I’ve given up on Sex Criminals too, for many of the same reasons. Big fan of Fraction’s work at Marvel, but I’ve struggled to get into his Image work (other than the sublime Casanova, which I guess is a holdover from his earlier days).
I like all of it except for Casanova which has never worked for me as it seems he read a few 2000ad strips I grew up on and tried to replicate them as new and fresh.
X-Force: Assault on Graymalkin - This trade covers the exploits of X-Force between the time they lose their mentor, Cable, in X-Cutioner’s Song and his return in Fatal Attractions in X-Force #19-25. Inexplicably, it also contains New Warriors #31 which could have easily been left out and represents the only stray away from @GregCapullo’s amazing pencils.
During this time, X-Force and particularly their new leader, Sam Guthrie, grapples with the responsibility of choosing between Professor X’s dream and Cable’s more proactive approach to the future of mutantkind. It contains one of my favorite pages along those lines with Sam relating just how the closed fist vs open hand can be turned on its head (see below).
Cable’s legacy is a big theme in the book with a good chunk of the issues revolving around his orbital base, Graymalkin. Early chapters have them fighting SHIELD and War Machine (who is strangely called Iron Man and War Machine fairly interchangeably) for control of their former mentor’s legacy. The volume wraps with Magneto taking control of the station re-purposing it as his own mutant haven, Avalon.
This volume also marks the last of Greg Capullo’s work for Marvel before Todd McFarlane tempted him away to work on Spawn. His work is really top notch in these pages. There weren’t a lot in the way of extras in this volume which doesn’t bother me. One thing they did have is modern recoloring of some of the covers which look amazing though oddly strip out all signatures.
The comics contained really hold up well and reminds me of one of my favorite periods in X-Men comics. I recommend this to anyone who is a fan of Greg Capullo and X-Men comics of this time especially.
If I recall correctly, there was a bit of a mismatch in timing and the James Rhodes wasn’t really out there yet as War Machine just yet.
I remember that having a great one-liner about “Every Tom, Dick and Harry with a gun and an attitude.”.
That’s the cliffhanger ending to issue #20. I always thought it had quit a bit of punch both visually and dialog-wise.
It seems like anytime he’s referred to by a cover blurb or caption it’s “War Machine” but anytime it’s an actual speech bubble it’s “Iron Man”. I remember finding that odd even when originally reading the comic.
That’s the one I was thinking of.
There was a plot in Iron Man that Tony Stark had died and Rhodey took over, donning the black and silver weapon-strewn suit. It transpired that Tony had faked his death and it caused Rhodey to break off their friendship, he took the armour and adopted the name War Machine around the time he appeared in X-Force. Presumably the name confusion was editorial messing up on what books would be released when.
There’s also a bar scene with Vanessa (the shape changer that had taken Domino’s place) that takes place in Cheers which I thought was funny. I’m not sure if I caught that the first time around.
Edit: It’s X-Force #19 page 17. Here it is.
I have to admit the charms of Capullo have only really hit me recently. He was always technically very good but I felt in both X-Force and Spawn he was drawing ‘to order’ around someone else’s popular style. The page you posted looks like an equal 50% Leifeld/Lee combo.
That’s likely from coming into those books at an older age and being more analytical on various art styles.
I had no great expectations when he took over Batman in the Nu52 and on the first few pages went ‘wow!’. His style is his own and inventiveness and panel composition is first class.
I was pretty analytical on the art styles even at the time as I generally followed books for their artists. I could generally pick out who was on art by seeing a page or two.
One of the reasons I liked Capullo was that while he took some influence from the Image founders, he had his own style. There is always a distinct roundness to his heads. The crosshatching and sparse backgrounds were a bit of a tell for the times. I think his style has changed over the years but it’s more of an evolution rather than a distinct departure. He pushes and pulls on details more while putting more detail into backgrounds now. I think that has as much to do with current tastes as opposed to 90’s taste as much as inherent style. Adjusting to coloring techniques also seems to have had some affect on his art too.
I’ll agree to disagree on that one Ronnie. Yes a lot of early to mid 90s artists were asked to draw like Lee or McFarlane because they sold millions of copies but Capullo for a while drew so close to McFarlane they conned a lot of readers by switching the credits and nobody noticed (and that’s from Greg’s own admission). I read Spawn too for far longer than I should have.
I can’t see anything in the pages shared that is bad, I can’t see anything unique either.
He’s not the only one. Look at early Travis Charest or Liam Sharpe or Gary Frank work and it is all Jim Lee clone stuff, but by all accounts they were asked to do that and are now very distinctive artists.
I like the 21st century Capullo, he’s awesome.
We’ve had a bit of this discussion before. I think there was some other subterfuge going on when they were claiming that Capullo’s work was McFarlane’s back then. I suspect McFarlane was using his inks to impart some of his own style. You can tell a distinct difference between Spawn #16-20 done in a similar style to his X-Force work which was credit to Capullo and later work that was credited to McFarlane.
