Wednesday, April 30, 2008

DC Universe #0 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: DC Universe #0, in which I write the following sentences: " a tease for this summer, as something to whet our appetites for 'Final Crisis,' and at a price point of only fifty cents, 'DC Universe 0' is absolutely worth picking up."

Read the entire review HERE.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Northlanders #5 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Northlanders #5, in which I write the following sentences: "'Northlanders,' which requires that Wood imagine another continent 1,000 years in the past, might be his best work yet. With this comic, he doesn't have any city-dwelling tropes to fall back on and instead must find the humanity within the harsh barbarism of the 10th century."

Read the entire review HERE.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Brief Reviews for 4/23/08 Comics

Ah, comics...

CHECKMATE #25 The Rooks, finally revealed! I guess that's supposed to be a big deal, and they do show up and smack some bad guys around, but I'm done with this book. It's not a bad comic, and I'm not sorry I read the first twenty-five issues, but with Bruce Jones coming in next month, it's probably best to walk away now. I probably wouldn't have stuck around much longer anyway, even if Rucka and company stayed. Too much supposed political intrigue and not enough done with the characters--because there's a million of them in this comic. ***

DEATH OF THE NEW GODS #8 A snuff comic that didn't even get to conclude its own storyline. A waste of Starlin's talent. *1/2

HULK VS HERCULES WHEN TITANS COLLIDE As much as I like The Incredible Hercules and Loeb and McGuinness's Hulk, this one-shot felt full of the kind of exposition that both series have avoided thus far. Essentially, it serves the purpose of explaining why Amadeus Cho started hanging around with Hercules instead of the Hulk, but the ratio of quality to pages is not very high. It's skippable. **

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #20 This story about why the Flash should feel guilty is probably the best Justice League story of the year so far. Ethan Van Sciver is a strange choice for such a character-based story (his style lends itself to grotesque quasi-horror far more than light superhero fare), but it works just the same. I wonder about the DC timeline, though. How long ago, in DC time, did Wally West return? My guess is that it hasn't been more than a couple of months (if that), and obviously he's been dealing with some crazy shit with his ugly kids every day since his shocking return. So, give the dude a break. Jeez. ***

MIGHTY AVENGERS #12 Will someone please explain to me the appeal of Alex Maleev's art style on display here? I guess he's the perfect Bendis artist because he keeps repeating the same panels again and again, and everything looks like it was run through a photocopier. Maleev can draw, but his work over the past few years has turned toward stiff "photo-realism" at the expense of his development as an artist. I prefer his stuff to what we got from Mark Bagley over the past few issues, but I know Maleev is capable of even better. I'm also surprised that this was how Bendis chose to bring Nick Fury back into the Marvel Universe. I think it's an interesting choice to play it so subtle, but his return maybe deserved something more dramatic, no? ***

MS MARVEL #26 This comic seemed to be developing toward something during its first year, but it has gotten sidetracked by all of the Marvel events along the way. I still like what Brian Reed is doing with Ms. Marvel's character, but I'm losing interest issue by issue in the overall progress of the plot. **1/2

POWER PACK DAY ONE #2 After an excellent, swift-moving first issue, this one is almost all exposition, but it got most of the important information out of the way, so the final two issues of this revamped Power Pack origin should cruise along nicely. Power Pack is one of my son's favorite comics, and he laughed out loud a couple of times reading this issue--Katie Power's pony-centric version of events being a particular highlight. Also, science facts from Fred Van Lente! ***1/2

SUPERMAN/BATMAN #47 This story tries to tie into continuity by trotting out Amanda Waller and referring to a prison planet, but when could this story possibly take place? I don't mind stories that don't quite fit into continuity, but when they take up space trying to make it seem like they fit, but they clearly don't, then it's annoying. Maybe I'm wrong. The story's not so great anyway, but the final page is kind of cool in a "Doomsday-to-the-EXTREME" kind of way. If you're into that sort of thing. **

THOR #8 Great art and some interesting Thor family business. The Jane Foster scene was well-played. Still setting up the series, eight issues in. ***

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #121 I have heard, and read about, people who don't like Stuart Immonen's work on this series. Those people are just crazy. Crazy wrong. His work is brilliant, and he helps to make this the best sustained Spider-Man series ever. Ultimate Spider-Man continues to be Bendis's best superhero work, and even Omega Red can't spoil the fun here. ***1/2

UNCANNY X-MEN #497 What's missing from Brubaker's X-Men? Even after a couple of years on the series, he still doesn't seem to know what to do with these characters. In this issue, they wear Sgt. Pepper costumes. And that's about it. I'm looking forward to some Fraction-injected energy a few issues from now. **

YOUNG AVENGERS PRESENTS #4 Paul Cornell, of the genius Wisdom series of 2006-2007, writes the tale of the electrode-crossed love of Stature and the Vision. While this issue lacks the imaginative weirdness of his other comic book work, it has a weirdness all its own as the Vision spends half the issue with his hand sticking out of his girlfriend's chest. That's pretty unusual, right? Also, Mark Brooks out-Bagleys Bagley. ***1/2

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Hulk #3 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Hulk #3, in which I write the following sentences: "...if you're willing to embrace the absurdity of multiple Hulks, color-coded for your convenience, and a character who refers to himself as 'A-Bomb,' and you look forward to various degrees of pummeling, then you can't go wrong with 'Hulk' #3."

Read the entire review HERE.

Ultimate Fantastic Four #53 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Ultimate Fantastic Four #53, in which I write the following sentences: "'Ultimate Fantastic Four' #53 reads less like a Fantastic Four story than like a late-period Chris Claremont X-Men tale. It's overburdened with insignificant detail and lacks the human moments that would make it worth reading."

