Posts Tagged ‘art’

EG’s Review: The Shield #1

September 23, 2009

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The Shield #1
Writer – Eric Trautmann
Pencils – Marco Rudy
Inks – Mick Gray
Letters – Sal Cipriano
Colors – Art Lyon
Publisher – DC Comics

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(Heads up – there are a couple of spoilers in this review – nothing that I think will take away from the comic if you read it, but I wanted to warn you, just in case you hate any spoilers at all!)

You may have heard that the Red Circle characters were coming to DC. You may not have had a clue what that meant. Then, you may have heard the Archie super heroes were coming to DC. You may have wondered how Jughead in a cape was going to be folded into the modern DC Universe.

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For me, though, when I saw the characters, I thought, “Hey, those are the Mighty Crusaders coming to the DC Universe!”

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And, that is when I got excited.

See, when I was but a young geek, I had the action figures of the Mighty Crusaders. My family wasn’t exactly rolling in the dough, so when it came to little chunks of overpriced plastic (ie, action figures), I didn’t have all that many. When the Mighty Crusaders came out, though, they were significantly cheaper than other figures.

And thus, I had them.

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In all honesty, I didn’t know much about the characters at the time, and very often used the Shield as Captain America and the Web as Spider-Man (which, admittedly, was a bit of a stretch), but I came to really like the toys, and eventually learned about the actual characters and enjoyed them a lot.

Which is one of the heartbreaking things about revival of these characters at DC.

A little while back, they issued four one-shots of the Shield, the Web, the Hangman, and the Inferno (again, I admit, I was less familiar with the Hangman and the Inferno… because they weren’t members of the Mighty Crusaders), and I bought all four.

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Sucker that I am.

The one-shots were pretty crummy, and connected, which meant that if you didn’t get all four, you were missing out on the story. And, if you did get all four, you just felt ripped off.

When the ongoing Shield book was announced, though, I thought I’d give it a chance. The one-shot, while not great, was probably the best of the four, and I was able to get the first issue at a great discount. (In case you haven’t noticed in my previous postings, I’m cheap.) Even if it was crummy, I could pass it along to someone else (Christmas is coming, and I find comics make great padding in packages being sent out!).

I was glad I had read the one-shot in preparation for this first issue of the ongoing. I’m pretty sure I would’ve gotten the gist regardless, but knowing the Shield was an injured soldier, saved by experimental technology via his suit, helped.

In the story, the Shield is sent to locate some Special Ops Units that have gone missing. Unfortunately, they’ve gone missing in an area that is particularly sensitive about costume-clad heroes coming in – the Bialya/Kahndaq border.

(In case you didn’t know – and, spoilers for 52 here – Black Adam, at the death of his wife, Isis, went nuts and killed everyone in Bialya… which explains the sensitivity in the region)

After speaking with the Mullah of the local village, the Shield is led to the location where the missing men are likely being held… and is attacked!

Not by the insurgents, though. He is being attacked by the missing men!

While trying to keep the men from killing the boy that led him to the location, and keeping the boy from killing the men as well, the scene is interrupted by Magog!

Ooh, exciting… except, not so much. This big reveal of a guest star from the DCU in the next issue was… disappointing.

Up to that point, the comic was really intriguing. First off, it had a great feel. If I had to describe it, it would be a nice blend of Captain America, with a bit of Iron Man thrown in. There was definitely a nice military feel, and the Shield was definitely presented as a soldier, but there was also the science fiction element of the suit thrown in.

Even having the men attack the Shield was a bit unexpected, and let the reader wonder what was really going on. But, then, Magog was shoe-horned into the book. And, personally, not being a fan of that character, I was immediately deflated by his appearance.

More than a personal like/dislike of Magog, though, I found that the introduction of a DC guest star was a little early. This book needs the chance to establish what it is before throwing guest appearances in, especially guest appearances from d-level characters. (I’m just saying – who buys a book by seeing Magog on the cover? “Ooh, look, Magog! Gotta have it!”)

