Saturday, February 17, 2018

Superman #10

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Superman
Issue: #10
Date: October, 1987
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: John Byrne
Penciler: John Byrne
Inker: Karl Kesel
Colorist: Tom Ziuko
Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Michael Carlin

From John Byrne's run on the rebooted Superman in the 1980s. This issue is actually from right around the time I started seriously collecting comics, although Superman wasn't one of the books I followed regularly back then.

Considering how "rebooted" this version of Superman was supposed to be, this issue had a surprisingly Silver Age vibe to it.

Clark Kent's powers go out of control one by one, while Lex Luthor watches on from afar, and Clark fears he's become a danger to Metropolis. And of course that's just the moment when a big robotic monster names Klaash attacks.

The story starts out looking like it is going to be the beginning of serious long-term problems for Clark, but then the whole thing gets resolved and wrapped up in a few pages, bringing everything back to status quo.

This makes this a fairly good self-contained issue, one that isn't going to lose new readers in a maze of continuity. But it also feels a bit anticlimactic when all is said and done.

Luthor has some good moments here, and Maggie Sawyer is excellent. Maggie is also the only character who really gets any plot action that extends beyond this story.

And there are a couple bits of fun comic relief early on when it's Clark's x-ray vision that's out of control.

Not a lot of depth, but a fun Superman story with an "old school" feel.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, February 16, 2018

Confessions of an American Ling Master Preview #0

From my friend EJ by way of the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Confessions of an American Ling Master
Issue: Preview #0, 2nd Edition
Date: 2007
Publisher: EJ Barnes
Writer: Al Ackerman, EJ Barnes
Artist: EJ Barnes

A seemingly mundane city-dwelling recluse leads a double life as the mysterious Ling Master. Featuring a highly unreliable narrator and a weird-pulp vibe, this b/w preview minicomic sets the scene for the weirdness to come. The mentions of the Vug-Randolphs ("a creche-family of large sentient black beetles") and the Araby society tease of some serious strangeness on the way.

Not a lot of plot in this introductory story, but plenty of groundwork is laid.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Xenoglyphs Volume 1

Writer Omar Spahi contacted me on twitter and asked me to give his Xenoglyphs graphic novel a look. There is currently a Kickstarter to fund the complete series running here.

Title: Xenoglyphs
Issue: Volume 1
Date: October, 2014
Publisher: OSSM Comics
Writer: Omar Spahi
Artist: PJ Catacutan
Letterer: Steve Wands
Editor: Barbara Randall Kesel, Alex Wilson, Siike Donnelly

Trade paperback (I read the ebook version) collecting the first six issues of the Xenoglyphs comic series. The publisher is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the complete series.

This was an interesting take on the idea of the heroes traveling the world to bring together some set of magical artifacts. In this story, the magical artifacts (the Xenoglyphs of the title) are scattered around the world, and the heroes are dedicated to keeping them scattered. It's the villain who's trying to bring them together.

Staff-wielding adventurer Steven James and his techie friend Dom Jenkins are Seperators, part of a legacy of protectors who have helped keep the Xenoglyphs hidden for centuries. The Xenoglyphs give their wielders elemental powers (with nine elements in this system), and could grand godlike abilities if brought together.

A villain calling himself Anubis is out to track down the Xenoglyphs, starting in the midst of the Arab Spring demonstrations in Egypt. Steven and Dom have arrived there to try to protect the Xenoglyph, and soon encounter Jennifer, another Seperator, who goes against Seperator tradition to make an alliance with them.

This story had excellent pacing, with an overall entertaining Indiana Jones kind of vibe. The worldbuilding was accomplished smoothly, and the action never slowed down. Fight scenes were fun and plentiful with all the characters getting their moments to shine. The villain had a great look and came off as suitably menacing.

I could have done with a few less cliches. At this point I cringe at phrases like "chosen one" and "master of evil". I would be happy to never again see a scene where the male hero warns a female character who has already proved herself to be a capable fighter to stay out of a fight out of concern for her safety (and by "concern for her stafety" here, we mean a combination of stupidity and sexism).

But that being said, there was a lot to really like here. Good dialogue, generally appealing characters, and even a couple of surprise plot twists and hints of future plot twists, especially toward the end of this collection. I think there is the potential for this to go in some really interesting directions as it continues, and in spite of a couple of bits that felt tired, this was generally a fun ride.

Rating: 7.5/10

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Dandelion Studios Website Update

Just a quick update: We decided recently not to renew our dandelionstudios dot com domain. We're looking forward to doing some new creative projects in the coming months and years, but we'll be operating from our various social media platforms.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Cecil #1

Another minicomic that I bought over the summer at I bought last summer at Million Year Picnic in Cambridge MA during our visit home to the US.

Title: Cecil
Issue: 1
Date: 2015
Publisher: Jonathan Todd (Twitter @jonathanjtodd)
Writer: Jonathan Todd
Artist: Jonathan Todd

Set in a suburban Massachusetts middle school in 1987, this minicomic introduces Cecil Hall, a black 6th grader from Florida who is trying to find how he will fit in at his new, mostly-white school. First-up, the social hierarchy of the school cafeteria.

This was a brief introduction to the setting and characters, but Cecil's internal dialogue about race and social interactions in school was nuanced and thought-provoking. It does a good job of revealing the main character through small details and observations while introducing enough of the setting and supporting characters to make me want to see what happens next.

I will be on the lookout for more issues of this.

Rating: 7.5/10

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Cerebus #288

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Cerebus
Issue: 288
Date: March, 2003
Publisher: Aardvark-Vanaheim
Writer: Dave Sim
Artist: Dave Sim, Gerhard
Letterer: Dave Sim
Cover: Chris Verhoeven, Ken Sim

Reading a random individual issue of an epic like Cerebus can be a bit of a challenge. There was not a lot of plot here, and I definitely had the impression that my experience with this issue would have been different in the context of the story that came before and after it.

That being said, what we have here is a scene of the ending credits to a movie (with a few amusing references thrown into the credits), followed by a scene played out almost entirely with dialogue. The characters are actually only shown on one page. For most of the issue, the art wanders over detailed images of the scenery around the speakers, as the discussion turns from an examination of inconsistencies in religious scripture to something more intimate.

Sim's artwork is brilliant, and the storytelling approach here is interesting. In spite of me not really knowing what was going on, the combination of art, words, and storytelling did a nice job of hooking me in.

Surrounding the actual story was a bit of a hodgepodge of things: A cover referencing menopause, which didn't seem related to what was going on in the dialogue (although there might have been something subtle that I missed), an opening page excerpt from an article in The Comics Journal about the comic Donjon, which felt like a bit of a passive-aggressive swipe. And to finish up the issue, a collection of excerpts from accounts of the Canadian military operations in the Balkans conflict of the 1990s. Some of these were pretty interesting historical accounts, while others felt like standard political rants on the foreign policy roles of Canada and the US, and the role of the UN.

Definitely not the best spot to jump aboard this series, but Cerebus still always has enough depth to it to keep things interesting.

Rating: 6/10