Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Best to Worst of Last Week

Since the “One Year Later” jump Superman comics have actually been good for most issues and when you add All Star Superman into the mix, the biggest revival for me from DC maybe the return of Superman to being good and often great comics. At the same time they now have to fight for ownership of the character. I’m sure that Time Warner will pony up significant bucks to keep the rights and then build in some sort of annuity stream for the heirs of Siegel and Shuster. To my knowledge there are no heirs for the Shusters, but the Siegel family certainly deserves to have a secure financial future from all that Superman has garnered Time Warner.

Action Comics #863 -Writer Geoff Johns, Pencils Gary Frank, Inks Jon Sibal Colors Dave McCaig. This was one of the best Legion adventures that I have read in a long time. Johns struck just the right note of nostalgia and kept it modern all at the same time. The Legion and Superman overcome overwhelming odds to save the day. The battle against Earth Man was very well done as he drops Superman to his apparent death, Brainiac 5 revives Sun Boy and Earth’s sun becomes yellow. Superman and Earth Man go toe-to-toe and the rest of the Legion joins in and they take Earth-Man down. Superman gets sent home and the Legion promises to rebuild once again. I signed up for the hardcover. Johns and artist Gary Frank have produced an excellent story and one that I want to own. This story harkens to many great Legion stories where we see great character moments, various team members chipping in with crucial contributions and fighting against a world that has been turned against them.
Walking Dead #48 – Writer Robert Kirkman, Art Charles Adlard, Gray Tones Cliff Rathburn. WOW. I mean just WOW. Robert Kirkman just turned this series upside down and has changed the entire book from what it was, to what it will become. When he killed Lori and the baby and the only people who seem to make it out alive were Rick and his son I was shocked. Everyone brought it this issue; almost every major cast member got whacked and finally the Governor also was killed. The prison home they had built is gone and for now Rick and his son Carl are out in the open and on their own. A few other cast members did survive, but not many. Talk about moving a story forward, this was it. A great issue.
The Twelve #4 (of 12) – Writer J. Michael Straczynski, Pencils Chris Weston, Inks Garry Leach, Colors Chris Chuckry. We are only one third of the way through this mini-series and I’m already buying the hard cover. JMS is writing one of the better pieces of comic book fiction that I have read. He is using the Phantom Reporter character as his narrator and his eyes to view the rest of the cast. This issue Mister E. cannot handle living in the modern world and needs a place lead lined and far away from the noise of today’s world as he can sense too much of it. We find out he set up trust funds that have made him wealthy in case he was propelled through time. We learn the tragic tale of the Rockman and his overwhelming desire to go home to his people. We are not sure they exist, but they do in his mind so his tragedy is no less if it is a fantasy (or perhaps it is greater). The Black Widow is a scary creature and we are just starting to see how scary she can be, a beautiful woman on the outside, but a deadly demon on the inside. Chris Weston’s detailed style and ability to convey expression and tell a story are all on display and he is doing an excellent job. Between the writing and the art you are drawn into to these people’s lives and you really can feel for them. It is a sad tale at this point as these people are really time lost mystery men, who no longer fit into this world and are not really heroes in this world. A really well done series so far and a book I look forward to every month.
Trials of Shazam #12 (of 12) - Writer Judd Winick, art Mauro Cascioli. This series really has ended well. The story was a hero’s journey and Freddy proved himself worthy of being Shazam. What I found to be so good about this story is the uncertainty as to whether Freddy was going to win all the powers or being the shadow of what Billy had been. When Sabina gathered the forces of darkness to come and take over the balance of power, Freddy pulled together many of Earth’s mightiest heroes to help him stave them off. Freddy was willing to sacrifice himself and Sabina in order to stop darkness from winning. His guide Zareb reveals himself as Zeus and bestows all the powers of Shazam to Freddy. I love that DC is willing to move many of their characters forward and give us new people who will hold the title of these heroes. Since 52 we have a new Shazam, Atom, Blue Beetle and Question and I’m enjoying each one of these characters. We can always tell stories of the other heroes with that name of have more then one Green Arrow or Wildcat, but moving a new generation into the forefront is important to me. Overall a very good series with excellent writing by Winick and the artwork moved up a once Mauro took over. It they collected all 12 issues in a nice $30 hard cover I would buy it.
