Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Best to Worst of Last Week

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Normally I get my little rant off in the Monday column and one day if I have time (LOL) I want to do some post that are more commentaries about different things in the industry. I have so many ideas for posts like spotlighting the various publishers, articles on the various hard cover programs, but time keeps pushing them off further and further.

That rambling is a preamble to my remarking on the Robert Kirkman thing, where he is extolling the virtues of creator owned and telling creators they have a duty to jump onboard and do things with Image or whomever. I hope Robert Kirkman is doing well and I think his creator owned stuff is his best stuff and his Marvel stuff was uninspired at best. What is right for Kirkman is not right for everyone else. What drives Kirkman and is his passion is not the same as everyone else’s passion. Also just because writer X and artist Y are doing great things for DC or Marvel does not mean they have the next Batman or Spider-Man up their sleeve waiting to release it on the public. I loved the independent stuff, but I don’t think trying to push someone into doing something they don’t want to do is the answer. Also everyone’s financial situation is not the same and I hear some Image creators are not making a dime off their projects.

Action Comics #868 – Writer Geoff John, Pencils Gary Frank, inks Jon Sibal, Colrs Brad Anderson. This is just becoming an incredible run on this book as Johns and Frank are firing on all cylinders and are producing one hell of a great Superman book. Superman is having a real renaissance with this book and All Star Superman. This issue we meet the real Brainiac and he appears to be a Coluan who has connected himself to his ship. He is rather large in size and has strength of at least Superman’s level. Now since I have only been following Superman regularly since the One Year Later jump I only having a passing reference to whatever incarnation Brainiac has had over the years, but it appears to me that Johns has not invalidated any of those, but has just revealed the “true” story. Superman basically is man handled by Brainiac and he probes Superman’s mind to find out about Supergirl and comes flies his space ship to Earth to capture her. There is an insinuation that Brainiac maybe responsible for blowing up Krypton or maybe at least accelerating the process. We have some great character moments with Lois, Supergirl and Cat Grant back on Earth mixed with the outer space action between Superman and Brainiac. The art work by Frank and Sibal is fantastic and Gary has pulled off making Superman into looking Chris Reeveish without going photo realistic. This is DC best super hero series right now.

Batman #679 RIP – Writer Grant Morrison, Pencils Tony Daniel, Inks Sandu Florea, Colors Guy Major. I know this book is receiving some harsh words from some corners, but I think any work that pushes a book away from people’s comfort zones elicits strong reactions. I enjoyed this issue a lot. We see Bruce is crazy and we see that some of this was Bruce anticipating a physiological attack and being prepared for it. His current incarnation as this Batman is possibly an identity that he programmed into himself. We also see Batman as almost totally off his rocker talking to Bat-Mite, gargoyles and believing tracking devices are implanted in his body. We also see Robin calling in the other heroes from the hero club and we see part of the Black Glove setting up to operate on Dick Grayson. We cut to Dr. Hurt who announces that he is Thomas Wayne and he calls Alfred out as a betrayer. This book is brutal in what has been done to the Bat family and you can tell no matter how it turns out this has shaken the Bat-verse to its core. Ultimately I believe that nothing can stay the same. Stripping a hero bare has been done before, but Grant is taking this to a different level and is even hinting that Bruce knew this could happen and had a plan for it. The deeper we get into the story the better it gets to me and the more I realize that I will need to read Grant’s entire run as this was always a long form story.

