Review: Batman and Robin 12

The end of the Terminus arc isn’t the pull for me here.  To be honest, none of the Terminus stuff was.  The real story in my eyes over these last few issues has been the War of the Robins, which by chance seems to end in this issue as well.

Spoiler warning.

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Review: Batman & Robin #7

The past few issues were a bit boring, at least when they focused on Nobody’s history.  This issue though is amazing, start to finish.  To such a degree, that I’ll be shocked and apalled if fellow read/RANT member ikeebear rates this lower than a 4 (really, I’d say 4.5) for his upcoming ‘One Sentence Review, Part 27’. 

SPOILER WARNING! – seriously

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Review: Green Lantern Corps #6

Green Lantern Corps #6 finishes off the Corps’ first story arc of the new 52 by wrapping up some loose ends and posing some important questions of morality for the titles main characters.

When we last left off, John Stewart and two other Green Lanterns had been captured and are being tortured by the Keepers on their home world of Urak. The Keepers watched over the Green Lantern Corps’ power batteries when they were tucked away in their subspace pockets, but since the Guardians decreed that all Green Lanterns are directly responsible for the whereabouts of their power batteries the Keepers have lost their purpose and their planet has fallen into ruin without the power of the batteries. However, due to their prolonged exposure to the batteries the Keepers are all but immune to the Green Lantern’s power rings.

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4 DC reviews in 5 or less sentences each.

Sorry on the lack of full reviews, and lack of images even in this post.  I just want to get in a few reviews here, but don’t have the energy with the holiday hustle to do a full review for each comic.  So instead I’ll be doing short paragraph reviews for the following issue 4s: Batman, Birds of Prey, Green Lantern Corps, and Nightwing.

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Review: Batman and Robin #1

Last week I felt Daniel had dropped the ball when writing Detective Comics #1 (though some newer readers like Comic Kata thought otherwise).  This week Tomasi is the one taking on the Batman oriented issue in Batman & Robin.

SPOILER WARNING!

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Review: Blackest Night: Batman #1

BLBat

Spin-off minis to Major Crossover Events are interesting things.  They are often posited as being important to the main story in some way, though the best crossovers know better than to make them vital or trivial and offend fans.  On the one hand, you can have the debacle that was the Final Crisis spin-offs – decent minis that had absolutely nothing to do with the main title or, even worse, which actively contradicted the main title.  On the other hand, you have Secret Invasion, which didn’t even make sense without the vastly more important spin-off titles (most notably Incredible Hercules and Captain Britain and MI:13, which featured the most vital blows against the Skrull threat).  Which type is this?  Spoilers ahead.

Blackest Night: Batman #1 seems to be leaning towards the Secret Invasion way of doing things.  As we saw in Blackest Night #1, Black Hand has Bruce Wayne’s skull, though no one really knows why.  And as Blackest Night #2 revealed, there’s actually a whole lot no one knows.  The Black Lantern Rings have caught everyone off-guard, and while everyone knows by now what they do, no one knows how or why.

This issue changes that.  Tomasi keeps the story moving ahead at a quick pace as he smartly focuses on Boston Brand, better known as Deadman, who we saw tormented briefly in Blackest Night #2.  Here we see why – though Brand’s soul free-floats through the ether, allowing him to possess anyone with whom he comes in contact, his body has been snatched up by a Black Lantern Ring.  When Brand enters the body to try and force it back into the ground, he knows everything it knows… and that means he knows that Black Hand has the skull, that a Guardian has betrayed the others, even that there’s a power battery.  And when he finds Dick Grayson and Damian, they know it to.  Batman & Robin now know more about what’s happening than any other hero in the DC Universe.  Let’s just hope they remember that they know Oracle, and Oracle knows everyone.

Despite all that masterplotting, however, the issue is all set-up.  Tomasi and Syaf fails to deliver the shocks where he needs to as we see some of the dead Batman family begin to rise, and they seem to introduce far more threats than a three-issue mini demands.  Syaf and his art team do well matching the bleak tone of Tomasi’s story, but is a bleak tone and some set-up enough to fill a full third of a mini satisfactorily?

