Saturday, January 31, 2009

Green Lantern Corps #32

This book was satisfying on a few levels. The Krybb story had been kind of frustrating, since the focus was on some B or C level Lanterns, plus the whole Star Sapphire thing had been kind of delaying the actual conflict. That ends this issue, as Kyle throws off his mental domination through willpower alone. After taking out the other mind controlled Lanterns, we get some nice battle between Krybb and Kyle. The new law of the Book of Oa gets implemented, which leads to a mass defection from the corps as a ton of corpsmen must give up their rings rather than abandoning their partners, so that was pretty cool stuff. So was the baby saved last issue showing up in Salaak's arms with him clueless on how to handle it.

The new Star Sapphire group is a little on the silly side with the whole "look into my jewel for your heart's desire" but at least in this case it led to some character development and opportunties for Soranik and Kyle. That might be neat to see how it goes. The real story is Mongul though, you know he's gonna be trouble when he links up with the greater Sinestro Corps.

Patrick Gleason's art was great. There are a couple pages I might target to buy this summer at the cons too, that one with Krybb and Kyle playing chicken would look good on my wall...


Friday, January 30, 2009

Final Crisis #7

Well. I've been posting about this book all over the interwebs, but here's the main deal. This story is a failure as a narrative. It certainly had some wonderful dialogue, some fantastic art, great ideas, and neat plot twists. But the story does not hold up. If Final Crisis were the alphabet, it would have been A, C, J, K, M, D, E, X, Z. So basically, out of order and missing a lot of pieces. There is too much that doesn't make sense for this comic to be considered a success. There are too many glaring plot problems. I'm totally unclear on the resolution and current status of most of the key players. In the spirit of Final Crisis, here's a list of my first thoughts and questions in no particular order:

  • Is 1/2 of Earth 0's population now on Earth 51: the new Kirby-verse?
  • But much of the survivors remained on Earth 0, correct?
  • Now Checkmate moved as a whole to 51, so they live there now, but a lot of heroes died while trying to get there. Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Mr. Terrific, Black Canary, and Green Arrow died in this issue?
  • If they were remade by Superman's wishing machine, then did he bring back other people who died like Martian Manhunter or Blue Beetle?
  • Did Fire, Ice, Sasha Bordeux and most of Checkmate die in FC: Resist?
  • What did Rage of the Red Lanterns have to do with this comic?
  • Why were the Monitors in this story? Did Nix Uotan remake the universe or did Superman?
  • How were some characters shown to be in two different places in consecutive panels (like Supergirl was)?
  • So everyone knows about the Multiverse now. What does that accomplish? Are we rebooted to pre-Crisis continuity?
  • How can the DCU ever seem at all like the "real" world now that the general population is aware of the multiverse?
  • I love the idea of Batman in caveman times, but which Earth is he on? Does it matter?
  • Can Booster Gold still travel between these universes? I wouldn't ask, except that's pretty core to his character, isn't it?
  • So the New Gods are reborn on Earth 51, but no Orion or Darkseid. At least, we see Orion's astro harness and a white flower, so I figure he's dead, and the Black Flash/Racer got Darkseid, so they are both out of it?
  • I love the idea of Earth-Kirby, fantastic.
  • Did the rocketship of items from the JLA watchtower arrive in Batman's cave?
  • If those items are in the cave, does that mean they could not be re-created when Superman remade the universe?
  • Does it make a difference if a character died and was remade or if they survived? It seemed like a few people made it through (Supergirl, Power Girl, Frankenstein, Kid Devil, Blue Devil, etc.)
This comic is a mess that leaves a greater mess behind. I'm furious that this experiment in story-telling cost me my favorite DCU hero: Martian Manhunter. I am fine with this type of storytelling in a fringe book, but as a tentpole for the entire DCU that sets the direction of the line, this is a failure.

Doug Mahnke's art in this last issue is fantastic, I wonder how great the whole series would have been if he had been the artist from the start?

I really wanted to give this issue a Fair or Average rating, but I can't. I stated that an Average comic is put together professionally and competently, and for all its great ideas, this comic is not put together in a professional fashion. Please comment people, this is one that would make for great discussion.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Justice Society of America #23

I love Hawkman. Screw those old fuddy-duddies (GL, Flash, and Wildcat). If they are going to try and suspend another senior member of the team over a disagreement, Hawkman is right to quit. Frankly, I would have loved to have seen half the team walk out with him. The three senior guys then go through the existing lineup and make judgements on who is good enough to stay and who are they going to let go. I'm pretty shocked at their audacity, since last I checked Power Girl was the leader of this team. I hope more of the remaining heroes head out too. The housecleaning is a good idea from a comic-standpoint, as the team was too large, but the way the characters did it was grating. But a neat approach by Geoff Johns to do it that way!

I loved the focus on Black Adam and the Marvel Family this issue, including a quick scene with Billy Batson's adoptive parents who I hadn't seen in a long time. I'm a little shocked at quite how obvious they made Felix Faust's activities with Isis though. Johns has never been one to avoid those mature or violent themes, so I shouldn't be surprised, but still...

Jerry Ordway is the man. He draws the Marvels like no other and I LOVED seeing his Billy Batson again. Power of Shazam holds a special place in my comic-heart, and seeing the characters looking right again was fantastic. Now let's move everyone back into their old roles (no time for slutting around, Mary!)


Captain America #46

What I like about this title is that its always good in the same way. The characterization is good, the story is good, the art is nice, but nothing huge ever seems to happen. Yet somehow we've moved on from issue 25 nicely at this point.

This issue has Winter Cap and Namor heading to China to track down their old buddy the Human Torch. We get a few nice Winter Soldier flashbacks, showing us why the scientist hates him so much, but other than that, it is a character piece with a few action scenes. But Namor and WC taking out guards doesn't rank high on the action meter, so the strength here is the characterization. Namor is a fun, surly friend to WC, and that pre-established relationship from WWII lets Namor seem a little more at ease than he usually does. I'm loving the Black Widow in this book too, using all her old spy contacts to get more info. What's really neat is that these contacts aren't immediately killed as a plot device, they are just some of her old world showing up.

Steve Epting is back on pencils, and everything looks right again. Luke Ross was decent and had the house style down, but Epting created it, and the book looks best in his hands. I still think the Winter Cap costume is silly though.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Avengers: The Initiative #21

So much for my dream team of Gauntlet, Tigra, Stingray, Hellcat, and Gargoyle as the new leads for this book. None of them are sticking around, with most moving back to their teams, and Gargoyle retiring. It was neat seeing how Gargoyle wouldn't work for Osborn, but I loved Gauntlet's reaction even more. It is their JOB to be heroes, and they have to make the best of it. Good attitude. Now Doc Samson does stick around to face off against Ragnarok this issue, so I'm hopeful he will be joining the cast regularly. The Shadow Initiative gets only a page or two, but there is some fun dialog there. Typhoid Mary unmasks, then warns Komodo with a "spoiler alert" just a little too late, just like the interwebs. The Shadow Initiative may end up being the main part of the title after all.

Ragnarok does show up, convinved he is the God of Thunder and ready to kick butt. Too bad Thor Girl is in therapy, she shows up to try and stop him. I love how Gage uses every character to their fullest, Thor Girls is awesome, but he's even better with Gorilla Girl. I'm worried for her in this fight! He wouldn't break our hearts and have her killed on her way out would he? Hoo boy. I do like having that team show up at the end, I wonder if they're going to register? Go back to the Camp? Should be interesting.

Humberto Ramos is always dynamic. His lightning-filled battle of the Thor-clones was pretty impressive. I do like Thor's classic look better than this Coipel-designed one though.


Thunderbolts #128

Man, I HATE Norman Osborn. He's such a colossal jerk, and Diggle really drives that point home in this issue. I was so happy to see Doc Samson show up to try and talk some sense into Obama, making sure he would realize what a maniac Osborn is, but thanks to the planning and unlimited budget Osborn can access, his shadow T-bolts team is going to make Samson look like the crazy man. This issue only includes a few of the T-bolts, with Black Widow II, Ghost, and Ant-Man showing up. Ant-Man by far had the best debut, what a lucky guy to have those as his transport. This is obviously the beginning of a story, so there is a lot of setup involved, but there is a lot of potential here. I'll make my guess now that it is Paladin in the Goblin suit, although I suppose Nuke would fit also (he is the last team member, right?)

