Pull List Review: 10/19/11 Comics

Batman #2: That great cliffhanger from last issue is undercut, though deftly, with the reveal that there’s a perfectly logical reason that Dick Grayson’s DNA was found on a victim. Plus, we get to see that Wayne money being spent on wonderful Bat toys (“photogrammetric scanner”). This is actually one thing I really enjoyed about Snyder’s Batman: he really uses the tech aspect of Batman AND we get the detective aspect as well. I also loved where Bruce tells Dick that out of everyone, save perhaps Alfred, Dick knows him best. Aww. I love touchy feely Batman. :) This is by far the Batman book to be reading, I will concede that point, but sometimes Snyder’s Batman narration goes a little over the top. Case in point, at the end, Batman tells us that he’s the only legend that Gotham needs. *shudder*

Birds of Prey #2: Hmm, I have to admit, I love Starling. She’s the break-out character of this book so far. I love Dinah, too, and like how much of the narration filters through her, but Starling is just fun to watch. I still do not care for Katana, but I do like that they’re portraying her to be a bit crazy, perhaps. I’d actually like that better than if the whole dead husband residing in her sword thing is true. And how weird is it to see Poison Ivy not clad in some green suit? It’s good to go against type sometimes, but an orange leaf motif? Definitely different.

Blue Beetle #2: More of Jaime’s personality is coming out in this issue, so that’s good. Also, the interaction between Jaime and the scarab is interesting, but since I’ve been watching Blue Beetle in the Batman: Brave and the Bold cartoons, this is nothing really that new. I like how the alien connection keeps coming back thus far, but overall, I’m not really seeing anything in this book that screams at me to read it yet.

Catwoman #2: I only bought number one because of the hype surrounding it and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it (disturbing coupling scene aside), but it was watching the Catwoman short on the Batman: Year One DVD that prompted me to pick issue two off the shelf at my comic book shop recently. I enjoyed this issue as well, again surprisingly. I’m not totally on board yet, but if my shop has an issue on the stand, I will buy number three next time I’m in.

Fear Itself #7: And we’re done. The Serpent is vanquished, and Thor is dead. Again. Actually, it really bugged me the way Spider-Man and the other heroes seemed very nonchalant about their friend’s passing. Is it just because they figure that he’ll be back? Does death really hold so little meaning to these characters in the Marvel U? Overall, this story was what I expected it to be: a protracted fight scene with little treasures scattered throughout, ending with everything pretty much as it was before. Of the little gems in this issue, I liked that a mere human came back to help Cap, that Odin cast out everyone from Asgard, and that Cap’s shield, broken to pieces previously, was repaired in Asgard, though it does still have a battle “scar” (like the Liberty Bell–is that just a little too on the nose?).

Justice League #2: This comic remains at the top of my reading pile (it’s number one overall). Jim Lee’s work on this is solid (his Superman is the best out of anyone I’ve seen so far) and Geoff Johns continues to build the story in a way that naturally flows, each character introduction growing in an organic way. I love the way that all of the characters react and interact with each other. I love how Batman, and not just in this comic, is being portrayed in the DCnU–he’s less the stoic, “I am the goddamn Batman!”, and more analytic and commanding. People aren’t listening to him just because he’s Batman, but because what he’s saying makes sense. Similar, too, with Superman. He’s not the arrogant strong man or boy scout that he’s been portrayed in the past, but someone who will, if provoked, break heads, and he’s not afraid to use his powers more aggressively. Hal does come across as a bit of an ass, but that makes sense to me. And this Flash is a character I wouldn’t mind reading more of, unlike in his own series. Can’t wait for issue three!

