Archive for artwork

Lasso of Truth – Weekly Comics Round-up: 23rd September 2009

Posted in Batwoman, Blackest Night, Comics, DC, Detective Comics, Final Crisis, Superman with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 23rd September, 2009 by Adam Redsell

lasso_of_truth_7

Lasso of Truth is your weekly guide to what’s hot and what’s not in the DC Universe.  Each week, the Red Baron goes through his comics haul to tell you what’s worth buying and what’s best left alone.

Here’s the key:

Must havethere’s no question, you should buy this great book.
Buy ita high-quality read that won’t disappoint.
Check it outpick it up if you have some extra cash.  May be an acquired taste.
Avoida disappointing read.  Save your money and steer clear.


bn_superman_2

Blackest Night: Superman #2
Written by James Robinson ǀ Art by Eddy Barrows
Blackest Night: Superman #2 drops the horror movie tone of the first issue and opts for superhero fisticuffs instead.  It’s a pity, because depicting horror is Eddy Barrows’ specialty.  This book reads as a who’s who of Crisis on Infinite Earths, which will no doubt excite long-time DC readers.  It does lack a little in the emotional pay-off department, though (which is surprising considering the re-appearance of the Psycho Pirate).
Verdict: Check it out.


detective_857

Detective Comics #857
Written by Greg Rucka ǀ Art by J.H. Williams III
Bold and beautiful artwork, coupled with DC’s most interesting new villain makes this comic hard to fault.
Verdict: Must have.


final_crisis_dance_05

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #5
Written by Joe Casey ǀ Art by Eduardo Pansica
The Super Young Team finally awaken to their destiny, as their leader Most Excellent Superbat proves he is worthy of both names.  The art holds up surprisingly well, considering ChrisCross’ absence once again.
Verdict: Buy it.


superman_secret_origin_1

Superman: Secret Origin #1
Written by Geoff Johns ǀ Art by Gary Frank
It’s great to see these two back on a Superman title again, and boy, do they knock this one out of the park.  It’s simply beautiful, human drama.
Verdict: Must have.

Green Lantern #43

Posted in Blackest Night, Comics, DC, Green Lantern with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 19th July, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Dark and brilliant.

Dark and brilliant.

“Blackest Night Prologue: Tale of the Black Lantern”
Author: Geoff Johns
Artist: Doug Mahnke
Inker: Christian Alamy
Colorist: Randy Mayor
Cover Artists: Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy & Alex Sinclair
Variant Cover Artists: Eddy Barrows & Nei Ruffino
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Associate Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza

Green Lantern #43 is a great many things.  It’s an end to the too-many-cooks-spoil-the-broth approach of the last few issues, it’s a Blackest Night #-1 if we are to subscribe to negative numbering, and it’s a Black Hand: Secret Origins of sorts.  That is to say that Green Lantern #43 is consistent in both art and narrative; the events take place before those we saw in Blackest Night #0; and the story revisits events we saw in the Secret Origins storyline, this time to explore the origin of one who will surely be Green Lantern’s most compelling villain, William Hand.

It would be all too easy to dismiss some of these scenes as simple re-treads of stories faithful Green Lantern readers have read at least twice by now, but Johns has put yet another interesting spin on past events, unpacking for us something that was probably there all along.  I am of course referring to Sinestro and Hal Jordan’s first confrontation with now-Red-Lantern Atrocitus.  I have to admit, as much as I tried to tuck this little tidbit away for future reference, I had all but forgotten William Hand’s presence at this pivotal scene.  That’s kind of the point, though: everyone‘s forgotten about William Hand, and he [Geoff Johns] is making it his business to remind us just who he is, and how foolish we were to ignore him in the first place.  It’s incredibly interesting just how much each of these major players have evolved since then.  Sinestro, no longer a Green Lantern – former Sinestro Corps leader at that – is now the most-wanted war criminal in the universe.  Atrocitus, one of the sole survivors of the massacre of Sector 666, then-prophet of the Blackest Night, is now leader of the Red Lanterns.  Hal Jordan – let’s just say he’s seen a lot of changes over the last two decades.  And William Hand, once a disturbed boy with a disconnected childhood, is now the resurrected Black Hand and avatar of the Black Lanterns.  That all of this is coming full circle is further testament to Geoff Johns as writer and Master Chess Player.

