IMJ Comic Book Reviews™

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IMJ COMIC BOOK REVIEWS COLUMN LOGO BANNER 20145 STAR RATING SYSTEM LOGO

Doc Savage #3Doc Savage #3 (plus #1 & #2)
Writer: Chris Roberson
Artist: Bilquis Evely
Colorist: Daniela Miwa
Letterer: Rob Steen
22 pages, $3.99

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

That’s what I remember thinking about myself, after I got my hopes up– yet again– that someone, somewhere would create a decent Doc Savage comic book.

Sadly, “stupid, stupid, stupid” would also be three words I would use to describe the first 3 issues of Dynamite’s new Doc Savage series too. It’s not that the book is bad. No, it’s much worse than that. The comic is boring– with a capital B. I should have seen this coming. Dynamite did their best to hype the fans in advance… And then the book premiered, and I didn’t see anyone of note bothering to mention it– even in passing.

In retrospect, I should have also seen this coming. But, for some reason, I yet again bought into my desire/hopes to finally see a quality Doc Savage comic. I even talked myself into believing Chris Roberson could be the writer to pull this off– despite being thoroughly unimpressed with most of his work. (I know this will come as heresy to some– as IMJ has often praised Roberson, for both his work and his professional stances.)

You’d think– after a couple of years of deep-sixing press release after press release– I wouldn’t allow myself to be influenced by the PR hacks. But I did. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. After all, it proves there’s still some small bit of the original fanboy left in me… The kid who always believed things will get better, despite all signals heralding the contrary. (Don’t forget, many comic book writers– including classic stalwart Denny O’Neil— have taken swings at Doc for various publishers, and all have failed miserably.)

Roberson’s attempt to revive Savage (after DC’s most recent failure– poorly conceived and executed by none other than Brian Azzarello) underwhelms on so many levels, it’s hard to zero in on the most egregious errors. When a reviewer writes something like that last sentence, it’s usually a cop-out… The equivalent of lazy reviewing. But that isn’t the case here. I am such a HUGE Doc Savage fan– if I told you everything I thought was wrong with these comics… You’d still be here tomorrow, reading just this one review.

I could go on and on about Roberson giving Doc and his assistants short shrift character-wise. And the fact that Doc’s cousin, Pat Savage, is brought into the series far too early– diminishing both her and Doc’s specialness. Then there’s Roberson choosing to have each comic focus on a different decade. WTF? Creator Lester Dent (writing as Kenneth Robeson) was able to write 181 massively entertaining Doc Savage stories for the pulps without ever resorting to such messy trickery.

As you may (or may not) know, Savage is widely considered as the prototype/inspiration for BOTH Batman and Superman… And story after story already exists– perfectly laying the foundation for hundreds of exciting comics. So how any accomplished writer or dedicated publisher can fail at adapting Dent’s tales to the comic medium is beyond my understanding. Yet, as I mentioned, many have failed.

Let me just end this review now. I am in mourning yet again. If you take anything from this review, remember I said Dynamite’s Doc Savage is boring. That should keep you from wasting your money on this pale imitation of greatness.
– Ian MacMillan

Half Star Rating

Superman Lois Lane #1Superman – Lois Lane #1
Nostalgia
Writer: Marguerite Bennet
Artists: Emanuela Lappachino,
Meghan Hetrick, Ig Guara,
Diogenes Neves, Guillermo Ortego,
Ruy Jose, Marc Deering

Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: John J. Hill
38 Pages, $4.99

I have a feeling this “review” may not be an actual review– but a bitch session. (It happens sometimes, you know? Especially when I get ahold of a comic I really want to review– then wind up with a big pile of mediocrity.) I’ve gone on record that completely average comics are the most difficult to review (and are helping to kill the medium). I’m sure this won’t be the last time you hear this complaint from me either– since mediocrity reigns supreme in much of the American comic industry.

First off, let’s talk about the complete name of this comic: Superman – Lois Lane #1. You gotta love how DC felt the need to slap Super Douchebag’s name in the title… How else could idiot comic book fans possibly know what a Lois Lane comic might be about?

So why did I want to read this book so desperately? (Short of all the reasons I came up with in last week’s Who’s Getting What column?) Because writer Marguerite Bennet and artists Emanuela Lappachino and Meghan Hetrick— three women– were supposedly focusing their talents on one of the world’s most well-known female comic characters… And that’s something I think this industry really needs. (Hell, I’ve been advocating more women write comics for years.)

