Sunday, November 30, 2008

Strange Tales 150-155 (1966)

If you love James Bond, then you must read back issues of Strange Tales. I picked up an old Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD trade and I'm working my way through it. It's fantastic. It definitely feels like a Marvel book of the time, with woman referred to as "female" and Stan Lee type characterization. The best is Dum Dum Dugan, who may as well be the Thing, and Gabe Jones who antagonizes him like the Human Torch. Added into the equation is the brainy agent Jasper Sitwell. I had no idea Sitwell was such an important character back in the day, but he and the howlers are Nick Fury's go to guys, along with Agent Bronson, who is really the Supreme Hydra in disguise! I'm not sure who the Supreme Hydra is, but I strongly suspect Baron Strucker. The stories are fun, with Hydra constantly meddling with all of SHIELD's plans. Both sides have crazy inventions: the Overkill Horn, Vortex Beams, Q-Ray Cannons, the AUTOFAC, flying saucers, as well as current Marvel classics like the Dreadnought and the helicarrier. Fury is outfitted with Bond-type gear too, exploding cigars, oxygen tablet cufflinks, etc. All classic spy stuff. Fury is one step ahead of Hydra all the time, but man, Hydra really does have a lot of flunkies to keep showing up and messing things up. They constantly sneak assassins onto the helicarrier too, it's almost as bad as CTU!

Jim Steranko is writing and drawing at this point. His art is a fascinating mix of Kirby-inspired pencils and the ground-breaking stuff he's known for later. He chops panels to give the effect of an image displacer, he uses photos for some of his backgrounds, and he uses negatives to show gamma irradiation. These are just some of the experimental methods he uses in these issues. It's a real thrill to see someone with such classic influences venturing out into new territory. The book is a product of its time, no doubt. The stories are simple, EVERYONE smokes, and the one woman is constantly in danger and "too young" for Fury, yet still a love interest. So know what you are in for, but if you love old school Marvel, this is what it is all about.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Incredible Hercules: Against the World

I had heard such great things about this book, it probably couldn't live up to my expectations. As it is, I very much enjoyed this first trade of Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente's mythologically tinted super-book, but I'm a little surprised at a few things. I'll start with the art, since that is where my expectations were too high. I had expected Khoi Pham's art to be a little cleaner. I don't know if he was in a rush or if it was his inking, but I've seen his lines look cleaner. Sometimes it looked normal, but some panels looked like his recent New Avengers fill in, which was just not as good as I've seen him be. I've been a fan of his since he did a fantastic Giant Man piece for me in Chicago, so I'm hoping he uses this clean style when he takes over Mighty Avengers with Dan Slott. The preview art I've seen did use his cleaner style. His action sequences were great. I loved the battle on the helicarrior, two brothers smacking each other with missiles!

The story is pretty darn fun. I especially enjoyed the Mighty Avengers bits with Ares, Black Widow, and Wonder Man. I loved how Wonder Man came off as a believer in Iron Man and registration, but not like a jerk. He's a great character and I love seeing him used well. Ares using him as a walking excuse to attack Herc was pretty fun too, "I am sorry teammate Wonder Man. I cannot hear you over returning fire!" The flashbacks to Hercules' many myths was a tremendous addition to the story. The Marvel-ized Greek pantheon is fertile ground for stories, and I'm loving the possibilities using that storytelling method. The bonus Hercules vs. Hulk story was solid too, with Reilly Brown drawing the main portions and Bob Layton providing the 80s era Marvel content. Both of these artists are excellent.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Captain America #44

The Winter Soldier story keeps moving along this week, and I'm liking where Brubaker is going with it. I'm loving the combination of villains in use here. We've got the mysterious shadow dude with ties to the Winter Soldier and we also get some great use out of Batroc the Leaper, a classic Cap-foe. So Brubabker is mixing his use of historical bad guys in a pretty fun way that is pretty indicative of the main story. This is a little more espionage-y than a normal Steve Rogers Cap book would have been, but with Batroc and Black Widow hanging around, this title is still clearly a super-hero book too. I still prefer the more super-Cap stories of Mark Gruenwald and Mark Waid, but I'll take this. This Winter Cap stuff is better than a lot of the more super-Cap books of the past. I'm really curious to see who the mysterious, evil boss is. Will he be a racial stereotype?

Luke Ross fills in on art in this issue. He doesn't fit in quite as seamlessly as Mike Perkins did. Perkins' faces looked almost the same as Epting's. Ross' don't match quite as well, but that doesn't mean his art is bad. He's actually a very strong artist, and the book looks great. I'm very impressed with the stable of artists who have handled this volume of Cap.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Guardians of the Galaxy #7

This team has so many cool characters, they can actually fill two rosters! Rocket Raccoon's fill-in team is pretty good on its own. Groot, Major Victory, Mantis, and Bug do a good job filling in against the Badoon as the modern incarnation of the team starts to follow in the footsteps of the original line-up. (I did miss seeing Nikki in the flashbacks, but I think she was not an original member, right? Still, she should have been included.) I enjoyed the check-ins with the normal team too, giving me some hopet that we'll have the teams merge at some point in the future. I am concerned about how much Gamorra is hitting on Adam Warlock. Isn't she still hooking up with Nova?

The main story is really giving me a Negation vibe, Pelletier's zoms and monsters are really looking like the beasties that used to appear in that Crossgen title. That's not a complaint, since I loved Negation, but man, it really feels like that.


The Walking Dead #55

Now that's more like it! We've had entirely too many issues with no deaths! This title keeps trucking along, and other than the somewhat surprising death at the end, we have a pretty normal issue of survival horror. I'm hoping Rick can get over his whole phone conversation problem, maybe Michonne will be able to help him with that! I am worried about what this will do to the survivors from the prison. I'm not sure how much more they can take.

