Review: Aquaman #2

Aquaman #2, cover by Reis, Reis and Prado

Geoff Johns has really impressed me with this relaunch.  I know I’m in the minority, but I found Blackest Night and Flashpoint to be borderline incomprehensible messes, poorly paced and largely lacking in fun.  I was beginning to worry that the guy who did such a fantastic job reinventing Wally West and his Rogues would never again produce something that I’d enjoy.  But Justice League #1,  Green Lantern #1, and Aquaman #1 were all enjoyable books, free from many of the problems that have turned me off his work lately.  Though I decided against following Green Lantern (which seemed destined to continue to get involved in endless crossovers), I stuck by Aquaman and Justice League.  Earlier this month, I called Justice League #2 an improvement over the opener, and while Aquaman is still enjoyable, it doesn’t improve over Johns relatively solid introduction in the same way.

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Review: Blackest Night #7

Coming off a semi-strong pair of issues, Blackest Night #7 is something of a mess, filled with almost-action scenes that cut in too late and then leave before anything is done.  To those reading all the tie-ins, this issue must have been fabulous: at least from what I can tell, Johns did his best to throw in nods to all the major running tie-ins.  Abandoning the obsessive, almost signature exposition that accompanies so much of Johns’ work, the unlucky reader is instead dropped in and out of situations that mean very little without rhyme or reason.  None of it is particularly hard to follow – all the Corps show up and fight Black Lanterns, the Earthbound heroes show up and fight Black Lanterns, Dove is alive now and fighting Black Lanterns (or, more specifically, she merely seems to exist in the general direction of Black Lanterns, and then they die) – but just because I understood what was happening doesn’t make it enjoyable.  Despite a questionable late-issue revelation about the origin of life, the issue is saved by the occasional inclusion of some excellent character work.

While Reis’ pencils are fine, the ceaseless black atmosphere continues to take its toll on him, detracting from the art as things tend to get muddy.  To combat that, of course, all the living heroes are coated constantly in monochrome neon lights, obscuring action but color-coding the story for us in case we forget Lex Luthor is supposed to be greedy just because he is now incapable of doing anything but screaming “MINE” over and over.  The best that can be said about this effect is that it’s certainly unique, so I suppose we’ll stick with that.

Blackest Night was designed to be just about the simplest book imaginable – larger-than-life heroes and villains thrown together against a common enemy, hell, the greatest enemy: Death itself.  To that end, while the green rings don’t make the Corps any Will-ier and the yellow rings don’t terrify whoever puts them on, the other rings all seem to rewrite their bearers into one-dimensional caricatures.  Unfortunately, by reducing the setting to caricatures fighting caricatures in a set of spastic action beats spread across multiple titles, Blackest Night has also managed to strip away everything essential to the story.  Johns is a gifted creator capable of so much more, but Blackest Night has collapsed under its own weight.

Grade: D

– Cal Cleary

Blackest Night #6

Blackest Night #5

Review: Blackest Night #6

After the bizarre camp of Blackest Night #5, I was expecting #6 to be a letdown.  Despite a few of those old familiar moments of Hal/Barry-wankery (Superman is standing 5 feet away from the ring, but it seeks Barry Allen out as the figure in the world who most inspires hope?), this issue was actually quite enjoyable.  Like the last two (and unlike, in large part, the early issues) there was some forward momentum in the plot, some threads finally converged, and, briefly, the book was about more than how awesome Hal Jordan and Barry Allen are.  It even manages a few semi-inspiring moments – seeing Ganthet don a ring, or seeing the new (and crazier) Rainbow Corps arrive at the end, just to name a pair of examples.

The book’s brightest moments are hindered by some inordinately clumsy set-up, but overall, Blackest Night is finally picking up.  It remains a deeply flawed book, but it has become an exciting, deeply flawed book, and if it is predictable, the predictability of the last few issues has made seeing the events come to pass all the more satisfying, rather than ruining them.  Reis’ art looks much better this issue as we step away from the drab black backgrounds in favor of a mish-mash of color in every panel.  Overall, the book’s improvement over the last few issues gives me hope for the mini’s conclusion.

Grade: B

– Cal Cleary


Blackest Night #5

Blackest Night #4

Review: Blackest Night #5

Welcome back to Read/RANT, everyone – I hope you enjoyed your week off.  I know I did!  And while I traveled far and wide for my pre-Thanksgiving Break break, I’m back now and ready to review.  And what better place to start than everyone’s favorite book to see us read…

Blackest Night #5

Blackest Night #5 was, for my money, easily the strongest issue of the series to date.  Two major weak spots hurt it, but otherwise, it was a relatively exciting, action-packed issue that finally realized that Johns has no skill whatsoever with horror.  Instead, despite the grim tone and overly dark art, Blackest Night #5 was almost campy fun, and while the sudden tonal shift of the book from action-horror to action-dark camp may throw some readers off, it was a welcome, if strange, shift.

Johns had me seriously worried as the book opened, suddenly shifting to an introduction featuring characters we haven’t seen on a quest we knew nothing about.  While that’s just about always a bad narrative choice, and one that added nothing whatsoever to the book here, the extended introduction at least had the courtesy to be as cheesy and brightly colored as it could be.  The other problem moment is harder to mention without spoiling a major twist, so consider the remainder of this paragraph to be a spoiler: Batman’s sudden, bizarre, momentary resurrection, in which everyone was super surprised and called him by his real name before he vomited up a few Black Lantern rings with batwings that killed Superman, Wonder Woman (whose golden lasso immediately turns black, apropos of nothing at all) and pretty much everyone else except Hal and Barry before he promptly re-died.

End spoilers.

