Comics Ate My Brain

February 2, 2006

New comics 2/1/06

This week was unusual for a couple of reasons. First, it featured new issues of Green Lantern and Legion of Super-Heroes after only two weeks, since both series are trying to get back to a regular monthly schedule. Second, I expected both Gotham Central and the Rann-Thanagar War Special to have endings, but instead both seemed beholden to larger corporate storytelling concerns. In the case of GC, take that as a spoiler.

Other than that, not a bad week. Batman and the Monster Men #4 (by Matt Wagner) and Detective Comics #816 (written by Shane McCarthy, art by Cliff Chiang) both featured good, straightforward, entertaining Batman stories. BMM relates Batman’s narrow escape from the lair of Hugo Strange’s monsters; and ‘Tec finishes up the Mr. Zsasz two-parter with the cops chasing both hero and villain. Both explore the balance between mundane crime and super-crime, and both feature healthy doses of Bat-mystique.

Green Lantern #8 (written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Carlos Pacheco) finishes its latest two-parter with Mongul (and Mongal, his unfortunately-named sister), and since half of it is Pacheco-illustrated dream sequences, I had much the same reaction as I did with Pacheco’s Superman/Batman arc: very pretty, and it gives him room to draw all kinds of outlandish situations, but ultimately it doesn’t add up to much. I’m still trying to work out how Hal’s fantasy would be so seductive to him. Either Johns doesn’t quite get the Black Mercy, or he’s just throwing in wild scenarios and teasing the explanations. Anyway, once GL and Green Arrow get back to reality, it’s all fun and games until somebody’s head comes off, and I’m wondering — between this and Infinite Crisis, can I bring the “Four Beheadings And A Funeral” joke out of storage?

Legion #14 (written by Mark Waid, pencilled by Ken Lashley and Adam DeKraker) continues with the political and personal fallout from the Legion’s victory over Terror Firma. Again, it’s probably a cop-out, but I need to read this book from the beginning. There was a point when it all seemed familiar but radically new, and now it seems to have assumed that the reader is familiar with the radically-new aspects. It’s not poorly done by any means, and I don’t dislike the characters, but I get the feeling I’ve spent too little time with them.

Seven Soldiers: Bulleteer #3 (written by Grant Morrison, pencilled by Yanick Paquette) was a fun issue mostly for the inclusion of Mind-Grabber Kid, a one-off Denny O’Neil character from the late �60s post-Gardner Fox era of Justice League of America. Now MGK is an adult trying to trade on his moment of fame at a superhero convention. Yes, it’s easy to mock comic conventions, but it’s also fun, and Morrison does it with a knowing wink. There was a lot of cheesecake in this book at first, but now I can see where Morrison has been going with it.

Fantastic Four #534 (written by J. Michael Straczynski, drawn by Mike McKone) continues Ben and Johnny’s fight with the Hulk, but throws into the mix the notion that the Hulk is acting out all of his most painful memories in a gamma-fueled haze. It feels a bit more like a Hulk story than an FF story, and it probably requires at least a passing knowledge of Hulk history to understand completely, but it works. Ben and Johnny are handled well too. A fun “Franklin Richards” story rounds out the issue.

Captain America #14 (written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Steve Epting) concludes “The Winter Soldier” and, in fact, wraps up a dangling plotline from as far back as issue #1. Although it’s a Cap/WS fight, it builds both on Cap’s emotions for Bucky and WS’s confusion about his own origins, so there’s more dramatic heft to it.

It also provides an ending, which brings me to Gotham Central #40 (written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Kano and Stefano Gaudiano) and Rann-Thanagar War Special #1 (written by Dave Gibbons, drawn by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado). With RTWS I kind of understand, and arguably I have tacitly bought into the whole concept of this sort of “half-issue” (as in, this should have been Infinite Crisis #4.5) on the front end.

RTWS does three things: it allows everyone in space to point and gawk at the big hands coming out of the space-warp; it resolves the Rann-Thanagar war; and it sets up the new Ion series. Now, maybe when I see this in the larger Infinite Crisis context, I will understand the editorial meeting at which it was decided that these three things should happen in a special outside the main miniseries. Right now, though, this particular issue just feels very padded. It contains one extremely unfortunate (and I hope accidental) reference to the big “footprints” revelation in Identity Crisis, and the Ion setup also comes out of left field (and will probably be revisited even further in Ion #1). I was sorry to see the one person die, though, and that was handled decently.

In hindsight, though, this last arc of Gotham Central has been nothing but setup for future series — specifically, Detective Allen as the new Spectre, and Detective Montoya working out unresolved issues about Allen�s murder. As setup it’s okay, but I was expecting some closure and I don’t feel like this last issue of the series was a fitting end for the arc, let alone the series itself. I had thought Gotham Central was insulated somewhat by larger editorial dictates, and it’s disappointing to see so patently that in the end, it wasn’t.

December 10, 2005

New comics 12/7/05

Filed under: batman, gotham central, seven soldiers, she-hulk, spider-man, superman, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 10:20 pm
Detective Comics #814 (written by David Lapham, pencilled by Ramon Bachs, inked by Nathan Massengill) is a somewhat confusing conclusion to “City of Crime,” the twelve-part epic that was interrupted by a crossover and so took over twelve months to tell. It ends on the note of cheerful nihilism that marked the rest of the arc, but it asks the reader to remember characters and subplots from about a year ago, and so may be more appreciated in collected form. Overall I enjoyed “City of Crime,” and if I get time may do an omnibus recap.

More to the point is Batman and the Monster Men #2 (by Matt Wagner), which also intends to use a large cast — including Hugo Strange, Boss Maroni, Julie Madison, and her father — but so far keeps better track of them. Wagner has always drawn a great-looking Batman, and here the minimalist “Year One” style isn’t far from his own. My one quibble is a familiar one, namely first-person narration from various perspectives. It’s not hard to tell who’s speaking, but there’s not a lot to differentiate the speakers when they switch.

Gotham Central #38 (written by Greg Rucka, pencilled by Kano, inked by Stefano Gaudiano) starts what will probably be the book’s last arc. Despite the cover, and the rumors swirling around bad cop Jim Corrigan, there are no hints that he was the original Spectre or will be again. (Still, if a murdered do-gooder were to become the Spectre’s new host, like good cop Jim Corrigan did back in the day, one could make an argument for a candidate in this issue.) Better characterization of Montoya and Allen this issue, and I continue to be amazed with how consistent the look of the book has been.

