Here’s a comic chosen at random from my collection.
Alpha Flight #27 by John Byrne, Keith Williams, Andy Yanchus, Rick, Parker, and Dennis O’Neil
The first 2+ years of Alpha Flight volume 1 was sooo good. It had great characters, stories, art, and superhero angst, which this issue delivered. We have already learned that that the just returned Guardian, whom we thought dead for the last year, is in fact Delphine Courtney, an android intent on destroying Alpha Flight. In the ruckus, “Guardian” takes Shaman’s medicine pouch and turns it inside out, unleashing the mysterious void inside. Nearly all of Alpha Flight is trapped inside, and it is up to Shaman and Talisman to save them. But tragedy strikes when Shaman is unable to help his daughter escape the void before it returns to the pouch, trapping his daughter inside.
Say what you will about Byrne as a person, he did a great job of producing comic books. This issue is very wordy, yet Byrne’s draftsmanship doesn’t make the pages feel overly crowded and the art doesn’t suffer for it either. His depiction of the void as it unleashed in our dimension is simple but interesting visually. Also, the look on Shaman’s face at the very end is soap operatic, but I still feel for the guy (and knowing what comes later makes it even more distressful). I stopped collecting this series with issue 30, so I don’t know if the book’s quality was maintained after Byrne left. Let me know if I should read more!
Here are my final 2011 comic book reviews. What a great year for reading comics, mostly for DC’s relaunch. Say what you want about the titles, at least they were interesting or infamous. Also, given that I finally received all of my January 2012 comics, I will be trying something different for my Pull List Reviews very soon. Now on with the old before I can begin with the new!
Alpha Flight #7: While a part of me chuckles at the funnies in this, another part shakes his head because they’re the easy shots, and ones that don’t really make sense. For example, when Hulk-mentality Sasquatch yells, “Squatch smash puny Canadians”, that’s funny sure, but come on. Then both Mac and Logan point at each other and say (in unison), “He started it.” Easy joke, bad characterization. So Heather is some sort of clone created by the Master, but why does she only have four toes? How does that make sense? I actually did enjoy Wolverine’s appearance in this issue, especially his conversation with Heather at the beginning. I am looking forward to seeing how this limited series turned ongoing turned canceled at issue eight series will end.
Aquaman #4: The Trench storyline comes to an unsatisfying end, mostly because there was no connection between hero and adversary, no communication, no attempt at resolution other than death. Having said that, I do like how Arthur is shown making regal decisions about life and death. I wish Geoff Johns would play up the kingly aspect of Arthur’s history. Speaking of Johns, I really hope he stops making jokes at Aquaman’s expense. At first it made some sense to me (it undercut the “lame” reputation that Aquaman supposedly has), but repeating the jokes just calls attention to something Johns purportedly wants to dispel. It’s almost like Johns has a love/hate attitude towards Aquaman himself. I am looking forward to the upcoming “Who Sank Atlantis” storyline that was teased at the end of the book.
Green Lantern: New Guardians #4: So, some extradimensional force caused the various Lantern Corps members’ rings to abandon them and go to Kyle? Huh? And this force arrives in our universe in the form of a solar system-sized spacecraft, complete with planet-shaped modules. Huh? This seems overly complicated. I thought this book had some potential to be some sort of Brightest Day sequel, but it’s somewhat of a mess narratively, and messy in terms of art.
I, Vampire #4: This is how I like John Constantine appearances: understated but with a bit of the usual Hellblazer sass. What a surprise this book has been for me. I initially wrote it off as a book trying to capitalize on the Twilight crowd, but it’s been quite enjoyable so far, especially the art.
Incorruptible #25: Part 2 of the Irredeemable/Incorruptible crossover, but I enjoyed this story much more than Part 1. The relationship between the Plutonian and Max reminds me to some degree of the old Superboy/Lex Luthor dynamic. Maybe I should give Incorruptible another chance to entertain me?