I ALSO accidentally refer to "Ultimate Fantastic Four" AS "Ultimate X-Men" in the first sentence, which makes the review sound pretty dumb. Hopefully that will be fixed by the time you read it, but if not, just remember that this supposed Fantastic Four story reeked of bad X-Men comics. Also, my brain doesn't always work.

Read the entire review HERE.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Batman #675 Hits THE SPLASH PAGE

Chad Nevett and I like to read comic books by Grant Morrison. We find them soothing in a world filled with counting down and invasions conducted in secret. Every once and a while, sometimes monthly, a new issue of Batman hits the stands. This time, we talk about it. We suck all of the life out of the issue until its reanimated zombie corpse rises up and tries to bite into our skulls.

Oh, also, I spoil the reveal of the Black Glove! (But don't worry, because I'm just completely guessing!)

All this in the newest installment of the internet's beloved SPLASH PAGE.

Read it here.


I'm not a huge Busiek fan (although I like Astro City) and I don't think Mark Bagley's an interesting artist at all, and Countdown has scarred me for life.

But I think I might pick up Trinity after all. The new house ads in this week's DC comics may have pushed me in that direction.

Someone please talk some sense into me. (Although if everyone tells me NOT to buy it, that will make me want to buy it even more, so I don't know if you'll be able to talk me out of it no matter what you say.)

Still, do you think there's any chance it could be a good comic?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Batman #675 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Batman #675, in which I write the following sentences: "Morrison's Batman is a madman, not in the fascist Frank Miller way so often replicated in the post-'Dark Knight Returns' days, but in the way of a man whose already damaged psyche becomes fractured beyond all reason. If Batman has lived through every single story ever presented in a Batman comic, as Morrison posits he has, how can he not go mad?"

Read the entire review HERE.

Countdown to Final Crisis #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Countdown to Final Crisis #1, in which I write the following sentence: "It ends up reading like a story told by an enthusiastic child as he plays with his action figures."

Read the entire review HERE.

Question: Is "Countdown" the worst series ever, or just the worst $150 you can spend on comics? I'm sure there's been worse stuff, right?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Brief Reviews for 4/16/08 Comics

NYCC has totally messed up any semblance of a normal routine, and I still haven't read all of last week's comics yet, but here's what I thought about the ones I have read:

ANNIHILATION CONQUEST #6 (OF 6): The series ends with a giant magical sword vs. an even gianter evil robot, which sounds cooler than it actually was. But I liked the high-octane energy of this series--it didn't slow down to let us catch our breath, which is perfect for a space opera galactic war type of thing. I wonder how readers who haven't been keeping up with Nova felt when that group shower up from out of nowhere to save the day. But is anyone reading this and not Nova? That would be silly. I'm looking forward to the Guardians of the Galaxy series, though. Aren't you? ***

CAPTAIN AMERICA #37: What's wrong with Captain America's face on the cover? Chad Nevett and I complained about the cover art last issue and now this issue's even worse. Really bad stuff. The interiors are better, of course, and this issue sets up an interesting situation with an apparent clone of Steve Rogers or something along those lines. Oh, the mystery. The rest of the issue is basically people stopping in to say, "Hey, Bucky, you're not good enough to be Captain America." Clint Barton even calls him, "kid," which I'm not sure I would call someone born decades before me, even if they looked younger. Plus, Bucky should have asked Clint Barton this question: "Why are you using nunchucks and dressing like a chubby ninja instead of, you know, just being Hawkeye? Isn't that kind of stupid?" Alas, that question never arises. A decent comic, but not the best of the series. **1/2

CAPTAIN MARVEL #5: Is this one of those deals where they have to publish a comic called "Captain Marvel" just to keep the trademark active? Because, what was the point of this again? My guess is this Skrull who thinks he's Mar-Vell will sacrifice himself heroically to save the Earth at some point in Secret Invasion. But who cares? Nice art by Lee Weeks, by the way. **

COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS #2: All of the pieces finally fall into place. This is what the series has been building to: an issue-long slugfest between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker! Luke totally wins! He comes zooming out of the Boom Tube with his astro force and even though he hasn't appeared in the previous 50 issues of the series, it makes total sense that he would randomly show up and smack Darth Vader around. Even the Omega Beams can't save Vader from Luke's ugly wrath. So now Darth Vader is dead. Now what? My breath is baited. I eagerly await the final issue of this glorious masterpiece. *

GHOST RIDER #22: Finally, a good comic. Thank you, Jason Aaron, for not only making Ghost Rider cool again (was he ever cool? Hell, yeah), and for writing a comic that doesn't make me want to say "what's the point?" over and over. The point is: Ghost Rider is excellent. ****

SALVATION RUN #6: This is not good. I liked the previous couple of issues, especially the ones involving Ape vs. Ape action and non-Sean Chen artwork, but this one just reminds me why everyone else in the world hates this series. It has a couple of nice Joker moments, where Matt Sturges gives us a sense that the Joker's lunacy is caused by the physical pain he constantly endures, but it is just Lex Luthor and the Joker trading punches, while Vandal Savage hangs out with his harem. Not very good, I'm afraid. *1/2

