Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Best to Worst of Last Week

It has been a funny couple of weeks with no books being major producing an absolute number one book like some weeks do. Still a lot of really good issues of series came out and a very enjoyable week’s worth of reading. While I still get a ridiculous number of books the recently culling of about 20 titles has enhanced my enjoyment immensely. I have not felt like I had many comics that I was forcing myself to read because I picked up the comic for some convoluted rationalization.

Batman #675 - Writer Grant Morrison, Pencils Ryan Benjamin, Inks Saleem Crawford, Colors Guy Major Morrison has hit his stride with Batman. He brings back the man with ten eyes villain from the silver age (a great Neal Adams cover on that story) and he is now the nine eyed man as he is missing a finger. He appears as a terrorist coming to kidnap Bruce's date of that evening. She has just dressed him down as she is tired of his disappearances and she senses a dark side that he will not reveal. The kidnappers grab her and Bruce and are drag them off into the kitchen. At the same time Dick and Tim are out taking out some criminals and discussing Bruce, Tim is worried that something is wrong. We also cut to Talia, Damien and Merlin as she is also concerned about Bruce. The story ends with Bruce beating the crap out of the bad guy as Bruce and his date realizes that Bruce is Batman. Reminded me a lot of the whole relationship with Silver St. Cloud, but Morrison is probably taking even further then Englehart would ever have been allowed when he was doing his story with Marshall Rogers (side note that story needs to reprinted as a high quality hard cover and dedicated to Marshall Rogers). Ryan Benjamin does a very good job with this story, but it is not in Tony Daniel's class yet. So I missed Tony, but feel Ryan's work is still very good. This is the issue before Batman R.I.P. begins and what a great set-up. More and more Morrison's run on Batman is starting to stand out as one of the great runs on this character.
Northlanders #5 – Writer Brian Wood, Art David Gianfelice, Colors David McCaig. This book is getting better and better. This issue we get the back story on Sven and his life. As a young boy while his father was away his home was attacked and he did not grab a sword to defend his mother. He was only about eight and would have been killed, but his mother who was raped calls her son out as a coward. She tells him he should have died defending the house and that he will never be a man. He rejects the Viking's philosophy and runs away from home and is promptly captured and made a slave rowing a ship. Eventually he makes it to Constantinople and is sold off to a new master and falls in love with his master's daughter. A few years later his master is killed and he saves the daughter (Zoe) from the assassins and she takes over the house. They both grow up and are lovers and friends, but never marry. After a point in time Sven decides he needs to go home, although rich due to Zoe's fortune and living well he needs to go home. We cut back to the present and see Sven is committing to avenging Zoe's death at his Uncle's hands (which occurred last issue) and is now willing to die for that cause. This gives the book a great emotional content and sets up the battle to come. Instead of it being a pointless battle, you know why Sven will do anything now. This was an excellent issue in a series that is getting better with each issue.
Thor #8 – Writer J. Michael Straczynski, Pencils Marko Djurdjevic, Inks Danny Miki and Crimelab Studios, Colors Laura Martin. Thor has become such a wonderful series, that I can’t believe how bored I was with the first three issues. Instead of nothing happening, now the book is full of events and moving the story forward. This issue Thor and Odin come to an understanding of their relationship and Odin passes the mantle of leadership to his son. Thor comes to the conclusion that Sif is lost to him forever, yet we find that she is trapped inside an old woman dying of cancer. At the same time Don Blake and Jane Foster met again (as Jane is unknowingly the doctor to Sif). We have Thor as the leader of Asgard, Don Blake back in continuity and seemly a different yet joined entity with Thor, the evil machinations of Loki (as it appears she is behind Sif being trapped inside the old woman and not being released as the rest of Thor’s people were when he called them back). The art by Marko Djurdjevic is great work, heavily towards the realistic side and is only a notch below the John Cassady class. I hope JLM stays on this title for a long time.
Mighty Avengers #12 – Writer Brian Bendis, Art Alex Maleev, Colors Matt Hollingsworth. This issue of Nick Fury (it was called Mighty Avengers, but it was a Nick Fury comic) was terrific and since I just read the Secret Wars trade it worked even better for me. We finally find out where Nick Fury has been for all of this time. He knew during Secret Wars he had crossed a line and needed to disappear, as he did he started to realize some things were not right. A person who appears to be the Countess is with him, but he follows her and finds out she is an enemy. Nick kills her and finds out she is a skrull. Since then Nick has been a shadow pulling together information on who might be a skrull, Nick plans to be ready when the sh*t hits the fan. Bendis is at his best with a solo character and more of a set-up story then an action/adventure or group book. This story plays well as one man versus a world that will not believe him. Alex Maleev’s art was superb, Nick had that world weary, yet determined look about him that struck just the right chord. It has to be great as a writer to see your vision realized in such an exceptional manner. I loved seeing Nick Fury come back into prominence and in a very cool fashion.
