I’m skipping my recommendation to talk about the death of the “Marvel style” of doing comics. Years ago this ‘style” came about because Stan Lee was trying to produce as many comics as possible. He would give a basic plot to an artist and then look to receive 20 or so pages of story and art. Once he got it back he would add in the dialogue. If you read early silver age Marvel you can often pick up where the words and pictures are not always going in the same direction. Of course this led to many questions as to who did what over the years but that form of collaborative style seems to be gone within Marvel and was never much of an element in DC.
I have always thought those types of collaborations often left both parties dissatisfied but was often a better product. The Beatles were better then McCartney or Lennon solo and Lee and Kirby were better together then apart.
When you read the credits on many of the comics you will see a lot of comics were there is more then one artist. This tells me that it has to be a full script. I assume this is done in order to get ahead or ensure deadlines are met and therefore the script pages are doled out to multiple artists. Good editors make sure the styles mesh or will use different styles for flashbacks or whatever, but it also reduces the freedom that an artist has to be able to redirect a story or to make some changes that could improve the story because he is forced to lead into the next guy’s work. So the grind of producing so many comics seems to have created the death or heavy decline of the “Marvel style”, which is a shame.
X-Factor #39 – Writer Peter David, Pencils Valentine DeLandro, Inks Craig Yeung, Colors Jeromy Cox. This was one of the best endings ever done in a comic book. Maddrox and Siryn are having their baby. Now the one problem of having a child in comics in how do you deal with it. If the baby ages the parents also age. The FF has had their children age very slowly and then just ignored the fact that the FF should be older. On TV shows a baby becomes 2 to 3 years old very fast so they can do some actual scenes with a child. No matter how you cut it a baby in real life and entertainment life changes everything. That means most people avoid it like the plague. But Peter David had the most unique way of both having a child and turning the actual dealing with the child into a simple and easy solution. He asked that we not spoil the ending and I won’t, but run down to your store and buy this book. X-Factor is now officially back on my list. I never saw this coming, unbelievable.
Battlefields Night Witches #3 (of 3) – Writer Garth Ennis, Art Russ Braun, Colors Tony Avina. Garth always gives us great war stories and the ending of Night Witches was no exception. One of the girls is shot down and a German soldier who is sick of the brutality of his side saves her. Unfortunately her lover had been killed by the Germans recently so she knifes him in the back, steals his gun and kills his squad. Garth and artist Russ Braun really put you in that place and that time and give us an up close perspective of one part of WWII. It is not glamorized, it is humanized and it also serves as a reminder of what war is like.
Green Lantern #37 – Writer Geoff Johns, Pencils Ivan Reis, Inks Oclair Albert & Julio Ferreira, Colors Nei Ruffino. – Blue Lanterns, Yellow Lanterns, Red Lanterns and Green Lanterns, we have a heck of a lot going on here and the comic almost feels like it can barely contain it. Hal is in the center of the action and goes to help Sinestro, but then Sinestro does what he always does and Hal is about ready to use his new ability granted by the guardians to kill Sinestro. The red ring seeks him out and recruits Hal as a Red Lantern since he allowed his rage to rule him. This series under Johns is just a very good to great book each and every issue. All is this is just the build up to the “Blackest Night” saga which should be the story of 2009.
X-Men Kingbreaker #2 (of 4) – Writer Chris Yost, Pencils Dustin Weaver, Inks Jamie Mendoza & Victor Olazaba, Colors Nathan Fairbairn & John Rauch. There is so much going on in this book that if I did a plot synopsis I would be writing three paragraphs or more. The bottom line is that Vulcan is shown to be power crazed and is doing things that even an ambitious sane man would not do. At the same time Havok has escaped from prison and released his fellow prisoners and is looking to hunt his brother down. This has been a well done story and allowed even those (like myself) who had avoided this stuff to know what is going on and get hooked onto the story. Plus this is just the lead-up to War of Kings, which is shaping up to be a nice mini-event.
