One Shot 3: Astro City #1/2

Twenty-two pages fills up fast.  There’s no denying that.  Action sequences often eat up huge chunks of a book, and you can only fit so much dialogue on the page before it becomes cluttered, not to mention how much of the probably excellent art you’ll be covering up by doing so.  So, understandably, most writers will have their stories run in arcs, often using well over 100 pages to let it unfold.  It’s not hard to see why, but the tendency to keep expanding the story is part of what makes it so rewarding when you come across a single issue that manages to not only exemplify what it is you so love about that particular book, or even comics in general, but that manages to do so with an impressive economy of storytelling.  One Shot is meant to take a close look at why those issues work as well as they do, the way they do.

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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: Captain America #600

You’ve got to hand it to Marvel. Even though most of their comics cost 3.99 now, they always make sure you get your money’s worth on the big, anniversary issues. Captain America #600 is a billion pages long, and features an army of artists, most of them great. However, even with all the weight and pretty art, is the giant page-count necessary? I actually don’t think so.

We start off with a two-page reprint from Paul Dini and Alex Ross. It’s great, but it’s a reprint, so who cares? Up next is an “In Memoriam” story (I’m saving Brubaker’s tale for the end). It ends well, but it goes on way too long, and is ultimately just filler. After that comes a story from Mark Waid and the newly Marvel, Dale Eaglesham. This tale promotes memorabilia, and, especially after seeing Pixar’s “Up,” that message seems worthless. The real treat here is to get an early peek at Eaglesham’s Marvel work. It looks great, as always. What follows is a brief letter from Captain America creator, Joe Simon. It too is meaningless filler. And, of course, the issue ends with an old Captain America reprint written by Stan Lee. The problem? It’s not drawn by Jack Kirby! The Kirby estate must have a problem with Marvel. Otherwise, why in the hell wouldn’t Kirby’s art be part of a Captain America anniversary issue?!

Final Word on Bonus Stuff: Skip it, unless you really, really want to see a brief, but bad, Mark Waid and Dale Eaglesham story.

Now, onto the main event. Well, seeing as how this issue came with the Captain America: Reborn news, and the fact that issue #50 didn’t contain anything big, and the expectation that a big, anniversary issue would contain some startling events, you’d think the world would explode, right? Nope. This is one of the two major problems I have with Brubaker’s Cap. It’s too much setup and not enough payoff.

Having said that, I really don’t have many complaints about the story itself. Just, for the love of God, don’t expect anything big, only hints of big things to come. Actually, without all of the hype, this would probably be one of the better Captain America issues. Multiple artists are on board, and if the guests aren’t better than the regular team, at least they don’t suffer from the horrible Frank D’Armata coloring. My favorite guest, of course, is David Aja (Get him a good, regular gig, Marvel). He illustrates a wonderful Crossbones and Sin segment. My other major problem with Brubaker’s Cap is Bucky. Since this issue contains multiple perspectives, we only see a little of him, and we’ll hopefully see even less in the coming months!

Final Word: Stellar main attraction, but due to the bloated page number and price, this issue’s overall quality suffers.

Grade: B-

For more comic goodness, go here.

The best Captain America bonus:

Top Ten Best Comic Artists

Why this list? I don’t know; I like lists! This is something I’ve thought about for awhile, but I’ve never had the organization skills to execute this idea. Well, I stopped bothering with some things (Sure, the west half of my house is on fire, but who cares?!?) so I could finally create the awesome list you’re about to experience.

Just to be clear, these are my top ten working artists. All ten of them produced interior work on at least one comic last year. Enjoy!

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10. Ed McGuinness

McGuinness is the Wolverine of comic artists. He’s the best there is at what he does. And what he does is draw big muscular cartoony fun! Hulk is the PERFECT book for him. The man was born to draw it. Throw in an extensive Superman (And later Batman) run and you’ve got plenty of pretty beefy heroes to look at. Did I mention that his art is a fantastic model for toys as well? Check it out! Sure, he doesn’t have much range and he’s a bit lazy, but if I ever need anyone to find a vein on my arm, I’ll go to him!

