Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Best to Worst of Last Week

My recommendation of the week – or to steal from Lee – The best book that you are not reading – is Criminal. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are having way too much fun telling stories about the bad guys (and not the super ones, just your normal bad guys). This stuff takes the noir feeling and puts it into a comic. It’s dark, it gritty, it’s the flip side of the world that exists around the corner from your house, but you never visit that neighborhood. For a taste of what life is like on the other side, read this book.

This is absolutely Brubaker’s best work and one that is well worth your time. It will be on hiatus for a short time so go pick up the trades.

Criminal #7 – Writer Ed Brubaker, Art Sean Phillips, Colors Val Staples. Damn what a f**ked up ending. Jacob ends up shooting the cop who framed him and then kidnapping Iris. We find out that Iris was playing Jacob for the cop. The cop hated Jacob because he swore Jacob killed his wife. A very convoluted plotline while trying to explain it, but cross, double crosses abound and the cop and Iris wind up dead and Jacob is busted up and in a hospital possibly forever. This was a great story and the best arc by far in this well done series by Brubaker and Phillips.

Mouse Guard Winter 1152 #4 (of 6) – by David Petersen. I was very happy to see this book back on the stands after a long hiatus caused by issues with the publisher. Not sure if all those issues are done, but it was nice to see Mouse Guard back. It was one of the more action packed issues with fights with bats and owls and poisoning of wells going on. I have forgotten bits and pieces of what is going on, but as I read through the story line started to come back to me. This is one of the best true all age comics on the stands. By all age, I do not mean a dumbed down kiddie version of super heroes, I mean a book that can be equally enjoyed by anyone.

Justice Society of America #21 – Story Alex Ross & Geoff Johns, Script Geoff Johns, Art Dale Eaglesham, Nathan Massengill, Jerry Ordway and Bob Wiacek. This issue is the penultimate chapter to the Kingdom Come story line as the skeptical members finally have some proof that Gog is not the benevolent god he pretends to be. As Gog also exerts his wish to be worshiped, even those who were following him have their doubts. This is one of those issues that I rush through to get to the end and then can’t wait until next month. It was a good issue, but the artwork was not up to its usually high levels and as the actual credits were left off it is hard to tell who did what. I do know that Eaglesham’s work has not look as good as it used to and I’m not sure if it the inking or something else. Anyway the next issue wraps up the story line and I’m guessing Magog (David) does not make it out alive.

Batman #682 – Writer Grant Morrison, Pencils Lee Garbett, Inks Trevor Scott, Colors Guy Major. I have enjoyed Grant Morrison’s Batman run and this issue was a fun and trippy book where we learn that almost all of the Batman stories are actually part of his continuity. Grant explains the darkness of the early years, the lighter moments after Dick joined Batman and shows that the old Kathy Kane Batwoman is part of continuity (and would DC please reprint some of those stories, they are incredibly dated, but also a lot of fun). We also see Batman strapped into some machine feeding a creature called Lump all of his memories and dreams which is being used by some bad guys to create an army of Batmen. Next issue concludes Grant’s run on Batman per the solicitation, but I hope that it is a hiatus and Grant has more to come because regardless of whether you loved or hated his run, it has been thought provoking. Of course I’m not sure when in continuity this story falls, but I assume it is after RIP. One last request the art team made this book look great and would be an excellent permanent art team on Batman.

Necronomicon #3 (of 4) – Writer William Messner-Loebs, Art Andrew Ritchie. This is one of the best horror series I have read in a very long time. The book is creepy and after reading it you also have an unsettled feeling, which to me is one heck of a good job in reading a horror book. Most horror comics are fun to read and the art maybe good, but seldom do they actually create a sense of horror or revulsion within this reader. I think the fact that the narrative derives from a young man writing his father and what he says is downplaying (in large degrees) to what is happening to him is very effective. If you have missed this series and you like horror, get the trade when it comes out.


