Jeff’s Comics Review, 8/5/09 releases
Dark X-Men: The Beginning 2: Turns out that the reason I thought Paul Cornell was writing this whole series is that he is doing a “Dark X-Men” mini with “Captain Britain” artist Leonard Kirk later in the year and I got them confused. Here, he does the Cloak & Dagger story that I was hoping for last issue and I like where he puts them – they’re in Columbia fighting the drug cartels – and I like Osborn’s sales pitch. (“I’d like to be able to say to the daylight side of the U.S. government that my people are making major advances in the War On Drugs.”) Again, the key to making Osborn work is for him to sound as much like a real politician as possible. The Weapon Omega and Daken stories are also pretty good, but it is basically an entire issue of Osborn talking people into joining his X-Men.
Doom Patrol 1: I’m on the fence with this. What I’m having trouble with is that a couple of team members (you can probably guess which ones from the preview) are lost on a mission at the beginning of the book and the remaining members behave pretty coldly afterwards. Now obviously “Doom Patrol” shouldn’t be sweetness and light – they invented angsty outcast superheroes at the same time as the X-Men, after all – but I remember them as being optimistic in the face of adversity and that’s not the way they are here. Giffen has a good enough track record that I’m willing to stick around for a while and see if he’s trying to make a point or if it’s just an interpretation I don’t agree with. The “Metal Men” backup applies the Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire “Justice League” humor, and I don’t think it really works – it’s not that funny, and I think this style has had its day unless there’s a new element added (like in their “Hero Squared” for Boom Studios).
Reborn 2: Obviously things are going to get worse before they get better for everyone involved, but what struck me most about this was how agonizing it is for Steve Rogers to relive events without being able to change them and how Brubaker was able to convey that only in captions. (The art in the flashbacks is great, but it shows what "actually" happened while the captions are inside Steve’s head.)
Superman: World of New Krypton 6: Greg Rucka does a great job with the first part of the investigation into last issues assassination attempt – which I think would be more interesting if it had succeeded, but so be it – but let me instead take this space to praise artist Pete Woods. There are three really astonishing double-page spreads at the beginning of the book where the assassin is trying to escape through the crowd and, with almost no dialogue, he renders how sudden and violent the resulting riot is starting far away and then going to ground level where every face is distinct. Really, really great stuff, and the last page will make you cheer.
Secret Six 12: I’m not going to quote any of it, because I want you to read it instead of listen to me describe it, but there are scenes in here with Wonder Woman and Artemis that I can’t believe DC let Gail Simone get away with. As a result, the team splits mostly by gender (except for Bane, who’s in love with Scandal). Interestingly, the first arc was about the characters trying to avoid Hell and in this arc they’ve fallen in with someone who’s literally trying to create Hell on Earth (at least by Dante’s definition.) I gave the #1 spot to Detective because of the innovative art, but this is easily my second favorite DC book.
The Red Circle: The Hangman 1: I’m not hooked on this yet. The main character is basically The Spectre, although it’s deliberately left vague whether his power comes from God or Satan, so I don’t see how he’s going to fit in the DCU. This is a good comic by some really talented people, but I don’t feel driven to come back for more. I will, because JMS has earned a ton of trust, but so far this isn’t at the level of “Thor” or “The Twelve” for me.
Amazing Spider-Man 601: I haven’t checked the message boards, but I bet they’re going nuts over this issue. Peter behaves in a way that’s appropriate for his age, but which we haven’t seen him do in a long time (and never this explicitly, but times have changed). Plus, Mary Jane appears to know something she’s not supposed to know. (Though the way it’s presented, I think there’s a plausible alternate explanation.) Great stuff from Mark Waid and Mario (Spider-Man/X-Men) Alberti. The backup story by Bendis and Quesada, about how Jessica Jones was inspired by Spider-Man in high school and in which he inspires her again, is must reading for “Alias” and/or “New Avengers” fans.
Justice League: Cry for Justice 2: There’s only one actual cry for justice in this issue and it’s more of a statement than a cry, so that’s an improvement. Kidding aside, I actually liked this a lot better but it largely focuses on Ray Palmer (including a two-page origin and an essay by James Robinson) and I’m a huge Atom fan (pun intended) so your mileage may vary. As far as this controversial page goes, my first inclination was to write it off as a silly joke but I have to take Gail Simone seriously when she says “…the Birds were ALREADY one of the very few books about female friendship which is so fucking rare in comics it might as well be moonbeams captured in mason jars. Not that friends can’t have sex, but once again, this is all about the man, and “Well played, sir” is just, ugh.”.
