Comics Ate My Brain

March 23, 2007

New comics 3/21/07

Well, I’m done with Justice Society of America (#4 written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Dale Eaglesham, inked by Ruy Jose), although I’ll have to get it through the Justice League crossover. The big throwdown involves Vandal Savage versus junior Wildcat Tom Bronson (shout-out? Probably not). Meanwhile, the rest of the Justice Society smacks down various Nazi villains in a much more perfunctory manner. I did like how Dale Eaglesham organized the issue, making lots of action fit and flow smoothly, but on the minus side, there wasn’t a lot of life in the main JSA-team action scenes. I understand the emphasis on character over action, and the two significant action scenes — the Wildcats vs. Savage, and another involving Liberty Belle and Damage — are set up to make character points. However, the pacing of the entire arc has front-loaded the issues with foundational character moments, so that the big team moments are almost in the background. Finally, the JLA crossover and the old-school Legion subplot are teased, as are the introductions of two new members. This title therefore seems to have a lot of housekeeping to tend, and I am frankly not so much into its housekeeping.

Flash: Fastest Man Alive #10 (written by Marc Guggenheim, pencilled by Paco Diaz, inked by Art Thibert) presents Part 2 of “Full Throttle,” which wouldn’t be a problem except last issue was the “Prologue,” so you’d think this one would be Part 1. Anyway. Bart comes dangerously close to Mary-Suehood with his cracking of a legendarily unsolved LAPD case. Sure, Bart’s got an unfair advantage being a superhero, but he doesn’t seem to do anything a smart normal-speed detective couldn’t have. Then Bart takes out the supervillain who did it, and Zoom too, in short order. The cliffhanger is pretty effective, though. The art is decent, although some of the figures are posed a little funny, like they’re double-jointed. It’s still an improvement over the previous regime.

I still want to read the whole thing, because I’m not sure what exactly happened, but I ended up liking Omega Men #6 (written by Andersen Gabrych, drawn by Henry Flint). Tigorr and Vril Dox are the stars of the show, and Flint’s art is dynamic and … full-to-burstin’, for lack of a better term. It’s not messy, it’s unconventional, but it works.

Part 2 of the Stuart Moore/Andy Clarke siege of Wayne Tower in Detective Comics #830 was pretty good. The eventual Batman reveal was handled well. I didn’t buy the drama associated with Robin’s needing to blowtorch the trigger off his C4-encrusted shoulder, though. One could do worse than Moore and Clarke on a Batman story.

Birds Of Prey #104 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by Nicola Scott, inked by Doug Hazlewood) was all kinds of fun. It recalls a couple of ’90s comics, including the first BoP miniseries when Helena is hit upon in fancy dress by a charming rogue, and also a deathtrap from DC One Million (where the villain was Vandal Savage, also a Secret Six nemesis), but that’s OK. The introduction of a Special Guest Bird (ha ha) was worth it. Best issue of BoP I’ve read lately, and that’s saying something.

Was pleasantly surprised by 52 #46 (written by JMRW, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencilled by Pat Olliffe, inked by Olliffe, Drew Geraci, and Rodney Ramos), because I thought Adam would make short work of the Oolong Island crew. Turns out I didn’t give them — or at least one of them — enough credit. This was also the best “action” issue of 52 in a while, and yes, I know I armchair-quarterbacked the 52 theory of action last week. This was better, I think, because it was on a much smaller scale and also involved a lot of little character bits. The eBay scenes were great, marred only by the fake lorem ipsum language. Also, I know I don’t comment on the origin-story backups, but I really enjoyed the Batman origin. Andy Kubert took a well-worn series of events and made them into a fresh set of evocative images.

I almost didn’t buy Batman Confidential #4 (written by Andy Diggle, pencilled by Whilce Portacio, inked by Richard Friend) because I’m not getting that much out of the story, and now I’m really not sure why I continue. As it happens, this was a good issue, art included, except for two things: the first Batplane looks a little too advanced; and the ending seems to torpedo Luthor’s post-revamp “bad guy behind the scenes” persona.