Superman #224 (written by Mark Verheiden, pencilled by Tom Derenick, inked by Wayne Faucher) presents a compare-and-contrast story of Superman vs. Blackrock and Luthor vs. an OMAC which actually comes off fairly well. While I don’t want to say that there were no good “corporate Luthor” stories, in the old days he couldn’t just steal a plane and kill a pilot; and not having to get through those plot mechanics makes things go faster. The issue includes another switch-to-Superman moment, which I am noticing more and more in recent months, and which I applaud for purely sentimental reasons.

Superman Secret Files 2005 includes two stories, a kids’-eye view, a Lois-meets-Superman tale, and an odd Bizarro two-pager. The first story, written by Devin Grayson with art by Ariel Olivetti, is sweet, if a little mawkish. The Lois story, written by Jami Bernard with art by Renato Guedes, is fine, but I can’t decide if its slightly revisionist take on Lois’ early relationship to Supes puts her in a good light. It has an uncanny Christopher Reeve evocation on the last page. The Bizarro “origin,” written by Christine Boylan with art by Carlos Ferreira and Drew Geraci, starts out as a parody and ends up in pathos. None is absolutely essential, but then again, none are really the kinds of Superman stories the monthly books have been telling, so on balance it may be worth a look.

Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle #2 (written by Grant Morrison, pencilled by Billy Patton and Freddie Williams II, inked by Michael Bair) reveals more of the “disguised” New Gods, and I start getting confused. Not because I’m trying to fit this into a convoluted DC-mainstream timeline, or trying to decide whether this is “real” or an alternate universe, but because I’m looking for familiar faces and everybody is drawn as hulking bald men. Still, by the end Darkseid and DeSaad are revealed, and that helps things get creepier. Maybe the larger plot will turn out to be “Shilo Norman escapes from the alternate universe,” which would be OK but not very imaginative (considering I thought of it), so I hope Morrison ramps things up a little more and eases up on all the bald guys.

She-Hulk 2 #2 (written by Dan Slott, pencilled by Juan Bobillo, inked by Marcelo Sosa) features the big Return Of Hawkeye, sort of, and it may or may not be permanent. There are some funny bits, and a couple of heartfelt ones. However, the whole plot also revolves around a weird time paradox which exists for its own sake. Now, that’s fine, and I can accept it, but I’m still trying to work out the mechanics.

Finally — and I do mean “finally” — Spider-Man/Black Cat #4 (written by Kevin Smith, drawn by Terry & Rachel Dodson) is an extended set of conversations between BC and Matt Murdock and Matt and Peter Parker; and it ends with a Spidey/Daredevil/mystery villain fight. “Oh, a dialogue-driven Kevin Smith book,” you say,”how innovative.” Yeah, it’s like that, but it doesn’t seem as witty as Smith’s earlier Marvel work. (And when I say “earlier” … oh, it’s just too easy, isn’t it?) Moreover, Smith makes a big deal of not revealing Matt Murdock, when it’s patently obvious virtually from the cover. The other thing is, I’m not sure about the Daredevil timeline. I am not a real DD scholar, but I think it refers to events from the intervening years, and that seems like cheating to me.

November 13, 2005

New comics 11/9/05

Filed under: batman, crisis, gotham central, justice league, lotdk, star wars, superman, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 9:42 pm
I liked quite a few things about Infinite Crisis #2 (written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Phil Jiminez and George Perez, inked by Andy Lanning and Jerry Ordway), but I’d like to think the Perez cover (showing Power Girl from the rear) is a none-too-subtle dig at the fascination with PG’s chest. Perez and Ordway’s contribution to the interior consists of a few pages telling the history of the old Multiverse, and while some might say that’s proof that the whole magilla is too complicated, I think it’s a fine tip of the hat to the original Crisis on Infinite Earths artists and to COIE itself. As exposition goes, it’s fairly economical too.

The spotlight is on Power Girl in issue #2, and speaking of exposition, I’m now glad I didn’t spend the money on her JSA Classified origin issues. InfC #2 is the emotional payoff of the former arc’s false starts, but it doesn’t need those issues to work well. Power Girl might well have been better off consigned to Earth-2 oblivion, for all the mucking around with her backgrounds various writers have performed over the last twenty years, but Johns takes good advantage of her confusion.

The issue’s other plots all work as well. I especially enjoyed the interlude with Clark and Lois at the Daily Planet, culminating in a neat little “job for Superman!” moment. As much as I love Perez’s work, Jiminez has become a fine storyteller in his own right. I just wonder if there’s not an Earth-2 homage to COIE #7 in Power Girl’s future….

JLA #122 (written by Bob Harras, pencilled by Tom Derenick, inked by Dan Green) is another “[MAIN CHARACTERS] vs. OMACs” story, just like half of DC’s books from the past few months. I hope the number of these decreases after the events of Infinite Crisis #2. There’s not much more to it than that, except the kind-of creative notion that the Key is attacking anything with the initials “JLA.” (The Best Wife Ever is in the Junior League, so word of warning to the Key: they are tough.) It’s nice to see some old familiar faces back in the fold, but I wish they had something more exciting to do.

Gotham Central #37 (written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Steve Lieber) is the big Infinite Crisis crossover issue, and I hate to say it, but it’s not as good as I’ve come to expect. Sure, I like Allen and Montoya; sure, they react believably to the mystic carnage going on around them; and sure, this was probably a decent introduction to the characters for the hypothetical first-time reader — but it just didn’t have the punch of, say, the Poison Ivy one-off issue of a few months ago. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as good as it has been. Good ending, though; and I do hope the Crisis completists pick up multiple copies, because the book deserves all the support it can get.

Action Comics #833 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by John Byrne, inked by Nelson and various others) begins what looks to be a fun little story pitting Supes against an old Justice League foe. It doesn’t appear to have much to do with Infinite Crisis, so instead it’s free to weave in scenes for Lois and Jimmy. I’m not saying who the villain is, because Simone takes her time in building up the revelation, and packs a lot into the first half of the issue. For that I was pleasantly surprised.

As the first part of “Blaze of Glory,” Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #197 (written by Will Pfeifer, drawn by Chris Weston) also unloads a lot of plot. The story concerns a supervillain wannabe who blames Batman for his problems, which isn’t overly original, but Pfeifer makes his antagonist a fairly smart guy who just happens to have wound up on the C-list. The one strange thing about the issue is the art. Weston’s heads seem just a little too large (or the bodies a little too small), kind of like Mike Grell. Still, like Grell, once you get past that it’s pretty good.