Agents of Atlas 9: A bit of a departure (but welcome), as the Jade Claw hands the team a defeat for a change. My understanding is that there’s a big push coming for this book with an X-Men crossover and a role in the next big Hulk event so I recommend the first trade (which I think just came out).
Hulk 13: I was surprised to see Banner here, as I thought he was exclusive to Grek Pak’s book, but I’m glad because this actually turns out to be my favorite issue of Loeb’s run. Plot-wise, it’s only about proving that last issue’s ending wasn’t a trick, but I thought the relationship between Bruce and Rick (and even between Bruce and the Hulk) was moving. (Red Hulk does not appear, except in flashback.) Plus, Loeb’s got the obligatory bit of great “Dark Reign” dialogue. (Ares: “I cannot promise you that Banner will be alive when I’m done with him.” Osborn: “We’ll drive off that bridge when we get to it…”)
War of Kings 6: Well, you definitely can’t say that nothing was changed as a result of this ending. I also liked the partial inversion of who the “bad guy” in the story turned out to be. (Not that Vulcan can ever be “good”, because he’s a violent maniac, but he’s arguably not the monster in this issue.) I look forward to seeing the ramifications play out.
War Machine 8: The Stark appearance from the end of last issue was explained away in a plausible, if somewhat cheesy, manner so I guess I’m satisfied with that – at least it’s not contradicting what Fraction’s doing in “Iron Man”. The rest of the issue is a sort of West Coast Avengers reunion, which is fun, and it looks like a confrontation with the Iron Patriot is coming next issue.
Ultimatum: Fantastic Four Requiem 1: I liked this a lot more than I expected to. Basically, the events of “Ultimatum” have changed the characters enough that they can’t stay together. I never thought there was a need for an “Ultimate FF” book, so if they keep them broken up for the foreseeable future (using them individually in other books) then I think that’s a bold and interesting direction for the Ultimate U that’s different from the Marvel U. If this turns out just to be setup for putting the team back together, then it will have been a waste.
Ultimatum: X-Men Requiem 1: The X-Men have more to mourn from “Ultimatum” than most, and this is mostly about giving those characters a proper burial, but there are also some confrontations with “evil” mutants (should they all work together now?) and a nice Ultimate Cap appearance (“I came to pay my respects.”) This is another book that I wouldn’t mind if it didn’t come back, but at least if it does it will by necessity be different since a lot of the main characters are dead.
Invincible Iron Man 16: Another exciting chapter, as Tony is finally forced to declare who the love of his life is at the same time she’s (maybe) taken from him forever. I have no idea how Fraction is going to get him out of this, but I’m totally hooked.
Final Crisis Aftermath: Run 4: I swear this issue is just an excuse for Matt Sturges to use up all his remaining condiment puns. (“Miso tired of you!”) Fun.
Irredeemable 5: As I mentioned, this issue is 99 cents to go with the $9.99 trade so that you can get caught up for about ten bucks. Even if you don’t buy the trade, this is a pretty good jumping on point as Waid shows how chilling an omnipresent (via telescopic vision and super-hearing) being can be and the first betrayal among the resistance is revealed.
Strange Adventures 6: A complicated and pointless journey through The Weird's mind, including – I kid you not -- a giant slice of pepperoni pizza and the original Captain Comet. Now that I hear Jim Starlin has left DC, I expect they’ll sweep this series under the rug and forget it quickly.
Astro City: The Dark Age Book Three 4: This doesn’t bring the story of the Williams brothers to as much of a conclusion as I was expecting, but in the meantime Busiek has announced that ths book is going monthly later this year so I guess he’ll get to it in due time.
All Winners Comics 70th Anniversary Special: This isn’t the best of these specials, but Karl Kesel’s story of the post-war Invaders (a.k.a. All-Winners Squad) is in the top 25%. It features the first replacement Captain America, and the romance between the Whizzer (even including a tongue-in-cheek explanation of his name) and Miss America. Also includes a Cap and Bucky story from All Winners #12 (1944) that I don’t think has been reprinted before. (At least I’ve never seen the Red Skull in the costume he’s wearing in the story.)
Ghost Riders: Heaven’s on Fire 1: Yes, Ghost Riders plural, although only Johnny Blaze is in this issue. Basically, Zadkiel l has already won – he controls Heaven – and Blaze and his allies have to figure out a way to get there to keep Zadkiel from rewriting the Biblical prophecies. (“No Armageddon, no Rapture, no Second Coming.”) A little silly in spots – Blaze looks for the Antichrist in Las Vegas, Hollywood, Washington DC and Wall Street – but a good start to the end of Jason Aaron’s run.