Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mike looks at Marvel Previews August + adds his jaded reader comments and opinions

I’m going to make good on that previous threat and share my August Previews orders here. Just like Tom Petty sings “and I won’t back down.”  Maybe this may serve as a better jump-start for some back and forth discussion on this blog site.  This is an interactive column here  - - so if you’re reading any further be prepared for some questions along with my comments (and hopefully some will elicit responses).

Once you get beyond all the back-patting that Marvel engages in,  the Young Guns program is actually very helpful - - it focuses attention on newer artists who are expected to be future stars.  So I’m glad to see Marvel introduce The Write Stuff, a similar attempt to focus attention on promising writers.  While the initial group of four to be tagged with The Write Stuff have a decent portfolio of accomplishments already under their belt - - they can still be considered “new” to the Marvel Universe, so I’ll let that pass.  I’m pretty familiar with Jason Aaron and Andy Diggle and I agree that they are talented.  I’m still not sure about Jonathan Hickman and Rick Remender, although it may be that the books I read by them just didn’t impress me (Hickman’s first issue of Secret Warriors and the last four issues of The Atom by Remender). 

REBORN: The blank page solicits are intriguing and create curiosity.  With Brubaker and Hitch on board it must be good, especially if it’s the rebirth of Captain America as rumored. I’m waiting for a trade edition on this one (as well as some feedback on the initial issues from some of our other correspondents)  - - I’m sure that will occur.

I won’t be ordering the single titles here because I’M ALSO WAITING FOR TRADE EDITIONS OF:  THE MARVELS PROJECT;  DARK TOWER: FALL OF GILEAD;  THE STAND: AMERICAN NIGHTMARES;  INVINCIBLE IRON MAN: WORLD’S MOST WANTED;  and NEW MUTANTS first story arc.  (And some more titles that I’ll mention below).

From this grouping, THE MARVELS PROJECT looks to be the most interesting, a retelling of the origin of the Marvel Universe by marvelous scripter Ed Brubaker with art by the magnificent Steve Epting.   I am especially intrigued by the cover image of the Hulk which resembles an 1890’s British pugilist.


I see that two more Marvel Noir books premiere in August = Punisher Noir and Luke Cage Noir. Is anybody reading any of these titles?  Are they any good or is it just a gimmick?  Is there a good story behind the trappings and the novelty?  I’m afraid to explore here, but I might pick up a trade if I read a good review of one of these titles.

Let’s move on to some single titles that I’m actually going to order:  ULIMATE COMIC AVENGERS #1 (Mark Millar, Carlos Pacheco) and ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #1 (Brian Michael Bendis and David Lafuente). It’s been almost ten years since Marvel re-booted the universe and started over with Spider-Man, etc. in order to allow curious new readers to jump on board without having to understand the continuity/history of the character.  83170_210665_4 And, as I’ve commented on before, the Ultimate Universe has become just as complex and confusing as the standard Marvel Universe making it difficult for a newbie to come on board.  So, let’s kick it out and start over again for a new generation. (I really don’t say any other alternative, myself if this actually the intention = to get some new blood reading these books.)  So I’m in for the first issues and if I like them I’ll wait for the trade editions.  (Hey, is that Wildstorm’s Grifter who snuck his way onto the cover?)

DAREDEVIL #500:  My admiration for Ed Brubaker is so strong that I have been purchasing and stock-piling the trade editions of Daredevil since he took over the title.   Hey, these stories could be dullsville and I wouldn’t even know – that’s how much I trust the guy not to mess it up (and I’ve never read anything by him that wasn’t a first class effort.)  So sure, I’m picking up the last issue of his run on this series.  I’d say I’m really sorry to see him leave the title - - but I really don’t know because I haven’t read a word.  I will read this one though, I want to see where he is leaving things for the next writer to take over.  And I feel that he’s such a good writer that reading the ending first won’t spoil my enjoyment of his series run once I get around to actually picking it up.

And in contrast to writers with lengthy runs on series I see that yet another writer is taking over FANTASTIC FOUR-- Jonathan Hickman (The Write Stuff guy).  Is there an FF policy in place that says a scripter gets two story arcs and then change again?  I’m sort of glad I decided not to follow this series.  Hey, has anyone ordered the IMMORTAL WEAPONS 5-issue series?  (See page 53 of Marvel Previews) It looks interesting and it’s another one I might order in trade edition if I find a good review of it anywhere. 

Another trade edition I’m ordering this month is THE MIGHTY AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST PREMIERE HC.  Thanks to Jeff for bringing me back to this title after Bendis left.  I forgot that Dan Slott, a writer that I admire (hey, why isn’t he in The Write Stuff?) was taking over the book.  I saw the announcement that the new story arc would involve Merlin and Morgana the Witch ( I just hate that hero/medieval blend) so I stayed away until I read Jeff’s review.  So I picked up two issues and loved what Slott is doing. In addition he’s brought the fun back to this book.  It’s an amusing read as well, with lots of inside jokes and funny innuendos and asides being uttered based on character’s back histories. I like it.

A MODELS, INC 4-issue limited series is announced. You are kidding, right?  Is it just me or does that cover look like a knock off of the first issue of GLAMOURPUSS?  Is anybody going to order this?  Is anybody reading GLAMOURPUSS? (although that title might actually have some merit, in a curious way. I liked the history of newspaper comic strip artists mixed in with the modeling story - - but not enough to bring me back for another issue).

MOON KNIGHT SAGA - - - I’m ordering because . . .  it’s free!  Why not get confused trying to follow yet another character as Marvel tries to make sense of the back history and put it into some kind of reasonable order. (Boy, was the Wolverine saga ever confusing - - it’s tied for first place with the War Of The Kings saga.)  And John Rhett Thomas seems to keep getting assigned to researching and writing these things  - - is that a Marvel punishment of some kind . . for what? . . . being Roy Thomas’ kid, maybe?

I’m ordering WOLVERINE WEAPON X #4 because I’m following this first story arc by Jason Aaron, but it’s not holding my attention nor exciting me as much as I had hoped for. (Thought he might breathe new life into the Wolvie franchise - - I had high hopes after reading his single issue story in Wolverine #56, a great one!)

It’s nice to see Marvel keeps giving work to Chris Claremont (he did popularize the X-Men way back when) even though he doesn’t seem to have any fresh ideas and is kind of mediocre/boring (least what I have seen). I’m a little concerned that this is titled XMEN FOREVER as a kind of tie-in to the great AVENGERS FOREVER - - let’s hope he doesn’t besmirch or tarnish the legend of that trophy. No, I’m not ordering this - - I’m too scared to find out if I’m right.

THOR BY J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI VOL 2. TPB - - - I am all over this one. Can’t wait.  Loved what he did with the first story arc.  JMS  is a great writer.

I’m not ordering PUNISHER: FRANK CASTLE MAX- SIX HOURS TO KILL TPB although that cover is really intriguing, plus it takes place in Philadelphia (my adopted home).  I don’t want to take a chance on a writer I’m not familiar with – Duane Swierczynski.  However, I will order PUNISHER: WAR ZONE TPB because of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon - - can’t wait to see what fresh ideas they have brought to this formerly tired title. 

P.S.  . . Thanks for tolerating me and getting this far. You get two points for persistence. . . . . .. . mike aka pghhead




Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mike’s random readings 5/26/09 and earlier

POTTER’S FIELD: STONE COLD  (Boom Studios)  Mark Waid and Paul Azaceta

Stone Cold is a very solid tale, a  complete in one issue crime story featuring the return of “John Doe” from the 3 issue Potter’s Field min-series.   The secretive and reclusive John Doe’s main mission is to put names and faces to  to the unknown serial-numbered corpses that end up buried in Potter’s Field, a  police-maintained cemetery for the unidentified dead of New York City.

