Comics Ate My Brain

July 4, 2006

New comics 6/28/06

So … last Wednesday I got home from work with just enough time to change clothes and head out the door with the Best Wife Ever to meet our neighbors for a quick dose of fast food, and then we were off to the 7:15 Superman Returns. I liked it, and I want to see it again, but the best feeling was afterwards, coming out of that movie to a big stack of superhero comics. I have never seen a comic-book movie that made me gladder to be a comic-book fan, and I mean that in the best way possible for both media.

Of course, getting home at 10:30 meant I was up for a couple of hours reading comics, and while that was fun at the time, it put me in a foul mood the next day. It also didn’t help that one of the smoke alarms started its low-battery chirp while I was trying to sleep.

Naturally, first off the stack was Action Comics #840 (written by Geoff Johns and Kurt Busiek, drawn by Pete Woods), the conclusion of “Up, Up and Away!” I really liked this issue, and not just from the residual movie high. It was a conclusion that actually felt like a conclusion, wrapping up loose ends like the reconstruction of Metropolis and the “reintegration” of Clark’s life with Superman’s. With this issue, the new/retro status quo is established concretely, while still managing to be self-contained. Take a bow, guys; you did “One Year Later” right.

In a nice bit of timing, Batman #654 (written by James Robinson, pencilled by Don Kramer, inked by Wayne Faucher) also wrapped up its “OYL” storyline, “Face The Face.” This was a bit more scattered, with the misdirection involving Two-Face going off in (yes) two different directions. That’s appropriate enough, I suppose, and I believe this was a play-fair mystery, unlike “Hush,” but there’s a fine line between clever use of obscure villains and pulling something out of one’s hinder. Still, the closing scenes with Bruce, Tim, and Alfred were worth it. Next up, Morrison and Dini!

52 #8 (written by Clubs, Hearts, Spades, and Diamonds, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencilled by Eddy Barrows, inked by Rob Stull) was a pretty solid issue. With most of the focus on Steel’s metallification, there was still room for a good Ralph Dibny/Ollie Queen scene, teasing Supernova, and checking in with Adam Strange, Animal Man, and Starfire. Oh, yeah, and “History of the DCU” covered about 1996-2004, for those who came in late. Overall I still like this series, but I don’t know if that has more to do with its immediacy or its underlying quality. Ironically, it’s hard for me to read it in real time, and when a character refers to “weeks ago,” it almost throws me out of the story.

Brave New World #1 (written and drawn by a whole lot of people) didn’t really have much of an effect on me. I still have little interest in any of these series beyond the Atom, and if I didn’t already like Gail Simone, I wouldn’t be too excited about that one.

I liked Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #19 (written by Mark Waid, drawn by Barry Kitson) pretty well, although the reveal of the murderer wasn’t entirely unexpected. It did showcase Chameleon’s detective skills effectively, and the image of a murderous Robotman was a surreal homage to “our era.”

Then there’s Hawkgirl #53 (written by Walter Simonson, drawn by Howard Chaykin). Yes, I’m going to talk about the bra, so Mom, if you’re reading, maybe you should skip this one. Seriously, though, I know it’s just Chaykin’s fondness (and talent) for drawing well-built women, but come on! Why not a sports bra, as opposed to the lacy number revealed in the course of this fight? And since she is wearing a bra under the costume, in Louisiana, howcome she’s still all nipply on the outside? (Actually, Mom is fond of criticizing any movie where the heroine finds herself in trouble while in eveningwear, so this would be another strike against Hawkgirl for her.) As for the merits of the issue otherwise, at least I was able to follow it for a few more pages than usual. I really hate to say this, and it doesn’t reflect on my love for Chaykin otherwise, but I’m giving this book a reprieve to see how the new artist works out.

Meanwhile, over with the other company, I bought New Avengers #21 (written by Brian Michael Bendis) solely for Howard Chaykin drawing Captain America. For that, it was good. It didn’t give me any more insight into “Civil War,” but I wasn’t looking. One question, though: on the page with Spider-Man, what’s the big tower with the spider-thing on top? It looks like Aku from “Samurai Jack” has taken over NYC.