Crossed #2 (of 9) – Writer Garth Ennis, Art Jacen Burrows, Colors Juanmar. This issue gives us two timeframes, with a narration that is being told from a future standpoint. The back story is showing how four people came together after the virus hit. The current story line is showing just how twisted and evil the crossed can be and that they have not lost of their ability to actually think. While Ennis certainly is doing some things that would be classified as pure shock, it is part of the story. What is surprising is how well Ennis is also showing us what this is doing to the few survivors we are following. Not for the feint of heart, but this is turning into a very good post apocalyptic story.

The Punisher X-Mas Special – Writer Jason Aaron, Art Roland Boschi, Colors Dan Brown. This was a great issue and the old Ghost Rider team does the Max Punisher proud. The opening scene was the best when Frank is disguised as Santa Claus in a bar and takes out a mob meeting after taking his gun out of his bag of presents. The story is about Frank taking out a bunch of bad guys that are after a mob boss and his VERY pregnant wife who is going into labor. Frank saves the mob boss and his wife and helps deliver the baby, then kills Dad and Mom as they are both bad people. Frank then delivers the baby to a church to a Father he heard earlier having doubts in his faith. Just a great one shot and for $3.99 we got extra pages!

Jonah Hex #38 – Writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, Art Jordi Bernet, Colors Rob Schwager. I love the one and done issues of Jonah Hex and this issue even tied it into a prior issue with an encounter with the ex-sheriff who is beating the heck out of Jonah. The best part of the issue is the dialogue between Jonah and the sheriff as the sheriff tells Jonah why he is so set on killing him. It was some funny stuff and showed exactly how much of a bad a** Jonah is.

Criminal Macabre Cell Block 666 #2 (of 4) – Writer Steve Niles, Art Nick Stakal, Colors Michelle Marsden. So Cal is now rotting away in prison as a ghoul help set him up. Cal’s ghoul buddy Mo’lock is out and about trying to find out who betrayed and Cal and has run into some serious trouble. The attitude and just the writing in this book make this series a fun read. Film Noir meets “B” monster movies and you get the tough private eye that is always done on his luck.

Kull #2 (of 6) – Writer Arvid Nelson, Art Will Conrad, Colors Jose Villarrubia. The first issue was excellent and the second is no exception. We see Kull taking the reigns of being King and almost immediately you can tell that some of his duties as King are boring him. We also see Kull in the Hall of Kings and he is either plagued with some self-doubt or the old Kings are talking to him. This issue was setting up the conflict to come and setting some of the players.

Sgt. Rock The Lost Battalion #2 (of 6) – By Billy Tucci, Colors Hi-Fi. The amount of work and detail that Tucci has put into this book is nothing short of amazing. The story itself is good also as this issue slows down the pace and starts to focus on small parts of a larger battle. This issue we see Sgt. Rock’s group get killed or captured and only five of them make it back to the main camp. This is a strong book giving us a more realistic view of WWII then normally seen in a Sgt. Rock book.

Hellboy the Wild Hunt #1 (of 8) – Writer Mike Mignola, Art Dungan Fegredo, Colors Dave Stewart. This issue Hellboy gets recruited to join the Wild Hunt. This hunt goes after Giants who have awoken and more Giants that ever have woken up this time. Just as the hunt is getting started Hellboy gets stabbed in the back, by a fellow hunter as the group wants to kill Hellboy also as they see him as a monster that needs to be taken care of.

Haunted Tank #1 (of 5) – Writer Frank Marraffino, Art Henry Flint, Colors Lee Loughridge. I had no real idea of what to expect from this book, but I was familiar with the original series from years ago. This book was a lot of fun as the Ghost (General Jeb Stuart of the Confederacy) is now helping a future relative in the tank corps, but he is black. Needless to say the young tank commander is not real happy with a Confederate General, regardless of the circumstances. The ghost is more active then he ever was in the WWII stories as he would provide hints or clues to that Jeb Stuart, but here in Iraq (2003) he grabs the guns to kill enemy solider and chops off heads with his sword. The interplay between the tank crew and the ghost looks to be very different and I will be curious to see where this adventure takes us.

