Batman Doc Savage Special #1- Writer Brian Azzarello, Art Phil Noto. I loved this book; there I destroyed any mystery surrounding what I thought about the book. For the record when I read other reviews I like to be able to just see a rating so I know what they thought. I try to always include one at the end and you can scroll down and see what I thought with a letter grade. Then if you didn’t want any spoilers you are safe. The on-line reviewers I avoid are those who eschew the idea of giving a 4 star or 9 out of 10 or what ever type rating. I understand the philosophy behind that idea, but think it screams you are worried people won’t read you whole review if you give a quick thumbs up or down. My thought is let the reader decide how much information they want.
What made me love this book is the entire mixture of this strange and concocted brew of a world that Brian Azzarello has created. I’m glad DC is flexible enough to let Brian have his own little universe and go crazy with it. This issue focuses on Batman and Doc Savage, but the next mini-series to come, called First Wave, will have Black Canary, Rima the Jungle Girl, The Blackhawks, The Avenger, The Spirit and a worldwide criminal organization call The Golden Tree. This book has me dying to see the next issue, but we have to wait a few months.
Brian’s universe is a mixture of the modern and the past, with an art deco Mister X type of feel to it. We have cell phones and Zeppelins, it feels like the Golden Age has been moved into the 21st century, but we never evolved past certain things. It sounds mad as hell, but it works and gives the book a setting that is unlike anything else we have currently on the stands. It also make Doc Savage feel more like he belongs. See my full review here.
Ghoul #1- Writer Steve Niles, Art Bernie Wrightson, Colors Tom Smith. Niles and Wrightson are becoming the team supreme for me in a genre that is more or less uniquely Niles’ own. I call it Noir Horror for lack of a better term. Niles has done a lot with Cal McDonald and his Zombie manservant; we had Dead She Said, with this same team and now the Ghoul. The Ghoul is a hulking eight foot tall mass of gray skinned humanity who has been the FBI’s secret weapon in the war against the supernatural and the bizarre. In this story we have Detective Klimpt who is in need of special expertise to try and solve a case and they send in the Ghoul. Klimpt is not prepared for this monstrosity, who is also an educated and occasionally sarcastic and humorous creature. Steve sets the groundwork and gives a great introduction to our two main characters as well as establishes the mystery they are looking to unravel. Then he does a left turn as we find out the Ghoul is in LA to run an errand while helping Klimpt, he needs to kill a couple hundred demons set to be released in LA. While the story and art were only 16 pages, which made me cry a little, the prose story in the back about the Ghoul was great. The prose story gave us a lot of insight into the character and filled in his background, making the front story even better. Bernie Wrightson was created to draw this type of material. His realistic and dark style with heavy shadows and dark lines, wonderful page design, great body language, facial expressions and all the rest make each page a masterpiece. Bernie is truly one of a kind and a master of his craft. Tom Smith with his colors enhances the work and sets the mood and lighting perfectly. I can’t wait for issue #2.
Batman and Robin #6 – Writer Grant Morrison, Pencils Philip Tan, Inks Janathan Glapion, Colors Alex Sinclair. I love the pace of this series. Grant never lets up in this book. We are only six issues into this book and more has happened in this series then most series have occurring over 24 issues. The Flamingo is the most flamboyant bad guy ever created and with his over the top costume you would not even think he was dangerous, but he puts down the Red Hood and Scarlett without breaking a sweat. Batman and Robin also jump into the fray and a battle royal ensues. The net result is the Flamingo may have been killed by Jason, but Jason is taken in custody by the police, Scarlett appears to have escaped the life of costumed hero/villain and Robin lies perhaps paralyzed after taking five shots in the back. More mystery is laid out regarding the Gravedigger and we see Dick go into a secret vault that contains Bruce (Batman) Wayne or what? Morrison usually has issue in writing an episodic comic and when I read them as a whole they are better then the individual issues, but this series has been great issue by issue and I can’t wait to one day read this stuff as a whole. Tan, Glapion and Sinclair’a art gives us a dark looking book, that was at times a little too dark and a little muddy, but had such power and dynamism to it that it was another artistic gem as well as a great story.
