Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Week of Dec 29 in Review

2010 was an interesting year and I think 2011 is going to be more of the same. The world is changing and our hobby is going to be going through some changes also. I believe the digital revolution is going to really start making an impact to the industry in 2011. The advent of the iPad makes reading a digital comic as appealing as reading a regular comic. It took some time for e-books to make big inroads into print books, but they have started to make their presence felt as they will for comics. A continual poor economy and the digital wave starting to take hold will make this year a difficult road for publishers to navigate.

Green Arrow #7 – Writer JT Krul, Art Mike Mayhew

What I Liked – The art was decent. Mayhew and colorist Andy Troy delivered a slick looking book. I’m would bet a big chunk of this, if not all, was done with the computer. It had some great facial expressions, nice design of pages and stunning rich colors.

What I Didn’t Like – The series has been a failure in my view and with this issue I’m pulling the plug on this book. In seven issues we have gotten nowhere. Is Green Arrow Star City’s hero or is he just a guy in the woods dealing with issues he has with his parents. I think Ollie is at least 40 and so much of this series is about him whining over his childhood. By that age most of us have gotten past parent issues and are comfortable with ourselves. The problem is the series has gone nowhere and explained nothing. It has dropped mysteries like Lost and like Lost is never answering them. Either give me good adventures about Green Arrow fighting some crime or injustice or start explaining what the forest is all about, but I decided I’m tired of treading water and I’m out of this pool.

Spider-Girl #2 – Writer Paul Tobin, Art Clayton Henry and four others

What I Liked – Clayton Henry’s part of the art.

What I Didn’t Like – The book reads very light, almost young. I know Matthew disagrees but the book is missing a certain level of something, maybe in the dialogue as Tobin goes for a teen-age girl’s syntax. The story is also moving at an extremely rapid pace with no explanation of what is going on. Spider-Girl’s Dad is killed and buried fairly fast. They even have thrown in a hint that her Dad may not be dead as someone remarks his skin is an odd color. As her Dad died we have to assume Spider-Girl was doing a twitter account posting about this adventure. Your father dies and you twitter as Spider-Girl? The other half of the art was at times very amateurish. There are so many artists on the second half it had to be rushed. Also, we are on issue #2 and the main artist already can’t handle the work load, time to rethink your productions scheduling. Spider-Girl falls off my list after a 2 issue try out.

Batman The Dark Knight #1 – Writer and Pencils David Finch, Inks Scott Williams

What I Liked – The art. David Finch did a great job on this book and with Scott Williams on inks and Alex Sinclair on colors the book looks terrific.

What I Didn’t Like – Grant has remade Bruce Wayne and Finch is writing more of what Bruce was like before, brooding and introspective. The change to Bruce’s demeanor was a major change by Grant in my mind and needs to be recognized by whoever uses Bruce as Batman. Also the story itself was more of a generic type of story. First time out as a writer I will cut him some slack as the characters read okay.

X-23 #4 – Writer Majorie Liu, Art Will Conrad and Marco Chechetto

What I Liked – The art work is solid, especially when Will Conrad was drawing it, Marco’s work is not as strong as Will.

What I Didn’t Like – I’m still trying to determine if this book has any direction. Also with the almost random showing up of Gambit and Ms. Sinister I’m not sure what is going on. The X-Books are so dense it is almost impossible to know all the backgrounds on all the characters. This makes reading a book like X-23 especially difficult when the characters popping up seem to hint of other things and I have no clue of what. I want a story about X-23 and I’m still wondering when we will get to it. I will hang out a little longer on this book.

Hellboy The Sleeping and the Dead #1 (of 2) – Writer Mike Mignola, Art Scott Hampton

What I Liked – Scott Hampton’s art looks great. Scott has mastered the mood of his art. I’m sure Scott uses various computer art tools to achieve his effects, but his work has always impressed me. Where many artists seem willing to publish as they learn Scott’s work has always looked polished. His work has always had an almost ethereal or lyrical like quality rooted in a realist approach. Scott manages to make Hellboy have a great slightly creepy feel to it and it matches the story to a “T”. Mike story is another great one focusing on one of Hellboy’s various adventures. Mike manages to twist our expectations ever so slowly as the old man who fools Hellboy fools us also.

