Comics Ate My Brain

January 13, 2008

New comics 1/4/08 and 1/9/08

I was out of town last weekend and didn’t get back until late Sunday night. That meant I didn’t get to the comics shop until Monday night for the previous Friday’s books. Naturally I was back there on Wednesday for this week’s books. So it’s all a big blur of spandex … which, as I type that, seems sure to bring in the random Google hits….

JANUARY 9, 2008

Teen Titans Lost Annual #1 (Oh, like there’s going to be a “Lost Annual #2.”): I can see why DC didn’t want to publish this back when it was completed a few years ago. It belongs to a different time — a time when, for example, Robin could stay in the White House as a guest of the President and feel comfortable kicking back in his costume, sans mask but plus white gym socks. It’s not a period piece in the manner of New Frontier, it’s an unsubtle commentary on the way superhero comics used to work. I liked it pretty well. The story is pretty wild, by any objective standard, but it’s still charming; and the art is accessible and makes the Titans look appropriately young and heroic.

Bat Lash #2: Because I am not reading the current Jonah Hex book, which apparently threatens rape pretty frequently, I’m not so burned out on said threats when they crop up here. Just need to get that out of the way. Otherwise, this miniseries seems to be an origin of sorts for Bat — at least, I think it’s the origin of the flower in his hat — and it involving a number of standard Western plotlines. I’m still intrigued by the book, because I can see Bat developing into an interesting character, but I don’t quite think he’s there yet.

The Spirit #12: Darwyn Cooke gets a number of tools out of his kit for this issue, especially on the Eisneresque flashback scenes (and an equally Eisneresque rained-out final page). It’s an I Can’t Love You, I’ve Been Too Bad Too Long kind of plot, but it’s still very effective. I don’t mean this to sound dismissive — rather, Cooke is such a fine storyteller that I don’t have the space to gush about his work.

JLA Classified #50: A rampaging monster from the League’s early days returns to wreak havoc on the current team. Thus, most of this issue is fight scenes. It’s a lot like what you’d expect a Justice League comic to be, and I mean that in the best way possible. Problems will be solved, and adversities overcome, by the time this arc is over.

Superman #672: Same thing goes for Part 2 of “The Insect Queen,” which uses young Chris Kent as its cliffhanger. This makes a lot of sense, considering that the other major Super-players (Superman, Lois, and Lana) are pretty much safe from harm — but we don’t quite know what to make of Chris, so he gets “volunteered.” As for the main plot, Superman fights insectoid aliens, and Lana learns more about how her insectoid doppelganger has taken over the Moon. If you think that sounds like an entertaining Superman comic, you’re right. Art is fine, but Lana’s choreography is a little funky for some reason. She tumbles around a fair amount, and it never comes out quite right.

Nightwing #140: A decent start for new writer Peter Tomasi and new artists Rags Morales and Michael Bair. Morales and Bair are reliably good, but I found Tomasi’s characters to be somewhat long-winded. The new woman in Dick’s life speaks especially expositionally, and Dick isn’t exempt either. The plot is much more DCU-centered, involving the robbing of super-folks’ graves, and there are many of the guests you might expect in a Bat-title. Overall I liked it, but cut down on the balloon juice, okay?

Green Arrow And Black Canary #4: Beautiful art, but that should go without saying. As for the story, I was thinking the other day about how much I liked Green Arrow as a Justice Leaguer. He usually gets to spit sarcastic remarks at the rest of the team, and that’s always fun. However, more often than not he gets to back that up with fearless derring-do, mostly involving some explosive arrows and a giant robot. However, you can’t build an ongoing series around that kind of character unless you give him some depth, and I think that’s where writer Judd Winick has been going with GA/BC. Unfortunately, Winick is building character through tragedy again, and while this issue gets a lot of things right (Ollie’s friends coming through, good moments with Batman and Wonder Woman), at the heart of it is still the tragedy of Connor Hawke. Here’s hoping it gets reversed soon somehow, so that Ollie can learn and the book can really enjoy the fantastic work of Cliff Chiang.

Green Lantern Corps #20: Peter Tomasi has already written part of “Sinestro Corps” for this title, but he starts his tenure as new writer in earnest here, with a picking-up-the-pieces story putting Kyle and Guy in Chandler-and-Joey roles on Oa. It is a very sitcommy setup, and while I don’t have high hopes, it does have potential. Also, Mongul gets a Sinestro ring and gloats about it. Tomasi’s talky here too, and the differing art styles of Patrick Gleason and Carlos Magno are fine on their own merits, but don’t blend together well.

52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen #6: Kind of a blah conclusion to what I’d hoped would be a more exciting miniseries. The Horsemen end up taking over our heroes, except they’re surprisingly easy to get along with, and their eventual host doesn’t seem to mind them too much. I did like seeing the Doom Patrol and Snapper Carr, though.

Countdown #s 17 and 16: I’ll talk about these together because they’re really pretty decent, at least as far as this series goes. Monarch’s army comes to the idyllic Earth-51 and totally trashes it, killing its Justice League and assorted other heroes without much trouble. Meanwhile, Jean Loring loses the power of Eclipso in a fight with Mary Marvel, and Mary likewise loses her Shazam powers. One Earth’s Jean dies, but another one lives, making me suspect that our Ray Palmer will have a tearful reunion with that Jean at some point. Finally, Jason Todd meets the Batman of Earth-51 and (judging by the previews for this week) learns that Earth’s dark secret. Again, a lot of fight scenes, but as depicted by Pete Woods and Tom Derenick, pretty well laid out. Dialogue is okay, but not horrible. I have to say, this is the most interest I’ve had in Countdown since it’s started. I may have a problem with the “message” of Earth-51, but that’ll probably be a topic for next week.