Justice League Dark #4: I’m still not sure about this book. I know I want to really like it, but the story comes across as a bit muddled, and the art, while good at a certain level, doesn’t help narratively. What do we know? Xanadu did something to separate June from the Enchantress and all hell’s broke loose. I just wish after four issues we’d have moved on from that, even just a bit. I do like how Zatanna is shown as talking in reverse, as if it’s second nature and not just an application of her power.
Star Trek #4: After four issues, this series will stop retelling old stories in the new continuity and tell something new altogether, so I’m looking forward to that. As to the resolution of this issue, I have to admit I preferred the choice Spock makes in the television show as opposed to the save by Uhura here. It’s a duh moment, but not nearly as fun, and it makes Kirk look dumb. I also have to wonder why the creative team picked the “Galileo Seven” as the second story to be told as opposed to a different early episode.
Superman #4: Most intriguing thing about this issue is the Commissioner Corporon’s (have you noticed the odd names in this title?) comment that the Mayor didn’t want Superman to go through what he did five years earlier, but DC fails to cross-promote here by saying we should be reading Action Comics for the details (which I am looking forward to reading)! Ok, that and the reveal that Superman supposedly had something to do with the creation of his superpowered tormentors (though, why fire, ice, and lizard dude? How does that make sense?). And does anyone else think that too much is being made about Clark not being with Heather when she was attacked?
Unwritten #32.5: I am really loving these .5 issues giving us past stories in the Unwritten universe. This time we learn of Gilgamesh’s brush with the ancient (?) Mr. Pullman and the fight with the Leviathan. Nicely done story and art.
I also read All-Star Western #4 (What does it say when I find the backup story more interesting than the main one?), Angel & Faith #5 (I never cared for Harmony in the show, and her appearance in last season’s Buffy was much better than this offering.), FF #13 (This used to be one of my favorite books to read every month; now, it’s ok. I do love the relationship between Valeria and Dr. Doom.), Firestorm #4 (The cover art is the best thing about this book.), Savage Hawkman #4 (My last issue. I read it.), Teen Titans #4 (More team building. And Superboy shows up to beat up Wonder Girl. Feh.), and Voodoo #4 (Despite the nice art and lovely John Tyler Christopher cover, I’ve decided to drop this comic come issue 6–it’s just not interesting enough, like Animal Man.).
Alpha Flight #6: What the hell does someone having four toes have to do with Unity? I liked it when Marrina said her oft-spoken (and increasingly annoying) “Die human scum!” line because this time she prefaced it with “Catchphrase!” :) Oh, and Logan makes an appearance (like we didn’t know that was going to happen in this series). This just might get my vote for most disappointing series of 2011.
Aquaman #3: I wonder how much patience Aquaman has left with these condescending land lubbers, but I like how he basically ignores them and does what he wants anyway. The most interesting part of this issue is Aquaman’s interaction with a man from his past, Mr. Shin. Geoff Johns gives us just enough details to know exactly what this guy is about and what his relationship to Arthur is. And who is the “he” that Shin mentions who is the former owner of Arthur’s trident? This title just keeps getting better.
Fantastic Four #600: Once again I am amazed that Sue isn’t considered one of the most powerful individuals in the Marvel U. And she’s bad-ass as well! (I think I’m in love.) Everything that’s been building in FF for the last 11 issues continues in this issue containing 100 pages of several stories, including the return of someone that we all knew would return sooner or later (I thought it would have been later). I really enjoyed the back story in the Negative Zone and the worms(!), though the jail-break part was pretty run-of-the-mill. So what does this person’s return mean for Spider-Man in the FF? I’ll be picking this title up for a while just because Hickman’s been doing a bang up job with these characters.
GL: New Guardians #3: Hmm, already most of the rings that Kyle has inherited have been destroyed? What was the point of that plot point then? Also, why repeat the idea that the power ring won’t come off a GL’s finger? And why do the Guardians need to wear power rings? I thought they were imbued with the green energy (or is that a pre-DCnU idea)? I’m thinking this title won’t be on my pull list for much longer.
