Daily Archives: July 24, 2011

Runners up of week 29: Walking Dead 87, Daredevil 1, Screamland 2

2. the Walking Dead #87
I’m betting this book will continue to appear as either book of the week or as a runner-up in the feature because it is just so darned good and has been for 87 issues in a row. This issue didn’t have a ton of action and didn’t particularly move the story along, yet it was still very good. I would have given it a solid 8 if it hadn’t been for the great action scenes of Michone chopping up some zombies. This particular series of panels in the middle of the book impressed me once again with how vibrant and dynamic a story-teller Charlie Adlard is in this bleak black and white tale of survival. The way he frames the sequence, the postures of the characters… I don’t know, he just gets across all the excitement of an action scene without the use of colours and that just amazes me. On the writing side, this issue also scores bonus points for the way it depicts the weird space of mind protagonist Rick currently finds himself in. He seems to have come up with a solution on how to keep his little community safe and this has him brightly optimistic for the future, however this issue also shows the guilt that he carries with him for what has happened to his family and what he has done to others…
Art:8.5  Writing:8.5         Overall:8.5  

3. Daredevil #1
This was a fine issue. Great art and decent writing, yet it just didn’t grab me. This new Daredevil series written by Mark Waid and drawn by Paolo Rivera turns Daredevil’s status quo around and shows him as a fun, swashbuckling superhero instead of the over the edge and menacing protector of Hell’s Kitchen, that we have known for the last decade. His sudden change of character is explained well enough: he just can’t deal with all the crap he’s been though, so he puts up the façade of a jovial jokester as a way of escaping. While there is nothing wrong with this new course and I understand the need to do something different with this character, this is just not working for me. This issue was executed flawlessly and had a beautiful backup by Marcos Martin, but I guess I just like my Daredevil gloomy and skulking though alleyways at night, more akin to the Punisher then Spider-man… The only thing I really did like about this issue was the fact that it turned the superhero trope of secret identities on its head: Everybody knows Matt Murdock is Daredevil and confronts him with it, while he politely keeps denying the accusations.
Art:9      Writing:7             Overall:8.3

4. Screamland #2
The series about classic Hollywood horror monsters, slashers, robots, and Starship engineers turned (washed up) actors continues strong.  In this issue the Wolfman and his friend the engineer commence investigations into the murder of the Invisible Man. They have to, because the cops won’t take a phone call about an invisible corpse seriously… And more importantly they want to intercept a sex tape, which the Invisible Man had wanted to screen during a fan convention. The sex tape is a relic from the sixties in which they and other monsters/actors appear prominently… Both the Wolfman and the engineer have their own prime suspects based on their personal experiences in their Hollywood monster community. The sheer bizarreness and quirky humor of this book set it apart from virtually every other title currently being published. The art comes across as an effective blend of Sergio Aragones channeled through a thick layer of Sean Philips. If you like classic horror movies and to poke fun at geek culture, this title might be something to look into.
Art:7.8  Writing:7             Overall:7.4    

Quick shots for week 29: Cosmic Odyssee and Stephen King

Since I only have two books in the Quick shots section this week, I will go into a little bit more detail than normally about the first one (Cosmic Odyssee)…

5. Cosmic Odyssee (trade paperback)

Cosmic Odyssee TPB

Cosmic Odyssee TPB


This is a trade paperback I bought recently, it collects the four 48 page prestige format issues of a major DC cross-over event originally published in 1988. I have always been a big fan of Marvel’s Infinity Gauntlet, written by Jim Starlin. Last year I found out that he had done another cross-over event for the Distinguished Competition that was described as the Infinity Gauntlet for the DC Universe. This piqued my interest and so I was very excited to crack the spine of this beautiful Mignola drawn 200 pager.

The first thing that struck me was Mike Mignola’s art style. I’m not particularly well read in Mignola’s work, but I’m familiar enough with his great work on covers the last years and this was something entirely else. While it definitely has some of Mignola’s stylistics trademarks, it conveys both the trademarks of a gem in the rough as well as a product of its time. The art in this can be seen as a mixture of Mignola with art styles that were popular at the time, most notably that of Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld. While it wasn’t bad, let’s just call it ‘interesting’.

This looks strikingly like Jim Lee art right? Wrong! This is early Mike Mignola.

This looks strikingly like Jim Lee art right? Wrong! This is early Mike Mignola.

The second thing that hit me was crappy lettering. It took me a while to figure out that I have been spoiled by digital lettering. Maybe it was because of a pressing deadline, or maybe it was just the lettering of the times, but words and sentences were broken down clumsily very often.

