Sunday, May 31, 2009

Planet Skaar Prologue #1

When She-Hulk has as big a role as she does here, I'm almost guaranteed to like the book. There isn't a whole lot to be found here, as Skaar arrives on Earth seeking our "King," the Hulk. There is some odd effect to Skaar's arrival that the gamma powered characters of the world are all tweaked by his arrival. She-Hulk and Hulk are drawn to him like magnets, while the Warbound are bugging out in the desert. Speaking of the Warbound, it was interesting seeing Osborn acting like a misunderstood good guy. He's "a big believer in redemption" so he pardons the Warbound! Is Greg Pak on the same page as the other Marvel writers? Osborn is supposed to a big jerk, right?

The Fantastic Four and She-Hulk are the main stars of the book as we see how they deal with Skaar. I liked how quickly Skaar gets a bad impression of Earth, seeing a coyote shot from a helicopter. With an introduction like that, I'm not surprised he lashes out at everyone. Pak has a few wonderful moments in the issue, like when the Torch decides that his favorite Hulk is the dumb green one, while Thing prefers the gray version, because that's the one he can beat. The new status quo for Skaar is a neat one too, it seems we have an adolescent Hulk on Earth now, one that changes back and forth between "human" and Hulk form. It's a neat idea that should be pretty fun to explore. I'm a tad worried that Skaar will hang out with this coyote for awhile, making him a little too much like Amadeus Cho. I'll be picking up the trades of the new ongoing if it holds up this level of quality.

I haven't seen Dan Panosian's art for awhile and I don't remember him being this good. His She-Hulk looks great and he gets to do some shots of her in burst clothes and others in her FF suit. He handles both well. His Hulk, Skaar, and Mr. Fantastic all looked good too. His Invisible Woman was a bit craggy when she's visible, but not awful.


Lockjaw & the Pet Avengers #1

Wow, what a pleasant surprise. This was a fun book from cover to cover. It seems the Illuminati are trying to find the Infinity Gems, and Lockjaw is on the case! After finding the mind gem, Lockjaw sets out to assemble a fantastic group of Avengers to protect the rest of the gems. The character with the most pages is Throg, formerly known as Puddlegulp. That's right, another frog has been found worthy to hold the power of Thor. I loved Throg's dialogue and how he's easily the most heroic of the Pet Avengers, he's a great find. Plus, the scene with his frog family cheering for him was fantastic! The other members include Lockheed (Shadowcat's dragon), Redwing (Falcon's falcon), Niels (now Hairball, Speedball's cat), Ms. Lion (Aunt May's dog). The issue is filled with fun bits, from Redwing's superiority complex to Ms. Lion's revelation that he is really a boy dog named Ms. Lion! The only bummer characterization actually makes sense, story-wise: Lockheed is mopey about losing Shadowcat. The others are hilarious, with Niels/Hairball as possibly my favorite. His personality is so perfectly "catlike," I found myself smiling every time he speaks up.

This is a fun, simple story that I think I'll be reading to my 4-year old in the near future, I think she'll love it.

Ig Guara's art is spot on perfect for this. The animals look like animals, yet they all express wonderful emotion in their body language and facial expressions. Such a good book! I do hope it is in-continuity too!


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Guardians of the Galaxy #14

Ok, we're all sure that Warlock is really Magus now, right? As the battle between Vulcan and Warlock heats up this issue, Warlock starts to turn purple. I didn't see the white hair, but I've got to figure that Magus is on the team and Warlock is really still in his cocoon. I'm a little disappointed in that, actually, since this is the most I've ever liked the character. He's usually so darn boring, but in this volume of Guardians he's been pretty likable and cool. DnA's use of the Imperial Guard is fun too. There is no mention of what Gladiator has been up to, but with him gone it seems Mentor II is in charge of the Guard. I can't help but like the Imperial Guard, and when they showed up I found myself rooting for them a little bit.

The B-story of Starlord's team trying to talk the Inhumans out of fighting was a bit weird. Phyla seems to have gone off the deep end. She repeatedly sabotages the peace talks and won't back down when the team calls her on it. I did like Bug's attempt at diplomacy too. I love the use of him as a charmer who can't help but comment on Medusa's -tik - eyes.

Brad Walker is the perfect artist for this book. He mixes the normal humans and aliens wonderfully. His Inhumans were spot-on, especially Medusa who looked beautiful and regal. I'm not sure I care for Jack Flagg's new mask, but that is a small complaint.


Punisher #5

Nicely done, Rick Remender. How do you have Punisher, a man who kills his villains, go up against Marvel U villains without rapidly depleting the Marvel U of its C-list villains? You resurrect a whole helluva lot of them. I was pretty annoyed at Microchip's return last issue, but I'll take it back now because the emotional resonance of the confrontation this issue. Micro wants Punisher to just stop fighting, and if he does, the Hood will resurrect Frank's family and Micro's son, and everyone's lives can go back to normal. I do wish Frank would have thought about it a few minutes more, because certainly that would have to be a tempting offer, but Frank just goes right back into the fighting. Remender uses a fun little bunch of thugs as Micro's backup, a group that includes the Brothers Grimm, the Grizzly, and Mr. Hyde. Punisher quickly deals with them, but finds Mr. Hyde to be a lot tougher than advertised. Hyde is a great villain, and I'd argue an A-list one, so I'm glad to see him get the respect he does this issue. Sure Frank beats him, but I'm ok with that. I'm also digging how Remender is keeping Osborn as a part of the conflict, but not the focus. The Hood wouldn't be my first guess for a foil for the Punisher, but he is working surprisingly well.

The Hood resurrects a slew of villains on the closing page, setting up lots of people for Frank to kill over the next few issues. I recognized some Ani-Men, Mirage from Spectacular Spider-Man, and I think the Death-Adder and Bluestreak from Gruenwald's Cap. In fact, it looks like this panel undoes a lot of Scourge's work from the late 80s!

Jerome Opena does a great job with Punisher expanding his armory to include the cast-offs from other heroes. Ant-Man's helmet is the only one I recognized, but I love that Frank took the time to personalize all his gear with Punisher skulls. Those little details of Opena's on the motorcyle, the helmet, and the other equipment really paints Frank as a man who enjoys his work.


Friday, May 29, 2009

Avengers: The Initiative #24

It is hard to review books that are solid every single month. Christos Gage wraps up the last of the straggling plotlines from the first incarnation of the series. It's Norman Osborn's world now. I'm loving the awkward relationship that the instructor-heroes have with Osborn. The Gauntlet is a good guy trying to follow orders, but it has got to be clear to him that Osborn is scum. It will really shake things up next issue when Taskmaster is placed in charge. I can't wait.

I thought it was interesting how Typhoid Mary was written out so quickly. I actually liked her as a heroic character and especially as part of the Shadow Initiative. The whole SI was a neat concept that I'm sad to see go, although I suppose Taskmaster may keep it around. Bengal and Constrictor are still on the table. The reunion between Ant-Man and Taskmaster was wonderful. Those two bozos really seem like friends at this point. Their back and forth banter during the fight was fun. The Hydra arc wrapped up a lot of folks: Komodo is back in action, Scorpion returns to comic-limbo, and Hardball is off to 42. So I guess Hardball will be joining the Guardians of the Galaxy soon, right? I'm really curious to see how this book will function going forward, and I'm confident it will be good.

Humberto Ramos' pencils... wait a minute. Am I imagining it or did Ramos sneak a little something in on Typhoid Mary?


Green Lantern #41

I was down on Geoff Johns for a few months, but I'm really coming back to digging his work. The Kingdom story in JSA and the Secret Origin story in GL seem to have been a brief aberration from the high quality he usually delivers.

This issue he gives us the origin of Larfleeze. And while it is hardly a revelatory or shocking thing, it is still fun for what it is. Larfleeze has very quickly established a voice. His love of food and eating is wonderful and I also dig his new description as "a boar crossed with a muppet." And of course, Hal Jordan has to mention that he always loved the frog. I think it is because Kermit knew it isn't easy being green, a lesson Hal had to learn. Heh. Larfleeze's original pact with the Guardians isn't that shocking or really that underhanded. The Guardians gave him the Vega system if he'd keep the Orange Lantern battery on Okara. Larfleeze was a thief who had stolen the Parallax box (I don't remember that at all) and the Guardians just wanted that back and Larfleeze out of their thinning hair. I would have liked a little more GL action this issue, since there is still that huge special strike team operating in Vega, but I understand we needed Hal to headline this one. At least John Stewart showed up and got to act cool too. Larfleeze gets some more fantastic dialogue: "You're a welsher!" Next issue I'd like more from Torquemada, my new favorite background GL.

