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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Top Ten Best Comics of 2009

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Better late than never, eh? This is my list for the top ten stories of 2009! Woo hoo! Now, before we get to all the fun of me voicing my opinions and you disagreeing with them, I have to get a few rules out of the way.

1. These are the top ten stories/arcs/whatever. Not comic in general, not trade, but best stories (What can I say, I’m trying to be somewhat unique).

2. These are stories that ended in 2009. They could begin at any time, but as long as they concluded in 2009, they’re eligible.

3. I tried to keep the list as diverse and reader-friendly as possible. I love certain writers, but it would be boring if it was three Morrison books, two Kirkman books, etc. So, a writer/artist will only appear once on the list. I tried to spread the love evenly. You will see Marvel, DC, and even indies on this list.

Wow, with all those rules, how did I come up with a great top ten? Well, I hope I did. Anyway, let’s begin the fun!

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Review: Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #3

Dance

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance is a strange little book.  On the one hand, it almost feels as though it doesn’t take place in the DC Universe at all.  We’ve had only a few cursory, generally insulting, references to the Justice League and their big-name heroes.  We’ve seen none of the landmarks of the DCU.  All the locations have been either sci-fi takes on existing cities or places of Casey’s own creation.  And yet, Dance also feels like a quintessential DC book in the way it incorporates the existence of superpowered beings into its setting – with a keen eye for the fantastic, for better or for worse.

Dance #3 is, in many ways, the strongest issue yet.  The Parasitic Teutons of Assimilation are fun, bizarre foes, and are more memorable than the past two.  We see the Most Excellent Superbat hit rock-bottom.  We see how the characters are really reacting to the pressures of being teen celebrities, teen heroes, or just plain teens.  In a way, everything that’s been simmering below the surface of the first two issues bursts out here in a variety of smart, interesting ways.

It also features the return of ChrisCross on art.  He does a great job with the bulk of the issue – his action scenes are dynamic and exciting and the P.T.A. design is a blast – but his faces vacillate wildly between expressive and offputting.  Still, despite that, he does some pretty stellar work here.

But not all is quite well with the issue.  Though it handles them better than previous issues had, it nonetheless feels like a bit of a retread of the problems and realizations we’ve seen before.  Every issue has seen the team realize, in one way or another, that they aren’t getting what they want.  I can totally buy it being difficult for teens to break the routine and try and change – especially at the expense of fame and fortune – but, nonetheless, we’re three issues through a six-issue mini and I don’t know that we’re too much farther along, either in terms of story or in terms of character arcs.

Despite those complaints, however, this was a rock-solid issue of comics.  Casey did a great job at bringing the sexual tensions to bear in the middle of an action-packed, humorous issue.  And, even though he’s the closest thing we have to a narrator, this was the first time we really saw much of the personality of Most Excellent Superbat, who has become a remarkably complex character in the span of three issues.  Still, it feels a bit like Casey is spinning his wheels right now, as though he planned for less than 6 issues and is just killing time for now.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary

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Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #2

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #1

Review: Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #2

Ink2

As you may have seen in my last review, the first issue of Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink was a surprise favorite of mine.  Yes, it’s cliche that the new African American superhero has to deal with gang violence in the ghetto, but comics fans have long since learned that there’s nothing new under the sun: what matters is how you tell it.  And Ink #1 was told with style.  You’ll be pleased to know, then, that #2 continues that trend.

After a bumpy opening detailing a little about the origin of Mark Richards – an origin we didn’t particularly need, with too little space to make it interesting – we get back into the meat of things: Mark’s tattoos are operating independent of him.  He doesn’t know why.  He doesn’t know how.  All he knows is, there’s something big going down and he can’t trust his powers to help him deal with it.

Fiorentino and Dimotta still provide slightly muddied, but generally gorgeously painted interior art.  They shine most notably in the book’s generally well-handled action scenes.  The dramatic tension of some scenes doesn’t come out quite as well as it might under a clearer art team, but it rarely impacts the read as a whole.

The book still deals heavily with gang violence and corrupt cops, and I’m completely fine with that.  It’s part of the genre as a whole, and it’s a relatively realistic threat for a character who grew up in a poor neighborhood.  I’m not sure how well, necessarily, Wallace deals with some of the gang members as characters, as they’ve come off as perilously one-note thus far, but the book as a whole is good enough to warrant checking out on a monthly basis despite its frequent, minor flaws.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary

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Other FCA Reviews

Final Crisis Aftermath: Run! #1

Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape #1

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #1

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #2

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #1

Review: Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #2

Dance

As you may have noticed, beyond reading the first issue of Run! and Escape – neither of which impressed me overmuch – the reviews for those two have stopped coming.  Dance, on the other hand, had an impressive first issue.  For all its flaws, it illustrated both creativity and coherence… and, when all’s said and done, it was just plain fun.  Dance #2, despite lacking the crisp, energetic art of Chriscross, manages to improve on the first one in a few ways.

Dance #2 follows the Super Young Team’s continuing marketing blitz at the hands of Hanover, their not-quite-on-the-level manager, as they’re purposely kept away from Japan, where something sinister is going on.  The team wants to prove themselves to the world and illustrate that their help against Mandrakk wasn’t a fluke, but they are, at the end of the day, just kids – they try and do good, but aren’t entirely sure how best to do it.  

