A constant theme for me is trying to raise the hue and cry about moving super hero comics forward. This week we had the death of Ryan Choi, who was an excellent new Atom, for no reason other than to make Ray Palmer still unique. I also read that General Thunderbolt Ross has been revealed as the Red Hulk and Betty Banner and the Red She-Hulk. This is why we need new characters talking over the roles or you end up with characters constantly being turned and twisted so oddly that the book becomes a parody of itself, which is what the Hulk has obviously become. As for the Atom we now have Ray Palmer still being the Atom 50 years later and one of the very, very few Asian heroes in main stream comics killed for no reason. I love super hero books but they miss the point that by moving on you unburden yourself of overwhelming continuity and allow people to develop their favorite version of a character. DC has often moved forward and lately has moved back, Marvel never lets go and we end up with characters that need a six page back up (see Black Widow #1) to just explain their back story.
Birds of Prey #1- Writer Gail Simone, Art Ed Benes, Colors Nei Ruffino. Sometimes you can go home again and it will be alright. I hated when this book was cancelled as there seemed to be no logical reason for it other than DC seemed intent on ending every title that Chuck Dixon ever started for them. True or not it was a conspiracy fans that comic book fans could not resist. Chuck had been long gone from this title and Gail Simone was wowing everyone with her work on this book. It appeared like Gotham City Sirens was the heir apparent, but while entertaining that book does not shine like Birds of Prey. It seems like this and Secret Six are books that are just made for Gail as her strengths are relationships and straight super hero adventures with an edge. This book starts off with a rush, brings the team back together, adds some new blood and sets up a mission and introduces a new villain. Hell of a job for 25 pages.Ed Benes art and Nei Ruffino on colors also hit all the right marks for me. I’m not a huge Ed Benes fan and felt his JLA work was inconsistent at best, but again coming home to Birds I’m loving his work. Not sure how much he was inking and how much Nei helped out, but the collaboration is some of the best work I have seen from Ed Benes in a couple of years. Ed can draw a beautiful and voluptuous woman and Birds has that in abundance with Black Canary, Huntress, Lady Blackhawk, Oracle and now Dove. There are a few panels here and there that are not perfect, but his story telling is very good and his women are excellent. The combination of Gail and Ed made me love the book from the first sequence. It was a rescue operation by Canary and Zinda (Lady Blackhawk). Gail makes Canary a very dangerous woman and a major hero in her own right. Under Gail’s pen this is the Black Canary that I like to see and she should never be second fiddle to Green Arrow. It is just so much fun seeing all the girls back in action. I love how dangerous Black Canary and Huntress are and how man hungry Zinda can be at times, yet still ready to fly any type of helicopter or plane. See my full review here.
First Wave #2 (of 6) – Writer Brian Azzarello, Art Rags Morales, Colors Nei Ruffino. Rags Morales can flat out draw the heck out of a book. This has to be his best work ever, surpassing the incredible job he did on Identity Crisis a few years ago. There is one page after the Spirit gets kicked in the balls that is absolutely hilarious and yet conveys the pain he is feeling to perfection. Then there is the panel when Doc Savage shows up to save the Spirit from the Blackhawks that is stunning as well. Doc is as powerful as you would expect and the glass is shattering as he jumps in the window. Another panel when we get our first glimpse of this world’s Batman is as stunning as he wraps his cape around a mugger. Page after page of drop dead gorgeous art and the coloring by Ruffino makes ever page almost a painting without out going too far into making it look like a painting. This was absolutely the best looking book this week by far. I have always been a fan of Rags’ work, now anyone who wasn’t will have to acknowledge his skill. The actual story is good also. Azzarello is never straight forward in how he tells a story and it took me awhile to remember what some of the set up from issue #1 was but the story flowed well. Doc’s Dad shows up and he does not seem to be a good guy. Tons of great stuff going on but I think Azzarello is writing a story they may play out better in a trade which I think can be a mistake in an episodic comic, but boy is there a lot going on.
