This felt lethargic, like it barely had the energy to get to its last panel, and even that was sort of an abrupt and rhythmically poor conclusion.
PROBABLY CONTAINS SPOILERS
This felt lethargic, like it barely had the energy to get to its last panel, and even that was sort of an abrupt and rhythmically poor conclusion.
PROBABLY CONTAINS SPOILERS
Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman #19 slows things down a bit to give us a character-driven issue that nevertheless manages to show why this is DC’s best book.
A year-and-a-half ago I stopped reading comic books. I was in the middle of landing a new job in a new city. Reading comics fell by the way side. When, finally, I was comfortably situated in my new surroundings I dropped by my local comic book store only to discover that pretty much everything I used to read was either canceled or renumbered. They were also all refashioned with this queer “New 52” logo. I get the attention of one of the employees so I can ask what the f happened.
Flashpoint. Geoff Johns. Co-Publisher Dan Didio.
Being a DC Man, and Vertigo practically a husk of its former self, I dejectedly left the store empty-handed, cursing under my breath the dastardly shadow G-off Johns once again casted on my life.
Flash forward a year or so in the future. Its my day off and all of my favorite television shows have had their season wrap-ups. Sure I could work on all those writing/design project I keep meaning to finish but why the hell would I want to do that. On a whim I decide to head back to the comic book store. Once there I decide that I am going to buy the corporate spin and see this as an opportunity to start reading books that I would otherwise never read due to sprawling cumbersome mythology.
Wonder Woman. Check.
Wonder Woman is too many things to too many people. Inevitably, any attempt to do a bold declaration of “This is what Wonder Woman stands for” turns out to be fairly divisive. She is an ambassador of peace, but she is also a great warrior and military strategist. She is chosen by the goddess of love, but no love interest will ever be worthy of her in the eyes of her fans. The contradictions continue, and help explain (I believe) why there is no one definitive Wonder Woman story for her fans. Perhaps my favorite part about Brian Azzarello’s current run on Wonder Woman is that he doesn’t delve deep into Diana’s character and lose himself in that particular hall of mirrors. No, under Azzarello’s pen, Wonder Woman is a supremely confident action heroine fighting massive, horrific enemies who see humans more as ants than people, a superhero trying to beat back the tide of a horror film. It probably shouldn’t work. It so does.
By this point, it’s almost become trite to point out how difficult writing Wonder Woman is. The Amazon hero is one of the world’s most recognizable fictional creations, but DC has had a hard time capitalizing on that fact these past few years. From the disastrous Amazons Attack through the ill-conceived ‘relaunch’ marred by delays and poor storytelling choices into the final months of JMS’s haphazard alternate universe Wonder Woman story, Diana has not fared well these past few months. Which is why I’m so happy to say that, after a rock-solid debut by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, Wonder Woman #2 continues to stand-out as one of the creative successes of the New 52.
Batman/Doc Savage Special #1 operates, in many ways, as a preview, an attention-getter, for the upcoming launch of DC’s “First Wave” project in March of 2010. Written by Brian Azzarello, with Phil Noto on art, this issue introduces lasting pulp icon Doc Savage to the DC Universe as he comes to Gotham to investigate and possibly apprehend the brand spankin’ new vigilante known only as the Batman. The series as a whole will use a number of famous pulp heroes, from Doc Savage to the Spirit and beyond, to recast DC’s early days as a dark adventure for a world heading into the unknown.
Azzarello’s writing on this issue is largely solid. There are a few slip-ups that some may find irritating – such as a confrontation between Batman and Doc Savage in which Bruce’s narration continually insists that he has just one more chance, which is followed by his last chance, which is followed by another assurance that he still has a chance left – but for the most part, Azzarello does a stellar job introducing us both to the less assured, riskier young Batman and the celebrated renaissance man, Doc Savage. The characters are distinct and interesting, though the issue’s plotting is nearly nonexistent and it does little to suggest solid supporting casts.
Noto’s art is similarly plagued with minor problems, as the issue is filled with relatively stiff fight scenes and a strange propensity to always make it look as though Batman is smiling, regardless of whether or not it’s appropriate to the scene at hand. Despite those flaws, however, he also does a fine job, giving the book a notable, memorable style that stays largely consistent throughout. The book has plenty of memorable images, thanks largely to Noto’s design and coloring.
Batman/Doc Savage Special #1 definitely reads like a prologue, and a pricey one at that. But it also serves as a rock-solid introduction into exactly what Azzarello has planned come next year as he lays down plot threads that can take our heroes all over the place. A brash young Batman is a particularly nice addition to the team as the character’s return to his roots (and his guns) will have some modern fans shaking their heads, but will leave plenty delighted to see the little-discussed rookie-years of the character. Azzarello does a great job distinguishing rich-boy crime-fighting genius know-it-all with a military-trained butler Doc Savage from the remarkably similar Bruce Wayne, and making both characters interesting in their own right. It definitely left me looking forward to the next step of the project, and regretting the long wait.
