Friday, September 30, 2011

Scalped vol 5: High Lonesome TPB

Another trade, another collection of brilliant tragedy from Jason Aaron.

After the fairly frantic pacing of the series until now, Aaron pauses to give us a bit more background on some of Scalped’s supporting characters. The trade opens with a character piece about a grafter about to make Dash Bad Horse’s life even worse. It then spends two issues dealing with longtime foes Diesel and Agent Nitz. I really enjoyed all three features; like always, the story was fascinating yet it made me glad I’m not a part of Dash’s world. The pressure that guy must be under every waking moment!

The quick change from character focused drama to a horrific robbery is jarring for the reader and for Dash. Because of Dash’s… state of mind, I’m not sure he even understands what is happening until the end of the event. And once again, we’re reminded why you don’t mess with Agent Bad Horse.

As always, life is cheap in this comic. A bunch of guards and innocent bystanders get killed throughout the book, reinforcing the dangerous feel of this title. It’s odd, but with the death and the emphasis on character, along with the Western setting, I think I’ve realized what this book reminds me of. This series is basically Deadwood in book format, and that’s about the highest praise I can give. It’s simply brilliant, and as always I’m amazed that Aaron can create such dark stories that remain so fascinating.

A variety of artists work on the different chapters of this trade, but each one is a good match for the subject matter. The editors clearly made careful choices for each of these “fill-in” issues.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Aquaman #1

Geoff Johns does a nice job picking up Aquaman after Brightest Day, but really making this an accessible issue for folks who may not have read the series. It seems like Mera and the sea king are happily together, which makes me happy. As I've said before, we rarely get well-settled couples in comics, and with so many marriages being erased by the DC reboot, I'm glad to see one sticking around. (Of course, maybe they aren't married? Who knows.)

The other interesting thing Johns does here is face the mockery of Aquaman head-on. Multiple characters (human bystanders, mostly) make jokes and poke fun at Aquaman, making reference to SNL and YouTube sketches about how silly he is as a hero. Johns attempts to counteract this by giving Aquaman a fairly substantial power upgrade. In this issue Aquaman can leap around on land like the Hulk, he picks up an armored car and tosses it around, and he bullets from a point-blank AK-47 bounce off his skin. That's almost Luke Cage territory! So yeah, it's going to be harder to make fun of Aquaman if he's gotten a lot more powerful.

The villains look fun, some sort of carnivorous humanoids from the deep that are excited to find soft, delicious humans on the surface of the ocean. I really like these guys, they seem like good opening bad guys for what seems to be a self-contained title. (And without looking, I don't remember this premiere to be quite as violent as some of the other relaunches.)

Ivan Reis's pencils are clean and dynamic, picking right up from Brightest Day. I think Mera's eyes look a tad bigger, she looked almost anime in a couple of those panels. The fish-folks design is neat too, with almost translucent skin and those scary fangs.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Captain America Corps #4

And the fun, self-contained story continues. As the series moves on, this is starting more and more to feel like a What If? issue from the 1980’s. I mean, we had a neat crew of alternate Caps trapped in a fascist world, which was good enough, but now Cap and his crew link up with the Resistance! This little crew is made up of the last surviving heroes and villains in the Marvel U. And as all long-time readers know, any group of Marvel U survivors must include Spider-Man and the Punisher. (I am shocked that Wolverine didn’t make it!) The team is rounded out by some neat folks, including Daredevil, Tigra, Nick Fury, Henry Gyrich and Wyatt Wingfoot. Heck, later in the book we get Electro and Fixer! As for Tony Stark’s fate, surely I’m not the only one figuring he’s going to get some new armor very soon?

I’m a sucker for classic-Cap concepts like the Ameridroid and Americop, so I’m a tad bummed they didn’t do a better job lasting through the fights in this issue. But I have faith in Roger Stern’s storytelling, so I’m certain that Broadstripe and Brightstar will be tough enough on their own to challenge this big crew of Marvel heroes.

Phil Briones’ art is actually getting stronger as the series goes on. I really enjoyed his work on the futuristic Cap. Briones’ work on American Dream is strong; she’s got a great, classic-looking design, I wish she could get more use! It’s worth mentioning that my daughters really dug this cover, too!


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wonder Woman #1

While this was a pretty enjoyable debut issue, I'm not sure it totally feels like a Wonder Woman story to me. Brian Azzarello has been pretty up-front about this being a horror book, but I still wasn't expecting the level of gore and violence that is present in this book. This really is a Vertigo-style take on Wonder Woman, and once again, this is another comic I can't let my daughter read. I find it fascinating that there are so few comics that she can even read over my shoulder because of the DCnU's ultra-violence.

Azzarello has some neat ideas, no doubt. I love the idea of Apollo as some sort of business-villain, killing hotties to be his new oracles. And the weird, animalistic take on the Greek myths make sense too, with the centaurs and bird-like Hermes working surprisingly well. I'm interested in seeing how this goes, but I think this another book that I'll follow through digital sales.

