Saturday, December 31, 2011

Green Lantern Corps #4

So I know more happened in this issue than Martian Manhunter showing up to give Guy Gardner a hand, but once again, I find myself fixating on the new 52. So I guess J'onn and Guy never served together on the JLI? Since Guy is surprised and doesn't seem to recognize the Martian Manhunter, it seems pretty safe to say that the JLI never happened in any incarnation. I also was a bit annoyed that J'onn only talks about his affiliation with Stormwatch, since I thought he was on the League too.

I am still enjoying Peter Tomasi's look at the Corps as a whole; the focus on galaxy-level threats is pretty entertaining. Sure, the dramatic death on page 4 loses some dramatic impact because I don't know who that GL is, but that goes with the territory at this point. It's much more interesting seeing how the different Lanterns deal with their traumatic memories after leaving some of their fellow Lanterns behind. (I guess Hannu still got ditched by Hal Jordan in some way, since he's bugging out about leaving others behind in the same fashion.)

Fernando Pasarin's art continues to be nicely detailed and dynamic. I don't like his take on the Martian Manhunter with that weird, grooved skull, but I don't think he's responsible for that design. The Keepers have a fun look under their armor, even if we've seen similar builds on a few Sinestro Corps members.


Friday, December 30, 2011

Avengers #20

It’s too bad, I sort of liked Madame Hydra’s absolutely insane new look, with that giant cephalopod on her head. I’m not sure where it happened (or how), but it seems she’s back to being her old slinky self after this issue. I’m going to guess she got changed in Secret Warriors?

I’m enjoying Bendis’ focused storyline right now, it seems he does his best work on the Avengers when they have a really cerebral foe working against them. I think Bendis needs to have one side or the other talking, so by having Osborn chatting away with his HAMMER flunkies, it means Captain American and the rest of the Avengers get to actually go out and kick some butt.

It’s always neat seeing new pair-offs when teams split up, and it works again here. Storm and Red Hulk? I never would have figured the two of them would work together, but they are both professionals, so it actually turns out OK. I’m not sure when Hawkeye and Spider-Woman got together, where is Mockingbird? Noh-Var and Iron Man make a neat team, but mostly because I’m intrigued to see the relative rookie try to deal with Iron Man after this issue.

I will say that Quake needs a real costume. She can’t keep running around with the big dogs in a standard SHIELD uniform. Daniel Acuna’s design sense is spectacular; I love his Kirby-esque take on HAMMER’s bad guys. (It’s worth noting that HAMMER seems to have Wasps, Giant-Men, and Hulks.) Acuna sometimes skimps on backgrounds, but with action this dynamic, I can forgive him.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Daredevil #7

Has everyone had enough X-books? I know I have!

Let's jump back to regular books with the best super-hero title on the stands, Daredevil.

Is this one of the best covers ever, or what? I mean, this should be available as a Christmas card right now! Mark Waid contrasts the playful cover with a pretty serious story. Matt Murdock takes a group of troubled, blind children to a lodge every holiday season, but in this issue, things don’t go well. After being turned away and taking some back roads, the school bus crashes, leaving DD in wandering through the wilderness with a bunch of kids. To make matters more interesting, DD’s radar sense does little to nothing in swirling sleet and snow.

There is a bit of character development through flashbacks, but for the most part, this is a non-essential part of Waid’s ongoing story. That said, it is still worth it just to see Daredevil (actually, Matt Murdock) inspire a group of kids who really need it. It’s also worth noting that Foggy Nelson spots a bit of the old brooding Matt Murdock very briefly. I hope that mopey guy isn’t coming back, though, I like happy DD!

Paolo Rivera’s kinetic pencils do a great job with both the crash and the whirling weather. I love his ability to give each scene such rich detail while still maintaining a fairly cartoony look.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wolverine Goes to Hell TPB

Jason Aaron continues his run on Wolverine with a new #1, and things sort of keep on trucking. I’m not sure this holds up quite as well as the last few trades featuring the Adamantium Men or Deathlok, but overall, Aaron still has a pretty good take on Logan.

The book kicks off in the middle of the story, with Wolverine’s body wreaking havoc in the real world while his soul gets tortured down in hell. I enjoyed Aaron’s hell, a rocky, barren place with lots of dead folks in cages and some mighty big demons and devils talking constant smack. Wolvie’s buddy Puck from Alpha Flight shows up, and you know how nice it is to see a familiar face. (Wraith shows up too, but I swear he was already dead!)

I was thrilled to play spot the villain with the hordes of dead guys going after Wolverine in hell. Sabretooth, Omega Red, legions of Hydra agents, Hand ninjas, I spotted the samurai from Frank Miller’s limited and the White Ghost (I think) from Warrant Ellis’ brief run with Wolvie. Another very old character from Logan’s past shows up, but that hits more an emotional level than a physical one.

I was all ready to complain about Silver Samurai showing up in hell to warn Wolvie of the troubles his friends were facing on the surface. As long-time readers of my blog know, my pet peeve is killing off established characters just to establish your new big bad. I’m fine with it if the writer is willing to put in the work to make me care about the dying character, but it is really lazy when the writer just picks a name off a list so that he can have a bloody costume in his book. Silver Samurai MIGHT be in this situation, but I saw some upcoming solicits that makes it seem like he might be back. I’ll hold off my annoyance for now!

