Review: Creator Owned Heroes


I have never really loved, or even hated,  anything produced by Gray or Palmiotti and 30 Days of Night, my sole venture into Niles’ work, was underwhelming to say the least. So I bought this book solely on the strength of its concept. An anthology equally featuring serialized creator-owned stories and comics-magazine-style content, e.g. interviews, pictures, etc. Although, as many have commented, the format isn’t exactly novel,  the creator-owned  hook is what really has caught people’s attentions.  As with virtually every form of entertainment, it’s incredibly pervasive for comic book fans to elide a certain key term: industry. The comic-book industry, by all accounts, doesn’t seem to possess the most progressive model regarding labour issues. Like most fans, it’s something I know in the back-of-my-head yet my desire to see Batman hook Superman in the face with a kyprtonite mecha suit ensures that those thoughts stay exactly there – in the background. However, I do want to see comics – as a medium, as a format, as an industry – grow, expand, mutate. In the last three decades it certainly has. The advent of the graphic novel, literary acceptance, the looming spectre of the digital revolution. None-the-less, for those unlucky enough not to be one of the handful of superstar writers, they don’t seem (and this from an outsider’s perspective) to reward their creators commensurate with the blood, sweat and tears that go into production. Enter creator-owned heroes. With this book, these guys are really trying to carve out a new space free from corporate exploitation but also editorial interference. The numbers will tell if this is a successful venture financially, but creatively, it mostly delivers.

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Review: The Ray #2

The Ray #2, cover by Jamal Igle

In part because of the holidays, I did not review the first issue of DC’s new mini-series, The Ray.  This is a problem for me.  Now, sure, there are plenty of books that go unreviewed.  Ideally, I’d like to buy every new #1 I see on the comics shelves each week, but with the rising cost of comics and the ever-diminishing amount in my bank account, that isn’t realistic.  I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of you – sure, I firmly believe that almost everyone who gives Animal Man or Mystic or any of a dozen of other awesome books a shot will like it… but that’s an investment we can’t all make.

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Review: All-Star Western #2

All-Star Western #2, cover by Moritat

Whatever else you say about the relaunch, you can’t say it didn’t give us some fascinating books.  All-Star Western #1 was compared in some circles (including here) to a Western take on Sherlock Holmes.  Narrated by a doctor – Doctor Amadeus Arkham, who would later go on to build Gotham’s Arkham Asylum – it features an unlikely pair faced with a mystery/conspiracy reaching into high society.  This issue continues that plot, but at a much brisker clip.  Stronger in almost every single way than the first issue, this would be an unquestionable winner if not for a lackluster back-up introducing readers to El Diablo.

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Review: All-Star Western

Jonah Hex has long been a staple of the DC Universe Western.  In fact, when Westerns went out of style – both in comics and in mainstream American culture – Hex was the only Western hero DC still published semi-regularly.  And with the Western seemingly coming back in fashion (the very popular True Grit, No Country for Old Men and 3:10 to Yuma films, as well as upcoming TV shows like Hell on Wheels (AMC), Gateway (TNT), Hangtown (ABC), Ralph Lamb (CBS) and others), now seems like a good time to highlight him and hope to hell that the hilariously horrible Jonah Hex film hasn’t hurt his reputation.  It shouldn’t have – no one saw it.  And it’s a good thing DC took that chance, because All-Star Western is one of the best debuts of DC’s New 52.

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Review: Power Girl #2

Power

Fair or not, it’s hard to think of a comic solely by the name of the artist, much harder than it is to think of it solely by the name of the writer(s).  More people say “Moore’s Watchmen” than Gibbons’ Watchmen” or even “Moore and Gibbons’ Watchmen“.  Still, this is unquestionably Amanda Conner’s Power Girl.  Conner carries the success of this book on her shoulders, her expressive art and unique style offering up an absolutely lovely take on the old, underused character.  But is her art enough?

Palmiotti and Gray have teamed up a number of times before, but have achieved little critical or devoted fan following over the years.  Power Girl illustrates why – the plot is overly simplistic and the dialogue trite, as they fail to fully make use of their talented art team or free reign with an interesting character.  The book is often fun, and the pair seem to be having a blast, but not all of that energy makes it to the page.  There is the argument that it’s simply traditional super-heroics in a more cynical age, but many of us have experienced ‘traditional super-heroics’ in a more complex form – traditional or even simple doesn’t have to translate to lazy.

Power Girl is not a bad book by any means.  Admittedly, this is only because of Amanda Conner, but still – for $2.99 you get an absolutely lovely 22 pages of story.  It may not be the most compelling story on the stands, but as far as fluff goes it nonetheless remains satisfying.

Grade: B-

– Cal Cleary

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Review: Power Girl #1

pg

I’ll admit it – I bought this largely because I love Adam Hughes covers and Amanda Conner art.  I almost never buy a book because of the art, but between those two, I did.  I also tend to at least try and support new books, especially with characters that deserve a shot at the limelight or creators who don’t do nearly enough work.

The book, largely set-up, reacquaints us all with Power Girl – after a brief one-page rundown of her origins, Palmiotti and Gray are off, stepping deftly between two different timelines.  In the first, Power Girl is flying throughout a Manhattan that is under attack by an army of giant robots while the entire city comes under increasingly intense psychic assault.  In the other, they have her restarting her secret identity of Karen Starr and buying back Starrware Labs, an up-and-coming R&D thinktank that she feels will give her focus and allow her to try and save the world in a different way.

Both segments are fun and at least a little frivolous.  The action is well-paced and beautifully illustrated, never resorting to cheesecake shots of the titular heroine to keep us interested, and the Karen Starr scenes are treated with the same level of respect… though with significantly more humor from both sides of the creative team.  Each segment has its ups and downs, but it is the Karen Starr scenes that really shine.  As the action plot moves forward quickly, Power Girl meets the mastermind behind the attack, the Ultra Humanite, but the confrontation between the two is as bland as possible, offering the issue’s weakest moments.  

Despite its flaws, however, the opening issue of Power Girl was, by and large, a success.  Conner, Gray and Palmiotti are clearly having fun, and regardless of the issues flaws in plotting, invite us to join them.  There may not be a great deal of thematic depth, big ideas, or huge crossover appeal, but it is a fun, engaging superhero story throughout, with promises of more to come.  If Palmiotti and Gray can cut back a little on the excessive narration and refine the plotting, the series may have a great deal of life to it.

Grade: B

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