Saturday, March 31, 2012

Batman #7

Now this is Batman. Suspect your best friend of being mind-controlled? Time to slug the fella in the face to knock out a specific tooth! Awesome!

It’s pretty neat, that opening scene with the Owl taking out Batman’s inspirational bat. The best part is that this doesn’t necessarily need to be canon. Bats is in a pretty bad place at the start of the issue, with his heart getting a jump-start from a friendly Gothamite. (Did I miss an issue or just forget who this person was? I don’t remember her!)

Scott Snyder goes on to lay out more of the history of the Talons. They are super-powered assassins put into suspended animation by the Court of Owls. It’s a neat concept, especially because it is an instant recipe for a variety of Talons. I worried they’d all be the same, and the “ninja” rule would take effect (the more there are, the weaker they are). But instead, I think thought and design went into each Talon, they look different and seem to hail from different eras. Neat idea!

Greg Capullo doesn’t draw a lot of backgrounds, but he draws a nice harried Batman. Nightwing still looks too dang young, but Grayson needs to be a bit vulnerable, here. It is his father-figure upending his life, after all.


Friday, March 30, 2012

Avengers 24.1

Once again, I’m surprised by Brian Michael Bendis. This is a fairly logical, reasonable follow-up to the cluster-#### that was Avengers Disassembled back in the early 2000’s.

The conceit of the .1 issues is to give new readers a good jumping-on point. I’m not sure this issue qualifies, but I’ll certainly take it, since it does feature the return of the classic Avenger Vision. That guy’s been dead for a lotta years at this point, and even though his return is about has half-assed as I can imagine (“I got better!”) at this point, I’ll take it. Let’s just undo Wasp’s stupid death during Siege or whatever and we’re good to move on.

I may be wrong, but I think this is the first time Bendis has written She-Hulk. Shulkie is understandably guilt-ridden over her involvement in Vision’s death, so she’s willing to take her punishment. Luckily, Vision’s anger disappears quickly once he sees how Disassembled affected She-Hulk too. These are both characters that haven’t been right since that storyline, so maybe a hug and the offer to keep in touch will be enough to make these guys a bit more usable to the Avengers family of books.

Shortly after his peaceful reunion with She-Hulk, Vision shoots off to Utopia to take on Magneto. I loved this entire sequence. Magneto tries to prove how changed he is (to himself and the X-Men as well as Vision) by not immediately attacking the synthezoid hero. But when Vision puts his insubstantial hand in Mags’ chest, the gloves come off. The rest of the encounter consists of Magneto screaming how easily he could destroy the Vision. It’s great. I understand your anger, Vish, but you probably shouldn’t mess with the master of magnetism.

Finally, Vision interrupts a very high-schoolish moment between Hawkeye and Spider-Woman. Luckily, Cap is on hand to point Vision back in the right direction, the Avengers direction. Sure, Vision missed some time and he’s got some unresolved marital issues, but he’s still an Avenger. That’s a good lesson.

Brandon Peterson’s art is solid, throughout. Peterson was a fan-favorite back in the day, but this doesn’t seem to have the same energy. This is simple, solid storytelling with on-model characters and strong emotional beats. I hope this signals a return to regular work for Peterson, he deserves it.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Aquaman #7

Goodness, Geoff Johns does love his killin’. I hope none of you were too excited about the new League introduced on the cover of this issue, because five pages in, one of them is already dead. Black Manta shows up and flays the Middle Eastern heroine right after her debut (sorry, I’ve already forgotten her name).

Johns cut his teeth doing this with Flash villains, making them into sickos more in keeping with modern sensibilities, but leaving the hero nice and bright. I guess I’m OK with that. I’m more annoyed that this whole new league story feels so close to what I understand is happening in Batwing. I thought a new universe would open up a whole new set of possibilities, not set up repeats of the same story.

I know I’ve seen folks online saying that the DCnU feels like a long Elseworlds. I’m still in that boat. Regardless of how cool the new League is, or the new origins of Lost Atlantis, I just can’t make myself buy it. I realize that’s on me, but I can’t help it!

Ivan Reis’ art is stunning. I absolutely love his take on Mera, and his Aquaman is great too, although sometimes he looks a bit young. Black Manta looks awesome! But once again, there are a some cheats here with unnecessary splash pages. I think there are two or three at least in this issue, when the plot elements portrayed don’t really deserve that “moment.” It’s getting annoying with all these new DCU titles. They are short enough already!


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Avengers vs X-Men #0

Wow! That’s a pretty strong kick-off for Marvel’s next salvo in the comic book wars. DC has held the momentum for months with the new 52, but if this is any indication, I think Marvel is going to come back swinging.

This zero issue catches us up with the current state of the Marvel U, from the perspectives of the Avengers and the X-Men. Brian Michael Bendis shows us the heroic return of the Scarlet Witch. He does a nice job with the info dump explaining where she’s been for the past few years. I’ve really missed Wanda, and it is darn exciting seeing her floating around fighting off MODOK and AIM. And of course, since Frank Cho is drawing this thing, it is only right that Ms. Marvel and Spider-Woman show up to lend a hand when things start to go wrong.

After the fight, the current Avenger takes the Witch back to Avengers Mansion. Wanda is worried that she won’t fit in, and boy is she right. The Vision dresses her down on the front steps in a pretty distressing scene. Bendis has earned the right to write this scene, since he wrote the stupid Avengers Disassembled back when Wanda originally went crazy. But he does have some self-awareness, too; Iron Man’s sad commentary as the former couple separates is “I always liked them together.” You and most long-time Avengers fans, Tony!

