Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Best and Worst of Last Week

With weeks like last week I wish I had more time to dissect the books that I have read. There was a lot to talk about this week and if I had the time to do more individual reviews I could hit on some points in detail.


Madame Xanadu #16 – Writer Matt Wagner, Pencils Amy Reeder Hadley, Inks Richard Friend, Colors Guy Major. From page one I was enthralled with this story. We are in 1957 when the country is just starting to feel the rumblings of the social change and upheaval that will define the US for decades to come. Our star is Betty who is trapped in the dull and monotonous drone of being what was portrayed as the perfect American housewife of that era. Then stuff starts happening to Betty. Her skirt blows up so she has to wear pants, her hair starts to levitate so she wears curlers all day, she is floating off the ground and has to tie herself to a table. Her self absorbed husband and daughter continue to make their demands upon her not even noticing that something is wrong. The floating stops and she grows taller, loses weight and starts to expel bugs out of her mouth. Her husband still hardly notices her dilemma. She seeks medical attention to no avail and comes to Madame Xanadu as a last resort. Madame Xanadu does a reading and gives Betty something to at least keep things from getting worse as she looks into the cause of who or what is doing this to Betty. As a little ominous foreshadowing Madame Xanadu mentions the magic feels familiar. All of this is depicted by artist Amy Reeder Hadley. She gives us her usual elegant and beautiful line work. She has a fluid clean line and makes women look absolutely beautiful and not in a good girl way, just as in beautiful. Friend and Majors with inks and colors enhance her work and polish off the look. I love this series, Wagner is writing great stories and Amy is pure magic.

Blackest Night #4 (of 8) - Writer Geoff Johns, Pencils Ivan Reis, Inks Oclair Albert & Joe Prado, Colors Alex Sinclair. I love this event, but unfortunately this issue had middle chapteritis. This disease inflicts many book as a saga has it ebbs and flows and it is seldom that any creator can succeed in making every chapter that slam bang hang onto the edge of your seats type of excitement. I will admit to a tinge of disappointment with this issue as my expectations had been raised to such levels that anything short of a grand slam feels like a little bit of a let down. It is tough when you have set your own bar so high, that you can’t always make that height each and every time out. With that as the caveat this was still a wonderful issue. Let’s start with the art. Ivan Reis is the love child of Neal Adams and Alan Davis, with a little George Perez thrown in for good measure. As a super hero artist, no one, right now, is doing it better. He is beating out anyone you want to name and since Marvel’s big event has Hitch, yes he is doing a better job then Hitch. We start with 5 wide screen panels on page 1, a two page spread with tons of Black Lanterns, next a three panel page then two back to back six panel pages with large and small panels mixed in. Ivan is utilizing the larger panel to be the close up dramatic shots and the smaller panels to show the action. This is a Barry Allen issue and his use of multiple images of Barry and blurring effects to show speed are very well done. The art shows the action, the emotions, the drama, the tragic moments and all are done well and the story is never lost. This is important in that not only is Ivan doing a great job with his photo realistic and fluid style, but he understands how to tell the story. See my full review here.

Detective Comics #858 – Writer Greg Rucka, Art JH Williams III. Colors Dave Stewart. The Batwoman origin story starts in this issue. I have been waiting for the background story on Kate Kane and with the reveal Alice is her sister we have all the makings of a very cool little story. Katie and Beth are identical twins as our story begins with both parents being part of the military. As with many military brats they are bounced all over the place and around the world. For reasons unknown the mother and two girls are kidnapped and the Dad manages to rescue Katie, but as they leave it appears that Beth and the Mom have been killed. Katie sees their dead bodies and obviously this is a tragedy that will make a lasting impression. Since we know Beth comes back and is part of the Crime Bible organization, we have to assume that organization may have had something to do with the kidnapping. We also have to assume that Colonel Kane must have been creating problems for that organization for them to go after him so hard. The opening chapter has certainly been a good one and it makes sense that the origin was held back until we had Beth as part of the story. Williams’ artwork is stellar as always and I love the way he changes his style for the flashback to when Kate and Beth are kids and gives that timeline a distinctive feel. Williams is just doing an amazing job on this book.

Northlanders #21- Writer Brian Wood, Art leandro Fernandez, Colors Dave McCaig. A great start to this new arc. We are in AD 1020 and a small village is dealing with a plague. It is almost timely as we are also dealing with the H1N1 virus right now (nowhere near what this plague is). The village has no idea what the plague is or how to stop it, but one man, an outsider named Boris, is preaching that closing down the settlement and pushing out those who are sick may give them a chance to survive. The village elders vote on it and they push out all of the sick citizens from the settlement and close their walls. Of course this means no trading with anyone and trying to survive a long winter with the supplies they have. Also the villagers did not have the confidence of our knowledge to even know if this strategy has any chance of success, therefore it was a close vote as to whether to go this route or not. One of our main characters is a woman and her daughter who have status due to her husband’s wealth, but he was taken by the plague. This was a good start to this eight part story and one of Northlanders most ambitious storylines.

