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.