Sunday, January 31, 2010
This one has the quiet cool. Blissfully removed from the dregs of Blackest Night, Diana takes a timeout to clean up the homestead. Quetzlotl, serpent son of god Quetzalcoatl, uncharacteristically swallows a city subway train without having the courtesy to first excuse the commuters. Wonder Woman does damage control & sends off the apologetic serpent with a slap on the wrist, and also heeds Q's parting warning of impending slaughter.
Elsewhere, a respected local lawyer uncharacteristically sets ablaze a synagogue. And the parishioners within. Someone should probably pay closer attention to the ethnically diverse prep school squad with ominous orange glowing eyes who really harsh the mellow at both disaster scenes. Meanwhile, Diana visits friend Bette in the hospital. Simone writes some delightful dialogue here, nice balance to Wonder Woman's witty banter & brash fighting persona. Then Power Girl & Wonder Woman beat the fuck out of each other! Yay.
"Oh man...That is a really big Red Skull..." Awesome. Almost as awesome as giantized Red Skull's battle cry: "You'll all die beneath my feet!" Let me get out of the way the fact that I don't care for Hitch's art. It's often chaotic and sometimes okay and always inconsistent. What's with the thick white bars as panel borders? But Paul Mounts rocks the colors.
And back to the writing we go. Brubaker has the kind of command over Captain America that Geoff Johns (most of the time) has over Green Lantern. But Brubaker is way more fun. I mean, this shit is balls out ridiculous. Not any more ridiculous than any other action superhero saga. Brubaker sets his apart with tone. There's nothing self-righteous about his work on Cap. Johns can be too dramatic, and he tends to beat a once-great concept into repetitive ruin. Brubaker's enthusiasm is infectious, though, and it feels like he has as much fun writing his words as I have reading them.
So I don't care about the publishing fuck-up on this issue, didn't affect my reading. Steve dominates Red Skull on the psychological battlefield & then shit gets physical on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. And the "It's him...It's Captain America!" splash? To hell with cynicism. It moved.
Well you can't blame this month's issue on the absence of Frank Quitely. Cameron Stewart's art is totally serviceable - I know that doesn't sound like a compliment, but Quitely set the bar way high, and Grant Morrison gives Stewart next to nothing to work with after the opening act. Cool cover though. The only reason you need to care about this comic is the potential in Bruce's post-mortem visit to the Lazarus Pit Spa.
Jock takes over for J.H. Williams III on art this month - I haven't been paying attention so I don't know if this is a permanent change or not. Williams III has been just about deified for his work on Detective, but Jock does right by me. Don't get me wrong, Williams III is righteous (and nails the cover). I'm most impressed by his design sense, his unequaled ability to layout unique pages. But is it terrible to prefer Jock's take on the Bat characters? I prefer Jock's take on the Bat characters. I like the more scratchy, edgy, angular line work. I love the rainy city colors by David Baron. A few pages stand out. Batman perched on the prow. Kate & Captain Sawyer in the woods. The Batman/Batwoman split page. All cool.
I will say the book feels less feminine this month, and I don't know if that's good or bad. At first, I wasn't at all interested in Kate at the helm of Detective. Then Rucka picked up the writing, and I cared some more. Now Kate shares the spotlight with Dick. It totally works & I'm always game for more Batman, but I was also really beginning to appreciate that butch red-headed angel. We'll see where this goes.
Rucka seems really comfortable here. He kind of coasted those first few issues, but this is right on. Pretty straightforward. Dick is out for Vanessa Hansen, kidnapped heiress to the family fortune, and Kate is after the Cutter, who does to Gotham University girls exactly what his name implies. The character-building moments work best - Dick & Jim Gordon, Kate & maybe soon-to-be-victimized cousin Bette. To tell you the truth, Kate with a bit of Dick (I kill me) works well - I could do without the Question Second Feature if we could trade it in for more Bats.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Weeee! I love everything about this book. I mean that about Hickman & Eaglesham's run as a whole. Totally my favorite monthly. Although I use that descriptor on a bunch of books, so maybe that takes away from 'favorite.' Fantastic Four is at least the comic I look forward to most. So I guess it is my favorite. Or it's up there. I'm not saying it should be your favorite, too, but Fantastic Four is everything I'm looking for in the medium. Concise writing that can be both playful and serious. Classic-looking art with contemporary style that can be as explosive as it is subtle. Big moments. Little moments. And behind it all, an overwhelming sense of fun & possibility. As much as it could rightfully wear the old "World's Greatest Comic Magazine" slogan, I love how each issue now bears a quote from the script - "There is chaos in the underworld..." sits up high this month.
