Saturday, October 31, 2009

Power Girl #6

This book is consistent. I don't love it, but I don't dislike it enough to drop it. It is a solid title featuring a likeable lead getting into fairly boring adventures. It's an odd book for me, since I am really enjoying Palmiotti and Gray's take on PG. She's fun, confident, and interesting. But I'm totally not digging the conflicts. This issue PG has to rescue some space-alien cuties from a generic mob boss. There is no threat to PG here. She can overcome all the problems easily. I'm fine with protagonists being capable, but this is a tad much.

The new Terra hangs around some more, and in fact gets about 50% of the issue. PG and Terra go shopping and see a movie, again, making the characters seem fully realized, but not really threatened. I'm going to stick with the book because I haven't liked a lead this much since the early days of Kyle Rayner. But I do hope that the dramatic tension gets amped up without destroying the other aspects of the title.

Amanda Conner's artwork goes a long way towards establishing the friendly tone of the book. PG is so down to Earth you can't help but like and root for her.


Friday, October 30, 2009

New Avengers #58

I'm certain that Bendis has something up his sleeve with Ares. As the Dark Avengers descend on the New Avengers, Ares is the only member of DA to express any concern for the injured Luke Cage. Later, when he assaults the NA down in the sewers under the Night Nurse's clinic, he actually asks what the outlaws hope to accomplish. This guy is by far the most reasonable member of Osborn's strike team. Bendis has a couple nice bits sprinkled in; I really enjoyed Mockingbird being unable to resist giving Daken a quick kick to the head. In fact, the combat all issue was well done, for the first time I actually felt like these New Avengers were a competent team. I think they could have mopped the floor with the Dark Avengers.

I'm not sure I understand why we needed 3 or 4 pages taken up with Jessica Jones talking to her mother, I would have preferred to see more fighting. I did appreciate hearing Bendis lay out that people who watch Fox News were more likely to side against the New Avengers. The blatant politics of Dark Reign does amuse me.

The only reason I'm buying this expensive comic again is Stuart Immonen's art. I can't resist his awesome pencils. His close-up of Ms. Marvel as she smugly dismisses Osborn after blasting him in the face was fantastic. He can handle action and emotion with equal skill. This is a beautiful comic.


Avengers: The Initiative #29

Christos Gage doesn't move things along too drastically here, instead most of the issue is spent catching up all over the Initiative. In fact, there are so many things happening that once again I have to bullet out the many happenings:

  • Tigra continues her campaign of vengeance taking out Razorfist, Cutthroat, and the remaining Brother Grimm.
  • Komodo links up with Tigra and joins the Avengers resistance, even without her powers.
  • Night Thrasher II is still intrigued at the thought of resurrecting his brother.
  • Constrictor starts hooking up with Diamondback!
  • Penance gets a cat, that he names Niels. I'm really hoping Gage has permission to change Robbie Baldwin back into Speedball.
  • The Avengers resistance attacks Camp Hammer, intent on freeing Night Thrasher II.
  • Nightmare possesses his son, Trauma, setting up mass confusion and action next issue!

I really love the format for this book. Gage spends a lot of time jumping around, but even with only a few pages for each character, he establishes personalities. I'm amazed at the number of characters having their individual plotlines advanced here. This book is truly for fans of the Marvel Universe.

Jorge Molina fills in this month, and he's got a similar enough style that he fits right in. The lines are kind of soft, almost like Stuart Immonen. He does have a habit of making his faces too severe and overdramatic, but his storytelling is clear.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Green Lantern #47

I'm sad. I think this whole issue went by without Hal Jordon coming on to anyone. Oh well. Four of the Five Inversions (the gross-out aliens who used to hang out with Atrocitus show up as Black Lanterns, and they remain as gross as always. They do try to rip out Atrocitus' heart, but it seems that the Red Lanterns don't need their hearts any more, their rings beat with rage for them.

There is a bit of a power struggle between Sinestro and Hal as they try to establish who will lead the Black Lantern Kill Krew, but since everyone but Sinestro wants Hal, Sinestro backs down. I'm actually kind of digging this idea of the Lanterns teaming up against the dead. Before that happened, we actually saw Saint Walker use his blue ring to do some damage. I guess the hope guys aren't totally worthless without a GL around.

The combined light of Lantern Coalitions dispatches Abin Sur and his sister, so I guess they won't be resurrected. I figured that any characters atomized before the close of the series won't be a possibility for resurrection.

Doug Mahnke's art is great, as always, but the colors are striking this time. As you flip through the book, the "tone" of the chapters is clear. The book is red, black, green, and finally orange as the action shifts through the sectors. I love Mahnke's Larfleeze, he's almost cute on those last few pages!


Blackest Night #4

So Copperhead gets the cover of DC's biggest crossover for this month? Really?

As I feared, this middle issue of Blackest Night does suffer from a bit of the mid-series doldrums. Geoff Johns has a few neat happenings, my favorite is that Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch are battling for control of Firestorm. I'll go on record with the prediction that these two will be sharing the Firestorm body after Blackest Night.
The Flash, Atom, and Mera are the leads here, with Flash anointing them as the current JLA. I like the idea that these guys have to carry the load (of both the world and this issue). There are short bits checking in with other characters. We see Lex Luthor and the Calculator discussing the death of Dr. Polaris II. There is a fun bit with Azrael facing down a fearless Scarecrow (I guess there is no doubt Jean Paul is dead, then). The JSA is fighting off their dead friends and enemies too. The shocking death for this issue is Damage, who has his heart ripped out by Jean Loring. The body count is staying low enough that it certainly could stick after Blackest Night, but I've got to think a lot of these folks will be coming back.

Nekron makes his big debut as the Black Lantern corps reaches 100% of their quota for hearts. That must be a lot of dead heroes (I didn't think there were that many 90s characters left!) Nekron's face is a bit too shadowed, but he looks a lot like all the other gross-out zombies from Blackest Night. I think if we hadn't been seeing so many dead faces, he'd have a more striking visual, but for right now he seems a bit generic. I am impressed he's resurrecting all of Coast City though. I like that the Flash is the only hero to witness his rise. Removing Hal from the story does make it clear that the core GL book is required reading for this crossover.

Ivan Reis is killing on this book. His detail is almost Perez-esque. Everyone looks exactly right in their costumes The inking seems a shade darker than normal, there are a lot of faces covered in darkness throughout the issue.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth #4

I'm OD'ing on Deadpool. After reading issue 900 last month, I just can't take any more of this guy. I like the character, but his wacky humor gets grating mighty quick. This has always been the weakest of his series anyway. Victor Gischler's zany story does't really lend itself to anything other than comedy, and as I said, that isn't enough to keep me interested in the ol' merc with a mouth. Heck, with Headpool (an alternate universe's zombie Deadpool head) as a supporting character, I have to deal with twice as much DP in just this one book! The plot hasn't really moved on a lot, the AIM scientist and the DP's escape the Savage Land, but are still in the sights of AIM. Part of the lack of danger comes from the lack of a named or even threatening villain. I'm not concerned for any of the main characters.

Bong Dazo's cartoony art is a perfect fit for this series. He's got a good handle on the frenetic action and larger-than-life characters. I'm not a huge fan of his work, but I can't argue that he's delivering the right tone for the book.


The Hulk TPB 2: Red & Green

Wow. This was a very slight TPB. I had heard all the bad stuff about Jeph Loeb's run on Hulk, but I couldn't resist the artistic clout in this trade. Loeb has a few fun ideas. I liked his use of the Marvel Trinity against the Wendigos. I did miss something though, since it seemed like Bruce Banner was in jail, then suddenly loose. I dug that he had Moon Knight and Sentry go to the same psychiatrist. How funny is it that both analogues of DC's top dogs have mental issues?

Ugh. Rulk is so frigging annoying. She-Hulk is one of my favorites, so it is darn hard to watch her get smashed and strangled by the big red ape. I really enjoyed seeing all the top ladies of the Marvel U team up and form the Lady Liberators again. Why is this not an ongoing series? I know my 4-year old would love to see all these ladies on a regular basis. There is a ton of history and potential with this group, so I was obviously a bit bummed to see them punched around by a bully.

Sure enough the one-two punch of Arthur Adams and Frank Cho was tremendous. Adams' pages were fun and a tad gory. His take on the "Trinity" of the Marvel U (with stand-ins Hulk, Sentry, Moon Knight, and Ms. Marvel) was excellent. I actually think his Moon Knight was the high point of his chapters.

