Avengers: The Initiative #24 (Marvel Comics) According to the title page, this is only part four of a post-Secret Invasion storyline entitled “Avengers: The Initiative Disassembled,” but man it seems to be taking forever. In this issue, writers Christos N. Gage continues to rearrange the cast and status quo to bring it in line with “Dark Reign,” and artist Humberto Ramos continues to draw everyone with gigantic teeth.
Avengers/Invaders #11 (Marvel) At the end of an issue in which almost nothing at all happens (beyond the usual Bucky and Toro wondering about their deaths, and Iron Man having a sad about Civil War), The Red Skull uses the infinite power of the Cosmic Cube to summon up a team of super-Nazis to fight the good guys. That’s them on the cover. There’s some kind of vampire, an Iron Man-type wearing an iron cross, someone who looks like Captain Nazi, a Nazi dominatrix, and an underwater Nazi guy with a “U” on his chest, probably U-boat Mensch or something or something like that.And then you have Thor. Just plain old looks-the-exact-same-as-usual Thor. Ha ha, Thor is so goddam Aryan as he was originally conceived that there’s absolutely nothing anyone could think to do to Nazi him up a little.
This is the penultimate issue, by the way; there will be but one more, and then I’ll be as sad as Iron Man is in this series.
Batman in Barcelona: Dragon’s Knight #1 (DC) This out-of-left-field one-shot features a script by Mark Waid and 38-pages of art by Barcelona’s own Diego Olmos, whose work is very strong. He does a nicely detailed, but not overly so, Batman, and he’s quite dept at action, character interaction and observational details, like Batman taping up his hands before going into action.
I do hope there’s more Batman work in Olmos’ future.
The script is nothing terribly revolutionary—even the Killer Croc as a dragon to be slain by a knight idea was present Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s Arkham Asylum 20 years ago—but Waid covers that several even more familiar beats quite well. His Batman is a very gadget-oriented, very human Batman and, of course, he’s Bruce Wayne, and Bruce Wayne-as-Batman is something that’s a bit rarer in DC comics than usual at this point.
I liked the idea of Batman having satellite Bat-caves in different cities around the world, and the weird two-wheeled miniBatmobile he drives around in this, which looks like a more practical Bat-pod, or a Bat-pod crossed with a Batmobile, is pretty cool-looking, although I confess to groaning when I got to the splash page which reveals why Waid and Olmos must have given him such a vehicle (Hint: It’s not because it’s more practical on Europe’s smaller, more crowded streets).
Batman: The Brave and the Bold #5 (DC Comics) I’m often surprised at how far the comic book version of this (utterly fantastic) cartoon series deviates from the show’s formula. This issue, for example, features a hero and villain who haven’t showed up on the show and/or the original, classic Brave and the Bold comics run so many of the show’s team-ups seem culled from. And Batman isn’t transformed at all at any point, nor does he put on a different costume at any point.
Huh. There’s nothing wrong with this, I just find it kind of surprising is all, especially considering the way the comic tries to hew to the short team-up followed by long team-up format of the show.
This issue is written by J. Torres and is drawn by Carlo Barberi, an artist who is quite okay, but isn’t my favorite of those who have drawn this series so far.
On the first two pages, Batman receives some unexpected help from “The Haunted Tank of World War II’ while taking on The Key in a museum.
In the next 20, Batman teams-up with Captain Marvel and Billy Batson to stop the Queen of Fables from abducting children, whose tears she uses to stay young.
It’s decent enough, but never really reaches the giddy heights of the cartoon, or the better issues of the comic-based-on-the-cartoon. Well, I shouldn’t say “never,” but “rarely.” There is a scene where Batman runs up to two fairy tale wolves and says “Why, Batman, what big fists you have… The better to sock you in the teeth with!” while punching one out. That’s pretty awesome.
Green Lantern #41 (DC) This comic book, written by Geoff Johns, features a scene in which someone gets their hand chopped off. Shocking, I know.
Incredible Hercules #129 (Marvel) I know I’ve pointed out a few dozen times before how one of the great virtues of this book is the way Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente manage to fuse real Greek mythology with Marvel mythology in an organic enough way that the latter seems to flow naturally out of the former. That’s no surprise at this point.
It is surprising that Pak and Van Lente keep doing it though, and do it in such original and funny ways.
In this issue, for example, they visit Hades, which is a casino (Pluto being the god of riches and wealth as well as the god of the underworld), and a bored Amadeus Cho rattles off the obvious symbolism, given the similarities between casinos and the afterlife.
It is full of the dead, including many familiar Marvel characters who have recently kicked the bucket.