Reis continues to do fine work on art, though the book’s relentless darkness hurts his art far more than it helps.  His crisp illustrations often come off as muddied as everything that isn’t surrounded by an omnipresent black goo is instead coated in neon bright light.  Despite that, however, he is still doing a fine job, and the contrast between the lanterns’ lights and the muddy dark further aids the book in achieving its bizarrely over-the-top tone.

Blackest Night is still deeply flawed, but at least it’s become fun, a relatively enjoyable issue of so-bad-it’s-good storytelling with a slew of color-themed one-liners and minor art blips that cause Bart Allen to, despite standing only a foot or so away, only come up to Wonder Woman’s knees.  It also featured what was very probably the book’s strongest action segments and a few more hints to set up the upcoming big finale.  While it’s hardly A-list storytelling, at least it isn’t taking itself quite so seriously anymore.

Grade: B

– Cal Cleary

Blackest Night #4

Blackest Night #3

Review: Blackest Night #4


We’ve finally hit the halfway point of Blackest Night, and as some of our readers have noted, we here at Read/RANT haven’t been particularly kind to the deeply flawed semi-horror event.  This issue illustrates a marked improvement over the past issues, and it somehow comes as no surprise that the title’s strongest issue is its least Hal-centric.  Yes, the Halwankery still comes on thick and strong in a few portions of the book, particularly when Johns’ other comicrush, the omnipresent Barry Allen, is speaking.  However, the issue also provides a couple of the book’s strongest moments, most notably a Geoff Johns Shock Ending (TM) that actually mostly works within the narrative.

This issue was extremely action heavy.  In fact, this issue was, with the exception of a couple pages of Ray Palmer, Mera and Barry Allen talking, just about every page had some violence on it.  It is perhaps this apocalyptic focus that helps the issue escape the worst of Johns’  tendencies.  Only one major legacy characters get blandly murdered and no women, and for all that Barry can’t seem to help but suggest that the only way to fight this is to ‘be like Hal’, the rest of the characters seem to be taking the apocalypse with the appropriate amount of fear and courage.  He even manages to slip in a few clever character beats largely absent from previous issues, like the Scarecrow wandering around a monochromatic Gotham City, immune to the Black Lanterns because his emotions are so deadened he hardly registers.

Reis continues to turn in strong work.  While the sheer number of Black Lanterns has dampened any terror there might have been at their appearance, he seems to have enjoyed crafting their new look immensely.  The action sequences are large in scale and well-illustrated, though a tad too dark.  Meanwhile, colorist Alex Sinclair is used sparingly to illustrate the emotional spectrum, but when he does, he’s gotten on board with the Blackest Night: Superman idea of allowing the characters to feel more than one thing at any given time.

Blackest Night continues to be deeply flawed.  That said, as the series marches on, it seems to be getting stronger and finding its voice.  This issue dropped almost all of the book’s failed pretensions of horror in favor of a dark, gothic, very traditional superhero story, a tonal shift that can only work in the title’s favor.  With the already-spoiled Nekron reveal, Johns and Co. have moved on to the next stage of their story.  Let’s hope they continue to trend towards a decent story.

Grade: B-

– Cal Cleary


Blackest Night #3

Review: Blackest Night #3


Blackest Night, the summer’s mega-event at DC, bears all the signs of  a true, unapologetic Geoff Johns book.  If you’re a fan of Johns’ work, then Blackest Night has it all – exciting, well-constructed action set-pieces, the surprisingly organic nods to continuity stemming from twenty different sources, and the dark, violent plot.  If you aren’t, however, the book is similarly filled with all the pitfalls of his work: an obsession with minutiae and origins, needless slaughter, extreme focus on the Silver Age heroes of his work, and the ability to, in a room full of characters, only kill the legacies and women.

Blackest Night #3 moves the plot ahead a good deal through the use of a massive exposition drop that kills any and all momentum the book had built up partway through the issue.  Despite the well-conceived set-up in Blackest Night: Batman #1 that suggested that Oracle, Batman and Robin would be the ones to fill Hal in on the nature of the threat, this issue sees an Indigo Lantern pop in in the middle of the fight with zombie Justice League, single-handedly turn the tide of the fight, unite the good guys at the Hall of Justice for no reason, and then explain the entire conflict just in time for another fight to break out.

This is not to say that the book is bad, exactly.  Ivan Reis does a fine job on art, managing to blend high-powered fights with a bleak, horror-movie tone in a way the writing just isn’t managing to do yet.  Despite the relentless darkness, though, Reis manages to keep his figures distinct and physically emotive, demonstrating a definite improvement over previous works.

Blackest Night #3 suffers a little from being a middle child, as Johns rushes to fill everyone in on all the back story.  The book has its first truly chilling moment in the final pages of the issue, but it’s undermined by all the previous not-really-shocking moments and the fact that you can see it coming from page 1.  The action is well-done, as previous collaboration between Johns and Reis pay off most in these energetic, surprisingly low-scale fights.  Blackest Night still has a lot of potential to go either way, ultimately: this issue featured both the best and the worst of the series, side by side.

Grade: C

– Cal Cleary


Blackest Night: Batman #1

Blackest Night: Superman #1

Bruce Castle’s Mini-Reviews

I’m down, but not out!

Blackest Night #2

I was right there with Lebeau on the first issue, and you can find a bigger, better review of this issue from him. Johns definitely decreased the needless exposition this time around, but it’s not enough. This event is still moving at a dead snail’s pace. He spends too much time relishing in ghastly, deceased heroes terrorizing live ones. However, you can still find scenes to enjoy here, especially if you’re already fond of Johns’ particular brand of fun. Nightmarish sharks devouring Atlanteans here, a two-page, vertical splash of a resurrected Spectre there. The most impressive element of Blackest Night so far has been the images rendered by Ivan Reis. He’s officially a superstar.