The second half of the story is a little weaker, but still entertaining. Jason Aaron introduces us to Hope, the mutant messiah. I’ve been fuzzy on her for awhile, even after seeing her in a lot of comics. It seems she has the same power-set as Rogue; the ability to copy mutant powers. It’s fun when she uses those powers on Cyclops, but we see her real power when she takes on the Serpent Society. She’s a bad-ass. Trained by Cable, using her powers seems to be her second choice. The inclusion of classics like Bushmaster, Asp, and Anaconda is an instant delight for me, especially when rendered so well by Cho.

Cho draws Cyclops living up to his “Slim” nickname, so he’s a tad less imposing that I prefer, but it works. The Serpent Society, MODOK, and AIM’s creature/robo hybrids all look wonderful. (I am amused that Cho can’t draw an ugly woman, this is the hottest Anaconda has ever looked.) Cho’s Scarlet Witch steals the show. Her classic costume looks fantastic, and Cho’s facial expressions sell the emotion of the scenes wonderfully. Sure, the coloring makes it seem like Wanda isn’t wearing anything under her swimming suit, but that’s a long-time risk with the costume.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Thor (2011) #1-6

After enjoying the heck out of Matt Fraction’s opening work on Thor (in the last volume), I was hopeful for the opening arc of the new series. This is all pre-Fear Itself stuff, featuring the Silver Surfer and Galactus heading to Earth to eat the World Tree seed.

There are some neat cosmic ideas in here, mostly the stuff with Thor, Sif, and Kid Loki diving down into the energy well of the World Tree. I dug the odd, bug-ish antibodies that were defending it.

I’m a little more cold on the involvement of Silver Surfer and Galactus. I don’t really see the point in the posturing that goes on here, and the creation of a new herald for Galactus just doesn’t seem like it will stick. At the close of this arc, the Silver Surfer is trapped on Earth again, and Galactus is off with a glowing priest to find new planets. It just doesn’t seem tremendously compelling, although I suppose I could be surprised.

Fraction’s Thor is not a tremendously interesting guy. He’s a bit of a meat-head, I found myself much more invested in both Sif and Loki. Sif always draws the short straw. For a character that is essentially a gal Thor, she should be a lot more mainstream. She’d be a nice fit on the Avengers, wouldn’t she?

Olivier Coipel’s art is always compelling, but nothing in this story truly stuck out to me. I did enjoy the design of the supporting Asgardian characters, especially Volstagg’s little troop of soldiers.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Anna Mercury TPB

Warren Ellis has accomplished the impossible. He always succeeds in his world-building and high concepts. Anna Mercury has both with a strange world where magnetism is the main source of technology and the world is a flat shelf of crust and water. It’s not an alternate universe, Ellis has too many neat ties to Earth for that to be the case.

But we know Ellis can do that. Where my disconnect usually hits is the characters. I usually love the high concept, but can’t stand the smart-asses that typically populate Ellis’ worlds. Anna Mercury is different. She’s fun, dedicated, and actually pretty normal at her core. She’s a modern Batman in dominatrix leather. It’s really neat seeing her transformation into her “real” self when Ellis starts giving us those glimpses.

The weakest aspect of this collection is the lack of a real antagonist. It’s hard to have a whole nation as an inspiring villain, and while I can respect Mercury’s goals, her obstacles are never really more than targets for her to blow apart with her massive pistols. I suppose a lot of the drama and tension build from the technological barriers Mercury has to overcome, but again, there is no substitute for a villain.

Facundo Percio’s art is interesting, but his faces tend to be a bit lumpy. I also noticed he skimped on the details of bystanders and soldiers, making those generic targets seem even less like actual obstacles for Mercury. I do like the alternate covers in the collection that show other artists’ takes on the visually unique Mercury.

Are there more stories featuring this character? I’m certainly up for reading more.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Age of X HC

I’m going to miss Mike Carey on X-Men Legacy. His run has been consistently enjoyable, and now he can add another feather to his cap with a fantastic sequel to the strong Age of Apocalypse. Even better, since this came out pretty close to Flashpoint, it is yet another example of a better, more well-thought out alternate world than DC’s weird exercise.

In the Age of X, the surviving mutants are all trapped in Fortress X, a smash-up of buildings that Magneto tore from NYC when he made his final escape from the corrupt US Government. Now he leads a mutant army that must continually defend its borders from attacks that come every dawn. Cannonball is the savvy field general leading the masses. Rogue is known as either Legacy or Reaper because of her duties with the dead. Cyclops is the bad boy, and Wolverine is a powerless bartender. And the telekinetics spend every morning reinforcing the force walls that keep larger incursions from wiping out the last mutants on Earth.

There are some problems, though. Why do so many of the dead soldiers have the same dog tags and look so similar? Why are all the telepathic characters locked away? And what did Kitty Pryde see outside the force field?

Carey doesn’t have time to play around, so he sets up questions and answers very quickly. There are some great twists and turns in the story, and Carey gives a lot of screen time to some folks you wouldn’t expect. Madison Jeffries plays as big a role as Wolverine. Seeing odd couples like Iceman and Psylocke or Cyclops and Frenzy together makes sense even as it surprises you.

In the end, this is a logical story that has many ties and links in X-Men history. This is a book filled with new ideas and new executions built on a foundation from one character’s past.

Clay Mann’s artwork didn’t impress me on the recent Collision storyline, but he must have been saving up his mojo for this. The book looks great, with good backgrounds, great character re-designs, and dramatic “acting.” I love his take on Dani Moonstar, and Basilisk’s design is fantastic too.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Secret Avengers v2: Eyes of the Dragon TPB

Wow. Once again, the secret “spy” team delivers the best, most “Avenger-y” story I’ve seen in months. Ed Brubaker really does some nice stuff here. At times, characters suffer from a lack of panel time (mostly Moon Knight and Ant-Man) but even those neglected characters get brief moments to shine.