They are, according to Herc and Cho’s guide Aegis, “Those who believe they have unfinished stories, and ache for a chance to be reborn,” gambling for the chance to be reborn. “Although, to be honest, more of them win than you might expect…,” he adds parenthetically.
Damn, that’s good.
It’s also quite funny. I honestly laughed at every single panel on the first page. Not only is this Marvel’s best ongoing, it is apparently even getting better.
Challenge for any Marvel zombies in the reading audience! Can you identify the 12 ead folks on pages 21 and 22? I recognize Orka, The Abominaiton, Demogoblin (I think that’s his name, or is it Jack O’ Lantern? The dude with a pumpkin head on the flying disc?), one of the Baron Zemos, the queen of the Amazons from “Love and War” and…that’s all I got.
Justice League of America # 33 (DC) This issue is a pretty good example of what’s so horribly wrong with this title.
I like the Justice League, I like writer Dwayne McDuffie, and I like artist Rags Morales—in fact, Morales is one of my favorite artists working in super-comics. So ideally, I should be able to pick up an issue of JLoA by McDuffie and Morales and enjoy it, right?
This is the second consecutive issue by this particular creative team; the previous issue featured a story of the team disintegrating to the point where there were only five members willing to stick around and be the Justice League, and then those few going off to encounter a huge threat that would take a whole League to stop.
And yet this issue draws on plot points from not only last issue, but from throughout the previous nine issues, many of those drawn by artists who aren’t only not Morales, but whom draw absolutely nothing like him, and whose work, personally, I can’t stand.
Also, this isn’t the second part of a story arc, as one might expect given it’s only the second issue by this creative team, but is in fact chapter six of a story entitled “Metathesiophobia,” according to the title page.
So the heroes from the previous issue seek the help of Hardware, whom I only recognize because I’ve been reading comics sine the 1990’s, when he was a character from the comics company Milestone, which DC is now incorporating into their own superhero universe, although it’s not clear from this issue how (Is Dakota City just a city in the DCU now, or in a different dimension, as it was the last time the Milestone characters met DCU characters?).
Together they journey to the headquarters of another group of Milestone characters, who, like Hardware, seem to have met the JLA in issues #27 (which was penciled by the abominable Ed Benes) and #28 (which was penciled by a Jose Luis), which I know from looking a cover gallery of the series on the Internet (making heads or tails out of some books these days sadly means you have to have the Internet handy while reading). There, a character from the cover of #24 (penciled by an Allan Goldman) appears and gives the heroes a cowboy version of Batman, who was on the cover of #26 (penciled by Benes).
They encounter the villain Starbreaker, an old JLA villain from the ‘70s or ‘80s maybe, who was on the cover of #29 (penciled by CrissCross), fighting Icon, another Milestone character, over the body of some character I’ve never seen before, but looks a little like the guy on the terrible cover of this issue. The last panel includes the tag “To be concluded…”, but the solicitation for the very next issue says JLoA #34 will feature “part 1 of a 2-part story” by an entirely different creative team, and the synopsis given doesn’t mention any of the characters or plot points in #33, so if I were inclined to keep reading the story, I have no idea where to find that conclusion.
McDuffie’s dialogue, what I could follow of it, seemed okay, and several of the characters seemed to have distinct personalities. Morales’ art was mostly very good—I was quite impressed with his Hardware, who didn’t look anywhere nearly as obnoxious as he did on the covers of his old comic book—but the artwork falls apart between pages 15 and 18. It looks as if those pages might have a different inker or colorist the changes is so striking, but not according to the credits. The last few pages are in pretty good shape though.
Can we pause to take a look at the cover, before letting this issue off the hook? It is another of those two sides fighting and/or the Justice League lays on the ground in a rubble strewn, background-less wasteland covers that constitutes most of those that artist Benes has provided so far, and yes, all feet are discreetly hidden. But look at the proportions of this stupid thing. Look how tiny Vixen, who is closer to us than Black Canary, is in comparison to the other here. Not just height because hell, I don’t know, maybe Vixen’s 5’2 and Canary’s 6’2 for all I know, but look at their heads. Jesus.
Is there no one in editor Eddie Berganza’s contacts who can draw shitty Justice League pin-up covers better than this?
Runaways #10 (Marvel) Well, I guess I better go ahead and put Runaways back on my pull-list. I dropped the title a while back during the Terry Moore-written run (or was it just a story arc?) on account of it not actually being any good at all, but this issue, a time-killing issue before the new creative team of Kathryn Immonen and Sara Pichelli start next issue, was pretty damn great, and Pichelli’s art is lovely: It has a touch of Adrian Alphona and a touch of Jo Chen to it, and thus seems perfectly appropriate for the title the former illustrated and the latter provided covers for.