“Tale of the Black Lantern” shows us William Hand’s journey from son of a coroner to undead supervillain is not an excuse, rather an explanation of how he came to be this way.  As you’d expect, the tale is very dark in the telling, both literally and visually.  Mahnke, as he has proven in the pages of Final Crisis (another book he rescued from artistic inconsistency), is consistently good at horror-inspired visuals.  His pencils are simultaneously gritty and clean, which is to say there are *a lot of* lines, but each one seems purposeful and deliberate in its placement.  While I can’t help but wonder whether Eddy Barrows could have accomplished similar feats, I know deep down in my heart of hearts that it couldn’t have been this confident.

The only real criticism I can level at this book is that it isn’t really about Green Lantern – in fact, he only ever appears in the aforementioned scene – it probably should have flown under the Blackest Night banner proper.  That’s all null and void in the face of one inescapable fact: this story is critical, both to future events in Green Lantern and Blackest Night.  Besides, I’ve long since given up questioning Geoff Johns’ storytelling choices – he’s proven time and time again that he’s at least three steps ahead of us all.

Only one thing remains to be gleaned from all of this: if you’re a comic book fan, you need to be reading Green Lantern and you need to be reading Blackest Night.

Wednesday Comics #1

Posted in Comics, DC, Wednesday Comics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 8th July, 2009 by Adam Redsell
The Ultimate Newspaper

The Ultimate Newspaper.

Wednesday Comics is the product of DC’s continued experiments with the weekly comic format, and in many ways I think it’s the culmination.  For many people, this will be the Ultimate Newspaper.  It’s certainly mine.  There’s something about opening it out that makes the experience that much more exciting.  And while the whole format is a throwback to the Sunday comic strips, and the stories themselves a throwback to the Silver Age; it’s just so brimming with comic magic that it can’t help but feel fresh and new.  Each page is devoted to a DC property, written and illustrated by a star-studded roster including the likes of Brian Azzarello, Dave Gibbons, Kyle Baker, John Arcudi, Lee Bermejo, Kurt Busiek, Neil Gaiman, Paul Pope, Adam Kubert, Joe Kubert, and Walter Simonson.  The hook is this: these creators get to tell stories of whichever character they damn-well please.   The plan is virtually fool-proof.  Here’s how it went:

Batman
Author: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Eduardo Risso (with Robins & Mulvihill)

Not a whole lot of action as yet, but we have a good setup here.  Batman finds out he has until midnight to save an investment banker from being murdered.  Problem is, it already is midnight.  Azzarello makes an interesting observation on Commissioner Gordon’s relationship with Batman.

Kamandi
Author: Dave Gibbons
Artist: Ryan Sook

The opening shot is classic Kamandi, but I’m also getting hints of “Tales of the Black Freighter”, which is interesting because this time Gibbons is writing, not drawing!  Gibbons highlights the awesomely clever origin of Kamandi’s name too.

Superman
Author: John Arcudi
Artist: Lee Bermejo

Bermejo’s Superman is absolutely gorgeous.  This has got to be the most intriguing story of the bunch as well…

Deadman
Authors: Dave Bullock & Vinton Heuck
Artist: Dave Bullock
Letterer: Jared Fletcher
Colorist: Dave Stewart

Deadman is too talky and too simple for my liking.  As far as noir goes, though, it does talk the talk, especially in the art department.

Green Lantern
Author: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Joe Quiñones

Busiek and Quiñones revisit the Hal Jordan of the 50s, and if Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier was anything to go by, this should fit like an old pair of shoes.  (Comfortably, that is.)

