Saturday, September 20, 2008

Trinity #16

We're up to #16 of the year-long weekly series - here's my review of the latest issue.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Clipped on 6/25/08 and 7/2/08

Playing ketchup with two weeks’ worth of capsule reviews – Wizard World Chicago disrupted my schedule – so strap yourselves in; its gonna be fast and furious!

BATMAN #678 (DC) – 4 whiskers – quite possibly the most I’ve ever enjoyed being confused and nervous at the same time. It’s Part 3 of R.I.P. and Grant Morrison is either strange, deranged, or insane – either way, I’m digging it. Really. I don’t try to figure most of it out; suffice to say it keeps my interest because for the first time in a long time I have no idea what’s going to happen next. It’s a weird feeling, that Morrison and DC could do just about anything, short of kill Batman. Bruce on the streets, hepped up on streets drugs? Dick in Arkham, foaming at the mouth? The Black Glove in possession of the Batcave, a beaten Alfred, and Thomas Wayne’s original bat-costume? What in the name of sanity is going on? Oh, hell – I love it. Feed me some more, DC.

FINAL CRISIS #2 (DC) – 3 whiskers – it’s that Morrison guy again! Slightly less kooky but nonetheless mind-bending, FINAL CRISIS isn’t tripping my trigger quite the same as R.I.P. but at least I have a better handle on what’s going on this issue. I actually liked all the Japanese “heroes” stuff and I always was drawn to Jack Kirby’s Sonny Sump character – be interesting to see where this aspect is heading. I really got into the Luthor-Libra scene but overall I thought the Flash sequence was a bit clunky, especially the dialogue. Strange to fear for Batman here in FC in a different way than I do for him in R.I.P. Can the two be reconciled? Should we care or just sit back and let it all flow over us like water? How – refreshing, to not be able to be so blasé about my comics…

GREEN LANTERN #32 (DC) – 3 whiskers – long and short of it is that I want “Secret Origin” to be over. As I’ve said before, I’m not sure why we needed this drawn-out of a retelling of Hal’s origin and frankly, Sinestro was more interesting in “Sinestro Corps War.” This all looks good and it plays out smoothly but it’s not engaging to me and I want to get on with current adventures.

SUPERMAN #677 (DC) – 4 whiskers – I haven’t read much in the way of reviews of this first James Robinson issue but I bet people hated it. I thought it was pretty interesting and I for one am glad for a different tone on this book – and in Superman stories in general. This is pure James Robinson, yet it isn’t. Its character stuff and its stuff that’s not about the main character and it feels “real” while at the same time not feeling “real.” Bringing Kirby’s obscure Atlas into the modern DCU is something I’m all for and while I didn’t overly feel anything much for the Science Police I know with Robinson I’m going to be getting my own personal money’s worth. It’s not STARMAN and it doesn’t have to be. Rock on with it. Oh, and James? A little less choppy on the dialogue, sir. Thanks.

TRINITY #4 & 5 (DC) – Please see here and here at for my latest Trinity reviews! Tell ‘em Mr. Wanty sent ya!

THE WAR THAT TIME FORGOT #3 (DC) – 2 ½ whiskers – Okay, they’re losing me, starting with this issue. I’m already forgetting what happened previously, which is never a good sign, and the characters are starting to blend one into another. I like the “soldiers from different wars” thing and I got a kind of “Prisoner” vibe this time (the classic Patrick McGoohan TV series) but I’d like to actually have the action slow down a tad and get more discussion from the characters on who they are and what they think the island is. I appreciate that the writers want to move things along but as it stands all I’m seeing is one little action vignette after another while the substance is leaking out around the staples. Make me want to continue on to #12, Mr. Jones. You’ve got one more issue to convince me.

PROJECT SUPERPOWERS #4 (Dynamite) – 2 ½ whiskers – Yow! Same feeling of “What? What” What was that again?” from this book – I feel as if I have to go back and re-read the first 3 or so issues. Maybe there are too many characters? Maybe they’re not focusing on the ones I like? Regardless, this book suddenly went from me supporting it all the way to jumping onto my watch-list. I think it can be turned around but Ross and Krueger need to smooth out the narrative and perhaps give us a few reminders of the big picture and what’s at stake here.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #564 (Marvel) – 3 ½ whiskers – an intriguing excursion into a story told from different points of view and an overall successful one. We’re still a bit too heavy on the humor – it tends to bog things down for me rather than speed things through – but the Spidey crew continues to create a solid sense of continuity and tone in this series that is, if you’ll forgive the pun, amazing. One almost wonders how Wacker and the Braintrust can keep this up. Almost.

AVENGERS/INVADERS #3 (Marvel) – 2 ½ whiskers – what is it with these miniseries these past two weeks? Here’s yet another one that hit its third issue and stumbled and fell. I liked the first two installments but as nice as the art is I can’t fathom (pun intended) what possessed Ross and Krueger to think that a young Namor could beat his older self so handily. That was almost insulting to us Sub-Mariner fans. Add to that the rather boring interlude with the regular guy from WWII meeting his current self and you have something of a snooze fest. C’mon, guys! Get on with the fascination with Cap being “back”, the heroes wanting to protect the Invaders from too much “future” knowledge, and the battle between Avengers over the basic “right” to the Invaders. More about what the damn Invaders mean to the modern world! This series is also now on probation.

