Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Green Lantern Corps #5

Can someone make a call so that Martian Manhunter can be transferred over to this title? Peter Tomasi clearly likes the big lug, and it doesn't seem that J'onn had any sort of real role over in Stormwatch. Even giving him a ring wouldn't make him that much more powerful, and at this point, I think the Manhunter is a better fit on this team.

As for this issue, I really enjoyed Tomasi's use of the hardened vets in the Mean Machine. The long history of the corps is perfect for pulling out whatever type of vet is necessary, so rather than question why I haven't seen these guys before, I'm just happy to see more background roles fill up. I do think that at least two of those guys will die next issue, just because their creased, experienced faces all look too much alike. Gotta thin the herd a bit to make them stand out.

Tomasi is also doing a nice job giving his new featured lanterns a bit of spotlight. I like Sheriff, and Hannu always steals every scene he's in. Brik is a great carryover from the olden days too. Perhaps this will be a new Mean Machine?

And man, will the Guardians ever stop screwing people over? Once again, the Keepers and their fairly justifiable revenge are tied into sins committed by those blue jerks, and I can't say I'm surprised. It's a little too late to build up a lot of quality hate for the leader of the Keepers, but if he keeps torturing John Stewart, he'll be off to a good start.

So I'm not sure, but I guess Fernando Pasarin based the Mean Machine members on old action stars? Is it Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin there, or am I searching too hard? I'm not complaining, as I said, the corps is the perfect place for any stock cop-types.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Uncanny X-Men: Quarantine TPB

After the extremely weak Generation Hope trade, I was considering dropping the X-books and only getting Uncanny from the library. Fortunately, the average nature of that story is cleansed pretty quickly with this fun, self-contained arc. Plenty of action, an odd new team, and a timely idea make this a strong bounce-back for Matt Fraction and Kieron Gillen.

With all the flu-fears of the last couple years, having a mutant-only virus is a great idea, especially with so much of the Marvel mutant population all living on the same island. I don’t often consider how miserable it would be packed onto the island like that, but it really would get old. I can’t imagine each X-person gets more than a small apartment right? In those conditions, every single mutant on the island quickly gets sick. (Seeing Wolverine and Namor get sick is funny and spooky at the same time.)

But that widespread illness gives the creators a chance to put together a great new lineup for the “new” X-Men. Just cause most of the X-Men need a sick day doesn’t mean that their villains will give them the day off. The Collective Man shows up in a story that Wolverine really should have dealt with, but unfortunately, he has to call in sick. Leave it to the substitute team of Angel, Storm, Northstar, Dazzler, and Pixie, to clean up the mess. What a great, unique team! It really shows the potential of mixing and matching these characters. The subs do a nice job against Lobe and the Sublime Corps’ intriguing mutant gene-drug, too.

I hate to say I’m happy to see Greg Land’s pr0n-inspird work, but after Whilce Portacio’s sketchy art in the last trade, it’s nice seeing the art looking tighter. I do like the design on the fake X-Men, their costumes are all similar to the original X-Men, but different enough to have a nice modern spin. Lobe seems pretty happy too, it’s rare to see a villain relishing his role, but Land’s art really makes him seem like a content guy!


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Avengers Prime TPB

This is pretty clearly unnecessary fluff, but boy is it pretty. Brian Michael Bendis isn’t my favorite Avengers writer, but he does a nice job with the whole reconciliation between the big three heroes after Siege. Iron Man and Cap in particular have some issues to work through, and putting them in a rough spot makes them patch things up quickly.

Bendis’ Iron Man is always a bit snotty, but he’s awesome in this. Constantly bantering and making light of the situation, I got more of a Robert Downy Jr. feel from this Iron Man than anything else Marvel has put out. And I liked it!

Captain America lands on his feet, of course. Not only does he immediately fit right into the fractured world of Asgard, but he also beats up a slew of dark elves and makes out with a hot sorceress. Cap’s got work to do! I enjoyed seeing him work through his anger at Iron Man too; Cap’s such a god guy, he just wants to move on.

This is really Thor’s story. The Enchantress and Hela play strong antagonistic roles, and Thor gets to pontificate mightily at them through the whole story. Thor also seems to be the one who can get past his mortal annoyances too. JMS wrote Thor a lot more moody and likely to carry a grudge, so I like this version more.

Alan Davis is the star of this book. His art is always stunning, and he really gets to flex his muscles here. He gets the “Steve Rogers: Super Soldier” look for Cap, but the Asgardian re-design looks mighty familiar, and Davis takes every opportunity to cast convenient shadows to make it seem like Cap’s in his real suit. Hela’s slight swings actually looks pretty great smashing against Thor, and that’s due to the inspiring design of the Twilight Sword.

And let’s not forget the two best parts of the book. The return of Fafnir the dragon and the revelation that Tony Stark loves attending D&D camps.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Batman #5

I have to be careful how much I talk about this issue. I don't want to ruin any of the fun, unique effects Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo use to tell their story. I'm glad I still buy this book in paper copy rather than digitally.

I'll just say that this is a great callback to those Batman stories I remember as a kid. The ones where Batman is in totally over his head and possibly going insane. This reminds me of Venom, The Cult, and a bunch of other stories where Bats' villains really seem more prepared than he is. There are two or three ways that the Court of Owls really screws with Batman that are just disturbing.