Bane goes out a little too easily in Checkmate #12 (written by Greg Rucka, Nunzio DeFilippis, and Christina Weir, pencilled by Steve Scott and Cliff Richards, inked by Nathan Massengill and Steve Bird), but other than that this was a fascinating issue, crystallizing a lot of political subplots and probably setting up John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad revival. It kept me guessing, which was great. The art is the usual thick-lined, moody, kinda muddy style that this title uses to good effect. It’s helped greatly by Santiago Arcas’ colors, which brighten up as more information is revealed and get darker again when the issues get murkier. I really liked this comic.

I’m also cautiously optimistic about Aquaman: Sword Of Atlantis #50 (written by Tad Williams, pencilled by Shawn McManus, inked by Walden Wong). It’s a new creative team dealing with some of the old subplots, but the first thing you notice (obviously) is the different artistic style. Instead of Butch Guice’s more washed-out pencils (no pun intended), McManus and Wong combine for an almost cartoony effect which migh tnot be entirely realistic, but it makes characters easier to distinguish. Ironically, though, that doesn’t apply at first to “Narwhal,” the new villain introduced on the first page, because he looks a lot like Our Hero. I think he’s also meant to remind us of Koryak, Orin’s son from the Peter David days of the early ’90s. Williams also gives us a new Topo, presented without reference to Aquaman’s old octopus sidekick. Topo II is more cute comic-relief, I take it, but I was never a big Topo I scholar so I can’t really evaluate that. Also, Tempest and Mera look to be a big part of the book now too. Basically, the current Aquaman gets introduced to the ruins of Atlantis, there’s some talk about the fate of San Diego (a plot from the days when I didn’t read the book) and Narwhal cuts a swath of destruction through the ruins. Pretty intriguing stuff, and it’ll keep me around for a while.

Reading Army@Love #1 (written and pencilled by Rick Veitch, inked by Gary Erskine) was almost a novel experience, because it seems that I had pretty much forgotten the accoutrements of a Vertigo book. The last Vertigo book I read was American Virgin #4, about six months ago, maybe, so I was a little surprised at how new the line seemed. How was A@L itself? Not too bad, and pretty entertaining. I expected it to be over about seven pages before it was, and I was reading it while trying to watch “Friday Night Lights” so I might not have been paying as close attention as I should’ve, but it was still very good.

The Spirit #4 (by Darwyn Cooke) was another fine issue. I halfway expected it to be continued from last time, since #3 ended on something of a cliffhanger, but that’s OK. #4 (re)introduces Silk Satin, surely an Eisner creation who’s now a top-notch CIA agent. I love how everyone the Spirit encounters is so much better at their particular job than he is at his; or at least has that impression of themselves in relation to him. With Satin and the Spirit on the run from bad guys for most of the issue, the dynamics are somewhat similar to the news-anchor story from #1, but Cooke makes Satin different enough, and likeable enough, that it doesn’t matter. Art is impeccable, as usual. I especially enjoyed the clever logo-centered two-page spread.

Finally, I can’t believe it’s here so soon after #1, but The Brave and the Bold #2 (written by Mark Waid, pencilled by George Perez, inked by Bob Wiacek) is almost an improvement on what was a very good first issue. This time Green Lantern pairs with Supergirl, resulting in a sort-of-uncomfortable internal monologue about not succumbing to his primal urges vis-a-vis her nubile teenaged wiles. However, that even gets turned on its head in hilarious fashion. Perez and Wiacek really give their all this time, cramming even more detail into the backgrounds of the gambling planet Ventura. I made a point to look for Marvel’s Grandmaster, one of the antagonists in the Perez-drawn JLA/Avengers, but didn’t see anything, and that may be my only complaint.

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