DCnU Timeline v2.1 (+ rant)

Version 2.1 is here!  Why 2.1?  Well this is basically version 2 but with a rant about Crisis events due to a recent message from Didio countering an older interview of Harras and Berganza.

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DCnU Timeline v1

So DC gave us a “relaunch” where bits are the same, others erased, and the general timeline crunched down due to de-aging many (but not all) of the characters.  Due to this I at least am very confused on how everything fits in.  So with the help of the other bloggers, I’ve decided to piece together a timeline.

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Top 5 Best Comics of February 2010

With March half over, I think now’s a good time for this list, yes? I read 17 comics in February, and these were the best.

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Review: Blackest Night #7

Coming off a semi-strong pair of issues, Blackest Night #7 is something of a mess, filled with almost-action scenes that cut in too late and then leave before anything is done.  To those reading all the tie-ins, this issue must have been fabulous: at least from what I can tell, Johns did his best to throw in nods to all the major running tie-ins.  Abandoning the obsessive, almost signature exposition that accompanies so much of Johns’ work, the unlucky reader is instead dropped in and out of situations that mean very little without rhyme or reason.  None of it is particularly hard to follow – all the Corps show up and fight Black Lanterns, the Earthbound heroes show up and fight Black Lanterns, Dove is alive now and fighting Black Lanterns (or, more specifically, she merely seems to exist in the general direction of Black Lanterns, and then they die) – but just because I understood what was happening doesn’t make it enjoyable.  Despite a questionable late-issue revelation about the origin of life, the issue is saved by the occasional inclusion of some excellent character work.

While Reis’ pencils are fine, the ceaseless black atmosphere continues to take its toll on him, detracting from the art as things tend to get muddy.  To combat that, of course, all the living heroes are coated constantly in monochrome neon lights, obscuring action but color-coding the story for us in case we forget Lex Luthor is supposed to be greedy just because he is now incapable of doing anything but screaming “MINE” over and over.  The best that can be said about this effect is that it’s certainly unique, so I suppose we’ll stick with that.

Blackest Night was designed to be just about the simplest book imaginable – larger-than-life heroes and villains thrown together against a common enemy, hell, the greatest enemy: Death itself.  To that end, while the green rings don’t make the Corps any Will-ier and the yellow rings don’t terrify whoever puts them on, the other rings all seem to rewrite their bearers into one-dimensional caricatures.  Unfortunately, by reducing the setting to caricatures fighting caricatures in a set of spastic action beats spread across multiple titles, Blackest Night has also managed to strip away everything essential to the story.  Johns is a gifted creator capable of so much more, but Blackest Night has collapsed under its own weight.

Grade: D

– Cal Cleary

Blackest Night #6

Blackest Night #5

Review: The Question #37

The Question #37 continues the trend of disappointing Blackest Night tie-ins that aren’t so much bad as they are incomplete.  Teaming up Denny O’Neil, renowned Batman-family scribe and writer behind The Question’s longest-running solo title, and Greg Rucka, the writer who shepherded Vic Sage to his ultimate fate and has written his legacy ever since, was a brilliant idea at heart, allowing the two eras of the Question to be reconciled a little more fully. Unfortunately, given a full issue to work with, O’Neil and Rucka, working with art team Cowan and Sienkiewicz, end up turning in what feels like half a story.

Cowan and Sienkiewicz turn in atmospheric art that works well in the build-up, but slows the action down a bit too much.  The three-way fight between these gifted martial artists (or the preceding one-on-one fight) should not be quite as static as it is, and while Cowan and Sienkiewicz have the bleak, oppressive “Blackest Night” feel down pat, they don’t quite manage to balance it with the actual content of the book.

Ultimately, The Question #37 feels more like the beginning of a very traditional arc.  The creative team is extremely comfortable with it, and it shows as the issue is quite polished, a smooth, quick read that builds off pre-established relationships without too much exposition.  Finishing the issue, however, just leaves you with a vague emptiness.  Reviving beloved fan-favorite titles from cancellation was a brilliant marketing concept, but a one-issue round of fisticuffs just doesn’t satisfy the same niche that these books did when they were alive.  Just like the Black Lanterns they came back with, this latest month of tie-ins has all the trappings of the beloved titles, but lacks heart.