Charlie Adlard is as solid as ever. Not a lot to say about his very consistent art.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Batman #681

This was much better than last issue. I could barely understand what was going on in the muddled pencils last time, but this is much clearer. Morrison lays out the ultimate "prepared" Batman. No matter what the Black Glove has got ready, Batman has already thought of a way to beat them. The issue is full of neat moments. the arrival of the Batmen of All Nations, Nightwing getting some respect back, even the casual way Joker is taken off the board. The Black Glove remains a pretty cool villain group, and Dr. Hurt is still quite the mystery. I assume we are supposed to be a little unclear on exactly what his relationship is with Bruce Wayne. In any case, as a story, The Black Glove holds up quite well. However, as a story hyped as Batman R.I.P., I'm not quite so forgiving. Batman's "death" is an explosion in the water. That's a combination of the "easiest" to escape deaths in fiction. I do not believe Batman is gone. Not one bit of me believes it. So I'm enjoying this issue and story as a well put together adventure, but not as a status-quo changing event. As a side note, Morrison's flashbacks with the evil monk was fantastic. Sometimes Morrison just nails Batman, and he really does it in that flashback.

EDITED TO ADD: I'm starting to see more problems, the more I think. Why was Bats back in his blue suit? What happened to Gordon? How did Alfred end up with Damian? It is almost like we missed an issue...

Tony Daniel is still over-matched with this script. His storytelling is clearer than it had been in previous issues, but I'm still convinced another artist could have carried this story more effectively. It took me 3 reads of the page with Damian before I realized that's who it was. I'm afraid I'll be avoiding his Battle for the Cowl series. That said, the art was competent enough that it didn't dilute the story.


Superman news

Newsarama has their new Dan DiDio interview up. There are some interesting Superman tidbits.

  • Action Comics has a new creative team with Greg Rucka and Eddy Barrows. The book will feature Nightwing and Flamebird. I'm wondering if this Nightwing will be Connor Kent. I'm curious who Flamebird will be. Are there a lot of super-gals around needing new IDs?
  • Superman will keep James Robinson and Renato Guedes.
  • There is a new book called Superman: New Krypton by Andy Kreisberg with Pete Woods on art. This will tell the story of all those new Kryptonians that just showed up in the super-books.
  • Superman: Secret Origins will be a new mini with Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. This will be incorporating all the new Infinite Crisis stuff. DiDio describes this as the "Byrne" type setup book that will define Superman for the time being. Wait a minute, wasn't there a book called Superman: Birthright? Just because it wasn't good doesn't mean it didn't happen.
I'm pretty intrigued by all this, but at this point I'm so behind I wonder when I'll possibly see any of it. DC still has not solicited trades for Johns' and Frank's work on Action Comics, so I'm hopelessly behind. I actually dropped Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds because I didn't know what was going on. I find it odd that DC keeps their trade-readers so very far behind what is going on in their titles. It makes it pretty easy to drop whole families of books. Wonder Woman is this delayed, as is Dini's run on Detective Comics. At some point, I just start to figure I don't need to worry about what happens in those issues. I'll probably still pick them up, but it is by no means a lock now.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Iron Man: The End #1

Ah, I do miss David Michelinie and Bob Layton on Iron Man. The pair just gets Tony Stark. Sure, the man has his problems and temptations, but he can overcome them. In this "last" Iron Man story, Tony is struggling with his legacy both as a businessman and as a hero. He is so focused on giving one final gift to humanity that it starts to affect him personally in his interactions with his wife, and eventually leading him to some trouble as Iron Man. He's gotten so old, he just can't operate at peak efficiency as the Iron Avenger any longer. The heir gets set up quickly but effectively, and the legacy hero is shown to be a genius in his own right, not just riding on Tony's achievements. I would have liked a little more variety in the villains though. We get Crimson Dynamo twice, and I would have loved one last shot of Justin Hammer's gang of thugs. We don't get enough of Backlash and the bunch anymore (although 1/2 of them did join the Thunderbolts, I suppose). One other funny bit, I love how often this writing team has used the liquid armor idea. They love it again here after using it in Metallix and talking about it for Iron Man. I even have a sketch from Layton of an early liquid metal Iron Man.

No one can make the armor gleam like Bob Layton. Bernard Chang's art is good, but it's the overpowering inks of Layton that really makes this feel like an addition to the classic runs of the Golden Avenger. Certain inkers do overpower the pencils they're working over, and Layton is definitely one of those, but man, he draws the best Iron Man in the business. How can we complain about that? I know this was only an ok issue, but it made me remember how much I loved this team's Iron Man. That gives it a bit of a bump in the ratings.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Green Arrow & Black Canary #14


Let me clarify. In this issue, Winnick reveals that Connor Hawke no longer knows how to shoot a bow, has rubbery skin like Plastic Man (and a healing factor) and can't remember any details of his life, like how he rationalized being a Buddhist and a crime-fighter. So basically, everything that made him a cool Green Arrow. I've rarely seen a writer so completely destroy everything that makes a character work. The best part is that Winnick is now leaving GA/BC, so he's leaving this mess behind for someone else.

As someone who actually likes Connor Hawke (enough that I bought a page of his recent mini), this whole thing is a joke. The DCU is a hot mess right now.


Superman & Batman vs. Vampires & Werewolves #1-3

I recognized Keven VanHook's name from the old Valiant days, but what really caught my eye in the solicits was Tom Mandrake drawing a book that featured horror creatures. Sure enough, we get lots of vampires and werewolves, and 3 issues in, we also have Batman and Superman. But we actually have a lot more. We've got mad scientists, lovecraft mythos monsters, Green Arrow, the Demon, Wonder Woman, Nightwing, and a pulpy but fun story. The silly title actually gives you fair warning what you are in for. Horror-themed fun. This has been such a strong story I'm going to pick up the eventual trade. This book is the DCU vs. monsters, and that's the type of non-continuity story that is fortunately beneath DC's editorial influence. You can tell right away that this is a different kind of book than the usual DC crapola these days.

