Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Best and Worst of Last Week

This was a terrific week of comics. I think one of my favorite things is to do is the “Best and Worst” post as it gives me a chance to reflect a little on the week that just past. So often all the emphasis is on what is coming out. This makes sense as fans want to know what is coming out and publishers and creators want to hype their latest project. I know there are plenty of review sites out there also, but just looking at the week in its totality is not done that often from what I have found. In fact my friend Rusty used to do a week in review for his store and he has abandoned that feature.


Blackest Night #1 (of 8) - Writer Geoff Johns, Pencils Ivan Reis, Inks Oclair Albert Colors Alex Sinclair. This was a great opening to this event. It served as a true starting off point to the story and it had an epic feel to it. Johns with this story may finally give DC that smash event that they have been looking for. Infinite Crisis was not it. It had a lot going on and tons of stuff happening but ultimately fell short. Final Crisis wasn’t it. It had an epic feel to it and had tons of stuff going on, but Grant Morrison’s experiment in how to tell the story failed for me (it may work when I read it again in one sitting). Over at Marvel they have certainly had sales successes with House of M, Civil War and Secret Invasion, but it all still has felt a little hollow. This feels more organic and it is more of a home grown event. While it will be wide ranging and impacting all over the DCU, it is still at its heart a Green Lantern story. In thinking about it I think an epic adventure needs to have a central focus. In some ways Grant saw that also and made Superman the heart of Final Crisis, but this is the story of the Green Lantern Corps in the midst of their worse day. The lead-ins felt a little crammed at times with almost too much information, but the build up has been continuous for about a year and really longer. Then last week the prologue was excellent as we see Black Hand become the first Black Lantern. Then we get to this issue and we see the true beginning of the Black Lantern Corps. I liked how it started off slow and gave us a story about how the DCU have come to honor their fallen dead and made it into a time to mourn and celebrate all at once. See my full review here.

Scalped #30 – Writer Jason Aaron, Art RM Guera, Colors Giulia Brusco. This book kicks all kinds of a**. Every time I sit down to read an issue I expect that it will not be all that I constantly think it is, but it is and this issue is no exception. Dash goes to try and get a prisoner he wants from another jurisdiction and instead ends up with Catcher. Catcher is an old drunken Indian who is predicting quite a bit of crap that is coming down the road and Dash will be in the middle of it. We also see Dash and Red Crow have a meeting and Dash is given a chance to redeem himself by finding the FBI mole in Crow’s organization. The classic “how do you catch yourself” plot. Dash calls Nitz his FBI boss and we find out after Dash hangs up that Nitz is playing Dash also. On top of all of that we also see Red Crow kill Brass as he is talking to Johnny Tongue on the phone. Johnny is the man who sent brass to Red Crow and apparently financed the casino. Now Johnny is gathering all of his men and is coming to kill Red Crow. The whole storyline is called the Gnawing, which refers to an Indian legend of a great beaver that gnaws at the tent pole of the world. The world is starting to crash and all the elements that Jason Aaron has laid out over the last 29 issues is about to pay off. This feels like a definitive ending of the series and if so I will be sad to see it go, but it could make this book that much stronger and it would go down as one of the best series ever done. JM Guera’s art is (as always) perfect for this book. Each character is distinct and every emotion is written on each face. He is in the Eduardo Risso class of artists. I have yet to have anyone who has read the first three trades not think this is a great series. At this point we are talking Sandman, Starman, Hitman, Planetary, type of status for this series.

