Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Best to Worst of Last Week

No recommendation this week but a quick mention that for the week I skipped my top books were GREEN LANTERN #36, JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #22MADAME XANADU #7, SCALPED #24, INCOGNITO #1 and PROOF #15 in no particular order. For anyone who follows this column on a normal basis these books should come as no surprise. All of these are solid series and Incognito is by a proven creative team. Now onto this weeks best to worst.

Detective Comics #852 – Writer Paul Dini, Pencils Dustin Nguyen, Inks Derek Fridolfs, Colors John Kalisz. This is the first “Faces of Evil” book that I have read and if all of them are this good, then DC has a great concept going. I was hesitant going in as we had just finished with Hush and bringing him back this fast felt way too early, but it worked. Hush is back and starts to utilize his looking more like Bruce by hustling people who do not know Bruce that well. He kills a rich woman and steals her yacht and sells it for cash. Withdraws a large sum of money from a foreign subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises and finally runs into trouble in Viet Nam and the trouble is Catwoman. I can’t wait until the Batman issue that concludes this story. Paul Dini continues to produce some highly entertaining Batman material (of course this issue is without Batman).

Hexed #1 (of 4) – See my detailed review here. When I did that review it was with a PDF copy and now I have been able to re-read it with a print copy. I have to say that I still love having the actual book in my hand. On a second read the book is still terrific. Lucifer is Catwoman and Doctor Strange (pre sorcerer supreme) with a little bit of the Kitty Pryde/Jubille type of charm to her character. You fall in love with her from the jump, wander about her past (which I’m still seeing unfold in Fall of Cthulhu) and are rooting for her to succeed. This is a tightly written book, with an art style that is appealing and has a light and almost ethereal feel to at times. A WINNER from BOOM.

Shrapnel #1 (of 5) – See my detailed review here. Jump in from the first issue of this terrific new series from Radical Comics. It is the beginning of a trilogy about a Solar War. It has touches and Blade Runner and Gattaca to it, but is just a good book that reads like a true graphic novel. Plus this book is 48 pages of story and art for $1.99, in a grim economic environment you have to love a company giving you a shot at reading a new book for such a bargain.

Punisher #1 – Writer Rick Remender, Art Jerome Opena, Colors Dan Brown. You have to love Rick Remender and Jerome Opena, who worked on Fear Agent together before taking on this book. This is the MU Punisher and not the Max Punisher and I have no problems with having two separate continuities. It does seem redundant and I assume Marvel has canned the Punisher War Journal book as this seems to be the Punisher that exists inside the regular MU and he is part of the whole Dark Reign thing. The Punisher is trying to kill Norman Osborne and the Sentry stops him and then goes after Frank. As he is trying to just capture Frank and is so impossibly powerful he ignores Frank’s traps. He would have captured Frank if not for some help from a mysterious benefactor. Why Frank was shooting Norman and who is his benefactor are mysteries to be revealed as we move forward, but this was a highly entertaining and fast paced book with some great art. The one complaint was the $4 price tag since the book included back matter giving us a history on who the Punisher is in this continuity, which was unwanted and unnecessary.

Secret Invasion War of the Kings – Writer Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, Pencils Paul Pelletier & Bong Dazo, Inks Rick Maygar & Joe Pimentel, Colors Wil Quintana & Mike Kelleher. This is shaping up to be another good space event for Marvel. From Annihilation, to Annihilation Conquest to War of Kings, Marvel is been having fun with their outer space stuff. This issue focused on the Inhumans and Black Bolt’s reaction to being a captive of the skrulls. He takes the whole city off into space, kills the skrulls who are fleeing Earth and a few Shi’ar ships as collateral damage. He does not stop there and they invade the Kree home world and Ronan agrees to Black Bolt being the ruler of the Kree. Vulcan gets reports of what happen to his Shi’ar ships and it looks like the War is starting.