Only time will tell.  As a single issue, however, this one manages to stay just ahead of mediocre thanks to decent art and reasonably well-handled drama.  There’s a lot in it that has the potential to change the game for the Blackest Night mini, but little that suggests that Blackest Night: Batman will be compelling on its own.

Grade: B-

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Two Weeks of Reviews

Final Crisis: Revelations #3

 

Outside of Superman Beyond, Revelations is easily the strongest of the Final Crisis minis, and this issue keeps it coming hard.  We further see the damage done by the release of the Anti-Life Equation as Gotham is under siege by the Dark Faith – and among the mindless ranks of Anti-Life laying siege to the city is Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, Bane, and Jim Gordon.

Things are bad in Gotham, and they get worse as we learn that the Radiant and the Spectre seem powerless in the face of Anti-Life…and as Cain comes calling.  The description sounds epic, but in fact, this is a deeply personal series.  Originally intended to be a ‘street level’ view of the Crisis, it quickly grew up and realized that, in the best books, there is no ‘street level’ and ‘cosmic’, there’s just a battle for the hearts and souls of mankind.

This book demonstrates that point excellently.  While there is the massive threat of Cain and his faith, perhaps the bigger problem is that of the three heroes, only The Question seems to have any answers, and their biggest gun, The Spectre, is paralyzed by rage and hate.  It’s a deeply personal book, a great reward to old fans of the characters, and an energetic and entertaining tie-in to Final Crisis.

Grade: A-

Secret Six #2

The first issue of Secret Six was an undeniable success.  This issue follows it up well, but isn’t quite as strong.  The Six are well under way in their mission, breaking into Alcatraz to free Tarantula, as Catman and Batman have a long-overdue confrontation…and enigmatic crime boss Junior lays an insane bounty on the heads of the Six.

The action was quite well done in this issue as Nicola Scott proves to be an undeniably effective artist on the title, but every panel of action is another panel we aren’t getting the Six’s twisted sense of humor.  Still, the action and the character pieces are well-balanced, and two issues in, the series remains strong.  Here’s to hoping the Six stick around.

Grade: B+

Wonder Woman #25

If you told me to choose a single word to define Gail’s run on Wonder Woman thus far, it would be ‘confused’.  Then I would hit you, because defining a year’s worth of comics in multiple arcs in a word is an absurd proposition, and you’re an idiot for asking me to do so.

That said, if nothing else, this issue fits that single word.  The Queen of Fables makes for a compelling villain and Gail obviously enjoys writing her, but I can’t help but feel that this arc would’ve greatly benefited from an extra issue, largely because, while the character moments are spot-on, the action is cluttered and hurried.

Still, any comic with lines like…

“Oh, go cook me a couple of orphans in a pie, you empty suitcase.”

and

“Please feel free to direct all your attorneys to my associates.

            “Where we will promptly consume them.”

“Where they will promptly consume them, precisely.”

can’t be all bad, can it?  Once again, the issue is filled with rock solid character moments held back by a slightly cluttered plotting and art.

Next issue, as a public service announcement, marks the beginning of the Rise of the Olympian storyline, kicking off Wonder Woman’s ‘event’ if I recall correctly.

(edit: it reads MUCH better the second time, in my opinion – Chang’s art, while gorgeous on many pages, detracted from some of the action scenes for me, but once beyond that, the book is definitely B+ worthy)

Grade: B

Green Lantern Corps #29

This issue kicks off the War of Light for the Green Lantern Corps title as we begin to meet the Zamorans – and as they go off recruiting.  Given that it kicks off the build-up to next years Big Event, it’s a little surprising as to just how little happens in the issue.

We see some fall-out from the attacks of the Quintet, but given that the Quintet was built up and taken down in two issues, it feels a little hollow.  Meanwhile, the scene with Mongul was tacky and the recruitment of Miri to the Zamorans wasn’t particularly well-handled, either.  Again and again, I can’t help but feel that they’re trying to do too much too quickly.  This title needs some room to breathe, and it isn’t getting it.