Final Crisis Revelations #1 (of 5) – Writer Greg Rucka, Pencils Phillip Tan, Inks Jonathan Glapion, Jeff de los Santos and Walden Wong, Colors Ian Hannin. Over the years I have become a bigger and bigger fan of Greg Rucka’s work. This issue is no exception to my growing admiration of his story telling abilities. He has told a long tale of two Gotham Central detectives and charted their strange journeys from partners to now apparently adversaries as the Spectre and the Question throughout a myriad number of books over the years. This issue starts with the Spectre giving Dr. Light what he was due. Hopefully that should be the last of that Dr. Light, a well earned death. The Question picks up from her mini-series as we see she is trying to still stop the people who worship the Book of Crime. Before the two meet we see what tied this into Final Crisis. The Spectre tries to bring vengeance to Libra and Libra just snuffs the Spectre and almost tosses him aside like nothing. As Crispus tries to tell God that he will no longer be his vessel, the Spectre comes back. The Spectre shows up where the Question is fighting some bad guys saying he is here to stop her. We have no idea why, but as Final Crisis is the bad guys winning has he been corrupted or is the Question guilty of something we don’t know about? Phillip Tan’s art was great looking, very dark and moody and also very clear. He manages to maintain a strong realistic style and yet give his characters a slightly fluid feel. All in all this mini-series has started with a bang and I’m looking foreword to next issue.

Transhuman #3 (of 4) – Writer Jonathan Hickman. Art JM Ringuet. I loved this issue as we continue with our documentary on the two companies who were at the center of the Transhuman movement. The Chimera Company is the one that was genetically modifying people and had at first used Chimpanzees as test subjects. The modifications made them very human and gave some of them incredible powers. After a successful lawsuit to be granted full status as a sentient race, they sued Chimera and now apparently run the place. There was much more madness involved, but this issue was very funny to me. At the same time we saw how corporations use various tactics to manipulate people into doing what they want them to do. This series is a great commentary on corporations and does it without preaching. As a fan of JM Ringuet’s art, this book was a lot of fun to look at also. There is the monkey versus human super hero page they may go down in history as one of the hardest edge and humorous pages ever.

Universal War One #2 (of 3) – By Denis Bajarm. This is an excellent series, yet I think I made a mistake picking it up as individual issues. This is probably best read as a graphic novel. It is an extremely dense, but well told story of Earth in the future dealing with an impossible menace of a gigantic wall in space. We have the individual stories of the purgatory squad and the overall story of the defense of Earth. This series is well worth your time, but wait for the trade or hard cover.

Sparks #3 (of 6) – This is the best issue to date of this series and I enjoyed the first two issues a lot. See my full review here. This is an excellent portrait of a golden age hero’s life that has been rather tragic, with all the ups and downs. Film noir meets golden age comics.

Atomic Robo Dogs of War #1 (of 5) – Main Story Writer Brian Clevinger, Art Scott Wenger, Colors Rhonda Patterson. Back-Up Sotry Brain Clevinger, Art Zack Finfrock. YEAH! Oh baby the man is, er Robot is back. This time we are being treated to a five part series set in WWII. Robo is dropped behind enemy lines to take out the laufpanzers, which are for lack of a better term Transformer tanks. After taking out some troops Robo gets to the weapons depo only to find they had been deployed to defend the beaches at Sicily. One was left behind who clocks Robo. The story is entitled “Operation Husky” which is the actual name of that WWII operation which was the largest amphibious and air operation of the war and launched the invasion of Italy. Then there was just a pure fun short story of Robo fighting a sea monster. The last scene cracked me up as he jumps from the beach to renew his fight with the giant crab and we see Robo has flip flops on.