Grade: C+

– Cal Cleary

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Review: Wonder Woman #40 & Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #3 (of 3)

Wonder Woman #40

Simone and Lopresti start their new arc, “The Crows”, with #40.  Featuring the Amazonian children fathered by Ares, Simone does a fine job setting up a new and fascinating conflict for Diana.  Much like all the best issues of Rucka’s run, Simone presents the heroine with a new kind of challenge: public relations.  Of course, there it was because Wonder Woman released a particularly incendiary book, while here, it’s the Crows’ supernatural influence to spread the seeds of war, but the fundamentals remain the same.

Lopresti remains an impressive talent, and he’s given the Crows a suitably creepy feel.  For a character so dedicated to spreading hope, love and tolerance as Wonder Woman, the Crows are a natural enemy, and one I hope Simone does not abandon lightly.  Coming fresh of the heels of a few excellent arcs, however, I think it’s safe to say that she’s earned our trust on the book.  The set-up here is more exciting than some of her recent arcs on the book, and it combines Simone’s excellent characterization with a quicker pace and some fun new enemies.  Definitely a winner.

Grade: B+

Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #3 (of 3)

Ah, Blackest Night: Wonder Woman.  You started so strong, a stellar display of a fine heroine confronting her past in a sensible, exciting manner.  But the more ties you had to the main Blackest Night mini… well, here you end.  Blackest Night: Wonder Woman is less a story than a series of three largely unconnected one-shots intended to fill in the questions the main mini never touched on.  If you very, very desperately need to know what Wonder Woman is doing between the panels of Blackest Night (the answer: fighting Black Lanterns), the mini is for you.  Otherwise, however, it largely squanders a pair of great talents on a middling-at-best issue with no real reason to exist.

Scott still turns in exciting, gorgeous work, though even she has trouble making Wonder Woman’s Star Sapphire costume look right.  Despite Scott’s work and Rucka’s talent, however, Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #3 remains a mundane, unnecessary tie-in, too bound by continuity to explore anything particularly fascinating but not nearly important enough to matter to the main narrative.

Grade: D+

– Cal Cleary

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Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #2

Top 5 Best Comics of January 2010

I read 17 comics in January, and these were the best.

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Review: Suicide Squad #67

The month of January will see the latest, and most ingenious, of DC’s “Blackest Night” cash-grabs as they go after that ever-elusive audience that absolutely despises what Big Event Mentality has done to an industry that can’t even approach affording it (so, uh, me) by reviving a selection of critically-beloved fan-favorite titles that were cancelled (or ended) some time ago.  This begins this week with Weird Western Tales #71 (which I will not be covering unless someone at DC wants to send me a free copy… please?) and Suicide Squad #67.  Co-written by John Ostrander and Gail Simone, Suicide Squad #67 has precious little to do with Blackest Night, and is all the better for it.

Instead, Ostrander and Simone use it to kick off a new Secret Six arc, featuring a three-way battle between the Suicide Squad, the Secret Six and the ‘Homicide Squad’, the Black Lantern members of each team, out for blood.  Though it seems like this could get chaotic and cluttered, especially given the size of each team and the B/C-list nature of its characters, but Simone and Ostrander handle it well, keeping things light and extraordinarily exciting, with the usual dark touch of humor.

Calafiore does excellent work on art, capturing the eerie intensity of the Black Lanterns and the easy violence of… well, every character in the book.  The book’s many action sequences are quick and exciting, and Calafiore does an excellent job setting up the pace and keeping the action moving.  It may not be important to the events of the main mini, but it is nonetheless a thoroughly satisfying tie-in, keeping things quick and trusting the audience to catch up.