Frank Cho draws beautiful ladies. I do wish he would have gone straight to the Lady Liberator team up instead of only having Valkrie and Thundra. I was amused that Cho took ever opportunity to draw thongs and underpants throughout. His action was brutal, I hated the sequence where Rulk is choking She-Hulk over the face of Mt. Rushmore.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Spirit vol 1 TPB

Huh. I thought I'd like this a bit more than I did. As my only exposure to the title character comes from the awful Frank Miller movie, I'm not sure if my issues come from this volume or the original comic.

Darwyn Cooke's Spirit is a fun guy with a colorful, fairly amusing rogues gallery. One villain's evil plan is to sell pork and beans with an animated Spirit on the can! Yet the issue is full of fairly bloody murders too, with dead folks piling up on a fairly regular basis. It seems like the book is straddling a line between campy, high adventure and a gritty crime story. Even the choices for the villains' backstories seem odd. P'Gell's background is very generic and it is certainly not enough to justify her actions. Plus I have to question the Spirit's interaction with the ladies. He's got a regular girlfriend but has plenty of time for other gals too. I really liked Silk Satin and the Octopus. I think more time spent on that story would have kept me more interested.

This trade includes the Batman/Spirit one-shot by Jeph Loeb and Darwyn Cooke. The Spirit's villains seemed a lot more bloodthirsty here than they did in his series. This was a fun little showcase for the two characters and their worlds. I was amused that while their worlds work so well together, the two heroes don't. Their methods and attitudes are so different that they seem to naturally grate on each other.

The art is a mix of tremendous action shots (like cuts to Spirit's coat or gloves) and cartoons. The police captain looks like something out of a 40s comic strip, but most of the other characters are more realistic. I can recognize the beatiful pencils here (I really enjoyed the graveyard scenes); I'm just a bit confused by the contrasting tones on the page.


Justice League of America #38

Wow. How the mighty have fallen. Am I talking about the actual characters or the quality of this book? Both.

The JLA was the premiere super-team for years in the 90's, but now it really is a shell of its former shelf. Due to editorial fiat and guidance, the current team is Vixen, Red Tornado, Dr. Light II, Firestorm II, and Plastic Man. By any stretch, that is a pretty bad team. The worst part here is that they know it. Rather than play up any sort of effectiveness or build anyone up, James Robinson treats these folks like the scrubs they've always been. I suppose having Despero knock the crap out of them for awhile will make Robinson's new team look better when they take him out.

And another huge problem. Blue Jay, who has been in 0 comics in like 5 or 10 years, gets killed on the title page. C'mon. DC writers are using the DCU Who's Who as a victim list to establish a tough feel when they take over a book. This is exactly my pet peeve of character killing. James Robinson spent NO time with Blue Jay. He just took a character someone else created and killed him off to make his own bad guys seem tougher. Robinson used to be one of my favorites, but now I find myself disliking the tone of his comics.

Mark Bagley does a decent job with the art. His clean lines could even make that scrub lineup seem legit, and Blue Jay looks pretty cool in the opening sequence. He's about as solid an artist as you could want.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Spider-Woman #2

I decided to try one more issue, and I'm afraid the book is consistent if nothing else. The story is pretty generic. But the art is beautiful and cold.

Bendis' story picks up with Spider-Woman in jail after she took out a skrull last issue. Quite a few pages go by as she tries to get out of prison by following the rules and asking nicely. I'm not sure why she thought that would work, but it does amuse me. Then S-W gets down to business and uses her pheromone powers to get a cop to let her out. She describes her powers in a cool way, they are not like a bullet and she can't exactly turn them off when she's done. But I didn't care for the description that it is like peeing. Not sure I get that. Eventually she gets out, gets shot at, and hooks up with Madame Viper. So it does seem that Hydra will be involved, no doubt re-establishing some sort of double agent bonafides. My problem is that not enough is happening each issue.

Alex Maleev's art is striking, but cold. The characters look static and everything looks like a freeze frame. I can appreciate the talent it takes to draw like that, but I'm afraid I prefer a more classic style.


The Shield #1 &2

Sometimes a book is improved by its inclusion in a shared universe. While I like Eric Trautmann's writing, I wasn't sure if I'd dig The Shield. It turns out that the book is actually pretty decent. The core idea is a strong one. The Shield is a moral, upstanding member of the American military, and he uses all his resources (both personal and the military's) to do what is right. He doesn't like killing, he believes America can help, and he does his best. Most of the military heroes we get these days are almost bad guys, so the Shield is a welcome change. Trautmann does a nice job with his powers too. There is a great sense that the military was smart about this experimental nanotech. In the second issue, when a villain tries to dominate the Shield's mind, his suit takes over and starts busting heads, since the suit is programmed to keep itself out of enemy hands. It's a neat idea. It could end up being over-used if the programming gets him out of every problem, but on a limited basis it is a great example of competence from the supporting cast.

The excellent use of the shared universe comes in with the use of Magog. As a military character, his appearance makes sense. But rather than having the two heroes get along, Trautmann plays up a competition of toughness and efficiency. These two would actually be great leads for a buddy book, at least as they are portrayed here. The surprise villain is a nice get too. This guy is in a lot of comics but using him like this instills a more dangerous feel on this DCU mainstay.

Marco Rudy does a serviceable job on art. He's not fantastic, but his storytelling is clear and his rendition of the big villain is downright chilling.


The Inferno by Brandon Jerwa and Greg Scott is starting to "heat up" a bit, but I'm still not very interested in what's going on. The shadowy group as villains is sort of played out. I'm not too concerned for Inferno either. I mean, he's going to be on the run, and that sucks for him, but I don't really think he's in danger of getting killed. He took on Green Arrow and Black Canary and came out on top, so he's pretty darn tough.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

R.E.B.E.L.S. #9

This really isn't fair. Tony Bedard had me liking his space opera. While I had no real favorites in the cast, I loved the expansive look at space in the DCU and adding in the threat of a Starro horde just added to the fun. Then he started adding cast members. Old L.E.G.I.O.N. members like Garv and Amon Hakk showed up. Then Lyrl Dox joined up. Now Bedard is adding even more great characters to this huge cast. With like 10 characters I love showing up, I'm like a fish in a barrel for this series.

This issue has Adam Strange and Captain Comet joining up, as well as Kanjar Ro. What's so great about Comet and Strange's arrival is that they were safe outside the sealed off galaxy where the Starro battle had started. They just joined in because it was the right thing to do. They are great heroes and I'm really hoping that Bedard writes Comet closer to his old L.E.G.I.O.N. persona than his more cynical recent incarnation. Having the Dominion Admiral and Kanjar Ro join as more, ah, suspect members of the team is welcome too. The only problem is that I don't think Bedard has enough pages to give panels to everyone. Heck, he's giving the Omega Men 5 or 6 pages every month too!

He's doing a great job with what he's got though, since the plot keeps trucking along here. I like the idea that Garv and Strata would ditch Dox after all his shenanigans, but the untimely arrival of a Starro super-team may make that departure difficult. I really wish more people would check out this book. Any fan of 90s DC needs to be reading this book.

Claude St. Aubin continues to fill in admirably for Andy Clarke. The art is very much in the same style and everyone looks on-model. I'm looking forward to seeing more energy weapons from Adam Strange since they look so darn cool.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Web of Spider-Man #1

J.M. DeMatteis loves his externalized psychological drama. His whole story in this anthology is Kaine imagining the different aspects of his personality beating the crap out of each other. The problem is I have almost no interest in Kaine, so I didn't really care. Val Semeiks is a good storyteller, and I liked his take on the many characters that show up here. Seeing Kaine did remind me of one funny comic fact; not many comic folk have beards, do they? It was weird seeing Kaine looking so bushy.

I had to skip the Spider-Girl story because I haven't read any of my Amazing Spider-Girl trades yet and I didn't want to spoil. I'll get to them soon!

The closing story was very odd. Didn't Frogman become the Steel Spider over in Ellis' Thunderbolts? So this is out of continuity, right? It was harmless enough, but I think having continuity free stories in an anthology with only 3 stories is a mistake.


