Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Justice League #1

You know, taken on its own, this thing isn’t bad. If I can put the last 20-some years of comic reading behind me, I can see how a new reader would be really pulled into this relaunch.

Geoff Johns starts off easy, introducing Batman and Green Lantern and giving them most of the issue to chat and bicker. I dug the immediate friction between the two characters, it’s clear early on that these guys have very different outlooks. The parademon/Daemonite who is the erstwhile villain of the book doesn’t get to do much besides puke fire and growl, but there is no denying that this first issue is pretty good at showing us what these heroes can do.

It is almost easier to talk about the art than it is about the story. Not much happens in this premiere issue. But man, is it lushly illustrated. Green Lantern’s constructs look brilliant and vivid. Batman’s suit practically creaks it’s so detailed. I can only imagine how fantastic this art would look digitally. I think I will probably follow a few titles on my tablet just because that format works so well.

I remember a point when I was watching Justice League Unlimited when I realized I liked the show’s universe more than the comics. Maybe, just maybe, this relaunch will give the comics some of that feel. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t take issue after issue of “first” meetings between the heroes and their friends and villains. Nothing would bore me more than seeing Batman realize just how crazy the Joker is all over again. BUT, if the “current” DCnU is filled with more living characters and tighter editorial control? That’s not a bad thing.

As ticked off as I am about the relaunch, it’s almost like One More Day. You can stay mad about the relaunch or you can let the new books sink or swim on their own. I’m going to give them a chance.


DC Retroactive: Green Lantern 1990's

I love it! The retroactive books have finally made it to my formative years with the DCU, the much-maligned 1990’s. Just as I was at the close of Kyle Rayner’s run in GL, I’m amazed at how effortlessly Ron Marz can get back in the head of Kyle Rayner. He’s my favorite GL, and seeing him dorking around while on JLA monitor duty and mocking his bad guys was fantastic; it was so nice seeing it again.

Kyle faces down Effigy, always the “evil mirror” version of Kyle Rayner. Effigy is back and justifiably ticked that the Controllers have been messing around with him after Kyle turned him over (I vaguely remember that from the original issues). Kyle is pretty irresponsible in letting his ring charge run down, but hey, this is a flashback of his rookie days in the league.

This book has another big win too; Darryl Banks on art. Banks was THE Green Lantern artist for me during the 90’s and it is wonderful seeing his detailed and well-researched constructs again. Banks’ constructs still hold up as my favorite of all-time, and he has a wonderful variety of them in this one-shot too.

I’m pleased that this really does feel like a “lost issue” of one of my favorite runs.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

DC Retroactive: Justice League of America 1990's

How many times can I say that I absolutely adore Keith Giffen and JM DeMatteis’ Justice League? Factor in the impeccable art from Kevin Maguire, and it would have to be one bad issue to turn this sour on me.

And this is a good issue. The puns, the faces, the fantastically-detailed artwork, everything I need in a JLI-era book is here. I mean, I almost gasped at how pretty that first page with Mr. Miracle is; I mean, this book is a joke, but it looks absolutely stunning. (I’m thrilled that Power Girl makes an appearance too, she may have been on the European team, but she fits in better here.)

It’s a wonderful goodbye to the best era of the Justice League I’ve ever read. And seeing Ted Kord one last time before he’s erased was bittersweet too. The creative team plays that up with the majestic flying into the sunset close, but I can’t blame them. There must be some part of them that realizes this was last call for an era too.

This creative team got me interested in the DCU. Seeing them work their magic one last time and so perfectly re-create that environment of fun and danger? That’s a priceless comic.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Vengeance #1 & 2

As a fan of the fringe of the Marvel U, the guys in my shop thought I’d enjoy Joe Casey’s most recent descent into madness, the Vengeance limited series. First of all the book’s first few issues are $3.99, but after a discount, I decided to give the first couple issues a try.

And yeah, this is a Joe Casey book! I have always liked Casey’s most insane ideas the best, with Godland, Superman, and Cable being my favorites of his work. When he interfaces with too much tech, the books tend to lose me a bit. This series opens with two of the new characters texting each other, so I started off a tad annoyed (that dang text-spelling!)

Marvel did such a horrible job marketing this, I actually had no idea what the book was about, so let me help. The book follows the modern Teen Brigade (remember the incarnation Rick Jones led a long time ago?). The core members include the cool Miss America Chavez, Beak and Angel from Grant Morrison’s X-Men, and the too-cool for school Ultimate Nullifier. I assume they’ll face off against the villainous Young Masters, many of whom showed up in Paul Cornell’s Dark Young Avengers. For some reason, both groups are mad that the line between heroes and villains are crossing so much. I have to say, I’m not sure I follow the motivation.

