Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Best to Worst of Last Week

This was a great week of comics. I had so many books that could be the best book that it was an embarrassment of riches. This are the types of weeks that you feel like you got way a bargain for your entertainment dollar. It also makes it easier to talk about these books.

Batman #676 – Writer Grant Morrison, Pencils Tony Daniel, Inks Sandu Florea, Colors Guy Major. I loved the beginning of this story arc. The opening is a dark picture of Batman and Robin with Batman yelling, “You’re wrong Batman and Robin will never die”. We turn the page and it is six months earlier. Looking at the splash page is it Dick and Damian, Tim and Damian, Bruce and Tim, Dick and Tim as Batman and Robin? You can’t tell. We are then introduced to the Black Glove which is an ensemble of some truly bizarre looking people headed up by Dr. Hurt. Next we cut to Batman and Robin chasing down a crook and Robin is worried that Batman needs to take it easy after all Batman died for about four minutes just a little while ago. Back to home and we see Bruce shedding his costume as he rushes to his room and Jezebel. Tim and Alfred discuss Bruce and Alfred delivers a telling soliloquy explaining what make Bruce so unique and it is one of the best descriptions of Batman I have heard. Tim asks Alfred if Bruce ever did a blood test with Damian and Alfred says it is not his place to tell. Cut back to Bruce and Jezebel and she has received an invitation from the Black Glove whom Bruce has been searching for. One final cut to the Joker and we see some of the bloody delusions running through his mind. In this issue we have set the stage for many things, defined who Bruce is and set up a very high degree of menace. All beautifully penciled by Tony Daniel who I think has picked up his game another notch. If the ending is as good as the beginning this could be a real seminal run on Batman.
Locke & Key #4 – Writer Joe Hill, Art Gabriel Rodriguez, Colors Jay Fotos. This really is a wonderful series. It is a horror story with mysterious evil witch type people in wells, doors that turn you into a ghost and a murderer who has already killed your Dad and is now headed for your new home. It is a family story also, as a mother and her three children all are dealing with the death of their father and their relocation to the new home the Keyhouse. The central focus of this issue is Sam and his murderous trip to get to the Locke family. It is both gruesome and horrible and at the same time Joe Hill gives us details on his background and we see how he was connected to the family before the killing took place. This book is one of the best reads on the market and Gabriel Rodriguez art work is wonderful, it tells the story very well is full of details and great facial expressions. This is a great series and should be on every comic fan’s pull list.
Twelve #5 (of 12) – Writer J. Michael Straczynski, Pencils Chris Weston, Inks Garry Leach, Colors Chris Chuckry. I have to say that this series is impressive as five out of five issues have been very good. At this point I almost want to stop buying it and just wait for the whole thing to be published as a hard cover. JMS is packing so many stories into each and every issue that it is amazing, In this issue he advances the story lines of the Phantom Reporter, The Witness (who has the oddest and darkest origin that I have ever seen), Blue Blade, Dynamic Man, Electro and Captain Wonder and it never feels rushed. Chris Weston creates a realistic look to this series that captures the essence of these characters being from the forties I almost feel that there is no way that these people can fit into today’s world and oddly enough it makes me realize how difficult it most be for my parents (who are 88 and 86 years old) to grasp what this world has become. It is sad on many levels and not only a story of these people but a reflection of our world today. JMS has often been preachy in some of his stories, but he is making his point in a much subtler and more natural way in this series.
Booster Gold #9 – Writer Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz, Pencils Dan Jurgens, Finishes Norm Rapmund, Colors Hi-Fi. This was another excellent issue in a series that has been excellent since the first issue. This issue Blue and Gold utilize a mother box to gather up the old JLI. The scene where Ice comes out of a cave and the Norse gods have refused to help was a beautiful page. Ice has always been one of the best looking women in comics and it is not because she is overly endowed or too sexed up, it is because she is flat out pretty and has an innocence about her that makes her vulnerable. The group confronts max and even gets Superman out from under mind control. Dr. Light kills Maxwell Lord as he had killed her children. Even with doing all of this everything is spinning out of control and Booster knows he has screwed up things maybe beyond hope. The cliff hanger comes when The Time Stealers show up and Booster now knows some friends were not his friends. You just know this has to end with Ted dying again, yet the book is done so well that it works. You can feel the heroism, the desperation and the joy of victory the characters feel going through all of this. The art work has been matching up to the story very well with Jurgens’ layouts and pencils doing a great job of helping tell the story and Rapmund’s finishes making the art match up to almost any other super hero artist.