The issue opens with a 22-page story written by Christopher Yost and drawn by Pichelli, who arrives before Immonen. It’s entitled “Mollifest Destiny” and is basically a Molly “Power Princess” Hayes/X-Men crossover (“Manifest Destiny” was the story of the X-Men moving from New York to San Francisco, you see). A psychic summons draws Molly to the X-Men’s new SF headquarters, where Wolverine gives her the grand tour in an attempt to convince her to join the team (at Scott and Emma’s request; neither of them want to deal with Molly face-to-face).
It’s all quite amusing, and full of many jokes at the X-Men’s expense. The young X-folks from the cancelled Young X-Men (that book was cancelled, wasn’t it?) show up to confront the older Runaways, but they all end up hanging out instead of fighting.
That’s followed by an 11-page story written by a James Asmus and illustrated by an Emma Rios, whose artwork is just flat-out gorgeous. (When I got to the back-up, I was actually a little bummed she wasn’t taking over the monthly). The older kids are playing Truth or Dare, but they end up fighting a bunch of giant snakes, and Asmus-through-Karolina makes the obvious (but no less amusing) joke.
Marvel, please give Rios more work. Like, a lot more. Any time Pichelli needs a fill-in, for example, or if you did any Runaways spin-offs, or maybe if David LaFuente ever needs a break on Ultimate Spider-Man, or…
You can check out some of her work, including pages form this very story, here. Guess I better make a point of checking out the Hexed trade when it becomes available…
Superman #688 (DC) Wow, Renato Guedes is one hell of an artist. Every page of this book, in which his pencils are inked by Jose Wilson Magalhaes, is lovely to look at. It opens with a four-page, 21-panel sequence in which fill-in Superman Mon-El falls a great height into water and looks like he’s about to drown while the Guardian dives to save him, and while there’s next to no suspense that Mon-El which actually be killed off by something so mundane as falling into water and drowning and the scene thus seems like a waste of space, it is so well drawn that it hardly matters. Guedes is really the best kind of comic book artist—one who can draw anything, and make reading it seem well worth your while.
Plot-wise, writer James Robinson’s stuff about “Project Hell” and DC First Issue Special characters is still going on, Mon-El gets a dire diagnosis from Dr. Light II (I really like the power-cell laced costume re-design she got recently, by the way) and apparently whatever Robinson is ultimately up to will tie-in to the introduction of the Milestone and Red Circle characters into the DCU, as some characters stumble across a room full of monitors focused on them (and Magog?).
Trinity #52 (DC) Well, this is the end of this series, something that I’m kind of happy to see and also kind of sad to see. I think I’ll have a longer, more-considered post to say about the series and its strengths and weaknesses within the next week or so (and probably at Blog@), but for now I’ll just note this is a 25-page book with a fold-out cover by Mark Bagley (for regular price), and that every artist who worked on the series returns for this loose-end-tying-up-story (Some of them, unfortunately, seem to be in a huge hurry to finish their pages, as the issue features some of the worst art so far, but only a page here and a panel there).
It’s hard to imagine too bright a future for many or any of the new characters Busiek and company introduced here, mainly in the villains-turned-hero category, but most of the characters who aren’t the title ones get at least a suggestion of a different, somehow changed future in the DCU—even Hawkman.
Oh, and apparently Tomorrow Woman remains alive (Yay!), but is now human and a reporter (Boo!). Part of me hopes someone does something with her (she’s a natural for the JLA), but, like many of the smaller characters I like, I also kinda hope no one does anything with her, which means she’ll be “safe” from bad stories.
For now just let me say congratulations to the creators for keeping this book on schedule and quite readable for a year (I know “It was better than Countdown” sounds like faint praise, but it was better than Countdown, which I could only stick out for five issues, and can’t even bring myself to borrow the trades of from the library). I look forward to seeing what both Busiek and Bagley do for DC next. (Actually, I know Bagley’s going to be drawing Batman for a bit, but it’s for Judd Winick, so I couldn’t bring myself to read that if Bagley personally delivered free copies of it to my apartment and rubbed my shoulders while I did).
Wolverine First Class #15 (Marvel) Hey it’s the second Wolverine-mentors-a-little-girl story of the week! In this issue, Kitty Pryde pesters Wolvie to introduce her to Thor so she can impress the mean girls in her dance class, and after five-pages of pestering, he does. It involves fighting a big, Kirby-esque Asgardian villain giant monster man guy, Ulik. (Ha ha, his name is “U-Lick?”). Peter David writes, and Scott Koblish draws; it’s pretty mediocre, which is, of course, much better than being bad. I liked the way Koblish drew beat-up Wolverine’s mask-points all shredded after his fight with Ulik.