Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Best to Worst of Last Week

This week had a couple of strong books, but one really was heads and tails above the rest. At one point during the week I thought I would never get everything I wanted to get done for the posts. Monday and Tuesday posts are always done by Sunday night, but this week it was a push.

Madame Xanadu #2 – Writer Matt Wagner, Artist Amy Reeder Hadley, Colors Guy Major. WOW. This is just an incredible book. The first thing that just amazes me is the art. Amy is an outstanding talent. Her artwork has a fluid touch to it; a very clean and fine line, realistic proportions, strong expressions, excellent page design and she can do both bright and dark work with equal ease. Wagner’s story is also a great story as we appear to be seeing how Nimue goes from being a powerful and magical wood nymph of an elder race into a tarot card reader of nebulous power levels. In this issue we see the fall of Camelot, the Phantom Stranger telling Nimue to stop Merlin, we see the Demon Etrigan and Morgana and Modred go off the finish Arthur. At the end Nimue captures Merlin, but he exacts revenge by taking away her magic. It remains a Vertigo book that is firmly inside the DCU. This series is already challenging to be a top ten of all the books on the stands.
Black Summer #7 ( of 7) – Writer Warren Ellis, Art Juan Jose Ryp, Colors Greg Waller. I love it
when the end of the series delivers on the promise of the series. I had wanted more philosophical views of what was going on and Warren Ellis delivers and Ryp’s art backs it up. I have already put in my order for the hardcover version of this story. We all knew that Tom wasn’t dead, but when he shows up during the face off between John and Frank it was great. Plus Warren lays it all out about what heroes are and what they cannot be and then settles the whole situation with Tom killing all three of them. Warren opened this story with the question “That if you are a super hero and you believe in justice and if the President is guilty of crimes what would you do? John’s answer was to kill him and to try and start over. Frank was the flip side of the super hero coin, a hero that sells out to the government and works to ensure they can stop super heroes. Tom tells them they are both wrong. John is the bad guy, once you shot the President you are Lee Harvey Oswald and a bad guy, end of story. Frank is a bad guy for wanting to help create a better tomorrow by killing his friends and then Tom kills himself and takes John and Frank with him. The best examination of what it means to be a super hero in the “real world” I have ever read. Ellis gives everyone lots to think about and Ryp does a great job in bringing it to life.
Daredevil #109 – Writers Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka, Artist Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudino, Colors Matt Hollingsworth. This issue we see Dakota get warned off the case by her estranged father, telling her it is a National Security issue. Big Ben is in the prison hospital and is scared when Matt Murdock shows up to talk to him. A connection is made to a retired mobster Eric Slaughter and DD goes off to question him. As DD is talking to Slaughter we see the red mark as a laser pointer hit his chest. Dakota is running down another lead and as she leaves the home of Big Ben’s son she gets shot in the back. Only one more issue to wind this story up, but it has been a great ride so far.
Ambush Bug Year None #1 (of 6) – Writer/Artist/Script/Colors Wonder Chick. This was such a fun book. Giffen and Fleming are willing to skewer anything and willing to do some of the worst (i.e. best) puns ever. Jokes about appliances that only come with dead bodies in them, doing Chicago jokes with the song lyrics from the group Chicago, ripping on Jean Loring’s killing of Sue Dibny, Cheeks is back, Jonni DC’s killed, go-go checks return, it was all great fun. Another element that is so great about this book is that there are so many sight gags on each page you have to look it over twice to catch all of the little jokes. In super hero universes that are grim and dark, where Civil Wars, Secret Invasions and Crisis abound, we have one little corner of the world having fun. Finally my favorite part is the fact that Jonni DC was the continuity cop of the DCU and now she is dead, so all the convoluted crap in DC is explained without need of a retro-con. There is no continuity.
Batman Gotham After Midnite #3 (of 12) – Writer Steve Niles, Art Kelly Jones, Colors Michelle Marsden. This book is so crazy and unreal, that it should have been classified as an Elseworlds book. This issue Midnite recruits Clayface to instead of his normal crime spree; to eat people and make them part of him. After a while Clayface is a Godzilla sized monster terrorizing Gotham. At the end we see Batman show up in a giant robot ready to take down Clayface. It is pure and unadulterated madness, but being brought to life so wonderfully by Kelly Jones, that I have just have a blast reading each issue. Niles is writing a good story, but I personally do not think this story works unless it is Kelly Jones drawing it. This is not your normal Bat book, but it is great comics!
