October 5, 2009
August 7, 2009
February 16, 2008
Still, you’re not here for the travel tips, and I haven’t hooked up the scanner yet, so…
Fantastic Four #554 (written by Mark Millar, drawn by Bryan Hitch) has some good ideas. Sue’s Junior League-ish “super-team” is one of them, as is the idea that Alyssa Moy (glad I read the Claremont issues!) is just as good as Reed without being held back by family obligations. Hitch is reliably good, as usual. However, I can’t decide whether Millar is ripping off Magrathea, the Quantum Mechanics from Hitch (and Mark Waid)’s JLA: Heaven’s Ladder, or both. It’s certainly a big enough idea for the FF (as it was for the Justice League), but Millar and Hitch have such matter-of-fact styles that it loses something, somehow, in “translation.” I definitely get the idea that the A-games are being brought, but (at the risk of mixing metaphors horribly) their reaches may exceed their grasps.
Spider-Man Family #7 includes a funny, sweet story about the Looter’s love for his piece of meteor rock. It’s Mark Waid, Todd Dezago, and Karl Kesel’s tribute to their late colleague Mike Wieringo, and I really enjoyed it. The rest of the issue reprints the first issue of a Venom miniseries obviously from the ’90s, the first issue of a Gwen Stacy flashback miniseries, and a Japanese Spidey story. I’m still working my way through those, and also the bonus materials in Fantastic Four: The Lost Adventure. The latter reconstructs the Lee/Kirby story that appeared (in altered form) in FF #108, and of course I can’t say anything bad about Lee/Kirby FF.
Bat Lash #3 (written by Sergio Aragones & Peter Brandvold, drawn by John Severin) takes the overall story in a pretty grim direction, and for a story which has featured attempted rape as a major plot device, that’s saying something. I do think the villains are made to be suitably evil, but I’m not getting much in the way of characterization from Bat himself.
Was a little surprised to see an Alpha Lantern story in Green Lantern Corps #21 (written by Sterling Gates, drawn by Nelson), since I thought the Alphas’ “origin” was still unfolding in the main GL book. Anyway, the spotlight here is on Boodikka, who I believe was introduced in the Gerry Jones era of the very early ’90s. Even so, this may be our first look at her homeworld and early life. It’s an OK issue — the main conflicts have to be restated for folks who don’t know them already from the other title, and the story-specific conflicts are pretty familiar. Boodikka isn’t the first Lantern to suffer the rejection of her old social group. The art isn’t bad, but it’s not particularly energitic either. However, the plot brings everything together at the end in a fairly new way, and if this is your first Alpha Lantern story it’s probably not too shabby.
JLA Classified #52 (written by Roger Stern, pencilled by John Byrne, inked by Mark Farmer) features the present-day League’s fight with Titus. It was good, in terms of book-length fight scenes. Every Leaguer got a spotlight, there was a bit of backstory involving an Amazonian prophecy, and it ended on a cliffhanger. Can’t ask for much more than that.
I didn’t quite know what to expect from Beautie: An Astro City Character Special (written by Kurt Busiek, drawn by Brent Anderson), but I ended up pleasantly surprised by its “Twilight Zone” feel. At first I wondered whether Anderson was just giving Beautie Barbie-like characteristics and mannerisms, so it was a little confusing before I realized that’s the way she’s supposed to look. Once I got past that, I realized how unnerving she would be even among the other AC characters, and that discomfort helps to define her. Overall, I thought it was a good standalone story, and it doesn’t quite matter that it might not have much to do with the overall AC mega-plot.
Superman #673 (written by Kurt Busiek, drawn by Jesus Merino) wraps up the Insect Queen storyline with a bit of super-power use that made me, and no doubt other readers, think “it doesn’t work that way!” I didn’t dislike this storyline, because it built the IQ up as a credible threat, gave Lana something productive to do, and had some good scenes with Chris Kent … but really, heat vision doesn’t work that way, does it? As for the art, Merino has some of the same issues with choreography and poses that Peter Vale does, but overall he did a good job.
I liked Wonder Woman #17 (written by Gail Simone, drawn by Terry & Rachel Dodson and Ron Randall) pretty well, but I couldn’t figure out why one Amazon appears to suffer a couple of mortal wounds on one page and then turns up somewhat less than dead shortly thereafter. Misdirection, I guess; which is how we get suspense. Anyway, this is more of Wonder Woman being the toughest person in the room (or in the jungle, or on the beach), as she intimidates the Nazis off Themyscira and then takes out the four Amazons who’ve wanted her dead since her birth. I was also surprised by the revelations about Etta Candy, who I guess got Superboy-punched somewhere along the way. Thought Ron Randall meshed pretty well with the Dodsons, too.
