Sunday, January 31, 2010
Phil Briones' art looks good at times, I think when he took a long time on one image. The storytelling and action scenes are unclear and peoples' faces vary wildly panel to panel. I'm honestly a little surprised at the quality of this mini. It really doesn't seem ready for prime time.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Cooke does an excellent job setting the tone of the book with his art. The guys are big and hulking and the dames are sexy and dangerous, just like they should be in any good crime story. The action is clear and the sets are stylish and immersive. I can recognize the quality of the package, I just don't think I'm a hard-boiled crime kind of guy. I need that touch of super-hero to really dig most noir (Scalped and Criminal being the exceptions, I guess).
Friday, January 29, 2010
I can never get enough Taskmaster. Christos Gage actually uses this crossover as an opportunity to narrow his
focus. This book has had a huge cast for months, but now that Siege is in effect, he spends most of his time with Taskmaster, the Constrictor, and Diamondback. The Avengers Resistance like Tigra and Justice still get some panel time, but the bulk of the issue is a great character study of the Taskmaster. Taskmaster is so desperate to prove that he belongs with the A-list villains that he's trying to convince fellow "pro" Constrictor into going all-out in the attack on Asgard. It's a neat transition, seeing Tasky switch from his normal lead from the rear personality to a fighting maniac. He's throwing himself all over the fight, including a great closing sequence with dueling narration boxes from him and Diamondback. Gage does a tremendous job making that scene from Siege #1 work, Diamondback should never have been in those panels for the Thor takedown, but Gage makes it work. Also, Gage actually gives Quicksand some dialogue, so that's bonus points right there. Any hope for Mongoose?
Mahmud Asrar has a clean style that works really well on super-heroics. I hate to see him leave Dynamo 5, but he really can handle a Marvel team book at this point. His Taskmaster is particularly fun.
I will admit, Geoff Johns does a nice job setting up the Spectre as such an unbeatable foe that really, the only rational choice is to allow a gigantic yellow bug to crawl down your throat, so I can't blame Hal for becoming Parallax again. My bigger problem is that I'm sort of losing interest in Blackest Night. I've been reading the same basic status quo for like 7 months now, and it is starting to get old. I mean, in the real world, like 7 months have passed, but in the DCU they're still in the middle of one bad day that started last summer. So even with Johns' patented hilarious dialogue for Ronnie Raymond, I just can't get worked up about most of the happenings here. There are a few pages dedicated to the New Guardians, the coolest of which deal with Scarecrow exulting in his own fear as he attacks the Spectre. Johns clearly has some cool things to say about the Scarecrow. I still puzzle over the Atom's compassion, but maybe I'll figure it out soon. I also didn't care for Mera's comment that she never wanted kids. Even if it is true, do you really say that when confronted by the animated corpses of both your son and husband? It seems a bit cruel, even for someone vomiting acid-blood.
Doug Mahnke draws the heck out the proceedings, as he always does. The Spectre actually looks spooky, not an easy feat with that silly goatee. The New Guardians looks pretty cool too, again, not an easy job. Mahnke is easily one of the best pencillers working right now.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
There are a few interesting epilogues, including one where Cap thinks about a possible future he saw where he and Sharon had kids. Of course, that same future came to an end in some sort of apocalyptic battle, so Steve wants to know if he can just keep parts of it. We also see that the Skull's daughter, Sin, was badly burned when her father blown up, leaving her face looking like a very familiar reddish skull.
Bryan Hitch's pencils are loose here, and Butch Guice doesn't tighten them up as much as he usually does. The art is clear, but it does look just a tad unfinished in places.
Cameron Stewart, thank you. Thank you for making the action clear, the character designs fun and original. And extra thank you for actually trying to make your style look a bit like Frank Quitely's while still retaining your own look. Think of the heights of what Morrison could accomplish if he was regularly paired with good artists!
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
The art by Stuart Immonen is as wondeful as always, he handles most of the Cap sequences. Daniel Acuna draws the spidery portions of the issue, and he's a fantastic fit for the Avengers. His style looks almost photo-realistic except that he's a master of capturing the madness of comic book design. His Mandrill looks like a perfect blend of super-villain and actual monkey.
There are some great action sequences as a convoy of vehicles escape a swarm of zombies in DC, and I can't help but imagine how cool this would look in a movie. And dang if seeing Rick's face on that last page doesn't make me hopeful. I really hope he has a chance for happiness. His whole group deserves it.
Charlie Adlard has a ton of different looking folks showing up from the new settlement. New hairstyles, body shapes, and facial hair should help us keep everybody straight for awhile.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
The issue wasn't exactly new reader friendly. I don't know who Geo-Force is yelling at for the first third of the issue. I think the sadness in Geo-Force's life all stems from that weird DCU Last Will & Testament one-shot that I ignored rather than picking up from recent issues of this title. I will say I'm thrilled to see the Eradicator showing up in this title again. Does his inclusion make this a Superman title now?