Walking Dead #49 – Writer Robert Kirkman, Artist Charlie Adlard, Gray Tones Cliff Rathburn. This series is almost always on the top of the charts for me and is an early favorite to be best series of the year. This issue we have the aftermath of almost everyone dying last issue. We see Michonne is going around the battle field finishing off any Zombies who are left and finds tracks (maybe Rick’s) and follows them. We next catch up to Rick and Carl as they are traveling around and they find a small town. After a brief encounter with a few of the walking dead, they use a house for shelter. Rick’s gunshot wound is infected and he finds some pills and takes a lot of them. Carl starts to cry about missing his Mom and Dad doesn’t answer. Carl pushes on Dad and Rick is possibly dead or just overdosed. Either way Carl appears to be a small boy with a gun alone in a world of Zombies. I’m starting to run out of adjectives to praise this series, this issue shows high drama in a more intimate setting and is no less dramatic then the big explosion last issue.
Simon Dark #8 – Writer Steve Niles, Art Scott Hampton Colors Daniel Vozzo. This book is moving at a much faster pace these last two issues. This issue Simon uses a spell to help him gain information on what is causing the outbreak of madness in the city. At the same time police detectives are following up a lead on what is happening. Simon teams up with another police officer who is apparently similar to Simon (as both are apparently dead or something). Both groups converge at a storage area and discover the infection is being delivered to the public via soap. The main story line is a group is trying to send the city into chaos for reasons unknown and Simon is trying to stop them. The unique look of the book generate by artist Scott Hampton adds to this book being one of the most distinctive books on the market.
Wonder Woman #20 – Writer Gail Simone, Pencils Aaron Lopresti, Inks Matt Ryan, Colors Brad Anderson. Finally we have gotten to an arc and a story about Wonder Woman that really made me sit up and take notice. I knew Gail would get this book to a better place and this issue I hope is the start of good things. We start with Wonder Woman in the midst of what appears to be an almost Viking like setting as she is trudging through the snow. She states she has no powers in this place, so it ups the danger. She is attacked by wolves and tries to avoid killing them, but as they are diseased she does so as a mercy. We then cut back to an early time and she is Diana Prince and in the midst of trying to avoid telling her boss Director Steel how it is so has managed to survive all of these recent adventures. Next we cut to her and Etta going into her office and they meet a strange sword wielding man. She uses his lasso to get the truth and she falls into a trance and that is apparently how she ended up in the snow and ice. We find out that the swordsman is Stalker and the lasso lets her see what it is like to have no soul. Stalker is an old DC sword and sorcery character from why back and I love when those characters are used. Anyway we get back to her quest and she is fighting against Beowulf first and then with him against the followers of Grendel. This issue also had some great artwork by new regular pencil artist Aaron Lopresti. A great start to this arc and the best issue in this series since it started, it really gives me hope that this series will finally take off.

BPRD 1946 #5 (of 5) – Writers Mike Mignola and Joshua Dysart, Art Paul Azaceta, Colors Nick Filardi. This was an excellent ending to the tale of how the BPRD earned their reputation and the attention of the American government to get funding. The end game was the mad head in a jar trying to shoot a rocket full of created vampires into America to destroy our country. To try and describe all the madness and horror and characters in this book is too much, but just know that if you take the plunge and start to read of all Mike Mignola’s work, the BPRD material maybe the best of it.
Batman Confidential #17 – Writer Fabian Nicieza, Art Kevin Maguire, Colors I.L.L. What a great issue and a wonderful opening to this story arc. First and foremost the art by Kevin Maguire was absolutely stellar. Not only did he make both Batgirl and Catwoman have sex appeal, he made Batgirl at times look awkward and a little nerdy as one would think she would be during her early tenure as Batgirl. The layouts and design of the book were fantastic as well. The writing was also superb as the thoughts of Batgirl and Catwoman were amusing and insightful. This was a great first meeting between neophyte crime fighter and semi-bad girl. The cliff hanger was also terrific as it both was pandering to the “good girl” concept of the book as well as playing on each character’s sensibilities.
Transhuman #2 (of 4) – Writer Jonathan Hickman, Art JM Ringuet. This is an excellent series. Jonathan Hickman is using the idea of a new technology coming to the market place and then explaining how new corporations evolve and form over time. The documentary format he is using makes talking about venture capitalists both interesting and amusing all at the same time. My ex-banking days gives me some background on how the business world works and I’m getting a real kick out of Hickman making a dry subject matter an object lesson on how the world works today. Throwing in the transhuman element makes the sci-fi part of it interesting also. If you were going to enhance yourself would you rather do a genetic thing or a mechanical thing? The artist JM Ringuet (who we interviewed
here) does a great job in making a straight talking head book work interesting and vibrant. The panel where the monkeys are chasing the guy down the hall was beautiful.
