Comics Ate My Brain

July 31, 2009

I thought this was easy, but my answers are probably wrong

Filed under: legion, questions — Tom Bondurant @ 1:54 am
Kurt Busiek asks:

How many Legionnaires can you name who had letters on their costume?

Naturally, the ‘L’ on the flight ring doesn’t count.

I got five — or eight, depending on how technical you want to get.

Mark Waid got the same five, but agreed that those other three shouldn’t count.

Paul Levitz got four, with the same caveat.

James Robinson got five.

Tom Galloway came up with a sixth, but then, as I understand it, he was at the Challenge last year, so he’s had much more time to think about it. And I spurn his sixth name as a technicality anyway, while Mark grumbled that yeah, it’s a technicality but he should have gotten it anyway.

I can think of five, plus the “three who shouldn’t count” — but again, I am not really a Legion scholar, so I’m probably missing something:

1. Superboy
2. Supergirl
3. Phantom Girl
4. Element Lad
5. Ferro Lad

… and the “honorable mentions” would be Cosmic Boy, Lightning Boy, and Saturn Girl, whose codenames were written out on their costumes in their very first appearance.

Now off to Busiek.com’s forum to check my work!

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.

October 7, 2008

Olivia Vs. Super-Babies

Filed under: legion — Tom Bondurant @ 3:25 pm
Now that I have finished the Essential Defenders books, I’ve moved on to a different set of black-and-white reprints for Olivia’s story time. I’ll get back to the Marvel stuff eventually, but for now we’ve been reading Showcase Presents Legion Of Super-Heroes Vol. 2 … and guess which story came up to bat last night?

That’s right, “The Menace Of The Sinister Super-Babies!” from Adventure Comics #338 (November 1965). This particular story was a revelation to me, and not just because of how the dialogue sounded when read aloud. If you’re unfamiliar with it (as I was), basically the plot involves the Time Trapper’s attempt to destroy the Legionnaires by, appropriately enough, de-aging them from teenagers to infants and eventually into the “protoplasmic slime” from which all life comes. Because the point of the story is to show the Legionnaires as infants, though, there must be complications.

See, the Time Trapper is an omnipotent villain who lives in a post-apocalyptic dinosaur-shaped building on a devastated planet at the end of time. His “Iron Curtain of time” prevents the Legionnaires (who live in the 30th Century*) from attacking him directly. His plan, however, involves sending a henchwoman (Glorith) back to the 30th C. with a device which, when touched by anyone not properly protected, will de-age them ultimately to the aforementioned primordial goo. Thus, Glorith tricks the Legionnaires into touching the device — but unfortunately for her, they are only de-aged to infancy, thanks to the interfering spray from a nearby “Fountain of 1,000 Chemicals.” I failed to mention that Glorith and the Legion are at a theme park, where the fountain is one of the attractions, next to the merry-go-round.

Anyway, hilarity ensues, and the Time Trapper (who eventually enters the story as a sinister “Uncle,” tricking the Legion Babies into stealing for him) ends up so annoyed with his “Infant-ry” (the story uses that term repeatedly) that he gives the few unaffected Legionnaires the cure for their colleagues’ condition, in exchange for them replacing the spaceship the super-babies trashed.

This story was written by Jerry Siegel, Superman’s co-creator, and drawn by regular Legion artist John Forte; but it reads like the result of a three-day ether binge. Still, because it introduced the character of Glorith, who later became one of the main Legion villains ’round about the time I started reading the title regularly (the “TMK”/Five Years Later era), I suppose it has become an important milepost in Legion history.

An aside: I keep forgetting how far into the 1960s these stories were advancing. It’s easier for me to see the march of time reflected in more serialized books, namely the Marvel titles. Therefore, by way of unfair comparison, the November ’65 issue of Fantastic Four had them battling the Inhumans and Dragon Man.

For a more informed view of this story, I recommend H’s recap here (scroll down). You can read all of “Menace of the Sinister Super-Babies” here.

By the way, I haven’t been doing distinct voices for the Legion stories like I was for the Defenders issues. I tried to do a deep, booming Time Trapper, but this story’s dialogue suggested more of a cranky Uncle Leo. Besides, these characters speak pretty much in paragraphs (that is, when they’re not laughing at someone), so it’s hard to concentrate on a voice while getting all the words out.

Anyway, we’ll stick with the Legion for a while, but probably back to ’70s Marvel before too long.

* [I know most of you know this, so it’s primarily for my family members who aren’t so into the superheroes.]

September 8, 2008

New comics 8/13/08

Olivia turned four weeks old yesterday, and will be a month old on Tuesday … not unlike my current-comics backlog, as it turns out.