Cliff Chiang's art is wonderful. Most of the ladies spend a lot of time in their underpants (or less) but Chiang keeps it from being too gratuitous. His character designs are wonderful, and he even keeps the gore from being too upsetting.

Overall, I'm just sort of shocked at the level of violence in this relaunch!


Monday, September 26, 2011

Swamp Thing #1

Wow. I picked this up as a whim since I heard it was selling out everywhere. It's a solid little issue, and Scott Snyder does an amazing job combining Alan Moore's madness with the normal DCU. I never thought it could make sense seeing Swamp Thing's entire past smooshed together like this, but seeing metal-pantsed Superman chatting with Alex Holland just... worked.

The new villain is horrific, and he'd fit right in to a Vertigo series. His flunkies with their twisted heads are horrific (and would have fit into Chuck Dixon's Bludhaven, back in the day). I think the flies as carriers for this new evil beastie are even worse, how can anyone stop a fly from crawling into your ear? And in a world where we actually see Superman, Batman, and Aquaman, could this creature take over a real hero? Spooky thought!

And I totally get the criticism that Swamp Thing is only on one page of this issue, but I'm ok with it. Alec Holland is a pretty likeable guy, and I'm getting a real David Banner/Hulk feel from him. This book reads like a pilot for a TV show.

Yanick Paquette's art always seemed super-hero-y to me, but he does a tremendous job with the horror elements of this book. The plants that constantly surround Holland have a sense of menace even as they sit there looking pretty. This is a neat book with a ton of potential. I think I will end up following this one digitally.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Daredevil #3

I can't believe this, but I think Mark Waid is actually making me like Daredevil. As I've said, I own a ton of Daredevil comics, but I've never actually been a huge fan of the character himself. But seeing how Waid is writing Matt Murdock is totally turning me around!

I absolutely love that Klaw is the first villain to go up against DD. They are natural enemies; it just makes sense that these guys would face off. I'm not sure what Klaw's current state is, but Waid handles this appearance in a fashion that doesn't affect the "real" Ulysses Klaw. This is the story of one sad sound-duplicate trying to save his master. I ALMOST felt sorry for the dupe towards the end of the issue, once DD had the fight in hand. It's funny that deafening DD actually seemed to make him a bit more ruthless than normal.

But Mark Waid's DD doesn't hold a grudge, and he seemed pretty darn chipper as he hit on those ladies at the closing. I really like the new twist on practicing law, too; it's a neat step forward that acknowledges all of Murdock's twisted and convoluted past.

And that art! We can all agree that Paulo Rivera's insane fusion of detail and cartoony features is brilliant, right? Those facial expressions are wonderful, and the insane Klaw-tech's detail is unbelievable. Wonderful, wonderful art.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Resurrection Man #1

As a fan of the original series, I'm quite pleased to see Mitch Shelley returning to the DCU. And for most of this issue, I really enjoyed the book. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are masters of atmosphere and pacing, two essential elements for a book like this. Mitch is immediately likeable, he seems like a normal guy in a rough spot. While he does some shady things, he regrets and rationalizes his choices.

Things pick up on his flight. It seems Mitch's soul is quite the prize to both Heaven and Hell, and both "offices" have sent collectors out to try and acquire it. The battle sequence on the plane looked great. Fernando Dagnino is channeling some Tom Mandrake here, and it really works. The floating faces in the storm, the horrific angelic agent, they all look like they came from Mandrake's crazy imagination (and I mean that as a compliment).

What I didn't care for was the resolution. SPOILERS BELOW

Mitch basically drives off the creature, but gets tossed into the plane's engine, causing it to crash. I have one concern that constantly killing Mitch will make him seem incompetent, but DnA have balanced that in the old series, so it may not be an issue. But I also have a problem with the death toll. A plane full of people is a pretty huge amount of collateral damage. I hope that elements like this aren't required of the "Dark" line, because too much of that will sour me on the book.

I enjoyed the comic, but it sure felt like Mitch isn't very competent.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Batman #1

Wow, Batman is YOUNG. I was initially startled by how young Dick Grayson seems to be when he first shows up, but really, Greg Capullo’s take on the bat-family is interesting.

This is another shockingly violent comic from the DCnU relaunch. More than anything else, I’m stunned at the commonality of violence in these books. Near the end of the comic, Bats shows up to help the Gotham police deal with a body found full of throwing knives. It’s not quite as gory as some other titles recently, but still…

Scott Snyder really opens the relaunched book with guns a-blazing. I mean, a full-scale breakout at Arkham Asylum featuring Professor Pyg, Killer Croc, Scarecrow, and more? That’s normally a year-long storyline, not the first half of a premiere issue.