Nightwing #2: The cover reads: “Saiko Killer!” Really? Can’t we have a little bit of subtlety? And who didn’t think that Dick and long lost circus pal Raya would end up sleeping together? Duh! She’s a red head and he’s, well, Dick Grayson. :D

Star Trek/LSH #1: The title alone was enough to sell me, but I worried about the execution. Basically, this issue is two storylines–one Star Trek and one Legion– that don’t ever really merge (sort of they did), so that leaves next issue and the remaining four to introduce the villain(s), resolve the crisis, return to the status quo, but most importantly, get the two groups to interact to produce those nerdgasms! I love that what we get from the two groups is our classic Trek line up (not the new Trek) and Paul Levitz 80s era Legionnaires, including the founding three. The plot crux involving the goatee Trek universe is overdone, so I hope we get something that’s a little more interesting than what’s come before. The art reminds me a bit of Dave Cockrum’s work, which is fitting, and the Phil Jimenez cover is bee-utiful! One of the things I define as successful in a Star Trek comic is if the artists can draw the starships well enough, and not get sloppy, but so far, so good.

Wonder Woman #2: Weird to see Hippolyta as a blonde–change for change’s sake, hmm? I am really liking Cliff Chiang’s art. It was talked about some time ago, but here is where the idea that Diane does have a father is introduced. When I first heard about it, I didn’t like the idea, but having pondered it a bit, so what? Does it fundamentally change what Wonder Woman is about? I doubt it very much. I’m not saying I prefer this change, but I don’t think it’ll have much of an impact on the future–for this storyline, sure, but long term?

I also read DC Universe Presents #2 (the only thing really interesting in this issue was the old woman angel in the library), LSH #2 (oh noes! A renegade Daxamite’s on the loose!), and Red Hood & the Outlaws #2.

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Pull List Review (First Half of September 2011)

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.

Continue reading

Pull List Review (8/10/11 Comics)

Alpha Flight #3: Hrmph. The plot continues on, with the capture of the team from last issue being undone this issue, but what I find interesting this month is 1) Puck is back! Yay! 2) Why are the non-human characters so derisive (Snowbird) and almost anti-human (Namorita)? Did I miss something over the years when I wasn’t reading any Alpha Flight? Or is Pak and Van Lente wanting to play up that aspect of the two women? If so, to what end? It makes the characters one-dimensional and ineffectual. In fact, ALL of the women on the team are being portrayed as antagonistic. It makes me go hmm.

Batgirl #24: As I tweeted when I read it, “heartbreaking, bittersweet, beautiful”. Check out Episode 7 of the LBR podcast (coming soon!) for more of my and Oddfellow’s thoughts about this fantastic, wonderful, amazing book. Even though it’s over, you can still go buy the trades. In fact, I may buy all of the trades so I can read the story arcs whenever the mood strikes me, which I think will be quite often. And check out the great Dustin Nguyen cover featuring every major character from this two-year-old comic.

Batman & Robin #26: After Grant Morrison left, this book lost all its steam. A few writers tried to pick up the dropped ball, but it never really worked. This last issue was more of the same, but I also enjoyed it as a stand-alone Batman comic. The whole Dada angle was enjoyable, and for this dumb reader, an unexpected reveal when I got to the end of the issue. For more about this issue, listen to Episode 7.

Birds of Prey #15: No Gail Simone? Who cares? This two-parter was such a waste of the characters and my time. I’ve never cared for Lady Blackhawk, and Black Canary was little more than scenery. Seeing an aged Phantom Lady was kind of interesting, but not that much. Poor ending to what was a really good series.

Criminal: Last of the Innocent #3: Not to detract from what a good story Brubaker and Phillips are crafting, but I can’t help it. The best thing about this issue is the artricle at the end of the book by Jay Faerber on Magnum, P.I. Squee! Here’s a guy who just gets it–gets how great this tv detective (er, private investigator) show was. In fact, we share a love for one fo the show’s finest hours, “Home From the Sea”, which never fails to choke me up, even after all this time.

