I read 21 comics in April, and these were the best.
I read 21 comics in April, and these were the best.
I read 20 comics in November, and these were the best.
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.
The best Captain America bonus:
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.
These are books I dread. I have to buy them, but they usually suck!
Uncanny X-Men #504 (***1/2)
Bring on the women! Bring on Terry and Rachael Dodson! Oh yeah! But in all seriousness, has Brubaker left this book? Is this is the end of Fracker?! I thought I read that Fraction was going to write the first three with Land and then Brubaker was going to write the next three with Dodson and so on. Brubaker and Fraction were credited writers are those first three issues, but Brubaker isn’t on there at all anymore. And come to think of it, Brubaker hasn’t talked about this book has he? Fraction seems to be doing all the interviews. So does anyone know what’s going on? Anyway, how was this issue? Let me break it down:
The Crap: Stop trying to be so original and edgy! Now you’re trying to gradually break up Scott and Emma?! You are not Morrison! Yes, Morrison’s run was awesome but let’s move on X writers! I won’t say that Morrison’s run is untouchable, but you certainly aren’t going to surpass him by building on or copying his stuff! Can’t Uncanny just be a lot of fun and leave the seriousness to Astonishing and even X-Force?
The Awesome: So many pretty women. Fraction definitely knows who his artists are. Terry and Rachael are masters of the cheesecake. I loved Scott’s mind. I would think his head would be boring but it was really intriguing. That Dr. Nemesis dude was pretty cool. And I will admit that the finale was interesting. I actually do care about what comes next.
Punisher War Journal #25 (***1/2)
Wow this was actually good! Well, kind of. It finally has the Secret Invasion tag (It was absent last ish) which is funny because this one isn’t really about the Skrulls. Oh sure they’re there, but this story is really about Frank and Clarke. And I suppose that’s what Punisher War Journal was all about. With one issue left to go, we can finally realize that. Frank and Clarke hooked up in the first issue (I think) and they were buds. Then Frank killed Clarke’s girl due to that damn hate ray. So of course Clarke found out and amongst all the Skrull chaos this gets resolved, kind of. I did like this issue, but it’s a bit weird that probably the most important moment in the series takes place in a tie-in. Those new readers are going to be clueless. Anyway, this was a good issue that included emotionality, goofy Skrulls, and awesome sniper Skrulls. Even Chaykin did a good job, kind of. But that last page left a bad taste in my mouth. C’mon Fraction! One issue left! Make it good!
Ultimate Fantastic Four #58 (***)
My God…UFF is readable again. Is that possible? I’m sorry Mike Carey fans but his run was horrible. Pokaski has the unenviable task of picking up the pieces and apparently dealing with the death of the series. Does that surprise anyone? Is anyone even reading this book anymore? Anyway, this is actually an Ultimatum tie-in, but you don’t need to read it. It’s just about what’s going on with Thing and Invisible Woman while Reed does his thing. Oh and Dr. Storm is dead I guess but Johnny is missing. Again, does that surprise anyone? Bottom line, this is an average issue and this series is really just waiting for the abattoir. But I do want to make one thing clear, Pokaski is a good writer. He makes the most of what he has and it will be interesting to see what he will do when he isn’t forced to write tie-ins.
Marvel Zombies 3 #1 (***)
Is anybody excited about this? Good old Marvel, they take a fun idea and beat us to death with it. Zombie covers! Skrull covers! Ape covers! Aren’t these awesome?! Arrggh! Anyway, Marvel Zombies 3 is the fourth mini-series (When will Marvel Zombies 8 come out?) about these super flesh-eaters. Kirkman and Phillips have left the building to make way for Fred Van Lente and Kev Walker. The new creators have an unenviable task. They have to not only deal with the aforementioned complaints of boredom, but this story also takes place in Earth-616 (the regular Marvel U for those who don’t know). Are you a fan of Jennifer Kale? Siege? The Conquistador? What about the Aquarian? Though I admire the respect for Steve Gerber, I doubt many kids (or anyone) will care about these characters. Part of, if not all, the fun of Marvel Zombies was seeing your favorite characters zombified, Captain America missing the top of his head for example. But because we’re in 616, you pretty much know nothing radical will occur. However, Lente and Walker make the best of what they have to work with. This issue is still filled with comedy, gore, and interesting twists and turns. The only problem is that you can get those same elements in other better comics. The series has lost its uniqueness. So, unless you’re a big fan of Machine Man, Jocasta, Morbius, or the creative team, you can probably skip this.