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9. Frank Cho

After criticizing EM’s range, I put Frank Cho? Am I crazy? Maybe, but Cho does actually have some range. Go check out his Spider-Man issues with Mark Millar. Sure MJ had big boobs, but his Venom was badass. He also renders some fantastic animals. Who draws Dinosaurs and monkeys better than Frank Cho? And yes, he draws some bodacious babes, but is that really such a bad thing? Yes they’re a bit crude, but it works with an American audience. We’re a bit too uptight when it comes to the female form. Cho just puts it out there. Too preachy? I like big boobs. Better? The fact is his women are tough, sexy, and usually pretty muscular. They can kick the shit out of the men. That’s a kind of female power, right?

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8. Steve McNiven

Good, we’re away from the cartoons. Steve McNiven is pretty new to the art scene. Ok, he’s been in the biz for about eight years, but I can count his projects with my fingers. I’ve always considered myself a fan of the man’s work, but his most recent project, Old Man Logan, is what got him on the list. Have you seen that stuff? It’s fucking epic! He’s created an entire future Marvel Universe, aged character designs, and zany stuff like a Venom T-Rex. He’s nailed them all. There’s no doubt in my mind that in ten years when fans discuss the best Wolverine artists, McNiven will be mentioned in the same sentence as Frank Miller and Barry Windsor-Smith. As if that weren’t enough, he also did a stellar job on Civil War, and whether you enjoyed that event or not, at least you were treated to some gorgeous images.

7. Tim Sale

Say what you want about Jeph Loeb, but when he and Sale get together, you get magic. I just picked up that new Daredevil Yellow hardcover a few weeks ago and Sale’s art was absolutely mystifying. His Daredevil is poetic. Sale captured the fallen hero, Battlin’ Jack Murdock, perfectly. Don’t even get me started on his Karen Page. Lois Lane, Mary Jane, Gwen Stacy, Selina Kyle, Tim Sale has rendered some of the most iconic women in comics and yet he always brings something new to the table. Sale is an expert at taking old characters, blowing off the dust, and making them look all shiny and new again.

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6. JH Williams III

Whoa! JH Williams III is number six? How the hell did that happen? Because Williams is awesome, that’s why. He’s an artistic chameleon. If you read his three-issue arc in Batman recently, you’ll know that every member of the Club of Heroes had a different art style. El Gaucho is Howard Chaykin, The Knight and the Squire are Ed McGuinness, and so on. On top of that, Williams has some of the most interesting layouts in comic history. If you want to see some expert graphic design, Williams is your man. How he presents his art is almost as intriguing as the art itself. Heck, the only reason why Williams isn’t higher on the list is his lack of content (Or perhaps my lack of reading his content), but with an absolute Promethea volume and his long-awaited Batwoman run coming up, Williams is sure to make my top five soon.

5. John Romita Jr.

And speaking of Williams’ lack of content, here’s a man who has too much content. Romita has been in the biz for nearly three decades. That’s awesome, but what usually happens to artists over time is that their style gets boring. Not so with Romita, his style has evolved. Going from the traditional look of his Iron Man days, to the Kirby/Miller amalgam, Romita has proved that he’s still one of the best. Want proof? While some of the artists on this list (Even those ahead of him, sadly) produce only a few issues a year, Romita is the opposite. In just two years, he worked on a Neil Gaiman project for seven issues, a mega Marvel event for five, a six-issue return to Spider-Man, and an entirely new property with Mark Millar. Throw in directing part of a movie (An illustrated Kick-Ass segment) and you have one fabulous work ethic!

4. Joseph Michael Linsner

This is where you can stop calling my list predictable. What can I say? I feel a deep connection with Linsner’s work. There are times when I think he’s my favorite artist. His style is Cartoony yet realistic. Linsner’s women are cheesecake, yet independent and strong.  The man’s work is truly transcendent. I can just stare at for days and days. The Hulk is probably a poor example (Though funny), but please go check out his work. If you feel half the connection with it that I do, it’ll be a wondrous experience.

