Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Best to Worst of Last Week

My recommendation of the week – Echo. Terry Moore’s newest story is so well crafted that each issue is a joy to read. This is a writer/artist at the top of his game. It is apparent to me that he has the entire story written and is now just letting us read it a chapter at a time. Filled with the most realistic people I have read in any comic or prose book in many years, trapped in a fantastic situation.

Echo is one of the best books on the racks!

I Kill Giants #6 (of 7) – Writer Joe Kelly, Art JM Ken Niimura. From all appearances it seems a giant (actually a Titan) has shown up and Barbara is engaged in a great battle with the Titan this issue. She fights valiantly to save her friends and her mother (who has cancer). At the end it appears that she sacrifices herself to take down the Titan. I’m pretty sure this has been a fantasy of Barbara’s and that in fact her mother may have died due to cancer and this is the way one child is trying to cope. I’m really looking forward to the last issue of this series and if it ends as well as the series has been written I’ll be looking for the trade. This is a truly heart felt story and is also not just maudlin, it is entertaining and has some nice humor touches mixed in, just like real life.

Secret Six #4 – Writer Gail Simone, Pencils Nicola Scott, Inks Doug Hazlewood, Colors Jason Wright. This book just has such a great rhythm. The dialogue between the characters is always great and this issue the tension between the team members is ratcheted up a notch due to the “get out of hell free card”. We also get another hint of what “Junior” is and it is rather bizarre. All the bad guys are after the Secret Six as the bounty has been doubled and this issue Cheshire manages to poison their food to take them out. Of course I’m betting she did it to protect them and maybe returning to the team.
Echo #8 – by Terry Moore. This is one of the best books on the stands and is a top ten series for 2008 for me. In this issue Julie and the other guy who has part of the suit get into a battle. The bad guy is killing people left and right and Julie steps in and appears to level him and at first I thought he might be dead, but he was just blown way away and stood back up to keep going. We are started to see more of the echo of the girl who had the suit, but I wonder if she echoes inside of the man who also wears part of the suit.

Action Comics #872 – Writer Geoff Johns, Art Pete Woods, Colors Brad Anderson. New Krypton has really changed the entire world around Superman. This issue was a middle chapter, but still had a lot of impact on where this title is going. We see that Lex Luthor is starting to unlock some of the secrets of Brianiac and is working on the body of Doomsday, none of this can be a good thing. The biggest confrontation is between Superman and Alura (Supergirl’s mother) as she was the one who authorized deadly force to get the enemies of Superman. This issue also has the Creature Commandoes, GI Robot and Ultra-Alien brought back into the DCU. Johns loves the silver age DCU stuff and is always bringing those elements back into current continuity. The issue ends with the apparent death of Zor-el at the hands of human enemies which is really setting the stage for a confrontation between Earth and New Krypton.

Simon Dark #15 – Writer Steve Niles, Art Scott Hampton, Colors Daniel Vozzo. This is still the oddest DCU series on the stands and is always an enjoyable read for me. This issue we see Simon learning how to hold a “real” face for himself for a short period of time. We also have Tom show up asking if Simon is the murderer and then later finding the bad guy who looks a lot like a failed version of Simon. This series continues to mix Frankenstein, Edward Scissorshands and almost Dr. Strange type themes while doing a good job of building the characters.

House of Mystery #8 – Writer Matthew Sturges, Pencils (framing sequence) Luca Rossi, Inks Jose Marzan Jr., Harry’s Story – Art Henry Flint, Colors Lee Loughridge. This arc should be called secret origins as we learn a lot more about Harry. Also this issue skipped the whole short story buried within the main story (but Harry’s origin served as that from one standpoint). Harry is stuck in the house and we have no inkling of what Harry’s life was before, but he does help Abel capture all the nightmares in the house in exchange for Abel getting him out of the house. Unfortunately Harry is stuck, but Abel sends people to him and the house changes a room into a bar and Harry finds his calling as a bartender in the House of Mystery.

