Catch-Up Mini-Reviews

Detective Comics #856

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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

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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

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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

Catch-Up Mini-Reviews

Captain Britain and MI:13 #15

Britain

Thus ends one of Marvel’s strongest ongoing books.  Cornell and Kirk wind down their title with the massive “Vampire State” arc that should’ve been cheesy as hell but ended up being gripping, exciting and just downright fun.  The issue is packed with excellently written and drawn action set-pieces that build off of everything that’s come before to give the issue the emotional closure it needed without sacrificing the excitement.  Top quality work.

Grade: B+

Runaways #12

Runaway

Immonen still hasn’t brought the energy of her absolutely fantastic Patsy Walker: Hellcat mini to the title, but her second issue shows a small amount of improvement over the first.  Pichelli’s art renders everyone and everything in the title improbably pretty, if overly cartoonish, but she handles the issue’s dramatic moments quite well.  Nothing spectacular yet, but more than good enough to keep giving it a shot.

Grade: B-

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #3

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Ink continues to be the surprise of the Final Crisis Aftermath titles for me as it uses the conventions of the gritty crime drama to tell the story of a supervillain seeking redemption.  Wallace and Fiorentino make the tale a little more complicated than it needs to be by having Richards’ tattoos come to life, but the metaphor is apt: escaping a life of crime is already hard without having those closest to you trying to drag you back into it.  

Grade: B

– Cal Cleary

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Captain Britain and MI:13 #14

Runaways #11

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #2

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #1

Review: Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #2

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

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

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

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

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary

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Other FCA Reviews

Final Crisis Aftermath: Run! #1

Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape #1

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #1

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #2

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #1

Review: Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #1

Ink

Well, the last of the Final Crisis Aftermath books has finally hit with today’s Ink #1, and to my vast surprise, DC was saving the best for last.  Ink follows Mark Richards, the Tattooed Man, who, in Final Crisis: Submit worked with Black Lightning, and then went on to join Black Canary and other Justice League members to help save the world.  Inducted as an honorary member of the Justice League, Richards is trying to turn his life around.  

It isn’t easy, though – the same emotional and social issues that made him a criminal in the first place are still present in his life, and his neighborhood hasn’t gotten any prettier.  Wallace does a great job with the book’s most dicey proposition in dealing with the issues challenging Richards’ reform, most notably to do with his son.  He sets up a few different plot threads to follow through the series, from crooked cops to family troubles to a fickle public – and demonstrates a surprising amount of restraint.  This isn’t a book glorifying the violence of an anti-hero.  This legitimately appears to be an attempt to genuinely reform, and I’m genuinely curious to know if the character will succeed.

The art, provided here by Fabrizio Fiorentino and colored by Michael Dimotta, is fantastic, a high-quality job that seriously ups the creep-factor and gives the tattooed creations of the book an otherworldly edge.  Though it takes a few pages to adapt to the style, once you do you’ll find that it works extremely well in both the action sequences and the slower, more dramatic moments.  Though the dark, slightly scratchy style might not be up everyone’s alley, it complements the book well.

The book offers compelling set-up, strong characterization, fast-paced action, and some great art.  All-in-all, Ink looks like it might just be the star of the FCA line, and it leaves me eagerly awaiting more.

Grade: B+

Read/RANT

Top Ten August 2009 DC Covers

Illustrated by Ed Benes

No, this isn’t my number ten. I thought we’d kick things off with the worst cover. Oh, Benes. Must we have a zombie ass shot? Really? Yeah, DC, get that man on the Blackest Night: Titans series and he’ll draw all the dead Titans in one big zombie orgy. Terrific.

10. Illustrated by Fabrizio Fiorentino

Whose hand is that? Will the JLA DIE??? No, but is that Plastic Man as the King? That’s cool. I kind of want to read this. Oh wait, this book is terrible. Nevermind.

9. Illustrated by Andy Kubert

Maybe it’s just me, but I think that’s a striking image. It’s not every day that someone has a hand in Batman. Will DC kill off their new Batman already?

8. Illustrated by Amanda Conner

That’s an interesting cover. I wish it had a background, but it’s been awhile since I saw Power Girl in a monster’s paw. And PG’s expression is awesome! Well done, Conner!

7. Illustrated by Frank Quitely

As much as I love Quitely, his covers aren’t always the best, but I like this. It’s like we’re in the POV of some giant. Look at our huge hands, and our minions are beating up the heroes way off in the distance. The pencils are unusually loose for Quitely, and I dig the coloring.

6. Illustrated by J. Bone

Take note, Benes. That’s how you do ass shots! It’s the generic JLA cover backwards! Sweet!

5. Illustrated by Simon Bisley

Who hurt you, Constantine? Who hurt you?

4. Illustrated by Dave Johnson

“I killed him, Horatio.”

3. Illustrated by David Lapham

The last Young Liars issue. Too bad. Great cover, though. Sad, absurd, and tells you something about the comic. It involves Mars.

2. Illustrated by Brian Bolland

Brian Bolland back on Animal Man covers, everything is right in the world. How amazing is that? Wonderfully drawn, striking, who’s pointing at Animal Man? What’s happening to Animal Man? The only downside is Starfire. She just radiates “skank” doesn’t she? Oh, well. At least Bolland didn’t draw Starfire naked.

1. Illustrated by JH Williams III

Williams is amazing. This cover isn’t as spellbinding as last month’s, it’s a bit more conventional. But this is a cover you will notice. That wolf makes it look like Coppola’s Dracula is involved. I have no idea who that guy embracing Batwoman is, and I love the way Batwoman’s blood blends with her red hair. I am so looking forward to this comic!

So, that’s my list. What’s yours?