The highest compliment I can pay a comic is when it is full of ideas I haven't seen, and Snyder is doing a great job putting Batman through some new wringers.

Capullo uses some artistic tricks to keep the reader on his toes. It's neat how effective this is. Any time you can fool your reader into thinking a copy is misprinted, and yet you are just telling your story? That's a good twist.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Avengers #21

It is always important to let your characters get their butts kicked so that the villains can live up to their reps. Bendis has always loved laying out the Avengers, usually so a guest-star can come in and take care of business. I'm not sure who would ride to the rescue here. Nick Fury, maybe? I'm also trying to remember where Quake went. She's part of the permanent team now, correct? But I don't see her on any of the action teams that get picked off throughout the issue. Maybe she'll save the day?

I really like the HAMMER agents using combined abilities of the Avengers, but there is going to have to be some limitations, or technically these guys should take over the world pretty quickly. Maybe the treatments kill the recipient or something?

I also have to point out the fun sequence where Spider-Woman tries to pretend she's still an undercover Hydra agent. It's worth a try!

It's interesting, Renato Guedes' art typically looks a little more solid than it does in this issue. I'm not sure if it is the inker or if this was a rush job, but there are definitely some panels that look a bit... uneven. It's actually odd, because it is especially noticeable on the divided pages that close out the book. Sometimes Maria Hill looks awesome, then her eyes are bugging out two panels later, and it is the same with Cap and the Vision.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Avenging Spider-Man #3

Man, Zeb Wells writes a good Spidey. Web-head has always been down on his luck, but man, the new villain who “killed” Red Hulk sure lays a beatdown on Spidey in this one. Supposedly, this is a Marvel Team-Up style book and the first guest-star was the Red Hulk, but man, let’s face facts: J Jonah Jameson was really the guest star in these first three issues. Red Hulk spends all but a few pages in this issue on his back! It’s all worth it though, just to see how mad Red Hulk is about Spidey out-doing him and ending the subterranean invasion that Rulk couldn’t stop.

JJJ and Spidey spend about half the issue bickering, with most of the other pages full of Spidey getting knocked around. (It seems Joe Mad is one of the artists who feels Spidey’s eyes are made out of plastic, there’s some good shattering going on here.) I absolutely love the panel with the sad moloids. Never under-estimate the cuteness of moloid children when they cry or suck their thumbs.

Ra’ktar may be beaten, but he’s certainly not out. This guy gave Rulk and Spidey more than they could handle, and he may be heading home for now, but that grin he shoots Rulk sure makes it seem like he’ll be back.

I don’t think Joe Madureira is getting a lot of inking help, some of these panels look downright soft. But others look fully rendered and nice, and he can still do action like few others. I would have loved to see a few more panels with more Avengers, his Spider-Woman and Iron Man look great.

(I’m still grateful for that digital copy to offset the extra dollar in price, too.)


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Venom #12

Now this is serious. When did Rick Remender get this good? I sampled his Punisher work a few years ago and thought it was only OK. But these last three issues of Venom have been fantastic; so good that I just picked up a run of Uncanny X-Force on Comixology. And to think I only gave this a shot because I liked his interviews on Secret Avengers!

As for this issue, it checks off every box a Venom fan could want. Eddie Brock is long gone, but there are numerous pages featuring the huge, brain-eating Venom as he chases Jack O Lantern through Vegas. This is classic Venom the way we remember him, with some added features like extra mouths and spikes.

Jack O Lantern is a fantastic villain, and I adore his look. When he first appears, it honestly looks like he's just hanging out, chilling on his hovering, flaming broomstick. Only in comics!

Flash Thompson does get a few moments as GI Venom, the coolest being the scene where he pretends to be a drunk. Note the fantastic spider-symbols on his shirt.

I'm going to need to do a little research on Toxin, I remember enjoying his limited series a few years ago, but what has he been up to since? Didn't he fight Razorfist?

Lan Medina's art is solid, and many of the nice moments I mentioned above work because of his pencils. Geez, the scene where the symbiote overpowers Thompson is one of the scariest panels I can remember. There is a tightness to a lot of the backgrounds and surrounding characters that I recognized too, Medina is ably assisted by Nelson DeCastro.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Batman & Robin #5

First, a few stray thoughts. I can’t believe that Batman’s training room is called the Danger Room. I mean, didn’t Marvel copyright that or anything? It just seems odd that Peter Tomasi would take that name so easily. The other thing I noticed is that there is a page in this that looks all messed-up and digitized. That happened recently with the Metal Men collection, surely there is some sort of quality control for that?

Now, as for the comic itself, it is brilliant. Tomasi has established himself as a master of mood and plotting, and his Patrick Gleason makes the story come alive. I don’t want to have a separate discussion on the art because everything fits together so seamlessly. From the new Batmobile’s design (and we see it in action taking out cars in Gotham) to the wonderful, detailed splash page showing Nobody and Damian taking out an embassy full of people. When I complain about splashes in the new 52, this is NOT what I’m talking about. Gleason fills the page with wonderful, unique moments, the best being when the two vigilantes just sneak down a hall behind a headphone-wearing janitor. Just brilliant.

