Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Best to Worst of Last Week

Once again instead of giving a recommended book, I want to talk about characters writing themselves. Alex Grecian, the writer of Proof mentions that he was going to have a romance between Ginger and Proof, but it was not working, so he abandoned that idea. Stan Lee used to say that the characters often wrote their own stories. I believe that when a writer establishes a base personality for that character then the characters will write themselves. The writer’s job then is to be true to the character in the situations they place them in.

As a reader I believe that some writers do not respect the characters as they have been developed and instead cast them in roles and make them fit. Civil War was a prime example of this type of story writing, where it appears the writer had a story idea and knew what he wanted to do with it and then just cast various players in the roles that he decided they should be in. Some fit and some were forced to fit. The best stories are when a writer puts the characters in certain situations and allows their reactions to dictate what would happen.

Blue Beetle #35 – Writer Matthew Sturges, Artists Carlos Barberi & Jacob Eguren, Colors Guy Majors. This it the penultimate issue of this series and what a great issue it was. It looks to me that Sturges was given this book when DC had already decided to cancel it. Once a cancellation announcement is made I think fans may bail, but you should jump on this issue. Other Beetles from the Reach have rebelled and come to Jamie to serve as their leader as he was the inspiration for their rebellion. They want to overthrow the oppressive regimes of North Korea, China and the USA, of course Jamie says no and the fight ensues. This issued is filled with character moments, supporting cast development and action, a perfect issue of a regular series. I hate to see this series get canned, in some ways this is as good, if not often better then Invincible.

Umbrella Academy Dallas #3 (of 6) – Writer Gerard Way, Art Gabriel Ba. So Number five is actually an assassin for a Time Authority who is supposed to shoot Kennedy, but when he rebelled and tried to escape he accidentally ended up in his ten year old body. The Séance gets shot in the head and dies, but god does not want him and the devil won’t either per god, so he sends him back. What a crazed and just out and out wild and wacky story, that just works. The Academy is even better the second time around.

Northlanders #14 – Writer Brian Wood, Art Ryan Kelly, Colors Dave McCaig. Talk about a rough issue. The Viking commander who is trying to capture the rogue Irishman (Magnus) and his daughter institutes a scorched Earth policy. He sends his men out in teams of two and tells them to slaughter any Irish person they find in order to smoke out Magnus. They succeed and attack him en masse. We also a given a scene of a huge battle between the Viking and Irish and the brutality matches what we saw in Braveheart. This is turning out to be a great arc on this book.

Wonder Woman #28 – Writer Gail Simone, Pencils Aaron Lopresti, Inks Matt Ryan, Colors Brad Anderson. This book is moving up the charts as an excellent series. This issue we see Diana don her armor and along with Donna and Cassie take the fight to Genocide. Diana is hinting at what the lasso is and I for one hope that we get to learn more about what the lasso is over time. We also check in on Zeus who has raised Jason and the Argonauts and placed then on what was Paradise Island and sent them out to start a war. We also see that Cheetah is behind a lot of what is going on and she is helping to free Dr. Psycho. I’m not sure if Sarge Steel is a bad guy or not as I can’t quite get a handle on that part of the story. We have a lot going in this book and it is all good and the art by Aaron Lopresti is icing on the cake. Gail has finally remade Wonder Woman into a book that I look forward to each month.

Nova #21 – Writers Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, Pencils Wellingotn Alves, Inks Scott Hanna, Colors Guru eFX. This book continues to be an amazing ride. Ego the living planet has been taken over by the Nova world mind and he has rebuilt the Nova Corps. Richard refuses to give up the Nova force because he just feels the rebuilding and everything about what has happened is wrong, but has no basis to prove it. The world mind strips Richard of all power and sends him home. Each issue of this book just keeps the pace going and it is hard to not start to think of this book as one of the best super hero books on the market.

