Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Weekly Haul: June 11th

Action Comics #866 (DC Comics) Oh wow, this was some incredibly strong superhero work from Geoff Johns and the returning art team of Gary Frank and Jon Sibal. This is the first aprt of a story arc entitled “Brainiac,” and it begins a few decades ago at the taking of the Kryptonian city of Kandor, when he’s sticking it in the bottle for the first time. Frank, Sibal and colorist Brad Anderson do an incredible job on this sequence, giving it a real horror movie feel, and making the Brainiac robots and the old-school Brainiac head-shaped ship look cold, shiny and sinister.

In the present, Johns and Frank take some cues from Morrison and Quitely’s All-Star Superman and give us an all-new all-star Daily Planet staff, sitting Clark, Jimmy, Lois and Perry around the same table as Ron Troupe, Steve Lombard and Cat Grant. I’m in awe of how well Frank and Sibal are able to integrate Christopher Reeve’s face and Clark Kent mannerisms into the DCU Superman and making it look so natural (Compare Frank’s referencing of Reeve’s vs. Mike Deodato’s use of Tommy Lee Jones as Norman Osborn in Thunderbolts, or Greg Land’s use of dozens of recognizable faces in, um, everything he draws).

My first exposure to this creative team in the “Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes” left me a little cold, and I’m not sure if they’re just now starting to really develop a chemistry or if the subject matter is simply of greater personal interest now that we’re out of LOSH territory, but I was almost taken aback by how strong they performed together here. There are a few sequences—Cat trying to get Clark to look at her shiny, shiny boobs on page 11, the Brainiac ‘bot’s attempts to drill into Superman’s forehead on page 16—that are among the best visually I can remember seeing in a Geoff Johns comic.

And keeping in mind that Geoff Johns has written 465,000 comics in the last eight years, that’s saying something.

Batman Confidential #18 (DC) Part the second of Fabian Nicieza and Kevin Maguire’s chase story about the first meeting between Catwoman and Barbara “Batgirl” Gordon. I still prefer the original story (available in Showcase Presents: Batgirl Vol. 1), but this is fine, inoffensive fun, featuring the two Gotham gals running through a sort of multi-issue obstacle course. In this issue, they start out a naked-but-masked “hedonist” club, and end up in a junkyard full of junkyard dogs.

Plus, they wrestle naked, with strategically placed objects keeping the scene all-ages. It helps too that Maguire’s work isn’t terribly sexy (at least, I’ve never found his female character designs particularly sexy), focusing on tight close-ups and Barbara’s expressions as she reacts to the scenes around her than on her body, and that the scene is played for laughs.

Demerits for whatever lunatic wrote the dumb-ass blurb on this cover: “INSANITY CLAWS!” See, it’s “funny” because legal contracts have this part called a “sanity clause,” which you may recall from a Marx Brothers routine, but they altered both parts of that phrase to make a double-pun, even though the story has nothing to do legal contracts or insanity.

Probably should have went with, “In This Issue: Naked Wrestling!”

Booster Gold #10 (DC) In this issue, the return of the greatest villain in DC’s extensive comics character catalogue, if not all of comics. This is the penultimate chapter of “Blue & Gold,” and although the storyline is going pretty much exactly where expected, I have to admit the reveal of the true leader of the “Time Stealers” group was an extremely pleasant surprise—one that lead to some of the loosest, fastest, fun-est line work I’ve ever seen out of pencil artist Dan Jurgens (or perhaps it was finisher Norm Rapmund who was responsible?). See page 15, and the bottom corner of page 16 to see what I’m talking about. And if you don’t read Booster Gold, well, I’d suggest you hit the back issue bins, because this is by far one of the best of the DCU books being published at the moment.

(If I was going to gripe, however, it would be that I thought Ted Kord’s execution of the villain was a little callous and hardcore for him, and I’m not sure how the “Time Stealers” managed to keep Superman, Martian Manhunter, Batman and Guy Gardner busy for a whole issue. Any one of those guys should have been able to wipe the floor with that collection of weakling villains in a page or two.)

