reeks of fan-fiction… It’s all finally made me throw my hands up and say “Annnnd… I’m out.”
I’m really and truly done with this series. I’m not angry mind you, I just don’t feel like wasting any more time on a series that reeks of cynicism. There is absolutely no enjoyment to be found anywhere on its many pages. Beside Mary Jane Watson, there is not one character in this comic I have any interest in reading about anymore. I wish I could say the same about Peter Parker but, well, this sums up what Ghost Peter does for the ENTIRE issue:
Pete complains. He whines. He’s insufferable. This is all Peter Parker does the entire issue. But you know what’s even worse than that? This book reads like an awful sitcom from beginning to end… Like, Big Bang Theory level of awfulness. I think this is all somehow supposed to be played for laughs. I seriously kept hearing the sounds of canned television studio laughter every time Pete bitches and moans. Peter Parker– The Amazing Spider-Man, is reduced to being the punchline for the comic industry’s worst joke.
I was going to get into the how the Spock/Mary Jane relationship thankfully ends in this issue. How Spock is pretty much done with her after he masturbates to implied memories of himself having sex with her. How Carlie Cooper has a feeling Spock is not Peter, but let’s Mary Jane go on a date with him anyway. How Carlie does not share this information with MJ even though common sense dictates she should at least give MJ a heads up on possibly dating a villain who killed Peter Parker. How this comic’s art is in desperate need of a talented inker. How this is one of Marvel’s flagship titles– and how pathetic this all is.
I was going to, but Nah… None of it matters. What does matter is me telling you this is a soulless comic and this is the last review you’ll see from me for Superior Spider-Man for a while… Hopefully ever. I wish I could have given you a more critical and professional review, but this book made me question why I even bother to read comics anymore… And that is a very bad thing.
Luckily, the next comic I’m reviewing reminds me why I still do. – Jose Melendez
Doctor Who Prisoners of Time #1
Writers: Scott Tipton, David Tipton
Artist: Simon Fraser
Colorist: Gary Caldwell
Letterer: Tom B. Long
22 pages, $3.99
As a fan of Doctor Who, as the resident IMJ “TV Guy” and a card-carrying member of the IMJ Capsule Review Crew™– how could I pass up the first issue of Prisoners of Time? For many Whovians, this will be the first time they experience the First Doctor. There’s only one William Hartnell Doctor Who serial (The Aztecs) available on Netflix (or maybe it’s only on iTunes and Amazon– it’s hard to remember anymore), but you only get a glimpse of what Hartnell’s original Doctor was like in that short story arc. In a way I feel weird, because I did spend an entire month watching (or, in the case of many earlier Who serials, listening) to all the episodes featuring the First Doctor. So I’m armed with a knowledge that I know many who pick this comic up probably won’t have. In any case, I can state definitively this comic got some things right, and several things wrong.
Lets start with the positive: I give the writers, Scott and David Tipton, props for nailing the voice of both The Doctor and Ian Chesterton. As I read the dialogue, I could hear William Hartnell and William Russell reciting the lines with the same inflections that helped define their characters. That isn’t an easy thing to do– no matter the quality of a franchise’s material.
And then there was… Nothing. *dejected slump*
I understand the Tiptons only had one issue to tell their story, but this comic is the furtherest thing from a Doctor Who tale I could ever imagine. First, let me get the nitpicky “fan stuff” out of the way. Back at the beginning of Who, the Doctor had no control over his ship. So the idea that he could give advance notice to someone of his arrival would never happen. It wasn’t until around (if not after), the Second Doctor arrived that the TARDIS was reliable in any sense of the word.
Now, I also understand the writers had to come up with something a little different– since the overarching story of this series is that some cloaked villain (which I’m going to bet is either The Master or possibly The Black Guardian)– is going to steal all the Doctor’s different Companions through the years. So the Tiptons have to get the First Doctor to a specific place where the villain can set a trap. But this is also a celebration Who and you can see the writers attempting to emulate the tone of the First Doctor’s shows… So when they completely rewrite some of the main plot complications of the first Who serials (like not being able to navigate with the Tardis), their efforts feel disingenuous.
Also, how did a train just randomly appear to solve the problem? I know the 60s didn’t feature Who’s best script writing, but there was (at the very least) a sense of believability and plausibility to the stories told during the decade.
