Comics Ate My Brain

January 26, 2009

In which I nitpick a harmless piece of Inaugural ephemera

Filed under: spider-man — Tom Bondurant @ 3:03 am
Generally, I thought the Spider-Man Meets Barack Obama story was fine. However, I was disappointed that a couple of fairly obvious bits were left out.

SPOILERS FOLLOW, I suppose…

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First of all, in case you haven’t read it, it was pretty short — five pages. (If you have read it, feel free to skip to the next paragraph.) When a second Barack Obama shows up on the way to the inauguration, this attracts the attention of a certain news photographer. Peter puts on his Spider-Man costume and swings in to help, suggesting that the two Obamas answer a question that only the real one would know. Said question is “what was BHO’s basketball-player nickname,” which isn’t exactly classified information, but it does the job. Fake Obama turns out to be Spidey’s old foe the Chameleon. That would have been OK, except the plot hinged on the Chameleon knowing absolutely nothing — like “you need a helmet” nothing — about basketball. I can’t remember who on the Internet compared it to Spidey Super Stories, but I think that’s a pretty accurate estimate of the story’s tone.

Anyway, Spidey excuses himself, but before he can go, the Prez-Elect tells Spidey he’s “been a big fan of yours for a long time.” They share a fist-bump, the inauguration proceeds without a hitch (even the oath!), and we all live happily ever after.

I’m disappointed, though, because even with only five pages, I think we could have seen:

— Jonah Jameson ranting “how much do we really know about Obama” and how he can’t decide who’s worse, Obama or Spider-Man;*

— Obama and Spidey comparing notes on their treatment in certain sectors of the media (terrorist sympathizer! threat or menace?); and

— the new POTUS acknowledging that With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.

These are all fairly cheesy moments, I know; and what’s worse, I am criticizing what is basically a five-page opportunity for Marvel to cash in on Obamania. Still, there it is, so if we can have the fist-bump, why not make the most of it?

*[The story has Peter working for “Frontline,” not the Daily Bugle, but I think Jonah could have appeared regardless, via Peter’s imagination.]

February 16, 2008

New comics 2/13/08

Well, we’re getting settled in here in the Memphis metro area (we’re in the ‘burbs, actually), and what looks like the main LCS is fairly close to the house, so good news all around. Thanks for all the good wishes, too. I’m looking forward to getting to know the area!

Still, you’re not here for the travel tips, and I haven’t hooked up the scanner yet, so…

Fantastic Four #554 (written by Mark Millar, drawn by Bryan Hitch) has some good ideas. Sue’s Junior League-ish “super-team” is one of them, as is the idea that Alyssa Moy (glad I read the Claremont issues!) is just as good as Reed without being held back by family obligations. Hitch is reliably good, as usual. However, I can’t decide whether Millar is ripping off Magrathea, the Quantum Mechanics from Hitch (and Mark Waid)’s JLA: Heaven’s Ladder, or both. It’s certainly a big enough idea for the FF (as it was for the Justice League), but Millar and Hitch have such matter-of-fact styles that it loses something, somehow, in “translation.” I definitely get the idea that the A-games are being brought, but (at the risk of mixing metaphors horribly) their reaches may exceed their grasps.

Spider-Man Family #7 includes a funny, sweet story about the Looter’s love for his piece of meteor rock. It’s Mark Waid, Todd Dezago, and Karl Kesel’s tribute to their late colleague Mike Wieringo, and I really enjoyed it. The rest of the issue reprints the first issue of a Venom miniseries obviously from the ’90s, the first issue of a Gwen Stacy flashback miniseries, and a Japanese Spidey story. I’m still working my way through those, and also the bonus materials in Fantastic Four: The Lost Adventure. The latter reconstructs the Lee/Kirby story that appeared (in altered form) in FF #108, and of course I can’t say anything bad about Lee/Kirby FF.

Bat Lash #3 (written by Sergio Aragones & Peter Brandvold, drawn by John Severin) takes the overall story in a pretty grim direction, and for a story which has featured attempted rape as a major plot device, that’s saying something. I do think the villains are made to be suitably evil, but I’m not getting much in the way of characterization from Bat himself.

Was a little surprised to see an Alpha Lantern story in Green Lantern Corps #21 (written by Sterling Gates, drawn by Nelson), since I thought the Alphas’ “origin” was still unfolding in the main GL book. Anyway, the spotlight here is on Boodikka, who I believe was introduced in the Gerry Jones era of the very early ’90s. Even so, this may be our first look at her homeworld and early life. It’s an OK issue — the main conflicts have to be restated for folks who don’t know them already from the other title, and the story-specific conflicts are pretty familiar. Boodikka isn’t the first Lantern to suffer the rejection of her old social group. The art isn’t bad, but it’s not particularly energitic either. However, the plot brings everything together at the end in a fairly new way, and if this is your first Alpha Lantern story it’s probably not too shabby.

JLA Classified #52 (written by Roger Stern, pencilled by John Byrne, inked by Mark Farmer) features the present-day League’s fight with Titus. It was good, in terms of book-length fight scenes. Every Leaguer got a spotlight, there was a bit of backstory involving an Amazonian prophecy, and it ended on a cliffhanger. Can’t ask for much more than that.

I didn’t quite know what to expect from Beautie: An Astro City Character Special (written by Kurt Busiek, drawn by Brent Anderson), but I ended up pleasantly surprised by its “Twilight Zone” feel. At first I wondered whether Anderson was just giving Beautie Barbie-like characteristics and mannerisms, so it was a little confusing before I realized that’s the way she’s supposed to look. Once I got past that, I realized how unnerving she would be even among the other AC characters, and that discomfort helps to define her. Overall, I thought it was a good standalone story, and it doesn’t quite matter that it might not have much to do with the overall AC mega-plot.

Superman #673 (written by Kurt Busiek, drawn by Jesus Merino) wraps up the Insect Queen storyline with a bit of super-power use that made me, and no doubt other readers, think “it doesn’t work that way!” I didn’t dislike this storyline, because it built the IQ up as a credible threat, gave Lana something productive to do, and had some good scenes with Chris Kent … but really, heat vision doesn’t work that way, does it? As for the art, Merino has some of the same issues with choreography and poses that Peter Vale does, but overall he did a good job.

