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  • A Walk Through Hell (2018) #9

    A Walk Through Hell (2018) #9

    Wth9

    Umm.

    I feel bad for writer Garth Ennis. I feel bad he did this issue. There are desperate ways to stretch out a series, to pad an issue, to make the right count for a trade. But somehow, Ennis surpasses all of them with this unconditional waste of time issue.

    I feel bad for Goran Sudžuka having to draw it. Either this issue will mean a little something for Director Driscoll’s character development, or it’ll mean nothing for her character development. She’s the best character Ennis has created for the series, but it’s not a high bar to clear.

    This issue’s a flashback to Driscoll getting the dirt on the bad guy from extra-curricular sources. It’s less information than we got about the bad guy during his “confession” last issue, and having Driscoll be able to verify those statements will either matter or it won’t. Probably won’t.

    So why do an issue all about it? To get to twelve for the series.

    Doing redundant issues in a limited series is bad enough, but to do them one after the other is beneath Ennis. Or ought to be.

    Despite all those complaints, Sudžuka’s art is better than it has been for ages. Maybe locking him in a dark warehouse or an interrogation room isn’t the best use of his talents. He and Ennis could do a killer “lady FBI boss and the shitty sexists she works with” procedural.

    It’s such a waste of an issue; however, it helps the series somewhat. Ennis basically axed an issue, making the already tedious series one issue shorter, albeit one you still bought, still read, but can just chalk up to being suckered by comic credits.

    Only three to go.


  • Evil (2019) s03e04 – The Demon of the Road

    Evil (2019) s03e04 – The Demon of the Road

    “Evil”’s original conceit was a supernatural procedural. Hot priest-to-be Mike Colter, hot-but-appropriately-aged psychiatrist Katja Herbers, and funny and cute tech guy Aasif Mandvi investigate cases and prove they’re either not supernatural, or their solution gets left up in the air, but the danger abates.

    It’s changed over the seasons, though this episode leans in heavy on the religious people—both Churchy and Demonic—are just more susceptible to hallucination, whether through brain chemistry or mental health conditions. Not important. Yet. Maybe next episode.

    Anyway.

    The show’s always maintained the procedural element—they’re demon-busters on a mission from God (well, the Christian god, well, the Catholic god)–but often mysteries get solved off-screen or not at all or don’t even turn out to be mysteries. Sometimes the approach makes “Evil” better; sometimes, it makes it worse. This episode is straight procedural and for the better. The demon-busters get a case, they investigate, they solve.

    It ties into the overarching “cannibal demon cults” plot line, with some biggish reveals; it’s subplots for Herbers’s family, Andrea Martin’s got a big subplot where Michael Emerson’s successfully relying on the Catholic Church’s misogyny to force her to retire. But it’s a mystery episode, first and foremost.

    And it’s a good, creepy, fun mystery.

    Trucker KeiLyn Durrel Jones has a strange experience driving one night and blacks out. When he gets home, he starts sleepwalking and getting scary to his wife, Jennean Farmer. She goes to Colter, who agrees to investigate the case (it’s unclear why his boss didn’t want to take it).

    So Colter, Herbers, and Mandvi road trip to upstate New York and have a creepy experience with a possible drone, possible flying demon. They spend the rest of the episode solving the case while having bizarre experiences related to it. It’s all perfectly straightforward.

    The other subplots range in prominence. It seems like Martin’s is important, even bringing in Kurt Fuller for an appearance, but then doing nothing with him after implying they would. Herbers’s worried about not setting a good example for her daughters—as a self-advocating woman—but it ends up just reminding why her husband, Patrick Brammall, is such a dipshit.

    The demon cults is just the last scene reveal, though it does figure in—at least somewhat—to Martin’s story.

    Good direction from Peter Sollett, decent script (credited to Dewayne Darian Jones). It’s not a big swing “Evil,” but it’s an assured, successful one.


  • Werewolf by Night (1972) #12

    Werewolf by Night (1972) #12

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    Don Perlin makes his first appearance in the Werewolf by Night credits, and I felt the tinge of inevitability. He’s inking Gil Kane’s pencils; about the only okay thing ends up being Wolfman Jack. Kane and Perlin’s regular people are pretty bad, Perlin’s fault, but Kane’s layouts for the action aren’t very good, not Perlin’s fault. But the real disappointment this issue is writer Marv Wolfman. He’s got absolutely nothing going with the main plot, the new villain, the Hangman. And then the subplots stumble too.