The replacement artists, Andre Coelho and Eduardo Pansica, do a fine job on the issue, representing a relatively minor stylistic shift from Chriscross, and if they don’t have quite the same amount of energy he did, chances are you’ll find that it hardly matters.  That might change in the trade, where you’ll likely be reading the complete series in a sitting, but thus far it seems as though DC has chosen the replacements well.

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance is a fun, flashy series that flesh out some of the DCU’s most interesting new characters.  Reminiscent of a super-powered Buffy the Vampire Slayer in it’s bizarre, monster-of-the-week style storytelling that can be seen as a way of looking at the challenges teens face, the book is definitely worth checking out.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary

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Review: Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #1

Dance

So far, I haven’t been terribly flattering to the Final Crisis Aftermath branding.  Run! was too generic and too slow as the first issue of an action book – and I can’t imagine it aspired to anything more than that – while Escape offered absolutely nothing in the opening issue unless you really like LOST, but thought it could use more superheroing.  The third of the four titles, Dance, seemed like it should be the hardest to do – comics does action and intrigue quite well, but there aren’t many comics that deal in teens trying to grow up; rather, most tend to revel in their angst without understanding where it comes from.

Dance #1, for all its flaws, cannot be accused of falling into many old stereotypes.  It is ceaselessly active and endlessly creative, sometimes in a way that almost reminds me of Joss Whedon’s better moments.  Much like Escape, there are plenty of small, clever touches – rather than caption boxes, we get tweets from the ever-connected Most Excellent Superbat, to give one example – that make the issue a bit more fun, and it’s needed.  Though we get more from the issue than we did from Escape in terms of action, drama and characterization, this issue is, nonetheless, pure setup for what is to come, offering only hints at the overall story – or even that there is one.

Chriscross does fine work with the art, never worrying about the drive in comics towards hyperrealism in many ways and not being afraid to shift back and forth from some of the weirder moments of the issue – the ghost of a pre-70s Japanese monster-hunter, a really quite pretty sequence of dance moves from Well-Spoken Sonic Lightning Flash – on to darker subjects like the devestation of post-Darkseid Midway City.

The Super Young Team wants to grow up, but they are a product of their generation.  I am reminded, of all things, of a quote from the recently aired FOX pilot “Glee”: “Nowadays, being anonymous is worse than being poor. Fame is the most important thing in our culture now – and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, its that no one’s just gonna hand it to you.”  In a lot of ways, that sums up the Super Young Team pretty well, or it did.  Casey throws in hints of maturation, but on the whole, the issue gives Dance a promising start.  Maybe the petty angsts of the modern Titans will finally be supplanted by a more interesting take on the concept.

Grade: B

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Review: Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape! #1

FCAEscape

Of the Final Crisis Aftermath titles announced a few months back, Escape seemed like the worst fit.  Why had the Global Peace Agency so rapidly gone what seems to be bat-shit crazy?  Wait, Nemesis?  And who the hell is this writer?  Nothing was clicking for me as I read the description, but Final Crisis left me with good will, and I loved the cover art, so I decided to check out the first issue and see if it came together for me as I read.

Unfortunately, it never did.

Now, to clarify, this is not to say that I think that Brandon is unskilled or that the series will not come together.  The issue gave me a great deal of hope that, as a collection, it could be quite an interesting read, thanks to a dozen or more small touches that ratchet up the suspense and mystery.  Unfortunately, as a single issue, it follows the worst of the LOST stereotypes – all questions, no answers, no sense, no grounding.  There are familiar faces, but they are hardly recognizable as the characters we knew, and since we have little to no idea what’s going on here, there is little reason to get invested.  

Rudy’s art complements the twisty nature of the issue.  Though his figures are often rather stiff, he manages to capture the trippy confusion quite well, especially in a brief showdown between Count Vertigo and Cameron Chase.  The panel structure and transitions are also extremely well-handled, helping the issue along in terms of pacing while making sure your eye is always engaged.  When the panel structure helps reinforce the claustrophobic nature of the writing, they’re doing something right.

As a collection, when there is not a month or more between each issue, this may be a book to keep your eye on.  Even the narration occasionally seems to be a part of the mystery as some words and names have been redacted before we read them… but despite the interesting touches Brandon throws in, as an introductory issue, Escape offers little reason to follow it month after month.

Grade: C+

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Review: Final Crisis Aftermath: Run! #1

run

Final Crisis was an epic series – say what you want about the quality, but the scope was undeniably enormous.  When it was announced that there would be a series of titles spinning out of it, I was reluctantly excited.  Though Escape made no sense and had a minor-league creative team at best, the other three had, I felt, some promise.  

Run!, the first of the four minis, does not live up to any of that promise.  Sturges has done some excellent work, most recently over in Blue Beetle, and his Vertigo titles have generally been fairly high quality, but Run! feels bland through and through, with none of the boundless creativity of Final Crisis, the wit demonstrated in Blue Beetle, or the darkly comic horror seen in House of Mystery… and the book desperately needs to be grounded in one of those.

