Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Best to Worst of Last Week

The contenders for top honors was a mixed bag this week with each category having at least one book that I thought could be best of the week. A couple of series that I thought had been not as strong as normal bounced back, and one series I loved I have cancelled as a regular series and will go the trade route.

Thor #7 – Writer J. Michael Straczynski, Pencils Marko Djurdjevic, Inks Danny Miki, Colors Jelena Kevic Djurdjevic. – First off, the art just blew me away. The level of detail, the line work, the layouts, the action scenes, the weight the work had, is right up there in any top artist class you want to name in the realism school (Cassady / Hitch / Eaglesham, etc.). Next is the story. JMS told a great tale of how Thor after extending his powers too far has to sleep the Odinsleep to restore himself. JMS even gives it a logical basis, comparing it to an induced coma. A nice twist is Don Blake appears after the crypt with Thor in it is closed. Don Blake is off to find Jane Foster, another nice touch. While in the Odinsleep Thor encounters his father and Odin tells Thor of why sons always replace their fathers. We are then treated to a great mythological tale of how Odin came to power after his father’s death. JMS is writing the best Thor book since Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were on this book.
Sword #6 - Writer, Illustrations – Jonathan Luna, Writer, Script, Layouts Joshua Luna. – What an excellent issue. We got the history behind the Sword. I love the fact that we now know how the sword was created; where it got its powers from and who the people were her killed Dara’s father. So often the “mysteries” surrounding stuff is kept a secret for so long that we start to not even care about the answer. Here in issue #6 we find out there are four siblings who have the power of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Phaistos was the one who controlled fire and ultimately wanted to rule everyone. After a war a sword was created by the four as a symbol of peace, but it also contained enough power to actually harm them. The sword was given to Dara’s Dad to take out Phaistos and he kept the sword to keep the other three in check for the last 4,000 years. Now Dara plans to use it to kill the other three. Absolutely loved it.
Superman/ Batman Annual #2 – Writer Joe Kelly, Art Scott Kolins, Colors Jorge Molina. Scott Kolins really showed off just how damn good he can be. I’m assuming this project was one that he was allowed to do it more at his own pace, but boy did he just blow the roof off with this work. It looks like some of it was painted, but it was really a stunning art job. I love seeing an artist who continues to stretch themselves and don’t just live on one style and that is it. The story itself was also a fun one. I read that it is an updating of an old World’s Finest book that first introduced the Nova character. The interaction between Batman and Superman was brilliant, especially how they viewed the new JLA. The actual adventure was also well done as Superman faced with no powers retreats to the farm. Bruce goes back and challenges Clark (in his own way) to come back and he does as Nova. This was a real pleasure to read and look at.
Fables #71 – Writer Bill Willingham, Pencils Mark Buckingham, Inks Steve Leialoha, Colors Lee Loughridge – How can you not help but love Cinderella as the tough spy gal of the Fables universe. This issue she is after a mysterious package and has to fend off an initial double cross just to get to the package. The package is Pinocchio who apparently switches sides on a whim. Then on the way back Cindy is captured by Hans the undercover agent for Geppetto. Hans asks her for the time and place of the war and she reveals it has already started. Great story and wonderful art.
Tangent Superman’s Reign #1 (of 12) – Writer Dan Jurgens, Pencils Matthew Clark, Inks Jesse Delperdang, Colors Dom Regan. This was an excellent start to this maxi-series. The Tangent characters that were created a few years ago have languished for far too long. There was great potential in all those characters and we are seeing that being tapped here. The tangent world is now under the control of their Superman and it appears that super heroes have been outlawed. We start with the Joker (who is a good guy) trying to get by now that she is out of jail. We then flip over to the regular DCU and see the Flash meet the Flash of the Tangent Universe and he goes to the JLA headquarters to help her find a lantern from the TU to try and get back home. Then a short back up feature is giving us the history of the Tangent Universe. Top it all off with some very good art by Matthew Clark and you have a winning package. If the whole thing is this good I’ll be getting the inevitable trade.
