Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bat Hound

It's Halloween -- here's your treat!

Y'know, a part of me says you can keep your "Laughing Fish" and "Night of the Reaper" and "Autobiography Of Bruce Wayne..."

... because if I want the essence of Batman boiled down into two pages ...

... these will do quite nicely, thanks very much.

["Once Upon A Time...," from one of the best anniversary issues of all time, Detective Comics #500, March 1981, was inspired by the literary efforts of a certain world-famous beagle, written by Len Wein, drawn by Walt Simonson, and lettered by John Workman.]
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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sunday Soliloquy

I was originally planning to post some scans from Superman vol. 1 #344, where he fights both Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster, but a) I'd pretty much already done both of those, and b) the issue wasn't as good as I remembered it. Basically, the Phantom Stranger shows up at the end, and pretty much wishes Dracula out of existence. Ho hum.

So while the bit I did choose for today may not strike you as particularly Halloween-y, keep in mind that it is, nevertheless, about as close to the Devil as the post-Crisis Lex Luthor has ever gotten.

As for the last of my Halloween scans, come back Wednesday for the big finish!

[From "Metropolis 900 Mi," the second story in Superman vol. 2 #9, September 1987. Written and drawn by John Byrne, inked by Karl Kesel, colored by Tom Ziuko, lettered by John Costanza.]
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New comics 10/24/07

We begin this week with Teen Titans #52 (written by Sean McKeever, pencilled by Jamal Igle, inked by Marlo Alquiza, Jesse Delperdang, and Rob Hunter), essentially a series of fight scenes involving the Titans, their future (evil) selves, and various (present-day) DC bad guys being mind-controlled by Starros. The overall point of these scenes, though, is to play up the contrast between the "whatever it takes" Titans of Tomorrow and our more idealistic heroes. I liked it for the most part, although I have trouble getting into relatively new characters like Kid Devil, Ravager, and Miss Martian. (Kid Devil and Ravager I remember from their original incarnations, but there's been a lot of water under both of those bridges.) I do like Jamal Igle, though, and he made this action-oriented issue flow nicely. He especially draws Blue Beetle well, with one funny panel towards the end conveying BB's desperation perfectly -- a very Steve Rude-like moment, in fact. I mean, I like McKeever's work here too; don't get me wrong. The issue could have been fairly tedious, but there is enough individuality in the voices to make each confrontation slightly different.

Green Lantern Corps #17 (written by Dave Gibbons, pencilled by Pascal Alixe, Angel Unzueta, Dustin Nguyen, and Patrick Gleason, inked by Vicente Cifuentes, Rodney Ramos, Rob Hunter, Marlo Alquiza, and Prentis Rollins) made me wonder how "Sinestro Corps War" will read in collected form. This issue shows the invasion of Earth from the GL Corps' point of view, and weaves in and out of the last Green Lantern, the Super"man" Prime Special, this week's Blue Beetle, and probably the Cyborg Supes Special too. Kilowog fights Arkillo in San Diego -- where, yes, the Convention Center is trashed -- and Sodam Yat takes on the Anti-Monitor. As with Teen Titans, lots of fightin' and carnage. There aren't a lot of clashing styles among the squadron of pencillers and inkers which put together this issue, so that's good. It doesn't feel like there was no plot advancement, although the big reveal at the end shouldn't have been too surprising to anyone who's been paying attention to the solicitations. Likewise, if all you read is this comic, then it does a good job of bringing you up to speed on the crossover. For the rest of us, though, it's good to see the GL Corps win some battles, but it's a little past time for things to start wrapping up.

Also marking time is the Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Superman-Prime Special. The main story is, of course, the cover feature, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Pete Woods and Jerry Ordway. Since the star of our show is a teenager from "this" Earth, where superheroes are just fictional characters, it takes an appropriately metatextual tone. It therefore also goes back into Johns' Infinite Crisis mindset, where he's using a villain to criticize what could easily be argued is his own approach to some superhero stories. Accordingly, it's never quite clear whether we're supposed to feel sorry for the former Superboy-Prime, or just treat him as an emo whiner. Certainly the superheroes of DC-Earth prefer the latter, because they pound on him across the globe as he tries to reach an area of sunlight to recharge his batteries. Between this and Amazons Attack, Pete Woods is becoming the go-to artist for well-choreographed superhero dogpiles, and his work is similarly effective here. He might not be thought of as a detail-oriented artist like, say, George Perez, but he's good at crowd scenes and closeups both. The second story, written by newcomer Sterling Gates with art by Ordway, is a backup featuring the Sinestros' librarian/Crypt-Keeper, Lyssa Dark. It's creepy and unsettling, but mostly because it focuses on a Sinestro which kidnaps babies and stows them in a skin-pouch on its back. As is the custom, you see. It's the kind of thing you admire on a technical level but could stand not to read again for a while. It goes without saying that Jerry Ordway is always good; and Gates does well with what may be his rookie assignment.

