Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Ozymandias

Published: July 4th, 2012 – March 13th, 2013
Written by: Len Wein
Art by: John Higgins, Jae Lee
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 156 Pages

Review:

I have been loving this Before Watchmen series. I previously read the Comedian and Rorschach stories, so this one is my third installment.

Out of the three I have read, this is my least favorite. But it’s still damn good and really captures the spirit of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s original Watchmen series. All the ones I’ve read thus far have also been written by top notch writers, however.

This volume really works well for the Ozymandias character. Len Wein understands him, his motivations and does a fine job of painting a vivid picture of what made Ozymandias into the man he became, a true villain but one with noble intentions willing to cross the line in order to mold the world into what he perceives as something better.

John Higgins does some of the art and his work in other Before Watchmen books has been great. The bulk of the art here is done by the great Jae Lee, though. Lee is a guy that never gets the credit and props he deserves, in my opinion, and he did such a fine job with the art here that this is one of my favorite pieces of work he’s created.

This story also sees other Watchmen characters show up, where the Comedian and Rorschach volumes mostly just focused solely on them. Here, we see Ozymandias’ first encounters with the Comedian, Dr. Manhattan and Nite Owl. We even get a very brief Rorschach cameo.

Overall, this was a really good read and it just increased my interest in the expanded Watchmen universe. Something I wasn’t too keen on when first hearing about it but have started to accept and have surprisingly enjoyed. But I give credit to the fact that DC Comics put their best people on these stories.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.

Comic Review: Generic Comic Book

Published: April, 1984
Written by: Steve Skeates, Larry Hama (editor)
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 22 Pages

Review:

Whew! This was a terrible comic. And oddly, it came to me as a recommendation.

Apparently, this was just a one-shot that served as some sort of legal scheme for Marvel to attempt to trademark the words “super-hero” and “super-villain”.

The comic is exactly what it says, “generic”. It’s actually generic as hell, boring, drab, unimaginative and a dud in every way.

This wasn’t a bad concept though, had Marvel actually done something cool with this and maybe cared about the project even a smidgen. They could have made this over the top, fun and actually invented some characters that could have gone on to exist as in-jokes within regular Marvel continuity.

But as is probably for the best, these characters never see the light of day again and this book is pretty damn forgettable.

I’m glad I own it though, as it’s just really odd and I like having oddball shit in my comic collection. At the very least, it’s a conversation piece.

Apparently, Larry Hama was the editor on this but I’ll forgive him as he was killing it on G.I. Joe at the same time.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: experimental Marvel schlock of the early ’80s.

Comic Review: Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, Issue #134 – First Appearance of Darkseid

Published: December 2nd, 1970
Written by: Jack Kirby
Art by: Jack Kirby, Vince Colletta, Neal Adams (cover)

DC Comics, 22 Pages

Review:

Man, this was a weird ass comic book! But it was also done by Jack Kirby during his stint at DC Comic, where he did some really outside of the box stuff that led to the creation of his Fourth World universe within the larger DC Universe.

This issue of Jimmy Olsen was tied to all of that, as this is the first appearance of Darkseid, one of the greatest villains in the entire history of DC Comics.

I wanted to read this, as I’ve been reading a lot of the first appearances of some of my favorite villains. That being said, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this comic but it was pretty insane.

This issue is trippy as hell! I’m not sure if that was normal with Jimmy Olsen but I really dug it, even if it was hard to make sense of the proceedings, as I don’t have the issues around this to give it more context.

Superman even shows up in this but he was a pretty regular fixture in this title. Sadly, we don’t get to see Supes square off with Darkseid. In fact, we only get a peek at Darkside in one panel. That’s it, his big debut was just in a single panel where he was a talking head in a TV set, giving commands to one of his minions.

This is creative, kind of nuts and it flew by. I can’t say that it’s a solid comic as a standalone issue but reading it was interesting, as it was a quick, small sample of Kirby’s earliest work at DC.

For Jack Kirby fans, this is worth checking out.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: any of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World titles at DC Comics.

Comic Review: Daredevil: Back In Black, Vol. 1: Chinatown

Published: May 11th, 2016
Written by: Charles Soule
Art by: Ron Garney

Marvel Comics, 115 Pages

Review:

I really came to like Charles Soule’s run on Daredevil towards the end. But that’s also where I picked it up, after having taken a few years off. So I wanted to go back and start from the beginning and build back up towards the end, so I could re-read the conclusion, The Death of Daredevil, with more context.

