Archive for Ethan Van Sciver

The Flash: Rebirth #4

Posted in Comics, DC, Flash with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 29th August, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Art Team Assemble!

Art Team Assemble!

“Flash Facts”
Author: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ethan Van Sciver
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Colorist: Brian Miller (Hi-Fi)
Cover Artists: Ethan Van Sciver and Brian Miller
Associate Editor: Chris Conroy
Editor: Joey Cavalieri

Flash: Rebirth #4 is an all-encompassing, high-stakes drama, filled with big revelations, but be forewarned: it’ll do yer head in.  Geoff Johns, DC continuity surgeon, takes his scalpel to the entire Flash mythos, and while I can’t say the operation went altogether smoothly, the end result is more than satisfactory.  Indeed, some of the revelations went right over my head, even with the help of Max Mercury’s pseudo-science, and some dense exposition from series villain, Professor Eobard Thawne (a.k.a. the Reverse-Flash).  Johns’ retcons and repairs are a little more obvious than what we’ve come to expect  from him in recent times, recalling his earlier, clumsier [but still enjoyable] works.  Perhaps a better analogy, then, would be that of the band-aid.  “This will only hurt a little bit”, Johns assures as he quickly rips it off.  There’s an implicit trust between Geoff Johns and his readership – that everything will come good in the end – and considering the health of the Green Lantern property, I think it’s entirely justified.

Thankfully, the aforementioned revelations are imparted during an action-packed battle between Barry Allen and the Reverse-Flash.  I have to hand it to the creative team here, Reverse-Flash is absolutely menacing.  Ethan Van Sciver draws him like a hate-filled god, colorist Brian Miller makes his eyes burn like cigarettes, and Rob Leigh makes his speech bubbles crackle with static electricity.  This lends a weight and an urgency to the epic story, and one gets the feeling that the Speed Force will never be the same again.  Van Sciver’s pencils are once again beautifully detailed, while Miller’s bold reds and yellows are absolutely breathtaking.  In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is the best looking book I’ve read this week.

Johns’ characterisations are spot-on.  He deftly juggles the entire Flash family and an ensemble cast of super-speedsters, giving each of them a unique voice.  I knew next to nothing about Max Mercury prior to reading this issue, but I came away with an appreciation of who he is and where he fits in the DC pantheon.  It’s also good to see Bart Allen get his wit back – he seemed to have lost it after his own rebirth – and embrace his original role as Kid Flash.  Ethan Van Sciver also did an excellent job of differentiating Wally West from Barry Allen – their identical Flash costumes had posed a problem until now – through a clever story device.

Rebirth #4 may have stumbled off the starting block, but it certainly came through with the goods.

Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #2

Posted in Blackest Night, Comics, DC, Green Lantern with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 28th July, 2009 by Adam Redsell
"Unnecessary" has never been so entertaining.

"Unnecessary" has never been so entertaining.

Authors: Geoff Johns, Peter Tomasi & Ethan Van Sciver
Artists: Eddy Barrows, Gene Ha & Tom Mandrake
Inkers: Ruy José
Colorists: Nei Ruffino & Pete Pantazis
Cover Artists: Ed Benes, Rob Hunter & Nei Ruffino
Variant Cover Artist: Rodolfo Migliari
Letterers: Steve Wands & Sal Cipriano
Editor: Adam Schlagman

Once again, I have to disagree with this book’s detractors.  Tales of the Corps #2, like the first issue, is an entertaining read, and while its connection to Blackest Night proper may not be readily apparent, it fleshes out the players in this War of Light.  The emotional spectrum is an interesting concept in itself, and though the seeds were planted from the very beginning of Geoff Johns’ stellar Green Lantern run, it’s clear that not all avenues have been explored in the rush to get to Blackest Night.  Perhaps it was editorial pressure; perhaps it was fan demand; I don’t know – but if this book affords Johns and his cohort the opportunity to explore this War of Light in greater detail, then I’m all for it.  And if you’re a Green Lantern fan, you’ll be all for it too.