Grade: A-

– Cal Cleary

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Secret Six #16

Review: Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #2

Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #1 was an exciting, well-written dive into Wonder Woman’s character.  There were some clunky moments as Rucka tried to shoehorn in the fact that Diana very clearly would become a Star Sapphire in the near future, but otherwise, it was one of the event’s few true bright spots.  Comparatively, Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #2 is a fairly confused mess of an issue.

Beginning after Wonder Woman became a Black Lantern in an incomprehensible scene in Blackest Night #5, BN:WW#1 doesn’t even attempt to fill its readers in of this fact, confident that everyone alive is reading Blackest Night.  This gives it more a feeling of the second one-shot in a series of three than any sort of ongoing narrative.  Rucka manages to give Wonder Woman more of a personality than we’ve seen any Black Lantern thus far display, which manages sidesteps the idea that they are peresonalitiless husks being worn by the black rings.  It also means that most of the issue’s genuine conflict is taking place beneath the surface of the fairly placid Black Lantern Wonder Woman exterior, which Rucka and Scott never quite get to work as well as it could.  A late game twist makes sense for the character and the mythology, but takes away any sense of consequence for the issue, while also reintroducing one of the character’s most boring romances.

Scott’s work remains utterly gorgeous (though not even she could save the hideous WW Star Sapphire costume).  Her crisp rendering of Black Lantern Diana, the BL insignia now etched into her tiara and ax, is a lovely sight to behold, and her action scenes are smooth, exciting and, at times, surprisingly brutal.  Her work, and Rucka’s ability to write a powerful, intriguing Diana save the issue from hitting the depths it otherwise may have, but make no mistake: Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #2 is utterly trivial.

Grade: C+

– Cal Cleary

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Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #1

Review: Blackest Night #6

After the bizarre camp of Blackest Night #5, I was expecting #6 to be a letdown.  Despite a few of those old familiar moments of Hal/Barry-wankery (Superman is standing 5 feet away from the ring, but it seeks Barry Allen out as the figure in the world who most inspires hope?), this issue was actually quite enjoyable.  Like the last two (and unlike, in large part, the early issues) there was some forward momentum in the plot, some threads finally converged, and, briefly, the book was about more than how awesome Hal Jordan and Barry Allen are.  It even manages a few semi-inspiring moments – seeing Ganthet don a ring, or seeing the new (and crazier) Rainbow Corps arrive at the end, just to name a pair of examples.

The book’s brightest moments are hindered by some inordinately clumsy set-up, but overall, Blackest Night is finally picking up.  It remains a deeply flawed book, but it has become an exciting, deeply flawed book, and if it is predictable, the predictability of the last few issues has made seeing the events come to pass all the more satisfying, rather than ruining them.  Reis’ art looks much better this issue as we step away from the drab black backgrounds in favor of a mish-mash of color in every panel.  Overall, the book’s improvement over the last few issues gives me hope for the mini’s conclusion.

Grade: B

– Cal Cleary

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Blackest Night #5

Blackest Night #4

Review: Blackest Night: JSA #1

Hey everyone.  Expect another BEST OF list in the next few days.  Until then, we here at Read/RANT will be taking things a little slow for the holiday season.  Hope you all enjoy the next week or two, and we’ll be back with the same excellent reviews in 2010!

The same creative team that brought you Blackest Night: Superman is back for another tie-in mini-series, this time focusing on the Justice Society of America.  Following directly after the Superman mini, Blackest Night: JSA follows the team after the death of Damage in the main Blackest Night book.  While the core group tries to hold off the superzombies that are wreaking havoc on the city, Mr. Terrific and a few others remain hidden inside the JSA compound, examining the bodies of zombie Superman and zombie Lois Lane.

The story here is a little tighter than it was in Blackest Night: Superman and the script is a little more believable, but the action is weaker and the suspense that made the first half of the Superman mini so engaging is all but gone.  Barrows is notably stronger here than he was on Blackest Night: Superman as the action is more straightforward and the atmosphere pretty much amounts to “it’s dark out”.  Robinson and Barrows work together here to put out an enjoyable mediocre action tie-in.  Fans of Blackest Night will probably find much to enjoy.  No one else will care.