JANUARY 4, 2008

Teen Titans Year One #1: Talked about this one in Thursday’s Grumpy Old Fan, but not in much depth. I liked it a lot, even though Wally West acted more like Bart Allen than I would have expected, and I’m still not used to Aqualad being so “fishy”-looking. However, those are dramatic and stylistic choices which work within the context of the miniseries. As I said in GOF, despite the title, I don’t think this is a continuity-oriented gap-filler like JLA Year One, and that’s fine. It’s enough for me that it evokes the spirit of a different time — maybe not precisely the Silver Age, but something that still feels like a growing and developing DC-Earth. Oh, and I really like Karl Kerschl, Serge Lapointe and Steph Peru’s art — it reminds me of Stuart Immonen’s Nextwave work, which is great.

Howard The Duck #4: Fine conclusion to a story that had to be reined in somehow before it collapsed under the weight of all the satire. Ty Templeton writes a funny George W. Bush. On the whole it’s probably too broad, but I enjoyed it and wouldn’t mind more Howard from these folks (assuming Steve Gerber’s not coming back, of course).

Supergirl #25: The Girl of Steel has flashbacks to Argo City’s destruction and then fights Reactron. The latter’s design has been updated since his days as an obscure Who’s Who entry, but it still took me a while to recognize him. That’s about it for the plot. The fight scenes are portrayed very matter-of-factly, with a certain amount of distance, and that gives everything a decompressed feel. Accordingly, this was kind of a dull issue. I like Drew Johnson and Ray Snyder’s art, but it’s still kinda dull.

(All-New) Atom #19: I love Jerry Ordway, but here his guest-artist talents are in the service of a rather blah Lost Underground Amish Tribe story. Our hero basically gets saved because he’s cute, not because he does anything heroic. Keith Champagne is no Gail Simone, that’s for sure.

Detective Comics #840: Really good Batman-vs.-Ra’s story. Batman basically renders the entire Ra’s-is-back crossover moot by putting Ra’s out of commission for as long as DC wants. Up to that point, though, it’s a fairly suspenseful tale which centers around the fact that Ra’s knows all of Batman’s secrets and, being filled with revenge, is itching to exploit them. Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs are the new art team, and they’re very good. Lots of blacks, and a dull color palette from John Kalisz. Nguyen has a very fluid approach, his figures are consistent and weighty, and he’s a good choreographer. Hope this team sticks together for a while.

Finally, Countdown To Mystery #4 gets the Eclipso out of Jean (duplicating that part of Countdown) and back into Bruce Gordon; and introduces the new Doctor Fate to his “new” Inza. I continue to like the Fate series even if it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Ironically, I’m also starting to like the Eclipso story more because it seems to be developing a plot. The art in “Eclipso” is a bit T&A oriented, and the dialogue isn’t anywhere near Gerber’s “Fate” work, but it’s not as bad as it has been.

CREDITS

52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen #6. Written by Keith Giffen, pencilled by Pat Olliffe, inked by John Stanisci.

The All-New Atom #19. Written by Keith Champagne, pencilled by Jerry Ordway, inked by Trevor Scott.

Bat Lash #2. Written by Sergio Aragones & Peter Brandvold, drawn by John Severin.

Countdown To Final Crisis #17. Written by Paul Dini and Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, story consultant Keith Giffen, pencilled by Ron Lim, inked by Jimmy Palmiotti.

Countdown To Final Crisis #16. Written by Paul Dini and Tony Bedard, story consultant Keith Giffen, pencilled by Pete Woods & Tom Derenick, inked by Wayne Faucher.

Countdown To Mystery # 4. “Eclipso” written by Matthew Sturges and drawn by Stephen Jorge Segouia; “Doctor Fate” written by Steve Gerber, pencilled by Justiniano, and inked by Walden Wong.

Detective Comics #840. Written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Dustin Nguyen, inked by Derek Fridolfs.

Green Arrow and Black Canary #4. Written by Judd Winick, drawn by Cliff Chiang.

Green Lantern Corps #20. Written by Peter Tomasi, pencilled by Patrick Gleason and Carlos Magno, inked by PRentis Rollins, Tom Nguyen, Drew Geraci, Rodney Ramos, & Rebecca Buchman.

Howard the DuckJLA Classified #50. Written by Roger Stern, pencilled by John Byrne, inked by Mark Farmer.

Nightwing #140. Written by Peter Tomasi, pencilled by Rags Morales, inked by Michael Bair.

The Spirit #12. Written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke.

Supergirl #25. Written by Kelley Puckett, pencilled by Drew Johnson & Lee Ferguson, inked by Ray Snyder.

Superman #672. Written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Peter Vale, inked by Wellington Diaz.

Teen Titans Lost Annual #1. Written by Bob Haney, pencilled by Jay Stephens, inked by Mike Allred.

Teen Titans Year One #1. Written by Amy Wolfram, art by Karl Kerschl, Serge Lapointe, and Steph Peru.

November 13, 2007

New comics 11/7/07

Filed under: atom, batman, countdown, fantastic four, groo, howard the duck, robin, supergirl, superman, tranquility — Tom Bondurant @ 3:43 am
We begin this week with Supergirl #23 (written by Kelley Puckett, pencilled by Drew Johnson, inked by Ray Snyder), which I bought mostly out of past loyalty to these creators. By now these Supergirl relaunches have an air of “This time for sure!” about them, so I’ll also admit to some morbid curiosity. In that respect I wonder if it’s a bit of black humor that the cover has our heroine going up in flames….

Anyway, the issue itself is an enigmatic bit of decompression which starts and ends with a mysterious box delivered to Supergirl’s apartment. After a brief, but funny, chat with Batman about the box, she’s called away by Superman to help him and a squad of Green Lanterns stop an interstellar war. Things don’t quite go as planned, but her reaction — and the role of the box — aren’t quite explained, thereby theoretically encouraging us readers to come back next month.