Ducard’s origin is wonderful too. He’s a fairly generic bad ass, but the moment when he meets and dresses down Bruce Wayne is fantastic. It seems all you had to do in order to impress Ducard Sr. was beat the crap out of his son.

A lot of the new 52 stories have only taken five issues to tell, but I’m glad this one is lingering on a bit longer.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Black Panther #528

What’ s awesome about David Liss’ epic battle between Kingpin and Black Panther is that it is different than the other Kingpin fights we’ve seen over the years. Daredevil rarely actually outsmarts Kingpin, relying on his stubborn pride and ability to take a beating to outlast the big man. Spider-Man has always been able to taunt and annoy Kingpin into making a mistake. But Black Panther just straight-up out-plots the guy. The Kingpin is a criminal mastermind that gets by with his brains first, brawn second. And Black Panther operates exactly the same way!

I find it a bit odd that T’Challa’s sister Shuri shows up and has such an important role in this issue. She hasn’t had a whiff of impact on the series so far, but here she is zooming in with an extremely plot-altering role. I didn’t read the last series where she was introduced, so I know nothing about her, so maybe I’m more confused than other BP fans.

I also hope there is a tad more for Luke Cage and Falcon to do next issue. Surely they can fight Lady Bullseye and Typhoid Mary while BP faces down Kingpin next month?

Michael Avon Oeming’s style is too unique for him to come in and wrap up the closing chapter of this story. David Liss’ book has had an extremely consistent look from the beginning; Oeming is good, he’s just too different. His use of shading works fine, but his simple lines don’t carry the same weight as the other artists on this run.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Invincible #87

Dag. Mark Grayson has been missing from the pages of Invincible for too long. While I love the supporting cast and world that Robert Kirkman has created in this title, Invincible’s name is on the cover, and the book is better when he’s in it.

I absolutely love Dinosaurus. He’s such an insane concept, a world-changing environmentalist villain who is now influencing the most powerful hero on the Earth. Plus his name is Dinosaurus! I always love seeing the Guardians of the Globe show up, and Robot actually got to talk tough for a minute before Mark and Dino blew him off. I can’t imagine anyone is going to be able to give those two a run for their money.

I’m also enjoying the continuing subplots from the world Mark left behind. When he zoomed off to become a world-changer, he left his business in the hands of Atom Eve by herself. Judging from upcoming covers, I think Bulletproof will take over soon, but for now, it’s neat seeing Atom Eve trying to keep things running. And Cecil popping back in for a reasonable chat was great too.

Of course, that last page is the real shocker. My sense of pacing must be off in comics right now. I never would have guessed that Kirkman would go back to this particular plot so quickly. I’m thrilled to see it, but I’m still surprised.

It’s wonderful to have Ryan Ottley back on art. This is his book now, and everything looks better when he’s on pencils. (Not that Cory Walker is bad, but Ottley is brilliant.) It’s interesting that Ottley (or Kirkman) decided to change Atom Eve’s look the way they have. She’s not ugly, but she’s not the slim-hipped, top-heavy style lady we see in every other comic. It’s a neat choice. I’d love to know the thinking that went into that choice.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

X-Men Legacy #260.1

I’d better jump into my recent Amazon box and read Schism, because I obviously missed a lot of recent X-happenings. I’m glad I just read Age of X, or the lines about Frenzy’s feelings for Cyclops would have made zero sense as well! That said, Christos Gage always makes his work new reader friendly, and this issue is as well.

It seems this is the X-version of Avengers Academy, which is pretty crazy if you think about it. One guy is writing the “school” books for the two main Marvel franchises. One interesting difference seems to be that while Avengers Academy focuses on the students, it seems the spotlight in Legacy will be more on the faculty. Are the teachers we see here going to be the focus going forward? I figure Legacy has been Rogue’s book for awhile, but I’m curious to see if Husk, Cannonball, Rachel Grey, and especially Frenzy can maintain this level of exposure. I love seeing these characters get a chance to shine, especially Husk. She’s got a great power and I’m excited to see new abilities popping up every month (especially when Rogue can just copy that ability!)

The demons who show up have some nice ties to old X-Men comics (that I haven’t read) but really, they are the equivalent of ninjas, robots, or zombies, they show up in this point one issue to let the stars of the book show off their powers. Cannonball blasting through a demon, then immediately lecturing a class on the X-Men’s No Kill Policy was fantastic, because naturally, demons don’t count.

That is a might interesting development on the last page. I’ve always liked Gambit and Rogue’s on-and-off romance, but I am enjoying the heck out of the new Frenzy too. I remember Joanna Cargill as that troublemaker from early X-Factor, I never would have guessed she’d be turning into a real X-Man!

David Baldeon’s artwork is always fun and dynamic. His work reminds me of She-Hulks artist Ryan Stegman. I’m not totally sold on the redesign for Rachel Grey, although I really love her phoenix-style cloak that shoots out when she flies. And c’mon, we’re not keeping that bike-helmet looking head on Iceman, are we?


Friday, January 20, 2012

Green Lantern #5

It’s pretty amazing that Geoff Johns is still writing such compelling stuff featuring the cosmic nonsense of the Green Lantern Corps. I mean, when Sinestro revealed that over-taxing a GL ring can destroy it, it made sense, but when Sinestro reveals that he’s done it before on multiple occasions, I just smiled. Clearly, even as a villain, Sinestro is twice the hero Hal Jordan has ever been.