JLA Classified #45 (written by Justin Gray, pencilled by Rick Leonardi, inked by Sean Phillips) was just confusing after a while. There are two big twists in the issue, one involving where the mental combat is taking place and the other identifying with whom, and both are identified rather subtly. Most of the story to date has been J'Onn fighting off "deviant memories" (for lack of a better phrase) of the JLA, so when the real JLA starts getting involved, it's harder to tell. It's a problem with the spare storytelling style generally, I think. If it's meant to be disorienting, then it worked; but it's still kind of frustrating.

I don't have much to say about Countdown #27 (written by Paul Dini and Sean McKeever, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencilled by Carlos Magno, inked by Rodney Ramos). It didn't really offend or dazzle me. It almost reminds me of the kind of comic Ninth Wonders (the comic-within-the-show on "Heroes") must be like. I imagine someone in a larger story using an average issue of Countdown as a guide to the "real" story's plot. ("Look, Hiro! Buddy Blank and Karate Kid are in Bludhaven! That means the sword has returned to Las Vegas!") Or, you know, maybe I've got too much sugar in my system from that "one last" donut.

When the word came down that the next big Action Comics arc would be a Bizarro story, I cringed, fearing it would compare unfavorably to the excellent All-Star Superman Bizarro two-parter. However, "Escape from Bizarro World" (part 3 of which appears in Action Comics #857, written by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner, and drawn by Eric Powell) actually turns out to be pretty good. Powell's art is a big part of it, naturally -- it's a combination of cartooning and menace which even reminds me of Charles Addams a little bit. Johns and Donner, who I feared would try to ground the Bizarros in reality, thankfully go the other way here, perhaps justifying their flights of fancy through the Bizarro-World setting. Overall, I liked it, and think it stands well on its own.

Back in the flagship title, "The Third Kryptonian" rolls on in Superman #669 (written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Rick Leonardi, inked by Dan Green). I liked this one too on first read, but I can see where some might recoil at its suggestion of a starfaring Kryptonian Empire, with its corollary that Superman was just one of many survivors of Krypton. I'm reserving judgment, though, until the end. Basically, this issue is an extended flashback recounting the history of the Third Kryptonian, and in technical terms, it's put together as well as the previous one was.

The Flash #233 (written by Mark Waid, drawn by Freddie Williams II) is by now more infamous across the comics internets for its takedown of Batman's parenting skills, but I thought it was a decent wrap-up to the invasion of the water-based aliens. Williams is a fine fit for the book, although his Wally is a bit beefy. Waid works in another "Look! Up in the sky!" joke (following last week's Brave & Bold #7) which works better here. The backup is drawn very nicely by Doug Braithwaite, and Waid gets a writing assist from John Rogers, telling a nice little story about Jay Garrick helping the people of "Planet Flash" throw off the yoke of oppression.

Finally, here's Peter David's first issue as writer of She-Hulk (#22 pencilled by Shawn Moll and inked by Victor Olazaba), in which we are introduced to Jen as a bounty hunter. It's a significant change from the Slott status quo, but it's not an intolerable one, and it includes a couple of big questions and a cliffhanger. The art is good -- big panels and clean lines -- and somewhat reminiscent of Gary Frank. I'll be back next month.
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Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Night Fights

JIMMY OLSEN MUST ... oh, you heard that one already?

The monsters are mad at Jimmy because he reminds them of their tormentor, an evil genius who's been manipulating them for his own amusement. Insert Dan DiDio joke here, I suppose....

It's from Jimmy Olsen Adventures By Jack Kirby Volume 2 -- something to look forward to if you haven't read it yet, Bahlactus!

[From "Genocide Spray!" in Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #143, November 1971. Written and pencilled by the King, inked by Vince Colletta, "touch-ups" on Superman and Jimmy by (I think) Murphy Anderson, color reconstruction for the reprint by David Tanguay, lettered by John Costanza.]
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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thursday Night Thinking

Halloween in Rutland, Vermont, means superheroes, murder ... and THINKING!

But what could startle this seasoned crimefighter...?

Yep, I imagine that'd do it.

Trick or treat, Diamondrock!

[From the classic "Night of the Reaper!" in Batman #237, December 1971. Written by Denny O'Neil (from an idea by Berni Wrightson with an assist by Harlan Ellison), pencilled by Neal Adams, inked by Dick Giordano, lettered by John Costanza; and touched-up for its reprinting in Batman Illustrated By Neal Adams Volume 3.]
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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The new Batman Encyclopedia -- be careful what you wish for...

Yesterday I did a Blog@Newsarama post about Bob Greenberger's new version of the Batman Encyclopedia, which is supposed to cover "every Batman comic book appearance in the DC Universe from 1939 through 2007."

I admit freely that I am excited about this book. I get a lot of joy out of nerd reference, and the Michael Fleisher Encyclopediae are already good resources for the Golden and early Silver Ages. However, it strikes me that, as currently described, the Greenberger book may well end up being a de facto DC encyclopedia. "Every Batman comic book appearance in the DC Universe" could conceivably include his adventures with the Justice League and Outsiders, to say nothing of the Robins' involvement with the Titans and Young Justice, or even the Golden Age Batman's adventures with the All-Star Squadron and Justice Society. The Fleisher volume had brief entries on the Elongated Man, Superman, and the Legion of Super-Heroes, based on those characters' team-ups with Batman in Detective and World's Finest.

