Comics Ate My Brain

October 31, 2007

Bat Hound

Filed under: batman — Tom Bondurant @ 12:54 pm
It’s Halloween — here’s your treat!

Y’know, a part of me says you can keep your “Laughing Fish” and “Night of the Reaper” and “Autobiography Of Bruce Wayne…”

… because if I want the essence of Batman boiled down into two pages …

… these will do quite nicely, thanks very much.

[“Once Upon A Time…,” from one of the best anniversary issues of all time, Detective Comics #500, March 1981, was inspired by the literary efforts of a certain world-famous beagle, written by Len Wein, drawn by Walt Simonson, and lettered by John Workman.]

October 28, 2007

Sunday Soliloquy

Filed under: sunday soliloquy, superman — Tom Bondurant @ 7:10 pm
I was originally planning to post some scans from Superman vol. 1 #344, where he fights both Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster, but a) I’d pretty much already done both of those, and b) the issue wasn’t as good as I remembered it. Basically, the Phantom Stranger shows up at the end, and pretty much wishes Dracula out of existence. Ho hum.

So while the bit I did choose for today may not strike you as particularly Halloween-y, keep in mind that it is, nevertheless, about as close to the Devil as the post-Crisis Lex Luthor has ever gotten.

As for the last of my Halloween scans, come back Wednesday for the big finish!

[From “Metropolis 900 Mi,” the second story in Superman vol. 2 #9, September 1987. Written and drawn by John Byrne, inked by Karl Kesel, colored by Tom Ziuko, lettered by John Costanza.]

New comics 10/24/07

We begin this week with Teen Titans #52 (written by Sean McKeever, pencilled by Jamal Igle, inked by Marlo Alquiza, Jesse Delperdang, and Rob Hunter), essentially a series of fight scenes involving the Titans, their future (evil) selves, and various (present-day) DC bad guys being mind-controlled by Starros. The overall point of these scenes, though, is to play up the contrast between the “whatever it takes” Titans of Tomorrow and our more idealistic heroes. I liked it for the most part, although I have trouble getting into relatively new characters like Kid Devil, Ravager, and Miss Martian. (Kid Devil and Ravager I remember from their original incarnations, but there’s been a lot of water under both of those bridges.) I do like Jamal Igle, though, and he made this action-oriented issue flow nicely. He especially draws Blue Beetle well, with one funny panel towards the end conveying BB’s desperation perfectly — a very Steve Rude-like moment, in fact. I mean, I like McKeever’s work here too; don’t get me wrong. The issue could have been fairly tedious, but there is enough individuality in the voices to make each confrontation slightly different.

Green Lantern Corps #17 (written by Dave Gibbons, pencilled by Pascal Alixe, Angel Unzueta, Dustin Nguyen, and Patrick Gleason, inked by Vicente Cifuentes, Rodney Ramos, Rob Hunter, Marlo Alquiza, and Prentis Rollins) made me wonder how “Sinestro Corps War” will read in collected form. This issue shows the invasion of Earth from the GL Corps’ point of view, and weaves in and out of the last Green Lantern, the Super”man” Prime Special, this week’s Blue Beetle, and probably the Cyborg Supes Special too. Kilowog fights Arkillo in San Diego — where, yes, the Convention Center is trashed — and Sodam Yat takes on the Anti-Monitor. As with Teen Titans, lots of fightin’ and carnage. There aren’t a lot of clashing styles among the squadron of pencillers and inkers which put together this issue, so that’s good. It doesn’t feel like there was no plot advancement, although the big reveal at the end shouldn’t have been too surprising to anyone who’s been paying attention to the solicitations. Likewise, if all you read is this comic, then it does a good job of bringing you up to speed on the crossover. For the rest of us, though, it’s good to see the GL Corps win some battles, but it’s a little past time for things to start wrapping up.

