Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Week of April 14 In Review

So Marvel has jumped heavily into introducing bi-monthly comics. I get the feeling that this is due to sales data that I believe says consistent creative team trades sell better than the ones done by various artists. I have no data to support that, but anecdotal evidence says this must be the case as the Action Comics Donner/Johns/Kubert arc waited for the artist and Civil War from Marvel also waited. This has to be for more that an artistic integrity reason. We don’t get to see all the numbers inside Marvel and DC so we have no clue what book store sales are for these books, but I do know Watchmen is a continual seller for DC years and years later and went great guns when the movie hit. For me as a reader what this also tells me is that with reading over 100 titles a month I have no patience for bi-monthly or worse stories. It tells me to wait for the trade on this stuff and read reviews to see if it is even worth getting the trade. Of course it will be a harder sale as trades are often no longer a bargain. Four issue mini-series that cost $16 as regular comics are often $20 trades. Plus when I wait for the trade I often skip it because I have too much else to read or don’t want to bother at that point as the buzz is off the book. I wonder how long Marvel’s experiment with bi-monthly launches will continue. I think it is better to stockpile the arc and then release it monthly or rotate artists (see Batman and Robin) to keep a solid schedule. Right now it appears to me that the trade sales could be the tail wagging the dog.


Brightest Day #0 - Writers Geoff Johns & Peter Tomasi, Pencil Fernando Pasarin, Inks: Fernando Pasarin, John Dell , Cam Smith, Prentis Rollins, Dexter Vines & Art Thibert, Peter Steigerwald wBeth Sotelo, Colors Nick J Napolitano. - This was an excellent start and a fantastic way to build success off success. Too often DC has floated some good ideas out there and failed to capitalize on any success they may have started. This book following fast on the heels of Blackest Night #8 solidifies a great event and builds it into a foundation for what look to be some great stories ahead. At the end of Blackest Night we had 12 people resurrected and of course we were left wondering why these twelve people. Now it would have been easy to maybe launch new series for Hawkman, Aquaman, Firestorm, had Maxwell Lord be a major villain in the DCU but instead we are given Blackest Night #0 which touches on each and every person who has been resurrected and leaves us with one simple fact these twelve people have been resurrected for a reason. In addition they add that the reason is a mystery, but it will not be a mystery for long. The book ends with ads for various series like new series Brightest Day, Justice League Generation Lost, Flash, Green Arrow, Birds of Prey, Titans Villains for Hire and of course Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps. I have to tell you DC has me psyched up for all of it. It seems somebody at DC finally gotten how to build success on success. Of course the whole sales job would have been a flop if the lynchpin book linking Blackest Night into Brightest Day wasn’t a great book. This issue zero did exactly what it was suppose to do by picking up right from the end of Blackest Night and looking in on all the people who have been resurrected. See my full review here.

Flash #1 – Writer Geoff Johns, Art Francis Manapul, Colors Brian Buccellato. – Matthew stole my Thunder on this book and I can only say that I agree with Matthew that this was a very good beginning to a new series. It setup everything perfectly and you did not have to read Rebirth or the Secret Files book to be able to step into this book. The story itself has a great ending as Flash is confronted by future versions of the Rogues accusing him of murder in the future. The whole time travel stuff has been overused with Reverse Flash changing Barry’s past (where is Booster when you need him), but this has potential to be a lot of fun. What I will comment on is the growing trend to get away from inkers. I see more and more of art being direct from the pencils. Of course often there are no pencils anymore in the old sense, just as these words are no longer actually being put onto a printed page. Sometimes this works and often it is still not as good as a well done inked page. What it does mean is the colorist is often a digital inker at times or relied on to make the final page work. The colorist role is dramatically different in the digital age and has to be as carefully considered. Because we want to see speed in this book I believe the artwork works well with the story, but I would be curious to see if the book would look better with an inker. For Matthew’s review of Flash go here.

