SPOILERS for like all the stories in this issue
Arkham City game is just around the corner, so I thought I’d pick up the recently collected trade version of the comic series Batman: Arkham City. For those who don’t know, it’s the tie in between the first game and the upcoming game and of course, beware of SPOILERS!
Twenty-two pages fills up fast. There’s no denying that. Action sequences often eat up huge chunks of a book, and you can only fit so much dialogue on the page before it becomes cluttered, not to mention how much of the probably excellent art you’ll be covering up by doing so. So, understandably, most writers will have their stories run in arcs, often using well over 100 pages to let it unfold. It’s not hard to see why, but the tendency to keep expanding the story is part of what makes it so rewarding when you come across a single issue that manages to not only exemplify what it is you so love about that particular book, or even comics in general, but that manages to do so with an impressive economy of storytelling. One Shot is meant to take a close look at why those issues work as well as they do, the way they do.
Minor Spoilers Continue reading
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
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
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
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
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
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 three–issue mini that wrapped up the middle-child of Morrison’s planned three-volume Seaguy trilogy, it was pretty nearly perfect.
– Cal Cleary
I hadn’t planned to pick this up, based on the previews, but after Dini’s fantastic Batman: Streets of Gotham and following his great run on Detective Comics, I though the book deserved a chance. Gotham City Sirens operates as a team-up book between Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy in the extremely chaotic new Gotham City. Alongside the recent Batman & Robin #1, Detective Comics #854, Batman #687, and Red Robin #1 (and, of course, Dini’s other title, Streets), Sirens is also about the efforts of a number of former supporting characters trying to carve out their own piece of the City, in one way or another. But how does it work?
Despite some quality work, both from writer Paul Dini and artist Guillem March, though, the answer for the book is largely ‘no’. It’s a slight, breezy read, and Dini does a better job than I thought he would in introducing Catwoman into the beloved Harlvey/Ivy mix, but where it ultimately fails is in the art. March and Dini appear to have taken the theory “Give them what they want” to rather extreme lengths – the amount of cheesecake in the book is absurd.
Which is unfortunate. When March isn’t concerned with arching backs just enough to highlight both the breasts and the butts of the anti-heroines in every panel they’re in, he draws some genuinely dynamic fight scenes that were a pleasure to watch. His style is a little too cartoonish for the book at times – it seems like he’s trying to go for funny through exaggerated and never quite gets there – but his work is far from bad, it just isn’t used as well as it could be.
I’m also glad that Dini is following up on what happened to Catwoman in Heart of Hush, even if what happened to Catwoman in Heart of Hush was absolutely ridiculous (in a bad way). Dini provides the core of an interesting book here – Catwoman recovering from a recent trauma with two people she absolutely can’t trust… but the last she heard, Bruce was dead, Tim was seriously wounded, and the guy dressed as Batman beat the tar out of her, so her circle of ‘friends’ is diminishing quickly.
All that could be very, very interesting, played the right way. But instead, Dini and March seem to have opted to play it Charlie’s Angels style, a concept that may not exactly have staying power when you consider the fact that two of the three of them are two of Gotham’s most hardcore villainesses. And, to be entirely frank, I’m not sure I’d miss it if it were gone.
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:
With Batman R.I.P. selling a bajillion copies and generally being a big (if controversial) hit so soon after The Dark Knight was an even huger hit with even more people, DC seems to have decided to cash in on the Batman brand, launching eight or nine new Batman-themed books of varying quality. As you all may recall, Batman & Robin #1 (Morrison/Quitely) was a huge hit with us and many others, while Batman #687 (Winnick/Benes) and Red Robin #1 (Yost/Bachs) were a little more mixed, here and in other places. Today saw the beginning of yet another: Batman: Streets of Gotham #1, the first of two books by excellent Bat-scribe Paul Dini.
This particular book deals with the supporting cast of Gotham City, at least for the most part. Though this gives the book a slightly schizophrenic feel at first – and Dini sometimes does an absolutely terrible job at introducing us to some of the lesser-known members of the cast – for the most part it works out quite well, feeling in a lot of ways like the pilot to a great ensemble TV show like Freaks and Geeks in the way it jumps from characters to character, plot to plot, while maintaining an overarching theme. In this single issue we see Jim Gordon, Harley Quinn, Batman, Robin, Huge Guy I’ve Never Seen Before, Hush, and, finally, the villain of the first arc: Firefly. Many of these character narrate brief segments of the book, a standard writing device that somehow manages not to feel cluttered at all in Dini’s hands.
Nguyen does an excellent job on art, his slightly cartoony style adapting well to both the book’s darkest moments and its lightest. While there’s nothing revolutionary about the art, it’s fun, and flows just as naturally as the narration along the many winding paths the book takes, a task I would imagine to be more difficult than it sounds.
Along for the ride, for those that didn’t know, is the return of Marc Andreyko’s critically-respected Manhunter. Kate Spencer is the new D.A. of Gotham City. Her first task: tracking down who murdered the last D.A.! Andreyko is joined here by Georges Jeanty who does an excellent job (and whose art seems to fit quite well in the book with Nguyen’s) despite the extremely muted, slightly off-putting coloring.
Andreyko doesn’t have a whole lot of space here, but he makes the most of it – in a small amount of pages, he manages to explain why Kate made the decision to move to Gotham, dealt with her leaving her son, Ramsey, she met a few of Gotham’s major players, shook down a snitch, beat someone up, etc…. If all the back-ups are written so concisely and so well, this should be an immensely successful move for DC.
