Comics Ate My Brain

September 21, 2009

New comics 9/16/09

Big agenda this week not just because a whole lot of comics came out, but also because we’re catching up from last week. That means forty-odd minutes of laconic drawlin’ ’bout Action Comics #881, Agents Of Atlas #11, Batman And Robin #4, Batman: Streets Of Gotham #4, Blackest Night #3, The Brave and the Bold #27, Captain America Reborn #3, Green Arrow & Black Canary #24, JSA Vs. Kobra #4, Marvels Project #2, Warlord #6, and Wednesday Comics #s 10 and 11.

Download it here, listen to it via the player at right, or visit the podcast homepage here. Music, of course, is by R.E.M.

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September 5, 2009

New comics 9/2/09

Not a big week this week, thank goodness — just Agents Of Atlas #10, Batman #690, Justice League: Cry For Justice #3, Strange Tales #1, Supergirl Annual #1, and Wednesday Comics #9. As it happens, I’ll be out of pocket next week, so check back in about ten days. Music, as always, by R.E.M.

Download it here, listen to it via the player at right, or visit the podcast homepage here. Happy listening!

August 7, 2009

New comics 8/5/09

This week it’s Unknown Soldier #10 (making up for its omission last time), plus Agents Of Atlas #9, Astro City: The Dark Age Book 3 #4, Captain America Reborn #2, Doom Patrol #1, House of Mystery #16, Justice League: Cry For Justice #2, Marvels Project #1, Secret Six #12, Spirit #32, Superman: World Of New Krypton #6, Warlord #5, and Wednesday Comics #5. Sorry about the lingering sound-quality issues — I used to know how to work a microphone.

By the way, it seems like I might have gotten a copy of The Marvels Project #1 a week early — but there it was, and who am I to argue?

And just for the record, I was pretty mystified, and more than a little creeped out, about Green Lantern and Green Arrow’s “threesome” conversation.

Download it here, or visit the podcast homepage here.

(Music by R.E.M.)

July 16, 2009

New comics 7/15/09

In this week’s podcast: Action Comics #879, Agents Of Atlas #8, Batman: Streets Of Gotham #2, Blackest Night #1, Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #1, Brave and the Bold #25, Captain America #601, JSA Vs. Kobra #2, Rasl #5, Titans #15, Wednesday Comics #2, and Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-38.

I hope I have fixed some of the lingering technical issues (which I further hope no one minded in the last episode), and of course I am still working on my elocution. Early on, Olivia even offered her own comments in the background. (The music, once again, is by R.E.M.)

Download it here, or visit the podcast homepage here. Thanks for listening!

January 13, 2007

New comics 1/10/07

We begin this week with Agents Of Atlas #6 (written by Jeff Parker, pencilled by Leonard Kirk, inked by Justice with Terry Pallot), the little miniseries that deserves a big future. I really liked how this book played with my expectations, especially this issue. The ending is so perfectly suited to the book’s quietly subversive tone that I can’t say much more for fear of spoiling it. The whole miniseries strikes me as Marvel: The Lost Generation without all of M:TLG‘s aspirations at legitimacy, but it’s a fine story by itself. Also, speaking of nostalgia, it was good to see inker Terry Pallot’s name in credits again — for me, it’s been since I read Star Trek comics in the’ 90s.

From the Midnighter cameo I’m a little confused as to whether Welcome To Tranquility #2 (written by Gail Simone, drawn by Neil Googe) is supposed to be part of the regular WildStorm universe. It doesn’t matter all that much, I guess: the issue uses Mr. Articulate’s murder as an opening into further exploration of Tranquility and its quirky inhabitants. It’s not really Astro City or Top Ten-level pastiche, but there’s a lot of meta elements (old-style comics pages, ads, etc.), sometimes overlaid with the regular story, and that can get a little overstimulating. Together with Googe’s cartoony art, the overall effect is supposed to be something like Northern Exposure, I guess, and that’s not bad. Really, that’s how I feel about the series too, at this point.

I did like the Spectre lead in Tales of the Unexpected #4 (written by David Lapham, pencilled by Eric Battle, inked by Prentis Rollins) more than I have in previous months, but that’s because it ties the previous issues’ carnage into an overarching plot. Unfortunately, the plot depends on none of the Gotham City police ever having heard of the Spectre; and I’m sorry, but wasn’t the old Spectre rampaging throughout DC-Earth, including Gotham City, during Infinite Crisis? As always, the real treat of this book is the Dr. 13 backup (written by Brian Azzarello, drawn by Cliff Chiang), this time featuring much more craziness, including a gorilla with (I swear) the transliterated accent of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yes, there are Planet of the Apes jokes, including the one you expect, but there’s also the one I didn’t expect, and that was the best of all.

