Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Best to Worst of Last Week

What a great week of comics. On a week where I was more excited by the new Creepy Archives starting up from Dark Horse to a week where there were multiple choices for best book and a lot of strong efforts on the parts of some new series being launched. Of course with the way I read my books, saving what have been top series almost always ensure I end my week on a high note.

Echo #5 – Story and Art Terry Moore. This is comic books at its best. The pacing, the story telling, the characterization and the art all form a perfect union. I pick up an issue of Echo and immediately remember what happened before and before I know it, I’m done an issue and left wanting the next one. This issue we see Julie take out an Army unit and leave Dillon untouched. Dillon calls in some friends and he and Julie are on the road looking for a way out. Dillon is helping because Julie talked about Annie (his girl friend) and he is starting to put two and two together. Eve, the special agent called in to track Julie down gets some face time and we see that she is very good at what she does. The most interesting part was the captions at the end that where we actually have Annie talking as though she is still alive. The “Echo” of Annie seems to be strengthening and how this will play out with Julie and whether or not she and Dillon develop a relationship will be interesting. Echo is one of the top five books on the stands. If you are not reading it, you have made a mistake.

Final Crisis #3 (of 7) – Writer Grant Morrison, Art JG Jones, Colors Alex Sinclair What a totally different type of event book. All of the regular DC books are not being affected by Final Crisis at this point and that is okay with me. I’m just so pre-programmed for all the other books to be screwed up by this type of event; I’m still adjusting to it. Right now we can just read this mini-series and every thing we need to know is happening right here and now. The menace of this book is so low key as to be deceiving. Batman is out of the picture, Hal Jordan has been taken off the board and Superman is neutralized. The major players are being taken out and only Wonder Woman seems to notice what is happening. Wonder Woman travels into Bludhaven and encounters a Mary Marvel who has sold her soul to Darkseid. As Wonder Woman is fighting Mary, Mary infects her with a virus that makes Wonder Woman a slave of Darkseid. The anti-life equation is let lose into the world and evil has won. There is so much going on that to relate all of it would be impossible, but Grant is packing more information into a few pages then we often see in months of a series. It is a fascinating book as it is both moving slowly, yet conveying so much information that I could see how this could have spilled out and overrun the entire DCU if they had want it to, but by keeping it more contained it is a more powerful story. The art by JG Jones is art by JG Jones, which is to say it is flat out gorgeous. Jones is one of the best realistic artists in comics today. I think Final Crisis is playing out to be a very special story and maybe that keystone type event that Didio has been looking for. I also have to applaud DC with having their regular books stay out of it. Once Final Crisis concludes we can start to add footnotes and state that RIP took place three months after Final Crisis or other such notes. A shared universe means that you can’t do big events with impacting other books, but it does not need to all be happening all at the same time. We all read stories about Batman or Wolverine in different comics in different months and we don’t try to fit everything into the same exact timeframe for when the book came out. As long as an impact event makes itself felt at some point it should all work out. My bottom line on this series is that this is an excellent series so far and is building on itself very well.

Comic Book Comics #2 – Writer and Research Fred Van Lente, Illustrated by Ryan Dunlavey. I LOVE THIS BOOK. I know a lot of the history of comics, but I’m learning stuff I didn’t know and it is being told in a fun and entertaining fashion. The material is actually dense as they are covering so much material and doing it so fast. It must be difficult to pick and choose what you want to focus on in telling a history of something that has been around for seventy years and has some many facets to it. There are two parts that are especially great, one is about William Moulton Marston (which I knew most of it, but how they depicted it is so funny) and the second is about Simon and Kirby and their success on romance comics and why Kirby may have not like Stan Lee so much.

Storming Paradise #2 (of 6) – Writer Chick Dixon, Pencil Butch Guice, Inks Eduardo Barreto, Colors Carrie Strachan with Darlene Royer. Certain comics evoke an emotional response and this story of an alternative history certainly does that for me. The whole bombing of Japan is something from a historical perspective is hard to understand that it was the right thing to do. When we look back at it we may question what we did, but this book is laying out a strong case for why it was right. While dropping an atomic bomb and causing the devastation we caused is not a good thing, it did end the war. This alternative history is telling the story and what it would have cost both sides if the war would have ended in a conventional manner. It is being told without apologies and is seeing bad and good on both sides. Butch Guice is doing a great job illustrating the book and this maybe the best story Chuck Dixon has ever written.

