Monday, April 8, 2013 it me you're looking for?

So, I've noticed that it really has been a few months since I've done any work on here. Odd considering I do still review and interview, but just got lazy about adding it on here. Let's remedy that, okay? Polarity is a new mini-series by BOOM! and while I wasn't blown away by it, it's something to look for in the future. Full review after the image.

Polarity #1
Written by Max Bemis
Art by Jorge Coelho and Felipe Sobreiro
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by BOOM!
Review by Lan Pitts
Robot Rating: 7 out of 10
There's a line from the film "Amadeus" in which Emperor Joseph when asked about what he thought about Mozart's opera, it was suggested to Mozart that it had "too many notes". While BOOM's latest mini-series Polarity isn't exactly Classical opera, it is an original take on a young artist finding himself as both a person, an artist, and someone who can headbutt a man's head, crushing it into oblivion. However, it suffers from the same problem: just too many notes.
Written by Say Anything's front man  Max Bemis, Polarity explores the world of the elitist, hipster New York art scene for most of the issue. It lays it out pretty well for anybody who is unfamiliar with that universe, even if there are some liberties with exaggerations, but not bad for a first foray into comics. Just when you think there's no action and you feel like you're watching "High Fidelity" for the nth time, the action kicks in and catches you off guard.
The big problem  is the fact that the main character, Tim's, inner dialog just clutters up the pages. Letterer Steve Wands does a great job at controlling the flow, but a lot of it just seems like unnecessary detail. We get the idea that he's with a girl that he doesn't want to be with, and has a thing for another girl right off the bat. The repetition of the detail stalls the pacing a bit. Bemis' banter can be witty at times, but much like the art scene described here, comes across as trying too hard.
Now the reason to really try this book out is artist Jorge Coelho. With layouts that just seem out of this world, Coelho takes Tim's bipolarity and runs with it. His figure compositions are sort of a mix of Tradd Moore and Rob Guillory. Characters have cartoonish anatomy, but still maintain a sense of reality. Every panel is bursting with detail, but not in the way a lot of mainstream artists handle things. Since the story takes place in Brooklyn, everything seems more active and captivating. The bar scene with Tim and Lily especially stands out as a scene where nothing is wasted. Add in some great coloring by Felipe Sobreiro, and you've got a great looking book in your hands.
Polarity's shortcomings don't outweigh the positive here, and it's something to keep your eye on in the coming months.  How Bemis handles Tim's dialog even before he became manic and off his meds makes for a less than stellar debut, but Polarity is visually appealing nonetheless.


Friday, November 30, 2012

Catching Up Big Time. Batman, Saga, etc...

Saga #7 
Written by Brian K. Vaughan 
Art by Fiona Staples 
Lettering by Fonografiks 
Published by Image Comics 
Review by Lan Pitts 
'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

After a month-and-a-half break, the creative duo of Saga brings it back and not a moment too soon as I was suffering from heavy withdrawals. If you've been missing out, there's no worry as you're brought up to speed in the first couple of pages with the backstory of the war between Alana and Marko's races.

When we left off, we had just been introduced to Marko's parents and needless to say the union between the main characters is more than frowned upon. Despite the alien worlds, the relationships and correlation among the characters is incredibly human. It's only seven issues into the series, and if feels as if I've known these people for years. That is Vaughan's magic at work. Though this issue concentrates on establishing Marko's parents' relationship (if you can call it that) with Alana, it also touches on the subplots of The Will in mourning from The Stalk's death and Prince Robot still trying to capture our heroes. It also adds dramatic tension to the story with Marko's father, Barr, who has a secret revealed at the end of the issue, making if very difficult to have to wait until next month.

While the pissed-off mother-in-law is a slight trope, Klara definitely has her reasons to be angry at her son for marrying someone who is involved with a bloodfeud with her race. Barr comes across as more level-headed, but with his secret revealed to Alana, it's understandable why he would want to make peace. Once again, Fiona Staples delivers compelling art that could tell the story all by itself. Staples puts emotion into her art and that's obvious here.

The use of facial expressions are spot-on and riveting. How she captures all the emotions of the initial encounter between Alana, Barr, and Klara should be commended. She breathes life into these otherwise 2-dimensional characters, and makes them seem so animated and real. Her flair for alien design is in full front and it's plain out ballsy at one point.

Saga is a rare kind of book these days with rich, imaginative worlds and solid character development. The pacing hasn't let up and yet there is still so much left to explore in this universe. Here's hoping there isn't another delay in the near future. My sanity almost depends on it.


Batman #14 
Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV 
Art by Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, Jock, Dave Baron, and FCO Plascencia 
Lettering by Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt, and Sal Cipriano 
Published by DC Comics 
Review by Lan Pitts 
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

This issue is heavy, and primarily shows two things: Scott Snyder's Joker is a force of chaos (if you didn't know already), and things are about to get so much worse. This issue basically acts as a set up for things to come, but we see more of the famed Batman and Joker dynamic, as well as a hint of Joker's plans in action with the back up by Snyder and James Tynion IV.

Snyder has been building up to this moment for the great Joker story of his career, and if this issue is any indication of what is to come, it could be his opus. The issue is non-stop chaos with the Joker having laid out his dominoes and now watching each one fall and crash into another setting up a chain of events that really tries Bruce as a person and hero. We find out Alfred's fate and it's not pretty. Bruce almost goes into shutting down so he can operate solely as Batman to get the job done and his father figure back from the clutches of his arch-nemesis. Joker is the boogeyman of the DC universe and in the hands of Snyder, he's molded into a walking nightmare.

The banter between Joker and Batman is something to behold and Joker seems to be the one that actually "gets" their relationship. There's a nice nod to Dark Knight Returns with Joker greeting Batman as "darling", but it also evokes Joker's Peter Pan analogue from the previous issue. The events of the issue make this a real page-turner and the pacing works great, even if a little verbose at times. The lettering on Joker is great, too, giving him a sort of cackle even when he talks normally.

