Comics I Read: Catching up, Part 3

Captain America Theater of War: Ghosts of My Country: This is my favorite of the “Theater of War” specials, even though Cap doesn't actually appear in it. It's actually a series of vignettes written by Paul Jenkins and beautifully drawn by Elia Bonetti set in various US wartimes, featuring the ideals that Cap represents. (Sometimes by counter-example, as some of the characters fail to live up to that ideal.) It's articulate and haunting, and I preferred it to the stories that inserted Cap into “real” war settings.

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance 6: Fun, although it still didn’t quite work for me. However, this issue was worth it for the panel with GL John Stewart, the female Dr. Light, and the new Firestorm where Most Excellent Superbat’s narration says “They finally sent in the Justice League to clean up. At least, they said they were the Justice League. I didn’t recognize any of them.” I’m amused that DC let Joe Casey get away with that.

Flash: Rebirth 5: Worth the wait for Ethan Van Sciver’s art – he really outdid himself. This issue also goes to show that I should always trust Geoff Johns, because all my continuity concerns from the early issues are brilliantly explained here. I liked all the new Flash “family” members and costumes, too. (I’m not sure I quite agree that the “Impulse” name fits the character who’s taken it on, but for now I’ll file that in the “trust Johns” category.)

Adventure Comics 4: The gag of Superboy-Prime being a fanboy is still amusing, but only just. I enjoyed this issue, but the idea is running out of steam. (Which Johns seems to realize, since the just-solicited issue is “starring Black Lantern Superboy”.) I’m interested enough to see where it goes, but I miss the Conner/Smallville stories already. On the plus side, Jerry Ordway’s art is the best I’ve seen from him in a while (and I say that as someone who always likes him.) The “Legion” backup is good, and having just reread “Legion of Three Worlds” in hardcover I now realize that Johns is specifically using these backups to follow up on plot threads he started there.

Punisher 9-10: I applaud Rick Remender planting Frank Castle firmly in the Marvel Universe, while still keeping his essential character. I recognize that it’s not for everyone, but fortunately Marvel’s smart enough to be publishing a separate crime-based title for the purists. These are two great stories: first the story of Frank’s current partner and his relationship to Frank’s greatest enemy, and then Frank’s truly horrific response to the Hood’s offer to resurrect his family. #10 for sure is essential reading for Punisher fans, even if the premise of this series bugs you.

Dark Reign: The List – Punisher: Wow, that’s a definitive ending. Crime story purists should stick to PunisherMAX, because this issue is really going to piss you off. (Though you may not be able to resist the temptation of the John Romita Jr. art.) Personally, I thought it was really well done, and though I’m nervous about what Remender has planned next, the glimpse of it in the back of this issue, and the quality of this and the issues above make me willing to give it a chance.

Dark Reign: The List – Hulk: A nice battle of wills between Bruce Banner and Norman Osborn’s right-hand woman, with a surprising development for Banner that will impact the main series. (I’m a little disappointed at that, because I like the current stories and was hoping to hang on to the status quo for a little longer.) There’s no Red Hulk to be found, so those of you who are annoyed by him will be safe. As with Punisher above, this is by the series’ regular writer, so it fits nicely with the ongoing series while standing enough alone for people who are just interested in “Dark Reign”. (But I bet they’ll be intrigued enough to pick up Greg Pak’s Hulk book after this.)

Dark Wolverine 78-79: I liked these issues better, because Daken comes off much more balanced with Osborn and the other characters in the story. I recognize that he’s supposed to be the hero of his own book, but it was getting to be too much for me and I prefer this more measured approach. I haven’t read enough of Wolverine’s old solo book to be familiar with all the villains that Osborn is manipulating, but they also come off as well rounded characters. To me, this has been the most interesting story arc yet and I look forward to the conclusion.

Dark Reign: Young Avengers 5: Speaking of being the heroes in their own book, the Young Avengers come out rather better than expected against Osborn’s team here. However, Paul Cornell makes it plausible enough that I don’t mind, and this issue has a nice balance of tying up loose ends and leaving some for the future. This remains my favorite “Dark Reign” tie-in, and frankly I’d love to see Cornell stay in charge of these characters even if Allan Heinberg is available.

Dark Reign: The List – Wolverine: This is a fun romp featuing Logan, Osborn’s Captain Marvel and Fantomex. It’s of little consequence to “Dark Reign” or “Weapon X”, but it comes the closest to the spirit of the Morrison X-Men than anything I remember seeing since he left, which is a pleasant surprise from Jason Aaron. I also loved Aaron’s backup story, which I think is a reprint.

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