Finally, Star Wars: Empire #37 (written by Welles Hartley, pencilled by Davide Fabbri, inked by Christian Dalla Vecchia) continues “The Wrong Side Of The War” in fine fashion. As the Rebels put their undercover plans in motion, Imperial Lt. Sunber becomes acclimated to his new assignment. While Sunber takes on the alpha male in his barracks, though, the Rebels discover they may have to rescue all the slaves from Jabiim. Hartley portrays the Imperials as evil bureaucrats — not so much mustache-twirling, but you can see they’re not particularly nice. The art is also good, with bright colors (thanks again to Fabbri) and big, expansive layouts. Nothing groundbreaking, but a good Star Wars story nonetheless.

September 12, 2005

Some new comics, 9/8/05

Filed under: batman, gotham central, superman, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 2:09 pm
Copping out slightly this week, because I will devote a set of essays to arcs/miniseries which are either complete or almost complete. Therefore, hold on a bit for analyses of Serenity, City of Tomorrow!, Seven Soldiers: Manhattan Guardian, and Villains United. I will say I liked the conclusion of Guardian and the penultimate issue of VU, but was lukewarm towards Serenity #3 and CoT! #6.

That leaves only three titles. Jeez, looks like I get a lot of miniseries, huh?

First up is Superman #221 (written by Mark Verheiden, pencilled by Ed Benes, inked by Mariah Benes, Alex Lei and Rob Lea). It’s advertised as a VU crossover but isn’t really. Instead, it highlights Jimmy Olsen and Bizarro, who both struggle with building up Clark Kent. The Verheiden/Benes era has so far been a mixed bag for me, and I think part of that is the constant intrusion of Infinite Crisis hoo-hah. Here, though, their efforts actually end up feeling like a classic Superman story, or at least one which doesn’t feature the put-upon Supes who’s suffered so many emotional sucker punches over the past several months. Yes, there are some VU moments, but not many, and certainly not enough to warrant Zoom on the cover. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by this issue.

Detective Comics #811 (written by David Lapham, pencilled by Ramon Bachs, inked by Nathan Massengill) returns to ”City of Crime” after a couple issues’ diversion, but while Lapham and company ease the reader back into the story, things get confusing quickly. A mystery villain (maybe the Joker, probably the Scarecrow) introduces a foaming fear elixir into the slum Batman has infiltrated. The elixir wreaks havoc on everybody including Batman, but apparently it’s easy to overcome, which kind of deflates the tension. Still, at least for a while there was tension. Also, Robin and Jim Gordon share a nice, almost nostalgic scene, and the disguised Batman also has a few good moments with neighborhood kids. Finally, I noticed that this issue was a regular 22-page story, without the backups the title has had for the past year or so. Don’t know whether the backups are gone for good, but they weren’t all bad.

Last is Gotham Central #35 (written by Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker, drawn by Stefano Gaudiano and Kano). This is the penultimate chapter of “Dead Robin,” and it’s another solid installment. It has more of a wrap-up feel, as if there will be a big blowout conclusion next issue and all the subplots have to be gotten out of the way first. The real Robin makes another appearance, in another sweet scene with Stacy, the Bat-Signal operator, and big pieces of the mystery are revealed. I really can’t say enough about this title, and everyone who enjoys superheroes in general and Batman in particular should read it.

Coming soon: omnibus recaps, as promised.

August 8, 2005

New comics 8/3/05, plus a little ranting

Filed under: batman, firestorm, gotham central, justice league, new teen titans, superman, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 3:21 pm
Rant first, to get it out of the way: it irritates me to no end that Alex Ross insists on putting Plastic Man and Captain Marvel into the Silver Age Justice League. I understand that it’s wish-fulfillment for him, and who am I to be a big creative buzzkill — but it’s as bad as saying cavemen fought dinosaurs, Abraham Lincoln signed the Declaration of Independence, or John Glenn walked on the Moon. It just didn’t happen that way. Captain Marvel joined the post-Legends Justice League in 1986, and didn’t even stick around long enough to be a part of Justice League International six issues later. Plas joined in 1997 (“Rock of Ages”) and has been with the League pretty much ever since. However, during the early-to-mid-1970s that Ross wishes to enshrine, both Cap and Plas belonged to different Earths. Furthermore, although “Justice League Unlimited” did some great stories with the “everyone’s in the League” concept, for most of its history the Justice League was a select group — and people didn’t join “just because.”

While I am sure that many outstanding stories can and have been told about dino-hunting Neanderthals, Lincoln in 1776 Philadelphia, and Glenn’s lunar footprints, that still doesn’t mean they can be told without breaking some significant rules of history. Yes, the history of the Justice League is both fictional and malleable, but it’s history nonetheless, and it lays the ground rules.


Anyway, more on Justice #1 is over at The Great Curve. To sum up: I think it has potential, especially for casual readers, but somehow it manages to take itself very seriously while not feeling very consequential.

Serenity #2 (written by Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews, drawn by Will Conrad) is mostly setup for #3. The good guys and the bad guys each stay in their own locker rooms and talk about their game plans. It’s all very true to the TV show (“Firefly,” available on DVD, if you came in late), and that in itself is enjoyable — but all it does is get you anxious for the good part to start.

Firestorm #16 (written by Stuart Moore, pencilled by Jamal Igle, inked by Rob Stull and Keith Champagne) continues to be a fun, entertaining, straightforward superhero book. For the most part, it has also stayed out of the whole Identity/Infinite Crisis imbroglio, which has been nice. (Wonder if that means sales are good?) Looks like that changes as of next issue, but I have faith in this creative team.

In the omnibus review round-up of a week or so ago, I wondered if DC Special: The Return Of Donna Troy #3 (written by Phil Jiminez, pencilled by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, inked by George Perez) wouldn’t end in a big teary group hug. Wrong again. There are tears, and a bit of hugging, but it’s mostly business as usual — fighting and mind control and exposition, setting up a big battle for #4. There’s also a weird panel where Cha– er, Beast Boy, apparently to lighten the mood, flashes the reader a totally inappropriate hoo-hah! grin and a thumbs-up. Oh well, it’s not like Beast Boy hasn’t made a career out of being inappropriate.

