My recommendation of the week – or to steal from Lee – The best book that you are not reading – is Madame Xanadu. Even if you are a super hero fan, Matt Wagner continues to include elements from the DCU in the book that are great fun. From Alan Scott’s mystical lantern to the origin of Dr. Fate are all mentioned within the context of the story. Then you have to see Amy Reeder Hadley’s pencils to understand how beautiful her pencil work is and how well she can tell a story and express emotion on her characters. Add to that that the next arc will be illustrated by Mike Kaluta and then Amy is back on the book and you are guaranteed one of the best drawn books on the shelves.
This is absolutely one of the best comics being produced and wins my best new series of the year.
Batman #681 – Writer Grant Morrison, Pencils Tony Daniel, Inks Sandu Florea, Colors Guy Major. I thought this was a great issue and a nice ending to the RIP portion of Grant’s long Batman story. Grant used Alfred in one part and the Joker in another part to show us what an unbelievable person Bruce Wayne is and why he is so great. As with all of Grant’s work this will read better if the entire Batman run is read in a few sittings and I believe that Grant’s has plenty of Bruce Wayne stories to tell as Batman disappeared in an explosion, that does not mean he died. Where I would see Bruce’s story going is him walking away from everything and trying to rebuild, as the Black Glove has taken everything he had out of him. Who Dr. Hurt truly is or was is still to be determined. I would love to see DC put Dick in the Batman costume and let him be the Batman of Gotham and to start another series where Grant continues to tell the sage of Bruce Wayne. Does Bruce every come back as Batman, who knows and as with Captain America, if done well enough it can work.
Madame Xanadu #6 – Writer Matt Wagner, Pencils Amy Reeder Hadley, Inks Richard Friend, Colors Guy Major. I’m fast running out of ways to praise this book. First and foremost I have fallen in love with Amy Reeder Hadley’s pencil work. While her work is actually pretty, this issue with Madame Xanadu getting old we see her skill in drawing someone who is not pretty and does it all with equal skill and aplomb. The actual story was equally well done as we see her bargain her way into immortality by the sheer audacity in the way she deals with Death, it was a great moment.
JSA Kingdom Come Special The Kingdom – Story Geoff Johns & Alex Ross, Writer Geoff Johns, Oencils Fernando Pasarin, Inks Mick Gray, Jack Purcell, Norm Rapmund & Fernando Pasarin, Colors Hi-Fi. This issue Johns makes the long build up start to pay off and hindsight being 20/20; I think this story works very well. The pay offs that we see in this special with Sandman, Damage, Gog and Starman would not have delivered as much of an impact as they did without the long build up. I think this is one of the problems with big stories in a monthly comic, is that the middle chapters can seem exceeding slow as we are reading chapters one month apart. If this type of story is read as a trade or it came out bi-weekly it would work better as evidence by having three specials then issue #21 of the regular series come out next week. Gog has revealed his hand and the question is can the JSA take him down.
Superman #682 – Writer James Robinson, Pencils Renato Guedes, Inks Wilson Magalhares, Colors David Curiel. Wow this issue really sets the stage for just how dangerous having 100,000 super people will be. In what was an effort to try and rid Superman of some other enemies the Kryptonians go out and collect five or six of his foes and put them in the Phantom Zone. The problem is they interfered with the order of the Earth and their procedures and killed a few police officers while doing it and seem to think that it is no big deal. What makes it worse is Supergirl’s Mom (Alura) is very callous about the whole thing and you can see this will go downhill fast. The Superman books are all very good right now.
Daredevil #113 – Writer Ed Brubaker, Art Michael Lark & Stefano Gaudiano, Colors Matt Hollingsworth. – Another solid issue of Daredevil. I’m not sure what has changed, but the last arc (with Rucka) and this arc have been crisper and faster moving then before. The Hand is back, we have Lady Bullseye being expanded upon and another new character Master Lo added, plus Tarantula, Iron Fist and then White Tiger gets killed at the end with the obvious intent to bring her back as an agent of the Hand. Add into that Matt’s personal life with Dakota and now Milla has been apparently taken out of the asylum by her parents and you are getting a ton of story for the price of entry.