I never liked FF when I was younger. It was always so fucking wordy! Hickman is as good with the words as anyone writing superhero comics today, and his pacing is perfect. Several panels without text, let Eaglesham tell the story. Clever & swift dialogue that doesn't waste panel space & doesn't lack depth (I love the Thing/Mole Man exchange, fuck if I care that Ben is sappy: "Nobody should have to be a monster that don't want to be"). Writer & artist just seem to operate in perfect synchronicity, and Hickman sets up Eaglesham with some delightful splashes here - Mole Man arrives! Galactus dies! A city rises! Wouldn't be fair to ignore the rest of the crew. Classic cover by Davis, Farmer, and Rodriguez. Wooton shines - I particularly like the Ascension-Engine-Thing font (is the letterer responsible for the speech bubble shapes, too? Whoever is, I like the wavey ones!). Mounts is perfect for Eaglesham - if you didn't appreciate it the first time, go back to the coloring in the cavern scene, or Mole Man's initial entrance, or Galactus' burial site. I love the I-can't-fucking-wait-to-see-what-comes-next page turn anticipation.
The plot! Subterranea is in peril! Way back when, the High Evolutionary plays Island of Dr. Moreau in the underworld with his Ascension Engine, but when evolution backfires, H.E. jumps ship. Everyone's favorite Moloids later stumble upon the still-functioning Engine & enjoy a jaunt on the super-intelligence treadmill - as they devolve in appearance to resemble fugly humans, they evolve in smarts to challenge Mole Man. And of course, the more human-looking anything becomes, so too the more insidious! Moloids want raise city! Mole Man angry, Moloids subservient! Thing clobber! I repeat: weeee!
I guess I'm just missing the point of Secret Origin. I mean, I get the intended point, but not what's actually coming out in print each month. If I were more well versed in the minutia of Superman's history, I might notice the retcons and 'secrets' that Johns must be throwing in here. But I'm not. So I don't. This just reads like the standard Superman origin story to me, the kind I remember reading every couple of years in typical ongoing titles to catch up new readers. For that matter, Secret Origin is basically just a bloated version of the few lines of character encapsulation that run at the beginning of most monthlies. Maybe I shouldn't blame Johns for this - it's not his fault I'm not picking up on the new tidbits - but unless there's a pretty dramatic payoff in the final two issues, this affair has been a waste of time.
Honestly, I wouldn't even mind if this were just another origin retelling with some added flare. I love superhero origin stories, and it's usually interesting to see how different/new/contemporary writers interpret the standard story. But there's nothing here to really enjoy. I'm not blown away by shocking retcons, and I'm not rejoicing in the well-worn yet eminently glorious birth of Superman.
To be fair, this issue does have some merit. Gary Frank, whose art I normally find static & ho-hum, draws a pretty disgusting Parasite, and Brad Anderson's coloring is awesome. The pages of putrid pink metamorphisis & ensuing fight with Superman are great, and the bit with Jimmy Olsen at the end is cute. I would totally buy a poster of the toothy sphincter-mouthed Parasite splash page.
I'm generally not a fan of Bagley's work. To me, it's the art equivalent of bubblegum pop music. I guess it has a sort of generic mass appeal, but it's flat & lacks personality. The script is unfortunately a perfect partner here. There has to be a better way to introduce a new team lineup than having the welcome wagon flit around soap-boxing & brandishing stylized letters.
I've enjoyed Robinson's writing on the Superman books so far - it's certainly not going to go down in the annals of history as one of the great Superman runs, but it's entertaining & different enough to keep me reading - but his JLA is killing me. Despite the promise of a more classic lineup, my excitement has pretty much bottomed out. I'm a sucker, so I'll probably stick around for another issue or two just to see what Robinson does with the book once the team is actually together, but beyond the weak promise of a brighter future, there's nothing but flaccidity in what should be DC's flagship title.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
I did not expect to like this comic so much. I mean it stars a girl character, and I'm terribly misogynistic in my superhero preferences. But it's one of the Blackest Night one-issue revivals, and I'm buying all the others, so why not. Turns out, it's kind of delightful. Tony Bedard's script offers everything I found lacking in Johns' writing on Blackest Night: Flash #2. The guy doesn't take this shit too seriously! Several references to Black Mask torturing Catwoman's brother-in-law & then forcing the wife, Catwoman's sister, to eat hubby's eyeballs! Still fun!