Phillip Tan's art has improved each month he's been on this title. The scratchiness that bothered me at first is gone and this book looks fantastic now. I'm not sure I care for the whole race of Larfleezes, but I'm sure that wasn't Tan's decision.

One last thought: isn't it a strange time when GL has been the driving force of the DC Universe for so long? Back when I was reading Emerald Dawn, the Old Timer story, and Kyle's adventures, I never would have guessed.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Captain Britain & MI 13 #13

This comic is too good for us. As the Vampire Nation story continues, we have more fantastic development of Dracula as a tactical genius that makes him a fascinating adversary. I'm bummed but excited to see Spitfire finally turning and going up against her old teammates. How in the world Paul Cornell will have the team survive this is beyond me. We see Spitfire slash Faiza's throat, and I've got to say, Spitfire really doesn't seem like she's faking it. The status report obituaries for the rest of the team was a nice touch too, with the vampires even admitting that the Black Knight may return "as heroes often do". The set-up with Blade as the last surviving MI 13 operative is a great one, since he's the greatest threat to the vampire way of life. We may have the whole team survive, but with B and C-listers like this, they may just be dead too...

One of my favorite bits of Cornell's writing is the casual bits between the story high-spots. Blackjack Tarr's plan to change panicked civilians into stake-wielding mobs is genius. Osborn recognizing Wisdom as a "player" was great, and I can almost believe that Osborn would help if he could. Having Pym's real Avengers attempt to come to the rescue rang true too, proving them international heroes even if they can't do anything about this problem. Judging from next issue's cover, I'm hoping for some more obscure British heroes to get involved (like Motormouth, Killpower, Micro Max, and of course Union Jack). I'm going to miss Cornell's organized and careful approach to storytelling.

Leonard Kirk's pencils are great. The vampire scout attack on the team was spooky, but Spitfire's vampire-look was really terrifying. The quick drop of Faiza followed by Black Knight's freak out was well-choreographed too, I knew what was going to happen before it did, but as the moments hit, they were still upsetting.


Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #1

Let me start by saying I'm a big Joe Casey fan. But after reading the first issue of Dance, I feel like I've seen this before. I'm amazed how similar this feels to the most recent launch of Youngblood. The supporting cast PR men, the pre-fab HQ and fanbases, even some of the dialogue seemed very similar. I don't think that many people read Youngblood, but I picked up every issue Casey did and really liked it. I know the story won't be concluded, so maybe Casey is getting to handle that kind of story here in the DCU, but still... it feels so familiar. As far as the leads, other than Most Excellent Super Bat, I haven't really been won over by anyone yet. The characters are interesting even while they are unlikable, but I'm not sure these guys count as heroes at all. And since I come to comics for a heroic fix, I don't know if there is enough here to keep me coming back. The series is well-written and the dialogue does sparkle in places, and I loved the bit with the tiny flying gal looking for Japan from their space station, it was a nice moment from someone who's suddenly in a very different place in life than she's used to. But the overall tone is so familiar.

Chris Cross is one of my favorite artists but he's a little more restrained here than I'm used to. I loved his work so much on the comedy-tinged Captain Marvel series that I think he's the right choice for the series' sensibilities, but I'm not sure if I love his take on the Super Young Team's oddball costumes.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

GI Joe #5

There's something to be said for a nice rock-smashing. I was disappointed to see Beach Head taken out so fast in this issue (and with a broken leg, he might be out for awhile), but having Duke just smash the last spy-bot to pieces was a great move. I almost wish Chuck Dixon would have refrained from having Destro's underlings mention the irony, but I suppose he had to be sure everyone got the technological clash. Flint finally shows up (along with Leatherneck, Recondo, Stalker, and the regulars like Scarlett, Duke, and Hawk) but only Duke gets a lot to do on that list. I was amused that Snake Eyes makes such a huge impact on this issue yet he's not on the cover. I can't figure out what Snake's plan is, but I do like the use of him as a mystery character, it works for him.

Another fun aspect of the book is the competence of all the players. Destro's team may have failed in their main mission, but they do have a lot of info to work with and they are portrayed as smart enough to noodle out even more. It was also neat to see how quickly Scarlett tied the 'bots to Destro and from there to Cobra. These are all smart people and it is a lot of fun watching them work.

Robert Atkins is still bringing the classic Joe look with some nice tweaks. Recondo's mustache is modernized nicely and even I have to admit that Snake Eyes hopping on that jet-ski was pretty cool. I love the cameos too. We got Junkyard and Mutt patroling the Pitt in this one. With so many Joes to feature, I hope this series is a long-running one.


Batman: Battle for the Cowl #3

Ugh. What was the point of this? Tim Drake was just fine after getting a batarang to the chest last month. Damian's bullet wound is no biggie, since he spends this issue ridiculing the Squire and being a jerk. Nightwing goes one on one with a totally insane Jason Todd. In fact, I'm shocked that Jason Todd was used like this, I mean, there is really no redeeming the guy at this point. I don't care for the ret-con of some childhood trauma that Tony Daniel includes here, but there is no way to ever use Todd as a 'tweener again. He's a villain now. I also found it odd that Nightwing makes no reference to the previous time that he acted as Batman, has that been retconned away too? And was Jason Todd supposed to be Black Mask, or is that just an unresolved plot thread? It seems the US military is taking over police actions in Gotham, will that be the new status quo or is that a one-off? Overall, this book really confused me.

Jason Todd is a vampire. I didn't realize that before I read this issue, but his bloody grin after he thinks he killed Tim Drake proves it to me. I also love how Tim Drake, Jason Todd, Dick Grayson, and even Damian all have the same hair and face. Amusing. The cover looks nice though!


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Invincible #62

I'm dreading this story quite a bit, due to the rumors that Atom Eve is going to be killed in this story. I'm really hoping that this isn't the case, because otherwise this is a really fun story. The Viltrumite invasion storyline has been going on so long that it is really neat seeing Invincible face off against the "unstoppable" conquerors. With his powers constantly increasing, the Viltrumites better be careful who they send. Of course, Conquest is a great character so far. He seems to relish the fighting more than the testing, and he really doesn't seem interested in advancing the Viltrumite empire. He just wants to do some smashing. It's a fun idea and Kirkman is still keeping things fresh this far in.

Ryan Ottley has that wonderful mix of gore and cartooniness that carries the story perfectly. The violence is over the top, but it is never offensive.


4-Year Old Reviews Tiny Titans #16

This was a good one. Coach Lobo is sometimes bad and sometimes good and sometimes in-between right? I like Blackfire and her sister Starfire because they are beautiful. I want Beast Boy to win because he can pop and he's funny. I don't think Batgirl is cheating by using a helicopter because she can zip around. Bombshell is beautiful. She's shiny. Why do she and Cassie have the same pants? Mas y Menos have the power to run fast and the power to speak Spanish. I don't think Raven won, I think she was the closest. I'm going to play the racing game and have them tie. Why do the Titans sometimes have black lines around them?


Monday, May 25, 2009

Thunderbolts #132

Well, back on track that fast. After two sub-par (but still decent) issues of Thunderbolts, Andy Diggle is right back in the groove with the newest issue. This was a great interim issue, showing some downtime for the team before they head out to recruit their newest member. I love the interaction of the "regular" guys on the team (Ant-Man, Headsman, and Paladin) and we get some nice development from the Ghost too. The weird might-be friendship between Ghost and Headsman could develop into something really neat. Ghost may end up being my favorite member of this team now. I love that his paranoia seems to be justified, he seems to be the only member of the team that realizes how Osborn thinks of them.

The rest of the issue sends the team to Madripoor to recruit Mr. X. I think Mr. X was introduced in the Frank Tieri and Sean Chen run on Wolverine a few years ago. He seems like a generic bad-ass character, and I'm not sure there is enough unique about him for me to really like him, but we'll see. It will be fun seeing how he interacts with the more "chill" members of the team.