It makes sense that Hal and Sinestro would have to clean up the Sinestro Corps. There is no way to even tease a redemption for Sinny if he’s got his army of psycho killers wandering around. Johns cleans up that mess nicely, leaving a solid explanation of why we might occasionally see other Yellow Lanterns like Arkillo in other books. I’m happy the yellow guys are taking a step back, after months and years of Rainbow Corps based stories, I’ll be glad when the core GL book can look at some other sci-fi ideas.

It’s also worth noting that once again, Hal is missing his lantern ring, but at least he seems to have put his priorities straight and gone back to Carol Ferris. I suppose it is too much to hope for that we might see some role reversal as Carol continues operating as a heroic Star Sapphire while Hal gets to wait behind and worry?

Doug Mahnke’s art remains consistent. Even his gore is alien-looking enough that a split Sinestro Corps member wasn’t too bad. And his ability to make Sinestro look striking and heroic is inspiring. Got to love all those square jaws.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Secret Avengers #21

What a wrap-up to an entertaining run. Warren Ellis delivers his last word on the Avengers with the same gonzo, original ideas that he’s delivered through his run. Utilizing a nice forgotten piece of Marvel minutiae, the Secret Avengers invade a ONE base (Office of National Emergency, last seen around the X-Men’s Decimation) to root out a Shadow Council spy. I wasn’t pleased to see Cap resorting to torture (by association), especially when it worked once again.

I did like that Ellis surprises us with the actual traitor, and it is all worth it for the great battle scenes in the office building’s basement. The weird, tentacled creatures are pretty reminiscent of those in The Mist from a few years ago, but it’s very different seeing them clearly blasting their way through office building floors and lashing out at heroes.

Ellis makes sure to give almost every member of the team a few lines, although he saves the best for Steve Rogers, Beast, and Valkyrie. The potential in this lineup really is fantastic, I suppose Ed Brubaker deserves the credit for that. The straight-up heroics of War Machine make a great contrast with the more… unrestrained methods of Moon Knight and Black Widow.

I love Stuart Immonen’s artwork. His sleek, powerful War Machine is one of the best Iron Man style designs that I’ve ever seen. I love that you can see the difference between Sharon Carter and Valkyrie by their flowing battle-hair. And the aforementioned creature design is a great blend of sci-fi and horror. I know most people love this creative team for their Nextwave work, but I would have loved more straight-up super-heroics like this.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Thor: World Eaters TPB

I heard a lot of folks didn’t enjoy this arc, and I have to ask: Are you flippin’ crazy? I haven’t seen such a seamless blend of big cosmic ideas and Asgardian mythology since those old Buscema issues where Thor was flying around the universe in a Viking ship.

Matt Fraction absolutely loads this story with madness and violence. That’s exactly what I want from my Thor comics. I have complained about Fraction’s stories sometimes being too talky, but he doesn’t have that problem here. (He actually gets to give in to both sides, such as his long-suffering scientist trying to warn the Asgardians of their impending threats.)

Fraction makes some really interesting choices; the oddest is immediately bringing Loki back to life. He just died in Siege, and yet he pops right back in as an “awakened” god. It makes sense that Thor would try and bring back his brother as he was when they used to get along.

Another odd choice is the huge blood colossi that support Odin in the big fight. The giants look impressive, but I’m pretty conditioned to expect the star of my book to appear in the conclusion. Instead, Odin gets all the good dialogue while Thor “drives” one of these golems from the inside. What a neat idea; let your lead bond with allies and really fight off the villains as team.

I’m just a tad blurry on the final fate of Balder and Tyr. Are they in the limbo that Odin was stuck in before?

Pasqual Ferry’s art has never looked more cosmic, and he’s got some experience there. His opening shot of Alfheim is gorgeous; it looks like it was ripped from Heavy Metal or something, it’s just stunning. Thor and Odin are bulky figures that own every panel they appear in. I would have liked a bit more Iron Man action, just because Ferry’s Iron Man looks so sleek. The Kirby-esque design of the Asgardians and the other fey is nice, but check out those Kirby circles and dots on the World Eaters! (Lots of nice weapons too!)


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE #5

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, it says right on page one to check out the last issue of OMAC "for the other side of this battle!" And that's exactly what this issue is. For some reason, I thought the Frankie/OMAC fight CONTINUED into this issue, but no, this is really the same fight we saw last week, just with more pontificating from Frankenstein.

I'll admit, Frank can smack-talk with the best of them, he has some great lines in this issue as he takes on the more simple-minded OMAC. But I have to say, the fight was a heck of a lot more dynamic and impressive from Keith Giffen's pencils. Alberto Ponticelli does an OK job, but that sense of destruction is more jumbled here. The more artistic approach to the panels makes the fight a bit harder to follow, and the choreography of the fight takes a back-seat to the dialogue.

I loved Frankenstein when Grant Morrison wrote him, and Jeff Lemire does a good job keeping up with the philosopher warrior in a very strange world. I'm just not sure this sample was enough to bring me back again too soon.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Amazing Spider-Man #677

This must be crossover week for me. Here's another issue that I normally would wait-for-the-trade on, but since regular Daredevil writer Mark Waid is tying into that book, I decided to branch out and check in on Spidey again.