Roberto De La Torre's art is still looking great. I love his design for Black Widow II's costume, it looks almost exactly like the normal BW's costume. I don't care for Doc Samson's short hair, but that is the status quo right now, I think. My one complaint is the Ghost's redesign. I love Bob Layton's original costume for the Ghost, so making him waste away and look terrible robs us of a really neat design. This issue was entertaining, but wasn't quite as in your face fantastic as the last couple starring Songbird. I do worry that there won't be any likable characters on the team...


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Punisher: Frank Castle #66

You can't reason with the Punisher. The flunky scientist discovered that this issue, and I love it. Duane Swierczynski does a pretty good job showing the ruthlessness of the Punisher here, first in how he takes out a child slavery ring, and then even more in Frank's response to his poisoning. This story is showing how the Punisher acts with like 6 hours to live (or 24, or one, or something). The important thing is, I love how Punisher just doesn't care. He always figured he'd die doing this, so the only thing he's worried about is that he dies "busy." It is going to be a rough night for crooks in Philly, because it seems Frank is worried about going out with a bang. The story has potential, I'm not sure if it will hold up though. I've seen stories like this before, after all (Punisher: Suicide Run is the first that comes to mind). Until I see something grounbreaking or profound, this book will stay second-fiddle to Garth Ennis' work on the character.

Michel LaCombe does a solid job on the art, the gas-masked kidnapper looks spooky and out of place in the battle van. I also liked the fanboyish scientist.


Conan the Cimmerian #7

I'm coming around on this title. I had planned on passing it up, but Richard Corben's flashback art has been fantastic. As I said in an earlier review, I find myself more interested in Connacht than Conan these days. But Conan is cool even when he's not the best character in the book. This issue wraps up his "coming home" arc, and I really liked the interaction of Conan with the people who knew him as a child. There is a nice goodbye here with Conan's mother, and I liked seeing Conan unable to resist the call of the distant cities, and his mother knowing that would happen. There is "too much of the wolf" in Conan, he can never be domesticated, and there's something awesome about that. I always like it when someone survives a Conan story arc too, and Horsa does survive (to be killed in a later story, I'm sure). I will pick up the trades of this series this summer.

Corben's art steals the show, but Tomas Giorello can draw the bloodshed. He has Conan wreaking some fast havoc in this issue, it looked good.


Faces of Evil: Prometheus #1

I have a few problems with this book, but they all make me look like a huge dork. Oh well. First of all, Martian Manhunter wouldn't really be cool with putting Prometheus in a mental loop like that, he did something similar to Despero and we got to see him anguish and think about it, and it was supposedly a one-time deal. So I don't like the way Pro was written out of the DCU for the last few years. I also didn't care for the bumbling of the Blood Pack, now, I realize Argus and Gunfire and Anima are not that popular or well known, but there is no need to trash characters like this. Pro breaks Gunfire's hands to take him out of the fight, which is fine, that shows how tough he is but also leaves Gunfire in play for another story. There is no need to kill Anima and show her cloven corpse floating out into Limbo. Not to mention that I'm reasonably sure Anima died in another crossover last year, didn't she? Maybe Titans East? I think it is pretty silly that the go-to for establishing villains in the DCU is to check the rolodex of disposable heroes and to rack up a body count. There is no talent or skill involved in that. As Chuck Dixon recently said (I'll paraphrase) leave the toys in the box for the next person, there is no need to break anything. I did like some of the character bits about Pro, but I believe they were all ideas Grant Morrison had when he invented the character, so Sterling Gates' one-shot didn't impress me.

Frederico Dallochio's name is new to me, but I liked his art. Gunfire and Argus looked good, Anima looked great (too bad, huh?) His take on the Prometheus suit looked strong too.


Deadpool #6

I need to be fair to Daniel Way. I'm not happy that the entertaining Cable & Deadpool book was cancelled to make way for this title, but I have to give credit where it is due. This comic is pretty good. In fact, other than the wonked out perceptions that Way includes in his characterization of 'Pool, there is a lot to like in the book. The first story tied into the Skrull invasion, the second involved plastic surgery zombies and a new villain, and here we are moving into the third arc with my perfect recipe. We've got Deadpool vs. Tiger Shark for 2 issues, with old buddy Bob: Agent of Hydra showing up to make things complicated for the Merc with a Mouth. This is the type of story I want to see, Tiger Shark is played a little on the amusing side, but overall this is just a nice spotlight for a rarely-featured villain. I'm enjoying seeing how Deadpool is so outclassed by him too. Way has come up with some nice shots for the aquatic villain, both at a SeaWorld type aquarium and then at the end with a confrontation on a pier. I do suspect Bob may have hired Tiger Shark so that Bob could heroically rescue DP, but we'll see.

Paco Medina's art sells the cartoon world of DP well. His action is not quite as good a fit, but he tells the story cleanly.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Criminal: The Dead and the Dying TPB

I can almost hear my Dad talking when I read this comic. I love watching crime movies with my Dad because he's always afraid that I'm going to start wanting to be a crook or something. "Don't do drugs. Why would anyone want to be a criminal? What kind of life is that?" It makes me laugh. If I was going to go down that road, I'd think I would have by the time I'm 33 years old, you know?

Anyway, what I love about Criminal is the great view we get into the seedy low-lifes who make up all the levels of the criminal hierarchy. You've got crime bosses, their kids, their legbreakers, and the ladies who love them. Fascinating stuff. This trade takes a look at 3 characters interacting in the 70s, with the POV characters being a made boxer, a Viet Nam vet trying to make ends meet after the war (and knocking over the wrong guy), and a woman who loved both the boxer and his best friend (the son of a crimelord). It is riveting stuff. I particularly felt for the vet who couldn't really make himself try to be a good guy, even though he saw what he was doing to his kids. The line about how he felt sick with worry for them, but wouldn't resent them for that for years was heartbreaking. We've seen that guy's sons in stories set later, and they end up about how you'd expect. What is so tragic about these stories is that everyone involved gets chewed up and spit out, no one is happy. Yet I can't look away, it's really interesting stuff. Brubaker does a great job getting the reader to care about these people who would be awful to know in real life. These are the stories you read, then can't stop thinking about when you try to go to sleep.

Sean Phillips has this style of art perfected. He can do a gun battles, beatings, hot girls, and anguished faces. He's practically an institution for these crime books now. He's perfect for it.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Green Lantern #37

BaBum! BaBum! Hrrrssssss! I'm still so amused by these silly Red Lanterns. I'm not sure if it is funnier when they burst out of the blood pools to ambush Hal Jordan or if it is more amusing watching them fight the Sinestro corps with their acid puke. I mean, really. Am I the only one who really finds this a little silly? I was fine with the Fear Corps, as the opposite of the Lanterns, but the whole spectrum of color is silly. The Blue Lanterns come out and declare themselves the "saints" of the universe. I'm reasonably sure they are not meant to survive the upcoming war of light though. I did find it interesting that Sinestro warned Jordan about the Red Lanterns. Is there still more respect there than it seemed? The problem is we're getting sequel-itis here. In the first movie/story, Sinestro was the big bad, but he was so popular, that now in the sequel there are multiple WORSE baddies like the Red Lanterns and the upcoming Black Lanters. BTW, I'm furious about the two spoiled IDs of the Black Lanterns. I knew it would happen when I saw my guy go down like he did, but man, this stinks.

Back to this issue. I was kind of surprised at the fate of the GL turned RL Laira. After investing so heavily in the Yellow Lanterns, she was really the only RL that had any character time invested. Atrocitus is kind of silly, leaving her as the only "name" in that whole corps. (The Yellow Lanterns get a cool robot introduced in this issue though.) That last page was a bit of a shocker, but I predict it won't last more than 3 pages into next issue.

Ivan Reis' work is solid. He tells the story clearly. This whole war of light thing is still just not doing it for me. I still think there are two sides here, good and bad, I don't need the different colors of the rainbow to tell me which kind of good they are.


