Immortal Weapons #4


Four issues in and Immortal Weapons continues to be woefully inconsistent.  Given the nature of the book’s shifting creative teams, that comes as no surprise, but I am beginning to see the flaws in the strategy as I begin to imagine a collected edition.  Is it worth buying the ill-conceived stories for the heartbreaking ones?  This issue is by no means as bad as “Bride of Nine Spiders” was – it is at the very least a coherent martial arts story featuring the titular character, Tiger’s Beautiful Daughter.  It is exciting and fun, and has a few big action sequences that are well-illustrated.

It is also remarkably slight and about as cheesecake-y as a book can be.  Artist Khari Evans does a fine job illustrating a culture of bikini’d warrior women with all the requisite bounce and heft – and also a strikingly consistent sense of tone and design, surprisingly – but the story is beyond slight, almost to the point of nonsense.  Fun nonsense, granted, but where Evans brings consistency, the best Swierczynski offers is chaos.

The back-up feature continues to move quickly forward as a quick bit of ‘intuitive deduction’ – read: plot crunch – reveals the true fate of Jada’s younger brother.  With Foreman off art, the back-up continues to suffer as Hatuey Diaz’s shaggy, cartoonish style doesn’t fit any of the tones Swierczynski seems to be going for.

Grade: B

Secret Six #15


John Ostrander comes onto Secret Six, the first writer other than Simone to deal with the book since its revival in Villains United.  Some readers may balk at the fact that he has largely shied away from Simone’s familiar offbeat humor without abandoning any of the book’s signature darkness, but Ostrander knows his strengths – and knows his character – and instead turns the book into an introspective character study of Deadshot, in many ways the team’s most heartless member.

With Calafiore doing a stellar job on art, Ostrander takes us deep into Deadshot’s damaged mind.  The pair work well together, especially in the one-panel shots of Deadshot-Vision we occasionally get, a cold reality in which we see the deaths of everyone in the room at his hands.  The issue has its flaws, including some seemingly trite pop psychology and a so-so origin story retelling, but its core is rock solid… and, to be quite frank, more than a little chilling.

Grade: B+

Stumptown #1


The recent, excellent resurgence of the crime comic comes largely at the hands of three writers: Brian Azzarello, Ed Brubaker, and, finally, Greg Rucka.  With Stumptown, Rucka returns to ONI Press, who published his stellar Whiteout and Queen and Country, for another crime comic with an earthy female protagonist in over her head.  While Rucka is in some ways becoming predictable, Stumptown #1 displays the benefits of such predictability: it’s polished and experienced, a rock solid introduction to a new title.

Matthew Southworth and Lee Loughridge, Rucka’s partners here, do a great job on art.  The panel layouts are simple but extremely effective, while the art is expressive without losing the darkness we expect of a crime comic.  Dex, the P.I. in charge of Stumptown Investigations, is a well-realized heroine with an already-growing supporting cast, all excellently illustrated.  An excellent, traditional entry into the ever-growing pile of great modern crime comics.

Grade: A-

Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural #2


After a remarkably solid opening issue, Remender and Palo drop the ball quickly with this second issue.  Picking up after his confrontation with Dr. Doom last issue, Voodoo is stranded in another dimension, one in which his powers are severely hampered… and in which resides a powerful foe for the new Sorcerer Supreme.  It’s a remarkable coincidence that leaves Voodoo stranded here, unless Doom was working for/with the issue’s surprise villain, but its one that’s never visited.  The action is brief but effective, but the book’s twist is ineffective at best, and the backround we get on Jericho this issue feels fairly out of place here.

Palo (joined by Gabriel Hardman on art) seems to have lost some of last month’s visceral energy, but he remains the book’s star player.  His illustrations of a nightmare New Orleans are memorable,  as are the monstrous designs of Nightmare’s horde, but the art feels more rushed here, despite a momentum-killing origin-story in the middle of the issue.  Hopefully, the team can regain some of the momentum of their opening issue soon.

Grade: C+

– Cal Cleary

Secret Six #13

Immortal Weapons #3

Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural #1

Review: Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural #1


I’ve always believed that Doctor Strange was Marvel’s most tragically underutilized character.  Where most are tied down to the continuity of a single universe, here we have a massively powerful being whose mere will is the only thing holding our universe together.  There were millions of stories that could be told with him, ranging from the dramatic to the horrific to the bizarrely surreal, but instead Marvel opted to constantly ignore his power and knowledge so that he would better fit into whatever mold they wanted him to fit into.  By the point Strange lost his mantle to Brother Voodoo, it was mostly a mercy.

Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural takes some steps, at least, towards making the concept of Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme relevant again.  Writer Rick Remender delivers a relatively solid issue of set-up introducing Earth’s new Sorcerer Supreme.  Mixing voodoo terminology, monsters and culture together with the loosely-defined comic book mysticism of Doctor Strange is an interesting choice, but one that Remender makes work throughout the issue.  The book’s biggest problem comes with Remender’s decision to completely forego anything like an explanation – having not read much Marvel lately, I had no idea when Voodoo got his doctorate, in what, or why… nor why Strange lost his mantle.  And, more importantly to this issue, what’s the importance of the floating-ghost maybe-sorcerer?

Palo’s art is, for the most part, excellent.  He handles the books multiple tones well, jumping ably between a horrific, voodoo-inspired monster and epic, dimensions spanning conflicts within a single issue.  His designs are solid and imaginative, and he works well with colorist Beaulieu to create a few particularly striking images without resorting to over-posed figures that look clumsily traced.  Perhaps his biggest flaw comes in his facial expressions: everyone in the issue looks either sad, angry, or transitioning from one to the other.

Overall, Doctor Voodoo, Avenger of the Supernatural is a promising opening issue.  It glosses over it’s two main conflicts far more quickly than they deserve, and it does a terrible job of informing the new reader – which is doubly surprising given that it’s the first issue of a new series – but it is for the most part a solid, enjoyable issue of comics.  The fact that Remender seems genuinely interested in mixing the epic mysticism of comic book magic with the earthy horror of voodoo bodes well for the book in terms of offering up fresh, inventive takes on characters and situations we’ve all seen before.  A promising, if slightly flawed, start.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary