Comics Ate My Brain

August 25, 2008

New comics 7/28/08 and 8/6/08

Here are some quick impressions of recent books, as I try to get rid of the accumulated baby-related backlog….

7/28/08

Batman: Death Mask #4: I stand by my original appraisal of this series, which is that it’s more of a read-right-to-left exercise than a demonstration of manga’s storytelling potential. It was a decent Batman story, but (as opposed to those Star Wars manga from ten years ago) nothing which really encouraged me to read more manga. If this were Batman/Punisher or some other outside-the-norm crossover, each “side” would get a chance to “win.” Here, though, Batman is still Batman, just read differently; so he wins decisively.

Green Lantern #33: This was the penultimate chapter of “Secret Origin,” wasn’t it? Good. I get the feeling that “SO” could have been more interesting, and more to the point (leading up to “Blackest Night”), if it had been a couple of oversized issues told from the point of view of someone other than Hal. Also, I really think Johns et al. are pushing it to give Black Hand’s mortuary the Black Lantern symbol.

Justice Society of America Annual #1: I talked about this one in a Grumpy Old Fan.

Teen Titans #61: Not a bad issue, although I am still not convinced that Kid/Red Devil is the breakout character everyone says he is — and I say that as someone who looked forward to his appearances in the old Blue Devil series.

8/6/08

Detective Comics #847: Part 2 of “Heart of Hush” would have been better if it didn’t have so much Hush.

Final Crisis #3: This is a scary, scary miniseries, and I admire its unwavering fatalism. I think I also like the way it paints its terrifying picture through individual snapshots, and not a “widescreen” overview.

House Of Mystery #4: Last month I think I said it’s taking a while for Fig to realize what the readers already know (because it’s the premise of the book). This month does nothing to change that. HOM isn’t badly made, it’s just slow; and I may have to give it another storyline to evaluate it properly.

Manhunter #33: I continue to like this series, and I want to learn more about it, but honestly I couldn’t tell you why I liked this particular issue.

Nightwing #147: Part 1 of a 3-part Two-Face storyline is fairly entertaining, although for various external reasons I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be with the book.

Supergirl #32: However, it looks like I’ll be with this book for a while to come, as long as it ties into the Superman titles.

Tor #s 3 and 4: Tor starts a family in these issues. I’ll probably finish out this miniseries, if only because I enjoy Joe Kubert’s storytelling.

Of course, I also bought Trinity #s 9 and 10, and enjoyed them beyond my self-imposed obligation to annotate.

Back before too long to catch up on the next two weeks!

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July 15, 2008

New comics 7/10/08

Filed under: batman, booster gold, defenders, green arrow, superman, trinity, weekly roundups, wonder woman — Tom Bondurant @ 2:20 pm
I read a good bit of Marvel in the ’70s, but I never got into the Marvel Universe the way I did the DC Multiverse. I think that’s part of the reason I have such affection for The Defenders. Both book and concept are hard to define, and deliberately so. Therefore, their possibilities are wide open, and they can provide a consistent, perpetual “outsider” perspective because their status quo is constantly changing.

All of that means I’m not quite sure what to make of the latest issue of The Last Defenders (#5 written by Joe Casey, pencilled by Jim Muniz, inked by Cam Smith). On one hand it’s clever that our protagonist, Nighthawk, is constantly being foiled in his attempts to re-form the Defenders. They’re a non-team, with little “form” anyway. On the other hand, though, the miniseries implies rather strongly that there is a “Platonic ideal” of the Defenders … which would, paradoxically, defeat the entire purpose of having a non-team. So I’m curious to see how Casey resolves that little conundrum.

I’m still not sold on Jim Muniz and Cam Smith’s art. This is a black comedy, and the thick, blocky Ed McGuinness style doesn’t quite work. Maybe Kevin Maguire would have been too much to ask for, but he or someone like him could have conveyed both Nighthawk’s schlubbiness and the big-super-action aspects of this story. Even so, I’m enjoying the miniseries, and like I said, curious to see how it works out.

