Comics Ate My Brain

March 17, 2008

New comics 3/5/08 and 3/12/08

I’ve got a lot of these to go through, so I’ll try to keep it short.

3/5/08

Justice League: The New Frontier Special #1: Very nice all around. I probably didn’t need to see how another Batman/Superman fight would play out, but it’s justified as a “lost chapter” of NF. The Robin/Kid Flash and Wonder Woman/Black Canary stories are cute, the period ephemera is well-done, and the behind-the-scenes look at the DVD adaptation is pure eye candy.

Teen Titans Year One #3: Was a little surprised at the pacing of the overall miniseries, as depicted in this issue; but better earlier than later, I guess. Besides, the story’s new direction looks intriguing. It’s been good so far, so I’m in for the rest.

Supergirl #27: It’s an understatement to say that this book hasn’t been what I expected. If you remember the Steven T. Seagle/Scott McDaniel run on Superman a few years back, it’s kinda like that, except on downers. I’m pretty much buying this book to see if it all makes sense. Plus, I like Drew Johnson and this issue’s guest (fill-in?) artist, Rick Leonardi. S’girl isn’t frustratingly bad like, say, early Hawkgirl or late Gotham Knights. It’s just frustrating.

Countdown To Adventure #7: I read this book for the Adam Strange/Animal Man/Starfire story. I have no idea what’s going on with the Forerunner story.

Nightwing #143: I like the fact that writer Peter Tomasi isn’t afraid to plug Nightwing firmly into the center of DC’s superhero culture. It can get a little precious, and sometimes — not so much in this issue, but certainly in the last one — it distracts from the main plot. This issue was fine, but I bet if it were your first DC comic in a while, you’d be mystified.

Detective Comics #842: Batman must deal with an EVIL! suit of armor that he ended up wearing in the Ra’s Al Ghul storyline from a couple months back. You know Spider-Man’s black costume? Like that, except Batman doesn’t destroy it, it doesn’t make him dance like a poser, and (so far) it hasn’t come to life. I’m not sure why the world needed this story.

Green Lantern #28: The “Lost Lantern’s” trial results in the creation of a Red Lantern. Hal has a Clarice Starling moment with Sinestro. We check in with the demons on Ysmault. The Guardians issue a radical new law. I can see how it all fits together, but I know the dots won’t be connected for about another year.

Countdown #8: Yay, Ray Palmer’s back as the Atom! Yay, Firestorm is back (although whither Martin Stein?)! Yay, Habitat, the Hairies, and the rest of Jack Kirby’s Jimmy Olsen creations! Boo, all the bickering and running around pointlessly.

3/12/08

JLA Classified #54: Will probably read better in the trade. Since this is the last installment of the Titus storyline, the “past” narrative takes up the top half of each page, and the “present” gets the bottom half. Sometimes that trick works, sometimes not. Here, it might’ve been better to split the pages vertically. As for the story, Titus beats the tar out of the League for as long as is dramatically appropriate. The ends on an ecumenical note, which is always nice, but a bit treacly for the Justice League. Overall, though, pretty good.

Batman Confidential #14: Part 2 of a new look at a one-off villain from the ’80s, The Wrath. As a modern-style story with an out-of-date setting, it’s not exactly a nostalgia-fest. However, I give it points for picking a time period other than “Year One.” Otherwise, I’m not sure what the general appeal would be.

The Last Defenders #1: The Defenders are famous as Marvel’s “non-team.” This book goes a step further, taking pains to point out how its characters are nowhere near as cool as the original Defenders. It’s a weird little exercise in obstinance wrapped in a story about white supremacists and big snake-monsters. I’ll probably stick with it.

Fantastic Four #555: Boring. Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary are fine craftsmen, but there’s still no life in an issue which features an illicit tryst, a duplicate Earth, and a giant killer robot. It’s all hat and no cattle.

Superman Confidential #13: Part two of the Toyman/Jimmy Olsen story is okay, and I like Phil Hester and Ande Parks’ art, but it feels a bit padded and lethargic. Probably could have used some pruning.

Star Wars: Rebellion #12: Part two of yet another “infiltrate an Imperial base” story that just kinda sits there. Colin Wilson’s art reminds me of early Howard Chaykin, and his Luke doesn’t look much like Mark Hamill either.