Like the first issue, the opening story is by far the strongest.  “Fly Away” tells the tale of angelic beauty, Princess Bleez, and how she comes to embrace the rage of the Red Lantern Corps.  I wasn’t being flowery when I used the word ‘angelic’ either, Bleez has wings – with feathers – and Johns uses these as a simple narrative device to tell a story of freedom yearned for and ultimately, lost.  Eddy Barrows’ pencils are breathtaking, especially in depicting Bleez and her home planet, Havania.  It just goes to show that when given a full story to work with, Barrows absolutely shines (not that that was ever in doubt in the first place).  It’s not just the beautiful vistas he excels in either; his penchant for gritty, horror-inspired visuals is also on display here.  Credit must also go to Nei Ruffino, whose colours went a long way toward evoking the beauty of Bleez and her planet homeland.  All of this beauty – Bleez’s soft, metallic skin and Havania’s crystalline waterfalls – lends the story a great deal of its power when the Sinestro Corps come to strip it all away.  It’s interesting that Bleez’s turn as a Red Lantern owes more to the Sinestro Corps than it does the Red Lanterns themselves.

The second story, also penned by Johns, centres on Carol Ferris, and how she came to be a Star Sapphire.  “Lost Love” is beautifully drawn by Top 10 artist and co-creator, Gene Ha.  As much as I love any opportunity to enjoy Ha’s artwork, I’m going to have to side with the naysayers here and say that, yes, this story is entirely unnecessary.  We have seen most of this before.  The entire story essentially takes place within the confines of Carol’s cockpit, as she converses with the violet ring.  On comes a series of violet-filtered flashbacks concerning Carol and Hal Jordan’s on-and-off love relationship.  Now that the Star Sapphires have refined their crystals into rings for recruitment purposes, acceptance of the ring is voluntary.  This doesn’t ring true to me – the situation and the conversation itself seem to be a contrivance on Johns’ part to separate this particular instance from the earlier ones – it attempts to rationalise something that isn’t at all rational, and that is Love.  The conversation between Carol and the violet ring is a thinly veiled internal monologue, and it comes off as being rather stilted in the end.

The third and final tale in this collection chronicles the journey of the all-conquering, alien floating head, known as Blume.  Peter Tomasi excels at these kinds of dark, quirky tales, and “Godhead” is no exception.  The malevolent head prowls the universe, hungry for anything of value.  Amidst these flagrant displays of greed and cruelty, Tomasi achieves rare moments of poignancy, as Blume learns the true subjectivity of value and sheer breadth of what is valuable to people.  Blume’s fate as an Orange Lantern construct is a foregone conclusion, but that doesn’t rob this story of its value.

The issue finishes with a two-page featurette from Green Lantern: Rebirth artist Ethan Van Sciver, titled “The Symbols of the Spectrum: How They Came to Be, and What They Represent”, which documents the genesis of the seven symbols we’ve seen in the War of Light.  This is great for Green Lantern fans who want an insight into the creative process that goes into the making of their favourite comic book.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too.  Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps is a great supplementary book to the core Green Lantern series and Blackest Night itself.  You don’t need to read it to understand the events of those two books, but it’s a great read nonetheless.  If it was ‘necessary’ or ‘important’, fans and critics alike would be complaining about how they have to follow yet another book to gain an appreciation of the overall story.  As it stands, though, Tales of the Corps represents the very best kind of tie-in to a comic book event – wholly unnecessary to the progression of the main story, and yet an interesting and entertaining read in its own right.

Blackest Night #1

Posted in Blackest Night, Comics, DC, Green Lantern with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 20th July, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Black is the new Green.

Black is the new Green.

Author: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis
Inker: Oclair Albert
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano
Associate Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Cover Artists: Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert & Alex Sinclair
Alternate Cover Artists: Ethan Van Sciver & Hi-Fi

If you had of told Dan DiDio four years ago that Green Lantern, under Geoff Johns’ guidance, would not only stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Batman and Superman in stature and following, but would also spawn the biggest comic book event of 2009, he probably would have slapped you twice and thrown you to the Crises.  Well, that was then, and this is now, and let me tell you, I was more than excited to be opening the first issue of Blackest Night proper.  In fact, I can’t remember ever being this excited for a comic book event in all my years of reading comics (which I’ll admit, is not very long at all compared to some).  Well, it turns out that all that anticipation is paying off in spades, and that Blackest Night is every bit the bee’s knees it promised to be.