Wonder Woman #22 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by Aaron Lopresti, inked by Matt Ryan) is likewise an arc’s penultimate issue, wherein Diana struggles mightily with the dark forces roiling inside her. Pretty good struggle, too, although I got a little lost in all the reversals and betrayals. Lopresti and Ryan continue to turn in good work. It’s not over-rendered, and it’s well within the Adam Hughes/Terry Dodson-esque style the book favors. However, it’s intricate enough in spots to evoke a more … ornamented? … feel, and that reinforces the “medieval” barbarian feel which has characterized Diana’s quest. Oh, and there’s another wacky misunderstanding involving Nemesis and Diana’s ape-warrior houseguests. It goes on a bit too long, but ends in a way which I hope forestalls future shenanigans.

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of Action Comics #867 (-5309 … sorry … written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Gary Frank, inked by Jon Sibal) is its portrayal of Supergirl. She only shows up for a few pages at the beginning, but she comes across very well. She’s not a fantasy-teen with an impossibly thin frame; and neither is she mopey and consumed with questions of her place in the world. Instead, she’s very believable both as Superman’s protege and as someone with personal experiences of her doomed home planet. Much of this comes from Frank and Sibal, who give Kara the body language and expressions first of boredom, and then of creeping dread. For Supergirl, Brainiac is literally the bogeyman, and she’s not too far removed from being a frightened child. Here’s hoping we see more of this Supergirl in the future.

And yeah, Superman fights Brainiac too, in all its Terminator+Borg implacability. It’s a virtually dialogue-free sequence lasting eight pages, and it wisely relies upon the art (no narrative captions, either). I used to be very hard on Geoff Johns, but he’s really starting to find a good groove here. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s growing more fond of his Action work than he is of Green Lantern, which by now must be very familiar to him.

Speaking of being particularly hard on something, Paul Dini will have to work overtime to convince me that Hush is a credible Bat-villain. His first effort, Detective Comics #846 (pencilled by Dustin Nguyen, inked by Derek Fridolfs) still falls short, although it’s due more to Hush than to Dini. See, Tommy “Hush” Elliott was set up as an evil counterpart to Bruce Wayne: a bratty rich kid who tried to kill both parents but who blames Dr. Thomas Wayne (and, by extension, Bruce) for saving his mom’s life. So — stick with me here — Tommy grows up to be a world-famous surgeon, engineers attacks on Bruce Wayne and Batman through Batman’s greatest foes, and for some reason dresses in a trenchcoat, body-suit (with “H” symbol on the left breast), and hey-I’m-disfigured bandages around his head. Maybe he is disfigured now; I dunno. Anyway, Hush struck me as a collection of so-so ideas wrapped into a poor excuse for a supervillain. Consequently, I don’t relish the idea of a five-part story focused on him.

However, “Heart of Hush” Part 1 does bring Catwoman back into the main line Bat-books, and Dini, Nguyen, and Fridolfs produce a neat story about Catwoman and Batman trying to bring down a much better idea for a wannabe supervillain, Doctor Aesop. That part of the issue was fun. Who knows, maybe the Hush parts will end up being worthwhile too.

Catwoman is, of course, a big part of Batman Confidential #19 (written by Fabian Nicieza, drawn by Kevin Maguire). This is the first part of the storyline which doesn’t dwell on how she and Batgirl are Teh Sexxxay, and I think it allows everyone to settle down and concentrate on the characters themselves. I thought writer and artist had almost been working independently of one another the first couple of issues, so this was a good installment which advanced the plot well and also gave our heroines some good interaction.

I liked Booster Gold #1,000,000 (written by Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz, pencilled by Dan Jurgens, inked by Norm Rapmund) a lot. More about Booster’s relationship with Rip than the cover-featured Peter Platinum, it serves as a nice wrap-up to Johns’ time on the title. Booster gets closure on what he considers his failures, and an old cast member from the original BG series rejoins. Chuck Dixon comes aboard for two issues before the new writer debuts, and whoever that is will have a lot to live up to.

Green Arrow And Black Canary #10 (written by Judd Winick, pencilled by Mike Norton, inked by Wayne Faucher) is a Big Fight involving the League of Assassins’ super-powered flunkies, Team Arrow, and Batman and Plastic Man. As these things go, it’s choreographed well, although I’m not sure how close Dodger (a/k/a Smarmy British Rogue) is coming to Mary-Sue status. At one point, Speedy observes she’s got “half the Justice League” on her side, which is a pretty accurate assessment; but the villains are credible enough that they don’t go down too quickly.

Finally, of course I bought Trinity #6, but I spend enough time talking about that as it is. So far it’s been reliably entertaining, and if it does something especially good or horribly bad, I’ll let you know.

