Comics Ate My Brain

May 16, 2008

Friday Night Fights

Filed under: friday night fights, marvel family, meme — Tom Bondurant @ 11:42 pm
So … who thinks Mary Marvel needs the black cheerleader outfit to be tough?

Here she is in December 1942, taking apart some goons after saying “Shazam!” for the very first time …

… and here she is in July-August 1975, showing that experience doesn’t mean sacrificing one’s sense of humor.

(Yeah, she does more fighting in the older scan, but I’ve always liked her ’70s look. I wonder if she would have grown up to be Bailey Quarters. Mmmm … Bailey Quarters….)

Ahem. Our magic word is “Bahlactus!

[First scan from “Captain Marvel Introduces Mary Marvel,” in Captain Marvel Adventures #18, December 1942. Written by Otto Binder, drawn by Marc Swayze. Second scan from “Secret of the Smiling Swordsman!,” in Shazam! #19, July-August 1975. Written by E. Nelson Bridwell, drawn by Bob Oksner, lettered by Ben Oda. Both stories reprinted in Shazam! From The ’40s To The ’70s (1977).]

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August 31, 2007

Friday Night Fights

Filed under: friday night fights, justice league, marvel family, meme — Tom Bondurant @ 11:30 pm
Being possessed by the Gray Man has helped Captain Marvel lay a beating on J’Onn J’Onzz:

Tonight’s magic word is Bahlactus!

[From ‘Massacre In Gray,” Justice League #6, October 1987. Plot and breakdowns by Keith Giffen, script by J.M. DeMatteis, pencils by Kevin Maguire, inks by Al Gordon.]

July 25, 2007

New comics 7/18/07

We begin this week with All Flash #1 (written by Mark Waid, drawn by various artists) … and I can only speak for myself, but it felt really right to have Wally written by Waid again. Of all the writers who have handled Wally over the years — among them John Broome, Cary Bates, Bob Rozakis, Marv Wolfman, Mike Baron, Bill Messner-Loebs, and Geoff Johns — Wally and Waid seemed made for each other. I see a lot of commentators saying this effectively is a coda to Bart’s Fastest Man Alive, and I don’t disagree; and neither do I disagree that if the continuation of The Flash vol. 2 were drawn by Karl Kerschl, it would look fantastic. (It’s got Daniel Acuna instead, and while I don’t dislike Acuna, boy howdy does Kerschl’s work sparkle here.) Much has been made as well of Wally’s ironic punishment of Inertia, which is in many ways the point of this issue. I’d feel better if it were a prelude to the character’s return, and even (as some suggested) to Bart’s “return.”

In the end, I liked the issue. Wally’s departure was justified poorly, and his return was oddly reassuring, especially as voiced by Waid. Of course I’m looking forward to the regular Flash book, because that’ll be the real test of Waid’s speedster chops. I doubt we’ll be saying goodbye to Wally again anytime soon.

Next up, another book Mark Waid used to write, Captain America #28 (written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Steve Epting and Mike Perkins). It’s the same format as last issue — vignettes checking in with the book’s current cast, mostly with Sin and the (new?) Serpent Squad as they prepare to break Crossbones out of jail. It hit me with this issue that there’s still a lot I don’t know about Cap’s vast array of allies and enemies. Brubaker is evidently doing his best to work a lot of them into this story, and for the most part he’s doing a good job of at least indicating who’s good, who’s evil, and who’s got a long history I could probably find on Wikipedia. Ironically, though, the character I had the most trouble placing in this issue was Professor X. Seems like there’s been another bald character in the book lately (or maybe I’m just hallucinating) and they all look like Lex Luthor. Anyway, still a good read.

Speaking of called-back characters, The Spirit #8 (by Darwyn Cooke and J. Bone) presents a twist on the cover-featured “cut the right wire” scenario. This time it’s Agent Satin, who unfortunately reminded me of Erin Esurance early in the book when she’s parachuting into the action. Anyway, that passed pretty quickly. The issue itself is pretty loaded, putting a lot of subplots into what boils down to cut-the-right-wire … and, like I say, even that is a clever twist. However, it never feels coy or too clever, and the Spirit is only in it as a supporting character. It’s even a sequel of sorts to a previous issue, but without so much as a footnote or express flashback to clutter the narrative. If I had to show someone what Cooke’s Spirit was all about, I could do worse than give them this.

Reading the latest Action Comics (#852 written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Brad Walker, inked by John Livesay) made me wonder: why doesn’t DC put Busiek into its Countdown rotation? If there’s one thing at which Busiek excels, it’s creating a sense of “movement away from the ball.” Busiek is great at suggesting a larger world beyond the borders of a panel, a page, or an issue, and this story is no exception. Its focus on Jimmy connects his CD hijinx with the rest of the Superman plot. (This includes another reference to “Red Son” which pretty much spoils what has to be a big part of its ending, but in a perfect world that story would be long over anyway.) Unfortunately, I’m not clear about what’s going on with the primates and the green goo (Kryptonite, I guess) because those scenes are hard to follow, and I’m still not on board with Brad Walker as a penciller. His stuff is a little too idiosyncratic to fit such a straight-laced book as Action. It worked for the quirky Secret Six, just not so much here.