Perfectly average.  It doesn’t do a lot right, but it doesn’t do anything particularly wrong, either.

Grade: C

Vixen: Return of the Lion

 

 

Vixen: Return of the Lion is written by G. Willow Wilson, the scribe behind the current Air and the recent Cairo gets a mainstream gig here working on Vixen, one of the current line-up of the JLA.  In it, Vixen comes face-to-face with Intergang’s operations as she learns that they may have had a hand in the death of her family, all those years ago.

Very little happens in this issue – Vixen goes home, finds them terrorized by a gang, fights.  It’s a simple, but solid opener, and it’s helped along by the fact that the art, by Cafu, is absolutely fantastic.  The action shots, the character design, everything is extraordinarily well-handled. The story may be simple, but the art is fantastic.

Grade: B

The Immortal Iron Fist: Orson Randall and the Death Queen of California

 

This has already been reviewed fairly competently by others, but I had to throw my hat in the ring for a moment.  The art is fantastic – while the action scenes aren’t quite Aja good (what action scenes are?), it’s still stylistically excellent – and the story, while at least a smidge misogynistic, is faithful to noir conventions while remaining a bizarre occult martial arts masterpiece.  If you haven’t been reading any of the Immortal Iron Fist books, you’re doing it wrong.

And would it be inappropriate to ask why we haven’t had an Orson Randall card in VS yet?  

Grade: A

Foilball’s Review Roundup #54 – The Final Bits… of AWESOME!

Billy Batson and The Magic of Shazam! #2 (****1/2)

This is one of my favorite new books and I don’t care that I’m just about 20 years past the target demographic. This comic rocks. It’s better than 90% of the “adult” super heroes comics being published today and here’s why: 1) It’s super fun. 2) The art is Amazo-ing. I love the whole “unfinished sketch/storyboard/panels within panels thing Mike Kunkel has going on. It’s brilliant! 3) It’s fricking cheap! $2.25! Who cares if the paper isn’t glossy!?! It’s $2.25! 4) OH! And every issue has a section in the back that’s in code and you have to use “The Monster Society Code” to break it! FUN!!! 5) And for those interested in continuity, this book is a direct sequel to last year’s Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil mini series by Jeff Smith. I loved that book, but I have to admit, Mike Kunkel’s Shazam is miles better. No lie. Apparently, Kunkel used to do a little book called Hero Bear that I’d heard of but never read and consequently missed the boat on. Totally feel like an idiot. So, if you like fun and great art, give this book a try. If you don’t like it, then you, sir, have no taste.

Fables #75 (****)

Ah, this really hit the spot. Finally. This is the type of Fables war story I’ve been waiting for. Huge epic battles combined with intimate character moments. It took him 75 issues, but Willingham finally forced me to care about Prince Charming! And the art was also superb. Mark Buckingham grinds out another fabulous issue. What an underrated talent that guy is, right? This isn’t the final issue of the series, but it could easily have been so. My only complaint is that I kind of wish Boy Blue and Bigby had died. Boy Blue’s charm has been running thin as of late and I’m sick and tired of the “all-powerful” Bigby wolf. Like, the guy isn’t God, or Jesus, or Moses even. Get over yourself, you hairy monster.

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #1 (****)

Sometimes, and I may get blasted for this, but sometimes I can’t take George Perez pencils. They just… bother me. His layouts are busy and a lot of his faces start repeating. BLAH. What I’m trying to say is that this time I enjoyed his art. It was still uber-busy, of course, but somehow Geoff Johns expert dialoguing mitigated the groan factor. As far as this being a Final Crisis tie-in, I don’t know. How does this story fit exactly? Isn’t Superman zooming through the Multiverse at this point in the FC plot? And what does the Legion have to do with anything? This mini, unlike Revelations, feels like it could’ve been just as well served without the FC banner. Could I be missing the obvious link to FC? Maybe. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Green Lantern Corps #28 (***1/2)

I really want to love this issue, and this arc in general, but the art is just SOOOOO pedestrian. Boring. It feels like fill-in art on some crappy mid-90’s Marvel book. I really like this Sixth Sense character though. I bet Johns and Tomasi are gonna get a ton of mileage out of him once “Blackest Night” starts.