I liked Wonder Woman #17 (written by Gail Simone, drawn by Terry & Rachel Dodson and Ron Randall) pretty well, but I couldn’t figure out why one Amazon appears to suffer a couple of mortal wounds on one page and then turns up somewhat less than dead shortly thereafter. Misdirection, I guess; which is how we get suspense. Anyway, this is more of Wonder Woman being the toughest person in the room (or in the jungle, or on the beach), as she intimidates the Nazis off Themyscira and then takes out the four Amazons who’ve wanted her dead since her birth. I was also surprised by the revelations about Etta Candy, who I guess got Superboy-punched somewhere along the way. Thought Ron Randall meshed pretty well with the Dodsons, too.

Green Arrow/Black Canary #5 (written by Judd Winick, drawn by Andre Coelho) was okay. Essentially a flashback about Connor Hawke’s childhood, it also includes Ollie and Dinah’s real wedding and sets up what looks like the next main storyline (which may well involve Connor’s being healed). The flashbacks are rooted in the core of Ollie’s character, which is (I think) the conflict between his extreme self-centeredness and his perpetual desire to make up for same. In other words, Ollie’s a jerk who realizes his shortcomings about ten seconds too late. If you can get past that, he becomes more sympathetic, and these flashbacks probably become easier to take. Otherwise, there’s probably no way you keep reading this book. Art was pretty decent — kind of like Cliff Chiang, but with thinner, harsher lines.

Most of the action’s on Apokolips in Countdown #11 (written by Paul Dini and Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, story consultant Keith Giffen, pencilled by Mike Norton, inked by Mark McKenna), but nothing much happens. Oh sure, Brother Eye and OMAC mow down para-demons, and Holly, Harley, and Mary fight a new (and probably less-powerful) batch of Female Furies, and Karate Kid gets some action as well, but I don’t get the same sense of plot advancement from this issue that I did from the Earth-51 story which ran through the January installments. Art is good, because I think Norton and McKenna are capable storytellers with a clean, appealing design sense. Other than that the book has the same problems it’s always had: it assumes you’re in this for the long haul and it doesn’t need to explain anything.

Finally, I wasn’t surprised by the cliffhanger at the end of Booster Gold #0 (written by Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz, pencilled by Dan Jurgens, inked by Norm Rapmund), because I’d seen the solicitations for future issues. Besides, no good can come of Booster’s time-mucking. I did like the Zero Hour elements, though, especially the notion that this was the “Zero Month” issue which re-told Booster’s origin. Unfortunately, I’m not getting the sense of camaraderie and joie de vivre that I should be from the return of the Blue and Gold team. Ted’s just too serious — understandably, I think, since he’s just faced his own death. Maybe next month, when they’re dodging OMACs, they’ll be funnier.

January 27, 2008

Sunday Soliloquy

Filed under: spider-man, sunday soliloquy — Tom Bondurant @ 9:40 pm
Sure, it’s fun to see Spider-Man wrestle a giant snake (not a euphemism, I rush to point out).

Still, don’t you want to see how Princess Python’s moods must have changed, as she listened to Spidey’s monologue and realized her pet was losing?

[From “The Clown and his Masters of Menace!” in The Amazing Spider-Man #22, March 1965. Script by Stan Lee, art by Steve Ditko, letters by Artie Simek, color restoration by Andy Yanchus. Reprinted in Marvel Masterworks Volume 10, 1989.]

November 2, 2007

Friday Night Fights

Filed under: friday night fights, meme, spider-man — Tom Bondurant @ 11:03 pm
Happy 80th birthday, Steve Ditko!

For more sucka-punches, Objectivist or otherwise, always bet on Bahlactus!

[From “Nothing Can Stop The Sandman!” in The Amazing Spider-Man #4, September 1963, by Mr. Ditko and Stan Lee, lettered by Sam Rosen, colored by Andrew Yanchus.]

October 21, 2007

New comics 10/17/07

Since I’ll probably never have the opportunity to do it again, let’s lead off with Aquaman: Sword Of Atlantis #57 (written by Tad Williams and drawn by Shawn McManus), another comma of a last issue. It doesn’t leave the reader hanging as badly as the final issues of Gotham Central or the latest Firestorm, but it’s pretty noncommital.

With the globe-threatening problems taken care of as of last issue, #57 finds our cast embroiled in a hostage situation which turns into an opportunity to explore Arthur’s true origins. Yes, Arthur is more connected with Orin than we might have thought; but anyone expecting the dramatic return of the “real” Aquaman may well be disappointed. In fact, I was kinda expecting that, considering that this was the book’s last issue and all, but ignoring the character’s upcoming role in Outsiders. That’ll teach me to take my eyes off the bigger picture.

Speaking of pictures, the art is fairly effective, although McManus draws a less beefy Cyborg than I’m used to. I don’t fault his storytelling, but I can’t decide whether his figures are inconsistent, or just drawn to suit the emotion of the particular situation.

Otherwise, the issue itself is pretty transitory, answering some questions (yes, Narwhal looks to be who I thought he was) and raising others (whither Tempest?). Ultimately, it leaves Arthur (or “Joseph,” by the end) in a more unsettled place than he was before, and that’s not how I like my endings. If the current Aquaman doesn’t parley his Outsider status (double-meaning probably intended) into a devoted fan following, I predict another “Aquaman: Rebirth” storyline before too long.

I didn’t expect Checkmate #19 (written by Greg Rucka, pencilled by Joe Bennett, inked by Jack Jadson) to set up Salvation Run as much as it has, but in hindsight that shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s more political maneuvering, executed most skillfully by Amanda Waller and King Faraday in service of their SR-anticipating plans. Pointing up the connections between ex-Justice Leaguers and Waller’s old Suicide Squad associates is a nice way to recall the roles of, and possible tensions between, those groups. Perhaps it also reminds readers that Justice League International (both the team and the comic) didn’t take its mission too seriously, or at least not as seriously as Waller’s Squadders. Anyway, as usual, Rucka does a great job laying out the motivations and keeping everything straight for the reader. Bennett and Jadson’s work (assisted by Travis Lanham, I think, on colors) is suitably moody, but clean and direct enough that we can tell one “normal” person apart from another. A fine issue that has me eager for more.