Renato Guedes’ art is interesting, if a bit inconsistent. He has a tendency to draw lumpy faces, mostly on the guys. His Mystique looks great, and the demon designs are strong too. I’m not sold on the new band of Marauders yet, they are almost cool, but each of them has something that puts them too far over the top into ridiculousness (like the blades on Gunhawk’s revolvers).


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

X-Men Legacy: Collision

I suppose they can't all be masterpieces! I've been a pretty vocal supporter of Mike Carey's run on X-Men Legacy, but this is the first time I can't keep up the good words. Carey makes an interesting choice, focusing on a group of X-Men that haven't had a lot of screen time in this book so far. Magneto and Rogue head off to India with Indra, Anole, and Loa, three X-students that I have never seen before. I like Anole, he seems like a pretty fun addition to the X-universe, but the other two aren't as impressive. I mean, it's hard to root for a Shadowcat-copy and a pacifist, you know?

Unfortunately, Carey combines his least-interesting cast with the worst villains from his run. The Children of the Vault work better as a high concept than actual antagonists. I never really worried about them when they first showed up, so I sure don't remember them well enough to have any idea what their goals are.

NOW, factor in one of the weaker artists of the Legacy run. Clay Mann is ok, but his art is a tad too soft. Nothing ever looks dynamic, and many of the panels look like excuses to show Rogue bending over while wearing slinky summer outfits.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis HC

It's going to be difficult to review this book and talk about anything other than the way Kaare Andrews draws Emma Frost literally spilling out of her uniform. Seriously, her chest is bouncing out in every panel and her underpants aren't exactly doing their job either. It's sort of fascinating that this comic came out looking like this. (And Storm has never been quite this endowed before, has she? It's crazy!)

At least Andrews is equal opportunity; Cyclops and Wolverine are hulking around with washboard abs too.

The story is another intersting mix of Warren Ellis' favorite themes. We've got some other-dimensional goodness that ties this to the Ghost Box storyline, but this time it's linked through the involvement of some old Alan Moore/Alan Davis Captain Britain concepts. I'm a little surprised to see such a sequel-type idea showing up from Ellis, and while he does mix things up nicely, when it comes down to it, this story owes a lot to the original.

One of the more interesting aspects of this one is "Dr. Crocodile," the leader of the African country where the X-Men travel to research new mutant births. He's a complicated character that fits in nicely with what we know of Marvel U history. He really seems like he was a pretty nice guy before he started making the hard choices. Interesting that he doesn't get along with Cyclops or Wolverine; you'd think they'd understand those "needs of the many" arguments.

This is another of those trades that is probably best enjoyed by folks who really dig either Ellis or Andrews. I'm not a huge fan of either (not that I dislike them, I'm just not a dedicated fan; I found this entertaining, but not riveting.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Uncanny X-Men: Birth of Generation Hope TPB

After the madness of Necrosha and Second Coming, the X-titles had to come back to Earth. This trade can’t even compare to the breakneck pacing and excitement from those crossovers. When Matt Fraction takes a moment to let the team catch their breath, I lost my interest.

Fraction spends a lot of time bouncing around the team, but the title of the book comes from Hope’s travels to activate the “five lights” the new mutants who popped up on Cerebra after Second Coming. The problem is, Hope isn’t interesting enough to me. Her power as an “activator” is too passive for me, and her mix of spandex and military gear doesn’t fit in with the X-team look. I like the idea of her getting a small squad (including Rogue) to try and find the next generation of mutants, but I’m not as interested as I thought I would be, especially with Rogue involved.

White Queen puts together a bit of a heist-type crew to remove Sebastian Shaw from Danger’s prison, but again, with no payoff in this trade, there isn’t a lot to even judge. There are a lot of pages devoted to a story with no resolution in this trade. These “middle chapter” trades are pretty frustrating, and I imagine that feeling would be even worse following this book monthly.

Cyclops really has become a jerk. He’s practicing and relaxing by killing dinosaurs at the open of this trade! Sure, they are raptors, but still…

I’m not digging Whilce Portacio’s art anymore, so I enjoyed the chapter by Leonard Kirk the most. Portacio’s faces have always been a bit stiff, but his dynamic battles made up for it. With so few actual fights in this story, there is no chance for Portacio to show off.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

X-Men: Second Coming 4: X-Force 26-28

I think it is great the the X-Force title ended up being the driver for two mega-crossovers, Necrosha and Second Coming. Craig Kyle and Chris Yost are clearly fans of the same X-eras I am, which makes these two crossover feel familiar, yet exciting at the same time. This story feels like a mix of the Mutant Massacre and the X-Tinction Agenda, and that's a fun amalgam to get to play with.

Once again, the X-Force team is at the center of the crossover, as Cyclops dispatches the team on two different missions as the story moves along. For the entire first half of the trade, X-Force (plus Nightcrawler, Ariel and Psylocke) are on the hunt for Cable & Hope after their return to the present. There is some nice wetwork action, contrasted nicely with the rest of the X-Men. Nightcrawler in particular has some big problems with this team, while Psylocke doesn't seem to argue too much (that's probably why she joins the team after this story).

For some reason, Wolverine and Cable seem to play off each other well, and the first reunion scenes are quite fun as the two old vets get to try and out-tough each other.