Death of the New Gods #7 (of 8) – Writer and Pencils Jim Starlin, Inks Art Thibert, Colors Jeromy Cox. This title has remained true to its name as this issue Mister Miracle and Metron both bite the dust. Also we get to see the end of the source wall. It was a poignant moment when Scott faces off against his “god” who he has tried to be true to and finds out he was manipulated so his “god” could reunify with its other half that was trapped on the other side of the war. This cosmic being then visits Darkseid and finds he has taken some potion that could possibly put him on the same level. This has been a well done series and while it gets a little too “cosmic” as times, I don’t think you could avoid it with this story. Looking forward to the series finale.
Brave and Bold #11 – Writer Mark Waid, Pencils Jerry Ordway, Inks Bob Wiacek, Colors Tom Smith. Jerry Ordway and George Perez are always linked in my mind as they did the work together on Crisis on Infinite Earths, so Jerry Ordway taking over for George Perez on pencils is a natural. Still as much as I love Jerry’s work, George is better. The overall story is moving towards its conclusion and what we have is a two part ending as this issue was all set-up with Ultra-Man and Superman fighting it out before finally agreeing to fight the common enemy. 11 out of 11 issues have been nothing short of very good to excellent. The grand finale pulls together almost everyone to fight Megistus.
Grendel Behold the Devil #5 (of 8) – Created, Written and Illustrated by Matt Wagner. This chapter Grendel decides to call in a favor from a voodoo guy that he knows and asks him what is chasing him. He is told it is a demon and is given instructions on how to capture the demon. Another very good issue, but I’m getting curious to see where this goes. The art was also so well done. The first page was one panel with a series of steps leading down that was just a beautiful page. It sounds simple, but it is a gorgeous page.
Invincible #49 – Writer Robert Kirkman, Art Ryan Ottley, Colors Bill Crabtree. Ryan Ottley seems to have moved up a notch in the quality of his work. I have enjoyed his work on Invincible a lot over the years, but this issue I noticed that his work has really moved up a level. The story kicked back into high gear and the lull that I thought this book hit is gone. Mark’s confrontation with Cecil was great, it was nice to see Mark start to think more and more for himself. Cecil maneuvering Mark into the white room so he could attack him was final proof that Cecil is not Mark’s friend. Next issue is 50 and it looks like the ampersand asterisk squiggly line exclamation point hits the fan.
Catwoman #77 – Writer Will Pfeifer, Pencils David Lopez, Inks Alvaro Lopez, Colors Jeromy Cox and Guy Major. Catwoman is trapped inside of a machine on the prison planet that is slowly killing her. In her mind she is on an alternate Earth and having a blast beating up half the JLA. The Martian Manhunter enters her mind and helps her realize what is going on and she escapes. It was a great adventure watching Selina being super powered and having the time of her life and it was almost sad that she had to leave. What is so great about this series is Will Pfeifer made this inane idea of having Catwoman on the prison planet work. David and Alvaro Lopez do great work on every issue and deliver this book on a monthly basis. These guys are top flight artists who pick great camera angles and can draw anything and anyone. I’m always worried DC will steal them for a higher profile title. Once again Catwoman was a very good issue. Will Pfeifer should be writing more comics.
Fear Agent #19 – Writer Rick Remender, Art Jerome Opena, Colors Michelle Madsen. This issue was a little late, maybe it was so the numbering to go back to regular issue numbers and the arc numbering is now a subset of the issue numbering. Anyway, another fine issue of Fear Agent. I have lost a little bit of the story and I almost always skip the introduction because that’s what Heath would do. Suicidal alien races, soul stealing dead people, heroic rescues and heroic sacrifices, all with that same wild abandonment that always accompanies one of Heath’s adventures. Jerome Opena’s art work is just magnificent and the production and color work is icing on the cake for this series. I’m ready to start buying the hard cover collections of this book.