Batman #691

Pairing up Judd Winick with Mark Bagley was a good move. I seem to enjoy Winick's work when he's teamed with a solid artist, and that is the case again here. The opening sequence was brutal, with a bat-garbed Two-Face beating the crap out of Batwing. I had totally forgotten that Two-Face had doped up Bats last issue, so I was confused for a moment how that could happen, but Winick wisely reminded me fairly quickly. I like the idea that Two-Face has spent the last few weeks researching the chances of a replacement Batman, but all it takes for him to be convinced that he's wrong is a beating. I have to assume that Batwing has Bruce Wayne's Dark Knight voice down, because Two-Face had actually made a decent argument up to that point. I always like Alfred getting involved too, and his pragmatic entrance into the fight was interesting. I can't imagine that getting shot up with adrenaline needles after you've been drugged is too healthy, but Alfred did what needed to be done. I do think that sometimes the shared aspect of the DCU can weaken character concepts though. I hate that Winick had to come up with magical guards and boundaries for the Batcave to explain why no magician has ever found it. It's hard to keep Batman street-level when he has to counter teleporters and mages.

Is it too early for me to be sick of Black Mask? He shouldn't be pushing around established bat-villains this soon after his premiere appearance. His unlimited funds and roving band of flunkies are annoying too. He's too much a plot point and not enough of a character yet.

Bagley's serves the story well. He did a nice job dealing with the transition of Two-Face's costume from Batwing's drugged hallucination to reality. That was a nice little cheat to get Two-Face's promo bat suit into a comic without making any characters really wear it.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Blackest Night: Superman #3

I suppose I'm still glad I picked this up, but there really isn't a lot resolved. The issue closes with the normal "see Blackest Night!" type closer. Typical for a big crossover. I did like that the Super-buddies managed to take out Psycho Pirate and Kal-L. Having New Krypton have a "no-zombies" forcefield is a little convenient, don't you think? If I understand correctly, this takes Supergirl out of the whole Blackest Night story too. She can't leave the planet or their force field will go down and we'd have legions of super-zombies on our hands.

I'm not sure exactly how Psycho Pirate's powers work either. Superboy seemed to overcome his emotions when things got hairy, but I suppose I'm ok with that. I loved Superboy's use of the tactile TK. It felt like the old days, now put him back in black jacket and red shades!

Since the Pirate's mask seemed to totally dissolve the Pirate and Kal-L, I guess neither of them are possibilities to get resurrected at the close of Blackest Night.

Eddy Barrows' art is dynamic. His take on Superman isn't my favorite, but he does a nice job with teens like Superboy and Supergirl. He seems to enjoy rendering gristly zombies too.


Mighty Avengers #30

Man, it sure is nice to see a real crew of Avengers again. Sure, the group is made up a mish-mash of folks from the many Avengers teams, but that's ok. I really dug the old-school interaction between Quicksilver and Hawkeye. I'm not sure that I find the Unspoken to be that huge a threat that he requires all these folks to stop him, but I won't complain since I get to see them all in action again. I felt like Jarvis did during this issue. Dan Slott and Christos Gage take time to give nice little moments to most of the folks involved. I'm actually curious about Scientific Beast too (from the Chinese super-team). He seems pretty cool!

The Hank Pym subplot is pretty interesting too. I never would have guessed I'd see Hank Pym get slugged by Eternity, but it was a nice visual. I like the idea of Hank as Scientist Supreme. Eternity sure had to work at it to make the designation make sense though, since Reed Richards is probably more deserving. I'm always glad to see Pym get some respect though.

Sean Chen's clean, classic art is a step up from Khoi Pham's rushed pencils. Pham can bring this level of quality, but not on a monthly schedule (it seems). I'd love to see these two artists swap off storylines so that every issue of Mighty can be a top notch production.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Invincible Iron Man #19

Matt Fraction didn't end World's Most Wanted the way I thought he would, but he did bring the whole thing to a close in a very dramatic fashion. The pacing in a complex, long story like this can be very difficult, so I'm happy with how Fraction brought every storyline to a head at once. He gave us a decent resolution and still provided a nice lead in to the next arc.

Agent Hill and Black Widow put aside their differences and re-acquire the Stark disk from early in the storyline. I've got to figure it is a backup of Stark's mind or something, right? A great part of this showdown was Maria Hill giving orders to her old troops who went over to Hammer. The better part is that they go along with it.

Pepper Potts has he revenge too. She and JARVIS manage to sabotage just about every piece of Stark Tech that Osborn had appropriated. Potts then made sure to broadcast Norman Osborn beating the crap out of Tony Stark on live TV, with Tony not even putting up a fight.

Stark's resolution is bittersweet. He "won," sure, but there is nothing left of the guy. It was awful watching him try to muster up the smarts to make some kind of comeback at Osborn, but there just wasn't enough left of Stark to make it work. I love how this beating will probably pull the public back to Stark's corner.

The most surprising and touching (for me) ending was Agent Walsh. This guy is a Hammer agent who has been conflicted about helping Osborn take out Stark since the story started. Well it turns out Walsh finally did the right thing and was trying to help Stark get away. It's a nice moment of "bravery" from a chubby analyst. I love seeing that type of loyalty from Stark's ex-employees.

Salvador La Rocca has been kicking butt on this title since issue 1. This is no exception. The battle of the Iron Men looked great, but La Rocca can nail the emotional beats too. This was a great comic. And I can't wait to see Thor next issue.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Marvel's January 2010 Solicits Preview

Here's my write-up of January's Marvel books. Newsarama has the full solicits as they always do.

Lots of Avenger-y goodness this month, I'm excited!

Deadpool #900

Wow. I thought I could handle a lot of Deadpool stories, but I found out I have a limit. I read the first two or three shorts in here, then put the book down. And I haven't been able to make myself pick it back up. It's just sitting there, mocking me. I really don't think I can make myself finish this massive tome of red and black mayhem. What I read was ok, but certainly didn't instill a need to finish the comic. Seriously, this thing is huge! And it's essentially just a collection of 10 page joke stories.

The worst part is that I bought this thinking it had the Fred Van Lente 'Pool/Hercules team up that I think comes out next month. Boy is my face red.

Do I coin a new grade? Unfinished?


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

DC's January 2010 Solicits Previewed

Here's my normal feature over at ComicsPlusBlog where I rant and rave about DC's new month of comics. We're up to 2010 already. Yowza!
As always, Newsarama has the full solicits... because no one offered to send them to me! ;)

Spider-Man: Crime and Punisher TPB

Hmm. I'm enjoying these Brand New Day Spidey stories ok, but I don't know if I can say anything more than that. I certainly don't think there has been any benefit to removing Mary Jane from the spider-mythos. Spider-Man is one of those characters that I like well enough to read about just based on his own merits, but I always dug the drama he had with MJ. There is a new possible love interest (or at least flirt-interest) in this trade, but I don't really hold out much hope that this confident new reporter for the Frontline paper will stick around.

The trade opens with a nice war story starring Flash Thompson. I guess Marc Guggenheim researched military terms and tactics with an actual soldier before writing this and it shows. Barry Kitson handles the realistic combat in as confident a fashion as he does his other work, and this was a quite moving story. I'm not sure about the spider-moments interjected into Flash's more realistic problems though. Isn't comparing a soldier's life-threatening work to Spider-Man fighting some bum sort of insulting?

The next story has Joe Kelly revamping Hammerhead as a flunky for Mr. Negative. I'm not sure I like Hammerhead dropping his mobster motif in an attempt to get serious. I really liked Spidey's comments during their fights; his dialogue was mirroring my thoughts. Kelly always does a nice job of balancing humor and drama and he keeps up that trend here. The childhood trauma and origin of Hammerhead is quite sad, but that is contrasted against the excellent quips coming from Spidey. This is an absolutely brutal encounter and it really pushes the boundaries of believability that Peter Parker's co-workers would be so accepting of his mangled face, but the story is well put together.

The final story has the Punisher and Spidey taking on Moses Magnum. It was decent enough, but at this point I need something special from my Punisher stories. I don't think he works as well in straight up super-hero comics anymore, not after seeing him used so well in a movie-type format in Punisher MAX. I was pleased to see Moses Magnum survive the encounter though.

The art is solid throughout the trade. Barry Kitson's work is wonderful as always. Chris Bachalo's Spidey is a tad big-headed and kid-like, but contrasted against the brutality of the fights the style actually worked. Paulo Rivera has a distinctive style that worked ok, but the Punisher was a tad lumpy. I prefer the bulking bruiser we've seen in most recent appearances.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Transformers: All Hail Megatron vol 1&2 TPBs

Sometimes I amaze myself at how dorky I am. I spent the weekend burning through the last two Transformers Spotlights and the first two volumes of All Hail Megatron. I was pleased as punch. What I finally realized is that IDW is publishing Transformer comics that are exactly what I want. Not the near-miss of the old Marvel days (which had decent stories, but average art) and not the great-looking but ultimately hollow Dreamwave launch. The IDW Transformers universe has all the characters acting the way I expect them to from watching the cartoon, but the stories have grown up a bit from the silliness on Saturday morning. Not to say these are too "adult," most of the killing and such happens off-screen. But the stakes are high and bots actually get taken out. I need to get my friends who love the movie to look at these. This is the closest I can explain to what the Transformers "should" be.

