Comics Ate My Brain

September 21, 2009

New comics 9/16/09

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

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

August 7, 2009

New comics 8/5/09

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

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

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

Download it here, or visit the podcast homepage here.

(Music by R.E.M.)

July 16, 2009

New comics 7/15/09

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

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

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

July 21, 2008

New comics 7/16/08

Filed under: birds of prey, captain america, flash, justice league, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 4:05 pm
We begin with Birds Of Prey #120 (written by Tony Bedard, pencilled by Michael O’Hare, inked by John Floyd), the first issue in a lonnnnng time neither written by Gail Simone nor pencilled by Nicola Scott. However, it’s also continued directly from #119, so I’m guessing that the departure of Scott and inker Doug Hazlewood wasn’t going to come at a clean break.

Anyway, it focuses on Infinity, a character new to me who’s basically invisible, immaterial, and electronically undetectable. While she sneaks into a bad guy’s lab, Black Canary and Oracle have the awkward beginnings of a conversation about the death of BC’s daughter. That’s over pretty quickly, though, and the rest of the issue involves Infinity’s escape and the surprise appearance of a Major Villain.

Since Bedard’s been writing BOP for a few issues now, the big news this month is the art. O’Hara and Floyd’s work reminds me of a more sedate Ed Benes — scratchy lines, but no radical departures, and fairly functional. Fight choreography is fine (although there’s a bit of a narrative gap — no pun intended — between pages 1 and 2) and expressions are decent. I’ll stick with the book until this arc ends and evaluate the new creative team then.

The first few issues of Tangent: Superman’s Reign were enjoyable, but tentative, steps establishing the parallel Earth and its stable of characters. With issue #5 (written by Dan Jurgens, pencilled by Jamal Igle, inked by Robin Riggs), the plot starts to lurch forward. The good guys’ forces must retreat from Tangent-Powergirl, and Tangent-Superman gets more proactive with regard to his DC-Earth counterparts. There’s not much technically wrong with the issue, although it’s not clear what happens to Hal Jordan after the first few pages. Actually, one of this issue’s highlights is the history of Tangent-Joker (written by Ron Marz, pencilled by Fernando Pasarin, inked by Matt Banning), augmented by playful poses of the character. Overall, still a fine Justice League story, and I hope it picks up steam.

The Flash #242 (written by Tom Peyer, drawn by Freddie Williams II) finds the Wests in Gorilla City looking for a cure for Iris’ condition. I view the West twins with a mix of affection and cynicism: affection because I think they’re good characters, cynicism over the fact that they could literally die whenever the story requires it. In other words, they’re around for exactly as long as DC considers them viable, and if getting rid of them means a bump in sales, well….

Still, this is a my-kid’s-gonna-die story, so its success depends upon whether Peyer and Williams can generate sympathy for a character who the audience has known for only a year. Call me a sap, but I got invested in Iris’ well-being. Williams’ expressive faces do much of the work, but Peyer’s dialogue keeps Iris’ mental age consistent even as her body grows older. Good work from all corners, and I’ll be waiting for next issue’s conclusion.

Captain America #40 (written by Ed Brubaker) features the return of artist Steve Epting for the big Cap vs. Cap fight (and Sharon vs. Sin on the undercard). Since it’s pretty much 22 pages of combat, I don’t feel bad about saying simply that it’s nicely choreographed. It should go without saying by now that Captain America is a mighty fine superhero comic which inspires multiple readings from issue #1 forward, but some months I just get tired of typing all that.

And on that tired-of-typing note, I will once again record my weekly purchase of Trinity (#7), observing merely that it too was reliably good.

July 13, 2008

New comics 6/25/08

You would not believe the week I have had. Actually, it’s been more like two weeks.

Actually, you probably would believe it; but since a lot of it involves finishing up the 3-part Grumpy Old Fan look at DCU miniseries, 2001-08, it’s kind of dull.

Regardless, it’s been pretty busy for me in the Real World, so I’m on the road to recovery as far as this here blog is concerned. What say we get cracking on that backlog?