3. Alex Ross

What’s a “best comic artists” list without Alex Ross? Actually, when I was compiling this list, his name slipped my mind. Terry Dodson was on for quite a while, but eventually (Sorry Terry), an image of Kingdom Come Superman blazed across my mind. How is it, that a character that said so little and was part of so few stories can be as incredibly inspirational as Kingdom Come Superman? I blame Alex Ross. He brings such power and solitude to the grey-haired Man of Steel. It was hammered home this year; KC Superman is the symbol for the man who has unimaginable power, and yet he can’t save the ones he loves. A much bleaker ending than the one Jeph Loeb gave him in Absolute Power, but it’s still undeniably moving. Though Ross spends a little too much time rendering covers and writing nostalgic tales for my taste, Justice, Marvels and Kingdom Come are so well-crafted that he easily earns a spot on the list.

2. Frank Quitely

Remember what I said about Sale and Loeb being magic? Well, that goes triple for Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. See that picture above? Why did I choose that instead of something like New X-Men and All Star Superman? Because you already know those are great, but you may have never heard of We3. You should definitely read it because it’s fantastic, and that’s what every project is that Quitely works on. His art is truly unique and I mean that in the best possible way. Quitely handles everything, action, facial expressions, and emotion, all of it, like the master he is. The only reason Quitely isn’t number one is because his art has greatly evolved into marvelous beauty within the last five years. My number one, however, has always been at the top of his game.

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1. Jim Lee

I never thought Jim Lee would be my number one. It makes sense; Batman is my favorite hero, so it’s only natural that the quintessential Batman artist is my favorite. Lee has always demonstrated greatness. Whether your first experience was X-Men, WildC.A.T.s, Batman, or even way back to Punisher War Journal, you were probably impressed. He’s worked on a few bad projects, sure. That won’t stop you from gazing at his beautiful interiors though. Why do you think All Star Batman and Robin is a best-seller? Its gloriously groundbreaking dialogue? I think not. Whether the words accompanying his art were good or not, I’ve always enjoyed Lee’s renderings immensely.

So there’s the list. I doubt you’ll agree completely. “Good art” is purely opinionated. I only wish that if you haven’t heard of one of these talented men (Why isn’t Amanda Conner on the list?), you’ll go check them out. Hopefully, you’re in for a treat.

-Bruce Castle

Review: Justice Society of America #23

Justice Society Of America #23

(***1/2)

The beginning of Johns’ last arc on JSA, and it’s about Black Adam. That’s awesome, right? Well, it is, but I’m bothered by something. Ordway’s art looks bad. I know. He’s an old master. He’s drawn the JSA and Shazam many times, but his style just doesn’t work for this story. It looked fine in that Annual, but it’s too old fashioned for this arc.

The story is fine. A lot happens in this issue. It’s about recruitment. Adam settles a score with Faust. Billy feels the wrath of Black Adam and his new family.  Like I said, a lot happens. I didn’t like Johns’ use of her. Countdown continuity is very bad. Other than that, the story worked well. Now if only I could get past the art, I’d be set.

Review: Batman #685

Batman #685

(***)

Things I Like: Though this is really the second part of a story, both this issue and last can be read as singular stories. Good for you, Dini. Both this issue and the last Detective have embraced the Faces of Evil format. These villains are actually the main character. Again, that’s very awesome. This issue also mentioned the Black Glove and Batman’s imprisonment in Final Crisis. This is the only Last Rites book that has mentioned Morrison’s work. There’s a bit of a twist in this issue and it was very pleasing.

Things I Didn’t Like: I’m not a fan of Nguyen’s art. Though it certainly gets the job done, it is merely passable to me. While this issue did mention some Morrison-continuity, it also spoke of Bruce as if he was missing. There is no way in hell he would be thought of as missing after the way his death looked in Final Crisis. I blame DC for this, not Dini. “Enjoy it while you can, Kyle. It won’t be long before I show you there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” That’s straight from this issue. That is horribly bad writing!

Final Verdict: A decent but ultimately forgettable tale. Only recommended if you’re looking for a quick and fun read.

Bruce Castle Presents: Millar vs. Johns!

