Comics Ate My Brain

January 3, 2008

Checking in briefly: TNG and 2007 comics buying

Filed under: 52, countdown, meta, star trek — Tom Bondurant @ 3:12 pm
Well, after a Nyquil-flavored New Year, I’m on the road to recovery … but also on the road in a more literal sense. Therefore, new posts will probably have to wait until next week. In the meantime, though, here are a couple of items which have rattled around my mind long enough.

* * *

The Modern Trek Project, through which I am watching every episode of “The Next Generation,” “Deep Space Nine,” and “Voyager,” in as close to Stardate order as I can get, rolls on. Last night I watched “The Wounded,” TNG’s first Cardassian episode, which puts me into early 1991, approaching the halfway point of TNG Season 4. It won’t be too long before I start alternating TNGs with DS9s as per The Star Trek Chronology.

Still, that’s not today’s point. What really struck me about the beginning of TNG S4 was its emphasis on “sequels.” Virtually every episode up to “The Wounded” basically revisited a previous one.

“The Best of Both Worlds, Part II”: Duh; but also, “Q Who.”
“Family”: Duh, again; but Worf’s parents’ visit reminds him of his discommendation in “Sins Of The Father.”
“Brothers”: Looks back at events discussed in “Datalore.”
“Suddenly Human”: One of the least sequel-y. However, in making Picard a “parent,” it plays into the season’s secondary theme of “family.”
“Remember Me”: More with The Traveler from “Where No One Has Gone Before.”
“Legacy”: Tasha’s sister lets the crew re-examine Tasha’s death in “Skin Of Evil.”
“Reunion”: Ties together “The Emissary” with “Sins Of The Father” to begin the big Klingon arc in earnest.
“Future Imperfect”: We recognize Minuet from “11001001′s” holodeck program.
“Final Mission”: Caps off Wesley’s Academy arc, including The Boy’s recollection of his shuttle trip with Picard in “Samaritan Snare.”
“The Loss”: Neither sequel-y nor family-oriented, unless you count Riker playing the Imzadi card for the first time in a while.
“Data’s Day”: Follow-up to “The Measure of a Man.”

TNG had done sequels and follow-ups before, of course, but I don’t think to this degree. Moreover, combined with the “family” theme, the first part of Season 4 really felt like the show was consolidating itself into something cohesive which could both generate new subplots and re-examine alternative takes. It takes a certain amount of confidence to pull these disparate threads together, but obviously the cumulative effect runs the risk of creating too much familiarity.

Also coming somewhat from left field is the sudden emphasis on Miles O’Brien. Sure, he’d been around since the beginning, and I certainly don’t object to his being in the spotlight, but in the space of a few months he goes from being a good utility player in, say, “Best Of Both Worlds” and “Family” to major roles in both “Data’s Day” and “The Wounded.” I’m going to enjoy watching Miles develop, and I know it’ll help me appreciate his DS9 work even more.

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And about those comic-book numbers: more analysis is on the way, but the short version is twofold. First, apparently I bought considerably more in 2007 than I have in the previous few years. Second, much of the increase can be attributed to 52, Countdown, and their ancillary series. I am trusting that this will correct itself through attrition in 2008.

Not surprisingly, then, I spent appreciably more on DC in ’07. Around 88% of the books I bought were from DC, as opposed to 80% in years past. Again, attrition may return that number to a more typical level, but we’ll see.

Back next week!

November 3, 2007

New comics 10/31/07

Filed under: 52, adam strange, batman, countdown, fantastic four, legion, superman, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 8:24 pm
Just for the heck of it, let’s start off this week with a “why not?” purchase, Mythos: Fantastic Four (written by Paul Jenkins, art by Paolo Rivera). I love the FF, and Jenkins and Rivera probably do too, but beyond serving as a kind of generic introduction to the team, I don’t really see the point of this book. Last year the First Family miniseries attempted to bridge the gap between the plainclothes adventurers of the first couple of issues and the celebrity superheroes to come. This retelling of the origin changes a number of elements but obviously has to leave the end result the same.

Accordingly, there’s no real drama in the story beyond the pathos of becoming superhuman, and even that is glossed over. Indeed, the current editorial revision of making our heroes actual American astronauts, who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, sucks away another source of tension. Yes, we all know they’re not “racing the Commies” anymore, but Reed and crew defying the government to go into space isn’t just a plot point, it’s a character-builder — as is Reed’s culpability in the accident itself. Both are absent from this version. Apart from all of that, though, the book is put together well, except Reed looks a little bullet-headed in spots and Ben’s eyebrow-ridge is a bit too sharply defined at times. I’m tempted to say the most fun thing about the issue is the very last page, a cutaway drawing of the Baxter Building done up all photo-realistically.

Another impulse buy was Superman Confidential #8 (written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, pencilled by Chris Batista, inked by Cam Smith), the first part of (yes, another) retelling of Forever People #1. In other words, it’s Superman’s first full-blown encounters with the New Gods, and I think it’s more successful than Mythos. Batista draws a lithe, dynamic Superman, and Smith’s inks and Jason Wright’s colors make this a good-looking book. Abnett and Lanning bring in other Fourth World/early ’70s characters like Morgan Edge and Victor Volcanum. Not much new ground is broken, but this kind of continuity-porn is what I expected SMConf to deal in, so in that respect, good job.

Here’s the thing about calling something “52 Aftermath” — 52 ended six months ago. I don’t disagree with publishing Crime Bible #1 (written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Tom Mandrake) on Halloween, and I enjoyed it, but let’s be clear: if you read 52, you know good and well what the Crime Bible is. If you didn’t, wouldn’t the title Crime Bible be at least somewhat attractive, even without the 52 brand? (I swear, all this unified trade-dress is getting out of hand.) Anyway, CB plays out like a late ’60s-early ’70s urban-paranoia horror movie, with Renee “The Question” Montoya investigating some poor schmuck’s blundering across a secret society. I enjoyed Rucka’s unadulterated take on Renee, and I thought it worked well to bring the reader into the story via the schmuck and not her. Mandrake’s work was quite good this issue, and better specifically than his Batman fill-ins from earlier in the year.

At the risk of sounding hypocritical, I don’t have as much of a problem with the title of 52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen (#3 written by Keith Giffen, pencilled by Pat Olliffe, and inked by John Stanisci). Four Horsemen is generic enough that it might need the 52 qualifier. This installment reveals a lot about a certain former JLA mascot’s recent association, and Giffen has some fun with that. In fact, this story has a lot of Greg Rucka influences, the more I think about it, and the presence of frequent 52 penciller Olliffe makes it feel the most connected to said miniseries. It needs to get moving, though — the 4-H Club takes a pretty good shot from Superman this issue, but now we’re at the halfway point and time to get serious.

Countdown to Mystery #2 has a pretty good Doctor Fate story (written by Steve Gerber, pencilled by Justiniano, inked by Walden Wong) and a so-so Eclipso one (written by Matthew Sturges, drawn by Steven Jorge Segovia). The Eclipso story involves the corruption of Plastic Man, and therefore tries to be both wacky and edgy. It does not succeed. The art is fine, but maybe that’s the problem: it’s appropriate for your average superhero-influenced Plastic Man story, but not for a harrowing inversion of all that’s good and right about an inherently goofy character. It comes across pretty overwrought.

