Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Best and Worst of Last Week

This was another great week for comics with a lot of really good stuff. In fact a lot of books that I did not even mention were still entertaining, but the mood just did not strike me to make any remarks. After months of feeling blah about comics it is great to have passion for my favorite pastime again.


Batman and Robin #2 – Writer Grant Morrison, Art Frank Quietly, Colors Alex Sinclair. Two for two. In the first issue we saw how Dick took over being Batman and got the family business back into action. It was all glory and daring do and a wonderful celebration of a new Batman. In issue number two we see the downside and the problems in being Batman; especially we feel Dick’s failure in trying to make Damian into an acceptable Robin. The action is great and the scenes of Damian’s excesses show just how off kilter Damian truly is, but what shines are the character bits. From the splash page that is the middle of the story with a dejected Dick Grayson in the Batman costume to Dick’s confession that he feels like a kid trying to fake a Batman voice, Morrison is defining these characters in so many great ways. This is right up there with Morrison’s work on All-Star Superman where he has these characters down pat so well you feel you know them. I absolutely love this book.

Existence 2.0 #1 (of 3) - Writer Nick Spencer, Artist Ron Salas. It’s a Phillip Dick short story merged with the noir genre and set to the pace of the movie Crank. All in all as first issues go, this was a hell of a good ride and a book worth seeking out for your own perusal. The book opens with the death of a scientist Sylvester Baladine. A hit man is stabbing him through his heart and we learn that he has been working on a machine to transfer consciousness from one person to another. He also has a remote in his hand and hits the button as he is being killed and instantly he is now in his killer’s body. As any of us would ask if we survived our death, Sylvester asks who the heck wanted him dead. Hopefully unlike most of it, his list of people who would have been happy to see him die is rather long. From there the action and pace of the book never lets up.The art work on this book has the same type of feel that Sean Phillips gets with Criminal. It is a realistic style that is simplified as far as heavy details go, but sophisticated and professional in the ability of the artist to tell a story. See my full review here.

War of Kings #5 (of 6) – Writers Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, Pencils Paul Pelletier, Inks Rick Maygar, Colors Wil Quintana. This series continues to shine. Abnett and Lanning know how to write comic books that are just out and out good comics. They never seem to get the acclaim they deserve because they are consistently so good, have had few (if any) failures and always seem to deliver on time. These guys define the word professional from an outsider’s perspective. Chuck Dixon is another writer who is the same way in that he always delivers, of course Chuck is on the wrong side politically anymore and that seems to have cost him. The War of Kings storyline builds to the grand finale for next issue as Black Bolt and Vulcan go toe-to-toe in issue #6, but what makes this series so good is the individual issues leading up to the end continue to be exciting and are great reads in and of themselves. Of course with 90% of the cross-over books and tie-ins being written by the same team it just makes it even better. The art by Paul Pelletier continues to impress also. I think in many ways Paul has been overlooked over the years also, but it maybe that his style is similar to Alan Davis and Davis is the bigger name. Paul though deserves a ton of credit and maybe this series is the one where people start to look for his name as the pencil artist. I have purposely left any story summary out because if you are not reading this it would be too hard to catch you up to date, but if you are waiting for the trade I encourage you to pick it up. The book is self contained and while some of the cross-over books add to the story they are not necessary to the heart of the story.

Echo #13 – by Terry Moore. This was a great issue in the midst of an excellent series. All long form narratives have middle chapters and the pace of the story at time ebbs and flows so that often it feels like not a lot happens, but a good writer is building to payoffs and this issue was a heck of a payoff. Ivy is chasing Julie and Dillion via an airplane. They finally confirm Annie’s DNA is in the alloy Julie is wearing and it seems to be spreading across more of Julie’s body. We find out Ivy has a sister who is ill and Ivy is leaving to go help her family. Julie finds out her sister Pam is missing and we find out Pam went to what was her home as she still has not accepted what happened to her family. The Henri facility is in trouble as one really big guy knows what is going on and he wants the bodies of his family back. The institute has a lot of explaining to do and not a lot of answers to give. The sh*t is hitting the fan everywhere. A fascinating story, with such realistic characters caught up in a science fiction story that is set maybe one day after tomorrow.