Also marking time is the Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Superman-Prime Special. The main story is, of course, the cover feature, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Pete Woods and Jerry Ordway. Since the star of our show is a teenager from “this” Earth, where superheroes are just fictional characters, it takes an appropriately metatextual tone. It therefore also goes back into Johns’ Infinite Crisis mindset, where he’s using a villain to criticize what could easily be argued is his own approach to some superhero stories. Accordingly, it’s never quite clear whether we’re supposed to feel sorry for the former Superboy-Prime, or just treat him as an emo whiner. Certainly the superheroes of DC-Earth prefer the latter, because they pound on him across the globe as he tries to reach an area of sunlight to recharge his batteries. Between this and Amazons Attack, Pete Woods is becoming the go-to artist for well-choreographed superhero dogpiles, and his work is similarly effective here. He might not be thought of as a detail-oriented artist like, say, George Perez, but he’s good at crowd scenes and closeups both. The second story, written by newcomer Sterling Gates with art by Ordway, is a backup featuring the Sinestros’ librarian/Crypt-Keeper, Lyssa Dark. It’s creepy and unsettling, but mostly because it focuses on a Sinestro which kidnaps babies and stows them in a skin-pouch on its back. As is the custom, you see. It’s the kind of thing you admire on a technical level but could stand not to read again for a while. It goes without saying that Jerry Ordway is always good; and Gates does well with what may be his rookie assignment.

JLA Classified #45 (written by Justin Gray, pencilled by Rick Leonardi, inked by Sean Phillips) was just confusing after a while. There are two big twists in the issue, one involving where the mental combat is taking place and the other identifying with whom, and both are identified rather subtly. Most of the story to date has been J’Onn fighting off “deviant memories” (for lack of a better phrase) of the JLA, so when the real JLA starts getting involved, it’s harder to tell. It’s a problem with the spare storytelling style generally, I think. If it’s meant to be disorienting, then it worked; but it’s still kind of frustrating.

I don’t have much to say about Countdown #27 (written by Paul Dini and Sean McKeever, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencilled by Carlos Magno, inked by Rodney Ramos). It didn’t really offend or dazzle me. It almost reminds me of the kind of comic Ninth Wonders (the comic-within-the-show on “Heroes”) must be like. I imagine someone in a larger story using an average issue of Countdown as a guide to the “real” story’s plot. (“Look, Hiro! Buddy Blank and Karate Kid are in Bludhaven! That means the sword has returned to Las Vegas!”) Or, you know, maybe I’ve got too much sugar in my system from that “one last” donut.

When the word came down that the next big Action Comics arc would be a Bizarro story, I cringed, fearing it would compare unfavorably to the excellent All-Star Superman Bizarro two-parter. However, “Escape from Bizarro World” (part 3 of which appears in Action Comics #857, written by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner, and drawn by Eric Powell) actually turns out to be pretty good. Powell’s art is a big part of it, naturally — it’s a combination of cartooning and menace which even reminds me of Charles Addams a little bit. Johns and Donner, who I feared would try to ground the Bizarros in reality, thankfully go the other way here, perhaps justifying their flights of fancy through the Bizarro-World setting. Overall, I liked it, and think it stands well on its own.

Back in the flagship title, “The Third Kryptonian” rolls on in Superman #669 (written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Rick Leonardi, inked by Dan Green). I liked this one too on first read, but I can see where some might recoil at its suggestion of a starfaring Kryptonian Empire, with its corollary that Superman was just one of many survivors of Krypton. I’m reserving judgment, though, until the end. Basically, this issue is an extended flashback recounting the history of the Third Kryptonian, and in technical terms, it’s put together as well as the previous one was.

The Flash #233 (written by Mark Waid, drawn by Freddie Williams II) is by now more infamous across the comics internets for its takedown of Batman’s parenting skills, but I thought it was a decent wrap-up to the invasion of the water-based aliens. Williams is a fine fit for the book, although his Wally is a bit beefy. Waid works in another “Look! Up in the sky!” joke (following last week’s Brave & Bold #7) which works better here. The backup is drawn very nicely by Doug Braithwaite, and Waid gets a writing assist from John Rogers, telling a nice little story about Jay Garrick helping the people of “Planet Flash” throw off the yoke of oppression.

Finally, here’s Peter David’s first issue as writer of She-Hulk (#22 pencilled by Shawn Moll and inked by Victor Olazaba), in which we are introduced to Jen as a bounty hunter. It’s a significant change from the Slott status quo, but it’s not an intolerable one, and it includes a couple of big questions and a cliffhanger. The art is good — big panels and clean lines — and somewhat reminiscent of Gary Frank. I’ll be back next month.