How are the apparently suicidal, homeless and unknown recently deceased connected?  - - all have been burned or mutilated to ensure non-recognition.  The trail leads to identity theft and corrupt police officers in a nicely told tale of crime  and investigation that touches a nerve - - what some will do in the name of money and extra income. Shame.  

This ranks up this with the better crime tales of Brubaker and Azzaretto.  If everything is going to be this good then I look forward to Waid’s infrequent tales of  John Doe. Boom Boom.

ASTONISHING X-MEN #29 (Marvel)  Warren Ellis and Simone Bianchi

I know Jeff is following this storyline and enjoying it as well.  I certainly don’t want to spoil too much since I hope more of you will seek this out and at least read it in trade paperback.  It’s a great X-Men saga.  Ellis is really building something nice here and this issue links all the events together and makes sense of the whole thing.  Very clever use on his part to find a way around the House Of M mutant-abolishing event - - I’ll say no more.  In addition to the mystery/detective like plot there is very well thought out interaction between the characters that in places is a lot of fun to read  - - look for the innuendos, jabs, insightful but somewhat embarrassing insights not to mention the sexual tension.  Thank you Warren.  And thank you Bianchi for some absolutely incredible art  - - like a mesh of Heavy Metal with a big dose of the Aliens creator’s influence (brain dead moment – I can’t remember his name, some weird German guy).

CAPTAIN AMERICA #49 (Marvel) Ed Brubaker and Luke Ross:

Captain America was one of the few books I was buying monthly in my attempt to convert my habit to all trade paperback/hardcover editions.  After Bucky seemed to be settling in as the new Cap and things adjusted to just a brisk walk instead of a foot race I felt it was safe to stop getting the monthly title and wait for the trades.  I stopped getting the monthly with #48, just as the “Man With No Face” story arc ended.  And after 4+ weeks with no Cap I really started to miss it - - and you can figure out the rest.

This is a stand alone issue that may lead into what going’s to happen in #50 (not sure) and lets us catch up with what’s happening outside of Bucky’s world, especially with Sharon Carter.  For an issue that contains absolutely no physical action there is plenty of mental/emotional conflict.  Brubaker does such a great job with this.  He is the first writer to actually make me care about Sharon Carter, who  always seemed to be used as a foil (romantic interest, secondary character, accomplice, etc.) for the other characters (Steve Rogers, Nick Fury, etc.) to play off of.  Brubaker has given her new life and she is now a character that I admire (her determination and escape from the Red Skull, for example) and empathize with.

Those events catch up to Sharon as she takes some recuperative rest and reflects on all that has happened, and ends sadly as she comes to term with the now surfacing memories of her pregnancy in captivity and loss of child.  The flashback scenes are well-done, short rather than prolonged and contrast nicely with her aunt’s memories - - the one common factor being they both were involved with Steve Rogers and ironically as Aunt Peggy suffers from mild dementia and struggles to remember those times - as Sharon struggles with the suppressed memories that are now starting to surface and trouble her. Brubaker has such a “touch” with this - - I don’t often see this kind of sensitivity in these stories.

   Meanwhile, the Falcon searches for the missing “bad Cap” from the 50’s era, who escaped from the manipulations of Dr. Faustus and The Red Skull and is now at large, in fact even closer to our main players than they realize.  I’m looking forward to see what occurs in issue #50.  You are also going to love the title page (page 2) with a dimensional tribute to the art of M. C. Escher recognizing his famous multiple staircase-multiple levels painting.

THE FLASH: REBIRTH #2  (DC) by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver:

What I like most about Johns writing here is how he remains true to the character and back-story of Barry Allen yet gives it all a modern touch rather than a re-hash of what could easily become a cardboard characterization of a 60’s comics icon.  (Keep in mind that I am but a casual reader of The Flash in any version  so I’m not as knowledgeable as others -- but I just get a gut feeling that this is authentic.) Johns puts a lot of  “character” into his character and makes him a real human being with values, feelings, and flaws and makes him interesting to me for perhaps the first time. And through the use of moving back and forth in time with current day insights (the dialogue between Barry Flash and Hal Green Lantern is very revealing) as well as history (a slow methodical and shy pre-Flash Barry and a compelling re-telling of his first encounter with Iris).  And the main story of how the Speed Force is making trouble for anyone else with speed powers – and all linked to Barry’s return being the catalyst – is pretty neat.  Add some breath-taking gorgeous art by Van Sciver  and you have a hot, hot book here.  There’s a lot of detail to see and admire, even in the merely exposition panels.

BUCK ROGERS #0 (Dynamite)  by Scott Beatty and Carlos Rafael

Here’s another 50’s/60’s icon brought into the future and given an update.  Rather than give it a current feel like John’s Flash rebirth this seems more faithful to the original (however I am even more unfamiliar with this character - - limited to what I know from reading articles about the character, a few reprints of old stories,  and from watching some of the old Gil Gerard TV series which was not that faithful beyond the major premise of a man thrown into the future).   Buck as portrayed by Beatty seems a little more rooted in his past - - with a macho 50’s feel, attitude and expressions.  (Not to mention a “Blob”-like alien foe.)  However this is only a short 12 page intro and should be given another chance. (I’ll probably pick up issue #1 and maybe #2 if I still like it).  What I did find curious and different is that this preview shows the ending of Buck’s saga rather than the beginning  - - which of course will start with Issue #1.

NEW MUTANTS #1 (Marvel)  by Zeb Wells and Diogenes Neves:

Yet another revival of a former title, but this super-team wasn’t dead or missing - - they were just relegated to second tier players without their own book for all those years in-between.  If the story and art are going to remain consistent with what I see here, then welcome back.  (By the way, look for the wraparound cover that features the whole team with Magick in the foreground - - it’s the most impressive and interesting of the various covers).   This is well-written with good pacing, re-introduces everybody but doesn’t dwell or linger too long - - and the art is dynamic as well.

The former Xavier pupils Cannonball and Sunspot are now instructors at the X-school in California.  The now despised and outcast Magick shows up to inform them that former New Mutant team-mates Karma and Moonstar are in a spot of trouble in a town that holds a dark secret. So they add Magma to the mix and the team is given thumbs up by director Scott to head off on their first rescue mission.  Lots of reminiscing and humorous comparisons of then to now keep this light-hearted and fun. But there looks to be enough drama/action when Legion becomes involved.  I’ll be checking out some of these future issues.  I like what I see here.

I’ve read even more books that I wouldn’t mind sharing with you but I’m not getting enough spare time - - so it has to wait.  Till next time . . . . Mike

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Shane Talks Previews: August 2009 - DC Comics

Time to get some blood back in this blog!  Let's take a look at some of what DC is offering in August.  It's a rather tempting month for me, with several launches that I'm really rather interested in.

Adventure Comics #1

To start off, we have the launch (relaunch?) of Adventure Comics, starring Superboy.  We've already discussed this book, so I won't go into too much more, other than to note that Francis Manapul's art looks gorgeous (I have this as my desktop background right now), and that there will officially be a Legion backup (with art by Clayton Henry, who I'm not too familiar with, but a quick search looks promising).  It starts off with Starman for  few issues, but it's been confirmed that the backup will indeed be Legion-centric, with the option to launch another ongoing book if the demand is there.  I think that this title will be incredibly successful, and I've put aside most of my issues with it.  I'm looking forward to it.

Doom Patrol #1

However much I look forward to Adventure Comics, though, it's not nearly as much as I'm looking forward to this.  Keith Giffen is a favorite writer of mine, one who almost always puts together a solid read, and this seems like the perfect fit for him--it's superhero-y, but it's just out there enough to give him a chance to go nuts.  And Matthew Clark, he's become one of my favorite artists recently.  He's extremely talented, with a distinct style.  The preview pages look incredible.  And the Metal Men co-feature, well, the credits of that creative team speak for themself.  This will be well-worth my $3.99, of this I have no doubt (although, okay, I'll probably be paying 2-something for it, but still.)

