1.24.07 Comics

No time for full reviews this week due to business travel, but here's what made it home...

52: Week Thirty-Eight (DC): I did manage to read this title and what I remember didn't sit well. The T.O. Morrow/Oolong Island bits were boring, as were the Nanda Parbat scenes, which is unfortunate since those comprised 90% of the book. Grade D+.

Wolverine #50 (Marvel): Picked this up mostly for the cute back-up story penciled by McGuinness. In the main story, the typically strong Simone Bianchi art has some horrible lessons in anatomy complimented by yet another in the endless string of Wolverine vs. Sabretooth showdowns which ends on a random cliffhanger. Grade C-.

Civil War: The Return (Marvel): Looked interesting, but has been getting a flurry of awful reviews online.

Silent War #1 (Marvel): For the most part, I'll pick up anything penciled by Frazer Irving.

Checkmate #10 (DC)

Doctor Strange: The Oath #4 (Marvel)

The Eternals #6 (Marvel)

DMZ #15 (DC/Vertigo)

Criminal #4 (Marvel/Icon)

X-Factor #15 (Marvel)

X-Factor: Life & Death Matters: Premiere Edition Hardcover (Marvel)


1.17.07 Reviews

The Nightly News #3 (Image): I still like The Nightly News with its high dosages of fact, biting commentary, and general sarcastic disposition. However, at times it feels like an overdose of factoids thrown at the audience in rapid fire succession, with a mere shoestring of a comic plot, as if Jonathan Hickman should have written a book where he could have thoroughly explored these ideas. But, like I said, I still like it. And for once, the vast majority of the typos were corrected prior to publishing(!). Grade B.

Phonogram #4 (Image): Having liked the first 3 issues of this series immensely, I now feel like I was into the set-up of the story more than where the actual story went this issue. It feels liks "all middle" (to borrow a phrase from the guys over at Comix Experience) with the extended fantasy sequence, and makes me feel very detached from the narrative, like I've lost my way, unsure of what's really happening or what the objective of the story is. I felt bad that I started asking questions of myself like "hrmm, why am I paying $3.50 for a black and white book with sparse panel renderings that I don't seem to be enjoying?" I realize though that this is not obviously a stand alone tale and part of a larger 6 issue single story, so will reserve ultimate judgment until I can read it all in one sitting. Looking to be pleasantly surprised by what the creators have in store for the last 2 issues. Grade B-.

52: Week Thirty-Seven (DC): Well, at the very least it feels like the plot is finally advancing and we get some reveals about the Skeets/Booster Gold/Supernova/Rip Hunter story, and a telegraphed twist to the Animal Man/Adam Strange/Starfire trifecta. Grade C+.

I also picked up;

Batman: Year 100 (DC): The collection of the mini-series that made my Top 10 list for 2006 finally comes out! Woo-hoo! Looks like some fun bonus material has been included as well.


1.10.07 Reviews

Stormwatch: PHD #3 (DC/Wildstorm): I'm still surprisingly enjoying this series that really makes something out of nothing with ties to the Wildstorm U and Daemonite remnants on Earth. I'm normally not into Doug Mahnke's art, but it seems effective and at home here, enjoyed the MIB-style recruitment and fun adversarial teaching practices, particularly Black Betty's matter-of-factly delivered magic/sex speech. Grade B+.

Tales of the Unexpected #4 (DC): Nice Bernie Wrightson cover that harkens back to the horror type anthology books with ambiguous names that this is seeking to supplant. But as usual on the lead Spectre story, we have horrible art that's really hurt even further by some odd inking. I know they're trying for a dark and shadowy horror feel, but the end result just looks random and splotchy to me. The story is basically boring and inconsequential, not helped at all by the desperate guest appearance of Batman. I just don't see what the point of this is, it's not an outright Spectre story, it's not an outright crime/cop/investigative thing, and it's not an outright supernatural horror thing either. It's attempting to blend all those genres (since none are strong or fully fleshed out enough to stand on their own here) and fails to really be anything significant. How can humans and bullets fail to get The Spectre, but Bats can kick him? I'd like some internal logic please. I basically just tuned it all out and started thinking about other things, like how this is a Grade F and I would rather be reading something else, namely.... the Dr. 13 back-up story! Enjoyed the banter and debate over 10 dimes vs. a dollar bill, and lines like "Hrmm, I suppose that's just as plausible as doping a scrawny four-f milktoast with steroids and vita-rays." The oblique Captain America jab captures the far-fetched but entertaining world these characters are inhabiting, complete with talking Nazi apes, Confederate ghosts, pirates, cavemen, and vampires. Traci has got to be one of the coolest characters to come along in a while. I want to reiterate that Dr. 13 needs to be collected independent of the Spectre mess; I don't think that's too much to ask after I've paid $3.99 x 8 for a mere 16 pages at a whack. Grade A.

