Monday, August 31, 2009

Dark Reign: Mister Negative #3

This was a pretty unnecessary limited series. The series opened with Norman Osborn declaring war on Mr. Negative for daring to resist joining his super-army, and it closes with Mr. Negative essentially setting himself up as the Hood's peer, so he just joins the super-army after all. The entire exercise didn't really deliver anything dramatic about Dark Reign. Spider-Man and Betty Brant didn't really need to be in this story either, I think the strongest parts were the gang war elements, not the silly evil Spidey chasing around his old friend.

As an origin for Mr. Negative, it holds up a bit better. Fred Van Lente gives us a pretty clear origin for Spidey's new foe, complete with a nice tie to classic Marvel characters. It seems that Martin Li/Mr. Negative is actually a human trafficker, a brutal man who left his ship behind and attempted to escape into New York. Silvermane collected and dropped him off on Ellis island to receive experimental drugs and be tested upon. Sound familiar? It should. That's Cloak & Dagger's origin. It seems this trafficker escaped right after Cloak and Dagger and later took on Martin Li's life as his own, doing good deeds as Martin Li while committing evil as Mr. Negative. So Li/Negative is a perfect yin-yang of the balance of good and evil. It's a neat concept, but I'm not entirely sure I understand it. Is the Li part of the character actually a good guy?

The art by Gianlucca Gugliotta is pretty difficult to follow. I couldn't tell who the trafficker was clearly enough to get any dramatic impact from the scene where Mr. Negative saves Li's wife. Everyone had lumpy faces making it difficult to tell people apart. In a story where race was so important, I'm not sure using a post-racial art style was the right choice.


Iron Man #86 & 87 (1976)

This is Bill Mantlo as his best. I'm not sure if this two-part story came as part of a longer run or was a fill-in, but man, this was just a solid super-hero comic. The plot is very simple; Blizzard is raiding Stark Enterprises to steal the Climatron, a weather controlling device. The interesting part is that Blizzard actually invented the device while working for Stark, but Stark decided it was too dangerous to use. Now Blizzard is back and taking out his frustrations on Stark's "bodyguard" Iron Man.

What impressed me the most about this story (especially the first half in issue #86) was the beatdown that Blizzard handed to Iron Man. From start to finish, Blizzard is dropping the temp to tax Iron Man's armor, setting IM up for ice spikes, ice rams, and best of all, a quick ice-slide boost up into the ceiling. Pepper Potts actually has to thaw out her employer at one point when Blizzard freezes him solid. It's not easy to make a C-lister villain seem like a threat, but Mantlo does a great job here.

George Tuska's art is solid. I liked his unique designs for each cop, security guard, or bystander in the story. Each person had different hair or a moustache to tell them apart. The actual Blizzard design is simple, but effective.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Justice League of America #173 & 174 (1980)

I never realized how much of a jerk Flash turned into after Iris Allen died back in the 80s. It turns out that instead of Green Lantern and Green Arrow butting heads non-stop, it seems GA and the Flash had their share of problems too. It was an interesting time, since the rest of the league kind of just watches Barry Allen mope and complain, hoping that he eventually cheers up. I've never read Gerry Conway's satellite JLA run, and I'm finding it interesting and fun.

The main plot of these two issues consist of Green Arrow nominating Black Lightning for membership in the League. Black Lightning is a lot cooler here than I remember, using his powers to kick butt and I really liked the way Jefferson Pierce is balancing his two lives. He had a much more Spider-Man feel than I'm used to with the character. There is a great scene where BL has to duck away from the cops so he can try to get a few hours of sleep before teaching classes the next morning. Of course, he doesn't succeed.

Issue 173 has the League dressing up as loser villains to test BL's abilities. After he proves worthy, BL decides to just stay on his own. 174 is more action packed as the League goes up against the Regulator and his horde of giant vermin that are overrunning the city. I appreciate that the Regulator's long-term plan is to have his vermin escape Metropolis and start breeding, eventually wiping out mankind. That's some good long-term planning!

The art is by Dick Dillin, the classic JLA artist. Everyone looks exactly right (although Zatanna's costume is awful).

Good (in a cheesy, 80s kind of way)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Wolverine: To Russia, With Love TPB

This is probably going to be my last trade of this title. It's a bad sign when I enjoyed the classic reprint from 1980 more than the new material.

Fred Van Lente's stories are harmless enough, but I don't really think they say anything new about the characters involved. This strongest story in the trade told a flashback tale of Wolverine and Alpha Flight as they faced off against other men who had been used in adamantium experiments. This was actually an entertaining story that used Alpha quite well. It was by far the best of the new stories.

The other two issues had Wolvie, Shadowcat, and Colossus fighting, then teaming up with the Soviet Super-Soldiers. The story is pretty generic with government testing creating some sort of collective mutant and of course radioactive fallout. Nothing too thrilling to be found here.

Clayton Henry provided the best art with Alpha Flight. The remaining chapters by Salva Espin and Steven Cummings was servicable but nothing riveting.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Batgirl #1

Hmm. I'm pleased that the new Batgirl is who I thought it was, but I find myself pretty uninterested in her exploits.

SPOILERS ON: For those who missed it, Stephanie Brown, former Spoiler and former Robin is now Batgirl. It seems Cassandra Cain gave up the cowl when Bruce Wayne died, since she did all of her fighting for him. That leaves Stephanie behind to pick up the pieces. Steph is an interesting character, and I did like the parts of the issue dealing with her struggle to keep a promise to get out of the vigilante game. Bryan Miller succeeds in giving Steph a unique voice. I'm not sure if she's a freshman in high school or college though. Got to be college, right? She's been teaming up with Robin for years and years now.

I didn't care for the use of Barbara Gordon/Oracle. Miller uses the characterization established in her recent mini-series; that of an angry, moody almost recluse. Portraying Oracle that way really weakens the character, she was the brains of the DCU and now she's reduced to melodramatics and beating up toughs on the subway. I understand the mentor/mentee role that Miller is setting up, but that's a major step down for a former member of the JLA and leader of the Birds of Prey.

Lee Garbett's artwork is average. I found some of the action panels confusing (especially in the opening drag race) and his shot of Stephanie in the shower seemed unnecessary. I will say the choreography for the closing fight was much nicer, the action was clearer and easier to follow.


Nixon's Pals TPB

Joe Casey is kind of hit or miss with me (more hit than miss, actually). This original trade from Image is decent, but not great.

This trade tells the story of Nixon, a parole officer for super-villains and the mess that is his life. Nixon has all the normal problems you'd expect from a noir detective; a cheating wife, numerous people out to get him, rivals at work, etc. The package has some great parts. Many of the villains are fun, original, and punny (like Dr. Hugo Blivion). Casey tosses the reader into a fully realized super-world, and it is a grimier place than we're used to. I can't help but wonder if some of the ideas are there just to test the boundaries in an adult comic (like the stripper with faces on her chest) and the violence is ridiculous. Nixon would be dead 10x over from the damage he takes in this thing, especially if he's a normal human.

That said, Casey is a great writer and there are great bits of dialogue and the overall story wraps up like a good detective story should. Although the secondary bad guy is taken out a bit randomly.