Detective Comics #843 - Writer Paul Dini, Pencils Dustin Nguyen, Inks Derek Fridolfs, Colors John Kalisz. This was another good story by Paul Dini. This issue is the first part of what looks to be a two part story involving the New Ventriloquist, Zatanna and Bruce Wayne. I say Bruce Wayne because he is more integral to the story then Batman. A new nightclub is opening in Gotham and someone is trying to take it out before it opens. Zatanna is offered an opening night gig that she takes to help Batman find out who is trying to take the club out. The owner is a mobster, so there is no real concern over his club, just Batman trying to stop a bad guy. It turns out to be the new Ventriloquist and she takes Bruce Wayne hostage. We find out that she is an old fiancée of Bruce’s but seems to be under some sort of hypnosis or something. This issue ends with the Dummy shooting his gun off at Bruce. We also have a conversation between “Z” and Bruce where she hints that a relationship between them might be something to pursue. Paul continues to enrich Batman’s rogue gallery and it seems that everyone since 52 has gone back to treating Batman as a real person again and giving him some semblance of a life beyond just being Batman. Dustin Nguyen is stepping up in his role as the regular artist on this book and is getting better with each issue.
Abe Sapien the Drowning #3 (of 5) - Writer Mike Mignola, Art Jason Shawn Alexander, Colors Dave Stewart. This is turning out to be one of the best mini-series from the Mignolverse ever. First off I like the Abe Sapien character, as he is truly a fish out of water in both the literal and figurative sense. The story this issue was one of Abe trying to stay ahead of all the danger and then being drawn in by a ghost to try and help her to finish her task and maybe stop the bad guys. What really makes this work even more is the moody and fantastic artwork by Jason Shawn Alexander. I have missed (or cannot remember) what else he has done, but his work fits this type of story like a glove, He draws the realistic, the lovecraftian monsters, action and all the rest in such a dark and moody style that it is just flat out gorgeous.
Nightwing #143 – Writer Peter Tomasi, Pencils Don Kramer, Inks Christian Almay and Mark McKenna, Colors Nathan Eyring. - Every since Peter Tomasi has come on this book each issue has been a well crafted tale that continues to show Dick Grayson the way I have always preferred him to be portrayed. Dick is a confident hero and a true friend and mentor to Robin and someone with a lot of contacts in the DCU and he uses them to his advantage. Dick believes Talia is behind the research of stealing of dead metas and has Robin tag along to help him shut this operation down. The person behind it is actually from the old Black Condor series in the nineties and he is recreating that Black Condor. Robin gets captured and Dick goes all out to save him and they both shut down the operation, but the mysterious bad guy gets away. I love the interaction between Dick and the rest of the DCU, as almost every issue we see a “natural” example of what one would do if they were a hero such as Nightwing. In this issue he calls on JLA and gets his old buddy Red Arrow to download some satellite photos for him. Don Kramer was the artist on this issue and while he is not Rags, he is very good and stylistically close enough that it was not a jarring change. In order to keep books monthly fill-in artist are often needed and as long as their styles mesh well I have no issue with any company doing that.
Logan #2 (of 3) - Writer Brian Vaughn, Art Eduardo Risso, Colors Dean White. Even though I knew where this issue was going for the most part, it was still a solid read. What was a surprise is that the other prisoner Logan had been with is also some sort of mutant as he appears to be unable to be killed. The story is simply Logan is with this woman, the bad guy shows up, thinks he kills Logan, kills the girl and then Logan and the bad guy battle until the first atomic bomb drops on Hiroshima. Next issue we will get the conclusion to how this ended in WWII and how it will end today. Rizzo’s art, as always is a joy to behold, the only question is it better in black and white or color? The big negative $4 comic for 22 pages, at least they could move all the ads to the back of the book for my extra $1.
Midnighter #18 – Writer Keith Giffen, Pencils Lee Garbett, Inks Rick Burchett, Colors Gabe Eltaeb - This series has gotten a lot better and it coincided with new artist Lee Garbett coming onboard. Now Lee has a beautiful smooth style and knows how to draw. I’m sure writer Giffen is doing rough breakdowns or something as that is the way he plots a comic, but the story has gotten better also. Assassin8 beat Midnighter last issue and this issue is beating each Authority member trying to get to Jenny Quark. She just sends him through a door and back to Midnighter who is waiting for him. Next issue promises to be a rematch and I can’t wait to see Midnighter kick Assassin8’s a**.