So imagine my horror when I open the comic to see no less than FOUR pencilers and FOUR inkers providing the interior art. Sorry, but when I see 8 or more artists credited on a single comic, I know I’m in for a hellish ride. (I’ve read way too many books produced this way to react any other way.) And sure, there were some high spots in the art, but there’s also some terribly rushed stuff… Crap that was so bad I couldn’t tell at one point what was going on in one panel.

Maybe you can help me:

LL1

What exactly is going on in the second panel above? Anyone? Did the guy fall off the chair at the mere sight of Lois Lane? Did he get knocked off the chair by some unseen force? Was the dude so inebriated he just fell off the chair? I’m already suspending my disbelief by reading a comic book… So don’t appreciate creators throwing incomprehensible shit into it too. It breaks the flow– and upturns any enjoyment I may be experiencing. I seriously stopped on that page for like a minute or two, trying to figure out what the fuck happened.

This is sequential art (or was it the writer’s directions?) at its worst. And when I say “worst”, I mean abominable art akin to anything drawn by Rob Liefeld. This short panel sequence sits barely above all of Rob’s horrid work combined.  It’s so bad, I’m sure a storytelling master like Will Eisner is turning over in his grave right now. (Then again, with all the artistic atrocities perpetrated by Marvel and DC on a weekly basis– poor Mr. Eisner probably hasn’t stopped spinning for the better part of the last eight years.)

Anyway, can I talk about the writing? Because I’d really like to. This comic is essentially broken into 2 stories “sharing” common themes. I couldn’t help but read a few reviews of Lois Lane #1 (after I formed my own opinions, naturally) and I was shocked to see reviewers talking about how “seamless” these themes were integrated between the flashbacks and the present day story. After reading the third review spouting the EXACT same views, I did a spit-take of my own all over my laptop– with my mouth full of beer. (Not to worry… The laptop was fine and I had 10 cans of beer from my 12-pack left.)

Superman – Lois Lane #1 is a comic deceptively disguised as an ABC Afterschool TV Special. There are overused self-help bon-mots like “emotions and wounds leave scars” throughout the script. You can’t go more than a few pages without reading one of these treacly summations– and they have the subtlety of someone shooting a cannonball in your face. It’s all so damn trite too– which, I’m hoping, the author did not intend. Sure, about half the people reading comics are complete morons (they almost exclusively read Marvel Comics I’m guessing) but this is not the audience DC needs to be pandering to… Trust me.

So here’s the gist of the story: Lois’ sister Lucy has a friend (who is very obviously her girlfriend, but the comic doesn’t care enough to tell us for sure), who’s been taking medication because she’s sick. Side effects of the medication include: Nausea, diarrhea, cramping and, oh ya, turning you into a fucking monster. And, of course, since Lucy Lane is some sort of addict– she skims some of the meds for herself. (Which is a SPOILER, I guess… But if you didn’t see this plot point coming from a mile away– you should really go back to reading Archie comics until your comprehension level gets to a point where you can handle the big boy and big girl books).

Lois is tasked to find this missing roommate/girlfriend– and the reader is yanked through a story where Lois mostly TELLS US how she acquired a lot of the information leading her from Point A to Point B (and so on). You know what would’ve been a shitload better than telling the reader WHAT Lois found out from who? SHOWING US HOW she found it all out. Lois is an intelligent reporter. How about detailing some of her investigative skills? I want to see her actually conversing with the people she is interviewing. I want to see how she pulls information from them. I want to see her put her wits to use. Give me something that makes Lois Lane, well, Lois Lane.

Ok… Having vomited all that vitriol, I do want to point out something I thought this book did very, very well. There are flashbacks in the story showing Lois and her sister Lucy at a much younger age. Their father is in the military for most of their childhood, so they’ve moved from place to place… Causing these two “military brats” to become best friends and to rely on each other. As the flashbacks progress, it becomes obvious the sisters’ mother is quite ill. (I presume it’s cancer, but once again the story fails to fill us in on this important fact.) But here is what’s important: The illness makes Lois grow up and mature quicker than she would/should have– in order to take care of and protect her sister.

I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed these flashbacks. They all feel emotionally real. Unfortunately, the rest of the comic comes off as complete rubbish in comparison. Yes, the flashbacks were that well written. You learn more about who and what makes Lois Lane a person of consequence in those few moments of backstory than you do in the rest of the comic combined. I only wish the entire double-sized issue focused on these early days. It’s top-notch storytelling and character development.