– Cal Cleary
Last week’s Wednesday Comics was the first to really disappoint. The premise of the project should suggest that the creators compress their stories as much as possible, at least in general – when all’s said and done, they only really have 15 pages to finish the story. While some creators have risen to the challenge, like Caldwell on Wonder Woman or Pope on Strange Adventures, some strips that started out strong have begun to peter off already.
There is still the seeds of genius that were strongly evident in the first two issues, but there are too many non-starters here. The flaws remain relatively unfixed, with the weakest pages among the first two issues showing little improvement. Not all is bleak, of course – a project with this many gifted creators is bound to have some astonishing moments – but I am not sure that a book facing all the challenges that Wednesday Comics faces can afford to have many more issues like this one: Not bad, but not quite worth the trouble.
– Cal Cleary
Though Wednesday Comics #2 didn’t do much to improve over the flaws of the first one, and certainly won’t change any minds about the project as a whole, it also kept all the charm, wit and creative energy of the first issue, and even improved upon some of the slower stories. The keyword with Wednesday Comics is variety, and you get a lot of it.
Busiek’s Green Lantern is a wonderfully retro The New Frontier-style sci-fi adventure, while Pope’s Strange Adventures is classic pulp action. Flash reads like a bizarre blend of romance and super-hero stories, while Baker’s Hawkman offers a dark, fascinating look at a frequently muddled character. As with the first issue, not every story is a hit, and the two biggest offenders from #1 (Teen Titans and Sgt. Rock and Easy Co.) remain relatively weak, though both show at least some signs of improvement over the previous issue.
Meanwhile, the creators are making full use of the space, sometimes in interesting ways. The Gaiman/Allred Metamorpho is essentially one enormous panel while Caldwell’s surreal Wonder Woman features roughly fifty panels on its only page.
The format is definitely bringing out the best in many of these artists, most of whom have admirably risen to the challenge. The less-glossy pages and creases that come from the folding were a worry to some people when it came to the quality of the art, but rest-assured, this is rarely the case. Only Caldwell’s Wonder Woman and the Arcudi/Bermejo Superman seem to have been hampered by the fact, each of them a little too dark for their own good. Despite that, however, both pages remain well-crafted and interesting.
Wednesday Comics is too scattershot to appeal to everyone, but those who try it out will find a selection of interesting stories by star creators that hearken back to the early days of comics and the traditional stories without being lazy or condescending. Everyone involved seems to be having far too much fun to either.
– Cal Cleary
Wednesday Comics is here! While DC often struggles to stay relevant in the fact of a vastly more trendy Marvel Comics, it’s had a few successes in recent years. One such success was their year-long event, 52, a weekly with an absolute powerhouse of a writing team that managed to gain both critical and fan acclaim – no small feat for an event comic largely lacking Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman. After that, of course, DC felt the urge to repeat their success story with the watered down Countdown and then again with Busiek’s Trinity. Still, three years in and the weekly format, once a fresh revival, had begun to seem stale.
That all changed with the announcement of their next weekly, Wednesday Comics, a 12 week long project, packaged as a newspaper, in which superstar creative teams would be given continuity-free reins on a vasty supply of DC characters to tell their stories… one page each week. There were a lot of risks, obviously, but the announcement of the creative teams was where they had it: Gaiman, Busiek, Allred, Azzarello, Risso, Gibbons, Pope, Baker and many more, all getting involved in the project.
So, with all that expectations, how does the issue stack up?
Very well. Very well, indeed.
It’s tough to review due to the grab bag nature of the book – Caldwell’s Wonder Woman, for example, is gorgeous and surreal, while Kubert’s Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. on the very next page is about as bland as can be. I toyed briefly with the idea of reviewing each story, but the simple fact is this: these stories stand together or fall together, but the strength of an Azzarello/Risso Batman doesn’t necessarily offset the slow start of the Berganza/Galloway Teen Titans. You buy one, you get ’em all.
And, as a collection, it works. This, this is traditional super-hero comics done right. For those yearning for a set of simple, gorgeous stories, Wednesday Comics delivers. Not every story will be a hit, but #1 offers a number of strong starts and relatively few missteps. I eagerly await seeing where it will go.
As a note, however, the stand-outs of the issue for me were Batman, Kamandi, Supergirl, Metal Men, and The Demon/Catwoman, with Superman and Wonder Woman having okay starts but gorgeous art. The only pages I didn’t really appreciate at all were Teen Titans and Sgt. Rock and Easy Co., so the bulk of the issue was, for me, a hit.
– Cal Cleary
Better late than never, eh? This is my list for the top ten stories of 2008! 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 2008. They could begin at any time, but as long as they concluded in 2008, 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 Fraction books, etc. So a writer/artist will only appear once on the list. Same thing goes for characters. I’m not going to have a list made up of a bunch of X-Men comics or in the case of 2008, Superman books. Lastly (Sorry, #3 is a long rule), I tried to spread the love even when it came to companies. You will see Marvel, DC, and even indies on this list.
Wow, with all those rules, how did I come up with a great list? Well, I hope I did. Anyway, let us begin the fun!
