Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Comic Review 27/02/08

As suggested by my friend Anthony 'the great white' Hope-Smith, here begins my reviewing bit. I'll be reviewing the new comics I've bought or or the old comics I've read (thanks to my obsessive online shopping to recollect everything that ever made an impression on me). I'm finished with buying old tut like crazy and now I get to start reading it.
This'll be weekly (weakly) written and will be as long as my pile of comics at Freaks is high.

First up is the latest Loveless, no 22 by Azzarello and regular fill-in artist Daniel Zezelj. This is a series, that much like DC's Jonah Hex, I started to pick up because it was drawn by someone who's work I love and a writer who's work I generally like. I generally pick up comics depending on who's drawing them.
With Loveless I read the first issue when I worked in a comic shop and could do so for free. It was good but Marcelo Fuisin, the original regular artist, does nothing for me so I passed. I've now a few issues of the title because Daniel Zezelj comes along every couple of issues and draws great stand-alone stories with his stylistic, high design, heavy blacked art. His story telling is great and the high design doesn't interfere with reading great Brian Azzarello character pieces.
The latest issue opens with convicts shitting in the woods. THERE's character. The two chained together convicts are on the run across swamps and up mountains. The language is strong as you'd expect from Brian Azzarello and I've yet to read one of these fill-ins that hasn't held it's own as a story and left me wishing I could get passed my art magpie to read the whole series.

The Immortal Iron Fist Orson Randall and the Green Mist Of Death is next up and I won't be typing that again. I picked up the trade paperback of 'The Last Iron Fist Story' by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction with art by David 'Aha!' Aja, a while back. I'd heard good things but not enough to invest in the hardcover. I kinda wish I had upon hindsight. The art's great, dark and distinct, with nice storytelling and nothing more than Matt Hollingsworth colours so, yeah, easy on the eyes. The story is something else. Having read Matt Fraction's sublime Casanova (with art by the great Gabriel Ba) I knew the series would easily combine action, and science-philosophy without shoving it down your throat. Like the best Grant Morrison work you can take it at face value and enjoy it or just keep digging to see how many levels he's firing on. None of this mentions Ed Brubaker who's work is the gift that keeps on giving, bringing pulpy and mystery(/y) stories to established characters and their world.
This one-shot is written by Matt Fraction on his own and, to be honest I'd forgotten I'd ordered it. Marvel comics, slightly more than DC in general, drive me up the f*ckin' wall for all the adverts, largely comic themed (to interupt even more!). I'm not fussed about comics versus trades apart from monthly comics being printed on crap paper and full of adverts. Yet I ended up with the one-shot. I'd probably just read the trade when I ordered. The issue's by four art teams but the most impressive (for me) is pencilling Nick Dragotta with Mike Allred drawing all over the it. I loved Allred at one point (Dark Horse Madmad, Red Rocket 7 era) but went off his art when he began using less and less black in collaboration with his wife, the great colourist Laura Allred. This art takes me back a bit reminding me what I liked and nudges me back towards buying all the stuff I passed on over the last few years. Russ Heath paints a great chapter and Stefan Gaudiano, regular inker of Michael Lark on Daredevil draws nice too. The whole thing holds together really well and leaves me wishing I bought the issues every month rather than waiting. Following the early 20th century/pulpy incarnation of Iron Fist versus an ambiguous enemy. The stories solid and adds depth to the Iron Fist history while always looking forward.
Kaare Andrew's GREAT cover gives me hope of seeing him working on the interiors at some point.