Instead, it, much like last year’s Salvation Run, is a generic book about a villain in over his head.  It is by no means a bad book – the art by Freddie Williams II is great throughout, aptly illustrating just how much of a slob the Human Flame really is – but there just isn’t anything to get excited about.  It’s too slow for a balls-to-the-wall action book, but with no compelling drama to back it up and a purposely witless narrator telling us the story, the human element doesn’t work either.

Final Crisis Aftermath: Run! is a book that could’ve gone anywhere, and, faced with so many choices, couldn’t make up its mind.   Sturges is clearly a competent writer, but he just doesn’t seem to have a handle on villains just yet, and while there are a number of genuinely fun moments in the comic backed up by some solid art, there’s little that begs for five more issues.

Grade: C

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Review: Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #4

Final Crisis Legion Of Three Worlds #4 (of 5)

Final Crisis Legion Of Three Worlds #4 (of 5) (Cover B)

(***)

Nice cover trick, putting Bart on the cover is a nice touch. This series feels like Geoff Johns’ version of Sin City. No, it’s not full of hookers, but like Sin City, this comic is incredibly indulgent. Just about everything and everyone Johns loves is in this book. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Hal Jordan showed up in the last chapter. I won’t even bother to mention that Final Crisis, which finished late, ended three months ago.

I’m actually going to keep this review spoiler-free. I’m pleased with the return in this issue. If you want to know who came back, check this out. Even though there are too many characters returning from the grave, especially in DC, I was happy with this. It had a great “Hell Yeah!” feel to it, and it was explained well. I am, however, not that fond of Bart’s return. The Legion bottled his youth? WTF!? It’s a bit nonsensical.

George Perez provides the art, and it looks very pretty. “Some of his best work,” I would say. However, with the way Johns is writing this comic, and with Perez on the interiors, this really does feel like a 70’s comic, and that’s a bad thing. Now, I’ve talked about how Hulk feels like a modern Stan Lee comic, but it’s still modern. Legion of 3 Worlds seems to be leading the charge of an old man telling kids to get off their lousy skateboards. Attempting to regress the medium is horrible.

However, even with all of this book’s flaws, I’m still enjoying it. This issue is filled with exposition and action. Also, if you’re a fan of Johns’ recent Legion work, there are a couple of nice character moments. Once again, this comic provides a last-page reveal. I have a feeling that a lot of fans are going to be pissed about it.

For more comic goodness, go here.

Review: Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #3

Final Crisis Legion Of Three Worlds #3 (of 5) (Cover B)

(***1/2)

The third issue is here! Only two issues of Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds left. Final Crisis…already concluded? Yeah, that’s pretty ridiculous. I find it amusing that Final Crisis finished one month after it was supposed to and everybody bitched about the delays. I haven’t heard any complaints about this book’s punctuality. I think it’s nice that Morrison included LO3W into Final Crisis continuity. So, in FC #3, Superman goes into Superman Beyond to save Lois. He returns immediately. Then he goes to LO3W. The Legion have always returned him to the right moment in the past, but this time he comes back in FC #6 to find Batman dead and Earth in the firm grasp of Darkseid. Oops! I hope Johns actually mentions this in the fifth issue. If not, why wasn’t this called, “Buy Adventure Comics!”

Having said all that, I actually do enjoy this series. It’s kind of a Silver Age throwback with a modern twist. That’s a good summary of most Geoff Johns books, actually. It’s not just Perez’s art. It also shares the Silver Age spirit of packing as much story as possible into every issue. This will take you a half an hour to read. That’s pretty refreshing in these decompressed times of ours.

While I’m on this Silver Age rant, why not talk about George Perez’s art? I’ve never been much of a fan. Perhaps it’s because I wasn’t reading comics during his hay-day. I do admire his work. If you want to cram an entire universe into two pages, he’s your man. But other than that, his art always looks bland and even a bit uninspired to me. However, LO3W is the best George Perez has ever looked. Maybe it’s because of a fantastic supporting team, but Perez’s work here looks genuinely epic. His renderings capture the book’s scope perfectly. And Perez makes the large quantity of story content possible. So much is crammed into every page, but thankfully, it doesn’t feel forced.

If you’re a fan of Johns or Perez, this series is a must. Both men are at the top of their game. They provide a thoroughly entertaining and dense adventure. It’s not perfect and I’m not the biggest Legion fan, but it undeniably gives you your money’s worth. Oh and as usual, this book is an essential part of the Geoff Johns mythos. This issue in particular. “Something big happens! Go buy now!”

Review: Final Crisis: Revelations #5

Final Crisis Revelations #5 (of 5)

(****)

Ah, Final Crisis: Revelations, I had such high hopes for you. Hindered by your promises and title and in the end, you really had nothing to do with Final Crisis. In fact, you suffered because of it. With a better shipping schedule, no tie-in obligations, and it all would’ve been more impressive if bigger and better things weren’t happening in Final Crisis. Seriously, could you imagine if this was just a usual in-continuity book? The zombie heroes and villains would’ve been much more impactful. Still, you were a pretty good mini, right?

I think your biggest claim to fame will be the recognition of newcomer, Phillip Tan. Fans (Including myself) were so impressed with his art that he already has a gig on the new Orange Lantern story. That’s pretty cool. Tan’s art was often the best part about Revelations. His skills were needed to capture the tone and scope of this biblical series. Though at times it looked like a 90’s Image book (Possibly because of his inker or colorist), Tan has established himself as an artist very much worthy of the big books in this medium.