July 13, 2008

New comics 6/25/08

You would not believe the week I have had. Actually, it’s been more like two weeks.

Actually, you probably would believe it; but since a lot of it involves finishing up the 3-part Grumpy Old Fan look at DCU miniseries, 2001-08, it’s kind of dull.

Regardless, it’s been pretty busy for me in the Real World, so I’m on the road to recovery as far as this here blog is concerned. What say we get cracking on that backlog?

Obviously this week’s big release was Final Crisis #2, which quite honestly scared me. When you have one of DC’s major characters locked into an Apokoliptian torture machine and screaming “CALL THE JUSTICE LEAGUE!” to an apparently random person who wouldn’t have any way of knowing how to do so, that’s a pretty dire circumstance. Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones have thrown our heroes into the deep end of the pool and are now pouring even more water on top of them. It’s not exactly a new thought to say this is the JLA arc “Rock Of Ages” from a slightly different perspective, but what makes it more immediate, and more scary, is the notion that it’s happening right now, without the comfort of a reset button that the original had.

Superman #677 was the start of James Robinson’s run as writer, and he chose to begin with heavy doses of Krypto and the Science Police troopers. I’m not looking for him to make this particular SP squad into a higher-tech O’Dare family, because clearly this isn’t Starman and Robinson’s not that repetitive anyway. Still, there are Starman-esque touches in the omniscient narration’s bullet points and the characters’ self-awareness; and they’re certainly not unwelcome. The “new guy wants to replace Superman” story is pretty well-worn, though, so I’ll be expecting some new twist from Robinson. On the art side, I have no complaints with Renato Guedes except that he (like Gary Frank) is using Christopher Reeve pretty clearly as Supes’ model. While I love Reeve’s Superman, actually seeing him in print pulls me out of the story.

What If This Was [sic] The Fantastic Four? (written by Jeff Parker, illustrated by various people) is a perfectly charming tribute to the late Mike Wieringo, postulating (for the second time) that the Spider-Man/Hulk/Ghost Rider/Wolverine team had stayed together. I encourage you to pick it up.

Back in the regular book, though, Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch … well, I think you know how I stand on their tenure so far. Fantastic Four #558 brings in the “New Defenders,” a team with some similarities to the FF, who’ve captured Doctor Doom and apparently are less than charitable in dealing with them. There’s also a new nanny whose subplot was pretty obvious to me from the moment of her introduction. Therefore, I have a pretty good idea as to how this arc will play out, but I am in fact curious to see what Millar will do with the issue’s Big Revelation about one of the Richards clan. Otherwise, I wonder if the story would read any better with Alex Ross on art. That’s how static Hitch and inker Andrew Currie’s work seems to me now.

The newest Captain America meets the public in Captain America #39 (written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Rob De La Torre). The issue presents a familiar story about manipulating the public through imagery and superficialities, and it winds up similar to Superman #677. De La Torre is new to me, although he (augmented by regular colorist Frank D’Armata) preserves the book’s quasi-realistic style. However, his Bucky is a bit more buff than, say, Steve Epting’s, which was a little distracting.

Was I saying that Batman: Gotham After Midnight didn’t know how seriously to take itself? With issue #2 (written by Steve Niles, drawn by Kelley Jones), it seems to be saying “not very.” That’s hardly a bad thing, mind you. This particular approach to Batman casts him as the scariest dude in the room, except for the scarier dude who’s working behind the scenes. I’m still not completely on board with it, but I do give it credit for being true to a gonzo sensibility. Let’s put it this way: if you like scenes where Batman is lit apparently by a noir-ish light source independent of everything else, you’ll love this book.

About Green Lantern #32: “Secret Origin” continues, and I think we’re up to the point where Hal gets hired officially by Carol Ferris. Honestly, though, we’ve been down this road so many times I’m just picking out the “Blackest Night” clues and letting the rest go by. It’s not a bad story, but it’s like hearing another cover of “Yesterday.”

The same goes for Teen Titans #60, which concludes the Terror Titans arc. Our heroes triumph, but one of ’em leaves the team. While I didn’t dislike it, I found Clock King and his minions to be rather boring, and I’m not eager to see ’em again.

I also bought Trinity #4 and liked it fine.

Back before you know it with the first new comics of July!

June 28, 2008

New comics 6/18/08

Catching up, yet again….

