Week 33 (April 18, 2012)

Going into the third week of April I have to say that it was a mixed bag this week.  There was some absolute knockouts that really proved the breadth of comic craft, and then there were some total bombs that I am just uncomfortable having read, knowing that the lack of quality isn’t the writers’ faults entirely (even though it kind of is . . .) .   Well these are my views on what is good and what was lacking.  As ever, if you think I am way off the mark, comment on this post and let me know what I’ve overlooked.  I respect constructive dissension.

  • Justice League #8 was absolutely awful.  I’m not even angry anymore by the utter disregard for quality that the creative team of JL are flagrantly exhibiting, just sad.  I’ve moved on to the last stage of grief: acceptance. Everything about every aspect of this book is wrong.  I firmly believe that if you sat down someone who had never read a comic in their lives but had the spark of interest that could be fanned into a blaze of comic loving passion and then gave them a Justice League comic you could permanently kill the chances of them ever wanting to read another comic ever again.  This series is the rat poison of the comic world.  How Geoff Johns can write these awesome characters as such douchebags is beyond me.  I am starting to hate the characters so much and its starting to infect my enjoyment of the stories where they are actually written well.  I know he’s an executive, but Johns needs to get benched ASAP!  He’s doing good on his other series.  Let him stick to what he knows.  He clearly has no clue how to write a decent Justice League story.  Oh. and on a personal note: The inclusion of a sequence with Talons dispatched by the Court of Owls is in BAD TASTE.  Don’t sully a truly awesome thing like “Night of the Owls” by trying to pouch quality for your shitty comic.  That is bad form, Mr. Johns.  BAD FORM!   
  • Batman #8 starts up after issue #7’s startling conclusion.  After his battle in the labyrinth with the Court of Owls, Batman is a wreck.  Broken and beaten he retreats to Wayne Manor and from there Scott Snyder portrays a very troubled Batman, and troubled he should be as the Court has not yet finished with him or Gotham.  The true terror of the Court is laid bare and the “Night of the Owls” we have been hearing about is revealed to be much akin to the famous “Night of the Long Knives” in Nazi Germany.  A lot of important people are in the crosshairs and several will be dead by dawn regardless of nay intervention.  Snyder’s plot is executed to perfection and rendered beautifully by series artist Greg Capullo and by Snyder’s long time collaborator on American Vampire, Rafael Albuquerque.  This is the Batman story I’ve been waiting for my whole life, I just didn’t know it until recently.

    Alfred Puts Out "The Call"


  • Nightwing #8 follows on the heels of Batman #8, starting off “Night of the Owls” an issue early and really sets the tone for what we can expect next month in the “Night of the Owls” mega crossover.  Writer Kyle Higgins keeps the heat on Dick Grayson after the conclusion last month of the title’s first story arc.  In that issue he revealed that the Talon we have thus far seen in Batman is none other than Dick’s ancestor, William Cobb.  Higgins writes the issue dually from the perspective of Cobb, telling about his childhood and adolescence in the Gotham of 1901, and from Dick’s in the present.  The issue is a fitting companion to what Scott Snyder has set up over the past half year.  The Night of the Owls is upon us.  The call has been put out. “God help us . . .” 
  • Green Lantern Corps #8 followed three main events, but was rather hazy about them, introducing but not developing.  The first is the Alpha Lanterns assembling to discuss their mandate: the internal policing of Corpsman.  The second was the Guardians offering Guy Gardner what seems to be a very peculiar offer that I doubt is on the level.  Thirdly, John Stewart’s continued melancholy and confliction over killing his former colleague in the torture chambers of the “Keepers.”  This issue was like its predecessor, a seeming interim issue, although this one facilitates the coming issue which will be the beginning of the “Alpha War.”  I look forward to it, as this issue was good, but as I alluded, very sparse. 
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #8 was a really outstanding issue that accomplished so much.  It revealed the history behind Jason Todd and Suzie Su’s long standing quarrel as well as his past exploits culling the crime families of Hong Kong.  In the process writer Scott Lobdell defines the nature of Todd as an anti-heroic character.  He puts his neck out to save children from terrorists, but in the process does some very dark things.  Finally, it reestablishes his status as a member of the Bat family, because this issue like Batman #8 and Nightwing #8, is a “Night of the Owls” prelude.  The call goes out from Alfred, and though Starfire and Arsenal know for a fact that the disaffected ex-Robin won’t respond, Jason surprises them both and commits himself to the call.  The reason lies in a past encounter with his successor, Tim Drake, in Metropolis and leads to an inference that Mr. Freeze will be involved.  This issue has its balls-to-the-wall moments alongside some very touching ones.  Damn, I love Scott Lobdell’s storylines.

    Jason's R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find Out What It Means To Him.

  • Catwoman #8 was another prelude to “Night of the Owls.”  The story was kind of interesting, but not overly.  Apart from developing the character of Spark, I wasn’t very invested in the plot.  A heist is planned against the Penguin, and like Red Hood above, writer Judd Winick infers that Penguin will be the Owl target that Catwoman will be running interference for.  What sets this one apart from the three above Bat-titles, is that Catwoman doesn’t get the call, so  a scene involving the Court of Owls is worked in to clue the readers into the impending connection.  Artist Adriana Melo does make the issue very pretty though, despite the lackluster plotline.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes #8 was damn good!!!  It might be that I’ve read Paul Levitz’s previous runs on Legion of Super-Heroes, but the story was steeped in LHS mythology. Computo was referenced, the sister of the Invisible Kid’s consequential incurable illness as a result of that same evil computer system, and most of all the resurrection of the Fatal Five.  But on top of that, Levitz makes the stories he writes very personal.  More so than most other books, he imbues so much humanity into the motivations and interactions of the Legionnaires.  Case in point, the issue was divided into two stories drawn by two different artists.  The former most story that involved the elements listed above was drawn by veteran LHS artist Steve Lightle.  The latter half involves Cosmic Boy, who puts the weight of the Universe on his shoulders, being whisked away by four of his colleagues to Istanbul to unwind.  What makes it all the more touching is that one of those Legionnaires is Brainiac 5, who out spocks Mr. Spock in his emotionlessness.  Yildiray Cinar, who helped Levitz relaunch the Legion in the 31st century, provides the art for this last segment.  Good stuff.
  • Supergirl #8 was really good and is moving towards what I have been wanting for since issue #1.  Supergirl is becoming slowly acclimated to Earth.  She hasn’t learned the language yet, but she’s made a friend and starts wearing Earth clothes.  The issue itself is pretty well written by the Mikes (Green and Johnson) and stunningly illustrated by George Perez.  I’m a little pissed that this issue is the only one Perez is illustrating, because frankly his artwork is so appropriate to the title, and he has such a beautiful way of portraying young women like Kara and her new friend Siobhan along with the bohemian New York night scene.  In any event, it was beautiful issue in both scripting and artwork, and it introduced a classic Supergirl villain back into the DCU: Silver Banshee.
  • Wonder Woman #8 has a real beauty to it.  I have read a lot of negative feedback on this series, last issue especially, and I do believe that there is credence to the detractions, but unlike last issue which offended a great many readers, this one was very straightforward.  Diana and Hermes descend into the underworld and once again Brian Azzarello depicts a very stylized, philosophic interpretation of Hades’ realm.  Series artist Cliff Chiang helps out a great deal in that respect with beautifully drawn panels of this new Underworld.  Despite the John Woo cover, the issue isn’t as gaudy as its advertised to be and twists the plot into a devil’s bargain only to be found in Greek mythology.  Hades remains one of my favorite characters in this new series.  His motivations are so ambiguous and he is just awesome no matter which light you choose view him in.

    Shot to the Heart. Hades to Blame . . .