Agents of Atlas #8 – Writer Jeff Parker, Pencils Carlo Pagulayan, Inks Jason Paz with Noah Salonga, Colors Jana Schrimer with Elizabeth Dismang. This was another solid issue in a series that has become Marvel’s best group book and is rapidly becoming one of the best comics on the stands. This issue we see an adventure with the Hulk and Jimmy Woo gets to reunite with his long lost love, but not in the way he would want. All of these characters are great and Jeff Parker makes this book shine. Even the summary page is a blast as this issue they do it with a parody of the Brady Bunch. This book has great plots, wonderful characterization, fantastic dialogue and an intriguing premise. If you have skipped this book you are making a big mistake as this is an “A” list book from Marvel and it is making “D” list characters into something special. Bob (formerly Marvel Boy) has to be my favorite right now, but I swear it switches from issue to issue as to what character I love the best.

Robotika for a Few Rubles More Double Size #1 & #2 – Story Alex Sheikman and David Moran, Script David Moran, Art Alex Sheikman, Color Joel Chua. Alex Sheikman is a very smart guy and one hell of an artist. This book was caught up in Archaia’s financial woes and had one issue released and then it was in limbo forever. Archaia to its credit has published both issue #1 & #2 as one book and is only charging $4.99 for it. The first volume of Robotika was very good as Alex’s art is just stunning. He has great ability in page design as well as technical art; I get a Geoff Darrow and Steve Ditko vibe from his work. His ability seems unlimited from having images floating in glasses to pulling pack animals down a hill, to battle scenes he can do it all. His work has a fluid feel to it and can be surrealistic as well as realistic. He is a unique talent. His writing was not as strong and the first mini-series while good lacked in some ways. To Alex’s credit he has brought on David Moran to help and the difference is a true step up. This shows such intelligence on Alex’s part to be able to accept some criticism of his work and then find a way to fix it. I’m sure in time he would be an excellent writer, but at this point to make his product as good as it could be he found help. From an excellent book art wise, to an excellent book on all phases. It reads like a samurai story, a science fiction story and a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western all at once. The best bargain on the stands this week. For $5 you get almost 60 pages of story and art. It you skipped the first series, get this one.

JSA vs Kobra #2 (of 6) – Writer Eric Trautmann, Pencils Don Kramer, Inks Michael Babinski, Colors Art Lyons. This is one of the strongest mini-series from DC in a long time. It is well written and engaging and has terrific artwork by Don Kramer. Don really needs to be given a book that has a high profile and be locked into a long term contract. I believe Kramer is developing into a top ten artist. His strong sense of realism I believe gives him the ability to be more then a super hero artist, but I love his super hero work. Also this book is doing a bunch of things right. It is following up on the one-shot that was so well done about the new head of Kobra, it is incorporating all of the Checkmate elements and utilizing the JSA at the same time. The villain in this case is being written so well because he has the JSA chasing their own tails. He sacrifices his troops at obvious targets to allow him to attack his true goal. Outsmarting Mr. Terrific should not be easy and by doing so it makes the head of Kobra a larger menace.