This trade stars Steve Rogers, Sharon Carter, and Shang-Chi as they attempt to stop the Shadow Council’s resurrection of Shang’s father. Once known as Fu Manchu, his evil goes back a lot farther than anyone previously guessed, with ties to the titular Eyes of the Dragon.

John Aman, the Prince of Orphans (from the Iron Fist series) essentially joins the team, and he’s a great fit. His misting power works well, and he definitely holds his own in the fights. And speaking of fights, this collection has some fantastic battles. From the Rogers/Shang sparring sessions to the Valkyrie John Steele beat-down, the fights are fantastic. I actually chuckled in glee when War Machine drops Steve Rogers from above, with Rogers delivering a devastating two-handed punch to Steele.

I don’t really know much about Max Fury, but the idea of an evil super-spy is pretty solid. I love that his plans have just as many layers and tricks as the real Fury; it’s neat seeing that Rogers is pretty adept in that world too. Ant-Man gets a fantastic moment as a secret back-up plan, and Moon Knight gets a wonderful moment too, both resulting from Rogers’ planning. (Sharon Carter and the Beast get taken down too easily though!)

With a book this jam packed with characters and action, I see why Brubaker let Nova fade away from the cast. Really, that a$$-kicking role does just fine in Valkyrie’s hands. Mike Deodato and Will Conrad do a fantastic job with the battle scenes and the quiet moments. I also found it amusing (and fair!) that for all the scenes of the lady Avengers standing around looking naked, there are a lot of shirtless dudes too. They are trying to please everyone, I guess!

This is the best Avengers I’ve read in awhile.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Fear Itself HC

Well, now I understand the complaints about this series.

I was really looking forward to this based on the creative team, but I have rarely read a crossover with so much missing. Entire plot elements are simply dropped out of the book and not mentioned again. What happened in Paris? I don’t know. Did Absorbing Man get a hammer? Clearly he did, because we see him with one, but it is skipped. After dominating the early goings, the hammer wielders just disappear from the pages. I mean, we see the Thing’s return, but we’re talking about Hulk and Juggernaut! Heck, I even want to see the others (like Attuma) get taken down too!

Part of the lack of focus here is that there are barely lead characters for this. Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man are mostly featured, but they fade away for most of an issue before showing up for a dramatic moment or two. I think Thor makes out the best, he gets some great fights with Odin, Hulk, and Thing. But this wasn’t marketed as a Thor story, and even his story feels incomplete. This huge battle with the Serpent, the one that got built up with prophecies and all that dialogue? A few panels long. Then just done.

Winter Soldier’s death? Pointless. And NO ONE should be able to break Cap’s “indestructible” shield. I understand the need to quickly (and artificially) give the Serpent some street-cred, but editorial should have nixed this idea. Now the shield is breakable. It’s that simple. It’s been done.

And Spider-Man QUITS? Seriously? The poster boy for responsibility goes home when he thinks the heroes are going to lose? Oh my. Can’t take that one back either.

How the heck were the super-powered good guys determined? Black Widow, Iron Fist, and Dr. Strange barely appeared in the series, yet they all get special Asgardian weapons and Tron redesigns. Why? I don’t know. Is that in a tie-in? I’m sure I’ll find out from the library eventually.

It’s also pretty funny that Hermod basically stands in for Balder through the whole story. He even looks the same.

Once aspect that lived up to the hype is Stuart Immonen’s art. I’m really impressed with his Asgardians. Odin is regal and more powerful than I’ve ever seen him. Sif looked great, if others could make her look this regal, I’d join the fans clamoring for her to join the Avengers. Cap should not be slinging guns and wearing helmets, but Immonen turns those mistakes into triumphs, with Cap’s sweet parachute-drop into downtown NYC.

I shelled out for the hardcover, but clearly, that wasn’t enough. If I want this whole story, I’ve got to buy a lot of tie-ins.

Story – Average
Art - Excellent

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Green Lantern #7

Man, these comics feel short these days. At least this one was only $2.99.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but hasn’t Sinestro shown up to bug Hal while he and Carol are “involved” more than once? Is Sinestro some kind of perv? And really, with Star Sapphire’s costume, he doesn’t need to flout outside their window to get a good look.

It’s so weird to me that while the rest of the DCU has been blown up and started over, Green Lantern just keeps on trucking. If someone did start reading with GL #1 a few months ago, they’d have no idea who the Indigo Tribe is and they’d be clueless on Black Hand. There is a lot of important history there, and it’s all old and out of fashion. It’s weird that the GL corner gets to ignore the reboot.

I suppose I’m OK with that, because I am anxious to find out more about the Indigos. It sure seems like they are all bad guys forcefully controlled into a force for good. That’s why Doug Mahnke’s art is so neat in this issue, all those Indigos really look like they could be horrific bad guys if they weren’t leaning on their weird staffs and moving about so passively.

Clarification: I made fun of Sapphire’s costume earlier, but Mahnke does a really great job drawing Carol Ferris, so I’m not exactly complaining, you know?


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Avengers Assemble #1

If Bendis had always written his Avengers like this, I may have never gotten so down on him! Now, this isn’t a great value at $3.99, although the digital copy helps a lot. But at least this short little comic has two fights, both pretty satisfying.

Hulk takes on Aquarius in the middle of the desert and Hawkeye, Black Widow, Thor, and Iron Man all confront the new Taurus. That’s right, Bendis is bringing back the Zodiac! The Zodiac is a group that usually works better in theory than execution, but this has potential, especially since Taurus pretty handily defeats Thor and Iron Man. (and I do love that when Avengers are in trouble they can call for backup like those two. That’d make you pretty confident, huh?)