Metamorpho
Author: Neil Gaiman
Artist: Michael Allred
Colorist: Laura Allred
Letterer: Nate Piekos

This was probably the funniest of the fifteen comic strips.  Gaiman has put himself right into the Silver Age for this one, forcing foibles and attitudes of the time period to great comedic effect.  Michael Allred also channels Jack Kirby with his bold, no-nonsense approach to the panels.

Teen Titans
Author: Eddie Berganza
Artist: Sean Galloway

Loved the art style.  The writing – not so much…

Adam Strange
Author & Artist: Paul Pope

The biggest surprise for me was Paul Pope’s choice of character in Adam Strange.  I had him pinned as a Batman-only writer, but boy, was I ever wrong.  This pulp-style sci-fi is probably the coolest of the bunch.

Supergirl
Author: Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Amanda Conner

This is pretty much just an intro, but a cute and funny one nonetheless.  After all, isn’t that what these Sunday comic strips were all about?

Metal Men
Author: Dan DiDio
Artists: José Luis García-López & Kevin Nowlan

Anyone who’s ever read a ‘DC Nation’ column was probably as surprised as I was when they realised that Dan DiDio’s Metal Men is actually quite funny.  And clever!

Wonder Woman
Author & Artist: Ben Caldwell

While I found Wonder Woman’s conversation with the pigeons to be quite amusing, I thought the rest of the page was cluttered and confusing.  I think Ben Caldwell is trying to cram too much in here.

Sgt. Rock and Easy Co.
Author: Adam Kubert
Artist: Joe Kubert

Kubert and Son join forces for a striking first effort.  Joe’s depiction of Sergeant Rock’s brutal interrogation is all kinds of visceral.  I’ve never read Adam Kubert’s writing before, so it’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here.

The Flash
Authors: Karl Kerschl & Brenden Fletcher
Artist: Karl Kerschl
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Colorist: Dave McCaig

It’s good to see Karl and Brenden really experiment with the form.  The Flash page is split into two parallel stories: a Flash action sequence in a race to stop Gorilla Grodd; and Iris West, about to leave that unreliable, good-for-nothing Barry Allen!  Can’t wait to read the next one.

The Demon and Catwoman
Author: Walter Simonson
Artist: Brian Stelfreeze (with Steve Wands)

What *appears* to be a rather wacky combination of characters proves to be rather dry, as Selina Kyle takes a tour of Jason Blood’s mansion.  Hopefully things will heat up when the Cat and the Demon come out to play…

Hawkman
Author & Artist: Kyle Baker

A great note to finish on.  The entire story is told from the perspective of a hawk as Hawkman leads his avian allies into battle.

I never thought it would happen, but I think DC may have finally nailed that magic weekly formula.  If each of these stories advance at a steady pace, then we should be in for a real treat.

A word to the wise, though: *probably* don’t carry this one on the bus, or out in the rain…

Green Lantern #42

Posted in Comics, DC, Green Lantern with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 3rd July, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Make it yours.

Make it yours.

“Agent Orange: Part Four”
Author: Geoff Johns
Artists: Philip Tan & Eddy Barrows
Inkers: Jonathan Glapion & Ruy Jose
Colorists: Nei Ruffino & Rod Reis
Cover Artists: Philip Tan, Jonathan Glapion & Nei Ruffino
Variant Cover Artists: Eddy Barrows & Nei Ruffino

