Monday, November 29, 2010

The Week of Nov 24 in Review

I was reading JSA #45 and as I was reading it I was ticking off the plus and minuses of the book and that gave me the inspiration for a new format in my weekly review column. As with all such experiments if I find that I don’t like this format or it is not working for me I may switch back next week to what I call the capsule review.

I find that reviews can take many forms. One is what I classify as the visceral review which is an emotional reaction that I either loved the book or hated the book. At times that emotional reaction is so strong that any constructive or instructive remarks illuminating the why of the review can be lost. It can boil down to a feeling and there is often no rationalization for feelings.
Other reviews are often summaries of what occurred in the comic. If one goes too far into that type of review it can ruin any chance for a reader to enjoy the book, if it doesn’t go far enough you risk perhaps not making sense of any criticism or praise you may be offering.

Another type of review is what I would classify as the college term paper and I wish I had more time to do those types of reviews. This is the review that dissects the entire book and can often be a page by page analysis that encompasses everything about the book from balloon placement to release date as well as the actual writing and the art.

With this format I will attempt to illuminate what I thought was good and what I thought missed and will avoid on this cut of the format giving any letter or numeric grade to the book. Life’s no fun if we don’t experiment every now and again - of course I think that is a quote from Dr. Jekyll.

For Detective Comics see my full blown review here.

Justice Society of America #45 – Writer Marc Guggenheim – Art Scott Kolins

What I Liked – The book has a direction again and a plot. We have a WWII mission that is connected to today’s menace, Alan Scott facing a serious injury, Jay Garrick finding a new purpose in life. A smaller cast, the JSA has a ton of members, focusing on a core group helps to get to “know” them. Mr. Terrific has a plot line, he is a favorite character of mine and while him having a problem that is making him lose his intellect is troubling, having him overcome it (I hope) has the promise of a good story.

What I Didn’t Like – The art is too static. I enjoy Kolins layout and design, but it appears the art is computer driven. At this point I think we still have some room for the art itself to improve. The captions introducing the characters, Marc is getting Fraction cute with them and personally I hate it. One such caption “Jennifer Pierce a.k.a.Lighting – Electricity manipulation. Currently Starstruck” It refers to her being near Superman. Let the dialogue and art tell us what she is, I don’t need a caption.

Vampirella #1 – Writer Eric Trautmann – Art Wagner Reis

What I Liked – It was fun seeing a character that I had only paid attention to on a very infrequent basis over the years. The characterization of Vampirella, I had an immediate feel for the character after reading the issue. The art was decent and more on the photo realistic side of the coin.

What I Didn’t Like – I felt like I was dropped into the middle of a storyline. A number one issue should be more new reader friendly; there was a feel that I was suppose to know more than I did while reading the story. The coloring was heavy handed and muddied the look of the book. I understand it is a dark book but I wonder when the color is slopped on some panels if it is not to hide flaws in the art.

Madame Xanadu #29 – Writer Matt Wagner – Pencils Amy Reeder – Inks Richard Friend

What I Liked – Amy Reeder back on the artwork. I love her work and for me she is the Madame Xanadu artist. Of course Richard Friend is a great addition to the art as he enhances Amy’s wonderful line work. The story was a nice wrap up and put a nice cap on the series that takes us up to the dawning of the JLA.

What I Didn’t Like – It was the last issue of the book. From what I have read DC is taking back all the characters they lost to Vertigo and are drawing a more definitive line between the two. This is a tragic mistake as this book was a glorious melding of the DCU and the Vertigo line. Ultimately I’m guessing sales did this book in because if it was selling like hotcakes I’m sure Madame Xanadu would have been given a “Constantine” exemption to the new rules.

Amazing Spider-Man #649 – Writer Dan Slott - Pencils – Humberto Ramos – Inks – Carlos Cuevas

What I Liked – Nice background on bringing lapsed readers up to date on the newest Hobgoblin. Great bits of characterization with Peter Parker, the character is more in line with what I believe to be the original version of the character. Great art work, the fluid style of Mr. Ramos is a good choice for this book. The pacing is great, this book just flat out moves and takes the plot forward, great stuff.

What I Didn’t Like – The generic villain in Marvel comics seems to be white supremacists. Look I understand they don’t want to show Latinos or Blacks as the only villains in the piece, but let’s be a little real world and mix it up.

Batwoman #0 – Writer J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman Art J.H. Williams III Batwoman, Amy Reeder Pencils and Richard Friend Inks – Kate Sequence.

What I Liked – The art. J.H. Willams and Amy Reeder, heart be still. Very different artists, but both are talented to the extreme, a great looking book. This was a solid introduction to the character giving us a solid action sequence and a decent set up giving us her background and basic history.