Hellblazer #251 – Writer Peter Milligan, Layouts Giuseppe Camuncoli, Finished Art Stefano Landini, Colors Jamie Grant. – Peter Milligan is the new writer on John Constantine and after Andy Diggle’s run I was curious to see the next take on Constantine. Considering how long Milligan has been writing for Vertigo I was shocked this was his first stint on the character. It is very different from Diggle’s run and the art is also stylistically very different, so it is a clean break from before in many ways, it is also a strong start. John and Phoebe are in the midst of a new relationship that both parties are seeing as potentially serious. As they confess their past sins to each other, John wins by a landslide, but the relationship is till intact and has the earmarks of being a rare serious relationship for John. A bizarre scab appears on John’s chest that is related to some incident not involving John from 12 years ago. John is trying the magical approach to ridding himself of it. Phoebe is a doctor and is trying the scientific approach. At the same time we learn Phoebe has some skeletons in her closet that have yet to be revealed. The issue ends with Phoebe in danger from some creature and John not answering the phone. Any fears I had about Diggle leaving the book have already been resolved and I’m looking forward to the next issue under this creative team.
Frank Castle the Punisher #66 – Writer Duane Swierczynski, Art Michel Lacombe, Colors Val Staples. I had abandoned this series after Garth Ennis left the “max” version of the Punisher, but wanted to read this arc because the writer has impressed me in other books and the premise sounded great. Simply put, Frank is captured and injected with a poison that will kill him in six hours. A classic type of story that has been done many times the comic Sparks and the movie Crank are just the most recent examples. Still when done well they are beautiful tension builders. This story ends with the guy who poisons Frank telling him who his organization wants killed. He also tells Frank he is just a flunky and does not have the antidote to the poison with him. Frank kills him and goes to his weapons van and thinks if he only has six hours before he dies he should make the most of it. It was just a great ending and would be how I would imagine Castle to be, he doesn’t care if he dies or not.
Black Lightning Year One #2 (of 6) – Writer Jen Van Meter, Art Cully Hamner, Colors Laura Martin. – This is a very well written series and the art by Cully Hamner works nicely with this book. I enjoy how the book shows why Superman has not been involved with “Suicide Slum” and enjoy that Jeff Pierce in his civilian id is not faulting anybody. This issue we get to see Black Lightning progress from a street level vigilante to more of a true super-hero. Just as important we see the steps he is taking in his civilian identity to improve his home. I was not sure what I was expecting with this series, but what this is giving me a well done updating of Black Lighting’s origin and making me want an ongoing series with the man.
Supergirl #37 – Writer Sterling Gates, Pencils Jamal Igle, Inks Keith Champagne, Colors Nei Ruffino. – This series has gone from a book that I never wanted to read (yet still purchased) to a book that has direction, focus and is a book that I look forward to each month. Supergirl is living on New Krypton and has apparently abandoned her new identity in Metropolis. Her mother sends her to Earth to capture the criminal who killed her Dad. Superwoman (who is dogging Supergirl) steps in to stop her. At the same time we are wondering why Superwoman was acting as General Lang’s assassin (or did she kill Agent Liberty on her own?). The bottom line is a lot is going on in this book and the plot points are interweaving in and out of the Superman titles very well.
Spider-Man Noir #2 (of 4) – Writer David Hine with Fabrice Sapolsky, Art Carmine Di Gandomenico. This mini-series is doing a nice job of “noiring” things up. Peter finds out that Ben is dirty as anyone else and Ben, because of Peter’s example, decides to do the right thing. We also get the origin of how this version of Peter Parker gets his powers and while lame, fit the 30’s era the story is set in. The ending was my favorite part as we find out JJ Jameson is part of the Goblin’s organization and he takes out Ben Urich to save the Goblin from exposure.