I’m a little torn about the format of Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four (#2 written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, pencilled by Barry Kitson, inked by Mick Gray). On one hand I don’t like crossovers disrupting a regular creative team’s groove, especially if that team does Culturally Significant work. On the other, it’s always nice to see how the regular creative team handles the shared-universe responsibilities. Besides, at some point I just want a singular creative voice.

Still, I know it’s naive to wish that SI: FF were three issues of the regular book; and it’s somewhat petty to say that it’s better than Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s work. For someone not reading Secret Invasion, and therefore not looking to reconcile the FF miniseries with the bigger picture, it’s simply a story about Johnny fighting his Skrull ex-wife while Ben protects Franklin and Valeria from the horrors of the Negative Zone. Everyone involved has good handles on the characters. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s not Culturally Significant either. At times It can be pretty cute, though (“Yay, prison!”).

Tangent: Superman’s Reign #4 (written by Dan Jurgens, pencilled by Jamal Igle, inked by Robin Riggs) also falls in the “why isn’t this in the main book?” category. It’s basically a Justice League story, superficially very close to the JLA/JSA multiversal team-ups of yore. However, it’s also something of a sequel to the “Tangent Comics” specials from ten years ago, so I guess that’s why it gets its own maxiseries. It’s been consistently entertaining, and this issue provides a little more insight into what Tangent-Superman sees as his benevolent dictatorship. Otherwise, more Justice Leaguers (Batman, GL/Hal Jordan, Black Canary, Black Lightning) join Flash and GL/John Stewart on Earth-Tangent, there’s a stunning reversal, and we have our cliffhanger. The art is good — I like Jamal Igle, and while Robin Riggs’ inks are a little more loose than I’m used to seeing on Igle’s work, he keeps the book from getting bogged down. Every time I read an issue I feel like I’m farther into the story than I actually am. On balance I suppose that’s a compliment.

Via Annie, the Long-Suffering Girlfriend, RASL #2 (by Jeff Smith) offers a little more background on our hero and his dimension-hopping, and sets up the next bit of plot. The rest is tone and attitude — Rasl likes the ladies, Annie has an holistic approach to parallel universes. The issue feels like it’s about 8 pages long, not 32, but that’s part of Smith’s sparse approach. Still, there’s enough in the issue (both implicit and explicit) that I didn’t feel shortchanged, and I’ll be waiting for #3.

Paul Smith returns as penciller of The Spirit (#18 written by Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier and inked by Walden Wong), tackling a story which sends our hero to Egypt to deal with — what else? — mummies. This is getting to be the Adam West version of The Spirit, but that’s not necessarily bad. Anyway, the ending is a bit predictable, so not quite as enjoyable as the other Aragones/Evanier done-in-one stories; and the art is good as always.

Wonder Girl and Speedy go on a date — with danger!! — in Teen Titans Year One #5 (written by Amy Wolfram, pencilled by Karl Kerschl, inked by Serge LaPointe), a thoroughly charming story which incorporates an old Titans villain, the Batmobile knock-off called the Arrow-Car, and a Green Arrow who’s about as good a foster parent as you’d think. Of course the date goes wrong; of course Wonder Girl saves the day (the date’s told mostly from her perspective, after all); but that’s not the end of the story, and that ending sets the story apart. What’s more, the art is a very nice blend of linework and painting which I’m guessing was run through some PhotoShop filter … but technical details aside, it sets a dreamlike tone perfect for a first date. Really great work from Kerschl, LaPointe, and colorist John Rauch. I’ll be very sorry to see this miniseries end.

Speaking of Green Arrow, here he is in The Brave and the Bold #14 (written by Mark Waid, drawn by Scott Kolins), essentially providing a body for Deadman to inhabit. Accordingly, this isn’t so much a team-up as it is a takeover, but it’s still a suspenseful Deadman story. See, Deadman needs to get back to his spiritual home of Nanda Parbat to free it from some evil presence, but along the way said presence keeps throwing mind-controlled pawns in his way. Waid and Kolins effectively evoke the spirit (so to speak) of paranoid thrillers like Invasion of the Body Snatchers; and while I didn’t quite buy what the cliffhanger ending was selling, I can’t complain about the execution.

