Thursday, April 30, 2009

Neat Morrison News!

Robot 6 reports that Grant Morrison will be doing some sort of connected 1-shots, 7 of them to be precise, exploring 7 different Earths and the heroes that populate them. He's calling it Multiversity, which is silly, but oh well.

Some thoughts on confirmed and possible worlds:

He's already confirmed one will be a Captain Marvel/Shazam Earth in an "All-Star Superman" mode, so that should be awesome.

Another will be the Charlton/Watchmen Earth he's talked about before. I'll take it since that will mean more Ted Kord Blue Beetle.

I wonder if we'll get more pulp-action style heroes like we saw in the Final Crisis sketchbook?

I suppose it is too much to hope for a JLI-era world, isn't it?

I always liked the JLA elseworld 1-shots, seeing those again could be fun too.

This feels to me more like the old Elseworlds concepts than the rampant crossover-bait that made up the Countdown-multiverse. Plus with Morrison supposedly setting up each of these Earths to have an ongoing series, there is potential for a setup I enjoy more than the current DCU. Neat stuff!

Justice Society of America #26

Sometimes it is nice to have a low-key team building issue. Especially an issue like this, which is Geoff Johns' and Dale Eaglesham's goodbye to the team. The book doesn't have a lot of action as we see Star Girl's surprise birthday party. There are plenty of nice character moments as the team members recall their greatest adventures and how Star affected the outcome. I loved how the "old man" faction totally accepted Star as a veteran. She's been a part of the team so long that they really seem to respect her and want her around, which is a great change from how those grumpy dudes have been recently. Wildcat's opnion on Stripsey was another great Geoff Johns-style move, making Wildcat finally appreciate how great it can be for an adult hero to let himself be a sidekick to a kid. It was a touching scene and made me more appreciative of both STRIPE and Wildcat. After the party, the entire team follows Star to the dentist while she gets her braces off. Everyone is disappointed when she has to keep them, but Starman's reaction is wonderful. In fact, he's pretty darn amusing throughout the issue as he wraps up Star's possesions and "re-gifts" them to her, since he's not totally clear on the whole birthday present concept. This issue was a great example of how Johns can distill characters down to their essence in just a line or two of dialogue. I will miss his work on this book which has been one of my favorites since it first launched. I remember coming around during issue 3 of the first JSA series, and thinking this Johns guy was pretty good...

Dale Eaglesham excels in this issue. He has clearly enjoyed getting to set this huge team in Norman Rockwell-type poses and situations, and he gets two here: the birthday party and the crowd at the dentist. The issue is full of affection for the cast and it was a joy to see.


Green Lantern #40

The Guardians have dispatched Hal Jordan, John Stewart, and a crew of mostly unnamed GLs to raid the Vega system. At Sayd's urging, the corps will no longer stay out of Vega, and they are targeting all the galactic criminals who have been hiding from justice for years and years. At the urging of the corrupted Guardian Sayd, the Guardians themselves are heading to Vega to take on Larfleeze and his Orange Lantern Corps. Geoff Johns confirms the theories about the Orange Lantern Corps, they are energy constructs made up of anyone consumed by Larfleeze or an Orange Lantern. We see the GL of the Vega system get chewed up and immediately he regenerates as an evil Orange Lantern. It is a neat idea, and it seems Johns will be doing back-up stories of the Orange Corps. The backup here was entertaining and introduced a fun (and hungry) new villain. I am really pretty impressed at how well Geoff Johns is differentiating his corps. They all have different feels to them.

I didn't realize how much I'd been missing John Stewart in this title until he showed up here. I also got a real kick out of seeing the squad of GL's accompanying the Guardians into the Vega system. The whole sequence really had a police raid to it, which is a perfect fit for a space-cop book. I believe the only non-headlining but still-named GL is Torquemada, the magic-wielding GL. I hope he doesn't get killed off. I love the variety in that 2nd tier of GLs, and he's a neat part of that group. I find it interesting that Sayd didn't accompany the other Guardians to Vega. There's no way the Guardians will be slaughtered again, right? Since Ganthet is no longer part of that crew, I could actually see the Guardians' ranks thinned quite a bit, but I don't know if I'd like the idea.

Phillip Tan's art seems a bit less sketchy this time. Almost like he had more time on the first issue, but that extra time didn't actually make it better. I enjoyed his take on Fatality-Sapphire at the opening of the book and his Orange Lantern designs are fantastic. Overall, Johns is trucking along nicely with the rainbow corps story. He's won me over and I'm excited to see where all this goes.


Crossed #4

I'm going to pass on posting the cover, I think. Hmm. Either I'm getting a thicker skin in dealing with Garth Ennis' depravity, or there wasn't quite as much of it on display in this issue. Oh there's still plenty of filth and perversion, just not to the normal levels. The little band of survivors is trying to get out of the city, but the group is split after having to deal with last issue's kid-cannibals. I still say that they probably should not have been killed, but I can see why the protagonists did what they did. I think it is funny that I'm getting to know the characters in this book, but I don't know anyone's names. It is almost like it doesn't matter. Heck, with the world collapsed down like it is for the cast, they probably don't care about names anymore either. What worries the group is that the crazed cross-faced maniacs are starting to become more organized. The sickness has turned them totally evil, but they aren't insane, they are calculating and sadistic. This issue was positively subdued though. When a bunch of people are thrown in a trailer to knife each other to death, it is left to the imagination, showing a restraint I didn't think had a place in this title. I did like the crossing the bridge bit at the end. With the main bridge broken, there is a single plank left for the survivors to cross. The blind survivor understandably takes longer than the others to cross, and she's panicking the whole way. Her delay costs another survivor her life though, when the plank falls away, leaving her alone on the city-side of the bridge as a crowd of crazies descend on her. Rather than be let herself be violated by them, she drops off the bridge to her death. (You've gotta hope she would die, don't want to survive that!) The crazies are all ramped up to go after the survivors, so I imagine the next issue will be pretty stressful.

I feel like there have been big delays between issues that are affecting how involved I am in the book. I always love post-apocalyptic stories, and this one is unflinching in its take on a horrible apocalyptic world. Ennis gets to play to both his greatest strengths (characterization and plot) and greatest weaknesses (incredible gore and perversion) in this. Unsurprisingly, I'm often disturbed and shocked at each issue, but I want to know what happens next!

Jacen Burrows can do exactly what is necessary to keep this book as disturbing as it is. His crazies are all upsetting to see, and the cast all has a distinctive enough look to stand out.

Good, if you can handle the sick stuff, Poor if you can't

Sub-Mariner 70th Anniversary Special #1

I can't justify the price tag, but dang, Namor is a lot of fun, isn't he? The issue follows Namor as he decides to learn more about the Nazis after he spares one of the U-boats off the American coast. He goes "undercover" with a hat and coat (no shoes, no other clothes) in a German bar and is quickly scooped up by a German sleeper agent. She's a hot little number trying to win him over to the Nazi point of view, and she has a great little racial tirade as she looks down onto the streets of New York. Roy Thomas does a fantastic job with her speech. She's an evil characature, totally reveling in the worst parts of the Holocaust, but using her that way has a wonderful payoff later. After he claims to buy into her cause, Namor heads back to the U-boat with her. There more of the true face of the Nazi's as the crew is repulsed by Namor's mixed blood, and they announce themselves as the strongest of believers in the awful ways of WWII Germany. Namor quite contentedly smashes up their sub and leaves the sleeper agent to drown. He had been about to step away from the surface world conflict, but thanks to the clear evil of the Nazis, he is now ready to continue destroying them whenever he can. This was a nice little character piece that not only shows Namor's haughty self-confidence, but also shows what the Avenging Son is capable of when he finally makes up his mind. Good stuff.

Mitch Breitweister's art is fantastic. His 1940's New York is a realized place. The docks, taverns, and even the harbor look "right" in how I picture those things from old movies and stories.