    The main plot fails because the Hangman doesn’t turn out to be a very good villain for Werewolf. Since Wolfman Jack can’t understand what’s going on—he’s found a Christian fascist psychopath vigilante with kidnaps the women he saves—writer Wolfman compensates with lots of monologuing from the Hangman. It’s not good monologuing, especially since at some point the Hangman becomes afraid of the werewolf, only we never see that moment occur in the comic. Somewhere between the werewolf dodging a blow and the Hangman outrunning the cops, he becomes terrified. Only Wolfman doesn’t write the monologuing like he’s terrified, just fanatical. Maybe Wolfman thinks he’s doing a transition, but he’s not.

    Of course, the Hangman monologues are much better than the regular people’s dialogue. Wolfman’s Jack Russell is an entitled white bro asshole who’s potentially racist to the first regular Black character in the book. Maybe the guy is being a dick to him, but Jack’s barbed responses don’t not seem racist. Luckily, there are two girls who think he’s hot stuff, and he spends the day flirting with them, even though—the comic reminds us—he’s technically got a lady.

    Meanwhile, seventeen-year-old (or younger) sister Lissa has told mid-forties Buck about Jack’s lycanthropy, and Jack blows them off for the chicks after his fight with the Hangman in front of them. Plus, step-dad Phillip is still off being tortured. Wolfman revved all the existing subplots only to let them go cold again, an issue later. He really was just keeping the pans hot.

    Strangely, Wolfman’s Jack Russell narration is fine, sometimes near good—it can’t quite get there because the plot’s failing—it’s some of the best Jack narration in ages. We also get the first mention of Marvel superheroes existing in the real world. Jack thinks about how he’s not Spider-Man.

    Anyway. I was expecting the art to be the most disappointing thing, but it’s the writing. Bummer.


  • 709 Meridian – 4×6 – The Return of Swamp Thing (1989)

    709 Meridian – 4×6 – The Return of Swamp Thing (1989)

    WHERE TO LISTEN

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  • Kill or Be Killed (2016) #15

    Kill or Be Killed (2016) #15

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    But, wait, what if Dylan’s a ghost and he’s been dead the whole time?

    Okay, writer Ed Brubaker doesn’t end the issue on that reveal, but he ends it on one much more similar to it than I’d have thought. It’s definitely an intriguing cliffhanger, though Brubaker’s either going to do something interesting with it, and the first fourteen issues of the comic will be—at best—a partial waste of time (unless we’re looking for clues he’s a ghost), or it’s just a way to gin up an unlikely cliffhanger, and it’s not going to be at all significant.

    Honestly, I’m leaning toward the latter. I’ve no faith in Brubaker to turn Kill or Be Killed around. And not just because he makes a crack about the comic not being “epistolary,” meaning Dylan’s first-person narration isn’t to a psychiatrist, but instead a direct address to the reader. You know, the suckers who’ve been buying the comic in the first place.

    And also not just because Brubaker brags about a film deal in the back matter. I’ve been avoiding the back matter in the comic for ages; I was just skimming, and it jumped out. Also jumping out is Dylan’s complaint things have gotten so bad in the world the Nazis are back when Kill or Be Killed’s colorist is… well, let’s just say the phone call’s coming from inside the house. Not to mention Brubaker sort of blew off the politics earlier in the series, and now Dylan’s telling us how the world’s so changed only he should’ve been telling us as it changed. Or, more accurately, revealed itself.

    Anyway. None of those troubling elements are the main one I don’t trust Brubaker to write the book out of its hole. It just doesn’t have anywhere to go. Dylan might somehow end up vaguely sympathetic but pitiable. It’ll also raise some ableism questions. But the writing on the other characters? The other characters’ writing will always be bad no matter what happens with Dylan.

    And Sean Phillips’s art is clearly never going to get over its problems. It’s a little better this issue… except when it’s not. For whatever reason, Phillips just can’t draw regular people in the modern-day. Or he can’t draw them in this comic.

    There’s still a lot of Kill or Be Killed to go; this issue kicks off the last arc with Dylan in a mental hospital, the demon having hounded him into a public enough outburst he got put on a psychiatric hold.

    It’s an exhausting comic and for no good reason.


  • Batman ’89 (2021) #6

    Batman ’89 (2021) #6

    B6

    Batman ‘89 ends far better than it should, but still disappointingly. Writer Sam Hamm doesn’t go for an action-packed Batman finale, instead letting Bruce Wayne do the final showdown, which ought to emphasize Billy Dee Williams’s Harvey Dent, only doesn’t. It very strangely reduces Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne material as well. Hamm seems to know Bruce Wayne hasn’t got the emotional heft in the story, so he doesn’t try to shoehorn any in; it’s somewhat admirable not to refocus the comic, but it doesn’t make the comic any better.

    Worse are all the things Hamm either doesn’t do in the issue or intentionally avoids doing. There’s a difference; with Catwoman, Hamm avoids; with Barbara Gordon, previously a major supporting player, Hamm doesn’t do anything. She’s not even in the main action, instead relegated to the epilogue.

