I had felt like I had been in a bit of a malaise with comics lately. For about three or four weeks it was hard to find a “best book”. I chalked some of it off just a run of decent books, but nothing great. Also when reviewing things so many factors play a role and my own personal state of mind plays a role. Still since other fans I talk to hadn’t had their socks knocked off by much for that time frame I felt it must be the books more then me. Happily that time seems to be over and this week, like last week had plenty of excellent books to choose for a best book. I’d rather it be more difficult to choose a best book because of many choices, than have a best book be a default book.
Dead She Said #1 (of 3) – Writer Steve Niles, Art Bernie Wrightson, Colors Grant Goleash. Are you kidding me, Bernie Wrightson doing pencil and inks – WOW. Bernie is in a class with maybe one or two other artists, but I think he is in the Frank Frazetta and Dave Stevens class of lush and beautifully detailed line work. This issue is laid out great, wonderful page designs and just drops dead gorgeous art. The story is a horror tale and that just puts Bernie in his element. One picture is showing our main character’s intestines hanging out of his stomach it makes your skin crawl. One day I will have to own a page of original art from him, I just need to win the lottery. The story itself is also well done. We start with a hard boiled private eye straight out of a film noir central casting waking up remembering last night’s hang over. He wakes up and realizes his blood is all over the bed, his intestines are coming out of him and rigor mortis has set in. It dawns on him he is dead and he is pissed. A second story is shown where a family on a camping trip has the parents attacked by what appear to be monster ants. We then cut back to our dead detective who finds his apparent murderer dead and what appears to be a large blade or bug arm in his murderer’s apartment. This book is a great one right from the start. BUY IT OR REGRET IT!
Superman / Batman #48 – Writers Michael Green & Mike Johnson, Pencils Shane Davis, Inks Matt Banning, Colors Alex Sinclair. This series is flat out unbelievable, in a good way. The Kryptonite saga has been the best arc this book has ever seen and this issue was great. Superman is fighting a modified soldier who has been given Doomsday DNA combined with Kryptonite. The battle takes them across Kansas and into Smallville. Batman is back talking down the other members of Amanda Waller’s strike force and turns them into his allies in helping to stop the Doomsday creature known as the “All American Boy”. Michael Greene cuts it close with some of his internal monologue of Bruce and Clark as being a little too dramatic, but the book flat out works. The end point of this issue has Batman finding All American Boy’s parents and a spark of humanity still resides in him and he stops fighting. Superman got the crap kicked out of him, but fought a holding action until Batman could help him. The art by Shane Davis and Matt Banning is incredible. Shane is moving up into probably my top five super hero artists list. Page after page after page of some beautiful shots make this a book to get for the art alone. Also the productions values on this book are very high and some nice special effects worked really well. One that comes to mind is the smoke coming off Superman as he is hit and then slides across a road. The colorist nailed this book also and with the quality of the paper it is a vibrant color that looks great. Anytime I’m reading a DC super hero book and the colors blow me away, almost all the time it is Alex Sinclair. If you have skipped this series, pick up the trade or hard cover of this arc, because it has been a terrific story. I can’t wait for the final chapter next issue.
Scalped #17 – Writer Jason Aaron, Art R.M. Guera, Colors Giulia Brusco. Almost every issue of this series ends up on my short list of best books of the week. This issue is no exception as we get to the conclusion of the “Dead Mothers” arc. The raw and powerful emotions that this book evokes are so palatable that it is almost draining to read an issue. The story starts with the young man whose mother was killed and Dash had befriended lying dead on the ground. He had tried to kill the man who had killed his mother and was killed instead. Dash arrives as the man is being arrested and at first is just devastated over what has happened to the boy. He shots the man and wounds him in the arm and leg before the police of the local jurisdiction stop him. Chief Red Horse is burying Dash’s Mom and Dash is nowhere to be found. Red Horse hires Officer Falls Down to find the killer of Gina Bad Horse no matter what it takes. We find Dash at a bar in full self-destruct mode getting drunk, provoking a fight and getting the crap kicked out of him. He ends up back at his mother’s home and breaks down into tears. This is a very emotional and powerful issue that rips out your guts as you can’t help but to empathize with Dash. The two page epilogue threw me a little as I did not recognize who the character was or who they had killed and I don’t think I was suppose to know him. Finally I liked that the arc is not a neat clean ending where this episode ends, this is one long continuing story. Scalped is the best work by a writer who has become a star rapidly in this business and if you are not reading it you are making a mistake.
