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Dave Robbins

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Dave Robbins grew up in the suburbs of New York looking south to the possibilities of The City, later finding potential throughout America. In addition to his contributions here, he is a fiction writer. His stories travel those nexuses where menace and wonder thrive in equal proportions and his pop culture interests live along those same paths. He is convinced that nights in the woods are scary, that little virtue is found saloons and that nothing good ever happens after midnight. These days he can be found wearing some of the same flannel shirts he wore in the pre-grunge era.

Destroyer #3 Review

Destroyer #3, Boom, Comic Book Review

We are halfway through the series and Destroyer is turning out to be a solid thriller. It has all of the usual features like government baddies and a mad scientist, but the familiar is not as simple as that. There is more to the management boss lady that has yet to be revealed, and the scientist is angry, not crazy. This story has a lot of heart and LaValle has created characters that are earnest and believable.

In this issue, the backstory of Victor Frankenstein and his grief adds context. We see that under extreme conditions even the most compassionate human can be lead to produce unimaginable evil. So far, though, the most evil has been committed at the hand of man. Now that the original creature has arrived where the new (quite human) creature and his creator are hiding and the “Bride” is on her way, all hell is about to break loose.

The story, to this point, has been full of portent and meaning. The implications behind action are spelled out regardless of what the intent might be. Now is the time for all of the forces to come together for an all-out battle. I’m looking forward to the action and wonder how this will all work out. It is hard to tell who the bad guys really are and who will prevail or even if they should.

8
Score
Destroyer #3
The Bottom Line
There is plenty of substance to this rework of a classic examination of humanity.
Yes!
I like how the kid retains his humanity and innocence.
No...
Not much happens, but the table is set for the future.

Royal City #5 Review

Here is a grown up story that reaches for a poignancy that few comics aspire to. For the most part, it succeeds. Despite the astral projection and the specter of a deceased child, this is an introspection from the survivors’ point of view. It’s messy and convoluted and there are never any easy answers even if you have your dead brother to give you guidance. Pain and grief linger on their own schedule and there is nothing wishful thinking and good intentions can do to change that.

This first arc of Royal City comes to a close with little in the way of resolution, but that’s just like life, isn’t it? The tone and voice of the prose have worked for good purpose in this moody and conflicted contemplative examination of a family unraveling. The art takes the same approach in a washed out ethereal format.

The problem is that sometimes it feels like Lemire is trying too hard. There is this authorial voice beneath the surface urging the reader to take this seriously. I get it. This is drama. The Tommy “ghosts of Christmas past routine” was a little too on the nose and piled on too close together.

8
Score
Royal City #5
The Bottom Line
Uncomfortable and mournful, Lemire sets the perfect scene for something so intimate.
Yes!
Thoughtful and sincere.
No...
A little sentimental at times.

Grrl Scouts: Magic Socks #3 Review

The crazy doesn’t get in the way of telling a cohesive and exciting story at all. In Grrl Scouts anything is possible and if it is an alien or hallucination that is giving the orders, it doesn’t really matter if the audience doesn’t know for sure which it is. Or it could be a demon or tentacled old god or something so long as Gwen and Rita have a mission. Whatever happens next will not be dull.

There are factions and conspiracies and magical elements that will work cross purposes. There is social commentary between the lines, Josie will certainly be made to pay, and we know we haven’t seen the last of the previously quite dead Daphne. There is so much going on that the Magic Socks are almost secondary to the motivation, and it is all starting to make sense.

As weird and disjointed as the story appears to be on the surface, all the pieces are starting to come together to make for an interesting story of betrayal and revenge wrapped around fantasy and tied up with a truly punk aesthetic. That’s what great about this book, there is no way of knowing where it will fly off to next or how hard it is going to land.

8.5
Score
Grrl Scouts: Magic Socks #3
The Bottom Line
In the risk versus reward metric Mahfood has created a brilliant artifact of unique ability in an explosive and relentless tale where every page is a sight to behold.
Yes!
Insanity and anarchy never looked so much fun before.
No...
You’re either on the bus or off the bus.

Spencer & Locke #4 Review

Spencer and Locke #4

My expectations may have been ramped up too high as I find that the wrap up is disappointing in two ways. First, I didn’t want it to end. Locke’s heartbreaking childhood and tortured present had such depth that I wanted to savor every moment. The whole story could have been slowed down with much more exquisite detail and internal conflict. Which leads to the major problem with this last issue. The conclusion was rushed and not well executed.