As for Greg Rucka, this book was most rewarding for the fans of his earlier works. Those who’ve followed Renee and Crispus since the beginning were treated to some hard-hitting drama. Those who haven’t can still enjoy this thought-provoking epic. Though most of this series was knee-deep in oblivion, I’m happy to report that it all has a happy ending. Since Final Crisis’ conclusion is still very fresh in my mind, I have to ask Rucka to follow the story Morrison gave him, Montoya’s journey through the Multiverse. I believe it would challenge Rucka and such challenges often lead a writer to be the best he can be. After all, Crispus’ journey seems to have a nice conclusion for now. It’d be refreshing to see a new direction. At the end of the day, I think it’s safe to say that Final Crisis Revelations was not the story we expected. However, it was a fantastic tale that actually offered a positive, but not preachy, religious message.

Review: Final Crisis #7 – Spoilers!

Final Crisis #7 (of 7)

(*****)

Cover: I know a lot of you bought the Jones covers. For those who did, check the other covers out: one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven. Notice something? They get darker as they go along. It’s a nice Apocalypse Now trick. Cool, huh?

Pages 1-3: Anyone else get that Obama vibe? I’m sure that was intentional, especially with that Alex Ross thing. What’s funny is that Obama actually outsold Final Crisis #6. Can Morrison see the future?

Pages 4-5: Ok, if there was anyone who didn’t read Superman Beyond, GO READ SUPERMAN BEYOND! It’s great. It also features Mahnke art (Only it looks a lot better. This issue was VERY rushed and he had an army of inkers and colorists working with him) and it’s a BIG part of Final Crisis. Seriously, you will be almost lost without the knowledge of Superman Beyond. For those who did read it, remember all those Supermen Zillo Valla mentioned in the second issue? Some (All maybe?) appear here. Oh and Mahnke drawing Frankenstein again, total fanboy moment!

Pages 6-7: So this Lois scene is in the future. What do we see? Batman’s cowl (Shouldn’t someone be battling for that?) and he’s dead. Wonder Woman’s Furie plague thingy, so I guess she’s ok. Hawkman’s helmet, oh no, will something happen to Hawkman?! Lois sends a story (What Superman Beyond and now Final Crisis has been about) somewhere in a Superman rocket. That’s pretty cool. I wonder where that will end up. It’s been a while, but is this the same robotic JLA from that Classified Morrison story? I like how Luthor has an Anti-Superman ray.

Pages 8-9:“You turned your back and I wrecked your world.” Ooo, sick burn! That’s what you get for being selfish in issue #3, Superman! Punch him Superman! Rip out his…oh that’s Turpin, damn! “How can you hurt a foe made of people?” Darkseid is an evil bastard!

Pages 10-12: The Flashes are back, Darkseid! Here comes death! So this is when the time bullet is fired. Death comes to Darkseid. It appears to be normal Turpin here. Although “In all of us” is the last thing Orion said to Turpin. Could the son be reborn in the father? Arthur Curry is back and kicking ass as well. This is Morrison basically handing new stories to writers if they want it.

Pages 13-14: Superman is building the Miracle Machine (The culmination of the technology theme) we saw last issue with the help of others including the humorously disgruntled Luthor. Page 14 is a tip of the hat to Rucka. This is a reference to FC: Resist. The Black Gambit is failing. Rucka has something to work with including the Renee Montoya Global Peace Agent we saw on page 4.

Pages 15-16: Ollie and Dinah floating in space is awesome. Lord Eye is screwing things up of course. Carter and Kendra get the operatic lovers treatment. The Super Young Team and crew Boom away thanks to Sonny Sumo!

Pages 17-18: Yay! They all made it to Earth-51 and Kamandi is there too! Super Young Team, Shilo, Sonny and Kamandi is another story waiting to be told. Poor Overman, Morrison just had to get a Superman holding his dead cousin into this story. So Darkseid’s done, but what about the furies. And what about Luthor and an army of mind-controlled villains?

Pages 19-21: Yes, Frankenstein riding a big dog decapitating enemies and subduing Wonder Woman is very cool. The Luthor/Superman team-up where Lex takes all the credit is also sweet. Putting citizens in the “fridge” in the future is very…zany? Wonder Woman finally has a nice moment in this series. Read that Morrison interview at the bottom. He has some interesting things to say about this.

Pages 22-23: Even though he has no psychical body, Darkseid (Bastard!) continues to drag Earth down towards Mandrakk. Superman beats Darkseid with his voice. Again, you’re either on board with the creativity or you’re not. The lone Superman toils away on the Miracle Machine when suddenly…

Pages 24-25: Aaahhh! It’s Mandrakk! Again, go read Superman Beyond! He looks very creepy here, but Ultraman…not so much. But that bastard does have Kara. Why must the Crisis’s always pick on Supergirl? Hey, another tip to Rucka! Mandrakk has been snacking on the Spectre and Radiant. Actually, since Mandrakk feeds on stories, does this mean FC: Revelations was meaningless? It certainly didn’t have much to do with this book. Ha Ha! Mandrakk is screwed! The Miracle Machine works! The Green Lanterns can come in.

Pages 26-27: An Army of Supermen!!! Evil is toast! Oh and they’re apparently singing! “Let the sun shine in!” 