X-Force's second mission teams them up with Cable and Cypher as they teleport to the future to take on Master Mold. This is supposed to be a one-way trip, but a heroic sacrifice keeps it from getting too bloody. Once again, Cypher's powers are amped up. He's a great character in this digital age, it seems.

Cyclops supposedly disbands the team at the close of this story, but Wolverine has other ideas. It's funny, didn't I read that Wolverine is now the kinder, gentler leader after Schism? I have some catching up to do!

Mike Choi's beautiful pencils still look great, but his art tends to look over-posed too. I think I like his work better when he handles entire storylines himself. Seeing him alternating with guys like Terry Dodson makes his work seem a tad stiff.


Friday, December 23, 2011

X-Men: Second Coming 3: X-Men Legacy 235-237

Rogue is another of the characters set up in contrast to dictator-Cyclops for this story. She spends the first half of the trade escorting Hope around (along with Nightcrawler) and she gets to use that sweet combo of X-powers we've seen before. I don't really see the connection between Hope and Rogue, but I do like that she seems to be one of the kinder, gentler leaders in the X-Men.

This is the title that introduced the heavy-hitter X-team, and I always love seeing big casts split up like this. Colossus, Rockslide, Namor, Archangel, Iceman, and Dust are part of this group, and they get the task of facing down dozens of future-Sentinels as they port into San Francisco. I honestly think this could have supported more pages, because who doesn't want to see these powerhouses throw down? Colossus suffers a rare "break" here when the nimrod-class sentinels work over his arm, giving this a bit of a Mutant Massacre feel.

Magneto fans should be sure to check out his big appearance here too. He's a one-man cavalry in this!

It's weird seeing Greg Land handle the art in this title. I expect to see White Queen and Psylocke arching their backs and laughing in pleasure, I don't expect Rogue and Magma to get that type of treatment. It's just... odd.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

X-Men: Second Coming 2: New Mutants 12-14

Zeb Wells is a lucky man. He gets to write the big re-match between the New Mutants and one of their worst foes; Cameron Hodge. Hodge is a classic bad guy at this point, and he's boosted by his army of smiley-armored flunkies. These guys are straight out of my X-Men childhood reading, so this is absolutely a perfect book for me.

Wells gets to continue his neat chacter-developments too. Cannonball is really turning into a mini-Cyclops, willing to sacrifice his own team in order to keep Hope alive. He doesn't want to spend their lives cheaply, but he will spend them.

High points of these chapters include Karma's fantastic use as a body-jumping death-machine. I've never been a huge fan, but man, she was great. And I can't be the only person who's tickled at this new tough-guy Cypher. I mean, I guess violence could be considered a language, but man, he's just ridiculous now. Fun fun!

Most of the team fades into the background as the story moves past the Right, but Cypher stays in a lead role as he joins up with X-Force. Mirage also gets to play host to Hope. I would have given that fight to Mirage, but it seems Cable is a pretty good teacher after all. Who would have thought?


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

X-Men: Second Coming 1: Uncanny X-Men 523-525

Welcome to the week of X-Mas, where I'll be reviewing X-books every day!

Whew! This is a behemoth of a trade, and it took me awhile to work my way through it. Just like some of the other recent mega-crossovers, this felt like a classic X-Story, and I'm amazed at how well the creators are rekindling the nostalgia. It's hard to break up a story this massive, but I'll try to do it by title.

The Uncanny X-Men chapters are pretty solid, and Matt Fraction gets to spend a lot of time dealing with the upsetting death from this story. I think it is a huge mistake. There is absolutely no reason that this character needed to die. The various writers do a great job building Bastion up as the big bad, and Fraction in particular amps up the tension through his star, Cyclops. I understand the need to make each story feel important, but man, this felt totally unnecessary.

Fraction's window into this book is Cyclops. He's the star of the book and all the big actions get their weight from Cyclops' reaction. It's interesting (to me) that Cyclops was one of my favorite characters as a kid, but he's not anymore. I certainly find him to be a fascinating character, but he doesn't feel like the old team-leader type that he did in the past. He really is a successful Magneto.

It's worth noting that Fraction has some fun with Namor too. He fits in nicely as the powerful loose cannon who KNOWS he's better than all his teammates.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Comics on the Bubble: X-Men: Phoenix Warsong #1-5

That cover really says it all, doesn't it?

I usually like Greg Pak’s writing, but this series sure didn’t connect with me. Tyler Kirkham’s pencils look a lot like Marc Silvestri’s but without the sense of kinetic action Silvestri usually provides. He’s got the big lips and stripper poses down, though!

I probably should have realized that a series turning the Cuckoos into a legion of clones created in The World (one of Grant Morrison’s mad ideas) was never going to work for me, especially when the Phoenix force got shoehorned in too.

Issue 1 – the Cuckoos turn bad and run away from the Xavier School
Issue 2 – Cyclops talks tough and puts together a crew to go after the ladies
Issue 3 – Jake Oh (wasn’t he in War Machine?) shows up to get knocked around by the Cuckoos. We see the big cavern full of Emma Frost clones created from her harvested eggs (WEIRD).
Issue 4, 5 – TLDR

Summary: Issues 1-5 SELL

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman v4 TPB

Man, these trades seem to take forever before they come out. Doesn't it seem like forever that Marvel did their big media blitz about the Human Torch dying in this comic?

