Catch-Up Mini-Reviews

Detective Comics #856

Tec3

Greg Rucka’s story in Detective Comics isn’t particular deep.  It’s a relatively simple story, in fact: Batwoman learns that the new leader of the Religion of Crime is coming to Gotham, goes, confronts her.  It’s a pretty standard adventure comic, with Rucka’s usual capable plotting and dialogue.  In fact, the more concise, fun Question back-up in the book features slightly sharper writing thus far… but no one will confuse that for the better read.  Hamner continues to turn in clean, dynamic work on the Question back-up, while J.H. Williams III’s work on the main feature remains stellar.  The book is gorgeous and well-written, and consistently worth your time.

Grade: B+

Wonder Woman #35

Wonder Woman

Gail Simone finishes up this brief arc with a few revelations and a lot of aftermath left over from “Rise of the Olympian”, including some dark promises and new powers.  All of it sets up the next big story, but it’s done in one of the book’s most engaging, fun arcs Simone’s run has produced.  She goes a way too heavy on the fan-worship of Black Canary in a number of awkward, uncomfortable internal monologues from Wonder Woman, but the arc otherwise offers action with gorgeous, fluid art from Lopresti paired with a simple story setting up another major new chapter in Diana’s life.

Grade: A-

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #4

Ink4

Ink continues to be a pleasant surprise for me.  Fiorentino’s art, while occasionally muddy, is improving, and he’s demonstrated himself to be an apt choice to illustrate just how formidable the Tattooed Man can be.  Wallace’s story, meanwhile, generally maintains its pleasant mix of urban crime drama and superheroics, though the more action-oriented approach to this issue meant that it sacrificed a little bit of the drama in favor of the superheroics.  A late game plot twist took that shift a little too far, however, and the issue ends somewhere between the ridiculous and the parodic.

Grade: B+

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #4

Dance4

Dance finally pulls itself out of the slump the mini had been in and starts moving forward.  Though the last issue was of a high quality, the mini really wasn’t going much of anywhere.  With the team broken up, however, and the media blitz that had blinded them for the first few issues fading, Most Excellent Superbat finally has time to check up on his home country.  Not all is right in Japan, however, and he’s forced to get the team back together again.  Casey’s writing of these new teen heroes remains relatively sharp, while Chriscross’ cartoony art more than keeps up with the book’s humor and energy.  If only DC’s other teen heroes were even half so interesting right now…

Grade: B+

Incognito #6

Incogni

Brubaker and Phillips complete the first arc with the strongest, most exciting issue yet.  We learn even more about the origins of the Overkill brothers, learn about why Yuri was created, and see a massive showdown between Zack and his old allies.  All the action is well-illustrated by Sean Phillips in some of his most exciting fights yet.  The book is undeniably over the top, but it loves living up its pulp roots.  Though it’ll be quite some time before we get the next issue, the news isn’t all bad – the reason for the long delay is because Brubaker and Phillips will be returning to do a new arc on Criminal.

Grade: A

Runaways #13

Runaways

Immonen was responsible for last year’s manic, excellent Patsy Walker: Hellcat.  Unfortunately her Runaways, which finds her teamed with Sara Pichelli, lacks both the momentum and the cleverness of her debut work. Pichelli’s art is clean and cartoonish, giving the book a sense of energy, but it isn’t enough.  It isn’t enough, however.  After subpar runs from Whedon and Moore, Immonen and Pichelli needed to start their run off with a bang.  Unless the end of the arc offers up some pretty massive surprises, it’s safe to say that she’s failed to do so.

Grade: C

Doktor Sleepless #13

Sleepless

After a lengthy delay, the good Doktor returns.  Things are heating up in Heavenside, mostly according to the Doktor’s plans.  The issue reads like a montage of the city going to hell, and while it isn’t the most creative or compelling issue Ellis has turned in thus far, it is nonetheless immensely satisfying to see everything come to a head like this.  Rodriguez continues to improve as his design becomes more confident and his figures become less stiff.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary

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Detective Comics #855

Doktor Sleepless #11

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #3

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #3

Incognito #6

Runaways #12

Wonder Woman #34

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: 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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