What can be said about Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, and FCO that hasn't already been said? Here they're just as dynamite and visceral as ever, with great detail going into every panel. Near the end, things get a little too cluttered with Batman and Joker's face off, but nothing that warrants more than a half shrug and you move on to the next page. The close ups of Joker are disturbing as ever. You can see the madness in the eyes and his body language. How Capullo uses Joker's posturing tells the whole story in a few panels: he is a sick, sick puppy. Even if you're a rare example of nerdom and have no previous experience with the Joker and his madness, you get the idea loud and clear.

Team Batman is setting up a DC event here and the first steps always hit the hardest. With Batman #14 there's a sure sign that what lies ahead might be Bruce's hardest and most dangerous fight since he donned the cowl. Joker has never been this complicated, and possibly psychotic. Snyder definitely has something to prove with handling the first Joker story of the new DCU, but if this is where things start, this'll join the ranks of some of the great Bat stories ever written.


Shadowman #1 (Published by Valiant Comics; Review by Lan Pitts; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Shadowman was one of the old Valiant's top tier books and has an acclaimed team behind the title, yet it balances a fine line between great visuals and cliched moments that we've seen a dozen times elsewhere. The continuation of Jack Boniface being a legacy character is a nice touch; he's younger, not a jazz musician, but still a bright (no pun intended) young man trying to find himself. Justin Jordan handles the mythos of the character well enough, but it's weighed down by a lot of exposition and a choppy ending. Patrick Zircher and Brian Reber elevate the dialogue with some heavy gore and a great battle scene; definitely the stars of the show. There's enough here for me to take a second look, but it really has to start picking up from here.


My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic #1 
Written by Katie Cook Art by Andy Price and Heather Breckel 
Lettering by Robbie Robbins
Published by IDW 

Review by Lan Pitts 
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Strange things are ahoof in Ponyville, and your favorite characters from the Hub's My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic are on the case. The creative team of Katie Cook and Andy Price mesh together perfectly, and the comic adaptation captures all the wonder and fun of the series that doesn't stray too far.

Creator Katie Cook has captured fans' attentions with her webcomic Gronk, as well her famed "mini-paintings" and her unique, cartoonish style. Here though, she takes up the writer's reins for the most part (she does have her own short story at the end of the issue) and nails the world of Esquestria with a fine hammer. Her sense of humor plays well into this world. Not really having any laughing out loud moments, but did make me smile. Each pony has their distinctive voice, and Cook is pitch perfect with each one. The story itself plays like an Invasion of the Body Snatchers homage, and even takes a little continuity from the show (they mention the royal wedding of Shining Armor and Princess Cadance) as an old enemy reemerges.

It's difficult not to hear the ponies' voices from the show as you dive in reading. Cook certainly has a handle of each one's characteristics and nothing sounds off or different from what you'd expect. Near the end, it begins to get a little too wordy and artist Andy Price's pages seem to get cluttered with word balloons. Nothing too horrible, but definitely something to take down a notch further down the road. Speaking of Price, he excels here and compliments Cook's words magnificently.

For what is deemed a comic just for kids, there is a lot of detail into every page. Even the backgrounds look very well put together and if you look carefully, you can see Price and his wife, along with Cook in the midst of Ponyville Square. You have to appreciate the expressions going on here; a true sign of a highly skilled cartoonist. Heather Breckel's colors are impressive to say the least. Each page is just bright and makes the book all that much enjoyable. Price and Breckel's styles work together well here and neither overshadows the other.

The biggest fear adult fans are probably having is whether or not they'll "get" it. Is this geared towards them or the younger audiences? Simply put: both. Much like the nature of the show, it has comic sensibilities for the young and young at heart. Yes, there are mentions to other pop culture staples in here, but doesn't go overboard with them. Cook has made this first issue accessible to all sorts of readers. It's fun, magical, and captures your imagination. While I do think non-fans of the series would be a tad confused on who's who, fans of the show will love this to pieces, and with good reason.


Courtney Crumrin #7 (Published by Oni Press; Review by Lan Pitts; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): With Courtney and Calperina on the run from the Coven, things are looking pretty dim for them, especially having Courtney's uncle Aloysius' true colors apparently revealed. The tension is definitely building for a head-on collision at some point, but things take an interesting turn here. Ted Naifeh has always had a good eye for design for his creatures, and this issue is a primary example of the things rattling in his brain. Where colorist Warren Wucinich usually brought color and brightness to this series thus far, here, there's nothing really go on. The issue takes place at night and it's understandable to use darker colors, but it just feels overdone here and some character details are lost.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ocktober-Fest of Best Shots