The portion of the blogosphere which still reads Countdown seemed to recoil a lilttle less at this week’s issue (#41 written by Paul Dini and Adam Beechen, drawn by Dennis Calero), and I’m in that camp too. Every scene seemed to be constructed just that much better: the Rogues on the run figure out how to survive a long fall; Harley and Holly get a vignette at the Athenian Women’s Shelter; and even the one- and two-page check-ins with Mary Marvel and Donna & Jason feel more cohesive. It may be the result of accumulated backstory or the invisible hands of Keith Giffen, but whatever it is, it’s working better. Dennis Calero is not an unfamiliar name, but I’m at a loss to remember something else he’s drawn. His work’s nice and simple, and it does what it needs to.

Two-thirds of the way through Amazons Attack (#4 written by Will Pfeifer, drawn by Pete Woods) and not only can I not tell where it ends and Wonder Woman begins, both series seem to be going over the same ground. Every installment features some unbelievable act of Amazonian carnage (here involving Air Force One), more tension between Wonder Woman and Hippolyta and Hippolyta and the other Amazons, more Circe scheming, etc. There’s barely a sense of plot movement despite having only two issues (well, plus the Wonder Woman issues, but still) to go. Thanks to Pete Woods, the book still looks very pretty.

Aquaman: Sword Of Atlantis #54 (written by Tad Williams, drawn by Shawn McManus) has too much going on. Aquaman and crew fight Black Manta in Sub Diego. There’s a new revelation involving the polar explorers. We check in with a couple of characters from the Peter David days. It’s charming enough, and I like what Williams and McManus have brought to the title, but it’s a strange combination of reliance on pre-OYL stories (maybe trying to win back that crowd?) and the new, oddball spin Williams has put on Kurt Busiek’s OYL “barbarian” concept. With three issues left in the title’s run, and so much plot, it all needs to start coming together.

The same applies to The Brave and the Bold #5 (written by Mark Waid, pencilled by George Perez, inked by Bob Wiacek), which takes a detour into the 31st Century so that Batman can outwit the current Legion of Super-Heroes. This gives Waid and Perez the opportunity to indulge themselves: Waid makes another Adam West reference, and Perez gets to work out with the Legion (a book which, he’s fond of saying, he’s never gotten to draw). There’s more with Supergirl, Green Lantern, and Adam Strange, and it’s all very fun and of course well-rendered; but again, it doesn’t feel like there’s just one issue to go in this arc.

If Brad Meltzer were staying on Justice League of America (#11 drawn by Gene Ha) longer than one more issue, I’d be more excited about this one-off tale of Red Arrow and Vixen trapped under the Watergate Hotel’s wreckage. As it is, it’s not a bad single-issue story. Meltzer clearly enjoys dialogue, and that’s pretty much all this issue is, with only a few physical scenes to punctuate the tension. And in fact, there is a bit of tension, which is surprising considering the relative invulnerability of these characters. Good on Meltzer and Ha for that. A semi-significant aspect of Vixen’s powers is revealed here too, in case a reader might feel that the story had no lasting impact. (It still might not, actually.) Ha’s work is more diffuse here than his normal precise, fine lines, but it’s still good, especially the way he plays with layouts towards the end. I kinda wish this had been more of a contrast from Meltzer’s talky modus operandi, though.

Man, everything this week is ending or about to end, isn’t it? Gail Simone’s last Birds of Prey (#108 pencilled by Nicola Scott, inked by Doug Hazlewood) is an epilogue to the Spy Smasher story arc, as Barbara beats up on her rival something fierce. Afterwards Babs and Dinah reunite, sharing takeout with Huntress and Lady Blackhawk, and then Barbara picks up her newest official recruit. I haven’t been back with this book for long, but I thought Simone had a touching farewell. I continue to be impressed with Nicola Scott and Doug Hazlewood — their faces are especially expressive.

There’s a bit of Checkmate #16 (written by Greg Rucka, pencilled by Joe Bennett, inked by Jack Jadson) which I halfway expected to see in BOP, and here it feels a touch out of place, but I suppose it fits better here than there. It’s the Fire and Ice reunion, of course, and it’s handled pretty deftly by all parties. It’s actually very sweet, adding some more nuance to Fire’s character (at least how she’s been portrayed in this book). The rest of the book concerns itself with Sasha and Mr. Terrific, and sets up the downfall of Amanda Waller. Bennett and Jadson look really pretty good here — their Fire/Ice scenes use a thicker line, subtly reminiscent of Adam Hughes and Joe Rubenstein’s Justice League International work, but their Sasha/Michael scenes are thinner and more delicately rendered. All around, a fine issue.