In any case, it is clear that Jonathan Hickman is really keen on his Future Foundation concept, that's where this book is leading. In fact, the Foundation operates as a team through this whole collection, with Val and Franklin both exhibiting their world-class powers, and Alex Power seems right up there now too.

In contrast, the FF spend this collection split up handling different missions, many of them wrapping up old FF storylines. Reed Richards heads out to Nu-Earth to convince Galactus that he doesn't need to destroy that planet. Susan Storm heads under the sea with Namor to broker a peace treaty with the ancient Atlanteans she discovered in the polar icecaps. Meanwhile, Ben Grimm drinks the potion the Foundation made that will turn him back into a human for one week a year. So he and Johnny Storm go out on the town. (Johnny's reaction when Ben reverts to humanity is my favorite segment in the whole collection.)

Turns out that is bad timing, since Annihilus has chosen this moment to send another Annihilation Wave into the universe. This time, he's blasting free through the Negative Zone portal in the FF's headquarters. Closing this portal is the crux of much of the collection, and I found myself being won over by the snarky Wizard-clone (he might be the 2nd biggest brain in the Foundation).

Again, I like all these plots, but Hickman's take on the FF is so... dry. Johnny and Ben are the only two who have any fun with this hero thing. Killing Johnny off doesn't improve that situation. The final issue is a silent one, featuring the cast as they agonize over Johnny's death. (But hey, no body means a likely comeback, right?) I will be switching to the library collections for Future Foundation.

Steve Epting and Nick Dragotta are fantastic pencillers. From start to finish, this is a beautiful comic. The original Atlanteans include this awesome crab race that I marvel at every time they appear. Epting's art is simply stunning, and while he draws Susan Storm a tad young-looking, I love the way he draws her controlling a room with her confidence (even a room with Namor in it!)


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Secret Warriors v2: God of War, God of Fear HC

I’m slowly realizing that Jonathan Hickman does some things very well (his high concepts and world-building are top notch), while other aspects of his stories aren’t quite as riveting for me.

This is the second trade of Secret Warriors, and I can barely remember who half the cast is, much less their personalities or powers. Stonewall, Slingshot, Druid, and more spend the book sitting around. Sure, the book focuses on Nick Fury, Ares, and Phobos, but man, isn’t it weird that a title called Secret WarriorS would have so little to do with the team?

There is no debate that Hickman’s plot is pretty riveting. I love the whole idea behind the Leviathan conspiracy, and seeing all those Marvel spies tied together in more CGI graphics is pretty compelling. It is weird when the most interesting part of your story is a chart, though.

I will admit that I enjoy Ares any time he appears on panel. Seeing him try to navigate some sort of relationship with his son is quite entertaining, although I found Phobos’ quick induction into the ranks of deities as a bit odd.

The Dark Reign: The List issue is stronger than the rest of the book. Ed McGuinness’ kinetic, cartoony style has very little similarities with the classic Jim Steranko work with Fury in the past, but the comparison is there. McGuinness is clearly trying to bring back that 60’s feel with the flying cars, cyborg agents and wingsuits. It actually works.

Stefano Caselli’s departure is another loss for this comic. His larger-than-life action worked well in the first collection. Alessandro Vitti’s art is solid enough, but not as dynamic as Caselli’s.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Iron Man: Enter the Mandarin TPB

Joe Casey was pumping out the Iron Man series a few years ago, and I just now got around to checking out his Mandarin series. Quick question, this isn’t Temugin’s first appearance, is it? I know he showed up in Agents of Atlas, but I can’t figure out where else I know him from.

Casey re-tells the first few encounters between Tony Stark and the Mandarin, mixing in a liberal dose of Chinese politics and policies from Stark Enterprises. There are some neat bureaucratic elements, as Casey takes the time to give his supporting SHIELD characters some sweet lines.

Casey’s Mandarin is one egomaniacal dude. He spends half the book spouting off on how great things will be once he’s in charge, and the other half handing out pretty huge beatdowns. Heck, even in Iron Man’s rematch, Mandarin comes close to coming out on top. (At best, the fight is a draw.) There is no doubt that Mandarin is one of Iron Man’s most powerful enemies, but combining that power with an indomitable will like this makes him pretty scary.

Casey always finds interesting partners to work with on his projects, and Eric Canete is no exception. I’m not usually a big fan of Canete’s work; in a normal setting, his angular faces and penchant for over-doing technology don’t always work. However, with this finite series, that style works well. Even more organic foes like the Scarecrow look pretty spooky under his pencil. And of course, Mandarin’s rings and Iron Man’s armor look great, almost steam-punk in their design.


Friday, December 16, 2011

X-Force: Sex & Violence TPB

After being so pleasantly surprised by Chris Yost's work on X-Force, I had high expectations for this mini-series. I've always liked Domino, and she and Wolverine do make a fun couple. I had absolutely no idea what to expect, but even so, this book was a bit disappointing.

First of all, this barely qualifies as a Mature Readers book. Sure, every other word out of Domino's mouth is sexy talk about hooking up with Wolvie, but it just makes her look like a nympho with a ADD. Wolverine in turn looks like he gets led around by his privates; this book doesn't do either any favors.

