Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Jeff’s Comic Reviews, 6/17/09 releases, Part 1

I’m a little behind on reading because I spent most of the weekend at Wizard World Philly, but here’s what I’ve gotten to so far.

Batman: Streets of Gotham 1: Continues the trend of the new Bat-titles being better than the intermediate “event”. This actually follows Paul Dini’s Detective run more closely than I expected – Tommy (Hush) Elliot is involved in an interesting supporting role. Dini, like all the other writers, is obviously having fun with Damien as Robin and there’s what I assume is some setup for Sirens of Gotham with a Harley Quinn appearance. The Manhunter feature, like the Blue Beetle feature I forgot to mention last week, is of the same quality and should have the same appeal as the original series. This is a pretty clean starting point for the character, starting with her move to Gotham. I loved that she hadn’t made the connection between Barbara Gordon and Commissioner Gordon, and the scene with her son (“Will I ever see you again?”) was heartbreaking. (I’ve always loved that Kate is not a terrific mom.)

Action Comics Annual 12: The origin of the new Flamebird and Nightwing, who turn out to be linked in ways I didn’t expect. There’s also a religious aspect that’s interesting, as well as some chilling ground-level scenes of the day Brainiac took Kandor. (Also explains how Argo City and Kandor came together, which I don’t think we previously knew.) Great stuff from Greg Rucka and (new?) artist Pere Pérez.

Supergirl 42: Easily the best Superman-related book of the month. I absolutely love that Kara goes immediately to Lois to tell her about the events of last issue, instead of there being a soap opera misunderstanding or keeping a tortured secret or whatever. Sterling Gates deals with the situation head on with everyone behaving plausibly and in character, and Jamal Igle handles the “acting” of the characters superbly. Not to be missed.

X-Men: Legacy 225: A nice epilogue to the Xavier arc, showing both how much he’s changed and how powerful he can be. Ends with a Norman Osborn cameo, leading into the X-Men/Dark Avengers crossover. Switches to starring Rogue with the next issue.

Cable 15: More running around with very little accomplished. This is really at the point where the cards need to be flipped over – it’s time to say once and for all who or what the girl is and what Bishop’s reason for wanting her dead is, so that we can decide for ourselves who’s right.

Brave and the Bold 24: The first meeting of Static and Black Lightning. Matt Wayne does a good job of crafting a story without the usual cliches (they don’t fight) and Howard Porter seems to have improved his art style again. What surprised me is that it’s treated as common knowledge that Jefferson Pierce is Black Lightning. I know that Pierce was Luthor’s Secretary of Education and that he (as a civilian) pretended to be corrupt in order to gather intelligence for the JLA, but I don’t remember his secret identity being revealed. (I wasn’t even clear on whether Luthor knew it.) Does anybody know where this happened, or is it new information here?

Ultimatum: Spider-Man Requiem 1: Who says this isn’t the (Ultimate) Marvel Age of Awkward Titles? Anyway, this is the first part of the two-part bridge between the old and new Ultimate Spider-Man titles. This should satisfy those who thought the last issue of Ultimate Spider-Man was too much of a downer – Peter is in it (in flashback), and there’s a surprising change of heart from a supporting character that has the potential to affect the dynamic of the new series. Mark Bagley is back for part of this issue – I’m not sure if DC made an exception to his contract, or if it’s inventory material.

Mighty Avengers 26: Between this and the FF miniseries below, I’m warming to the idea of Valeria as a genius. At least it makes her into a character instead of a prop, which has hilarious results with Amadeus Cho here. Proving that he forgets nothing, Dan Slott uses established (but not obscure) facts about Jocasta and Cassie Lang to good effect. I also loved the battle of wits between Reed and Hank, and Hank’s challenge to his team in the last panel is very cleverly aimed at the reader as well.

Dark Reign: Fantastic Four 4: I loved the interaction between Norman Osborn and the Richards kids, and Reed’s conclusion about his role in the Marvel U is consistent (though a little redundant) with the Dwayne McDuffie issues. For some reason I thought this was four issues, but the conclusion is actually next month.

Invincible Iron Man 14: Another excellent chapter of “World’s Most Wanted” (which will be 12 issues total, according to an interview with Matt Fraction I read recently.) I won’t give away the character who asks, but the question is asked of Tony why he doesn’t just kill himself instead of going through this elaborate plan to erase the data. It’s a reasonable question – if the goal is to keep the data away from Osborn, suicide is a surer thing than what Tony’s doing now. He dodges the question (“Not that bad yet”), which makes me wonder if Fraction doesn’t think it’s legitimate or if Tony’s got an endgame in mind that hasn’t been hinted at yet.

Captain Britain and MI13 14: I think there will be some negative response to the way last issue’s cliffhangers were resolved, but I thought it was pretty clever. The plot is getting elaborate, but still easy enough to follow (and exciting) and the last scene syncs up with the last scene in the Annual. (So at least there’s some possibility that Brian and Meggan will meet before the end of the series.)