Roberto De La Torre returns on art and suddenly everything looks right again. The moody nature of his pencils makes this shadow-operative team seem so much cooler. I absolutely love his Headsman, as I'm totally convinced he's based on Danny Trejo.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Captain America #50

There's not a whole lot to this anniversary issue of Cap, but it was fine for what it is due to some great art and a pretty comprehensive backup story. The main story has the Watchdogs (who I liked more in their old Mark Gruenwald incarnation) flying around with jetpacks and futuristic suits. They're trying to take out Winter Cap since he's not the real thing. There is an amusing bit where Winter Cap snaps a few pics and sends them back to Clint Barton for him to ID. It was amusing seeing such a low-tech option for the Avengers. Interspersed througout the attack is a series of flashbacks of Winter Cap's birthdays through the years. They were good character bits and a nice setup for the conclusion where the New Avengers have a party to celebrate Cap's birthday. It was quite nice seeing the team coming together as friends like that, showing they don't always need a crisis to force them together.

Luke Ross' art maintains the same feel as Steve Epting. In both the flashbacks and the current story everyone looked consistent with this volume of Cap. Again, I liked the old cheesy Watchdog suits better than these new generic flying suits. The Avengers looked good at the end with a fair amount of personality shining through in the "surprise" shot.

Marcos Martin's backup was very pretty. I like how he framed the character shots within shadows and other page elements. The whole backup was old info for me, but it was still neat seeing folks like Diamondback, the Machinesmith, and Crossbones get used.


Secret Society of Super-Villains #1-8 (1976)

I think I may have short-changed 70s DC books. I always thought Bill Mantlo and his cohorts made Marvel the place to be in the 70s, but after reading the first few issues of this series, I think I need to check out more of the work of Gerry Conway, Bob Rozakis, and company at the distinguished competition. There were many pleasant surprises as I work my way through this series. First of all, Captain Comet is a really neat character, I love how he becomes a hated foe of the Society for no real reason, he just dedicates his time on Earth to stopping them. I like this guy a lot more than the smug hero for hire that DC is currently publishing. This guy feels more like the hero I remember from LEGION and REBELS from the 90s...

The core villains are a lot of fun too, with Gorilla Grodd standing out as always. The Grodd vs. Kalibak fight was tremendous with a spectacular finish that doesn't really demean either character. I like the use of Sinestro and the Wizard as aloof villains with few attachments to Earth-1 too. I will admit I'm still confused by the apparent ease of travel between Earths, but I can't hold it against this series. I'm also thrilled that Darkseid and his 4th World cronies (and Funky Flashman!) are so important to this series, I never guessed that would be the case.

Another outstanding part of the series is the rotating cast of heroes that show up to assist Comet. Kid Flash is around for awhile and suffers from some hero-worship (that must have been his thing). The best is how the writers brought in Black Canary and Hawkgirl. Canary tags along with Comet because Green Arrow wants to watch a football game. Hawkgirl heads out on a mission while Hawkman is cooking a fancy alien dinner for their guest. That's just awesome!

Rich Buckler, Pablo Marcos, and Ernie Chan all have a great DC house style. Grodd isn't quite as horrific as I'm used to, but I love the Star Sapphire design. Can anyone recommend more 70s DC with this feel? I always figured pre-Crisis DC was over-the-top madness like Haunted Tank and inconsistent characterization, I want more like this!


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Clandestine: Blood Relatives HC

This is a pretty easy sale for me, since I'm a huge Alan Davis fan. I've followed all the Clandestine material over the years and this holds up the high level of quality Davis has produced in the other series. This is a very character-heavy series, with the main confrontations with the Griffin included almost as an afterthought. What makes the Clandestine books so much fun is seeing how the different family members wrestle with thier immortality. Crimson Crusader and Imp are still dreaming of being super-heroes, their older siblings (who pose as aunts and uncles) are taking turns taking them out on patrol. All the old characters show up here, Cuckoo, Walter/Wallop, Samantha, Newton, and of course Dominic. Dominic gets the most exciting plotline as he is shunted off into space/time where he joins up with Excalibur on their Cross-Time Caper. That's right, this is a crossover to a story published 20 years ago. Since Davis drew the original, Dominic fits in seamlessly to the story, he looks perfect. I was amused to see how quickly my old feelings about Excalibur resurfaced. I still find this Captain Britain to an insufferable oaf, while Nightcrawler, Meggan, and Shadowcat are still quality heroes. The different elements of this collection include Cuckoo's longtime association with vampires, evil Inhuman tyrants, alternate timelines, and scantily clad robot-girls. Davis weaves these disparate elements wonderfully, making this a rewarding check-up with some obscure favorites. With Adam Destine somewhat written out and the cliffhanger we get here, I certainly hope we can get more Clandestine adventures soon.

Davis' art is as wonderful as always. I'm particularly impressed at his Inhuman designs, both for the alternate timeline and the standard Inhumans. Davis' art is a great blending of the styles and details of Kirby but with a modern flair. He remains one of my top 3 artists.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Titans #13

Oof. I know this is a middle chapter of a crossover, but it sure seems pretty easy to kill a lot of Titans, doesn't it? Jericho's master plan comes together in this one. His goal all along has been to blow up a restaurant after luring the Titans inside. His neat escape plan involves leaping out of his current possessed body to a distant one he's rigged up to be ready and waiting in a nearby building. That's a neat plan that only this character could do, and it is the highlight of the issue.

I don't see how Jericho is anywhere near redeemable at this point. He's killed so many innocent bystanders that there is no way Sean McKeever can expect us to have any doubt in dealing with this guy. The Titans need to take Jericho out, and I won't be disappointed if Vigilante puts him down for good. Again, another problem is how easily the Titans were taken out. I mean, the Flash is in this group! He should wrap this up by himself! I also question the inteligence of bringing a de-powered Kid Devil to a hostage situation. I do like the tease of Cyborg being the guy to take out Jericho, but I think it is more likely that Cyborg is the Titan who will die (as hinted about in upcoming solicits).

Angel Unzueta's art is fine, but is a step down from Joe Bennett's tight pencils. I found the art really confusing when the "mental" Titans show up to torment Jericho. I actually thought the characters were appearing in the room, I had to re-read the scene to figure out that they were hallucinations.


Savage Dragon #148

Now this is more like it! Gone is the moping and gore that had turned me off of the last few issues of Erik Larsen's long-running series. This issue has good fighting, an entertaining new guest-star, and the resolution to the too-long missing kids story. The "classic" Daredevil shows up and offers to use his "newsboy legion" type buddies to help Dragon find his kids. While Dragon has been anguishing and busting up town, his new allies resolve the problem in one issue. I loved the flippant and confident attitude that DD exhibits all issue long. I don't know if he was like this in the old comics, but this guy was really likable, I hope he sticks around. Larsen likes to reward his long-time readers, having an old hero seemingly turn in this one, but at the same time, this is clearly new reader friendly. Dragon and DD each recount their origins in nice simple terms and it was nice to see the core elements of the title distilled so easily. I hope this is a sign of things to come, that the book will be a little more fun and not quite as tough to power through. I don't want to read the Dragon barely scraping by through a gruesome, sad life. I want to see him wallop neat bad guys and banter, so this was a fun book.

The fight had a few really great artistic moments too, like when the Viscious Circle goon turns around and gets a boot to the face for his trouble, the timing was well done between those panels. I do love it when Larsen is on his game.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Azrael: Death's Dark Knight #3

Fabian Nicieza writes a good Nightwing. This three-parter was just a set up for a new ongoing Azrael series this fall, and while I find myself missing Jean-Paul Valley, this new guy could be fun too. I think the highlight for the issue is the opening fight with Nightwing and Azrael. Nightwing is joking and funning around while the humorless Az is busy taking himself seriously. The "It's complicated" complaint followed by Nightwing's succinct summary of the story so far was great and really condensed things down to what we need to know. The rest of the issue was moving things into place for the ongoing series. The Order of St. Dumas provide Az with a new home and HQ, Ra's Al Ghul expresses his interest in testing this new champion, Nightwing sets himself up as a monitor/possible mentor, and Az gets a girlfriend and a cop buddy on the force. It's all set up nicely and seems like it could be pretty entertaining. It's hard to judge this on its own, since it is kind of an incomplete story, as it really is a preview/pilot for the new ongoing. But there are some nice elements here that will make the new series worth checking out.