3-Year Old Reviews Tiny Titans 12

I liked this comic, it was good. Darkseid wore a hair tie. He didn't wear one in Justice League. I liked the part with Flash getting mashed potatoes. Mr. Fantastic and his son looked surprised at the baseball game. What does the Monitor do again? What does the Anti-Monitor do? They fight. Those guys had a fun day.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Guardians of the Galaxy #9

I'm running out of positive things to say about this comic. How about this? In this issue, not only do we get our normal great mix of Marvel Universe obscure classics (one of the Headmen, Mentor, Isaac, etc.) but we get narration from a great minor character that Warren Ellis put to prominence in his Thunderbolts run. That's right, after being messed up by the Thunderbolts, Jack Flagg is now leading the resistance against Blastaar at the 42 prison in the Negative Zone. Abnett & Lanning are masters in using the expansive Marvel U to great effect. I loved how Star Lord gets his message through to the Guardians to let them know where he is. As for the team itself, I never thought Rocket Racoon would be one of my favorite characters. Bug also fits perfectly on the team and I'm loving the current set up. I don't trust lady Starhawk though. Of course, reading back issues of Marvel Presents, I don't see how anyone ever trusted Starhawk.

Brad Walker's textured pencils look fantastic. Blastaar looks awesome. Jack Flagg is neat, and I loved how he is still a super-powered hero from his wheelchair. The prisoners in 42 looked great too, and that is saying something, there are some obscure guys in there.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Dark Avengers #1

Bendis really does some things well. This issue sets up his new villain-team of Avengers, featuring most of the old Thunderbolts taking on new costumes, with a few other folks added in. One smooth move Bendis makes is how quickly he integrates Daken and Captain Marvel into the team. It doesn't make a lot of sense that they'd join, so the issue gets kind of breezed by. The Thunderbolts get a lot of attention too, and they all are pretty much in character from their run in Ellis' Thunderbolts. Ms. Marvel and Maria Hill get taken down a peg, but they are both set up to be nice antagonists to Osbourne, so I like it. The Ghost guest stars for a short bit where Osbourne gets his hands on Starks other suits of armor. I can't believe Stark would let that happen, but maybe something will come of it further down the road. This issue is all team-building and characterization. Since the team is built through talking, Bendis gets to hit his stride. His Ares is still great, and I love how he has no reservations about working with questionable people, the man was a villain, of course he doesn't care! I also dug the way he's already coming on to Moonstone/Ms. Marvel.

Mike Deodato is the perfect choice for the book, since he drew these characters when they were Thunderbolts. The story kind of moves along seamlessly from what we've seen for the last couple of years. His Osbourne is still Tommy Lee Jones, his Moonstone is still hot, etc. He's the right guy for this job. That said, it is unacceptable to charge 3.99 for a monthly comic, so I will pick up the eventual trade.


War Machine #2

Hmm. I have to say, this comic is not as great as I'd hoped. Christos Gage had a strong arc in the Iron Man book before it was cancelled, but I'm just not as interested in this series. Greg Pak writes a fairly standard story of WM trying to free an old friend of his from military contractors. That part was ok, but their young hot-shot boss reminded me quite a bit of Ezekiel Stane. Is it actually supposed to be Stane? I was also confused because I thought Bethany Cabe was captured at the end of the previous issue, but here she's providing support for WM again. I don't think I read it so fast that I missed how they explained that. My third problem with the story is that again in this issue, WM gets his arms and legs blown off and has to creatively plug some parts onto his armor. That would be fine, but we saw a similar scene in issue 1, so I'm concerned that this is going to be a recurring thing. Rhodey himself doesn't have a whole lot of character development. He is out to get the bad guys because they are bad, there is not a lot more to it. Gage interspersed his story with neat flashbacks of Rhodey in Philadelphia growing up, and those roots are missing in this new series. Basically, I'm not sure why I should care about the title. Having Ares show up on the last page is a great hook though, I'll pick up the fight with him and War Machine for certain. After that, I'm not sure if I'll stick with this book or not.

Leonardo Manco's art is still in that gritty realistic style, with the weapons and armor being a high-point. But nothing feels very super, if WM is just fighting normal dudes, I'm not sure I'm going to stay interested.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Spider-Man: Brand New Day TPB Vol 2

I'm kind of re-thinking my approach to Spider-Man: Brand New Day. I thought the first trade was uneven, but this one was even moreso. The first few issues are written by Bob Gale and feature art by Phil Jiminez, where Spidey takes on the Freak. The Freak is kind of an updated Lizard, I suppose, with a drug addict getting some animal powers from one of Dr. Connors' serums. It's ok at best, and Jiminez's art actually gets TOO detailed at times. I don't care for the way he draws Spidey's eyes on the costume either. I also find Gale's supporting character work a bit forced. There is so much going on with all the sub-plots involving the new and exciting cast, I really didn't care what happened. The first 1/2 of this book is Average.

The next story by Zeb Wells with Chris Bachalo on art is much stronger. The Mayan themed bad guys look great in the first issue, a Wolverine Team Up. Bachalo really gets to do his thing when he actually has the Mayan god show up in the later two story parts. The images of this odd creatures staking Spidey through a snowy New York look great, and Spidey has some great dialogue. I thought Spidey's jokes were much better in this section, and his banter really made this part of the story hold up well.

What I'm finding is that my enjoyment of BND is varying wildly depending on the writer. That's par for the course for me with comic books, but I had hoped the brain trust approach of the Spider-office would lead to a more even quality. At this point I really need to think about which of the upcoming trades I want to pick up. I'm sold on the Dan Slott issues, and I'd probably dig Zeb Wells' stuff too. But Bob Gale and Marc Guggenheim are not clicking for me yet. I think I've pre-ordered vol 3, but that is my last certain order at this point. One other note, there is not one main story in this book that couldn't have been told with a married Spider-Man. Brand New Day is a shift in tone that could easily have been made without one of the most stupid retcons in comic history.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mighty Avengers #21

Ah, Dan Slott. You win again. I loved the book, from the recap to the roster to the villain to the surprise reveal. All fantastic stuff. The recap page talked about how the New Avengers were never quite the actual Avengers, which was a nice little nod to the big nerds like me out there. I really enjoyed the interaction between the core team of Jarvis, Jocasta, Hank Pym, Hercules, and Amadeus Cho. I loved the casual confidence of Hank Pym (can't bring myself to call him Wasp yet either) but man, his interactions with the others were so much fun. Pym knows he's awesome, but at the same time he's so easy for Herc and Amadeus to shoot down, the dynamic is going to be a fascinating one. I loved the insight on the early relationship of the Avengers, with Pym's crisis of confidence coming from a little retcon that only enriches the history of the Avengers.

As for the villain, Modred the Mystic is a neat guy visually, and he's always bounced around between good and evil, so I have no problem with him being used like this. I'm much more interested in who he chooses to host his boss. It is interesting that Slott is choosing to follow up on that old Wundagore story rather than any of the other threads in Avengers history, but that stuff has never really been followed up on that much, so it is a good choice.

Scarlet Witch shows up as a plot device to wrangle in the Hulk, US Agent, Stature, and the Vision. While I like those characters and look forward to them joining the team, there was not as much time spent on them, so they are mostly just bonus right now. Iron Man gets more cool moments as the world goes to hell. Tony calmly assesses that either he's the last hero or "no one is taking his calls" either way, it is up to him. Iron Man is on the case. There is SO much potential with this group, and with Pym in a new role as leader, and his lab as the HQ, we could be seeing a great mix of old and new Avengers ideas. This one just misses Excellent. The Pym development is good enough to get that rank, but the villain and threat aren't quite up to that level yet.

