Jeff’s Comics Review, 8/12/09 releases
Blackest Night 2: Too many great scenes to name in this space – I’d just wind up recapping the whole book – but I especially liked the GL/Bat-Signal splash and his “Flash Fact” line. The Black Lantern rules seem inconsistent; I thought the bodies were being possessed but not the spirits, which would explain Ralph & Sues’s behavior and how Boston Brand’s body is taken against Deadman’s will, but on the other hand Dove apparently can’t be taken because his spirit is at peace and somehow the Spectre is vulnerable. I’m intrigued by this, not annoyed, because I trust that Johns will make it all clear eventually. (And I still say the body count is too high for most of these characters to stay dead.)
Batman 689: I still like the way Winick is showing Dick finding his own way to be Batman – he’s realizing he’s more of a performer than Bruce – and how all his family members are adjusting. (Alfred: “Ah, that’s more familiar. Deflecting a moment of genuine emotion.) Mark Bagley’s art complements the tone very well.
Adventure Comics 1: Admittedly, I’m predisposed to like this but I thought it was terrific. Francis Manapul’s new style gives the book a Norman Rockwell feel that fits the Smallville setting, and the slightly washed out colors complete the illusion. (There’s no inker credited, so I guess they’re reproducing directly from his pencils.) On the story side, I think Geoff Johns does a great job restoring Superboy’s optimism, though he’s not an innocent anymore and still has a bit of an edge (as shown by the surprise on the last page.) The Legion backup starts with a great one-page summary of their origin (showing Clark in a Superboy costume in Smallville, blowing my theory that he only wore it in the Legion’s time) and a two-page character guide, then starts to resolve Starman’s story. There’s also a fun coming attractions page like the ones he did in the early issues of “Justice Society”.
REBELS 7: More fun, as Dox tries to manipulate one of the worlds unconquered by Starro but winds up an accessory to its destruction. (Don’t worry, it’ll be OK because Legion fans know it exists in the 30th century.) I haven’t really noticed the art much in this book, but Andy Clarke does a great job with both the opening space sequence and the underwater environment. I think title this gets pulled into “Blackest Night” soon, which will be good because it needs all the sales help it can get.
Green Lantern Corps 39: I was surprised that Kyle and Guy weren’t staying on Earth for “Blackest Night”, but I guess someone has to deal with the situation on Oa and there are plenty of familiar dead GLs and Kyle’s ex-girlfriends for them to tangle with there. (There was a column on Newsarama last week called “Kyle Rayner, You Need to Stop Dating.”)
Blackest Night: Batman 1: Like most of the other tie-ins so far, this starts with a scene from the main book – in this case the Boston Brand scene in #2 – and expands on it. Deadman’s abilities have changed to suit the story: they used to make a point of the fact that he knew nothing about the people he possessed and that they remembered nothing, but now there’s some memory sharing going on. But it’s only a minor issue, because Pete Tomasi does a good job showing the emotional impact of having Dick, Damien and Tim’s dead family members targeted. (The scene where Damien “meets” his grandparents is especially creepy.)
Booster Gold 23: I liked this, especially the art, but it is starting to run the risk of turning into “Exiles” where a different alternate timeline is explored every issue. Geoff Johns original rules for this book were supposed to prevent that, but I can understand why Dan Jurgens might have trouble telling stories under those conditions. Not too surprisingly, the Blue Beetle backup is starting to be connected to the main story as they share the Black Beetle as a villain.
Titans 16: Another solo issue, this time featuring Starfire. I like the idea that there’s some post-traumatic stress from being possessed by anti-life in “Final Crisis”, but I don’t particularly buy that Kory would seek therapy or that she’s still pining for Dick Grayson. She has matured some, but it’s still part of her character that she tends to live in the moment.
Uncanny X-Men 514: This is very much the middle part of the story, where the pieces need to be moved around without much resolution, but Fraction disguises it well by setting up all of Cyclops’ plans and having him take one of his teams out to observe Emma's. Terry Dodson’s art suits this title way better than Greg Land’s, which also helps.
Red Robin 3: I’m definitely warming up to this more, as Tim acts more like himself while trying to rein in Ra’s Al Ghul’s assassins and as the backstory fills in his feelings of isolation become more understandable. (He blames himself for Jason Todd’s rampage, for example.) Ramon Bachs is the only credited artist, but I could swear he’s channeling John Byrne on some of the Wonder Girl pages.
The Red Circle: The Inferno 1: Again this is good solid stuff, and I’m a lot more interested in this character than the Hangman, but I’m spoiled by JMS’ previous work and I’m still not being blown away like I had hoped to be.
The Marvels Project 1: I don’t always like these series that try to tie a lot of unrelated things together – not just in comics; Isaac Asimov did it a lot towards the end of his career – but because the prewar Marvel era is largely unexplored and because Golden Age storytelling standards were so low compared to today, I think it works really well here. I don’t have much to add to add to Mike’s comments below, except to say that as an old time Avengers fan I was really happy to see the Two-Gun Kid’s experiences in the future used to inspire one of the earliest Marvel heroes. (Two-Gun was last seen in “She-Hulk” if I remember correctly, so hopefully he won’t tell the people in the past that they’re in a comic book!)