However, by the same token, you'd think the new volume would have entries on everyone who'd guest-starred with Batman in The Brave and the Bold, plus most members of the Justice League, Justice Society, Marvel Family, New Gods, Checkmate, Suicide Squad, Teen Titans, New Titans, Birds of Prey, Young Justice, Challengers of the Unknown, Outsiders, Injustice League, Secret Society of Super-Villains, Fearsome Five ... you get the idea.

Therefore, I can't expect Greenberger's book to be as comprehensive as the description might suggest, but realistically there's no way it could be. It should still be a fun read, though, and a great resource for many years to come. Plus, you'd think all that research would make the inevitable Superman update that much easier.
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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sunday Soliloquy

You may think it's cheating to feature a possessed Scarlet Witch as this week's Halloween-themed soliloquy. After all, the Spectre's pretty much a ghost, but I'd feel bad about using him. In my defense, though, it's not Wanda speaking, it's Chthon:

Chthon goes on for the better part of three flashback-filled pages about being an earth-spirit who's ended up bound to Wundagore Mountain. Along the way she ties in her story with the High Evolutionary, Morgan le Fay, and Wanda herself. That brings us to the bottom of page 22:

I think it still works as a soliloquy, even without all the exposition, but I can tell you're skeptical....

Oh, okay, fine; here's a page worth of Bizarro feeling inferior to Frankenstein:

[Avengers scans from "The Call Of The Mountain Thing!" in The Avengers vol. 1 #187, September 1979. Plot by Mark Gruenwald and Steven Grant, written by David Michelinie, pencilled by John Byrne, inked by Dan Green, colored by George Roussos, lettered by Jim Novak.]

[Bizarro scan from "Bizarro Meets Frankenstein!" in Superman #143, February 1961; reprinted in black-and-white in Superman From The Thirties To The Seventies. Written by Otto Binder, pencilled by Wayne Boring, inked by Stan Kaye.]
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New comics 10/17/07

Since I'll probably never have the opportunity to do it again, let's lead off with Aquaman: Sword Of Atlantis #57 (written by Tad Williams and drawn by Shawn McManus), another comma of a last issue. It doesn't leave the reader hanging as badly as the final issues of Gotham Central or the latest Firestorm, but it's pretty noncommital.

With the globe-threatening problems taken care of as of last issue, #57 finds our cast embroiled in a hostage situation which turns into an opportunity to explore Arthur's true origins. Yes, Arthur is more connected with Orin than we might have thought; but anyone expecting the dramatic return of the "real" Aquaman may well be disappointed. In fact, I was kinda expecting that, considering that this was the book's last issue and all, but ignoring the character's upcoming role in Outsiders. That'll teach me to take my eyes off the bigger picture.

Speaking of pictures, the art is fairly effective, although McManus draws a less beefy Cyborg than I'm used to. I don't fault his storytelling, but I can't decide whether his figures are inconsistent, or just drawn to suit the emotion of the particular situation.

Otherwise, the issue itself is pretty transitory, answering some questions (yes, Narwhal looks to be who I thought he was) and raising others (whither Tempest?). Ultimately, it leaves Arthur (or "Joseph," by the end) in a more unsettled place than he was before, and that's not how I like my endings. If the current Aquaman doesn't parley his Outsider status (double-meaning probably intended) into a devoted fan following, I predict another "Aquaman: Rebirth" storyline before too long.

I didn't expect Checkmate #19 (written by Greg Rucka, pencilled by Joe Bennett, inked by Jack Jadson) to set up Salvation Run as much as it has, but in hindsight that shouldn't be a surprise. It's more political maneuvering, executed most skillfully by Amanda Waller and King Faraday in service of their SR-anticipating plans. Pointing up the connections between ex-Justice Leaguers and Waller's old Suicide Squad associates is a nice way to recall the roles of, and possible tensions between, those groups. Perhaps it also reminds readers that Justice League International (both the team and the comic) didn't take its mission too seriously, or at least not as seriously as Waller's Squadders. Anyway, as usual, Rucka does a great job laying out the motivations and keeping everything straight for the reader. Bennett and Jadson's work (assisted by Travis Lanham, I think, on colors) is suitably moody, but clean and direct enough that we can tell one "normal" person apart from another. A fine issue that has me eager for more.

The double-page spread from Justice League of America #14 (written by Dwayne McDuffie, pencilled by Ed Benes, inked by Sandra Hope), showing Wonder Woman, Black Canary, and Vixen strung up in some high-tech torture device, does look a bit excessive -- and that, aside from its unnecessary hypersexualization, is the point. Luthor wants to get Superman mad by showing the cruelties being inflicted on the other Leaguers, but Black Lightning successfully gets him to dial back his rage. That's pretty much it for the issue -- a lot of posturing and grimacing, which seems atypical for McDuffie and doesn't serve Benes' strengths well either. I can accept this issue as part of the larger storyline, but next issue's finale will have to do some heavy lifting to make up for it.