The double-page spread from Justice League of America #14 (written by Dwayne McDuffie, pencilled by Ed Benes, inked by Sandra Hope), showing Wonder Woman, Black Canary, and Vixen strung up in some high-tech torture device, does look a bit excessive — and that, aside from its unnecessary hypersexualization, is the point. Luthor wants to get Superman mad by showing the cruelties being inflicted on the other Leaguers, but Black Lightning successfully gets him to dial back his rage. That’s pretty much it for the issue — a lot of posturing and grimacing, which seems atypical for McDuffie and doesn’t serve Benes’ strengths well either. I can accept this issue as part of the larger storyline, but next issue’s finale will have to do some heavy lifting to make up for it.

Not as much blatant cheesecake as you might have expected in The Brave and the Bold #7 (written by Mark Waid, pencilled by George Perez, inked by Bob Wiacek), a story which teams Wonder Woman and Power Girl. It’s skillfully done, and it ties tangentially into the larger Book Of Destiny storyline, but its core is very familiar. While I liked it, there were a couple of things that bugged me. First, characters’ faces seemed a little off in spots. I don’t know if this is Perez experimenting or some trick of Wiacek’s inking, but in places they looked more like a Perez/Bob McLeod combination. Second, Waid’s “Look, up in the sky” joke walks a very thin line between working and not. Still, for the most part everyone does good work. I especially want to mention colorist Tom Smith, who gets to play with large-scale toys like the various environments, and small details like Power Girl’s eyes (which, by the way, are up here…).

I’ve been buying Spider-Man Family (#5 written and drawn by various people) mostly for its offbeat, “generic Spidey” stories which have been pretty good. However, this issue’s lead, written by Kevin Grevioux and drawn by Clayton Henry, didn’t really do it for me. For one thing, guest-star Doctor Strange is deprived of his powers, and compensates with some ill-advised martial arts and telekinetically-animated blades. That made it seem more like the Doctor Strange animated movie, and thus not like the “real” Doc. Also, Doc gets the thankless thought-balloon speech where he notes that Spider-Man “is the definition of ‘hero'” because he fights against the long odds, etc. The art is fine. The second original story, written by Dana Moreshead, pencilled by Eduardo Garcia, and inked by Roger Bonet, has Kraven leading Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan stand-ins on an urban safari. It’s cute, but not that distinguished.

Captain America #31 (written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Steve Epting) kicks off Act 2 of “Death of the Dream” with the Winter Soldier being tortured by Doctor Faustus and Sharon Carter struggling with the knowledge of her role in Cap’s death. Most of the WS’s torture involves tweaked “memories” of his time in The Big One with Cap, designed to turn him against his old mentor. Meanwhile, the Falcon, the Black Widow, and Tony Stark compare notes on Sharon and Cap’s death. It was an effective issue that set up a decent cliffhanger. I especially like the way Epting captures the way the Red Skull gets giddily deranged on power.

Countdown #28 (written by Paul Dini and Tony Bedard, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by Al Barrionuevo, inks by Art Thibert) was decent. It covered a lot of ground, including (deep breath) Forager and Jimmy Olsen; Piper and Trickster escaping the Feds; Mary Marvel examined from afar by Shadowpact; weird visits with Brother Eye; and more fighting between the Challengers, the Crime Society, and the Extremists. I think it’s found its level, which is to be a somewhat generic-looking comic whose periodical frequency and plot-point maintenance are its determining factors. If it leaves you one step closer to the end, one Wednesday at a time, it’s done its job.

Finally, Bedard writes Birds Of Prey #111 (drawn by Jason Orfalas), the in-person showdown between online adversaries Oracle and the Calculator. It was good, with the suspense coming from the fact that if Oracle’s face were known, her usefulness would be effectively ended. Calculator therefore has to look a little stupid and/or short-sighted not to put the pieces together, but who knows — maybe he’s just what they call “book-smart.” Apart from that, Bedard’s script is pretty clever. Orfalas’ work fits with the style of regular artist Nicola Scott — thin, clear lines, maybe closer to Ethan Van Sciver, but that’s still good.

August 18, 2007

New comics 8/15/07

Eleven issues this week, with a couple extra-sized. No time to waste!

We begin with The Brave and the Bold #6 (written by Mark Waid, pencilled by George Perez, inked by Scott Koblish), the cracking-good conclusion to the opening “Luck Lords” arc. It stars (deep breath) Batman, Green Lantern, Adam Strange, Supergirl, the Legion, and special surprise guests, but its cameos feature all manner of DC space heroes familiar to me mostly from the old Who’s Who book. The big finish hinges on said special surprise guests, and I’m not entirely sure it’s a valid plot twist, even within the plot’s established logic, but it made me smile. Good work, all!

Next up is Countdown #37 (written by Paul Dini and Adam Beechen, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by David Lopez and Mike Norton, inks by Don Hillsman and Rodney Ramos). Considering that five people contributed to the art, it’s all pretty agreeable. I’m sure that’s the result of working from Giffen’s breakdowns. Most of the issue deals with Mary Marvel’s apprenticeship to Zatanna, with the B-plot apparently the cover-featured encounter between the Rogues and Poison Ivy. Otherwise, Karate Kid is still dying, Holly and Harley are still part of the Amazonian slumber party, and Jimmy’s subplot leads into this week’s Action Comics. Two-page villain origins start this week, with the first up being (appropriately enough) Poison Ivy, brought to you by Scott Beatty, Stephane Roux, and the Cheesecake Factory.

In the aforementioned Action Comics #854 (written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Brad Walker, inked by Livesay), Jimmy and Superman manage Jimmy’s new powers and the new Titano, and it’s actually all very sweet in the end, thanks to copious amounts of Krypto. More particularly, though, Busiek jumps back and forth between the “present” Countdown-influenced plot and the evidently-prior Kryptonite Man plot we’ve been following the past few issues. It might not sound like much of a compliment, but this has been a really good Countdown tie-in, and a very successful test of Busiek’s shared-universe mojo.

Checkmate #17 (written by Greg Rucka and Eric S. Trautmann, pencilled by Chris Samnee, inked by Steve Bird) offers a one-off story spotlighting Checkmate’s new security chief, the former Master Jailer. It’s a fine introduction to the series, encapsulating all the paranoia and much of the politics on display every month. The climactic battle plays out kinda like a video game, but in a good way.