Battlefields Dear Billy #1 (of 3) – Writer Garth Ennis, ArtPeter Snejbjerg, Colors Rob Steen. Garth’s war stories are never easy and this one is about two shattered people who may have found each other during WWII in the Pacific front. Our main character is Carrie, she is a British nurse who was captured by the Japanese and then the nurses were raped and marched into the ocean and shot. She survived and was saved by a plane doing some reconnaissance. While she is alive she only seems to be half alive at this point. She meets a young man who has gone through some tragic experience himself and is lucky to be alive. The story is told through her narration via letters to Billy. This is only the first of three parts, but it is already an extremely touching and disturbing story all at the same time. The artwork is excellent and the thinner and lighter line work works well for this story.
Superman #684 – Writer James Robinson, Art Jesus Merino, Colors David Curiel. This issue was a lot of set-up and sort of a breather issue after “New Krypton” and yet so much happened it was just amazing. In the Superman books the plots now keep moving forward at a fairly rapid clip and I’m really enjoying it. We see how the Parasite escapes and gets to Metropolis. We see Jim Harper as the Guardian become the leader of the Metropolis Science Police. We get hints of things to come with Nightwing and Flamebird. Finally we see Superman visit his revived home world and try to set things right with Alura. Then we find out that Alura has indeed not only set Zod free, but he is openly now the ruler of the Kryptonian army again.

Batman #685 – Writer Paul Dini, Pencils Dustin Nguyen, Inks Derek Fridolfs, Colors Guy Major. Paul Dini certainly has a solid handle on Catwoman and Hush. I like how Selina handled the whole thing and manipulated everyone so she could do what she wanted to do, which was free animals from poachers. The end games was also well done where once Hush served his purpose she delivered him into the hands of Nightwing and Robin, who have Hush held prisoner in a skyscraper penthouse owned by Wayne Enterprises. This of course places Hush (who now looks like Bruce Wayne) in Gotham and we are a month away from the inane sounding “Battle for the Cowl”.

Batman Gotham After Midnight #9 (of 12) – Writer Steve Niles, Art Kelly Jones, Colors Michelle Marsden. I love this series. I really hope DC collects the entire series as a deluxe format hard cover. Batman could not save April Clarkson and just when he thinks he has figured out who Midnight is, he is foiled again. Midnight is staying one step ahead of Batman. I also have to laugh as Niles is playing off Jeph Loeb and Tim Sales work as we visit each Holiday and see various members of Batman’s rogue’s gallery as each issue progresses.

Daredevil #115 – Writer Ed Brubaker, Art Michael Lark, Tonci Zonjic, Stefano Guardino, Colors Matt Hollingsworth. This book is Brubaker’s best work in the MU right now. This issue we find out the end game of the entire attack against Daredevil was to have him be the leader of the Hand. An odd idea to be sure, which he rejects. What Brubaker has done is give us a wide supporting cast and has left a lot of sub plots floating around that can be used down the road. Another good issue in one of Marvel’s strongest books.

Crossed #3 (of 9) – Writer Garth Ennis, Art Jacen Burrows, Colors Juanmar. I think I got a misprinted book because about six pages in the middle of this book made no sense whatsoever. Fortunately the gist of the story came through without the missing pages. This book is taking the “after the apocalypse is over what happens then” to the next level. There is no hope for this small band of survivors and they happen upon a band of children led by a teacher who has turned them into killers in order to forage off others. The solution was to kill the children as our band could not trust them or try to take them along. At this point you almost have to wonder why anyone in this small band even cares to survive. A compelling read about survival in the face of hopelessness.

Final Crisis Revelations #5 (of 5) - Writer Greg Rucka, Pencils Philip Tan, Inks Jonathan Livesay, Colors Nei Ruffino. While Final Crisis was hard to follow, this book was a very easy read and in the midst of all the horror and loss we got a happy ending. The Spectre is restored and Montoya brings Crisp’s son back to life. This book was a nice sidebar to Final Crisis. Thematically it tied in, but one could have skipped it just as easily and it would not hurt your read of Final Crisis. On the flip side, one could have just gotten this book and gotten a story that was well done and stood on its own.