Mark Schultz has a brief backup written and drawn in a Golden Age style, and it is quite entertaining. The odd facial features of Namor's Atlantean spy-master was great, and the lady-aviator was a neat one-off character. The use of an ancient kraken to destroy the Nazi base was perfect. It had a wonderful Golden Age feel (isn't that how an old story would have Namor resolve things?) and at the same time it played to Mark Schultz's strengths as an artist. This was better than the Captain America 70th Anniversary 1-shot. I'm going to keep an eye out for the eventual collection of these 70th Anniversary books, since the good ones are enjoyable enough to justify the average ones.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Vigilante #5

This is a book by some old favorites of mine. Marv Wolfman did some good Titans work back in the day, but here he's dealing with a dysfunctional Titans line-up and an uninteresting lead. I only read the first issue or two of this book because I couldn't make myself care about Vigilante (cool costume aside). That doesn't change here. Vigilante tries to take out Jericho, who he believes is hiding in Cyborg's body. He does this non-lethally, and repeatedly announces he's not trying to hurt Cyborg. The Titans were trying to draw in the Vigilante using Cyborg as bait, yet when Vig shows up, Beast Boy is enraged at him for the rest of the issue. The plan worked, Beast Boy! Why are you mad? The Titans head into the city to stop a bank robbery and Vigilante escapes and follows. The Titans are pretty easily led by the nose throughout, first in dealing with Vigilante after he surrenders and later by Jericho. Jericho is trying to set them up to be attacked by the Teen Titans, I think, but I never really understood his plan. There is a neat sequence with Jericho controlling crowds of people to attack Vigilante, but I thought he jumped into one body at a time? Weird. I loved the setup for the next part of the story, with Jericho hacking into and controlling the Teen Titans jet by making a phone call. Not sure how that works. There is some internal dialogue with Vigilante talking about mistakes and how he's spent the last few years, but since I don't know who he is, it was all kind of over my head. This crossover didn't get me invested in the character.

Tom Lyle used to have a clean style back in the 90s and I believe he worked with inker Scott Hanna then too. The style in this is a lot blockier and sketchier, which I actually liked. I wonder if Lyle can get more work using this style?


Kick-Ass #6

LOL. Oh Mark Millar and your morals. I knew the Crimson Mist was shady, I just didn't realize how bad he was. He smokes pot though, so I should have known! The forward-looking part of the plot is pretty thin in this issue, as Kick-Ass is kind of getting into a status-quo as a "hero." Sure he gets upset enough to shout at his crush's window, but for the most part he and his buddy the Mist have things under control. Their biggest worry is if they form a team with Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, who will be their Wolverine? The meat of the issue is the wonderful origin of Big Daddy and Hit-Girl. It turns out he was a cop whose wife was killed by the mob, so he's trained his daughter to assist him with a lifetime of vengeance. I love the tragic nature of their relationship. Hit-Girl believes that once their revenge is complete, they may go off and have a normal life, but it is clear to the reader that this is not the case. Big Daddy won't ever be a normal guy again. The warped way he is raising his daughter is amusing and tragic. He is brainwashing and training her into being a killing machine, but at the same time he does love her and wants her to be happy. He only took on a code-name and costume to make her happy, but there will be no stopping for him. The book ends on a great cliff-hanger, because there is no way Kick-Ass can save the day now that he needs to. He's a poser and a doofus and it is probably going to cost a bunch of his "team" their lives.

John Romita Jr. does a great job on the flashbacks. His panels of Big Daddy tell the story clearly with no dialogue, cluing the reader in on what Hit-Girl can't see. Well done.


Green Arrow & Black Canary #19

This was another generic issue of GA & BC, but this one had some redeeming qualities. Green Arrow faces off against Cupid, the obsessed lady who has fallen in love with him. After she killed off some of his villains, she set up an opportunity for GA to kill Merlyn at the end of last issue. Thankfully, GA spots the set-up immediately and moves on to facing off against her. I was a bit surprised how quickly she took him out (with an explosion), but that seems to be a given in Andrew Kreisberg's run, the incompetence of his heroes. GA wakes up chained to some train tracks, where Cupid plans for the two to die together, "romantically." I liked having Black Canary show up for the save. When it becomes clear that she can't cut GA loose, she acts like she's willing to die with him, replacing Cupid in the romantic death scenario. It was a fun way to resolve the fight with Canary using her brain to take advantage of the crazy Cupid. I was disappointed in the bloody finale though, with Cupid slashing Merlyn's throat so she could get away. At least he lived, and while the issue ends stating that he will never speak again, hopefully that will be disregarded, just because it is unnecessary. I will note that it is interesting that GA and BC couldn't actually defeat Cupid, they had to outsmart her and then she escaped. Some failures humanize the heroes, but the pair is in danger of looking incompetent.

Mike Norton has a nice clean style. I like the design for Cupid, particularly the green veil she wears as GA's "bride."


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Invincible #61

Robert Kirkman channels the whole Image universe through this book. After last issue's fantastic "Invincible War" done-in-one crossover, the heroes of Image are all about cleaning up. Kirkman is quickly moving towards a new status quo by having the heroes accelerate the rebuilding process, which is a neat idea. I really loved how Power Plex, the new villain introduced a few issues ago, was helping the heroes until Invincible himself showed up. Plex thinks he's a good guy, so naturally he's doing good stuff until the object of his hatred reappears. I loved how guest-star Badrock got to deal with him too, it was a nice touch. The setup for the next storyline hits at the end, when the Viltrumite "ambassador" Conquest shows up. This is one grizzled dude. He tells Invincible that he's here to test the Earth, and if Invincible isn't doing a good job prepping the planet, he will do it for him. Invincible is justifiably in a bad mood, and is anxious for the chance to unleash on someone who can take it. I actually wonder if Conquest is going to be in trouble here... it could be a neat twist on our expectations. The rest of the issue deals with some nice rebuilding moments amongst the supporting cast. Cecil is setting up a new Guardians of the Globe with the survivors of the Teen Team and the Guardians. I was bummed to see Rex Splode seems to be really dead, and it was a downer when Invincible declined to join the team too. That said, the new team of Robot, Black Samson, Bulletproof, Monster Girl, Shapesmith, and Brit could be pretty darn neat. I assume Atom Eve will end up on there too, or at least she should.

Cory Walker is as solid as ever. I'm loving that he has stayed on this book as long as he has, giving it such a dynamic look for this long.


Deadpool: Suicide King #1

Man, I've read a lot of Deadpool books recently, all using the multiple voices Daniel Way-inspired take on DP. I'm not sure I like it any more when Mike Benson uses it here, but at least the hallucinations are out. Deadpool is once again betrayed by the guy hiring him and is now a man on the run, framed for an act of terror. I'm intrigued by the use of Tombstone since he has little to no experience with DP, at least that I've read. I think they could make very good arch enemies. I will say I'm getting annoyed with how often DP is betrayed by his employers. I honestly can't remember the last time the "merc with a mouth" actually was a successful merc, it seems like everyone betrays him and tries to kill him. He can't be considered to high a professional if everyone keeps on treating him like this! The last splash page promises the Punisher showing up net month, but I'm not sure I really care too much. If you love DP, this has more of what you like of him, but I feel like I've read this story 4 times in the last few months. I don't see what this title is bringing that the other one-shots and ongoing series don't.

Carlo Barberi draws in the same style as most DP material these days, but it is just too cartoony for me. This is a hardened mercenary who kills people, I'm not sure why all the DP projects have this crazy cartoon style art. Reilly Brown had a cartoony but still gritty style on Cable & Deadpool, I'd love to see more from him on DP now.


Exiles #1

Wow, I really liked this! I shouldn't be surprised, since I liked the original Exiles until Chris Claremont took over, I really like Jeff Parker's writing, and I like Beast, Forge, Black Panther, and Scarlet Witch. It should have been clear, but I remain pleasantly surprised. The book opens as we see the moments just before the death of the core cast (those above plus Polaris, we don't see Blink's past). The best of these is the new Black Panther, who seems a lot more casual than the one we know, and he had a robot lion friend, which is genius! The saved characters are now exiles outside normal space who have to work to fix worlds that are threatening the space-time continuum. Nothing new here, but our guide is: Morph from the previous Exiles is leading the new team, or at least sending them along on their first mission. I liked seeing the team run through the "what are your powers" bit as they get settled, and how Blink is the guiding hand for the team. Blink also is the only member to not get sick from their teleportation, since she has all her experience with the previous team to get her used to the sick-inducing teleporting. The Exiles' first mission will be to help Wolverine take out Magneto, only this world's Magneto is protected by both the Brotherhood and the X-Men, and Wolverine is dead. Might be a little tough!

The Exiles concept is a strong one, and Parker seems like he already has a good handle on it. The starting lineup is quite good, and we know Parker knows the ins and outs of the whole Marvel U, so I'm confident we're going to see some neat re-imagined worlds. I'm in for the trade.