This definitely has potential. While the Hulk hasn’t hung around with the Avengers for quite some time, the rest of the line-up is well-rounded, for both powers and personalities. I’m a tad confused why Hawkeye is hanging around with Mockingbird in the background of all the opening panels, I thought the two of them split up in some Avengers comic I didn’t read?

Mark Bagley is one of my favorite classic style artists. Taurus’ design is fantastic, although it is hard to mess up a giant bull-man. Bagley does a nice job with Iron Man’s current armor, and this might be my favorite take on Thor’s current duds too. Bagley does fail in one respect. Bryan Hitch may be getting lots of glamour and recognition for Hawkeye’s new costume, but that outfit sucks. Add Bagley to the list of artists who can’t rescue it from awfulness.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

X-Men Legacy #263

This book is wildly inconsistent for me. I really dug the fighting last issue, but this time the combat is not as tightly choreographed, so I didn’t enjoy it as much. I’m also having big problems identifying people. I only know a few of the X-Men who show up with Hope; this must be how civilians feel picking up their first comics!

I also missed the moment when Rogue became obsessed with Magneto again. I’ve always been a Rogue & Gambit fan, so I’m much more interested in seeing the two of them interact. I think this issue may have had too many folks running around pounding on Exodus. I felt like Rachel Grey’s victory (she’s the one who actually puts Exodus down) gets a bit glossed over because there are so many people trying to get a punch and line of dialogue in.

David Baldeon’s art isn’t the right match for this book. His characters look too young, and his muscle-y characters look off. Even Exodus seems out of proportion. Frenzy and Rogue look waaaay too young. Contrast that with what a nice job he does on Hope, Anole, Blindfold, and the other younger characters. Baldeon should be drawing a teen book!

I’m not giving up on this book, but with digital copies now coming with the $3.99 titles, I’m wondering if I should get my X-fix from Wolverine & the X-Men or Uncanny. We’ll see.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Avengers #24

“And his body, well, he has no one to blame but himself.” I love it. Norman Osborn may have souped himself up to take on the Avengers, but clearly he hasn’t read his comic book homework. Everyone knows that if someone has energy absorption powers, the key is to overload them with more powers than he can handle. Love it.

Bendis, you didn’t write my style of Avengers stories for many, many years, but you seem to be doing it now. From start to finish, the Avengers handled their own business. This conclusion had even more moments of excellent violence with the heroes fighting smart against the clever Osborn.

I loved Red Hulk’s “apology” after he belts Osborn. He better start listening to Iron Man! And how cool was it seeing all the distance powers when the Avengers were trying to keep Osborn at a distance. Quake and Storm would be a pretty lethal combination. Sure, the New Avengers did come in to really overload the big bad, but this was an Avengers operation.

My favorite moment has to be when Cap and the rest take out the corrupt SHIELD agent. Daniel Acuna may have skimped on backgrounds for most of the issue, but he really sells that moment, the disappointment and anger on the Avengers’ faces. And the total fear on Agent Washington’s. She messed up big, and it’s time to pay Captain America.

The post-scripts are decent, but I’m not sure Cap would be so resistant to bringing the Avengers around for some publicity. Fear Itself started the same way, right? And as for Madame Viper? Acuna’s art makes her cliffhanger work, with the stylized “Heil Hydra!” repeated across the page. Hammer falls, and we’re back to the excellent status quo of Madame Hydra and her flunkies as a prime threat. Nicely done.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

GI Joe: A Real American Hero v3 TPB

I can’t express the joy that reading this series gives me. Larry Hama is certainly following a “greatest hits” type approach, but I’m not complaining at all. If he’s this good at recapturing the glory of his old storylines, count me in for the new Cobra Island and invasion of Sierra Gordo.

The trade opens with another savage battle based around the Joe hovercraft, the Whale. This time Cutter is assisted by Deep Six, Shipwreck, and Topside, (the team does use the SHARC sub too). The Joes go up against a bunch of Cobras on hydrofoils. The artist for this issue is my old fave Ron Wagner. For anyone wondering if he still draws those awesome EELs, the answer is yes, he does.

The next arc jumps between the arctic, where Iceberg, Frostbite, and Blizzard are facing Snow Serpents and Ice Vipers, and NYC; where Mainframe assists the original GI Joe and Jane in repelling Firefly and Crystal Ball. I never thought I’d love a story featuring Crystal Ball, but this thing is fun from start to finish. I’m not even sure I can choose a high point, although it is probably between Firefly doing a fist pump or Iceberg’s ID when he barges into a US military base. “All the info on this card has been blacked out except for the codename Iceberg!”

Subplots? You want subplots? Hama has them too. Sneak Peak has risen again, it turns out his dramatic death back in those old comics was a set-up for a top secret mission. Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow are ferreting out a new branch of their clan Arashikage. And Flint is busy trying to be cool and impress Lady J.

S.L. Gallant ably handles the art for the bulk of this trade, and I love his take on the classic costumes. Really, this book is so good, it actually made me stop buying IDW’s other GI Joe title. If I can get the original series and it’s this good, why get the re-make?


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Avengers Academy #27

Having the Runaways team-up with the Academy kids is a natural fit. They’re both West Coast teams, same age groups, both with long ties to the Marvel U. I’m glad Christos Gage gets the chance to put them together. His love of Marvel minutiae makes him the perfect writer to handle Victor meeting Hank Pym for the first time. And the Mettle/Molly fight didn’t go how I’d expect a brick battle to go, but what fun!

My favorite moment has to be Giant Man putting an end to the fighting. I love it when people realize just how powerful growing characters can be. Dialogue-wise, Gage tries to give Tigra another excuse for parading around in a skimpy bikini when she’s a teacher. Sure, that California sun would be mighty hot if you’ve got fur, but maybe she should think about some biker shorts? Maybe?