The actual story of the two volumes has Megatron's Decepticons taking over the Earth after exiling the Autobots on Cybertron. They'd planned on finishing them off there, but of course Prime and his gang turned things around and at least they're loose on the dead world. The problem is that they're being stalked by the Swarm, a huge number of cannibal Insecticons. There are some neat moments (with a nice payoff) showing how Thundercracker feels about these aberrant Transformers. He's furious that the Decepticons are using the flawed Insecticons when only 3 of them were even debatably sane. It's a cool reason to introduce a brand new split in the 'Con ranks. Starscream is also maneuvering to take over, but that's to be expected, isn't it? There is plenty of screen time for the bad guys. The jets, Soundwave, the tapes, Devastator, the triple-changers, they all have their time to shine.

The Autobots meanwhile are at each others' throats while they search for a traitor. The cast of bots is all the Generation 1 classics (Jazz, Ironhide, Ratchet, Prowl, etc.) with the odd addition of Tracks. That crew eventually meets up with some movie-era 'Bots led by Kup. These guys include Blaster, a souped-up Perceptor, Hot Rod, and more. If all these names just sound like nonsense, then you are in for a treat. Shane McCarthy does a great job dropping just enough dialogue to give you a feel for the huge cast.

The pacing did feel a bit off; as I thought things jumped from Cybertron back to Earth in a jarring fashion. After taking so long to build things up, I think I would have liked a bit more of a resolution in the final conflict. But we are left with a neat new status quo and more than a few dead Transformers.

The art by Guido Guidi is great. His robots look imposing while still retaining their cartoon roots. The coloring really excels too, especially with the glowing eyes. The humans don't look as good, but who cares, this is a Transformer comic, right?


Magog #2

I do love Magog and how he fits in with the rest of the JSA over in the core Justice Society title, but on his own, I'm afraid that Mags just isn't unique enough to sustain my interest.

Keith Giffen is trying his darndest to introduce a new supporting cast and new villains while still servicing the JSA membership angle too. This issue had some nice interactions with both Cyclone and Jay Garrick, and it was interesting seeing Magog's take on the two of them. Sure, he is down on them, but we expect that by now. He is a jerk after all. Magog is at least trying to be a proactive hero and getting involved in the brain-washing tech introduced last isssue. Giffen has a neat sequence where Magog heads out to the super-genius prison where T.O. Morrow was kept during 52 to question Hector Hammond. Hammdon doesn't come off as creepily as he did in Geoff Johns' GL title though. So the supporting cast, the guest-stars, even the idea for a new dealer of high-tech illegal weaponry is good. After all, now that Intergang has stupidly been retrofit into a bunch of Crime Bible cultists, the DCU needs a good sci-fi crew of villains again. The problem is that while the separate elements might hold up, I'm just not engaged to see what happens. I don't think this title will have any relevance on the JSA and Magog isn't likeable enough to keep me around. I enjoy a lot of titles that don't have an impact outside their own pages, but I need to love the characters. I just don't like Magog enough.

Howard Porter's art is interesting. His Magog looks decidedly Larry Stroman-ish in places, which isn't a style crossover I expected. His figures are always blocky, but he's really unleashing those tendencies in this book.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Red Tornado #2

Nice cover. A bit of a reach, but still striking.

Hmm. I had been intrigued by the first issue of Kevin Van Hook's limited series, but my interest has waned already. Red Tornado is just too generic. He doesn't have an interesting voice, and adding in a couple generic bad robots doesn't do anything to help. Red Torpedo exhibits a little bit more of a dark side, at least in conversation, but she doesn't seem like she's actually bad. This is a mostly background issue, so perhaps that's why it didn't really excite me that much. All we find out is that T.O. Morrow built Red Torpedo first and shut her down when she started to develop a conscience. Torpedo believes Tornado was the next robot, so I'm not sure where Red Volcano fits in. I guess I'm worried that an already generic robot isn't helped by adding in more robots that look and act like him. Heck, Torpedo's powers look almost the same as Tornado's.

It must be driving Jose Luis crazy that the hottest gal he has to draw is a robot. I believe Luis comes from Ed Benes studio, or at least he has the same style, so I bet this subject matter isn't his cup of tea. He draws nice, classic looking heroes, although T.O. Morrow looks a bit young.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Doom Patrol #3

Man, the order of stories in this comic is totally reversed. The Metal Men backup is funny, entertaining, and has great characters. The lead with the Doom Patrol is weird and too cerebral for me. The odd style of interjecting journals to provide background is somewhat effective, but there has been very little combat so far. I'm not even sure how Mento used Elasti-Girl to shut down the sentient black hole. Having Mento be a pervert who "rode-along" in EG's mind is an interesting idea. I like that he thought he was catering to her every whim to make her happy, but at the same time she had no privacy and he was actually controlling her when she'd be asleep. That's villain-behavior. Having Chief being ok with covering it up makes him not much better than a villain too, especially since Cheif seems to have all the weirdness on tape. Giffen does play up the differences in the cast when he has the Chief talk about how Robot Man and Elasti-Girl feel the need to "Tilt at Windmills" for the greater good.

Matthew Clark's artwork is fine. I liked his take on the Mento helmet in particular. I would have preferred the climax with the black hole be a little clearer though.

The Metal Men strip is essentially a comedy fluff piece, but it is great. This is the most I've ever liked the Metal Men. Giffen and DeMatteis have given the group a wonderful set of conflicting personalities. The extra panel time spent with Copper this issue is a treat too. She's a fun addition to the group. Kevin Maguire's detailed art is a joy, as always.

Doom Patrol - Fair
Metal Men - Good

Friday, October 16, 2009

Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural #1

I think this is the best comic Rick Remender has written. I've said in the past that he's either hit or miss with me, but man, is this a hit. Doctor Voodoo is just plain awesome in this. The book opens Voodoo arriving in Dormammu's Dark Dimension, where he proceeds to use a mix of Dr. Strange-style magic and voodoo to trap Dormammu for the foreseeable future. And that's before the credits!

Strange hangs around for a few pages to chat strategy with Voodoo, making a lot of comments about how risky Voodoo is in setting himself up as Sorcerer Supreme. It seems Voodoo is willing to dabble is a bit darker of magics in order to protect the universe. There is a lot of comparison made by the entire cast that Voodoo had already been the Houngan Supreme, now he's just getting a promotion but still able to use his old powers too. I love the buddy-aspect of the character too. Having your dead brother's ghost around will sure keep you from getting a swelled head, I'd say.

I also like the set-up that Voodoo is continuing his life as Jericho Drumm, non-profit doctor in New Orleans. The double confrontation at his clinic drives home how difficult the secret life of Sorcerer Supreme will be. Remender introduces a new voodoo-themed villainess (complete is stylized, awesome dialogue) and in the middle of that fight, in walks Dr. Doom, anxious to take over the Sorcerer Supreme mantle. Remender did a fantastic job of giving us new ideas and yet scratching the itch of setting a book in the Marvel U. This premiere issue is a fantastic balancing act that delivers action and a fascinating status quo that I can't wait to follow.

The art by Jefte Palo is a tad uneven. He does a great job with Voodoo (has any other good guy ever had shrunken heads on his staff?). I think he took some shortcuts though too, there are panels where background characters don't have faces. The nurse at Drumm's clinic loses her face after one panel and is looking a bit blank for the rest of the page. The art lives up to the billing where it counts though. The confrontations with Doom, Dormammu, and the voodoo baddie are tremendous.


Green Lantern Corps #41

Wow. There is a lot going on here. I love the way Peter Tomasi paces this title. He gets panel time for just about every lantern I want to see, and best of all he does it consistently. He even squeezes in personal faves Princess Iolande and Voz! I keep waiting for Voz to get killed and come back as a Black Lantern, but each issue he squeaks by and survives for 30 more days. I figure it won't last, but dang if he isn't my favorite GL in quite some time.