Salva Espin's art is fine, if a touch too cartoony for me. I thought his design for Scarlet Witch in particular looked young and kidd-y, but his take on Forge is a lot of fun. The slimmer build for Black Panther is an interesting choice too.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Oracle: The Cure #2

I don't think I like Kevin Van Hook's take on Oracle. She was a likable big-brain character, always 2 or 5 steps ahead of the villains, her operatives, and often her readers. Now she's getting jumped while daydreaming and losing control enough to zone out while smashing some dude's head into the pavement. Oracle is certainly being humanized in this series in every way. She's not as clever in her dealings with other hackers and the Calculator. She's getting sex-ed up quite a bit with those covers, the shower scene in issue one, and this issue where her new hacker buddies are commenting on her hotness non-stop. She is still a capable fighter, but the viciousness of her attacks seem a little much based on what I know of the character. There are aspects of the story that are pretty interesting. The Alta-Viva online life plot is pretty fun, I especially enjoy seeing the different ridiculous avatars people are using. The time Oracle spends looking at the internet was wasted time for me, though, since it seemed like a bunch of MacGuffin techno-babble. The Calculator is a good foil, and having him out to help his daughter gives a nice contrast to his bloodthirsty nature. He's a pretty ruthless guy now, and that shows in how quickly he's willing to kill Oracle's allies. As for Oracle's... failings is too strong a word, but having her not as smart and competent is probably a set up to make her Batgirl again, which I think is a huge mistake. She is a great character and a good role model as Oracle, there is no need to move her back to a status-quo from 20 years ago. But I'm sure that's what we're going to get.

Fernando Pasarin has a nice style reminiscent of Dale Eaglesham. His avatars are a lot of fun in the online game world, but I'm not sure I like the shower scenes and things like that for Oracle.


Warlord #1

I have a lot of exposure to the sword and sorcery genre through books, movies, TV, and games, so it takes a special type of comic to make me want to follow it in that format. Mike Grell's new Warlord series has a lot of things going for it, but I'm not sure I'm going to be sticking around. The first half of the book feels like an action movie, with the required character types showing up and the normal plot points being hit. "The guide is dead, what now!?!" That said, I'm still very intrigued, especially if the villains alluded to at the conclusion of the book are the new characters from the first half. I'd love to see those protagonist-y type characters end up as the bad guys. Warlord himself is pretty cool, but I'm not sure of the relationships amongst his supporting cast. Is Warlord a king? Is that cat-lady his girlfriend, or is he with that queen? I did enjoy how quickly Warlord sprang into action against the griffon, but I was sad to see it die, I hope they aren't rare in Skataris. The very opening sequence with Warlord crashing in the lost world was well done too.

The art is pretty neat throughout. Obvously, Mike Grell knows what he's doing with this character, although this is my first time seeing his take on him. I do feel a bit like I'm staring behind, this wasn't totally new reader friendly, but I'm catching up. I'm on the fence for future issues, but this was decent.


4 year-old reviews Tiny Titans #15

I like "Ka-Bunny" because it doesn't say "Ka-Boom." The boy says "don't do it" but the monkey did it. Then the bunnies are all on their heads! I like the girls in the little Terror Titans. I like Copperhead because he says "fwee" when that girl asked what they wanted to eat. He likes bananas. They wanted the nachos to be hotter and hotter and hotter. Then when that guy has one his eyes twirled and twirled and I didn't like that. The bunny says "Shazam" then he has Shazam's costume. I like Kroc's hair because it is blue.

(Regarding the cover) Why does Star have yellow skin? Why is she an alien. Beast Boy can turn into bunnies.

Werewolf by Night #1-4

Too sad for me. I know this was a MAX series, so I should have expected it, but I like my Werewolf by Night to be a little bit more fun. This was a sad, gory story from start to finish. I expect it is out of continuity too, since Jack Russell would be pretty unsalvagable after the amount of rending he does in this series. I was also befuddled by a plot point in the conclusion. It seems that werewolf blood can speak to other werewolves, as seen when Russell's sister's blood gives him a slideshow of her life. She also teaches him how to combine his wolf self with his normal self, which allows Russell to remain in control of his wolf-form. So she knew how to do that, right? So why did she rip Russell's wife apart to get to the baby within looking for him? That seems like she was totally controlled by her wolf-mind. If that isn't the case, then Russell's sister was totally evil and I have no pity for her. This series had some neat moments and twists, like when the scientists think they have Russell prepped for transport in issue 1 (spoiler: they don't), but the tone was so sad and negative that I can't really say I loved the series. The inclusion of a vampire and frankenstein in the final issue seemed silly too, especially since they were no threat to Russell at all. Duane Swircyznski continues to write comics that have some neat moments, but overall aren't my cup of tea. Adding in a complex government conspiracy rarely betters a character's origin. If I view this as an independent story apart from the existing comic character, it does hold up a tad better though. The ominous ending was pretty spooky too. "I'm coming for you, Daddy." What a nice family!

Mico Suayan's art is pretty dark throughout, but he does a good job on the faces. The experiment subjects in issue 3 were well-designed too, they looked absolutely pitiful.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Battle for the Cowl: Man Bat

I'm not sure I was clamoring for a one-shot showing that Kirk Langstrom can turn into Man Bat without his serum. That basically makes him into a new super-dude, rather than a misguided scientist constantly dragged into the super-world. I must have missed something pretty big too, since Lynx was fighting off street thugs and trying to cover for Batman. I thought Lynx was King Snake's old right-hand lady and a bad girl? Joe Harris has some neat scenes where Langstrom is desperate to find his wife, and I was surprised that she survived, to be honest. It was a neat bit to have Oracle reach out to her after she figured prominently into Chuck Dixon's run on Outsiders a few months ago. I'm not exactly sure why Langstrom flew off in a panic though, did he kill Dr. Phosphorous? Phosphorous is a tough villain to use. He's so powerful that he really should beat most everyone. After reading the Gordon 1-shot, it seems that Black Mask only had plans for a few of the Arkham escapees, and a fair amount just get to go free and cause trouble. This whole issue seemed kind of unnecessary. The Outsiders were interesting too, I was surprised to see them show up and basically function as an audience in this one. What was the point of them appearing?

Jim Caliafore is a decent artist who has been tagged as a fill in type guy in Gotham recently. I like his work, but nothing here was tremendous.


Titans #12

Sean McKeever takes over to write the Titans chapter of Deathtrap this month, and I find myself totally uninterested in it. While I've been enjoying the Teen Titans recently, the Titans themselves are still a bunch of dysfunctional, mopey adults riddled with traitors in their own ranks. I'm not convinced that Raven is good, we know Jericho is irredeemably bad, and I know Cyborg and Beast Boy have both been bad for short times too. Arsenal is a doofus and Wally West/Flash is becoming more and more of an unlikable Dad. I do like Starfire though, and Donna Troy handles things pretty competently in this lead in. For some reason she decides it is a good idea to involve the murdering Vigilante (I still think he's Wild Dog!) in the Titans' affairs, and so they stage a fake battle against the recently freed Cyborg to draw Vigilante to their compound. I'm not sure why the Titans would want to have anything to do with Vigilante, as he's pretty much their opposite, but oh well. Things really kicked off in the Titans Annual prelude for Deathtrap, so this issue was mostly setting up the pieces for the rest of the story. I will add that I don't think Jericho can be redeemed at this point. It may be true that parts of the psyche of everyone he's possessed still reside in his head, but you can't excuse the full on evil that Jericho has been doing. He's murdered dozens of people at this point, and he needs to be taken out.

Angel Unzuetta art is average in this, although he does have a nice take on Vigilante at the end.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Captain America 70th Anniversary Special

For a long time James Robinson was a writer that could do no wrong for me. The Golden Age is in my top 10 comic stories of all time, I loved Firearm, and Starman was in a class by itself. I don't find myself connecting to some of his current work quite as much. This was a pretty generic one-off story of Steve Rogers' heroism before he was chemically boosted into being Cap. I found it a little amusing how 4-F Rogers was able to do everything necessary to escape, he seemed pretty damn fit climbing up the back of a moving train and tackling a huge man off of it. He also slaps a donkey into charging on the street, and I was surprised to see that donkeys and carts were used in the mid-1940s in New York. Is that correct? It could be accurate, it just took me out of the story for a moment. The story also relies on a lot of coincidences, which weakens it a bit. The story is fine, but kind of unnecessary.

Marcos Martin draws one emaciated Steve Rogers here, yet he is pretty active and heroic throughout. Just a bit strange.


Teen Titans Annual #1

I read recently about how funny it is that most of the Titans villains are ex-members, and it is true here. I actually wondered if Cyborg was turning evil after he killed The Face in TT #69, but at least that didn't happen. Cyborg is just being controlled by a different ex-member turned villain who has been plaguing the main Titans book for a few months. I was amused at how easy it was to take out Kid Eternity, I guess if he can't speak, he can't switch places with a dead hero? Very strange. In fact, who controls the dead hero? Are they themselves or is Eternity just animating their form? Bombshell comes off well in this, I enjoyed seeing her and Wonder Girl work well together. Static steals the show. "Cyborg" tries to pass his attack off as a training exercise, and asks Static to sit out the fight. He goes along for a bit but then takes care of business when things turn sour. Static pretty much singlehandedly takes out possessed Cyborg and saves the team, not bad for a new member. Cyborg should have remembered "Don't start none, won't be none." I'm very happy to have Static back. The story is one of the better "attacked by your own base" type tales, but it still has some pretty big limitations when the villain is off-panel and mostly just talking. It was better than I expected though.

The sad thing here is that Sean McKeever is starting to write in a little less bloody style that I'm enjoying and now he's off the book. I've got to figure the editorial guidance is pretty darn heavy on the Titans books, since Dan DiDio handles them himself. If you take a look at this cover, this is a pretty darn strong lineup. I could definitely see myself really digging things going forward, but at this point I can't be confident of what direction we're going to get besides fill-ins.

Fernando Dagnino is very inconsistent. Some panels and pages look fantastic (Aquagirl on page 1, Kid Devil watching cartoons) and some look just odd (Static waking up in bed). He has great potential though, the pages where he's on look a lot like Joe Bennett's tight pencils.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Guardians of the Galaxy #13

Oh Abnett & Lanning, you tricky dudes. The pair just keeps adding to their lineup, and best of all making it cooler and cooler. I LOVE the idea of the team splitting up, with Rocket and Star Lord each taking a team to stop a side of the War of Kings. Just a tremendous idea, especially the way Rocket Racoon claims all the big hitters right off the bat. The relationship between new member Jack Flagg and Star Lord is a really neat one, the characters are very similar with SL constantly prepping and explaining cosmic life to Jack. I also almost laughed out loud at the telepathy scene where Cosmo the telepathic dog sends a joke directly to Mantis and Moonstone's brains, that's just genius and one of the great little touches that makes this my favorite comic. Bug's constant ire about being left out of the first team is a great recurring bit too, especially how no one will ever answer him. I'm not sold on the new "Martyr" identity for Phyla-Vell, but having the characters be a little ill-at-ease makes it more palatable. It is amazing that a book with this many character moments can be crammed with this much plot. The teams actually arrive at their destinations, meet up with the Starjammers, and set up cliffhangers for next issue. (Ooh, maybe some of the Guardians might transfer over and reinforce the depleted Starjammers.) I never would have guessed this would be my favorite comic, but it is, and I'm not sure it is close.

Brad Walker's art is stellar. His new mask design for Jack Flagg is awesome, but I love how he draws the little things too. The leather couches in the Guardians briefing room, the way the body language varies from character to character (check out Martyr's slumped posture).


Captain America #49

Ed Brubaker takes a break from Winter Cap to present this story catching us up with Sharon Carter and the Falcon as they recover and follow up after the big Red Skull story from a few months ago. While Sharon is moping around her family's home in Virginia, the Falcon is out following up on clues on the whereabouts of "Bad Cap" as they decide to call him. The issue is a nice little interlude showing how traumatic the impact of a comic book life would really be. Sharon has got a lot of problems following her around now, and you've got to feel awful for her as the worst one comes to light towards the end of the issue. I enjoyed the parallel between Sharon and her Aunt Peggy in their memory loss, but having Bad Cap show up to drill Peggy for information is really pretty interesting. If Bad Cap thinks that he's the real Cap, then finding out what a good guy the real Cap is might actually make him a bit more heroic. It could be neat seeing where this goes. I certainly wouldn't have minded a bit more action in this issue, especially with the Falcon, but it was a nice character piece. The action has been pretty high-octane for months, so I don't mind this falling back to the style Bru was using in the early parts of this run. For the record, I don't think that is Steve coming back in Doom's time platform, at least not the one who led the Avengers. It could be a WWII era guy or perhaps Steve's kid or something. I will say I HOPE that it is the 1602 Cap, returned from some kind of time-exile. But I'm not sure how getting shot in the chest would have set that up...

Luke Ross' art fits right in with the tone Steve Epting has established for this volume of Cap. Falcon in particular looked pretty tough.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

X-Men: Kingbreaker #4

Well, that was anti-climactic. We had a whole set up with new villains and a big confrontation between Havok and Vulcan, but when it comes time to resolve anything, the groups split up, promising to face off again soon (see War of Kings, True Believers!). Chris Yost did a decent job building up his new villains, many with ties to the cosmic Marvel U, but he was unable to provide any type of closure in this story. I realize that was editorially driven, but I can't imagine people will satisfied reading only this series. I did think it was interesting that Korvus and Marvel Girl lost the Phoenix force, and having Deathbird taking out of circulation like this in War of Kings is an interesting choice. I am bummed that Raza didn't make it out with the Starjammers, but I'm even more bummed that I've been reading War of Kings and didn't realize he was missing. The Starjammers are absolutely decimated these days. They are barely recognizable as the team I dug back in my youth (with Corsair, Binary, and Hepzibah among my favorites on the team). We all know that they will stay the Starjammers as long as Ch'od is on the team though, he's the top tier guy of that group as far as I'm concerned. Yost did do a good job showing the remaining 'Jammers kicking some butt, especially the ultra-powered Havok just wailing on Vulcan. I loved seeing Vulcan so torn up and scared dealing with his brother. Havok is a neat character, and I liked how he was willing to finish the job in their confrontation, but again, the editorial interference kept Havok from getting anything real accomplished. I also hope we don't see Gladiator's cousin again, I think having two characters like that weakens the coolness of the original.

Dustin Weaver has an Al Rio-type style that works well on Polaris and Marvel Girl, but not as well on other stuff. His male characters and aliens have a Jim Lee style, but lumpier and scratchier. His ladies look good though!


Avengers: The Initiative #23

Christos Gage handles this issue in the opposite fashion from the previous one. Last issue we had some violence that didn't really further the plot, and frankly felt a tad padded. This issue has tons of plot movement and changes in status quo, setting things up nicely for the book moving forward. Counter Force (original New Warriors) is on the run (with Ultragirl rejoining the team), Gauntlet is guilt-wracked over his failings at Camp Hammond, the Shadow Initiative is lost and on their own in Madripoor (and about to face Bloodscream and Rough House), Osborn is shutting down Camp Hammond, and the remaining instructors don't know what's going on. I still say the team of teachers at the base could be a great core for a new book. Gargoyle, Stingray, Diamondback, and best of all Tigra would be a great team to see regularly. I think we'll get some of them though, so that's good, especially if rumors about Counter Force sticking around are true. I'm sure that Trauma and the Baron will be sticking around and it will be neat seeing how they interact with HAMMER and the corrupt Dark Reign. Between this and Mighty Avengers, the aspects of Dark Reign that interest me the most are being explored really well right now. Just because you don't like your boss doesn't mean you don't have to obey the law, so I'm looking forward to seeing which heroes can toe the line (at first). I could have done with a few less panels of Tigra with her hands over her belly, but I suppose that plot point is going to be front and center for awhile. I just hope it doesn't become the defining point of the character. I have a lot of faith in Gage's upcoming issues, and it seems he likes the same parts of the Marvel U that I do.

Humberto Ramos definitely draws better big action than he does talking heads. The too-large faces, hands, and feet that increase drama in a fight sometimes look very odd when characters are just standing around.


Walking Dead #60

Robert Kirkman sure can lay out the ominous scene or two. This issue has a few of them, with the most heart-breaking being poor Morgan's wandering through the abandoned farmstead and finding the dead kids who couldn't wait out the zombie apocalypse. I don't blame their parents for ending things that way, especially after Kirkman stated in an interview that he figured the family lived holed up in their house for a long time, but that when they ran out of food they couldn't bear the idea of hitting the road. So damn sad, but so damn realistic of what we'd get in a zombie world. The plot is fairly simple this time around, Rick and the others make a run back to camp and try to roust everyone before the herd arrives. They succeed, but tensions are flaring within the group. No one likes Morgan (except maybe Michonne), Dale is chafing at Rick's leadership, and now one of the twin boys is mutilating animals. That's bad stuff, and none of it bodes well for our group of survivors. I think it is amusing that Carl is turning into one hell of a survivalist. He's shooting zombies, looking for food, and now coming up with plans. Maybe he's the hero of the book now, actually.

I continue to be amazed how riveting Kirkman keeps this title, even on a plot-light issue like this. He does such a fantastic job with the characterization of his cast that each issue is too short.

