Friday, July 31, 2009

Wednesday Comics #4

So I really like the format, the idea, and some of the execution of Wednesday Comics, but I'm afraid there just aren't enough really good stories to keep me buying this. At 3.99 a pop, I need a bit higher ratio of good to average material.

Here's the rundown of my feelings on the features:

  • Batman - fine, but nothing thrilling so far
  • Kamandi - fantastic, the best story in this thing
  • Superman - slow, but beautiful
  • Deadman - fine, but again, nothing thrilling
  • Green Lantern - Not a lot of actual GL in this, is there?
  • Metamorpho - I like the camp, and the art, making this a strong entry
  • Teen Titans - average
  • Strange Adventures - fantastic stuff, I'd buy this monthly
  • Supergirl - amusing, but no real story going on
  • Metal Men - Love the art, story doesn't really have anything to it
  • Wonder Woman - illegible
  • Sgt. Rock - great looking, but not a lot of story
  • Flash - I don't understand what is happening
  • Demon & Catwoman - Actual plot movement and decent art
  • Hawkman - love it, one of the stronger features.
So basically, the only ones I really like are Adam Strange, Hawkman, and Metamorpho. With only one page an issue, the stories just don't have pacing to make 3.99 worthwhile. This was a neat experiment, but for me, I'm afraid it's over.


Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #3

This is the strongest of the tree Tales of the Corps issues that came out this month. Even with only two stories and some director's commentary, for the first time the stories actually seemed like they added to the characters they were profiling. I'm not sure if that is because Peter Tomasi wrote both stories or if it is because both shorts featured GLs we already know and love. We got the origin of "poozer" in Kilowog's exciting rookie tale and Arisia is transformed from a bimbo to a GL super-fan in her story. I really enjoyed both of these takes that explained the core qualities of these characters as they appear now. I actually enjoyed the director's commentary for Blackest Night #0 too. It is hard not to catch some of Geoff Johns' excitement about Blackest Night when you see him excitedly expand on every panel.

The art was strong in every segment of this issue. Chris Samnee impressed me with his blocky pencils and heavy inks on Kilowog and Mike Mayhew used his photo-realistic art to good effect with Arisia. Ivan Reis' pencils for Blackest Night looked great, but the inks and colors definitely elevated his work to that classic level I was so impressed by in Blackest Night #0.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Justice League of America #35

I don't know if Len Wein's previous fill-in issue was written in a rush or what, but this held up much better than his Starbreaker origin story.

The issue opens with the Royal Flush Gang seizing a casino full of hostages to set up a fairly complicated scheme. The RFG are as big a group of jobbers (wrestling term for guys set up to lose) as you'll find in comics, so they aren't really much better than generic ninjas, robots, or zombies for the heroes to knock around. This time it is a bit different, since the JLA has essentially disbanded leaving a group of jobber heroes as the only folks answering a JLA distress call. Our team is Vixen, Firestorm, Dr. Light II, Red Tornado, and Plastic Man. Not exactly heavy-hitters. By putting such low-rent heroes up against low-rent villains, I actually thought the fight could go either way. (I'm not saying I don't like those heroes. I especially dig Firestorm and Dr. Light II, but they aren't exactly winners). The conflict ends up being pretty entertaining, if generic. I was happy to see the "surprise" villains revealed at the end. They make sense for a Las Vegas-style heist story, so I'll definitely be picking up the rest of Wein's issues. This is by no means a classic, but it is solid super-hero action featuring a bunch of folks who don't usually get the limelight.

Tom Derenick's professional pencils have never looked as astounding as his pin-up commission work, but he is a solid storyteller. I noticed he mixed up his facial expressions more than usual in this one. I wonder if this was a rush job, since Derenick wasn't solicited as the artist.


Justice Society of America #29

Bill Willingham and Matt Sturges take over the series this issue, and the transition is surprisingly seamless. The whole voice of this book has belonged to Geoff Johns for so long, I wasn't sure that I'd enjoy another writer's take as much, but these two guys have succeeded. What impressed me the most was how well the two writers have found the voices for the core JSA cast. Alan Scott sounds right. Star-Girl sounds like she always has. Even though most of the others don't get more than a line or two, they all sound the way we know they should. The one exception is Mr. Terrific, who comes across perhaps a little sterner than I'm used to, but I haven't really seen him interact with kids before. Maybe he just doesn't dig kids.

The two new characters All-American Kid and King Chimera are both pretty cool. I actually figured that Chimera would be a traitor, but at this point it is too hard to try and figure out exactly who is the real traitor. One of the main complaints about the JSA is that the sprawling lineup leads to unbalanced conflicts, but Willingham and Sturges turn that around by hand-picking a legion of villains who match up well against the Society. I did notice plenty of pet characters in the villain group. Willingham has Tapeworm from Robin and the dog-handler guy from Shadowpact. Sturges brings in his Doctor Polaris and his Hellhound team. I did like Blue Moon, she has a great power set, I'm going to have to research her to learn more about her. I was surprised to see Eclipso absorbed into a team with so many losers, but he comes off well so I don't have too much of a problem. The cliffhanger ending... hoo boy. There's no way that character will actually die. Right? Right?

Jesus Merino is Carlos Pacheco's long-time inker and you can see that here. He's got the same eye for detail and knack for super-heroics that Pacheco does. He's not as refined as Pacheco yet, but I see a ton of potential. Merino is a great fit for the title and I look forward to seeing his art get stronger.


As a side note, I'm really quite pleased with DC's output right now. I don't know if they've been saving their best stuff for Blackest Night or what, but the company is firing on all cylinders right now.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Incredible Hulk #600

Hmm. I've been waiting for the trade on Jeph Loeb's Hulk series, so I haven't read any of this Red Hulk stuff since issue 1. I heard there was a big status quo changer for She-Hulk in this issue, and with Red She-Hulk supposedly being tied to Jen Walters, I decided to read this ahead of my pickup of the eventual trade. Jeph Loeb keeps things nice and clear, but this isn't exactly a complicated story. That said, not a lot happens either, and in fact I don't really see this book having progressed very much since issue 1. It is interesting that Hulk has been re-numbered and put back to its original Incredible numbering in the middle of such a big, sprawling story.

The crux of the story consists of Doc Samson, She-Hulk, Peter Parker, and Ben Urich heading out to a secret Gamma Base where at least one mastermind stands revealed; MODOK! I dig MODOK quite a bit, so I'm happy to see he's at least somewhat responsible for creating Rulk. It doesn't seem he retains much control over the red giant though, since Rulk does whatever he wants, including draining Bruce Banner of his gamma radiation. Supposedly this means Banner can never turn into the Hulk again, but I'm not sure if I can believe that. Spidey naturally shows up to fight (mostly just avoid) Rulk, and there are some nice bits of humor in Loeb's dialogue for the web-spinner. I was happy to see Rick Jones as the new Abomination/A-Bomb again, although I'm not sure that is exactly a good move for the character. The other big reveal is that MODOK has somehow split Doc Samson's personality into an evil "Samson" and the good "Leonard Samson." I think this is a big mistake, since one of the coolest things about Doc Samson is that the gamma treatment worked better on him than any of the other gamma guys. Now he's the same as all the rest. If Jen Walters ends up being the Red She-Hulk, then her uniqueness is gone too. At the close of the issue, Red Hulk is playing coy about the fates of Samson and She-Hulk, Urich won't reveal who Red Hulk is, and things are basically just like they have been. It seems reading this in trade is the right way to go for such a decompressed story.

Ed McGuiness' art is a ton of fun, as always. She-Hulk, Doc Samson, Spidey, MODOK, Rulk, everyone looks great. There is a ton of over the top action and the cartoony destruction looks bright and exciting. I look forward to the eventual trade to see how this turns out.


Gotham City Sirens #2

Wow. So Talia Al Ghul taught Catwoman secret mystic mental defenses to protect Batman's identity should he die? That is one convenient and ridiculous way to get out from last issue's cliffhanger. Heck, Catwoman should have just had some "Keep Secret ID Spray" in her belt. After accepting that dozens of men have been the Batman, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn make friends with Catwoman and get back to their regular lives. Harley gets bored, and when she gets bored, she goes shopping. I'm happy to see her react in such a womanly fashion (sarcasm). In fact, other than the off-handed comment Harley makes about what she considered Batman's motivations, this didn't have a whole lot to it. Hush is still pretending to be Bruce Wayne, and after being kidnapped he links up with Harley and plans to use her to get to Catwoman. This picks up from Streets of Gotham, which I haven't been loving either, so the Hush storyline in particular doesn't have a lot to get excited about.