Grade: C+

The Boys #33

Why is John McCrea drawing this? Shouldn’t he be drawing Herogasm? I’m not complaining. Carlos Ezquerra’s art has been sloppy the last few issues, and while McCrea is no Darick Robertson, his work here, and especially on Herogasm, is more than satisfying. Although, he’s still not the right artist for the job. This is a dark, violent arc of The Boys, and McCrea’s images are too cartoony. Ennis’ writing, however, is still top-notch. This issue was a blast. Watching Butcher systematically take down the Boys-filtered Avengers was very entertaining. The fact that this arc is so action-heavy makes it all the more upsetting that Robertson is absent.

Grade: B-

Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #5

It’s nice to have Hellboy back. The reason for the delay was Duncan Fegredo’s, and the wait paid off. I re-read the previous four installments before this one, and Fegredo’s work is simply stunning. The Wild Hunt has featured a fight in just about every issue. It makes each chapter stand on its own as an episodic action series. Fegredo draws the hell out of the battle scenes, while Mignola crafts a menacing threat for Hellboy in the background.

Grade: B+

Ultimate Comics: Avengers #1

Off the heels of the biggest event in the Ultimate Universe’s history, at the start of a brand new status quo, is this issue exposition-heavy? @*&# NO!!! In true, Millar style, he kicks this series off in summer blockbuster fashion, featuring an extended fight scene, and a last-page shock to punch you in the face! As I mentioned with The Boys, if a comic is action-heavy, you have to provide pretty pictures. Well, Carlos Pacheco, in his glorious return to Marvel interiors, is just the man to provide such pictures. He handles all of the action, including some tricky helicopter scenes, with professional ease. Looking for pure, pop bliss? You got it!

Grade: A-

The Walking Dead #64

Dale’s situation provides a wickedly funny beginning. Then we get a typical and sentimental revelation from Dale’s lover, Andrea. I say typical because we’ve seen a lot of it in The Walking Dead, but it is a natural reaction to grief, and we’ve sure seen plenty of that in this series. The rest of the issue is mostly spent planting seeds for future events that culminate in a tremendously badass moment for Rick. Another enjoyable issue, for sure, but this is mid-arc. So, it does suffer from the necessary plot-building.

Grade: B

Uncanny X-Men #514

We’re two issues away from this crossover’s conclusion, and I don’t think it’s the event anyone was really expecting. This isn’t mindless Dark Avenger-on-X-Men action. No, with Matt Fraction at the helm, we’re getting a highly developed and well thought-out story that presents realistic situations for these characters to deal with. The downside to all that is that we’ve had more set-up than payoff, but with an oversized, Mike Deodato-drawn conclusion in the near future, I’m sure we’ll get the carnage that we crave soon enough.

Grade: B

For more comic goodness, go here.

Review: Free Comic Book Day 2009

I was a terrible fan on FCBD. I didn’t even go to a comic shop. You know what I did? I spent the day hanging out with friends. New friends, old friends, beer, sports, and girls culminating with the Manny Pacquiao vs. Ricky Hatton fight. Yeah, remember how that went?

Sorry, that’s actually when Hatton got knocked out by Mayweather, but you get the idea. We got what? Five minutes of boxing? I would’ve asked for my nickel back, but I watched it at a friend’s house. For those who did throw down the money, blame Hatton. Anyway, my FCBD was spent doing the most non-comic book things ever, but I still got my books. Be friends with your comic book guy, kids.


Atomic Robo: I’ve heard that this was good, and it is. The nice, clean art and sharp writing is impressive. It left me wanting more. Sadly, even though it’s huge on the cover, this story wasn’t the longest in the issue.

Drone: This was the longest story. I’m a bit underwhelmed. Average art and writing, with a ton of words isn’t the best sales pitch. It’s a bit of an interesting concept, though.

We Kill Monsters: I don’t know what to think of this. It just didn’t really hook me at all. It’s not bad.


Because I like complaining about Bendis:

For a book with both New and Dark Avengers, this isn’t in continuity, is it?

This book has way too many words for kids and new readers.

Why is this book rated teen? Why not write for kids, Bendis? Why the swears?

Why does Spider-Man mention global warming? It’s not even a joke. It’ll just offend adults and confuse the kids.

This book was so damn wordy, and yet it still didn’t introduce all the characters.

Other than all that:It’s pretty good. I mean, it’s Jim Cheung drawing 24 pages of Avengers action. Throw in Thor, and you actually have a memorable FCBD comic. Oh, and we get more pages in this issue than we do in a four-dollar Avengers comic. And why is this book at reduced-size? Every publisher, large and small, is printing normal size, but Marvel? Tiny comics! Boo!


Some publishers, even the tiny ones, will put out an issue #0 for three bucks, but DC? They put out the #0 of their big, new event for free. Way to go DC! Wednesday Comics, three-dollar comics, and now this? Is anyone still reading Marvel? As for the actual issue, I would have liked to get a good look at all of the corps. We do get that, in a way, but those pages have been online for weeks. I even posted them. What we do get, is a nice conversation between Hal and Barry, an exploration of some of DC’s dead characters, and the Black Lantern Oath. Throw in some sweet Ivan Reis art, and you’ve got an awesome package. Oh, and for those who have been noticing my bitching about Aquaman being brought back in Final Crisis, that’s actually addressed in this issue. Apparently, those were just rumors. BUT I SAW HIM WITH MY OWN EYES! Oh well, way to screw with Morrison’s vision, DiDio.