Agents of Atlas #6 (Marvel): The tale of the 1950's archetypes: The Spy, The Spaceman, The Goddess, The Mermaid, The Robot, and The Gorilla comes to a close. Jeff Parker and Leonard Kirk deliver enjoyable fun with intellect, as evidenced by Derek Khanata stealing the show with his own family link to these happenings, knowing "Temujin" as Genghis Khan's real name, the duplicity he displays with his SHIELD superiors, and Namora's royal lineage recognition. I really developed an appreciation for Kirk's design sense, notice the panel that's primarily black with teal background where the splash of red from Venus' hair is highlighted. All in all, a nice closed loop ending as Jimmy Woo inherits the mantle as Atlas CEO. Grade B.

Justice Society of America #2 (DC): Geoff Johns is throwing a lot of ideas, or individual parts, into motion here. We open with a quick crash course in Commander Steel continuity, I love seeing not only the inclusion of Courtney, but her stepping up as possible mentor to Maxine, Wildcat's son, an unbalanced Starman from the Kingdom Come "universe," a hectic attack on the Commander Steel picnic, etc., but the whole is surprisingly a bit disjointed and kind of boring. It's not entirely original, but an interesting premise that a killer('s) cutting off JSA bloodlines in their entirety. I'll go a couple more issues to see how this plays out. Grade B.

52: Week Thirty-Six (DC): This may be the first time that the art didn't completely suck, thank you Jamal Igle! I'm confused why issue to issue, Kory's outfit keeps changing. Sometimes she's in her Starfire gear, other times she's wearing the top half of Animal Man's uniform, without any real rhyme or reason, some consistency please! Be interesting to see if Morrison is ok with letting Animal Man finally be at rest. Some touching moments with Renee and Charlie, with an all too obvious possible denoument. Growing weary of the homoeroticism of Sobek and Osiris, and nice to see the return of the Rip Hunter plot thread with a nice reveal that also implies the identity of Supernova. And the Power Girl short in the back penciled by Adam Hughes is surprisingly "eh." Grade C-.

My buying patterns this week really highlighted a trend I thought worth mentioning. I seem to buy more DC books initially, but end up keeping more Marvel books. Is this the result of growing up a DC kid, my affection for those characters and wanting to keep tabs on them now a part of me, while ultimately gravitating to the modern Marvel work, which is inherently a bit more meaningful to my adult sensibilities? Interesting...


1.03.07 Reviews - Part 2

As it turns out, I got caught up on my weekly reading pile over the weekend, so I thought I'd finish up reviews for this week's purchases. I was going to refrain, but I'm a firm believer in only opening your mouth when you have something to say, and it turned out I had some opinions on the back half of the pull list.

All-Star Superman #6 (DC): Morrison and Quitely deftly pull off a high-wire balancing act here, combining the Silver Age affability, manic sci-fi ideas, defferential attitude toward the properties, pleasant nature of say... Jeph Loeb's Superman For All Seasons, and first rate Quitely art that embeds meaning into every deceptively simple panel. In short, this is everything a Superman comic is supposed to be. Grade A.

Glacial Period (NBM/ComicsLit): While this original graphic novel from Crecy and The Louvre Museum tested my patience with the anthropomorphic talking dog/pig hybrid, there was no denying the strength and intrigue of the underlying concept. Hundreds of years in the future, a group of explorers find the Louvre Museum amid a glacier and attempt to (wrongly) discern the meanings of the paintings and what they say about the society that made them. Grade A-.

Scalped #1 (DC/Vertigo): At first, I thought this title would quickly run its course and offer nothing more than sensationalistic violence with no point. And there's an element of that, but it gets interesting fast with the setting of a bleak, corrupt, Indian Reservation, and I'm always a sucker for "battered hero returns home after living life" type stories. That combined with the last page hook won Scalped another two issues for me. Bravo to the marketing department for including a preview of this book in the last issue of DMZ, I would have never tried it if not for that. Grade B.