Snyder checks off a ton of bat-boxes in this one. The Arkham gang shows up. The bat family seems to be playing an important role. There’s a new mystery for Bats to dig into that will tie into the family nicely, it seems (I don’t think Snyder is going to let go of Dick Grayson too easily). Snyder even squeezes in the required Bruce Wayne speech about revitalizing Gotham City. Snyder clearly knows what he needs to do to produce a bat-comic.

I dig Capullo’s weird cowl on the batsuit. Bats’ helmet actually looks like a helmet mounted onto some sort of harness, and it’s a neat look.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Black Panther #523

Wait one darn second. Is Marvel still putting out comics? I thought everyone agreed that they'd sit out for September!

David Liss does a nice job wrapping up his Fear Itself tie-in that actually had very little to do with Fear Itself. This is the type of tie-in book I loved as a kid, because while it did sort of crossover, it actually just told a kick-butt story about the main character.

After all the online hoodoo about the American Panther, it was kind of nice to see T'Challa just kick his butt. Very few folks should have a chance against the Black Panther, and the ol' AP is not one of those guys. I do like that Liss leaves the option open to use the character again, and it will be fun making guesses on who could take up the role in the future. (Not Casper Cole, right? Who else is a good fit?)

The Panther is lucky to have so many tough ladies in his life. When the super-villains come calling, Storm is a handy pal to have in your corner. For the more street-level conflicts that usually fill this series, Sofija the waitress is pretty darn capable herself! T'Challa got lucky that she's a good waitperson and knows how to handle herself in a fight. Liss keeps the balance throughout the book; this is clearly T'Challa's show, but there is room for the competent supporting cast.

Francesco Francavilla continues to display why he's the best artist for this book. The heavy inks look fantastic for T'Challa's street-level conflicts. This issue does seem a lot more rushed than some of his other issues; there are a lot of pages with no backgrounds. But since many of those simple pages consist of night-vision-fighting, I think it works.

This continues to be one of the better titles coming out every month, give it a try when it becomes Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive next month!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Green Lantern #1

OMYGOSH! I got one of the ultra-rare teardrop misprint covers of Green Lantern #1! Hello eBay!


How in the world is this Green Lantern #1? It totally just picks up after War of the Green Lanterns! I really don't understand this relaunch. How can so many aspects of the DCU just continue on while other aspects have been totally erased and changed? It honestly boggles my mind that anyone thought this was a good idea to handle continuity this way. As the days wear on, I find myself less interested in the "reboot" titles I had planned to buy like Stormwatch and JLI, I'd rather stick to continuing books like the Bat-titles, GL, or new stuff like Demon Knights and OMAC. It all just seems so arbitrary.

But enough about the greater relaunch. How is this issue? Pretty decent, actually, Geoff Johns does pick up with Sinestro back in his green duds. It's amusing seeing Sinestro try to come to some sort of decision on his next step. I'd imagine he's in a pretty weird place right now.

The stronger aspects of the issue hit when we see more of the Hal Jordan Jerk Show. Hal isn't paying his bills, doesn't have a job, and is generally lost without the green bling to give his life purpose. Maybe it's just because I already think Hal is a jerk, but nothing that happens while he's depowered comes close to changing my mind. That moment at the restaurant with Carol Ferris was a classic Hal moment.

Doug Mahnke's artwork is stunning, as always. He does a stronger job than I'd expected with the "normal life" scenes. It turns out that he's as good at drawing folks out on a date as he is drawing huge, malformed aliens with glowing trinkets.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Batman & Robin #1

The funniest thing about this relaunch is the fact that some of the books honestly just pick up where the "old" DCU left off. I mean, Batman & Damian are exactly as they have been for the past few months. It wouldn't surprise me if Peter Tomasi actually had this issue written for his aborted run a few months ago. That's how seamlessly it fits into the greater Bat-verse continuity.

Not surprisingly, this comic is a tad on the gory side. Tomasi loves his grossness. The Russian member of Batman Inc. meets up with the new villain, the Nobody, and it suddenly becomes clear that another aspect of Morrison's expanded Bat-team is a limitless number of people to kill to make Bats angry. I expect to see this idea well-mined. It is spooky, Tomasi and Patrick Gleason have shown that they excel in that dark and gloomy atmosphere of Gotham's villains (even if this one is in Moscow).

The bulk of the issue shows Bruce Wayne and Damian trying to come to some sort of common ground. Bruce is trying to be a Bat Dad AND a teacher, and Damian is having none of it. I really dug the comment that Dick Grayson had accepted Damian, why couldn't Bruce? That's an angle I never would have guessed, that Damian might prefer NightBats somehow?

Patrick Gleason is one of the best pencillers in the business. Look at that design for the Russian Batman. I loved every weird curve and wheel on that sewer-traveling bat-pod, and I guarantee that the new villain we see formed is going to be horrific.

This is my kind of Bat-book. (Even if it is old-fashioned and not very DCnU!)