Walking Dead #57 –Writer Robert Kirkman, Art Charles Adlard, Graytones Cliff Rathburn. This issue we see Rick and Abraham go off on a task together to try and gather more weapons from Rick’s old sheriff’s office. Rick will not leave Carl behind and during the trip they are attacked by some humans who are almost as bad as the Zombies. When they start to try and rape Carl, Rick goes ballistic and actually rips the throat of one man out with his own teeth. Rick and Abraham save the day, but the cost is a little more of Rick’s soul and the price Rick will pay for Carl seeing him this way. It prompts Abraham to want to share his horror story with Rick and that should be next issue. A very powerful and emotional issue and Kirkman continues to take Rick further and further down some dark roads and when you think he has hit bottom, we find another level below that.

Black Lighting #1 (of 6) – Writer Jen Van Meter, Art Vully Hamner, Colors Laura Martin. I came into this book with low expectations and with the strong possibility of canning this book. I felt we did not need a year one story on someone who has been a “C” list character in the DCU. This book was excellent and has me excited to see what comes next. Jefferson Pierce has never been portrayed as well as this in any other books that I read about him. Now truth be known, I barely remember his early series, but he is a family man moving back into the neighborhood that he gave up on long ago. As the principal of an inner city school in Metropolis he is struggling with gang violence and the 100. He is suppressing his powers, as he always felt violence was the wrong way to go, but as we see he is coming to accept that he may need to be a vigilante as well as an educator to make things better. A great start to this mini-series.
Secret Six #5 – Writer Gail Simone, Pencils Nicola Scott, Inks Doug Hazelwood & Rodney Ramos, Colors Jason Wright. They call this part of the “Faces of Evil”, but all it really is, is a Deadshot cover. That’s why some of these ‘events” can be so lame. Plus Secret Six is all about the bad guys. This was another good issue and this issue’s surprise ending is we find out who Junior is and actually see Junior. In case you have not read it, I’ll leave the ending alone, but it is pretty gross and amusing all at the same time. This is winning series from Simone and Scott.

Rest #2 – Writer Mark Powers, Illustrated by Shawn McManus & Lizzy John. I’m enjoying this series, but it comes out so slow and I know DDP has had financial issues, so I worry how long it will continue. This issue we see how John Barrett has been changed by the drug. Not only does he not sleep, but his IQ appears increased and by all accounts he is a “superman” of sorts (no actual powers). He finds out that he is sought after by various people for what is coursing through his bloodstream and wants out of the program. Also the dark side of the drug is what has happened in some of their early trials in foreign lands and the effects it is having on John’s friend who pushed him into the program.

Kull #3 (of 5) – Writer Avrid Nelson, Art Will Conrad, Colors Jose Villarrubia. This is the best Robert E. Howard inspired series coming out of Dark Horse and is a solid action/adventure in its own right. This issue we learn about the elder gods and the snake people who still live and have been replacing the kings of Valusia for many years. With the help of a Pict warrior Brule, Kull learns of the conspiracy and he and Brule thwart the attempt on his life. The art is lush and full of detail and gives us a great sense of the place. I hope this is just the first in a series of mini-series with this creative team on the helm of Kull.

Archibald: Chasing the Dragon – Created and Illustrated by Grant Bond, Writer Dara Naraghi. This series (really a string of one shots) is so bizarre, yet so much fun at the same time. First and foremost is Grant Bond’s brilliant artwork. His style is reminiscent of the old animation from back in the thirties and the black and white with the spotting of colors works perfectly. The best description of this book I ever read is Sin City meets Roger Rabbit and this issue is no exception. We are starting to layer in more back story as to what happened to Archibald’s brother and we added the father who is behind the deal with the devil. Maniacal, insane, bloody, humorous, and unadulterated fun and joy is what Archibald brings to comics. This book is easy to pick up at any point and I’m just waiting for the next one shot.

House of Mystery #9 – Writer Matthew Sturges, Pencils Lucca Rossi, Inks Jose Marzan, Colors Lee Loughridge. While the extra story this issue is a wonderous and joyous event (Story Bill Willingham and Art by Bernie Wrightson), it was just inserted into the book almost randomly. I like the gimmick and understand it cuts down on the main story’s artist monthly page commitment, but they need to make it work better. The main story advances the back story on Fig as what appears to be her father makes a surprise visit. Between this book and Madam Xanadu I believe Vertigo has two titles that should have long lives.