Guillem March continues to mix hot pin-up shots and awkward storytelling. I think he's a great cover artist for cheesecake, but I'm not as big a fan of his sequential interiors.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Aliens #2

Hmm. John Arcudi is trying to build a human mystery around the snarling aliens to keep up our interest, but for me it isn't quite working. After having the whole cast slaughtered last month, one pulls himself out of the grave and stand revealed as an android. At least, I think that is what's going on, since the coloring makes it a tad unclear if that's how the protagonist managed to survive a headshot. That's the only way that makes sense to me, so I'll assume he's not human. After preparing to leave (and talking to himself a lot) the android gets a distress call from a canyon where some survivors seem to be hiding from the aliens. The droid heads out to help them, stopping along the way to shoot and blow up some aliens. He comments how these aliens are configured a bit differently than those he's familiar with, so it seems the humans in this comic are aware of the double-jawed terrors. I suppose it shouldn't be surprising how easily he takes out a handful of aliens, but they weren't much more than fodder in the fights. That's tough billing for the title characters of the series. There's some closing weirdness with some survivors who look like last issue's murderer's, but I'm not really invested enough in any of the characters to see how this one turns out. I think this is my last issue.

The pencils are split by Zack Howard and Gabriel Andrade. The two artists do a good job making the book look seamless though, since I never really noticed a big change in style. Their alien designs are pretty fun, with some neat side mandibles and weird red-coloring.


Captain Britain & MI13 #15

Wow. What a bummer. Not that this issue was bad, but that this is the last time we'll get to ride along with Paul Cornell's unpredictable and smart super-hero comic.

So it turns out that Pete Wisdom had a plan that was actually a step ahead of the brilliant strategist Dracula. I won't ruin it, but once again, just like with the Plotka elements a few months ago, this fits in perfectly with what we saw in the last few issues and gives our protagonists a clean win through good, solid preparation. In a play on the old "who would win in a fight?" game, maybe Wisdom could give Batman a run for his money if he knew the fight was coming? It certainly seems so here.

Captain Britain and Meggan/Gloriana get a wonderful reunion that strengthen's both characters, restores status quo, and put a smile on my face. I was really excited to see old Marvel UK character's showing up to take on the vamps. In addition to the SAS, we got Dark Angel, Digitek, and Death's Head, yes! Man, I used to LOVE Death's Head! My only complaint in the issue was how quickly Black Knight got taken out by Dracula, when Excalibur (a less-experienced sword-fighter) then took Drac out so quickly. As a Black Knight fan, I'll pretend that the story had to be compressed to wrap up in one issue, but maybe BK would have done a bit better with more pages. Cornell closes the series brilliantly with a "you have been watching" and a little goodbye scene for the core cast. Fantastic stuff. I will now be watching for whatever Cornell does next.

Leonard Kirk delivers another solid issue, with the normal standouts; Black Knight's armor, the exploding vampires, and his scene-setting for both the surprise appearances and finale were great. This was a fantastic series. I actually pity all the folks who never got to see it.


Monday, July 27, 2009

San Diego Comicon Wrap-Up!

Newsarama has a great recap page for all the details. I'll be posting my highlights from the con here.

These are in no particular order, although the stuff I'm more excited about is usually towards the top!
  • Marvel has acquired the rights to Marvelman, and he will be joining the Marvel Universe. It is less clear if the Alan Moore/Neil Gaiman stuff has been legally untangled
  • Jeph Loeb is giving us Red She-Hulk and World War Hulks, which somehow involves Bruce Banner being unable to turn into the Hulk. I'm concerned.
  • Geoff Johns will be writing the new Flash ongoing series
  • Geoff Johns is writing Blackest Night: Flash before he gets to the ongoing
  • Bill Willingham and Gene Ha are doing a book called "Back Roads" for IDW
  • Paul Cornell is writing a 4-issue Black Widow limited
  • James Robinson's JLA will include Mon-El, Dick Grayson, Donna Troy, Hal Jordan, and probably Congorilla
  • Matt Sturges is writing a new JSA: All-Stars ongoing starring the younger JSAers (Bill Willingham is still writing JSA)
  • Daniel Acuna will be the penciler for X-Men Legacy (with Mike Carey still writing)
  • The Astounding Wolf-Man will be cancelled with issue 25
  • Baron Zemo coming back in Thunderbolts?
  • There are hints about a new West Coast Avengers book, or at least something starring Hawkeye and Mockingbird
  • Jim Shooter is revamping the Gold Key characters (Solar, Turok, Magnus, etc.) for Dark Horse!
  • Mera is one of the most important characters in Blackest Night?
  • Adam Beechen is taking over WildCATS
  • Paul Tobin will be introducing a new team of Avengers in Marvel Adventures: Super-Heroes. The team includes Nova, Invisible Woman, and the big three!
  • Image United is written by Kirkman and has each of the Image founders (except Jim Lee) drawing their signature creations on each page. Neat!
  • X-Force, New Mutants, and X-Men: Legacy will be crossing over in a fight with Selene called Necrosha
  • Reggie Hudlin and Denys Cowan are doing a limited called Captain America/Black Panther: Flags of our Fathers
  • The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents have been purchased by DC and will be incorporated just like the Red Circle and Milestone heroes have been
  • Deathstroke the Terminator might be the new leader of the Titans
  • Sterling Gates will be writing Kid Flash (not sure if this is a back-up or ongoing)
  • Paul Dini is still working on a Zatanna ongoing (no word on artist)
  • Ted Kord will be showing up in Booster Gold's title during Blackest Night
  • There is another installment of the Umbrella Academy on the way; Hotel Oblivion

Guardians of the Galaxy #16

Hmm. Marvel has this listed as the cover for this issue, but I have one featuring the original Guardians of the Galaxy. Weird.

DnA take a jump into the future this month as the time-lost Guardians (Star-Lord, Jack Flagg, Cosmo, Mantis, and Bug) are popped into the future and stuck on a domed Avengers Mansion that is just floating through space. It seems the original Guardians were stuck there too, and after a brief (and fun) fight, the two teams link up to send a message back to the current Guardians. The impending detonation of Black Bolt's Terrigenesis bomb is the event that causes the universe to start unraveling, leading to this apocalyptic future. Star-Lord and the others decide their best bet is to use the hive-mind of the Celestials to send a message back in time to the rest of the team. This is all less confusing than my summary makes it sound, and DnA spend most of the time with nice character moments like the bonding between Yondu and Mantis and the friendly rivalry and smack talk with Jack Flagg and Charlie-27. I wish Nikki would have been included in the original Guardians line-up. I know she joined later, but she's as well-known as the rest of them now and it would have been nice to see her too.

Wes Craig does a decent job with the art, but I've really become accustomed to Brad Walker's take on the characters. I hope Walker comes back soon, since it seems like this book has had a hard time holding onto a consistent artist.


Power Girl #3

Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray are turning in a consistently fun title. This comic won't make you re-think how you feel about comics or anything like that, but it is just fun watching PG smash a giant ape around for 3 issues.

There are a few confusing elements to the story, like the horrible burns that the Ultra-Humanite suffers while fighting PG. I think the giant white-gorilla body is one of the neatest looks for the Humanite, so I wasn't thrilled to see him burned into a gross scarred mess. I'm not too worried since we don't know where things will go from here for the character though. I also wasn't exactly clear on the 20,000 leagues deal with the gigantic organ. Again, not a huge problem, it just wasn't something that I would have expected for the character. I did enjoy the whole sequence where PG is trying to get the gigantic spacecraft away from New York. I liked seeing some time devoted to cleaning up after the villain's plot, that seems like it would be half the problem in most fights.

Amanda Conner's pencils are as cartoony and fun as always. I really like the balance of silliness and standard super-heroics she is always able to strike. Check out how PG is carrying the giant ship at the end. It's a non-heroic pose while she's doing a pretty standard super-hero rescue!


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Action Comics #879

I'm still confused. Am I supposed to care about Flamebird or Nightwing at this point? They are pretty much ciphers to me , since I know so little about them. Factor in the villains, either the thrill-killing Kryptionian couple or the weird jet-packing telepath, and I still have nothing. I don't think Mr. Jetpack even gets named in this. There is another powerful gal hanging around General Lane, but I don't recognize her either. I used to love the Superman books back in the Triangle-numbering days, they were so approachable and new-reader friendly, I never felt behind. Now there is some greater plot running through the books that I'm missing. I didnt' read any of the New Krypton arcs, so I've been lost for months now.

Diego Olmos likes his shadows, giving his art an almost Chris Samnee type look (only not quite as nuanced and detailed). He makes some interesting choices this issue, but my favorite is Lois Lane visiting her father's gravesite dressed like a flasher. Lois is wearing a big trenchcoat with nothing underneath. Not exactly what I would have predicted.

Let's see. Last I saw Captain Atom, he was the crazy Monarch trying to enslave reality in the terrible Countdown series. And I think he died. In this backup he's fighting mages, orcs, and sorcerers in a Lord of the Rings style world. I'm confused. I had been really excited to have Captain Atom back, and the backup is actually the main reason I wanted to check out this issue. But man, this isn't what I had in mind.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Back Issue Review: Daredevil #196

I picked this up because it looked like a fun team-up with DD and Wolvie, but after reading this comic, I think this might actually be their first meeting!