FANTASTIC FOUR #558 (Marvel) – 3 ½ whiskers – a good issue of FF. All is right with the world. Interesting new “Defenders”, great smashing/crashing action with Ben, great moment with an intelligent Valeria, and Johnny finally wises up and tells his super-villain “piece-of-ass-of-the-month” to take a hike. Great stuff with Doom also – almost made you feel sorry for Victor! Bring on the next issue.

Grumble, grumble, complain, complain…

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Clipped on 6/18/08

This past Wednesday brought a full moon – but did the comics that arrived that day reflect it? Let’s find out!

BRAVE & THE BOLD #14 (DC) – 4 whiskers – Every time I get an issue of B&B I think to myself, “How the hell does this book survive?” I mean, a team-up book? How fantastic! How wonderful! How is it still not cancelled?!? Well, it’s truly one of my most favorite current DC titles and mostly ‘cause Mark Waid knows his way around a good super-hero story. This month catches up with Green Arrow as Deadman tells him of an unholy assault on the mystic city of Nanda Parbat. There’s some great interaction between the two heroes, an honestly chilling representation of their weird, burning-blue skeletal adversaries, and of course, all the inherent fun of Deadman’s body-hopping/possessions. Add to that a wow-wow cliffhanging ending (with no actual cliff hanging - more like falling!) and the only thing I really have to complain about is Scott Kolins’ visual take on Deadman – he subscribes to the withered-corpse school of Boston Brand, whereas I’m more a traditionalist. So, bring on the next issue! How will they bring Hawkman and Nightwing into this???

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #22 (DC) – 2 1/2 whiskers – The Red Tornado is one of my favorite DC heroes and I love it when he gets the spotlight – he practically launched this current League title – but I’m left nonplussed by this latest chapter in the “Let’s Abuse Red Tornado” saga. DC: we get it. Enough already. Give Reddy a break. Really. No amount of calling out the ridiculousness of his destruction-rebuilding merry-go-around in the actual dialogue is going to make us Reddy fans comfortable with this never-ending cycle. I appreciate that you’ve created the “ultimate” body for him, but don’t dangle it like a carrot – just give it to him. He’s coming off here as the worst sad-sack, whiner, and ne'er-do-well in DC comics. When’s the last time he just went into action as a hero? When’s the last time we were shown how plainly powerful he can be? The Amazo thing is played out, too. And the training scenes between JLA members. And Vixen’s “I got a secret-poor widdle me” thing. Let’s start to fix a few problems with these heroes and get on with the adventure. I expected a lot more from McDuffie, and frankly I don’t know what I was thinking when I said he’d be great for the book as there’s barely been any difference between his and Meltzer’s run. And let’s put a moratorium on all the arching-backs, thrusting-asses, and heaving chests of Benes’ females. That too is tired. It’s become parody and the book as a whole is getting mighty close to it, too.

TRINITY #3 (DC) – Please see my TRINITY review at!

ZORRO #4 (Dynamite) – 3 ½ whiskers – I like this book a lot but I’m thinking its not going to be everybody’s cup of tea. I enjoyed Dynamite’s LONE RANGER series through most of its first arc but it soon became little substance spread way too thin over each issue. ZORRO, on the other hand, is meaty; a book that you put some time into and its text rewards you for that time. On the surface, its pretty standard stuff: the classic hero of Old California buckling his swash and beating on a few deserving soldiers. The “present day” story is inter-cut with scenes of Zorro’s childhood and formative years, with each such interlude offering explanations of his abilities and passions in the “present”. It’s written well, with Matt Wagner obviously interested in the subject matter and putting care into the depiction of such a legendary do-gooder. Readers trying to jump on-board here with #4 would do better to try and pick up #1-3, as the story is dense and the flashing back and forth could be somewhat confusing. The art by Francesco Francavilla is serviceable if not a bit crude at times. His style does set a certain tone to the proceedings, a kind of Latino flavor that puts one in the mood of dusty roads, the smell of horses, and the feel of earthen villas. You may find yourself forgiving the lack of detail and admiring the shadows he employs to nice effect. Overall, it’s a series I can recommend, especially to anybody who admires pulp as one of the progenitors of comics.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #563 (Marvel) – 3 whiskers – Let me try to be succinct in my review this week: way too much humor. The ASM team has skirted the borders of comedy impropriety on more than one occasion but never have they loaded a single issue with this many Spidey wisecracks and one-liners. It’s in almost every single panel and wordballoon. Not saying it wasn’t funny most times but it really started to pull me out of the story and there’s no greater faux pas for a creative team to make, in my opinion. And it’s not like we’ve just come off a deadly-serious story-arc and needed the comedy relief – this wasn’t what I expect from this otherwise fantastic, high-quality title. I expect a balance. And I expect more interesting bad guys than the Enforcers and a very-unfunny old man with emphysema. Not one of your finer moments, ASM team.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Clipped on 6/11/08

Big Marvel week! Let’s get right to it!