Dark Avengers #1 – Writer Brian Bendis, Art Mike Deodato, Color Rain Berdo. This book is why I’m trying out the Dark Reign stuff even though I hated how we got here. This story is actually fun in a twisted way. If we accept that the people are now in love with a murderer Norman Osborne, then the rest can be fun. Norman has pulled together his own Avengers. Ms. Marvel is Moonstone, Hawkeye is Bullseye, Wolverine is Draken, Spider-Man is Venom and the Iron Patriot is Norman Osborne. He has also recruited Ares, Sentry and the young Captain Marvel. How the real heroes react to this and how these villains posing as heroes react will make it fun. Hey isn’t this just Bendis ripping off the original Thunderbolt concept? Yes, it is Busiek and Bagley’s original Thunderbolt concept redone with some twists added here and there. Of course Bendis is good at taking other people’s concepts and running with them (see Ultimate Spider-Man) and making them entertaining.
Faces of Evil Deathstroke #1 – Writer David Hine, Pencils George Jeanty, Inks Mark McKenna, Colors Jo Smith. Hey it is that David Hine guy again at DC. This was a very good Deathstroke story and certainly brings him back as a truly bad a** person again. I like that his new agenda is for him to kill whoever needs to be killed. It could be a bad guy or a good guy, but if Deathstroke decides someone should die he will make it happen. Slade has given himself a clean slate. Hopefully DC will act on this and I would love to see Hine run with a Deathstroke series.
Brave and Bold #21 – Writer David Hine, Pencils Doug Braithwaite, Inks Bill Reinhold, Colors Art Lyon. This story has grabbed my interest. David Hine is a strong writer and I hope that DC or Marvel gives this guy a series to run with. GL and the Phantom Stranger are on an alien world fighting a creature called Purge. Purge is a being of pure thought who believes that since everyone is full of sin all must die. At the same time the little girl whose physic powers seems to be perhaps a defense against Purge is in danger back in Earth. The Phantom Stranger summons Green Arrow to try and save her. Needless to say a lot is going on and I’m looking forward to how this all wraps up next issue.
Fallen Angel #33 – Writer Peter David, Art JK Woodward. So this was a shocker to find out this was the final issue in the series. Now in the back it talks about bringing the series back in July calling it Fallen Angel Reborn, but that idea seems unexciting at this point. The series came to a rapid conclusion as Moloch is defeated by Jude stabbing himself and then allowing the fire inside him to kill Moloch as it is killing him. Angel negotiates with God to save her son and Angel ends up in charge of Bete Noire and Jude is a monstrous looking man who now is fulfilling Angel’s old role. I was really enjoying this arc and they just wrapped everything up way too quick and I think this maybe my final issue of this book and the new re-launch be damned.
Guardians of the Galaxy #9 – Writers Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, Pencils Brad Walker & Carlos Magno, Inks Vicotr Olazaba & Jack Purcell, Colors Wil Quintana & Bruno Hang. As this book will be a big part of “War of the Kings” apparently we are getting a lot of set-up for that story line. Blastarr has sent Star-Lord to negotiate with the prisoners of the negative zone prison and all does not go according to plan. Still the Guardians do show up in the middle of the battle and will be fighting Blastarr next issue. We also have a sub-plot where Quasar gets Mentor’s (of Titan) help to find out if Moon Dragon is really dead. He obliges by killing her and Drax. Of course they leave us hanging but I assume it maybe the only way to rescue Moon Dragon is to have them also in the after life.
Vigilante #2 – Writer Marv Wolfman, Pencils Rick Leonardi, Inks John Stanisci, Colors David Baron. – We are on issue #2 and already running into headaches about the central good guy being someone willing to kill. I hate that we fall back into that trap too readily. The book should be about a good guy who kills bad guys. Does that make him a bad guy, who knows, but either make him the DCU’s Punisher or don’t do a series about him. This issue was well done and it looks like this Vigilante will not be able to catch a break as he is one step behind the bad guys so far. The lead in to him fighting Nightwing again is very lame as Wolfman spent the entire Nightwing arc about those two fighting. I’m also unhappy that this series is going to be part of a Titans cross-over event soon.