Philip Tan and Don Kramer do a decent job splitting the art. While I prefer Kramer's clean pencils, I think Tan's scratchier, moodier pencils fit the tone of this book better. I just don't think I'll be following the book after Peter Tomasi's trades end. I'm interested in a team of heroes handling weird cases, not in some Eastern European hit-squad. (Unless you guys tell me that Eradicator is just awesome. Then I'll get it.)
Bendis pulls a big retcon here, and I full realize this will last only until someone else writes the next origin, but for now, Bendis has pulled down the golden guardian of good. It turns out that Robert Reynolds isn't a genius or an earnest young man who happened upon an experimental serum, he is in fact a meth addict. An addict who broke into a secure lab and quickly became addicted to a super-serum. The best part is that while Sentry wants to be good, his power is linked to the wrath of God, the same wrath that killed the firstborn in the Old Testament. And because this is a Marvel comic, Galactus gets his name tossed in somehow too. It's all a bit confusing to me, because it seems like this is one heck of a set up for an unnecessary heel turn (when a good wrestler switches sides and goes bad). Age of the Sentry had a perfectly acceptable and pleasantly Silver Age explanation set up for the Void. Too bad this is the version that will get read by thousands more people. Overall, I just have to laugh. I mean, the big surprise weapon for Norman Osborn is a meth-addict Sentry empowered by God's Old Testament wrath. Does that all really seem necessary? How is it a surprise weapon when Sentry was a founding Dark Avenger?
Mike Deodato does a decent job with what he has. Parts of the book look mighty spooky and I always appreciate how he takes the time to include scantily clad ladies. I'm not clear on the weird skull Sentry exhibits at one point either. Just how evil is Sentry?
Monday, January 25, 2010
It doesn't matter, the value in this issue is seeing how Johns continues to flesh out these characters. Captain Cold gets to give his sister the cold shoulder. Weather Wizard has to hope his fellows don't hear about his grand plans. The Mirror Master is still trying to prove he's a worth heir to the name. This is all good stuff with plenty of ties to both current events and Johns' original run on the Flash. I still don't care too much about Barry Allen though. I was most excited in the few instances where I got to see Wally West. He really is a forgotten man in the DCU these days.
Scott Kolins should be drawing Wally West, not Barry Allen. I must admit I do love seeing the rogues looking "right" again.
I'm liking this new villain with her animal henchmen too. There are some nice opportunities for comedy with this set up too.
Amanda Connor makes this book work. The whole feel is defined by her comedic sensibilities, and the natural feel of the humorous situations feel right because her art sells it.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
This issue picks up wit Henry Gyrich's plan to deport all aliens from Earth. This being Marvel, there are a LOT of aliens being rounded up and kept in storage cells on SWORD's satellite. Gyrich takes things to a new level when he captures Agent Brand too. Gyrich is such an interesting character. He constantly makes bone-headed move after bone-headed move, but the reader always gets the impression that he really does think he's doing things for the greater good. Gillen captured Gyrich's arrogance and disconnect from reality nicely in a scene where the Beast is incredulous that Gyrich thinks this deportation is a good idea. For a book featuring explosive decompression and space-mercenaries, Gillen keeps things nicely bureaucratic too. The red tape here almost helps though, as the Beast is able to utilize the budget for some unforeseen spending. I am looking forward to some sort of resolution of that cool robot in solitary confinement too. His coldly rational logic about his directives is awesome: if he is victorious, then the ends justify the means. If he fails, then he is one of the worst monsters in history. Cool stuff.
Steven Sanders is a tad too cartoony for me. He's got a fun style, but his Beast looks ridiculous. He really does sell the comedy aspects of the title nicely, and his facial expressions are wonderful. His style doesn't exactly fit right in a core Marvel U book though.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
I love how much time Jason Aaron spends giving the bad guys a chance to shine. This book may be titled "The Punisher" but he's really sharing it with the Kingpin. This is a series about two driven, angry men and what they'll do to achieve their goals. Really, the two guys aren't that different. Violence solves everything. One shocking difference from the norm is that in this, the family man is the villain. And if I'm right about the odd cutaways to an Amish family, then we might be getting another Marvel villain who is a family man too. There are some great sequences in this, but the shootout at the old mafia widow's mansion takes the cake. There's nudity, shotguns, and lots of folks getting whacked. This is a tad lighter than Ennis' Punisher, but this is clearly a continuation to that series. There isn't a ton of forward plot movement here, but Aaron does such a great job populating the pages with a variety of scum that I don't mind at all.
Steve Dillon's art is perfect for this. He's able to balance gore with strong storytelling, this feels like a worthy heir to Preacher. The malevolence in the Kingpin's eyes is so creepy; I don't like looking at him. I hope I'm never involved in one of the Kingpin's good days.
Friday, January 22, 2010
I can' help but be suspicious that Jerwa doesn't love the ninjas either, since he introduces Duke and Chuckles into the story for no real reason. By the end, the book is kind of stacked in the Joes favor. I'm not surprised that Firefly had to cut and run when he was up against Snake-Eyes, Storm Shadow, Jinx, Kamakura, Budo, Chuckles, and Duke. Speaking of Kamakura, he's the main POV character, but I wasn't too fond of him. He's a generic special forces grunt except that his Dad was a Crimson Guardsman back in the day. I do find it quite interesting that the newest ninja-Joe is another white guy.