Denny O'Neil's take on Wolverine is a lot of fun, he's a wise-ass tough guy who doesn't give a darn what DD thinks of him. Daredevil is his usual anguished, conflicted self. The main plot kicks off when Japanese mobsters offer to take the invalid Bullseye out of the country to bond adamantium to his skeleton. Kingpin agrees to this and then the race is on. The gangsters are trying to smuggle Bullseye out by ship, but Wolverine is on the case after an old police friend tips him off and brings him in. I liked the really simple way to involve Wolvie in the story. In a modern story, I'm sure we'd have all sorts of secret histories and brothers and parents and secret brain-washings to get Wolvie into the story, but in these simpler times O'Neil can just say "a cop told him." O'Neil hits all the bits you'd expect, showing Wolvie and DD's different fighting styles, their different stances on killing, even the contrast between their attitudes in combat. I was surprised that Bullseye got away clean. The nameless thugs were more effective than I expected and actually stopped the costumed heroes. I think this has to go down as a loss for both of them.

Larry Hama pencils the issue and his work looks a lot like Frank Miller's. DD looks just like Miller's. Wolverine actually looks like a short guy, which was nice to see too, although his claws don't look quite as cool as later artists would draw them to be. Klaus Jansen inks the book, leaving little doubt why DD looks so on-model.


Batman: Streets of Gotham #2

This was a lot stronger than the premiere issue last month. Paul Dini picks up with the Firefly as he spreads suffering throughout Gotham with his firebombs. Batman and Robin are on the case, but they're having a hard time actually getting to Firefly's hideout. Dini includes a nice little sequence as another vigilante shows up and tries to help restore order a little more violently than B&R would prefer. This shadowy stranger sure knows the heroes, but neither one of them recognize him. My initial guess would be someone like Bork from Kurt Busiek's Power Company, but surely that's too obscure for this high-profile title.

Black Mask eventually shows up to reign in Firefly, only to find that Firefly has burned out the explosives that Mask had infected him with. I really dug the totally random nature of Firefly's actions, he's in this for no real reason other than to cause fire and pain. Dini has a nice line of dialogue where Firefly admits that he loved the pain of burning out the explosives. Firefly really comes across as a sick dude. When B&R arrive to stop Firefly, they have to choose between letting Black Mask get away or catching Firefly, and they end up choosing Firefly. I totally don't understand why Mr. Zsasz would help Black Mask like that, but I find Zsasz so scary I'm happy to see him used at all. In the chaos of the issue, Tommy Elliott escapes from his cell in Wayne Tower (that didn't take long) and he shows up with the press giving away Bruce Wayne's money. Is it really that easy to replace rich people?

Dustin Nguyen does a decent job dealing with the copious action this issue. What really impressed me was the really cool take he has on Firefly's suit. The goggles looked neat and aerial combat scenes were nicely put together.

Marc Andreyko and Georges Jeanty have another nice backup with Manhunter investigating Jane Doe. I dont' remember her too well but I feel like I've seen her before, I'll need to research. Kate Spencer's is such a fiesty and confident character I've always liked reading about her and I'm glad we're getting these backups. I wish I could mix and match which backup went where, actually, since I think this is stronger than the Question backup currently appearing in Detective Comics.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Invincible #64

Hooray! I don't want to spoil this issue, because Kirkman did a masterful job setting up his readers through solicitations, letter columns, upcoming covers, and the actual Invincible comic. But Kirkman delivers exactly what the readers want this issue, as we see the gory climax of the battle of Invincible vs. Conquest. Conquest continues obliterating Invincible, and actually breaks his other arm. Invincible delivers some classic vengeance too though, as he first breaks Conquest's robotic arm, then proceeds to head-butt Conquest's head into paste. Seriously, there is an entire page of repeated head-butting, making this one of the goriest comics I've ever read. Invincible's arms are hanging by threads at this point and I can't believe Mark Grayson will come out of this unscarred. It does seem that Cecil is back on the scene trying to help out, so I'm actually hoping there is some sort of reconciliation imminent.

SPOILERS ON! I'm thrilled that Kirkman threw us the swerve and didn't kill Atom Eve. She's such a fun part of this book, with such a neat name and look I was really bummed at the thought of her getting killed off. We know Kirkman is willing to kill his characters, but I'm glad he held back this time and didn't rob the book of its fun feeling. Eve's death at this point would have cast a long shadow that would darken the book for months. I dont' think that would have improved the series at all. SPOILERS OFF!

Ryan Ottley nails it once again. The gore is splashy and gross, but still cartoony so that I don't feel sick. Ottley is so good at drawing costumed heroes it is easy to forget how well he draws the ladies. His take on Atom Eve is wonderful, and he handles her scenes in classic comic form here, with some nice Austin Powers placement. I would hope we'll see more from Eve in upcoming issues, but I guess we'll see!


Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #2

This was a stronger issue than the premiere of Tales of the Corps, but not by a lot. This time we get two Geoff Johns stories, and I actually think they were the weaker ones in the issue.

The first gives the origin of one of the Red Lanterns, the lady with the bone wings and the wings on her head. It seems she was some sort of hottie whose world was destroyed and she was taken prisoner by Ranx, the evil city from the Sinestro Corps. The story was ok, but a bit on the generic side. I did appreciate the attempt to redeem Carol Ferris as a Star Sapphire. Carol is justifiably doubtful about accepting a pink ring and joining the Sapphires after all of her terrible experiences in the past. She's never been in control while possessed before, but now it seems she may end up being the leader of the Sapphires. I did like the way she knows her love for Hal Jordan will never work out, so the Star Sapphire will have to mend her broken heart. It's a melancholy origin for her new persona, but it is a neat idea.

Peter Tomasi writes the third origin tale. The floating head construct in Larfleeze's Orange Lantern army was once a "space god" traveling around the world eating whatever sentient beings valued most. He craved money, art, jewels and the like, but seemed to draw the line at killing kids, which was nice. His insatiable hunger makes a lot of sense for a member of the Orange Lanterns, since he was pretty darn greedy on his own before Larfleeze assimilated him into his army. This was pretty fun.

The art is solid throughout, with nice DC house style work on the origins. I wish we could get more work from Gene Ha (who does the Star Sapphire story), he's such a top talent I'd love to see his art regularly.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wednesday Comics #3

Three issues in and none of the stories are really shaking up my initial rankings. Some of these stories are simply stunning, mostly due to the artwork.

                            • Hawkman, Adam Strange, and Kamandi are definitely the cream of the crop with top notch artwork and fun stories with a unique voice.

                            • I'm enjoying Batman, Metamorpho, The Metal Men, Catwoman & Demon, and Superman quite a bit too, but they read a bit more like old timey comics.

                            • Metamorpho in particular is fun due to the Metamorpho fans and their letter answering.

                            • Green Lantern feels sort of average, but I think that is mostly because it is parallel with one of the strongest Green Lantern stories I've read.

                            • Teen Titans is forgettable and doesn't bring anything unique at this point, although the art is charming.

                            • Supergirl is merely ok, since I can't really see where the story is going, although this strip is by far my 4 year old daughter's favorite. Supergirl, Streaky, and Krypto, what more could she want?

                            • I'm still very disappointed in the Wonder Woman feature, since I can't even really tell what is happening. I'm not even trying to read it at this point.
                            Overall, with this many creators bringing their A games, this book lives up to the hype. This is a neat experiment in comics and I'm glad I decided to experience it according to DC's original vision.


                            Avengers: The Initiative #26

                            Christos Gage delivers what he promised online; some new 50 State Initiative teams. We get to see the most from North Caronlia's U-Foes, but we get introduced to Oregon's Force of Nature, Delaware's Women Warriors, and Maryland's new team, Psionex! I'd say Maryland came out the loser in this group, with North Carolina getting the coolest protectors. I love the high concept that the public of the Marvel U would abandon a team of Avengers and heroes this quickly to cheer for known criminals. That's ok though, because it makes for a neat concept. The Avengers: Resistance team has a neat dynamic in that they are still mostly made up of the bickering different generations of New Warriors, but Gauntlet and Tigra have clear seniority and almost serve as mentors or leaders for the team. Gage is taking Tigra down a dark path in the closing pages of the issue as she seems out for revenge one villain at a time when she attacks one of the Brothers Grimm in a hotel room (and videotapes it, just like the Hood did to her).

                            Camp Hammond is renamed Camp Hammer and relocated to an old Hulkbuster base in New Mexico, showing off Gage's encyclopedic knowledge of the Marvel U once again. The current "class" of villains seems to be the Brothers Grimm, Razorfist, and Scorcher. Taskmaster is back to being a full-on villain. He's a neat contrast against the Constrictor, who doesn't seem to happy as he's welcomed back into the villain community with open arms. It seems Penance can't even remember his name or background at this point, so he's nothing more than a gun to point at a problem, but surely Gage is setting up Robbie Baldwin for a triumphant return as Speedball. Gage loves his Marvel history too much to keep this Penance thing going too long.