Robin #182 – Writer Fabien Nicieza, Art Freddie Williams II, Colors Guy Major. – This was a good story that illustrates how Tim has had to change his mindset now that Batman is not around. As for being a strong hero, Tim has always been that, but he is certainly not ready to be Batman and if they have him become Batman it would be really inane. As Tim is portrayed as a high school student, a teen Batman does not cut it. What I can see is Tim taking on the Red Robin role and handing off Robin to Spoiler or Damien if he is not Robin to the new Batman.
Thunderbolts – Writer Andy Diggle, Art Robert Del La Torre, Colors Frank Martin – Marvel is loving having Obama as President and has immediately inserted him into their books as this issue illustrates. On one hand it is fun to see a “real president” in the book, on the other it sets it too hard and fast into a place and time and therefore ties characters to an era when you know they will be around forever. As a side note, the fact the companies will not age characters and move on forces the writers to constantly reinvent the same characters over and over again and ultimately makes them lose their effectiveness over time in my opinion. This issue President Obama is dealing with allegation from Dr. Samson about what a nut job Norman is. Of course Norman has set things up to have Air Force One attacked by the “Green Goblin” and he will I’m sure save the day which will pull the wool over the President’s eyes and keep him running things. Then we get to the problem of why would a company who is run by a group of people clearly fans of the new President want to show us that Norman can outsmart him from day one. Maybe the conclusion of the book will surprise me. Of course this issue the Thunderbolts is an entirely new team and they are to be Norman’s off book assassination squad. I’m on the fence about this book and the whole Dark Reign thing, when I read them they are well done, but the after taste of this stuff comes off as inane and too far fetched for even a comic book.
Ghost Rider #31 – Writer Jason Aaron, Art Tan Eng Huat & Roland Boschi, Colors Jose Villarrubia. This issue was all set-up as the last Ghost Riders have gathered together and Danny with Zadkeil’s troops shows up ready to take them down. Johnny finally gets up his nerve to fight again and shows up at the last page to join the showdown. There is a side story where the sheriff from Jason’s first arc is now armed with the Hellfire shotgun and is going Ghost Rider hunting. Jason has turned this into a fast paced action/adventure book with Christian mythology overtones thrown in.
Final Crisis Superman Beyond #2 (of 2) – Writer Grant Morrison, Pencils Doug Mahnke, Inks Christian Almay with Tom Nguyen, Drew Garcia & Derek Fridolfs, Colors David Baron All of the 3-D makes a book problematic for me as I have to try and make my glasses work with the 3-D goggles and it never works right. Still the actual story was part meta-physical Grant Morrison drug induced fantasy about a living DCU and a touching love story of Clark and Lois. I look forward to reading this in its entirety and if DC is smart the Final Crisis books by Grant will all be collected together in a nice oversized format printed with and without 3D.
Mighty Avengers #21 – Writer Dan Slott, Pencils Khoi Pham, Inks Allen Martinez & Danny Miki, Colors Jason Keith & Guru eFX. I read it and I liked it and I disliked it and I’m not sure if I care about it. How is that for a mixed reaction? The Scarlet Witch is back and she has to dig up her own team of Avengers for various reasons. We end up with the Hulk, USAgent, Hercules, Cassie Lang, the Vision, Jocasta, Jarvis, Amadeus Cho, Hercules, Scarlet Witch and Hank Pym as the Wasp. The bad guy is now some version of Quicksilver. Dan Slott has some good dialogue and is having fun with recreating Hank Pym. Still as much as this book has potential, my problem is the endless recycling of these characters. Also Marvel is strong on keeping a consistent universe, but I stopped reading Hulk and I’m wondering who and what he is.
Birds of Prey #126 – Writer Tony Bedard, Pencils Claude St. Aubin, Inks John Floyd, Colors Hi-Fi. - So the penultimate issue of the series has the showdown between the Calculator and Oracle take an unexpected turn as the Calculator gains actual super powers. Calculator manipulates some of his criminal partners into setting up Kilgore (the living computer program) so that now the Calculator controls the Kilgore program and therefore controls any machine. With this type of power the Calculator is going after Oracle and that leads into the final issue of Birds of Prey.