Punisher War Journal #24 (***1/2)
What an odd cover. “Secret Invasion” is absent yet this issue is littered with Skrulls. All we see is this dark haunting Alex Maleev cover featuring Frank Castle in a cell. That is not what this issue is about at all. Entertainment is the name of the game here. After a bit of plot dealing with something that occurred earlier in this series, everything cuts loose. I’m talking Frank riding around in a vehicle decorated with Skrull skulls blowing everything green to kingdom come. This is old school sci-fi fun. Want more proof? How about a Super-Skrull that is part Kingpin part Hammerhead? Yep, that’s in here, the jerk even takes a chunk out of G. W. Bridge. Can’t I have one comic where someone doesn’t get bitten? If you’ve followed Punisher War Journal since the beginning, you’ll know that the series is strongest when it’s a tie-in. That’s true again here, but sadly it’s weaker than its predecessors. That’s because these issues contain so much action and with stuff blowing up, you want it to look pretty. Though Chaykin does a passable job, his art is still not my style at all. Still, if you’re in the mood for some fun that involves aliens and vigilantes instead of booze and broads pick this up!
Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #44 (****1/2)
Does anyone over 8 read this comic? Well, I do have an excuse. This issue features the art of the talented Jonboy Meyers. I doubt the name sounds familiar, but here is some of his work. He recently did some back-ups in JLA as well. He rarely does interiors so I jumped at the chance to get my hands on this. I don’t care if this book is meant for kids. It’s nice to have a wholesome break between my gore. This issue was refreshing and fun. The art is amazing! We get to see multiple lizards, the Serpent Society, and Curt Connors Godzilla-style! There’s some humor in here too and what kid comic is complete without some good lessons? This book has it all!
Green Lantern #34 (****)
Awesomeness aside, do you really need seven issues to retell an origin? Apparently Geoff Johns does. That’s my main complaint about this arc and since this is the sixth part, I’m starting to feel the length (six months is a long time!). However, we still get a lot of sweet action sequences beautifully drawn by Ivan Reis. Some cool gimmicks, like Hal overcoming the yellow impurity and a Kilowog construct (How can you not love that?), are also provided. The Carol Ferris stuff feels a bit like a superhero soap opera, but I mean that in the best possible way. I hope Hal and Carol do get together soon, like Johns seems to be building to, but then what about Cowgirl?! Sinestro and Hal’s rapport is written brilliantly and there are a few humorous moments in here. An observation: It seems that throughout this series, this issue and I’m sure next included, the Guardians are almost villainous. It seems that almost every action they take has negative consequences. We can understand and are almost sympathetic with Sinestro during the war. The Guardians’ rules seem extreme, which is again demonstrated in this issue. Is it possible that either A) the Guardians will become villains B) things will change a bit, like new Guardians or new rules or C) the Guardians will die (Johns already killed one right?). Anyway, this arc is starting to wear out its welcome, but it’s still a well-written, well-drawn, and entertaining origin story.
Punisher War Journal #23 (*)
This rubbed me the wrong way. I’ve already mentioned several times about my disdain towards Chaykin’s art. Poor art does detract from my enjoyment, but you can still have a great comic with bad art. Sadly, the writing is poor too. This was supposed to be the ultimate Jigsaw story, but it reads like just another Jigsaw story. There’s some decent action in here, but I dislike the art so it’s not much of a plus. The finale was surprisingly poor. The characters seem extremely out of character, and not in a good way. The epilogue felt stale and idiotic, and is almost a set-up for Remender’s solo run I guess? This book has been sour for almost a year now. I’m going to stay until Fraction leaves. I thought he was off after this issue, but apparently I still have two SI tie-ins to deal with. On a positive note, this series shined during its previous tie-in issues. So, Fraction could still depart with a well-written bang. I have hope.