Sticking with “Civil War,” Fantastic Four #538 (written by J. Michael Straczynski, drawn by Mike McKone) spends a few pages on Reed and Sue fighting beside Johnny’s hospital bed, a few more with Ben establishing solidarity on Yancey Street, and a few more on getting “DB” to make Thor’s hammer go nuts. So there you go. Six more months of this, at least.

JLA Classified #23 (written by Steve Englehart, pencilled by Tom Derenick, inked by Mark Farmer) presents part 2 of the Detroit League vs. the Royal Flush Gang. I can’t remember my RFG timeline that well, but I think this storyline might be explaining the different Gangs which attacked the League during the ’80s. The one introduced this issue went on to fight Max Lord’s League early in its history, if my memory’s correct. Anyway, it’s a nice take on the characters, and since this issue spotlights Vibe, it’s good that Englehart’s made his accent a little less stereotypical. I daresay those who have a soft spot for the Detroit League will like this, and those who don’t, won’t.

Picked up Eternals #1 (written by Neil Gaiman, drawn by John Romita, Jr.) based on good word of mouth from last week, and it was a decent introduction, but I’m still on the fence about whether to get #2. However, I am a little more motivated to save up for that big hardcover, so curse you, Marvel! for making me want more expensive Kirby reprints.

Nextwave #6 (written by Warren Ellis, drawn by Stuart Immonen) was another romp through fights with samurai robots and ptero-men. Underlying it, though, was the message that the Nextwavers really are pretty dangerous people, and it’s all fun until they decide it’s gone too far. I’m sure there’s some metacommentary hidden in that sentiment, but it’s probably unintentional. This is a comic for folks who like a little wacky with their carnage, and so far it’s all good.

Finally, the penultimate issue of Solo, #11, spotlights Sergio Aragones, and it’s maybe the most fun issue of this gone-too-soon series since Mike Allred’s. Sergio’s style is warm and inviting, and reading it felt like a visit from a friend who loves to tell stories. The only thing that could justify cancelling this series would be knowing for sure it would only get worse from here on out.

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May 29, 2006

New comics 5/24/06

Filed under: 52, batman, checkmate, fantastic four, green lantern, hawkgirl, legion, secret six, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 1:55 pm
Just a few housekeeping items before we get started.

R.I.P. Alex Toth. If nothing else, he played a big part in getting so many of us to read superheroes through his work on the “Super Friends” shows. Of course, he was also a fantastic comics artist with a dynamic style.

The 50 Best DC Characters post is done over at The Great Curve, so please check it out. There has been some controversy already, which I accept, but I am pretty proud of the writing and the pictures nonetheless. Equal parts labor and love, I would say.

A few weeks ago, DC announced a Terra-themed Teen Titans paperback out for the fall, so the pressure’s on for me to get through “The Judas Contract” before then — hence, the “Runaways” post below. I also intend to finish the Star Trek series, especially after seeing Patrick Stewart in the new X-Men on Friday night.

Speaking of which, I saw it with our neighbors and their kids (the Best Wife Ever is out of town this weekend), and afterwards the youngest boy wailed, “That was the dumbest movie! Just a buncha naked women and kissin’ and making out!” The children are our future, Brett Ratner! For shame. For shame.

Onward:

The cover of 52 #3 (written by the Gang of Four, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by Joe Bennett, inks by Ruy Jose) advertises Lex Luthor, but the inside’s more about Black Adam and his new “pre-emptive” approach to governing. I like Black Adam more as a villain, so I hope this plot takes him further down that path. Still, it produces a couple of very grisly moments (one involving a “SPLORCH”), which I thought were behind us. More wackiness with Booster and Skeets, Luthor employs a strategy last seen when Waid (appropriately enough) guest-wrote an issue of Action about nine years ago, and Steel is in a couple of scenes too. Part 2 of Dan Jurgens and Art Thibert’s History of DC focuses on Earth-1 and Earth-2, confusing me even more about whether a post-Crisis Crisis ever happened. The main story’s still good, though.

