The Comic Queen

Zip ribbons and word balloons, Wednesday bliss and Previews dreams. If these phrases mean anything to you, then you're in the right place. But if they don't -- hey stick around anyway. You might just like what you see.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Single-Panel Reviews 11/14/05

Giant Monster #1 (of 2)
Boom! Studios $6.99
Writer: Steve Niles; Artist: Nat Jones; Colorist: Jay Fotos
This is the kind of horror I enjoy—the kind of horror that evokes the memory of reading EC Comics and watching old monster movies. You see the gore and it makes you say “ewww” out loud, but it doesn’t make you want to toss your cookies. I can’t handle that “Ring” scare-the-shit-out-of-you horror. I like the larger-than-life kind of scare. In this case, the scare is literally larger than life. Plot in a nutshell: space shuttle pilot Don Maggert is attacked in space, crashes to the Earth, and becomes the giant monster of the title. Maggert grows bigger with every snack he gobbles up—this consists mostly of animals and people, but he doesn’t mind sinking his teeth into the occasional boat or building. It’s all about the chewy center, after all. This book one of two leaves off with a showdown between the seemingly unstoppable Maggert monster and the Army. I’d say we could use a few more lead characters, and some more plot development, but this book is what it is—an old-fashioned horror book—and I like that the way it is.
Bottom line: B

Will You Still Love Me if I Wet the Bed?
Top Shelf $7
By Liz Prince; “Preface” by Jeffrey Brown
First, I have to thank Prince for putting my mind at ease that I’m not as crazy as I think I am. Most people believe they are the goofiest individuals alive when there’s no one around but themselves and their significant other. Prince dares to put herself out there and reveal her and her boyfriend’s quirks in their most private moments. There are definitely times that I can say “o.k. haven’t been there,” but I think these quirks are much more universal than most people would admit. Prince’s work is on par with Jeffrey Brown, and Brown actually provides a one-page comic that serves as a hilarious preface. So, if you enjoy his work, you should most definitely check out this comic. The only suggestion I’d give is that the lines Prince uses for facial proportion aren’t properly erased, so they show up in the final work. Sometimes it comes off as an endearing affectation, and other times it’s just distracting. Otherwise, I found this book to be funny, sweet, and pretty darn brave.
Bottom line: B+

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight 192-196: “Snow” storyline
DC $2.50 each
Writers: J.H. Williams III and Dan Curtis Johnson; Artist: Seth Fisher; Colorist: Dave Stewart
I don’t typically review a lot of Batman comics. They’re usually just how I get my superhero fix (along with a few other comics) each month. This storyline “Snow” from the Legends of the Dark Knight series, though, deserves mention. It’s an alternate, more updated, origin story for Mr. Freeze and takes place during Batman’s early years. So early, in fact, that he tries out what it might be like to have a backup team. He assembles a group of “regular” people, meaning, though they are talented at what they do, they aren’t masked superheroes and don’t have powers. It was nice to see a few unfamiliar characters involved and developed in the story, not only for the storyline itself, but this also reveals Batman’s characterization, as well. The art was fabulous, but difficult to describe. It was more cartoon than many superhero comics but not too cartoony, and Fisher threw in some surrealist and expressionist elements in a manga-type way. In one frame, for example, Gordon gets mad and surreal multicolored streams of steam come out of his ears. It sounds funky, but it was done throughout the books with great effect and in moderation. I really dug the skill of the art, and now want to see more of what Fisher’s done. If you like a good Bat story, I highly recommend this one.
Bottom line: A-

Rag #1 (mini-comic)
$2.75
By Anthony Acri (antonyacri@yahoo.com)
It was hard for me to know what to think about this first “Rag” mini-comic. Acri had some nice turns of phrases, making dialogue that could have easily been a cliché into interesting writing, showing he has the potential to be a very good writer. The art was playful yet serious at the same time—he cites C.C. Beck and Don Martin as influences, and you can see that in his work. The storyline, however, was somewhat confusing—there were a couple layers to the story. It was told by a character who had just bought the comic publishing house “All Star Comics” talking to his secretary, and it appeared that he was telling the story of the two main superhero characters of the publisher. However, it wasn’t always clear who was speaking and as what character. I’d suggest finding a friend who could take over the lettering, which could help readability and clear up some of the discrepancy over who was speaking to whom. Like I said, I think Acri has some good potential here—it would be interesting to see where he takes the mini-comic.
Bottom line: C-