The Flash #241 came out almost concurrent with the news that writer Tom Peyer and artist Freddie Williams II may well be leaving. That’s too bad, because the current issue manages to use Gorilla Grodd, multiple Flashes, the Fourth-World-flavored bad guys behind the Dark Side Club, and Wally’s ironic punishment (torture?) of Flash-killer Inertia, in a fairly cohesive story. It’s a little too much to explain, but it all works. Both Peyer and Williams have found their grooves on the title, and Williams especially does good work with Wally’s kids.

Birds Of Prey #119 (written by Tony Bedard, pencilled by Nicola Scott, inked by Doug Hazlewood) is, at first glance, a “moving-in” story about the Birds (don’t call them that!) relocating to the Silicon Valley-esque town of Platinum Flats. However, in conjunction with Justice League of America #22 (written by Dwayne McDuffie, pencilled by Ed Benes, inked by Sandra Hope), it could be a lesson on How To Draw Super-Women.

On BOP, Nicola Scott draws a virtually all-female cast: the wheelchair-bound Oracle, the teenager Misfit, and the well-built Huntress, Lady Blackhawk, Manhunter, and Black Canary. Black Canary also appears in Justice League, along with Hawkgirl, Vixen, and Wonder Woman, and Zatanna. In the current issue of BOP, the women mostly do mundane things: talk, unpack, lift and tote boxes, etc. There are a couple of fight scenes, but more character interaction. Over in JLA, the women have some character scenes too — especially Vixen and Black Canary. However, this reader was distracted by penciller Ed Benes’ fascination with Vixen’s dinners (her costume’s zipper can’t take the strain!) and Black Canary’s rear. BC gets a Dramatic Reveal as a prelude to a fight in BOP, but Scott makes it heroic and not particularly sexualized. In JLA, though, when the same character delivers a bit of straight talk about the future of the Justice League, Benes gives her the beginnings of a wedgie and thrusts out her butt. What’s weird is that Benes used to draw both BOP and Supergirl, and wasn’t this blatant on either.

JLA has story problems too — it focuses yet again on Red Tornado’s Search For Humanity, a topic former writer Brad Meltzer pursued at his peril. I will say that if the Vision is currently out of commission, the comics world may be in desperate need of emotive androids, but it feels like this title has had maybe four different plots in almost two years. There’s also some business about Red Arrow’s relationship with Hawkgirl, and the aforementioned Vixen subplot, and I wonder whether those wouldn’t also have come off better had they not been portrayed by Mr. Benes. His work is just too sketchy, scratchy, busy — you get the idea — and at this point it’s become a distraction. McDuffie I still have faith in; but Benes needs to go.

Finally, I continue to like Trinity #3 (main story written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Mark Bagley, inked by Art Thibert). This issue brings in the Justice League and also (in the Fabian Nicieza/Mike Norton & Jerry Ordway second story) introduces Tarot, and it’s a pretty decent, old-fashioned superhero story.

June 17, 2008

New comics 6/11/08

Booster Gold #10 (written by Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz, pencilled by Dan Jurgens, inked by Norm Rapmund) feels a little “off” to me, and I don’t quite know why. It’s probably because there’s so much going on. Rip Hunter narrates for a couple of pages, with his Chalkboard Of Destiny (TM) distracting the reader in the background. Booster takes over as the scene switches to the scrum with Max’s forces … and here, I think, is where things get too overloaded. Essentially the rest of the book takes place in and around a big superhero fight involving — get ready — a reunited Justice League International (including Guy Gardner, the good Doctor Light, J’Onn J’Onzz, and Batman); Superman; Max Lord; the original version of Despero; the white-ape Ultra-Humanite; Per Degaton; Black Beetle; Ted “Blue Beetle” Kord; Maximillian (the evil Skeets); Booster and his dad; and the Mystery Villain. Oh, and I forgot the interlude with Rip and the time bubble.

Johns and Katz and Jurgens do their best to break out of the fight the important character-based scenes involving Booster and his dad, the Beetles, and the sidekick droids; but even so, there’s still a lot going on in the background. In other words, the scenes aren’t put in perspective like they should be, so the rest of the players feel like distractions and/or afterthoughts. What’s more — and I admit this may be just me — I couldn’t remember the non-sacrificial function of the vehicle for the eventual heroic sacrifice. (Said sacrifice plays out like Wrath of Khan, or the last Lone Gunmen appearance, by the way.) There’s a sacrifice, but I don’t know what else it accomplished. We’ll find out next issue, I guess.

