Monday, October 31, 2011

Walking Dead #90 & Walking Dead on AMC

At this point, what can I say? Robert Kirkman ties up a lot of the threads that were loose after the confrontations last issue, but no one is fooled into thinking the situation is much better. Rick is still close to losing it, as is most of his crew. There is still a ton of division in the Community, even if the first folks to cause problems might be calming down.

These issues are so important, because we need to see as many faces and personalities as we can. The zombies aren't as scary if we aren't concerned for the survivors, and Kirkman's last big kill-off narrowed our cast significantly. I do like getting to meet more folks in the Community. Where's Eugene been hanging out? Surely that tubby voyeur is up to something?

I also figured I'd weigh in on the Walking Dead TV show. Three episodes in, and it is just as uneven as last year. I find the characterization of the ladies on the show to be quite weak, with Andrea and Lori being just about total whiners. Maybe I wouldn't care if I didn't know how tough Andrea is in the comics, but seeing her whine and cry those suicidal arguments makes it difficult to like her. Dale and Glenn are steady, of course, but they really haven't had much to do. I love Darryl, the redneck exterminator. That dude is in a different show than everyone else; you can just watch Norman Reedus having fun thunking those CGI arrows. Maggie is another character with a ton of potential. I like how she's tougher on the show than in the comic. (My wife was immediately amused at her pairing up with Glenn.)

My main problem with the show is still with the core three characters. Rick is still to reactionary and frankly, weak. He took some strong action to save Sophia is episode 1, but even then he didn't really have the group too prepared. Shane tried to rape Lori last season, and she justifiably told him to stay away from her and her family. Makes sense. So why is she chiding him for his distance from Carl and then asking him to stick around? It's crazy. She knows what a loose cannon he is, and Shane's actions this week certainly won't endear him to the viewers. I feel like they can't quite decide who Shane is, a good guy making tough choices or a total scumbag. At this point, I don't see how the scales could come out with anything but "scumbag."

The zombie scenes are still fun, even though many of the tight spots the survivors get in is due to their own poor planning. Shane's lack of an escape plan from the medical trailer... seriously? Just thought you'd walk right out of there, huh?

The show is still exciting and fun to watch, I just don't want it to become "24" fun to watch, where I laugh at the characters and their motivations even as I enjoy the adrenalin-boosting scenes.

Comic - Good
TV show - Fair

Sunday, October 30, 2011

She-Hulks TPB

I really, really want to love this book. I’m a big She-Hulk fan, and while I don’t love “Savage” quite as much, the idea of the two She-Hulks teaming up to hunt down criminals certainly has potential. Unfortunately, this trade was just ok, as it never quite met its potential.

Harrison Wilcox chooses to spend more time with Lyra the “Savage” She- Hulk getting adjusted to school, which I suppose is fine, but I really came to the book looking for the Jennifer Walters version. It was a nice move having Walters hook up with Wyatt Wingfoot again, they are a good couple, but I didn’t care for the fact that the two ladies spend so much time shopping and spending Bruce Banner’s money (and trying to be sneaky about it).

The story is a bit stronger when it comes to the villains. Letting the She-Hulks take down so many villains in so few issues (Trapster, Red Ghost, Wizard, and more) is a pretty good win record. And it does make sense that Jennifer Walters would be good at this sort of thing, being a former bail bondsman. It’s just that I like her better as a lawyer.

Ryan Stegman’s art is fun and cartoony, and he certainly does enjoy drawing pretty ladies (a requirement for this book). His Red Ghost is a bit weird, but I loved his take on the Wizard. I also dig the way Savage always looks like a maniac whenever she gets in a fight, a nice contrast with Jennifer Walters.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Heroes for Hire: Control TPB

"Hello hero. This is Control. Are you for hire tonight?" I love that opening scene, mostly because artist Brad Walker does a great job flashing back to The Warriors, that sweet gang movie from the '70s. I never would have thought to put Misty Knight in this sort of role, but she does really well with it.

Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are well-known for their cosmic stories these days, but their street-level kung-fu is strong too. Rather than put together an odd crew of street level heroes and making them into a regular team, this title actually only has two characters appear every issue. Misty Knight is Control, drafting heroes in the Marvel U, using money or the mission to inspire action. The cast is pretty varied, and they never actually show up and work together as a unit. Paladin is a bit more heroic in his portrayal here, but he's still got that mercenary streak. Moon Knight, Elektra, and Silver Sable show up for some money too, but Ghost Rider, Falcon, and Black Widow are all inspired by the mission rather than a pay-off. Iron Fist and Punisher show up too, but they don't get recruited quite the same way...

As we expect from DnA, the book is filled with off-the-wall ideas (like soul-powered rifles) and old characters we haven't seen in awhile. I particularly enjoyed seeing Silver Sable again, she's a neat character who doesn't get much time in the sun.

And who could complain about the secret villain pulling everyone's strings? I half-thought this guy was dead, I thought he bought it in Ms. Marvel's book a few years ago, but I'm not going to complain. He's a great villain and he's creepy and effective in this title.

Brad Walker doesn't get to do the whole book, but the chapters he handles look fantastic. If you like the idea of Moon Knight versus a raptor, this is the book for you, cause it looks every bit as good as you'd hope. Robert Atkins handles some art too, and he's fine, but after Walker's brilliant pages, it's a rough comparison.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Secret Avengers: Mission to Mars TPB

Explain to me why the "covert" team of Avengers is going on the most classic-style adventure of any of the Avengers titles? Using the classic Marvel serpent crown? It's a secret team yet it stars a bulkier Iron Man, Lady Thor, and a blue furry cat-man. Am I the crazy one here?