Volume 2 of The Flash picks up after over a year (i.e., after Volume 3) with issue #231, written by Mark Waid and drawn by Daniel Acuna. It’s an introduction too, because as we all know, Wally’s grooming his kids to be superheroes. Not to cast aspersions on the memory of Bart Allen, but what exactly was keeping this from being the Flash One Year Later storyline back in March ’06? Anyway, the kids aren’t unappealing, but I’d apparently forgotten that Linda Park had some med-school training on the way to becoming a journalist. I wasn’t too high on Acuna’s suitability for the title after All-Flash #1, but I was pleasantly surprised here. Because he’s splitting his time between the Wests and the necessary exposition, Waid’s script isn’t as good as the All-Flash issue, but that doesn’t mean it can’t get better.

I haven’t been as repulsed by Amazons Attack! (#5 written by Will Pfeifer, drawn by Pete Woods) as some, so when I say “it’s almost over,” that’s more matter-of-fact than anything. Most of this issue deals with the Outsider Grace receiving overtures from the Bana-Mighdall Amazons, while Batman tries to lower the magic shield keeping the most powerful JLAers out of the decimated Washington. I still say it’s not so bad, but if you’ve bailed on it by this point, I probably won’t change your mind.

I really do need to re-read Tad Williams and Shawn McManus’ run on Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis, because #55 was an enjoyable installment that could easily be described as “retro-superhero.” There’s a nice take on the monologuing bad guy (and there are actually a few of them), and Williams and McManus do a good job of building suspense. There are only two issues left in the title, and possibly the “new” Aquaman himself, but it’s got me eager to see the wrap-up.

Brad Meltzer says goodbye to Justice League of America, at least for now, with #12 (pencilled by Ed Benes and Eric Wight, inked by Sandra Hope). Of course it’s a character-driven ode to the greatness of the team, because that’s been Meltzer’s approach all along. It focuses on Meltzer’s new members, Red Arrow, Hawkgirl, Red Tornado, Black Lightning, Vixen, and Geo-Force, and bonds are formed (in various degrees) between two couples. As with Countdown and Amazons Attack, you’ve probably made up your mind about this one already.

I didn’t believe it when I saw it on his site, but there really is a screenshot of The Invincible Super-Blog on a SHIELD monitor screen in Captain America #29 (written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Steve Epting and Mike Perkins). More good stuff from this crew, and the shout-out to a comics blogger is just the cherry on top.

I bought Spider-Man Family #4 for the Spidey/Agents of Atlas story (written by Jeff Parker, pencilled by Leonard Kirk, inked by Kris Justice), but I stayed for Chris Eliopolous’ Puppet Master story and the entertaining reprints. The new stories were great, and it’s 100 pages for $5.00, so what’s not to like?

Finally, there’s a lot to like about Booster Gold vol. 2 #1 (written by Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz, layouts by Dan Jurgens, finishes by Norm Rapmund). This is a dense book, with lots of story “compressed” into its 31 pages. I had compared this book earlier to the old Chronos series, but it’s much more accessible, as you’d expect. It pokes fun at much of what Johns and his colleagues have done at DC the past few years, and as much as I got tired of Johns’ continuity-referencing in his JSA work, it’s actually more of the point of this series. Thus, it works a lot better here. Jurgens’ work is the same as always, not bad but still kind of stiff, and it too plays into the plug-into-DC-history vibe the series clearly wants to evoke. Moreover, Booster’s new setup comes with an appropriate, and poignant, emotional foundation. A very promising start to what could be the She-Hulk of DC.

June 26, 2007

New comics 6/20/07

We begin this week by picking up a spare from last week, Outsiders #48 (written by Judd Winick and Greg Rucka, pencilled by Ron Randall and Matthew Clark, inked by Art Thibert). It’s Part 4 of the 6-part “Check/Out” crossover, and as such it features the Outsiders/Checkmate strike force’s attempt to survive Oolong Island. Therefore, most of the issue is given over to shouting and fighting and movement and explosions and frantic dialogue. I was kind of surprised that I could follow the issue as well as I could, considering the fact that pencillers Randall and Clark seem to have divided up the issue pretty equally. Randall uses a thicker line, and I think his figures and composition are a bit more stable as a result, but really I couldn’t tell much of a difference just reading the book. I ascribe that to inker Art Thibert, who’s done his share of pencilling as well.

My main problem with the issue, and the crossover in general, was that it didn’t make me any more sympathetic to the Outsiders themselves. I’m familiar with the well-established characters (Nightwing, Katana, Metamorpho), but I have to remind myself that “Owen”/”Boomer” is the new Captain Boomerang from Identity Crisis, and I know nothing about the two strong women (Grace and Thunder) beyond the broad strokes an action plot like this divulges. The book doesn’t go out of its way to explain any of these people to this particular reader-just-along-for-the-crossover. (Each team having its own young red-haired guy doesn’t help either.) This crossover also hasn’t justified Outsiders‘ existence beyond being a random team of attitude-rich superheroes. Well, maybe it did a little, at the beginning, when there was some sense that Checkmate could take advantage of the group’s cavalier approach to superheroics. Still, this title’s got one more issue before Everything Changes with a new roster, and then it gets relaunched at some point in the future with Batman in charge. I guess what I’m saying is that this crossover could just as well have been a biweekly Checkmate arc for all it’s made me care about the Outsiders. Still, this was a decent dumb-fun action issue.

Checkmate #15 (written by Rucka and Winick, pencilled by Joe Bennett, inked by Jack Jadson) presents Part 5 of “Check/Out,” in which Nightwing, Boomer, and Sasha are tortured by Chang Tzu (can we call him “Egg Fu” anymore?) while the Checkmate high sheriffs negotiate with China for some assistance. In terms of craft, this was a better issue all around than Outsiders #48. Bennett and Jadson are a more solid team, and Rucka does a good job of laying out the various political issues and assigning their presentations to the appropriate characters. Checkmate has a much larger regular cast than Outsiders, but there they all are in roll-call format on the first page.

The one thing that I did not like about the issue, and it is not an insignificant complaint, is the attention paid to Boomer and Sasha’s torture. The issue plays a darkly clever game with the reader by putting Nightwing — who we know is “safe” from any permanent harm — in a cell next to the torture chamber, thereby making him listen to his friends’ anguished cries. In this way, and especially on the last page, “Check/Out” seems to set up pretty clearly the end of Nightwing’s tenure as team leader. This is a particular blow to Nightwing’s character, because for years, if not decades, it was the thing that most significantly separated him from Batman. As Titans leader, he was either rescuing his teammates (see “The Judas Contract” or “Titans Hunt”) or sacrificing himself for him (i.e., in a few of the Brother Blood storylines). He’s presented here as an ineffectual failure. Thus, while the issue does a good job of dramatizing just how deep these three are in their particular hole, the overall effect is not pleasant, and in fact kind of sickly voyeuristic.