Magdalena #9: My first pull list issue of this series. I’d read number one a while ago and was intrigued even before that by the premise of the series, but for some reason didn’t pick this title up until now. The plot starts off well enough with the mission that the Magdalena goes on with her partner, but the story ends with an obvious non-cliffhanger (will she die?! Dun dun dun! Umm, no.).
Seraph #1: I actually bought a Pilot Season issue from Image. Of course, it was the angelic angle that drew me in since I love stories about angels and demons and especially depicting those characters not in their usual, stereotypical ways. And I get some of that in this one-shot (for now?). I like the idea of a suicide being given angelic powers to fight evil, and the guy’s guardian angel is probably the most interesting character in the comic so far. The fight with the spidery demon was pretty standard, though. I’d buy the first arc of this title if it becomes a series.
Shade #2: Huh. I would have hoped for a more . . . interesting way out of that “death” scene from issue one, but I suppose it makes sense, and shows that the Shade is a smart guy (but we already knew that, right?). This issue introduced me to Will Von Hammer, who is an interesting guy it seems, and now ally of sorts to the Shade. James Robinson has tweeted that the sales for this series has been low–it would be a shame if it didn’t get to go the full twelve issues.
Teen Titans #3: Is it me or is Bunker mildly annoying? There are two interesting things in this issue. One is that wonderful two-page spread showing Bart zipping from room to room to room in order to free Solstice. I didn’t even mind the numbers telling us how to read that sequence–in fact, it reminded me of the arrows that would appear in comics when I first started reading them pointing me to the next panel. Is it bad page design? Maybe, but I don’t care. The second interesting thing is the appearance of the DCnU Solstice, who looks very different from when we last saw her. I have to wonder if DC introduced Solstice in the previous volume of Teen Titans in anticipation of her appearance in this title, or is because there was enough interest in the character to keep her around? I have to question that idea because Solstice doesn’t seem like the same one, and it isn’t just her powers that made her an interesting character before (or was she interesting to you?).
Voodoo #3: Well, we’re entering more familiar superhero territory with Kyle Rayner showing up this issue, but the story is fast losing my interest, despite the pretty art by Basri. Just that simple walking sequence on page 4 was elegantly done. So, if this is how aliens are on Earth, no wonder there’s that general distrust of superheroic aliens that I’m reading in other titles. Again I say, I don’t care for that subplot in the DCnU.
Batgirl #2: This continues to be stellar, and more so for the art by Ardian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes, and Ulises Arreola. I don’t care for the villain, Mirror (I appreciate his motives, but the whole mirror motif? C’mon . . .), but I do like that Babs is being shown as vulnerable, though extremely driven. And does Commissioner Gordon know about Babs’s nocturnal activities? It seems like he does not, but the look on his face when he’s told that Batgirl is back makes me think that he does. I hope he does. I would like that element to be present in this book.
Batman & Robin #2: I’ve never been a big fan of Peter Tomasi’s work, but his writing on this title is clicking for me in a big way. I love how they’re showing Bruce struggling with being a father and mentor to Damian, with Alfred struggling himself to help Bruce in that regard. That panel of Alfred watching Damian kill that bat and toss it aside–while being overly heavy-handed metaphorically–effectively showed his despair and worry for the boy. As far as the villain of the book, I’m curious if this is something new or started elsewhere. I’m not sure if I like the idea of Bruce being a part of some nefarious group that disapproves of his current path (ok, that part I actually like).
Batwoman #2: Did I miss the story of how Batman and Batwoman met and Batman sanctioned her work in his city? Cuz if I did, I’d like to read that. Also, if that DEO agent was looking for who Batwoman is, I don’t think it’d be too hard to know that she’s Kate Kane because of her skin and hair color (it’s so white and red, respectively!). For that matter, Detective Sawyer should now be able to put two and two together. There are some great lines in this. Batman talks about being careful with side-kicks since the murdered ones tend to come back from the dead as super-villains. Later, as Batwoman talks to herself, she says, “God, this is so Camp Crystal Lake.” This right before she’s attacked by the “monster”. The writing team of J. H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman is doing a good job of keeping me entertained.
