This week was severely skewed by stores in my region being shorted a bunch of books, that included a lot of Vertigo and Indies, so this week listings had chances for some different books to raise to the top half of my listings.
Final Crisis #2 (of 7) - Writer Grant Morrison, Art JG Jones, Colors Alex Sinclair. I had to read this comic twice to really try and get a reading on how I feel about this series and I’m still not 100% sure. It feels like the building of an immense menace and I think that is what Grant was going for. The last page showing Barry Allen trying to outrun the Black Racer and the god bullet is tremendous. JG Jones artwork is just flat out gorgeous and I wish this book was being published as an oversized comic version along side the regular book as I think the artwork would be even better looking. I mean the companies do gimmicks all the time and that will be one hell of a way to further the sales on this book by offering two formats. The story itself is working for me in that the tragedy of the event is that the heroes have no clue that evil has won already. This issue Batman is captured, Alpha Lantern Kraken is apparently overtaken by a god of Apokolips, John Stewart is attacked, Hal Jordan is arrested, Lois has been hurt by an explosion, Libra mentions he is not the boss and on it builds. As with any such book the ending will be how the series will be judged, but right now this book continues to build towards this Crisis, but does so like no other major event book has ever done before. What I’m really enjoying about this series is the overall feeling that the this is so big and has happened so quiet that the heroes have lost before they even begin.
Daredevil #108 – Writer Ed Brubaker & Greg Rucka, Art Michael Lark & Stefano Guardino, Colors Matt Hollingsworth. This was an excellent issue. Often bands get back together and they just play the old songs and maybe cut a new track or two, but it is never the same. Not so here, this is like the Gotham Central band got back together and they are better then ever. What a well written and beautifully illustrated book. This issue the mystery deepens as to why the bad guy Big Ben Donovan is willing to take the death penalty as opposed to fighting for his life. The great question by Matt and Dakota is, if he is innocent then the person who decapitated three children is still out there. Matt gets beat up by Big Ben. Dakota tracks down who assaulted her and he is a fed, who will tell her nothing. She goes home and her father tells her so is in some deep crap due to her stirring this up. Daredevil can’t get information from his sources and we find out Mr. Slaughter is behind this. Not being up on my Daredevil lore I have to assume he is an old foe of Daredevil. The issue ends with Big Ben trying to hang himself in his cell. The story has strong characterization, great use of many of the cast members, a sense of a true mystery and a book that leaves you wanting more. Daredevil is at the top of its game and the best it has been in years. I would love to see Rucka hang around as co-writer for awhile.
Green Lantern #32 – Writer Geoff Johns, Pencils Ivan Reis, Inks Oclair Albert with Julio Ferrerra, Colors Ramov Mayor. This was another excellent issue of Hal’s origin and Ivan Reis just continues to up the level of his art. Ivan is at times in this issue close to being another Neal Adams in some panels. This issue we get the origin of Hector Hammond, Tom discovering Hal’s secret identity, Hal getting back into piloting a plane, Hal meeting Sinestro and more hints of “The Darkest Night” story line that is coming in 2009. Johns is at his absolute best on this book and I can almost not even imagine any other writer touching the Hal Jordan character. I would really love to see the Sinestro War put together as one over sized volume and would like to see DC put out Johns run in this book in 12 issue run blocks. I never wanted Hal Jordan back, but Johns has made having Hal back worthwhile.
Hercules The Thracian Wars #3 (of 5) – Writer Steve Moore, Art Admira Wijaya, Colors Imaginary Friends Studios & Sixth Creation. This series continues to up the ante. I love how this book has the feel of being so epic in its scope and yet telling this tale of Hercules from the ground level. In this issue we see Hercules and his troops defend themselves from a trap. The defense succeeds, but one of Hercules companions is killed in the battle. We see the wrath of Hercules as he literally rips apart the man who killed his friend. This battle ends with Hercules and his troops taking out the main rebel against the Thracian King. Hercules is ready to leave, but King Cotys wants Hercules and his men to stay on. Under the command of Hercules and his men, the Thracian army has become powerful and dangerous. As Hercules goes to confront King Cotys he overhears the King’s new plans are to attack Zeus and Olympus itself. What a wonderful ending, how can you not get the next book. The art, the story, the production values, Radical comics are comics done right.
