My Comic Con 2009!!!

Wow! It’s already come and gone. I thought I’d just give my report on my experience. But don’t expect to see any pictures of fat, sweaty guys, dressed in 300 “costumes.” No, my Comic Con involved laughter, love, and chatting with the talent.

Sketch-A-Palooza!

Aaron Lopresti’s Wonder Woman!

Alvin Lee’s Sagat!

Amanda Conner’s Power Girl!

Cliff Chiang’s Black Canary!

Cliff Rathburn’s Reaper!

Dean Yeagle’s Mandy!

Dustin Nguyen’s Batman!

Francis Manupal’s Cassie Sandsmark!

Jamal Igle’s Silver Banshee!

Jamal Igle’s Supergirl!

Joe Linsner’s Batman!

Jonboy’s Meyers’ Wonder Woman!

Micah Gunnell’s Wolverine!

Nicola Scott’s Scandal Savage! Hey, it’s signed by Gail Simone too!

Patrick Gleason’s Arisia!

Patrick Gleason’s Soranik Natu!

Philip Tan’s Red Hood!

Sanford Greene’s Supergirl!

Terry Dodson’s Emma Frost!

19 sketches in two days, for a total of 80 dollars. Not too bad, right? I think I did good.

And you have to get stuff signed!

Now, the only signature I need on my Sinestro Corps War hardcovers is Ivan Reis.

I’m gunnin’ for ya, Reis!

Green Lantern symbols provided by Geoff Johns.

Aww, Gail Simone loves me!

And she put a Wonder Woman star over her “i”. How precious! Terry Dodson and Bernard Chang have pretty signatures too.

Terry Dodson calls Frank Cho a perv!

The war is on. Which artist will win?

Greg Rucka gave me a free copy of Detective Comics #854!

So, I was standing in line for Jamal Igle at the DC Booth, when Greg Rucka shows up next to me! We talked. I said I was sad since I didn’t have anything for him to sign. He went into his magic bag and pulled that out. Sweet, huh?

So, there you have it, friends. I had a hell of a time, and you got to see my reward for fighting through the unkempt masses. Thanks for reading!

For more comic goodness, go here.

SeventhSoldier’s Top Five for June

There were a lot of honorable mentions this month – June 2009 was one of the best months for comics in a good long while.  From Gail Simone’s always fun Secret Six to the sleeper hit of the month for me, Rucka’s Action Comics Annual #12 – and, spoiler alert, tomorrow’s review of Kathryn Immonen rock-solid first issue on Marvel’s Runaways – June made this a pretty damn hard call to make.  I’ve given out a few pretty bad grades this month, but for the most part, the average was high – there were more A-‘s than B’s for the first time in my reviewing history on the site!

To my surprise, as someone who doesn’t particularly care for Batman as a character or as a mythos terribly much, three of the best books I read this month were newly-launched Bat-books/arcs.  Also a first?  Two different Marvel books were edging in on the top 5.  Any other month, Runaways #11 or Captain Britain and MI:13 #14 would’ve had a strong shot at prime placement.

Edit: Since I hadn’t put the review up yet, I forgot, but a Marvel title actually did make the Top 5.  Sorry, Paul Dini.

#5 Incognito #4

1024536_ful

There hasn’t been a bad issue yet of the Brubaker/Phillips collaboration Incognito.  I don’t yet know if it’ll be able to match Sleeper or Criminal – two absolutely stellar works in a similar vein… and yes, they have one or two other things in common with this book – but this issue kept the story moving along faster than I could believe and with a great deal of style and a sense of pulp adventure.  Incognito is a blast to read, without a doubt.

#4 Batman and Robin #1

batmanrobin

Splashy, gorgeous art?  Check.  Interesting new villain?  Check.  Rousing adventure?  Check.  Batman and Robin #1 has all that along with great panelling and the coolest sound effects you can imagine.  Morrison and Quitely make quite a team, as they’ve illustrated numerous times in the past, and this looks to be no exception.

#3 The Unwritten #2

the-unwritten

Carey and Gross continue on with a second issue every bit as good as their first in one of the strongest Vertigo launches I’ve seen in awhile.  There are so many small touches that go into making this book great that I can hardly list them, but this is definitely a title to be on the lookout for.  If you aren’t picking it up monthly, be sure to be on the lookout for the trades.

#2: Detective Comics #854

tec

Together, J.H. Williams III and Greg Rucka delivered a stellar opening issue to Batwoman’s stint on Detective Comics… and that’s before you add the talented Cully Hamner into the mix with his and Rucka’s The Question backup.  The book was fast-paced and exciting while still introducing a supporting cast, a new villain, and a personality in the formerly personalitiless Kate Kane.  It did a whole lot in a tiny space, and left me eagerly awaiting more.