Agents of Atlas #7 – Writer Jeff Parker, Art Gabriel Hardman, Colors Jana Schirmer. This is another one of those series that I think just outperforms almost every other series but still goes under the radar for most people. The story of a rejuvenated Jimmy Woo leading the evil Atlas organization with a ragtag group of heroes in tow is a fun one. Trying to do good, while pretending to be bad. The opposite of Norman Osborn who is bad pretending to do good. The cast of Gorilla Man, Marvel Boy, Venus, M-11 and Namora is a very odd one, but again it works. Not only that but inside of this issue we have moved Namor’s own story moved forward and established a New Atlantis. This book is constant motion and it never takes itself too serious, but still tells a good straightforward story. This series has humor, without making itself into a parody. The tag line on the book is a quote from a comics review site that says “The best super hero book Marvel has running right now” and that is very close to being right. At a minimum this is the best super hero group title Marvel has on the stands.

The Mighty #6 – Writers Peter Tomasi & Keith Champagne, Art Chris Samnee, Colors John Kalisz. Alpha is just one very creepy guy. Captain Cole is slowly finding out just how much Alpha One has to hide and Alpha One is realizing Captain Cole is already learning too much. Since Alpha has a superman power level trying to hide that you are spying on him is almost impossible. This issue via an autopsy of one of his predecessors he finds some bullets and we are not told what they can do. At this point I’m assuming they might be able to kill Alpha One and maybe the bullets are a fail safe that has been lost. What is really just skin crawling scary was Alpha One taking Gabriel Cole into space and sort of giving him a test as to whether he could be trusted or not. Cole had to choose his words very carefully. Once back to Earth Cole drags his wife onto a subway train to try and hide what he is telling her about Alpha One, but Alpha apparently heard anyway. This has to be a limited series to be any good as the only outcomes that are possible at this point is for Alpha One to reveal what he is doing and convincing Cole it is for the greater good or for Cole to stop Alpha. Given how Alpha is portrayed we have to assume he will need to be stopped. Thematically very similar to Irredeemable, but the actual take on it is very different, both books are highly recommended.


Uncanny X-Men #513 – You know you are in trouble when the best thing about the book is the covers that identify the “Utopia” storyline so well. This book annoys me on many levels, not the least is that it crossed over into a book I’m still getting right after I dropped this comic. Dodson’s artwork looks really bad in this issue and the story line is not holding any real internal logic.

Quick Hits

Greek Street #1 – This was a very good start to this new series where my biggest concern is my lack of education on enough of the old Greek stories. I have a decent basic knowledge of many of the Greek stories and the Oedipus example this issue was appropriately icky, but I wander if I can catch all the nuances being put into this book. Of course starting the book in a strip club never hurts.

Green Lantern Corps #38 – This issue is the conclusion of Emerald Eclipse and from there we go into Blackest Night. The Guardians are now so far gone and over the edge that it I’m very curious to see how the GL Corps even survives all the madness that is occurring. This issue after the science cells are destroyed the Guardians authorized execution of the prisoners. Kyle and Guy saved some, but were then exiled back to Earth.

Captain America Reborn #1 (of 5) - Writer Ed Brubaker, Art Bryan Hitch and Butch Guice, Colors Paul Mounts. This book was pretty much a disappointment. The story was incomprehensible and essentially this was Captain America #601. Brubaker can do better then this. It was in a Joe Quesada interview where he said Ed has three of four ideas of how to bring Steve Rogers back and if the beginning of this arc is a clue as to how he is doing it, then I want to see the other ideas. We start with a flashback to Steve as Captain America leading soldiers on D-Day. Now slightly disturbing is the fact that this looks a hell of lot like the Ultimate Captain America and not our Captain America. Seeing as how they are advertising Mark Millar’s new Ultimate Avengers book and that Cap is on the cover, I will assume this is just Hitch drawing Captain America the way he knows how to draw him. From there the story is what has become typical comic book story telling (and a convention that is over used and therefore boring). We have three or four storylines going on and we got two pages of each story line as we jump from story to story. The four stories are Bucky Cap and Natasha (by the way called Natasha again as opposed to Natalia) searching for equipment that was used by the Red Skrull on Sharon. Sharon is re-telling (for the umpteenth time) how she shot Steve, but know we now with an odd gun and has gone to the Mighty Avengers for help with a time machine. Norman Osborne is conversing with Zola about what is really going on with Captain (Steve Rogers) America. The final storyline is Steve is unstuck in time and he is jumping into his life throughout time, sort of a Quantum Leap thing, but he is always in his body. See my full review here.

Sword #18 - She down to just one of the gods now and I’m not sure this book last much longer then another 6 issues. The twist was the last god helps Dara kill her brother, but sets Dara up as a bad guy and sets herself up as a god come to save the people from Dara's evil. When the story is strong (as it was this issue) I tend to gloss over the weak art, but no matter what the story telling of the Luna Brothers is rock solid.