Stefano Caselli brings his dramatic, action paced style to this book and I do like it. It is easy to see this is one of his early books though, because there are a ton of scenes where you can't tell who is who or which masked guy just slashed which other masked guy. The seeds of his later development are here, but at this point, he needed some work.
We get another month of good Khoi Pham. When given time, he has a great style for action in the mighty Marvel manner. I really liked his take on the original Vision and Moonstone. I will admit Norman Osborn looks a bit inhuman on that cover though.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
The normal comic stuff is handled great, as always. Brubaker is setting up the Watchdogs as a force to be reckoned with, and I love seeing Winter Cap and Falcon working together. They may end up being almost as good a pair as Falcon and the real Cap.
Luke Ross does a great job keeping the book look consistent with Steve Epting's house style for the title. Butch Guice's inks are so distinctive that this book has been remarkably consistent for years now.
The Black Lanterns are still attacking the central battery and despite the mass destruction Guy Gardner is causing, the Corps is in rough shape. At least until Mogo makes his plan known to the Corps. He quickly and efficiently takes on the entire army of Black Lanterns, and deals with them in a distinctivley Mogo fashion. I really like how Peter Tomasi shifts the focus of the title. We've been dealing with Black Lanterns for months and months now, but that seems to be handled at the close of the issue. Now Kyle, Soranik, and the rest have to deal with a raging Guy Gardner: Red Lantern. There are some nice clues dropped here and there that Salakk and some of the other Lanterns are getting mighty fed up with the Guardians and their secret orders, so I'm expecting a big shake-up after Blackest Night.
Patrick Gleason brings an unparalleled level of detail to this book. He does it every month. The splash pages are chaotic battlegrounds of well-rendered, unique characters. The facial expressions and "acting" are top notch. The gore is splattery and fun. I love this book!
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
That said, Smith does have some nice insight into Batman, including a great bit where the new vigilante Baphomet wants to keep Crazy Quilt's helmet, and he apologizes to Bats for being silly. Batman is amused, knowing that he has a cave full of such mementos. The closing confrontation with Catwoman is nice too, although it does make Selina seem a little needy. Smith also has a nice handle on how Batman interacts with all three of his Robins. I'm not sold that Baphomet is cool enough to take his place amongst them, but certainly he could rank along with Azrael, Huntress, and Batgirl (just above Orpheus, maybe).
Walter Flanaghan is getting better. His early artwork was kind of loose, a bit too fluid, but his storytelling has tightened up and his characters are looking more and more like they belong in the DCU. I don't know if the gore-level is set by him or by Kevin Smith, but either way, that's a bit much for me. I don't need to see those eyeballs with bits of blood on the nerves. I also don't need to see dismembered victims of Joker venom poking out of trash cans. There's an interesting story here, but it is hiding under unnecessarily extreme details.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Maybe I'm not paying close enough attention or I need to re-read each issue three times, but I'm just lost.
Tony Daniel's art is a maddening mix of great looking pin-ups and unclear storytelling. I think as a cover and pin-up artist, he's quite good, but I get lost in combat and the sequential nature of some scenes are unclear. I'm actually a bit surprised this is the core Bat-title.
I'm not the biggest Warren Ellis fan because his work often feels so mean-spirited. That is certainly the case here, his Seven Guns team is a group of hyper-active liberals out to redefine America, so you can kind of predict how they react to the Bush Administration. The book opens with John Horus, the most powerful Gun, killing Bush and much of his cabinet. The rest of the book is the fallout as the other surviving Guns fight off their creator, each other, and the US Army. And by fight off, I mean slaughter. These people absolutely demolish the US Armed forces. Innocent bystanders mean nothing until the closing pages. All levels of civil servants are torn limb from limb. This is clearly an Avatar title, because this story could have come across without all the gory deaths and anatomically correct chests on the ladies.
There are some nice ideas here, Ellis' pseudo-science sounds as strong as it always does. But man, I was put off by the over the top nature of the book. Avatar is an interesting publisher, giving well-known creators a place to write X-rated comics that could probably have been told with an R-rating. Ellis' team has a nice feel to it, the characters sound like they do care about each other even as they complain about everything they do. But these are not heroes. I'd recommend this to folks who love Ellis' super-science and ultra-violence. Fans of normal super-heroes need not appy.
The gore is rendered in bloody detail by Juan Jose Ryp. He's got the Avatar house style down pat. There are arms and legs decorating the background of about half the panels. Every lady is excited, judging by their chests.
I'm glad I just checked this one out from the library!
Monday, January 18, 2010
It seems Amanda Waller is aiming her Suicide Squad at the Secret Six, and this is giving us some great fights. Nightshade & Count Vertigo vs. Bane & Black Alice. Scandal Savage vs. Multiplex (sort of). Rick Flagg vs. Deadshot. And the fight I want to see more of, the one featured on the cover; Bronze Tiger vs. Catman. Simone and Ostrander do a fantastic job giving us a quick, dirty fight between these two master fighters. And since there is no clear winner, both guys get to save face and neither loses any status in the DCU.