Batgirl #1

Another new series?  Yes!  The next ongoing title for the Bat-family stars Batgirl...and that's really all we know.  Is it Cassandra Cain?  Doubtful.  Is it Barbara Gordon?  I was all set to say "Probably", but with the way her Oracle miniseries ended, the odds don't look nearly as good.  Bette Kane?  Maybe, I guess, given that Kate Kane is Batwoman, but she hasn't even appeared in quite some time.  Misfit?  Wendy?  A completely new character?  It's a mystery, and Battle for the Cowl provided no clues.  As for the creative team, Lee Garbett is a solid artist (albeit not one I'm very familiar with), but Bryan Q. Miller is fairly new to the comics world.  I understand that he's done work on the Smallville television series, and he has some fill-in stories lined up with DC, but nothing too major, so putting him on a new series launch seems a bit surprising to me.  I'm still intrigued, however--not enough to buy it monthly, but I only buy three or four books from DC monthly anymore (and two of those are the ones listed above), and none from Marvel, so it's not as if this is a shock.  But I'm choosing to be optimistic, here.

The Red Circle

J. Michael Straczynsi is a name well-known around these parts, and his newest big project for DC, featuring a revival of the old Archie-superheroes (reclaiming their original name, "Red Circle"), has finally been solicited.  I was skeptical at first, but everything I see of this book excites me, from the JMS interviews to the J.G. Jones redesigns to the Jesus Saiz covers to the artistic team announcements (Tom Derenick paired with Bill Sienkiewicz?  Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens?  All good stuff).  It also appears as if two new titles will launch from this, each of them starring two of the characters (although I can't recall which ones in which book).  I'm not sure if JMS is attached to that, but I look forward to reading these titles in trade format.

Blackest Night: Superman; Blackest Night: Batman; Blackest Night: Titans

It looks as if Blackest Night is shaping up to be DC's analog to Secret Invasion.  Say what you will about Final Crisis--and remember, I was absolutely in love with that book--but it didn't act as a company-wide event.  And, again, that wasn't necessarily the goal, but given that it was published at just about the same time as Secret Invasion, and, well, the customers spoke with their wallets.  Anyway, Blackest Night seems to be capturing the same excitement fans felt about Secret Invasion--except instead of "Who's a Skrull?", it becomes "Who will rise from the dead?"  Three tie-in minis begin publication this month, and unlike last month (which completed a three-issue Green Lantern miniseries), these books are published monthly.  The creative teams are good enough, and none of the books look like they'll feel pointless (whereas I was less-than-thrilled with some of the Secret Invasion tie-ins).  Blackest Night looks like it will be a very successful event for DC, especially after they released a prologue for Free Comic Book Day.

Batman: Widening Gyre #1 (of 6)

I haven't paid much attention towards Kevin Smith's foray into the Batman universe, but I've heard mixed reviews.  Still, I'm intrigued by the idea that he seems to be developing a series of minis, so I'll keep an eye on this.

Other tidbits:

The Superman titles host two annuals this month, for both Superman and Action Comics.  Given that the tenth annual was never collected (despite featuring the "new" origin for Mon-El), I'm concerned as to whether I'll get a chance to see these or not.  The Superman titles also cross-over this month, although I'm not sure as to the details--it's clearly New Krypton-based, of course, but other than that I don't really know.  Something about Codename: Patriot?  Perhaps?  I really haven't paid these books too much attention lately, in an attempt to remain surprised for when the hardcovers come out.  Finally, James Robinson's next Jimmy Olsen Special comes out, which is just swell (also, despite my comment last month, the New Krypton hardcover did print the Jimmy Olsen and Guardian specials.  My bad!)

We finally see Showcase Presents: Warlord, going along nicely with the relaunch.  Has that been good?  I haven't heard much about it.  Having never gotten a chance to read about the Warlord (except as an occasional crossover appearance), I look forward to picking up this collection.

 The Spirit ends publication with issue 32.  Really, though, after Darwyne Cooke and J. Bone left the title, it was just sort of treading water, right?  Fortunately, it looks as if DC is working to repackage the Spirit along with several similar characters, including Doc Savage and Blackhawk, for a new project.

Finally, new collections for both Icon (from Milestone) and Cosmic Oddysey.  Very glad to see these.

So, what are you all getting?

Jeff’s Review Update

I’m way behind on my reading because I was sick for a few days (not Swine Flu), and because I just switched to FIOS TV and I had to watch all the stuff on my Comcast DVR so that I could return it and close the account. :-)

I’m away next week visiting family, so I’ll try to get caught up from there.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Suburban Glamour, and my love for Jamie McKelvie

I've been reading a bunch of independent stuff lately, because, well, after BC closed I decided to expand my horizons a bit, and had friends suggest stuff to me.  Some was good, some was bad, some was abominable and some was phenomenal.

Sometime soon, I'm going to tell you about a comic from that last category--it's a little thing called Phonogram, being published by Image Comics.  It's currently on its second miniseries, and it is basically just the absolute best thing being published by now, and if you aren't reading it you are missing out on something incredible.

However, I want to hold off an extensive review until after the second miniseries finishes publication--not because I want to make sure I love it, because I'm positive that I'll love it, but because I want to do a full examination of everything it presents.

Still, it's time for me to rave about one part of what makes Phonogram incredible--its artist and co-creator, Jamie McKelvie.  He's done work for Marvel and DC recently--he did a few issues of Cable, some stuff for the X-Men: Divided We Stand miniseries, and some stuff for the Gotham Gazette issues that tie into Battle for the Cowl.  And those were all great, but where he really stands out is with his creator-owned stuff, like Phonogram and...well, Suburban Glamour.

Suburban Glamour is a series about...okay, you're going to laugh, and I did when I first heard about it--a high school girl who discovers that her imaginary friends are real and also there are fairies.  Yes, it sounds completely ridiculous, but it's done with a sarcastic streak that provides a new view on the boring cliche.  The character work is perfect--almost immediately I fell for all of the main characters.

This is a series that Jamie McKelvie wrote, but as I mentioned before, he's an illustrator, and a very talented one at that.  Here's a page from Suburban Glamour that absolutely blew me away:

Unfortunately, Blogger is making it smaller than I wanted it, but even with that I think that you can see the level of talent that McKelvie has.  The book is absolutely beautiful.

Basically--pick up Suburban Glamour.  Pick up Phonogram.  Pick up anything that has Jamie McKelvie's name on it, because, to quote Warren Ellis, "Jamie's one of the major new talents of the decade".

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Free Comic Book Day, Part 2

Here’s the summary of the remaining books I picked up during Free Comic Book Day 2009.

I’m going to write separately about The Stuff Of Legends FCBD issue and meeting the publisher and artist.

starwars                                                   fcbd2009swp4

STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS  (Dark Horse):  This is a flip book, with the main story focusing on Star Wars and the backside/flipside divided between Usagi Yojimbo, Emily The Strange, Beanworld and Indiana Jones stories, with everything aimed at the “all ages” audience.

At just eight pages the Clone Wars story focuses on a single battle and a unique attack strategy that works.   Jedi Master Fisto (obligatory bathrobe, and a “squid-locks” hairdo to help us remember him)  has to break up a force of separatists who have secured themselves within a mountain stronghold and a stockpile of valuable exonium “energy stones” that has a local owlish chieftain squawking with impatience at the Jedi/clone forces inability to defeat them.  Master Fisto (I’m getting a bad image here based on that name!) teams up with a sharpshooting clone solider to get inside and defeat the rebels.

