Comic Review: Scene of the Crime

Published: 1999
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Michael Lark, Sean Phillips

Vertigo Comics, Image Comics (reprint), 132 Pages

Review:

I’ve been catching up on a lot of Ed Burbaker’s crime comics because I missed a lot of the old ones and because it is the month of Noirvember.

Scene of the Crime was the comic that put him on the map. It led to him working on Gotham Central and also paved the way for his future crime comics like Criminal, Kill Or Be Killed, The Fade Out and Fatale, just to name a few.

This one was highly regarded at the time that it came out and while it is pretty good, it isn’t my favorite of the Brubaker lot.

I can see how he developed his style here and it is a good, solid and competent story but it didn’t capture my attention like The Fade Out or Kill Or Be Killed did.

At its core, this is a noir tale set in contemporary times that sees a young private detective try to locate a girl that’s gone missing. However, he finds her fairly quickly, she’s then killed and we’re then treated to a pretty grandiose mystery story with lots of layers and twists.

This is a really dark tale but fans of Brubaker’s crime work shouldn’t expect anything different. I can’t go into more detail without feeling like I’d spoil too much but this is a pretty decent read with solid art by Brubaker’s top collaborators Michael Lark and Sean Phillips.

Despite this not being my favorite, it is still a good comic miniseries and a solid tale in the crime and noir genres.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Ed Brubaker’s other crime comics.

Comic Review: Frank Miller’s Sin City, Vol. 1: The Hard Goodbye

Published: 1991-1992
Written by: Frank Miller
Art by: Frank Miller

Dark Horse, 210 Pages

Review:

My first experience with Sin City was seeing the 2005 movie when it hit theaters.

At the time that the original comic was coming out, I was aware of it but I was still a pre-teen obsessing over bright, colorful, ’90s superhero comics.

It wasn’t until I got older that I started to get more into film-noir and crime fiction.

Still, I never actually picked up Sin City until now.

I’ve got to say though, the film, at least the Marv stuff, was a beat for beat retelling of this story. That’s not a bad thing, as I loved that the Watchmen movie was very close to the source material.

If you have seen the film already but haven’t read this, there isn’t much in the comic that isn’t in the film. But if you appreciate Frank Miller’s Sin City world, you really should experience it in its original form and in the medium it was designed for.

That being said, I like the comic, at least this first volume, more than I like the movie.

Miller wrote a solid, compelling mystery and his art style is really unique. This feels more like it is pure noir than a lot of the other neo-noir comics of the last quarter century or so.

While I’m not a die hard Miller fan, this is one of his best pieces of work. This was created when the guy was just making magic on a regular basis.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the other collected volumes of Sin City.

Comic Review: Age of Conan: Bêlit, Queen of the Black Coast

Published: September 18th, 2019
Written by: Tini Howard
Art by: Kate Niemczyk, Sana Takeda (cover)
Based on: characters by Robert E. Howard

Marvel Comics, 111 Pages

Review:

It’s actually been years since I’ve thought about Bêlit. However, I did remember her from the old Marvel Conan comics. She wasn’t as memorable to me as Red Sonja or Valeria but she did go on some grand adventures with Conan.

This series re-establishes her in the Marvel Conan mythos, which I guess is the regular Marvel universe now, considering Conan has now had multiple crossovers with other Marvel characters.

I’m assuming this series was made in order to set Bêlit up to re-enter Conan’s life. I’m also assuming that the same is true for Valeria as she was also given her own Age of Conan miniseries.

So since I’ve been enjoying the Conan comics since Marvel got the character back in January, seeing that universe expand is kind of cool.

That being said, this comic started out pretty strong but it kind of just limped along after the introduction to Bêlit.

The plot itself isn’t bad but the comic tries to cover a large portion of Bêlit’s life in just five issues.

What I had a problem with though was how certain things in the comic are prioritized. When something happens and you would traditionally expect a massive action scene, the shit is resolved almost instantly so that characters can go on and bicker with Bêlit while this self-proclaimed queen talks about how she’s the best at everything.

Not to be that guy but Bêlit is written like a disposable Mary Sue character. There are moments where her character starts to develop or we see her being challenged by something and it is just kind of brushed aside or dealt with like it wasn’t a big deal to begin with.

Every time something happened in the story that made me go, “Oh, okay… here we go!” I felt like the rug was pulled out from under me.

This was a pretty boring comic that gave glimmers of hope that it was going somewhere badass but it never did. And if I’m being honest, anything remotely associated with Conan should always be badass.

Additionally, the art was pretty weak and doesn’t live up to the caliber of art that should be associated with a Conan comic.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: Age of Conan: Valeria and other recent Marvel Conan comics.

Comic Review: Stumptown, Vol. 1

Published: April 5th, 2011
Written by: Greg Rucka
Art by: Matthew Southworth, Lee Loughridge

Oni Press, 156 Pages

Review:

With Stumptown being adapted for television, I figured I’d also give the first graphic novel a read for comparison’s sake. I haven’t watched the show yet but I’ll probably binge the first half dozen episodes or so, once they’re available.

The comic series is a pretty good neo-noir in a similar vein to Ed Brubaker’s crime comics. In fact, Greg Rucka and Brubaker both worked on DC’s Gotham Central, which was a very noir-esque crime series featuring the cops of Gotham as the focal point.

This story follows a private investigator, as she is in debt over her head and more or less forced to find the missing granddaughter of a casino owner.