October 26, 2007

Friday Night Fights

Filed under: friday night fights, jack kirby, superman — Tom Bondurant @ 10:12 pm
JIMMY OLSEN MUST … oh, you heard that one already?

The monsters are mad at Jimmy because he reminds them of their tormentor, an evil genius who’s been manipulating them for his own amusement. Insert Dan DiDio joke here, I suppose….

It’s from Jimmy Olsen Adventures By Jack Kirby Volume 2 — something to look forward to if you haven’t read it yet, Bahlactus!

[From “Genocide Spray!” in Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #143, November 1971. Written and pencilled by the King, inked by Vince Colletta, “touch-ups” on Superman and Jimmy by (I think) Murphy Anderson, color reconstruction for the reprint by David Tanguay, lettered by John Costanza.]

October 25, 2007

Thursday Night Thinking

Filed under: batman, nightwing, robin, thursday night thinking — Tom Bondurant @ 2:38 pm
Halloween in Rutland, Vermont, means superheroes, murder … and THINKING!

But what could startle this seasoned crimefighter…?

Yep, I imagine that’d do it.

Trick or treat, Diamondrock!

[From the classic “Night of the Reaper!” in Batman #237, December 1971. Written by Denny O’Neil (from an idea by Berni Wrightson with an assist by Harlan Ellison), pencilled by Neal Adams, inked by Dick Giordano, lettered by John Costanza; and touched-up for its reprinting in Batman Illustrated By Neal Adams Volume 3.]

October 23, 2007

The new Batman Encyclopedia — be careful what you wish for…

Filed under: batman — Tom Bondurant @ 2:07 pm
Yesterday I did a Blog@Newsarama post about Bob Greenberger’s new version of the Batman Encyclopedia, which is supposed to cover “every Batman comic book appearance in the DC Universe from 1939 through 2007.”

I admit freely that I am excited about this book. I get a lot of joy out of nerd reference, and the Michael Fleisher Encyclopediae are already good resources for the Golden and early Silver Ages. However, it strikes me that, as currently described, the Greenberger book may well end up being a de facto DC encyclopedia. “Every Batman comic book appearance in the DC Universe” could conceivably include his adventures with the Justice League and Outsiders, to say nothing of the Robins’ involvement with the Titans and Young Justice, or even the Golden Age Batman’s adventures with the All-Star Squadron and Justice Society. The Fleisher volume had brief entries on the Elongated Man, Superman, and the Legion of Super-Heroes, based on those characters’ team-ups with Batman in Detective and World’s Finest.

However, by the same token, you’d think the new volume would have entries on everyone who’d guest-starred with Batman in The Brave and the Bold, plus most members of the Justice League, Justice Society, Marvel Family, New Gods, Checkmate, Suicide Squad, Teen Titans, New Titans, Birds of Prey, Young Justice, Challengers of the Unknown, Outsiders, Injustice League, Secret Society of Super-Villains, Fearsome Five … you get the idea.

Therefore, I can’t expect Greenberger’s book to be as comprehensive as the description might suggest, but realistically there’s no way it could be. It should still be a fun read, though, and a great resource for many years to come. Plus, you’d think all that research would make the inevitable Superman update that much easier.

October 21, 2007

Sunday Soliloquy

Filed under: avengers, sunday soliloquy, superman — Tom Bondurant @ 7:57 pm
You may think it’s cheating to feature a possessed Scarlet Witch as this week’s Halloween-themed soliloquy. After all, the Spectre’s pretty much a ghost, but I’d feel bad about using him. In my defense, though, it’s not Wanda speaking, it’s Chthon:

Chthon goes on for the better part of three flashback-filled pages about being an earth-spirit who’s ended up bound to Wundagore Mountain. Along the way she ties in her story with the High Evolutionary, Morgan le Fay, and Wanda herself. That brings us to the bottom of page 22:

I think it still works as a soliloquy, even without all the exposition, but I can tell you’re skeptical….