Bat Lash #4: The big apocalyptic issue which sets up the climax. This miniseries has been decent, but it’s hard to reconcile all the blood and death with the happy-go-lucky tone which got me interested in the character. (Lots of cattle, but I thought the hat would be different, in other words.) Maybe Sergio Aragones can do it. We’ll see.

Countdown To Mystery #4: I continue to like the Doctor Fate story as it plays with the (pretty much inevitable) conclusion that has Kent Nelson become the latest Doctor F. This installment includes the most traditional superhero action we’ve seen since early on, but the pieces still haven’t fallen into place. Most origin stories seem to place the origin alongside another threat, in order to give the new hero something to do in the third act. This one is all about the origin process itself, with Inza’s comic-book ventures serving as metacommentary. Makes me miss Steve Gerber that much more. P.S. This book also contains an Eclipso story which is once again threatening to meander.

Booster Gold #7: It’s The OMAC Project, Take Two, as we see how Max Lord took over the world once Booster saved Beetle from an (untimely?) death. (By the way, I’ve just started the second season of “Star Trek Voyager,” and Tom and Harry are reminding me a lot of Beetle and Booster.) More subplots converge alongside more trips into DC’s nostalgia mine, so for me, pretty good.

Superman #674: New artist Renato Guedes brings a nice “bigness” to the proceedings. Outgoing writer Kurt Busiek brings back an old JLA villain (from just before the Detroit days) to threaten Superman. Meanwhile, Supes has problems with Mon-El and the Kents have a new apartment. It’s a full issue which doesn’t feel overstuffed.

Wonder Woman #18: Guest artist Bernard Chang helps Gail Simone send WW into space, in what looks like an oblique sequel to the “Space Pirate” storyline from the early ’90s. Basically, she’s challenged by the Khunds (who act like Klingons) to stop an unstoppable race which threatens Khundia. Also, she gets pre-engaged to Tom Tresser, and Etta Candy shows up too. Chang makes WW look like someone familiar, but I can’t think of who. His art is a lot less porntastic than I feared it would be.

Countdown #7: Yet another parallel world, 90% close to the familiar DC-Earth. Another Tom Derenick-pencilled issue too. I swear, this series would be twice as good if it were half as long.

Green Arrow and Black Canary #6: This issue seemed so indebted to “Alias” (the TV show, not the comic book) that I’m starting to think Connor Hawke is the Michael Vaughn designated-victim figure. Remember when Vaughn drowned at the end of Season One, or when he got shot like Bonnie & Clyde at the beginning of Season Five? My money is therefore on Connor to pull through.

Green Lantern Corps #22: Part two of the Boodikka/Alpha Lantern storyline seems pretty forgettable, although it’ll probably look a lot more important in 2009. Today, though, I’m tempted to think that all the procedural GLC stuff would fit better in this book than in Green Lantern, with the Boodikka story as a backup.

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February 16, 2008

New comics 2/13/08

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 26, 2008

New comics 1/23/08

Filed under: countdown, justice league, she-hulk, superman, teen titans, weekly roundups, wonder woman — Tom Bondurant @ 10:15 pm
This is only tangentially related to the story, but while reading Wonder Woman #16 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by Terry Dodson and Ron Randall, inked by Rachel Dodson and Randall) I wondered why the “swimsuit” costume ostensibly lets people take WW less seriously, when (say) Tarzan, Namor, Hawkman, Hercules, and other notable men can expose lots of skin to combat without such repercussions.

A scene in WW #16 has Diana stride ashore, loaded with weapons, and calling the Nazis out — but she’s not wearing the armor, helmet, cape, etc., which writers and artists since George Perez have used to signal that the serious butt-kicking is about to begin. Instead, she’s wearing a slightly sturdier-looking version of her usual costume (or maybe it’s supposed to be the usual costume and the Dodsons just draw it to look sturdier). To me, that says she doesn’t care how exposed she might look — because how she looks will have no bearing on the hurting she’s about to administer. It’s like my response to the Batman-needs-body-armor argument: isn’t he that much more impressive in an ordinary cloth costume?

The issue itself was quite good: Hippolyta’s bodyguards’ motivations are understandable, Diana is a great presence, and Ron Randall’s art assist meshes nicely with the Dodsons’ work. The Nazis are a bit two-dimensional, but then again, they are just Nazis.