Twelve #7 (of 12) – Writer J. Michael Straczynski, Art Chris Weston, Colors Chris Chuckry. The Twelve is one of my favorite series and is definitely the best maxi-series for 2008. It is well written and illustrated in a style that gives it a feeling of both being modern and from an older day. This issue the Phantom Reporter is starting to put it together about who among them maybe doing the killings. What this book is also doing is pointing out how times have changed from a viewpoint of racial relationships and this issue from the viewpoint of how gays are treated by society. We also get great little insights into different characters whether it is the actual hero or in this case a side kick. This issue Captain Wonder’s side kick Tim comes to see him and asks if Captain Wonder can recreate what gave them their powers as his have faded and he is now dying of cancer. Captain Wonder can’t and we see Tim commit suicide at the end. This is a top notch series and maybe JMS first seminal comic work.

House of Mystery #4 – Writer Matthew Sturges, Art Luca Rossi, Colors Lee Loughridge. Interior Story Writer Matthew Sturges, Art Steve Rouston, Colors Dave McCaig. I think Vertigo has another series that could be a real winner. Sandman, Preacher, 100 Bullets and Fables have been their longest running success to date and I think House of Mystery and Madam Xandu both have the same type of potential. This was another good issue as Fig is still trying to adjust to life in the House of Mystery and she is not accepting it at all. We also see Rina, the girl who appeared to escape be picked up by the two creatures that had originally been chasing Fig. The “story” this month was an amusing tale of a young girl and her search for true love. One thing this series has to do is answer some of the questions that are being posed, in others words we need a mystery solved on occasion. It the series can successfully solve some mysteries as it introduces new ones; this series will be a long term winner.

Killer #7 (of 10) – Writer Matz, Art Luc Jacamon. Welcome back, I have really missed this book. I was able to get right back into the story of the hired killer. After all the crap that had happened to him, the Killer has basically hidden in plain site. He took his girl-friend and moved to Paris where he had purchased a condo under an assumed name. We see him almost assume a normal life of someone who may have retired young. He is nursing his girl friend back to health and has actually made friends with another person in his building, who is a police officer. This issue ends with his old South American employer looking him up and now he is being given a chance to take out the people who burned his house and hurt his girl friend. The story, the art, the coloring all work together to give us an excellent portrait of the Killer.

Nightwing #147 – Writer Peter Tomasi, Pencils Don Kramer, Inks Jay Leisten, Colors Hi-Fi. Nightwing joins the RIP story line. Exactly how this is a RIP story line is not clear to me, but it was a good issue nevertheless. First off the art on this book has always been good and Rags Morales and Don Kramer sharing the art duties works for me as both are excellent super hero artists. I prefer Rags slightly over Don, but it is not by much. This issue Two-Face asks Nightwing to help protect an old friend of his from being killed by the people she is trying to take down. The guys after her are serious and we see Nightwing save her from two different assassination attempts. Tomasi has done a great job on writing Dick Grayson as he shows him as confident, smart, a gymnast and a top level fighter. This issue ends with Nightwing saving the woman in spectacular fashion but Dick is wounded and bleeding out as the issue ends.

Criminal #4 – Writer Ed Brubaker, Art Sean Phillips, Colors Val Staples. This issue was an excellent one and one that puts Criminal back into competition with Scalped for best crime comic. Jacob is shown as a newspaper strip artist and writer who can never sleep. He has been recovering from serious injuries for a few years and now wanders around at nights until he can fall asleep. At a diner he sees a couple and the guy goes ballistic after thinking Jacob has been watching them. As the guy attacks and is subdued by the Diner’s owner the girl runs off. Jacob picks her up hitch hiking, they end up in bed together, Jacob talks about being an ex-counterfeiter and the girl disappears. The boy-friend shows up and wants Jacob to make him an FBI identity card. It sounds straight forward, but the character building of Jacob is so well done and has some many subtleties and additional nuances to it, that he feels real. Sean Phillips sells it and the first issue works despite the perfect coincidences needed to make the story come together. This issue is a perfect jumping on point and if you have not read Criminal yet.

Crossed #0 (of 9) – Writer Garth Ennis, Art Jacen Burrows, Colors Greg Waller. Another winning Zero issue. Avatar advertises Crossed #0 as being an essential first chapter to this mini-series and it delivers. In this chapter we find out that some sort of virulent plague has come to Earth and everything is going to hell extremely fast. The people infected apparently develop a mark across their face resembling a cross and are extremely violent. Not for the faint of heart or easily offended, but looks good to me so far. So my detailed review here.