Putting my comic reviewer cap back on– the art is horrendous. I’m obviously not sure what Simon Frasier was trying to do, but the fact that none of the actors’ faces ever looked similar in any way was aggravating. And it wasn’t just a problem with First Doctor and his Companions. The Ninth Doctor looks like Bruce Willis— circa Die Hard 2. The Tenth Doctor– swoon break for women readers– looked like an Asian actor cosplaying as Castiel from Supernatural.
I hate to say it, but avoid this comic. Even if you never decide to watch a William Hartnell Who serial, this– despite the writers’ talent in capturing the First Doctor’s speech patterns– is a terrible Doctor Who comic. – W.D. Prescott
Emily and the Strangers #1
Writers: Mariah Huehner, Rob Reger
Artist: Emily Ivie
22 pages, $3.99
Emily the Strange is one of those comics I’ve always liked (from what I’ve seen in Previews) but I’ve never actually bought… Even though Dark Horse has published several series over the years. When I think of all the crap I’ve purchased from Marvel and DC– when I could’ve been buying this– I see red. Especially if previous issues of ETS are as good as this one.
So does that mean I liked it, I hear you cry? You bet your fuckin arse I liked it! I knew from the moment I opened the cover and looked at the first page that I would love this book. The artwork is stunning, and thankfully the writing backs it all up with a quality story.
Up till I read this comic, I didn’t actually know who or what Emily the Strange was. But here’s what’s great– you don’t need to know a whole heap of continuity to read/enjoy this book. All the pertinent information is subtly given without the need for excessive narration or exposition. Everyone knows a girl like Emily, a self-possessed goth teen who thinks she knows everything and is determined to get her own way. Thing is, Emily pretty much does know everything– she’s a 13-year-old genius. And like all the best inventors, every gadget she cooks up goes a bit wrong… And when her best laid plans go slightly awry, their failure leads to some excellent adventures.
The writing is sharp and quickly settles you into the mood of the book. The pacing is on the money throughout. None of the scenes feel rushed, yet the story doesn’t dawdle on anything either. Scenes move smoothly and the plot progresses without anything feeling clunky or shoehorned in.
There are only 2 human characters in this entire comic. The second human, Evan the radio station intern, only appears in the last few pages. Emily spends most of the book in her workshop trying to construct a machine to create the best demo tape of all time… Accompanied by her cats– who seem to be rather more intelligent than your usual fleabitten mice-chasing moggies. The writers use the cats as something for Emily to talk to about her plans– which, in effect, allows her to break the fourth wall and talk to the reader without explicitly doing so.
Emily Ivie handles the art. In truth, I’d never heard of her before– but wow, her art is simply awesome. The closest comparison I can give to her style is perhaps Josh (Dead @17) Howard mixed with a bit of Geof Darrow. The backgrounds are very detailed and pleasing to the eye– especially the splash page that endeavours to show the inside of Emily’s mind (which appears to be part lonely tower, part M.C. Escher maze, coupled with a junk-strewn attic.)
Ivie’s art is also very pleasing on the eye, The layouts, while not being as adventurous as a JH Williams perhaps, are effective and move the plot along smoothly… While still allowing you to just look and enjoy the art for its own sake. And it isn’t just the backgrounds or layouts Ivie excels at– Emily’s face looks deceptively simple to draw but the artist is able to convey numerous expressions with just a few lines. There are a lot of better-paid artists at the Big Two publishers who could learn a thing or two by looking at Ivie’s work. One little trick that I found extremely pleasing: Ivie uses Emily’s bangs to leave her eyes in half-shadow– which gives her a look of cunning mischieviousness, especially when she’s tinkering away with some piece of heavy machinery.
There are no credits for lettering and colouring, so I can only presume Ivie handles those tasks as well. This wouldn’t be much of a surprise, as the colouring complements the art extremely well– with lots of blacks, browns and greys… While making judicious use of bright colours to keep things from looking monotonous. The colours are mostly done in a flat matte style, which works well with the art– rather than distracting from it. The lettering also fits the book’s overall style.
Now that I’ve read Emily and the Strangers #1, I’ll definitely be back for the next two issues– and I’ll be buying the older trades as well. As if I haven’t heaped enough praise on it, this is a book that I could be happy giving to a child or teen, but one adults can enjoy as well. It isn’t patronising kiddie crap like Marvel Adventures. (A format and tone Marvel seems to think every one of their All-Ages book should mimic.)