This first story arc was just okay. It didn’t blow me away and I wasn’t familiar with the bad guy, which doesn’t really matter because his whole story is basically wrapped up by the end of this.

We get to meet a character named Blindspot, that works as a sort of sidekick in training to Daredevil. He’s the second Marvel character with that name but this version was created by Charles Soule. He’s a gymnast from China and an illegal immigrant with a mother that’s tied to the story’s villain, Tenfingers. Blindspot’s story is fairly interesting but I’ll also have to see where things lead, as you barely get to know him here.

The one thing that really stands out about this comic book is the art of Ron Garney. It blends a very gritty, neo-noir style with almost Hong Kong cinema influences. I really like it, as well as how he uses vibrant colors, a heavy chiaroscuro style contrast and some half tone shading.

This is a good looking comic but the story didn’t hit the mark for me. I’m assuming that this will continue to build into something more substantial and meaningful as it rolls on beyond this volume. As I said in the beginning, I was a fan of Soule’s Daredevil work in the later stories.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Charles Soule story arcs on Daredevil.

Comic Review: Graveyard Shift

Published: February, 2019
Written by: Mark Poulton
Art by: Jon Malin, Anthony George, Eric Weathers

Haunted Pizza, 46 Pages

Review:

*The featured image is from the interior. I couldn’t find a JPG of the cover.

Man, this comic book is so ’90s! Which is a great thing for some people and a not so great thing for others. Being that I’m a fan of the ’90s, I found this mostly enjoyable.

What sold me on the project is that it was said to be like X-Men mixed with the Universal Monsters franchise. While that’s not quite the vibe I got from it, I do like the idea of there being a superhero team comprised of classic literary monsters, even if it’s not a wholly original idea.

Also, the series’ title isn’t that original, as Image Comics already had a series called Graveyard Shift just a few years ago from 2014 through 2015.

While I enjoy Malin’s art for the most part, the criticisms I had in my Jawbreakers review still apply here. The characters still look overly sleek and svelte with elongated limbs and uncomfortable looking poses. Now I’m not talking about the dynamic motion stuff, that’s all fine; I’m talking about the poses that see them just standing around. He definitely has his own anatomical style but it doesn’t always work for me. That being said, Malin is still better than what the industry standard is in 2019. Most of his women look the same though, throughout all of his work. They just have variances in hair color, hair length and skin tone.

I was also critical of how the action flowed in Richard C. Meyer’s Jawbreakers and I saw that as maybe an issue with the writing on Meyer’s part but having now read Graveyard Shift, I see similar problems. Sometimes I can’t tell what’s happened from panel to panel without having to go back and examine the previous one harder.

There is also some nonsensical stuff thrown in, which I guess is writer Mark Poulton’s sense of humor. Some of it feels odd, out of place and the gag doesn’t always work. There is one panel with a pregnant news reporter in the background with her bare belly exposed and half of her tits hanging out. In the next panel, there is a massive explosion behind her and we see her screaming as her belly bursts open, ejecting the fetus from within it. I don’t get it, man. That’s some hardcore ’90s edgy boi shit but it made me stop reading and I had to stare at it, baffled, distracted and completely dumbfounded by the whole thing. It was random as shit, added nothing to the story and hurts the book, overall. I wasn’t offended by it, I was just puzzled by it. And from a physics standpoint, it makes no sense.

Additionally, the cover for this was weak. I’m glad that Malin didn’t use the cover to promote this on Indiegogo because it’s not a true reflection of the good art inside the book. It’s just a green glowing logo on a black background. If this were on a shelf, I wouldn’t see this moving into the consumers’ hands with that cover.

Getting back to the writing, there is a ton of shit wedged into just 46 pages. A lot happens and the book jumps around in time, here and there. If you’re not paying close attention, it may be a bit confusing. But with so many characters and time shifts in this book, I don’t feel like I really got to know any of the core people other than a few surface traits. There needs to be more depth for the primary characters and this almost feels as if it was too much, too soon.

That all ties into one of my criticisms of these crowd funded indie projects. It’s as if the creators feel like they need to tell as much of the story as possible because they can only do one to two releases per year. If this was drawn out a bit more and properly paced, the story might not conclude for years. And by that point, a lot of the initial audience will move on. This is why I prefer the monthly model of mainstream comics or the idea of doing a full, proper graphic novel that tells a single, self-contained story. Most of these Comicsgate projects end with a “To Be Continued”. Well, when? Six months from now? A year from now? Oh, you have three more projects on your plate before coming back to this?