Should we, though? I’m more intrigued by the storyline than I am by the title character, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing. From what I can tell from this issue, Supergirl’s kind of a spaz. She zones out when the GLs brief her. She’s apparently responsible enough to have her own (spacious, nicely furnished) apartment, and that magazine subscription in her hand indicates she’s put down some roots, but how old is she supposed to be — late teens? Early twenties? What’s her “secret identity” like? (Judging by this week’s Superman, she doesn’t have much of one … but that’s this week’s Superman.) She’s got all the powers of Superman, so how does she use them differently? In short, why should I care about her enough to pay $2.99 (plus tax, minus folder discount) every month?

Well, the art is quite good. Johnson and Snyder do meticulous work. I’m not entirely sure about their Supergirl anatomy, but that could just be an optical illusion from the costume. There’s a long, wordless stretch in the second half of the book, and they handle that pretty well too. Like I said, I’m intrigued by the story, and this issue was good enough to make me want to see more. However, if I’m going to make a long-term commitment, I’d like to know more about Supergirl herself.

As for her cousin, Superman #670 (written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Rick Leonardi, inked by Dan Green) finishes up “The Third Kryptonian.” It’s a good conclusion to what was a somewhat predictable but still enjoyable arc. Busiek hit most of the “moody loner” character beats with Kristin Wells, including the “only out for herself” one. However, the issue is mostly action, which Leonardi and Green do nicely. I also like their Supergirl, who looks about five pounds heavier than Johnson and Snyder’s; and their Power Girl, who looks about ten pounds lighter than, say, Michael Turner’s. Anyway, the basic plot is that the Head Bad Guy has all kinds of weapons specifically designed to kill Kryptonians, so Superman and his allies (including Batman) have to figure out inventive ways to counter them. It’s all fairly straightforward, although it apparently sets up a sequel and at least one other future story. That’s not really a criticism, because I haven’t been this consistently pleased with a Superman writer in a long time.

Countdown #25 (written by Paul Dini and Adam Beechen, pencilled by Ron Lim, inked by Jimmy Palmiotti & John Stanisci) finally checks in with the cliffhanger that closed out Firestorm, lo those many months ago. That’s the bulk of the issue, and it’s entertaining and somewhat satisfying. However, the other “check-in” scenes — Jimmy and Mary Marvel on Apokolips, and Piper and Trickster escaping from Deadshot (?!?) — are kind of lame. Art is good throughout, and I would expect no less from an old hand like Lim.

I was curious about The Search For Ray Palmer: Red Rain (written by Peter Johnson, pencilled mostly by Eric Battle and Angel Unzueta, inked by Derek Fridolfs, Vicente Cifuentes, and Jonathan Glapson, with a few pages drawn by Kelley Jones) because I enjoyed the “Bat-Vampire” trilogy by Jones and writer Doug Moench. However, this has all of the grue and none of the grim nihilism. It’s not a very attractive book, mostly because it tries to ape Kelley Jones’ style without much success. The colors (by Art Lyons) are muted and muddy, like a red filter has overlaid everything. The plot is moderately diverting, since it involves this Earth’s Dick Grayson (and, in a small role, Barbara Gordon), but even that feels like something of a departure from the original material. The Batman/Dracula: Red Rain book was creepy precisely because it was set in a Bat-milieu that could easily have been the character’s regular title. However, this special’s Dick and Babs are just characters with the same names. What’s more, our Challenger heroes really can’t do anything to affect this Earth’s status quo — they can only introduce us to it and move on. Therefore, nothing of consequence happens. Unless you just like seeing alternate versions of familiar characters put through penny-dreadful situations, you don’t need this issue.

In the regular Bat-books, “The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul” begins officially in Robin #168 (written by Peter Milligan, drawn by Freddie E. Williams II). If you’ve seen one of those “Bad Seed” kinds of movies, where no one will believe the good kid who knows the evil kid’s evil, that’s about how Tim must deal with Damien. Also, Batman rescues Talia from what is apparently her bandage-enwrapped father. It’s kinda unremarkable, except for the hints at the mysticism (Nanda Parbat, the Sensei, etc.) behind Ra’s’ return. Williams’ work is fine; Robin is lean and muscular, and Batman is appropriately chunky.

The romance, or whatever it is, of Ryan and Doris “Giganta” Zuel is the best thing about (The All-New) Atom #17 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by Mike Norton, inked by Trevor Scott). I found myself rooting for the two crazy kids despite the fact that she’s a little unhinged. The weird androgynous villain (at least I think “he” and “she” are the same person) was hard to figure, but that’s a good enough mystery for two issues. Norton and Scott turn in another fine issue. They work about as well with Simone as Nicola Scott did on Birds Of Prey, and considering how much I like Nicola Scott, that’s high praise indeed.

I bought Welcome To Tranquility: Armageddon #1 (written by Christos Gage, drawn by Neil Googe and Horacio Domingues) out of loyalty to the regular title — only one issue left, apparently — and it was just okay. Basically, it focused on Tranquility’s Captain Marvel-analogue, but let him stay “in costume” the whole issue, as opposed to his regular role of deus ex machina. Also, the time-travel involved in showing us the alternate future also made our hero’s role that much more confusing. In short, he flies around while others tell him how bad things have gotten, and then he forgets about everything and the issue is over. It was kind of like the Ray Palmer: Red Rain issue, above, except without the muddy art.

Fantastic Four #551 (written by Dwayne McDuffie, pencilled by Paul Pelletier, inked by Rick Magyar) looks like it kicks off this creative team’s last arc, involving a set of time-travelers bent on stopping Reed from saving the world. It ends on a heck of a cliffhanger, and it ties into Reed’s “room of notes” from Civil War. That’s not a lot in terms of plot, but it’s executed well.