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rise of the Turtles Part 1 and 2 Written by Joshua Sternin & J.R. Ventimilia Directed by Michael Chang Premiered Sept. 29, 2012 Review by Lan Pitts 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10 As a child born into the early 80's, there was never quite something as powerful as Turtlemania (well, aside from Hulkamania, but that's a different story). Growing up, the Turtles took on a few different versions along the way and here we are again. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the newest adaptation that debuted this past weekend on Nickelodeon. First CGI-animated series of the franchise (though not the first CGI-adaptation. That goes to the 2007 movie simply called TMNT) and it definitely has a different feel from anything else. But is it any good? Yes, but it's not like we're treading on new ground here. "Rise of the Turtles" essentially acts as a reintroduction to the team, the supporting characters, and sets the stage for old familiar enemies to appear soon. The animation itself looks fine. It definitely sets itself apart from any other production by Nickelodeon Animation Studios with the boys having a more blocky look to them, almost similar to Clone Wars. The show has been promoted for about a year now with Sean Astin and Jason Biggs providing the voices of Raphael and Leonardo respectively. In addition, there is TMNT alumni and voice actor veterans Rob Paulsen (who was originally Raph in the first series) portraying Donatello, and Greg Cipes (Teen Titans and Ben 10) as Michaelangelo. Everybody really works in their role, except it did take a small amount of adjustment to see Donny and hearing Raph's voice. Jason Biggs is almost unrecognizable as Leo and does a pretty decent job. Hoon Lee provides the voice of Splinter and is nothing new in how Splinter usually talks. Kevin Clash set the standard for that years ago and still holds a place as my favorite version. Kevin Michael Richardson makes a brief cameo as the Shredder at the end and let's us know he's coming soon. The most surprising turn about the series is how young they made April. In the comics, she had more of a science background before changed into a reporter. Here, she's a scientist's teenage daughter and has an instant bond with Donny. This time around she's voiced by Mae Whitman (Arrested Development, Scott Pilgrim, Avatar: The Last Airbender). There are some really neat things that they've done with the boys to set them apart aside from weapons and characteristics. Donny has a gap between his teeth, I guess playing up the nerd and brains of the group. Raph has a chip on his front, as well as his mask is a bit tattered and worn showing he's a bit of a hot head and gets into his share of fisticuffs. Mikey is the youngest and innocent, so he has some freckles under his eyes. Each has a different shade keeping with the custom. They've changed their weapons up a tad, too. Mikey's nunchunks also become kusarigamas, and Leo wielding not just his traditional katana, but also a wakizashi. Though that was more traditionally used by Samurais and not ninjas, but I think it still works. I think they're overplaying Mikey as the goofball. Yes, he's the more juvenile one, but there's a moment where Splinter basically admits he's not that bright. Storywise, as forementioned, it's nothing really new. It takes the approach from the old cartoon with Hamato Yoshi once being human and being exposed to mutagen the same time as the boys and now living in the sewer. Oroku Saki/The Shredder's rivalry with Splinter/Yoshi stays intact. We even get to see some Foot soldiers briefly and possibly a hint of Karai showing up later. One thing they did here for the Kraang, was mix them with the Utrom origins. I almost think it's too much at once, but for almost an hour, I had a good time. I'm interested in how things progress and where they want to go with the April/Donny relationship, as well as see who else makes an appearance. If you haven't seen it yet, has both episodes on their site. I think it's a solid interpretation, even if it's something older Turtles fans have seen before, it's a good gateway for the younger crowd.


Halloween Eve #1 
Written by Brandon Montclare 
Art by Amy Reeder 
Published by Image Comics 
Review by Lan Pitts 
'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10
With Halloween right around the corner, this would seem like a perfect quick read to get one in the mood for the incoming swarm of trick-or-treaters and spooky decor. Yet, sadly, this comic that sprang from Kickstarter left me wondering why it wasn't as good as it should have been. The premise is cool: imagine Wizard of Oz meets Nightmare Before Christmas with a slice of A Christmas Carol mixed together. However, something falls flat halfway through.
I'm not too familiar with Brandon Montclare's work, but I've been an Amy Reeder fan since her Madame Xanadu days. Her line work and great use of facial expressions has never been better. The cast of characters all have a distinct look that mirror a little bit of their personality. When Eve wanders into Halloween Land (also the name of the shop she works at), the details are full of whimsy and Halloween fun. The parallels of her co-workers and their counterparts in the magical land is a nice nod and really thought out. Reeder, who was the one-time artist for DC's Batwoman, is better off with projects like these, which give her a true spotlight to be herself. 
There seems to a be a lot of development into the characters themselves and their particular design, but the interactions among them are just not interesting. Eve is probably the biggest victim here. She's just not likable. By the end of the book, I didn't really care what happened to her, Most of the dialogue just doesn't work, either. It's either too cliché, or just juvenile. We're really not quite sure the reason of Eve's hostility towards Halloween and it's never really explained. From the notes of the book that Reeder and Montclare have a great friendship and rapport, but I just feel something better could have come from their creative union. Some pages seem too cluttered and while Reeder does her best to maintain control, some details get lost along the way. Reeder is a one-woman show here taking on all artistic and lettering duties. Her choosing her own palette paid off wonderfully; nothing is too over-saturated and looks great on the page. Her letting is a bit rough, and I caught myself once or twice trying to figure out who is saying what, but nothing overly distracting. 
The behind-the-scenes look at how certain characters evolved is fascinating. You can see that Montclare and Reeder really went into this with guns blazing and excited to make a comic that they wanted to do. I think that level of enthusiasm is sometimes lacking from creators going into certain projects. I just feel Reeder's art here only elevated this story so far and didn't quite mesh with Montclare's script. I think the main problem was that it's too condensed. Had this been a mini, it probably would have worked better giving the creative team a little more to expand on. Instead, we're given a box of raisins in our candy bowl. 


Creator-Owned Heroes #5

Written by Jimmy Palmiotti. Justin Gray, Steve Niles, and Jay Russell

Art by Andrew Ritchie, Jerry Lando and Paul Mounts

Published by Image Comics

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Talk about some deja vu. 

Creator-Owned Heroes definitely fills that void of spy thrillers and tactical espionage with a flavor of old-fashioned cool, but this being the fifth issue of the series, I feel like we've been here before. At least in the first story entitled "Killswitch" anyways. The duo of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray are back with another take on suave assassins and other tropes of the like, backed by artist Jerry Lando. With "Black Sparrow" by Steve Niles and Andrew Ritchie, Niles dives back into his horror roots and gives a proper cliffhanger. 