Countdown #14 (written by Paul Dini and Tony Bedard, story consultant Keith Giffen, pencilled by Tom Derenick, inked by Wayne Faucher) continued the title’s upward swing, but again I think this Earth-51 arc only illustrates what might well have been its major flaw. Since all of January has been consistent — same creative team, same story focus — it’s had a chance to build some dramatic momentum. Granted, the story isn’t objectively that innovative, but it’s still not as choppy as the past few months have been. I’m also digging the Batman & Red Robin team — the suits look good together, kinda like the old Earth-2 “grown-up Robin” costume did, or even the Chris O’Donnell and Kilmer/Clooney suits. (Without nipples, of course.)

I didn’t realize She-Hulk vol. 2 #25 (written by Peter David, pencilled by Shawn Moll, Adriana Melo, and Val Semeiks, inked by Victor Olazaba, Mariah Benes, and Dave Meikis) was supposed to be an anniversary issue until I got to the backup stories and the OHOTMU pages. Pretty entertaining all around, although I don’t understand why Man-Elephant got the spotlight he did. I had been thinking about dropping the book, but I’ll stick around for at least another month.

Crime Bible #4 (written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Diego Olmos) was very good. I liked Montoya’s relationship with Rodor, I thought the story’s central mystery was structured quite well, and I liked the denouement with the main villain. Like Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano on Gotham Central and Jesus Saiz and Chris Samnee on Checkmate, Olmos is yet another thick-lined, minimalist-realistic, blacks-heavy (I’m just making up terms here) artist working with Rucka, and it’s always a good pairing.

It’s too bad JLA Classified (#51 written by Roger Stern, pencilled by John Byrne, and inked by Mark Farmer) has been cancelled, because this issue is exactly the kind of thing I’d have loved to have seen more of. It’s a flashback to the era of the original League, and it informs the overall arc’s present-day plot, but it works pretty well on its own. A behemoth named Titus is taking the First Commandment pretty personally, destroying religious sites all over Earth, and the JLA (with help from occasional members Superman and Batman) has its hands full stopping him. Stern and Byrne can do this kind of story in their sleep, of course, so it’s the little things which catch my eye: the Arrowplane, the Weapons Master’s robot, a mention of “Spaceman X,” the 1968 Batmobile. It’s comfort comics.

There’s a lot going on in Countdown To Mystery #5. Bruce Gordon spends much of the “Eclipso” story (written by Matthew Sturges, pencilled by Chad Hardin, inked by Dan Green) trying to figure out how much SCIENCE! he can do with Eclipso’s powers, before he goes too deep into the Dark Side and reawakens ol’ pointy-ears. It features more exposition on recent Eclipso history, fights with evil critters which apparently the Spectre can’t automatically wipe out, and an omniscient narrator (much appreciated). Hardin and Green’s art is clear and sharp, and by “sharp” I mean you could get a paper cut from some of Green’s lines. It serves the story well, though, keeping the reader on edge (no pun intended).

The “Doctor Fate” story (written by Steve Gerber, pencilled by Tom Derenick and Shawn McManus, inked by Wayne Faucher and McManus) is also pretty dense with meanings, since Fate reads Inza’s comic book work to get some clue into her psyche. Apparently she wrote and drew a Hellboy-meets-Spawn horror comic which might reveal her inner turmoil, or might not. Either way, the new Fate finally learns a startling (to him) secret about the Doctor’s past, but we’ll have to deal with that next month.

Superman Confidential #11 (written by Darwyn Cooke, drawn by Tim Sale) wraps up the title’s inaugural “Kryptonite” story, as we all learn why the big chunk of Kryptonite has been narrating the whole thing. That’s basically it — it’s kind of anticlimactic. Don’t know how it reads as a whole … probably a post for another day.

Finally, I liked Teen Titans #55 (written by Sean McKeever, pencilled by Jamal Igle, inked by Ruy Jose and Jimmy Palmiotti) quite a bit more than I did the noisy, crowded “Titans of Tomorrow” arc which preceded it. Much of this is probably because of Igle, whose work is always good, but I got the feeling that this issue gave McKeever more room to spread out. As the cover indicates, the spotlight is on Robin and Wonder Girl, who explore their relationship for most of the issue. Ravager steals a couple of scenes, though, and the way she plays off Kid Devil and Blue Beetle is entertaining too. Overall, it’s a good slice of soap-opera, as you might expect from a teen-superhero team book. I was iffy about McKeever on this title, but as long as he can keep this up, I’ll be happy.