Despite the raised price tag, this is Dini, Nguyen, Andreyko and Jeanty doing some great work, and it’s worth every penny.
– Cal Cleary
Things I Like: Though this is really the second part of a story, both this issue and last can be read as singular stories. Good for you, Dini. Both this issue and the last Detective have embraced the Faces of Evil format. These villains are actually the main character. Again, that’s very awesome. This issue also mentioned the Black Glove and Batman’s imprisonment in Final Crisis. This is the only Last Rites book that has mentioned Morrison’s work. There’s a bit of a twist in this issue and it was very pleasing.
Things I Didn’t Like: I’m not a fan of Nguyen’s art. Though it certainly gets the job done, it is merely passable to me. While this issue did mention some Morrison-continuity, it also spoke of Bruce as if he was missing. There is no way in hell he would be thought of as missing after the way his death looked in Final Crisis. I blame DC for this, not Dini. “Enjoy it while you can, Kyle. It won’t be long before I show you there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” That’s straight from this issue. That is horribly bad writing!
Final Verdict: A decent but ultimately forgettable tale. Only recommended if you’re looking for a quick and fun read.
Detective Comics #827 (***)
Hey a new Ventriloquist! Does anybody care? Well I will give props to Dini for creating a new character. And if you were one of the five people who loved the old Ventriloquist, you’ll probably love this. The character has finally been updated! No more “Gatman”! This is a sexier female version that is even scarred herself. There’s nothing more to say about this ish. This is the weakest issue so far, but it’s still decent.
Detective Comics #828 (***1/2)
More murder mystery hooray! Actually, that part was just ok, but at least Dini’s Riddler is back. Remember he’s a good guy who gets to pal around with Batman now? Again I have to say that I enjoy this version of Riddler. It’s nice to see him team up with Bats and of course we get some humor. Oh and I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet that Dini isn’t really writing Batman, he’s writing Bruce Wayne. This is all about Wayne’s life. Sure Batman is a big part of it, but we also get to see Bruce’s friends and his love life and so on. It’s another element that keeps this run fresh.
Detective Comics #831 (****)
Dini writes Harley Quinn! How can you not feel the love? Yes we get some Harley action here and guess what? She isn’t very villainous. That’s one of Dini’s themes remember? Harley is trying to go good but someone breaks her out of jail. Is it the Joker? Nope, it’s that new Ventriloquist. She or they, however you want to think of it, need her for a job. Will Harley go evil? I won’t tell you, but I will say that if you loved the old Ventriloquist you need to check this out. This is one of Wesker’s finest moments. So Dini wrote about Harley Quinn and it was good. No surprises there.
Detective Comics #833 (*****)
Oh no this isn’t a done-in-one! Who cares it’s great! Remember that issue with Zatanna and Loxias? Well they both return here, but that Loxias guy looks a little different. I wonder why? I won’t spoil it but I was surprised. Also, Dini writes Zatanna really well. Again, Dini’s run is about Bruce Wayne. Zatanna is a childhood friend. She may have even been the first girl Bruce has a crush on, maybe even kissed I don’t know. And then Zatanna betrayed Bruce in a horrible way. Dini writes these characters so realistically. Damn this issue was good.
Detective Comics #834 (****)
So the longest story in Dini’s run so far has been two issues? How cool is that? This conclusion isn’t quite as satisfying as I’d hoped, but it’s still pretty good. Damn it! I didn’t want to spoil this but I have to because I want to ask a question.
SPOILER! What’s up with Joker and the Watchmen? He has the symbol on his shirt here and he also had it in that JSA annual that came out recently. Is there a reason for this? First the Marx Brothers and now this. END SPOILERS!
Anyway, this was another solid issue from the Dini machine. Remember in last issue’s review I talked about Bruce being human? Well check out this quote.
Zatanna: “We’re only human Bruce. Batman: Thanks for reminding me.”
Final Thoughts: I haven’t mentioned Don Kramer’s art yet have I? That’s probably because it’s not very important. Dini’s writing is definitely the star of the show. Still, Kramer consistently performed well. His art isn’t anything to write home about but it got the job done. He even created some new characters like the female Ventriloquist. Farewell dear Kramer!
So I just caught up on Dini’s run and I thought I’d put my feelings up on here. It’s amazing that both Batman books have been so great lately. For the record, Morrison’s run is better. Way better! But Dini’s run is definitely more accessible and crowd pleasing. So I’m going to give you four parts of Dini magic. I’ll try to get one out every Sunday in December. Just think of it as my holiday gift to all of you. Man I love giving gifts that don’t cost anything. Oh and before we begin, I want to mention a few things that I would probably have to mention every issue. I don’t want to repeat myself! First, I love done-in-ones! Most of Dini’s run was written this way and so I have to give Dini big props for that. Even if you don’t like the story, it will end in just one issue. That’s cool, right? Second, I really dig those Simone Bianchi covers. I’m glad he got a “monthly” gig on Astonishing, but I will miss those Detective covers. Oh and lastly, I’m not reviewing these in trades. I thought about it, but almost all the trades contain those terrible fill-ins as well. So I’ll review Dini’s run by issue. Ok, are we done here? Let’s get reviewing!
Detective Comics #821 (*****)
Dini’s run opens with a bang! This first issue was possibly the best of his done-in-ones. Of course that may be because the pages were graced by J.H. Williams III. This book looks fantastic. Williams is a brilliant storyteller and I love his fight scenes because you can see the hits. It’s a fascinating technique that was later used by David Aja in Immortal Iron Fist. In hindsight, this issue was more of a tie-in to Morrison’s run than the “RIP” story, Heart of Hush. There’s a large amount of red and black and this story even revolves around the rich. Those are both strong themes in Morrison’s run. This is an entertaining yarn with great art and even a new villain. A good start.