What I Didn’t Like – Nada.

Justice Society of America #46 – Writer Marc Guggenheim, Art Mike Norton

What I Liked – The story is enjoyable. Marc cut down the cast and has given us a focused story. The elements are all building together. We have Alan Scott seriously injured with a solid comic book reason why he is not magically healed, Mr. Terrific’s sub plot in the background, Jay killing himself trying to fix the city destroyed in a JSA battle and more. This is the best the JSA has been in a while. Mike Norton’s art while not my favorite style kept us a consistent look from Scott Kolins’ work.

What I Didn’t Like – The captions introducing each character are too cute and remind me of Matt Fraction’s captions (not a good thing). I’m still not sold on this style of art. I’m not sure how the effect is created, but right now I still don’t like it.

Green Lantern #61 – Writer Geoff Johns, Pencils Doug Mahnke, Inks 4 Guys

What I Liked – This was the best issue of Green Lantern in quite some time. The reason for me is pretty simple we dealt with one of the entities in short fashion. The red entities and embodiment of rage was a well done story. We had a POV character of a man watching his daughter’s killer being put to death in the electric chair. We learned more about Atrocitus and had a very cool battle with the Spectre. The entire story was well laid out and completed in the span of one issue. Doug Mahnke’s art regardless of who inked it looked terrific as always. Not only is Doug one of the best super hero artist in the business he also can produce more high quality pages a month than any other current artist that comes to mind. Also his work never feels rushed it looks great with a strong realism bent but touches that make it his own.

What I Didn’t Like – Zilch, great issue of a series and hopefully a return to form for Johns.

Detective Comics #872 – Writer Scott Snyder, Art Jock on Batman story, Francesco Francavilla on Commissioner Gordon story.

What I Liked – I want to just say everything and leave it at that. In two issues Scott has made this my favorite Batman book. It is so good that I’m now buying two issues as I send books to both of my daughters and neither of them should miss this series. Scott has hit the ground running and the work, time and effort that he puts into his scripts is amazing. What is great is that he delivers and the book reads flawlessly.

The overall concept of the Dick Grayson Batman going after a secret society called “The Black Mirror” is outstanding. The group is given more weight this issue as we find out that the group is long standing, sells items involved in super villain crimes and the group believes that evil is what makes man better then the animals. The group feels perverse and evil as it has all the creepiness of a secret society whose members are often pillars of the community.
We get to see a Batman who is confident, smart, brave, humorous and yet still new enough to be caught unawares at times. In addition Scott continues to build how Dick works and creates cool scenes from even those sequences. The scene where Dick dives out of Oracle’s tower was brilliant. It typifies how Grayson is physically the most confident of all the Bat family and the art by Jock just blows the coolness factor off the charts. We are also seeing Dick actually do Detective work and piecing to together what is happening. At the same time we see Dick’s relationships with Tim, Alfred, Barbara and the police.

The story is also set in time that corresponds to the backup Jim Gordon story. Not that it appears important at this point that the timelines are in synch but it is a wonderful touch that makes the stories feel like one world. Even the Jim Gordon story is a thing of beauty as his son, who is the complete opposite of him, is coming back into his life and the danger that it brings. Jock and Francavilla both know how to draw and make each segment have the noir atmosphere which is perfect for these stories.