Justice Society of America #15 – Story Geoff Johns and Alex Ross, Writer Alex Ross, Pencils Dale Eaglesham, Inker Prentis Rollins, Colors Alex Sinclair. This issue the JSA and the Kingdom Come Superman are fighting Gog. It was a terrific super hero battle against an impossibly strong foe. Obsidian can’t find any fears to exploit, so he goes inside Gog and blinds him. Gog fires his staff into himself to get rid of Obsidian. Hero after hero attack Gog and he continued to fend them off. We cut back to the mansion and Sandman is recovering with other downed members and tells Rick that they are not battling Gog. As a group of the JSA is attacking the bad guy he teleports and Sandman goes into the earth to join them. In the wilderness a great stone face being rises up and absorbs the bad guy. He looks to be 25 feet tale and announces to the JSA that he comes in peace and apparently he is Gog. The next issue we start the story line One World Under Gog. The art on this book is right up there with any other super hero artist you want to mention. Dale keeps raising his game and I think he is already in the top tier of super hero artists. The double page spread where almost every JSA member is running to attack who we thought was Gog is stunning and contains 14 characters. The story is exciting as you don’t know if we are heading for a Kingdom Come world or not. Add to that the one page 4 panel tease for what is coming next year and you have a book that I can’t wait to read every month. One thing that always lets you know a book is a hit with you is when you are upset that it ended and you have to wait another month before you get more.
DC Wildstorm Dreamwar #2 (of 6) – Writer Keith Giffen, Pencils Lee Garbett, Inks Trevor Scott, Colors Randy Mayor & Gabe Eltaeb. What sounded like a total throw away mini-series has to be one of the better surprise mini-series of the year so far. First off the art work is flat out gorgeous. Lee Garbett just gets better and better. With Giffen as writer, I’m sure much of the layout and design is his work and Giffen is a master story teller, but Lee’s pencils are great. Also this book has such a large cast and he gets almost each and every character right. Trevor Scott is a strong inker and that just makes the book look even better. The story has DC hero groups (Titans, LOSH, JLA and JSA) attacking many of the Wildstorm groups. It is apparent that someone is controlling the DC heroes, because they are not acting like heroes at all. This series is giving us a classic slam bang fight between heroes with a very good story and beautiful art.
Hellblazer #244 – Writer Andy Diggle, Layouts Giuseppe Camuncoli, Finishes Stefano Landini, Colors Lee Loughridge. Has this book ever been better then it is right now? When you’re reading a series in the here and now, you probably forget how good it has been under the pen of many other terrific writers, but god this series is fricking great right now. Andy Diggle has John as the ultimate con artist and self serving bastard around. Since he has a heart buried under it all we can still root for him and often the people who he screws with are worse then he is, so we can cheer against them. I loved how we had this big mystic showdown between John and some demon and after last issue you were wondering what was going on and you find out it was all a set-up to get a certain book out of the Vatican. The art work was well done also and while I think Manco is a better Hellblazer artist, we lost nothing but having this team serve as guest artist. I think a lot of credit goes to the colorist Lee Loughridge for using a certain color palette that makes the book always have a similar feel.