Green Lantern Corps #25 (DC) Have you ever wondered about the true origins of the Black Mercy flower from that one Alan Moore story (and that one Geoff Johns Green Lantern story, and that one All-New Atom story, and this current GLC arc)? Yeah, me neither, but Peter J. Tomasi gives it to us in great detail here. It’s not a bad silly sci-fi/space opera kind of story, if that’s your thing. It’s not really mine, but I could look at Patrick Gleason superhero drawings all day.

Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century (DC) Superheroes never die, they just temporarily get relegated to out-of-continuity books to bide their time until their inevitable resurrection. So it goes for Bart Allen, the big-haired, big-footed, light-hearted grandson of Barry Allen that Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo created in the pages of Impulse.

Geoff Johns might have changed him into the slightly grimmer and grittier Kid Flash in the pages of Teen Titans, and DC might have changed him into the even grimmer and grittier Flash IV before having him beat to death by villains, but here’s a chance to spend 22 pages with him in his original incarnation.

Bouncing Boy and chubby chaser Triplicate Girl go on a date to a VR video game arcade, and somehow get sucked into the virtual reality world that speedster Bart Allen is living in while he masters his powers. He never gets called “Impulse,” which struck me as odd—even the cover copy refers to him only as “The Most Impulsive Kid in the 31st Century!”—and I’m not sure if this is due to some weird legal reason I’m unaware of, or simply because this occurs before Impulse gets the name Impulse (in which case, it seems a little silly to honor DCU continuity in a Johnny DC book).

I wish I could recommend this as a good comic, but the insides just don’t live up to the promise of the cover. Writer Jake Black’s story is simple to the point of dull—there’s nothing here for a reader more sophisticated than a little kid to dig on—and pencil artist Robert Atkins doesn’t seem to be trying terribly hard, as the best think I can say about his work here is that the Legionnaires are more-or-less on-model throughout.

Tiny Titans #5 (DC) Batgirl and the Tiny Titans East guest-star. Yes, cute, harmless, child-friendly versions of the characters who appeared in the Worst Titans Story Ever—the one where Deathstroke shot drugs into Batgirl II, the one where Match imprisoned Wonder Girl in a bedroom to love her against her will, the one where a demented religious type dressed like an altar boy and calling himself Kid Crusader tried to murder Kid Devil? Yeah, here’s the kid versions of them.

As someone who has read the DCU and Johnny DC Titans, I still find this whole endeavor a little fucked up, but then I suppose the actual little kids who read this title don’t have access to Teen Titans or The Titans…and hopefully won’t until they’re teens.

Lots of good Nightwing gags this time around; I love how everyone keeps referring to him as Robin.

The Last Defenders #4 (Marvel Comics) Featuring two panels worth of Hecate, Set and Amon, the demon horses that pull the Son of Satan’s chariot!

Secret Invasion: Who Do You Trust? #1 (Marvel) This over-sized one-shot (38 pages for $3.99) is the equivalent of Civil War: Choosing Side for this particular line-wide crossover story. While that 2006 one-shot anthology featured lead-ins to a handful of upcoming new series (plus a Howard the Duck story), this one simply checks in with various book-less players in the Marvel Universe, offering little bridges to and from the Secret Invasion mini.

Let’s take them one at a time…

“Captain Marvel: Farewell” is by Brian Reed and Lee Weeks, the creative team behind the five-part Captain Marvel miniseries that ended up being a stealth prelude to Secret Invasion rather than a sequel to that terrible Civil War: The Return one-shot. Having skipped that, I didn’t have a real solid understanding of what was going on, although I had heard that this Cap was actually a Skrull thinking it was Captain Marvel. It basically shows what’s going on inside his head prior to attacking the Thunderbolts base, and while it’s clear he’s betraying someone, the story didn’t seem to resolve if he’s on the Skrulls’ side or Earth’s side. It ends with a “Continued in Secret Invasion #1” notation. Not unreadable or anything, but not at all interesting to me either.

