Saturday, August 15, 2009
Ultimate Comics Avengers #1
The Next Generation
Part One of Six
Written by: Mark Millar
Art by: Carlos Pacheco
Inks by: Danny Miki
Colors by: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
The issues starts off with a great wrap around cover with a splashy #001 to draw you in. Luckily, the inside isn’t half bad either. Having not read an issue of the Ultimate line in a few years I wasn’t sure what to expect, but one thing is clear; this is a number one. If you’re concerned that continuity might make the book too difficult to follow after the Ultimatum crossover lay your fears to rest. While I didn’t understand everything, I would say I was able to keep up with 90 to 95 percent of everything the characters discussed or did.
Nick Fury is brought back to retrieve a rogue Captain America who disappeared after discovering an interesting revelation, that should have some lasting repercussions on him and the whole team. Hawkeye recounts exactly how Cap found out this secret during a battle with some AIM agents. The fight is well choreographed but I have to say that it featured so many people leaping or jumping through the air without parachutes that it became redundant by the end of the issue. Something like that should make for a good splash page, but after you see it a few times it loses its luster.
Having said that the art has been well hyped, but truthfully I found it to be stale and fairly generic. It even went so far as to remind me of the art I saw in the Avengers cartoon movies. It wasn’t all bad though, the pages featuring Tony Stark had real impact. The inks and colors nicely helped to contrast Tony’s space with Carol Danvers, well done and again you could feel the intensity of the fight.
The page turning story, riveting action and frightening reveal offset the decent artwork enough to make this book worth picking up and adding to your weekly stash.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #601
Red Headed Stranger: No Place Like Home
Written by: Mark Waid
Art by: Mario Alberti
Colors by: Andres Mossa
Letterer: VC’s Joe Carmagna
Cover by: J. Scott Campbell
Following the events of issue 600, we finally get a book free of super-villains and get a chance to see just how difficult Peter Parker’s life can be even without Spider-man.
Mark Waid crafts a fun, fairly self-contained story that takes place the day after Aunt May’s wedding. Evidently, Peter gets pretty trashed at the wedding, wakes up in bed with a very angry roommate, and slightly remembers something about a date he has with Mary Jane. Only problem is, he doesn’t know the time or place.
Without a clear villain we get to spend a bit more time with Peter as Spider-man as he tries to figure out what happened the night before, find a new place to live and save the city. This book was funnier than the recent “American Son” storyline, which is a welcome relief as this is how Spider-man is supposed to be, a quipy, one-liner type-of-character, who always has a joke, no matter how down his situation might get. It’s also nice to see some minor characters come back into the spotlight including Betty Brant and Glory Grant. I do worry though how long the Reilly family is going to be hanging around since they don’t add a strong dramatic element and only serve to eat up pages that could be better served with something that’s actually interesting.
After being spoiled in #600 with Romita Jr., Alberti has some big shoes to fill. While it’s not always what you would expect, and sometimes it can be pretty hit and miss, it manages to work, especially the further you get into the book. I get the feeling that Alberti got more comfortable with the material the more he drew. I especially liked Peter’s Captain America boxer shorts.
This is a good issue and solid jumping on point, even if you missed #600. Mark Waid has a strong handle on the character and the art is sufficient despite being nothing special. Also, this remains one of the few books that is still three dollars. An affordable and enjoyable book, what more could you ask for?
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Dark Reign: Lethal Legion #2
Written by: Frank Tieri
Artist: Mateus Santolouco
Color art: Chris Sotomayor
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover: Tommy Lee Edwards
At SDCC I asked Frank Tieri if this would be an ongoing and sadly the answer was no. It certainly doesn’t need to be I admit, but I always enjoy books that feature B or C-list characters. Too often we’re saddled with A-list players who have to fit into status quo molds and can’t be changed or killed. Lower tier characters like these give writers more opportunity to play and maybe even kill one them off, once in a while.
This issue features Livingston, a high-priced lawyer, interviewing Wonder Man and Absorbing Man in prison and they both give their accounts of what happened to the Legion, from its formation to their final encounter with Osborne’s Dark Avengers.
None of these characters are at all likable and oddly that’s one of the reasons I enjoy the book. These aren’t your typical heroes and they make a real point to prove that. They’re bad guys and just because they’re going after Osborne doesn’t mean they’re ready to turn over a new leaf. Tieri is at his best here working with characters long ignored and playing them up with larger than life characterizations that make it easy to figure out where they’re coming from.
