Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Best and Worst of Last Week

For whatever reason, I always feel compelled to do some sort of introduction piece and some sort of exit remarks to most posts. Gwen has complained that sometimes in the DC Preview Review she does not know what to say, personally I usually always have some sort of remark to make (shocking I know). Still this week is sort of a blank page for more as I did a fair amount of yard work this week-end and as I type this I’m still recovering from all of a sudden getting in a lot of physical labor on two hot days. At times when I’m mentally exhausted I find I’m physically tired and vice versa.


Detective Comics #854 – Batwoman: Writer Greg Rucka, Art JH Williams III, Colors Dave Stewart. The Question: Writer Greg Rucka, Art Cully Hamner, Colors Laura Martin. There are a lot of things to like about this new series and first and foremost I like that DC took Detective Comics and gave it to a different character as the star. Sure it is Batwoman and therefore automatically part of the Batverse, but Kate Kane is essentially still pretty much a blank slate. I also like that DC respects the numbering of books and we did not get a new #1, but instead have #854. Additionally I think it was an excellent choice to give us the back-up feature as the Question, since Greg Rucka has been shepherding these characters in the DCU since he introduced both of them in 52. Finally what an artist to start out this series with JH Williams III is an amazing artist and is unlike anyone else in the field. For anyone who thinks DC does not have top artistic talent on their side, they need to look at this book. As comics are a visual medium, I have to give it to JH Williams III as he did an outstanding job this issue, From the dark heavily inked scenes when it was Batwoman, to the light lined and less shaded work when she was Kate, the book had a distinctive feel for both halves of the character and by one artist. Dave Stewart matched Williams work with coloring to keep both sides perfect. Add into that JH’s innovative layouts and page design and you have a book that is dynamic and draws you in right from the beginning. Not since Neal Adams has an artist managed to do such innovative page designs and not hurt the storytelling or flow of the book. Many artists will try different layouts and such, but they usually screw up how the hell you are supposed to read the page. Instead of being innovative they hurt the book and the storytelling. Mr. Williams designs work beautifully. Your eye flows from panel to panel and the design of the page enhances the story telling and heightens dramatic moments. See my full review here.

Daredevil #119 – Writer Ed Brubaker, Art Michael Lark & Stefano Gaudiano, Colors Matt Hollingsworth. If you are going to have to leave something you should leave on a high note and that is what Brubaker is doing with DD. Next issue is his last and the set-up to get there is well done. Too often sports stars and people hang on too long or play one season too many and risk tainting the legends, but fortunately we usually only remember the best of their work (Michael Jordan, Johnny Unitas and Stan Lee come to mind as going that one step too far, but we remember their glory). Brubaker appears to be being going out right on top. This issue we find out that Foggy Nelson has been targeted to be killed and as Brubaker’s series started with the faked death of Foggy Nelson, you have some real fear this could happen again. Daredevil is obviously off his game, the Kingpin is off of his game, but Lady Bullseye seems to be pulling all the right strings. The sense of foreboding and the real felling that almost anything can happen is what makes this book such an exciting one. The wrap-up comes up next issue which jumps back to some old numbering and is apparently issue #500 (although I’m starting to think Marvel makes up their numbering out of whole cloth anymore), but numbers don’t matter and stories do and the “Return of the King” has been well done. I had reservations because every writer goes back to Frank Miller’s work on DD, but this is being done so well, that I think it was the right choice at this moment in time. Diggle will have some big shoes to fill when he takes over.

Madame Xanadu #12 – Writer Matt Wagner, Artist Michael Wm. Kaluta, Colors Dave Stewart. I think I may have chosen this book as a best of the week, every time the book is published. I love how Matt Wagner has brought Madame Xanadu up and into the 1940’s and at the same time is using her long life for flashbacks to gives us a richer story. The back story of the Spanish Inquisition and the current story line of the gentleman and his black dog right now feels worlds apart, but I trust that Matt will bring them together. Furthermore in this issue the modern storyline has Dian Belmont, the girl friend of the Golden Age Sandman playing a role in the story. This is another part of the richness that Matt is bringing to this story, but utilizing all of the vast history of the DCU, but telling a more mature story since it is a Vertigo book. Of course we again have Kaluta’s interiors and the amount of line work that he does is tremendous and I can only hope he has art assistants or I fear he will never be able to complete three more issues. Mike’s strong suit has never been monthly comics, so I do worry that he may have to rush some work to make it happen, but he has all the prerequisite skills to be able to tell a comic book story and this period piece fits the strength of his illustrator style. Great story telling and wonderful art, Madame Xanadu is easily one of the best series on the stands.