Obviously this week’s big release was Final Crisis #2, which quite honestly scared me. When you have one of DC’s major characters locked into an Apokoliptian torture machine and screaming “CALL THE JUSTICE LEAGUE!” to an apparently random person who wouldn’t have any way of knowing how to do so, that’s a pretty dire circumstance. Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones have thrown our heroes into the deep end of the pool and are now pouring even more water on top of them. It’s not exactly a new thought to say this is the JLA arc “Rock Of Ages” from a slightly different perspective, but what makes it more immediate, and more scary, is the notion that it’s happening right now, without the comfort of a reset button that the original had.

Superman #677 was the start of James Robinson’s run as writer, and he chose to begin with heavy doses of Krypto and the Science Police troopers. I’m not looking for him to make this particular SP squad into a higher-tech O’Dare family, because clearly this isn’t Starman and Robinson’s not that repetitive anyway. Still, there are Starman-esque touches in the omniscient narration’s bullet points and the characters’ self-awareness; and they’re certainly not unwelcome. The “new guy wants to replace Superman” story is pretty well-worn, though, so I’ll be expecting some new twist from Robinson. On the art side, I have no complaints with Renato Guedes except that he (like Gary Frank) is using Christopher Reeve pretty clearly as Supes’ model. While I love Reeve’s Superman, actually seeing him in print pulls me out of the story.

What If This Was [sic] The Fantastic Four? (written by Jeff Parker, illustrated by various people) is a perfectly charming tribute to the late Mike Wieringo, postulating (for the second time) that the Spider-Man/Hulk/Ghost Rider/Wolverine team had stayed together. I encourage you to pick it up.

Back in the regular book, though, Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch … well, I think you know how I stand on their tenure so far. Fantastic Four #558 brings in the “New Defenders,” a team with some similarities to the FF, who’ve captured Doctor Doom and apparently are less than charitable in dealing with them. There’s also a new nanny whose subplot was pretty obvious to me from the moment of her introduction. Therefore, I have a pretty good idea as to how this arc will play out, but I am in fact curious to see what Millar will do with the issue’s Big Revelation about one of the Richards clan. Otherwise, I wonder if the story would read any better with Alex Ross on art. That’s how static Hitch and inker Andrew Currie’s work seems to me now.

The newest Captain America meets the public in Captain America #39 (written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Rob De La Torre). The issue presents a familiar story about manipulating the public through imagery and superficialities, and it winds up similar to Superman #677. De La Torre is new to me, although he (augmented by regular colorist Frank D’Armata) preserves the book’s quasi-realistic style. However, his Bucky is a bit more buff than, say, Steve Epting’s, which was a little distracting.

Was I saying that Batman: Gotham After Midnight didn’t know how seriously to take itself? With issue #2 (written by Steve Niles, drawn by Kelley Jones), it seems to be saying “not very.” That’s hardly a bad thing, mind you. This particular approach to Batman casts him as the scariest dude in the room, except for the scarier dude who’s working behind the scenes. I’m still not completely on board with it, but I do give it credit for being true to a gonzo sensibility. Let’s put it this way: if you like scenes where Batman is lit apparently by a noir-ish light source independent of everything else, you’ll love this book.

About Green Lantern #32: “Secret Origin” continues, and I think we’re up to the point where Hal gets hired officially by Carol Ferris. Honestly, though, we’ve been down this road so many times I’m just picking out the “Blackest Night” clues and letting the rest go by. It’s not a bad story, but it’s like hearing another cover of “Yesterday.”

The same goes for Teen Titans #60, which concludes the Terror Titans arc. Our heroes triumph, but one of ’em leaves the team. While I didn’t dislike it, I found Clock King and his minions to be rather boring, and I’m not eager to see ’em again.

I also bought Trinity #4 and liked it fine.

Back before you know it with the first new comics of July!

May 31, 2008

New comics 5/21/08

Yes, these are comics from ten days ago. Memorial Day Weekend was just too jam-packed, and I came out of it apparently itching to write a 2200-word dissertation on Crisis On Infinite Earths, the original JLA/JSA team-ups, and the problems with line-wide events.