The art is dark and gritty, just as it should be. Wonder Man looks badass and the fight with the Dark Avengers feels as big as it should. For a three issue book they put a lot of love into it.
The book ends on a strange note and how this series will end is anyone’s guess. I’m not sure how they’ll wrap it up with only one book left, I just hope they don’t continue it in an ongoing instead. It also relies on you knowing more than you should about the characters and their past relationships, which makes it difficult to keep up at times. Also, since it is only three issues there’s not much incentive to buy the floppies rather than wait for the trade, especially as it doesn’t feel like it will have much impact on current continuity. In fact I don’t expect it to have any impact on anyone not featured in this book. So if you aren’t a huge Wonder Man or Grim Reaper fan, you can skip this without missing much.
With a healthy dose of action, fun anti-heroes and an unpredictable storyline Lethal Legion remains a good book for those looking to collect everything Dark Reign, but it’s not a requirement for anyone following current Marvel events.
Detective Comics #855
Elegy Part 2: Misterioso
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: J.H. Williams III
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Todd Klein
This is only the second issue from this creative team, but already it is one of the most beautiful books on the stands today. Each page unfolds better than the last leading to a final panel that leaves Batwoman at the end of a very short rope.
The book opens with Batwoman taking the upper hand and using it to question Alice about the Crime Bible and her connection to it. She doesn’t get many answers before Alice reveals how resourceful and violent she can be. Things only get worse for Kate as Alice and her forces play their trump card.
This issue is pure fluff never giving any answers, while posing almost no new questions. Regardless, the action is well choreographed and the art is as good or better than you’ll find in any book today. I’ve seen Williams’ art before and never have been as impressed. Batwoman’s opening splash page featuring her leaping over villains and snapping necks looks gorgeous with its red hues and kinetic images. Alice is another stand-out character sketched with emotional guile, intensity and lace.
Alice herself is written as well as she’s drawn thanks to Rucka’s tireless efforts to continue to use quotes taken directly from “Alice in Wonderland.” This direction helps to add to her insanity and works to show how truly broken her mind has become. I appreciate that while knowing about the Crime Bible will help you understand the book in a more well-rounded fashion it is never necessary to appreciate it.
Batwoman is, surprisingly, a bit more confusing. In her introduction during the pages of 52 she was presented as a rich almost selfish socialite, but now she comes across like an army brat who never had more than a dollar to her name. This dichotomy almost works, as she needs both money and combat training to be Batwoman, yet they don’t try and make the two halves mesh in any consistent way. Hopefully, down the line they’ll figure out a way for these different parts of her life to work as one, but so far they’re not making any effort.
The eight-page “Question” back-up is decent if not forgettable. This story probably features my favorite representation of the character as played by Renee Montoya, but the story itself is a generic kidnapping case with no twists or cliffhangers. Out of all the back-ups so far “The Manhunter,” is still the one that captures my attention the most.
This title is the longest continuously published book in United States comic history and still remains one its best. An easy recommend for anyone who enjoys, Batman, Gotham or as the title suggests; a good detective story.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
The Stuff of Legend
Th3rd World Studios
Volume 1: The Dark, Book 1
Story by: Mike Raicht and Brian Smith
Illustrated by: Charles Paul Wilson III
Design and Color by: John Conkling and Michael DeVito
I first heard about this book on Free Comic Book Day, but missed out on picking up the preview. I nearly forgot about it until Marvel editor C.B. Cebulski, tweeted a recommendation for it earlier this week. At five dollars it is not for the faint of pocketbook, but that is truly one of the only things I have against this book.
Set during World War II the story finds a young boy kidnapped by the boogeyman and taken into a place known only as the Dark. A set of his toys and his dog march out into this foreboding void to rescue him.
This is where things really begin to develop. In the our world the teddy bear is afraid and unable to protect the boy, but in the dark he transforms into an unstoppable animal tearing and devouring the boogeyman’s armies. Each of the toys becomes more real in someway, the Jester (a jack-in-the-box) turns into a creepy, blood-thirsty warrior, while the piggy bank is just as afraid in the real world as he is the dark. It’s here in the dark that the characters truly gain some strong emotional resonance and where you learn that no one is safe.
The art is also worth noting. Wilson’s art has a magical quality that naturally reinforces the beauty of the simple narrative. The boogeyman is a standout character, who feels both frightening and seductive at the same time. He also does a nice job conveying feelings even as the characters do not speak. The initial battle sequences are difficult to figure out a first, but only because you don’t count on there being so many characters. It doesn’t take long though to catch up and enjoy the blood soaked images.