Grade: B-

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Blackest Night: Superman #3

Review: Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #1

Much like Blackest Night: The Flash #1, Wonder Woman #1 is set entirely in the build-up to Blackest Night #5.  And much like Blackest Night: The Flash #1, Wonder Woman #1 offers a fair bit of continuity reminders, though it never stops the story completely to give them and they’re never unnecessary.  Unlike the week’s other Blackest Night mini, however, Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #1 also offers a fairly interesting look at one of comics’ hardest heroes to write, and it does so with very, very few flaws.

Narrated to mimic Simone’s current run, Rucka makes a good impression right off the bat.  It continues throughout, as he combines a narrative that cuts to the character’s core with plenty of enjoyable banter.  Few writers have grasped Diana quite the way Rucka has, and even working off of Simone’s recent model of the character, there’s little doubt in this single issue what she stands for.  An enemy that would give most heroes a great deal of pause for angst is instead dealt with in a logical, strangely mature manner here as Wonder Woman displays that she’s more than come to terms with killing Maxwell Lord, and Rucka leaves me genuinely curious as to how he’ll deal with Black Lantern Diana next month.

Nicola Scott does absolutely lovely work here, as she always does.  Her action segments are smooth and clear without ever seeming static, her characters are all distinct.  Brief sigh gags, like Lord meditating, head on backwards, introduce brief moments of levity, but Rucka mostly uses the issue as a character study of Diana, and Scott is game to provide all the drama and emotion he wants underlying the large scenes of mayhem and carnage.

With “Life is much more than seven simple colors,” Rucka cuts closer to the heart of Blackest Night and the War of Light than any writer thus far.  Wonder Woman is a complex character, and Rucka smartly acknowledges that completely independently of where she exists on the emotional spectrum.  Wonder Woman cares, and that in no way hampers her ability to fight the Black Lanterns.  Rucka and Scott do more with Wonder Woman in this one issue than the last three events combined have managed.  I can’t wait to see what they do next.

Grade: A-

Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Review: Blackest Night: The Flash #1

Geoff Johns, at his best and at his worst.  Blackest Night: The Flash #1 seems utterly trivial to the overall mini, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it stayed that way, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.  Following, alternately, Barry Allen in the events leading up to the Coast City reveal of Nekron and the Rogues, pissed that someone is defiling their legacy, Blackest Night: The Flash writes its title character into something of a corner for this mini, though the reintroduction of Eobard Thawn could have ramifications down the line, by setting itself BEFORE the last issue of Blackest Night we read.

That would be less of a problem if it focused more heavily on the Rogues.  Undoubtedly the book’s strongest segments, the all-too-brief moments with the Rogues shine here.  While Barry’s by-the-books struggle moves at a snails pace, especially since Johns, quite literally, pauses every few pages to give us in-depth information about utterly inconsequential continuity tidbits, the Rogues promise an exciting blend of horror and action.  Every one of the book’s memorable moments comes from one of the Rogues’ moments, which makes it a shame they share so little of Barry’s spotlight.

See, for example, the page where they decide to go confront the undead old Rogues terrorizing Iron Heights – while Kolins’ tense, overly-posed segments with Barry Allen look strangely static for a book about the fastest man alive, he seemed to have fun with a brief appearance by Black Lantern Mirror Master, who had been spying on the Rogues’ meeting and, as soon as they left, destroyed the mirror they would use to return to the lair.  Creepy and well-styled, it very much fits the tone the book badly wants, but Kolins frequent Flash pages, outside of a few moments near the end of the book, are uninspired.

Uninspired seems like a good way to describe most of the issue, in fact.  There’s a lot of set-up, but most of it just told us things we already knew – in fact, it showed us things we’ve already seen.  Rather than telling a story, Blackest Night: The Flash #1 seems to be meticulously noting continuity and timing, a perfectionist’s dream that makes for some dreary storytelling.  The remarkably low-energy start to this three-issue mini isn’t promising, but the last-page splash of the Rogues’ walking into their old prison, intent on shooting up some zombies, suggests that maybe Johns knows what he’s doing after all.