Detective Comics #822 (***1/2)
Yes! This issue features Roxy Rocket! Anyone remember her from the cartoon? No? Redhead who got off on danger, nothing? Ok, well this issue is mostly about the reformed Riddler. This is a great fit for the character. To heck with Riddler the villain, he isn’t menacing! But as a goofy detective that makes Batman look way better, it works. This was a lot of fun. The mystery was ok and the ending felt rushed but that’s alright. If that’s the price for a done-in-one story I’ll pay it.
Detective Comics #823 (***1/2)
Man I dig that Benitez art! Who is Joe Benitez? He draws a really beautiful female form and his Batman and Robin are super exaggerated. It’s very cartoony and fun! This story feels like a bit of a repeat of the old cartoon. Wasn’t there an episode where Ivy was afraid of plants at the end? And the creepiness kind of reminds me of that episode with the plant babies. Again, entertainment is the name of the game in Dini’s run. This was a hell of a creepy good time!
Detective Comics #824 (****)
Ah the Penguin issue, the class, the opulence, the Paris Hilton reference? Um, ok! I guess this continues another theme of Dini’s run where the villains aren’t very villainous. I think it’s one of the elements that keep the stories fresh even if they aren’t very original. We also get some Lois Lane action. Am I the only one who likes to see Bruce and Lois together? We have some more first appearances in Dini’s run including Zatanna and the mysterious Loxias (Big plans for him I bet. Hindsight rules). Throw in an interesting thug like Mr. ZZZ and we have a winner!
Detective Comics #826 (*****)
To hell with Batman! Bring on Robin! So what does Christmas make you think of? The Joker of course! Dini gives us the clown prince of crime much like the cartoon. He’s funny AND creepy. What’s up with Joker and the Marx Brothers? I believe Joker mentioned them in Batman: Cacophony too. It’s interesting right? Oh and if you don’t know who the Marx Brothers are then shame on you! Go rent Duck Soup or something! Anyway, this was a fantastic Joker issue and Robin is pretty cool too. It’s nice to see those two together without the Bat.
Final Thoughts: So far Dini’s run is a lot of fun! Will that continue? Stay tuned!
Secret Six #2 (*****)
Who doesn’t love this book? Kudos to Simone for seeing something cool in a character (Bane) that most of us wrote off years ago.
Detective Comics #849 (****1/2)
Morrison’s Batman, while epic and enjoyable is a complete mess compare to Dini’s run on this book. Seriously, if you’re looking for great, straight up Batman stories, this is for you. And! This Hush arc is the best yet. I don’t think any write has ever really justified Batman’s rage as well as Dini has. Fucking brilliant!
Wonder Woman #25 (****)
Gail Simone writes the best Wonder Woman ever, which makes me really sad, because as cool as it is to have an awesome WW for a change, I hate that it just proves that men can’t write her. It’s as sexist as saying that only men can write Superman, which, I’m not sure can be proved either way since men are the only ones who ever GET to write Superman. Sigh.
Green Lantern Corps #29 (****)
I think my enjoyment of this book is based solely on whether or not Gleason is doing the art. Well, he did the art for this issue and I loved it.
Eternals #5 (****)
It’s getting good, guys! I love how the old dude was indifferent to the kid and then he got to know him and some atrophied sense of parenting manifested and he got all invested in the kid and then the kid goes bad and he’s all sad but because he acted like such a jerk at the start his daughter doesn’t believe him when he tells her how sorry he is… AWESOME!
(Run-ons can be fun!)
Some Other Stuff:
• No Hero #1 (***): More of the same? Is Ellis repeating himself?
• Green Lantern #35 (***): This was not a satisfactory ending. At all.
• The Invincible Iron Man #6 (***): Fine, the fight was cool but the end didn’t punch me in the gut. Punch me in the gut, FRACTION!!!
• Fables #77 (***1/2): I liked this, it’s a fine start to the post-war era of Fables. I especially liked the letter in the middle of the book from Bill Willingham. That was definitely what the doctor ordered. I was thinking about dropping the book, but Bill has convinced me to stick around. Good show.
• Robin #177 (***1/2): I mean, this would be cooler if we RIP was over already, as it stands, I just can’t get into it. I need context, damn it.
Recently in the comments section of this post, I brazenly asserted that Batman, by Grant Morrison & Tony Daniel, fails as a monthly comic reading experience. Basically, I feel the plot is too convoluted or complex for easy monthly digestion, although I’m sure it’ll go down very easy in trade.
So, what makes a good monthly comic? A couple of things:
Comics that put “character” first!
Comics that tend to focus more on character than plot are inherently more readable as monthlies. When jumping into the middle of a six issue arc, its character that pulls you in and fills in the holes. With the exception of Fantastic Four, every comic on my list stars a single character.
“Done-in-One (or two)” Stories!