Therefore, might as well begin with the lead-in to the latest LWE, Justice League of America #21 (written by Dwayne McDuffie, pencilled by Carlos Pacheco, inked by Jesus Merino). I really, really hope that this is the last crossover-affected issue of JLA for a while. It begins with a 9-page sequence of the “Trinity” sitting around a table talking about how they’re not really running the League from behind the scenes. I thought the dialogue was good (“I had a run-in with Mr. Polka-Dot.” “Is that a euphemism?”). However, although Pacheco kept the talking heads from getting too boring, he could have used a few flashback images. Overall, it assumes a little too much knowledge, even on the part of the longtime reader. I presume this will have repercussions in JLA itself, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it showed up later in Trinity.

The bulk of the issue concerns the Human Flame, his fight with Red Arrow and Hawkgirl, and his recruitment by Libra. HF is a schmoe, that’s for sure; but he’s not the stereotypical lovable-loser supervillain schlub. McDuffie gives him a mean streak that undercuts whatever sympathy we might be starting to feel. Likewise, Pacheco doesn’t play up any endearing parts of his dumpy appearance. Overall, this was a well-told story, but I still think it should have been in a Secret Files.

For those of you who know the dirty secret of cruise ships — namely, that they give the surviving passengers hush money to cover up all the deaths — the nautical nastiness depicted in The Spirit #17 (written by Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones, pencilled by Aluir Amancio, inked by Terry Austin) will come as no surprise. This was yet another light-hearted, compact caper using Will Eisner’s characters and designs; but one of the subplots seemed pretty obvious and the other only slightly less so. Also, from what little I’ve read of the original Spirit stories, I don’t remember Ellen Dolan being such a self-absorbed Barbie doll. Amancio and Austin’s work is more cartoony than Paul Smith or Mike Ploog, but it gets the job done.

According to the first page of Fantastic Four #557 (written by Mark Millar, pencilled by Bryan Hitch, inked by Paul Neary), I should have read Mighty Avengers #11 first. However, I don’t know why; and I’m not eager to track down a 3-month-old issue to find out. Anyway, I did like how Reed and Sue celebrate their anniversary, but the rest of it is a bunch of exposition wrapped around a one-joke fight scene. I can kind-of accept “the Anti-Galactus,” but things like Johnny’s nympho supervillain girlfriend and the faux-drama about Reed being tempted just seem artificial. The snow effects look better this time, though.

Captain America #38 (written by Ed Brubaker, pencilled by Steve Epting, inked by Epting and Mike Perkins) (re)introduces what I presume is the last player in this particular arc, and sets him up against Bucky/Cap. It’s hard to explain without giving everything away, but I’ll try. Using a raid on an AIM base as its main sequence, the issue examines the relationships of mentors and proteges, and inspirations and successors; and observes that, for the three principals involved, those roles have shifted, if not outright reversed. It’s a neat little chapter which probably sums up at least one of Brubaker’s overriding themes, and while it might appear to be a simple action issue, there’s a lot more going on.

For the second straight month, Tangent: Superman’s Reign (#3 written by Dan Jurgens, pencilled by Jamal Igle, inked by Robin Riggs) focuses on the squad of Tangenteers trying to free the Tangent Atom. While that subplot achieves some closure, and the two worlds’ characters actually come into conflict (as opposed to comparing notes), it still feels a little redundant. I like Igle’s work fine, although Riggs’ inks are looser than what Igle usually gets. It feels more like a Justice League story than what’s been in JLA lately; and next issue I bet things will pick up.

The “Dark Side Club” banner started appearing on particular DC titles last week, and it looks like the kind of underground fight-club we’ve seen before. Specifically, Birds Of Prey #118 (written by Tony Bedard, pencilled by Nicola Scott, inked by Doug Hazlewood) opens with a fight involving Sparx, a D-list character whose abduction we see in the first issue of Final Crisis. So, you know, there’s that crossover element we like so much. The rest of the issue involves Black Alice and Misfit fighting, again. This issue introduces a new aspect of their relationship which leads to a result I wasn’t expecting. However, I wasn’t expecting it because their relationship feels artificially manipulated to begin with, and the latest twist just seems like another manipulation. Scott and Hazlewood are good as always, with (I hate to say it) a grisly, shadowy death being a particular highlight.