Pages 28-29: The heroes gather to thwart evil. And what a special gathering it is. Nix Uotan in his new badass glory, the Supermen, the GLs, the “Forever People of the 5th World” (Super Young Team) and three awesome animals that Mandrakk failed to eat. Man is that Rabbit hilarious! Those vampires get spiked!

Pages 30-31: I like the cowl, pyramid, and feather panels. To symbolize those we’ve lost (Except the Martian, but I guess he’ll be a Black Lantern). “Earth Endures. It’s as if we don’t know what else to do.” Aww, that’s nice to read in these dark times. It looks like the heroes are pulling (See the chains?) Earth out of oblivion. The Flashes are back and Nix Uotan wants to sever contact with our world.

Pages: 32-33: The New Gods are back! At least the New Genesis ones (Even Highfather). It almost appears they’re going to Earth-51 along with the new Forever People and even Kamandi I believe. All the Kirby characters alive and well. Kamandi even has a new tiger tribe. It also appears that this was the Final Crisis for the Monitors. They are gone now.

Pages 34-36: The Monitors end with the young lovers. Superman wished for a happy ending with the Miracle Machine. But it looks as though Nix is back on Earth. Hopefully he and Weeja can reunite. And so our tale ends the way it began. With the first boy, Anthro, who is now an old man. He was the original superhero and storyteller and as he dies, we see something else. The rocket sent in the beginning of the issue has landed. A utility belt lies gently on Anthro.

Page 37: Ah, this page makes me all warm and fuzzy. Batman is marking a bat on the wall.

For a very good reason, read Morrison’s interview.

Well, that’s it folks. I’ve already expressed what I love about Final Crisis. Morrison mentions more in that interview. It’ll be nice to not have to write these big articles anymore, but I had fun. Hopefully you did too. Final Crisis had some flaws (Mostly editorial), but it was the most dense, unique, and enthralling event I’ve ever read. It challenged the reader. You actually had to use your imagination. The birth of new characters, the death of old. The complete and utter shattering of current writing techniques. This series would have been forty issues long if Bendis had written it. Final Crisis is not for everyone, but I think the ones it was for, had a hell of a good time reading it. I know I did.

Review: Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2

Final Crisis Superman Beyond #2 (of 2)

(*****)

Wow! This issue just blew me away. I find it interesting that so many people hate this comic because they “don’t get it”. Whereas others like me, love it. I can understand the complaints a little. Superman Beyond is a lot to take in. Heck, even the visuals (Does anyone else’s vision get weird after wearing the 3D glasses?) can be jarring. But I for one adore this book.

First off, just look at that art. It’s truly stunning. Mahnke produces the best work of his career. Morrison challenges him for sure, but he hits the right notes every step of the way. In a fantastic voyage (It even has a yellow submarine) such as this, the art is crucial. Mahnke captures both the epic (And boy are they epic) battles and the tender scenes beautifully. Even the 3D works better here. I read the 2D art with my normal vision and the 3D art with my funky (Can they seriously change the design of these things already) glasses. In the first issue, I had to constantly switch between the two, but here the first several pages were normal, then 3D, and then back to normal for the conclusion. It was more of a pleasant read and damn those 3D pages were awesome!

As for the story itself, it’s just packed with goodies. Some of the more subtle stuff (Although I don’t think it’s that subtle sorry) may be missed. But I would think that if nothing else this is a psychedelic journey about the original superhero trying to save his dying wife. This is the spiritual sequel to All Star Superman. Both portray Superman as the quintessential hero in new ways that don’t come off as cheesy.

Now, I’ll try to delve beneath the surface without spoiling anything. I love that the citizens of Limbo (Where forgotten characters go to rot. A concept that’s not only awesome, but also fits the book’s theme) fight the “yet to be”. I love that Morrison explains why these Supermen were chosen. Morrison acknowledges all the Supermen (Majestic, Icon, etc.) and even here he uses Captain Adam (Based on Captain Atom from Charlton Comics) and Captain Marvel (From Fawcett Comics). Hell, even Overman (The German word for Superman) comes from Friedrich Nietzsche’s original influence on Superman. I love the fact that Superman Beyond is a study of the story itself. It’s all about the pros and cons that stories bring to our society. I love that the villains are Vampire Gods. Vampires and Gods are two fictional (If God doesn’t exist. Just think of the Roman Gods. Please don’t hate me) creations that will outlast us all, much like Superman. And finally, I absolutely love the last page of this comic. Seriously, it’s the best last page in recent memory.

Review/RANT: Final Crisis #6

So I read Final Crisis 6. Was quite looking forward to it, considering that I enjoyed issues four and five, and the buzz for six was pretty positive on the boards I frequent. I had heard vaguely about what happens to Batman, but in general I was going into this clean. Well guess what…this was a terrible issue. This thing was incomprehensibly messy in so many ways. Morrison isn’t even bothering trying to explain himself or his characters or his plot movements anymore. Things just happen because they have to. Case in point: The book opens with Superman and Brainiac 5.1 presumably in the 31st century. So when did this happen? Superman Beyond? Legion of Three Worlds? Didn’t read ‘em, don’t care. Even still, wasn’t Superman supposed to be at Lois’ bedside using his heat vision to make sure her heart wouldn’t stop? Didn’t the crazy monitor chick from issue two tell him he’d be back from his journey nigh instantaneously? Wasn’t that the whole point of why he decided to go with her? So where the hell has he been in the past three issues? And why does Lois show up halfway through the book showing no ill effects of a building falling down on top of her? There’s no way enough time has passed for her to heal from her injuries. This is abjectly ludicrous storytelling.

