Comics Ate My Brain

November 13, 2007

New comics 11/7/07

Filed under: atom, batman, countdown, fantastic four, groo, howard the duck, robin, supergirl, superman, tranquility — Tom Bondurant @ 3:43 am
We begin this week with Supergirl #23 (written by Kelley Puckett, pencilled by Drew Johnson, inked by Ray Snyder), which I bought mostly out of past loyalty to these creators. By now these Supergirl relaunches have an air of “This time for sure!” about them, so I’ll also admit to some morbid curiosity. In that respect I wonder if it’s a bit of black humor that the cover has our heroine going up in flames….

Anyway, the issue itself is an enigmatic bit of decompression which starts and ends with a mysterious box delivered to Supergirl’s apartment. After a brief, but funny, chat with Batman about the box, she’s called away by Superman to help him and a squad of Green Lanterns stop an interstellar war. Things don’t quite go as planned, but her reaction — and the role of the box — aren’t quite explained, thereby theoretically encouraging us readers to come back next month.

Should we, though? I’m more intrigued by the storyline than I am by the title character, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing. From what I can tell from this issue, Supergirl’s kind of a spaz. She zones out when the GLs brief her. She’s apparently responsible enough to have her own (spacious, nicely furnished) apartment, and that magazine subscription in her hand indicates she’s put down some roots, but how old is she supposed to be — late teens? Early twenties? What’s her “secret identity” like? (Judging by this week’s Superman, she doesn’t have much of one … but that’s this week’s Superman.) She’s got all the powers of Superman, so how does she use them differently? In short, why should I care about her enough to pay $2.99 (plus tax, minus folder discount) every month?

Well, the art is quite good. Johnson and Snyder do meticulous work. I’m not entirely sure about their Supergirl anatomy, but that could just be an optical illusion from the costume. There’s a long, wordless stretch in the second half of the book, and they handle that pretty well too. Like I said, I’m intrigued by the story, and this issue was good enough to make me want to see more. However, if I’m going to make a long-term commitment, I’d like to know more about Supergirl herself.

As for her cousin, Superman #670 (written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Rick Leonardi, inked by Dan Green) finishes up “The Third Kryptonian.” It’s a good conclusion to what was a somewhat predictable but still enjoyable arc. Busiek hit most of the “moody loner” character beats with Kristin Wells, including the “only out for herself” one. However, the issue is mostly action, which Leonardi and Green do nicely. I also like their Supergirl, who looks about five pounds heavier than Johnson and Snyder’s; and their Power Girl, who looks about ten pounds lighter than, say, Michael Turner’s. Anyway, the basic plot is that the Head Bad Guy has all kinds of weapons specifically designed to kill Kryptonians, so Superman and his allies (including Batman) have to figure out inventive ways to counter them. It’s all fairly straightforward, although it apparently sets up a sequel and at least one other future story. That’s not really a criticism, because I haven’t been this consistently pleased with a Superman writer in a long time.

Countdown #25 (written by Paul Dini and Adam Beechen, pencilled by Ron Lim, inked by Jimmy Palmiotti & John Stanisci) finally checks in with the cliffhanger that closed out Firestorm, lo those many months ago. That’s the bulk of the issue, and it’s entertaining and somewhat satisfying. However, the other “check-in” scenes — Jimmy and Mary Marvel on Apokolips, and Piper and Trickster escaping from Deadshot (?!?) — are kind of lame. Art is good throughout, and I would expect no less from an old hand like Lim.

I was curious about The Search For Ray Palmer: Red Rain (written by Peter Johnson, pencilled mostly by Eric Battle and Angel Unzueta, inked by Derek Fridolfs, Vicente Cifuentes, and Jonathan Glapson, with a few pages drawn by Kelley Jones) because I enjoyed the “Bat-Vampire” trilogy by Jones and writer Doug Moench. However, this has all of the grue and none of the grim nihilism. It’s not a very attractive book, mostly because it tries to ape Kelley Jones’ style without much success. The colors (by Art Lyons) are muted and muddy, like a red filter has overlaid everything. The plot is moderately diverting, since it involves this Earth’s Dick Grayson (and, in a small role, Barbara Gordon), but even that feels like something of a departure from the original material. The Batman/Dracula: Red Rain book was creepy precisely because it was set in a Bat-milieu that could easily have been the character’s regular title. However, this special’s Dick and Babs are just characters with the same names. What’s more, our Challenger heroes really can’t do anything to affect this Earth’s status quo — they can only introduce us to it and move on. Therefore, nothing of consequence happens. Unless you just like seeing alternate versions of familiar characters put through penny-dreadful situations, you don’t need this issue.

In the regular Bat-books, “The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul” begins officially in Robin #168 (written by Peter Milligan, drawn by Freddie E. Williams II). If you’ve seen one of those “Bad Seed” kinds of movies, where no one will believe the good kid who knows the evil kid’s evil, that’s about how Tim must deal with Damien. Also, Batman rescues Talia from what is apparently her bandage-enwrapped father. It’s kinda unremarkable, except for the hints at the mysticism (Nanda Parbat, the Sensei, etc.) behind Ra’s’ return. Williams’ work is fine; Robin is lean and muscular, and Batman is appropriately chunky.

The romance, or whatever it is, of Ryan and Doris “Giganta” Zuel is the best thing about (The All-New) Atom #17 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by Mike Norton, inked by Trevor Scott). I found myself rooting for the two crazy kids despite the fact that she’s a little unhinged. The weird androgynous villain (at least I think “he” and “she” are the same person) was hard to figure, but that’s a good enough mystery for two issues. Norton and Scott turn in another fine issue. They work about as well with Simone as Nicola Scott did on Birds Of Prey, and considering how much I like Nicola Scott, that’s high praise indeed.