War is Hell The First Flight of the Phantom Eagle #3 (of 5) – Writer Garth Ennis, Art Howard Chaykin, Colors Brian Reber. Someone should just chain Garth Ennis to his keyboard and tell him he has to write war stories for the rest of his career. He always does his best work on war stories. Karl Kauffman is a naïve soul who is in over his head and he has finagled his way into being an aviator during WWI. We are seeing this well meaning man-child start to come into his own on a personal level. He is learning about life and war itself. At the same time he is becoming an accidental hero. When we first met him we thought he was just a buffoon, but we are learning that there is more to him then that and he is learning about this war as we are learning about him. Chaykin is doing an outstanding job on the art, and his stylized art works on this story. The big plus is Chaykin’s airplane drawing skills are terrific and an obvious plus for the story. This series has been a nice little gem so far and I look forward to the next two issues.
Catwoman #79 – Writer Will Pfeifer, Pencils David Lopez, Inks Alvaro Lopez, Colors Jeromy Cox. Selina shows up back in Gotham and then takes off the find Slam and saves him from the kid who can make duplicates of himself. Selina and Slam take the kid back to his office and Selina cons the kid into thinking he escaped and shot Catwoman. The whole scam on Selina’s part was to have the kid run back to the thief as she wants to pay him back from stealing everything from her. Another great issue in this series and I hate that it is ending soon, but I’m guessing the whole Bat-verse is being turned upside down with Batman RIP. I liked that no effort was spent to explain how she got back, as that will all be explained in Salvation Run and was unnecessary in Selina’s story. This is flat out a great series that delivers month in and month out. The art work by David and Alvaro Lopez is just top notch art work and they certainly have managed to be reliable. I would love to see this art team get a high profile job after Catwoman and taking over on Superman would be my choice.
Ghost Rider #23 – Writer Jason Aaron, Art Roland Boschi, Colors Dan Brown. Let’s start off talking about the art. The first page is a three panel layout with the top half being a beautiful shot of Johnny Blaze on his motorcycle with the kid hanging on for dear life. The entire picture is great, but the bike with licks of flame around the bottom is gorgeous. Then we have the crash of two cars and a bus, a scene where Ghost Rider cuts through a bus and ends with a single panel shot of Danny Ketch on his motorcycle. Jason Aaron’s script is hard edged, touches of humor and insane menaces is what is selling me on this book a lot, but make no mistake Roland Boschi’s art is just a big a part of what makes this book really shine, so I hope he is back after the next story arc. Ghost Rider has to be one of Marvel’s better series right now and with Iron Fist losing their creative team, it maybe in the top three for all of Marvel’s series.
Fall of Cthulhu #12 – Writer Michael Allan Nelson, Art Mateus Santolouco, Colors Cris Peter. This series continues to impress. This arc is about The Gray Man and he is pissed that his knife, which serves as his talisman, has been stolen. He is in the process of killing anyone associated with it in order to find it. The Gray Man is a supernatural being and after this issue it is obvious he cannot be beaten by conventional means. The sheriff enlists the aid of the young woman Lucifer who places his police car in a circle of runes to protect them from the Gray Man and sends the sheriff into the Dreamlands. From prior issues you know it will cost the sheriff a lot to get what he needs to stop the Gray Man. At the same time each arc works by itself, the entire series is tying together and you feel like it is building towards some sort of ultimate climax. I like this series because it works as a slasher and psychological type horror story.
Madame Mirage #6 (of 6) – Writer Paul Dini, Art Kenneth Rocafort, Colors Imaginary Friends Studios. This was a very good mini-series. It holds together better as a whole story better then it does as individual chapters. The massive delays between issues might be part of the problem, but I liked the book more and more the further we got into the series. Harper is successful in bringing down the bad guys, but since she killed someone in the process, she has decided to disappear and go off the radar. The art by Kenneth Rocafort was well done, but at times I thought he overdid some of his page designs and it was almost like adding too many special effects in a movie. His art is good enough that he should use a more straight forward approach except when needed. The impact of playing with the page design looses something when overused. Definitely a book that I will look to pick up the trade on as it is a keeper. I know this is planned to be a series of mini-series, but I’m unsure what would motivate Harper to continue as a more traditional super hero.