Final Crisis #7 (of 7) – Writer Grant Morrison, Pencils Doug Mahnke, Inks Tom Nguyen, Drew Garaci, Christian Almay, Norm Rapmund, Rodney Ramos, Doug Mahnke & Walden Wong, Colors Alex Sinclair with Tony Avina & Pete Pantazis. See a detailed commentary here. For those of you not jumping to that link I feel this had moments of sheer genius, some exceptional art, but was a confused morass. After I wrote this review I read an interview with Grant Morrison on Newsarama. I love most of Grant Morrison’s work and think the guy is a creative force. All Star Superman is the best Superman story ever done, but he comes across very defensive and a tad egotistical at times in this interview. Grant was stating that if you can’t understand his work, that you are lazy or lack the intellect. It appears that there are a lot of lazy and stupid fans out there then. Also Grant does not take into account that we are not all tuned in to just reading Final Crisis and I also feel it will read better as a whole, but then that means it failed as a episodic comic book. I have read all of Grant’s remarks about how it is a different way of telling a story. Experimentation is good and this may serve as a template on the way to tell other stories, but these pseudo intellectual arguments are often a mask for something that failed. I have often told people that if you go into a meeting and make a presentation and all of the people in the meeting think you are a jerk, regardless of how you meant to be perceived, you were a jerk and need to modify your style. As an issue by issue book I think Final Crisis missed the mark, but if they ever collected all of it in the order Grant says to read it, I’m willing to bet it will be a better story and maybe an epic story. In some ways I have to say that Grant had more stories inside Final Crisis that I wanted to read more about then most companies actually produce in six months.

New Avengers #49 – Writer Brian Bendis, Pencils Billy Tan, Inks Matt Banning, Colors Paul Mounts. Bendis just needs to write a book about Luke Cage. Last issue we saw Cage agree to work for Norman if Osborne can find Luke and Jessica's baby. Norman in typical brutal manner extracts the information needed from some skrull prisoners and helps Luke get his baby daughter back. Once that is done Luke has Jessica get out of the Avenger’s tower and tells Norman to screw it and escapes from Norman. As Norman is an evil and manipulative SOB, I thought it was dumb last issue to make that deal, but since Luke never intended to follow through it makes sense. A well done issue and again every time Bendis focuses on Luke Cage it works.

Dead Ahead #2 (of 3) – Writers Clark Castillo & Mel Smith, Additional Wordsmith Paul Birch, Art Alex Nino, Colors Moose Baumann. I’m buying this book for the art by Alex Nino, who puts more lines on a page of art then any other artist. His layouts are dynamic and wild and sometimes it is hard to follow his page design. The story at times is also a little too dense, but the basic premise is a bunch of people on a boat are trying to survive a zombie outbreak across the rest of the globe. A beautiful book and worth the price of admission.

City of Dust #4 (of 5) – Writer Steve Niles, Art Brandon Chng, Zid & Garrie Gastonny, Colors Buddy Jiang,& Leos Ng “Okita”. This series gets better and better and we learn that Phillip Khrome’s father was involved in a lot of what Phillip is now involved in. We have a lot of artificial people roaming around and we have Phillip straying further and further from the path the government wants people to follow. I’m looking forward to the conclusion of this series and will probably have to get the trade.

Proof #16 – Writer Alex Grecian, Art Riley Rossmo, Colors Adam Guzowski. A quiet issue of Proof as the funeral of an agent is the central piece that pulls together the cast and lays out some story lines for the future. I loved the ending when Autumn Song shows up at Ginger’s ex-boy friend’s apartment and says the old Mary Jane line from Spider-Man, “Face it tiger, you just hit the jackpot.” The best thing was reading an interview with the writer in the back and he said something that I loved that he won’t force things with his characters. In other words once someone has an established character he lets the characters writer themselves, something that is a lost art in many, many comics.