I bought Welcome To Tranquility: Armageddon #1 (written by Christos Gage, drawn by Neil Googe and Horacio Domingues) out of loyalty to the regular title — only one issue left, apparently — and it was just okay. Basically, it focused on Tranquility’s Captain Marvel-analogue, but let him stay “in costume” the whole issue, as opposed to his regular role of deus ex machina. Also, the time-travel involved in showing us the alternate future also made our hero’s role that much more confusing. In short, he flies around while others tell him how bad things have gotten, and then he forgets about everything and the issue is over. It was kind of like the Ray Palmer: Red Rain issue, above, except without the muddy art.

Fantastic Four #551 (written by Dwayne McDuffie, pencilled by Paul Pelletier, inked by Rick Magyar) looks like it kicks off this creative team’s last arc, involving a set of time-travelers bent on stopping Reed from saving the world. It ends on a heck of a cliffhanger, and it ties into Reed’s “room of notes” from Civil War. That’s not a lot in terms of plot, but it’s executed well.

Howard the Duck #2 (written by Ty Templeton, pencilled by Juan Bobillo, inked by Marcelo Sosa) gets closer to its roots, as Howard and Bev must deal with Howard’s sudden celebrity following his smackdown of the hunters last issue. Most of the issue finds Howard on a yelling-match talk show, and that goes about like you’d expect, or maybe a little worse. I might be easily amused, but I did like MODOT (Designed Only for Talking) a lot. This is not a bad miniseries by any means, even if it has a lot to live up to.

Finally, the satire is presented much more deftly in Groo: Hell On Earth #1 (by Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones), in which Groo’s bumbling leads to eco-unfriendly consequences. I’m not sure how this can be stretched out into four issues, but if the rest are as clever as this one, I definitely won’t care. The latest Groo tale finds everyone at the top of their particular game, especially Aragones and colorist Tom Luth. Those two complement each other perfectly through Aragones’ exquisite backgrounds and two-page spreads. This story aims for a broad scope and even an epic feel, and succeeds admirably.

October 7, 2007

New comics 10/3/07

This was really a pretty good week for new comics. I’ve got at least one positive thing to say about each book.

Let’s begin with Howard the Duck #1 (written by Ty Templeton, pencilled by Juan Bobillo, inked by Marcelo Sosa). As you might have gathered from the Friday Night Fights excerpt, its humor is pretty broad, and not as incisive as Steve Gerber’s original stories. Bobillo’s take on Howard is also just different enough from Frank Brunner’s and Gene Colan’s Disney-duck riffs to take some getting used to. There’s a little more Harvey Pekar in Bobillo’s Howard these days. Outside of the Cleveland setting, the American Splendor comparisons probably stop there as well. Still, it was a diverting enough story, hardly decompressed, and tied into the wacky side of Marvel a la Dan Slott. It won’t make you forget about Gerber, but I don’t think it’s a traveshamockery.

The highest praise I can give to another blast from the past, the JLA/Hitman miniseries (#2 came out this week, #1 two weeks ago, both written by Garth Ennis and drawn by John McCrea), was that it made me want to read all sixty issues of the original Hitman series. I knew nothing about Tommy Monaghan before reading these issues, but by the end I was sorry to see him go.

When word came out that Roger (Power of the Atom) Stern would be writing an issue of All-New Atom (#16, pencilled by Mike Norton, inked by Trevor Scott), I spouted off that it would be good, but not Gail-Simone good. Well, I was wrong, and happily so. This issue was great fun, perfectly in sync with Simone’s status quo. An alien turns Ivy Town into dirty hippies, with Ryan Choi having to use his iPod to save the day. The best part was the punk band’s (unintentional?) reference to the “Tear It Down, Wipe It Out” song from Action Comics #398‘s “The Pied Piper Of Steel.” Thankfully, Atom‘s music festival feels much more authentic than Action‘s attempt at a Woodstock pastiche.

And speaking of Action Comics (#856 written by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner, drawn by Eric Powell), this week brought the creepy, effective continuation of its “Bizarro World” story. Powell’s art really does the heavy lifting here, and it sets an appropriately spooky tone. It helps excuse the more violent aspects of Johns/Donner’s Bizarro, glimpsed briefly in the previous storyline. If this Bizarro is misguided, it’s to the extreme. Therefore, Powell fills these pages with blocky, clumsy figures, keeping Superman and the other Earth-people smooth and fluid. The combination makes the story more worthwhile, because a more “realistic” artist wouldn’t have made the grotesque figures the norm. Still, There’s probably a bit too much evisceration, though, and I’m not going to excuse it “just because they’re Bizarros.” It’s not like they’re robots — those are actual, if imperfectly-duplicated, guts.

More viscera is on display in Tales Of The Sinestro Corps: Cyborg Superman #1 (written by Alan Burnett, pencilled by Patrick Blaine, inked by Jay Leisten), specifically when the Cyborg defiles his late wife’s grave. Most of the issue re-tells the few Adventures Of Superman issues which transformed a Reed Richards parody into a … well, for a while, an overused, somewhat lame villain, but unlike the Parallax special from a few weeks back, the larger plot is actually advanced, and that’s nice. The art is serviceable — thick, somewhat stiff, and chunky, not unlike the original Dan Jurgens work on the character.