I've got to lead with the art. I'm not normally a fan of Emma Rios' scratchy artwork, it's just too "indie" for me. But it actually works in this one; I'm especially impressed at how well she handles the aerial acrobatics from DD, Spidey, and the Black Cat. The character's don't look as great in their civilian IDs, but man, you can't question the grace as those folks glide over the city.

I'm not sure who the villain will be in this storyline, but it seems Waid has again struck on a story that would work for anyone, but is perfect for Daredevil. DD's radar sense is the perfect foil for the hologram-based baddies that would have given Spidey a real run for his money.

And it is always nice to see the Black Cat showing up. It seems like she always used to be chasing Spidey around. I love the return to the original status quo; sure, she thinks Spidey's a nice guy, but when he gets too normal and desperate? Blech.

This issue is filled with an interesting mystery, well-written guest-stars, and witty banter. Good, solid stuff.


Sunday, January 15, 2012


Big dumb fun. And I’m not going to apologize for basically enjoying DC’s version of the Hulk. Sure, Brother Eye adds a pretty major complication, but OMAC is a monosyllabic moron who speaks in short sentences and seems destined to travel the DCU busting heads. That’s a concept I can get behind.

Dan DiDio makes a minor effort to justify the appearance of Frankenstein (and the rest of SHADE), but it isn’t too complicated. Most of the issue is left for enormous punches and explosions. I especially love the splash lacking sound effects (where the editor tells us to supply our own). This feels like a 70’s Marvel book!

I’m a sucker for tie-ins, so I’ll be grabbing the upcoming issue of Frankenstein to see if the big green guy gets his arm back from a shocked Kevin Kho. I think OMAC won that fight by running!

Keith Giffen’s work on this book is positively inspired. The pulsing action and immense explosions rock every page, making this a quick read, but a fun one.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Back-Issue Review: Amazing Spider-Man #229 & 230

What a great bonus feature in that last Spidey trade. I've got a long run of old Roger Stern Spider-Man comics to read, but getting my hands on these two issues has proven pretty difficult. I'm glad I was able to finally read them.

This isn't a complicated story with lots of insight or emotion. Black Tom Cassidy and Juggernaut want to capture Madame Web to use her pre-cognitive powers to take over the world. Madame Web can see her future is in danger, and asks Spidey to help. Done. That's all the set-up we need.

The rest of the two issues are spent watching Spider-Man exhaust every tool in his arsenal against a foe so powerful, Spidey doesn't even register. Juggernaut is so far above Spidey's weight class that nothing Spidey can do even slows Juggernaut down. (One big help is the force-field aura that protects Juggernaut from a lot of the web-based attacks Spidey tries. Does Juggy still have that ability?)

I think my favorite part of this road runner-esque story is when a desperate Spidey plows a gasoline truck into the Juggernaut. Think of the peripheral damage that the usually careful Spidey sets off with such a huge attack. Roger Stern does a nice job making it seem like Spidey is truly out of options and pretty desperate. In the end, Spider-Man beats Juggernaut through a bit of luck, and I'm not sure I buy it as a dramatic conclusion. But, Juggernaut's final stubborn vows and Black Tom's shock at Juggernaut's absence makes it work. Maybe dumb luck is the only way anyone ever beats Juggernaut!

The art looks right out of my childhood, with John Romita Jr working more in the Marvel style while working with classic Spidey artist Jim Mooney. This is what Spider-Man comics look like when I picture them in my head.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Villains for Hire #2

Once again I’m struck by what a niche concept this book is. Who the heck asked for a title starring Misty Knight and the Purple Man? With most of the dialogue supplied by luminaries like Tiger Shark and Bombshell? Heck, isn’t Bombshell one of the Death Throws? That makes TWO Hawkeye villains regulars in this series (including Crossfire.) I totally understand why Marvel cut this book down by a few issues.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to love it while we’ve got it.

I love hearing more from Tiger Shark! Purple Man? Why not hear more about his hopes and dreams! Factor in a mysterious and worrisome new attitude from Misty Knight, and this is a pretty dang entertaining comic.

I’m a tad annoyed that Scourge is a new guy, why not just keep him Nuke like he was in the recent Thunderbolts? (That tells me Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are going to kill him during this mini.) I wouldn’t argue with more Avalanche, Nightshade, or Shocker, either. They are fun villains we rarely see, so hopefully they will get some panels soon. I also think it’s a smart move for DnA to include Paladin; that gives the reader at least one “good guy” to support with Misty acting so strangely.

Renato Arlem is doing a solid job with the art, although he has a tendency to look a bit traced. I’m not positive, but some of the panels sure look like they’re photographs or really traced. It’s not awful, I like his costume design and his art does look like snapshots taken in the middle of a fight. (His Speed Demon is really nice. I think I know a sketch I need this summer!)


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Swamp Thing #5

What an absolutely horrific comic. If the cover wasn’t a good enough clue (my seven-year-old daughter spotted it on the rack and asked “Ewww, what is that?”), this is one violent comic. I’m amused that we’re this far into the series and Alec Holland still isn’t Swamp Thing. He at least manifests the ability to quick-grow some plants to take on the Rot, which gives him an easy win over Abigail Arcane’s freaking brother. I’m not even complaining, it’s just an observation that Scott Snyder has somehow crafted a brilliant series about a guy who likes plants.