The Doctor Fate story finds him learning on-the-job how to cast the right demon-defeating spells. However, it also establishes just how far down the socio-economic ladder he’s fallen, and what he needs to do to get back into a barely-normal life. This does not include a mystic golden helmet. Accordingly, I don’t get the feeling that this Fate will be joining the Justice Society anytime soon. Not that he won’t eventually — why else would he have been brought back? — but if DC Editorial keeps him true to this characterization, it’ll be a while. Thankfully, the mundane concerns of this Kent Nelson are compelling enough to compete with the magic.

The lead story of Countdown To Adventure #3 (written by Adam Beechen, pencilled by Eddy Barrows, inked by Adam Ferreira) was pretty entertaining, albeit a little disconcerting. I didn’t expect to see a kill-crazy kid slice open Starfire’s thigh on page 3. Everyone in San Diego and on Rann is going crazy with Lady Styx fever, so naturally they’re out to get Starfire and Adam Strange. Like I said, it’s entertaining, but it feels a bit redundant too. I also don’t like having Ellen Baker suspect Buddy of having fallen in love with Kory. It strikes me as a well-worn plot element which might appear to make sense, but which reinforces certain stereotypes. Clearly Ellen is frustrated because for a year she thought Buddy was dead, and now that he’s back he’s brought this golden space-goddess with him. If “Friday Night Lights’” Coach Taylor had brought Starfire back to Dillon from TMU, I expect Tami would be a little upset too. However, Ellen’s in danger of becoming a cliche, and that’s what I don’t want to see.

Countdown #26 (written by Paul Dini and Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, story consultant Keith Giffen, drawn by Scott Kolins) was an exposition-riffic attempt to pull all of the various subplots together into a larger narrative. However, it chose to show all of the excitement through the riveting device of … watching it on television. Yes, it’s Third-Hand Theater — we mostly watch the Monitors as they watch what’s really important. Of course, you could argue that what’s important is the Monitors’ decision to “go to war,” which I suppose will be pretty exciting assuming it happens in the pages of this title and not 25 weeks down the road. By the way, I think Black-Suit Superman, about to execute the Luthor of Earth-15, is our own Superboy-Prime who somehow survived the Sinestro Corps War. Hey, if Kyle’s OK, why not him too?

There’s nothing really wrong with Batman #670 (written by Grant Morrison, pencilled by Tony Daniel, inked by Jonathan Glapion). It doesn’t have the stylistic zip of “The Club Of Heroes” or the over-the-top frenzy of Morrison’s other arcs. However, it does have solid, dynamic characters in Batman, the three forgotten super-vixens, and Damian. I’m sure those more versed in Morrisonia could fit said trio and Damian (again in the Robin costume) into the taxonomy of heroes and wannabes explored in “Seven Soldiers,” but I can only say they seem part of the same “here’s our costume; we’re super” paradigm. I thought the art was good, and reminiscent of Andy Kubert, but a bit flat, especially in the Ra’s al Ghul scenes. Daniel does draw a good Batman, though.

I decided to drop Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes (#35 written by Tony Bedard and drawn by Dennis Calero) after the first issue of this arc, so I’m three issues removed from that one. On its own, though, this isn’t bad — a fight between Atom Girl, Shadow Lass, and Wildfire, with Brainy helping the Legionnaires from afar and Drake’s brother likewise guiding him. Meanwhile, Supergirl, Lightning Lad, and Saturn Girl find Evolvo Lad and prepare to fight him. I was only a litlte disoriented, so that’s a positive. Art was fine, if a bit muddy and blocky. Best thing about the issue was also a little incredible — 31st Century technology will still let Atom Girl do that old trick?

“That other” Legion shows up in the long-promised Action Comics #858 (written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Gary Frank, inked by John Sibal). It begins with a great little three-page sequence which takes full advantage of the Superman origin as DC’s version of the Nativity. It also incorporates that quasi-cinematic “DC Comics Proudly Presents” approach to credits, and even includes a splash page with a pinup of Supes himself. With this team having drawn the Superman-analogue over in Marvel’s Supreme Power, there’s also a wink to that series’ paranoia. I have only minor complaints about Frank and Sibal’s work: for some reason, Clark has an overbite; and many characters look a little wild-eyed, especially Lightning Lad. Also, I liked the two-page spread of the Silver Age Legion, but boy do they look Caucasian. I know that’s the way things were in the ’60s, and I wasn’t looking for it, but it jumped out at me. If the Legion is the agent of diversity and tolerance, it’s come a long way since then. Overall, though, this issue was a good setup and it’s gotten me excited about the rest of the arc.

Finally, I bought Biff-Bam-Pow! #1 (by Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer), because I love quality humor, especially dressed up in pop sci-fi duds and incorporating lots of monkeys. I actually liked the “undercards” more than the main event, but it’s all good. Also, don’t miss the back cover, cleverly advertised on the front cover!

September 12, 2007

New comics (quickly) 8/22/07, 8/29/07, and 9/6/07

Okay, by this point I am officially embarrassed to be doing another three weeks’ worth of “new” comics roundups. Here’s the deal: I’ll tell you what I bought, and what still jumps out at me, and we’ll get through it before you know it.

I will say that I have been reading some comics other than the normal Wednesday fare. I mentioned Blue Devil already — it’s pretty good on the whole, and it holds up fairly well, but it doesn’t have the sublime wit of a ‘Mazing Man or an “Architecture & Mortality.”

I’m also up to Fantastic Four #201 in the big DVD full of FF PDFs. Just 30-odd more issues until the Byrne run, and then I can stop.

Finally, I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Larry Gonick’s Cartoon History Of The Universe Volume III, and it is the most fun I have had learning since Action Philosophers. Very highly recommended! Now I have to scare up a copy of Vol. II….

Anyway, on to the floppies.

August 22, 2007

BATMAN #668
BIRDS OF PREY #109
BLUE BEETLE #18
COUNTDOWN 36
GREEN LANTERN CORPS #15
SPIRIT #9
SUPERMAN #666

The standouts for this week were Batman #668 and Superman #666. I love Grant Morrison’s take on the Club of Heroes, and hope his promised flirtations with Bat-Mite and the Sci-Fi Batman are as good. JH Williams’ mashup of various artistic styles for the Clubbers is also a delight. I was bothered for a minute or so by the philosophical implications of Kryptonian Hell in Superman #666, but only for a minute — the story itself was a cheerfully horrific tale of Superman Gone Bad; a “Treehouse Of Horror” for our hero. Birds Of Prey was good for a fill-in (I didn’t catch the parentage slip-up), GL Corps was exciting, and The Spirit was pretty creepy. I also bought Blue Beetle #18 for the Teen Titans tie-in, but honestly I found it hard to follow in spots.

August 29, 2007

52 AFTERMATH THE FOUR HORSEMEN #1 (OF 6)
ACTION COMICS #855
AMAZONS ATTACK #6 (OF 6)
BATMAN ANNUAL #26
COUNTDOWN 35
COUNTDOWN TO ADVENTURE #1 (OF 8)
TEEN TITANS #50
WONDER WOMAN #12
FANTASTIC FOUR #549
LAST FANTASTIC FOUR STORY

I actually thought the Last Fantastic Four Story was kind of sweet, in a bedtime-story way. These things don’t have to be full of blood and death, and I imagined Smilin’ Stan bidding farewell to the creations which launched his career, maybe even thinking of Jack Kirby. Maybe not; maybe he just thought he could write whatever and the kids would buy it for the John Romita, Jr. art, and visions of dollar signs danced behind his eyes while he typed. I prefer my illusions, thank you. The main book was good as always, earning a spot on my Sunday Soliloquy list.