Welcome to Hoxford #1 – Created, Written & Drawn by Ben Templesmith. This may sound like sacrilege, but I’m glad to see Hoxford from Ben as opposed to Wormwood. I think Wormwood is a great concept and you can do some outrageous stories, but I also think if you try to turn it into a regular ongoing comic it may kill it as the concept is better as a once in a while thing. Hoxford looks like it will be a lot of fun, if you like crazed mass murderers and some sort of secret prison facility where the guards will literally eat you alive. This issue we are introduced to a group of the hardest of hard core cons who are being put into a special facility that is apparently run by some Russian company. We see at the end the guards are actually eating a prisoner who got out of line. Our central character Ray Delgado is one f**ked in the head hombre who anger issues are taken out on others by him eating them and killing them. How he and his stay at the strange Hoxford will play out will be revealed as the series continues. This was an excellent opening issue of a new series from Ben. As a fan of his art style the book was also great to look at and his art continues to be refined and improved.
Simon Dark #11 – Writer Steve Niles, Art Scott Hampton Colors Daniel Vozzo. This issue the bizarreness takes a further twist. Simon and Tom with the help of these people who have been turned into monsters attack the cult. Simon manages to open these doors that no one is supposed to be open and meets the main bad guy. He is some sort of demon that was released when dark magic was used to give life to Simon. Simon is an amalgamation of parts of many teen boys. We also find out Simon’s creator is Gus Webb a store owner who has helped Simon in the past. Simon’s “brother” is trying to recruit Simon to his side and Simon needs to choose what he will do next. This book has a unique quality all its own and is really worth checking out.

Freedom Formula #1 (of 5) - This was a great start to a new series. Radical Publishing is fast becoming synonymous with high quality. This book has some fantastic art, a great concept and a story that looks very good so far. See my full review here.

Walking Dead #51 – Writer Robert Kirkman, Art Charles Adlard, Gray Tones Cliff Rathburn. You know just when you think you have beaten Rick into the ground as far as possible; Kirkman kicks him in the balls one more time. Carl and Rick are alone and Rick is starting to recover from the infection that he had. As they are foraging around this town and trying to determine their next step the phone starts to ring. Elated Rick starts to talk to the woman on the phone and is trying to negotiate with her about joining her group. At the end of the story we find out the woman Rick is talking to is Lori and the whole thing is in his head, but she forgives Rick and Rick tells her how much he loves and misses her. Kirkman is pulling on our heartstrings big time and doing it so well as it comes across as very real. I never say much about the art on this book, probably because Charles Adlard is so damn good and so damn consistently good I take it for granted. Anyway he is at least half the reason this series is so good.

Frank Frazetta’s Dracula meets Wolf-Man – Writer Steve Niles, Art Francesco Francavilla. Okay this was one of the simplest plots ever, but so well done that it was very entertaining. The Wolf-Man loves a poor peasant girl (back in 1849) who is being sent by her parents to entertain a visiting Count, in hopes she may marry a rich man. Her true love is the man who is a werewolf. The Count turns out to be Dracula. Dracula just wanted the girl for blood and the Wolf-Man tries to save her. During the fight she is killed, much to the Wolf-Man’s dismay. Cut to modern times and we see the Wolf-Man attacking Dracula again and by Dracula’s remarks we know this battle has being going on for over a hundred years. This story was clean, concise and wonderfully illustrated by Francesco Francavilla. Also we are treated to some great back matter giving us a glimpse of Francesco’s work in developing this story.

Wonder Woman #23 – Writer Gail Simone, Pencils Aaron Lopresti, Inks Matt Ryan, Colors Brad Anderson. This was a very strong ending for this arc. Wonder Woman fights the demon D’Grth and wins. When she drags the demon back to the other dimension and they slay him she regains her soul and loses the demon hand while Claw becomes claw again and Stalker again has no soul. This was the strongest arc by writer Gail Simone and gives me hope for the series going forward. The background story that is being developed is WW and Tom Tresser’s growing relationship which will be interesting to see how it plays out.

BPRD The Warning #2 (of 5) – Writers Mike Mignola & John Arcudi, Art Guy Davis, Colors Dave Stewart. It is hard to describe how good this series is because it continues to build on itself and still packs a lot of story into each individual chapter. This issue Liz is taken by what appears to be a bad guy after the BPRD has flown to what appears to be a Mayan type temple. All of their ground transportation is blown up and the transponder on the aircraft Liz has left in was removed. What adds to the building menace coming to Earth is the belief that in BPRD no one is safe. Unlike many books we know when a character is in mortal danger, the only question is how they survive in BPRD they danger feels truly life threatening.

