Stuff I've been reading
by Mike Baron

Gerry Hunt's Streets of Dublin is a more coherent offering than In Dublin City. The story unfolds as naturally as vines climbing a slope. Authenticity smacks you in the face like no other comic. These are real Dubliners, this is how they behave, this is how they talk. It is both appalling and beautiful. Hunt's Ireland remains a sort of Third World country with little respect for the law. A collection of smiling thieves including a retired policeman take a matter-of-fact attitude toward crime. A man's got to make a living, right? There's an unspoken assumption that the authorities are remote, disinterested, incapable, corrupt.

The frontispiece contains drawings of the principle characters earlier in their lives. As an artist, Hunt's all over the board. His renderings of the streets and buildings are brilliant. His figures fly and flop like Tex Avery characters. Occasionally Hunt has a problem with perspective, but it's always with people, never with the buildings or streets. His rendering of a Dublin night club has an architectural quality, as does the exciting chase sequence at the end. Hunt has difficulty with faces. Some are spot on, such as Bernie the ex-cop, who is drawn in a consistently realistic style reminiscent of Don Simpson. But too many of his characters have amateurish google-eyes, as if Hunt never looked at a drawing anatomy book, which can't be true, since so much of it is right. Nor do you get the impression he's taking the material lightly. It's just part of the mixed bag, which contains far more candy than coal. I don't see the Crumb comparisons. Crumb draws with a consistency of texture that Hunt has never even considered.

A street kid named Johnnie makes friends with the ex-cop Bernie. Bernie's son P.J. is a cop on the beat whose pursuit of Chinese heroin smugglers leads to a career-shattering moment with real emotional power. Johnnie's sister Jean is a hooker. Every time one member of the family encounters another, they ask for money. The story deals frankly with drug addiction, and is as credible in this respect as The French Connection which Johnnie's old man cites as a role model.

Jonah Hex #1 by Gray, Palmiotti, Ross, and Keith. This was a pleasant surprise, a single issue story that holds together well with often beautiful art. Start with Frank Quitely's cover. If you cover the left half of Jonah's face, he does not look like Clint Eastwood! It's an original face. Luke Ross' carefully colored pencil work is likewise spot on. I admired the economy and grace of Gray's and Palmiotti's story, which may have been inspired by Michael Fleisher's Boy Fight story decades ago. This story is uglier and better told, and will satisfy those who like their Westerns tough and mean.

© 2005 DC Comics

The ads are creeping up on DC, but they still start with four pages of story. Marvel has completely lost their way in this department, with ads dominating their bread and butter line to the extent you must search for story pages.

I was so impressed with Orson Scott Card's first three issues of Ultimate Iron Man that I bought Ender's Game. It is truly deserving of the many accolades it has received. Then I got to Ultimate Iron Man number five. Three quarters through, art and story began to deteriorate. Out of the blue, Card plunks a ferry boat filled with terrorists heading straight toward Stark Enterprises, so young Tony can test The Suit. From another writer I could accept this deux ex machine, but until now, Card had proceeded with such grace and surety I was shocked by the abrupt change in tone. The inking in the final pages is amateurish. I believe the series was such a success the bean counters determined to add a second five-issue mini-series, also by Card. This required Card to retool his carefully thought plot. At least that's my theory.

Mike Baron worked for the Boston Phoenix, Boston After Dark, and the Real Paper. He broke into comics with Nexus, his groundbreaking science fiction title co-created with illustrator Steve Rude. Baron has written Marvel's Punisher, DC's Batman, Deadman, and Flash. Nexus has garnered honors too numerous to mention, including Eisners for both creators. Baron has written Star Wars for Dark Horse, Turok, Dinosaur Hunter and Archer & Armstrong for Valiant, and has three issues of Legends of the Dark Knight in the works.

A prolific creator, Baron is at least partly responsible for The Badger, Ginger Fox, Spyke, Feud, and many other comic book titles. He is currently writing Detonator and Night Club for Image, and is a regular contributor to International Studio, Argosy, and Popular Polar Bear.

Baron lives in Colorado with his wife and dogs. He collects rocks.
by Mike!

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