  • DC Universe Presents: Challengers of the Unknown #8 was something of a cop out.  I mean the story progresses and the villain is vanquished . . . sort of.  However, they don’t finish their journey, they don’t come to any understanding of the reason they were saved from death, just that their survival serves some transcendental purpose.  Didio and Ordway give us that “The End . . . For Now” crap without giving any modicum of conclusion.  That only works when you throw the reader some kind of bone.  Overall, I would be interested to read more if they deign to give us more, but I am unsatisfied with the three issue arc they gave us.  Why couldn’t this have been a five issue arc like Deadman so that they could do what was necessary  narratively?  Oh well. Ours not to ask why, just shell out three bucks once a month, right?
  • Blue Beetle #8 ended very abruptly.  It had an entertaining plotline that explored both the villain and his past, but gave no conclusion to the whole affair.  I recognize that Blue Beetle has to take part in the crossover event over the next two months with Green Lantern: The New Guardians, but it seems like they could have offered a little closure on the matter, or at least writer Tony Bedard could have held off the crossover since he is also the writer of New Guardians. Maybe the intermission in this plot will bear fruit relevant to its postponed conclusion.  Either way, I’ll give it a thumbs up.
  • Birds of Prey #8 as with the past several issues has become a chore.  The title’s not as good as it used to be pre-Reboot, as good as it could be.  I’ll still say that it has its entertainment value, but right now I am holding on for its place in the “Night of the Owls” crossover next month.  After that I am almost certainly dropping it as Travel Foreman, the artist whom I have been blaming my dislike of Animal Man on owing to his creepy, superlinear artwork, will be taking over Birds of Prey.  So next month will be a farewell to those lovely Bird of Gotham fame.
  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #3 expands its reach and adds a third segment to the roster.  This month we welcome writer JT Krul and veteran JLA artist Howard Porter’s Superman Beyond segment.  What Krul does beautifully is illustrate a godlike figure of comic lore who has lived past his natural age and seen his friends and loved one die.  Now Superman is beginning to see the world he has known die alongside them, as he himself begins to enter into obsolescence.  However, with all his battles seemingly won and in the past, JT Krul introduces an intriguing development that has been lying dormant until the events of this issue.  A truly stunning story.  Adam Beechen and Norm Breyfogle continue the “Mad Stan” storyline to its penultimate chapter in Batman Beyond, and while very short, forward three very compelling stories of the three young leads: Batman’s prevention of Mad Stan haphazardly blowing Gotham to kingdom come, Dana’s brother tying into the cabal of Jokerz flooding into Gotham on holy pilgrimage, and Max’s attempt to confess to her part in the cyber-terrorist attack on Gotham’s power grid.  Incredible storytelling that has me psyched for next months conclusion to the first of these dilemmas and the continuance of the other two.  And last, but most certainly not least, Nguyen and Fridolfs’ Justice League Beyond Unlimited packed a wallop of comic and television inspired excellence.  The Queen of Kobra is revealed as is her plan that the Kobra agents have been working towards in the past two issues.  The plot itself is stunning, but even more so because of the incredible intricacy of the references and allusions to the television shows that inspired it, as well as those from the DCU at large.  The Challengers of the Unknown, as seen last in the previous review above, are referenced and play their part in the doom of mankind, as does Lex Luthor, dead though he may be.  Iconic covers the Jack Kirby series Kamandi the Last Boy on Earth, Forever People, and OMAC are modified and presented to portray the enormity of the threat Kobra intends on not just Earth or the Universe, but seemingly the Multiverse.   This issue blew my socks off. I was expecting it to be good, but I wasn’t prepared for just how good.

    The Times They Are A-Changing . . ,

  • T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #6 concludes the series in the most fitting manner possible.  I didn’t realize that the first page of the first issue of the first volume DC put out took place after the whole run of Spencer’s was concluded.  I also like that although Wes Craig took over art for the book from Cafu, the latter artist came back to do the flashback sequences that he was responsible for in the first run.  Reading T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents has been a pleasure and I am saddened by the thought that there may never be another series after this one, and certainly not one as well crafted and well researched as Nick Spencer’s run.  However, he did leave a pinhole opening at the end of the main sequence for a continuation by someone else.  However, my money is betting that there won’t be any more adventures for the Agents of The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserve for many, many years.  So thank you to Nick Spencer and his army of artists who made this series legendary.
  • Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #2 is getting better.  I wasn’t as certain while reading the first issue and now after this second issue, I am starting to feel the beauty of the Voodoo culture as well as the rhythm of Selwyn Hinds’ script.  There is a really intriguing amalgam of modern day elements with old school Afro-Caribbean mythology that baselines the series and makes for a very Machiavellian struggle for power in the space between magic and realpolitik that apparently has been governing New Orleans for centuries.  I’m liking it a lot and I have to also give credit to Denys Cowan, whose stark, line-y artwork really adds a gothic character to the series.
  • The Shadow #1 is Dynamite Entertainment’s newest addition to their pulp noir line of books.  I have to say that I have been anticipating this book ever since it was announced, because I was a huge fan of the old radio show when I was a kid.  No I’m not that old, but I enjoyed listening to old radio shows on audio cassette (yes, I am that old) when on long car rides.  Anyhow, I love the “Shadow” and his genial alter ego, Lamont Cranston, the “wealthy man about town.”   To pen this new series Dynamite tapped Garth Ennis, renowned for his edgy storytelling.  I think he did a good job, but I am concerned that he might have made it too edgy.  This is the first issue so I may be making a leap in judgement.  Despite this sneaking suspicion the issue itself was great.  Aaron Campbell who provided artwork for Dynamite’s Green Hornet: Year One, provides equally stunning work in this series.  The basic plot takes us to the early 30’s with Japan invading China and agents of the expansionist empire turning up in New York, the Shadow’s playground.  Needless to say, the Shadow knows what evil lurks in the hearts of these men . . .

And that’s the thirty-third week of my reviews.  Hope you enjoyed as much as I did.

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Batman #8: Art by Rafael Albuquerque, Colored by Nathan Fairbairn

Red Hood and the Outlaws #8: Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Colored by Blond

Wonder Woman #8: Art by Cliff Chiang, Colored by Matthew Wilson

Batman Beyond Unlimited #3: Drawn by Dustin Nguyen, Colored by Randy Major, Inked by Derek Fridolfs

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Week 29 (March 21, 2012)

  • Batman #7 was INCREDIBLE!!!  Writer Scott Snyder is swiftly rising through the ranks of my favorite writers.  This first run of Batman

    Foreshadowing?

    will surely be what cements him as a supporting pillar in the future of comics as a viable entertainment medium.  Not only does this issue explain a burning question that goes back half a year to issue #2, it also explains and validates the events of the first issue, which if anybody remembers, I panned pretty bad.  (I have shamed myself greatly.)  I feel that the revelations of this book and the personal sentiments put forth by both Bruce and Dick show a pinpoint turn in the tone from that first issue.  So much of what Snyder tells us here genuinely game changes EVERYTHING you know about Batman throughout his entire published history.  Yet, these changes seem natural and almost like they have always been there,  just like the fabled Court he now finds himself assailed by.  If you only buy one comic this week, make it Batman #7.  You’ll be glad you did.