ACTION COMICS #866 (DC) – 4 whiskers – After a few okay fill-in issues Gary Frank returns in triumph to ACTION and he and Geoff Johns hit another homer. This is the beginning of a big-ass Brainiac story and honestly, it’s about time. Brainiac’s a major part of the Superman saga and he’s gotten short shrift for years – I think mostly ‘cause no one recently has been sure how to present him. Johns delivers that big feature film feeling – though I think it could be overdone any time now – and Frank is in lockstep with him, obviously having a great time. We get a new cool look at the famous abduction of the Kryptonian city of Kandor and a very, very strange assault on Superman by Brainiac-bots. It’s all very ominous, which is a delicious thing when one can get it in a comic. The sour note for me this issue was the reintroduction of Cat Grant in a scene that just goes on too long and overstates its point. Add to this that it doesn’t much seem like the Cat we knew from the 80s-90s and a Steve Lombard that’s simply one-note and a whisker is shaved. Overall, though, buy this issue. Its gonna be a memorable story arc.

TRINITY #2 (DC) – Please see for my TRINITY review!

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #562 (Marvel) – 3 ½ whiskers – This latest issue is a step down from the previous arc in my opinion but still up to the usual ASM-BND level of quality and goodness. Spidey runs afoul of a loudmouth 5th-tier villain who calls him out on the Internet. There’s some rigamarole with a character called the Bookie who coordinates bets with super-villains – a scene that intends to set his character is actually kind of painful to struggle through, and not the good kind of pain. Pete’s life is back in the crapper but I’d rather be subjected to the “Parker luck” any day compared to some other schlep with an unfunny homelife. There’s a very nice surprise reveal with a duplicate Spider-Man who’s inserted into the action and there’s a fun “oh snap!” moment at the cliffhanger. A good issue but not one of ASM’s better ones.

ETERNALS #1 (Marvel) – 4 whiskers – I liked this intro; it’s well-crafted, looks great, and has a unique feel to it. You could do a lot worse with a #1. My fear though is that it’s not quite enough “Marvel Universe” to sell the series to potentially interested parties. Not without some cajoling, that is. Consider yourself cajoled. ETERNALS picks up from the miniseries of the same name and lays the groundwork: a fantastic race of Jack Kirby-created, advanced god-like aliens created two races at the Dawn of Man and in the present those races are at war with each other – which is sad because a ravenous star-spanning Horde is approaching Earth and the Eternals and Deviants need to band together to stop it. There’s good dialogue here, intrigue, a bit of superhero-type action and an edgy darkness that permeates the entire issue. I’m already a huge fan of Daniel Acuna’s art and I’m glad he was given this series. He’s hasn’t much “Kirby” in him but honestly, he doesn’t need it; he does okay for himself. Check this one out.

LAST DEFENDERS #4 (Marvel) - 2 1/2 whiskers – I finally determined what it is that’s been lacking in this miniseries: its not really a story, it’s a set-up. The entire series to date seems to exist just to put together a new team of Defenders. That’s fine, it’s been done before, but this is even more blatant this issue and it becomes a distraction. As I’ve said before about the book, Nighthawk’s been presented as a real schmo, someone you wouldn’t really want to follow, but I’m happy to report he does show some backbone this month and he does elicit a touch of sympathy – but overall there’s still something that’s missing. Something engaging. There’s no real villain yet, no signs of where this is really heading, other than to present a few oddball characters here and there. I’m in it to the end, being a Defenders fan, but once we get the “real” team assembled, I don’t think the means much justify the end.

THE TWELVE #6 (Marvel) – 3 ½ whiskers – Another good issue of one of my most favorite Marvel comics and another fine, fine turn by artist Chris Weston. This isn’t a book for kiddies, and that’s kind of hammered home this time around, what with Dynamic Man and Black Widow’s encounters with the edges of society. My disappointment with #6 is the presentation of Rockman’s origin; I thought he’d be one of my favorites of the Twelve but unfortunately Straczynski seems to have taken what I saw as unique about the character and made him somewhat mundane. Or at least that’s what it seems to be. I’m hoping Rockman turns out to be exactly what he was created to be and not just another guy gone off his rocker. Perhaps it was thought that as the ruler of an underground kingdom he was too farfetched – to that I present the sad case of Black Widow and ask if that’s any more preposterous. All in all, it’s still a top-notch book and with the Phantom Reporter getting back in gear this time it’s going to be solid second half that awaits us, I think.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Clipped on 6/4/08

DETECTIVE COMICS #845 (DC) – 3 ½ whiskers – Like the previous two issues, the actual crime here isn’t near as interesting as that which surrounds it. The story of a guy who wants kooky revenge on the Riddler took a backseat to the whole “Batman online” scenario – complete with Bobo the Detective Chimp anonymously chatting with Bats, trying to dope out the book’s mystery with a virtual sleuths club. That whole deal alone was worth the price of admission. I liked the interlude with Catwoman but it really felt out of place with the other goings-on – I know Dini’s trying to set up the next issue, an “R.I.P.” tie-in, but it’s just felt like a digression, intriguing as it was. I dug the ending a lot, which surprised me because I generally don’t care for that cruel of a Batman – but hey, the guy deserved it. DETECTIVE has been a steady source of great one and two-issue looks into Batman’s world and I almost hate to see that status quo interrupted by “R.I.P.” – almost.