The new issue of The Flash (#240, written by Tom Peyer, drawn by Freddie Williams II) also sports a “Dark Side Club” banner, but it’s incidental to the main story of Wally and Jay vs. Grodd and Spin. I can’t complain any more about Williams’ chunky Flash, because he seems to have gotten through that phase. I also got a kick out of this issue’s mind-control victims talking in Local-Newscast-ese — it’s funny ’cause it’s true. The cliffhanger makes me wonder about the length of the current setup, though….

Finally, here’s Jay Garrick again, teaming up with Batman in The Brave and the Bold #13 (written by Mark Waid, pencilled by Jerry Ordway, inked by Scott Koblish and Bob McLeod). They make a good team, because the easygoing Jay not only provides a good counterpoint to Batman’s intensity, Batman respects him and so dials it back a few notches. The plot, involving an old Bat-villain, a mad scientist, killer robots, and Jay’s chemist colleagues, may be more complicated than it needs to be, but it’s probably necessary to get these two characters together. I daresay Ordway’s more understated style is better-suited to this story’s amiable nature than George Perez’s would have been; and Waid provides good conversation amongst all the robot-smashing.

Look for the comics from Thursday (Happy Grant Morrison Day!) in the next couple of days.

May 30, 2008

Friday Night Fights

Filed under: avengers, batman, captain america, friday night fights, justice league, meme — Tom Bondurant @ 11:57 pm
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

If an intercompany crossover gets scrapped after 21 pages are pencilled, do Batman and Captain America really fight?

Now, that’s not entirely fair. After all, when JLA/Avengers was eventually published, it made the original 1983 plot one of the teams’ “annual meetings.” Therefore, from a certain point of view, it did happen.

It was in an alternate reality, of course … but aren’t they all?

Bahlactus has all the answers!

[From the unpublished first meeting of the Justice League of America and the Avengers, planned for publication in 1983. Plot by Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas, pencils by George Perez. Reprinted in Avengers/JLA Compendium, 2004.]

April 22, 2008

New comics 4/16/08

Let’s begin with Captain America #37 (written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Steve Epting), an issue where everybody hassles Bucky and/or Tony Stark for the whole New Cap thing. Its tone is lighter than the book’s been in a while, with Bucky commenting on everyone hassling him and a weird anachronistic dream sequence. After the relentless pace of the last few issues, though, it’s a welcome change. There are also some nice moments involving the Falcon which I appreciated more in light of plok’s advice on the ’70s Steve Englehart run. My one complaint involves a certain ex-Avenger who shows up at Bucky’s loft. I wouldn’t have known who it was without his being identified in dialogue; and I know that’s part of what dialogue does, but I see “burly blond guy” as drawn by Epting and I think Steve Rogers. Either him or Aquaman. In other words, he didn’t look like ******* to me. Nitpicky, I know.

Bat Lash #5 (written by Sergio Aragones & Peter Brandvold, drawn by John Severin) finds Bat looking to settle affairs with Brubaker and Wilder, the story’s main villains. Helping matters along are the rest of the town and Bat’s Native American allies, all of whom want the bad guys dead. It’s a darkly comic issue which doesn’t zip along as quickly as it wants to. It’s decent enough, I guess. It does set up what I presume will be the final showdown, which in turn should form the foundation of Bat’s familiar personality. So, looking forward to next issue, because it needs to make up for the shortcomings of its predecessors.

Exposition balances action in Tangent: Superman’s Reign #2 (written by Dan Jurgens, pencilled by Jamal Igle, inked by Robin Riggs), as the Tangent GL revives one of the Tangent Jokers for one last adventure. That has to wait, however, because the Joker needs to tell us about her death at Tangent Superman’s hands. The other action sequence involves more Tangent heroes trying to free the Tangent Atom, and that’s balanced against a scene with the Tangent Superman intimidating some sheiks. Tangent, Tangent, Tangent. Still, I’m surprised at how well the Tangent U. holds together, considering it started life as a series of one-shots. This continues to be one of Jurgens’ better writing efforts, and I like Jamal Igle a lot already.

