Pull List Review: 12/14/11 Comics

Here’s week 2 of my quick and dirty Pull List reviews for December 2011. There were many issues from that week, so let’s get cracking!

Batgirl #4: So, Batgirl outwits and defeats her first new villain of the DCnU. Yeah, yeah. (As you can tell, I wasn’t all that jazzed about Mirror.) What’s interesting about this issue is the Spot the Bat app that Hugo Strange (I presume it’s him–the thug only says Hugo, but who else could it be?) released to help criminals. I really appreciate the writers (or artists–it is a collaborative effort, after all) delving into the technological side of this younger DC Universe. In Batman, we are introduced I think every issue so far to really cool tech, and I’m glad to see that it’s not just the heroes taking advantage. Although, I think I’ve read this before and recently, but regardless, I’d like to see more of this across the line. Finally, I don’t know much about Barbara’s mother pre-DCnU, but here, she’s back in Barbara’s life after having abandoned her some 8-10 (?) years earlier. I smell some mother-daughter angst coming, and Gail Simone is good with that.

Batman & Robin #4: This continues to be one of the most solid Batman books, and that includes both story and art (for the most part). A lot of the DCnU books have introduced new villains and they haven’t been that interesting, but Nobody works because there’s a connection to Bruce’s past, then add in Damian’s angst and anger and you have a hella lot of story potential. Again, though, Alfred steals the show with his soliloquy about Damian realizing how human Bruce really is. Bruce may be Damian’s father by blood, but it is Alfred who continues to be the father figure to the Wayne household. I just hope Pete Tomasi continues to play with that trope.

Batman: Brave & the Bold #14: This issue had Ragman, an all-time favorite of mine, so of course I had to get it. It’s a simple tale about faith restored (in more ways than one) and a hero’s conviction renewed. Nothing ground breaking, but what do you expect from this line? And that’s not a slight–just remember what age group DC’s going for. I usually ignored the Johnny DC line but having bought a few of this title and the Tiny Titans, I may have to go back and get some more issues. For my kids….

Batwoman #4: I go from a comic rated E to a T+ book. I don’t know that I needed that one panel (“HUHlinhAAaaaaaaa…”), but juxtaposed with the one where Flamebird is bleeding out in the snow does give it more weight than mere titillation. Regardless, another good issue from the creators. Poor Flamebird. She doesn’t get any respect no matter what DC universe she’s in. And after reading about Agent Chase in this title, I may have to go pick up that Chase trade that DC recently released.

Buffy, Season 9 #4: I’m getting real tired of Xander’s and Dawn’s disdainful approach towards Buffy. My daughter will not like me saying this–yet again–but we see for perhaps the dozenth time that Spike is the guy Buffy should be with. The only thing about Season so far that I’m not sure I like is the real-world intrusion, a la the police getting involved. Normally, I’d want that kind of realism to intrude every so often in a fantasy story like this, but it just doesn’t feel right (just like it didn’t in early Highlander episodes).

Demon Knights #4: Another solid book, this time focusing on the Shining Knight. How much fun the creative team must be having in confounding the characters and us as to whether the Knight is man or woman. Sometimes, the art clearly shows a male, other times, the features morph slightly and the Knight looks more girlish. Of course, Merlin speaks in the issue of the Shining Knight’s dual nature, but then we see the Knight looking a lot like a vampire (and there is that whole drinking of blood thing earlier), so what exactly is the “dual nature” of which Merlin spoke? Man/woman? Good/evil? Both? (And in no way am I implying that there is a connection between those dichotomies: man does not equal good and woman does not equal evil, so don’t go there.) If it weren’t for my love of the Justice League characters, this would be my favorite book of the DCnU.

Green Lantern #4: Have I mentioned before what a great buddy cop story this comic has become? I love love love Sinestro as a Green Lantern and being “over” Hal at the moment. But it is Hal that gets Sinestro to break beyond the Korugarian’s limitations with his human penchant for thinking outside the box. After all, Sinestro has always been about order and control (well, since Geoff Johns took over as Green Lantern historian), and Hal has been about rule breaking and having fun with the ring (think of them as Murtaugh and Riggs from Lethal Weapon). Finally, that page where Hal creates his last construct and it is of Carol was touching. Is Johns setting up Sinestro to be THE Green Lantern in Green Lantern?