Lastly but not leastly is the latest Fear Agent trade which I finished reading this morning. I re-read the first couple of trades before reading this third collection which has made me a fan for life, I think. Rick Remender first came to my attention as the friend of Kieron Dwyer. Then he wrote loads of comics I never got around to reading and drawing some too. During a spare half hour I read the first issue of Fear Agent at and enjoyed it enough to pick up the first trade. Tony Moore's art was first seen (by me) on Image's Walking Dead, which I really liked. A strong sense of storytelling and a manly approach to his cartooning, its really engaging stuff. When he's not drawing it Jerome Opeña is who renders the whole thing with the same level of action focussed storytelling as Tony Moore, but different. It ALWAYS feels consistent.
The book is genuinely funny, genuinely sad and relentless in it's telling of Earth's fall at the hands of two alien races. It's all told from the point of view of the protagonist Heath Huston, a Texan with drink dependancy issues a well of loss and no aversion to violence following his principles. The Jack Davis quote on the back of the collection says it fine "Fear Agent is just beautiful, I couldn't put it down. God Bless him I wish Harvey Kurtzman was around to see it"

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Rick Leonardi Part 3

Just before going into the final part of this bootlegged interview, I should remind everyone that this interview was published in February 2005, and the upcoming work mentioned has long since been and gone. The Star Wars mini series he mentions towards the end of the interview was good fun. He's done a few issues of Superman with Kurt Busiek, inked by Dan Green (for old times' sake?), he did a fantastic JLA story focusing on the Martian Manhunter, inked by Sean Phillips, which was a great fit (but with overly heavy colours). Most recently we got an issue of Witchblade (above) inked by Kevin Nowlan which I've yet to have in my hands but looks to be a really nice mixture of what one expects from both Leonardi and Nowlan (with colours by Dave McCaig). Coming up currently we can 'look forward' to more Superman and Supergirl work. I'm sure it'll be nice enough looking but I personally hope for more Batman related work. Regardless, as long as the editors that be keep giving him work I'll be along for the ride.
One last note regarding one great book not included in the scans, Green Lanter Vs Aliens. Great book, decent inks and great Dave Stewart colours but I've got the trade, which I couldn't scan. Check it out!
Dolmen: Let's talk about your work for DC comics. After spending most of your career working for DC, at some point you decided to move to DC. Why?
Leonardi: It was during the bankrupcy era of Marvel when they made radical changes in the editorial staff. What occured to me was that in just one day I found that all of the editors that figured in my agenda, those that I could call looking for work, disappeared from Marvel. By luck, one of those that went to Marvel called me. At first he gave me a little work and put me in conact with other people. After, Joey Cavalieri arrived at DC and then I had a couple of contacts. I was lucky in that Greg Land went to Crossgen and left Nightwing free so that I had to do a couple of quick issues of Nightwing. Later another couple of creators went to Marvel and again I had to fill in for a a few issues. It wasn't that they gave me any kind of prize rather that they knew I was there and that I could do a good job on time.
Dolmen: At that time you were part of No Man's Land. It wasn't your first experience with crossovers (I think you worked on some mutant crossover) but do you like crossovers?
Leonardi: I think that it's difficult for a writer to tell his story right after someone else and finish it so that someone else can carry on where he finished, but for the artists it's a real probelm to adjust costumes and environments so that they're the same as the other artists.
Dolmen: Do you like working with Chuck Dixon?
Leonardi: Yeah. Chuck fits very well with my way of working because he's a veteran and experienced enough not to tell an artist more than he needs to know. He doesn't tell you what the character's thinking or that how to focus the scene rather he describes person's doing full stop.
Dolmen: Some of us believe that he's a good writer but he always bases his stories on the same structure and that hampers the originality.
Leonardi: You could be right. His speciality are crime stories, in those that might have superheores implicated but they have a lot of plice intrigue. En the case of Nightwing that haas a certain logic, in that Dick grayson is a policeman himself, but on other occasions not so much. Anyway, I like Chuck's work a lot from my point of view as an artist, he's a straight forward guy, he doesn't involve himself in my work and knows what he wants. The rest, it's up to the readers to decide.
Dolmen: I believe that you worked with Devin Grayson too, right?