Charlie Adlard continues with his consistent work on this title. I don't remember a single zombie from this issue, but the sad scene in the abandoned farmhouse is really sticking with me. So sad.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mighty Avengers #24

Man, this has become my dream comic. Dan Slott is doing so many good things in this, the REAL Avengers book. The issue follows the team as they are shuttled all over the globe dealing with one emergency after another. The two we get in detail are some sort of octopus giant named Titan and a great appearance of the Swarm. In each case, there is a nice combination of team members overcoming the threats. Pym and Stature are turning into a great pair. Since they have the same power sets and have pre-existing family tie, it is pretty neat seeing him take her under his wing and give her hints and guidance on being a size-changing hero. Slott also gives us a fair amount of time with Quicksilver, which was great. He's one of the best jerks in the Marvel U and we see it again here. I think my favorite bit with him is when he claims that he had been replaced by a Skrull. What a jerk thing to do, to brush off the problems he caused in the X-Factor title by saying a Skrull did it. It's a genius idea from Slott, and I'm thrilled to see Quicksilver joining the team. I always like when mutants cross-over out of the X-books.

The lineup is starting to be a really well-rounded group with a lot of great powers. Since I hate Norman Osborn so much, it was fantastic seeing him totally lose it dealing with the Mighty Avengers. He's so annoyed that Pym would dare claim to be the "real" Avengers that he just can't deal with it. I can't wait to see more of this. Not to mention Pym has a good point, he is the only charter member leading a team, so his team must be the official one, right? It was also a nice nod to the Champions series that Hercules recognized Swarm and appreciated him as a crazy foe.

I will confess I don't know who Blackjack is. That's the team that offers the Mighty Avengers to come under a UN charter so that they can operate legally around the world. There are at least two team members, but I didn't recognize either of them. That's fine, I always like new international heroes.

Rafa Sandoval does a good job drawing in Khoi Pham's style, the characters look on-model and consistent. I liked his take on Swarm (who actually goes unnamed, I believe). This is what I want from my Avengers every month. Top notch.


Teen Titans #69

I must give credit where it is due, this was a very fun issue of Teen Titans. Membership drives are usually pretty entertaining, and this one was no exception. It is neat getting to see a bunch of new faces interact with the normal cast, and I really liked that here. McKeever has to bump out possible new members pretty quickly, but I think he does a good job giving most of them reasons to go. Some of the kids from the Dark Side club just want to go home, some have other teams, and some don't fit in with the Titans. So the Titans are left with a pretty stellar group of new members in Aquagirl, Kid Eternity, and best of all, Static. I was pleasantly suprised at how much I enjoyed Aquagirl in this. At this point, she's a pleasant reminder of a DCU I really enjoyed. I found the Face to be pretty hilarious too, especially how he hung around wanting to join the team after they kicked him out. He had numerous funny lines, and I'm happy he won me over (even though he looks ridiculous). Of course, then he gets pasted by a "mystery assailant" at the end of the issue, so we won't see him again after all. We expect our deaths in DCU books, so I guess we can check that box here. Another pleasant surprise was how the team is really starting to feel like a family at this point. The relationships between Miss Martian, Kid Devil, and Blue Beetle in particular are a lot of fun. Bombshell is another fantastic character that I'm glad is sticking around. One question, why is Sean McKeever credited with "Original Story" instead of being listed as writer? Quite odd...

Allan Goldman has a nice style that picks right up from regular penciller Joe Bennett. Everyone looked right and again, I was pleased at how much I liked Aquagirl.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Battle for the Cowl: Commissioner Gordon

I wasn't aware that there was such a rich history between Gordon and Mister Freeze. In fact after reading this issue, I'm pretty sure there isn't one. There are some references to something with some students, but I'm afraid I don't really know what either of prime characters are talking about. I'm also getting lost in just who is who in the GCPD these days. We had the fantastic cast set up in Gotham Central, but every case seems to be handled by Bullock and this new rookie cop these days. Where's the cool folks from the other book? Heck, couldn't we see Josie Mac as Bullock's partner? I'm also a bit bummed to see Gordon smoking again, since it was a pretty major plot-point back in the Alan Grant days to have the Commish give up the cancer-sticks. But I suppose it is a little much to expect adherence to a 15 year old story (25 years and I'd have better luck though, thanks Barry Allen!) It was also interesting how the general message of this issue was that the Gotham Police have been taking it easy for awhile, letting Batman handle everything. Pretty depressing if you think about it. Royal McGraw does an ok job with the dialogue, but the main plot seemed pretty unnecessary.

Tom Mandrake is always good, and he can draw moody like nobody else. This looked nice.


Battle for the Cowl #2

I totally don't understand the wildly inconsistent competence of the heroes involved in Battle for the Cowl. Robin is an idiot, Damian is basically a moving target dummy, Catwoman is ineffective, and Nightwing is still just lurching around the bat-cave with a mullet. How does this not weaken all those characters for future appearances? Jason Todd was the only character in this thing that seemed like he is capable of defending Gotham, so I'm starting to think he might actually be the best man for the job. I'm sure that my disdain for the whole Battle for the Cowl concept is coloring my read of this series, but it seems that the charaterizations are way off. Two Face makes some pretty big moves, including shooting someone, without consulting with his coin. Isn't that the whole point? I like the idea of teaming up a buch of C-list bat-villains like Zsasz, Jane Doe, and Firefly, but didn't Firefly get killed in Infinite Crisis? I'm almost certain that he did. This happened with Anima recently in the Prometheus 1-shot too. DC has killed so many people recently that they are just bringing them back blind.

This really is just an average comic and doesn't really tell much of a story, although I do kind of like the narration Tony Daniel gives Jason Todd. I'm also wishing we had some Knight and Squire action like the cover promises!

Tony Daniel has some nice looking pencils in this one, particularly how he draws the evil Batman suit worn by Jason Todd. I would have loved to see the yellow oval suit come back on a more regular basis. Since Tim Drake gets whupped on while wearing it here, I bet we won't see it again for awhile.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Daredevil #117

The opening chapter to the new arc in DD starts a bit slow. There is some action with Master Izo and DD taking on the hand, but it isn't until the closing chapters that Ed Brubaker really nails a fantastic scene. Most of the issue recaps DD current status quo, and it is neat seeing the wringer that DD has been through since Brubaker took over. His personal life is still in shambles. Everyone is still out to get poor Matt Murdock and sometimes it seems like the only thing going right is his Daredevil work. That comes to a halt this issue as Kingpin shows up and declares war on the Hand, and he wants DD involved. That's the great closing scene that really makes the issue. I did also like the confrontation DD has with the private investigator who snapped the shots of Matt and Dakota. DD comes off as a real jerk here, and it was neat that I actually found myself feeling for the investigator, I wouldn't have guessed I'd have that response, but DD was too much of a brutal maniac to be the identifiable character in the scene.

Sometimes I think this book would read better in trade, but I can't make myself wait on it.

Michael Lark's art looks wonderful this issue. The fight in the snow on the rooftops of New York looked magical. And the frumpy private dick is a wonderful character, he shines even though he's only in a few scenes and I'm sure we'll never see him again. He looks awful with the broken nose when he grovels to Dakota in the diner.

All-Star Superman TPB

It actually took me 2 or 3 issues to really get into this trade. Superman acts so differently from what I'm used to, and his world is so crazy and bonkers that I was kind of disconnected from the story at first. Then I realized something odd in the issue where Superman competes with Samson and Atlas: I like this better than normal Superman. His world is full of big ideas and mad villains. Lex Luthor is complex and charming, and Jimmy Olsen is a character I'd love to see more from. The whole idea of Superman dying is a neat one, especially played like this where Supes has time to get his life in order. It's a great over-plot to drive towards, but Morrison takes plenty of time for one-off ideas along the way. A super-love contest, black Kryptonite turning Superman into a weak coward (his opposite), and the moving story of the death of Pa Kent. That Pa story was great, and I'm ashamed to say I didn't see the reveal coming. It was nice seeing the DC One Million Superman too.

I loved the billionare inventor who is a kind of connector in the story, and Atlas and Samson would be awesome on a regular basis. The best thing about this are the ideas though. The experiment whose side effect is paranoia and doubt? Genius. Morrison is great at doing this kind of thing, and to be honest, I think I'll probably just pick up these trades when I next want a Superman fix.

Frank Quitely is a great artist. His designs for new characters like Super-Lois, Samson, and Atlas looked fantastic. I also loved his take on Clark Kent as a huge lumbering doofball. Lex and Jimmy were neat too, I can't remember the last time I actually liked Jimmy Olsen. Great stuff.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Incredible Hercules: Secret Invasion TPB

By switching to the trade on so many of my favorite comics, I'm always worried that I'm going to accidentally spoil thinks for myself. I've been really worried about that happening with Hercules, since I loved the first storyline so much. I did accidentally hear about Snowbird's involvement with the God Squad (Herc's team of anti-Skrull deities in this story) and I had also found out which member of the Squad was secretly a Skrull. But I actually had avoided finding out the full lineup of the squad, specifically that it included my favorite Eternal Ajak. The God Squad idea is a tremendous one, and Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente do a fantastic job developing the rival Skrull gods. I actually think the evil deities in this would have been a better reveal for Secret Invasion than the silly God statement that Queen Veranke dropped in the core series. The God Squad was neat too, I love Snowbird's look, so having her show up anywhere is fine with me. I'm not sure I entirely understand why the Demogorge made himself look like an Egyptian god though, I was never exactly clear on that. Amadeus Cho is growing on me too, he's seeming a lot more like a hero with flaws than a super-villain, in the first trade he was basically a bad guy. I like seeing him kind of deal with that in this trade. The use of the Eternals as guest stars was a neat idea and I'm really quite taken with Athena in this manipulator/ally role. She seems like a character that could get a lot more development and has quite a bit of potential.