Batman Gotham After Midnite #2 (of 12) - Writer Steve Niles, Art Kelly Jones, Colors Michelle Marsden. This is such a wonderful book, with a great over the top story, matched by Kelly Jones wonderful exaggerations of Batman. First the story, Batman is searching after the person behind all of these events in his city. This issue he takes out Axe-Man and has a run in with Man-Bat who like Scarecrow before him is not following his normal M.O. We also see Batman confront Detective Clarkson who has taken credit for much of Batman’s work and Batman explains that he needs to the credit to build fear within the criminal element. The man behind all of this makes an appearance as he kills a failed operative and leaves his body on the hands of a large clock tower. The story reads so well and flows from chapter to chapter smooth as silk as writer Steve Niles has broken the issues into three chapters. Add the Kelly Jones artwork, with the impossible cape, the dark heavy shadows, the super long bat ears and the impossible physique of his Batman and you have one heck of a winning series. The icing on the cake is Michelle Marsden one of the top colorists in the industry.
Thunderbolts #121 - Writer Warren Ellis, Art Mike Deodato, Jr. , Colors Rain Beredo. Mike Deodato’s heavily realistic style and very heavy inking style jut carries this book on his back. When you break down Ellis’ story it was good, but the art is what carried this book. I did enjoy Songbird asserting herself at the end and Norman still having something to come back with against her, but the best part was the two big battles. Samson versus Moondragon and then the ultra cool fight between Songbird and the Green Goblin, both were outstanding stuff. Ellis always brings out the best in his artists. The deus ex machine of Bullseye killing all the telepaths to end things was a little too easy, but Ellis had to wrap it as he exited this book. I hate to see Ellis leave as his characterizations have been well done, but he has certainly left a lot for the next writers to play with in future issues.
X-Men First Class #13 – Writer Jeff Parker, Art Roger Cruz, Colors Val Staples. This book is now developing its own continuity and for me that is just fine. I have no desire to see this book shoe horn itself into overall Marvel continuity. Just let it play out its own natural stories and go from there. This issue Machine Man is being field tested by his creator Professor Stack. He believes interaction with other people would be good and seeks out the X-Men. At first the X-Men think Professor X is interviewing a student, Jean is upset they are trying to replace Warren who stayed in the hidden land he found last issue. The dynamics and interaction between Jean, Scott, Hank and Bobby is what makes this book. Then add it Machine Man who is acting more like the Warren Ellis version and you have some very funny moments. It is a two-part adventure (at least) and next issue we should see the results of them trying to track down some Lava Men. Parker is mining the old characters from Marvel and just having fun with this group. When Cruz is the artist the book is at its best as his layouts, camera angles, light line and fluid art just shine in this book. This is the best and most consistent X-book on the market. Plus it is the best all age read on the market for super hero books that I can think of, entertaining for me, not written down and I bet any child would enjoy it also. This would be the series I would be reading to my kids every month.
BPRD Ectoplasmic Man One Shoot (Or BPRD #45) - Writer Mike Mignola and John Arcudi, Art Ben Stenbeck. I wanted more of this story. This issue is the origin of the Ectoplasmic Man and we see Johann Kraus get killed and become a ghost. He is almost at a lost as to what to do now and is floating around as a ghost. Then he discovers a demon that feeds on dead souls which commits them to a fate worse then hell. Unable to eat Johann the demon just sends him away after mocking him that since Johann is a ghost he cannot pickup the bullet that was made to kill him. Prior to this Johann had rejected an offer from the BPRD to be given a suit that could contain his form, but now he comes back and accepts the offer. Now as the Ectoplasmic man Johann is shown headed back to the demon’s home. We don’t see it, but you know he can now touch the bullet and end the demon’s life. This was an excellent issue and another fine addition to the BPRD series.
