Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Brief Reviews for 5/28/08 Comics

A quick look at some comics I read over the past week:

The Toyman: a sensitive portrait of a sad, misguided man. I liked this little breather from the more epic stories Johns has been telling. This is one of those "here's a slice of life from a villain your probably don't care about" stories that he did in Flash every year or two. It's a story that makes the Toyman sympathetic, interesting, and more consistent: Johns reconciles all the different versions of the character in this story and explains why so many different-looking "Toymen" have appeared over the decades (including the "Legion of Doom," jester incarnation). A good example of a done-in-one story, far better than either the recent Superman fill-in issue or the recent Toyman arc in Superman Confidential. ***1/2

ALL STAR SUPERMAN #11: I'm planning on writing something lengthy after issue #12, but I will say that this is the best DC series of the past few years. Someone in the comments over at Comics Should Be Good actually said that they prefer Tony Daniel's art to Frank Quitely's. Then someone else agreed. That's just crazy talk, isn't it? ****1/2

BLUE BEETLE #27: Will Pfeifer comes in to pinch hit and the story is sweet and cute and nice and I liked it. I read this one aloud to my son, and he thinks Blue Beetle is the best regular comic on the shelves. He loves the tone of this comic. ***

DAREDEVIL #107: I much prefer Brubaker's Daredevil to Bendis's. Bendis's version had more of a unique style, and I appreciate his formal experimentation, but it just seemed to repeat itself again and again and fail to move forward dramatically. Brubaker is telling more of a serialized story, maybe not as effectively as in Captain America, but a good one nonetheless--yet I'm still not exactly sure where this story is headed. I don't mind that at all, but I can't see the superstructure Brubaker has planned, and maybe that's why I don't love it. Is that a weird reason not to love it? ***1/2

GREEN LANTERN #31: As I mentioned in a comment to a previous post, I went out and bought all of the Johns Green Lantern hardcovers, because I think this might be my favorite in-continuity superhero series right now. Ivan Reis is amazing, and Johns has taken an origin story that I didn't need and made it into something that will be the definitive look at Hal Jordan's first year. This is Johns's best work, and I look forward to every issue. ****

HUNTRESS YEAR ONE #2 (OF 6): Less impressive than the debut issue, and I think I may bail out after issue #3 (which comes out this week, I think! That's fast!) unless the story takes a more interesting turn. Ivory Madison writes smart dialogue, but it's really just a bunch of mafia family stuff and I'm not too interested, really. I like this interpretation of the Huntress, but not enough to keep buying the book. **

IMMORTAL IRON FIST #15: I thought this was the worst issue of the series so far, but it's still a good comic. The other issues have just been outstanding, and this is merely slightly good. I'm not a big Khari Evans fan, but the art's fine. The story's fine. It just lacks the spark I've seen in previous issues, or maybe I didn't give it as much of my attention as I ought to have. ***

KING SIZE HULK #1: Probably not worth buying just for the Art Adams story, but, man, I bought it just for the Art Adams story. And Wendigo! Who can pass that up? Art Adams's Wendigo looks like a emaciated giant white werewolf, by the way, while Herb Trimpe's version (as seen in the reprint material--which included the first appearance of Wolverine! I bet you've never read that story before, since it's only been reprinted, oh, everywhere) looks like a schlub who just got punched in the nose. Does anyone else ever buy these giant-size or king-size issues and find the reprint material impossible to read? I can read the reprint stuff on its own, or in a Masterworks edition, but when it's paired with something new, I can't get into the tempo of the old stuff. I just hit a wall when I get to the reprints, and even if I want to read them, I find myself unable to pay as much attention as I should because I just read a much more quickly paced story at the beginning of the comic. New comics teach ADD. **1/2

LEGION OF SUPER HEROES #42: Supposedly Shooter's on the book for at least a year, and even though he might be leaving at the end of "Legion of Three Worlds," he should be able to finish this story arc by then, maybe. This thing is kind of dragging, isn't it? What exactly has happened since Shooter took over? I like the revitalized team energy, and I like the new costumes (finally introduced this issue) I guess. They're fine, but I don't buy comics for the costumes. I buy comics because I like to read stories where crazy stuff happens and it makes me all tingly inside. Shooter's not giving me much of that, yet. But I'm still hoping it will come. **1/2