Amazons Attack and Wonder Woman felt very perfunctory. I saw the Big Surprise on the last page of AA and was reminded that it had been foreshadowed by that second Countdown Colorforms image, so it wasn’t that much of a surprise after all. Here’s the thing: I know DC is collecting just the Picoult issues into a fancy-dancy hardcover, but would it kill them to put out a Showcase black-and-white edition of AA, WW, and the tie-in issues? (It would? Okay then.) Seems like that would be a good way to entice readers onto whatever bandwagon DC might fashion, but what do I know?

I liked Teen Titans #50 pretty well, but mostly for the thought of the Titans fighting their evil future selves again. Looks like that will be a good arc. I thought the Blue Beetle bits were handled better in this issue than in BB’s own book, too.

Both 52 spin-offs were pretty good. I liked Countdown To Adventure‘s main story, and I’m not just saying that because I met Adam Beechen in San Diego. Will he remember, though, that Adam Strange and Animal Man were both part of the team that traveled to Apokolips in Crisis On Infinite Earths? I’m not sure even 52 mentioned that. I also thought the “Forerunner” backup wasn’t too bad, and the Four Horsemen‘s first issue was nice and suspenseful.

September 6, 2007

ALL NEW ATOM #15
BLACK CANARY WEDDING PLANNER
COUNTDOWN 34
DETECTIVE COMICS #836
NIGHTWING #136
SHE-HULK 2 #21

Atom #15 and the Wedding Planner were both pretty cute. However, am I right in thinking that Dinah and Ollie talked about getting married in the old Secret Sanctuary cave headquarters? (That’s “the cave,” right? Not the Batcave, surely!) Countdown confused me more than usual, with some weird layouts failing to explain how Donna freed Jason from the witch. Detective was okay — nothiing special, which is par for the course with the fill-ins for Dini. Another fill-in artist on Nightwing made it hard for me to realize that the couple in the bar was our villainous pair. Finally, I did like She-Hulk #21, especially the Peter David joke.

I’m really going to try and get back into a steady groove for the foreseeable future. Hopefully by October things will have settled down in the real world. Thanks for your patience!

September 5, 2007

Busy and busier

Filed under: 52, blue devil, countdown — Tom Bondurant @ 3:22 am
I’m going out of town for a few days, back to Kentucky for a seminar. Should have a new Sunday Soliloquy up, along with some thoughts on new comics.

I finally completed my Blue Devil collection, though, and spent much of my free time this past weekend reading those. I like the book more today than I did then, and I got it faithfully almost from start to finish (it ran 31 issues and an Annual) when it first came out. Alan Kupperberg took over as penciller after Paris Cullins drew the first several issues, and I remember preferring Cullins, but Kupperberg doesn’t suffer by comparison as much now.

Back then, too, I was a lot less plugged-into the immediate pre- and post-Crisis DC lineup (hard to believe, I know). Today, I can appreciate more of what writers Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn were trying to do. In large part, they succeeded at placing a new character in the context of the then-current DC Earth (Earth-1, specifically). I daresay you almost have to spend more time … evoking, for lack of a better word, the standard DC “playing field,” in order to ground readers. 52 did this very well, of course, and I’ve said before (I think) that Countdown kinda doesn’t.

Anyway, if you see Blue Devil in the back-issue bins, give it some attention. I especially liked the Annual, which saw Paris Cullins return as penciller and featured a host of familiar mystical guest-stars. Besides, BD is now part of Shadowpact (a book I don’t read) and his sidekick is a Teen Titan (a book I just started getting again). Both have gone through some pretty radical changes since their happy-go-lucky ’80s days, so I’ll be interested in hearing what you think if you come at the old series from a different perspective.

Meanwhile, check out this BD/Amazons Attack-related post from Blog@Newsarama, and a new Grumpy Old Fan should pop on Thursday through the magic of the Internet.

Talk to you soon.

May 12, 2007

New (at the time) comics 4/25/07 and 5/2/07

(sigh)

Yes, it’s been another three weeks without a new-comics recap. I’m not going to dwell on that, though, so let’s jump right in. Should have the 5/9 comics recapped by tonight or tomorrow.

4/25/07

52 #51 (written by Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, Grant Morrison, and Mark Waid, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencilled by Joe Bennett, inked by Jack Jadson and Belardino Brabo) … yeah, you know, it was fine. The space heroes got their reunions, there was a nice bookend to the first issue with the Superman/Superboy memorials, and it was a good way to wind down the bulk of the series. I can’t help but see it as the first part of a 2-part conclusion to the series, given what happens in #52, but we’ll get to that later.

Wonder Woman #8 (written by Jodi PIcoult, drawn by Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson) and Amazons Attack #1 (written by Will Pfeifer, drawn by Pete Woods) are joined at the hip(Polyta — oh, I hate myself), so I’ll talk about ‘em together. It occurs to me that AA does a better job of starting Wonder Woman’s “rehabilitation” than the main title does. Not that I didn’t like the Allan Heinberg issues, because they were on the whole pretty clever. It’s just that you’d think the Big Novelist Arc would overshadow, or at least color, the Big Event Miniseries, and it’s turned out the other way around — and the ironic thing is, that’s probably for the best. WW #8 is more of the same “save Nemesis from Circe” plot, now in its third issue; and still making with the contrivances for the sake of humor.

I may like AA better simply because it seems to give everything some direction. In fact, it hews more to a traditional superhero-story introduction: it establishes the threat, presents the stakes, and shows the heroes beginning to respond. Sure, the Amazons are bloodthirsty, perhaps excessively so; but I have a feeling the excess may be part of Circe’s prompting. Both books look fabulous, so that helps a lot.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Justice Society of America #5 (written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Fernando Pasarin), the wholly nondescript cover notwithstanding. (I almost didn’t get it because — unlike the Phil JIminez variant for sale for $10 behind the LCS’ counter — it didn’t say anything about being Part 2 of the JLA crossover.) Anyway, it’s part 2 of the JLA crossover, and oh boy stuff happens! Batman, Sandman, Starman, and Geo-Force fight “Batmen Through The Ages” and Doctor Destiny in Arkham Asylum! Superbo– er, Superman gives the teen JSAers the Fortress tour, complete with Madame Toussaud’s Legion of Super-Heroes! Wildfire vomits up Batman’s utility belt, last seen on Rick Jones in Avengers Forever! Okay, that last part isn’t quite true, but it kind of gives you the feel for where all of this is going. I liked this issue well enough, although Pasarin’s art is just a little too much over-rendered. Also, unless those are animatronic Legion statues, I’m kind of disturbed by how expressive they are. Also also, as I clumsily indicated before, his Superman looked at first a little too Superboy-ish. Hope part 3, in JLA #9, is at least as good.

I now prefer to think of the final issue of Firestorm 2.0 (#35 written by Dwayne McDuffie, pencilled by Pop Mhan, inked by Mhan and Steve Bird) as Part 3 of the special bridge-the-gap Firestorm miniseries. Looks to me like the Dan Jolley/Stuart Moore-written plots and subplots all concluded satisfactorily in #32 — because this issue ends on a terribly disappointing cliffhanger. It’s good because it means Firestorm will be popping up later in other DC books, and might get enough new exposure for a revival, but it’s bad in terms of narrative cohesion. It’s the Gotham Central non-ending, pretty much. The plot is also kind of hard to understand, because it hinges on some use of Firestorm’s powers that he takes great pains to set up … but when he does it, the setup doesn’t appear necessary. Basically it’s a big fight scene, rendered and choreographed well, except for that one part.