  • Justice League #7 was TERRIBLE!!!  You may ask yourself why I even bother.  I don’t know.  I’m feeling like I’m being blackmailed with Pandora, the resolution to the Darkseid’s daughter revelation, and the new SHAZAM back up feature.  So why was it so bad?  Okay . . . There was no real threat in this one.  The premise was ridiculous.  They did some good characterization of Steve Trevor . . . sort of.  They drove home that the world thinks the Justice League are awesome, but all Geoff Johns really accomplished was making them seem like a pack of fratboys and prima donnas.  I think the real problem with the genius of Geoff Johns working on this title, and a sign of perhaps he only weakness (again this is just a theory): he is sooo good at homing in on the innate qualities and tones of his subjects and attuning the books to those qualities that when it comes to ensemble books like this where those disparate characters are thrown together, he freaks out and just turns them into caricatures of themselves.  Green Lantern basically is eleven years old in this.  He has no semblance of ever having to make any competent decisions, which at his core he has always been able to do.  Flash, one of the smartest men alive, is just moronic in this series.  Batman is Batman. On this point I am neutral.  I didn’t mind Wonder Woman as much, but also didn’t care for her much either.  Just bush league comic writing.  And the aforementioned SHAZAM backup?  Even worse!  I love Gary Frank’s artwork.  He’s awesome.  However, on the writing side Johns’ introduction of Billy Batson, who is supposed to be a ‘Little Orphan Annie’-esque forsaken child with a heart of gold was disgusting.  He completely missed the mark on this one. The point of Billy and Captain Marvel is that both represent an idealism and unshakable belief that the world is good and that good can overcome evil with determination and virtue.  Johns has opted to make him into a two-faced, sniveling little brat.  I feel bad that I even had to think this, but when I read this version of Billy, I felt he should be moved from the orphanage to an animal shelter, so euthanasia would become an option.   Taking a step back from personalizing it on just Billy, I think perhaps this backup feature should be euthanized.  Just a thought.
  • Nightwing #7 was exceptional and didn’t let down after reading its brother book, Batman.  Since issue one, we’ve seen Saiko run rampage through Dick’s life, both personal and professional.  We’ve seen his connection to Dick’s past and the twisted web he has woven in Dick’s present.  The dominoes have been set and this issue drops a bomb, literally and metaphorically.   The full truth of Saiko’s psychosis is laid bare and the the truth of his hatred of Dick explained.  At that moment, my hair stood on end and I had to suppress a giddy squeal of dorkish delight.  Like Scott Snyder, Nightwing writer Kyle Higgins gets it.  He clearly understands the character and what makes a good Dick Grayson story, finishing this arc beautifully and sticking a 10 point landing.
  • Green Lantern Corps #7 was an interim issue.  I liked it much more than the past two issues.  It advanced the stories thus far and really focused in on John Stewart.  John did a very extreme thing and this issue really shows how he’s dealing with that.  He says he’s not ashamed of what he did and  that he would do it again, and yet he has failed to admit to it and lied about what actually happened.  He explains it away, but Tomasi does a wonderful job of making even that seem questionable.  John is a guy that has destroyed planets and taken countless lives, and his reaction to events like this are very poignant, because he isn’t an amoral person.  Far from it.  Definitely a well written, thought provoking issue.
  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #2 kept the momentum going and the story evolving.  The inaugural issue last month set the hook for larger plot points in Batman Beyond as well as reintroducing those left unresolved from the pre-Reboot series.  This issue skirts all of those, introducing a new focal point for a two part arc, showing us that the larger points are going to be simmering for awhile, stringing us along for the ride.  I for one am sitting back and taking in the sights.  Writer Adam Beechen knows the TV series in and out and is reintroducing characters and premises from it along with fan favorite elements from the main Batman continuity going on currently.  The plot is rich as New York cheesecake, and as with last issue, supplemented by the wonderful artwork of 90’s Batman alum, Norm Breyfogle.  In the Justice League Beyond segment writer/artists Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs do the same as their opposite number in the first segment, bringing in all manner of cool material from the series as well as material from the larger DCU.  The issue begins on the island that in the coming months will play host to the series The War That Time Forgot, and references Mayor Luthor, as well as many others.  Following up on the reintroduction of one of my favorite villainous organizations, Kobra, this issue adds great mystique to the plot, while exploring one of the shocking developments from last issue.  The story from the dynamic duo of Nguyen and Fridolfs is equally only by their incredible art.  This is one of my favorite series, no question.  Basically my adolescence in a $4 comic book.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes #7 finished off the China expedition, in what I thought was a slightly anti-climatic fashion, but in classic Legion style revolved on several other plots circulating throughout, not least of which is the Dominators counter move to the Legionnaires’ foiling of their invasion of the United Planets.  Take it from me, the implications proposed by the Dominators have incredible potential.  Also a familiar character turned new Legionnaire makes her first appearance as a member of the team.  Master scribe, Paul Levitz, writing, Francis Portela illustrating, there is nothing else that needs to be said.
  • DC Presents: Challengers of the Unknown #7 was a decent book.  In my opinion it seems a bit rushed.  They are blowing through the plot and not really giving any gravitas to what is happening and or explaining why we should be invested in the characters.  There is a lot of potential in what they are doing.  They begin the issue with the summoning of a rival deity to the reverend Rama Kushna, ancient edifices are opening up heralding prophesies revealing themselves.  There is so much they can do and they aren’t taking the time to do it.  The previous Deadman arc took five issues and really got down to the meat of the story of Deadman.  This series is trying to do in three issues what that series did in five.  I anticipate the next month’s conclusion, but expect to be left with unanswered questions.
  • Supergirl #7 is getting there.  This story topically worked, wrapping up this second arc featuring a threat linked to the last days of Krypton, an apocalyptic proving ground, and Kara rising to the challenge.  It was a good stepping stone, but to me at least, it didn’t suck the reader in.  I do feel that its moving in the direction of getting Kara in a position to start a human life on Earth like her cousin Clark has done.
  • Catwoman #7 was slightly lackluster as well.  She stole some things, but overall it was kind of feeling like deja vu.  Selina has a new fence that is calling her on her bad behavior, which is a good start in switching things up. Det. Alvarez is starting to get more aggressive in his hunting for Catwoman.  Judd Winick is progressing the story, but this one didn’t blow my skirts up.  I will say that  until I looked at the splash page, I didn’t know that the artist had changed.  Guillem March has left, at least for this issue, and is replaced by the very similar, luscious work of Adriana Melo.  I thought March’s pencils were very unique when I first saw them.  He’s got company, because Melo is equally as evocative with her lines.  This part was a delight to look at.  Also, to whomever called this series a “chauvanistic male fantasy” when it first came out, I would advise them to check out the manties on the dude on page two.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #7was a revelation.  I have been enjoying the series since it came out and writer Scott Lobdell has taken the psychopathic ex-Robin in a very interesting direction, entangling him in a web of supernatural/metaphysical intrigue.  Apropos, this issue deals with him confronting an old acquaintance/lover from his days training with the All-Caste, who reveals the history of the war between the All-Caste and the Untitled.  This part of the plot is entrancing, but even more so because of how Scott Lobdell portrays it’s effects on Jason Todd and how he chooses to respond to the revelations.  There is a reason Jason was brought back from the dead and Lobdell makes brilliant use of it.  Kenneth Rocafort once again provides gorgeous art that accentuates the plot and draws the reader from panel to panel completely independent of the writing which itself is stunning.

    The Untitled Birth

  • Wonder Woman #7 is a continuing climb to greatness.  I really am enjoying the direction that Brian Azzarello is taking Diana.  He is reaffirming her Greek origins and the aspects of her that are excellent, while at the same time also holding on to some her lesser qualities, but having her address them rather than fall into them blindly.   On the part of the series’ mythological roots, nothing is more discordant in Greek mythology than the interactions and personal lives of the gods.  This series utilizes this facet expertly, making it a modern day soap opera of petulant, bored, and shortsighted  deities.  Diana knows this and uses it to her advantage to try and do good and help people.  However, as I stated before, she has often been portrayed as a very impulsive, sometimes quick tempered person.  In this she learns the fate of male Amazons and in her hastiness to adjudicate the issue, is shown how her rash behavior is counter-intuitive to her goals.  I like this, because it makes her character feel genuine, yet adds a culpability that many times she lacks.  This issue also features the return of series artist, Cliff Chiang.  I am happy too see his return as I love his work, but am saddened too, because Tony Akins’ art was beginning to grow on me.  It does look like Akins will be back later to do a few issues, which is welcome news.  On the whole, this series is a road map to a better, brighter Wonder Woman.
  • Blue Beetle #7 was a good first issue in the new arc which finds Jaime running away to New York to find a metahuman to advise him on his new life.  What he finds in the Big Apple is interesting, but I am reserving judgement until I read further in.   Series artist Ig Guara is replaced by Marcio Takara and his artwork is a little better in my humble opinion.  Its a good issue, but I am still geeked for the crossover with Green Lantern: New Guardians in the ninth issue, with the invasion of Odym by the Reach.
  • T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #5 reached its penultimate chapter in this new DC iteration.  This series is hard to peg and I like that.  Things I thought were going to be hugely terrible are actually rather incredible and other things I thought benign are actually very apocalyptic.  However you decide to view it, this series is playing for keeps.  There is an end in sight.  Nick Spencer has taken everything that all the original series from the 60’s onward have been about and worked towards and zeroes in on a logical, inescapable conclusion.  Just reading this issue gave me goosebumps.  If you aren’t in the T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents already I would suggest getting the first trade paperback and waiting for the second series to come out in graphic novel so you can experience the whole thing in one long, continuous stretch of epic storytelling.  I said that the story is coming to a seemingly finite ending, but there was a backup story in this issue, written by Michael Uslan, which seems very “situation normal”, making is seem almost that the series could go on.  Perhaps that’s indicative of how covert the things happening in the main series are, but it does leave me with hope that the T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents might go on even after the wrap up of next issue.  Perchance to dream.
  • Silver Star #4 was outstanding, taking a very roundabout way of fleshing out the character of Silver Star.  I have praised its brother series in the “Kirby Genesis” line, Captain Victory, for really hammering in why its eponymous hero matters.  Sterling Gates has done a phenomenal job in that series doing that in a conversational, yet succinct way.  In this issue of Silver Star writer Jai Nitz does precisely that with his equally eponymous charge.  At the end of last issue, Morgan Miller aka Silver Star, who has been made to be indestructible, is hit with a folded-entropy weapon which for all intents and purposes removes him from reality.  The only person who can save him now is Tracy Coleman, his childhood friend who exists outside of space and time.  Emerging from her protective pocket dimensional sarcophagus, she emerges on a world where nearly everyone on the planet is a superhero, and seeking out Morgan comes to certain realizations about why a world full of Silver Star-like people, but no actual Silver Star is an imperfect world, contrary to appearances.  Just a damn good issue that doubles my love of the incredible Kirby creation.