This week also saw another “Sinestro Corps” installment in Green Lantern Corps #16 (written by Dave Gibbons, pencilled by Patrick Gleason, inked by Prentis Rollins), specifically the big battle involving Mogo and Ranx. For those of you who remember the Alan Moore story which informs much of “Sinestro Corps,” this issue relies upon its prophecy most heavily, with Mogo having to repel bombardiers and the Daxamite Sodam Yat coming into his own. It was a good, suspenseful issue, although I pretty much knew how it would have to turn out. I thought Gleason and Rollins kept things moving well, and made characters distinct, but in crowd scenes I still had trouble telling Yat from the other male-human-looking GLs.

Jumping back into the creepy-zombie realm for a moment, here’s Welcome To Tranquility #11 (written by Gail Simone, drawn by Neil Googe), the continuation of its Devil-raises-the-dead-to-destroy-the-living story. I really liked this issue, both as an action story and as a quirky evocation of a superhero-centered community. The Kyle Kite vignette was a good example of the latter, bringing together the innocence of children’s comics, the twisted take Simone and Googe have on them, and the juxtaposition of all that with a carnage-filled zombie tale. I do feel like I’ve spent enough time with these characters to get comfortable with them, so naturally I’m worried that the book will be cancelled. There’s also a sweet backup story (drawn by Irene Flores) about a teenager who finds she’s more in tune with manga than with Western comics, and it’s fine; but I kept expecting it to switch to right-to-left and I don’t think it ever did.

I guess Jamal Igle is off Nightwing (#137 written by Marv Wolfman, pencilled by Jon Bosco, inked by Alex Silva), which is too bad, because Bosco and Silva don’t have the same fluidity to their work as Igle and (I think) Keith Champagne brought. Anyway, this issue was the end of the big woman-from-Dick’s-past story. While the plot still seems a bit arbitrary — apparently super-soldiers are involved, not unlike the battlesuit of Wolfman’s first Nightwing arc — I did appreciate the relation back to New Teen Titans. I have beaten the drum of strengthening Dick’s ties to his past for a while now, probably to death, so it’s always nice to see writers doing just that. This is Wolfman’s last issue too, if I remember right, and the ending is soured somewhat by having it tie into his new Vigilante series. NTT did that too, of course, albeit a littel more gracefully.

Igle pencils this week’s Search For Ray Palmer: Crime Society (written by Sean McKeever, inked by Rob Hunter), which is actually the origin of Earth-3′s Jokester. McKeever’s clever script successfully re-casts the tragedies which formed the Joker into a story of a hard-luck anti-hero. The timeline’s a little screwy, but this is an alternate Earth after all. Igle’s pencils are pretty tightly inked by Hunter, giving them an appreciably different look than I’m used to, but it all works. The issue is much better than I expected a Countdown one-off to be.

Detective Comics #837 (written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Don Kramer, inked by Wayne Faucher) is a Countdown tie-in which focuses mostly on the Riddler and the former Harley Quinn, filling in Harl’s backstory leading up to Countdown. To me it demonstrated how much better Dini is at writing Harley than the Countdown writers have been so far — there she’s generally wacky; here you can tell she has a brain. Of course, there she only gets a few pages to herself, and here she’s much more in the spotlight. Anyway, Harley and Holly get embroiled in the theft of a Wayne Industries MacGuffin, which leads the Riddler to their women’s shelter. Batman and Robin are in it too, briefly, but the book is Detective Comics, not Batman, after all….

Finally, Countdown #30 (written by Dini, Justin Gray, and Jimmy Palmiotti, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by Jesus Saiz, inks by Palmiotti) is all over the place, checking in on Karate Kid and Brother Eye, Trickster and Piper behind the scenes at the Green Arrow/Black Canary wedding fight, and Jimmy Olsen escaping from scientific study, before settling on the Challengers of the Beyond on Earth-15. (You can tell it’s Earth-15 not just from the captions, but also from the little Earth-symbol on the cover. Thanks, DC!) On this Earth, everyone’s taken over for their mentors — Donna is Wonder Woman, Jason is Batman, and Kyle is GL #1. There’s not much to this part of the story beyond catching one’s breath with some character insights. Jason and Bat-Jason fight, and a few more alternate-version heroes show up. The cliffhanger switches scenes again, to Harley and Holly on their way to Themyscira (misspelled “Themyscria” — or is it?) Giffen’s breakdowns and Saiz’s pencils keep everything moving, at least. On the whole I was entertained, but it’s still pretty hard to embrace Countdown unreservedly.

August 4, 2007

New comics 7/25/07 and 8/1/07

Someday soon I’ll get caught up. July was ka-razy all around, not just with San Diego.

Anyway, let’s begin with the comics I read in between a thousand other things happening the day before the plane took off….

7/25/07

Batman #666 (written by Grant Morrison, pencilled by Andy Kubert, inked by Jesse Delperdang) is the third DC comic to reach that infamous number, and I’m pretty sure it’s the one which takes the most inspiration from said number. Future Batman Damien Wayne fights the last of the Black Casebook’s faux Batmen in a story rich with metatextual meaning. Kubert and Delperdang are especially good at depicting the hellish future Gotham and the evil, red-goggled Batman who thinks he’s going to destroy it. For a while I’ve been convinced that Morrison’s run is dedicated to exploring what it means to “be” Batman, mostly by looking at how others (Damien, the evil pretenders, the upcoming Club of Heroes) take on the role. I’m not quite ready to say it’s of a piece with Seven Soldiers‘ examination of different types of superheroes, but it’s fascinating nonetheless. I may have to get the collections, if only to read the stories in a big chunk, without these months of delays and fill-ins separating them.

