The Comic Book Parfait Show #2

The Parfait is back and tastier than ever! Podcast cohost Travis hosts his own comic book club show where we all discussed a comic book (or series) of our choosing, and ended with us answering this question: “Reboots: do they work?”

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Podcast Episode 8: Endings and Beginnings, Part 2

Since it took me a little over two months to release a new episode, I now give you more comic talk goodness. Episode 7 was released a few days ago, and now Travis and I continue our conversation about some final DC titles. Specifically, we talk about the end to Birds of Prey, Justice League of America, Secret Six, Zatanna, and Batman. Being the talkative twosome that we are, we end up not just talking about the final issues, but our impressions of the whole run, characters, and creators. We also ponder which is better: a late, but quality book, or a filler issue. Also, the evils of an incorrect solicitation.

And if that wasn’t enough, we also talk about some newish Marvel titles that we’ve read, specifically, Daredevil, Moon Knight, Alpha Flight, and Punisher. So buckle up, hang tight, and enjoy this super-sized episode (2:25:45)!

Please send your comments to longboxreview@gmail.com. Please rate and review the show on iTunes.

Thanks for listening!

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Pull List Review (8/3/11 Comics)

Adventure Comics #529: Eh, it ended. I’m not sure why I’m sticking with this latest incarnation of the Legion. Actually, I do know why: 1) I love the characters; 2) Paul Levitz is writing them, only, I’m not caring for what he’s writing this time around. I keep hoping that things will be more like I felt about his 80s run on the title, but I don’t think it will be. I’ll read a few issues of the relaunch, but since the word is that the Legion is largely untouched in the DCnU, I don’t have high hopes that I’ll continue with any Legion title.

Flashpoint #4: A lot of focus is given to the S!H!A!Z!A!M! family kids, but it’s only a few tidbits in this issue that make this worth reading. Flash pleads with Thomas Wayne to stop what looks to be the final surge of the Atlantean/Amazonian war, but Batman refuses because it doesn’t matter if Barry succeeds in restoring reality as he knows it. Of course Barry doesn’t want to hear this, and compels others to join him, even Batman in the end, for he tells Thomas, “Bruce would’ve come.” And they call our Batman a master manipulator! Finally, the last page where Prof. Zoom appears to gloat, pointing at the devastation around him and telling Barry, “Look what you did.” I really am looking forward to the final issue coming out at the end of the month to see how all this contributes to the relaunch.

Flashpoint: Batman #3: The secret origin of the Joker! Yet again, we are shown what a bastard Thomas Wayne is. When he recounts the infamous alley death scene, he says two shots are fired, “bang, bang”, causing Martha to scream, “NOOOOO!”. But then he tells her what could happen if Flash is successful (which means that this story fits somewhere between Flashpoint issue one and two, I guess, thus connecting to the main series–which  I like immensely). The ending of this series is pitch perfect, and Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso did an awesome job overall. I almost didn’t buy this title, but I wanted to get the trinity tie-ins to see what DC would deliver, and this, so far, has been the best that I have read.

Flashpoint: Secret Seven #3: What the hell was the point of that? And by that I mean the whole series. Just to show that Enchantress is a betrayer, and Shade is an unwilling murderer? Waste of time. I thought the Lois Lane mini was the worst of those I’m reading, but this one takes that no prize thus far.

Flashpoint: World of FP #3: When I read the first issue of this, I thought perhaps it would have some sort of impact on the larger world of Flashpoint, but it’s really only a story between a daughter and her father with familiar tropes of loss, anger, and reconnection that kind of fall flat for me.

Mystic #1: What a breath of fresh air. I went into this with some reservations because I didn’t know the series when it was at CrossGen, and because the two restarts of old CrossGen series at Marvel were a bit lackluster. This is not. The story itself (by G. Willow Wilson) is a bit of trodden ground, but the characters and setting help make up for that. The art, however, is wonderful. David López (pencils), Álvaro López (inks), and Nathan Fairbairn (colors) do a fantastic job at conveying this world in a very accessible manner. Even the backgrounds are done well. The only complaint I have about the book visually is the choice to have the characters talking in purple text. I think that’s an unnecessary and distracting detail. I can’t wait to see issue two.

Secret Six #36: How bittersweet. I would have liked to see what story Gail Simone would have done with these characters if DC hadn’t gone down the relaunch path (not to mention the Bane transformation to fit him into the upcoming movie), but this is what we got, and it ends very well all things considered. I love love love the opening panels featuring Bane and his new girlfriend, Catman’s oft repeated mantra of “leave Huntress alone”, King Shark, Scandal proposing to the two loves of her life, and especially Huntress. It is through Huntress’s eyes and narrative through which the hero-side of this story is told, and it is a perfect way to end this story about these “criminals”: “In the end, we won. Of course we did. . . . Because we’re heroes. Right?” LOVED IT! I wish and hope and pray that DC brings these characters back together with Gail Simone writing them.

SHIELD #2: There is so much going on in this book, and if you didn’t read the previous seven issues, I can see someone getting very lost. Hell, I don’t understand everything and I’ve read it all. It is something that will require a reread once all 12 issues are published. But it is lovely to look at and I love the concept.

I also read Batman: Gates of Gotham #4.

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. :(

Pull List Review (6/1/11 Comics)

Adventure Comics #527: Well, now. THIS is the Paul Levitz I remember. He actually made me care about Comet Queen. Comet Queen! (Note to self: look up on the interwebs to see if CQ is a fave character of Mr. Levitz’s–why else bring her back into the Legion Academy?) Ever since the Academy storyline started in Adventure Comics, I’ve wondered why some of the old-timers were still being trained (the passage of time in comic books notwithstanding), including CQ, so we get a story that explains that in a cool, tied-into-current-continuity way. I also like how Levitz has updated CQ’s lingo–she used to be all Valley Girl–although all the space slang gets a bit old quickly.