Caliber #3 (of 5)- Writer Sam Sarkur, Art Garrie Gastonny, Colors Imaginary Friends Studios. This has been enjoyable series and the best part is each new issue is better then the last issue. Arthur and Whitefeather are on the run and being pursued by Lance. Lance catches up to them and Arthur shots the gun at him, but surprisingly does not kill him. Lance then joins with Arthur and they head back to where it all started. Arthur and Gwen see each other and realize how strong their affections are for each other and the romance begins. In the background the Duke is still pursuing Arthur with the help of Morgan. It is fascination watching the Camelot sage come to life in the old west. Each issue is building on the one before and the tapestry that is being woven becomes more then the sum of its parts. The artwork is gorgeous and obviously photo referenced, but made into part of the story as opposed to making me stop and try to guess who is cast as whom. The Radical signature with its first two series is high production values, quality art and stories that touch on our myths.
Ultimate Spider-Man #123 – Writer Brian Bendis, Pencils Stuart Immonen, Inks Wade von Grawbadger, Colors Justin Ponsor. This was another good issue. This is the only Spider-Man book that I get anymore and I usually always enjoy it. I skipped this book for a lot of years and I think that helps in my enjoyment as the perpetual teen-ager does get to be a little old (no pun intended). This issue is the return of Venom and I loved the way it was told as Eddie is on a bench and telling an old woman his story, next it is another person, then two young girls and it continues to change and you know what is happening, but in the last page we see Venom eat the person Eddie is talking to. The symbioite seems to want Peter again. Eddie had a brief battle with Peter this issue and it ended with Venom being forced away, where this will go should get interesting.
Superman #677 – Writer James Robinson, Pencils Reato Guedes, Inks Wilson Magalhaes, Colors Hi-Fi. The first issue by James Robinson starts on the quiet side. As many writers like to do when they start on a run where they expect to be around awhile they like to let us know how they view the main character. James gives us his take on Superman via a outer space game of playing catch with his dog as Hal Jordan is by his side. Superman talks about how great and blessed he feels to have such a great life and he is so lucky to have Lois in his life and the best dog in the world. Hal wonders how the greatest hero in the world can be so naïve and then wonders if Superman’s faith in such things is not what makes him so great. This was a well done introduction that clearly sets Robinson’s view of Superman. The rest of the issue we see the Metropolis Science Police (love the reference to the SP of Legion fame) battling a menace and Superman is not in sight. What appears to be Superman shows up and takes out the monster and then saves same people from the globe of the Daily Planet from crashing on them, but it turns out to be Atlas. The Atlas used in this book I believe is the version designed and used by Jack Kirby. Anyway Atlas is yelling for Superman and wants to apparently challenge him and the last panel Superman shows up. This was almost a quiet beginning, but a well written start that has me hopeful for James Robinson’s run on this book. I’m starting to accept Renato as the artist for this series, but I’m not 100% sold on it.
No Hero #0 (of 7) – Writer Warren Ellis, Art Juan Jose Ryp, Color Greg Waller. It was zero issue week for the independent books that I got (my list was affected by a Diamond shipping problem). Where Zenoscope’s zero is a ripoff, Avatar’s zero issue is a bargain and an essential part of the new series. We get eight pages of comic and eight pages of back story about the characters, the series and additional artwork. The premise is that this world’s super-heroes show up in the sixties and are products of a drug created by a hippie mad scientist. The heroes are all wearing gas masks in the sixties and as we move forward into the present we see they are wearing scuba gear. While the drug has given them super powers, what else it has done to them has yet to be fully explored, but the hints are that it is not good. This book has a great premise, well written and very good art. Chalk up another winning Avatar series by Warren Ellis.