Savage #4 (of 4) – Story Steve Niles & Jeff Frank, Script Jeff Frank & Dan Wickerline, Art Mike Mayhew, Colors Frank Bravo. Way too many companies are publishing mini-series with the idea of starting a franchise. If done right it is okay, but almost every Shadowline mini-series has been a start of a concept and then never actually giving us a complete story. Savage is no exception and I will avoid Shadowline mini-series in the future. We get the start of a good story about a man who is turned into a were creature and is now hip deep in the middle of two warring fractions, but has no clue about what is going on. The entire mini-series was all set-up. While well done and entertaining, I want this launched as a series, not a mini-series that goes nowhere and just leaves me hanging. BOOM, Radical, IDW and other companies tell complete stories and leave room for additional stories to be told about a character or just tell a complete story. Shadowline gives you the start of a story and then you have to wander if another mini-series will ever come out.

Scourge of the Gods #1 (of 3) – Writer Valerie Mangin, Art Aleksa Gajic. This is a reprint of a European comic and it definitely has that type of feel to it. It challenges you to fill in the blanks as it starts in the what feels like the middle of a story. It is about a space faring race who still believes in the gods. It is about Empires, love, a goddess, power and betrayal. It has way too much happening to give a brief review, but if you like epic stories, this is a good one.

Unknown Soldier #4 - Writer Joshua Dysart, Art Alberto Ponticelli, Colors Oscar Celestini. This book continues to impress. I was sure there were not enough stories in here to make this an unlimited series, but we are four issues in and have not even scratched the surface about what is happening. How the main character has come to be almost possessed by what appears to be the spirit of the Unknown Soldier has not even been touched on. One thing I can take away from this book is that Uganda is one screwed up country and no one will be able to really save it from itself. Like many areas where the British once ruled the forced borders putting tribes together who have no love for each other creates endless chaos.

Wildcats #7 – Writer Christos Gage, Art Neil Googe, Colors Carrie Strachan. The battle between Maul and the huge Daemonite was well done and the ultimate solution to have a truce with them was interesting. Stormwatch and the Authority have a firmer handle on where they are going, but Wildcats certainly had a great action issue. The surprise in this issue of having Nemesis and Backlash leave for Majestic’s island, was a little abrupt, but all in all a solid issue.

Gravel #8 – Story & Script Warren Ellis, Script & Art Mike Wolfer, Colors Juanmar. This issue Gravel joins the Major Seven and it all seems on the up and up until Gravel and Mordecai Cave are leaving their meeting place. Gravel asks who died so they were one short and Cave tells him she was murdered. Then Cave asks Gravel to find out who did kill her. This essentially will force Gravel to try and investigate these five powerful magicians. The originality of what is constantly going on in this book is not high, but it is an entertaining read.

Faces of Evil Kobra (One Shot) – Writer Ivan Brandon, Pencils Julian Lopez, Inks Mark Farmer, Colors Santiago Arcas. I was not sure what to expect with this issue, but it worked out very well. Jason Burr (who was the dead twin of the first Kobra and a former good guy) is brought back as the new head of Kobra. He is at first slightly reluctant, but then falls easily into the role of the leader of Kobra. He proceeds to undo much of his brother’s work, including killing the hundreds of half human half snake children his brother had created. At the end on a global broadcast he declares war on all the heroes of the DCU. DC has again managed to establish a great sense of menace with this character, now we need to see some follow through.

Echo #9 – By Terry Moore. A lot of dream sequences and nothing much else happened this issue. I’m sure how this all plays together will make more sense in the future, but a weak issue in terms of plot advancement. The funny thing is I did not mind as I still love Terry’s line work and the characters are so great even a slow issue is a good read.

Mister X Condemned #2 (of 4) – by Dean Motter. I think I need to buy the Mister X archive to really get a handle on the background of this story. It is a well done story that is part noir, part pseudo-futuristic, park Salvador Dali painting and part Brubaker crime novel. It is a unique book and it the original material is half as good it will be worth getting the reprint of the old work.