Iron Man Noir #1 (of 4) - Writer Scott Snyder, Pencils Manuel Garcia, Inks Lorenzo Ruggiero, Colors Marta Martinez. Two points before I get into the review itself. Number one I had the chance to e-mail interview the writer Scott Snyder and get to know him a little which always makes me root for their projects to be good. Two I thought this book would be a total miss, Iron Man Noir sounded like a horrible idea. I was picturing Tony Stark as some sort of private eye who would have to wear armor to protect his heart, Pepper Potts as his secretary, Black Widow as the femme fatale coming into his office or something equally ill fitting. I’m happy to report that Scott got it right and the book was the most fun I have had reading any of Marvel’s Noir stuff. Spider-Man Noir was cool, X-Men Noir was passable, Wolverine Noir was okay, Punisher Noir and Luke Cage Noir were not worth continuing after issue #1, Iron Man Noir is fun, fast paced, action oriented and was a blast from beginning to end and we NEVER SAW TONY AS IRON MAN. To be totally honest the book should be re-titled Pulp Fiction Adventures starting Tony Stark. It is not a noir story, it is more akin to a pulp adventure type of feeling and that made it work. The other element that made it work was Scott used the cast of Iron Man to great advantage. We had James Rhodes, Pepper Potts, Jarvis and a future Madame Medusa in the book which gave us an instant feeling like we knew who they were. At the same time each character was different enough to be playing a different role so that they were both familiar and unfamiliar. Next Scott let the pictures do the talking when needed and never added unneeded dialogue just to get that per word page rate that some writers must be still living on. See my full review here.

Daytripper #5 (of 10) – By Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba, Colors Dave Stewart. Bras is a young child and we see a glimpse of what his family life was all about. As he returns from a trip to his grandparents’ country home he flies a kite in the city. Grabbing the kite trapped on an exposed electrical wire ends his young life. I have nothing but praise for this series. I love it, plain and simple. The emotions that it causes to resonate in me are at times overwhelming. Every issue has been a gem, if you are not reading this you are missing out on one of the best series on the stands.

Other Books of Note

Batgirl #9 – This series continues to be well done. Stephanie is firmly established as Batgirl and her partnership with Oracle is a great thing. The Calculator coming back after Oracle makes a lot of sense also. I just hope Oracle does not leave this book once Birds of Prey gets up and running.

Black Widow #1 – This was not a bad start as we are given a mystery that is intriguing enough to bring me back for issue #2. Daniel Acuna’s art I always have mixed feelings about, on many levels he has the ability to give a cool feel to the book with his great layouts and design work and strong ability to tell a story. The downside is that there are panels were his art feels stiff and doesn’t convey motion well. If I remember correctly he does not have the ability to do 12 issues a month as he does all the art and colors so I assume we will rotate artists on this series. Finally Marvel gave us a history of Natasha Romanoff and it made my head spin as she was born in 1928 and then they list the entirety of her career in Marvel comics. This goes directly against the ten year sliding scale Marvel has tried to adapt for their heroes. The idea being whenever we are everything happened in the last ten years. To cram 50 years of stories and say it occurred in 10 years defies even comic book belief.

BPRD #4 (of 5) – This was a very cool issue that had a ton of possible reveals. Liz is very powerful beyond anything I would have expected and what Abe could be was a definite shocker yet upon the reveal seems logical.

Chew #10 – A solid issue but for some reason the book has slowed down a little bit for me. Nothing wrong with this book, it was just at such a high level that now it is a well done series, but not topping my charts at this point. It had a great twist on the Vampire, which makes total sense in the world of Tony Chu.

Doc Savage #1 – It was an okay start, but I can see people falling off this book very fast. First Wave is a far superior book and has captured a unique past/present feel which Howard Porter fails to capture. So much of the mood I was looking for was missing compared to Rags Morales work. The actual story was not bad, but the mystery of who is after Doc and his crew has no real hook for me as this is a Doc Savage I have no history with, so the reveal needs to come very soon. The back-up with Justice was better as Scott Hampton’s style captured a noir/modern feeling better for me or at least has moodiness to it that I like, but Scott Hampton’s work has always been enjoyable to me and I’m glad to see his work again.