I will never give away 5 Star scores for just anything (like reviewers on many sites do.) A book should be of a very high standard to warrant 5 Stars… And up till now, I haven’t awarded any book a 5 star score– but this one definitely deserves it.
If this column had a Book of the Month award, Emily and the Strangers would be my pick. – Locusmortis
Teen Titans #16
Gotham Runs Red!
Writers: Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Brett Booth
Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Teen Titans #16 is a tie-in with the ongoing Death of the Family story arc crossing all the Batman titles. I have to admit that I’m not usually a big fan of these crossovers. It has been my experience crossovers do very little to move the main plot along– that action is saved for the main title… So I wasn’t surprised when Teen Titans didn’t offer any real revelation or major plot advancement to the “Death of the Family” story line.
The story opens up with Red Robin and Red Hood unconscious, nose-to-nose with their hands tied behind their backs. Red Robin brings us up to speed, letting us know what is at stake. Turn the page, you are greeted with a lunatic Joker monologue resulting in five pages of Red Robin and Red Hood kicking each other’s tail feathers for the Joker’s entertainment. Three pages are spent on a sub-plot that concerns Raven. The transition was a little rough but it felt important. Unfortunately it also left more questions than answers.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Brett Booth’s art combined with Andrew Dalhouse’s inks. The art seemed to jump off the page. I’ve seen the Joker so often, I’ve become practically desensitized towards the horror and madness that consumes him. Booth showed the Joker as a strong character, with menace just dripping off him. Combine that with Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza’s tight, fast-paced dialog and you have an enjoyable story.
I recommend this comic, it’s like sitting down and enjoying a sweet treat.
– Tim Tash
Writers: Leah Moore, John Reppion
Colorist: Ivan Nunes
Letterer: Simon Bowland
22 pages, $3.99
Damsels was a gamble on my part– mainly because I wanted to get out of my comfort zone by reviewing comics I wouldn’t normally pick if I wasn’t a comic book critic. I decided to purchase Issue #5, even though I knew the initial story setup would be over and already entrenched dramatic elements would be in full force.
Having said that, any issue of a comic book series should be at least somewhat accessible. If the first few issues are amazing and fans and/or critics are telling people to read a series– it is incumbent upon the writers to make certain people can jump on with any comic. While a complete point-by-point understanding of the plot isn’t required– creators still need to make sure new readers can enjoy the story.
Damsels is definitely one of those stories you must read from the beginning… Because I was confused almost the entire time I read the book. I do love the artwork, though. Artist Aneke and colorist Ivan Nunes are a great team. Aneke has a style that feels like the beautiful love child of Terry Moore and Joseph Michael Linsner. Ivan Nunes’ coloring created a lot of dramatic moments too– so even while I wasn’t sure what was going on, I felt the tension and emotion.
There were some things I liked about the story: Like the moment where “The Little Mermaid” (she isn’t named and I’d hate to assume that it’s Ariel), tells of missing true love with her Prince… Who I believe is the same prince that wakes up Sleeping Beauty. It was a great, tragic side story. I also enjoyed the intro that led to the Little Red Riding Hood reveal. What I also liked: The realistic elements of the main story (as much as is possible in a world of fairy tales)– remaking these characters and stories.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t follow the main story. I believe I may have understood parts of it at the end… But even after re-reading it, I’m not 100% certain I got everything right. Red Riding Hood saves Rapunzel. Then Rapunzel knocks on Sleeping Beauty’s carriage door. Then Rapunzel is back with Red… and so on. I’m fairly sure this makes perfect sense to those who have read the series from the beginning, but this kind of story is off-putting to people wanting to give the comic a try-out. And it’s a shame too– because other than my not being able to follow the plot in a few places, this is a well-written comic.
If I knew what was going on, I would be giving this comic at least Three and Half Stars– if not Four. While Damsels has good art and writing, it simply didn’t invite me into the story. It felt like Thanksgiving Dinner at a co-worker’s house… Where the family carries on as usual and you’re just a passive observer. Sometimes Mom or Aunt Mattie may try to engage in a conversation with you, but everything soon turns back to family shenanigans and nostalgia. A fun experience, sure (especially if the alternative is abject loneliness)… But it isn’t an experience you would necessarily want to repeat. – W.D. Prescott
The Death of Everyone Part 3
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn
Colorist: John Rauch
Letterer: Rus Wooton
30 pages, $3.99
While reading every issue of Invincible over the years, I’ve had a few moments of terror– where I hesitated turning the page. It’s a comic where anything can happen. On occasion, very bad things happen to characters I’ve become quite attached to. Because of this, I was very wary coming into the 3-part The Death of Everyone storyline. Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley and Cory Walker have given me enough emotional punches-to-the-gut, I really didn’t know what was in store.