Frazer Irving's art is so stylized, it either looks perfect or really off. His Azrael looks ominous and cool while his "normal" people have somewhat exaggerated figures that make them easy to recognize and distinguish. His Nightwing looked a little odd, especially his eyes (I thought you couldn't see them through his mask?) Overall, this is a good foundation for the new book.


Deadpool #10

How about that. I decided to give Daniel Way another issue of his Deadpool series after he finished up the Thunderbolts crossover last month. I had been surprised that Way's Deadpool book was the stronger half of the story, even after I found the Tiger Shark story in DP's early issues entertaining too. Well at this point, I think I have to admit that Way writes Deadpool well. This new storyline has Norman Osborn so annoyed at DP that he puts one of his deadliest Dark Avengers on Wade's trail, that's right it's Bullseye time. (That "Respawn. LOL." bit was great). We do get to see Deadpool earning his money as a low-priced hitman, taking out a bullying jock. I like that the jock seemed like a real jerk so we can keep up the ongoing run of targets that deserve it. DP works best when he's a hitman who only kills bad folks. It was great seeing DP lowering himself to burglary too. It's kind of fun seeing this character down on his luck but still fairly oblivious to how far he's fallen.

The story really takes off when Bullseye arrives. DP's dialogue is quite amusing the whole time, yet it is interspersed with real competence during the fight. I loved that Bullseye was so frustrated that DP couldn't recognize him, it was a nice surreal moment that can really throw the reader for a loop. We don't know if DP is playing with Bullseye or really doesn't remember. I'm definitely picking up the rest of this storyline since it is playing to Way's strengths so well.

I even liked Paco Medina's art more than I usually do. The exaggeration was dialed back a notch and it improved the feel of the whole comic. Fun stuff.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Punisher: Frank Castle: Max #70

This has been an amusing story as Frank races around Philly. The poison in his veins leaves him almost worthless this issue, but he still manages to pick up a rifle and cap the gangsters who had targeted him with a rocket last issue. The collapsing floor followed by a massive shootout between the FBI and the kill-squad was well done, with Frank reduced to dictating strategy to the surviving agents by the end. I liked the small touch that those two agents were only knocked out when Deidre finally managed to grab Frank. Deidre was one interesting and sick villain throughout this series. She's so messed up that she has to get with the killing machine that is the Punisher. How hilarious is it that she was so desperate to strip down Frank that she forgot what he was? That kill was a pretty great moment. Didn't Deidre know you can't tempt the Punisher? I remain confused by the two pretty-boy guys who face off at gun-point at the end. They look so similar I was almost unable to tell them apart all story long. I'm going to re-read this arc from Duane Swierczynski in trade in one sitting, I bet it will be all clear then, I think I just let too much time drag between reads in floppy format.

Michael LaCombe's art was pretty darn strong throughout. He's equally adept at hot girls and ultraviolence, so he was perfect for this arc.


Action Comics #877

Wow, this comic is gory. Just the sheer amounts of casual blood lying around and caked on characters, in another media the corn-syrup blood would have to be bought in bulk.

Chris Kent heads back to Metropolis to have his partner healed up by Dr. Light. Not a lot more happens with Chris, since he heads back to the Fortress of Solititude where he convinces his mother there is nothing to be gained in fighting anymore. After all that violence last issue, Ursa just leaves her son behind, warning him that it isn't over. I am happy this issue focused so much on Chris. Since I hadn't been reading the super-books, I wasn't aware of the time-jump problems he got from Brainiac and I found this issue much more accessible than the first of the New Krypton story. I still don't know why General Lane is evil, who that woman in his HQ is, or why they're watching who they are. Is Lane watching all metas or just a select group? I did like that the observation of Dr. Light ends up damning Nightwing and Firebird even as Light saved Firebird's life. Evil government groups keeping tabs on heroes is always a good standbye idea, so I'm keen to see it play out. Lane needs more metas on his side though, I want to know his side has a chance when it finally gets outed. Where's Major Force?

Sidney Teles does a fantastic job aping the house style of Joe Bennett and Eddy Barrows in this one. There are panels that I could swear Bennett had drawn. Teles' own style comes out in some panels too, and I think we'll see more of him, he's pretty good.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Captain Britain & MI 13 Cancelled

This is a real bummer. Series writer Paul Cornell confirms over on his blog that the awesome series will be ending. This was a fantastic series that I will miss greatly. I picked it up in floppy rather than trade hoping against hope that the series would make it. Alas, it's dead meat.

I've read on some other blogs that Nova, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Secret Six are at similar sales levels, so I'm probably about to lose a slew of my favorite titles. Ugh.

Green Lantern Corps #36

Peter Tomasi spends most of the issue convincing the reader that Sinestro is really Soranik Natu's father. Sinestro goes into great detail describing how it happened and all the different ways he kept tabs on his daughter through the years, including giving her that distinctive eye tattoo. I suppose I'm convinced enough. I still think it is contrived, but I don't really have a problem with an interesting character like Soranik getting elevated like this, she certainly will be more important to the Green Lantern mythos from here on. I also like how Sinestro is sounding more and more reasonable compared to the evil of the Black Lanterns and Sayd. Having the Sinestro Corps have so many astonishingly evil members makes it hard to side with Sinestro at all though.

Tomasi checks us in on the other stories too, first with Sodam Yat and Arisia on Daxam. Sodam tries to access the Ion power and go one-on-one with Mongul, but Sayd puts and end to that and won't let him access the power. Sodam is forced to go to great lengths to access his Ion abilities, and finally it seems he is sacrificing himself and blowing up. He's creating a yellow sun to empower his planet's population enough to throw off the Sinestro Corps occupation, which is actually a pretty cool idea. I'm also hoping he survives, he is a neat character.

I loved the update of the prison break on Oa but I hope we get more character moments next issue. The prison riot is shown through a sort of status report update, showing battles and fallout all over the planet, but there are no real character moments in the spotlight. I will say I was thrilled to see the warden-lantern Voz fighting on even though his eyes were burned out last issue. That is one tough lantern, with his great design, I hope he sticks around.

What can you say about Patrick Gleason who has been drawing this book for so long? He's perfect for the title and I hope he stays on for a long time. This is one crackerjack creative team.


Battle for the Cowl - Oracle - The Cure #3

It's a good thing Oracle fell down with her top button open so she could still breathe (and give the reader a nice cleavage shot too). Man, comics really are something, aren't they?

This issue concludes the Calculator and Oracle's race to find the anti-life equation that had been hidden on the internet. Oracle meets up with the programmer of Alta Viva, the online game where Calculator has been re-writing code and killing hackers. I liked the reveal that the programmer recognized Oracle from her librarian days, it was a nice little nod to the type of heroics normal people can perform. Kevin Van Hook makes an interesting choice in how he resolves the story. Oracle corrupts the equation and stops Calculator from using it to heal his daughter Wendy. Only Wendy happens to wake up from her coma at that moment anyway. The catch is, she's paralyzed. Now I had expected the equation would "fix" Oracle's paralysis, but it doesn't. So color me surprised: not only is the paralyzed character still in that condition, there is now a second genius-level heroine paralyzed from the waist down. It seems this is continued in the upcoming Batgirl title. I kind of wish I knew more about who was starring in that book since I have no interest in Cassandra Cain and will only pick it up if it is Barbara Gordon (or maybe Wendy, I suppose). It was interesting how Oracle retains a fear of both cameras and guns after her abuse from the Joker. Pretty darn upsetting if you think about it. Let me just throw out my plea once again, Batman, I know you don't kill, but the Joker is a worthy exception.

Fernando Pasarin's art is a little cleaner than Julian Lopez but they keep enough of a house style to keep things looking good.


Monday, May 18, 2009

All-New Savage She-Hulk #2

She-Hulk's butt is going to fight a green chick!

Huh. That didn't go down like I hoped it would. I had really been expecting this series to have more Jennifer Walters She-Hulk in it, but she gets kind of punked out pretty quick. I enjoyed the fight while it lasted, especially because Jen does pretty well before she's uncermoniously tossed out of the battle (and the story, it seems) by the Sentry. I do like the little touches Fred Van Lente uses here, especially the couple who are so annoyed at the fight that has interrupted their lunch.