Teen Titans #60 – Writer Sean McKeever, Pencils Eddy Barrows, Inks Ruy Jose, Colors Rod Reis. This book is starting to feel like it has a direction. This issue is the wrap-up of the battle of the Terror Titans vs. The Teen Titans. It ends up being a book that focuses heavily on Ravager as she saves Wonder Girl, but then Wonder Girl stops Ravager from maybe killing someone. Clock King can see a few seconds ahead, so he always knows what someone is going to do and is defeating the Teen Titans on his own even after they had taken out the Terror Titans. Ravager is apparently on an equal playing field with Clock King and he offers her a partnership which she rejects. After wrecking his plans the Clock King kicks the Teen Titans out before he can be defeated and the group goes home. Ravager overhears Wonder Girl and Robin saying her behavior is over the edge and she will need to be disciplined and she leaves the group. This is the best this book has been in awhile and I’m curious to see where we go from here and will pick up the Terror Titans book mini-series that is coming out as it will feature Ravager as she will apparently hook up with that group. It is nice to see the Teen Titans become a really strong series again.
New Avengers #42 – Writer Brian Bendis, Pencils Jim Cheung, Inks John Dell, Color Justin Ponsor. This issue is all about how and when Jessica Drew was taken out and replaced by the Skrull Queen. A side note after this event series is completely written I hope Bendis gets a little time off as he has written a ton of books for Marvel and big selling books. I hope he got a boatload of cash for his efforts. Back to the actual comic, it was a good issue. I believe the background stories are more interesting then the main series as discussed in detail on my Mighty Avenger review. What was great about this issue was Jim Cheung’s artwork and the ending where the skrull Spider-Woman is caught up in House of M and the end of this issue we see her being wiped out by the reality wave (or whatever you want to call it of Wanda’s). Of course we have seen her in recent issues frelling with Tony Stark so we now she makes it out alive, still it was a good ending.
Mighty Avengers #15 – Writer Brian Bendis, Breakdowns John Romita Jr., Finishes Klaus Janson & Tom Palmer, Colors Edgar Delgado & Guru EFX. – This issue is all about when Hank Pym was taken out and replaced and what he did prior to the war. It is good background stuff, but since I wan never that invested in the New Avengers the timelines become a little muddled for me, but it still works to build a sense of menace. Of course we have no clue if Hank Pym is dead or not, but it is not a bad issue. In fact the background stories in Mighty and New Avengers are much better then the actual mini-series. They have better art and a more coherent story. After reading this and New Avengers this week it struck me that the whole Secret Invasion thing would have been much better if we knew about it and the characters in the book did not know about it. Then we as readers would have known the menace was coming and could hope our heroes would have spotted the trouble coming. It actual begs the question if they really knew long ago who was going to be a skrull and who wasn’t. I have a feeling some of it was fast and loose and often I assume not all the writers knew a character they were using was a skrull. But the easy out is they had taken over that identity so of course we never knew they were a skrull. The way the skrulls take the identity of a character is truly a comic book type thing and very hokey. Interesting in the Captain Marvel series it was not done the same way. I believe the whole thing would have played better if we knew about who was a skrull and who wasn’t and then the build up could have been Secret Invasion and the big series could have been the Earth/Skrull War of the Worlds.
Pigeons From Hell #3 (of 4) – Writer Joe R. Lansdale, Art Nathan Fox, Colors Dave Stewart. This four part mini-series has been structured very well. Each issue has events that occur and we move the story forward also. I never get the middle chapter syndrome in this book. This issue via an old man in the forest who is versed in witchcraft, we get the whole distributing history of the house and who all the ghosts are that are following the sisters. He gives them some information and a mirror that can help them against the mistress of the mansion. As they leave the Old Man’s circle of protection had been broken and he is killed by some thing. Next issue can the girls and the bounty hunter with them save Sally and beat the house?
X-Men Legacy #213 – Writer Mike Carey, Pencils Scott Eaton, Inks Andre Hennessy, Colors Frank D’Armata. The actual story and ideas in these stories have been interesting. It is almost like Mike Carey is exploring what is identity; Philip Dick would probably enjoy the underlying themes. First we have Professor X seeking out people to fill in the gaps in his memories so he can discover who he is again. In the midst of that search we find out Mr. Sinister has placed his own genetic code inside young mutant children in case he was killed a machine would activate his code and allow him to be reborn in someone else’s body. Charles Xavier is one of those children. It was during a battle with Gambit. Sebastian Shaw and some generic henchmen Professor X is captured and then shot by Dr. Mueller, who is an enemy of Mr. Sinister. Charles lies bleeding out and we see him battling Mr. Sinister in his mind. Gambit shows up and Professor X now appears to be possessed / overtaken by Mr. Sinister. What makes us who we are, our memories; can they be overwritten by someone else’s genetic code? I don’t like how much of a victim Xavier has become, but the themes are fascinating ones. This book has become my second favorite x-book overtaking X-Factor.