Battlefields Night Witches Part 2 (of 3) – Writer Garth Ennis, Art Russ Braun, Colors Tony Alina. The second issue shows us how the Russian female pilots have overcome the inherent problem of the old aircraft they were being ask to use to harass the invading Germans. In order to not be cut to ribbons by flak they cut off their engines and glide in and bomb them so the Germans never hear them coming. This is a fascinating story and so well told that it should be required reading for any fan of history.
Wonder Woman #26 – Writer Gail Simone, Pencils Aaron Lopresti, Inks Matt Ryan, Colors Brad Anderson. We have finally gotten to the “big” arc in the Wonder Woman book and it started out as a good one. Wonder Wonder goes toe to toe with some sort of character named Genocide who maybe an old character, a god or something and gets beaten almost to death. She is left blooded and beaten, hanging from a pillar and has had her lasso stolen. A powerful opening to this story. I read from a friend of mine, that Wonder Woman’s secret identity does not work and I have to agree with him. It is a hang over from the original arc and the whole thing is not working and her relationship with Tom Tresser also needs to go. I know DC is trying to find the right formula for Wonder Woman, but I think she could have a private life, but giving her a job as an agent for some meta human agency is really not working. I’d rather have Diana owning a dress shop again as opposed to this job. Anyway Gail is still trying to determine what works and doesn’t work for Wonder Woman and the series has been getting better and better under her guidance so I’m happy to see where she takes us with this arc.
Body Bags – One Shot – Story and Art Jason Pearson, Colors Dave Stewart. I picked this up on the strength of Jason Pearson’s work in a recent DC one shot with the Penguin. I never read any of the old Body Bags stuff, but if this is any indication of the quality, I need to get the trade of that stuff if it exists. Body Bags are a father/daughter mercenary team in a slightly futuristic world full of crazed terrorists, shock jocks and our almost comedic but deadly duo, the Body Baggers. The daughter is just so funny and her relationship with her huge hulking figure of a father is just a joy to read. Pearson’s art is absolutely great and he has a great fluid nature to his work and the design and composition of his pages make the story dynamic and still easy to follow. Finally I found that this book was very easy to get into and enjoy with having no prior exposure to these characters and without reading any promotional pieces done to support the book. It was not on my original list, but I’m very glad I picked it up.
Unknown Soldier #2 – Writer Joshua Dysart, Art Alberto Ponticelli Colors Oscar Celestini. I enjoyed this issue a lot more and we see how the character ends up with the bandaged face. I’m still not sure who it is that is speaking to him and teaching him the ways of war, but I’m willing to wait it out. This doctor’s life has been inexorably changed and the mystery of why this happened to him and what this means for his life is unfolding. The horror of what was going on in Uganda is unbelievable and beyond the pale. The quality of our lives in the US and many other countries is a blessing and we cannot really comprehend how some countries are so brutal and unforgiving. Of course we cannot fix these things either as people have to find their own ways. I’m not sure if it is a printing error or what, but this book has a higher quality paper then most Vertigo books and it was a nice addition.
Proof #14 – Writer Alex Grecian, Art Riley Rossmo, Colors Adam Guzowski. This is the longest and most ambitious arc to date. I’m enjoying the story lines with Proof and Ginger, but I do miss the interaction between the two when they are on a case. One of the most impressive things about this series is that 14 out 14 times I have enjoyed the book. Still I want to see a resolution to this story line soon. Also a quick word about the artist and co-creator Riley Rossmo, he is growing by leaps and bounds as an artist and this book looks better every issue.
Batman Gotham After Midnight #7 (of 12) – Writer Steve Niles, Art Kelley Jones, Colors Michelle Marsden. Not only is Steve giving us a tour of the Bat villains (as this issue features Killer Croc) we are also getting a love story between Batman and the young and beautiful Detective Clarkson. It has been interesting to see that develop as first Bruce is dating her and this issue we see her in Batman’s arms. It seems most writers enjoy giving Bruce a girl friend. We still do not know who Midnite is but his body count now includes Clarkson’s partner.
Northlanders #12 – Writer Brian Wood, Art Ryan Kelly, Colors Dave McCaig. This is a terrific series and this arc about the Viking tracking down the Irishman who is fighting against his country’s invaders is a good one. The action is brutal and the fighting ability of the Irishman is impressive as is his love for his daughter whom he is trying to protect. As I’m half Irish and have 2 daughters I’m rooting for him, but will be curious to see how this entire arc plays out.