Chris Burnham's art is solid. His character designs are strong and he does a nice job with the action panels. His quieter moments are a tad more uneven, and Nixon looks inhuman once he's sporting all those bruises. But overall the book looks nice and sports great character designs.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ms. Marvel #43

This whole War of the Marvels thing is dragging only two issues in. This title had a bit of a shot in the arm when Moonstone took over as Ms. Marvel, but then Moonstone started acting oddly when the big-headed babies started controlling her. Now we've got a Ms. Marvel who is acting robotic, a script-writer who thinks she has some tie to Ms. Marvel (and is no doubt the real Carol Danvers) and Moonstone now wanting to fight to keep her heroic title. My problem is I'm not really learning anything new about any of the characters. We know Carol Danvers will get her mantle back, so this all just seems a bit like an exercise in futility.

I will say it is always fun seeing the Dark Avengers doing their best to avoid self-destructing on each and every case. Brian Reed does have some nice scenes with that here. I am confused at the heavy emphasis on Green Goblin though. Osborn hasn't really been a focus of the story before now, so I'm wondering what the relevance is showing his home life and feelings about Ms. Marvel. I think I may have spoiled a Spider-Man plot point for myself too...

The art by Sergio Arino is a step up from what we've gotten the last few months. The Dark Avengers all look good. Ms. Marvel is back to looking like a comic-book woman rather than a cartoon woman.


Justice League of America #153 (1978)

I'd heard of Ultraa, but I wasn't prepared for just how ridiculous his appearance in Gerry Conway's JLA would be. This story is all about the different Earths of the DCU, with the five most popular Justice Leaguers pulled from Earth-One to Earth-Prime. The reason? Julie Schwartz had run a poll of the most popular Leaguers, and Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, and Green Arrow won the most votes. Since so many people on Earth-Prime were thinking about those heroes, they were pulled to the "real" world. The heroes were unable to transport themselves home because of the appearance of Ultraa, the first super-hero of Earth Prime. There was some sort of link that bound the heroes together.

Ultraa sports a similar origin as Superman (last survivor of a lost race, crashed on Earth as a baby, etc.) The big difference for Ultraa is that his life-support computer has been corrupted and is now out to kill him. There are some fantastic leaps of story logic in this to keep the plot moving along. The best is when the computer decides that the JLAers must be Ultraa's allies because they also have powers.

The design for the computer is actually pretty cool. The plot is filled with some nice interplay between the leads and Batman got to be sneaky and effective as usual. The story wrapped up with a well-set case of mistaken identity. Ultraa does agree to leave Earth-Prime and return to Earth-One with the JLA, so now I'm curious what happened to him. As for the issue itself, I'm afraid I just can't get over the inherent silliness of Earth-Prime, which takes away from the story for me.

George Tuska fills in for regular artist Dick Dillin and Tuska does a nice job. Everyone looks on-model and as I said, the design for the killer robot was very original. I'd almost say the robot looked like an early version of the Fury robot from Alan Moore and Alan Davis' Captain Britain.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cable #17

I just can't figure this comic out. I took a pass while the book crossed over with X-Force, and now that I'm reading it again, it seems Cable and Hope are stranded in some post-apocalyptic world with only two cities still alive. One is clean and orderly, run by Stryfe's followers, while the other is a mess of "unclean" people. Both groups are attempting to flee the now-hostile planet Earth. This issue and the last dealt with Cable overcoming his techno-organic virus (again) and Hope befriending a young man in this dark future. There really isn't anything more going on. Bishop is still hunting Hope, and Cable is still trying to protect her. This comic really hasn't moved on at all since issue 1.

Paul Gulacy's artwork is always nice and expressive, and it is again here. I don't really care for his take on Cable or Bishop, but Hope looks good, especially as she ages.


Invaders Classic TPB 1

Roy Thomas has a habit of being really wordy with his stories and the first few issues of the Invaders lives up to those wordy and kind of boring trends.

The opening arcs are against stock silver-agey guys like Brain Drain and a bunch of aliens pretending to be Germanic gods. Nothing too exciting happens for awhile as Thomas goes through all the normal reintroductions for the core cast of Captain America, Namor, Human Torch, Toro, and Bucky. Thomas does immediately establishes a fun rapport between the senior members of the team. Namor calls the Torch "firebug," and the Torch calls Namor "water rat," clearly setting up their relationship. Namor is a heckuva lot more chatty than I remember him being and while he still hates surface men, he is also a lot more willing to talk smack than I'm used to. Another great bit with Namor is how often he makes veiled threats that he will turn on his teammates after the Nazis are defeated. He's not the greatest ally.

Things pick up when the Red Skull kidnaps and brainwashes the core team, leaving only the "worthless" Bucky behind. The story spins out into two fun issues of Marvel Premiere, introducing the Liberty Legion. The Legion is filled with luminaries like Blue Diamond, Red Raven, Miss America, the Whizzer, the Patriot, the Thin Man, and Jack Frost. Mixing all those guys together with Bucky and putting them up against the heavy hitters was a great idea, and the 7 on 3 fight is almost fair.

The closing story was the best of the trade, with the Invaders adding Union Jack to their lineup as they go up against Baron Blood. This was a good little story with lots of trickery from the Baron making this a closer matchup than I expected.

Frank Robbins' art was ok. He has a habit of doing odd faces and eyeballs, but for the most part everything looked ok.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Titans #16

Starfire is one of those characters that I like the potential of far more than I like the actual character. An alien warrior-princess freed from slavery to be a hero on Earth. That's a great high-concept. Yet she is usually relegated to crowd shots and pin-ups, or being Nightwing's girlfriend when she's lucky. I was pleased to see that she'd be featured in an issue of Titans. Unfortunately, while it is an effective recap of her story, there isn't a ton new here to like.

Christopher Yost handled the story here, but I don't remember seeing his name with other Titans material in the past. He certainly handled the many elements of Starfire's past well though. He tied the story into Infinite Crisis with a thematic connection with Starfire's slavery to the anti-life equation and her childhood slavery. Unfortunately, the way the story is presented, with Starfire telling her dreams and memories to a psychiatrist, I'm not sure we get anything new. Starfire doesn't really seem to have a breakthrough or anything, she's still mopey and crying at the end of the issue. The neatest thing about the issue is that Vixen asked Starfire to join the JLA. Perhaps this is a hint about James Robinson's upcoming lineup? Maybe an appearance in the JLA will enable Starfire to live up to her potential.

Angel Unzuetta's art is solid. There are many callback panels to big events in Titans and Outsiders, so clearly the reference is solid.


Ultimate Spider-Man TPB 19: Death of a Goblin

Bendis' best work is on his solo titles. Daredevil was fantastic, and I still love catching up on Ultimate Spider-Man. I had been considering dropping this title, even in trade, because it seems the Ultimate Universe is being revamped or something, but man, am I glad I gave this book another trade to win me over.

With Nick Fury missing after Ultimate Power, Carol Danvers has taken over SHIELD, which means she is in charge of the many prisoners held in the Ultimates HQ. The most dangerous is Norman Osborn, who of course breaks free and wreaks havoc throughout New York. I really enjoyed the way Bendis included Doctor Octopus and Electro in the escape. Using those villains added a cohesive feel to the book. In particular, I loved the way Electro was just so sick and tired of dealing with Spider-Man. Osborn tried to wage his battle against Fury in the press, which made me wonder if Bendis was thinking through his eventual Dark Reign ideas here. Osborn ends up doing the exact same thing (with a better ending for him) after Secret Invasion, so it is interesting seeing the idea toyed with here.

Eventually, there is a huge showdown with the Hulkbuster SHIELD agents, Spidey, Shadowcat, and the Hobgoblin (Harry Osborn) against the Green Goblin on the deck of the helicarrier. It's a great fight, filled with the witty banter from Spidey that Bendis does so well. The story ends the only way it could, although I really doubt it is permanent.