Couple things don't totally work for me. I don't care for the font used on Catwoman's internal monologue & I prefer bold text for emphasis rather than the underlining used here. That's just me being picky. Not a huge fan of the art - looks a little too digital for my taste - but it's okay. The first few pages of Selina fighting Black Lantern Black Mask are cool, I like the panel layouts & coloring. The eyeball-scalpel scenes are tasty. The "animal crackers" Harley Quinn panel is righteous. Solid Hughes cover.
Straightforward plot - a few references to older stories I haven't read, but Bedard provides all the necessary details. Black Mask is now a born-again Black Lantern & gunning for Catwoman, who put the bullet in his head. Mask goes after Selina's sister, who's been institutionalized after the aforementioned eyeball incident. Selina gets by with a little help from her Gotham City Sirens friends, Poison Ivy & Harley Quinn. It's Bedard's tone that carries the book, though. The Blackest Night concept is pretty straight camp to begin with, and Bedard doesn't shy away from it. This isn't a must-buy or anything close, but for my money, it's a solid 7/10. I laughed a little. The zombie thing works best with an edge of ridiculous comedy. This one has a scalpel.
p.s. The DC website shows entirely different creative credits for this issue: "Written by Fabian Nicieza; Art by Julian Lopez and Bit; cover by Guillem March." I went with the credits listed inside the comic.
Scott Kolins draws his balls off, but Geoff Johns writes this issue into the ground. I hold near and dear Johns' originial Flash run from the first half of this decade - Kolins was in there, too - but I feel like he's lost his way since coming back to the character. Rebirth is pretty forgettable. I miss Wally West. There are way too many Flashes running around. Too much whiny self-reflection. Too much scientificky explanation attempting to make sense of the Speed Force. Too much fucking Speed Force! The Flash is a dude that runs really fucking fast - that's your story! It's plenty good, just keep it working!
You know who I really miss? Tom Peyer and Freddie Williams II. Favorite Flash run ever. Lasted for about three seconds. Wally, wife, kids, crime-fighting fun. That creative crew made the married-with-children superhero work. Peyer managed a nice balance between Wally the concerned family man and Wally the fast guy, and he did it without the overly serious melodramatics that I think Johns has been offering recently.
So the story. The alive Rogues fight the Black Lantern Rogues in Iron Heights. Blue Lantern Barry fights Black Lanterns in a cemetery. I'm trying to make this sound boring & yet it's already more entertaining than the actual comic.
But like I said, Kolins is awesome here. I want to say his stuff reminds me of Geof Darrow a little bit - detailed linework, packed panels, stylized & cartoony - maybe some Jack Kirby, too. And EC horror comics. I dunno. Fucking cool though. Also not a great match for Johns' writing. There's a disconnect here. Johns is playing this one too straight, and Kolins is balls out zany exuberance. Considering Flash's rogues gallery, I think Kolins nails it - when you're drawing guys like Captain Cold, Mirror Master, Weather Wizard, Trickster, Captain Boomerang, you need to have a sense of humor. Johns lost his. The Golden Glider slices up Captain Cold's chest with a frozen ice skate for fuck's sake, but Kolins is the only one having any fun.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Sienkiewicz's finishes are righteous. Thick, gnarled, scratchy inks over layouts by Dagnino. Reminds me why I buy Green Arrow/Black Canary every month. And as nasty as his action scenes are, I actually favor the closeups - it sounds counterintuitive to say that Sienkiewicz's line work is simultaneously chaotic and yet refined & subtle, but check out his faces. Also his action scenes are nasty. And Robinson writes good!
You don't need to know anything about Starman to appreciate this book (I don't and I do). I gather the Starman moniker has passed through the Knight family with a few hiccups. Father Ted is dead. Son Jack moved away. Other son David is dead. David is the one who comes back a Black Lantern here. He ravages the Starman Museum in Opal City and tears out a heart or ten. Meanwhile, the apparently formerly villainous and currently immortal Shade is carousing with Hope O'Dare when the sky turns black. Shade takes a bone break to battle David, and actually turns out to be a pretty cool character - seems like a cross between the Phantom Stranger's powers & wardrobe and Deadman's winning personality. And he shouts "Begone, husk!" Awesome.
Robinson's script is accessible & brisk, and I particularly like his dialogue (those two cops are so cute! I mean until someone rips out their hearts). Makes me want to go back and read me some Starman.