Finally, here’s the last issue (see? again!) of Jeff Smith’s Shazam! The Monster Society Of Evil, and it’s just as good as the other parts. Smith’s Mr. Mind design is perfect — menacing while still retaining the salient parts of the original. If this series isn’t the tour de force of Cap villains that the original was, that’s OK; as a revival/reimagining of the Captain Marvel mythology, it works very well. Now, of course, Smith has to do a sequel, so he can work Cap Jr. into the mix.

June 29, 2007

Friday Night Fights

Filed under: captain atom, friday night fights, marvel family, meme — Tom Bondurant @ 12:51 pm
Bahlactus is the sponsor, Roulette provides the venue …


… and a mind-controlled Mary Marvel throws down on Captain Atom!

[From “Dead Man’s Hand,” Formerly Known As The Justice League #3, November 2003, written by Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis, pencilled by Kevin Maguire, inked by Joe Rubenstein.]

May 12, 2007

New (at the time) comics 4/25/07 and 5/2/07

(sigh)

Yes, it’s been another three weeks without a new-comics recap. I’m not going to dwell on that, though, so let’s jump right in. Should have the 5/9 comics recapped by tonight or tomorrow.

4/25/07

52 #51 (written by Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, Grant Morrison, and Mark Waid, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencilled by Joe Bennett, inked by Jack Jadson and Belardino Brabo) … yeah, you know, it was fine. The space heroes got their reunions, there was a nice bookend to the first issue with the Superman/Superboy memorials, and it was a good way to wind down the bulk of the series. I can’t help but see it as the first part of a 2-part conclusion to the series, given what happens in #52, but we’ll get to that later.

Wonder Woman #8 (written by Jodi PIcoult, drawn by Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson) and Amazons Attack #1 (written by Will Pfeifer, drawn by Pete Woods) are joined at the hip(Polyta — oh, I hate myself), so I’ll talk about ’em together. It occurs to me that AA does a better job of starting Wonder Woman’s “rehabilitation” than the main title does. Not that I didn’t like the Allan Heinberg issues, because they were on the whole pretty clever. It’s just that you’d think the Big Novelist Arc would overshadow, or at least color, the Big Event Miniseries, and it’s turned out the other way around — and the ironic thing is, that’s probably for the best. WW #8 is more of the same “save Nemesis from Circe” plot, now in its third issue; and still making with the contrivances for the sake of humor.

I may like AA better simply because it seems to give everything some direction. In fact, it hews more to a traditional superhero-story introduction: it establishes the threat, presents the stakes, and shows the heroes beginning to respond. Sure, the Amazons are bloodthirsty, perhaps excessively so; but I have a feeling the excess may be part of Circe’s prompting. Both books look fabulous, so that helps a lot.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Justice Society of America #5 (written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Fernando Pasarin), the wholly nondescript cover notwithstanding. (I almost didn’t get it because — unlike the Phil JIminez variant for sale for $10 behind the LCS’ counter — it didn’t say anything about being Part 2 of the JLA crossover.) Anyway, it’s part 2 of the JLA crossover, and oh boy stuff happens! Batman, Sandman, Starman, and Geo-Force fight “Batmen Through The Ages” and Doctor Destiny in Arkham Asylum! Superbo– er, Superman gives the teen JSAers the Fortress tour, complete with Madame Toussaud’s Legion of Super-Heroes! Wildfire vomits up Batman’s utility belt, last seen on Rick Jones in Avengers Forever! Okay, that last part isn’t quite true, but it kind of gives you the feel for where all of this is going. I liked this issue well enough, although Pasarin’s art is just a little too much over-rendered. Also, unless those are animatronic Legion statues, I’m kind of disturbed by how expressive they are. Also also, as I clumsily indicated before, his Superman looked at first a little too Superboy-ish. Hope part 3, in JLA #9, is at least as good.

I now prefer to think of the final issue of Firestorm 2.0 (#35 written by Dwayne McDuffie, pencilled by Pop Mhan, inked by Mhan and Steve Bird) as Part 3 of the special bridge-the-gap Firestorm miniseries. Looks to me like the Dan Jolley/Stuart Moore-written plots and subplots all concluded satisfactorily in #32 — because this issue ends on a terribly disappointing cliffhanger. It’s good because it means Firestorm will be popping up later in other DC books, and might get enough new exposure for a revival, but it’s bad in terms of narrative cohesion. It’s the Gotham Central non-ending, pretty much. The plot is also kind of hard to understand, because it hinges on some use of Firestorm’s powers that he takes great pains to set up … but when he does it, the setup doesn’t appear necessary. Basically it’s a big fight scene, rendered and choreographed well, except for that one part.

Action Comics #848 (written by Fabian Nicieza, pencilled by Allan Goldman, inked by Ron Randall) continues the fill-ins with Part 1 of a 2-parter about a superhero who gets his powers from God. Well, faith, prayer, something like that. The new guy destroys a squad of soldiers in an African country because he’s there to protect missionaries — which he does — but he can’t control his powers otherwise. The religious angle causes Superman to question how much he should be interfering, because clearly he’s got his own history of religious belief. It’s a good start for a story, but as you might expect, it ‘s not too subtle. I’ll be surprised if the folks behind Jarod (the new guy) aren’t broadcasting their own powers through him, and not really acting on direct orders from the Lord. The story isn’t helped by Goldman’s pencils. They’re serviceable, and his storytelling is fine, but his figures are awkward and his perspective falters occasionally. One scene, with Clark and Lois getting ready for bed, features an overmuscled Clark and a Lois whose back arches too far, apparently so she can display her hinder more prominently.

