Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Weekly Haul: January 20th

Amazing Spider-Man #618 (Marvel Comics) This is a Marcos Martin issue, so you’re probably going to want to just go ahead and buy it.

The Avengers Vs. Atlas #1 (Marvel) The Jeff Parker-written team of quirky heroes may not be able to hold down their own title, but they sure are ubiquitous these days. In addition to their appearance in a back-up strip in this week’s Incredible Hercules, they’re also front and center here, the first issue of a four-part series in which they cross paths once again with Marvel’s A-list hero team.

Parker and Gabriel Hardman handle the creative duties, and the story is straightforward without being tediously so. The Agents are trying to put down one of the many evil operations that make up the criminal empire they’ve inherited, while some sort of weird timestream hinkiness is causing obscure Avengers adversaries to appear here and there. The Agents team-up with the New Avengers to take on one of these, but the New Avengers turn into the Old Avengers when the hinkiness touches them, leaving us with a cliffhanger ending.

Justifying the $4 price tag is an eight-page back-up story spotlighting Namora. It’s a satisfyingly complete story, particularly so given how short it is. It too is by Parker, with art by EDIW favorite Takeshi Miyazawa.

If I were to complain about any aspect of the comic, it would probably be Humberto Ramos’ pretty generic three random characters posing randomly cover, in which none of the characters really even look all that much like themselves. If this weren’t in my pull-list, meaning an employee at my local comic shop handed it to me with the rest of my comics, I don’t think I would have even noticed it on the new comics rack this week.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #13 (DC Comics) Sholly Fisch, Robert Pope and Scott McRae turned out what was hands-down my favorite comic of the week. Our man Batman breaks his leg during an adventure with Angel and The Ape, which leaves him reluctantly nursing his injury in the Batcave, while every criminal in Gotham City seizes the opportunity to run wild.

Who can possibly stop The Joker, Catwoman, The Penguin, Deadshot, Killer Croc and Bane? Perhaps Green Arrow, Aquaman, Plastic Man and Captain Marvel, all dressed in not-very-convincing Batman costumes? (For example, GA still wears a belt with a green G-shaped belt buckle; Aquaman’s blonde beard flows from the front of his cowl, and so on).

I don’t want really want to spoil the climax here, but suffice it to say that if the two paragraphs above sound exciting to you, you’re going to love the last two pages of this.

Blackest Night: The Flash #2 (DC) You know, I think the Blackest Night event would be a ton more fun if Geoff Johns were writing all of the tie-ins. This is one of the rare ones that seems to fit in perfectly with what’s going on in the main series and Green Lantern, in terms of tone and approach. Even though much of it seems to take place far away from the main storyline in terms of relevance—that is, it’s more about what this particular group of characters is doing while the important shit’s going down in BN and GL than any of the important shit itself—it fits in perfectly organically.

That’s to be expected, given that it’s written by Geoff Johns, the event’s mastermind, but it’s worth pointing out if anyone in the reading audience has a limited budget/interest level for the event, and wants to stick with the more relevant/entertaining bits of the ever-expanding crossover event series thing.

As the cover indicates, this issue is mostly devoted to The Rogues versus The Black Lantern Rogues, which is awfully fun, as far as comically grim-and-grittied up Silver Age goofball villains trying to brutally murder one another can be.

The middle section is devoted to the now Blue Lantern-ized Barry Allen in Coast City, apparently detailing what happened between the panels of the previous issue of Blackest Night (after he got the ring, but before he posed for the two-page splash alongside the rest of the deputy New Guardians).

And hell, Johns even manages to get a pretty intriguing cliffhanger ending in at the last few panels here.

Scott Kolins is still handling the art, and it’s really great stuff. The resurrected Rogues feature some seriously boss designs, particularly the Black Lantern Top, whose horizontal stripes look better in black and white than green and gold, and whose head and arms seem to be on backwards.

Kolins also gets in some incredible speed effects, like that little swirl emanating from the lightning in The Top’s right on the cover, or Wally West’s vibrating, sliding punch on page 14.

Incredible Hercules #140 (Marvel) I would complain about the cover of this month’s issue, which prominently features both Spider-Man and Wolverine, despite the fact that neither of them make any appearance whatsoever in this issue (not even getting a one-panel cameo like USAgent), but the sound effect in the first panel on page 10 was so funny, I just couldn’t stay mad at this comic. Hercules and Amadeus’ solution to Hesphaestus’ diabolical “prisoner’s dilemma”-inspired death trap was amusingly clever as well.

Joe The Barbarian #1 (Vertigo/DC) This first issue of a new eight-part miniseries written by Grant Morrison is specially priced at just $1, and the price is right. There’s very little going on in this issue—in fact, so little that if you’ve read the solicitation for the issue you’ve pretty much read the comic book—but at least Vertigo’s not asking for more than the reading experience is worth.