Mandrake is possibly the best horror artist going right now. Sure Mignola and Corbin would give him a run, but I love the way Mandrake can blend super-heroics and horror. He's been doing it through a lot of books and he keeps up the nice stuff here. I'm really impressed by the 3 issues I've read. I had low expectations, and the book hugely surpassed them.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Spider-Man: Brand New Day vol. 1

So months and months later, I finally get to see what all the brand new fuss is about. I definitely count among those who are annoyed about the stupid and callous way that MJ was written out of the story. I had toyed with the idea of boycotting Spidey like so many other people, but I figured the new creative team were not the ones to do the awful One More Day story. So I'm giving BND a shot.

I like the art. That's the first impression I come away with. McNiven is stellar as always, and La Rocca is a favorite too. La Rocca has a fun redesign on the Blue Shield that was pretty cool. I like Jackpot's design too, but I'm not sure who is responsible for her costume.

Re: Jackpot, I liked her a lot more than I thought I would. She was a pretty fun guest star, and I find myself hoping that she could be MJ (although I think I saw some interweb spoiler that she's a nobody?) In any case, she was a fun little newbie to the hero biz, from giving out fake names to wanting to claim Menace as her own arch-foe. Fun stuff.

The Spidey action is well done throughout. Slott and Guggenheim have some great dialogue for Spidey, his jokes and puns are really strong, making the fights a joy to read. The spider-action is the strength of the collection. However, I could not be more bored by Harry Osborne and those ladies. I can't even remember any of the other people's names. I know the supporting cast was a point of emphasis for the writers, and for me, they failed, because I don't care about any of them in the slightest.

All in all, the trade is a good value. There is enough fighting to get past the boring soap stuff, the art is great, and the bonus material of variant covers and other stuff makes it worthwhile. I don't know why anyone would buy this stuff weekly. I think I got a much better value, and I'd be annoyed on the drama-heavy weeks.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Invincible #55

The greatest comic in the universe rolls on! You could maybe view this as a fill-in issue, since it only features 2 pages starring Invincible himself, as he rolls in the hay with Atom Eve. But I don't think it would be fair to downplay the issue that way as we get great returns from both Allen the Alien and a very popular bit-player in the series. I smiled when I saw this character back in the book, but I won't spoil. There are also some neat revelations with Nolan and the Viltrumites, although to be honest, even though we've seen Nolan turn back towards good, I'm not sure I can forgive him for just how evil his turn was back in the beginning of the series. He really didn't have many shades of gray at the time. I do like Allen though, so if he vouches for him... :)

Ottley's art is so perfect for this title. His art is on the cartoony side, but that works out for the moments of extreme violence that occasionally come up. The brains bursting and eyeballs popping don't seem so bad when they are drawn like this. It doesn't look like an Avatar book, is what I'm saying. This comic is rolling along, and I'm very glad there is still so much story to be told. Kirkman has been doing great with the ongoing plots.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Gears of War #2

The comic, not the game, although you can rest assured I'll be buying the game. I'm digging this comic. I love the world so much, it is pretty fun seeing it expanded with a little more time for talking and story. I'm finding myself most interested in Dom, his pain looking for either his wife or daughter (I think wife) really makes him an interesting character, because he doesn't let it destroy him. The new rookie Gear Jace is likeable too. It's a good move using him as the narrator, we get his raw experiences without the tough filter of Marcus Fenix. Fenix is obviously a hero, almost a god I think to the other Gears. Very cool. I'm not sure how I feel about the other new Gear, I'm actually thinking he's a traitor. His coughing is covering up some locust-thing in him, you watch.

Liam Sharp was made to draw this book. The characters all look on-model, and the surroundings and environment are detailed enough to really add something to the experience. Jacinto (the base city) especially gets some nice exposure in this issue. And look at that cover. That might be my favorite cover this month.


JSA: Kingdom Come Special: Magog

This opinion will not make me very popular. I love Magog. I knew I was supposed to hate his look when he first showed up in Kindom Come back in the 90s, but I thought he was cool then. (Of course, my favorite bad guy design in that book was Von Bach, so what do I know?)

Anyway. This relaunch of the Magog concept is one of my favorite things about JSA right now. And I like Magog. I like the David Reid character he's grown out of. We have a heroic, patriotic hero who sometimes gets mad and might kill and perhaps torture his foes. I think Magog is a tremendously interesting and conflicted character. He acts for what he thinks is the greater good, and yet clearly we are supposed to not like him. Well I do. If I were on the JSA, I'd side with Hawkman and Magog. Tomasi does such a good job putting us in Reid's shoes that I think he's just a bad ass that the JSA is not going to be able to handle. This story succeeds where last week's KC: Superman failed. This issue doesn't mess around with multiverses and crazy alternate doubles and altered histories. We get a straight-forward origin story that lays out the thought process of a hardcore new hero.

Fernando Pasarin does such a great job using the style of Dale Eaglesham that this issue fits flawlessly into the ongoing JSA story. The art is well done. I think one of my favorite bits in the ongoing Gog story is how the artists always have birds circling Gog's gigantic head. Neat little detail.

Good (now let's get some Von Bach!)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dark Avengers

IGN has the first cover of Dark Avengers up. There has been a lot of guesswork on the message boards that this lineup is actually going to be revealed to be the Thunderbolts. The early guesses are Osborne as the Iron Patriot, Moonstone as Ms. Marvel, Venom as Spidey, Swordsman as Wolverine, and Bullseye as Hawkeye. I think that is possible, but I'm hoping that isn't the case. With so much potential in Diggle's first issue of Tbolts, I want to see him keep those characters in his own title.

I'm actually hoping the lineup is what it seems. If Osborne gets a high-ranking job, then Ms. Marvel and Iron Man may very well switch sides and go underground. This could be part of a new underground team. We have seen that Ms. Marvel is out to get Osborne post-SI in her own title, so I think it is possible.

Most importantly, if the characters are who they appear to be, that would mean we're getting Hawkeye back. I'd put up with most any concepts or story concepts to get him out of that silly ninja suit.