Monday, September 19, 2011

Demon Knights #1

Now this is more what I had in mind! I had high hopes for Paul Cornell's DCnU work, but Stormwatch just barely rated a Good (too cluttered, as I said) but the pacing and introduction in this issue are a lot stronger.

The whole team doesn't form up, but we do see the origin of the guy on the cover, Etrigan the Demon. Once again tied to the fall of Camelot and Merlin, the Demon is immediately in an interesting spot. Madame Xanadu seems to be a lot more hands-on than I remember her. It's fun seeing her be somewhat brash and not just sitting around picking cards. Xanadu has another pretty fascinating interest; she seems to be involved with both Jason Blood AND Etrigan. Talk about a complicated love life!

Vandal Savage shows up too, and he's already familiar with the two other immortal characters. He seems a lot more affable than I remember, and I'm not complaining. There is also some sort of inventor type and what seems to be an Amazon, so the team is shaping up nicely. I do like the appearance of the "dragons" at the close of the issue too, but I hope there is plenty of other magic and weirdness. Setting the book in the "real" world could be limiting. I want the title to live up to Cornell's comparisons to Game of Thrones and Dragon Age.

The villains have a lot of potential for some fun plots. Morgaine Le Fey (I think) has some pretty interesting magical help. I think Legion fans might be interested...

Diogenes Neves' art is clean and clear. I really dig the armored-hulk version of Etrigan, that's an original take that really sets this book apart from the old DCU. I can't wait to see more of the characters kicking butt next issue; I bet that Amazon is going to be one of my new faves.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Amazing Screw-On Head HC

What a delightful collection of short stories from Mike Mignola. It shouldn't surprise anyone that this whole book is right up my alley, I'm a huge Mignola fan at this point.

The lead story has Screw-On Head (on a mission for Abraham Lincoln) taking on a zombie mastermind. S-O Head is a sentient head attached to a screw that can mount himself onto different robotic bodies, including his favorite, "lucky 13." If that doesn't sell you, I don't know what will.

The backups are just as good, with a fantastically twisted take on Jack and the Beanstalk, and the surprisingly touching Magician and his Snake story written by Mignola's daughter.

A bundle of fun pin-ups and one more short story about an alien invasion wrap up the collection. I found it tremendously freeing to read some of Mignola's mad ideas without the filter of Hellboy and BPRD. Both of Mignola's core titles have that palpable aura of sadness, from all the deaths in BPRD and Hellboy's eventual fate in his own title. This book has the crazy stories at full blast and raw, no complicated emotions coloring the delight of the madness.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Knight & Squire TPB

The best comics transport you to fantastic world where things are mysterious, magical, and exciting. While you are reading about these places, you wish you could learn more about the strange cultures, sayings, and people who populate this wonderful place. In this comic, that fantastical world is England.

Paul Cornell is one of my favorite writers because his writing feels so foreign to me. I don’t get half the references he packs into his books, but I love the stuff I do understand. A naked heroine named Birthday Girl? Brilliant. Jarvis Poker, the harmless British Joker? Wonderful. Villains speaking asides to the crowd straight out of Shakespeare. Genius. This book is chock-full of ideas like the ones I just listed, and the best part is that even with Cornell’s helpful guidance in the text pages, I know there is more here to discover and enjoy.

Knight and Squire are wonderful on their own, of course. Grant Morrison’s revised origin and power set make them fun and modern, but they carry a weight of fake history well too. Watching the Knight date pop-stars while Squire “sneaks” around her hometown, it’s just wonderful seeing this different approach to super-heroics. Heroes like this really could have a pint at the pub with the villains!

Jimmy Broxton’s art changes moods as needed. At turns whimsical, threatening, and classic, the storytelling is always clear. I guess Cornell and Broxton created 130 new British heroes for this series, and while I like them all, I hope to see more of the Milkman. (“Don’t use the gold top!”)


Friday, September 16, 2011

Grifter #1

And here's another DCnU book not meeting my expectations. This one goes in teh other direction, though. I'm one of the few who actually bought the Grifter series in the 90's, so I have some affection for the character. Hearing that he'd be re-created as a con-man dealing with hidden monsters, I envisioned Sawyer from LOST starring in They Live. That's a pretty strong concept, right? But the actual execution has a lot more confused running around and not enough monsters. I get that Nathan Edmondson is probably headed in that direction, but there isn't enough in the first issue to convince me.

My other big problem is that when you book your lead a con man, he needs to have good dialogue; I want to believe he's a smart guy taking advantage of all those around him. I never really got that impression of Cole Cash in this issue. Sure, he's a good fighter (he's an ex-Delta Force operator) and he's tough, but there are a lot of fighty-tough guys out there.

Cafu's art is smooth and sleek, and while I don't love the weird sideburns on Cole, I appreciate the unique look. The creatures/daemonites aren't really making any sort of appearance yet, so I'm not sure how they'll look.