Umbrella Academy Dallas #1 (of 6) - Writer Gerard Way, Art Gabriel Ba, Colors Dave Stewart. I have enjoyed the first series and also enjoyed this first issue, but except for Space Boy, Number 5 and the White Violin, I still can’t always keep the other four characters straight yet and that sometimes slows down the book for me. This issue we set up a new danger that has to be dealt with and it appears to revolve around Number 5 and his time traveling escapades. A very good opening issue and one that has me looking forward to issue #2.
Welcome to Hoxford #4 – By Ben Templesmith. What a fantastic ending to this series. I’m assuming that Ben may take us back to Hoxford someday, but I loved the ending of this story. Ray is so frelling nuts that he takes on the lead werewolf and beats him, thereby becoming the leader of the pack. At the end he tells the therapist to run and get out of there.
Transhuman #4 (of 4) – Writer Jonathan Hickman, Art JM Ringuet. We jump ahead ten years and catch up with everyone and see how the people who started the Transhuman movement ended up. The ending was cute, but almost too cute as the man who was narrating what at first seemed to be a documentary ends up being an evolved chimp in a human suit. The chimp proclaims that they will be taking over the Earth next as humans have dead ended with their choice of long life over other abilities in the Transhuman movement. An interesting series with some good ideas, but written with too perfect of an ending in mind. All I can think of is this is a new way to start the Planet of the Apes.
Walking Dead #55 – Writer Robert Kirkman, Art Charles Adlard, Graytones Cliff Rathburn. – This was a good chapter as we see the new group moving across the country going to Washington. It is also fascinating to watch Rick abdicate his role as the leader and see him deal with guilt and ghosts of his past. The ending was harsh as Maggie apparently hangs herself. The series really gives more of that post apocalyptic feel by moving through the country.
Captain America #44 – Writer Ed Brubaker, Pencils Luke Ross, Inks Pablo Laguna & Rick Maygar, Colors Frank D’Armata. A decent story, but something is missing with Bucky as Captain America. It’s little things, but the new costume sucks, Black Widow being called Natalia is annoying and the artist for this arc’s work is coming off too clean and shiny at times with way too many round lines (no grittiness to the art that the story feels like it is trying to convey). I thing that the problem I having is Brubaker created a really good character in the Winter Soldier and I think Bucky would work better as a behind the scenes hero then front and center as Captain America.
Legion of Super-Heroes #48 – Writer Jim Shooter, Pencils Francis Manapul, Inker Livesay, Colors Jo Smith. This was a déjà vu issue as Jim Shooter gives us the Legion try outs and harkens everything back to his introduction of Karate Kid, Nemesis, Ferro Lad and Princess Projector. This book is moving the Destroyers plot forward and also laying ground work for future stories which are never to come as this series ends with issue #50. Shooter has turned this version of Legion into his own and the book has a totally different feel from what Waid was doing, but it has been very enjoyable in my opinion.
Nova #19 – Writer Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, Pencils Wellingotn Alves & Geraldo Burges, Inks Scott Hanna & Nelson Pereira, Colors Guru eFx. This was a terrific issue introducing the new Nova Corps and giving us some information and updated us on those five members. We see Richard and the Worldmind have an argument as to how this corps was formed behind Richard’s back. A détente seemed to exist, but then later on the Worldmind has recruited what appears to be at least 100 more members of the Nova Corps including Richard’s brother. The Worldmind is either going off on its own or is something wrong with it? This is one of Marvel most consistent series.
Superman Batman vs Vampires & Werewolves #4 (of 6) – Writer Kevin VanHook, Art Tom Mandrake, Colors Nathan Eyring. This is an entertaining and well done book that is really featuring Batman and his trying to solve what is going on with all of these supernatural creatures. Batman seems to have developed a team that consists of Green Arrow, Jason (Demon) Blood and himself. This issue we got some background on the villains of the piece (the main vampire, werewolf and mad scientist) and had the reveal that they are not representing who they truly are.
Straw Men #3 (of 12) – Adapted by Joe Brusha, Art Brett Weldele . I love the feel of this horror series. As I’m unfamiliar with the source material at this point I’m only getting a vague outline of what the Straw Men are and what exactly is going on, but the sense of menace is palatable. The minimalist art and muted coloring are matching the mood of the story perfectly. I may not be able to piece together the entire picture yet, but I’m happy to follow along.