Jonah Hex #34 – Writers Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, Aty Mark Sparacio, Colors Rob Schwager. The story is pretty simple, Jonah tries to give up his life of being a gunslinger and a bounty hunter and it fails. At the end he burns down the house he built and rides back off to be a bounty hunter again. Jonah cannot escape trouble, which is true of any of us, but Jonah could not ignore the evil some of the bad guys did. After a while his moral code kicked in and he was compelled to kill the bad guys. He realizes he needs to be what he is and he cannot put down his gun for a plow. The art was very computerized and failed in its depiction of Jonah as while he had his signature wider eye and half mouth, it was too clean looking as opposed to looking like burned skin that never healed right (or the only way a burn could heal in those times). This series, as always is a great read and a wonderful vehicle for one and done stories.

Hellblazer Presents Chas the Knowledge #2 (of 5) – Writer Simon Oliver, Art Goran Sudzuka, Colors Matt Hollingsworth. This is turning out to be a really good series. I had no real expectations going in, but it is both a character piece and a good story about demons. Chas’ young friend Nick has disappeared and his Mother asks Chas to help look for him. Chas instead ignores her pleas and spends an inordinate amount of time with a female fare. We see glimpses of Chas marriage, that would encourage him to pursue this and he does. At the same time he offers little help to Nick’s Mom as he is too absorbed in his own woes to see what is going on. It has a lot more happening then just that as we get a little history, check up on Constantine and see Nick being possessed by a demon. This is a very well crafted story that has really captivated me.

Detective Comics #847 – Writer Paul Dini, Pencils Dustin Nguyen, Inks Derek Fridolfs, Colors John Kaliz. This is a good story and I appreciated that Dini is giving us a detailed origin of Hush. Tommy was a screwed up child and evil from the jump. A really good twist is we see Tommy attack another child at a summer camp and is put away to be treated. The twist; his doctor is none other then Jonathan Crane. Crane releases Tommy as an experiment to see what he will do next. We also got some insight into Selina’s and Zatanna’s feeling for Batman, plus Dick and Tim were also involved. While not a direct tie-in to RIP yet, it is a very good story in and of itself and it is given an extra edge knowing what you know about Bruce seemingly going nuts over in Batman.

The Sword #10 – Story and Illustations Jonathan Luna, Story Script and Layouts Joshua Luna. This type of issue is why I enjoy this series. It was one long fight scene of Dara chasing after the water guy. The battle rages on for page after page after page. Dara calls him out as a coward and he tells her that he has been racing to get his weapon. The next shot we see he has raced to a rooftop that borders the beach and the ocean. This issue was an extremely fast read, but it worked. What I want to see now is her showdown against him and how do you make it exciting if we know Dara can’t die.

Manhunter #33 – Writer Marc Andreyko, Art Michael Gaydos, Colors Jose Villarrubia. This is a very good series and it is getting better. The writer has some great sub plots going on with Manhunter’s technical support guy and a story line with her son. At the same time the main story is moving forward and deftly interweaving Manhunter’s role as a Bird of Prey into her own title. Kate is trying to find out why all of these illegal immigrant women are being killed and it leads her to a large multi-national pharmaceutical company. With Oracle’s help she breaks in and encounters meta human security. She breaks away from them and runs into the Suicide Squad. Oracle had called for back-up without Kate knowing it as she was worried about Kate being in over her head. Next issue it looks like all hell will be breaking loose and we will follow-up on Kate’s son displaying invulnerability.

Trinity #10 – Main Story – Writer Kurt Busiek, Pencils Mark Bagley, Inks Art Thibert, Colors Pete Pantazis. Back-Up Writers Kurt Busiek & Fabian Nicieza, Art Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens. Colors Allen Passalaqua. Trinity is definitely moving up my list of books and while I’m not in can’t wait mode, it is a book I pick up and look forward to see what happened this week. The reveal of the Crime Syndicate being involved last issues leads to the JLA making plans to figure out what is going on with the missing people. What is interesting is Superman is starting to lose control and is acting more irrational. As the JLA travels to where these people are being held, we find out the Crime Syndicate has been capturing people from many of the multi-verses. This chapter ends when the CSA shows up with Jimmy Olsen as a hostage. The back-up was also good and we are learning that the objects being stolen are to complete a spell. Three different objects are needed for each one of the Trinity and the bad guys have 6 out of the 9 needed already.