    A World Without Silver Star

  • Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #1 was one that rife with possibilities and I enjoyed it.  I think that depending on what writer Selwyn Seyfu Hinds does in upcoming issues this could be a new Air, or Unwritten.  I am excited at the possibilities.  The cliffsnoted premise is that of the supernatural forces in New Orleans, werewolves, vampires, undead, etc, being ruled over by a mid-19th century Voodoo queen named Dominique Laveau.  In the modern era her descendant has the same name and, unbeknownst to her, a link to that destiny of her forebearer.  It had a chaotic first issue, but all the pieces of an incredible series are there.  I would suggest people read it, as it could be the first step towards a series that will innovate the Vertigo imprint.

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Batman  #7: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO, Inked by Jonathan Glapion

DC Universe Presents #7: Drawn by Jerry Ordway, Colored by Tony Avina, Inked by Ray McCarthy

Red Hood and the Outlaws #7: Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Colored by Blond

Silver Star #4: Art by Johnny Desjardins, Colored by Vinicius Andrade

Review: “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Vol. 1” (DC Series)

2010 saw DC pick up a series that had bounced around three other publishers since the 1960’s.  That series was, of course, T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents.  Admittedly, when this happened I had never heard about the original series and though it sounded interesting, abstained from reading it due to a dry spell in disposable income.  But when I saw that one of my favorite artists, Mike Grell, was doing backup art I got the issue and retroactively collected the previous issues.  After that, I became addicted to the series and sought out anything about it, past or present.

The concept of the original T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents series was a perfect combination of the popular genres of the day.  It featured an element of espionage involving a multinational organization with a cool acronym like the then popular TV series “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”, as well as superheroes like those in other mainstream comics, and sci-fi creatures and technology that were reminiscent of the cult classic films of the 50’s and 60’s.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents also featured one of the most unique premises, that even to this day is rather novel.  T.H.U.N.D.E.R is an acronym for The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserve, and as such The Higher United Nations employs agents to wield enhancing devices devised by by the brilliant scientist, Dr. Emil Jennings.  These devices include a power belt worn by agents codenamed “Dynamo”, a speed suit worn by agents codenamed “Lighnting”, a mind control helmet worn by agents codenamed “Menthor”, and a set of steel wings worn by agents codenamed “Raven.”  The devices give the wearer great power, but . . . the cost of use is that after a certain amount of time they will eventually kill the wielder.  That said, the choosing of agents is  very interesting. Recruitment is 100% voluntary so the candidates range from suicidal, to the crestfallen seeking atonement, to the just plain crazy.

The Grand Legacy

This new series by Nick Spencer feeds directly off the old material and presents a continuation of that series’ legacy into the new millennium with great care and fidelity.  It starts out with a brand new roster of agents, and then to illustrate the morbid premise of the series, kills off half the agents in the middle of a crucial mission of global importance.  Hence, a new team must be chosen, accept the terms of recruitment, be crash trained, and thrown into a conflict that could result in the downfall of nations . . . No pressure.  Through his artful storycrafting, Nick Spencer also fills us in on the gaps between this series and the previous series by Deluxe Comics from the 80’s.  He also flashes back to moments in the various other series and time periods with an interesting use of back up artists to segue and facilitate the flashback sequences from the present which is done for the seven issues by Cafu, two issues by Dan Panosian, and the final issue by Dan McDaid.  He uses the very stylized art of Nick Dragotta to go back to the original T.H.U.N.D.E.R team from the 60’s, Howard Chaykin to explore the life of the enigmatic colleague of Dr. Jennings, Dr. Anthony Dunn aka NoMan, George Perez to recap the history of the Dynamos, Ryan Sook to recap the SPIDER sequence, Mike Grell to do the 1980’s sequences, and ChrisCross doing the Lighting sequences.

Mike Grell's Rendering of the Iron Maiden in the 80's

This is one of those series like Green Lantern or Captain America where a writer who really understands the core of the piece invigorates it for the contemporary audience, and doesn’t just remake it so it holds up to today’s standards, but also feeds off of the older “hokier” source material and uses that as a moral foundation, but also a plot foundation, making those seemingly outmoded issues MATTER.  That is the real mark of an excellent series and a talented writer.  That is what makes modern era comics excellent.  This truly is an awesome collection and a good jumping on point for anyone that wants to start a long love affair with the world of T.H.U.N.D.E.R.

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #1: Cover by Frank Quitely & Val Staples

T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #4: Drawn by George Perez, Colored by Blond, Inked by George Perez & Scott Koblish

T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #7: Art.0 by Mike Grell, Colored by Val Staples

Week 26 (Feb. 29, 2012)

So this marks the historic fifth Wednesday of February.  Being a fifth week there wasn’t a whole lot that came out, but there were some gems.  Totaled up I only got ten comics this week.  Some were good, some were ok, I don’t think any were atrocious, so let’s jump in.

  • Justice League #6 was a chess game.  What I mean by that is that each plot development, each reference, each panel itself is a move against its opponent, which is an amalgam of that which is canon and that which is also good.  In some respects, writer Geoff Johns moved his pieces properly and advanced his game.  In others

    HAIL DARKSEID!!!

    he moved bishops and knights to be taken by pawns to no advantage.  This is getting really cryptic, so I’ll get on with what is good and what is shit.  Let’s start with the bad and get that over with, so we can end on a positive note.  Like the “Omega Sanction” in last month’s issue and Johns, clearly demonstrating that he knows fuck-all about Jack Kirby’s Fourth World and the awesome character of Darkseid which he is attempting in a bush league manner to portray, he screws the pooch yet again and has the Gods of Apokalips using Mother Boxes!!!  This won’t make sense to those who don’t know the intricate mythology Jack Kirby wove of the Fourth World, but Darkseid is evil incarnate who seeks a principle known as the “Anti-life Equation” which removes free will, the epitome of Life, from anyone exposed to its awesome power.  Counterbalancing this principle is the transcendental force called “The Source.”  Just as he attempts to draw on the former to achieve his goals, his nemeses, the New Gods of New Genesis use Mother Boxes to draw on “The Source” to defend life.  So why the FUCK is Darkseid using Mother Boxes?!  ARE YOU A COMPLETE IDIOT, MR. JOHNS?!   The reason I am getting worked up is that the Fourth World is one of Jack “The King” Kirby’s greatest legacies, especially to DC Comics.  It is a masterpiece of modern mythcraft, and you do NOT fuck with Jack Kirby.  What is happening here is

    Hell Hath No Fury Like an Amazon's Scorn

    akin to taking a shit on a religion’s holy text.  Nerds like me will put a fatwah on your ass and string you up by your feet.  Geoff Johns is such a good writer in all his other endeavors that it is painful to watch him do such shitty work on this title.  He needs to have an intern do it and hide his name, because I think this is a discredit to his otherwise good reputation as a comic writer.  Okay,  conversely, as per my objection last issue to the impossibility of the story of Darkseid’s invasion of Earth concluding satisfactorily in a single issue . . . somehow Johns found a way that worked.  Props.  Also, within the process of winding it up, Darkseid’s goals, conquest being only a tertiary aim, are revealed and what he is ACTUALLY looking for is something that I am quite interested in seeing explored.  You got a hook in me . . . FINALLY!!!  Don’t fuck it up, Geoff.  In the realm of Justice League you are on thin fuckin’ ice with me, Bucko.   And finally, the last relevant item is an overly verbose review was the last section that brings light on something that is at the very heart of DC’s Reboot.  I won’t say what it is, as it turned my frown upside and made me wet my pants a little bit (Don’t tell anyone . . .).  The answer to a burning question of Reboot readers is hinted at and its future given voice.  If you want to know what I am talking about . . . buy the issue.  It has its moments, and unless you are a true believer, it probably won’t bother you as much as it did me.