Final Crisis #5 (of 7) –Writer Grant Morrison, Art JG Jones, Carlos Pacheo, Marco Rudy & Jesus Merino, Colors Alex Sinclair. I swear so much happens in each and every issue that I need a primer or at least about five footnotes per page to understand what is going on. We have scene with the Green Lanterns which are well done, we have battles in Bludhaven (with some beautiful scenes with Mary Marvel). It is just at this point that the series almost needs to be re-read each and every time a new issue hits to understand the full story. Plus I believe that Grant’s other chapters (Superman Beyond and FC Submit) are probably very important to the story itself, but what fits where is confusing at this time. The ending lost its shock value as I have no clue that the character is that shows up (I have read that it is the new Monitor). What I do get from this book is a sense of menace and foreboding like no other event in the DCU. It feels like Grant is making changes to the DCU that can’t be ignored. I wish I got all of the references that Grant has in this book, but I know I will be buying a reprint with annotated notes down the road.

Batman Confidential #24 – Writer Andrew Kreisberg, Pencils Scott McDaniel, Inks Andy Owens, Colors I.L.L. This has been a great series giving us a different angle on the Joker, by taking us back to the beginning and we see that Batman and the police just cannot figure out what the heck he is. It has become apparent that while crazed, he is also brilliant in and of his own right. It is funny as this is the second time this series has done a first Joker story and both have been very different and yet both are enjoyable.

Green Lantern Corps #31 – Writer Peter Tomasi, Pencils Patrick Gleason, Inks Rebecca Buchman, Color Randy Major. The universe is a dangerous place as we see the continuing battle between Kyle and a small group of Lanterns versus Kryb. Kryb exhibits a new power which is some sort of secretion that causes the person to be under her thrall. At the same time we see another new law added to the Guardians books forbidding love within the corps. The new laws allow lethal force, but no love, strikes an ominous note regarding the fate of the GL Corps. We also get an update regarding the newest Star Sapphire. A lot is going on in the GL corps and we know next year with Blackest Night will really have things moving.

Superman Batman #54 - Plot Michael Green & Mike Johnson, Script Mike Johnson, Pencils Rags Morales, Inks John Dell, Colors Nei Ruffino. Last issue Batman got Superman’s powers and this issue he starts to learn how to use them. Batman is also going through some growing pains as he remains focused on his mission but is further removing himself from his friends. Superman is adjusting to being human and makes the mistake of trying to save someone and getting shot in the gut. One note I did not like was Batman accidentally killing Bane. I’m sure he rushed him to a hospital and all and he was saved, but he was dead.

Invincible #56 – Writer Robert Kirkman, Pencils Ryan Ottley, Inks Cliff Rathburn, Colors FCO Plascencia. Another good issue of this series, even though nothing really happened. By that I mean no major plot points were added, but a lot of character development, which is always important in Invincible. Mark goes to the defense of an ex-girl friend, helps out his kid brother and destroys a device he thinks was spying on him, but was really spying on Kid Omni-Man.

Justice League of America #27 – Writer Dwayne McDuffie, Pencils Ed Benes, Inks Ed Benes, Rob Hunter, Norm Rapmund & Drew Geraci, Colors Pete Pantazis. This issue has a lot happening. First we see the female Dr. Light make a comeback. We see almost every Milestone character show up and there are indications that many of the heroes know each other. We also see the end of the Red Arrow / Hawkgirl relationship, which never felt right to me anyway, so McDuffie had Kendra dreaming of Carter and that causes Roy to drop the relationship. We also have Black Canary find out about the big three’s secret meeting room and a little showdown occurs there. This issue was a lot of set-up, but one of the better JLA issues in this run.