Stuart Immonen came abord as the regular artist in this trade, and wow. His art is breathtakingly beautiful. The action scenes are dynamic and exciting, and his quieter panels are filled with emotion. I'm convinced that a huge part of why I liked this trade so much was because of Immonen's art.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Amazing Spider-Man: New Ways to Die TPB

I was really excited to read this story, since it had Dan Slott writing and JRJR's artwork, and I have to say I ended up a tad disappointed. I think it boils down to an expectation thing.

My main problem with the story is the basic idea of Anti-Venom. It is such a silly name, I just have a hard time taking it seriously. I do like that Spidey makes comments all through the storyline poking fun at the idea too. Slott uses the T-bolts to good effect, but most of the team doesn't get much panel time. The story belongs to the Green Goblin, Bullseye, and Venom. Songbird and Radioactive Man, the two most heroic members of the T-bolts do act in character (basically good guys), but they stay in the sidelines of the story. Green Goblin had some cool developments, Osborn is back in his costume, which was great to see. I always like Norman's good ranting against his son and there is plenty of that here. I'm a tad unclear on the whole spider-tracer killer thing. That story isn't resolved here, correct? Osborn makes an announcement saying it is over, but I'm pretty sure he's just selling that idea to the press.

Slott had a neat idea about a tracker in Spidey's suit that keys to Peter Parker's automatic camera. After Osborn got his hands on the camera, he started keying bullets to follow the same tracker. That's an excellent high concept, and the way Slott played it with Bullseye was fantastic.

JRJR's art was great, of course. He's one of the premiere Spidey-artists these days, so it was great seeing his version of Spidey swinging around again. I would have liked to have seen a take on the original Venom, instead of Anti-Venom and the Mac Gargan Venom. I also must confess to missing JRJR's bulky version of Spidey from the late 90s.


Quick Preview of November 2009 Solicits for Marvel

Available here. Agree or disagree? Something else catch your eye?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Brave & the Bold #26

This comic started out really strong, then just kind of petered out. John Rozum has a neat idea where the Spectre kills a murderer, but then the murderer starts killing ghosts and nice vampires. It seems that Spectre is only allowed to cast judgement on the living, so until the very end of the issue, the Spectre is kind of hands off. He eventually changes his mind and just pops the murderer's ghost to eliminate the problem.

You might ask who the team-up is in this one, and the answer is Xombi. The problem is that Xombi doesn't really have useful powers. He regenerates from physical damage but his main contribution to the plot is basically "hey Spectre, remember when you were a cop and wanted to help folks?" That's what inspires Spectre to take action at the end, but that's a pretty weak role for a hero getting top billing on the cover. I never read Xombi in the Milestone days and I hate to say there isn't a lot of incentive to go back now.

Scott Hampton's art is moody and spooky like it needs to be, but it is occasionally unclear too. I had a hard time discerning when the ghost was around or when it was Xombi after he took some damage, that's how close their faces were. When Xombi is Asian and the murderer is white, that's a problem.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Red Circle: Inferno #1

JMS' story introducing the Red Circle characters is an interesting experiment, although I find the lack of an actual villain to be lowering my interest at bit. This issue focuses on the mysterious survivor of the cruise ship that sank in Hangman last week. It seems this mysterious survivor can't remember his name or any other history, but when he is threatened by a hitman, he switches bodies with another amnesiac self, only this one has fire powers. Inferno remembers just a tad more and races off to stop another bombing. Inferno's powers are fairly generic, although the normal clothes look does set him apart a bit.

The problem with the lead being a cipher is that there is not a lot to interest me in coming back for more. I'm not sure I care to find out more about either of Inferno's selves. I did like seeing Hangman again, he's a fun character and he gets to be a little more like a normal super-hero when he confronts Inferno. And the Web looks like he's going to be a lot of fun next week.

Greg Scott's artwork is dark and moody, actually reminiscent of Michael Lark or David Aja (that's a good thing). I'd like to see Scott get more regular work if he can bring this level of quality on an ongoing basis.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Invincible #65

Kirkman pays off his swerve of the last few months by delivering the funeral of Rex Splode rather than Atom Eve. Most of the issue is setting up the new status quo where Atom Eve's powers are a little more unpredictable than we're used to. It seems her creations and changes are a little bit imperfect now. What she did get right was a few "improvements" to her assets from when she healed herself last issue. It seems Invincible digs her larger personality too. ;)

Much of the issue deals with the losses of the past few months while also ramping up the threat level presented by the sequids, the Viltrumites, the government, and even Invincible himself. The book closes with Invincible deciding that he will use lethal force when necessary. This comic is always so good and well thought out. It is actually hard to imagine getting a Superboy comic this good.

Ryan Ottley handled Atom Eve's improvements well, it is noticable, but not over the top. I liked his take on the Image cameos at Rex's funeral too, although I want to see how Bulletproof is dealing with being a hand down.


Blackest Night: Superman #1

I picked this up on a whim based on how much I've been enjoying the other Blackest Night material from DC these days. I'm glad I did. There is a lot here that makes reference to current goings-on in the Superman books that I have no idea about. Superman doesn't live on Earth, Supergirl commutes between New Krypton and Earth, and Superman has permission to come back too, I guess. Kal-L, Earth-2 Superman gets his ring this issue and immediately starts racking up a bodycount. I'm not sure how many residents of Smallville get killed this issue, but it is a lot. James Robinson does a good job showing the devastation a Superman can cause when motivated by evil. I was confused by Kal-L's ally, I actually thought that OUR Superman had lost that friend and I was pretty shocked I had missed such a big death. Judging from the closing dialogue, this is another Earth-2 counterpart though.

Robinson does a neat trick in showing the changing emotions of everyone dealing with Kal-L. Superman in particular is a never-ending rainbow of Will, Hope, Rage, Fear, and everything else. I hadn't seen the emotion-viewing power of the Black Lanterns used this way before, I thought it was more about the dominant trait of the character.

Eddy Barrows draws some good undead gore but also does a nice job on Superboy and Superman. His detailed style works well with the subject matter.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mighty Avengers #28

This one doesn't have much forward movement. Last month we found out about the secret king of the Inhumans who was banished by Black Bolt and his cadre of royalty. After living in exile for so long, this lost King finally returned and was rampaging across China. After defeating China's super-heroes, US Agent and Quicksilver realize they are outmatched. This issue picks up with Quicksilver and the Agent calling for help, only to have the signal cut off by Loki in her Scarlet Witch disguise. Stature complicates things by witnessing this, setting up a big confrontation with Stature at the close of the issue. Making it a bit more interesting, Stature seeks out her Young Avengers teammates and brings them back to the Avengers mansion to confront who she thinks is the Scarlet Witch. She brings along a tag-along too. Ronin shows up at the end of the issue wanting some answers too. I wish Ronin was in his Hawkeye duds, of course, but I am pleased to see him showing up in a book I'm already enjoying.

As I said, there is not a lot of plot movement with the Inhuman King, and right now we're only getting teases about the Scarlet Witch reveal. I'm hoping next issue kicks it up a bit and we get more payoffs, this title has been a tad slow lately.

Khoi Pham's art is looking sketchier and sketchier. I think the book would benefit from a tighter inker coming in and finishing up some of the characters. This book has a large cast, so I'm sure it is a lot of work, but too many times background character's faces end up being lumpy or unfinished looking.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

DC's November 2009 Solicits!