Superman Secret Origins #2 (of 6) – Writer Geoff Johns, Pencils Gary Frank, Inks Jon Sibal, Colors Brad Anderson. I know that this book is not making a lot of people excited because I think they are looking for things to be a lot different. Also I have heard that a lot of this is material that was used in Smallville. Still for me what I see in this is a solid re-telling of Superman’s origin that is setting the status quo for the character for the next ten years or so. I would call this a soft re-set and yes it has a lot of elements from the Silver Age in it, but it is still a modern retelling and done so well that I’m enjoying every page. Of course Frank and Sibal are doing some of the best art work of their career, so even if I hated the story I could love the art. We see how Lex was out to kill his own father, we see Superboy join the Legion of Super Heroes and we see how Krypto came into Superboy’s life and much more. As a Legion fan this issue was a special treat as we have firmly re-established the original Legion back into the DCU continuity. Of course we also have Superboy established again also which puts the Byrne era of Superman out to pasture. All in all a good re-telling and a story that has a natural flow as it hits on many important beats of Clark Kent’s life.


Ambush Bug Year None #7 (of 6) – Ultimately this series was a failure. The humor that was so infused with Ambush Big before seems to fall short this time. The final issue was a joke in and of itself as apparently whatever was originally submitted was trashed and reworked. To rekindle my love of Ambush Bug I will have to go read the Showcase collection.

Dark Reign The List: Punisher – Are you kidding me? Frank is sliced up into so many pieces by Daken it was ridiculous. There are so few “human” characters in the super hero world that I hate it when they kill one and bring them back. Ollie has never really been the same to me since his revival and Frank is so dead that the Frank-en Castle thing sounds like a joke.

Punisher #10 – Remender’s great start on this book has fizzled out. It is too far away from what the Punisher is, I had hopes that Frank could be used in the MU but this book is proving me wrong. Also Huat’s art is too wonky for straight up MU work.

Teen Titans #76 – If this book was not crossing over into Blackest Night I would drop it like a hot potato. This book just continues to lack direction and go nowhere. I will hang around for Blackest Night, but this book needs a solid team and direction after that or I’m dropping it.

Web #2 – The first issue was pretty good, but the Web storyline fell off the rails very quick. It feels like the writer is trying to do way too many things with the character right away. The whole franchise super hero thing was thrown out too easily and we had new Webs fighting in what seemed like days. I can see why DC has a new writer coming onto this book, a few more issues like this one and everyone would drop it. The Hangman back-up is much stronger.

Wildcats #16 – I’m getting tired of this book. The story line is talking forever and feels like it is treading water. I’ll give it one more issue.


Atom Eve & Rex Splode #1 (of 3) – This was an excellent origin story. I never even paid attention to Rex Splode and now I know a lot of his history and think he is a great character, too bad he is dead now. Next issue we may even see Atom Eve in the book. This was an excellent start to this series giving us more back story on Atom Eve. I think Kirkman is doing a great job fleshing out Atom Eve and by spinning it off into mini-series he avoids slowing down the pace on Invincible, a win-win in my book.
Arkham Reborn #1 (of 3) – This was a good start to this mini-series. David Hine has established the new building, given more background on Arkham himself and an assistant who has some issues. I think there is great untapped potential in an ongoing series about this place and with the right writer it could be a heck of a series.

Batman #692 – This was an okay start to Tony Daniel’s arc, but he is not quite hitting on all cylinders with his writing or his art, yet both are getting close. It feels like he is trying to do too much too fast. I believe this is a six issue arc and I think he wrote this like we were going to be able to read it as a trade instead of chapters. Plus I felt like we started in the middle of the storyline. We have Black Mask, Catwoman, Hugo Strange, Mario Falcone and more, way too much being introduced in one issue. This is where a strong editor could help a writer who has skills, but needs help.

Blackest Night Titans #3 (of 3) – Why is it that this series is so well done and the actual Titans series sucks? This creative team should be given the Titans book and let them run with it crossing into Blackest Night and then see what the team looks like after all is said and done with that series. I thoroughly enjoyed this mini-series and liked how Dove was a weapon against the Black Lanterns.

Dynamo 5 #25 – A nice end point as the series goes on hiatus. I read in the back that Jay Faeber is not sure whether to do a series of mini-series or solicit it as a regular series and deal with delays as they come. I like how BPRD does things as a series of mini-series with numbering on the inside of the book to give us a sense of what is the overall issue number. Not sure how I feel about the group switching powers, but it has some really nice touches about how the individual determines how the power is utilized.