Jersey Gods #9 – Writer Glen Brunswick, Art Dan McDaid, Colors Rachelle Rosenberg. This book continues to be one of my favorites and has been part of a wave of great books coming out of Image. We have had Jersey Gods, Chew and Cowboy Ninja Vikings all coming from Image this year. Jersey Gods is always such an impassioned book, the story and art are both just dripping with the enthusiasm of the creators. In this issue we get into some pretty deep ideas and story points about Barock and his family, Helius and his story of how he became a father, Rushmore getting blind sided. At the same time they inject some nice humor into the book with a great scene with Zoe and her boss. While the obvious Kirby influence is in the book from both New Gods and Young Romance, the book has become its own genre in a way. This is a modern mythology and mythology often includes the gods looking to marry mortals. The story is told from a 21st century perspective and throws out characters which appear to be stereotypical. As the story progresses your assumptions of what appear to be stereotypical characters is shattered as we learn they have far more depth then you would have believed in the beginning. Also like real life in the midst of high drama and even shocking events there can be things which are light hearted and even amusing at times.
JSA Vs Kobra #6 (of 6) – Writer Eric Trautmann, Pencils Don Kramer, Inks Michael Babinski, Colors Art Lyon. This was a solid series and a great follow-up to what has been happening with Kobra. Eric Trautmann is a rising star at DC and this series showed his command of both the Checkmate type of material and the JSA type of material. Of course having Don Kramer and Mike Babinski supplying the art did not hurt. I wish I could afford that double page spread on pages 2-3 of the JSA by that art team. I also wish that we had a regular monthly series as an outlet for this material as the mixture of Checkmate, JSA and Kobra’s attack on the world worked great in this book. Also in this series Mr. Terrific is still alive and I have to hope he is revived or not really dead in the JSA as he is one of my favorite characters in the DCU. Mr. Terrific has actually had a lot of character growth over the years after just being introduced as the new Mr. Terrific. In fact I believe Mr. Terrific could support his own series or at least be a better choice then Magog or Azrael being given an unlimited series to run with. Finally I enjoyed how Kobra (Jason Burr) won at least 50% of this attack. The villain that loses all the time loses the sense of menace that a good villain should bring, having Kobra win parts of this attack make him more dangerous.
Daredevil #502 – Master Izo is alive and well and Daredevil and Tarantula took his body to a separate room to hide him from the hand. The whole thing just killed this book right away. The idea that Daredevil is running the Hand was interesting. The test they made him take, killing Izo, was also a good dilemma. The solution and way out of the box, worthy of writing that belongs in the seventies. We are supposed to believe that the Hand will just take Daredevil’s word for Izo being dead? Aren’t they going to ask what happened to his body now that he was revived and sent away? Now the story will be about Matt using the hand and going too far and some confrontation with Lady Bullseye and Kingpin down the road as Fisk is rebuilding his empire. Come on Mr. Diggle you can do better then keeping Daredevil stuck in the same Frank Miller cycle everyone else has. I will give Diggle some rope as I like him, but this just feels too much like material we have seen before, with the added twist the DD is leading the Hand. I was totally taken out of the book by the lame way Izo was saved and that the Hand is that stupid as to not check that he is dead.
Batman #693 - Tony Daniel (writer and pencils) is trying to tell an ambitious story and has spread his net wide with a huge cast being jammed into one book. We have Black Mask, Edward Nigma, Barbra Gordon, Commissioner Gordon, Harvey Bullock, Robin, Alfred, Hush as Bruce Wayne, Huntress and more and oh yeah Batman. In the hands of the most skilled writer it would tough to get a coherent story and Tony is not yet that highly skilled writer. Also some of his fight scenes in the beginning were poorly laid out and looked disjointed. I see tons of ideas and great potential with Tony’s work, but maybe a layout artist and a co-writer could make this book shine as opposed to be what it is now, which is just an okay and oft times confusing story.
Booster Gold #26 – The Blackest Night is doing a great job of entering into various book story lines and adding something to the series it is impacting as opposed to being a distraction. Of course in this book we get Ted (Blue Beetle) Kord as a Black Lantern and this impacts Booster and the current Blue Beetle, a solid issue.
Echo #16 – Every issue of this book has been a great chapter. I feel like I’m getting to know Julie Martin just as she is starting to worry she is losing herself to Annie, the woman in the suit. Truly a graphic novel being released a chapter at a time and Terry Moore is doing his best work right now with this book. A top ten series for me in 2009.