Action Comics #848 (written by Fabian Nicieza, pencilled by Allan Goldman, inked by Ron Randall) continues the fill-ins with Part 1 of a 2-parter about a superhero who gets his powers from God. Well, faith, prayer, something like that. The new guy destroys a squad of soldiers in an African country because he’s there to protect missionaries — which he does — but he can’t control his powers otherwise. The religious angle causes Superman to question how much he should be interfering, because clearly he’s got his own history of religious belief. It’s a good start for a story, but as you might expect, it ‘s not too subtle. I’ll be surprised if the folks behind Jarod (the new guy) aren’t broadcasting their own powers through him, and not really acting on direct orders from the Lord. The story isn’t helped by Goldman’s pencils. They’re serviceable, and his storytelling is fine, but his figures are awkward and his perspective falters occasionally. One scene, with Clark and Lois getting ready for bed, features an overmuscled Clark and a Lois whose back arches too far, apparently so she can display her hinder more prominently.

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #29 (written by Tony Bedard, pencilled by Kevin Sharpe, inked by Mark McKenna & Jack Purcell) was a weird fill-in, if indeed it is such and not just the start of the Bedard/Sharpe Era. It basically spilled the beans on 52 a week early (in the comics themselves; Dan DiDio did it first, of course), explaining why the Dominators hate the Earth, and the Legion in particular. The issue is nothing special — the Dominators’ history is told against the backdrop of the Legion trashing their planet — and the art is decent at best.

Batman Confidential #5 (written by Andy Diggle, pencilled by Whilce Portacio, inked by Richard Friend) is another issue-long fight scene, as first the Batplane and then the Batcycle are used to attack Luthor’s secret robot warehouse. It took me about three minutes to read.

For the first time in a long time, I didn’t get a whole lot out of Astro City (The Dark Age Book Two #3 written by Kurt Busiek, drawn by Brent Anderson). Maybe the Ron Burgundy cameo threw me off. I had the same reaction to Planetary Brigade: Origins #3 (written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, drawn by Julia Bax).

Thankfully, the same was not true for Fantastic Four #545 (written by Dwayne McDuffie, pencilled by Paul Pelletier, inked by Rick Magyar), which did a lot with the new FF, the Silver Surfer, and Gravity. I’ll echo the blogosphere’s concerns about some of the physics in the issue, but overall it continues to be very good.

5/2/07

I talked about 52 #52 in the 5/3 Grumpy Old Fan. Short version: yay multiverse! Slightly longer version: a big jumble of a story that felt more like a Big 52 Special than an organic ending to the series. Also, I’m not sure, but I think it broke out of the “this happened this week” mold in large part for the last issue. Still, a good end to the series.

Probably the worst thing about Green Lantern #19 (written by Geoff Johns, drawn and colored by Danlel Acuna) is the continued existence of the new Star Sapphire costume. Otherwise, it would be this issue’s notions about the beginnings of a Star Sapphire Corps — which, okay, makes some sense, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it right on the heels of the Sinestro Corps. I did like seeing Carol in a Green Lapphire costume, and the Hal/Carol scenes are fine, but there’s some really weak dialogue here — mostly predictable “first dates are hell” stuff. Acuna’s art is good, but it’s so different from the Pacheco/Reis school of finely-rendered figures that it takes some getting used to. The “Sinestro Corps” backup continues to be good and scary, in every sense of the words.

Detective Comics #832 (written by Royal McGraw, drawn by Andy Clarke) showcases the return of the Terrible Trio, a ’50s-era threefer of theme-gimmick villains now bent on killing each other off. I figured out the twist about halfway through. Not a bad issue, but not a standout either.

Checkmate #13 (written by Greg Rucka and Judd Winick, pencilled by Joe Bennett, inked by Jack Jadson) begins “Check/Out,” the Outsiders crossover, with the Checkmaters taking out the Outsiders one by one. Not much plot beyond that, and it’s a good way to introduce someone who’s never read any Outsiders (i.e., me) to the team. It also makes Checkmate look capable without making the Outsiders look like chumps. Bennett and Jadson are the new art team starting this issue, and they do their usual fine job.

(The All-New) Atom #11 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by Eddy Barrows, inked by Trevor Scott) concludes the Atom-vs.-zombies story, and not an issue too soon. As much as I want this series to show how it can handle different subgenres, this story just felt shoehorned into the book to get it out of the way before the big Ray Palmer arc. I am still rooting for Ryan Choi, but I’m eager for the more science-y stuff to return.

Welcome To Tranquility #6 (written by Gail Simone, drawn by Neil Googe and Billy Dallas Patton) also wraps up its arc. While I think WTT is a very ambitious book, and deserves a look because of it, it hasn’t really hooked me. I’ll probably re-read these six issues before deciding whether to continue.

Jeff Smith’s Shazam! The Monster Society Of Evil #3 was good as usual, with some familiar Sivana-vs.-Batsons action at the center of the issue. The manner of Billy’s escape is particularly fun. However, maybe it was just the way the story broke out, but this issue’s cliffhanger isn’t all that suspenseful. Oh well; it’s not like I won’t get #4.

Finally, Superman #662 (written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Carlos Pacheco, inked by Jesus Merino) offered a decent bridge into the second half of “Camelot Falls.” Some have complained that nothing happens, but I thought Superman’s examination of his role in Earth’s history was done well. It’s not really the “Must There Be A Superman?” question, because Superman’s allegedly not making humanity weaker as much as he’s making the bad guys stronger. I can see where someone who didn’t read the previous Busiek issues might wonder what all the fuss is about, but since I did, and since that particular future was about as apocalyptic as one could get, I was invested in Superman’s musings from the start.

Now for the 5/9 books, and maybe some more new content besides.

April 22, 2007

New comics 4/4/07, 4/11/07, and 4/18/07

Man, what a week. The Best Wife Ever has been out of town, so you know what that means: blogging about the DC solicits and World War III!

Anyway, three weeks behind; no time to waste.

APRIL 4

I’m just going to do a quick rundown for these books. I talked about Justice League of America #7 over at Blog@, in connection with the rest of “The Tornado’s Path.” Madman Atomic Comics #1 was not what I expected — weird, expositional, and kind of depressing. Welcome to Tranquility #5 was decent, as the first arc starts getting wrapped up. Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #28 was pretty good, and its current arc is ready to end as well. Atom #10 was okay — I’m not a huge fan of Eddy Barrows’ art, and the “Sometimes They Come Back” story doesn’t feel right for the book. Detective Comics #831 was very good, especially with the flashback to the previous Ventriloquist. Superman #661 felt like it could have come out of the ’70s or ’80s, and that’s not entirely bad. Superman/Batman #33 finished what turned out to be the Despero arc, and I’m glad it’s over. Nightwing #131 was okay — not as good as the rest of the arc has been. Finally, 52 #48 felt rushed, and never quite came together.

APRIL 11

We begin the backlog in earnest with Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four #1 (written by Jeff Parker, pencilled by Mike Wieringo, inked by Wade von Grawbadger) and All-Star Superman #7 (written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Frank Quitely), two books designed to meet all one’s needs for their respective subjects. I know I’m supposed to say something insightful about every title, but with these it’s not going to get much deeper than “more, please.” I can’t get enough of Mike Wieringo’s FF, and he draws a fine Spidey too. Jeff Parker’s story strikes a good balance between the typical street-level Spidey adventure and the correspondingly cosmic FF tale. It’s nice and light-hearted, with the Impossible Man and a great set of Ben/Johnny pranks. The stakes are laid out a little more clearly in the Superman title, as a “Bizarro plague” comes to Earth. The problem’s big enough that it doesn’t require Superman to be artificially de-powered, or to hold back, but at the same time Morrison and Quitely’s Superman radiates confidence. More, please.