Superman #675 (pencilled by Renato Guedes and Jorge Correa Jr., inked by Jose Wilson Magalhaes and Correa) is Kurt Busiek’s last issue as writer before he moves over to the weekly Trinity starting in June. Accordingly, he can go out on a story where Superman fights Daxamite priests (I thought they were pacifists), the power-duplicating Paragon, and the new Galactic Golem. Busiek has done a great job recreating the feel of a Superman comic from the 1970s, when the conflicts came from disruptions to the character’s semi-formal routines. Here, Busiek has been building those routines, so the normal super-fights tend to come across like days at the office. This particular arc has been a little more shaggy than some, but it still holds together well, even in the parts describing the Golem and how to defeat it. The art is good — Guedes’ work is very similar to what I’d call the thin-lined, “open” style of Pete Woods, who started with Busiek two years ago. Superman is big but not bulky or overmuscled, and everybody moves well. Correa picks up the spare without being too noticeably different, so god work all around.

I liked The Flash #239 (written by Tom Peyer, drawn by Freddie Williams II) more than I did Peyer’s first issue, and that’s mostly due to the rationalization of Wally’s behavior. An increasingly cranky Jay Garrick gets a lot of attention this time out, which leaves Wally free to act more like the Wally we know. He does get a pretty good gig this issue, but doesn’t get a chance to enjoy it. Peyer’s script is effective at portraying the tide of public opinion turning against Wally. While a lot of that might be mind control, Peyer gives it enough nuance that we’re never quite sure. I also liked Williams’ art throughout this issue, which I think is a first. He’s finally getting a good feel for Wally’s figure and his movement. (Hey, it took me a while to come around to Pat Gleason too.)

The Brave and the Bold #12 (written by Mark Waid, pencilled by Jerry Ordway, inked by Bob Wiacek) finishes the “Megistus” storyline with a plethora of characters including Superman, the Challengers, Green Lantern, and Metamorpho. However, the star turns out to be Challenger June, who apparently has some inferiority issues over not “living on borrowed time” like the original Challs. Why she has these issues after forty-odd years with the group is never quite explained, but not being a COTU scholar I’ll defer to Waid on that one. The script is a little more clunky than is usual for this book, probably due to the number of characters and the wonky element-transmuting mechanics of the plot. Ordway does well with it, though; and he delivers customarily solid work here. Although there’s a clever nod to Final Crisis, here’s hoping that this book continues to be the tonic for the constant-crossover mentality.

… And speaking of which, the penultimate issue of Countdown (#2 written by Paul Dini and Sean McKeever, story consultant Keith Giffen, drawn by Scott Kolins) starts with Giant Turtle-Boy Jimmy and ends with what looks like the series’ most obvious setup for Final Crisis. (That is, before DC decided that this series wouldn’t really lead into FC quite so much.) It’s pretty straightforward stuff — two interconnected fights bridged by some Atom heroics, portrayed well by Kolins and colorist Tom Chu. (I’m guessing Giffen might have contributed to the breakdowns, but I don’t know for sure). Let’s put it this way — this issue made me think Kolins would be a good fit for a Hulk series. It didn’t redeem all of Countdown, and I doubt there’ll be much in this week’s final issue to do that, but on its own it was a good fight.

March 30, 2008

New comics 3/19/08

Thanks to Easter last weekend and the Siegel ruling this week, it’s time to play catch-up. Here are last week’s books.

Let’s start with Captain America #36 (written by Ed Brubaker, pencilled by Butch Guice, inked by Mike Perkins), a mostly-action issue which eventually finds our hero failing to fill his mentor’s inspirational role. It’s a moment I’d been anticipating for a couple of issues — except for the heckling, naturally — and it speaks to the power of that costume. James B. Barnes looks like Captain America, fights like Captain America (if a little dirtier), and carries Cap’s shield. As far as the “living symbol” stuff goes, though, the people aren’t convinced. On the action side of the equation, the extended fight scene which takes up the first part of the issue is exciting enough. However, its capper — Cap being thrown through a window, landing on a hovercar, and blowing away his attacker — ends up a little static. Maybe some speed lines would have helped me, or maybe devoting just one panel to the fall drained some of the suspense. Overall, though, a consistently satisfying title.