Northlanders #18 – Writer Brian Wood, Art Daniel Zezelj, Colors Dave McCaig. Daniel Zezelj is an artist whose work I look for and this issue he delivered once again with some absolutely breathtaking work. His work has an almost etched feeling to it and it carries a lot of weight and power. The muted coloring gives the book a black and white feel to it. This is part one of a two part story about three Viking women (Shield Maidens) who are stuck in a castle that is surrounded by tidal waters and they have to defend themselves from a group of Saxons who would like to rape and kill them. One of the geniuses of this book is that Wood crafts different tales of the Vikings from different parts of the history and lets the story dictate the length as opposed to writing for a trade. Also we have not seen the same artist yet and that has allowed each story to have its own mood.


Dark Avengers Uncanny X-Men Utopia #1 - Overall Grade D – To think that this is the best job Marvel could do with a major cross-over between the two big franchises they have, it is embarrassing. Thankfully they have plenty of good books out there as this stuff was just a waste of paper. See my full review here.

New Avengers #54 – Jericho Drum – Brother Voodoo is new Sorcerer Supreme as apparently Dr. Strange got tired of doing it. The whole reason Stephen Strange is not the Sorcerer Supreme is lame in the nth degree. And as much as I like different people taking on the identity of a hero, it needs to make sense and this did not. Let’s face the magical side of Marvel (and DC) has lain dormant for years. The recent revival of Dr. Strange only to have him kick to the curb is annoying beyond annoying. Still I will follow the new Sorcerer Supreme series and Dr. Strange’s mini-series as I want to see what the writers do with them. A bad beginning with poor logic does not mean it won’t work out in the long run. Otherwise this book is suffering from a severe lack of cohesiveness and characters that sound more like the “Seinfeld Show” then Avengers. Plus the Hood gets trounced and is immediately revived by Loki. Okay, but why? If it is so easy to create such a powerful and terrible creature why stop with one hood, why not 100? Even comics need to have internal logic. Bendis seems to think anything goes because its comics and if the reader thinks it makes no sense, who cares the sales numbers support that it works.

Cleaners #4 (of 4) - I was very impressed with the first issue and by the time the series finished
instead of being a neat new series about Trauma Scene Restoration, it turned out to be a vampire tale. Also the bi-monthly schedule really slowed down this story and I lost so many parts of the stories between issues that it did not hang together well for me. As a trade this will work much better. At this time it appears The Cleaners was a one and done as the sales on this mini did not set the world on fire.

Quick Hits

Gotham City Sirens #1 - Writer Paul Dini, Artist Guillem March, Colors Jose Villarrubia. I would like to say that I saved the best for last, but that would be a lie, but I did save the oddest premise for last. I can’t help but to see this as the replacement book for Birds of Prey and instead of good guys we get the semi-bad girl team-up. I wonder if Paul Dini pitched this idea or if Dan Didio wanted some sort of book like this and they kicked stuff around and came up with this or what. Since this odd grouping came out of the blue, Paul had to focus on the why. Why would they team-up? From that standpoint I think Paul found enough of a little hook to make it work. It is a thin premise to be sure and I’m not quite sure it all hangs together, but at least there is a logical reason. The book starts with Selina recounting all that has happened to her lately and she still does not feel 100%. It is because of her fatigue that she is getting beaten up by a third rate hood and Ivy comes around to her rescue. Catwoman is taking to Ivy and Harley happens to be living with Ivy. Now since Harley is nuts, her wanting to live with Ivy makes as much sense as anything with Harley. See my full review here.

