Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Best to Worst of Last Week

The way I read my weekly batch of comics has become an odd ritual. I usually try to put what I assume going in as the best ten on the bottom of the pile. This often creates me having those ten books to have to be read a little faster as I'm often running out of time. Lately I have been "cheating" and pulling a few up the list to mix up the order a little bit. I know many people read what they think will be the best first and save the other books for last. Over time books can make the jump from top to bottom or bottom to top. Ultimately doing ratings before I read is always tough as you are making a guess based on past experience only, which is not always valid. Still at the end of the stack if I think the whole week was a loser, then I need to be drastically cutting my list.

Black Adam The Dark Age #6 (of 6) – Black Adam believes he has failed in his quest to save Isis as Faust deceives him with Ralph Dibny’s skeleton. Faust in fact revives Isis and has her under his thrall and escapes Salem Tower. Adam has flown off and we get a last page and him pounding his head against the wall under a portrait of Isis and him. The pain that he feels to have lost the woman he loved so deeply was almost palatable. Yet, we seem him being a total villain in the start of the story as he is killing people with no remorse at all. Peter Tomasi and Doug Mahnke produced an excellent mini-series that continued the portrayal as Black Adam as one of the most complex bad guys ever.
Black Summer #5 (of 7) – This issue my fears about it just being a constant battle and blood bath for the rest of the series have been allayed. The four remaining guns go off to a supposed safe house and are attacked by a new set of guns and a battle ensures, but not before we get to see a flashback with Kathryn. She espouses some strong views on the government, the death penalty and more. Then the government led forces are told to stand down and we have an exchange between the General and his second in command. Here we get more political discourse and an examination of the transparency of the mistakes the US made in the second Iraq war. Still plenty of action, but the overall political views is what I’m also enjoying and what makes this a superior super-hero story.
Trails of Shazam #11 (of 12) – Judd Winick has been writing a heck of a story and now with a new artist (Mauro Cascioli) who is knocking it out of the park this book is firing on all cylinders. This issue Sabina beats Freddy to Mercury and they now are at equal power levels. Zeus is the last trial and Freddy has called in the JLA and Shadowpact to make sure Sabrina doesn’t get to Zeus first. I’m looking forward to the conclusion.
Proof #4 – The Goatsucker in the skin of an old woman and Proof have tea and discuss what the Goatsucker has been doing as it tries to poison Proof. It is such a surreal scene inside of a surreal comic. Proof is unvarnished joy and energy. Every page of this comic is filled with story, quips, little factoids, character development and more. On top of that we get the main story for 16 pages, another 6 pages of story that is connected to the main story and another 7 pages of a short adventure of Ginger and Proof. 29 pages for $3, is a comic bargain. The writer Alexander Grecian is doing some wonderful work and I’m growing to love Riley Rossmo’s pencils (artist for the main story line). If you like X-Files, you will love Proof. This book proves Ginger beats Scully and Bigfoot beat Mulder.
Crossing Midnight #15 – The conclusion to the “Time of Circles” story line. This book is so well done; it feels like a great fantasy/horror epic in the making. In this issue the sister does not kill her brother (who she does not know is her brother), but instead erases more of her memory to block out the pain her encounter was causing her. The end result she is even further removed from ever gaining her life back and is deeper into her new identity. You were rooting for her to not kill him, but the ending leaves you feeling sad as you feel she is losing her chance to regain her life. Jim Fern’s artwork has really evolved and it matches the script by Mike Carey.
Batman #673 – A terrific issue by Grant Morrison and Tony Daniel. Tony’s art gets better and better and he is at the absolute top of his game on this book now. Grant is crafting a great story as this issue Batman after having a heart attack last issue, is hallucinating about the Thogal mediation he went through in Nanda Parat and reliving the death of his parents and his haunting of Joe Chill It all has a surreal feel about it and ends with Batman being saved by another Batman looking person and strapped to a chair. This looks to be Grant’s best arc yet on Batman.
Action Comics #861 – Geoff Johns writer Gary Frank artist and the original LOSH, unless you are telling a horrible story I will likely enjoy this combination. It is hard to describe how much I have been enjoying seeing the old LOSH and Superman teaming up to fight a menace in the 31st Century. Plus while reminding one of days gone by, it is still a very modern comic.
Fantastic Four #553 – Dwayne McDuffie (writer) and Paul Pelletier (artist) conclude their run on the FF with their best story. It has all the earmarks of a great FF story, family, Dr. Doom, time travel and action. I loved the little touch at the end as they are passing the book off to Millar and Hitch. Not 100% sure what to expect from Millar and Hitch, but it certainly should make the FF a top selling Marvel title again. Kudos to the departing team for making the FF a comic I wanted to read again.
Death of the New Gods #5 (of 8) – A very strong issue in this series. A ton of explanation was finally given so we now know a lot more as to what the heck is going on. DC should have put all sorts of banners across this book as many of the mysteries have been revealed. Essentially “god” is telling Metron that he was split when the old “gods” attacked him. He retaliated and restarted with the New Gods. There is much more, but it was a very good issue and had loads of action with Superman versus Kalibak, Scott Free giving into the anti-life equation and Darkseid’s machinations.