This issue we got good Khoi Pham. I've mentioned before how he can be overly sketchy sometimes, but it seems he had time to do a solid job on this one. The team looked good, with Jocasta and Scarlet Witch sticking out as looking good. His last page cliffhanger was well-drawn too.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Secret Invasion: War of Kings #1

I'm not a huge Inhumans fan, but my affection for the creative team and the greater overall narrative made this one exciting book. I always liked the designs of the Inhumans as Kirby originally drew them, I never cared for the Jae Lee inspired re-designs from the late 90s, so seeing those incarnations made even wonkier by Frazier Irving (who I usually like) and having that be the new status quo disappoints me. At this point, only Triton, Crystal, and Black Bolt himself are truly recognizable. Medusa has some nice costumes to pick from, but she isn't using them here. That is just window-dressing though, because the main story in this one is quite interesting. The Inhumans will no longer be the punching bags of the Marvel U, with Black Bolt leading them off the moon, then to wipe out the last of the Skrulls. He even pursues some into Shi'ar space, giving Emperor Vulcan the opportunity he needs to attempt to annex Kree Space. Well it won't be easy, because we find out just how tied into the Kree society the Inhumans are becoming. They are going to be pivotal to the upcoming War of Kings. I had underestimated how important they would be, but it looks like it will be pretty intensive. I'm not sure who I'll be rooting for in the upcoming mini, the Shi'ar or the Kree. I'll probably just stick to rooting for the Guardians of the Galaxy. This one is just about all set-up as the pieces get in place for the crossover, but its important stuff, and I think anyone planning to get War of Kings should grab this, even if it does have a stinky title referencing the wrong event.

Paul Pelletier is one of my favorite artists, this kind of high-profile cosmic story is perfect for him. It looks great.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Detective Comics #851 & Batman #684

I thought I remember Denny O'Neil being better than this. I have no problem with the Cataclysm tinge to the story, with actress Millicent Mayne becoming a haunt of the one street that hasn't been rebuilt. I actually liked that since Nightwing just tacked Two-Face in his own book, he heads on down to Gotham to take him on again. I even liked the whole pizza guy being competent thing, accomplishing his own rescue and even helping out Nightwing a bit. But that last part is indicative of the BIG problem here. Nightwing is a competent hero. He has fought crime in and out of Gotham for years, so to have Commissioner Gordon treat him like some bozo rookies is silly. And having Nightwing second guess every dang move he makes, and not have any idea how to take down a gang of jewel thieves? This guy is a super-hero! He LED the whole DCU in Brave & the Bold. O'Neil is disregarding core values of the character here. Nightwing is not an idiot who needs to seek out some lost Gotham soul for advice. I can't stress this enough, THIS WAS NOT NIGHTWING. This story would be fine for some brand-new character, but you can't warp a longstanding, established, respected hero into this role in order to make it seem worse that Batman is missing. Nightwing is not "just starting out" as Alfred treats him like here, even talking about Batman's first days.

Frankly, this is a huge clue at the editorial dancing that is going to be done to make "Battle for the Cowl" into the event that the higher-ups have determined it to be. I'd advise folks to run for the hills on this one. History, character, and consistency are out the window here. I'm almost interested to see how far they can bend or break the Gotham family to make things fit how they need it to. Tomasi hasn't been writing Nightwing like this, has he?

Guillem March's art was inconsistent. He'd have one panel of Mayne that looked fantastic, followed on the next page my an out of proportion thug or even Nightwing himself. I would have liked to have seen O'Neil's return to the Batbooks be much more memorable and... good.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Number of the Beast TPB

Ok, get ready for the hard sell. I know a lot of people have given up on the Wildstorm Universe, but I haven't. I followed Stormwatch PHD, Wildstorm Armageddon, and then Wildstorm Revelations all the way to the surprisingly good Number of the Beast. Scott Beatty, who is a solid writer that really should get more work, writes the story of a generation of heroes trapped in virtual reality since 1945. These classic feeling heroes include the armored Engine Joe, the insect-like Honeybee, the high-flying Falconette, and the speedster Hot Foot. Basically, the names "feel" right, like a fun universe we've been missing. There are 666 heroes and villains trapped in a never-ending loop of the end of the world, to prepare them to be freed should the government ever need them. The monkeywrench in the work is the High, the villain from Ellis' run on Stormwatch, who gets into the program and then starts bumping other out of the system. The freed heroes have a fun encounter with the Authority while the High goes and chats up Stormwatch. One of the best scenes is during the Authority fight, while most of the teams are tearing it up, a few Paladins (the lost heroes) are chatting with Jack Hawksmoor, calmly assessing the situation and letting their teammates "work off some steam." The little bits like that are great. The big picture is pretty important, as the evil government of the Wildstorm U (long-established like that) ends the world, leaving the world in a post-apocalyptic mess. The existing Wildstorm heroes have to deal with not only that, but with 666 heroes and villains unleased at the same time. I really look forward to seeing how all these factions interact. I understand the Authority and Wildcats trades hit in August, so I'm looking forward to that. I actually think it is disappointing we won't be seeing the Paladins on a regular basis, these characters deserve an ongoing spotlight.

Chris Sprouse is a fantastic artist (and graduate of JMU!) His character designs are fantastic, feeling wonderfully classic and creative at the same time. With art and story this great, I realy highly recommend it.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

She-Hulk: Cosmic Collision #1

Otherwise known as She-Hulk Annual #1, which is even what the filename is for this comic on Marvel's website. Weird, it must be a sales trick or something. I wonder if more people will try a cosmic-titled one-shot than a regular annual? This comic does read better than Peter David's ongoing series though. By including the Lady Liberators AND the Guardians of the Galaxy, he shunts Jazinda off to the sidelines. I'm not a fan of She-Hulk's Skrully pal, so I am fine with her having to give up screen time for some of the fun interaction that Thundra, Valkrie, and Invisible Woman bring to the book. This issue actually felt like the She-Hulk I enjoy, with Jen and the others grabbed the Celestial The Collector to "save" them from a heroine-killer. The interaction is fun, the guest stars are great, and the story utilizes the classic and current Marvel Universe nicely. She-Hulk isn't mopey like she has been for so long in her title, she actually comes out and says she has missed being a super-hero. She makes fourth wall comments, she makes pop-culture jokes, and she mentions They Might Be Giants. THIS is the She-Hulk comic Peter David should have been writing. I hope there is some sort of plan for a Lady Liberators book, because I have NO interest in a gray-hulkette (daughter of the Hulk) as the new She-Hulk. Give S-H a decent supporting cast and tell some stories in the Marvel U where she can shine. Make her happy and a competent hero. That's the book I have to believe more people than just me wants to see. But since her solo is cancelled, I suppose this is too little too late.

Mahmud Asrar draws a nice She-Hulk. She looks good as S-H, she looks good as Jen. The new villainess looks imposing, and her manipulator is creepy. The Collector looks on-model. These are crazy concepts compared to the artists in the ongoing She-Hulk title. I'd say only Val Semeiks told a clear story. I think Asrar would have made a difference had he been brought on with David at first. The artistic misfires didn't help the title over the last year. I really like Peter David's writing, and I love She-Hulk. Unfortunately, until this issue I never really felt like I was getting what I had hoped for from the combination. And now its too late.


Booster Gold #15

I'm a little late getting to Dan Jurgens' first solo issue (with Norm Rapmund on inks) of Booster Gold, but I finally got to it today. And man, I'm glad Dan's on now. This book has been floundering since Johns left months ago, and now for the first time, it feels like we have some kind of direction for the book. Booster and Goldstar have some nice banter in Renaissance Italy, then they jump back to a messed up present. An "altered future" rather than an "alternate future" which is an amusing distinction made by Skeets. The team determines that an ancient dagger was misplaced during Chuck Dixon's fill-in a few months ago and the group heads back to fix it. The problem is Elongated Man is waiting to stop any further robberies. So Booster ends up revealing some future happenings to EM, leaving out the upsetting stuff. I like how casual Booster is acting again, wondering about making action figures, not sweating the details but generally trying to do good. Jurgens has a better handle on the character than either of the two fill-in teams did, and it shows. This book reads like the fun, stand-alone comic I want it to be, instead of fill-ins.

Jurgens art is nothing if not consistent. He remains a great storyteller and you can tell Booster is his creation, he looks great. I wouldn't mind seeing the collar back though!


Friday, January 16, 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #583 or Amazing Obama #583

So this is what we give the people who came for Obama, huh? The story is fine, with Mark Waid turning in a nice character piece showing how Peter's friends view him. Betty Brant loves Pete as a friend, but knows he's always unreliable, running off for this or that event the he forgot. It would be frustrating knowing a guy like Peter, but darn if his charm and kindness wouldn't make it worth it. The Spider-action is pretty slight in this issue, but I dug the witty banter Spidey does get in his cameo-type appearances. Barry Kitson is one of my favorites, and his character-based story here looks good. I believe his strength is in super-heroics, but he handles the drama well. I liked the speed-dating page, it was fun seeing Peter and Betty in that movie-type situation.