While Yost does use a bunch of cool street-level villains (including an old fave of mine, Bushwacker), too many panels get used up just watching the couple shred faceless ninjas and assassins. That's the problem when your leads are killers, they can't be killing named baddies all the time, so the conflicts start feeling pointless. That said, seeing Black Mamba, Bullet, and the rest is pretty fun, and the duplicating sniper guy seemed pretty cool too.

Gabriele Dell'Otto re-designs a bunch of villains, just as he did in Secret War a few years ago. I like some, like Black Mamba and Bullet, but his Boomerang looks terrible, more like Dan Simmons' Shrike than a guy with boomerangs.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dark Reign: The Hood TPB

I'm kind of over Dark Reign. What I've found is that all those minis that Marvel pumps out featuring tie-ins to the big event of the moment? Well, I just don't care about them if I don't read them right when they're shipping. I mean, you can pick up Red Hulk or X-Force and read that any time, but all the Dark Reign books are really tied to their era. Now that age is gone, and does any of it really matter?

Jeff Parker dodges some of the problems of the event-era comic by putting a lot of influence on Parker Robbins, the man under the hood. Parker is a fascinating character, alternately shown as a savage criminal mastermind (by Bendis) or an almost-Peter Parker-esque guy who is just trying to get by (Brian Vaughn and Jeff Parker's take). This series explains some of that personality split by showing that the more savage moments in New Avengers are the moments when Dormammu is ascendant, but the "regular" Parker's crimes are a bit more mundane. Sure, he's a thief and a bully, but he's not out to kill people.

Jeff Parker also seems to be having fun with the mob the Hood has put together. The Controller, Griffin, Wrecking Crew, and more all show up and get a few good lines as they either line up with or against the Hood. (I don't recognize the Squid or fish-guy in this. Are they old characters or new creations?) I'd say my favorite part of the whole Hood's mob angle is just playing spot the obscure villain.

Kyle Hotz's work is always stronger on mood and atmosphere than detail. He's not the best at drawing faces, but I really like the way he draws battles and the big emotional moments. I will say his Force re-design is terrible. Why would you mess with the original look?


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Back Issue Review: Batman #433-435

The Many Deaths of the Batman!

Ah, 75 cents well-spent! I picked up this three part storyline because the name sounded familiar, and sure enough, this story did have a bit of buzz around it back in the late 80’s

Written by John Byrne with dynamic art from Jim Aparo, The Many Deaths of the Batman has very little actual Batman for the first issue and a half. Instead, we see how puzzling murders must be for Jim Gordon when Batman isn’t around to make intuitive leaps and help point the GCPD in the right direction.

Someone is killing men wearing bat-costumes. The interesting part is that each of the victims is the leader in his field; these were men of action like race car drivers, explosives experts, and gymnasts. I won’t give away the secret linking all these men, but it’s a neat twist that brings Batman in to the story nicely.

Gordon gets a medical examiner to bounce his ideas off (does this predate Harvey Bullock as Gordon’s regular plot-dumper?), and I like the idea that the GCPD is actually fairly competent. Sure, they need Batman to wrap up the case quickly, but the cops would have gotten there eventually.

Jim Aparo draws one heck of a Batman. He draws a lot of folks wearing bat-suits in this, but it is never really a question for the reader (aside from that first one). These bodies have different faces and physiques that make it clear there is only one Caped Crusader.

These self-contained bat-stories used to be the foundation of the line, I think that’s probably why I’m appreciating Scott Snyder’s run on the book right now.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Once again, I find myself ashamed and delighted at the new issue of OMAC. As other reviewers have stated, Kevin Kho, the ostensible lead of this comic really has no personality and hasn’t done anything. Maybe Bruce Banner was like this at first, but man, this re-telling of the Hulk is just weird. I don’t read many comics where the lead is a complete cipher, but this book certainly qualifies. There is no doubt that Brother Eye has the most recurring personality in this book.

But that’s not a bad thing. Kho’s lack of characteristic actually makes him more identifiable. He’s just a normal guy trying to live his life, only he’s got a sentient satellite holding him hostage while simultaneously facing down techno-alligators in the subway. Dan DiDio and Keith Giffen have done a wonderful job delivering mad ideas; the hologram-headed alligators grown from tablets certainly qualify.

It’s so much fun to see Keith Giffen enjoying himself. Well, maybe I’m wrong and he doesn’t like this, but man, it certainly seems like this Kirby-inspired madness is absolutely perfect for him. Any excuse for more Build-A-Friend’s is good with me!

Once again, a book I never planned to pick up is one of the few I’m still buying in the DCnU.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Villains for Hire #1

Well, I suppose I can understand how this series got downgraded to a limited. Let’s look at the stars of the book: Purple Man, Avalanche, Bombshell, Tiger Shark, Nightshade, Crossfire, Scourge, and a couple other folks no one has heard of. (Well, no one but a major Marvel nerd like me.) It actually makes me happy that series like this get made, because really, did Marvel ever think that anyone besides dedicated fanboys would care about the Purple Man trying to take over New York?

There is an element at the close of the book that makes the popularity factor rise a bit, but still, probably not enough to keep sales very high on this title. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are delivering fanboy comics here, no two ways about it.

This is a villain-caper book very much in the vein of MODOK’s 11 from a few years ago. These types of projects are great at casting a spotlight on characters that have never had it before. If you are a fan of Marvel minutiae, than maybe you too get a thrill from seeing the Shocker described as a powerful villain. Or Nightshade as a serious hazard.