Birds of Prey #118 – Writer Tony Bedard, Pencils Nikola Scott, Inks Doug Hazelwood, Colors Hi-Fi. This was a nice start to Tony Bedard coming aboard as the new writer. Instead of focusing on Oracle and the setting up of their new headquarters he focuses on Black Alice and Misfit. I thought this was a good choice and enjoyed seeing these two being caught by the Dark Side Club. It was also neat to see that the New Gods are coming back the way Grant Morrison had them in his Mister Miracle series that was part of the Seven Soldiers concept. Add to that the twist that we find out that Alice and Misfit are related by blood and you have a very good story. Alice says she hates Misfit, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out long term. The Birds of Prey manages to always be a great read and I think a lot of credit has to go to Chuck Dixon who created the concept.
Robin #174 – Writer Chuck Dixon, Pencils Chris Batista, Inks Cam Smith and Rick Ketcham, Colors Guy Major. The bulk of the issue is Robin, Spoiler and Violet fighting against a North Korean gang, but you know going in this is all about learning who Spoiler is so the fight was almost perfunctionary. Robin calls in Batman after Spoiler takes off and they both show up at her doorstep and she unmasks and it is Stephanie. Batman states that he had serious questions about her death and that is what he never put up a memorial. Since they killed her off so quickly, bringing her back is not that big of a stretch. Of course if it was really planned to be this way they would have dropped hints during the time when she was “killed”. All in all I’m happy to see her back and I’m very curious to see how she will fit into the Batman world at this point. Also how will this play out with Batman RIP. This is one of DC’s better series and Chuck Dixon just does a great job with Tim Drake.
Casey Blue Beyond Tomorrow #1 (of 6) – Writer B. Clay Moore, Pencils Carlo Barberi, Inks Jacob Eguren, Colors Darlene Royer. I ordered this book, but was almost ready to cancel it before I even read it and I’m not sure why, but it felt like it was going to be too generic. I was wrong. This was a great opening act. We start with the funeral of the main character and cut away to Casey watching her funeral from a tree. We then cut to a person garbed in leather coming through an “authority” type doorway on Casey’s date of birth and then cut to her in high school. We learn a little of Casey and her family and then we see her having headaches. She is knocking on someone’s door and then when the guy answers she starts to kick the crap out of him. We cut away again and she is in her car and comes out of her trance when her cell phone rings and she is covered in blood. Obviously someone took control of her and she has super powers. Everything else and every other question you have are left as a mystery. Carlo Barberi has a very clean line and pleasing style that I always enjoy and B. Clay Moore knows how to write a comic book and is becoming a “rising star’ in my mind. This was a terrific start to this series and I’m very happy to be aboard.
Echo #3 – Story and Art Terry Moore. This issue is all about giving us more background on our cast of characters. We find out Julie lost her family a couple of years ago and she only has her sister left and she is a basket case and has been institutionalized. Her estranged spouse wants nothing more to do with her and he made that clear when she went to visit him. The liquid metal suit that has bonded to Julie has her seeking out someone to help her cope with it. At the same time the same time we learn more about the park ranger who will be a major character, see more of the military’s plans to come after her and find out another person has a piece of the suit bonded to them. Also and a very important story element, we are told that the suit makes someone into a walking atom bomb. This was a slower paced, but necessary issue that gives us depth to our cast before moving forward with the story.
Pigeons from Hell #2 (of 4) – Writer Joe R. Lansdale, Art Nathan Fox, Colors Dave Stewart. This continues to be a good little horror story. This issue it appears that the only ones left from the group of friends is the two sisters who inherited this haunted mansion. The issue starts with Jason waking Sally and he decides he is going upstairs because he thinks he heard something. Jason tells Sally to stay behind and she is happy to do so. It is always a bad idea to go off by on your own in the creepy haunted mansion. Jason returns with an axe in his head and proceeds to take it out and attack the rest of the group. The two sisters save Sally and the sisters run out into the swamp and are attacked by ghosts. A bounty hunter runs across the sisters and they go back into the house and after a lot of trouble managed to kill the already dead Jason, who has hacked up their injured friend. We now have the sisters and the bounty hunter left in the house and we have no clue what has happened to Sally. The art by Nathan Fox is appropriately gruesome and has a nice vibe that really fits the story. All in all this is turning out to be a solid horror story and makes me want to read the source material by Howard.