Not as much blatant cheesecake as you might have expected in The Brave and the Bold #7 (written by Mark Waid, pencilled by George Perez, inked by Bob Wiacek), a story which teams Wonder Woman and Power Girl. It's skillfully done, and it ties tangentially into the larger Book Of Destiny storyline, but its core is very familiar. While I liked it, there were a couple of things that bugged me. First, characters' faces seemed a little off in spots. I don't know if this is Perez experimenting or some trick of Wiacek's inking, but in places they looked more like a Perez/Bob McLeod combination. Second, Waid's "Look, up in the sky" joke walks a very thin line between working and not. Still, for the most part everyone does good work. I especially want to mention colorist Tom Smith, who gets to play with large-scale toys like the various environments, and small details like Power Girl's eyes (which, by the way, are up here...).

I've been buying Spider-Man Family (#5 written and drawn by various people) mostly for its offbeat, "generic Spidey" stories which have been pretty good. However, this issue's lead, written by Kevin Grevioux and drawn by Clayton Henry, didn't really do it for me. For one thing, guest-star Doctor Strange is deprived of his powers, and compensates with some ill-advised martial arts and telekinetically-animated blades. That made it seem more like the Doctor Strange animated movie, and thus not like the "real" Doc. Also, Doc gets the thankless thought-balloon speech where he notes that Spider-Man "is the definition of 'hero'" because he fights against the long odds, etc. The art is fine. The second original story, written by Dana Moreshead, pencilled by Eduardo Garcia, and inked by Roger Bonet, has Kraven leading Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan stand-ins on an urban safari. It's cute, but not that distinguished.

Captain America #31 (written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Steve Epting) kicks off Act 2 of "Death of the Dream" with the Winter Soldier being tortured by Doctor Faustus and Sharon Carter struggling with the knowledge of her role in Cap's death. Most of the WS's torture involves tweaked "memories" of his time in The Big One with Cap, designed to turn him against his old mentor. Meanwhile, the Falcon, the Black Widow, and Tony Stark compare notes on Sharon and Cap's death. It was an effective issue that set up a decent cliffhanger. I especially like the way Epting captures the way the Red Skull gets giddily deranged on power.

Countdown #28 (written by Paul Dini and Tony Bedard, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by Al Barrionuevo, inks by Art Thibert) was decent. It covered a lot of ground, including (deep breath) Forager and Jimmy Olsen; Piper and Trickster escaping the Feds; Mary Marvel examined from afar by Shadowpact; weird visits with Brother Eye; and more fighting between the Challengers, the Crime Society, and the Extremists. I think it's found its level, which is to be a somewhat generic-looking comic whose periodical frequency and plot-point maintenance are its determining factors. If it leaves you one step closer to the end, one Wednesday at a time, it's done its job.

Finally, Bedard writes Birds Of Prey #111 (drawn by Jason Orfalas), the in-person showdown between online adversaries Oracle and the Calculator. It was good, with the suspense coming from the fact that if Oracle's face were known, her usefulness would be effectively ended. Calculator therefore has to look a little stupid and/or short-sighted not to put the pieces together, but who knows -- maybe he's just what they call "book-smart." Apart from that, Bedard's script is pretty clever. Orfalas' work fits with the style of regular artist Nicola Scott -- thin, clear lines, maybe closer to Ethan Van Sciver, but that's still good.
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Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Night Fights

A somewhat spoilery scene from this week's The Brave and the Bold #7:

Power Girl's been possessed by Doctor Alchemy, and s/he's turned the Fortress of Solitude into Red Kryptonite, crippling Superman. What's more, she doesn't think there's any way Wonder Woman can sneak up on her -- that is, until something crashes through the wall....

The Invisible Plane gives Diana the perfect setup for a SUCKA PUNCH!

... (ahem) that is, as I understand the term.

Close enough, Bahlactus?

[From "Scalpels and Chainsaws," The Brave and the Bold vol. 3 #7, December 2007. Written by Mark Waid, pencilled by George Perez, inked by Bob Wiacek, colored by Tom Smith, lettered by Rob Leigh.]
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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thursday Night Thinking

First, a page's worth of context.

See, because Clark "thinking" with his ... well, never mind ... probably wouldn't have counted with Diamondrock.

Good thing he woke up ready for some regular good ol' wholesome THINKING!

[From "The Mummy Strikes," Superman vol. 2 #5, May 1987. Written and pencilled by John Byrne, inked by Karl Kesel, colored by Tom Zuiko, lettered by John Costanza.]
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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sunday Soliloquy

Nosferatu, new for the '90s:

This was actually a summer issue, not Halloween-themed nor timed to coincide with Bram Stoker's Dracula (which Mike Mignola helped design, if memory serves). Still, that's a pretty spooky vampire. Even Superman flying it into daylight can't kill it.