It probably sounds like I’m shitting on this and I don’t mean to. But if I can’t objectively review it and hold it to the same standard that I do every other comic, then I’m just being dishonest. I’m not Comicsgate, as the creators of this book are. But Comicsgate claims that they want better comics. Well, if they aren’t criticized and held to the same standard as mainstream comics, then they’ll never produce better comics. Those who review these books and praise them without being objective and honest, don’t actually want better comics. The criticism should be constructive, fair and honest or else it isn’t valid. I want good comics, not the Christian rock version of comics.

That being said, this has promise. It’s a cool concept and it looks great for the most part. I’m interested in seeing where this can go but I’m also not going to care two years from now.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Other recent Comicsgate books like Richard C. Meyer’s Jawbreakers, which Malin also worked on.

Comic Review: Doom Patrol, Vol. 2: The Painting That Ate Paris

Published: 1989-1990
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Richard Case, John Nyberg

Vertigo Comics, 228 Pages

Review:

I’m really digging the Grant Morrision run on Doom Patrol.

While the first volume was better overall, the first half of this collection was probably the high point for me, thus far. The second half of this is mostly filler and comes off at a slower pace but there are still some things of importance within it.

The first half is the story arc that gives this volume its name: The Painting That Ate Paris. And while the name may sound metaphorical, it isn’t. This is Grant Morrision’s Doom Patrol and a painting literally eats Paris. And with that, the Doom Patrol has to find a way into the painting in an effort to save the city. All the while, the Justice League shows up and stands idly by, staring at the painting, confused by the whole ordeal.

I feel like the Justice League here represents the more casual comic book reader, who would probably be baffled by the insanity, absurdity and surrealism of Morrison fully and creatively unleashed.

Richard Case’s art is some of my favorite from the era and man, it just lures you in and is a perfect compliment to Morrison’s writing. Case’s art is clean, crisp, colorful and fluid. I love his character design and the life his style gives every person in these stories.

This was just a really exciting comic to read. It loses steam with the second half but it is still entertaining and serves to setup what’s to come after this.

If you’ve never given Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol a shot, you really should. It’s a superhero team book but it is so unique that you really should experience it.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol.

Comic Review: X-Men: Second Coming

Published: June 22nd, 2011
Written by: Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Matt Fraction, Zeb Wells, Mike Carey
Art by: David Finch, Terry Dodson, Ibraim Roberson, Greg Land, Mike Choi, Rachel Dodson, Sonia Oback

Marvel Comics, 360 Pages

Review:

I went into this thinking that I would like it for the most part. The events that precede it were pretty good reads. What I didn’t expect was to be blown away. But in the end, I have to say, this was one of the absolute best X-Men crossover events that I have ever experienced. Seriously, this was nothing short of superb.

More than anything, this story made me love Cable more than ever and it got me to love Hope Summers, who I would say is one of the best characters to come out of the last decade, even though she previously appeared as a baby before this in Messiah Complex.

This had a lot going on in the story but there was room for it all. Plus, all the key players were well balanced throughout and it gave most of the top characters a real purpose and mission.

There are real consequences in this story, as some key X-Men figures die. Granted, one could argue that those consequences are never real because no one truly dies in comics and the two biggest victims of this story are already alive and well, once again. But despite that, it felt like a real blow within this narrative. It didn’t lose its impact knowing that they’d eventually be back.

Second Coming carries all the doom and gloom of Messiah Complex over and it brings more doom and gloom but it ends in a way that finally sees a glimmer of “hope” appear in the darkest time of the X-Men franchise. I don’t want to spoil too much because I’d rather people give this a read.

Being that this is a crossover event, there is a mix of art styles. All of it works for me though, even if there are noticeable style shifts from chapter to chapter. Ultimately, the tone stays about the same from beginning to end.

This is a fairly long read but none of it is boring or filler. It moves at a brisk pace, keeps you engaged and makes you cheer for these heroes in a way that you haven’t since the early ’90s.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the stories that precede it: Avengers Disassembled, House of M and X-Men: The Messiah Complex, as well as the one this leads up to: Avengers Vs. X-Men.