My thoughts on some of the solicits are available here.

Adventure Comics #1

Wow, that was mighty slow-paced. So little actually happened in this premiere issue that I felt like I had already read most of it in the free previews DC put in the back of their books a few weeks ago. This really was a total set-up issue. Geoff Johns doesn't even provide a real conflict, well, not a physical one at least. Superboy has moved into Superman's old room in Smallville, where's he's attending high school, saving girls from collapsing bridges and playing with Krypto. It seems that Lex Luthor is from Smallville again too. (I thought that was retconned?) So Superboy spends some time wandering around the ruins of Casa de Luthor to learn about the other half of his genetic template. Superman shows up to warn off Superboy, telling him there isn't anything to be learned in the wreckage. Superboy promises he wants to stay away from Luthor, which is a lie, putting SB on Lex Luthor's path too. So the only conflict we do get is Superboy's inner turmoil at who will be his template for development, although he seems to be leaning pretty heavily pro-Superman.

The Starman back-up story seems to relate directly to the core plot, as Starman meets up with some big alien from the Legion who is hiding in a lake in Smallville. I don't know who that weird alien is, but it seems the two parts of this comic will be tightly interconnected, which isn't a bad thing.

The art in both features is fine, although I'm a bit more of a fan of Clayton Henry's crisp, classic pencils. Francis Manapul is going for a real soft, hazy look to play up the laid back nature of Smallville. That's fine, but it just made me feel kind of sleepy as I read the lead story. It might boil down to the current Superboy being too mopey for me. I always liked Superboy in the leather-jacket and silly goggles from Karl Kesel's run. He was a lot more fun then. (I'll admit he was silly looking though.)


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

R.E.B.E.L.S. #7

Tony Bedard has really improved this comic over the last few months. The opening sequence with the Dominator Admiral trying to escape Dox's force field using an endangered "space-whale" instantly gives the reader an emotional reaction. What was so well done was that Bedard has the Dominator do a similar thing at the end of the issue, giving the book some nice parallel plotting.

Dox and his expanding team of REBELS spend the issue trying to get the Gil'Dishpan, an aquatic race known for the teleporting, to evacuate their planet and sign up to fight off Starro. During the negotiations, a neat new Starro-slave shows up and leads an attack on the alien planet's methane-oceans. After some neat sequences showing off Gil'Dishpan defenses, this shark baddie succeeds in getting most of the Gil'Dishpan leaders under Starro control. As Dox and the REBELS evacuate the planet, the Dominator joins up, but leaves a little surprise behind for Starro. The Dominator's actions are cold hearted, but they may have been the right move. I do hope that a fair amount of aliens did warp away from the planet though...

Bedard continues to drop bits of dialogue that show how great his handle is on the cosmic side of the DCU. There are references to LEGION and other space books that really tie this series back to the early 90s. The references add a lot for me, but don't seem like they'd be overpowering for a new reader.

Andy Clarke's art is fantastic. He uses a lot of cross-hatching, but the detail here is incredible. Every character and alien looks on-model, no easy task with this wide-spread a cast. Plus his design of the new aquatic alien controlled by Starro is a neat addition. I'm surprised how much I'm finding myself intrigued by all these leader-types in Starro's army.


Dominic Fortune #1

Ever since I was disappointed meeting Howard Chaykin at a con, I've kind of been avoiding his work. I decided to give Dominic Fortune #1 a chance since it seemed thematically similar to American Flagg, Power and Glory, and the other "adultish" type work that I used to dig from Chaykin.

Maybe those stories wouldn't hold up for me anymore, since I found very little to like in with this MAX series. Fortune is a rogueish mercenary who isn't funny enough to be interesting. Instead, he's merely unlikable. The world he lives in is filled with perverts, drunks, and whores, so it's really not a pleasant place to read about. I have certainly enjoyed other comics with this type of "adult" atmosphere, but I need a more riveting plot or at least a more likable protagonist to get through them. As near as I can tell, Fortune has been hired to guard 3 older jerks as they go on their booze-fueled party through 1930's era California. As a bonus, there's plenty of loose women and racism tossed in to make everyone deplorable. Just not enough there for me, I'm afraid.

Chaykin's art takes some getting used to, as always. Fortune has the square jaw of a hero while the other men look more varied. Every woman in this comic looks like a prostitute and since I believe roughly half of them are portrayed servicing a fellow in some fashion, I suppose that art style is appropriate. Again, just not my cup of tea.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Blackest Night Spoilers from November Solicits

Wow. Is that who I think it is? If DC actually does this... wow.
The actual solicits confirm that it is that character, transformed by Blackest Night. Surely not dead...
I'll put my money on it now: She's a White Lantern. You just watch!

This is a solicit for a new Black Lantern series figure solicited for November from Newsarama.

Justice League: A Cry for Justice #1&2

This really is as bad as you've heard. The dialogue is forced and self-important. The characters are anguished and acting like tough guys. The melodrama level is high as the random deaths and anguish is turned up to eleven to justify all these characters to be whining and moping around. To be honest, I can't believe this is James Robinson (The Golden Age, Starman Firearm, etc.). I used to seek out all of his work, but his recent DC work has been inconsistent at best.

Issue 2 actually has a line like "The world hasn't seen the heroics of Ray Palmer, the Atom." Jay Garrick makes this prophecy to cheer up Ray Palmer, but man, it reads like bad fan-fiction. So far the only named hero to be killed is the Freedom Beast (who perished trying to save some gorillas, so he must not have been very good). Jay Garrick's chubby guard friends were killed too, but I'm pretty sure they're the three stooges or Charlie Chaplin stand-ins, so I'm not too worried about them. The core relationship between GL and GA is forced too, with the two of them constantly referring to the history of their bromance. Overall, this is not very good at all. I'll be passing on the rest of this series, and now I'm concerned about the quality of James Robinson's upcoming Justice League of America.

Mauro Cascioli's painted artwork is suitably dramatic, but the subject matter is just so silly, I can't take it seriously. A golden gorilla screams "I want Justice!" to close out issue 1, and issue 2 has a javelin shatter against Supergir's super-chest. This is the rare series that seems to be making me like the lead characters LESS than I did before, making this a big misfire from DC.


Viking #1

The newest issue of Walking Dead again provided a free reprint of another Image comic. This time it was the "Viking crime comic" Viking. Maybe it is just me or the lack of color really took the comic down a notch for me, but I wasn't too impressed.

I had an extremely difficult time telling characters apart from each other, they all looked like shaggy vikings. That is to be expected of course, but I really don't know who the leads are or what any character's relation to anyone else is. I also have to assume that everything happening in the first issue is happening at roughly the same time. I couldn't really tell location or time changes from the way things were presented. In fact, after I got to the eel-fishing scene (where some characters are using a horse-head to get eels out of a river) I started skimming because I couldn't tell how any of the interludes I had seen so far related to each other. In fact, the only recurring thing I could find was that the fancy sword used by a slain character in the beginning is discussed laster in the comic. Needless to say, I don't think this preview will bring me back again.

It's too bad, because the art is very nice in places, there's a neat scene with a bear facing off with a lady and her father that looked nice. I just had too hard of a time discerning the importance of characters and scenes.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Doom Patrol #1

I've never been a big fan of the Doom Patrol. I sought out the late 80's version drawn by Erik Larsen in back issue bins because I thought it might appeal to my post-Crisis DCU palette, but it realy wasn't very good. I did enjoy John Arcudi and Tan Eng Huat's oddball version of the DP around 2000, but that series had very few ties to the older Patrol days. I bought the first two issues of John Byrne's version a few years ago, but found pretty much nothing to keep me coming back.