[FYI, I am writing while listening to the complete 2-disc Superman soundtrack, and I just took a break to enjoy Disc 1, Track 12, “The Big Rescue.” (“You’ve got me? Who’s got you?!?”) Mmmm … John Williams-licious.]

Batman Confidential #2 (written by Andy Diggle, pencilled by Whilce Portacio, inked by Richard Friend) takes its story in a very strange, almost Iron Giant-like, direction. I didn’t dislike it, it was just … not what I was expecting at all. The issue still ends in a pretty familiar place, though, although I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. I have made up my mind, however, that this kind of Batman-discovers-technology story is done no favors by the moody, expressionistic art of Portacio and Friend. I’d have been happier with someone more suited to giant robots and mean-looking Bat-vehicles. Howard Porter’s old style would have worked, as would Chris Weston’s or even Michael Lark’s.

“Grotesk” wraps up in Batman #662 (written by John Ostrander, drawn by Tom Mandrake), and nothing much happens except for a final confrontation between Grotesk and Batman aboard a vintage sailing ship in the icy waters of Gotham Harbor. Now, I like Bat-fights in moody, Frankenstein-esque locations, so this was a highlight of the issue; but the rest of the story was pretty predictable. I do get the feeling that Ostrander was going for a combination of Frankenstein and maybe Phantom of the Opera, but it ended up being very familiar.

Walt Simonson writes and draws JSA Classified #21 as a tie-in to the Rann-Thanagar aftermath he started over in Hawkgirl, and I’m not going to say no to Simonson art. The story answers some questions Hawkgirl raised, but by the end of the issue, unfortunately, things have gotten more confusing. Basically, Hawkman’s trying to prove that Blackfire is still evil, but can’t; he gets involved in a pretty cool mid-air fight; and the issue ends on a cliffhanger that sets up the last Hawkgirl. Oh, and Adam Strange might be alive and able to see, assuming nobody else on Rann dresses like him, which they do.

For real interstellar action, though, the best bet this week was Green Lantern Corps #8 (written by Keith Champagne, pencilled by Patrick Gleason, inked by Prentis Rollins). The three Green Lanterns take on a super-Dominator and a super-Khund, and things don’t go well. Things go so badly, in fact, that I can’t help but think a big chunk of this issue will have to be undone next issue. Still, I didn’t mind, because the creative team did a great job of establishing these two bad guys as overwhelmingly dangerous, and building to a really suspenseful cliffhanger. Well done all around.

52 #36 (written by JMRW, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencilled by Jamal Igle, inked by Keith Champagne) finally wrapped up the Lady Styx storyline, touched on the Question and Osiris subplots, and connected Supernova and Skeets to Rip Hunter. The highlight was Igle and Champagne’s artwork, because the two major plot threads — in space and with the Question — felt like they should have happened a while ago.

Finally, if the super-neo-Nazis are hunting down JSA relatives in Justice Society of America #2 (written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Dale Eaglesham, inked by Ruy Jose), why are they just trying to kill them? Why not try to sway them to their side? After all, the JSA’s attempts to identify them could be taken as part of a plan to establish a kind of genetically-superior class of people, whose powers and connections give them a special destiny, yadda yadda yadda. In other words, there’s a fine line between wanting to raise the next generation of superheroes right, and wanting them to embrace what sets them above the rest of humanity. Okay, maybe the line’s not so fine, but you can see where Nazis might make a good set of villains for a Justice Society beyond just the World War II angle.

Instead, the issue is filled with more allusions to DC history, from the new Commander Steel to the old Star Boy — and really, that’s not a spoiler, because with last issue’s last page, you had to kind of think that’s what was going on. The Wildcat-and-son scene was good, but it’s balanced against devoting a couple of pages to Starman screwing around with gravity. I like the art, despite Eaglesham’s tendency to clutter panels with people and things. The issue itself moved in fits and starts, jumping at one point from a quiet scene right into the middle of a fight, and that might not have been so jarring if the rest of the issue had more action. Again, I’m sure a lot of folks will eat this up, but I’ve been out of the JSA loop for too long, I guess.

December 10, 2006

New comics 12/6/06

I’ve already talked a little about Justice Society of America #1 (written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Dale Eaglesham, inked by Art Thibert), but let’s begin there this week anyway. I like the idea of the Justice Society basically acting as keepers of the flame, charging the new legacy heroes with the social responsibilities of living up to their famous names. (It’s an idea similar to Kingdom Come, which explains Alex Ross’s involvement in the series.) I do like the last-page tease of upcoming storylines, and am looking forward to the JLA/JSA crossover in a few months. I like the fact that the Justice Society is positioning itself as being just as important as the Justice League, albeit for different reasons. Frankly, and I hate to sound horribly sycophantic by saying this, but Geoff Johns’ enthusiasm is pretty palpable, and you can tell he’s really putting a lot of love into this book.