Jonah Hex #39 – Writers Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, Art Rafa Garres, Colors Rob Leigh. Another great one and done, where Jonah helps a deputy learn how to be more of a sheriff. What I love about Jonah Hex is how strong these stories set up a premise and execute against it and build characters and do it in 22 pages. Of course Jonah Hex is also a pleasure for the diverse artists that get to draw this book. Rafa Garres has a very distinct style and one that does not necessarily fit Jonah Hex, but as you read the book it does work, it is just a very different style then most artists.

The Authority # 6 – Writers Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, Art Simon Colby, Colors Carrie Strachan. This issue was very well done and started to advance the story line in a way that was really needed. We know the world has been destroyed and we read about the repercussions, but we needed to see the heroes start to fix things. This issue Stormwatch shows up and they join with the Authority in helping to revive the Carrier in exchange for the Authority taking in their refugees. Immediately as something worthwhile is built up a bad guy wants to take it over. I have been enjoying the WU, but also knew that we needed to move the story forward a little faster and this book was just the ticket.

Sgt. Rock #3 (of 6) – By Billy Tucci, colors Hi-Fi. The realism in this story is so well done that it no longer even feels like a Sgt. Rock story in some ways. The level of detail Tucci has put into his work has made Rock a living, breathing human being. The addition of the “Haunted Tank” was well done and having the Kilroy, the Up Front reporter, is a great way to give us an everyman’s point of view.

Anna Mercury #5 (of 5) – Writer Warren Ellis, Art Facundo Percio, Color Paul Duffield. Have to love the way this series ended, with Anna pushing to all sorts of limits and leaving collateral damage in her wake. She chooses a course of action that kills hundreds of thousands of people, but it was to save millions of people. It would have been a suicide mission if her central command had not pulled her back in time. This book has some very cool concepts in creating alternative worlds and giving us super heroes who are only super in those worlds. In someway it reminded me of Hourman as her powers were limited to a set period of time and/or usage of energy.

Hellboy: Wild Hunt #2 (of 8) – Writer Mike Mignola, Art Duncan Fegredo, Art for back Story Guy Davis, Colors Dave Stewart. This issue we see Hellboy recovers from the spear in his chest and the people who betrayed him were killed by the Giants. Instead of escaping Hellboy decides to fight the Giants. We also learn some back story on Gruagach. The back story is “How Koshchei became deathless”. I really need to read my Hellboy archives to catch up on stuff I missed here and there over the year.

Invincible Iron Man #9 – Writer Matt Fraction, Art Salvador LaRocca, Colors Frank D’Armata. I have recently started to read more of Matt Fraction’s work and have either come around to liking his work or he is improving, maybe it is a little of both. Tony Start is trying to save the world by wiping out his brain as it contains all the important information that would help Osborne. He solicits Pepper Potts and Maria Hill’s assistance, but Hill refuses. Tony gets the process going and then Hill comes back as she is being chased by Osborne. So the setting is Tony is essentially dying and he is trying to complete one last task and now he needs to also try and help Hill. I’m curious to see how Matt gets Tony out of this “death trap”. The duel that is shaping up between Tony and Osborne is entertaining.

Gravel #7 – Story/Script Warren Ellis, Script Mike Wolfer, Art Oscar Jimenez, Color Juanmar. I know Avatar is doing the Dark Horse thing with characters by giving them a series of mini-series, but the numbering is getting annoying as companies do not want to let you know it is the last issue of anything. I guess it is a marketing gimmick, but still I think you owe me an idea of what is going on next. This issue ends Book One and ends with Gravel killing the last member of the minor seven and then receiving a phone call to join the major seven. On one hand it was nice the way he won the day on the other hand it felt like a cop out as we knew he was looking to kill everyone, but I wanted more of an ending.