Howard the Duck #2 (written by Ty Templeton, pencilled by Juan Bobillo, inked by Marcelo Sosa) gets closer to its roots, as Howard and Bev must deal with Howard’s sudden celebrity following his smackdown of the hunters last issue. Most of the issue finds Howard on a yelling-match talk show, and that goes about like you’d expect, or maybe a little worse. I might be easily amused, but I did like MODOT (Designed Only for Talking) a lot. This is not a bad miniseries by any means, even if it has a lot to live up to.

Finally, the satire is presented much more deftly in Groo: Hell On Earth #1 (by Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones), in which Groo’s bumbling leads to eco-unfriendly consequences. I’m not sure how this can be stretched out into four issues, but if the rest are as clever as this one, I definitely won’t care. The latest Groo tale finds everyone at the top of their particular game, especially Aragones and colorist Tom Luth. Those two complement each other perfectly through Aragones’ exquisite backgrounds and two-page spreads. This story aims for a broad scope and even an epic feel, and succeeds admirably.

November 2, 2007

Thursday Night Thinking

Filed under: atom, green lantern, justice league, meme, thursday night thinking — Tom Bondurant @ 12:52 am
You’re not sure Green Lantern is on the up-and-up, but his temples aren’t grey. How can you know he’s gone bad?

THINKING, of course!


Special bonus panel: willpower knows no height!

Short and sweet this week, Diamondrock!

[From “Decoy Missions Of The Justice League!” in Justice League of America vol. 1 #24, December 1963. Written by Gardner Fox, pencilled by Mike Sekowsky, inked by Bernard Sachs, lettered by Gaspar Saladino, color reconstruction for Justice League Archives Vol. 4 by Tom McCraw and Rick Taylor.]

October 7, 2007

New comics 10/3/07

This was really a pretty good week for new comics. I’ve got at least one positive thing to say about each book.

Let’s begin with Howard the Duck #1 (written by Ty Templeton, pencilled by Juan Bobillo, inked by Marcelo Sosa). As you might have gathered from the Friday Night Fights excerpt, its humor is pretty broad, and not as incisive as Steve Gerber’s original stories. Bobillo’s take on Howard is also just different enough from Frank Brunner’s and Gene Colan’s Disney-duck riffs to take some getting used to. There’s a little more Harvey Pekar in Bobillo’s Howard these days. Outside of the Cleveland setting, the American Splendor comparisons probably stop there as well. Still, it was a diverting enough story, hardly decompressed, and tied into the wacky side of Marvel a la Dan Slott. It won’t make you forget about Gerber, but I don’t think it’s a traveshamockery.

The highest praise I can give to another blast from the past, the JLA/Hitman miniseries (#2 came out this week, #1 two weeks ago, both written by Garth Ennis and drawn by John McCrea), was that it made me want to read all sixty issues of the original Hitman series. I knew nothing about Tommy Monaghan before reading these issues, but by the end I was sorry to see him go.

When word came out that Roger (Power of the Atom) Stern would be writing an issue of All-New Atom (#16, pencilled by Mike Norton, inked by Trevor Scott), I spouted off that it would be good, but not Gail-Simone good. Well, I was wrong, and happily so. This issue was great fun, perfectly in sync with Simone’s status quo. An alien turns Ivy Town into dirty hippies, with Ryan Choi having to use his iPod to save the day. The best part was the punk band’s (unintentional?) reference to the “Tear It Down, Wipe It Out” song from Action Comics #398‘s “The Pied Piper Of Steel.” Thankfully, Atom‘s music festival feels much more authentic than Action‘s attempt at a Woodstock pastiche.

And speaking of Action Comics (#856 written by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner, drawn by Eric Powell), this week brought the creepy, effective continuation of its “Bizarro World” story. Powell’s art really does the heavy lifting here, and it sets an appropriately spooky tone. It helps excuse the more violent aspects of Johns/Donner’s Bizarro, glimpsed briefly in the previous storyline. If this Bizarro is misguided, it’s to the extreme. Therefore, Powell fills these pages with blocky, clumsy figures, keeping Superman and the other Earth-people smooth and fluid. The combination makes the story more worthwhile, because a more “realistic” artist wouldn’t have made the grotesque figures the norm. Still, There’s probably a bit too much evisceration, though, and I’m not going to excuse it “just because they’re Bizarros.” It’s not like they’re robots — those are actual, if imperfectly-duplicated, guts.

More viscera is on display in Tales Of The Sinestro Corps: Cyborg Superman #1 (written by Alan Burnett, pencilled by Patrick Blaine, inked by Jay Leisten), specifically when the Cyborg defiles his late wife’s grave. Most of the issue re-tells the few Adventures Of Superman issues which transformed a Reed Richards parody into a … well, for a while, an overused, somewhat lame villain, but unlike the Parallax special from a few weeks back, the larger plot is actually advanced, and that’s nice. The art is serviceable — thick, somewhat stiff, and chunky, not unlike the original Dan Jurgens work on the character.

This week also saw another “Sinestro Corps” installment in Green Lantern Corps #16 (written by Dave Gibbons, pencilled by Patrick Gleason, inked by Prentis Rollins), specifically the big battle involving Mogo and Ranx. For those of you who remember the Alan Moore story which informs much of “Sinestro Corps,” this issue relies upon its prophecy most heavily, with Mogo having to repel bombardiers and the Daxamite Sodam Yat coming into his own. It was a good, suspenseful issue, although I pretty much knew how it would have to turn out. I thought Gleason and Rollins kept things moving well, and made characters distinct, but in crowd scenes I still had trouble telling Yat from the other male-human-looking GLs.

Jumping back into the creepy-zombie realm for a moment, here’s Welcome To Tranquility #11 (written by Gail Simone, drawn by Neil Googe), the continuation of its Devil-raises-the-dead-to-destroy-the-living story. I really liked this issue, both as an action story and as a quirky evocation of a superhero-centered community. The Kyle Kite vignette was a good example of the latter, bringing together the innocence of children’s comics, the twisted take Simone and Googe have on them, and the juxtaposition of all that with a carnage-filled zombie tale. I do feel like I’ve spent enough time with these characters to get comfortable with them, so naturally I’m worried that the book will be cancelled. There’s also a sweet backup story (drawn by Irene Flores) about a teenager who finds she’s more in tune with manga than with Western comics, and it’s fine; but I kept expecting it to switch to right-to-left and I don’t think it ever did.