  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #1 came out today with its inaugural issue and was phenomenal.  This book picks up where the Batman Beyond series left off, pre-reboot, and continues on with the promised “10,000 Clowns” arc, and what’s more, introduces a Justice League Beyond segment which comprises its second half.  The issue is oversized, has two separate stories in it, and features the work of four incredible comic creators, so this review also will be long like the Justice League one above, but much, MUCH more positive and enthusiastic.  Also for those who are unaware what this whole “Batman Beyond” business is, starting with “Batman the Animated Series” in the early 90’s and continuing on to “Superman the Animated Series”, “Justice League”, “Justice League Unlimited”, and “Batman Beyond”, Warner Bros. created an animated DC continuity headed by producer, Bruce Timm.  “Batman Beyond” features Batman of the future as a high school student, Terry McGinnis, mentored and backed up by an eighty year old Bruce Wayne.  Despite how horrible this series could have been, it was done to perfection meriting its continuation through comics, it’s ancestral medium.  Adam Beechen returns as Batman Beyond writer, but in the place of the Nguyen/Fridolfs art team, veteran Batman artist, Norm Breyfogle, steps in to provide the art.   Beechen’s story is classic, picking up where he left off perfectly from the past series, showing Terry juggling high school and his social life with his nocturnal work as caped crusader, and having the story juggle an influx of Jokerz (gangs of punks who idolize the Joker) from cities across the country coming to Gotham, as if on a religious pilgrimage with the mysterious entry of a major player sizing up the Batman in the background.  Breyfogle does a stunning job in this series.  He made his name largely in the 80’s doing Batman comics, including the art for the graphic novel “Birth of the Demon”, penned by Batman writer extraordinaire, Dennis O’Neil, one of my all time heroes.  Though it is light-years different from his past endeavors, Breyfogle nails this issue’s art.  Justice League Beyond is a treat as this features the iteration of the fabled DC group as it appeared in the show.  They have never had their own title before, so this is a treat, allowing them to step from the “Shadow of the Bat” and flourish on their own steam.  I mentioned that Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs stepped away from the art of Batman Beyond, and the reason is they both wrote and drew this new Justice League Beyond segment.  They too nailed it.  This segment, more so than the Batman one, mined the animated continuities beautifully.  Superman’s former allegiance to Darkseid in his animates series is referenced, as is the enslavement of the Justice League Beyond from “Batman Beyond.”  The Jokerz and the Splicers (street punks with illegal animal alterations “spliced” in their DNA) make the scene to start off the issue.  However, one of my favorite villain groups from DC, Kobra, comprise the main conflict.  I have mentioned them before in my other reviews as they are a snake worshiping cult with a global network and infinite funds for their operation.  Their introduction is the perfect way to start off what is destined to be a perfect series.
  • T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #4 continued down the insane path of no-holds-barred storytelling that has made it so incredible.  There really is no way of telling where writer Nick Spencer is going next.  The uprising of our subterranean neighbors reaches critical mass and the apocalyptic truth of the past, laid out by Spencer, has implications that extend to the first issue of the first series from the 1960’s.  When you become acquainted with the story of the Agents of The Higher United Nations Defensive Reserve, the story being laid out is EPIC!!! As with past issues, a guest artist is brought in to illustrate flashback sequences alongside the art of the present as done by Wes Craig.  This issue’s guest is Sam Keith who is so utterly wrong for the job.  I do not like his art at all.  It makes me feel like I dropped acid and took a BAD trip.  *Shiver*  But yet again the last page had me in hysterics, mouthing feebly, “Wussafah!?!” (WTF).  I love this series so much.  It hits the right notes and maintains excellence and continuity, while shaking it up in the surgically right places.
  • Legion: Secret Origin #5  is at its penultimate point.  The Legion has been brought together in its most rudimentary form and their success is at a pivotal moment in time.  Depending on the events that dangle ominously in the wings and their response, they could rise to great heights of fall into oblivion.  Writer, Paul Levitz, plots it to a fever pitch and the dominoes set up over five issues are pushed on the last panel, and how they fall is left for next month’s culminating issue.  Their destiny as contemporaries and inspirations to Clark Kent is teased at in this issue and held just beyond their reach, as is the futility of  the power systems in place within the United Planets to stop the coming storm that is on the horizon.  A pretty good place to be in anticipation for the final issue of a Legion of Super-heroes origin story.
  • The Shade #5 picks up where issue #3 left off after a revealing flashback in the fourth issue.  With Shade’s reunion with his geriatric great-grandson the answer to what all this series is about is finally answered.  All the background dealings, assassins, and 

    Birth of a Demon

    such are explain and the goals sought after put out in the open.  That said Shade goes to Spain to meet another one of his pseudo family to enlist her aid.  This one is La Sangre, a teenaged Vampire.  Hear me now, believe me later: she is not at all as atrocious a character as this image surely evokes.  This girl puts “Twilight” in its place, which is the dumpster.  She’s a fiery redhead that fights crime for the people of Barcelona with angst and attitude.  Her connection to the Shade is explained, giving both a great deal of quality characterization, and the issue culminates with her perennial villain, The Inquisitor, with whom she has traded blows over the centuries, calling her out.  What will happen?  Gotta wait till next month.  The writing is exceptional, as we have come to expect from James Robinson, not only in the five issues he’s done of this series, but over the span of his whole career.  Providing art this issue is Javier Pulido, who, wouldn’t you know it, is himself a Spaniard.  His art in this issue was reminiscent of the guest artist last month, Darwyn Cooke.  I enjoyed it thoroughly and look forward to seeing the collaboration of Robinson and Pulido over the next two issues.
  • Green Hornet #22 returns to the the character of Moonbeam, the side kick of the violent, misguided vigilante, The Scowl.  As kind of a side note in the duo’s first appearance, this time he takes a front seat role in the plot, which expounds on the corruption of the mayor’s office and other institutions.  This issue didn’t really have a lot of things happening in and of itself, but I think it facilitating the start of a larger arc where several things will.  A decent yarn that foreshadows a future for the young Moonbeam.
  • Spaceman #4 continues to perplex me.  I sense a lot happening beneath the surface.  There is the hints of characterization and real plot development, but the crazy future slums setting and pidgin English is really throwing me off.  I respect the avante-gard quality of this title’s presentation, but have to admit that it is a hindrance to my enjoyment of it.  Also the jarring disconnect between what Orson, the Spaceman, is doing on Earth and what he was doing (will be doing?) on Mars is perplexing in not a good way.  Azzarello needs to clarify that, even a little bit, or he’s going to piss off a lot of people.  Other than that, I am taking the ride with no expectations and seeing what’s at the end of the tunnel.
  • Kirby Genesis: Dragonsbane #2 was really good once again, picking right up where issue two left off, with the witch Circe turning the Aesir warriors into pigs.  How do they escape you may ask?  With the help of someone who himself has been up against the witch’s trickery. With the advent of this Greek hero, the Aesir gain another companion on their quest for the  Complicity of Dragons.  This issue continues to be HEAVILY Kirby-esque.  The character of Circe was used by the Kirby in his Eternals series in the 70’s.  Her costume is different in this series, but much of her appearance and the way she is postured are not only distinctly Kirby, but distinctly her from that aforementioned series.  Also through Norse magic a Jotun Frost Giant of Jotunheim is conjured forth, harkening back to Kirby’s original Thor comics for Marvel in the 60’s.  This series is going places and just like its sister series in the Kirby Genesis line, it has an authentic feel to the character designs and the stories themselves.

    Magics of the Norsemen

  • Steed and Mrs. Peel #2 is just as incredible as the first issue.  Grant Morrison has a definite handle on the mod British feel of the original “Avengers” television program.  John Steed remains the quintessential British gentleman in this rendering and Mrs. Peel the intelligent, sexy counterpart.  The plot itself is very poetic and cryptic, mirroring the plots they have faced in the past.  Artist, Ian Gibson, fully rounds out the feel of the book, further likening it to an episode of the old spy programme.  The humor and style is very dry and British, which is a major draw to some and a major turn off to others on this side of the pond, so this series isn’t for everyone, but I must say that I really like it.
  • And finally, Unwritten #34.5 continues its run of dual issues.  This secondary story recounts Wilson Taylor, then Will Tallis’s, experience during WWI.  Like last month’s tale of the childhood of Madame Rausch, this issue took a very morally ambiguous character and showed the horrors and injustices of his previous life before becoming involved in the “War of Words.”   Unlike last issue’s story, however, there was morbid beauty  to the narrative Will related about the lives and spirit of the British “Tommies” fighting in the Trenches.  The end of the issue is equally as beautiful and furthers the mystery of just who Wilson Taylor is . . .

Thus ends the historic month of February.   A lot of great stories came out.  Let’s hope March keeps pace.

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Justice League #6: Drawned by Jim Lee, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Tony Avina, and Hi-Fi, Inked by Scott Williams, Sandra Hope, Batt, and Mark Irwin

The Shade #5: Art by Javier Pulido, Colored by Hillary Sycamore

Kirby Genesis: Dragonsbane #2: Art by Frtiz Casas, Colored by Salvatore Aiala

Week 20 (Jan. 18, 2012)

This was a really extraordinary week in comics.  There were a few this week that gave me chills:

  • Batman #5 was BAT SHIT CRAZY!!!  I mean that in the best way.  Snyder is taking the Bat in a very dark (or perhaps you could say very BRIGHT) direction and the comic itself is a key to the ambiance and generator of mood.  Obviously a comic containing a story

    Batman and the Court in "Batman #5" drawn by Greg Capullo

    generates a lot of things including mood and ambiance.  Please don’t take this comment in that light, and think I’m an idiot. What I mean by that statement is when you read the book itself, the way the pages are plotted and oriented gives you a sense of the insanity and delirium that the Dark Knight is experiencing while traversing the events of each page.  You yourself go a bit mad, and what’s more, there are a lot of clues to the mystery of the Court of Owls left for Batman (and us) to find, but Batman is so out of it that apart from drawing attention to them, he doesn’t really piece anything larger together from them, leaving us with this monolithic mystery and no Detective to solve it.  So we are in a position to posit what WE think the Court is and what it is up to.  In many ways, Snyder has imbued this book with infinite detail and finely tuned storycrafting.  Its not an action issue at all, and only on the periphery is it a story issue as nothing solid is really revealed. But the possibilities it gives and the anticipation it builds make up for the lack of the previous two criteria, and then some.