I’m not totally invested in the time-travel story, but it’s just a macguffin to get these characters to interact. In that respect, it works perfectly, and judging from the cliffhanger, the Runaways are about to make another classic bad decision to make things worse.

Karl Moline does a great job with the art. His adults look a bit young, but you can tell the difference in characters based on facial expressions and hair. He handles himself well on the action, but he excels in the talking and interaction scenes, again, a good choice for this storyline.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Saga #1

So I understand it is going to be fairly blasphemous for me to say this, but I didn’t LOVE Saga #1. This seems to be the trendiest book I’ve heard about in awhile, so maybe I’m in the minority, but I think this book could still go either way.

There is a lot to like. Brian Vaughan has a nicely realized universe with a lot of unique and interesting factors at play. The whole idea of sub-contracting a war out to other planets is one I haven’t seen in any other sci-fi I’ve read. The mixing of fantasy and technology is also nicely done, there is little chance to mix up the two groups when the magic-users of Wreath are still carrying swords around. I also enjoy the banter between the main characters. Alana and Marko are clearly Romeo and Juliet on a galactic scale. That is a unique set of POV characters for the reader to follow around the universe. The whole idea of robots bossing around their human armies is fun too, especially when the robots seem as… emotional as they do.

But this book is trying awfully hard. I mean, the opening line is pretty dirty, appropriate maybe, but definitely going for shock. The robots doing it? Trying a bit hard. Cutting umbilical cord with teeth? Again, a tad much. Vaughan has got some strong ideas here, he doesn’t need to work so hard to be edgy.

Fiona Staples has a heck of a challenge, here. I mean, when I started reading this comic, I was totally “out” because of how ridiculous the characters look. But by the end of the issue, she sold me on a horned dude, a tiny-winged lady, and even a giant talking cat. A big obstacle for sci-fi material is getting people to accept new things, and Staples’ art makes the sale here. I’m still a tad fuzzy on those robots, though.

This looks like a series that will read better in trade, to me, so that may be the format I follow from here.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Batman & Robin #7

It amuses me that I can still be shocked by the violence dreamed up by Peter Tomasi. I mean, seriously, this is the Bat-book featuring Batman and his young son, and yet it may well be the most violent Bat-title on the stands. It doesn't have the White Rabbit contorting to show off her assets (in fact, I don't think there has been one line for a female character) but wow, they sure do bring the violence in this title.

This is the big wrap-up of the enjoyable Nobody storyline. It has been an exciting experience, with lots of nice new history for Batman that doesn't conflict with any previous stories. This is well worth picking up in trade.

Maybe it's Patrick Gleason who loves the violence? I can't be sure. Here's some of the things he got to draw this month:

-A man half dissolved by acid.
-Batman with many, many knives sticking out of his back.
-Batman slammed to the ground, driving those knives in deeper.
-Batman pushing Nobody's face into a vat of acid.
-A young boy punching his fingers through a grown man's skull.

C'mon now, that's top-quality violence!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Locke & Key HC

What an interesting comic. Joe Hill is Stephen King’s kid, right? It sure shows here. This series has all the elements. Sad childhood, creepy locales, depraved psychopaths. In fact, that sad childhood element is a recurring one for King, and Hill seems pretty comfortable tilling the same soil.

The series focuses on the Locke family, specifically on the three Locke children as they wrestle with their mother’s assault and father’s death. There are all sorts of interesting ties between the murderer and the victim, but it turns out that there is a much more supernatural element here. The Locke family moves back to Lovecraft, MA, where the kids start spreading out into their sprawling estate. It’s spooky, but not overly so, in fact, it seems like a pretty great place to live if it wasn’t for the creature in the old well house and the door that turns you into a ghost. And heck, who wouldn’t want to try out being a ghost?

Hill does a nice job getting in the heads of each of the core characters, but he’s not neglecting the rest of the world either. I really enjoy seeing the strength in Locke family matriarch and in the kids’ uncle. They aren’t privy to the toughest parts of the kids’ lives, but they’re doing their best.

After the first collection, I have absolutely no idea where this is going. The creature in the well is certainly giving me some Ring vibes, but it seems there is more than that going on. I’m happy to see the story sort of resolve after the first six issues, but with lots of threads for later. Growing up in the same town your mysterious Dad did is a sure recipe for lots of interesting supporting characters.

Gabriel Rodriguez has a nice style, with big expressive eyes and clear lines. At times the art gets a bit cartoony, especially when drawing Bode, the youngest Locke. That said, some of the elements in this horror story would be too upsetting if drawn realistically. His storytelling is clear, it will be neat seeing if the colors and tone of the art continues or adjusts to the dark subject matter.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012


How many times can you copy something before the colors start to fade?

Listen, I love Dan DiDio and Keith Giffen's take on OMAC, he's much closer to the original concept, Kevin Kho is an amusing "blank" guy, very much in line with Jack Kirby's original concept. Watching the finned Hulk smash things is always entertaining, that's why I'm bummed this comic is going away.

That said, I can't take any more Kamandi homages. I know there were some in Countdown. Karl Kesel did it best years ago in Superboy. I loved the concept then, and when I actually read the original stuff, I was blown away. How many times are we going to see these imitations trying re-create the feeling that we already had? I mean, the DCU already HAD the best Kamandi and OMAC and Fourth World stories, and they got wiped out? Why update people's costumes and tell the same story again, marginally changing things (not for the better)?

Taken on its own, I may have enjoyed this more. I love that there is a place called the Evil Factory run by an evil monkey man named Simyan. Talking animals walking around after dark, with politics and corruption totally hidden from the waking world is hilarious. I was also tickled that Kevin just joins up with them no questions asked. Why would he? His life is smashed anyway. But when I read it, I compare it to the older, better originals, and that makes this comic less satisfying.