However….

I thought the introduction of Mr. America came off a bit overblown, even considering the role he plays later in the issue. Maxine Hunkel’s enthusiasm was just a bit much, the secrets of the new Starman seem pretty obvious, as does the attitude of the new family member (not to mention his dad). The Rebel/Damage fight also went on a little long if the point it was making was just that Damage could stand to learn more manners. These are all personal reactions, of course, and I understand that you might feel the exact opposite. That’s fine. I suppose the hook for me buying this series would be its importance to DC-Earth as a whole, and not any investment in the characters — but if that’s my approach, it seems I’ll be missing out on about half the book every month. I’m still on the fence about #2, although I may pick up the eventual paperback.

Because the rest of the blogosphere would surely rise up as one and smite me if I didn’t, I picked up my first issue of Manhunter (#26, written by Mark Andreyko, pencilled by Javier Pina, inked by Robin Riggs), and it was pretty good. Basically Kate’s been hired to defend Wonder Woman against criminal charges brought by the federal government (for political reasons), so the whole issue is pretty much her and her staff freaking out around Wonder Woman. That’s always fun. Checking in with the book’s supporting cast requires more of a learning curve, though. Their scenes are interesting, just disconnected from everything else (or so it seems). Anyway, I’m getting #27, so you can put away the torches.

52 #31 (written by Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by Chris Batista, inks by Rodney Ramos, Dan Green, and Dave Meikis) would have been a lot harder to take had DC not chosen to feature its main character in his own miniseries, now on sale. Still, any villain who eats Green Lantern rings is certainly one to watch. The interlude with Supernova and Ralph has me wanting to do some detective work of my own, which will probably turn out badly but at least should be fun. The origin of Robin (Tim Drake) somehow manages to omit Jason Todd, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. Finally, the Infinity, Inc. scenes still don’t do a lot for me.

Detective Comics #826 (written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Don Kramer, inked by Wayne Faucher) was strangely uninvolving, considering that it featured the Joker torturing Robin by running over Christmas shoppers in a stolen SUV. It’s not a bad idea (for a story, that is), and it certainly fits with the Joker’s satire-til-it-hurts paradigm, but the best part of the issue was the brief flashback to Bruce, Dick, and Tim comparing Joker notes during their “One Year Later” sojourn. I think the problem for me might have been too much internal monologue from Tim competing with the blackly-comedic Joker monologue. Usually the Joker’s diarrhea of the mouth is up against Batman’s stoicism, and it may have been more effective, more suspenseful, and more entertaining to wonder how Tim planned to get out of trouble rather than to “hear” his play-by-play. Kramer and Faucher draw a fine Joker though, reminiscent of Michael Lark’s (right?) in Gotham Central.

Another Robin in trouble and another internal monologue are also the focus of Nightwing #127 (written by Marv Wolfman, pencilled by Dan Jurgens, inked by Norm Rapmund). Dick gets buried alive and has to dig his way out the long way, with a busted shoulder to boot. It gives him, and us, a chance to go over the plot of the last couple of issues, which seems like it should be simple but I still can’t figure out why the battlesuit guy was killed or why we should care. Anyway, next issue should be the big finish, and maybe I’ll have gotten on board by then. As for this issue, while there wasn’t really much suspense, Wolfman does have a good handle on the internal monologue, and showed Dick getting appropriately beaten up and bloodied. Not that I’m into that, mind you — I’d like to see next issue treat our hero a little better.

I got last week’s Aquaman: Sword Of Atlantis #46 (written by Kurt Busiek and Karl Kesel, drawn by Butch Guice and Phil Winslade) this week. It’s a tale of Orin-Aquaman’s encounter with a younger King Shark, and while it features Mera and Vulko, it doesn’t quite feel like a classic Aquaman story. Not that a good Aquaman story requires the phrase “finny friends” or the concentric circles of marine telepathy, but I couldn’t quite connect the guy calling himself the King of Atlantis with someone probably carrying a Justice League signal device. The story itself isn’t that complicated, but it does require you to keep track of some unfamiliar names and their various motivations, and I may have to spend some more time with it.

The (All-New) Atom #6 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by Eddy Barrows, inked by Trevor Scott) finishes the first storyline of Ryan vs. the Waiting and various other malignant forces in Ivy Town. However, while I’m sure Ryan’s solution makes sense, I still don’t understand it. Also, somebody (maybe Mr. Scott, the inker) makes everyone’s faces look awfully pinched towards the end of the issue, which results in some unfortunate near-caricatures of the Asian cast members. I didn’t dislike this issue, and I’m still on board for the future, but it wasn’t this team’s strongest effort.