It also seems to me that All-Star Batman & Robin (#6 written by Frank Miller, pencilled by Jim Lee, inked by Scott Williams) is meant to be seen in a similar “nature of the superhero” light. This issue’s set pieces involve rookie heroes Black Canary and Batgirl, and Batman musing about “all these wannabes.” It’s still not anywhere near a plot; but honestly, the book’s erratic schedule may actually be working in its favor: if it comes out so infrequently, why not spend the $2.99?

Sinestro fights Soranik Natu in Green Lantern Corps #14 (written by Dave Gibbons, pencilled by Patrick Gleason and Angel Unzueta, inked by Prentis Rollins), and basically, both of them win the battle in different ways. I’ve called “Sinestro Corps” a big excuse for fighting (not that that’s a bad thing), but what’s great about this issue is the way in which it plays with the reader’s expectations. It’s unlikely that Sinestro, bad as he is, will be “allowed” to kill Dr. Natu, beloved as she is; but it’s more unlikely that Natu, a rookie GL, could hold her own against the No. 1 Renegade. The issue’s solution is pretty clever.

Just like that, the Jodi Picoult Era is over, as J. Torres writes and Paco Diaz draws Wonder Woman #11, another brick in the Amazons Attack wall. Diana heads back to Themyscira to protect it from a nuclear strike, and finds the wreckage of Greg Rucka’s excellent “politicizing” of the Greek pantheon. Much of the rest of the issue shows us various Justice Leaguers and Justice Socialites fighting the invaders. It’s better than a Picoult issue, but it’s hardly the best the book’s been. Three more issues of this — one WW, two AA — right?

Is it too late to put Kurt Busiek in the Countdown rotation? He’s done a fine job with Jimmy’s involvement, even though Superman #665 (pencilled by Rick Leonardi, inked by Ande Parks) isn’t part of the main story. This particular issue shows us Jimmy’s “origin,” coming from homeless newsboy to Planet photographer and Superman’s Pal. I’ve liked Leonardi’s work for a long time, probably going back twenty years, so he’s good as always, and Parks’ lines are thick enough to give his figures the appropriate weight. The story’s fun too, in case I didn’t make that clear.

As for the main book, Countdown #40 (written by Paul Dini and Tony Bedard, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencilled by Manuel Garcia, inked by Mark McKenna) focuses on three scenes: Donna et al. fighting yet another group of “natives,” Holly questioning the shelter’s priorities, and the Pied Piper and Trickster hooking up with the Penguin. It also checks in with Jimmy and Mary Marvel. The “Ray Palmer” story is getting a little tedious, as is the Holly story, and the Jimmy story is getting better coverage in the Superman titles as of late, so that leaves Mary Marvel and the Rogues to salvage the issue, and Mary’s scene is a little too short. Garcia and McKenna provide decent art — nothing groundbreaking; kind of in the Brad Walker/Eddy Barrows range.

8/1/07

Thankfully, Countdown #39 (written by Dini and Sean McKeever, pencilled by Jim Calafiore, inked by Jay Leisten) starts off much better, as Karate Kid and the last of Triplicate Girl break into Oracle’s office. Holly meets Athena — but is it the same Athena who was mad at Wonder Woman last week? — and the Suicide Squad comes after Piper and Trickster. Art is fine; I thought Calafiore was a good fill-in artist back in the Peter David days of Aquaman, and he’s better here than he has been on the series. Maybe it’s the inks. I liked this issue more than I did the last one, and it may well be because Countdown (unlike 52) does action pretty well. The talky Monitor backup (by Dan Jurgens) even goes a long way towards explaining the nature of the threat, which is nice considering that we’re at the one-quarter mark.

Speaking of threats to the multiverse, wasn’t She-Hulk #20 (pencilled by Rick Burchett, inked by Cliff Rathburn) not only Dan Slott’s last issue, but also some kind of panacea for Marvel continuity at large? Generally, though, it’s a quick and dirty wrap-up to Slott’s years with Shulkie, including the by-now-familiar “here are the stories I would have done if I had the time” teases. It’s not entirely successful — or, maybe I should say it would have been more successful had I read the Jen-as-judge issues from the last part of Slott’s first series. Anyway, it’s not bad. Slott hasn’t had much room to do his own stuff for a while, with all the crossovers the book’s been part of the past few months, so I guess this is one last example of the unadulterated book.

Fantastic Four #548 (written by Dwayne McDuffie, pencilled by Paul Pelletier, inked by Rick Magyar) kicks off the full FF’s (Reed and Sue included) battle with the Frightful Four, so it’s good clean superhero combat. Much the same is on display in Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four #4 (written by Jeff Parker, pencilled by Mike Wieringo, inked by Wayne von Grawbadger). Both are highly recommended for all your FF needs.

Welcome To Tranquility #9 (written by Gail Simone, drawn by Neil Googe) brings the Devil, more zombies, and Freefall (right? with the purple hair) to town. The main story’s fine, but the backup (pencilled by Leandro Fernandez, inked by Francisco Paronzini) is quite good. It explains, in the best EC tradition, why the Coyote Kid has such a mad-on for zombies. I still enjoy the series, although I don’t think it’ll be around much longer.