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #29 (written by Tony Bedard, pencilled by Kevin Sharpe, inked by Mark McKenna & Jack Purcell) was a weird fill-in, if indeed it is such and not just the start of the Bedard/Sharpe Era. It basically spilled the beans on 52 a week early (in the comics themselves; Dan DiDio did it first, of course), explaining why the Dominators hate the Earth, and the Legion in particular. The issue is nothing special — the Dominators’ history is told against the backdrop of the Legion trashing their planet — and the art is decent at best.

Batman Confidential #5 (written by Andy Diggle, pencilled by Whilce Portacio, inked by Richard Friend) is another issue-long fight scene, as first the Batplane and then the Batcycle are used to attack Luthor’s secret robot warehouse. It took me about three minutes to read.

For the first time in a long time, I didn’t get a whole lot out of Astro City (The Dark Age Book Two #3 written by Kurt Busiek, drawn by Brent Anderson). Maybe the Ron Burgundy cameo threw me off. I had the same reaction to Planetary Brigade: Origins #3 (written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, drawn by Julia Bax).

Thankfully, the same was not true for Fantastic Four #545 (written by Dwayne McDuffie, pencilled by Paul Pelletier, inked by Rick Magyar), which did a lot with the new FF, the Silver Surfer, and Gravity. I’ll echo the blogosphere’s concerns about some of the physics in the issue, but overall it continues to be very good.

5/2/07

I talked about 52 #52 in the 5/3 Grumpy Old Fan. Short version: yay multiverse! Slightly longer version: a big jumble of a story that felt more like a Big 52 Special than an organic ending to the series. Also, I’m not sure, but I think it broke out of the “this happened this week” mold in large part for the last issue. Still, a good end to the series.

Probably the worst thing about Green Lantern #19 (written by Geoff Johns, drawn and colored by Danlel Acuna) is the continued existence of the new Star Sapphire costume. Otherwise, it would be this issue’s notions about the beginnings of a Star Sapphire Corps — which, okay, makes some sense, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it right on the heels of the Sinestro Corps. I did like seeing Carol in a Green Lapphire costume, and the Hal/Carol scenes are fine, but there’s some really weak dialogue here — mostly predictable “first dates are hell” stuff. Acuna’s art is good, but it’s so different from the Pacheco/Reis school of finely-rendered figures that it takes some getting used to. The “Sinestro Corps” backup continues to be good and scary, in every sense of the words.

Detective Comics #832 (written by Royal McGraw, drawn by Andy Clarke) showcases the return of the Terrible Trio, a ’50s-era threefer of theme-gimmick villains now bent on killing each other off. I figured out the twist about halfway through. Not a bad issue, but not a standout either.

Checkmate #13 (written by Greg Rucka and Judd Winick, pencilled by Joe Bennett, inked by Jack Jadson) begins “Check/Out,” the Outsiders crossover, with the Checkmaters taking out the Outsiders one by one. Not much plot beyond that, and it’s a good way to introduce someone who’s never read any Outsiders (i.e., me) to the team. It also makes Checkmate look capable without making the Outsiders look like chumps. Bennett and Jadson are the new art team starting this issue, and they do their usual fine job.

(The All-New) Atom #11 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by Eddy Barrows, inked by Trevor Scott) concludes the Atom-vs.-zombies story, and not an issue too soon. As much as I want this series to show how it can handle different subgenres, this story just felt shoehorned into the book to get it out of the way before the big Ray Palmer arc. I am still rooting for Ryan Choi, but I’m eager for the more science-y stuff to return.

Welcome To Tranquility #6 (written by Gail Simone, drawn by Neil Googe and Billy Dallas Patton) also wraps up its arc. While I think WTT is a very ambitious book, and deserves a look because of it, it hasn’t really hooked me. I’ll probably re-read these six issues before deciding whether to continue.

Jeff Smith’s Shazam! The Monster Society Of Evil #3 was good as usual, with some familiar Sivana-vs.-Batsons action at the center of the issue. The manner of Billy’s escape is particularly fun. However, maybe it was just the way the story broke out, but this issue’s cliffhanger isn’t all that suspenseful. Oh well; it’s not like I won’t get #4.

Finally, Superman #662 (written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Carlos Pacheco, inked by Jesus Merino) offered a decent bridge into the second half of “Camelot Falls.” Some have complained that nothing happens, but I thought Superman’s examination of his role in Earth’s history was done well. It’s not really the “Must There Be A Superman?” question, because Superman’s allegedly not making humanity weaker as much as he’s making the bad guys stronger. I can see where someone who didn’t read the previous Busiek issues might wonder what all the fuss is about, but since I did, and since that particular future was about as apocalyptic as one could get, I was invested in Superman’s musings from the start.