Stumpland takes place in and around Portland, Oregon, which gives it a cool setting that isn’t really a normal town for noir stories. In fact, I don’t really think about crime or Mexican cartels when I think of Portland but this actually takes you into that realm.

The main character, Dex, kind of reminds me of Jessica Jones or at least the television version of the character. Which, honestly, makes me wonder if they re-worked Jessica in the Netflix show to be more like this character?

I liked this tale but I also thought it was pretty predictable and more straightforward than a typical noir plot. There are the twists and turns, as one would expect, but none of them are really outside of the box or all that surprising.

What really made this work for me was the art. It’s pretty raw but the use of colors was superb. I guess the artists have changed over the course of the different Stumptown stories but I hope that the style is similar when I get to the later volumes.

Stumptown didn’t wow my socks off like Brubaker’s crime comics but it was still a cool and pretty refreshing story. And I plan on reading the volumes that come after this one.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the later Stumptown series, as well as Gotham CentralKill Or Be Killed, The Fade Out and Sin City.

Comic Review: X-Men: Mutant Massacre

Published: 1986
Written by: Chris Claremont, Louise Simonson, Walter Simonson, Ann Nocenti
Art by: John Romita Jr., Walter Simonson, Sal Buscema

Marvel Comics, 319 Pages

Review:

Well, not all giant X-Men crossover events can be created equal.

This one started off with a bang though. Sadly, it withered away in the second half, as it crossed over into non-X-Men-related titles and became a narrative clusterfuck that slowed down the story’s momentum to a complete halt.

The main reason I wanted to read this was to have a bit of background context before jumping into the following big event The Fall of the Mutants. While I had never read either crossover in their entirety, I had read parts and I knew that the stories had a very close association.

The focal point of the story shows the Marauders invading the Morlocks’ sewer hideout where they murder the shit out of them. Only a few actually survive and that’s mostly due to the X-Men, X-Factor and the New Mutants involving themselves in the ordeal.

As this collection rolls on, the story spins off into issues of Thor, Daredevil and Power Pack. This is where the narrative starts to become a mess. And once we get to this point, a lot of the issues rehash some of the same shit, over and over.

What I was excited to see was Apocalypse show up and the actual breaking of Angel. I thought that he would actually be turned into Archangel in this story but I guess that happens just after, which was kind of disappointing, as I’ve never got to read that actual story. I assumed it would happen here once Angel had his wings destroyed and was nailed to the sewer wall with about half the story left.

There were a lot of deaths in this but none that really hold any weight or matter to the bigger picture.

But I guess this helped plant the seed for The Fall of the Mutants and the introduction of both Archangel and Mister Sinister.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other big X-Men crossover events from the ’80s and ’90s.

Comic Review: Detective Comics, Issue #359 – First Appearance of Batgirl

Published: January 4th, 1967
Written by: Henry Boltinoff, Gardner Fox
Art by: Murphy Anderson, Henry Boltinoff, Carmine Infantino

DC Comics, 25 Pages

Review:

I recently bought this comic, graded and slabbed. It was pretty high up on my bucket list for years, as the Barbara Gordon version of Batgirl is one of my top heroes of all-time. Granted, a lot of my love of the character came out of the ’60s Batman TV series and the casting of Yvonne Craig, who brought a lot of energy to the show.

Still, I’ve loved Barbara Gordon for almost my entire life. I felt the horror when the Joker shot her, crippling her and ending her career as Batgirl, I felt proud when she picked herself up and became the Oracle and then I was initially excited to see her return to her Batgirl role in recent years. However, those stories pretty much snuffed out my excitement in record time.

Anyway, I’ve always wanted to own this and now I do. But I can’t read a slabbed comic, so I bought this digitally. You can get this on Comixology for less than two bucks if you want to check it out.

This is a pretty solid introduction for its time but the story itself isn’t that great. We immediately learn who Batgirl is and she meets Batman on her first outing. The story here pits her against Killer Moth and his two henchmen that look too much like he does, so it’s visually confusing. This was also the era where Killer Moth looked like a ridiculous D-level villain and not the solid C-level one he would become over the years.

As is typical with late ’60s comics, the story is pretty self-contained and over rather quickly. Part of that is also due to the issue having a short story with the Elongated Man wedged into the end of the book, taking real estate away from Batgril’s debut.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other late ’60s Detective Comics and Batman stories.

Comic Review: Avengers, Issue #8 – First Appearance of Kang the Conqueror

Published: September 9th, 1964
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers

Marvel Comics, 22 Pages

Review:

This is one of the comic books that is pretty high up on my bucket list. I still don’t own it but I wanted to read the story, so I bought a digital copy on Comixology for under two bucks.

While this isn’t technically the first appearance of the character that would become Kang, this is his first appearance as Kang. Before this, he appeared as an Egyptian pharaoh-looking villain named Rama-Tut in Fantastic Four number 19 and Fantastic Four Annual number 2.

For the most part, this was a cool read. It had that great Stan Lee style to the action and dialogue and it featured art from my favorite artist of all-time: Jack Kirby.

While this isn’t the start of a big multi-part story, a lot happens in these 22 pages and you get a real sense of who Kang is and what he is capable of. It is a pretty solid Lee/Kirby era intro to one of their greatest villainous creations.

I wouldn’t consider this a must read but it will probably be enjoyed in an old Avengers collection alongside other stories from the time.

I personally love Kang, though, so I probably enjoyed this more than the average bear.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Stan Lee and Jack Kirby era Marvel stuff, especially The Avengers and Fantastic Four.