#1: Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #3

seaguy1

God, what a strange, strange book.  Wonderful, though.  As a surreal adventure books, Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye is a satisfying book with a sharp edge of humor and a knack for innovation.  As a meta-commentary on super-hero comics, it was cutting, clever and fun.  As the finale of a threeissue mini that wrapped up the middle-child of Morrison’s planned three-volume Seaguy trilogy, it was pretty nearly perfect.

– Cal Cleary

May

Read/RANT

Review: Batman: Streets of Gotham #1

Streets

With Batman R.I.P. selling a bajillion copies and generally being a big (if controversial) hit so soon after The Dark Knight was an even huger hit with even more people, DC seems to have decided to cash in on the Batman brand, launching eight or nine new Batman-themed books of varying quality.  As you all may recall, Batman & Robin #1 (Morrison/Quitely) was a huge hit with us and many others, while Batman #687 (Winnick/Benes) and Red Robin #1 (Yost/Bachs) were a little more mixed, here and in other places.  Today saw the beginning of yet another: Batman: Streets of Gotham #1, the first of two books by excellent Bat-scribe Paul Dini.

This particular book deals with the supporting cast of Gotham City, at least for the most part.  Though this gives the book a slightly schizophrenic feel at first – and Dini sometimes does an absolutely terrible job at introducing us to some of the lesser-known members of the cast – for the most part it works out quite well, feeling in a lot of ways like the pilot to a great ensemble TV show like Freaks and Geeks in the way it jumps from characters to character, plot to plot, while maintaining an overarching theme.  In this single issue we see Jim Gordon, Harley Quinn, Batman, Robin, Huge Guy I’ve Never Seen Before, Hush, and, finally, the villain of the first arc: Firefly.  Many of these character narrate brief segments of the book, a standard writing device that somehow manages not to feel cluttered at all in Dini’s hands.

Nguyen does an excellent job on art, his slightly cartoony style adapting well to both the book’s darkest moments and its lightest.  While there’s nothing revolutionary about the art, it’s fun, and flows just as naturally as the narration along the many winding paths the book takes, a task I would imagine to be more difficult than it sounds.

Along for the ride, for those that didn’t know, is the return of Marc Andreyko’s critically-respected Manhunter.  Kate Spencer is the new D.A. of Gotham City.  Her first task: tracking down who murdered the last D.A.!  Andreyko is joined here by Georges Jeanty who does an excellent job (and whose art seems to fit quite well in the book with Nguyen’s) despite the extremely muted, slightly off-putting coloring.  

Andreyko doesn’t have a whole lot of space here, but he makes the most of it – in a small amount of pages, he manages to explain why Kate made the decision to move to Gotham, dealt with her leaving her son, Ramsey, she met a few of Gotham’s major players, shook down a snitch, beat someone up, etc….  If all the back-ups are written so concisely and so well, this should be an immensely successful move for DC.

Despite the raised price tag, this is Dini, Nguyen, Andreyko and Jeanty doing some great work, and it’s worth every penny.  

Grade: A-

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

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.

Review: Detective Comics #852

Detective Comics #852

(****)

Last time we saw Hush he was shamed, beaten and broke. He also looked like Bruce Wayne. Think about it. What would you do if you looked like Donald Trump? Well, you’d probably do something with your ridiculous hair first, but after that what would you do if you looked like someone rich and powerful. Hush explores those lucrative possibilities.

This is the first issue of Faces of Evil that I’ve read. It’s DC’s new month long event. Basically, villains have hijacked the titles. Batman isn’t in this issue at all, but at least we have someone who looks like Bruce Wayne. Paul Dini writes a fascinating tale. I love villain books. So a POV look at Hush’s life interests me. We witness a man trying to gain maybe not his life, but at least his fortune back. And of course he’s more than happy that nearly all the money he’s stealing is from Bruce. There are many special moments that make this issue grand. Besides being well-written, we also get a brief look at an Australian superhero. Hey, any excuse to get “Oi!” in my comic is fine by me.

The jury is still out on Nguyen’s art. He’s a fine storyteller. That much is certain. But he’s just too stylized for me at times. Flipping through this issue, there are several panels that work well and several that don’t. I guess I would say he’s an uneven artist. Still, even if you may find it displeasing I don’t think it can detract from Dini’s writing.

This is a two-part story. I won’t spoil the conclusion, but let’s just say it’s pretty obvious if you’ve seen the cover to Batman #685. The question is what that character will do to Hush. Will she kill him (Probably not)? Will she return to her villainous ways and join him? After seeing the quality of this issue, I’m eager to find out.