Grade: C+

– Cal Cleary

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Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge #3

Review: Blackest Night #5

Welcome back to Read/RANT, everyone – I hope you enjoyed your week off.  I know I did!  And while I traveled far and wide for my pre-Thanksgiving Break break, I’m back now and ready to review.  And what better place to start than everyone’s favorite book to see us read…

Blackest Night #5

Blackest Night #5 was, for my money, easily the strongest issue of the series to date.  Two major weak spots hurt it, but otherwise, it was a relatively exciting, action-packed issue that finally realized that Johns has no skill whatsoever with horror.  Instead, despite the grim tone and overly dark art, Blackest Night #5 was almost campy fun, and while the sudden tonal shift of the book from action-horror to action-dark camp may throw some readers off, it was a welcome, if strange, shift.

Johns had me seriously worried as the book opened, suddenly shifting to an introduction featuring characters we haven’t seen on a quest we knew nothing about.  While that’s just about always a bad narrative choice, and one that added nothing whatsoever to the book here, the extended introduction at least had the courtesy to be as cheesy and brightly colored as it could be.  The other problem moment is harder to mention without spoiling a major twist, so consider the remainder of this paragraph to be a spoiler: Batman’s sudden, bizarre, momentary resurrection, in which everyone was super surprised and called him by his real name before he vomited up a few Black Lantern rings with batwings that killed Superman, Wonder Woman (whose golden lasso immediately turns black, apropos of nothing at all) and pretty much everyone else except Hal and Barry before he promptly re-died.

End spoilers.

Reis continues to do fine work on art, though the book’s relentless darkness hurts his art far more than it helps.  His crisp illustrations often come off as muddied as everything that isn’t surrounded by an omnipresent black goo is instead coated in neon bright light.  Despite that, however, he is still doing a fine job, and the contrast between the lanterns’ lights and the muddy dark further aids the book in achieving its bizarrely over-the-top tone.

Blackest Night is still deeply flawed, but at least it’s become fun, a relatively enjoyable issue of so-bad-it’s-good storytelling with a slew of color-themed one-liners and minor art blips that cause Bart Allen to, despite standing only a foot or so away, only come up to Wonder Woman’s knees.  It also featured what was very probably the book’s strongest action segments and a few more hints to set up the upcoming big finale.  While it’s hardly A-list storytelling, at least it isn’t taking itself quite so seriously anymore.

Grade: B

– Cal Cleary

Blackest Night #4

Blackest Night #3

Mini-Reviews

Arkham Reborn #1 (of 3)

Arkham

With the popularity of the absolutely stellar Batman: Arkham Asylum and the recent relaunch of the Bat-franchise, it should come as no surprise that Gotham’s infamous Arkham Asylum would get its own miniseries.  After the mass breakout from the Asylum and subsequent explosion, Jeremiah Arkham, ancestor of the Asylum’s original designer, has taken it upon himself to continue the grand, bumbling legacy of the world’s only criminal institution with a revolving door.

Hine does a good job building the book slowly, despite the fact that the entire mini-series is only three issues long.  Here we meet Arkham’s new staff, specifically Jeremiah Arkham, who believes in curing Gotham’s madmen with love and respect; Alyce Sinner, sole survivor of a massive suicide cult and expert on the criminally insane; and Aaron Cash, now Arkham’s head of security and one of the tragic figures to come out of Dan Slott’s excellent Arkham Asylum: Living Hell.  Jeremiah has met with some small success in his bid to rehabilitate, but we know that the laws of comic book storytelling says that that can’t last – Dr. Sinner soon betrays him, revealing the Asylum’s dark, heinous underbelly in a bid to keep things crazy.