More spooky goings-on abound in Detective Comics #835 (written by John Rozum, drawn by Tom Mandrake), as the Scarecrow decides to use puh-sychology on his victims instead of that old crutch, fear-gas. The notion that Batman could be pushed To The Edge (TM) even by the Scarecrow’s gruesome new tactics is a bit hard to accept, and Mandrake’s art isn’t for everyone, but overall it’s fairly effective.

Nightwing #135 (written by Marv Wolfman, pencilled by Jon Bosco, inked by Alex Silva) presents exposition via interrogation, as Vigilante facilitates Dick’s flashbacks to how he busted Metal Eddie back in the day. It’s about how you’d expect, considering that most of the information has already been provided in previous chapters, but it’s good nonetheless. Bosco’s figures are a bit clunky, and Silva uses a lot of blacks, and overall they’re in that same “DC house style” mode. It’s about time for this story to end, though.

Remember what I said about Busiek’s fine Jimmy Olsen story in last week’s Superman? It applies just as much, if not more, to this week’s Action Comics #853 (pencilled by Brad Walker, inked by Livesay). Jimmy, as his superheroic alter ego Mr. Action, tries to help Superman take out the Kryptonite Man. Extra points for the special last-page appearance.

Finally, this week’s other “Countdown doesn’t make everything suck” entry is (All-New) Atom #14 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by Mike Norton, inked by Trevor Scott). Atom, Donna Troy, Jason Todd, and Bob The Monitor go to “Heaven,” find Blue Beetle, and fight all manner of dead bad guys. The Internet is already buzzing over the new catchphrase, “Stupid jetpack Hitler!” It’s a fun issue, but it does kinda feel like treading water. The fun wins out, though.

June 7, 2007

New comics 6/6/07

Filed under: atom, batman, birds of prey, countdown, nightwing, superman, tranquility, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 2:12 am
Is it Gail Simone Week so soon? Hooray!

Only one thing would have made Birds Of Prey #107 (written by Simone, pencilled by Nicola Scott, inked by Doug Hazlewood) dead solid perfect, and that would have been a more explicit reference to the Huntress nursing Ice back to health in 1989′s Justice League America #35. Not that I’m complaining — there’s enough in the issue to satisfy this old JLI fan, especially the words Huntress speaks to bring Ice back to reality. The rest of the issue wraps up the BoP/Secret Six fight in fine fashion.

Welcome to Tranquility #7 (written by Simone, drawn by Neil Googe) is a bridge between arcs, largely wrapping up subplots from the first six issues, and otherwise focusing on the Emoticon, a minor character from the first arc. My problem with this issue is that it expects me to have kept up with all of these characters, most of whom are easy for me to confuse, simply by sight and subtle reminders of their character arcs. An omniscient narrator would have helped. It’s very much written-for-the-trade, which on one level is a valid choice, but I’m not reading the trade. I put a little more blame for this on Googe for not making the senior-citizen designs distinct enough. I dunno; maybe it’s just me. The Emoticon stuff is done well, and even shocking. There’s also an obviously satirical backup story about Bunny (also pretty much unnamed throughout), and it’s fine, but I’m not sure what the point is.

The trifecta is completed by (All-New) Atom #12 (written by Simone, pencilled by Mike Norton, inked by Dan Green), a prologue to the “Search For Ray Palmer” arc which finds Ryan encountering random wackiness on his way home through Ivy Town. The whimsical travelogue elements from the first few Tranquility issues show up here, but as over-the-top as this book is, they go just a smidge too far. At the end, the Atom fights some old Atom villains, all goofy, and (like Tranquility) none named. Here, though, I didn’t miss them being identified (the only one I knew by name was Bug-Eyed Bandit), because the joke about them being lame didn’t need it. I like Norton and Green on this book — their style is cartoony enough to fit the overall tone, and I can’t see Eddy Barrows or John Byrne doing the wacky travelogue stuff. By the way, it’s been twelve issues and a short story — can’t we drop the “All-New?”

I went through most of Detective Comics #833 (written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Don Kramer, inked by Wayne Faucher) thinking it was a subtle nod to The Prestige, the steampunk magician movie starring Christian “Batman” Bale, Michael “Alfred” Caine, and Hugh “Wolverine” Jackman. I appreciated Dini’s use of Zatanna and the evil guest magician, both of whom had appeared earlier in his run. I even thought there was some social commentary on the “audience likes girls tied up” element of the crime. Maybe all of this was distracting, but I did not expect the twist at the end. Good show, gentlemen.

The Black Adam/Mary Marvel parts of Countdown #47 (written by Dini and Sean McKeever, pencilled by Tom Derenick, inked by Andrew Pepoy, Jack Purcell, and John Stanisci) were actually kind of interesting this week. Adam is still a tiresome character as far as I’m concerned, and I know he’s a bad guy, but throwing Mary around was rather uncomfortable to see. The interesting part to me was the way Mary got her powers back. The issue also checks in with Jimmy Olsen, the Monitors, and the Rogues, all in the name of hitting character and plot points. Holly Robinson (not the actress, the onetime Catwoman) is also brought into the story. Art is decent — Derenick’s a competent penciller, but again, the scenes with Mary getting slammed into walls were the weak points.