Fables #72 – Writer Bill Willingham, Pencils Mark Buckingham, Inks Steve Leialoha, Colors Lee Loughridge. How can you not enjoy an issue where we get to see Cindy (Cinderella) go so bada** on Hansel. Hansel leaves Cindy and tells a henchman to shot her once they are fifteen minutes out and then he leaves with Pinocchio. Cindy escapes and then grabs a huge construction truck to crash into Hans get away car. Then since she can’t kill him as too many Mundy’s believe in him, she shots out his kneecaps. The action continues from there and ultimately Pinocchio gets to Fabletown. Next issue we start to see what has been happening with the war. I really love this series and feel this two issue spy saga that was fast paced and loaded with action was a perfect antidote to the last arc, that while well done was overly long and a little drawn out.
Fall of Cthulhu #11 – Writer Michael Alan Nelson, Pencils Matt Santolouco, Inks Andre Coelho, Colors Cris Peter & Arthur Fujita. This is a truly creepy book. So many horror stories are total posers as the horror never feels real enough or it is all classic horror movie set-up. It is even more difficult with a comic to get that creepy vibe into it as it is static and you have no sound. This book manages to do it almost ever issue out and it is often both graphic and subtle in what they accomplish. This issue we start a new story arc and it begins with what appears to be a vagrant girl being picked up and arrested. As the small town sheriff tries to figure out her story they get a call about the home she was found in. The people have been killed and immediately the girl freaks and begins to draws strange symbols in the dust around her and tells the sheriff they are all dead. He goes to investigate and finds horribly mutilated bodies. When he gets back to his office he finds more death and destruction and the girl still locked in her cell inside the circle saying “I told you we’re all going to die”. If you let yourself into the story you can really get a true horror feel out of it and you are right with the sheriff wandering what the F#%@ is going on and trying to hold back your terror.
Superman Batman #47 – Writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson, Pencils Shane Davis, Inks Matt Banning, Colors Alex Sinclair. It was another good issue for this arc involving Superman and Batman ridding the world of Kryptonite. This issue they find out another cache is in the middle of the United States and the US government is behind it. As they are taking it apart a group of Kryptonite powered US soldiers appears and attack Superman and take down Batman. Batman is taken captive and being interrogated by Amanda Waller, who states that there is no way the government can sit back and trust Superman to always do what they deem to be right. The story ends with Batman still a captive and Superman having barely beaten back the governments team, when Amanda unleashes “All American Boy” whom is a Doomsday clone with Kryptonite for his bone weapons. Shane Davis is an artist who is really on the rise and I would hope to see him given a high profile series or mini-series to do in the near future. Overall this has been the best arc since this series was launched.
Justice League of America #20 – Writer Dwayne McDuffie, Art Ethan Van Sciver, Colors Brian Miller (Hi-Fi). What a great issue of JLA, possibly the best issue since the book has re-launched. A lot of the credit has to go to Ethan Van Sciver. His work has become reminiscent of Brain Bolland and that is a high compliment indeed from me as I love Bolland’s work. The one page panel when Wonder Woman is lowing the plane to the ground is just beautiful. The story was also well done as it focused on the Flash and his reluctance to really sign up for the JLA again as he is a lot of other responsibilities now. As Wally and Diana talk over things, they respond to an emergency together, Wally realizes he has to put in the time for the JLA. Well written and great art, what the JLA should be all the time.
Dynamo 5 #12 – Writer Jay Faerber, Art Mahmud Asrar, Colors Ron Riley. This was another great issue. In the span of 12 issues this book has jumped up to be one of the best group books on the market. This issue we see the group have to break into their own headquarters to save Maddie and Hector’s Mom from bad guys who have taken over their headquarters. Since their headquarters are underwater by a dock they come in though a warehouse entrance, via underwater and with the teleporter. This series has great super hero action/adventure, wonderful characterization and just a joy to read. This book generates a lot of the same type of vibe the early silver age books like X-Men and Fantastic Four did when they first started, but have the advantage of being written in a more modern style. Asrar’s art work is very good and has gotten better, but I really think he would be helped by a strong inker as I believe that he needs the help at this point and we could maybe see this book on a monthly schedule if they added an inker.