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #16 (DC) – 5 whiskers – Yes, only my second perfect score, but this issue is more than worthy. I’ve had some mixed feelings over the direction of the current Gog storyline but Geoff Johns brought it all home this time, laying out a JSA tale with a different feeling to it for me – different good. I think there’s a wonderful sense of reality when the team confronts the monolithic Gog, a good take on what it’d be like to look up at such a towering being and try to wrap your brain around what your eyes see. Looking at Gog made me muse on the lack of gigantic characters there is in the DCU, unlike in the Marvel Universe, which made it all the more appropriate when Gog’s power manifests in “Kirby crackle”. The beautiful Alex Ross pages are some of his best work, I think and really helped to set Gog’s “origin” apart from the here-and-now of the JSA – and are we supposed to see a similarity between Gog and what Darkseid’s supposedly gone through over in FINAL CRISIS, et al? Guest artist Fernando Pasarin’s no Dale Eaglesham (who is?) but I give him a lot of credit for consistency and for the aforementioned worm’s eye view of the proceedings. Add in the wrinkles of the JSA members’ reactions to Gog and the way Damage speaks for all of us readers when he calls BS on the whole scene – and you’ve got one great issue of JSofA. And no, I don’t trust Gog. One. Single. Iota.

TRINITY #1 (DC) – Please see my TRINITY review on

THE WAR THAT TIME FORGOT #2 (DC) – 3 whiskers – The sad thing here is that so far this is actually a fine little miniseries that I’m sure no one is reading. This issue introduces even more old DC characters into the action and for an old-schooler like me they’re definite pluses. The art is nothing to write home about, those it’s serviceable, and the story isn’t anything to rock the house, but the locale is interesting and the characters are oddball enough to make you want to know what the hell is going on. Which by the way you will ask yourself several times while you read this. One bugaboo I have here is that old-time characters I really love like Viking Prince and the Golden Gladiator are basically being used as “bad guys” – or so it seems. That’s disconcerting to me, but the wacky, out of left field appearance of a faulty G.I. Robot being worshipped as a deity by a group of ancient Greeks, Romans, and Viking is truly an idea that will keep me coming back for more next month. And I’m probably the only one who will.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #561 (Marvel) – 4 ½ whiskers – Okay, here we go again: Jim’s gonna rave on and on about how awesomesauce ASM is. Well, I can’t help it – its may be the best book I’m reading right now. Consistently best book I’m reading right now. I mean, this issue you’ve got a really cool-creepy villain, great Spidey action, Spidey’s great supporting cast, the return of Mary Jane, Peter Parker’s redemption as a paparazzo, and of course, Spidey himself. Slott, Martin, and Wacker just don’t let up with the unique blend of humor, action, drama, and super-heroness they’ve captured on the page and it becomes one literal page-turner. Cleverness abounds as Spider-Man fights Paper Doll while MJ gives him heads-ups over a microphone from a safe-room in her billionaire boyfriend’s mansion – I know some readers will be pissed, thinking that the Spidey crew is playing with their affections for MJ but c’mon, this was great stuff. And that Peter does “the right thing” at the end and tells his boss to stuff it is just frosting on the webbed cake. And another weirdo appearance of weirdo Sara Ehret at the coda? Extra points. Which gets a half-point deducted for making us wait two weeks for this wrap-up.

AVENGERS/INVADERS #2 (Marvel) – 3 ½ whiskers – I don’t have a whole lot to say about this issue other than I like the direction their taking, laying down the impact of the Invaders jaunt to our present day, and I dig seeing Steve Sadowski on the art chores. I wish the Invaders could have mopped up the floor with the Avengers but I have a feeling that day is still to come. The whole deal with Paul Anselm is just drawing a “meh” from me right now – too obscure – but I think Ross and Krueger are doing a competent job of portraying each Invader’s personality and mind-set and really, this is a series that I know ill continue to be a solid super-hero adventure.

SECRET INVASION #3 (Marvel) – 2 whiskers – I really don’t know what Marvel thinks they’re doing with this series but I started shutting down while reading it, realizing it’s the third issue and nothing much is going on. I get he distinct feeling that I need to be reading a LOT of other Marvel books to be able to grok the situation here in the main book, and that ain’t right. This issue is simply a slugfest between lackluster heroes and lackluster baddies. Where is the promised intrigue and Cold War-type suspicion and whatnot? Yes, the scene with Spider-Woman and Tony Stark was just about awesome but hey, the whole damn series should have that feeling. It’s not any kind of a “secret invasion” at this point and despite the aforementioned scene and a truly creepy bit with Jarvis-Skrull and the Helicarrier this book is firing blanks, in my opinion. I want to dig it like I dug WORLD WAR HULK but the gee-whiz-gotcha-gotcha factor is plainly absent.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Clipped on 5/29/08

ACTION COMICS #865 (DC) – 3 whiskers – There’s a lot of nostalgia here and for different ages of Superman fans. Me personally, I was treated to both the Toyman of the 70s and the one from the Bryne era. That’s cool and all but it didn’t really make for that fantastic of an issue. Basically, Geoff Johns tries to return Superman villain The Toyman to his original, well, not exactly “glory” but status quo, I guess. In a tidy done-in-one story, Toyman busts out of Arkham and kidnaps Jimmy Olsen to tell him the real story about all the various Toymans we’ve seen over the decades – they were robots, see, and Toyman is not the child murderer everyone thought he was. I applaud Johns for what he’s attempting but at times the attempt is all you can see in the story and when it comes right down to it, it’s debatable whether Toyman’s a bad guy you’d want to save. Again, it wasn’t a bad issue and Jesus Merino’s art is very good (he switches styles for the flashbacks – too cool), but you get the sense that it’s simply a biding-time measure until the upcoming Brainiac story arc. Extra credit for the Prankster's appearance and obsession with team-ups.