Conan The Cimmerian #0 - Writer Tim Truman, Art Tomas Giorello, Colrs Jose Villarrubia. Another nice zero issue. 16 pages of story and art, that served as a bridge from the end of the first Conan run to the new re-launched Conan series. It is debatable if they needed to give Conan a new #1, but it was a nice way to serve notice that Conan is moving in the middle phase of his life. The beginnings of his life were the thief, now we move to the mercenary and pirate phase of his life as Conan has gotten a little older and wiser. This story showed him going home to Cimmerian and defending it from a raid from the Vanir, mixed in with some reminiscing showing what had come before. A real bargain for $1.
Captain America #39 – Writer Ed Brubaker, Art Rob De La Torre. Colors Frank D’Armata. Okay I constantly complain about the pace on this book, so let’s see what happened this issue. Bucky and Sam are sparing and talk about what they found battling Zola, which was some high tech stuff. Bucky wants to save Sharon. The 50’s Captain America shows up and beats up some people who were hired to attack the Red Skull’s presidential candidate and then backs the candidate on TV. People think this maybe the real Cap coming back to life. Sharon escapes her hospital bed and has Sin as a hostage trying to again escape the Red Skull. Bucky goes snooping and the 50’s Cap shows up and a battle is about to begin. Also this issue we get a new artist and it appears this work was rushed and/or shot from pencils and then colored by the “King of Muddy Coloring” Frank D’Armata. This book is moving like a snail going up a salt covered hill. It is also very disappointing to hear that Steve Epting will not be the main artist on this book anymore as apparently Luke Ross will be soon. I want to stay on this book, but I think just buying the every 25 issue Omnibus maybe the way to go with this book.
Trinity #4 – Front Story Writer Kurt Busiek, Pencils Mark Bagley, Inks Art Thibert, Colors Pete Pantazis, Backup Story – Writers Kurt Busiek & Fabian Nicieza, Pencils Mike Norton, Finishes Jerry Ordway, Dream Sequence Pencils Scott McDaniel, Inks Andy Owens, Colors Allen Passalaqua. The front story is rolling along and almost comes across as a JLA adventure with the big three being just the main spotlighted characters. Konvict and Graak are interesting bad guys. We have Konvict as the big strong brute and Graak as the annoying mastermind and almost evil Jiminy Cricket character. We still have Morgan La Fey and Enigma in the background watching the fight, we see WW get tagged with something which will have implications down the road, but it still just feels like a normal JLA adventure and I want it to be more. I know we had the mysterious cosmic entity coming to Earth and it is a good beginning, but I think it should be a little more sooner. The backup story about Tarot seems to be also giving us a preview of Despero’s return to earth. I thought the back-up stories where going to be a little more about the big three, but it is supporting the main story line and I assume will merge with the main story line as the one shot backup of John Stewart did. I’m not committed to the entire run yet, but it is an enjoyable book so far. I heard this has been placed in continuity after Final Crisis, I hope that is not true as I don’t need things placed in continuity all the time, this can just be a good Trinity story and does not have to have long reaching effects in the DCU. The consistency of having one artist on the main story is a god send and helps this book immensely; Bagley is a true gem and a rare fast artist.