Oh, one more thing. Superdouche Superman only turns up in one panel. Truth is, he didn’t even need to be in this comic at all. Seriously– AT ALL. And how sad is it that DC felt the need to squeeze him in? This one-shot was Lois’ time to shine– to prove she is capable of holding her own in a 21st Century comic. If only the story was better, somebody might have proven it. – Jose Melendez

2.5 Star Rating

DeadlyGridFinalDeadly Class #2
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Wes Craig
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Rus Wooton
27 pages, $3.50

I just marked this day in my personal history books: I purchased a digital comic. My store ran out of physical copies, so I had to buy a digital one. Why am I bringing this up? Because reading it digitally had something to do with how I reacted to the comic.

This is not the first time I’ve read a digital book, so I was familiar with how to navigate my way through. When you read a digital comic (at least on your phone), you read it panel by panel– instead of having the whole page sitting in front of you. I don’t know about you, but when I read a physical comic my eyes tend to gloss over the pages and panels, which can sometimes lead to parts of the story being spoiled in advance. There was none of that eye wandering going on when I read this digital version– which was sorta nice. It allowed me to focus on just one or two panels at a time.

Deadly Class revolves around a school where kids from the world’s top crime families are sent to become the next best assassin. The main character is Marcus Lopez– who’s going through his first days at the school. The world Rick Remender and Wes Craig have created is incredibly twisted and sadistic– But it works. There’s an entire cast of interesting characters and classes– and Remender makes sure to give us a sense of how the school operates. There’s one sequence where readers are taken through Marcus’ class schedule– and this is where my forced one panel at a time reading regimen truly helped. Each class is shown in a few panels (or a page) and it’s all done very effectively. The world is imaginative, despite how grim it is. At certain points the story reeks of dark elements I’ve seen many times before– like Battle Royale and Dexter (to name just two). But I’m still intrigued and will continue to read this series in hopes the story’s wheels start turning soon.

And that’s my biggest complaint with this comic: It’s almost entirely composed of set-up scenes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to learn about the world and the characters who inhabit Deadly Class— but I got to a point where I was getting annoyed with all the set-up and just wanted to see something happen. This storytelling technique has become a trend in Remender’s recent independent comics… He spends the first few issues entirely on set-up, then finally gets around to moving the story forward. If you read his comics all at once, you probably won’t notice it as much… But if you’re buying his books monthly at $3.50 a pop (like I am), the slow story progression can become exasperating.

Craig’s art suits the story’s tone well. It’s polished and nice to look at. It’s cartoony– but not too cartoony– which is an art style I’ve grown to love over the past few years. You can still have a cartoony feel and make the art look realistic at the same time… And Craig’s art proves that… Even if a few pages looked a bit rushed.

There was one thing about reading this comic digitally that did throw me. Towards the end, I reached the natural conclusion to Marcus’ story. Then I tapped my screen, only to find more story and art. It wasn’t about any characters I’d seen before, but it was still Wes Craig’s art. I assume this was a back-up story, but this wasn’t made clear the way the story was digitally formatted.

I’m still a Rick Remender fan. Unlike many, my faith in his talent has yet to completely collapse… So I’m going to stick around for the dark and twisted stories– and hope this comic has a payoff worth waiting (and paying) for.
– Aaron Evans

3.5 Star Rating

Fantastic Four #1 CRFantastic Four #1
The Fall of the Fantastic Four Part 1
Writer: James Robinson
Artists: Leonard Kirk, Karl Kesel
Colorist: Jesus Aburtov
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
20 pages, $3.99

Is this it? Has the unbelievable finally happened? Have I found a Marvel comic book… To finally put on my Pull List?

Well… Maybe.

I began enjoying the Fantastic Four’s adventures somewhere in the middle of Jonathan Hickman’s run. Unlike some in the IMJ Nation™ (Jose, I’m looking at you), I was thoroughly entertained… Even if I freely admit Hickman’s work was nothing compared to the older John Byrne stories I discovered shortly after. So where does James Robinson and Leonard Kirk’s Fantastic Four stand between Hickman & Byrne’s versions?

Fittingly, somewhere in the middle.

Fantastic Four #1 does exactly what you want a first issue to do: It introduces the characters in ways that will help new readers feel like they’ve been reading them forever. Plus current fans get a sense of the fun they’ve been missing recently. (Even if there are, apparently, dark times ahead.) Almost all of the characters’ classic catchphrases and powers are on display– with the exception of a Johnny Storm shouting, “Flame On!” In short, this story is a classic showcase for Marvel’s First Family.