The book diverges with another flashforward to the battle of the sexes-era of the new She-Hulk's alternate future. I always like post-apocalyptic futures, but this one is only ok. I do like the idea of super-powers being sold, but why is Jocasta the one selling them? I'm not sure how the super-sales location relates to the cradle-base either. It is almost like two cool ideas smashed together so we can see both with one quick hit. I did like that all the hero-saint worshipping tribes have each chosen a totem character from the Dark Avengers. It might be putting a little too much emphasis on what will probably be a brief era in Marvel history, but it is an interesting choice.

Back in the present, She-Hulk II starts chatting with Sentry, and declares that she is looking for the world's greatest hero, Norman Osborn. Oh well, maybe Jen will be involved again next issue.

Peter Vale's art is really quite striking, I like it. I'm not as big a fan of Michael Ryan's flash-forwards, but he gets the point across.


Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape #1

Well, this was kind of a load of hot nonsense, wasn't it? I have never seen The Prisoner, which I understand this story is supposed to be based on, so maybe I'm missing the point. But when I read this I found there was a lot of nonsensical art, no real forward narrative, and odd characterization. In fact, based on part one, I fear this is going to do damage to the characters involved (like Amanda Waller and Cameron Chase). I had been kind of excited to read this book since the Electric City location mentioned in the previews sounded like it could be neat. I like the idea of a secret prison. But in an attempt to be mind-bending, the art just ends up with a lot of swirling unrelated images. I, of course, like the inclusion of OMAC pleasure bots, but when that is the highlight of an issue? That's not going to cut it with me. The heavy handed narration is kind of tough to read too. "Tom Tresser is awake." It is like it wants to be noir, but instead jumps over to pretentious. I'm not sure I've read enough of Ivan Brandon's work to really know if this is his baby or if it is from editorial, but this wasn't so hot.

Marco Rudy's art is confusing. The psychadelic pages are so out there I find myself having a hard time figuring out what's happening. His figure work on the actual cast is fine, but I really found myself lost in the storytelling. I'll be sitting out the rest of this one.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

GI Joe: Cobra #3

I didn't see that coming. I never would have guessed that the strongest of the GI Joe titles from IDW would be the one focused on Chuckles. Christos Gage's thrilling espionage story is only tangentially a GI Joe story though, it is a harrowing undercover spy book, and that's why it is so good. The GI Joe elements are just a bonus. Chuckles' dialogue is a pleasure, it is easy to see why he's rising to the top of the evil organization where he's planted himself (most likely Cobra). What is so fascinating is that by building Cobra up like this, they seem so much more ruthless and dangerous than they used to. If that is Cobra Commander or even Major Bludd that Chuckles is working his way up to, how the hell can you ever laugh at them when they're juggling all these evil plots?

Chuckles' internal monologue is another highlight of the comic, with his internal tension ramping up so high it can't help but affect the reader. The huge plot point at the end was stunning, but when he guiltily reveals his thoughts about seeing his partner and lover captured? Classic comics.


Fusion #1

I picked this up because of the strong creative team, but I probably shouldn't have bothered. DnA are thrilling me on Marvel's cosmic titles, but there is just too much going on in this crazy crossover to really be that effective a story. There is a fair amount of time spent on the Mighty Avengers as they take on a Hulk-like Ripclaw from Cyberforce, and that part of the book holds up fine. But then the book veers off and starts dealing with Cyberforce who I don't know at all. They seem pretty generic, and the bits with Hunter-Killer (whoever that is) left me cold too. I'm not sure how the Thunderbolts would take out Ripclaw so easily when the Avengers couldn't, but that is really a minor quibble. My main problem is that there doesn't seem to be a story driving the mashup of this many comics. When mixing and matching this many characters (and merging universes) there needs to be some driving force to the story and I just didn't really find that here. I don't think I'll be sticking around for any more issues. Especially since the story is set with old teams that no longer exist in the Marvel U, it is too easy to just pass this ancillary title by.

Tyler Kirkham has a neat Marc Silvestri style that works well on the Thunderbolts and Top Cow properties, but does feel a bit off on the Avengers. He draws pretty people so his ladies all looked great, but his Wonder Man and Ares weren't as impressive.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Final Crisis Aftermath: Run #1

The big question for me is: Can Matt Sturges make me care about the Human Flame, the annoying villain who killed my favorite DC character? The answer is yes. Because the Flame is such a unrepentant jerk that there is no way to like him. He hurts or betrays everyone who crosses his path. He's a selfish idiot, and I can't wait to see him get what he deserves. There are a few heroes here when John Stewart and Firestorm show up, but for the most part, we're all villains all the time. In fact, so far, the Flame is the only meta villain in the hunt, although I expect that will change. I'm not convinced this is a story that really needs to be told, because I don't care about reading the next issue, however, Sturges is a strong enough writer to make the exercise entertaining.

Freddie Williams does a bang-up job with the Flame. He's repulsive in his hospital robe and ridiculous in his villain outfit. I do wonder if Williams drew the wrong Firestorm though. Isn't Jason Rusch black? And I'm pretty sure he's never met the Martian Manhunter too, so I don't understand why he's holding a personal grudge against the Flame.

I'm not sure I care enough to see what happens next issue due to my apathy about the main character, but at least it is well put together.


New Mutants #1

Sometimes Marvel's nostalgiac attempts get kind of old, but this time I'm happy to see it. Zeb Wells does a really nice job reintroducing the surviving New Mutants, providing each of them with plenty of personality. Cannonball still wants Cyclops' approval, even now that he's moved up the big leagues. He has Cyclops' respect though, and that makes the interactions even more interesting. Sunspot is still a ladykiller, and he relishes it, but what makes him so interesting is how much he is obviously relishing getting the old band back together. Magma was always something of a blank slate, but by playing her against Magik and giving her this whole odd relationship with Empath, Wells is making her much more interesting. I liked the use of the New X-Men too, as they justifiably are feeling pretty annoyed with how everyone is just accepting Magik back into the fold. The main story is developing slowly, but the opening sequence of the little girl and X'ian attacked by creatures and the close of the box in the basement are both spooky and great cliffhangers for the characters involved. I think the team might need one more person to find the right balance, but getting Moonstar and X'ian in more active roles may fix that right up. Most of all, I'm surprised at how easily the idea of Cannonball's sub-team makes sense in the current X-universe, there is a lot of potential here, I'm sticking around for a few issues at least.

Diogenes Neves' art is new to me, but I like his style. The core cast looked great, I particularly enjoyed the different bodies he gives the ladies, they don't all look the same. The new costumes look like an interesting mix of the Morrison's New X-Men and the New Mutants' old costumes, but I'm not sure I'm sold on them yet.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Invincible Iron Man #13

Neat! Shockwave! I do love it when Matt Fraction puts in classic foes. The three leads each move along nicely here. Stark is on the run and scavenging parts at a tech fair. After a nerd rats him out he ends up having to go up against Shockwave in a pretty neat confrontation. Fraction is able to give us a real personality for Shockwave in just a few pages, quite the accomplishment. Don't think I haven't noticed the parallels between Stark's current lifestyle and how Elijah Stane functioned in the opening arc. I figure Stark will comment on it soon, but he's living that kid's life on the run now, isn't he?

Pepper Potts is going along to get along with Osborn and HAMMER, but Osborn isn't making it easy. Not a lot changes from last issue, other than Potts is supposedly allowed to go free, but there are a few neat reveals. Osborn tells Potts that without Stark's repulsor tech, he can't get the armory of Iron Men working. That's a neat bit that makes a lot of sense. It had been bothering me that Stark would leave those behind. It also seems that Fraction is pulling Madame Masque out of her flunky role from Bendis' New Avengers and setting her up as the more calculating Whitney Frost that we know and love. I'm looking forward to seeing how that works out.

Maria Hill accomplishes quite a bit in her few pages. Her legendary stubborness isn't a new thing. While the Controller attemps to take her over, her flashbacks to other difficult circumstances gives her the motivation to throw off his control disc. Has anyone else successfully done that? Hill is a pretty likable protagonist, she gets her job done, complaining the whole time.

Salvador LaRocca's art seemed better than usual this month. Shockwave's redesign looked great, the Controller looked like a threatening ape-man, and Madame Masques' body language oozed personality. This was a strong issue of a great series.


