Comics Ate My Brain

July 24, 2009

New comics 7/22/09

This week’s podcast features Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #2, Final Crisis: Legion Of Three Worlds #5, Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #3, Gotham City Sirens #2, Green Lantern #44, Madame Xanadu #s 11-12, The Spirit #31, Power Girl #3, Supergirl #43, and Wednesday Comics #3.

Sorry in advance about some lingering sound-quality issues. This is also the second week in a row in which I use the phrase “boy band.”

Once again, Olivia contributes from the peanut gallery, and R.E.M. supplies the music. Download it here, or visit the podcast homepage here.

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August 27, 2004

New comics 8/25/04

Since I already talked about the grand implications for this week’s “War Games” installments, I’ll start with comments on how those books worked as individual issues.

Catwoman #34: Written by Ed Brubaker, pencilled by Paul Gulacy, inked by Jimmy Palmiotti, edited by Matt Idelson. The book opens with a car chase, which is a little confusing, but I blame that on Gulacy. After that it’s dialogue-driven, as Selina has illuminating conversations with Leslie Thompkins (mad at Batman for being part of the cycle of violence; and mad at herself for not raising Bruce better) and Stephanie Brown. In between Catwoman fights Mr. Freeze, but even that is more dialogue than action. Gulacy is a fine artist whose figures can be a bit “sharp,” but Palmiotti softens his pencils. Faces and bosoms are still pointy enough to be distracting, though. At certain angles Selina looks like Shannen Doherty.

Batman #631: Written by Bill Willingham, pencilled by Kinsun, inked by Aaron Sowd, edited by Bob Schreck. Batman, Batgirl, Nightwing, and Tim Drake free the hostages at Tim’s school. This issue succeeds at portraying Batman from almost a Marvels/Astro City-ish “normal person’s” perspective. Although we go behind the scenes to see the Bat-crew prepare for combat, they stay in the shadows long enough that when Batman finally bursts through a skylight to start kicking ass, it feels like an actual payoff and not just a glamour shot. Since the point of the issue is that yes, Virginia, there is a Batman, the creators did a good job in “finally” revealing him. However, I have to fault this issue for its Greek chorus of newspeople jumping to a questionable conclusion at the end. We’ll see if the crossover as a whole agrees with them.

DC Comics Presents Justice League Of America: Two good stories again in this final Julius Schwartz tribute issue. The first is plotted by Harlan Ellison, scripted by Peter David, and drawn by Joe Giella. It once again makes Julie a protagonist, but this time he gets to fight (and in some cases, humiliate) the Justice League, so how can you go wrong? At the end, Green Lantern, speaking for the League, says “We love you, Julie. You gave us life.” The second is written by Marv Wolfman with art by Dustin Nguyen and Richard Friend, and concerns the present-day JLA traveling back in time to defeat their Silver Age ancestors. Although Julie isn’t a character in this one, Wolfman gives both Flashes complimentary dialogue that clearly is directed at Schwartz. I get sentimental easily, perhaps, but I did like this book, and the series as a whole.

JLA #104: Written by Chuck Austen with art by Ron Garney; edited by Mike Carlin. J’Onn J’Onzz gets the spotlight this issue, as he strikes out on his own to get away from the overwrought emoting of his teammates. He joins a private detective agency and gets involved in an uneasy romance with a colleague, but the League eventually tracks him down. I thought this was a well-written issue, and the art was good as always, but it goes against years of J’Onn’s characterization. As a shapeshifter, he has (or had at one time) multiple identities all over the world into which he can slip at a moment’s notice. Why not focus on one of those? And why would he think the League’s pain is any less sincere than his own? As an adult, J’Onn lost his family, so Grant Morrison had him bond with Batman and Superman, both orphaned in childhood. If I hadn’t read a Martian Manhunter story before this one, I’d think this was a lot better. As it stands, it is better than its predecessors in this arc.

Flash #213: Written by Geoff Johns, with art by Howard Porter and Livesay. Wally West’s first problem of his second secret identity phase surfaces, as he’s accused of attempted murder. (Always reminds me of that Sideshow Bob quote — “Do they give the Nobel Prize for attempted chemistry?”) He still manages to defeat the Turtle without letting the cops know he’s the Flash. Also, plotlines involving the Rogues’ Gallery are advanced. The fight with the Turtle is handled deftly both by Johns and Porter, and the subplots don’t overwhelm the issue. All in all, an improvement over last month’s unpleasantness with Mirror Master, and that wasn’t so bad itself.