The Black Lanterns are almost a distraction here, I'd be totally fine with a Six/Squad battle. But having the Lanterns show up does complicate things nicely, because these two teams have killed an awful lot of people. Another great bit is Deadshot's emotional color: black. He has his emotions so rigidly controlled that he only has cracks of red and green showing through.
Jim Calafiore does a decent job with the art, but I do really miss Nicola Scott. Calafiore's pencils are rather generic after Scott's distinctive takes on the core cast.
Black Mask is the newest recipient of a Black Lantern ring, and since he loves upsetting Catwoman so much, he makes a bee line for her. His only problem is that Selina is so filled with will that she refuses to show any emotion other than green, and that won't do for Black Mask. He wants more emotion before he takes her heart and inducts her into the Black Lanters. So to get a rise out of her, he sets off to kill Selina's sister Maggie, who I haven't seen since early in Ed Brubaker's run on the title. Selina gangs up with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, making this a bonus issue of Gotham City Sirens. I still don't really like the relationship/team from that title, so that didn't do anything for me.
The art has so many pencillers that things kind of jump around. I'm convinced there is a sequence where Black Mask "re-makes" the surroundings, showing powers far beyond what other BLs have done. I think it was probably an artistic mistake that Bedard tried to cover in the script. This book really has the feel of a project that had no real need to be told, and was hurriedly put together just to get something on the stands.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
When Garth Ennis isn't making fun of super-heroes, he's the best in the business. After spending a few years being silly with Steve Dillon on a Marvel Universe title, Ennis got serious and essentially put the Punisher in the real world. Taking real-world type villains, Ennis put the focus on the depravity and evil of the villains, making them so vile that the reader can't help but squeal with glee when Frank finally gets his hands on them. The Punisher hands out some awful punishments throughout this run, but I always believed the bad guys deserved it. In fact, when Ennis would give us people like slavers or gleeful killers, I couldn't wait to see them get what they had coming. Ennis was able to switch tones too, keeping fun elements like the Barracuda. Barracuda was such an over the top villain that I loved reading about him, but we all know that no one survives meeting Frank more than twice (even his friends, it seemed). After reading this series, I was left with two thoughts: What a sad, lonely guy Frank Castle must be. It must be awful to be him. The second? Why doesn't the real world have a Punisher?
Ennis worked with quite a few artists as the series progressed. While they all handled the violence well, I'd say Leandro Fernandez really captured NYC the best. Fernandez's characters oozed evil, especially in the Slavers, my favorite arc of the series. Goran Parlov handled the Barracuda stories, and his bright, European style made him one of my favorite artists. He drew hot (and slutty) ladies, tough guys, and great wimps. I'd say those were the strongest artists of the run, although the others weren't bad at all.
Overall, the sheer creativity in villains, deaths, twists, and turns made this my favorite series of the 2000's.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Thunderbolts #110-136 - Warren Ellis' examination of Marvel villains was my favorite thing he ever did. For someone who hates super-heroes, his reinvention of Doc Samson, Steel Spider, and especially American Eagle were brilliant. Then Andy Diggle came on board and picked right up and continued the great story.
Invincible Iron Man #1-6 - I adored the opening arc in this series, but it floundered for a bit during the too long Iron Man Disassembled arc. Even at its worst, it is an entertaining book.
Batman #667-669 - Batmen of All Nations - This fantastic story made me realize how much I would have adored Morrison's whole Batman run if there had been a good artist involved. Too bad Tony Daniel was the regular artist.
Hitman #45-49 - This only shipped for 5 months or so in the 2000's, but since it may be my favorite series of all time, it still makes the list.
Beyond! #1-6 & Fantastic Four #544-553 - Dwayne McDuffie cobbled together a classic Marvel U story using all sorts of odd pieces from the Marvel U. He also dusted off the Hood before anyone else did. Scott Kolins on art and a series heavily featuring Hank Pym and the Wasp? That's my perfect storm of a comic. McDuffie and Paul Pelletier picked up some strings from that series and wrote my favorite FF stories. Including the great scene where Black Panther put the Silver Surfer in a headlock!
Friday, January 15, 2010
The main drama for the issue stems from the fact that Maria Hill is the toughest person left behind to guard Tony while he's ko'ed. Surely the Avengers could have rustled up some low-level protection like Firebird or Living Lightning or something, right? The problem is that the difficult circumstances the main cast are in seem somewhat manufactured. Just bring Tony back to Winter Cap's safehouse, right? Dr. Strange does show up here, claiming he can rescue Tony from his own brain, but he doesn't actually do anything last issue. So in closing, the change between this issue and the last is that Tony was lying in a bedroom, and now he's in a basement. And Dr. Strange came to help (but hasn't yet).
Salvador LaRocca always gives us nice pretty pictures, and he does it again here. I just wish there was something more exciting for him to draw. Maybe the pace will pick up after Siege.