SUICIDE SQUAD RAISE THE FLAG #8: I liked this series overall, but I'm not convinced by the new Rick Flagg status quo. He's basically in the same situation as the new Captain Marvel--he's been brainwashed into thinking he's something he's not, and the end of this series and Captain Marvel end with each of them saying, "I don't care whether these thoughts and memories are fake, it's who I am, and I will pretend to be this fake person I'm not!" Which is all well and good for an exploration of what it means to have an identity, and what is self, and all that stuff, but it seems like it won't ever really be explored again, and it's just a way to reconcile some inconsistent continuity. Also, I'm not sure that this was really a Suicide Squad series by the end. It seemed a bit softer and less, I don't know, suicidey, than it might have been. Still, it was a good enough story. ***

X-MEN DIVIDED WE STAND #1: This is an inconsistent batch of stories, but I really liked Skottie Young's work. This is his first attempt at writing, and he lets his art express the majority of the plot and characterization, which is great. I love the new style he's developed over the past year, and his Wizard of Oz is probably going to be the only great book to come out of the Marvel Illustrated Classics line. He's good. And Matt Fraction is good, too, with his little Scalphunter story. Who the hell cares about Scalphunter? Nobody--which is why Fraction makes the story about Walter Benjamin. Who the hell cares about Walter Benjamin? I do. ***1/2 for the Young and Fraction bits; ** for the rest.

The Incredible Hercules #116 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: The Incredible Hercules #116, in which I write the following sentences: "It's partly a continuity patch, but it's mostly used to knock Hercules off balance, mentally. It shakes him up, and causes him to question his role in the world. It's an effective emotional use of what could have been just no-prize gamesmanship."

Read the entire review HERE.

DMZ #30 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: DMZ #30, in which I write the following sentences: "Even if Matty Roth doesn't have the strength to carry the narrative burden, the comic still has other assets. Artist Riccardo Burchielli creates vivid personalities, and even if we don't know what Matty Roth wants in the long term, we know who he is now."

Read the entire review HERE.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Stuff I Learned at the NYCC

Okay, I have to come clean. I didn't punch anyone in the face or use ninja stars in New York. You guys caught me.

But I did learn a few things while I was there:

1) Jeff Lemire is even more awesome than I'd assumed. I've loved his work since I first read it two years ago, and now he's doing a Vertigo graphic novel. Plus, he stopped by my booth and bought both of my books. Truly a man with an artistic sense and great taste.

2) I'm not that interested in looking though back issue boxes. I'm just not. I used to be. When did I stop wanting to do that, I wonder?

3) Don't walk up to the convention floor at five second to 3:00 on Friday. Kevin Colden (artist of immense talent and fashion sense, no matter what Tony Lee says about the latter) and I were right in front of the huge line of fans as they began counting down to admission time, and then it was like Indiana Jones in front of the boulder. We had to stay one step ahead of the literally screaming fans. Thankfully, nobody recognized Kevin, or he would have been devoured by the horde.

4) Jason Aaron is not only one of my favorite writers, but he's a great guy to hang out with, and he did not, contrary to my assumption, pitch to take over Iron Fist (a book he's perfect for). He says he didn't know the editor at the time, and wasn't asked for his take on the book. Although he would "love to do it" someday. He did mention a possible one-shot he might be allowed to write in the future, though. But I don't want to spoil the surprise if it does happen. Just wait and see how awesome it will be.

5) I'm not a big fan of panels. I wonder if it's because I know too much about comics, and most of the panels deal with stuff we've already heard about. Maybe it's because I don't care about upcoming plot events or shocking reveals. Maybe it's because many panels have become press conferences where the companies stay "on message," and offer little room for personality. I don't know. But other that the Mo Willems panel (which was great for families with kids), I felt like I may never need to see another panel again. Then again, I didn't sample all that many of them. Did I miss anything good?

6) CBR News Editor Andy Khouri, who has been a huge supporter of my work ever since reading my Morrison book, actually lives in the same building as my brother, 2,000 miles away from me. Weird coincidence, right?

7) Jeff Barbanell, contributor to the Legion book, is one of the nicest guys I've ever met. My son proudly put his Iron Man bust on display, Jeff. Thanks!

8) Comics are awesome. And if you disagree...well, I may just have to do some punching (maybe to the face).

Sunday, April 20, 2008

New York Comic-Con 2008: Not a Full Report, But Some Highlights*

The Third Annual NYCC is over, and I need about five days to recover. Good thing I'm on vacation this week. Oh wait, I'm teaching a workshop at the Norman Rockwell Museum every day until Friday. No rest for the awesome.

And teaching a comics workshop at the Norman Rockwell Museum is pretty awesome, I have to say. Even if I constantly point to the walls as the kids are drawing and say, "you'll never be as good as this guy anyway, so don't bother." Just kidding! They will be even BETTER than Rockwell. What comics did that guy ever do, anyway?

You know who does comics, though? Jeffrey Brown. Here he is, signing the only two things I bought all weekend: The Incredible Change Bots and Little Things:

See how he hides behind his massive piles of Top Shelfy comics so I can't see what he's up to? He's sneaky. I assume he wrote profanity in the margins of random pages. I just haven't come across those pages yet. But I could not resist buying some books from him anyway.

Still, you also have to wonder how I could go to a ginormous convention and buy only two small books. (Well, I guess I also bought Comic Book Comics #1 from Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey, so I bought three things, honestly.) I could have bought more. I had money in my pockets. I saw stuff I wanted. But I thought, "eh, I don't even have the time to read all the stuff I already own." What's that about? Am I becoming more rational?

Probably not.