Green Lantern Corps #42 – Are you meeping kidding me Kyle Rayner is dead? I mean it was a noble type of sacrifice and all, but Kyle dead? Blackest Night is really playing around with the concept of death, so I’m not sure who is dead for good or not in the DCU anymore and I think that is part of the overall story that Johns is playing with as a theme. Peter Tomasi is the perfect compliment to Johns writing and is doing a bang up job on this book. Regardless of the high quality of the work on this book, I do not want Kyle to be dead, he is too good of a character to lose.
Locke and Key Crown of Shadows #1 (of 6) - We are starting the third mini-series in what is becoming a great epic tale. In some ways I think they should do the numbering more like BPRD, where every mini-series has its own numbering but inside it states it is number 47 or whatever of the entire series. The ghost of Sam and Duncan fight it out this issue and we are given a revelation about the nature of Duncan and a hint that he is a puppet for something else. Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriquez have me in for the long haul; I just wish I knew how long that haul is, as the story does need to have an end point.
PunisherMax #1- Writer Jason Aaron, Art Steve Dillon, Colors Matt Hollingsworth. Let’s start with the art for this book. I have missed Steve Dillon’s art and remember last following it on Wolverine Origins. Steve has a nice realistic style that at times is a little on the static side of things. This tends to make his work fit material like Preacher and the Punisher much better the long underwear set. From over the top graphic violence to the subtleties of facial expressions displaying characters’ emotions Dillon is a master craftsman in his field. His page layouts and designs help to make any story flow. I don’t believe I have ever seen bad work from Steve, it is always top notch and a pleasure to look at and this is his type of story. Matt Hollingsworth on colors is also pretty much a mortal lock on quality. In this book he trends closer to a super hero palette, but never gets into the bold bright style of that genre. Matt’s work enhances Dillon’s art and is so good that it all seems exactly like it should be. The story itself was also fascinating and Jason Aaron is certainly known for being able to generate a hard edge into his scripts and a little maniac and madness when needed. The one thing that continued to perplex me and pulled me out of the story too often was the timeline. I know Punisher Max is not part of the regular MU, but I thought Jason wanted to bring it closer then what Garth Ennis was doing. Garth’s Punisher felt old and very world weary, continuing to fight his war because there was nothing else left for him. His world consisted of only humans; the super human was not in this universe. The MU Punisher is young by comparison and feels like he is still committed to avenging his family by whatever means it takes. See my full review here.
Realm of Kings Imperial Guard #1 (of 5) – This was an odd book to start the Realm of Kings with, but still it was an enjoyable adventure of the Imperial Guard now charged with following their own team mate as the Majestor. I also enjoy that Cecil and Beanie live on as Imperial Guardsmen and I’m sure I’m one of the few who remember that cartoon, but click on the hyperlink and you’ll see the characters who were transformed into guardsmen. I also thought at $4 a pop we could have gotten to the actual mission this mini-series will focus on a little faster.
Rebels #10 – A very cool issue as Blackest Night impacts this series. We get a nice summary of the history of Viril Dox and see Stealth become a Black Lantern. The regular storyline moves ahead as Dox’s son is captured and joins with Starro. A high energy book that is fast moving and has a complex plot but it reads very well and is one of the best newer series from DC. Dox getting a yellow ring to become part of the Sinestro Corps was also a very nice cliff hanger ending.
Red Robin #6 – This is a decent series, but Chris Yost relies on jumping around in time lines in every issue and he has still not mastered that style. Just tell a straight story from beginning to end for once. Yost is good, but he still has a ways to go to be a top writer in my view.
Supergod #1 (of 5) – Since Ellis starts this story at the end of the story everyone is already dead. It is an interesting idea that all of these different countries were trying to create super heroes and nothing went as planned. I did enjoy the political shot Ellis took at Pakistan. Overall a decent start with potential to get better.
Walking Dead #67 – A slower paced chapter where we see Rick and Carl talk about their revelations. We also got a hard left turn as the “scientist” is revealed as a science teacher with no idea if Washington DC is still alive and well, he was lying to have others take care of him.
The Quick Hits title is a little bit of a misnomer this week as a few of the books in that category I got a little wordy on. It’s funny with the way I try to do commentary on current books because between full blown reviews, preview reviews, this column and the twitter updates I always have an opinion on a book. While I did not highlight the death of Kyle Rayner is a continuation of DC running their big three third generations into the ground with Wally West, Kyle Rayner and Connor Hawke going from being headliners with their own series to being made into “C” or even “D” list characters. I hope Kyle survives somehow.