#2: Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
There is no comic I look forward to more than this. Every single month, this title goes straight to the top of my reading stack. Even Kirkman is mood setting and nothing happens (like during the loooong prison life sequence) there is always the chance that something absolutely shocking and mind-blowing is waiting on the next page. Kirkman pulls no punches, killing fan favorites, leading characters, and babies, breaking readers' hearts all the time. Yet sales continue to climb on this title because there is no better post-apocalyptic title out there. And the zombies are incidental. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge zombie fan, something about the "he is us!" thing just creeps the hell out of me, I have recurring zombie dreams almost ever month. But what makes this title work is the examination of what people will do to survive when things go bad. I believe the zombies in this book only accelerated the decline of civilization. I think the world we live in would start down this road if we lost electricity for more than five days. Rick and his band of survivors have done awful things to survive. Things that would be morally questionable in better circumstances. But we certainly can't judge them, because they are surviving in a world where so few are able. This is a tremendous comic about what it means to try to keep your humanity in a world where that humanity just puts you at the top of the menu. Kirkman does tend to let his lulls last a bit too long, and he has dropped the "we are the walking dead" line a few too many times, but overall, this is a riveting adventure comic. You could hand these trades to anyone and I think they'd be sucked in.
Charlie Adlard isn't the flashiest artist around; in fact, I have friends who don't like him. I can't see their point because Adlard's storytelling is perfect. His "actors" never leave you guessing, we always get the message on what people should be thinking. The action is always clear and concise, with little to no confusion about what's happening. He's not flashy, but his solid style means you are never missing any part of the story because of the art.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
#3: Sleeper by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
What a heartbreaking story. I started following Holden's story in Point Blank, never realizing I was seeing the creation of one of the best comic noirs ever told. Ed Brubaker's story works so well because it mixes what we expect from our comics (masterminds, costumed thugs, etc.) with the realism of criminals at every level. Tao is a terrifying boss. The series works so well on every level, the powers are original and cool, but the levels of criminals makes the book feel like a normal mafia story. The series wouldn't work if we didn't care about the protagonist, but Holden Carver is so likeable the reader is always rooting for him to find a way out of his terrible situation. (I'll admit the name is a bit obvious in its inspiration.) The best part is that maybe he doesn't hate the life so much, with friends like Triple X-Ray, Genocide, and Miss Misery, Carver sort of fits in, doesn't he? I'm still impressed that Brubaker was able to set the series solidly in the Wildstorm U. There are Wildcats, Team 7, and Authority references throughout, and yet the contrast against those books only enhances the gritty feel of the Sleeper title.
Sean Phillips is a fantastic noir artist. Miss Misery oozes appeal, and Genocide looks like a stupid thug, and yet you still kind of like the guy! Carver's anguish is clear in almost every panel, it seems the only time he's happy is when he's performing for Tao. I love the designs for the random heroes and thugs that show up throughout the series. Phillips does a nice job with the required nudity too, it is never gratuitous.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Who needs Hellboy anyway? I was really torn when the big lug left the BPRD lineup, but that's because I never expected Mike Mignola and John Arcudi to weave such a spectacular tale with the guys they had left. Liz Sherman, always the heart of the team, is still the light guiding the crew as they navigate a wonderful world of yetis, robotic clones, and frog-monsters. I have absolutely no idea what is happening sometimes, but man, is it exciting. Consider the current team: a fish-man, a ghost in a plastic body, an accountant, and a historian. Factor in a retired soldier with supernatural scarring and Liz, and man, this book is great! As the scope has increased, Mignola and Arcudi have played up the war aspects of the title. We always saw a few soldiers mixed into the ranks and strolling around the Colorado BPRD HQ, but now entire battalions are getting seconded to the bureau as the threats they face get bigger and more destructive.
I'm also loving the flashback BRPD like 1946. With the main limiteds coming off as more an action-horror piece, these flashbacks retain the feel of true horror. I've only gotten frightened chills a few times while reading comics, but I definitely got one as the professor explored the abandoned insane asylum.
The series wouldn't work as well without Guy Davis' inspired, manic pencils. I've met the guy, and he loves his job. The creations are so inspired that I can't wait to immerse myself in a world of bloody-mouthed wendigos. I still say the odd, steampunk-inspired suits worn by the clones who created Abraham are one of the most fun designs I've ever seen. Simply brilliant.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
#5: DC New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke
That price tag on issue one almost put me off, but as I flipped through in the comic shop, I figured "Well, it has dinosaurs, so I'll give it an issue." Then I read it. I challenge anyone to read that first issue and not walk away stunned. I love the whole series, but the frenetic pacing and action of that first issue are impossible to top.
When Darwyn Cooke started to give J'onn J'onzz a starring role, I knew I was sunk. I think it is amazing that such an old character waited so long to have a defining appearance. That sequence of J'onn watching TV tells his story better than anything else he's been in and it is only one page long. Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman are fun here too, but for me J'onn and the Flash steal the show. The story starts to lose a little steam for me as the heroes team up to fight the Circle, but even so, the Flash's wild, explosive run is thrilling.
I like Darwyn Cooke's art in general, but his take on Wonder Woman was the best reinterpretation of the series for me. She was a bit bulked up, but she looked like she had the power to back up her ideals. Adam Strange and Green Arrow didn't look too bad either, and that's coming from a non-Green Arrow fan. Overall, this is probably one of the easiest books to hand to a non-comics reader of the last decade.
There will be a new bi-weekly series called "Brightest Day" that is essentially DC Universe: Rebirth, from what I have read. The series will be written by Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi, with covers by David Finch. The creative team will be rotating.
A number of DC titles will carry the Brightest Day banner too, I guess representing low-bummer content? The announced titles so far include The Flash by Geoff Johns, a Deathstroke-led Titans book by Eric Wallace and Fabrizio Fiorentino, and Justice League of America with a new lineup.
I'm very intrigued. I had planned on waiting for trade for all this, but I'm not sure I'll be able to hold off on all of these. At the least, I'm hopeful that Brightest Day might feature Martian Manhunter, Blue Beetle, or Aquaman and Mera.
Monday, January 11, 2010
The main story involved Simon Stagg and a group of researchers led by Joshua Turnbull. Turnbull is the descendant of another DC Western character, but I don't know who. In fact, since I'm pretty clueless on most of these characters, the only ones I recognized were Jonah Hex and the Black Bison, except the Bison called himself Super-Chief. Weird. Most of the zombies were vaporized by the Ray (so the Ray and his Dad should probably not be hiding underground, but rather taking the fight to the zombies, right?) I'll take any Ray appearance I can get, but he seemed awfully mercenary in this issue. I'm reasonably confident he survived his confrontation too, although we don't see him make it out.
Dan DiDio does a nice job giving the whole issue a horror-movie feel. Turnbull is a jerk and sacrifices everyone to try and save himself, with predictable results. I guess he's never seen an episode of Tales from the Crypt!
Renato Arlem's photo-static looking art works sometimes and other times it is just odd. The big break-in page of the zombies blasting into the compound had absolutely no sense of motion, it looked like a collage. His character designs looked great; Simon Stagg, Ray, Black Bison, they all looked great.
Here is another of the best of 2000's that is still going strong. Bill Willingham shocked me with just how fantastic his vision for the world of exiled fables could be. I wasn't entirely sold until the brilliant Animal Farm arc, where Goldilocks and the Three Bears led a rebellion that was so well planned and dirty that I thought it could succeed. Willingham always brings top-notch threats against his protagonists. The March of the Wooden Soldiers was an instant classic, and the exiles retaliation in the Homelands arc was a high point as well. The book has drifted a bit since taking out the Adversary, but he had so much buildup it is going to take time before another threat seems as terrible.
One of my favorite things about Willingham's writing is how logical and well-spoken his characters are. They are always willing to be reasonable and discuss a situation, and when they apply violence, it is always with a clear goal in mind. And Willingham's violence is top-notch too. Try to say "snicker-snack" without a grin on your face!
Mark Buckingham has handled the bulk of the artwork, and his pencils are the lens we see the Fables through. Mike Allred and more have lent assistance to certain arcs, making this one of the most consistently nice-looking books on the stands.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Most of the series I'm talking about here have ended, but we're lucky that some of the best series of the 2000's are still going. DnA are still knocking it out of the park every month in Guardians of the Galaxy, Nova, and Realm of Kings. Really, I've enjoyed all of the core Annihilation series, with some of the spin-offs holding up quite well. Star-Lord in particular was a fun ride from start to finish.
What is so wonderful about the modern era of Marvel cosmic is how well connected everything is. DnA can juggle the titles in such a way that the connections only matter if you are reading every book. Each title stands on its own as well. Every little bit of plot has a payoff. Every guest-star has a tie to something important. DnA love their history, and great, lost characters are dusted off and put back in play all the time. Project Pegasus, Quasar, Death's Head, Dr. Necker, Maelstrom, Darkhawk, the list goes on and on. The way DnA have turned Nova into such a main-eventer has been wonderful too, the guy was an Earthling scrub for so long, it wasn't easy to turn him into the universe's equivalent of Superman. These are the best comics you're not reading.
The art has been almost all great, and regular artists Andrea DeVito and Brad Walker have a wonderful blend of modern grit and classic brightness that make this feel jus right. These are your favorite heroes from your youth set into difficult modern circumstances.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Grant Morrison only has grand ideas, and his decision to tell a continuous story through a bunch of mini-series and two specials was nothing if not grand. While most people would point to All-Star Superman or We3 as Morrison's best of the decade, I have to go with Seven Soldiers based on a few of his most mad and wonderful ideas. The Manhattan Guardian's battle with subway pirates was the type of high concept that defines why I read comics. Frankenstein's gritty, bloody battles on Mars were classics that too many people have missed. Shining Knight's moody, gloomy confrontations with the criminal element gave us a brilliant interpretation of how the last of an old generation of heroes could fit in. Factor in Morrison's quirky and mischievious take on Klarion the Witch-Boy and this epic story has just tons of high spots. I didn't understand the Zatanna story, but I just look at that as proof that I'm not quite as mad as Morrison.