To further compound things, we have Batman. This would be the same Batman that got put into Granny’s crazy machine thing in issue two. Like Superman, he shows up out of nowhere in this issue. But this is even worse, considering Batman was CAPTURED, somehow escaped, somehow found Darkseid, somehow got his hands on a time traveling God bullet firing pistol, AND somehow managed to hold onto the bullet from Orion’s crime scene. Did no one search his damned belt? And what the blue hell is the “Omega Sanction”? Is it different from his Omega beams? And why the fuck should I care? Then Superman shows up and unleashes hell, and we’re treated with another example of how bad this issue is. Ever read a book and feel like you’re missing some pages? The transitions in this book are DREADFUL, and one of the best examples of that is the move from the penultimate spread to the final page. Sure, it follows that Supes goes nuts because Batman died. But from a script and sequential art perspective, moving from Superman devastating everything in sight to suddenly holding Batman’s desiccated corpse Crisis 7 style is just badly done and jarring. But this isn’t jarring in such a way that helps the tone or aids some kind of a reveal. This just sorta happens.

These types of bad transitions happen throughout the book, which basically consists of various snapshots of everything that’s going on. But each scene is too short and chaotic, and it all boils down to a manic jumble of white noise. People do things, battles take place, Checkmate has some crazy Brother Eye thingie that may have something to do with the return of Superman. Both Luthor and the Flashes seem to have no problems overriding Anti-Life. Considering that all you have to do is scramble a signal or prove true love exists (or whatever the hell Barry Allen’s been doing), this diminishes the dread nature of Anti-Life a bit. I get that it’s basically just Apokolips on Earth, but I feel like the events are no longer justifying the tone. Especially considering how easily Darkseid was taken down by a mortal man (yet another example of Batman being written too strong, but this has gone on for years, so I can’t really grouse about it now). Does this mean that some crazy new villain is going to show up for half an issue? Is this finally becoming a multiverse story? I mean, we’ve seen the Monitors and a few other things, but this series has been contained on Earth so far. It’s a dangerous situation where Morrison might try and blow this up too huge for one issue to handle. Darkseid’s death didn’t really feel like a climax. I guess we’ll find out soon enough if they keep their new schedule, and get issue seven out at the end of the month.

Really, what we have here is a situation where Morrison just doesn’t have enough pages to cohesively tell the story he wants to. He’s probably getting his point across to the DC historians and die hards who know these characters and are reading the tie-ins (and Seven Soldiers), but this just does not work on its own as a mini series. It’s been a weird read, because he completely lost me with the first three issues, got me back with four and five, and lost me all over again with issue six. It’s incredibly frustrating.

Review: Final Crisis #6 – Spoilers!

Large Cover of Final Crisis #6 of 7

(*****)

I’m exhausted. My brain is mush. Yet I must press on because I love this book so much. It’s killing me.

Page 1: Why are Superman and Brainiac 5 here? Last time we saw Supes he was trapped in Limbo and Brainiac 5 was…well, the last Legion of 3 Worlds came out months ago. Who can remember? So, I guess this takes place after those two books?

Pages 2-3: Superman is “fading”. Probably because of that “time breaks down” nonsense Brainy was talking about. You’ll find a lot of techno-babble in this issue. I like Renee Montoya’s line later, “Enough of this sensory %$%@$ overload”. Anyway, Brainiac introduces the Miracle Machine. You like awesome technology right? Hmm, you can only think positive thoughts, who can do that better than the “Big Blue Boy Scout”?

Pages 4-5: Look out! Here come the baddies! Tattooed Man is an honorary JLA member? They’re really going for the old “Anyone can join the Justice League” maxim. I wonder how long any of this will last. Oh wait, it’s Morrison. All his continuity gets washed away once he’s gone.

Pages 6-7: Catfight! The Supergirl vs. Desaad Marvel fight continues! Beautiful action and good banter, let’s move on.

Pages 8-9: Hopefully Black Adam fans can calm down now. Yes he got hit hard last issue, but his power is fading and Desaad Marvel is very powerful. Oh and Mary is Desaad, it’s official.

Pages 10-11: The Tawky Tawny vs. Tigerbak fight continues! Desaad uses innocent people to attack Supergirl. That bastard! He’s so evil!

Pages 12-13: Whoa! Tawny guts Kalibak! Freddie and Mary go back to kids thanks to magic. Darkseid can’t control everything! Mary says, “I can never say it again”. Again, how long will this last?

Pages 14-15: Tawny gets respect! It’s the moment you never knew you wanted to see! Shilo explains more about that face paint. Mr. Terrific mentions “Black Gambit”. Will those OMACs ever come? Uh, if you’re not familiar with that reference, it’s just more evidence that the tie-ins have meant nothing. Unless of course reality is just really messed up. Hey, that’s a good excuse.