Green Hornet Year One #2 – Not sure what the other Hornet series have to offer but seeing both the origins of the Green Hornet starting his career and the back story of how Britt and Kato get together has been a pulp fiction masterpiece. Matt Wagner and Aaron Campbell are delivering the goods.

Farscape Scorpius # 0 - I’m a huge Farscape fan and I’m still not sure how having Scorpius as the star of a series works long term but it was a great opening shot. Scorpius is stuck on a cold and distant world with a crashed space ship and is in exile. He could escape but he has also lost his purpose until a strange alien race brings their Armada to this world and Scorpius begins to scheme. I’m all in on this series. Also Mike Ruiz did a bang up job on the art.

The Light #1 (of 5) – It was good enough to keep me around for the next issue, but barely. Not only was the book entitled “The Light” the plot was also light and almost too fast of a read. Still it was well done and intriguing enough to being me back for more.

New Mutants #12 Second Coming Chapter 3 – Marvel is doing this story the right way and drawing me back into the X-verse. First off the story continues to be linear. We are not forgetting the main story, but they are spotlighting the New Mutant part of the story. I’m getting to know these characters again and see how they have changed and at the same time we are experiencing both sides going after Hope. I’m looking forward to the next chapter and hope the rest of the series continues in a linear fashion. Of course that could mean I’m hooked on some x-books again, but hey if they are this good I’ll have no complaints.

PunisherMax #6 – This was a very good issue and one that is firmly establishing that Frank is getting too old for what he is doing. I think the only way this series can end is with Frank dying. I hope they go down that road as it would be a fitting ending for the Punisher in the Max Universe.

Secret Six #20 – This was an excellent issue in a series that is consistently very good. This issue Thomas Blake (Catman) surprises some kidnappers by telling them that he knows enough about them that he will come after them and kill them. They have kidnapped his and Cheshire’s child and told him they would kill the child unless he starts killing his teammates. Against expectations he says the child is already dead and he will make the kidnappers pay. While logically you know you can’t make any deals with kidnappers this was harsh as was Catman’s attack on one of the men behind it. Gail has a great handle on this book and this series is one of DC’s best main stream DCU books.

Wolfskin Hundredth Dream #1 (of 6) – I have no real clue why, but I picked this up on a lark and now I’m hooked on the story. Ellis introduces a quest, the clash of the new overtaking the old (guns versus swords and other stuff) and Wolfskin hacking and slashing people in appropriate barbarian fashion full of good old Avatar gore. What’s not to like!

Books that Missed and Why

Green Arrow #32 – This book did exactly what I hoped would not be done, which was take the easy way out and leave us with Ollie having every opportunity to still be Green Arrow, just now as a total lone wolf. I liked that he pulled back when he realized he was going to drag Speedy down the path he had taken and then he faced up to his crime. The jury nullification was total crap. First off it would never go to trial if Ollie was so determined he would have taken a plea arrangement. Second this type of jury nullification is very, very rare. Now given the circumstances I can see that it may be possible, but it was pushing the outer limits of believability. Finally this was the easy way out, now Ollie gets to be the protector of Star City and Roy remains Arsenal or whatever. Green Arrow is still Green Arrow, at least it seems like it is going that way and the status quo appears to be relatively unaffected. Yes he is out of the JLA, yes Black Canary gave his ring back (Is that a divorce in the DCU?), but Ollie is not really paying any price for what he did and DC promoted the heck out of an “event” that did nothing.

I’m consistently amazed at the overall quality of comics lately. The writing in comics today is in general top notch. I know they are repeating stories we have seen before, but the actual structure and ability of writing in general is far superior to what we were seeing even just 10 years ago. Plus the production and technological advances in what can be reproduced on the printed page is amazing which has made coloring an even more integral part of most comics. This all leads to my conclusion that week in and week out I’m very happy with the entertainment I receive from this industry as it is far superior to what we get out of the movies and TV in general.

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