Immortal Iron Fist #20 – Writer Duane Swierczynski, Art Travis Foreman, Russ Heath (pages 1-4), Color Matt Milla. The only Iron Fist who escape the man who kills Iron Fist masked his chi with heroin, Danny will not go that route. Instead Danny sort of just gives up his chi (and his power) and allows his rage to beat the guy. It was a nice resolution and it also never resolved the scene where Danny’s son is upset over his father not being there, so it looks like something kills Danny in ten years anyway. This creative team deserves credit for following a tough opening act and delivering.

X-Infernus #1 (of 4) – Writer C.B. Cebulski, Pencils Guiseppe Camuncoli, Inks Jesse Delperdang, Colors Marte Gracia. I have avoided many Marvel mini-series, but for some reason the bizarre story of Colossus sister has always had some appeal to me. I’m not up on her current history, but this story laid things out well enough that I could catch up rather easily. Illyana is trapped in Limbo and looking for her soul. Apparently she and the newest X-Men Pixie had some encounter and Pixie now ended up with the soul sword Illyana needs. It is a relatively convoluted story, but it was very easy to read and had some great artwork by Guiseppe Camuncoli (pencils), that has made me add to this book to my list. No matter how much I enjoyed the book the $4 price tag for a regular book still annoys me.

Vixen Return of the Lion #3 (of 6) – Writer G. Willow Wilson, Art Cafu, Colors Santiago Arcas. This series is growing on me. The story and art are both doing a nice job of giving Vixen a little bit of a different look and feel to the character then she has had before. I also like that Vixen is back to what her powers used to be. The other element well done is the fact that the JLA is playing a role in this story. Too often in a mini-series, the group the character is with is just left behind, but the JLA they play an integral role, both in the story and in our understanding of Vixen.

Astounding Wolf-Man #10 – Writer Robert Kirkman, Art Jason Howard, Colors Jason Howard, FCO & Ivan Plascencia. I have to hand it to Kirkman, this issue we get the background story on Zechariah the vampire who was acting as Gary’s mentor. We go back to the early 1900s when Zech was turned and he becomes a vampire super hero and wants to rule the world to make it a better place. This story is being told to an old man who is dying and we find out it is Zech’s son. At the same time Gary is recovering from some brutal training from the Werewolf who turned Gary. This series just keeps getting better and better and the faster publishing schedule is a welcome change from before.

Terror Titans #3 (of 6) – Writer Sean McKeever, Pencils Joe Bennett, Inks Jack Jadson, Colors Rod Reis. The ending was a shocker when Static all of sudden showed up for a match against Ravager. This series has been decent, but I’m still not quite sure what the purpose for the series is. This issue we see Dreadbolt kill his father in a rather brutal manner, we also see Ravager tell Clock King that she wants to know what’s going on or she may quit. Clock King is running the Dark Side Club and has Ravager in the ring and helping to train his Terror Titans, but the whys are just missing.

Solomon Kane #3 (of 5) – Writer Scott Allie, Art Mario Guevara, Colors Dave Stewart. I’m enjoying this series a little more each issue as I’m getting to know who Solomon Kane is. His incredibly strict puritanical moral code also makes him at times a little naïve and he fails to see certain things coming. The artwork in this book is another selling point as it appears to be shot directly from pencils, but has enough weight to make it work and it gives it a nice edge to the look of the book. At this point I have come to like the series so much that I hope we see an ongoing out of Dark House with this comic.

Authority #5 – Writers Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, Art Simon Coleby, Colors Carrier Strachan. This was a good issue as the Warhol virus (turns people into a berserker monster with 15 minutes of super powers) is running rampant on a deck in the Carrier and Hawksmoor locks Angie in to protect the rest of the ship. Apollo is called in to save the day, but the rifts within the group are severe and there is a lingering question that Apollo may have contracted the virus.