Uncanny X-Men #499 – Writer Ed Bubaker, Artists Mike Choi & Ben Oliver, Colors Sonia Oback & Jason Keith. This issue ends the “feeling groovy” story line as we find out that Martinque Wyngarde was the person changing San Francisco into a hippie dream version of itself. This is one of my problems with the X-Men. Not only did I skip this book for a few years, I did not follow every single x-title for my entire life, so I never even knew Mastermind had a family, much less such an extensive one. I wonder if she is as beautiful as she is portrayed or like Dad, has an illusion of herself always being cast. Anyway the good guys win and the Mayor of San Fran offers them a home on the West Coast. At the same time Wolverine, Colossus and Nightcrawler take out Omega Red and get the call to head back to a new home. I’m only reading a few x-books, but the continuity with all of these books never lines up. Also it feels like there is no coherent direction with the X-Men. I’m not even sure why I’m still buying these books. The only book consistently entertaining and well done is X-Men First Class. One last little gripe. This snippet of dialogue occurred in the midst of a battle. Cyclops “Emma! Watch your flank!” Emma: “My what? That had better not mean what I think it does Scott or you won’t be seeing any flank at all when we get out of this.” How stupid. Emma would certainly know what flank means and in a battle would not take umbrage to it. Instead of being cute and funny it came off as bad dialogue.
Immortal Iron Fist #16 – Writer Matt Fraction, Art David Aja, Colors Matt Hollingsworth. In what has to be one of the strangest ways to hand a book off, Iron Fist ends his run with Fraction alone at the helm and driving the book directly into the ground. The great artwork by Aja could not pull this losing issue out of the fire. First we see Danny running around teaching kids in a Dojo in Harlem and he has a wonderful program designed to solve all the ills in the world. Fraction comes off in this issue like a preachy far left liberal who thinks all the ills of the worlds come from big bad corporations; all kids are just blank slates waiting to be made into greatness. He has Danny trying to sell off and give away all the evil blood money that his multi-national corporation was based on. First off I do not need to be preached to this directly. If as a writer you have a world view and want to share do as part of the story. I know that these viewpoints of Fraction are such an oversimplification of the ills of the world as to make me retch reading it. Danny could do a hell of a lot of more good by using the power of running a huge multi-national corporation then he can by giving money away to causes. Money does not solve problems, live in Baltimore and watch the huge money drain we call the Baltimore City school system for proof that throwing money does not solve things. Second the overall premise that Danny discovers that all Iron Fists before him have died at 33 years old and that his 33rd birthday is how the issue ends. He does mention the prior Iron Fist disappeared at 33 – BUT HE DIDN’T DIE AT 33. This is how he hands it off to the new creative team. I like the Iron Fist character and will give the next team a one issue shot, but Fraction without Brubaker has been pretty poor, but together they were very entertaining.
Beyond Wonderland #0 (of 6) - Story Raven Gregory, Ralph Tedesco & Joe Brusha, Writer Raven Gregory, Art Daniel Leister, Colors Nei Ruffino. Instead of a bargain or a an great opening chapter Zenoscope’s zero issue are actually a rip-off. We get only six pages of a beginning to this story for $1, the rest is ads for the rest of their products. Still I’m looking forward to Beyond Wonderland, as Return to Wonderland was the best series Zenoscope has every done. Also I’m almost done with the regular Grimm Fairy Tales series. The opening six pages was a decent primer if you had skipped Return to Wonderland.
Ultimates #4 (of 5) - Writer Jeph Loeb, Art Joe Madureira, Digital Paints Christain Lichtner. Sniff, sniff, sniff, what is that smell. Oh it’s Ultimates 3 #4. Wow, what a load of crap. Jeph Loeb appears to have lost all of his ability to tell a coherent story as this story was all over the place and I no longer care about any of the mysteries that have been introduced. Joe Mad is suppose to be this stellar artist and I would be willing to bet the actual penciled pages are possibly stunning, but the crappy digital paints and production values have turned the work into a muddled pile of murky sh*t that only Man-Thing would be happy living in. This was worth the “whatever” number of months wait? I’ll get the last issue just to complain about it, but this is a rancid piece of meat that even a vulture would get sick picking at.
We had three zero issues and I have to say that Dark Horse gave us the most story and art for our buck, Avatar gave us the best story for our dollar and I should have saved a dollar and not gotten the Zenoscope dollar book as it wasn’t worth the buck.