Scribe James Robinson does a fantastic job weaving in and out of the action– and slowing bits down to focus on the seriousness (and a few jokes). The number of writers who can properly time these moments are few in today’s comics. Happily, Robinson also seems to understand these characters– as all their individual voices feel natural.

There are two things making me a bit wary: 1) The timeline. I’m not sure where this comic takes place in the scheme of the current Marvel Universe. I know Johnny has always been a bit cocky, but Hickman’s run brought some maturity to the character I hadn’t seen before. Now he seems to have reverted back. It’s not a deal breaker, but I wish I knew the reason for the regression. 2) Things are already being set up for another heartbreaking moment for the FF. Can’t they simply enjoy some happy-go-lucky times? (I guess “happy” isn’t what sells books anymore.)

Kirk’s art was absolutely gorgeous! His style is exactly what I want in the pages of Fantastic Four. It’s bright, cosmic and energetic. There are a couple of pages that could easily be considered instant classics… They would look perfect framed and hung on a wall. (Unfortunately, I doubt it will ever be mine.) These pages demonstrate the correct way to use splash and double splashes– if you have them in your comic, they better be worth the space. In this case, they are worth it AND help showcase the scope of the villains the FF face.

While Kirk’s work is outstanding, Fantastic Four #1 wouldn’t have been quite as good if it not for the efforts of inker Karl Kesel and colourist Jesus Aburtov. Kesel’s inks are delightful, helping to showcase the wonderful pencils. (Not once did I see any heavy-handed lines.) Aburtov’s colours are also stellar– a bright palette with nothing overly dark. Now that I think about it, everything about this art team screams perfection.

While Fantastic Four #1 breaks my two-week slump of shit comics, I’m not quite ready to put it on my pull list just yet… But I will definitely check out subsequent issues. And really, what more could you want? I enjoyed it, so I’ll be coming back. Thanks to all the creators, I finally have a Marvel comic I actually want to read. – Nick Furi

4 Star Rating

The Wake #6The Wake #6
The Wake Part Two
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Sean Murphy
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
20 pages, $2.99

Andrew Robinson’s beautiful cover art led me to assume (correctly) The Wake is about a dystopian future. Since I’m a fan of the genre, Robinson’s kick-ass Tank Girl type illustration piqued my curiosity.

Inside, I’m quickly introduced to Leeward– a woman who was born into the world of The Wake. The year is 2214, and the heroine is good at navigating this hostile place where fresh water is in short supply and the ruins of yesteryear are everywhere. In-between, she must “co-exist” (to put it nicely) with some beings called the “Mer”… Something hard for her to do, since she is a Mer head-hunter. (Apparently, there’s something of value in their noggins.)

I enjoyed learning about the Mer and touring the world writer Scott Snyder has constructed. It’s reminiscent of the movie Waterworld– the polar ice caps have melted and the shorelines have subsequently retreated… Leaving the general population struggling to survive on an aquatic-based economy.

The narrative is split into 3 chapters, which seems pointless to me. If I had to nitpick, “Chapter 2” is the weakest of the three. It introduces Crane City and the Governess of Northwest Territories. With the largest reserve of fresh water (fresh water equals wealth in this world), Crane City is an oasis where the wealthy live (you can equate it to The Capitol in The Hunger Games). The chapter does contain some intriguing details about the Mer, but I had to read giant word balloons to get to the interesting stuff– and it all felt like a long drawn-out info-dump.

W6 Panel

All in all, I can’t shake the feeling like I’ve already seen this story too. Oh wait, I have… Since I just watched The Hunger Games – Catching Fire on Saturday. The wealthy suppressing the poor huddled masses is a familiar story, and there isn’t much distinguishing The Wake or its characters from others I’ve seen recently. If anything, this is a very overused trope in stories dealing with dystopian futures– and here it already feels quite stale.

Still, I’m still quite curious to learn more about the world but I don’t know if I want to read more word balloons filled with uninteresting facts and dialog to do so. And IF I do read another issue, I hope the “wealthy bad guys” (Governess and Company) have another dimension to them. As of now, they come off very flat.
– Erin Escobar

2.5 Star Rating

Cataclycsm The Ultimates Last Stand #5Cataclysm – Ultimates Last Stand #5
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Mark Bagley, Andrew Hennessy
Colorist: Jason Keith
Letterer: Cory Petit
20 Pages, $3.99

A few months ago, I wrote of the just starting Cataclysm event, “For once, a Marvel crossover looks quite engrossing.” And, oh boy, was I wrong! I now realize what a damn fool I can be, still falling for the easy hype.

