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Kinetic #2

July 19, 2012 Leave a comment

April 24, 2004

Quick Rating: Average
Title: Crash

Tom Morell is just instants away from death… or is he?

Writer: Kelley Puckett
Artist: Warren Pleece
Colors: Brian Haberlin
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover Art: Tomer Hanuka
Publisher: DC Focus

I’ll be up front with you guys, this is not going to be a very detailed review, because the things that happen in this issue are so bizarre that it’s almost impossible to talk about them without spoiling them. At the end of last issue, frail, sickly Tom Morrell was face-to-face with the grill of a speeding mack truck. He still is when this issue opens. In fact, he still is for the first seven pages, which gives us the classic “life flashing before his eyes” sequence that fills in the gaps of Tom’s life, illuminating his relationship with his mother more than anything else. What happens after that sequence though… I just can’t say because it gets too weird. By the end of the issue you are still left with absolutely no idea what’s going on.

Often, this is a good thing. Anything that makes you anxious to read the next issue of a comic book is generally a point in that comic’s favor. This comic gets a little frustrating, though. In terms of pacing, this issue makes Ultimate Spider-Man look like a car at Daytona, and by the time you get to the major cliffhanger at the end of issue two, you can’t help but feel that this would have been the perfect place to end issue number one.

Warren Pleece’s art is pretty good, even totally saving one sequence that otherwise would have been totally incomprehensible if Pleece wasn’t able to make his faces sufficiently distinctive. The same old problem with the DC Focus titles lingers on, though – the same color palette and same lettering style in each title continue to hurt.

That’s really all that can be said about this issue without blowing the totally bizarre, out of left field twist it takes ten pages in or so. If you guys enjoy it, come back Wednesday when it lands in stores and try to explain it to me.

Rating: 5/10

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Hard Time #3

July 5, 2012 Leave a comment

April 10, 2004

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Hard Ways

Ethan Harrow is picking up enemies in prison, not even realizing the power that lies within him.

Writer: Steve Gerber
Art: Brian Hurtt
Colors: Brian Haberlin
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Joan Hilty
Cover Art: Tomer Hanuka
Publisher: DC Focus

It’s taken three issues, but I’m starting to get into Hard Time. Last issue, Ethan’s power erupted again, delivering a savage beating to an Aryan inmate that harassed him, but again doing so without him being aware of his power. The guards in prison are equally stumped, with Ethan having the logical motive, but the only person who had access to the victim being his cellmate, the ineffectual and effeminate man named Cindy. Cindy saw the waves of power batter his cellmate and is convinced Ethan is responsible, but Ethan still doesn’t know what’s going on.

The dramatic aspects of this series are starting to take off – we’re getting a good solid prison drama with aspects of mystery and science fiction to touch it up. The only problem is the question of how long Steve Gerber can maintain Ethan’s ignorance of his own power without stretching all credulity. It’s already beginning to wear a little thin, and even if Ethan doesn’t know what’s happening to him when his power manifests, sooner or later he’s got to figure out that he’s blacking out each time one of these odd events happens.

Brian Hurtt and Brian Haberlin continue to do a good job with the artwork, although again, I have to bemoan the apparent “house style” that is being used in the DC Focus books. I can understand the desire to make the line stand out, make it distinct from the DC Universe, but I can’t help feeling that making all of the titles look more or less the same is the way to do it. That set, the Brians make very good use of the tools they are given, making Ethan look small and unassuming in the midst of a comic book otherwise populated by brutal rapists, thieves and murderers.

This is a good title, but it still needs a little more of a push to make it a great one. Fortunately, the book has gotten better with each issue, so hopefully the creative team will soon crest that hump and make the flagship of the DC Focus line the solid title the imprint needs it to be.

Rating: 7/10

Hard Time #2

August 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Quick Rating: Good
Title: The Big House

Ethan Harrow begins his 50-to-life sentence… and prison life will live up to the name of this series.

Writer: Steve Gerber
Art: Brian Hurtt
Colors: Brian Haberlin
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Joan Hilty
Cover Art: Tomer Hanuka
Publisher: DC Focus

In our first issue Ethan Harrow was given 50 to life in the state pen for a murder he didn’t, technically, commit. Twice, however, a strange power erupted from his body with deadly results. Without knowing what this power is or, perhaps, without even knowing it exists, Ethan prepares to spend the rest of his life in prison.