Anyway, it’s not a bad issue, and it may well play out better in context. It’s just a frustrating installment for this month.

Most of The Last Defenders #4 (written by Joe Casey, pencilled by Jim Muniz, inked by Cam Smith) finds Nighthawk on the wrong side of just about everybody, as the term “non-team” starts to take on its most literal meaning. I thought it was fine, but once again, there’s a lot going on in the background which apparently only has two issues to resolve itself.

Star Wars: Rebellion #14 (written by Jeremy Barlow, drawn by Colin Wilson) wraps up the current story arc with a lot of action, and a little denouement. There’s a suggestion that Luke and Deena Shan are a little sweet on each other, and since this is the interstitial period leading up to Empire, I’m all for anything which gets him away from those understandable-but-creepy-in-hindsight feelings he showed for Leia. I have to admit I’m not as up on my Expanded Universe characters as I should be, or else I’d probably be more sympathetic to them. Still, I can accept how the narration builds Deena up, and I always like seeing spaceship combat. Once again the art reminds me of Howard Chaykin’s early SW work from thirty years ago, except the brief glimpse we get of Han seems a little too paunchy for the whip-thin Harrison Ford of 1977. Pretty good if you’ve been with this story the whole way; probably better the more you know.

This month in Batman Confidential (#18 written by Fabian Nicieza and drawn by Kevin Maguire), Batgirl and Catwoman inch that much closer to making X-rated Internet fanfic mainstream, as they spend the first 10 pages naked from the neck down, fighting in a nudist club. The fact that Maguire draws Babs with all these extremely uncomfortable expressions and retreating body language doesn’t make it better. If last month was an excuse for cheesecake, this month drops the pretense … uh, as it were. As much as I like him, Maguire’s figures are just rendered too literally for this extended sequence to be farcical. Maybe someone with a softer style could have pulled it off (what?!? sorry!) better. Cliff Chiang’s “Naked Ollie” chases from Green Arrow/Black Canary come to mind, so Chiang or his designated replacement Mike Norton might have done well with this. Anyway, everyone puts their clothes on for the rest of the issue, and I presume the rest of the story. (There’s only so many opportunities to play the nude card.) It’s pretty entertaining, especially since it focuses on puppies. I am not kidding. It’s almost like DC felt like it needed to atone for the nearly-nude scenes with, yes, puppies. So, in summary, come for the cheap thrills, stay for the puppies!

(P.S. DC, if you use that as a blurb, I’d at least like a free copy of the paperback.)

The “Barbarian Queen” scenes in Wonder Woman #21 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by Aaron Lopresti, inked by Matt Ryan) are fine, but I want to mention the Sarge Steel/Tom Tresser bit which opens the issue. On its own it’s good: a typical “walk with me” scene which sets up a few familiar conflicts and advances the plot. However, these are two well-established spy characters who, by virtue of their respective careers, should interact on a higher level. Tom “Nemesis” Tresser had his own backup series in The Brave and the Bold, teamed up with Batman a couple of times, and was in the Suicide Squad; and Sarge Steel was Charlton Comics’ answer to Nick Fury. So if this scene involved, say, Dirk Anger and Jimmy Olsen, it’d be easier to take.

As for Wonder Woman, her posse of ’70s DC barbarians continues to grow, along with the savagery of her fights. “Losing her grip” is, I think, a fairly radical direction for the character, because it seems like most writers want to portray her as always in control, diplomatic, etc. However, it’s still a valid direction; and I think Simone has presented it well. Diana’s finding out what she’s like without the fundamental sources of her strength. The art in the “barbarian” section is also tighter and darker, with more attention paid to the blacks and a more washed-out color palette (credit colorist Brad Anderson for that). Add a couple of callbacks to Simone’s first arc and it makes for a good issue.

Green Lantern Corps #25 (written by Peter J. Tomasi, pencilled by Patrick Gleason, inked by Drew Geraci) presents the origin of the Black Mercy plant. It’s a sensible, space-opera-y origin which maybe brings in Mongul a little too neatly, but it sends the story in a very Star Trek direction. New inker Geraci fits well with Gleason’s pencils, giving them a little more definition in places and even putting a “cartoony” sheen on some of the figures. There’s a misplaced word balloon on page 2, and there’s more foreshadowing about different-color lanterns, but other than that it’s pretty good.