So I read this first issue a bit predisposed to not like it, but still hoping that I would be proven wrong. Unfortunately, this relaunch suffers from some of the problems plaguing the DCU as a whole these days. In the opening few pages, a teenaged Patrol member named Nudge is vaporized by machine gun fire. Keith Giffen spends much of the issue showing how the other team members react to this, but it still felt totally unnecessary and just added another death to the already mouldering DCU. At some point, DC is going to run out of characters to kill so writers can establish just how important and extreme their titles are. Ugh.

Out of the core members of the Doom Patrol, only the Negative Man is really interesting. There's not too much to Robot Man or Elastigirl, and the Chief just seems like a big jerk. Negative Man's bravado and humor make him the most likable character. Rocky from the Challengers of the Unknown shows up as a priest (?!?) but he doesn't seem very effective since he basically just takes turns being mocked by the Patrol members. I do like the idea that they are strikeforce for Oolong Island from 52, but I can't imagine the island will be as cool if it isn't evil.

Matthew Clark's pencils are fine, but a tad over-reliant on cross-hatching. There's not a lot to bring me back for issue 2.


However, the Metal Men backup is excellent. Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire have established my favorite version of the Metal Men in one issue. Each team member suddenly has a wonderful personality. The running jokes already feel comfortable and fun. To be honest, this is the closest this team has done to recapture the glory days of the JLI. I'm sold on the eventual Metal Men trade for certain.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Invincible Iron Man #16

Matt Fraction did a tremendous job re-establishing Madame Masque as an Iron Man villain while simultaneously acknowlidging her role in Dark Reign. This entire issue is basically Masque ranting and cooing at Tony Stark, trying to win him back. Masque is both creepy and desperate, the ultimate stalker, and the whole situation is made more awkward since she actually does have a history with Stark. She's a unique villain, eager to run off and go on the run with Stark. Her raving about doomed romance with a tied up beau is quite funny. I did like that Pepper got to be the hero for once rather than the victim too.

World's Most Wanted is moving along nicely, although I do have one major complaint. If Tony Stark is moving backwards through his armors, I really wish we could have seen the Silver Centurion armor. That's still my favorite! It sure would have been great to see Salvador LaRocca pencil that bulky suit for an issue or two.

LaRocca's art is always solid, and he does a nice job here. The hints we get of Madame Masque's face are truly spooky. His art really sells how gross it would be for Stark to have that metal mask pressed onto his face. Yuck!


Friday, August 14, 2009

Terror Inc. MAX TPB

Huh. This actually didn't impress me too much. I've never been a big Terror fan, but I usually enjoy David Lapham's work. This mini was sort of average though. Terror has the ability to rip off dead body parts and replace decaying parts of his body. This series reveals that his innate goodness is the result of his having used the arm of his beloved for hundreds of years. Her goodness overpowers the nastiness of the usual scum that Terror harvests for parts. Things get complicated when his former flame rises from the dead totally crazy and evil. Naturally, this sets off a vicious battle for control of the arm.

There are some neat ideas in here, but the story is shoehorned into a greater plot about Homeland Security, terrorists, and other unnecessary trappings that never really feel like they are part of the same plot. It seemed that those elements were present just to ramp up the tempo of the story. The personal conflict between Terror and his ladyfriend are well done, especially the final battle. Terror points out that he's been using her arm for hundreds of years, so it knows him a heck of a lot better than it knows her. He also comments how he liked her back when she was nice. It's a well played confrontation.

Patrick Zircher uses the detailed pencil-style he used in his Thor one-shots, so everything looked nice. The color pallette was a bit dark. I prefer his pencils with the brighter tones he had in Cable & Deadpool.


Absolution #1

Christos Gage has a neat idea for this Avatar limited series. Fed up with criminals committing horrific acts then walking away, police-sanctioned hero John Dusk starts taking matters into his own hands and killing criminals. What I really enjoyed about Dusk's descent into vigilantism was how incremental the steps of his fall are. He actually tries to save the first villain, White Power, until he sees what WP had done, then he lets WP bleed out. Later, after facing off against a wife-killer, it almost seemed like Dusk's blade-like forcefield slashed the husband's throat without Dusk meaning to. He seemed almost surprised to see the murderer fall down dead.

There are a lot of graphic scenes that didn't need to be so gross, but heck, this is an Avatar book. Many of the "adult" scenes could have been hinted at or suggested in shadows or with other normal comic tricks. The worst example of grossing up the material was at Dusk's teammate Alpha's family picnic, where she talks about what her husband loves to do to her in bed. Unnecessary. In fact, the only time I thought the "adult" nature of the title benefited the story was when Dusk was in bed with his girlfriend as he's suffering from flashbacks from his police case. That was an upsetting, moving scene.

Roberto Viacava's art is neat. He has that Avatar style down, with the thin pencil lines and hyper-detailed gore, but his super-heroes look decent too. They look like supers plopped into the Avatar world. So he's perfect for the project, basically. I will definitely be picking this up in TPB.


Walking Dead #64

Hoo boy. This was a solid issue. Kirkman gives us some nice personalities for the hunters as they rationalize their cannibalism to Dale. Kirkman gives Andrea a great scene where she describes to Rick how she fell in love with Dale after initially feeling very little for him. Kirkman keeps the plot moving along with small scenes with Michonne and Morgan and Carl and Morgan. Solid little book. Then we get to that last page.

It takes a skill to write the last page that gives the reader a chill, that makes you just chuckle with glee at what the protagonists are going to do. Rick's pronouncement about the Hunters on the last page made me laugh out loud and has me thrilled for next month. Oh man, those Hunters are going to get it!

Charlie Adlard does another solid job. He really nailed the opening scene with Dale mocking his tormentors. And that last page. Man, if I was rich, I'd buy that page.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Green Lantern Corps #39

Is there a more consistent comic than Peter Tomasi's Green Lantern Corps? I don't think so. This is a top notch book every single month.

With some complicated timelines to clean up, Tomasi immediately tackles the situation with some exposition in the opening pages. Kyle and Hal talk about how the Guardians bounced them back to Earth in time for Remembrance Day, commenting how Kyle got to visit Jade's grave and Guy got to visit with Ice and stop by Blue Beetle's resting place. As they discuss their personal lives (with a great revelation that Kyle's true love is actually Jade!) the two GLs meet up with Iolande and Soranik Natu. Guy gets in some good-natured ribbing of Kyle as they are forced to split up when the horde of black lantern rings swoop down onto Oa. There is a little more setup as Kyle, Guy, and the other GLs attempt to contact the Guardians with no success. Then the Black Lantern rings crash into the GL crypt, enraging the crypt-keeping GL who respects the dead so much. I can't remember that guy's name, but it was neat seeing another GL get important page time like that. (Plus he lived!) Finally, the issue catches up to the end of Blackest Night #1 as the GLs face off against their dead. The Black Lanterns see Guy as rage and the rest of the GLs as willpower, which was a fun contrast. The spooky close of the issue has Jade climbing on top of Kyle as he screams "God no!" Good stuff.

One of my favorite things that Tomasi has done is build the friendship between Kyle and Guy. They even yell out the same shout of surprise when they first spot the Black Lantern rings.

Patrick Gleason is excellent, as always. I hate to short change him, but I've been raving about his art for months now, and it holds up well here too.