This all seems like a treaded road, however. Especially harkening back to the first issue of the series with "Trigger Girl 6" and "American Muscle." Palmiotti, Gray, and Noto opened the show and Niles and Kevin Mellon closed it. I just think this time around, "Killswitch" dominated the issue while "Black Sparrow" barely had time to take a breath. Not complaining, I just want to see the books evenly published. "Killswitch" is what you think it would be about and Palmiotti and Gray certainly have a knack for this type of story: a sexy assassin with an aura of mystique doing what he does best. But the mystery to it at the end if is a nice added layer. Jerry Lando does some great layouts and art here, even though he uses a lot of talking head shots as the book progresses. Everything is rendered wonderfully and Paul Mounts' colors work well with the line art giving it a certain depth and moodiness to the world.

Steve Niles, Jay Russell, and Andrew Ritchie make a supernatural old pioneer tale with "Black Sparrow." It's a good beginning but asks too many questions, that I'm certain will be answered in due time, but there's not a lot of dialogue to explore or to get an idea of who these characters are. Ritchie has a great Mike Mignola/Matthew Dow Smith vibe with his art, and a muted color palette to boot. 

In the middle of the stories to act as a sort of intermission, is a terrific interview with Amanda Conner. We learn about her Kubert School roots and some defining moments in her career as well as some of her artistic techniques and gives advice to any and all up and comers. It's a real warm read, and Conner comes across as sincere and personable about her work. That alone is almost worth the price of admission. 

I've been digging COH since day one, but I'd like to see something new and different from Palmiotti and Gray. They certainly know their audience and are great at these tales, but this book is all about taking chances. Let's see if they can liven up.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Batman #0, Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt, Wheel of Time #29, and Damsels #1.

Batman #0
Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Art by Greg Capullo, Andy Clarke, Jonathan Glapion and FCO Plascencia
Lettering by Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt and Pat Brosseau
Published by DC Comics
Review by Lan Pitts
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Here's where it all begins... again.
To be absolutely honest here, Batman #0 should have been the issue that introduced us to the new Batverse. There are actually two stories here, each with their own stars. One, under Snyder's direction, features Bruce coming to terms on what he must become to take down the infestation of crime that has plagued the city he loves. The other, by James Tynion IV, focuses on Jim Gordon, and the young men who would one day don the colors of Robin. Both of these intertwine, even though take place a year apart, leading to an engrossing read.
We all know Batman's origin. It's one of those things we're exposed to as a child. Here, we don't see it from day one, but it's younger Bruce. Hotheaded and out for justice. He's a bit sloppy and understands that he has to up the ante on criminals at large. At this point, Bruce Wayne is the disguise, and the creature of the night lurking inside of him is about to be unleashed. Bruce thinking he should operate as more of an urban legend and not be seen at all is a nice touch. The first part to the story just feels different as well. FCO lightened his color palette and for a moment, Gotham actually seems brighter. Perhaps coincidentally, Capullo's take on the younger Bruce reminds me of Bruce from The Batmananimated series.  
Tynion's approach to younger Gordon and how he makes a character out of a piece of Bat-lore, the Bat Signal, is impressive to say the least. But it's his handle on Tim Drake, Dick Grayson and Jason Todd that's the real page-turner; each with their own separate attitude and characteristics that will set them on different paths later on in life. The scene with Tim is possibly one of my favorite moments I've read all year. It's a shame he's not handled like this elsewhere.
Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion bring their usual A-game to the fold with some neat action shots. Even with the more subtle moments, like Bruce and Gordon talking on a rooftop, it's never boring. You can still see the intensity in Bruce's eyes and Gordon's calm nature almost leap out at you. Also, FCO giving a younger Gordon the same colors as Richard Lewis gave him back in Batman: Year One is a nice nod. Again, Team Batman molds this world around existing mythos, but still adds their own flavor to the batch. Andy Clarke is back again, and while last issue he was paired with Becky Cloonan, his style feels more at home here with Capullo and Glapion with his crosshatching and rendered linework. While I did find some of Clarke's facial expressions a bit goofy, the rest of his compositions are stellar and adds a certain level of grit to Gotham.
Batman #0 is a great example of how Scott Snyder and company have taken Batman to a whole new level. It's no wonder why it's the top-selling book of the company. There's more to this book aside from it just being Batman-related — it's opening a world that both a new generation and even older fans can enjoy. It's always fun to see where Bruce got all those wonderful toys and witness the man he was before donning the cape and cowl. While September is still early, this is a contender for the book of the month.

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt
Written by Steve Darnall and Alex Ross
Art by Jonathan Lau and Vinicius Andrade
Lettering by Simon Bowland
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Review by Lan Pitts
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Being fresh to the Charlton heroes line aside from the Ditko creations, I thought I'd dive into Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt and came out loving it. Dynamite has been very hit-or-miss with their superhero universe, but this one really takes the idea of deconstructing heroes and kept me engaged. All I really know about the character is that he is the inspiration for Ozymandias ofWatchmen fame, so going in almost blindly was a good way to go about this.
The approach here is more realistic in the case that if somebody with superhuman abilities did just pop out of nowhere, the world would erupt with a mixed reaction of panic and hope. This world doesn't have superheroes, so when a dragon supposedly rises from a nuclear bomb testing, a masked man comes forth and defeats the dragon. This is Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt. With an ashcan by his creator, Peter Morisi, that is essentially a printing of a story DC never got around to publish, you can see that it's more of a straightforward superhero story and what the character is about. I feel that writers Steve Darnell and Alex Ross are taking the more Ozymandias approach to the character, but still keeping him entertaining and not repetitive of things we've seen before.
Jonathan Lau's art is pitch-perfect for a series like this. Though the issue is dialogue heavy, there's still plenty of action and different ways to handle those scenes of just two characters interacting. I wasn't bored by it, and I felt sucked into this world and the larger than life hero. His rendering is really tight, but I feel some of the visuals come across as lackluster due to Vinicius Andrade's colors. Everything just seems half-done. There are maybe a handful of panels that really come across as well done, but the rest just have their potential held back by the pallet used here.
I'm always on the hunt for new books to whet my appetite and Dynamite hit the spot with this one. Darnell and Ross hopefully have great things in mind planned for Mr. Cannon, and let's see where they can take us from here.