NEW AVENGERS #41: This issue explicitly ties the very first, seemingly incomplete New Avengers story arc into "Secret Invasion" via Ka-Zar! Of, course it's Ka-Zar! (And Shanna.) Who else would be hanging out in the Savage Land and witnessing the whole story from behind the palm fronds. Ka-Zar has seen the whole business go down. He knows what the Skrulls have been up to. Why didn't he contact anyone? He thought they might be Skrulls! This was my favorite "Secret Invasion" tie-in yet, just because it was so straightforward and slapsticky. Shanna in disguise as an incompetent SHIELD agent? Spider-Man, completely baffled by what he thinks he knows? Good stuff! Compared to the Maleev-drawn, self-serious, constipated issues of late, I thought this was a refreshing, fun comic. And I like that New Avengers has actually been telling a really long story since issue #1, and few people have really noticed the little clues Bendis has been putting in along the way. An interesting counterpoint to Morrison's work on Batman. ***1/2

NORTHLANDERS #6: Another solid issue of my second-favorite Vertigo series. I really wanted to wait for the trade on this, but I'm glad I didn't (I lost patience after skipping issues two and three--I couldn't wait any longer and had to go to the shop and buy them). This is a very good series, and Brian Wood's themes are resonant and his characters are engaging. Even when they're bastards. Especially when they're bastards. I mean, they're vikings! ***1/2

POWER PACK DAY ONE #3 (OF 4): This is such a perfect kids' comic. Clear, stylish art. Funny bits. Cute bits. Fred Van Lente. Evil reptile alien babies. My two kids like it and so do I. ***1/2

TEEN TITANS #59: So the Terror Titans tie into the Dark Side Club, do they? And it's all some Final Crisis crossover, is it? It feels a bit forced, like Sean McKeever was asked to tie his plot into the summer's event after it had already been planned out. I don't know if that's how it happened, but that's how it feels. Which isn't a good thing. But I do think this comic is back on track after a year of mediocre stories. It's certainly better than either the JLA or JSA books on a regular basis now that McKeever has taken charge. Plus, any comic with Deathbolt, Jr. gets bonus points from me. I'd be a charter member of the Deathbolt fan club, if such a ridiculous thing were to exist. What a fancy costume the whole Deathbolt family has. ***

THOR #9: I'm still not on the JMS wavelength. I think he does some nice character work, and I like what he's doing to contrast gods and mortals and play the whole thing with this reverential irreverence, but the pace is soooo slooooow I can't help but feel like this series is not worth the time and money. Really, what has happened so far in this series? Thor has come back and so have a bunch of Asgardians, and.... that's it. If this is the end of Act I, then when is the climax of this story going to take place: issue #50? See Bendis, Brubaker, and Morrison for examples of long stories that can have stuff happen along the way. This, not so much. The art is very nice, at least. **1/2

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #122: Spider-Man vs. the Shocker! The eternal cat and mouse struggle of a chained up man with the proportionate speed and strength of a spider and another man with a gun that can shock real good. This comic shows why Bendis is a quality comic book writer. He can take a simple plot, and simplistic characters, and wring all the drama possible out of the situation. It's good. This series is good. And Immonen's art? Good. Very good. ***1/2

UNCANNY X-MEN #498: If Captain America is Brubaker's best mainstream work, and Daredevil is his average, but still good, work, then what is UXM? Not so good. This issue bounces back and forth between the Russian Red Room stuff with Colossus/Wolverine and the San Francisco hippy stuff with Cyclops and Emma Frost, but what the hell? This comic is treading water, and it has felt that way even when it was flying into outer space to punch Shi'ar guys with Final Fantasy VII swords. Waiting for the Fraction injection, stat. *1/2

YOUNG AVENGERS PRESENTS #5: The long-awaited Stature spotlight issue. Is Stature not the worst name ever, by the way? It sounds like one of those mock-Image names from Doom Force Special. If you haven't read this Young Avengers Presents issue, here's what your missing: Stature, Scott Lang's daughter has shrunken down to teeny tiny size and everyone tries to cheer her up. It's not a bad comic. It's just not as good as that time Ant-Man and Hawkeye teamed up to fight Taskmaster. But what is? And why would I hold any mere comic to that high standard? Because that's probably the only Scott Lang story I remember, except the one where Bendis made him explode. No wonder Stature has self-esteem issues. She also makes really bad casserole. Not here, but in that Ant-Man/Hawkeye story, when she was like 12. **1/2

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