Grendel Behold the Devil #7 (of 8) – Writer/Artist Matt Wagner. What a fast read this issue was and it felt like the end of the mini-series, yet we have a final issue. Grendel discovers the demon that has being following him around. He has the demon under his control and asks him why he is following him. The demon tells Grendel that Hunter has been his special pet for years and that he has been following Hunter since his birth. Enraged Grendel breaks the circle and the demon attacks and hits Grendel with venom that gives him a vision of the Grendel legacy and how wide and far it will grow. Once home Hunter no longer feels the demon’s presence and throws out his journal pages relating to the experience. I know we have to wrap up the reporter and police officer story line and such, but the last panel was him burning the pages and it could have ended there if we didn’t have a small sub-plot or two left. I’m sure Wagner has another rabbit to pull out of the hat for the finale. This has been a good series and I will get the inevitable hard cover when it comes out.
Tangent: Superman’s Reign #3 (of 12) – Main Story: Writer Dan Jurgens, Pencils Jamal Ingle, Inks Robin Riggs, Colors Dom Regan. Back Up Story Writer Ron Marz, Pencils Fernando Pasarin, Inks Matt Banning, Colors Dom Regan. I don’t know why, but this book continues to be better then I expected. I guess that in the back of my mind I wasn’t sure how this could be pulled off and I also was not sure I want the regular DCU involved. This issue John Stewart and Wally help out in freeing the Atom from the fascist government of the Tangent Superman. While the two Flashes and others manage to free the Atom and escape, John Stewart is captured by Superman. At the same time on the regular DCU world the JLA has determined that Flash and GL are no longer on Earth. The back-up feature fits in perfectly bringing us further up to speed on what has happened on the Tangent Universe Earth. So far this has been a well structured story and continues to pull you in and build interest.
Gutwrencher #3 (of 3) – Story – Keith Giffen, Steve Niles and Shannon Eric Denton, Writer Shannon Eric Denton, Art Anthony Hightower, Colors Carols Badilla. This was a nice end to this little slasher flick. It ended the way all good horror flicks end with the bad guy biting the dust and then an epilogue showing that the spirit had inhabited another body and the new possessed person was about to go on a killing spree. It had all the clichés that you come to expect in this type of story but it was done so well and was so entertaining that you didn’t care how cliché ridden it was. Just goes to show that you can tell one of these stories and make it enjoyable if you give us some decent characters and have good cinematography. I’m not saying the art was the best in actual rendering, but the layouts, design and coloring all did a very good job with this story.
Dynamo 5 #13 – Writer Jay Faerber, Art Mahmud Asrar, Color Ron Riley. This issue is setting up a test of the group. Maddie, who brought them together apparently, has had her brain short circuited and the Dr. Noble now has her under her care. During the battle last issue Myriad was knocked out and reverted to his true form, which is obviously not human. Once Maddie is safely under Dr. Noble’s care the other kids confront Myriad and he reveals his origin. Captain Dynamo bedded an alien woman after helping to fix a stranded space ship. She came to Earth and gave Captain Dynamo the child and he dumped him with the FLAG organization. Some group members feel betrayed and arguments ensue and they all go their separate ways. It is a classic story for a super hero group and a nice way to show the group is a group and no longer five strangers, as the group will most likely come back together on their own accord. Knowing how manipulative Maddie is portrayed, I wonder if she is faking the extent of her injury to test the strength of the group bond.
Flash #240 – Writer Tom Peyer, Art Freddie Williams II, Colors Tanya and Richard Horie. This was another good issue. The pace of this story is appropriately fast. Spin has somehow called in Gorilla Grodd. Now we last saw him going to his death in Salvation Run, so I liked that we got a reason why he was alive thrown in. Anyway, we have Spin and Grodd and the city going out of control acting out all the scare stories TV news constantly pumps out. Jay and Wally are trying to stop all of that madness. While Jay and Wally are occupied the twins get captured by the Dark Side Club. I already like the idea that the New Gods are coming back as humans on Earth as Grant had them in his Mr. Miracle mini-series. It is a nice way to have these characters as part of the DCU without being “gods” at this point. Once captured Iris while knocked out apparently goes into another accelerated aging cycle and appears to now be a young woman. Flash is back as a book to add to your list.