Keith Giffen's art continues to be bombastic and fun. I'm going to miss his work on this character. The good news is, it seems OMAC is joining the JLI, so the character won't be gone.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Uncanny X-Force #1-4

I’ve been hearing good things about the breakneck action in Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force, but I held off because I enjoyed Chris Yost’s take so much over the past few years. Then Comixology had a nice 99 cent sale and I figured it was time to sample. I’m quite happy I did.

It seems Apocalypse is back on the scene, reincarnated or recreated in the body of a young boy. His old associate Ozymandius is pulling strings to make sure this kid grows up to be the Darwinian manipulator we all know and love. Apocalypse also has four new Horseman and a new sentient Ship, making his team a sort of “best of” from his old flunkies. (Although weren’t the Dark Riders his group too? A bunch of generic 90’s baddies, I think.)

After the larger cast in the last series, Remender whittles the lineup down a fair amount. X-Force is now Wolverine, Archangel, Psylocke, Fantomex, and Deadpool. There was no real “forming the team” moment, but I’ve seen so many origin stories, that is certainly fine with me. The team seems a bit awkward, with Fantomex pining for Psylocke, but she’s gotten back with Archangel. And Deadpool just annoys everybody.

The new Horseman are nice and tough, with some original powers. The upper hand gets mixed up quite a bit, as the Horsemen are darn capable of causing serious damage to the X-folks. In fact, the new Famine drains Archangel so badly that Deadpool is forced to empty his pockets to feed him (Pop Rocks and soda), then slice flesh off and feed it to the angelic guy. Pretty dang gross, and now there are two cannibals on the X-Men (since Wolverine ate his own flesh in the early issues of Wolverine: Origins).

I should mention this fight is happening on the surface of the moon. Pretty dang cool. The entire storyline is visually stunning, with Jeremy Opena exhibiting a level of skill I had no idea he possessed. This is a beautiful book; the characters don’t look like perfect cartoons like so many comics, they are lumpy and a bit imperfect, but wonderfully rendered. The designs on the new Horsemen are unique but very iconic. You know which Horseman is which as soon as they use their powers.

Regarding digital comics, the colors really pop and I found the navigation between splash and regular pages to be flawless.

I really enjoyed this opening arc, and I’d love to read more of the series. But $3.99 per issue is steep, and I can’t justify a 16 or 17 dollar trade for four comic books. Let me know if you spot an X-Force sale on Comixology!


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Red Hulk: Planet Red Hulk TPB

I absolutely loved Jeff Parker’s first trade on the Red Hulk; this one is solid, but not quite as good. Part of the problem is the diversion to an alien world that gives this trade its name. Planet Red Hulk just doesn’t have the time (and really doesn’t need it) to have the resonance that Planet Hulk did. I can dig the idea that we want to see Rulk go through the same sort of problems that Bruce Banner did. Putting Rulk in this uncertain a situation with this little fallout just doesn’t work as dramatically.

The Earth-bound portions of the story are much, much stronger. Parker is creating a slew of new villains for Rulk, including Zero/One, a reality-altering tech villain; Black Fog, an intangible speedster; and Fortean, Rulk’s own “General Ross.” That’s right, Rulk is now on the run, just like the green goliath.

It is surprisingly fun seeing Rulk deal with Hulk-style problems with a more strategic world-view. I particularly enjoyed seeing him take on Black Fog; when did speed ever actually beat strength? Fortean has some pretty sweet tech to make things difficult too.

Parker’s main strength in this trade is his development of the supporting cast. The LMD (life model decoy) androids get whittled down, but it’s a surprisingly poignant scene seeing how Rulk had grown attached to his handlers. I also enjoy the perspective that Jacob brings to the Zero/One story. We rarely see the formative experiences of new super-villains!

Gabriel Hardman’s art continues to stun me with its power and detail. The action is simply top-notch, and I love the character design in play here. The new villains listed above all have great, instant-classic designs (especially Black Fog). There is one cover where all these villains show up to attack Rulk, and they look like they belong already! Plus Patrick Zircher gets to draw Zzzax and MODOK, an added bonus!


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Invaders Now! HC

I picked this one up from the library, and it’s odd, I like the Invaders, I like Christos Gage, but this series left me fairly cold. In fact, other than the excellent Torch trade, I haven’t loved any of the Invaders material that Dynamite put out over the last few months.

And really, I should have liked this a lot more. This story features Arnim Zola, Shuma Gorath, and zombies. I mean, those are three of my favorite things, right? But the whole time lost element of the story never totally works. I just don’t feel bad for Bucky Cap or Toro, not as much as I guess I should. It’s also hard to get riled up about the repercussions of a story we never heard about before now.

Gage does a nice job with Union Jack, giving the character a pretty great batting average. Has anyone actually read a bad story featuring the current Union Jack? I can’t think of one. Steve Rogers is fine, as is Toro, but Namor, Spitfire, and the Torch don’t get a ton to do. The Golden Age Vision is somewhat interesting, but I don’t know much of anything about the character.

Arnim Zola isn’t much of a mastermind, leaving the main scheming up to the Lovecraftian Shuma Gorath. Shuma doesn’t have any dialogue, so it’s up to Zola and a weird WWII survivor to give the Invaders someone to play off. The dramatics never fully coalesced for me.

Caio Reis is a new name for me, and his art is decent. It’s tough going up against those Alex Ross covers. Reis’ faces were a bit lumpy and sometimes the battle scenes were too sketchy.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Villains for Hire #4

Duh. I really should have seen that one coming. I mean, I KNEW that Misty Knight didn’t kill Paladin a few issues ago, but I didn’t see how he’d get re-integrated to the storyline. Nicely done, DnA! (I especially enjoy seeing this character trying to keep everything nice and clean when the villains start fleeing the scene!)