Don't get me wrong, these aren't complaints. I'm thrilled that Ed Brubaker put together this well-rounded team of heroes and set them off after the storied serpent crown. I would have loved for Nova to have a bigger role on the team; as it is, he botches one mission then jets back off for the Thanos Imperative. It's too bad, Richard Ryder would be a good fit on the Avengers, I just think Brubaker probably didn't need all that firepower. Brubaker has his big guns covered with Valkyrie (Mike Deodato likes her big guns too. War Machine brings a lot of muscle too, although I'm not a huge fan of "angry" War Machine, even though that's how Jim Rhodes was portrayed in his most recent series.

The more espionage-y members fill out the roster nicely. Ant-Man is the new Hawkeye, trying to prove his worth while still retaining his silliness. Black Widow is Steve Rogers' right-hand gal in the field, while Sharon Carter fills that role at home. Moon Knight is crazy, but there isn't really time for his madness to manifest in these pages, he does a good job of staying on task and doing his job. I loved how Mike Deodato took Moonie's cowl off on the space-suit version of the costume.

Deodato's art is always dynamic and fun, the guy draws great explosions. He also gets to draw some titanic chests on Valkyrie, Sharon Carter, and Black Widow. Seriously, I think Val might be able to open doors from a few feet away. At least all three get to kick a lot of butt, so they aren't just pin-ups in the book. I also loved Deodato's space-costumes for the team. Steve Rogers, Moon Knight, and Black Widow were especially cool.

This feels more like "classic" Avengers than most anything published recently. A good trade for those who miss the madness of 1980's Marvel.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Aquaman #2

Goodness, these 20 page comics feel awfully short, don't they? I even like the use of dramatic splash pages, but when there are only 20 pages total, losing 4 or 5 to splashes kind of stinks. I enjoyed this issue, but it was over very quickly.

I actually like the way Geoff Johns is filling out Aquaman's world. Mera seems kinder and more interested in AM than I can remember ever seeing; it's nice seeing them as an almost contented couple. I mean, when we jump in on them this issue, they are looking through old photo albums together! Mera can still kick butt as needed too, her water-manipulation powers are put to good use when she finally gets some monsters to fight towards the end of the issue.

Teh Trench are a lot of fun, with hunger seeming to be their main motivator. The idea of each fish-man being able to mark his own food is a novel idea too. I'm not sure I buy that such a huge force of first responders would miss a boat full of carniverous fish-men, but it certainly makes for a dramatic scene.

Ivan Reis is doing a great job on art, he's become remarkably consistent. I really like the subtle differences in faces amongst his cast. I'm going to need a bit more differentiation on the Trench, though. I get that the one guy has some sort of weird spikes, but that's not much individuality to go on.

Good (but not a great value, I have to say)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Captain America Corps #5

While I enjoyed this series overall, the conclusion is a bit too filled with cosmic mumbo jumbo.

The book opens with another neat shift in reality where we see the Beast mutate to his furry form and Ulysses Bloodstone turn into a skeleton (time to re-read Bloodstone Hunt!). I'm not sure the narration boxes were entirely necessary, surely most readers could get the reality shift idea without that level of explanation?

I'm also a bit confused why Roger Stern included Hank Pym and the Tony Stark brain elements of the story. The two characters never really do much, and everything wraps up quite nicely without them ever justifying their page count. Was this supposed to be a six issue series and it got cut?

The story really ends when Cap allows himself to be merged with one of the alternate Caps kidnapped earlier in the series. It seems they've been stored in a cosmic cube, and all Cap needed to do was let himself merge with one to restore all the alternate Caps to their own realities. Uhh, what?

I love the idea of a Cap Corps, but what did the group really accomplish by the end of this series? Too bad these guys aren't contemporaries in the Marvel U, because the group works well together. American Dream in particular would be a fun character to keep around.

Phil Briones' art has tightened up as the series went on. By the time this issue wraps up, he's almost looking Rik Levins-ish, giving the whole project a nice "classic Cap" feel.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Green Lantern Corps #2

Nah, this shouldn't be bloody at all...

Peter Tomasi loves his blood and guts, but he keeps most of his ultra-violence confined to his namesake Green Lantern in this second issue of GLC. Unlike the first issue, the Corps is actually competent enough to arrive in time to fight off some of the crazy murderers from issue one. And this time, the whole planet isn't quite dead yet. I love that kind of competence in my heroes!

Tomasi does a great job giving each of the GLs a voice. We certainly don't spend as much quality time with John Stewart or Guy Gardner, but we get more dialogue from Hannu, Isamot, and the sheriff GL (there's one more, but I just call him "shoulder pads, he's the one who'll die in this story). Actually, I don't like sheriff GL's chances either, she has casualty written all over her, too.

Fernando Pasarin doesn't have much to do with the faceless mass of "will-killers" so he makes up for it with the GLs. They all look unique; I love his T-Rex-looking Isamot. And the constructs work nicely too. It makes sense that when Hannu actually has to use his ring, he just makes a big Hannu. I like that kind of simple-minded ring-slinging! The detail on every page is just wonderful, I think I might have to try and buy a piece of this original art if I can find it.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Batman #2

Is it just me, or do these new 52 titles feel really short? It just seems like very little happens every month, and each of these titles takes less than 5 minutes to read. I didn't think I'd be veering back towards trades so soon, but I may have to; I just can't justify these 20 page comics!

I actually like Scott Snyder's second issue, it's got a lot of fun Bat-moments mixed up in his greater plot. The book opens with a great helicopter chase where Bats is in pursuit on some elevated train tracks. This is great high-concept stuff, this whole sequence belongs in a movie. Greg Capullo knocks it out of the park, too, especially the moment where Batman yanks one of the crooks out through the chopper window.