Snyder does deliver on all that chemistry for Alex and Abby, at least.

Oh my lord, Yanick Paquette’s art. I don’t know if it is the horrifying triple-heads on the pig-beast and the cow-monster, or the slaughterhouse gore dripping off them. Maybe it’s the awful almost-pig and almost-cow sounds they make while snuffling around trying to kill our protagonists? Either way, this would make one hell of a TV show or horror film. That image of the piggy sniffing around for Alec in the store won’t soon leave me.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Venom #11

I had a chance to read the recent Spider-Island issues of Venom, and I found myself impressed enough with Rick Remender’s military-hero that I decided to pick up this issue. It seems it’s not exactly the start of a new arc, but I think it is close enough.

A hero is measured by his villains, and since this issue is basically a showcase for the new Jack-O-Lantern, I can safely state that Jack is one of the most despicable new characters I’ve seen in quite some time. I mean, the guy’s secret origin is filled with some deplorable stuff, and his “calling card” of turning his victims into actual jack-o-lanterns? It fits better into an issue of Crossed than a mainstream Marvel book.

Flash Thompson himself seems to be in the midst of a slump. His Dad just died, and he’s knuckling under the current Crime Master and Jack as they send him on errands all over the country. Oh, and he’s stolen the Venom symbiote and he’s worried that he’s addicted to using it. So yeah, not the best day for Spider-Man’s #1 fan.

I’m pretty excited seeing the religious Eddie Brock and the always-entertaining Red Hulk show up. I think there is a crossover coming up with these guys, and the shared backgrounds (symbiote for one, military for the other) seems to make this a strong set-up. Count me in.

Lan Medina’s art has never wowed me, but he seems to be channeling Tony Moore in these pages (the series’ original artist) and boy, it’s working. Jack looks monstrous, Flash’s face is expressive and clear, and I love the heavily-equipped Venom. Why wasn’t I reading this comic before now?


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Avengers Academy #24

Well that was fast! It certainly felt like Christos Gage was giving us a slow burn on the whole Reptil plotline. Having one of your core cast being a secret spy and secret, hidden shape-shifters are both fairly common ideas (used pretty uniquely here, though!) Usually they are long-simmering plots. Not this time. Reptil starts off by leading the Sentinel kid to safety, but then he starts serving up important main characters to the enigmatic Hybrid. (Look for a review of Hybrid’s first appearance soon, I’m hitting my long boxes!)

We do have the Jocasta and X-23 subplots simmering, so Gage isn't neglecting us with continuing stories. I'm just amazed at this quick payoff!

It makes sense that Reptil’s inherent goodness would keep even his jaded future self from turning too evil, and I’m happy it worked out that way. It’s also interesting that White Tiger is so forthcoming with her origin after being so stand-offish in her first appearance. I love the original White Tiger, so having a new one is a nice bonus in a book I already enjoy.

That’s a heckuva a list of victims Hybrid puts together so quickly. Tigra and Lyra are both pretty big names. I hope that Hybrid didn’t get too far in his breeding plans, it seems like Tigra especially has been through enough hard times over the past few years.

Tom Grummet joins the artistic rotation this issue, and he’s another classic-style artist whose work will fit right in. I do worry that he’s not the best option for a horrific character like Hybrid, but he’s perfect for the Avengers themselves. His Tigra looks great, as does his White Tiger.


Monday, January 9, 2012

Justice League International #5

So I was in a comic store with a few extra bucks this weekend, and Mart’s ringing endorsement of this comic (combined with my love of Booster Gold) convinced me to give this one more try. It’s a good call.

Dan Jurgens knows super-heroes. It’s as simple as that. He’s been putting together classic (not formulaic, although they are a bit) super-stories for years. He knows how to make us care about this new team, even when we know nothing of the characters in the new 52.

Booster is the leader who needs to win his team over; who actually does his best work when teamed with his rival Guy Gardner. Godiva is the rookie with potential, but she’s got the sassy attitude to cover up her nervousness. Ice, Fire, and the rest of the gang haven’t gotten featured yet, but they are all competent heroes who use their powers in logical ways.

Peraxxus isn’t going to win any awards for originality; he’s basically a low-budget Galactus with a staff. That said, his boredom at dealing with Earth does make him interesting. In issues 4 and 5 he must make the same comment about speeding up to his process three times. And it’s not because he’s worried, rather he’s annoyed at the JLI’s useless attempts to stop him.

I wanted to exit the new 52, but I think I’ll keep a toe in the water with this book.

Aaron Lopresti has the clean, bright style I love in my super-comics. I still don’t love the designs on most of the new 52, but at least those stupid grooves don’t look to noticeable in this comic. Give Booster back a collar and maybe I’ll be able to stop complaining about his look.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Secret Avengers #20

Man, Warren Ellis is pretty good at this done-in-one thing, isn’t he? Once again, the newest issue of Secret Avengers checks the boxes of a classic Marvel comic while still bringing in a ton of new ideas and concepts.