There’s no need to wait for the trade if each arc is only 1-2 issues long, right? Again, this type of story goes well with character writing. Since the plot isn’t required to sustain itself for 3-6 issues, it can be pared down and used primarily as a vehicle to reveal the titular hero’s character. Batman and Zatanna team up to stop the Joker!?! Reading that story you find that it’s not really about catching the Joker as much as it’s about developing Bruce and Zatanna’s relationship. Also, without really sacrificing the overall plot, these “done-in-one” stories can be framed like TV episodes that when viewed over an entire season combine to reveal a hidden master plot. Think Buffy, Heroes, etc… As many of us know, it can be very intimidating for a new reader to jump onto a book with a long running story, so hiding the plot in this manner is a great way to eliminate that intimidation factor. It also allows the writer to integrate sub-plots with clearly defined conflicts into the background that can be slowly developed and brought to the forefront at a later date, as Mark Millar does in Fantastic Four.
Cliffhangers that punch you in the face!
I mean, does this one really need explanation? There are quite a few comics (many on this list) that use the “final page splash” to great effect in almost every single issue. The rush you get from experiencing these in a floppy is much different than when experiencing them in a trade. Actually, it doesn’t even come close.
Getting that “OMG I can’t wait for next month!” Soap Opera feeling!
Of the four I’ve listed here, I think this last one is probably the most important (although it is very closely related to the Cliffhanger thing). For me, it’s the most important factor in deciding whether or not to wait for the trade. I ask myself, as many of you probably do, “Can I go more than a month without reading about BLANK?!?” If you answer “NO!”, then you obviously have a great monthly in your hands!
With the pretentious explanations out of the way I present to you, in no particular order, my “Top Ten Comics That Work Best as Monthlies”:
ACTION COMICS by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank
I could NEVER read this comic in trade; I just love the characters too much! And the cliffhangers are the epitome of punch you in the face. There haven’t been many done-in-ones in the Johns run, but that’s okay, since at least half the comics on this list barely utilize that comic book storytelling device. But Johns does love the sub-plots, wherein he writes some of the best (or, THE best) character moments in comics. CONS: More done-in-ones would be nice.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN by “The Spidey Brain Trust”
With the exception of the current arc, “New Ways To Die”, Brand New Day has been nothing but 1-, 2-, and 3-issue arcs filled with character, character, character… the Soap Opera mojo has been strong. Because of the weekly shipping schedule, the Spidey team has been using the last page splash to great effect. CONS: Actually, maybe there are too many characters? Sometimes it gets confusing.
CAPTAIN AMERICA by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting & Luke Ross
All of the above? Without all the little Bucky character stuff, I would not be enjoying this book as much as I am. It’s funny, but to me, most issues of Captain America feel like single issue stories set in an epic tapestry whose true significance won’t be seen ‘til Brubaker ends his run. It’s one long, ongoing story that excites me month in and month out.
DEADPOOL by Daniel Way & Paco Medina
We’re two issues in and I’m in love. For now. Plot? What plot? If you’re looking for a story, you’re in the wrong place, duder. This is all about Deadpool. That’s it. Do you need to read issue one to understand issue two? Hell no! Enjoy the funny!
DETECTIVE COMICS by Paul Dini & Dustin Nguyen
Current master of the 1- or 2-part story (yeah, yeah, I know the RIP tie-in breaks the rules). Reading Detective for the last two years I remember more about Bruce sex life (obv lack thereof) than I do the details of any of the stories. And to me, that’s awesome writing. Dini has made Bruce likable. This is new, folks. Bruce Wayne as an actual character in comics? Not since pre-DKR, I would think, have we seen the identity of Bruce Wayne written as a real character. Ah no, I disagree with you, Morrison’s Wayne is a flimsy piece of cardboard. Maybe he had something at the beginning of his run, but fleshing out Batman’s alter ego took a back seat to RIP setup long ago, maybe around the time Adam Kubert left the book. Anyway, yes, Dini isn’t writing Batman, he’s writing Bruce Wayne as Batman. And there is a difference, and that difference is quite refreshing.
FANTASTIC FOUR by Mark Millar & Bryan Hitch
The character stuff is lacking, but the sub-plots, cliffhangers and OMG moments make this a top of the stack must-read. Here’s a recent review that reads more negative than it actually is.
GRAVEL by Warren Ellis, Mike Wolfer & Raulo Caceres
The way the current arc is framed, it works wonderfully as a series of single issue stories filled with scenes exploring the character of William Gravel. Oh, you know what? Thank God Ellis finally got around to fleshing this guy out. Gravel started life as a boringly hollow SAS thug who starred in a series of idea-driven minis. In those minis, there was never anything particularly exciting or compelling about the Gravel character and the fact of the matter is, I probably only read them because they were written by Ellis. Now, under the watchful eye of Mike Wolfer, I really grown to like this guy and each month I can’t wait to read Gravel’s next adventure. Shocking. That’s good stuff, brother.
HULK by Jeph Loeb & Ed McGuinness
INVINCIBLE by Robert Kirkman & Cory Walker
Ever since the #51 reboot, this book has been one of the most anticipated monthlies in my stack. LOVING IT… happy now, Bruce?
JACK OF FABLES by Matthew Sturges & Bill Willingham
Awesome title character? CHECK!
Outstanding sub-plots? CHECK!
SOAP OPERA?!? TRIPLE CHECK!!!
(Be advised, the following “Feature Review” space reserved for fanboyish fanboying.)
Buffy The Vampire Slayer #18 (*)
This cover is absurd. That is all.
Detective Comics #848 (*****)
Paul Dini, you monster. You took out her heart? OMFG!!!
Secret Six #1 (*****)
OH! I missed you girls so much!
• 100 Bullets #95 (*****): Heh. Irony. How ironic? (I mean, what can I say? Besides me and like five other guys, who else is still reading this bloated self-indulgent masterpiece?)