“The Simpsons” is my favorite show. Having said that, I don’t think I really laughed once while reading this. That’s bad. The comic is free, features nice art, and may entertain children. That’s good.


Shazam: This was three pages! I heard this was good, but three pages! Boo!

Brave and the Bold: Entertaining, adequate art, and the kids are the hero of the story, that’s awesome. Also, just like the cartoon, it features a relatively unknown villain, the Thinker. Although, I think Batman and Blue Beetle kill him in this story. What’s up with that?

Tiny Titans: I’ve read this comic before and it’s very fun. I dig the art, too. This one? Not so much. It’s still awesome, and if any of you have kids, this is a good comic.


I have a friend who absolutely adores this book. Well, he used to. Now, even he isn’t reading it anymore. I’ve tried to get into it. I like the art and some of the pop culture references are funny, but it’s kind of boring. It’s lost its spark.


If you like Wolverine: First Class, this is right up your alley. It’s Fred Van Lente being Fred Van Lente. It also has some pretty art. I find Wolverine: First Class to be forgettable and unnecessary, so this isn’t my thing, but I think a lot of kids and adults will have a blast.

For more comic goodness, go here.

DC’s Blackest Night

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How am I not sick of this crap yet? All of the colors, t-shirts, and the fact that this is basically DC’s version of zombies, haven’t really worn me down yet. I’m actually looking forward to the event. I am a bit upset that we’ll receive a gang of tie-ins. I was quite pleased with the Final Crisis situation, but conversely, there was a lot of negative feedback for that series in general, so I suppose DC saw that as a reason to give us more tie-ins! So, I’ll probably just stick to GL and the main mini. Though a bit silly, this is undeniably the best time to be a Green Lantern fan.

Oh, and good for DC for offering Blackest Night #0 for free. That was a class move.

Edit: We got this now, too.

Who’s hands are those?

Aquaman? No, he came back in Final Crisis, silly.

Review: Green Lantern #38

Green Lantern #38


Ooh, this is one of my favorite monthlies, but even I can admit that this issue was a bit of a mess. This is supposed to be the conclusion to the Red Lanterns arc, but nothing concludes here. This felt like I was watching the Green Lantern History Channel. I received information with a moderately entertaining story on the side. This comic should have had that Prelude to Blackest Night tag on it because that’s all it really is. And yes, this was an interesting issue. I care about Blackest Night. I want to know what’s going on with all of the colors, but this was just amateurishly disorganized. So if you’re looking for Blackest Night info with pretty Ivan Reis art and a dash of story, but this issue. Otherwise, you can just read Wikipedia.

Review: Green Lantern #37

Green Lantern #37


You can tell that Geoff Johns loves to write this colorful cosmic odyssey so much and hey, I enjoy reading it. As this issue proves again, this is a comic about Hal Jordan’s past, present and future. He has to deal with his tumultuous past, juggling a blonde and a brunette (Is that really a problem?) and the vicious purple bastard, Sinestro.

Everyone’s favorite Korugaran is one of the best villains. He’s not just a badass. We also understand his motivations and even root for him. In this issue he says to Hal, “You must rebel against the guardians. The Green Lantern Corps does not need them.” Who disagrees with that? The smurfs have made so many mistakes in this series alone. There’s a reason Ganthet and Sayd went off on their own. And yet, as I said earlier, Sinestro is a vicious purple bastard. The Parallax fiasco, the Sinestro Corps, Parallax again and so on. I don’t think I have to tell you that even in this issue, Sinestro tries to screw up Jordan’s life. It’s a very complex and interesting hero/villain dynamic that supports Johns’ color mythology. Fantastic art from Reis and one character gets another ring of a different color, this is a fabulous issue!

Bruce Castle Presents: Millar vs. Johns!

Wolverine #70

Wolverine #70 (*****)

Okay, this story isn’t going to change the medium. This issue features a “twist” that I saw coming and you probably will too. But that doesn’t stop this from being one hell of a good time. This book rarely comes out (We get the next one in March I believe), but every time it does it’s on the top of my stack. This thing isn’t even in continuity! I should be waiting for the trade! But I don’t care. I experience so much joy whenever I see that “Old Man Logan” tag. Who knew the elderly could be so pleasing? As I said, the Shyamalan twist isn’t that great, but Millar executes it brilliantly. Better yet, he doesn’t dwell on it. The story progresses and we even get a cool last-page-reveal. Of course, as I’m sure even Millar knows, this book wouldn’t be anywhere near what it is without the art team. Steve McNiven, Dexter Vines, Morry Hollowell, I salute you. I’m sure you fine people are responsible for this book’s delays but take your time. I’d rather have Wolverine out twice a year than a rush job. If you aren’t reading this book now, you’re missing out on some wonderful euphoria. Oh well, you guys can still enjoy the trade that comes out next year. Oh, and I love the chosen puppet master behind this issue’s scheme.

Kick Ass #5

Kick-Ass #5 (****)

So, do we all agree that the name, Mark Millar, is synonymous with lateness now? Good God, it’s been like five months since the last issue, right? I had to reread the previous four to get up to speed. Oh well, I can’t really hate this book too much. Although I will say that the bit Millar wrote about the comic coming before the movie is bullshite. This issue’s delay is supposedly due to JRJR’s involvement with drawing the animated movie sequence, but I suspect that isn’t the only thing this new movie has influenced. So, last issue we were introduced to Big Daddy, the character Nicholas Cage is playing. Now we’re introduced to the Red Mist, the character McLovin is playing. It seems like the Red Mist gets a lot more screen time than he was supposed to. Anyway, let’s just say I’m really annoyed that the movie and the comic are being produced at the same time. As for the actual issue, there’s not much to say. If you have loved this book like me, then you’ll probably enjoy this. Millar provides some interesting and funny stuff and JRJR makes things pretty. Can we have the next issue a little quicker this time?