About half of Green Arrow And Black Canary #9 (written by Judd Winick, pencilled by Mike Norton, inked by Wayne Faucher) features Plastic Man, with the other half showing Speedy and the British guy fighting super-powered bad guys. Thanks to Norton and Faucher, it’s all portrayed with a light, breezy tone, which certainly makes some of Speedy’s quips easier to take. Norton and Faucher draw a good Plastic Man too — perhaps even nicer than what cover artist Cliff Chiang might have done. The issue builds to a couple of Dramatic Reveals: the bad guys’ employer (which is pretty obvious) and the next guest-star (also not unexpected, but not unwelcome either). I continue to like this book.

Action Comics #866 (written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Gary Frank, inked by Jon Sibal) is a heck of a start to the latest Brainiac storyline. The Daily Planet newsroom welcomes Steve Lombard, sports brute; and welcomes back noted innuendophile Cat Grant. Frank and Sibal really lay on the Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder references for Clark and Lois, but it’s all good. (Cat looks like she had a familiar model too, but I can’t place her.) However, the showpiece of the issue is Brainiac’s abduction of Kandor, shown in flashback (naturally) with references to General Zod and Brainiac’s Kryptonian origins. To say that Brainiac now = Borg + Alien wouldn’t do it justice. It’s cold, scary stuff which sets up his threat level very well. Still, there is a bit of Borg plotting in place: Superman defeats a pawn, but the “king” is still out there….

Trinity #2 (written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Mark Bagley, inked by Art Thibert) finds the Trinitarians battling personalized threats: rogue solar systems, giant robots, and a mystical metropolis. It’s nice to see each handle their own in the space of a few pages or so. Meanwhile, in the second story (written by Busiek and Fabian Nicieza, pencilled by Tom Derenick, inked by Wayne Faucher), Green Lantern John Stewart fights Konvikt and Graak in a sleepy Massachusetts town square. So far Trinity looks like superhero comfort food, and if it continues like this I suspect I won’t have too many bad things to say about it.

Finally, here’s Titans #3 (written by Judd Winick, pencilled by Joe Benitez, inked by various people), a frustrating installment of a series which has yet to define itself. Benitez’ art has personality, but he doesn’t have a handle on these characters. I hate to go all fanboy, but in an early pedeconference scene, all the characters are the same height. At the very least Starfire should be the tallest, but in a long shot she looks shorter than the Flash. Likewise, Beast Boy and Raven should probably be the shortest. These aren’t just stylistic choices, they inform the characters’ personalities.

The plot of the issue involves the Titans pairing off, with unfortunate results. While there’s an in-story explanation, the sad thing is that the book has already established its willingness to “push the envelope” with regard to these characters, so we don’t know how much of their behavior was provoked. I’m not saying the Titans should always be hugging, but Winick hasn’t done much to lay a foundation for their normal behavior. I’d like to think this book will find its equilibrium sooner rather than later, but it might not happen for a few more months.

June 10, 2008

New comics 6/4/08

Filed under: batman, house of mystery, manhunter, nightwing, star trek, supergirl, tor, trinity, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 1:51 am
Hey, it’s June! Who knew?

Lots of books this time, so no time for chit-chat.

Obviously I spent a lot of time with Trinity #1 (written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Mark Bagley, inked by Art Thibert), so it wasn’t too bad, but OH DEAR LORD another scene of table talk! First Meltzer, then Dwayne McDuffie a couple of weeks ago, and now Busiek. I’m hoping this is the only such scene for, say, fifty issues. It’s not like the Four Horsemen miniseries felt the need to sit the Trinitarians down for a Continental breakfast.

Other than that, I will say that I won’t mind spending the next year with Busiek and Bagley. For his first big DC outing, Bagley shows he has the chops to do the company’s most familiar characters. His Wonder Woman and Flash look especially good. I’m predisposed to like Busiek, so there you go.

Once again I get the feeling that Star Trek: New Frontier #3 (written by Peter David, drawn by Stephen Thompson) would mean a lot more to me had I been reading the NF books. This issue’s plot features shocking! revelations about who’s being impersonated, or who might be impersonated. The last page had me particularly confused. Two issues to go, so I might as well stick with it.