BATMAN #677 (DC) - 4 whiskers – I’m disturbed. Very, very disturbed. Everything in Batman’s world has been dynamited, devastated, and I’m lost. This isn’t actually a bad thing – it’s just disturbing. Grant Morrison has me exactly where he wants me and I’ll admit it: my concern for the character just went through the roof. And I need to make this clear – this demolition is done well, written well, drawn well, constructed well, but as a story its like a knife in the gut. When I was done reading this issue, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was nervous, anxiety-ridden, confused. Never before have I “connected” with Batman, felt I knew what he was going through. I wanted to scream at the pages for him to get out – get out! Get Out! Run! You can’t fight this! They’re crawling under your skin, into your bloodstream, towards your brain…and Alfred. Good God, Alfred. No, no, no. Morrison, you got me. How can Bruce come back from this? You committed the one act that pisses me off the most concerning Batman: people discovering his identity. That’s sacrosanct to me, and now, goons that just work for the villains know! You’ve got me, got me, I’m lost, lost, no rudder, no moorings, drifting, drifting – until next issue.

FINAL CRISIS #1 (DC) – My review at

GREEN LANTERN #31 (DC) – 3 ½ whiskers – Here’s the thing: did we need a re-telling of Green Lantern’s origin? Oh, it’s good, and as solid as any of Geoff John’s issues of this series, but while I read it, same as last issue, I can’t help but wonder why we were going over this ground again. Maybe I’m just not that big of a GL fan and maybe there are tons of new revelations here – I don’t know, truly. But, as with most any issue of this book, it’s crafted well and that in itself is a reason to pick it up. Johns somehow attracts the best artists for his books and GL is no omission. Ivan Reis’ visuals are incredibly pleasing and oh-so professional that they’re worth the price of admission. I just hope that when “Secret Origin” is wrapped up, that it’s a long, long time before another re-telling of this story comes up again.

GIANT-SIZE ASTONISHING X-MEN #1 (Marvel) – 3 ½ whiskers – This series brought me back to the X-Men after about fifteen years or so and has held my interest throughout. I know enough about the team to enjoy the stories but I’m not their hugest fan. There could be things here that have pissed off the diehard X-fans but I can’t worry about that. I’m also not a subscriber to the cults of personality that swirl around such writers as Joss Whedon so I feel like I can judge the book on its own merits. It was pretty good. I felt the tension, was surprised at which character made the big sacrifice, and think that as a wrap-up, I’ve read worse. Whedon had his little character bits like he’s had all along in the series and those were good, although by this time they stress cracks are showing a bit. I’ve given this series a lot of leeway for being late, something I haven’t done with other such series, but I do have to state that as nice as John Cassaday’s art here was very nice, there were also many pages of obviously rushed work. It was as if he jumped around, drawing all the cool stuff first and then dragged his heels on the quite stuff until it was way too late. The guy’s done better. In all, I judge this ending by how much I’ll miss the characters and the situations. I won’t be continuing on as the series does – but I will miss my semi-regular dose of Whedon’s X-Men.

IMMORTAL IRON FIST #15 (Marvel) – 4 whiskers – this has been one heckuva enjoyable series but its drawing to a close. Matt Fraction, without co-writer Ed Brubaker, delivers another tale from The Book of the Iron Fist, a kind of “times past” series-within-the-series that’s been a nice blend of history, fable, mythology, and drama. This issue is continuation of the story of Iron Fist Bei Bang-Wen, from 1860, the first part of which was several issues ago. Bei’s an interesting character with a death-wish who meets up with a fellow “super hero” from India and together they act out a morality play. Fraction’s narrative runs the gamut from history lesson to humor to dream-like state. I especially envy his ability to insert a funny line into the drama that is at once humorous but also strangely appropriate and truthful. It’s a good issue and I for one am really going to regret when Fraction’s (and Brubaker’s) run on the series is done.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Clipped on 5/21/08

THE BRAVE & THE BOLD #13 (DC) – 3 ½ whiskers – When one is presented with a commonplace story such as in this issue, one needs to look for character bits for entertainment. At least, that’s how I look at it. Samuroids aside, I couldn’t have asked for a better DC team: my favorite all-time hero (Batman) paired with my favorite Flash (Jay Garrick) for a fun but standard plot. The fun is the interaction between the two men and Waid’s knack for zeroing in on truisms with just a line or two. The price of admission for me was worth it for the familiarity Bruce affords Jay with his identity and exposure to the Batcave, and a quiet yet revealing (and one-sided) discussion of heirs and legacies. This is how I like team-ups between the old guard and the middle guard; somewhat warm, somewhat prickly, all together respectful. And having Jerry Ordway draw it doesn’t hurt the eyes too much, either. Extra points for the post-52 use of T.O. Morrow.