Naturally, Blackest Night #1 picks up where Blackest Night #0 left off, in Gotham Cemetery.  It’s a dark and stormy night, and Black Hand ushers in the Age of Dark and Stormy Nights with a decidedly sick and twisted invocation.  The first thing I noticed about this issue was, damn, it’s great to have Ivan Reis back on a Green Lantern book.  Then of course I noticed the striking visuals, the epic presentation, et cetera, but honestly, there’s so much going on here that I really don’t know where to start.

This book is a great jumping-on point for newcomers, but they’ll also find a lot to digest here; while long-term Green Lantern and DC Comics readers have plenty of Easter eggs to scour through.  Sure, there’s a fair bit of background that the DC faithful will already know, but Johns is clearly highlighting which parts to pay attention to (and believe me, there’s a lot to pay attention to) and fleshing them out to augment the emotional impact of future events.  It’s actually surprising to see which untended plot threads he does highlight – without giving too much away – fans of Keith Giffen’s Justice League will no doubt be intrigued by the developments they see here.  It’s pretty clear by the end of this issue that Blackest Night represents his life’s work, drawing on every major DC storyline he’s had a hand in, from JSA to Hawkman to Infinite Crisis to 52 and everything in between right up to Flash: Rebirth.  Perhaps contrary to his original plans (though not by much), Blackest Night encompasses the entire DC Universe (or is it ‘Multiverse’?).  That is to say that its scope is far greater than just the Green Lantern universe – which is already massive thanks to Johns – and centres upon his two no-doubt-favourite heroes, Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) and Barry Allen (The Flash), as our anchors to this epic tale.

The core of this super-sized issue takes place appropriately on the anniversary of Superman’s death; once a national day of mourning, now a day used to honour fallen superheroes.  Geoff Johns has stated in interviews that this issue mentions all the major players in this storyline, and I believe it – many names are checked by the mourners, which may as well be a roll call for the Black Lantern Corps – some are expected, though many may surprise you.  In point of fact, the first Black Lanterns to reveal themselves surprised the hell out of me, and their first dark deeds shocked me all the more, due in no small part to Ivan Reis’ grisly depiction.

It’s getting very dark in the DC Universe, and I, for one, am loving it.

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.

Flash: Rebirth #3

Posted in Comics, DC, Flash with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 25th June, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Slow and steady wins the race.

Slow and steady wins the race.

“Rearview Mirrors”
Author: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ethan Van Sciver
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Colorist: Brian Miller
Assistant Editor: Chris Conroy
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Cover Artist: Ethan Van Sciver & Alex Sinclair
Variant Cover Colorist: Brian Miller

Flash: Rebirth #3 is an odd little duck.  While the cuts are quick and kinetic, the storytelling adopts a slow and steady approach.  It’s been mentioned by others before, but Van Sciver’s vertical panel-slicing does seem to contribute towards this feeling, for good or for ill (I for one would like to see more two-page spreads to open things up a little).  That and there just doesn’t seem to be all that much running.  The cover of this issue teases yet another race between the Flash and Superman, and while this particular race has an urgency the others can only dream of, it’s over so quickly that you wonder what all the fuss was about.  In truth, it was the most interesting plot-point they could reveal on the cover without spoiling a story full of surprises.

It’s really difficult to discuss this issue (or indeed last issue) without robbing it of its impact.  But I’ll put it this way: Barry Allen is back, and that’s not a good thing.  This issue maintains the cinematic feel of its predecessors, peeking around all corners of the speedsters’ lives.  Recent developments cause Barry to question his role as the Flash, and his place in the Speed Force, if he has a place at all.  Let’s just say that the Flash is about to face his Parallax in a race against time.