Fear Itself #5: This is mostly a fight issue, but there’s still some great moments:

  • Tony Stark telling Odin to give him access to Odin’s workshop because Tony makes really. great. weapons.
  • Thor having Mjolnir punch a hole through the possessed Ben Grimm, while telling the possessed Hulk, “And him I liked. But you? You were always a giant pain in the ass.” Hah!
  • Capt. America throws his unbreakable shield at the Serpent, who catches it and BREAKS into pieces!
  • (Hmm, I just noticed this: Thor and the Serpent both make the same guttural yell when the former strikes Hulk and the latter shatters Cap’s shield. Is there something to that, or is Fraction just word echoing?)
  • Spider-Man leaving to be with loved ones (and not sticking out the fight) and Cap, at the end, admitting defeat. The second bit is too much for me. It’s only in there to make the situation sound very dire–If Cap is ready to give up then it must be bad, Billy!–but besides losing the battle, the war continues, and who knows that better than Cap? This reads false to me, Fraction. Fix it next issue, please.

Flashpoint: Citizen Cold #3: So is the lightning strike at the end supposed to be poetic justice (is that Wally exacting revenge in a Flash way?), or just deus ex machina (I suppose it’s both)? Eh, it ended.

Flashpoint: Deadman & the Flying Graysons #3: This also ended, but in slightly better fashion. The art in this story was one of the better of the tie-ins, and even though Boston Brand’s character arc is rushed, he still gets there by helping Dick Grayson, who becomes the new Dr. Fate. Now that’s a Flashpoint tie-in that I want to read!

Flashpoint: Emperor Aquaman #3: I didn’t care for the third-person narration appearing on the first page and then more than half-way through the book–it was too distracting and telly, not showy. I enjoyed this and the Wonder Woman tie-in for the back story it gives me regarding the Atlantean/Amazonian war, but that’s about it.

Flashpoint: Frankenstein & the Creatures of the Unknown #3: If these tie-ins were a way to drum up interest in Frankenstein as a character in the new 52, I would say DC failed to hook me. I did like the monster squad aspect to the tie-in, but Frank is a one-note character in this title. And I hate that the creatures’ creator is still alive thanks to the restorative factors of his new home. Ugh.

Superman #713 & 714: For some reason, I didn’t receive 713 last week when I should have from my CBS, so I’ll write about both of these issues now. Hmm. In 713, Clark tells his proteges they should stop being public heroes and help behind the scenes, like he used to, convinced he and they could do more good that way, and not a risk to their loved ones. But then Clark goes through a kind of It’s a Wonderful Life arc in that a guide shows him that Superman is important to everyone. If you can’t tell, I was not too impressed with this bit of story telling–it’s so overdone. 714 is the finale of the “Grounded” arc. You may recall that mysterious woman who has been dogging Superman and affecting him in some way for reasons heretofore were unrevealed? Yeah, she’s just an Earth woman under the spell of a Kryptonian sunstone. THIS is what J. Michael Straczynski (and later Chris Roberson) was heading towards? Meh. As always, JMS started strong (I know this story had its many detractors, but I enjoyed it for a while), but the ending suuucked. Good thing Grant Morrison is back helming the Man of Steel in Action Comics.

War of the Green Lanterns Aftermath #2: What is with the ending where the Guardians go to Ganthet and approach him with these wide, threatening eyes, their hands reaching for him? The next panel shows the central power battery and Oa’s sun with Mogo’s lantern insignia surrounding it with a caption that reads “The end . . . for now”. I know that the new Green Lantern books come September will pretty much be intact from we have read already, so I hope that this mystery gets answered at some point–it’s just an odd way to end a mini-series that I thought was supposed to tie up some loose ends, but really didn’t.

I also read New Avengers #15 and Teen Titans #99 (17 pages of fight scenes ends on a two-page splash showing Titans Tower being protected by pretty much any other Titan from this latest volume). I have not read Unwritten #28 yet since my comic shop somehow missed giving me the issue.

Pull List Review (7/6/11 Comics)

Adventure Comics #528: This issue is significant only in that four Legion Academy members actually graduate after 30 years! Wow, they must have been pretty poor students. ;-) Power Boy, Lamprey, Crystal Kid, & Nightwind all get to move on to bigger and better (?) things in the Legion universe, namely Takron-Galtos or a Science Police outpost (poor Lamprey). Next up, the Academy students get to fight Cosmic King in the last issue of the series.