COUNTDOWN TO MYSTERY #8 (DC) – 3 whiskers – I feel sorry in a way for Matthew Sturges, as he’s had to take a back seat to Steve Gerber, and now the ghost of Steve Gerber, for eight issues. The Spectre story has been hit and miss but I’m going to call this wrap-up a hit as it held my interest and piqued my interest to hear more about Crispus Allen’s future. On the Dr. Fate front, I’ve enjoyed Gerber’s re-imagining of the character, but felt that he’d hit a speed bump by what I perceived as a shift away from Kent and to Maddy. The four-vision coda by Waid, Evanier, Simone, and Beechen was lacking somehow but alas, how could it have been otherwise, really? It lacked Gerber, of course, and though we were promised four different writers’ visions of how Gerber would have ended the story, what we got was four tributes to Gerber. That’s not a bad thing, not at all, but it is an all-together different thing. Now I just want to know if this version of Fate will be left to lie fallow or if someone will actually run with it.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #21(DC) – 4 whiskers – What I found really interesting about this first permutation of DC’s “Sightings” sub-brand is that someone else other than Grant Morrison was allowed the first real use of Libra in a regular title. This is really two separate stories, following the Big Three through a conversation in the Star Chamber, err, excuse me, “Lounge”, and the return of an old Silver Age Martian Manhunter baddie, the unfortunately-named Human Flame. I credit the conversation part with being “just” a conversation and holding my interest at the same time. In a way, its commercial for the upcoming TRINITY weekly, but the characterization is rich. The Human Flame’s story was also engaging I gotta tell you: the ability to so deliciously skewer stupid-ass Lex Luthor with one, single sentence puts the Flame way high on my list. Always nice to see Carlos Pacheco on a book, too.

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #15 (DC) – 4 whiskers – After some criticism for walking-and-talking too much on the book, Geoff Johns gives us two issues in a row that are basically slugfests. But when the sluggers are the JSA and the sluggee is Gog, it’s a tasty tussle. Somehow artist Dale Eaglesham is able to hold things together and actually makes sense out of all the brouhaha AND infuse the art with beaucoup d’art. Everybody gets their shot at Gog and what shots they are; some of it, heck, most of it, looks like it hurts. I was worried that the Kingdom Come characters would take over this title but the JSAers manage to rise to the top and show us that they too classify as “heavy-hitters.” And that wow-ee-wow turn-the-book last page(s)! And that what’s-become-a-tradition teaser page! JSA is and has long been one of the most consistently-good DC titles since 1999.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #560 (Marvel) – 4 whiskers – Its getting pretty embarrassing for me to keep saying how much I love “Brand New Day”, but – its true. Things didn’t click quite as much this issue as they did last time but ASM is still one of the very best super hero books on the stands. A few words about Paper Doll: the “obsessive fan becomes murderer” is nothing new but PD’s infinite amount of creepiness more than makes up for the cliché. I hope she has some staying power. I loved the whole battle in the art gallery and Spidey’s line about the art speaking to him was tops. I also dug Marcos Martin’s drawing of Edith’s autopsy (so sue me!). The downside here is a bit too much humor, just a bit, and my concern that Peter’s jump into paparazzo-hood is a bit too pat; I think it should be bothering him a lot more than it seems to be. I’m also pretty sure everyone saw the MJ bit coming a mile away and frankly, I don’t think this book needs her – or at least not right now. Oh, and a point off for having the two week break come in the middle of a story arc. Not cool.

FANTASTIC FOUR #557 (Marvel) – 3 ½ whiskers – The Millar-Hitch FF has been a bit of bumpy ride for me but this issue, the wrap-up of the “World’s Greatest” storyline was definitely more palatable. Again, it’s not so much what happens in the story as the characterization. Anyone who writes a good Reed Richards is a-okay in my book and Millar gives him that necessary balance between nerd and swashbuckler that Reed needs. I appreciated the nods to the current pro/ant-Registration status quo of the Marvel Universe (made it feel like it was actually part of the MU) and I got a kick at how “easy” it was for Reed to beat CAP – all on an educated guess. Alyssa Moy got exactly what she deserved, in lieu of being hauled off to prison, Reed and Sue got more than they deserved (wonderful dinner scene), Ben is basically running in place, and sadly, Johnny has been devolved to an insufferable, shallow, cartoon of his real self. Bryan Hitch’s art has been…rough for me. After much soul-searching I’ve come to the conclusion that his expressions are often wrong for the scene and he uses way, way too much photo-reference. In all, I’m going to stick around and see what’s up with ol’ Doomsie, though.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Clipped on 5/14/08

Big week for books. Let's get right to it --

BATMAN #676 (DC) – 3 ½ whiskers – “Batman R.I.P.” begins in earnest. For the most part I’ve been enjoying Grant Morrison’s tenure on BATMAN and his increased use of Bruce Wayne, the most forgotten part of the Bat-mythos, in my opinion. I’ve read this issue about a dozen times now and still feel like I’m absorbing it all. Here’s what I think at this point: Jezebel Jet isn’t yet a character that’s worthy of our time – or Bruce’s, for that matter. It’s like the members of the Black Glove; they’re visually intriguing and I can see the potential but they’ve got a long way to go to deserve being the villains that bring down the Batman. We barely know Jezebel and I’m just not feeling the weight of the romance. Why should I care that this is the woman that may finally tear down the last defenses of the Bat? Not saying Morrison won’t tell us but we seem to be pretty far along in the relationship and I simply don’t feel it in my gut yet. I dug Alfred’s monologue about Bruce very much and the feeling of dread I have for Bruce is becoming all-too palpable, but I need a bit more information. And the Joker stuff is way too weird – even for the Joker.