I'm pleased at how quickly all the GLs are able to overcome the emotional turmoil of seeing their dead loved ones coming back. In fact, I was shocked that he Lantern having the most difficulty was Kilowog. Seeing his old drill instructor has really shaken the poozer. Arisia, Kyle, Guy and the rest proceeded almost directly to kicking butt. Actually, I think Guy's total dissolution of Kehaan was one of the best renditions of a Black Lantern reformation that I've seen. I love the way the ring starts reforming its bearer with a finger bone and proceeds from there. Creepy, cool stuff. Tomasi is so dang good. I do think there is a typo in the cliffhanger though.

Incidentally, I know Tomasi is leaving The Outsiders for a mysterious, post-Blackest Night series. After his masterful work on the Martian Manhunter: Requiem issue during Final Crisis, I wonder if there is any chance he could be writing about a resurrected J'onn? I'd dance a jig if that were the case.

Patrick Gleason does a wonderful job as always. The way he differentiates between the constructs of the different GLs is fantastic. Isamot and Vath Sarn both make guns, but different types. Guy Gardner creates explosive blasts with little shape. Arisia brings creates heroic images of the dead to bear against the Black Lanterns. Gleason gives us cracker-jack characterization through the different methods of fighting off the dead.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Secret Six #14

Yowch. When a comic opens with a disgusting villain running his hands along an unconscious, spread-eagled Wonder Woman, you know you are in for a rough comic. As expected, the Secret Six end up breaking another contract and working together to do the right thing. There are some wonderful moments as Ragdoll and finally Deadshot give in to their "better" natures by killing bad people instead of those they've been paid to kill. There is some nice comeuppance for the Amazon enforcer of the prison, and the cruel jailer gets two uncomfortable scenes too. The Grendel/devil-beast ends up having a fight on his hands when Scandal Savage uses some of Bane's Venom. Things still would have gone badly had Wonder Woman not roused herself and "made an exception for demons." I never like seeing heroes kill. I suppose he was a demon, but man, it still rubs me the wrong way. That's what makes the Secret Six so fun to read about, they do the stuff the real heroes can't. Having Wonder Woman kill and then allow a group of "villains" to go free sort of weakens her moral standing.

Simone does a neat job with the Amazons. I haven't read any of Simone's trades, but I'm very much looking forward to getting the first one this month. Her take on Artemis is empowering and limiting at the same time. Artemis is honorable to the point that she's pitiable. I'm particularly fascinated with the contrast between her and Jeannette, who has become a great character in her own right. Jeannette and Bane's little power play at the close of the issue is classic Secret Six. I've never seen such an unstable, back-stabbing crew. It's great fun to read.

The art in this issue made me laugh. The important and dramatic scenes were all handled by Nicola Scott, with a fill-in artist taking care of some of the other pages. The big revenge bits, the important emotional scenes? They're all masterfully handled by Scott. What I love about her art is how she draws eyes. Scott draws such expressive eyes that it really seems like you can tell what her characters are thinking just by seeing their faces. She's a fantastic artist.


Walking Dead #66

What a great, iconic cover.

This was a solid issue, but I'm not sure it was quite as strong as the previous couple of chapters. Kirkman is such a master of the cliffhanger that after 3 straight months of leaving me totally ramped up for the next issue, having the current arc end left me kind of down. It's an odd complaint. Kirkman is so good at making me want more, that when he actually delivers, it isn't as good as the anticipation. That's not to say that this brutal story of Rick taking care of the Hunters isn't entertaining. I'm not sure it was necessary for the group to torture the Hunters before killing them, but there is no debate they had to be killed.

The other big news of the issue is the death of another founding member of the cast. This guy has been losing pieces and getting more and more worn down, so I'm not surprised to see him go. I was really happy that this character got to make peace with Rick before he died though. Rick deserved some props for all he's done for this band of survivors, and the dying character made sure to give Rick the respect he deserved.

Charlie Adlard is as solid as ever. He did a nice job with the death scene, making it poignant and shocking at the same time. It's a tough balance to sell something like that, but in a zombie world, I guess it is necessary.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cable #19

I really wish Bishop wasn't evil. I'm still not convinced that turning him into a maniac stalker is a positive move for the character. I've been playing Ultimate Alliance and watching Wolverine and the X-Men with my daughter, and seeing Bishop in more flattering light in those media really drive home how he's been wrecked in the comics.

This issue has Cable, Hope, and Bishop facing off against the Brood. I appreciate the use of familiar foes in such an unfamiliar environment. This whole series has been set in a post-apocalyptic future, so a familiar face (even a Brood) is a reassuring reminder that this series is still firmly set in the Marvel U. Duane Swierczynski actually has a good voice down for Cable. He's a stern but caring father for Hope. I like him a little more heroic, but I can't fault the character for acting so paternal at this point. Bishop is still a suicidal madman though, and as I said I find that hard to take.

The art by is wildly inconsistent. Gabriel Guzman starts out solidly, with a fairly classic, Roger Cruz-inspired look. Towards the end of the issue the art starts to look much more rushed and the storytelling suffers for it. He does do a great job on the jet-powered space sharks though.

Average (almost Fair, due to high ratio of space sharks)

Final Crisis Aftermath: Run #6

Matthew Sturges brings the series home in a solid manner. After months and months, I'm finally ok with the idea that the best the JLA can send after the Human Flame is John Stewart, Firestorm, and Red Tornado. Red Tornado never really had much of a voice here; he was very generic sounding in his interaction with the other characters. Sturges did a much better job with Stewart, Firestorm, and the Flame himself. The Human Flame is such a jerk that it is wonderful seeing him get taken down. Having the Flame increase in size until he can't move is a genius resolution. The Flame never thought about making himself smaller, which would have freed him. He always wanted to be bigger and better, so this poetic justice ending for his run is wonderful.

I loved the closing scene with the JLA'ers flying away from the Flame's space-cell. After trapping the Flame in an asteroid, John Stewart takes a moment to fly back, rub the Flame's face in defeat, and snap a picture. Just like what the Flame did to Martian Manhunter in Final Crisis. Human Flame is obsessed with his rep and being viewed as a powerful guy, so circulating that picture will humiliate him. Strong ending from Sturges. This ended up being the only Final Crisis Aftermath book I saw through to the end, and it was an enjoyable story.

Freddie Williams III has that great cartoony style that is just realistic enough for me to like his work. Everyone is a bit bubbly-looking, but the bright colors really set the tone of the art. Everything "looks" nice and comic-y.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Justice League: Cry for Justice #4

This issue was markedly less bad than the 3 preceding it. It wasn't great by any means, but it wasn't awful either. James Robinson's League is actually starting to be an interesting comic now that he's breaking up the love fest between Green Lantern and Green Arrow. With Green Arrow starting to break off from the insane torturing of Ray Palmer, I find myself liking GA best of the core players in this series. Robinson had stated that this series would give us a personality for Ray Palmer, but I think that might actually be a bad thing. I hate Ray Palmer. He lashes out at GA saying "we may have been teammates but we were never friends." C'mon, why all the hate, Ray? Robinson is also spending a little time fleshing out Supergirl and Shazam. While I'm not keen on Supergirl being all head-over-heels for Shazam, I do like the idea of the two junior team members gravitating towards each other.

Mikaal Tomas and Congorilla get a little face time here too as they atomize two low-level villains. If Robinson keeps up this pace, I don't think there will be too many characters left in the DCU by the time this series is over. The body count in this series is ridiculous and unnecessary. I'm intrigued to see Jay Garrick playing such a big role in this story. I wonder if there is any chance that Garrick is the Flash that Robinson will use in his upcoming JLA run?

The painted art by Mauro Cascioli is striking once again. He definitely seem to enjoy drawing Supergirl's chest (and he also gives Miss Martian a little upskirt shot) but overall the art is dramatic. I might argue too dramatic and important-feeling for a JLA story, but he's not bad.


Batman: Unseen #1

Ah, Doug Moench and Kelly Jones. Between the awkward, stilted dialogue and ridiculous contorted body language, there is no confusing a comic by this creative team. When I was younger, I didn't appreciate their style enough, but I sure do now.

This first issue introduces us to a mad scientist on the payroll of Black Mask. It's actually pretty generic, the scientist is trying to make himself invisible, and he succeeds, but where the issue shines is in the details. Dr. Nigel Glass is a jerk. He's insufferably proud and he takes every opportunity to point out how brilliant he is. As he begins to turn invisible, he becomes even crazier, ranting about food and noting with loving detail as each level of his body becomes invisible. (For awhile, he is described as a "meat man." How great is that?) This could end up being a great origin for a new bat-foe.

