Wednesday, May 25, 2011


BATMAN: GATES OF GOTHAM #14 ½ whiskers
A great beginning to what looks to be a fascinating investigation into one of the coolest fictional cities of all. I love that Snyder and Higgins will be building upon bits laid down by Grant Morrison and that we’ll be finding out more about the Wayne family tree. While the art here is hit-and-miss, it sometimes nails it right on the head. Again, a solid beginning and I know I’m going to be depressed when this miniseries comes to an end. Also bummed that I didn’t score the alternate cover.

AVENGERS #134 whiskers
Bendis gets things back on track this time with a clever little FEAR ITSELF tie-in; leave it to him to buck the trend and do things his way. “His way” this time is one of his patented “sitting around talking doing something next to nothing” issues, but if I must have one of those, I’d want it to be by Bendis. Nowhere else can you get these little character and personality insights, like Jarvis’ steadfast belief in the Avengers and Spider-Woman’s dating problems. This ties in neatly with FEAR ITSELF #1 and is quite ominous by the end. Not a big Bachalo fan but he’s got a certain odd charm on occasion.

BATMAN #7103 whiskers
This issue loses some points with me by a) not being drawn by Tony Daniel, and b) featuring Two-Face. Something really cemented itself in my mind with this story: I’m just not a Two-Face fan. I like almost all of Batman’s villains, but I can’t bring myself to care much if Harvey’s coin is lost or he gets shot or whatever. This title was really rolling along, but with that “Judgment” thing in the last two issues and now a Two-Face story with Daniel only on writing, well, its okay but it ain’t rising to the top.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #6613 whiskers
Another “okay” issue. Maybe I’d be more inclined to dig it if I was reading AVENGERS ACADEMY; as it is I can’t stand any of those super hero wannabe kids. I think the point here is to reinforce the fact that despite his new job and new girlfriend, Spidey’s still a loser. Reilly Brown’s art is like that of all the other books on this list: hit-and-miss. He draws Spidey and the Thing well, but his Peter Parker – hell, most of his civilians – look amateurish at times. I hope this title isn’t primed and ready to be flushed down the crapper.

I wasn’t planning on picking this up, but it called to me from the rack and I took it home with anticipation. Well, one good story does not a good comic make, sadly. Kurt Busiek and Michael Kaluta’s “Dear Betty” was very nice and I enjoyed it, but the other tow stories were empty fluff. What ever happened to the art of the short tale? The other two stories are so nothing, as if the creators thought they’d just throw together any ol’ story and it’d be good enough. Way to honor Dave Stevens, y’know? Cassady’s art is nice, but Allred’s really getting sloppy these days…at least Kaluta shows ‘em how to do it. Sigh. I wanted to really, really like this book…

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Still occupying the top spot on my stack is my gushy-gushy fave, Grant Morrison’s ode to all things Batman. I know it may sound odd, but this book is just about everything I want in a Batman comic and I look forward to each issue. This one provided action and adventure, but also information and a good look into what Bruce Wayne is trying to do with his new organization. It’s fairly radical; Morrison is fundamentally changing the status quo of the Batman universe, though retaining what is essential and taking it in a new direction. I totally get that some people don’t dig it, but I suspect those readers know nothing more than what we’ve been spoon-fed since THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. Word to yo momma: Batman can be fun. Morrison’s showing us how.

THE UNWRITTEN #254 ½ whiskers
Again, this is the only Vertigo title I read and I thank goodness I was smart enough to jump onboard at the very beginning. Our hero gets back to the real world and heads off into a new phase of his quest…and gets a bit of sugar for his troubles. Lizzie Hexam’s become quite an interesting character, but I haven’t full warmed yet to Richie. Maybe it’s the whole vampire thing. Anyway, I love when Carey and Gross throw in “artifacts” such as screen-grabs or documents or whatever, and this time we get an auction listing for Wilson Taylor’s effects – fun stuff. And that ending? Yow – I need the next issue, stat!