Wolverine #70

Wolverine #70 (*****)

Okay, this story isn’t going to change the medium. This issue features a “twist” that I saw coming and you probably will too. But that doesn’t stop this from being one hell of a good time. This book rarely comes out (We get the next one in March I believe), but every time it does it’s on the top of my stack. This thing isn’t even in continuity! I should be waiting for the trade! But I don’t care. I experience so much joy whenever I see that “Old Man Logan” tag. Who knew the elderly could be so pleasing? As I said, the Shyamalan twist isn’t that great, but Millar executes it brilliantly. Better yet, he doesn’t dwell on it. The story progresses and we even get a cool last-page-reveal. Of course, as I’m sure even Millar knows, this book wouldn’t be anywhere near what it is without the art team. Steve McNiven, Dexter Vines, Morry Hollowell, I salute you. I’m sure you fine people are responsible for this book’s delays but take your time. I’d rather have Wolverine out twice a year than a rush job. If you aren’t reading this book now, you’re missing out on some wonderful euphoria. Oh well, you guys can still enjoy the trade that comes out next year. Oh, and I love the chosen puppet master behind this issue’s scheme.

Kick Ass #5

Kick-Ass #5 (****)

So, do we all agree that the name, Mark Millar, is synonymous with lateness now? Good God, it’s been like five months since the last issue, right? I had to reread the previous four to get up to speed. Oh well, I can’t really hate this book too much. Although I will say that the bit Millar wrote about the comic coming before the movie is bullshite. This issue’s delay is supposedly due to JRJR’s involvement with drawing the animated movie sequence, but I suspect that isn’t the only thing this new movie has influenced. So, last issue we were introduced to Big Daddy, the character Nicholas Cage is playing. Now we’re introduced to the Red Mist, the character McLovin is playing. It seems like the Red Mist gets a lot more screen time than he was supposed to. Anyway, let’s just say I’m really annoyed that the movie and the comic are being produced at the same time. As for the actual issue, there’s not much to say. If you have loved this book like me, then you’ll probably enjoy this. Millar provides some interesting and funny stuff and JRJR makes things pretty. Can we have the next issue a little quicker this time?

Green Lantern #36

Green Lantern #36 (****)

Must I talk about the lateness in every damn review?! Is this the price I pay for quality? I guess, but what happened here DC? Wasn’t Shane Davis supposed to draw this? Then Doug Mahnke was shown as the artist on the DC website. And now that we actually get it, Ivan Reis is the on the book. WTF!? Shouldn’t Reis be working on Blackest Night? Oh well, Reis, as always, brings the goods. Seriously, I don’t care what you think of Johns, the pictures alone should do it for you. And boy does Reis get to show off this issue. We get to see the Red Lantern world, the Blue Lantern world and the birth of a Pink Lantern. And Reis isn’t the only one who deserves praise. Nei Ruffino, the colorist, also shines as you can imagine. Green, red, blue, he’ll have you wondering if you’ve picked up a Hulk comic by mistake. Hell, even the letterer, Rob Leigh, gets to have fun. That’s right, even the word balloons are outlined in green, blue, and red. This book looks fantastic and Johns continues to build his wonderful cosmic epic.

Justice Society Of America #21 (Variant Cover Edition)

Justice Society of America #22 (***1/2)

And so Johns and Ross’ incredibly long epic concludes. Seriously, this has been about a year and a half in the making. Is it as good as it should be? No, but it’s an entertaining conclusion to a story with limitless potential. I think the main reason for my disappointment is the fact that I failed to realize who was writing my comic. This is Alex Ross and Geoff Johns, these guys live in the past. They, Ross especially, try to tell the same stories they loved as a child. This method is fantastic for kids, but will inevitably leave the rest of us wanting. This is our traditional battle finale. We’ve gotten all that sappy emotion out of the way which makes room for some big combat between the Gods and the men. The fighting ends after some humorous banter and demise of the JSA’s foe. Now we have to get rid of all that Kingdom Come nonsense. Again, KC Superman’s potential seems a bit wasted. Sure he punched a lightning bolt and all that jazz, but for so long he just seemed to blend into the background. Although I will say that Ross, who actually did draw some pages, did give the hero a fitting farewell. I think this review makes it seem like I disliked this issue, but I really did enjoy it. I liked the arc itself even more. Still, as I explained, I can’t help but feel a little sad.

