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).

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).

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 (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.

New Comics Wednesday (3/16/11)

Oh my god I’ve been lazy! It took me a couple weeks to get over my cold, plus I was just tired (but a very good tired) from the Emerald City Comicon–I may have O.D.’ed on comics! :D Anyway, more stuff coming soon! This is what I’m buying this week:

  • Adventure Comics #524
  • Brightest Day #22
  • DC Universe: Legacies #10–Thankfully, this is ending.
  • Ruse #1–This was my favorite of the CrossGen series, so I’m anxious and excited for the return.
  • Superman #709
  • Unwritten #23
  • Xombi #1–I enjoyed the one issue in which Xombi appeared in Brave and the Bold, so I’m going to see if this first issue grabs me.

I recently picked up a couple series that were pretty good. First of all, Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D. is excellent (though I still need to get #4). Second, and this is so weird for me to write because it’s another Marvel series, Spider-Girl was also enjoyable. I didn’t care for the art changes so early in the series, especially since Clayton Henry’s art is so nice looking for this book–if you’re starting a new book, inconsistent art is a turn off.