Spawn #182 (****)

Again, WHY? Why are they changing directions? YET! AGAIN! When the story has been so good lately! ARRGH! Admittedly, this issue was a bit of a dip in quality, mostly due to the extraneous amounts of exposition… but… it was still better than 90% of the first 100 issues. At what point do I finally cut my losses and break up with Spawn? Is it time? Yes, I think it is.

Seventh Soldier Reviews…

Wonder Woman #24

Gail’s Wonder Woman run has been solid all-around – but after the excellent opening arc, the Circle, it lost a lot of momentum, as it was followed by two decent arcs that lacked the emotion or even excitement of the first.  This is the fourth arc of Simone’s run, a small two-issue arc titled ‘Celebrity’.  After Wonder Woman’s very public battle with The Devil, she’s experienced a surge of popularity, and so Hollywood comes calling.

The issue has its strengths – Gail has clearly found the voice of her cast.  The opening scene, between Nemesis and Hippolyta, is absolutely great, and it’s followed by more excellent character work with Diana, the Hollywood execs, and two super-intelligent gorillas.

Of course, the appearance of a villain with a grudge – in this case, the Simone-created Queen of Fables – throws a wrench into the works.  A solid issue, and I have high hopes for the remainder of the arc.

Grade: B+

Green Lantern Corps #28

Green Lantern Corps is a book I’ve only recently begun to pick up in single issues, and I consider it to be a pretty solid book.  Not spectacular, but not pretty good.  That said, I feel that this arc could have benefitted from an extra issue – and an improved threat.  I just don’t feel that five Sinestro Corps members is huge threat for the entire Corps, and I was kind of curious about the fact that it’s mentioned that there is no recording anywhere of that particular race of beings existing.

There are some cool aspects, and the last page of this issue definitely kicks GLC into pre-Blackest Night mode.  It’s a fun issue, but it’s nothing special – the arc as a whole is rather skippable.

Grade: B-

Patsy Walker: Hellcat #3

Patsy Walker: Hellcat opened strong with one of the funnest first issues in recent memory, but the second issue bordered on incomprehensible.  This issue is more in the vein of the first – fun, slightly spastic, cute, and hilarious.  This is the first comic I can remember laughing out loud during in quite some time, and I was laughing out loud more than once.  Part of that is thanks to artist David Lafuente and colorist John Rauch, who do an excellent job throughout at numerous visual gags, and with Patsy’s facial expressions.  Meanwhile, writer Kathryn Immonen goes nuts in this issue, and it leads to good times.

We move on in the story, as we have every issue of the mini thus far.  I’m still not sure WHY the story is happening, but it’s definitely a breath of fresh air, and one that gives Patsy a pretty unique voice in comics.

Grade: A-

Doktor Sleepless #8

Doktor Sleepless opened really strong, but quickly slowed to a snail’s pace.  While there were still interesting ideas in each issue, thanks largely to the back matter, not much was happening.  That said, read on – Doktor Sleepless has come back with a vengeance.  It’s funny, it’s a little scary, it’s insane.  It’s everything that we love Warren Ellis for.  I have a strong feeling that the series will read notably better in trade, but regardless, this was definitely a strong issue, and an excellent way for Ellis to end his first arc.

Grade: B+

Foilball’s Review Roundup #46 – DC Events: Batman R.I.P. & Final Crisis!

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.

Mini Reviews: Make Mine…not…Marvel…?

Yes, I actually got some books that aren’t from the House of Ideas. And here they are.

