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

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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

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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

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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

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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

Read/RANT

Detective Comics #855

Doktor Sleepless #11

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #3

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #3

Incognito #6

Runaways #12

Wonder Woman #34

Review: Incognito #5

I want to apologize for the tardy reviews this week.  Over the past month or so, my graduate program has been winding down, culminating in today.  I finished writing a grant proposal and a few other assignments, and have now finished all my coursework for my Master’s degree.  Though it’ll be a little bit longer before I officially graduate, it’s almost assured that I will, at which point I will be unemployed and unable to afford comics.  So let’s hope the next couple weeks brings us some good stuff!

Incognito

I have been lax, very lax indeed, in my reviews of the new collaboration between Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.  Though #4 made last month’s Top 5 list for me, there was no review, and hasn’t been one for a number of issues.  Now, I remedy that.

Incognito #5 picks up pretty much right where the last issue left off, with rogue supervillain Ava Destruction finding Zack Overkill, taking out his protection and joining him on the run.  The issue is fairly light on the action compared to some past installments, but it’s still one of the best to date: it gives us some much needed backstory, both on the world and on Zack Overkill’s place in it.  The book gives us a number of origin stories in broad strokes, introduces a number of new conflicts, and generally just keeps the book moving at a breakneck pace.

Phillips is as good as ever, jumping seamlessly from flying cars and mad-science labs to rustic inns and dive bars.  His shadowy, angular art, always a perfect fit for Brubaker’s noir-tinged worlds, is a surprisingly excellent feel for the sci-fi superhuman parts, too.

Incognito is a book that isn’t afraid to shake up the status quo.  It seems like almost every issue features a fairly drastic change to Zack’s life.  Somehow, though, the tone of the series has remained remarkably consistent, each issue satisfying in and of itself while still feeling as though they are all building towards something greater.  Incognito remains one of Marvel’s most satisfying reads, a great addition to their Icon imprint, and definitely worth a look for those of you not yet read.

Grade: A-

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Review: Incognito #3

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The team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips rarely disappoints.  Sleeper set the bar pretty high for superpowered noir, and Criminal maintained a consistently high caliber throughout its existing stories, easily becoming the best crime comic on the shelves.  Incognito is their most recent outing, and three issues in, it’s a doozy.

The story is simplicity.  A major supervillain goes into witness protection after a shocking betrayal, but finds that he just can’t quite cope with normal life.  The book maintains a darkly comedic tone throughout this issue as we meet a number of Zack’s old compatriots, criminals who now know where their snitch buddy is hiding, and see Zack’s already precarious cover story tumble into nonexistence.  It seems as though Incognito is moving far faster than it should, but that may be part of the charm – each issue, and this one more so than most, is packed with action, fresh faces, and new problems for out… hero?… and enough genuine emotion to keep us invested in Zack Overkill.

The art, by Phillips, is largely phenomenal, though it functions much better when he’s working in in a slightly dimmer, dirtier setting.  Compare the semi-cartoonish feel of the introduction of renegade criminal Ava Destruction at the book’s beginning as she stands in full daylight in the great outdoors, holding a futuristic laser pistol to the head of a former fed, to the book’s closing scene, featuring another new character met in a darkened apartment.  Nonetheless, it’s been quite a while since I last saw Phillips cut loose with some superpowered action scenes, and his work on this issue was top-notch.

Ultimately, despite the horrible things happening regularly in Incognito, the easy confidence of Phillips and Brubaker make it a pleasure to read, easy to enjoy and strangely easy to become invested in a man with very few redeeming qualities.

Grade: B+