Captain America #46 – Writer Ed Brubaker, Art Steve Epting, Colors Frank D’Armata. Bucky has enlisted the Sub Mariner to try and free the original Human Torch from a mad scientist who has captured him. The mad scientist was a child in WWII and an adult when Bucky as the Winter Soldier was sent to kill him. Bucky failed to kill him, but killed his wife. This issue is a lot of set-up and even though Marvel labels it as Part 1 it is the continuation of the arc that began three issues or so ago. This book is okay, but it is not hitting on all cylinders for me.

Teen Titans #67 – Writer Sean McKeever, Pencils Fernando Dagnino, Inks Raul Fernandez, Colors Rod Reis. The return of Brother Blood was interesting. I have no clue what the character’s background was anymore, but with the chaos in Hell he manages to escape with the help of Kid Eternity. I was not aware that Blood now can drink someone’s blood and obtain their abilities for a length of time. This issue really was a “Face of Evil” issue and totally about the villain as the Titans only served as a buffer to battle him and have him escape from them.

Astounding Wolf-Man #12 – Writer Robert Kirkman, Art Jason Howard, Colors FCO & Ivan Plascencia. Kirkman does issues where it is all about the set-up for where the next few issues are going and this is one of those issues of Wolf-Man. I have to say that the fast pace of events in this book is a welcome change to what felt like a slow build in the beginning. This issue Wolf-Man returns to his home, Cecil promises to help as best he can, the Elder Wolfman concludes Gary’s training, Gary’s daughter maybe turned into a Vampire and Gary gets arrested. I like this book a lot now. I know it flies under the radar, but each issue is a fun and entertaining read.

Jack of Fables #30 – Writer Matthew Sturges & Bill Willingham, Pencils Tony Akins and Russ Braun, Inks Jose Marzan Jr., Colors Daniel Vozzo. I blow so hot and cold on this series, but this was a good issue. The pathetic fallacy (Gary) goes nuts and unleashes his ability to make inanimate objects alive and sends them against Bookburner. Revise is forced to abandon his life work and allow the forgotten fables to read about themselves and learn what their true origins were. This restores them to more powerful forms. (As Grimm Fairy Tales had been water down over the years so had many other stories been sanitized for mass consumption). We also learn a lot of the origins of Gary, Revise and Bookburner. This was a very good issue of this series and a nice cliff hanger with Gary getting shot at the end.

Trinity #35 – Back Story Writer Kurt Busiek, Pencils Mark Bagley, Inks Art Thibert, Colors Pete Pantazis, Front story Writers Kurt Busiek & Fabian Nicieza, Art Mike Norton & Walden Wong, Colors Allen Passalaqua. Two things of note occurred this issue. First we finally find out what Enigma’s back story is and why he is doing this. Apparently he is trying to find a way to bring his family back to life, but for a good guy he feels pretty callous to be willing to sacrifice billions to save three people. We also see the “gods” of the Cosmic Egg world show up and they seem pissed at our intrepid band. Again a decent issue and notable for the interweaving of the two artists work as opposed to a strict front and back story.

Ms Marvel #35 – Writer Brian Reed, Pencils Patrick Olliffe, Inks Serge La Pointe & Kris Justice, Colors Chris Sotomayor. – Picked this issue up on a lark after reading an interview with writer Brian Reed. He states that he is working up to replacing Ms. Marvel in her own book and I could not resist checking that out. This issue Carol investigates the suicide of a group of the Church of Hala (worshipers of Captain Marvel). She also finds out that the Captain Marvel who was recently here was a skrull. Not a great book, but interesting enough to keep me on this series.
Reign in Hell #7 (of 8) – Writer Keith Giffen, Pencils Tom Derencik, Inks Bill Sienkiewicz, Colors Mike Atiyeh. This series has felt way too long. So we learn the Satanus has won the battle for Hell and shut Hell down while he consolidates power. We also see Dr. Occult show up and join with some of the other heroes and Rose takes off with the legless girl. My question is: What was the point of the Dr. Occult story other then filler? At least this book seems to be having actual repercussions in the DCU as we see it being an integral part of this week’s Teen Titans.