Frazier Irving's Klarion was beautiful and unlike anything else on the stands, changing my mind and making me really care, even though my initial interest was nil. Shining Knight by Simone Bianchi was beautiful and Bulleteer by Yanick Paquette was sexy, but the bar was set with the final series; Frankenstein. Doug Mahnke delivered mind-blowing graphics spattered with gore. It's become his specialty now, but this mini showed off what he could do.
Friday, January 8, 2010
Diana is possessed by a Black Lantern ring, which in addition to making people crave hearts, it also seems to boost their smack-talking abilities. While possessed, WW actually says she's "in the mood for fish. You'll do" to Mera. I mean, c'mon, I thought the Black Lanterns were supposed to channel the personality of the possessee, but WW would never talk like that. I did like the fight, and having WW overcome the Black Lantern control, even for a moment, was pretty cool.
Then there's some sort of weird sequence where WW dreams of killing her buddies and Mom, but it didn't really happen becuase Aphrodite was protecting her from her possession? Wha huh? That's like, literally a deus ex machina, right?
The art in this second issue is terribly uneven. The backgrounds are sparse throughout (just a smeary green everywhere you look) and there is too much black. WW, Donna Troy, the ground, everything is just shades of grey. I did really like Nicola Scott's take on Hippolyta, not just because she was the brightest thing in the issue, she actually looked inspiring and tough. Eduardo Pansica helped out with the pencils this issue, and man, is it obvious which pages he did vs. Scott. Nicola Scott is a tough artist to have to go up against, putting Pansica at a disadvantage from the start.
Suddenly Iron Fist was a kung-fu genius like those I'd seen in the movies rather than a cool-looking super hero with an Eastern flair. When Matt Fraction started naming Iron Fist's moves with creative names, I fell in love with this title. Not only did Fraction make Danny Rand cool(er), he added wonderful depth to the overall mythos. Suddenly we had a lineage of Iron Fists, with the surly Orson Randall living past his prime and drinking his way around the world. Randall and Rand's adventures led to the revelation of the Seven Capital Cities of Heaven, where readers lucky enough to meet Fat Cobra. Fat Cobra needs to appear in at least one comic a month, this guy is just tremendous. He's almost too much like Hercules, but how can you not like this guy who needs his "victory wenches" after combat?
David Aja's kung-fu is strong. The martial arts always looked tremendous, but the subway battle with Hydra took the cake. With two Iron Fists flying around on wires cutting everybody to shreds, it was just about the perfect comic book battle.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
I do like how Osborn is having to basically coerce the Dark Avengers into following orders. It's a nice preview of how difficult it would be for Osborn to force the DA into doing anything they deemed as too difficult. The reader knows the Asgardians are cool, but shouldn't the Dark Avengers take their boss' word that those weird gods are a threat?
I loved playing "spot the scrub" during Ares' speech to the Initiative. The U-Foes were back, and I also spotted a few members of Psionex, the Asp, Quicksand, Hydro-Man (in his Force of Nature duds), and more. I hope these Marvel classics survive going up against Hogun the Grim. The next era of the Marvel U might be safer than normal if most of the villains are in the hospital.
Bendis did a nice job with his transcript at the close of the book, but I would have been more impressed if the text didn't repeat on pages 1&3. That's kind of a big mistake. Add that in to the relatively light page count, and while I enjoyed this, 3.99 seems really steep.
Olivier Coipel's Marvel U is starting to look "right," which is amazing since he's such a unique artists. But check out Iron Patriot, Thor, or that closing splash with Cap. They look perfect! I can't wait to see the Avengers reform and take their place at the head of the Marvel U. While I'm at it, I'm also hoping Siege fixes the Wasp, Scarlet Witch, and Hawkeye. I can dream!
Geoff Johns made his name on this title and frankly, I think it still holds up as his best work. Of course, his runs on Hawkman, JSA, and JLA hold up nicely, and most of the GL stuff is decent, but I don't know that Johns will ever "get" a character as well as he did Wally West. Johns approach to the title was revolutionary for me, he darkened the world by having some of the villains become darker, but he kept the heroes bright and good. I loved the contrast of the levels of villains; some folks like Cicada were bonkers and needed to be put down, while working stiffs like Captain Cold were almost identifiable. I will never forget how Johns and Kolins would devote the occasional issue to the insane fury of Gorilla Grodd. A longtime favorite of mine, he never seemed as dangerous and wild as he did during this run. Johns' story flowed in and out of crossover and worked even with guest-stars and villains constantly traveling through. What's so impressive is that Johns maintained top-level quality for so long.
Scot Kolins' re-made himself during this run too. His bright, straight-to-color pencils were sharp, clean, and had a tremendous sense of motion. Speed battles never looked so fantastic.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Universa seems like the generic alien powerhouse. I'm not sure if she's actually a villain or not, but she needs to drain the Earth dry to power her dying planet. I dug seeing Atom Eve and Invincible teaming up to take her on, and even better, due to Eve's power fluctuations, she had to step outside her comfort zone to take out the villain.