Sub-Mariner The Depths #4 (of 5) – Writer Peter Milligan, Art Esad Ribic. It feels like it is taking longer and longer for each issue to show up, but all in all it has been an enjoyable story about Namor and Atlantis being a myth in the Marvel Universe (back in the 30’s). I believe this will read much better as trade because the pace of the story is deliberately slow and the reveal to actually get to Namor has to be the final act. Still the characters are interesting and the art is superb.

Haunted Tank # 2 (of 5) – Writer Frank Marraffino, Art Henry Flint, Colors Lee Loughridge. Where the first issue was played more for laughs this issue is played more for the purpose of showing that two parties who should have nothing in common, can still learn from each other and respect each other. While the Confederate General’s Ghost cannot understand why he is so offensive the black tank commander, both start to actually listen to each other this issue. While this book is making a point and certainly has a viewpoint to express, it is coming across very organically and it feels like what the characters would say and do and is not preachy at all. A surprisingly highly entertaining take on the “Haunted Tank” concept.

Sword #14 – by Jonanthan and Joshua Luna. Somehow this book is losing a little steam for me. Last issue she gets to the next guy she wants to kill and gets shot. The sword is touching her so she heals and fights the bad guys. The guns are too much to overcome and she loses the sword during the battle and runs away with her friends. One of the bad guys grabs the sword and decides maybe he should be the boss and appears ready to face off against the guy Dara is after (who controls Earth). When the writing loses something, I start to notice the art and that is a problem as the actual artwork is very pedestrian and actually poorly done with some elements. The layouts and story telling is there, they just need to hire either a strong inker or an artist and they can just do breakdowns. At this point the story needs to find another hook or move to the ending a lot sooner.

Terror Titans #4 (of 6) – Writer Sean McKeever, Pencils Joe Bennett, Inks Jack Jadson, Colors Rod Reis. This book is way too forgettable and feels a little meaningless. It also feels very random as the plot point breaks are very jarring and I forget who the heck is who as I’m reading the book. I’m curious to see what Clock King’s end game is and what will happen with Ravager, but overall I have to say this book has been a let down, especially given the talent level on this book. I get the overall impression that Sean McKeever is a much better writer then he has been allowed to show as I feel like the Titans stuff is being over managed.

El Diablo #5 (of 6) – Writer Jai Nitz, Pencils Phil Hester, Inks Ande Parks, Colors Guy Major. I keep wondering why I’m buying this book and this issue I was starting to get into the battle between El Diablo and the Freedom Fighters when the book got too deep into some mythology that I’m not aware of. I also was a little turned off by the dialogue that felt a little preachy and was denigrating the American ideal, which I thought was unneeded. I felt like the writer was preaching to me as opposed to it be the character’s true thoughts. As I have one more issue I will ride this book out.

Trinity #32 – Front Story Writer Kurt Busiek, Pencils Mark Bagley, Inks Art Thibert, Colors Pete Pantazis, Back-Up Writers Kurt Busiek & Fabian Nicieza, Art Mike Norton & Andre Parks, Colors Allen Passalaqua. – I’m really growing tired of this book and I started to realize that I have 20 more issues to go and that is another $60 in cover price investment, that I’m not sure I want to make for this story. It has its moments, but they are few and far between. The front story about the Trinity in the cosmic egg world is so dragged out and the back story about the changed “real world” is also going way too slow. I want to drop this book, but there is a part of me that wants to see where Busiek is going with this.

Dead of Night: Werewolf by Night #1 (of 4) – The $4 price tag makes it easier to drop Marvel mini-series. If the book is good no problem, but they are taking the old Jack Russell character and re-booting it into a gore feast and it lost the charm the series had years ago. Canceled.

All in all this was a surprising week for me. I have been so busy lately that this week I looked at and I thought it would be a rather less then stellar week and I was pleasantly surprised with many of the offerings. You have to love comics as you get more entertainment for the buck then almost anything else. Plus I’m happy that the Ravens have made it to the AFC Championship game.

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