  • Green Lantern Corps #5 fell flat for me this week.  Some of the things involved were merely opinion differences and another was straight up fact-of-the-matter-What-the-HELL-are-you-thinking-Tomasi?   First of all, I love the storyline of the “Keepers” arc.  Its a very intriguing, well thought out plot.  I have stated before, that the concept of the Keepers is right up there with the evil Manhunter robots, the Controllers, the Darkstars, etc., all being institutions and groups with a history of antagonism with the Guardians and their Green Lantern Corps.  Beautiful storytelling, as can be expected from Tomasi.  In this issue the turning point has been reached and a counterattack is immanent.  One thing that they intend to do makes sense to me, and I will leave you to read the issue to see what that is, because its a good idea.  The next thing is Guy Gardner recruiting a biker gang of Green Lanterns.  Seems really sleazy and uninspired.  This is opinion.  The next, which I will spoil, because of the sheer idiocy of it, is that the group of Lanterns taking the fight to the Keepers raid a space shipment for guns.  Not even plasma guns or phasers or cool laser rifles, straight up 50 caliber sniper rifles, Colt 45’s and shotguns.  They have the most lethal weapon in the Universe on their hands and their first impulse is to get guns.  “Hey, we got a Sherman tank, but before we go into battle we need slingshots. LOTS of slingshots.”  I get that perhaps their rings won’t work on the  Keepers, but why do they have to resort to such mundane of weapons as gunpowder firearms when there is a whole universe of choices to pick from?!  Bad show, Tomasi.  I know you can do better than this.
  • Catwoman #5 started off up in the air (literally) and quickly descended into a quick paced action comic that does what I think any good Catwoman story should: go really wrong REALLY fast!  Selina is a glutton for punishment and I think that I would get really pissed with her constant, masochistic fuck ups, if  it wasn’t so damn entertaining to see how she gets out of them.  For those of us who own cats or have exposure to them, you’ll understand my next point.  I think what Judd Winick gets is that Catwoman literally is a woman whose behavior is that of a CAT.  Her curiosity and lack of willpower gets her into constant trouble and the fun is, as with cats, watching them extract themselves from it. If you’ve ever seen a cat jump on something clearly unstable or similar situations, its sad, but engaging to watch.  That is what makes this series great.  Every issue ends with her having that same sheepish look your cat does when they pick themselves up after trying to pouncing on a bird that is on the other side of a plate glass window.  This issue’s ending is no exception.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #5 was seamless with last month’s issue.  They fit together perfectly and continued in the same vein, revealing a great deal about the course of the series and what’s to be expected.  The Untitled made their first appearance in the form of an unexpected character and a xenophobic human entered the scene with a very peculiar attack on Starfire.  This issue shows the aftermath of both occurrences and hints at the underlying characters of each Outlaw, as well as the nature of the conflict arising with the Untitled.  I think, more than ever, I am a Roy Harper fan.  He kicked a little bit of ass in this issue and really showed his true colors.  Lobdell portrays him well as a one time shining star who fell from glory through drug abuse and bad choices, but still a really decent guy just trying to get back on his feet and amidst all his mistakes, still a person his friends can count on when the chips are down and things look grim.  I think Starfire is on the road to become a more dynamic character through her journey with these two awesome, yet messed up dudes.  And in the case of Jason Todd, the mystical back story that prompts their world tour de force is unraveling slowly and the moody Jason is starting to get depth in this new iteration.  All in all, I am really starting to get invested in the three of them and their journey.  I really feel that this issue coupled with the last two are creating something great that will have long standing implications in the future stories written about all three of them.
  • Nightwing #5 heated up the arc and took it in to a very sudden turn.  This issue has Haly’s Circus setting up shop in New Orleans and the demons of one of the circus’s star performers coming back to haunt him, literally.  The issue is relatively self contained and awesome, so there isn’t much I can say about it that wouldn’t be spoiling the truly incredible storytelling.  However, I can reveal with no guilt that the issue is worth it, if only for the BOMBSHELL that writer Kyle Higgins drops on the last page.  The rest of the issue was stand alone.  The events that close the issue out are very much in line with the main story arc and portend sinister events in store for Mr. Grayson in the near future . . .

    Wonder Woman and Poseidon in "Wonder Woman #5" drawn by Tony Akins

  • Wonder Woman #5 . . . I remember very vividly reading Wonder Woman #1 and it being lackluster, completely eschewing any characterization in lieu of masturbatory scenes of Wonder Woman violently hacking mystical creatures into their essential parts like a friggin’ Chicago slaughterhouse. I’m not going to come down on a comic for depicting sex, violence, or anything as long as it serves a purpose.  This, I felt, pretty much holding the story up instead of supplementing it.  That is just shoddy writing.  This issue and the one before it really turned that around.  Diana’s persona is beginning to shine through and I really feel that Azzarello has a good feel on the character and making her a noble, strong woman without making her into the overly misanthropic stereotype that less seasoned writers have blundered into.  I really like her and want her to succeed now, and for a long time I was afraid that she wasn’t going to come off like that in the new DC Universe.  I am thrilled.  The issue was very much a story issue with only the hints of action at the end, which means that issue #6 will probably be the action issue to balance out this month’s story issue.  I personally don’t mind, because a story issue was long overdue and the information given really rounded the book out.
  • Legion of Superheroes #5 was much like Wonder Woman.  This month’s issue took a break from the fast paced first arc and showed a day in the life of the Legionaires. Not really any action, just a story issue that lays seeds for future plot points.  Mainly it just showed how some Legionaires relax and unwind between life or death missions, as well as which are haunted or plagued by past events, and the general sense of community that exists between them.  With this issue casually showing the Legionaire’s mental or emotional states, when the next several arc happen a great deal of the ground work will already be laid, and we can harken back to this issue’s events in quick references so that the intense action can continue uninterrupted and we can enjoy.  Overall a good issue.  However, I am not personally a fan of Walt Simonson’s art.  That may be heresy, but its too angular and rough for me.  I feel like with age his art should have softened and refined itself, but then again, even Jack “The King” Kirby’s artwork kinda peaked in the 70’s and took a nose dive in the 80’s.  Overall though, it was a good issue that was fun to read and will probably be invaluable in the future of Legion of Superheroes story lines.
  • In DC Universe Presents #5 the Deadman arc comes to its metaphysical ending.  Looking back on my impressions from the previous four issues, its funny.  I had some initial impressions that I think were well reasoned in the beginning, but just didn’t pan out.  I really liked the arc and I feel its a tribute to Paul Jenkins that my impressions turned out to be false, as it just goes to show what dynamism he employed in its penning.  The main thing that fell through for me was my impression of Rama Kushna being a transcendental, Bodhisattva-like being who promotes equanimity and karmic balance.  Not quite how she is revealed in this last issue.  The conundrum that lead her to initiate this story arc by assigning Deadman this “impossible task” is very thought provoking in the simplicity of the elusive question Rama seeks and the very essence of what makes us all human.  Can gods really be jealous of humans?  This arc was great in my opinion, completely divorced from the motivations of the original series that spawned it, and presented in a very fresh and poignant manner. If you missed these first five issues, look for the Trade when it come out, most likely this summer.
  • Supergirl #5 branches off of the first conflict, but perhaps not the first arc of the story.  Supergirl has emancipated herself from the sinister forces on Earth, but goes in search of her home, Krypton.  I won’t spoil anything by stating that she obviously doesn’t find Krypton, as Krypton is destroyed.  However, what she does find, and more to the point who she finds in this issue holds integral clues to the destruction of her home world, its dark history, and the possibility of those dark secrets affecting the future of Earth in coming issues.  Writers, Michael Green and Mike Johnson (whom in future reviews I will simply refer to as “The Mikes”), really have an interesting plot point by issue’s end that hopefully will pan out and really set the series in a niche that so far it hasn’t filled.
  • Birds of Prey #5 . . . beautiful artwork, still not that great of a title, but I am holding on at least until the end of the arc so I can at least know what the hell is going on.  I figure if it still sucks by the end of the arc then it will probably continue in that vein.
  • Blue Beetle #5 threw out a few tricks that ensnared me on a series that I thought to be floundering.  The Blue Beetle concept was one that I wasn’t super familiar with and to me the series was just maintaining, on top of the fact that, for me, the art of Ig Guara, isn’t stellar.  In this issue though, they solidified certain plot points, introduced at least two new conflicts, and writer Tony Bedard drops a reference to a crossover he has planned for the Reach as antagonists in his other DC series,Green Lantern: The New Guardians.  I think I can say that this issue is safely on my pull list through this coming summer.  I look forward to what Bedard has in store.
  • T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #3 continues on the journey that #2 began, which following the shocking ending of issue #2 is a doozy.  The first half of the issue is the rescue team dispatched by T.H.U.N.D.E.R to rescue Lighting and Dynamo.  Once they reach their goal of the Subterranean kingdom the group splinters and we follow NoMAN, aka Anthony Dunn, on his journey through this underground war land.  This was interesting as his section of the story is a cascade of images that flashback to the 60’s and forward to the present and are overlaid with disconnected musings of internal monologue.  He is the only member of T.H.U.N.D.E.R who was alive during the last war with the Subterraneans and though his thoughts are hazy, since he is really talking to himself not us, they hint that he created a super weapon to end the war (probably not unlike the A-bomb in WWII) that he employed to annihilate millions of innocent Subterraneans to force a treaty out of them.  A great deal of insight is shown into the very flat seeming character of NoMAN.  This part of the story was interesting, although slightly annoying as it was really sketchy and hard to follow.  What wasn’t hard to follow was the surprise that awaited us on the last page. HOLY SHIT!!!  To those who are familiar with the story and the background of the title, this one is a real shocker . . .
  • Green Hornet #21 was another interim issue like issue #20, that was a light(er), stand alone story of Britt and to a lesser extent, Mulan.  This time it deals with a wayward friend of the new Hornet from his youth and the latter helping him out of the hole he dug himself.  Its a little bit static and cliche, but in the details, there was some really touching characterization.  I think it went a long way toward characterizing Britt and developing him as a lead character on par with his dad. Not a stellar issue, but worth a read while waiting for the next arc that will start in #22.
  • Steed and Mrs. Peel, for those who miss the reference, is a allusion to the 60’s Brit spy series called “The Avengers.”  The dapper gentleman, John Steed and his lovely (yet married) girl Friday partner, Mrs. Peel, come back together for Queen and Country in this mini series penned by the great Grant Morrison.  Reading it, I felt like I was watching the TV series again.  The feel is very genuine, and clearly Mr. Morrison was a fan in his youth.  Again, for those who are unfamiliar with the show or the tone, its a very campy British spy show of the 1960’s.  I say that with great love, as I watched it when I was a kid at my grandmother’s house, who herself was an avid Anglophile.  What I like about the series, on a side note again, is that Steed had three main ladies  who assisted him in his endeavors: Cathy Gale (played by Honor Blackman known by some of you as the infamously named Pussy Galore in the equally infamous Bond flick Goldfinger), Mrs. Emma Peel (played by the gorgeous and exotic looking Diana Rigg) and Tara King (played by the mod Linda Thorson).  The book takes place in the period when Steed has moved on to Tara King following Mrs. Peel’s retirement from the spy game to go adventuring with her scientist husband in South America.  In this series, Steed gets her to return for this case.  The interplay between the two is spot on, right down the iconic mention of Peel stirring Steed’s tea counter clockwise, which is comparable to how James Bond likes his martinis.  You all know what I mean . . .