Bruce Castle Presents: The Astounding New JSA!

Astounding Wolf-man #10

Astounding Wolf-Man #10 (****)

This book works. If it was written a different way or the art was worse, it probably wouldn’t. But this book is assembled well. It’s actually monthly now, sweet. There are a lot less words than a normal Kirkman comic, but that’s ok. The art team, Jason Howard and the Plascenia’s, really make things beautiful. Beautiful in that violent monster world kind of way. We’re also treated to some Zachariah backstory. Oh and that last page is kind of sad. I’m finally starting to care about these characters. Please keep the book on time, Kirkman!

New Avengers #47

New Avengers #47 (***1/2)

This has nothing to do with Secret Invasion. There are only two pages that reference the invasion and it’s basically a reprint of those Secret Invasion #8 pages. Why did Billy Tan even draw those new pages? Why didn’t they just insert the images from the main event? It would have looked better at least. Ok, my negativity is out of the way. This was a good issue. It’s about Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. We get the story of how they fell in love. Their interactions are written well and their affection is genuine. Having said that, I’m sure I won’t remember this issue in six months and I doubt I’ll ever read it again. If you’re looking for a Secret Invasion tie-in, look elsewhere. If you want a heartfelt tale about a married couple with a baby, pick this up.

Justice Society Of America #21

Justice Society of America #21 (****)

The penultimate chapter at long last. This is our big action payoff. If you felt JSA has been too talky lately, you should enjoy this. I wish there was a little more to Gog’s confrontation than the standard hero-villain-smackdown, but oh well. We know who all the characters are now, right? We care about them now, right? They were all challenged emotionally, right? This is classic storytelling at its finest. The only problem is that we’ve all kind of seen it before. Alex Ross is a co-writer. But hey, that doesn’t mean it’s bad. That could even mean it’s great, I have to wait until the end of course. This is really only the second JSA story of this series. I guess we need to give Johns some time to set everything up. The Black Adam story is next and how can that not be fantastic? Last thing, did everyone enjoy getting JSA books five weeks in a row? That was kind of nice after some of the lateness this year.

Bruce Castle Presents: Thor Declares War on the Kingdom!

Thor Man Of War

Thor Man of War (*****)

Ok, if you love Thor or fun comics you should definitely pick this up! Matt Fraction is in top form! Forget Punisher War Journal, forget Uncanny X-Men (This was the best selling comic at my LCS last week. Really? People love that book? Why?), this is Matt Fraction writing at its best! Well, Casanova when it comes back and Iron Man are great too, but the point is this comic kicks ass! And with your ass kicking you need some pretty art right? Well, Patrick Zircher is back and if you’ve read the previous two issues you know he’s awesome. The guest artist this time is Clay Mann. I’m not too familiar with his work, but he does a good job. I think he tried to channel Oliver Coipel, it may not be the real thing but it’s an acceptable substitute. So what can you expect in Thor Man of War? I’ll tell you. I guess these are spoilers, but I don’t think it will detract from your enjoyment if you know these.

Thor fights Brunnhilda!

Thor, Brunnhilda, Balder, the Warriors Three and some other Asgardians team up to fight a Storm Giant!

Odin in the Destroyer armor with the Odinsword fights Thor!

Go buy now!

JSA Kingdom Come Special The Kingdom #1

JSA Kingdom Come Special: The Kingdom (****1/2)

Everybody who’s reading JSA is reading this right? I hope so because these (This one especially, this is Day Five and Day Six) specials are important. Kudos to Pasarin and Eaglesham for creating one of the creepiest looking characters, Gog. I’d credit Johns too, but he gets enough praise, and Gog’s facial expressions are so unsettling. The story is the same Gog stuff. The subplots are still there with a KC Superman and Wonder Woman scene. We also check up on Starman (We still don’t know what he’s up to do we?) and the last page of the issue really speeds our story along. Hopefully those mislead members will see the error of their ways. Last thing, I also enjoyed the Damage (Who is such a jerky pretty boy!) and Atom Smasher exchange.