Superman #220 (written by Mark Verheiden, pencilled by Tony S. Daniel, inked by Marlo Alquiza) is an unremarkable issue featuring Superman and Superboy fighting the Eradicator. It felt like a Chuck Austen issue of Action Comics, mostly because Austen was fond of using Superman and Superboy together against some implacable foe. The point of the issue is to get Superman to admit that things are getting bad, but the punchline is Superboy telling him he’d better get his act together. Wow, really, you think? This could have been an 8- or even 16-page story in a Secret Files or 80-Page Giant for all it contributes to the ongoing I-Crisis plot, but instead it takes up 22 pages in what is objectively DC’s flagship title. Crikey.

(Speaking of those Secret Files and 80-pagers, I think it might actually have been better for DC to have put out a few more of those for these kind of gap-filler stories, instead of expanding them into a 22-page monthly.)

“City of Crime” takes a break for a month so that Detective Comics #809 (written by Andersen Gabrych, pencilled by Pete Woods, inked by Bit) can bring you “War Crimes Part 1,” the fallout from Stephanie Brown’s death. This is not quite the same as the “Dead Robin” arc going on in Gotham Central, although once again the great DC Coincidence Generator (or the Who’da-Thought? Machine) has made sure there are two dead Robin stories out the same week. No, this is the more sensational, yellow-journalistic approach to the story, which is that someone is using Stephanie’s death to tell Batman his secret identity has been blown. (Too bad the Who’da-Thought? Machine wasn’t working well enough to also give us this week the last issue of Gotham Knights, in which someone also tells Batman his secret … oh, you know.) Anyway, a big Bat-villain makes a surprise appearance and Batman does some detective work. It’s not that I don’t care, and it’s not poorly executed, but do the Batman writers even talk to each other anymore?

Speaking of Gotham Central (#34, written by Greg Rucka, pencilled by Kano, inked by Stefano Gaudiano), part 2 of “Dead Robin” finds the cops talking to the Teen Titans and trying to keep a lid on the media. The Titans stuff isn’t bad, but it’s the weakest part of an issue which has good scenes with the dead boy’s parents and with Stacy, the Bat-Signal operator. It really plays with the idea that no one really knows anything about Batman or Robin, and it does that well enough to make the reader question whether (for example) the guy at the beginning of the book really is Batman. Considering that the readers know the “real” Batman and Robin better than the cops do, this is quite an achievement.

July 29, 2005

Old Comics, July ’05

Well, I’m back, having spent the first few days of the week in Roanoke with about a thousand other people taking the Virginia bar. Thanks for all the good wishes, both on the blogoversary and for the bar. I hope I live up to them.

I did read some comics in the few moments I wasn’t studying, and no less than Steve Lieber was nice enough to send me a couple that he had drawn. First up was Family Reunion, written by Sean Stewart. It’s evidently been out for a while, and many of you have probably already seen it, but if not, I liked it. There’s a lot of information packed into eight pages, and both Stewart and Lieber economize their efforts to good effect. I got strong senses of the handful of characters through a good selection of scenes. It’s based on a novel by Stewart, but I don’t know if I’d rather read the novel or see more comics by this team. Probably a good choice either way.

More recently, Lieber drew Flytrap Episode One: Juggling Act, from a script by his wife, Sara Ryan. Here I was impressed by the different style Lieber used — thicker lines and perhaps more “cartoony” than in Family Reunion. Although Flytrap is more of a sitcom than Family Reunion, the change in style serves it well. FR grounded its fantastic element in very realistic artwork; and Flytrap is meant to be wackier. At 14 pages, it’s almost twice as long, but it has to set up the continuing adventures of Maddy and her clients. This it did admirably, focusing more on Maddy than on said clients, but making her sympathetic enough that the clients’ eccentricity doesn’t need to be much more of a hook. I’m now officially interested in what happens next, so good job, Steve and Sara. More information about both mini-comics at Steve’s website.

Now, quick hits on the stuff I got at the comics shop.

Superman #219, Action Comics #829, Adventures of Superman #642, Wonder Woman #219, OMAC Project #4: I would have liked “Sacrifice” better if the first couple of parts had been better-executed. I think the planning was good, and in hindsight it worked well, but although I have nothing against Mark Verheiden or Gail Simone I wish Rucka could have written the whole thing. The art in Superman #219 was also rather weak. I’ve posted my thoughts on Wonder Woman’s role over on The Great Curve.

Wonder Woman #218: Lots of closure as Rucka and Ron Randall wrap up various storylines from the past couple of years. I liked the storylines and was satisfied with their conclusions — and where’s Ron Randall been, anyway?

Defenders #1: Funny stuff, if not as wacky or familiar as the “Not The Justice League” stories — and while playing the Silver Surfer as a zonked-out beach bum is inspired, it’s also not close enough to the character’s mainstream portrayal to be really satirical.

Hero Squared #1: Glad to see this again, but $4.00? I thought gas was expensive.

GLA #4: More of the wacky, less of the grim, and I did like the ending a lot.

Astonishing X-Men #11: I guess I should be glad there were no obvious NOMAD/V’Ger “The creator is a carbon-unit!” moments.

Serenity #1: Satisfactorily evocative of the TV show, which is about all one can ask, right? For the first time in a while, the Best Wife Ever was excited to read a comic. Not that she’s read this one yet, but still….

Day Of Vengeance #4: Not bad, but I was hoping the teenaged girl would be related to Amethyst or (better yet) Crazy Jane.

Villains United #3: I liked Paul Pelletier’s art, and Val Semeiks isn’t bad either — but who knew the new Rag Doll was a dude?

Rann/Thanagar War #3: Lots of yelling, fighting, ray-blasts, and explosions, but that’s not all bad.

Batman: Gotham Knights #67: The best part of this issue was the artwork, by Rick Burchett. I’m sure he doesn’t get more Bat-work because he’s “too cartoony” for the discriminating Bat-fan; but his distinctive style is always welcome. As for the story itself, Bruce gets blackmailed by a failed videographer who discovers Batman’s secret identity. This is the first part of a continued story, but its cliffhanger hinges on an event that cannot be what it seems, and so fails to build much suspense.

Batman #642: This was a gap-filler issue, not badly executed but not really saying much important either. However, I thought Chris Marrinan and Andrew Pepoy made an interesting choice to draw Batman in a bulky, blocky way, more like Dick Sprang than Frank Miller. As long as he was around, Rick Burchett should have drawn this one too.