Sparks #2 (of 6) – Writer Christopher Folino, Art JM Ringuet. I have nothing but praise for this book. It is such a great character study of one man’s rise and fall. Golden Age Super Heroics meet film noir. See the full review here.
Proof #10 – by Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo, Colors
Adam Guzowski. This was another wonderful issue of Proof. In this issue Proof saves a young boy from a giant bird, but is then captured by the child’ mother thinking he is a demon. The boy is ill and as Proof breaks out from the woman’s makeshift prison to take him to a hospital he falls ill himself. Of course plot points like the woman leaving her son with what she thinks is a demon is unexplained, but it is only Part 1 of the new arc. At the same time Ginger and Elvis go to New York to help her pack. We meet Ginger’s boy friend who proposes to her. We also meet the man who recruited Ginger and he is now asking for her help in finding his lost golem. Personally I hate when I misplace a golem, never a good thing. The book was a fast pace and easy read, yet still conveyed a lot of story and moved all the plot lines along. An enjoyable series and one that more should be buying.
Dan Dare #7 (of 7) – Writer Garth Ennis, Art Gary Erskine, Colors A. Thiruneelakandan & I. Jeyabalan. This was a satisfying end to a great tale. It made me feel like I knew all the old Dan Dare material and this was a final battle that he had to have with his old nemesis. Unfortunately his old nemesis brought a black hole and a space armada to crush the Earth. Heroics, sacrifices, characters who you wanted to live dying, great space battles, politics; it was all here and all well done. I would love to see this story adapted and done as a movie, it was so well done.
Invincible #51 – Writer Robert Kirkman, Art Ryan Ottley, Colors FCO Plascencia. This was a great issue to set-up new plot threads and set the stage for what is to come. Invincible takes to training his younger brother. Mark takes him to the super hero tailor who also gives Mark a new costume. A prison break out occurs and Invincible and his brother as Kid Omni-Man go to stop it. The kid screws up; Mark saves the day, but scolds his kid brother. Other things are going on, but I do not think for one minute Kirkman is going to take us down the path of a kid sidekick. Mark’s brother is growing at an accelerated rate and should be older then Mark soon. Plus in interviews Kirkman has promised to keep making things happen with his series to move it forward and not let it drag like it do through the last few months before 50. This series has stepped it back up and is again a top series.
Brave and Bold #15 – Writer Mark Waid, Art Scott Kolins, Colors Rob Schwager. First off I have to thank Mark Waid for writing Nightwing so much better then almost anyone has every written him before. Waid’s Nightwing is smart, analytical, respected and a gifted gymnast. Peter Tomasi is doing a very good job with Nightwing, but if he steps aside I would vote for Waid to write his book. Scott Kolins has really being playing with his style and I’m enjoying his work a lot. He draws great action and has beautiful layouts. His line work is a lot different that it used to be and is tighter at times and looser other times, but I’m happy to see his name as the artist. It seems like Scott fits better at DC then Marvel as he never seem to get assignments that I noticed or were high profile enough to me. Overall this was a nice wrap-up to the two part story and Waid seamlessly made Nightwing and Hawkman the stars of the second half while still keeping Deadman and Green Arrow as co-stars. I know Brave and Bold did not have the numbers DC was hoping for, but I have really enjoyed this series so far.
Green Lantern Corps #26 – Writer Peter Tomasi, Pencils Patrick Gleason, Inks Drew Geraci with Prentis Rollins, Colors Guy Major. I loved the final showdown with Mongul. The team of Green Lanterns all fighting against the powerful Mongul, made even more powerful by the Sinestro Corps power rings was a heck of foe for them to fight. The ending was very heroic as we see Bzzd sacrifice himself to save the day. Another nice touch was seeing Mother Mercy be given both a yellow and green ring and choosing to be a Green Lantern. There are so many stories to tell with the corps, that DC could easily expand this into another series.
Exterminators #30 – Writer Simon Oliver, Pencils Tony Moore, Inker John Lucas, Colrs Brian Buccellato. This was the final issue of a series that was a very enjoyable ride. The story of Henry and all the rest of the cast went out with a really big bang as Saloth brought his redemption by blowing up the bugs with a small nuclear device. There was tons of action and the story moved at a breakneck pace as Oliver was making sure we finalized events and still had time for a little epilogue. This was a very consistent series, always a very good read and had some great characters. I will certainly miss this series, but given how off the beaten path it was, I’m glad we got 30 issues out it.