                            I really enjoyed the pencils from new artist Rafa Sandoval. Sandoval's faces all look similar, but that's a common problem in comics. He handles the plethora of costumes well though, and in a Where's Waldo book like this, just making dozens of heroes look good is a full time job.


                            Wednesday, July 22, 2009

                            Green Lantern #44

                            Let's all agree that Green Lantern has become the flagship title of the DCU. This should be at the top of everyone's stack this week. And guess what? It lives up to the hype.

                            Even as a bad guy, Martian Manhunter is one of my favorites. Geoff Johns does a great job with the first long look at a Black Lantern. First off, J'onn uses his shape-shifting to make himself look alive, only Hal's ring tips off GL and Flash that J'onn is going to be trouble. We're then treated to a tremendous slugfest as the Flash and GL take on J'onn who is "as strong as Superman, why can no one remember that?" Darn right, J'onn! Green Lantern and Flash are two of the top tier heroes in the DCU, and the Manhunter gives them more than they can handle. While switching between physical and mental attacks, J'onn is constantly hammering at the heroes emotionally too. The Black Lanterns seem to remember everything they knew while alive, and they remember being heroes, but now that they're dead they hold a grudge.

                            I have never been as accepting of the Hal & Barry duo as I was in this issue. The two of them work well together and are on the same wavelength for most of the fight (with one fantastic exception when Flash is bludgeoning Hal thinking he's J'onn). There are a few glimpses of other Lanterns and of Oa itself as the Black Lanterns make their move, but the main event is J'onn vs. his former teammates. This was a thrilling comic and one of the best I've read in some time. Johns has been saving his best work for Blackest Night. He seems to have a good handle on J'onn too, so I am really hoping that Blackest Night ends with a slew of resurrections. And as of this moment, I'm still cheering for the bad guys!

                            Doug Mahnke's art is wonderful. J'onn looks fantastic. Mahnke handles the different fighting styles of each hero in neat ways. The shot where Flash uses a gravestone as a ramp to launch himself up into the sky was one of the best panels I've seen in months.


                            Punisher #7

                            Rick Remender is doing an excellent job re-introducing the victims of the Bar With No Name back into the Marvel U. This issue features a bunch of the resurrected villains, but my favorites are the last two we get to see. The Wraith is an internal-monologuing egoist convinced he knows the city and her ways better than anyone. This has got to be a joke pointed at the forced narration from the recent Spirit film. The Wraith was the brother of Jean DeWolfe, although she's only referred to as "his fallen sister" in a nice nod to classic Spidey stories. Of course, the Punisher nails this pompous doofball and quickly returns him to the land of the dead, but it is fun while it lasts. My other favorite villain here is the Human Fly, re-imagined into a cannibalistic murderer. The Fly is totaly nuts here, and his powers seem to be ramped up to make him a real threat to the Marvel U. There are some nice bits with Basilisk and Death Eater too, where they are threatening GW Bridge and his family. I hope these two villains get to stick around for awhile, but I'm afraid that all the dead villains will be gone again by the end of the story. These retro-characters still make for awesome villains though, I'm thrilled Rick Remender seems to find them entertaining too. I'll be picking up this trade for sure.

                            Tan Eng Huat's art is a bit more stylized than Jerome Opena's was, so the pencils do take some getting used to. The art isn't bad, just a bit less mainstream that we had been getting.


                            Longbox Reviews: Adventures of Captain America (1991)

                            Here's my first feature for a new comic site where I review the old Captain America orgin book from 1991; Adventures of Captain America.

                            I'll occasionally link you guys to my posts over there when it is original content. Exciting!

                            Tuesday, July 21, 2009

                            Titans #15

                            Why is the DCU so freaking depressing. Was it really necessary for Tempest's wife and child to be killed off-panel? I know this just sets them up to return as zombies in Blackest Night, but c'mon, surely there are enough dead folks out there that we don't need to kill off a named hero and a child. I'm not even saying this as a huge fan of Dolphin, but I can recognize wasteful killing when I see it. In fact, I think this is even lazier than killing off a character to establish your big bad. Killing off heroes off-panel for no real purpose? That's my new cheapest death.

                            J.T. Krull does an ok job with the rest of the story, he seems to know his Tempest history at the least. Tempest has always been a bit of a moper, but this is getting ridiculous. I can't get mad at the character for being this grouchy when his life has been this crappy. It is interesting that the new barbarian status-quo set up by Kurt Busiek has basically been brushed aside. The new Aquaman just left, leaving his shirt as a memento. The Atlanteans are all returning to the city. Everything is kind of back to status quo. I wasn't pleased that Mera was kind of brushed aside as being too sad to function, that doesn't seem like her. But setting up Tempest in a leadership role is fine if we get to see more of him. I did enjoy the brief conflict with Slizzath, it makes sense that villains with close ties to death would be hopping on the Black Lantern bandwagon. Also, in case my review didn't make it clear, Tempest never goes on a rampage against his old teammates as the cover suggests.

                            Jose Luis' art is a bit inconsistent. Sometimes everything looks great but the anatomy is off in a few places too. His art definitely fits in the Titans-style though, so at least it is consistent. My biggest problem is that with all the death in the DCU, it is such a dark place that I don't see how Blackest Night won't leave the DCU a very depressing place.


                            New Mutants #3

                            Zeb Wells is really doing some nice work on this series. I'm impressed at how he's already got the voices down for each of the characters involved, and starting out with a focused look at the core cast is a good move too. Cannonball is still the responsible team leader, taking everything on his shoulders, of course, Dani Moonstar was always a leader too, so that sets up some great conflicts this issue. When Cannonball decides to force Dani out of the fight, she's enraged. It's a great scene that had me seeing both characters' points of view, you can't really blame either one. Legion isn't the most interesting bad guy. His multiple personalities are often pretty generic and are not much more than sterotypes, but since each one has a different power set, it is fun seeing him mix up his powers to take out different characters. I was impressed at how quickly he took Sunspot out of the fight with just an elastic tongue. The whole idea that Legion is targeting his "fixers" seems like a bit of a stretch. Legion certainly has many people he could hold a grudge against, so making him pick out the New Mutants doesn't make a lot of sense. But at least he's a villain who has been off the scene for awhile and has variable enough powers to be a challenge. I did enjoy Wells' recurring scenes of Dani being rescued twice in big dramatic arrivals from her teammates. I'm not sure I could pick a favorite of the two since I like all 5 characters involved.

                            Diogenes Neves does a neat job on the pencils. His action scenes are nice and kinetic, but what impressed me the most was the way all his characters look different. Magma and Magik have totally different body shapes. Dani doesn't look like either of them, and her facial expressions as Cannonball leaves her behind were over the top, but very effective. Nice stuff!


                            Monday, July 20, 2009

                            Chew #1

                            Thanks to Image comics for giving this away free in the most recent issue of Walking Dead. I guess this is getting some sort of crazy buzz as the next big thing, but I dunno, it just isn't my cup of tea. I like John Layman's story well enough, although I question some fundamental things in the story. The premiere issue sets us up with an interesting status quo; the FDA polices the country to make sure that no one is purchasing and eating any poultry due to bird flu fears. There is now a thriving illegal industry of restaurants and chefs that specialize in supplying and preparing chicken and other fowl. It it an interesting sci-fi idea, but it seems like a bit of a tacked on bit when the core concept is so unreleated. Our protagonist is Tony Chu (a bit on the nose, isn't it?) a cibopath, that is, he experiences the memories of whatever creature he eats (except beets). Chu happens onto the trail of a serial killer, and after eating part of the villain, Chu is able to find all the bodies and close out the case. The problem is that his colleagues don't know what to make of the fact that he was eating someone in an alley. In steps the FDA, who want to make Chu into a new agent. No doubt the FDA is well aware of cibopaths. What confuses me is that the cibopath thing is one bit of suspension of disbelief and the alternate future is another. So instead of one new concept to wrap out heads around, we have an alternate Earth AND a new concept/power. Chu seems like a decent new character, but I'm just not quite sold on the setting at this point.

                            Rob Guillory's art is fine, if a bit cartoony. I think that is really the only way to go with such a gruesome core concept. For me, I'm just not sure I'm up to read a comic about a cannibal every month. It's just a tad too gross for me. I can handle Walking Dead since those are monsters, but the whole idea behind Chew makes me a bit sick. I know, I know, I'm a wimp with inconsistent rules, but what can I say?


                            Wednesday Comics #1&2

                            I had planned on picking this up in trade, but I'm afraid I'm too taken with the high concept and the band-wagoning that makes this seem like so much fun. And sure enough, I'm delighted with the presentation of this material, it really does feel like you are whipping out a newspaper. With the images so large and impressive, my daughter is enjoying sitting on my lap and reading along with me.