Blackest Night #2

Geoff Johns stayed away from too much gore this issue, so I was a bit disappointed in that regard. However, my prediction that more and more heroes would be killed off to join the ranks of the Black Lanterns seems to be right on. The story is split between a few main characters, some surprising, some not. Hal Jordan and Barry Allen pop up in Gotham City while battling the Martian Manhunter. I wasn't aware that Hal knew Oracle's secret ID, but he makes a reference to knowing she'll put everyone on the case. The bulk of that fight was in GL 45, so Johns doesn't spend too much time recapping or anything here.

A suprising number of pages are devoted to Mera and Tempest as they discover that Aquaman's body is missing from his grave. Just like the other Black Lanterns, Aquaman seems to be the same guy we knew, only evil. It was a bit more heartbreaking seeing the undead hero face off against his wife and former sidekick. I did get a chuckle about Dolphin and Tula both coming back and fighting over Garth, that was very amusing. I never thought I'd read about a zombie boasting about her hotness like Dolphin did here though. Very odd. The new death happens in this storyline as Tula rips out Tempest's heart and he joins the ranks of the Black Lanterns. There is no way all these deaths will stick. I am impressed at how important Mera seems to be to the story.

There is also a sequence with the magic users of the DCU. Black Hand brought back the Spectre as a Black Lantern, so that's not good at all. This was the storyline that interested me the least. I'll wait for the Shadowpact team to show up.

The issue wraps up with the Black Lantern Justice League facing down Hal and Barry. The membership as of now seems to be Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Elongated Man, Sue Dibney, Firestorm, and Martian Manhunter. I was really hoping that Hawkman would have killed off the Atom too, so he would be there, but I didn't spot him in the splash page. Will zombie Blue Beetle and Aquaman be joining soon? I hope so!

This is like watching a train wreck as the DCU heroes get mangled and killed. Part of the reason I'm enjoying it so much is that I honestly can't believe that most of these deaths will stick. If they do, then the DCU will never be the same as it essentially takes all the fun away with shock deaths. But I'm confident Johns is better than that and we're just getting a fun little horror book that will end with a more restrained status quo.

Ivan Reis is drawing a classic here. I believe this story is going to become a DCU classic, and Reis' storytelling is a big reason why this is working so well.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Red Circle: The Hangman #1

This was a fascinating comic for a couple of reasons. I read about the Black Hood back in the Impact Comics days, and always thought the character was decent, but I wasn't aware of the Hangman. JMS opens the story with a lengthy flashback about a Union doctor left behind enemy lines. After delaying his escape to help a wounded Confederate soldier, the doctor is captured and set to be hung. In a neat cutaway scene, a mysterious being offers Dr Robert Dickering the chance to survive his hanging, but he must stay on the Earth meteing out justice until the end of time. It's a neat scene since we don't know who this stranger is. The devil? God? JMS never lets us know, shrouding the Hangman's origin in a neat little mystery.

The story actually goes a bit downhill when the story jumps forward and we see more of the Hangman in modern times. He's a pretty generic brute with very few qualities to set him apart from the heroic masses. I found the story much more interesting while it was set in the Civil War.

Tom Derenick's art always leans towards hulking heroes and hot ladies, but he actually does a really strong job on the normal builds of the soldiers in the first half of the book. I do like his art most of the time, but I didn't find the design for the Hangman to be too interesting. I'm not sure this is a character I care about seeing that much more. He's kind of like a crappy Ghost Rider. I find myself much more interested in Dr. Dickering than in the Hangman.


G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra - Nerd Rant


Hoo boy. I'm a huge GI Joe fan, and while Stephen Sommers tried to throw folks like me a few bones, this was not a good flick. I had a lot of problems with some of the core decisions, like making the GI Joe team an international strike force when the original tagline of "A Real American Hero" made that an odd choice. That said, the casting seemed ok, and outside of some odd choices like making Ripcord a pilot, I was still kind of psyched going in. After all, outside of big nerds, who really cares that Ace, not Ripcord, is the main Joe pilot?

So I went out and checked out the film, knowing I had some underlying problems that I hoped I could get past. There were more problems than what I expected. Snake Eyes' mask had a mouth! Ripcord hooks up with Scarlett, with barely any relationship with Snake hinted at for our tough redhead! Baroness is a BRAINWASHED hottie who had been engaged to Duke! Not only that, her nerdy brother is Cobra Commander. These are all odd plot choices that overly complicate things for normal viewers, and stuck in my craw as a Joe fan. These were problems above and beyond "Accelerator Suits."

Add in the frenetic pacing, the cartoony CGI effects, and the wooden acting from most of the cast, and I'm afraid this is skippable. Sommers tried, especially with some decent bits for fans like Breaker liking bubble gum (comics) and Heavy Duty yelling "Yo Joe" (cartoon). I particularly liked the ability of the core cast to survive explosions and gunfire that destroyed supporting characters (Duke in particular rides out a point blank explosion that should have atomized him). It is probably still worth watching, but I would advise against seeing it in the theater.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Uncanny X-Men #139 & 140 (1980)

These two issues were reprinted in Wolverine: First Class: To Russia With Love, and I have to say, I really enjoyed them. I'm not the biggest fan of Marvel's habit of printing only 3 or 4 issues in a trade but then padding out the collection with old reprints, but when they hold up this well, I suppose I can deal with it.

Chris Claremont and John Byrne tell the story of Kitty Pride joining the X-Men. It's a neat era, with Cyclops having just left and Storm taking over as leader, with Professor X still bossing everyone around, and Angel just rejoining the team. Claremont spends a lot of time on Kitty, showing us why she loves dancing (so she can be a "normal" girl) and giving her neat little foibles like the fact that Nightcrawler frightens her. Kitty is alredy the darling of the team, with everyone but Wolverine finding her adorable. Storm is actually jealous when Kitty's dance teacher likes her too. Claremont was great at giving his characters each a moment or two to shine, and everyone gets face time here.

The bulk of the two issues is the battle against the Wendigo. Wendigo is one of my favorite cheesy Marvel villains, so this was pretty fun. Half of Alpha (Vindicator, Shaman, and Snowbird) are augmented by Wolverine and Nightcrawler in facing off against the "woodsbeast," and it is a great fight. Nightcrawler and Shaman can't do much against him, but Vindicator gets in some nice licks. Wolverine and Snowbird are the main players in the conflict, with Snowbird adopting the form of a wolverine to actually tear up the Wendigo. Snowbird was a fun character here, kind of rough and tumble in her civilian identity as a mounty. I don't remember liking her this much in the actual Alpha Flight series. In her Snowbird form, she does way too much thinking and talking (a typical Claremontian trait).

Byrne's artwork is just top notch. No one draws that classic, action-style as well as he can. George Perez comes close, but I actually prefer Byrne's style in this era over just about anything else. The guys look tough and the gals look hot. Everyone's costume looks excellent too. Great work.


Chicago Comic-con News and Announcements!

Comic Book Resources has some great articles recapping Chicago's announcements. As always, I'm just posting these in the order of my interest.