I can see that Tales of the Unexpected #7‘s lead Spectre story (written by David Lapham, pencilled by Eric Battle, inked by Prentis Rollins) is trying to wrap everything up in its penultimate chapter, but I’m not really invested anymore. The same is definitely not true for the Dr. 13 story (written by Brian Azzarello, drawn by Cliff Chiang), which just seems to get crazier and more affecting as it goes along. The satire on DC’s continuity struggles has never been more clear, with the “Architects” even wearing Ben Cooper-style superhero masks representing some of their signature assignments. (If I’m right, they’re Grant Morrison/Batman, Greg Rucka/Wonder Woman, Geoff Johns/Superman, and Mark Waid/Flash). Speaking of stakes, the Dr. 13 story seems to be about nothing less than the survival of DC’s own Island of Misfit Toys. We’ll find out next issue.

More metacommentary is on display in She-Hulk #17 (written by Dan Slott, pencilled by Rick Burchett, inked by Cliff Rathburn). Slott’s treatment of Shulkie’s sexual history comes into play during an encounter with Iron Man and some Nick Fury LMDs reference several other books’ subplots. The bulk of the story has Shulkie’s squad taking out old Hulk villains both in the field and on the SHIELD Helicarrier, and that part’s good. Meanwhile, Mallory and Two-Gun try to clean up the former’s image following her breakup with Awesome Andy. I have always been a fan of Rick Burchett’s work, and Cliff Rathburn’s inks are a good complement. However, it all feels like treading water until “World War Hulk” and its attendant round of status quo change(s).

Lotsa plot in Green Lantern Corps #11 (written by Dave Gibbons, pencilled by Patrick Gleason, inked by Prentis Rollins), so I won’t try to summarize. Suffice it to say that everything seems to be connected to weird goings-on on Mogo, which I’d guess are in turn caused by the imminent attack of the Sinestro Corps. A mention of the old Empire of Tears only heightens the apocalyptic mood. I enjoyed this issue, because it balances the various plot threads (I count six) pretty well. I’m also a lot fonder of Gleason and Rollins than I was this time last year.

JLA Classified #37 (written by Peter Milligan, drawn by Carlos D’Anda) begins “Kid Amazo,” so when we see a slacker college student who’s questioning his purpose and the meaning of existence, it’s not hard to figure out why. However, this story wants to look at its title character not as someone who will naturally turn to the light (a la Red Tornado and Tomorrow Woman), but someone who can make a real choice to join his “family” against the JLA. In that respect it looks interesting. I know I’ve seen D’Anda’s work before, but I can’t remember where. Here it’s pretty good — kind of like the clean Doug Mahnke/Tom Nguyen style, but a little rougher. A decent book all around.

Still sticking with Wonder Woman (#8 written by Jodi Picoult, pencilled by Drew Johnson, and inked by Ray Snyder), even though this issue isn’t much better than the last. The art’s still good, though. I will say that the story ties into Amazons Attack a little earlier than I expected, and it makes me wonder about how that event played into the development of Picoult’s arc.

That leaves us with 52 #49 (written by The Architects, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by Eddy Barrows, inks by Dan Green, Rodney Ramos, and Barrows) — and honestly, with everything that happens in 52-land this week, I can’t say much more about the leadup in this issue. The Dr. Magnus bits were the highlight, and Barrows draws facial features a bit soft for my taste.

APRIL 18

The elephant in the room this week was World War III, about which I’ve already written some 1600 words behind the above link. Short version: incoherent, redeemed somewhat by the efficient 52 #50. Moving on.

The Metal Men show up in Superman/Batman #34 (written by Mark Verheiden, pencilled by Pat Lee, inked by Craig Yeung), and the story is set up for them to fight Supes and Bats, but it’s not much more than that. Lee and Yeung’s art is dark and slightly exaggerated, such that when one of the bad guys looks grotesquely overmuscled, I’m not sure whether I should accept that there’s an in-story reason or that it’s just bad anatomy. At one point Bruce Wayne gets slapped by the widow of one of his employees, killed in an attack, and you don’t see that too often, so the story gets points for that. However, it sure doesn’t have as much fun with Magnus or the Metal Men as 52 does, and I hope that changes.

By now you’ve probably heard about the bestiality in The Spirit #5 (by Darwyn Cooke), and sure, that’s good for some laughs, but it’s only part of another solid issue. The plot takes off from the unauthorized licensing of the Spirit’s likeness into some unexpected directions. When a comic makes you feel sympathetic for a guy who loves his pet more than he really should, that’s saying something.

Manhunter #30 (written by Marc Andreyko, pencilled by Javier Pina Diego Olmos, and Cafu, inked by Robin Riggs and Art Thibert) was enjoyable, but perfunctory: the Wonder Woman arc ends, the Chase-and-her-sister arc ends, and there’s more with Mark Shaw. I think having this book “uncancelled” took a little pressure off everyone involved and let them spread out more, so that it feels more transitional than anything else. It’s good that the book isn’t cancelled, and the resolutions are all handled well — there’s even an Amazons Attack tease, if I read it right — but it doesn’t seem as … resolute, I guess, about everything.

Andreyko also writes Nightwing Annual #2 (pencilled by Joe Bennett, inked by Jack Jadson), the secret history of Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon’s lurve. Andreyko does a good job with the material, working in Dick’s time with the New Titans pretty well, and Bennett and Jadson likewise do right by the characters. (They take particular care with the Robin costume.) Dick does have one moment where he lives up to his name, which I’m sure you’ve read about already. I am not a Dick/Babs ‘shipper, nor am I a Dick/Kory ‘shipper. I think Dick and Babs are more like siblings than potential lovahs, and I never got the sense that Dick and Kory were in it for much more than the sex. Therefore, I wasn’t emotionally invested in these events, but I can’t tell you what either party’s ideal mate looks like. Anyway, a pretty good issue overall.

Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #51 (written by Tad Williams, pencilled by Shawn McManus, inked by Walden Wong) centers around Topo leading the Atlantean survivors through underwater “hatches” which teleport them across the oceans to Sub Diego. Along the way, they encounter Species 8472 … I mean, the race that built the hatches. The art seems to be a little more cartoony than it was last issue, to go with the more fanciful tone overall. I’m not complaining about that. The book seems to be finding a middle ground between the isolation of the early Busiek SoA issues and the pre-OYL stories, and it’s still intriguing to me.

Big doins’ are afoot in The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #11 (written by Marc Guggenheim, pencilled by Tony Daniel, inked by Art Thibert), mostly in preparation for next issue’s fight with the Rogues’ Gallery. This issue is about Inertia gathering the Rogues, and Grandma Iris telling Bart why she’s pointing that gun at him. I don’t really buy Inertia as a Rogue mastermind, especially since he’s Bart’s peer. However, the issue flows well, it’s not implausible otherwise, and I’m interested to see where it goes.

The JLA/JSA/old-school LSH team-up begins in Justice League of America #8 (written by Brad Meltzer, pencilled by Shane Davis, inked by Matt Banning). I must have missed Geo-Force joining the League, and the issue dwells inordinately on Red Arrow almost getting killed by a tree. It was okay, although I spent the whole issue wondering what else it would reference from my childhood. The art was fine, although very similar to the regular Benes/Hope team. I said over at B@N that this crossover could be so big, it forces Meltzer to pick up the pace, and I still hope that’s the case — but this issue was just prologue.