October 21, 2007

New comics 10/17/07

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 19, 2007

Friday Night Fights

Filed under: friday night fights, meme, power girl, wonder woman — Tom Bondurant @ 11:42 pm
A somewhat spoilery scene from this week’s The Brave and the Bold #7:

Power Girl’s been possessed by Doctor Alchemy, and s/he’s turned the Fortress of Solitude into Red Kryptonite, crippling Superman. What’s more, she doesn’t think there’s any way Wonder Woman can sneak up on her — that is, until something crashes through the wall….

The Invisible Plane gives Diana the perfect setup for a SUCKA PUNCH!

… (ahem) that is, as I understand the term.

Close enough, Bahlactus?

[From “Scalpels and Chainsaws,” The Brave and the Bold vol. 3 #7, December 2007. Written by Mark Waid, pencilled by George Perez, inked by Bob Wiacek, colored by Tom Smith, lettered by Rob Leigh.]

October 18, 2007

Thursday Night Thinking

Filed under: superman, thursday night thinking, wonder woman — Tom Bondurant @ 11:12 pm
First, a page’s worth of context.

See, because Clark “thinking” with his … well, never mind … probably wouldn’t have counted with Diamondrock.

Good thing he woke up ready for some regular good ol’ wholesome THINKING!

[From “The Mummy Strikes,” Superman vol. 2 #5, May 1987. Written and pencilled by John Byrne, inked by Karl Kesel, colored by Tom Zuiko, lettered by John Costanza.]

October 13, 2007

New comics 10/10/07

Let’s start this roundup with Green Arrow And Black Canary #1 (written by Judd Winick, drawn by Cliff Chiang, colored by Trish Mulvhill). I will admit freely that my purchase of this book comes from two major factors: DC’s marketing plan, and Cliff Chiang. I bought the various “wedding specials” because they looked pretty decent, and even with all its faults I was intrigued by the wedding-night cliffhanger. (Plus I really liked Amanda Conner’s work on that issue.) However, even with all of that, I probably would have resisted this issue were it not for the presence of Mr. Chiang. I liked his Detective and Spectre issues, but the “Dr. 13” story really won me over.

Chiang brings that same kind of spirit to this issue. His characters are incredibly expressive (sometimes to the point of exaggeration, as in the Dr. 13 story), but where, as with Black Canary here, the focus is on the shifting moods of a central character, that talent pays dividends. Chiang also has to deal with a good amount of guest-stars, including Batman, Doctor Mid-Nite, and Green Lantern, as well as a number of cameos. There are flashbacks too, and a fight scene, but it’s all organized quite well, and everyone gets their own bit of personality.

Of course, Chiang’s work is based on Winick’s script, which is dialogue-heavy but actually finds room for a third-person omniscient narrator. What’s more, it eschews first-person narrative caption boxes, so we’re not distracted trying to match up thoughts with characters. It still doesn’t explain why Dinah had to kill her attacker, but the arc isn’t over yet. Yes, the issue does have nods to DC’s latest round of Big Events (Amazons Attack, mainly), but the story doesn’t depend on the reader’s familiarity with them. Thanks to the flashbacks, it probably doesn’t depend that heavily on all the wedding-buildup specials either. Overall, a good first issue, and I’ll probably be with the book at least as long as Chiang is.

Next up is Booster Gold #3 (written by Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz, pencilled by Dan Jurgens, inked by Norm Rapmund), wherein Booster goes to the Oooold West (Yee-haw!) to team up with Jonah Hex. Basically, the task here is to save the doctor who’ll deliver Jonathan Kent’s great-grandfather, and thus ensure that Superman’s timeline is secure. Before that, though, the issue advances a subplot involving Booster’s slacker ancestor and a nosy reporter, and there’s an incongruous one-page interlude flashing back to Booster and Blue Beetle III during Infinite Crisis. Also, there’s another cameo by Team 13, which is nice. (Buy Architecture And Mortality!!) The 52 chronology-captions are gone this issue, maybe because we’re in the 19th Century for half of it; but I kind of miss them. The pathos of Booster’s current setup is also absent this issue. Anyway, it’s not bad, and it’s about what you’d expect — a well-produced time-traveling superhero story.