I got a similar feeling reading The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13 (written by Marc Guggenheim, pencilled by Tony Daniel, inked by Daniel, Jonathan Glapion, and Marlo Alquiza). It was a gut-punch of an issue that apparently wanted to leave little doubt about Bart’s fate. As I said on Thursday, I felt bad for Bart, but a lot of that had to do with the editorially-mandated aspects of his death. The fact that I didn’t think he needed to die also contributed to my sadness that he did. Guggenheim and Daniel put together a decent issue, just in service of an unfortunate cause.

The other part of the Flash re-relaunch was, of course, Justice League of America #10 (written by Brad Meltzer, pencilled by Ed Benes, inked by Sandra Hope). While I am very, very happy at the return of Wally West — I actually teared up a little; don’t judge me — this was an incredibly haphazard way to end “The Lightning Saga.” First of all, it’s not really over, because it obviously sets up more Old-Legion adventures in Countdown and other DC titles. Second, what in the name of little baby ducks does Wally West have to do with the Legion anyway? Third, I understand the Legion not wanting to tell the JLA and JSA that one of them will die when “whoever” is brought back, but that just means this is the old “Why didn’t you ask us for help in the first place?” plot. Fourth, do I really have to list all of the ways in which Meltzer and Benes use innuendo and shorthand to create an illusion that things are happening? There were no real resolutions in this issue, at least not to the larger plot elements presented at the beginning of the crossover. Meltzer has some appealing ideas, but he treats them so reverently that before you know it, five issues are up and nothing’s really gotten done.

I could probably say the same thing about Captain America #27 (written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Steve Epting and Mike Perkins), but the difference is that the character scenes are hung on a plot that makes sense within the larger story arc. The Winter Soldier wants to reclaim Cap’s shield, Sharon Carter struggles with her role in Cap’s death, and she and the Falcon figure out where Bucky’s headed with the shield. Oh, and Bucky reconnects with the Black Widow, his old Soviet-spy buddy. Epting and Perkins do a collectively fine job overall. I don’t like their Tony Stark, but that’s just me. Also, I wasn’t sure it was “the” Black Widow, Natasha Romanov, because dialogue calls her “Natalia” and I don’t know if that’s an acceptable nickname. Other than those nitpicks, though, a really fine issue that advances the plot while still keeping the reader guessing about when any Captain America will headline his eponymous book again.

I continue to enjoy The Brave and the Bold (#4 written by Mark Waid, pencilled by George Perez, inked by Bob Wiacek), probably because it is unashamed of being a light, fun superhero title. This issue begins and ends with Batrok, and features a Lobo/Supergirl story which is fairly predictable but still enjoyable. It does appear that Supergirl has gotten more mature around Lobo than she was around Green Lantern a couple of issues ago — Waid writes her as (let’s say) early-20s, as opposed to late-teens — but I like her better this way, so it works out.

In the same vein, Marvel gives us Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four #3 (written by Jeff Parker, pencilled by Mike Wieringo, inked by Wade von Grawbadger), which finds Spidey and 3/4 of the FF fighting aliens and dropping in on Dr. Doom and the High Evolutionary. There is nothing objectionable about this book.

You can guess the obvious segue into Countdown #45 (written by Paul Dini and I think Tony Bedard, although Palmiotti & Gray are credited; pencilled by J. Calafiore, inked by Mark McKenna). Actually, I kind of liked this issue, because it shows Donna Troy as a competent superhero for the first time in a while. An incongruous scene of her blasting away with an automatic rifle notwithstanding, she comes across believably as an Amazon warrior. However, the rest of the book is still in setup mode: Jimmy Olsen investigates Sleez’s old tenement, Holly shows up when Jimmy leaves, and meanwhile the Legionnaires stuck in our time after JLofA #10 whine some more about being stuck on the JLA Satellite. Also, there has got to be a better way to distinguish between Monitors than their hairstyles. I’m begging you, DC: symbols, numbers, tattoos, whatever — I just can’t keep ’em straight anymore.

Finally, The Spirit #7 features three guest creative teams, and is largely successful. The first story, written by Walt Simonson and drawn by Chris Sprouse and Karl Story, concerns a no-good socialite (we know she’s no good, because she’s obviously reminiscent of Par– I mean, She Who Must Not Be Named) and the Spirit’s search for a missing diamond. It’s pretty fun. The second story, written by Jimmy Palmiotti and drawn by Jordi Bernet, is more of an Eisner pastiche, because it features the indirect effects of a Spirit chase on the lives of tenement dwellers. Bernet’s style is perhaps even more successful than Darwyn Cooke’s at capturing the sort of organic cartoonishness of Eisner’s work, so I think this is the most successful story in the issue. The last one, a sort of Spirit/Frank Miller mash-up parody by Kyle Baker, is rather an acquired taste. I thought excerpts of it were funny when I saw them online, but even for a short story the joke gets a little old. Still, like the man said, two out of three ain’t bad.

May 12, 2007

New comics 5/9/07

My browser crashed just before I could save the first attempt at this roundup, so these might be a little shorter and more to the point than usual….

We begin this week with Countdown #51 (written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Jesus Saiz, inked by Jimmy Palmiotti), a big hash of disconnected subplots which features exactly two of the characters appearing on the cover. It’s the weakest Paul Dini script I’ve seen in a long time, with expositional dialogue and a very thin central storyline. It might look better in a few weeks, and the next issues might improve on this one, but for now, there’s not a lot to latch onto. The art is pretty good, though, except for Darkseid’s shell-casing head.

Much better is Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four #2 (written by Jeff Parker, pencilled by Mike Wieringo, inked by Wade von Grawbadger), in which the invading aliens turn everyone in New York against our heroes, and hilarity ensues. This doesn’t aim to be a series of any consequence, unless you count well-done old-school superheroics consequential. Instead, it’s a team-up that seems natural but doesn’t happen often enough. My only complaint is with the Thing’s proportions — I don’t remember him looking quite so candy-corn-shaped in Wieringo’s FF issues.