All of Capullo's faces seem a bit too young. It makes the scene on Gotham Tower a bit strange, because I'm not sure how old Bruce Wayne is supposed to be in relation to the not-at-all suspicious Lincoln March. I'm sure Lincoln is just a nice, trustworthy addition to Gotham high society, not a new villain at all (wink wink). I mean, these guys look like clones of each other!

The brutal fist-fight is neat. Snyder fills the narration boxes with details about Batman's fighting style, pointing out that he has to fight as Bruce Wayne and make his hits look lucky. It's a great detail in an issue full of them. The other highlight is, of course, the whole deal with Nightwing's alibi for last issue's murder.

If you like Batman, you can't go wrong with this comic.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

GI Joe vol 5 TPB

I’ve got a bit of a problem here. I always like Chuck Dixon’s work, and I want to support this book, but why would I read about a re-booted and re-imagined GI Joe team when Larry Hama is doing such a kick-butt job on the Real American Hero title?

This trade is advertised as the concluding chapter of the “first story” in Dixon’s run on the title, and all that makes me think is “wow, this has been pretty slow.” It has been around 25 issues to see Cobra set up the Mass Device and get it working, and then Snake Eyes and Helix promptly wreck the plan in two issues. I’m not a ninja fan to begin with, so making those two cool kids the heroes who get the win annoys me. I was hopeful when the original strike team was put together (including Cover Girl, Low Light, and Flint) but then it all comes down to ninjas. Hooray.

The pacing seems very confused here too. Why have all those issues with the Joes capturing a Viper, then set that guy up in jail to get info, when it all didn’t matter anyway? The Joes just jumped back to the Mass Device anyway! I’ve got to think the more driven GI Joe: Cobra title’s big conclusion shook up the plot for this book. Frankly, this core title needed the kick in the pants. The opening story had drawn out way too long, with way too many side-missions and quests leading up to the Joes even discovering Cobra exists.

I’m not sure if I’ll pick up the next chapter of the rebooted GI Joe universe. I’m very interested in the Cobra in-fighting for leadership, and maybe this will kick the pacing in this book into higher gear. But at this point, I want to see some good reviews, because as I said, the Real American Hero title is scratching my GI Joe itch.

Robert Atkins is back on art for this whole trade, and I’m glad. His figures can be a tad stiff, but he’s fantastic at modernizing the classic figures’ looks. I still say that the Joes spend too much time in generic, matching clothing. With a few exceptions, I can’t tell the characters apart without their distinctive outfits. (That’s been one of my main complaints about this series for years.)


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Secret Avengers #16

Is it me, or is Moon Knight a bit off this issue? It's not that I don't like it, Warren Ellis sets up a neat situation that would fit in nicely in Planetary or Global Frequency, then sends in a fast-talking bunch of Avengers to deal with it. It just seems a bit like this is Ellis' idea of how these particular Avengers act, rather than what they actually do.

Now I haven't read any other issues of Secret Avengers, but Moon Knight isn't super-strong, right? He can't crash through the hood of a car and not get hurt, correct? And can he fly now? He certainly does it a lot this issue.

Cap gets a weird little gun that shoots knockout razors. I think it's a funny affectation for non-lethal methods considering how the story ends, but it does make sense. Steve Rogers doesn't go out of his way to kill anyone.

The Beast sounds great; he's intelligent and smart-alecky at the same time. I loved the reaction shots of his teammates as he lectures them about the villain.

Not surprisingly, Ellis' best take is on the Black Widow. She's confident and capable, but there is a fun side to her in this issue that I found quite enjoyable. Who knew she loved muscle cars?

Jamie McKelvie is ready to make the switch to super-hero comics. The action looks great and he even makes the generic Secret Empire thugs look interesting. Get this guy a regular gig!


Friday, October 21, 2011

Avengers #18

So as I reshuffle my sublist, I figured it was time to check back in with Brian Michael Bendis' Avengers. It's funny, I complained yesterday about Justice League's brevity and splash pages, but this issue is worse. There is a lot more action in DC's flagship title too, although I do get that this is a breather issue between storylines.

One thing that became immediately obvious is that I really do like the Marvel U more than DC. It was refreshing to see Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, and the rest of the gang, even if they were just standing around at a party. I didn't read Fear Itself, so I'm lost on what exactly happened, but it seems rough. I love how Bendis writes Spidey in these maudlin circumstances. His Spidey is always joking and making light of the problem, even in inappropriate situations like this. Luke Cage doesn't get much panel time, but Bendis has a great handle on him too.

The bulk of the issue deals with the aftermath of big Marvel events. Bendis is fascinated with people holding the Avengers responsible for the actions of all heroes. The SHIELD agent who anchors the book doesn't say much, but when she does speak, she sure sounds like Wonder Man did in that preview for the New Avengers annual.

Daniel Acuna's art is still an inspiration to me. I absolutely love his fusion of Jack Kirby and Alex Ross. I even like that stupid new Hawkeye outfit!

So yeah, if this was $2.99, I'd definitely stick around to see the new HAMMER alliance. That group of villains at the close looks great! But $3.99 for 20 pages? With 6 spashes? (And a ton of dialogue-less pages too.) I can't do it.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Justice League #2

So here's the deal: if DC's top-tier books are going to $3.99 just like Marvel, I can't really make my sublist DC-exclusive anymore, can I? I had been skipping Marvel books that I actually like MORE than DC titles because of the price difference. But with every comic feeling so light right now, regardless of price point, I'm shuffling up my list.

On to JL #2.

I had to read that splash page two or three times (and it didn't take long, there weren't a lot of words). Are you seriously telling me that last issue cliff-hangered with Batman vs. Superman, and this issue opens with the fight OVER? And we see all sorts of crazy stuff from Bats' utility belt that probably would have been neat to see, and it HAPPENED OFF PANEL? WHAT?