Batman: Battle for the Cowl: The Network #1

The Battle for the Cowl 1-shots seem pretty random and unnecessary. Fabian Nicieza's story opens with some Batman-garbed villains kidnapping some random people and then challenging the new Batman to save only one. When this message is intercepted by Oracle, she dispatches the Birds of Prey plus Batgirl and Ragman to deal with their "mystery" kidnapper. It doesn't take long for Hugo Strange to reveal himself, but I really didn't care for him being used this way. Hugo has been behind some of the best and most mind-bending adventures in the Batman history, so this seemed distressingly straight-forward for him. Other than the setup, he doesn't really affect the outcome of the story at all. Batgirl is all over this book as the uber-hero, and I was totally bored by it. I don't care for the character at all and I found myself rooting for Huntress most of the time. I don't buy that Huntress would be ok with killing someone either, Gail Simone spend years making Huntress more heroic, so I'm not digging this take on her. It was kind of amusing seeing Misfit used as a normal hero too. She even goes so far as to team up with Ragman, making her essentially into another pretty generic hero. Misfit always worked best for me as a comedic character, but there isn't any of that to be found here. So a generic story starring characters who aren't acting in character... not exactly my thing.

Don Kramer and Jim Caliafore are fine. I've liked both of them better on other work, but they do a good job on the costumed heroes here.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lost Season 5 Finale

I'm going to step out of just comic reviews for a moment and talk LOST (because everyone else is). Ramblings and spoilers ahead so be warned!

So after a full day of thinking, I'm back to trusting the LOST writers. Last night's season finale could be an A or an F depending on where they go from here, but for now it is a B.

I loved the reveals about Jacob and his opposite (who everyone is calling Esau, Jacob's Biblical twin brother). What fascinates me the most is wondering just who has been leaving notes and bossing around Richard and Ben for the entire length of the show. Has Esau been in the cabin impersonating Jacob? Who is good and who is bad here? The easy answer is to put the guy in the white shirt as the good guy, but I've got to figure things are never that simple on LOST. Jacob showed up in the Losties' lives at times that kept them on some destructive paths (Kate and Sawyer especially, Sayid possibly). I'm not sure I can totally label him as good at this point. The next Jacob question is just what was that Egyptian statue? I'm going with Sobek, Egyptian god of creation and fertility. As comic nerds, we are all justifiably concerned at just how hungry Sobek is. Things could get ugly!

Locke's transformation makes a lot more sense to me now than it did before. I had really not liked him ever since his "death" and it was actually making me like the show a bit less. Without his whole "Man of Faith" thing going, Locke just wasn't as interesting. Hell, how can he need faith when he knows that he's right? It turns out we were all swerved. What is fantastic about this is it keeps Terry O'Quinn on the show and gives us what could be a fantastic new villain. Having a loyal Ben as his follower is neat too. It's not actually a change though, since Ben first showed up as a right-hand man to the Big Bad. Just who are Alana and her crew working for though? Obviously Jacob, but does that mean she's got Widmore's backing too? Who does Widmore back in the Esau/Jacob fight? I think Widmore is backing Esau, since he played up the whole "you're so important" thing to the real John Locke. Poor Locke, all this time he wanted to be important and he was just being manipulated into being killed off and replaced by Esau. Smokey clearly has been working for Esau all this time, making many of its actions more questionable too...

I totally dug the main Losties' story in 1977. I've been frustrated for weeks by the split nature of the cast. Everyone is running around with their head cut off. But finally, finally, everyone was on the same page last night. Jack is my favorite, so while I doubt his decisions sometimes, I can't doubt his motivation. He just wants to get the girl people, we can't blame him for that! Plus he turned into a hell of a gunfighter, didn't he? He must have shot 6 or 7 dudes last night, plus he had Sawyer beat until James started cheating!

I'm going to go on record that neither Juliette or Sayid are dead. I'm hoping the white light is merely popping our Losties back to the present, not to the plane or LAX. I trust the writers aren't going to reboot the entire show and render the last 5 years a waste of time. So I'm geared up for a final season choosing sides and facing off. It's time for the Losties to decide if they're with Jacob or with Esau, and which of their philosophies they buy into. I'm also pulling for my wife's theory that Lapidus is meant to be a "candidate" to lead the Others!

As for me, I'm always siding with the Man of Science who wants to make things better. Go Jack (and get the girl too)!


Secret Six #9

What a great issue. This is another done-in-one, but this time we focus on the other three members of the team: Bane, Catman, and Ragdoll. Since Bane is one of my favorite villains, I absolutely loved the spotlight he gets this issue. The Secret Three are out to stop a rash of kidnappings all over Gotham, since Batman is dead and can't do it himself. The central premise is that both Bane and Catman respected Bats so much that they are going to help protect his city for them, and of course since Bane has his twisted sense of honor, protecting children fits nicely into that too. There are some fabulous moments in the story. Bane rescues one girl and tries to sing to her to comfort her, making him even more terrifying. Another great part of the chemistry between the Six is how they mock each other's good tendencies. I loved how none of the leads could stop accusing the others of trying to be the new Batman. Only Ragdoll was comfortable stepping in as the new Robin. Heh. While I liked Ragdoll's combat and normal conversation, sometimes the running gags with him don't do it for me. The random phrases he tests out throughout the issue were ok, but I was much more amused by Bane puzzling out why Catman rhymes with Batman.

Nicola Scott is back on art, and I'm really glad to see it. These are her characters now and they look perfect. I especially loved the wall-climbing homage to the old Batman TV show. Well-played!


Walking Dead #61

Well that didn't take long. Robert Kirkman doesn't exactly stew his subplots, and I can respect that. We found out last issue that Ben (one of the twins) had sliced up a cat, showing some real psychotic tendencies. Well this issue he does it to someone else making it an immediate issue for the survivors. I loved the debate about what to do with a boy who has no sense of right and wrong. The moral dilemma was used in Crossed recently too because it is such a resonant debate: what do you do with someone who can't be rehabilitated in a world where they can't be imprisoned? The characters all rang true in their debates, with Dale and Andrea refusing to give up their "son" yet being terrified at the thought of sleeping next to him. Such a terrible decision, and I LOVED how it was resolved. Carl is becoming the lead for this series, I'm sure of it. He's quick thinking, a good shot, and can make tough choices. Last issue he came up with a plan to escape the roamers and in this one he's still putting the group first. I hope his relationship with Morgan continues to grow, since it seems Morgan is the only person in camp who knows what's up. Kirkman has really been going all-out in the past few months and I don't think the book has ever been better.

The new character is a neat contrast to our grizzled survivors. It seems he's had a relatively easy time of it, so he's still much more a man of civilization than the others and I'm looking forward to seeing how he bangs heads with the regulars.

Charlie Adlard keeps on trucking. Great job.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Irredeemable #2

Hah! This was basically "What if Lois Lane acted more like a normal person?" When her sweet admirer from her civilian life reveals himself to be her super-boyfriend the Plutonian, she understandably freaks out. Unfortuantely, this is just another step in "Tony's" breakdown. The civilians closest to him turned over his secret without a second thought. What I like about Waid's story is how easily it could break down into "evil Superman" territory, but it isn't going that way. Waid hits enough tropes to let us know where the parallels are, but he's creating a new superhero world here too. Kaiden is a neat new character with no analogue that I recognize. She's got neat powers and her changes in super-costumes provide a great contrast on her time as a hero, from the rookie befriended by Tony in the flashback to her more hard-core present self. Waid seems to be telling the story of the Plutonian through the investigations of his peers. It's a tremendous idea that lets us meet more and more original heroes while still advancing the overall plot. I'm really liking this series and I'm in for the trade.

Peter Krause's classic style works really well with the material. He's got the almost Silver Age style down, so everything looks right in the flashbacks. His work in the gritty present isn't quite as inspired, but it more than tells the story. Great stuff.