Birds of Prey #116 – Writer Sean McKeever, Pencils Nicola Scott, Inks Doug Hazelwood, Colors Hi-Fi. The Queen Shark story line was a good one. Lady Blackhawk (Zinda) was the central character in an adventure for the first time. The grandson of a villain named Killer Shark had taken over the Killer Shark mantle. He injected Zinda with the Queen Shark serum that made her a slave to the killer shark. As the Queen Shark Zinda beat the crap out of the Huntress, but eventually breaks the influence of the drug and they both take down Killer Shark. At the same time the story of who is behind the magical robot that destroyed part of Metropolis also continues to unfold as Misfit and Oracle try to find out who is behind it. Nicola Scott’s pencils are really gorgeous as he makes his woman beautiful without making them ridiculously over sexed. He also drew one heck of a fight scene this issue showing Misfit has taken Barbara’s fighting lessons to heart. This is one of DC’s stronger series and a very consistent book.
The Circle #5 – Writer Brian Reed, Art Ian Hosfeld, Colors Len O’Grady. This was the final issue as sales were horrible on this book per writer Brian Reed exit note. Thankfully they were able to at least finish this arc and they gave us the unedited ending so we know about what future adventures might bring. I’m upset that this book did not sell better and when so many lesser books are out on the market place. This book would be a perfect book for BOOM Studios, maybe they can try out a second arc over there. The art on this book was always very well done and Hosfeld reminded me of Jordi Benet, who is a great artist. The art is realistic, fluid, has grittiness to it, in the class of John Severin. The story may have been the thing that did not grab enough people as the premise was never explained as well as it was at the end of this story. Ilona tells Wallace that the group is always hired to right some wrong in the world and she has no clue who or what organization is behind it. I think a better hook on this series would be a group of displaced patriots from Katistan (or where ever) fights against injustice around the world. Who funds then and why even the Circle doesn’t know. Anyway it is a crying shame this book died; I hope it has a miracle resurrection some day. Kudos to the creators for a job well done.
Ghost Rider #21 – Writer Jason Aaron, Art Roland Boschi, Colors Dan Brown. Jason Aaron is proving to be a skilled writer. Not only is Scalped one of the best comics on the market, but he has made Ghost Rider a comic I want to read. This issue Johnny learns that Zadkeil is close to winning the war to rule Heaven. Johnny wants to confront him but is told that if Zadkeil gets hold of him and others like him, it would be a bad thing for Heaven. Then we get to see Johnny fight the crazed nurses who are Zadkeil’s agents and we get a plot about how the town they are in is cursed. All in all this was a very entertaining story and it also was laying out sub-plots for future stories down the road. The art work has a sketchy and thin line quality to it that conveys the action in this book in a very good manner.
Shadowpact #23 – Writer Matthew Sturges, Art Phil Winslade, Colors Mike Atiyeh. This issue we see that the series is fast heading towards its conclusion as story lines are getting wrapped up. The Blue Devil’s trials rapidly come to an end and he wins his soul back and is stripped of his Blue Devil powers. Dr. Gotham is feeding his master (Sun King) souls at a clipped guaranteed to bring him to full power. The Phantom Stranger recruits Shadowpact to fight this battles against an the Sun King, who is an almost god like creature and also recruits the Shadowpacts from one hundred years in the past and one hundred years in the future so they can all fight the Sun King. Two more issues to go and I will miss this group of “C” list characters. Phil Winslade does a nice job with the art and he packs so much detail into his work that you are never cheated with his art.
Immortal Iron Fist #13 – Writers Matt Fraction & Ed Brubaker, Art Kano, David Aja and Tonci Zonjic, Colors Matt Hollingsworth. Iron Fist is a decent series, but as with many books lately the long form story is just way too long. There also seems to be an idea that many of the fans who read a comic are devoted to your book and you have so many intricacies going on that a more casual fan or a reader of many books sometimes just lost while the writers concern themselves with small points. When you open a comic from Marvel and the “previously” page has 4 paragraphs in an eight point font, you know your plot has gotten too complex. Having said all of that my love of the Iron Fist character still keeps me in the book and I curious to see how all of this wraps up. Plus if they do an Omnibus like the first 25 issues of Captain America for this book it should read much better. I guess I was hoping for more Kung-Fu fighting and less plots, history and back story.