I kinda liked Countdown #29 (written by Paul Dini and Adam Beechen, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencilled by Manuel Garcia, inked by Mark McKenna) because it begins with the capture of the Challengers Of Beyond by Lord Havok and the Extremists. That’s the A-story this week. Over in the other plots, the Newsboy Legion has a welcome reunion with Jimmy Olsen, Harley and Holly survive their trip to Themyscira, Mary Marvel goes further into the dark side, and Trickster and Piper enjoy diner food with Double Down, a villain unfamiliar to me. Oh, and the cover-featured Karate Kid gets one page with Brother Eye. Anyway, I liked the issue because it felt cohesive, like a complete unit of storytelling. The Havok/Challs story had its start and (putative) finish in this issue, and the other vignettes did good jobs of advancing their respective storylines. (Good thing, too, because we’re just two weeks from the end of CD‘s first half.) Garcia and McKenna helped a lot, along with Rod Reis on colors, by giving their characters weight and presence.

Superman #668 (written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Rick Leonardi, inked by Dan Green) begins “The Third Kryptonian,” which as we all know comes with an asterisk because it doesn’t count Chris Kent, Power Girl, Krypto, or the Kingdom Come Superman (over in JSA). Anyhoodle, it changes out Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino for Leonardi and Green, and while the styles may be different (Leonardi is more “cartoony” than Pacheco), Busiek’s sure-footed scripting is a constant. Man, I hope he’s on this title for a long time to come. You’ve probably seen the previews with Chris Kent and Robin, and the whole issue’s like that. Busiek’s concerned with the logistics of making Superman a viable, believable character, but it’s all in the service of a well-told story. “T3K” itself looks pretty straightforward — an intergalactic bad guy wants revenge on Krypton’s legatees — but that’s not a knock. If Leonardi and Green are on the book for the long haul too, that’s all good. Their work is like a cross between Walt Simonson and Scott McDaniel, so I approve heartily.

Leonardi also pencils JLA Classified #44 (written by Justin Gray, inked by Sean Phillips), basically an extended trip through J’Onn J’Onzz’s head via his memories of the Justice League. I like Leonardi and Phillips separately, but here they don’t complement each other, with Phillips’ inks making Leonardi’s pencils look looser. I also got hung up on the continuity issues these kinds of flashbacks create. While that’s addressed somewhat in the context of the story, it’s still a pretty pedestrian “no one trusts the Martian” tale.

As it happens, no one trusts the Amazons after Amazons Attack, so here we are with a fill-in for Wonder Woman #13 (written by J. Torres, pencilled by Julian Lopez, inked by Bit). The main plot involves a protest outside the museum where Wonder Girl’s mom works, but there’s also a scene where Sarge Steel channels Jonah Jameson, and a more supportive encounter with the Justice Society. It’s all pretty familiar. The art is good for the most part, although Lopez seems to want Diana to pose suggestively, giving us a butt-shot to start off page 13 and then a couple of boob-thrusting panels further down the page. Anyway, Gail Simone starts next month.

Fantastic Four #550 (pencilled by Paul Pelletier, inked by Rick Magyar) may be writer Dwayne McDuffie’s last issue, which would be a shame. It certainly feels like a wrap-up, and there’s even a farewell dinner at the end. Everything gets tied in pretty well, although I have to say I had to remind myself that Reed and Sue were studying the aliens featured herein. There was also a lot of technobabble (and eventually mysto-babble) describing the exact threat to creation. Still, a lot of balls to juggle, and no real slips, so McDuffie, Pelletier, and Magyar go out on top — unless this wasn’t their last, in which case I’ll be happy for at least another month.

Finally, I talked a bit about Green Lantern #24 (written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Ivan Reis, inked by Oclair Albert and Julio Ferreira) over on B@N this week, but I’ll go into more depth here. This is the big Sinestro Corps Vs. Earth issue that sort-of renders the Cyborg Superman Special redundant. By that I mean you don’t need it to tell you the Sinestros are cutting swaths of destruction through the East Coast. Reis brings the same kind of detailed carnage to this issue that he did in Rann-Thanagar War, and thanks to the colors of Moose Baumann, it’s made that much clearer. There are many crowd scenes, including double-page spreads for the Sinestros and the GLs, but none of them look crowded. There are rah-rah moments, which are appropriate given the series of little defeats the GLs have endured so far. It’s a very effective installment of “The Sinestro Corps War,” and it clears the decks for the big blowout which is sure to come next issue.