10. Hellboy: The Crooked Man (Hellboy: The Crooked Man #1-3)
Written by Mike Mignola
Illustrated by Richard Corben
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
I sound like a broken record. I’ve written for this site for about seven months now. In that time I have reviewed nearly every Hellboy comic. And over and over again I have to point out how wonderful Mike Mignola really is. It’s not just his art. He’s a terrific artist. What fascinates me more are his words. Though Mignola’s obsessed with the past, his comics constantly evolve. 2008 was a fantastic year for Big Red. A new movie that not only didn’t disappoint, it was better than its predecessor. A new comic actually drawn by Mignola himself, the start of the longest Hellboy journey yet and of course this little gem that I’m here to talk about. The Crooked Man, like most Hellboy stories, is deceptively simple. It’s difficult to express one’s love for Hellboy comics because they all have similar beats. Hellboy goes to some marvelous landscape. He encounters a mystical problem. He then beats the crap out of everybody until they fall down. But unlike most Hellboy yarns, The Crooked Man doesn’t take place in some faraway land. It’s set in deep Deliverance hick hell. It’s not about old artifacts or odd Guillermo Del Torro creatures. This is about the classic struggle between man and the devil. It’s about facing your fears and temptations. Hellboy is almost a supporting character for God’s sake! And of course who better to bring this horrifying masterpiece to life than Richard Corben. He’s a perfect fit for this book. The man is 68 years old and he’s still pouring his soul into his projects. This Hellboy tale is not to be missed.
9. Joker (Original GN)
Written by Brian Azzarello
Illustrated by Lee Bermejo
Publisher: DC Comics
Available here. Do you want to see the bloodiest and most brutal Joker story ever? This is it. Joker is a gritty crime graphic novel that’s all about the titular character through the lens of sanity, Jonny Frost. Lee Bermejo spent two years working on this project. This book looks perfect. And in a Joker comic that means the book looks like hell. Bermejo and Mick Gray share the inking duties. Gray has a softer look while Bermejo has a terrifying painted effect. I began to dread Bermejo’s inks as it meant something gruesome was ahead. Azzarello throws us into a mad dark world with realistic versions of classic Batman rogues. The Dark Knight does appear but he only says three words. This is a fascinating yarn and the fact that Bermejo’s Joker mirrors Ledger’s makes it all the more creepy.
8. The Walking Dead: Made to Suffer (The Walking Dead Forty-Three through Forty-Eight)
Written by Robert Kirkman
Illustrated by Charlie Adlard
Publisher: Image Comics
Collected here. The Walking Dead is a comic that suffers in this format. In fact, I even feel uneasy putting it here because it doesn’t really have arcs. Walking Dead is one giant story, but it deserves to be on this list. For several years it’s been one of my favorite comics for its character exploration in a brutal and harsh situation. Though this story does contain one of this series’ few blunders (The return of the character you see on that cover), it was undeniably excellent. Testing these poor characters once again, Kirkman created the most suspenseful story of the year. The amount of hell inflicted on these men, women, and children was unsettling and powerful. Clearly, this is a landmark in a fantastic monthly book.
7. Northlanders: Sven the Returned (Northlanders One through Eight)
Written by Brian Wood
Illustrated by Davide Gianfelice
Collected here. On the back of the trade (That’s only ten dollars! Eight issues for ten bucks is so awesome) there are quotes comparing this tale to Conan and 300. If that’s what you need to hear then I’ll agree with that comparison and even throw Braveheart into the mix. But really, this is the classic tale of the man born in the wrong time. It’s more than the modern language (You like the F-word right?) and evil uncle (That brings Hamlet to mind). Sven is a modern man trapped in a society based on dying with honor. Would you charge an army of one thousand if you were alone? I don’t think so. Yes, on the surface this is an enthralling adventure with Vikings, boobs and blood by the barrel full. But beneath the flare is a classic tale with a fantastic and unexpected conclusion.
6. Scalped: Dead Mothers (Scalped #13-17)
Written by Jason Aaron
Illustrated by R.M. Guera
Collected here. Dash Bad Horse and Chief Red Crow are incredibly intriguing characters even though they don’t have a lot to say. That’s one of Aaron’s strengths as a writer, he knows when to shut up and let his artist shine. Guera provides the usual rough style of art you’re used to seeing in these types of comics, but with a twist. It’s hard to put into words. You’ll just have to see it for yourself. Scalped, like Walking Dead, is an ongoing epic that’s hard to judge from arc to arc. But Dead Mothers is particularly amazing. And by amazing I mean heartbreaking. It’s hard not to spoil things, but Dead Mothers is about well, what do you think? Two people have lost their mothers and their murderers need to be brought to justice. But it’s so much more than that. Scalped is a crime western history epic filled with shocking twists and turns.
Written by Warren Ellis
Illustrated by Juan Jose Ryp
Publisher: Avatar Press
Collected here. I dare everyone to read issue #0 (It’s one freaking dollar) of this series and not pick up the trade. It will pique your interest. Heck, you may have even seen this comic on the news if your town is small enough. Though it may be deemed by some to be liberal propaganda, you must remember this is written by Warren Ellis. It’s much more complex than that. This series is also enriched by the amazing and detailed visuals of Juan Jose Ryp. Though the story may devolve into a big action blockbuster (It does have summer in the title after all), I doubt you’ll find another blockbuster more thought provoking than this.