I’ve also been reading a lot of non-superhero comics. I finally got around to The Professor’s Daughter, The Plain Janes, and Black Hole, with Bottomless Belly Button on deck.

But yes, the superheroes still dominate, so let’s get to ’em.

In Booster Gold #11, guest-writer Chuck Dixon joins regular artists Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund for a light look back at Batman’s less-grim days. Batman, you say? Yes; Booster must pose first as Killer Moth and then as the Darknight Detective himself in order to fix the problems one of Dixon’s one-shot Detective Comics villains has caused. It’s part 1 of 2, and it seems content to gawk giddily at the trappings of ’60s Batman and one of his goofier villains. (Killer Moth considered himself the anti-Batman, down to his own set of themed gadgets.) There’s the usual drama about A World Without Batman, but we know by now how that sort of thing turns out — especially in a two-part guest-written arc. It’s still fun, though.

Someday soon — maybe after Bottomless Belly Button and finishing another run through Watchmen — I’ll break out all of the Grant Morrison Batman issues to date. Maybe then I’ll have a more informed angle on “Batman R.I.P.” In the meantime, though, every issue seems like a mad dash through the storyline, with Morrison throwing out ideas and plot points left and right. Batman #679 finds the “emergency persona” in full effect, busting heads and behaving like a cross between Rorschach (i.e., vigilantism on the cheap) and the Frank Miller parody, with a little “Moon Roach” from Cerebus thrown in. I liked it pretty well, and I think my problem is that I read it too quickly.

Wonder Woman #23 finished the “Ends of the Earth” storyline with a big, brutal fight between Diana and the Devil, with her soul (among other things) at stake. I liked it on its own terms, but I still couldn’t follow the changing loyalties and subtle reveals from previous chapters. Fortunately, the issue brought Donna Troy into the romantic subplot involving Nemesis, and let Donna have a good scene involving Amazon ritual.

Assuming we hadn’t seen it previously, Action Comics #868 adds The Matrix to the other sci-fi influences writer Geoff Johns and penciller Gary Frank have brought to their ultimate version of Brainiac. While Superman contends with the villain, the more lively parts of the issue involve Supergirl and her soon-to-be-Jonah-Jameson-like rival, Cat Grant. It’s all good, though.

Fantastic Four #559 tracks the Human Torch’s fight with the New Defenders across Manhattan, while Sue has dinner with Reed’s ex-flame and Ben takes his new love to see Johnny perform on “The Late Show.” If you think this is mostly an opportunity for Bryan Hitch once again to demonstrate his photorealistic tendencies, you’re not far off (although there is no David Letterman cameo, unfortunately). One money shot shows the Fantasticar flying low over Times Square. The issue has a couple of big revelations, one involving Magrathe– I mean, the “new Earth” — which is mildly surprising, and the other involving a classic FF foe which recalls both the Walt Simonson issues and JLA/Avengers. If you’d never read a Fantastic Four comic book before, you’d probably think this was pretty cool stuff, but for us lifers, it feels pretty hollow.

Green Lantern Corps #27 holds a hodgepodge of day-in-the-life-of-Oa subplots including the opening of “Guy Gardner’s American Cafe” (it’s not called that), a visit to the Green Lantern graveyard, and hints of affection between Kyle and Dr. Natu. However, the cover image refers (somewhat inaccurately) to the tragedy which I presume kicks off the next storyline, and it’s a gruesome one. Guest penciller Luke Ross (with guest inker Fabio Laguna) has a less distinctive style than regular penciller Patrick Gleason, but considering that this issue is concerned with introductions (Guy’s bar, the crypt), I suppose that’s okay. I have to say, though, that the aforementioned tragedy seems to fall squarely within the “worthwhile = realistic = gruesome” thinking which DC can’t seem to shake. This will sound like an empty threat, but I think I’ll be dropping this book if things don’t improve after “Black Lanterns.”

Batman Confidential #20, Part 4 of the current 5-part Batgirl/Catwoman storyline, was pretty much like the other three chapters, except with Batman replacing the shredded costumes and outright nudity. By that I mean Batgirl isn’t necessarily struggling to impress/one-up Catwoman here, but Batman himself. Still pretty entertaining, although Batgirl’s dialogue tends to be a little too earnest.

Green Arrow And Black Canary #11 lays out the details of the Plot To Kill Green Arrow, along the way revealing the mysterious mastermind behind it all. Not bad for an expository issue, although I’m not sure it dovetails entirely with the “Countdown was responsible” tone of the first few issues.

I’ll be honest: I was ready to declare Final Crisis: Revelations #1 (written by Greg Rucka, pencilled by Philip Tan, inked by Jonathan Glapion et al.) one of the worst comic books I have ever read. The art seemed deliberately ugly and incomprehensible, and the writing depended upon a good working knowledge of recent DC crossovers.