X-Men Legacy #214 – Writer Mike Carey, Pencils Scot Eaton with Ken Lashley, Inks Andrew Hennessy with Paul Neary, Colors Frank D’Armate with Edgar Delgado. This series has won me over. Charles Xavier’s tour of the X-verse to learn who he is again has been very interesting. This issue concluded the Mr. Sinister arc, where Gambit and Sebastian Shaw take apart the machinery that Sinister had built to allow him to continue after his death while Charles and Sinister fought on the mindscape. Again it was an interesting concept about identity, which has been a consistent theme in this book. Mr. Sinister has wrote some of his DNA into Shaw and Xavier when they where children, it was his contention that he would then own their bodies down the road. Sinister contends Xavier is fated to be Sinister, and Xavier quotes Nietzsche saying “Fate is the word cowards use to describe things they are too weak to change”, nice, very nice. The introduction at the end of the book of Miss Sinister, an apparently female version of Mr. Sinister, without his memories was a little odd. We now have Loki and Mr. Sinister dealing with gender dysphoria issues. So does this mean Miss Sinister and Loki are an X-Men?
Fallen Angel #28 – Writer Peter David, Art JK Woodward. This series is always interesting and a lot of fun. The sarcasm in this book is my favorite part. Black Mariah and Fallen Angel are helping each other to try and find the City of Life in order to save Bete Noire. The adventures they are having trying to find the city with Jude, so he can try and retake his place, is like a road trip movie, only with higher stakes. Moloch seems to be in firm control of the Bete Noire and I wander how much the effects of his rule will be seen in the real world in issues to come. This has been a series that I have enjoyed, but it has moved up a notch or two in my book recently.
Legion of Super Heroes #44 – Writer Jim Shooter, Pencils Sanford Greene, Inks Nathan Massengill, Colors Jo Smith. This was another good issue of the Legion that was almost taken down by the artwork. Sanford Greene’s animated type style was a horrible fit for this book. Shooter is telling such a strong story, that while the fill-in artist was a jarring change; it still managed to be a good issue. I love how some kid has come in and bailed out the Legion from all of their financial and political woes. The fact that he sold the flight ring technology makes sense as that would be worth trillions of credits. Shooter has made Ultra Boy a favorite legionnaire for me again. Invisible Kid showed off his brains and yet another crisis looms at the end of this issue. Shooter deftly weaves multiple story lines and characters, while still moving the main plot line forward. This has been an extremely ambitious and impressive story that Shooter is producing. One of the best Legion stories in a long time.
Secret History of the Authority: Hawksmoor #5 (of 6) – Writer Mike Costa, Art Fiona Staples. Poor Jack. Last issue it appears the girl he has fallen for is from the far future and she has turned on him. Instead we find out she was actually on Jack’s side but had to betray him to keep up appearances. Jack and Julie defeat the bad guys and Jack’s power levels are upped so he can go out and save the world from all the bombs placed in 17 different major cities by the guys from the future. The book ends with Jack dead tired and one of the seven “future city gods” shows up and tells Jack to let’s talk about what he just did. You get the feeling that maybe Jack has been played yet again. This has been a very entertaining series.
Fall of Cthulhu #14 – Writer Michel Alan Nelson, Art Mateus Santolouco, Colors Eduardo Medeiros. So I was little confused as I thought the sheriff had a price to pay to the harlot, but I never saw one if he did. I liked the solution was the Gray Man gets his knife back, but he is trapped in a box the girl Lucifer stole from the Harlot. Looks like that ends this series as it moves into a mini-series called Godwar. I hopes that method draws in some new readers as I have been enjoying this book and want to see it continue.
Immortal Iron Fist #17 – Writer Duane Swierczynski, Art Travel Foreman & Russ Heath, Colors Matt Milla. We open 10 years in the future. It stats with a nine year old boy in K’un-Lun runs up to Misty Knight asking about how his father really died. Then we flash back to the present day and flashback to 1878 for a previous Iron Fist. The current and previous Iron Fist are both facing off against the servant of Ch’i-Lin, the one who kills the Iron Fist. Obviously the guy from 1878 will be killed, but we have to assume Danny survives or the series if quickly over. As for the future, it could be explained away in many ways. The artwork is a big shift from what we had, but still decent. The story is okay, but it feels like killing the hero in the first issue. No Danny is not shown killed, but the future glimpse is locking his death in place and the servant says he is the weakest Iron Fist he has ever faced. I’m on the fence with this series, but my love for the character will keep me around for at least one more issue.