Outsiders #47 (written by Greg Rucka and Judd Winick, pencilled by Matthew Clark, inked by Art Thibert) is Part 2 — or, really, the second Part 1 — of “Check/Out.” It picks up with the team in Checkmate custody and Nightwing (of course) busting them out. It’s not as good as the Checkmate issue, because the dialogue is a little too arch and the art is too heavy on gritted teeth and meaningful eye-closeups. It does a fine job of introducing everyone to each other, setting up the mission, and explaining the differences between the two groups. Most of it is a big romp involving an Outsider running around with her butt hanging out, and unfortunately that goes on a little too long.

Nightwing assembles yet another team in his own title, for Nightwing #132‘s conclusion of “Bride and Groom” (written by Marv Wolfman, drawn by Paco Diaz). While I appreciate the nod to Dick’s team-leader capabilities, isn’t this the book where he takes out bad guys on his own, without a random set of ex-supervillains I’ve never heard of? Basically they spend the whole issue wanting to kill B & G, and Dick says he’s hip, but that’s not how he rolls. I still don’t understand Dick’s emotional journey through this arc. Diaz’ guest artistry gets the job done, but it’s a different style from regular penciller (still, I hope) Jamal Igle, and it contributes to the feeling that the whole thing has gone slightly awry.

JLA Classified #38 (written by Peter Milligan, drawn by Carlos D’Anda) presents Part 2 of “Kid Amazo,” and while it’s a good installment of what looks to be a good superhero story, I have a few nitpicks. Although I did like being reminded that John Stewart is liberal and Wally West is conservative, I thought J’Onn J’Onzz and Amazo himself were somewhat out of character. J’Onn seemed too irreverent, and Amazo seemed too together. Still, the title character’s main conflict was presented well, and I do like D’Anda’s art — bulky and expressive.

The Mogo-turns-everyone-evil subplot in Green Lantern Corps (#12 written by Dave Gibbons, pencilled by Patrick Gleason and Tom Nguyen, inked by Nguyen and Prentis Rollins) has been going on for an issue or two too long, but other than that this was another good floppy. I especially liked the Soranik Natu scenes. Nguyen’s pencils also fit well with Gleason’s style, and appropriately enough, they remind me of Dave Gibbons’.

Finally, guess which part of Tales of the Unexpected #8 I blogged about in Grumpy Old Fan this week? If you picked the Spectre (written by David Lapham, pencilled by Eric Battle, inked by Prentis Rollins), you lost!! The Spectre story did try to tie all of its carnage together into a unified look at one particularly evil tenement building, but it was just too nihilistic for me. Much more life-affirming was the conclusion of the Dr. 13 story “Architecture and Morality” (written by Brian Azzarello, drawn by Cliff Chiang), to which I wrote the aforementioned love letter. I know I’m not alone in saying a) I paid $3.99 a month for each 16-page chapter of this story, and b) I’ll pay for the collection when it comes out as well. More of Dr. 13 by Azzarello and Chiang, please.

April 22, 2007

New comics 4/4/07, 4/11/07, and 4/18/07

Man, what a week. The Best Wife Ever has been out of town, so you know what that means: blogging about the DC solicits and World War III!

Anyway, three weeks behind; no time to waste.

APRIL 4

I’m just going to do a quick rundown for these books. I talked about Justice League of America #7 over at Blog@, in connection with the rest of “The Tornado’s Path.” Madman Atomic Comics #1 was not what I expected — weird, expositional, and kind of depressing. Welcome to Tranquility #5 was decent, as the first arc starts getting wrapped up. Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #28 was pretty good, and its current arc is ready to end as well. Atom #10 was okay — I’m not a huge fan of Eddy Barrows’ art, and the “Sometimes They Come Back” story doesn’t feel right for the book. Detective Comics #831 was very good, especially with the flashback to the previous Ventriloquist. Superman #661 felt like it could have come out of the ’70s or ’80s, and that’s not entirely bad. Superman/Batman #33 finished what turned out to be the Despero arc, and I’m glad it’s over. Nightwing #131 was okay — not as good as the rest of the arc has been. Finally, 52 #48 felt rushed, and never quite came together.

APRIL 11

We begin the backlog in earnest with Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four #1 (written by Jeff Parker, pencilled by Mike Wieringo, inked by Wade von Grawbadger) and All-Star Superman #7 (written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Frank Quitely), two books designed to meet all one’s needs for their respective subjects. I know I’m supposed to say something insightful about every title, but with these it’s not going to get much deeper than “more, please.” I can’t get enough of Mike Wieringo’s FF, and he draws a fine Spidey too. Jeff Parker’s story strikes a good balance between the typical street-level Spidey adventure and the correspondingly cosmic FF tale. It’s nice and light-hearted, with the Impossible Man and a great set of Ben/Johnny pranks. The stakes are laid out a little more clearly in the Superman title, as a “Bizarro plague” comes to Earth. The problem’s big enough that it doesn’t require Superman to be artificially de-powered, or to hold back, but at the same time Morrison and Quitely’s Superman radiates confidence. More, please.

I can see that Tales of the Unexpected #7‘s lead Spectre story (written by David Lapham, pencilled by Eric Battle, inked by Prentis Rollins) is trying to wrap everything up in its penultimate chapter, but I’m not really invested anymore. The same is definitely not true for the Dr. 13 story (written by Brian Azzarello, drawn by Cliff Chiang), which just seems to get crazier and more affecting as it goes along. The satire on DC’s continuity struggles has never been more clear, with the “Architects” even wearing Ben Cooper-style superhero masks representing some of their signature assignments. (If I’m right, they’re Grant Morrison/Batman, Greg Rucka/Wonder Woman, Geoff Johns/Superman, and Mark Waid/Flash). Speaking of stakes, the Dr. 13 story seems to be about nothing less than the survival of DC’s own Island of Misfit Toys. We’ll find out next issue.

More metacommentary is on display in She-Hulk #17 (written by Dan Slott, pencilled by Rick Burchett, inked by Cliff Rathburn). Slott’s treatment of Shulkie’s sexual history comes into play during an encounter with Iron Man and some Nick Fury LMDs reference several other books’ subplots. The bulk of the story has Shulkie’s squad taking out old Hulk villains both in the field and on the SHIELD Helicarrier, and that part’s good. Meanwhile, Mallory and Two-Gun try to clean up the former’s image following her breakup with Awesome Andy. I have always been a fan of Rick Burchett’s work, and Cliff Rathburn’s inks are a good complement. However, it all feels like treading water until “World War Hulk” and its attendant round of status quo change(s).