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #193: The animated Batman series of the ’90s did Mr. Freeze a huge favor by filling his origin with pathos. This story can’t hope to improve on that one. Instead, its high point is a Batman who unironically gives out business cards (!) and who’s assembling a Shadow-like group of operatives. More with this Batman in the mainline books, please.

Detective Comics #808: Another solid installment of “City of Crime.” I do like Lapham’s use of Robin, and keep hoping for more Robin in the mainline Bat-books.

Gotham Central #33: Speaking of Robin, did I ever tell you about my idea for a Batman story where the Joker takes the Donald Trump role in his own version of “The Apprentice,” kidnapping high school athletes and killing them while ostensibly training them to be Robin? That would have been pretty lame. This was the opposite of lame.

Batman: Dark Detective #s 5-6: Um, did Englehart & Rogers just decide an abrupt ending would be cool, or are they setting us up for a sequel?

Seven Soldiers: Manhattan Guardian #3: For me, this was more fun than the Subway Pirates; and Morrison and Stewart did a good job with the breakup scene too.

JLA #s 115-116: This is turning into a pretty decent storyline not just on a crossover level, but also as a Justice League adventure. I like Johns and Heinberg’s script, and Batista and Farmer’s art. I thought this would be a placeholding, gap-filling arc between “Syndicate Rules” and the aftermath of Infinite Crisis, but it’s exceeded my expectations.

JLA Classified #10: I thought Warren Ellis hated the Fantastic Four, but apparently that’s nothing compared to how he treats Perry White in this issue. Some fine Butch Guice artwork can’t make up for some weird dialogue.

Shanna The She-Devil #6: Yeah, yeah, dinosaurs, bikinis, “Kill Me!!!,” blah blah blah.

Star Wars Empire #32: Not bad as far as Luke/Leia Rebel Alliance stories go, but again, when did Leia get so tall and busty?

Firestorm #15: Still zippy and fun.

DC Special: The Return Of Donna Troy #2: I’m not sure anyone can be in quite the right frame of mind to read this book unless they have first read, and thoroughly enjoyed, the stories in the Who Is Donna Troy? paperback. The “Who Is Wonder Girl?” 5-parter from 1988 also celebrated the return of George Perez, and was infused with fanfic-levels of “You guys are my bestest friends ever in the whole universe and I love you very much!” moments. It’s as if Wolfman and Perez took Donna’s 1984 wedding issue from Tales of the Teen Titans #50, which was (seriously) a masterpiece of subtlety and careful emotional release, and decided to not take any chances and really wear their hearts on their sleeves. So far, Phil Jiminez has been dialing up the emotional manipulation in this miniseries, with this issue especially playing to the longime Titans fanboys and -girls in the audience. I understand his viewpoint — I hadn’t read Donna’s wedding issue in a good ten years before last week, and I still got misty-eyed — but this is getting to be too much. If the former New Teen Titans don’t end Donna’s destructive rampage with anything but a big teary group hug, I’ll be very surprised.

Fantastic Four #529: Lose the social worker and this would be a much better book, even with the “nanny search” subplot.

Astro City: The Dark Age #2, City Of Tomorrow #4: More of the same, and in neither case is it unwelcome.

Legion of Super-Heroes #8: Guest penciller Kevin Sharpe isn’t bad, but his figures are stiffer and more awkwardly posed than Kitson’s. Nice job by Waid on exploding all the subplots at once, though.

Incredible Hulk: Destruction #1: I bought this because it was Peter David and because “House of M” completists have robbed me of the regular Hulk issues. It’s not bad, but I have a feeling the HoM stuff is better.

Flash #224: It’s too bad that “Rogue War” has gotten good just as Johns is getting ready to leave. Coming soon to this site: a retrospective on the Johns Flash era, in which I will attempt to be fair and balanced despite his unfortunate focus on the Rogues.

Superman/Batman #21: I will gladly pay Jeph Loeb to never write Bizarro or Batzarro again.

All-Star Batman & Robin #1: Reply hazy; ask again later.

June 17, 2005

New comics 6/8/05 and 6/15/05

Filed under: batman, crisis, gla, gotham central, justice league, lotdk, seven soldiers, superman, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 9:54 pm
You get two weeks in one thanks to bad timing on my part. (Lots of Bat-books — wonder why?)

Off we go.

Gotham Central #32 (written by Greg Rucka, with art by Steve Lieber) was the best of the past couple of weeks. It’s a tidy little story about a couple of crooked Gotham cops’ encounter with Poison Ivy. Too bad A.J. Lieberman just killed Ivy in the pages of Gotham Knights, because this tale represents not only Gotham Central‘s bread and butter, but also an indication of what the Bat-titles could be across the board. Gotham City offers perhaps the richest single environment in the DC universe, if not superhero comics as a whole, and there is tremendous value in peeking into its corners — not just exploiting it with mega-crossovers.

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #192 (written by J.H. Williams III and D. Curtis Johnson, with art by Seth Fisher) begins what looks like another Mr. Freeze-centered arc — right after concluding a Freeze two-parter last issue, and while Freeze is appearing in both Batman and Detective Comics. Is Arnold Schwarzenegger exercising some eight-year-old option? Anyway, it’s couched in the origin of Mr. Freeze, but it looks to explore the “sidekick question” as well. Were I not burned out on Freeze (so to speak) I might have been in a more receptive mood, but the story itself is fine, and the art is unusually bright and open — not to mention overtly expressive — for a modern Batman story. I am therefore giving “Snow” the chance to win me over.

Rann-Thanagar War #2 (written by Dave Gibbons, art by Ivan Reis and Marc Campos) started giving me bad flashbacks to the Official Revised Hawkman Origin from JSA a few years ago, what with its talk of Onimar Synn and weird Thanagarian cults. I hate having to make sense of Hawkman, who is ostensibly not that hard of a character to understand. Thankfully, there’s more stuff with Kyle Rayner, L.E.G.I.O.N., and the Khunds to occupy this issue. Captain Comet also shows up, as does Starfire’s sister Komand’r. The politics and action are balanced pretty evenly, the exposition isn’t too heavy, and Reis and Campos make a good art team. I continue to enjoy this miniseries.

Before Action Comics #828 (written by Gail Simone, art by John Byrne and Nelson) turns into a Villains United tie-in, it’s a pretty decent continuation of the Dr. Polaris story begun last issue. Polaris’ evil alter ego, Repulse, poses some Hobbes-the-tiger-style questions about who can see “her” and how, and the issue as a whole is a little unfocused. It switches from Superman’s fight to Jimmy Olsen’s coverage of it and then throws in Lois exposing a charitable scam before wrapping everything up with a sweet Lois/Superman romantic excursion. Still, it’s good to see Lois and Jimmy being reporters, and the individual stories are each engaging.