Terra #3 (of 4) – Writers Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, Art Amanda Conner, Colors Paul Mounts. This four issue mini-series is coming out at an accelerated pace and it is a good thing as issue to issue this book is inconsistent, but this was a good issue as Terra’s origin is revealed. Apparently she is part of some underground race and she has been made over to look human and was sent to Earth to help stop some impending crisis. A fast paced story that is covering a lot of bases and explaining away past “Terras”. It is also foreshadowing some bigger menace for the future. These types of plot threads are annoying as who knows if or when these plot threads will be picked up on in the DCU.

Noble Causes #38 – Writer Jay Faerber, Art Yildiray Cinar, Colors Jacob Baake. This issue should have been called, Rusty gets Rusty. Rusty had his life saved by having his brain put into a robot body. As he is part of the Noble family, he has the tragic characteristics of Robotman from Doom Patrol and acts as the Thing does in Fantastic Four. This issue gives us some solid background on Rusty and adds to his already tragic live, an enjoyable issue.
Trinity #27 – 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 series has really come to a crawl in the middle part of the story. I can see the three acts pretty closely, with Act I being us seeing the importance of the Trinity, Act II is seeing what the world is like without them and Act III will be bringing them back and defeating the Evil Trinity. The funny part is the neither Enigma or Konvict are really bad guys in the purest sense, so how that plays out will be interesting. Again DC has marketed this book poorly and it is pretty hard to sell a book being about Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman and then take they out of the book altogether for a long period of time. I hung in on Countdown to my every lasting regret and while this book is a good story, it is not what was advertised. At least this has been a heck of a chance for Bagley to draw almost every DC character and I hope that we see his work continue in DC once this Herculean labor is completed.

El Diablo #4 (of 6) – Writer Jai Nitz, Pencils Phil Hester, Inks Ande Parks, Colors Guy Major. This is a mini-series that I should have dropped as it has never really grabbed me. This issue El Diablo is killing people left and right as vengeance is demanding he kill these people. He still is trying to find some of the main bad guys behind a lot of stuff. But this issue is all over the map with the end being the Freedom Fighters are going to come after El Diablo. After four issues I will follow this to its end, but the old El Diablo was a better concept.

Sword #13 – By Jonathan and Joshua Luna – A rather disappointing issue as Dara and her friends go after Knossos (the other brother). The group finds him way too easily and the issue ends with Dara being shot by people protection Knossos home. This is twice in about four issues where they are using the cliché ending of showing what appears to be the death of the main character and it was a poor choice.

New Avengers #47 – Writer Brian Bendis, Pencils Billy Tan (8 pages) & Michael Gaydos (on Alias 14 pages), Inks Matt Banning & Michael Gaydos (on Alias), Colors Justin Ponsor. A lot of filler (and really another Alias issue snuck in as New Avengers) just to get to what we already knew from Secret Invasion #8, that Luke and Jessica’s baby was taken by the skrull Jarvis. As an issue of Alias, I would have probably enjoyed this book, but Bendis should push Marvel to let him try the book again instead of trying to tell it inside the Avengers books he is working on.
Secret Invasion #8 (of 8) – Writer Brian Bendis, Pencils Lenil Yu, Inks Mark Morales, Colors Laura Martin. What a disappointment. Not only was the art pretty rough (as Lenil Yu is ill suited for this type of book), but the story was uninspiring to say the least. So many rabbits were pulled out of hats to get this book where Bendis wanted it to get to for “Dark Reign” that the entire storyline fall apart. Finally the Skrulls were reduced to a plot device that did not make any sense. See a longer review here.

X-Men Noir #1 (of 4) – I thought the art was good, but the story was jumping around way too much and was over reaching in trying to do too many things with the concept. At $4 for 22 pages, it is a cancellation plain and simple.

I guess for me the disappointments were more prominent then the good books. Secret Invasion was really a terrible ending to a series that started out like it could have been a great summer movie. Trinity is also becoming a disappointment. Not on the same level as Countdown, but while it is a good story, it is not worth 52 issues to tell. The middle part is way too stretched out. Well that’s a wrap for this week’s Best to Worst.

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