The backup. Oh, boy. So The Chameleon is inpersonating Obama, and he can't describe basketball to prove he's the prez. Like, not at all, thinking the players wear helmets as they go onto the basketball diamond. Funny enough, I guess, but kind of stupid too. If a new reader picked this up, I can't imagine there would be a lot to bring them back to the spider-verse. The lead story was kind of slow and the backup was insultingly simple. I dig Todd Nauck's art, but as other bloggers have said, he probably wasn't the best choice for this backup. Everyone looks angular and bug-eye in Nauck's cartoony style, again giving civilians a bad idea about comics. If there is no such thing as bad press, then why am I wincing at the thought of being asked about this issue by co-workers and family? The backup is average only, but I still dug the package overall. I'm not sure outsiders will feel the same.


Wolverine: Switchback #1 (and other Wolvie 1-shots)

What I like about all these recent Wolverine 0ne-shots is that they remind me of what I used to like about Wolverine. He's a hard-ass who kills scumbags, and is basically the Punisher as a super-hero. I've enjoyed most of these one shots, they aren't revolutionary, but each is a nice little story of a scumbag getting what he deserves. The art varies quite a bit too, but some has been impressive. Wolverine: Scream with Mike Deodato on art was pretty enjoyable. This issue looks a lot more "European" with Das Pastoras on art, but I dug it. The climax in the barn was pretty scary. Really, these issues would each be a good action or horror movie, only we have Wolvie as the tough, honorable protagonist. This story in particular is made to be a horror movie. Add Wolvie into the mix, and we're gonna get a little justice at the end, which is fine by me.

I'd say these books are enjoyable enough to pick up out of value bins during con-season, each of them tells nice little one-and-done stories featuring a character we all used to dig. People have been laughing at the abundance of Wolvie one-shots in recent months, but they've been pretty entertaining, and where else do we get this kind of story these days? Not in either of Wolvie's solo titles, that's for sure.


Flash #247

Talk about going out with a whimper. Alan Burnett gets the assignment to turn off the lights of the Flash comic. With Barry Allen's return, it seems there is no need for a Wally West comic anymore. This last story has been about Queen Zazzla the Queen Bee trying to tap into the speed force to do evil things. She had a big bug-man working for her, and she had her bees sting Linda West almost to death. While on death's door, Flash went to the Spectre who refused to help. Fortunately, Zatanna can talk to people while they are dying and asked Linda to not go to the light, so she didn't. Flash teams up with the always incompetent-Arsenal (he lost Flash's kids in the previous issue) and the rest of the Titans to easily mop up the Hive's flunkies. The characters even comment on how easy it is, so... not a lot of drama there. The Flash gets over his struggles with the speed force as his daughter re-amps him up, and he easily beats the Queen. Then it looks like Wally has decided he's "had a good run" and he and the fam charge off, back to retirement or limbo. I figure it will last just as long as it takes for Geoff Johns to include Wally in Flash: Rebirth. It is pretty sad that this long-lasting comic has had as many misfires and cancellations as it has over the last few years. Wally used to be one of my favorites, and at this point I can barely muster up the interest to read his comic.

Carlo Barberi's art is adequate for the story being told. It would be hard to polish this up much though. Flash looks sad and embarrassed on that cover, and I agree with him.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Final Crisis #6

Whew. There's a lot going on in this issue, but I can't talk about much without SPOILERS ON. So be warned, people.

So Darkseid's plan seems to be unraveling a bit. The issue jumps around a lot, as we check in with most of our protagonists so far. We see the remaining leaguers trying to fight off the anti-life flunkies on the JLA watchtower, and the horde of heroes in Bludhaven is slowly making headway. I did enjoy the use of Hourman and Liberty Belle as POV characters for the Bludhaven fight, that was a neat twist. The Tawky Tawny vs. Kalibak fight was great, and really, how can that not be Talky's finest moment? It was pretty darn cool seeing him take on one of the toughest New Gods like that. Shiloh Norman (miscolored as a white dude) are discussing exactly why Sonny Sumo came back from Feudal Japan (where he was sent in Forever People #7 back in the 70s), something about a destiny to fulfill. There is some nice bits with Sivana and Luthor too, no way would they kneel to Darkseid... On the Checkmate side, I was more interested to see how many ways that organization is fighting back, they've got psychics and magicians working against the anti-life in addition to their big plan. That plan? To flee to another universe and set up there, with Montoya in charge of the global police group they will set up. Are they fleeing to Earth 1? Is the Earth we're reading about going to split and become the new New Genesis and Apokolips? I'm actually wondering if we're going to have the fallen DC heroes as New Gods now...

The big moment is of course, the death of Batman. Bats puts aside his "No Gun" rule for one time, as he uses the god-killing gun that killed Orion to take out Darkseid, shooting him in the heart. Just as he takes the shot, Darkseid lets loose with the Omega Beams and saps Bats in a nice double page spread. I don't believe for a minute either is dead yet. Superman's big return MUST end with a confrontation with Darkseid, so I think the big D is weakened, but not dead. As for Bats, I think Morrison loves Kirby, and Kirby had the Omega Beams transport the target through time, not always kill.

So my predictions for Final Crisis:
  • Bats is in another time, but that might still be his body after his death in that time
  • Heroes from New Earth will become New Gods (Martian Manhunter as a new Highfather?)
  • At least some heroes will transfer over to another Earth, possibly Earth-1
  • Darkseid will smackdown with Superman before we're done
The art is great, as Pacheco, Jones, and Mahnke team up for some great slam-bang action. The miscolored Shiloh was awful though. And I must admit, this is one confusing book. So confusing I have to say it wasn't as good as issue 5.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Punisher #1

Ah, another Punisher re-launch. This time we've got another attempt to put Punisher squarely in the Marvel U as Frank tries to take on Villain #1, Norman Osbourne. I do like the little bit Rick Remender uses in having Punisher using a skrull sniper rifle to try and make the shot. Skrull tech would probably be lying all over the place, so it is a nice nod to the last big story Frank was involved in. Of course, he doesn't make the shot as Sentry shows up to make the save, and then immediately he heads out after the Punisher. The rest of the issue is the standard no-powered guy running from Superman, but it is done pretty well. Remender's running internal monologue from Castle is entertaining. He manages to make use of the Punisher's past in some nice ways during these scenes, I liked the bit about Catholic school in particular. The issue closes as Frank makes contact with his new helper. Micro, Rampage, and now this guy, I do like how the Punisher never lacks for flunkies willing to support his mission. The issue is fine, and I'm sure the series will be decent too, as this seems up Remender's alley. I just don't think "normal" Punisher stories can do it for me now, after reading Garth Ennis' masterful series for so long.

Jerome Opena's art was grittier than I expected. With Punisher back in the Marvel U, and with that cover, the gritty style of pencils surprised me. But he handled the action well and he did a good job on Frank's supplies and armaments, always important in a Punisher comic.


Terror Titans #4

At least Static came out swinging. I still don't like the choice to incorporate him into the DCU in this series, but oh well. In fact, I feel like this dark series is damaging almost everyone appearing in it. Ravager is going to be close to irredeemable, which is too bad considering she was one of the more interesting heroes in Titans, now she's firmly in the tweener category. The new Star Spangled Kid, Terra, TnTeena, Hardrock, they are all neat additions to the DCU, but by having them as brainwashed flunkies, I still feel this weakens their potential. Characters shouldn't need to be rescued in their first appearance, the first impression of incompetence is hard to shake off. I'm still surprised at just how dark McKeever's books are. I had only read Gravity from him at Marvel (which I liked), but man, all of his DC books are depressing, violent, and kill-happy. I just haven't been impressed.The more I read of the current Titans universe, the more I like Tiny Titans.

Joe Bennett continues to draw the book nicely. Sure, everyone looks like a beautiful person, but its a comic so I don't mind.