Green Lantern #36

Green Lantern #36 (****)

Must I talk about the lateness in every damn review?! Is this the price I pay for quality? I guess, but what happened here DC? Wasn’t Shane Davis supposed to draw this? Then Doug Mahnke was shown as the artist on the DC website. And now that we actually get it, Ivan Reis is the on the book. WTF!? Shouldn’t Reis be working on Blackest Night? Oh well, Reis, as always, brings the goods. Seriously, I don’t care what you think of Johns, the pictures alone should do it for you. And boy does Reis get to show off this issue. We get to see the Red Lantern world, the Blue Lantern world and the birth of a Pink Lantern. And Reis isn’t the only one who deserves praise. Nei Ruffino, the colorist, also shines as you can imagine. Green, red, blue, he’ll have you wondering if you’ve picked up a Hulk comic by mistake. Hell, even the letterer, Rob Leigh, gets to have fun. That’s right, even the word balloons are outlined in green, blue, and red. This book looks fantastic and Johns continues to build his wonderful cosmic epic.

Justice Society Of America #21 (Variant Cover Edition)

Justice Society of America #22 (***1/2)

And so Johns and Ross’ incredibly long epic concludes. Seriously, this has been about a year and a half in the making. Is it as good as it should be? No, but it’s an entertaining conclusion to a story with limitless potential. I think the main reason for my disappointment is the fact that I failed to realize who was writing my comic. This is Alex Ross and Geoff Johns, these guys live in the past. They, Ross especially, try to tell the same stories they loved as a child. This method is fantastic for kids, but will inevitably leave the rest of us wanting. This is our traditional battle finale. We’ve gotten all that sappy emotion out of the way which makes room for some big combat between the Gods and the men. The fighting ends after some humorous banter and demise of the JSA’s foe. Now we have to get rid of all that Kingdom Come nonsense. Again, KC Superman’s potential seems a bit wasted. Sure he punched a lightning bolt and all that jazz, but for so long he just seemed to blend into the background. Although I will say that Ross, who actually did draw some pages, did give the hero a fitting farewell. I think this review makes it seem like I disliked this issue, but I really did enjoy it. I liked the arc itself even more. Still, as I explained, I can’t help but feel a little sad.

Bruce Castle Presents: Need A Lantern To Read Your War Journal?

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.

Large Cover of Punisher War Journal #23 (Monkey Variant)

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.

Foilball’s Review Roundup #42 – Wherein I Love Comics Again!

Green Lantern #33 (****1/2)

Very cool. It doesn’t bother me in the least that Johns is borrowing so much from The Trilogy (obv you should know what trilogy I’m speaking of), and he’s basically admitted as much in interviews. Spence, I know you want to jump in here and call me a hypocrite, but this is totally different than what Mark Millar is doing. First, Johns doesn’t hype the shit out of his work. Second, it’s really well-written. Talent really does mean that much. Anyway, okay, I do have some issues with this issue. First, is there going to be some kind of “mind-wipe” action in Sinestro and Jordan’s future? How come they don’t remember any of this? I can see the Guardians pulling this off to protect their secrets. In fact, if this does happen, it adds so much to an already mythic run and totally validates Johns’ need to tell this retconned origin story. Second, the ring-less fighting promised for next issue… um, why are we repeating ourselves? I’m hoping there’s a reason for this, and as always with Johns, I’m positive there is.

Ms. Marvel #29 (****1/2)

So, question: Has Brian Reed just been killing time in this book ‘til the “Invasion” or what? Is this why his SI tie-ins have been so awesome and the 10-15 issues preceding them had been such trash? Or, is Ms. Marvel finally reaching the climax of her “I want to be the best hero ever!” arc? I love the irony that being the best hero ever also means not being very heroic. Killing Skrulls, for example, even in times of war is still murder. Heroes don’t kill. I mean, Superman would find another way, right? I hope there are repercussions here. I hope someone in the Marvel Universe brings this up later. Like, do you guys remember the first couple of issues of the Kurt Busiek Avengers, when Carol got kicked off the team for killing someone? I want some drama, damn it! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. This book rocks! I just hope it’s also serving as the setup for even greater things to come.

Thunderbolts #122 (*****)

How does one follow up the epically fantastic Ellis run? I have no idea, but Gage is off to a great start. He somehow manages to maintain the tone established by Ellis, but at the same time injects enough of his own insanities into the characters to give us a little bit of the new, the fresh and the excitingly evil. Gage ain’t just aping Ellis; he totally owns this book! “Ellis who,” I found myself asking after finishing this issue. And it’s still ####ing funny!

Wolverine #67 (***)

Better than the last issue, mostly because the expo wasn’t so heavy-handed this time. Millar kind of relaxed a bit and let us enjoy the pairing of Hawkeye and pacifist Wolverine. Loved the Ghost Rider gang and loved the Hawkeye violence, but hell, I love violence in general, so that’s not saying much. The “Hammer Falls” thing is the most inspired idea in this arc so far. The teenage “Spider-Girl” wannabe is the least. I’ll finish the arc, because I’m a completist and I own every other issue of Wolverine, but I’m still waiting for that HUGE jaw-dropping moment. The fact that it hasn’t happened yet is encouraging, it means maybe Millar is saving it for the end, which would mark a change for him since in the past his endings have been the weakest parts of his stories. Oh, maybe a showdown with the Hulk? …also, yes, the art is amazing.