Renato Arlem does a nice job drawing these third-rate characters. Tiger Shark looks imposing, Avalanche looks like a powerhouse, and Bombshell looks like a hottie. (Arlem sure likes drawing ladies with no pants. If it wasn’t for the coloring…) The action can sometimes look a bit stiff or photo-referenced, but overall, the art is pretty strong.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Daredevil #6

At what point is it ok to be disappointed with less than an “excellent” issue of a book? Fortunately, I don’t need to worry yet, because this issue of Daredevil is right up there with the last five. This book is awesome!

DD got himself into deep water last issue when he faced off against Bruiser. Bruiser is a combo between Rey Mysterio Jr. and Booster Gold, and for me, that makes him the perfect villain. I love the guy after just two appearances, and hearing how he’s got a hit list to qualify him for a Hulk fight? Wonderful detail (as is his rank of Spider-Woman below DD on that list).

Mark Waid wraps both the fisticuffs and plot with nice little bows. Bruiser’s takedown ends up being a tad easy, but hopefully this isn’t the last we’ve seen of this guy. As for the secret alliance of Marvel villain groups, they’re all gunning for DD now. I’m not sure I buy that DD’s possession of that unique data disk buys safety for anyone else, but surely it puts a pretty big bulls-eye on his head. Judging from that smile, I’d say Matt Murdock is up to the challenge.

There has been a lot of justified praise going around about this artistic team. Bruiser’s look is great, and I love the way Marcos Martin draws the five villain reps in their fighting togs. I’m not usually a big one for coloring, but the bright, primary colors permeating this issue tell the story almost as well as the dialogue. This is great work from Muntsa Vicente.

This is the best comic on the stands!


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hulk: Scorched Earth TPB

I shouldn’t be surprised, but once again Jeff Parker’s story has left a smile on my face.

Jeph Loeb’s uneven (but fun) Red Hulk epic went on too long and never totally made sense, but it seems it left behind a few new viable characters. Thunderbolt Ross was always a jerk but seeing him red and Hulked out has added a lot to him. The best part about the first few issues in this trade is that it is one long run of folks getting revenge. Loeb really let Rulk go crazy through the Marvel U; Parker makes him pay the piper.

In the first issue, it’s Iron Man, next up is Thor, then the Watcher, followed by the Sub-Mariner. Each of these guys got punked a bit, but Parker lets each of them wail on Rulk for a bit to re-establish their cred. Thor’s is the best; Iron Man has some legit reasons to beat on Ross, Thor doesn’t exactly have that excuse.

The overarching plot that drives Rulk (and Rick Jones as A-Bomb) is the doomsday plan left in place by the Leader and MODOK should their Intelligencia fall. Since it did at the close of Loeb’s run, it’s up to Banner to put together a team to clean up the mess. There are some nice tie-ins to Parker’s Thunderbolts, the biggest being the reveal of Monster Island. Every comics company needs some reason to have some kaiju/giant monsters lurking around, so this just makes sense.

Gabriel Hardman continues to impress me with his beautiful artwork. His use of blacks is among the best in the business, along with Chris Samnee and Francesco Francavilla. He gets to design some epic new monsters and his new MODOK is wonderful. I’m a huge MODOK fan; I can recognize when a new design pays respect to the classics while still being modern. This book is gorgeous.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Swamp Thing #4

Who would have thought that this random pick-up in the new 52 would end up one of the last comics standing on my DC sublist? Scott Snyder has impressed the heck out of me the way he’s writing a Vertigo title in the mainstream DCU. Best of all, he’s done it while repeatedly referencing that yes, Alec Holland and Swamp Thing have a past. See DC, it’s not a bad thing for your characters to actually have done things before, there are still good stories out there!

We’ve seen the “legacy” deal many times before; I’m not blown away that there have been previous Swamp Things out to protect the Green from the Rot. However, I’m absolutely tickled by the idea that before humans were the dominant species, we had Swamp Mudskippers and Swamp Dinosaurs. That’s a level of madness I can truly appreciate (especially when rendered so well by Yanick Paquette on that cover!)

Marco Rudy does his best, and it really doesn’t fall that short from Paquette’s work. The closing shot of the Rot’s next round of creatures is truly disturbing, lending a real chill to the close of the issue. His work on Alec Holland and Abigail Arcane is strong too, and I’m shocked how good he is drawing tumors blasting out of people’s mouths. You’d think that skill would take longer to refine.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Avenging Spider-Man #2

Oh, digital copy, you make all the difference. Those $3.99 titles that seemed so untouchable are just about worth it when I get a digital copy to go along with the print. No need to buy an eventual TPB if the story is already on my tablet.

Zeb Wells continues to put together a fast-paced and entertaining story in this month’s Marvel Team-Up. It’s always tough using an established villain like Mole Man to show how tough a new baddie is (like this issue’s ruler of Subterranea), but Wells walks the line well. Clearly, Mole Man is still the favorite of his moloids and some of his monsters, but these new guys are definitely the bigger threat right now.

J. Jonah Jameson has as many lines of dialogue as the Red Hulk, and arguably just as big a role in the story. Spidey hasn’t had a ton to do in this one besides crack jokes and make fun of Rulk, so JJJ’s presence keeps this feeling like a Spider-Man comic. I’m not sure if these new guys have staying power, but laying down a beatdown on Red Hulk as decisively as Rak’Tar does this issue. (Ol’ Raky needs an easier to remember name, though.)