Meanwhile, Batman is struggling with a lack of fear in his targets. It seems more and more of his opponents are mustering up the courage to stand up to Bats, and he's worried about it. I'm not sure how this will tie into the Dr. Glass story, but I'm keen to see what happens.

Kelly Jones' artwork is as inspiring as ever. Batman leaps and crouches around the pages. The mood is flawless. I had to do a double-take at the panel where Batman is leaping off to answer the bat-symbol; there is a gargoyle as big as Batman that is hulking on the side of a building. Just wonderful art.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Crossed #7

Yeesh. Garth Ennis' post-apocalyptic book rolls on, and while it is as upsetting as always, this is actually a little less perverted than it has been.

The whittled-down group has weathered the winter and crossed a desert in search of finding a sanctuary from the Crossed maniacs. The problem is, the last group of Crossed that swore to chase them has tracked them across the desert and is still on their trail. The mindless maniacs are showing even more cunning. Even worse, now they seem to be holding grudges. I'm having a hard time remembering exactly what happened last issue, since I think it has been awhile, but I do recognize the two leaders of the gang of Crossed. They eventually catch our survivors as they attempt to cross a river, and the Crossed open fire on the group, splitting them up. Most of the group meets back up, except for the young boy of the party. When they get to him, he's been infected and after spouting some profanity, he's put out of his misery by his mother. She doesn't pause at all, just shoots her kid in the head. It would be an awful choice, but Ennis deftly avoids the horror-movie cliche that a parent can't do what is necessary to free their kid. It's an awful scene, made worse in that the mother is cold about it. It is the rest of the party that is in shock and upset.

Jacen Burrows is a good storyteller in addition to having a penchant for gore. Burrows is able to focus on just gore here. I'm not sure that the core scene of the book needed as much focus though. I think showing the kid's head blowing apart is a little much, and the message might have been just as clear cutting that out. But heck, I don't think people reading Crossed are trying to avoid brain splatter.


Deadpool #16

I don't know what it is about Deadpool. I saw the nice cover and just grabbed it off the rack, thinking "I like Deadpool, I'll try this again." As I carried it to the register, my buddy at the comic store commented how Deadpool's comics are selling great. He even said that the Cable/Deadpool trades are selling better than they did when the series was being published. I'm happy to hear it, but I'm not sure I understand why. What is it about Deadpool that comic readers are digging so much? The violence? The humor? The horrific scarring? I'm not sure, but I do know that I enjoy Deadpool as a character. Daniel Way has a nice balance going of amusing plot and comedic dialogue. I don't dig on every joke in each issue, but enough are hits that I enjoy the overall comic.

This issue has DP arriving on the X-Men's island where he attempts to join the team. They brush him off, of course, but Wolverine quickly warns Cyclops that Deadpool is the kind of guy you'd rather have with you than against you. He's got a good point. DP decides the best way to deal with his rejection is to prove his worth to the team. Cyclops eventually decides to start pointing DP at targets through Domino.

Meanwhile, Norman Osborn has a media-puppet denouncing the X-Men. This guy is the father of one of the young X-Men on the island and he's turning the press against the X-Men by claiming that he's just trying to see his daughter, but the X-folk won't allow it. I like Cyclops and the other leaders' reaction to this guy; they blow him off and promise to look out for their friends, planning to let Angel's legal team handle the father. But Deadpool has other plans. Deadpool's new handler, Domino, quickly reports back that DP is planning to kill this guy. The story isn't a huge threat and doesn't have huge ramifications to the X-universe, but it is a clever, immediate story that shows the reader a lot about all the players involved. It's good stuff.

Paco Medina is still just a bit too cartoony for me. He tells the story competently enough, but I'd love to see someone with a bit less animated take. I think this title would actually benefit from two artists, one handling the real world and the other (probably Medina) handling the crazy animated world inside DP's head.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Blackest Night: Titans #2

I'm not sure how I feel about zombie babies biting their mothers, but I have to admit JT Krul seems to be having fun with this. The gore is off the charts like in all the other Blackest Night tie-ins, but I suppose that is to be expected. I just can't make myself get too worried about anyone in the core cast, since I know three quarters of this team are destined to appear in other books, but it is fun seeing these heroes put through the paces. I think part of my problem is that Dick Grayson really should be here, the dynamics of the Titans don't work exactly right without him, so I feel like I'm still waiting for the headliner to appear. Cyborg and Starfire make for good almost-leads, but having Beast Boy and Donna Troy as the main draws is never going to do it for me. I will admit this is probably the most I've empathized with Donna. She's in an awful place here; with her dead family returned, she is in one of the most heart-breaking predicaments of any of the heroes facing the dead. Having a zombie kid involved also makes it one of the creepiest.

I'm curious what the static around Dove is going to mean. The two dead Hawks are unable to get a read on her, somehow due to the peace of her being, I think. Will Dove end up as one of the predicted "White Lanterns?" I'm not sure, but with Hawk II killed off so quickly, DC may as well try to find a new place for Dove. Bringing in a new Hawk this fast will just weaken the core concept.

I loved how Ed Benes has Terry Long looking totally 80s, like in his heyday. I also enjoy how the recently dead like Hawk II immediately gain the desicated look of a Black Lantern. Benes is actually a good fit for this book, with Starfire, Wonder Girl(s), and all the other gals in small costumes, there is actually some excuse for all the butt-shots. He does a solid enough job on the storytelling that the mood is still effective even with the heavy dose of cheesecake.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

New Invaders #0-9

Time for my second installment of Tales from the Dollar bin on Comics Plus Blog. This time I'm taking a look at the 2005 series: The Invaders. While uneven, this was a decent book overall. Plus anything that featured Union Jack in that cool looking special forces-type suit is ok by me.

Check it out here.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Haunt #1

Wow, that's a lot of famous names at the top of this comic. Robert Kirkman, Todd McFarlane, Ryan Ottley, and Greg Capullo all worked together on this book and it kind of shows. The art seems to veer around from one artistic style to another. I can almost recognize which artist liked drawing what (Capullo liked the gore, I think, while McFarlane spent the most time on the actual costumed Haunt). The story has been bashed a bit online, but I actually liked it. Haunt is a combo of two brothers, one a hard drinking, jerkish Catholic priest and the other a skilled soldier. The soldier brother seems to have the stronger morals of the two, as he rebels against his orders and kills a scientist when he realizes that the scientist was performing experiments on children. He doesn't really think of the repercussions, because later in the issue, he is killed when he can't produce that scientist's notebook. He immediately starts "haunting" his brother, wanting the priest to look out for his wife. The priest and widow clearly have some sort of history, but we don't get much of it here. Her life is in danger though, since armed goons kick down her door and start shooting. The priest and his brother's ghost merge and become Haunt. It seems the dead brother is in the driver's seat while in super-hero form. I like the twist of very different guys sharing a heroic ID, and making them brothers adds to the drama. I actually found the whole cast fairly interesting. Not necessarily likeable, but interesting.

The comic is certainly violent and "adult," but it does subscribe to a little more tell than show, which I prefer. We know how horrific the soldier's death was based on dialogue, not because we saw every cut rendered in loving detail.

The guy doing the heavy lifting is Ryan Ottley. Most of the story-telling is done in his style, the people look like they stepped out from Invincible. There are some panel compositions where I think I see Greg Capullo's layouts, but for the most part, this looks like an Ottley book. McFarlane does get more involved in a few action sequences. I think he digs that over the blander panels, and his scratchy, detailed linework is visible more in the Haunt-filled pages. I actually think the look of the book is fine, since I like everyone involved. I'm not totally sure I'll follow this series though. How many issues is it again?


Batman & Robin #5

Grant Morrison is a weird dude. In a good way. My favorite bit of oddness this issue is that Red Hood is reading a book on marketing. Convinced that Batman is nothing more than a successful logo, Jason Todd is out to become even more popular with his hardcore ways. He's out to prove that crime doesn't pay, and he's willing to kill to do it. What makes this version of Jason Todd so interesting to me is that he thinks he's being a hero even as he continues to be the callous jerk he's always been. His new sidekick Scarlet occasionally starts to think of her past life, and Jason Todd is just brutal in his dealing with her. She starts to talk about her father and Todd just reminds her that she killed him. Tough. It's also a curious choice to have Todd reveal that Bruce Wayne had Todd dye his hair to look more like Dick Grayson. That's got to do some psychological damage to a kid like Jason Todd. Plus it makes Bats seem a little... weird doesn't it?

