Comics Ate My Brain

July 29, 2005

Old Comics, July ’05

Well, I’m back, having spent the first few days of the week in Roanoke with about a thousand other people taking the Virginia bar. Thanks for all the good wishes, both on the blogoversary and for the bar. I hope I live up to them.

I did read some comics in the few moments I wasn’t studying, and no less than Steve Lieber was nice enough to send me a couple that he had drawn. First up was Family Reunion, written by Sean Stewart. It’s evidently been out for a while, and many of you have probably already seen it, but if not, I liked it. There’s a lot of information packed into eight pages, and both Stewart and Lieber economize their efforts to good effect. I got strong senses of the handful of characters through a good selection of scenes. It’s based on a novel by Stewart, but I don’t know if I’d rather read the novel or see more comics by this team. Probably a good choice either way.

More recently, Lieber drew Flytrap Episode One: Juggling Act, from a script by his wife, Sara Ryan. Here I was impressed by the different style Lieber used — thicker lines and perhaps more “cartoony” than in Family Reunion. Although Flytrap is more of a sitcom than Family Reunion, the change in style serves it well. FR grounded its fantastic element in very realistic artwork; and Flytrap is meant to be wackier. At 14 pages, it’s almost twice as long, but it has to set up the continuing adventures of Maddy and her clients. This it did admirably, focusing more on Maddy than on said clients, but making her sympathetic enough that the clients’ eccentricity doesn’t need to be much more of a hook. I’m now officially interested in what happens next, so good job, Steve and Sara. More information about both mini-comics at Steve’s website.

Now, quick hits on the stuff I got at the comics shop.

Superman #219, Action Comics #829, Adventures of Superman #642, Wonder Woman #219, OMAC Project #4: I would have liked “Sacrifice” better if the first couple of parts had been better-executed. I think the planning was good, and in hindsight it worked well, but although I have nothing against Mark Verheiden or Gail Simone I wish Rucka could have written the whole thing. The art in Superman #219 was also rather weak. I’ve posted my thoughts on Wonder Woman’s role over on The Great Curve.

Wonder Woman #218: Lots of closure as Rucka and Ron Randall wrap up various storylines from the past couple of years. I liked the storylines and was satisfied with their conclusions — and where’s Ron Randall been, anyway?

Defenders #1: Funny stuff, if not as wacky or familiar as the “Not The Justice League” stories — and while playing the Silver Surfer as a zonked-out beach bum is inspired, it’s also not close enough to the character’s mainstream portrayal to be really satirical.

Hero Squared #1: Glad to see this again, but $4.00? I thought gas was expensive.

GLA #4: More of the wacky, less of the grim, and I did like the ending a lot.

Astonishing X-Men #11: I guess I should be glad there were no obvious NOMAD/V’Ger “The creator is a carbon-unit!” moments.

Serenity #1: Satisfactorily evocative of the TV show, which is about all one can ask, right? For the first time in a while, the Best Wife Ever was excited to read a comic. Not that she’s read this one yet, but still….

Day Of Vengeance #4: Not bad, but I was hoping the teenaged girl would be related to Amethyst or (better yet) Crazy Jane.

Villains United #3: I liked Paul Pelletier’s art, and Val Semeiks isn’t bad either — but who knew the new Rag Doll was a dude?

Rann/Thanagar War #3: Lots of yelling, fighting, ray-blasts, and explosions, but that’s not all bad.

Batman: Gotham Knights #67: The best part of this issue was the artwork, by Rick Burchett. I’m sure he doesn’t get more Bat-work because he’s “too cartoony” for the discriminating Bat-fan; but his distinctive style is always welcome. As for the story itself, Bruce gets blackmailed by a failed videographer who discovers Batman’s secret identity. This is the first part of a continued story, but its cliffhanger hinges on an event that cannot be what it seems, and so fails to build much suspense.

Batman #642: This was a gap-filler issue, not badly executed but not really saying much important either. However, I thought Chris Marrinan and Andrew Pepoy made an interesting choice to draw Batman in a bulky, blocky way, more like Dick Sprang than Frank Miller. As long as he was around, Rick Burchett should have drawn this one too.