There’s nothing unpredictable here, but Hine does a good job setting the mood and introducing everyone, while artist Jeremy Haun turns in excellent work on all fronts, designing a few new characters and an all-new Arkham and still managing to craft a few extremely memorable images.  The pair seem well-suited, and while it seems that the entire mini’s purpose is to keep Arkham Asylum the same hellhole it has been these past few years, at least they seem to be having plenty of fun with it.

Grade: B+

Detective Comics #858

Tec858

Years after the character was introduced and months into her first solo title, “Go” marks our first foray into the origins of Kate Kane.  Growing up moving from military base to military base, Kate and Beth Kane really only had each other growing up.  A few issues back, it was hinted that something bad happened to her growing up, and now we see what that is: after earning a post in France, Mrs. Kane, Kate and Beth were kidnapped by terrorists during a security alert.  While Kate couldn’t see what was happening to her mother and sister, the aftermath certainly left an impression.

Rucka’s storytelling is far more solid here than in the previous arc, perhaps due to the shortened arc’s tighter focus.  Whatever the reason, the issue provides a quick, tragic glimpse of an origin that didn’t go at all where I thought it would, and was wrapped up in a single issue, leaving next month for the fallout.  J.H. Williams III makes an abrupt shift in style for the bulk of the issue, giving the flashback to Kate’s youth a vastly more structured layout and color-palette.  The contrast between the two time-periods is gorgeous and memorable, once again suggesting Williams as one of comics’ top talents.

The Question back-up finally wrapped up its opening arc with this issue.  The lack of room the story had, confined as it was to these back pages, took away from some of the suspense the story might’ve had if it had had more room to build up an atmosphere or throw us a plot twist or two, but it has nonetheless remained a consistently entertaining action comic, thanks in part to Rucka’s collaborator, Cully Hamner, whose layouts and art make it a joy to watch Renee in motion.

Between the issue’s two parts, Detective Comics features a pair of artists at the top of their games, anchored by strong writing of two fascinating new heroines.  It’s well-worth your time.

Grade: B+

Astro City: Astra Special #2 (of 2)

Astra2

Astro City: Astra Special concludes on a high note.  Anyone who has graduated college can relate to what Astra is going through as she continues to tell her boyfriend Matthew about the increasingly bizarre possibilities open to a young woman of her immense talents.  From mundane jobs with research institutes on Earth to a chance to untie, one world at a time, a series of realities knotted together by a madman’s destructive last act, Astra has, for the first time in her life, no idea what to do next.

While the other part of the book will probably resonate less with others, using a now-grown child heroine to look at and condemn our deranged obsession with celebrity culture largely works.  Though there are a few painful, relatively clunky moments, Busiek works hard to keep the emotions honest and keep it all part of Astra’s story.

Astro City: Astra Special combines Jack Kirby’s flare for bizarre cosmic world-building with a more grounded, human story.  Anderson’s pencils are much improved when he’s dealing with these larger-than-life concepts, and together the pair brings us a small-in-scope, massive-in-scale story about the pains of growing up.  It isn’t the most memorable Astro City story, but it’s honest and entertaining, and continues to flesh out the best setting in comics.

Grade: A-

Blackest Night: Superman #3 (of 3)

BNSuper

Blackest Night: Superman, which started out so much vastly stronger than the other “Blackest Night” related books, ends here more with a whimper than with a bang.  The book does have some interesting revelations about the weaknesses of the Black Lanterns, as well as an explanation for what New Krypton is up to throughout the event, but it amounts to little more than that, in the end.

Despite its failure to live up to its own eerie opening issue, Blackest Night: Superman #3 nonetheless offered solid action illustrated by Eddie Barrows doing what he’s most comfortable doing, with (perhaps sadly) the best writing Robinson’s been doing, lately.  Robinson continues to use the emotional spectrum’s color-coding to vastly more effect than the main mini to give us a neat, inside peak into the characters heads in otherwise wordless scenes, a trick that works especially well with Psycho Pirate in the mix.  Ultimately, Blackest Night: Superman isn’t bad.  It’s just forgettable.