    Not-yet-Robin Drake Winston gets the worst of it. The issue reduces him to third-string, behind Catwoman, and completely avoids the Batman and Robin relationship. It’s like Hamm couldn’t crack the finish, which can work in an ongoing comic book series, which ’89 isn’t, but definitely not in a movie, which ’89 is trying to mimic. It’s too bad.

    Still, another outing for the series would be most welcome. Joe Quinones’s art is good (outside, you know, Catwoman’s strange new leggings, which I thought Alfred would have to comment on but doesn’t), and it’s not his fault the series finishes so flat. Especially the end, which has what should’ve been a recurring theme introduced on the very last page, but then no good Batman finale. No place for Danny Elfman music to swell.

    I had such high hopes for the series, which I knew would be hard for it to achieve, but I still thought they’d finish it better than they do. Hamm really just doesn’t have an ending for the Harvey Dent arc, and the couple monologues he gives the character are lacking; Billy Dee Williams would do a great job, but they’re not heavy-lifting.

    Oh, and the action finale is a visual mess. I don’t know if more pages would’ve helped; Quinones can’t fix the writing with the art, but it’s still a mess.

    So Batman ‘89 remains at best an occasionally successful curiosity and a surprisingly major disappointment.

    But, more, please.


  • Superman for All Seasons (1998) #3

    Superman for All Seasons (1998) #3

    S3

    Well, I misremembered this issue, and not for the better. I thought Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale were going to do Bizarro. And although they use some of the same characters from the Bizarro origin in Man of Steel, Lex has a very different plan to humble Superman.

    Lex is this issue’s narrator. It opens with him getting out of jail; Superman had him arrested for something, it’s unclear what, and now Lex is out for revenge. But he’s not going to clone Superman or steal kryptonite from Addis Ababa; he’s going to poison the city of Metropolis and let Superman feel helpless and alone.

    It’s not the series’s first misstep—Loeb stumbled last time when he started setting up this plot line with a pointlessly recurring supporting player—but it’s the first significantly damaging one. Loeb shows his Lex Luthor cards, and he’s got nothing special. At the same time, he takes the focus away from Superman to the degree it’s only minimally about his experience here. It’s very disappointing.

    Also disappointing for the first time is Tim Sale’s art. His two-page spreads are for big action sequences, not emotive establishing shots, and his linework changes on them like they’re rushed. And it doesn’t seem like Sale’s particularly proud of some of them either; the other two-page spreads have been signed. Not all of them are in this issue.

    There’s no character development for anyone, another problem since Lex narrates, and one might think he’d get some. But, nope, just some uninspired observations: he’s got a God complex and had an abusive father. Nothing insightful, nothing special.

    The same goes for the big reveal later on, when Sale has to design a new superhero and does a terrible mid-nineties design. It’s an odd issue on many levels and stops the series in its tracks.

    Maybe the next issue will get things going again, but there’s no way to fully recover from this one. I’m bummed.


  • Dracula Lives (1973) #5

    Dracula Lives (1973) #5

    Dl5

    This issue starts with the Roy Thomas and Dick Giordano adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which I read in reprint. I’m not going to check the original novel, but I’m not sure Stoker had Jonathan Harker be a shitty racist about China (complaining about how their trains ran in 1897). Harker writes in his diary about how after he and Mina get married, they can get screwing… well, maybe Stoker implied it. Never heard a lot of good about Stoker.

    Anyway.

    The adaptation covers Harker’s arrival in Transylvania up to Dracula opening the door. He goes from train to village to carriage to Dracula’s carriage; for those familiar with the novel (or faithful adaptations), there are good looks at the carriage driver, who’ll turn out to be Drac in disguise. I’m waiting to see if Giordano has visual consistency.

    Harker’s far from a sympathetic protagonist as he Karens his way through Eastern Europe, but the goings-on are mysterious (Dracula’s marking the buried treasure blue flames, though Harker doesn’t know it yet), and the art is absolutely gorgeous. Giordano works his whole ass off on the art. It’s magnificent.

    And the writing’s fine. Thomas does Harker’s narration well, does his snooty, British superiority well; so far, there’s nothing else.

    Though it’s a relatively quick read, sort of half an act.

    While that feature is pretty impressive, the rest of the issue is a less exciting Dracula Lives. And not just because of the text pieces. They apparently ran out of old Atlas strips to run and instead have more original text ones, including Gerry Conway doing a full story. Doug Moench’s Transylvania “travelogue” and Dracula: Prince of Darkness reviews are far more successful. Chris Claremont also contributes a book review (Raymond Rudorff’s The Dracula Archives) and there’s a new feature: “Coffin Chronicles,” upcoming Dracula in other media.