One question about Supergirl and the Legion #18 (written by Mark Waid, pencilled by Barry Kitson and Adam DeKraker, inked by Mick Gray and Drew Geraci): how many people did Waid expect would get the “Rol Purtha” joke at the end? Do that many of us have D&D backgrounds? Good issue overall. Supergirl is a fun addition to the team, maybe because she has Homer Simpson moments where she doesn’t take the 31st Century that seriously. The plot is a nice mix of robot fighting (the fighting of robots, that is) and interplanetary incidents fueled by Brainiac 5, and DeKraker is starting to mesh well with Kitson’s layouts.

I liked Checkmate #2 (written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Jesus Saiz) probably more than #1. This is an intermediate issue which advances the plot without feeling decompressed. Much of it is character moments involving Sasha Bordeaux, so it feels more focused than #1, and the political discussions made me feel kinda smart, for whatever that’s worth. The art seemed better this issue too — there was some Kevin Maguire in Saiz’s faces, I thought — and I could tell people apart more easily.

I want to like Hawkgirl #52 (written by Walter Simonson, drawn by Howard Chaykin), and I have a feeling that Simonson and Chaykin are going somewhere with these dream sequences, but right now it feels like they’re turning Kendra into a combination of Nancy Drew and Mary Tyler Moore. This issue concerns a blackmailed patron of Kendra’s museum and features a bewildering cameo by Bruce Wayne, who shows up for a couple of panels and then disappears. I know that’s his schtick, but usually writers don’t play the Bat-card so subtly. Maybe next issue. Anyway, what can I say against Chaykin art? (Although it is pretty cold, apparently, in St. Roch these days.) The writing’s bringing down this series.

Green Lantern #11 (written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Ivan Reis, inked by Oglair Albert) was fun. Hal goes to Oa to get permission from the Guardians to track down the ex-GLs who want him dead. Hal and Guy get into a bar fight with current GLs who want Hal dead. Hal and Guy fight a planet full of Manhunters, only to encounter a formerly-annoying Superman villain at the cliffhanger. I am looking forward to next issue, because I am going to enjoy Hal and Guy’s beatdown of this particular character.

Secret Six #1 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by Brad Walker, inked by Jimmy Palmiotti) picks up well from Villains United. Our intrepid band of anti-heroes break one of their own out of North Korea, and then take care of personal business before being stalked by the remnants of the Secret Society. Walker and Palmiotti bring a slightly different style to the art — more like Tim Sale in spots, although the figures have the weight of a Paul Pelletier. I was going to wait for the paperback of this, but I’m glad I didn’t.

Batman #653 (written by James Robinson, pencilled by Don Kramer, inked by Wayne Faucher) is a Two-Face spotlight detailing his selection by Batman to be Gotham’s vigilante for oh, about a year. I like this storyline, but I have to say, in the longer view this appears to be yet another Bat-plan gone horribly wrong, and I hope Robinson shows us the Bat-Backup (the Question, for instance) in the next couple of issues. The issue itself is fairly decent, and concludes in a pretty gruesome fashion that makes up for its being otherwise predictable.

Finally, I was pretty disappointed in Fantastic Four: A Death In The Family (written by Karl Kesel, pencilled by Lee Weeks, inked by Robert Campanella and Tom Palmer). I know not to trust Marvel’s hype machine, but in hindsight it was really trying to sell a story which might have otherwise only been fit for a Secret Files-type special. Oh, wait, there are Who’s W— I mean, OHOTMU pages in the back! It is a Secret Files-type special! Anyway, there’s also a Franklin Richards backup by Chris Eliopolous and Marc Sumerak, and a reprint of John Byrne’s FF #245, featuring the adult Franklin. An odd mix of stories that feel crammed together under the pretense of a Big Event. Silly Marvel — we know what the events look like by now!

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