[From "Night Moves," Superman: The Man Of Steel #14, August 1992. Written by Louise Simonson, pencilled by Jon Bogdanove, inked by Dennis Janke, colored by Glenn Whitmore, lettered by Bill Oakley.]
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Saturday, October 13, 2007

New comics 10/10/07

Let's start this roundup with Green Arrow And Black Canary #1 (written by Judd Winick, drawn by Cliff Chiang, colored by Trish Mulvhill). I will admit freely that my purchase of this book comes from two major factors: DC's marketing plan, and Cliff Chiang. I bought the various "wedding specials" because they looked pretty decent, and even with all its faults I was intrigued by the wedding-night cliffhanger. (Plus I really liked Amanda Conner's work on that issue.) However, even with all of that, I probably would have resisted this issue were it not for the presence of Mr. Chiang. I liked his Detective and Spectre issues, but the "Dr. 13" story really won me over.

Chiang brings that same kind of spirit to this issue. His characters are incredibly expressive (sometimes to the point of exaggeration, as in the Dr. 13 story), but where, as with Black Canary here, the focus is on the shifting moods of a central character, that talent pays dividends. Chiang also has to deal with a good amount of guest-stars, including Batman, Doctor Mid-Nite, and Green Lantern, as well as a number of cameos. There are flashbacks too, and a fight scene, but it's all organized quite well, and everyone gets their own bit of personality.

Of course, Chiang's work is based on Winick's script, which is dialogue-heavy but actually finds room for a third-person omniscient narrator. What's more, it eschews first-person narrative caption boxes, so we're not distracted trying to match up thoughts with characters. It still doesn't explain why Dinah had to kill her attacker, but the arc isn't over yet. Yes, the issue does have nods to DC's latest round of Big Events (Amazons Attack, mainly), but the story doesn't depend on the reader's familiarity with them. Thanks to the flashbacks, it probably doesn't depend that heavily on all the wedding-buildup specials either. Overall, a good first issue, and I'll probably be with the book at least as long as Chiang is.

Next up is Booster Gold #3 (written by Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz, pencilled by Dan Jurgens, inked by Norm Rapmund), wherein Booster goes to the Oooold West (Yee-haw!) to team up with Jonah Hex. Basically, the task here is to save the doctor who'll deliver Jonathan Kent's great-grandfather, and thus ensure that Superman's timeline is secure. Before that, though, the issue advances a subplot involving Booster's slacker ancestor and a nosy reporter, and there's an incongruous one-page interlude flashing back to Booster and Blue Beetle III during Infinite Crisis. Also, there's another cameo by Team 13, which is nice. (Buy Architecture And Mortality!!) The 52 chronology-captions are gone this issue, maybe because we're in the 19th Century for half of it; but I kind of miss them. The pathos of Booster's current setup is also absent this issue. Anyway, it's not bad, and it's about what you'd expect -- a well-produced time-traveling superhero story.

I kinda liked Countdown #29 (written by Paul Dini and Adam Beechen, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencilled by Manuel Garcia, inked by Mark McKenna) because it begins with the capture of the Challengers Of Beyond by Lord Havok and the Extremists. That's the A-story this week. Over in the other plots, the Newsboy Legion has a welcome reunion with Jimmy Olsen, Harley and Holly survive their trip to Themyscira, Mary Marvel goes further into the dark side, and Trickster and Piper enjoy diner food with Double Down, a villain unfamiliar to me. Oh, and the cover-featured Karate Kid gets one page with Brother Eye. Anyway, I liked the issue because it felt cohesive, like a complete unit of storytelling. The Havok/Challs story had its start and (putative) finish in this issue, and the other vignettes did good jobs of advancing their respective storylines. (Good thing, too, because we're just two weeks from the end of CD's first half.) Garcia and McKenna helped a lot, along with Rod Reis on colors, by giving their characters weight and presence.

Superman #668 (written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Rick Leonardi, inked by Dan Green) begins "The Third Kryptonian," which as we all know comes with an asterisk because it doesn't count Chris Kent, Power Girl, Krypto, or the Kingdom Come Superman (over in JSA). Anyhoodle, it changes out Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino for Leonardi and Green, and while the styles may be different (Leonardi is more "cartoony" than Pacheco), Busiek's sure-footed scripting is a constant. Man, I hope he's on this title for a long time to come. You've probably seen the previews with Chris Kent and Robin, and the whole issue's like that. Busiek's concerned with the logistics of making Superman a viable, believable character, but it's all in the service of a well-told story. "T3K" itself looks pretty straightforward -- an intergalactic bad guy wants revenge on Krypton's legatees -- but that's not a knock. If Leonardi and Green are on the book for the long haul too, that's all good. Their work is like a cross between Walt Simonson and Scott McDaniel, so I approve heartily.

Leonardi also pencils JLA Classified #44 (written by Justin Gray, inked by Sean Phillips), basically an extended trip through J'Onn J'Onzz's head via his memories of the Justice League. I like Leonardi and Phillips separately, but here they don't complement each other, with Phillips' inks making Leonardi's pencils look looser. I also got hung up on the continuity issues these kinds of flashbacks create. While that's addressed somewhat in the context of the story, it's still a pretty pedestrian "no one trusts the Martian" tale.