Superman Confidential #2 (written by Darwyn Cooke, drawn by Tim Sale) was good, although I really don’t understand the appeal of drawing Superman as an overstuffed kid who looks like he’s flunked sixth grade a few too many times. That’s just a few panels, though, and Sale’s Lois Lane more than makes up for it. The sight of Superman vomiting up lava after thinking he might just die under a volcano is also pretty sobering.

I was looking forward to Batman Confidential #1 (written by Andy Diggle, pencilled by Whilce Portacio, inked by Richard Friend) because I thought it would feature Batman fighting giant robots and Lex Luthor. That’s apparently next issue. This one opened with a fairly familiar scene of Batman fighting gritty urban violence with, yes, his internal monologue to keep him company. Portacio and Friend draw a serviceable Batman, and their Bruce Wayne looks sufficiently young and arrogant for the story’s setting, but every now and then characters sport big raccoon-eyeshadows and their heads change shape from panel to panel. Still, I like Diggle well enough to come back next issue for the giant robots.

I was also looking forward to Welcome To Tranquility #1 (written by Gail Simone, drawn by Neil Googe) in part because its aging-superhero setting seemed like a good counterpoint to Justice Society. Instead, it’s more like Astro City, which obviously isn’t bad. Between them, Simone and Googe make the oldsters (and their younger selves) pretty endearing, like if your grandmother were a ’40s teen heroine who still thought she could fly the old plane. The issue did seem a bit scattered, though, with weird ads for the local chicken restaurant sprinkled throughout and a locked-room murder mystery that comes out of nowhere. It’s not a bad package, although it does try pretty strenuously to be quirky and that could get old (no pun intended).

Man, aging superheroes must be a motif this week, ’cause here’s Agents Of Atlas #5 (written by Jeff Parker, pencilled by Leonard Kirk, inked by Kris Justice), in which one teammate turns rogue and another’s origins are questioned. This isn’t a grim ‘n’ gritty, realistic take on forgotten ’50s characters, though, so everything works out. It’s a credit to Parker and Kirk that they’ve gotten me invested in these characters despite my utter lack of familiarity with many of them.

The same applies to Beyond! #6 (written by Dwayne McDuffie, drawn by Scott Kolins), the end of which relies upon the same kind of built-from-scratch emotional investment. I hate to sound too glib, but this was a good example of old-school Marvel crossover magic that might not Mean Something to the bigger picture, but used to be Marvel’s bread and butter. I’m glad McDuffie will be writing Fantastic Four before too long.

Stay with me, folks … just a couple more.

The message of Hero Squared #4 (written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, drawn by Joe Abraham) is that superhero fights are messy, something that I thought we learned a few issues ago. Still, this issue works as a standalone story, with Milo’s own heroism contrasted against Valor’s.

Finally, Star Wars: Rebellion #5 (written by Rob Williams, drawn by Brandon Badeaux), finishes this book’s first arc, many months after it was originally scheduled. Lucky for me it’s just a lot of carnage involving who will turn against the Empire and save the Rebels. It turns out about like you’d expect, but there are a couple of points of bad execution. First, there’s not a lot of distinction between Luke’s old friend Tank and the ex-Imperial spy Jorin Sol. Second, the plot hinges on the Rebel flagship going into hyperspace, requiring somebody to Push The Hyperspace Button, and this makes me wonder why the Hyperspace Button is always so hard to push. Third, all the damage the ship takes apparently doesn’t make much of a difference to the whole hyperspace question, because the book never addresses it. Sorry if that’s a spoiler, but you kind of have to expect Luke and Leia (still looking unreasonably hawt) to survive.

November 8, 2006

New comics 11/1/06

Seems like every week I’m complaining about how hectic it’s all become, and this week was no different. Wednesday was my birthday (37, woo!), but I had a big stack of comics to read, long-distance congratulatory phone calls, and a Grumpy Old Fan column to write.

Anyway, about those comics….

Seven Soldiers #1 (written by Grant Morrison, drawn by J.H. Williams III) arrived here a week late, and even though I’ve read other commentaries online I’m still not sure what to make of it. Overall I enjoyed it, especially the Zatanna bits, but coming to it relatively cold I probably didn’t get as much out of it on the first reading as I could have. I’m seriously considering getting the four paperbacks when the last one comes out in a few months.

Justice League of America #3 (written by Brad Meltzer, pencilled by Ed Benes, inked by Sandra Hope) was the first issue since #0 that, on balance, I enjoyed. Most of the enjoyment came from Green Lantern, Black Canary, and Arsenal fighting an army of multicolored Red Tornadoes, but a cameo by an old reserve member and that last-minute reveal were also welcome nods to the book’s history. As slow as this reinvention has been, at least Meltzer knows how to handle the minutiae. I just hope the “Big Three fantasy draft” doesn’t last much longer.