Batman: Dark Detective #3 (written by Steve Englehart, with art by Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin) was perhaps my second favorite book of last week. It used a Two-Face setup I’d always wanted to see, and it also teamed him up with Dr. Double X, another forgotten Bat-villain from the ’50s and ’60s. Moreover, Englehart continues his exploration of Bruce’s integrating the two sides of his life, again using Silver St. Cloud to do so. That’s fascinating enough — whoa, Silver, close up that robe! — but the Two-Face subplot was almost as good.

So then this week I got Dark Detective #4 and was disappointed at how little it did. Basically it’s an extended fear-gas fantasy going back (yet again) to the immediate aftermath of the Waynes’ murders. I had a bit of a continuity issue with this, because I thought Leslie Thompkins had been established in this timeline fairly concretely, but Englehart is obviously tweaking things to suit his memory of the character, and that’s fine too. Also, Silver breaks up with her fiance. Because that’s about it, in a miniseries that has been fairly jam-packed so far, that’s why I was disappointed. Not enough to drop the miniseries (with only two issues left, mind you), just to question this issue’s pacing.

Speaking of issues which appear to go nowhere, here’s Batman: Gotham Knights #66 (written by A.J. Lieberman, art by Al Barrionuevo and Bit), featuring Prometheus’ abduction by Talia and Deathstroke. Being smart super-criminals, they recognize they don’t need Hush, but since Prometheus gets critically injured, they bring him along to try and save Prometheus’ life. This gives us a chance to recap Prometheus’ origin (written by Grant Morrison for a 1997 JLA special) and reflect on how he could now be at such a low point. In the end nothing is settled, because it’s all been setting up a JSA Classified story for later in the year. Thanks, DC! At least Cliff Chiang’s cover portrait of Talia is cool.

After two issues of waiting, Day of Vengeance #3 (written by Bill Willingham, with art by Ron Wagner and Dexter Vines) finally lets me know (on page 9 or so) that the masked woman is Nightshade, formerly of the Suicide Squad. However, on page 1, it tells me who Captain Marvel is. Thanks, DC! Although the Captain Marvel/Spectre/Eclipso subplots appear to conclude this issue, it ends with Detective Chimp and Nightshade visiting a mysterious girl whose name I didn’t recognize but probably should have. I liked the art better this issue because it seemed better-defined than Justiniano’s. Also, while Willingham’s plot has been decent so far, his script doesn’t come off as clever as he thinks it must. This is my least favorite of the various Infinite Crisis precursors.

Adventures of Superman #641 (written by Greg Rucka, art by Karl Kerschl) finds Clark visiting Pete Ross in prison and being attacked by the sibling Parasites and OMAC (which, as the cover proclaims, no longer stands for One Man Army Corps). Kerschl tends to draw big, meaty figures who fill up the panels, so he’s fairly well suited for a Superman title, and Rucka is clearly connecting Ruin with the Shadowy Figures behind OMAC. Therefore, I can’t really judge this issue on its own, but it does advance the various plots Rucka has been maintaining during his tenure. Still not as good as Rucka’s Wonder Woman, but getting there.

Seven Soldiers: Klarion #2 (written by Grant Morrison, art by Frazer Irving) likewise connects this book with its S7 cousin, Guardian, albeit obliquely. Klarion and Teekl find enemies and allies on their way up to the surface world, although telling one from the other gets a little sketchy. Morrison does establish that Klarion isn’t as helpless as he might seem, and Irving’s deadpan art (in the Charles Addams/Edward Gorey tradition) reinforces that.

It’s too bad that JLA Classified #8 (written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, with art by Kevin Maguire and Joe Rubenstein) is the penultimate chapter of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League!,” because the story hasn’t missed a beat since these creators left the League titles in 1992. Here, the team has found its way out of Hell, but Beetle’s got amnesia and they’re stuck on a strange evil-counterpart Earth. The cover, with a dominatrix Mary Marvel pounding Guy Gardner’s head into the pavement, says it all, but it’s only a warmup for what’s inside. I really hope that when DC’s Infinite Gyrations are over, it looks into its cold corporate heart and lets these guys play with these characters on a more ongoing basis.

As it happens, I picked up GLA #3 (written by Dan Slott, with art by Paul Pelletier and Rick Magyar), which on the surface appeared to be a similar story of hard-luck loser superheroes, and has since turned into an amazingly bitter black comedy about random superhero death. I’m almost glad I don’t have much emotional attachment to these characters, but this miniseries paints them so sympathetically that it’s almost as cruel to the reader as it is to the decedents. Makes me wonder about the tone of next issue’s conclusion.

May 12, 2005

New comics 5/11/05

Late-arriving comics first:

Green Lantern Rebirth #6 (written by Geoff Johns, with art by Ethan van Sciver) gives us lots of pyrotechnics and attitude. There are dueling ‘tudes, in fact, between the skeptical Batman and the so-full-of-himself-it-hurts Hal Jordan. Those sequences bookend a big Green Lantern Corps vs. Parallax fight which looks better than it is. It’s not very exciting, because it has neither choreography nor much in the way of danger. This issue may work better in the context of the overall story — which has been a surprisingly efficient and effective revival of Hal — but on its own it’s so far in the tank for Hal and the Green Lantern Corps it’s laughable.

Also late (and also a concluding issue) was Adam Strange #8 (written by Andy Diggle, with art by Pascal Ferry). While it sets up The Rann-Thanagar War, it also works on its own to wrap up the Omega Device plotline. In fact, if you didn’t know (or don’t care) about RTW, the ending is very much in the tradition of movie serials pointing the way to their own sequels. I have no doubt that DC will market this as the prelude to RTW, but it was a good miniseries on its own and a nice look at a classic DC character.