Demon Knights #2: I don’t know how Paul Cornell does it. Throw in Middle Ages-ish DC characters, some dragons (reptilian and robotic alike), more than a dash of humor, and end up with one highly entertaining comic book. I like all of the major players (Vandal Savage especially in this issue) and cannot wait to see where this is all going. If you’re not reading this, huh? It’s in my top 5 books for sure.
FF #10: Barry Kitson is such a tease. I see his name on the cover (huzzah!) and think More Barry Kitson drawn Sue Storm! YES! But I really didn’t get that much since Hickman seems intent on writing scenes with other characters for some reason. :D However, that scene he wrote between Sue and Reed was beautiful. So much unspoken, but said very well. Hickman is fast replacing Bendis in my mind as THE Marvel writer to read. And having Kitson draw his story is just luscious icing on the cake.
Green Lantern #2: Just when you thought that Sinestro as a Green Lantern again was mind blowing, Geoff Johns and company throw this at us: Sinestro makes a GL ring and gives it to Hal so that Hal can help Sinestro save Korugar. And we all learn why Sinstro was once considered the greatest GL of all: he schools Jordan on the usage of the power ring, making Hal look like a rank amateur. Sinstro wields the ring like a surgeon does a scalpel, while Hal uses it like a bat. I love how Hal’s reputation as a great GL is being undercut here, for it will only make him a stronger Green Lantern in the end. I know that this isn’t what someone new to this comic will probably not like to see considering what the GL movie showed the general public (or maybe they won’t mind it that much), but man, I am loving this change of pace.
Resurrection Man #2: I’m not yet sure what to make of this book. The whole Resurrection Man angle is actually the not so interesting part, which does not bode well for the title, but I like the angelic stuff. However, things like “Cheruphone” and the Carmen/Bonnie duo are just so over the top, but I liked the now aged super-villain character. It’s like the book is at war with itself. The ending though really makes me take notice. I guess issue three will be the defining factor in whether I continue with this title.
Shade #1: So, if you’re James Robinson and a fan of his work on Starman, I guess you can go home again. I and many others have given Robinson crap over the years because his work after Starman has been not so Starman-y. But here we get the Robinson from Starman back, like he never left us. Shade was also my favorite character from that series, so this is a super win for me. I am interested in knowing, however, if or how this fits into the post-Flashpoint DCU (it certainly seems as if it is set in the DCnU since Shade refers to Mikel’s gorilla friend). Since there’s no longer a JSA to draw from as the Starman series did, how does that affect the character and story threads now? And talk about your cliffhanger endings! I cannot wait to see how Shade gets himself out of the mess that Deathstroke put him in. Finally, it seems that every few issues of the twelve will feature a different artist, so I’m looking forward to how that will contribute to the overall story. This issue was drawn by Cully Hamner and was the appropriate amount of atmosphere.
Suicide Squad #2: I really did not expect to enjoy this title at all, but I love the moral ambiguity that Deadshot seems to be mired in, and am looking forward to seeing more of this, especially with El Diablo quite clearly being Deadshot’s conscious manifest. In fact, this Deadshot reminds me a lot of Catman in the last Secret Six series. Oh! That’s what this comic needs, Catman in it! :) Aside: I really wish the artists in comics would be more consistent. There doesn’t appear to be another artist filling in, yet a few panels are quite obviously different (look how Harley Quinn is drawn on page three and then again on page 9, panels five and six), but are they so because the artist of record was rushed, or did DC bring in some help to get the book out in time? If it’s the former, shame on the artist, if the latter, then DC should give credit, even if I don’t care for the work done.