Another thing and this is something I constantly notice in Scott’s work, nothing is wasted. Each panel, each page adds to the story. Scott is already a master at when to add dialogue or thought boxes and when to shut up and let the art tell the story. Not only is that true, but the rhythm of the story telling is well developed. We open with a one page splash, two page action sequence and that a half page splash as Dick visits Babs for information. We then get two pages of exposition that drives the plot forward and builds characterization followed by the wordless dive from the tower. Scott knows when to call for the one page splash and when we need a five or six panel page. One great example is when a disguised Batman is going down hallways and then he enters the auction room. We go from a many paneled page to a one panel page of the auction room. The room is filled with people in a massive hallway that makes you immediately understand the magnitude of the Black Mirror Society. This is what I mean about the rhythm of the book being spot on. Beat by beat, panel by panel with artists that deliver a performance to match the music of the script.

Finally I appreciated that Scott is providing this type of effort. Remember this is a middle chapter of a story. So many writers allow the middle chapter to just further the plot and maybe have some action. This is a middle chapter every bit as exciting and interesting as the first part of the story. Also the story is rich in the complexity and what it lays out but no so obtuse as to be indecipherable. Scott is DC’s fastest rising star and maybe the “star” in 2011 and beyond for DC. I’d sign him up for a long term contract now.

And oh by the way, what a great freeling cover.
What I Didn’t Like – Is the next issue is a month away.

Flash #8 – Writer Geoff Johns, Art Scott Kolins

What I Liked – It was an entertaining and well told story giving us a new origin for the Reverse Flash.

What I Didn’t Like – It set the Barry Allen Flash’s origin firmly in the 21st Century, meaning like Marvel the sliding scale of everything has happened in the last ten years is in play. Comics just need to ignore time or allow their heroes to age. Comics will refer to stuff that has happened in the real world and need to either ignore it or allow for aging but placing Flash’s origin in the 21st Century was a mistake. The whole story is based on time travel and while Professor Zoom comes from the future allowing him to be able to change so many events creates more questions than answers.

Scalped #44 – Writer Jason Aaron , Art Davide Furno

What I Liked – It was a good strong story all the way until the ending. Nitz is the fast talking loose cannon loser of an FBI agent with a hard on for Red Crow. When he is fired from the FBI for incompetence it is easy to see what was coming. It all made sense until the rabbit was pulled out of the hat.

What I Didn’t Like – Furno’s art is too loose and not as strong as the regular artist and other guest artists. I think it is a slight negative for this book as my standards are high for this comic. The rabbit out of the hat destroyed the entire story. Nitz goes to commit suicide by taking out a meth lab on his own. Not only does he kill all but one bad guy, who offs himself, but he manages to become an FBI hero as the lab was run by Islamic terrorists. It was too pat of an answer that allows Nitz to now have some clout with the FBI to continue to pursue Red Crow. This is not the level of writing and storytelling that Scalped usually has and it was a disappointment in an otherwise great series and easily one of the best books of 2010.

That puts a wrap on this week. One more book I would like to mention is Incognito Bad Influences #2. Ed Brubaker dedicated the book to his Dad who passed away at Halloween. It was a heartfelt dedication and a tribute to a father who loved and cared about his son. This was a class thing to do and nice to see that type of sentiment. I hope I have a positive influence on my girls as Ed’s Dad did for him.


  1. Jim,

    I thought Spider-Girl #2 (part B) was atrocious for a lot of the reasons you mentioned. They should have delayed the book and let Henry finish it. Maybe I'll have more to say on it this weekend. Anyway, I'm not necessarily off the book yet, but I'm close.

  2. What went unanswered for you in Lost?

  3. Yeesh, comics fans are a fickle bunch. So everyone loves the first issue of Spider-Girl and everyone is ready to jump off it with a shaky second issue? I thought the tone of this issue was off, but I'd think Tobin's body of work would garner a few issues of good will to see how this pans out.

  4. Also, I know I'm always complaining about how Geoff Johns is undoing all the stuff I read growing up, but I was kinda ticked off he undid the origin story for Reverse Flash we got in Waid's Return of Barry Allen. I really thought that was one of the best arch nemesis' origins ever. Meh. I'm going to go be bitter.

  5. Greg,
    I'm not jumping off yet. Anyone can have an off issue, but the editors should have at least made sure the first few were okay to keep the momentum going.