Bruce Castle Presents: Kingdom Come Cacophony

JSA Kingdom Come Special: Superman (*****)

Should I even review this? This the mainstream of the mainstream, but at least I can offer another opinion to accompany your own. This is not just part of an incredibly long JSA arc, it’s also an addition to the famous Kingdom Come, and this vehicle is driven only by Alex Ross. Ross writes, pencils, and inks this story. Take that in for a second. For years I, as well as you, have seen Ross’s impressive sketch work and have wondered what the man’s craft would look like sans paint. The result is quite startling. Don’t worry, impressive comes to mind first, but I use startling because it’s a bit weird to see Ross’s art look this way. Still, it’s astounding none the less.  So not only does the book look unique, but it’s also fantastic. How’s the story? Passionate would be my first response. Though KC Supes is an incredibly intriguing character, he has been played down a little in JSA recently. But here he’s the star of the show and it’s pretty heart-wrenching. This book is more about Kingdom Come than JSA, but it’s definitely special. This is the classic tragedy of a man with infinite power who can’t help those he cares most about.

Batman Cacophony #1 (of 3)

Batman: Cacophony #1 (***1/2)

“You tell’em, Steve-Dave!”

cacophony (ca-coph-o-ny) n. Jarring, discordant sound; dissonance.

You see what I did there? I quoted Walter Flanagan, the artist, from a Kevin Smith, the writer, movie. I also sort of referenced Pulp Fiction and educated those who weren’t familiar with the word cacophony. I’m awesome (And humble) I know. But how awesome is this book? Well, I’d say if you liked Smith’s earlier work in comics, you’ll probably like this. If however you did not, then you can probably skip it. Smith’s prints are all over this. The opening commentary on current America, the excessive dialogue, the drugs, and of course the slightly immature humor are all his. Some of these are still entertaining while some are a bit tiring. It’s nice to see Smith and Flanagan working together, especially since I’m a huge Kevin Smith fan, but I have to admit that Flanagan isn’t that great of an artist. Although he does his best and Sandra Hope (Did I mention that she’s the hottest inker in the biz?) aids him immensely. It’s not as disastrous as you may think and I can even say that his art doesn’t detract from the story. I’m glad that Smith managed to include so many characters into this tale. You’ll find Deadshot, Joker, Zsasz, Maxie Zeus, and of course Onomatopoeia. Hopefully Smith will flesh out that last character a little more. I’d say that Smith mostly understands these villains. But they did seem a little off to me. This is the first issue so I can get all my complaints out of the way. I’m confident that the rest of the series will be even better. This was entertaining, but I must add that if you’ve never read any Smith comics, read his Daredevil and Green Arrow runs first and just wait for this story’s trade. Oh, I didn’t address Smith’s lateness did I? But if I remember correctly, Smith has never been late for DC before. I hope that continues.

Bruce Castle Presents: DC Comics Rule!

Final Crisis Resist #1 (Cover B)

Final Crisis: Resist (*****)

I’m starting to sound like a broken record aren’t I? I just can’t help it! This is another Final Crisis related comic that I love. I never read Rucka’s run on Checkmate (Hell, I haven’t even read all of Queen & Country!), but this issue definitely makes me want to. This comic has it all! Do you think Sasha Bordeaux, Mr. Terrific, Cheetah and Snapper Carr are cool? Probably not, but thanks to Rucka’s fantastic writing you will after this! I just love the situation these heroes are in. Few against many? Check. Heroes fighting heroes? Check. Love and sacrifice? Check. In the beginning of the book I had no hope and by the end I felt like these guys could actually resist (Oh yeah I used the titular word). Rucka even managed to make me laugh a few times along the way. And of course, Ryan Sook rocks the art. Sorry Johns, but Rucka is definitely writing the better tie-ins (Especially since they actually TIE-IN to Final Crisis in a meaningful way).