Superman Confidential #1 (written by Darwyn Cooke, drawn by Tim Sale) was a decent opener that started out with the Royal Flush Gang and ended with our reporter heroes working to bring down an evil casino developer. I have to say, I am not the biggest fan of Tim Sale’s Superman (it’s the face, mostly), but his Lois Lane is very saucy. I am also a bit dubious on what appears to be sentient Kryptonite. If it’s just a narrative device, though, that’s OK. I wouldn’t expect Cooke to set up the Kryptonite for an heroic sacrifice and/or telling Supes it’s always loved him.

For an issue with a nice anniversary-friendly number, Detective Comics #825 (written by Royal McGraw, pencilled by Marcos Marz, inked by Luciana del Negro) tells a pretty inoffensive, unremarkable story about the return of Doctor Phosphorus, a character who first appeared in a Detective from about thirty years ago. I could say more about his narrative significance and the melding of 1970s nuclear fears with 1940s-style corporate deceit, but that really doesn’t come into play here. Batman figures out a scientific way of stopping him, it’s a bit more lighthearted than it would have been prior to Infinite Crisis, and next month Paul Dini will be back.

I like the new-to-52 art team of Patrick Olliffe and Drew Geraci (52 #26 otherwise produced by writers Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid, with breakdowns by Keith Giffen). I also like the return of the Sivana Family, which I don’t think even the nostalgic Jerry Ordway series had time to bring back. (Had they been seen in Outsiders?) They work well with the Black Marvel Family, too, and “Tawky Crawky.” As for the rest of it, not to sound like a broken record, but 52 itself is becoming immune to these little weekly roundups. It has its own rhythm and its own pace. In fact, since I’ve just gotten through watching “Friday Night Lights,” it strikes me as a similar kind of thing. “FNL” isn’t telling a larger story, as far as I can see, just exploring the same sorts of sports-vs.-everything else tensions every week. 52‘s job is, apparently, to keep DC Nation entertained weekly while filling in the missing year. Of course, I say that now, but when things pick up in a few weeks and it all starts coming together, I’ll look like an idiot.

Hawkgirl #57 welcomes new artist Joe Bennett (fresh from 52) to go along with returning writer Walter Simonson, and darn if the book doesn’t make more sense than it did under Howard Chaykin. To be fair, the story seems a bit more straightforward than the Chaykin arc, since it deals with Kendra being kidnapped to stand trial for her role in the Rann-Thanagar War, but Bennett’s work is moodier and less flashy. Again, I still like Chaykin, but in hindsight he probably wasn’t the right artist for this book.

The All New Atom #5 (written by Gail Simone, drawn by Eddy Barrows) finds the miniature invaders and the Evil Atom (don’t think his codename is in this issue) all causing problems for our hero, not to mention his father and the Dean having issues with him too. I liked this issue pretty well, even if it did lead into the Brave New World preview which is, by now, five months old. (Will the paperback put it in its proper place?) Barrows, like Bennett, has the kind of style that doesn’t call attention to itself, which makes its wow-moments stand out that much more. When Bennett shows Hawkgirl winging over the city, or here, where Barrows shows Ryan Choi size-changing to impress his dad, it’s impressive to the reader too. Also, Simone must enjoy the miniature-invader dialect, because clearly she’s having fun with it.

I want to like Nightwing #126 (written by Marv Wolfman, pencilled by Dan Jurgens, inked by Norm Rapmund), but it’s not easy. For one thing, isn’t the name “Biotech Pharmaceuticals” something like “Robot-Made Cars”? I thought biotech was more of a process or a classification, not a brand. Anyway, this is more of some guy in battle armor being killed and no one being quite sure who’s behind it or why. There is a bit of tension when one of NW’s buddies (who might be new to this arc, for all I know) is threatened with death, and Marv has Dick doing what you’d expect Dick Grayson to do — namely, have warm conversations with Alfred Pennyworth and get set up to give acrobatics lessons (not a euphemism). It’s not a bad issue, but it’s just kind of there.

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #23 (written by Mark Waid, pencilled by Barry Kitson, inked by Mick Gray) presents a verrry interesting story that I’m surprised wasn’t called “Supergirl’s Return To Krypton!” Unfortunately for the Legion, they render Supergirl powerless in a “Mission: Impossible”-esque attempt to get her better adjusted to the 31st Century, just when what I take to be the Legion of Super-Villains attacks. Best issue in a while, and that’s saying a lot.