Justice League Generation Lost #1 – Story Judd Winick & Keith Giffen, Script Judd Winick, Breakdowns Keith Giffen, Pencils Aaron Lopresti, Matt Ryan Inks, Colors Hi-Fi. I thought that this was going to be the ugly sister of Brightest Day. I like Giffen and I’m so-so on Winick, but this group from the old JLI seemed too much like trying to recapture the past, instead they teed up a great beginning to this series. Also they made Max into the villain that DC was shooting for before but never quite made it. When DC had Maxwell Lord as the bad guy they did it so quickly and then played it out so fast that the vibe on him being a real menace never took for me. This issue Giffen and Winick resolved that feeling and set up the premise wonderfully. It is very straight forward, once the world knew Maxwell Lord was back everyone was looking for him. Max jack himself up with a gambit that made everyone in the world forget he exists, except for Booster Gold, Captain Atom, Fire and Ice. Now they have to find him and stop him when no one else even believes there is a Maxwell Lord. The art was well done and you have to give a lot (or maybe you can give an alot – Gwen can explain) of credit to Keith Giffen. His layouts allow the artist to concentrate on drawing and not design. Keith is a master story telling and knows how to layout a comic as well as anyone in the business.
Iron Man Noir #2 (of 2) – Writer Scott Snyder, Pencils Manuel Garcia, Inks Lorenzo Ruggiero, Colors Marta Martinez. I love Scott’s work in American Vampire, but I have to say that in Iron Man Noir I’m equally impressed with his work, especially since he is taking an idea of IM Noir, which on the surface is lame and making it work. Also for the second issue in a row we never even see the Iron Man and yet the book is working out great. The structure of this issue is radically different from last issue as we are now full bore into the story after last issue set the premise for the book. Tony’s adventures are continuing as he is going to Atlantis. In a fun, yet still understated way we are given a new Namor as the Captain of a ship Tony hire to find Atlantis and the boat is called the Dorma. It pays homage to the regular MU without going overboard in being too cute. The actual story is well told and by having Pepper as the biographer of Tony’s adventures we are given a natural outlet for exposition of why Atlantis is important to Tony and we are starting to see what is driving Tony. Then after they find the power source that may have destroyed Atlantis and sunk her into the Ocean we see Zemo and Madame Masque show up. I loved this bit because we have a yang to Tony’s yin. Also the villains from issue #1 that seemed like a little bit of a throw away remain an integral part of this story. It is all wrapped up with a nice cliff hanger ending of Tony’s boat being torpedoed by Zemo. Not once did I miss having an Iron Man around and at the same time this cast is being so well built and developed in such a short time I’m already willing to sign up for a second mini-series. Truth be known this is the only Iron Man series I’m following anymore. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the art team who did a great job in conveying that Indiana Jones action/adventure pulp feeling this series is built around. The action and the talking panels were both done well and the book captured the feeling of the pulps.
OTHER BOOKS OF NOTE
Black Widow #2 – This book is really growing on me. Marjorie Liu is really making Natasha over into a very dangerous woman. It feels like a spy book and has you wondering who is after her and why. I’m still not a big fan of Acuna as his work is a little too slick or computerized looking at times and lacks details at some points. Still he can tell a story and he hits certain moments with great precision.
BPRD King of Fear #5 (of 5) – More of an epilogue issue than anything else as the BPRD becomes a branch of the UN and gets better funding. I think I need to re-read this entire episode as the ending felt a little off for me.
Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1 - The book starts with a great cover by Andy Kubert which shows a prehistoric Batman fighting a group of cavemen. That is essentially what we got with this book.I love Grant Morrison’s work for the most part, but all writers are going to be hit or miss especially when you are as daring as Grant is and as prolific as Grant. This book was a hit, not a home run, but a solid double up the gap. (I have to find some happiness in baseball as right now being an Orioles fan is a chore.) The artwork by Chris Sprouse and Karl Story was well done. Chris has a light feeling to his line work and Karl maintains Chris’ work which is top notch in story telling ability. Chris’ work always flows so well so that you are never lost in the story and wondering what panel goes next. Additionally his camera angles and ability to convey emotion are strong and given the caveman have limited communication skills that became an important element. See my full review here.