X-Men: Kingbreaker #1

This was better than I expected. The Starjammers are fractured, Vulcan is using the Imperial Guard as footsoldiers, and the Shi'ar Empire is not popular throughout the universe. This is a pretty good setup for War of Kings from the Shi'ar point of view, and I found myself pretty interested in what was going to happen next. I can't wait to see Havok and Polaris free and causing trouble. In fact, all four of the prisoners (including Ch'od and Raja) all get some nice bad ass moments in this. Even prisoners, you get the impression they have the upper hand on their Shi'ar jailors. I still don't find Lilandra that interesting as a protagonist, but I do like Rachel Grey enough to want that team to do well too. I think this book is one or two cast members away from being really good, and I'm hoping those members might be defecting Imperial Guardsmen. War of Kings has a lot of good stuff to work with, it seems. And Vulcan is one annoying villain. I don't like his origin, which makes it even easier to hate him for the stuff he does in-story.

Dustin Weaver is a new penciller to me, but I liked his work. The Z'nox homeworld was neat, I liked the planetary defense lasers. They reminded me of some of the cooler parts of Chronicles of Riddick. That Brandon Peterson cover is hard to beat, but Weaver held up his end, the interior of the book looks good.


Rann-Thanagar: Holy War #1-8

Yowza. So I guess the point of this series was to put Thanos in the DCU and make New Rann. The master plotter of the series, Synnar, goes on a tirade of galactic scale that was very reminiscent of our favorite Mad Titan, so obviously Starlin likes the Thanos type. I'm not digging the Aberrant Seven idea, as I'm afraid it ties good characters to a bad story that I'm not digging too much. That could really be said for this whole series. I like Starman, Adam Strange, Captain Comet, Hawkman, Chief Justice Max, and Starfire, but I'd much rather read about them in REBELS or another cosmic book instead of this confusing mash-up of 4 or 5 plots. Lady Styx is kind of a bystander here, which is too bad after her big intro in 52. I never felt this book lived up to the awesome potential the cast provided. I'm also not sure how I feel about the new status quo on New Rann. Lady Styx eradicated the population of Throneworld, Starman's planet, and Synnar destroyed the planet Rann. That means the heroes had to transport the Rannian population to Throneworld, which Starman graciously names "New Rann." It seems unnecessarily confusing and destructive.

Ron Lim's art is decent, but there is a lot going on. I had a hard time figuring out exactly what was happening during some of the more chaotic battle scenes. I guess the Weird's appearance at the end is supposed to be mysterious too, because I didn't know who the narrator was and whose plan was being futzed with.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Youngblood #6

Go ahead, make fun of me. I like Youngblood. I've collected every issue Liefeld has put out. While his storytelling has never been great, I'm a big believer that Liefeld is a decent plotter and his creations are fun and energetic. So I'm really enjoying the current series, with Joe Casey writing and Derec Donovan drawing these fun characters. The book is an odd one now, as Casey has made the "official" team a total media project, down to manufactured encounters with media-controlled villains. Meanwhile, Shaft and the other old-time YB heroes are out trying to stop villainy on a realistic scale. The Televillain is too "small time" for the media team, but he has to be stopped, and Shaft's team is gonna get it done. The Televillain can jump around through TV shows, but it seems the Scion of Starhunter can too (she seems to be the kid of a Martian Manhunter type). Casey is doing a neat job making it seem like the Youngblood U has been around for awhile. I may not remember most of the names of the new characters, but they seem neat too, there are a lot of fun ideas here. The idea of a media-saturated super-hero culture hasn't been done this well in any other book. Ellis' Thunderbolts did it for a short while, but moved on, 6 issues in, and that is still the main focus of Casey's story. Neat stuff.

Derec Donovan's art is cartoony but I'm a big fan. His faces are expressive, but more importantly, the man can draw action. There is an energy on his action page that makes them fun to read.


Nova #20

I realize that if this were a different comic, I might complain there was not enough action. Richard Rider spends the issue talking and recapping with his old friends Justice and Firestar from the New Warriors, and they all long for the good old days. I did like the issue though, because I liked those old days too. I was a big New Warrriors fan, and the era we see here had some fun, entertaining books. So I'll forgive the characters for sitting around remembering, because those were good comic-times. I'm loving the idea that Richard's younger brother is going to make a fantastic centurion. I'm hoping we're not cruising for a big death or anything, one of my favorite things about Nova is that his family is all alive and pretty well adjusted. He really is an average guy with a normal life. On the villain count, we had little Terminuses in the flashback, and the current Centurions team up to take on Dragon Man. I'm a little disappointed that these classic villains are mood setters now (like the Serpent Society last issue) but at the same time, I'm glad that Abnett and Lanning include them at all.

Wellington Alves is developing into a solid penciller. I liked the way Justice and Nova had different hairstyles so we could tell them apart out of costume. With some artists it can be tough to differentiate heroes while they sit around having a beer, but Alves keeps it clear.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Avengers/Invaders #7

Now we're getting somewhere. The LMDS are being controlled by the villain most likely to be interested in robots (you know who it is, c'mon!) And the cosmic cube is being weilded by D'Spayre, a funny old villain who is using the sadness of the Civil War, Death of Cap, and breaking of the Avengers to collect the sadness of the inhabitants of the Marvel U. Heck, I never knew Marvel's publishing plan was so powerful! There must be some kind of meta-commentary here somewhere, right? The book actually has a few nice scenes. I liked the LMDs "eating" the original Human Torch, that was pretty darn scary. I'm also liking the interplay between Ms. Marvel and Winter Cap. They are both lead dogs, so it is fun seeing them feel out who can boss who around. I liked Wasp having any role at all, and she gets to rescue Iron Man from imprisonment, so that was fun. I do feel a little bad for Krueger and Ross that their epic story has already been bypassed by the Marvel U. The status quo just changes too fast these days.

I like Steve Sadowski's art. The pencils are kind of lumpy, but the action is strong througout, and he has an almost Epting-style on Winter Cap. Those scenes with the LMDs were pretty horrifying too.


Teen Titans #66

Yowza, this book is floundering. I can't believe I was ever really into the Titans, to be honest. This volume of the series was never great, even when Johns was writing it, and it has kind of fizzled out at this point. What is really interesting to me is that I actually like much of the current cast. Blue Beetle is great, Meltdown is cool, Red Devil is fun, and I have no problem with Wonder Girl being the original member and leader. But I just don't care what is going on in this book. This issue has Robin preparing to take his leave of the team, and he's trying to drum up some new members before he goes. While they are going over possible recruits, Cyborg's floating head appears and he tells the team he is still watching them and wants to guide them. I liked that Beetle and Devil both comment on how creepy that is, because it really is. It seemed like Cyborg doesn't trust those crazy kids at all if he's monitoring their every move. It made the Teen Titans seem irresponsible and Cyborg seem creepy, kind of a bad combo. Another thing I don't like kind of comes from another title. Robin and the team discuss how they can't find a lot of teen heroes because they are fighting and dying at the Dark Side Club. To me, that is not acceptable. If CHILD heroes are being brainwashed and killed, the Titans need to escalate that crap. In a book celebrating the shared universe of the DCU this much, it seems irresponsible for the Titans to do anything but try to save the next generation of heroes. These are kids. I realize the story works like this so that there can be a Terror Titans mini-series, but still. I did like the work bumping Wonder Girl up to being team leader, that will be an interesting role for her. Her new costume is ok, but I do miss the bracelets! Traci 13 and Spoiler do appear in the issue, but I'm not sure exactly why...

Eddy Barrows does have a nice style on pencils. He's decent at drawing the youth of the characters, and his Blue Beetle looks pretty good.


Ms. Marvel #34

Spider-Man guest stars this issue, and man, he's using a new plan on his jokes: make almost every line of dialogue is a joke, so hopefully one or two of them will be funny! I'd say that ratio is about right. He's kind of a bozo this issue, used and abused by Ms. Marvel. Speaking of the lead character, I'm not sure why she's not in her costume or using her powers. Instead, she's wearing a Marvel comics ball cap and using a gun. She's threatening lives, pointing guns at Spidey, and in general not acting at all like Ms. Marvel. I've said before how this is a comic I WANT to like, because I like the look and powers of Ms. Marvel, well take away those two things, and there is not really anything for me in this comic at all. Machine Man shows up for a few panels of mostly exposition, but doesn't do much. He does as Ms. Marvel where her cat is (with Simon).