Green Lantern #180: So I hear Ron Marz has become associated with mistreatment of female characters. Therefore, this issue, featuring Kyle Rayner having a heart-to-heart with his sweet, saintly mother, provides an opportunity for Mr. Marz to introduce a female character and not have some horrible fate befall her. To underscore the point, Kyle visits the graves of two other girlfriends before confronting Major Force (who last issue swore to kill him). Other than the event which kicks off Kyle and Force’s fight, this is a pretty well-done issue. (By the way, art was by Luke Ross and Rodney Ramos.) I just don’t know what Marz was thinking with the one thing. Next issue is the series’ end, so something final will probably happen to Kyle one way or another.

Legion #38: Speaking of final issues, here’s the last before the Waid/Kitson reboot starts. It finishes the Gail Simone/Dan Jurgens/Andy Smith arc in slightly rushed fashion — who knew that’s all you needed to do to get Metropolis’ power back on? — but maybe that was an editorial dictate. It doesn’t seem like The End Of The Legion As We Know It. The book is neither extra-sized, nor does it feature appearances by the entire Legion. I don’t even know if it makes a nice lead-in for the upcoming Teen Titans/Legion special. Anyway, Dreamer comes off pretty well, so there’s that.

Wonder Woman #207: Written by Greg Rucka, with art by Drew Johnson and Ray Snyder, and edited by Ivan Cohen. A good transitory issue, featuring two views of villainess Veronica Cale. We see Medousa and her henchwomen visit Veronica while Wonder Woman tries to stop the body-hopping Dr. Psycho from making people commit suicide. Psycho also tells WW about his involvement with Cale, which gives us the second perspective. I like the art a lot, and Rucka is good as a matter of course, so it’s quality all around.

Superman #208: Written by Brian Azzarello, with art by Jim Lee and Scott Williams; edited by Eddie Berganza. In the aftermath of a second “Vanishing,” Superman confronts Mr. Orr, a shadowy assassin-type, and has to deal with criticism both global and from within the Justice League. Along the way, Supes realizes he’s losing his grip on his humanity, as the Kryptonian Fortress of Solitude starts to feel more like home. It leads up to a confrontation with a fellow Justice Leaguer which should give Jim Lee the opportunity for big fight scenes next issue. The arc is picking up steam after a few meh issues, and I am cautiously optimistic about it.

Star Wars Empire #23: Written by Jeremy Barlow with art by Brandon Badeaux; edited by Kilian Plunket (and assistant-edited by Jeremy Barlow). A smuggler who professes neutrality helps a beautiful paramilitary type escape from Rebel forces. The smuggler refuses to choose up sides in the Galactic Civil War, but since we know how black-and-white the Star Wars universe is, we’re pretty sure that 1) everybody has to choose and 2) if the Rebels don’t like you, maybe it’s because you’re not on their side. It’s a predictable story whose suspense comes from wondering how the hero is going to find himself on the “right side.” In other words, the reader is probably smarter than the hero. Not really a happy ending, and for that I have to give it credit, but it might have been nice to see what a happy ending would have looked like.

Astonishing X-Men #4: Written by Joss Whedon, with art by John Cassaday; edited by Mike Marts. The X-Men break into Benetech to get the secret of the mutant cure. Meanwhile, the new villain confronts two students at the X-mansion. It reads like an early Buffy episode, and that ain’t bad; but since I am more of a Whedon fan than an X-Men fan, perhaps the Big Surprise at the end doesn’t carry the emotional heft with me it might with others. Also, because I am a Whedon fan, I would not be surprised for the Big Bad of this arc to be unstoppable until the heroes figure out the one very simple way to render him totally powerless. I still say that Firefly is Whedon’s best work (outside of Toy Story, and that’s just because I don’t know how much credit to give him for that) because by and large it doesn’t rely on people using superpowers to get themselves out of world-threatening jams. I wish Astonishing felt more like Firefly and less like Buffy.

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