X-Factor #31 – Writer Peter David, Art Pablo Raimondi, Colors Jeromy Cox. This was a solid issue. As a series I think this book is not as good as it once was, but it is still a relatively strong series, but it is starting to lose my interest. I believe that the “Messiah Complex” interruption and events have really taken the steam out of the direction this book was going. At one time it was a story about the individual members lives and the occasionally circumstance that required them to fight off a menace. With the loss of Wolfsbane, Layla and the addition of the “M” tattoo on Jamie’s face from Messiah Complex events the book feels like it has been cut from its moorings and adrift. This issue itself was interesting as Mutant Town is blowing up and X-Factor is doing the best they can to save some people still in that section of the city, but I no longer know what this adventure does or has to do with the team itself. David is a strong writer and I will give him a couple more issues, but the book needs a direction again. Another saving grace is the strong art work of Pablo, whose dark style suits this book well and creates an almost “film noir” atmosphere.
Brave and Bold #13– Writer Mark Waid, Pencils Jerry Ordway, Inks Scott Koblish and Bob McLeod, Colors Rob Schwager. This series has a definite throwback feel to it, in that it is telling stories in more of the tradition of the silver age, but written much stronger and of course very good art work with Jerry Ordway. I like the way Mark Waid created a natural pairing of Batman and Jay Garrick, but having Batman investigating a murder in Gotham, but it was a protégé of Jay’s from his personal life. T.O. Morrow is using chemically enhanced robots and Batman and the Flash battle against them. The good guys win, but the best moments are about the relationship between Jay and Bruce. This was a very enjoyable one and done issue and was just a rock solid comic.
Iron Man Director of Shield #29 – Writer Stuart Moore, Pencils Roberto de la Torre & Carlos Pagulayan, Inks Roberto de la Torre & Jeffrey Huet, Colors Dean White. I was all set to drop this book as after the last arc and with a new writer I figured it was a good time to cut this book loose, but Stuart Moore’s story dragged me right back in. Tony as Iron Man has a team of Iron Men lights helping him on a mission to stop a terrorist who has same insane nanotechnology. At the same time a disgruntled Shield agent is going after the Overkill Horn which is from a Shield story from way back. A nice set-up and a solid adventure with some strong art work and I’m sticking on this title.
End League #3 – Writer Rick Remender, Pencils Matt Broome, Inks Sean Parsons, Colors Wendy Broome. I was all set to drop this book, but seeing the remaining End League members continue to soldier forward even after Astonishing Man is killed made me want to hang around a little longer. The bi-monthly publishing schedule for a book this dense when I read as many books as I do is a killer for me and I may have to switch to trades on this series.
1001 Arabian Nights The Adventures of Sinbad #1 – Writer Dan Wickline, Art Paolo Pantalena, Colors Nei Ruffino. This is another Zenoscope product and these are the people who are famous (infamous) for all the good girl covers and art. Lee complains about me always mentioning these guys, but often they are entertaining comics. Very seldom is this going to be the best thing going and often the women they portray are over sexed perfect women, but often the stories are fun, the art work is decent and they are fast reads, once in a while they produce some gems. This issue was a good starting point for a Sinbad adventure. Sinbad is trying to beat a bad murder charge and is on a quest to gather the necessary artifacts to make a visor that can prove his innocence. The first island they get to has a witch queen who runs the place. Sinbad gets invited into her private quarters and Sinbad is looking for a fun night as he is double dealing the queen. It is a fun action/adventure set in the mythical time of Aladdin. The one thing that is driving me insane is the smile they give Sinbad, it is so odd looking as to be disturbing. Again not a book to set your world on fire, but entertaining and lots of hot looking women.