  • Dan Slott supposedly dropped hints that Thor would be entering Dark Reign through Mighty Avengers. We couldn't be lucky enough to have him join that team, could we?
  • Realm of Kings - DnA's new status quo for Marvel Cosmic. It kicks off with a one-shot starring Quasar and will continue in two new limiteds; Imperial Guard by DnA and Kev Walker and Inhumans by DnA and Pablo Ramiondi. I love cosmic Marvel!
  • It sounds like Darkhawk will be a featured character in the Nova ongoing too! Combined with Guardians and we're getting like 4 DnA books a month for the forseeable future.
  • Jeff Parker is taking over the Thunderbolts, and he's promising to keep focusing on both teams of T-bolts. Excellent news!
  • Assault on New Olympus is the next arc of Incredible Hercules. The New and Mighty Avengers will be guest-starring, so I'm psyched.
  • Paul Cornell & Leonard Kirk are writing Dark X-Men, a new mini starting this fall. As you know, Cornell's work on Captain Britain guarantees I will purchase this.
  • DC's co-features will be getting their own trades, which is good to hear (so I can get the Captain Atom stuff after all).
  • Spider-Man & the Secret Wars tells the old series' story from Spidey's point of view. Sounds like another Marvel Adventures-style treat I can read with my daughter. (ALthough this is not an "Adventures" title, it sure looks that way.)
  • S.W.O.R.D. - a new ongoing starring Agent Brand, Beast, and Lockheed written by Kieron Gillen and Steven Sanders. I'm not sold yet, but I'm intrigued...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Age of the Sentry TPB

Jeff Parker and Paul Tobin deserve a round of applause. They actually made me like the Sentry. It turns out all they had to do was re-create the character as Golden Age Superman and suddenly the Golden Guardian of Good is a pretty cool guy. The two writers create a complete world for the Sentry, with a great golden age origin, a fun sidekick and super-dog, and even a great cover job. It seems Rob Reynolds is an encyclopedia entry writer, so naturally he has to travel all over the world to research that! I love how Rob slips away as the Sentry too. He gets a craving for custard and pops out to get some, a few minutes later, the Sentry arrives!

The TPB is just filled with great ideas. I loved that Ms. Marvel shows up as the Sentress. Manoo the alien is Sentry's buddy. Women everywhere swoon when the Sentry arrives. One of Sentry's best allies is a caveman lawyer of Wall Street. This was a whirlwind of neat ideas that really gave the Sentry a fun feel.

That of course, just makes the eventual conclusion more upsetting. After Cranio, the 3-brained villain (always 3 steps ahead!) and the Void team up to take out Sentry, the actually succeed. The Void absorbs so much of the Sentry's power that he actually collects Sentry's personality as he absorbs his powers. This is all presented as an "imaginary story," but Parker and Tobin have set out a great explanation for the ongoing sanity problems the modern-day Sentry suffers. If the guy we know is really the Void with Sentry's personality layered on, that is a great idea for a hero. And since the theory is floated by our narrator (and the smartest man in the Marvel U) Reed Richards, I'm inclined to believe him.

Nick Dragotta and a variety of back-up artists do a wonderful job drawing aliens, cavemen, hillbillies, super-heroes, and bubling brain-cases. This comic won't leave you thinking like Watchmen or Golden Age, but it will leave you smiling and chuckling as you ponder Ultra-Bears and mutated Lobsters retiring to Monster Island. The world needs more comics like this!


Deadpool: Suicide Kings #4

This story is a whole lot of filler around a pretty simple story. The plot of Tombstone vs. Deadpool doesn't really need 5 issues to be told. In fact, Tombstone went to the Hood this issue to draft the Wrecking Crew onto his side against the heroes. That's only fair though, because after he turned the Punisher over to his side, Deadpool had Spidey, DD, and Punisher all helping him. That said, Mike Benson still has some fun stuff to be found this issue. The ongoing competition between Deadpool and Spidey is darn amusing, and I actually do like some of the glimpses we're getting of Tombstone's criminal organization. Not to mention that any comic with the Wrecking Crew is automatically a bit cooler.

Carlo Barberi's art is very much on the cartoony side. He has a pretty good Deadpool, but I don't really care for his Ramos-inspired take on Spidey. I'm just never convinced that Spidey's eyes should ever look like they can widen or close. The rounded chins and circle eyes look a lot like the art from the main DP book, I'm just not sure how this style came to be associated with Deadpool.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Jack Kirby's OMAC HC (1974)

I've been spoiled by Kirby's Fourth World and Captain America material. Those collections were packed with Kirby's patented mad ideas and anchored by fantastic main characters. The OMAC collection has the wonderful ideas (like brain swapping, build-a-friend bombs, and war beasts that are a combination of animal, vegetable, and mineral) but the protagonist is pretty boring. OMAC doesn't have a lot of personality to him, so I don't have much concern or investment in him when he's put in danger. In fact, I'm more intrigued by the faceless Global Peace Agency officers than I am by Buddy Blank. Now with a name like Buddy Blank, I'm certain that our lead was supposed to be a cipher, but it does take away from the story a bit. There is still plenty to love in this, the odd dialogue ticks and quotation marks that I love in Kirby's work are liberally sprinkled through the 8 issues. Brother Eye is a neat character too, I'm sad to see the concept warped into a bad guy after seeing the original take on the eye in the sky.

Kirby's pencils are fantastic as always. This HC has some of Kirby's original pencils reprinted between each of the issues collected. It's fascinating seeing the dynamic action Kirby put into almost every panel. With the inkers changing 6 issues in, it is fun seeing the difference in what each guy brought to the story.


Nova #27

Things aren't looking good for Robbie Ryder. I'm really hoping that Rich can get to his brother before he dies, since that would really darken the feel of the Nova comic. I've said before that one of my favorite things about this comic is how "normal" Rich is when he's on Earth. I can't think of any other hero who called his Dad to get a ride to a secret base when he lost his powers. Setting the sibling rivalry between Rich and Robbie in the Nova Corps during the War of Kings has led to some neat development for Robbie, but I do think he bit off more than he could chew in taking on Strontian. Strontian is Gladiator's cousin and she's got all the immense power he does. If she did succeed in killing the junior Ryder, then I think Nova will be unloading some serious hurt on her next issue.

I also enjoyed the little confrontation Nova had with Blastaar. These two are former allies against the Phalanx and I believe the Annihilation Wave, but Blastaar is still a villain. Nova should know better than to trust any of these scumbags, but I suppose it made sense seeing how Blastaar reacted to Nova's surprise appearance. Seeing this aspect of the War of Kings is fun, I am still very curious to see how the Nova Corps survives the conflict.

Andrea De Vito is a great fit for the book. He's got the clean storytelling abilities I love and he draws great heroes and space-girls. Good stuff.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Ms. Marvel #42

Wow. This thing is filled with wooden dialogue and bad art. I hadn't even realized that the "babies" were baby MODOKs until I read the recap, I had figured they might be Storytellers like the god-like kid who has shown up in this comic for awhile. Moonstone doesn't talk like this, so I have to assume she's being controlled by the MODOKs. I did like the Sentry arriving to wrap up the Ms. Marvel fight, but it was disappointing seeing that much collatoral damage. I certainly don't understand how Carol Danvers shows up at the end. Carol is an alcoholic, so her standing there with a beer can't be right, can it?

Sana Takeda's art is pretty bad. Moonstone and Ms. Marvel have the exact same bodies and faces, and it all looks way too manga-y for me.


Thunderbolts #134

I've got to respect Andy Diggle. Far from resting on his laurels with this relaunch of Thunderbolts, Diggle is already knocking down the status quo he's built. Songbird is on the loose, and this issue she snuck her way into a military bunker to enlist her old allies Techno and Mach IV into her battle with the Thunderbolts. I loved seeing these classic heroes getting together, and Diggle gave fans of the old Tbolts plenty to cheer about. Techno was sort of a jerk, Mach IV was heroic and thrilled to see his old gal, and Songbird was decisive and brave (plus she reunited with her old bf Mach IV). Now she's off to find Radioactive Man. I can't wait to see the old crew face off against the current villainous team!