Quick Hits:
Astonishing X-Men #25 (*): I waited to read Uncanny X-Men #500 (in depth review to follow shortly) before reading this on the recommendation of the Pull List guys, I believe, and you know what? Didn’t help with the enjoyment, got to say. WOW. This book is terrible. First, the art: YOU CAN”T FUCKING SEE ANYTHING!!! It’s so dark! Second: WHO THE FUCK ARE THESE CHARACTERS!!! CSI X-Men is right. I’ll rant more about this when I do my UX:500 review, tomorrow or Saturday, because these books definitely go hand in hand in terms of quality. UGH.
Black Summer #7 (****): And it’s finally over. And I liked it. And I may have to re-read the entire thing again. It got a little preachy at the end, but it made sense. I like that Ellis remembered to answer the question he posed in the zero issue. And I agree with him. For a second there, I thought he’d gone off the deep-end and was advocating violent regime change. Thankfully he’s still only half-crazy and not full-on bonkers crazy.
Fantastic Four: Secret Invasion #3 (****1/2): This is exactly the type of mini I wanted (a story focusing on the interpersonal conflicts caused by the invasion) and it totally exceeded my expectations. I liked that it tried to reconcile old FF-Skrull continuity with new Bendis-Skrull continuity. This book was pitch-perfect in every single way except one: Lyja deciding to stay behind in the Negative Zone. This sounded like “Hey, Bendis says he doesn’t want to use Lyja in the main event, so get rid of her before the end of the mini.” That sucks, but at least they didn’t kill her. Anyone else wish RAS was still writing an ongoing FF book?
Invincible #51 (****): I like the new costume and direction, but I wish Kirkman would cut it out with all the fucking subplots. Like, tell a main plot once in a while, dude! The final page reveal was not shocking or unexpected. That guy is totally the resurrection type of villain. Oh, and for all the haters, I don’t know what your problem is with the coloring, I actually think it looks tons better.
Justice Society of America Annual #1 (****): I hate Earth 2, and yet… this was so good! OMG, why are there two Power Girls!?! OMG! Why is JSA so awesome?! OMG!!!
New Avengers #43 (****1/2): Out of all the New/Mighty flashback stories, this one has been the most satisfying so far. It gave us tangible answers about what’s currently going on in the SI mini. Like, all the dudes in the ship are Skrulls. Mystery solved. Mockingbird is a Skrull and she doesn’t know it! Drama! Bendis, you sick bastard! And you’re a liar. You said you were finished torturing Hawkeye, but dude, what happens when he finds out she ain’t who she says she is? Great drama, that’s what! Also, I liked that I was made to feel sorry for Cap-Skrull. Three-dimensional villains– Hooray!
Robin #175 (****): Other than losing a star for that terrible final page, the pose and dialogue made me cringe, I really liked this issue and I don’t think it portrays Robin out of character at all. Not at all. And, he finally voices his anger over what Stephanie did: the “I know you loved me and shit, and you would have liked to have known, but like, sorry I couldn’t be bothered to let you know I was still alive” crap. Yes, real human emotion has returned! I miss Dixon too, but Fabian appears to be an excellent second choice.

Bruce Castle Presents: Geoff Johns Rules!!!

Green Lantern #33 (*****): Please, everyone who isn’t reading this arc, buy the trade. This arc has been really solid and it’s about as good of an origin story as you can get. The art is great, the characters are written extremely well, and it is also giving us some new information dealing with all of the new color lanterns and such. I never thought a retelling of an origin story could have me eagerly waiting each new issue. I don’t want to give anything away, but there are so many GL characters in this one issue alone. They all get their cool moments. There may even be something about the Black Lanterns! Buy this book!

Justice Society of America Annual #1 (****1/2): Earth 2! Yeah I know, I don’t care either, but Geoff Johns makes me care. That’s his true talent and it shines here again. I’ll give a quick shout out to Jerry Ordway who drew the purdy pictures in this book. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen his art before, but he does a really nice job here. He gives the book that old-timey Earth 2 feel while still making each character look sleek and impressive. Oh and there is a transcendent JSA pin-up by Dale Eaglesham at the end that features the whole crew. In traditional Johns fashion, there are lots of nice character moments involving heroes I don’t know but still care about anyway. The highlights of the issue include the portent Dr. Fate and Spectre moment, the Joker appearance (love the Watchmen pin!), and the surprising twist at the end which I didn’t see coming. I suppose I probably should’ve, but thanks to Johns’ superb writing I didn’t. It’s funny, when I first read this I actually wasn’t that impressed since there isn’t that much action, we don’t find out that much, and it’s a four dollar annual. Thankfully, though some of that may be true, I think I was just bitter from Comic Con because after typing this review, I really liked this!

Foilball’s Review Roundup #33 – THE MEDIOCRES!

As promised, The Mediocres. These books weren’t great and they weren’t bad. They were workman like in their execution, filled with substance but lacking the style to put them over the top.

Batman and the Outsiders #8 (***): This issue does a fine job of wrapping up the last 7 issues worth of story without actually introducing anything new or exciting. It’s a good job, but boring.

Birds of Prey #119 (***): And, Tony Bedard is back. Okay, this was not as bad as I expected. And, Scott is still doing the art, so it’s not a total loss. The following series of panels made me laugh, and not in that good way…

Black Panther #37 (**1/2): It’s mostly filler, but the back and forth between Panther and Killmonger is semi-interesting. Next issue promises to be an all-out slugfest, but… I don’t know if I care about the Panther’s solo adventures anymore. Seems to me like Hudlin is finally running out of ideas. When he first relaunched the book, it seemed to hold so much promise. Instead of rising to the level of exciting political intrigue that Captain America has, it’s slowly fallen into petty soap opera drama. It’s just not compelling. I think after the Secret Invasion tie-in issues, I will be dropping this book.