“Agent Brand: In Plain Sight” is written by Mike Carey and drawn by Timothy Green III, the enormously talented artist who was more than half of the reason that Annihilation: Conquest—Starlord totally ruled. Carey finds Agent Brand floating in space outside her S.W.O.R.D. satellite HQ that was destroyed during SI #1, and has her figuring out how to survive while flashing back to tell something of her pre-Astonishing X-Men history, and her recent past dealings with Skrulls. It gets quite a bit done in so little space, a credit to Carey’s ability to craft a story. But once again, it’s Green’s work that elevates this from something pretty good to well worthwhile, and he gets plenty of opportunity to draw sexy secret agents and imaginatively weird aliens. This one ends with “Continued In…Secret Invasion #4.”

“Wonder Man & The Beast: Seems Like Old Times” by Christos N. Gage and Mike Perkins show us that goddam T Rex attack in The Savage Land for at least the fourth time (Maybe it’s been in more comics; this is the fourth time I’ve personally seen it). Luckily, that only lasts a page. Apparently the dinosaur knocked the Mighty Avengers’ Wonder Man and the off-the-Skrull-ship Beast into an underground cavern. The pair must bicker, banter and battle their way out, each trying to determine if the other is a Skrull. Fans of the Beast/Wonder Man relationship should particularly enjoy this one.

“Marvel Boy: Master of the Cube” is by Zeb Wells, Steve Kurth and Drew Hennessey. You know who should write Grant Morrison’s version of Marvel Boy? Grant Morrison. And that’s probably the end of that particular list. This is at least the third appearance of Marvel Boy since the end of Morrison and J.G. Jones’ original miniseries, and he’s still exactly where he was when it ended. This one is continued in Secret Invasion, with no particular issue specified.

“Agents of Atlas: The Resistance” by the AoA mini-series creative team of Jeff Parker and Leonard Kirk is the reason I picked this comic up in the first place. A Skrull narrates the short story, describing the invasion force’s conquering of Portland, Oregon, and the resistance offered by the Agents. It’s mostly cleverly framed straightforward action—or as straightforward as any action involving a gorilla and a machine gun can be—coupled with a few scenes demonstrating again just how scary and hardcore The Human Robot and this particular Marvel Boy are. Pretty good stuff, but given that it’s only eight pages long, maybe I should have gotten that Jeff Parker-written Hulk: Raging Thunder one-shot after all, Greg Land cover or no Greg Land cover.

I do wonder if the Skrull head will end up on the AoA team now…

Trinity #2 (DC) Oh wow; not only is the cover design weak (1/3 of a triptych image every week), but that awful sigil pancake logo is even worse than a though—every week they’re going to move a different symbol to the top and put it in focuse? Ewww.

I dig the insides okay, though. This second issue seems to fly by awfully quickly compared to the first, probably in large part because it is much more action-packed. Superman deals with the kind of problem writer Kurt Busiek was always plaguing him with during his short run on the Super-books, Batman deals with a nightmare city where cute little bats carry tiny little scrolls (awww!), and Wonder Woman goes for her personal best at giant robot smashing.

The cliffhanger is Green Lantern John Stewart sending a distress signal to the League, and the back half of the book is devoted to telling the story of what led to that. Tom Derenick and Wayne Faucher draw this portion, and its basically just Stewart versus a generic looking alien anmed Konvikt who says things like “BH!” and “NNH!” and “HRF?”

It’s still pretty early—the story’s only 1/26th over, after all, but so far DC’s third consecutive weekly seems to be gravitating toward a middle ground between the first two. It’s neither as exciting, wide-ranging or original as 52 was by this point, nor is it as depressingly half-assed, dreadful and riddled with mistakes as Countdown was by this point.