BOOSTER GOLD #9 (DC) – 2 ½ whiskers – When Geoff Johns is done with this book, I’m done, too. I liked the first few issues and had high hopes for it but by this issue I feel like I’m slogging through it and not getting my money’s worth. This whole rehash of the Maxwell Lord/OMAC magilla is tepid at best and I’m just not seeing the point. Not being the biggest fan of time travelers-change-history stores I guess I’m just not the intended audience here. The book looks nice and it’s competently written but overall this issue hammered home my fairly pervasive boredom with the entire story arc. Booster, I made it all the way through your original series; can’t say the same for this one, bud.

FINAL CRISIS SKETCHBOOK #1 (DC) – 3 whiskers – See, now, I like these kinds of books. I’m a sucker for all this behind-the-scenes stuff, ‘because I like to see the footprints of the creative team, see the pencil marks and the false starts and the creative process. In some ways I was surprised that they revealed as much as they did about the FINAL CRISIS characters here but the more I thought about it, things like the Forever People and these crazy-ass Japanese heroes will probably only play minor parts in the series. I approached the revelation of the New Gods’ new incarnation with trepidation (I’m a huge Kirby fan and changing his work doesn’t sit well with me) but I found that basically the characters are intrinsically the same, despite their “updated” looks. Morrison and Jones’ notes do show some reverence for the source material and I enjoyed getting in their heads for a bit. I think I may like Big Science Action and Super Young Team as much as I liked the Great Ten: they look annoying as all get-out but the fun kind of annoying! So, the Sketchbook is pretty much what you would expect from these kinds of things and in that I felt as I got my $2.99’s worth – besides, immersing oneself in an event isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes the whole-cloth experience can be rewarding on many levels. Btw – does the #1 on the cover and in the indicia denote more Final Crisis Sketchbooks on the way?

SUPERMAN #676 (DC) – 3 ½ whiskers – In some ways, I hated this issue…because it’s the kind of story that I wish I had the chance to write. Reading like a lost issue of DC COMICS PRESENTS, it tells a tale set in Superman’s early days at the Metropolis Marvel and showcases a team-up with Alan Scott, the original Golden Age Green Lantern. It’s standard stuff, told well, and looking visually nice, and the only real gripe I have with it is that I can’t believe for one moment that either Superman or GL would allow a bunch of strange guys in hazmat suits to waltz up and cart Grundy away with nary a question as to who they were or what exactly the hell they were doing with the monster. Alan even holds Superman back from doing this! Nope, that was definitely a sour note in an otherwise good story. Alas, it’s simply a fill-in before James Robinson takes over – and I for one can’t wait.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #559 (Marvel) – 5 whiskers – I’m a 100% unashamed fan of “Brand New Day” and though I’ve been lovin’ this book since the reboot, everything clicked for me this issue. Every. Thing. And it gets my perfect score. I find that Dan Slott seems to be the most-suited writer for AMAZING, doling out equal amount of action, pathos, and humor, and making it look breezy and easy. I normally can’t stand “hip urban” characters like Screwball, but Slott made me giddy with that chase, as well as with JJJ’s attempt at tai chi. Pete’s new job as a paparazzo is both troubling and engaging, perfect fodder for another aspect of the original comic book loser’s life. And Paperdoll? Brrr – creepy. And let us not forget the real pleasure here: Marcos Martin’s art. Hear me out – Martin is the true successor to Steve Ditko, in my opinion. And the guy knows how to draw it all, super heroes and mundanities alike. That was Ditko’s legacy and its Martin picking up the ball and running with it. I just love his Spider-Man to death; the best of the ASM BND artists, in my estimation. The Spidey team needs to take a huge bow and then forge ahead with this perfectly enjoyable periodical.

LAST DEFENDERS #3 (Marvel) – 3 whiskers – I’m trying real hard to like this book. It should be giving me a few kicks, an old Defenders fan like me, but unlike ASM its components are definitely not clicking yet. The parts are all there: Nighthawk, crazy memberships, crazy missions, even the return of Dr. Strange and Son of Satan – but these elements are not mixing overly well for my tastes. First, Nighthawk is being portrayed as an almost complete doofus and loser. He’s never been the most sterling example of a Marvel hero but Joe Casey has claimed that he loves the character and wants to show everyone how cool he can be. Despite a smidge of a move in the right direction this issue, its otherwise just ain’t happening. Its like it’s almost the Defenders, its almost coming together, there’s almost some of that old magic there…but not quite. Makes for a frustrating read, I gotta say. I’ve given Casey the benefit of the doubt for 3 issues but he’s only got 3 more to go – Joe, do something. Say something to make me care that this is the “Last” Defenders.