4. Criminal: Bad Night (Criminal Vol 2 #4-7)
Written by Ed Brubaker
Illustrated by Sean Phillips
Collected here. I got into this book late, very late. I wouldn’t have believed it, but Criminal really is Brubaker and Phillips’ best work. I’m sure you’ve heard of this book’s general accomplishments, so that gives me the opportunity to talk about Bad Night specifically. The first volume (Coward and Lawless) offered crime stories that seemed familiar but were told well. Brubaker provided lovable baddies and established the mood and tone wonderfully. And as for Sean Phillips, there’s a difference between pretty art and art that belongs. One can be replaced and one can’t. Phillips belongs in the latter category. I can’t imagine anyone else on this book. Phillips’ quality continued in the second volume, but Brubaker stepped it up a notch. He began to tell more unconventional crime stories. Bad Night was his most experimental and his best to date. He demonstrated true noir. I’m not talking about the watered down crap you’ve seen in the last few decades. I’m talking about the gritty old-school, where every character is scummy. Bad Night is about lust, creativity, and obsession. Its finale packs quite a punch.
3. Punisher: Long Cold Dark (Punisher #50-54)
Written by Garth Ennis
Illustrated by Goran Parlov, Howard Chaykin
Publisher: MAX Comics
Collected here. This is the year that made all Punisher fans (And anyone who appreciates great comics) cry. Garth Ennis left the big scary skull dude. But still, even in the winter of Ennis’ Punisher years, he managed to produce some damn fine comics. In fact, Long Cold Dark and Valley Forge, Valley Forge are two of his best. Now, Valley may be a better story for those who read the whole series, but Long Cold is for everyone (Except maybe children, old people and the squeamish). The first issue is drawn by the legendary Howard Chaykin and the rest of the arc is cinematically rendered by Goran Parlov. This is fun, twisted, and full of no holds barred action. And I really do mean that. Barracuda (The big black guy, not the Heart song) returns and has a piece of Frank’s past with him. I won’t spoil anything, but it’s a hell of a plot device. Possibly the Punisher’s best villain finds a way to get under Frank’s skin. It’s a terrific and bloody ride.
2. All Star Superman (All Star Superman #1-12)
Written by Grant Morrison
Illustrated by Frank Quitely
Publisher: DC Comics
Collected here and here. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely are phenomenal. These two Scots collaborate again and again and every time they produce pure magic. All Star Superman is the best Superman story. Some would say that this is the only Superman comic one would ever need. To me, every Superman tale actually improves because of this. All Star Superman breathes new life into a seventy year old character. But this is more than nostalgia or a Silver Age throwback. It’s a unique and fascinating tale that’s extraordinarily memorable. Superman and Lois kissing on the moon. A man playing cosmic fetch with his dog. Superman saving that kid from suicide. Earth Q, the world without Superman. It’s all so beautiful. So if this is my #2, what the heck is my #1?
1. Casanova: Gula (Casanova #8-14)
Written by Matt Fraction
Illustrated by Fabio Moon
Publisher: Image Comics
Casanova, that’s what. I do not put Casanova ahead of Morrison’s Superman lightly. I put much thought into this decision and in the end, Casanova’s (Or is it Zephyr’s?) charm won me over. This book is purely transcendent. From its cost of two dollars to the fact that every issue is packed with more information, emotion, etc. than most mainstream six-issue arcs (And I’m just talking about Gula. The first arc, Luxuria, was even denser). Casanova is genuinely groundbreaking. It won’t be as easy to recreate as something like The Dark Knight Returns which is why it will probably never receive the credit it deserves. And speaking of the Dark Knight, what sets Casanova apart from its genre defining (Or redefining) counterparts is its undeniable sense of fun. Casanova, on top of everything else, is funny! So please, each issue is only two bucks if you want the floppies (Which you probably should since each issue is filled with wonderful back matter from Fraction himself) and the first trade is a little more than ten dollars. Casanova is worth your time.
Incredible Hercules: Sacred Invasion (Incredible Hercules #117-120)
This was the best thing to come out of Secret Invasion. Well, it wasn’t a great new series, that was Captain Britain. But it was the best story with the words “Secret Invasion” on the cover. Incredible Hercules is a fun, humorous and refreshing comic. Sacred Invasion features the awesome God Squad! It also contains the most shocking Skrull reveal ever (That was ruined on the cover of the trade)!
Superman: Brainiac (Action Comics #866-870)
Superman had a fantastic year. Along with All Star Superman, Geoff Johns wrote three wonderful Superman tales. Superman: Brainiac was my favorite. Gary Frank’s art is worth the price alone. He captures all the sci-fi, horror, and emotion perfectly. Superman’s ensemble cast also shines here. And those last few pages are heartbreaking. It’s too bad I couldn’t get Geoff Johns on the list this year, but with Blackest Night coming up, it’s a safe bet he’ll make the list for 2009.