Green Arrow/Black Canary #5 (written by Judd Winick, drawn by Andre Coelho) was okay. Essentially a flashback about Connor Hawke’s childhood, it also includes Ollie and Dinah’s real wedding and sets up what looks like the next main storyline (which may well involve Connor’s being healed). The flashbacks are rooted in the core of Ollie’s character, which is (I think) the conflict between his extreme self-centeredness and his perpetual desire to make up for same. In other words, Ollie’s a jerk who realizes his shortcomings about ten seconds too late. If you can get past that, he becomes more sympathetic, and these flashbacks probably become easier to take. Otherwise, there’s probably no way you keep reading this book. Art was pretty decent — kind of like Cliff Chiang, but with thinner, harsher lines.
Most of the action’s on Apokolips in Countdown #11 (written by Paul Dini and Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, story consultant Keith Giffen, pencilled by Mike Norton, inked by Mark McKenna), but nothing much happens. Oh sure, Brother Eye and OMAC mow down para-demons, and Holly, Harley, and Mary fight a new (and probably less-powerful) batch of Female Furies, and Karate Kid gets some action as well, but I don’t get the same sense of plot advancement from this issue that I did from the Earth-51 story which ran through the January installments. Art is good, because I think Norton and McKenna are capable storytellers with a clean, appealing design sense. Other than that the book has the same problems it’s always had: it assumes you’re in this for the long haul and it doesn’t need to explain anything.
Finally, I wasn’t surprised by the cliffhanger at the end of Booster Gold #0 (written by Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz, pencilled by Dan Jurgens, inked by Norm Rapmund), because I’d seen the solicitations for future issues. Besides, no good can come of Booster’s time-mucking. I did like the Zero Hour elements, though, especially the notion that this was the “Zero Month” issue which re-told Booster’s origin. Unfortunately, I’m not getting the sense of camaraderie and joie de vivre that I should be from the return of the Blue and Gold team. Ted’s just too serious — understandably, I think, since he’s just faced his own death. Maybe next month, when they’re dodging OMACs, they’ll be funnier.
October 7, 2007
52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen #2
All-Star Batman and Robin The Boy Wonder #7
Astro City: The Dark Age Book Two #4
Countdown to Adventure #2
JLA Classified #43
Justice League of America #13
Wonder Woman Annual #1
Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror #13
Bad news first: the Astro City installment left me somewhat cold, mostly because it had been so long since I’d read the last issue and I just haven’t had the time to get back into the storyline. I could probably say the same about the Wonder Woman Annual, basically a big fight scene followed by a major revision to Diana’s secret identity setup. I want more time to spend with Batman #669, because I’m sure there are details I missed on the first reading. The Four Horsemen issue was pretty good, and All-Star Batman was just as crazy as ever. Finally, except for some weird anatomy, JLA #13 was probably the week’s most satisfying example of straight-up superheroics.
Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #56
Birds of Prey #110
Countdown to Mystery #1
Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special #1
Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Parallax #1
Captain America #30
I think the book I liked the best from this week would still have to be Birds Of Prey. It was a well-executed fill-in by Tony Bedard and the regular art team of Nicola Scott and Doug Hazlewood, about the Huntress having to stop a series of urban crises. Scott and Hazlewood were given a lot to do in this issue, and they pulled it off pretty well. I liked both stories in Countdown To Mystery, and of course I liked JLA/Hitman and Captain America. The GA/BC Wedding Special was also pretty good, although I had to invent my own explanation for Dinah not using her Canary Cry at the very end.
Star Wars: Rebellion #10
Booster Gold #2
Search for Ray Palmer: WildStorm #1
Green Lantern #23
JLA Classified #42
JLA Wedding Special #1
Welcome to Tranquility #10
The most memorable from this week is Superman #667, the penultimate “Camelot Falls” chapter. I liked how Busiek tied Subjekt-17 into the main plot, and also how the issue portrayed Superman as a global hero. Now we just have to wait for the next Annual. Most everything else was good, especially the JLA Wedding Special; but I have to say I didn’t get much out of the SFRP:WS issue or JLA Classified. Oh, and I liked the wrap-up of “The Ahakista Gambit” in Rebellion. It left the door open to use these characters again, and by leaving them somewhat off-balance gave us a reason to want to see them some more.
May 12, 2007
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.
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.
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.