I also read Alpha Flight #5 (such a disappointment this whole series has been), Buffy S9 #2 (this was an improvement on issue 1, though it was really only the last page that kicked up this current story a notch), Legion Lost #2, New Avengers #17 (here’s something to get off my chest: Spider-Man should not be shown in his black and white FF suit unless he’s in FF!), SHIELD #3 (hmm, there was meaningful dialog only on the last two pages; the rest of this comic was “silent” battle scenes–I think I was ripped off just a little), and Unwritten #30 (a great ending to the latest storyline).
Because Travis & I reviewed the first two weeks of DC’s new 52 comics in episode 10 & 11 of the LBR podcast, I’ll toss the first two weeks of non-DC comics into the review here. To find out what I thought of the first 26 DCnU comics*, have a listen.
Episode 10: DCnU, week 1
Episode 11: DCnU, week 2
Now on with the rest of the comics I read from the first two weeks of September.
Mystic #2: Sigh. While I was impressed with issue one, issue two’s plot devolves into familiar territory: odd girl fitting in (or not really) where she’s not wanted, and odd girl’s best friend works with others against her for a perceived betrayal. Then there’s the problem with the magic MacGuffin: I’m not sure if that’s yet interesting or just overly trodden ground–we’ll see. I still like the alternate reality aspects as well as the art. At times it reminds me of tv animation stills, but I find it very clean and accessible.
New Avengers Annual #1: I do believe I’m starting to get tired of Brian Michael Bendis. I have not been liking the Fear Itself tie-in stuff on this title in general, and in particular, I do not care for this turn in Wonder Man’s character. Not that it’s a bad move necessarily, but I guess it just wasn’t handled with any panache, i.e., it’s your typical former ally turns on you story. I did like in one way the five double-page spreads at the beginning wherein Wonder Man outlines the top five worst things that has happened in the Marvel U because of the Avengers (I assume he means recently). How I did not like the double-page spreads is that I have been reading a lot of comics lately that take use splash pages or two-page spreads (mostly DC books). I think it’s an overused technique that the artist uses to have to draw fewer panels, i.e., we get “less” art, in a way. The rest of the issue is essentially a fight scene and the issue ends with a To Be Continued in Avengers Annual #1, which I will not be getting.
Alpha Flight #4: Ok, 1) this comic needs more Northstar in it and 2) oh my god, what the hell, Vindicator? While she seemed to be motivated in her actions because she wanted her children back and safe, Heather has now just turned into the classic, murdering villain, and what’s the fun in that? This is turning out to be what I was afraid of: you can’t go home again, eh.
Buffy, S9 #1: I’ve said this a few times, wait. Let me start by saying I love Joss Whedon. I think he’s a visionary and a genius, BUT he shouldn’t write comics. Come up with the ideas for them, sure, provide insight and plot points, yes. But write the scripts? I don’t think so. This first issue was ok, and I can see why Buffy is acting the way she is considering the events of last season, but the chronology of this story could have been tighter and better drafted, and I lay at least part of the blame here at artist Georges Jeanty’s hands. I was really hoping Joss and Dark Horse would go with a different artist in Season 9, but here we are. And wtf is up with that ending? Joss is known for pulling the rug out from under you, but that last page was just dumb. It’s a very lovely Jo Chen cover (and maybe the only one?), don’t you think?
Criminal: Last of the Innocent #4: Overall, I enjoyed this tale of lost (and found) love, infidelity, betrayal, and murder. This issue wraps everything up, along with some revelations (including one that came out of left field, so I didn’t care for that). It’s so weird about these kind of stories. In the hands of a good storyteller, you can come away sympathizing with a murderer, and that’s exactly what happens in this comic. So, when you get to the end, and Riley has achieved his goals (killed his unfaithful, bitchy wife, ruined his asshole father-in-law financially, covered his murderous tracks by killing his old, junky friend who figured out what he’d done, and got the girl), that last page of art that transforms the happy couple from the “now” style to the “Life with Riley”, “Archie” style, I was very satisfied with the story since Riley got his happy ending. Side-note: in one panel on that last page, where Riley and Lizzie are walking down the street arm in arm, I was reminded very much of a panel in the Miller/Mazzuchelli Daredevil “Born Again” arc. It’s probably just coincidence, but the possible homage sure lept to the front of my brain when I saw it. I’m looking forward to Brubaker’s and Phillips’s next project, Fatale.