Well, re-reading it, it’s not quite that bad. The writing still involves a particular learning curve, but I suppose if you’re buying a Final Crisis [Colon Subtitle] book, you’re halfway there already. The art isn’t a model of clarity, but perhaps it fits the particularly grim mood of the book. This is an issue where Doctor Light dresses up helpless teens as rape-ready superheroines, and where the Spectre subsequently gives him and assorted other supervillains their ironic punishments for the even-more-sordid acts they committed in the course of recent DC crossovers. Furthermore, the story invokes one of the classic responses to an omnipotent character: making him powerless (or not so powerful) against a particular foe. I wouldn’t mind it so much here if it hadn’t just been used in Countdown To Mystery, although it does make more sense here than there.

Ultimately, though, I’ll stick with this miniseries largely out of a need for closure. I hate to say it so bluntly, but at least we won’t have Doctor Light to kick around for a while. Maybe by the end of this miniseries we’ll have a functional Spectre and/or Question.

Finally, The Last Defenders #6 was a letdown on a couple of levels. First, the big revelation is something of a betrayal of the “non-team” concept. Second, I kinda get Nighthawk’s role, but I’ve been reading those Essential Defenders (halfway through #4!) and does he really need to be validated this much? I guess I was expecting something more subversive. Also, the opening fight choreography was hard to follow.

Three weeks (or so) worth of comics left….

May 7, 2008

New comics 4/30/08

Filed under: crisis, green lantern, legion, new teen titans, star wars, superman, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 12:55 am
For some reason DC Universe #0 (written by Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns, drawn by committee) felt more Johnsian than Morrisonian. It struck me as a collection of preview pages from a half-dozen upcoming arcs, tied together by vague narration from a Certain Familiar Someone. I responded most favorably to the George Perez pages and the Final Crisis tease.

The blow-up-the-base story currently running in Star Wars: Rebellion (#13 written by Jeremy Barlow, drawn by Colin Wilson) is starting to feel padded by about an issue, and this is that issue. Most of it follows a Rebel soldier as she tries to escape a sadistic Imperial officer and the requisite stormtrooper squads. There’s some narration about her coming to grips with the meaning of being a Rebel, but that was lost on me somewhat because I’ve never gotten too invested in this character. A promising sequence at the end makes a good case for our heroine blowing up half the base with a single grenade (not unprecedented in Star Wars, I think you’ll agree). Overall, some good stuff, and my opinion may change after next issue, but for now it still seems a bit long.

Teen Titans Year One #4 (written by Amy Wolfram, pencilled by Karl Kerschl, inked by Serge LaPointe) is, as the cover indicates, a Kid Flash spotlight, but it continues the Batman/Robin storyline which has run through the book so far. The issue doesn’t quite put Flasher in the “I should be the leader” slot, but it does give him an ego to go with his considerable powers. Wolfram and Kerschl root for him regardless, so that he’s never really unsympathetic. Also, Aqualad gets more of a personality, although he still doesn’t do a whole lot. Wolfram and Kerschl’s simple storytelling comes across as very matter-of-fact, and it leaves room for Kerschl’s stylized, expressive designs to work. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series and wishing it could go on longer.

Back in the current Teen Titans (#58 written by Sean McKeever, pencilled by Carlos Rodriguez, and inked by various people), this month Miss Martian must fight not only the Terror Titans, but also her evil conscience. (I’ve been reading too many solicitations.) Not knowing much about the character, I thought this was a good way to highlight her inner turmoil. I was a little confused at first, thinking that her Evil Self was somehow connected to her Evil Future Self from a few issues back, but that was cleared up soon enough. The art was decent: not too far from the book’s normal style, not too flashy, but adequate for the job at hand.

I get the feeling I should like “Secret Origin,” part 2 of which appears in Green Lantern #30 (written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Ivan Reis, inked by Oclair Albert), but it keeps falling flat for me. I shouldn’t fault it for changing Hal’s origin so that only he (and not the little training capsule) is yanked out of the hangar by Abin Sur’s ring. Working classic GL characters into the background is also acceptable, as is tying it into “The Blackest Night” and the Ysmault prophecies. Maybe I just have a problem with Ivan Reis drawing Hal to look 17 years old; or with Johns having Hal cause a rival to crash. Otherwise, “Secret Origin” is appropriately reverent, which is nice. I don’t dislike this storyline, but I like it less than Johns’ and Reis’ other GL work.

