Sunday, November 22, 2009

In which I check back in with a couple of series I reviewed the first issues of

The Anchor #2 (Boom Studios) I was pretty impressed with the first issue of this new series by writer Phil Hester and artist Brian Churilla, and remained so with the second issue.

Hester teases out Clem/The Anchor’s origin a bit, sends the big, bearded bruiser and his friend Hofi to Scotland to fight an even cooler-looking monster than he fought last time, while two groups of enemies plot against him on two different planes of reality.

There’s still a great deal of mystery about who exactly this guy is and what exactly he’s whole deal is, but Hester and Churilla are telling us, they’re just doing it at their own pace—there’s no sense that they’re just drawing it out because they’re still trying to figure it out themselves or want to wait for a trade or anything.

The monster that needs a-punching this time is a huge centaur-like creature with the body of a stag, and the torso of a man, with the skull and antlers of a stag where his head should be. Wristbands, a big red beard, and a Scottish-looking, red and green plaid sash complete his look.

Oh, and Clem wears a sailor shirt and trims his own beard by ripping a fist-full of it off himself. Those things are awesome.

My only reservation regarding The Anchor is its price—it’s $3.99 for 22-pages, so it’s not one I’d personally buy in comic book form (I’ve been reading preview pdfs). If you’re richer and/or less stingy than me though, you may want to check it out. If not, make a mental note to check out the eventual trade.

Days Missing #2-#3 (Archaia) I wasn’t terribly fond of the first issue of this series, and I'm still kind of confused about its existence and production, but with these successive issues the premise at least has become perfectly clear.

Days Missing has the words “Rodenberry Presents” above it’s logo, and bears a Rodenberry logo right next to the Archaia one. It also has a credit reading “Created by Trevor Roth,” a creator who neither writes nor draws the book.

I’m guessing Roth came up with the premise for the book—a mysterious superhuman steward of humanity named The Steward with the power to alter and/or erase entire days from existence, in order to save the world—and turned it over to Archaia to develop.

Each of the first three issues have had entirely different creative teams, however. The first issue was by Phil Hester and Frazer Irving, the second by David Hine and Chris Burnham, the third by Ian Edginton and Lee Moder. Those are pretty talented individuals, and creative teams well worth paying attention to, but the books obviously lacks visual consistency, and the hopping through different times to face completely different threats makes every issue seem like a one-issue series of its own.

The good news is that it means every issue of Days Missing—which is currently a five-issue miniseries, but flexible enough to lead to more minis or an ongoing if there’s demand—is equally new-reader accessible, but the bad news is that they’re also pretty hit-or-miss.

Hine and Burnham’s issue has The Steward writing in his diary about a 19th century adventure, in which he erased the day in history when Mary Shelley met a real-life doctor who had discovered a way to reanimate the dead using lightning and later encountered the monster that resulted. The inspiration for her Frankenstein was therefore real, although The Steward did away with it, so only a vague memory was left to be turned into her novel.

The story is pretty well told, and Hine thankfully doesn’t make the parallels between Shelley’s eventual story and her encounters here too heavy-handed (The real-life doctor is named John Galton, not Frankenstein, for example).

The art was pretty wretched though, and Imaginary Friends Studios colors seem to obliterate all of Burnham’s lines, so that far too often pages look like they were produced entirely by color artists. Additionally, the character aren’t very good actors, excepting perhaps the monster himself, who seems to fit better into this style of art and color than real-life, famous 19th-century poets and writers do.

The art improves quite a bit in the third issue, in which Lee Moder provides flatter, more open work with cartoonier, more comic book-y art. I think the coloring is still far too aggressive—there are colored lines rather than black ones in many instances, for example—but the pages are cleaner, crisper and easier to read than in the previous examples.

This story involves a scientist who has noticed evidence of The Steward’s hand in history and is about to find the evidence she needs to prove that there are days missing thanks to a giant Hadron super collider. Luckily for The Steward, things work out so that he doesn’t have to choose between keeping his secret and saving the day.

These two newer issues share one problem with the first, and that’s that they seem to be 25-page stories squeezed into 22-pages. Each one has examples of pages stuffed with too much dialogue in too few panels, which can be tedious to read.

Hercules: The Knives of Kush #4 (Radical Comics) My major reservations about Radical’s use of one of fiction’s most enduring heroes from the first issue of this miniseries (which I reviewed here) concerned the art, and those haven’t changed.

The covers, like the one to the right by Clint Langley, often strike a balance somewhere between a science fiction paperback cover and a heavy metal album cover, and this one is no exception. The level of detail evaporates in the interior art though, which is provided by a trio of artists and a trio of colorists (Cris Bolson, Manuel, Leonardo Silva, Dough Sirois, Cliff Cramp and Steve Kirchow).

The characters themselves have a hyper-reality about them, but they don’t always seem to fit in the environments they interact with, or at least not as smoothly. The individual panels tend to look more like rough drafts to a video game, and thus have a different feel than the covers (And its worth noting that my objection to the art reflects my own bias against such highly produced, computer-aided art—I like to be able to see the lines the artists made, and to be able to pick out what a penciler did versus what a colorist did). I just don’t like looking at this comic book, which certainly makes reading it a lot less pleasurable for me than it should be.

Steve Moore’s script for this issue is a lot more busy, packed and fun than the set-up of the first issue, though, so I’m readers with different aesthetic prejudices than me may dig it a lot more.

Hercules and his gang of mercenaries have been employed by one side in a war between Egyptian rival factions, and the book opens with Autolycus and Ioalus undercover at an orgy (where they learn valuable information about their enemies’ sorcerer/secret weapon), leads into a chariot chase that goes down like a movie car chase, segues into some court intrigue and Oh shit our bosses are kinda evil too, huh? realizations and climaxes with a face off between two giant armies, in which this more realistic version of Herc does some seriously superheroic stuff.

I don’t like looking at it, but I kinda liked reading it.

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