Captain America #38 – Writer Ed Brubaker, Pencils Steve Epting, Inks Mike Perkins and Steve Epting, Colors Frank D’Armata. This issue absolutely nothing happens. We continue to tread water to make this story line last to issue #50 (my guess) and somehow I think it should have ended by issue #40. Seriously this story feels so stretched out it is insane. Worse, since it is well written it is not like Ed is phoning in a script like Loeb does with two page splash ever third page. The scarred Captain America is revealed as the fifties’ Captain America, the Red Skull’s candidate for President gives a speech; Bucky and Falcon break up some operation of Arnim Zola, that’s it. Finally, can someone explain how Falcon’s wings work now, as they appeared and disappeared a lot. A well written and well drawn series that would be best enjoyed as a trade or longer collection.
Pilot Season Twilight Guardian – Writer Troy Hickman, Art Reza, Colors Imaginary Friends Studios. If every a comic has been written about someone trying to be a “real” super hero this one was it. The Twilight Guardian is a young lady who every night puts on a hooded jacket and a domino mask and patrols her neighborhood. She reads an old comic for inspiration, carries a roll of quarters for weight in case she gets in a fight. By day she works at a dry cleaner and we learn she at least has a mother for family. There was something so sad and almost pathetic about this character and at the same time you felt her trying to find some sort of nobility and truth in her life. One view of the book would be that absolutely nothing happened; another is that you got to see what a real person would be like in trying to bring justice to their little part of the world. A book that stays with you as you feel this girl is so sad and lonely and you want to know what made her the way she is now. The one thing that bothered me was a practical bit, that could be explained away by many things, but has does she live in a nice house on her own and just is a worker at a dry cleaner. In a world saturated by super heroes I think this book will be hard pressed to win the “Pilot Season” contest, but it would make a nice original graphic novel.
Justice League of America #21 – Writer Dwayne McDuffie, Pencils Carlos Pacheco, Inks Jesus Merino, Colors Pete Pantazis. This issue we have Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman meeting as a secret sub-group of the JLA. This is just insane and really does not fit the characters’ personality at all. Some of the dialogue between the characters was funny as Batman calls it a “Star Chamber” and other bits were cute, but it does not ring true. The whole “Trinity” thing is an interesting concept as these are the three big names at DC, but that does not mean they are the rulers of the super-heroes or Overseers of the DCU. It feels very forced. The rest of the story was about the Human Flame and how he almost escapes fighting Red Arrow and Hawkgirl, but is about to be beaten when Libra shows up and saves him. We then see that Libra has gathered a large group of villains and is offering them their hearts desire if they buy into his scheme. First up to prove himself Libra is granting the Human Flame his heart’s desire which is the power to kill the Martian Manhunter. The story is to be continued in Final Crisis. This was an okay set-up, but the actual comic itself seems to have lost whatever direction it may have had. The JLA series itself has lost its identity.
Loveless #24 – Writer Brian Azzarello, Art Daniel Zezelj, Colors Lee Loughridge. This is the final issue of Loveless and while I enjoyed the story and the artwork was fantastic, I felt like it ended in the middle of the story. I’m not sure how all of this tied together and maybe one day I will read an interview with the writer that will explain it, but I really felt like the story ended in the middle. Since I’m not 100% sure if this is where the book was supposed to end or not, maybe sales forced the book to stop on issue #24 and they were unable to rework the story. Anyway it is certainly a book that was different and had some good experiments in how to tell a story, that will I’m sure be used by other writers in the future. Unfortunately the obtuse story telling made it impossible to determine what story was being told.