Johns does better with Action Comics #864 (pencilled by Joe Prado, inked by Jon Sibal), a bridge between Countdown and Legion of Three Worlds which plays like a standalone murder mystery. Basically, Batman and Lightning Lad (of the “Earth-1 Legion”) clash over the corpses of Karate Kid and Una. Batman also makes the point that he’s met three different versions of the Legion, so naturally he’s not inclined to trust any of them. The mystery isn’t solved — it’s a teaser for the aforementioned LO3W, after all — but the issue is tied together by a Mysterious Narrator revealed on the last page. Suspenseful! (Also, this week, redundant!) The art is okay — a little too chunky, but not to the point of Liefeldism. I can’t get used to a Grunge-like Lightning Lad, though.

April 4, 2008

New comics 4/2/08

Filed under: batman, countdown, legion, nightwing, supergirl, superman, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 1:29 am
First up this week is Detective Comics #843 (written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Dustin Nguyen, inked by Derek Fridolfs), an issue which mixes the Penguin, Zatanna, the Ventriloquist, and a couple of characters from earlier in Dini’s tenure. With all of those players, you’d think there’s not much room for Batman, and indeed, Bruce Wayne is in it more than Batman is. It’s a tightly-plotted issue revolving around a Gotham rich-kid opening a nightclub to compete with the Penguin’s, and hiring Zatanna for a little extra sizzle. The Ventriloquist’s new “voice” reveals a surprising secret, and the cliffhanger’s pretty good too. As for the art, I don’t dislike Nguyen and Fridoffs, but I’m still getting used to their style. Nguyen uses very thin lines and Fridoffs is heavy on the blacks, and it reminds me of early Mike Mignola.

Keeping with the Bat-theme, here’s Nightwing #143 (written by Peter Tomasi, pencilled by Don Kramer, inked by Christian Alamy and Mark McKenna), a stopping point in the current grave-robbing-villain storyline. If you like Nightwing and Robin vs. an island base full of zombie super-soldiers, scenes punctuated by witty banter, and references to classic rock and Jaws, this is the issue for you. I found it to be a little too pleased with itself, but still an improvement for the title overall. Don Kramer fills in for Rags Morales this issue, but except for a little more stiffness I didn’t really notice. Together with Alamy and McKenna, the art isn’t too far from normal.

The fill-in work of Ron Randall is less noticeable on Supergirl #28 (written by Kelley Puckett, with the balance pencilled by Drew Johnson and inked by Ray Snyder), an issue that was actually pretty decent. After more than a few issues so inscrutable they’d make the average episode of “Aeon Flux” look like a flowchart, here’s one which starts to pull everything together. Supergirl has promised an adorable moppet she’ll find a cure for his cancer. Naturally, everyone (personified here initially by Wonder Woman) thinks she’s nuts. Supergirl then finds a cult-favorite DC character from the ’90s (I won’t spoil the cover’s tease!) to try and convert to her side. Most of the issue involves Supergirl talking to Wonder Woman and then to Mystery Character, and she does continue to act a bit weird, but with this issue I felt like there was a purpose.

Sadly, that provides an apt segue into Countdown #4 (written by Paul Dini and Sean McKeever, story consultant Keith Giffen, pencilled by Jamal Igle, inked by Keith Champagne), which once again seems to have lost sight of its purpose. After the last few weeks’ detour with the Great Disaster, our heroes are back on the real Earth … but, as the cover indicates, Mary Marvel has decided to go back to the black-cheerleader outfit which got her in so much trouble 30 years ago when this series was still young. So she fights the Atom and Green Lantern and Troia on the steps of the Hall of Justice (the JLA’s not home, of course) in order to kidnap Jimmy Olsen for Darkseid. I like Jamal Igle and Keith Champagne’s work a lot, although their Darkseid seemed a little off, so I didn’t have many complaints with the art. I guess the overall story is starting to come together too. However, the Mary Marvel “reversion” still feels like a sharp yank after all that buildup to “redeem” her.

Finally — and I do mean finally!Action Comics #863 (written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Gary Frank, inked by Jon Sibal) provides the big blowout conclusion to “Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes.” The payoff is Superman (and, eventually, the Legion)’s fight with Earth-Man in the streets of Metropolis. The secondary payoffs are a couple of rah-rah spreads of the Legion. Sun Boy’s role in the story seemed a little too convenient, but considering that this arc could easily have lost an issue without much trouble, I appreciated this installment’s pacing. Also, remember last time how I didn’t like the way Butch Guice “directed” Cap’s fall onto the hovercar? This issue features Superman falling pretty much from orbit, to entirely predictable results, but I liked the way Frank laid out the sequence. Frank’s faces are still a bit creepy (those eyes!) and everyone looks kinda pale (thanks to Dave McCaig), but on the whole I can’t complain.