Magdalena #10: This is probably one of those comics where the idea outweighs the execution, so I may not be long with it. This reads a lot like Buffy in different trappings, and I have little interest in that. Ron Marz needs to focus on the character and not the plot as much to keep me around. I did buy the first trade, so I’m anxious to see if it’s more of the same of the last two issues I’ve read.

New Avengers #19: Why does Norman Osborne look like Tommy Lee Jones in this book? I love that Peter is an ass to Victoria Hand. Usually Pete is so … ok with things, but this, this he knows (from his perspective at least) to be a wrong thing and he takes every opportunity to point it out to Hand and the rest of the New Avengers. Also, do not mess with Madame Hydra. She will cut you. Seriously. Plus, she’s damn funny here. :)

SHIELD #4: Remember how I mentioned last issue that I felt a little ripped off because the issue was 18 pages of battle sequences and a couple of pages of dialogue? Well, this issue we get three repeated scenes with only the setting changing. I understand narratively what Hickman’s going for, but come on.

Suicide Squad #4: Still liking this comic. I will say it: I like this depiction of Harley Quinn. I like Deadshot (and perhaps even more than I did when he was on the old DCU in Secret Six). I like Diablo. I like what Deadshot did to Captain Boomerang. And I still like the endings to this comic: so far, every issue ends with the Squad needing to pull yet another job in a limited time frame or they’re dead. However, that trick’ll get boring real fast. Not to mention, these guys need to sleep some times, right?

I also read Resurrection Man #4 (again, love the angel/demon angle, but still do not care for the title character), Shade #3 (this really just served to get us to the next plot point), Star Trek/LSH #3 (Well, at least the two groups are working together at the end of the issue. This has been a disappointment from go. At least the Phil Jimenez covers are nice to look at.), and Unwritten #32 (the sacrifice of the Frankenstein’s monster was touching).

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Pull List Review: 11/9/11 Comics

All-New Batman Brave and the Bold #13: So much goodness in this issue! Of course I had to buy it since it was the all-Robin issue (long-time readers/listeners will know of my affection for Robin)! And the story was pretty damned good, too. Because I enjoyed this so much, I’m going way too much into story detail, so if you haven’t read it, you may want to skip to the next title below.

Batman is gravely injured, so the Phantom Stranger gathers past and future Robins to help Dick Grayson (as Nightwing) and Tim Drake (the current Robin in this continuity, I believe) save their mentor. Besides those two Robins, we also get Jason Todd, Stephanie Brown, Damien Wayne, and Carrie Kelly. Dick takes charge, and they all take Batman to a Lazarus Pit. Dick orders Tim and Steph to stay behind to guard Batman, while the rest of them go inside to confront Ra’s Al Ghul’s minions. Steph is hurt that Nightwing doesn’t think much of her to assign her to guard duty, but Tim spells it out for her: “Batman means more to Nightwing than anything.  . . . He did it because he trusts us to keep Batman safe.” Inside the cave, Nightwing gives we readers a rundown on how the rest of the Robins are so different. The fight ends when Ra’s appears to tell his goons to stop. It seems that Tim and Steph gave Ra’s the lowdown and Ra’s can’t stand the idea that a mere bullet will end the Detective’s life, so he allows Batman to be dipped into the Pit. When Batman rises out of the magical waters, we get this six-panel spread of reactions from all the Robins: Nightwing is bemused, as if he knows exactly how this was going to play out; Jason is delighted to see this, though he doesn’t want anyone else to know it; Tim is ecstatic and raises his fist excitedly; Steph is just utterly surprised at what she’s seeing; Damien is smirking confidently; and Carrie’s head is cocked to one side as if to say, “well, duh, Batman don’t shiv”. Of course, Ra’s has to get a dig in since, he reveals, the Pit causes those who enter it to go mad. This freaks out the younger Robins, but Nightwing confidently strolls over to Batman, offering him a hand. Batman grunts menacingly, but then smiles at Dick, saying, “Thanks. I knew I could count on you.” That is what I love about the whole Batman & Robin relationship. Batman may be all angsty and dark, but he needs his sons (and daughter) to help him out. The issue ends though with a teaser that I would LOVE to see someday: Madame Xanadu is discussing the resolution to this crisis with the Phantom Stranger, and says that if the Robins had failed, then there were the Batgirls to lend a hand. We’re shown Babs, Cassandra, Betty, and Stephanie! It reminded me of that last Bryan Q. Miller Batgirl issue that hinted at a time travel story. Please DC, give me a story with all those Batgirls!!!