Straw Men #1 (of 12) – Adapted by Joe Brusha, Art Brett Weldele. I never read the source material, so I was a little lost after reading this book. It starts off with a killing spree in a small town McDonald’s where two killers shoot everyone, and then one of the killer’s drops his hands so the other guy can shoot him. We switch to a funeral where a young man who seems to be somewhat of a loser is burying his parents who were killed in a car accident. He discovers a note going through things in his parents’ house that tells him they are not dead. We then switch to a young girl whose father is picking her up from a girl’s night out and his is a rather unpleasant sort. We finally cut to an alleyway where wee see a man whose face is covered by shadow or blanked out except for a smile, he has designs on the young woman. How all this pulls together I don’t know, but I’ll be back for issue #2.
Superman #678 – Writer James Robinson, Pencils Renato Guedes, Inks Wilson Magalhaes, Colors Hi-Fi. Last issue was James Robinson setting up his view of Superman and the new Metropolis Science Police, this issue we get origin story of Atlas. I have to say that I enjoyed the artist doing the flashback by aping Jack Kirby’s style; it really works for the story. Unfortunately I have two major complaints with the Superman series at this time. Renato Guedes is a very good artist, but stylistically he does not fit this book. I may be willing to eat my words down the road, but his style is not working for me right now. My second and lesser complaint is the pacing on the story feels a little slow. Since it is James Robinson he has a lot of credit with me, so I will let him ease into writing Superman.
Justice League of America #23 – Writer Dwayne McDuffie, Art Ed Benes, Colors Pete Pantazis. Is it just me noticing it or a lot more artists doing more and more of their own inking? Ed Benes has no inker credited again. His art has a grittier feel to it with Sandra Hope not inking him. It is still great looking super hero art. I really enjoy Ed’s work and this issue is no exception. I would like the companies to stop the blurry effect as half the time it makes me think I need a new prescription for my progressive lenses. I’m enjoying this story arc in spite of it being yet another Amazo story line. At the same time we have the Amazo story line we also have more being revealed about why Vixen’s powers are screwed up. As the story ends the story lines come together and we end with Vixen being unable to stop Amazo this time and he is about to kill her as the issue ends. Another well done face paced story of the JLA. I’m glad DC is keeping their “big event” more self contained and allowing the regular series to do their own thing for the most part.
Gravel #3 (of 7) – Story/Script Warren Ellis, Script Mike Wolfer, Artwork Oscar Jimenez, Colors Juanmar. At least this time Gravel did not kill the next member of the minor seven. We also got a glimpse of Gravel’s past and since I never read any of his other stories it was helpful to learn a little bit of back story on the character. This member of the minor seven is the one who recruited Gravel. He insults Gravel and basically says Gravel has no clue about what is going on. He does give us the back story on this book and why it is so dangerous. At the end he hands Gravel his segment of the book to avoid Gravel killing him.
Trinity #8 – Main Story Writer Kurt Busiek, Pencils Mark Bagley, Inks Art Thinert, Colors Pete Pantazis. Back-up Story Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza, Artist Scott McDaniel & Andy Owens, Colors Allen Passalaqua. The story is moving along, but it really has a feeling of being stretched out to make it last as a year long novel. This issue is relatively quite as our Trinity are back to their normal lives. We see more exposition about how the three are viewed by people and this has been beat to death already. Then we see Batman attacked while he is Bruce Wayne by a group of Beasts that are looking to mark him as Diana has already been marked. The back-up has the evil trinity working to create four “dreambound” super powered beings via the cosmic egg. Morgana also has Tarot as a prisoner and is using her to forecast the future.

New Avengers #43 – Writer Brian Bendis, Pencils Billy Tan, Inks Danny Miki, Colors Jason Keith. – This issue was another weak issue. First the main series has gone off the rails and now the supporting series are now starting to come undone. The entire issue tells the story of why a group of skrulls were made into various super heroes to the point of them believing they were the people they had been changed into. The whole purpose was to sow the seeds of distrust among the heroes. Seems like a bad plan, especially if the ship crash lands after the invasion had already begun. The whole plot is starting to unravel and what started out as a great popcorn flick is turning into a movie that should have ended 45 minutes after it started.