This comic is trucking along nicely. I hope the sales hold up so we keep getting this fix of Herc for a good long while.

The JRJR covers were fantastic, and Rafa Sandoval does nice work throughout. He's not fantastic, and his use of the Ajak re-design is a little tame, but overall the book looks good.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

War Machine #4

Hmm. Is it a problem if I only like this comic when War Machine is interacting with Ares? I want to like this book, and I love the Jim Rhodes as a character, but it seems writer Greg Pak is doing his best work with Rhodey when he compares and contrasts him with Ares, the original war machine. We're getting more flashbacks from both of their lives, and I'm enjoying that aspect of the book quite a bit. The main plot of the Ultimo virus is fine for moving the plot, but seeing how these two men came to be what they are is really fascinating. I'm also happy to see Suzi Endo showing up again, this book has some real potential with the ensemble forming up the way it is. I'm not sure Jake Oh needs as much screen time as he's getting, since he seems to be a fairly generic soldier but if he turns out to be remorseful about his mercenary ways, he could end up being another good contrast with Parnell and Rhodey. I'm still on board for the title but I'm very worried that when Ares leaves, the book won't be able to hold my interest. But Pak has done a good enough job to get the chance, I'll be sticking around for a bit.

Leo Manco draws some pretty awesome faces in this one. His Ares is awesome. I do wish we could get more of the sleek War Machine though. I know he's built from a jet plane right now, but I want my silver and black Iron Man armor!


Friday, April 17, 2009

Gears of War #5

Maybe my interest in this comic waxes and wanes with how much I'm playing the game. I'm taking a break from Gears of War 2 while I burn through the Orange Box, so I find myself not as engrossed in this book as I was in the early issues. It doesn't help that some of the neater aspects of world-exploring present in early issues is gone, replaced by lots of shooting and shouting. Don't get me wrong, those are essential elements of this franchise. There are still good things here too, the entire sequence with new COG Jace trapped under cement was great, I loved the interspersed flashbacks as he remembers a similar predicament as a kid. I love seeing more of the Gears world, cities, and surrounding characters, so elements that seem like game levels transported into a comic just can't hold up as well. This isn't bad, and Joshua Ortega has the feel and dialogue down pat, this just wasn't one of the stronger issues.

Liam Sharp is the perfect artist for this book. No one could do this better, I'm convinced.


Ms. Marvel #37

Well. I guess this is about the best I could hope for. I've been saying for a few months that I couldn't really keep track of the new spy background for Ms. Marvel, and it is only fitting that she gets killed off in her own title while dealing with these weird plots. Some spies betray other spies, some of whom are ex-boyfriends or handlers of Carol Danvers while she battles a super-powered terrorist who got super powers from Norman Osborn for a reason I'm not sure about. Ms. M's death is through an explosion, which along with death is the #1 survivable death in comics, so I'll put my guess in now: she's going to come back as Binary for awhile and hang out in space. Probably until Dark Reign is over and Moonstone goes back to her old name. At this point, I'm curious to see how Brian Reed handles writing Karla Soften as Ms. Marvel. Since I was never fond of his take on Carol Danvers, I'm keen to see if I connect any more with a more villainous lead. The Ms. Marvel concept is still a good one, and I'm hoping we'll still see her as deputy leader in New Avengers, but frankly, I'm happy that she won't be showing up in stories where she is a poor fit like these spy adventures.

Pat Oliffe delivers fine artwork here, as he always does. I still can't tell those spies apart though.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Battlefields: Dear Billy #1-3

Garth Ennis, you bastard. No one can write more moving war comics than Ennis and he does it again here. Carrie and Billy's story ends logically, I'll give it that. This series is fantastic and a worthy descendant of the War Stories Ennis penned for DC a few years ago. I never know if the facts in these are adapted truths or if Ennis is making things up, but either way he does a fantastic job. I'll be grabbing this trade for certain. The story has wartime action, interpersonal drama, humor, and of course moments of crushing heartbreak too. I won't go into detail since this is at heart a simple story, and I don't want to ruin it. But if you've been steering clear of these Dynamite Battlefields books, make an exception. This is a fantastic genre story by a man who seems to understand it better than anyone else. I honestly can't believe this is the same guy who write The Boys.

Peter Snejbjerg's art has an emotional resonance on every page. The difficult subject matter could be wrecked by a less skilled artist, but in Snejbjerg's hands this is a story that will stay with you for a long time.


Marvel Assistant-Sized Spectacular #1

I do love these in-jokey type things when they are packaged well. I have no idea who any of the current assistant editors are like, but each one gets some good, quick development in the framing story surrounding three pretty strong tales in this one shot. I have been shying away from 3.99 books to wait for the trade, but I'm not sure these would ever be reprinted anywhere, so I'm willing to fork over the money for neat ideas like this one.

The D-Man story by Brian Patchett and Xurxo Penalta is decent, and has some nice ideas. The core concept of D-Man trying to make it in the military is fun (check out his uniform with added GI helmet!). I liked seeing the different ways his team looked at him when they found out his past too. This was an interesting little story in a different style than we usually see from Marvel.

In most anthologies, Jason Aaron and Richard Isanove's story would steal the show (see below why it didn't). I loved Aaron's use of American Eagle as the official hero on the scene, where the Initiative's team had no jurisdiction, and seeing him take on a great old villain like Cottonmouth was great. I loved the whole feel of the short story, with Eagle functioning as both sheriff and judge. Isanove's backgrounds are pretty sparse, and I'm not sure that is by choice of if he's skimping. His figure work is strong though.

Chris Giarrusso is the man. I think there is a good chance my love of the Hawkeye character is partially due to the great work Giarrusso has done in the mini-Marvel stories. Hawkeye and Dr. Strange have to deal with the Crimson Crown and Archeology Jackson and it is hilarious. Heck, Iron Man leaves a note that says "We didn't bother waking you up because you have no powers and are useless to us. You are only an Avenger because Captain America thinks it will stop you from being a bad guy or something." That's just awesome.

Fair + Good + Excellent = a strong Good for this anthology

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #2

Jonathan Hickman is going to be a fine writer for Fantastic Four. DR: FF is so far focused on Reed and the kids, and Hickman is doing a great job with them. Reed is observing parallel Earths, finding out what was necessary for the Civil War to end on a brighter note. The alternate realities are fun little one-offs, and I really enjoyed Reed's summary of how each world functioned. Reed's current theory is hilariously typical too: Super-hero registration would have worked if Reed had done it alone. That's what I love about Reed Richards, he's incapable of finding that he is to blame for something. Hickman does less with Invisible Woman, Human Torch, and the Thing. Their only panel-time comes in alternate world settings where they kind of get the show stolen around them. I was much more interested in the Avengers characters in the King Arthur type world than in the FF. That doesn't mean it was a bad idea, just that the focus was on non-title characters.

Sean Chen is one of my faves, and I loved his work in this one, especially on the alternate Earth versions of the many heroes who show up in this one. I'd read an Avengers book based on those designs.


Secret Six #8

The madcap pacing of the earlier parts of this series have tapered off in the last couple issues as things go back to normal. This issue focuses on the downtime between missions as Deadshot and Jeannette head out on date, joined by Scandal Savage and the red-headed stripper from issue 1. I found the whole deal with the stripper to be a little too cute, a little too much of a coincidence, although I did find myself liking her later as a character. And I'm ashamed to admit I have no idea who the guy debasing himself for Scandal is. Is he a new character? How have I totally forgotten him? Did I miss an issue (the last I read was the resolution of the Junior storyline). So I felt a tad more lost than I usually do reading this book. The running gag involves the rednecks from earlier issues as they attempt to take out the dining villains, and Deadshot has to continually brush them off without killing them, due to a promise he's made to the others that he would behave. I enjoy stories like these, since they make the breakneck paced issues seem more anxious, you can't just jump from one panic to another. There was nothing Earth-shaking going on though.

