Negative Burn #7

Written by Michael Cho, Shannon Eric Denton, Jim Dougan, Alexander Grecian, Ron Kasman, Ron McCain, Shane White, C. Willow Wilson
Art by Michael Cho, Georges Jeanty, Ron Kasman, Eric Kim, Pav Kovacic, Ron McCain, Rily Rossmo, Curtis Square-Briggs
64 pages, black and white
Published by Image Comics

With a long and prestigious 50-issue run at Caliber Comics, Negative Burn was one of the few modern ongoing anthologies a little over a decade ago that’s worth remembering. Now with the title back as a regular title, it seemed like as good a time as any to dip in and see how well it’s delivering up selections of short stories.

Negative Burn #7 opens up with the high point of the issue, “Night Time” by Michael Cho. It’s a pretty simple at its core, a teenaged girl’s story of a slumber party expedition into the woods. What makes it shine is Cho’s execution of the story; he’s able to bring across the main character’s emotions of excitement and confusion, really capturing that thrill and sharing it with the reader. I’m not entirely sure why Cho’s art needed to be in landscape format for this story (perhaps having originally run elsewhere?) but aside from that quibble of needing to rotate the comic 90 degrees first, it’s also quite nice; gentle gray tones that define the characters while simultaneously bringing across the sensation of running through the night with everything shrouded in darkness.

It’s that darkness that is taken a little too literally in the next story, “Vulture Gulch” by Jim Dougan and Eric Kim. The story itself is nice enough, with an undertaker running into two graverobbers and reacting to them in his own particular way. The big problem here is that Kim’s art is primarily white splashes on a canvas of black, and it’s a very difficult effect to successfully pull off. Some of the pages come together well, with just the right level of contrast to have Kim’s art pop off the page and into the reader’s mind, but a couple of pages aren’t able to maintain that level of contrast, being almost more confusing than impressive. It’s still ultimately the second strongest story in the issue, and a success in finished product.

The rest of the issue, though, isn’t quite so lucky. “Grow Up!” by Ron Kasman is a tired joke (teaching comic book geeks how to become functioning adults) that is too safe for its own good. Rather than go all-out for either humor or seriousness, it tries to be a little both and doesn’t really succeed with either; there’s nothing original about “Grow Up!” and the trotted out clichés are presented with such lackluster that even they can’t manage to get a chuckle out of the reader.

“Berserker” by Alexander Grecian and Rily Rossmo almost succeeds, but it’s a story where the twist that changes it from little more than two creatures beating on each other comes too late into the tale. By the time it shows up, it’s unfortunately overstayed its welcome; had we seen it a little earlier the end result would have been a much stronger final impression. That’s better than “Vostagg: Barbarian Cop” where Shane White and Pav Kovacic’s one hook (a barbarian who’s a modern day police officer) is revealed early on and then beaten into the ground. It’s a shame because Kovacic’s art is pretty nice, reminding me of Hilary Barta’s works with its clean lines and tight character designs. It’s hard to believe when you’re done reading “Vostagg” that the story was only five pages in length, because it feels much, much longer.

Ron McCain’s “Rush” is the first of two “to be continued” stories in Negative Burn #7, and unfortunately it’s something of which I’d cheerfully skip future installments. McCain’s jagged, rough art style lacks any real depth (which could have been accomplished through shading or gray tones) that makes pages look like a series of random scribbles at a casual glance. McCain’s story of a vigilante haunted by images of his lost family likewise lacks any real depth; there’s nothing special or new about “Rush” in either idea or more importantly execution, being lackluster to the extreme.

The issues closes with “Aces” by Shannon Eric Denton, C. Willow Wilson, and Curtis Square-Briggs, and while it’s also the first part of a serial it’s thankfully a lot more engaging. Set in World War I and dealing with the possible death of the famed Red Baron, my only real issue was that I felt like I wasn’t so much reading a first chapter of a story but rather a handful of pages from a graphic novel. That said, Denton and Wilson’s writing is strong, and Square-Briggs’s art is pleasant to look in a style that almost reminds me of Paul Pope’s fluid approach to drawing. It’s just a little hard to judge as a completed work, but unlike “Rush” I’ll definitely read the next installment.

Capped off with an average sketchbook section by Georges Jeanty and a disappointing cover by Dominic Bugatto, Negative Burn #7 is a real mixture of success and failure. It’s frustrating, because the issue starts off strongly, but loses a lot of real steam the further one reads. Of course, one of the good things about an anthology is that if you don’t like one issue, the next may have more of what you like. In this case, I really hope so; the disappointments were just a little too much more than the victories when it’s all said and done.

3 comments to Negative Burn #7

  • Ron Kasman

    Well, you can’t please everybody!

  • […] While we’re on the NEGATIVE BURN tip, Greg McElhatton posted a qualified but generally favorable review of A LITTLE FRIENDLY ADVICE as part of his review of NB #7. (For the record, Greg, I think we’re the second-best in the book, too – that Michael Cho story is aces.) […]

  • Nina

    “Grow Up!” by Ron Kasman was great??? Me thinks the review doth protest too much! Hum, maybe it’s hitting home a bit? Ron, glad your still around doing work!