What I Didn’t Like – The split story, story “A” on top and story “B” on the bottom. It makes for a disjointed read most often and a rather ambitious ploy for rookie writers. Using Bruce Wayne trailing and spying on her for almost a month as a story telling device and him having a hard time trying to figure out who she is, it demeans the Bruce Wayne character. He has better things to do and could figure it all out in a heartbeat. It would have worked if he had hired a private eye to do the foot work for him, like Jason Bard. It was only 16 pages of new story and art for $3, I know we are dropping to 20 pages, but 16, ouch.

On occasion I try to get back into series I have dropped for whatever reasons. I need some impetus to jump back on, but it can be as simple as a light week. For the Outsiders is was the addition of Keith Giffen as co-writer and artist, for Uncanny X-Men it was praise from a friend about this current issue and for Power Girl it was because I love the character.

Outsiders #34 – Script and Plot – Dan Didio – Pencils and Plot – Keith Giffen – Inks Gray, Wong & Davis

What I Liked – I also got the previous issue to serve as a primer on where the book is right now. I enjoyed Giffen’s pacing, layouts and pure out and out action. This book moved and took off and was a marked changed from the prior issue. Giffen has an almost Kirby type quality to his artwork at this point. He is certainly a distinctive style and it continues to develop. I also enjoyed the interaction with all the characters. I will check out the next issue to see if I can be hooked by this book again.

What I Didn’t Like – The group is not a group at all from what I see and is now broken into two parts. I’m just coming up to speed on the storylines right now so it is hard to judge what the two sets of character have in common anymore. The Manazons, I believe this was something Didio was trying to push into the Wonder Woman book when that train wreck went under. It has to be the worse name ever for a group of people and not sure why they ever needed to have that name. In fact they were a throw away bit that was unneeded even in this story.

Uncanny X-Men #530 – Writer Matt Fraction, Pencils Greg Land, Inks Jay Leisten

What I Liked – A couple of interesting storylines are started. We have a virus outbreak, we have the White Queen trying to kill Sebastian Shaw with Kitty and Phatomex’s help, we have Angel running an X-Men team since most everyone is under Quarantine and we have a bad guy making over five humans into a new version of the original X-Men. There is even a plotline about some bad guy turning Chinatown in San Fran back into a communist state.

What I Didn’t Like – Greg Land. There must be three or four blonde bombshells running around and half the time I have no clue who is who. Plus Greg apparently only has about four poses saved in his computer and then pulls them up every time. Add to that the occasion odd bits of characterization Fraction throws in and this book is maddeningly interesting and a tough read all at the same time. It is 50/50 if I get the next issue.

An underlying problem with the X-books is no internal consistency from series to series in how the characters act and a real lack of direction for the book. Under Roy Thomas, Claremont and Byrne, Claremont and Grant Morrison the main X-Book was usually going somewhere. Under Brubaker and Fraction (when I have checked in) the book meanders.

Power Girl #18 – Writer Judd Winick – Art Sam Basai

What I Liked – I love Power Girl, I have from the moment they introduced her in JSA many years ago. The art is very good. I get the impression this is all being done on the computer, but it is laid out well and is solid on the work of the star of the book. The story is decent and ties into Justice League Generation Lost, which I’m following.

What I Didn’t Like – I loved the prior version of Power Girl and I’m still trying to appreciate this version, I’m 50/50 about whether PG makes my list again. I also don’t like how Judd has almost totally ripped up what had been established about PG’s personal life.

Locke & Key Keys to the Kingdom #3 (of 6) – Writer Joe Hill - Art Gabriel Rodriguez

What I Liked – I love this series. The story about the three Locke children and the mysterious keys that unlock all sorts of strange and wondrous things is a great one. While the danger of the “Dark Lady” lurks around them and is disguised as a young man who is their friend. I’m also enjoying how Joe Hill is telling short stories as well as still letting us know there is a larger story being told. Finally Gabriel Rodriguez has been dynamite since issue #1 of the first arc and continues to impress as the story moves along.

What I Didn’t Like – Nothing really.

Scalped #43 – Writer Jason Aaron Art Jason LaTour

What I Liked – In-between major story arcs Jason Aaron usually takes a bit player in his drama and gives us their story. In this issue the sheriff next door to the reservation is exposed as a blowhard and fraud, excellent story. The art was solid, while not up to the standards of the main artist, it certainly did the job.

What I Didn’t Like – Zilch.