The Wheel of Time #29
Written by Chuck Dixon
Art by Francis Nuguit and Nicholas Chapuis
Lettering by Bill Tortolini
Published by Dynamte Entertainment
Review by Lan Pitts
'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10
Being a Wheel of Time fan, having patience is a prerequisite. And with the comic adaptation being so-so to very bad, I've almost run out of mine dealing with it. Which is sad as Robert Jordan was hailed as the American Tolkien, and I read these books as a pre-teen to, well, now, I grew up thinking what a great comic this would make. I just wish it could get some decent artists on it. Just for once.
Chuck Dixon does his best to adapt Jordan's hefty script and brings out the best dialogue from each scene. Each character is captured well enough, as it's almost verbatim. As a fan, I do like seeing certain scenes coming to the page as the first book (which we're still in) I remember the most of. He makes sure to represent each of the Emond Field boys as accurate as possible and I get a bit nostalgic. His mixture of using Jordan's narration with the bits of dialogue work well together, but I'd like to just see the book without the narration from the book and having the story told without them just to give it a better flow at times.
Now, here's the big problem. Francis Nuguit's art is fine but... well, boring. The thin linework reminds of me Joe Eisma, but without the flair or personality. Drawing these characters that are full of imagination, the visuals should be enchanting. Instead, we get stoic poses and mild facial expressions. I do like how he handled Mat from being sick with the dagger to still looking okay, but it's not perfect. I remember the transition in the book wasn't a complete success and that's conveyed here. The way how he draws Perrin and Loial should be commended, too, but that's about it. Nicholas Chapuis' colors are average at best, but does nothing to elevate the already mediocre art.
One has to wonder how things are going to get when the more battle-heavy issues come around. We still haven't made it to the Eye of the World yet, and I hope the art team is up to the challenge to do the story justice. Dixon is doing a bang-up job, let's see what happens when you pair him with a worthy visual storyteller.

Damsels #1
Written by Leah Moore and John Reppion
Art by Aneke and Ivan Nunes
Lettering by Scott Bowland
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Review by Lan Pitts
'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10
With fairy tales being this year's vampires, a lot of material is coming out with different variations to folklore and Brothers Grimm stories. Damsels, though, takes a unique approach, but it's so scattered, I'm not really sure what is going on.
From the beginning, we're automatically thrown into a wild chase scene with a girl that I'm guessing is our main character. Some hints of her origin are there, but still remain a mystery. She's not even named and simply referred to as "Outlander" and other things of the sort. And for some reason, the Sleeping Beauty analogue is none too pleased with her. It's a fantasy world where magic is seemingly forbidden and fairies are bought as pets.
Aneke's art is pretty good, though. The style has an old-school comic book flair to it, but still modern enough to be pleasing to the eye. The way some shots are used has a very cinematic take, but I'm still trying to sort out what is going on. The panel construction is a little nonsensical at times and makes the page even more claustrophobic. There is a scene at the end with a back-and-forth approach on two scenarios taking place at the same time. While it's clever to take that artistic route, the story itself doesn't make all that much sense in the end.
I really do love Ivan Nunes' coloring job on here. I think a weaker or less talented artist would have made a mess of the busier pages, but Nunes handles the situation with a certain amount of confidence that has to be admired. His palette really brightens things up and does a great job separating all the things on the page. Nothing is wasted and color just saturates each panel. It's pretty to look at even if you're trying to catch up to the story.
I'm keen to the idea of an action/fantasy story with a female perspective, more so if the idea is about the princess archetype being flipped on its head and calamity ensues from there. Yet Damsels leaves too many questions floating about and not enough intrigue for me to really invest more time in. Interesting concepts all around, but still, too much at once and nothing comes across as cohesive to really want to come back for more.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Saga #5 and Batman #12

Saga #5
Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Fiona Staples
Lettering by Fonografiks
Published by Image Comics
Review by Lan Pitts
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
With the opening page of a royal robot on the toilet, it's going to hit you that this is something out of the ordinary. Yet, if you're five issues into Saga and you haven't figured out that out, you might want to check up on your observation skills. Saga continues to push the boundaries on story developments and this issue gets downright gruesome.
If there's one thing Brian K. Vaughan knows how to do, it's engaging the reader into wanting to come back for more. At the end of the last issue, it looked like Marko, Alana, and little Hazel were about to be in for a fight. That fight turns into a slaughter. You want to root for Marko defending his family, and it's rough to see him like this, especially when he's taken a vow of peace. Another cool concept is Vaughan still fleshing out the notorious freelance assassin The Will. Having to escape with a child sex slave he freed was more problematic than he had thought. Of course, in addition to that subplot, his counterpart The Stalk — who also has one of the most badass designs in a comic I've seen in a while — ends up in her own sticky situation, with the last splash page leaving her fate uncertain. It looks like this might be it, but with this book you never can be assured of anything.
Now on to Fiona Staples laying out some serious stuff. The rage of Marko is shown violently, but paced in a way that gives it just enough time to show what he's capable of without slowing down the overall issue. She is terrific at displaying emotion through body language, and that has to come in handy when you're working with a character whose head looks like a TV monitor. She even gives Hazel the perfect baby smile and Lying Cat some of the best expressions you'll find on non-humanoids. She's stuck to a really solid color palette that gives the right amount of detail and just goes crazy with it. The backgrounds are kept to a minimum, unlike last issue, but are still nothing sneeze at.
I am not sure how many times I can express how good Saga is without overly gushing about it. It's completely enchanted me and to wait for the next installments are always a chore, but it's one of the best books on the market and one of the most original I've read in a long, long time. Saga sports some solid storytelling, great characters and visuals that stay with you.