If I was a younger reader I would probably find this rather exciting and seek out more Star Wars books.  I think I’m just burned out with “Star Wars” and don’t appreciate this. Ho hum.  When Dark Horse picked up the Star Wars licensing for comics they brought a lot of excitement to a stale mythos and breathed new life into the line.  I was reading them as well because I picked up a good share of these books for my enthusiastic sons back in the day.  What followed was such a glut of books and titles (who’s counting anymore?) that still continues today.

I do admire Stan Sakai’s longevity with his creator-owned rabbit samurai saga, Usagi Yojimbo. I just can’t get over the cartoonish aspects of this and take it seriously.  Still, it’s a great way to introduce a younger reader to Asian culture, philosophy and values.  “One Dark And Stormy Night” (must be tough coming up with original story titles) is a compact little ghost story that surprised me with its implied “racy” nature but should go down well with a young reader.

Emily The Strange is too strange for me and perhaps too hard to understand for the younger reader.  Maybe there are some 12-16 year olds out there that this strange quirky style is well-suited for. Can’t see this title gathering much of an audience/following.  Weird, yes . . but in a very boring way.

Larry Marder’s Beanworld is one of the oddest off-the-wall cartoon creations you may see, that looks to have some Krazy Kat influences.  This 2-page only preview shows how different it is but again I’m wondering who the best audience is. Like Emily The Strange it seems aimed at the very young but also would be a little hard to follow - - and I think the 12-16 year old group would be just flat out bored and annoyed by it.  I am grateful to Dark Horse for giving me a chance to sample it without spending any money on it.  A little taste like this is all I needed.

“Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Yearning” = It’s nice to see that Mark Evanier is still finding work in the industry, and writing comics stories for younger audiences seems to suit him. This is competent enough just not interesting enough for an adult to want to follow it. The art is simplistic as should be expected for this type of fare.

If I was looking at these titles and trying to decide which ones to buy to introduce to any of my younger relatives I suppose I would have to decide between Star Wars and Indiana Jones figuring that they would take to some familiar material more easily, and then give Usagi Yojimbo to the more open-minded youngsters.  Skip the rest.



SAVAGE DRAGON #148 FCBD (Image):  Of all the Image titles that have been introduced since that company’s inception in the 1980’s I think just Savage Dragon and Spawn have been continuously published.  And for all it’s years every issue of Savage Dragon has been both written and drawn by Erik Larson, which is quite a commendable accomplishment.  However, if you’ve been following all that time then you realize the limitations of Erik Larson in both his writing and art styles. There is a group in the general readership that likes knowing what they are getting, avoids change and innovation, and doesn’t want to be surprised.  This is a perfect book for them.  I’ve read this title in the beginning, and picked up scattered titles here and there (usually in the bargain bins) over the years - - and never had any trouble following the events (in fact I often felt as if I had already read the story).

If you like Jack Kirby (I do) then you will appreciate Larson’s style, especially when you realize that he draws feet exactly the way Kirby did.  In the opening four pages of this story you get all the back story you need about where Savage Dragon has gone before. His children are kidnapped by a revived Vicious Circle and Larson resurrects a golden age hero now in the public domain (the original Daredevil from the 1940’s  as well as his sidekicks The Little Wise Guys) and copies the tone of those books (mindless action) rather than bring anything new to light.  It was “work” to get through this book. Save yourself some trouble and give it a pass.



Hard to believe 2009 marks the 25th anniversary of the creation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  It’s another series that I’m aware of mainly because of my son’s interest in them during his formative years, a time that included my purchasing some of the black and white Mirage titles for him and then shifting focus to the Archie Comics versions which were more suited to his younger sensibilities at that time.   There is a nice write-up in here about how the two creators started out in business, and really just thought this might be a one story pony. (Who knew?) 
This issue reprints that very first issue of TMNT and it’s not bad for what it is.  Creative for the time - - yes - - and would even be considered creative by today’s more evolved and enlightened standards.   This reprint issue is dedicated to Jack Kirby and Frank Miller, two recognized influences on Eastman and Laird.  And after reading this title, I see a lot of influence from Vaughan Bode and Richard Corben (and their early “underground” comics style) that should also have been recognized.   If you haven’t read this title before this is worth picking up, especially in the cool implied link to Marvel’s Daredevil in the origin of their powers.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Jeff’s Reviews: Week of 4/29/09, Part 2

Ms. Marvel 38: First issue featuring Karla (Moonstone) Sofen as Ms. Marvel, now that Carol Danvers is “dead” and Norman Osborn is in charge. If you haven’t been reading this lately, Brian Reed’s writing has always been good but he stepped it up another level starting with the Secret Invasion issues. That continues here when the government orders psych evaluations of Norman’s
Avengers and he assigns Karla to go first, since she’s also a trained psychologist. Mayhem ensues.

Uncanny X-Men 509: I still like the tone of this, and Matt Fraction’s characterizations are fun, but there are so many stories being juggled here (every 2-4 pages, by my count) that it feels like there’s no forward motion. I’m not a gigantic fan of the Greg Land art either.

Amazing Spider-Man Family 5: This is the new home of “Spider-Girl”, so if you were buying that book you’ll want to start getting this. (Those of you who prefer a married Peter & MJ might like it too.) The creative team is the same and the story is a full 22 pages, so it’s just like the old book except that it doesn’t come out as often. The rest of the anthology is filled by a story of Peter interviewing for a photographer job with his CSI friend (fun, because Peter has seen a lot more crime scenes than the average cop), a story featuring new villain Screwball (forgettable), and “The Sensational Swiney-Girl” (which I am not making up.)

Sherlock Holmes 1: I was bored with this at first, but the twist at the end of the story by Leah Moore (yes, Alan’s her dad) & John Reppion hooked me enough to come back for more. The art is fine, but not as good as in the Zorro or Lone Ranger books by the same publisher.

War Machine 5: Not as good as Grek Pak’s other books (Skaar, Hercules, World War Hulk) but good enough to hold my interest. All the scenes with Ares, who considers War Machine a disciple, are great. It’s a little unclear, but the premise seems to change at the end of the issue to where Rhodey is still a cyborg but all the Iron Man trappings (armor, satellite, etc.) have been jettisoned.

Runaways 9: Not terrible, but the story that ends this issue went on one issue too long and the art is a little too manga for my taste. The last two pages, however, are great. Very much looking forward to the new creative team, though.

Dark Reign: The Cabal: A better than average anthology featuring Doom, Emma Frost, The Hood, Namor and Loki in separate stories. The Loki story takes place between Thor 600 and 601 and I think it’s essential to understanding why some of the events in 601 happen. I also loved the Namor story, where he acts like an actual king which we rarely get to see. The Emma and Hood stories are nice character pieces. For me, the Doom story was fatally flawed because I was honestly confused about whether we were being shown actual events a year in the future or just Doom’s fantasy. (Other online reviews I checked did not seem to have this problem, so it may have been just me.)

Avengers/Invaders 10: Getting more and more pointless, as it’s a no-win situation – either the story can’t change the past (which makes it a waste) or it does change it (which would piss us off.) Looks nice, though.

Captain America Theater of War: A Brother in Arms: Good, but kind of preachy story about how Cap and an Army unit treat a German POW. It’s well enough written, and not well enough “acted” by the art but there are no surprises here.

Marvel Assistant-Sized Spectacular 2 (of 2): I only got the first issue for the final “Mini-Marvels” story, and if I had been thinking I wouldn’t have gotten this one at all. The Luke Cage story gets Jessica’s character all wrong (she doesn’t want to be involved in superhero fights), the “Galacta Daughter of Galactus” story (which I am also not making up) is just dumb except for some clever Twitter references, and the Elsa Bloodstone story is not as interesting or funny as her appearances in NEXTWave. Plus, there’s supposed to be an online poll for best story (over both issues – I wanted to vote for Mini-Marvels) but I can’t find it on (Maybe they want to forget this too.)