Batman Confidential #20 – Writer Fabian Nicieza, Art Kevin Maguire, Colors I.L.L. This series is a lot of fun. We have great action, wonderful character portrayals of Batgirl and Catwoman, beautiful fluid graceful art and an engaging story. This issue Batman shows up to resolve the problems the girls are having. He later leaves Batgirl to get back the notebook. We end with Barbara walking into a trap. This arc keeps it light without making it out of character and is out and out entertaining. You are getting your bang for your buck in this comic.

Trinity #11 – Front Story Writer Kurt Busiek, Pencils Mark Bagley, Inks Art Thibert, Colors Pete Pantazis. Back Up Story Writers Kurt Buiek & Fabian Niczea, Artist Tom Derenick & Wayne Faucher, Colors Allen Passalaqua. This series just continues to entertain. This series is coming along nicely as in the front story we see how the spell being work on by Morgana is taking its effect on the Trinity as they are all taking on aspects of each other’s personalities. It feels like they are being pulled closer and closer together. Also we gain a little more insight into how important they are as it is remarked that in every alternative universe a version of the three exist and that is not true of everyone else. The back story is working very well also as this issue we see more elements that are needed to complete the spell being gathered by the minions of the evil trinity. For lack of a better term this book has a strong rhythm and is a very well done story.

The Sisterhood #3 (of 3) – Writers Christopher Golden & Tom Sniegoski, Art Wellington Alves, Colors Andrew Dalhouse. I got a kick out of this improbable series. Now I was not raised Catholic so I have no strange desires about Nuns, but Sister Eve is one tough and now very dangerous nun. The adventure to stop the release of Satan into the world was enjoyable and having Eve and his sister Vanessa have to face off against each other was also well done. I liked the resolution as Eve had to take the Devil into herself to save the world. During this adventure she has learned how to use the powers of the demons she holds within herself and now with the devil being inside her she is very powerful. Nuns, demons, secret Vatican orders, forbidden sex, it was all here. This was a rock solid adventure and I hope we see another mini-series about The Sisterhood down the road.

Booster Gold #11 – Writer Chuck Dixon, Pencils Dan Jurgens, Finishes Norm Rapmund, Colors Hi-Fi. This was another good issue and surprisingly picked up from John and Katz’s work without missing a beat. We get another adventure where Booster and company have to fix a glitch in the time stream. This glitch involves Batman, Robin and Batgirl early in their careers. Booster goes about handling Rip’s plan and they think they fix everything, but it didn’t work. Rip gets separated from Booster and his sister and now they are stuck. This was another fast paced, spot on characterization and a solid adventure. If I did not pay attention to the credits I may not have know it was a different writer, especially since the same art team is on the book.

Green Lantern Corps #27 – Writer Peter Tomasi, Pencils Luke Ross, Inks Fabio Laguna, Colors Nei Ruffino. This series did not say it was an early lead in to the Black Lantern story line, but it felt like it was laying some of the groundwork. This issue Guy and Kyle open Guy’s new Warriors Bar and Grille on Oa. We also see a GL who can commune with the dead visit the graveyard of the fallen GLs. He tells the GL grave keeper that the dead are feeling cold. Then we cut to GL training and Kyle shows up and a rain of eyeballs begins. Someone is going out and killing mass amounts of the families and friends of the GL corps. The Universe seems to have become a harsh place for the corps lately. Next issue I assume Kyle and company will be after the person taking out their families.

Station #2 (of 4) – Written by Johanna Stokes, Art Leno Carvalho, Colors Andrea Barreto. This is a very good lock room murder mystery. You can’t have more of a locked room that a space station with no Space Shuttle to get to them before the air runs out. Now since we only have a four issue mini-series we need to at least get the motive out next issue. The scenario in issue one was to discover the accidental death was a murder. This issue was to discover that the murderer is looking to wreck even more havoc. Obviously the killer must have a way out since he could easily do a murder suicide by taking out the whole station, but we have to wait and see. This is another example of BOOM producing well writing and entertaining stories.