Although I did treat this year's con as more of a business trip (sort of) than a fanboy fun fest. I networked. I mingled. I said, "I like your stuff" and handed out my crappy, cheaply-printed right before the convention business cards that I forgot to order in advance. So I didn't really go in with the mindset of a shopper. Plus, I knew I'd be there all three days, and I wasn't in a rush to buy anything the first day. Then, Saturday was too busy to shop around, and by Sunday I'd lost any interest in what I'd wanted to buy on Friday. Three days at a convention equals me buying less than one day. That's the math involved, apparently.

Instead of buying stuff, I attended a couple of panels. Like this Vertigo panel, which was more of a really quick overview of Vertigo's upcoming projects and Karen Berger deftly advancing the slide show without giving away too much. She'd show an upcoming Scalped cover and say, "Scalped. I really like this cover." Then move on. She had a lot to get through, and she had to let Grant Morrison (who's not seen in the picture because the podium was blocking his glorious bald pate anyway) talk about some of his upcoming work. He's doing War Cop which is some kind of riff on the military-as-video-game mentality, and he's doing more Seaguy of course--with Seaguy as the world's foremost Bull Dresser--and he's doing a comic about Dr. No's daughter being hunted by James Bond (except without using their names, of course, or else DC would violate some trademarks and Charles Atlas would come back from the dead and punch Grant Morrison in the face).

The Morrison stuff sounds great, but I was hoping that the other panelists would have a chance to speak about their work, and very few of them did. Jason Aaron, on the far left, did not get to say a single word. We all know Scalped is the best Vertigo comic on the stands, and the applause from the audience was loud when the Scalped slide flashed on the screen for a few seconds, but he must be in the Marvel-exclusive penalty box, because he didn't get to participate on this panel at all.

So, afterwards, I went up and punched him in the face.

My Teenagers from the Future book was proudly on display. Selling like Ritalin at a middle school dance. The book sold out. Sold. Out. And it won't be available again until we get it though the bookstore channels and onto and Barnes and Noble in June or so. It will be worth the wait, though.

Just ask Mike Phillips, seen here posing with the books. (Needless to say, I punched him in the face.)

I also had a chance to speak with, at length, Johanna Draper-Carlson and KC Carlson. KC tried to help me pull together some essays for the book, and he was curious to see the printed book, so he stopped by the booth. I did not punch either of them in the face, because they were really interesting and cool. I'm glad to have met them this weekend.

They were so nice, in fact, that I didn't punch anyone in the face for at least 15 minutes.

Grant Morrison, signing at the DC booth. This was late Friday, I think. But before the fans arrived at 3:00, he was just hanging out at the booth, talking with Len Wein (who jokingly asked Grant for 10% of his earnings for all the recent Len Wein-inspired stuff he's been doing at DC recently). I have interviewed Grant a couple of times, but I hadn't met him in person, and when he saw me, he was incredibly gracious and enthusiastic (as he always is about everything, apparently). I know that as a bald guy, I had a kind of Grant Morrison haircut going on, but when I saw him in person I realized that I was also the same size as him, and he even said, "I'd better be careful, or people are going to think I'm you." I told him about what I was working on recently, and bumped into Geoff Johns and Dan DiDio too, who all joined the conversation about Teenagers from the Future. I thanked Geoff for The Legion of Three Worlds, and told him that it was perfect timing to help sell my book. So, once again, I was in too good of a mood to punch anyone or anything.

Then, later, when I saw people standing in line for hours to get their books signed by Grant, I ran down the line and punched each one of them in the face.

My wife and kids joined me for Kid's Day on Sunday, which meant that I could shift from business and punching-in-the-face-mode to father-and-husband mode. I did a mediocre job with that, since I ditched my family at least three times to hang out with people who are more famous then they are.

But I'm pretty sure they had a great time. It's a comic book convention! What kid doesn't like overweight men spray painted gray and dressed in a Colossus costume? What kid doesn't like hardcover collections of "The Erotic Art of Rob Liefeld"? What kid doesn't like Podcast Alley?

My wife is smiling in the picture above because it's early in the day and she doesn't realize how often I will abandon her so I can talk to people who used to write fan letters to a comic book I sort of liked fifteen years ago.

My daughter didn't seem to care about what was going on anyway, because she got a free Scooby Doo digest from the DC booth and she read the heck out of it. She read that thing cover-to-cover, laughing at all the right bits. As much as I want to say something sarcastic here, I just can't, because this is what the Kid's Day is all about. Kids reading comics. And she did exactly that.

Soon, I'll move her up to the Archie stuff.

Next year, I think she'll be ready for Tim Vigil's Faust.

Mo Willems! He heard about all the face-punching and made a scary face so I would be intimidated. It's an animal defense mechanism called "mimicking," and it keeps weaker prey from being attacked by predators. He's obviously mastered the technique, as you can see here. Also, his panel, sponsored by MoCCA, was the best panel of the weekend. My kids laughed, played along with his antics, learned how to draw a cool pigeon, and left excited about books and creating their own books. I'm very glad we got a chance to see him in action. His new book is called The Pigeon Wants a Puppy and it's better than 99% of everything that was on sale at the convention. If you have kids and you aren't buying the Mo Willems books, you are obviously a horrible person who will never receive the love you so desperately crave.

Right before we walked out the exit, I had my wife capture this moment of my son and I saying farewell to a convention that we all enjoyed. I made a few contacts, my son bought a few Ugly Dolls, and we all bonded over the Pigeon's ridiculously fallacious puppy assertions. As we calmly prepared to leave, others, like the guy to my left, ran through the convention aisles, seeking that final "big deal." That fabled first issue of Todd McFarlane's Spider-Man at half off the $45 cover price. Or that new Vampirella bust, slightly defective, at a shockingly low $235. We, as a family, had moved beyond such trivialities and were ready for the long ride back to Massachusetts.