So I think I'm liking these Blackest Night one-issue revivals better than anything in the main event arcs. And I like the main event arcs. I also think I like Robinson's writing here better than anything in the Superman titles. And I like the Superman titles. Wee.
Starts strong, middle plummets, end picks up. Reads like an upside down bell curve. Had to ask the girlfriend what an actual bell curve looks like just to make sure that comparison was sensical. Wouldn't want my Shazam synopsis to sound silly! I don't know much about the Black Adam / Shazam family tree of power, so I appreciate the first few pages - Wallace writes a nice concise history, and Sobek's betrayal is a shocker. The art is also particularly strong here. Kramer/Babinski/Smith do delightful eviscerations. After that, pretty much down hill.
Osiris wakes up alone, dead, in a tomb, as a Black Lantern. That must suck. He takes off through the ruins of Kahndaq, searching for sister Isis and savior Black Adam, crying out in desperate confusion. He mugs the same slack-jaw look several times. He asks a lot of Wh- questions. That pretty much covers the middle. Osiris' final showdown with Sobek is nice, gives the art crew something to work with. Last line is a tad too saccharine. More eviscerations next time!
Saturday, January 23, 2010
So I knew nothing about the Phantom Stranger before this issue, and maybe I don't know much more having read it except that he's totally badass and Tomasi gives him a righteous intro worth repeating:
"I have walked hundreds of billions of miles across this earth...across time and space...through the blinding light of the Elysian Fields...and the darkest depths of Pandemonium...where the stench and despair of the Chaoplasm is always a potent reminder of how far man can fall. I am the Phantom Stranger. And the Stranger comes...when the Stranger is needed."
I mean it's over the top, but it works perfectly with the art by Syaf/Cifuentes/Arreola. And the way Tomasi writes him, the Phantom Stranger seems like a dude who deserves such hyperbole. Or I guess it's not hyperbole. Anyway, it's a Blackest Night tie-in, and the Stranger and Blue Devil are battling the Night-ed Spectre, who promptly escapes. Plan B, I suppose, is to track down Boston Brand in Nanda Parbat, help Deadman get his shit together, and then send him off to Hal Jordan with an enlightening tidbit: "Yeah, that something to do with White Light ain't got a snowball's chance in hell of stopping Nekron." The Stranger facilitates this whole shebang.
Tomasi has a great time writing Brand's flippant wit, and he makes the Stranger truly ominous and powerful - the guy dresses like the operatic phantom, fer chrissakes, but I wouldn't call him on it. Deadman would. He doesn't though. So cool. And speaking of costumes, Deadman's high-collared red jumpsuit totally shouldn't work, but it totally does. They should bring back this title for real.
I really liked this one, so much so that I wish the creative crew here ran the show over at straight Batman. I mean I like Tony Daniel, but let him do his thing in a companion book like Streets - Benson's writing is tighter than anything from Daniel's latest couple issues, and ditto for the Nguyen/Fridolfs/Kalisz art team. I mean I guess it doesn't matter, it's a great Batman story no matter what the title, but still.
Someone is brutally cutting up criminals in Gotham, and Gordon actually has to nudge Batman into caring. Nice. Batman roughs up a likely suspect before a clue leads him to an upscale den of iniquity: "There were familiar faces. Captains of industry. High powered lawyers. Mobsters. Sex offenders." Dicks rubs up against the right working girl and gets a meet and greet with a mistress who digs misery and pain. And who has baggage.
Straightforward plot, Batman doing his dark knight detective thing, nothing convoluted. Like I said, the writing is tight, tense, all business. The art is dark and angular, which I guess doesn't sound different from Tony Daniel, but the backgrounds really stand out, the layouts catch the eye, and the close-ups are subtle and revealing. Scratch what I said before, Streets of Gotham suddenly sounds like the perfect title for this crew.
So this one turned into my favorite Blackest Night issue yet. Mogo is fucking awesome. Tomasi does a nice job with the comedy when the big green badass initially hovers over Oa, then shit gets scary when Mogo turns into a life-sucking planetary vacuum. Black Lanterns are swarming the central battery, and Guy, who still thinks his buddy Kyle is dead, continues to rage as a Red Lantern & viciously tears into them. When Kyle attempts to reign in Guy, Vath points out, "With the red and green rings on, Gardner's completely destroying these Black Lanterns - his body count's triple to the amount we can put down with Munk!" None of which stops Mogo from taking over at the end ("Mogo used the term purge!"). The art is mostly strong throughout - Guy looks off in several panels - but you'll get your fill of flesh chomping, limb rending, soul sucking, and planetary purging. Until next issue.