Time-travel is an old standby in comics, but rarely do we see the level of detail that the Black Widow leads us through this issue. When the SA team is dropped by some baddies, War Machine hands off a macguffin to send the Widow back in time to try and save the team. Turns out that’s a multi-part task, with BW force to not only save the team, but actually create the time-travel device that she’s going to end up using.

It’s all a tad mind-bending, but I think the logic carries through. In the end, Widow has to hide just how close things went to going bad, the rest of the team never knows. And it’s a good thing she doesn’t age, because she lost months of her life lining everything up just right.

I don’t love that killing has become so commonplace for all the Avengers these days. BW is a spy, but man, but killing used to be a big deal for the team.

Alex Maleev’s art is solid, but definitely skews more towards a spy book than I’m used to in an Avengers comic. I dig a little more color in my super-stories, but I can’t complain at how well he portrays the workman-like task that Black Widow has to plow through.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Amazing Spider-Man: the Gauntlet v4: Juggernaut

I'm a pretty easy target for some stories, and this trade has been on my must-read list for some time. It has Juggernaut, Roger Stern, and a classic re-print that I've wanted to read for years. So yeah, this is the trade that convinced me to power through some of the weaker Spidey trades over the last few months.

I knew I'd be interested in a Spidey-Juggernaut fight, but Stern doesn't totally deliver on that promise. Instead, classic Marvel concept "Captain Universe" shows up with a great new design and a pretty petty sense of revenge. The opening moments don't really lead to any payoff (the car left three stories up is pointless), but that's OK, the real story works well.

Juggernaut spends a lot of the story flat on his back, the recipient of a Cap Universe-style beatdown. When he does come around, he doesn't really act like the villain of the piece. Again, it works well with what we've seen of Juggy over the last few years. This is a guy trying to find his place in the world, not trying to take it over any more. He gets a nice sense of redemption too, as he cleans up a mess he made years ago the first time he tangled with Spidey.

How in the world is Lee Weeks not on a regular book? This guy's style is fantastic, his design sense is top-notch, and the "acting" on his characters is wonderful. I love the new Captain Universe look, and Juggernaut gets a bit of a makeover this issue to great effect too. From the way he handles the few scenes involving Spidey's current supporting cast, his art is perfectly capable of looking "modern" when it has to. This is a great-looking book.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Avengers Annual #1 (2012)

Well, I managed to hold off for a few months, but eventually, my desire to see Wonder Man show up in any comic, even a bad one, overpowered my better judgment. I figured that even a badly-characterized, Bendis-version of Wondy was better than nothing.

Turns out, I was right.

The New Avengers Annual is more fun for me, filled with Wondy’s screed about all the problems the Avengers have caused. Even better is the Gabrielle Del’Otto re-designs of a bunch of forgotten characters. Say what you will, but Del’Otto is pretty good at updating and modernizing silly costumes into something great. Factor in the “Revengers” defeat of the Sitting Avengers, and I actually liked this book.

The Avengers Annual had some good parts too. The Revengers did fine against a team that enjoys long meals and conversation, but when the real Avengers show up, they don’t really have a chance. Wonder Man doesn’t even try to fight in this one, instead, he’s content to pile on Bendis’ current message that the Avengers are entitled, rogue agents who need to be shut down. This makes no sense for Wonder Man as a character, but to give Bendis credit, there’s an out. Wondy is doubting that he’s even real, since he was brought back to life by a pre-House of M Scarlet Witch. I’m not sure how I feel about nullifying the last few years of WM appearances, but I wouldn’t complain seeing him come back as just a powerhouse, not in the ionic form (hey, I miss the jet-packs).

After the Revengers are in custody, it’s a mixed bag of characterization for the all-dude team. Anti-Venom should not be the only rational member to speak out that he frankly agrees with Wonder Man’s assessment of the Avengers. Ethan Edwards and Goliath’s search for revenge makes sense, and Century’s alien reasoning was a nice touch. I know almost nothing about Captain Ultra, so I suppose he could be that petty, but Atlas shouldn’t have attacked the Avengers just because they didn’t want him as a member, that’s a miss. D-Man cracks me up; could he actually be working to get the Infinity Gems?

So I hope the redesigns stick around, and I hope people remember that Atlas, Goliath, and Century exist. I want Wonder Man’s ill-thought out villainy retconned as quickly as possible (although I do like seeing Cap, Iron Man, and Thor caught between the “New” folks like Cage and their old friend).


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Batman #4

Dang, Scott Snyder writes a good Batman. What I'm finding with this DCnU relaunch is that I don't feel the same loyalty towards characters I did before, but good stories still stand out. Snyder's Batman is iconic and powerful, and doesn't contradict anything we've seen before. Sure, Greg Capullo's Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson look too young, but that's a small complaint for such action-packed artwork.

The bulk of this issue fleshes out the Court of Owls. It's tough to make a fictional nursery rhyme seem real (and ominous), but Snyder pulls it off magnificently. The combination of moody flashback and CSI-style autopsy make it work. How horrifying is it to find out that your relative died from many tiny stab wounds rather than drowning in sewage? It's a rough way to go either way, and just a tiny bit of detail that makes this comic a great blend of mystery and action.

And what a cliffhanger! Talon is a great addition to Gotham's rogues, and I love the Court of Owls' needlessly complicated deathtrap for Batman.