Pages 16-17: Ooh! A pretty New Furies splash! But that is nothing compared to that Super Young Team dialog. “Most of our powers are cosmetic!” and “I have the greatest power of all, Mister Miracle. I am so rich I can do anything” are pure genius. But there’s also the young love! So much awesome, I would be very happy with a Morrison Super Young Team mini.

Pages 18-19: Hero against hero, the soul mate and the person that showed a villain the light. This comic has everything! I’m still curious about Tattooed Man’s new tattoo.

Page 20: The Atoms together, more great stuff. “And here, our mystics attempt to contact the Spectre in the afterworlds”, but isn’t the Spectre Vandal “Cain” Savage’s slave?And Renee Montoya is in New York or something but she’s here too and…

Page 21: This is that “sensory overload” Montoya line I was talking about. Lord Eye, this is the whole Black Gambit business? Hmm it sounds like they’re preparing another Earth in case this one dies. I hope thatdoesn’t backfire.

Pages 22-23: I love that advertisement! You know, the one for the issue I’m reading. Way to go DC! Whoa! Calculator gets lynched! The villains unite to say “Fuck you aliens!” which is totally Luthor. Libra “dies”, but even Sivana says, “And that’s a classic “We haven’t heard the last of him!” if I ever saw one”. So, Libra will be back?

Pages 24-25: Did you forget about the Flash family? Will they stop Darkseid (If he hasn’t been stopped by the end of this issue)? Will Barry outrun the Black Racer (Barry has a new mini coming up so I’d guess yes)?

Pages 26-27: Batman pops up like a daisy! Ok, let’s just consider Batman #682-683 part of this issue. That’s where he broke free and got that nifty gun. Oh, so Darkseid shot Orion. Of course! Ah, but Orion caused Darkseid’s fall. “Wounded you beyond repair”, it sounds like it, right? Batman has the time bullet with him? That’s so Batman, but he wouldn’t use a gun would he? Hey that bullet looks familiar. Remember that weird thing from the last page of Final Crisis #2? I wasn’t sure what it was, but it was the time bullet. Anyway, Batman shoots Darkseid! Yay! Batman will be ok, right? He won’t get vaporized by Omega Beams like he was in JLA: Rock of Ages will he?

Pages 28-29: NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Batman!!!! They took my buddy away, damn it! At least he got a two-page death that looks great (In a book with more artists than Batman: Black & White). I’ll talk more about this “death” later.

Pages 30-31: Is that Lois in the upper-left panel? Again, what’s up with that? The Hawkman/Hawkgirl scene may seem a bit random, but it continues the rebirth theme. I’ll talk more about that later. The GLs aren’t here yet. Metron is still around. Nix Uotan’s new look “inaugurates the Fifth World”. “These new humans face a greater menace than Darkseid if they breach the Bleed Wall.” Ah crap, that’s what this whole Black Gambit stuff is doing isn’t it? I knew it would backfire! Oh well, bring on Mandrakk (The Evil Monitor from Superman Beyond)!

Pages 32-33: Superman is blowing stuff up. Because of Batman I would guess. I wonder what he wished for. A lifetime supply of Popeyes Chicken? Or maybe it was to get back from wherever he was (The future?) and perhaps Lois’ good health as well.

Page 34: Ah, this image (From Doug Mahnke I believe. His name isn’t on the cover even though two inkers are) brings the Crisis trilogy full circle. Superman likes to hold cadavers.

And now for some more words. I want to talk about Batman’s death. I’m going to avoid the whole “This isn’t Morrison’s vision” and “Fuck Dan DiDio” stuff. I’ve covered that in my other Final Crisis reviews (You can read those, issue two, three, four, and five).

Again, I’m really tired so this won’t be as long as I planned (Which is good for you). Supposedly, Morrison’s original idea for this series was for the Magnificent Seven to all die and become New Gods. Do you remember those “Heroes Die, But Legends Live Forever” posters? Well that was the idea. Get the old guard out of the way (But still in the DCU) and make way for the kids. That idea was immediately shot down with the classic “Not the big three!” answer. Anyway the point is resurrection was on Morrison’s mind. Do you remember Superman’s Martian Manhunter eulogy in Final Crisis #2 and that hilarious “And pray for a resurrection” line? Well, Morrison talked about it on Newsarama (See it here) and said “This line foreshadows a major theme which will be played out as this series progresses”. He goes on to say “Now that I think about it, the whole story revolves around Superman’s (Pray for a resurrection) line”. So this may have been Morrison’s actual plan. We all know Batman will be back. Morrison certainly knows that as well. In fact, I believe his recent Batman run was all about how cool Bruce is and that no one could ever replace him. Heck, Batman could even be back in Final Crisis #7, but I doubt it. DiDio want his money. So we’ll go through all the Battle for the Cowl nonsense and filler crap. I just hope Final Crisis isn’t too compromised and that Grant (And maybe even Frank freaking Quitely) will be back on Batman soon.

Just for the hell of it, here’s what Grant Morrison thinks about this issue. Enjoy!