Wormwood Gentleman Corpse #9 – This issue begins the four part Calamari Rising story. As always Ben Templesmith’s art is fantastic. His off kilter characters, improbable monsters and show girls all have so much life even within the dark and moody artwork. Hard to describe Ben’s style, but it is certainly as far from a super hero artist as possible, but it is done so well that it is simply great to look at. The actual story was interesting, but a set-up for the story to come. There has not been a bad issue in this series.
Captain America #34 - Bucky finally takes over as Captain America. The Red Skull is pushing the US to the brink of financial ruin and the new Captain America with the Black Widow as back-up stops an AIM group under the Red Skull from stilling the gold from the Federal Reserve. This issue was the strongest issue is the last few months and really told a good story from Bucky’s perspective. This series is back on track and hopefully the story line will move forward now at a better pace. My one fear is Secret Invasion intrudes on this series, as Tony Stark is so involved in this book it maybe inevitable.
Green Lantern #27 – I always enjoy Mike McKone’s artwork and in this issue he has to drawn more GLs from different planets then in most GL Corps issues. We finally see what the Alpha Lanterns are and they appear to be half machine and half human and are now the police force for the police force. Johns continues to make GL a top book and one I look forward to monthly.
JSA Classified #34 – James Peaty wrote a nice one and done adventure featuring Hourman saving his wife. A solid straight super hero adventure that was well told and entertaining. I have been impressed with the “rookie” efforts that DC has had from various writers lately. It is always good to see new names. The art work by Freddie Williams II was very good. Freddie’s art continues to improve and grow from his early days on the Seven Soldiers Mister Miracle series to the Flash today. His has a fluid style and his story telling abilities seem to be growing every month.
Conan #48 – This issue is part of the Hand of Nergal story line. Tim Truman has the right vibe down for Conan as he feels like the barbarian hero that I enjoy reading about. The artist Tomas Giorello is doing a terrific job on the art work. The opening page has a princess whom any male would love, but his battle scenes were out and out fantastic. His style is a mixture of John Buscema and Jordi Bernet (which I know sounds odd, but it is the best description I can come up with) and his layouts are great. This is a great team to take Conan forward for hopefully a few years.
Salem: Queen of Thorns #0 (of 5) – The cover is evocative of the old Robert E. Howard character Solomon Kane. Hooke is an apparent Puritan witch hunter and also defies the church in their persecution of witches. It sounds like a dichotomy, but the “witches” he saves are falsely accused. Part period piece, part monster hunter, the first issue did what a good first issue should do and that is draw you in enough so you want to see the next issue. I’m still confused as why this is a zero issue and not just a number one issue. The art was decent, but a little inconsistent at times. I’m always a little hesitant to criticize art as they can all draw better then me, but I can best describe the art as very good in telling the story, just not so eye catching as to want to buy the original artwork and hang it on your wall.
New Avengers Annual #2 – I’m not a huge continuity person, but this book plays fast and loose with all of it, but it does advance the story line that has been ongoing in New Avengers. The Hood’s crew attacks the new Avengers and all heck breaks loose. The Dr. Strange bit seemed a little out of left field, the Ms. Marvel letting the New Avengers leave was out of character and has this been happening a lot recently. I think the Avengers have let the "New Avengers" walk like four times already. The big plus was Carlo Pagulayan on art, his work looked great on a super hero book.
Jack of Fables #19 – This issue was essentially one long chase scene as Jack and crew are running from The Bookburner’s posse. We stop in Gangland, The Great White North and other “fabled” cities of North America as the crew stumbles onto the place they need to be to start their quest for a lost treasure. A solid read and enjoyable.
Countdown to Final Crisis #13 – A huge battle issue that sees Superman Prime appear to be killed forever (I hope). He rips open Monarch's armor and Monarch explodes basically destroying Earth 51 and the rest of that Universe. The Monitors all managed to blink back into their Universes and Donna, Jason, Kyle and Ray head off to Apokolips. We also have the reveal that Darksied and one Monitor seems to be the two people playing this cosmic chess game and are behind all the machinations. If Monarch is really gone after this it would really negate all the build up DC has done around this character. I guess we will see. Still another enjoyable issue of Countdown, that still makes little sense of the madness that is the DCU.
Zombie Simon Garth #3 (of 4) – This is just pure Kyle Hotz unabashed madness. We have the buxom damsel in distress, the small child who has been befriended by Simon Garth, Zombie, monsters everywhere, blood and gore and a little bit of a plot. Hotz invokes a little Jack Davis in his art style and he is just doing an out and out wild monster story. Not appropriate for all ages, some overt gore and violence. Do not take and drive heavy machinery, do not set on fire and place on you head, plase read the fine print for other warnings.