Comic Book Comics #2 (*****)

Fred Van Lente is a guy you’ve probably heard of by now. Cowriter of The Incredible Hercules, upcoming writer of Marvel Zombies 3, Mr. Marvel Adventures. He’s all over the place. But Evil Twin Comics is where he puts out his best work. Comic Book Comics is another book that is chock full of edutainment in the same way the first issue and Action Philosophers were. This issue covers the war years of comics, hashing out the way superheroes died out to be replaced by Romance and Western comics, as well as the rise of EC’s slate of horror and science fiction books. Van Lente’s writing remains informative without becoming stale, which is always a tough thing to do when there is this much text that I guess could technically be considered “exposition.” And considering that there is no “host” character to lead us through, it’s all on Van Lente’s ability to walk the tightrope of being informative, funny, and generally not boring. Ryan Dunlavey’s art helps make the job easier with his breezy and cartoony style that effectively enhances the text without becoming intrusive or overtly flashy. I mean this is, for all intents and purposes, a kind of mini textbook. The stylization really helps note the differing ways folks were making comics back then while still allowing for the visual jokes to come through, like the Human Torch vs. Namor comics of the 1940’s being depicted as a jug of water and a lit match squaring off in a boxing ring, or the recurring theme of two unsupervised kids having a conversation while it is plain to see their parents having sex through a window right above them (“There are strange moans and creaking noises coming from mom and dad’s room!” “Must be S.S. code! We better warn Cap!”). The book takes us right up to the beginnings of The Seduction of the Innocent and Frederick Wertham’s attack on the comics industry, which is something I’m very much looking forward to reading from the point of view of these two crazy cats. This is a great read, and October couldn’t come sooner.

Ambush Bug: Year None #1(***1/2)

It’s not necessarily what I expected from this series going in. The only Ambush Bug I’ve actually read is his brief appearance in 52, so I think I was expecting a much more over the top and slapsticky sort of fourth wall breaking lunacy. Which is not to say that what I got was bad, but it was certainly different. The conceit is basically to parody the plot and tone of Identity Crisis, and I did love the way that Giffen poked fun at Meltzer’s repetition style in the caption boxes. I don’t know how much there is to say, really. I enjoyed it, got some laughs out of it, dug the art, looking forward to seeing it continue. It was a solid first issue. Nothing was blow away brilliant, nothing sucked. A bit middle of the road, but nothing that I regretted buying or reading.

Green Lantern Corps #26 (****)

I really enjoyed the Black Mercy/Ring Quest storyline. I like Mongul about as much as one can like a copy of a copy (by way of Thanos by way of Darkseid), and the Mother Mercy concept and how she viewed the purpose of the Black Mercy was certainly not the angle I expected them to take, and I think it worked in the favor of Peter Tomasi. And while it could be seen as cheesy to some, I did get a kick out of both rings picking the same successor (makes you wonder how fast both of those things would search out Batman if someone from Earth’s sector bit it), and while I think the decision was handled a bit too neatly, it still worked. Bzzt dies a hero, things are set to continue moving forward, and I still have my tiny thread of Green Lanterny goodness to hold onto until Geoff Johns returns to the here and now.

Foilball’s Review Roundup #36 – OMG IT’S COMIC-CON WEEK!!!

–which means, Billy is gonna be too busy enjoying the convention in San Diego to bother posting a new “Origin Stories” or “Planetary Series Review” this week, in fact, he’s almost too busy to write this Roundup! Not really, although UPS sure was cutting it close this time (stupid UPS always rescheduling my deliveries). Anyway, I got this, and then a Spoiler Review planned for tomorrow and then… I’ll see you again on Monday!

Action Comics #867 (*****)

 

I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!

  

THE ENTIRE ARC SHOULD BE FILLED WITH STUFF EXACTLY LIKE THIS.

Final Crisis: Requiem #1 (**)

The art is amazing, the story, not so much. First, let me explain that I’m not even looking at this as an FC tie-in, despite the cover treatment and what Dan Didio would have us believe. I think the only fair way to review this book is to judge it on its own merits since if we take into account the events of Final Crisis, this book is almost completely contradicted. Like I said, the art was phenomenal. LOVED IT. The story, on the other hand, was wordy and then boring as all hell. This book is really split into two chapters. The first chapter is corny/cheesy and borders on self-indulgent fan-fiction. The series of panels detailing the Martian Manhunter’s heroic efforts to thwart his death by manipulating the minds of the super-villains was silly and reeked of desperation on the writer’s part. “Oh man! How can I make Manhunter as cool as possible and satisfy the whiners?” Overwritten, overstated, overdone… my steak is burnt! If you can get past all that, and oh boy does the art help, you move into “Chapter 2” wherein the entire history of the Manhunter is read aloud by his closest friends. Um, is this what I paid for? An illustrated Wikipedia entry? No thanks. The only part of the book I liked came right at the end, what a surprise, when Batman places the choco on the Manhunter’s casket. It was an authentic moment in a book filled with posturing and simulated displays of grief. It made me smile. The rest of the book made me cringe.