For the most part this book is color free, but it does feature what I would call subtle earth toned colors that give it an older feel in keeping with the 1940s time period in which it is set.
This book most reminds me of Fables, with its storybook-like characters and mystical worlds that normal people can’t see. Despite this slight comparison the book remains unique and worth your time, but I understand if the price turns some people off. As the book ends, questions still linger. Its cliffhanger also left me happily surprised and I already can’t wait for the next issue to come out in September.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
THE HIDDEN FORTRESS
Created, Written and Illustrated by: Stan Sakai
Front Cover Colors: Tom Luth
I first remember this character as an action figure that was attached to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toyline back in the 1980s. He always stuck with me as something special, almost a tragic yet noble figure. He remains that way today.
This series has always been well remembered yet under appreciated at the same time. I rarely pick up an iassue but when I do I'm always left feeling like it was worth it and this story is no expection.
The book picks up with Usagi running across a failed attempt by some bounty hunters to capture a powerful, local bandit. Usagi finds a lone survivor and offers his assistance. It turns out though, that things aren't quite what they seem.
The joy of this book for me comes in its simplicity and how easy it is to pick up. While the character is steeped in continuity and a rich history, Sakai always allows for new readers to jump on. This trait is certainly a positive but it does hurt the book, by keeping it from being memorable. The art is wonderful as always with clean, strong lines and suspenseful action. Nothing is lost in the translation from written word to the printed page.
Regardless of its quick story this is a great read and one that I would suggest picking up every month.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Action Comics #878
Sleepers Part Four
Written by: Greg Rucka
Art by: Diego Olmos
Colorist: Rod Reis
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover by: Andrew Robinson
“Sleepers Part Four,” which is part of the “World Without Superman” arc also falls in as part twenty-nine of the overall New Krypton story. That’s a lot of numbers, continuity and characters to keep up with, even for Superman.
The basic through-line for this book follows Nightwing and Flamebird as they hunt down Kryptonian sleeper agents placed there, perhaps by General Zod, but even they don’t seem to be sure. All the while, General Lane, is hunting them and the sleeper agents. This issue focuses a “Bonnie and Clyde” type Kryptonian couple. Unlike, their historical counterparts they don’t rob banks and they don’t seem to have a clear agenda, just pure mayhem.
All this makes for a pretty muddled book. Not enough time has been given to developing the protagonists or shaping the goals of the villains. The one sleeper they captured earlier was killed in the last issue, without divulging any information. These new Kryptonians don’t seem to be sleeper agents, which makes me wonder why they’re being shoved in the middle of a storyline that doesn’t appear to involve them.
Greg Rucka’s best work remains “Queen and Country,” which I highly recommend, but this on the other hand won’t be fondly remembered. There just isn’t enough time given to character, instead there’s a misguided focus on action. This book usually always involves some kind of fighting, otherwise everyone is resting from the last fight in anticipation of the next one. The sudden romance between Flamebird and Nigthwing feels thrown together, in some kind of effort to make the characters a tad more relatable. It doesn’t work.
Another bit of convenience comes when the Kryptonian couple attacks a house in the middle of nowhere that just happens to be owned by a congressman. This immediately brings out the police, who discover some gratuitous semi-nudity and quick deaths. How many times do you need to show how strong Kryptonians are? It seems unnecessary to show them killing a few police officers. We already know they‘re bad and we already know they‘re strong. Those few pages could have been better used to develop characters or expand on the sleeper storyline.
I’m looking forward to the Annual in hopes that it will explain a lot of what’s going on. On the other hand, I don’t feel that I should have to wait for an Annual to tell me what’s going on in the monthly book.
The art in this issue feels rushed at times and lacks a strong focus much like the rest of the book. Nothing about it stands out. Everything is very poorly defined and half-done. I also didn’t like all the Kryptonian subtitles. They’re hard to read and don’t add much to the story. Couldn’t they have just made some notation at the beginning of the book letting us know that certain portions (perhaps surrounded by parenthetical) are translated from Kryptonian to English? It’s funny that they speak it on Earth but not on New Krypton. Is it because they know Superman can’t speak it and they’re trying to help him out?
Overall, there’s no reason to buy this unless you absolutely need to. If it weren’t connected to the “World Without Superman” story I would have left it on the shelf.