Lotsa plot in Green Lantern Corps #11 (written by Dave Gibbons, pencilled by Patrick Gleason, inked by Prentis Rollins), so I won’t try to summarize. Suffice it to say that everything seems to be connected to weird goings-on on Mogo, which I’d guess are in turn caused by the imminent attack of the Sinestro Corps. A mention of the old Empire of Tears only heightens the apocalyptic mood. I enjoyed this issue, because it balances the various plot threads (I count six) pretty well. I’m also a lot fonder of Gleason and Rollins than I was this time last year.

JLA Classified #37 (written by Peter Milligan, drawn by Carlos D’Anda) begins “Kid Amazo,” so when we see a slacker college student who’s questioning his purpose and the meaning of existence, it’s not hard to figure out why. However, this story wants to look at its title character not as someone who will naturally turn to the light (a la Red Tornado and Tomorrow Woman), but someone who can make a real choice to join his “family” against the JLA. In that respect it looks interesting. I know I’ve seen D’Anda’s work before, but I can’t remember where. Here it’s pretty good — kind of like the clean Doug Mahnke/Tom Nguyen style, but a little rougher. A decent book all around.

Still sticking with Wonder Woman (#8 written by Jodi Picoult, pencilled by Drew Johnson, and inked by Ray Snyder), even though this issue isn’t much better than the last. The art’s still good, though. I will say that the story ties into Amazons Attack a little earlier than I expected, and it makes me wonder about how that event played into the development of Picoult’s arc.

That leaves us with 52 #49 (written by The Architects, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by Eddy Barrows, inks by Dan Green, Rodney Ramos, and Barrows) — and honestly, with everything that happens in 52-land this week, I can’t say much more about the leadup in this issue. The Dr. Magnus bits were the highlight, and Barrows draws facial features a bit soft for my taste.

APRIL 18

The elephant in the room this week was World War III, about which I’ve already written some 1600 words behind the above link. Short version: incoherent, redeemed somewhat by the efficient 52 #50. Moving on.

The Metal Men show up in Superman/Batman #34 (written by Mark Verheiden, pencilled by Pat Lee, inked by Craig Yeung), and the story is set up for them to fight Supes and Bats, but it’s not much more than that. Lee and Yeung’s art is dark and slightly exaggerated, such that when one of the bad guys looks grotesquely overmuscled, I’m not sure whether I should accept that there’s an in-story reason or that it’s just bad anatomy. At one point Bruce Wayne gets slapped by the widow of one of his employees, killed in an attack, and you don’t see that too often, so the story gets points for that. However, it sure doesn’t have as much fun with Magnus or the Metal Men as 52 does, and I hope that changes.

By now you’ve probably heard about the bestiality in The Spirit #5 (by Darwyn Cooke), and sure, that’s good for some laughs, but it’s only part of another solid issue. The plot takes off from the unauthorized licensing of the Spirit’s likeness into some unexpected directions. When a comic makes you feel sympathetic for a guy who loves his pet more than he really should, that’s saying something.

Manhunter #30 (written by Marc Andreyko, pencilled by Javier Pina Diego Olmos, and Cafu, inked by Robin Riggs and Art Thibert) was enjoyable, but perfunctory: the Wonder Woman arc ends, the Chase-and-her-sister arc ends, and there’s more with Mark Shaw. I think having this book “uncancelled” took a little pressure off everyone involved and let them spread out more, so that it feels more transitional than anything else. It’s good that the book isn’t cancelled, and the resolutions are all handled well — there’s even an Amazons Attack tease, if I read it right — but it doesn’t seem as … resolute, I guess, about everything.

Andreyko also writes Nightwing Annual #2 (pencilled by Joe Bennett, inked by Jack Jadson), the secret history of Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon’s lurve. Andreyko does a good job with the material, working in Dick’s time with the New Titans pretty well, and Bennett and Jadson likewise do right by the characters. (They take particular care with the Robin costume.) Dick does have one moment where he lives up to his name, which I’m sure you’ve read about already. I am not a Dick/Babs ‘shipper, nor am I a Dick/Kory ‘shipper. I think Dick and Babs are more like siblings than potential lovahs, and I never got the sense that Dick and Kory were in it for much more than the sex. Therefore, I wasn’t emotionally invested in these events, but I can’t tell you what either party’s ideal mate looks like. Anyway, a pretty good issue overall.

Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #51 (written by Tad Williams, pencilled by Shawn McManus, inked by Walden Wong) centers around Topo leading the Atlantean survivors through underwater “hatches” which teleport them across the oceans to Sub Diego. Along the way, they encounter Species 8472 … I mean, the race that built the hatches. The art seems to be a little more cartoony than it was last issue, to go with the more fanciful tone overall. I’m not complaining about that. The book seems to be finding a middle ground between the isolation of the early Busiek SoA issues and the pre-OYL stories, and it’s still intriguing to me.

Big doins’ are afoot in The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #11 (written by Marc Guggenheim, pencilled by Tony Daniel, inked by Art Thibert), mostly in preparation for next issue’s fight with the Rogues’ Gallery. This issue is about Inertia gathering the Rogues, and Grandma Iris telling Bart why she’s pointing that gun at him. I don’t really buy Inertia as a Rogue mastermind, especially since he’s Bart’s peer. However, the issue flows well, it’s not implausible otherwise, and I’m interested to see where it goes.

The JLA/JSA/old-school LSH team-up begins in Justice League of America #8 (written by Brad Meltzer, pencilled by Shane Davis, inked by Matt Banning). I must have missed Geo-Force joining the League, and the issue dwells inordinately on Red Arrow almost getting killed by a tree. It was okay, although I spent the whole issue wondering what else it would reference from my childhood. The art was fine, although very similar to the regular Benes/Hope team. I said over at B@N that this crossover could be so big, it forces Meltzer to pick up the pace, and I still hope that’s the case — but this issue was just prologue.

