Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Best to Worst of Last Week

As I also contribute to Cosmic Comics Conversations and we have been playing with the format on that show, I have been trying to write more comprehensive notes on many of the books I read during the week. This week I starting taking even more detailed notes and will be using the comments that I may or may not use on the webcast and use them for my Best to Worst column. What this means is that this column will be longer on some books.

Fantastic Four #551 - This is the FF the way I really enjoy them. With an outrageous crisis brewing, Dr Doom, Sub-Mariner and T’Challa coming from the future to save the future from Reed. Then a nice cliff-hanger as Reed seemly executes the future Namor after Namor tells him he will be with Sue in the future. Great stuff and pure FF with Paul Pellitier’s art being dynamic enough to carry off a relatively action less issue and still make it look very good.
Jonah Hex #25 - First off seeing the great Russ Heath’s artwork is just absolutely great. Heath brings detail, realism and grittiness to his art that is really unmatched. His style is unmistakably his own. I also enjoyed that we jump ahead and catch up with Jonah as he is older and he holds off a group of bad guys and then encounters his long lost son. Jonah remains true to type and does not in fact try and reconcile with his son, but pushes him away. Great one and done story containing action and character development told with both directness and subtlety.
Scalped #11 - This book tells stories well and has a hard edge to the stories. It really is one the best under the radar books on the market. This issue we see Gina’s story leading up to her murder and it provides a little cross-over with last issue. Jason Aaron has crafted a well developed story and has spent the last few issues deepening the context of the overall story by giving us a lot of back story to the characters. You feel like no one is safe and you are not 100% sure of anyone’s motivations. R.M. Guerra is an excellent artist as he provides varied layouts and a strong realistic style that this story demands. Also the colorist Giulia Brussco does justice to this book with keeping it dark, but light enough to see the art.
Annihilation Conquest Star Lord #4 (of 4) - What a great series. Timothy Green II has a nice fluid style that conveys action well. Keith Giffen’s dialogue between Star Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Mantis, Groot and the rest is just so amusing. The sarcasm between the group drips off the page. I hope this group survives Annihilation Conquest and gets its own series.
Robin #168 - Good issue. The Ras As Ghul storyline really started in Batman and this reads as Part 2. Damien runs to Gotham to escape Ras, Batman chases Ras, Ras heads to Nanda Parbat. Curious to see how this all plays out. Freddie Williams has been a great Robin artist and will be missed as he moves onto the Flash.
Grimm Fairy Tales Return To Wonderland #4 (of 6) - This has been a really interesting series and the best product to date from Zenoscope. The adventures of Alice’s daughter (Calie) in wonderland have been gory and extreme, but have still been interesting. The events of what is going with Alice and her family are also interesting. Ultimately how the story ends will make or break it. Daniel Lester as the artist does a nice job with all the gore and good girl art. The bright and vibrant colors by Nei Ruffano fit this book well.
Strange Embrace #5 (of 8) - Hardest book to fit into this list. Well written but a really nasty tales of obsession and perversion, with no real discernible idea of the point of this story, still a compelling story. David Hine is the writer and artist and his art work is every bit as bizarre as his story. The art has a very static feel to it, competent drawing with distinctive faces for all his characters. It is an independent type feel to it and conveys emotion very well.
New Avengers Illuminati #5 (of 5) - The official beginning of “Secret Invasion”. Bendis never gets character voices right, but the story itself is decent, plus a very easy premise to explain with unlimited story potential. Skrulls are hiding as anybody and are undetectable. Jim Cheung’s art work is very good and he does a terrific fight sequence between the Skrulls and Illuminati members.
Fallen Angel #21 - Jude, the new magistrate of Bete Noire is learning what it means that his city shapes the world. We get a good story of Angel’s son growing in a role he never wanted and how he can impact the outside world. Really a well told story. Glad to see JK Woodward back on this book, hopefully full time, as his style melded with the moody gray color palette, heavily used in this book by Andrew Steven Harris, conveys a really nice feel to the book.