• Anna Mercury #3 (***): This book feels like half a comic, or a web comic. For $3.99 it feels lazy.
• The Authority #2 (***): Relaunch! Even with DnA, I’m still a lot o’ bit bored. I like the whole “World’s End” idea, but some of these titles are just BLAH! Where’s my Nemesis ongoing?
• The Boys #18 (****): The thrilling conclusion to “I Tell You No Lie, G.I.”… thrilling really isn’t the word. The near-rape scene was disturbing and the park stuff was sweet… I don’t know, The Boys is complicated and so are my feelings about it… stop asking personal questions!
• Criminal #5 (****): Dude, she is totally playing you! And! I’m hoping she isn’t, because if she is, then Brubaker is getting a tiny bit predictable.
• Dreamwar #4 (***): This needed to be over already because I just don’t care anymore.
• Final Crisis: Revelations #2 (***): OH! Emotions! Upheavals! Duty! Revenge! Mercy! …cliché? There was just too much hand-holding and feeling-sharing. BLAH! Spectre needs to kill more bad guys. Soonish.
• Green Arrow and Black Canary #12 (*): IT’S OVER… my involvement!
• Green Lantern #34 (***1/2): Mind wipes, all around!
• I Kill Giants #2 (***): The art is interesting and the characters are… interesting, but I hope the hook for this series isn’t just “crazy girl makes friends”. Show me something, Joe Kelly, show me anything and I’ll love you forever.
• Invincible #52 (****1/2): Bruce is right, this book rocks! It’s been rocking for two issues now, and it better keep rocking or I’m gonna have to start bashing Kirkman again!
• Nightwing #148 (*): I’m no expert on bullet related injuries, but the logic in this issue just feels WRONG. Dick gets shot twice, loses two bodies worth of blood and within 24-hours is up and around like nothing happened?
• Savage Dragon #137 (*): Why do I still support this book? It’s sooooooo Terry-Bull.
• Wonder Woman #24 (****): Queen of Fables? BLAH. Dude, but those white gorillas are funny as ####! What a great addition to the supporting cast they’re turning out to be. Simone is a genius.
• Young Liars #7 (****1/2): Even with the fever dreams, not as crazy as usual. But yes, this “Amy Racecar” stuff is cool and I’m looking forward to more.
So, my laptop died yesterday. I only mention this because for the immediate future, there will not be scans to accompany my reviews. You see, my scanner doesn’t work with XP 64 or Vista, and seeing as how I just spent 800 bucks on a new laptop (w/Vista), it may be a few weeks ‘til I can grab an affordably price compliant scanner. Oh, I also need a new printer, but that isn’t really relevant to you guys. Anyway, on with the scan-less reviews.
Batman #679 (****)
Finally! An issue of RIP I can understand! I’m so late on this, and everyone else has said everything worth saying, I’ll keep this short. The Batman of Zur-en-arrh is OUTSTANDING FUN! Dude, he cuts out his own tooth!?! Converses with imaginary gargoyles and Bat-Mites!?! Beats the living crap out of everybody!?! And next, The Joker!?! OMG!!! I approve.
Detective Comics #847 (****)
This issue, Dini continues with the telling (or is that re-telling?) of the “Origin of Hush”. So far, I like it. I like it better than the rushed garbage that was the introductory Jeph Loeb story (even if it was 12 issues of Jim Lee). But, I don’t like how civil Selina and Zatanna were. I was definitely looking forward to that fight. How do you guys feel about the Scarecrow retcon? Is this cool? I’m on the fence. I need more input. But, so far, like the rest of his run, I’m enjoying this arc.
Robin #176 (****)
Whoa, is this better than the first issue? Hell yes! My favorite stuff, and the RIP junk is nice but I really don’t care about it so much in a book starring Robin, anyway, the best stuff about Fabian’s run so far is that, unlike Dixon, he’s got Tim acting exactly as you’d expect a teenager to act in response to the return of a presumed dead girlfriend. RIGHT!?! He finally admits that he’s pissed at her. Screw Batman RIP, this is what I want from my Robin. Robin’s inability or refusal to act like a real person was one of my biggest complaints about the Dixon stuff, and I’m glad Batman editorial or Fabian or both have decided to do something about it. Well done, sirs.
Nightwing #147 (***)
Um, how does this tie-in to Batman RIP? And where the hell has Two-Face been since One Year Later? Please, explain. Aaaaand, I still hate the way Tomasi writes Dick, er, Richard. Whatever. Maybe Tomasi can only write villains? His black Adam was crazy scary as was his Mongul, and the villains in the “Manhunter Memorial” tie-in were spot on, but his Green Lanterns SUCK, his Justice League SUCKS and his Richard Grayson SUCKS. DC, give this man a villain book!