But let’s be clear about one thing: I actually don’t enjoy shitting on books… And I equally don’t enjoy awakening the mean, hateful nerd in me whenever I review one of these shit stains. But for the second week in a row, I’m forced to give a comic the lowest score this column offers.

In the case of Cataclysm – The Ultimates Last Stand #5, both the plot and the writing are atrocious and immensely stupid. I sure have read my fair share of crap scripting from Brian Michael Bendis… But I don’t think it’s about the writer being a moron anymore. I truly think he might be brain-dead.

Fancy just one whiff of this noxious funk? What about Reed Richards trying to calm down Kitty Pryde (before her big battle with Galactus) with the massively fucked up, “Think about everything you love, people’s babies, your friends, hope and our future” followed by the awful, “It’s all on you Kitty.”

Like, seriously? Pressure much, Reed? How insensitive must one be to give a “pep talk” like that? A simple “I trust you, I know you’ll do your best” would have worked wonders, but I guess it would’ve also been too neat and smart. Bendis was attempting to write a warm human interaction and ended up making Richards a fucking jerk. That’s just how shabby this hack’s abilities and instincts are.

So, yes… I just said Brian Bendis has succeeded in turning the most intelligent man in any Marvel Universe into his own personal version of Michael Scott from The Office.

To add further insult, the plot is also amazingly fucking moronic:

– Kitty somehow punches Galactus– and this scene alone takes like 6 empty, badly drawn double pages. (Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the insulting amount of decompression in this comic. Bendis has truly outdone himself. I read the whole thing in 2 minutes, tops.)

– Galactus somehow is as powerless as a child whose candy is forcefully stolen every single day.

– Reed Richards has a handy Deus Ex Machina in the form of a portable black hole! WTF?!

– The good guys win by pushing Galactus into the black hole… And that is the end of that. Don’t fool yourself, this isn’t a lazy resolution… At this stage, it’s a famous comic book writer telling you, the fan, to fuck off.

The saddest part of it all? Financially, this comic probably sold well– as Marvel Drones are known to buy entire wheelbarrows of this manure. But creatively speaking, this is nothing but a shameful and disreputable negative financial balance… Where dollars prevail over quality and imagination.

And here’s how this bullshit posing as a comic book makes me feel: A few months ago I swore to stop reading most of DC’s New 52 comics– mainly because they were so bad I became infuriated every time I picked one up. In short, it was just too complicated a relationship– DC was cheating on me with dumb gimmicks… And lying to me by promising new and daring adventures, while simply rehashing the same old crap.

DC sure was cool at first, with their shiny new black leather jackets and rad new bikes. But slowly I realized they didn’t deserve me– always betraying my confidence, even sometimes violently so. Then they went so far as to tell my pal J.H. Williams III to go fuck himself when he dared to play up a committed, normal lesbian relationship in Batwoman! It was too much to take– so I left. I felt betrayed, hurt… And thought I would never love again.

Since then, of course, I’ve met Marvel. But to be honest, it’s always seemed like a rebound affair. Sure, they have some nice tricks up their sleeves– and they’re not always pretending to be edgy and dark and all mature. Unlike DC, they don’t talk about snapping strangers’ necks and raping girls all the time… But I’m slowly discovering they have their own disturbed natures and hidden dark sides. Sometimes they act like idiots too– always telling me the same story over and over by adding weird adjectives to the proper names of their characters’ comics… Then having the same creators write the same stories.

“Hey, Look!” they scream. “Here’s my All-New this… And my Superior that!” In truth, it’s exhausting. And some of the people they run with… They can be such a bad influence on the rest of Marvel’s creators! There’s the put-down addicted Dan Slott and the bald, mean Mr. Bendis– with their large grins and their mean eyes. Sometimes I fear for my safety…. And like my affair with DC, sometimes I’m not sure I can take it any longer…

So what do you think, IMJ Nation™? Should I summarily break up with all these corporate fucks and call it a day? – Simon J. O’Connor

Zero Stars Rating

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One Response to IMJ Comic Book Reviews™

  1. phil says:

    Good 2 see that I haven’t missed much in comics, during my hiatus ( though I did recently pick up Action,World’s Finest, Earth Two, & Miracle Man)

    Yeah Jose, l as well, couldn’t believe that Supes name had 2 be on the book. Maybe if the comic featured Morgan Edge 🙂 Of course, I’m still the guy that has a prob w/the title; ” Wolverine” & The Xmen

    The Wake has that Zero Killer vibe 2 me (though I’m still trying not 2 judge a (comic)book by its cover.

    I’m

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