Superman Confidential #3 (DC): Not nearly as insightful as the second issue, clocking in with a mere "ok." I will however, give it another issue or two based solely on my faith in the creative team. The competition is tough though, with All-Star Superman being so strong, I have to ask myself why would I keep buying another merely "ok" Superman title? Grade B-.

Fear Agent #10 (Image): It's good, which is bad, because it used to be great. There's nothing worse than that. A mediocre comic that grows in strength will be commended. A great comic that sustains its power through its run will be loved. A crappy comic that stays craptastic is at least consistent and you may find notes of "noble failure," at the very least it will be fun to pick on, but the great comic that slips... this one hurts. It rattles your faith. It frustrates you and makes you ask why with no clear answers. There's nothing specific I can point to here. It just... doesn't feel as fun as it used to. The sheer joie de vive and panache of the plot feels really bogged down in something. And I don't like Heath being an untrustworhty narrator. He lied (or implied?) about his girl being killed? I thought she was dead? Why is she with another guy? I don't mind Heath being an alcoholic and following him through that stupor, but I also don't want to be deceived as a reader. Grade B-.

Justice League of America #6 (DC): I like reading this book, but damn if the plot advances slower than poured molasses on a cold day. Also, Ed Benes' art is getting a little unwieldy. There are several panels where Hal's increasingly Manga-influenced fists were larger than his entire head. That's just odd. Grade C+.

NewUniversal #2 (Marvel): Hoo-boy. Essentially, there's nothing new here if you've read any of Ellis' other work, namely Planetary. The concept of "the bleed" in between worlds, though boasting a different name here, is essentially the same premise. I kinda' was enjoying the Nightmask chic, but it's nothing I can't get better/before some place else. And I'm sorry, but when the photoreferenced art is so strong that I'm cracking up at the renditions of James Cromwell, James Gandolfini (and his crew!) from the Sopranos, and Sawyer from Lost instead of paying attention to your Rising Stars/Supreme Power/Watchmen retread... there's no reason to stick around. Officially off the pull list. Grade D+.

Moon Knight: The Bottom TPB (Marvel): This collection of the first 6 issues from Charlie Huston and David Finch is... really bad. I don't understand the praise it's getting. Finch's art is really aspiring to be something akin to Steve McNiven, but never gets past the 90's Image wannabe bar. From a script standpoint, there's really nothing new at all here. Huston does what every writer trying to weave together divergent past continuities does, and it fails to transcend those limitations and remains a confusing, convoluted mess that doesn't transcend its origins and remains a cheap urban vigilante Batman knock off, complete with cave, gadgets, and a cast of helpers. Grade D-.


1.03.07 Reviews - Part 1

Jonah Hex #15 (DC): The cover and interior art remain beautiful in this wrap up to the 3 part arc that explains the long-awaited origin of Jonah Hex (scar and all!) courtesy of Jordi Bernet. Of particular note here is Rob Leigh's lettering, which delivers a consistent edge that feels right at home. Bernet's pencils should be studied by aspiring artists for the efficient economy on each panel and how they deftly convey a story beat. This is a very strong issue, due in part to it focusing much less on the supernatural and weaving together a compelling story about Hex that's placed in historical events that shape his ultimate personality. Grade B+.

Civil War #6 (Marvel): Nothing much to say here except that it's solid entertainment overall, McNiven's art is worth the wait (though I still think entire mini-series should be "in the can" before they're solicited in general), and I don't like the inclusion of the super-villians on either side of the conflict, it somehow... cheapens the experience for me. For example, seeing Venom behind Carol Danvers is just jarring and pushes me out of the page. Looks like it's all downhill to the big showdown, not sure how this can all be resolved in a single issue, and I refuse to buy any of the tie-in books, so we'll see how #7 plays by itself. Grade B.

Manhunter #27 (DC): It's refreshing to to see a smart examination about the real world legal repercussions that would surround Diana in the aftermath of killing Max Lord. Manhunter still probably holds the mantle of the "Best Title That Nobody's Reading." It's a fun ride with DEO's Cameron Chase and bits of her origin, The Order of St. Dumas (Azrael/Jean-Paul Valley, anyone?), Checkmate, and... Blue Beetle? The series is all wound up in nice corners of DC Universe continuity. The art is nice all around and pretty consistent except for a hysterically cross-eyed Diana in one panel. Grade B.