Death of the New Gods #8 (of 8) – Story and Pencils Jim Starlin, Inks Art Thibery, Colors Jeromy Cox. This series ended very well. It was a bit heavy on the explanation of everything, but it was well done. It sort of lead into the end battle between Orion and Darkseid that was in Countdown #2. Ultimately we have seen that all of the New Gods have died and the Source wants to make a fifth world and try again. We also see that the Source crashed Apokolips and New Genesis together and made it one world. The Source’s results still looks like two different worlds, just on the same planet. How all of this feeds into Final Crisis is beyond me. I think what I enjoyed the most was Starlin’s art work and his use of Superman as almost a bystander this time since his power was nothing compared to the Source and Darkseid’s new power level. I think with an extra issue or two this could have been the big lead-in to Final Crisis and DC should have canned Countdown.
Fallen Angel #26 – Writer Peter David, Artist/Colors J.K. Woodward, Color Assist John Hunt. This was a great issue and threw the status quo wide open. I love the risks that I’m seeing more and more creators taking with their characters and creations. Lord Moloch has become the new Magistrate of Bete Noire. He has decapitated Malachi and beaten the crap out of anyone else. Angel takes Malachi’s head and draws out his last breath and uses it to power herself up to an incredible level. She knocks Lord Moloch out of his tower and destroys the tower. She then takes her son Jude (the former Magistrate) and Mariah and leaves Bete Noire. Lord Moloch is now the Magistrate with no one really able to oppose him and Angel knows that while she lost the beginning of the war, she needs to retake to city or our world won’t be worth living in. A real shake up of the structure of the book and the type of stories we will be seeing. In my opinion David has reinvigorated this book and will have me looking forward each month’s issue. JK Woodward owns the look of this book and has done a great job as artist on most of the IDW issues.
Birds of Prey #117 – Writer Sean McKeever, Pencils Nikola Scott, Inks Doug Hazelwood, Colors Hi-Fi. I did not check, but this must have been Sean McKeever’s swan song on this book, which while it was a short run, was well done. In fact I believe Sean’s work on this series was better then what he has been doing on Teen Titans. At least with Countdown over a fair number of writers who were losing time to working on that train wreck have a lot more free time. It was a good issue and had plenty of action, adventure and plot points resolved, but it was also rushed to clear the tables for the next writer. I thought the plot was good enough that Sean should have just passed on his outline and Tony Bedard could have executed against it well enough. In many ways this series brings out the best on whomever is working on it and it has to be a very surprising series for DC to have lasted 117 so far.
Neozoic #4 – Writer Paul Ens, Art J. Korim, Colors Jessie Lam. I’m an unabashed fan of this series and I have no problem singing this book’s praises, especially when each issue just ups the ante a little bit more. This issue the dinosaurs are over running the city, the PDL is doing there best to save the day, the Talpids have captured the king and his family and then things get worse. Lilli’s sister is killed by a dinosaur and Lilli and Claw are fighting over the Talpid child that Lilli saved. The child seems to be the cause of the problem and as Claw goes to kill the child Lilli pushes him away and he falls into a hole and appears to be dead. The issue ends as Lilli gives the child to Pax to take to safety and it appears all of the PDL have been taken out by the Talpid’s attacking the city. A ton of things happening and a lot of action/adventure, just a fast reading, breakneck pace issue that was great. I do have a problem with this issue and that is the dark almost orange hue tone that seemed to be layered over each page as if we were looking at the book through a light orange coated lens. It may represent the atmosphere or something, but I thought it muted an otherwise nicely drawn and colored book.
Space Doubles #3 – I really have enjoyed this series and a detailed review of this issue can be seen
here. The bad news is that we will not see issue #4 and #5, due to sales, the GREAT news is that we should see a trade that contains all ten stories from the series. I hate it when as series this good does not generate enough sales, but go out and BUY THE TRADE and ORDER IT FROM YOUR STORE.
Wormwood Gentleman Corpse #12 Calamari Rising #4 (of 4) – Story and Art Ben Templesmith – Ben Templesmith continues to produce funny and outrageous stories with Wormwood. This last arc had a few weak spots but the insane ending made up for it. I’m not sure how many more story lines this concepts has left in it, but I think one story arc a year is enough as I want to see Ben’s other projects hit the stands also. The dimensional hopping Elvis was priceless and the redneck fairy dimension Elvis was a real gem. As always not for the faint of heart, but humorous and often LOL material.