Morrison introduces us to our title character, giving him a checklist of clichéd signifiers that Joe is a special adolescent, a dreamer and an outsider with talents not apparent to those around him...perhaps even including himself. Then, on page 19, he finds himself magically transported to a world where Optimus Prime, Talking Snake-Eyes and some less specific toys communicate with him.

Given the slow start, Morrison’s contributions seem negligible in this outing, and artist Sean Murphy is the real star. His work is incredible, and he’s able to infuse long, silent stretches—like a sequence in which Joe walks off the school bus, through his house and up to his bedroom—with a surprising amount of tension and drama.

I imagine it’s Morrison’s name that will get a lot of folks to pick up #1, but it’s Murphy’s work that will get most of them to pick up #2.

Power Girl #8 (DC) Hmm, are Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray pulling supervillains off my blog to use in Power Girl, or is it merely a happy coincidence that the previous issue featured a super-obscure Golden Age Wonder Woman villain I love, and this issue ends with a climactic cliffhanger reveal of my very favorite-est DC villain of all?

This is the second half of the Power Girl vs. Vartox storyline, in which the pair rather quickly dispatch with the unstoppable monsters and proceed to spend the bulk of the book on a date of sorts.

Thanks as much to Amanda Conner’s fun, highly expressive artwork and the subtle but detailed “acting” she does through her characters, this issue was incredibly funny. Even when a joke isn’t all that funny by itself, Conner can make it so with the degree of skill with which she tells it (The scene in which Vartox shows off his formal dinner wear for example, or the one where he accidentally burns down his head-ships kitchen, likely wouldn’t have worked out nearly as well if almost anyone other than Conner were drawing them).

I wasn’t planning on sticking around after this issue, but I guess I’ll try at least one more if You Know Who’s going to be in it (Although I’m not terribly fond of Conner’s redesign for him; I wouldn’t have even known he was who he is if the next issue blurb didn’t include his name).

Rasl #6 (Cartoon Books) It’s been so long since I read #5 that I don’t remember precisely what’s going on in this series, but I always enjoy each issue on its own terms. This one spends most of its time on the story of Nikolai Tesla, as drawn by Jeff Smith. Given that the story takes place in different dimensions, it was especially fun reading, as I wasn’t always sure which facts about Tesla were true in our dimension, which bits of information were divergences for the sake of the story and how far they might have diverged.

As long as this is published at its current pace, I’m probably going to be complete crap at reviewing it, but I’ll hopefully be better able to do so once it’s finished and I can re-read it all at once. In the meantime, I’m happy to buy whatever Smith feels inclined to write, draw and publish.

Starman #81 (DC) Have you read one Blackest Night tie-in? You have? Well congratulations, you’ve read them all. This one-issue revival of the dead/canceled Starman series has the formula down pat: Quick re-cap of a dead character’s history presented as a download of information to a Black Lantern ring, a dead character returns to wreak havoc and attempt to kill and/or just annoy the book’s hero, the book’s hero fairly easily destroys the Black Lantern.

This issue may be of greater interest than some of the other revivals, as it’s to a critically-acclaimed and fan-favorite series, and it’s written by that series’ original writer, James Robinson.

The Starman isn’t either of the ones Robinson spent the most attention on during his 80-issue run, but on David Knight, Jack’s older brother. He comes back as a Black Lantern, and it’s up to the few remaining heroes in Opal City to stop him—The Shade and the O’Dare family.

It’s among the best writing Robinson’s done for DC in the past few years, although I suppose that may sound a bit like feint praise, given the relative quality of so much of his work for DC in these past few years.

It might have been fun if DC could have reunited Robinson with artist Peter Snejbjerg for this issue, but the team of Fernando Dagnino and Bill Sienkiewicz do a fine job, Sienkiewicz’s finishes given many of the images an appropriately nervous energy. And hey, they did get Tony Harris back for the cover, so that’s cool.

Tiny Titans #24 (DC) The Ant’s uncle, Uncle Ant, has one of the weirdest and most specific superpowers I’ve ever heard of.


Hdefined said...

I think it says something about how great an idea a Johns/Kolins Flash tie-in series to Blackest Night is that you have no complaints about it (you do generally enjoy Blackest Night, but you're also reasonably critical at times).

And you know, why the hell did those two have to end their run on that series in the first place all those years ago? They were such a perfect creative team on the most suitable book for both of them. Their reteaming for both Rogues Revenge and this series shows that they haven't lost the magic at all, and that they still have stories worth telling.

Because at the end of the day, Kolins is probably going to be remembered for his work on Flash. Not the Avengers, not Marvel Team-up, and not Solomon Grundy. Why can't he just embrace that fact and just go with it?

LurkerWithout said...

Smith has an add in Rasl saying the next issue is due in March. From what I've heard he's planning on trying to make the book come out bi-monthly...

MarkAndrew said...

Man, Batman: The Brave and the Bold has been so great these last couple issues. It seems like there's been a subtle shift from trying-a-little-TOO-hard to capture the flavor of the show to just wringing as much cool stuff as possible out of each premise.