The series has some nice nods to old Casey concepts like his weird Defenders and Stacey X. Those Easter eggs help, but my main problem is that I don’t really like any of the characters in the Brigade. (Miss America has potential, though!) The Young Masters are fun, and I hope to see how Dane Whitman deals with there being yet another fake Black Knight. I MAY get one more issue, but right now, there isn’t a whole lot motivating me to see what happens to the emo In-Betweener, and that’s the only plotline that really continues from issue to issue.

Nick Dragotta’s art is great, of course. His Mike Allred-lite style is fun and his designs are great. They are actually too effective! Ultimate Nullifier annoys me just from his look!


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Superman: Secret Origins HC

A long time ago, in 2009, Geoff Johns had some ideas on how the origin of Superman should work. We know these ideas are clearly outdated and old-fashioned, clearly written for old-timers and hardcore nerds. The hardcover isn’t that old, but it’s all thrown out at this point. The New 52 origin for Superman looks quite different, making this an odd little relic that doesn’t really mean much.

Johns, as always, has some great ideas. I liked the concept that Clark suffered from premature firing of his eyebeams when he got excited. I don’t think Lex Luthor needs to hail from Smallville, but I suppose that doesn’t wreck any concepts. I am not a fan of Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes. The Legion stands well on its own, and having the gangly, big-headed Superboy hanging out with them (and them deferring to him) sort of made the Legion seem a bit more geeky than I ever thought in the past.

The Metropolis era of the story is pretty strong. It should come as no surprise that Johns’ best makeover is on the classic Superman villains Parasite and Metallo. Parasite in particular is a gross, nasty guy (and that’s before he gets his powers)! Metallo’s design is odd, I’m much more comfortable with the Terminator-style design John Byrne used in the ‘80s, but I loved the pig-nosed John Corben. If anyone deserves to be smacked around by Superman, it’s that guy.

I just hope that the new Superman origin doesn’t have Christopher Reeves’ head slapped on a kid’s body! Man, that weirds me out! I usually love Gary Frank’s artwork, but wowza, I kept getting jolted out of the story by Reeves’ uncannily familiar mug! It worked at times, especially when the adult Clark is bumbling around the Daily Planet, but in general, this veered too far into photo-referencing for me.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Amazing Spider-Man: The Gauntlet v1 TPB

Burning through all these old Spidey trades is reminding me of one thing: I love Spider-Man. It’s been too long since I read about the ol’ web-slinger, and I’m happy I’ve got so many trades to burn through over the next few weeks. (My library has a pretty complete set!)

Mark Waid kicks off the “Gauntlet” storyline with a great new take on Electro. Electro sets himself up as a champion of the people, a guy who wants to punish new DB publisher Dexter Bennett for accepting government bailout money. I love seeing Waid’s low opinion of the masses. They start loving Electro immediately, wearing shirts for him, marching in protests, and generally supporting a long-time villain. It’s funny, but poor Spidey just can’t catch a break, can he? He’s been fighting the good fight for years and he can’t get ahead of these fads.

I didn’t really see how Electro fit into the general Gauntlet being run by the Kraven family. Electro and the Mad Thinker were kind of doing their own thing, so I guess the fact that Electro is a classic villain is what makes this part of that storyline?

The Sandman’s arc isn’t really part of the Gauntlet yet either, but is a touching story that boosts Sandy’s powers at the same time. It seems he’s now able to split himself into an army of sand duplicates, each manifesting different aspects of his personality. It’s a neat upgrade and one that makes a lot of sense considering the different personalities the Sandman has exhibited over the years.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Batman: Time and the Batman HC

Grant Morrison is one insane dude. I’m not sure what the point of these stories actually was, but it’s a weird mix.

The lead story is a fun one taking place in three time periods. Morrison has a neat approach to give the spotlight to Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson in their separate identities of Batman. Time travel stories can be quite fun when they are put together right and this one works well. I’m not sure I totally get the doctor’s actions, but the story is pretty dramatic and fun.

The next few issues cover missing time from the close of Batman RIP to Final Crisis. The issues are enjoyable and filled with Morrison’s trademark madness, but why were these chapters not released in order? Remember how a lot of us were always saying it felt like were only getting part of the story? Well, this is one of the missing pieces that would have helped with that!

Tony Daniel handles a lot of the art, and he remains adequate. I’m not a big fan of his work, it can get a bit sketchy and sometimes his characters don’t look like they are actually interacting, just glowering. His faces have a tendency to look the same too.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ignition City TPB

Warren Ellis writes a certain kind of story. Everyone is usually pretty mean-spirited, but there are cool ideas tucked away and mixed up with foul language and a lot of drinking. Ignition City is EXACTLY in line with those expectations.

The core concept is a strong one, an alternate world where space travel and alien encounters became commonplace during World War II. In an effort to cut Earth off from the alien universe, the only still-functioning spaceport on Earth is the artificial island of Ignition City. Its where spacers go to die, since they are not really wanted anywhere else. This is where Buck Rogers, Jon Carter, Flash Gordon, the Rocketeer, all those types of guys would end up.