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Single-Panel Reviews 11/8/05

Surrogates #1 (of 5)
Top Shelf $2.95
Writer: Robert Venditti; Artist: Brett Weldele
The year is 2054 and the vast majority of the population live out their lives vicariously using surrogates, or cybernetic human forms. The crime rate is down, quality of life is up, and things are status quo. That is until two surrogates are found dead, and what first looks like “natural” causes turns out to be murder—the first in 15 years—and Lt. Greer and Sgt. Ford are on the case.

This is one of the best comics I’ve read, and not just for the sequential art, either. The book includes an essay from the fictional “Journal of Applied Cybernetics;” pinups from Duncan Fegredo, Ben Templesmith, and Becky Cloonan; and a great ad for surrogates on the back cover, making this an incredibly well-packaged comic all around.

The story is a touch science fiction but mostly drama/mystery. The art is sketchy and edgy mirroring the feeling within the story. This is a very promising first issue—the premise, characters, and feel are well established, readers are just waiting for the mystery to unfold. I love the concept—when you can place a story in a not-so-distant future, but definitely futuristic society that still feels believable, you’ve really accomplished something and strengthened whatever comes next, as well.
Bottom line: A

What Were They Thinking?!
Boom Studios $3.99
Writers: Keith Giffen and Mike Leib; Artist: Wally Wood and Bill Molno
When I was a kid, every once in a while for cheap entertainment, my dad would take the evening paper and create word balloon comments for the people in the photos. Then he’d pass the paper on to my mom and me, and we’d add our own two cents. It was a riot every time.

The same concept is used in What Were They Thinking?!. Giffen and Leib take an old Wally Wood war comic, remove the dialog and commentary, then insert their own to create all-new, silly plots. It’s a fun idea—like I said, I’ve had a great time with the concept myself. In this comic, however, it was done with mixed results. There were definitely laugh-out-loud moments, but it would have been more effective if they could have had more variance in subject. Two of the four stories relied heavily on effeminate/gay-centered jokes. Used in moderation they would have been funny, but, in general, relying on one type of joke too much, you can run the risk of sounding like a little kid who finds never-ending amusement by repeating the word “butt.” Don’t get me wrong, this comic is pretty funny, and worth a read, I just think with a little more imagination, it could have been more successful.
Bottom line: C+

Easy Way 4-issue series
IDW $3.99 each
Writer: Christopher E. Long; Artist: Andy Kuhn
This is a good read in the comic genre I like to call “slacker action adventure” with nice art by Kuhn (which reminded me of Jim Mahfood’s work). Added to the traditional black and white was a nicely effective red duotone color wash. The four-issue series follows Duncan, a regular guy in rehab looking to turn things around to win his wife and daughter back. Thinking some money would go a long way to mend wounds, Duncan gets talked into one last deal by fellow rehab mate Raz. Of course it’s not that simple—mainly complicated by a psychotic coke dealer. It’s a good read—paced well, good characterization, and nice art. This seems to be an overlooked little series definitely worth picking up.
Bottom line: B+

Batman Jekyll & Hyde 6-issue series
DC $2.99 each
Writer: Paul Jenkins; Artist: Jae Lee
Whew, this was a dark Bat story. And one I enjoyed quite a bit. Two-Face is more conflicted, and hence more dangerous, than ever. Basically, Batman’s trying to solve the mystery of what Two-Face is up to and trying to reach out to Harvey for what seems to be one last time. There is more to the story, though, and it’s a good one. If you’ve been disappointed by Batman stories lately, and like a good, dark story (i.e., lots of gory crime scenes), then this is one to read. The art is a strong feature of the mini-series--it’s grotesquely beautiful, disturbingly gorgeous. Maybe I’m a little harsh with a solid B rating, but it reverted to some conventions, like poisoning food to make the populace go mad, that have gotten stale over the years.
Bottom line: B