Superman #663 (written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Carlos Pacheco, inked by Jesus Merino) may represent the first weak link in the Countdown scheduling chain. Ideally, it should have come out last week at the latest, because it stars a character who “died” in last week’s Countdown. Other than that, though, it’s a very good issue, exquisitely drawn and colored (the latter by Alex Sinclair). Merino looks to be using a more intricate inking style, but it really works out well with Pacheco’s pencils. My only question is, when did Lana Lang start stealing from Jean Grey’s old Hellfire Club closet? I don’t watch “Project Runway,” but is the corseted look making a comeback? As for plot, basically the Young Gods of Supertown are in Metropolis on a road trip, with their good-natured hijinx giving Superman problems. The “Camelot Falls” subplot of Superman’s necessity also runs through the book, giving continuity-mechanic Busiek a chance to clear up Arion’s recent history. It ends on a cliffhanger which should advance the “CF” storyline, although I’d have thought we’d have seen more of the apocalyptic future by now.

Finally, Nightwing #133 (written by Marv Wolfman, pencilled by Jamal Igle, inked by Keith Champagne) is the best issue I’ve read so far. It opens with a well-choreographed fight scene, gives Dick some good “civilian time” (including a good bit of detective work), and brings in a mystery woman from Robin’s past. Thus, it’s not afraid to use Dick’s history productively, beyond name-checking Batman, Robin, or their assorted trappings. The plot is nice and compressed, with Dick spending much of the issue trailing kidnappers, and actually having a couple of good action scenes with them. Wolfman’s dialogue is improving too. The worst part involves the implausible mechanics of a mob hit, and even that feels retro enough that it’s probably a criminal’s “theme.” Wolfman’s first two arcs were so-so, but this is leaps and bounds better.

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.

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.

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.

January 13, 2007

New comics 1/10/07

We begin this week with Agents Of Atlas #6 (written by Jeff Parker, pencilled by Leonard Kirk, inked by Justice with Terry Pallot), the little miniseries that deserves a big future. I really liked how this book played with my expectations, especially this issue. The ending is so perfectly suited to the book’s quietly subversive tone that I can’t say much more for fear of spoiling it. The whole miniseries strikes me as Marvel: The Lost Generation without all of M:TLG‘s aspirations at legitimacy, but it’s a fine story by itself. Also, speaking of nostalgia, it was good to see inker Terry Pallot’s name in credits again — for me, it’s been since I read Star Trek comics in the’ 90s.

From the Midnighter cameo I’m a little confused as to whether Welcome To Tranquility #2 (written by Gail Simone, drawn by Neil Googe) is supposed to be part of the regular WildStorm universe. It doesn’t matter all that much, I guess: the issue uses Mr. Articulate’s murder as an opening into further exploration of Tranquility and its quirky inhabitants. It’s not really Astro City or Top Ten-level pastiche, but there’s a lot of meta elements (old-style comics pages, ads, etc.), sometimes overlaid with the regular story, and that can get a little overstimulating. Together with Googe’s cartoony art, the overall effect is supposed to be something like Northern Exposure, I guess, and that’s not bad. Really, that’s how I feel about the series too, at this point.

I did like the Spectre lead in Tales of the Unexpected #4 (written by David Lapham, pencilled by Eric Battle, inked by Prentis Rollins) more than I have in previous months, but that’s because it ties the previous issues’ carnage into an overarching plot. Unfortunately, the plot depends on none of the Gotham City police ever having heard of the Spectre; and I’m sorry, but wasn’t the old Spectre rampaging throughout DC-Earth, including Gotham City, during Infinite Crisis? As always, the real treat of this book is the Dr. 13 backup (written by Brian Azzarello, drawn by Cliff Chiang), this time featuring much more craziness, including a gorilla with (I swear) the transliterated accent of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yes, there are Planet of the Apes jokes, including the one you expect, but there’s also the one I didn’t expect, and that was the best of all.

[FYI, I am writing while listening to the complete 2-disc Superman soundtrack, and I just took a break to enjoy Disc 1, Track 12, "The Big Rescue." ("You've got me? Who's got you?!?") Mmmm ... John Williams-licious.]

Batman Confidential #2 (written by Andy Diggle, pencilled by Whilce Portacio, inked by Richard Friend) takes its story in a very strange, almost Iron Giant-like, direction. I didn’t dislike it, it was just … not what I was expecting at all. The issue still ends in a pretty familiar place, though, although I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. I have made up my mind, however, that this kind of Batman-discovers-technology story is done no favors by the moody, expressionistic art of Portacio and Friend. I’d have been happier with someone more suited to giant robots and mean-looking Bat-vehicles. Howard Porter’s old style would have worked, as would Chris Weston’s or even Michael Lark’s.

“Grotesk” wraps up in Batman #662 (written by John Ostrander, drawn by Tom Mandrake), and nothing much happens except for a final confrontation between Grotesk and Batman aboard a vintage sailing ship in the icy waters of Gotham Harbor. Now, I like Bat-fights in moody, Frankenstein-esque locations, so this was a highlight of the issue; but the rest of the story was pretty predictable. I do get the feeling that Ostrander was going for a combination of Frankenstein and maybe Phantom of the Opera, but it ended up being very familiar.

Walt Simonson writes and draws JSA Classified #21 as a tie-in to the Rann-Thanagar aftermath he started over in Hawkgirl, and I’m not going to say no to Simonson art. The story answers some questions Hawkgirl raised, but by the end of the issue, unfortunately, things have gotten more confusing. Basically, Hawkman’s trying to prove that Blackfire is still evil, but can’t; he gets involved in a pretty cool mid-air fight; and the issue ends on a cliffhanger that sets up the last Hawkgirl. Oh, and Adam Strange might be alive and able to see, assuming nobody else on Rann dresses like him, which they do.