Now, since this is an Ellis book, the city is a filthy place where everyone eats space food, can’t go to the bathroom, and drinks too much. The curse constantly, and bribe the heck out of each other. It’s really sad seeing the washed up relics of those archetypes I mentioned above, but it is a neat idea. The aliens are a lot of fun and Ellis has planted enough interesting characters to make Ignition City a place I wouldn’t mind seeing again. In fact, I almost think subsequent chapters will be BETTER, once we have the status quo set up at the close of this trade.

But man, everyone is so scummy. They curse non-stop, they have very little loyalty to anyone or anything (with a few exceptions). The lead, Mary Raven, is a strong, tough spacer. I like her, but why does Gianluca Pagliarani have her regular uniform be a bra under a leather jacket? (I love Pagliarani’s ray guns, by the way.)

So this is a cop-out review. If you like Ellis’ mad ideas and abrasive characters, this is a book for you. My favorite Ellis stories are the ones where one or two good people have to interact in those crappy situations (see Thunderbolts).


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Green Lantern Corps #63

You know it's a sad state of affairs when the headliner of the issue is either Boddika or Tomar Tu. Scott Kolins does an admirable job with third and fourth stringers like Voz and Salaak, but clearly, the important GL matters are not happening in this title. Kyle Rayner does get to show up briefly, and I like the idea that the Corps has some race problems (it does make sense). But really, there isn't too much going on here.

It doesn't help that I liked Boddika in her old body, as a faceless robot, she's just not as interesting.

The various artists do a good jbb staying in the DC house style. I am interested to see where the GL Corps ends up in the next few weeks...


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Daredevil #2

Well, I wouldn't want to disappoint editor Stephen Wacker, so yes, this issue isn't as good as issue #1. But it is still dang good.

The issue kicks off with a well choreographed and exciting fight between Daredevil and Captain America. I'm not sure it totally makes sense that Cap would be so gung ho, but Mark Waid does a nice job laying out the reasons that Cap has to take a moment before giving DD a chance to clear his name. The best shot in the fight has to be the moment the heroes re-acquire some weapons, but not how you'd expect. It's a neat moment that highlights how similar the characters are. The scene also reminded me of the fantastic DD/Cap fight from the Streets of Poison story arc in the 90s. These guys work well together as partners and opponents.

Waid does a nice job setting up the ongoing plot too, and his first villain is a doozy. Mark Waid's take on DD's radar sense is brilliant, and this opponent is of course, a tremendous challenge for DD to face.

Pablo River is still doing a bang-up job. He makes everything seem dynamic, even the long conversation DD has with a lawyer while hanging out on a ledge.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Avengers Academy #18

I get the feeling that Christos Gage is about to kill one of his students in the next issue. I honestly can't remember who shows up on the solicits for upcoming issues, so my only feeling right now is that Veil and Reptil are safe, I think all bets are off for everyone else.

This issue is basically straight out of a horror movie (as noted by the characters). The Absorbing Man and Titania (now possessed by crazy fear entities) spend every page just stalking around knocking the crap out of the Academy students. I do like the way the kids get taken out, leaving the "bad" kids as the last ones standing. Finesse, Hazmat, and Striker aren't exactly heroes, but they're the best available in Hank Pym's infinite mansion.

Speaking of the mansion, it sure doesn't look good. The enormous house is slowly expanding, and this issue ends with it popping into the Microverse (above what looks like Bug's homeworld). I'm honeslty not sure what the kids can do to stop the pumped-up fear baddies, I mean, Finesse is street-level and Striker isn't much better. I don't see how the kids have a chance!

Andrea De Vito steps in to guest-pencil this issue, and I have to laugh. Gage basically has a rotating cast of some of my favorite artists in the business. Mike McKone, Tom Raney, Sean Chen, and De Vito may not be the biggest names in comics, but their storytelling is excellent and I love their takes on the Marvel U. Gage is a lucky guy to keep getting such great artistic partners.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

DC RetroActive: Justice League of America '80s

What a fun little comic. I suppose it is an easy thing to look back on an era of the JLA where the team doesn't quite measure up and make that the point of the story. The whole idea works even better when the reader knows how sadly the story is going to end for some of the team.

Gerry Conway does a great job with some of the old Leaguers, giving them time to shine and really showing the characters in just a few pages. I know nothing of Hank Heywood, Steel II, but he sure seems like an interesting hothead in this one. I loved seeing him butt heads with Aquaman. Martian Manhunter and Elongated Man don't have a lot to do, but they and Zatanna get a few lines of dialogue at least. Vibe is basically an enigma, and the heart of this team was clearly Vixen and Gypsy. Looking back, this does seem like a team that had a lot of potential. (Of course, having Aquaman as your team leader probably doesn't help your odds too much.)