Green Arrow Black Canary #11 –Writer Judd Winick, Pencils Mike Norton, Inks Wayne Faucher, Colors David Baron. This issue was all about revealing what the heck has been going on and it was interesting. The “League of Assassins” were not Ras as Ghul’s people and that made sense as Ras never had super powered types. They were working for someone posing as Ras. We also find out that the actual target was Green Arrow and the shot taken by one of the greatest marksman was so difficult that he missed and hit Connor. Then we find out that the person who is trying to kill Green Arrow is Shado. All in all it is an interesting idea, but I wish I remembered my GA history better as I’m not sure why Shado would want GA dead. The other problem I have with this book is it took way, way too long to get to this point. While it is a good reveal and is setting up excitement for next issue, this dragged out plot line is counter to how Judd was first writing this book. Also Judd has a fairly large group roaming around with GA and BC at this point with Speedy, Dodger, Plastic Man and Batman. At least the story line looks like it has an end in sight and a lot of the mysteries have been explained.

Helen Killer #4 (of 4) – Writer Andrew Kreisberg, Art Matthew JLD Rice. This series ended as well as it began. Helen and Blaylock with the help of Alexander Graham Bell stop Mr. Grey from turning most of the gold into lead. The weaving of historical fact with a fictional adventure was done so well that you could almost believe this adventure has been under presidential seal for over a century. The artwork continued to convey the action and keep us firmly in the past. If you missed the series, go get it now or hope for a trade.

Fall of Cthulhu Godwar #1 (of 4) – Writer Michael Alan Nelson, Art Mateus Santolouco, Colors Eduardo Medeiros. I can’t tell for sure, but I don’t think it mattered if you read anything that came before in the Fall of Cthulhu series, but it enhanced your enjoyment if you had as you see the players that have been introduced start to take their roles in the upcoming battle. Harlot has Lucifer free the man who was released from her box and I’m guessing he is a weapon to be aimed at Nyarlathotep who we saw had gathered his own group together (in a prior arc). This issue as I said the players are starting to line up and the battle lines are being drawn.

Checkmate #29 – Writer Bruce Jones, Art Manuel Garcia, Colors Santiago Arcas. The story of Chimera is being played out and dragged out in my opinion, but I guess the book is working towards its endpoint. In some ways the Chimera story is a good one and has some very good art by Manuel Garcia. In other ways it does not feel much like a Checkmate story, unless the whole Chimera adventure is what brings the Checkmate agency down. I hope that is not where we are heading as that would be a shame as the Checkmate organization is a good one to have floating around in the DCU. This issue, like the last, Chimera adapts to the huge nightmare creatures attacking different parts of the world and defeats it. The rest of the story moved incrementally as we see the Black King acting a little erratic and Chimera’s girl friend continues her efforts to contact Chimera.

Cthulhu Tales #4 – First Story Writer Mark Waid, Art Chee, Colors Andrea Barreto – In the π of the Beholder. – Great little story as Mark Waid shows how to pack a total story into half a book. A physics professor learns how to decode the “Necronomicon” which is the history of the alien god Cthulhu. The more he understands the more people faces become the Octopus like things of Cthulhu. He finally burns his house to lose the information he has deciphered and people return to normal. Second Story Write Mark Sable, Art Sergio Carrera, Colrs Andrew Dalhouse – There Will be Blood. Here we meet a curator of a museum who is guarding the Necronomicon and ultimately has to use his knowledge of it to escape the people who are torturing him. By doing so he has now become a monster himself.