Robin #175 – Writer Fabian Nicieza, Pencils Joe Bennett, Inks Jack Jadson, Colors Guy Major. The Robin story joins the RIP story line and in a big way. Tim with Stephanie’s help and others is trying to determine if Bruce has gone crazy. His goal is to figure out exactly what has happened to Bruce and if he is crazy to take him down. While that phrase sounds dramatic and all, let’s hope Tim is looking to help Bruce and not beat him up because he has had a breakdown. This issue was all set-up and was a late issue, which begs the question of what happened to Chuck Dixon and did he write his own version of issue #175. I have a feeling it is a question that will remained unanswered for a long time as Chuck Dixon is too professional to answer that and I’m sure DC will no comment it to death.
War Heroes #1 (of 6) – Writer Mark Millar, Pencils Tony Harris, Inks Cliff Rathburn, Colors JD Mettler. This was an uninspired first issue in my view. The story line has all sorts of terrorist attacks happening in the US, but support for all of the foreign wars is still at an all time low and recruitment never gets enough men into the service. In the back of my mind, knowing how Millar will take the simple approach to his story telling if the US is not behind these attacks to try and manipulate public opinion, I will be surprised. Anyway, the Army develops super hero pills that give you different powers for 24 hours. This is only as old as the Hourman character; just extended out a little bit and I believe Mark has done this concept of a super powered army in the Authority and Ultimates. If he makes this more about the brothers Jay and Calvin Pierce and has a good story to tell with them, the all the over simplified story telling to set up the premise can be forgiven.
Thunderbolts #122 – Writer Christos Gage, Art Fernando Blanco, Colors Frank Martin. This issue was a let down after Ellis’ run. Not that it was a horrible story it just did not gel as well as Ellis’ issues or even Gage’s other fill-ins. I think it is due to it being tied into Secret Invasion. I really dislike editorially mandated books and this reeks of it. The Swordsman’s sister shows up and she is obviously a skrull and we know Captain Marvel is a skrull, who has decided he will be Captain Marvel. Why he is attacking the Thunderbolts has never been clear to me. Anyway he mops the floor with the Thunderbolts and Norman at the end is offering Captain a drink while they talk about things.
Two Face Year One #1 (of 2) – Writer Mark Sable, Pencils Jesus Saiz, Inks Jimmy Palmiotti, Flashback Sequence Jeremy Haun, Colors Chris Chuckry. By all rights I should not even bother to finish this two part mini-series, but I will. It is a basic re-telling of the Harvey Dent story with little to shed any new light on the character or give us a different viewpoint of him. Competent work and for the uninitiated a good re-telling.
Glamourpuss #2 – By Dave Sim – I have not completed reading this as it is not a short read. I have to really wonder how many issues of this book I want to get. It has some moments of humor and has a little art history, but I feel like I’m paying Sim to learn how to draw in a photorealistic style.
Uncanny X-Men #500 – Writers Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction, Pencils Terry Dodson and Greg Land, Inkers Jay Leisten & Rachel Dodson, Colors Justin Ponsor. This was a bitter disappointment as I have loved the X-Men at various times, but now it is time for me to leave this series behind. Cancelled. See my full review here.
Grimm Fairy Tales Piper #4 (of 4) – Story Mike Kalvoda, Joe Brusha & Ralph Tedesco, Pencils Alex Medellin Machain, Colors Garry Henderson. This series really fell flat for me. The Piper is defeated, but then the boy who defeats him decides to try and play the music from the book and is killed and swallowed by the book itself. If you missed this series, you did the right thing.
Joker’s Asylum Scarecrow – Writer Joe Harris, Art Juan Doe. First off the animated art style was a really bad call for a comic about one of the darker and more frightening villains in Batman’s rogue gallery. Then the story itself was also very boring as it did absolutely nothing to define Scarecrow or even define Batman and Scarecrow’s dynamic. While the first two books in this mini-series felt like worthwhile one shots, the last two have been ho-hum and a waste of my money.

That what I thought of this week’s books. We have the rest of the Indies preview reviews coming up Wednesday and Thursday, then more interviews with the creator and scripter of Trials of Penance and then Dark Horse, Image, DC and Marvel October Preview Reviews.


  1. I disagree about the art in Superman. I really like the smooth, clean lines from Guedes and it brings to mind Quitely's All-Star Superman style.

    As always, nice breakdown on the weekly haul.

  2. Madame Xanadu has really been a nice surprise. It's my fave new book, definitely worth taking a look at.