February 12, 2007
First up, because I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it, is Nightwing #129 (written by Marv Wolfman, pencilled by Jamal Igle, inked by Keith Champagne). It introduces “Bride & Groom,” a pair of long-lived serial killers who prey on young, hot, single people by stripping them to their underwear and sacrificing them. That Marv — always with his finger on the audience’s pulse! (To be fair, Nightwing spends time sweating in his boxers as well.) Maybe I like it because it’s pretty straightforward. The scene of Dick talking back to the TV news was also fairly appealing. Mostly, this was the first issue I really got a feeling that the book was about Dick “Nightwing” Grayson, ex-Boy Wonder, and not Generic Urban Acrobat. Having him go to a party at Wayne Manor didn’t hurt, but I have to say, the new art team of Igle and Champagne are a vast improvement over Dan Jurgens’ old stiff figures. The faces sometimes seem a little too fluid, but overall it’s a solid package.
52 #40 (written by JMRW, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by Chris Batista, inks by Rodney Ramos & Dan Green) is just as advertised — the bare-knuckle beatdown of Lex Luthor by John Henry Irons. While everyone does their best to make Luthor detestable, it all seems too convenient somehow, aspiring to the “Aha! I too am left-handed!” school of dramatic reveals, but never getting there. It seems intended to work on a visceral, almost pulpish level, but so much has gone into this arc that that kind of resolution isn’t very satisfying after all. Also, Gar Logan making a crack literally over a villain’s dead body was pretty disconcerting.
I like Fantastic Four: The End (#5 written and pencilled by Alan Davis and inked by Mark Farmer), but there doesn’t seem to be much “The End” in it. Mostly it’s an all-inclusive FF/Marvel Universe story set a few decades from now, with no indication that this is supposed to be the last FF adventure. Maybe it’s setting readers up for a tragic ending, but that doesn’t quite fit its overall jaunty tone. This issue, like the others, features the FF reunited at last, but other than that it’s more of the very nicely rendered travelogue in which Alan Davis seems to delight.
Welcome To Tranquility #3 (written by Gail Simone, drawn by Neil Googe) was a good introduction to one of Tranquility’s younger residents, a former teen speedster gone goth with a history with the late Mr. Articulate. We get to know a lot about her in this issue, and by the end it might seem like too much, but it’s really paced well, with a nice balance between the series’ “multimedia” elements and more traditional storytelling. This series is growing on me, slowly but surely.
Gail Simone also writes The All-New Atom #8 (pencils by Mike Norton, inks by Andy Owens), the second half of a time-travel-based storyline featuring a Linear Man and the old Atom’s friend Professor Hyatt. It’s fun as usual, with shout-outs to bits of DC kitsch, but honestly, I was a little disappointed that the Linear Man didn’t turn out to be as inflexible as he had indicated. Just a minor complaint.
I liked Astro City: The Dark Age Book Two #2 (written by Kurt Busiek, drawn by Brent Anderson) well enough, but I can’t point to anything specific that really stood out. It’s more of a mood-setting installment than anything else, establishing the change in society and the superheroes that characterized this period of AC history. Not bad, but not as memorable as some Astro City issues.
Action Comics Annual #10 (written by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner, drawn by various artists) was basically a Secret Files without the Who’s Who-style pages: a smorgasbord of variable-length stories presented in scattershot fashion. The issue’s two complete stories are a pastiche of the original Mon-El introduction, and a bit on the familiar (from the movies, that is) Phantom Zone villains’ secret origins. They’re fine on their own, and the other storylets aren’t bad, but it all feels rather haphazard.
Detective Comics #828 (written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Don Kramer, inked by Wayne Faucher) started off well, with a murder at Bruce Wayne’s yacht party, but it starts to get a little hinky about halfway through. The murder turns out to be pretty simple once Batman and special guest detective the Riddler put everything together, so the end result turns more on how Batman can hide Bruce Wayne’s friendship with the victim. It’s not a bad story; it just doesn’t seem that consequential.
Finally, I really enjoyed Shazam! The Monster Society Of Evil #1 (by Jeff Smith). If you know anything about this miniseries, you can guess why. For the uninitiated, it’s an all-ages look at the quintessential kids’ superhero, Captain Marvel. He’s the adult protector Billy Batson never had, a creation of the wizard Shazam put under Billy’s control. I have two very minor complaints about this issue: the format is durable but not quite kid-friendly, and I really, really wanted Shazam to order Billy to “SPEAK MY NAME!!!” as I believe he does in the original.
November 20, 2006
Now, here’s the thing: the Doctor Strange stories were all from his ten-page feature in Strange Tales, but for the most part each led into the next, allowing a much larger story to be serialized over many months. Those stories had very brief recaps of the previous issue’s events, maybe a fat caption or two, or a flashback at the most — but space was at a premium.