Certainly more details could and should have been given about the father with plenty of comparisons to the original comic strip Dad and his quirks. The two twists were okay, but neither were set up with sufficient detail. I could have guessed about Hero and who her parents really were, but the lady at the school really needed to have more of a personality and back story established. I bought her motivation but could have used more.

All in all, though, I seriously enjoyed this series. It captured the innocence of the source material and emulated the art, but never appeared a cheap knock of or derivative. Spencer & Locke told the story of the potential darkness that always lurked beneath the surface of Calvin & Hobbes. At times it seems so true to form that Watterson must be involved. I suspect at least, he must approve.

9
Score
Spencer & Locke #4
The Bottom Line
A dark and unique mash up of detective story and the beloved comic strip that adds to the original without tarnishing it.
Yes!
How Pepose and Santiago manage to perfectly capture yet entirely undermine Calvin & Hobbes without losing focus on the story to be told is amazing.
No...
If this was twice as lone it would still be too short.

Winnebago Graveyard #2 Review

The strength of Winnebago Graveyard is, by far, its artwork. It is dark and horrific and sets the mood independent of any narrative. It is beautiful and intricate with every line and color full of detail to set realist scenes. Cinematic and tense, the Horror story hangs on the look and the feel and Sampson delivers.

I wish I could say the say for the writing. The story has yet to move beyond the familiar chestnut of the troubled family stranded in the spooky hotel in the creepy town with the sheriff who is no help at all. Will they pull together and survive? Will they be stronger for their ordeal? Should we care? That they have to ask what the people with the black robes and torches are up to just shows how lame the dialogue is and promises a fairly unsurprising tale of some mysterious cult.

That the story actually picks up when the words are removed may just mean that the dialogue and plot are the problem. Niles may have scripted the scenery and provided the imagery, but the people with the moving and the talking is not an area of expertise. This is a visual narrative with each frame giving the necessary information and moving the story along, but that’s all we get.

6.5
Score
Winnebago Graveyard #2
The Bottom Line
Winnebago Graveyard is nothing more than a typical horror movie idiot plot where if the main characters weren’t such idiots, the event would never have occurred.
Yes!
Beautifully and carefully rendered.
No...
No surprises.

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 10 Review

in a still from Twin Peaks. Photo: Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME

I never know what to expect with The Return and that is what I enjoy most. Lynch and Frost use every cinematic and narrative trick and twist they know to keep me on edge, blasting away any expectation or preconceived notion. I have never seen anything remotely like this before, except for other works by these amazing auteurs. It defies categorization and transcends normal television experience.

Of all the chapters so far, this is the one with the most comedic moments. Janey-E’s new found interest in her husband is downright hilarious prompting actual laughs out loud. The world of the Mitchum boys and their casino is also nicely absurd. Even Lucy and her suspicions of Chad and the mail is funny, and Albert’s dinner with Constance absolutely blissful. But this is Lynch and if we know anything, then there cannot be light without darkness.

Becky returns, this time as the target of her husband’s abuse. Richard Horne is an abomination. His cruelty and brutality are boundless, and unless Lucy recovers, Miriam’s letter he will go unpunished. As disturbing as this all is, it would have been unbearable without the other moments.

Dr. Jacoby as Dr. Amp rants. Jerry Horne wanders in the woods. Nadine has made a business out of silent drape runners. Twin Peaks is much the same as it always has been, but there is new evil to confront. The Log Lady speaking to Hawk reminds us: “the Truman brothers are true men.” I still don’t know where we’re going or what is important. The details Lynch places in the story all have a purpose, but not necessarily meaning, and sorting it is frustrating and enchanting.

8
Score
Twin Peaks: The Return Part 10
The Bottom Line
Whipsawed between cruelty and hilarity, this chapter seems the most recognizable Twin Peaks we’ve seen, but easily taken to a new level.
Yes!
“Run Silent Run Drapes”
No...
That horrifying teddy bear really creeped me out.

Orphan Black Season 5 Episode 6 “Manacled Slim Wrists” Review

Everybody’s favorite esthetician is back. Krystal adds her amazing sleuthing capabilities to the efforts against Neolution and manages to kick a bad guy in the jumblies just for good measure. She’s always welcome (in small doses), but the fact that Dyad just so happened to buy the company owned by Krystal’s latest hookup was an unnecessary detail as there is no reason why the vast global conspiracy wouldn’t have already included a pharmaceutical/cosmetics business in their portfolio. I’m going to have to get a screen shot of all that stuff Cal laid out when he was explaining Topside to prove it, but I’d bet I’d find something.