Secret History of The Authority Hawksmoor #2 (of 6) – Writer Mike Costa, Art Fiona Staples. This series is coming together very well. The story is out of Jack’s past and he is in San Francisco and is having trouble with parts of the city not speaking to him. Apparently San Fran and Jack have had a difficult relationship. As he is investigating a murder he meets a young girl who is a ninth generation mixed breed human/kherubim and has powers. The rest of the story involves Jack trying to figure out what is wrong, having a run in with some super powered terrorist types and getting his a## kicked. He ends end in the girl’s apartment and was making out with her as we cut away and see someone is spying on him. The art work by Fiona Staples has a light line and occasionally sketchy quality to it and is very appealing. This is a very good mini-series so far.
Shadowpact #24 – Writer Matthew Sturges, Art Phil Winslade, Colors Mike Atiyeh. This is the penultimate issue of Shadowpact as the three Shadowpacts ban together to try and stop the Sun King. It was a great issue where the three teams from 100 years past, today and 100 years in the future join forces to stop the Sun King who has been the background menace for a long time. The set-up for the next issue is when we see Dan Cassidy has put on his Blue Devil armor (as he is no longer an actual Blue Devil) and confronts his brother, as the Shadowpacts are stopping the Sun King. I have a feeling a few lives will be lost in this battle, but I hope Shadowpact is left in tact so they can be used in other stories down the road.
Tales from Wonderland Queen of Hearts #1- Writer Joe Brusha, Art Daniel Leister, Colors Nei Ruffino. This was a solid issue and a nice addition to the Wonderland material. Not only do we get the origin of the Queen of Hearts, but we learn a little bit about the Wonderland dimension itself as part of the back story. The summary is a scientist accidentally discovers a portal to another world. He uses a mirror frame to disguise the portal. He throws a rabbit and a cat into the portal to see if they return. Later at a party he leaves his door open and twin girls who were visiting fell into the mirror and were ripped apart and joined together to form the Queen of Hearts. The scientist son also went in the portal and the scientist is going to follow and we shall learn who they become most likely in the next one shot. This builds on who populates Wonderland, but it still leaves the mystery of what is this dimension to be explored. This was a nice job on expanding on what has been the best work from Zenescope. Also the art by Daniel Leister was well done and I’m enjoying his work more and more. The Wonderland spin-off has been vastly superior to its parent book Grimm Fairy Tales.
Checkmate #25 – Writers Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann, Pencils Joe Bennett, Inks Jack Jadson, Colors Santiago Arcas. The introduction of the Rooks, the end of the Kobra story line and the end of Greg Rucka’s run on Checkmate for now (I have no information, I just know that you never know what might happen in the future). This was a nice story as we see that the Rooks are the heavy hitters for Checkmate and are a last resort type option as they do not take prisoners. At the same time the rooks are unleashed to stop the baby factory, the JLA is stopping the unleashing of several million sleeper agents. What I really enjoyed is just when you are sure the rooks are going to kill the newborn children, we find out Checkmate is committed to trying to save them instead. A sappy fell good ending, that was better then the alternative.
Ultimate Spider-Man #121 - Writer Brian Bendis, Pencils Stuart Immonen, Inks Wade von Grawbadger, Colors Justin Ponsor. After a couple of months of what I felt were less then impressive efforts we got a great one and done episode. When Bendis is just focused on Peter Parker and some supporting cast members his books always read better. For the most part Bendis never gets the "voices" for many of his characters in group super hero books. This issue Peter and Kitty have to turn in the "baby" they had as a class assignment and the baby is broken and burnt. Peter then tells the tale of how he is at the daily bugle and Omega Red attacks the place and that is how the baby got destroyed. Of course he leaves out how he saved the day as Spider-Man. Great high school stuff, great action and some fun characterization brought this book back into my good graces. Even Stuart Immonen's art looked better and less rushed, although there was one panel with Peter and Mary Jane where I had to look twice as Peter looked prettier then MJ, but that is a very minor quibble.
Sheena Trail of the Mapinguari - Writer Steven E. deSouza, Art Viicenc Villagrasa, Colors Elizabeth John. This was a nice little one and done 48 page tale of Sheena. The mini-series has given us a status quo for Sheena that she lives both as Rachel Cardwell and Sheena of the Jungle to act as the protector of the forest. This issue a mythological creature is used as a front by a group of people to try and take over some land in the jungle. Sheena's friend Bob Kellerman and enemy Martin Ransom are all caught up in the scheme of things. Ultimately Sheena's saves the day, destroys the bad developers and finds out the creature actually exists. It was a solid and enjoyable yarn that also advanced all of the characters. Sheena is shown to be cold blooded and calculating by nature when she needs to be and also knows that Bob Kellerman has more then a friendship interest in her. Bob is shown to be more of a stand up guy and not the slightly helpless wimp that his role might make you think he is. Martin Ransom is shown to be slowly coming around to understanding and respecting Sheena's abilities and I think down the road he probably wants her also. Sheena as a series is also earning my respect bit by bit as this story had more depth then before and the art work was solid and did not stray to the good girl style, but had a more realistic bent to it.