Atom #22 - Writer Rick Remender, Pencils Patrick Olliffe, Inks John Stanisci, Colors Alex Bleyart. This issue the action level kicks up another notch. The monster living in Ryan’s blood escapes after a fight in Ryan’s lab and is apparently killing people all over town and as the monster can shrink and grow like the Atom. At the same time Ryan is losing his height bit by bit and can no longer grow back to his full height. This issue ends with the monster apparently killing Ryan and the killer bad guy Atom showing up saying he will save the day. Rick Remender has crafted a fast pace adventure that never takes it foot off the gas and Patrick Olliffe is providing great graphics. I have always enjoyed this series and now I like it even more.
Cemetery Blues #3 (of 3) – Writers Ryan Rubio and Thomas Boatwright, Script Ryan Rubio, Art Thomas Boatwright. This was truly a fun series. It manages to be both whimsical and still tell a good story at the same time. They mixed Abbott and Costello meets Frankenstein, with monster hunting and some straight up soap opera elements and told one heck of a good story. Thomas Boatwright’s art is so good that even if the story was not as wonderful as it was I would still have probably enjoyed it. He takes an almost cartoon like style and then still turns out a dark and moody story. He created a strong sense of mood that was evocative of the old Hammer horror films, which offset the whimsical nature of our two main characters. Hope to see more Cemetery Blue mini-series in the future.
Jonah Hex #30 - Writers Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, Art Jordi Bernet, Color Rob Schwager. I just love this series and the hard hitting gritty western adventures that are usually served up every issue. I also like that 90% or better have been one and done stories. Finally there seems to be no concern about what timeframe in Jonah’s life we jump into, so no worries about making every issue a linear progression form the last. This issue we got an almost wordless story of a gang of desperadoes who show up in a small town that has only six people who still live there and one drunken Jonah Hex. We are told that Jonah is drinking himself to death over the fact that his wife run off with their child. Of course the bad guys have no clue that it is Jonah who they are dealing with and in the end all the bad guys (except the woman) have bitten the dust. We are treated to a heck of a fight between Jonah and a huge bad guy called Samson, where Jonah using a broken whiskey bottle as the weapon. Jordi Bernet has become the most frequent artist on Jonah Hex and I always enjoy his work. Jordi has a sense of realism and an almost cartoon like style that works very well.
Frank Frazetta’s Dark Kingdom One Shot – Writer Mark Kidwell, Art Tim Virgil, Colors Jay Fotos. I have to say that so far the idea of using all of these wonderful paintings for starting points to make up stories from is a great idea. I loved Death Dealer (and if the hard cover wasn’t a ridiculous price I would be buying that) and Dark Kingdom was a good story. The character is called Red Morden and he is a Viking who is a fierce and impossibly tough warrior. While the men are out to sea pirating, the woman and children of the village are attacked by an unknown danger. Morden’s wife gets a mystical message to him and they come home. All the women are dead and the children are missing. All the men flee as the danger must be great, except Morden. He goes into the woods and finds the dragon like creature and her brood. She fed the children to her children and Morden kills her children and in a massive battle kills the dragon. This was a classic barbarian type adventure done well. The art by Tim Virgil was also very strong. He tends to the realistic side with plenty of detail and depth to his art. All in all I felt this was another very good addition to the beginning of the Frazetta line of comics.
Anna Mercury #1 (of 5) - Writer Warren Ellis, Art Facundo Percio. This was a nice start to this new series. The series starts as Anna Mercury is breaking into some office and finding out a government is firing some major weapon. She then gets to an enemy cell of this city she is in and finds they think she had turned traitor. After taking them down and then utilizing some tech to get the leader of the cell to help her she goes to try and stop this weapon and is stuck on the outside of it as it launches. Just as you are sure this is some super science high tech world and we are following a covert agent we get the entire premise turned inside out as we cut to a control room. The control room is the people who are supplying Mercury with her power, but the guy running the place tells the British Prime Minister that they are busy trying to save an imaginary world. The art is very good. I have never heard of Facundo Percio, but he did the pencils, inks and colors and did a great job. He draws a sexy and “big hair” Anna, nice cityscapes, great action shots, he has it all. He had a few funky panels and a few characters who I thought looked odd, but if they are part of an imaginary world maybe they are supposed to look like that.