Checkmate #24 – Writers Gregg Rucka & Eric Trautmann, Pencils Joe Bennett, Inks Jack Jadson, Colors Santiago Arcas. First off, is everyone now co-writing books? It appears to be a huge trend and I wonder what has brought that trend about. This is Greg’s last arc on Checkmate and he is going out with a bang. Kobra has set up a system to activate over 7 million people and turn them into super powered homicidal maniacs. Checkmate solicits help from the super hero community to take out the delivery systems before it can be activated. At the same time Checkmate discovers a threat of a race of snake beings being brought into the world and they have no way to stopped them without their Rooks. The Rooks are apparently a last resort weapons and consist of Gravedigger, Faust, Cinnamon and GI Robot. I can’t wait for the conclusion. What was also great is that I never even thought why no rooks until this issue. Joe Bennett does a very nice job with the pencils as always and he must be one of the busiest guys at DC as I swear I see his name in more books then almost any other artist.
Captain America #36 – Writer Ed Brubaker, Art Butch Guice and Mike Perkins, Colors Frank D’Armata. Okay I thought that the gun that Bucky was carrying would be only a sometimes thing, but Bucky almost shoots first and asks questions later. As Bucky in his Captain America guise is fighting the Serpent Squad and Crossbones he uses fists, shield, a knife and a gun. This is a truly different Captain America. Also in this issue Sharon Carter is roaming around in Zola’s labs and stumbles on what appears to be Steve Rogers. A decent issue and a better long form story, then issue by issue comic. I guess part of the point of this story is that not just anyone can be Captain America.
Flash #238 – Writer Tom Peyer, Art Freddie Williams II, Colors Tanya & Richard Horie. This was a good start by new regular writer Tom Peyer. He does not come in and change anything, instead he gives us a real world problem that the Flash has to deal with (money woes) and gives us a new villain Spin. Loaded with characterization and action the story flowed very well and Freddie Williams II has become the Flash artist right now. His work fits this book like a glove and Freddie continues to improve.
Iron Man #27 – Writer Daniel & Charles Knauf, Pencils Carlos Pagulayan, Inks Jeffrey Huet, Color Dean White. First off let’s talk about the art on this book. Carlos is getting better and better. I’m not sure why this book has a rotating art crew, but two page spread showing how Iron Man had been blown through a barn and a field was great. The overall story is getting really dragged out, but it appears that we will really have a conclusion next issue. Last issue was a false conclusion as Mandarin had escaped and taken Maya with him. Unbeknownst to Maya (and us for most of the book) the Mandarin plays mind games with her and has her give him the code to remove the safeguard from the extremist virus. I hear this writing crew is leaving this book soon and I will make my exit at the same time. Even with the limited number of Marvel books I buy I’m sick and tired of seeing Iron Man in every damn Marvel book published. He is the most overused character in the history of comics in the last few years.
Robin #172 – Writer Chuck Dixon, Pencils David Baldeon, Inks Steve Bird, Colors Guy Major. What are we three issues into Chuck Dixon’s run and the “regular” artist can’t cut a monthly book already. I have no clue as to who Dave Baldeon is, but he can draw. For a guy who came out of nowhere (for me), he does a really nice job on this issue. The actual story is just so-so at this point. Robin is playing games with Violet, who is a Robin Hood type vigilante and this issue he takes down a casino. A lot of set-up has been introduce by Mr. Dixon, but this issue did not feel like it had any real pay off. It did do a reveal on who is running round as Spoiler, but it was almost a throw away at the end as she was not part of the story.
Grimm Fairy Tales #25 – Created and Story by Joe Tyler and Ralph Tedesco, Writers Linda Ly and Raven Gregory, Pencils Claudio Sepulveda, Colors Nei Ruffino. So it is now Belinda going around with the book and telling the tales. This issue we get the beginning of the little mermaid’s tale. She sells her voice for a chance to be with the prince and after making love to him; finds out the prince just used her. At the same time this tale is being juxtaposed against a current day story. A trailer trash Mom is convinced that she needs to use her 20 year old daughter to go to a nightclub and apparently pick up a famous ball player. Now how these tales will relate is beyond me, but since Belinda is involved you can see that the current day tale will not end well. The big surprise is that there is no Grimm Fairy Tales on the preliminary list for next week.