The superpowered aspect of this title does come into play in this issue, but not until late. Most of the book is about Ethan’s life in prison, and that much is fairly standard stuff for a prison drama. We get the grizzled old con, the inmate who tries to give him advice, the whimpering newcomer and the nasty thugs who make rape a recreational activity when behind bars. It’s all done okay, but it’s all stuff we’ve seen before.

The artwork by Brian Hurtt is pretty good – each con has a distinctive look and each character can be told from all the others pretty easily. Artwise, though, the star of this issue has to be Brian Haberlin with the colors – he uses very few colors but he uses all of them to their best effect. Outside scenes are orange, prison scenes are blue, and scenes of anger, violence and power are all in shades of red. The art team on this book makes a rather run-of-the-mill script a lot better.

Steve Gerber has an interesting idea – the superpowered teenager in prison for the rest of his life – but I have serious doubts as to whether there is enough in this idea to sustain an ongoing series. Fans of the book, or of Gerber himself, will most certainly hope there is. For their sake, I hope he fills those promises.

Rating: 7/10

Hard Time #2

June 26, 2011 Leave a comment

February 28, 2004

Quick Rating: Good
Title: The Big House

Ethan Harrow begins his 50-to-life sentence… and prison life will live up to the name of this series.

Writer: Steve Gerber
Art: Brian Hurtt
Colors: Brian Haberlin
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Joan Hilty
Cover Art: Tomer Hanuka
Publisher: DC Focus

In our first issue Ethan Harrow was given 50 to life in the state pen for a murder he didn’t, technically, commit. Twice, however, a strange power erupted from his body with deadly results. Without knowing what this power is or, perhaps, without even knowing it exists, Ethan prepares to spend the rest of his life in prison.

The superpowered aspect of this title does come into play in this issue, but not until late. Most of the book is about Ethan’s life in prison, and that much is fairly standard stuff for a prison drama. We get the grizzled old con, the inmate who tries to give him advice, the whimpering newcomer and the nasty thugs who make rape a recreational activity when behind bars. It’s all done okay, but it’s all stuff we’ve seen before.

The artwork by Brian Hurtt is pretty good – each con has a distinctive look and each character can be told from all the others pretty easily. Artwise, though, the star of this issue has to be Brian Haberlin with the colors – he uses very few colors but he uses all of them to their best effect. Outside scenes are orange, prison scenes are blue, and scenes of anger, violence and power are all in shades of red. The art team on this book makes a rather run-of-the-mill script a lot better.

Steve Gerber has an interesting idea – the superpowered teenager in prison for the rest of his life – but I have serious doubts as to whether there is enough in this idea to sustain an ongoing series. Fans of the book, or of Gerber himself, will most certainly hope there is. For their sake, I hope he fills those promises.

Rating: 7/10

Fraction #1

May 5, 2011 Leave a comment

April 21, 2004

Quick Rating: Fair
Title: All 4 One

When four old friends find an incredibly powerful suit of armor, their windfall may just tear them apart.

Writer: David Tischman
Art: Timothy Green II
Colors: Brian Haberlin
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Joan Hilty
Cover Art: Tomer Hanuka
Publisher: DC Focus

The fourth book in the new DC Focus series launches, and out of the four it is the one that defines itself the best right out of the box. Four friends are reunited as one of them is released from prison. A night of celebration changes their lives forever when they stumble across a suit of high-tech armor when breaking into a self-storage locker (presumably owned by Tony Stark). Unable to decide who actually owns the armor (the person who rents the locker not being a candidate) they each take home a component until they can figure out what to do with their newfound fortune.

This is a book with no heroes, at least in the first issue. All four of our protagonists are greedy, selfish and quick to anger, even against each other. The Fraction of the title appears to have a double meaning, referring both to the fact that the armor is broken up and spread out amongst the four of them and the fact that the very presence of the armor causes rifts in their friendship and threatens to rip them apart. It’s a dark book, but it’s a fairly well-written one.

Although Brian Haberlin has kept a consistent and, frankly, monotonous color palette for use throughout the DC Focus line, Timothy Green’s artwork seems to suit it better than the other three titles. He uses a style similar to a slightly more detailed Scott Kolins, and Haberlin injects a bit more color than he has in the other titles, spiking the reds, purples and blues with the occasional yellow and green to set them off. Overall, while the other Focus books all tend to look alike, this one stands out a bit.