Now for the 5/9 books, and maybe some more new content besides.

March 10, 2007

New comics — lots of ’em — 2/28/07 and 3/7/07

Grab a snack — this could take a while.

Wednesday was not only the day of “LA LA LA I HAVEN’T READ CAP #25 YET,” it was capped off (sorry) with a massive stack of 18 floppies, to go with the 7 issues I haven’t gotten to from last week. (Three of yesterday’s buys were delayed from last week, so that contributed.) I like comics a whole lot, but I can’t take too many more Wednesdays like that.

2/27/07

The last week of February featured two themes, with the first being the New Gods. Hawkgirl #61 (written by Walt Simonson, drawn by Renato Arlem) picks up with the Apokoliptian gizmo (actually, a “gizmoid”) that found its way to the St. Roch museum last issue. This time it’s attracted the attention of the Female Furies. The Furies fight Hawkgirl for it, but it has ideas of its own and … I’m not quite sure what happens, but a robot Hawkgirl wings away from a pile of unconscious superwomen, including Kendra. In subplot news, there’s the usual workplace banter, and Hawkgirl gets a new set of shootin’ irons (which don’t do her much good, because: robot.) I’m not quite sure how to feel about this series, because on the one hand, I really liked Simonson’s work on the Fourth World in Orion, but it was full of grandeur and pomp, and this is more irreverent. It’s nicely done, but still. Also, this looks like a more sexx-ay version of the Female Furies than I’m used to, and it kind of reduces their appeal somewhat. I’m not saying that ugly = evil by any means, but the old-style Furies looked terrifying, and that was the point. These new ones … eh. Arlem’s art is fine, except for the ending, where first it’s not clear how Robot Hawkgirl comes out of Human Hawkgirl (and that may be intentional) and then it’s not clear whether Robot Hawkgirl is supposed to be human-sized or gigantic. (Maybe a callback to 52?)

Darkseid’s uncle Steppenwolf fights Bart in Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #9 (written by Marc Guggenheim, pencilled by Ron Adrian, inked by Art Thibert), and that’s pretty exclting, if a little generic, but most of the issue is concerned with Marc Guggenheim genuflecting towards the fans and basically trying to make his script as charming as possible. Combined with Adrian and Thibert’s simple, straightforward art — a lot less busy than Ken Lashley, but not as good as the Karl Kerschl fill-in from a few issues back — the issue works pretty well. I’m still not convinced that DC needed to replace Wally with Bart, but this issue makes Bart a lot less unappealing than he was last time.

Because last week was also apparently Dan Jurgens Week, he provides the layouts for Firestorm #33 (written by Dwayne McDuffie, pencilled by Ken Lashley, inked by Rob Stull). As you might guess from the cover, most of the issue is a fight involving Orion, Firestorm, Mr. Miracle, and the Female Furies. I should point out that this is the Seven Soldiers Mr. Miracle, but the traditional versions of Orion and the Furies, and yes, the Furies look a lot scarier here. McDuffie writes some very witty banter between Shilo and Firestorm, and gives each his own clever introductory sequence. The Firestorm/Orion fight is also entertaining. Art is a little more severe than it has been, with the combination of Jurgens/Lashley/Stull being reminiscent of ’80s Firestorm artist Tom Grindberg — lots of slashy lines and “shiny” inks. Still, Jurgens is a good storyteller, so that helps. All in all a good issue, and a nice way to start the series’ final arc.

Jurgens also lays out 52 #43 (written by JMRW, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, finishes by Norm Rapmund), the first part of the two-week How Tragic, Black Adam’s Evil Again arc. Also, Buddy Baker finds out he can mimic Sun-Eaters, which apparently doesn’t come with their craving for, you know, suns. More on Black Adam later.

Jurgens does most of the work in JLA Classified #35 (co-written by Dan Slott, inked by Al Milgrom), the part of the Red King’s plan that works out the best for him. This means, to quote Dave Campbell, it’s an Alternate Universe Where Everyone Dies. It doesn’t seem necessary to show the grisly deaths of the Justice League, so I’m giving this particular issue a thumbs-down, but maybe the conclusion will justify its existence.

In non-Dan Jurgens, non-New Gods comics, Hal defeats Amon Sur and the Sinestro Corps makes its triumphant appearance in Green Lantern #17 (written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Ivan Reis, inked by Oclair Albert). It got me thinking, though: Amon did have a point about Hal just burying Abin Sur under a mountain. Hal doesn’t have the best reputation for tactfulness, so now maybe he can start atoning for his past misdeeds? “My Name Is Hal,” coming soon….

Also, the Batman scene was pretty funny.

I liked Action Comics #846 (written by Johns and Richard Donner, drawn by Adam Kubert) because it aimed only to show the Phantom Zone villains’ devastating first strike at Superman. It left me wanting to see the next issue, which is job one for any serial installment. I’m still not sold on the arc as a whole, but this issue was pretty good.