Dark Avengers #16 (Final Issue) – I liked this epilogue better then I liked the ending of Siege. Nice to see Victoria Hand made it out of this and she will be helping Captain Rogers. I’m not sure I’m into the rotating who is the leader of all super people thing as we went from Tony to Norman to Steve Rogers.
Farscape Scorpius #1 – This is a great addition to the regular Farscape series and is obviously taking place at close to the same time as the regular series. We are not only seeing Scorpius in action, but we are getting more of his history.
Flash #2 – I’m not sure why so many people are dogging this book as it has been good so far. It is fast paced, well written and decent art. I think people are so attached to Wally that going back to Barry is making them dislike the book without really giving it a chance. I can understand that sentiment to a degree but this is a good series so far.
New Mutants #13 – Second Coming Chapter 7 – They are starting to lose me with this story. It is still being told in a linear fashion but the pace of the story is dragging since the climax of Nightcrawler’s death two chapters ago. The memorial issue was unneeded as during a war you have casualties and move on. Also the melodramatic beating up of Scott by some X-Men is not how a teammate would act in my opinion. A lot of these things can be dealt with once the war is over. My concern is the story is dragging its feet and trying to be longer than the actual story itself would mandate. For me the question is will I want to be an x-fan again when this is over? At this point I’m even questioning if I will make it to the end of the story itself.
Superman War of Supermen #2 (of 4) – This was a little disappointing as the action level was almost zilch and we were dealing with the repercussion of New Krypton exploding more than anything else. The cliff hanger with Lex during our sun into a red sun was interesting.
Titans: Villains for Hire Special – This book had some good marks, some bad marks and made a huge mistake from an editorial perspective. The good marks, I like Deathstroke putting together a group of bad guys who are willing to kill people for a price. Exactly what is behind the entire venture and why Slade wants to call the group Titans (beyond ticking off the original group) is not being revealed but the issue served as a good introduction. Also they started the book off with the death of Ryan (The Atom) Choi. This works well because way too often the villains group gets together but they can never be successful since you can’t have bad guys taking out good guys. The Thunderbolts and Secret Six always end up having to fight a group that is either worse than they are or fight the good guys to a draw. Having them actually kill a good guy gives the book credence that anything can happen. The bad mark for me is that recently DC had established that Wilson had abandoned his life and was going to kill people who deserved to die. I was envisioning a Slade Wilson going around taking out people who may on the surface be good guys but he know were corrupt as well as killing some bad guys. I get tired of DC jumping what they are doing with a character all the time. Under Didio plans seem to change very fast. The huge mistake, the death of Ryan Choi. Again I have no issue with letting this group start off by killing a hero but this obsession with returning to the Silver Age incarnations of all the JLA is going backwards. Ray Palmer’s story is over and should be left alone. I understand a good story with Ray may be a great comic, but a good story with Ryan would be just as good and maybe a little better because there is a fresh face under the mask (see Batman and Robin).
BOOKS THAT MISSED AND WHY
Sentry: Fallen Sun – Starting with the title and going forward this book missed the mark in every way possible. First off why is it “sun” and not son? In the military sense all soldiers are sons or daughters. I guess because he had the “power of a million exploding suns” (stupidest phrase ever) or because Thor tossed his a** into the sun, but it makes no real sense. Next I had read recently that this guy was a drunk who broke into some lab and gained these powers and created a fake back story. This never jibed with Paul Jenkins mini-series and apparently Paul never read what Marvel has been doing with his character. This was 22 pages of maudlin crap with angst ridden heroes acting like the Sentry was some great character that has been part of Marvel’s long history when he was not. Also the guy had just killed tons of people, not exactly someone to be celebrating. From Tony Stark bringing alcohol to a funeral, with water for Tony, to Thor dancing with Sentry’s Mom to the Thing saying the Sentry was a better man, the whole issue reeked. To add insult to injury Marvel charged $4 for this book.
When you have four great books you know it is a good week, heck I didn’t even mention Daytrippers or Batman and both were good, just nothing struck me to make me want to comment. I will throw Doc Savage #2 under the bus as an unimpressive launch that is being maintained on my list for the back-up about The Avenger, never a good sign.