Brit #10 – Writer Bruce Brown, Breakdowns Andy Kuhn, Art Nate Bellegarde, Colors FCO Plascencia. – It is a shame that this series is ending on issue #12 as I think this book is just getting moving. This issue we are on an alternative Earth and I always love those stories since anything goes on an alternative Earth, such as Brittany beating the crap out of Astounding Wolf-Man. All in all this issue is setting up the battle of the “real” Brit, versus the alternative universe Brit who is the Emperor of that world. A solid read and this series has really become entertaining.
Guardians of the Galaxy #7 – Writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, Pencils Paul Pelletier, Inks Rick Magyar, Colors Wil Quintana. Rocket Raccoon takes charge of the Guardians. With the team in total disarray after learning the Star Lord had Mantis push their minds to joining the Guardians, half the group leaves and Star Lord also walks out. Rocket takes over and pulls together a group. The Guardians are fighting a group that the original GOTG were fighting in the future and Vance is slowly remembering bits and pieces. Meanwhile, Star Lord is captured by Blastaar and Adam Warlock is looking to take of the Church of Universal Life. This series has moved back into high gear after the unneeded interruption of Secret Invasion.
Teen Titans #65 – Writer Sean McKeever, Pencils Eddy Barrows, Inks Ruy Jose, Colors Rod Reis. Not exactly sure what the heck happened this issue as Cassie was getting her head handed to her by her nephew and then she burst into energy and has a new costume and kick his a**. Meanwhile the rest of the Titans are fighting the nephew’s dog and managed to blow it up for the inside out. Eddy Barrows artwork has really moved up in class and he is becoming a top flight super hero artist.
Savage #2 (of 4) – Story Jeff Frank & Steve Niles, Script Jeff Frank & Dan Wickline, Art Mike Mayhew, Colors Frank Bravo. I’m enjoying this comic; it is a mix of a monster story, global conspiracy and feels like Devils Rejects (although I have only seen the trailer of that film). The main guy (Sam) who appears to be on the lam from some worldwide operation is recruiting this normal family man to help him go and kill bad people. Sam himself seems insane. We also learn Sam can turn into a yeti like monster. I get the sense his recruit will be able to turn into this yeti like monster after Sam is done with him. The whys and wherefores of Sam mission have yet to be determined, but we know he likes to kill werewolves. I’m a little miffed as I believe Shadowline has suckered me into another mini-series that is only a prelude for a larger story.
Reign in Hell #5 (of 8) – Main Story – Writer Keith Giffen, Pencils Tom Derenick, Inks Bill Sienkiewicz, Colors Mike Atiyeh. Back-Up Writer Keith Giffen, Pencils Chad Hardin, Inks Walden Wong, Colors Tom Chu. As much as I had fallen off this series with Lobo showing up last issue, this issue I actually enjoyed. I guess I liked Shadowpact and have always liked Dr. Fate and Zatanna, so seeing all of these characters get some significant face time is appreciated. Also Blue Devil has had a big role to play and then add in Doctor Occult as the back-up feature and the mix of all of these characters is entertaining. The actual battle for control of Hell is less interesting.
Ferryman #3 (of 5) – Writer Marc Andreyko, Art Jonathan Wayshak, Color Gabe Eltaeb. Not exactly sure why Mr. Webster (the devil) has so many Ferrymen going after one another, but between the great art and the strong writing this is one of those books that I just sit back and read and enjoy. The only person we are rooting for is Gideon and hoping that he can complete his contract with the devil and be reunited with his lost love.
X-Factor #37 – Writer Peter David, Pencils Valentine De Landro, Inks Craig Yeung, Colors Jeromy Cox. The crew from Cosmic Conversations was applauding this book and saying that it is back to its good form now that the Secret Invasion stuff and another cross-over have been completed. Since I like Peter David’s writing for the most part I thought I would give it another chance. It was okay. I don’t like Longshot and he is now part of the team and I have a limited idea of what is going on. Still Jamie Madrox is fascinating as ever and Siryn’s water broke and her baby is about to be born, so I may hang around for a couple issues to see if I can add it back to my list.