We close out February with Hero Squared #5 (breakdowns by Keith Giffen, script by J.M. DeMatteis, drawn by Joe Abraham), in which Captain Valor and Milo swap personalities, so to speak — Milo explores his inner hero, and Valor continues to mope. Milo has a funny scene with Caliginous too. I continue to like this series, but I get the feeling we’ve been going over this ground for a few issues now, and five issues in, it’s time to find the plot and stick with it.

3/7/07

Okay, here we go. I’m just going to try and knock these out.

52 #44: I know a few other bloggers have said it, but 52 doesn’t do action well. It can make the case for a couple of weeks of all-action issues like #43 and #44, but it works best portraying slice-of-life snippets, because the action stuff makes you ask, “is this the most important thing that happened this week?” I don’t think we needed to go into detail about something that has been foreshadowed pretty heavily ever since Isis was introduced, especially because her last bit of advice seems to contradict a lot of what she’s espoused previously. Also, I wasn’t too fond of the fight storytelling, not least because the Four Horsemen have a lot of parts that aren’t easily recognizable, such that seeing only parts of them makes it hard for me to orient myself within the panel.

(The All New) Atom #9: Ryan Choi goes back home for “Sometimes They Come Back.” It’s pretty familiar: undead bullies are just as intimidating as regular bullies, yadda yadda yadda. The revelations about his old girlfriend are interesting, but we’ll see next issue if they lead to anything more. This title seems to work better with the more science-y stuff.

The Authority #2: Now that the story of Ken, The Earth-Prime Submariner has given way to a more conventional superhero comic, our main cast has to adjust to life on Earth-Prime. I don’t know if I’m on this book for the long haul — I’m not that invested in the Authority, and this was a pretty unremarkable issue. Next issue might be fun, but who knows when that will be?

Batman Confidential #3: Still not making much of an impression.

Detective Comics #829: I’m resisting the Die Hard jokes (Die Battier? … no) because this looks like a good fill-in from writer Stuart Moore. Bruce Wayne is trapped in Wayne Tower with dignitaries, and Robin has to do the costumed work. Andy Clarke’s art is fine, although occasionally Bruce looks kind of doughy.

Justice League of America #6: The end of the Red Tornado story (I thought it had one more issue to go) isn’t so bad in terms of efficiency, but it does confirm that this is a Red Tornado story and not so much a Justice League story. Also, reader discretion is advised for scenes of extreme dismemberment. Not to mention just talking about dismemberment: I echo the blogger who wondered, do they practice sawing off Amazo’s legs? (Do they use Buster the dummy?)

Manhunter #29: I’m pretty new to the series, but it seems like Kate doesn’t get in the costume a whole lot. When she does at the end of this issue, it’s pretty cool. This arc has been about the Special Guest Stars, though, with subplots about other D-list characters (Cameron Chase, Mark Shaw, Azrael; not that they’re not cool), so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. It feels like DC’s She-Hulk, and that ain’t bad.

Nightwing #130: Marv, you’re starting to lose me. I kind-of understand the Bride and Groom relationship. However, maybe I’m not paying enough attention, but I don’t quite understand how their victims are important to Nightwing. I did like the setpiece on the ferry, though.

Shazam! The Monster Society Of Evil #2: What a fun book this has turned out to be, and what a clever homage it presents to the original Mr. Mind story. If memory serves, he wasn’t seen fully until well into the storyline, so assuming Jeff Smith sticks to that, his “big reveal” (so to speak) here should be pretty fun. Also, DC Direct, please make a Mary Marvel plush toy for me to give to my 4-year-old niece.

Supergirl and the Legion #27: The Ranzz brothers make up as Cosmic Boy and Brainiac 5 have an accident with their dimension doors. Basically, a lot goes wrong for the Legion this issue, and only a Dave Cockrum tribute can save them.

Superman/Batman #32: I think the best thing about this issue is the scary Batman it presents towards the end. Oh, and the obscure DC alien heroes (the Vanguard? Seriously?) that make cameos. Otherwise, I’m about done with this series.

Welcome To Tranquility #4: A decent issue, but I want to read ’em all to make sure I have everything straight.

Captain America #25: This would have worked a lot better without all the hype. As a Big Death Issue, it’s hardly suspenseful. For one thing, there’s no body (promises of an upcoming autopsy notwithstanding — and why do you need an autopsy if it’s pretty obvious how he died?). For another, the death is, as the Klingons say, without honor: he gets shot on the courthouse steps while unmasked and handcuffed. Superman died delivering a mortal blow to a monster on the front porch of the Daily Planet. I’m just saying, if you give that to the New York Times, it seems more permanent. That said, as Part 1 of a new Cap story, and as someone’s introduction to the idea of Captain America, it’s a good gateway book.

Criminal #5: I understand why this story had to end the way it did, and I appreciate a format that lets a story end this way, and it’s all executed (ahem) very professionally, but right now it doesn’t sit well. I’ll have to read this one again too.

Planetary Brigade: Origins #2: The PB cartoon gives a couple of members a chance to reflect on the team’s history, and it occurs to me that maybe I’m getting a little burned out on the Giffen/DeMatteis schtick-for-its-own-sake. It’s still witty, but between this and Hero Squared, it’s just kind of there.