Justice Society Of America #20 (Eaglesham Variant Edition)

Justice Society of America #20 (***1/2)

This issue is definitely a weak link. It’s not bad, but when every other issue (except maybe those Lightning Saga ones) is so great, this one looks a little bad. Johns has proved himself to be an excellent juggler on this series. There are so many cast members and yet they all have their great moments, but Johns finally slips on the plot. Ever since the Annual, that Earth 2 story has been running alongside the Gog arc. That’s worked well until now, but the complete absence of Gog bothered me a bit. I’d be more forgiving if the Earth 2 business had concluded. However, you did read that star count correctly. This is a good issue. There are still those magical character moments (The best involves Mr. Terrific. Hey! Isn’t he fighting for his life right now?) and Dale Eaglesham does make the book look pretty. Maybe what’s bothering me is the fact that it doesn’t really feel like an arc has concluded in JSA since the first one 16 issues ago!

Secret Six #3 (*****)

I don’t like to have two five star ratings in the same post, but they are both so awesome! I’ve already tossed out enough compliments in my FC Resist review and I’d prefer not to repeat adjectives. I love this book. I would even say that this is the book Gail Simone was born to write and Nicola Scott provides some phenomenal art. Do people realize how awesome Scott is yet? These women know their psychotic killers! Hey! Cheetah is in here!? Shouldn’t she be fighting for her life too? Not only is this book a lot of fun, it also has a really creepy villain! For those who have already read this, how awesome was Junior with that pink umbrella!?

Bruce Castle’s September Previews Order

ACTION COMICS #871
ANITA BLAKE, VAMPIRE HUNTER: THE LAUGHING CORPSE, BOOK ONE #2 (OF 5)
ASTONISHING X-MEN GHOST BOXES #2 (OF 2)
ASTOUNDING WOLF-MAN #12
BATMAN #682-683
BATMAN CACOPHONY #1 (OF 3)
BOYS#24
CAPTAIN AMERICA #44
CONAN THE CIMMERIAN #5
CROSSED #2 (OF 9)
DAREDEVIL #113
FINAL CRISIS #6 (OF 7)
FINAL CRISIS REVELATIONS #4 (OF 5)
GREEN LANTERN #36
HULK #8
INVINCIBLE #58
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #7
IRON MAN END
JSA KINGDOM COME SPECIAL THE KINGDOM #1
JSA KINGDOM COME SPECIAL MAGOG #1
JSA KINGDOM COME SPECIAL SUPERMAN #1
JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #21
MARVEL ZOMBIES 3 #2 (OF 4)
MIGHTY AVENGERS #20
NEW AVENGERS #47
PUNISHER #64
PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL #25
SECRET INVASION #8 (OF 8)
SI INHUMANS #4 (OF 4)
SI X-MEN #4 (OF 4)
SECRET SIX #3
TERRA #1-2
THOR MAN OF WAR
ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR #58
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #128
ULTIMATE X-MEN #98
ULTIMATUM #1-2 (OF 5)
UNCANNY X-MEN #504
WALKING DEAD #57
WOLVERINE #69
YOUNG LIARS #9

Damn! Why are comics so awesome? This is me cutting back and it’s still way too much.

Comics To Go With Your Turkey: Of course we have the event books (Final Crisis, Batman RIP, and Secret Invasion), but what else is cool? Well, it’s a month of returns. David Micheline and Bob Layton return to Iron Man again in Iron Man: The End. Kevin Smith returns to comics writing Batman: Cacophony. I remember Smith joking about how this book won’t end until his daughter is 16 (She’s currently 9). To quote the man himself, “He ain’t so fucking funny”. And the coolest return of all is this:

This is that JSA KC Special: Superman. You can read more about it here. This is written and drawn by Ross himself. If you liked Kingdom Come (and who didn’t?), you have to pick this up!