Thor: Ages of Thunder (Thor: Ages of Thunder, Thor: Circle of Blood, Thor: Man of War)
The best Thor story in years, it explores the Thunder God’s early years. Fraction delivers some giant-slaying fun. If you’re looking for a good time with Gods, Monsters, and lascivious Odin, this book is for you!
Thunderbolts: Caged Angels (Thunderbolts #116-121)
I love this run so much. Why did I put Black Summer on my list instead of this? Black Summer isn’t well-known, Caged Angels is only half of the story, and Black Summer has complete creative freedom.
X-Force: Angels & Demons (X-Force #1-6)
This was on my list for so long. I do love it and isn’t that cover awesome? I figured I could only use one for the honorable mentions and that is by far the best. This is the dark and bloody version of the X-Men. X-Force also gives us a few continuity surprises. Clayton Crain renders some stunning images.
So there it is. That took a lot of time, so much so that we’re already in the second month of the new year (Time flies). I think it’s a pretty good list. I’m sorry Marvel fans. There aren’t any traditional Marvel comics on my main list (Though Punisher and Criminal kind of count), but at least you have my honorable mentions. Other than that, I think I spread the love, right? 2008 wasn’t that great for the real world (In fact, it was pretty horrible), but at least the comics were good.
Ah, Halloween. A time when comic fans reread Batman: The Long Halloween. Or maybe the entire trilogy! Read my reviews for those books here, here and here. No I’m not Jeph Loeb, but I am going as Jeph Loeb for Halloween. Hey, his writing is terrifying. Terrifyingly terrible! See, I praise them and then I make fun of them. That’s how I role. Anyway, instead of going out and being social at parties (Who wants to do that?), why don’t you kick back and get your scare on comics style!
“EEEK! Red Lanterns!” Final Crisis: Rage Of The Red Lanterns (*****)
So many awesome covers this week! But I don’t think this one is my favorite (More on that in another post. Stay Tuned!). Yes, the art is a big part of this issue. I was originally going to praise Shane Davis, but I don’t think he’s the artistic star. Sure his character designs for the RL’s (Including one of the funniest most awesome lanterns ever!) are amazing and he does help make this comic epic, but I think his inker (Sandra Hope, the sexiest inker in the biz) and his colorist (Nei Ruffing) save his ass. Davis’ art is just a bit too inconsistent. The awkward faces don’t help either. Still, due to the aforementioned ass savers, this book still looks fantastic. Johns brings the goods as expected, but I have to criticize (as I must in all of Johns’ Final Crisis tie-ins) him for this issues’ lack of relevance to Final Crisis. But besides that, this comic is creepy, funny, bloody (So much red!) and entertaining!
“What The Hell Is That!?” Hellboy: In The Chapel Of Moloch (****1/2)
Ah, the good old days. A Done-In-One Hellboy story written and drawn by Mike Mignola. Yeah, I said “drawn by Mike Mignola”. What’s it been? Three years since he’s done interiors? I’d pretty much love this just for that even if the writing was terrible, but it’s not. I’m talking 24 pages of advertisement-free Hellboy awesomeness. All the classic Hellboy elements are present. This means it’s not quite as unique as this years Hellboy: The Crooked Man, but it’s just as fun. Throw the Mignola art into the mix and you definitely have a winner.
“AAAHHH! Wolf-Man!” Astounding Wolf-Man #9 (****)
This comic isn’t usually scary and…I guess this issue isn’t any different, but it’s definitely shocking! I’ve written about it a lot in my recent Invincible reviews, but I don’t think I’ve covered it in my Wolf-Man posts. FCO Plascencia is the man! Sure, Jason Howard does do a great job, but FCO makes it magic with his spectacular colors. I’ve noticed lately that Invincible has been more violent and FCO achieves that here as well. Kirkman is great at reveals, but never before have the reveals been so devastating or plentiful. There are like 4 times in here when I yelled “Whoa!” or “Jebus!” or whatever popped into my shocked brain. After the slow pace in last issue, things seem to be moving at lightning speed. This book is worth reading!
“Oh My God! It’s The…” Joker (*****)
To hell with Scarecrow! The Joker is Batman’s scariest villain. This is the highly anticipated graphic novel by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo. Most people are excited about this because of the new Batman movie and because this Joker looks so similar to Heath Ledger’s version. Take a look.
Just in case you haven’t heard it elsewhere, THIS IS NOT A SEQUEL TO THE DARK KNIGHT! Azzarello and Bermejo have been working on this for years. Bermejo talks about it here. Apparently, Bermejo has been working on this for two years (Wow!) which was before Ledger was even cast. The similarities are purely coincidental which is perfect for this book. Everyone will be thinking of Ledger and hear his voice when they read this. It sort of adds an element of madness, eh?
Madness is the name of the game here. This is a character study of the Joker and a new henchman, Johnny Frost. This graphic novel is heavily influenced by noir and everything is more realistic, or is it? What is reality when you deal with the Joker? But what I meant was there are very few costumes in here. Sure Harley, Croc, Penguin and Two-Face are included, but they have a different look. This isn’t what’s most unique about the comic though. I’ll get to that later.