Marvel 1602: Fantastic Four #5, Fantastic Four #543, Fantastic Four: The End #6: The 1602 miniseries ended in a flourish of cataclysm and incomprehensibility, the Alan Davis miniseries ended rather predictably (for all those who thought that we weren’t done with the tragic events of #1), and the anniversary issue was good for its second and third stories. I like Mike McKone, but he’s not the right artist for the book, and the bridge from Reed & Sue to T’Challa and Ororo is a rickety one.

February 12, 2007

New comics 2/7/07 — for real, this time

Okay, I got the date wrong in the last post, so if you think this is old content … well, probably some of the jokes are old, but the comics are as new as last Wednesday.

First up, because I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it, is Nightwing #129 (written by Marv Wolfman, pencilled by Jamal Igle, inked by Keith Champagne). It introduces “Bride & Groom,” a pair of long-lived serial killers who prey on young, hot, single people by stripping them to their underwear and sacrificing them. That Marv — always with his finger on the audience’s pulse! (To be fair, Nightwing spends time sweating in his boxers as well.) Maybe I like it because it’s pretty straightforward. The scene of Dick talking back to the TV news was also fairly appealing. Mostly, this was the first issue I really got a feeling that the book was about Dick “Nightwing” Grayson, ex-Boy Wonder, and not Generic Urban Acrobat. Having him go to a party at Wayne Manor didn’t hurt, but I have to say, the new art team of Igle and Champagne are a vast improvement over Dan Jurgens’ old stiff figures. The faces sometimes seem a little too fluid, but overall it’s a solid package.

52 #40 (written by JMRW, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by Chris Batista, inks by Rodney Ramos & Dan Green) is just as advertised — the bare-knuckle beatdown of Lex Luthor by John Henry Irons. While everyone does their best to make Luthor detestable, it all seems too convenient somehow, aspiring to the “Aha! I too am left-handed!” school of dramatic reveals, but never getting there. It seems intended to work on a visceral, almost pulpish level, but so much has gone into this arc that that kind of resolution isn’t very satisfying after all. Also, Gar Logan making a crack literally over a villain’s dead body was pretty disconcerting.

I like Fantastic Four: The End (#5 written and pencilled by Alan Davis and inked by Mark Farmer), but there doesn’t seem to be much “The End” in it. Mostly it’s an all-inclusive FF/Marvel Universe story set a few decades from now, with no indication that this is supposed to be the last FF adventure. Maybe it’s setting readers up for a tragic ending, but that doesn’t quite fit its overall jaunty tone. This issue, like the others, features the FF reunited at last, but other than that it’s more of the very nicely rendered travelogue in which Alan Davis seems to delight.

Welcome To Tranquility #3 (written by Gail Simone, drawn by Neil Googe) was a good introduction to one of Tranquility’s younger residents, a former teen speedster gone goth with a history with the late Mr. Articulate. We get to know a lot about her in this issue, and by the end it might seem like too much, but it’s really paced well, with a nice balance between the series’ “multimedia” elements and more traditional storytelling. This series is growing on me, slowly but surely.

Gail Simone also writes The All-New Atom #8 (pencils by Mike Norton, inks by Andy Owens), the second half of a time-travel-based storyline featuring a Linear Man and the old Atom’s friend Professor Hyatt. It’s fun as usual, with shout-outs to bits of DC kitsch, but honestly, I was a little disappointed that the Linear Man didn’t turn out to be as inflexible as he had indicated. Just a minor complaint.

I liked Astro City: The Dark Age Book Two #2 (written by Kurt Busiek, drawn by Brent Anderson) well enough, but I can’t point to anything specific that really stood out. It’s more of a mood-setting installment than anything else, establishing the change in society and the superheroes that characterized this period of AC history. Not bad, but not as memorable as some Astro City issues.

Action Comics Annual #10 (written by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner, drawn by various artists) was basically a Secret Files without the Who’s Who-style pages: a smorgasbord of variable-length stories presented in scattershot fashion. The issue’s two complete stories are a pastiche of the original Mon-El introduction, and a bit on the familiar (from the movies, that is) Phantom Zone villains’ secret origins. They’re fine on their own, and the other storylets aren’t bad, but it all feels rather haphazard.

Detective Comics #828 (written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Don Kramer, inked by Wayne Faucher) started off well, with a murder at Bruce Wayne’s yacht party, but it starts to get a little hinky about halfway through. The murder turns out to be pretty simple once Batman and special guest detective the Riddler put everything together, so the end result turns more on how Batman can hide Bruce Wayne’s friendship with the victim. It’s not a bad story; it just doesn’t seem that consequential.

Finally, I really enjoyed Shazam! The Monster Society Of Evil #1 (by Jeff Smith). If you know anything about this miniseries, you can guess why. For the uninitiated, it’s an all-ages look at the quintessential kids’ superhero, Captain Marvel. He’s the adult protector Billy Batson never had, a creation of the wizard Shazam put under Billy’s control. I have two very minor complaints about this issue: the format is durable but not quite kid-friendly, and I really, really wanted Shazam to order Billy to “SPEAK MY NAME!!!” as I believe he does in the original.