Flash: Rebirth #2

I decided before I read this that I'd approach it with an open mind, and it actually helped considerably. I went on record with issue 1 that I'm not a Barry Allen fan, and that the only time I've really found Saint Barry to be likable was in the DC New Frontier series. So far Rebirth-Barry has been kind of a mopey sad-sack with lots of inner pain. Geoff Johns actually seems to be addressing that in issue 2. The opening is quite well done as we see a group of gorillas from Gorilla City cave-painting the fall of anyone tied to the speed force. It has a nice movie-opening feel to it that was pretty fun. We soon find out that in addition to Savitar dying last issue, all the other active speedsters are experiencing spasms and pain most likely caused by Barry's return. Sure enough, after a few fairly pointless flashbacks, we find out that Barry is becoming the new Black Flash. I'm not sure what this means for the character going forward, but my first impression is that at least this could be a way for Wally to remain in the scarlet uniform. There was a fair amount of flashbacks going on here, covering material that I'm not sure needed to be covered. Every blog has been making fun of the Secret Origin of the bow tie with good reason, it is totally unnecessary, but I'd go a step further and say the whole flashback didn't add too much to the character. I'm also getting warped on ages in the DCU, I could swear that Iris Allen was a much older woman when she apppeared in Mark Waid's Flash comics, so why is she young here?

My favorite part about the story is that Barry has a reason for acting like a mope. He's being influenced by the Black Flash. I love how he knows the world had moved on without him, how he is aware of his faults and that he isn't a saint. This issue went a long way towards making Barry a character I'm interested in seeing more of. Just make sure Wally stays in the picture.

Ethan Van Sciver's art is nice and detailed, as always. Iris Allen looks way too good for a 50 year old though. I'm thinking the ages must have been retconned around a bit since she and Barry look the same age as Wally now. That Black Flash costume at the end looked pretty sweet too.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Astounding Wolf-Man #15

Mindless violence followed by reasonable discussion! That's why I love Robert Kirkman's comics. Wolf-Man has gone beserk, attacking the Face and forcing an unpleasant face-off with the warden, but when W-M gets to explain himself the next day, things get smoothed over. Very professional! I like the way Cecil Stedman from Invincible has such an important role in this book. He's really helping out W-M now, doing everything he can to help him out of prison and to get the charges against him dropped. It's nice seeing Cecil isn't the evil guy that Invincible thinks he is over in the other book. The Kirkman corner of the the Image universe is developing in some neat ways, but I will say I'm not sure how new reader friendly this series is. Characters aren't really re-introduced at all, if you don't already know what's going on, this would be mighty confusing.

Jason Howard has that great mix of cartoony and realistic. The Face really isn't very intimidating looking, but his look with the hood is pretty spooky. Howard's style handles action in a really dynamic way, the way the action always breaks out so suddenly in this book wouldn't work as well with another artist.


Ms. Marvel #38

Well that was an odd issue. The book opens with a bank robbery involving lots of guards being killed, when the robbery is foiled by the new Ms. Marvel, Moonstone. I enjoyed the way she dealt with the thieves personally and how favorably the crowd is reacting. I think intitially, while the public has no idea what they are in for, things would move along fine. From there the book gets rather odd. Ms. M is forced to meet with a psychologist who starts making her re-live her past memories. It seems this dude is some sort of psychic, but he's pretty ineffectual against Ms. M. I definitely didn't recognize the psychologist character, and he seemed awfully wishy-washy for someone who planned to kill all the Dark Avengers. Very odd. I'm not sure why Brian Reed needed to have Moonstone kill her mother, it kind of removes any redeemability in the character. I realize she's been pretty despicable for awhile, but I still remember her trying to reform while she was with Hawkeye in Busiek's T-bolts. So basically I liked the parts with Moonie out as a hero, but her therapy session was much weaker.

Rebekah Isaacs style is reminiscent of Pat Oliffe's, giving the book a well-established feel. I was pleased that Isaacs didn't overdo the cheesecake factor, since I don't think that's how Moonstone would roll.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Avengers/Invaders #10

That picture of Monstro the whale man floating dead is the saddest thing I've ever seen. He only wanted to help Namor terrorize New York, why would the Red Skull do that to him?

The issue was almost like a new #1, with the Avengers/Invaders team gathering allies and getting into place to go after the cosmic-cube powered Red Skull. I really enjoyed the sequence where WWII Cap gives Iron Man the thumbs up for what he did in the Marvel Civil War. Even in the bulky disguise Iron Man is wearing it was a very well-done scene. I'm not as interested in the plot with the silly Nazi robo-dogs going after Spitfire and Union Jack, mainly because I think the core cast is diverse and interesting enough to need those pages. That said, I'm liking the small moments we are getting like Luke Cage asking Gabe Jones what it is like to be the only black Howling Commando. Neat stuff.

Why is Steve Sadowski not working more regularly. He can juggle the huge cast, his characters and costumes look great, and other than a few pages where the faces are a bit smudged (perhaps by inking?) this looks great. Those robo dogs are a bit silly though...


Conan the Cimmerian #10

Conan is just rumbling around the city, earning his mercenary pay and making new enemies. I love it. If it wasn't for the Princess Yasmela seeking him out as her champion, he'd have nothing to do with the main plot. In fact, I really like the way the good god Mitra guided Yasmela to Conan. If the gods have such an active hand with the evil wizards and such all over this series, it makes sense to have them weighing in on the good guys for awhile too. Even if it is just some mortal guidance, it is neat to see Yasmela take the advice. I loved her advisors' reactions as they go from offended and shocked to begrudging respect for their new commander. It would be hard not to take Conan seriously, and as Tim Truman establishes this issue, he is a hell of a warrior. The sub-plot with some of his merc companions allying themselves with the pirate is well done too, you know eventually Conan will have to kill the lot of them. The relaunched title has been moving along nicely, especially now that Conan is out increasing his legend. It really is cool that there is no job or task that he thinks he can't accomplish.

Tomas Giorello gets to draw some pretty ladies in various stages of undress in the opening, and I think he's having fun doing it. It looks great and fits in perfectly with this book. Conan is about killing and wenching, and Giorello is equally adept at drawing both.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Superman #687

James Robinson is turing Metropolis into a bustling center of super-activity. At this point we've got Mon-El, Zatara, Guardian, Black Lightning, Steel, and the SCU all there to handle Superman's villains. I'd say that crew should be able to handle it, although I'm actually wondering where Atlas will fall in the good/evil debate. Mon-El is trying his best to take over for Supes, and he's got Guardian leading him through the whole secret identity thing, which is kind of fun. I was amused that the story opened with a battle against Shrapnel, as he seems to be a pretty common bad guy for opening arcs of new series (I know he popped up early in Judd Winnick's Outsiders). I really liked how Guardian commented on the more savage battle style that Mon-El uses, it makes sense that he'd be sloppier without all the practice that Supes gets. The sub-plot with Steel and Atlas is pretty neat. I'm confident that Steel isn't stupid enough to give away too much to a villain, so I'm hoping that he is actually trying to steer Atlas good or something (I don't know how evil he is since I just picked up the book again).

I will say that other than the Parasite, I'm totally lost on the sub-plots. I recognized Prankster, but don't know what he's up to. Who was that weird creature in a tank? The dialogue from Guardian had me hoping that Dubbilex might be back... I don't know who the military folks who want Mon-El are either. Fortunately, Robinson is keeping the main plot moving well enough that I'm sure I can catch up.

Renato Guedes' art is wonderful. The body language for each character is notably different and unique. I like his detailed style in the fights too, that whole sequence with Sharpnel looked great.


Fantastic Four: World's Greatest TPB

I know a lot of people have a problem with Mark Millar's style, but I've always liked his work. His stories are full of pop-culturey references and everyone is too cool for school, but I'm ok with it. Especially when that cool attitude actually works and updates a super-hero institution like the Fantastic Four. Millar is pulling out big ideas here, like Invisible Woman's idea of a super-charity, which makes sense for the character plus lets cool super-celebs like She-Hulk and Wasp hang around the Baxter Building. I also loved how Millar made Mr. Fantastic the focus of the trade. Reed is the least cool member of the team, so seeing him do cool super-heroics and be a huge pimp in his personal life was quite neat. Who else can take his wife on a date in time so that they can witness their first meeting 13 years before? That's a tremendous idea.

The main plot involves the world's elite setting up an artificial Earth now that the original is damaged beyond repairs. This lets Millar bring in Alyssa Moy "Mrs. Fantastic" another neat character that really sings when Millar writes her dialogue. She's over-confident and grating, but only when played against nice-gal Sue. Human Torch gets some nice development when he starts sleeping with a super-villain instead of arresting her, and things go downhill for him from there. The story involves lots of time travel and pseudo-science, big ideas and crazy resolutions. So exactly the type of thing I want from my Fantastic Four comics.