This is the "origin of the DCnU," yet Green Lantern and Flash teamed up to take out Gorilla Grodd AND IT HAPPENED OFF PANEL? WHAT?

Bats just emptied his utility belt against Supes, but when GL and Flash try to give him a breather, Batman starts with the "we're just trying to talk, Superman!" Why didn't you say that before you used all your utility-belt toys, Bats? This comic makes no sense!

I sure hope that Cyborg doesn't go straight into the JL after having his origin this issue, because that essentially wipes out the entire New Titans history, right?

The thing is, this comic is fine as a reboot. I liked the Superman takedown of the overconfident Flash. Green Lantern is pretty enjoyable as a doofus in way over his head. Batman trying to earn his place in this group of deviants is fun too. I'm not sure why the DCU hates the new heroes, but ok, they're mutants now, fine. And Jim Lee's art continues to be fun and dynamic. The constructs look great, and Flash's new costume doesn't make my eyes bleed like I thought it would.


This clearly is a whole new DCU, except that the creators are keeping little bits and pieces of old stories. And they are skipping pretty dang important chapters even in the origin titles. I just can't get behind this random approach to storytelling. The funny thing is, I will probably still follow core titles like JL, Batman, and Action Comics. But my interest in the fringes of the DCU, all those elements that were my favorite before the relaunch? I couldn't care less about them now.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Resurrection Man #2

Well, at least Mitch Shelley seems to be competent this issue! No mass bystander deaths or other examples of poor heroics.

It's interesting that DnA said this is essentially "Ultimate Resurrection Man" because it does seem to be one of the more clear-cut reboots. Although, with Mitch an amnesiac, I suppose the old series could have happened...

Mitch is on the trail of his Dad, who died a year ago, making any kind of reconnection difficult. Fortunately an old friend of his father's is willing to help Mitch take a look around. I'm a little suspicious of this guy, and that has nothing to do with his former occupation. He just seems a little too willing to go out there for a relative stranger. Isn't someone from the "other office" on Mitch's trail like that weird angel lady is for the office upstairs?

I did like Fernando Dagnino's happy rest home. This isn't Bubba Ho-Tep, everyone is smiling and life seems pretty good. Of course, being the DCnU, all the residents will probably get blown apart by the Body Doubles next issue! Some of the faces do seem uneven this issue, with the Doubles almost looking photo-realistic, then a little more sketchy. It's not bad, but not quite as tight as the first issue, art-wise.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Green Lantern #2

Thank goodness for the brief memories of comic books.

I'm not sure I can even remember all the horrific things that Sinestro did while leading his Fear Corps, but I find it hilarious that he's sort of cleaned up to the point of facing down his old crew now. I'm not complaining, I think Sinestro is about 100 times more interesting than Hal Jordan as a GL, and as we see this issue, he's about a hundred times more effective too! Hal spends too much time hitting on ladies and dealing with things on a small scale. Sinestro shows off just why he's the better Lantern, and it does make me wonder about which guy would be a better protector for the DCU.

As for the meta-plot, I have to admit Geoff Johns is on to a genius idea. With the Guardians revoking Hal's ring, we have seen he's a mess. But here comes Sinestro with a great deal; he gives Hal that new ring, but he is going to approve or disapprove of what Hal does with it. It gives Hal back his powers, but now he's in the pocket of someone even more dangerous than the Guardians! Great move.

Doug Mahnke continues to excel in the GL corner of the DCnU. The way he differentiates between Hal's mundane and simple constructs and the alien complexity of Sinestro's is wonderful. He's also avoiding a bunch of those unnecessary grooves and plates that are so prevalent in all the reboot titles.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Black Panther #524

So I haven't been reading Spider-Island, but I think I can get the gist of it after reading this issue of Black Panther. (It seems like a fun idea, at least!)

I'm a tad worried about David Liss' overall plot in this book, since we've had four or five issues of tie-ins now. I understand the need to get new eyeballs on this book to raise sales, but I'd like to see T'Challa's own story moving forward a tad more. There are definitely seeds laid here, with Kingpin involved in both Hell's Kitchen and in more Black Panther-based interests.

The strongest aspect of this issue is how powerful BP seems to be right now. Overdrive is the POV character, so perhaps we're seeing a more impressive version of T'Challa, but man, BP is in control for this entire issue. There is literally nothing that Lady Bullseye or Overdrive can do to try and stop the Panther. I love it. If Liss keeps writing him this way, BP really will be Marvel's Batman.

The Spider-Island aspects of the story didn't really add anything, but they didn't ruin the issue either. I would have preferred a normal, two-armed BP, but whatever.

Francesco Francavilla's art has seemed a tad rushed these last few issues. The art in general seems huge or something. Not bad, the style and shadows that make Francavilla's art so dynamic are all there, but there is even less detail than normal. That said, the fantastic cover makes up for just about any faults in this comic. Do you know how long it has been since I saw a cover that actually showed me what happened in the issue? Awesome!


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Invincible #83

This issue of the returning rogues storyline focuses on Magmaniac and Tether, two of the more amusing and less powerful of Invincible's foes. It's always fun seeing Robert Kirkman flesh out his world, and this storyline is giving him ample opportunities for that.

The whole Guardians of the Globe party is a great example. We know that something happened with Monster Girl (now in control of her powers) and Robot, but who knows what it could be. It's neat seeing Robot in the subservient/weaker position, reversing his normal standing in this comic. It is frustrating that the Guardians title hasn't finished yet. With Titan's appearance and the Guardians celebrating their win, clearly this takes place after that series wraps. Oh well.

I'm still amused by Atom Eve, she seems to be quite happy. She and Mark Grayson seem to be really happy; it's nice seeing a comic couple enjoying their lives and actually getting along. I'm sure there will be drama later, but it's a nice picture of a non-dysfunctional relationship. (Compare the interaction in this issue with the Catwoman/Batman scene from Catwoman #1.)