Oh, okay, fine; here’s a page worth of Bizarro feeling inferior to Frankenstein:

[Avengers scans from “The Call Of The Mountain Thing!” in The Avengers vol. 1 #187, September 1979. Plot by Mark Gruenwald and Steven Grant, written by David Michelinie, pencilled by John Byrne, inked by Dan Green, colored by George Roussos, lettered by Jim Novak.]

[Bizarro scan from “Bizarro Meets Frankenstein!” in Superman #143, February 1961; reprinted in black-and-white in Superman From The Thirties To The Seventies. Written by Otto Binder, pencilled by Wayne Boring, inked by Stan Kaye.]

New comics 10/17/07

Since I’ll probably never have the opportunity to do it again, let’s lead off with Aquaman: Sword Of Atlantis #57 (written by Tad Williams and drawn by Shawn McManus), another comma of a last issue. It doesn’t leave the reader hanging as badly as the final issues of Gotham Central or the latest Firestorm, but it’s pretty noncommital.

With the globe-threatening problems taken care of as of last issue, #57 finds our cast embroiled in a hostage situation which turns into an opportunity to explore Arthur’s true origins. Yes, Arthur is more connected with Orin than we might have thought; but anyone expecting the dramatic return of the “real” Aquaman may well be disappointed. In fact, I was kinda expecting that, considering that this was the book’s last issue and all, but ignoring the character’s upcoming role in Outsiders. That’ll teach me to take my eyes off the bigger picture.

Speaking of pictures, the art is fairly effective, although McManus draws a less beefy Cyborg than I’m used to. I don’t fault his storytelling, but I can’t decide whether his figures are inconsistent, or just drawn to suit the emotion of the particular situation.

Otherwise, the issue itself is pretty transitory, answering some questions (yes, Narwhal looks to be who I thought he was) and raising others (whither Tempest?). Ultimately, it leaves Arthur (or “Joseph,” by the end) in a more unsettled place than he was before, and that’s not how I like my endings. If the current Aquaman doesn’t parley his Outsider status (double-meaning probably intended) into a devoted fan following, I predict another “Aquaman: Rebirth” storyline before too long.

I didn’t expect Checkmate #19 (written by Greg Rucka, pencilled by Joe Bennett, inked by Jack Jadson) to set up Salvation Run as much as it has, but in hindsight that shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s more political maneuvering, executed most skillfully by Amanda Waller and King Faraday in service of their SR-anticipating plans. Pointing up the connections between ex-Justice Leaguers and Waller’s old Suicide Squad associates is a nice way to recall the roles of, and possible tensions between, those groups. Perhaps it also reminds readers that Justice League International (both the team and the comic) didn’t take its mission too seriously, or at least not as seriously as Waller’s Squadders. Anyway, as usual, Rucka does a great job laying out the motivations and keeping everything straight for the reader. Bennett and Jadson’s work (assisted by Travis Lanham, I think, on colors) is suitably moody, but clean and direct enough that we can tell one “normal” person apart from another. A fine issue that has me eager for more.

The double-page spread from Justice League of America #14 (written by Dwayne McDuffie, pencilled by Ed Benes, inked by Sandra Hope), showing Wonder Woman, Black Canary, and Vixen strung up in some high-tech torture device, does look a bit excessive — and that, aside from its unnecessary hypersexualization, is the point. Luthor wants to get Superman mad by showing the cruelties being inflicted on the other Leaguers, but Black Lightning successfully gets him to dial back his rage. That’s pretty much it for the issue — a lot of posturing and grimacing, which seems atypical for McDuffie and doesn’t serve Benes’ strengths well either. I can accept this issue as part of the larger storyline, but next issue’s finale will have to do some heavy lifting to make up for it.

Not as much blatant cheesecake as you might have expected in The Brave and the Bold #7 (written by Mark Waid, pencilled by George Perez, inked by Bob Wiacek), a story which teams Wonder Woman and Power Girl. It’s skillfully done, and it ties tangentially into the larger Book Of Destiny storyline, but its core is very familiar. While I liked it, there were a couple of things that bugged me. First, characters’ faces seemed a little off in spots. I don’t know if this is Perez experimenting or some trick of Wiacek’s inking, but in places they looked more like a Perez/Bob McLeod combination. Second, Waid’s “Look, up in the sky” joke walks a very thin line between working and not. Still, for the most part everyone does good work. I especially want to mention colorist Tom Smith, who gets to play with large-scale toys like the various environments, and small details like Power Girl’s eyes (which, by the way, are up here…).