Jonah Hex #45 – Part 2 of the six part “6 Gun War”. I’m enjoying the long story on Jonah Hex as a different take from the one and done stories. The guest appearances of Bat Lash and El Diablo is making this sort of a team-up book, but it is done in such a style as to make it all seem very natural. Jonah Hex is the best and most consistent western on the stands.

Dead Run #2 (of 4) – This comic feels very derivative of Judge Dredd and a little Mad Max thrown in, but it is a good read and a solid and entertaining comic.

Chew #2 – After a great introductory issue, the second issue comes in and continues to entertain. The cartoon nature of the strip is in full force this issue as the over the top exaggerations when characters are expressing anger are right out of Saturday morning cartoons, yet a good story is still being told. Chew is another new series for 2009 that is a bright spot.

Justice League Cry for Justice #1 (of 7) - Writer James Robinson, Art Mauro Cascioli. I have to give a lot of credit for this book to the artist. Mauro Cascioli first came to my attention in the Captain Marvel re-launch (that has since almost been ignored). He came onto the book after Howard Porter dropped off the book and was really wowing me with his photorealistic type style. The painted artwork just made the book have a strong and unique look. In fact if I was running DC I would have Mauro doing covers. Not that his interior work is bad as his page design and panel layouts are fine and his story telling ability is also very good, it is the dynamic nature of his work would lend itself to great covers. I mean DC has been using Andrew Robinson whose covers are not dynamic and Mauro could sell some books with his work. His cover on this book was a stand out on the racks at my comic store. I know first issues have to be a lot of set-up, but we are reading a seven issue series and after the first issue we have only introduced five members of the group and they have not even gotten together yet. Plus we got a 22 page comic with some nice background material written by James Robinson and a 2 page Congorilla origin, but this was a $4 book. Marvel starts to give us extra pages for our buck and DC does what Marvel was doing and gives us trade extras and charges us an extra buck. See my full review here.

Irredeemable #4 – Another good issue and this time it focuses on just how evil the Plutonian has become. What we did not get this issue and that I personally missed is another piece of the puzzle as to what has turned him into such a horrible bastard.

Locke & Key Head Games #6 (of 6) – This book is always good, but the chapter break felt a little odd with this ending. Obviously it is one long story being broken into chapters at this point. The first arc had a more definitive end that this arc did and it is leaving me hanging for a little too long. Still Locke and Key is one of the top independents on the shelf and one of the best written series, period.

Mr. Stuffins #3 (of 3) – The ending of this series made it all worth it. This was just a fun little series that delivered on its promise. A Teddy Bare that thinks it is a spy and he ultimately saves the day and the family of the little boy for a happily ever after ending.

Invincible Iron Man #15 – This story has a very slow pace and I wonder where this book is going. Tony Stark has turned himself into Stupor-Man (an old title for a parody of Superman) and with each issue he keeps getting dumber and dumber. I’m just not sure how you wipe out parts of Tony’s brain and ever make this right again. Plus Tony no longer looks like Tony Stark and again I’m not sure what that buys you with his character. It seems after Tony was omnipresent throughout the MU and now they have made him into something almost unrecognizable. At this point it is like watching a train wreck and I can’t turn away. Great artwork certainly helps and Matt Fraction is writing a story that I can’t see the ending of, so that is a good thing also. I guess I like this book, but I can’t see how they redeem Iron Man into a usable and prominent hero again.

Secret Six #11 – One of the great things about this book is you never know where it is going. This issue it appears the group will band together to stop the slavery, but instead they fight among themselves. In the midst of that fight is appears Artemis (who Jeannette was saving) is killed. The final page Wonder Woman shows up ticked off and looking ot kick someone’s a** for what happened to her Amazon sister.

Farscape Strange Detractors #4 (of 4) – I love this book as it is the continuation of the TV series and it is showing how a baby can be added to a show and not hurt it. They are managing to make Deke be a character, but without dragging the adventure element into the ground. The bad part is the art is almost a cartoon style and I would prefer a more realistic style to really make this book shine.

What I’m starting to see more and more of is a book that appears to be completely written or at least a complete story is in mind when the series is launched. I know for a fact that is true with “The Sword” and Echo appears to be that way also. I hope The Mighty and Irredeemable are the same way. I think that many stories suffer from having no long term direction and when a series becomes 100% episodic in nature it loses some power in its ability to generate a good story. If I was an editor at a company and we were launching a new ongoing series I would want a layout of about 5 years worth of story and direction. Not that it would all be used, but just to make sure the writer knows where we are going. I believe TV series like Lost should become the norm and that would make some series more compelling.

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