The Twelve #7 (****1/2)
So this is the pitch of the series in a nutshell for those of you sad, silly, misguided fools that aren’t reading this book: “Hey Golden Age folks! You guys were heroes 60 years ago (though ‘heroes’ is probably a stretch), so we feel obligated to treat you as such now even though most of you are pretty lame! Oh, and the world has gone to complete shit and you’re going to live long lives of misery, depression and anguish because most of you are barely 30! And all of your families are dead! Aren’t you so glad we found you?” Even taking into account the ending of the issue (Chris Weston remains a master of facial expressions), this one wasn’t quite as emotionally devastating as the kick in the balls that was issue six. JMS still likes torturing his own characters, because we’re now seven issues in and NOTHING good has happened to any of them since their return to the living world. I think I’m getting the idea why many folks consider his Fantastic Four and Spider-Man runs (One More Day notwithstanding) subpar. It seems like big action stories aren’t exactly JMS’s strength. I’ve never gotten the chance to watch Babylon Five, but I’m pretty sure remembering that the show wasn’t designed to be a big action sci fi epic. And you look and what he’s doing here and on Thor; these aren’t action books. But they’re FANTASTIC and practically flawless examples of character work. You get on a big property like FF or Spidey, and you can’t necessarily get away with making it the type of book that JMS seems to excel at. But a book about forgotten Timely characters or a Thor relaunch, both of which are playing out like slow burning Greek tragedy? They’re great (makes you wonder what’s going to happen with Brave and the Bold). There isn’t even a question that this is the best mini series that will be put out this year. It blows Secret Invasion and Final Crisis out of the water. There is no more satisfying read on Earth right now than this book.
Invincible Iron Man #4 (***1/2)
You know, this book would probably be close to perfect if Larocca were a bit tighter with the art. I’m not going to breach the subject of the pros and cons of aggressive photo referencing, but an inescapable problem does arise when Tony and Reed aren’t consistent from panel to panel and page to page. It futzes up the internal continuity of the book and sequential nature of the comics. It’s certainly not as bad as some of the other photo referencing that you’ll see, but it does have a tendency to bleed things together. And there’s always that sort of pseudo blurry Photoshoppy feel to it. Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the issue. I did. But I think the art foibles were more noticeable here than in previous issues. It’s a good thing that Fraction is generally writing the holy hell out of this book, because this could have been a turning point issue that could have tanked the series for me. Though I must say that the chess scene is a bit played out in the grand tradition of “two incredibly smart individuals play multiple games of chess at the same time while talking about everything but chess. Aren’t they smart?” scenes that I’ve seen in various movies/books/media. The punch line of the scene was cute, but it didn’t completely save the scene from slipping into cliché. I do think the book is still searching for a bit of an identity between the super heroey stuff and and the “Tony Stark is just this guy, you know?” moments, but we’ve only seen four issues so far, and I’m willing to give a book (especially one that’s got such a compelling foil like Zeke Stane) the time to find its legs.
Punisher War Journal #22 (****1/2)
Holy shit! It got good! Out of nowhere! Are we seeing the case that Remender and Fraction are finally starting to click? This book was so muddy for the first three issues, and once things started to sharpen from a plot perspective last issue, I started to see some signs of life. And this issue really got things going in a clear and concise way that is finally compelling and interesting and not at all clunky or awkward. Praise be to Fraction and Remender! Chaykin’s art isn’t exactly something I would go out of my way to search out, but I don’t actively hate it, and it has a hand in setting the mood of the story as a whole. I do quite enjoy GW Bridge and his band of merry female assassins, and the one Jigsaw appearance was pretty darned fun. It felt like a book with a focused purpose. This book has been given meaning again. They just might save this arc yet. We’ll have to see how this thing ends.
Hulk #5 (****)
There isn’t a need to say much about this issue. Those who love it will still love it and those who hate it will still hate it. Like the book, it’s that simple. I’ve tried to look under the belly of this behemoth but there is no need. It’s just plain dumb fun with really pretty art and I’m one of the people that love it.