Dick Grayson/Batwing and Damian are still a good team. They are nowhere near as effective as Bruce Wayne and any of his sidekicks, on a couple occasions this issue the Red Hood gets the better of them. I like that type of vulnerability, it adds to the sense of danger for the leads. The big threat here is Flamingo, the mob enforcer brought in to take on the Red Hood. He's appropriately horrific, but again, I can't believe some of the stuff in a mainstream comic these days. Flamingo cuts off and eats the faces of the people who rode his plane into Gotham. Cut off their faces. Ate those faces. In a comic. We truly live in a horrific world where this type of material is needed to establish the street cred of a new bad guy. Once again I have to argue, people this crazy need to be KILLED. Bring in the Punisher.

Phillip Tan's art just can't compete with Frank Quitely. Characters like Penguin, Jason Todd, and even Batwing and Damian look off-model. The dramatic debut of Flamingo is somewhat ruined by the muddled look of his face. It's like Tan uses too many pencil lines and smudges up the faces of the people he draws.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

GI Joe: Cobra Special #1

This arrived at my store a week late. The book is worth the wait. While not a revolutionary story, the unique approach is impressive. Mike Costa flips the narrative at the mid-point of the story, switching from Tomax to Xamot. The art isn't an exact copy, but the panels and narration run in opposites. It's an admirable approach that I can't believe worked out this well. I'm not sure I like where it leave the Crimson Twins, but the experiment is worth it. I do have some regret that the amusing, acrobatic brothers in the cartoon have been replaced my murderous slavers in the comics. It seems the Cobra titles are playing up the realism of the GI Joe universe, with the Cobra organization being a really scary threat. They are still kind of sci-fi baddies in the core title. Having the twins grow apart like this is an interesting choice. It sends a clear signal that we aren't going to get exactly what we expect with this relaunch.

I was surprised we didn't get any panel-time for Chuckles, but I hear there is a sequel to the Cobra mini-series in the works, so I'm confident we'll see him again.

Antonio Fuso gets the mood perfectly. What impresses me the most is how well he follows through on the premise of a mirrored narrative. The panels are laid out the same, while having a different message the second time we see them. Fuso's pencils aren't classic enough for him to be a favorite for me, but I can't debate that he can tell a good story.


Batman: Widening Gyre #1 & 2

If Kevin Smith wasn't trying so hard to make his comics feel hard core and "adult," I think I'd really like his work. Issue 1 of this series is filled with so much sexual innuendo that I can't even call it that. Poison Ivy is hanging around naked and trying to get Batman to hook up with her. She's so desperate she uses cannabis to try and get ol' Bats to do the deed. He resists, of course, but c'mon. I did enjoy the Demon showing up and "helping" deal with Ivy though. The interesting thing is that Smith has a good handle on the relationships of these characters. The Demon, Batman, Ivy, Robin, they all are acting how they should, just with the adult content ramped up to 11.

Issue 2 opens with Bats taking on Fun Land, a child abductor villain. Again, this is too much for me. Call me simple, but I like comic book villains with comic book goals. I don't need this type of villain in my Batman comics. The rest of the issue has Bats reuniting with Silver St. Cloud and actually considering other parts of his life. I really like the way Smith is leading the reader towards the conclusion that Bats needs a new partner. He is making a good argument with the Robin flashbacks that Batman really does excel with a partner, and bringing Silver back gives Bruce Wayne a good reason for needing more face time back from Batman. Cornelius Stirk was always a gross villain, although never this graphic. But again, while Smith goes too far with the gore, having Stirk give the vision of Bats' desire that the new vigilante arrive to help is a great argument that Batman should take on this hero as a sidekick. I am enjoying what Smith is doing here; I just wish he didn't feel the need to make everything so hardcore.

Walt Flanaghan is a good enough artist that the story is clear. He is good at mood-setting; the Silver scenes seem tranquil, Stirk's scenes are horrific, and the guest-stars all bring the appropriate sense of comfort.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Nova #29

DnA are still populating Marvel space with a ton of new characters along with re-imagined cast-offs, making for a fascinating read. This issue has Nova and a team of his Nova Corps trainees heading out to a derelict Nova Corps spacecraft. The ship drifted in from the Rift, the tear in space time created at the end of War of Kings. After setting the scene nicely with some good space horror elements, DnA turn things around by having a good guy jump Nova. The original centurion posted on the ship is still up and running and bringing down bad guys. After being banished to another universe 35 years ago, he's just been doing his job ever since. I had figured the guy would be a villain in Nova-gear, but it seems that the other guest-star, Monark Starstalker, actually knows this centurion to be a stick in the mud policeman. I love the idea that Richard Ryder is no longer the senior centurion in the corps. I'm really looking forward to seeing how this new character's arrival will affect the delicate relationships within the reforming Nova Corps.

And of course the big last page reveal of the Black Hole Suns just made me smile. You have to be a big nerd to get the reference, but having a group of "ultra-tough space miners turned villains" end up being Mindless Ones? That's just the joy of comics in action. Once again, highly recommended.

Kevin Sharpe is turning out to be a great fill-in artist for this book. I love Andrea De Vito's pencils on a normal basis, but Sharpe keeps things looking so consistent I'm fine with him too. This is a top-tier comic.


Thunderbolts #135 & 136

Wowza, this was a solid storyline. Andy Diggle wove a complicated plot of deception and betrayal that involved almost every character in this series flipping their loyalties around. I don't want to give away who turns on whom, but Diggle did a fantastic job keeping folks in-character. For example, I had been pretty upset that almost-good guy Paladin was so easily falling into the Dark Reign state of mind, but in issue 136 we see that he was better at talking the bad guy game than he was living it. There are tons of scenes like his in the two issues as people live up or down to expectations. Norman Osborn comes across as a totally brutal, evil guy here. He is taking such pleasure in having Bullseye beat on Nick Fury. He also wants Headsman to cut off Songbird's head so he can have it mounted on his wall. I can believe he is evil enough to do that!

The other nice thing about the close of this arc is that we've got a new set of players going forward. It looks like there will be two teams of Thunderbolts going at each other, with a Black Widow heading up each team. That's a strong idea. I also love the tough spot Ant-Man is in. The guy is actually pulling his weight and now he finds himself more in the middle than ever before. It is a great set-up for Jeff Parker to take over. And between her portrayal in this title and the Ultimate Alliance 2 video game, Songbird is becoming one of my favorite characters.

Miguel Sepulveda's work on issue 135 is as strong as ever. He does a great job with Mr. X's battle with Black Widow and Songbird. Pop Mhan's does a great job keeping everything looking consistent in issue 136. His stuff can look way to anime for me, but he really kept the tone of the art in line with the rest of Diggle's run.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

R.E.B.E.L.S. #8

I don't like generic robots killing LEGION founder Stealth in a flashback, but I have got to have faith in Tony Bedard that he's not going to have that stick. Surely that character deserves a better send-off than a generic death to make Vril Dox seem like a colder jerk than he already was. I will admit between that and the hint that something is very different with Garv, I'm worried that Bedard is drastically wrecking the status quo of a bunch neat characters. Not many folks remember or like the old LEGION crew, I'm sure, but I was a huge fan. As for his work with the current cast, Bedard is doing a great job. The all-new, all-dangerous Omega Men are very cool. I love the idea of Starro's that only amp up power and mean tendencies while keeping their host self-aware. I wouldn't want that approach to be too widespread (for example, if the REBELS team got them) since it is part of what makes the Omega Men unique. The Omega Men need a gal on their team too. I would say someone like Maxima would fit nicely, but she's dead right now, right?

The REBELS team is a cool crew too. With folks popping up from all over the DCU's history, Lyrl Dox makes perfect sense to join. I love the idea of him being something of a wild jungle kid too, more his mother's son than his father's. That's a cool idea. Starro is still a fantastic, horrific villain. He's sets up a great combo of the face-huggers from Alien and zombies. This army of other-universe super-humans is cool too, since there is a chance to have dozens of new characters with different power sets interact with the DCU. Speaking of power-sets, I think the Prince Gavyn Starman needs to revert to his Will Payton persona and join up with the REBELS. They need an Earthman.

Andy Clarke's pencils are so wonderfully detailed; this book is a treat to read. I love his designs for the conquered alien metahumans. That scene with the Psions holding a starfish, with the tentacles whipping around, really gave me the creeps.


Marvel Zombies: The Return #1-5

I think I'm over the whole Marvel Zombies thing. Taken as a whole, I'd have to summarize this limited series as unnecessary. There were bits of the story that were well-done, but overall it doesn't really add anything to Kirkman's original mythos.