    Alex Ross's Cover to "Kirby Genesis: Dragonsbane #1"

  • Kirby Genesis comes out with another spin off series in the epic Dragonsbane #1 Another of Jack “The King” Kirby’s experimentations, this one you can tell was hashed out while he was getting into his Norse phase that would become the legendary Marvel series Thor.  Whereas Thor takes place in Asgard with the Gods, this series takes place in Valhalla and features a mix of mortals and Gods, although all are termed the Aesir which are the Norse gods.  The series takes place in the Mythlands which once were one, but were sundered and separated by dense and deadly mists in an event called the “Time of the Great Shattering.”  These mists begin to dispel and the heroic Norse heroes long for exploration and battle outside of their peaceful realm.  A opportunity presents itself in the form of a maiden imperiled by dragons, and who better to aid her than the eponymous character, Sigurd Dragonsbane?  Sigurd in Norse myth was a mortal granted immortality by bathing in the blood of the dragon, Fafnir, of whom he slew, but like Achilles in Greek mythology neglected to bathe a patch on his back that is vulnerable to attack. He cuts a similar figure as Thor with a winged helm on his head, but wielding instead of a mighty hammer a long and imposing spear with an intricate head that only Kirby could have designed.  Its a good series that exploits Kirby’s love of all mythologies.  In fact it ends in another mythland with a familiar female Greek that Kirby also wrote about for Marvel . . .
And that is another week.  Looking forward to the final week of the month, which usually garners some of the most outstanding titles.

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Batman #5: Drawned by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO, Inked by Jonathan Glapion

Wonder Woman #5: Art by Tony Akins, Colored by Matthew Wilson

Kirby Genesis: Dragonsbane #1: Art by Fritz Casas, Colored by Salvatore Aiala

Week 16 (Dec. 21, 2011)

This was a week that I anticipated for a long time.  There were quite a few must reads that came out, so I won’t keep you all in suspense:

  • Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes is something I have been waiting for for MONTHS!!!Batman Inc. is a series that had consistently delivered  month after month until it got postponed in late summer due to the impending reboot.  This issue finishes out

    Batgirl and friend get inducted into St. Hadrians.

    the last two issues of the first arc.  The first eight issues, along with the Batman Returns one shot, introduce the world wide cabal called “Leviathan.”  What this special, oversized issue does is reveal the enigmatic villain and what Leviathan has been working toward.  By the end we know what the second half of the series is going to be and that we can expect it mid year in 2012.  The two issues presented in this book include Batgirl (Stephanie Browne) in a British finishing school that is a front for a Leviathan assassin academy for girls (That said, don’t you all want to read it?), and the other the long awaited confrontation with the elusive Doctor Daedalus.  The one thing I will comment on about the first chapter in the Special is Grant Morrison’s choice of teachers.  Though obviously its not them, the teachers bear striking resemblances to Madonna (circa 90’s), Rihanna, Katy Perry, and

    The Teachers of St. Hadrians in "Batman Inc: Leviathan Strikes!"

    Lady Gaga.  Interesting.  The second chapter is the confrontation with Otto Netz that has been in the works since issue #3.   It is all encompassing and utilizes almost every aspect of the Batman Inc. institution Morrison has set up over the past year and a half.  The end is a shocker and I’ll leave off on talking about it for those who care to read it.  What I will say is that this title is very raw Morrison.  On his initial run on Batman between 2006-2008 his Batman was more straightforward.  When he transitioned to his Batman & Robin series he had a little more leeway to introduce the more bizarre plot points that make his writing so fascinating.   In Batman Inc., especially with the plots involving Doctor Daedalus, the story is downright psychedelic and pure Morrison.  I am greatly anticipating the continuation of the new chapter coming in 2012.  Those who haven’t read it, hear me now but believe me later, READ IT . . .

    What exactly DID Damian do?

  • Green Lantern Corps #4 goes off with a bang.  The nature of the green energy powered “Keepers” is revealed as well as their connection to the Corps.  This isn’t a civil affair either.  There is death, hostages, and torture.  One thing I will give Tomasi, he is an uninhibited writer.  There is some really harsh things in this issue and some of these acts are perpetrated by our protagonists.  The issue also features prominently the appearance of another DC character from outside the title.  I am really excited about where this is going.
  • Catwoman #4 was a little tragic this month.  Selina really loved Lola.  Her guilt is palpable in this issue, and really it was her fault.  As a result of her bad decisions someone she loves is dead.  She gets this lesson, but still seems to not get the hint that her actions have consequences.  The issue also introduces Det. Alvarez, a handsome GCPD officer who asks too many questions.  Its going to be interesting to see what Winick has in store for him and Selina.  Guillem March continues to draw the title in a very sensual manner.  The job she takes at issue’s end is as inadvisable as ever, but the consequences are certainly electrifying . . .
  • Justice League #4 boasts a lot of things: Aquaman, Cyborg, and DARKSEID!!!  If you’ve read my previous reviews, all the previous complaints stand.  Aquaman seems like a douche bag and makes a first impression that would not “make friends OR influence people.”   How IS THIS POSSIBLE?!  His Green Lantern series is legendary because he can write the character better than perhaps anyone alive, his Aquaman is one of the best series out right now, his Flash work was quintessential.  How is he writing such flat, abrasive versions of these characters?  Jim Lee’s art is great and the action is plotted exquisitely.  So here is where I am terrified . . . I love the New Gods.  I love Jack Kirby’s work.  Have I made that abundantly clear?  I am terrified of how badly Johns is going to write such an incredible character.  He’s got the talent.  The aforementioned series prove that.  The four issues of this new Justice League shows how badly he can do it too. And he only has the Great Darkseid in only two issues, which means he’s gonna have to do some cramming which bodes even worse for the proposed presentation.  Scared. Very scared.