Ryan Ottley, like most of Kirkman's artists, is the picture of consistency. He's a fantastic artist, his take on the Guardians is fantastic. How cool is Monster Girl's new "human" costume? And the dramatic return shot at the close of Tether's rampage implies a huge battle, just one we don't get to see.


Saturday, October 15, 2011


Another, fun, light issue of OMAC.

It is interesting how Dan DiDio and Keith Giffen are developing the central character in this comic. Kevin Kho actually shows up this month, but really, he doesn't do a whole lot. He's so thoroughly controlled by Brother Eye that he makes no choices for himself. Every reaction he has in this comic is set up by Brother Eye's manipulation. With Kho taking such a backseat in moving the plot, it's a good thing that this issue features Sarge Steel, Amazing Man, and Maxwell Lord. Amazing Man has the most lines, but he's also the guy with the least input on the overall plot. He's pretty likable, so I'm happy there is potential that he'll show up again.

The art is still amazing, with Keith Giffen channeling Jack Kirby in some great ways. Maxwell Lord never really rocked that whole Prussian formal-wear look that Kirby liked, but he does now! Sarge Steel and Checkmate are looking decidedly retro too.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Demon Knights #2

What a weird occurrence. Paul Cornell's two series in the DCnU have essentially swapped places with the second issue. Stormwatch #1 was disappointing and was redeemed by a stronger second book, and Demon Knights roared out of the gate then largely stalls in this issue.

There is plenty to like in this book; Vandal Savage has the makings of a great comedic character, a hungry barbarian with a shadowy past seems pretty easy to sell. I also like the new Amazonian gal who runs around in a tiny top smashing bad guys. Sir Ystin is pretty fun, because while she seems to be keen to hide her gender, everyone she interacts with clearly knows she's a lady knight. That's a pretty good ratio of interesting characters.

The inventor and horsewoman haven't had enough panel time for me to form an opinion yet, but they seem fine.

The problems rest with Madame Xanadu and the Demon. Etrigan is not the same guy we've seen before, and in fact, there seems to be very little connecting him to either Kirby's take or the more modern rhyming approach I'm more familiar with. If he was a brilliant new character, that might be ok, but he seems to be a tough-talking, self-centered type. That's a hard lead to anchor a book to. Xanadu is odd too; I like seeing her taking a more active hand than she did in her Vertigo series, but I sure don't understand her power levels.

The plot barely moves from where we were in the first issue. I need a bit more of a conflict to sink my teeth into to stay interested. Morgan Le Fey and Mordru have the potential to work, but I just don't know enough about them yet. I will say I'm digging the amount of dialogue that random bystanders and townspeople are spouting!

Diogenes Neves' art is a bit uneven. Some panels look fantastic and detailed while some look very rushed. Not sure how that monthly deadline is going to look in a couple more months.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Batman & Robin #2

Look at Damian on that cover. Do you see how excited he is to be roaring around in the Batmobile? That's what I want from my comics, heroes who actually dig what they are doing. This came out the same week as a cover I found absolutely laughable.

The Absolute Identity Crisis front cover has Zatanna, Hawkman, Green Arrow, and more just standing around looking mopey. Ugh. Who wants that? While the other half works, I had to laugh at it in the shop.

Anyway, B&R was one of the strongest debuts last month, and Peter Tomasi keeps it up this month. He's exploring the relationship between Damian and Bruce Wayne more than any other writer so far, even Grant Morrison. Morrison never had the time to show Bruce barging in on his son, then apologizing for not respecting his privacy. Tomasi spends a lot of time this issue showing how both father and son are struggling with these new roles; I loved Alfred showing Bruce how he didn't actually tell Damian that he was proud. Bruce is just so darn disconnected from normal humanity, he doesn't get it.

And Damian is trying so hard to please him. It's fascinating watching the nature vs. nurture argument play out in the current Robin. There is a fantastic moment in this issue that just breaks your heart and scares you at the same time. Alfred' reaction shot is priceless. Patrick Gleason has become one of my favorite pencillers not only for his handling of action scenes, but of the wonderful dramatic moments like this.

Factor in a new villain who has ties to Bruce Wayne and Batman, and seems to know a lot more than any villain should, and this book promises to be good for awhile.

With a lot of the second issues leaving me cold, I'm happy that this issue of Batman & Robin is actually BETTER than the first one.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Action Comics #2

Poor Clark is strapped down for a lot of this issue, so he doesn't get to leap and bound around the pages like he did in issue one. And since the lead character spends most of the issue in a chair, we naturally get to spend a lot more time with other characters as Grant Morrison re-imagines Superman's supporting cast.

Lex Luthor gets a lot of face time. I like the way he's equally parts cruel and paranoid about Superman. He clearly enjoys torturing Supes, but at the same time I think he's actually afraid of the reasons Superman came to Earth. Seeing John Henry Irons is fun; I hope there will be a Steel in the DCnU.

The Lanes get some pages too (most of which are drawn by Brent Anderson, I think). Lois is still pretty awesome, she's manipulative and clever, and clearly she usually accomplishes her goals. It seems she still has some ties to John Corben, the once and future Metallo (who gets his own seeds planted here). I think we're also getting our first glimpse of Brainiac on the last page too.

It's odd, but as all those classic elements start to show up, I can't help but lose interest a bit. Last month I felt like I was experiencing some sort of crazy, new Superman. A high-powered young man out to right the world's wrongs without spending too long thinking about it. When Brainiac, Luthor, and Metallo start showing up, I feel like I'm seeing the same old Superman, just with different creators. How is this different than Geoff John's recent Secret Origin mini?

