Monday, May 18, 2009

Ford's Focus - May 11th 2009 to May 18th 2009

Written By: Thomas Ford

*Action Comics #877
*Azrael: Death’s Dark Knight #3(of 3)
*B.P.R.D.: The Black Goddess #5(of 5)
*Echo #12
*Fables #84
*Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape #1(of 6)
*Green Lantern Corps #36
*Guerrillas #4(of 9)
*House Of Mystery #13
*Jack Staff #20
*Oracle: The Cure #3(of 3)
*R.E.B.E.L.S. #4
*Super Human Resources #4(of 4)
*The Unwritten #1
*Blazing Combat HC
*Oishinbo: Sake TP
*The Walking Dead: Compendium TP
*Hip Flask: Concete Jungle HC (library)
*Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt HC(library)
*Thor Visionaries: Walter Simonson TP (library)
*Batman: The Joker’s Last Laugh TP (library)
*Across The Universe: The DC Universe Stories Of Alan Moore TP (library)

*Ms Tree Quarterly #5
*Omega The Unknown #7-10
*Pigeons From Hell #2
*Elongated Man: Europe ’92 #1-4
*Anna Mercury #1-4
*Superman: Speeding Bullets
*Nancy/Melvin Monster FCBD
*Johnny Dynamite: Underground TP(library)
*Stray Bullets Vol. 1:Innocence Of
Nihilism TP (library)
*Superman: Secret Identity TP (library)
*Clumsy GN (library)
*All bought single issues

Max Allan Collins is one of those names that you hear about a lot before finding out who he is or what he does, or at least for me. Having never read Road to Perdition or seen the movie, only recently did I find out that Collins was the writer. Still he did seem like someone who only stopped by the comics world. Little did I know that not only has he done quite a lot of comics work, but it is also really good from the little that I’ve read.
I first came across Ms Tree last year in The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics. I thought that the story featured in it was a one off until I started seeing ads for Ms Tree Quarterly in the back of late ‘80’s/early ‘90’s DC Comics which got me interested in tracking down some back issues. It wasn’t until I crack opened an Ms Tree Quarterly a few months ago did I realise that it was the same character from The Mammoth Book…
Accompanying Collins on all things Ms Tree is artist Terry Beatty. At first Beatty’s clean lines and consistent character depictions only seemed serviceable, but upon further reading, his thick and confident lines really grew on me. Shadows/shading are rarely used and if so are usually depicted as a few lines leaving quite a lot of the mood setting to colourist Tom Ziuko(at least in Ms Tree Quarterly #5). Facial expressions are definitely one of Beatty’s strengths, figures occasionally seem stiff but that could be due the heavy lines, which is one my favourite aspects of his art.
The story in MTQ #5 has Ms Tree tracking down a strangler/rapist on the campus of her stepson’s (who shares the same name of Michael Tree with her) college. The subject matter is strongly handled but comes across almost like a public service announcement which could hold back most stories, but here the story and characterization are handled with great skill and come together as a thrilling read.
The issue also contains a Midnight back up feature by Edward Gorman and Rick Burchett. Midnight is a vigilante who disguise/costume is basically a navy blue parker and fedora that conveniently shadows his eyes.
Johnny Dynamite, a title picked up by Charlton Comics in the ‘50’s, was purchased (character and existing stories) by Collins and Beatty during the ‘80’s at what I assume was the same time DC were buying up other Charlton characters for their own purposes. They soon started featuring Johnny Dynamite reprints in the back of Ms Tree and in 1994 they created a new tale for Johnny Dynamite.
Johnny Dynamite: Underworld is the kind of Private Dick meets B-movie madness that never seems to be pulled off just right, but here there is rarely a beat missed and it delivers on all fronts. Beatty’s line work is a lot finer in her than his previous work in Ms Tree: that results in the figures being looser and separates it nicely from his Ms Tree work. To conclude, this book is filled with mystery, zombies, deals with the devil and all other odd quirks of horror/suspense fiction that adds up to be quite an excellent read – not to be missed!

The best looking book I picked up this week would have to be Blazing Combat. A great deal of care has been put into the presentation and the page reproduction is extremely clean. The art makes this one of those distracting books where every time you open it to read you just get carried away looking at the pictures. From this and to last years Bat Lash mini series, John Severin is fast becoming one of my favourite artists.

A couple of surprises this week were Stray Bullets Vol. 1 and Superman: Secret Identity. SB was sort of my last chance with David Lapham, someone I’ve wanted to like but have almost always had negative reaction to. I can say that he definitely came through here with slowly intertwining “done in one” stories set from ‘70’s - ‘90’s featuring down and out/victims of circumstance characters. The characters, some of which are reoccurring, are introduced in the middle of committing or witnessing crimes or generally getting led astray. A very tight rope is walked between stories being too bleak and disturbing and thoroughly entertaining, and Lapham’s nice brushwork doesn’t hurt.

Superman: Secret Identity is an Elseworlds type of set up staring the son of David and Laura Kent, Clark, named after the comic character Superman who eventually develops similar powers. Kurt Busiek fills every balloon and caption with the charm which sometimes showed through in his recent run on Superman, showing his great knowledge and affection for the character. And when it couldn’t get any better you get to Stuart Immonen’s art, which is all pencils, and works so well here because he tackles the colouring chores using a great range of colours and gets the right balance in all aspects of the art. My favourite pages were the ones featuring great, sprawling cityscapes that really make you slow down and appreciate everything about the story. Splash pages and double pages spreads are greatly utilised for grand and exciting scenes as they should be.

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