Secret Invasion #1 (of 8) – Writer Brian Bendis, Pencils Lenil Yu, Inks Mark Morales, Colors Laura Martin. It was an okay start. We got to see the Dum Dum Dugan, Jarvis and a few others have been skrulls in hiding. An alien computer virus screws the works out of everything from being put in one computer, which was really stupid. The premise was all Stark tech is interconnected, so skrull Jarvis enters a virus at Avengers Tower and it screws up all Stark tech. Tony is a genius, he would not have everything so connected. It also looks like they are crashing another heli-carrier and it has been done so often lately it loses its impact. A skrull turns into Sue Richards and unleashes the Negative Zone and that destroys the Baxter Building. The end game is a skrull transport opens up and a bunch of heroes show up and we are left to wonder if all of these heroes were replaced or if they are skrulls. We got one bigger reveal and then it ends. As a mini-series I guess this will be fun and entertaining, as a deus ex-machina to frell with continuity, it will apparently screw things up and make them even more convoluted. An okay start, but Lenil Yu was a poor choice for such a major event book. The art should be a strong element, that would make you want to buy the hardcover down the road and this art will not do it for me.
Archibald Save Easter (One Shot) – Created, Written and Illustrated by Grant Bond. I love Grant Bond’s art style for this book. It has the Looney tune feel to it and is done so well that just flipping through the pages and looking at the art is a joy. I believe Grant does not sell any of his work at this time which is a shame as I would love to own one of these pages. Archibald (our deranged aardvark movie star) is wandering the country and encounters the ex-Easter Bunny. The funniest thing to this whole story is that the Easter Bunny shots colored eggs out his a** and he quit doing when one egg killed a little kid, so now he is a homeless wino. The Christmas special was better, but this was enjoyable and worth the price of entry.
North Wind #4 (of 5) - Writer David DiGilio, Art Alex Cal, Colors Renato Faccini. This series is progressing fairly well. This issue Pak gets and audience with the Princess (Schuyler) and tries to revive her memories of their early years together. Joe, the dictator of the city and her surrogate father, chases the skinrunner (Pak) out of her room. Pak manages to get her attention later on and they run off together. I have greatly simplified what happened, but even within the comic it all has moved very fast. I’m curious to see how this ends, as a revenge tale and Pak takes Joe down or as a beginning and Pak and Schuyler run off and build their lives together outside the city. It is funny as the post apocalyptic world is just a backdrop at this point. As with most stories it is really about the characters.
Infinity Inc #8 -Writer Peter Milligan, Art Pete Woods, Colors Brad Anderson. It took a real long time to get this book to the point that we have a set idea of what is supposed to be going on. Infinity Inc. is now more of a real team and they are investigating anytime an old everyman person’s meta-gene kicks into gear. Pete Woods coming in as artist should stabilize this series and his art is always well done. He has a light line and great layouts and design. He is a strong artist. The story now revolves around the team accepting Mercy (who used to work for Lex) as a group member and now seeing how they act in their stated mission. I understand why Peter Milligan started the book the way he did, I think it should have been shorter as the audience may be lost already. This was a good jumping on point and a nice issue to try it out if you have skipped this book before.
Supergirl #28 – Writer Kelly Puckett, Pencils Drew Johnson, Inks Ray Snyder, Pencil and Ink Assist Ron Randall, Colors Brad Anderson. This is a record of sorts as I liked two issues in a row of Supergirl. Supergirl has decided that she will cure cancer and save the little boy’s life. She starts her quest with Wonder Woman, who tells her it can’t be done and proves her point by busting Supergirl’s nose and using the purple ray to heal her. WW explains it can help heal and does amazing things, but it can’t cure cancer. Next she looks up Resurrection Man, a great DC character that has been ignored for a long time, and asks him to help her. Resurrection Man after he is killed comes back with a random super power. Supergirl says she can just keep killing him over and over until he develops the power to cure cancer. She finds she can’t kill him, but instead they both borrow a criminal super genius from prison to help in their quest. Superman finds out that Supergirl is breaking people out of prison and is not happy. This comes across as what a young and naïve person might do to try and solve an impossible problem. A thoroughly enjoyable issue and no one is more surprised then me.