Batman #12
Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Art by Becky Cloonan, Andy Clarke, Sandu Florea, and FCO Plascencia
Lettering by Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Published by DC
Review by Lan Pitts
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Talk about a palate cleanser.
No Court. No owls. Hardly any Batman, much less Bruce Wayne. No,Batman #12 is something quite different from the year-long struggle Batman has had with the Court of Owls. Back in issue #7, Harper Row was shown briefly helping Batman the best she could, and there was a hint of history between the two. Now, we see what started it all and how Harper tried helping Batman the first time around.
The main thing going into this issue was the knowledge that Harper would be the central viewpoint. It would be about her world and how she came about assisting Batman. Life hasn't been the best for Harper and her brother, Cullen, but they make the best of things out of what they have.
It's always interesting to see how Batman is seen through different Gothamites and after he saves Harper and Cullen from a group of thugs, she wants to find out more. Harper's Bat-obsession is what you might expect out of somebody that has seen this urban legend of Gotham up close and personal. Neither Scott Snyder nor James Tynion IV dumb Harper or Cullen down while making sure they aren't too juvenile.
However, you can definitely see a difference between the two writers on how they approach the character. It's odd to see Snyder not writing a majority of Batman here as Tynion handles the confrontation at the end between Harper and Bats. Tynion doesn't use Snyder's approach of heavy narration, and is more of a "show, don't tell" kind of writer. He lets Andy Clarke do a lot of the visual storytelling and does a decent enough job presenting the end of the story, even if they only have seven pages to deal with.
Speaking of, that's one thing I found difficult to get past. The book has been hyped as Becky Cloonan's debut in the bat-verse, but she only has art duties on a little over half the issue. Then Andy Clarke comes in and finishes it off. The two styles definitely clash and it's almost disjointing. It's like taking a bite out of an apple and it end up tasting like a taco.
That said, neither artists are off their game by any means. I'd love to see either take on a full issue of work in this universe, but the two together just doesn't mesh well. Cloonan has smoother lines, which certainly adds to Harper's femininity, while Clarke's rendering and crosshatching layers on a more serious tone. With Clarke's work reminding of a mix of Brian Bolland and Joe Kubert, it works out where the two teams are almost the opposite of one another. To be honest, it really threw me off.
Issues like this are important in long runs like Snyder's and the rest of Team Batman. It gives a nice moment to get some air and enjoy a change of pace. Snyder has assured we'll see more of Harper, and hopefully that will happen soon. She's a great character to have around and was fun to read. I just can't wrap my head around the conflicting art contributions.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Batman #11: Court of the Owls finale.

Batman #11
Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Art by Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, Rafael Albuquerque, Dave McCaig and FCO Plascencia
Lettering by Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt, and Dezi Sienty
Published by DC Comics
Review by Lan Pitts
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
This is it. This is Rocky and Ivan Drago. He-Man and Skeletor. Cain and Abel. Batman #11 gives us the showdown that has been escalating for some time now. Does Batman prevail? Will Lincoln March live on to fight another day to haunt Bruce? Scott Snyder and the rest of Team Batman give us quite the battle, but nothing is ever black and white in Gotham City.
Jumping in right immediately from the last panel of the previous issue, Batman and his so-called brother duke it out all across Gotham with Lincoln getting the upper hand for the majority of the fight. When Bruce finally gets some hits in, he makes sure they count and the two cause some serious collateral damage to the city.
I think given the ending that Snyder has presented is the best route to have gone. Nothing is definite and gives Bruce a mystery he can't solve. The fact that Snyder also makes clear is how nobody owns Gotham is a poignant lesson. Lincoln has some great dialogue here as he's the main voice of the issue. His taunts to Bruce really show his mental instability and given time, will be a fine addition to the already legendary Batman rogues gallery. I do think that Bruce's ending monologue is a tad cliche at the end, and could have been punched up a bit. However, it is definitely an exclamation point for the end of this arc.
The back-up feature continuing Jarvis Pennyworth's story has more emotional weight, especially with Alfred and Bruce at the end. Alfred is more than the butler, or the confidant; he's the voice of reason. Both Bruce and Alfred lost somebody dear to them because of the Court, but where Bruce is determined to want to solve the mystery of Lincoln's heritage and put an end to the ambiguity, Alfred insists that they leave things at rest. This makes sense, and it adds to the whole overall lesson that Gotham is not just a city, but a force of its own.
You have great art teams on this. What can be said about Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, and FCO that hasn't been said over and over. They are just dynamite, and Capullo really has established himself as one of DC's top artists and shown a whole new generation why he's a superstar. He's definitely won me over and I'll be on the lookout for whatever he puts out in the future. The best thing about this art team, that even with the more weaker dialogue, the scenes are still elevated to greater levels because the visuals are just that strong.
Over at the back-up, the mainstay art team of Albuquerque and McCaig literally burn the roof off the place and handle both the intense moments and more subtle ones with ease and panache, you'd easily would want a Bat-book with just them.
Batman #11 gives its readers the finale to something nobody was really expecting: a year long arc that establishes not only a new villain, but a new premise about Gotham City. Bruce has been pushed to the edge and he still fights another day. It's a strong book and one certainly labeled a can't miss one to read. This might be the finale to "The Court of Owls," but it's not an end. Kudos, Team Batman. Kudos.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Alice update by Adam Hicks

Adam got to the inking phase and made some slight alterations. I think he's planning on making a print out of this eventually. My Alice collection has been pretty mild as of late, but this is going to rock it hard.