Accordingly, each of Hourman‘s monthly issues contained 22 pages of story, so it had more room to do full-blown 1- or 2-page recaps of the previous issue. This made reading all the issues in one sitting a little rocky, but I know I appreciated those recaps when I was reading the book as it came out. What’s more, both titles used footnotes to remind readers of what had happened when, which isn’t surprising for an original Silver Age book or for the Silver Age wannabe that Hourman was.
52 does very little in the way of flashbacks and/or recaps, depending on its publication schedule and the reader’s own memories to do the job. However, its format is so unusual — a 52-part story told in 20-to-22-page weekly increments — that its narrative structure might still not be apparent, at least not to someone like me who hasn’t taken the time to read it all to date in big chunks. The big-chunk approach may even miss the point of 52‘s immediacy, since one can read several “weeks” in an hour or so. (Longer if your finger moves along the page, like mine does.)
Anyway, that may all be elementary to you, but I hope it makes up for some quick and dirty capsule reviews to get me caught up.
Tales Of The Unexpected #2: I liked Will Pfeifer and Cliff Chiang’s miniseries that established the Crispus Allen Spectre, but so far these Spectre stories are a big game of cosmic “chicken,” with Spec seeing how far Allen can hold out before the ironic punishment starts. Thank goodness for the hilarious Dr. Thirteen backup. If it comes out in paperback by itself, I’m there.
JLA Classified #29: Still good, although why put the kiddie ads in the book with the naked Wonder Woman?
52 #27: Montoya trains with Richard Dragon, Skeets kills Waverider, and Ralph and the Spectre put the zap on Jean Loring’s head. Really, DC, make Ralph and Sue happy again. It won’t “cheapen” Identity Crisis. Trust me.
Green Lantern #14: Maybe I’m weird, but you won’t bore me by exploring a Green Lantern’s jurisdictional issues. However, I agree with Ollie — never take off the ring. I’m a bit surprised to see the alien villain again so soon. Wasn’t he in one of the last Kyle Rayner storylines?
Firestorm #31: Freddie E. Williams II contributes some noticeably different art to about half this issue, and it’s only a little distracting. Gehenna and Jason have a nice come-to-Jesus moment, although it’s spoiled at the end by what looks like a strange deductive leap on Prof. Stein’s part. As far as the fighting and flying and zapping goes, this feels like the end, but according to the last page there are more secrets to be revealed. I’m sorry to see Stuart Moore and Jamal Igle leave, but I trust them to have at least one more good issue in them.
Superman #657: Wow. Post-apocalyptic carnage on par with JLA‘s “Rock Of Ages,” but with a twist that “ROA” only teased. I still can’t get over the “meteor” that caused the nuclear winter. Oh, and the new villain also seems superficially similar to Samaritan’s arch-foe from the last Astro City special.
Batman #658: “Batman And Son” ends as it began, with a lot of attitude and not so much plot. I was hoping that Damien would be used as a kind of AzRobin, the grim ‘n’ gritty sidekick who’d even make Jason Todd cringe. However, it’s probably more believable that he just wants to please his dad. Also, part of me can’t believe that DC would … I almost wrote “let Batman get pregnant,” but you know what I mean. Kid’s still alive, and Batman still officially has fathered a child, as far as we know. Shame we have to wait until February for Morrison’s next issue, and with the Joker too.
1602: Fantastick Four #3: The Elizabethan FF in an air/sea battle with Doom and the Wizard near the end of the world, so pretty good.
Astro City: The Dark Age Book Two #1: I was playing Spot The Marvel Event with this one, and I think I picked out the Celestial Madonna storyline. Anyway, the two brothers seem to be drifting towards each other’s respective areas, acquiring some shades of gray to go along with the darkening Astro City of the ’70s. Sometimes I am really a shameless Busiek sycophant, huh?
Checkmate #8: I had thought this issue was spotlighting the recruit from #5, but I might have been remembering a different recruit. Anyway, another fine undercover installment, with the identity of the mole not revealed (at least to a dope like me) until the last page.
Omega Men #2: The Omegas fight Superman, Green Lantern, and a few Titans. I think they represent the heroes Marv Wolfman used to introduce them back in the day, which was a nice touch. Oh, and they also fight Vril Dox. The art suits the Omegas and the space stuff pretty well, and it’s not so bad with Superman, but Wonder Girl doesn’t come off so well. Still, much like the Adam Strange miniseries, it’s another space opera involving mistaken identities and running from various planetary governments, and that’s all good.