As it happens, no one trusts the Amazons after Amazons Attack, so here we are with a fill-in for Wonder Woman #13 (written by J. Torres, pencilled by Julian Lopez, inked by Bit). The main plot involves a protest outside the museum where Wonder Girl's mom works, but there's also a scene where Sarge Steel channels Jonah Jameson, and a more supportive encounter with the Justice Society. It's all pretty familiar. The art is good for the most part, although Lopez seems to want Diana to pose suggestively, giving us a butt-shot to start off page 13 and then a couple of boob-thrusting panels further down the page. Anyway, Gail Simone starts next month.

Fantastic Four #550 (pencilled by Paul Pelletier, inked by Rick Magyar) may be writer Dwayne McDuffie's last issue, which would be a shame. It certainly feels like a wrap-up, and there's even a farewell dinner at the end. Everything gets tied in pretty well, although I have to say I had to remind myself that Reed and Sue were studying the aliens featured herein. There was also a lot of technobabble (and eventually mysto-babble) describing the exact threat to creation. Still, a lot of balls to juggle, and no real slips, so McDuffie, Pelletier, and Magyar go out on top -- unless this wasn't their last, in which case I'll be happy for at least another month.

Finally, I talked a bit about Green Lantern #24 (written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Ivan Reis, inked by Oclair Albert and Julio Ferreira) over on B@N this week, but I'll go into more depth here. This is the big Sinestro Corps Vs. Earth issue that sort-of renders the Cyborg Superman Special redundant. By that I mean you don't need it to tell you the Sinestros are cutting swaths of destruction through the East Coast. Reis brings the same kind of detailed carnage to this issue that he did in Rann-Thanagar War, and thanks to the colors of Moose Baumann, it's made that much clearer. There are many crowd scenes, including double-page spreads for the Sinestros and the GLs, but none of them look crowded. There are rah-rah moments, which are appropriate given the series of little defeats the GLs have endured so far. It's a very effective installment of "The Sinestro Corps War," and it clears the decks for the big blowout which is sure to come next issue.

Not that there aren't problems. John's "stay black" line comes out of nowhere, and the way the issue reads, Kyle doesn't need the painting to get out of Parallax. That also seems a little easier to do this time around, but I suppose it has to do with Parallax's attention being divided. The notion that Alan Scott might be open to killing the Cyborg Superman is also a little disquieting, more so than the Green Lanterns having the lethal-force playing field leveled.

From what I know about Geoff Johns, though, I will say that it must be big of him, a loyal Michigan State alum, to put a U. of Michigan logo on Guy's power battery. If the Michigan/Michigan State rivalry is as fierce as, say, Auburn/Alabama or Kentucky/Louisville, that takes guts.
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Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Night Fights

Having been double-crossed by their Earth-2 (former) teammates, the Earth-1 contingent of the Secret Society of Super-Villains has a plan: free the Justice Leaguers and Justice Socialites they've imprisoned in Limbo. Shattering one of the spinning cells will do it, so the Secret Socialites sic the near-feral Cheetah on Wonder Woman's tube.

Now, that's not the Friday Night Fight. In fact, Bahlactus' theme for this go-round is "Sucka-Punch," and this turns into more of a melee.

Actually, it turns into more of a rout for the Secret Socialites, who I guess were suckas after all!

[From "Crisis In Limbo," Justice League of America #197, December 1981. Written by Gerry Conway, pencilled by Keith Pollard and George Perez, inked by Romeo Tanghal.]
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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Thursday Night Thinking

How fast was Barry Allen?

Well, 7,000 miles in about a minute works out to a pokey 116.667 miles per second, nowhere near the speed of light. Small wonder, then, that Flash has enough time for all that THINKING!

Fast enough for you, Diamondrock?

[From "Beyond the Super-Speed Barrier!", DC Special Series Vol. 2 #11 (1978), a/k/a the Flash Spectacular. Written by Cary Bates, with this sequence pencilled by Irv Novick and inked by Joe Giella.]
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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Sunday Soliloquy

Just because it's fiendishly hot for October doesn't mean it's not ... well, October, and time for some Halloween-themed scans.

First up, a werewolf:

I love what Adams does with the characters' eyes. It really makes a page full of purple exposition come alive.

[From "Moon of the Wolf," Batman #255, March-April 1974, reprinted in Batman Illustrated By Neal Adams Vol. 3. Written by Len Wein, pencilled by Neal Adams, inked by Dick Giordano.]
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Old Comics 9/12/07, 9/19/07, and 9/26/07

Very quick hits on what I thought about the comics in the backlog:


52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen #2
All-Star Batman and Robin The Boy Wonder #7
Astro City: The Dark Age Book Two #4
Batman #669
Countdown #31
Countdown to Adventure #2
JLA Classified #43
Justice League of America #13
Wonder Woman Annual #1
Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror #13

Bad news first: the Astro City installment left me somewhat cold, mostly because it had been so long since I'd read the last issue and I just haven't had the time to get back into the storyline. I could probably say the same about the Wonder Woman Annual, basically a big fight scene followed by a major revision to Diana's secret identity setup. I want more time to spend with Batman #669, because I'm sure there are details I missed on the first reading. The Four Horsemen issue was pretty good, and All-Star Batman was just as crazy as ever. Finally, except for some weird anatomy, JLA #13 was probably the week's most satisfying example of straight-up superheroics.


Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #56
Birds of Prey #110
Checkmate #18
Countdown 32
Countdown to Mystery #1
Flash #232
Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special #1
JLA/Hitman #1
Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Parallax #1
Captain America #30

I think the book I liked the best from this week would still have to be Birds Of Prey. It was a well-executed fill-in by Tony Bedard and the regular art team of Nicola Scott and Doug Hazlewood, about the Huntress having to stop a series of urban crises. Scott and Hazlewood were given a lot to do in this issue, and they pulled it off pretty well. I liked both stories in Countdown To Mystery, and of course I liked JLA/Hitman and Captain America. The GA/BC Wedding Special was also pretty good, although I had to invent my own explanation for Dinah not using her Canary Cry at the very end.


Star Wars: Rebellion #10
Booster Gold #2
Countdown #33
Search for Ray Palmer: WildStorm #1
Green Lantern #23
JLA Classified #42
JLA Wedding Special #1
Superman #667
Welcome to Tranquility #10

The most memorable from this week is Superman #667, the penultimate "Camelot Falls" chapter. I liked how Busiek tied Subjekt-17 into the main plot, and also how the issue portrayed Superman as a global hero. Now we just have to wait for the next Annual. Most everything else was good, especially the JLA Wedding Special; but I have to say I didn't get much out of the SFRP:WS issue or JLA Classified. Oh, and I liked the wrap-up of "The Ahakista Gambit" in Rebellion. It left the door open to use these characters again, and by leaving them somewhat off-balance gave us a reason to want to see them some more.
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New comics 10/3/07

This was really a pretty good week for new comics. I’ve got at least one positive thing to say about each book.

Let's begin with Howard the Duck #1 (written by Ty Templeton, pencilled by Juan Bobillo, inked by Marcelo Sosa). As you might have gathered from the Friday Night Fights excerpt, its humor is pretty broad, and not as incisive as Steve Gerber's original stories. Bobillo's take on Howard is also just different enough from Frank Brunner's and Gene Colan's Disney-duck riffs to take some getting used to. There's a little more Harvey Pekar in Bobillo's Howard these days. Outside of the Cleveland setting, the American Splendor comparisons probably stop there as well. Still, it was a diverting enough story, hardly decompressed, and tied into the wacky side of Marvel a la Dan Slott. It won't make you forget about Gerber, but I don't think it's a traveshamockery.

The highest praise I can give to another blast from the past, the JLA/Hitman miniseries (#2 came out this week, #1 two weeks ago, both written by Garth Ennis and drawn by John McCrea), was that it made me want to read all sixty issues of the original Hitman series. I knew nothing about Tommy Monaghan before reading these issues, but by the end I was sorry to see him go.

When word came out that Roger (Power of the Atom) Stern would be writing an issue of All-New Atom (#16, pencilled by Mike Norton, inked by Trevor Scott), I spouted off that it would be good, but not Gail-Simone good. Well, I was wrong, and happily so. This issue was great fun, perfectly in sync with Simone's status quo. An alien turns Ivy Town into dirty hippies, with Ryan Choi having to use his iPod to save the day. The best part was the punk band's (unintentional?) reference to the "Tear It Down, Wipe It Out" song from Action Comics #398's "The Pied Piper Of Steel." Thankfully, Atom's music festival feels much more authentic than Action's attempt at a Woodstock pastiche.

And speaking of Action Comics (#856 written by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner, drawn by Eric Powell), this week brought the creepy, effective continuation of its “Bizarro World” story. Powell’s art really does the heavy lifting here, and it sets an appropriately spooky tone. It helps excuse the more violent aspects of Johns/Donner's Bizarro, glimpsed briefly in the previous storyline. If this Bizarro is misguided, it's to the extreme. Therefore, Powell fills these pages with blocky, clumsy figures, keeping Superman and the other Earth-people smooth and fluid. The combination makes the story more worthwhile, because a more "realistic" artist wouldn't have made the grotesque figures the norm. Still, There’s probably a bit too much evisceration, though, and I’m not going to excuse it “just because they’re Bizarros.” It's not like they're robots -- those are actual, if imperfectly-duplicated, guts.

More viscera is on display in Tales Of The Sinestro Corps: Cyborg Superman #1 (written by Alan Burnett, pencilled by Patrick Blaine, inked by Jay Leisten), specifically when the Cyborg defiles his late wife's grave. Most of the issue re-tells the few Adventures Of Superman issues which transformed a Reed Richards parody into a ... well, for a while, an overused, somewhat lame villain, but unlike the Parallax special from a few weeks back, the larger plot is actually advanced, and that's nice. The art is serviceable -- thick, somewhat stiff, and chunky, not unlike the original Dan Jurgens work on the character.