Leonardi: Yeah. Her strongpoint is the enthusiasm she put into Nightwing (he's her favourite character). In fact, she changed her name and is called Grayson in honour of the character (at least that's what I heard). Her biggest problem is that at times she thinks she's writing a movie and you find camera movements seperated panel to panel as if it were a film, something that's used to great excess unecessarily in the story.
Dolmen: You've drawn Batgirl, a character relatively new and difficult to draw, in that she's got her face completely covered and the face lacks expression. Did it help that you'd drawn Spider-Man in the past when you were confronted with her?
Leonardi: Spider-Man's been with us long enough that people imagine in part the expression based on what he says or thinks. In anyway, her body language is very important and at the moment of expressing one thing or another that also works for Batgirl.
Dolmen: Maybe Spider-Man's eyes account for a lot of the expression that Batgirl lacks completely...
Leonardi: I believe that the dialogue that Stan Lee and all those who've followed him are also a fundemental part of the characterisation and when you have a character like Batgirl, who you can't make speak, the thing is much more difficult. In anyway, it's a challenge for the artist and the character has potencial and isn't simply a female Batman.
Dolmen: What about Birds Of Prey?
Leonardi: It could be a great series. Everything about Barbera, a woman of action who sees herself obligated to live the rest of her life in a wheelchair is a theme difficult to handle. I don't know if the associations for the disabled are very active in Spain or not, but in the US there's a lot of sensitivity to respect and you never know exactly how to sink your teeth into the subject. I don't know why Dick and Barbera stopped going out, if it's because she was in a wheelchair or what, but the implications for that are strong and nobody has touched the theme further. And if he stayed with her? Would he do it out of guilt? Is that better? I tell you, it's a great theme that no-one's approached with valor.
Dolmen: Let's talk about your inkers. Terry Austin inked over you on Cloak and Dagger and at the time he must have been one of the most popular inkers...
Leonardi: Terry got really involved with the characters up to the point of writing stories for the series. He tried to keep it going as long as possible. At the time I thought that they were stories a little silly, but surprisingly I ended up hooked and it made me realise that I was having a good time. We're still in touch. It occurs to me to call him once in a while and we talk. He not much of a talker and at times he's isolated and alone. I recieve more calls from him when there are changes in the industry or he's worried about something. It's something that happens to everyone.
Dolmen: Do you know why he's disappeared a little from the spotlight? By all accounts he continues to be one of the best inkers or at least better than many others that are working on big series...
Leonardi: I completely agree that he's still one of the best. One of the things that happened was that with the change in paper from that new print paper, really absorbant (which was really good with his style of fine pointed inking) he lost a bit of his appeal, and it looked too fine on the high quality paper and the drawings didn't turn out too well.
Dolmen: Bob Wiacek also inked over you at times and is another inker who's practically disappeared from view today.
Leonardi: Bob used a different technique. While Terry uses a black ink really dark and fine, I believe Bob uses some kind of Rotring. The results of Bob's inking is a lot less attractive than Terry's, although it gains a lot when printed.
Dolmen; We know that you like Jesse Delperdang's inks. Can you tell us what are his good points?
Leonardi: Jesse is one the best inkers today. He can ink with thick strokes or fine strokes. I think he's the guy who best known how to interpret my pencils.
Dolmen: What writers would you like to work with in the future?
Leonardi: I'm not really up to date with who are the hot writers today. I don't get those bundles of free comics anymore that the publishers used to send me it I don't feel like buying too many. I think it's a big problem in my career and that's that I've never tried to collaborate with any 'prestigious' writers (like Vertigo writers). It would be fun to work with a British writer and play a little with their dark tendancies.
Dolmen: I don't know, I think that you'd work well with Greg Rucka or Ed Brubaker, in that both specialise more in in telling stories with few superheroic elements and with your ability for characterisation, you could do good stories.
Leonardi: I agree. I should try it. They've always told me that editors look to me when they need characterisation: We chose you because you know how to draw different faces they've told me one time or another as if all the rest only know how to draw one face.
Dolmen: Well, talking about what the future holds. Can you tell us something about your upcoming work?
Leonardi: Star Wars. I'm going to be doing a four part mini series with Chuck Dixon which stars one of the main villains from the third part of Star Wars, Grievous.
Dolmen: Sounds interesting. May the force be with you.
Leonardi: Gracias.