February 29, 2008

New comics 2/27/08

Filed under: batman, captain america, countdown, justice league, legion, question, rasl, superman, teen titans — Tom Bondurant @ 1:33 am
I think I understand what’s going on in the current Batman storyline, and that scares me a little. However, issue #674 (written by Grant Morrison, pencilled by Tony Daniel, inked by Sandu Florea) was — Bat-Mite channeling Hot Cylon No. 6 notwithstanding — a great example of Morrison’s take on the character.

Morrison writes a really entertaining Batman. He’s super-capable without letting it go to his head. His inner monologue this issue, about how he spends all his time thinking of impossible scenarios and how to get out of them, captures the very heart of the character — not just hitting the “Batman is a jerk” days of the ’90s, but the Bat-Shark-Repellent camp era, the wacky ’50s, and even back to 1939. In the seminal two-issue “Batman Vs. Werewolves and Vampires” storyline, adapted most recently by Matt Wagner in Batman and the Mad Monk, Batman’s got the tools ready to make silver bullets. Silver bullets! “Always has a plan,” indeed.

Anyway, Batman #674 tells the chilling story of the three alternate Batmen, and it too is an homage to “The Secret Star,” a story from almost 600 issues prior (1953’s issue #77). Everybody’s trying to figure out what makes Batman tick, and Morrison evidently sees turning over all the old, forgotten stories as one of the best ways to do this. It’s a well-executed high concept, and heck, it makes sense to me. Of course, I’ve got my trusty Batman Encyclopedia handy….

What else–? Daniel and Florea turn in a pretty good job. There are so many Batmen flying around that it can get a little confusing (look to the utility belts, for example), and their work is solid but not exceptional. They remind me of a cross between Dick Giordano and Andy Kubert. Also, for all the praise I’ve laid on Morrison’s Batman, I have to point out that his Commissioner Gordon, and in fact the other Gotham cops, don’t sound quite right. The cops sound very “Morrisonian,” if that makes sense; and Morrison hasn’t given Morrison the gruff edge we’ve grown accustomed to.

Next up is Rasl #1, by Jeff Smith. It’s the story of a youngish (indeterminate-20s, probably) thief who can travel to alternate universes and who leaves the word “RASL” spray-painted as his calling card. This introductory issue has two tracks, the first with our anti-hero in disarray, wandering through a desert, and the second with him fleeing from his antagonists who’ve finally figured out how to track him. It’s a lot of style and attitude, and it may read better collected, but it’s designed to plant enough hooks to keep periodical readers coming back. Worked for me.

All-Star Batman & Robin #9 (written by Frank Miller, pencilled by Jim Lee, inked by Scott Williams) is a strange, almost disjointed issue that spends its first half taunting Green Lantern like he’s Elmer Fudd, and its second getting the Dynamic Duo to collapse in the pathos of their collective grief. It’s certainly the most idiosyncratic take on Batman and Robin I’ve seen in a while, it makes them a formidable pair, and I’d like it a little better if it weren’t done at the expense of just about everyone else in the book. That said, I thought the book did a credible job of switching moods, and the new one is certainly different enough to hold my interest.

The “Terror Titans” storyline begins in earnest in Teen Titans #56 (written by Sean McKeever, pencilled by Eddy Barrows, inked by Jimmy Palmiotti and Julio Ferreira), and so far I’m getting a “Judas Contract” vibe off of it. This issue finds Kid Devil generally screwing up, and thus leaving himself open to being co-opted. I kinda figured out the plot shortly after KD’s party got underway, but I thought the ending left some options open for him, character-wise, so overall I liked the issue. It fostered the right sense of dread that these kinds of storylines need. The art was, quite frankly, better than I have seen from Barrows, but some of that probably came from Palmiotti’s inks and Rod Reis’s colors.

It’s not that I don’t like the Legion arc in Action Comics (#862 written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Gary Frank, inked by Jon Sibal), but it does feel like it’s gone on about an issue too long. This issue particularly seems concerned with spotlighting more Legionnaires, which is nice, but I’d also liked to have seen more movement towards re-yellowing Earth’s Sun and restoring Superman’s powers.

There’s a neat visual gag in the middle of JLA Classified #53 (written by Roger Stern, pencilled by John Byrne, inked by Mark Farmer), but it requires advanced geek knowledge (or does that go without saying?). See, this story apparently takes place in the days when Black Canary, and not Wonder Woman, was the League’s pre-eminent female member. Furthermore, back then BC wore a blonde wig over her black hair. Therefore, when foe du jour Titus decides he’s had enough of thoroughly pwning the League, and offers instead to make them part of his “pantheon,” he dresses Black Canary in a very WW-inspired costume, and gets rid of her wig, so that she looks a lot like Wonder Woman. That’s the most clever thing about the issue, which otherwise finds the League utterly bumfuzzled about how to stop this guy. As with the Action arc, next issue’s the big finish, so I’m hoping it will elevate the story as a whole.