Fantastic Four #572 – This first three part series was exactly what was needed to get the FF back to what they should be, a family. Reed abandons the council of Reed Richards and his quest to solve everything and realizes family comes first. During Civil War and beyond Reed had become such a super scientist that the FF was suffering as Reed was too much the brain and not enough of the adventurer. While I don’t want Reed centric stories all the time, this issue was a great way to re-center the character and allow us to start enjoying FF adventures again. Now if they can just let Johnny grow up again and stop being the Johnny Storm from the movies I would be happier camper. Regardless the FF is now firmly back on my list.

Green Lantern #47 – This had a little bit of the middle chapter syndrome with this issue, but also very necessary bridge to get us from here to there. Some great battle scenes between Hal and Black Lantern Abin Sur and I loved how Hal has conquered his demons. Carol Ferris correcting people that Hal is not her man was amusing also. On a side note I hope one day we have time to give Hal a personal life and I think Carol should be his wife as they know each other very well. It was a very organic job of pulling all the different corps together as at the end of this issue five different colors are now together. DC really needs to do a deluxe format reprint of Johns GL run. I would love to see 12 issue bites at a $30 or even $40 price point start to be released. Johns is doing a seminal run on GL and has made him the number three character in the DCU. After Superman and Batman, GL is the biggest solo character in the DCU.

Guardians of the Galaxy #19 – This wrapped up way too fast and the way it ended I thought the book was cancelled. Wes Craig’s art was a total mismatch for this book and especially for this story. Wes is a fine professional, but the wrong person for this book. Also the pace of wrapping up this story felt very rushed and Warlock to Magus to being killed and Martyr being killed was done so fast that it almost felt like the storyline was meant to be a lot longer and had to be collapsed for some reason. It feels like this story was going to be much longer and I still think the series maybe cancelled after Realm of Kings, so they were not going to have a chance to get back to this story and just jumped to the end.

Incredible Hercules #137 – So Amadeous Cho is the new champion and this issue gives the book an over riding reason that I’m guessing long time fans never saw coming. I should probably go back and get some of the trades on this series. I have been very impressed at how much fun this book is as well as how well written it is. This added level of complexity to the title is another pleasant surprise.

Justice Society of America #32 – Jesus Merino’s art is getting better and better with every issue. He was known mainly as an inker before but he is rapidly developing his penciling skills on this series. I’m also enjoying how the writing team is setting things up and developing bad and good guys. The pacing on this book has also been well done. All in all the new creative team is rounding out well and has this book is staying as still a strong title for DC.

Last Days of Animal Man #6 (of 6) – It was a solid ending to this book. I just realized this book is only set five years in the future. If DC does not do Elseworlds anymore I guess this is some alternative future. Gerry Conway still knows how to write a comic book and he wrote this story for an older audience in my opinion.

Ms Marvel #46 – An okay ending to a rather long story that became way too convoluted. Also I was not buying Moonstone looking for any sort of redemption. I was more interested in Moonstone, so I’m dropping this book here. Cancel

Ultimate Avengers #3 – I like action movies and the Red Wasp flying into the gun sight and into the guys brain was pretty cool. But Millar always takes things too far and these two things were just dumb. First Tony Stark’s brother who is apparently way smarter then Tony and apparently looks a lot like Daniel Craig. Second the transformer bit at the end of the book was just too much. My enjoyment factor on this book went down a few notches.

Wonder Woman #37 – Bernard Chang’s style is not doing this book any favors. A more photo realistic style is needed for this book. For whatever reason I keep losing exactly what the overall story is with this book. I had no clue Donna blamed Diana for her family’s death and all sorts of story elements are not that clear to me. I keep thinking there is a really good story going on and somehow I’m missing it. I hate to say it, but maybe I should switch to trades on WW.

X-Factor #50 – Thank god the future story line ended. The whole story felt like the entire thing was all set up so we can find out why Layla “knows stuff”. I’m sure David had this planned all along, but it felt like a cheat to me that adult Layla infused what she learned into younger Layla. This of course sets up the whole time travel problem of how can you go back and change the past, which is what Layla did to herself. So when did she first do this and even more compelling why do this, what purpose did Layla knowing stuff really serve. Time travel always sucks when you try to do too much with it because there is no logic in it because it can’t happen. The back-up in this issue highlighted the soft re-boot. Next issue is #200 as Marvel is doing the artificial numbering. The preview looked horrible as Guido has suddenly become a large black man. Does anyone edit this stuff?

DC ruled the Best of the Week column, but also placed a few in the worst column also. This puts a capper on a big week of comics. No scientific study or anything but it seems to be that Vertigo does the best of any group of books on the market. For the number of titles they produce they have a ton of high quality books.

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