Hawkworld #5 (1990)

John Ostrander & Tim Truman writing? Graham Nolan drawing? Hawkman? This sounds like my perfect comic. Surprisingly, it wasn’t that great. This story has the introduction of post-Crisis Shadow Thief. Or at least a Shadow Thief to antagonize Katar Hol, the Thanagarian Hawkman. The Thief doesn’t get too much character development, and is really more of a pawn of Byth’s for the issue. I vaguely remember Byth, and sure enough, he’s still a gross-looking dude very reminiscent of John Carpenter’s The Thing. He gets his arm chopped off in the beginning of the issue, and calmly comments that he needs to burn it before it grows into another copy of him. Sure enough, we see a little gross head popping out of the arm. So gross and cool.

Hawkman and Hawkwoman aren’t quite as cool as I’d like. Katar is rocking the 90s ponytail, and Shiera mostly flies a ship this issue. I remember liking the random issues of this title I’d pick up, but Johns’ savage take on Hawkman is a little clearer and easy to “get.” I do feel like this issue is really part of a longer narrative, as I could see there were many plot elements I just didn’t remember. I mean to read through a bunch of these old Hawkworlds soon if I can.

Graham Nolan’s art is solid as always. It’s not quite as striking as his later Detective Comics work, but he is a solid storyteller. I’ve enjoyed his style since I first noticed it, in fact, he’s one of my favorite bat-artists. He does a good job on Hawkwoman especially. I vastly prefer this incarnation to the Kendra version of Hawkgirl in the current DCU. Of course, Shiera also stars in JLU, which could be affecting my opinion.


3 Year Old Daughter Reviews Tiny Titans #10

I liked the part with the Bat-Hound and Streaky. I liked the part with Supergirl and Batgirl. Why did the bad Superman come to the tea party? My favorite part was all of it. What does opposite mean? That cat and dog sure are friends. I'm not sad the other Titans are gone.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thunderbolts #126

Andy Diggle comes onboard with this issue, along with Roberto De La Torre on art. I'm really pleased with how seamlessly Christos Gage and now Diggle have continued the feel of Ellis' excellent run on this title. Part of what makes it so cool is just how much I HATE the main cast. Osborne is a jerk, Moonstone is manipulative and petty, and Bullseye is just cruelty in human form. In that lineup, Swordsman and Venom almost seem like the most rational guys around. This is definitely a changing of the guard issue. We see Chen Lu shipped back to China, which probably saves his life. Robbie Baldwin is taken out in a demeaning fashion too, but Diggle saves the worst for Songbird. Songbird has long been the fan-favorite of the title, if for no other reason than she has the strongest morals on the team. We see how out of her element she is by the end of this issue. I'm really hoping she's just written out and not... taken out permanently.

De La Torre picks up where Deodato left off. We know De La Torre likes using Tommy Lee Jones after he modled Dum Dum Dugan on him in Iron Man, and he gets to keep doing it with Osborne. His Venom looked really on-model with Deodato's Venom too. In short, if you liked the book under Ellis and Gage, there is just more to like now. It also shows just how little I care about what happens in Secret Invasion. This is post-SI, and I barely even bothered to look for clues. I don't want to know about Wasp dying until I have to, I guess.


Marvel News and February Solicits

Are you serious? You are. Ugh.

  • She-Hulk is cancelled. Well, that stinks. PAD's take on the book never really clicked with me. Too much time spent dealing with a new Skrull buddy of Shulk's, and I never really dug the relationship. I also think the bounty hunter set-up never really worked for the character. But I bought it every month hoping it would get better. The current Lady Liberators arc was a big improvement, but now it looks like that will be the last story. Oh well.
  • Agents of Atlas #1. I can't wait for the trade! Yee haw!
  • Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Fantastic Four cancelled. I lost interest long ago.
  • Clayton Crain is back on X-Force. Blech. I really liked Mike Choi's take on the series.
  • Still no information on Dark Reign. I'm annoyed we're two months in with NO details.
  • The Offenders! That idea is so crazy, it just might work! :)

I've got two subscription spots opening up with Batman and She-Hulk being cancelled. I'm leaning towards replacing them with R.E.B.E.L.S and War Machine.

Find all the solicits at Newsarama.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Nextwave 1-6

Forgive me, I am about to commit comic book blasphemy. I don't really like Nextwave. I've read a ton of Warren Ellis' books over the years, and the passive (or not so passive) dislike he holds for super-heroes just comes out too clearly in this series. It feels like a less offensive version of The Boys (where Ennis is able to channel his rage every month). Ellis has always had a gift for big, wacky ideas, and they are certainly present here. From the broccoli men of Human Resources to the interesting personality makeover he's given Machine Man, he still brings the ideas. The problem for me is, I'm not sure those ideas add to the overall Marvel Universe. I could be more forgiving if this was not in-continuity, but having attack koalas and rocket powered crabs attacking Marvel mainstreamers like Photon and Meltdown is a bit of a conflict. These six issues have the team flying around and attempting to foil the business plan of the Beyond Corp. a terrorist-group that is also funding the anti-terror group H.A.T.E. With Dirk Anger as a fill-in Nick Fury, the mockery is just a little too obvious for me. Super-hero comics are inherently silly, and so the cutdowns are a little like shooting fish in a barrell. I miss having costumes on these characters too, although I'm sure they would just be mocked as tran-fetish gear or something if they did show up.

I will say Stuart Immonen's art is great as usual. No matter the wackiness of the concept, Immonen knocks it out in grand style. His facial expressions are strong here too, with Machine Man's angry body language a particular high spot. His portrayal of the creatures is the best part of the series (the broccoli farm, the killer crabs and koalas, and Fin Fang Foom are all very well done).

I'm sure this was a ton of fun to create, but I just get the feeling Ellis is laughing at me, the super-fan as much as at the super-hero concept.