Review: Final Crisis: Secret Files #1

Final Crisis Secret Files #1 (Cover B)

(***1/2)

I love Final Crisis, but this issue demonstrates my biggest problem with the whole thing. Well, it’s more of a fear. What if this isn’t Morrison’s vision? I don’t want to go too much into it so I’ll just focus on this issue. Check out the solicitation. Grant Morrison didn’t write this issue. Peter J. Tomasi didn’t write this issue. Frank Quitely, other than the cover, did not draw this issue. Instead, we get a mediocre Libra tale that’s mostly been told before. It’s from Len Wein and Tony Shasteen and it should have come out after Final Crisis #2. The big kick in the pants? SPOILER Libra is just Libra END SPOILER. So, that’s a bumber. Anyway, this is important stuff people. It gives some Libra back-story. Len Wein provides a decent story and Shasteen’s art is…frankly, pretty ugly. But the last six pages are pure gold. We get some more Crime Bible from Mr. Rucka himself. This is about all that Revelations nonsense. Then we get a page from Morrison that explains in detail about the Anti-Life Equation. If I had a dollar for everyone who asked me about the Anti-Life Equation I’d be…well, not rich, but I’d have about thirteen dollars! See what I mean about the “this should have come out a long time ago” thing? We then get four pages from Morrison and JG Jones that explain all those Nix Uotan drawings. I hope we get to see more of these creations. Morrison has invented elaborate histories like he’s J. R. R. Tolkien. Again, Superman Beyond #2, Final Crisis #6 and 7 should blow some damn minds. This, not so much, but it’s still worth your time and money.

Bruce Castle Presents: Batman vs. Daredevil!

Large Cover of Batman #683

Batman #683 (****)

Morrison’s retelling continues. We get to see the shirtless Neal Adams Batman again. The world gets darker for Bruce. The issue ends promising the Dark Knight’s last adventure in Final Crisis #6, but as Morrison has proved over the last few years, Batman can’t die. Even in this issue, Batman continues to beat everyone. It doesn’t matter that Dark Space Gods are trying to screw with his brain, he’s Batman. He’ll always win. He can even make his enemies turn against each other. One of the many gems in this issue is an alternate reality where Bruce never dressed up like a bat. Do you remember that great episode of the 90’s cartoon? It’s kind of like that. Bruce is a bit of a pansy. He even gets conned. Oh, and something bad happens to Dick. Heck, the Joker doesn’t even exist. It’s kind of the Batman version of “It’s a Wonderful Life”. This is a fitting end to at least the first chapter of Morrison’s Batman epic.

Large Cover of Daredevil #114 (Villain Variant)

Daredevil #114 (****1/2)

We’re half way there. I still don’t know how this will end. What I do know is that this is Brubaker’s best Daredevil arc. Matt continues to get dragged through the muck. There is no happiness. There is no hope. Every glimmer of happiness gets ripped away from him. He even thinks about living in a cave in this issue. Get away from the people he cares about and just be Daredevil full time. Will he lose Milla soon? Will he lose Dakota? And I haven’t even talked about his villain problems yet. Along with the main players, an additional cast of interesting characters are present. Heck, we even get a new villain. I’m still not sure how I feel about Lady Bullseye yet. All she’s had to be so far is threatening. At least she’s achieved that. So if you’ve thought about getting back into Daredevil’s whacky adventures, now is the time.

SeventhSoldier Presents: War

War, huh? What is it good for? Some pretty good comics, that’s what.

Wonder Woman #26

wonder-woman

The beginning of Simone’s Rise of the Olympian arc, Wonder Woman’s big shake-up for this year, it also serves as the introduction of her brand new villain – Genocide.  And, to get this out of the way right smack-dab in the beginning of the review, it’s a solid opening issue, if not a stellar one.

Genocide is, to my surprise, a terrible villain.  Thankfully, Simone smartly avoids the issue, because while Genocide, like most one-note characters, is not a particularly compelling personality, she is an excellent monster – and I feel that her costume and dialogue accurately reflect this.

The story is brief – I could sum up everything that happens in about two sentences.  That said, as in every issue, the characterization was spot-on, there was wit, danger, some great action, and even Tresser had a pretty awesome moment.

A good opening, it makes me hopeful for the remainder of the arc, but it doesn’t quite grab me the way I think it should.  Lopresti’s art is magnificent – woo! no cheesecake! – and while he handles everything the issue demands of him with grace and style, a fight as apparently brutal as this one needs an artist willing to get significantly dirtier than Lopresti looks able to get.  The panelling is brilliant, the coloring is great, everything is well handled… but the action of the issue just doesn’t quite feel particularly urgent.  Normally, I don’t mind that in Simone’s WW comics, as we get a series of great character moments and dramatic scenes, but this issue is a fightin’ issue, and as that, it fails to be all it can be.

Grade: B

Unknown Soldier #1

unknown

Unknown Soldier is one of the newest Vertigo books, an action-heavy comic taking place in Uganda just a couple years back.  It’s pretty violent, and while its decent set-up, I’ve never been a fan of the device in which a character ‘just knows stuff’, and the issue relies pretty heavily on that.  A promising beginning, but nothing special, lacking both heart and urgency.

Grade: C+

Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns

rage

A poorly executed thirty-page long ad for another event, clumsily shoe-horned into Final Crisis continuity.  As much as I love the concept of the War of Light, all desire to read it has been killed.  So, to that one guy who absolutely hates me for not loving Geoff Johns, congratulations – I won’t be reviewing very many of his books from here on out.

Grade: D+