The credits say Paulo Siqeuira and Adriana Melo are on art, but most of the issue is too choppy to be them. The other work I've seen from those creators has been a little smoother. The faces in particular are fairly craggy in this. To be honest, I'm kind of surprised this book hasn't been cancelled.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Secret Invasion: Avengers Requiem #1

Huh. 8 new pages, 2 reprints I already own. And thanks to the "Classified" solicits, I pre-ordered it before I knew. All this, plus I got to pay 3.99 for it. What a rip off. Slott and Pham's new story is fine, showing us how Pym becomes the Wasp, but man. I'm pretty darn angry about this. Avoid at all costs, don't let Marvel do this kind of crap.

I'm pretty enraged at the nerve to do this kind of thing and have "classified" in the solicits. I'm sucker, but I won't be again. I will not pre-order any more of these 3.99 specials.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Marvel Presents: Guardians of the Galaxy #3-9 (1976)

I just finished reading Steve Gerber's neat run on Marvel Presents featuring the Guardians of the Galaxy. Gerber's whacked out ideas are here like always. In this run, they fight a frog-shaped cosmic devourer of universes (on the cover to the left), space pirates, and a universe sized humanoid the Topographical Man. TM is so large, there are entire civilizations on his body, and his arms span light-years. So yeah, pretty crazy. One of my favorite bits involved the Guardians teleporting down to a modern-seeming Earth (circa the 70s) filled with crazy aliens. The city is a run-down NYC rampant with crime and unrest. As the Guardians try to replace a part for their starship (the Captain America I) they get into more and more trouble. Eventually they are rescued by nearby aliens who explain that the world they were on is an insane asylum, and that they had developed the NYC environment themselves. The message being, of course, that the insane would come up with NY on their own!

Character-wise, I'm shocked at what a jerk Vance Astro is. He constantly makes fun of his teammates, calling Charlie-27 fat, Yondu a mystic idiot, and Nikki a stupid girl. It does seem he thinks highly of Martinex. In Gerber's last issue, Vance actually blasts Nikki full on because she tries to interrupt one of his tantrums. She responds by kissing him, of course. (Kind of interesting, I wonder how many characters have done what Hank Pym is still villified for in modern comics).

The art on the run is by Al Milgrom with a variety of inkers. I seem to remember Milgrom's later work as being kind of forgettable, but it looks great here. His space stuff especially looks really well done, and I like the feel of his aliens and monsters, they are very Killraven-y. This is a pretty neat run for the Guardians that lasts 3 more issues, but those are written by the newcomer Roger Stern. As Stern is one of my favorites, I'm looking forward to the conclusion.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Secret Six #5

Man, this comic kicks butt. Gail Simone does another bang-up job as she had me on the edge of my seat throughout the issue. As I said last time, I'm a Bane fan, so seeing 1/2 this issue narrated by him was a treat. He's a noble beast, Bane, and he gets some great lines and even gets to come off as a bad ass while he's having bricks thrown at him. The big shocker of the issue is that King Shark can talk. Just kidding, it's actually the revelation of who "Junior" is. I figured it was the Dad of the family, but I was very very wrong. I loved Junior's reveal. We've had 5 issues to see just how evil Junior can be, so adding in a personal relationship with one of our Six makes it so much cooler. The new Sixer (can't remember her name, that's not good) seems pretty cool, and I always like super powered invulnerable ladies. Deadshot narrates the other half, and I think my favorite there is just how amused he is when he remembers how he bloodied his cigarettes. I'm also fascinated that he seems to have NO interest in the Get Out of Hell free card. Simone is one of my favorite writers. I'll follow her to just about any title at this point.

Nicola Scott does a great job too. Bane's beating is remarkably savage, and the twins' reveal is set up in an appropriately amusing fashion. Best of all, she gets to draw that last page and really make it a stomach-turner. Yeeeech.


Wolverine Origins #31

Logan, you should know better than to trust an emo kid with a mohawk. Daken unsurprisingly betrays dear old Dad this issue, choosing to side with Cyber. Of course, I strongly suspect this is all Logan's plan to get Cyber to tell all he knows about Romulus, but the betrayal is still the most interesting part of the issue. Logan and Daken are hunting the world's most boring villain, Romulus, and they know he will hang out in whatever part of the world has "the most senseless violence." I'm so disinterested in the ongoing story here I honestly don't know what to think. I tried to give the series a chance past its tie in with X-Men Legacy (which I love) but man, I just can't get behind this book. Daken is still pretty much a cardboard cutout, and I don't like the retcon of making Logan a hitman for Romulus for most of his past either.

Yanick Paquette should be on a better book. His art was fairly choppy this issue, not as good as I've seen it elsewhere. But I do like his style, and his costumed Wolverine was pretty cool looking. Nice cover though.


Venom: Dark Origin #1-5

If I had never read another Venom story, this might have been more entertaining. The series basically re-tells the origin of Eddie Brock and Venom, but I can't help but think that it was better told back in the 80s in the Amazing Spider-Man comic. I actually think Zeb Wells went too far humanizing Brock, I actually found myself a bit less interested in him than I had been when I first discovered the character back in the Venom TPB where I first encountered him. I did enjoy the trait he added of making Brock a habitual liar, but that wasn't really worth a 5 issue series to discover. The basic problem was that this series was pretty faithful to what we knew about Venom, and we really didn't need to know more. Again, for a new reader, it would probably be entertaining. If you've read Spider-Man for awhile though, this is just a re-hash.

Angel Medina draws a scary Venom, really amping up the gooeyness and teeth. Again, I'm afraid I prefer the McFarlane/Larsen look of the bulked up Spider-Man with a scary face. I find him more frightening as a dark reflection of Spidey rather than a totally alien monster. I realize my opinion is mostly based on my experience with old comics, but there just wasn't a need for this re-telling.


Batman: Cacophony #2

Kevin Smith dials it back a bit this issue, and it reads better than issue 1. Maxie Zeus has gone WAY over the deep end, and there is a nice little scene with him dealing with his flunkies, followed by Batman bringing him back to the world of mortals. I do like the villain, so it was fun seeing him get this much character development time in a series where I didn't expect it. Joker is crazy, of course, but I love how dismissive Batman is as he takes him out. Throughout the issue, it is like Batman is two steps ahead of the Joker and he certainly seems to enjoy beating the snot out of the clown. Again, interesting stuff. The whole villain team up aspect is one of the more enjoyable aspects of the book. I also dug Bats' explanation to Alfred of how he tracked down exactly who had busted the Joker out of Arkham. Smith's story isn't ground-breaking, but it is entertaining enough.

Unfortunately, Walter Flanaghan's pencils are much more cartoony and looser than they were in issue 1. I wasn't as impressed with him here as I had been. He still tells the story, and his Maxie Zeus in particular looks good. But he has some anatomy problems and the fight scenes can be hard to follow.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Walking Dead #57

Damn. Kirkman is back. This book has been fantastic for like 6 months in a row now. We have some great interaction between the two factions of the group, and Rick convinces Abraham to take a day's detour to Rick's old police station for supplies. I bet we'll finally get the check up on those survivors from issue 1 too. In any case as the two of them (plus Carl) head up the highway, they are ambushed by some scumbag survivors. I kind of knew where the scene was going, and Kirkman didn't pull any punches. It was one of the most upsetting scenes I've read in quite some time, but man, Rick sure sticks up for his son. Rick and Abraham are going to be able to bond now too, making their complex relationship even more interesting. This book is riveting right now.

Charlie Adlard's art was spot on this issue. When the ambushers arrived, I had no doubt that they were scum. The suddenness of their appearance was well drawn too. Abraham's boredom at keeping watch was focused on the undead, not the probably more dangerous living.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Final Crisis: Secret Files #1

So this is the guy who killed my favorite DCU hero. Libra's origin is re-told by Len Wein, who I believe created the character back in an old issue of JLA. I've never read it, but in this version, Glorious Godfrey and Darkseid take an early interest in Libra, helping him to develop into the powerful villain he eventually becomes. Most of the flashbacks dealing with Libra's childhood are a pretty generic comic book origin, but I did like that he idolized Starman as a kid, that's a nice idea. I also question the appearance of the "classic" New Gods. We get Darkseid, Glorious Godfrey, Metron, and Desaad all appearing in their old looks. All that accomplished was make me miss the Kirby-designs and wish we were getting that in the main Final Crisis title. Tony Shasteen draws the story, and he really nails Libra. The other characters look a little "off" (like Darkseid's chubby cheeks) but at least the lead character looks great. There is really nothing new or noteworthy here.