May 1, 2005

New comics 4/27/05

First, an anniversary — today marks 10 years of practicing law, all of it in Kentucky. I hope that when the results of this July’s Virginia bar exam come out, I’ll be licensed to practice law there too.

Less talk, more comics! Batman #639 (written by Judd Winick, with art by Doug Mahnke and Dustin Nguyen) ostensibly begins a new storyline, but really it just continues the mystery of the Red Hood. See, Winick’s first issue started with Batman unmasking the Red Hood, and everything else proceeding in flashback. I liked that device, because it meant we’d work up to the unmasking. However, this issue Bats behaves as if he knows who the Hood is, but to the best of my knowledge we’ve never put the unmasking in any kind of timeline. Anyway, everybody’s still around except Nightwing, who’s been replaced by Onyx in the story structure. Batman also has some post-Identity Crisis moments with Zatanna and Green Arrow, in which Winick manages to make Batman arrogant, antagonistic, and sympathetic. While I like what Winick is doing with the book, I hope he wraps up this “new” arc fairly soon.

Winick also writes this month’s Adventures of Superman (also #639), continuing the Captain Marvel/Eclipso story (art by Ian Churchill and Norm Rapmund). Superman fights an Eclipso-possessed scientist who’s stolen a Kryptonian battlesuit. She wants him to get mad enough for Eclipso to possess him, but he knows that — probably because this plot was used 13 years ago in the summer crossover series Eclipso: The Darkness Within. Based on that alone, this story still hasn’t convinced me it needs to be told. Anyhoo, because this is Part 2 of 3 and Captain Marvel still has to beat the tar out of Supes, I’m sure you can guess how the issue ends. My only question is, does Lois usually type in her underwear?

Speaking of underwear, here’s the new/old Supergirl, using Superman/Batman #19 (words by Jeph Loeb, pitchers by the same Ian Churchill) for what TV people would call a “backdoor pilot.” I call it “Jeph Loeb’s argument that this Supergirl deserves her own comic,” and as with the other bit of Ian Churchill business this week, it hasn’t convinced me. Basically it picks up where the previous Supergirl arc left off. Batman and Superman track Supergirl as she re-enacts key saves from the first two Christopher Reeve movies (eee! shout-outs!) and fights Bat-villains, all the while being tracked by a mysterious “Mr. X” whose identity is pretty much telegraphed from page 2. I know this incarnation of Supergirl is only a handful of issues old, but so far everything about her feels tacked-on. (Insert obligatory underwear joke here.)

Flash #221 (written by Geoff Johns, with art by Howard Porter and Livesay) gives us part 2 of “Rogue War.” I liked this issue more than I have recent Johns issues, mostly because it has a fair amount of Flash in it. While Johns shows the dueling Rogues’ power, he also conveys the extent to which their individual battles are devastating Keystone City. There’s terse first-person narration and armchair psychology, but it all seems to work together. I don’t remember if I noted a Reservoir Dogs influence in Johns’ approach, but he comes closest to that in this issue.

Wonder Woman #215 (written by Greg Rucka, art by Rags Morales and Michael Bair) starts a new arc with Diana, Wonder Girl, and Ferdinand headed to Hades on a mission for Athena. Rucka’s script is efficient and entertaining as always. The Morales/Bair art is more three-dimensional than the book’s usual team, and I was reminded (surprisingly) of Kelley Jones. Given the issue’s subject matter, that’s not inappropriate; and overall, the book hasn’t skipped a beat.

Legion of Super-Heroes #5 (written by Mark Waid, art by Barry Kitson and Art Thibert) delivers a full-length tale of the Legion struggling against its evil — or possibly just more pragmatic — counterpart. I wasn’t sure exactly who they were or where Waid is going, but I liked the spotlights on Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, and Timber Wolf; and so far the book seems headed in a good direction.

Captain America #5 (written by Ed Brubaker, with most art by Michael Lark and a few pages by Steve Epting) focuses on Cap’s World War II days to give us some background on today’s menace. Along the way we discover the startling secret of Bucky Barnes. David Welsh (and I’m sure many others) have written about the Buckster, and I agree with them that while it is startling, it also makes a certain degree of sense and even gives Bucky a bit more depth. You can’t say that about a lot of retcons, so hats off to Brubaker. Lark does a fine job with the issue, and he and Epting complement each other well.

Finally, Star Wars Empire #30 (written by Kaare Andrews, with art by Adriana Melo) continues the compare-and-contrast Luke/Anakin arc. Although this issue went a long way towards explaining why the people of this planet hate heroic Jedi Anakin Skywalker, and by extension Luke, I was still confused by the artwork. Leia especially looks like someone grafted Carrie Fisher’s face onto a taller, more zaftig body. I may drop this book after the arc is over, but it comes out so irregularly I can’t say when that would be.

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