Astonishing X-Men #23 - Up until this issue I have really hated this story and still don’t quite follow the whole thing, but since I like Cyclops this was a very cool issue. Cyke setting up the bad guy for the big fall was great. Cassady’s art caught the power in Scott’s power beam like no one else has in years. The layouts are pretty unimaginative and the story itself has been relatively too cute at times, but this was a good issue in the Whedon/Cassady run on the book.
Vinyl Underground #2 - This book is developing very well. The main characters are being given more depth. The overall story was a little lost as so many elements are being introduced, but all in all a good start. Si Spencer is the writer and I think he may lose a lot of the audience if he doesn’t simply the story a little bit. The artwork by Cane is reminiscent of Ryan Kelly and Becky Cloonan.
Atom #17 - Good issue. Gail Simone has been charting the growth of Ryan as he takes over the hero’s role. The sense that I get with Ryan is that he’s figuring it out as he goes along and he is still more of an explorer then a hero. This issue Ryan is dating Giganta and Wonder Woman shows up to investigate the weirdness surrounding Ivy Town. It is great mix of super hero action with a quirkiness to it that works. Mike Norton is a solid super-hero artist who I would put in the Tom Grummett class as he has clean lines and maintains a realistic sense.
Exterminators #23 - This issue was totally focused in the war between the Mayan hissers and the Bug-Bee-Gone boys. A terrific battle with strange alliances and heroic actions and a decent end point to that story line. A really solid series.
Hellboy Darkness Calls #6 (of 6) - Mike Mignola with artist Duncan Fegredo really do a nice job of portraying Hellboy as a bruiser who will fight on no matter what. I’m still not getting the whole picture of where the Hellboy sage is leading, but I guess it will end in Hell, with Hellboy leading an army against the devil. An enjoyable read.
Superman #670 - The end of the Third Kryptonian was really well done. I should have more faith in Busiek as he made excellent use of Supergirl, Power Girl, Chris Kent, Batman and Krypto and made the bad guys have plenty of depth. Karsta (the third kryptonian) managed to redeem herself also. The art was fine from a layout perspective, but Leonardi’s style is too clunky and bulky for my taste, plus his Lois looked atrocious. I think Rick’s style works elsewhere, but this story demanded a more realistic and more dramatic style.
Countdown to Final Crisis #24 - A decent issue. Nice twist with Firestorm’s story being continued and then having Desaad take over the Firestorm matrix. Also we saw the next step in the seduction of Mary Marvel with her being presented to Darkseid by Eclipso.
Criminal #10 - Decent ending to Tracy Lawless’ first story (as Brubaker says he wants to bring him back). I enjoyed the arc, but it felt a little convoluted in some ways and tied up too neatly. The end was more of a wrap up then a climax and was unsatisfying as I expect better from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.
Atlantis Rising #1 (of 5) - I was all set to write this book off as pedestrian, but I was wrong and this was an enjoyable opening issue. I’m unfamiliar with Tim Irwin who is the artist. I thought at times he nailed it and other times his art missed the mark. Especially with all the lines on characters’ faces, it appeared as if his pencil sketches were never erased when the book was finished. The story itself had some hiccups when we were flashing back and forth, but all in all it told a straight forward story or a race of humans who live under the sea and who are tired of the land dwellers screwing up the ocean. Really strong job for a writer/artist team (Scott Brown and Tim Irwin) who I have never heard of before, but will look for in the future. This is Platinum Stuidos best book to date and it was only a quarter for issue #1.
Uncanny X-Men #492 - The second part read much better then part 1. Not quite sure that I have seen the hostility building between Scott and Professor X, but I enjoyed seeing Scott take charge. Brubaker still doesn’t really make the X-Men work and I believe group books are not his strength. Billy Tan’s art work was strong, but some of the special effects work (blurring backgrounds) was annoying.
