Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Best and Worst of Last Week

I just read an article about Greg Horn trying to reinvent his art style. From some of the samples I saw his work did have a slightly different feel to it. It was not so perfect and traced looking, still very Greg Horn, but as a cover artist I think it works. I understand how he feels because even though this blog is just an amateur’s effort to entertain other comic fans, I try to change things up to get away from being too predictable. At the same time there are some features or posts that we do that are consistently pretty much the same as there is also value in that approach. Finding the right balance is the tough part.

This column is a case in point in that I used to rank everything, and then I went to Best and Worst only. The second method forced some books to be the Best and some to be the Worst. Adding the quick hits portion allowed me to be free of Best and Worst. A book only makes those categories on its own merits and not on an artificial criteria based on a book coming on an exceptional good or bad week. Therefore my title for this column probably needs to change to Last Week in Review as there maybe no best or worst. Of course I realize I’m extremely analytical by nature and I’m reviewing a point that probably only I care about.


Noir – A Collection of Crime Comics – Various Creators - This collection of crime stories from Dark Horse was everything you could hope for and more. From the opening story of David Lapham’s “Open the Goddam Box” to the final absolute masterpiece of a short story “Bad Night” by Brian Azzarello with art by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba it was a great collection of stories. “Bad Night” is about a guy who is down and out on his luck and is forced to take a job to make some money, the surprise sort of guest star at the end of the story made this a real “no f**king way” type of ending. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips gave us a Criminal short story that was full of sex, deceit and murder, what’s not to like. “Blood on my Hands” by Rick Geary was a stunning shocker of a story, with a great twist ending. You get 13 stories with 110 pages; one was a prose story with spot illustrations. Not every single story was a hit, but when you consider you can now pay $12 for 66 pages of story and art with many companies, 110 pages of black and white art for $13 is a heck of a bargain. While one or two stories were misses for me, the vast majority were great. Jeff Lemire had “The Old Silo” which shows how a set of fortuitous circumstances helped out a down and out old farmer. “The Last Hit” by writer Chris Offutt and art by Kano & Stefano Gaudiano shows how the torch can be passed in the assassin game. “The New Me” by Gary Phillips writer and Eduardo Barreto as artist was another great story about getting back into shape at any cost. I just hope Dark Horse can continue this series, because it was a stunning collection. No matter what, try to stop in your local store and read “Bad Night” which ends this collection. See if you don’t agree that is was a great twist on a story known to every comic fan alive. If you like Noir type fiction at all you should go out and buy this book.

Walking Dead #66 - Writer Robert Kirkman, Art Charles Adlard, Graytones Cliff Rathburn. Reading the letter pages and one comment that stuck out was the remark that this is not only the best Zombie book being done it is one of the best ongoing series on the stands. I have to agree. Walking Dead has pacing issues at times, I think the character driven nature of the book can slow it down to a crawl, but with the monthly publishing schedule being firmly in place again I would not want to go back to getting the trades. I’m such a sucker for this series that I get the monthly and send it on to one of my daughters, I buy the trades for my other daughter and I buy the 12 issue oversized deluxe hard covers of this book for my permanent collection. This issue “The Hunt” concludes and it concludes in a logical fashion with Rick and his group killing the people who were hunting them. Also Dale died and was cremated; Andrea kept her promise and killed him before he could turn. As Rick takes a moment for himself he hears what he thinks is Abraham coming up behind him and starts to talk. He talks about just how brutal they were to the hunters and they made each hunter watch in turn as they killed them one by one. Rick questions if his son could ever look at him after this. He turns and it is his son Carl and Carl confesses that he killed Ben. See my full review here.

Secret Six #14 – Writer Gail Simone, Pencils Nicola Scott & Carlos Rodriquez, Inks Doug Hazelwood & Mark McKenna with Carlos Rodriquez, Colors Jason Wright. This is Gail’s book and she just always keeps us on our toes. This issue we have Artemis ready to kill her fellow captured Amazons in order for them to never have to be prisoners again. We have Wonder Woman twist the head and kill a demon with the line that she does not kill when possible, but will make an exception for demons. We have Deadshot crossing and double crossing everyone. This is just typical Deadshot type of stuff. Deadshot between Suicide Squad years ago, his own mini-series and Gail’s work with him has become a favorite of mine. I forget who I owe for bringing this one note character from years ago and turning him into a great bad guy. Ragdoll is the epitome of creepy and weird, but is so much a part of this group that I would be aghast if he was ousted. Then we have the ending where Bane tells Scandal she is feeling badly because she used the Venom drug when she should not have. Next he tells her for a bad guy group they are not very successful and not making any money, so he is taking over and firing Scandal. You never know where this book is going, but you always enjoy the ride.


Another nothing week, which make a lot of sense as I avoid comics I don’t want and that means only major misses show up here.