Moon Knight #26 – Writer Mike Benson, Art Jefte Palo, Colors Lee Loughridge. So Moon Knight is roaming around being Jake Lockley in Mexico and comes to the notice of a wealthy man who needs help saving his daughter. Jake and some the rich man’s men go into the town and will try to break her out of where she is being held. Unfortunately (or it maybe a help) the Punisher is also in the same town.
Conan The Cimmerian #7 – Writer Tim Truman, Art Tomas Giorello & Rcihard Corben, Colors Jose Villarrubia. This really should have been a mini-series prior to re-launching the Conan book. It took us seven issues and half of that fill-in by Richard Corben giving us a bullsh*t story about Conan’s grandfather which added nothing. We knew once the girl was introduced that Conan would fall in love with her, she would be killed, and Conan would kill who did it and leave Cimmera. Not that the book was not professionally done, just that it did not move Conan forward into the next phase of his life as was promised.
Trinity #34 – Front Story Writer Kurt Busiek, Pencils Mark Bagley, Inks Art Thibert, Colors Pete Pantazis, Back-Up Writers Kurt Busiek & Fabian Nicieza, Art Tom Derencik & Wayne Faucher, Colors Allen Passalaqua. – Oddly as down as I have been on this book, I found this issue to be a better one then the last few issues. The story of the alternative Earth trying to stave off the chaos is more interesting then seeing the DC history re-visited through the eyes of the purple people in the cosmic egg and this issue focused more on the battle for control of the Earth. I’m now thoroughly convinced that making this story 52 issues was a huge mistake and Busiek is constantly treading water to make this story last.
Epilogue #4 (of 4) – Writer Steve Niles, Art Kyle Hotz, Colors Tom Smith. It was an okay series. We had a vampire who is trying to be a good guy. We had vampires from the old country trying to stop him. A battle ensues and with the help of a cop who had befriended the good vampire he kills most of the bad guys. A decent read and Kyle Hotz’s art is very stylistic (you either like it or not), but there was no hook to this series to make me come back for more.
Dark Delicacies #1 – This books is a prime example of why anthologies are such are hard sell. The goal for the book was to scare you and provide truly creepy stories. The first story was a hit. Part of the Game – Story F. Paul Wilson, Script Dan Wickerline, Art Douglas Draper. This was a great film noir type of story, where the central character is trying to get rich by forcing a Mandarin from Chinatown (back in the 30’s) to give him a cut of the action. Instead he gets infected by a bug that has laid eggs in him and the only possible cure is another parasite. There is a lot more to it, but it does give you that creepy vibe they were shooting for and tells a great story. The second story was a total miss. Dog – Story Joe R. Lansdale, Script Neal Barrett Jr., Pencils Jerry Beck, Digital Painting Thomas Smith. A guy has a fight with his wife. He takes a ride on his bike. A giant almost rabid dog attacks him and he wins a long hard fought battle. His foot is broken and he is stuck in the middle of nowhere. I kept trying to find the point of this story or the message or what and nothing, nada, zip. For $4, both stories need to be good.
Uncanny X-Men Annual #2 – Writer Matt Fraction, Art Mitch Breitweiser & Daniel Acuna, Colors Elizabeth Breitweiser for Mitch’s pages. Advertised as part of Dark Reign, we get a retro-con of the history of the White Queen and find out she and Namor were lovers at one time. It all goes back to her history with the Hellfire Club and we see all sorts of stuff and find out a little bit about her hidden agendas. Bottom line, I did not like it at all. Emma is now being portrayed as someone who is an untrustworthy person. I know she had been a villain in prior times, but we had moved past all of that. This is the part of Dark Reign I don’t like and seeing Namor and Emma in these roles feels forced to me. Also Daniel Acuna’s portion of the art in this book looks weak. Acuna I’m sure is a competent artist, but I have not found a single book by him that I have enjoyed.