Green Lantern #32 (***): Compared with the rest of the issues in the arc, which I loved, I was very disappointed in this issue. Not much happened. Sinestro was cool, and that Yoda shit he did with Hal’s plane was very cool, but it felt… mediocre, especially for a Johns book. I’m sure this will be the exception and next issue will see the return of the level of quality we as GL fans are used to. Oh, one more thing. This entire arc is making me so sad for Hal. Like, Carol Ferris is so awesome! A part of me has to believe that another reason for this trip down “Origin Lane” is to reintroduce the Hal/Carol love story… for future reference, of course. Maybe we’ll see more of this after “Blackest Night”? I hope so.

Guardians of the Galaxy #2 (***): Great cover. And that’s about it. Everything else is middle of the road. Vance Astro? GAWD, I’ve always hated him. They should just cap his ass and take the shield. I like the modern reintroduction of the Universal Church of Truth, but I don’t like the characterizations of the leads. Warlock doesn’t feel like Warlock, Drax doesn’t feel like Drax, etc… just about the only character that even acts/sounds like they did in Annihilation is the fricking Raccoon. It hasn’t been outright terrible, so I’ll stick with it for now and see how I feel in a couple of months.

No Hero #0 (***): Too early to tell… this could be great, but there is also the possibility that it’s just a retread of Black Summer or The Order or even Kick-Ass. When he’s on, Ellis is the man. When he’s off? You get weird shit like Anna Mercury and Strange Kiss. Oh, but I do like all the backmatter in this one. Thanks! Oh, and the art is still amazing!

Number of the Beast #6 (***): All the cards have finally been flipped (well, all the cards we know about)! Tons of exposition in this one… no wonder it read so slow. This is the nature of the beast so I can’t fault the writer too much. He’d asked so many questions in the preceding five issues that it was inevitable that he’d have to slow down and catch us all up. Like Green Lantern, I’m sure the next issue will pick right back up.

Ultimate Spider-Man #123 (***1/2): There were parts of this I really liked. I loved how Bendis kept changing “listeners” on us. “Oh, what happened to that nice old man?” Um, Venom ate him, dummy. SWEET! The problem I have with this book is that the way Bendis chose to frame this story actually robs it of any suspense. Because it’s told in flashback, we know Venom gets away safely from Silver Sable and her Wildpack. Everything else still works on a technical level, and what he tried to do was a nice experiment in storytelling, but I’m just not that excited to read the next issue. So, fail?

Ultimate X-Men #95 (**1/2): Whoa… shit just got TOO weird. Cyclops flying? WHA! Rogue knows Vindicator? Like, KNOWS knows? It’s gotta be Gambit, right? Because of the purple energy blasts… but, man, that would be stupid. Northstar dead? Colossus gonna go all roid-ragin’ now? I really liked the new direction that the last issue set up, but I feel like we’re moving too fast and heading in too many different directions. Slow down, man. You’re no Grant Morrison.

I’ll be back Tuesday with The Gooders. Monday, hopefully we’ll have our Series Review of Planetary #9 up, and if we don’t then, sorry.

Bruce Castle Likes It Quick

4 stars = Stop reading review and go buy now!!!!
3 and a half stars = Great issue and make room on your trade shelf someday soon
3 stars = Recommended and maybe even trade worthy
2 and a half stars = Recommended
2 stars= Not the best, not the worst, not recommended
1 and a half star = Terrible issue and vocalize your disgust at your next social event
1 star = Awful awful awful and you may want to consider dropping this title
0 stars = Next con you attend where the writer and/or artist are present you should throw this issue in their face

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Mighty Avengers #15

Mighty Avengers #15– Sigh. Another Secret Invasion filler issue. I’m getting tired of these. They’re not bad, but I’m just kind of getting sick of Secret Invasion. I’m not even reading that many of the tie-ins. I guess because there are so many events going on right now and this is the one getting my anger. Also, is Bendis getting sloppy or do I just know him too well now. This issue was very predictable. Also, this issue supports the theory that the skrull queen was just screwing with Tony’s head in Secret Invasion #3. Who knows, but it looks like Tony isn’t a skrull, big surprise. Anyway, the issue was decent and I dug the art, I’m just bitter about a few things. 2 and a half stars

New Avengers #42– Why are these being released in the same week each month? That’s probably another thing that’s making this stuff taste sour. More filler in this issue. It answered questions I was more interested in though. Also, there is a great moment where a skrull says “and that #$%^ Tony Stark”. That tells me two things. One is that it supports again that Tony isn’t a skrull. Two, the skrulls have such disdain for Tony, so you heard it from Bendis folks, if you hate Iron Man, you must be a skrull. 3 stars

Captain America #39– This is more of the same thing. Not much is revealed here, but Brubaker is still handling the characters incredibly. The political parallels are slammed in your face though. I liked them better when they were more subtle. Still, pretty good issue. 3 and a half stars

Daredevil #108– Sigh. Non-Captain America Brubaker stuff. I haven’t read Criminal, but it seems like every title Brubaker writes other than Captain America is just slightly above mediocre if that. This is supposed to be an A-list writer and that is not what I’m getting. The writing is ok in this issue and Rucka does seem to be helping, but I still don’t really care about it that much. 2 and a half stars

Green Lantern #32– This is my favorite issue out of these five. Geoff Johns is still writing the hell out of this book and Reis’ art is top notch. There is action, humor, and romance. Plus, there are several awesome moments in here that make up for the feeling of misplacement that some people have. This is a great comic! 4 stars

Rant: Green Lantern’s Secret Origin

Ok. I’ll admit it. I liked issue 31. Definitely the best of the Secret Origin issues thus far (and oddly enough, the only one that doesn’t have direct ties to Blackest Night, outside of the sector 666 business). And of course, the writing is good. And Ivan Reis has always done good work penciling all those crazy aliens. That’s all well and good. Some nice moments, and it was a pretty light, breezy issue. Does this change my mind about the choice Johns made in writing this arc when he did? Nope. Did it at least make me order the last few issues of this arc? Nope. The edict in consumerism has always been simple: vote with your wallet. And that’s what I’m doing. I think though, that I need to be a little more specific about why this particular six issues of a superhero comic is rubbing me the wrong way, even though the individual issues so far have been pretty good.