Mighty Avengers #14 - Writer Brian Bendis, Pencils Khoi Pham, Inks Danny Miki, Colors Dean White. First off, I can only hope the price code box has obscured or deleted the fact that this cover is an old John Buscema cover that has been lighted box or whatever and then skrullified. I mean come on how lame is it to constantly rip off these old covers, but even worse to have credits that say Cover Artist Marko Djurdjevic. I’m sure there are some fans who think this is his work. It is disrespectful of the artist who created the original, especially when it is a tracing of that cover for the most part. This issue was a Bendis talking issue where it was one long issue explaining how the Skrulls viewed the threat of the Sentry. Since it was mainly all skrulls talking no one having a “distinct voice” really mattered. The end game is that the Sentry is pushed over the edge and runs off to Saturn and goes catatonic and the void reappears as a good guy. This makes no sense at all and the whole Secret Invasion thing feels like the wheels are falling off. The artwork for this issue was a solid job by Khoi Pham and Danny Miki, but the actual story did not thrill me.
Countdown to Mystery #8 (of 8) – Eclipso Writer Matthew Sturges, Pencils Chad Hardin, Inks Robert Campenella, Colors Dan Brown. This was a decent series and a well done story. I liked that the Eclipso / Spectre War could only end if the human hosts ended it as the entities themselves were locked into a never ending battle. The one problem I have with the story is that Eclipso is back to being a merged being with Bruce Gordon, so in many ways we have just hit the re-set button on Eclipso and he is where he was when he first came into comics. Doctor Fate – Inspiration Steve Gerber. A really touching tribute to the late Steve Gerber by four sets of creators who ended the story in what they thought the Gerber style would have been. Ultimately they all left us with a new Dr. Fate struggling to figure out who he is and what to do with this power.
Checkmate #26 – Writer Bruce Jones, Pencils Manuel Garcia, Inks Travis Lanham, Colors Santiago Arcas. With Greg Rucka leaving the series and Bruce Jones taking over I was a little worried about what we were going to get. Bruce Jones is a competent writer, but he has failed to really hit any home runs for me in his work over the last few years. This issue was a good start to a new arc. A menace is starting up and hitting different parts of the word. It appears that the menace is taking the form of whatever culture it appears in. At the same time a soldier in Iraq is severely injured and is apparently lost all of his memory due to brain damage. Checkmate uses this raw material to make an “All Weather Soldier”. Due to an accident they instead create a creature that shifts form to match whatever type of creature attacks it. Also it appears that on some level he has not forgotten who he was as he has mentally reached out to his fiancé who was told he was dead. The new creature is called Chimera. You know going in that the Chimera will remember his past life and that can’t bode well for Checkmate as they created him. Also we already have so many great characters in Checkmate; I’m not sure why we needed to add another new character at this point. Still the bottom line is this was a good opening issue under the new writer.
Batman and the Outsiders #7 – Writer Chuck Dixon, Pencils Carlos Rodriquez, Inks Bit, Colors Marta Martinez. This was not a bad issue and as a series the book is showing small steps forward. This issue is almost 100% set-up as Batman has a group that has been captured and he is trying to pull together a rescue group. At the same time Metamorpho is stuck on a satellite and trying to survive all of these people who are under some sort of mind control. The pacing on this book is off and I know that has to be due to various editorial mandates that seem to be flying into this book left and right. Still I had two scenes which were great. One was Metamorpho getting smaller when he was stuck in space and needed to use his mass for oxygen. The shriveled up Metamorpho was funny looking and a nice spot of humor (regardless of worrying about science all of a sudden with this character). The second was Nightwing being called in by Batman to help him out. Love that the Bat-family acts more like a family in current continuity. This series is growing on me ever so slowly.
Spirit #17 – Cancelled – I had actually written a little diatribe about why I cancelled this comic but failed to save when I closed the document. The bottom line is the new creative team is doing a good job of presenting a light hearted and humorous take on the Spirit. It is not my vision of the character and therefore I have lost interest.
That’s a wrap on a strong week of comics and one book that got axed. The summer season kicks into high gear as both of the big two have their big event books cranking out during the summer months. I personally feel that Marvel has gone way overboard with all of their tie-in and cross-over and add on mini-series, but they will continue to do it as long as the sales justify it. Do me a favor and skip one of the cross-over or add on mini-series from the big two and try something new that you have not tried before, not just a different company try a western, a horror, a crime book, science-fiction or anything besides a super-hero book.