Final Crisis: Revelations #1 (****)
This was very nice. Spectre killing bad guys? FINALLY! Anyone else grossed out by the way Spectre deals with Effigy and Dr. Light? Oh, since they’re dead, does that mean they’ll both show up in Reign in Hell? That would be cool. What else was cool, how about more infos on Libra? SWEET! Who is this guy? Seriously! The revelation is gonna be sick, I tell you. Oh, is that what the title is referring to? Mayhaps. Question was in here as well, and that stuff was nice, but I’m still not sold on her character. It’s well written, but I just don’t care about Montoya. Since this is a tie-in mini that Grant specifically asked Rucka to write for him, I’m reasonably sure that by the end, we’ll come to view this series as fundamentally essential to the Final Crisis epic. It’s definitely been the best of the tie-ins so far, although I have yet to read Legion…
Final Crisis: Director’s Cut #1 (****1/2)
Why buy this? A number of reasons, actually. 1) The black and white J.G. Jones pencils are A-M-Z-I-N-G. Just, WOW. Without the color and the word balloons, his skill really shows through. And if you had any questions about what was going on, these uncluttered pages answer them. I would definitely buy a hardcover like this. Seriously. It’s like the Ultimate DVD Special Edition. 2) Full Morrison Script. And, um, CRAP this is hard to read. I feel sorry for Jones. Seriously, this stuff is insane with the heavy. The description of the “Orrery of Worlds” is migraine-inducing. 3) By far, the best reason to buy this is the interview with Morrison and Jones in the back. The comments are revealing to say the least. Morrison and Jones explain scene and dialogue choices, metaphors, motivations, as well as hints of things to come. Usually, these Director’s Cuts are a lame attempt to grab more cash, but in this case, if you’re trying to decipher the mystery that is Final Crisis, this is a must-buy. For real though, this is by no means necessary reading. BUT, if you are already enjoying this series, this is definitely worth checking out. Or, wait for the hardcover/omnibus/abosulte edition. I’m sure it’ll be reprinted in there.
Ok, Carol is definitely a Skrull. Shoot, how the heck did you expect them to react when you come charging out of the sun with your team, shouting about surrender? Ditzy broad! Obviously, there will be a fight! Moving on, was anyone else as intrigued by the Steve and Tony scenes as I was? You could smell Ross and Kruger’s outrage over the events of the last couple of years:
And then, Tony hesitates… The “I do, Widow” was the perfect response to Black Widow telling him that Cap is a reasonable guy and that they should be able to explain everything once the Invaders are in custody. This is such a fanboy moment. If you only read it from the angle that Widow is right, that Cap is a reasonable guy, then you totally miss that Tony is really saying, “I do know that he’s Captain America, the same Captain America whose trust I bitterly betrayed. Oh, the humanity!” JOYGASM!
Heh, did you guys notice Namor in the background tossing Wonder Man into Ares? Heh. Also, the New Avengers ain’t taking this shit lying down!
…oh, we got a problem! Space-time damage imminent!
Batman: Detective Comics #845 (****)
Since when does Batman get so much action? Zatanna, Catwoman and Jezebel Jet? How does one man choose?
Paul Dini is such a great writer when he’s left alone to do his own thing, but alas, this issue semi-firmly establishes a continuity between this book and Morrison’s Batman. Why? Why is this necessary at all? Oh, so we can have yet another crappy crossover like The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul. I hate you DC editorial. You make good writers do bad things. I wonder how Badly Dini is chafing under Morrison’s manifesto? First he had to try and build up to the Morrison penned Final Crisis with Countdown, and now, he has to tie-in to the “bad trip” that is Batman: RIP. Poor bastard. Still, each issue of Detective has been a wonderful distraction and I have to admit that I’ve enjoyed Dini’s series of one-shot tales more than Morrison’s conspiracy laden Batman.
Justice Society of America #16 (*****)
A pause for awesome…
Midnighter #20 (*****)
Why did they wait till the very last issue to give us this? Wow. I bet if each issue of Midnighter was this psychotic, it wouldn’t have been cancelled. What a waste. I feel like this book never really got off the ground, even with the fun Hitler story Ennis wrote to open the series. My take on Midnighter is that he’s basically Batman if Batman actually acted the way a man like Batman would actually act. Get me? He’s Batman from the Bob Kane era with a modern S&M twist. We’ve seen hints of this before, in Authority, and I expected that version of the character to receive further exploration in this ongoing. But unfortunately, it doesn’t really happen till this, the final issue. As I said, what a waste.
• 100 Bullets #92 (****): Wow, everything we thought we knew is slowly falling apart. Minuteman betrays Minuteman. Graves is playing a new game. Very exciting.
• Captain Britain and MI13 #2 (*****): Even better than the first issue and the best looking Super Skrull to date on the last page. AH! Why can’t SI be like this?
• Eternals #1 (***): I’m in the camp that Neil Gaiman’s Eternals was a bit overrated… I still enjoyed this “relaunch” well enough, but I’m not sure I’ll be picking it up past the first arc. It just didn’t grab me.
• Invincible #50 (***): Anti-Climactic describes it well I think. Overpirced and under-storied is another way to put it. Shit, that cover screams ultra-violent mayhem. What we actually get doesn’t even come close. Also, I hate Science Dog… and is it just me, or is Science Dog purposefully stealing from Tom Strong?
• Nova #14 (***1/2): The fight was really cool, but then halfway through the issue we’re forced back to the planet to deal with the lame-ass Harrow. Ugh.
• The Punisher: Little Black Book #1 (***): I was fooled by the Dave Johnson cover. It was a fine read, but why was this story necessary.
• Secret Invasion: Who Do You Trust? #1 (****1/2): This was really, REALLY good. Even the Agents of Atlas story. My only complaint is that this book should have released the week of or after issue #2 of the main mini. Most of these stories deal with the subplots of #1 and #2 of SI, so it was kind of annoying to have to wait so long to get some development. It was only a month, by time is of the essence with these event books. Losing momentum sucks.
5 Stars: WARNING: Raiders of the Lost Ark
4 Stars: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
3 Stars: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
2 Stars: The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles
1 Star: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
The Mighty Avengers (*****)
SECRET INVASION TIE-IN! Better than Secret Invasion… but we all knew that, right?