Charest changed pretty distinctively. I honestly never liked his early Jim Lee clone stuff. It always seemed like a fanart version of Lee picking up all the wrong lessons. I came back to comics much later to find that he had developed his own distinctive style and I love it.
Edit: Also, Haunt #7-18 shows a bit of transitional style between old Spawn and Batman leaning more toward the new style. There are also some issues where McFarlane inks him in that series. It doesn’t look drastically different but you can see McFarlane’s hand in the inks.
Ok, I got on a bit better with Sex Criminals Volume 2
I found a lot of it quite funny and I enjoyed mostly the stuff that touched on mental health - I feel like Fraction is almost reaching out to those of his readership who have some mental health issues, which is very altruistic of him if I am right - and the stuff that makes us tick.
I’ve figured out my problem and it’s that I don’t like the characters. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I feel like they are users who have zero will power and would just do what ever they want to do in life because they feel it.
Oddly I have a bigger problem with people like this, in life and in story, because they are wolves in sheeps clothing. On the surface they appear normal and likeable, but they will chew you up, spit you out and leave you behind with no regards to your feelings.
At least with real rogues you know where you are from day one. I think this is why I’m ok with anti hero types and the general bad & grey area protagonists in things like Ray Donovan and The Sopranos, etc
That and I’m not interested in the story itself.
I enjoyed this but I won’t need to read it again.
Totally, within a couple of years he was unique and amazing. Look at Liam on Wonder Woman, amazing stuff that has nothing in common with what he was asked to do 25 years ago.
Don’t get the wrong idea that I am down on any of these guys, they were asked to draw to order and got well paid for doing it. I’ve heard Greg say on tape with Kevin Smith that he penciled two issues of Spawn that were credited to Todd and a dozen artists told to emulate Jim Lee.
Gary Frank 1992.
Gary Frank now:
I’ve been rereading all of IDW’s recent(ish) Transformers comics - MTMTE, RiD, Windblade et al - lately building up to the first volume of Till All Are One (no special reason, I’d been wanting to do a big reread for a while and I finally got around to picking up TAAO the other week).
“Season 2” of MTMTE reads better together than it did originally. Some parts had felt a bit episodic and disparate, but the finale pulls them all together. RiD “season 2” is more static than I remembered - there’s a lot of treading water across volumes 7-9.
Till All Are One is a bit of a disappointing stop to this marathon read though. This is Scott’s third or fourth trade of TF comics and I’m still not convinced by her. Her writing isn’t terrible by any means, and there’s improvement from her first volume, but it doesn’t stand up well to Barber, let alone Roberts. It’s barely better than Shane McCarthy’s bland and dumb Drift mini.
I was somewhat disappointed by the art of Sara Pitre-Durocher as well and I can’t quite put my finger on why. Maybe the colouring? Her TF comic was Combiner Hunters, which was a garish mess, but due to the colouring. Then she did a chunk of RiD, which looked great and fit right in with main artist Andrew Griffith. Her covers (which she digitally paints/colours herself) are always great, but in TAAO, I don’t know. They feel looser and less refined, both in figure work and panel composition but the only change from RiD is the colourist and direct comparison between pages from the two shows little between them. But as a whole they feel markedly different. Maybe it’s overspill or a projection from my reaction to the writing?
Anyway, of the three main TF comics, it’s the weakest and I can see why it’d be the one to get canned, if one had to be.
Recently read Farel Dalrymple’s Pop Gun War: Chain Letter, the long-awaited follow-up to the series’s earlier installment, Gift (published in the late 90s/early 2000s).
The book follows Emily, a girl genius who leads a rock band called the Emilies, as she follows three monsters into a sewer and finds three TV screens, which show her scenes from the present, past, and future. The present section shows her brother Sinclair (the main character of the first volume; he’s a little boy with wings) and his friend Addison, a homeless man, teaming up with a lost astronaut to rescue people from an apartment fire. The past section shows how P.I. Ben Able (also introduced in the first volume) lost his eyesight. And the future section shows a witch-girl and the same astronaut from the first section teaming up with a character from Dalrymple’s The Wrenchies, a chubby boy named Hollis who dresses like a superhero. Together they must escape a dystopian alien planet where the astronaut is being made to fight in cyborg boxing matches.
As you can see, it’s a pretty surreal book. It’s easy to follow what’s happening but not so much how things connect. But that doesn’t really matter because Dalrymple is telling a surrealist story. His Pop Gun War/Wrenchies tales take place in a broken mirror reflection of our own world, where crowded city streets are filled with magic, where basement apartments might contain gigantic talking fishes, or where a dwarf who might be God grows to huge proportion depending on how many people believe in him.
The stories are strung together more by a shared melancholic tone than by plot. These stories are satisfying not because their meaning can always be grasped but because they act as an unfiltered window in the mind of a talented creator with a developed, off-kilter point of view.