Not that there aren’t problems. John’s “stay black” line comes out of nowhere, and the way the issue reads, Kyle doesn’t need the painting to get out of Parallax. That also seems a little easier to do this time around, but I suppose it has to do with Parallax’s attention being divided. The notion that Alan Scott might be open to killing the Cyborg Superman is also a little disquieting, more so than the Green Lanterns having the lethal-force playing field leveled.

From what I know about Geoff Johns, though, I will say that it must be big of him, a loyal Michigan State alum, to put a U. of Michigan logo on Guy’s power battery. If the Michigan/Michigan State rivalry is as fierce as, say, Auburn/Alabama or Kentucky/Louisville, that takes guts.

October 7, 2007

Old Comics 9/12/07, 9/19/07, and 9/26/07

Very quick hits on what I thought about the comics in the backlog:

9/26/07

52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen #2
All-Star Batman and Robin The Boy Wonder #7
Astro City: The Dark Age Book Two #4
Batman #669
Countdown #31
Countdown to Adventure #2
JLA Classified #43
Justice League of America #13
Wonder Woman Annual #1
Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror #13

Bad news first: the Astro City installment left me somewhat cold, mostly because it had been so long since I’d read the last issue and I just haven’t had the time to get back into the storyline. I could probably say the same about the Wonder Woman Annual, basically a big fight scene followed by a major revision to Diana’s secret identity setup. I want more time to spend with Batman #669, because I’m sure there are details I missed on the first reading. The Four Horsemen issue was pretty good, and All-Star Batman was just as crazy as ever. Finally, except for some weird anatomy, JLA #13 was probably the week’s most satisfying example of straight-up superheroics.

9/19/07

Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #56
Birds of Prey #110
Checkmate #18
Countdown 32
Countdown to Mystery #1
Flash #232
Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special #1
JLA/Hitman #1
Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Parallax #1
Captain America #30

I think the book I liked the best from this week would still have to be Birds Of Prey. It was a well-executed fill-in by Tony Bedard and the regular art team of Nicola Scott and Doug Hazlewood, about the Huntress having to stop a series of urban crises. Scott and Hazlewood were given a lot to do in this issue, and they pulled it off pretty well. I liked both stories in Countdown To Mystery, and of course I liked JLA/Hitman and Captain America. The GA/BC Wedding Special was also pretty good, although I had to invent my own explanation for Dinah not using her Canary Cry at the very end.

9/12/07

Star Wars: Rebellion #10
Booster Gold #2
Countdown #33
Search for Ray Palmer: WildStorm #1
Green Lantern #23
JLA Classified #42
JLA Wedding Special #1
Superman #667
Welcome to Tranquility #10

The most memorable from this week is Superman #667, the penultimate “Camelot Falls” chapter. I liked how Busiek tied Subjekt-17 into the main plot, and also how the issue portrayed Superman as a global hero. Now we just have to wait for the next Annual. Most everything else was good, especially the JLA Wedding Special; but I have to say I didn’t get much out of the SFRP:WS issue or JLA Classified. Oh, and I liked the wrap-up of “The Ahakista Gambit” in Rebellion. It left the door open to use these characters again, and by leaving them somewhat off-balance gave us a reason to want to see them some more.

September 12, 2007

New comics (quickly) 8/22/07, 8/29/07, and 9/6/07

Okay, by this point I am officially embarrassed to be doing another three weeks’ worth of “new” comics roundups. Here’s the deal: I’ll tell you what I bought, and what still jumps out at me, and we’ll get through it before you know it.

I will say that I have been reading some comics other than the normal Wednesday fare. I mentioned Blue Devil already — it’s pretty good on the whole, and it holds up fairly well, but it doesn’t have the sublime wit of a ‘Mazing Man or an “Architecture & Mortality.”

I’m also up to Fantastic Four #201 in the big DVD full of FF PDFs. Just 30-odd more issues until the Byrne run, and then I can stop.