DC News & Solicits

Keep an eye out for the February 2009 solicits that were posted yesterday. The biggest news bits seem to be a R.E.B.E.L.S. relaunch by Tony Bedard and Peter Tomasi taking over Outsiders. As near as I can tell, the Outsiders team will be Geo Force, Katanna, Black Lightning, Metamorpho, Creeper, and OWLMAN. I'm a little more worried when I read the solicits for the Bat-books. The Nightwing solicit actually states "Batman is dead." Now we're probably talking about Batman and not Bruce Wayne, but still that is kind of a big deal. Neil Gaiman is writing the last issues of Batman and Detective Comics with Andy Kubert on art. Sounds like a great last issue for me, I'll be jumping off.

We've also got Adventure Comics starting back up and is supposedly starring the Legion. I'm reasonably sure we'll get Johns at least co-writing the title, since he is the hand behind most launches these days.

I am bummed we still don't have any trades solicited for Gail Simone's Wonder Woman, the Legion arc on Action Comics, or any of the last 3 storylines in Paul Dini's Detective Comics. In fact, the only trade I'm ordering this month is Jack of Fables vol 5. Shocking.

Monday, November 17, 2008

JSA: Kingdom Special: Superman

I came into the book expecting to be annoyed. The extra dollar on the price tag annoyed me from the start. Add to that how stiff I've found Ross' artwork to be on his covers and I did not have high expectations. But this was an interesting little story that ALMOST made me care about the KC Superman. This all comes back to the multiverse (and my hatred of it). I loved KC Supes in the actual Kingdom Come mini-series, but I feel he loses his relevance when placed alongside the New Earth Superman. There don't need to be two versions of the same guy running around with the same powers. Heck, even explaining it is impossible. I don't feel this story added to much to the ongoing Kingdom Come plot in JSA, but it stood ok on its own. I do have higher hopes for Magog and The Kingdom.

Ross' pencils are really nice throughout, with some painted panels added in. His art is stiff, but there is no denying it is pretty. I especially enjoyed seeing his take on the other JSAers like Cyclone. His Lois Lane was beautiful too. I picked up the Eaglesham variant as I do for all JSA issues.


Terra #1

Man, Amanda Connor can draw. I usually talk about story first, but in this issue the peak of the read is definitely the artwork. Connor does a great mix of good storytelling with a "cuteness" that works really well in super-hero stories. She gets Power Girl showing up, and the character is quickly becoming hers. I don't think we're far from a point where Connor's PG will be the definitive version.

The story features the new Terra as a champion of the underworld races of the DCU. It's a fun concept, and the issue reads quickly and has some nice story beats. I think the inclusion of the JSA as guest-stars will ground this to the rest of the DCU nicely, especially since it seems the antagonists and other supporting characters are new characters with underground ties. Is it too much to hope for a Cave Carson appearance?


Terror Titans #2

Well, at least the losers didn't die. Ravager is a great character, I hope she goes back to the Titans. I'm also finding that with Sean McKeever's work, I generally like where he's going with the stories, but he racks up such a huge body count that I'm disappointed in the story overall. In issue 1, Fever from the Doom Patrol relaunch gets capped in the head. I don't mind her used as a whipping girl for the story, but there is no need to kill her. I do like the Dreadbolt character too, and I'm hoping we don't have him kill his father next issue, again, it would be an unnecessary death. All these deaths are leading McKeever into one of my biggest pet peeves in comics:

Killing a character that you didn't take the time to develop is lazy. When the writer kills an established character to show how tough their NEW bad guy is, that's lazy. When they don't spend time developing the victims, but instead rely on the readers already having an established outlook on that character (from when the character was written by someone else), that's lazy. The best recent example is Brubaker with Nomad and Banshee.

In any case, Joe Bennett's artwork is still really good. He was one of the best 52 artists, and I'd love to see him on a book I like more. The costume designs for the Terror Titans are still cool, and I like the design for TNTeena too. I'm not sure I understood how Sapphire beat Argent though. And was Sapphire the energy chick from Argent's era of Teen Titans?


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mystery in Space 1-8

Based on recommendations from friends, I picked this up last summer out of the dollar bins in Charlotte and Chicago. It was well worth the 8 bucks. I liked the whole concept of youth-ifying Captain Comet (since he hadn't been that old in the fairly recent REBELS series anyway). Giving him a sassy canine sidekick and setting him on the sci-fi rich setting of Hardcore Station worked very well. I liked the whole battle of the clones deal with the Eternal Light Corporation too. Man, comics do love religion as their villain, don't they?

What surprised me the most was how much I enjoyed the Weird in the backups. Starlin's art is not my favorite, but he handles the character well, and playing with all the stuff he created at Hardcore Station worked well. The locales really had a nice feeling to them. I liked the Weird's kind of passive approach to heroism too. He had a hard time deciding when he had enough information to act, and it was fun seeing an out of his element hero dealing with that confusion. My biggest disappointment is how little I've been enjoying Rann-Thanagar Holy War by this same writer.

The artists were all pretty good. We started out with Shane Davis and Starlin, with Davis using an almost Jim Lee style approach. I liked his stuff, but I was thrilled to see one of my faves, Ron Lim, come in towards the end. No one does cosmic better than Lim. Overall, this was a surprisingly solid package. I passed on the trades since they collected the 80's Weird issues that I already own, so I"m glad I went back and grabbed these floppies.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thor: Truth of History #1

"A fearsome monster slain, a mad tyrant fallen, the hungry fed and the thirsty drink. 'Tis the stuff of legend." - Volstagg, Thor Truth of History #1

All that happened in ONE ISSUE! And Alan Davis made it look beautiful! That is what a Thor comic should be! I'll even say this is one of my favorite issues this year. We get the Warriors Three, Kirby-Thor, and cameos from Sif and Baldur. Alan Davis is always great, and this book is fantastic. I'm glad I picked this up. This is why I read comics.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Walking Dead #54

This comic is always entertaining. Even when we get bad issues, I'm always excited to see what happens next. This issue has a more reasonable introduction to the new cast members. They seem pretty interesting so far, and they do bring a nice goal to the series. The book had been kind of stagnant while the cast just sits around surviving, but now that they are setting out for Washington, we've got a plot that can move forward. After the slaughter in recent months, it would be easy to think that the cast is decimated, but between the survivors and the three new folks, I think there is still plenty of potential for some nice interaction. I am nervous we are going to see one of these herds of zombies soon though!