This book may end up being fine, but this one is getting bumped off the list. Maybe I'll check out some digital issues when they go on sale.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Batwoman #1

This relaunch is weirding me out. I find myself enjoying the random pickups almost more than the books I'd planned on purchasing. The varying quality of these first issues is going to play havoc with my sublist.

As I said in my original review, I really like the Batwoman/Kathy Kane character, but I found her early adventures to be a bad fit. I hadn't planned on grabbing this issue, but my affection for the character led me to grab this issue anyway. At the very least I knew it would be beautiful!

And it is. J.H. Williams III's artwork is stunning. At times, the sheer inventiveness of the panels might make the storytelling a tad unclear, but it is worth it for the wonderful scenes. Everything looks gorgeous, from the battle with the new villain to flashbacks to training sequences. It's all just gorgeous.

I like the inclusion of Bette Kane/Flamebird as a new partner for Batwoman. Clearly, Kathy doesn't like working alone, and with the current difficulties with her father, she's taken Bette under her wing, giving herself a partner where Kathy can have the mentor role. I'm glad her father isn't out of the picture, though, I thought their relationship is one of the best parts about the character.

The new villain is suitably creepy (or it might be villains?) and I'm quite pleased to see Maggie Sawyer show up. I'm not sure I see why this needed the reboot, though. There are quite a few callbacks to older stories, so it seems Batwoman's history hasn't changed much at all.

I swear, figuring out DC's new continuity is going to ruin me. How did Kathy's parts of 52 happen but not Booster Gold's? Ugh.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

O.M.A.C. #1

I've got to say, I'm darn impressed with the quality of the DC relaunch. I'm not sure why the books couldn't be this solid before a continuity re-start, but no matter how you look at it, most of the DC stable is bringing their A-game now. This might be the most shocking book for me; I never expected I'd like something Dan DiDio is writing! But here I am, picking this up based on reviews and adding it to my sublist.

O.M.A.C. is an interesting comic. We learn the lead is Kevin Kho only at the very close of the book, and before that, while OMAC's presence is on every page, he really doesn't have much personality. He's more an engine of destruction that blasts his way around. The only dialogue he spouts is announcing his identity and repeating Brother Eye's instructions. Brother Eye is interesting enough to carry the book, though. He's got a spoiled child tone to his dialogue that makes him quite fun.

For me, the selling point for this book is seeing Jack Kirby's creations. Dubbilex, Mokkari, and a Build-a-Friend all appear. Keith Giffen does a fantastic job copying the bombastic action from Kirby's original series. Even the designs are an homage (check out the crazy Cadmus security guards).

Unlike a lot of the relaunch that initially tickles my fancy, but quickly leaves me uninterested, I'm going to definitely return for OMAC 2 next month.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Static Shock #1

Sigh. This round goes to you, DC. I picked up two books that I wasn't planning to week one of the DCnU, and I'm pretty sure I'll be sticking around on both.

John Rozum didn't sound too excited in his promos for this series; it really sounded like he handed over some scripts that needed heavy tweaking from co-plotter and penciller Scott McDaniel. That may be the case, but the two actually work well together. This is a by-the-numbers book, but there are enough elements here to bring me back.

Virgil (Ovid) Hawkins has made the move to NYC, where he's working for Star Labs. It's unclear how much of his pre-relaunch history stands, but at the least we know that Dakota City exists, that Static has been active there, and that Hardware has taken the young hero under his wing. As a huge Hardware fan, I'm now obligated to pick up this book. Fortunately I'm a Static fan too. NYC isn't going to be too kind to Static, it seems. The same fickle folks who read the Daily Bugle seem to reside in the DCnU Big Apple.

I can't remember if the villains in this issue are new or not, but either way, there is potential with a lizard-guy who shoots glowing CD's. And is that last page correct? Cause it looks like Static just got his arm blasted off!

The hits keep coming, because I'm not smart enough to know if the science during the opening fight is real or not, but it sounds good enough to me to pass the comic pseudo-science test. (But then, cosmic treadmills also pass that test, so it isn't saying much!)

Scott McDaniel may not be the most detailed or realistic artist, but he has always excelled at dynamic action. An electric hero like Static is right up his alley. Static uses his powers in two or three different ways that work visually and scientifically, boosting Virgil's power set in some pretty neat ways.

DC wins again. I'm in.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Justice League International #1

A wise man needs to know his limitations; I fully realize that I like simple, smash-em-up super-hero comics with a touch of humor. I don't know if I'm the target audience for a book like JLI, but man, this is one of my favorites in the DCnU so far.

And it isn't even as if this is the BEST book of the relaunch, I can recognize that Batgirl and Action Comics may be put together better. But Dan Jurgens and Aaron Lopresti have created exactly what I look for in my comics; lots of brightly clad characters with awesome powers fighting some bad guys.