Authority #1 – Writers Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, Art Simon Coleby, Colors Carrie Strachan. Back-up Writer Christos Gage, Art Trevor Hairsine, Colors Jonny Rench. It looks like destroying the world might be the best thing that ever happened to the Wildstorm Universe. The Authority is decimated. The Carrier has merged/crashed into London and the power source destroyed. Apollo is stuck flying above the pollution in order to be able to stay alive as the radiation he needs to survive cannot penetrate the new atmosphere. The Engineer is reduced to human status as the EM pulses destroyed her outer shell and Jack Hawksmoor is crippled from all of this. The Doctor and Jenny were both missing this issue, but the changes are dramatic and I don’t think you can repopulate the world in a few issues. The Authority, like the Wildcats are now just trying to help the survivors. I wasn’t sure how I would like this idea, but when I realized I enjoy post apocalyptic stories and like super hero books, the melding is a good idea. Plus this forces some “real” change to occur to the characters. The back-up story running behind all the WU books is good also as I like Lynch’s self-imposed mission to kill Tao.

The Sisterhood #2 (of 3) – Writers Christopher Golden & Tom Sniegoski, Art Wellington Alves, Colors Andrew Dalhouse. This book was so good that the long delay between issues #1 and issue #2 did nothing to hurt the story. I picked up what was going on again after one or two pages and was immediately back into the story. The secret order of nuns who hold exorcised demons in their bodies is being attacked and killed. Sister Eden with the help of a warrior monk is trying to stop the attacks. They find out that one Nun who is in a secret hideout harbors only one demon and that is Satan. The bad guys are trying to free Satan and the bad guys are lead by Eden’s long thought dead sister Vanessa. On the surface the premise can almost seem a little silly and lame, in its execution is well written, highly enjoyable and a nice art job. I’m looking forward to the final issue, which is apparently due out next week.

Rest #0 – Writer Mark Powers, Art Shawn McManus and Lizzy John. Rest did what a good teaser should and that is to make me want to come back for more. Zero issues can be a waster of paper, but this was a good story that made drew me in and had a very strong art job. See my full review here.

Tor #4 (of 6) – by Joe Kubert with colors assistance from Pete Carlsson. Tor continues to be such an easy and compelling read, with fantastic artwork. Joe Kubert continues to amaze me with his story. On one hand it is a simple adventure of Tor with many fantastic creatures and strange people that Tor is encountering. In other ways it is a learning curve, where Tor is learning what it is to be different from others. In another way it is about finding love and a family. Inside this world, Joe never forgets that he has built a more prehistoric time and it is a place where violence is part of life. I hope to see this and Joe’s Sgt Rock story maybe published together as an Absolute edition as sort of an acknowledgement to his career and since I have enjoyed book books I would enjoy seeing an oversized presentation of his work.

Hawkman Special #1 – Writer/Pencil Jim Starlin, Inks Al Milgrom, Colors John Kalisz. First off I have to say that I’m a big Jim Starlin fan and I enjoyed this story on many levels as Jim did both the story and the pencils. The art work was great as Jim utilized ever inch of the page to give us a majestic Hawkman. I have never been a fan of Al Milgrom, but his inks did not hurt this book and to be fair the inking work did what it should do, which is let us be able to see the artist to his best effect. The story was apparently an attempt to fix Hawkman, but not actually reveal everything that will be going on with him. All it did was just continue to make the character more convoluted. In this issue we find out Hawkman’s entire past is a lie and that he is not reincarnated from an Egyptian Pharaoh and the cosmic being who is telling him this calls him by the name Katar Hol when he dismisses him. Furthermore he is told he will be one of the Aberrant Six. I loved Geoff Johns fix and even since the first Rann-Thanagar War Hawkman’s cleaned up origin has been screwed up again. Starlin’s fix has now thrown out what ever he was before and now made him a mystery with a pre-destined future. I’ll be okay with this if Starlin is green light to do an ongoing or 12 part mini-series about Hawkman or the Aberrant Six, but if his long term plans are never used, we just have a screwed up character floating around in the DCU.

Robin #176 – Writer Fabian Nicieza, Pencils Joe Bennett, Inks Jack Jadson, Colors Guy Major. Okay this issue was all a set-up to free up Robin from his own series. This issue Robin is running down leads trying to find Batman and Spoiler is sabotaging his efforts. We find out that Batman knew something was going wrong and he also knew Tim would try to carry on without Batman. Batman wanted Tim to not worrying about him, but asks Spoiler to help Tim in his efforts to carry on. We also got a glimpse of someone picking up the Red Robin costume and next issue the book will focus on Red Robin. It has to be Jason Todd; no one else makes any sense.