Conway uses a classic villain in Felix Faust. Faust's plan is pretty standard and not very original, but his dialogue is great and the low power-levels of the team actually make the thread seem dangerous. I mean, the freaking Justice League was about to give up against some transformed bums! Things turn out ok, of course, but I'm surprised Conway made the situation seem so dire.

Ron Randall's pencils are very solid. I remember his art in the 90's, but I actually think it looks better now. Why aren't these guys working post-relaunch again?


Saturday, August 20, 2011

GI Joe: Cobra TPB v4

This has been a remarkably consistent title, and it has certainly gone farther than I ever expected. When the series started, I thought Chuckles was off wandering around on the periphery of the main GI Joe world, the one taking place in the core GI Joe title. It turns out I had it backwards, Chuckles strikes the biggest blow against Cobra so far in THIS title, and I'm not sure the main Joes know what's going on. I don't even think they realize what they are up against!

Christos Gage and Mike Costa continue "rehabilitating" classic Cobras, this time focusing on Big Boa. He never wears that awful helmet like the toy, but he is pretty awesome. I liked how he and Chuckles bonded over their toughness. In fact, the whole idea that Chuckles prefers to eat with the enlisted men rather than the officers was great.

Most Joe fans have already heard about the big moment in this book, so I won't spoil it here. I will say I'm surprised that it happens as early as it does. The big event is in issue 3, leaving a whole issue for Chuckles to try and get away with it. Chuckles really racks up the body count through this story, I think he pasted three named Cobras in the last two issues alone.

Antonio Fuso's art is awesome. It's a tad on the sketchy side, but in a way that works well with the story. And Cobra Commander's new costume is wonderful, that turtleneck with that helmet? It's a fashion risk, but the Commander pulls it off. I'm also quite fond of the Viper designs, they look pretty tough too!


Friday, August 19, 2011

Justice League of America #60

James Robinson at least gets to turn off the lights on his run of the JLA. This era never connected with me. Robinson fills this issue with another "almost" storylines, including rampaging robots, a Thanagarian invasion (and team-up with Jemm, Son of Saturn), and some magic hoodoo with Amethyst. None of these ideas seem like they would have riveted me, but there are some decent ideas there.

I guess Robinson would have had the Atom and Saint Walker join the team, and having the Atom would have done a little bit to make this feel more like a real Justice League. The closing lines of the book address that very issue, when Donna Troy wonders if anyone will remember this era of the JLA and what they accomplished. NightBats says it doesn't matter, but I think he's saying that because he knows no one will care. I think this is going to go down as a Detroit-era run of the JLA, when the team was filled with also-rans and fill-ins who kept the big table warm for the return of the top dogs.

Another poignant moment hits when Donna Troy wonders if anyone will remember her. With the reboot coming, and no sign of Donna in those solicits, I think there is a good chance she's getting wiped out along with Wally West, the JSA, and Ted Kord. (So much for Jesse Quick's pregnancy, a neat idea we'll never see develop.)

Daniel Sampere brings an appropriate sense of grandeur to the closing of the book. I wasn't blown away by his art, but everything is clear and actually draws a fair amount of backgrounds.

And now it's time for the marquee team. Bring on the new 52.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Walking Dead #88

This remains a great comic, and it remains hard to review! Robert Kirkman keeps the hits coming, but he's a bit kinder to Carl that I thought he would be. Amnesia is such a cliche, but it does lead to some great dramatic moments. I was sure we were in for issue upon issue of Rick having to explain to his son that Carl's Mom is dead, that the world is overrun, that society is done, etc. Instead, while Carl blanked on his Mom for a moment, he seems to remember most of the other stuff going on. Carl has a neat reaction to the big news too; he's not shocked, it is like he already grieved, so while his brain didn't remember, he already went through the grieving process. Of course, the other option is that Carl is emotionally damaged more than we think, which is a scarier thought.

Abraham is such a fun character. He's such a galoot, wandering around cursing and acting like a tough guy, but he's quick to back up his friends when they need it. When Rick explains his need to get out of the Community, Abraham immediately backs him up.

Does anyone else worry that Andrea is going to have to kill herself a stalker in an issue or two? That might not go well for the developing mutiny either.

Charlie Adlard's consistent work still looks great.

Ugh. So hard to review such a stable comic.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Black Panther #522

Wow, this is one of the best comics on the stands, bar none.

David Liss continues his barely connected Fear Itself tie-in, keeping the focus on Hell’s Kitchen and the Panther. Hate Monger returned thanks to Fear Itself, but he’s spent this entire crossover keeping things on a small scale, and other than a quick mention of panic in the streets and the Thing rampaging around New York, this is a totally self-contained comic.