Fair warning: I will be getting into some “spoilery” stuff in this review– so if you haven’t read the issue or are intending to, you may want to stop now and come back after you have done so.
Invincible #100 works on a variety of levels and does what any Centennial Anniversary comic book should. Seems I didn’t have to worry about turning any of the pages, as my expectations were completely thrown out the window after just opening the cover. Within the first 3 pages, the comic landed a flurry of gut punches and I couldn’t help but smirk. Kirkman and Ottley got me and got me good. What follows: A story that takes on the cynicism of modern superhero comics and expertly turns it on its ear.
Invincible dies in the first few pages with zero warning. If this were a comic published by the Big Two (Marvel & DC), you would have already heard of Invincible’s death in USA Today. Invincible’s demise would have been hyped for months and you would have been treated to published images showing his death. There would have been no shock. No surprise. No stunning disbelief. You would also most likely need to wait for 6 months (to a year) before he inevitably returned. (Oh, how the Big Two love to milk their cynicism.) Well, no such agonizing wait here. Invincible comes back to life in a matter of pages– not months. How and why are revealed in a couple of flashback panels showing how Invincible “survived”. In the last of those panels there is in editor’s note reminding us exactly “when” all of this happened:
And it’s exactly here where Invincible #100 becomes a satire/critique on how infatuated the American Comic Book Industry has become with death and the temporary sales bumps these disasters bring. Lucky for fans, this isn’t the only issue (satirical or otherwise) this particular comic explores. Another way this book separates itself from most of the Big Two’s superhero stuff: Invincible defeats his opponent with words– not fists. Pages are devoted to discussion, not a brawl to the death. I cannot tell you how goddamn refreshing this is.
The rest of the story establishes the comic’s new mission statement. Well, it’s not so much “new”… The series is simply returning to its roots. The big difference between where this comic is going and where it’s been is how Invincible has grown as a character. The last few pages feature a conversation between Mark (Invincible) and his girlfriend, Atom Eve. He talks to her about how much he’s learned from the mistakes he’s made and how it’s time to act more like the adult he has become. Stuff like this is what used to make Peter Parker so relatable– and further proves Invincible is this generation’s Spider-Man. As for the last page, Kirkman and Ottley throw in one more surprise. How it plays out is anyone’s guess– but it is an issue that has been dealt with before. I am very interested to see how it will be handled this time around.
Invincible continues to show the rest of the industry how superhero comics should be done. It is as relevant now as it was when it started, and the comic industry is a better place for its continued existence and success. If you’ve ever thought about picking up the title, now is a very good time to start.
But don’t blame me if you kick yourself for not getting into the title sooner. I’ve only called Invincible “… the best superhero comic being published today” for years. – Jose Melendez
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artists: Steve Lieber, Jesse Hamm
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
20 pages, $2.99
Ever since Marvel Now! started, Hawkeye has been touted as one of the “event’s” sleeper hits. I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about the comic– so with a rather narrow selection of titles this week, I decided to dip in and see what the fuss was about.
One of the things I was especially looking forward to was David Aja’s art. (He was excellent on Iron Fist a few years ago.) Unfortunately, aside from the cover, Aja wasn’t the artist on Hawkeye. But the cover really is well designed and executed, with the Hawkeye logo symbolically scattered by the winds of Hurricane Sandy over the New York cityscape.
This is a “fill-in” issue– a phrase that normally strikes dread into the heart of comic book readers. No need to fear though, as this fill-in is actually quite good. The story revolves around Hawkeye Clint Barton and Hawkeye Kate Bishop (of the Young Avengers) dealing with Hurricane Sandy from late last year. There isn’t any complex plot or anything, just a fairly straight-forward telling of what each character experiences during the worst storm to hit New York/New Jersey in decades.
The issue is divided into two halves, with Clint’s story of helping his neighbour travel from Manhattan to Far Rockaway to look after the neighbour’s father taking up the first 10 pages. The second ten deals with Kate going to a wedding at a hotel on the New Jersey shoreline. Neither story delves too much into the wider happenings that occurred during the storm, as this book is all about character moments.