The writing is from another time too and I kept that in mind, but still it had me cracking up at different times in the story. For instance, after Batman tracks down a stranded giant from Apokolips who keeps some mangled bodies in a meat locker, his caption boxes say: ‘Now I know who I face… …a cannibalistic alien.’ This had my mind reeling: Cannibalistic is when you eat you own species, right? And aliens and humans are definitely different species right? Right?

This sequence with Batman and the giant takes place in the sewers and the colouring of the sewers had me laughing out loud. While sewers are a destination often frequented by many a superhero, it’s seldom that you see ‘realistic’ colouring of the sewers’ content. Not in Cosmic Odyssee however: The colours leave little room for imagination as to what is flowing into Batman’s neck:

Here's to hoping the cowl's water proof....

Here's to hoping the cowl's water proof....

The plot of Cosmic Odyssee revolves around the Antilife Equation, Darkseid’s ultimate object of desire. While originally the Antilife Equation was an abstract threat to all life in the universe, in the pages of this book it somehow becomes a creature of its own. Darkseid is the first to discover this transformation and tricks the New Gods to team up with Batman, Superman, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Martian the Manhunter, Starfire and Etrigen the Demon to stop the embodiment of the Antilife Equation.

Although I prefer Grant Morrison over Jim Starlin, I have to hand it to Starlin on this one. He explained the concept of the Antilife Equation better than Morrison ever did in Final Crisis.

In my opinion this book does not hold up well against the Infinity Gauntlet, but it seems like Starlin set out to do something different here altogether. The whole universe-saving-big-action story feels very contrived and has many problems, but at the end of this book is where the writing shines. Here’s where many emotional beats are executed perfectly. I think that these emotional arcs are what Starlin wanted to write the most, it just took him really long to get there. When he does however, it’s gold. The most important arc is that of John Stewart who fails in his mission and because of this a solar system is destroyed killing billions upon billions of its inhabitants. At the end of the book he tries to commit suicide because of this. Martian the Manhunter talks him out of this however. This sequences is a marvel both to look at and to read. You can see the desperation in John’s eyes, the fear as he puts a space gun to his head, and his resolve when he puts the gun down.

John Stewart tries to commit suicide, as rendered by Mike Mignola.

John Stewart tries to commit suicide, as rendered by Mike Mignola.

Also, the book goes out with a bang when Batman, out of nothing bitch slaps Orion!

Batman slapping a god.

Batman slapping a god.

Considering it doesn’t hold up particularly well through the years and it wasn’t anything like the Infinity Gauntlet I still enjoyed it pretty much. For fans of Mignola, the New Gods, John Stewart or Darkseid I really recommend this trade.
Art:7.5  Writing:6.5         Overall:7

6. Stephen King (one shot)
To round this week off I read another biography comic by Blue Water Comics, this one about Stephen King. I liked it quite a bit. I think it found a good balance between being informative and entertaining. The last Blue Water biography comic I read, about Vincent Price was neither entertaining or informative… The edgy, thick lined art took a little getting used to. Strangely it felt a bit reminiscent of Gabriel Rodriguez the partner in crime of King’s son Joe Hill on Locke and Key. The storytelling was a bit confusing at times because it consisted of three different narratives: caption boxes by a third person story-teller, caption boxes with first person King quotes and the story that unfolded in the world balloons. This not withstanding I learned something new about Stephen King (his 1999 accident its consequences as well as some family stuff). For anybody interested in the author but not enough to plow though a prose biography this may be a good read. I bet it’s also good for high schoolers writing a report on King.
Art:6.3  Writing:6.9         Overall:6.6

Reading few comic books, loving the new Spider-man actor

I’m sorry to say that I didn’t get a lot of comic reading done this week. Here’s the problem: On a regular week, I stay at home to care for my four months old daughter at least two days. On these days I find myself frequently stuck on the couch while bottle feeding her. That’s when I get most of my reading done nowadays. However, the last week and a half my wife stayed at home because she was sick, all the while breast-feeding the baby and letting me get to my work…. So while I got a lot of things done last week, reading comics was put on the back burner…

Keeping that in mind I’m still very glad to have found the time to have read DC’s cosmic crossover from the late ’80’s Cosmic Odyssee, the Walking Dead 87, Daredevil 1, a biography comic about Stephen King, Screamland 2 from Image and the first issue of the most recent arc of Locke and Key: Clockworks… Reviews will be up shortly.

To make up for my straggling comic reading I offer a video of my favourite news coming out of Sandiego Comic Con this weekend. While I was excited by lots of stuff like the Eisners, Brian K. Vaugh’s return to comics, DC preview art from the upcoming reboot and the trailer of the second season of the Walking Dead television series. The following video of an apparent lifelong comic fan rushing the stage just before the panel of the new Spider-man movie left me with a warm feeling and got me pumped for the new film like nothing else I had seen up till now. Enjoy and see you shortly: