Some comics have a large amount of text. Whether this takes the form of speech, internal character dialogue, or narration, the job of the letter is still the same: they have to include all of the text without diminishing the art or disrupting the narrative flow.
There are ‘rules’ about the amount of words that a comic book page should include, Alan Moore famously was obsessed by his own word count and he stated in an interview with the Zarjaz fanzine:
“it you’ve got six panels on a page, then the maximum number of words you should have in each panel is 35. No more. That’s the maximum. 35 words per panel. Also, if a balloon has more than 20 or 25 words in it, it’s going to look too big.”
This was based on advice given to him when he worked for DC Comics and it formed the basis for his own work. Anyone who has read Alan Moore’s comics will come to expect heavy word counts and layer upon layer of information per panel; it is the way he works after all.
But not everyone is used to that intensity and coming across a comic that has a lot of text can be daunting, which is why it is important that the lettering gets it right.This year I have seen examples of comics getting it right and, some, getting it very wrong. Earlier in the year I compared the recent Go-Bots comic with an old Tales From The Crypt to illustrate a point about heavy text based stories (Fig 1 below).
This month IDW Publishing released issue one of Pandemica, written by Jonathan Maberry. It is obvious from reading the comic that Maberry is an accomplished novelist and this is reflected in his dense script. Despite a number of action sequences, Maberry packs the page with conversation and narration, with some pages running up words counts over 220 across five panels. These pages stand out in the comic, instantly noticeable for their word count on the turn of the page. , However, letterer Shawn Lee handles the heavy workload superbly. He turns a difficult word count into a wonderful storytelling experience.
There are two examples of placement I am going to look at from Pandemica #1 that illustrate Lee’s technique, both of which are about leading the reader across a page.
In example one (Fig 2), a conversation is happening off panel about the spread of an unknown infection through certain area’s of America. The text is in caption boxes laid over images showing the effects of the infection. One element of the page, the text, is about the cause and the other element, the images, are about the effect. Together they combine to give the reader a fuller picture of the situation.
This page is about the horrific nature of the infection with the text hinting at a greater conspiracy. To portray this through the text Lee has decided to make the images the focal point with the narration almost in the background, like a voice being drowned out by the horror and death. Lee accomplishes this by keeping the caption boxes to the top and side of the panels.
There is a clear line for the reader to follow through the visuals, down the centre of the panels, taking in the worst of the infection. Lee then places the text in a way to facilitate this reading. The reader follows the text across the top of the page and down the right hand side mirroring the natural flow of the images.
The text does not interfere with the images but instead draws attention to them allowing the reader to digest both the visual and social outcomes of the unknown infection.
The second example follows directly from the first. On the next page Dr Katz, one of the central characters of the comic, is being interviewed for a television news programme. The very nature of the scene makes it speech heavy as the question and answers flow back and forth.
On this page, artist Alex Sanchez is trying to relay as much information about the character of Dr Katz as possible through the use of body language. The confidence and potential arrogance of the man is illustrated using facial expressions and the positioning of his limbs.
To assist this reading and emphasis the subtle visuals, Lee positions the speech balloons in a diagonal reading line across the page from the top left to the bottom right (Fig 3). The reading line brings the reader into contact with Dr Katz in each panel helping to focus on the man’s body language. As you read his answers to the questions posed, you can’t help but notice the smirk upon his face and his slouched position within his chair.
Letterers sometimes have the hardest jobs. They have to work with a script already written, art already drawn, and often have little say in either. It is their job to place all of the required text on the page to make it easy for the reader to follow while at the same time not infringing on the narrative. A good letterer can make the speech appear invisible on the page, serving its purpose in telling the story, however a great letterer incorporates the text into the storytelling process, enhancing the reading experience.
In Pandemica Shawn Lee does just that; he uses the large amount of text to lead the reader around the page, highlighting specific elements of the panels, and contrasting the speech with the visuals.
He enhances the reading experience and turns a potential textual quagmire into a visual treat.
Another week, another stack of comics from the shop.
Although smaller than some weeks, it's quality not quantity that counts, and there have been some superb comics this week.
My first recommendation is Postal Deliverance from Top Cow. I've been following this series from issue 1 and it has been getting better month after month. The short break between the original Postal series and this follow up has given Bryan Hill and Raffaele Ienco a chance to work on their ideas. And it shows, especially in this issue, as this is some of their best work. My review can be found via this here link.
Coffin Bound #2 from Image Comics is outstanding. There's not much I can add to my review (here) so I'm not going to try. But if I was you, I'd be out there, hunting down a copy before they've all been snatched up.
My third review is for Pandemica #1 from IDW Publishing. I found this a much more intriguing comic than I was expecting. Not perfect, and in places over written, but a good start with a fresh approach to an end-of-the-world story. Review link....here.
My final review link is for Trees: Three Fates. I love Warren Ellis' work and the Trees series has been magnificent so I'm really looking forward to it's return. Hopefully my local comic shop remembered to order it for me ...
They didn't. So I will have to wait until I can source a copy but here's a review from one of my colleagues over at MonkeysFightingRobots
I made few change to my Pull List today. I've ordered a number, but not all, of the new X-Men comics that are coming out. There's no way I can afford to buy them all but there are a few I really want to read. The X-Men title itself, because Hickman!, but also Marauders because one of the lead characters is Kitty Pryde who also happens to be one of my favourite X-Men characters. Plus pirates and the Hellfire Club! What's not to love.
I've also cancelled a few comics. Firstly Deaths Head. I know it's only a limited series but I haven't finished reading issue 2 so I don't see the point in buying 2 more comics I'm not going to read. I do enjoy the character but I think that this new version is trying just a little be too hard to be 'cool'. It's appeal probably lies with a younger audience and I hope it proves popular so that the character can feature more in future comics. This current series is just not for me.
I've also cancelled Supergirl. Again. I try so hard to keep up with Supergirl, she is a character I really enjoy, one of the few from DC, but they seem to have trouble maintaining a high quality of story for her ongoing title. The last issue, number 33, was dreadful. It was like the ending of several other comics thrown together with very little attempt to link it all together. No care was taken with the narrative and the artwork was very inconsistent. Following on from the lacklustre crossover story from the last few months, it just seemed to be the right time to cancel it. Again.
I'll give it a few months or wait for a new creative team and then give it another go.
Welcome to my first, weekly (hopefully) comic book round up.
This will mostly consist of links to reviews I have written, with the occasional link to other comic book news I have found interesting. I may even comment on the links. Let you know what I think about what's at the other end.
This week has been a fairly quite week from a personal review point of view.
The last issue of the first arc of Descendent came out from AfterShock comics. I have enjoyed this comic overall. Some of the artwork was a little underwhelming at first but Evgeniy Bornyakov had found his stride by this last issue. And Stephanie Phillips has written an intriguing story. Anyway, check out my review for issue five here I promise no spoilers!
This week also saw the return of the mega-team of creators, Kelly Sue Deconnick, Emma Rios, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles, with the start of the this Pretty Deadly volume. Issue one of The Rat is an exceptionally beautiful comic. I say a lot more on my review (here) but to sum it up: it's awesome. I can't recommend it enough.
I also recommend House of X issue 4. The whole House of X/Powers of X story has been amazing (if a little costly but they are definitely worth the money) and I can't get enough Jonathan Hickman in my reading. The world that Hickman is building with the X-Men is outstanding and the most recent issue is jaw droppingly shocking, which is difficult to do in mainstream superhero comics. It is a testament to Hickman and Larraz's talent's that they can make such an all encompassing comic feel very personal: the stakes are high for every single character. Issue four of House of X is reviewed here (but not by me so I can't be held responsible for any spoilers).
If you've not got a copy yet, try to pick up Tommy Gun Wizards. It's not the best comic out this year but it's damned near close.
Finally for this week, a none review related link. A small group of comic critics/editors have launched a new publishing house called Fieldmouse press. Their intention is to focus on comics, critique, community, and collaboration and their first venture will be a web site, due to be launched early next year.
The Secretary and Treasurer Alex Hoffman had this to say (from the official press release):
“Our goal is to provide a space for readers, artists, and the general public to explore the comic arts in the many forms they come in. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, our goal is to serve this community that we love and do something we think hasn’t been possible before now. And as a nonprofit organization, we can take chances that other publishers haven’t.”
It definitely sounds interesting and I am going to be keeping my eye on it.
The full press release can be found on their website here .
I will finish this week with the stunning cover to Pretty Deadly The Rat issue 1. Be sure to pick it up. This is what it looks like:
The key to a good drama is great characters. Without the later you can’t really have the former. To demonstrate this in the simplest of terms compare the Bumblebee movie to the previous Transformers movies.
One has engaging, rounded personalities who grow as characters from the first act to the last. Their many facets shape the narrative and move the plot forward. Without their distinct reactions and individual takes on the situations presented to them the movie would have plodded, emotionless from scene to scene.
The other has explosions and two dimensional characters inhabiting a plot that moves emotionless from scene to scene.
The point is that for an audience to care about the drama, whatever form that it may take, they have to be invested in the lives of the characters. The Walking Dead comic became the success it is not by rehashing endless violent zombie attacks but by making the reader fall in love with, or incessantly hate, the characters struggling to survive the harsh world Robert Kirkman had created.
In much the same way, Ted Anderson and Nuno Plati have concentrated the focus of their creation, Orphan Age published by AfterShock Comics, around the characters and not the world they inhabit. Over the first five issues the creators have slowly introduced the readers to the central three characters and built up a rapport between reader and cast.
One of the ways that they have managed this is to use isolating character panels to highlight reactions or illustrate thought processes. In issue five the story revolves around a siege of Albany, a peaceful township which the protagonists have been heading for since issue 1. As soon as the siege begins all eyes turn to Lindy, as Mayor of the town, to offer guidance and leadership. Issue 5 is about Lindy’s character; who she is and her purpose in the new world.
Throughout the issue Plati keeps the characters very isolated in their space, even in town meetings and crowd scenes. He achieves this by framing single characters in the panels for the majority of the page. There is an establishing shot of the crowd to open the scene and then, as the conversations start, each character inhabits their own panel, with the background removed and replaced with dark shades of blue/grey.
In some instances, Plati even breaks up the character close ups with an additional gutter. This creates an emphasis on the moment and gives the reader the impression that the character is in deep thought. The moment is unnaturally stretched indicating a longer period of time.
See, for example, the end of page two (Fig 1) where Lindy is informed that The Church must have been planning their attack “for a while.” She does not speak and Plati has chosen a close up of her face staring down. The image is split in half by a white gutter, extending the moment of contemplation as if the words that have just been spoken are sinking in. The reader is given the instant despondent reaction from Lindy, however the break line indicates that she is taking time to consider the implications of what she has heard. Plati has created a significant pause at the end of the page, left the concept lingering in Lindy and the reader’s minds.
As the issue progresses, Anderson and Plati focus their attention on Major Lindy. She becomes the central figure and a keystone for the themes playing out in the comic. Her acceptance of the situation is a reflection on the township as a whole and the choices she makes represent the nature of the people she leads.
In one scene Lindy discusses the difference between Albany and The Church with Daniel (Fig 2). The conversation happens so that Anderson can show the reader Lindy’s thought process and how she is working through the problem at hand. Plati helps to illustrate this fact by isolating her within the panels, as before, and this time zooming right into her face. The image in the final panel on page seven is split in half with Lindys facial features taking up half of the space. The word balloon hovers in the blank space beside her face. The speech itself is a thought process where Lindy seems to be talking herself into defeat. The image reflects the forced imprisonment of the Mayor and by extension the town of Albany.
This metaphor is continued later in the issue with Lindy again being a representation of the town. After speaking with Princess about what they expect out of life, Princess makes Lindy realise her role in the town. There is a single cut away panel, where Plati leaves the confines of the building and shows the reader an image of Lindy from the outside, looking through a window (Fig 3).
Firstly, this image reinforces the notion that the characters are trapped within the town. There are several frames around Lindy starting with the white gutters followed by a bleached plaster wall and finally on to window frame. Lindy, like Albany, is trapped in her present location and also, following on from the conversation in the previous panels, trapped within her destiny. She will stay and defend the town, it is all she can do.
There is also an element of hope in this single panel. Whereas all the other panels on the page, and across a large proportion of the comic, are shrouded in shadows and surrounded by dark backgrounds, this panel of Lindy has a strong light shining across the wall. The wooden slats and plaster wall are bright in comparison to the room beyond the window. The creators are emphasising Lindy’s moment of realisation, like a light bulb flashing above her head. But it also represents hope for her, and the town. They are currently in a dark place but it is possible to reach the light.
There are several more moments like this in this issue and even more spread across the series as a whole. In issue five, Anderson, Plati, colorist Joao Lemos and letterer Marshall Dillon are able to illustrate a situation involving a town of people using the experiences of just a few. By concentrating on building up the character of Lindy, the wider implications of the siege and the effects on the people around her are examined without the need for a large cast and sweeping scenes of panic, anger or fear. Lindy becomes a voice for the town both literally as the Mayor and figuratively as a representation of the people on mass.
By concentrating on the characters Anderson and Co hook the reader in, make them attached to the comic on an emotional level but are also able to tell a much larger story through personal experiences. In essence they give their story a ‘face’, a journalistic method of getting people interested in a news story. Without characters like Lindy, or Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead and Hazel in Saga, the comic would lose focus and as a result the readers interest. There are only so many explosions or mindless zombie attacks you can throw at people before they become disinterested in them.
Volume One of Orphan Age Published by AfterShock Comics is due for release early next year.
A new look with some new posts and even a new part of the blog.
All of this is on the way. In fact the new part of the Blog is already here.
Select Conceptual Comic from the top row and get an insight into the visual art that I have been working on, all comic book influenced of course.
I have some new posts lined up for the next few weeks and, of course, you can still read all of my reviews over on Monkeysfigthingrobots.co
Keep popping back if you're interested in anything that I'm doing.
Thanks for reading!!
I've been on an unplanned hiatus with this blog. There's no real reason for it except, life, the universe and, well, everything.
I've been busy, busy busy.
There's plenty of reviews over on Monkeys Fighting Robots if you want to catch up with what I've been reading and what I've though of it.
Also, the shelves are loaded with tonnes of comics worth picking up. Tomorrow, for example, is the start of the next Arc of BOOM! Studios' Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Jordie Bellaire has been knocking this series out of the park and this is a must for all Buffy fans.
There is also issue 4 of Stronghold from AfterShock Comics, which is easily one of the best comics to be released this year.
Recently there has been some good Dick Tracy comics from IDW Publishing (not rubbish ones like the one's I won't mention again). Killer Groove from AfterShock Comics, Little Bird from Image and , of course, the outstandingly beautiful Faithless from BOOM! Studios.
If you want to pick one recommendation, pick Faithless. I love it!
I will be back on here properly soon, dishing out my thoughts on comics, after all there's some amazing stuff due out this year: A new Deaths Head title from Marvel; the finale of East Of West from Image; New X-Men titles from the superb Jonathan Hickman; and from one of the best writers working in the business today, Warren Ellis, the continuation of Trees!!
All good stuff.
And, speaking of 'good stuff' here's some awesome comics you may have missed over the last couple of months:
Have you seen Captain Marvel?
No. I have not, thus adding to my ongoing tradition of not seeing the big ‘comic book’ (i.e. superhero) movies at the cinema. I think Antman and the Wasp was the only one I’ve seen on the big screen recently. This is not a comment on the quality of the film, more a reflection of my general disinterest in superhero movies.
I have, however, just finished watching The Umbrella Academy on Netflix and thought that was a brilliantly quirky series with a strong concept and some great characters.
And I’ve made some headway into series 3 of Supergirl; a bit superficial but fun none the less. It is a series I watch with my eldest son and he enjoys it.
I’ve also started, finally, to watch Legion.
So it would appear that it’s only superhero movies I have little interest in and not the genre as a whole.
However, it’s New Comic Book Day so a quick round up of what I’ve been reading in the last 3 weeks…
At the end of February there was Star Trek: The Q Conflict which is plodding along after the initial intriguing start. I’m hoping this picks up but I have my doubts based on previous Star Trek crossover events I’ve read. Review of the second issue here.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer continues to improve, which is difficult considering how well it started, but Jordie Bellaire and Dan Mora are hitting each issue out of the park. Two issues have come out in the last three weeks, reviews are here (issue 2) and here (issue 3).
I also got an advanced look at Little Bird from Image comics. I really enjoyed it and the visuals are stunning. Guess what you’ll find by following this link?
Onto the start of March and we had a few AfterShock comics I’ve been reading. Oberon #2 and A Walk Through Hell #8. I was surprised to discover I enjoyed Oberon more than AWTH, but it seemed much freasher and new. I found Garth Ennis’s script for AWTH clichéd and uninspired but this is possibly just a blip in the title and it will pick back up again next month. Compare the comics via my reviews, Oberon vs AWTH.
The Girl In The Bay issue 2 came out and was somehow stranger than issue 1. It has an engaging story with a mystery that just keeps getting deeper. Worth looking out for, especially for Corin Howell’s art work. I’m loving this comic. (another link… no wonder I’m behind on posting on here)
Boom! Studios also had Ronin Island out which is enjoyable, especially if you like that samurai sort of thing.
And Marvel put out the questionable Cosmic Ghost Rider Destroys Marvel History (or some such ridiculous title). This comic was terrible and best avoiding for a number of reasons. My biggest problem with it is that the character bared no resemblance to Frank Castle (who is currently wearing the Ghost Rider mantle). If it hadn’t told me at the start it was ‘the Punisher’ there is no way anyone would know. And that, I find, poor writing.
But what about today? What treats do the comic book shops have for you today? For me there was the exceptional Buffy The Vampire Slayer issue 3 (mentioned previously).
The unnerving and creepy Boom! Studios title The Empty Man issue 5 (review link).
Star Trek Discovery: Captain Saru, which is the best ST Discovery comic that’s been released so far but still does not do the series justice.
Murder Falcon #6; a comic that continues to impress with its mix of outlandish fantasy and heart-breaking drama. This is a comic that pushes the boundaries of the narrative and does it with style. Daniel Warren Johnson is proving his talent with Murder Falcon and I would recommend having a look at what he is doing.
Finally, this week, I was transported back to my childhood and the start of my comic reading obsession by the release of a brand new Transformers comic. The original Transformers comic got me hooked into comics and this new title from IDW Publishing is brand spankingly new. It’s a slow introduction to the new universe of giant robots but it looks stunning and the story slowly builds towards the impending violence that will lead to the Civil War. It bowled me over and I was excited by the possibilities of the future narrative. I think this is shipping every other week so it will quickly develop and it promises to be spectacular.
And, of course, a link to my review..
It’s been awhile. How’ve you been?
Reading comics, I hope.
A quick recap on what we missed last week:
Murder Falcon #5. This is an outstanding achievement in storytelling. Blending outlandish, demon fighting with a touching emotional story. You will sail through your feelings, like riding a wild roller-coaster of emotion. Check out my full review via this link.
Writer/Artist: Daniel Warren Johnson
Colours: Mike Spicer
Letters: Rus Wooton
Also posted to Monkeys Fighting Robots last week was my advanced review of Stronghold #1 from AfterShock Comics. This is a brilliant comic. It has a tightly written story and Art work that leads the reader from page to page. It isn’t just a simple Alien trapped on Earth story either, it questions the very genre in a similar way to Watchmen. What if Superman didn’t know about his powers and was been watched by a religious order? That is the essence of Stronghold.
Stronghold is actually out this week, so pick it up while you’re in store.
Writer: Phil Hester
Artist: Ryan Kelly
Colours: Dee Cunniffe
Letters: Simon Bowland
While you’re there why not pick up another AfterShock Comic, Relay #4. This is a harder sell as it mixes theology and hard Sci-Fi together to explore the notion of creation. If you’ve not read the previous 3 issues, don’t worry, everything you need to know is in this issue. That is one of its selling points, the writer is very inclusive and doesn’t want to leave any reader out of the loop. The Art work creates a believable world and draws on as many inspirations as the script. For example, the outlanders on the First World, Zalis, are clearly the Fremen from Frank Herbert’s Dune. They look exactly as I image them to look, minus the blue eyes of course.
Full review here.
Writer: Zac Thompson
Artist: Dalibor Talajic
Colours: Jose Villarrubia
Letters: Charles Pritchett
Anyway, back to last week.
Issue 4 of Image Comics The Warning was released. I gave it the once over and was captivated. The story basically introduces a number of people in different places and then proceeds to eliminate them with a strange electronic field. It’s like the arrival of the Terminator but more destructive. The art work by Edward Laroche is very emotional and dynamic; there is a sense of urgency in a number of the scenes which really grips the reader. It’s worth checking out if you can, although I have not read the first 3 issues and do feel as though I missed out on something.
Writer/Artist: Edward Laroche
Colours: Brad Simpson
Letters: Jaymes Reed
And finally for last week, there was the final issue of Dick Tracy Dead or Alive. To be honest I’m glad it’s finished. I have not been a fan of this series at all and it failed to improve for me over the four issue run. In fact, the problems of the first issue just became more and more pronounced with each issue. I’m going to assume that it sold fairly well because IDW have announced another Dick Tracy mini-series which I am already looking forward to.
At the weekend I picked up three issues of Blackthorne Publishing’s Dick Tracy Monthly comics from the 1986 which reprinted the earlier newspaper strips. I got issue 1, 7 and 14. Each is better than Dead or Alive.
Writer: Lee & Michael Allred
Artist: Rich Tommaso & Michael Allred
Colours: Laura Allred & Han Allred
Letters: Shawn Lee
However, Dick Tracy isn’t the worst comic I’ve read this month. That’s still to come.
On to this week. There are a couple of really good comics out this week. There is the afore mentioned Relay #4 from AfterShock and then from Image, East of West #41.
East of West has been one of my favourite comics for a long time. The cinematic scope of the art work and the clever plotting make it a must read. It has also been announced that this series will finish this year so expect the pace to be ramped up. I can’t wait and this issue is a wonderful start to the final leg of the story.
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Nick Dragotta
Colours: Frank Martin
Letters: Rus Wooton
Also from Image this week is the second volume of Days of Hate. If you’re read any of my previous posts, you’ll know I’m a massive fan of Days of Hate. I adore the smart storytelling which the creators have used throughout the entire run. If you haven’t read Days of Hate, check it out, buy volume 1 and 2 for the complete story. You will not be disappointed.
Writer: Ales Kot
Artist: Danijel Zezelj
Colours: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
New from Marvel Comics is The Amazing Nightcrawler, which I was excited about because I’m a fan of the character. Unfortunately, I have no idea what is going on with the Age of X-Man story line that seems to have infected all of the X-Men comics and that’s partially why I didn’t get on with Nightcrawler as well as I’d hoped. Along with that barrier, I had trouble recognising the central character. It didn’t seem like the Nightcrawler I knew. I don’t think that writer Seanan McGuire captured the X-Man’s voice very well, or at least not the one that I enjoy reading about. It’s worth noting that it’s been a few years since I read any X-Men comics so a lot has changed.