Batman & Robin #25: Yeah, the three-part story with Jason Todd ended. Thank god.

Fear Itself #4: Wow, there was a lot of exposition early on in this issue. I guess Fraction felt he had to spell it all out for everyone (even though I kind of knew all of it from the context of the previous issues). There was one . . . odd moment in the scene where Black Widow lashes out at Nick Fury a little bit, and then five panels later is hugging Fury in grief and fear. The odd part to me wasn’t so much that it happened, but that it’s a quiet, background moment. I guess I just didn’t expect 1) Black Widow to react in this way since she is a hardened spy/superhero and 2) with Fury–it’s just weird seeing him comfort anyone. But I suppose this just underscores the level of Fear encroaching everywhere without the comic pointing it so obviously as it did earlier on. There are two bigger moments in the comic, but only one really made me go, “Wha–?!”. First, Steve Rogers dons his familiar red, white, and blue duds (but we all expected this would happen in this series, right?), and Tony Stark, in order to get Odin’s attention, makes a sacrifice of his sobriety. I found that to be more moving and having much more impact than Bucky dying in last issue.

Flashpoint #3: This whole issue seems to be undercutting expectations. First, Barry convinces Batman to let him get zapped by lightning again even though the first time has essentially killed Barry, but get zapped again Barry does and–oh my gosh!–it works! So much for the cliffhanger ending of last issue. Then, when Batman, Flash, and Cyborg infiltrate Project: Superman, they find a thin, almost gaunt Kal-El. Batman then says, “This is the most powerful being on the planet?” Later, after they’ve helped the Kryptonian escape, the issue ends with Kal-El flying away. So much for Barry’s plan. This was not my favorite issue of this series so far. In fact, it reminded me of how I felt reading Flash: Rebirth: too slow moving.

Flashpoint: Batman #2: WARNING: there be spoilers here. Of course, the Joker shows up (look at the cover!) in this new universe, but OH MY GOD THE ENDING!!! First, however, let me back up. When Joker is first shown to us, we get a very healthy dose of Heath Ledger’s look despite that Joker is shown in shadows, and I hated that. I’m so sick of Ledger’s Joker being hoisted up as the epitome of that character. Anyway. This issue is full of tragedy and Brian Azzarello does a good job of making you feel uncomfortable in general for most of the issue (or it’s just that he shows the Joker terrorizing Harvey Dent’s kids–a sure-fire way to get my blood boiling). What I like about these Flashpoint titles is that the creators are more free to play around with things (mostly grisly death scenes) that they wouldn’t be allowed to do in the DCU proper. Case in point: Gordan accidentally shoots one of the kids before being offed by the Joker. Who turns out to be Martha Wayne! That last page is definitely killer. This issue is by far the best Flashpoint tie-in title I’ve read so far.

Flashpoint: Secret Seven #2: I’m not sure what to think about this title. The characters are being gathered and something is wrong with Shade, apparently. The final issue better bring it. I do like that Black Orchid keeps popping up, even if she’s supposed to be dead. I’ve always liked that character, even before Neil Gaiman got a hold of her.

Flashpoint: World of Flashpoint #2: Until the Batman Flashpoint issue #2, this was my favorite tie-in. Like Secret Seven, this is a gathering of sorts, or at least a showcase of various characters, but the pay-off of the issue is the last page, where Traci’s Dad is wielding magic, as I expected to see, so no big surprise there.

Secret Six #35: Sigh. Given that Bane will be a baddie in the upcoming Batman film, and that (I believe) Dan DiDio has said that Bane will be more be “more antagonistic” than he’s been portrayed in Secret Six, this latest issue of one of the best comics on the stands today (period) starts Bane down that unfortunate path. Again with the sigh. Gail Simone does an excellent job at transitioning Bane into the editorial mold that he’s been cast, but it’s so disappointing to see this change given how cool I’ve thought Bane has become in this book. Even more so when you factor in his scenes from last issue! Despite this shift, there are still some very good moments in this book. The discussion between Catman and Bane at the beginning, Deadshot’s complete lack of empathy and his “relationship” with Jeanette, the scene between Scandal and Knockout (another near-heart-breaking moment from the pen of Simone!), King Shark singing his anthem (while I do not care for this character in general, I love Simone’s love of him–it’s a bit infectious), and Ragdoll’s method (with King Shark’s help) of convincing Penguin to cooperate with the team. All good stuff. Only one more issue. :(

F That! Flashpoint and Fear Itself

I thought I’d review DC’s and Marvel’s summer event books side by side, as it were, every few issues to see how they compare. Warning: I will be spoiling plot points, so proceed with that in mind.