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(Wait… seriously?!?)

The art throughout the story was good, and fitting for the book. Perhaps a little too clean, but that could just be that it had the same feel as the most current run of Captain America, and the art style there is darker, which in turn makes me feel that maybe this should be as well.

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Along with the Shield in this book, though, we are also given the back-up (I don’t care if you call it a co-feature or a second feature, DC, it is still a back-up) of the Inferno.

I won’t go into the story there. I read it, and it was “eh” – plenty forgettable and I don’t think it paired well with the main character in the book. The art was fine, but nothing extraordinary.

So, what is the verdict? Well, sadly, The Shield has three strikes against it. Strike one – the abrupt, unnecessary, and unwanted inclusion of a guest star right at the end. Strike two – the Inferno second feature really brought down the momentum established in the main feature of the book. And, strike three – cover pricing a new, unestablished book at $3.99? Really, DC, what are you thinking? Kill the back-up story and bring this in at $2.99!

Even with the strikes, though, I really enjoyed most of the first issue. For that reason, I’m giving the book two and a half Running Steves.

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When it is collected as a trade, I might pick it up, but it didn’t pull me in enough to buy every month.

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Review: All-New Iron Manual #1

May 15, 2008

They got me.

I hate when that happens.

See, I don’t tend buy comic book one-shots.  Most of the time, they are overpriced and all too often, the “extra pages” included are nothing more than reprints of stories I’ve probably already read.

I’m also wary of projects that come out just to tie-in with movies.

And yet…

*Sigh*

I order my comics through an online service.  It is a great convenience, having discounted comics delivered right to my door (the nearest comic book shop to my house is a 20 minute drive away).  The one disadvantage is pre-ordering and not having the chance to really look at what I’m buying ahead of time.  I am forced to depend on the blurbs put out by the various companies about their projects.

Overall, it isn’t that big a deal.  I know what artists and writers I like, and my track record is pretty good for avoiding pitfalls.

Not so today.  Today, I recieved my shipment of comics, and, sitting atop the pile, is the physical representation of my own stupidity:  All-New Iron Manual #1.

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Yep.  A one-shot designed just to take advantage of the Iron Man film recently released.

So, why didn’t the red flags go up on this project for me?  Actually, they did, but I chose to ignore them.  And, why did I buy a book so glaringly not for me? 

Here is the description of the book that I ordered:

These are the chronicles of Tony Stark: the playboy, the genius inventor, the philanthropist, the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., the futurist, the hero. This Handbook is the definitive resource to the world of Iron Man, featuring Tony’s closest allies (Happy and Pepper Hogan, War Machine, the Order) and deadliest foes (Justin Hammer, Mandarin, Obadiah Stane)! Includes a complete gallery of the Iron Man armors, plus all-new schematics of key armors and the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier!

I read through that description and was unimpressed… until that last sentence.  That last, horribly deceptive sentence.

One of my favorite things about Iron Man is the fact that his armor changes.  Unlike other comic book heroes, who seem to stay with relatively unchanging costumes for most of their existence, Iron Man’s look has updated every few years since inception.

Imagine my thrill about the chance to have a complete gallery of those armors!

So, despite my reservations, despite all the warning signs, and despite the $4.99 cover price, I bought the All-New Iron Manual #1.

I will never learn.

With undisguised excitement, I picked up the comic from my recent shipment, determined to take a look at it immediately.  The cover?  Fantastic.  It brought hope to me for what would be contained within.

I began to flip through the pages.  It was, essentially, what was promised – basically, a lot of entries about characters, pulled from the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.  I continued flipping, knowing I would eventually be greeted by an amazing gallery of the various armors used over the years.

Then, I got to the actual Iron Man entry, and beheld the gallery.

And regret set in.