Avengers Origins: Vision: I’m not sure why Marvel decided to publish a one-shot featuring my favorite synthezoid, but I enjoyed this. We basically get Vision’s “birth” and development from his point of view, though it’s never explained why he has emotions. If you know the Vision’s history, then you know why he feels, but it’s never revealed here, which is interesting since this seems to be a reintroduction to the character. What is really good about this comic though is the Stephane Perger art–it is fantastic. This is what I like to see out of artists who do it all. The Marko Djurdjevic cover is also really snazzy.

Avenging Spider-Man #1: This is the newest incarnation of Marvel Team-Up, though I heard one podcaster say that the focus would be team ups with Spider-Man’s fellow Avengers (which now makes the “Avenging” part of the title make sense–I mean, what part of Spider-Man is about vengeance?!), so if that’s true, I’m not as excited about this title. I picked it up because it was a Spider-Man team up book, and I’ve long felt I should reconnect with the superhero who started my love for comic books. But if this is just to push more Avengers stuff into the market, I don’t need to contribute to that–there’s already too much Avengers out there (having said that, I do love New Avengers, the only Avengers book I’m reading). As to this inaugural issue, the Red Hulk is Spidey’s partner, so that’s another mark against the title. As for the art, I guess Joe Maduriera is some sort of comic artist god, but I think his work is just ok (too 90s for my taste, which is probably why I never heard of him before–I didn’t read a whole lot of superhero books in the 90s, let alone Marvel titles). It doesn’t really matter since I read recently that Joe Maduriera is off the book soon. I’ll try this out for a few issues.

Batgirl #3: The appearance of Nightwing was a nice intrusion, but it read more to me like “oh, we should have someone in the Bat Family show up”. I know there will be people out there in Internetland that will take this as a dig as women in general, but Simone undercuts this, I think, with Dick telling Babs that he’s there because he (and Batman) are worried about her because they love her, not because they don’t trust her. I also really liked these words, since they succinctly summed up Babs’s and Dick’s former relationship:

We used to chase each other like this. Two kids flirting in a way only a handful of people on Earth could ever match. He with his acrobatics, and me with my ballet.

Batman & Robin #3: Each subsequent issue improves upon the previous. I’ve heard people (and I agree to a point) that Batman is the Bat book to be getting, but I’m enjoying this Bat book more right now. (In fact, I heard someone recently remark that Detective Comics was the Bat book to be getting and that Batman & Robin was not good–what are they smoking?!) The only thing that bugs me about this issue is that ninja finger poke to the forehead that stops Robin cold–huh? The sequence towards the beginning with Alfred was beautiful. The rage that Damien unleashes on the mugger, while it has shades of Jason Todd pre-DCnU, is a portent of the drama to come. I just hope they don’t go down the well-trodden path of pitting son against father.

Batwoman #3: This book is just a feast for the eyes, and I’m really enjoying the story, too. I just hope that Flamebird doesn’t end up dead before she really starts her new career.

Buffy, Season 9 #3: This being Buffy, of course she should look a gift horse in the mouth. Or something. The vampire killer turns out to be gunning for our favorite Slayer, but if that’s true, then why not take Buff’s power while she was sleeping at his apartment? Why the big reveal at the end? Dodgy writing, or is something else up? This being Joss Whedon writing this arc, I would tend to think the latter, but I’ve been wrong before.

Demon Knights #3: Such good stuff here. I really like the limitation put on the Demon regarding how much time he can spend on Earth, otherwise, we’d never see Jason, or Cornell would have to come up with contrived ways to switch the characters. Speaking of seeing Jason, he mentioned spending too long in Hell. I never thought about the idea that Etrigan and Jason actually switched physical locations–has that always been a part of the character or is Cornell adding to the characters’ history? I am intrigued by Xanadu’s continued, apparent two-timing. What angle is she playing at here? Does she actually care for either of these creatures? This duplicitousness does not go unnoticed, which leads to a great little scene between Exoristos and Sir Ystin–Wikipedia is saying that Ystin is actually Ystina, and the Shining Knight certainly appears to be female in this comic (at least how Neves draws the character), but I love the whole sex bender part of this story. The end of the issue got a little bloody for your typical DC comic, but it certainly makes sense in context. If you’re not reading this title, I don’t know why.

Green Lantern #3: Despite my complaints during episode 11 of the LBR podcast about this title not being new reader friendly and continuing where the title left off before the DCnU, I just don’t care at all because this is such a great story (and has been for years). Johns has infused even more life into Green Lantern with the twist that Sinestro is now a GL again, Hal is not, and by having teamed those two up to fight the Sinestro Corps?! Then, about half way through the issue, we find out that the Guardians are planning to replace the GL Corps–whaaaat?! Finally, the issue ends with Hal apparently being dissolved in the main yellow power battery (which will please those “I don’t like Hal Jordan” folks). Consistently good action/adventure story here.

Huntress #1-2: Confession: I had no interest in this series. Zilch. Nada. I’ve never cared that much for the Helena Bertinelli version of the character until more recently as part of the last Birds of Prey series pre-DCnU, plus, when I read that Paul Levitz was writing it, I  thought, why bother? After all, Levitz’s return to comics in the form of the Legion of Super-Heroes hasn’t been thrilling me, so I thought I’d wait to get the trade if I heard it was good. So why am I reviewing issues one and two? Because the buzz surrounding it was so great! I picked up issue one off the shelf at my LCS and was really impressed, first with the Marcus To/John Dell/Andrew Dalhouse art, and then with the story–Levitz actually can write a modern, interesting superhero comic! While the plot is pretty simple, it’s the character monologue that I enjoy. And gone is the midrif-showing, hot pants costume design that I hated on this character. She’s now fully clothed as makes sense for a non-superpowered crime fighter–after all, you don’t see Batman wearing a belly shirt, do you? I understand there’s some who have speculated that this comic is actually set on Earth 2, but I don’t see that happening.

New Avengers #18: I almost didn’t get this issue. When I saw in Previews that the Dark Avengers thing was returning, I thought that meant that my New Avengers characters would be gone from the book, but it seems that isn’t going to happen. What does happen in this issue is that Norman Osborn goes recruiting. That’s pretty much it, but at least we don’t have anymore of that silly interview style, talking heads crap that have permeated a lot of Bendis’s books during Fear Itself.

Point One #1: I just got this to see where the Marvel U was heading for the next year or so. I liked the hook of the issue: some space-suited people are able to tap into the Watcher’s mind while he’s uploading all his info to wherever the Watchers upload all that they record. Other than that, what we get are excerpts into future stories. First features Nova and the reveal that the Phoenix force is back. Second was some futuristic human vs mutants story (X-Terminated)–blech. Third was a Scarlet Spider preview. Fourth was the introduction of two new characters, a brother and sister duo called Dragonfire and Coldmoon, respectively, who are genetic manipulations created by some high-tech corporation. I was getting into the story until the end when they free themselves and it becomes just like any other superhero story, complete with an appearance from the Avengers. Next was a Defenders preview. Since I’m already getting that title, I wasn’t all that interested in this. Finally, there was some sort of future Ultron vs Avengers story (yawn). Out of all of those, I may only be interested in the Nova/Phoenix thing. I guess we’ll see as more information is released from Marvel.

Resurrection Man #3: Something needs to kickstart this series for me, or I’m gone very soon. It’s a shame, too, because I like the Dagnino/Arcas art.

Star Trek/LSH #2: Hmm, two issues in and our two groups haven’t interacted in any way (ok, sure, the very last page shows them about to engage each other, but that doesn’t really count). Did we really even need this issue? I think I got enough info from issue one to understand where the story is set and what the basic plot will be–this issue sure seems like padding to me. I just hope issue three moves the plot forward dramatically.

Suicide Squad #3: Still like it! That baby Deadshot rescued sure is quiet, though. It’s almost like the writer forgot it was there or at least how newborn babies actually behave. I also enjoyed the non-linear storytelling this time.

Unwritten #31: Tom Taylor finally takes the offensive against the Cabal and kicks some ass! Unfortunately, I think he’s about to learn a valuable, if not deadly, lesson about the price you pay playing with powerful magic.

Pull List Review: 10/12/11 Comics

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).