The new team is still having its share of problems getting along. As expected from a crew of villains, no one on the team trusts anyone else. Mister X is openly threatening and belittling his teammates and I'm confident that Headsman is going to take a shot at him in the field. The biggest problem for Osborn's little black-ops team is the fact that their leader is the wrong Black Widow!

Miguel Sepulveda is doing a great job on this title. His Songbird looked fantastic, the shot where she swoops in on Techno and Mach IV was just beautiful stuff. I hope he sticks around.


Friday, August 7, 2009

4-year old reviews Tiny Titans #18

I don't like it that Starfire wasn't in it. It was ridiculous when Coach Lobo and the other loved donuts. Those kids aren't all bad because Robin is there. Robin is good. I don't like the Monitor. He was too mean. Those guys aren't kids. Mud man likes mud. Darkseid changed the lightbulb dark. I like this guy (ed. note - the Anti-Monitor). He had a fight with the Moditor (sp). I like Batman's sign. I like the joke sections. I sure remember the jokes.

Teen Titans #73

There are no "anchors" to this new Teen Titans lineup. Blue Beetle and Wonder Girl are essentially the core cast now, but I'm afraid they just don't provide the team with enough of a heart. I always believed that I like the 2nd and 3rd tier characters best, but I'm finding that with the Titans, at least, that level of character is not enough. In fact, the team seems rather incompetent, with Blue Beetle barely coming up with a plan to stop the "Fearsome Three" from escaping from prison.

There are some neat parts to the issue, like the Hammerhead shark man and the puns around taking him down, but for the most part, this is generic comics #101. It could be that with the new Fearsome Five showing up next issue, we'll get more straight-forward super-heroics next issue. I'm afraid I don't find it very exciting when the main conflict is a team against a force-field (and a relatively incompetent team at that). Setting the whole thing up with a flash-forward to yet another dead Titan just makes this silliar. There is no way this story is good enough to be made "important" with the death of a Titan.

Joe Bennett's art is a good fit for the title. His take on the team looks good, with Meltdown and Blue Beetle looking particularly good. I liked his new character designs too. Hammerhead guy and the two new members of the Fearsome Five all had nice looks and "fit" in the Teen Titans world. This actually gets a bump up from Poor due to the art.

As for the Ravager backup, wow. That is one slow burn.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Secret Six #12

Wonder Woman comes off kind of rough in the newest chapter of the DCU's most vile super-team. I suppose we can excuse WW's behavior since she thinks that Artemis is dead when she arrives, but I was still surprised when WW threatened to make Deadshot into a eunich if he attacked. Gail Simone writes WW in her own book, is this how tough WW appears in that?

Naturally, Deadshot attacks anyway and gets taken out pretty quick. As always, the greater threat forced the Six to put aside their differences and team up. After Jeanette turns into a true banshee (while she does, she looks like classic Superman baddie the Silver Banshee) she successfully drops WW. It was surprising, but it worked into the story just fine since Artemis is of course, not dead, and the Six are able to get back into their employers good graces by turning WW over. It seems the villains have a pretty bad dude chained up in the basement; the devil himself. The DCU's devil looks a lot like Marvel's Jackal villain. It will be pretty fun if this is the real deal, but in any case, this guy looks like trouble.
I will admit I was disappointed when Scandal asks Bane to get back on the Venom so that he can bring his full power to bear. Poor Bane just can't catch a break.

Nicola Scott rocks this issue. Her Wonder Woman looks fantastic and the fight against the Six has some wonderfully unique perspective shots that really made the fight memorable. Scott's take on the new Banshee and Devil characters looks great too.


War of Kings #6

DnA wrapped up their sci-fi epic nicely, finally delivering the huge brawl we all wanted; Vulcan vs. Black Bolt. Much of the issue shows this fight in detail. You know things are getting hard core when Black Bolt actually has to speak on more than one occasion. Vulcan brought everything BB could handle, and it was fun seeing such powerful characters battle it out. Even after BB shouts directly at Vulcan, seemingly killing him, Vulcan rises a few moments later and starts ranting about how as an Omega Level Mutant, there is no way to kill him. The battle ended with a huge explosion, probably taking both characters off the board for a bit. Pretty cool stuff.

The other stars of the issue are probably the folks who will end up leading their respective factions after the War of Kings. Gladiator of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard strides into the streets, carrying the Imperial Scepter after it was dropped by Lilandra. He is immediately greeted by cries of "Majestor!" What a cool idea. The ultra-loyal Gladiator may end up leading the Empire he has served so long. It is a fantastic idea that I can't believe took this long to get to. As for the Inhumans and Kree, the issue ends with Medusa wracked with anguish over her husbsand's death (as I said, that won't stick though). Crystal is standing strong after taking action to stop BB's over-reaching plan to forcefully mutate the galaxy with the Terrigen Mists. I think Crystal and her husband Ronan will be the leaders of the Kree after this. Cosmic Marvel is going to be an interesting place for awhile!

Paul Pelletier brought the house down with the violent collision between Black Bolt and Vulcan. The fight atomized their surroundings and Pelletier did a great job portraying the raw power being thrown around.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Captain America: Reborn #2

Ed Brubaker isn't exactly moving along at a whirlwind pace in this limited series. This issue gave us more of Steve Rogers' point of view as he continued to jump through time. I do think Brubaker has Steve's voice down, Cap sounded familiar and likable, even if he did resort to a little cussin'. Bucky Cap and Black Widow take on Ares and Venom, and it is fun seeing that one of those things is not like the others; Ares is the real deal. He took out Bucky pretty easily and I believed it, while I had a harder time accepting that Venom could actually defeat the Black Widow.

There was no real develoment with the Red Skull or Arnim Zola, the real mastermind for this issue was Norman Osborn. Osborn informed the press of Sharon Carter's culpability in Cap's death, making her a wanted woman. He then informs Bucky and Widow that if Carter doesn't turn herself in, she will be responsible for the death of more than one Cap. It's intriguing stuff, and I have to think that Osborn has some sort of plan that can get Rogers' returned and prepped to be taken over by the Red Skull. Crossbones and Sin did show up briefly, so I'm thrilled that their story isn't over yet.

Bryan Hitch and Butch Guice do a great job with the art once again. The sequence with Master Man was tremendous, with Cap doing some nice aerial acrobatics to drive MM two stories down into a parked car. Hitch definitely does well at the widescreen action. I'd say the art nudged this up from a high "Fair" to "Good."


Fusion #3

I find it highly suspect that DnA did much more than consult on this "story." They are credited as writers, but in the three issues of this limited, there hasn't been very much happening. Four VERY out-of-date teams ran around and fought in some splash pages, nothing really changed, no one learned anything, although I learned that "ultra-sapiens" sounds like ridiculous. I never really understood Ripclaw's relationship to the Venom symbiote or how they related to the Hunter Killer guy with undefined powers. This was one confusing mess and I really hope that my favorite writing team didn't come up with most of what was actually published.

Tyler Kirkham has that Top Cow house style down, with lots of cross-hatching and sort of a sketchy look, except when there are iconic poses to be had. I'm really wondering if there was anyone clamoring for this team-up or for this type of story. I definitely would not have read it if the Mighty Avengers hadn't shown up, and as it is they did very little and barely seemed in character.