I haven’t seen much of Bermejo’s art, but it’s very impressive in these pages. Especially considering the two years he put into this, if you’re a Bermejo fan, you need to pick this up because of the art alone. Besides looking pretty, the book’s look serves another purpose. There are two different styles in here. One is when Bermejo inks himself that adds a painted look in addition to being featured in the “important” scenes. The second look is when Mike Gray inks. This has a much more traditional feel to it. The original reason was to speed up the artistic process (Two years wasn’t enough) and to supposedly control the speed of the reader’s eyes. The idea was to have people slow down and look at the glorious Bermejo inked pages. Whatever the reason, this worked in favor of Joker. It adds another level of insanity and obscurity.
My main criticism of Bermejo’s art and probably of the entire book is the inability or choice to censor certain things while pushing almost too far in other areas. I’m sure you can guess what I’m referring too. The violence is very hard core and the language, nudity and even a damn middle finger is played down. Bermejo, in that aforementioned interview, takes the blame for it, but it could have very easily been DC’s decision. Though this “decision” isn’t too off-putting, nor does it detract from the overall quality of the book, it’s still annoying. If I didn’t see it all the time in comics (I just brought this up in a recent Daredevil review) I probably wouldn’t be as bothered.
Anyway, what impressed me the most about this book was its tone and dialogue. It’s so incredibly intriguing. This is one of those stories you can read over and over again. You’ll notice new things or react differently making each read something special. I hate to make assumptions, but I think the people who will dislike this story will be those who don’t absorb the subtleties. This isn’t a straightforward book. It’s bizarre, it’s realistic, it’s disturbingly humorous and disturbingly violent. I knew there was a reason why this book was called Joker.
Whew! That was exhausting! Oh well, it only comes once a year. I hope you all enjoyed reading this stuff and I’m sure you’re all scared now. I’m off to continue my horror movie marathon, up next? The Shinning!
Yeah it’s not comic related, so what? You enjoy your Blade while I enjoy my favorite horror film. Happy Halloween!
100 Bullets #94 (****)
It’s so difficult to review a comic that’s part 94 of 100, so I’m not even going to try. The reason I’m spotlighting this baby is simple: Lono vs. Dizzy… FIGHT!!! This is like, 70 issues in the making and we don’t even get to see who wins??? You’re killing me! My money’s on Dizzy. She’s too hot to lose! Too cold to hold!
The Boys #21 (*****)
This could be the best issue in the series and The Boys aren’t even in it. We finally get the scoop about this world’s 9/11 and SHIT, it’s a doozy, folks. So, the Legend reveals that the Seven are a bunch of super cluster####s who in the process of saving the day killed a whole bunch of people on a plane. And then, out government covered it up. Oh, also, someone close to Butcher was killed in the tragedy. Man, no wonder he hates these bastards. The thing I like so much about this series, despite the heavy-handed political messaging, is how honest Ennis is with his characters, and by extension, his readers. Ennis’ super folk are just like us. The things they do to the normal people in this book are the type of things normal people would do if they were suddenly granted super powers. These guys are human first, heroes second. This makes them not just noble, but petty, cruel and most importantly, weak. I don’t read this as Ennis’ disdain for the human race as a whole, but only for that corrupt minority that makes like miserable for the reasonably good-natured majority. So, in conclusion: I love this book. I love it because it plays fair. It’s the type of comic I wish I could write, but I’m glad someone more talented than me is actually pulling it off.
Criminal #4 (*****)
New story! So there’s this dude, used to be a counterfeiter, among other things, and then one day he gets caught up with this sultry little number, who steals his entire pathetic little stash, but that’s okay, because at least it was fun, but she ain’t through with him yet, because, out of the blue, after a few weeks, her boyfriend shows up to kick his teeth in, only, not really, the dude overreacts which kind of forces this pissed off boyfriend thug type to beat on him, into unconsciousness, and when he wakes, brother, the girl is back and she’s been telling tales, because thug boyfriend wants this dude to hook a hiim up with some fake FBI badges… oh snap, just another Criminal tale!
The Walking Dead #51 (****1/2)
No, that rating ain’t no mistake. Issue #51 was solid from start to finish. Kirkman really surprised me with this one. The phone thing caught me completely off guard. I was expecting it to be the missing prison people, but no, I was totally bamboozled. And then the end, that little bit where Rick goes back for the phone? That was heartbreak. I wanted to cry, but then I remembered that I’m a dude, and dudes don’t cry. So instead, I gave a little grunt and a sigh.
Young Liars #6 (*****)
HOLY SHIT, SADIE KILLS A ROOM FULL OF BAD GUYS AND THEN DANNY TRIES TO KILL HIMSELF?!!? How does this book keep topping itself? I was worried there for a minute, since before we hit those last few pages, the story seemed to be winding down. And then… bam-bam-bam-bam! EXPLOSION OF AWESOME!!! To save money, I should definitely switch over to trades, but I love the idea that each of these issues is like a single off a record. Owning the floppies feels mandatory.