I was also surprised at how much of She-Hulk 2 #13 (written by Dan Slott, pencilled by Rick Burchett, inked by Cliff Rathburn) I was able to follow, given its roots in ’80s Marvel continuity. Basically, it’s the origins of Thanos and Starfox, continued, as presented through more of Starfox’s trial on Titan. However, because the focus is on Starfox’s alleged abuse of his mind-control powers, it’s easier for me, the rookie, to understand; and, of course, having She-Hulk as the reader’s guide also helps. Finally, once again it’s good to see Rick Burchett working. He has a distinctive style that doesn’t get in the way of his solid storytelling, and he’s just so versatile otherwise.

Agents of Atlas #4 (written by Jeff Parker, pencilled by Leonard Kirk, inked by Kris Justice), and Beyond #5 (written by Dwayne McDuffie, drawn by Scott Kolins) are similarly new-reader-friendly, although I’m a little confused about who’s watching the AOA on the first page. Still, both tell pretty straightforward superhero stories with a lot of panache — AOA has fights with giant lobster-creatures and a fun montage of Shutting Down Enemy Bases, and Beyond uses its focus on Hank and Janet to set up its last-reel reversal. Looking forward to the conclusions of both.

I liked Criminal #2 (written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Sean Phillips) more than I did #1, probably because this was the issue that put the big heist into motion and I could follow the characters better once I saw what they were doing. Not much more to say beyond complimenting the skills of the writer and artist, and others have done that more eloquently than I could.

Appropriately enough, we close with Fantastic Four: The End #1, by Alan Davis (and Mark Farmer inking, according to the cover). If you’ve read The Nail or Superboy’s Legion, you can expect more of the same here — highlights of the FF’s storied history, rearranged in new, apocalyptic patterns. The opening fight with a borgified Dr. Doom especially recalls The Nail‘s Batman/Joker bloodbath, right down to the casualties. Making everyone subject to an anti-aging treatment, and setting the story in an indeterminate future, also brings to mind Howard Chaykin and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez’s Twilight miniseries, which recast many of DC’s goofy ’60s sci-fi characters. All of this is to say that I doubt Davis will go too dark with this miniseries, its title notwithstanding. Moreover, whatever happens, it will look very very pretty.

October 11, 2006

New comics 10/4/06

Filed under: 52, agents of atlas, atom, batman, criminal, fantastic four, nightwing, spider-man, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 2:00 am
Yeah, yeah, I should have done these over the weekend, but 1) most of my family came to visit, and 2) TEN INCHES OF RAIN on Friday and Saturday.

I did like 52 #22 (written by You-Know-Who, breakdowns by Him Again?, pencils by Eddy Barrows, inks by Rob Stull) and its focus on Doc Magnus doing science-fu to get away from the bad guys. The Luthor/Supernova bit at the beginning was okay, I suppose, but I’m getting a little bored with the mini-mysteries. Also, whither Batwoman?

Actually, she does warrant a mention in this week’s Detective Comics (#824 written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Don Kramer, inked by Wayne Faucher), featuring the return of the Penguin. Add in the Riddler, Zatanna, and Lois Lane, and it’s practically a Marvel book, or maybe a Jeph Loeb one. It’s a cute story overall, and I guess with the Penguin it’s hard not to be cute on some level. Kramer and Faucher are fine Bat-artists — nothing flashy, which again fits the story’s attitude. I did wonder if Zatanna had dislocated her hip in a couple of panels, though.

The (All-New) Atom #4 (written by Gail Simone, inked by Trevor Scott) welcomes new penciller Eddy Barrows for a transitional story between last issue’s Giganta cliffhanger and a new direction about how Ray Palmer’s quantum experiments turned Ivy Town into a weirdness factory. I liked this issue well enough, but I will say that in light of its emphasis on Giganta’s digestive system, reading it while eating dinner was a mistake. Still, Ryan Choi gets to do some traditionally Atom-style heroics, and the bit about Ivy Town’s different neighborhoods should be good for several months’ worth of stories. Art was fine — Barrows, like Don Kramer above, isn’t too flashy, and I agree with other bloggers who see a certain “DC house style” developing. Barrows is no John Byrne, but neither is he *John Byrne!*, if you know what I mean.

I picked up Nightwing #125 for Marv Wolfman’s big return to the character (with Dan Jurgens pencilling and Norm Rapmund inking), and got a perfectly serviceable superhero story about … really, a guy who flips and swings around Manhattan fighting a flying bad guy in battle armor, and then having to explain his bruises to the hott women throwing themselves at him. Typing that out makes it sound like an old-school Daredevil issue, and really, it maybe could have been. Except for some bits about Bruce Wayne and an intriguing meta notion that Dick should have died in Infinite Crisis, nothing about this seemed unique to Nightwing. More to the point, it didn’t feel like Marv Wolfman telling us readers why we should see Nightwing as more than a Daredevil knockoff. I’m going to give Marv a chance, but come on — for years the book was I Don’t Want To Be Batman and now it’s Generic Acrobatic Guy? There’s gotta be a happy medium.