Foilball’s Review Roundup #29

Avengers/Invaders #2 (***1/2)

Ok, Carol is definitely a Skrull. Shoot, how the heck did you expect them to react when you come charging out of the sun with your team, shouting about surrender? Ditzy broad! Obviously, there will be a fight! Moving on, was anyone else as intrigued by the Steve and Tony scenes as I was? You could smell Ross and Kruger’s outrage over the events of the last couple of years:

+WWII Steve Rogers is a master at (unintentionally) rubbing it.
+DAMN! …also, did Cap just kick Stark in the junk?
+Déjà vu much?

And then, Tony hesitates… The “I do, Widow” was the perfect response to Black Widow telling him that Cap is a reasonable guy and that they should be able to explain everything once the Invaders are in custody. This is such a fanboy moment. If you only read it from the angle that Widow is right, that Cap is a reasonable guy, then you totally miss that Tony is really saying, “I do know that he’s Captain America, the same Captain America whose trust I bitterly betrayed. Oh, the humanity!” JOYGASM!

Heh, did you guys notice Namor in the background tossing Wonder Man into Ares? Heh. Also, the New Avengers ain’t taking this shit lying down!

…oh, we got a problem! Space-time damage imminent!

Batman: Detective Comics #845 (****)

Since when does Batman get so much action? Zatanna, Catwoman and Jezebel Jet? How does one man choose?

Paul Dini is such a great writer when he’s left alone to do his own thing, but alas, this issue semi-firmly establishes a continuity between this book and Morrison’s Batman. Why? Why is this necessary at all? Oh, so we can have yet another crappy crossover like The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul. I hate you DC editorial. You make good writers do bad things. I wonder how Badly Dini is chafing under Morrison’s manifesto? First he had to try and build up to the Morrison penned Final Crisis with Countdown, and now, he has to tie-in to the “bad trip” that is Batman: RIP. Poor bastard. Still, each issue of Detective has been a wonderful distraction and I have to admit that I’ve enjoyed Dini’s series of one-shot tales more than Morrison’s conspiracy laden Batman.

Justice Society of America #16 (*****)

A pause for awesome…

(heheheheheheheh)

Midnighter #20 (*****)

Why did they wait till the very last issue to give us this? Wow. I bet if each issue of Midnighter was this psychotic, it wouldn’t have been cancelled. What a waste. I feel like this book never really got off the ground, even with the fun Hitler story Ennis wrote to open the series. My take on Midnighter is that he’s basically Batman if Batman actually acted the way a man like Batman would actually act. Get me? He’s Batman from the Bob Kane era with a modern S&M twist. We’ve seen hints of this before, in Authority, and I expected that version of the character to receive further exploration in this ongoing. But unfortunately, it doesn’t really happen till this, the final issue. As I said, what a waste.

Quick Hits:
100 Bullets #92 (****): Wow, everything we thought we knew is slowly falling apart. Minuteman betrays Minuteman. Graves is playing a new game. Very exciting.
Captain Britain and MI13 #2 (*****): Even better than the first issue and the best looking Super Skrull to date on the last page. AH! Why can’t SI be like this?
Eternals #1 (***): I’m in the camp that Neil Gaiman’s Eternals was a bit overrated… I still enjoyed this “relaunch” well enough, but I’m not sure I’ll be picking it up past the first arc. It just didn’t grab me.
Invincible #50 (***): Anti-Climactic describes it well I think. Overpirced and under-storied is another way to put it. Shit, that cover screams ultra-violent mayhem. What we actually get doesn’t even come close. Also, I hate Science Dog… and is it just me, or is Science Dog purposefully stealing from Tom Strong?
Nova #14 (***1/2): The fight was really cool, but then halfway through the issue we’re forced back to the planet to deal with the lame-ass Harrow. Ugh.
The Punisher: Little Black Book #1 (***): I was fooled by the Dave Johnson cover. It was a fine read, but why was this story necessary.
Secret Invasion: Who Do You Trust? #1 (****1/2): This was really, REALLY good. Even the Agents of Atlas story. My only complaint is that this book should have released the week of or after issue #2 of the main mini. Most of these stories deal with the subplots of #1 and #2 of SI, so it was kind of annoying to have to wait so long to get some development. It was only a month, by time is of the essence with these event books. Losing momentum sucks.