Actually, the “sequel” Adam Strange sets up isn’t The Rann-Thanagar War (#1) (written by Dave Gibbons, with art by Ivan Reis and Marc Campos). The immediate aftermath of Adam Strange is told by Adam in flashback to Hawkman and Hawkgirl in the opening pages of this miniseries. Reading the two back-to-back, I didn’t notice any missed beats, and the flashback was a good way to bridge the two miniseries. Most of the action takes place on Rann, and Reis and Campos do a fine job portraying global war, but there are a couple of problems. First, everyone in the Rann military wears a uniform similar to Adam Strange’s; and every Thanagarian wears hawk-gear, so it’s kind of hard to tell in the crowd scenes who’s who. Second, there’s the whole Hawkman continuity boondoggle, complicated here by Shayera Thal a/k/a Hawkwoman. Gibbons needs a paragraph or two listing all the players before we get too much further. Green Lanterns Kilowog and Kyle Rayner also show up to say that no way will the Guardians let them get involved in the conflict. Anyway, this was a nice continuation of the politics touched on in Adam Strange, and it may be the most enjoyable of the pre-Infinite Crisis minis.

Action Comics #827 wasn’t late, but judging by a footnote Superman #217 should have come out first. This issue introduces the new creative team of writer Gail Simone, penciller John Byrne, and inker Nelson. While Byrne’s cover makes Superman look rather stocky, inside is a different story. Nelson takes the scratchy edges off Byrne’s work, and combined with colorist Guy Major the book looks very good. Simone also gives us a happy, well-adjusted Lois and Clark, which is a very pleasant change from Chuck Austen’s simmering Lois/Lana catfights. There’s a bit at the beginning featuring Superman in an African village, which I suppose might be in Superman #217. Anyway, the main story is nice and suspenseful, featuring a villain who can really sock it to Superman. So far, so good.

Judging by last month’s cliffhanger I thought Gotham Central #31 (written by Greg Rucka, with art by Stefano Gaudiano and Kano) would have picked up with a big Bat-fight, and while Batman is around for the first few pages, in the end it’s the GCPD detectives who wrap things up. Most of the issue involves Montoya dealing with Dr. Alchemy, her father, her colleagues, and her girlfriend. Rucka obviously likes Montoya and does well with her, so the issue flows together effectively. My one problem with the art is that Montoya’s father looks too much like ex-Commissioner Gordon, and I have to keep reminding myself otherwise.

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #191 (written by J. Torres, with art by David Lopez and Fernando Blanco), the conclusion of a Mr. Freeze story, is hard to pin down. It has the trappings of a conventional Batman-vs.-Freeze fight, but it’s told in flashback by Bruce and it takes a different look at Freeze’s relationship with his wife. On the whole I liked it, although it doesn’t amount to much in the larger scheme of things. Still, importance to continuity isn’t everything.

Wonder Woman #216 (written by Greg Rucka, with art by Rags Morales and Mark Propst) continues Diana’s journey through Hades. Along the way she, Wonder Girl, and Ferdinand encounter Ares, Medousa, a lamia (which I vaguely remembered from my old D&D days), and other assorted nightmares. It all intersects with Athena’s takeover of Olympus, in which Ares was not on Diana’s side. Rucka has done about as much with the gods as George Perez did, but Rucka has taken things a step further, almost giving the book a Sandman feel — and that ain’t bad.

Fantastic Four #526 (written by Karl Kesel, with art by Tom Grummett and Lary Stucker) concludes the Diablo two-parter. This was an entertaining little story which at the end turned out to have more to do with the team’s subconscious desires than it did with Diablo. A bit with Johnny and Sue at the end of the issue was especially good. Anyway, onward and upward, as J. Michael Straczynski and Mike McKone take over next issue.

Finally, Astonishing X-Men #10 (written by Joss Whedon, with art by John Cassaday) continues the “sentient Danger Room” scenario. Most of it revolves around the Danger Room’s dialogue with Professor X, but since I don’t know what happened to him and the book never really tells us, it left me flat. I will say that the Danger Room’s fight with the X-Men was fairly clever, and the story has gained a bit more stature in my mind than the fill-in “Buffy” episode it felt like originally.

April 13, 2005

New comics 4/13/05

Filed under: adam strange, batman, gotham central, justice society, lotdk, superman, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 7:45 pm
The most pleasant surprise of the week came in Adam Strange #7 (written by Andy Diggle, drawn by Pascal Ferry). Check out the flashback on page 6, panel 2, and tell me those aren’t two of the schmucks treated so shabbily by Countdown! Sure, they’re second-rate in DC’s eyes, but they took out a cosmic menace! Maybe that was the point of Countdown — remove the obstacles to Mr. Cosmic Menace’s conquest of the galaxy — but I digress. This was yet another fine installment for the miniseries, effectively balancing what seems like an opening dream-sequence with the reality of preparing for the aforementioned menace. It’s too much to hope that the rest of DC’s big event miniseries will be as good as this one.

I had thought the cover of JSA #72 (written by Geoff Johns, with art by Don Kramer and Keith Champagne) referenced the cover of America Vs. The Justice Society #4 (April 1985), but silly me — that was itself a reference to All Star Comics #35 (June-July 1947), Degaton’s first appearance. As for this issue, most of it’s a big fight on the White House lawn as Degaton tries to use the Justice Society’s powers to destroy Washington, D.C. Accordingly, it’s most concerned with fight mechanics and the effective use of powers. There’s also a kind of deus ex machina at the end which makes little sense now. I say “now” because it’s the kind of thing I expect Johns to work into a storyline a couple of years down the road. More overtly, Johns works into the ending a setup for the Power Girl storyline in July’s JSA Classified, and possibly even a reference to Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Not that I’ll be reading either in July. This was my last monthly issue of JSA for the foreseeable future. It’s been coming since “Black Reign,” and the first part of this storyline (with Courtney’s family murdered) kind of sealed the deal. The book just doesn’t do anything for me anymore, and I don’t find myself caring about characters like Atom-Smasher or Hourman II. “JSA/JSA” in particular was oddly free of suspense, mostly because we never saw the consequences of Degaton’s alterations to the timestream. Sure, he says America will never trust mystery-men again, but does that mean Kal-El’s rocket won’t land, or Abin Sur’s spaceship won’t crash, or Diana won’t get sent to Patriarch’s World? Surely some super-people will be around to overthrow Degaton; and if he’ll eliminate them in their cribs to get them out of the picture, why not just do that and avoid this elaborate frame-job?

Speaking of elaborate plans, Mr. Freeze has apparently concocted one for a two-parter beginning in Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #190 (written by J. Torres, with art by David Lopez and Fernando Blanco). By the way, does Mr. Freeze get Subway stamps for every Bat-title he’s in this month? He’s 3-for-4 so far. Anyway, the story’s narrated by Bruce Wayne, so that drains some of the suspense, but it’s not like we couldn’t have figured that Batman survives. It’s interesting so far, using the old “why is the villain stealing these unrelated items?” plot, and if we can maybe guess their connection, it’s still a diverting issue. The art is by Fallen Angel‘s team, so you know it’s good; and it’s nice to see those guys getting work.