The Walking Dead #50 (*****)

Five stars for Walking Dead? I must be losing my mind! Okay, allow me to ramble… so, this did not read like an issue 50, but I really, really liked it. Here’s why: Rick’s son Carl is finally, finally, finally a REAL boy! He’s got character! He’s interesting! All of a sudden! Out of the blue! But wait, not really. Kirkman’s been driving toward this all year. All that prison stuff, the carnage, death and destruction? It’s all been leading to this moment, the moment where Carl just loses his shit. Despite his gross lack of “character” talent, Kirkman manages to write a solid character piece. I know. You disagree. You think Kirkman’s strength has always been his character stuff. Well… you are wrong. His character writing has always been the weakest part of his writing. See Ultimate X-Men and previous issues of Walking Dead for ample examples. It’s in plot and storytelling that he truly excels. See final arc of Ultimate X-Men and previous issues of Walking Dead for ample examples. So, to me, this issue shows great promise for the rest of this series, or at least the next couple of issues. Kirkman has Carl react to the recent slaughter of his family in a very real/visceral/believable/relatable way. All the things that Carl expresses in this issue feels like what a kid in the real world would express if put in the exact same position. I love that Carl finally voices his doubts about his father. He doesn’t trust his father to protect him anymore. Hell, the guy’s missing a hand! And as Carl reflects, his father couldn’t protect his mother, his sister or the rest of the group since, you know, most of them are all dead now. I feel like Kirkman sat down with this script and really wrestled it into something powerful, something touching. I can imagine him agonizing over every line Carl utters, trying to figure out the best, least corny way to get across the feeling of total loss that the boy is experiencing. I loved it. It didn’t feel like an issue 50, but I still loved it. Bravo, Kirkman, but don’t get lazy. Don’t fall back into old habits. No more throwaway “hey-how-are-you’s” or runaway expository monologues. Write good dialogue and build good characters. Build on the fresh start you’ve carved out for yourself. Build the epic zombie story of awesome that you’ve always dreamed of. If you can do that, I can guarantee you at least one loyal reader for the next 50.

Oh, and not that I cared one way or the other, but the good men at DCBS thought enough of my massive ordering skills to toss me a copy of the Erik Larsen variant cover. Thanks, guys.

Quick Hits:
• Buffy the Vampire Slayer #16 (***): And then Joss Whedon returned and the book took a serious nose-dive in quality. Sad, sad times. I’m really excited about this “Fray” crossover, but after the awesomeness that was the Drew Goddard arc, the first part of this story left me cold. Like a dead body, or a recently turned suck-head. Yeah. Heh.
Captain America: White #0 (***): I disagree with Bruce Castle’s review of this book. I thought the story provided was adequate and the extra pages, Cap sketches and an interview with the creators, were more than satisfactory. But, I’m the biggest Cap fan I know so I may be biased.
Mighty Avengers #16 (***): This was fine, not the best SI tie-in, but fine. I have no idea what Bruce Castle was bitching about. Elektra doesn’t look old. There isn’t much dialogue, but hell, Elektra doesn’t normally say much, so, what the hell did you expect?
Ultimate Origins #2 (***): Um, it was okay? Nothing truly memorable here, but I do think it’s one of the best retelling of the Captain America origin ever written, if that counts for anything.
Young Liars #5 (*****): Um, Danny gets his dick sliced off?? NUFF SAID!!!

Bruce Castle Presents: Secret Invasion Tie-Ins vs. Final Crisis Tie-Ins!