There is so much to love in this comic. The Hate Monger is absolutely despicable, he’s a manipulative, evil jerk who relishes his ability to demean even his most loyal followers. And the poor American Panther, he’s a bad guy, but you have to feel a bit sad for a guy who knows he’s being mentally dominated and controlled. And the few times he can speak up for himself, the Hate Monger will make him pay for it. (The other ringleader is an even better slimeball, I don’t want to ruin what makes him so great.)

Of course, the real star is still the Black Panther. T’Challa is getting his mojo back, and about halfway through this issue he just sort of states that he’s going back to doing things his own way, and you KNOW that’s bad news for the bad guys. T’Challa has had a hard time over the past few months, I’m looking forward to him handing out some butt-kicking next issue.

Franco Francavilla’s art is still wonderful. This issue looks more painted, the colors are even more washed out than normal, but of course, it works great for this particular story.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes #17

Paul Tobin writes two quick action stories for this month’s MA: Super Heroes. I only pick this title up when I think it has something my daughter would like, or if it features one of my favorite characters. This issue stars Black Widow and Hawkeye, so it’s an easy sale for me!

The lead story is a lot stronger, with Hawkeye and Tony Stark taking on Iron Man. That’s the kind of fun, high-concept story that tickles my fancy and got my 6-year-old daughter worried. The Mad Thinker is a wonderful villain, and using him like this was a lot of fun. Ronan Cliquet’s art is clear and dynamic, this was a great read.

Marcio Takara draws the backup, and his art is a little too bulgy for my tastes. Black Widow doesn’t carry the right weight of danger or competence, both because of the art and because she doesn’t realize much about the story she’s wrapped up in. I enjoyed seeing her face down an A-level baddy, but this isn’t as strong as the lead.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Booster Gold #47

And now we say farewell to Booster Gold. After taking out Doomsday is a pretty easy fashion (with a lot of help), Booster finally gets to do what I’ve been waiting for: team up with Barry Allen. As the only two heroes who know how things are supposed to be, you’d think they would have had more than two pages to team-up before blasting Booster back to Vanishing Point. I mean, this really didn’t elevate Booster much at all, Barry wasn’t even that happy to see someone who hadn’t had their head screwed around!

I suppose the lack of Booster’s involvement stems from the need to have Saint Barry do everything important in the core Flashpoint title, but it bummed me out seeing Booster have so little impact. That said, there was something sad and fitting about Booster forgetting his new gal pal and the entire world of Flashpoint. He’s going to forget about his best friend, his teammates, and his status quo, why not forget a crossover too? And at least Dan Jurgens got to say goodbye.

(Do you like how bitter I am about the upcoming reboot? It is coloring my opinion on every DC book I read!)

Rick Leonardi draws most of the issue (apart from Jurgens’ closing pages). I have always liked Leonardi’s work, but I’m shocked how great his Booster Gold looks. The costume has a neat weight to it that I really enjoyed. I’d love to see him doing more in the DCU.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Comics on the Bubble: Backlash

How crazy is it that a series like Backlash had 32 issues, but stuff like Agents of Atlas and Captain Britain can't get close to that? What a world!

In any case, as I consolidate my many longboxes into one continuous run (rather than splitting by publisher), Backlash popped up on my radar. Let's see if I need to keep any of them...

Backlash #4 - I must have picked this up because of the Wetworks guest-appearance. Well, Wetworks already got cut, so I don't think this is going to make it! SELL

Backlash #16 - Grabbed because Grifter was on the cover, no doubt. This was terrible, most of the issue has the heroes fighting a giant green guy they met randomly at a bar. SELL

Backlash #17 & 18 - Stormwatch! But Stormwatch plays the heavies here, and they are pretty moronic too. These are some great examples of mid-90's Image, filled with tough-guy talk and ladies with no clothes. SELL

Backlash #19 & 20 - I'm going to hold off and read these when I re-read the Fire from Heaven crossover. KEEP (for now)

Backlash & Spider-Man #2 - I don't think there is a background drawn in this whole comic. I'm not a big Brett Booth fan, so even though his Spidey looks decent, this has got to go. SELL

Backlash & Taboo: African Holiday - Booth draws some decent dinosaurs, but he also enjoys tiny swimsuits. I can't make myself care about this one... SELL

KEEP: Fire from Heaven crossover
SELL: Everything else

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Black Widow: Deadly Origins HC

Paul Cornell has an interesting take on the Black Widow, taking her name literally. It seems that ol’ Natasha is infected with some form of virus that will cause everyone she has “been with” to go crazy. Even worse, they’ve spread that around to the folks that they have known well (this leads to an interesting fight when Mockingbird goes berserk and Natasha has to cure her).