Blast from the kind of Past: Saga #2 and 3 and Batman #10

 Saga #2
Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Fiona Staples
Lettering by Fonografiks
Published by Image
Review by Lan Pitts
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Last issue, Brian K. Vaughan established a universe that we see rarely in comics these days, rich in culture and political warfare, and filled with characters we instantly grew to love and root for. Here, we have our heroes and their newborn still on the run, and get a bigger scope on this universe as a whole. There's bounty hunters, magic and teenage woodland ghosts that I'm still not exactly quite sure what to think of. Vaughan's ability to seamlessly weave multiple characters into a single cohesive plot is quite the feat. Especially when you consider that these characters are literally worlds apart. I'll hand it to him with some of the dialogue here. We know that Marko and Alana are a couple, but here we seen their interactions and can actually believe it. The secret that Alana tells Marko that aids a spell is priceless, and Marko's devotion to his wife and daughter is obvious and clear.

In just two issues, Vaughan has told a love story, a war story, and a story about survival in a strange world that a lot of writers on the scene today would drag out. Here, nothing is wasted — every bit of dialogue counts for something and adds to the story instead of boggling it down. Again, Fiona Staples shines and brings her art to a whole other stratosphere.

Her talent to just give life to the inhabitants of these worlds is astounding. The design alone for the bounty hunter known as The Stalk is something to behold. The imagery close to the end balances contemporary horror with slices of sci-fi for good measure. While the layouts were still impressive, there were some pages that I thought could have been opened up a bit more, but nothing came across as boring or mundane. Her great use of facial expressions is top-notch and really sell the emotions of the characters involved. The muted palette is perfect for her style. It's laid-back, and makes her linework stand out all that much more. Saga continues to weave it's magic on me and captivate me with far-out world, and monstrous creations.

Honestly, if you haven't picked this up by now, you're more than just missing out—you're denying yourself a book that demonstrates the beauty of what the comic book medium can present to its audience.

 Saga #3
Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Fiona Staples
Lettering by Fonografiks
Published by Image Comics
Review by Lan Pitts
'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Three issues in, and Saga continues its trend of being a perfect blend of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. It has maintained the quality of the last two issues with Brian K. Vaughan spearheading even more world-building and monster-making. With Marko injured, Alan makes a deal with one of the ghosts of the planet and learns something quite interesting about Marko that makes me still love the idea that anything can truly happen here. Vaughan has some of the best dialog so far in this issue.

Since the story still spans other worlds, the interactions between the more minor players builds, and we get an idea on how vast the story truly goes. Prince Robot IV is becoming one of my favorite villains here. Not just because he's just unique-looking by comparison to most comic book villains, but his demeanor is just a combination of menacing and wacky. Also the premise of how some planets' evolutionary process of some species is just so imaginative, you can't help but silently applaud.

The introduction to Izabel, the girl ghost, is a nice touch. Adding a bit of whimsy, and fun to an otherwise serious tone. The threesome of Alana, Marko, and baby Hazel become a foursome as they try to get ingredients to heal Marko. It's during this that a possible revelation about Marko is uncovered and leaves with you an "oh, crap" moment. Fiona Staples' art is a bit quieter here, but the panels still have a solid flow to them. The way she handles simple interactions like Alana and Izabel talking about kids, to the more complex, like Robot beating the holy hell out of a prisoner. It's all done with a certain level of gravitas so you can't keep your eyes off the page.

The more I think about it, the more I applaud her choice in the pallet used here. It's muted at times, but really complements the book as a whole. You still get the richness of the world around the characters, but it's not too distracting and overpowering. Her grasp on facial expressions is top notch which gives these characters actual, you know, character. Perfect example of this is how Izabel is handled.

Saga is one of the books that has supercharged the comic market. In so little time, it's become one of my favorite books of the year, and the only limit is Vaughan's creativity. By the rare chance you aren't reading this, you are missing out on what is simply a must-read.
Batman #10
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion and FCO Plascencia
Lettering by Richard Starkings and Jimmy B
Published by DC Comics
Review by Lan Pitts
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
There has been a large amount of speculation leading up to this issue on who is behind the Court of Owls and who will face Batman in one final showdown. The curveball thrown here is a big-time swerve as Scott Snyder pulls the rug out of all of us and catches us off-guard. What he's also done is create a great antithesis for Bruce Wayne and Batman as well that leaves you in anticipation for their last battle.

 Yes, we still have one more issue until this new villain and Batman slug it out, so here we have the revelation and Snyder playing up Bats' detective skills. He's really laid the groundwork since Day One on how this will play out, and looking back it's all there. It's not obvious at first, but once it hits you, it'll make sense. Though, the big reveal isn't what's really going on. Between the back-up feature with the Jarvis Pennyworth backstory, and this issue, it all comes together in one nice puzzle.

I think Bruce's monologues are the strongest here because he does taste a bit of defeat in the middle of the issue. It's interesting to see Batman really struggle here trying to get to the bottom of things, and keep coming up short. As I mentioned, Bruce's detective skills are keen enough to where he does figure it out, and we're back to the villain and Batman spelling it out for us. I think the dialogue gets in the way of the action in this last scene, and we're left shaking our fists wanting to see the throwdown right then and there.

 So, what about Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion that hasn't already been mentioned? There is a lot going on here scene-wise, and both penciler and inker bring their collective A-game and really knock it out of the park. The moody atmosphere that Snyder has envisioned comes to life here as Capullo and Glapion smother the underbelly with graffiti, dirt, and ghosts of the past — it's amazing how seamlessly they can change settings and nail every bit of Gotham seen here so wonderfully. There are some panels, of course, that I thought could have used a stronger delivery, especially with the big reveal. It's not distracting, but when you get an understated revelation when you're anticipating a huge denouement, it leaves you wondering. Still, the artistic treatment of Gotham as not just a city, but an embodiment all its own, is tremendous. Add a fine layer of dank colors to add to the seediness of Gotham by FCO Plascencia, and you've got a great-looking book.