The Archives: Dini’s Detective Part 3 – Spoilers!

Detective Comics #846-850 (****)

And so we come to Dini’s big story. This is the first Batman yarn that took him more than two issues to tell. Points are detracted already. Well, not really, but I do like those done-in-ones. I want Dini to get back to those if you know, he comes back. I really do hope Morrison and Dini return after the “filler” Batman stories. When was the last time the Bat franchise was so awesome? But I digress. Let’s delve into this spoilerific review.

So right off the bat I have to bitch about that RIP tag. This story has nothing to do with RIP. I think Jezebel Jet and the Black Glove are mentioned once or twice in passing, but that’s it. So what does Dini try to accomplish in this story? Flesh out the Batman baddie, Hush. Dini is a master of this. For proof, go watch that 90’s Batman cartoon. Well, the first two issues of this story didn’t impress me at all.

The tale kicks off with business as usual for Batman. He and Catwoman crash some villain’s plan to achieve something or other. That stuff is fine but we’ve seen it done better. We also get inside Hush’s mind a bit. Is Dini adding to Loeb’s character or reinventing him? Probably a little bit of both. Am I the only one who was bugged by Hush’s narrative? That constantly frustrated me throughout the entire story. I realize it’s hard to criticize the writing of someone’s thoughts, but I kind of have to. It’s still Dini. Anyway, Hush also has some kind of creepy hospital operation. Oh, that creepiness will continue in this arc by the way. The first issue ends with Hush quoting “beware the man who can strike from a distance”. Hush has done that before, right?

The second issue is mostly Hush origin stuff. Robin and Nightwing make an appearance as well. Good God Robin is short! He’s like two heads smaller than Batman. What’s up with that, Nguyen? Don’t worry. I’ll criticize the art more later. This second part also features Zatanna and Catwoman, but it’s nothing too impressive. Those characters seem a bit off here, which is odd because Dini usually writes a great Zatanna.

Ah the third issue, my negativity ends! Well, not really, but I do think Batman #848 is where things get better. Hush pops up, fights Catwoman and then stabs her! Cool! Then Batman is tracking this scared kid that was taken by Scarecrow. Did I mention that the Scarecrow hooked the kid up to some Bane venom? So Batman has to beat up this poor little kid. That’s so twisted right? But wait, why was Scarecrow fighting Batman? So he would be distracted while Hush took Selina’s heart! Hush, you sick fuck!

So, at the beginning of the fourth issue, Batman shoves Scarecrow’s head in a toilet and electrocutes him. Why?! Is Dini writing Jack Bauer or something? Or is he just supposed to be badass now that Selina lost her heart. “This shit just got real” basically. Oh and then Dr. Mid-Nite and Mister Terrific show up, why? Just because. Ok, but then Batman infiltrates Hush’s wacky hospital. They fight a little and then stop, why? Just because. Oh no! Bruce has been breathing some crappy gas and Hush’s face is now Bruce Wayne’s. That’s…creepy, but it makes sense. Hush is kind of Bizarro Batman. Not Batzarro, but his opposite. He does bad things with his money instead of good things, that kind of stuff. I think that was Loeb’s touch, but I’m sure Dini will get the credit.

Last issue now and Hush gets his ass kicked by Alfred! Yay! But how did Alfred know it was Hush and not Bruce? Because Batman is awesome. Hush and Bats begin their ultimate showdown! It reaches the cave so we can get fun things like a giant robot Tyrannosaurus rex! Who knew that thing was a robot? Nightwing and Robin show up. Everybody fights, but how does this thing end? Remember in the Incredibles when those capes were bad for the heroes? Well, that’s kind of what happens to Hush. Everything wraps up now. Catwoman is alone, how sad. Bruce has so many women in love with him doesn’t he? And then Catwoman gets her revenge.

So that’s the story, but let me talk about Dustin Nguyen a little bit. I’m not a big fan. I can tell he’s a good artist, but it seems he unnecessarily makes things weird. Look at those covers. Some of them just look stupid. There’s a time when that look helps, but what’s the reason here? There were a lot of impressive visuals. Everything in the Batcave looked cool and his storytelling was fine. Maybe I just have to get used to his style.

So how was this story? Well, hopefully from the stars and the review you can tell I liked it. The fact that it competed with one of the best Batman stories ever didn’t help, but I was still entertained. Sure there were flaws, but in the end, it was fun. That’s what Dini’s Detective is all about.

Oh, and sorry for skipping a few issues.