We joined hands to create a giant fist with which to punch the Javits Center in the face. But instead, we gave it a big hug. We love you NYCC. You were almost perfect this year.

*Please note, the punching I referred to in this post is a metaphor. I didn't literally punch anyone in the face over the weekend. Instead, I used ninja stars.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Amazing Spider-Man #557 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Amazing Spider-Man #557, in which I write the following sentence: "'Amazing Spider-Man' #557 certainly has its story moments, like the neat use of space/time fighting from the Mayan god, and the bit with the exploding web cartridges, but it's really Bachalo's art that makes this story worth reading."

Read the entire review HERE.

Superman #675 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Superman #675, in which I write the following sentences: "In short, it's a Superman story. One of the very good ones. And after a couple of years of long speeches by Arion and the Insect Queen, Busiek finally nails it, just as he's walking out the door."

Read the entire review HERE.

Wonder Woman #19 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Wonder Woman #19, in which I write the following sentences: "...does this most recent issue succeed on its own? Is it a good 'Wonder Woman' comic? Is it a good comic? The answer is: yes, on all three counts."

Read the entire review HERE.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Teenagers from the Future at NYCC

If you're going to be at the New York Comic-Con, make sure to stop by Booth #2445 (located right next to Artist Alley) and get your copy of Teenagers From the Future: Essays on the Legion of Super-Heroes. Sequart's own Mike Phillips will be on hand to tell you all about upcoming Sequart projects, and I will be around most of the afternoon Friday and Saturday if you want to stop by and say, "hey" or talk to me about Grant Morrison, the Legion, comics, or your favorite episodes of "Turbo Teen."

The Teenagers from the Future book ended up being 330 pages of Legion awesomeness, including:

Matt Fraction's Foreword

Barry Lyga's Afterword

Me on "Thomas, Altman, Levitz, and the 30th Century"

Richard Bensam on "The Death of and Resurrection of Lightning Lad"

Chris Sims on "The (Often Arbitrary) Rules of the Legion"

James Kakalios on "The Legion's Super-Science"

Jeff Barbanell on "Shooter's Marvelesque"

Sara K. Ellis on "Architecture and Utopia"

Lanny Rose on "The Amethyst Connection"

Alan Williams on "Gender Identity and Homosexuality in the Legion"

Matthew Elmslie on "Generational Theory and the Waid Threeboot"

And Much, Much, More!

See you all this weekend.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Brief Reviews for 4/9/08 Comics

I read a few other comics this week that I didn't review in full. Here's what I thought (with five-star rankings):

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #556: I still love Chris Bachalo's art on this story arc. It's certainly enough to get me to pick up the comic. The story has potential with inter-demensional Mayan guys or something like that. We'll see how it all plays out in the conclusion next month. I do like the snow-related humor and the dialogue with the homeless dude isn't too bad. I'd say this is decent enough Spider-Man comics. Really, though, the conclusion will make or break the story. ***1/2

BOOSTER GOLD #8: Kick-Ass had me thinking about DC's lame 1980's Wild Dog character and here he is showing up in this very issue! I like the rag-tag Justice League of this alternate reality, and this was one of the better issues of the series. Unlike previous issues, it wasn't just visiting a past event from DC continuity. This one was all about what happens when guys like Wild Dog are left to defend the planet. A good, but not great, comic. ***

COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS 3: Nothing undermines this climactic battle between Darkseid and the forces of dull Countdownery than the press for Final Crisis which revealed that the Darkseid shown in this comic is just some kind of projection of a much greater cosmic threat. It's a 52 issue series culminating in a mini-boss battle. It's like getting stuck on Level One of Donkey Kong for 52 straight weeks. *

GREEN ARROW BLACK CANARY #7: Mike Norton does a really good Cliff Chiang impression here. It looks pretty good. I assume the inker helped smooth over some things, but this may be the best Mike Norton work yet (the second best being his art on Gravity a few years back). Wow. This just looks so much better than his stuff on the Atom recently. Still, it's written by Judd Winick. It's not that bad, actually. I kind of liked this issue with the Scooby Doo reveal and all. Not too shabby, boys. ***1/2

GREEN LANTERN CORPS #23: Bad stuff looms. ***

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #14: Geoff Johns must have spent all of his awesomeness on last weeks Action Comics issue, because this thing is no good at all. He does a terrible job juggling the gigantic cast of characters (which makes me cringe actually, because that doesn't bode well for his big Legion project this summer), and if he is this generation's Roy Thomas (which he is), then this is like one of those middle-of-the-run All-Star Squadron issues that had too many characters and not enough characterization or plot. **

SUPERMAN CONFIDENTIAL #14: I expect better from B. Clay Moore. This story felt too safe. It didn't have anything to recommend it other than the nice Phil Hester art, really. It's not a bad comic, it's just completely average. Bring some of your voice to the DC Universe, B. Clay! Don't water it down. **1/2

TITANS #1: I didn't buy this. I thought about it. I haven't hated Winick's recent work (or maybe I'm just getting soft), so I flipped through it in the store. It looked unreadable. Lots of ugly splash pages and little plot. So, let me know if I missed out on a hidden gem here. Somehow, I doubt it.