Stormwatch PHD #18 – Writer Ian Edginton, Pencils Leandro Fernandez, Inks Francesco Paronzini, Colors Carrie Strachan. This was a well done issue and if you had not read the Authority it was probably a good introduction to how Stormwatch and the Authority had teamed-up. Unfortunately I had red the Authority and this book was almost 50% redundant and I believe had some pages the exact same as the other. In a world full of cross-overs this and Authority needs to read more like Part 1 and Part 2 and not assume that a reader is only getting one or the other. While well done, I felt cheated as nothing new really occurred that I had not read in the Authority. Also since that have this crap back-up going through all 4 of the WU titles they are assuming we are reading both titles.
Frazetta’s Moon Mood (One Shot) – Writer Jay Fotos, Art Tim Virgil, Color Jay Fotos. It is hard to make this one shots really solid stories and this issue was no exception. They made the Moon Maid a goddess of sorts and the creature she was riding on was acting as her protector, but really was trying to kill her for his god. It was almost too much story for a one shot. Not a bad effort, just not a great effort.
Justice League of America#29 – Writer Len Wein, Pencils Chris Cross, Inks Rob Stull, Colors Pete Pantazis. This was a total interruption of the last story line and then I believe it tied back into the last storyline at the end. This issue we get the origin and current whereabouts of Starbreaker. He is a physic vampire and very powerful, which makes him to be a good foe for the JLA. We also find out that Starbreaker and the Shadow Thief have an alliance which spells nothing but trouble for the JLA.
Ruins #1 – (One Shot) – Writer Warren Ellis, Art Cliff Neilson & Terese Neilsen for the first ¾ of the book and then Chris Moeller. This was a reprint of an old Warren Ellis project that was two issues long back in the 90’s (Marvel’s worse period in many ways). I read where Ellis said this meant to be a joke and it is an obvious joke poking fun at the Marvels series. It also is a precursor to Ellis’ constant examination of what if these heroes were real or if what happened to them in the comics was real. The overall story failed to really entertain and the change in artist halfway through the second issue was very jarring. I enjoy seeing people’s earlier work and Marvel is certainly not shy to bank on a “star” name. Bottom line it was interesting, but not worth the $5 entry fee.
Tangent Superman’s Reign #11 (of 12) – Writer Dan Jurgens, Pencils Carlos Magno, Inks Julio Ferreira, Colors Kanila Tripp. This is a book I should have dropped. At this point I will buy the last issue, but instead of examining a new world we got a pointless big battle between bunches of super people. A shame as the Tangent heroes could have been more interesting in a dystopian world trying to overthrow a dictator who has actually done a lot of good for the world. That would have been a great series and examination of what is good versus evil and is a democracy always the best solution.
Captain America Theater of War – Two tales of Captain America and while both were well done; I’m also reading Garth Ennis’ war stories at the same time. So while these stories are striving to be uplifting and showing us how Cap impacted people’s lives in WWII, they fell short for me as I could not help but compare them to Battlefields: Night Witches by Ennis.
X-Men Legacy #220 – This book is boring me. This issue has Rogue, Gambit, the Danger Room character from Joss Whedon’s run and Professor X still not knowing what he is doing. It is all angst and meandering around and actually doing nothing. Canceled.
Giant Size Grimm Fairy Tales #1 – I’ve finally had enough of this series. I was enjoying the Belinda / Sela stories, but now the back story is getting so convoluted that I can’t follow it anymore. Plus I think you can only read so much of this type of material and my limit was finally reached. Canceled.
Mysterius the Unfathomable #1 – I guess this book has a certain charm to it and may hit the right note for some, but to me it was not to my taste. The central character is unlikable and the story was trying too hard. Canceled.
Two books that I have been thinking of canceling I finally did with Grimm Fairy Tales and X-Men Legacy. I know Mike Carey is writing more novels lately, but I will miss not having any books written by Mr. Carey on my list. Looking over the bottom third of my list this week points out that it was a tough week for a lot of books.