Iron Fist #10 – Daniel Aja’s art is the only thing that held this issue together as a good one in the run. Otherwise this issue was a waste of $2.99 as nothing really happened to advance the main storyline. A total in consequential middle chapter of a story.
Lobster Johnson The Iron Prometheus #3 (of 5) - Never my favorite book and never my worse book, but always a solid entertaining bit of amusement. This story has the feel of an old time pulp fiction type style with outrageous plot devices and more stuff going on then I can remember from issue to issue.
Two Guns #3 (of 5) - I was a little lost as I did not re-read issues #1 and #2, but was back into the flow of the story halfway through it. The “Two Guns” are now being forced together to try and figure out what the hell they got into and how the heck to get out of it. Decent story and art.
Annihilation Conquest #1 (of 6) - An okay start to this space war mini-series. As I read all the preludes I’m not sure how well this would read if you skipped them. Essentially a long winded story to set-up that Ultron is the head of the Phalanx and Adam Warlock will be one of the members of the resistance. The artwork was good solid super hero work by Tom Raney and Scott Hanna (one of the best inkers in the industry).
Metal Men #4 (of 8) - An extremely tough book to read and follow. Duncan Rouleau is the writer and artist and he is telling a story of the past and the present at the same time. In addition he has done a semi-radical redesign of the Metal Men and added another member to the group. Add to that a darker then called for coloring job and an enormous amount of text and you have a book that needs a heavy investment of the reader’s time. Personally I have been enjoying the series. It should have been told in a linear fashion and with a lighter touch in coloring and it would have had a better chance. If you like the Metal Men it will probably read better as a trade.
Supergirl #23 - The new creative team takes over and Drew Johnson as the artist does a nice job of depicting Supergirl. He has a light touch on his line work, good layouts and fluidness to his work. The story was a little convoluted. Kelly Puckett’s first adventure is ill defined and her actual mission for Superman as he and the GL’s were fighting a menace never really made sense.
Infinity Inc #3 - If this book last beyond 24 issues I will be shocked. The art work really fell apart this issue. Anytime you see two artists you get the feeling someone was falling behind. The art was very sketchy and lacking in backgrounds. Peter Milligan is doing a good job with all of the story development, but it reads like a vertigo super hero book. While that is not a bad thing, it is being marketed like a super-hero book and might be missing the fan base that would enjoy this story more.
Midnighter #13 – The more I think I about this book, the more I realize that this story has not really grabbed me. Add to that the artist using the same panel over and over again in place of drawing and you have a book I am about to drop.
Tranquility Armageddon - Alright so the Armageddon series so far has had two guys transported to the future see a major global catastrophe has occurred and then after helping out in the future come home. That’s it. Not sure if this series will make these random a** events pull together and mean something or not.
Midnighter Armageddon – Void shows up and transports Midnighter into a post apocalyptic future. Midnighter fights a few random people, finds the current Authority and they try and stop a reactor from blowing up and just when Midnighter is about to find out if Apollo lives he comes back into current time. I guess all these specials are about the Armageddon that is coming, but the story really did not convey any sense of wanting me to know more.
Countdown Search for Ray Palmer Red Rain - Waste of an issue. Looks like Kelly Jones managed to do about five pages and then they got other people to finish the book. It was a nothing book and more about creating a Batman/Robin vampire pair more then anything else. The “Challengers” were not even really a plot device, they could have never been in the book and the story would have been the exact same.
Ghosting #3 (of 5) - I had to give up the ghost on this one (bad pun intended). I was not vesting in the characters at all and I could not even tell the two girls apart. The coloring was especially bad as the one girl’s hair color changed from panel to panel.
Groo Hell on Earth #1 (of 4) - Nice art, heavy handed preachy crap. Cancelled!

So two mini-series bit the dust with Groo getting the one and done treatment. I was very disappointed with that book as I wanted to enjoy it and have some laughs, instead I get preached to and I did not need it. All in all this was a weak week for comics from my standpoint as a lot of books got below the line (11). Next week should be a lot stronger.

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