Thunderbolts 131: Wow, this last part of the Deadpool crossover went completely off the rails. I don’t mind Deadpool winning, but he makes the Thunderbolts seem weak, incompetent and ineffective to the point that it damages the premise of the series and makes Norman Osborn (who is supposed to be formidable) look ridiculous for recruiting them. And Deadpool survives being decapitated, which is just stupid. Maybe this could have worked in Deadpool’s book but it’s a disaster here. First Thunderbolts issue from Andy Diggle that I did not like. “Epic Fail”, as the kids say.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Jeff’s Reviews: Week of 4/29/09, Part 1

Batman: Battle for the Cowl: The Underground 1: This is a good story starring the major Gotham villains (Penguin, Riddler, Two-Face, Firefly, Poison Ivy, – but not the Joker) reacting to the new Black Mask and his plans. It’s especially good at following up the ending to Catwoman’s previous series with her despairing over Black Mask and Batman, both of whom she thought dead and who have worse replacements running around. It ends on a cliffhanger (sort of), so this might be a good “wait for the collection” candidate if DC bundles it with the main miniseries. (Which is only 3 issues, so it seems like they’ll need more to fill up the book.)

Nova 24: Speaking of Legionnaires, it’s the Imperial Guard! :-) More dangerous here than we’re used to seeing them, definitely fully on board with Emperor Vulcan’s plans. There’s also more good stuff about the Nova Corps and how they’re faring without Rich Rider to lead them, and it’s not so tied into “War of Kings” that you can’t enjoy it even if this is the only book you’re into. Good, solid, superhero stuff with a surprise ending in every issue.

Dark Avengers 4: I tend to talk more about writing than art, so let me focus on Mike Deodato here – I haven’t always been a fan of his, but the last two pages of this issue are drop-dead gorgeous and convey Bendis’ point better than he could have possibly done in dialogue. (The coloring is amazing too.) On the writing side, some nice Osborn/Doom scenes and Oborn’s team acually wins one for a change (although they needed Doom’s help to do it.) People who were annoyed at the way Bendis portrayed Doom in the first few issues of Mighty Avengers will like him a lot better here.

Justice Society of America 26: I’ll again make more of an art commentary: Geoff Johns’ final issue is a quiet story that gives Dale Eaglesham a chance to do page after page of the “slice of life” stuff he does so well. I mean, just look at it:

Justice Society of America #26 - Page 20

I’ll miss Eaglesham on the DC characters, but I think he’s perfect for Fantastic Four so I’m looking forward to that.

Wonder Woman 31: I’m honestly not sure how to write about this issue. It’s so good that I just don’t know where to start pointing out things that I liked. Just buy it, already. (Actually, this is part 6 so if you’re not reading it already wait for the “Rise of the Olympian” collection.)

Trinity 48: Enough gets moved forward here that I’m less worried about them being able to tie it all up before #52, and boy Mark Bagley’s artwork seems to still get better every issue.

Green Lantern 40: Continues to march towards “Blackest Night” with some interesting revelations about how the Orange (greed) power operates and the ongoing subplot about Hal trying to figure out what (if anything) he hopes for. On the art side, more of those amazing double-page spreads we’ve been accustomed to lately. Definitely a middle chapter – nothing really gets resolved -- but a good one.

Skaar 10: A nice father/son parallel here, where the people in Skaar’s life realize just how ruthless and dangerous he is and have to make a similar decision to the one Tony Stark et. al. made about sending the Hulk away. (Which ironically led to Skaar’s birth, etc.) Also nice to see Ron Lim drawing the Silver Surfer and Galactus again. Next stop: Earth!

Teen Titans 70: Not a complete mess, but close. I mean, this book should be somewhat about the team’s problems but that’s all this is about to the point of being tedious. (You know you’re in trouble when the Vigilante chapter of your crossover is the best one.) I did like the Ravager/Jericho scenes, though. Since this book is going through creative teams even before they actually create anything, it’s hard to tell if there’s a long term plan here. Maybe it will improve now that [formerly dead kid] and [formerly dead boy] are available again?

Superman 687: Someone doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo that Black Lightning is off the grid (see Outsiders), but other than that good stuff featuring the supporting cast. Mon-El is mostly the one featured, and I’m glad they’re dealing with the secret identity issues that I thought were an obvious problem last issue. There’s also another Legion connection here that may or may not end up tying in to Legion of Three Worlds.

Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds 4:  As with Shane’s comments, there be spoilers here so bail out now if you need to. Both Shane and I had emotional reactions to this, which I think is good – it shows that Johns and Perez are doing something right. I’m not going to rebut Shane point-by-point because I think his reaction is equally valid and I don’t want to belittle it by picking it apart. I think we’re just coming from different places, so I’ll try to describe where I’m at and maybe that’ll give you an idea of whether you’ll like this or not.

My childhood Superboy, Clark Kent as a boy, has been gone for a long time and isn’t coming back. I’m actually OK with that – I’m not one of those people who thinks comics have to stay the same as when I was a kid forever. (And I’m not suggesting Shane is like that; I’m talking about people my age.) I like the ‘90s Superboy and I read and enjoyed his series, especially the Kesel/Grummet stuff, for it’s whole run. I also think the current decade’s changes to the character – being accepted by Superman, getting a Kryptonian name, living with Ma & Pa Kent, joining the Titans, and sharing Luthor’s DNA – are good ones. I think that “clone of Superman and Lex Luthor” is a much better and easier to explain concept than “clone of Superman and some guy you’ve never heard of.”

I’ve been reading the Legion since the ‘70s, and as much as I do like the reboot and the stuff that followed, as well as Mark Waid’s recent revamp, I don’t think it ever quite worked without Superboy in it. This was partially solved recently by saying that Clark Kent visited them as a boy -- I like the modern idea that the Legion is responsible for teaching Superman as much as he’s responsible for inspiring them – but it’s not the same as having a Superboy and I am absolutely thrilled to have him back in that role. (And I think the method by which he was brought back was clever and logical.)

Yes, there's a lot of "Geoff Johns' greatest hits" and "Geoff Johns explains complicated stuff quickly so that you won't think about it too much" in there, but I had enough fun that I didn't care. I loved all the Bart and XS stuff, and the Brainiac 5 scenes, and even the Time Trapper revelation. (I’ll leave it to greater Legion fan minds than mine to figure out whether it’s plausible or not.) The only thing I’ll flat out disagree with Shane about is the art. I don’t think Perez is phoning it in and in fact I think it’s some of his best work. (I do, however, admit that I don’t know anatomy well enough to notice muscle rendering mistakes like the ones that bothered Shane.)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jeff’s Reviews: Week of 4/22/09, Part 3

X-Force 14: It’s hard to talk about this, the third chapter of “Messiah War”, without giving much away so I’ll assume you know the premise. I wasn’t reading X-Men during the Cable/Stryfe/Apocalypse era, so I’m a little confused by some of that stuff although Kyle & Yost do a pretty good job of explaining just what’s necessary to know. My main problem is that this conflict between Cable wanting to protect the girl and Bishop wanting to destroy her has been going on for months and we still don’t know much about Bishop’s position. He seems to sincerely believe that letting the girl live will be a disaster for mutantkind, but we don’t know enough about how or why to sympathize with him. I feel like the story wants us to agonize about which side is right, but Bishop just comes off as a bully (and a mass murderer, but he thinks that won’t count because the timeline will reset when he kills the girl.)

Incredible Hercules 128: Pak & Van Lente make it look easy here, as usual, even though there’s clearly a lot of thought put into it. This, as opposed to Elektra and Thunderbolts, is how to have Osborn’s Dark Avengers lose without seeming ineffective – they’re fighting on two fronts, each being a group of gods, Ares is conflicted because his family is involved, and Osborn gets trapped by his team’s (fake) mission to act like real Avengers and save lives. (They should probably win once in a while too, but it makes sense that they don’t here.) Well done, as everyone in the story has an understandable motivation and doesn’t behave like an idiot. I’ve never heard of Deitrich Smith, but his art style fits well here.