This week also saw another "Sinestro Corps" installment in Green Lantern Corps #16 (written by Dave Gibbons, pencilled by Patrick Gleason, inked by Prentis Rollins), specifically the big battle involving Mogo and Ranx. For those of you who remember the Alan Moore story which informs much of "Sinestro Corps," this issue relies upon its prophecy most heavily, with Mogo having to repel bombardiers and the Daxamite Sodam Yat coming into his own. It was a good, suspenseful issue, although I pretty much knew how it would have to turn out. I thought Gleason and Rollins kept things moving well, and made characters distinct, but in crowd scenes I still had trouble telling Yat from the other male-human-looking GLs.

Jumping back into the creepy-zombie realm for a moment, here's Welcome To Tranquility #11 (written by Gail Simone, drawn by Neil Googe), the continuation of its Devil-raises-the-dead-to-destroy-the-living story. I really liked this issue, both as an action story and as a quirky evocation of a superhero-centered community. The Kyle Kite vignette was a good example of the latter, bringing together the innocence of children's comics, the twisted take Simone and Googe have on them, and the juxtaposition of all that with a carnage-filled zombie tale. I do feel like I've spent enough time with these characters to get comfortable with them, so naturally I'm worried that the book will be cancelled. There's also a sweet backup story (drawn by Irene Flores) about a teenager who finds she's more in tune with manga than with Western comics, and it's fine; but I kept expecting it to switch to right-to-left and I don't think it ever did.

I guess Jamal Igle is off Nightwing (#137 written by Marv Wolfman, pencilled by Jon Bosco, inked by Alex Silva), which is too bad, because Bosco and Silva don't have the same fluidity to their work as Igle and (I think) Keith Champagne brought. Anyway, this issue was the end of the big woman-from-Dick's-past story. While the plot still seems a bit arbitrary -- apparently super-soldiers are involved, not unlike the battlesuit of Wolfman's first Nightwing arc -- I did appreciate the relation back to New Teen Titans. I have beaten the drum of strengthening Dick's ties to his past for a while now, probably to death, so it's always nice to see writers doing just that. This is Wolfman's last issue too, if I remember right, and the ending is soured somewhat by having it tie into his new Vigilante series. NTT did that too, of course, albeit a littel more gracefully.

Igle pencils this week's Search For Ray Palmer: Crime Society (written by Sean McKeever, inked by Rob Hunter), which is actually the origin of Earth-3's Jokester. McKeever's clever script successfully re-casts the tragedies which formed the Joker into a story of a hard-luck anti-hero. The timeline's a little screwy, but this is an alternate Earth after all. Igle's pencils are pretty tightly inked by Hunter, giving them an appreciably different look than I'm used to, but it all works. The issue is much better than I expected a Countdown one-off to be.

Detective Comics #837 (written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Don Kramer, inked by Wayne Faucher) is a Countdown tie-in which focuses mostly on the Riddler and the former Harley Quinn, filling in Harl's backstory leading up to Countdown. To me it demonstrated how much better Dini is at writing Harley than the Countdown writers have been so far -- there she's generally wacky; here you can tell she has a brain. Of course, there she only gets a few pages to herself, and here she's much more in the spotlight. Anyway, Harley and Holly get embroiled in the theft of a Wayne Industries MacGuffin, which leads the Riddler to their women's shelter. Batman and Robin are in it too, briefly, but the book is Detective Comics, not Batman, after all....

Finally, Countdown #30 (written by Dini, Justin Gray, and Jimmy Palmiotti, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by Jesus Saiz, inks by Palmiotti) is all over the place, checking in on Karate Kid and Brother Eye, Trickster and Piper behind the scenes at the Green Arrow/Black Canary wedding fight, and Jimmy Olsen escaping from scientific study, before settling on the Challengers of the Beyond on Earth-15. (You can tell it's Earth-15 not just from the captions, but also from the little Earth-symbol on the cover. Thanks, DC!) On this Earth, everyone's taken over for their mentors -- Donna is Wonder Woman, Jason is Batman, and Kyle is GL #1. There's not much to this part of the story beyond catching one's breath with some character insights. Jason and Bat-Jason fight, and a few more alternate-version heroes show up. The cliffhanger switches scenes again, to Harley and Holly on their way to Themyscira (misspelled "Themyscria" -- or is it?) Giffen's breakdowns and Saiz's pencils keep everything moving, at least. On the whole I was entertained, but it's still pretty hard to embrace Countdown unreservedly.
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Friday, October 05, 2007

Friday Night Fights

I'm not ready to say that the new Howard The Duck comes up to the high standards of Steve Gerber's original, but I liked it pretty well.

The SPOILERY beatdown is after the jump.

Howard's now a cabdriver who happens to pick up a couple of unsuccessful hunters -- "duckless wonders," one might say. Hilarious carnage ensues, culminating in Howard's SUCKA PUNCH:

Tagline for today: "Trapped in a world Bahlactus never made!"

[From "The Most Dangerous Game Fowl," Howard The Duck vol. 4 #1, December 2007. Written by Ty Templeton, pencilled by Juan Bobillo, inked by Marcello Sosa.]
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