War is Hell #1 (of 5) – Writer Garth Ennis, Art Howard Chaykin, Colors Brian Reber. Garth Ennis always writes good war stories and this one is no exception so far. The use of a little known Marvel character from years ago is almost incidental in this first issue. We find out an American Squadron is being put together and this young pilot shows up in a garishly painted plane. We also learn he was never ordered to report there. He is a horribly inexperienced pilot, but survives his first “mission” by getting lost in the clouds. Howard’s stylized art is always a little tough for me to take as he only has five to six characters in his repertoire, but the detail and the work he does on the planes is stunning. This was a strong first issue.
Captain Marvel #4 (of 5) – Writer Brian Reed, Pencils Lee Weeks, Inks Jesse Delperdang & Klaus Janson, Colors Matt Milla. This series has done a good job at keeping me interested until the end. Brian has introduced the mystery that Marvel could be a skrull. We have Marvel’s grave being dug up and we have Marvel trapped in the negative zone and saying he is home. Brian packed a lot of story into this issue, but did not reveal anything at this point. Lee Weeks does a good job with the art. He has a fine line and both inkers maintained Lee’s work as opposed to turning it into their own drawing. Overall I think it is my fondness for this character that has held me into this story, because we have had 4 issues and zero reveals as to mysteries surrounding Captain Marvel.
Justice League of America #19 – Writer Alan Burnett, Pencils Ed Benes, Inks Sandra Hope, Mariah Benes & Ruy Jose, Colors Ed Benes with Alex Sinclair. I was wondering how the JLA going to the prison planet was going to work out and it was done very well. The JLA takes off to the planet and they find out the prisoners were redirected by an outside force to a totally different planet. The JLA is captured by Kanjar Roi who was waiting to capture the villains that never came. Ed Benes makes Kanjar into a respectable looking villain that fits modern sensibilities. The problem was that the JLA defeats him through dumb luck and does so in a matter of three to four pages. I guess I have gotten used to longer form stories because this wrap up rather fast.
Grimm Fairy Tales The Piper #1 (of 4) – Writers Mike Kalvoda, Joe Brusha & Ralph Tredesco, Pencils Alex Medellin Machain, Colrs Christin Pogoda, Nei Ruffino & Garry Henderson. Belinda now is apparently the person who is going to be handling the book and handing it out to various people, so obviously no good can come of these tales. The Piper’s story is told about him getting the rats away from the hamlet and then taking the children once he isn’t paid and then we switch to modern times. We meet Sean a bullied high school student who has a talent for playing the violin. Belinda gives him the book of Fairy Tales and he calls The Piper to help him. The art work is not bad and as always the coloring does a lot to enhance Zenoscope books. I’m not always sure what different processes different colorist use, but Zenoscope books always have a crisp look to their colors and that helps any book.
Batman and the Outsiders #5 – Writer Chuck Dixon, Pencils Julian Lopez, Inks Bit, Colors Marta Martinez. Okay this book is finally starting to feel like a series. Still this has not become a great series, but it is certainly entertaining and has managed to keep me around a little longer. I’ll admit that it is easy for me to stay on a DC title because I still have a lot of love for these characters, but this book was going nowhere. This issue the actual mission progresses and we have an appearance by the ghost of Ralph and Sue Dibny doing a Boston Brand impression. Julian Lopez and Bit do a very nice ob with the art which also enhances the enjoyment of this book. I hope given time this book will only improve.
Countdown to Final Crisis #6 – Head Writer Paul Dini with Adam Beechen, Story Consultant Keith Giffen, Pencils Mike Norton, Inks Jimmy Palmiotti, Colors Tom Chu. Side note before I talk about the comic. Jimmy Palmiotti has to be one of the busiest guys in comics. Besides writing a couple of books a month with Justin Gray, I swear he inks two or more books a month. Of course Keith Giffen makes everyone else in the business look like a slacker. This was not a bad issue. We are not sure if everyone made it back to the regular DCU or another Earth, but the plague has started that leads to the “Great Disaster” that was always referred to in Kamandi. Karate Kid has died and the plague is already spreading around the globe playing havoc with people’s DNA. I do not know if we ever knew what created Kamandi’s world, but if we didn’t it is a nice touch to tie it all together. Of course the easy line was to say the great disaster is Countdown. Only 5 issue to go.