Hellblazer #273 – Writer Peter Milligan - Layouts Giuseppe Camuncoli – Finishes Stefano Landini – Art Second Half of the Book – Simon Bisley

What I Liked – Constantine obviously in love but still the ultimate bastard. Epiphany is in the past and she is trying to use a young John to get back to her time. John from our time goes back and meets his past self while trying to bring Epiphany back. Peter has crafted a great story about love and John Constantine and it is working.

What I Didn’t Like – Again this is a solid book and I wouldn’t change at thing at this time.

Captain America #612 – Writer Ed Brubaker – Art Butch Guice

What I Liked – The story line is an interesting one, what will happen with Bucky now that his past as an assassin for the Soviet government is public knowledge? Can he be accepted as a hero even if he was under mind control? The art, Butch’s style works well with this book as Captain America is a much a noir book as any other under the pen of Ed Brubaker.

What I Didn’t Like – More Nazi type villains, the trial is a good enough story without setting up a “Bucky saves the day ending” that sounds boring. Hopefully Brubaker is better than that. The pace of the story needs to be faster, Ed tells some great stories, sometimes it takes too long to tell the story.

Uncanny X-Force #2 – Writer Rick Remender – Art Jerome Opena

What I Liked – Opena’s art has a great quality to it, it is gritty, detailed and has a lot of weight to it. This issue he continues to impress. The fight between X-Force and the Horsemen on the Moon a very cool battle. Remender has chosen a good team and appears to be having fun telling this first story.

What I Didn’t Like – The caption boxes were overused and at times it was hard to tell who the heck thoughts we were supposed to be hearing. I find it amusing thought balloons are no longer used but there has been a big return to us listening on a character’s thoughts again.

Thor The Mighty Avenger # 6 – Writer Roger Langridge – Art Chris Samnee

What I Liked – The story was a great one where we see that Thor is in love with Jane Foster and will do almost anything for her. The art is great, Chris has clean lines and it is deceptively simple looking style, yet brilliant in story telling ability. Langridge has made me fall in love with his versions of these characters.

What I Didn’t Like – Marvel is cancelling this book. The disjointed style of the way the story was broken into two concurrent story lines. They merged and made sense after a point in time, but at first it was difficult to tell what the heck was going on.

What I Really Don’t Like – Marvel could easily push this book and make it more of a success but has apparently abandoned what is easily the best Thor title on the stands and one of the only Thor titles which I believe could generate mass appeal. That mass appeal could translate to a lot of trade sales when the movie hits. I’m totally guessing here, but this book was created as a younger book and therefore not targeted to the general comic reader. The problem is the book reads at a higher level and with Chris Samnee’s art it has more of an adult appeal. At the same time there is a simplicity to it that makes it feel more like a kiddie book to some readers. Marvel recognized that they had a different kind of book and did a half assed job of repositioning the marketing. What Marvel needs to do is re-launch the book as a new book and put the full court pressure on to push it. Let Langridge adjust his writing if he wants to make it read a little higher level (I think it works as it is). Of course Marvel and DC always have a problem when a book does not fall into a pre-existing continuity.

Batman Odyssey #5 (of 13) – Story and Art – Neal Adams

What I Liked – The art.

What I Didn’t Like – There is no story. The whole thing is like a bad dream or a delusional ranting of a madman. This is why we teach our kids to never take drugs. This book is insane and maybe it will all magically come together down the road, but I worry that no one but me will still be buying it.

So I may try this format again next week or not. One thing I feel is owed to the creators is that if I like or dislike something I should try to express more whys then I often do. Of course I know creators may never read all the myriad reviews out there but to be fair we should try to have a rationale for our opinions.


  1. I really didn't like ASM #649 at all. Maybe it was the dark coloring. :) But, really it was the character assignation of Phil Urich. I don't know what he's been doing in the regular MU, but he's been a strong supporting character in the MC2 universe for 12 years and I just can't believe he'd just go nuts and become a murderer just to impress a girl. I suppose the decapitation was kinda self-defense (not really) -- it was just awful.

    I also didn't like the two storylines in Thor Mighty Avenger. I thought the book was put together wrong at first. Still an excellent issue though.

    I like your new format.

  2. Thanks Matthew - I always welcome feedback and I think I'll stick with this format a little while.

    I had no knowledge of Phil Urich so no opinion on how they portrayed him.

    I really love Thor the Mighty, flaws and all.

  3. I didn't have a problem with the Goblin gang. If Norman Osborn is going to create a gang in prison, white supremacists makes a certain amount of sense. But yeah, they're easy to root against.

    Personally, I'm tired of everything going back to WWII. I mean, I know that's the price of entry for a JSA book, but I still roll my eyes every time the book goes back to that well. At least Captain America is tying everything back to the Cold War these days.