The other threat for the issue is the return of the sequids, the cool little brain octopi that basically work like tougher-talking Starros. I really dug the Guardians of the Globe having to evacuate potential hosts to stop the invasion. The approach makes sense, since the little buggers get stronger the more hosts they have, but still, I liked seeing scared bystanders porting out of the danger zone. It does seem the Guardians are overmatched though. Brit helps in the power-house department, but the team needs a couple more members to make up for losing the Immortal, Duplicate, and Rex Splode.
Ryan Ottley is great. Sure, I can't help but notice Universa and Eve have almost the same face, but that's ok. Those little sequids always look so gross, I think they might be my favorite Invincible villains.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Moondragon is really the star of the issue. She voluntarily... accepts the parasitic creature that is loose in the Guardians HQ in order to protect the Luminals and the other residents of the space station. This whole plotline is super-gross. Moondragon looks pregnant, with gross bumps on her stomach moving around as the creature inside her gets comfortable. She is supposedly keeping it under control with her telepathy, but how long do you think that can last? I also appreciate that the Church of Harmony is totally in love with this entity. Sure, it's demonic and murderous, but it makes the worshippers get the same feeling as when they're praying, so it must be their god, right? Awesome, awesome idea. Factor in the first inklings of the evil universe waiting on the far side of the rift (a universe where "life won") and its clear this book juggles plots better than any other. I'm sure a universe where "life won" might have need of Martyr as the avatar of death too, or dare I hope? Thanos?
Brad Walker handles the varied elements in this perfectly. He draws courtroom scenes, exploding heads, and dramatic alien pregnancies all with a perfect style. He's a great fit for this book.
The actual stars of the trade are obviously Machine Man and Jocasta, with Portal of Darkhawk fame as a supporting character. The robots are dispatched by ARMOR (think interdimensional SHIELD) to obtain a pure blood sample to create a vaccine for the zombie virus. The only problem is that there is a mole in ARMOR, and the vaccine will just infect all the registered heroes instead of innoculating them. There's some great ultra-violence as Machine Man engages in all the violence he wants against the soft fleshies. This Machine Man is the Aaron Stack of Nextwave, not the kind robot of the 70s. That's ok, Van Lente makes sure to give us enough glimpses of X-51's heroic side to still make him likeable. I'm really psyched for the next installment, especially if it really delivers with the Legion of Monsters!
Kev Walker handles the gore well, and still keeps within the style of the previous Marvel Zombies series. He'd be a little too scratchy for a core Marvel U book, but in a horror setting like this, he's perfect.
Monday, January 4, 2010
I do like how JMS and Gillen have turned Kelda into a goddess that everyone really liked. The chance to bring her back from death is enough to get Loki's guards to let him free, proving how much they want her back. Loki surprised me then, he actually showed up to try and save Kelda! I'm not sure what game he's playing, but between how he's manipulating Dr. Doom and Norman Osborn, he's never been more important to the Marvel Universe.
Billy Tan's art is scratchier than last issue. This is more in line with what I expect from him, it's not awful, but it isn't my favorite either.
Aaron is taking his time weaving a tale that has some of the richest characters I've ever read about. Dash Bad Horse's reaction to the death of a loved one is so well presented, you can't help but appreciate the guy. He's a tough bastard, but occasionally he does crack. Dash's taking of a recent orphan under his wing just drives home how he is a good guy at heart. If he had the chance, he'd be a great guy. But in his world, usually all he can do is hand out punishments, not redemption. He tries his best, but the reservation is too hard a place.
After some thoughts that Diesel Engine was a good guy doing some bad stuff, it is clear he is bad through and through. I'm not anxiously awaiting Dash getting his hands on him. The confrontation between Diesel and the orphan is predictable and a bit emotionally manipulative, but damn if it doesn't work.
R.M Guera is still drawing this book perfectly. You can feel the heat baking everyone who appears on the page. The designs for the new Hmong enforcers are tremendous too. Great stuff.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Hama always excels when he writes civilians, and the hostages for this storyline prove he hasn't lost his touch. An elderly couple is actually ex-military and quite tough, and they are joined by a rapper and his crew. There is little to no friction as these two disparate groups of Americans come together while captive to try and take on their captors. No helpless prisoners here!
I do wish the art was a bit stronger. I don't recognize Andrea Mutti's name, but the pencils just don't hold up as well as most of the other IDW stuff so far. I would like to see the house style from the core Joe title used more in this spin-off. Let the experimental stuff stay in the Cobra miniseries, I want my core Joe books to look "classic."
Saturday, January 2, 2010
The Roger Stern story was my favorite. With classic artist Lee Weeks on art, this felt more like Spidey than anything else I've read in ages. Spidey is down on his luck but still so plucky and determined, it's easy to see why we cheer for the guy.
In Mark Waid's claustrophobic thriller, the Shockers is a bad dude. I love how he and Spidey know each other so well they really can't surprise each other. Except when they do. Shocker was a bit more cold-blooded than I thought he was, but I guess I don't know the character that well. Maybe he always has been ok with killing folks. Spidey was almost too put upon here, the guy gets worked over a ton. But again, that's classic Spidey, isn't it?
The Molten Man/Norman Osborn story was worth it just for the insinuation that Spider-Man and Peter Parker are more than friends. Wonderful.
So more of this please, Spider-office!