I guess Jamal Igle is off Nightwing (#137 written by Marv Wolfman, pencilled by Jon Bosco, inked by Alex Silva), which is too bad, because Bosco and Silva don’t have the same fluidity to their work as Igle and (I think) Keith Champagne brought. Anyway, this issue was the end of the big woman-from-Dick’s-past story. While the plot still seems a bit arbitrary — apparently super-soldiers are involved, not unlike the battlesuit of Wolfman’s first Nightwing arc — I did appreciate the relation back to New Teen Titans. I have beaten the drum of strengthening Dick’s ties to his past for a while now, probably to death, so it’s always nice to see writers doing just that. This is Wolfman’s last issue too, if I remember right, and the ending is soured somewhat by having it tie into his new Vigilante series. NTT did that too, of course, albeit a littel more gracefully.

Igle pencils this week’s Search For Ray Palmer: Crime Society (written by Sean McKeever, inked by Rob Hunter), which is actually the origin of Earth-3’s Jokester. McKeever’s clever script successfully re-casts the tragedies which formed the Joker into a story of a hard-luck anti-hero. The timeline’s a little screwy, but this is an alternate Earth after all. Igle’s pencils are pretty tightly inked by Hunter, giving them an appreciably different look than I’m used to, but it all works. The issue is much better than I expected a Countdown one-off to be.

Detective Comics #837 (written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Don Kramer, inked by Wayne Faucher) is a Countdown tie-in which focuses mostly on the Riddler and the former Harley Quinn, filling in Harl’s backstory leading up to Countdown. To me it demonstrated how much better Dini is at writing Harley than the Countdown writers have been so far — there she’s generally wacky; here you can tell she has a brain. Of course, there she only gets a few pages to herself, and here she’s much more in the spotlight. Anyway, Harley and Holly get embroiled in the theft of a Wayne Industries MacGuffin, which leads the Riddler to their women’s shelter. Batman and Robin are in it too, briefly, but the book is Detective Comics, not Batman, after all….

Finally, Countdown #30 (written by Dini, Justin Gray, and Jimmy Palmiotti, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by Jesus Saiz, inks by Palmiotti) is all over the place, checking in on Karate Kid and Brother Eye, Trickster and Piper behind the scenes at the Green Arrow/Black Canary wedding fight, and Jimmy Olsen escaping from scientific study, before settling on the Challengers of the Beyond on Earth-15. (You can tell it’s Earth-15 not just from the captions, but also from the little Earth-symbol on the cover. Thanks, DC!) On this Earth, everyone’s taken over for their mentors — Donna is Wonder Woman, Jason is Batman, and Kyle is GL #1. There’s not much to this part of the story beyond catching one’s breath with some character insights. Jason and Bat-Jason fight, and a few more alternate-version heroes show up. The cliffhanger switches scenes again, to Harley and Holly on their way to Themyscira (misspelled “Themyscria” — or is it?) Giffen’s breakdowns and Saiz’s pencils keep everything moving, at least. On the whole I was entertained, but it’s still pretty hard to embrace Countdown unreservedly.

September 12, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, on to the floppies.

August 22, 2007

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

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

August 29, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

September 6, 2007

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

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

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

August 8, 2007

A small question

Filed under: atom, questions — Tom Bondurant @ 6:47 pm
This has been bugging me for a while: how long will The All-New Atom keep “All-New” in its title?

The cynic in me notes that the title isn’t selling all that well (just under 17,000 in June), so the issue may be moot before too long.

Still, though … issue 25? Issue 50?

August 4, 2007

New comics 7/25/07 and 8/1/07

Someday soon I’ll get caught up. July was ka-razy all around, not just with San Diego.

Anyway, let’s begin with the comics I read in between a thousand other things happening the day before the plane took off….

7/25/07

Batman #666 (written by Grant Morrison, pencilled by Andy Kubert, inked by Jesse Delperdang) is the third DC comic to reach that infamous number, and I’m pretty sure it’s the one which takes the most inspiration from said number. Future Batman Damien Wayne fights the last of the Black Casebook’s faux Batmen in a story rich with metatextual meaning. Kubert and Delperdang are especially good at depicting the hellish future Gotham and the evil, red-goggled Batman who thinks he’s going to destroy it. For a while I’ve been convinced that Morrison’s run is dedicated to exploring what it means to “be” Batman, mostly by looking at how others (Damien, the evil pretenders, the upcoming Club of Heroes) take on the role. I’m not quite ready to say it’s of a piece with Seven Soldiers‘ examination of different types of superheroes, but it’s fascinating nonetheless. I may have to get the collections, if only to read the stories in a big chunk, without these months of delays and fill-ins separating them.

It also seems to me that All-Star Batman & Robin (#6 written by Frank Miller, pencilled by Jim Lee, inked by Scott Williams) is meant to be seen in a similar “nature of the superhero” light. This issue’s set pieces involve rookie heroes Black Canary and Batgirl, and Batman musing about “all these wannabes.” It’s still not anywhere near a plot; but honestly, the book’s erratic schedule may actually be working in its favor: if it comes out so infrequently, why not spend the $2.99?

Sinestro fights Soranik Natu in Green Lantern Corps #14 (written by Dave Gibbons, pencilled by Patrick Gleason and Angel Unzueta, inked by Prentis Rollins), and basically, both of them win the battle in different ways. I’ve called “Sinestro Corps” a big excuse for fighting (not that that’s a bad thing), but what’s great about this issue is the way in which it plays with the reader’s expectations. It’s unlikely that Sinestro, bad as he is, will be “allowed” to kill Dr. Natu, beloved as she is; but it’s more unlikely that Natu, a rookie GL, could hold her own against the No. 1 Renegade. The issue’s solution is pretty clever.

