Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Best to Worst of Last Week


My recommendation of the week – Telling Stories - The Comic Art of Frank Frazetta. I have a great hard cover collection and rarely talk about it, but this book was a birthday gift (it was December 14) from my wife off the old Amazon wish list. It is an oversized collection that highlights Frazetta’s short lived career in comics and mixes in some biographical data and other stories of the industry from back in Frank’s day in comics. It also collects a ton of great comic work from Frank that is just a lot of fun to look at and see how his style was evolving. This book is well worth the money.

Supergirl #36 – Writer Sterling Gates, Pencils Jamal Igle, Inks Keith Champagne, Colors Tom Chu. The New Krypton story is moving at such a rapid clip that every issue is packed full of story. I have loved this story line and appreciate how much happens each and every issue. Supergirl is now an excellent comic and in this issue alone we get story points of her father dying, Alura (Supergirl’s mother) looking to strike back against humanity, Alura telling Superman it is all his fault and a new Superwoman showing up. At the same time we see continual character development of Kara herself and some of the supporting cast that has been added. This was far and away the best issue of this series and now is finally a book I can look forward to with anticipation.

Spider-Man Noir #1 (of 4) – Writers David Hine & Fabrice
Sapolsky, Art Carmine Di Giandomenico. This was the noir idea done right. Spider-Man is set in the depression (the prior one, not today’s) and we have prohibition, gangsters, food lines and all the rest of the classic elements. It starts off with a Spider-Man (who looks more like the classic DC super hero Sandman) next to a dead Jonah Jameson and the cops think Spider-Man did it. Then we flash back and learn who Peter Parker is in this reality and we get Ben Urich as a narrator who is showing Peter what life is really about. As with any good noir, no one is a total good guy so far and everyone has a past and everything is grim and dark. This was a well done first issue and an excellent example of melding two genres (noir and super hero).

Stormwatch PHD #17 – Writer Ian Edginton, Pencils Leandro Ferandez, Inks Francisco Paronzini, Colors Carrie Strachan. A very good issue as the Warhol virus breaks out on the Stormwatch station. Of course they have no clue what it is, but we have seen it before in the Authority series. Jackson remains the man who makes the tough decisions as this issue he teleports a young boy back to an uninhabited area of Earth as he might have been infected with the virus. This all leads up to Jackson coming to the conclusion that they need to pool their resources with the Authority, which will be interesting as both groups have very little. The back-up material is pointless to me and I have actually stopped reading it.


Fables #79 – Writer Bill Willingham, Pencils Mark Buckingham, Inks Andrew Pepoy, Colors Lee Loughridge. – I love how Willingham has reset the Fable Universe and made it so dangerous. Boy Blue is not looking well either and he seems to be turning into some sort of creature. All the old magical powers are released and Fabletown is falling apart as the spells they used to make their town are unbinding.

Thunderbolts #127 – Writer Andy Diggle, Art Robert De La Torre, Colors Frank Martin & Giovanni Kosoki. I really like the character Songbird and was glad to see that she made it out alive and escaped from Moonstone and Bullseye. It was a shock to see Swordsman be the one to save the day and then cover for her by saying she died in the exploding airship. All in all a good start to Andy Diggle’s run on this book, but I have to wonder what role Thunderbolts will play under the new status quo of Dark Reign. It was also interesting to hear Swordsman say that both he and Songbird had roles to play in the future as we have seen that in that future Norman Osborne killed him.

Fallen Angel #32 – Writer Peter David, Art JK Woodard. This was a great issue of this series. Angel and here crew overcome the Tower of Babel via laughter and emerge with the sword that will help them retake Bete Noire. You think that sets up next issue when Jude, Mariah and Angel will take the battle to Moloch. Instead Angel attacks Moloch with the sword at the end of this issue and in breaks it into pieces. The last line he asks “What Else you got?” Wow, that was a very cool ending for this issue in what has been a great arc on this series.

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Hellblazer #250 – This issue was a series of short stories that were thematically tied together by the holidays. A book that was well done and it had whimsy, humor, a touch of horror and most surprisingly a lot of hope and Christmas spirit. A real departure from the normal tone of this book and yet it struck a very good note. Too many creators to list, but a lot of top tier talent.