Wednesday Comics #2 (of 12) – Editor Mark Chiarello. I’m in love with this concept. The tactile sense of reading it is just such a great joy and throwback to the days when I read newspapers and the Sunday funnies, that the nostalgia element is an incredible enjoyment. I did not realize how much I missed it. I have read with some bemusement some remarks from fans and such as they say they would love a Neil Gaiman / Allred Metamorpho book or some other teaming that is in this project – no kidding. The only reason these creators signed up for this is it is done in 12 pages. The Batman strip is going well and I think Azzarello has established a decent rhythm as this is a different type of storytelling. Risso’s art is great as always. The Kamandi strip maybe the best one to come out of this project. It really reads like a weekly page should read in my opinion. We have the last panel cliffhangers, the quick resolution in the first panel and we move the story forward but give us a chapter of the story that holds together. Ryan Sook is knocking it out of the park with his art. Superman was okay, but a little too much of a jump from the last week. Plus Batman was portrayed out of character in my opinion. Paul Pope is having a lot of fun with Adam Strange. I t really reads more like a Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers strip, but his layouts and panel design is just gorgeous. Alanna has never looked like Dejah Thoris before, but he is doing a great job. The one strip that is an utter disaster so far is Wonder Woman. It is an odd story and the art is so muddied as to be unreadable. I could review each strip but the bottom line is this is just a wonderful project and shows what can still be done with print better then any other format.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep #1 (of 24) – Written by Phillip K. Dick, Art by Tony Parker, back matter by Warren Ellis. This is one hell of an ambitious project and I have to applaud BOOM for being so daring. They are publishing Phillip K. Dick’s novel and illustrating it. I have read little of Dick’s work because his writing is tough at times to follow and after reading Ellis’ write-up I now understand why as Dick was often doing drugs when he was writing. Dick had two major themes in his life and they are: “What is real?” and “What does it mean to be human.” While Bladerunner was drawn from this novel it is obvious the movie (rightfully so) had to leave out tons of what the book talks about. I enjoyed reading the novel this way and it helped make Dick’s work more accessible. Phillip K. Dick was obviously driven by many demons and his actual life would probably make one hell of a movie, but his central themes have always resonated with me and I’m sure a lot of other people. In its own way this is as daring of a project as Wednesday Comics is for DC (more so because I’m sure the financial commitment for BOOM is big). I’m looking forward to the rest of the chapters and I’m thankful that BOOM is taking this gamble. I’ll sign up for all 24 issues.


Final Crisis Aftermath Escape #3 (of 6) – I’m not understanding what is going on with this book, but as the main character also has no clue I think that is what the writer meant for us to feel like. I will be ticked if this does not pay off as I’m hanging in hoping for a decent resolution. I’m confused as to why Tom Tresser, who is now Wonder Woman’s main squeeze, is being used in this and how it ties to Final Crisis? Since nothing is making sense in this super hero Prisoner homage, why should anything else. I’m within a hair’s breath of canceling this book.

Dark Avengers #7 – What a total piece of trash. As much as I complain
about Bendis on this book, at least we get Deodato on the art. This is Matt Fraction and Luke Ross and neither is doing their best. Fraction and his annoying captions as each character is introduced are intolerable. An example is the Beast’s caption: Dr. Hank McCoy – The Beast, Feline Physiology. Superhuman Abilities. Torture Victim. Who is this crap meant for, a new reader? First off the picture tells you he is being torture, second the artist will portray the physiology and third they make the book come across as like Fraction thinks he is just too cool. I have dropped the rest of the Utopia crap and I may even pass on the last two chapters of this story.

Quick Hits

Batman Streets of Gotham #2 – This is really the continuation of the Detective series that Paul Dini was doing and it is being done very well. The capture of Firefly was very effective as well Hush escaping from his prisoner inside Wayne Tower. The ending with Hush acting as Bruce Wayne and giving Gotham a billion dollars was tremendous. Another big plus is the Manhunter backup series which is also well done. Kate fits Gotham like a glove.

Blackest Night Tales of the Corps #1 (of 3) - This is a good add-on book for Blackest Night. We got three stories that gave us some nice background material. The Saint Walker origin by Johns and Ordway was good and gave us an interesting look at hope and religion. The Mongul (Jr?) story by Tomasi and Samnee was also well done and gave us a good reason why father and son are so much alike. The introduction of the Indigo Tribe of Lanterns by Johns and Rags Morales was my favorite. It gave us little true information, but certainly whets your appetite for more. I like add-on series that truly are well done projects, but also can be ignored if a fan is inclined as it has no impact on the main story.

Creepy Comics #1 – I enjoyed this book, but thought there was one major flaw which can be fixed over time. It was too much of homage to what Creepy used to be. Creepy for its time was cool and had some nice little twists endings. I know this was meant to be a new Creepy, but the writers needed to make it about more modern horror, which could have more of an edge. And forcing everything into eight pages is not needed either. The reprint story was actually the best one. No question that I’m signed up for this book, I’m just saying it needs to be tweaked to have a chance to survive long term.