Comparisons to Green Lantern are apt, considering the reunion of Rebirth‘s creative team to bring us this series.  I have every confidence that the Flash’s rebirth will live up to that association.  Despite some assertions to the contrary, Van Sciver is on his A-game for this outing, and Johns is continually improving his craft beyond all expectations (how does you challenge yourself when you’re already the best?).  The Flash books have languished ever since Johns’ departure all those years ago, and yet, these first three issues are far and away superior to his life’s work on the character.  As you’d expect, themes of death and rebirth are explored at length (as they have been in the rest of the DC Universe these past few years), and three issues in, I can’t help but see this is leading into Blackest Night.  Morrison did this with Batman and Final Crisis last year, so it’s not outside the realms of possibility.

A seasoned Flash writer, Johns seems to have stumbled over a Flash formula (3X2(9YZ)4A!) he’s not used before.  Time travel has always been elementary to the Flashes, but Johns’ time-travel-as-flashback or vice versa is quite clever.  It’s also quite confusing, but I have faith that all will make sense in this written-for-the-trade effort.  And while you *could* feasibly wait for this six-part story to be collected in a single volume, that would deny these cliffhangers of their power, not to mention your own anticipation.  You’ve gotta hand it to Johns, he really knows how to end a chapter, and he always leaves me wanting more.  I’ve said this before, but Johns is probably DC’s biggest fan, and the fact that he knows this universe and these characters so much better than all of us puts him one step ahead – in control – at all times.  Lead on, I say!

The Flash: Rebirth #2

Posted in Comics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 20th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Something's afoot in the Speed Force...

Something's afoot in the Speed Force...

Author: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ethan Van Sciver
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Cover Artists: Ethan Van Sciver, Carmine Infantino & Alex Sinclair
Variant Cover Artists: Ethan Van Sciver & Alex Sinclair
Assistant Editor: Chris Conroy
Editor: Joey Cavaleri

Holy Shit.

The shock twist in this issue of Flash: Rebirth had me absolutely floored.  Sure, I considered the outside possibility of these events unfolding, and the hints were certainly there from issue 1, but damn if this doesn’t feel like a brave direction for The Flash.

It’s tempting to write this off as one of those ‘fan’ what if? moments – remembering Johns has had both Batman and a de-powered Superman flirt with Green Lanternism during his tenure with DC – but far too much has been done that can’t be undone for that to be the case.  Sorry for being so damn coy, but I really want you to experience what I experienced when I read it.  I’ll tell you this much: no, Barry Allen does not become a Green Lantern.  He doesn’t become a Black Lantern either, but with all of these themes of death and rebirth across the board, I can’t help but wonder whether Johns’ brainchildren will intersect.

In every corner of the Flashes’ world, from Gorilla City to the Balkan Mountains and back to Central City, Rebirth #2 really gave me the sensation that something big was brewing in the Speed Force, and indeed, the DC Universe.  I can’t help but sense Grant Morrison’s influence in all of this – the quick cuts, the bold moves, the cinematic style – all of these things lend the story a weight; a significance.

Sure, it’s a little continuity-intensive at times – the quick cuts and flashbacks may prove difficult for newcomers to keep up with – but you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, and if Geoff Johns proved one thing with Green Lantern’s own Rebirth, it’s this: there WILL be growing pains, but the outcome will be well worth it.  Those with rose-coloured lenses remember Green Lantern: Rebirth fondly (and rightly so), but they too easily forget the occasional awkwardness and intensive continuity inherent in the project.

It’s necessary.

Take heart, fans, Geoff Johns is THE continuity doctor: leave a mess on the carpet, and he’ll turn it into art, like Pro Hart.

Speaking of art, Ethan Van Sciver’s is brilliant as always.  He’s far and away, one of the best artists in the biz.  His panel layouts and spectacular splash pages contribute a great deal to the book’s cinematic feel.  His linework is clean and detailed.  His characters are expressive; his backgrounds are meticulous and never boring to look at.  Check out the water effects on page 6 – the detail is just mind-boggling.  Oh yeah, and Iris is HOT.

The track record’s there: Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver are a great comic partnership, and if this issue is any indication, they’re cooking up another storm of Rebirth proportions.