Charlie Adlard's work is very consistent. He's not a fantastic artist, but he's a clear storyteller.


Thor #11

Ugh. Thor spends this issue going out to dinner, then talking to a ghost he summoned. This is not my Thor. My Thor smashes things with hammers. I’m not even sure how Thor summoned Cap’s ghost anyway, since I’m sure it will be revealed that he’s not actually dead. So who was it Thor was talking to? That’s going to take some ‘splainin at some point. I still am not fond of the whole idea of turning Loki into a woman either, and her plot to subvert Baldur is so transparent I can’t believe none of the characters involved can see it. The main failing of this comic is the lack of interesting fights.

Olivier Coipel’s pencils are nice as always. Too bad the story mainly calls for people to stand around. I realize I’m a simpleton who loves violence, but c’mon. This is a THOR comic! Smash something!


Reign in Hell #4

There is a lot to like in this series. We’ve got the remnants of the Shadowpact team plus some nice magic characters (Ibis, Dr. Fate, Etrigan, etc.) taking the sides of rebellion in Hell, trying to overthrow Neron’s rule. The rebellion is led by Satannus and his sister Blaze, and they are being aided by Zauriel and the Earth heroes. When written like that, the story seems clear, but there are so many minor demons with big speaking parts that I’m getting lost. I remember Asmodel from Morrison’s fallen angel story, but I’m lost on the rest. I’m kind of lost in all the pseudo-military talk from all these similar demons. Almost like this series is falling into a long-standing theory: Giffen does his best works when plotting and working with a scripter. This issue devotes a bunch of pages to Blue Demon taking on Etrigan and doing better than I would expect. We do have the nice side-effect of accidentally freeing a certain main man from Hellish prison.

Tom Derenick’s art is a tad on the muddy side, probably from the inking. The DCU heroes look good, but as I said, I’m lost when dealing with the faceless demons. He does a nice job making Hell look like another alien world of the DCU.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Transformers: All Hail Megatron #4

Finally. I’ve been trudging through this book for three months, and here we are. Issue 4 brings us the autobots, with lots of page time for Jazz, Prowl, and Iron Hide. Bumblebee and Wheeljack make a fun duo in the issue, but I think the high-point is Cliffjumper. He gets a great set-up and a nice little bit of character pay off. I am enjoying the focus on the original robots. I’m fine with keeping the spotlight on the original characters for awhile. Comics about Transformers need to focus on Autobots and Decepticons. Up until this point, we’ve had too few of the former. Now that the ‘Bots have arrived, the story FINALLY feels like it is starting.

IDW keeps putting out good-looking Transformers books. Guido Guidi’s art is a nice mix of dark backgrounds with colorful Autobots in the foreground.


Avengers/Invaders #5

The book is getting better. That’s damning with faint praise, but at least it is improving. The good: Cap and Iron Man’s little chat, Echo revealing that she can read lips through masks, and some of Spidey’s jokes. The bad: I’m not sure how I feel about SHIELD LMDs being compared to Jews in the holocaust. I’m pretty sure that is over the line. I would not have the nerve to publish something like that. I do like the idea of the Human Torch as some kind of messianic figure for the LMDs. An LMD uprising is always entertaining (see Bob Harras’ excellent Nick Fury vs. SHIELD), so that is a plotline I’m fine with following. I had gotten pretty tired of all the “they’re as bad as Nazi’s” stuff about the Mighty Avengers, it was a little much. There’s a lot less of that this issue, which goes a long way for its improvement.

Sadowski’s art has taken a nice turn while working on this series. I don’t remember his art being this painted-looking, but he can do it. His Avengers look good and no one seems off-model. I do wish I could see him drawing Hawkeye and not stupid Ronin. This isn’t a classic story by any means, but Sadowski’s art makes is a good looking one.


X-Force #8

This was a good comic! The team of X-killers hasn’t gone crazy killing in this arc so far, they really just seem to be functioning as a black ops team, which is much easier to deal with. I’m liking the inclusion of Archangel/Death and Elixir to the team. If Domino is joining full time after her surprise appearance this issue, then this line-up really has a lot going for it. The current Vanisher story is moving along nicely, although I do wish he didn’t have those “kewl” tattoos. This book is getting better issue by issue.

Mike Choi’s art is a great improvement over Clayton Crain’s. Crain’s art in the first 6 issues was too murky. I could barely tell what was happening in about 20% of each issue. Choi’s storytelling still looks computery, but the storytelling is much clearer. The one panel from Vanisher’s point of view as he looks out at the team was particularly well done. Man, can Choi draw some nice ladies. Domino looks awesome


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Comic news!

Dan DiDio has his second 20 Questions feature up at Newsarama. There is some interesting info in it...

  • Birds of Prey will be replaced by an Oracle mini by an undetermined writer (smells like editorially driven story to me)
  • Tony Daniel will write and draw Dick Grayson and Nightwing in "Battle for the Cowl." No thanks.
  • Blue Beetle is cancelled. I still like the book, but it was clear what would happen when John Rogers left. Maybe killing Ted Kord wasn't the best idea?
  • Blackest Night is going to be line-wide. Ugh

Secret Invasion Spider-Man #1 & 2

If this is what the Brand New Day Spider-Man comics feel like, then I made a mistake ordering the first two trades. These feel like pointless filler. While I like the idea of Jackpot, this is a story that didn’t need to be told. A super-skrull chasing her through town asking “Where’s Spidey?” over and over? How is that a plot? Reed actually has some ok moments of dialogue in here, but the plot. Yechh.