Criminal: Last of the Innocent #1: The next Criminal series is here! Now, I’ve only read two of the Criminal stories so far, but this one’s a little different, and resonates with me on a very personal level as it starts off with the death of a family member. It’s different in the art in an interesting way: the flashbacks are drawn in a simple, retro style. While not original, it lends itself to the nostalgia of someone going back to their small-town home after living in the Big City for many years. Other than the beginning when you have the main character being threatened to get the money before Monday, I kept wondering when the crime noir aspect of the book would kick in, and then I read the last panel. Bang! I wasn’t sure I was going to like this, but now I think I will.

Moon Knight #1-2: When I saw that Moon Knight would be done by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev, I was excited. I’ve always liked Moon Knight (from the Neal Adam’s-esque Bill Sienkiewicz days through the Fist of Khonshu run), and done by the same team that did the celebrated run on Daredevil? Sold! But guess what? I suppose lightning can’t be bottled every time. I remember Bendis talking online about the great concept he had for Moon Knight, but it came across as derivative and really not that great. If you haven’t read anything about this series (perhaps you’re waiting for the trade or just haven’t picked up the issues yet . . .), I suggest you stop reading now. SPOILERS!!! Anyone who knows Moon Knight knows that he started out as a hero with not just one secret identity, but three. Years later, it was revealed that he suffered from schizophrenia. Bendis has taken all of that and has burdened Moon Knight with three new personalities, namely, Captain America, Spider-Man, and Wolverine. In fact, Moon Knight actually dresses up as Spider-Man in the story, a costume over a costume (oh, someone’s being clever with that . . .). I do not find this take to be all that novel or entertaining. I will pass on this title.

Flashpoint: Batman: Knight of Vengeance #1: Wow, they’re really going for a Dark Knight Returns vibe in this comic, at least with the art and the violence. What happens if Batman came to be because Thomas Wayne witnessed the murder of his wife and son? I actually like the alternative as presented here, but some of the elements fall flat. For example, this Batman kills. The actiony bit in this issue is a Batman vs. Killer Croc story that we’ve seen countless times which ends with Batman slicing Croc’s head open with a machete. The rest of the issue is showing how Wayne does what he does. He owns a casino in Gotham to help control the criminal element and obtain intel. He also has a confidant and accomplice in Chief Gordan, who knows Batman and Wayne are one and the same. What I fear here is that all we get is an Elseworlds tale of Thomas as Batman, with no actual tie-in to the larger world of Flashpoint. But Batman does feature prominently in the main event book, so maybe it’s not necessary from an editorial standpoint. But if this first issue is indicative of what I get from this mini, I won’t be impressed.

Flashpoint: Secret Seven #1: Peter Milligan writing this with George Pérez on (most of) the art? Sold! Not to mention featuring Shade, the Changing Man, who is in that category of characters I like even though I know I shouldn’t (“madness vest”, really?). While I love Pérez’s art in general, I thought it a strange combination with Shade. This character really shines with someone on the art who is more . . . expressive, I think. It was also nice to see Enchantress feature so prominently in the story–I have always enjoyed that character as well, and she takes an interesting turn at the end of the story. Finally, it was good to see Black Orchid again, if only for a few panels.

Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint #1: I was pleasantly surprised by this title. I was afraid we’d get something like the Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps, but there’s an actual story here that ties in directly with the larger world of Flashpoint, and told from a particular character’s point of view: Traci 13. Rex Ogle does a good job at portraying the pathos without being too comic booky. I especially loved the part at the end when her father betrays her. I can’t wait to see how she reacts to that in the next issue. Side note: I hope that whoever inked the final six pages inks all of the rest of this series. It’s not that the art of the other pages is bad, it’s just not as good as those final pages.

Secret Six #34: This may be the single best issue of this series that I have read (caveat: I haven’t read all the issues of this latest version of Secret Six). Page 10 was worth the price of admission alone, but the rest of the story is just really, really, really good. Plus, Bane goes on a date! He explains to his date that he broke the Batman’s back, to which she replies, “But he got better, right?” Hah! Later, after he has won two big stuffed pandas for her, Bane quips that it would have been more challenging if “the cartoon rabbits were throwing batarangs”. Double hah! So much goodness to this issue. In fact, the way it ended, it almost seemed like a goodbye from Gail Simone, given that the title will be no more come September (though, Simone recently tweeted that another Secret Six series was a possibility post-new DCU launch), but it was definitely a very good ending to the current storyline. This comic is awesome.

SHIELD #1: It’s back! The sleeper hit of early 2011. As I found out by listening to an episode of Comic Geek Speak, SHIELD (now presented here without the periods, because I’m tired of typing them) was supposed to be a year-long limited series, but since Jonathan Hickman was an unknown property at that time, the bean counters at Marvel said, “Let’s do six issues and then we’ll see.” Flash forward to now, and we have the start of next six issues in our hands (though restarted at 1, because, you know, that’s not confusing, Marvel).

Wonder Woman #611: Much like many of this storyline’s issues, this is basically one long fight scene, but we do get a vision of a world where Diana has amassed an army to take over the world, crushing or converting anyone she crosses, which includes dead or captured Justice Leaguers. Her fight with Superman and the splash-page finality of it was an effective visual, however. Also, this cover: I love the way it’s colored.