Invincible Iron Man #8 – Writer Matt Fraction, Art Salvador Larroca, Colors Frank D’Armata. So I picked this up on a lark, just to see what is going on in Iron Man’s world now that he has been fired. It was a decent read and an enjoyable book. Matt Fraction has turned the corner for me lately and has gone from a so-so writer to one who is appearing to be an up and coming writer. He sets the table very well by having Tony leave apparently without incident, shows us the world has lost respect for him, but Tony stills sets a trap for Norman by having a virus set in the computer in case Norman decides to illegally search the super hero registration database. Of course Norman does and now Norma will be after Tony with everything he’s got. I’m adding this book to my list for now.

Fear Agent #25 – I Against I (Part 4 of 6) – Writer Rick Remender, Pencils Tony Moore, Inks John Lucas, Colors Lee Loughridge. – So we finally learn that the other Heath Houston is a result of some time traveling shenanigans, but it appears he was driven insane by it. So now it is up to the “real” Heath Houston to put him down. I enjoy the little back up tales, but would prefer if Fear Agent was a full sized comic as opposed to these 16 page chapters.

Walking Dead #56 – Writer Robert Kirkman, Art Charles Adlard, Gray Tones Cliff Rathburn. The confrontations between Rick and Abraham were great. I loved Rick pulling the gun on Abraham and stopping him from shooting Maggie on the head (as they thought she was dead and would turn into a Zombie). Rick’s character is such that he can’t help but to stop in and do what he knows to be right and it is great to see him come out of his funk.

Birds of Prey #125 – Writer Tony Bedard, Pencils Scott McDaniel, Inks Andy Owens, Colors Hi-Fi. A solid issue and it was great to see Black Canary and Oracle back together again. I hate that this series is wrapping up, but I have to hope that the Oracle mini-series and what is to come will be worth it. This issue was about taking out one of the members of the Platinum Flats bad guys and Oracle dealing with the aftermath of the attack by the Joker.

Uncanny X-Men #505 – Writer Matt Fraction, Pencils Terry Dodson, Inks Rachel Dodson, Colors Justin Ponsor. Matt Fraction as solo writer on this book is doing a good job of doing what Chris Claremont used to do best (when he was in his best days writing the X-Men) and that is crafting and moving various plots. The problem I see right now is that all of these different story lines are the main plots and none are sub-plots. I also find the idea of raising “humanity’s fear of mutants” to be a little lame as why would we be afraid of 198 people with varying levels of power. Still the other plots are interesting and each one is being given some “air” time, I’m just worried that he needs to be a major story line and let the others develop more in the background; otherwise the book may move too slowly as a whole.

Robin #181 – Writer Fabian Nicieza, Art Freddie Williams II, Colors Guy Major. Anarky is back, but it is not Anarky exactly, but the General using that identity to foster chaos. We are seeing Tim get all dark and grim and looking very Batmanish in this issue. Now I get the feeling both Robin and Nightwing’s writers were told to make them both a lot more Batman like to set-up the “Battle for the Cowl” story coming in March. At the end of this issue Robin dons the Red Robin costume to go after Anarky.

Greatest American Hero #1 (of 3) – Writers William Katt, Chris Folino, Derek McCaw & Sean O’Riley, Art Clint Hilinski, Colors JM Ringuet, Jeff Jumper & Andre Dalhouse. One of the writers of this book is an e-mail friend (Chris Folino) and I have e-mail interviewed William Katt (a funny guy) and I never liked this TV series when it came out, so I was conflicted about this book. Happily I can say this was a very well done issue. The series has been moved up to today and they are restarting the series from ground zero. Since I do not remember the series that much I have to assume it is being somewhat faithful to the show, but maybe a little more on the serious side. The first issue has grabbed me and I’m coming back for issue #2. This issue introduced Ralph and Bill and we got the suit delivered to them by Bill’s dead FBI partner.

X-Factor #38 – Writer Peter David, Pencils (Pages 1-4) Larry Stroman, Inks Jon Sibal, Pencil & Inks Nelson (Pages 5-22), Colors Jeromy Cox with Rob Schwager. I dropped this book in part due to the horrible art by Larry Stroman and I was unpleasantly surprised to see his work again in this book. Thankfully most of the book was by a different artist and I enjoyed his work. The story line itself is interesting and I especially enjoyed how Madrox resolved getting Darwin back from the bad guy in this issue. Looks like this book is back on my list, unless Stroman is the main artist.