Grade: B

Mini-Grade: B

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Astro City: Astra Special #1

Blackest Night: Superman #2

Detective Comics #857

Review: Blackest Night #4

BlackestNight4

We’ve finally hit the halfway point of Blackest Night, and as some of our readers have noted, we here at Read/RANT haven’t been particularly kind to the deeply flawed semi-horror event.  This issue illustrates a marked improvement over the past issues, and it somehow comes as no surprise that the title’s strongest issue is its least Hal-centric.  Yes, the Halwankery still comes on thick and strong in a few portions of the book, particularly when Johns’ other comicrush, the omnipresent Barry Allen, is speaking.  However, the issue also provides a couple of the book’s strongest moments, most notably a Geoff Johns Shock Ending (TM) that actually mostly works within the narrative.

This issue was extremely action heavy.  In fact, this issue was, with the exception of a couple pages of Ray Palmer, Mera and Barry Allen talking, just about every page had some violence on it.  It is perhaps this apocalyptic focus that helps the issue escape the worst of Johns’  tendencies.  Only one major legacy characters get blandly murdered and no women, and for all that Barry can’t seem to help but suggest that the only way to fight this is to ‘be like Hal’, the rest of the characters seem to be taking the apocalypse with the appropriate amount of fear and courage.  He even manages to slip in a few clever character beats largely absent from previous issues, like the Scarecrow wandering around a monochromatic Gotham City, immune to the Black Lanterns because his emotions are so deadened he hardly registers.

Reis continues to turn in strong work.  While the sheer number of Black Lanterns has dampened any terror there might have been at their appearance, he seems to have enjoyed crafting their new look immensely.  The action sequences are large in scale and well-illustrated, though a tad too dark.  Meanwhile, colorist Alex Sinclair is used sparingly to illustrate the emotional spectrum, but when he does, he’s gotten on board with the Blackest Night: Superman idea of allowing the characters to feel more than one thing at any given time.

Blackest Night continues to be deeply flawed.  That said, as the series marches on, it seems to be getting stronger and finding its voice.  This issue dropped almost all of the book’s failed pretensions of horror in favor of a dark, gothic, very traditional superhero story, a tonal shift that can only work in the title’s favor.  With the already-spoiled Nekron reveal, Johns and Co. have moved on to the next stage of their story.  Let’s hope they continue to trend towards a decent story.

Grade: B-

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Blackest Night #3

Review: Justice League of America #38

JLA38

I think that, when it comes to Read/RANT, I’m the resident James Robinson fan.  It isn’t easy these days.  Go back a few years, and there were few who would dispute Robinson as a top-notch creator.  Admittedly, many hadn’t heard of him, nor had they read the title that earned him such accolades… but that just meant they couldn’t really dispute the claim.  Now, however, Robinson has failed to produce a truly successful follow up to Starman, instead giving readers a string of mediocre-to-bad comics, from his uneven Superman to his downright laughable Justice League: Cry for Justice.  And yet, with many of Starman‘s fans, good will remains.  His newest, and arguably his highest profile book to date, hit yesterday as he takes over writing duties on Justice League of America with issue #38.

Unfortunately, there’s little of value in Justice League of America #38.  Robinson opens the issue with the death of Blue Jay, insults Young Justice on the following page, and then introduces Gypsy by having her brought in unconscious and thrown around by Despero.  It’s hard to describe that sequence of events without at least imagining that Robinson is slyly satirizing the recent trend to piss off fans of the critically-praised, beloved JLI and Young Justice, but he plays it so straight and with so little heart that it almost seems incidental to everything else.

Led by Vixen, a group of heroes battered by Prometheus in Justice League: Cry for Justice has gathered in the headquarters of the original Justice League to discuss the future of the group.  Vixen, Dr. Light, Plastic Man and Red Tornado can think of few reasons why the team should exist, let alone any world in which they could be the glue that holds it together, but a surprise attack by Despero unites the four injured heroes with Gypsy and Zatanna.  Together, they manage to fend off the attacker, and that’s when we get the real news: this is a “Blackest Night” tie-in.  Taking place at the exact same time as the events of Blackest Night #3, the newly-formed Justice League decides to crash the Hall of Justice and confront the now-undead villains, seemingly led by the malevolent Dr. Light.