Green Lantern Corps #6: More than Guy and his rookie partner busting up a sentient city (which seemed a bit cruel, but that’s how Guy rolls), I enjoyed the scenes with Soranik Natu giving Korugar the big green energy finger. I can see where both sides are coming from, and both are perfectly understandable. However, it and the Thanagarian Lantern’s marital problems are more variations on the old Hal Jordan dilemma of splitting time between home and space, so let’s find some new conflicts for these new Lanterns pretty soon.
Birds Of Prey #100: The big anniversary finds Oracle and Huntress recruiting a new pool of agents while Black Canary spends time with her “daughter.” Really, the Black Canary story was just gravy, because the main one (featuring the new team’s breaking into and out of prison) was good enough for me. Let’s put it this way: it convinced me to buy a BoP paperback and start catching up.
Aquaman: Sword Of Atlantis #45: Man, I am apparently just a Busiek fool. Arthur’s forces fight the Ocean Master’s in an Ewoks-vs.-Empire situation, except this time the Ewoks win when Arthur apparently uses some of the old Aquaman marine-telepathy mind tricks. You can put as many sword-and-sorcery elements into this book as you want, but I’ve always liked the talking to finny friends. Nice and uplifting, with the old Aquaman anointing the new one, and a kind-of surprising revelation about one of Arthur’s companions. A fine conclusion of the first story arc and transition to the next.
52 #28: Already I miss the all-machine Red Tornado who’s switched bodies in the current Justice League series. Could he turn a junkyard into parts of himself? Of course not. I was a little disappointed with the relatively brief appearances of Batwoman and the Emerald Head, two characters I want to see more of, but at least I got something. Again, like I said up top, 52 pretty much comes down to “did I like whatever random things happened this week?” and on balance, I did.
August 2, 2006
First up this week is 52 #12 (written by Dino, Jerry, Frank, and Sammy; breakdowns by Joey Bishop; pencilled by Eddy Barrows, inked by Rob Stull). It’s mostly a Black Adam story about his budding relationship with Stor– I mean, Isis. She’s not the Filmation character, but really, who pays attention? Black Adam starts to look more Biblical, if not outright mythological, and we find out why Captain Marvel has gotten cabin fever over the past, say, twelve weeks. I have to say, I’m philosophically opposed to the perpetual remaking of Captain Marvel and his associates, but overall this isn’t bad. I’m still not getting the Trials of Shazam! miniseries, though.
P.S. Montoya and Ralph Dibny each get a few pages, and Waid and Adam Hughes present the two-page Wonder Woman primer.
I would have liked Action Comics #841 (written by Kurt Busiek & Fabian Nicieza, drawn by Pete Woods) better if the villain hadn’t been so Manga Khan-esque. However, it was good on its own, showing Superman interacting both with ordinary folk and fellow super-types. It has the same kind of feel that I got from Busiek’s Avengers, where you don’t have to know who everyone is, but you know they’re all part of the same community and you get a sense of the pecking order. Superman, naturally, is at the top, but the story is about the public’s readiness to put him back up there. As plugged-in as the Superman books were to all the Infinite Crisis hoo-rah, under Busiek they’ seem more integrated with the larger DC-Earth, and that in turn feeds Superman’s status at the top of that ol’ pyramid.
The various threads of wackiness all seem to be coming together in Hawkgirl #54 (written by Walt Simonson, drawn by Howard Chaykin), which is nice. It doesn’t mean all is forgiven, and Kendra still spends too much time showing off her underwear, but on balance there was more good than bad.
Checkmate #4 (written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Jesus Saiz) wraps up its first story arc pretty well, setting up the character relationships and infusing what could have been a foregone conclusion with a bit of cliffhanging. Re-reading these first few issues would probably pay off, since between the Checkmaters and the Great Ten there are a fair amount of unfamiliar characters, not to mention the characters in similar uniforms drawn similarly. In other words, I are stupid and can’t tell some of the players apart on my first quick read.
Steve Englehart, Tom Derenick, and Mark Farmer wrote, pencilled, and inked both JLA Classified #25 and JSA Classified #14, which (respectively) closed out the Detroit League’s adventure with the Royal Flush Gang back in the day, and kicked off Stargirl’s adventure with Gypsy and Vixen set in the present. I had enjoyed the first few parts of the JLA arc, but this last one seemed a bit too breathless, and I don’t remember Gypsy being so powerful, then or now. As for the JSA arc, it also seemed a little too credulous, what with Stargirl copping an attitude towards the more experienced ex-Leaguers, and the thought that “villain mind-controls heroes to fight” is an innovative plot. I like Englehart generally, but this tries my patience.