Manhunter #37 – Writer Marc Andreyko, Art Michael Gaydos, Carlos Mango & Dennis Calero, Colors Jose Villarrubia. A very weird issue as we jump ahead about 18 years and check in on Kate and what is going on with her life. In some ways these stories are nice touches, in other ways this locks the future in way too tight, but that can always be undone in the future. A well done story, but with next issue being the concluding one it feels like we are wasting it by trying to lock in Kate’s future.

Moon Knight #25 – Writer Mike Benson, Art Mark Texeira, Layouts Javier Saltares, Colors Dan Brown. Moon Knight and Bullseye have the big showdown and no one wins. Moon Knight kills Mark Spector (after he just pulled his old group together) and goes out of country and is now Jack Lockley. It was a decent battle, the problem is that it was Bullseye week at Marvel and he could not kill either Moon Knight or Songbird. In these instances as a villain and an uber bad guy he losses credibility due to overuse and ineffectiveness. It is a common problem for the best villains (as Deathstroke is often problematic in that way for DC). How can you have a good villain, but all of your good guys can beat him? One way is to control their usage, the other is let them take out a hero now and again.

Brit #11 – Writer Bruce Brown, Art Nate Bellegarde, Colors Kanila Tripp. This series has finally gotten to be a solid book and next issue is the last issue. The showdown with the alternative version of Brit was well done and the final resolution of that Earth’s crisis was also well done. The cliff hanger with Brit’s son was appropriately creepy and the artist Nate Bellegarde has improved and I have slowly started to become a fan of his style.

X-Men Kingbreaker – Writer Chris Yost, Pencils Dustin Weaver, Inks Jamie Mendoza, Colors Nathan Fairbairn. This was a decent start to a series that is leading into another mini-series. Since I skipped the last mini-series with Vulcan I appreciated how easily it was to be brought up to speed and still move the plot forward. Vulcan is now King of the Shi’ar Empire and he is expanding his holdings. At the same time we see that he can’t bring himself to kill his brother Havok or his crew members whom he holds captive.

Dark Reign New Nation – This was a preview of the various series coming out of Secret Invasion and coming into Dark Reign. It is a great marketing ploy and certainly shows off that Marvel has superior planning in how to capitalize on events over DC. It is also a nice way to check out a bunch of this series to see if you care for any of them. From a cost standpoint it is a lot less then trying out each one. For me the series that were looking good are Secret Warriors (Nick Fury and his new commandoes), Agents of Atlas and New Avengers The Reunion (about Hawkeye and Mockingbird), the losers were War Machine and Skrull Kill Krew.

Batman and the Outsiders #14 – Writer Frank Tieri, Pencils Ryan Benjamin, Inks Saleem Crawford, Colors Tom Chu. I had dropped this book and then continued it once I saw that Peter Tomasi was coming on as writer; therefore I played out the string. This is the last issue before Tomasi and it was re-setting the status quo since Batman is gone and it would have felt like it meant something if the solicitations for the series did not throw the entire thing up in the air. This book is struggling to find an identity and I will give Tomasi his first arc to make the Outsiders work.

Terra #4 (of 4) – Writer Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, Art Amanda Conner, Colors Paul Mounts. This series did a good job of introducing the new Terra and letting us know she is from an alien race that lives under the Earth. How she was made to look so human has not been explained or why her DNA is the same as the original Terra, but hey we learned enough. She is now set as being friends with Power Girl and as someone who is very naïve about our world. This was a solid job, now let’s see if DC uses her as DC spent 12 issues introducing Freddy as the new Captain Marvel and has done nothing with it.
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Conan The Cimmerian #6 – Writer Timothy Truman, Art Tomas Giorello & Richard Corben (flashbacks), Colors Jose Villarrubia. This issue we find out that Conan and the girl he has rescued has fallen in love, even though she is pregnant with another man’s child. The Connacht flashback shows how he ended up back in Cimmeron and I guess somehow this tied to Conan story, but it is very weak. Overall the re-launch of this title was poorly done and I’m looking forward to seeing Conan back out in the larger world, unfortunately we still have one last issue of this story.