Ultimate Spider-Man #130 – Writer Brian Bendis, Pencils Stuart Immonen, Inks Wade Von Grawbadger, Colors Justin Ponsor. Sadly this book actually ties into Ultimatum which is obviously about Magneto creating major disasters. For me it was like this series came to a stop and I have to suffer through this crap just to see how it impacts Spider-Man. I know the series is coming to an end, but I expect a re-launch almost immediately afterwards.

Legion of Super Heroes #50 – Writer Justin Thyme, Pencils Ramon Bachs, Inks John Livesay, Colors Jo Smith. This was a lousy way to end the series. No Jim Shooter, a fill-in artist and an ending that I have to wonder has any relationship to what Shooter was doing. They wrapped up the battle against the destroyers, brought Dream Girl back to life and ignored the Princess Projectra story. If I did not love the Legion so much, this would have almost turned me off the group forever. DC brings in Jim Shooter and then does not allow him to even do his story. The Legion is a separate continuity, how hard would it have been to let this story go its natural course. I do not know what happened, but it appears like it was not a good thing. Having said that I think the artist did a professional job. I believe the writer is a pseudonym as the name is “Just In Time”. My guess is they took Shooter’s script and then hacked it up.

Ferryman #5 (of 5) – Writer Marc Anreyko, Art Jonathan Wayshak, Colors Gabe Eltaeb & Randy Mayor. This was a fun mini-series, but I would have preferred that Gideon was reunited with his wife for a happy ending as opposed to him ending up as a nemesis for the devil. The artwork is what made this book, but one mini-series of this is more then enough and I would not get a second mini-series as the concept has been played out in my opinion.

I thought this was an off week for comics. Of course my disappointment in Final Crisis had a heavy influence on how I rated the whole week. Still it seems to me that my top books are weaker then normal and a stronger week could have put all of my top books in the middle section very easily.


  1. "Last issue we saw Cage agree to work for Norman if Osborne can find their baby."

    Luke Cage and Norman Osborne had a baby? I know I've been out of touch with most of Marvel continuity for awhile, but that's quite an accomplishment. :)

    Oh, and cut the Brits a bit of a break. It wasn't just them drawing boundaries that screwed up Africa. The French had a big part in that, too, and the Germans and Portugese to a lesser extent.

    Still, to a large extent that's an excuse more than a good reason for the mayhem in much of Africa. It doesn't account for the stable countries, like South Africa or Botswana, whose borders were also randomly drawn. But, like you said, it's not something anyone from the outside can fix. Certainly doesn't leave much hope for a peaceful solution any time soon.

  2. Thomm - You need to read more of the Marvel. After Norman slept with Gwen Stacy, Norman had a brief fling with Luke and had his child (as you know Luke would not carry the baby). That was a funny mistake I almost hate to correct it, but I did.

    I will continue to blame the Brits - Laurence of Arabia would agree they screwed up the world more then then anyone else.

    I'm sure there is more blame to go around, but still those type of tribal hatreds run deep.

  3. Jim, just to clarify some confusion: Steel in Wonder Woman had his brain switched with Dr. Psycho. We never saw this happen in the book, it's just inferred from when Psycho tells Cheetah and Steel his agents will stop them.

    Dr. Occult went to hell to find Rose and bring her back, she just won't come though.

  4. I'm not saying the Brits are without blame. I'm saying they're not alone and that the people in the Middle East and Africa need to stop blaming European boundaries drawn 100 years or more ago and take steps to make things better for themselves. They either need to re-draw the lines to segregate themselves from one another or get over themselves and start cooperating.

    Ok. I'm glad I don't know what's going on in Marvel. Actually, though I read more of it, I apparently don't know a lot of what's going on in DC, either. I think I'll stick with Vertigo and the independents. Better yet, just do what I usually do and buy based on who's writing.

  5. Thomm said "They either need to re-draw the lines to segregate themselves from one another or get over themselves and start cooperating." - True!

    If I ever get hard core on what I read I would stick more to Vertigo and independents also. For me it is writer, premise and artist in that order as to whether I want a book nine times out of ten.