There’s also Go-Bots issue 4 but it’s awful. I’m not sure if there is a big Go-Bot following, it’s not as if you hear people talk about Go-Bots with fond memories. I would say that only Tom Scioli fans would like this comic, and then probably not all of them. That makes it a very niche market indeed.
Welcome to a new New Comic Book Day.
There’s a host of comic book goodies waiting for you at your local comic book shop.
This week I’m going to have a quick look at three different comics, each of which I have some strong opinions about. But before that here is a few worthy mentions:
The Avant-Guards from BOOM! Studios. Carly Usdin and Noah Hayes bring you an enjoyable Teen Sports drama in the vain of Fence and SLAM!. It’s a fun and surprisingly clever little comic, thanks in part to the colour work by Rebecca Nalty and the lettering by Ed Dukshire who each help create the emotional atmosphere. My review is here if you want to know more.
There is also the final issue of Low Road West from BOOM! Studios and Oliver, a retelling of Charlies Dicken’s Oliver Twist with a…twist..(sorry) from Image comics.
The best comic I’ve read this week is a reboot of a much loved T.V. classic: Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
Jordie Bellaire (colourist extraordinaire and writing/creator of Redlands) hits the ground running and delivers a wonderful script which shows so much respect for the source material while being an exciting new read.
Dan Mora’s art work is also a perfect fit for this re-imaging. His figure work and rendering of the central characters is outstanding. Sunnydale feels so familiar but at the same time full of new mysteries.
New fan or old, you will love this comic and be glad to be back in the Buffy-verse.
Full review here where I mention everyone involved with the comic.
I tried, I really did. I’ve read all three issues out so far and hoped I would find something in it that I liked. But I just can’t.
Go-Bots from IDW is an awful comic. Trying to accept the flaws as charming didn’t work and by this third issue it’s reached a point where it’s almost unreadable.
The characters lack any individual voice and it’s hard to tell who is talking on some of the pages. Not that it really matters because the dialogue is cringe worthy and tired. The story softly mocks one classic sci-fi movie while out right stealing the plot from another.
As in previous issues the art work is simplistic. Whether you like this style or not is irrelevant because the layout of the panels and pages make it difficult to enjoy the art on any level. The panels are so crammed in that there is no breathing room on any of the pages. It creates an unwanted claustrophobic feeling that has no place in the comic.
It’s difficult to tell what the tone of the comic should be as it swings from the menacing AI threat to daft Exploration of a new world and back again without any smooth flow in the narrative. Some of the Robotic character reveals are laughable but I’m not sure this was the intention.
I’m sure there is a fan base out there for Go-Bots but I think they are being let down by Tom Scioli. This is not a very well-constructed comic as each element fails to help the storytelling process The narrative ends up disappearing beneath ill-conceived layouts, over simplistic art work, faulty lettering and, above all, a script that would make Ed Wood cringe.
Crypt of Shadows from Marvel (Yes, Marvel!) is an old school horror comic reminiscent of EC’s Tales from The Crypt.
Written by Al Ewing, the comic comprises three stories with the central character from the first acting as a narrator for the other two. Framed by the safety of a therapist’s office, the patient tries to explain his fear of dogs by telling two creepy stories each with a horrific ending. Ewing spins a wonderful web of terror and each chapter is eerily drawn by a separate artist: Garry Brown, Stephen Green, and Djibril Morissette-Pham.
The narrative progression throughout this stand-alone story is wonderful. As the story unfolds and all the links click into place the whole proves to be better than the sum of its parts. Like any old school horror there are tense moments, humorous moments, and outright scary moments.