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

Mighty Avengers #16– Sigh. And so we get another SI filler issue. Again, I’m still finding these quite tedious. Oh, and something that heightens that feeling is these damn homage covers. They started doing these with the Marvel Zombie covers and then continued with SI. They were cool for the Marvel Zombie mini-series and that’s it! Once we got to the 20th printing of that hardcover and then now with the Skrulls, these covers are just plain crappy now! Oh well, I doubt this will change by the end of the event so yay I have four more months of this to look forward to! But I digress. This issue is about what happened to Elektra. Despite my earlier ranting, there was a lot to enjoy about this issue and I’m sure a lot of you will love it. This is coming from a DD fan so liking an Elektra story means something. However, this is a picture heavy book from the usually wordy Bendis. Unfortunately, when you have a story that depends so much on the art, if the art is bad the issue will probably be bad as well which is what we get here. Sadly, I found Khoi Pham’s art horrendous. His Elektra looks like an old woman! From the story alone this issue is pretty good, but because there are so many wordless pages, the shoddy art detracts from the story.

2 stars

X-Factor #33– Does anyone still remember when this was a top tier book? The characters were great, the stories were great. The art was unconventional but fit the story perfectly. Why has this book declined so much after Messiah Complex? I’m almost to the point of dropping this book, but then I remember the characters I fell in love with and I’m still interested in their story. So please Peter David, write better! This issue is a SI tie-in, but there isn’t much about Skrulls in here. We get to see a Skrull reveal which was a bit predictable but still cool, but that’s it. The rest of the book is just like a normal X-Factor book. Also, the Skrull in this issue doesn’t say much, but what it does say is very odd. For someone that writes dialogue so well, I don’t know why we get such weird lines from David. There are still some great moments in here, but that is overshadowed by the horrible art and a bit of bad writing. Oh, and this story is being continued in She-Hulk which is a book I don’t read. And sadly, I don’t care about this story enough to follow it into a new book.

1 and a half stars

Final Crisis Requiem #1 (Cover A)

Final Crisis Requiem-First off, I want to apologize for something. I recently said that I flipped through this issue and thought the art didn’t look very good. Well, after reading it, I feel that the art is pretty fantastic. However, I still feel that Mahnke got his reference pages mixed up and is drawing Impossible Man instead of Martian Manhunter, but the art was great. Sadly, that’s about the best thing I can say about this issue. I personally was appalled when I read it. It tries to ruin almost everything Grant Morrison was trying to say in Final Crisis. This is a retelling of what happened in that book and it pissed me off. This should have made me sentimental and left me remembering J’onn J’onzz fondly. Instead I left this issue blinded with rage. At first, I was going to recommend this issue if you treat it as a MM book instead of a FC book, but I don’t even think it works then. It doesn’t seem written well at all. I had an instinct to stay away from this book, but I heard so many positive things about it that I gave it a shot. I was sorely disappointed.

1 star

Final Crisis Rogues’ Revenge #1– Leave it to Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins to produce a decent tie-in. The team that told some of the best Flash stories reunite to bring us a new Rogues tale. The art is fantastic! I didn’t expect this to be so gritty but it is. The Rogues aren’t written as comic blunderers. They are written as tired old men that are still bad ass in their own way. They are villains with an unusual moral code and they are written extremely well. Unlike the aforementioned FC tie-in, this doesn’t screw with the main FC story. It is referenced and it seems a bit is spoiled. Perhaps issue 3 should have been out by now. It doesn’t seem like much of a tie-in yet, but it is still a great story on its own. There is plenty of set-up in this issue, but there is still a lot of action and cool moments with a cliffhanger that will leave you hungry for more!

3 and a half stars

P.S. For those keeping track, Final Crisis wins!