FF #34 whiskers
I can’t believe I’m actually enjoying the book that replaced FANTASTIC FOUR, but I know full well it’s simply another chapter in the over-arcing story. I appreciate all the cool nods to Lee and Kirby here, as well as Hickman’s ability to infuse this title with that “big” feeling it should have. As to Spider-Man’s involvement – ehh. I thought it’d be totally cool at first as I was never a Human Torch fan, but overall there hasn’t been much too really cement his placement on the team. Regardless, I loved all the guest-appearances in this issue, am in awe of Epting’s art and I want to know what’s going to happen next, so all is good.

JOHN BYRNE’S NEXT MEN #63 ½ whiskers
Sometimes I have to chuckle at the thought of someone not familiar with this book wandering into it and becoming baffled as hell over what is going on. Sometimes I feel like that person, too. But hey, this is Byrne at his best, or what passes for his best here in 2011, and I think he’s firing on almost all cylinders. I feel like this issue’s Civil War-era action was solid and authentic, and I especially marveled at the “security” surrounding the White House in Lincoln’s time – I figure if Byrne is telling me that’s the way it was, then by golly, that must be the way it was. I wish others could join in my appreciation for this title, but I suspect it’s too dense and too far down the line for someone to easily jump on its train.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #6603 whiskers
Sigh. This isn’t bad and it’s not exactly great; its just there, for the most part. I guess I’m looking forward to this FF storyline being over and the book getting back to Spidey as the focus. I’m really not digging all the lead-in to “Spider-Island” – what I know of it at this point leaves me cold. And I didn’t really dig the Ghost Rider back-up story, either. I think they need to simplify this title again and get back to basics; it’s beginning to feel cramped and overloaded. Glad to that Peter and Carlie actually had a scene that showed they are dating or whatever. I was beginning to think I just imagined they were.

NEW AVENGERS #122 whiskers
Ouch. What happened to this book? Used to be one of my favorites, but this current storyline is killing it. I am not moved at all about Mockingbird’s peril or Superia’s villainy and especially not by the 1950s Nick Fury flashback. I mean, so what? At this juncture, Bendis is not being very coherent and the two storylines seem wholly unconnected. Damn, I hate to drop this title, but the next arc better kick it back in gear.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


3 ½ whiskers
Marvel’s big event for 2011 has gotten off to a pretty good start and I’m enjoying it, but overall there isn’t so much here yet that’s risen above the norm of these sorts of things. Fraction’s a competent writer but he lacks the unique voice of a Bendis or a Morrison. Fortunately, the art here is very much to my liking; I realize now how long I’ve been a fan of Immonen. The first few of the Worthy are cool, but I’m dreading the coming transformation of my most favorite Marvel character, Ben Grimm…

ADVENTURE COMICS #5262 ½ whiskers
Sigh. I’ve given this book a chance, four issues of a chance, and I’m sad to say I’m probably dropping it. I wanted very badly to like it and its sister book, LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, but, frankly, it’s fairly boring. I really liked the first issue with Levitz and Jimenez, but Phil’s gone apparently and the whole thing smacks of bait-and-switch. Borges’ art is tepid and Moy’s is no better…and the writing is just not cooking with gas.

3 ½ whiskers
This one surprised me. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this sneak-preview, but I’m a big Adam West fan so to pick it up was a must. Incredibly, there’s nothing really jokey here or even light-hearted – it’s quite solemn, in fact. An aging Adam putting up with a bunch of younger shitheads and they’re condescending modern attitudes…did not expect that. There are some statements here about growing older and the place of heroes in the world today and in all, this has made me luck even more forward to the ongoing series. Too bad the art kinda sucked. (Side-note: I could find absolutely no copyright indicia in this book – I think that means that I can own everything in it?)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


At the top of the mondo heap of books this week sits my fave Bat-title, Grant Morrison’s wacky and wonderful ode to all things Batman. I’m going to have to read this a few more times to really get everything that’s going on, but I love it nonetheless. The new hero, The Hood, is very cool and I totally dig that Morrison’s Batwoman fits neatly with Rucka’s version – I’d seriously like to see another team-up between those two. Also, huge props for Morrison’s inclusion of the black Batman from waayyy back: BATMAN #250 (1973), “The Batman Nobody Knows!”