Well, first of all, issue 29 was probably the weakest Green Lantern book I’ve read since I started collecting the title right around Sinestro Corps War, and have since read some of the back issues. That first issue didn’t really deviate at all from the Hal Jordan origin we all know, and because of that, it read very slow and uninteresting to me. The second issue was a lot better, as it was done from a perspective we’re not used to seeing. Now that’s the type of thing I would be looking for in a book that decided to run a Secret Origin arc. Something different. New angles on old ideas. That’s got some legs to it. There’s potential there. But when you start off an arc like that, in a way that is completely underwhelming and very not Geoff Johns like, ESPECIALLY coming right after the reveal of the Red Lantern at the end of Green Lantern 28, you’re setting yourself up for a fall. A bad first issue can sink an entire series, because as we all know, you can’t take back that first impression. It sure worked against me. I stopped ordering the issues from DCBS after that first one.

But here’s the funny thing. And I don’t know if this is necessarily accurate or not, but it just occurred to me. I think (oddly enough) that DC from an editorial standpoint might have actually made a mistake by announcing Blackest Night as early as they did. It’s obviously a good marketing move, as it will definitely help to keep on all the people who jumped on the GL books during Sinestro Corps War. So no argument there. And we all know that at the end of the day, the sales drive the books, so Dan DiDio and Paul Levitz really don’t care at all whether we like the books (don’t let DC Nation panels fool you) as long as they sell. But we as fans are separated from that, which technically is as much to do with the direct market being what it is than anything else. But I don’t want to get into a rant about Diamond now. That can come later.

Anyway, while the decision to announce Blackest Night early was most likely a boon for the sales of the GL books, it’s also had a side effect. We as readers know what’s coming. And considering the quality of Sinestro Corps War, we’re REALLY FUCKING EXCITED for Blackest Night. As well we should be. And we know thanks to GL 25 that at some point prior to Blackest Night, we’re going to see the formation of the rest of the Color Corps. But what that has done is created (at least in me, and seemingly in others based on the forum threads of our infamous vocal internet minority, of which I am proud to be a part) way too much anticipation. I think that’s why those Alpha Lantern issues were greeted with a bit of a tepid response. We wanted new Lantern Corps! And we wanted them yesterday! And while the Alpha Lanterns do fit into the puzzle that will eventually cause Blackest Night (i.e. the rewriting of the Book of Oa), it wasn’t what we expected. Then BAM! Red Lantern power battery. And the collective fandom starts drooling uncontrollably. And then we get hit with a Secret Origin that has (so far) barely anything to do with Blackest Night. What the fuck? When one considers that my biggest complaint with this arc so far is my opinion that it doesn’t seem like the best way to build toward Blackest Night because I know that it’s happening next year, things would definitely be different. Now, I contend that the move from Red Lantern reveal to Secret Origin is still the comics equivalent of blue balls, but I think if we weren’t on a time limit, it would be a lot easier to take.

So yeah, it’s basically a lose lose situation from my perspective. So I’m sitting the rest of this arc out and starting up fresh once they get back to the goods. And meanwhile, I will continue to enjoy Green Lantern Corps, which has been super fun recently.

Review: Green Lantern #31


Green Lantern #31


This is another addition to the Secret Origin storyline. I will first take a moment to address the criticisms that I’ve heard about this storyline. I have really been enjoying this arc. Granted, it shouldn’t be taking place when and where it is. This should have been either the first arc of the series, or it should have been a mini-series while Geoff Johns continued the current story of Hal in the GL series. I don’t know why Geoff Johns wrote this story in the place that it is, but it is still a great story. Just because it is delaying an interesting new story, doesn’t mean that this is a bad arc. I just had to through in my two cents. Now onto the issue, it begins in a charming fashion with Hal staring into the eyes of Carol Ferris. Hector Hammond is also present and we get a quick viewing of his character pre big head. Hal then flies to the Abin Sur crash site and discovers his power battery. It takes him to Oa for training and we get a great splash page of a bunch of Gl that looks fantastic. Ivan Reis is in top form. We even get to see and hear a few lines from Ch’p yay! Hal encounters Kilowog who acts like a jerk and Hal fights back. Kilowog then remarks about how he has found “somebody ta make an example outta!”. Back on earth the military and Dr. Hammond discover Abin Sur’s ship. They investigate and a big scary monster from sector 666 greets them with a “RRAAAARRRR!”. Back at Oa Kilowog is picking on Hal and he discovers that Hal has incredible willpower but can’t dodge the crappy yellow weakness! Ouch! The rest of the issue is Hal completing his training with of course a cool reciting of the oath that features the Gls nicely. Geoff ends the issue with an explanation of why Ganthet has a name and the others don’t(finally!) and of course the reveal that Sinestro is about to become Hal’s partner. Simple story telling indeed but it is the glorious art, the personal moments with almost every single character, and the definite feeling that Geoff Johns really cares about these characters are a few virtues that make this story unique. This is comics at its best in my opinion. I only wish the story wasn’t shadowed by the feeling that the story is out of place.

3 and a half stars out of four