Santucci’s art is fine, but it isn’t so dynamic it can bring up my grade.


Final Crisis Rogues' Revenge #3

Geoff Johns knows his rogues. This book hit on all of the things Johns did well over his years on the Flash (except for Grodd). I loved Captain Cold’s advice to Heatwave to avoid Libra’s mind-control “Look at the flames, Mick.” Just an awesome character bit in a story full of them. Kid Zoom is a pretty easy character to hate, and he’s despicable in this issue. I was pleased to see his fate. Nicely done, Rogues! I also like the promise of changes to come now that the rogues will be working against Barry Allen again.

Kolins’ art is great. He’s one of my top 5 artists, and this issue looked as great as all the others. In particular, Zoom’s goggles and the aura of power around Weather Wizard’s wand were excellent. No one can draw the crags of Captain Cold’s features better than Kolins.


Checkmate #31

Ugh. How did this comic ever get solicited as a Checkmate story? This whole arc starred Chimera. The last issue of the comic called Checkmate starred the Global Guardians. The shocking thing is that this story has actually been ok. Jones has had some fun bits in this story, from the spiky monster in the first couple issues to the fun characterization of the Freedom Beast this issue. I also liked how Crimson Fox kicked her pheromone powers into overdrive by showing her goods. Fun little bits like that made this entertaining, but Checkmate has totally been reduced to guest-star status in their own book. A sad end for a great series.

Garcia’s art is solid throughout. His creature design in particular is fun. The dragon antagonist has an interesting Godzilla-themed design too, but with enough tweaks to make it his own.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Savage Dragon #139

I want to like this comic. I really do. I loved Savage Dragon for about 75 issues or so, but stopped liking it when he went to the Savage World. I was confused by what was essentially a continuity reboot when he traveled to a parallel Earth, and then I dropped the book when it was so plagued by delays I didn't know what was happening during the whole "God-Gun" story arc. I didn't come back until the Barack Obama endorsement issue, although I did read the Prism issue before it.

Man, I love the idea of Savage Dragon. I love the supporting cast. I love the awesome campy villains like Low Blow and Mako who appear this issue. Invincible guest-stars? How can this book be a miss? And yet this book is all over the place. We have constant locale switches, the supporting cast is so extensive and spread out that things are hopping all over the place. There is some pacing issue for me too. I'm just not digging the Solar Man arc. I'm ready for things to go back to the SOS days, or at least the Liberty League days. I guess what I mean is, if I did have a Savage Dragon itch, this isn't really scratching it, you know?

Larsen's art is still as fun and kinetic as ever. I love his art. There's just something missing from this book for me. It bums me out.


Green Lantern Corps # 29

How does a book about energy wielding spacemen read like such a good cop drama. This may be a GL book, but this has really felt like an ensemble cop show for awhile now. We've got our great two leads in Kyle Rayner and Guy Gardner, but there are so many good surrounding characters that I'm interested in just about every tangent plot-line that pops up. Mongul is a fantastic villain too, his casual brutality in this issue is awful. It is a testament to Peter Tomasi's writing that I can be so mad at this awful murderer in just a few pages. I know how bad Mongul is, and yet I still want to see him get it! I'm not sure how I feel about the "War of Light." I'm afraid this whole thing is diluting the GL concept. I'm open to the idea that I'm wrong, I did love the Sinestro Corps War. I'm liking the Krybb task force too. I'm SURE that some of those GLs heading out with Kyle to get the crib-napping Sinestro Corps member are gonna get it. I hope neither of the parents-to-be die, but we have learned that Tomasi is a pretty merciless writer. Heck, we saw it this issue!

Patrick Gleason does another great job on this issue. He's quietly put together a definitive GL run at this point. He's been working in some capacity on almost every issue of this series. We rarely get long runs these days (especially with artists) so the consistency of approach is great. How great did Ice look with her starry-eyes when she first appeared?


Monday, November 10, 2008

Essential Killraven

This is a pretty entertaining book so far. I'm reading in Essential format, so that means in black and white. I don't mind. I'm loving the post-apocalypctic world, and it is a lot of fun seeing the War of the Worlds motif mixing with classic 70s Marvel. Don McGregor is the first writer, but I see we've got Bill Mantlo and other Marvel guys coming up. I'm confident it will be entertaining. I think the best part is that Killraven's origin is told in flashback that takes only half an issue! In a modern book, we'd have a 12 issue arc poring over every detail.

The first issue is drawn by Neal Adams and Howard Chaykin, then Chaykin goes solo for an issue or two, and finally Herb Trimpe Takes over. I'll be working on this thick book for awhile but it seems like everything I look for in my Marvel Essentials. Four issues in, this is a winner!

Good (so far)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Justice League of America #25

I really want to like this comic more than I do. I loved Dwayne McDuffie's JLA cartoon, it ranks as one of my favorite shows. And yet the actual comic has only had a handful of top-notch issues since he took over (the Flash & WW vs. Queen Bee sticks out as a high point). This story is at least self-contained. We have Anansi the Spider-God manipulating the powers and origins of Vixen and Animal Man. The story is ok, but I'm not too into Vixen, or really most of the current league. At least boring Red Tornado is taking a leave of absence. At this point, the only characters I like on the team are Firestorm and the Flash. The title is just kind of moving along at this point. I will say the spider-god story is interesting, and he seems to have some neat narrative-based powers that I've never seen before. Would covering his mouth stop him?

Ed Benes' art still doesn't impress me. Having a slew of other artists like Doug Mahnke and Darick Robertson helps, but still, I can't believe we can't get someone a little more story-oriented on art with this book.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

War Machine: Weapon of SHIELD #34

Fantastic. You've got Sean Chen, the best Iron Man artist of the past 20 years and Christos Gage, who hasn't written a bad Marvel comic yet. Combine them with James Rhodes, a great character, and this is one winner of a book. Gage continues using obscure characters in neat ways, here we have Cybermancer from Force Works helps Rhodey. Later, when WM decides to head into Russia to battle the skrulls, we get some good ol Soviet Super Soldiers. I am wondering where Vangaurd, Vostok, and Perun are though. Did I miss them leaving the team somehwere? Anyways, while I'm getting really tired of the now fodder-worthy super-skrulls, I was pleased to see some of the combos Chen came up with (Conquistador? Awesome!)

