Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Comics Review Part Two!

Re: Circle #5

Sadly, with the end of “The Goliath Trap” also comes the end of Brian Reed and Ian Hosfeld’s The Circle. It makes me quite sad as I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Hosfeld’s art was beautiful while still quite original. Reed’s story started slow but built up to be a compelling saga with a great climax. The characters were solid, the villains were well written, and the story hit all the notes of a great piece of espionage fiction.

Apparently, it just couldn’t get a foothold in the marketplace of today. That saddens me a bit, and it also makes me wonder if Reed and Hosfeld would have been better off taking this series to someone like Dark Horse or Oni Press that have a few more resources to put behind endorsing the series. Two men can only do so much, especially with the great amounts of expansion Image has been going through over the last couple of years. And I don’t think Brian Reed’s growing status as a comic writer is enough to guarantee his Marvel fans will find their way over to buying an Image title.

Anyway, I encourage anyone who hasn’t tried this series to go out and ask their retailer to order the current issues. Or pick up the trade when it releases. But go out and try this series. And if you like it, make your voices be heard to the powers that be at your favorite publishes. Maybe somehow, somewhere, The Circle will be able to find its way back in to the market.

Re: Comics NOW! #2

If you haven’t heard of this one it is because it’s a comic magazine rather than a comic itself. Comics NOW! is an amalgam of Wizard and Twomorrows Publishing’s always excellent Back Issue. While rising above the current schlock that Wizard peddles, it falls short of being as good a magazine as it could be.

First, I’ll say this issue corrects a lot of the production mistakes issue one fell through. A lot less dead space on the pages, columns fall in the angles they are supposed to, and such. Unfortunately, I don’t know how many people will see that, as the cover art for this one is honestly pretty atrocious. The Nova cover on issue one looked professional quality, but the DC villains cover this month seems somewhat amateurish.

While stronger overall than issue one, the articles themselves still feel rather weak. They seem to be trying for serious study of current trends and stories in comics, but instead each article feels like a so-so summation of those trends and concepts. A little more critical analysis might help these articles as would a few more creator interviews in said articles. The article on pulp heroes in comics succeeded at this (although it apparently has some kind of fantasy that a Shadow comic is on the market). Good interviews, good summations, and overall a good outlook on the genre. That being said, the oversight of the new Lone Ranger series seems a big strange to me.

The article on crime comics is so-so, and it suffers a bit from its focus on pointing out old rules to the comic code that no one on the indy market has followed for thirty years now. It makes little sense in the current market, where only Archie still uses the comics code (and I’m not even sure about them). And again the article suffers as, while its interviews are good, it fails to deliver the writer of the big boy in today’s advent of crime fiction, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Criminal.

The article on villains as comic stars is weak at best and honestly more long winded and boring than it is anyway informative. The retrospective on Luke Cage is nothing new, the columns on podcasting and the market read like filler, and the article on silver age silliness (this month, Batman’s time traveling pal) is just what it sounds like: silly fluff. The columns that round out the book do little to change my opinion about over-written fluff, and the story synopses, while handy, are written in the dullest tone imaginable. Their focus on only Spider-Man and X-Men from Marvel seems strange as well when the publisher’s top selling books are the Avengers titles.

The major saving grace of this issue: a new fourteen page Black Coat story. Black Coat is an excellent title that needs to get back in to the market sooner rather than later, and I’m hoping this story can help that happen.

All in all, Comics NOW! has potential. Some strengthening of the features in every issue and dropping the excessive columns for another feature would definitely strengthen the book, and continued endeavors to feature more indy books as good as Black Coat won’t hurt either.

Re: Dark Ivory #1

I would have bought this series just for the beautiful Linsner painted art; I’m not going to lie. And honestly, I am not seeing a lot past that as of yet. Ivory looks good but doesn’t seem to have a lot of depth, and issue one only serves to introduce us to an awful lot of characters for what is only a four issue limited series. Nonetheless, the gorgeous art keeps the series together quite well. And as I said, the Linsner art is worth the $2.99 all by itself.

Danger’s Dozen #3

I picked up this book mostly to see the return of the great Norm Breyfogle to the printed page. His art has been solid, although the inking on the book (by Breyfogle himself at least this issue) seems a little weak. I’m not going to try and give a plot synopsis because honestly, the story is all over the place. Suffice it to say the book revolves around a guy named Boss Aman who is a sort of Doc Savage type, but a Doc Savage with a giant floating mystical eye that follows him around. He seems to be encountering a regular horde of weirdoes and superhumans, all while not coming close to having formed a team of twelve.

The $6.95 cover price for this double sized issue was a little steep as well, but it does contain two issues worth of story to make up for it. I am not sure how long this series can continue without forming a little more solid narrative however. Right now it comes off as a bit of amateur hour from someone with enough money to hire an out of work but solid artist.

The back of the book contains a preview of a new series called Contract and it looks to be an even bigger mess than Danger’s Dozen, and without the added help of Breyfogle on art. All in all, A First Salvo seems to have potential as a publisher, but they are going to have to kick their work in to high gear if they think they’re going to survive in today’s marketplace.

Death of the New Gods #7

One of the few DC books I’m still buying reaches its penultimate chapter with this issue, which reveals the killer of the Fourth World characters. Everyone left pretty much dies this issue, while Starlin finally ties the series more closely to his previous Fourth World epic, the amazing Cosmic Odyssey. His art is solid, the story is great, and although it saddens me to say it, I think this series has been a fitting end to Jack Kirby’s characters.

One more issue and one last New God remains. Looks like issue eight will be quite the epic struggle. If you haven’t been buying this one, I suggest you rush out and pick up the trade in a few months. If you enjoy cosmic heroes at all, you will definitely enjoy this one.

Re: Witchblade #116

This is the first issue of Witchblade that I’ve picked up since sometime in the mid-60’s of the series. I did so mostly off the strength of Phil Hester’s new Darkness series and the copy of First Born #1 I got for half price a couple months back.

I liked a lot of what I saw. Dani Baptiste is a far more compelling character than Sara Pezzini, although she does lack the convenient job as a police officer to build new storylines around. That’s exactly what this issue does as we are introduced to a serial killer apparently obsessed with the twelve Apostles and their deaths. This harkens back to Paul Jenkins’ issues on the series (when I gave up regularly buying the book), but unlike those Marz’s so-so story is lifted by the art. Stjepan Sejic is a virtuoso and his computer-painted style is unlike anything else on the market. And unlike other computer painters out there (Adi Granov comes to mind), Sejic seems able to produce work at a mind-boggling speed. His witchblade effects are just plain gorgeous, as are all the women he draws. His men are still a little weak in my opinion, but with at least thirty-something more issues of Witchblade ahead of him he can do nothing but improve.

All in all an able handed production and a good sign of things to come. I will definitely be sticking around at least a few months to see how this series pans out.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is addressing the comments on Contract in Dangers Dozen issue 3. What exactly did you expect? its a 6 page intro to the series? What was wrong with it? Seemed to me like it introduced the characters, set up a storyline and even gave us some insight into what the world was like.
You will have to backup the negativity in this "review" of Contract for me.