Immortal Iron Fist 25: Continues to not miss a beat from the Brubaker/Fraction era. There’s one more part to this story, which is coming along nicely – I like that Danny and the other Weapons have stopped being passive – and I’m looking forward to the one-shots featuring them that are coming after #26.

Astonishing X-Men 29: OK, but the delays and the stalling with the special issues have robbed me of some of my interest. I generally like Warren Ellis’ work, and I do like this, but I’m considering waiting for the collection. There is also some momentum lost taking time to explain the fact that Ellis’ story, which presumably was written separately from the main X-universe planning, depends on mutants from an alternate universe when in the meantime it was established that Wanda wiped out mutants in all timelines at the end of House of M. (Which is a dumb idea that they never should have mentioned in the first place, so it’s too bad that Ellis has to spend time explaining it away here.)

Avengers: The Initiative 23: More good use of Osborn here, as almost the entire cast has to admit their complicity in the events way back in issue #1 and Norman swoops in as the “good guy” to fix everything. (Yes, those events were caused by a Skrull, but the rest of the characters didn’t know that at the time and went along with the authority figure anyway.) A little off on the timeline with the other Dark Reign books because HAMMER isn’t yet established here, but presumably that will sync up next issue as we find out the new status quo. Critical for those who have been following this book since the beginning, but I think next issue will probably turn out to be a better jumping on point.

Outsiders 17: Nothing particularly wrong with this, except that I am kind of losing the thread of why this “Insider” group is so bad that Batman made provisions for chasing them after his death. The connection to Metamorpho is interesting, though, and it’s nice to see him not treated like a buffoon for a change. Lee Garbett is another unknown artist to me, but his work here is good.

Mighty Avengers 24: This is very clearly aimed at “classic” Avengers fans, and I’ve heard from a lot of you who are used to the “New Avengers” style and just don’t like the change. I, however, think there’s room for both and I’m loving this book so far. Nice use of the Cabal (though where is the mystery villain Osborn scared everyone with in the first Dark Reign story?), and I think we’re slowly heading for a confrontation between this team and the Dark Avengers since Loki’s intention seems to be to use them to undermine Osborn. I also loved all the Quicksilver stuff, and the way he tries to rehabilitate his image with the public is pure evil genius from writer Dan Slott. Recommended for people who don’t hate fun. :-)

New Avengers 52: Another good chapter of the “Sorcerer Supreme” story. It’s interesting that Dr. Strange does not seem to know what demon The Hood is attached to – given who is involved, you’d think he would recognize them instantly (though he is clearly weakened.) I haven’t checked online, but I’m sure some people are pissed about the Son of Satan’s dialogue at the end. It fits the tone Bendis has established for the book, and it’s funny, so it worked for me. (Your mileage may vary, especially for those of you that are divorced.)

Thor 601: Terrific as usual, as the cast reacts to the events of #600 (which I really don’t want to give away because I know a lot of you are following this in collections and I’m not sure if it’s in the hardcover that just came out) and Loki’s scheme continues. I love Balder in the Latveria scenes, and there’s some more background to how that situation came about in the Dark Reign: The Cabal special that came out the following week. The story in the anthology is not by Straczynski, but I hope it gets in the next Thor collection anyway because I think it’s important.

That’s it for 4/22. Tomorrow: 11 of last week’s books including the controversial “Legion of 3 Worlds”.

Free Comic Book Day

Everybody in the Clarke family had a good time on Saturday, May 2 at Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark, Delaware. Never have I observed a Free Comic Book Day so well attended. Seems like the whole town was checking it out. We got there early (11:30 a.m.) before any official activity had begun and already a line was forming to enter. By 2 p.m. that line was almost a city block long!!! Kudos to the staff of Captain Blue Hen for planning this event and loading it with a variety of activities, as well as really going the extra mile and effectively controlling the crowd with organized lines and even assistance in the overflowing parking lots nearby. at blue hen

I can’t imagine how many free comics were given out, and we can only hope that some new readers are recruited as a result. You could get one book just for showing up, and a  second or third  book if you showed either a library card or brought some canned goods for a local charity food drive.

As you walked into the store through the temporary back entrance you were greeted by several employees who directed your attention to a glass display case holding all the FCBD titles they ordered and inviting you to pick out your free book or books. Between Denise, Dave and I we picked up 9 separate titles - -  not quite the same haul as I once got in a previous year at BC . . .  but my immediate impression was that the publishers were wising up and devoting more attention to what they put into these books – and actually designed more to bring in newer readers than I have seen in past years. Quality, not quantity.

darkhorse1 transformers

ALIENS/PREDATOR (Dark Horse): The big news here is that John Arcudi, the writer of Dark Horse’s first venture into Aliens and Predator books back in the late 1980’s, is back as scripter on new titles in both of these series.  In a short 10 page prelude to the new Aliens series beginning May 27, Arcudi does a nice job of summarizing what has gone before. It’s later in Earth’s future, the threat to humanity posed by the Aliens now seems to be past tense, and they are the subject of serious study. We learn all this via the captions narrated by a cultural biologist who gets a surprise in the final pages. The story is intriguing, but the art by Zack Howard is ho-hum. This was the series that started my exploration of Dark Horse titles back in the day.  The art by Javier Saltares (who I believe was the artist on one of the early Predator titles) in the Predator preview is much better, more interesting, better depictions and more action. A mercenary on a mission to take out a military dictator in an undisclosed African country is in turn being tracked by a Predator who has made the mercenary the object of the next trophy. In the final pages we learn that the Predator is being tracked as well, by a trio of differently-garbed Predators (police?) This story is continued in Predator #1 which hits stores on June 24.  I’m keeping my eye on these two and hoping they are both worthy of a future trade paperback publication and subsequent purchase.

TRANSFORMERS ANIMATED / G.I. JOE (IDW):  The Transformers story looks and reads like it was intended for a more juvenile audience and the art is very cartoonish / animation cel like, usually 3-4 panels per page.  Not my cup of tea at all - - never really enjoyed the Transformers comics. (My older son did however, and we still have many of Marvel’s back issues if you are looking for them. Just contact me.)   There are two G.I. Joe stories here, a preview of the opening five pages of G.I. Joe #1, as told by Chuck Dixon and Robert Atkins. The Joes intercept and stop a shipment of arms, only to learn from one of the captured Bulgarians that Cobra is behind it.  The second story by original Marvel G.I. Joe scripter Larry Hama reveals how Duke made his original decision (coerced?) to join the Joes team, which is continued in G.I.Joe: Origins #1. Liked the story – and the art by Hawthorne was interesting but nothing special.

marvel avengers

WOLVERINE: ORIGIN OF AN X-MAN (Marvel):  Despite the misleading title this is a good book for the younger audience it is intended for (cover blub says “great for all ages” just so you know) - - especially the more audience-friendly and less detailed cartoon-like artwork. The story is very good for this type, and tells  a previously untold tale of Wolverine’s early days and how a successful solo mission to investigate an island disturbance convinced the government to fund Alpha Flight with Wolverine as the first member. As the story ends, he is being quickly dispatched to quell the raging battle between Hulk and Wendigo (that historic first intro to Wolverine back in the day.)