This premiere issue actually has the whole team thrown together by the UN, and immediately sent off on their first mission. It's always fun seeing a group forming up, and I dug the commentary from the organizers on who fits in with the league and who doesn't. I do think Guy Gardner will be back, and I'm pleased about that, but even as it stands now, this is a very solid team. Booster Gold is somehow earnest AND a sell-out (I'm not sure anyone but Jurgens could pull that off). Godiva is wonderful, making snarky comments at every opportunity. Rocket Red and General-in-Iron are still stereotypes, but they sure are fun. That leaves the legit heroes a bit outnumbered, I'd say only Batman, Ice, Fire, and Vixen are truly straight-up heroes. But that's a fine ratio.

Lopresti's art is bright and the costumes work well... mostly. I really don't care for Booster's new sleek look, I think the last costume from his solo series worked a bit better. Godiva needs a more dynamic look too, the plain white suit doesn't cut it with this crew. The rest of the group looks great, with Rocket Red's suit being a stand-out. The storytelling is clear and the cliffhanger design looks fun.

Pencil me down, I'm in this for the long-haul.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Invincible #82

Does Robert Kirkman actually name Universa in this issue? I swear I read the whole thing and don’t remember seeing it. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea that the next story arc after the space-bound Viltrumite War is a chance to get re-acquainted with Invincible’s worst foes, but I need a touch more recap.

The whole concept that Invincible would use his status and power to try and defuse some of these world conquerors is an extension of the logic that Kirkman has been putting in his super-hero books for years. As I’ve said, the villains and heroes in Kirkman’s head are all fairly reasonable. Even maniacs like Dinosaurus have goals and can be somewhat reasonable!

I am pretty curious to see how ‘Vince deals with Cecil Stedman’s latest reveal. I understand why the government agent did what he did, but it isn’t going to be a popular decision.

Ryan Ottley’s cover is stunning, even chained and locked away, Universa seems pretty dang threatening, doesn’t she? The interiors are just as solid. I need some original art from this guy!


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Spider-Man: The Gauntlet TPB v2

Now that I’m two trades into the Gauntlet, I can see a bit more of what the Spider-team is trying to do. It’s not so much that the Kraven family is organizing everything, but they are certainly hanging around the edges as Spidey’s main villains start getting power-ups.

The trade opens with a nice recap of the Rhino’s origin, and then we get to see how soft and fluffy he’s gotten since he last got out of prison. It’s a cool twist, Rhino is one of those villains who consistently gets shown somewhat sympathetically (in Marvel Adventures Super-Heroes, Tangled Web, and best in Death’s Head II). It totally makes sense that the guy could mellow out a bit and try for the good life. By adding a new Rhino, Spidey’s rogues gallery doesn’t even take a hit, and seeing Rhino go back with his wife really was a nice win for the web-head.

The second story was actually a bit stronger. Dan Slott resurrects Quentin Beck, the original Mysterio, to make life difficult for Peter Parker and Spider-Man. I love the throwaway line that “Beck” delivers about his return. After stating that he’s back, he admits that he might be lying (and could be someone else playing a role). I wasn’t so happy that Silvermane is dead, but seeing him used as a motivational puppet was pretty awesome.

I hear that Carlie Cooper is Peter Parker’s ladyfriend in the current issues of Spidey, but she hasn’t won me over yet. She’s too sad-sack to take over MJ’s place as Peter’s best gal.

The art is strong throughout, with Marcos Martin’s Mysterio pages standing out particularly well. The transparent-mask pages when Spidey holds his breath were tremendous.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Batgirl #1

I’d planned on skipping this book out of protest for the removal of Oracle. After a lot of positive comments on Twitter and review sites, I decided to give the first issue a chance. I’m glad I did. While the book isn’t kid-friendly at all (I had hoped to read it with my daughter), it does have some of the sick villainy that Gail Simone did so well in Secret Six.

Simone's new villain (the Mirror) opens up the book drowning a man with a yard hose, and that’s only one of about 10 murders spread through the issue. That’s not counting the home invasion and Killing Joke flashback. Speaking of KJ, I’m fascinated with the idea that Barbara is having flashbacks and freezing in action when things happen that remind her of her darkest day. It’s a tremendously realistic side effect, I don’t care how much the hero loves his or her job; sometimes you’re going to get rattled.

Ardian Syaf’s art is decent, but I wasn’t particularly blown away. He’s got that Joe Bennett/Ed Benes look, and I’m not a huge fan. I also think skewing the costume a tad more classic wouldn’t hurt, either. Too much armor and treading on that current Batgirl suit.

So basically, this book has the scary villainy of Secret Six with the bright heroics of Birds of Prey. Not a bad combo at all. It’s a recipe that will bring me back again next month.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Stormwatch #1

Let me lay it out simply. This book needs more Martian Manhunter.