Just like that, the Jodi Picoult Era is over, as J. Torres writes and Paco Diaz draws Wonder Woman #11, another brick in the Amazons Attack wall. Diana heads back to Themyscira to protect it from a nuclear strike, and finds the wreckage of Greg Rucka’s excellent “politicizing” of the Greek pantheon. Much of the rest of the issue shows us various Justice Leaguers and Justice Socialites fighting the invaders. It’s better than a Picoult issue, but it’s hardly the best the book’s been. Three more issues of this — one WW, two AA — right?

Is it too late to put Kurt Busiek in the Countdown rotation? He’s done a fine job with Jimmy’s involvement, even though Superman #665 (pencilled by Rick Leonardi, inked by Ande Parks) isn’t part of the main story. This particular issue shows us Jimmy’s “origin,” coming from homeless newsboy to Planet photographer and Superman’s Pal. I’ve liked Leonardi’s work for a long time, probably going back twenty years, so he’s good as always, and Parks’ lines are thick enough to give his figures the appropriate weight. The story’s fun too, in case I didn’t make that clear.

As for the main book, Countdown #40 (written by Paul Dini and Tony Bedard, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencilled by Manuel Garcia, inked by Mark McKenna) focuses on three scenes: Donna et al. fighting yet another group of “natives,” Holly questioning the shelter’s priorities, and the Pied Piper and Trickster hooking up with the Penguin. It also checks in with Jimmy and Mary Marvel. The “Ray Palmer” story is getting a little tedious, as is the Holly story, and the Jimmy story is getting better coverage in the Superman titles as of late, so that leaves Mary Marvel and the Rogues to salvage the issue, and Mary’s scene is a little too short. Garcia and McKenna provide decent art — nothing groundbreaking; kind of in the Brad Walker/Eddy Barrows range.

8/1/07

Thankfully, Countdown #39 (written by Dini and Sean McKeever, pencilled by Jim Calafiore, inked by Jay Leisten) starts off much better, as Karate Kid and the last of Triplicate Girl break into Oracle’s office. Holly meets Athena — but is it the same Athena who was mad at Wonder Woman last week? — and the Suicide Squad comes after Piper and Trickster. Art is fine; I thought Calafiore was a good fill-in artist back in the Peter David days of Aquaman, and he’s better here than he has been on the series. Maybe it’s the inks. I liked this issue more than I did the last one, and it may well be because Countdown (unlike 52) does action pretty well. The talky Monitor backup (by Dan Jurgens) even goes a long way towards explaining the nature of the threat, which is nice considering that we’re at the one-quarter mark.

Speaking of threats to the multiverse, wasn’t She-Hulk #20 (pencilled by Rick Burchett, inked by Cliff Rathburn) not only Dan Slott’s last issue, but also some kind of panacea for Marvel continuity at large? Generally, though, it’s a quick and dirty wrap-up to Slott’s years with Shulkie, including the by-now-familiar “here are the stories I would have done if I had the time” teases. It’s not entirely successful — or, maybe I should say it would have been more successful had I read the Jen-as-judge issues from the last part of Slott’s first series. Anyway, it’s not bad. Slott hasn’t had much room to do his own stuff for a while, with all the crossovers the book’s been part of the past few months, so I guess this is one last example of the unadulterated book.

Fantastic Four #548 (written by Dwayne McDuffie, pencilled by Paul Pelletier, inked by Rick Magyar) kicks off the full FF’s (Reed and Sue included) battle with the Frightful Four, so it’s good clean superhero combat. Much the same is on display in Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four #4 (written by Jeff Parker, pencilled by Mike Wieringo, inked by Wayne von Grawbadger). Both are highly recommended for all your FF needs.

Welcome To Tranquility #9 (written by Gail Simone, drawn by Neil Googe) brings the Devil, more zombies, and Freefall (right? with the purple hair) to town. The main story’s fine, but the backup (pencilled by Leandro Fernandez, inked by Francisco Paronzini) is quite good. It explains, in the best EC tradition, why the Coyote Kid has such a mad-on for zombies. I still enjoy the series, although I don’t think it’ll be around much longer.

More spooky goings-on abound in Detective Comics #835 (written by John Rozum, drawn by Tom Mandrake), as the Scarecrow decides to use puh-sychology on his victims instead of that old crutch, fear-gas. The notion that Batman could be pushed To The Edge (TM) even by the Scarecrow’s gruesome new tactics is a bit hard to accept, and Mandrake’s art isn’t for everyone, but overall it’s fairly effective.

Nightwing #135 (written by Marv Wolfman, pencilled by Jon Bosco, inked by Alex Silva) presents exposition via interrogation, as Vigilante facilitates Dick’s flashbacks to how he busted Metal Eddie back in the day. It’s about how you’d expect, considering that most of the information has already been provided in previous chapters, but it’s good nonetheless. Bosco’s figures are a bit clunky, and Silva uses a lot of blacks, and overall they’re in that same “DC house style” mode. It’s about time for this story to end, though.

Remember what I said about Busiek’s fine Jimmy Olsen story in last week’s Superman? It applies just as much, if not more, to this week’s Action Comics #853 (pencilled by Brad Walker, inked by Livesay). Jimmy, as his superheroic alter ego Mr. Action, tries to help Superman take out the Kryptonite Man. Extra points for the special last-page appearance.

Finally, this week’s other “Countdown doesn’t make everything suck” entry is (All-New) Atom #14 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by Mike Norton, inked by Trevor Scott). Atom, Donna Troy, Jason Todd, and Bob The Monitor go to “Heaven,” find Blue Beetle, and fight all manner of dead bad guys. The Internet is already buzzing over the new catchphrase, “Stupid jetpack Hitler!” It’s a fun issue, but it does kinda feel like treading water. The fun wins out, though.