Wasteland #15 – Writer Anthony Johnston, Art by Christopher Mitten. Okay this issue just really ticked me off. I do not pay the entry price to come into the door so I can try and read whatever the heck Jar Jar (is that right – from Star Wars) type bullsh*t language you want to spew. Almost the entire issue was dialogue like this “telltam/ samantell sandizz tareeta kin asaaaan kamkwiik”. I really want to hang with this book, because I think it has great potential, but I’m dropping to regular series and will look to read this as a trade, then one issue will not tick me off so much. I read too many books every week to have to fight through reading something like this, that while cute and everything else is really just a self indulgent stunt, because only the writer knows exactly what he is having the characters say. Cancelled.
New World Order #2 – Writer Gustavo Higuera, Art Mansyur Darman, Colors George Viola.
Wow is this book ever confusing the heck out of me. Part of it is because I read so many books a month, that remembering all of the story lines is difficult. Another part of it is this reads like a first issue of a story. We learn that the Native Americans were a chosen people and that the evil and greedy white people (that would be me) basically screwed up everything. Then Ryan (who is a Native American) finds some mystic artifact, meets the White Buffalo Calf goddess, meets some roman dressed gods, finds a reptile guy and then reappears in the real world and the world is falling apart. Maybe I need to read more of the background material to understand it. Still this is a Shadowline book, which should mean three issues then we stop and then if it sells do three more. Bottom line, I’ll try one more issue.
Afterburn #2 (of 4) Creator Scott Chitwood, Script Scott Chitwood, Paul Ens, Pencils Wayne Nichols, Ins Nick Schley, Colors Art Lyon. I love Red 5 comics for the most part, but not every series is going to hit a home run with me and this book is failing to impress. The art work is okay (reminds me of Don Perlin) tells the story but otherwise no real edge to it. The story itself is a little too pedestrian. We have an entire world that has been devastated by a solar flare taking out half the world and we have this adventure of chasing a case through a bizarre mutant world in Hong Kong. Cancelled.
FX #1 (of 6) – Writer Wayne Osborne, Art John Byrne, Colors Greg Cordier.
I went into this book with no true idea what it was about, but was curious to see why IDW was doing what appears to be a straight super hero book. I was hoping for it to be something different or have some hook, but it did not. It is about a young teen boy who all of sudden has these super powers, He can imagine something and that comes true, think Green Lantern with no ring. He fights a big ape and wins. Then he gets a costume in the mail, meaning someone knows about him and his powers and then we see some mystery skull faced bad guy watching via a mystical mirror and he says this is unexpected. Byrne’s art was okay, but I really think John’s work looks better with a strong inker. The story did not have that extra special quality to make me want to stay around after issue #1.

The hardest cancellation I have done was to drop Wasteland, because on the whole I like that book and one issue does not a series make, but I think it may read better as a trade. Also I may get over my being upset with this issue and just add back to my list on some later date.

This week should see a few preview reviews for June books from DC, Marvel, Dark Horse and Image. The Part 2 of the Mark Waid interview maybe delayed from this Friday as Gwen’s schedule and other issues are delaying getting it transcribed and we rather do it right, then wrong.


  1. I really liked FX. It was so much fun. I remember everybody talking about Kick A$$ and how great it was for those who used to dream they could be super-heroes. Here's a kid playing pretend and then he gets powers that let him pretend for real. It was very enjoyable.

    Death of the New Gods has really ticking me off ever since the Source has been revealed to be corrupted. I agree with Metron, "I have seen enough". Might need to continue this rant on "Next Issue"...

  2. Matthew - FX was better then Kick-Ass. Kick-Ass was a mess on many, many levels. FX is a good book to read wirh your kids so far.

  3. Exactly! I read it and immediately couldn't wait to let my son read it. Still waiting, but we've been on vacation.

    It's amazing to see such a glowing review of "Snore" by you. I'll look forward to reading it at the library one day.