Young X-Men #1 – Writer Marc Guggenheim, Pencils Yanick Paquette, Inks Ray Snyder, Colors Rob Schwager. I have not followed any of this series’ predecessors, except during Messiah Complex, so the characters are unfamiliar to me. Marc (Resurrection) Guggenheim did a good job bringing me into this book and letting me learn enough about these characters to want to see issue #2. We start in the midst of an adventure of this group of heroes is fighting Donald Pierce. Pierce kills one of the group members and Blindfold wakes up realizing she needs to go back to Westchester as her group is reforming (her dreams are actually precognitive visions). We then check in on each of the various members and watch as Cyclops recruits them to be part of the last line of defense as they are the last “new” mutants. We then find out that the original new mutants are now the “Hellfire” club and Cyclops wants this group to go after them. There is still a lot that needs to be made clear, but it was a good start and has me wanting to know more. The artwork was well done and I’m always a little up and down on Yannick’s work as his layouts and story telling abilities are very strong, but he has a few panels here and there that are just off to my view.
Brit #5 – Writer Bruce Brown, Art Cliff Rathburn, Breakdowns Andy Kuhn. I’m still a little lost by the overall story. I think the slowness in these issues coming out is making it hard for me to follow the overall story. Still the quirkiness of these characters has me intrigued as each issue we are going somewhere new and bizarre. Brit is trying to save his sister and with the help of a teleporter he tries to get to her and they are skipped into another dimension/parallel world. They turn on their light source and see they are about to be attacked by giant spiders and the issue ends. The art has the same type of feel as Invincible and conveys the story well and has an “indy” vibe to it. This is not a book I can’t wait to see, but it is growing on me like a fungus.
Metal Men #7 (of 8) - Writer and Artist Duncan Rouleau, Colors Pete Pantazis. This book has such a convoluted plotline that trying to explain what is going on is impossible as I have become lost over the course of this mini-series. Over written and overly complex in the way the story is being told, I still find that I’m gaining a level of enjoyment out of this book. First off the artwork is very well done and the designs of the Metal Men and the multitude of characters are excellent. I love the looks of the Metal Men and love the interaction that we have with them. I just wish I knew what the heck was going on. Multiple timelines, multiple plotlines, high concept “comic” science mixed with some legitimate physics and the metaphysical and mystical stuff all put into a blender. Someone stop me because I’m almost convinced I need this as a trade to be able to try and read and understand this series.
Countdown to Final Crisis #4 – Head Writer Paul Dini with Sean McKeever, Story Consultant Keith Giffen, Pencil Jamal Igle, Inks Keith Champagne, Colors Tom Chu. This issue was a let down. I had actually enjoyed the last two issues, but this issue we see Mary Marvel succumb to the temptation of power once again and it all seems like it was too damn easy. Mary had proven to be heroic when she won back her Shazam based powers, but the black lighting bolt was a dead give away. Darkseid shows up and offers her power in exchange for one favor and she goes for it and now the slut Mary Marvel is back. We also found out that Universe 51 that was destroyed is already back again and was the one destroyed by the Great Disaster. The entire series has rendered itself almost pointless.
New World Order #3 (of 3) – Writer Gustavo Higuera, Art Mansyur Darman, Colors Edemilson. I really wanted to like this series more. It has good art work and it has some interesting ideas, but it just never hung together for me. I did like that they were talking about the Federal Reserve Bank and how it really is unconstitutional. I enjoyed bits and pieces of this series, but it felt like the overall story did not hold together. This was a very tough concept to put out there as I have the feeling the author has so much information to share with us, that it was hard to pull it off in the span of three issues. This was an ambitious effort that may have read better as a graphic novel.

Possibly one of the hardest decisions I have had in recent memory as which books should be #1 for the week, but my deep and abiding love of the Legion won out, but Walking Dead equally deserves top billing and therefore both got full size cover treatment.

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