Nightwing #151 – Writer Peter Tomasi, Pencils Doug Mahnke & Shawn Moll, Inks Christian Almay & Rodney Ramos, Colors Hi-Fi. If Nightwing does not take over as Batman we have been seriously lead astray by the writing in this book. This issue Nightwing is shown with a ton of character moments and moments that are setting up a different status quo. We see his girl friend decide to move back to the west coast, a confrontation with Two Face, a conference with Superman and Green (John Stewart) Lantern and Dick consummating his freefall obsession. This was a solid and entertaining read, but it just has the feeling that Nightwing has stepped up to a different level and this is presaging his becoming Batman.

Detective Comics #851 – Writer Denny O’Neil, Art Guillem March. Okay I know Denny O’Neil had to be given some idea of where the Bat books were heading and this issue (like Nightwing) is leaning very heavily to Dick becoming Batman. A major crime has occurred and the Batman is not responding to the Bat signal. Alfred calls in Dick and he almost reluctantly comes to Gotham to try and track down the bad guy. While Dick does not use the Batmobile you can almost feel like he is becoming his mentor and the city is drawing him back to take the mantle. Denny has not been credited as a writer in comics for awhile, but he still has the chops as this was a well written book.

Epilogue #3 – Writer Steve Niles, Art Kyle Hotz, Colors Tom Smith. I believe this is only a four issue mini-series, but the premise of a vampire playing vigilante has been well done. This issue we see that Epilogue is starting to like and trust the female detective who is part of a team chasing him down. We also see some old world vampires flying into town, pissed off about a good guy vampire. The ending looks like it should be fun. It is funny how two vampire books have similar themes about the older vampires being ticked off with the younger generation.

Booster Gold #15 – Writer/Pencils Dan Jurgens, Finishes Norm Rapmund, Colors Hi-Fi. Dan Jurgens returns to his creation as both writer and artist and is trying to show up you can go home again. He actually picks up on some threads left by Chuck Dixon and then works in the Elongated Man from the past. This book is very difficult as dealing with time travel is always a convoluted situation, but then adding in various continuity bits from other stories and this book will be tough to keep going as a monthly series. Still Dan’s first issue was well done and I enjoyed the reference to stuff that happened in 52 between Ralph and Booster.

BPRD War on Frogs #2 – Writer John Arcudi, Art John Severin, Colors Dave Stewart. These infrequent one-shots serve to show us the growing and changing menace that the Frogs present to the world. They also serve as a showcase for some great talent and this issue we get to see the artwork of the great John Severin. This was a solid issue and shows that the Frogs were getting smarter a few years ago.

Final Crisis Revelations #4 (of 5) - Writer Greg Rucka, Pencils Philip Tan, Inks Jonathan Glapion, Colors Nei Ruffino. Okay so this book is officially driving me a little crazy. The end of this issue the Spectre starts to recite the anti-life equation or something and it drains all of the will out of the people who have been resisting or something. Revelations is suffering from my view of the long time lag between issues and the lack of immediacy of Final Crisis. I’m curious to see how the whole story wraps up but this actual issue was a miss for me.

Challenger Deep #4 (of 4) – Story Andrew Crosby & Andy Schmidt, Script Andy Schmidt, Art Chee, Colors Andrew Dalhouse. This was a nice ending to this taunt action/adventure. The book will read very well as a trade and was enjoyable as a mini-series also. One thing I have come to enjoy Chee’s artwork quite a bit and his style was well suited for this story. I liked the solution of firing the missiles to explode away from the methane ice and thought the way Eric Chase killed himself (as he had no choice) was as good a way to die for an oceanographer as any (he stepped off in the Marina Trench).

30 Days of Night 30 Days til Death #1 – by David Lapham, Colors Len O’Grady. David Lapham takes a shot at the 30 Days universe and is giving us a story from a newer (American) vampire point of view. He does not go out and randomly kill someone, but lives a relatively quiet existence, except for the kidnapped girl he is keeping for some reason (food source or the cure her drug addiction?). There are stirrings abroad that the openness of these newer vampires needs to be quelled as they are making too many people be aware of true vampires’ existence.