It was a weird issue of Birds Of Prey (#116 written by Sean McKeever, pencilled by Nicola Scott, inked by Doug Hazlewood). I didn’t think Black Alice was supposed to be that … well, mean; and there was a very unsettling vibe running through the Lady Blackhawk/Killer Shark/Huntress scenes. I never expected to see Huntress in a damsel-in-distress situation in this title, that’s for sure. Oh well, at least Scott & Hazlewood aren’t going anywhere, right?

Like the cover blurb, I’m hesitant to call The Brave and the Bold #11 (written by Mark Waid, pencilled by Jerry Ordway, inked by Bob Wiacek) a “team-up.” Instead, it trades mostly on a reversed Superman setup to amusing effect. Ordway fits Superman like a glove, not surprisingly. I think I even saw some of his old Daily Planet staffers (especially “Whit”) in the background. I’m sure he’ll do fine on the rest of the DC characters, but this issue was a perfect way to kick off his tenure.

Not so successful, unfortunately, was Superman/Batman Annual #2 (written by Joe Kelly, drawn by Scott Kolins), a reworking of a World’s Finest two-parter from 1968. A mystical bad guy takes away Superman’s powers and renders Batman helpless, and it’s only through feeling good about themselves that they get their mojoes back. Really, I might have liked this issue more if not for the extraordinarily dark color work of Jorge Molina. Everything seems to occur against an indigo backdrop, and when you’re talking about the black-robed villain, the deep blues, grays, and blacks of our heroes’ costumes, and even the muted red and yellow of Robin’s costume, it’s like reading through sunglasses. Kelly’s script doesn’t help, since it neither sets up nor resolves the central problem (Superman’s loss) with adequate explanation. I like these retro-style stories, obviously, but here things just didn’t work out.

Serenity: Better Days #1 (written by Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews, drawn by Will Conrad) kicks off the second Dark Horse miniseries featuring the crew of everyone’s favorite Firefly-class freighter, and the good news is, it reads like a pretty decent episode of the TV show. The bad news is, it took me a few passes to figure out how the big action sequence at the beginning was concluded. This was apparently not my week for action sequences. Art is fine; everyone looks about like you’d expect, with only a panel or two where Inara might be mistaken for River, or vice versa. Dialogue is typical for a Whedon-run production, although not too satisfied with itself. Better on subsequent readings, which helps justify me, y’know, buying it.

Unfortunately, I don’t know that I can buy (see what I did there?) the central premise of The Flash #238 (drawn by Freddie Williams II), the first issue for new ongoing writer Tom Peyer. It’s the old “Wally needs a job” plot, explored by Bill Messner-Loebs several years ago, but still. This time it’s augmented by the “Wally openly admits he’d feel better getting paid” subplot; and again, I thoguht we’d settled this. When Wally’s Flash identity was public knowledge, somebody (Messner-Loebs, I think) said he got trust-fund income from a charitable foundation set up in Barry Allen’s name. When Geoff Johns restored his secret identity, he got a job as an auto mechanic. I guess that’s gone away in the flurry of a) being thought dead and b) living on another planet for around a year. Anyway, the central question is, do Peyer and Williams sell this new development? Does the issue work? By those criteria, yeah; I guess so. The new money concerns are exacerbated by a new mind-controlling supervillain. I’m still not entirely sure Williams is a good fit for the Flash — he’s better on Wally’s physique, but some of his expressions seem off. Peyer I like a lot, so I’ll give him some time to convince me.

I probably should have figured out that Justice League of America #19 (written by Alan Burnett, pencilled by Ed Benes, inked by Sandra Hope, Mariah Benes, and Ruy Jose) wouldn’t really cross over with the Salvation Run miniseries. Therefore, I should give it some credit for the misdirection, and some more for bringing back a classic JLA villain as the real menace. That’s about it, though. For a one-and-out issue (which this is, essentially, despite its two issues’ worth of lead-in), said villain gets defeated much too quickly, because there’s too much time spent on Earth arguing over the civil rights issues of exiling supervillains. At least these crossover issues are coming to an end.