Black Widow, volumes 1 & 2: SHIELD’s Most Wanted & No More Secrets
After mentioning these in the Marvel movie thread the other day, I finally finished reading volume two. It’s worth reviewing both at once, because really they’re two halves of a single overarching story that takes place across twelve issues, collected across these two six-issue TPBs (and surely ripe for a single OHC at some point).
If you’ve read Waid & Samnee’s Daredevil, then you might think you know what to expect - and to an extent, the pair deliver. There’s an elegance and flow to this book that definitely feels familiar from their extended run on the Man Without Fear, and the flamboyance of that swashbuckling run feels like it informs the opening issue of this series, in which Black Widow breaks free from her SHIELD captors in an extended action sequence that lasts the entire issue.
As you can see from that page, this is a book where Waid clearly knows he can rely on his artist to carry important beats of the story without letting words get in the way, and much of the action throughout the twelve issues is pleasingly ‘silent’. I love the last few panels of this page:
Even when Waid does step in, he’s careful to be pretty economical with dialogue during these action sequences, which really helps them to move on at a decent clip. There’s a lot of humour there too, even in the midst of fairly serious scenes. It’s the equivalent to watching a great Bond movie, where the action and the character’s attitude all come together to provide a really fun, dynamic and fast-moving reading experience.
And all that within the first issue!
Things do calm down a little bit after that barnstorming opening: we get a few more details on exactly why Natasha is out of favour with SHIELD, and Waid begins to tease out an intriguing plot that lasts for the entire series before it’s fully resolved. Without giving too much away, it touches heavily on Black Widow’s past with the Red Room, and also brings her into contact with quite a few other important players in the Marvel Universe (including Tony Stark, Nick Fury and the Winter Soldier) without ever feeling as though the focus is pulled off Natasha herself.
It’s a difficult balancing act at times, but Waid achieves it by making sure that we constantly see things from Black Widow’s point of view, being surprised by the story’s twists at the same time as she’s surprised by them, and always showing us her perspective on the story so that we can understand the choices she makes.
Waid also keeps things fresh by moving through a wide variety of locales and situations, making the most of the wider comics universe that the book inhabits. While some writers of super-spy characters might shy away from some of the more outlandish aspects of superhero comics in favour of a more grounded tone, Waid embraces them, leading to some fairly crazy moments that you wouldn’t necessarily think would fit in a Black Widow story, but which work perfectly (including a trip to the moon to see Nick in his current, post-Original Sin role).
Where the book diverges from Daredevil is that its tone is regularly fairly dark and unforgiving: there’s brutality here, both psychological and physical, and the book isn’t afraid to show us that in uncompromising detail. Samnee’s art - which makes liberal use of large dark/black areas - is perfectly suited to this, and even though he’s got a fairly clean and cartoonish style, there are parts of the story that feel very gritty and hard-edged.
Even when the action is a little less personal, Samnee manages to maintain a sense of pressure and harsh conflict, with angled panels and (deliberately) chaotic layouts helping to emphasise the panic of scenes like this one in which Black Widow is targeted in a parking garage:
The entire book is a great showcase for both creators’ talents, and if I have any real problem with it, it’s that it’s over too soon. There’s a sense of the final few issues rushing to wrap up several of the plot strands - perhaps because the book was intended to run longer and was then cancelled? I don’t know the history of it - and as a result, one or two aspects of the story feel like they don’t quite get the conclusion that they needed to really land.
But that’s a pretty minor complaint. Overall, this is a really fun ride of a book, and one which provides a pretty excellent storyboard if Marvel Studios ever do get around to planning a solo Black Widow movie. With the perfect mix of espionage, intrigue, action and superheroics that we get here, it would make for a perfect film outing for Natasha.
The first issue of this book was really great. It was like an opening scene from an action film. I spoke to Waid shortly after it was released and he gave Samnee all the credit for it. There was probably a lot of truth to it but I think he was also being modest.
I dropped off of the series but really need to go back and give it a shot now that it’s wrapped. I love Samnee and Waid’s work.
I really like it when artists use cool, sometimes obscure cars (or at least something resembling them) in their stories. In books like this, it gives it a bit of James Bond feel. It looks like Samnee has chosen a Renault Alpine A110, a classic rally car, as the basis for what Natasha is driving in that that last page. And a Ducati Multistrada 1200 for the cover.
One of the things I liked about the book was that Samnee was credited as a co-writer. Waid says in one of the letters pages that a lot of initial story ideas came from Samnee and it was him that convinced Waid to do the series, when he was initially reluctant.
Was a 3 part crossover of sorts, between Postal, The Tithe and Think Tank.
This could have been a bit of a throwaway gimmick, but there’s stuff that happens here that feeds into the other books, and some series shit at that.
I enjoyed it and found it fairly tense.
However: I have a bit of a complaint complaint in that in this volume we have all 3 issues of the mini but the other 3 issues are the first issues of the aforementioned books and I already have all of these because I am following the other series.