WOLVERINE #64: I loved this issue. This is definitely Garney's best art work. I've never seen him look so good, and we all know that Jason Aaron is a comic book force with which to be reckoned. Aaron would have been great on that canceled Mystique comic, don't you think? It would have had more of an edge, which is what it needed. Anyway, if you're not reading Aaron's Wolverine, you are a big ugly doofus head. That's a verifiable fact. ****

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Dead of Night #3 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Dead of Night Featuring Man-Thing #3, in which I write the following sentences: "They panic, they scream, and they try to fight back. Man-Thing, who appears only in the story as a silent, looming presence, isn't much more than a mysterious force of nature. Thus, the weight of the story falls on the four youthful protagonists, and they just aren't worth reading about."

Read the entire review HERE.

Criminal #2 Hits THE SPLASH PAGE

Chad Nevett ranked Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips's Criminal as one of the Top 10 comics of 2007. I scoffed.

I wasn't impressed with the first story arc at all, and I didn't bother to read the second.

That was at the end of 2007. Have I changed my opinion since then? Am I destined to get a beat down by a punk kid like Nevett? Do I even like comics?

Find out in the newest installment of THE SPLASH PAGE. Read it, in all of its glory: HERE

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Criminal Volume 2 #2 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Criminal #2, in which I write the following sentence: "It's a single-issue story that hammers its way into your psyche with a brutal unfolding of the inevitable."

Read the entire review HERE.

Fantastic Four #556 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Fantastic Four #556, in which I write the following sentence: "It's a hyper-sexualized take on the Fantastic Four, and it just feels off for this particular group of characters."

Read the entire review HERE.

Tiny Titans #3 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Tiny Titans #3, in which I write the following sentence: "Tiny Titans #3 is a great example of editor Jann Jones's vision for the new Johnny DC: gateway books for a new generation of comic book readers."

Read the entire review HERE.

The Last Defenders #2 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: The Last Defenders #2, in which I write the following sentence: "this series does a better job balancing the laughs with the substance than any other Giffen work in recent memory, so clearly Casey is doing something right."

Read the entire review HERE.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Cable #2 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Cable #2, in which I write the following sentences: "Even hillbillies from the future can't save this comic. And if they can't, maybe nothing can."

Read the entire review HERE.

Kick-Ass #2 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Kick-Ass #2, in which I write the following sentences: "Romita Jr. gives us a hero who is on the ground kicking furiously. A character who lashes out without style. A character who is caught on camera, not in an iconic hero shot, but hunched over, blood dripping from his face. Romita makes us feel the heavy breathing and the pain."

Read the entire review HERE.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Art of Joe Staton at the Storefront Artist Project

This is something you should all check out, especially if you have kids and want to travel to the Berkshires this summer:
Pittsfield, MA…Pittsfield’s Storefront Artist Project is teaming up with the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art in New York this summer to present The Art of Joe Staton. Staton is a well-known cartoonist, and his work on Batman, Scooby Doo, Rugrats, Jonny Quest, the Wild Thornberrys, Green Lantern, E-Man and Michael Mauser will be highlighted in the exhibition. The Art of Joe Staton will be on view August 2 – 31, 2008, at the Storefront Artist Project, and a series of related free workshops and programs will also be offered.

With a career spanning over three decades, Staton is a legend in the world of comic book art. His career began in 1971 with Charlton comics where he worked with Nicola Cuti to create E-Man and Michael Mauser, two popular characters still published today. Staton is the former artist for the most successful crime comic book of our time – Scooby Doo and is currently the artist on Jughead’s new look from Archie Comics.

The Art of Joe Staton is curated by Lawrence Klein, chairman emeritus and founder of the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art. A resident of Pittsfield, Klein founded the New York based museum in 2001. “When I founded the museum, it was a way to set an example on how people can give back to the community. Similarly, I became involved with the Storefront Artists Project to give back to the community in which I now live,” said Klein.

A series of related events and workshops begins with an opening reception on August 2. On August 3 Staton will conduct a free, day-long workshop including a drawing demonstration, sketch-a-thon, and discussion. All programs are free of charge and held at The Storefront Artists Project, unless otherwise stated. For more information, including pre-registration contact the Storefront Artist Project at 413-442-7201 or visit

On August 23, Event with Jim Salicrup, Editor-in-Chief, of Papercutz, the youth-friendly publisher of Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Tales from the Crypt, and the Classics Illustrated library with author Stefan Petrucha (Nancy Drew Graphic Novels) will talk about writing, art, publishing and review the artwork and writings of those attending.

Educator and author Tim Callahan leads a session of superhero splendor on August 17 when participants can create their own super-powered characters and draw stories about their exploits. During this two-hour workshop, participants will learn how to put characters into trouble and get them out alive.

On August 9, local cartoonist Todd Casey will conduct a drawing workshop that emphasizes the use of individual style. During the workshops, participants will learn how to create characters and move them through a series of panels to make the comic strips come to life on the page.
Hey, look. I'm involved! See you this summer.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Brief Reviews for 4/2/08 Comics: Now with Five-Star Ratings!