Daredevil #3: Speaking of Daredevil, here’s another great issue from Waid, and the Riveras. I love the look of this book, and Waid is writing some good stuff here. That whole bit with Daredevil and Klaw was masterfully done. Every sound effect is used not just to convey “sound” to us, but to represent how it is sounds to Matt. I even like the legal stuff, which usually bores me in Daredevil comics of the past. Matt and Foggy are being very creative in how they deal with Matt’s courthouse ostracism, though, how will they pay their bills? I was trepidatious about this book when it was announced, but I am fully on board now.
Fear Itself #6: It’s rare that I actually exclaim out loud when reading a comic. After all, I’ve been reading comics steadily for over 30 years–what can possibly surprise me? But every once in a while, I get a little tidbit that does, and in this issue, I got Captain America ordering Odin, king of the Norse gods, around. When Odin protests and starts blustering about who he is, Cap cuts him off. Insert exclamation. :) There’s a nice little scene between Spider-Man and Aunt May (though, I’m not sure by the way this scene was shown: does Aunt May know that Peter is Spider-Man now?), and the rest is just moving the plot along to the big fight at the end of the series, next issue.
New Avengers #16: So, between this title and the few Avengers issues I bought recently (grumble, grumble**), I’m a little tired of the talking head, “interview” panels. Bendis has long been criticized for his talking head scenes in his books, but I haven’t minded them until now. And part of the irritation I’m feeling is that I’m not sure who everyone is talking to (look at the scene with Luke Cage talking about DD), so Bendis using that device to push the plot forward is either amateurish (lazy?) or hasn’t yet been revealed (I hope it’s the latter). Other than that, I enjoyed the spotlight on Daredevil in an Avengers book, plus DD gets the call to join the New Avengers. If that isn’t yet another good reason for me to read this book, I don’t what is.
Spider-Island: Amazing Spider-Girl #2: I really hate it when a story feels padded, and this issue does because it takes the whole issue for the lead character to come to the realization that she would have to team up with the Kingpin when I knew that she would from last issue. Normally, I don’t mind character progression over time, but we only have three issues here, so either issue 2 is wasting the story, or the story isn’t really here to begin with. However, I like Paul Tobin’s portrayal of Anya and that makes up for a lot. Pepe Larraz’s art is a little too heavy handed on the inks, but Andres Mossa’s colors help make up for it by giving a real depth to the art.
Unwritten #28-29: I finally got issue #28 from my comic book shop, but it’s been worth the wait. I got caught up in the mostly flashback tale of Tom’s father and his relationship with a woman comic book artist. This is Mike Carey at his best, when he writes about characters that take over in my head as I read them and they become more than just pencil and ink in front of me. And I’ve just bought into the Cabal’s world view! :D Of course this tale of a comic book creator within a comic book about stories is just about metatextual overload, but it’s so much fun! The covers are great homages to 1930s superhero and pulp magazines, even down to the “wrinkles” and “skuffs” on the “covers”. Great stuff.
* These are the titles we reviewed:
Action Comics #1
Animal Man #1
Detective Comics #1
Green Arrow #1
Hawk & Dove #1
Justice League International #1
Static Shock #1
Swamp Thing #1
Batman & Robin #1
Demon Knights #1
Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1
Green Lantern #1
Legion Lost #1
Mister Terrific #1
Red Lanterns #1
Resurrection Man #1
Suicide Squad #1
** I bought Avengers 16 & 17 because they were both solicited as having a story featuring Spider-Woman, and neither issue had anything of the sort. It royally pissed me off.