This series is clearly the conclusion to the Heroes for Hire series, unfortunately I bought that one in trade and this one in floppy, so I haven’t seen the resolution for H4H yet. That said, this is a satisfying read on its own. If you dig backup characters like Purple Man, Man Ape, and Avalanche, this is for you. Heck, smaller names like Bombshell and Tiger Shark get a lot of dialogue and work here too.

The pacing seems a tad off, I think this story was meant to percolate a bit longer before the pay off, but Marvel cancelled this book pretty quickly after launching it. I suppose we should be happy DnA wrapped it up at all. The series leaves Misty Knight, Paladin, and most of the villains in convenient places to be picked up again, and the Marvel U always benefits when villains get their moment in the sun.

Renato Arlem’s work is serviceable, the action is clear and the costumes look good, but as always his book looks like snapshots with costumes drawn on. There isn’t a huge sense of motion. (He does squeeze in some more butt-shots for Misty Knight too, always amusing.)


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Swamp Thing #7

Good timing, Scott Snyder! I was just about to drop this comic, and not really looking forward to reading this issue, when suddenly the plot lurches forward again. It feels like the book had been nothing more than some scary atmosphere for a few issues, entertaining, but hardly must-read stuff. This issue moves things along as both Alec Holland and Abigail Arcane are transformed into the avatars of the primal forces they represent (the Green and the Rot, respectively).

I'm not a huge Swamp Thing fan, so I'm sticking around for the story, here, I have not real loyalty to the character. Waiting six issues for the main character to show up was tough enough, so I am a tad worried about the pacing.

Yanick Paquette does a fantastic job with this issue, filling the book with gore and detail. He takes the time to include a stork eating a frog in the swamp next to Alec's protective leaves, a dedication to detail that is quite impressive. He also creates some absolutely horrific Rot monsters. Baby-headed, bird-zombies. Enormous meat and bone constructs wearing dead people as jewelry. This is really disgusting stuff. I don't know how this is only rated "Teen-plus" because it may very well give me a nightmare.

I'm aware this is a horror book, but at this point I'm starting to worry about Paquette's sanity!


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Walking Dead #94

Robert Kirkman pulls back a bit this issue. Rick has been going through his fascinating descent into almost villainy, but I think that’s wrapping up now. Interacting with a “larger world” and with other folks who aren’t trying to kill him is going to do wonders to restore his old morals.

I also love that Jesus is entirely more competent than anyone we’ve seen before. This guy fights zombies with his hands literally tied behind his back. Rich, Michonne, Tyreese, Abraham, Andrea, and more of our core cast have proven skilled at zombie killing, but this guy takes it to a new level. I wonder if there are some special forces or other elite troops helping to prop up this large affiliations of survivors.

Usually, Rick is the one a step ahead of the rest of the characters. It’s fun seeing somebody else in the drivers’ seat for a bit. And I don’t figure it will last, in any case.

Charlie Adlard continues to be the model of consistency on art.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Invincible #89

What a fun idea. This comic has been going on for awhile now, and I’m loving Robert Kirkman’s takes on the classic comic book shake-ups. He’s done the new costume and the added cast members. He’s done the gay best friend and the pregnant girlfriend. Now he’s moved on to replacing the title character, and to make it even more topical, he changed Invincible’s race too!

That is, Invincible’s replacement is African American. I love the idea of Bulletproof as an “almost Invincible” he even had his eye on the costume back in the day! Sure, that’s a pretty convenient bit of history, but it just adds to the current plot.

Most of the issue shows the Guardians of the Globe and their allies dealing with the Viltrumite presence on Earth. Not really much to be done, so everyone is just going their own way by the close of the issue. Dinosaurus still gets an amazing amount of respect considering how silly he is. I’m also intrigued to find out just what Mark Grayson is a perfect match for.

That closing page makes me hope this is the status quo for some time. I’d love to see how Bulletproof does as Invincible for at least a trade’s worth of material.

Ryan Ottley does a great job once again; I’m amazed how much detail he can put into Dinosaurus’ ridiculous features. And I LOVE the double splash page with the new Invincible. Great execution.


Monday, March 5, 2012

Avengers #23

Well, I have to give credit where it is due. Bendis is handling this story just right, and right now, it is comparing favorably to the classic Siege of Avengers Mansion story arc. I mean, you’ve got these overpowered foes that have taken the Avengers off the map with only a few exceptions, yet here we are. Quake is showing up and taking care of business. Vision is standing tall against a souped-up Norman Osborn.

In fact, just about everyone “redeems” themselves after their showings in the last few issues. President Obama stands up to Osborn and does the right thing. Captain America is as indomitable as ever. When Quake makes her move, a split second is more than enough for Iron Man, Storm, and Spider-Woman. Heck, Hawkeye and Red Hulk sort of take care of their own problems too! And Red Hulk has some of the best “bad cop” dialogue I’ve ever heard. When a Hulk threatens to eat you? You talk!

Somehow, mixed in with all the Avengers’ triumphs and dramatic moments, Osborn still comes off as a legit threat at the close of the issue. Daniel Acuna gets to return for the most dramatic chapter in this arc. His style makes these dramatic moments just pop off the page. When Storm and Iron Man bust loose, I chuckled with glee, and when Red Hulk gets free, I actually laughed out loud with anticipation. This is a really strong comic!


