THE RETURN OF REVIEWSWith the recent spate of convention reports, I'm afraid I've fallen terribly far behind on reviewing the comics, themselves. Some of them are just going to have to be lost in the crunch. In the meantime, however, here are some of the books that have come out in the past three weeks that haven't been discussed in this column.
There are weeks when I could just spend an entire column reviewing books Chuck Dixon has written. This isn't because of my great affection for his work, but just because the man writes so darn many books every month. If you add in the various mini-series and one-shots and annuals he pumps out, you get an easy five books a month from him.
This month, he has two interesting books outside of his normal monthly assignments.
The first is BATMAN: GOTHAM ADVENTURES #29. It's a fill-in issue to give the normal terrific Scott Peterson/Tim Levins team a break. It features Robin trying to solve the mystery of Batman's poisoning before it's too late. Yeah, go fig: The guy who writes NIGHTWING and ROBIN guest-writes an issue of GOTHAM ADVENTURES and features a Robin in it! The Penguin, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy also feature prominently in this story. That should give you a hint right off the top that there will be some humor in this book. For an issue featuring a race against the clock to save Batman's life, it's amazingly light-hearted. Remember, Robin is much more prone to spouting one-liners than the Dark Knight is.
The story, "6 Hours To Live," is much more humorous and non-stop than an issue penned by Peterson. I don't mean this as a complaint. It's just a different style of book. Whereas Peterson usually works in a moral or a question mark at the end of every issue, Dixon just plows ahead with the story, throwing in a few action sequences and a convincing ending.
Joe Staton fills in on the art and does a good job. This is solid story telling with a good grasp for the character model sheets. It looks different than Levins, for sure. He tends to use thicker, bolder lines in his art, whereas Levins' stuff has a more animated look, devoid of the sculpted line. Levins relies more on the colorist for that dimensionality.
Dixon's other book this month is DOOM #1, the first of a four-part mini-series. Dixon has said he has great affection for Doom, and it shows here. Doom is a strong-willed, strong-bodied, scheming machine of terror. The mini-series picks up with Doom banished to Doom World, after the events in recent issue of FANTASTIC FOUR. These four issues promise to be a telling of the story of how Doctor Doom gets his life back together. The first issue includes Doom's first not-tentative steps towards that goal.
Leonardo Manco provides the artwork here, as he did for John Ostrander's BLAZE OF GLORY almost a year ago now. It's beautiful, haunting, detailed, and crazed work. I wish I could describe it better, but every page shows a terrible amount of time put into its creation. He leaves nothing in the bag, as it were.
The first issue is very entertaining, very character-driven, and promises to include lots more of interest. Dixon's formula for success works here, as well. Doom gets the chance to fight nature, man, and technology all in the course of one issue. Doom is like a force of nature, able to fight anything he needs to in pursuit of his goal. You'll easily find yourself rooting for the villain in this piece.
THE COW SPECIAL SPRING/SUMMER 2000 #1 is the unwieldy title of Top Cow's new comic magazine, devoted to all things sprouting from Marc Silvestri's studio. It's not quite MARVEL AGE. It's rather light and breezy. In fact, aside from a pretty good introduction to the world of computer coloring by Steve Firchow and the lead comic by Lobdell and Silvestri, the magazine is a miss. There's a pin-up, some mindless and short interviews, and some pictures of the studio. That's it.
However, long-time Image fans such as myself will want to pick this up for the eight-page story written by Scott Lobdell and drawn by Marc Silvestri and Danny Miki. It's the return of CyberForce! Called "CF2" now - probably because it's "kewler" - the story features Velocity and her return to the world of Cyber Force. (I'm assuming Velocity is featured because she's young and provides the opportunity for balloon breasts in the opening splash.)
The art is nice, the story raises some interesting concepts, and the coloring works well. I don't know when the new series or mini-series is set to take off, but I'm looking forward to it. I really hope Silvestri sticks to drawing it, though. It wouldn't be the same without him. Besides, wouldn't it be cool for another of the Image founders to return to the drawing board?
I have to admit that I haven't read an issue of Dan Jurgens' run on CAPTAIN AMERICA until now. The truth is that it's one of those series I've been buying all along, but just fell behind on reading. Seriously, I think the last issue of the series I read was in the teens somewhere. In fact, Cap was still using his holographic shield projector thingy.