Daredevil #104 – This is a common complaint of mine with certain books, but I think this is being written as a long form story and being broken into six issue arcs that are artificial. The Daredevil story itself is not bad and it has a decent amount going on and building up to an ultimate confrontation with Mr. Fear, it is just taking way too long. Also the Hood floating around in this story line just does not really work well as I want Daredevil to be in its own little world outside of Civil Wars and Secret Invasions. Finally the pay off will be key and if the story ends well all can be forgiven. Brubaker seems to have become more a novelist in his stories lately, which is not a bad thing, it is just an issue with how much dramatic tension can be maintained with it coming out in monthly chapters.
Suburban Glamour #3 (of 4) – Jamie McKelvie’s artwork saves the writer (Jamie McKelvie) from what has become just a so-so story. Astrid is a princess or something from another dimension, she is immortal and can do magic, this reveal has had an impact on her human life. The story is not that compelling and is too derivative of many other stories, but the artwork is beautiful.
Ultimate Spider-Man #118 – This is Bendis best super hero work and when he writes a solo hero he does better then with group books, this book became a group book with the friends hanging out bit and was a little too cute. A slow issue for this series and missed on too many spots. Note to Marvel, this Peter Parker is the most appealing one being published and he is not a sad sack loser. A big problem is not letting him get any older, the mass of events that has happened to him is piling up and it is starting to feel odd to see so much happen to a person in one year.
Project Superpowers #0 – The most bang for your dollar in a long time, a 26 page prequel for only a dollar. I’m going to try out this series, but this prequel was way too text heavy. In trying to explain the rationale for the series it was too text driven and failed to let the artwork carry enough of the story. As for the characters themselves, there is a reason they fell into the public domain as many appear to be same really lame concepts. It will be almost as interesting to see if you can make these characters work as well as what story they try to tell.
Mighty Avengers #8 – It appears that we are done with the symbiote virus already and can move onto the next part of the story that we do not know the actual end to yet. This reiterated the scene where Carol Danvers lets the New Avengers walk away, I guess she will never arrest them. Otherwise a fair story and very good art by Bagley. The other annoying thing was the choice of colors of the text inside the read outs from Iron Man’s armor, very hard to read.
Spirit #13 – None of the stories were that good, but Eduardo Risso on the first story & Ty Templeton on the second story really turned in some stellar work. Absolutely gorgeous. On the whole the issue was a disappointment and we will have to see what the new creative team brings to the table next issue.
House of M Avengers #4 (of 5) – An okay issue. I’m not sure why but I fell off this book with this issue. The art felt a little weaker and the story feels redundant from the last issue. I think it is the middle chapter syndrome, when a mini-series has an issue that is more just about set-up with no real pay-offs.
Countdown to Adventure #6 (of 8) – This series comes under the heading of pointless. The Adam Strange, Starfire, and Animal story has been dragging out with little story progression occurring each issue. The entire story seems to be set-up towards the next two chapters ending the story. Maybe the ending will save it in some way, but it has not been that good. The Forerunner story has been all over the place as she was working for Monarch, now seeking revenge and having her way with some guy she defeated in combat. You read the story and just have no clue why you should care.
Spider-Man with Great Power #1 (of 5) – I had multiple problems with this book, but before I go into those issues the creators David Lapham (writer) and Tony Harris (artist) have produced a well written and drawn book that many fans of the loser Peter Parker may enjoy as a trade. First and foremost the price is $4 (meaning $20 for all five books) and it contains no additional pages and in fact page 1 is a reprint from a Lee/Ditko story. Second this is loser Peter Parker, which I know is the popular version of the character, but I always viewed Peter as heroic and willing to do the right thing no matter what the personal cost was and often it took a toll on his personal life. Third the characters ages appear to be too old to be high school, especially Flash and Liz who appear to be full fledged adults while Peter has a more age appropriate look. Finally this stinks of using the direct market fans to pay for a trade that can sit on a bookstore shelf forever. In a more honest world it is commissioned as a trade and sold that way. Cancelled.

Only one book bit the dust via cancellation and that was the new Spider-Man mini-series, Black Adam is also over as that mini-series concludes. I think I’m about ready to do another post about the top ten books that not enough people are reading. I don’t know if enough people really pay attention to the independent books. Proof is the book this week that is making me worry that not enough people are reading it. Each issue gets better and better and this one was a great effort.


  1. How come you have covers inserted into what you're getting but not your rankings?

  2. Only the top two get covers in my ranking.

  3. I read the Black Adam conclusion in the store and I totally agree with you. You could really feel the pain.

    Oh, and the secret word? Man that was priceless. Even made better by watching Faust's reaction to it when he had to say it in front of him.