Goon #27 – First Story by Eric Powell, Colors Dave Stewart, Second Story by Kyle Hotz, Third Story by Rebecca Sugar with inks by Eric Powell. Three different little stories, while all entertaining it felt like a fill-in issue. Now the way Goon is structured I know the Eric does not seem overly concerned about following normal comic conventions, so an issue of three short stories coming out in the middle of a continuing story is not as odd as one might think. Also there is the strong idea that not having an issue of a book on the racks for a long time is worse then doing a “fill-in”. The actual book itself was entertaining. We start off with Eric’s short story that was most amusing for the interchange between Frankie and the Goon. Next up was a tale by Kyle Hotz who tells us of Goon’s attempt to exact his revenge on a stinking ape that beat him in a pie eating contest. Goon’s revenge did not work out like the Goon thought it did. The last is a very short story by Rebecca Sugar outlining what is important to men in prison.

Firebreather #2 – Writer Phil Hester, Art Andy Kuhn, Colors Bill Crabtree. Li’l Firebreather Writer Joshua Hale Fialkov, Art Tony Fleecs. The first issue I was not buying into this series, but with this issue I being drawn in a little deeper. Duncan is the teen-ager who has many more problems then most, chief among them is being the half breed son of a dragon. This issue the charm of the book is just seeing Duncan dealing with thing the way any teen-ager would, from embarrassed by his Mother, to being defiant to school authorities in a defensible way. The Little Firebreather back-up was also very amusing and cute and I look forward to that little back up continuing also.

Secret Invasion #5 (of 8) –Writer Brian Bendis, Pencils Lenil Yu, Inks Mark Morales, Colors Laura Martin and Emily Warren. This issue started off a little slow, had a few “deus ex machina” moments, but ultimately should be a crowd pleaser with its kick ass ending. I’m having mixed feelings on this issue. On one hand the menace level is moved up a few notches, on another Reed Richards fixes the “trust” issue in what appears to be a few minutes with some impossible weapon that changes the skrulls back to skrulls. I guess my problem is the pacing on this book is all over the board and it feels less and less like a real series and is more the event book that all the other tie-ins explain for us. As I’m not getting all those other books, the actual series itself is not working for me.

Astonishing X-Men #26 – Writer Warren Ellis, Pencils Simone Bianchi, Ink Washes Simone Bianchi & Andrea Silvestri, Colors Simone Peruzzi. I’m so surprised that I’m not enjoying this book. It has Warren Ellis writing and Simone Bianchi as the artist and it is not working at all for me. This book is on my short list to cut and I may soon be almost X-free again. It has been years since I could say that. Bianchi’s poses are awkward many times and his faces are often off. The overall darkness of his art is making the book itself rather muddy and I often wonder if that is a cheat so he can try to make a monthly deadline. Warren is trying to play the X-Men as a small commando group and portraying Cyclops as this extreme bad-ass, is ringing rather hollow. Warren has missed capturing the essence of these characters or perhaps this is what Marvel wants them to be and it is removed from my idea of what the characters should be like. It is impossible to probably like every book from a writer and right now regardless of what appears to be interesting concepts being explored by Ellis regarding a different kind of mutant, this book is a clear miss.

Gen 13 #21 – Writer Scott Beatty, Art Mike Huddelston, Colros Carrie Strachan. Back Up Story Writer Christos Gage, Art Trevor Hairsine, Colors Johnny Rench. Okay the other Wildstorm books have been very good re-launches now that we are post the world being destroyed. This series was a mess. I had dropped this book a few months back and thought that it would be worth it to look it up again. This issue took until the last page to get the kids to the end of the world. All the stuff leading up to it was confusing and meaningless to me. It has one more issue before I can it again. The back-up story was another good chapter in Lynch’s story.

I think I was pretty easy this week giving eight books top section status. I’m slowly trying to shorten these reviews on Tuesday. When I want to do a detailed review I can do a spotlight review, but it is hard to keep this post down to under 5,000 words (which includes everything). I also keep thinking we need one more contributor to this blog who can take a day every week, send your name for consideration to the above e-mail.

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