In my dreams, I hoped for a sequence of splash pages, each type of armor brilliantly displayed in detail, one per page.  In more realistic fashion, I thought that maybe I’d get two sets of armor per page, maybe not as detailed or dynamic, but still a nice display.  Bare minimum, I was expecting the gallery pages to be quartered, displaying four armors per page.

Any of those would have been preferable to what I got.

Bordering the Iron Man entry, like guards for the gutter, were a series of armor images, measuring about 1 inch wide by 2 1/2 inches tall.  There are eight per page (one row of four on the top, one row of four on the bottom), with an equal amount of space devoted the text of the detailed history of Iron Man throughout the “gallery.”

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Thirty-nine types of armor, displayed across the top and bottom of five pages.

Yep, Marvel, you got me.  I was expecting an incredible display of the various armors, and you give me thumbnails.

Ha ha.

Jokes on me.

Listen folks, if you are wanting a detailed look at Iron Man and his supporting cast/enemies, this book does deliver that.  If you, like me, were hoping for more in the way of art, save your five bucks and go visit The Iron Man Armory, which has better images of most of the armors anyway.

 

Review: Dave Sims’ Glamourpuss

May 5, 2008

Okay, true confession time:  I’ve never read Cerebus.

For the majority of my life, I’ve been a mainstream comic guy.  Still am.  Now, though, I’m more open to independent projects.

Still, though, Cerebus is something that I’d like to get around to reading at some point.

My friend OG mentioned that he also missed out on Cerebus, but that he was jumping on board with the new Dave Sim project, Glamourpuss.
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I have another confession to make:  The more I heard about Glamourpuss, the less I wanted to pick it up.

The bits and pieces I heard about it were not exciting me.  The idea of a satirical book made up of drawings based on the models of women’s fashion magazines?  Wow.  So not my cup of tea.

Honestly, it felt more and more as if this was turning into some sort of self-indulgent vanity project, that Sim was taking advantage of his Cerebus fans to purposefully put out a book, completely without a market, just because he could.

Yet, my curiousity about the project could not be denied.  If there was to be a disaster, I intended to be there to gawk at it.

This past week, I recieved my comics in the mail (thank you discount online ordering services!!!), and among the stack of spandex covered superheroes was Glamourpuss.
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In a time when my curiosity often makes me regret plopping down my hard-earned cash on new comic projects, Glamourpuss turned out to be a real surprise.

It was good.

It was more than good.  It was fantastic.

What I had feared would be a mediocre satire turned out to be more of a personal examination of the photo-realistic line art of such artists as Al Williamson, Stan Drake, Neal Adams, and Alex Raymond.

And, yet, it wasn’t merely a clinical and dry examination of the art styles or the men.  It felt very much like having a conversation with a knowledgeable fan, who as he talked, took out a piece of paper to demonstrate what he was talking about.

Throughout the book, Sims demonstrates the styles used, not by merely photocopying the images and pasting them in (because the copies have been reproduced so many times that the details are all but lost), but by actually tracing and redrawing them, diversifying the line weight in his best guess of what the original was.

And, as he does so, the project takes on a very personal feel of an artist trying to grasp the techniques of a style that is all too seldom seen.  Glamourpuss is a journal recounting this voyage.
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Oh, there are aspects of the satire within the book.  And, while it is competent enough, it is more of a window dressing to the book.

Here I am, I’ve come this far, and I haven’t really talked about the art itself!  If you are only concerned about the art in your comics, don’t worry.  You will not be disappointed in this book.  It is really, truly beautiful stuff.  By examining the art under the guiding explanations of Sims, you will take even more from it.

Is this a self-indulgent vanity project?  Yeah, it really is.  It certainly isn’t a “traditional” type of comic book.  And, if Dave Sims was not Dave Sims, there is little chance anyone would have ever heard of this book.  That said, even though it is a self-indulgent vanity project, it is a really, really good self-indulgent vanity project.

If you haven’t checked it out, you should.