I’m not sure about the villain that Cornell uses. I never really got a bad-guy vibe from this long-time supporting character, admittedly, I haven’t read that much with him in it. Maybe some old Champions and Daredevil issues at most. In any case, I loved his ridiculous look at the close of the comic, but it does seem to be a sad betrayal for a character who has already lost a lot.

Tom Raney handles the modern elements of the story, and he does it well. The Widow’s white snowsuit is awesome, and it was wonderful seeing her use it (and her charms) on some bored soldiers. John Paul Leon handles the flashbacks, which carry a sense of grandeur of their own. Wolverine’s appearance in those flashbacks makes sense and really shows how similar Wolvie is to the title character. Red Guardian’s appearances were surprisingly poignant too.

Cornell does a good job walking the fine line between emotionally torturing his character and making her enjoy the job too much.


Friday, August 12, 2011

War of the Green Lanterns: Aftermath #2

This really is more what I expected from Tony Bedard when he took over Green Lantern Corps. Instead of long, drawn-out stories meandering in the background of the "important" stories covered in GL, Bedard is actually moving the main plot forward for the GL mythos. I guess the relaunch has Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi busy enough that they could actually leave the core storyline in Bedard's hands. He does a good job with it.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the corps is the expansive, alien cast, so seeing Soranik Natu's crazy band of assassins, Guardian-loyalists like Salaak and Shorm, that's what I want from my GL comics. The crypt-keeper GL shows up, the corps deals with Mogo's body in a neat way, this is a sci-fi comic that actually feels like one. Too often the focus on the four Earth GLs reduces all these other guys to background players. Kyle Rayner is sort of the star of the issue, and Bedard writes him better here than he did in the regular Corps title. It gives me hope for New Guardians.

And boy, oh boy. How the heck can any GLs support the Guardians? They were torturing Sinestro, they fired the biggest GL of them all, and dang did they look evil when they closed in on Ganthet at the close of the book. I'm still interested in seeing where the Green Lantern corner of the DCU ends up.

This was solicited by Miguel Sepulveda, but instead Ransom Getty and Andy Smith handle the art. The book looks pretty consistent with issue one, and I'm glad to see Getty landing a big assignment like this.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Avengers Academy #14

At this point, it is simply not fair to compare DC comics to Marvel. Take this issue of Marvel's Avengers Academy.

You've got personal drama between the students as Veil, Mettle, and Hazmat struggle with their actions while fighting off the "Nazi robots or mechs" last issue.

The book ties into a greater Marvel U storyline, but in a contained way. I'm not reading Fear Itself, but everything I need to know about Absorbing Man and Titania is in this issue.

There are ties to previous storylines, specifically Hank Pym's Infinite Mansions created during the Mighty Avengers era. (Although I don't like the IM's chances of making it through the next issue intact!)

And there's humor. What teenage boy wouldn't miss some of Tigra's message when she's delivering her lectures in a tiny bikini?

Christos Gage is putting on a storytelling demonstration. He's crossing the t's and dotting the i's of a company crossover, but he's keeping the focus where it belongs, on his core cast. This is simply one of the strongest titles out there.

Sean Chen's art certainly doesn't hurt. His classic style has long belonged in an Avengers title, and I'm happy he's found a regular home in this book. His facial expressions aren't quite up to the level of Mike McKone, but his action might be stronger.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Secret Six #36

If you're going to go out, go out on top. Not only does the team go down with this attitude this issue, but the series writer Gail Simone does too. This has been a spectacular series, one of the most consistent titles on the racks, and it is a crime that it isn't being renewed once the DCNu hits in December. I'm not going to follow the team into the new Suicide Squad, but I will keep an eye out for Bane. I'd bet he has some big stuff ahead of him.

Bane had rallied the team into one big push to take out Batman once and for all, but due to some poor personnel choices, the team never really gets the chance. Instead, we get an awesome display of guest stars as a TON of big guns arrive to take out the team that everyone underestimates. Simone does a great job just piling on the heroic reinforcement. Even if you thought the Six could defeat that first bunch, no way could they handle the rest.

Jim Calafiore does a great job not only delivering the goods with the heroic pinups, he also has some great action. It was a lot of fun perusing the pages and seeing who takes out who when the fists start flying.

I'll miss this series.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Flashpoint: Secret Seven #3

I guess I needed to pay nine dollars to find out that the Shade is crazy and that other than one member, the Seven don't really do a lot in Flashpoint? I mean, that one person does do a lot, but really, this was a pretty disjointed story of questionable value to the main, overarching plot. Why should I care about a bunch of alternate-reality heroes who don't even make it out of their spin-off title?

Was this a story that really needed to be told? I guess Peter Milligan thought so, but I'm afraid I disagree. (Too bad, because I often love his work!)

Looks like I just took JL Dark off my pull list!

(Fernando Blanco does do a nice job with the artwork. I like the alternate design for the Enchantress especially, and he actually won me over on the alternate Zatanna too.)