Action Comics #826 (written by Judd Winick, with art by Ian Churchill and Norm Rapmund) kicks off a 3-part team-up with Captain Marvel that finds them battling Eclipso. This is the setup issue, in which Eclipso apparently tries to take over people by pushing them to the point of anger. It’s all designed to get Superman involved so that Eclipso can take him over too. So far not bad, and the art is better than I would have expected — not as stiff as the cover might suggest.

While Gotham Central #30 (written by Greg Rucka, pencilled by Stefano Gaudiano, inked by Kano) relies a little too much on Hannibal Lecter riffs (even trying to make Dr. Alchemy look like Anthony Hopkins), I still liked it. The plot (spoiled somewhat by this month’s Flash, so thanks) involves transporting Alchemy to Gotham from Keystone City. Again, despite the Lecterisms, the interaction between our heroes and Alchemy is pretty effective, and the Keystone detectives come off a lot more natural here than they do in Flash. There are a couple of big plot holes, mostly involving the security around Alchemy, but if they weren’t there, we wouldn’t have the big dramatic cliffhanger ending. Next issue is set up very well.

Finally, if you have the chance, check out the new hardcover edition of Batman: Year One. Most of the extras are related to the art, but there’s also a new four-page David Mazzucchelli strip which talks about his own relationship with Batman and superheroes in general. He concludes by saying “the more realistic superheroes are, the less believable they become.” Food for thought.

March 10, 2005

New Comics 3/9/05

Drove back from Virginia today — 8 hours, two brief stops, hardest part was West Virginia (no offense, David Welsh) — and still have lots to do, but here’s what I read when I got in.

Action Comics #825 (written by “J.D. Finn,” with art by Ivan Reis & Marc Campos and Joe Prado) wraps up the Chuck Austen Era with the revelation that Gog was behind all the bad guys fighting Superman during Chuck’s tenure. The fight du jour takes an unexpected turn into moderately familiar territory. Although Aust– er, “Finn” — tries to make a profound statement about Superman, ultimately it’s nothing we couldn’t have guessed. Also, my head hurt trying to figure out the timeline of Gog’s origin. Finally, the book is 40 pages, but with all the big panels and action sequences, it didn’t feel like a whole lot extra had been added. Maybe some of those pages could have explained Doomsday’s existential crisis.

Superman #214 (written by Brian Azzarello with art by Jim Lee and Scott Williams) fares a little better. It too is Superman getting the snot pounded out of him, and it too almost made my head hurt trying to figure it out, but it has at least tried to tell a more coherent plot. However, it asks the reader to believe that Superman would essentially try to hide his plan for saving the Earth from everyone on Earth except his wife. There’s also some bits with the enigmatic Mr. Orr and some mysterious super-soldier builders, but I couldn’t remember enough about them from previous issues to comment. I still need to read this storyline in a sitting, and maybe then it’ll make more sense.

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #189 (written by Shane McCarthy with art by Tommy Castillo and Rodney Ramos) would probably also benefit from being read in one sitting. It’s the conclusion of “Riddle Me That,” and it is full of “Aha! But I am left-handed!” moments — but not in a good way. Actually, I don’t know whether to fault McCarthy for this, because had I made the effort to read Parts 1-4 all at once before today, clearly I would have enjoyed Part 5 more. “Riddle Me That” was basically a caper story with some Riddler backstory woven in, and it was an attempt to remake the Riddler without the mental block that compelled him to tip off Batman using his trademark clues. This would ostensibly make the Riddler cool, I guess; but I’m not sure it did. Back in the reading pile, then.

Adam Strange #6 (written by Andy Diggle, with art by Pascal Ferry) is a good example of how to keep my short attention span engaged. It starts tying together the story’s threads with two issues left to go, and it works in a couple of pleasant surprises as gravy. There’s not much more to say, except that this continues to be a fun story, executed with wit and panache.

Gotham Central #29 (written by Greg Rucka, with art by Stefano Gaudiano and Kano) continues the Keystone City/Dr. Alchemy storyline in fine fashion. Gotham detectives Montoya and Allen travel to the home of the Flash to find out how to reverse the mutation of a Gotham policeman caught in a Flash villain’s boobytrap. I have to say, one of my least favorite parts of Geoff Johns’ Flash makeover has to do with the police characters he created, but here they are handled very well. In fact, they seem more at home in this book than they do in Flash. Montoya also gets a couple of good moments with her dad and her significant other, so all around a very good issue.

Nightwing #105 (written by Chuck Dixon & Scott Beatty, with art by Scott McDaniel & Andy Owens) continues “Nightwing: Year One” by telling the story of Nightwing and the second Robin’s first meeting. It’s rooted in a test run by Batman which goes awry, and it sets up what should be a grand finale wherein Nightwing, Batman, Robin II, and Batgirl all learn to get along. For those of us who were around for the original stories (about 20 years ago), this has some nods to them while being a completely new work. Ironically, McDaniel and Owen manage to make the classic Robin costume (short pants and all) look cooler and more natural than Dick’s first Nightwing costume.

Reading last month’s JSA, I complained that I couldn’t tell whether the bad guys were winning. This month the JSA seems like it has the upper hand, but JSA #71 (written by Geoff Johns, with art by Don Kramer & Keith Champagne) also seems a little rushed, especially since Atom-Smasher’s motivations are explored in bits that turn out to be redundant. It also left me wondering how (in good Star Trek practice) how the timestream won’t end up being corrupted. Still, everybody gets a little scene, and it’s fun to see the current Mr. Terrific beat up some Klansmen. Not enough to keep me on the title past the end of this storyline, though.

The first of Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers miniseries, Seven Soldiers: Shining Knight #1 (art by Simone Bianchi) came out today. Most of it relates Sir Justin’s role in the last days of a Camelot unlike many of the traditional interpretations. There’s a fair amount of “wha–huh?,” but the context keeps everything clear. The art is fine, although thanks to some weird silhouettes occasionally I had to pay a little more attention to who was doing what. The coloring, by Nathan Eyring, also makes everything take on a nice ethereal watercolor look. It’s a pretty good start which reminded me, at least superficially, of Morrison’s Seaguy.

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