Joe Madureira’s art is still fun, and he still excels at drawing monsters. There’s a part of me that wishes we had a few more costumed heroes here, because I love his blend of manga and Western art, but seeing Spidey in that style does scratch the itch. It’s also worth noting that the new subterranean language looks fantastic when rendered digitally, the stone letterboxes almost glow on that black background.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Comics on the Bubble: Daredevil #508-511

Well, now I know why Black Tarantula never showed up again in Shadowland.

I picked these up for a dollar, and that’s about what they’re worth. I always say that Daredevil is not one of my favorite characters, yet I own a lot of DD comics. Well, DD may not be a fave, but he is at least a good plot-mover. When DD is off plotting, Dakota North and Foggy Nelson can’t keep the book moving with any momentum.

I usually like Andy Diggle, but this isn’t his best work. Roberto De La Torre’s art has improved a lot over the years.

Daredevil #508 – DD’s friends try to cope with his murder of Bullseye in the core series. Sell.
DD #509 – Luke Cage and Iron Fist try to talk some sense into their friend, but leave most of their dialogue in the core series. Sell
DD #510 – Elektra gets involved and we see how she got wrapped up into the main series. White Tiger gets some panel time too. Sell
DD #511 – So I guess Black Tarantula is actually dead? Weird choice. Too much time with the NYC cop. Sell

Final count: SELL DD #508-511

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hellboy: The Bride of Hell & Others TPB

I've been waiting for Hellboy in Mexico for a long time. Mike Mignola talks about the convention card he drew years ago that inspired the story, and yeah, I've got one. I believe it was a Chicago con, if I remember correctly.

In any case, factor in monster-fighting luchadores with some beautiful Richard Corben art and this first story was just fantastic. I really hope there are some follow-ups on the way, either featuring the surviving luchadores OR the bat-monster dude. Just more Hellboy in Mexico! Corben does a great job with the wrestling moves too; this is a fun issue.

Double Features of Evil has the kind of high-concept BPRD case that I wish we could see more of. With Hellboy's own path in sort of a weird place these days, I relish these chances to see glimpses of his old cases. And that haunted house story! Wonderful!

The Sleeping and the Dead is surprisingly sad, given the amount of smashing and vampire-punching involved. Mignola provides a pretty neat explanation why there aren't many blood-suckers in his world. Heck, when they do pop up, Hellboy just kills them anyway. I also liked seeing some more random field agents in this story. The BPRD is staffed by government shlubs who know about monsters. They're not so good at killing them, but at least they know monsters exist!

Richard Corben returns for the Bride of Hell. Another fantastic short story featuring Hellboy's background at the BPRD. It's always neat seeing Hellboy mix it up with crusaders and religious nuts, so I dug this one too.

Buster Oakley gets his wish is just plain silliness. That's what I used to love about Hellboy in the beginning. It was fun seeing him bust heads when reality wasn't on the line! Kevin Nowlan handles the fun art and horror mix perfectly.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Steve Rogers: Super Soldier TPB

Let me put it this way, any story featuring Machinesmith is going to at least get a “Fair.” It’s an unfair advantage, but c’mon, that guy is awesome!

Ed Brubaker sometimes surprises me with these classic-feeling Cap stories. With so many espionage, “adult” feeling storylines, I forget how well Brubaker writes kooky Cap stories. I expect Machinesmith from Roger Stern and Mark Gruenwald, I’m pleasantly surprised when we get him from Brubaker.

Steve’s “Commander Rogers” persona isn’t quite as cool as Captain America, but the return of the photonic shield is welcome. That’s a neat mid-90s concept that works as well now as it did then. Brubaker includes some nice fights too (greatly realized by Dale Eaglesham’s pencils). There aren’t strong flunkies for Steve to whip up on, but I’m sated by the great use of Machinesmith’s googly eyes and extending arms.

I was pretty impressed by Dale Eaglesham’s Cap in the opening chapters. Steve was a hulking dude, looking like the Hulk about to bust out of both his normal uniform and his fancy tuxedo. Well it turns out that was a choice; when Steve loses the super-soldier serum he seems even smaller and weaker because he’s been a looming powerhouse for the whole series so far.

I also liked Machinesmith’s ridiculous identity as the head of security. His cover identity looked just as much like a super-villain as his normal body! Is that the most inconspicuous he can be?


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Shadowland TPB

Wow, I’d heard that this was a below-average story, but this was brutal. I’m glad I waited for the big discount, but this probably should have been a library rental.

Daredevil is the ostensible villain here, but he’s never believable. I usually like Andy Diggle’s writing, but this had a ton of posturing and debate that never made it believable that DD would turn evil. This book tries to have the street-level heroes face down against the DD-controlled Hand, but it just doesn’t work.

I was actually interested while the story focused on DD dealing with Bullseye once and for all, but that was only for an issue. After that, we are supposed to accept the hordes of Hand ninjas as a legitimate threat to the street-Avengers who show up. But let me remind everyone of the ninja rule (also works as a robot or zombie rule): The more there are, the weaker they look. With a ton of ninjas bouncing around off light poles, I never worried for a moment that Luke Cage or Iron Fist would be hurt. Heck, the heroes agree to team-up with the Punisher! I don’t buy that either!