I did enjoy seeing Jim Rhodes as Iron Man being the last man alive on Earth. He and one other surprise character are the last two living beings on the planet. The problem with this concept is that I'd like to see the battle of the undead vs. the living. I don't need to see everything glossed over to the end times, leaving only what is essentially the JLA (Sentry, Moon Knight, Quicksilver, Namor, Quasar, and Thundra) lording over the world of zombies. We've seen the post-apocalyptic Marvel Zombie story like 4 times now, let's see more of the actual apocalypse (so far only presented in Kirkman's Dead Days 1-shot).

We get little snippets on most of the surviving Alpha-Zombies from the original series. Some turned good (Hulk, Wolverine, Spider-Man), some led alien empires into zombie battle (Black Panther, Wasp, Cage), and one became the new main villain (Giant-Man). I did think it was interesting that the Earth-Z watcher sent Sentry back in time to cause the original zombie outbreak talked about in Marvel Zombies 1. At least, I think that is what happened. So essentially there is a loop going on with the Sentry infecting and destroying two alternate Earths. Or maybe I'm way off.

The artists vary by issue, but Wellinton Alves does a nice job with the conclusion. I'd say this is only for true completists of the Marvel zombie story.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Thor #603

So there was action in this. Thor wasn't any part of it, but there was action. My complaint throughout JMS' run on Thor is that the lead character spends too much time in introspective thought. My Thor likes to bust heads. There have been moments of great action, but for the most part, I'd say this is a book about royal intrigue and betrayal. The story is actually interesting, it is just not one I'd seek out for Thor.

Loki and Dr. Doom's planning is coming together. Dr. Doom is attempting to harvest Asgardian organs to make himself immortal, while Loki want's Dr. Doom to send some powerful robots to kill Don Blake before he can transform into Thor. At a glance, I'd say Doom has a better chance to succeed. What is interesting about this storyline is that Thor isn't really stepping up to stop it. William, the cook from Oklahoma, spies out what is happening and is set upon by Loki's lackeys. William makes an admirable accounting of himself against Asgardian warriors, but he is taken down. That leads to a great cliffhanger of Baldur's arrival on the scene. I am looking forward to seeing how all this is resolved, and this is a well-told story. Again, I'm just not convinced Thor is the right character for it.

Marko Djurdjevic's art is powerful. Everything looks cold and dramatic, perfect for this type of story. The Asgardian lackeys of Loki's are quite frightening, really adding to the scene where William tries to fight them off. Pretty stuff.


Dark Reign: Lethal Legion #3

This wrapped up nicely. Frank Tieri does his best work with scumbags, so this series focusing on the Lethal Legion has been right up his alley. The final issue puts all the cards on the table, revealing who the Legion's traitor was, while also giving us some nice character moments for Norman Osborn and the Grey Gargoyle. I don't want to spoil everything, but I will say I'm looking forward to the next confrontation between the Williams brothers. I really enjoyed how Tieri gave us glimpses into that relationship. The two guys aren't best friends, but heaven forbid you cross them. Mr. Hyde did while they carried out the Legion's big scheme, and Wonder Man and the Reaper beat the crap out of him.

One complaint I have about the issue is that Mr. Hyde is guilty of two murders, a rape, and a maiming all within one day. It is hard to let someone that evil live, and if all comic villains start being so heinous, I'm not sure there is any viable alternative to the Punisher's approach. The other villains acted much more in line with what I want from my super-criminal characters.

Mateus Santolouco's art worked very nicely for all the dark elements of the story. His take on Wonder Man wasn't quite as strong. Wonder Man looked as grimy as the surrounding story elements, I almost think the darkening of an Avenger would have been more powerful if WM had looked a little more "classic" in this dark tale.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #2-5

I'm not sure anything planted in this series will ever impact the greater DCU, which is interesting considering this is a Final Crisis tie-in, and that was a line-wide event. The other problem is that Joe Casey still hasn't convinced me that I should like any of the Super Young Team. In fact, the coolest characters in the issues I've read are the Big Science Team. They are the senior Japanese hero squad, and they're pretty interesting. I would have preferred 6 issues about these guys than the fairly vapid Most Excellent Super Bat and his doofballs. I understand the purpose of this series is having the SYT graduate from frauds to heroes, but I just don't care to see most of them make the switch. I think the Aquazon and possibly the little alcoholic fairy-gal could fit in other places in the DCU, but I can't even remember the names of the speedster or Lantern Boy.

Rising Sun has morphed from a sad old has-been issue in issue 1 to a full-on villain in these two issues. It seems his Mind is no longer his own. That's a nice surprise appearance from a classic DCU villain. I'm actually surprised they'd have that villain show up here after his last appearance in 52. As always there are some great moments of Joe Casey dialogue that really make me want to like this. Casey's high-concept nonsense is as wonderful as it always is, but my lack of connection to the characters is killing my interest.

The art is wildly inconsistent. Chris Cross has been bouncing on and off the title, and his chapters are the strongest, of course. It seems like these Aftermath books are an afterthought to DC. This should have been held until Cross and Casey could have done the whole series and at least the top-notch creative team would be a draw for readers.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Beta Ray Bill: Godhunters #1-3

I had pretty low hopes for this, but I'm glad I read it. Kieron Gillen's Phonogram had a great premise, but kind of lost me in the execution. His language was a bit stilted and just didn't read realistically. His work here is much more accessible. I guess it really must be a lot easier to write about cosmic horse-men rather than Brit Pop.

Gillen has Beta Ray Bill out for revenge. After realizing that Korbin (Bill's homeworld) was dinner for Galactus, Bill dedicates himself to taking out the elder space-god. Bill gets some intel from Agent Brand and S.W.O.R.D. Gillen has a good handle on Brand, she's very likeable in her few appearances and she will definitely shine in the new S.W.O.R.D. ongoing Gillen has coming up. Bill tracks down Galactus to the I'Than Seclusion, a group of planets settled by a pacifist race that seems to be easy pickings for Galactus. The one complicating factor is that the I'Than had genetically modified themselves to remove their most warlike tendencies to spread peace in their sector of space, with Galactus' arrival, their warriors put on helmets that re-activate these primal, violent tendencies, turning the pacifists into powerful warriors. I really dug the time and development spent on the supporting race of the I'Than, I'd love to see them again in other comics. Bill and the I'Than interact with both Galactus' current heralds, Silver Surfer and Stardust. Silver Surfer seems a bit nicer and approachable than he did in his recent Nova appearance. Maybe the Surfer thinks of Bill as more of a peer than he does Nova. Eventually, Bill decides that he can't go through with his death-threat for Galactus since the big G's death would cause a calamity that would devastate the universe. So Bill ends up saving Galactus from the I'Than. As a reward, Galactus resurrects one Korbanite, so Bill is no longer alone. She's a gal, so let's hope she gets along with Bill, they have some Adam & Eve-ing to do.

Kano's art in the three issues is fantastic. The cosmic battles are stunning in their scope and presentation. Some of the hammer-blows that Bill lays into the Surfer and Stardust are just awesome. The I'Than have an interesting, unique look.

This series bodes well for Gillen's upcoming run on Thor. I've already added it to my sublist.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Ms. Marvel #45

Wow this is a confusing book. Brian Reed actually has some interesting things happening here, small moments in the greater fight that are entertaining. But there is a lot of weirdness and nonsense that is derailing the plot too.
The Good:
  • Moonstone calling Ms. Marvel "the fat Ms. Marvel."
  • The Iron Patriot blasting Catherine Donovan's face off for being "interesting."
  • Ms. Marvel's smack talk about Moonstone needing Sentry's help to win fights.

    The Bad & Confusing

    • The pacing is really weird. We're like 4 issues into the Marvel War and I have no idea what is happening.
    • I don't know who the storytellers are.
    • I don't understand why Catherine Donovan turned into cubes and then possessed Moonstone.
    • I'm not at all interested in this plot. I want Ms. Marvel to fight super-villains.

    So overall, this thing is just an uneven affair. I can't recommend it because I honestly don't understand what is happening.

    The art is pretty strong this month. Once again, we have a new artist, this time it is Philipe Briones. He does a nice job with the details, with things like the broken concrete of Avengers tower standing out. His take on the heroes is decent too, with Iron Patriot looking grimier and more metallic than I'm used to. His art is leagues above Sana Takeda's, so I hope he sticks around.