Greg Rucka and Kelly Sue De Connick are two very different authors as far as tone, subject matter, and writing style. But both are examples of excellence when it comes to focusing on character(s) as the motivation and origination of action. Plot happens because of what the characters (large and small, on and off "camera") are doing. Plot does not just happen to the characters.
I appreciate this kind of writing and that is why I buy these comic books. I picked them up last night from my local shop (please go out and support your's wherever it is), Beyond Comics.
Both were good this month.
Greg Rucka is winding up his run on Punisher. With only three more issues to go, including issue 14, he is wrapping up his story of the Punisher against The Exchange. The Exchange was a new type of organized super-crimial group for the Marvel Universe. The focus was staying under the radar and organizing along corporate lines. It was the internet startup of criminal groups, peeling off talent from AIM, Hydra, even SHIELD. However, it got sloppy as it got successful, and some of its more freewheeling employees ended up having a gunfight with a rival organization in the middle of a marine sergeant's wedding. Sergeant Rachel Cole-Alves survives the massacre, but her new husband, her friends, and her family, do not.
Her quest for vengeance, mirroring the origin of The Punisher, brings her into alignment with The Punisher, Frank Castle. For issue after issue, Castle has be methodically hunting down leads and leaving a trail of bodies to get to the heart of The Exchange. Cole-Alves started to do the same, and now they are working together.
Last issue, they pulled a caper that gave them a key to try to set up to get to the very top of the Exchange. This issue, they put that plan into effect.
The issue is very satisfying. It shows Castle and Cole-Alves working effectively as a military team, executing a daring and highly lethal plan that builds on everything they have been doing to date. It is exciting, and, as with every issue in this run, I had not had my fill when it was done. I wanted more and was disappointed only in the realization that I had to wait another month, and that I was only going to get two more like this.
Yes, there is also the 5 issue mini-series to cap off the run (Punisher War Zone), which I am happy is coming, but the fact that the series is going to be over is very disappointing.
The only other thing that I found disappointing from the issue was the art. Some of it was done very competently, but artist Mico Suayan lacks the skill shown by series mainstay Marco Checcetto. This deficiency shows up especially in the drawing of characters' faces when shwing strong emotion (fear, anger, etc.) and by the feeling I got that the backgrounds were flat and uninteresting in many panels.
In the end, the art got the job done, but it did not live up to the high quality of the writing.
Bottom line though, buy this book.
Captain Marvel #2
Last month I gave a somewhat luke warm review to Kelly Sue De Connick's first issue of Captain Marvel. After a month's reflection, I still feel the same way. The story, for me, was too slow, and I was put off by the art. This contrasted with the terrific writing for Captain Marvel by De Connick in the pages of Avenging Spider-Man (reviews here for issue 9 & 10), where she got the tone, pacing and character just right and I really liked the art.
So, how does Captain Marvel #2 stack up? For me, she did considerably better, though things still start out slow. Slow is not necessarily bad, in any case, but there can be a fine line between a slow burn and ponderous pacing. I felt that we tipped more into slow burn territory with the start of issue 2. By the end of the book, the story's pace has picked up considerably, and delivers some solid action, as well as promising more. The direction of the story certainly takes a left turn, as we go from gettng background and character information on Carol Danvers, to suddenly jumping into a mysterious time travelling (and possibly alternate timeline) adventure, which Captain Marvel in the middle of World War II action in what appers to be the Pacific, but one where seemingly alien craft are working with the Japanese forces.
It is a little confusing, but the reader is sharing the confusion of the character, Captain Marvel, as she tries to make sense of having be apparently ripped out of her time and place and popped into some other place by powers unknown for reasons unknown.
Because I trust the writer, I know that it will all become clearer as the story goes on, and I was both intrigued by the wild development in the story and happy with how the action unfolded in the last two-thirds of the book.
I am still not sold on the art. It has a definite aesthetic which sometimes produces some wonderful and striking panels. However, as a whole, it still feels muddy and dark to me, and I would prefer a cleaner line and a brighter pallet.
Nonetheless, I am optimistic about the book. I am still in "like" with it, and not yet in love, but it appears to me that this is a reader-writer relationship woth the time to invest in, so that is what I am doing.
Check it out.
As has been my custom over Rucka's run on Punisher, here are some other views on issue #14:
IGN (8.5/10) "Get ready for perhaps the most badass Punisher moment ever."
Comic Vine (Recommended) "If I had to sum up this issue in one word it would be 'heavy.' That's the perfect way to describe the overall tone and mood of the book; from the writing to the art. If you are into comics that are deep, gritty, action packed and weigh really heavy like a good episode of, say, 24 (remember that show?) then there's really no reason for you not to be reading THE PUNISHER on a consistent basis. Not only does Rucka capture Frank Castle's character perfectly in this issue, but he does it effortlessly."
More as they hit the web.
CBR (4.5/5 stars) "'Punisher' #14 is yet another example of just how effective an editor can be to the overall cohesiveness of a monthly title. While most of the credit for this comic should rightfully be placed on the shoulders of Greg Rucka, if Steve Wacker hadn't convinced Rucka to write this book and supplied the writer with an amazing array of reliable artists with similar visual sensibilities, this title wouldn't be nearly as compelling."
Weekly Comic Book Review (A-) "A really, really fantastic read that manages to pull the reader in and get him/her truly involved. Issues like this only make me more upset about this series’ cancellation due to poor sales. Seriously, what’s wrong with you people?"