    Great Darkseid from "Justice League #4" drawn by Jim Lee

  • DC Universe Presents: Deadman #4 was an interesting issue.  The entire piece takes place on a roller coast with Boston pow-wowing with the Son of Morning to discover what his trials have all been about.   The story is interesting and the Son of Morning especially so.  He is helpful, but he is still a transcendental being, and he has a price.  However, the clues he gives Boston as well as the insight on Rama Kushna seem to be on the level.  Its so hard to tell who to trust.  Next issue is the last in the Deadman arc and I am a-quiver with anticipation as to how it ends.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #4 gets to an interesting place.  The first encounter with the Untitled occurs and Starfire gets a very interesting visitor while she waits on the boys.  There is a lot of exposition on both the Untitled and the character called Crux, and there is a lot of action on both those fronts as well.  So far there has been mostly story issues and action issues in the other series of the Reboot, but this one does a great deal of both simultaneously.  I have to say that I am a fan.  Lobdell yet again hits a home run.  Looking forward to seeing the fate of Starfire after this issue.  THAT is the pertinent question . . .
  • Nightwing #4 took a break from what it had been doing to host the second half of the Barbara/Dick tête-à-tête that was begun in Batgirl #3.  This time Barbara is the interloper barging in and making a nuisance of herself in the life Dick’s made for himself.  The back and forth between them is very flirtatious, and not fair from his perspective as she has no intention of following up on it, and both know it.  As ever though it is entertaining to watch.  Perhaps down the road they could get back together, but right now her presence is a hindrance to what he is trying to work out with his childhood friend, Raya.   The issue does come through at the very end with a revelation that brings us back to the mystery of Haly’s Circus.

    Lightning Lass from "Legion of Super-heroes #4" drawn by Francis Portella

  • Legion of Superheroes #4 features the conclusion to the Dominator incursion into U.P. space near the planet Panoptes.  The manner in which writer Paul Levitz has the Legionnaires on Panoptes defuse the Daxamite renegade, who is aptly code named “Renegade”, is very excellent, because established Legionnaire, Element Lad, has the rookie, Chemical Kid, whose powers are similar to his own use them to take out the bad guy, or at least neutralize him.  A rampaging man with the power of Superman and none of his restraint, and Element Lad lets the new kid be the one to do the honors, instilling him with a great deal of confidence.  If he can do that, everything else should be a breeze, right?  The rest of the issue is clean up and patting each other on the back.  All in all, a really great first storyline from the master Legion writer.
  • T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #2 was on par with its usual brand of excellence.  When NoMAN wakes up in his new body he interrogates the chief and he and the other agents at base get the full disclosure on the war with Subterraneans, how it began, what was hidden from all of them over the years, and we are told who the real mastermind is behind the calamity in the first issue.  What shocked me was how candid the issue was.  Whereas I thought the advertisement on the cover and the dramatic image accompanying it were just that, dramatics to get people to buy the issue.  Nope.  They straight up tell you what happens at the end on the front cover.  How’s THAT for full disclosure?  But taken into account that I thought they were bluffing, I was still surprised and I can’t wait to see the aftermath . . .

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes Special: Art by Cameron Stewart & Chris Burnham, Colored by Nathan Fairbairn

Justice League #4: Drawn by Jim Lee, Colored by Alex Sinclair & Gabe Eltaeb, Inked by Scott Williams

Legion of Super-Heroes #4: Art by Francis Portella, colored by Javier Mena & Santiago Arcas

Week 13 (Nov. 30, 2011)

Small week this last week, but that was fine cause my financials could uses a rest.  Still there were a couple things that came out that I was really excited about.

  • Before the reboot there was a revitalization of a property that DC had acquired, which had been bounced around between six other publishers since the 1960’s, called T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents.  When it first came out I was skeptical, but after reading issue six on a whim I ran out and bought all five back issues and have followed it faithfully to the present day and even read what old material I could get my hands on.  The series ended at the reboot, but there is a six issue limited series that is now coming out by the same writer, Nick Spencer, which is brilliant.  To quickly recap and explain what its about, in the 1960’s a brilliant scientist working for the Higher United Nations built four devices that would grant the wielder with superhuman talents, the detraction however was that those powers granted also would kill the wearer after a certain period of time.  A unit was created called The High United Nations Defensive Enforcement Reserve.  Agents of this program were selected carefully and all had to volunteer knowing the cost of their service full well.  There is a power belt worn by agents codenamed “Dynamo”, a speed-suit worn by agents codenamed “Lightning”, a flightsuit worn by agents codenamed “Raven”, and a mind control helmet worn by agents codenamed “Menthor.”  Another agent who has lived since the beginning of the project and is set apart from the  rest because the unfortunate consequence of his powers is that he CANNOT die is Anthony Dunn codenamed “NoMAN.”  He is immortal and therefore cannot be killed, having instead sacrificed his personality which has died after his numerous deaths and resurrections. The beauty of the new DC series is that it doesn’t reset the series, but rather continue it with new characters building off the mythology of the old tales.  This new limited run does a good job moving on from the deeply personal note on which the first DC run of this past year left off and continuing from that point to a classic plot point of the original Tower Comics series from the 60’s.  Revamps of series often feel tawdry with the cheese of updating things and trying to make them relevant.  Not even Superman in his eponymous title’s new continuity is immune from this trend. Superman is mired in this problem currently.  Spencer found a way to circumvent this and make T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents incredibly relevant while simultaneously holding on to his core excellence.  This first issue delivers and hopefully will be followed by another series after its six issues are up.

    Andy Kubert's cover for "Thunder Agents #1"

  • Legion: Secret Origin #2 delivers again with a few more Legionnaires popping up and taking their historic places amongst the pantheon of 31st Century super heroes.  As I’ve reported before, this series does an interesting thing by gathering these young heroes together in the background, and in the foreground having the three Security Council members of the United Planets as a Greek Chorus showing us through their interactions why the the Legion are necessary.  Even the council members themselves are symbolic: A human, a Coluan, and a Naltorian. Anissa of Naltor represents prophesy and religion, faith and the perspective of the future.  Zarl-Jax of Colu represents logic, reason, and science, concrete fact and a sense of past through precedent.  The third Mycroft is an aged human who represents the here and now, rooted in the present and possessed of emotion and sense of duty tempered over years of service.  Through the overlapping of these characters and their insight we get the whole picture of the world that gave birth to the Legion of Superheroes and the crises that necessitated their inception.  Really enjoyable if you are a Legion fan.
  • Spaceman #1 was a decent book that is written interestingly by Brian Azzarello and draw beautifully by his ofttimes collaborator, Eduardo Risso.  The storyline is hard to follow, however. It follows a mongoloid man with dense bones and muscles that was bred by NASA to be an ideal space traveler for their deep space mission and Martian colonial expeditions, and in half the story he is, but in the other half, disconnected, he’s a vagrant on Earth in a society that seems post apocalyptic and anachronistic from the other half. I’ll read it to the end. Its a limited series, but still I’m undecided.
  • The Warlord of Mars offshoot series Fall of Barsoom is on its penultimate chapter with the completion of the Atmosphere Factory, the last dire hour of the White Martian Empire located in the ancient city of Horz, and the hint of the event that will mark the rise of the Red Martian race.  This series is apparently a five issue miniseries and has been outstanding from issue one.  The art is lovely and the story of the Golden Age of Martian culture, like Roman before the Dark Ages on Earth, is quite well done.
  • Its silly, and I recognize this, but I got the Green Lantern: The Animated Series issue #0, although it is quite obviously a kids comic.  It was good and definitely gives a taste of what the animated series will be like.  I am looking forward to the Red Lantern Corps as the perennial enemy, although they are clearly skewed from how they appear in the comics. Its understandable as kids are too young to get the moral ambiguity of the Red Lantern Corps and Atrocitus, so I can accept this as a good series.
Here’s to next week and a shit ton of good titles . . .

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Detective Comics #6: Art by Wes Craig, Colored by Hi-Fi