• Buffy The Vampire Slayer #17 (***): Uh, who are all these characters? I’M SO LOST!!! I shouldn’t have to read or reread the Fray series, Joss! Introduce your fracking characters! Oh, and O-B-V the dark and mysterious chick is Willow… DUH!!! This surprises no one, Mr. Whedon. BE BETTER, damn it.
• Eternals #3 (***1/2): The story takes a slight dip as we slow down to get a dose of Celestials back-story, but most of it is interesting so I’ll give them a pass. Plus, I’m not stupid enough to think it’s unnecessary. Stuff’s gonna git ‘uge, fellars! We gots to be prepare’d with the learnings and the bed timey stories.
• Green Lantern Cops #27 (***): Why does the art feel so dated? I like Luke Ross. Why does this suck? The story was fine. Boring, but fine. And then we get eyeball rain. WOOO!
• Iron Man: Viva Las Vegas #2 (**): Late books! Not gonna lie, this comic stinks.
• Jack of Fables #24 (**): This will probably be remembered as the worst issue of Jack in the entire run. It was boring, I was bored. The climax was the epitome of anti-climax. About the only thing I did like was the part where the kid gets his fingers bitten off. Other than that, it felt like the story went one issue too long, as if Bill and Matthew were as bored with it as I was. Still, good art, a nice Bolland cover and a page of Babe at the end, so I can’t complain too much.
• Spawn #181 (***): This was just weird, or oddly paced. The story definitely feels rushed here. Oh, I wonder why. McFarlane is returning to the book. Yay.
• The Twelve #7 (****): Yes! Phantom Reporter guy might actually do something about all the evil shit going down! Good for you, dude. Took you long enough. Also, the parallels JMS draws between Captain America and Captain Wonder where very cool, especially the stuff pertaining to their respective sidekicks… although, I doubt Bucky would off himself if faced with the same situation as Tim. Bucky’s too cool to commit suicide.
• Wonder Woman #23 (**1/2): Maybe this issue redeems this arc, maybe it doesn’t. Honestly? I could give a shit at this juncture. Bring on the next arc!
NOTE: The scanner works! Scans will return next week! Rejoice!
100 Bullets #93 (****)
Finally! Something awesome happened that doesn’t require tons of back-story for the uninitiated to understand!!! Or, does it…
This is the minuteman.
This is the girl he wants to kill.
Here is the man who wishes to protect her.
This is his breathing machine.
This is the entrance to the panic room where girl and protector are hiding. That is the assassin approaching.
…and, also this. OUCH, and yet very, very awesome!
What a fricking cliffhanger, right?? This was just a great little action issue and it was more than welcome. I’m hoping the final seven issues are this good or better.
Captain Britain and MI13 #3 (*****)
Three issues, Bendis! Three mother-effing issues!! Look at all the shit that Cornell has accomplished in three issues!!! Bendis, you hack.
That’s it. No need to beat a dead horse. Go away. Now.
The Incredible Hercules #119 (****1/2)
I love this book. LOOOOOOOOOOOVE IT. Besides all the awesome god action and the interesting way this book ties into the Secret Invasion event, this page perfectly sums up why I love Hercules and also why I couldn’t give two shits about the Hulk anymore.
• Amazing Spider-Man #565-566 (**1/2): Kraven’s daughter? Sister? Cousin? Who gives a shit? I like the switcheroo device, or mistaken identity as “they” say, between Vin and Peter. The art by Phil P. is excellent of course, but beyond that, I’m kind of bored with this idea. Part 3 needs to wow my socks off to salvage this arc in my eyes.
• Brit #7 (**): Didn’t I cancel this book? This issue was fun, but it was basically your garden variety hero vs. hero misunderstanding plot. WHOA, how original. If not for the fairly well-done scene between Brit and his ex-wife, this issue has absolutely no value in any quantifiable form. Stop sending these to me, DCBS!!!
• Cable #5 (*): Gets one star for the good art. Loses four for everything else.
• Dreamwar #4 (**1/2): So, I was right. The DC characters were pulled from some kid’s dreams. They are not real people. Wow. Great reveal. At least the dialogue is good. Keith Giffen, what a master. Oh wait, the plot still blows.
• Powers #29 (**): Um, what’s going? Honestly, I don’t know why I still read this book. It’s actually terrible. It’s tired and it’s terrible and it’s boring. Bendis is taking his sweet ass time with this “powers virus” bullshit. Hasn’t it been like 12 issues so far? Is anyone still reading this book? Why am I here!?!?! Maybe I’ll switch to trade. Maybe it reads better that way.
• Wolfskin Annual #1 (*): Once again, completely forgettable. What is Ellis doing with this idea? Is he just writing a cheap Conan knock-off? Does he even have plans for this character? It must be nice to be able to scratch an artistic itch in public and have people pay you massive amounts of money for it. You know, like what Frank Miller did with The Dark Knight Strikes Again. But Ellis is a better writer so why is this shit so bad? This has got to be the most half-assed idea he’s written since, since… Strange Kiss (but I do like the Gravel character). I should stop buying these. They’re not even remotely good or entertaining. Why am I such an Ellis-whore?