Rags Morales' art is inspired once again, and I do like Brent Anderson's work, but together they are not such a great mix. Especially when opposite pages have different artists. Rags' kinetic Superman is escaping from prison, and suddenly there is a more bulked-up Supes standing in the elevator surprising Lois. It doesn't quite work.

I should mention that this comic is short. I think it has 20 pages of story, a few pages of admittedly interesting back-material, and the price is $3.99. I'm afraid that's not going to cut it for me.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Justice League International #2

JLI #2 doesn't re-invent the wheel, and it certainly isn't stacked with bold, original ideas. It's not going to challenge you and make you think after you put the book down.

But it is an entertaining comic with a ton of brightly-colored heroes flying around attacking giant robots. And sometimes, that's what I want from my comics!

It's interesting that Dan Jurgens seems to be nailing some continuity down in the reboot. Skeets still exists, even if he hasn't shown up in the book, yet. Guy Gardner and Ice still dated, but she says "it was only a few dates, don't make more of it than it was." So it seems that at least some of the JLI continuity stands, but like everything else in the DCnU, we don't know exactly what stays and what goes.

So giant robots, fighting heroes, but there is a bit of a twist when Booster gets overwhelmed and orders his team to cut and run. I am curious if that big bad on the last page is some sort of new Mongul. The color scheme certainly makes that seem possible.

Aaron Lopresti's clean style works well on this classic-looking book. Booster's new costume is starting to grow on me, too. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I would love to see Godiva get a bit more detail; "simple white jumpsuit" is a tad too generic. In fact, most of the costumes look good, with Vixen and Rocket Red also looking pretty great.

Fair (but a strong one!)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Walking Dead #89

So it's not just my copy that looks like it had coffee or something spilled on the cover, right? There's some sort of weird smudge-y thing going on? I'm not sure what Charlie Adlard was going for, but I think I've seen it on more copies online, so I don't think I dropped a Pepsi or something.

This is another soap opera chapter of Walking Dead, and hoo boy, it is a good one. I always measure a book by how gleeful I am when I finish, and Rick delivers a KILLER line at the close of this one. Robert Kirkman is still firing on all cylinders here. He masterfully ratchets up the tension throughout the book, and it seems danger is closing in on our core cast of loveable murderers. And yet, with that last page, suddenly it is clear who has the upper hand. The Community truly doesn't know what they are up against. (I'm playing around with that sentence because I don't want to ruin the moment for people who haven't read the issue.)

As an aside, how funny is it that Abraham has basically taken over as Rick's enforcer? He's a great supporting character now, one that I never saw coming. We all expect Andrea to be Rick's right hand, and she's great, but I love seeing the survivors working to support each other.

Charlie Adlard? Solid. How many years has he been pulling this off now?


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Atlas: Return of the Three Dimensional Man TPB

It is a crime against comics that a fantastic book like this gets cancelled while New Avengers sits at the top of the charts. Honestly, when I see that a fantastic, original, funny, and exciting book like this can't survive, it makes me mad. I clearly am not representative of the main comics-reading audience out there. This comic is nearly perfect.

Jeff Parker has been trying to sell us on his Agents of Atlas for a long time. I guess this was the last gasp, as he brought the team back for a Heroic Age relaunch. The 3-D Man (formerly Triathlon) joins up early on, and he's a great addition to the team. He's an everyman viewpoint for the audience, but he never seems out of his depth. I loved the constant call-backs to his important role in Secret Invasion. I'm sure most readers missed that too, but it gives 3-D some nice backstory, and he needs that to fit in with this storied bunch.

There are some wonderful story arcs in this collection; Venus takes on Aphrodite, we see the Uranian's true face, and man, seeing Mr. Lao in action was just breath-taking. And people won't even see this!

The back-ups from Incredible Hercules are stunning too. Parker sets this aspect of the story just outside the big Continuum story in Herc, but things still feel important. I think the Agents' attempts to sneak past the mythical guards is one of the funniest bits I've ever read.

The art more than holds its own in this fantastic collection. Gabriel Hardman's art is so spot-on and perfect I barely know which parts to mention. The enormous sea creature attacking the Golden Gate Bridge? The chimera and cyclops guarding a subterranean pass? Perhaps the tight action sequences as 3-D Man, Namora, Jimmy Woo, and Gorilla Man all use different styles to fight hordes of mind-controlled thugs.

Folks, if you don't like this comic, we need to have a talk.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Dark Tower: Gunslinger: The Journey Begins HC

This trade commits one of my cardinal sins of storytelling: flashbacks within flashbacks. That’s not to say I’m uninterested in the many time periods we get to see, but man, this is one layered story.

The story leads off with the status quo at the beginning of the Gunslinger. Roland is chasing the Man in Black to force him to lead the way to the Dark Tower. Writers Robin Furth and Peter David do a nice job recreating that sense of desolation from the beginning of the novel.

While on this pursuit, Roland meets up with a farmer and they actually chat awhile. Roland flashes back to immediately after the battle of Jericho Hill, where he lost his ka-tet of fellow gunslingers. It turns out one survived for just a short time longer than the others, and while on his way to lay that gunslinger to rest, Roland met up with another billy bumbler. (If Stephen King has a better and sadder creation than the bumblers, I can’t name it. It’s like having a loyal dog who can talk to you.) This is the strongest element of the story. The most fascinating element of Roland’s world is the slow decay of a wonderful time, and we see that clearly in the ruins of Gilead and its outstanding cities. Placing the main conflict of the issue in a “dogan” Quonset hut is another great move, evoking more familiar feelings from the novels.

While in that flashback, Roland starts remembering the hanging of Hax, the cook of Roland’s royal family. The story is fine, but a bit unnecessary.