Okay, I liked this issue. JSA’s been on the fence for a while now, and I’ve actually considered dropping it more than once, but Guggenheim kicked it into gear for the big #50 and along with a coterie of top-notch artists delivered an issue worthy of the landmark. Although I really enjoyed his new take on the classic JSA Vs HUAC scene, I think his more-ambiguous ending – which lacks the famous “Our identities, our lives, are our own…” disappearing act – soured it a bit, so I took off some points. And, admittedly, I like the idea of Jay Garrick as the mayor of a city…but oh does that suck-ass Alan Scott costume have to go. This issue only proved how clunky it is.

BRIGHTEST DAY #244 whiskers
Isn’t a half-year 26 issues? Oh, well, regardless, here’s the big wrap-up and it delivered. There was a whiff of by-the-numbers-get-everything-in here, but overall it was a solid ending and I think overall the book was worthwhile. I think I’ve become an even bigger Ivan Reis fan because of this title, if that’s possible. So glad Deadman’s back to being, y’know, dead, and I might even consider trying Aquaman’s upcoming series.

FF #24 whiskers
Marvel enters the ring with the second issue of their experimental book, FF. I say “experimental” because, face it, this is dicey territory. Thankfully, I think Hickman’s doing a good job and he knows how to write a good Doom scene, something not every writer can claim. This is a good balance of humor and drama and I like the art, just wish it was a bit more compressed – too often his stuff seems too airy.

PLANET OF THE APES #13 ½ whiskers
I wanted, really wanted to like this book – and I did. Whew! Too often, these licensed titles just fall flat and fail to deliver, but I’m happy to say that writer Daryl Gregory held my interest throughout this first issue, despite the fact that I’m not too thrilled with the time period they chose to set the story in – much rather have seen something closer to the time of one of the films. But, it is in original movie continuity and it does feel that way, so that’s a plus. I can’t totally dig Carlos Magno’s art – hated it on COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS – but at least it appears as if he’s grown a bit since then. Just needs to work on his monkey faces and move them closer to the classic makeup of the films.

RUSE #23 ½ whiskers
Okay, true confession: I never did any Crossgen back in the day. But, that said, RUSE is totally something I thought I’d enjoy and, lo and behold, it is. Mark Waid’s dialogue is crisp and witty and I really enjoy the interaction between Archard and Bishop. I just wish they’d get a different artist on this book; Mirco Pierfederici’s just bringing me out of the fiction way too many times. I see we get a “special guest artist” next issue, which is weird considering this is just a miniseries…good thing we have wonderful Butch Guice covers.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #6593 whiskers
I’m still here and I still enjoy this book, but Mr. Dan Slott needs to do two things: simmer down with Spidey’s constant-constant-constant wiseacre comments and tighten up the continuity between this and FF. I’ve never truly felt as if the two books jibe, seeing as how they are now so closely related. I dig all the Lee-Kirby homage, but I’m left a little nonplussed by the whole pirate zombies thing…and Dan totally ruined Carlie Cooper for me this time out. Why sabotage something like that? I just don’t get it. Ah, well.

AVENGERS #12.12 ½ whiskers
Top of the heap last week, almost at the bottom this week: total letdown. Oh, Bendis; wha’ happen? Lackluster overall and this is an “insertion point” issue for new readers? And what’s with that art? Worst Hitch Art Ever. Disappointed.

GODZILLA #22 whiskers
The tallest star in this week’s pantheon resides at the list’s lowest point. I want, want, want to LOVE this book, but I just can’t. Really bummed out by the first issue, but I gave it another try and it once again tasted like stale soup. This thing is all over the map and doesn’t know what it wants to be – it introduces even more monsters when the star, Godzilla, is barely doing anything. Add to that a total lack of developing human characters and more stupid, inane scenes with President “Ogden” – what, you draw him as Obama but you can’t say his name??? – and you get this mishmash of political rhetoric. I didn’t feel a damn thing for the guy who gets fried at the end because instead of growing him throughout the two issues and making me CARE about his demise, Powell and Marsh run around hither an thither adding a bunch of pointless ingredients into the mix. Maybe, just maybe, Godzilla truly cannot be translated well into comics. Yeah, maybe that’s the truth.