Marc Singer has commented already on the religious symbolism of Astro City Special: Samaritan (written by Kurt Busiek, drawn by Brent Anderson), which I didn’t notice upon first reading. I was trying to decide whether Infidel was more of a Luthor- or Brainiac-analogue. Symbolism aside, it was a good story of Samaritan’s number-one foe, and I suppose its main mission was to emphasize how dangerous this dude would be if he ever decided to take over all of creation again.
Speaking of number-one foes, the Red Skull pops up quite creepily in Captain America #20 (written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Steve Epting), the penultimate (?) chapter of “Twenty-First Century Blitz.” Cap and his British allies fight Nazi strongmen on a blimp, and it is awesome, even before the giant Nazi robot appears. The prospect of a Cap/Winter Soldier team-up is also teased to great effect.
Finally, as you might have guessed, I saved Batman #655 (written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Andy Kubert) for last, because it too was awesome. There’s more Bruce Wayne than Batman in this first issue, but Morrison presses all the major Bat-buttons. Short scenes with Gordon and Robin (and even the Joker) seem poised for later payoffs, the “Zur En Arrh” graffiti hints at a return to ’50s-style sci-fi (however brief), and Alfred almost steals the book from under his boss. There are a couple of clunky points, like the blocking of the initial action sequence, the thought that the one-year layoff didn’t rejuvenate Bruce, and the too-obviously-nervous Kirk Langstrom, but on the whole this is a refreshing change for a book that at times seemed more dedicated to maintaining its hard-boiled reputation. I don’t think Morrison is the only one who could have pulled Batman back from the brink of excessive grimness and grit, but he shore does a fine job here.
October 26, 2005
Batman #646 (written by Judd Winick, pencilled by Shane Davis, inked by various people) felt very familiar, since once again it revolved around the Batman/Red Hood/Black Mask triangle. By the last few pages a new player has been added, and that itself makes the story more interesting, but we’re going on a year since the Hood’s been introduced and there’s only so far Winick can draw out the tension between him and Batman. Apparently the next (sorely missed) Batman Annual will wrap things up, but how long until then? I did enjoy the issue, since much of it was a well-done set piece involving Batman, a couple of scared hoods, and a bomb needing defusing. Davis’ art was fine, although I hope Doug Mahnke isn’t gone for good.
Meanwhile, Batman: Gotham Knights #70 (written by A.J. Lieberman, pencilled by Al Barrionuevo, inked by Bit) was okay, I suppose. It advanced the Alfred/Hush/Clayface plot significantly, even with some exposition about the nature of Clayface. By the way, that itself reminded me of Lieberman’s recent Poison Ivy storyline, because it too seemed to spend a lot of time in laboratories wondering how to replicate/cure a villain’s condition. Like the Poison Ivy story, this has been better than Lieberman’s usual meanderings, although that’s not saying much. Not that strict adherence to continuity is a requirement for me, but I do wonder about a series which picks up threads from other Bat-titles and doesn’t get much going the other way.
Superman #222 (written by Mark Verheiden, pencilled by Ed Benes and Joe Prado, inked by various folks) was better than I expected. Lois finds herself the target of an OMAC after having a fight with Clark. Both get to be journalists, which is nice, although it too contributes to the tension. Lois’ beef is presented well enough that I actually wondered whether splitting them up might not be part of the Big DC Plan after all. In other words, some good character work peeks through all the fight scenes. The different pencils are virtually indistinguishable to my casual eye, and they seem preoccupied with the shapely forms of Lois and her new assistant, if that’s an enticement to any of you.
Seven Soldiers: Klarion #4 (written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Frazer Irving) was also basically a big fight issue. Klarion and his friends and neighbors repel invaders from the world above. The art was fantastic, and the dialogue was good, but that’s about it for the plot. Like the other 7S miniseries, it’s To Be Continued….
Astro City: The Dark Age #4 (written by Kurt Busiek, drawn by Brent Anderson) concludes Book One (the Silver Agent story arc) by using familiar superhero elements in an unconventional way. An invasion from Monstro City interrupts the Silver Agent’s death sentence, and in the melee the brothers we’ve been following resolve their personal issues. However, the plot isn’t really the point of the issue. Busiek is more concerned with cathartic emotional release, whether it be that of the public, the brothers, or even the reader. The Silver Agent’s fate is simply the catalyst for that release. Busiek and Anderson do a great job of building the tension, piling on more and more developments and using those familiar elements to good effect. There is a twist of sorts at the end which may come off hokey, but I thought was satisfying regardless. Bring on Book Two!