Batman: Detective Comics #844 (***)
The origin story for the new Scarface was sort of interesting, but I don’t see us going anywhere exciting from here. Now, the resolution to the steamy Bruce/Zatanna subplot… LAME! Bruce Wayne is the dumbest man alive. How do you turn this down? And yet he does. Alas, there is hope… Zatanna leaves the door open!
Captain Britain and MI13 #1 (****1/2)
SECRET INVASION TIE-IN! Again, better than Secret Invasion. Oh my gosh, actual Skrulls fighting actual super heroes in the actual opens? Fortunately, the tone of this book feels nothing like the first two issues of SI, it feels like something way more awesome! John Lennon Skrull? Heh. Black Knight returns! Captain Britain written not to suck! My only complaint is the way in which Wisdom was handled. Wooden would be the way to describe it. But, if the teaser for next issue is any indication, that shouldn’t be a problem for much longer.
Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four #1 (****1/2)
SECRET INVASION TIE-IN! And again better than Secret Invasion. Could it be? For the first time the tie-ins surpass the main event in overall quality? This is crazy! I mean, you guys all remember those crappy House of M minis, yes? I expected the same level of mediocrity from MI13 and FF (and yet I still ordered them), but the first issues have been shockingly fun and good. Oh hey, we’re in the Negative Zone. I don’t understand how anyone can be happy with the second issue of SI after reading MI13 and FF. It’s not even close. Anyway, I loved this exchange between Sue and Johnny. Oh, no, I mean Johnny and… Lyja!!! Oh, and Barry Kitson was pretty good too.
Hulk #3 (*****)
WOW. How I’ve missed you Ed McGuiness!!! Jeph Loeb is still horrible, but there’s barely any dialogue in this one so there’s thankfully little to complain about. BUT THE ART! Yeah, it’s basically one long fight scene, and you can call me a hypocrite for liking it, but it’s been so long since we’ve gotten some good old McGuiness, I can’t help myself. Shit, that was a lot of commas. Hey Steve, I’m curious now, what did you hate so much about this book? Sure, Rick calling himself “A-Bomb” is pretty terrible, but the Harpies were awesome! Heh. And Hulk busting out by the end of the 3rd issue made me a very happy man. The worst thing about the end of WWH was the fact that Hulk’s epic character arc was put on indefinite hiatus. Sure we got all those Aftersmash books from Marvel, but none of them dealt with the Hulk’s POV. Anyway, I’m really interested to hear your extended review.
• Action Comics Annual #11 (****): Although it was a great read, I can’t in good conscience give this book the full five stars.
• Angel: After the Fall #7 (***): Um, I liked this issue. The art was tons better and the Wesley and Connor stories were more interesting than anything that’s been in the book up to this point. Second thoughts about canceling?
• Avengers/Invaders #1 (**): This was kind of a letdown. For a Marvel book, the art was just off. The Bucky journal stuff in the beginning just didn’t sound like Bucky, or to be fair, Ed Brubaker’s version of Bucky. I’ll keep getting it, mostly because I want to see how all the modern heroes react to a resurrected Captain America, but I’ve adjusted my expectations for this series accordingly.
• Batman #676 (**): More letdowns. I’ve read some comments online that have said that this is the scariest interpretation of the Joker ever. I disagree. Also, am I the only one that hates Tony Daniel?
• The Walking Dead #49 (*): UGH. Bored now?
• Wolverine #65 (*): The conclusion of “Get Mystique”. Aaron treated us to a nifty naked fight between Mystique and Wolverine… meh. And then, as expected, Logan doesn’t kill Raven. So, what was the point of this much hyped story?
• Young X-Men #2 (-): Cancelled.
5 Stars: WARNING: Christopher Reeve
4 Stars: Tim Daly
3 Stars: George Reeves
2 Stars: Tom Welling
1 Star: Brandon Routh
Action Comics #863 (*****)
Finally, we reach the end of this Legion saga… is it lame if I say I miss it already? That feels extremely weird to write since I used to hate the Legion so much (and probably still do). It’s just Johns, man. That boy can write. Anything! He can make anything good! No jokes. Even in this panel, a panel filled with no-name Legion dudes and dudettes, I still laughed out loudly. Gary Frank deserves a lot of credit here as well. Without those facial expressions he draws so well, I may not have enjoyed this book as much. So, the story ends how you’d expect, and a little too much like Superman Returns, but that’s okay. I still loved it. And then Superman is like, “These are my bitches, fool!” And then the Legion proceeds to kick the crap out of Earth-Man, the same way the GLC kicked the crap out of Superboy Prime… but that’s okay, I still loved it! I see Johns sort of repeating himself, and I know I’m cutting him slack because I enjoy his work so much, but you know… that’s okay! The fight ends spectacularly with a Superman sized KO. KRRAAKK!!!
Annihilation Conquest #6 (****)
So much shit happened here I don’t even know where to begin. The dominoes begin falling on page one and we don’t ever get a chance to catch out breath; save for the special moment Quasar has with her dead lover, Moondragon. Anyway, everything goes awesomely, especially the part where Ultron takes over Praxagora and blows her ass up. BOOOOOOOM!!! Stupid robot chick. Good riddance. Although, the coolest moment by far happened on this page. Shit, I really wish we were doing another cosmic set for Vs., this would be the most awesome of cards. Sigh. Anyway, this was a great end to a series whose build up was a lot slower than its predecessor. The finale may not have been as earth shattering, I’d rate Annihilation #6 at 5 stars, but it was still satisfying and better than 90% of the recent crossover events. Bravo cosmic Marvel!
