Saturday, September 02, 2006

Weekly Haul: August 30th

52 #17 (DC Comics)Okay, so based on the cover image, Lobo has taken the cape of Superman, the cowl of Batman, the sword and lasso of Wonder Woman and the coat of Captain Jack Sparrow. 52’s Gang of Four, assisted by Keith Giffen, Chris Batista and two inkers, do an admirable job trying to make the dated, one-joke Lobo seem more relevant, but he just doesn’t really stretch that far (Refreshingly, however, they use the once-overexposed character judiciously, all of his dialogue occurs in the vacuum of space, sparing us any catchphrases). Animal Man raises a great point upon first catching a glimpse of Lobo--how does one smoke a cigar in a vacuum? Lobo’s origin story, this week’s back-up feature, is penciled by his creator Keith Giffen, and is perfectly drawn. Mark Waid, who writes it, captures the spirit of the character’s early appearances in the narration quite well.

Action Comics #842 (DC) You know how annoying people who talk on their cell phones in public are? Well, imagine a giant guy talking on a giant cell phone—that’s the villain of the piece, a sort of alien auctioneer who starts stealing and selling earth stuff, refocusing his attention this issue on the DC Earth’s most valuable resource—superheroes. Superman, Nightwing, Firestorm II, Aquaman II, Livewire, The Veteran, Skyrocket (Woohoo!) and Bluejay (Yay!) are the ragtag team that’s left to save the day. I gotta say, I love me some Bluejay, and it’s great to see Skyrocket too, plus the overall willingness to shine the Superman spotlight so liberally around the dark corners of the DCU. Best line? Probably Livewires’ nickname for the tight-butted Nightwing: “Tightwing.”

All-Star Superman #5 (DC) Another homerun in Morrison and Quitely ongoing synthesis of all previous Superman incarnations into one, ultimate story. Quitely has done amazing things with Clark Kent thus far, and outdoes himself here. This is one Superman story where the “disguise” of Clark Kent isn’t so easy to see through. Physically transforming himself through his posture and facial expressions, Kent seems like a big, doughy lummox, rather than Superman with glasses. The real spotlight here is on Lex Luthor though, and Morrison manages to boil his hatred of Superman down to its most elegantly simple explanation: “How would you feel if someone deliberately stood in your way, over and over?” I’m having a hard time coming up with a favorite moment from this issue. The best I can do is narrow it down to either the appearance of Beppo the Supermonkey (um, sorta), the thing that fell out of Luthor’s pocket and how he uses it, or the joke about Melville.

Black Panther #19 (Marvel Comics) I’d expect more fireworks when the super-powered ruler of Latveria and the super-powered rulers of Wakandia get together for a tête-à-tête. Instead, writer Reginald Hudlin sets Cictor von Doom up as a straw man bad guy who’s not above (one not above making racist remarks to Storm, Panther and Africans in general) and B.P. as defensive about his continent’s cultural and technological achievements. Then there’s a fight with a bunch of Doombots (though the word “Doombot,” one of the most fun words in the Marvel Universe, is sadly used aloud in this issue). The promise inherent in the royal couples world tour is enough to keep me interested and reading for at least a few more issues though. Actually, the next stop is the moon, to visit the Inhumans, so I guess the words “world tour” aren’t exactly accurate, are they?

The Boys #2 (WildStorm/DC) No, I’m still not impressed. I mean, it’s fine and all, it’s just that I’ve seen it all before elsewhere in other Garth Ennis stories. (Like the scene where the Female attacks a house full of bad guys? It’s pretty much the exact same scene that introduced the Russian in “Welcome Back, Frank,” just not as outrageously funny). Maybe this promising series from two incredibly talented creators will finally get somewhere new and interesting next issue, when the team finally goes after some “supes.”

Civil War: Young Avengers & Runaways #2 (Marvel) More fighting, the inevitable make up, and one hell of an unexpected guest appearance. I love Caselli’s visual takes on the characters and the Runaways’ disses of the YA—good to see I’m not the only one who finds their names, costumes, powers and reason for being a little, um—what’s the word I’m looking for?—lame.