    The second original story is also written by Conway, who again does much better in these Lives stories than he did in Tomb, though Frank Springer’s got some odd designs. He does full Bela Lugosi Count Dracula (albeit with an angular, gaunt face), but it’s set before the French Revolution. Dracula goes to France, where he tangles with magician Cagliostro for the first time.

    The Cagliostro stories have been running in Lives for a while, only in the present. Dracula’s convinced his old foe’s still kicking and is trying to take him out. This story provides the backstory of their rivalry. Or at least the very beginnings of it.

    After surviving an assassination attempt, Dracula bribes his way onto Louis XVI’s court. Cagliostro’s already there and already trying to do away with the Count.

    It’s an okay but somewhat awkward story. It’s too short because it’s got a part two coming, and while Springer’s art is often good, his designs are not.

    The one reprint is a reasonably solid effort with art by Sid Greene. A reporter goes to a village where they feed their local vampire farm animals, and the vampire’s nice to everyone. Unfortunately, some loudmouth in the village convinces everyone they need to get rid of the vampire, which has terrible repercussions. It’s five pages; maybe it could’ve been four, but okay.

    The third original story is a disappointment. Not in terms of art. Gene Colan with Pablo Marcos inking. The art’s remarkable. The story not so much.

    Tony Isabella writes based on a Marv Wolfman story. It’s Dracula on a plane. Some incel is going to blow the plane up to watch everyone die, only Dracula’s got to get back to the Big Apple and his waiting coffin. It’s a follow-up to his Hollywood adventure last issue.

    While no one else on the plane can handle the terrorist (white guy), Dracula’s sure he can handle it. But apparently, Drac doesn’t understand explosives. He also doesn’t think to mist his way behind the guy. It’s not very well-thought-out by Dracula or Isabella.

    But the art’s fabulous. The final gag is neat, though it breaks a bunch of vampire rules continuity, both within the story and elsewhere in the issue. But I was expecting a lot more from it. I wonder if Wolfman had the whole story idea or just the setup. Or maybe just the good punchline.

    Then there’s a one-page “The Boyhood of Dracula” strip to close the issue; Isabella writing, Val Mayerik on art. It’s about when the Turks imprisoned young Vlad Tepes and tortured him. It’s a fairly tepid account and seems like filler. I was expecting more from it as well.

    Still, the novel adaptation makes it more than worth the read, plus Conway’s writing is good on the too-short France story, and Marcos inking Colan is sublime.


  • William Gibson’s Alien 3 (2018) #1

    William Gibson’s Alien 3 (2018) #1

    A31

    William Gibson’s Alien 3 is two levels of incomprehensible to the non-Alien franchise fan. First, you’ve got to know your Aliens, then you probably should know your existing Alien³. Familiarity with Dark Horse Comics’s original Aliens series might not hurt either, so you can better appreciate when Hicks shows up on the very last page. He was the protagonist in that series, which was a direct sequel to Aliens too.

    This adaptation comes after the two or three deaths of the Alien franchise and its two or three resurrections; it depends on how you want to count them. It’s one of Dark Horse’s last Aliens licensed titles before Disney bought Fox, presumably with Newt the Disney Princess in future offings. Newt’s not awake yet in this issue. Adapter Johnnie Christmas—writing and illustrating—is just setting things up (presumably based on Gibson’s original plotting).

    Instead of crash-landing on a prison planet, the Sulaco (the ship from Aliens) ends up at a waypoint station after passing through U.P.P. space. The U.P.P. is the future Soviets; I can’t remember my Alien³ trivia well enough, but I think the Berlin Wall coming down spoiled them as villains for movies set in the future. The Sulaco passes through their space, so they board it before it crosses their borders, snagging Bishop the android, who has a big alien egg growing out of him. That moment answers one of Alien³: The Movie’s more annoying questions; makes you wish they’d at least kept it from the Gibson script.

    When the ship arrives at the Company waypoint station, there are already weapons department scumbags there ready to intercept. They want the aliens, as usual, only it’s illegal for them to be on the waypoint station because of treaties with the future Soviets, putting them at odds with the station crew.

    The comic gets through the crew waking up the cast of Aliens, but so far, Sigourney Weaver’s knocked out, and Hicks is smoking somewhere he shouldn’t be. Where’d he get the cigarettes?

    It’s a little rushed at the end and a little drawn out at the beginning—Christmas does a 2001 homage with the station boss’s meeting with the weapons division jerks, which is cute but drags. Still, it’s a compelling mix of curiosity, sequel, sci-fi, and politics. There’s not much in terms of character so far, but he’s got four issues to emphasize some of them.

    Though, once again, it’s got a very limited appeal just because of the many pre-existing knowledge assumptions.