Yes, it's been a while.
I decided to cut my losses this weekend and read CAPTAIN AMERICA #33. I'm glad I did. This is an interesting take on the character, and Jurgens is doing a great many things right with him. For starters, this Cap is much more grounded. I can respect and appreciate Mark Waid wanting to take Cap to places he's never been and meeting characters he shouldn't have a prayer against. At the end of the day, however, Cap belongs on the streets somewhere in America. He deserves to be battling issues of the mind more than issues of pure power. He works better as a street-level superhero than a super-powered hero. That's what Jurgens has returned him to.
Jurgens also manages to show us a slightly stodgier Cap than we might normally see. Played against his partner, The Falcon, Cap is battling against issues of the day in a way we might expect our fathers to. He's prone to make quick judgment of people with multiple piercings and to get lost in the sea of information known as the internet. He is truly back to being a man lost in his time, but not to the point of paralysis.
While I'm a bit hesitant about the Protocide character, I do have to admit that he makes quite a splashy debut in this issue. Check out the last couple of pages for what I mean here. Ouch. This should prove an interesting challenge for Cap.
Artistically, this is one of those reunions I've been waiting for for a long time. The Dan Jurgens/Art Thibert team was one of my first favorites when I first started reading comics. They did the first issues of a Superman comic that I ever picked up. It was slick, stylish, and contemporary with their times. Thibert's inking style has changed a lot since then. I can't honestly say that I see as drastic a difference in Jurgens' art. It might be different in so far as the storytelling is slicker or the layout more interesting, but at first glace, the noticeable change in the artwork is in the finished line work. Thibert isn't using the short, hatching lines he used to use. These lines are more considered, straighter, and cleaner. His spotting of blacks and shadows has progressed tremendously, too. He's not relying on the colorist for issues of dimensionality.
And Greg Wright does an excellent job with a muted color palette in this book. It doesn't rely so much on sculpted colors and gradients and other dramatic computer effects. It's mostly flat with some nice highlights. It works really well, except early in the night scenes where it gets so dark that it's tough to make everything out. It actually reminds me a lot of Pat Garrahy's coloring on POWERS right now. Just a simplistic set of colors that doesn't overpower the art.
Finally, THE SENTRY #1 is definitely worth a try. I'm running out of time to give it a full review, but I do think the first issue is entertaining and worthy of your time. Not only do you get Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee back together after THE INHUMANS, but you also get the bonus of colors by Jose Villarrubia.
It's a wonderfully moody tale with great promise. You have to ask yourself, "Is this guy really the superhero that he thinks he is, or just an alcoholic?" That's the crux of the series so far, and it's a wonderful premise. Of course, if you caught the Marvel Knights panel in Chicago, you know the answer to that already. If you didn't, the series will probably be even more entertaining.
This first issue shows The Sentry in various time periods of comics, complete with changes in artistic style. I'm a little bit leery of that approach by now. I think we've seen it overworked by now, but judging by the previews I've seen of upcoming issues, that's limited to this first issue. It's a neat way to establish The Sentry's presence throughout the past.
So grab it at your local comics shops this week before the second issue comes out. I think you'll enjoy it.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO… ?!?
S. Clarke Hawbaker? He drew a few issues of the NOMAD series that Fabian Nicieza wrote eight or nine years ago. He did beautiful work, although he seemed to be pretty slow with it. I just ran across his name while looking at some older books.Does anyone know whatever happened to him? I'm assuming he's out of the comics industry by now, which is a real shame.Heck, whatever happened to Chris Wozniak? I thought he was poised for a comeback a couple of years ago, when he drew an issue of Marvel's WHAT IF -- ?!? His style had morphed into a bad Chris Bachalo rip-off, but I still have fond memories of his EXACLIBUR stuff back around 1990 or 1991.
COMING UPFriday features the final epic chapter in my Wizard World con report, along with a bunch of pictures. Next Friday will be a look at some previews. These are books that won't be out until at least September. If you weren't able to make it out to any of the cons to read copies, don't worry about it; I'll do that for you. =)
Next Tuesday will be the usual assortment of reviews and commentary on issues of the day, whatever they may happen to be.
See you then!