J’onn is one of my favorite characters. Probably my favorite in the DCU, so seeing him get so small a part in what is clearly an ensemble books is going to be tough to take. Paul Cornell is trying his best to give enough screen time to his large cast, but I’m afraid the Manhunter suffers for it. (I will say I love the reveal with J’onn on both the League and Stormwatch.)

Cornell packs this book full of ideas. We’ve got new characters like Adam, the Projectionist, and the Eminence of Blades. The Moon attacking the Earth. Tons of returning Wildstorm folks like Apollo, Midnighter, Hawksmoor, and the Engineer. Cornell even pulls in old concepts like the Century Babies. I mean, this thing is chock full of mad concepts and ideas. I’m intrigued to see what happens with the insane horn in the mountains. I want to know why Projectionist is so keen to impress the Manhunter. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this book is almost TOO compressed!

Miguel Sepulveda’s art is ok. I don’t like the Manhunter’s design, but he does a better job with Apollo and Midnighter. I like the addition of the tire treads on Hawksmoor’s hands too. The Eminence of Blades has potential, he’s got to be Cornell’s favorite on the team.

Verdict: I’m in for the next few issues at least.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Action Comics #1

Superman is a bully! I love it!

When I read that Grant Morrison was re-telling the origin of Superman, I was sold. Factor in the dynamic Rags Morales on art, and I had some darn high expectations. Action Comics #1 certainly meets, if not exceeds, those expectations.

Superman is a young man here, and he’s got a young man’s sense of invincibility and righteousness. The problem is, he’s got the super-powers to back up those beliefs. Supes literally zooms around Metropolis sticking up for the little man, tossing around corrupt businessmen and demolishing construction equipment. His heart is the right place, but man, that panel where he drops from a building leading with a prisoner? That’s one ruthless Superman! (I love the report of how Supes dealt with a wife-beater too!)

Morrison’s reboot includes the driven reporter Lois Lane, the surprisingly competent Jimmy Olsen (who catches a baby AND tackles a mobster), General Lane, and of course, the brilliant Lex Luthor. I love Luthor’s well-reasoned argument for Superman as a threat. He IS an invasive species that threatens Earth’s biology. We know we can trust Superman because we see him helping out normal people, but man, you can see how it would make the fat cats nervous.

Morales’ art packs quite the punch too. Superman never stops moving, zipping and darting around the city, saving people and running from one disaster to another. Something was off with a few of the characters’ eyes looking a bit odd, but man, that’s a small price to pay for this level of detail. Shootouts, train derailments, and wrecking balls as a weapon. This comic delivers on the title.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

GI Joe: Real American Hero v2

What a joy. I can admit that one of my favorite things about comics is the ability to make me feel like a kid again, and boy, does this trade succeed on that count.

Larry Hama, who has written stuff since he left GI Joe (including some Joe work for DDP) never really hit that sweet spot again. His work was ok, but other than Wolverine, nothing even came close to the genius of GI Joe. And yet now, after years and years, he’s somehow re-created that tone and sense of adventure from the comics of my youth.

All the elements I want in my Joe comics are here: lots of Joes, Dr. Venom, Zartan impersonating everyone, PIT invasions, brainwashing, and lots of military jargon. And truly, this would not be a Joe comic if the Dreadnoks didn’t get some chocolate-covered donuts and grape soda.

In fact, I’m not sure how Hama could top this trade. How do you have a higher stakes ninja battle than one happening as the combatants fall off a high-rise? Hama also gives us another Rattler vs. Sky Striker fight and that PIT invasion. For those of you looking for faves, the following folks get at least a cameo (if not more) in this trade: Hawk, Stalker, Roadblock, Psyche Out, Dusty, Mainframe, Wild Bill, Ace, Tripwire, Torpedo, Tunnel Rat, Law & Order, Lady J, Clutch, and Gung Ho. I’m sure I’m forgetting some too.

I mean, those are all elements of his best Joe comics, how will he continue that run? I can’t wait to find out. It just comes down to this: as long as Larry Hama writes his fantastically awkward (yet informative) dialogue, count me in.

SL Gallant is a significant upgrade on art since the last trade. Everything looks on-model from the old days. That includes the many Joe characters who show up AND the vehicles. I was particularly pleased by the big blue Cobra transport chopper. I haven’t seen that in years.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #13

Another day, another secret traitor for poor old Batman to try and figure out. This was pretty similar to the Batman Inc. comic I reviewed yesterday, with Batman meeting and catching a bad guy all in the same issue. I liked this one a bit more because Peter Tomasi and Ron Frenz keep the issue moving along at a brisk pace, while delivering some classic ring-slinging too.

I understand why Tomasi was tempted to use the "one-punch!" line, it's almost a requirement for Bats and Guy, now. But in this instance, it didn't quite work. Guy was on his best behavior (still an abrasive jerk, but not as bad as he can be!) so it felt weird shoe-horning that joke in at the close of the issue.