Guardians of the Galaxy #1 Writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, Pencils Paul Pelletier, Inks Rick Magyar, Colors Nathan Fairbairn. – I’m a sucker for space heroes and adventures and I love all the old Jim Starlin characters running around in this series and we have Rocket Raccoon. In the first issue this books sets up the team and gives us an introduction to them, sets up the premise for the series, gives them a major crisis that will create dangers around the galaxy and gives them an enemy. At the same time we have one complete adventure, see their new headquarters (a great use of an idea planted in Nova a few issues ago) and this is all done in 22 pages. One of the better beginnings I have read for a group book. It was not six issues to get going, it was one. If you picked up issue #1 and do not get issue #2, I don’t know what else you could have been looking for in this book. Looks like this should be a winning series from Marvel.
Bat Lash #6 (of 6) – Writers Peter Brandvold & Sergio Aragones, Art John Severin, Java Pina & Steve Lieber Art Pages 14-19, Colors Steve Buccellato. This was a good ending to a very enjoyable western tale. Bat Lash follows Brubaker (the bad guy sheriff) all the way to Mexico. Brubaker continues to get sicker due to the wound in his shoulder. The final confrontation comes and Bat’s shoots Brubaker in the head. He heads back home to find out that his girl has decided to join a convent. Bat pleads with her to leave with him, but she says that she can’t and Bat rides off into the West. Unknown to Bat he is now wanted for the murder of a Texas Sheriff. This gives us a launching point for even more adventures of Bat Lash as the lady’s man outlaw. Another point I liked about this story was the way the gunfights went, with both men missing each other even when they were relatively close. I have read that the old guns in the west were not milled with a lot of precision and therefore were not very accurate. John Severin’s art really brought this series to life and this will make a great trade.
Thunderbolts #120 – Writer Warren Ellis, Art Mike Deodato Jr., Colors Rain Beredo. This has been a good story and for the most part I can remember the last issue without reading the summary page that most Marvel comics open with, but (and you knew that was coming) the lateness is killing the pacing of this story. I have been programmed to read comics with a certain pacing in mind and I’m fine with reading all of it in a trade, but the monthly installments work best if it is monthly. I quit Ultimates Volume 1 because of the delays and was happy to wait for the deluxe 12 issue hard cover of Volume 1 and then waited patiently for Volume 2. The bottom line; this is a good story, but if you are not reading it now wait and pick up the trade or hard cover down the road as it is a good story. This issue Norman dons the Green Goblin costume as the unregistered heroes that are in their cells are playing havoc by using their mental powers to sow the seeds of destruction within this group. Deodato is inking his own work and has changed his style to a more realistic look and the book looks beautiful. This is a dark tale that shows just how bad these Thunderbolts really are. From an internal Marvel universe consistency standpoint I do not see how this group can be left to operate given what has happened. Even within the confines of this reality if Norman is still running the group after this story is over it starts to become ridiculous.
Screamland #3 (of 5) – Writer Harold Sipe, Art Hector Cassanova, Additional Colors Buster Moody. This issue is all about the Wolfman. Each issue takes these old time movie monsters, starts with the premise they were real and lets us see what they are doing today. Wolfman has been reduced to doing the convention circuit and has a run in with an old friend who was famous for being Scotty from Star Trek (they don’t say it is Scotty, but it is so obvious). Lots of jokes about obsessive fans and how they act like the actor is the person they portray on TV. It was almost a little too easy and certainly territory that we have seen done before, but it does give us a great insight into Wolfman and what his life is like. When he gets a call for a movie deal with all the other monsters, he says yes without hesitation.
Wolverine #65 – Writer Jason Aaron, Art Ron Garney, Colors Jason Keith. This issue ends my association with Wolverine again. On some books I have learned to follow the creators and not the characters as much. Wolverine has been overused by Marvel in such a way that I have less interest in the character. Jason Aaron and Ron Garney are creators whom I like, so I followed this arc. The ending of Wolverine going after Mystique was both good and bad. The good was that Wolverine beats her, but does not kill her, showing Wolverine to be more of the honorable warrior I see him as; as opposed to the hired assassin Cyclops seems to be using him as. The bad part was having Mystique shooting a bullet through Wolverine’s brain and him being brain dead for awhile. Wolverine’s healing factor used to mean that he could take a lot of damage and still survive; now it is like nothing short of disintegrating every single atom can kill him. It takes away the element of any danger or fear of the character being injured or killed. So when she shoots him it is just boring and not any sort of shock. The next arc is an eight part series by Millar and McNiven. If I hear it is good I’ll get the trade, no way I going to read the “Old Man Logan” story as a monthly.