So, Marvel still publishes Fantastic Four, huh? FF #540 (written by J. Michael Straczynski, drawn by Mike McKone) apparently fills in some Civil War gaps to chronicle the no-takebacks breakup of the Richards’ marriage, and also Reed’s misguided attempts to set Peter Parker on the right law-abiding path. If you’re reading the rest of CW, maybe it means something, but like last issue’s crossover, it just leaves me a little cold. I don’t feel like JMS has laid the groundwork for the breakup sufficiently in this book, so that although the senses-shattering events of CW might have blindsided the team, they still should be understandable to the readers. Also, I’m sure I’m not the first person to point this out, but this is the guy who stole a rocketship all those years ago, now lecturing his colleagues on the importance of the Rule of Law? I can see Reed’s current point, and the guilt backing it up, but I think he’d find it easier to live in a world where sometimes you gotta steal the rocketship.

Beyond! (#4 written by Dwayne McDuffie, drawn by Scott Kolins) and Agents of Atlas (#3 written by Jeff Parker, pencilled by Leonard Kirk, inked by Kris Justice) both continue to be bewilderingly fun comics. I’m sure they are more enjoyable the more Marvel knowledge you have, but I like them just the same. I’m reserving more comment until I have more time to read them all in a lump.

Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man #20 (written by Peter David, pencilled by Mike Norton, inked by Norman Lee) is the big Hawkeye/Frankenstein Halloween issue, and it works out about as well as you’d expect. I don’t remember any “Hawkeye is dead” jokes, which tells me that the book really is intended for the continuity-challenged. It’s all a bunch of smartaleck comments and “hey, nice costume!” gags instead, and it comes together pretty well.

Finally, I picked up Criminal #1 (written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Sean Phillips), and I really don’t think I devoted enough time to it. I liked it well enough, although hard-boiled noir is not exactly my most favorite genre. I found the beginning a little hard to get into (specifically, trying to see if the narration was supposed to match the pictures) but maybe I was trying too hard. Still, I like Brubaker and Phillips, and I liked Sleeper, so we’ll see. It certainly seems like it will reward multiple readings.

September 13, 2006

New comics 8/30/06 and 9/7/06

… or, That’ll Teach Me To Go On Vacation….

This past week was noteworthy for being the first time in a loooong time that I bought more Marvel than DC books. Considering I’m not participating in the Civil War hubbub, that’s saying something.

Accordingly, let’s begin with a couple of books that expose my ignorance of Marvel Universe minutiae, Agents of Atlas #s 1 and 2 (written by Jeff Parker, pencilled by Leonard Kirk, inked by Kris Justice), and Beyond! #3 (written by Dwayne McDuffie, drawn by Scott Kolins). For AoA, I remember Jimmy Woo pretty much only from Marvel’s Godzilla book, and outside of Marvel Boy having his own Grant Morrison miniseries which, you guessed it, I never read, I hardly recognize any of these other characters. (Except for Dum Dum, but everybody knows him.) I’m intrigued by these issues, if only for the notion of Z-list characters somehow coming together into a formidable fighting force. I get the feeling that this is the attitude to which the Shadowpact aspires, but I like this book a lot more. Also, I’ve been a fan of Leonard Kirk’s since his days on DC’s Star Trek books.

I continue to enjoy Beyond! despite (again) no knowledge of Deathlok beyond the recent Dave Campbell profile. As far as the plot itself, I was a little disappointed by the big reveal at the end, and probably not as stunned as I would have been had I known who that Dobby-looking creature was.

Come to think of it, She-Hulk #11 (written by Dan Slott, pencilled by Rick Burchett, inked by Cliff Rathburn) falls into this category too. I was heartbroken by the “fate” of Awesome Andy (he came and he gave without taking), and I always like Rick Burchett, but once things started flashing back to Man-Wolf’s weird alien connection, the little “??” balloons started popping up overhead. Is this how DC newbies feel all the time? Boy, I never knew you had it so bad….

And while we’re on the “it was good, but I’m too stupid” theme, don’t hold your breath waiting for me to extract deep profundities out of Solo #12 (by Brendan McCarthy et al.). I think I appreciated what he was trying to do, but I’ll be dipped if I can tell you how he did it, or much about what it was.