Since I'm using the five-star rating system for the CBR reviews, I might as well use them here too. Here are some comics I read this week but didn't write full reviews for:

All-New Atom #22: Rick Remender hasn't sold me on his new direction after his first two issues, but at least he (a) isn't using those ridiculous footnotes which Simone seemed to be keeping out of stubbornness, and (b) seems to be blowing shit up. I'd love for this comic to become ten times better than it is, and if Remender needs to raze Ivy Town to do it, that's fine with me. Unfortunately, the comic isn't that great yet. **1/2

Amazing Spider-Man #555: Well, I really love the art by Chris Bachalo. (And this is the first time I've seen the clever "tkins" sound effect as Wolverine retracts his claws. Has it been used elsewhere?) ***

The Boys #17: This series seems to run hot and cold for me. I liked the second arc much better than the first, and I think I like this arc less than the previous one. I still don't see a very strong overall direction for this book, and I don't know how much longer Ennis can keep me interested in his giggling, super-heroes-are-so-perverted attitude on display here. **

Clandestine #3: I read plenty of Excalibur issues back in the day, but I think I missed the ones Alan Davis wrote and drew himself. So I'm not sure I got the continuity jokes here, but I loved the attempt to figure out which Earth they came from. Funny stuff, and the Alan Davis art is great, of course. Although I recently re-read Justice League: The Nail and his layouts there were really extraordinary. I kind of think of Alan Davis as having a VERY consistent style, but he seems to be a but less dynamic lately. Maybe it's just because he's taking a different approach to drawing this comic. ***1/2

Countdown to Final Crisis #4: I already made fun of it the other day. It continues to be one of the worst comic book series in the history of the universe ever. The art this week wasn't terrible, at least. The story was. *

Jonah Hex #30: It's amazing how different each artist makes this comic. I would assume that Gray and Palmiotti use full-script, and yet each artist comes along and gives the series a very different tone. Jordi Bernet comes in and the comic feels like a violent newspaper strip. Weird. Anyway, this is a good comic month in and month out, but since each issue is self-contained (barring very few exceptions) and doesn't draw upon and story moments from previous issues, I'm not sure that I need to read this every month. I just don't feel like the small moments have added up to all that much over the course of the past couple of years. I'd be pleased to see some new writers take this comic in a new direction at this point. ***

Logan #2: The best-looking comic of the week. I like what Vaughan is doing here, and I think it will be seen as an essential Wolverine story once it's collected. But really, the art is what makes it special. ****

Metal Men #7: I've given up trying to piece together the narrative of this story as I read it in monthly installments. I liked the bits I could make sense out of in this issue, but I really need to wait until I have all eight issues in front of me before I have any real idea of the quality here. I love how ambitious it is, though. (And I love Rouleau's art.) *** (tentatively)

Omega the Unknown #7: Anyone who felt that this was going to be a rehash of Gerber's original series (which is understandable, considering the first issue), has to realize that this has turned into something VERY different. I'm pretty sure nobody expected Gary Panter to illustrate a Marvel comic, but that's sort of what we get here (at least in part) and it's pretty cool. This is another series that I can't even come close to judging fairly until it's completed, but I have a feeling this is going to be something really great by the time it's over. I liked this issue a lot. ****

Punisher War Journal #18: It's probably ridiculous to say the "Guitar Hero III" product placement ruined the comic for me, but it really did. I couldn't stop looking at the poorly-incorporated game logo when it appeared in what should have been a ghastly scene of torture. Instead, I was so distracted, I couldn't appreciate Chaykin's panels. Also, I really don't know what's going on with Jigsaw. Does he have the ability to transform his face? I thought he was just a dude with an ugly mug. Has he ALWAYS had that power? I trust Fraction to make sense out of all of this and to demand that Guitar Hero III never again destroy his comics. **1/2

The Twelve #4: And the promise of the first issue slowly withers away. I hope JMS plans on doing more than he's shown us in this issue. Chris Weston is perfect for what this comic should be, though. **

Young Avengers Presents #3: Master Pandemonium earns this comic extra points--does anyone else besides me love the West Coast Avengers? I think I read that comic more faithfully than the main Avengers series as a teenager. This issue is nothing special, but it has some nice character moments and I kind of like the clear line artwork. The Young Avengers has been a team of interesting characters since it debuted, and this issue continues that trend. It's not ground-breaking, but it's good enough. And, maybe it is ground-breaking with its matter-of-fact homosexual relationship. I don't know. ***

What did you read last week?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Shooter's Legion vs. Johns's Legion: A Few Thoughts

After reading my reviews for the newest issues of Action Comics and Legion of Super-Heroes over at CBR, Legion book contributor and Estoreal blogger Richard Bensam made the following comment:
I just wonder what you got from that Action Comics storyline that I didn't. For me, Shooter has me reading and enjoying a Legion book for the first time in nearly twenty years; meanwhile, what Johns was doing just felt hollow. It was "let's hit this plot point...and here's a moment that's meant to be evocative...and here on the diagram we insert a scene that touches on the stated thematic goal...and here, one more moment where we stop and commemorate the meaningfulness of it all." I get the impression your response was the reverse of this, and it vexes me.

I wouldn't say my response is the "reverse" of Bensam's, but I did give Action Comics a favorable review and Legion a relatively negative review (with the qualifier that I think the Shooter-penned series has great potential). So let me explain a bit more about how I feel about Johns's recent version of the Legion and Shooter's interpretation.

First of all, my CBR review wasn't evaluating Action Comics as a Legion book, but as a Superman book. So in many ways, Bensam's criticism of Johns's by-the-numbers Legion moments misses the point a bit. The Legion moments were clearly designed to illuminate Superman, to provide a dramatic context in which aspects of Superman's character can be emphasized, not to add depth to fifty years of Legion characterization. As a Legion story, Johns's tale was nothing extraordinary, but it did a more than admirable job of re-engaging the Legion with the Superman mythos. The Legion has been cast aside for too long, in my mind, and even the Abnett and Lanning attempts to connect the characters with Superboy felt like a second-rate patch job. So there's that.

Also, I have absolutely no problem with conventional storytelling as long as its done well, and Johns is one of the best at well-structured superhero narratives. You may be able to see all the beats in advance, but damn it if he doesn't hit them emphatically. There's a reason we, as a species, keep telling the same basic stories again and again. We like to see slight variations, but we like the what we like. Over and over. If you listen to a song you like, even a new version of it, you don't judge it based on what's going to surprise you, but on how well the artist performs the required moments. That's what John does, and he does it well.