Carlos Rodriguez's art is decent, but not as good as what Nicola Scott usually does each month. Overall, this is a pretty strong filler issue.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dark Reign: Elektra #1

Wow. Hell has frozen over, and I really enjoyed a book starring Elektra. This is the perfect way to use her, as an engine of destruction kept in check by a despicable agency and hateful agents, so that when she gets loose, I can't wait to see her rip them apart. My favorite part of the issue was actually the HAMMER details that came out in dialogue. The repurposing of SHEILD would be a complicated thing and we start to see how that would play out in this. The line about how someone predisposed for torture would be limited in SHIELD but rewarded in HAMMER was really quite neat and gives a great glimpse into the world Norman Osborn is building. Elektra spends much of the issue tied up, but her eventual escape is handled so well that I'm looking foward to next issue. I am a bit disappointed that Paladin has totally degenerated into being a villain at this point, but I suppose that's ok as long as he remains something of a charismatic rogue. I did like him as an Avenger-for-hire back in the Roger Stern days though. Zeb Wells seems to be more hit than miss with me these days, and this is another strong offering. I'm in for the trade.

Clay Mann's art is really quite good. I don't know that I've seen him before, but I hope he gets more work. His take on Iron Man was neat and he did a great job differentiating faces on the many characters who show up in this.


War of Kings #2

There was basically no way the second issue of this series could match the first for break-neck thrills and action. Sure enough, this issue is solid, but doesn't have quite the same level of breathless excitement that came from reading issue 1. That's partially because this is the strikeback issue, where the Kree get to get their licks in and start smashing up the Shi'ar. The other reason is that of our principal characters, only Havok and Triton really "do" a lot here, the others kind of recover, talk, or fly ships. That's not saying this issue is boring, because the characters are developing nicely. The idea of Crystal as a princess of the people is very interesting and I love the jealousy that I'm hearing in Medusa's voice when she talks about her sister. In fact, it seems Polaris has been more supportive of Crystal in this book than her own sis. Maximus creates some giant robots to mess up the Shi'ar and I find myself really enjoying him as this mad-inventor type, he's been a villain so long, it is neat seeing him in this role now that Black Bolt is giving him some kind of direction.

The big cliffhanger is a strong one. Vulcan is getting more and more annoyed that the Kree are actually having some success against him, so he starts crying and screaming about how he'll "kill them all" starting with Lillandra. Gladiator is the closest to the scene, and I'm fascinated to see how he reacts. Will he really let his former queen die? Gladiator narrates most of the issue (although it is easy to lose track that it is him) and I'm really not sure what he'll do.

Paul Pelletier turns in another great looking issue. I do wish the new chorus-bots looked a little more like Kree Sentries though, not just like big robot Black Bolts.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Justice Society of America #25

Ugh. What a weird place the DCU is becoming. In this issue, Billy Batson gets tricked out in the same punk-dork look as his sister Mary got in Final Crisis, Isis gets reduced to a screaming madwoman, Black Adam is taken off the board, and eventually the entire Marvel family is depowered. Talk about taking my favorite things about the DCU off the board. The Power of Shazam was a wonderful series that explored the DCU with an innocent eye and explored the neat Marvel Family, and yet now they've been reduced to these weird stylized punks. There is such a fundamental disconnect from what the Marvel family could and should be, I just don't get it. I did like how Black Adam was portrayed here, Geoff Johns has always had his voice down perfectly. He is actually the voice of reason when dealing with his mad wife Isis. That kind of disappointed me, since I'm much more interested in Isis softening him rather than seeing her warped by the evil power of Black Adam. The JSA comes off well in this issue, especially Power Girl, who gets to do some fun stuff here. I was also pleased to see Atom Smasher rejoin the team, and that the grumpy old men squad woke up and kept everyone on the team. I had been annoyed how GL, Flash, and Wildcat weren't even consulting with the supposed team leader (Power Girl) in the last few issues, so seeing her having an active voice at the table was nice. I'm disappointed where the issue left off, with Adam and Isis frozen as statues, since their relationship is a dynamic one that often guides the DCU as a whole. My bigger complaint is with the depowering of the Marvels. I suppose this might just be to put everyone on the shelf for awhile so that there can be an eventual reboot, but at this point, I'm getting tired of those stories too.

I can't believe Jerry Ordway had to draw this. His work is always solid, and is again here, but I'm bummed that someone who wrote the Marvels so well had to draw this. It is a testament to the creative team that this is still a Fair when I disliked so many elements of the story.


Savage Dragon #146

This book has become too darn depressing. All the cops of Dragon's district were killed last issue, leaving him overcome with guilt. Dragon's friend Alex narrates this issue, explaining why she just can't handle sticking around. She's too personally invested with Dragon himself, and too terrified that proximity to him will lead to her death. Like I said, a real bummer. The parts of the issue I liked best were the fights with the super-hookers (how can you not like that?) That felt like the Savage Dragon I've read about for many years. The scene with Dragon's kids was good too, and proved that Larsen can advance the story and move things along while keeping things fresh. However, the general tone is so damn depressing I don't get any of the fun I used to from the book. Larsen needs to lighten things up or I'm afraid more people will check out. I miss the big fights with neat villains, the awesome guest stars, and most of all the sense of anything can happen fun that was this book's core concept for years.

Larsen's art is always a treat for me. I love his character designs and this issue is no exception. The super-chicks looked great, with some looking like original creations while others were clear homages to existing characters.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Deadpool: Games of Death #1

Mike Benson does a decent job writing Deadpool in a style that kind of mixes the current Daniel Way take and the classic Deadpool character. There is a small bit of the internal debates and hallucinations like Way uses, one of which is actually quite funny when DP sees his current employer as the monopoly man. However, most of the issue is from 3rd person, so we don't see as much of DP's crazy internal monologue. The story is fairly generic, with a bunch of contestants on an reality show where the losers die. I did kind of like Benson's recreation of a bunch of action movie characters. He has analogs of Steven Segal, Jean Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Shaft, Jackie Chan, Kurt Russell, and more. I guess I was a little disappointed that these characters were killed off as quickly as they were, since there is some potential in seeing DP interact with those archetypes. My issue is that the whole book gets played mostly for laughs, and I think there was actually some potential for a more exciting, normal story. That said, the twists are fine, and overall the book is a good one for Deadpool fans.

Shawn Crystal's work is new to me, and he's a little cartoony for my tastes. His action looks good though, and his filtered celebrities are good enough to make it clear who each is supposed to be.


Thunderbolts #130

I was actually very disappointed by this one. I had such high hopes for Andy Diggle's new team that I feel like I'm being let down when they actually show up in their own costumes for the first time. We have a fill-in artist who doesn't draw anything like the normal artist, and I think the team seems a lot less cool than they had been because of it. Their dialogue is totally different too. They seem more like morons than cool professionals like they had been. I understand and like that Deadpool is being portrayed as a real threat, he should be. The Tbolts should be losing since they just formed as a team, but here they seem like an existing team whose incompetence is well ensconced. I just didn't get the same vibe from this issue at all. I could almost believe it wasn't written by Diggle, that's how different it felt.

Bong Dazo's art is much closer to Paco Medina (artist for Deadpool) than he is to Roberto De La Torre. This issue is a complete departure from the mood established in previous issues. While Dazo does some things well (his take on Black Widow II and DP look good) some people look plain bad. Paladin looks like a doofus and I don't understand what that cauldron is doing on Headsman's back. This issue is a huge departure from the mood, story, and tone Diggle had established, so I'm really hoping he can get back on track. If someone came on to sample this issue, they'd have no idea what they are missing in a normal issue of Diggle's run.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Green Lantern Corps #34

Peter Tomasi continues writing one of the most consistent comics on the stands. As things begin ramping up for Darkest Night, GLC is setting up nice conflicts for almost the entire cast. Sodam Yat and Arisia are lining up against Mongul on Daxam, Soranik is heading back to Korugar - no doubt to be involved with Sinestro's daughter (she couldn't be that daughter, could she?), and there is a break out in the science cells of Oa. There is plenty going on here, much of it established previously in this title. In addition, Krybb's rehabilitation as a Star Sapphire is ongoing too, so I'm sure that won't end well. This book is a masterful balance of plots, with the entire ensemble of characters getting quality screen time while the main story moves towards the overarching plot of the DCU. I never thought I would care so much about the GL's jailor, or about the kids Krybb has taken, but Tomasi has me anxiously awaiting each and every issue so I can see how all of these compessing stories develops. The great thing is that it isn't all plot, when Sodam Yat's mother shows up, we have some great interaction with the two of them, and his anger at her and his homeworld is palpable. This is a great comic, and while Tomasi does bring the gore (check out the bystanders getting smashed during the Mongul fight on Daxam), he balances it out and usually gives the gore meaning.

What can I say about Patrick Gleason, who always brings his A game to this title. He's a DC MVP penciller at this point.