Bryan Hitch is a great artist, but he's also lucky that he works with writers who give him the chance to show what he can do. There are a few panels in here that really knock your socks off (like the reveal of the power source for the Defenders) but he also does a great job on the minor scenes. His design for CAP is neat enough, and I did like how Sue, She-Hulk, and Wasp had different builds.


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Skrull Kill Krew #1

I'm very confused on how this comic got made. It actually has some neat concepts, but overall, I'm forced to ask why this was even made. Adam Felber's story follows Ryder, the Skrull-killer from the old series and The Initiative as he tracks down the last Skrulls lurking around the planet. The first confrontation is a pretty original one, where we see the Skrulls as party-people making themselves look like fabulous humans out clubbing. That's a great idea, and I almost wish that was the core concept, some Skrull trying to have fun. It turns out the Skrulls are into tying up human victims and slaughtering them There are clearly some lingering issues from the whole cow thing with the FF. After Ryder saves a human girl from the Skrulls, they head back to his place, where some other woman is waiting, but I'm afraid I missed who she was. The entire issue is interlaced with flashbacks to the Skrull-cows and how they "remembered" to start shapeshifting again. I had hoped 3-D Man would be in this, at the least. Without him, Ryder just isn't an interesting enough character to follow on an ongoing basis. Hell, I'm so tired of reading about Skrulls in general that this book had two strikes against it to start with.

Mark Robinson's art is servicable, but hardly strong enough to stick with the book for. I think I'll be sitting this one out.


Wolverine First Class TPB

I wanted to like this more than I did. Fred Van Lente writes good all-ages material in the Marvel Age line, and this First Class title is kind of a bridge between the normal continuity and the kids' line. It's weird, since I actually enjoyed each issue as a single issue, but read together in a trade the book doesn't hold together as well. Wolverine faces off against a new mutant, Sabretooth, and finally the High Evolutionary and the Man Beast. I really like Van Lente's take on the X-Men team of this era, with Nightcrawler still seeming so weird and Angel so full of himself. Kitty Pryde is a lot of fun here, and I've never been a fan, so that's saying something. She is especially cool when she deals with Sabretooth in issue 2. The book has all the right elements that I enjoy in my books, but like I said, taken all in one sitting it felt repetetive. Kind of like how I can't read a bunch of Marvel Essential or DC Showcase issues right in a row. It is also probably unfair that this trade was sandwiched between All-Star Superman and Fantastic Four: World's Greatest on my reading list.

Andrea De Vito's art is better than Rafa Sandoval's but both are ok. Sandoval's art gets a little too cute for me. His Man Beast isn't threatening at all, and everyone looks kind of silly. De Vito's Byrne-influenced style works perfectly on the first pair of issues though. His X-Men look awesome.


Friday, May 8, 2009

War Machine #5

War Machine and his crew finally figure out how to take down the Ultimo-infected humans, but of course it messes up Rhodey even more. What's interesting is that they resolve the conflict about halfway through the issue, leaving the rest for some housekeeping. Osborn seems almost decent here, wanting to reward Rhodey's team for their work in stopping this threat. Of course, he just wants to cover it all up, but it is still interesting seeing what kind of boss Osborn is going to be in Dark Reign. I'm still finding that the most interesting thing in this comic is the interaction between Ares and War Machine. I love the idea that Ares is so fond of Rhodey that he actually considers him his champion. It makes sense and it is such an interesting relationship, yet one that makes perfect sense in the comic book world. I'm worried about the status quo going forward though, with Team War Machine heading to America. I'm not sure I like the idea of bringing that team directly against Osborn and HAMMER, because we all know that a 2nd-tier book like this won't be the one to bring about big changes to the Marvel U status quo. I don't want to spend too much time wrapped up in that story.

Leo Manco's art looks really great, but his War Machine still doesn't look "Iron Man-y" enough for me. He's either 1/2 jet or human in an exo-suit or whatever. I want my black and silver Iron Man, darn it! Manco does do a great job with the supporting cast though, the facial expressions are fantastic. He also handles the flashbacks to Rhodes' childhood well too, which is nice to see. I'm very interested in seeing Rhodey's Philly past, so I'm happy it looks so good.


Power Girl #1

I wanted to like this more than I did. I love Power Girl, both for obvious reasons and that I like her as a hard-hitting confident character. Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray are hit-or-miss for me: I loved their Hawkman, but much of their other work has merely been average for me. This issue isn't bad, but it doesn't exactly jump out at me yet either. PG's narration boxes are so long that I almost can't read them. Maybe I'm a simpleton, but that loooong bit of thinking on page 2 made me put the book down for a bit. I do really like the use of Ultra Humanite as the opening villain. His plan makes sense too, since we know he's put himself in the bodies of hotties before, adding in PG's powers would be a huge plus. By having his army of robots attack, supported by psionic attacks he's covering a lot of bases in dealing with PG due to her vulnerability to mental attacks. The flashback format worked well, especially in the interview with the jerk scientist and PG's prediction that he could end up like the Humanite. So the plot is fine (although quite simple at this point) and the dialogue is decent, but I wasn't grabbed overall. I'm not sure if I'm going to keep getting this on an ongoing basis, but my affection for the lead character will bring me back for the next issue at least.

Amanda Connor does a great job on the little details. PG's civilian interactions seem really "normal" but are still presented in an interesting way. Connor does a nice job on the super-heroics too, the casual way that PG tosses around the mass destruction is pretty fun. The robots are a little too Big Daddy-ish for me, has someone been playing BioShock?


Thursday, May 7, 2009

War of Kings #3

What a fantastic, exciting issue. Abnett & Lanning check in on each of the sub-plots making up the main story of War of Kings, and each one develops in an interesting way. We see Vulcan spare Lilandra's life, as he would like her publicly tried and executed. During the opening scenes, we see how much all of this is upsetting Gladiator, the most powerful member of the Imperial Guard. Gladiator also gives us a great recap of how things stand in the military conflict with the Kree. I'm loving the repeated use of battle group names and locations. I'm hearing them in 3 or 4 books a month, so now I actually go "oh yeah" when I hear what battle group Wolfspider is up to. Back on the Kree homeworld, Crystal is bringing Ronan up to speed on what is going on. The battered Ronan has been transformed into a noble, tragic figure, which fascinates me. This guy was a big-time villain! Crystal's affection for him and the entire Kree people is quite well done and clearly her kindness will put her up against the rest of the royal family soon. I'm worried that the royal family may be heading down a questionable path, but we'll see. The rest of the book features the only clear-cut heroes of the story, the Starjammers and the Guardians of the Galaxy. The attack on Lilandra's transport is fantastic. The splash page where the Guardians appear almost made me cheer. Rocket Racoon's handling of Gladiator was tremendous too and almost had me cheering. Follow that up with "Would you hurt someone with fur so soft? Feel." What a wonderful character Rocket is, he may actually make my top 5 these days. Then the incredible conclusion. DnA and others have spent so much time dealing with this character that the turn is shocking, satisfying, and exciting all at the same time.

Paul Pelletier is perfect here. He gets the big moments like the Guardians' arrival. He nails the little details like the Thing chew toy with Lockjaw. And his art is what sells the Ronan tragedy. This book is about perfect.


Marvel Assistant-Sized Spectacular #2

This wasn't quite as good as the first collection. In fact, I don't think it was close. The first story is the best, featuring Luke Cage vs. Lone (Loan?) Shark as a corrupt official tries to make a quick buck by fixing up Cage's old neighborhood. The issue was pretty fun, with the interaction of Cage and Jessica Jones being a particular highlight. I loved how Jessica wants to get a turn fighting crime where Cage has to take the baby. Nice. Todd Nauck isn't a natural choice for this story, but everything looks fine.

I'm just not a fan of Adam Warren's style. He introduces us to Galacta, Galactus' daughter who wants to eat everything on Earth. The idea is funny, but the attempt to be relevant by having us follow Galacta's Twitter feed was just a tad much for me. I actually think Galacta's introduction weakens Galctus as a concept, so I'm kind of hoping that she doesn't stick around. The art is a little too manga-y for me too.

While I like Elsa Bloodstone, she is a pretty generic character. This story was basically an extended fight sequence with very little story. The art looks pretty close to Stuart Immonen's, which is a good thing, but the story is pretty slight.

Part 2 gets a Fair, Average, and a Average with an overall grade of Average.