Batgirl # 6 (of 6) – Writer Adam Beechen, Pencils Jim Califore, Inks Jack Purcell, Colors Nathan Eyring. A decent little mini-series, that did its job of explaining how Batgirl earned her place back into the Batman family. I thought it was rather funny that Batman adopted her now as Batman is apparently adopting anyone that becomes his junior partner. I mean he is now the adopted parent of Dick Grayson, Tim Drake and Cassis Cain, just seems a little on the excessive side. Of course now that Batman is gone, who knows how this all plays out.

Mighty Avengers #20 – Writer Brain Bendis, Pencils Lee Weeks, Jim Cheung & Carlo Pagulayan, Inks Lee Weeks, Jim Cheung & Jeffrey Huet, Colors Dean White with Jason Keith. This book was not worth the bang for the buck. It was a ton of rehashing of various events that occurred when Hank Pym was not here and what was meant to be an emotional funeral for the Wasp. Finally the book ends with Norman Osborne walking in to the Avengers Tower. This issue just felt like filler, especially since as an emotional farewell to a fallen hero, the Wasp has never been a major player in the MU, no matter how hard they tried to make her one.

Ghost Rider #30 – Writer Jason Aaron, Art Tan Eng Huat, Colors Jose Villarrubia. This was a middle chapter in the worse sense as very little changed or moved the plot forward. It did reveal that Danny is also being used by Zadkiel, but that was about it. Otherwise Danny killed another Ghost Rider and Johnny is still thinking maybe he would be better off dead.

X-Men Legacy #219 – Writer Mike Carey, Pencils Phil Briones, Inks Cam Smith, Colors Brian Reber. This issue Charles visits his brother and the Juggernaut kills him. Oh wait in was all in the mindscape and it did not really happen. This book needs a direction and fast or I will be dropping the only comic I get written by Mike Carey.

Trinity #29 – 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. – I’m finding it more and more difficult to continue buying this book regardless of how much I like Busiek and Bagley. We are still just meandering around in this alternative history Earth and have yet to see any indication of what is going on with Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. The Trinity’s friends are on some alien pre-history place and the JSI is trying to keep the Earth from falling apart. There is still 23 issues to go, it maybe time to drop this book.

Fall of Cthulhu Godwar #4 (of 4) – Writer Michael Alan Nelson, Art Mark Dos Santos, Colors Renato Faccini & Digikore Studios. A lame issue of this series and this series is not even close to be a mini-series as it really is one long continuing series. This issue when the city of Cthulhu rises up we get a series of flashbacks of other evil performed in Cthulhu’s name over the many centuries of human history. Plus the artist for this series has too light of a style to make the mood appropriately dark and ominous. This issue was a waste of my $4.

Tangent Superman’s Reign #10 (of 12) – Writer Dan Jurgens, Pnecils Carlos Magno, Inks Julio Ferreira, Colors Kanila Tripp. I’m following this series to its end, but this was a flawed idea and the execution has fallen apart as the level of artistic talent has also fallen from the beginning to now. The story line is the Tangent Superman is trying to take over the regular DCU. On the Tangent Earth the DCU Batman gathers a group and with help brings those heroes back to our Earth to fight the Tangent Superman. The whole plot is so convoluted and essentially it is a bunch of heroes fighting a bunch of villains with the Tangent Superman being a good guy who has gone bad trying to do the right thing. It would have been much better being about the Tangent Earth only and their struggle to overthrow their Superman. I just hope they are not adding the Tangent heroes to the DCU as with Milestone and Archie heroes (sorry Red Circle heroes) being added the DCU is crowded enough.

Wormwood Gentleman Corpse Down Pub (One Shot) – by Ben Templesmith. While I’m a big fan of Ben Templesmith and Wormwood this one shot was a bit of a rip off as it contained some very (very) old artwork of Wormwood when Ben was first playing with creating him years ago. The art is very early and very rough and while it would be interesting as back matter in a trade or hard cover, charging me $4 to look at your rough and unworthy of publication artwork was wrong. I would have felt a little better if the price had been cut in half.