As I said, Sean Chen knocks this out of the park. The flashbacks are great. I loved the Mandarin flashback especially, since Chen did some great work with him back in the day. I'll be picking up the trades of the new War Machine series, but I do wish this was the creative team handling that book.


Justice League of America #226

I don’t care what anyone says. Marvel was about a million times better in the early 80s than DC. This comic is not good. Joey Cavalieri’s story is pretty straightforward, except I can’t pronounce the name of the bad guys evil group “Fiatlux.” Maybe I should know the word, but I don’t. As for the team, it is the classic satellite era team, which means no Martian Manhunter, so I’m instantly less interested. We get a whole lot of Green Arrow and Black Canary, and not enough of Hawkman and Hawkgirl to offset them. Zatanna, another of my least favorite characters has a pretty big role. I’m not sure if this is “classic” Red Tornado, but he has about as much character in this issue as he did in Primal Force when he was a robotic mute.

Chuck Patton’s pencils are pretty good though. He does a good job on faces, but those early 80s costumes on Atom, Zatanna, and Elongated Man are pretty rough. Green Arrow looks good though.


Friday, November 7, 2008

Justice Society of America #20

Sigh. I hate the multiverse. This title has been finally getting good again with the arrival of Gog, rescuing us from the boring Kingdom Come Superman, but all our forward momentum comes to a stop this issue as we start to focus on the multiverse. At this point I can safely say I don’t understand the DCU multiverse at all. There are two Power Girls? Kryptonite affects them differently? I like the idea behind Starman’s costume, and we have a nice little comment that I assume leads to the Legions of Three Worlds, but I can’t be too excited because that plot element leads right back to you guessed it… the multiverse.

Jerry Ordway’s pencils are always a treat. In this issue we do get some nice Dale Eaglesham pencils that actually share page space with Ordway’s Earth-2 characters. The combination is used to a pretty neat effect. But the solid artistic contributions can’t overcome the appearance of the multiverse. I again picked up the Eaglesham cover over the Ross one.


Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch #1

I don’t like Danny being reduced to this action-addict cruising bars looking for a fight, but I can deal with it if we end up with him in some cool GR-related heroic role. If this story ends the way I think it will with Danny as a new villain, I’m not going to be happy. I haven’t been reading Jason Aaron’s Ghost Rider after his first two issues, as I’m going to be picking up the trade, but I’m worried that the cost of bringing back Johnny Blaze will be to reduce Danny Ketch to villain status. Maybe I’m wrong. Anyway, this issue was ok. I liked the casual way Spurrier breezed over the 70 or so issue series that ran through the 90s. It doesn’t matter here!

Javier Saltares' art was ok. I think I prefer his work as an inker to his pencils. Sometimes his faces can look pretty strange. He does get the smoking GR look down right though. But the storytelling was clear enough that it didn't detract from the story. Danny looks pretty darn cool with that blue flame on the cover.


Final Crisis #4

Grant Morrison is the man. I never get tired of stories where the heroes are the underdogs and that is the main story in FC #4. From the heroes turned villain to the wonderful plot device of a screen showing the current status of the hero community, this issue hits all the right fan-buttons for me. The Ray as one of the main protagonists was nice to see too. He's a tremendous character that we really don't see used enough. For some reason, I'm still not happy about the Green Arrow/Black Canary marriage, so that emotional scene did fall a bit flat for me. The issue had a strong ending though. That thumbs down was pretty sweet.

JG Jones' artwork is wonderful as always, and by going with the talented Carlos Pacheco, the more action-oriented sequences fit right in to the narrative. Doug Mahnke is another favorite, so I'm confident his closing chapter to this DCU event will be great.


G.I. Joe #0

I really dug this comic. Not surprising, since Larry Hama was one of my favorites in the 80s, Chuck Dixon was one of my faves in the 90s, and Christos Gage is one of my top writers now. Mix in three of the best action writers around and you've got a great preview of what IDW is going to bring to the Joe-Verse in January. Dixon's story read the most like the old Marvel series that brought me to comics in the first place, so that was my favorite. Plus it featured Flint, Beach Head, and Torpedo, three of my favorite old action figures. It makes me laugh that I argue and complain so much about reboots, yet the quality of these creators has me looking past that grievance for this relaunch. Atkins' art is the cleanest of the three stories, plus he's a nice guy. I bought a Copperhead sketch from him a few years ago that kicks butt. So yeah, I'm sold on the core GI Joe title.

I'm not positive on the other two. I'll buy them for sure, but I'm not sure if I want to get 2 more 3.99 titles or if I should just wait for the trade. Most likely I'll pick up the Larry Hama's GI Joe origin title in floppy and stick to the assorted Joe minis in trades.

All in all, a great value at $1.00. I'm in the for GI Joe ride as long as it goes.


Secret Six #3

This comic is really moving along nicely. Simone does a great job setting up the card as a plot device, and in a nice twist, it is totally worth the wait. We also get some nice use of classic villains who aren't part of the Secret Six with Cheetah and Bolt. I've been trying to figure out what I like about this comic, and I think it is the whole feel of the DCU. Back when I loved DC in the 90s, the DCU felt expansive and "classic." With so many DC titles killing off heroes and villains to establish new legacies, it's nice to read a book that utilizes old-time characters like Catman and Deadshot, but newer characters like Bane and Scandal get great screen time too.

Nicola Scott's artwork remains top notch. I have no complaints about clear storytelling and well-choreographed fight scenes.

I do worry about the fairly low sales for this book. Surely there is an audience out there for classic super-hero material?