Flashpoint #1-2: I have been almost dreading this event book for months. I don’t care for the rebirth of Barry Allen as the Flash (Flash: Rebirth was yawn inspiring, as was the first six issues of the Flash monthly title, despite Geoff Johns’s involvement), and I don’t particularly care for Andy Kubert’s art. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the first issue. I like the art just fine, and the story balances itself well enough between Flash discovering that he isn’t in his world and Cyborg attempting to recruit Batman into his league in order to take down Aquaman and Wonder Woman. Issue one ends with the revelation that Batman is Thomas Wayne, not Bruce, which explains the brutal attitude that Batman demonstrated earlier in the issue. Issue 2 starts off with an Aquaman appearance, and he’s more brutal, ordering no survivors on Deathstroke’s ship. Most of this issue, however, focuses on Barry talking to Batman about how the world is different, and that he can make it right. Batman is convinced to not break Barry into pieces when he realizes that Barry might be able to change things so that Bruce will live again, not him. To do that, Barry needs his speed back, so he reconstructs the accident with the chemicals and lightning, and ends up a charred body on the Batcave floor.

One of the elements of this event so far that I like extremely well is Batman’s story. Issue one starts off with narration that is Batman’s, so you know that Barry affects him in a meaningful way, but I’m intrigued by this Batman’s psyche. We all know our Batman’s story–how he searches for vengeance because is parents were killed before him–but how would that grief and lust for revenge affect a parent whose only son was murdered? It makes perfect sense that this Batman kills and has zero tolerance for anything other than his mission (thus not joining Cyborg’s league). I hope we get to see more of this in the Batman tie-in, but after reading issue one, I don’t think I will (I’ll be posting about the tie-in books soon).

Fear Itself #1-3: A new force of darkness descends on the Marvel universe involving hammers of power, something called the Serpent, and it revolves around Odin. But the really interesting part of issue one is the fight that Thor gets into with his father, and it’s a doozy! Odin orders the Asgardians home, leaving Earth unprotected , and Thor is not happy about the decision. The All-Father mops the floor with Thor and shows himself to be such a prick doing it. As I noted earlier, it’s so strange to see such different depictions of this father/son relationship in two different books, so I’m curious if we get some sort of connection or resolution to this conflict. When I read this I was intrigued and looking forward to what came next. However, after the great beginning of this story, I was disappointed by the next two issues. Most of the pages are taken up by the hammers possessing various people, heroes and villains alike (and why is it heroes and villains? why not Joe Shmoe? though, the hammers do seem to be calling on those who already possess great power, so maybe there’s something to that, or maybe Marvel wanted to see the Hulk and Thing battle their fellow heroes with hammers…), and others reacting to their rampages. The only interesting bits in these two issues are the conflict between Thor and his father (which is what I really enjoyed from issue 1) and the apparent death of Bucky at the end of issue 3. We’ve all known that Steve Rogers would eventually retake the mantle (there’s a movie coming out, after all), so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that Bucky’s (maybe) death would occur in Marvel’s summer event book.

This is the first Marvel event book in recent years that I’ve read that wasn’t written by Brian Michael Bendis, and while I love Bendis’s work, Matt Fraction does a decent job, but not much has really happened in these three issues (though I don’t blame Fraction necessarily–this may be Editorial’s doing). We do have four more to go, so I’m hoping the plot will start moving along. As for the art, I really like Stuart Immonen’s work.

How are you liking either of these event books?