July 17, 2007

New comics 6/27/07, 7/5/07, and 7/11/07

Twenty-one titles over the past three weeks, and I’m looking at twelve more tomorrow….

6/27/07

Amazons Attack #3 and Wonder Woman #10 have bled into each other by now. I’d have to go through each side-by-side and page-by-page to determine what takes place in which order, let alone how this event relates to Countdown. Also, Batman’s “Bees. My God.” line from AA #3 demands to be said in a Cartman voice. Still, both books look pretty; AA’s Pete Woods always delivers, but Paco Diaz does a fine Dodson/Drew Johnson impression for Wonder Woman.

My only complaint with Fantastic Four #547 is that Reed can apparently survive in space unaided, and the more I think about it the more it makes a weird comic-science sense. Otherwise it’s another solid issue from Dwayne McDuffie, Paul Pelletier, and Rick Magyar.

I wasn’t going to get Supergirl & The Legion #31, because I thought a break was needed after the Waid/Kitson era, but it wasn’t too bad. It feels like a pastiche of Waid/Kitson, which isn’t entirely fair considering that Tony Bedard and Kevin Sharpe had each done some fill-in work previously, but I’m still not sure I don’t need a break.

She-Hulk #19 presented a fascinating legal strategy, one which might not be too innovative in the history of superhero comics, but which was argued well nonetheless. I continue to like the Dan Slott/Rick Burchett/Cliff Rathburn team, but some combination of the inks and the colors (by Andy Troy) actually make the figures look two-dimensional – and by that I mean that I had to look twice to see if a Two-Gun Kid cardboard cutout was supposed to be sitting at the table.

I talked about Sinestro Corps already.

7/4/07

The 3-D effects were the best thing about Action Comics #851, and that’s actually saying something this time. This story has been a mixed bag, but this issue doesn’t have too much to do beyond getting Superman out of the Phantom Zone and showing Zod’s conquest of the Earth. I bet in four or five months, when the conclusion finally appears, I’ll have had time to form an opinion on the story so far.

Atom #13 takes Ryan and Chronos back to the land of tiny barbarians Ray Palmer visited in the Sword of the Atom books, and by and large it’s pretty fun. Gail Simone uses the same kinds of funny-talkin’ aliens that endeared us to this book’s first crop of diminutive villains, but it works here too.

Nightwing #134 flashes back to a Bat-spat, and in the present finds our hero fighting the new Vigilante. However, one of the things I liked best was Jamal Igle’s two-page, top-tier spread of a swanky restaurant. It might seem like an indulgence, but it sets the proper tone for the scene. The story’s pretty good so far, too.

Detective Comics #834 — 700 issues ahead of Nightwing, I see – finishes up the Batman/Zatanna team-up pretty well. Zatanna gets her revenge on the villain of the piece, and she and Batman finally make up after Identity Crisis. It’s still a Batman story, but he doesn’t overshadow her, which was nice.

Aquaman: Sword Of Atlantis #53 is officially a dead title walking, as of today’s DC solicitations. It’s a shame, but I can’t say I’ll miss the book too terribly much. This issue was decent; more of the Black Manta-takes-over-Sub Diego story, with well-done superhero action.

Welcome To Tranquility #8 presents a medley of spotlights on the people of Tranquility, and I have to say, these little doses have done more to make me like this title than the big six-issue opening arc did. They kept the book on my radar for sure.

All-Star Superman #8 wasn’t as immediately gratifying as its predecessors, but it was still good. I’m sure I will appreciate its depth and complexities the more I revisit it … whenever that might be. The same thing applies to JLA Classified #40 — I can tell there’s a nature/nurture/free-will theme running through the issue, but I want to look at it in a better context before passing a more definite judgment.

I talked about some ramifications of Outsiders #49 last week. Probably not going to pick up the revamped title.

7/11/07

Star Wars: Rebellion #8 was fairly entertaining. The pieces of the story are starting to come together, and it’s done a good job of creating Star Wars-esque characters who aren’t overly familiar. I didn’t buy Vader’s high-jump-flip, though — too prequel-y.

Green Lantern #21 was a very good follow-up to the Sinestro Corps Special, and it gives me high hopes that “SC” will be the good kind of epic “Event,” not the bloated Countdown kind.

Superman #664 did a lot to advance the “Camelot Falls” arc, even explaining the arc’s title. Tying in the Prankster fill-in from a few months ago was good too. Man, Carlos Pacheco draws a great superhero book; and Jesus Merino’s inks are meticulous — everything pops off the page. Too bad about the book’s scheduling problems.

Superman Confidential #5 likewise does a lot to start wrapping up the “Origin Of Kryptonite,” with the most important probably being the explanation for the meteor chunk’s thought balloons. A good, plot-driven, payoff-facilitating issue.

Lastly, the Deadpool/GLI Summer Fun Spectacular was a highly enjoyable romp through the silliness which is post-Civil War Marvel. The sight of Penance’s cat was priceless.

SPECIAL DOES-COUNTDOWN-MAKE-SENSE? SECTION

Okay, so I read Countdown #s 44-42 all together to see if there’s any narrative cohesion, and the answer is …

… maybe, a little. Countdown has dedicated itself pretty firmly to following its basic cast of characters. When those characters’ stories are interrupted, as #43’s Flash funeral does, the series’ rhythms are thrown off.

However, Countdown’s problem lies in its over-reliance on its core characters to explain everything going on in the rest of DC. It seems like each scene is an interaction between characters – and if that sounds basic, I mean that each scene essentially involves conversation. The exception in these three issues is the funeral, which begins with a few narrated panels establishing Keystone City. Still, even that narration comes from Jimmy Olsen. Jimmy might well be Countdown’s central figure, but the series spends so much time on each of its characters that Jimmy contends for space with Mary Marvel, Donna Troy, et al.