                            To review, I'll just lay out the features individually so far:

                            Batman - Fair but nothing incredible.
                            Kamandi - Stunningly good. This should be an ongoing.
                            Superman - Actually feels like a newspaper strip. Not fantastic, but strong.
                            Deadman - Neat take on a character who deserves the spotlight.
                            Green Lantern - The art steals the show here, so art-deco and post-modern it's breathtaking.
                            Metamorpho - Just plain fun.
                            Teen Titans - I'm not sold on why this made the cut so far...
                            Strange Adventures - This needs to be an ongoing. Pope is rocking Adam Strange.
                            Supergirl - My daughter's favorite strip, so it must be doing something right.
                            Metal Men - The art is so classic looking it makes the story feel "right."
                            Wonder Woman - Too many words and the art is confusing (I must be a moron).
                            Sgt. Rock - Again, it "feels" right, like a lost classic.
                            Flash - The most newspapery of the bunch, but I'm loving it.
                            Catwoman - This could easily support a miniseries.
                            Hawkman - Visually stunning and spot-on.


                            Sunday, July 19, 2009

                            B.P.R.D.: The Warning TPB

                            Wowza. John Arcudi and Mike Mignola aren't playing around. This TPB is packed with action and it is tremendous. I never would have guessed that Abe Sapien would turn into the number 1 ass-kicker for the BPRD, but I'm thrilled to see it. When Liz is kidnapped/lured away by the mysterious Gilfryd, Abe, Johann, and Kate are just about the only headliners left in the book. We do get a bit more from the bookish Devon, and I do like him, but we need some more named members of the BPRD to root for, I think. We are introduced to Bruno, a German cop who at least for the moment is bonding with Kate, and I'd love to see him join the cast permanently. While it is great seeing actual competence from the face-masked BPRD agents, I'd like to see another named lead to replace all those we've lost. In fact, Abe brings up the point perfectly in a closing cheers to Hellboy "To Hellboy. Where is he when you need him?" It's pitch-perfect. I can only hope that Hellboy will eventually make a triumphant return to help his adopted family soon.

                            There is a lot going on that the BPRD needs help with. The frogs are on the loose. There are multiple masterminds plotting and creeping around the borders of the story. Gigantic hyporbean robots are leveling cities. The gross little goblins from earlier in the series have gotten smarter adn more blood thirsty. In short, there is an incredible amount of danger being tossed into this rising action, and if this is just a warning, the main event should be staggering.

                            Guy Davis' art is once again, perfect. I'm so impressed at the way he can shift tones from full on action like the giant robots and the BPRD explosive team to the quieter spookiness of the rain-coated children in the street. He can mix and match so well, I loved the panel at the end where Abe is sitting in a hotel room. After all the madness and mayhem of the past day, there Abe is, sitting in a hotel room having a drink like any other fellow on a business trip.


                            4-Year Old Reviews Marvel Super-Heroes #13

                            Featuring Spider-Man, She-Hulk, and Tigra

                            There were too many robots in this. The dog was funny. The birds were ok. The ponies should not have been robots. The robot dog was cute and thought he was a real dog. I like She-Hulk because she is a pretty green but the Leader is an ugly green so I don't like him. Spider-Man did not want to go shopping. I think She-Hulk and the Leader are the strongest in this comic. Spider-Man was trying to be funny.

                            I liked it.

                            Saturday, July 18, 2009

                            Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #1

                            So all of these stories have one big thing in common: Death. The opening chapter that promises to give us backgrounds on the players in the rainbow of corps currently clogging DCU's spaceways is not really uneven, it just isn't that good. The art is fantastic in all three stories, but the writing in all three wasn't even as good as the backups we were getting during Sinestro Corps War and the Orange Lantern story.

                            Tale #1 by Geoff Johns and Jerry Ordway is a pretty depressing story where Saint Walker loses each member of his family while on a pilgrimage to find someone to save his world. I never like seeing kids die, and adding in the death of Walker's wife and father just made this seem like overkill. I like that Walker can maintain his "All will be well" attitude when his life has gone down the crapper so much, but man, this was depressing.

                            Tale #2 by Peter Tomasi and Chris Samnee gives us a little background on the current Mongul. We see him as a boy in awe of his father, the first Mongul, and we get to see how twisted and messed up Jr.'s values are after having a family like that. I'm impressed that Mongul is still a junior and that Superboy's punching didn't re-write Mongal out of existence. This is packed with lots of casual death too, as the Mongul family enslave and kill a spaceship full of refugees. Again, a real uplifting story.

                            Tale #3 is our first glimpse of the Indigo Tribe from Geoff Johns and Rags Morales. I really liked the designs for the Tribe, especially the weird little octopus man. The "Nek. Nok. Nuk." dialogue was sort of silly (and reminiscent of the Three Stooges!) but I can appreciate the mystery. I found it interesting that Indigo finishes off a wounded GL in this, rounding out the trifecta of death in each story.

                            Again, the art was beautiful in each of these tales, but man, with all that death, DCU space must be an awful place to be.


                            House of M: Avengers TPB

                            I know what you are thinking. House of M wasn't really that good, so why spend any time looking at this trade? Let me ask you some things first.

                            • Do you like the Avengers?
                            • Do you like What If stories?
                            • Do you like Luke Cage, Hawkeye, or Misty Knight?
                            • Do you like good art?
                            • Do you like Christos Gage?

                            If you said yes to any of those questions, you'll love House of M: Avengers. Christos Gage has put together a story in the House of M story where the world doesn't matter, all you need to know is that mutants are on top, and Luke Cage has put together a team of humans to fight back. Gage's story follows the Avengers through a few decades and we see the ongoing battle between his Avengers and Thunderbird's FBI team, the Brotherhood. Gage absolutely packs this thing with spot-on appearances from dozens of characters. Cage gets most of the narration and the best lines, but there is plenty left over for the rest of the team, including Hawkeye, Moon Knight, Tigra, Mockingbird, and Iron Fist. We see Punisher, Taskmaster, Kingpin, Bullseye, Elektra, Black Cat, Misty Knight, Shang-Chi, the New Warriors, Boom-Boom, and more. It's Gage's work on Cage that makes this such a strong story. This "felt" more like the old Power Man Luke Cage than anything I've read in the last few years from the mainstream Marvel U.

                            Gage even follows through with one of my core understandings of What If? stories. Every What If? story must show us how either the Punisher or Wolverine has ended up; in this case we see an alternate Punisher. I loved this take on Frank, but I won't say anything else and ruin it.
                            Mike Perkins draws great looking heroes. Whether set in the 70s or in current times, Perkins' characters look dead-on. His combat scenes are great, with fluid looking shots that really sell the fighting. The eventual confrontation between Thunderbird and Cage felt important and was totally worth the wait. Perkins' ladies look wonderful too, Tigra, Misty, Black Cat, they all looked gorgeous.

                            This trade delivered everything I want from a What If? story, regardless of the strength of the original material.


                            Friday, July 17, 2009

                            Deadpool #12

                            Since he came onto the comic-scene, Daniel Way was never one of my favorite writers. I'm going to have to eat my words now though, as his Deadpool comic continues to be well done. Way's Deadpool is silly, but still competent. Sure he's a goofball trying to be amusing, but he beats out Bullseye in this issue fair and square. There is no way to debate who won after this confrontation. In wrestling terms, it is a clean win thatI can't believe Marvel allowed.

                            I liked the resolution to the feud with Bullseye finally just paying off DP himself. It lets the main players (DP and Norman Osborn) stay strong and yet we still get a satisfying conclusion to the arc. Having Bullseye tell DP that Osborn wouldn't be able to keep it together was also a nice touch. I've seen similar sentiments in a lot of Dark Reign titles and it is fun seeing that even Osborn's closest allies think he's just a few days from a breakdown. This isn't a groundbreaking book, but it keeps DP looking tough and lets him bounce around the Marvel U and into some unique guest stars. That's pretty much what I want from a Deadpool comic.

                            Paco Medina really sells the humor here. The panel with DP hanging out at a taco stand was well posed. Just from DP's posture it was clearly a setup for Bullseye and Osborn. DP's stunt driving had a sense of fun silliness, yet still effectively took out Bullseye. It was a good snapshot of how DP works these days.


                            Captain America #601

                            Huh. I hadn't figured on liking this as much as I did. It certainly was the one-shot style story that I had feared it would be, but the story held up much more strongly than I expected. Winter Cap tells Nick Fury of an WWII encounter that he and Cap where they had to go up against their friends. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I wasn't expecting vampires. It makes sense of course, considering how well Gene Colan handles drawing the undead. The story is fairly generic, with the heroic pair running around taking out vampires in the usual ways. I did like seeing Cap and Bucky in this type of partnership, where they seemed a lot more like equals than the sidekick relationship we used to get. Cap never comes across as weak, but he's certainly more compassionate than Bucky, so it's neat seeing them on equal footing.

                            Gene Colan's artwork is the star of the issue. His Cap and Bucky both look great. Colan weaves a tapestry of gloom with shadowed pencils that really sells the horror aspects of the story. The gloomy WWII front comes alive with threatening shadows made even spookier since there are ghouls in the darkness. Ed Brubaker did a great job crafting a story that played to Colan's strengths. In the past I've been unimpressed by some of Colan's work, but his work in this issue sells the story through his excellent use of atmosphere.


