The last few weeks of comics have had their ups and downs and we have not had any MAJOR events books, which I appreciated, but like Pavlov's dog I still salivate when I hear the bell. So it takes a few weeks to settle back into just enjoying the flow of regular issues. For me, comics are at their strongest when the individual series are good. Any inter-company continuity is usually best left to the occasionally cross-over. The JSA/JLA cross-over has been good as has the Outsiders/Checkmate cross-over, because they are tightly contained. It is when the companies push the company wide events that we are start to notice that this book no longer makes sense in the world you want us to believe in. Right now we are feeling the ramifications of big pushes for company wide continuity and as admirable as that effort is with Marvel and DC I find myself drawn back to what I most love about comics and that is good solid story telling. These three books are hitting the mark.
Left on Mission #2 (of 5) - Story Chip Mosher, Art - Francesco Francavilla, Colors Martin Thomas & Sulaco Studios
Premise: Eric has been forced to go on a mission to capture his ex-lover and partner Emma who has apparently gone rogue and is selling US secrets to the Russians. This issue we find out that in fact she is sickened by the entire covert game and she has evidence that links war crimes to the highest levels of the US government. She is selling the information to the Russians for money, but plans to also give the information to the UN in an attempt to shut down what she sees as a corrupted covert intelligence operation. More so (and I can be reading too much into to this) she has become totally disillusioned with what her life has become and she is trying in her way to make this a better world by exposing the covert games being played.
What I liked:
1) Well obviously the story. As my premise is a story summary, but if fails to give you the way the comic works on so many levels. Number one it is a spy comic. We open with Eric finding where Emma is and confronting an IRA person. As Eric leaves we see how brutal and unforgiving he can be as he literally takes this guy down and then kicks him over and over after he is already down. Next it is a romance novel, in a twisted way. The underlying sexual tension between Emma and Eric is apparent even as she lives him in a car that is ready to blow up. This is also an action comic as strong as some of Chuck Dixon's work, with fist fights, explosions and pure tension.
2) The pacing. Chip Mosher (writer) stated that he is the one structuring the pacing and it is fantastic. Page one is nine panel, page 2/3 and is a double page spread with four underlying panels, we have 12 panels, wide panels, narrow panels, whatever each scene dictates is there, all delivered by Francesco Francilliva (artist). The layouts and how that makes a comic move is often overlooked, but this book has it done right.
3) The art. It suits the book very well. It has a sense of realism that is necessary for this type of story and does great work with shadows, which also suits an almost noir feeling at times. Also the expressions really convey the emotions of the characters well.
4) The underlying concepts. I get the impression that the writer has some definite political views when it comes to what is right and wrong, but so far I feel it has been subtle and the characters are espousing what feels to be their viewpoints, making me think for myself. Again I could be reading too much into the book.
What I didn't like:
1) Apparently issue #3 will be a month away.
Cover Girl #2 (of 5) - Writer Andrew Crosby & Kevin Church, Artist Mateus Santolovco, Inker R. M. Yankowicz, Colorists Pablo Quiligotti & Brian Miroglio
Premise: An out of work actor runs a girl off the road and then saves her. Unbeknownst to him she was being followed by some bad guys. A TV crew catches the heroic moment of the actor (Alex) and that gets him noticed by a movie producer. He is cast in the lead role. The bad guys try to kill him and the studio hires a body guard (Rachael) to protect their investment. Rachael is a body guard and a knock out. She poses as his girl friend to ferret out who is trying to kill him.
What I liked:
1) The characters. Rachael the body guard, Alex the actor, Sam his agent and even Dwight Taylor (Rachael's body guarding partner). In this issue we met Rachael and Dwight and in short strokes the characters are brought to life. So much so that when Dwight is apparently killed at the end of this issue you feel more for him that half of the characters that have floated around in some books for a year or more.
2) The story. Fast paced, absurd on some levels and just out and out fun. There is a beautifully rendered scene where Rachael is hanging out of a car and shooting at the bad guys that just defines this book. She is a lethal knockout in an over the top action/mystery story.
3) The art. Sexy, fluid, slightly on the cartoon side, but nicely done.
What I didn't Like:
1) The big reveal. In a five part series not knowing who and what the bad guys are all about after two issue feels a little too long. The proof will be in the ending. Also I could not find a decent image on the web and I don't have a scanner so I took a picture of the cover to get the image. Why don't the publishers have the images on their website?
Hellblazer #232 Writer Andy Diggle, Artist Leonardo Manco, Colorist Lee Loghridge
Premise: John Constantine is back. Using his brand of "magic" he wins the title to the Ravenscar Hotel. This has a significant meaning to John, but I'm not sure how far back into John's history this moment goes, so I'm missing some of the shock value that they were going for in the ending.
What I liked:
1) The characterization of John Constantine. Not to take anything away from the last couple of writers, but until Andy Diggle got on this book I forgot how much I use to love Constantine. Diggle has he pegged to a "T" as a confident swaggering jackass of a bloke, who has an eye for enjoying his life, a sarcasm that is part of his charm and a sharp enough edge that you can cut your finger on. After a dalliance with a croupier from the casino (that he won the title to in this issue) he is getting dressed up and the girl says "You wear that well.", she is naked on the bed and John's answer is "Funny, I was about to say the same to you, luv." Works better with the pictures.
2) The art. Manco has been the main artist for a long time on this book and he owns Constantine. His art and the colors give the edgy feel and underlying current that helps to keep this comic on my reading list month in and month out.
3) The storyline to date. In three issues we have an underlying story that is building and yet had a strong two part story to begin Diggle's run. I hope he is making this a book that you can read for the story, but come back for what we are building up to as the larger story. Too often comics have long stories that do not know how to tell it in parts and give us this long story arcs that bore me. Diggle has told one story and connected it to story number two so deftly that it truly is a joy to read.
What I didn't like:
1) Nothing - great issue.