And then there’s The Brave and the Bold #3 (written by Mark Waid, pencilled by George Perez, inked by Bob Wiacek), another incredibly good issue teaming Batman and Blue Beetle against the Fatal Five. I intend to catch up on the new Beetle, so I don’t know how closely Waid writes him to his regular voice. However, I did think Beetle’s dialogue, funny as it was, fell into a standard Waid type. It was still very funny, but it felt familiar too. Anyway, more, please.

Lastly, bringing our survey of some thirty-odd issues to a close is Birds of Prey #105 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by Nicola Scott, inked by Doug Hazlewood). The fight with the Secret Six continues as the mystery behind You-Know-Who’s sudden reappearance is explored. It has to do with a Rasputin cult, apparently. Hawkgirl and Scandal fight and the new Secret Sixer is revealed, but most of it is standing around talking. It’s good talking, don’t get me wrong, and as I’ve said too many times in this post, wait ’til next issue. Good as Sean McKeever may be, he’ll have a hard act to follow on this book.

October 25, 2006

New comics 10/18/06

Four No. 1s this week, so let’s get going:

Somewhere I actually have a copy of What If #105, the issue that introduced May “Spider-Girl” Parker, but I never read the character again until Amazing Spider-Girl #1 (written by Tom DeFalco, pencilled by Ron Frenz, co-plotted by them, and inked by Sal Buscema). It’s not hard to figure out what’s going on, although there is the usual alt-future game of “where are they now?” In this case the future takes off from the standard Spider-Man setup, so there’s not too much of a learning curve. I like Ron Frenz well enough, but here his figures and faces seem a little more angular and skinny, and it’s a little distracting. Also, I halfway expected a more traditional done-in-one approach to this first issue, and while ASG #1 isn’t decompressed, it still doesn’t feel quite whole. Not sure if I’m coming back next month.

A lot of bloggers seem frustrated with The Authority #1 (written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Gene Ha), but I kind of liked it. It reminded me of Morrison’s JLA Classified #1, which similarly spent most of its pages on something other than the Justice League. I’ve read the first couple of Authority paperbacks, so I’m a bit more familiar with the book, but didn’t have much of an expectation going into this issue, and that might have helped. A good cliffhanger has me eager for #2, assuming I won’t have lost interest in two months.

WildCats #1 (written by Grant Morrison, pencilled by Jim Lee, inked by Scott Williams) was about as busy and plugged-in as The Authority was disconnected, and honestly, it was a little disorienting. I don’t mind massive infodumps generally, but this felt like I was missing a layer of references. Again, I’m moderately familiar with these characters, but not that much. I might get the paperback.

The Omega Men #1 (written by Andersen Gabrych, drawn by Henry Flint) did the most to get me looking forward to issue #2. It set up the threat, introduced the characters, put them in trouble, and left me hanging. It did take me a few pages to figure out that the flaming figure was Ryand’r and not Auron, and the choreography of the last big action sequence wasn’t as clear as it could have been, but maybe I just read too quickly.

Back in the land of higher numbers, 52 #24 (written by Four Non Blondes, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by Phil Jiminez, inks by Andy Lanning) was spoiled somewhat by the revelation in Firestorm that his new JLA wouldn’t get very far. Evil Skeets and his army of pirates and cyborgs was the kind of crazy I like, though. If this were my first issue of 52, I’d want to see the rest pronto. Also, Ambush Bug’s room-service call was worth the $2.50.

Secret Six #4 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by Brad Walker, inked by Jimmy Palmiotti) was a couple of weeks late getting to me, but it does get me ready for #5 coming out tomorrow. Most of it is the big fight with the Doom Patrol, which is what got me to pick up this series to begin with, but in context I’m not quite sure what purpose it served. The main plot focuses on the relationship between Scandal and her dad, and that’s creepy enough — especially the opening dinner, which (yes) I read while eating. Thanks, DC!

Like it or not, I think I’m committed to Flash: Fastest Man Alive (#5 written by Danny Bilson & Paul DeMeo, pencilled by Ron Adrian, inked by Alex Lei and Rob Lea) through the first twelve issues, or at least long enough to confirm that Bart will, indeed, be the long-term Flash. Jay Garrick’s in danger, but DC won’t kill him, so that’s hardly suspenseful. This issue also brings back Inertia, apparently Impulse’s evil twin, whose relationshp to Bart could have more ramifications for that long-term situation. That assumes Bilson & DeMeo have a plan, though. If they do, that could redeem what has been very lackluster execution so far.

Birds Of Prey #99 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by James Raiz, inked by Robin Riggs) finishes up the Batgirl/weird Turkish assassin story from last issue (and probably before, although I only read last issue) and sets up the big changes in issue #100. With Black Canary’s departure (for the JLA, I presume) capping off this issue, I get the feeling that more of a history with this book would have produced the desired emotional response. Still, I did like the interplay between the principals, and I’m eager to see #100’s changes. After that, who knows?

Checkmate #7 (written by Greg Rucka, Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir, pencilled by Cliff Richards, inked by Bob Wiacek & Dan Green) finishes the Suicide Squad story and, apparently, the first paperback. I think the best byproduct of this story is the firm re-establishment of Amanda Waller as her old manipulative self. The rest, including one villain’s flexible approach to her late husband’s memory, is just gravy. Overall, a very attractive issue, with the art being a little better defined. This creative team tends to work together a lot, and I wouldn’t mind seeing it in these pages more regularly.

1602: Fantastick Four #2 (written by Peter David, pencilled by Pascal Alixe, inked by Livesay) gets the action going in earnest, bringing the Four together and setting them against Doom. The art reminds me of Keith Giffen, with its thin lines and “puffy” (for lack of a better term) figures, and that’s not bad. David has a bit of fun with the 17th-century setting, as you’d expect. He turns Johnny Storm into Dorrie Evans’ stalker and Doom into a Shakespeare fanboy, even going so far as to have Doom adopt a Shakespearean pun-laden speaking style.

Finally, Batman and the Mad Monk #3 (by Matt Wagner) was definitely the best of the week. As Julie Madison gets sucked into Dala and the Monk’s clutches, Batman gets to be just as spooky and intimidating. Wagner does a lot with just the characters’ eyes — the Monk’s are penetrating and eerie, Julie’s are wide and anxious, Bruce’s are thoughtful, and Batman’s are blank and menacing. I can’t quite see how Wagner will work the Batplane into this (it was introduced in the original story), but that’s about the only negative this miniseries seems to have.

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