                            Thursday, July 16, 2009

                            Mighty Avengers #27

                            I'm surprised to see Christos Gage credited with scripting over Dan Slott's plot here. I've heard the stories that Slott has a hard time meeting deadlines due to some perfectionist tendencies, so I wonder if Gage is going to be a regular part of the creative team to help move things along and meet deadlines. EDITED TO ADD: Slott actually explains why Gage is coming on in a recent Newsarama interview. I'm happy to see it! I'm be fine with that, since I like both writers and they worked well together back on Avengers: The Initiative.

                            Most of the story here is a flashback to the fall of CENSORED, a mysterious former king of the Inhumans who removed something called a Slave Engine from Attilan. It seems this reduced Attilan's standing in the world and changed it to the well-known status as a "great refuge." I never got a full-on villain vibe from our mystery king, even though he was facing off against youthful heroes Black Bolt, Medusa, Gorgon, and Karnak. We do see the king again in the present when US Agent, Quicksilver, and the GRAMPA agent see him take on a new Chinese super-team (including Radioactive Man!). USAgent has the best line of the book when he yells out that they just got "Alpha Flight'ed" when the king takes them out in one hit. What a great new verb, even if I'm still annoyed that Alpha was taken out so easily in New Avengers.

                            Pym's new HQ is revealed too, Avengers Infinity Mansion, a huge HQ with teleportation doors leading all over the world. I get the impression each Avengers member has quarters there, which is a neat idea. Jocasta maintains the place and now can bounce control amongst multiple robot bodies.

                            Koi Pham's art is looking more refined than he did in his last issue. I think the break between issues allowed Pham to spend time tightening his pencils making this look pretty strong. I will say I think the book would benefit from a regular penciller.


                            Walkind Dead #63

                            So much for my theory that the "Hunters" were just another group of survivors that had been scarred by similar circumstances as our main group! Dale isn't being grilled for information like I thought, what is happening is much worse.

                            We also find out more about the newest addition to the group when the preacher explains why he deserves to die. It turns out he turned the other cheek and let his congregation suffer outside the church while he remained barricaded inside and hoarded food to ensure his own survival. It's a pretty scummy thing to do, but I don't know that any of the cast is innocent at this point, so I'm curious to see if they allow him to come along with them. The meat of the issue is the revelation of the hunters and their motivations. It's a post-apocalyptic staple to include this type of survivor, so I'm hungry to see how Kirkman handles these guys going forward.

                            Charlie Adlard's pencils are well done as always. He really nails the closing scene perfectly, and the big reveal should leave you feeling sick to your stomach.


                            Wednesday, July 15, 2009

                            Blackest Night #1

                            I do love comics! Once again, I find myself all riled up and excited about a new comics event, this time with the Green Lantern-themed Blackest Night. Geoff Johns and company have done a masterful job manipulating expectations and timing in order to maximize this debut and with the first issue we have a nice flashback to those summer crossover feelings.

                            Johns starts the story with a neat idea, that the anniversary of Superman's death has become a day of celebration for all fallen heroes. We get a quick tour of the DCU, seeing bits with the JLI and Ted Kord, Mera and Aquaman, the GLC and the hall of fallen GLs, the Rogues and more. Barry Allen and Hal also visit the vault containing the fallen villains of the DCU that Peter Tomasi presented back in Nightwing a couple years ago. At this point, there are plenty of Black Lanterns to threaten the living. This feels a lot more like a DCU crossover rather than a GL-specific one since so much time is spent on the Earth-based heroes and so little on the emotion corps. Scar does finally upgrade from shadowy manipulation as she savagely attacks (and eats!) another Guardian. This book is not for the squemish!

                            Johns gets in plenty of trademark ultra-violence. The gruesome murder of two heroes is as savage as anything he's written, and the book actually opens with Black Hand eating some flesh off of Batman's skull. Keep it classy Geoff! Speaking of the fallen heroes, their murder is worse because it comes from a friend. This particular black lantern was one a lot of folks hoped would be exempt from coming back evil, but this is a clear signal that everyone who comes back is totally corrupted. Another bad thing for our heroes? The fallen immediately rise as black lanterns. I was laughing to myself that with these two coming back evil, I think I have more favorites amongst the dead than the living in the DCU. Maybe I'll cheer for Black Hand! Although it is hard not to side with Guy Gardner when he reacts with "You gotta be kidding me" when he sees a mass of dead GLs (including Ch'p!) assembled against him.

                            Ivan Reis' work is clear and classic looking. His work on the icons is so solid that this first issue instantly felt like a DCU crossover classic. Of course, the gore and viscera factor is much higher than we're used to, but we're used to that with Johns, right?


                            Incredible Hercules: Love & War

                            Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente are crafting a modern Marvel classic. These stories don't change your life or make you re-imagine your thoughts about comics, but they are darn fun.

                            Hercules and Namora are off frolicking on an island when a group of Amazons kidnap Amadeus Cho and make off with him back to a Lemurion museum they've taken over. This brings Namor into the story, and there is a wonderful sequence where he and Hercules start battling until Namora stops them. It turns out Hercules knew they didn't need to fight, but he didn't think it was worth stopping the fight over a little detail. That's just awesome. Hercules' casual attitude about his protege's time with the Amazons is hilarious from start to finish, as he's just hoping Cho can get some action.

                            Meanwhile, Cho doesn't hit it off with the leader of the Amazons as he figured, but with an interesting gorgon-lady who is quite taken with him. I really dug the star-crossed infatuation the two shared, especially with the sad resolution that we all knew was coming. Cho couldn't really be happy, could he? As always, there is the required rib on Cho's "Fifth-smartest person" status too, as he's forced to admit he got the label from a soup company.

                            Namora was great in this, she's a fantastic character and I can't wait for the new Agents of Atlas trade. Namora is pretty much a lady-Hercules. She's out to smash people and have a good time. If she keeps appearing in books like this, she may quickly make it into my list of favorite characters. The other revelation in this trade was the first appearance of the Olympus Group, Hera's corporate posse of evil gods out to get Hercules. I'm excited to see what comes of that in upcoming trades.

                            Clayton Henry does a great job here. His core cast look good, of course, but I was really impressed that he succeeded in making a snake-headed Gorgon cute. Plus, he provided us with what might be the best Hercules panel ever.


                            Tuesday, July 14, 2009

                            Batman #688

                            This was a much stronger effort from Judd Winick than last issue. Maybe is is the new penciller, but the story picks right up and has a lot more good characterization and action than what we saw last month. Dick Grayson is his own Batman, appearing on camera, smiling, leaving evidence for the cops. Bats' villains recognize there is someone else behind the cowl, which is a nice statement on just how well Penguin and Two Face know their nemesis. Grayson goes into a hissy fit about his costume too, but I didn't mind since it led to a nice scene about Alfred having to handle a different set of neruoses with Grayson than he did with Bruce Wayne. I totally don't see where the Commissioner Gordon thing is going. It seems he's flipping the bat-signal on and off and bringing a new cop up on the roof regularly. I am not getting any sense of what that story is about, but I assume it will be revealed. I don't know if I like Penguin as a villain who beats his underlings, but I did enjoy Two Face taking one of his hechmen under his wing as more of a trusted aide, it's a side we don't see often.

                            Mark Bagley's pencils pack a lot of punch. The story seems to just move more quickly now, and the fight scenes are nice and dynamic.


                            Green Arrow/Black Canary #22

                            Wow. That is some stilted dialogue. I just don't understand how Andrew Kriesberg has destroyed Black Canary and Green Arrow's heroic nature so quickly. Green Arrow is now teaming up with the vicious villain Cupid, and when the two of them confront a murderer, he just might have allowed her to kill him. Black Canary is directly responsible for creating her new villain, Discord, with her careless actions a few issues ago when she deafened a talented musician. Neither of the title characters seem like people I want to follow here. They seem like they have become about as effective as Red Arrow, which is a damning statement for me.

                            The flashbacks to Dinah's childhood are... suprising. Not that Dinah and Wildcat teamed up, but that she and Wildcat talked with the flowery, philosophical language that they did. It's really awkward stuff, and it actually made me laugh when Black Canary actually said "Because I know now that will be my life. Maybe I've always known. It will be brutal. And terrifying." It goes on like that. That is just... wow.

                            Mike Norton's clean pencils tell the story clearly, like they always do. Discord's design is nowhere near as inspired as Cupid's, but they can't all be winners.


                            Monday, July 13, 2009

                            Ms. Marvel #41

                            It is very interesting to me that Brian Reed's strongest parts in this issue are the funny bits he gets to do with Deadpool. At first, I was annoyed to see DP show up here, since he's all over the freaking Marvel U these days, but I have to say, he comes off pretty well here. There is some sort of weird over-story with some babies who are "storytellers" and Ms. Marvel being split into 4 different colored light beings. I don't really understand any of that, so obviously I don't think that the story is very compelling.