J. Michael Straczynski has made me into a big fan of this title. He chooses interesting pairings and writes highly accessible stories that are moral without being too schmaltzy. This one's with Atom & Joker. Once it gets underway it's easy to see where the story is headed, but that didn't bother me at all. Joker's in Arkham and knocked out with some rare neurological condition that's fucking up the firing of his synapses, and the doctors call in Atom to shrink down, traipse inside Joker's brain, and deliver the antidote at ground zero since the typical medical procedure tends to damage the rest of the brain. Righteous. When Atom hears that without his intervention, Joker will die a slow & agonizing death, he of course deadpans, "I'm not seeing a problem here."
His banter with the doctors and dismissal of the Joker is as funny as I've seen the Atom, and the art crew hits their stride once Atom actually gets down to business in the brain goo. I did wish to myself that Mike Allred had handled the art here - the story just reminds me of his stuff - but the book does look pretty. The full-page spread of the Joker's mind corrupting the Atom's is cool. We get a peek into Joker's fucked up childhood & an existential quickie about the function of his character in the universe, which while nothing revolutionary is still delightfully wicked, and I love how this line works into the ending:
"Besides, even if the whole world was weird, and you weren't, then you'd be the only one who wasn't weird in a weird world...so you'd still be weird."
Looking forward to next month.
I guess it's sad that this has become my go-to book for an Avengers fix, but while Paul Tobin doesn't produce the same balls-out craziness that Jeff Parker did, Super Heroes is still the best place to find a more fun & classic Marvel. I mean it's nowhere near anything over at the Johnny DC line, but it's comforting. Nova is comedy. So Plant Man is on the run from an outrageously rageful Silver Surfer, and the heroes unite to give the poor green bastard a hand. Lots of Power Cosmic & Mjolnir-ing, then Vision uses his head. Yay.
I've drifted away from and back to this title for a few years - I've always dropped it thinking the Lukin/Red Skull/Winter Soldier saga was getting slightly stale, and I've always returned wondering what the fuck I was thinking. So I was away for awhile again, then picked up & liked the "Who Will Wield the Shield" issue, then picked up & loved #602. William Burnside, the Cap from the 50's when Steve was in suspended animation, is disillusioned, loopy, and leading the Watchdogs, an anti-government militia in Boise, Idaho. While Sharon Carter and Steve are hiding out in Virginia, Bucky-as-Cap follows Nick Fury's orders and arrives with Falcon to infiltrate the militia and stop Burnside before the situation gets explosive.
I just got bored typing that two sentence summary, but that's what stands out about Brubaker's writing throughout his run - even when I feel like the plot is moving slowly toward nowhere, there's real tension and careful pacing. Ross, Guice, and White handle the art, and I actually prefer it to what Epting & Co. produced back in the beginning of the run - the work here is more dynamic and colorful, Cap looks strikingly iconic, and there's a nice contrast between the shadowy espionage scenes, the ordinary barroom folk, and the ass-kicking. So it's back on the pull list of course.
Totally my favorite ongoing series right now, and really has been since I first caught on about a year ago. The humor is consistently clever and cute without being forced or patronizing, and the art is perfectly cartoony and adorable. In this one, recently freed Batcave bats have infested the Treehouse & drank all the milk, leaving the Titans with unacceptably dry cereal. When even the Batcow can't provide, the Titans purloin some baby formula from Smidgen, the Atom's family tot. The Titans shrink! Funny things happen! The previously unemployed uncle of the Ant arrives!
"Uncle Ant? Never heard of him."
"No one has."
"He has the ability to make ants big but he never gets to use his powers!"
"The ants don't wish to be big, so my uncle just chillaxes."
I mean you should read it there & not here, but it's fucking funny. I also love the idea that the Batcave is currently populated by bunnies posing as bats, and Batman is none the wiser. Delightful.
Friday, January 22, 2010
There's really nothing terribly good or bad about this book. The plot reads hackneyed, but the main character acknowledges that he himself is a stereotype, so maybe that's intended so far? For a projected 8-issue series, the first isn't anything more than a light hook. Not a rotten hook, so I'll pick up the second if I'm paying attention. I'd probably miss it entirely if Grant Morrison wasn't behind it. Sean Murphy's art is eye splooge, so that is something terribly good after all.