Of late I have had a little more ambition when it comes to doing columns for the blog. I imagine it is a lot like writing comics where the creative energy ebbs and flows at different times. Certainly this form of writing is not as demanding as doing scripts, but still the amount of work some of the writers churn out have to have peaks and valleys. Plus often they are called upon to script someone else vision of a bigger story. While I sympathize with the writers I will still bemoan the titles that do not tickle my fancy as I have plunked down my dollars for entertainment and I expect to see some results. This week I want to do more of a capsule review of each book and will try to highlight what was good and what missed the target, but not as formal as I have been making it. I will be skipping doing anything on the BIG release of the week as I covered Fear Itself #1 already. Also I find that doing these type of reviews forces me to only choose a few titles from my extensive weekly reading list, otherwise this column would go on forever.
I want to start with Secret Six #32 by Gail Simone and Jim Calafiore. This is one of DC’s strongest series and reminds me of the old Suicide Squad series from times past. Like that book it is a consistently well written book that never gets the attention it truly deserves. As we have discussed this week none of us are huge super hero geeks anymore, but we all enjoy well written and well done stories. The recent Catman arc in Secret Six was one of the strongest stories done in a long time and this arc is also being done well. I’m thinking I will have to get the trades of this series unless DC decides to go back and collect all of Gail’s work with this group. Ragdoll is in Hell and as he is a soul less being, which is very, very rare. He is anointed as a Prince of Hell. Scandal is back in Hell searching for her true love Knockout, which sadly leaves her current girl friend out in the cold. Scandal wants the get out of jail free card to bring Knockout home. In addition we have a side storyline with Catman looking for his father, some great characterizations bits involving all cast members, awesome fight scenes and this book just “rocks”. DC needs to promote this book a lot harder. One of the things that make this book so good is Gail Simone who has been at the helm of this book forever and having Jim Calafiore month in and month out as the artist guarantees consistent and well done art. In fact if it wasn’t for this book from DC this week I would have said the DCU stuff was almost a total bust.
Continuing with the DCU material next up is JSA All Stars #17 by Matthew Sturges and Freddie Williams II. Once I know a book is canned I find it hard to be motivated to read it closely and the cover stating we have “The Return of the Prince” who I have never heard of before made me groan even more. Oh forefend for I was guilty of the sin of prejudging. It was a very good story. The Prince is trying to reset the timeline back to when he was a major player in the JSA, later the Justice Guild. It was a total flip on what we have seen super heroes do a thousand times. Their timeline has been changed and now they have to fix it to make things right. This time we are seeing Power Girl and her group look at the guy trying to fix it like he is a crazy person. What kills this book and has lead to the low fan base, in my opinion, is the art. Freddie is a very good artist and his panel layouts and page design is amazing. I have watched as his work has gotten better and better, but his work is too busy for a group book. He applies so much work into his art, but with his slightly cartoon photo realistic style (I know it makes no sense) and the too bright coloring hurt the flow of the story. I believe with a strong inker and a toned down coloring palette Mr. Williams talent would shine. All in all this is a very interesting final story that will be missed by almost everyone.
To end up on the DCU books I will comment on this week let’s talk about the incredible stink bomb that is Brightest Day #23. I have decided Brightest Day is as boring and inane as Countdown, but only 24 issues and with better art. The whole things ends up being about making heroes new elementals and having a black lantern Swamp Thing crash back into the DCU from Vertigo. Did I miss some foreshadowing of this event? Finally we have Alec Holland returning from the dead at the end. Remember one of the great moments in DCU history was when Alan Moore turned Swamp Thing on its head and explained that he was never a man trapped as a Swamp Monster, that he was a plant who thought he was a man. Now decades later we get this crap. Plus the DCU has been so adamant about drawing a wall between Vertigo and the DCU, if this is some whim then it is bullsh*t, if it is due to legal ownership issues, then I don’t like it, but can understand it. Still we do not need Swamp Thing as a super hero in any case. I think the worse part of this series is that it has taken up too much time from some of DC’s strongest talent to produce a mediocre, at best, story. The only positive viewpoint I have on this series is that it is over with the next issue.
Herc #1 by Writers Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente, with pencils by Neil Edwards and inks by Scott Hanna was an entertaining read. I had skipped the Chaos War stuff and fallen off the Hercules series before that. I’m not sure I’m a fan forever of this series, but I like how we have a mortal Hercules still with super strength, but also armed with the weapons of the Greek gods. It was a nice establishment of the character giving us a new status quo, starting a supporting cast, fighting a super villain and the proto-typical weekly matinee ending. I’m hoping this is going to be a $3 book because the $4 price tag is unappealing, but for a longer issue no complaints. All in all this has the vibe of a good middle tier title that I hope avoids a lot of what is going on in the rest of the MU and allows Herc to develop as his own thing.
Anytime I pick up an issue of Chew and I have to smile and issue #18 by John Layman and Rob Guillory is no exception. Chew is always an over the top sensation that seems to be self contained issue to issue at times, but pulls together its disparaged elements when appropriate. This issue Tony’s boss sends him and his partner on a suicide mission with the all female USDA (don’t ask). As they skydive into the enemy camp they are being cut to ribbons. The ultimate weapon is released, the super dangerous and deadly Poyo, this Rooster is one bad ass chicken and takes out the bad guys, but sadly appears to die at the end. When you read that it sounds so incredibly stupid and inane, but it is great work as a comic book. Layman structures his stories very well and Guillory gives us a cartoon style extravaganza that flows perfectly. This is a series that deserves all the praise and accolades that are heaped upon it.
The next book or story I want to mention is the back-up story in Annihilators #2, I love the Rocket Raccoon & Groot Adventure by DnA and Timothy Green. Like Chew, it is a cartoon extravaganza with Rocket Racoon in a flying sled fighting mechanical woodpeckers that shoot fire from their eyes and mushrooms and other lower creatures of the forest as his allies. All to save his friend Groot from the other trees who have find him guilty of crimes against his people. I’m only mentioning half of the madcap stuff going on in this story and at the same time all this is going on we are getting an adventure about Rocket and Groot. No longer is it Moose and Squirrel, now it is Tree and Raccoon.
So I read Green Wake #1 by Kurtis Wiebe and Riley Rossmo and I’m not 100% sure what it was about, but I did like it enough to decide to get the next issue. Never heard of Kurtis Wiebe, but Rossmo has a great rough hewn feel to his work that has graced Proof and the long missing Cowboy Ninja Viking. The story is a mystery, but the mystery is about where the heck are all of these people, why are some of them changing into strange fish looking creatures, why did Ariel go off the deep end and why is Morley running around like he is the local police force? Of course making the first issue full of mystery is a nice way to entice the audience back for more, but you need to deliver as the series progresses or the next book with your name it as the writer will be a pass for me. Too many writers have gotten caught up in writing their version of the TV series Lost (which ended so poorly) and more writers need to trust they have a good idea and tell us the story and not surround everything with mysteries all the time. That being said this was a good start to this five part series. One final note, please show that it is a mini-series on the cover. Nowhere on the front of the book can you tell this is a mini-series.
A quick note on Heroes for Hire #5, it is my last issue. The art was very weak. It told the story, but often looked amateurish and the dialogue was extremely poor at times. I almost don’t believe it was DnA writing the book. I follow too many books to waste my time on this type of material.
That puts a wrap on this week. All in all, it was a mixed bag with some excellent bright spots and some really, really bad books. The great fun in reading the monthly books is each week is a new adventure, like life itself at times.