It's been almost a year since the relaunch of DC's publishing line, and Snyder was a good fit to lead the way and give this book a proper direction. Capullo is certainly a breakout star because of it, and the two work great together and have brought us something definitely new to Batman. I love the approach that there are certain things in the Batman mythology that are deemed unchangeable — well, Snyder here may have just laid a game-changer on us all.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Letting a month go by, but hey, new art in progress

Adam Hicks is working his magic again. Soon it will be a fine addition to my Alice collection. I will have my other reviews from the past month on here tomorrow. I just keep forgetting and also to redo the last post and reconfigure the image sizes. Yikes.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Let's play catch up. Batman #8, and Swamp Thing #7

 Swamp Thing #7 
Written by Scott Snyder 
Art by Yanick Paquette and Nathan Fairburn 
Lettering by Travis Lanham 
Published by DC Comics 
Review by Lan Pitts 
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

 Swamp Thing, you are amazing.

Having essentially been depowered by the Parliament of Trees, and Abigail Arcane captured by the force known as Sethe, Alec Holland has to face some hard choices and will confront even harder challenges that soon lie ahead. Scott Snyder and company are taking the first step into a world we haven't seen since Alan Moore's take on the character, and even elevates it from there.

 Right off the bat, we're diving into some deep territory here. Holland is being confronted by the Parliament and trialed on basically being too weak, from there he has to earn the right to be a force of nature again, but his reasons differ from that of the Parliament and makes him all that much more human. Snyder does not shy away from usual style of using heavy narration, especially here to demonstrate the transformation of becoming a swamp thing entails, but it's actually much less from his Batman work in the past and present. Here, it's mainly a conversation between Holland and the Trees about the good of man, and his weakness. It's pretty thought provoking, and really gives you an idea of who Holland/Swamp Thing is as a man, monster, and hero.

Without knowing much Swamp Thing mythos, everything is almost spelled out for you and potential new readers could jump right in. Now seriously, Yanick Paquette is a powerhouse here. Using vines and a quasi-nouveau floral pattern to break up the panel construction is still ingenious and gives you a sense of mysticism and sets it apart from the rest of DC's catalog right now. On top of that, you have a some brilliant, yet horrific, imagery of Swamp Thing's world that really echoes his horror roots. It's gory, but visually striking. Paquette is going near J.H. Williams III Detective Comics territory here. Nathan Fairburn is quickly becoming one of my favorite colorists in the field. His rich pallet saturates Paquette's lines, but still distinguishes itself from the characters and environment and doesn't take away from what Paquette does here, but shines it up to perfection. His use of reds and yellows here are just golden and really makes the greens stand out all the much more.

 If you've been wondering about getting into Swamp Thing but not exactly sure where to start, I say at the very least try here. The one flaw here is that it's all set up for the things to come, but you get the gist of what's going on and what's at stake. Snyder hasn't compromised the characters history, but condensed it to make it more tangible for readers unfamiliar with the Swampy universe. --------------------

Batman #8 
Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV 
Art by Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, Rafael Albuquerque, Nathan Fairburn and FCO Plascencia 
Lettering by Richard Starkings and Patrick Brosseau 
Published by DC Comics Review by Lan Pitts 
'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
 "Get the hell out of my house."
This is how you start a crossover event. Since the relaunch of Batman, he's come to terms with learning about a secret society that is hatching plans for complete domination. They have broken him mentally and left him physically drained. The Court of Owls. Leading up to this moment, Bruce Wayne went after them on their turf, but here, the Court comes a knockin' and Bruce and Alfred defend the manor and cave the best they can. Although they are outnumbered, they aren't unmatched. Starting right off the first few pages, Greg Capullo's panel structure breathes some cinematic air onto the pages. The multitude of shots used to cover Gotham City is beautiful right next to the stern silouette of Bruce standing alone in his parlor. An image I'm sure will be a classic, given time. Another good example of this is Bruce going into the cave and seeing that they are already in there.

Scott Snyder handles Batman as we haven't seen him in a long while: at wit's end and nearly defeated. But quick on his feet and hands, ready to take down the foes invading his home with some pretty good results. Snyder upped his dialog here and we really see Alfred and Bruce working as a team, at times showing the famed butler's more comedic side. There is a distinct difference in how Snyder writes Batman and Bruce Wayne this time around. There are mild echoes of Dick Grayson as Batman as Bruce takes down some attackers. Almost quipping away as he breaks a man's arm.

Of course, the back up having Snyder team up with his American Vampire collaborater, Rafael Albuquerque as well as newcomer James Tynion IV. It's weird to see Dave McCaig's colors layer his work, but Nathan Fairburn does great work here, still implementing a warmer pallet than FCO and it's interanesting to see the two worlds collide like that. Along with all of that, you see that sort of stranglehold the Court has Gotham in. Capullo and Glapion's art is brilliant here. Together, they do some great layouts and double-page spreads. This issue heavy on the action, and the art teams pulls no punches. Capullo's eye for detail is in top form here. The crooks and nannies of the cave and Bruce's furniture are highlighted, but doesn't come across as over bearing. Clapion's inks are consistent, and very sharp. There's a lot of energy going on in almost every page.

The back-up, "The Call", features Albuquerque's usual style of broad strokes, and heavy inks, really go hand in hand with the heaviness of the situation at large. We're treated to his great handle of facial expressions and some more double-page spreads. The last one of these setting the ground work for what's to come with the crossover for Night of the Owls. It's just old-fashioned cool with a modern polish. Bruce fighting off the Court in just his night robe for the majority of the issue, shows you the fortitude this man possess. The Batcave is supposed to be his impentrable fortress, but having the Court overwhelming Bruce, also displays their cunning and strength in numbers. With Snyder multitasking duties on books, you'd think he'd run thin eventually. Batman #8 proves that the best is yet to come.