Superman Batman vs Vampires & Werewolves #5 (of 6) – Writer Kevin VanHook, Art Tom Mandrake, Colors Nathan Eyring. This issue was every inch a middle chapter as we really learned very little about anything to do with the entire story. The mad scientist is hauled away by Green Arrow and the Demon, Superman tried to find a cure for a vampire by going to see Dr. Kirk (Man-Bat) Langstrom and Batman checks up on the main vampire who seems to behind much of the trouble. Next issue is the conclusion and while this chapter was a little bit on the “eh” side, I’m looking forward to the end of this story.

Titans #8 – Writer Judd Winick, Pencils Howard Porter, Inks Wayne Faucher & Prentis Rollins, Colors Edgar Delgado & Hi-Fi. This series is floundering badly. We are eight issues into the story and we are still just trying to establish the group. Right now they are trying to figure out who Joey is inside of. We see a terrific battle that takes out their new headquarters, but was all in Nightwing’s mind as Joey has taken him over. I hate this, by the way, since Dick is not super at least he should be given the wherewithal to have enough brain power to beat Joey inside his own mind.

Trinity #28 – Front Story Writer Kurt Busiek, Pencils Mark Bagley, Inks Art Thibert, Colors Pete Pantazis, Back-Up Writers Kurt Busiek & Fabian Nicieza, Art Tom Derenick & Wayne Faucher, Colors Allen Passalaqua. – As a straight up DCU adventure, this is a good story, but it is just not worth the amount of page count a 52 weekly series makes it have (1144 pages). On one hand the story about Dick, Lois, Donna and Alfred finding each other in a world without the “Trinity” and trying to figure out what’s wrong is interesting. Seeing the bad guys escape from this slightly fascist version of the DCU is also a good story, it is just not about Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman and that is what sold me on wanting to read the book. I’m actually getting tempted to drop the book because while well done, it is not what I wanted to read.

Ambush Big Year None #5 (of 6) – Plot & Pencils Keith Giffen, Dialogue Robert Loren Fleming, Inks Al Milgrom, Colors Tom Smith. This series has been a bad idea. The first issue was funny and since then it has been meandering around and giving us maybe a laugh or two each issue. I love Keith Giffen, but not everything can be a good book and this book has been a clean miss.

Green Arrow Black Canary #15 - Writer Andrew Kreisberg, Pencils Mike Norton, Inks Josef Rubinstein, Colors David Baron. The same writer who is giving us a great Joker story takes over this title and wastes his first issue. The entire issue was a rehash of what has happened in this title for the last two years and also has Connor and Mia moving out so we can focus on just Ollie and Dinah. I’m anxious to see where the title goes, but we could have jumped right into the new status quo and had two quick flashback get rid of Mia and Connor and not rehashed Ollie’s life of the last few years.

Secret Invasion Dark Reign – Writer Brian Bendis, Art Alex Maleev, Colors Dean White. Okay who the hell decided to make Namor look like this! He appears to be a big nosed, balding scruffy guy who looks like he is eighty at times and then too young other times. As horrible as the end of Secret Invasion was this book held hope that at least the end game of the bad guys being in charge could work, but this dark “Illuminati” did not work. Emma felt forced as being the “leader” of the X-Men. Dr. Doom was inconsequential, Namor’s horrible look took me out of the book, the “Hood” is still a force feed as being a player in the MU and Loki would never have attended this. Finally when Norman goes crazy at the end of kills the Swordsman it made me realize that Thunderbolts is a book that will now be forced to play to the new “Dark Reign”. I will try a few of the Dark Reign titles because the different writers may make the concept work for that title, but overall it appears to be a big mistake for the MU. I just hope Captain America, Daredevil and other titles I like are left alone from this crap.

The last few weeks have been rough as we have not seen as many strong books as normal. This always seems to be cyclical where I have some weeks that I can’t decide out of three or four books what should be best and then weeks like this where there are some good books, but nothing absolutely spectacular.

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