I Refuse to Come Up with a Quirky Title for These Mini Reviews

Eternals #1 (***1/2)

It should probably be noted that this is a two star book for anyone that either didn’t read or didn’t like Neil Gaiman and JRJR’s Eternals mini from two years back. For all intents and purposes, this is Eternals #8. It starts off right where Gaiman ended, and the exposition to bring you back up to speed is a little clunky. That didn’t so much bother me, because I had read the Eternals hardcover about five minutes prior to picking this issue up to read. We follow the same story set up before, with the two factions of Eternals racing to wake up as many of the sleeping eternals as possible to prepare for the coming battle with “the horde.” As someone who really enjoyed the Gaiman series, I was glad to see that this picked it right up. Not exactly sure on the timeline, considering the way some of the eternals are tied up with Incredible Hercules from issues 116 on, but it’s not so hazy as to be bothersome. The issue that comes up is the fact that it’s written in a somewhat pedestrian way. It’s not bad, but there’s nothing about it that sticks out. The Knaufs know where they need to go and they hit all the story beats necessary, but there’s nothing there that transcends the way Gaiman’s book did. It’s good for what it is, but it could (and should) be greater. Oh, and the art’s pretty cool (If you folks didn’t notice, I’m a bit of a writer guy)

Green Lantern Corps #25 (*****)

Awesome. I like that no matter what I feel about DC, I’ve got Green Lantern Corps (and once the Secret Origins arc ends, Green Lantern). I enjoy the internal logic of this book. It makes sense that Mongul would be a yellow lantern. And furthermore, it also makes sense that Mongul would realize that he could hijack the Black Mercy to further his own nefarious deeds. But what I didn’t expect was getting a larger background on the Black Mercy itself, given through telepathy by “Mother Mercy.” And it’s cool. It’s a different way to think of the Black Mercy as a plant that is determined to bring peace to the weak and diseased. It’s an interesting angle to take. I know a lot of people rightfully think of the main Green Lantern book as the, well, main Green Lantern book, but I think I prefer the cast of GLC. Sodam Yat has a lot of potential, and you’ve got the added flavor of the old stand bys that get more exposure than Hal’s book. This is great. Ringquest has been an awesome arc, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Secret Invasion: Who Do You Trust? (****)

I am amazed by the quality of these Secret Invasion tie-ins. We’ve got five mini stories, only one of which seems pretty underwhelming, which may or may not be because I have not read the Agents of Atlas mini series. The Captain Marvel story forges a bridge between the Captain Marvel miniseries and Secret Invasion/Thunderbolts. Agent Brand lets us in on what’s been going on with SWORD since their ship blew up. Wonder Man and Beast continue to delve into the story potential of the Savage Land. Marvel Boy tries to form an alliance with the rest of the inhabitants of The Cube. And the Agents of Atlas…um…do stuff. So obviously, the Agents of Atlas story is completely out of left field. They haven’t been connected to anything involving the Skrulls thus far, and it all seems tacked on. The other stories are quite enjoyable, giving us a little taste of some of the other things that aren’t going on in the main Secret Invasion book. It’s good background, and while I know there are a lot of complaints about important story points taking place outside of the main 8 issue mini, but this is a crossover, and this is the nature of crossovers. I think if they had cut the Agents of Atlas story and maybe knocked this down to a $3 book, it may have been a four and a half star book, but it was worth my money either way.

Captain Britain and MI:13 #2 (****1/2)

HERE THERE BE SPOILERS FOR ISSUE ONE

And the awesomeness of Secret Invasion titles continues. I dig the hell out of the themes we get to see played out in this book. The inclusion of Avalon as a focal point through this fight to protect the power of the world’s magic from the invading Skrull armies opens up the door to allow Paul Cornell to flex some fascinating story muscles. This is not simply the story of some aliens invading a planet. Sure, that’s what they’re doing at the basest level, but it morphs into a story about the fight between technology and mysticism. Which can bring in all sorts of other questions of religion and spirituality and all kinds of other things. We get a taste of that here, and I love the sense of wonder that Leonard Kirk puts into the scenes that take place in Avalon. In other locations, the Black Knight consistently entertains, and I have NO CLUE what is going on with the woman from the first issue and her somewhat gruesome power. But by far the best part of this book is the moment at the beginning when going over the death of Captain Britain. That is a fantastic moment right there, and Kirk absolutely nails the facial expressions. This is wonderful comic work.