And it is not like there weren’t bad guys around! Kingpin and Lady Bullseye spent the whole series chatting! How about they bust some heads; this is the climax, right?

As a longtime DD reader, I was anxious to see the resolution to the Black Tarantula and White Tiger mind-control story arc, but that’s not here either. Maybe it is resolved in the DD trade?

I’m not a huge Billy Tan fan. His art is clear, but the Marc Silvestri influence just doesn’t do it for me. I did like the expanding horns on DD’s head as he loses control, but at that point I was so disappointed in Shadowland’s true villain (who appears out of nowhere) that I couldn’t make myself care.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Gunslinger: Little Sisters of Eluria HC

Now this is more like it! I was really disappointed with the last Gunslinger trade, it had storytelling problems and really didn't flesh out anything new or interesting in the tale Roland the last gunslinger. This story does not share those weaknesses.

The Dark Tower series works best (in the novel Wizard & Glass, I think) when the reader is shown glimpses of the expansive Mid-World, but never given a complete explanation. Why are so many elements of the "real" world mixed in? When does each part of the story take place? We just don't know. Little Sisters is full of those little glimpses of the familiar but it's all stirred up with those weird elements that Stephen King mastered years ago.

This collection has some great shots of the slow mutants, the ever-present threat to humanity that's only a step above a zombie. It's great seeing the kinder, gentler Roland try to reason with these creatures before he starts blowing them away. Eluria itself has all the hallmarks of a classic Mid-World town, with a church to the Man Jesus and a red cross painted on the tent outside town.

I don't like it when it feels like Roland is the last person around, too, and that definitely isn't the case here. The Little Sisters are currently working on a small group of drovers and bodyguards, and some of them actually get some dialogue, so once again it feels like Roland is a part of a bigger world. Sure, that world has moved on, but the remnants of civilization are still there. Heck, that's what makes the slow mutants and the little sisters so scary; if it was just monsters left it would be easier for Roland to give up.

The Little Sisters are pretty cool. They seem ok on the surface, but they've got a nice King grossness to them. The Dark Tower on their chests provides a link to the greater mythology, but of course, it is never explained. It doesn't need to be; these gross ladies just want to consume the liquids of their prisoners. Does it really matter why?

And of course, this story has that classic element of lost love, too. Roland has loved and lost a lot over the years. I think each trade should be required to have a sad connection for the gunslinger.

Luke Ross does a great job on the pencils for this story. In fact, I think his work might be the best fit for this series so far. It still looks and feels like a comic, but Richard Isanove's color palette keeps everything solidly rooted in the Dark Tower universe. The slow mutants look wonderful, the sisters are creepy, and Roland looks like a movie-hero. I do picture the gunslinger hand-cannons a bit bigger, but maybe that's just me.

This is one of the best Dark Tower books so far.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Shadowland: Thunderbolts TPB

I finally caught up with the missing issues of Thunderbolts. Too bad the trade had to tie-in with the average Shadowland crossover. Fortunately Jeff Parker is a good enough writer to connect where he needs to, but still focus on his more interesting core plot.

The first few issues are a great showcase for Juggernaut, Crossbones, Moonstone, and the other evil members of the Tbolts. Crossbones has been a favorite of mine for a long time, and seeing him fighting so effectively with his new powers is pretty awesome. I love his callous murder too; it’s totally pointless and totally in character.

Then the Avengers come to visit. Steve Rogers, Thor, Luke Cage and Iron Man show up to take Ghost, Juggernaut, and Crossbones on a mission. Of course, things go wrong when Ghost inserts himself into Man-Things teleporting path. It’s a nice little character piece (featuring a hilarious talking frog) where each of the characters gets to flex their muscles and learn a little about themselves at the same time. The highlight has got to be how Iron Man takes out Ghost.

Ghost is the star of the final issue too, when he tells Moonstone his origin. It’s suitably tragic, making a fascinating character even more riveting.

Kev Walker and Declan Shalvey share the art duties and do a great job keeping things consistent. When Thor finally meets up with Troll, Walker does a tremendous job telegraphing the shock, but it’s still a great delivery when it happens. The design on that little frog man is wonderful too; too bad he has such a tragic end!


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Aquaman #3

The poor king of the seas can't catch a break. After he and Mera are sort of overwhelmed by the Trench, the cops are quite understanding. Geoff Johns is really pushing the point, but I love seeing that the cops don't blame Aquaman for failing to stop the deep sea creatures. They know he did his best; it just wasn't good enough.

No wonder Aquaman is always angry! I guess he's got other reasons too, including a weirdo scientist from his past that he turns to in order to find out more about the Trench. I'm a little surprised Aquaman couldn't make some of these leaps of logic himself. Stephen Shin is an interesting character, one that I'm sure we'll see again, but could Aquaman not tell that these guys came from deep water? Or that they need a lot of energy to survive? Not a huge issue, just odd.

I also love the way Johns is using Mera. She's powerful and capable, but she's still learning things about Aquaman, making her a great POV character for the reader.

This issue felt like it had a lot more bang for its buck, and that's due to how Ivan Reis laid out the issue. The book opens with a thrilling action sequence then follows it up with some drama-laden exposition. The whole thing leads nicely into a good cliff-hanger for next issue.