Everybody loved All-Star Superman #5 (written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Frank Quitely) and I did too, so if you’re not buying it, or waiting for the Absolute edition, or whatever, I don’t care — you shouldn’t deny yourself any longer. Maybe the best part of the fine Summer Of Superman ’06 is the rejuvenation of the regular books, at least as long as Kurt Busiek has anything to do with them. Action Comics #842 (written by Busiek and Fabien Nicieza, drawn by Pete Woods) presents Part 2 of the Manga Kha — er, Auctioneer storyline, with Supes assembling a rag-tag bunch of misfits, plus Nightwing and Firestorm, to bring him down. I’m not as excited about the prospect of Richard Donner and Geoff Johns as the regular Action writers, because while they’ll certainly bring the big events, I doubt they’ll do it with as much wit and style as Busiek. To be fair, Busiek and Johns collaborated on the excellent “Up, Up And Away!,” so I suppose the burden is on Johns to prove he wasn’t riding Busiek’s coattails.

End of digression. Mark Verheiden writes and Ethan Van Sciver draws Superman/Batman #29, Part 2 of a storyline which finds our heroes up against a shape-changing menace that tends to copy their friends. Green Lantern shows up too, which is a plus, although I got the feeling I was supposed to recognize the big pink bad guy. What is this, Beyond!? Anyway, Verheiden’s story has been tighter so far than Jeph Loeb’s epics, but he tends to rely on the kind of overheated exposition I thought Loeb would have taken with him.

JLA Classified #26 (written by Howard Chaykin, pencilled by Killian Plunkett, inked by Tom Nguyen) begins a new arc that finds the League embroiled in global politics, and didn’t we just go through this with Gail Simone a few issues ago? I’m only kidding a little — the plot is sufficiently different, focused more on the League’s keeping a low profile, and it reads enough like Chaykin and enough like the JLA to make me, a fan of both, happy. Nguyen inked much of the Joe Kelly run on JLA, and Kelly did some political storylines, so that adds to the familiarity.

1602: Fantastick Four #1 (written by Peter David, pencilled by Pascal Alixe, inked by Livesay) will probably turn out to be pretty inconsequential, but for now it’s kind of goofy fun. The Frightful Four are the villains, and a Doombot and some vulture-men show up too. A bit of initial misdirection works, but a later bit doesn’t. There’s a somewhat oblique reference to Ben Grimm’s Blackbeard impersonation as well. Art reminded me of Keith Giffen circa 1990, and for the most part it was good, although I had trouble trying to figure out if a couple of minor characters were supposed to remind me of familiar Marvel folk. I think David’s sense of humor is well-suited for this, so I’ll give it a chance.

Giffen himself is on display, of course, in Hero Squared #3 (plotted by Giffen, scripted by J.M. DeMatteis, drawn by Joe Abraham), another well-made issue that begins with a classic-Marvel parody and features an embarrassing fight between Milo and Valor at the funeral of the man Valor couldn’t save in #1 (or was it last issue? can’t remember). Abraham reminds me more and more of a cross between Kevin Maguire and Bart Sears, and given how Giffen and DeMatteis honed their comedy schtick, I wonder if that’s an accident. Looking forward to #4, which promises more hitting, although I don’t mind all the dialogue.

Detective Comics #823 (written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Joe Benitez, inked by Victor Llamas) presents a good, somewhat creepy, Poison Ivy story that positions itself as a fair-play mystery but really isn’t. However, the twist is right out of an old EC horror book, or maybe a “Twilight Zone,” and aside from my secret-identity-alert! radar going off whenever there’s a fight in the Batcave, it was handled pretty well. Benitez and Llamas do a fine job with the art, which is somewhat in the Image thin-line cheesecake style (at least as far as Ivy is concerned) and still manages to make Batman look imposing and Robin look like a kid.

The best part of The (All-New) Atom #3 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by John Byrne, inked by Trevor Scott) was, as many others have noted, the “Sanity roll!” exclamation. Not that this hasn’t been a fun book all along; and here it veers into the same kind of creepy territory as that Detective story. However, the presence of the big supervillain here makes me wonder about her timeline, given her prominence in another book’s current storyline. I can’t decide whether I like her better here or there, and I say that despite her being, shall we say, clothed in something less than unstable molecules.

Finally, we have 52 #s 17 and 18 (written by Jay, Barry, Wally, and Bart, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencilled by Chris Batista and Eddy Barrows, inked by Ruy Jose & Jack Jadson and Rob Stull). I still say reading this series is like keeping up with Time or Newsweek — every issue is an infodump, and occasionally you get a fairly cohesive issue like #18 that focuses almost entirely on one story. Therefore, I liked #18 better, but maybe that’s because it feels more like a “regular” comic. Also, #18 addresses the concerns I had about Montoya’s actions at the royal wedding, which was nice.

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