Again, I don’t have a problem with this story, but if the creators had all these stories to tell about Roland at younger ages, maybe they shouldn’t have jumped so quickly to the books’ status quo of an old, grizzled manhunter!

Sean Phillips handles the art in this collection, and he does solid work. I almost picture Gilead through Jae Lee’s pencils, so it was odd seeing a relatively youthful Roland with Phillips’ block face and expressive eyes. I think I prefer Phillips, but it does take some getting used to.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Swamp Thing #2

I must be getting old or something, cause I get a lot more bothered by innocent bystander death in my super-hero comics than I used to. Seeing a ton of zombies is one thing, but seeing all the residents of Alec Holland's hotel with their necks snapped while attacking him? That's just upsetting. I know Scott Snyder is going for that, and this is part of DC's Dark line, so I'm sure there's a body count requirement, but still...

This second issue follows up nicely on the potential of issue one. Most of the book is driven by a Swamp Thing from the past. This Swampy has a similar origin to Alec Holland, but he spends most of the issue explaining the differences between them. I like that Snyder is full-on addressing that this is NOT Alan Moore's Swamp Thing. In fact, this is basically the origin and first appearance of the "real" Swamp Thing, a warrior of the green with a core of the red. In all those old ST appearances, it was just the green running off a copy of Alec Holland's mind.

This book remembers its history, as a big character returns in a new fashion here. Could be mighty interesting.

And I can't mention Yanick Paquette's art without bringing up all the callbacks to previous artists. Bissette motors is pretty prominently stamped on a motorcycle, and Holland is staying at Totleben's Motel. Heh. I do worry that Paquette's widescreen shots might not work so well in a digital format, the fuzzy black borders on those double-splash pages might be hard to read on a tablet. I'm lucky I'm still getting this in floppy!


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Stormwatch #2

I should have had more faith in Paul Cornell!

I was overwhelmed by the volume of plot and details in the premiere issue of this book, but issue 2 ratchets things down to a level I can understand. A few of the elements introduced in issue one fall to the wayside (like that giant horn) and some of the characters that were crowding the book spend the issue unconscious. Of course, the moment that REALLY sells this issue for me is the Martian Manhunter reveal. Sure, Midnighter, you're tough, just don't think you can take down J'onn that easy!

I'm unclear on the Eminence of Blades, is he a good guy or not? He's definitely a hero walking that fine line, and it seems he'll be joining Midnighter and Apollo on the rough side of super-heroics. I do hope that someone on this team is a bit more positive; it seems Jenny Quantum might be the best hope of that. I also really like the Engineer making her not-so-subtle power play to take over the team. We've had two whole issues, why wouldn't it be time to upset the apple cart!

Miguel Sepulveda's art is a bit more polished this month. There is still some weird tracing element on some pages, and Midnighter's costume is ridiculous (that awful chin-spike, ugh!) His Adam One, J'onn, and monsters all look great though, Sepulveda's quick glimpses of Booster Gold are impressive too, I hope he gets to draw more mainstream heroes.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Avengers Academy #19

Ah, the curse of the crossover. Christos Gage did a good job giving us one of those hidden chapter type stories, with two of the “Worthy” hammer-wielders taking on the students of the Avengers Academy. The problem is, Absorbing Man and Titania are needed elsewhere at the close of this story, so there can’t really be any sort of true conclusion.

That doesn’t mean this wasn’t an entertaining issue. I love seeing the students step up to the plate as real heroes. When the chips are down, Finesse decides to sacrifice herself to save the team. Hazmat and Mettle sort of get roped into their sacrifice, but they have the fortitude to do what’s needed, too. (I loved Reptil trying to volunteer, only to be rebuffed by his own team as “not powerful enough.”)

The conclusion works nicely, setting up the need for a new HQ next month, but even better, look what happens when the “real” Avengers show up! These kids were all ready to nobly sacrifice themselves, but the minute Hank Pym, Quicksilver, Tigra, and Jocasta get back, everything wraps up with a lot less drama. (Quicksilver’s dismissive attitude towards Finesse’s efforts is by far the best part of the book.)

So while this doesn’t work so great as a tie-in to Fear Itself, it is a solid character examination for the student stars of the title. Take note, Pet Avengers fans, Neils the cat gets a mention too!

Tom Raney keeps the book well within its comfort zone of clear storytelling and dynamic character design. Raney and Sean Chen are doing a great job alternating for each other.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

DCnU Round-Up

After reading the first month of the DCnU, what surprises me is that while many of the issues were at least entertaining, I’m really not interested in keeping up with them. As I feared, I just don’t care enough to keep up with all these new books. Here’s the rundown of what I purchased and whether it made my sublist:

Action Comics – Excellent – loved it, and I’m on board for the long haul. ADDED
Aquaman – Good – entertaining, but I want to see Aquaman doing more heroics. ONE MORE ISSUE
Batman – Good – entertaining, and I’m happy to be back on the core book. ADDED
Batman & Robin – Good – like the reboot never happened. ADDED
Batgirl - Good - entertaining, but too violent and mean-spirited. PASS
Batwoman - Good - visually striking, I might be pulled in. ONE MORE
Demon Knights – Good – very entertaining, neat cast. ADDED
Green Lantern – Good – like the reboot never happened ADDED
Green Lantern Corps – Good – like the reboot never happened. ADDED
Green Lantern: New Guardians – art and plot made me put it back. PASS
Grifter – Average – bad reboot, Wildstorm version was better. PASS
Justice League – Good – the hype has me wrapped up. ADDED
Justice League Dark – too violent, put back on shelf. PASS
Justice League International – Good – clearly rebooted, but my type of book. ADDED
OMAC – Good – My biggest surprise, I loved it. ADDED
Static Shock – Good – writer gone after just a few issues? No thanks. PASS
Stormwatch – Fair –my most disappointing title, I wanted to love it. ONE MORE
Swamp Thing – Excellent – so moody, it really pulled me in, I don’t want to get it, but I might. ONE MORE
Wonder Woman – Good – surprisingly violent, but not my type of book. PASS

Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive .1

I find the whole .1 initiative pretty funny, but man, is it annoying. I have a home-written Access database I use to track all my comics, and it isn’t programmed to recognize decimal point numbers. So I have to enter these special issues as one-shots. (I know, the trials of a nerd, huh? How do we get by?)