Another part of the special actually reads like a summary/pitch for Final Crisis. It was the clearest explanation of what's going on in the main title that I've seen. Essentially, it recaps the fall of the New Gods, the Mister Miracle limited, and the set up for the Final Crisis limited series. I knew all of it already, but it was nice reading it condensed so nicely.

JG Jones' sketches at the end are pretty neat, with glimpses of characters from Superman Beyond and the core series. I'm not sure where Doc Fate or Super Demon are going to be used though. What's clear is how well thought out and creative Morrison is with even the background characters. The man has a ton of ideas. I actually wonder if his sometimes disjointed work is because of a surplus of thoughts trying to scramble onto the page. I'm ready to see most of these folks show up in a DCU book. Heck, it's time to start offering books featuring other, less-depressing DCUs.

The book is fine, but not essential reading. For me, I would classify it as perfect for picking up out of a discount bin at a con.


Patsy Walker: Hellcat #4

I'm pretty sure this book is nonsense. I can barely understand what's happening, and the dialogue is so disjointed and odd I can't figure it out. I suppose Hellcat is the right level of character for an experimental story like this. I do think this will be brushed under the rug when it finishes. Heck, I don't even know if you could refer to this if you wanted to! I can't even think of a way to recap it.

The art by David LaFuente is pretty though. I think he'll move on to bigger things from here. It is still entertaining, there's a frenetic, enjoyable madness in here.


Thor #12

This issue is mostly filler, as Loki travels back in time to fulfill his role in history, many of the specifics were covered (from a different POV) in the Odin flashback earlier in the series. I did enjoy seeing Loki go back to his evil, scheming ways, especially back with his original look. We also find out whose body he is using in his new lady-form. SPOILER: There is a reason Sif isn't around yet! It will be pretty fun to see what she does when she eventually comes back. For Thor readers with a long memory, this is actually a pretty compelling storyline, I like it. Loki does seek out some help from Hela to help him travel through time. Hela looks kind of skanky and looks pretty different from her old green and black suit. I do find it interesting that the Asgardians are inhabiting and influencing human forms in a similar fashion to the New Gods in DC. Heck, I always figured Kirby was calling the Asgardians the gods of the Third World anyway...

Olivier Coipel's art is solid. His Loki-classic looks scheming and yet still retains some regal element. He does a great job showing the pompousness of the character, Loki looks like he owns every situation he walks into. The flashback material was fine, but I'm not sure I care for the look of the frost giants now, they actually look quite a bit like trolls or something. The book is chugging along, and when there isn't political lecturing going on, it is actually fairly enjoyable. If it keeps up, I will probably pick up the trade.


Punisher War Journal #26

FINAL ISSUE. I'm going to end up with a totally random smattering of issues in this volume of War Journal. This final issue is a nice character bit for the Punisher as we see him almost break his primary rules. He's staking out the bar he destroyed at the beginning of the series, waiting for a gang of bozos to outfit a new Stilt Man. Punisher is planning on blowing them away as soon as they leave. In a neat little opening sequence, Fraction actually shows us mugshots and rap sheets for each of the major players, with only one a hard-core criminal. That guy gets what you'd imagine. The real crux of the story is the Punisher's new friend Rhino (that does sound crazy, doesn't it?) trying to convince Frank that he does't punish the stupid, just the guilty. These other criminals are blundering around in the Stilt Man suit, but they're not evil, more stupid. Rhino successfully convinces the Punisher that he can't punish people for things they haven't done. It was a nice little interlude set against Christmas, definitely worth picking up as a stand alone.

The art is by Andy MacDonald, a name I don't recognize. He has a vaguely Leandro Fernandez style, which we've seen on Punisher before. The Punisher himself is a little bulkier and brooding than most of the other characters, which is fine. His Stilt Man actually looked pretty good. As a series, I'd say it is probably worth picking up random issues or trades, but this book never really blew me away.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Guardians of the Galaxy #8

Sometimes, rarely, Marvel seems to put out books just for me. I know that's silly, but why else would the Badoon become major bad guys just as I start reading Steve Gerber's Marvel Presents featuring the Guardians? It's just perfect timing. This book continues to be crackerjack, with an awesome, expanding team and great villains. Bug is awesome this issue, as it becomes clear that Rocket Raccoon didn't fill him in on ANY of the drama plaguing the team right now. His confusion was pretty amusing. The big Groot/Monster climax was telegraphed beautifully by Mantis. How did Groot become a fan-favorite? Star-Lord gets a lot more screen time this issue, as we see his futile face-off against Ronan. I did like seeing Ronan go back to his bullying, jerkish ways. This guy should not be a protagonist, he's a villain, so I'm loving how Abnett & Lanning are dealing with him. As if that's not enough, Blastaar is planning on attacking the 42 prison. If we get to see Earth villains running around in the Negative Zone, I will be one happy camper (heck, there will be some unregistered heroes there too!) Adam Warlock and Gamorra are still tracking down the Universal Church of Truth too. So that's about 5 villain factions all vying for the attention of the Guardians.

Kev Walker takes over and his art fits PERFECTLY. It's a little grittier than Pelletier's was, but it looks closer to the art in the Star Lord mini that this series spun out of, so it fits. I believe Walker is the ongoing artist. I hope so, because his characters looked great (Rocket's fuzzy face was awesome). So yeah, this book is about perfect.


Green Lantern #36

I'll give Johns credit, I can't believe he's really doing this whole war of light thing. I'm amused by it because it is so preposterous, but at the same time I can't look away, it is some of the more compelling stuff coming from DC right now. The Red Lanterns are "hrffing" and "grrr-ing" around their bloody planet threatening Sinestro. After all the horrible acts the Sinestro Corps has done, I'm happy to see him get roughed up like this. I can't think of anything too good for Sinestro now. Most of the issue is actually spent introducing us to Saint Walker, Ganthet, Sayd, and an Indian God who make up the new Blue Lantern corps. They seem to have the ability to supercharge GL rings, so I suppose they are sort of a support corps? There are only two of them around at this point, but Walker believes that Hal is meant to take over the Blue Corps at some point. I think it is far more likely the blues will be killed as some sort of sacrifice in a big crossover. In fact, I'm starting to think that is how most of these groups will end up. There is an interesting bit where John Stewart experiences a vision of Katma Tui, and he believes he will see her again. I have to guess she'll be a Black Lantern. If she gets resurrected, then it really will be true that the DCU is turning back the clock to pre-Crisis "classic" continuity. In an environment like that, I can't imagine many of the "next gen" characters lasting much longer.

Ivan Reis' art is solid like always. I enjoy his stuff, but I'm not sure it is worth all the delays. I don't know if those are on him or Johns, but this book needs to get more timely since it is about to drive the whole DCU publishing plan.


War Machine #1

I've always had a soft spot for Jim Rhodes and that awesome black and silver armor. I started really digging Rhodes back when he was flying the red and gold Iron Man rig while Tony was jetting around in the Silver Centurion armor. Since I'm not ever going to get the two armored Avengers active in those suits again, War Machine and Iron Man are the closest I can get. I'm really trying to stick to trades these days, but Greg Pak writing a character I love was too hard to pass up. With New Avengers going to 3.99 I had a spot to fill in my sublist, and here I am. The first issue has WM facing off against a retro-fitted Sentinel that has been programmed for ethnic cleansing. It's a neat idea, and there is a lot of satisfaction in watching WM obliterate it. The book bounces into some flashbacks showing Bethany Cabe (Tony's old GF) setting up Rhodes' current cyborg look after an encounter with some bombers. She drives the plot point that Rhodes needs to get out of his cyborg look and turn into a normal man, or he will deal with "physical, mental, and moral problems." That's a neat high concept! Rhodes ends up wrangling the "evil" War Machine into helping him in his cause of "killing all the bad guys." The issue has a pretty twisted ending that ties it right in to Dark Reign and the greater Marvel Universe.

Leonardo Manco hasn't been around for awhile, but his gritty realistic style are perfect for the military-style superheroics in this comic. War Machine looks great, but more importantly the soldiers and weapons look right too.