Another month, another great issue of Green Lantern.  Can we all agree that Geoff Johns is the greatest Green Lantern writer that ever lived?  I don’t feel too audacious for making such a claim.  Four years and he’s never skipped a beat, in my opinion.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the artwork in this issue (or the one before, for that matter).  It’s not awful by any means, but the phrase “too many cooks spoil the broth” springs to mind.  I’d happily read a full issue of Green Lantern drawn by either Philip Tan or Eddy Barrows – in fact, I quite enjoyed Philip Tan’s solo work in issue 40 – but the constant switching really pulled me out of the book.  The fact that there’s also two inkers and two colorists doesn’t help, either.  As far as I can determine, Eddy Barrow’s horror-inspired pencils are employed for the Agent Orange scenes, while Philip Tan handles the outer space duties and the Star Sapphire scenes (but don’t quote me on that).  Even then, it can be difficult to determine, which is probably where the multiple inkers and colorists come into play.  Some of the panels appear to be hand-painted; and again, while I wouldn’t mind seeing a full issue of this, the patchwork-style approach really didn’t work for me.  Again, I stress: individually these artists are great, and the colours are as vibrant as I’d expect from a Green Lantern book, but this series needs to regain a consistency of artistic vision and approach.  I can only hope that artistic duties are being shared out now, while Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis and Doug Mahnke work ahead on future issues – certainly Johns has indicated in interviews that he is several issues ahead on the writing side of things.

The cover art, while cool, is also more than a bit misleading.  Firstly, I love the way Agent Orange (and in this case, Hal) is always depicted clutching the orange power battery like a child that doesn’t want to share his toys.  But Hal’s flirtations with the colours of the emotional spectrum have been all too brief thus far (save for the blue ring), and this occasion is no exception.  Like his scrape with the Red Lanterns beforehand, Hal’s encounter with the orange light is almost dismissed out of hand just when things started to get interesting.  I for one would have loved to have seen the emotional colour spectrum explored in greater detail prior to Blackest Night – which is better than it dragging – but I can’t help but feel we’re being rushed to Blackest Night.  I would quite happily see more of this War of Light played out as a comic book event in its own right.  I want to see the full repercussions of Hal Jordan holding the orange power battery; I want to see Hal put through the ringer as a Red Lantern and the fallout that proceeds from that.  Perhaps I’m just a cosmic sadist.

Having said all that, I can certainly see why Johns didn’t take that route – after all, it took him over a year to undo the effects of the “Parallax Debacle”, unravel the proceeding cover-up attempts, and restore Hal Jordan’s honour – why undo all that hard work?  There’s another reason for it, and I think it is this: Hal Jordan is the only being in the universe equipped to deal with this conflict in the emotional spectrum.  I’ll go one further: I think Hal represents the Yin-Yang of the entire emotional spectrum.  I think he will become the White Lantern, if only for a brief period.  He will prove to be the only being capable and experienced enough to control all colours in the emotional spectrum, and these ‘tastes’ of the other colours will prepare him for that role.  He will become this series’ Neo, so to speak.

I’ll go out on another limb: the role of the Guardians in the Green Lantern Corps will change forever, if not vanish altogether.  We will see the Guardians step back and embrace their individuality; embrace and acknowledge the full emotional spectrum.

None of these things are stated by the book; but it’s a book that makes you wonder where it all leads; it’s a book that intrigues through the use of foreshadowing; it’s a book so brimming with excitement that you honestly believe nothing is sacred, and anything can happen.  And trust me, anything does happen in this issue.

I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Detective Comics #854

Posted in Comics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 1st July, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Damn good value.  Damn good detectives.

Damn good value. Damn good detectives.

“Elegy Agitato: Part One”
Author: Greg Rucka
Artist: J.H. Williams III
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Todd Klein
Assistant Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Variant Cover Artist: J.G. Jones

“Pipeline: Chapter One/Part One”
Artist: Cully Hamner
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher

Congratulations must go to James H. “Jim” Williams the Third for producing the first genuinely beautiful DC comic book I’ve read in two weeks.  It’s been nothing short of depressing to see so many potentially great stories dragged down by lacklustre artwork in some of DC’s most important books, particularly the Action line and Green Lantern Corps.  What did DC do, round up all the good artists and blast them into the Phantom Zone?