Batgirl #3 – Nice three issue start to Batgirl. I think for a new origin with a familiar character the length and pacing was perfect. I also liked that we did not end on a cliff hanger. Stephanie is Batgirl with her own version of the costume and Babs is going to serve as her mentor. It appears that both will be developed more as it feels like they are co-stars of the book.

Blackest Night Batman #3 (of 3) - This was a very enjoyable series. At first I wasn’t sure how Deadman would play into this book, but both he and the Demon made great additions to the story line. I also enjoyed how Dick and Tim ended the fight, because they could not beat the Black Lanterns. One thing this book proved to me is that Peter Tomasi needs to be the writer on Batman’s regular title.

Booster Gold #25 – This book continues to be a pleasant surprise. I thought after Johns and Katz left this book it had no purpose and after floundering about for a few issues I was ready to drop it. Then they added the Blue Beetle back-up and I hung onto the book. This last arc about Booster saving the Teen Titans was a very good one and Dan Jurgens has a bit in it where Booster does a favor for Dick Grayson. While his timeline was a little off in my mind and made Dick too young, the interaction between Booster and Dick reminded me again of why having Dick as Batman is working so well. Every scene with Batman now is brand new and the expected response is being defined as opposed to being played out for the billionth time.

Fables #89 – A strong issue as Bufkin the flying monkey recaptures a D’Jinn and his power is revealed as one of knowledge as he reads everything. Fables is back in its prime again and each issue is one to look forward too.

Gravel #14 – Nice ending to the second arc. No surprise that Gravel kills all but one of the Major Seven and now he is building his own minor seven, but where this leaves Gravel is an open question. Gravel is now the number one magician and it was nothing he really sought to be.

Green Lantern Corps #41 – Tomasi pours so much into each and every issue that I’m always stunned when I step back from the back and realize what happened in the span of one issue. Patrick Gleason owns this book right now and is turning in great art job after great art job. My favorite part this issue was Natu coming to Kyle’s aid to help take down Black Lantern Jade. The whole new girl friend versus old girl friend was great. I’m still wondering where all of this is going as the DCU is being changed pretty radically with what is happening and yet it is almost subtle. What is death in the DCU? What will become of the corps? The long term repercussions should be interesting to see how they play out.

Incredible Hercules #136 – Hercules is one of the books that brings fun back to comics. It has good stories, solid art work and has fun with itself. By fun I’m not talking about being totally goofy, but having fun and still telling a narrative. It feels like more and more writers are trying to take some books away from being grim and gritty. Both types of books need to be on the market. I enjoy the dark stuff, but I like to read a comic and just be smiling as I’m reading it. This issue we had HercuThor vs. Thorcules, an epic struggle.

JSA vs. Kobra #5 (of 6) – This is one of the best mini-series coming out of DC. Eric Trautman is writing the best JSA adventure right now and mixing in the Checkmate elements very well. Kobra has never been more of a menace then it is under Eric. Don Kramer’s work continues to amaze. I wish this was an ongoing.

Rebels #9 – The team continues to build with the addition of Captain Comet and Adam Strange to the group. Tony Bedard is doing a great job building a great cast and having a menace worthy of this type of build up. Rebels at this point feels like it should be a long series with a end point and then goes back to being L.E.G.I.O.N. again, which would be great symmetry.

Red Robin #5 - Chris Yost is starting to grow on me as a writer, but every issue he likes to jump around in the time line of the story. It feels to me like Yost is enamored of this story telling style as opposed to using it when it makes sense. It is not working well so far, but the story itself is fine. Tim being embroiled in and helping to lead the League of Assassins is an interesting idea. Let’s see Jimmy Woo runs an evil empire, Daredevil is running the Hand and now Tim with the League. At least Tim is planning to take them down as opposed to use them for good.

The Shield #2 – Both “The Shield” and Inferno are well written and entertaining series. I was extremely happy to see that Magog did not take over the Shield series and he was just an actual co-star. I love how writer Eric Trautmann is giving us different viewpoints on the war without coming across as preachy. The Inferno mystery continues to deepen and is always leaving me wanting more. Both artists have totally different styles. Marco Rudy on the Shield is an up and coming super star from the look of his work on this book. He has a strong super hero style. Greg Scott is equally good with the dark noir type style that he has. This is series is moving up on my list of favorites.

X-Men vs. Agents of Atlas #1 (of 2) – The Agents are just so much fun. I’m enjoying how Jeff Parker keeps their story going forward regardless of the obstacles like not having their own title has thrown in his way. DC sometimes supports low selling books because they are something different Marvel should do the same with Agents of Atlas.

When you look at an individual week it is no mystery to me why comics have survived as one of my favorite forms of entertainment. We have criminal noir stories, zombie apocalypse stories, bad guy stories, heroes’ stories, epic struggles, lighter hearted struggles, fantasy stories and more. So no matter what type of entertainment you are looking for it can be found in comics. Pretty damn cool!

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