Jack of Fables #24 – Writers Bill Willingham & Matthew Sturges, Pencils Tony Akins and Russ Braun, Inks Jose Marzan, Colors Daniel Vozzo. This ended the only way it could end, with a beat down of Jack by Bigby. Set in 1883 we see the final chapter in this glimpse of Jack’s past life and see again just how much of a total bastard Jack really is. In fact I’m surprised this book has lasted so long as the main character is a despicable person on every level, which is why seeing Bigby just beat the living crap out of him, was pretty cool.

The Bond of Saint Marcel #1 (of 6) – Writer Jennifer Quintenz, Art Christian Gossett, Colors Emil Petrinic. This was an interesting start to the mini-series. We open in the Revolutionary War and we see an odd ceremony going on where blood is exchanged between two men and a ring lets you know that the other party is alive. Cut to the present day and we see a young high school girl who could obviously give a crap about school. As we later learn she could care less about her mother. Katherine Johnston is related to the man Avery Johnstone we saw in the beginning and later on Katherine’s grand mother gives her the ring. This issue ends with people coming to do some harm to the wealthy Johnston family and some man racing to the house. If it was not for the hype and write up on the back of this issue we would have never known that the man coming to Katherine is a Vampire who has been bound to service via the ceremony we saw. I think since it is the main element that the story revolves around that information should have been in the actual story. The art work was different. At times it was very good and at time it was a little off. I wish I knew more about the process, but I’m betting the pencils were scanned in and the rest is photoshop is some other program. This was a good effort and certainly made me want to come back for issue #2. I also see a lot of potential in these creators to get even better.

Titanium Rain #1 (of 12) – Words Josh Finney, Visuals Josh Finney & Kat Rocha, Faces David Whitehouse, Matt Scull, Randy Taylor, Rebecca Fowler. This book has a very different look to it. If it was a movie I would say it was overdone with CGI. The faces credits are obvious because the characters in the book have very real faces and I’m sure there is tons of computer time put into this story. In certain panels it almost comes across like a photograph as opposed to art. Here we have a new level of realism being brought into comics. For my personal taste I’m not sure about it yet. It is so different that I want to give it a couple of issues before I judge it, because often my initial reaction to something that different is to not like it. I know that I need to give it time, before I decide. The actual story was all set-up. We are in the year 2032, there is a war going on in China and we meet the pilots who are going to be involved in the war. At the end they are scrambling their planes to answer a call from ground forces.

Ultimate Origins #3 (of 5) – Writer Brian Bendis, Art Butch Guice, Colors Justin Ponsor. This issue gave us the origins of Magneto and Professor X, since I had stopped reading Ultimate X-Men after about five issues of the series this book had little for me to be interested in. The obelisks are appearing all over the place in the current UMU, but other wise this issue was rather flat and boring. Nothing for you here, this is not the comic you are looking for, move on.

Infinity Inc. #12 – Writer Peter Milligan, Pencils Javier Aranda, Inks David Enebral, Colors Thomas Chu. Talk about ending with a whimper, this series did just that. The art work was weak and very amateurish for a big two production. I would be kinder if this was a smaller press book, but it was weak. What was worse is the story did not even conclude and we are told to check out the Terror Titans mini-series for more. At least this issue will make me not miss this book.

Supergirl #32 – Writer Kelley Puckett, Art Ron Randall, Colors Wes Dzioba. Blechh, cough, cough, bleech. If Sterling Gates wasn’t coming on this book and working with Johns and Robinson to bring it under the Superman umbrella I would finally give up and cancel this series. I read this issue and have no clue what the point was or almost what was happening. I believe we have one fill in issue before Gates tries to fix this craptacular book.

That’s it for another week. I have tried to split out some books and give then separate reviews when I have time or the book inspires me to so, because this post gets so long I’m afraid even good titles get pushed down. It may seem strange that I graded Rest an “A” and it is so far down the list, but my grade is based on what it delivered for a dollar prequel, not how it rated as a regular comic.


  1. I really liked the Hawkman special, but then again I've always hated the forced "Egyptian" origin. The lead-in to the Aberrant Six concept seems interesting; who wants to bet another Aberrant Six participant will be Power Girl?

    This past week was a great week for comics.

  2. Chris - I agree it was a great week for comics and next week looks good also. Recently there were a couple of weeks that were just so-so and I worried I may have burnt out on comics, then we get weeks like this and I feel renewed! (Logan's Run reference).