Fables #86 – A very good issue and marks a return to Fables being Fables again. This was not so much an origin of the Dark Man as an explanation to just how powerful he is and why he actually played a crucial role in winning the war against the Empire. Fables looks to be back to being a top tier book for me again.

Incognito #5 – This is a good series, but will read better as a trade. Brubaker/Phillips has become synonymous with quality noir inspired comics. There is one problem with this book and maybe I’m being overly sensitive or being a father of two daughters (yes they are grown up now) has made me see things differently but Ava Destruction is bothersome. Not the fact that she is a wanton queen of f**king and destruction, but that she said she was made into a permanent sixteen year old. A sixteen year old? Why did Brubaker have to choose making her an underage girl? I guess with mass killing and these people are all horrible criminals, making her underage just fits, but the point was she was young forever and while that is appealing, I do not think anyone wants to be 16 forever, 18, 21 or 25 sure, but 16. It felt like an odd choice and a little creepy thinking about why would a writer choose 16 and then make her into a sex machine as part of her character. I would have to talk to Ed, but at this point if my kids were still in High School I would not want him to pick them up for me.

Last Resort #1 (of 5) – I was right on the edge of canceling this book after the first issue, but it gave me just enough to want to come back for at least one more issue. The premise sounded like XXXombies done by Image, which was very well done and funny. This started out odd. First we have a Zombie on an island and than we cut to a bunch of people getting on a plane to go on vacation. The plane lands and a truck rams into it. I guess a Zombie drove it into the plane. The art was okay, but not enough to carry the book. So one more issue to see if it gets better.

Poe #1 (of 4) – Edgar Allen Poe as a 19th Century CSI agent in Baltimore. I’m not sure I’m buying the premise, but it was a good read and very solid art and it is in Baltimore (where I live) so I’m on this book.

Titans #15 – This was all about Tempest and that was fine by me as I had lost track of him. I find it amusing that I’m pretty sure he lost the ability to breathe underwater and this book skipped that whole thing. I also did not realize that his wife (Dolphin) and son had been killed. This guy has some bad luck and killing off Dolphin was annoying as I always liked her. Bottom Line Tempest ends up as the new King of Atlantis and this is leading into Blackest Night as Arthur Curry is apparently coming back as a Black Lantern. I’m looking forward to where this leads and this book did a nice job of giving us some needed set-up and background information before Aquaman comes back.

X-Factor #46 – I like this book, but it has too many moving parts right now. It has become one of those books that I think the writer must think we only follow one or two books a month as fans and can obsess over every detail. The shock ending was worthless as I have no clue who the character was that showed up.

Even in a down economy we are seeing publishers go out of their way to do different things. DC has Wednesday Comics, BOOM is doing “Do Androids Dream..”, Archaia did a double size issue of Robotika keeping the price down, Image added Chew #1 to Walking Dead for free and on and on it goes. Often the less money you have forces one to be more innovative. I remember the example of George Lucas who made the first Star Wars movie with limited funds and it was great and he made Chapter One with unlimited money and it was horrible.


  1. Jim, I look forward to seeing what you rate as best and worst. More often than not I agree with you.

    Stick with it.

  2. "Mega-dittos" to what Ron said.

    It would be hard to pick the top book last week, but I'd give it to Androids, followed by Blackest Night.

    I would have preferred that Batman had not appeared in the Superman strip.

    Here's my ranking:

    1. Kamandi
    2. Metal Men
    3. Metamorpho
    4. Flash
    5. Deadman
    6. Green Lantern
    7. Batman
    8. Supergirl
    9. Hawkman
    10. Superman
    11. Sgt. Rock
    12. Strange Adventures
    13. Demon/Catwoman
    14. Teen Titans
    99. Wonder Woman

    Subject to change weekly.

  3. Matthew - Loved your rating - I may debate 1-14 - but I agree with 99.

  4. Ron - I have no plans to abandon the Best and Worst column.