Captain America 600: The main story is above average, which is saying a lot for Ed Brubaker, mainly because there’s enough room to touch on each of the cast members individually. However, though I respect Marvel’s attempt to make a media event out of this, it doesn’t really warrant it – the idea that it might be possible to save Steve Rogers is only raised on the last page, and we don’t have any idea yet how it will play out in the Reborn series. Also features an excellent story of Steve’s old girlfriend Bernie Rosenthal by classic Cap writer Roger Stern, a great story of the ultimate Cap memorabilia collector by Mark Waid (wait until you see what Steve Rogers’ artwork looks like) and Dale Eaglesham (who’s adapting to Marvel really well), and some reminiscences from Joe Simon about Jack Kirby. Great stuff all, but not really worth newspaper coverage.

Amazing Spider-Man Family 7: Roger Stern (again showing the old guard has still got it) writes an excellent Peter/May story about how she met Ben and their early years raising Peter. I’m not sure how much of it was previously established – there’s a mention of some out-of-date clothing in a photo of May that must have been intended to explain away an old panel -- and how much is new, but I was really entertained by it. Also includes the usual Spider-Girl chapter, and a revival of Fred Hembeck’s “Li’l Petey” strip which is cute, but a little too long. (Though I am a huge Hembeck fan and am thrilled to have him back.)

More tomorrow.

5 comments:

  1. Did you read the Life and Times of Lucas Bishop miniseries? I just did the other day (hurray, Marvel friend!), and it outlines very specifically what his reasons for wanting her dead are. I'm not sure if you plan to read it, so if you want, I can always tell you.

    As for Black Lightning's identity being public knowledge, I don't think that it's been done consistently--some writers seem to act like he still has a secret identity, while others act as if he's a public superhero. I know that there were some scenes during the Luthor administration that suggested, at least to me, that he didn't maintain a secret identity anymore, but other recent scenes suggest otherwise--but then there's this, so I don't know.

    I still don't understand why Marvel thought Captain America 600 would get all of the major media coverage. Sure, Superman's return did, but not only is Superman a step above Captain America (you could probably find people who don't know who Captain America is, but it would be much harder to find people who don't know Superman), but that was a very different time for comics, where all eyes were on the superheroes and the Image creators were being mobbed in their limousines during their cross-country tours.

    Seriously, I told a friend about that last part the other day, and she didn't believe me. How times have changed.

    Spinning out of Captain America, though, will be the Nomad miniseries, starring the Heroes Reborn Bucky, stranded in the 616 universe after Onslaught Reborn. It's an interesting idea, but the part that excites me is the creative team--Sean McKeever (back at Marvel at last) and Rafael Alberquerque. A perfect fit for this book.

    I'm slowly getting caught up on my Spider-Mans, so I wanted to ask you--did Amazing Spider-Man family stop with the reprints? The first few issues would have reprinted stories from years back, often foreshadowing an upcoming storyline in the main books, but issue five doesn't seem to have any, so I wasn't sure.

    Lastly, since response over email has been slim (at least, the responses that I've received are)--who's going to Gary's party on Saturday?

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  2. I did read the Bishop series, and if I remember correctly the only reason given there is that some of the surviving X-Men told him the girl had caused their problem. For me, that's not enough to decide whether I should sympathize with him or not.

    I asked about the Black Lightning issue over on Dwayne McDuffie's board because Matt Wayne, the writer of the issue, sometimes posts there but I haven't gotten a response yet.

    The Death of Cap stuff got a lot of press, but (a) there wasn't rioting in the streets of Iran at the time and (b) people are always more interested in death stories than return stories. (There are a lot of copies of Adventures of Superman #500 in comic shops all over the country because of that...)

    As far as I know "Spider-Man Family" is supposed to be (and has been) all-new, although I guess they could still throw a reprint in if they had a deadline problem or thought it was relevant to the main storyline.

    I'll be at Gary's on Saturday, and last I heard Bill and his son were planning to be there too.

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  3. I will also be at Gary's Saturday with several boxes of comics for sale, trade, or lending. Recent as well as older items that I thought might interest our group.

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  4. There are 2 of 13 titles mentioned here that I picked up. (Jeff, I'm still amazed at how many books you are following month to month. Photographic memory, perhaps?)
    BATMAN: STREETS OF GOTHAM. I agree with Jeff. This looks to be a good book. I also like the depiction of Damian as a less-than-perfect Robin. Firefly sure doesn't seem like a minor threat to me - - and very heartless and inhumane. Never read the current Manhunter before but what caught me eye was that she is seemingly abandoning her parental responsibilites (and surprised me as well!)
    CAPTAIN AMERICA #600 I hope nobody was dismissing this as just a standard summary/recap/memorial issue and decided not to pick it up because it moves the story forward in a lot of places. I enjoyed all the short stories here, even the 40's Cap reprint. I decided to wait for the Reborn trade but I broke down and ordered Issue #1 last week. I've got a feeling I'm not going to be able to wait and will be getting this one month to month.
    From this group above, I'm also waiting to order MIGHTY AVENGERS and THE INVINCIBLE IRONMAN in trade editions. That now makes 4 of 13.

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  5. Yeah, one of the interesting things about Manhunter is that she isn't a perfect parent--and while it kills her inside, she also knows that with her life, she can't devote all of her time to her child and still have him grow up properly. She's basically choosing the rest of her life, her jobs as both D.A. and Manhunter, over her family. She's an exceptionally flawed character in a very interesting way.

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