And then there’s The Brave and the Bold #3 (written by Mark Waid, pencilled by George Perez, inked by Bob Wiacek), another incredibly good issue teaming Batman and Blue Beetle against the Fatal Five. I intend to catch up on the new Beetle, so I don’t know how closely Waid writes him to his regular voice. However, I did think Beetle’s dialogue, funny as it was, fell into a standard Waid type. It was still very funny, but it felt familiar too. Anyway, more, please.

Lastly, bringing our survey of some thirty-odd issues to a close is Birds of Prey #105 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by Nicola Scott, inked by Doug Hazlewood). The fight with the Secret Six continues as the mystery behind You-Know-Who’s sudden reappearance is explored. It has to do with a Rasputin cult, apparently. Hawkgirl and Scandal fight and the new Secret Sixer is revealed, but most of it is standing around talking. It’s good talking, don’t get me wrong, and as I’ve said too many times in this post, wait ’til next issue. Good as Sean McKeever may be, he’ll have a hard act to follow on this book.

March 30, 2007

New comics 3/28/07

Filed under: 52, batman, fantastic four, firestorm, green lantern, hawkgirl, superman, weekly roundups, wonder woman — Tom Bondurant @ 1:51 am
Let’s begin on a positive note: the art in Wonder Woman #6 (written by Jodi Picoult, pencilled by Drew Johnson, inked by Ray Snyder) was really good. Johnson and Snyder are, of course, holdovers from the Greg Rucka days, when they were similarly good. There are loads of background gags and little bits of business, including a mysterious pair of eyes in a bathroom mirror on the first page. The book looks great. If this is your first Wonder Woman comic in twenty years, it may even read pretty well. However, in the context of a) Diana having been in Patriarch’s World for an even longer period of time (in the revised timeline); and b) the story’s lead villainess having been prominently featured in the last storyline, doing pretty much the same thing, this book is a horribly frustrating experience. It’s as if — and I really hate to sound provincial, like “don’t bring your city-fied ways out here, missy” — Ms. Picoult thought she could write this book in her sleep. Actually, I blame editor Matt Idelson, who might have clued her into the story’s big problems and given her a chance to either fix or finesse them. A decent story may yet come out of this arc, but for now it looks like a first cousin to the last one.

I hit the Dwayne McDuffie trifecta this week, with Action Comics #847 (drawn by Renato Guedes), Firestorm #34 (pencilled by Pop Mhan, inked by Rob Stull and Ron Randall), and Fantastic Four #544 (pencilled by Paul Pelletier, inked by Rick Magyar). All were good, but I enjoyed FF #544 the most. Man, McDuffie continues to make silk purses out of the mess that Civil War made. I didn’t know how Black Panther and Storm would fit into the group, but now I’m convinced. The first half of the book is housekeeping, and the second gets right into the cosmic. Pelletier and Magyar’s art is livelier and more expressive than Mike McKone’s, with some Kirbyesque flourishes and even a little Alan Davis influence. Fine work all around.

The Action story is a fill-in flashback framed with a sequence set in the middle of the current “Last Son” storyline. It tells a sweet, but somewhat by-the-numbers, story of Superman and Pa Kent going on a “fishing trip” into deep space, courtesy of a Kryptonian shuttlepod made by the Fortress of Solitude. (At this point I had to remind myself that the ancient Kryptonians were genetically incapable of leaving their home planet, and Kal-El didn’t have that problem.) Art is good — I like Renato Guedes pretty well — although Pa looked beefier than normal. It’s not a bad story, but it’s nothing groundbreaking.

Firestorm continues the New Gods storyline in what I think the penultimate issue of the series. That means more fun with Mr. Miracle, Orion, and the Female Furies. Metron shows up too in an unexpected way. Everyone gets some good lines, including Metron (kind of like the Watcher’s one-liner over in this week’s FF). Art is nice and kinetic, appropriately so for an issue that’s mostly fight scenes.

A different-looking set of some of the same Female Furies continues to appear in Hawkgirl #62 (written by Walt Simonson, drawn by Renato Arlem), as everyone takes on Giant Robot Hawkgirl. Honestly, this issue reminded me of a “Powerpuff Girls” episode, in both good and bad ways. It would have been a good Powerpuff episode. It’s not really a good “straight” superhero comic. For one thing, the way to stop Giant Robot Hawkgirl turns out to be something that maybe the Furies should have thought of, and not Kendra, but she’s the star, so she gets to use the brains, apparently. There’s a lot about this book that I am willing to chalk up to Simonson’s sense of goofy fun, but this issue went too far to the goofy.

Speaking of alien parasites that transform women, here’s a twofer in Green Lantern #18 (written by Geoff Johns, drawn and colored by Daniel Acuna). The Star Sapphire seeks out Carol Ferris again, using her to attack Hal until it learns that Hal’s now carrying a torch for Cowgirl. Leaving aside all the questionable messages about gender issues that the very idea of a maneating Star Sapphire raises, this was a fine-looking issue. Daniel Acuna has a distinctive style that serves the book fairly well, since it’s pretty dependent on colors and a GL/SS fight is going to be pretty colorful. Hal looks about ten years younger than he should in spots, but I can live with that. As for the story … I did like that once Carol was free of the Sapphire, she was actually helpful to Hal. Clearly Star Sapphire has a tremendous potential to be simply a repository of offensive female stereotypes, and while I think Geoff Johns is smart enough to avoid that, he also seems so wedded to the idea of “updating” the “traditions” associated with GL and his villains that he could make it much much worse. The “Sinestro Corps” backup story, drawn by Dave Gibbons, is a chilling little tale obviously in the mold of the more SF-oriented “Tales of the Green Lantern Corps” backups from the mid-1980s, and it’s pretty successful.

52 #47 (written by JMRW, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by Giuseppe Camuncoli, inks by Lorenzo Ruggiero) got back to the old familiar multiple-focus format, checking in on various Bat-people, Wonder Woman, Intergang, Animal Man, the Steels, and Will Magnus. The art is a little more idiosyncratic than the standard 52 style, but that’s not so bad. Overall, the issue flows well, and it’s fairly satisfying.

The one problem I had with Superman Confidential #4 (written by Darwyn Cooke, drawn by Tim Sale) was one of perception. When we left him last issue, Supes’ powers were draining under the influence of some offstage Kryptonite, and this issue finds him on the wrong end of a beatdown, Superman Returns style. Eventually, the Kryptonite is removed, and we think that Supes is going to get some sweet payback — but then, the rest of the issue concerns Jimmy Olsen getting him out of harm’s way. Given the ending, it could be a plot point, but right now it seems like a plot hole. Beyond that, and the question about how “alive” the Kryptonite is, the issue is pretty good. Sale does a good job conveying Supes’ pain, the villains’ perfidy, and Jimmy’s eagerness, and Cooke’s script is fine.

Finally, I quite enjoyed Batman #664 (written by Grant Morrison, pencilled by Andy Kubert, inked by Jesse Delperdang). It begins with a shameless James Bond (old-school, not Daniel Craig) parody designed solely to establish just how much cooler Bruce Wayne is. It uses a Little Nellie-style autogyro in a ski chase — that’s how Bondian it seeks to be. Once Bruce gets back to Gotham, an ordinary encounter with a pimp and some ‘hos leads back to the Batman impersonator who shot the Joker in the face in Morrison’s first issue. There are a few abrupt transitions in the issue, and it’s not quite clear why Batman decides to question the pimp (just bored?), but the Kubert/Delperdang art, and Guy Major’s colors, all looks fantastic. It may be this team’s best issue yet, and it’s starting to get into the ’50s stuff I’ve been anticipating. Very cool.