Consider then, what a breathe of fresh air it must have been for me to see Detective Comics – second-stringer of the Batman line – in such fine artistic form.  Consider also that this artistic treatment was not reserved for the Dark Knight himself, as one would expect, rather for a character who until now has assumed a place of relative obscurity in the DC realms.  Batwoman may have been popular with the mainstream press as the ‘first lesbian superheroine’ – a highly dubious claim, I might add – two or so years ago, but little has been seen of the character since her throwaway introduction in the hit series 52, which proved to be just that.  The third surprise was DC’s willingness to let a character other than Batman headline Detective Comics, but that had long since worn off thanks to the solicits.*

What wasn’t surprising was that writing duties for Batwoman fell to Greg Rucka, the only writer who has written the character since her debut (and even then, he was heavily involved!), and I dare say the only writer who could successfully write her without resorting to lesbian caricature.  A blank slate can be as daunting as it is liberating, but Rucka seems to have taken Katy Kane in his stride.  Rucka’s writing style is as natural as it comes, right down to ‘dealing with’ Katy’s lesbianism, which is precisely what this book needed to dispel claims of PC-shoehorning.  For the record, Batwoman’s debut in 52 was just that – a lipstick lesbian superheroine thrust upon the public consciousness for the sake of political correctness and a few headline-grabs – and in that respect, Rucka has achieved the seemingly impossible: he’s given Batwoman a real origin, a real personality, a real motivation, and as a result, he’s made her into a real character worth reading about.  He didn’t achieve this feat in a single issue – he does draw heavily upon his work in 52 Aftermath: Crime Bible: Five Lessons in Blood and Final Crisis: Revelations – but newcomers will find that the hard work’s already been done for them.  This is a character already established in Rucka’s mind: he knows who she is, and what she would do in a given situation and why, and reading this will give you an appreciation of that.  Batwoman’s first nemesis, Alice, is another non-conventional and interesting villain, drawing on Lewis Carroll’s famous character of the same name.  What’s awesome about this is how deeply rooted in Batman mythology Wonderland and its denizens are (see also: Mad Hatter, Tweedledee and Tweedledum).

It would be a disservice to J.H. Williams III’s work for me to simply compare it to its lacklustre contemporaries and declare it a “welcome relief”.  It is much more than that.  It’s strikingly beautiful.  He always seems to gravitate towards these black, white, and red affairs (like his “Club of Heroes” Batman story with Grant Morrison in recent years) – full credit to Dave Stewart for the beautiful colours, by the way – and he’s right at home here.  His artistic efforts give these events some much-needed gravity: after all, Batwoman has yet to prove her worth as a character, and her worthiness as a usurper of Detective Comics until now.  He continues to experiment with panel layouts, as he is in the habit of doing, and the result is a comic book that looks fresh and exciting.

But wait– there’s more!  The Question backup feature is no slouch either.  Rucka handles writing duties again – as, again, the only writer to have dealt with the character since 52 – with Cully Hamner (Black Lightning: Year One) on art.  Rucka wears Rene Montoya (aka The Question) like a comfortable pair of shoes, while Cully delivers his unique blend of industrial grit and cartooniness.  It’s a strange contrast, being that his art style could easily attract the attention of small children, and yet he never shies from depicting home truths at street-level.  I for one would like to see him employ some thinner linework just to see the difference.  The Question is on the tail of a mystery once again, as she should be (this is Detective Comics, after all).  DNA-wise, The Question and Batwoman are a match made in comic book heaven, even if romantically they are not.  Then again, who knows?  Regardless of whether they get back together, I can see these two mysteries intersecting in the future.  Maybe then it will merge into one great big comic book.

It’s surprising to see the shoe on the other foot this time – normally it’s Batwoman playing second fiddle to Rene Montoya.  One thing’s for sure, though, Rucka’s the only one to be writing these two.  Detective Comics is damn good value.  Pick it up.