Young X-Men #12

I'm not exactly sorry to see this title go, but I do think there was some potential in this series that was never explored. I really like Anole as a character, and his reactions this issue to Dust's "death" were pretty neat. There has been an awful mortality rate amongst New X-Men, so it is neat seeing him complain about it. Rockslide and Graymalkin are pretty neat characters too, and I loved the future Dust design in the Daniel Acuna pencilled flash-forwards. It is clear how Marc Guggenheim had to rush to wrap up his story when the book was cancelled, and I can't help but wonder if he would have presented the initial "evil Cyclops" story in another way had he known how much it would confuse people. It was hard to come back to the book for the new status quo with Sunspot and Mirage joining the cast. That probably should have been issue 2 at the latest, as it was, it took way too long to get to the actual ongoing team setup. I can't say I'm too interested in the new Cypher, but Graymalkin seems like a character who could pop up in an interesting fashion from time to time. I think Guggenheim wrote Ink out in a neat way too. Since he's in a coma, he could certainly come back, but if no writers want to use him he's written out effectively too. The flash-forward was entertaining, and I liked the alternating pages of present and future, but I am pretty certain no one will ever pick up on the evil Dust wiping out mutants storyline. I don't think she rates enough to have this followed up on.

Roger Bonet's inks over Rafa Sandoval's pencils look wonderful. This is the best the series has looked since the beginning. Rockslide's texture looks fantastic in the opening sequence during his rage. Daniel Acuna is always good, and as I said, his redesign for Dust's costume in the future was great, I'd love to see it used soon.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Marvel Apes: Speedball Special #1

I'm disappointed. After reading the Marvel Apes books a few months ago, I'd hoped that Ape X, the gorilla luchador teased at the end of that series would be a super-powered luchadore. Instead, he's still a super-ape, just like he is in the ape-verse. I'm not sure I entirely understand how that works, but he does still seem like a fun character. The special follows the ape Speedball as he tries to become a hero in the Marvel U, even signing up with the Initiative. I suppose the idea is ok. Most of the ideas here are decent, like Gorilla Girl and SB having an "ape alliance" while together in trainging, and the use of Red Ghost and the super-apes makes perfect sense. I'm a little blurry on how exactly Red Ghost can travel thorugh dimensions now, but it isn't that big a deal. I'm also just a bit unclear on where the story leaves the Ghost and SB. Are they back in the monkey-verse? I do think that the Gibbon was a tad more entertaining as the POV of the previous series, the monkey-Speedball just makes me miss the real Speedball.

Ramon Bachs brings a very cartoony style to the special, and it looks fine, but I think he's certainly good enough to be drawing a higher profile book. Seeing Reilly Brown, another of my favorites doing the next issue surprises me too. I'd think these guys (and writer Karl Kesel too, for that matter) could and should be working on more mainstream books.


Hulk: Broken Worlds #1

I'm not quite the target audience for this one, since out of the 4 stories involved, I only read 2 of the source adventures. I hadn't read the House of M version of Hulk, but I'm not exactly sure how that story could continue, since it got re-made at the conclusion of House of M. I didn't think it was an actual Earth like the Watcher can view. The actual story was fine for a short story though. Clayton Henry's art looked absolutely fantastic here. I hope to see more of him in other books using this style.

The Roy Thomas & Herb Trimpe story with Jarella didn't make a whole lot of sense to me either, since I've never read the era of Hulk that it is based on. I think Thomas was counting a little too much on people being familiar with a story from 20+ years ago. I could enjoy it as a nice little adventure story where Hulk fights monsters though! And Jarella seemed like a pretty neat character, but I'm not sure I understand if she is actually alive or not. She is dead, right? It was great seeing Trimpe's art again, I wish he'd do more modern books.

I couldn't read the third story because of the odd computery artwork. I'm not even sure what it is based on. Looking back I see it is based on Hulk 2099. I don't know anything about that.

The Maestro follow up made the most sense to me, as I'm familiar with the source material in Hulk: Future Imperfect. I enjoyed seeing Peter David revisit that world and handle just a little bit of world building as the shows how the removal of the Maestro establishes a new status quo for that particular future. The art was clear and close enough in style to George Perez that everyone looked right, which was nice. The crux of the story was a nice little coincidence that would be too cute for an ongoing book, but is just right for a quick one-off story.

Two fairs, a good, and a poor = an overall grade of Fair

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Green Lantern #39

As much as I make fun of the rainbow of lanterns, I have to give Geoff Johns credit, he is actually addressing my number 1 concern. I had been very worried that there would be no differentiation between the different lanterns except for the color of their constructs, and while that is true with the Sinestro Corps, the Red, Blue, and now Orange corps seem to have their own thing going on. I'm not sure I understand the Star Sapphires yet, so I won't include them. In any case, this issue introduces Larfleeze, a pretty fun new character who seems to be (SPOILER) the one and only member of the Orange Lantern Corps. It seems the long-standing ban from the Vega system enforced on all GLs is due a long standing deal Larfleeze made with the Guardians. Now that the Controllers have interrupted him, and then robotic GL Stel violates the borders, Larfleeze wants vengeance. Lar's voice is entertaining throughout the issue, I loved how petty and whiny he seemed all the time. I am happy to see Stel, I love the idea of a robot who loves the justice of the Green Lanterns, I hope to see more of him.

The developments with Hal Jordan were not as good, since Hal is belittling the Blue Lanterns constantly, which leaves me pretty uninterested in them. Hal says all the things I think about them, so I hope he learns his lesson and starts to respect those lame-os soon, or they'll be written off for the reader. I'm still amused that the moronic guardians don't think anything is wrong with Sayd. She's so bonkers at this point, how can they not see it?

The art by Phillip Tan was pretty strong. He uses a ton of crosshatching, but his Larfleeze design is fantastic. His take on Stel was strong too.


Irredeemable #1

This is how you introduce a new universe. Contrast this to the recent Super-Zombies book, and the difference is clear. The lineup is very limited in this first issue, and the main players are introduced slowly enough to make us actually care when some of them are taken off the board. The Superman-archetype Plutonian in this is a force of nature, not a character. We don't know any of his thoughts or see things from his point of view, other than one telling panel that shows he doesn't take criticism very well. The opening sequence was pretty riveting too. It is easy emotional manipulation to kill kids (especially once you have some of your own like I do) but it really drilled down the essentials of the Plutonian. He is beyond any redemption as of page 2, even though we don't know what he did to the first hero's daughter or if she's alive or dead. Samsara seemed so sad in his attempts to talk about Plutonian, and the slow reveal of his current circumstance was handled masterfully in both the art and dialogue. Waid has created a compelling world of new heroes that are already behind the 8-ball, and I can't wait to see where it goes.

Where has Pete Krause been hiding? I loved his work on Power of Shazam and it is great seeing him putting out work again. His action scenes look fantastic, and the detail in his backgrounds is nice to see too. I didn't find any of the new hero designs to be mind-blowing, but they are unique and don't seem to be direct rip-offs of existing characters, which is nice.

There has been a lot of talk about Grant Morrison's afterword, where he gets kind of down on the Internet comic-community and how we pigeon-hole creators. I certainly admit to some of that, but I like to hope I do it for the positive and the negative, since there are many creators whose work I will seek out based on their established voice. I'm not sure Waid is the best guy to be championing either, since he does do a lot of Silver Age type work and did really make his rep deconstructing the Silver Age in Kingdom Come. I do like hearing those described as Dad-comics though! Morrison's ego seems a little bruised after the Final Crisis reviews and I can see why. Shake it off Grant, you and Waid are still tops in my book!


War of Kings: Darkhawk #2

This is a tale of two reviews. I liked the backstory introduced about the raptors as cosmic gardeners shaping the development of galactic culture. The morphing armor and inclusion of a neat legacy really increases the potential for further Darkhawk stories. I didn't care for the silly anger management and rage issues or the artificial-feeling confrontation with Mickey at the hospital. Mickey/Turbo came off looking pretty selfish here, yelling and blaming her boyfriend while his Mom is lying in intensive care, so I totally ended up siding with DH and thinking he's better off without her. I think the Losers worked better as a throwaway idea rather than a concept that needs revisiting. If these heroes can't handle it, they should just retire, not follow around other heroes and convince them to give up. If I had to guess, I'd suppose that much of the raptor plot is set up by DnA for War of Kings, and the Losers-related material is CB Cebulski's contribution. No matter how it was created, the overall package remains average.

Harvey Tolibao's work has looked better in Avengers the Initiative. I could barely figure out what was happening in most of the fight with the hunter. It felt like a Transformers movie flashback, the spikes and glowing parts were so tangled together I couldn't figure out who was fighting whom.