House Of Mystery #2 (written by Matthew Sturges, drawn by Luca Rossi) doesn’t spend a lot of time on the “nested” story (written by Bill Willingham), which is good. The nested story isn’t that compelling, despite some pretty Jill Thompson art. However, nothing much happens in the main story either. Its big emotional moment involves Fig, our heroine, discovering that she can’t leave the HoM, but we kinda already knew that. The secondary emotional moment, where she starts to spill her guts to one of the housemates and ends up berating him, also doesn’t ring quite true. The rest of the issue finds the housemates acting quirky without much to show for it. While I’d otherwise probably fault the book for being too broad, the characters haven’t distinguished themselves from one another yet. Mostly issue #2 was just Fig acting out against a bland backdrop.

Much of Tor #2 (by Joe Kubert) is a flashback detailing Tor’s pre-issue-#1 journey, which is fine; but it gets a little loopy towards the end and eventually acknowledges that maybe those psychotropic leaves might be affecting it. As with issue #1, Tor fights a prehistoric monster in order to protect his new little friend. Accordingly, as with issue #1, I appreciated #2 for its craft, because who am I to criticize Joe Kubert? Besides, I have to get #3 to figure out what’s going on.

I don’t have any strong feelings about issue #3 of Batman: Death Mask (by Yoshinori Natsume), so I’ll just say it’s nice for what it is — an above-average Legends of the Dark Knight-style story — and it is getting me used to reading manga. Learning can be fun!

With her own title cancelled, Catwoman is more free to roam around the main line Bat-books, so the cover of Detective Comics #845 (written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Dustin Nguyen, inked by Derek Fridolfs) plays up her appearance. However, the story itself is a nice little whodunit which manages to withstand its conclusory leaps of logic. As such, it focuses on the Riddler, who’s been trying to upstage Batman at the whole consulting-detective thing. It also introduces a group who I can’t help but think is the Internet version of the old Mystery Analysts of Gotham City. The idea that Batman has a group of online buddies who only know him through a generic username is still a terribly appealing one, so if you like that, you’ll like this story.

Rounding out this week’s Bat-books is Nightwing #145 (written by Peter J. Tomasi, pencilled by Rags Morales, inked by Michael Bair), an issue which starts to stretch the “Freefall” storyline past its point of usefulness. It wasn’t too long ago that Nightwing and Robin brought this particular storyline to a stop, but we’re apparently not done with it yet. The issue even appears to bring things back to that same point. Now, to be fair, this time around deals more with Talia al Ghul and Mother of Champions, incorporates Batman, and features the surprising return of another Bat-foe, but still. The concept of a mad scientist creating super-powered soldiers isn’t specific enough to Nightwing to warrant this much focus. At least Rags and Bair are back for the whole issue.

Speaking of which, Supergirl #30 finds relief artist Ron Randall drawing the whole issue, with Will Pfeifer taking the place of regular writer Kelley Puckett. Looks like a fill-in issue to me, but it’s not a bad one. It helps define the character in relation to Superman in a way which puts Puckett’s storyline in a much different perspective, and it even incorporates the Box O’ Universe from Puckett’s first issue. Randall’s art is clean and simple, although it flirts with being stiff and bland at times.

Overall, though, the issue I enjoyed the most was Manhunter #31 (written by Marc Andreyko, drawn by Michael Gaydos). It’s the triumphant return of a title which has seen two long hiatuses (hiatii?), so it opens with an efficient two-page recap of the character’s history. I’m not that familiar with Gaydos, but his work reminds me of early J.H. Williams, John Paul Leon, or maybe Tommy Lee Edwards — thick lines and lots of blacks. The main story does proportionately as well with its 20 pages. After opening with the requisite superhero battle, it reintroduces our heroine’s family and supporting cast, and through them sets up the current immigration-related arc. Last time I praised the new Action Comics for using its 22 pages well. This time, however, Manhunter really does a great job showing what a single issue can mean to a long-running superhero serial. High marks all around!

June 6, 2008

Housekeeping

Filed under: meta, trinity — Tom Bondurant @ 9:15 am
Well, here it is — the end of another week and not much on this blog to show for it. In the corporeal world, however, my recycling bin overfloweth; the car’s oil has been changed; and a lot of papers and knick-knacks have been reorganized.

Also, in addition to the regular Grumpy Old Fan column, I’ve started annotating Trinity over at the New-Look Blog@Newsarama. Check it out, won’t you? — and please, feel free to leave comments here (on both the annotations and the new GOF) until we get the bugs worked out over there.

A busy weekend awaits, so there might not be updates here until Monday. See you then!

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