Justice League of America #34 – So ends Dwayne McDuffie’s run on JLA and he gives us an explanation of why the Milestone heroes are now part of the DCU. He also gives us an out to pull them out of the DCU in the future. This leads me to guess that the Milestone deal is a limited time deal and comes up for renewal every so often. I hope DC launches two series with back up features (like they have with the Red Circle stuff) as the Milestone heroes should not be introduced and they left to languish in the backgrounds of the DCU. This book was an obvious jam session and rush job, but I see in Dwayne’s run what could have been a great one on this book if it had been left alone to be its own thing. One thing that is a little annoying with Dwayne’s material is the heavy use of almost all minority characters. Changing things up a little is nice, but it seems that Dwayne is often kicking almost every regular DCU JL member to the curb for much of his run.

Dark Reign Elektra #4 (of 5) – This has been an entertaining series and I’m looking forward to its conclusion, but what made me mention this issue is the Electra / Bullseye fight – round 2. Electra wins this one – very well done.

Justice Society of America #28– Jerry Ordway is a very good artist and many of the books he
writes are well done, but I never find his writing to have that certain edge to it that pulls me into a story. I did appreciate that we see the second generation Spectre in this book and it reemphasized for me how important it is to have generational heroes. The second generation of the heroes is what keeps DC fresher to me then the stale characters Marvel has, as they never move onto the next generation.

Literals #3 (of 3) – I’m not sure if I liked this mini-event or not. It ended in only one of two ways it could have ended which is with a deus ex machina or the idea a story can out live its creation. The deus ex machina solution was fine and wrapped up the Literals tale, which was needed. At this point I will be dropping Jack of Fables and look forward to Fables getting back to its storyline and I will have to decide another day if this story was worth it or a meaningless interruption of Fables.

Superman #689 – This book used what has become a comic book convention that for the most part I have grown to dislike. We were treated to page after page of Mon-el’s adventures on earth, with each adventure only taking a panel or two. The idea that we no longer care about the battles with super villains and we only see the opening blow and then we move on is annoying. I still enjoy a well choreographed battle (see Invincible). Still this book has gotten good with Mon-el dying and John Henry under attack from Atlas. Superman without Superman is slowly growing on me.

Ms. Marvel #40 - I like this series and I’m enjoying Moonstone as Ms. Marvel, but why is every comic in Marvel now bringing in Deadpool. The character is stupid and not really funny at all to me. Maybe this is just something I don’t get, but no more Deadpool please. He will soon have two ongoings and another mini-series wasting talent.

Teen Titans #72 – This book makes the cut once more. We apparently have a new writer and he
immediately gave this book more direction then it has had in a couple of years. Wonder Girl is touring Alcatraz and the metas all break out and take her down. The villain behind it the Calculator who blames them for what happened to his kids Wendy and Marvin. The back up with Ravager had a good start and I find that she is becoming one of my favorite characters in the DCU. This book went from endangered species list to back in my good graces. The one thing I thought was lacking was solid art, Joe Bennett’s work is usually much better and it felt a little flat this issue. One other note to the writer, stop the Matt Fraction like captions introducing the heroes or I will can this book.

Secret Warriors #5 – This book is an excellent read and is giving me a book that I have wanted from Marvel for a long time, a Nick Fury book. I still laugh that all the Howling Commandoes seem to be around (maybe they are all the grandsons of the guys from WWII). At least Nick Fury was known to be drinking an immortality serum. Bottom line this book had good battle scenes and some great strategic back and forth between the good guys and the bad guys.

Wonder Woman #33 – Somewhere along the way I lost what the heck is going on with this series. We reached the conclusion of an eight issue story and the final chapter of the battle with the main bad guy was handled as a flashback. Wonder Woman now quits being an Amazon because Zeus is running things and has made a race of man to take over the island and the Amazons are going to be part of that group or something. Genocide was Wonder Woman’s corpse from the future or something. I think Wonder Woman no longer has a secret identity and all of that is my problem. Too much going on and the interweaving of all those stories did not hang together very well. Wonder Woman is better then it was, but it still needs help. Maybe next issue I will understand the new status quo for this book.

What is really cool about comics right now is how excited I am about each week again. It just seems that between some great story telling and my recent purge of my list that even the bad books are at least interesting. Many of the books I did not comment on had pluses also, but after awhile I only comment when the mood strikes me on books that don’t make the best or the worst.

No comments:

Post a Comment