5 Stars: WARNING: Screwball
4 Stars: Mr. Negative
3 Stars: Jackpot
2 Stars: Menace
1 Star: Freak
100 Bullets #91 (****)
Finally, significant plot development!!! A new character!!! Although, he does look a little too much like Shepherd. That was confusing at first. Anyway, the new guy, Mr. Slaughter, shows up to reveal interesting things and answers questions from about 90 issues ago!!! Seriously, we haven’t seen the attaché cases referenced in a good long while. Even still, as the series winds down, I doubt The Azz’ll answer every question, I’m sure he’ll let some of this shit linger. Bastard.
The Amazing Spider-Man #559 (*****)
Dan Slott can do no wrong in this one. Of all the writers on BND, I’m glad Slott’s the one who gets to rotate in so often. The man just gets Peter. He gets the new direction and his new villains are right on the money. They are exactly the kind of fun and interesting that fits well in the Spidery Universe. Screwball, the first live-streaming super-villain, makes this issue. Especially her reaction to getting spider-tracer’d. Marcos Martin was born to draw Spidey. See, that’s one of the downsides to rotating the art team. They’ve all been fabulous, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Martin on a more regular basis, even if I’d have to wait a month for the next issue.
Guardians of the Galaxy #1 (***)
It was… fun. I know everyone’s been raving about it, and I don’t really want to bash it, but in my opinion, it wasn’t as good as all that. The team intros definitely work better here than in The Order, and I like the banter, but I just don’t buy the team’s chemistry. Star-Lord, Raccoon, Mantis and Quasar, I get. Giffen did such a fantastic job setting up Star-Lord’s team in that four issue mini, that you wouldn’t expect these characters to act any other way. And Quasar is such an unexplored and lost character, I get why she’s in this book. Drax, Adam Warlock and Gamora… in a team book? Now? Not feeling it. Yes, I know they used to be in the Watch together, but let’s face facts, the characters we have now are nothing like the characters from that much beloved B-Team from the 90’s. Gamora even says so herself in this issue. Just based on how these characters were written in the Annihilation books, I don’t buy that they’d join this team. Sure, D&A skirt the issue with some throw away dialogue about Gamora “searching for meaning”, but these ideas just don’t hold water with me. Anyway, I know lots of people love it, so I’ll stop complaining. I’ll keep reading, since I appreciate the D&A style and what they’re trying to do for Cosmic characters in the Marvel Universe, but I can’t fool myself into thinking this is a 5-Star book.
Wonder Woman #20 (****)
YAY for good writing! YAY for good Wonder Woman writing! That’s all.
X-Factor: The Quick and The Dead (****)
Hey, it’s a 4-Star X-Factor book! I had so much fun reading this. Lately, everything with the angsty/self-loathing Quicksilver has been wonderfully entertaining. I love how crazy and delusional he is. I mean, isn’t this the natural progression for anyone that is as self-important as Quicksilver used to be? The man imagined himself the savior of Mutantkind, for God sakes! If David could tear himself away from the atrocious She-Hulk, I’d love to see a Quicksilver ongoing. The character is finally interesting enough (thanks to Hine) to support it. Oh, what happened in this one-shot? He got his powers back, of course!
• Amazing Spider-Man #558 (*): I could’ve happily lived the remainder of my life without the conclusion to “The Freak” story. Bob Gale FAILS at BND.
• The Boys #18 (****): This book continues to impress month after month. Hughie is now one of my favorite comic book characters.
• Cable #3 (***): I’m still on board with this, it’s kind of slow, but I like that the dialogue and narration is sparse. I read so many books every month, it’s nice to relax back with an “empty” read once in a while.
• Foolkiller #5 (***1/2): Decent conclusion to a surprisingly good mini. Looking forward to the next one.
• Logan #3 (***): An overall interesting story, but it may have worked better as a fill-in run in the main book.
• Nightwing #144 (**): I’m not sure what it is, but I’m just not as jazzed about this book as everyone else. The Talia banter was cool, but the rest of the issue was just sort of blah. If I nail it down, I may do a full review of the book next month.
• Nova #13 (***): An entire issue’s worth of lead up for a final page splash that may or may not have been worth it. I appreciate what D&A are trying to do here, but as a longtime Marvel and Silver Surfer reader, I’ve seen this type of setup many times before. I don’t want to be so harsh as to call it a rerun, but it’s damn close. I’m a jaded bastard. Next issue is sure to be an exciting read, so I’ll give the writers the benefit of the doubt for now.
• Punisher War Journal #19 (*): I don’t get how Fraction could go so wrong, so fast. The Punisher has always been a historically difficult book to write, but he seemed to have a unique handle on it… till recently. More cancellations in my future?
• X-Men: Legacy (****): This is the book continuity buffs have been waiting for! And I, for one, love it! Carey mines the X-Men’s illustrious legacy, unearthing forgotten gems. Also, Professor X as a semi-amnesiac totally works. This is the best X-Men Carey has ever written. Shit, I even like the Finch covers. He manages to allow his women to look like women!