For real interstellar action, though, the best bet this week was Green Lantern Corps #8 (written by Keith Champagne, pencilled by Patrick Gleason, inked by Prentis Rollins). The three Green Lanterns take on a super-Dominator and a super-Khund, and things don’t go well. Things go so badly, in fact, that I can’t help but think a big chunk of this issue will have to be undone next issue. Still, I didn’t mind, because the creative team did a great job of establishing these two bad guys as overwhelmingly dangerous, and building to a really suspenseful cliffhanger. Well done all around.

52 #36 (written by JMRW, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencilled by Jamal Igle, inked by Keith Champagne) finally wrapped up the Lady Styx storyline, touched on the Question and Osiris subplots, and connected Supernova and Skeets to Rip Hunter. The highlight was Igle and Champagne’s artwork, because the two major plot threads — in space and with the Question — felt like they should have happened a while ago.

Finally, if the super-neo-Nazis are hunting down JSA relatives in Justice Society of America #2 (written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Dale Eaglesham, inked by Ruy Jose), why are they just trying to kill them? Why not try to sway them to their side? After all, the JSA’s attempts to identify them could be taken as part of a plan to establish a kind of genetically-superior class of people, whose powers and connections give them a special destiny, yadda yadda yadda. In other words, there’s a fine line between wanting to raise the next generation of superheroes right, and wanting them to embrace what sets them above the rest of humanity. Okay, maybe the line’s not so fine, but you can see where Nazis might make a good set of villains for a Justice Society beyond just the World War II angle.

Instead, the issue is filled with more allusions to DC history, from the new Commander Steel to the old Star Boy — and really, that’s not a spoiler, because with last issue’s last page, you had to kind of think that’s what was going on. The Wildcat-and-son scene was good, but it’s balanced against devoting a couple of pages to Starman screwing around with gravity. I like the art, despite Eaglesham’s tendency to clutter panels with people and things. The issue itself moved in fits and starts, jumping at one point from a quiet scene right into the middle of a fight, and that might not have been so jarring if the rest of the issue had more action. Again, I’m sure a lot of folks will eat this up, but I’ve been out of the JSA loop for too long, I guess.

December 10, 2006

New comics 12/6/06

I’ve already talked a little about Justice Society of America #1 (written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Dale Eaglesham, inked by Art Thibert), but let’s begin there this week anyway. I like the idea of the Justice Society basically acting as keepers of the flame, charging the new legacy heroes with the social responsibilities of living up to their famous names. (It’s an idea similar to Kingdom Come, which explains Alex Ross’s involvement in the series.) I do like the last-page tease of upcoming storylines, and am looking forward to the JLA/JSA crossover in a few months. I like the fact that the Justice Society is positioning itself as being just as important as the Justice League, albeit for different reasons. Frankly, and I hate to sound horribly sycophantic by saying this, but Geoff Johns’ enthusiasm is pretty palpable, and you can tell he’s really putting a lot of love into this book.

However….

I thought the introduction of Mr. America came off a bit overblown, even considering the role he plays later in the issue. Maxine Hunkel’s enthusiasm was just a bit much, the secrets of the new Starman seem pretty obvious, as does the attitude of the new family member (not to mention his dad). The Rebel/Damage fight also went on a little long if the point it was making was just that Damage could stand to learn more manners. These are all personal reactions, of course, and I understand that you might feel the exact opposite. That’s fine. I suppose the hook for me buying this series would be its importance to DC-Earth as a whole, and not any investment in the characters — but if that’s my approach, it seems I’ll be missing out on about half the book every month. I’m still on the fence about #2, although I may pick up the eventual paperback.

Because the rest of the blogosphere would surely rise up as one and smite me if I didn’t, I picked up my first issue of Manhunter (#26, written by Mark Andreyko, pencilled by Javier Pina, inked by Robin Riggs), and it was pretty good. Basically Kate’s been hired to defend Wonder Woman against criminal charges brought by the federal government (for political reasons), so the whole issue is pretty much her and her staff freaking out around Wonder Woman. That’s always fun. Checking in with the book’s supporting cast requires more of a learning curve, though. Their scenes are interesting, just disconnected from everything else (or so it seems). Anyway, I’m getting #27, so you can put away the torches.

52 #31 (written by Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by Chris Batista, inks by Rodney Ramos, Dan Green, and Dave Meikis) would have been a lot harder to take had DC not chosen to feature its main character in his own miniseries, now on sale. Still, any villain who eats Green Lantern rings is certainly one to watch. The interlude with Supernova and Ralph has me wanting to do some detective work of my own, which will probably turn out badly but at least should be fun. The origin of Robin (Tim Drake) somehow manages to omit Jason Todd, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. Finally, the Infinity, Inc. scenes still don’t do a lot for me.

Detective Comics #826 (written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Don Kramer, inked by Wayne Faucher) was strangely uninvolving, considering that it featured the Joker torturing Robin by running over Christmas shoppers in a stolen SUV. It’s not a bad idea (for a story, that is), and it certainly fits with the Joker’s satire-til-it-hurts paradigm, but the best part of the issue was the brief flashback to Bruce, Dick, and Tim comparing Joker notes during their “One Year Later” sojourn. I think the problem for me might have been too much internal monologue from Tim competing with the blackly-comedic Joker monologue. Usually the Joker’s diarrhea of the mouth is up against Batman’s stoicism, and it may have been more effective, more suspenseful, and more entertaining to wonder how Tim planned to get out of trouble rather than to “hear” his play-by-play. Kramer and Faucher draw a fine Joker though, reminiscent of Michael Lark’s (right?) in Gotham Central.