Monday, April 25, 2011


AVENGERS #125 whiskers
Standing tall at the top of the very short stack this week is the wrap-up of the “Infinity Gems” storyline by Bendis and Romita Jr. Wow. The arc has had its ups and downs, but mostly ups and this issue was definitely an up – I’m pretty sure that both creators are doing some of the work of their careers currently in this title. I’ve really grown to appreciate what Bendis does in his scripting, something that really surprises me because I’ve never been that big of a fan of that kind of “flip-hip” style of dialogue. But, Bendis makes me almost believe these characters are real and that’s a pretty cool deal. With the ending of this issue, he hit me right between the freakin’ eyes. I mean, it’s like I painted a target directly between both my eyes and he just BLAMMM punched me right there in the middle. It made me work up emotions about what happens – and that ain’t hay.

GREEN LANTERN #654 whiskers
Again, here’s another fantastic last page, courtesy of the Master of Last Pages, Geoff Johns. I don’t know how he does it, but he’s managed to build event after event in the pages of this book for YEARS and I just sit and gobble it all up, happy and content. The scope of the GL universe is immense and though I used to get a bit miffed that the book seemed to be very little about Hal Jordan himself, now I just don’t give a damn – this stuff is classic space opera. The scene of the choosing of the rings among our GL heroes was wonderful…though I wonder at the somewhat-stereotypical choice of costume for John on the last page.

BATMAN #7093 whiskers
This issue was just okay. I feel a bit foolish because I bought this two-part “Judgment on Gotham” story by accident – see, last month I grabbed BATMAN thinking I was getting Tony Daniel and his continuing saga and got a guest-writer and artist and a story that was shoe-horned into the title. Looking back, it appears as if this thing was originally supposed to play out in the other Bat-titles, but I assume that Tony needed some time to catch up – no argument from me, do what you have to do, Tony – and David Hine and this story filled the gap. I should have looked more closely at the cover credits, and that gaffe is completely on me. But, that said, I thought that #708 was okay enough to buy the second part. March’s art is actually pretty nice and the story wasn’t half-bad. Now, let’s get back to Daniel and the fantastic work he’s been doing lately, which is five times or so past what Finch is failing to deliver in his own Bat-book.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


5 whiskers
At the top of the stack this week stands another Mike Carey and Peter Gross masterpiece. This story comes as a break from the ongoing narrative, but it’s no slacker; it pushed almost every single one of my fiction pleasure buttons. An army of talking animals ascends a staircase that goes on forever and is waylaid by a foul-mouthed human in a rabbit’s body and soon he becomes a kind of charismatic dictator over them. Extra points for the inclusion of Piglet. If you haven’t jumped on this series, go back and get the trades, dammit!

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #6584 whiskers
I’ve been enjoying Spidey’s inclusion in the Fantastic Four…err…”Future Foundation,” but Marvel needs to watch their continuity between books: there’s some odd gaffes between this book and FF on Peter’s initial interactions with the team after Johnny’s death, mostly concerning Ben’s attitude towards him. Anyway, I loved this issue’s nod to FF’s of the past and I’ve really grown to like Javier Pulido’s art. Spidey’s in good hands with Dan Slott, too.

NEW AVENGERS #113 ½ whiskers
I think the book’s suffered a bit with this new storyline and the absence of Immonen’s art, but overall Bendis is still rockin’ it. Not really sure where this is all going, and I don’t care overly much that the name of “Avengers” wasn’t unique to Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Giant-Man and Wasp all those years ago, but the dialogue still sparkles and Deodato’s art is nice to look at. There have been better issues; I’m sure there’ll be more.

JOHN BYRNE’S NEXT MEN #53 whiskers
I have been lovin’ what Byrne’s been doing with this book and compliment him on its timeliness – take that, young whippersnappers – but this issue landed on the dull side. Not sure exactly why. Still, John’s art has never looked better and I think he’s really enjoying himself on the series, so all is good.