JLA: Classified #26 (DC) Howard Chaykin’s story here is awfully similar to Gail Simone’s story arc from just a few issues ago, dealing with how the JLA acts on the stage of world politics, which lines they can’t or won’t cross and which they will and why. In addition to Simone and Chaykin, plenty of other DC writers have tackled the same issues, including Giffen and DeMatteis, Joe Kelly, Brian Azzarello and, most potently, John Arcudi in his superior one shot JLA: Superpower. It would probably behoove DC to finally tell a definitive story about the JLA’s place in the world ometime soon, for consistency’s sake if nothing else. This time, two completely fictional South American countries are at war with one another, and they’re using methahumans as WMDs, which piques the USA’s and the JLA’s interest. The League meets with the President (no, not Bush) in the White House (Wait, Batman, taking a meeting with the President? In the White House?), and they go to the U.N. for permission to fact find. Permission denied, the League decides to go ahead and go in anyway—in plain clothes. The League itself is the Big Seven, apparently right after or near the end of Kelly’s run on JLA (Kyle’s the Lantern, Wally’s still Flash, J’onn’s still Martian and not a Skrull and Aquaman is in his shirtless, necklace-wearing phase). The art, by Kilian Plunket and Tom Nguyen, is nice (even if their cover is anonymously lackluster) and Nguyen is a particularly good choice to ink, as he inked this version of the League when they were starring in JLA.

Justice #7 (DC) This Alex Ross-helmed maxiseries is a strong refutation of DC’s recent impulse to have to remake everything that’s not Superman and Batman. Martian Manhunter and Captain Marvel have both received radical redesigns in an attempt to make the characters work better, but as Ross and company prove here, they’re hardly broken (It’s somewhat ironic that the first issue of Trials of Shazam! drops the same day that Ross proves yet again that Captain Marvel is just as great as the rest of DC’s big guns just the way he is). In this issue, it’s guest-stars galore, including the huge JLA line-up and Captain Marvel, plus the Metal Men, the Doom Patrol, Plas, Metamorpho, Black Adam, some plainclothes sidekicks and Aqualad. Ross’ art, painted over Doug Braithwaite’s pencils, infuses the proceedings with a layer of wonder. For example, check out the two-page spread of the Fortress of Solitude. It’s a setting we’ve visited thousands of times in comics, but really, when was the last time it made you gasp like this? Here it’s like seeing it for the first time. I have no idea who’s slated to helm JLofA after Brad Meltzer’s short run ends, but if they’re looking for a shake-up rather than a continuation, here’s hoping Alex Ross and Geoff Johns are put in charge. Best line: “I hate asking…but my wallet got burned up when you threw me into the sun.”

She-Hulk #11 (Marvel) Best. She-Hulk. Cover. Ever. The (super)power couple of She-Hulk and John Jameson are Honeymooners, but he’s spending his howling at the moon in his Man-Wolf form. Their relationship is about to take a turn for the even weirder, it seems, as Starfox’s role in the proceedings is explained and then nullified.

Solo #12 (DC) Uhhh…Hm. I got nothing.