                            However, Reed does pretty well with his guest stars. Wolverine is amusing in his dismissive greeting when Spider-Man arrives on the scene. Deadpool vs. Moonstone is a pretty amusing fight, with the battling captions and dialogue from ther merc working well (and best of all, DP provides the editorial boxes for the issue). So there is some good stuff here, but those parts are buried under a greater story that is in no way working for me.

                            Sergio Arino's art is ok. He's not as much of a cheesecake artist as some recent Ms. Marvel artists, which is nice, but his work doesn't exactly wow me yet either.


                            Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth #1

                            I like Deadpool. I like jokes. But I'm getting kind of over-exposed on the disposable DP plots. At this point, there have been so many throwaway stories about DP taking jobs that I just can't take this very seriously. If the zombie Deadpool-head ends up being a driving force in this comic, it may end up having some unique qualities. As is, this feels too much like every other DP story we've gotten since Daniel Way re-designed the character's thought process.

                            AIM hires DP to head into the Savage Land to retrieve the zombie head, and DP meets up with a hot AIM agent, Ka-Zar, and some cavemen as he makes his way to the target. The action is pretty generic as DP faces off against faceless hordes of cavemen, which is always a bad sign in premiere issues. I've long thought that series with first issues featuring generic ninjas, robots, or zombies were off to a bad start. It usually means the writer doesn't actually have a whole lot of ideas for the series other than cool action shots of the hero shooting disposable fodder. I don't think Victor Gischler is falling into that trap yet, they are cavemen after all, so that is a bit different. But there just isn't enough different for me to be fired up about this book.

                            Bong Dazo does a decent job on everything except Ka-Zar, who looks weird and pretty-boyish. He draws nice ladies and his Deadpool sells the jokes, but the cavemen ended up pretty generic looking.


                            Sunday, July 12, 2009

                            Serenity: Those Left Behind TPB

                            Brett Matthews does an incredible job mimicking the tone and cadence of Joss Whedon's property in this limited series. The plot itself is very thin, and barely does more than give a good reason to see a lost adventure from our space pirates. But Mal sounds so perfect, that mix of smug and self-depreciating that worked so well on the cartoon, I could almost hear Nathan Fillion's voice. Inara and River sounded dead-on too, it really was amazing that Matthews put this together so well. There are stops and little adventure bits to show off the toughness and tenacity of the crew, but there is nothing Earth-shattering about the actual plot (which I understand Whedon worked on). I enjoyed this visit with some of my favorite characters, even knowing the fate of some of the crew.

                            Will Conrad's art looks quite strong, and he hits a good balance of celebrity likeness and solid storytelling. Staying too photo-realistic would take you out of the book, but Conrad doesn't let it go that far. Everyone looks on-model and close enough to the actor to make things familiar, but he doesn't let poses and realism overtake the storytelling. The average plot lowers the overall quality of the series, but it is enjoyable for what it is.


                            Dark Reign: Zodiac #1

                            I was pleased to read a Joe Casey comic that has very little to do with publicists and PR and really just dealt with straight up villainy. The new Zodiac reveals himself at the end of the issue, but other than being young, nothing about him really struck me. The new Zodiac is building up an network of villains who want to remain just villains and don't want to buy into Norman Osborn's "respectability." The group includes Manslaughter Marsdale and Death Reaper, the latter claims to be Nekra's daughter, but I didn't recognize either of them. Whirlwind and Casey-favorite the Clown make up the rest of the team. I'm sure Casey was happy to use the Clown again (he was a supporting character Casey's old Deathlok book years ago). Zodiac is on a rampage, slaughtering HAMMER agents and generally causing problems. He eventually confronts the Human Torch and handles him pretty easily, mixing insults and prepared weaponry very effectively to take out the hero. Casey spends a bit of time with some HAMMER agents too, and I find myself always enjoying that aspect of Dark Reign. The folks who stuck around after the fall of SHIELD are an interesting bunch and I look forward to seeing more of them.

                            Nathan Fox's art is not classic-Marvel by any means, but he totally works on this book. The heavy inks and expressive faces work in this visceral story and he does a better job on the super-heroic aspect than I expected. He's got a Tommy Lee Edwards/John Paul Leon style to him that I really like (which is part of the reason I commissioned a Moon Knight sketch from Fox last summer at Wizardworld Chicago).

                            This looks well-put together, and I'm hoping this will be collected with Frank Tieri's DR: Lethal Legion book so I can get all this villainy in one trade.


                            Saturday, July 11, 2009

                            Thor #602

                            I get the impression that JMS is clearing the decks and re-setting Thor's pieces for the next creative team.

                            Thor finds out where Sif's essence is being stored in NYC in a dying woman. Thor is understandably desperate to get to her and seeks out Dr. Strange to help him get his hammer into working condition. Earlier in the issue the transformation from Don Blake to Thor knocked out Thor, so he needs this fixed pronto. Dr. Strange mumbles some hocus pocus about bonding Thor and Mjolnir and how any great damage to the hammer could kill Thor, but I can't imagine this is going to be a long-standing effect, it is too vague and hard to quantify. The bigger impact is that Thor had to imbue much of his Odin-force into the hammer to fix it, so I assume Thor is back closer to his old power levels. The rest of the story deals with Baldur and his dealing's with Loki's machinations to bring the Asgardians to Latveria. Baldur is nobody's patsy though, and he reveals his true craftiness to the mortal William. I was pleased to see that no one has forgotten who they are dealing with in Loki. It also looks like Loki is back in his normal form, since Sif reappears as herself at the close of the issue. Again, it seems things are "mostly" back where they normally are, except that Odin is dead and Asgard is in Latveria. JMS has set up some nice ongoing conflicts during this run, but overall, I still prefer Thor doing more smashing than talking.

                            Marko Djurdjevic's pencils are somewhat inconsistent. Some of his panels look tremendous, and he does a wonderful job dealing with costumes, especially Thor. Some of his "normal" people look a little sketchier and the inks make some faces a bit lumpy.


                            Fury of Firestorm #1-7 (1982)

                            I've recently been reading Essential Spider-Man and I was surprised how much I really found myself digging Gerry Conway's work. After being pleasantly surprised by Last Days of Animal Man #1, I decided to hunt down Conway's early Fury of Firestorm work at my local bookstore. I'm glad I did.

                            I had always figured Firestorm was a generic hero with a neat look, and with my only real exposure to Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein's fused hero being in John Ostrander's "fire elemental" days, I figured it was a boring concept. (Those aren't Ostrander and Mandrake's best comics.) What these early Firestorm books read like is a Spider-Man book if Peter Parker was carrying around Uncle Ben as a co-pilot. It's a great idea, seeing Ronnie Raymond's high school life, only Ronnie is a basketball jock getting the girls and his rival Carmichal is the brainiac who is constantly outsmarting and embarrassing him. It's a great twist on the normal outsider role in comics and it is one of my favorite parts of the book. Just as in early Spider-Man, the high school setting is integral to the story, with the first villain being Ronnie's transformed teacher who becomes Black Bison.

                            The other half of the Firestorm persona is Martin Stein, a physicist who sort of floats along with Ronnie, giving advice and appearing in panels as a floating transparent head. One of the neatest aspects of this relationship is that Stein can't remember most of what happens as Firestorm, but while he's there he can assist Ronnie with everything from life lessons to scientific observations. As they each disappear from wherever they were whenever the other wants to become Firestorm, there are some nice secret identity predicaments set up in these early issues, especially when Stein's absenteism becomes an issue at his job. After Black Bison, Killer Frost shows up to make things difficult for Firestorm, and he has to fight the JLA to get them to give him a chance to beat his own foe. After bringing in the Piper and Pan, we have a decent rogues gallery and some nice interpersonal drama with Ronnie caught between his "normal" girlfriend and the woman we know will become Firestom's lady; Firehawk.

                            Pat Broderick's detailed pencils work wonderfully with the subject matter. He has a talent for drawing faces, and I was surprised at how great his work looks with the Firestorm costume. I remember him from Captain Atom and Green Lantern, but these might be his best pencils.

                            I just picked up issues 8-15 (and cleaned out the bookstore) so after that, I'll have to hit a con or something to finish Conway's run.


                            Friday, July 10, 2009

                            Invincible Iron Man #15

                            Matt Fraction keeps with the slow burn in the World's Most Wanted story arc. Things are happening, but nothing is really changing, if that makes sense. That said, what we do get here is pretty cool. Tony is losing his smarts by the minute, in one sad scene, he even asks "Who's Happy?" after he forgets his chuaffer and one of his best friends. I was a little surprised at Pepper and Tony hopping in the sack together, for some reason I thought they were in the "unrequited" classification like in the movie, but maybe I'm forgetting something obvious that happened.

                            Madame Masque seems a lot more like the character I remember from old Iron Man comics. In the Hood and New Avengers books, she comes across as more of a generic mobster moll, which takes away some of her coolness. I'm glad Fraction is using her and Tony's history as a pretty huge plot point. The rest of the issue had Maria Hill and the Black Widow rooftop racing around NYC avoiding HAMMER agents. It seems Black Widow is going to break down and bring Hill to Winter Cap, so maybe we'll see what Tony had hidden in the Controller's base. Having Hill suffer from brain damage after breaking free from the Controller is a neat idea, it makes her brave escape a little harder to duplicate when that villain is used again.