Powers #22 (Marvel/Icon): I'm still pretty conflicted about this title. On the one hand, it's fun to read and modestly entertaining, but I feel so dispassionate about it and can't quite put my finger on the why of it all. Is it that Bendis was telling a story about Superhero Registration here for years before Civil War and not getting credit for it? Is it because the arcs are very repetitive in structure? Is it because Bendis should just resolve the fate of Deena Pilgrim (her powers, her love interests, etc.) and Christian Walker (the Millennium Guard, his immortality, etc.) and their relationship with eachother already, go out while you're on top and wrap it up? Is it that the letter's page feels like it's just going through the motions and failing in terms of humor? Have I finally grown weary of Bendis' shameless self promotion - I mean, really, do we need 2 pages pimping all his other books in every single issue? I'm not sure, but there's an unsettling ennui that's crept in and permeated my enjoyment of this title. I care about the characters, but I'm also kind of tried of keeping up with them. Grade B.

Uncanny X-Men #482 (Marvel): Ed Brubaker and Billy Tan attempt another space opera with this saga of the Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire here with some decent space-faring action and an eclectic mix of characters. I'm not blown away, but this is indeed more straightfoward than the convoluted X-Men titles have been in some time. Not overly friendly to a new reader, but maybe that's my fault for jumping in mid-arc. I've been getting remotely curious to see what kind of bruhaha will be unveiled for the impending 500th issue. Grade B-.

52: Week Thirty-Five (DC): One of the few effective covers in the run, which captures the mood perfectly as Luthor watches the folly of his experiments literally come crashing down. The Jimenez art bits boast a George Perez-ish affability in spots, but then it quickly degenerates into the safe, boring, middling mess that is Dan Jurgens' art, where everyone seems to have the same rounded, dopey, surprised expression on their face. Snarky Comment Alert! The best part of this issue was the ad for the Batman: Year 100 collection from Paul Pope. I was surprised to see Jimenez on art at all though, and was thinking it would be a nice long term strategic move if the "better" artists were assigned the last half of the run so it would end with a bang and garner some interest... points if DC does that. Plastic-Man has a son? Where have I been? Natasha finally listens to her dad after 20 issues of ignoring him and now decides he was right all along? Umm, ok. Grade C.

Nightwing #128 (DC): Dear Marv Wolfman, you are trying to capture the Jeph Loeb style narration boxes and the same inner monologue that Chuck Dixon kicked this title off with, but it fails horribly. It's just not interesting or insightful and some of the dialogue plays soooo melodramatic. "You hired an assassin! Oh god, what have you done?!" Who cares! Stealing dialogue from Pacino in Scarface or Penelope Anne Miller in The Freshman doesn't help your case either. Not to mention that some of those comments are horribly out of character for Dick (in addition to being tiredly lame). Also, Marv... "Code 1" usually means everything is copasetic in law enforcement lingo, what you were desperately trying to capture was actually "Code 3." Dear Dan Jurgens, why do your guns look like a grotesque combination of both revolver and automatic? They have the grips, trigger guard, and hammer housing of an automatic, but cylinder and barrel of a revolver. It's like drawing a submarine with wings, in its bizarre quest to be both, it is neither, thus a failure. It looks stupid. Overall, I just don't get the gravitas of the plot. Over at Marvel, the New Warriors blow up some kids and it causes Civil War. Here, Dick's enemy blows up a double decker tour bus full of people in the middle of New York, and... nothing happens! No mention, no reaction, a throw away panel, just move on to the next page! Instead, we focus on telegraphed moves with Luthor being the buyer, a visually 9/11-esque explosion of a high-rise done with poor taste (and much worse, no point). Poor Nightwing used to be my favorite DCU character so I thought I'd check in on him, alas, what a sad way to start the New Year. Grade F.

I also picked up, but didn't have time to read/review;

Scalped #1 (DC/Vertigo), Superman Confidential #3 (DC), NewUniversal #2 (Marvel), All-Star Superman #6 (DC), Fear Agent #10 (Image), Justice League of America #6 (DC), Glacial Period (NBM/ComicsLit), and Moon Knight: The Bottom TPB (Marvel).