I’ve been buying Spider-Man Family (#5 written and drawn by various people) mostly for its offbeat, “generic Spidey” stories which have been pretty good. However, this issue’s lead, written by Kevin Grevioux and drawn by Clayton Henry, didn’t really do it for me. For one thing, guest-star Doctor Strange is deprived of his powers, and compensates with some ill-advised martial arts and telekinetically-animated blades. That made it seem more like the Doctor Strange animated movie, and thus not like the “real” Doc. Also, Doc gets the thankless thought-balloon speech where he notes that Spider-Man “is the definition of ‘hero'” because he fights against the long odds, etc. The art is fine. The second original story, written by Dana Moreshead, pencilled by Eduardo Garcia, and inked by Roger Bonet, has Kraven leading Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan stand-ins on an urban safari. It’s cute, but not that distinguished.

Captain America #31 (written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Steve Epting) kicks off Act 2 of “Death of the Dream” with the Winter Soldier being tortured by Doctor Faustus and Sharon Carter struggling with the knowledge of her role in Cap’s death. Most of the WS’s torture involves tweaked “memories” of his time in The Big One with Cap, designed to turn him against his old mentor. Meanwhile, the Falcon, the Black Widow, and Tony Stark compare notes on Sharon and Cap’s death. It was an effective issue that set up a decent cliffhanger. I especially like the way Epting captures the way the Red Skull gets giddily deranged on power.

Countdown #28 (written by Paul Dini and Tony Bedard, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by Al Barrionuevo, inks by Art Thibert) was decent. It covered a lot of ground, including (deep breath) Forager and Jimmy Olsen; Piper and Trickster escaping the Feds; Mary Marvel examined from afar by Shadowpact; weird visits with Brother Eye; and more fighting between the Challengers, the Crime Society, and the Extremists. I think it’s found its level, which is to be a somewhat generic-looking comic whose periodical frequency and plot-point maintenance are its determining factors. If it leaves you one step closer to the end, one Wednesday at a time, it’s done its job.

Finally, Bedard writes Birds Of Prey #111 (drawn by Jason Orfalas), the in-person showdown between online adversaries Oracle and the Calculator. It was good, with the suspense coming from the fact that if Oracle’s face were known, her usefulness would be effectively ended. Calculator therefore has to look a little stupid and/or short-sighted not to put the pieces together, but who knows — maybe he’s just what they call “book-smart.” Apart from that, Bedard’s script is pretty clever. Orfalas’ work fits with the style of regular artist Nicola Scott — thin, clear lines, maybe closer to Ethan Van Sciver, but that’s still good.

October 19, 2007

Friday Night Fights

Filed under: friday night fights, meme, power girl, wonder woman — Tom Bondurant @ 11:42 pm
A somewhat spoilery scene from this week’s The Brave and the Bold #7:

Power Girl’s been possessed by Doctor Alchemy, and s/he’s turned the Fortress of Solitude into Red Kryptonite, crippling Superman. What’s more, she doesn’t think there’s any way Wonder Woman can sneak up on her — that is, until something crashes through the wall….

The Invisible Plane gives Diana the perfect setup for a SUCKA PUNCH!

… (ahem) that is, as I understand the term.

Close enough, Bahlactus?

[From “Scalpels and Chainsaws,” The Brave and the Bold vol. 3 #7, December 2007. Written by Mark Waid, pencilled by George Perez, inked by Bob Wiacek, colored by Tom Smith, lettered by Rob Leigh.]

October 18, 2007

Thursday Night Thinking

Filed under: superman, thursday night thinking, wonder woman — Tom Bondurant @ 11:12 pm
First, a page’s worth of context.

See, because Clark “thinking” with his … well, never mind … probably wouldn’t have counted with Diamondrock.

Good thing he woke up ready for some regular good ol’ wholesome THINKING!

[From “The Mummy Strikes,” Superman vol. 2 #5, May 1987. Written and pencilled by John Byrne, inked by Karl Kesel, colored by Tom Zuiko, lettered by John Costanza.]

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