I'm still not sure what to think about Shooter's Legion, though. He didn't want to reboot the series, even though he claims DiDio offered him the chance to do so, yet he isn't keeping the tone or characterizations of the Waid Threeboot, so he has basically just adopted the costumes (which he will also change in the near future, as seen on the first cover of his run--a strange image, to be sure, since we're several issues in and those costumes still haven't appeared), and the main cast of characters. But since the characters don't act like they have in the recent past, it's basically a relaunch anyway. Which is fine, I guess, since he did instill some much-needed energy into the series. Even though I liked Waid and Bedard's Legion when I reread the entire series last year, it was a bit too self-serious for me. It felt like it was trying to say something important and show the weight of the universe on the shoulders of these young men and women in the Legion, but it didn't have much life to it. Shooter has brought in some life, which is why I believe the series has potential under him.

But I do actively dislike plenty of his dialogue, much of which relies on "futuristic" slang that sounds like a 65-year-old trying to be hip. And his attempts to add conflict within the Legion is reminiscent of every team comic book since Claremont's X-Men. Or, perhaps I should say every team comic since Shooter's original Legion, which was inspired by Marvel's troubled heroes. Either way, there's certainly nothing new here, and Shooter isn't as good at hitting the marks as Johns is, but I think he might surprise me before his run on the series is over. I'm optimistic about the new direction, but I don't think the comic is all that great yet. Perhaps Shooter still needs a few more issues to position the team where he wants it. I don't know.

Of course, with the Johns/Perez "Legion of Three Worlds" this summer, perhaps Shooter won't get a chance to take the Legion where he wants them to go. I'd be shocked if a reboot or deboot (or whatever) didn't come out of this Final Crisis/"Legion of Three World" stuff. And although I'd happily keep buying Jim Shooter Legion comics, I feel that editorial forces beyond all of our control may have something different in mind for the future of the Legion.

I am really glad that someone had the foresight to pull together a useful analytical guide to the various incarnations of the Legion of Super-Heroes just in time for this huge summer event, though. That guy must know what he's doing, at least.

What does everyone else think about all of this stuff?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Voice by Proxy: Countdown #4

I teach my students to avoid the assumption that the author of a literary work is speaking through his or her characters. But sometimes the author's voice clearly comes through a fictional proxy or two:

From Countdown to Final Crisis #4. Words by Sean McKeever.

Scalped #16 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Scalped #16, in which I write the following sentence: "While 'DMZ' alternately stumbles and sprints in a vague, uncertain direction, and 'Fables' binds itself in its all-to-clever conceit, 'Scalped' explores one of the essential human dilemmas: how does one do what is right and just in an unjust world?"

Read the entire review HERE.

Casanova #13 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Casanova #13, in which I write the following sentence: "Moon's reimagining of the Ba-illustrated universe of 'Luxuria' demonstrate the subjectivity of the past, but that's exactly the point."

Read the entire review

Trials of Shazam #12 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Trials of Shazam #12, in which I write the following sentences: "Estelle Getty, watch out! Zeus might win the coveted 'Coolest Senior Citizen Ever' medallion."

Read the entire review

Friday, April 04, 2008

Secret Invasion #1 Hits THE SPLASH PAGE

Sometimes a comic book about Skrull sleeper agents makes you think about Vladimir Nabokov and George Bernard Shaw. Sometimes it doesn't.

Join Chad Nevett and I as we discuss what's so great about Secret Invasion #1, what's so bad about it, and why we think that it just may or may not be the greatest first issue of a Skrull-related Marvel crossover this Spring!

Even if you've read thirty-five reviews of this issue already, that shouldn't stop you from seeing what Chad and I have to say. I guarantee you'll find more than one sentence that has NEVER APPEARED ON THE INTERNET BEFORE.

Read the newest installment of The Splash Page HERE!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Updating the Old Blog; Plus, Reviews!

So I've decided to spice up the old GeniusboyFiremelon. If Comic Book Resources can do it, why can't I? I'd probably change the template if I didn't have to redo all my sidebar stuff. But I would, so I won't.

As you can see, I've slapped up a photo of myself, finally, so you can see who you've been dealing with. I look like I'm waiting in line for a comic convention in that picture, but I'm actually in Puerto Rico with my lovely wife (who took a break from high-speed shopping to snap a photo of me, standing there, carrying all the little things she bought in my super-cool backpack). Still, I do look ready for some Comic-Con action, so if any were to break out in San Juan, I would have been prepared!

Also, even though Chad Nevett and I will tackle Secret Invasion #1 in tomorrow's SPLASH PAGE feature, I did write a brief review of the comic at CBR, which you can read here.

I also reviewed an even better comic: Action Comics #863. Read that review here.

A week from tomorrow, I'll have to post a new picture since April 11th is moustache day this year, and I've been growing a monstrous 'stache for this year's festivites. I can't wait!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Comic Book Resources and Me

My top-secret project has finally been revealed to the world: I'm one of the weekly reviewers for the relaunched Comic Book Resources site! I'll be reviewing 4-6 comics a week over there, and I've been building up an archive of reviews since early March.

Read Jonah Weiland's welcome message to find out more, and...

Check out all of my Comic Book Resources reviews HERE and then tell me how wrong I am (hint: I'm not wrong at all. My opinion is truth). Not all of my reviews are posted yet, so look for more stuff to appear every couple of days for the rest of your life.