Ultimate Spider-Man #128 – Writer Brian Bendis, Pencils Stuart Immonen, Inks Wade Grawbadger, Colors Justin Ponsor. This managed to wrap up the symbiote war neat and pretty. Eddie Brock is Venom and runs into Gwen as Carnage. He manages to absorb the Carnage entity and spits out Gwen, who is now for all intents and purposes a normal 16 year old girl (who is a molecular duplicate of herself). Eddie is attacked and captured later by the Beetle who is apparently working to Dr. Doom. So the symbiotes are gone and Gwen is back in the cast and cured.Next issue this book deals with Ultimatum. As I’m not getting that series I will be curious to see how Bendis writes a series for people like me who like this book for just being Ultimate Spider-Man and nothing else.
Birds of Prey #124 – Writer Tony Bedard, Pencils Claude St. Aubin, Inks John Floyd, Colors Hi-Fi. - Loved the fight between Babs and the Joker. I thought it was appropriate that she took out his teeth, but lost the battle as the Joker needs to remain a pre-eminent villain and being taken down by her would have felt odd. This issue I got the feeling that this series is moving towards its pre-ordained conclusion and I have to say that Oracle and company leaving Platinum Flats is okay by me.
Blue Beetle #33 – Writer Matthew Sturges, Art Rafael Albuquerque, Colors Guy Major. I usually enjoy this book, but this issue was a little annoying. One the whole immigration issue gets to be a little preachy, but that could be me. Second, I do not want the Titans guest starring, but I know this series is dying so I want all Blue Beetle while I can still get him. Third, killing the character at the end of the issue is so cliché that even the next issue blurb acknowledges he is not dead, so why do it. Otherwise, even with those complaints I did enjoy the issue and the new Dr. Polaris is a heck of a rogue for Blue Beetle.
Wolverine Origins #30 – Writer Daniel Way, Art Mike Deodato, Color Rain Beredo. This issue concludes the “Original Sin” story and ends with Draken and Wolverine appearing to have arrived at a détente with help from Professor X. I did like Wolverine forgiving Professor X as his reaction was the total opposite of Cyclops which seems appropriate.
Wildcats #5 – Writer Christos Gage, Art Pete Woods, Colors Carrie Strachan. This issue was a nice spotlight on Spartan. I imagine for people who are familiar with Spartan this issue might have been a waste, but as I’m not steeped in Wildcats lore the history of the Wildcats leader was a welcome character piece.
Trinity #26 – Front Story Writer Kurt Busiek, Pencils Mark Bagley, Inks Art Thibert, Colors Pete Pantazis, Back-Up Writers Kurt Busiek & Fabian Nicieza, Art Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens, Colors Allen Passalaqua. – This issue was way too heavy on trying to set up some metaphysical stuff with Tarot. Tarot and Charity floating in the ether and connecting with various women who were connected with saving the Earth was rather bland. The back-up shows the Morgana and Enigma are now recruiting Konvict to be the third in their Trinity and he is more of a good guy then anything else. I know they need an powerful alien but this make Konvict too much of a wonderful “comic book coincidence” that he is on Earth.
Jack of Fables #28 – Writers Bill Willingham & Matthew Sturges, Pencils Tony Akins, Inks Jose Marzan Jr. , Colors Daniel Vozzo. This issue Jack and the Pathetic Fallacy come back to Golden Boroughs and Jack gets installed as leader of the defense against Bookburner. In typical Jack fashion he is more concerned with how he looks as opposed to planning for the attack and Bookburner’s people deliver a heavy blow to start this battle. I’m ambivalent about this series and it is just not connecting with me most of the time. How this story line resolves will be my turning point on whether I continue this series or not.
End League #6 – I think that I should try this again as a trade, but as a series this book has been a little hard to follow and after six issues it never grabbed my interest enough. Cancelled.
Chronicles of Dr Herbert West #2 (of 6) – Cancelled. It was weak from story and art perspectives.
Sheena Dark Rising #2 – Cancelled – I should have stopped after issue #1, as clichéd as anything I have read and the art is not strong enough to carry it.
So I have decided to move my recommendation of the week to the opening of this column and that leaves my intro to become my outré. I’m starting to look forward to 2009 as I think the Johns has some of my most anticipated projects lined up for 2009, between the conclusion of Legion of Three Worlds, Blackest Night, Flash Rebirth and the Superman Origin Johns has some great projects and is teamed with some great artists. I love the independent books and Vertigo, but I still have a big part that loves super hero books, so it is good to know we have some great stuff coming up soon.