Monday, August 8, 2011

Flashpoint #4

Looks like I should have read Secret Seven #3 before I read this issue. (That's the only tie-in book that I'm still reading, the others are so bad that I'm not even flipping through them in the store at this point!)

In any case, Geoff Johns continues putting the alternate JLA together, but with a few more shocking twists. One of Johns' longtime favorites won't be making the cut in this Flashpoint JLA. I do like Element Woman, she seems fun. I guess she's a female version of Metamorpho? I might have preferred an original power set, but I suppose she's fine, and I think she'll fit into the new DCNu JLA just fine.

My big problem with this series is actually not the story itself. On its own, it's a fine little Elseworlds starring Bat Dad and Boring Barry Allen. But when I remember that this is re-writing the entire DCU, and essentially destroying it, I get angry. (Dan DiDio's letter on the last page doesn't help. He doesn't address the jokey continuity concerns brought up in the picture.)

It does seem Johns is laying out how all this is going to work. Barry Allen is going to take out the Reverse Flash, and he will undo a lot of the Yellow Speedster's work, but he's got a lot of stuff to fix. Barry describes the process of fixing it as "trying to find the right grain of sand in the ocean." So let's all forgive Barry for thinking that Cyborg was a founding member of the JLA, I guess?

Andy Kubert continues to bring fun pencils into the dark story. I love the Battle Cat-style Talky Tawny, and the Captain Thunder designs are quite strong. Again, it is amusing that the details for all those new characters are coming out in design notes rather than story. It is especially confusing when there is a speech balloon tied to Billy Batson that was supposed to be said by Freddie Freeman on page 1.

I can recognize that my feelings about the upcoming reboot are coloring my enjoyment of this series, and that's not totally fair. And as the weeks go by, I'm actually DROPPING more reboot titles than I'm adding. But I'm sure there are plenty of new readers anxious to jump on in!


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Astro City: The Dark Age Book 1 TPB

Wow. I forgot how much I love Astro City. I remember being obsessed with it when it started, but I lost interest during the first Dark Age mini-series, and just sort of fell away from the series. Now that I read everything in one sitting, I don’t understand how I could have ever thought this was boring.

Kurt Busiek’s meticulous world is fascinating. It’s too easy to say he’s created analogues of all our old favorites, because while the Blue Knight might be similar to the Punisher or Ghost Rider, he’s not really either. The Street Angel goes through some of the same things as Daredevil, but he’s clearly his own man. And you’ve got to love a world where “Spider-Man” is a high-jumping clown named Jack in the Box. The details are intricate, and there is a constant sense that the world has so much happening, and boy, I bet it would have been good comics, but sorry, normal people just can’t keep up.

The two brothers who star in this story, Charles and Royal aren’t so different, even though one is a prisoner and one is a cop. They are both scarred by the death of their dad (early hero the Black Badge, although that’s never definitively stated), and they are both overwhelmed by the heroes in their midst. Royal has a lot more run-ins with them than his cop brother, of course, the best being the year that Royal spends on the run targeted by the Blue Knight.

It is rough that this first trade contains the first 12 parts of the story, and it is good. Really good. But there is a whole separate trade where the brothers might get their shot at revenge. There’s a lot of revenge to hand out, too, so I’m anxious to see it happen (I always respond to a good revenge story).

Brent Anderson’s art is detailed, clear, and energetic. Simon Magus is a hippier Dr. Strange. Royal and Charles look related, but have their own looks. And Alex Ross’ bonus sketches are a wonderful addition to the collection.

I’m glad I found my way back to Astro City.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Captain America: No Escape TPB

What a fun trade. I had been concerned that Ed Brubaker was going to undo all the changes that Baron Zemo has gone through over the last few years, but what he actually does is so much better. Zemo is a shade of grey all his own. He’s mad about his father’s biggest achievement (killing Bucky) getting undone. And to make matters worse, that upstart is the new Cap!!!! No wonder he’s upset. That’s the motivation for Zemo’s great, manipulative scheme to destroy the new Captain America.

Steve Rogers and Black Widow may be hanging around and trying to give Bucky some help, but Zemo’s got his number. So rarely does the villain’s plan actually come together, I took great glee in seeing Zemo manipulate and plan every move Bucky makes.

Bucky really does work well as the new Captain America. Brubaker has done an amazing job making him into a viable character on his own, and in my greatest concession, I think Bucky is a better part of Cap’s world than Nomad, the man Bucky killed.

Butch Guice does a great job with the art. Brubaker’s run has had a consistent artistic look and palette from the start, and this is another wonderful chapter. How awesome is Zemo’s new armor? A lot of great Cap villains have gotten nice overhauls during this run.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Justice Society of America #53

I’ll lead off by saying I really hope the rumors about the new JSA series are true. James Robinson and Nicola Scott? That’s a Golden Age dream team if you ask me. Just wonderful potential there.