The Krystal situation is symptomatic of the disappointing turn Orphan Black has taken in “The Final Trip.” Not everything needs to be explained and when the choice is made to do so, it better be important and flawless. Much of what’s been going on feels rushed and artificial. The writers just need to get back to basics on the techno-thriller roots that is the strength of the series.

So we are left to endure Westmoreland as a toothless fraud, Cosima somehow not smart enough to get out of a wooden and chain link cage, and Mrs. S with mysterious, powerful and rich additional sources. It all seems so slap dashed and convoluted. Hopefully the upcoming last for episodes will do much in the way of smoothing the rough edges.

7
Score
Orphan Black Season 5 Episode 6 “Manacled Slim Wrists”
The Bottom Line
Beware the villagers bearing torches.
Yes!
Beware the villagers bearing torches.
No...
No need to be mean to Scott. He is a heroic stand-up guy, leave him alone.

Orphan Black: Deviations #3 Review

I feel like I’m betraying the sestras by not liking this comic. I want to like it. I’m curious about what could have happened under different circumstances. Certainly, the vast Neolution et al. conspiracies are fertile ground for plenty of drama, action, and intrigue. Unfortunately, none of that shows up in this issue. Instead, we get info dumps and name checks.

What’s going on with Vic? Well, let’s pretend he is a viable suspect. Katya’s still alive, let’s inexplicably give her knowledge of MK. With so many clones aware of each other at the same time in the same place, there is just not enough for them all to do.

Helena’s finally introduced, but by way of explanation she just happens to drop a Ukrainian manufactured pistol that Beth finds and immediately recognizes. Duko and the ambulance crew find Beth in the gutter and deliver her to Evie Cho. Everybody except the Castors and the Duncans are present, but none of this version of the story makes sense unless the reader is familiar with the show and has stayed with it as far as the fourth season.

5
Score
Orphan Black: Deviations #3
The Bottom Line
Fans of the show might like this, but any chance of engaging a new audience has been abandoned.
Yes!
Scott makes his first suitably awkward appearance.
No…
Sarah is conveniently in a place to witness the nighttime probes and no one notices her.

Black Cloud #4 Review

Zelda is far more important and far more powerful than we had originally been led to believe. She dispatches her enemies with the snap of her fingers. Now that she has come home the extent of her influence is revealed and suddenly Black Cloud is a far more complex story as a result. Zelda is perhaps the most powerful being left alive in her world and she is responsible for the mess that the rest are forced to live in. Her accountability is what the story is all about. She needs to figure out how to repair the world and fix herself which makes for a fascinating story. Frank may or may not help her, but things are about to get even more perilous.

Meanwhile, Todd is stomping about like some addle-brained white bread kaiju. He is horrifying and hilarious. Now that he has sniffed out Zelda’s return, it will be interesting to see how he reacts and what she does about it.

Black Cloud is bigger and broader with each installment. Smart pacing and intrigue combine with intricate and devastating art. There is more going on here than is initially apparent and it is very well crafted.

8
Score
Black Cloud #4
The Bottom Line
A strong and unique tale of magic, power and revolution and how no one escapes their own skin.
Yes!
A new meaning to cat fight.
No...
I forget the point of the lizard guy.

The Divided States of Hysteria #2 Review

In the aftermath of the terrorist attack at the end of the first issue, New York City is destroyed, the United States is devastated, and the government is proven ineffectual. Only a private security firm, a disgraced former FBI agent and a bunch of murderous miscreants can save the day. This unlikely alliance hinted at last time is not an especially original concept and their efforts are not likely to succeed. Nor are we given any reason to care about them as they were all presented as repellent. So all that really leaves as the primary focus of The Divided States of Hysteria is the brutality and that is not a sustainable position. It does nothing to support a story and it doesn’t add to an intelligent discourse either.

Where the first issue was successful in its outrageousness, the second has nothing to build on and none of the characters have been given anything resembling a redeeming feature. So where do we go from here? Seems to me Chaykin has backed himself into a corner, but he’s still got a few more chapters to create a more satisfying story.

I haven’t given up as not all the pieces have been set yet. I appreciate the artist/writer as provocateur. I am worried that this is all noise and no signal, but I will keep tuning in.

7
Score
The Divided States of Hysteria #2
The Bottom Line
Shock value has limited staying power and the story suffers as a result. Time to dial in on a more compelling tale.
Yes!
Unapologetic shock and awe is encouraged.
No...
Unless it leads nowhere.
General-DC Comics

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