Comics Ate My Brain

May 20, 2005

New comics 5/18/05

Superman #217 marks the beginning of new writer Mark Verheiden and artist Ed Benes by picking up where “For Tomorrow” left off. Superman has vanished into the Amazon jungle to tend his new Fortress of Solitude (and, one presumes, to make it eco-friendly, although I have a concern about that judging from the top of page 2). Lois and Jimmy Olsen follow him, but are ambushed by drug runners. Superman saves the reporters, who learn he’s befriended a local village, and we go from there. This was a decent issue, mixing traditional Superman elements with more up-to-date sensibilities. However, some scenes were over-the-top even for a Superman book — the physics of his first appearance, for example — and the art was serviceable but nothing special. It was good to see Verheiden picking up some of the threads Azzarello left behind, though.

Seven Soldiers: Guardian #2 (written by Grant Morrison, with art by Cameron Stewart) concludes the Subway Pirates story in unremarkable fashion. Guardian comes to grips with his heroic responsibilities, and the idea of modern-day folk adopting arr! matey! pirate styles in forgotten subway tunnels has a certain charm. Stewart’s art is also quite good, with his figures Kirbyesque in a few places. I say “unremarkable” because beneath all the quirks, this is a fairly standard story.

Batman: Gotham Knights #65 (written by A.J. Lieberman, with art by Al Barrionuevo and Bit) did surprise me at the end, but getting there was dicey. I should want to like Lieberman’s approach to Batman, since he seems to be approaching Gotham as a place populated by weird figures who all know each other — kind of like the old Flash’s Central City or Englehart’s Gotham. However, this Poison Ivy story feels about two issues too long, and its characters don’t quite act right. There’s Bruce Wayne, dropping cryptic hints about his secret identity to Ivy; there’s Ivy herself, struggling with her humanity; and there’s Hush, who’s never been compelling. The art also seems rather static. GK is the Forrest Gump of Batman titles — its IQ isn’t quite high enough to rank with its peers, but somehow it keeps getting by. This arc wasn’t so bad, comparatively; and like I say the ending was a surprise.

JLA Classified #7 (written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, with art by Kevin Maguire and Joe Rubenstein) brings us Part 4 of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League,” which also benefited from a good ending. Guy and Power Girl fight their way through Hell to get to Beetle, Booster, Mary Marvel, and Fire. Once everybody’s rescued (thanks to Guy, who really shines here), they discover one of Hell’s shocking secrets. This was a good issue, showing the more serious side of these characters without really letting up on the witty banter. I still want to know how Guy got his yellow ring back, though.

That’s not explained in Green Lantern Secret Files & Origins 2005, written and drawn by a passel of people. GLSF&O2K5 does contain two short stories, both written by Geoff Johns, which bookend (in reverse order) GL Rebirth. The first, drawn by Darwyn Cooke, is a fluffy feel-good piece highlighting the bond between reckless, show-offy pilots and their passengers. The second, by the Rebirth art team of Ethan van Sciver and Prentiss Rollins, is a prelude to Rebirth which will probably be collected into that paperback. I will say that the Johns/Cooke story gives me more hope for the series than Rebirth #6 did, but neither story is really essential, and the rest of the book is “Who’s Who”-style profile pages. However, those are nice, including Howard Chaykin returning to Guy Gardner, Simone Bianchi on Sinestro, and Dave Gibbons returning to Mongul.

Batman: Dark Detective #2 (written by Steve Englehart, drawn by Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin) finds Bruce and Silver adjusting to their newfound Jerry/Elaine status, with Bruce escorting Silver into the Batcave, with a couple of unexpected consequences. Meanwhile, Two-Face threatens the Joker, the Joker makes good on a threat himself, and Commissioner Akins makes a rare appearance. Except for the Akins bit, which almost seemed out of character but for Akins’ lack of characterization thus far, I thought this was a good second issue. It built on the themes of #1 and expanded the series’ scope. The creators also seemed a little less self-conscious about their own “iconic” status this time, which was good.

Although I think Howard Chaykin’s City of Tomorrow #1 came out a couple of weeks ago, I just now picked up a copy. At first I was confused, because the story flashes back and forth and the main character isn’t made clear until the end. I don’t mind reading Chaykin multiple times, since his storytelling is so dense (in a good way), but this was the first time I really felt lost. The story itself is a near-future tale involving terrorism, government paranoia, and the eponymous city gone bad. Not sure if I’ll be getting #2 or waiting for the trade. I have the feeling it will read better all in one sitting.

I was also a little confused with Star Wars Empire #31(written by Scott Allie, with art by Joe Corroney). It looks like a standalone tale featuring Darth Vader (appropriately enough), but there seem to be a couple of references to the Luke/Leia adventure it interrupts. Otherwise, it’s a tale of political intrigue on a reptilian planet, with everyone trying to stay on Vader’s good side. Emblematic of the issue is a state dinner where Vader (of course) doesn’t eat, so tensions run high from the beginning. Not a bad issue, but I wonder if it will loop back into the other arc.

Finally, I bought Spider-Man/Human Torch #4 (written by Dan Slott, pencilled by Ty Templeton, and inked by Tom Palmer Jr. and Drew Geraci). This particular flashback takes place during the black-costume eras of both Spidey and the Torch, with Johnny sporting a Guy Gardner hairdo I think John Byrne foisted on him (to go with the femullet he visited unto Sue, so Johnny actually got off easy). This was a decent enough issue, but not as funny as the previous three. Spidey and the Black Cat have a fight, so she enlists the Torch to help her break into a museum. The best parts come when Johnny gets jealous of both Peter Parker and Spider-Man’s attraction to the Black Cat. Slott does have a way with these characters, the art is good, and the story has a nice twist — just not as much buffoonery as in the previous installments, I guess.

1 Comment »

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    Comment by Robby Reed — May 25, 2005 @ 4:02 am

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