Speaking of endings, Crime Bible #5 (written by Greg Rucka, pencilled by Manuel Garcia, inked by Garcia and Jimmy Palmiotti) finds the Question fighting the leader of the Cain sect for what he claims is leadership of said sect. Thus, the issue is an extended fight scene, which comes off fairly well — Garcia and Palmiotti are fine storytellers, and the action isn’t hard to follow. The problem is the ending, which leaves (you’ll forgive me) a big question hanging. Ironically, part of the Question’s dialogue during the fight references the end of Renee’s previous series, Gotham Central, which went out on an ambiguous note so that it could lead into her transformation into the Question. Now Crime Bible seems to be doing the same thing. We kinda know how it should end, but it’d be nice if our suspicions were confirmed.

Lots of death and exploding in Countdown #9 (written by Paul Dini and Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, story consultant Keith Giffen, pencilled by Tom Derenick, inked by Wayne Faucher). Derenick and Faucher portray this pretty well, albeit in a sort of DC-house-standard way. For an issue that concerns a bunch of superheroes trying to reunite with colleagues and get the heck off Apokolips, it’s about as good as you’d think. A couple of old friends return, the cliffhangers are good, and who knew the Pied Piper had it in him?

Finally, Captain America #35 (written by Ed Brubaker, pencilled by Jackson Guice, inked by Guice and Mike Perkins) wasn’t quite as good as last issue. The new Cap fights rioters, and especially those causing them to riot, in Washington, D.C. Given the character’s symbolic nature, I was expecting the riot to contain an inspirational moment — a “Look! Up in the sky!” moment, if you will — but I guess that would have been something of a cheat, and not quite within Brubaker’s downbeat tone. Perkins’ inks do a lot to connect this issue visually to regular penciller Steve Epting’s work, but Guice’s storytelling is just as good. There’s also a fair amount of plot, and Brubaker uses a good bit of the book’s large cast. It’s a middle-act issue which has me excited for the conclusion.

January 25, 2008

Thursday Night Thinking

Filed under: legion, thursday night thinking — Tom Bondurant @ 2:08 am
The thought balloon has many uses. Here, Saturn Girl illustrates that THINKING in a splash panel can set up dramatic conflict!

Diamondrock, I, uh, think that’s my red stapler….

[From “Legion.Com,” one of the many fine stories in 2005’s Bizarro World. Written by Ariel Bordeaux and drawn, lettered, and colored by Rick Altergott.]

December 29, 2007

New comics 12/28/07

… So I bought sixteen comic books and then entered a Nyquil fog? Isn’t it supposed to happen the other way around?

Jeez, sixteen comics. I’ll point out quickly, though, that three carry the Countdown banner, two the 52 Aftermath one, and a couple of others are one-shots (Green Lantern Secret Files, Fantastic Four Isla de la Muerte), and one I’m just giving a tryout to (LSH). So that’s half, which makes me feel a little better.

Also, I read ’em last night during the Nyquil haze, so I might still be a little fuzzy talking about ’em today.

Onward!

The three Countdown books — Arena #4, C. To Adventure #5, and issue #18 of the main book — were all pretty competently done. The big attraction in the main book was the reunion with Ray Palmer, but it felt more like the capper to those wheel-spinning Search For specials from the past few months. Good to check in with Ray, but not much else happened this week, and of course another cliffhanger ending. The Adventure book advanced the plot in San Diego, but seeing that we’re past the halfway point and our three stalwarts haven’t hooked up again, the story starts to look a little more padded. Finally, Arena wrapped up with a weird fight involving the Supermen, made even more incomprehensible by Christopher Kent (the bald one)’s odd powers. If you had “Superman defeats Monarch,” you lost!

The Forerunner backup in C. To Adventure was okay, about her taking over a pirate ship and generally being hardcore, but the overall storyline has not engaged me.

Moving on. Green Lantern Sinestro Corps Secret Files & Origins #1 was surprisingly comprehensive as these things go, delivering on the cover’s promise of “bios on over 200 Lanterns!” and generally acting as the Bill James Baseball Abstract 2008 for all us GL fans. Worth the $4.99, and I don’t say that lightly about these Secret Files books.

Mark Waid strikes twice this week, first with Flash #235 and then with Brave and the Bold #9. The Flash story was fine; more intriguing for its Jai-Wally scenes than for any advancement in the plot. I’m not convinced that Freddie Williams is a good fit for this book. I might have mentioned already that his figures are a little on the bulky side, and for a speedster I don’t think that’s optimal. Still, it’s not a total mismatch. The backup fares better, being a Wally-and-Bart flashback and helping to explain the origin of the main story’s bad guy.