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.

March 21, 2007

New comics 3/14/07

Filed under: 52, dr 13, green lantern, justice league, spectre, superman, weekly roundups, wonder woman — Tom Bondurant @ 1:40 am
We begin this week with 52 #45 (written by JMRW, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by Chris Batista and Jamal Igle, inks by Rodney Ramos). It’s Week Three of the Black Adam World Tour, and for all the people who complained about too much time spent on the Space Heroes storyline, I think the Black Adam story suffers from the same problem. It’s marginally better because Black Adam going nuts can be justified as the most important thing that happened this week. However, it strikes me — the guy who only yodels about comics, I freely admit — that there’s a right way and a wrong way for 52 to present this.

The right way, I submit, is to take a step back and present this not quite clinically, but perhaps more through the reactions of various other countries, the Great Ten, Montoya, etc. In other words, everyone but Adam. That way, the implication of Adam’s destructive rampage is arguably more powerful. Instead, 52 puts more focus on Adam, because we’re supposed to feel sorry for him and his losses. Unfortunately, the nature of 52, plus the necessity of rehabilitating Adam as an anti-hero as opposed to just a straight-up villain, means that I for one did not find myself getting all that close to Adam over these past forty-odd weeks. Therefore, this issue left me kind of cold. Also, I thought the art was a little stiff, and that surprised me because I really like Jamal Igle and I usually like Chris Batista.

More carnage is on display in Tales of the Unexpected #6‘s Spectre story (written by David Lapham, drawn by Tom Mandrake), and it’s all deliberately unsettling and frustrating. Diametrically opposed is the very witty Dr. 13 backup (written by Brian Azzarello, drawn by Cliff Chiang), in which I believe Azzarello recycles his Mount Rushmore Monster from “For Tomorrow.” Oh my goodness, this is a fun story. When the Mount Rushmore Monster is used to poke fun at the 52 writers, that’s comedy gold.

JLA Classified #36 (plotted by Dan Slott, scripted and pencilled by Dan Jurgens, finished by Steve Scott) presents yet more carnage in the service of an even dumber story. The whole alternative-timeline framework of the story needs to be handled pretty delicately in order to avoid it collapsing under its own weight, and here it’s not. The internal rules are ultimately so haphazard that what should be an “aha!” moment ends up coming out of left field. Oh, and that’s not even the worst part. Another key element hinges on Plastic Man impersonating a piece of furniture, as it were, but we don’t know because the furniture isn’t red and yellow. Jurgens and Scott are solid enough artists, but Jurgens’ figures are very stiff and Scott’s finishes add a lot of Image flourishes.

I want to like Wonder Woman #5 (written by Will Pfeifer, pencilled by Geraldo Borjes & Jean Diaz, inked by Wellington Diaz), because its heart is in the right place, but it just doesn’t make a lot of sense. It tries to use WW’s traditional inspirational role as the basis for a series of self-defense domestic violence stories, which makes sense, and it incorporates a super-guy’s psychosexual issues, which is appropriate, but it doesn’t bear too close scrutiny. It’s fairly predictable; the art is decent; and like I say it tries hard, but it’s a fill-in story that comes at possibly the worst possible time for a fill-in, ever.

Green Lantern Corps #10 (written and pencilled by Dave Gibbons, additional pencils by Patrick Gleason, inked by Gibbons and Christian Alamy) was a pretty darn good issue focusing on two GLs. Soranik Natu tries to practice guerilla medicine on Korugar, while Guy links up with two rookie GLs who end up not respecting his authority. Gibbons draws the Guy pages and Gleason and Alamy draw the Korugar scenes. For once I don’t have a problem with Gleason and Alamy, and I continue to like Soranik Natu, so everybody’s happy.

Finally, I know I am not the first to compare Superman #660 (written by Kurt Busiek, drawn by Mike Manley and Bret Blevins) to an Astro City story, but I think it’s appropriate. It’s a good little “criminal with style and honor” tale about the Prankster teaching the value of presentation to a poseur supervillain. Superman’s not in it a lot, but that’s OK. I can’t argue with Manley and Blevins, two artists who don’t get enough work lately, maybe because they are working more in animation. Busiek is such a good fit for Superman.

March 10, 2007

New comics — lots of ‘em — 2/28/07 and 3/7/07

Grab a snack — this could take a while.

Wednesday was not only the day of “LA LA LA I HAVEN’T READ CAP #25 YET,” it was capped off (sorry) with a massive stack of 18 floppies, to go with the 7 issues I haven’t gotten to from last week. (Three of yesterday’s buys were delayed from last week, so that contributed.) I like comics a whole lot, but I can’t take too many more Wednesdays like that.

2/27/07

The last week of February featured two themes, with the first being the New Gods. Hawkgirl #61 (written by Walt Simonson, drawn by Renato Arlem) picks up with the Apokoliptian gizmo (actually, a “gizmoid”) that found its way to the St. Roch museum last issue. This time it’s attracted the attention of the Female Furies. The Furies fight Hawkgirl for it, but it has ideas of its own and … I’m not quite sure what happens, but a robot Hawkgirl wings away from a pile of unconscious superwomen, including Kendra. In subplot news, there’s the usual workplace banter, and Hawkgirl gets a new set of shootin’ irons (which don’t do her much good, because: robot.) I’m not quite sure how to feel about this series, because on the one hand, I really liked Simonson’s work on the Fourth World in Orion, but it was full of grandeur and pomp, and this is more irreverent. It’s nicely done, but still. Also, this looks like a more sexx-ay version of the Female Furies than I’m used to, and it kind of reduces their appeal somewhat. I’m not saying that ugly = evil by any means, but the old-style Furies looked terrifying, and that was the point. These new ones … eh. Arlem’s art is fine, except for the ending, where first it’s not clear how Robot Hawkgirl comes out of Human Hawkgirl (and that may be intentional) and then it’s not clear whether Robot Hawkgirl is supposed to be human-sized or gigantic. (Maybe a callback to 52?)

Darkseid’s uncle Steppenwolf fights Bart in Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #9 (written by Marc Guggenheim, pencilled by Ron Adrian, inked by Art Thibert), and that’s pretty exclting, if a little generic, but most of the issue is concerned with Marc Guggenheim genuflecting towards the fans and basically trying to make his script as charming as possible. Combined with Adrian and Thibert’s simple, straightforward art — a lot less busy than Ken Lashley, but not as good as the Karl Kerschl fill-in from a few issues back — the issue works pretty well. I’m still not convinced that DC needed to replace Wally with Bart, but this issue makes Bart a lot less unappealing than he was last time.

Because last week was also apparently Dan Jurgens Week, he provides the layouts for Firestorm #33 (written by Dwayne McDuffie, pencilled by Ken Lashley, inked by Rob Stull). As you might guess from the cover, most of the issue is a fight involving Orion, Firestorm, Mr. Miracle, and the Female Furies. I should point out that this is the Seven Soldiers Mr. Miracle, but the traditional versions of Orion and the Furies, and yes, the Furies look a lot scarier here. McDuffie writes some very witty banter between Shilo and Firestorm, and gives each his own clever introductory sequence. The Firestorm/Orion fight is also entertaining. Art is a little more severe than it has been, with the combination of Jurgens/Lashley/Stull being reminiscent of ’80s Firestorm artist Tom Grindberg — lots of slashy lines and “shiny” inks. Still, Jurgens is a good storyteller, so that helps. All in all a good issue, and a nice way to start the series’ final arc.