The Boys #17 (****)
Not much to say here, I just wanted to point out that Hughie and his lady friend finally get it on. Oh, Hughie, you master! But where’s the comedy here? Oh, it’s on this page. Bloody hell. I also loved the intentionally misleading cover art. It makes you think something terribly violent is about to happen to these lovers. I was worried!!!
Detective Comics #843 (****)
Speaking of getting it on… no jokes, when are Zatanna and Batman going to get it on? The tension Dini’s created is killing me. The door is open Bats, get in there!!! Is it terrible that the only exciting thing about Dini’s Batman run is the unresolved sexual tension in their relationship? Seriously, what happened to Paul Dini? First Countdown and now this… sad times.
• 100 Bullets #90 (****): Lono tells Loop to shoot Cole!?! WTF is going on!?! I love it!!!
• Angel After the Fall # 6 (*): A couple of partial stories!?! WTF is going on!?! I hate it!!!
• Anna Mercury #1 (**1/2): This book is all about exploring the ideas put forward in Planetary #9. What would happen if you created a fictional world and then traveled into it? It’s kind of disappointing Ellis didn’t do more with this in Planetary; I’m hoping we learn about the fate of the “fiction-naut” in the final issue. Anyways, this ish was fun although the character seems derivative of Ellis’ previous work. Actually, the entire thing feels that way.
• Batman and the Outsiders #6 (****): What’s not to love about this book? I’m even starting to appreciate Geo-Force as a character. Also, I hope they torture the shit out of Ollie. He can take it.
• Green Lantern Corps #23 (***): The new Mongul is SCARY. I want to hate the new Ion, but I can’t. He’s actually cool. Giving Mongul a bunch of rings was a good idea, why haven’t they done this before? It was the best part of Emerald Twilight. DUH!!!
• The Incredible Hercules #116 (***1/2): New art team already? This book just keeps getting better. It’s gonna make me a real sad panda when they finally bring Banner back. Oh, MORE ETERNALS!!! These guys really get no respect. The “God Squad”… to Riddick!
• Iron Man #28 (*****): I feel like Kooning has been completely redeemed in death. That was impressive. The Knaufs impress every issue though. The most impressive thing about this ish? SILVER & RED CENTURION armor!!! Non-Skrull Dum-Dum is a badass, btw. “Hey Stark, let’s take out the UN!” GROSS. Tony ripped the Mandarin’s rings out of his spine! And then he lasers off his own foot? Spectacular ending to an epic run. Wow.
• Kick-Ass #2 (****): Ok, I was wrong about this book. It’s really good.
• Logan #2 (***): OK, this is getting kind of cool. So the flaming dead guy is actually an immortal/mutant like Wolverine that got A-bombed? Cool, I guess. Is this the origin of Wolverine getting blown to bits? Did that story need to be told? Stupid.
• Midnighter #18 (*): A little tired of random dudes taking out the Authority, aren’t you? I mean, Giffen did a better job of it than most, talking about the bad guy’s inner monologue, but it was still old new man. And next issue he’s just gonna fight Midnighter again. Part 1, fight Midnighter. Part 2, fight the Authority. Part 3, fight Midnighter again. Boring.
• Robin #173 (****): Is this the real Spoiler? I don’t know how he’ll explain it, but I kind of hope it is. Even if it’s the result of another stupid Superboy continuity punch.
• X-Factor #30 (*): This was the worst kind of fill-in story. I have no idea what’s going on or why David thought this idea was cool.
• X-Men: Divided We Stand #1 (***1/2): This was tons better than I expected it to be. Usually, these anthology type deals have one good story and 3 or 4 stainers. This one was 100% stains free.
• Young X-Men #1 (**): It’s a first issue and it didn’t hook me. It was interesting, but not great. And FUCK, enough with Cyclops acting like an R-tard! Would the former leader of a group of persecuted teenagers really destroy that much public property… like, all the time!!!
Issue #2 picks up right where #3 left off: Jimmy Olsen and Darkseid duking it out. Of course, Olsen gets his butted kicked. Why? Because Jimmy Olsen MUST DIE! Oh shoot, who’s that!? It’s Orion, son of Darkseid and he’s got a knuckle sandwich for his pops. BOOM!!! Cosmic explosions!!! City in ruins!!! What should we do Superman? “Nothing,” said Superman. I was totally into this issue till Superman showed up. Why did we need those panels? It just makes these guys look like idiots. Darkseid and his spawn are ripping the shit out of the city, thousands of people are in danger and the fricking Justice League is sitting on their hands? ON PURPOSE!?!? That scene could have been left out completely! It totally draws attention to obvious plot holes!!! BAD WRITING ALERT!!! Anyway, the issue ends with Orion ripping his dear old dad’s heart out. Prophecy Fulfilled.
As for the final issue of Countdown… I have to admit, I honestly don’t feel qualified commenting on it. I missed about 8 months of this story so anything I say now is an educated guess at best. But I’ll say my piece anyway. As final issues go, it felt lackluster. Maybe I’m just not invested enough in the characters… how could I be? Anyway, there were a few things I do feel comfortable making fun of, like this: OH… MY… GAY? Someone needs to explain that one to me. And this “who watches the watchers” crap? How are you going to enforce what ever it is you think you’re going to enforce, Kyle? Stuff like this is why I’m glad I missed this boat. Having read the final issue, I feel vindicated in my decision in not investing 100+ dollars on this pile of cat feces.
Oh, but the covers were nice. Heh.