But how is Marc Guggenheim doing for his lame duck story? Not bad, although I have to say I’m a bit confused. First of all, I’m pretty sure that the Challengers of the Unknown are older than they appear in this story. Isn’t one of them the old-ish priest from the recent Doom Patrol series? Yet here they are in their prime, out challenging the unknown. It just confuses me.

My other big problem is Jesse Quick. She makes such a colossal blunder in this issue, it is going to be hard to respect her after this (fortunately, I guess that is only for one more month). Unless she’s been under the influence of some mind-affecting power, she absolutely is responsible for anything that the new bad guy does after his release. And considering how much trouble someone went through to trap him? That could be bad news.

I found myself smiling through the issue, and the reason was Jerry Ordway’s art. The guy is just a master storyteller, and he does such a great job with facial expressions and different builds. I wish I could see more regular work from the guy, this book was just plain pretty.

Good (got a bump up because of the art!)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #12

I had visions of a cool ape-monster based on that cover, but I guess that is supposed to be a human skull. In any case, it is a great cover that makes this one-off issue seem a lot more important than it is.

I love Peter Tomasi’s writing, but wow, is the guy bloodthirsty. When the Guardians need Guy Gardner to take an escaped monster (whose prison was unluckily struck by a Mogo-meteor, what are the odds?), Guy heads across Oa to put a crew together. Let me just say now, if I’m a GL, and Guy comes looking for me? Sorry buddy, I’m sick today. I’ve never seen someone go through redshirts like the Green Lantern Corps. There must be rings zipping around the galaxy at all times, and I hear they are putting in a new annex to the GL crypt. I mean 50 Lanterns die this issue. 50! I know the job is dangerous, but how crazy would you have to be to take that job???

Chris Batista seems to be another casualty of the new 52. He’s so good, I really hope he catches on with one of the new titles, maybe Blue Beetle? Resurrection Man? I think he’d fit there… His design for the creature is a bit more bug-like than I had imagined, with Parallax already sort of claiming that look.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Green Lantern Corps #62

Wow. Kyle Rayner is a real d*ck. I’m fuzzy on the details, did he proclaim his true love for Soranik Natu before or after he “died” during Blackest Night. Before, right? I suppose it isn’t a bad thing to try and move on with his life, but wow, Soranik has every right to be enraged at the biggest pimp in the DCU. And since the Lantern titles are one of the two areas of the DCU not getting rebooted, I suppose we might see some fallout from this, especially since Tony Bedard is writing Kyle in the New Guardians title.

I do have a bit of a problem with the idea that the Star Sapphire gal would attack a helpless planet just to try and get Kyle and Soranik back together, but I suppose the Sapphires have never been to rational. It’s odd, they had sort of skewed towards the “good” end of the color spectrum recently, but they really seem to belong more in the “crazy” prism.

Is it too easy to make a joke about the last name of the penciller having no vowels (HDR)? Ok, then I’ll just say that the art was pretty clean and that he has potential.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Captain America Corps #2

Looks like I missed this one last week, it was in pile of “to-be read” and it turns out I actually read it! That’s easy to think, because not a whole lot happens in this issue. Roger Stern does start rolling out his new villains, and I do like them, but this is still a fairly generic alternate reality story. The Elder of the Universe does get named here (The Contemplator), and this is worth it just for the Ameridroid and Americop appearances. I guess this alternate world formed because without Captain America, the Avengers never formed and things took a dramatically different turn.

I still like the core concept, and seeing John Walker as USAgent is always a pleasure. I do think one more cap-clone would have been fun. I wish we could have seen the little-used Battlestar!

Phil Briones’ art is fine, he’s got a texture to his pencils that reminds of Phil Jimenez or Dave Ross, only not quite as polished. I do like the designs for the alternate world’s “heroes.”


Monday, August 1, 2011

Invincible #81

Robert Kirkman’s books are often the first off the stack every week, and this issue is a good example of why. Nothing huge happens this issue. No swerves, no status-quo altering moments. No big returns.

In fact, the two things Invincible does is get a struggling villain a legitimate job and deal with the fallout of an eco-terrorists attack from last issue. And yet this book is filled with solid characterization and world-building. In the big fight, Invincible doesn’t even throw a punch, and yet it is a satisfying encounter.

There is action, Kirkman never robs us of that, but what drives the story is the reader’s interest in seeing how Mark Grayson is dealing with his complicated life. And once again, it is fantastic seeing him interact with Brit, Cecil Stedman, and the rest of the Earth-bound cast after so long in space for the Viltrumine War.

Kirkman is blessed with some of the most reliable pencillers in the industry. Ryan Ottley knocks it out of the park again. Everyone looks great (it is weird seeing a big Atom Eve though, isn’t it?)

Books like these are why I read comics.