Jurgens also lays out 52 #43 (written by JMRW, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, finishes by Norm Rapmund), the first part of the two-week How Tragic, Black Adam’s Evil Again arc. Also, Buddy Baker finds out he can mimic Sun-Eaters, which apparently doesn’t come with their craving for, you know, suns. More on Black Adam later.

Jurgens does most of the work in JLA Classified #35 (co-written by Dan Slott, inked by Al Milgrom), the part of the Red King’s plan that works out the best for him. This means, to quote Dave Campbell, it’s an Alternate Universe Where Everyone Dies. It doesn’t seem necessary to show the grisly deaths of the Justice League, so I’m giving this particular issue a thumbs-down, but maybe the conclusion will justify its existence.

In non-Dan Jurgens, non-New Gods comics, Hal defeats Amon Sur and the Sinestro Corps makes its triumphant appearance in Green Lantern #17 (written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Ivan Reis, inked by Oclair Albert). It got me thinking, though: Amon did have a point about Hal just burying Abin Sur under a mountain. Hal doesn’t have the best reputation for tactfulness, so now maybe he can start atoning for his past misdeeds? “My Name Is Hal,” coming soon….

Also, the Batman scene was pretty funny.

I liked Action Comics #846 (written by Johns and Richard Donner, drawn by Adam Kubert) because it aimed only to show the Phantom Zone villains’ devastating first strike at Superman. It left me wanting to see the next issue, which is job one for any serial installment. I’m still not sold on the arc as a whole, but this issue was pretty good.

We close out February with Hero Squared #5 (breakdowns by Keith Giffen, script by J.M. DeMatteis, drawn by Joe Abraham), in which Captain Valor and Milo swap personalities, so to speak — Milo explores his inner hero, and Valor continues to mope. Milo has a funny scene with Caliginous too. I continue to like this series, but I get the feeling we’ve been going over this ground for a few issues now, and five issues in, it’s time to find the plot and stick with it.

3/7/07

Okay, here we go. I’m just going to try and knock these out.

52 #44: I know a few other bloggers have said it, but 52 doesn’t do action well. It can make the case for a couple of weeks of all-action issues like #43 and #44, but it works best portraying slice-of-life snippets, because the action stuff makes you ask, “is this the most important thing that happened this week?” I don’t think we needed to go into detail about something that has been foreshadowed pretty heavily ever since Isis was introduced, especially because her last bit of advice seems to contradict a lot of what she’s espoused previously. Also, I wasn’t too fond of the fight storytelling, not least because the Four Horsemen have a lot of parts that aren’t easily recognizable, such that seeing only parts of them makes it hard for me to orient myself within the panel.

(The All New) Atom #9: Ryan Choi goes back home for “Sometimes They Come Back.” It’s pretty familiar: undead bullies are just as intimidating as regular bullies, yadda yadda yadda. The revelations about his old girlfriend are interesting, but we’ll see next issue if they lead to anything more. This title seems to work better with the more science-y stuff.

The Authority #2: Now that the story of Ken, The Earth-Prime Submariner has given way to a more conventional superhero comic, our main cast has to adjust to life on Earth-Prime. I don’t know if I’m on this book for the long haul — I’m not that invested in the Authority, and this was a pretty unremarkable issue. Next issue might be fun, but who knows when that will be?

Batman Confidential #3: Still not making much of an impression.

Detective Comics #829: I’m resisting the Die Hard jokes (Die Battier? … no) because this looks like a good fill-in from writer Stuart Moore. Bruce Wayne is trapped in Wayne Tower with dignitaries, and Robin has to do the costumed work. Andy Clarke’s art is fine, although occasionally Bruce looks kind of doughy.

Justice League of America #6: The end of the Red Tornado story (I thought it had one more issue to go) isn’t so bad in terms of efficiency, but it does confirm that this is a Red Tornado story and not so much a Justice League story. Also, reader discretion is advised for scenes of extreme dismemberment. Not to mention just talking about dismemberment: I echo the blogger who wondered, do they practice sawing off Amazo’s legs? (Do they use Buster the dummy?)

Manhunter #29: I’m pretty new to the series, but it seems like Kate doesn’t get in the costume a whole lot. When she does at the end of this issue, it’s pretty cool. This arc has been about the Special Guest Stars, though, with subplots about other D-list characters (Cameron Chase, Mark Shaw, Azrael; not that they’re not cool), so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. It feels like DC’s She-Hulk, and that ain’t bad.

Nightwing #130: Marv, you’re starting to lose me. I kind-of understand the Bride and Groom relationship. However, maybe I’m not paying enough attention, but I don’t quite understand how their victims are important to Nightwing. I did like the setpiece on the ferry, though.

Shazam! The Monster Society Of Evil #2: What a fun book this has turned out to be, and what a clever homage it presents to the original Mr. Mind story. If memory serves, he wasn’t seen fully until well into the storyline, so assuming Jeff Smith sticks to that, his “big reveal” (so to speak) here should be pretty fun. Also, DC Direct, please make a Mary Marvel plush toy for me to give to my 4-year-old niece.

Supergirl and the Legion #27: The Ranzz brothers make up as Cosmic Boy and Brainiac 5 have an accident with their dimension doors. Basically, a lot goes wrong for the Legion this issue, and only a Dave Cockrum tribute can save them.

Superman/Batman #32: I think the best thing about this issue is the scary Batman it presents towards the end. Oh, and the obscure DC alien heroes (the Vanguard? Seriously?) that make cameos. Otherwise, I’m about done with this series.

Welcome To Tranquility #4: A decent issue, but I want to read ‘em all to make sure I have everything straight.

Captain America #25: This would have worked a lot better without all the hype. As a Big Death Issue, it’s hardly suspenseful. For one thing, there’s no body (promises of an upcoming autopsy notwithstanding — and why do you need an autopsy if it’s pretty obvious how he died?). For another, the death is, as the Klingons say, without honor: he gets shot on the courthouse steps while unmasked and handcuffed. Superman died delivering a mortal blow to a monster on the front porch of the Daily Planet. I’m just saying, if you give that to the New York Times, it seems more permanent. That said, as Part 1 of a new Cap story, and as someone’s introduction to the idea of Captain America, it’s a good gateway book.

Criminal #5: I understand why this story had to end the way it did, and I appreciate a format that lets a story end this way, and it’s all executed (ahem) very professionally, but right now it doesn’t sit well. I’ll have to read this one again too.

Planetary Brigade: Origins #2: The PB cartoon gives a couple of members a chance to reflect on the team’s history, and it occurs to me that maybe I’m getting a little burned out on the Giffen/DeMatteis schtick-for-its-own-sake. It’s still witty, but between this and Hero Squared, it’s just kind of there.

Marvel 1602: Fantastic Four #5, Fantastic Four #543, Fantastic Four: The End #6: The 1602 miniseries ended in a flourish of cataclysm and incomprehensibility, the Alan Davis miniseries ended rather predictably (for all those who thought that we weren’t done with the tragic events of #1), and the anniversary issue was good for its second and third stories. I like Mike McKone, but he’s not the right artist for the book, and the bridge from Reed & Sue to T’Challa and Ororo is a rickety one.

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