AVENGERS (Marvel);  This is one of my favorite FCBD 2009 books. Jim Cheung’s pencils are at the top of his form, much better than a lot of his work. Mr.. Bendis does a commendable job writing a tightly scripted standalone story. Thor gets his ass kicked by a Storm Giant who will takeover/convert Earth unless stopped. Both sets of Avengers arrive to help - - and while they would rather fight each other it’s Norm Osborn (surprise) who gets them to forget their differences temporarily and concentrate on the real mission of stopping Frosty.  What make this story so enjoyable and actually fun to read is that it is narrated by Spider-Man, an eyewitness and participant in these events. His usual wise-cracking and ability to see humor in life-threatening situations are the main reason I like this issue so much. Get this one if you can.

blackest_night image

BLACKEST NIGHT Zero Issue (DC):  Careful – there may be some unintentional spoilers here.

I’ve never followed the Lantern books but the quality of writing and art here is making me curious.  The lead story, Blackest Night: Death Becomes Us, by Geoff johns and Ivan Reis is a quiet and moody piece that takes a dark turn at the end.  GL Hal Jordan and Flash Barry Allen meet in a cemetery at the unmarked grave of Bruce Wayne and share their feelings on the Batman and what it means in a world without him. There’s remorse, there’s hope, and there are some confessional moments. I found it to be artfully touching and well-crafted. . . and it gets added to the list of my favorite FCBD 2009 books.  As GL and Flash depart, the watcher in the shadows, now revealed to be The Black Lantern, formulates his plan to revive the dead as a page full of small width panels pans across the gravestones of Sue Dibny and Ronnie Raymond as well as images of Hawkman, Hawkwoman and the Atom.   And in a nice afterword Geoff Johns states his intentions to make Blackest Night an epic that will impact the entire DC universe (shades of Secret Invasion!).

What the followed in the back of this book alarmed me and made me just a bit gun-shy about following this storyline. There are two page spreads of various hero “organizations” that will apparently play a role in the upcoming Blackest Night saga. I did know that the Green Lantern Corps had an almost unlimited supply of members - - but now there are equally imposing Red Lantern Corps, Agent Orange,  Blue Lantern Corps, Indigo Tribe and the worst of all = Black Lantern Corps fronted by the mysterious Black Lantern who somehow is linked to the corpse of the Anti-Monitor,  Did all these characters already exist in the DC world, or is Johns now adding them to it?  Whoa . . that’s a lot to follow.  Part One begins on July 15th and will encompass 24 titles through October 2009. (Part One? - - gulp!!) I’m not sure I’m ready to follow this.  You definitely should try to pick up this FCBD title.

CYBER FORCE / HUNTER KILLER  - FIRST LOOK (Top Cow)  Mark Waid, Kenneth Rocafort

My immediate first impression here was how much the art style reminded me of the short-lived Shadowline series of books from Marvel/Epic back in the 1980’s.  The story opens up with the interrogation/torture of Damper by cloaked figures, probing him for info about the Hunter-Killer program. We later learn that one of the persons under the cloak is Ellis, one of the primary characters in the first series of Hunter-Killer books and now a rogue agent.  Meanwhile the current Hunter-Killer force is in discovery mode trying to find Damper and instead stumble across the underground headquarters of Cyberforce. This series begins July 22nd.

I did purchase some of the early books in Hunter-Killer, found them interesting and just a little bit different (I do like Mark Waid, so I wanted to try them out) but I quickly lost interest as happens often with me and superhero titles.  I also tried several issues of Cyberforce, scattered here and there (mostly found in bargain bins) and while these characters were slightly different they didn’t maintain my interest either. (Back in the 80’s Image just overloaded stores with wave after wave of superhero team titles -  it got ridiculous for awhile.)  I’m going to pass on this - - in better times I might be giving it a chance.

I still got 3 more books from FCBD to write about, but that will have to wait for this weekend or later. I’m getting ready to work in New Jersey for several days this week.  I also have a tenth book to tell you about, The Stuff of Legend, and I’ll probably do that as a separate article.

Thanks for visiting the site and reading our stuff.  I really think Jeff may be creating a sustaining community here and think that is rather cool. . . . . . . .  mike

Monday, May 4, 2009

Jeff’s Reviews: Week of 4/22/09, Part 2

I’m way behind because I had another really busy work week last week, but our software has shipped so things should be back to normal for a while. I’ll review some books every day this week until I get caught up. I also have a complete set of Free Comic Book Day stuff coming from eBay this week so I’ll go through those too when they get here. Not to mention this week’s stuff. Oy, what I do for you people…

Azrael: Death’s Dark Knight 2: I’m still not convinced that we need a new Azrael, but if we do this is the way to go. He’s not John Paul Valley, he’s not crazy (yet), and he’s connected to Batman through Talia and the Suit of Sorrows. I like the idea of a good man using the suit’s power to atone for past sins and slowly being driven mad by it (though it does seem to put a time limit on the concept.) Good, but not essential to the “Battle for the Cowl” continuity so you may want to wait for the collection.

Batman: Battle for the Cowl: Arkham Asylum 1: More of an introduction of three new villains (and the descent into madness of an existing supporting character) than a “Battle for the Cowl” chapter, but the new characters are interesting. Not unforgettable by any means, but it’s about time someone invented new bad guys and the credits say “acknowledgements to Grant Morrison” so maybe he’s planning to use them in “Batman & Robin”.

Justice League of America 32: I admit I’m predisposed to like this because I love the Milestone characters and I’m a fan of Dwayne McDuffie, but I think he’s doing a great job in a tough situation here with most of the major characters unavailable. (Ten members deceased or resigned, according to the roll call on p. 4.) The characterization of the remaining team members is great, and having Rags Morales drawing it helps with that to0. That said, this is only very good when it could be great. This storyline finishes in #34, then Len Wein is doing two issues, and then McDuffie says the powers that be are leaving him alone for 6 issues so hopefully we will see the full potential of this creative team then. (Well, almost, since Batman and Superman presumably still won’t be available.)

Guardians of the Galaxy 13: A full-on War of Kings tie-in, where the team splits up to politely ask the Shi’ar and the Inhumans to please stop the war because it’s destroying the fabric of spacetime and hilarity ensues. DnA do a good job of reintroducing the characters for people who may be reading the book for the first time because of the crossover. (There’s also a great unexpected connection between the Starjammers and one of the Guardians that made me laugh.) If you read only one book this month with Havok and a talking racoon, this should be it.

Skrull Kill Krew 1: I broke my (recent) rule about buying miniseries in trade here because I was curious about the writer. It’s Adam Felber, writer for HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” and frequent guest on NPR’s news quiz “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me”, both of which I like. I liked this too, but it does tip more towards the bizarre humor end of the scale than people coming in just having read Secret Invasion or Avengers: The Initiative will expect. (And actually, the Skrulls in this book are connected to the original miniseries not to the invasion at all, and the new 3D Man from the Initiative does not appear.) It’s not as wacky and surreal as Patsy Walker Hellcat, but it’s out there. A must for fans of the original Grant Morrison series, if any of you are still alive, but those who like their Marvel U books more serious (Bill) may want to avoid.

Ghost Rider 34: This feels like a fill-in, even though it is by regular writer Jason Aaron. There are a couple of mentions of the ongoing story, but basically this is the second part of a standalone two-parter starring Danny Ketch. Not a bad little horror story, but skippable if all you care about is the major story arc.

Dark Reign: Elektra 2: Another exception to my miniseries-in-trades rule because it’s part of the Dark Reign arc. The first half, featuring a bunch of barely competent HAMMER agents and an ineffective-seeming Norman Osborn (which is getting to be a problem that I’ll talk more about when I get to last week’s Thunderbolts), is weak. However the last 8 pages, featuring an unexpected Daredevil-related guest star and an expected one, are terrific.

Hulk 11: I like this because I’m an old time Defenders fan, but it’s so fight-fight-fight that it’s over before you know it after a two-month (?) wait. Unless you’re a huge Loeb or McGuinness fan, this will be a better value when it’s collected. I’ll make my Red Hulk identity prediction in the comments below where people who don’t want to be (potentially) spoiled won’t accidentally see it at the top of the blog.