THE TWELVE #5 (Marvel) – 4 whiskers – One of my most favorite titles, THE TWELVE is an absorbing read every month. I will admit to being somewhat concerned after finishing #5 that nothing truly significant is happening yet in the lives of our timelost heroes but I then realized that that’s what its all about: their lives. If figure the first six issues are supposed to read “small” and the second half of the series will turn everything on its ear. This issue we have the story of the Witness and it was an interesting one to be sure. The surrealistic sight of that old man being struck by the bus is burned into my eyes forever. Dynamic Man is getting way out of hand (on purpose, I presume), the Blue Blade is pathetic, the Laughing Mask is even more pathetic (the shot of him being arrested is enough to make you bawl), and finally something is being done about Electro! All this good stuff and delineated by the wondrous Chris Weston means THE TWELVE is always a page-turner for me.

(I also still have 2 Dynamite and 1 Dark Horse books to review; will update soon!)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Clipped on 5/7/08

COUNTDOWN TO MYSTERY #7 (DC) – 3 ½ whiskers – The Eclipso half of this book has been hit or miss for me but this issue was a fairly solid hit. I felt happy at the heroes’ release from black diamond bondage and Bruce Gordon’s active role. It was also good to see the Spectre enter into one of his more old-fashioned brouhahas and I got a chuckle out of Eclipso’s oblique reference to the cover of SHOWCASE #61. Kudos also should go to Adam Beechen for picking up the late Steve Gerber’s plot for the Dr. Fate story and continuing with what I see as nary a bump. I just wish we could get back to Kent actually doing something again. Looks like he has one more issue for that.

DETECTIVE COMICS #844 (DC) – 4 whiskers – Forget all that schmazola about the Ventriloquist and her origins – it was longwinded – and let’s get to the heart of the matter: Bruce and Zatanna. Hate to be so dramatic but Dini made my heart hurt for Bruce. First it was that incredible conversation between Zee and Bruce last issue – one that I’d hoped for – and now this follow-up in #844. Wow. It’s a case of wanting it to happen yet knowing that it would mean the end of Batman, possibly for good. I wonder if and how this will play into Morrison’s “Batman R.I.P.”? Extra credit to Dini for tying Peyton’s back-story into the events of the original Ventriloquist’s demise.

THE WAR THAT TIME FORGOT #1 (DC) – 3 whiskers – A good, solid beginning and a pace that never once let up. Al Barrionuevo’s art was pleasing and Bruce Jones' script was smooth and honestly, I think if people can get over the fact that it’s devoid of superheroes and can dig the plethora of DC’s war/historical characters, we might just have a sleeper hit on our hands. I’m imagining DC’s imagining this might go over well with “Lost” fans and I’m hoping they don’t stray too far into that territory, i.e., drag mysteries out to the point that no one gives a damn anymore. This is a twelve-issuer; they could sink this puppy of float it home. Overall, I’ll be sticking around, most likely.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #558 (Marvel) – 4 whiskers – I’m not ashamed to say I’m a huge fan of Brand New Day (didn’t read One More Day) and the consistency that Marvel has maintained on this series is incredible. Bob Gale’s proven to be adept at a rolling plot with interesting characters and enough action and humor to satisfy anyone. My one quibble with this issue is that we’ve reached a point where the humor is being laid on a bit too thick for my tastes. Gale writes a funny Spidey but he tends to insert one too many one-liners in Pete’s mouth which tends to undercut the drama, in my opinion. I think he’s going use up every funny line in his repertoire and a few issues from now Spidey’s going to risk being very unfunny. Barry Kitson’s art was very, very nice and I look forward to his return on the series.

AVENGERS/INVADERS #1 (Marvel) – 3 ½ whiskers – The wait is over and this much-heralded series finally begins. It was good. Very good, even. Not great-great, but I think it has the potential to get there. So far its fairly standard stuff but I’m guessing the sharp turns and dangerous curves are yet to come. I really got a kick out of the Invaders’ personalities and their immediate views of the “Nazi trick”. Now let’s get to the real meat-and-potatoes: the impact of the real Captain America in a time when he’s dead. Steve Sadowski’s art was a welcome sight and I have to say that perhaps this is how it was always meant to be published. Combined with the vibrant coloring of inLight Studios, Sad’s art gives this wonderful dream-like quality to the proceedings, one that I think sets this series a notch above others in visual terms. Welcome back, Canuck!

SECRET INVASION #2 (Marvel) – 2 ½ whiskers – Well, it’s no home-run – yet. In fact, I was pretty disappointed in this second issue. Why? Mostly because there were almost no “holy crap!” moments, the kind of moments you expect in one of these Marvel event-events, the kind we got like gumballs from a gumball machine in WORLD WAR HULK, for example. I really liked the whole Mockingbird thing; that was interesting and engaging, especially her comment about Cap. But some of Bendis’ dialogue is so clumsy here that it committed the unpardonable sin of taking me out of the story and making me reflect on its badness. What the hell is “I know you Skrulls are looking to start some. I know. And I wish I was a strong enough man to walk away from your disrespect…”? Huh? And they say the original 1970s Luke Cage rattled off bad “street-lingo”. Sheesh.