Mark Bagley, recent superstar of DC’s Trinity, does a fine job on the art.  His style is extremely traditional – impossibly thin, curvy women and enormous, muscle-bound men – but that hardly hurts the issue.  The action segments flow smoothly and he keeps the dialogue-driven scenes running well, too, most notably because of Plastic Man, who looks increasingly as though he’s about to fall apart as the issue progresses.

This is a book that I very much wanted to like.  A Justice League comprised of Vixen, Zatanna, Plastic Man, Red Tornado, Gypsy and Kimiyo Hoshi is… well, that’s a pretty damn interesting team, and there are a lot of stories to be told.  Unfortunately, Robinson takes the easy way out – a whole lot of exposition broken up by a brief brawl with a bland baddie. The issue does not suggest that we will see the clever, character-driven action and well-constructed drama for which Robinson justly became a star.  Justice League of America looks to remain, at least for now, a book desperately struggling to find a voice, tone or interesting creative direction.

Grade: C-

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Top 5 Best Comics of September 2009

Boring introduction! I read 21 comics in September, and these were the best.

 

5. Green Lantern #46

Hey, Green Lantern is great again! We know Mahnke’s art is going to blow our minds, but Johns pulled his weight too, delivering the gore he’s so fond of. There was a lot of progression here, featuring a fight that’s been brewing for a long time. Sinestro and Mongul’s conclusion is not only drawn well, Johns gives each baddie a fun monologue, dripping with a bit of truth. Indeed, for a brief time, Johns made me believe that Mongul could actually win. Loud, bloody, and just the kind of cosmic fun that Johns wants you to have.

4. Wolverine: Old Man Logan Giant Size

It all ends. It was the worth the wait, but for Millar’s part of it, this issue played out exactly how you’d expect, which would’ve been a dull experience, except for the reason we’re all here: Steve McNiven. Just about every panel in here is iconic, ready to be framed on your wall. No matter what silly cliché Millar wrote, McNiven made it sing. However, the writing’s not all bad. This issue pays great tribute to Wolverine’s character as a whole, blending his Western and Eastern ways together. So, even on that corny, Lone Wolf & Cub-inspired last page, I smiled.

3. Detective Comics #857

Another conclusion, what can I say? Those are usually great issues. Alright, Rucka’s opening Batwoman arc hasn’t had as much substance as I’d like, but something we can all agree on is the talent of Williams. We haven’t seen Kate’s origin yet, but she’s already a fully-developed character, mostly due to Williams himself. That continues here, of course, as Williams gets to render some dazzling stunts, with Kate jumping from plane to plane, kicking her way to Alice. Speaking of Alice, this issue delivers a twist with her that I didn’t see coming at all, and it was telegraphed, even on the cover. The twist works, not only to shock us, but as a brilliant window into Kate’s past.

Seventh Soldier’s Review

2. Dark Reign: The List – X-Men

I read most of these specials, and this is probably the only one that’s actually a one-shot. Fraction doesn’t conform. This isn’t about political nonsense or the status quo. Fraction gives us the simple tale of revenge, and it works very well. A great deal of that credit goes to Alan Davis. He makes this absurd, spandex-clad medium lyrical. Consider the scene at the end, with Namor, Osborn, and the Sentry. In Davis’ hands, this simple scene becomes a grand confrontation between legends. Superman and Luthor could easily replace Namor and Osborn, and Sentry’s inclusion is the icing on the cake.

1. Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Exodus

I, like many of you, wasn’t very impressed with this crossover. Fraction’s characterizations were still superb, but the plot seemed to contain nothing but buildup. Well, that all culminated with Exodus, and what a culmination. The epic battle between teams is there, with almost every character utilized. Deals with the devil, an old New Avengers callback, and a new status quo makes this the most explosive comic of the month, and the best too.

For more comic goodness, go here.