In any case, David Liss makes the most of his opportunity to grab new readers. His done-in-one story stands nicely on its own, but he brings in a fairly popular villain from T’Challa’s past. I enjoyed seeing BP take down another bad guy without much of a sweat; after a few issues of seeing BP struggle to win his fights, he seems to be getting his confidence back. I’m sort of rooting for a Kraven re-match too, I think BP can do better! Surely fans old and new can see what they’re missing on this title. The level of quality and respect for the history of the Marvel U that Liss displays here is a given on this consistent title.

It’s interesting that BP is developing into even more of a Batman type now that he’s cultivating a relationship with the cops in Hell’s Kitchen. BP has never been this gritty, and at least part of the change has to be location. I mean, Daredevil moves out of the Kitchen and suddenly he’s doing snow angels on the cover of his own book!

Jefte Palo is back, and that means the hulking Black Panther is too. He draws a much bigger protagonist than other artists, but as I’ve said before, it works. I kind of dig the sloped cat-ears that make T’Challa look even more like the Marvel U Batman.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Ant Man and the Wasp TPB

Wow. I like Tim Seeley’s art, and his story moves along nicely too, but this is an expensive trade. I’m not sure that it makes sense to wait for the trade for these odd mini’s anymore. I’m better off trying to find them in dollar bins.

This trade was $15 dollars, and it reprints a three issue series that originally cost $4 each. Sure, the trade has a few sketches and some old Ant-Man reprints, but clearly most people are buying this trade for the new story. It’s really a rip-off either way. $3.99 is too much for a monthly comic, and 15 bucks for three issues is insulting. Basically, this trade is setting up a new policy for me. I’m not buying any more short $3.99 minis in any format. I want at least 6 issues or it plain isn’t worth it.

And this actual trade? It’s fun. Seeley clearly has affection for Hank Pym, Eric O’Grady, and Sleepwalker. There are tons of callbacks to other appearances and series featuring the tiny characters, so Seeley either did some homework or he’s a fan. AIM is used to great effect, especially their evil leader. Seeley has a neat take on the relationship between experienced hero and protégé (thief?) that is summed up nicely when Pym punches O’Grady in the gut; there clearly is no affection here. This is a fluffy character piece for fans of the characters. Seeley doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but he delivers a solid little tale for folks who want to see these two in the spotlight.

Seeley’s art is delightful too. Very bright and easy to read, and Seeley’s penchant for drawing cute girls has a nice outlet too. The new Sleepwalker runs around in an almost see-through nighty. It makes sense for the character AND it lets him exercise his skill in drawing ladies.

Again, this was a great trade for fans of the characters, but the abysmal pricing lowers my enjoyment of the book.

It turns a GOOD book into an AVERAGE one.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Taskmaster (2010) TPB

This is a fantastic trade. I've seen how well Fred Van Lente does re-imagining villains in Amazing Spider-Man, so it isn't surprising seeing him do even better when he gets a few more pages to focus on one character.

I've always been a big fan of the Taskmaster, I actually have his mini-bust on display with my Avengers (since technically, Avengers: The Initiative put him on the roster). He's a smart, original villain with a fantastic look, but let's face it, he never had a compelling origin. Until now. Van Lente mixes up the photographic reflexes with a tragic side-effect; Tasky can't remember anything personal in his life. This unique situation lets Taskmaster work in just about any story, where he can be either hero or villain (or both). And that extra-personal twist at the end? Brilliant. I didn't see it coming.

Don of the Dead? He might be my fave new villain of last year. And those Black Choppers are one helluva concept too (aliens in a motorcycle gang). I also loved the minion organization's varied membership; we had Ultimatum, Hydra, AIM, Sons of the Serpent, and a bunch of groups even a huge nerd like me couldn't ID.

Jefte Palo's art works well for the story. His faces tend to be a bit puffy, but his action is great. And the design work on all the crazy uniforms and locations look awesome.

This trade is an extremely-high good for any fan of Taskmaster, but I think just about anyone would dig this collection.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Transformers TPB vol 3

There's a lot for old-school fans like me to enjoy in the new Transformers trade. After being disappointed in the last collection, things get moving again nicely as soon as Megatron is back on the stage. He's got a powerful new bod, but the neatest concept in this trade might be what Soundwave has got planned with the pieces of Megatron's old look.

The book opens with a nice focus on Hot Rod, a starring role that I'm pretty sure is setting us up for Rodimus Prime. I'm an Optimus guy all the way, but with Op sort of struggling in this series, maybe Rodimus will be able to shake things up.

I was impressed with all the screen time devoted to smaller characters in this one. Brawn, Thundercracker, Jazz, Ultra Magnus, Shockwave, and more all get things to say and do. Prowl really lives up to his second in command billing, and I loved Wheeljack's envy of Ratchet's respect on the battlefield. Mike Costa really packs the book with quick moments; even those characters who mostly fill backgrounds like Smokescreen get a line or two that define the character.

The art is varied in the multiple issues collected here, but I dont' have a problem with it. Nick Roche's cartoony style works fine in the early chapters, and while I don't love Don Figueroa's more movie-inspired designs, the 'bots still look cool. I think I like Alex Milne's robots best, but he's not as solid with the human characters. Overall, this selection of artists is a pretty strong bunch.