I had been thinking about dropping Star Wars: Empire (#36 written by Welles Hartley, pencilled by Davide Fabbri, inked by Christian Dalla Vecchia), but Part 1 of “The Wrong Side Of The War” was very good. Picking up from last issue, the Empire is pacifying the resistance on Jabiim, allowing us to focus on Imperial Lieutenant Sunber. Sunber cares about his men, even the cloned infantry. He is also torn between duty and his feelings for the Empire’s prisoners. This probably telegraphs his character arc for the rest of the story. Still, telling it from Sunber’s perspective was a nice touch, and the art effectively portrayed all the familiar Imperial hardware mowing down resistance. A final revelation concerning a very familiar Star Wars character was an especially pleasant surprise. I’m looking forward to the rest of the arc.
Finally, She-Hulk (vol. 2) #1 (written by Dan Slott, pencilled by Juan Bobillo, inked by Marcelo Sosa) was just as fun as I would have expected. A time-travel case inspires Shulkie towards a unique jury pool, but along the way there are a couple of fights, a few Avengers, and a jab or two at the comics industry.
She-Hulk is a funny book, and not just in the literal sense. Because it’s about a superheroic attorney, much of its humor comes from its perspective on How Things Work in the Marvel Universe. (Shulkie’s researchers use comics alongside their casebooks, for example.) Accordingly, it’s a style of realism that, to a certain extent, repudiates the more serious, allegedly more “mature” style on display elsewhere. Naturally, I don’t expect She-Hulk‘s style to set the company-wide editorial tone anytime soon.
Speaking of which, as you know I have not read any of the Avengers/House of M stuff, so I have no frame of reference for Shulkie’s flashbacks in this issue, but I didn’t think that was detrimental. To me that’s part of the charm of any superhero book — if the cliches, references, and motifs are used properly, the reader can accept them for their effects without having to know everything about them. (See also Astro City, above.) Slott’s pretty good at doing that, which is why I feel comfortable reading one of his Marvel books without being drowned in continuity. One of these days he’ll slip up, but I hope I’m not there to see it.
September 7, 2005
Flash #225 (written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Howard Porter & Livesay) closes off not only “Rogue War,” but also Johns’ 5-year writing tenure. As such, it works better as the end of an era than the end of this particular arc. “Rogue War” started with much fanfare as the final battle between old-school and new-school villains, but it has finished as the unofficial sequel to the first Zoom storyline from about 2 ½ years ago. It’s a decent action issue with fine artwork and a not-unexpected happy ending. I suppose I’ll reserve further comments until about 2015, when “Rogue War” comes up in the Johns recaps.
Seven Soldiers: Shining Knight #4 (written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Simone Bianchi) feels like a bit of a cheat, if only because it leads directly into the Seven Soldiers special, out around the same time I’ll be recapping “Rogue War.” Other than that, it’s about the same as the previous three issues. Bianchi’s art is still very pretty. Morrison’s big twist makes sense in the context of the genre, but he doesn’t seem to do a lot with it. Again, I’ll probably do an omnibus recap of this one.
The cover of Batman: Gotham Knights #68 (written by A.J. Lieberman, drawn by Al Barrionuevo and Bit) features exciting images of a determined Batman, a menacing Hush, a demented Alfred, and some guy chained in a cell. The actual issue is very different, basically telling a disjointed-in-time story about Hush’s plan to defeat Batman through clones. There’s no Batman, except a cameo appearance by his silhouette. The art isn’t bad at all, but Lieberman’s writing is starting to remind me of the literary equivalent of an early-‘90s Image wannabee. It’s all attitude and flash, with few fundamentals; and it assumes that the reader can get by on inference and nuance.
Speaking of attitude, JLA Classified #11 (written by Warren Ellis, art by Jackson “Butch” Guice) improves greatly on Part 1 of “New Maps Of Hell.” This is the roundup issue, where each member of the Justice League responds to the crisis during his or her own snappy vignette. Also, a bit more of the mystery is revealed. That’s about it for the plot, but it’s all fun and entertaining – the kind of “To the Batcave, Robin!” issue that fanboys young and old dream about writing. Parts of it feel like Morrison, but he would have taken about six pages.
