Monday, December 03, 2012

COMIC BOOK REVIEW: All Star Western #14

All Star Western # 14 (DC)
Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti (writers); Moritat ( art, main feature); Phil Winslade (art, back-up feature)

One of the most consistently excellent reads of the New 52 has been Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Moritat's All Star Western. Jonah Hex is an enduring and fun western anti-hero and his time in 1880s Gotham has mined great depths of his character. Here we have Hex and Dr. Arkham hired to find Dr. Jekyll, which is an inclusion that works, even if this veers the story further away from what part of its title promises. Taking place in an industrial eastern city and including characters from Victorian fiction isn't exactly "western" but it does pass muster on the "all star" part. I'm particularly keen on the inclusion of the Barbary Ghost in the main story and enjoyed the banter between Ghost, Jonah, and Tallulah Black during their fight in Gotham's Chinatown.

Tomahawk gets the back-up again this month in part 2 of his tale, a methodical, historical-based story in the years after the Revolutionary War, that hasn't really drawn me in outside of Phil Winslade's gorgeous art. How this guy isn't drawing a monthly somewhere is beyond.  Always a treat to see his lithe, lively, classical renderings. These back-ups have been a great showcase for him, but I wish DC would give him his own book. In the meantime, I can only hope that
Winslade is on board to draw what I predict is a Barbary Ghost/Tallulah Black back-up feature in coming months.

COMIC BOOK REVIEW: Captain America and Black Widow #639

Captain America and Black Widow #639 (Marvel)
Cullen Bunn (writer); Francesco Francavilla (art and colors)

I've enjoyed the long game Cullen Bunn has employed through his tenure on this Cap team-up book. The overall plot through the Hawkeye arc, the Iron Man arc, and now the Black Widow arc has been well developed and flows very nicely throughout the three team-ups. But, yes, unfortunately there is a "but" here, each arc started with a bang and then petered out. I considered dropping this title after the humdrum finale of the Hawkeye arc, but stayed for Batroc's participation in the Iron Man arc. Then when Iron Man team-up story also ran out of steam, I returned for the Black Widow arc since it was announced that the series would end after that arc, and why not just stick it out to see where Bunn was taking this Vennema Multiversal story, but mostly I stayed because Francesco Francavilla was on art duties.

So, just as with the previous arcs, the Black Widow segment started out with ambition and great fun and has now also settled into the same pattern as the previous installments. Issue #639, being the penultimate issue seems to be so much padding for next issues conclusion. Yes, the table-setting has a pay-off as the cliff-hanger is well done and somewhat unexpected, and Cap makes a promise that seems almost impossible for the noble warrior to keep, but most of #639 is just so much padding. Now, the real draw of this issue is Fracavilla's lush art and colors. He's on a must buy list for anything he draws and each and every page payout, indeed, each panel compels a long linger. Simply wonderful stuff. Of course, one of the drawbacks of single issue reviewing is that some installments of a longer story may not be up to be par. Hopefully, as this concludes, the sum of its parts will be well worth it. Good.