In Clint’s segment, Hawkeye is actually the minor character– with his neighbour Grill getting the main focus. Grill’s father is a cantankerous old man (kind of an asshole really), but when the shit hits the fan– you need to look after your family no matter whether you like them or not. The writing and art show just how much Grill needs the approval and love of his father… As the loss of precious keepsakes to the floodwaters finally breaks down the old man’s resistance. I’m not sure if writer Matt Fraction was drawing on something from his life in this sequence, but it certainly made for a satisfying resolution to Clint’s story.
Kate’s story is even simpler. She ventures out from the hotel during the height of the storm to get medication for a friend’s mother and ends up confronting some looters. She tries to do her superhero thing and fails… As a good-hearted group of neighbourhood people stop the crooks– retrieving her bow and arrows. Again, the focus here is on Kate as a character– and Fraction does a good job of getting to her essential nature. Beneath the haughty Prada-loving exterior, Kate does the right thing and shows a selfless side– despite her incessant grumbling. She also gets some of the best dialogue in the comic. Her description of the hotel porter as “…Steve Buscemi’s tiny grandpa” is amusing.
Just as the story is split between Clint and Kate, so is the artwork. Steve Lieber draws Clint’s story and does quite a good job. His style is sort of a generic Vertigo, kind of like Steve Pugh’s art on Animal Man. The layouts on a couple of pages were a bit cluttered, but overall he does a good job expressing the characters’ emotions. Jesse Hamm pencils Kate’s story and sadly, it really didn’t appeal to me. It has a scratchy, semi-cartoony feel to it, sort of like old Depatie-Freleng animation. I don’t feel it suits the tone of the comic nearly as well as Lieber’s art does.
Despite my reservations about some of the artwork, these are still two stories worth telling. Given that Sandy occurred in late October 2012– the writer, artists, colourist, letterer and editorial staff (yes, even Stephen Wacker) should be commended for publishing this story so quickly. Still, given that Hawkeye #7 is a fill-in issue… I feel I should return to the comic at some point, to get an idea what a regular, in-continuity story reads like. – Locusmortis
Justice League Dark #16
Night of the Hunter
Writers: Jeff Lemire, Ray Fawkes
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colorist: Jeromy Cox
Letterer: Rob Leigh
20 pages, $2.99
Quick confession: I picked this title for review just because John Constantine and Deadman were in it.
I jump in with the JLD team transported to another world– where Frankenstein, Constantine, Xanadu, Deadman and Orchid are already on the surface– in the middle of a fight with Network Enforcer Vikar… Whose technology keeps adapting to beat down the team.
While Deadman is getting his butt kicked, Xanadu is aging faster than egg-salad at a Sunday picnic, and our sarcastic Constantine loses a certain defensive ability at an inopportune moment. Meanwhile, Timothy Hunter and Zatanna settle around a campfire to be told a story by some underground creatures on how the battle between science and magic began and what role Timothy Hunter has on this new world.
I found that Lemire and Fawkes balanced the world-building and action well. On the other hand, Janin’s artwork seemed uneven throughout the book. When Deadman is on display, Janin’s work pops and the detail is impressive– but switch to the more mystical scenes and his work seems to lose some of its life. Either Janin prefers action scenes or he really likes drawing Deadman– or both. Either way, it shows.
I can’t recommend this issue because the artwork is uneven and the colors are muted. However, it is worth noting that if you are fan of the Face Off reality show on the SyFy Channel— one of their creations has a cameo in this comic. – Tim Tash
Crossed Badlands #22
Writer: David Lapham
Artist: Miguel A. Ruiz
Colorist: Digikore Studio
Letterer: Jaymes Reed
22 pages, $3.99
Hey Kids! Do you like rape, pointless violence and writing that treats the only uninfected, sane women in the story like stupid girls with Princess complexes? If so, feel free to waste Four Dollars on Crossed Badlands #22.
If you’re like me and possess a soul and some semblance of a conscious– don’t bother with either this issue or this series. I’ve read a LOT of bad comics, but this book is insulting to the human condition. The fact that this is Issue #22 makes me very sad… And afraid of how many people out there think this is good and/or entertaining.
What pisses me off most: That there are actually people out there thinking this is what horror is. Listen to me when I say this, “Crossed is not horror.” Real horror writers are just as offended as I am this stuff exists– probably more so, since we get branded with the same broad brush alongside this trash.
I’m going to stop now, because I’ve already given this “comic” more attention than it deserves. – W.D. Prescott