Nine more 4/22 books tomorrow, then last week’s books on Wed. and Thurs.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Mixed Feelings: Adventure Comics

This post contains spoilers.  Kind of big spoilers.  Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds spoilers.  If you haven't read the most recent issue (issue four, out two days ago), you probably should not continue.


I'm warning you.


Alright.  I can safely assume that you've either read the comic, don't care about the spoilers, or you accidentally hit Page Down and will now have the book ruined for you.  If so, I apologize.

Actually, to be honest, I'm not that sorry.  Because, see, the most recent issue of Legion of Three Worlds?  It kind of sucked.

That's right, my captivated readers--this is a review, too!  Despite not having weekly access to comics (although that will sort of change when starts sending me my orders), I managed to read the most recent issue of Legion through illegal downloads magic.  Fear not, though, I do have an actual, legal copy on the way, courtesy of, again,! I get a discount for plugging it, right?

So, in the most recent issue, other Legionnaires died ("Don't worry, though, none of the real Legion, just those worthless duplicates nobody ever cared about", says Johns*, while Superboy was brought back to life, and also Superboy-Prime is the Time Trapper.

Okay, well, let's get discussing this.  I admit, I'm not the most unbiased individual.  As a kid, the first comic series I followed regularly was Superboy--I bought the fourth issue of DC. Vs. Marvel because I thought that was the greatest idea for a comic EVER, and in it, there was a form for a subscription, where the company would send you an issue of a comic every month.  I wanted X-Men, but tragically, there was no Marvel subscription form in that comic, only DC.  So, I reluctantly settled with Superboy, figuring for some reason that it would be the most like X-Men--and even though it wasn't like X-Men at all, I fell in love.  Sure, I missed the first Kesel/Grummett run, catching only the final issue (30), but I was met with a perfectly acceptable run by Ron Marz.  More importantly, though, I was also around for the second Kesel/Grummett run, which is, in my opinion, infinitely superior to the first (which I would later obtain).  I was captivated, and it cemented both creators as favorites of mine, even to this day.

I even followed through with the Joe Kelly run (which, while solid, a dramatic change in tone) and the less-than-spectacular Palmiotti/Didio run.  But hey, it was Superboy!

After that, I traded in my S-title subscriptions for Teen Titans, because look, ma, Superboy's there now!  And that was a great book.  Not brilliant, but I enjoyed it as it was coming out.  And then it crossed over with the Legion.

Now, I never paid much attention to the Legion before.  Sure, they appeared in Superboy once or twice, but I mostly considered them bland characters too complicated to bother getting to know.  With the Waid/Kitson relaunch, though, I figured--hey, why not give it a shot?  By this time, I was driving, and so I stopped at BC and picked up issues one, three and five (the earliest three issues I could find).  And again, I fell in love.  The book was great!  I added it to my pull list and followed it for the book's duration.

More importantly, though, this prompted me to raid BC's quarter bin for old Legion books, grabbing a few from the "Archie" style days.  But the ones that really caught me were Legion Lost, Legion Worlds, and The Legion.  Those issues?  Incredible.  Another one of my all-time favorite runs, again cementing Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning as favorite writers that I'll follow.  I promptly dropped a few hundred dollars to get every post-Zero Hour issue of the Legion on Ebay, and then started buying the expensive Archives of the original Legion.  I was absolutely hooked.

Now then, here's the thing.  As much as I loved Superboy, the one that appeared in Teen Titans?  It wasn't Superboy.  Not the Superboy I grew to love in the Marz/Kesel runs, or the Superboy I was amused by in the Kelly run, or even the Superboy I learned to tolerate in the Palmiotti/Didio run.  This was a Superboy with a new personality, and a new backstory, one that I've since learned is just...professional fanfiction.

In an early Superboy letters column, a young Geoffrey Johns asked if maybe Lex Luthor was the DNA base for Superboy!  He was informed, quite definitively, that no, he was not.  The book would then go on to prove that Paul Westfield was the donor, prompting some rather good storylines.  But hey, an outright no is only a no until you're in charge, because young Johns would later grow up to be a big time DC writer, capable of replacing the unknown Paul Westfield with household name Lex Luthor.

Superboy's personality also became rather generic.  He went from the caring goofball to the slightly insecure meathead who only had eyes for Wonder Girl.  To be honest, I thought that he was the most boring character of the Teen Titans, even though the book tended to focus on him.  Even Kid Flash, also stripped of his personality, interested me more.  I did not mind at all when Superboy was written out of the active team following the Insiders story arc, even if he continued to show up in the book until his death.

Cut to One Year Later.  There are new books for both the Justice League of America and the Justice Society of America, and a major crossover develops called the Lightning Saga.  I just reread the Lighting Saga earlier in the week.  It certainly wasn't bad, I did really enjoy it.  But it was also fairly obvious that this Legion was going to be the new focus--this new Legion that was like the originals (but not quite).

And I was okay with that.  Not thrilled, as it was probably one of my least favorite incarnations of the Legion (my order?  DnA, Five Year Gap, Threeboot, "Archie", this Legion, and then finally the original members of the Legion that hadn't even been defined yet).  But I was certainly willing to give it a shot.

And Johns proved to me that he could write the Legion almost instantly, with the Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes arc in Action Comics.  It was amazing.  The title became an instant favorite under the Johns/Frank creative team, and the Legion story was basically everything I wanted in a comic at the time (I've since re-evaluated what I want after how I fell in love with Final Crisis, but that's unimportant).  And then came the announcement for Legion of Three Worlds, and I could not wait.

So, Legion of Three Worlds came out.  And the first issue?  Amazing.  The writing was good, the art was great, there was political intrigue, the characterization was spot-on, and they even remembered that R.J. Brande was The Durlan from the old L.E.G.I.O.N. comics (which are, by the way, also great reads).

Then the second issue came out, and it...was still good.  I wasn't thrilled with the fact that the Johns-favored Legion was still getting all the focus, and I also wasn't thrilled with how they dismissed the other Legions as not-being-the-real-ones, but I enjoyed the book.  Then came the last page, where I realized that this wasn't just going to be about the Legion, but it was going to be a Geoff Johns book, sort of him bringing his greatest hits all together.  Okay, I could live with that, he was doing great so far, and I liked Sodom Yat anyway.

The third issue?  The art started to weaken, a bit.  You could tell that George Perez wasn't giving it his all (especially that last page, where Bart Allen had all the muscles in the wrong place).  The thing that I didn't like, though, was that Johns felt free to use the other Legions as cannon fodder--and also explain that, oh hey, Bart Allen and XS were tied to the post-Zero Hour Legion...uh, no they weren't, that's not the real Legion, it was an accident and they really belong here.  But, even that I was okay with.  Well, I wasn't fond of cannon fodder, but I was okay with the rest.

And then came the fourth issue.  More cannon fodder.  More stress that the other Legions didn't matter.  More stress that this was a Geoff Johns greatest hits thing, where the other characters involved become more important than the Legion.  Another character returns from the dead.

Problems that a lot of people complain about and drop comics for.  And I'm not fond of it, but...okay.  I can get past it.  I can.  I can get over things I don't like about the story, for the sake of a good story.

My problem, though, is when the story isn't good, when the writing is contrived and cliched.  I spent most of the comic bored, that's not a good sign, right?

And now, the whole point of this post that took me way too long to reach--Superboy is going to co-star in Adventure Comics with the Legion of Super-Heroes.

I'm not sold on the idea.  I don't hate it, and it's what I figured would happen, and a Geoff Johns/Francis Manapul creative team isn't something to sneeze at.

But I just worry that I'll be met with more of the Superboy I didn't grow to love, and more of the Legion I didn't grow to love.  If the stories are good, I can get past all of it--but after the way this most recent issue was done, I worry that they won't be.

*May not be an actual quote.