                            Salvador La Rocca's photo-realistic art works surprisingly well on Madame Masque, she looks like quite the femme fatale throughout the issue. I also dug his HAMMER agents using SHIELD-style glider-chutes.


                            Final Crisis Aftermath: Run #3

                            This is the last Final Crisis series standing for me, as I'm not picking up any more of the others. Matt Sturges is winning me over with his crazy pacing and great dialogue. I don't like Human Flame any more than I have in previous issues, but Sturges is so good at dealing with all the surrounding characters that I can't help but get caught up in the action. The Human Flame isn't interested in being a pawn of Immortus, and so he of course busts loose from the gang of losers he was forced to join last issue. Before that happens, there is a great battle sequence with the losers going up against the US Army. Condiment King yelling out mustard-related threats and Imposter in the uniform of another branch of the service were one thing, but Clayface's appearance was awesome. Clayface was a bruising force of nature. It was great watching him mock and threaten the Flame. The high point of the issue is actually when the Army is carting Clayface away and he yells back to the JLAers "See you around Losers! Tell Human Flame I said to eat it!" That casual jerkiness is missing in way too many bad guys these days! I liked Angel Dust too, she's a generic looking character but her manic dialogue was quite fun.

                            Freddie Williams III has that nice cartoony style that is working well on parts of the story, especially the JLA and the more "heroic" aspects of the book. I'm not sure if the Flame is supposed to be out of shape or not in his new form, since he looks buff but thinks about how he is out of shape.


                            Thursday, July 9, 2009

                            Green Lantern #43

                            This prologue to Blackest Night actually feels much like Geoff Johns' old Flash issues that he would spend getting to know the Rogues. This is all Black Hand, all the time, with no Bruce Wayne gravestones actually involved. And while the whole issue spends more time with one villain than on the greater Blackest Night threat, the parts we do get are quite creepy and excellent.

                            Johns seems to be able to get into the dark minds of his villains in unique ways, and he does it again here. Black Hand is the middle son of a mortician, and he's been fascinated with death his whole life. In fact, we find out here that the first Black Hand suit is actually one of his family's body bags. Death or whatever entity is behind the Black Lantern rings starts speaking to BH, and gives him a flash of all those heroes and villains who have died recently, including some of my faves like Ted Kord, J'onn J'onzz, Maxwell Lord, and Ronnie Raymond. What I found fascinating was that Johns chose to list these characters by their "real" identities, not their more recognizable super-hero IDs. The entity then shows BH those who have escaped death, like Superman, Wonder Woman, and Ice. When Black Hand assumes "death" wants them back, death corrects him "No, I want them all." It's a spooky scene setting up the crossover nicely. After a grisly murder-suicide, BH is set up to be the avatar of death, much like Parallax and Ion. Blackest Night is going to be good folks, Johns is bringing his A game.

                            Doug Mahnke is a great penciller on whatever he does, but when the subject matter lends itself to his moody and dark pencils, he excels. This book looks so creepy and dark I actually found myself a little concerned at the mental health of the creative team. That's the sign of a well-done scary comic!


                            R.E.B.E.L.S. #6

                            This book just doesn't fit in with the rest of the DCU. I mean that in a good way! We have players and factions who haven't been a factor since DC's Invasion showing up and playing important parts here. As a fan of that era, I'm thrilled.

                            Tony Bedard has set up a huge conflict with the new barbarian Starro and his invading army. This issue shows the initial conflict as Starro quickly takes over the Dominion homeworld using the normal face-hugging Starros. It is a neat battle sequence that shows how effective the combination of Starro-types are going to be. The Dominion does send out a warning to the rest of the cosmos, and we get to see the reactions from the space-faring races of the DCU. The Khund, the Citadel, the Gil'Dishpan, Kanjar Ro, the Durlans, and more all react in appropriate ways as they take in the new threat and the new vacuum of power with the fall of the Dominion.

                            As expected, Vril Dox succeeds in turning the Khund warrior Amon Hakk over to his side, and he adds the Durlan spy Ciji to his group too After retaking control of his LEGION robots, Dox seals off this corner of the galaxy, "setting the board" for his conflict with Starro. Dox declares he's going to need more help to take on the Star Conqueror, and it looks like it is going to be pretty fun. No Omega Men this issue, but lots of great galactic facts keep the transitions moving along nicely.

                            The art by Claude St. Aubin is nice and detailed. He has quickly mastered drawing the myriad of space-races factoring in to this conflict. I'm excited about this series since it feels more like 90s DC than anything else in their line.


                            Wednesday, July 8, 2009

                            Secret Six #11

                            The awful moral conflicts that Gail Simone set up last issue sure don't take long to boil over, as the Secret Six come to blows over whether or not to keep working as security for a super-jail in the tropics. As an aside, I'm not sure there is any other super-team in existence with this many inter-team fights this early in the series. I think these guys have fought each other 3 times by now, and that may be low... although Hawkeye used to take swings at his teammates in the Avengers, but that took like 60 issues.

                            In any case, Scandal, Bane, and Jeannette decide they morally can't go along with the whole slaving idea, while Catman, Deadshot, and Ragdoll are ok with it. What I love about the book is how quickly these alliances can shift too, since I'm reasonably certain the split was different last time. As a Bane fan, I loved seeing him face off against Catman, with Catman saying something like "You never fit in," of course, once Bane starts swinging, Catman isn't quite as confident, is he? The fight is well done, but the real shocker comes with Wonder Woman's arrival at the close of the issue. It seems Artemis, already a prisoner of the slavers, has died from her constant beatings and drugging. Wonder Woman is justifiably ticked, and she's out to find out who's responsible. Is Jeannette more evil than she seems?

                            Nicola Scott's wonderful facial expressions are on display again here, as she gives both the stars and the guests unique looks. This is a fantastic comic.


                            Trial of Thor #1

                            Now that JMS is leaving Thor, I'd love to see Peter Milligan take over. He is such an oddball writer, I find myself loving his stuff. He's like a toned-down Grant Morrison, but not so changed that I don't like his stuff almost as much as Morrison's. In this one-shot, Thor is accused of killing random Asgardians. It seems the ongoing war with the frost giants has already driven some heroes to madness, so it is not impossible that Thor, the greatest warrior of them all, would also go crazy. Odin tasks the Warriors Three with finding out if his son is responsible for these murders. The Warriors do a primitive version of CSI, along with some mage-ing to figure out if there are Uru traces on the victims. When there are, a warrant is sent out to take down Thor. I loved seeing the "classic" Asgardians sent to take down Thor. They included Tyr and Karnilla, two background Asgardians who have neat looks, so either Milligan or artist Cary Nord have been flipping through old Marvel Handbooks. The Warriors Three eventually throw in with Thor, even though they think he's a murderer.

                            Of course, it is all an evil plot from the dwarves and frost giants, so the four heroes go on a kill-spree to clear Thor's name. The actual plot is fairly by-the-numbers and uninspiring, but the characterization and details are excellent. I loved Milligan's take on the "heroes" of Asgard, and his throwaway lines like the one about Valkries screaming themselves hoarse were fantastic at building the fantasy world needed for the story.

                            Cary Nord's art was perfect for this material. After years honing his barbarians on Dark Horse's Conan title, he is a natural at drawing the brutal Asgardian world. The savagery of combat looked tremendous. His take on the classic Asgardians was fun too, with his Hogun the Grim being especially cool with his bushy moustache.


                            Tuesday, July 7, 2009

                            War of Kings #5

                            DnA remain a consistent asset to the Marvel U. The newest issue of War of Kings gives us the alternate Inhuman plan that has been hinted at for a few issues now. Black Bolt plans on sacrificing himself to detonate weaponized Terrigen Mists, forcibly evolving the universe, making everyone an "Inhuman" and therefore equal. It seems a little simplistic a plan, and one that I don't think would actually stop the Shi'ar, so I was disappointed to see that the Inhumans actually thought it would work. The rest of the issue deals with some great combat with Gladiator and the Starjammers taking out their frustrations on the Shi'ar Death Commandos. Gladiator is brutal here, ripping people apart and taking his rage out on anyone he can get his hands on. He's going to be in a neat place at the conclusion of this series. Could he join the Starjammers? That might be pretty neat to see. After seeing how Starbolt was portrayed in the War of Kings: Skaar special, I don't think the Imperial Guard is going to be a team of tweeners anymore, they are going to be full-on villains. The high point is of course the final page of the issue, where Vulcan finally confronts Black Bolt. It's about time these two powerhouses met up, and I bet the conclusion of this story will be a doozy.

                            Paul Pelletier's art shines with this cosmic stuff. From the echo-sentinels to Maximus' new uniform to Gladiator's combat, everything looks wonderful. I'm a big enough fan of Pelletier to say his art actually elevates most of the stories he works on.