Punisher War Journal #22 (***1/2)
This was the best issue out of this series that had Chaykin’s awful art. That’s not saying a whole lot but it’s something. Matt Fraction has written probably the most human Punisher. That’s not great, but I commend him for trying something new and making his Punisher unique like Ennis did. I liked this issue. There are twists and turns and the Wrecking Crew! I still have to complain about the art because it’s not my style and really detracts from my enjoyment. Another thing that bugs me is that this is supposed to be Jigsaw’s finest moment and he’s barely in it! He wasn’t in the last issue and he was only in two panels of this one. Anyway, this issue was much better than the last and I hope that continues.
Yes, summer lovin’ and pool party chicanery is getting in the way of good old-fashioned comic bookery!! I’m just about halfway through reading the latest shipment from DCBS (which was late, btw) and now my e-mail tells me the next shipment will be arriving on the 5th… OH NOES!!!
Secret Invasion: Frontline #1 (****)
With Brian Reed taking over the reigns of this “series”, I think the Frontline concept might finally reach its full potential. This was another great tie-in to the main SI event, and deals with all the crap that’s been missing from the main book: honest reactions from the civilian population. Everything in this book worked for me. Literally everything. The down on his luck cabbie didn’t feel cliché. The spoiled teenager reacting to the imminent divorce of her parents felt real. Even the ER doctor who courageously keeps the hospital open to the wounded despite the threat of Skrull… okay, that stuff was kind of hokey. But I can forgive it because it was mostly well-executed and I can’t wait for more! Also, why is Brian Reed so awesome here and on Captain Marvel but so miserable on Ms. Marvel? Does not compute.
War Is Hell: The First Flight of The Phantom Eagle #5 (*****)
I wish I had waited for this in trade because I know I probably wouldn’t have complained about the early issues nearly as much. Garth Ennis continues to surprise me with his massive (innuendo?) talent. If you love war comics, or anything else by Ennis in this genre, you’ll love this book. Pick it up in trade. Oh, and as much as I usually loathe Howard Chaykin’s art style, I have to give credit where credit is due. The man put a lot of quality time in on this mini and it ####ing shows. I hear Ennis has more of these planned for the MAX imprint, and if that’s true, I’ll be getting each and every one. But, I’ll probably skip the monthlies and wait for the hardcovers next time.
• Avengers/Invaders #3 (***1/2): And we’re finally starting to hit out stride here. I loved the Namor on Namor beatdowns. I love how cocky Bucky is. When he messes up Stark? GREAT STUFF. And! I love that this book fits solidly in continuity. Not sure where yet, but it’s definitely in there.
• Batman #678 (**): WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!?!
• Batman: Detective #846 (*****): Another great issue from a severely underrated run. Paul Dini is dominating this series. Simply dominating!! I don’t understand how it is that more people aren’t talking about this book. If you love good, solid “Batman” style detective stories and can do without the confusing continuity riddled Morrison book, this is the Batman for you.
• Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge #1 (****1/2): WOW. Almost as awesome as the main event, but for completely different reasons. I love that the “revenge” that the title implies is aimed at Inertia and not at Wally. This is going to be SICK.
• Iron Man: Legacy of Doom #4 (***1/2): As with every issue, I was very surprised at how modern this comic read. It was, of course, a flashback issue, but it didn’t read like something ripped from the 90’s. Kudos to the creative team. I would definitely be interested in more minis like this one. Although next time, I’ll wait for the trade.
• Moon Knight #20 (***1/2): No idea what this issue was trying to setup, but it was one hell of a good read. This felt like a “one-n-done”, which is cool, as long as we get more quality Moon Knightery in the future. I love this character and I loved how this series started. If we can somehow get back to that, I think I may stick around for a while more.
• Nova #15 (****): Worldmind erased and heading for Earth. I don’t like how we got here, but I like where we’re going.
• X-Force #5 (****1/2): I don’t understand how this book keeps getting better and better!! How?!?! If you aren’t reading this book, then you hate the X-Men. Period. End of sentence.
…also, I’m well aware that I owe you guys a new “Origin Stories” and a couple of “Planetary Reviews”. It’s in the works, but life just keeps getting in the way… and my pool needs attention. Like, massive amounts of attention. Like, 4-5 hours a day kind of attention. So, you can see my problem, right?