That’s a wrap for this week and next week we are at the end of yet another year. It will probably take me until January to pull together a good 2008 year in review column and I hope to do that before mid January.

8 comments:

  1. What do you mean you don't recall Greatest American Hero and weren't a fan? It's only the second funniest superhero show ever put on TV, after only the Tick.

    Without having read the comic, I can tell you at least one difference from the show, based on your review. Originally Katt's character found (or was given) the costume in the desert after contact with the aliens who made it. Unfortunately, he lost the instruction manual. As a result, it was always a bit of luck that he ever got the costume to do anything or to do the same thing over once he'd done something. Lots of fun.

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  2. Thomm - Some of us are older then others and when that show came out I was not the target audience that you were.

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  3. Castleoffrank12/23/2008 9:13 AM

    Hey Jim, two major points of disagreement.

    I would absolutely DISCOURAGE anyone from ordering the Frazetta comic collection book until theyve seen it and checked it out in person. It's a fine collection of work except for one thing: a lot of the work is computer colored...horribly. If the work had either been presented in black and white or with color, well done, it would have been a wonderful book, but the color is flat, washy, and utterly distracting. The publisher went cheap on this front, and it diminishes the book.

    Second, the inevitible backlash against the excellent Xmen Noir aside, Spiderman noir is absolutely NOT the noir concept done right, all due respect. It does everything wrong that Xmen Noir got right. The art is poor, the story is a standard marvel superhero story with a very thin veneer of noir on top, like the worst of Dc's Elseworlds towards the end of that slough of titles. It's everything I thought the entire Noir line would be, and, based on Xmen, was hopeful it wouldn't. Marvel is 1 for 2. The again, I know that there are people who prefer it this way, so maybe its good that marvel presents books with different flavors. But you should be aware that there are those who see this book as a big letdown from Xmen Noir. Quite a lot actually.

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  4. Castleoffrank - I won't disagree about the coloring, but I have enjoyed seeing this material that I have not seen elsewhere and the background material has been enjoyable. Plus the slipcover and the actual book itself appears well made.

    As for Spider-Man Noir, maybe it came across better to me as X-Men Noir was horrible in my opinion. Plus I like David Hine's work. I thought X-Men Noir was a meandering mess and my opinion was reinforced by some other fans.

    Still I will give you that the two books were very different. The shame of it is that if they really wanted to do this stuff right, they should have had Brubaker and Aaron writing them.

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  5. CastleofFrank12/23/2008 10:28 AM

    I disagree completely on Xmen Noir. To me the story was far superior and technically, if you wanted to start nit picking, an actual Noir story whilst Spidey was "merely" a crime story.

    And as far as other fans, really, all due respect, a casual glance at the sheer amount of positive reviews of Xmen puts the opinion of the very very few in proper perspective. Im not saying their opinions don't matter, but if you are going to cite fan opinion, then so am I. And the numbers are by far more positive.

    But I actually also am alarmed at the idea that only certain writers should write crime material because theyve done it before. I would argue that both Spidey and Xmen are at least as good as the last arc of criminal and Daredevil has gone from being one of my favorite books to an absolute bore.

    Have a great holiday!

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  6. CastleofFrank - I do a web broadcast and those were the fans I was referring to, anything X-Men will get positive reviews.

    Also I do not object to other writers doing noir, it is just that I would have started with two writers who have proven themselves in that category.

    Our opinion seems to totally opposite as I had found Daredevil to be a bore prior to the last two arcs. As for Criminal, I like the book, but I find my opinion blowing hot and cold on that book. I think he sometimes tries to hard to make it noir and then just makes everyone a loser, which is not necessarily what I would call noir.

    Happy Holidays to you also.

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  7. Now that you two are done with your noir discussion, I'm going back to Greatest American Hero. I know you're a geezer and all, but my Dad watched the show. He'd be 67 now if he were still alive. He was a big fan of the show. I think it appealed to his like of Plastic Man and the Green Hornet. He wasn't into comics the way I am, but he did have his favorites all the same.

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  8. Thomm - From '81 to '83 I was 25 to 27. I had just gotten married, had a first child in '82 and had started to work for Citicorp. I never even watched TV during those years and barely had time to read comics. The show hit at a point in my life that TV was not something I paid attention to.

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