1001 Arabian Nights The Adventures of Sinbad #0 – Story Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco and Dan Wickline, Writer Dan Wickline, Art Guy Vasquez, Colors Garry Henderson. This was a 99 cent promo issue to give us a taste of the series to come. On one hand it was a nice job giving us an 11 page prequel that adds some back story to the regular series and at the same time does not hurt you if you skipped the zero book. We also got some preview pages of the regular series and this was important as the regular series artist with a more dramatic style then the zero issue artist and I believe was better for the series, so without that the zero issue might actually work against generating readers. The other hand is Radical Comics is giving us a full 22 page issue to launch two series and I think a one dollar #1 issue would have been a better enticement to draw in more people. Still the actual story was well done as we find out Sinbad is a pirate, hero, thief and womanizer depending on whom you ask and now has a crew of differently skilled people as his crew for this latest adventure.
Uncanny X-Men #497 РWriter Ed Brubaker, Art Mike Choi, Colors Sonia Oback. This issue was a middle chapter whereby the two story lines were both advanced, but absolutely nothing was resolved. I often yearn for the days when continuing series has sub-plots running that were resolved even if nothing much else was going on. This issue we see Wolverine, Colossus and Nightcrawler get captured by some giant Russian robots (that cost more then their economy could afford). We also see Scott and Emma try to find out who is behind San Francisco being changed into a groovy hippie world. The hippie world is so clich̩ ridden as to be ridiculous, but since it is a mind control thing, it can be forgiven as being a person view of that time and not actually representing that time frame.
Spirit #16 #16 Writers Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier, Art Paul Smith, Color Lee Loughridge. The new team on this book seems to be getting into the groove and I have to admit that I’m also slowly adjusting to their take on the character. The Spirit is being played as more of a light-hearted book with the Spirit being kind of a laissez-faire type of hero. In this issue, a movie star is killed and the Spirit goes under cover and ends up accidentally becoming the stand-in for a Zorro character. As he investigates, he feeds numerous leads to Commissioner Doyle. Finally the Spirit cracks the case and finds out that the star was killed on accident and it was a minor bit player who should have been killed instead. The Spirit’s leads got Doyle in trouble, so even though he solved the case Doyle is running after the Spirit grumbling about his “help”. Cooke’s Spirit was lighter in tone but still had a dramatic edge. Aragones/Evanier’s version is more comic in tone and has no dramatic edge. Paul Smith’s artwork is well done and his story telling abilities are top notch, but the style he uses is more of a cartoon style. He maintains the fluidness of his old X-Men days, but not the more realistic style that he had for that work. I’m probably saying it wrong, but Smith’s work is still great, just different, but suiting the tone of the book perfectly. I’m still just not sure if this portrayal of the Spirit is one that is appealing to me, but it is slowly winning me over.
X-Men First Class #11 – Writer Jeff Parker, Art Nick Dragotta, Colors Val Staples. This was my least favorite issue in this series to date. It was all pure fun with “The Continuiteens” as Jeff Parker had an issue indulging a pure humor whim of his (I guess). It was about a group of teens who were acting as guardians of Marvel continuity and enlisted the help of the X-Men to set things right. It was a lot of fun and very light hearted, just not as good as what has been going on in this book. It reminded me of some of Dan Slott’s work when She-Hulk was a good title, just not what I have come to expect from this series.
Countdown to Final Crisis #1 – Head Writer Paul Dini, Keith Giffen Story Consultant, Pencils Tom Derencik, Inks Wayne Faucher, Colors Pete Pantazis. Talk about ending with a whimper. The last issue of this series was at least consistent with the rest of the series, pretty much a waste of space. It capped the series about nothing with nothing. My favorite nothing bit was the “Challengers” going to monitor central and telling them they will be watching them. The group of four was Ray Palmer Atom, Donna Troy, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner and Forager the bug girl. This is a group sure to scare ultra powerful beings, what a joke. Thankfully Donna has a life in the new Titans book and Kyle is busy in the GL Corps.

That wraps up this week and I’m looking forward to tomorrow to pick up the Adam Strange archives and what appears to be another strong week of titles. On a side note I’m happy to see the Orioles are at least playing well if not outright competitive. I don’t think they are winning anything this year, but I think it will be more fun to see them grow over the course of the year. As for the Ravens the first two draft choices were not what I would call great, but only time will tell.

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