Superman/Batman #29 (DC) Mark Verheiden is—unfortunately—keeping Jeph Loeb’s Throw Everything At The Reader approach to this title. In the second issue of his arc, his first with the series regular artist Ethan Van Sciver, a bunch of random characters attack the title heroes, though in some cases they may be a shape-shifter posing as other characters, as in last issue. There’s The Creature Who Could Not Die, the Caveman from Krypton, Golden Age Lois Lane, and the Green Lantern rings on the fingers of Kilowog and Hal Jordan, apparently controlling the ring-slingers (the slinger has become the slingee!). Ethan Van Sciver is an incredible artist, perhaps the best draftsmen and designer this particular title, which is known for its hot artists, has had, but in this issue we discover his limitations—not even he can make the new Skrullish Manhunter design look remotely cool. And speaking of the Manhunter, since when did J’onn J’onnz become such a dick? Sure, Batman jumps out of the shadows and shoots him in the face with a flamethrower, but J’onn could be a little more professional about it. “Even if I had my suspicions, do you honestly think I would trust them to a human like you?” he tells his long-time friend before blowing him off (Remember the last time you blew off a long-time Justice Legue colleague who lacks superpowers and dresses up in an animal costume, J’onn? That’s right, he got shot in the head and the universe was almost destroyed). I do hope that’s not the last we’ve seen of J’onn this story arc; while I loathe his new look, I’d hate to think he actually responded to news of some sort of shape-shifting alien invasion of earth with a “Yeah, whatever human. I’m out of here.” Confidential to Van Sciver: Lois got a haircut.

Teen Titans #38 (DC) When the subject of new teammates comes up, Rose Wilson finally says what I’ve been thinking since the OYL relaunch: “Does that mean more adults on the Teen Titans like Cyborg? Because the team kinda loses it’s point, doesn’t it?” Geoff Johns ratchets up the OYL mysteries, as the team heads to Russia to meet Red Star (given a new, cool status quo and a look resembling his Cartoon Network style) and search for the missing Raven. They learn that Raven is searching for something that was stolen from titans Tower by one of the 20 young heroes who were Titans during the missing year. There’s a great two-page spread teasing the list of suspects, including two from the Kingdom Come-iverse (Zatara and Offspring), three from the cartoon (Hotspot and Mas y Menos) and one named after a Mel Brooks movie (Young Frankenstein). It should be fun getting to the bottom of this mystery and meeting some of these new characters, although the first issue of this new arc was accompanied by some particularly weak art. The pencils by Carlos Ferreira seemed static and awfully amateurish for such a strong-selling DC book, and some of the pictures were downright confusing (Um, did Risk actually eat a quarter in that one scene, or what?)

Transformers: Evolutions #3 (IDW) Wait, concluded next issue? That’s it? That’s all we get? Four issues of the Steam Age Transformers? Man, it hardly seems worth it. Why waste all that time on Transformers redesign to tell such a short and exceedingly weak story.

Trials of Shazam! #1 (DC) I broke my vow never to buy another Winick DCU book because of my love of Porter’s art (particularly this gorgeous new painterly storybook/comic book fusion style) and the Big Red Cheese outweighed my disdain for Winick’s lazy, lazy writing (the ignorance of continuity, the indistinct characterization, the lack of any research at all). In general, Winick doesn’t seem interested in the occult at all, and when writing about demons, trolls and magic (which he does surprisingly often), he resorts to gobbledygook that sounds like overheard and misunderstood Dungeons & Dragons lingo. He does so here too, but this time around there’s an explanation given for it. The last page shocker, teased at by the end of Infinite Crisis #7 seems to indicate that DC has found a way they can keep telling Captain Marvel stories even though they can’t use his actual name in a title—just change him into Shazam. Like the recent Martian Manhunter redesign and relaunch, this book seems to be a case of fixing something that’s not in the least bit broken, but Winick and Porter haven’t done any real damage to Cap yet, and, unlike Martian Manhunter, I’ll be picking up #2 of this series.

Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #2 (DC) I was extremely skeptical of this particular relaunch, but Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Grey knew what they were doing all along, and prove it here. I’m not convinced they needed to kill off most of the last FF and shunt the others off into limbo to make way for this version (How is Ray III any different than Ray II, other than being much less likable?), but with the FF now on the run like their ‘70s counterparts, I’m down for #3.

X Factor #10 (Marvel) I still have no idea what’s going on with Singularity Investigations (another strange clue is provided here), but I can’t stop reading this title either. Props to Peter David for teasing out such well-realized characters that the story around them seems completely beside the poing. Art on this book has been especially troubled for a series that’s yet to hit a dozen issues, but these two pencilers seem capable. But I still say give the book to Kevin Maguire and Joe Rubinstein.

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