As I mentioned, Capullo's artwork really sells the action. His helmet-style cowl is rapidly becoming one of my favorite bat-looks. He even manages to cover up those silly grooves that are a requirement in the DCnU.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Avengers Solo #3

I fully admit that I'm a bit of a simpleton, and I'm afraid that is hurting me with this comic. Jen Van Meter is laying out a fairly simple mystery, but she's layering a ton of new characters into the equation. I'm afraid I can barely tell who any of the folks are in this book. Normally that wouldn't really get to me, but Hawkeye's involvement hinges on a dramatic vote between the supporting characters, and I don't remember them well enough to know or care how each of them votes.

When the book is full of action (especially involving Trapster), I'm fine. I still don't understand who the villainess is, but I think that's ok. I falter more when Hawkeye starts questioning those supporting characters and he starts putting clues together, that's when I get lost. Maybe it is just like Hawk says in this issue, "This detective stuff takes more time than I thought."

I'll take any Hawkeye stories I can get, but I have to say I found it a bit easier to connect to Jim McCann's WCA-style take in the last couple series.

Where the heck did Roger Robinson get to? I was loving his art on the first two issues, and while Al Barrionuevo's art is tightened up by a strong inker (Raul Lopez), it isn't as strong as Robinson's. Trace really needs a little something extra to make her costume pop. It was fine when she was just a generic villain, but now that we're supposed to be getting attached, we need that comic-shorthand ability to recognize her from a symbol or something else that has an iconic feel.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Batman: Leviathan Strikes #1

I did not understand this comic.

(It was very pretty, the art was top notch. Cameron Stewart is always great, and Chris Burnham art looks so much like Frank Quitely's, I can't believe it. And actually, I did enjoy the opening chapter with the charm school for assassins, but man, once Doctor Dadelus showed up, I was through. The helpful recap couldn't even clear it up.)


Aquaman #4

A storyline resolved in four issues! This really is a new DCU!

Aquaman was one of the many pleasant surprises for me in the new 52, and Geoff Johns keeps on trucking with his Aquaman reclamation project. There are a three or four instances in this issue where we see Aquaman exhibiting some major super-strength, and combining that with his "normal" abilities, he becomes quite powerful. That goes a long way towards stopping Aquaman as a joke.

By far my favorite thing about this book is Aquaman's relationship with Mera. She's a great new character, and comics rarely show married couples as anything but bickering. Mera is supportive but strong on her own, and totally capable of kicking butt by herself.

The Trench get wrapped up a bit quickly, after so many issues of build-up. But I'm confident that at least their king will be back as a recurring villain, he makes too much sense as an opposite for Aquaman. (And how neat was it seeing the Trench king trying to explain that he was just grabbing food for his people?)

Ivan Reis' art is spectacular. The gloomy depths come alive in this issue due to his pencils; I'm not sure the effect would be half as good with another artist. I also love the regal poses he uses for Aquaman and Mera. These two should get some respect, dang it!


Monday, January 2, 2012

Black Panther #526 & 527

Oh man, is that the coolest cover in months, or what? I've been loving these pulp-style images for BP over the last few issues, but this one takes the cake. You know Kingpin is in some trouble when the Panther actually goes and gets some friends.

I'm really enjoying David Liss' last story arc for a few reasons. I don't think I've ever seen Kingpin match up against BP before, and both characters are such excellent planners that they make good adversaries. I'm also quite pleased with the ever-expanding cast for this final arc. Falcon, Cage, Typhoid Mary, and Lady Bullseye are enough to almost turn this into a team book.

The best part about this arc has to be how seamlessly Wakandan politics and plot points are weaving into post-Shadowland New York. Wakanda is such a cool element of the Marvel Universe that I was sad seeing it neglected in BP's solo title. That's finally being rectified now. My only hope now is that Vibranium becomes a resource for Wakanda again and we get a bit of a reset for BP's status quo.

With Francesco Francavilla moving on to Captain America & Bucky, it seems Black Panther's title is the unlucky one. Shawn Martinborough does an admirable job imitating Francavilla's style, but Michael Avon Oeming's pencils are so unique that he ends up making the book his own a bit too much. I've always liked Oeming's art, but his style is so recognizable, issue 527 doesn't quite fit in with the rest of the run. That's the price we pay for two issues in one month, though.


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Time to re-assess the ol' subscription list. With the DCnU failing to grab me with most of the new 52 titles, I find myself drawn back to Marvel. I'm sort of pleased, I've always been a Marvel guy, so basically I'm just switching back from trades to floppies for a bunch of Marvel books.

Here's my list going in to 2012.

  1. Aquaman
  2. Avengers
  3. Avengers Academy
  4. AvX
  5. Avenging Spider-Man
  6. Batman
  7. Batman & Robin
  8. Black Panther
  9. Daredevil
  10. Green Lantern
  11. Green Lantern Corps
  12. Invincible
  13. OMAC
  14. Secret Avengers
  15. Swamp Thing
  16. Villains for Hire
  17. Walking Dead
  18. Winter Soldier
  19. X-Men Legacy
That's a lot more Marvel than I've had in floppy for months. I'll continue buying all my regulars in trade, too.

Happy New Year!