Another Robin in trouble and another internal monologue are also the focus of Nightwing #127 (written by Marv Wolfman, pencilled by Dan Jurgens, inked by Norm Rapmund). Dick gets buried alive and has to dig his way out the long way, with a busted shoulder to boot. It gives him, and us, a chance to go over the plot of the last couple of issues, which seems like it should be simple but I still can’t figure out why the battlesuit guy was killed or why we should care. Anyway, next issue should be the big finish, and maybe I’ll have gotten on board by then. As for this issue, while there wasn’t really much suspense, Wolfman does have a good handle on the internal monologue, and showed Dick getting appropriately beaten up and bloodied. Not that I’m into that, mind you — I’d like to see next issue treat our hero a little better.

I got last week’s Aquaman: Sword Of Atlantis #46 (written by Kurt Busiek and Karl Kesel, drawn by Butch Guice and Phil Winslade) this week. It’s a tale of Orin-Aquaman’s encounter with a younger King Shark, and while it features Mera and Vulko, it doesn’t quite feel like a classic Aquaman story. Not that a good Aquaman story requires the phrase “finny friends” or the concentric circles of marine telepathy, but I couldn’t quite connect the guy calling himself the King of Atlantis with someone probably carrying a Justice League signal device. The story itself isn’t that complicated, but it does require you to keep track of some unfamiliar names and their various motivations, and I may have to spend some more time with it.

The (All-New) Atom #6 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by Eddy Barrows, inked by Trevor Scott) finishes the first storyline of Ryan vs. the Waiting and various other malignant forces in Ivy Town. However, while I’m sure Ryan’s solution makes sense, I still don’t understand it. Also, somebody (maybe Mr. Scott, the inker) makes everyone’s faces look awfully pinched towards the end of the issue, which results in some unfortunate near-caricatures of the Asian cast members. I didn’t dislike this issue, and I’m still on board for the future, but it wasn’t this team’s strongest effort.

Superman Confidential #2 (written by Darwyn Cooke, drawn by Tim Sale) was good, although I really don’t understand the appeal of drawing Superman as an overstuffed kid who looks like he’s flunked sixth grade a few too many times. That’s just a few panels, though, and Sale’s Lois Lane more than makes up for it. The sight of Superman vomiting up lava after thinking he might just die under a volcano is also pretty sobering.

I was looking forward to Batman Confidential #1 (written by Andy Diggle, pencilled by Whilce Portacio, inked by Richard Friend) because I thought it would feature Batman fighting giant robots and Lex Luthor. That’s apparently next issue. This one opened with a fairly familiar scene of Batman fighting gritty urban violence with, yes, his internal monologue to keep him company. Portacio and Friend draw a serviceable Batman, and their Bruce Wayne looks sufficiently young and arrogant for the story’s setting, but every now and then characters sport big raccoon-eyeshadows and their heads change shape from panel to panel. Still, I like Diggle well enough to come back next issue for the giant robots.

I was also looking forward to Welcome To Tranquility #1 (written by Gail Simone, drawn by Neil Googe) in part because its aging-superhero setting seemed like a good counterpoint to Justice Society. Instead, it’s more like Astro City, which obviously isn’t bad. Between them, Simone and Googe make the oldsters (and their younger selves) pretty endearing, like if your grandmother were a ’40s teen heroine who still thought she could fly the old plane. The issue did seem a bit scattered, though, with weird ads for the local chicken restaurant sprinkled throughout and a locked-room murder mystery that comes out of nowhere. It’s not a bad package, although it does try pretty strenuously to be quirky and that could get old (no pun intended).

Man, aging superheroes must be a motif this week, ’cause here’s Agents Of Atlas #5 (written by Jeff Parker, pencilled by Leonard Kirk, inked by Kris Justice), in which one teammate turns rogue and another’s origins are questioned. This isn’t a grim ‘n’ gritty, realistic take on forgotten ’50s characters, though, so everything works out. It’s a credit to Parker and Kirk that they’ve gotten me invested in these characters despite my utter lack of familiarity with many of them.

The same applies to Beyond! #6 (written by Dwayne McDuffie, drawn by Scott Kolins), the end of which relies upon the same kind of built-from-scratch emotional investment. I hate to sound too glib, but this was a good example of old-school Marvel crossover magic that might not Mean Something to the bigger picture, but used to be Marvel’s bread and butter. I’m glad McDuffie will be writing Fantastic Four before too long.

Stay with me, folks … just a couple more.

The message of Hero Squared #4 (written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, drawn by Joe Abraham) is that superhero fights are messy, something that I thought we learned a few issues ago. Still, this issue works as a standalone story, with Milo’s own heroism contrasted against Valor’s.

Finally, Star Wars: Rebellion #5 (written by Rob Williams, drawn by Brandon Badeaux), finishes this book’s first arc, many months after it was originally scheduled. Lucky for me it’s just a lot of carnage involving who will turn against the Empire and save the Rebels. It turns out about like you’d expect, but there are a couple of points of bad execution. First, there’s not a lot of distinction between Luke’s old friend Tank and the ex-Imperial spy Jorin Sol. Second, the plot hinges on the Rebel flagship going into hyperspace, requiring somebody to Push The Hyperspace Button, and this makes me wonder why the Hyperspace Button is always so hard to push. Third, all the damage the ship takes apparently doesn’t make much of a difference to the whole hyperspace question, because the book never addresses it. Sorry if that’s a spoiler, but you kind of have to expect Luke and Leia (still looking unreasonably hawt) to survive.

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