Indeed, Countdown doesn’t do a whole lot to lay out its story’s scope, explain what’s at stake, or otherwise build a structure upon which to hang those scenes. Countdown has focused pretty faithfully on its characters, so much so that it seems like the plot is being left to other titles. After ten issues of a fifty-two-issue miniseries, those structural devices should start becoming apparent, and I get no sense of them. Now, it may well be that this isn’t just a fifty-two-issue miniseries — but how much shapelessness are we readers expected to endure in an eighty- or hundred-issue Mega-Comics Event?

June 7, 2007

New comics 6/6/07

Filed under: atom, batman, birds of prey, countdown, nightwing, superman, tranquility, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 2:12 am
Is it Gail Simone Week so soon? Hooray!

Only one thing would have made Birds Of Prey #107 (written by Simone, pencilled by Nicola Scott, inked by Doug Hazlewood) dead solid perfect, and that would have been a more explicit reference to the Huntress nursing Ice back to health in 1989’s Justice League America #35. Not that I’m complaining — there’s enough in the issue to satisfy this old JLI fan, especially the words Huntress speaks to bring Ice back to reality. The rest of the issue wraps up the BoP/Secret Six fight in fine fashion.

Welcome to Tranquility #7 (written by Simone, drawn by Neil Googe) is a bridge between arcs, largely wrapping up subplots from the first six issues, and otherwise focusing on the Emoticon, a minor character from the first arc. My problem with this issue is that it expects me to have kept up with all of these characters, most of whom are easy for me to confuse, simply by sight and subtle reminders of their character arcs. An omniscient narrator would have helped. It’s very much written-for-the-trade, which on one level is a valid choice, but I’m not reading the trade. I put a little more blame for this on Googe for not making the senior-citizen designs distinct enough. I dunno; maybe it’s just me. The Emoticon stuff is done well, and even shocking. There’s also an obviously satirical backup story about Bunny (also pretty much unnamed throughout), and it’s fine, but I’m not sure what the point is.

The trifecta is completed by (All-New) Atom #12 (written by Simone, pencilled by Mike Norton, inked by Dan Green), a prologue to the “Search For Ray Palmer” arc which finds Ryan encountering random wackiness on his way home through Ivy Town. The whimsical travelogue elements from the first few Tranquility issues show up here, but as over-the-top as this book is, they go just a smidge too far. At the end, the Atom fights some old Atom villains, all goofy, and (like Tranquility) none named. Here, though, I didn’t miss them being identified (the only one I knew by name was Bug-Eyed Bandit), because the joke about them being lame didn’t need it. I like Norton and Green on this book — their style is cartoony enough to fit the overall tone, and I can’t see Eddy Barrows or John Byrne doing the wacky travelogue stuff. By the way, it’s been twelve issues and a short story — can’t we drop the “All-New?”

I went through most of Detective Comics #833 (written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Don Kramer, inked by Wayne Faucher) thinking it was a subtle nod to The Prestige, the steampunk magician movie starring Christian “Batman” Bale, Michael “Alfred” Caine, and Hugh “Wolverine” Jackman. I appreciated Dini’s use of Zatanna and the evil guest magician, both of whom had appeared earlier in his run. I even thought there was some social commentary on the “audience likes girls tied up” element of the crime. Maybe all of this was distracting, but I did not expect the twist at the end. Good show, gentlemen.

The Black Adam/Mary Marvel parts of Countdown #47 (written by Dini and Sean McKeever, pencilled by Tom Derenick, inked by Andrew Pepoy, Jack Purcell, and John Stanisci) were actually kind of interesting this week. Adam is still a tiresome character as far as I’m concerned, and I know he’s a bad guy, but throwing Mary around was rather uncomfortable to see. The interesting part to me was the way Mary got her powers back. The issue also checks in with Jimmy Olsen, the Monitors, and the Rogues, all in the name of hitting character and plot points. Holly Robinson (not the actress, the onetime Catwoman) is also brought into the story. Art is decent — Derenick’s a competent penciller, but again, the scenes with Mary getting slammed into walls were the weak points.

Superman #663 (written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Carlos Pacheco, inked by Jesus Merino) may represent the first weak link in the Countdown scheduling chain. Ideally, it should have come out last week at the latest, because it stars a character who “died” in last week’s Countdown. Other than that, though, it’s a very good issue, exquisitely drawn and colored (the latter by Alex Sinclair). Merino looks to be using a more intricate inking style, but it really works out well with Pacheco’s pencils. My only question is, when did Lana Lang start stealing from Jean Grey’s old Hellfire Club closet? I don’t watch “Project Runway,” but is the corseted look making a comeback? As for plot, basically the Young Gods of Supertown are in Metropolis on a road trip, with their good-natured hijinx giving Superman problems. The “Camelot Falls” subplot of Superman’s necessity also runs through the book, giving continuity-mechanic Busiek a chance to clear up Arion’s recent history. It ends on a cliffhanger which should advance the “CF” storyline, although I’d have thought we’d have seen more of the apocalyptic future by now.

Finally, Nightwing #133 (written by Marv Wolfman, pencilled by Jamal Igle, inked by Keith Champagne) is the best issue I’ve read so far. It opens with a well-choreographed fight scene, gives Dick some good “civilian time” (including a good bit of detective work), and brings in a mystery woman from Robin’s past. Thus, it’s not afraid to use Dick’s history productively, beyond name-checking Batman, Robin, or their assorted trappings. The plot is nice and compressed, with Dick spending much of the issue trailing kidnappers, and actually having a couple of good action scenes with them. Wolfman’s dialogue is improving too. The worst part involves the implausible mechanics of a mob hit, and even that feels retro enough that it’s probably a criminal’s “theme.” Wolfman’s first two arcs were so-so, but this is leaps and bounds better.

May 12, 2007

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

(sigh)

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

4/25/07

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5/2/07

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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