The Brave and the Bold #9 is likewise a patchwork of three fairly simple team-ups (Metal Men and Dial H For Hero, Blackhawk and Boy Commandos, present-day Atom and Hawkman) in which each set of heroes fights some messenger of Megistus. It’s all tied together by a Challengers of the Unknown framing sequence, and the suggestion that the Book of Destiny has come to life somehow. (There must have been some magic in that old silk hat they found….) It will probably mean more to the story once the bigger picture is seen, and it’s not the best issue so far, but it’s still pretty fun.

This week also sees a double dose of the Legion of Super-Heroes, first in their own book and then in Action Comics. Legion #37 kicks off the return of Scripter-Boy Jim Shooter, back after thirty-plus years; and I’ve gotta say, I wasn’t really encouraged. The thrust of the story is that new Legion leader Lightning Lad is, to put it lightly, overwhelmed by his responsibilities, with the team suffering as a result. The issue provides an overview of quite a few Legionnaires, which is appropriate, and it’s not really decompressed, which I appreciated; but it almost tries to do too much. Blocky, angular art from penciller Francis Manapul and inker Livesay doesn’t help the scenes flow into one another. There’s also not much sense that this Legion is appreciably different from the old Shooter/Levitz days, and I kinda think there should be. Maybe I’m just picky that way.

Over in Action Comics #860, what is allegedly the old Shooter/Levitz Legion gets its own workout, but again, the book just feels crowded with characters. Having them all introduced with their own bullet-point caption is a nice idea in theory, but in practice — take the first page, for example — the things can clutter up the page. The Legionnaires also crowd out Superman themselves, but if the point is to get all the players straight before the big scrum, that’d make it easier to take. Oddly enough, I think penciller Gary Frank makes the Legionnaires look a little older than Superman, which strikes me as an intriguing detail if it’s intentional. Look at the cheekbones on Lightning Lass and Night Girl. Those faces seem almost middle-aged to me. Anyway, we’re about where I’d expect for the halfway point of the story, so it’s still good thus far.

Green Lantern #26 bills itself as Part 1 of “The Alpha Lanterns,” but it’s more transitory than that. Pieces are picked up after the Sinestro Corps War, Hal and John go back to Earth, and a group of “Lost Lanterns” runs afoul of Amon Sur. Mike McKone comes on as penciller and does a good job. His layouts aren’t as crowded as Ivan Reis’s, but of course he’s not drawing thousands of GLs and Sinestros either. Because the issue is so episodic, it’s hard to get a sense of what it wants to accomplish, and it dispenses with the “Alpha Lantern” thing pretty quickly. We’ll see how Part 2 deals with the Alphas, I guess.

Another somewhat transitory issue was Captain America #33, wherein the Winter Soldier’s arm beats up some SHIELD techs and the fully-armed (ha ha) W.S. almost takes out Iron Man. Pieces are put together by the good guys re: the involvement of the Red Skull, and next issue advertises the New Cap. Another fine installment.

Fantastic Four: Isla De La Muerte was a cute one-shot spotlighting the Thing’s annual secret vacation to Puerto Rico. With as much time spent on team dynamics as on the mystery du jour, it’s a good little FF story. I don’t quite see the resemblance between Ben and El Morro, though. The art, by Juan Doe, is fairly cartoony, but I just say that to describe, not criticize.

JLA Classified #49 was a strange, rather insubstantial story about the Leaguers’ various helpmates reacting to their being off-planet on a dangerous mission. Most of it concerns Lois Lane and Alfred Pennyworth meeting for the first time, which you’d think would place this fairly early in DC history; but Wally is the Flash and Linda is his sweetie, so it can’t be that old. Also, Lois either doesn’t know Superman’s secret, or doesn’t know that she can share it with Alfred. Paulo Siqueira and Amilton Santos are the penciller and inker, respectively, and they combine to produce somewhat Adam Hughes-like figures. However, the layouts are a little too self-conscious, with figures jumping out of panels when they maybe really shouldn’t. The overall effect is to make the story seem more important than it is. I hate to be a continuity stickler, but it might’ve worked better with a more open relationship among the principals; and that might’ve been better portrayed with a group which included the Silver Age significant others. Those people did hang out together in a way that, say, Alfred and Lois don’t.

Teen Titans #54 finished up the “Titans Of Tomorrow Today” storyline, but I’m not sure how. Did the revelations about Future-Kon and Future-Bart really affect the current Titans’ viewpoints enough that history will be changed for the better? And what about that epilogue? The issue has some nice moments, many of them involving Wonder Girl or Blue Beetle, but I don’t know that they add up to a coherent conclusion.