While this book managed to define itself strongly right out of the box, it also leaves itself wide open at the end. There’s no way to tell where it’s going to go next, and when you get right down to it, that’s probably the best thing it has going for it.

Rating: 6/10

Kinetic #1

February 23, 2011 Leave a comment

March 20, 2004

Quick Rating: Fair
Title: Superzero

Sickly… shunned… could Tom Morell’s life get any worse?

Writer: Kelley Puckett
Art: Warren Pleece
Colors: Brian Haberlin
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover Art: Tomer Hakuna
Publisher: DC Focus

Review: The second comic in the new DC Focus line is a bit less focused (no pun intended) than the first. In the premiere issue of Hard Time we met our characters, had the situation set up and got our first taste of what otherworldly elements the book would contain. This book does the first two, but doesn’t reach the third.

Tom Morell suffers from over a dozen major diseases. He needs a regular regimen of medication and injections, his right arm is essentially dead, and his mother spends all her time doting on him, babying him, and making him feel like even more of an outcast than he already does. This first issue seems to be a pretty typical day in his life, with his mother nagging him about his health, dealing with cruel schoolmates, until he meets the new girl in school who hasn’t prejudged him yet.

Even with that brief bright spot, his day gets worse and worse until we reach a major cliffhanger ending. Tom’s only escape, it seems is a superhero comic called Kinetic, but we never get a sense of why he reads it or what it’s about.

Warren Pleece employs a style very similar to the style used in Hard Time, and colorist Brian Haberlin uses the same color palette, making it look very similar. While the attempt is clearly to give the DC Focus books a unified feel and tone, it may be unifying them a bit too much, taking away any distinction they may have in favor of a house style.

This issue is 100 percent set-up with no payoff at all. Kelley Puckett creates a tortured, interesting and sympathetic character, but there’s no way of knowing where this book is headed, and that’s a feel you should have by the end of the first issue. Hopefully the story will take off in issue two and the title can begin to find its feet – and its audience.

Rating: 6/10

Hard Time #1

January 26, 2011 Leave a comment

February 2, 2004

Quick Rating: Fair
Title: 50 to Life

One mistake has ruined Ethan Harrow’s life… and something else may change the world.

Writer: Steve Gerber
Art: Brian Hurtt
Colors: Brian Haberlin
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Joan Hilty
Cover Art: Tomer Hanuka
Publisher: DC Focus

This title launches the new DC Focus imprint, a line of comic books about a standard, non-superpowered universe where people begin getting superpowers. It’s a concept that has been tried in comic books many times before (can anyone say New Universe?), and has usually failed, but this first issue has enough going for it that Focus may have a shot.

I won’t be quite as concerned about spoilers as I usually am, since the title of this comic book is the biggest spoiler for the end of this issue you could give. Ethan is talked by a friend of his into participating in a mock “school shooting,” planning just to give a scare to the kids who torment them on a daily basis. He doesn’t know his friend intends to take things to a deadly end, though, and when bullets begin flying a strange power erupts from Ethan and the incident ends in a rain of blood.

This first issue didn’t really overwhelm me, mainly because the spectre of Columbine has been brought up time and again in pop culture lately, and it bothers me when someone uses a real-world tragedy as a launching point when it doesn’t feel 100 percent necessary to the story… there are a lot of ways that Ethan could have arrived at the endpoint of this issue. Social commentary is all well and good, but this does feel a bit exploitative at points.

The good mostly outweighs the bad, though. You do find yourself interested in Ethan and what’s going to happen to him… not to mention what did happen to put himself in such a position in the first place. From his social standing in school to the bizarre, brutal power he manifests, there is much more to this young man than meets the eye.

Hurtt has a very unusual style, something that’s kind of cartoony and sketchy, and combined with great colors by Haberlin this book has a feel of an independent comic with better production values.

For those of you interested, this book also contains previews of the next few DC Focus releases – but this issue by itself is interesting enough to grab one’s attention. The problems in this book can easily be overcome with good writing in the next few issues. If you’re looking for something different, give this one a shot.

Rating: 6/10