Cable 17: I’m torn by this because I think it’s well written, especially Bishop’s justifications (“But he comforts himself with the thought that all of this pain and destruction will disappear in an instant.”), but I’m starting to get pretty tired of the chase and I’m not excited by the idea of it continuing into space.
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man 1: Yay! It’s the perfect antidote to the gloom and misery of “Ultimatum” as this is basically the same awesome book it’s always been. Six months have passed, during which New York has been repaired and reopened allowing the cast to pretty much go back to their normal lives (with a few changes.) Bendis doesn’t miss a beat, and David Lafuente’s debut is terrific (for those of you that wouldn’t be caught dead buying “Patsy Walker Hellcat”.)
Ultimate Comics Avengers 1: Surprisingly good, given my disappointment with Millar’s recent Marvel work. It’s not as shocking or innovative as the original “Ultimates” were, but it doesn’t need to be. Millar created these characters, so he inhabits them comfortably and it feels familiar but new without the dissonance of trying to force the mainstream Marvel characters into the kinds of stories he likes to do.
Deadpool 13: This issue tips way over into humor territory, without any of the grounding of the Secret Invasion/Dark Reign issues. I’m not thrilled about the change in tone, but I have to admit that it is pretty funny.
Amazing Spider-Man 602: Continuing the updating of the Spidey villains, this is a good creepy take on the Chameleon with a couple of brief stops to check in on Harry’s situation and on Peter’s new relationship with Mayor Jameson. Dan Slott (who didn’t write this issue) said that Mary Jane’s apparent knowledge from last issue would be resolved this issue, but that’s not the case so I guess they shuffled the stories around somewhat.
Ms. Marvel 43: “War of the Marvels” continues as Moonstone tries to hang on to the Ms. Marvel role. Ironically for a psychologist, she’s delusional -- “I represent truth and justice and everything that is good in the world”, she thinks as she drops a rescued civilian to his death. Meanwhile the real Ms. Marvel and Carol Danvers have been separated and if my interpretation of what’s happening is correct, then it’s something that Brian Reed has been setting up for at least a couple of years. (Which would be pretty impressive, if it’s true.)
Action Comics 880: It’s Superman’s first visit back to Earth since his move to New Krypton, leading to a (brief) touching reunion with Lois and (indirectly) to the next step in the relationship between Flamebird and Nightwing. Captain Atom is still confused, so it’s still confusing to the reader what’s going on in his backup feature.
Captain America Theater of War: To Soldier On: This is a very well done and respectful story by Paul Jenkins of Cap in the Iraq War. (Although either I or Jenkins is confused about the history – I thought the uninterrupted run to Baghdad happened in the first Gulf War, but the story definitely takes place during the current conflict.) However, I could read stories of Cap in WWII all day but reading about him in a real place where people are really dying now makes me uncomfortable. Again, I stress that the story is not disrespectful in any way, but I personally am just bothered by the injection of a fantasy element into an ongoing conflict. I don’t know why, but that’s how I feel.
Green Arrow/Black Canary 23: Apparently we’re alternating the lead spot each issue, so Green Arrow gets it this issue (though his story is connected to the Black Canary story so it really doesn’t matter.) I like that Dinah tones down her reaction from last issue a bit, but then the story kind of proves her point when GA picks the most impulsive course of action possible. (Which is the hand of the writer at work, because it feeds directly into Cupid’s delusion.)
JSA vs. Kobra 3: There are some interesting elements here, including the faith vs. reason debate personified by Kobra vs. Mr. Terrific and for longtime fans, the connection of Ted Knight’s Starman technology to another famous scientist in DC history.
G-Man: Cape Crisis 1: I’m a huge fan of Chris Giarrusso’s “Mini-Marvels”, so I’m happy to support this book featuring the same type of humor but using his own original characters.
Incredible Hercules 132: Shipping twice a month for a while, featuring Herc and Amadeus in separate alternating stories. This time it’s Hercules, called on by Balder to fight Asgard’s Dark Elves (who fear only Thor) disguised as the Thunder God. But all is not what it seems. The recap page alone, with panels from Thor’s origin “annotated” by Hercules, is worth the price of admission all by itself.
Superman: Secret Files 2009: Features three good stories: Ursa (I always want to call her Faora, which tells you how old I am) on the day of Brainiac’s invasion of Kandor, Jonathan (Mon-El) Kent and his Science Police partner – raising the question of why she doesn’t recognize Mon-El since he doesn’t wear any civilian disguise whatsoever, and the story of Kara (Supergirl) and Thara (Flamebird)’s friendship which ended when Zor-El was killed. The profile pages have great art and a really striking design.