My personal favourite section is the framing story involving the central character in therapy but this is because I love Garry Brown’s art work. He has an expressive style with occasionally heavy handed inking which intensifies the more disturbing panels.
This year has started on a high and I’ve been busy, from a comic point of view. So without a further ado let’s have a quick summary.
Last week saw a number of worthwhile comics hit the shelves. A new Captain Marvel from Marvel was out, written by Kelly Thompson. It was an ‘okay’ start to a series. Not mind blowing and was clearly just a set up for what is to come but it set the tone and direction that Thompson will be going in: namely witty dialogue and fast paced action. (I know, a Marvel title. I thought it was time to dip my toe back into some Big 2 books. How will that work out? Well, just read on)
There was also a new Criminal from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. Published by Image Comics, this new series is going to be a collection of one-shots with a couple of two parters, if I remember correctly from Brubakers newsletter. I love a bit of Brubaker/Phillips and this oversized first issue was a good way to get back into the series. Although I did think it lacked direction and relied to much on knowing previous story lines; which was a shame. But worth the read, and the monthly has all of those extras that the trade won’t have so buy it now so you don’t miss out.
(If you have missed out, don’t worry, they have announced a second printing!)
In other news I had three reviews published over on Monkeys Fighting Robots. Two for comics I enjoyed and one for MURDER FALCON which is an excellent comic. Excellent, I tells thee!!
Follow the links for the reviews of:
Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor #3
Spider King: Frostbite
Murder Falcon #4
This week was a bit more of a mixed bag. I managed to get an early preview of Aliens: Resistance from Dark Horse Comics. Written by Brian Wood and drawn by Robert Carey. It’s atmospheric and a slow build but it is what you would expect from a first issue of an Aliens story. My full review is here.
One result of reading the comic is that I bought myself Alien: Isolation for our X-Box. I’ve so far spent 2 ½ hours wandering down dark corridors picking up scrap. I’m not a gamer so it may take me a while before I see an actual Alien but I shall persevere.
The final part of Days of Hate came out which didn’t end with quite the explosion I was expecting but it definitely had a fitting end for the type of comic it has been. I loved it and it was easily one of my favourite comics from last year. It you didn’t read it I seriously recommend picking up the trade collections. It has some of the best sequential art I have seen in a long time.
There was also Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive #3. See previous posts about my problems with this comic. It hasn’t got any better and any review I would write would probably boil down to ‘massive disappointment’ or ‘actually dreadful’. I regret having read it.
Black Widow #1 was better (see review here) but was not as 'grindhouse' as I was expecting from The Soska Sisters but it has a good set up and 4 more issues to go. Yes, another Marvel title! This is going well isn’t it…
Unfortunately, not. I also read Invaders #1 believing it would be a good way to get back into Marvel. I enjoyed the old series and was always partial to a Namor story. This comic was, however, another disappointment. There is a poignant war story desperate to get out but any credibility is ruined in the opening sequence by out of place, clichéd ‘comic’ sound effects. The lettering stands out so much from the artwork it’s as if it is making a mockery of the narrative. This spoilt the rest of the comic for me. I also (possibly as a result) couldn’t get behind the framing narrative of the comic and ended up not being convinced to re-enter the world of Superheroes. Maybe I shall try again. Maybe not.
As a side note, I picked up Supergirl: Being Super in its collected form and have been greatly impressed by what I’ve read. Mariko Tamaki’s script is brilliant, capturing the essence of a teenage Kara Danvers while the art work by Joelle Jones is superb. The comic has energy and the power to surprise. I was blown away by it.
Aside from the reviews, I have also written another long-ish essay about an aspect comic book layout/design. This one came about because I couldn’t think of any recent examples of an artist using a two-page spread to great effect. This led me to dragging out a whole host of comics from my collection and writing about 3000 words, basically, about how wrong that initial thought was.
If you have some time and fancy a read it’s the post before this one so fairly easy to find.
Life long comic book reader, collector, and reviewer.