Gotham Underground #8 (of 9) – Writer Frank Tieri, Pencils Jim Califiore, Inks Jack Purcell, Colors Brain Reber. This issue had a great fight between Batman and the new Vigilante (who I would like to know who he is one day). The fight was interspersed throughout the book to break up the pacing I guess, but I would have enjoyed a straight eight to ten page fight. The end shot with Batman walking away from a beaten Vigilante was great. The other half of the book was Johnny Stitches coming into town and outsmarting the Penguin at every turn. Johnny had paid off Tobias Whale and then he reads off the names of the Penguin’s crew family members or loved ones and states he will kill each of those people if Penguin crew doesn’t walk away. They leave and Johnny tells the Penguin to get out of town. Will inter-gang take over Gotham’s Underworld or will Batman take down inter-gang? This was a strong issue story and art wise and a great set-up for the finale.
Titans #2 - Writer Judd Winick, Pencils Joe Benitez, Inks Victor Llamas, Colors Edgar Delgado. This issue was a let down after a decent first issue. First off and most importantly we had a new artist on issue #2. I can even handle having a different artist on issue #2 if the style was not so radically different. Ian Churchill had established a more traditional dramatic style to the book and Joe Benitez went a little wonky with the character designs and turned all the female characters into 18 to 20 year old super models. Nightwing had some panels where he looked just flat out ridiculous and putting Raven into a bondage costume as she confronts dear old Dad was insane. The basic story is Raven finds out Trigon has been weaken by wars for his world, but still he points out 1/10 of absolute power is still very powerful. Plus he tells her she is not an only child. The Sons of Trigon are to be the foes of the Titans. Another thing is Cyborg is floating around in a hover mobile as opposed to legs, I have to wonder why, and no rationale is given for it. Right now this book is missing it for me and the art style that has been chosen is not working for me. DC has had a hard time with launches on many of their titles and this maybe another hyped re-launch that fails.
Newuniversal Shockfront #1 (of 6) – Writer Warren Ellis, Pencils Steve Kurth, Inks Andrew Hennessy, Colors Chris Chuckry. This was such a ridiculous amount of time between issues that I sort of feel a little lost and at the same time caught up with the story. It just has not pulled me back in and as I said I still a little out of the loop on this book. Number one it is disingenuous to call this a new series and renumber it. Number two if ever a book demanded a summary page of what gone before this book was it and the reintroduction was not well done. Bottom line I will give this book another issue, but if this is just a long 12 issue maxi-series we need to start getting to the point and very soon. In this issue it felt like very little happened and we only have four major characters and we never even check in with one of them. On the plus side the new artist Steve Kurth did a great job, especially since his name does not ring a bell for me.
Green Arrow Black Canary #8 - Writer Judd Winick, Pencils Mike Norton, Inks Rodney Ramos, Colors David Baron. This book is no longer running at a break neck pace each and every issue, but Judd manages to usually give us an ending that has decent surprise. We have Ollie, Dinah, Speedy and now Dodger all trying to track down the League of Assassins. After finding a lair of the group, they also find a cryonic coffin. Thinking it is Connor, they open it and find Plastic Man. The almost light hearted tone the series has at the moment belays the seriousness that this mission has for Ollie. Still this is a very enjoyable series that has a good rhythm to it. Mike Norton does a good job on the art, but Cliff Chiang was a superior artist for this book and I miss seeing his interiors.
Cthulhu Tales #2 – As with any anthology series you end up comparing the stories to each other. In this issue the last story How to Get Ahead in the Occult – Writer Christine Boylan, Art Chee, was the best one. A girl obsessed with the occult is given the choice of being a high priestess in a land of demons or saving her friend. She chose being a high priestess. Second best was The Hiding Place – Writer Steve Niles, Art Shane Oakley. Shane has a very “indy” type style that has exaggerations of anatomy for effect and is very angular at times. The art works well for this story and it is a nice little creepy piece of work with a good ending. The middle story was Katrina –Writer Eric Calderon, Art Jon Schnepp. Nothing really wrong with it, it was well written and drawn, just not very memorable or as good as the other two entries. Still you have to love anthologies as you get to see three sets of creators for one cover price.