Ah, but speaking of which, here’s Tangent: Superman’s Reign #1 (written by Dan Jurgens, pencilled by Matthew Clark, inked by Jesse Delperdang), the story I almost wish was in JLA instead of its own miniseries. Basically, the Flash and Green Lantern travel to a parallel Earth quite different from their own, where they meet a Flash and Green Lantern who are the same in name only. The issue also introduces an all-new Mirror Master, well-suited for DC’s multiverse, and has a nice “Deep Space Nine” reference. The plot isn’t anything innovative — Tangent’s Superman is now the absolute ruler of his Earth, and I presume our heroes will spend the next 11 issues trying to overthrow him. However, it’s nice to see a multiversal crossover where the only similarities are the names, and even the archetypes are different. Clark’s figures are a little too splashy at times, but overall the issue flows well. I also can’t fault Jurgens’ dialogue, and believe me that’s not something I say every day.

Clark used to draw Adventures of Superman from the scripts of one Greg Rucka, who continues the tour-de-force wrap-up of his run on Checkmate (#25 co-written by Eric Trautmann, pencilled by Joe Bennett and inked by Jack Jadson) with an extended guest appearance by the Man of Steel and certain other high-profile superheroes. It’s been a change of pace for the title, but it gets no complaints from me. This arc not only answers the “why don’t they get Superman to do it?” complaint, it draws some pretty clear lines between the world of bright spandex and the world of Checkmate. Bennett and Jadson are a little more suited for the superhero side of things, but that’s a stylistic nitpick. They’re good storytellers, and they keep a number of balls in the air. The only good thing about the end of this team’s run is the fact that I won’t feel bad about not following their replacements.

Finally, Countdown #6 (written by Paul Dini and Adam Beechen, story consultant Keith Giffen, pencilled by Mike Norton, inked by Jimmy Palmiotti) kicks off the End Of The World … or, more precisely, the “Great Disaster” which will lay the foundation for Kamandi‘s Earth. It has the same doomsday appeal as the apocalyptic flashbacks in post-apocalyptic movies, only this time with people turning into animals and vice versa. Mike Norton’s pencils are a little too clean, simple, and just plain pleasant for this sort of descent, although Beechen’s script chooses wisely to have survivor Buddy Blank narrate it. For once, I approve of first-person narration! We know how this ends, though: the boat sinks. The question is whether Leo DiCaprio dies. For that, tune in next time….

March 25, 2008

Questions And Comments After Reading Essential Cap Vol. 4

Filed under: captain america, green lantern, questions — Tom Bondurant @ 12:35 am
I bought the first Essential Captain America volume for the Jack Kirby and Jim Steranko art, not really expecting to continue with the series much farther than that. Wrong again, of course — I finished Volume 4 over the weekend, and am on the lookout for the next one.

Actually, thanks to the paperbacks of the second Kirby run, I just need to read issues 187-92 to bridge the gap. So that’s the first question: anything noteworthy happen in those six issues? Kirby seemed to start fresh, which tells me there was probably some editorially-dictated wrapping-up during that time.

The second thing I wanted to bring up is more of an observation. Much of Englehart’s run seemed pretty familiar: the Red Skull brainwashing one of Cap’s allies, the Skull working to subvert the American economy, and “new” Captain(s) America. I think Brubaker has done a great job on the title from his first issue, but I can’t help but wonder how longtime readers compare his stuff to Englehart’s.

Finally, one of the noteworthy parts of Englehart’s Green Lantern tenure was his “secret history of Star Sapphire” issue. Englehart pulled together plot elements from various Sapphire stories to link her with a new villain, and reading Cap #186, it seemed like he had already done something very similar for the Falcon.

Now, I know that Englehart isn’t credited with the script for #186 (although “John Warner” may be one of his pseudonyms, for all I know), but he is credited with the plot, so I’m willing to make the connection between CA #186 and GL #192.

Speaking of Green Lantern, I wonder to what extent the socially-aware bent of Captain America was influenced by the O’Neil/Adams issues of GL. GL was a lot more direct about its messages, but CA might not have been as particularly concerned with changing the world.

So, any thoughts, Cap fans?

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