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Secret Warriors: Wake the Beast HC

So I guess the Contessa wasn’t spying for Nick Fury, huh? That’s a bit of a bummer. She wasn’t exactly my favorite character or anything, but I loved the whole James Bond femme-fatale feel she always had when teaming up with Nick Fury. I suppose there is still a very good chance that she is going to double-cross her Soviet masters, but this colors all those old appearances a bit.

I do have a problem with the Leviathan concept. First of all, how weird is it that Jonathan Hickman and Grant Morrison both created their secret societies with the same name? The bigger problem is the oddball organic-tech design for the Soviet society. It just doesn’t fit in with the conflict between Hydra and SHIELD.

Clearly, Hickman has done a lot of research. I consider myself a bit of a Marvel nerd, but man, the names he pulls for the rest of the caterpillar program is beyond me. I look forward to seeing who these folks end up to be, but wow, that’s a lot of potential new characters. I love that Alex Pierce is one of the bosses, his transformation into super-soldier during Nick Fury vs. SHIELD is one of the best transformations in comics. As for Mikel Fury, I have absolutely no memory of the dude. Is he new?

I enjoyed seeing the origins of Hydra’s leadership, although there is still plenty of mystery there. Kraken’s origin in particular leaves a lot of possibility for ties to the history of the Marvel U. I appreciate Hickman’s escape hatch for Madame Viper, too, she’s too interesting a villain to write out easily.

Stefano Caselli’s pencils shine on some of the issues, but the art maintains a pretty consistent look throughout the arc. I’ve never seen Nick Fury look so hulking, but he’s practically a force of nature for those characters in his orbit, so it makes sense. I love the Contessa De Fontaine’s cover; talk about a James Bond/Jim Steranko vibe!


Saturday, March 3, 2012

FF v1 HC

What an odd approach to the Fantastic Four. Jonathan Hickman is clearly a meticulous plotter, with multiple elements from his last few FF stories coming to a head in this first collection. I bet it was confusing for folks coming in fresh to try and figure out about a second Atlantis, new Inhumans, advanced Mole Men, and a council of Reed Richards.

I love the level of history that Hickman uses in his work. In addition to the concepts above, we get the High Evolutionary, Mad Thinker, Diablo, Mole Man, the Wizard, and of course Doctor Doom. That’s a lot of great villains, and there are almost as many shout-outs to older stories in the actual Future Foundation line-up (which includes Dragon Man, Alex Power, and Artie Maddox). My problem is that the conflicts all feel somewhat sterile; for some reason I’m not invested in the outcome.

A good example is the big battle set near Old Atlantis. Mole Man shows up, along with some of his classic monsters, attempting to drop the city to the ground. The FF show up, and Alex Power gets a few cool moments, but I was never worried about whether the city stood or fell. Spider-Man’s dialogue is snappy, but I feel he’s a bit out of his role when he’s playing big brother to Alex Power during the conflict. He also seems awkward trying to hold a leadership role with the Invisible Woman. I’m afraid the balance that made the Fantastic Four work is out of whack.

Reed Richards is fairly reactive through this whole story. I think almost every decision or suggestion comes from Valeria, Nathaniel Richards, or Doom. Losing your core cast is a risk when your cast becomes so expansive, and I wonder if that’s what causing my lack of interest in the former Fantastic Four.

Steve Epting and Barry Kitson both draw Susan Richards looking a bit too young, but both excel in the black & white Spider-Man costume. I also can’t get past the Thing in his white wrestling togs. I’ve got too many years of blue uniforms to be able to put it right in my head.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Secret Avengers #23

This is the best team books on the stands right now. I had high hopes for this comic, and Rick Remender is clearing every hurdle. Captain Britain is back and cooler than ever in his sweet 80’s togs, Hawkeye is acting like the cocky leader we know he is, and the rest of the team is kicking butt.

I particularly enjoyed the ridiculous banter between Hank Pym and the Beast. They must be pretty close if Beast can get away with making jokes about creating Ultron. In fact, the banter and relationships on this team are already coming together in an entertaining fashion. Hawkeye’s concern for Ant-Man was great, but Black Widow’s confidence in Eric O’Grady’s abilities was even better.

As for Eric’s fate, I just can’t believe it. Surely the current Ant-Man is too popular to get killed like this. That said, with the Torch and Venom joining the team this issue, there are too many folks on this team. Actually, Venom’s involvement is yet another high spot in this issue. Cap’s the only one willing to give the guy a chance!

Gabriel Hardman is now one of my favorite artists, no doubt about it. His Ant-Man is simply awesome. The entire escape sequence was top notch, with the sparking helmet and mad dash into the dangerous streets. It was a great touch seeing Eric pick up a lead pipe to go down fighting too.

The Torch doesn’t seem to have much of a costume yet, but I can’t wait for Hardman to draw Venom.


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Aquaman #6

Well, here’s the first fairly boring issue of Aquaman. Too bad it had to be the one starring Mera. She’s been a great part of the book for the entire opening arc, so I’m disappointed that her spotlight issue is so full of clich├ęs and DCnU toughness.

I can’t imagine too many interactions actually go down like the abusive boss that Mera unloads on to open the book. If there was a super-strong hero chick in your store, would you start fondling her, even if you were a pervert? Doesn’t seem too smart, does it? Geoff Johns keeps it coming from there, with a wife-killing man who deserves some beating getting what he deserves from Mera too. I’m not sure what the point of this issue was, except to show us how Mera might be justified in hating the surface world.

Joe Prado handles more of the art in this issue, over Ivan Reis’ breakdowns. The art suffers for it, with the faces and figures alternating between elongated and smooshed. Mera’s face really looks odd in some of these panels.

I am intrigued about the “First League,” so I’ll be back next month. Every DCnU book finds itself on a handicap with me, having to be extra-enjoyable to justify my purchasing it. Another issue like this and I’ll probably let Aquaman slip off my sublist too.