ADVENTURE COMICS #5253 whiskers
How cool is it to have not only a regular title from Paul Levitz and Phil Jimenez – that actually arrives mostly on time! – but have it sport such a cool, classic old name? I don’t know what it is about this book, but I dig the combo of writer and artist, despite its sometimes pedestrian plot. See, I don’t get the regular LEGION book, but I do like this one – maybe its Jimenez’ incredible worlds and vistas…though I could have done without the giant penis on page 4.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

January 1973

Another of my favorite MTUs this time, a story I first read in one of those great, over-sized Marvel Treasury editions of the 1970s. I remember digging the art but realizing that Gil Kane’s work looked…different, little realizing he was being inked by Mike Esposito. Makes for an interesting combo, eh? And speaking of interesting combos, how about that Batman/Wonder Woman team-up? As I say there below, this one signals the end of the “mod” WW era – fascinating time; too bad the story was fairly lukewarm.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #6 4 ½ whiskers

DATE: January, 1973

TITLE: “…As Those Who Will Not See!”

STARS: Spider-Man & The Thing
VILLAINS: The Puppet Master & The Mad Thinker

WRITER: Gerry Conway
EDITOR: Roy Thomas

INKER: Mike Esposito

STORY: At the Baxter Building Ben Grimm, the Thing, discovers Spider-Man crouched over the insensate form of the Puppet Master and demands an explanation. Ben’s blind girlfriend Alicia Masters explains to the wall-crawler that the villain is her step-father while the Thing interrogates him about her blindness. With a small hope that Alicia’s condition may not be permanent the two heroes, the girl and the Puppet Master fly to his old lab in Pennsylvania. En route, the story of the Puppet Master’s guilt in the accident that stole his step-daughter’s sight comes out. At the lab, Spider-Man and the Thing are taken off-guard by security defenses while their prisoner slips away. Following him into the underground lair, the Puppet Master’s partner-in-crime is revealed: the Mad Thinker.

COMMENTS: Picking up moments after the end of the previous issue, with this story Conway attempts to impart some humanity into an otherwise base villain. The particulars behind Alicia’s blindness and the Puppet Master’s treachery are revealed here for the first time.

Spider-Man and the Thing will go onto many team-ups after this initial one, and though their relationship is characterized as a bit strained it’s not nearly as tenuous as that between Spider-Man and the Thing’s teammate the Human Torch. The web-slinger’s presence in the story is a bit odd, with only a brief comment by him about how he’d like to trust Ben Grimm and using the adventure as a way to gauge such possible trust.

The Mad Thinker’s been an opponent of the Fantastic Four almost as long as the Puppet Master, having first fought them in 1963’s FANTASTIC FOUR #15. His android servants change throughout the years but are usually gigantic and mute, such as the one in this story. The Thinker’s background has yet to be fully explored by writers and he remains a villain of unspecific power and motivation.

The team-up herein between the super-villains is atypical in that they share a laugh together but also typical in that the one betrays the other – the Puppet Master truly does love his step-daughter and when he perceives that she is threatened, he lashes out at his partner the Mad Thinker and brings their brief alliance to a ruinous close.

Conway’s story is strangely open-ended, offering a presumed suicide by the Puppet Master and no real explanation as to the supposed cure for Alicia.

THE BRAVE & THE BOLD #105 three whiskers

DATE: Jan-Feb, 1973

TITLE: “Play Now…Die Later!”

STARS: Batman and Wonder Woman

WRITER: Bob Haney
EDITOR: Murray Boltinoff

ARTIST: Jim Aparo

STORY: Mod Diana Prince, the de-powered Wonder Woman, plays duenna to a beautiful girl caught in the middle of a Latino war transplanted to Gotham. Batman believes he’s being targeted with an old con called the “Spanish Prisoner Game” but the San Sebastian nationals he’s keeping a close eye on might just be on the up-and-up, desperately seeking a ransom for their father, the guardian of a treasure that may tip the scales of the war.

COMMENTS: This issue coincided with the end of the “mod” Diana Prince era of Wonder Woman, which lasted five years total. Diana has a strange “guardian angel” in this story, an Amazon warrior who helps her with advice and even saves her life. This issue is also a good example of the type of sophisticated story Haney had achieved by this time, eschewing super-villains and world-busting threats and concentrating on street-level drama. Keep a look-out for a semi-truck with the name HANEY emblazoned on its sides.