Green Lantern #4 (written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Ethan van Sciver) starts a new arc with Hector Hammond and a couple other old GL villains. Johns’ treatment of the Flash’s Rogues irritated me after a while, but the GL villains seem more suited to his style. The story itself starts with a steal from a classic “X Files,” takes a trip to Oa for a new/old GL Corps reunion, and descends into prison for yet another Silence of the Lambs-style confab. However, it all comes together well, even the Hannibal Lecter stuff. Van Sciver’s Hector Hammond makes MODOK look like Teddy Ruxpin (how’s that for a geek-trifecta reference?), and Johns lets him live vicariously (and ickily) through Hal, even for a moment. As much as Johns gets ripped for his over-reliance on continuity and forced drama, I think he’s really enjoying himself with this series, and it shows.
Wonder Woman #220 (written by Greg Rucka, pencilled by David Lopez, inked by Bit) is the flip side of this month’s Adventures of Superman, also written by Rucka. It is more substantial than AoS, though, because it dovetails Rucka’s subplots and supporting cast with the “Sacrifice”/OMAC macro-plot. Specifically, WW confronts a couple of Max Lord’s foot soldiers, one of whom turns out to be a close friend. Thus, as with Sasha Bordeaux in Detective and OMAC, Rucka has treated negatively another of his own characters who once was very sympathetic. I don’t know whether this means Rucka doesn’t care about his characters, although that doesn’t seem likely. Rather, it seems to be more indicative of How Bad Things Are Now. In any event, this was a good issue, and while I don’t like the repetitiveness of the flashbacks, I appreciate Rucka doing that for the benefit of those happy few who only read this book.
Astro City: The Dark Age #3 (written by Kurt Busiek, drawn by Brent Anderson) is confident enough in its gritty evocation of ‘70s superheroics to slip in a Ron Burgundy cameo. Such confidence is justified. The two brothers’ story gets a bit more interesting this issue, even as the superheroes get more attention on the global political stage. One thing which confused me was the chronology of Tyranos Rex. Because he’s clearly a Thing-analogue, I thought he was a founding member of the First Family, but according to this issue maybe not. Still, the great thing about Astro City is Busiek’s ability to convey entire peripheral story arcs with just a few lines of narrative shorthand. Maybe it speaks only to the fanboy in me, but I would hope more casual readers could get sucked in too.
Hero Squared #2 (written by Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis, drawn by Joe Abraham, Mark Badger, and Shannon Denton) relates Captain Valor’s last battle on his own Earth, told first from his perspective and then from Caliginous’. (Badger and Denton do the flashbacks.) Except for a fairly obvious series of gay-Batman jokes, and the notion that Caliginous’ version is less truthful than Valor’s, it’s all about as clever as you’d expect. I almost don’t mind the $3.99 per issue, especially since I’ve been driving less these days.
It’s a tribute to the Solo series that I picked up issue #6 solely on the strength of its predecessors. I had almost no idea who Jordi Bernet was, outside of an 8-page Batman story from several years ago. His style reminds me a lot of Alex Toth and Joe Kubert – thick pencils, full figures, and very expressive faces. Reading this was like watching a Sergio Leone Western (not least because a couple of the stories have frontier themes): a European artist makes a classic American medium his own, and hey, there’s Eastwood/Batman too!
Star Wars: Empire #33 (written by Thomas Andrews, drawn by Adriana Melo) presents the Jabiim storyline’s penultimate chapter, and things are starting to pick up. However, I’m still confused about who did what to whom, both 20 years ago and today. Mitigating this are nice scenes involving Vader, whose presence helps bring together the present-day and Clone Wars elements. There are also familiar elements like Star Destroyers and Rogue Squadron. Still, I’m waiting for Luke, the ostensible hero, to get more involved. Maybe next issue.
Captain America #9 (written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Michael Lark) was a winner of an issue that could have stood effectively on its own. Cap, Fury, and Sharon go on a raid that fails, thanks to the intersection of business and politics. I read this wondering why Cap has to wear the gaudy flag-colored costume and use only an indestructible shield as a weapon, when the SHIELD agents get more practical black outfits with guns. Watching Cap rage with frustration at the men who have made his mission fail, it brought home Cap’s symbolic nature. He has to act a certain way because of what he represents, just like his country has to act a certain way because of what it represents, and practicality must sometimes take a back seat to the symbolism of acting rightly.
Astonishing X-Men #12 (written by Joss Whedon, drawn by John Cassaday) is the big “season finale” blowout between the X-Men and the sentient Danger Room/Sentinel. Most of it is well-choreographed action with snappy Whedon dialogue, but the emotional zinger is a revelation about Xavier’s use of the Danger Room over the years. That’s not quite as successful, because it feels both forced and tacked-on. Looks like the title is taking a brief hiatus, and I don’t know whether I’ll be back when it returns. I do like the villains reintroduced on the last page, so we’ll see.