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #193: The animated Batman series of the ’90s did Mr. Freeze a huge favor by filling his origin with pathos. This story can’t hope to improve on that one. Instead, its high point is a Batman who unironically gives out business cards (!) and who’s assembling a Shadow-like group of operatives. More with this Batman in the mainline books, please.

Detective Comics #808: Another solid installment of “City of Crime.” I do like Lapham’s use of Robin, and keep hoping for more Robin in the mainline Bat-books.

Gotham Central #33: Speaking of Robin, did I ever tell you about my idea for a Batman story where the Joker takes the Donald Trump role in his own version of “The Apprentice,” kidnapping high school athletes and killing them while ostensibly training them to be Robin? That would have been pretty lame. This was the opposite of lame.

Batman: Dark Detective #s 5-6: Um, did Englehart & Rogers just decide an abrupt ending would be cool, or are they setting us up for a sequel?

Seven Soldiers: Manhattan Guardian #3: For me, this was more fun than the Subway Pirates; and Morrison and Stewart did a good job with the breakup scene too.

JLA #s 115-116: This is turning into a pretty decent storyline not just on a crossover level, but also as a Justice League adventure. I like Johns and Heinberg’s script, and Batista and Farmer’s art. I thought this would be a placeholding, gap-filling arc between “Syndicate Rules” and the aftermath of Infinite Crisis, but it’s exceeded my expectations.

JLA Classified #10: I thought Warren Ellis hated the Fantastic Four, but apparently that’s nothing compared to how he treats Perry White in this issue. Some fine Butch Guice artwork can’t make up for some weird dialogue.

Shanna The She-Devil #6: Yeah, yeah, dinosaurs, bikinis, “Kill Me!!!,” blah blah blah.

Star Wars Empire #32: Not bad as far as Luke/Leia Rebel Alliance stories go, but again, when did Leia get so tall and busty?

Firestorm #15: Still zippy and fun.

DC Special: The Return Of Donna Troy #2: I’m not sure anyone can be in quite the right frame of mind to read this book unless they have first read, and thoroughly enjoyed, the stories in the Who Is Donna Troy? paperback. The “Who Is Wonder Girl?” 5-parter from 1988 also celebrated the return of George Perez, and was infused with fanfic-levels of “You guys are my bestest friends ever in the whole universe and I love you very much!” moments. It’s as if Wolfman and Perez took Donna’s 1984 wedding issue from Tales of the Teen Titans #50, which was (seriously) a masterpiece of subtlety and careful emotional release, and decided to not take any chances and really wear their hearts on their sleeves. So far, Phil Jiminez has been dialing up the emotional manipulation in this miniseries, with this issue especially playing to the longime Titans fanboys and -girls in the audience. I understand his viewpoint — I hadn’t read Donna’s wedding issue in a good ten years before last week, and I still got misty-eyed — but this is getting to be too much. If the former New Teen Titans don’t end Donna’s destructive rampage with anything but a big teary group hug, I’ll be very surprised.

Fantastic Four #529: Lose the social worker and this would be a much better book, even with the “nanny search” subplot.

Astro City: The Dark Age #2, City Of Tomorrow #4: More of the same, and in neither case is it unwelcome.

Legion of Super-Heroes #8: Guest penciller Kevin Sharpe isn’t bad, but his figures are stiffer and more awkwardly posed than Kitson’s. Nice job by Waid on exploding all the subplots at once, though.

Incredible Hulk: Destruction #1: I bought this because it was Peter David and because “House of M” completists have robbed me of the regular Hulk issues. It’s not bad, but I have a feeling the HoM stuff is better.

Flash #224: It’s too bad that “Rogue War” has gotten good just as Johns is getting ready to leave. Coming soon to this site: a retrospective on the Johns Flash era, in which I will attempt to be fair and balanced despite his unfortunate focus on the Rogues.

Superman/Batman #21: I will gladly pay Jeph Loeb to never write Bizarro or Batzarro again.

All-Star Batman & Robin #1: Reply hazy; ask again later.

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