Finally, I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Larry Gonick’s Cartoon History Of The Universe Volume III, and it is the most fun I have had learning since Action Philosophers. Very highly recommended! Now I have to scare up a copy of Vol. II….

Anyway, on to the floppies.

August 22, 2007

BATMAN #668
BIRDS OF PREY #109
BLUE BEETLE #18
COUNTDOWN 36
GREEN LANTERN CORPS #15
SPIRIT #9
SUPERMAN #666

The standouts for this week were Batman #668 and Superman #666. I love Grant Morrison’s take on the Club of Heroes, and hope his promised flirtations with Bat-Mite and the Sci-Fi Batman are as good. JH Williams’ mashup of various artistic styles for the Clubbers is also a delight. I was bothered for a minute or so by the philosophical implications of Kryptonian Hell in Superman #666, but only for a minute — the story itself was a cheerfully horrific tale of Superman Gone Bad; a “Treehouse Of Horror” for our hero. Birds Of Prey was good for a fill-in (I didn’t catch the parentage slip-up), GL Corps was exciting, and The Spirit was pretty creepy. I also bought Blue Beetle #18 for the Teen Titans tie-in, but honestly I found it hard to follow in spots.

August 29, 2007

52 AFTERMATH THE FOUR HORSEMEN #1 (OF 6)
ACTION COMICS #855
AMAZONS ATTACK #6 (OF 6)
BATMAN ANNUAL #26
COUNTDOWN 35
COUNTDOWN TO ADVENTURE #1 (OF 8)
TEEN TITANS #50
WONDER WOMAN #12
FANTASTIC FOUR #549
LAST FANTASTIC FOUR STORY

I actually thought the Last Fantastic Four Story was kind of sweet, in a bedtime-story way. These things don’t have to be full of blood and death, and I imagined Smilin’ Stan bidding farewell to the creations which launched his career, maybe even thinking of Jack Kirby. Maybe not; maybe he just thought he could write whatever and the kids would buy it for the John Romita, Jr. art, and visions of dollar signs danced behind his eyes while he typed. I prefer my illusions, thank you. The main book was good as always, earning a spot on my Sunday Soliloquy list.

Amazons Attack and Wonder Woman felt very perfunctory. I saw the Big Surprise on the last page of AA and was reminded that it had been foreshadowed by that second Countdown Colorforms image, so it wasn’t that much of a surprise after all. Here’s the thing: I know DC is collecting just the Picoult issues into a fancy-dancy hardcover, but would it kill them to put out a Showcase black-and-white edition of AA, WW, and the tie-in issues? (It would? Okay then.) Seems like that would be a good way to entice readers onto whatever bandwagon DC might fashion, but what do I know?

I liked Teen Titans #50 pretty well, but mostly for the thought of the Titans fighting their evil future selves again. Looks like that will be a good arc. I thought the Blue Beetle bits were handled better in this issue than in BB’s own book, too.

Both 52 spin-offs were pretty good. I liked Countdown To Adventure‘s main story, and I’m not just saying that because I met Adam Beechen in San Diego. Will he remember, though, that Adam Strange and Animal Man were both part of the team that traveled to Apokolips in Crisis On Infinite Earths? I’m not sure even 52 mentioned that. I also thought the “Forerunner” backup wasn’t too bad, and the Four Horsemen‘s first issue was nice and suspenseful.

September 6, 2007

ALL NEW ATOM #15
BLACK CANARY WEDDING PLANNER
COUNTDOWN 34
DETECTIVE COMICS #836
NIGHTWING #136
SHE-HULK 2 #21

Atom #15 and the Wedding Planner were both pretty cute. However, am I right in thinking that Dinah and Ollie talked about getting married in the old Secret Sanctuary cave headquarters? (That’s “the cave,” right? Not the Batcave, surely!) Countdown confused me more than usual, with some weird layouts failing to explain how Donna freed Jason from the witch. Detective was okay — nothiing special, which is par for the course with the fill-ins for Dini. Another fill-in artist on Nightwing made it hard for me to realize that the couple in the bar was our villainous pair. Finally, I did like She-Hulk #21, especially the Peter David joke.

I’m really going to try and get back into a steady groove for the foreseeable future. Hopefully by October things will have settled down in the real world. Thanks for your patience!

August 18, 2007

New comics 8/15/07

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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