The story itself is another generic done-in-one, more notable for the art than for any genre-defining story. I've loved Ron Frenz's art for years, and he rarely gets to work on DC properties (except his long run with Superman Blue!) He's not an artist I would think of for a locked-room mystery, I prefer him drawing super-strong guys getting dog-piled, then blasting his or her way out! Seriously, I think this is the first Frenz-illustrated book I've read where that didn't happen!

The art is clean and dynamic, as I expect from Frenz. Again, any chance he gets some DCnU work in the future, DC?


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Batman Incorporated #8

It's kind of funny that these computer-generated comics don't look that much better today than they did 10 years ago (or more). I have that weird one-shot, The Dome, which was supposed to start off the art form of cgi comics, and then I bought that weird Green Lantern book that was digitally painted too. Grant Morrison wins some points by trying to make the story really fit the digital art, but even so, this book is a bit hard to follow.

I'm not going to complain about too much happening in one issue, but I wouldn't have complained if we'd had a little more time to get to know the different digital investors in this issue. The reveal of the traitor is sort of meaningless if we just met them all a few pages ago. Did the "trojan" avatar even have any lines of dialogue?

Again, I can respect some of Scott Clark's great shots of Batman digitally generating, or of Batgirl arriving on her sweet digi-bike, but this is still too odd looking to be anything more than a one-off special. Keep my comics hand-drawn!


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Captain America Corps #3

This is a series about an alternate timeline where a villain has gone back in time and changed the way the universe works. Heroes are either missing or dead, and things seem dire in the vastly altered present. There are a few heroes who still remember how things are supposed to be, and they are working hard to overcome the villains who put the world together with evil in control.

Does this sound familiar? The big difference is that this series is self-contained, stars a bunch of heroes who actually affect the plot, and the book is $2.99. I’ll admit, Phil Briones’ art isn’t as good as Andy Kubert’s but Roger Stern’s story would match up to Flashpoint any day of the week.

The heroes in this series were all there at the beginning and they aren’t popping up in ancillary titles. Stern gives us the chance to get to know a different Captain America type with each issue (this issue featuring the fantastic USAgent).

Listen, I love alternate world stories, but they don’t need to cost hundreds of dollars to follow. Stern and Briones have put together a great little self-contained series about Cap and his affect on those closest to him. The series is logical and well-paced. It isn’t overly violent. What a nice surprise!


Friday, September 2, 2011

Justice Society of America #54

What a gorgeous cover. What a poster that could make!

Doesn’t really matter anymore, does it? Marc Guggenheim wraps up his interesting Monument Point storyline in a pretty abrupt fashion, letting a super-powered energy blast do what the entire JSA could not, taking down the weird dude trapped under Monument Point. I assume this would have been more dramatic and detailed had the DCU not rebooted.

I’m still annoyed that Jesse Quick was sort of to blame for letting this guy go, and it’s also interesting that the mysterious Senator from earlier in the book was actually correct. Having the JSA hang around in Monument Point really was a bad idea.

In the end, this is going to be a shortened, forgotten run, as Guggenheim turned out some solid super-hero comics, but hardly reinvented the wheel during his time on the book.

Jerry Ordway’s pencils are a delight, as always. I truly hope there is a place for his classic style in the new 52 somewhere. Is it too much to hope for a new Shazam title?


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Flashpoint #5


Could someone please explain to me what happened here? I realize Barry Allen went back in time to save his Mom, and that created the Flashpoint universe. It was a warped universe where DC could kill as many characters as violently as it wished because nothing counted. Got it.

So to “fix” this universe, Ripped Costume Barry (from the end of Flashpoint) ran into the timestream and caught up with New Costume Barry from the beginning of Flashpoint, and stopped him from saving his mother. Then the costumes merged and turned into Collared Barry, the DCnU version. During that transformation, some strange lady talked about merging three timelines into one. (I’m assuming that’s Vertigo, DCU, and Wildstorm? If not, I’m stumped.) I don’t know who that lady is, but I guess she is prepping Barry for some upcoming crossover?

So then Flashpoint ends with Barry delivering a letter to crying Bruce Wayne, and they both think everything is normal.

That’s it, right? I mean, there were a bunch of pages about the Flashpoint world blowing up and Reverse Flash existing outside the timestream, but none of that actually mattered, right?

When you think about it, Flashpoint is an amazing achievement. Rather than spend the last few months flooding the market with comics celebrating the soon to be erased history of the DCU, they spent those months with a TON of books giving backstory on a world that didn’t matter at all. It’s an odd choice.

I mean, Flashpoint did what it needed. But it boils down to one plot point: Barry Allen went back in time to save his Mom, thought better of it, but still messed up continuity and created the DCnU. That’s it, right?

(I’m being a tad unfair, Geoff Johns had a few poignant moments with Flash saying goodbye to Bat Dad and Flash Mom, and those were nice scenes. Andy Kubert’s art was pretty dynamic and exciting too.)