Green Lantern Corps #24 – Writer Peter Tomasi, Pencils Patrick Gleason, Inks Drew Geraci and Prentis Rollins, Colors Guy Major. This was a decent issue, but very much a middle chapter in the story line. A group of Corps members have been after the yellow Sinestro Corps rings and two members were kidnapped by Mongul. The rest of the group finds them after they have had the “Black Mercy” flowers attached to them. As they try to leave the planet opens up and we find the plants mother is unhappy that these GL members have been slaughtering her seedlings.

North Wind #5 (of 5) – Writer David DiGilio, Art Alex Cal, Colors Renato Faccini. It was an okay ending. Pak, who was the focus of the story dies, but left a son behind. It was such a nice post apocalyptic setting that just seemed a little under utilized and it become an almost pedestrian tale of revenge. It started out with more promise then the ending actually gave us. The art work was strong through out the series and Alex Cal is certainly a name to look out for.
Goon #24- Writer/Artist Eric Powell, Colors Dave Stevart. This issue was a little bit of a disappointment. It was two stories and the first story about the woods surrounding the town Goon lives in was a good one. Powell did the art in more of an illustrator’s style. It was a tale of evil, lust and manipulation and told us why the forest is permeated with evil. It is set-up for the longer story Powell is telling and while it was good, it was unexpected. The back up (Hellbender – by the Fillbach Brothers) was a quick little Goon tale by a brother team I never heard of, it was okay, but it felt like filler.
X-Men Legacy #211 – Writer Mike Carey, Pencils Scot Eaton, Inks John Dell, Andrew Hennessy & Dave Meikis, Colors Frank D’Armata. This book almost meanders around. We are following Professor X as he goes back into his past to meet with people so he can re-learn who he is. At the same time we are checking in on the Hellfire Club and see that Sebastian Shaw is running some machine of mysterious origins and Sunspot who is now in charge of the Hellfire Club is ready to kick Shaw out of the group. Mysterious assassins want to kill the Professor and Gambit shows up. I’m just not sure what the point of this series is and I feel like even though I read the X-Men for most of my life since I never followed every book every year that I can no longer easily know who the heck is who. I feel like unless you have an encyclopedic knowledge of everything “X” you are missing out on half the story that is being told. It may be time to drop this series.
Stranded #4 – Writer Mike Carey, Art Siddharth Kotian, Colors Anand Ballisamy. I keep trying to drop this book, but the artwork and the story line keep drawing me back in. It has a lot of different elements to going on, but essentially it is a tale of genocide. The Forgotten are trying to kill the last people of Standfire. The Standfire buried themselves as humans and the Forgotten have created an assassin called Janus to kill them. The art work is in the Neal Adams realism school and very appealing to me and the story is compelling enough to keep me around. Ultimately this story needs to have an ending or else it will lose my interest, but I’ll hang around a little longer.
Iron Man Legacy of Doom #2 (of 4) – Story and Script David Micheline, Pencils Ron Lim, Story and Inks Bob Layton, Colors Chris Sotomayor. This book is a very easy read and almost harkens back to a time when comics were written for 8-12 year olds. It is too simple in my mind for a modern comic. If the purpose was to recall the old days then they succeeded. Dr. Doom succeeds in his machinations to have Morgan Le Fay help meld the shard of Excalibur with his armor. Iron Man in Hell faces down his father brought back by Mephisto. After beating his Dad, he rewires some stuff and manages to use the time platform to get back home, where Doom is ready to confront him with his new armor. It is an easy read and the artwork looks fine, it just feels more like a reprint then a new story.
Superman #676 – Writer Vito Delsante, Pencils Julian Lopez, Inks Bit, Colors Marta Martinez. This was an okay little Superman story, that gave us a meeting between the Golden Age GL and Superman and we learned that Bizzaro and Solomon Grundy have some things in common, but it was an issue that almost did not need to be published. I always feel fill-ins are just that, unless they are done exceptionally well and that is not very often. I guess if this had been in Superman Confidential where it was scheduled until that book was cancelled it would have made more sense. From a DC perspective getting out a monthly book is important and as I said it was an okay story.

Locke & Key is fast becoming one of my favorite series for 2008 and The Twelve is on the short list for best mini-series of 2008. Either of those books could have been my number one pick, but I’m a huge Batman fan and the start of RIP was good enough to also win the week.

No comments:

Post a Comment