Batman #672 sees Grant Morrison and Tony Daniel return to the familar “Three Evil Batmen” storyline Morrison had been working before the Club of Heroes and Ra’s al Ghul arcs intervened. I liked this issue pretty well, although I thought the ending was confusing. Since it involved Zur-En-Arrh, a Batman getting shot, and what looks like Bat-Mite, I’m sure it’ll be explained eventually. Daniel and his various inkers still remind me of Andy Kubert, but that may well be the influence of Guy Major’s colors.

Finally, the two 52 spinoffs, Four Horsemen and Crime Bible, were both pretty entertaining. I especially liked Crime Bible‘s look at the Gotham PD and, therefore, Greg Rucka’s “return” to Gotham Central territory. Batwoman also seemed a lot more plausible as a crimefighter, although you’d think we’d have seen her in more places even taking her recovery into account. Anyway, Crime Bible was more a spotlight on the Question’s relationship to Batwoman, and for that it was pretty good.

Four Horsemen continues to be a good adventure story, weaving various ancillary characters like Mr. Terrific, Veronica Cale, and Snapper Carr into its story about DC’s “Big Three” taking on Apokoliptian terror-gods. This issue adds the Doom Patrol. It’s all very well-organized, with enough set pieces (like Superman’s and Batman’s respective duels with Horsemen) to hold my interest. Of course, there’s not much doubt about the outcome, so the fun is in seeing how we’ll get there.

Whew! How’s that for a whirlwind look at an end-of-year blowout week?

* * *

CREDITS

Action Comics #860. Written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Gary Frank, inked by Jon Sibal, colored by Dave McCaig.

Batman #672. Written by Grant Morrison, pencilled by Tony Daniel, inked by Daniel, Jonathan Glapion, and others, colored by Guy Major.

The Brave and the Bold #9. Written by Mark Waid, pencilled by George Pérez, inked by Bob Wiacek and Scott Koblish, colored by Tom Smith.

Captain America #33. Written by Ed Brubaker, pencilled by Steve Epting, inked by Butch Guice, colored by Frank D’Armata.

Countdown Arena #4. Written by Keith Champagne, pencilled by Scott McDaniel, inked by Andy Owens, and colored by Guy Major.

Countdown To Adventure #5. “Space Heroes” written by Adam Beechen, pencilled by Allan Goldman, inked by Julio Ferreira, and colored by The Hories. “Forerunner” written by Justin Gray, pencilled by Fabrizio Fiorentino, inked by Adam DeKraker, and colored by The Hories.

Countdown (To Final Crisis) #18. Written by Paul Dini and Sean McKeever, story consultant Keith Giffen, drawn by Scott Kolins, colored by Tom Chu.

Fantastic Four: Isla de la Muerte! #1. Written by Tom Beland, drawn and colored by Juan Doe.

52 Aftermath: Crime Bible — Five Lessons Of Blood #3. Written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Matthew Clark, colored by Javier Mena.

52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen #5. Written by Keith Giffen, pencilled by Pat Olliffe, inked by John Stanisci, colored by Hi-Fi.

The Flash #235. Main story written by Mark Waid, drawn by Freddie Williams II, and colored by Tanya & Richard Horie. Backup written by Waid and John Rogers, drawn by Doug Braithwaite, and colored by Alex Sinclair.

Green Lantern #26. Written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Mike McKone, inked by Andy Lanning, Marlo Alquiza, & Cam Smith, and colored by JD Smith.

Green Lantern Sinestro Corps Secret Files & Origins #1. Written, drawn, and colored by too many people to mention.

JLA Classified #49. Written by Andrew Kreisberg, pencilled by Paulo Siquiera, inked by Amilton Santos, and colored by Allen Passalaqua.

Legion of Super-Heroes #37. Written by Jim Shooter, pencilled by Francis Manapul, inked by Livesay, and colored by Nathan Eyring.

Teen Titans #54. Written by Sean McKeever, pencilled by Eddy Barrows, Joe Prado, & Greg Tocchini, inked by Rob Hunter, Julio Ferreira, Oclair Albert, & Prado, and colored by Rod Reis.

December 1, 2007

Friday Night Fights

Filed under: friday night fights, legion, superboy, supergirl — Tom Bondurant @ 12:34 am
Happy birthday, Keith Giffen!

Superboy and Supergirl would love to celebrate, but first they’ve got to give Darkseid a message …

… the 20th Century says “have fun getting sucka-punched!”

(Also, the future belongs to Bahlactus!)

[From “Darkseid,” in The Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 1 #294, December 1982. Co-plotted and pencilled by Mr. Giffen, co-plotted and scripted by Paul Levitz, inked by Larry Mahlstedt, colored by Carl Gafford, lettered by John Costanza.]

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