I think I’ll be okay with this if it ends up being about as good as Busiek’s Superman run, and I’m more than okay with the art, which is already much better than that in either of the other weeklies.

Confidential to DC: Start thinking about a fourth weekly now; the earlier you work on these things, the better, apparently.

The Twelve #6 (Marvel) The series is now officially half over, and yet there’s been no attempt to explain how Black Widow’s huge breasts remain held aloft before her as if by some magical force, not only unaffected by gravity, but completely immobile. She can’t possibly have room for a heavy-duty bra, let alone some sort of lifting corset, under her tissue paper-thin costume. It’s a matter I’m much more curious about than whether Rockman is really and underground secret agent or simply bananas, but J. Michael Straczynski chooses to address the latter rather than the former. Maybe next issue…

Wonder Woman (DC) DC’s WildStorm imprint stopped making sense years ago, slowly moving from the home of cohesive superhero universe and occasional creator-driven concept comics to an anything-goes grab bag of those, plus movie, TV, cartoon, and video game adaptations, plus books that there’s no logical reason to be published under the WildStorm imprint instead of the DC one. Like Chuck Dixon and Andy Smith’s Claw The Unconqured (i.e. Conan with a demon hand), what the hell was this old 1970’s DC barbarian doing on the WildStorm imprint?

I have no idea, and apparently neither did DC or WildStorm, as he only managed a single six-issue miniseries, after a crossover with Dynamite’s Red Sonja.

Well, he’s back in a DC comic, Wonder Woman specifically. And did you know his demon hand is contagious? He’s apparently going to be teaming up with Beowulf and Wondy, whose costume changes on each new plane, to kill that guy Stalker, who I’m still not sure is supposed to be the guy from The Justice Society Returns! or not.

Meanwhile, Sarge Steel asks master-of-disguise Nemesis to start spying on fellow agent Diana Prince, and he stakes out her apartment at night…in his uniform. Oh Nemesis, you truly are the world’s Steve Trevor-iest secret agent!


Patrick C said...

Was this the original Claw or the Primal Force Claw? I love seeing Primal Force characters turn up, and that remains the only version of the Red Tornado I ever liked.

And I love Gary Frank on Action. I really enjoyed his art on the Legion of Super-Heroes run too, I know it hasn't been that long of a run but I'm ready to call him my favorite Superman artist.

A good week, but I'm not sold on Trinity. I'll pick up at least next week's, but that may be it. Especially when all the Final Crisis books start coming out. I'm a mindless sheep and will snap up all of those, so I doubt I'll be able to afford Trinity on top of all that.

JohnF said...

How dare you describe the Batgirl/Catwoman issue as "inoffensive!" You must hate all women. I'm telling WFA on you.

Anonymous said...

You recognize the faces in Greg Land art? Obligatory porn face/familiarity with porn joke.

Seriously, though, Action Comics this week had to be one of Geoff John's strongest books outside of Green Lantern in ages (which I'm admittedly a sucker for). And it didn't have the typical Geoff Johns off-camera framing narration on the first page! That gets bonus points for bucking form.

Also, as for how the Time Stealers held off, well, the most powerful people in the DCU outside of Gods and Wonder Woman... The magical powers of plot necessity.

SallyP said...

I finally picked up a copy of Action Comics...and I'm awfully glad that I did. The story was fun, and the art was gorgeous. I also enjoyed the donut.

I would read anything that had Kevin Maguire artwork, but this was just a whole lot of silly fun. I have to say that I ENJOY silly fun. I also liked the fact that Catwoman apparently has scars on her back, which would of course, make perfect sense.

I loved Booster Gold. I can honestly say that I had no clue about the identity of the REAL villain, but of course, it makes perfect sense as well. Beetle was a little hardcore there, too!

Green Lantern Corps was great if you love Green Lanterns, which I do. Nice to see them NOT beating the crap out of the alien.

I liked Trinity, good to see them doing their schticks so well.

That was Claw in Wonder Woman? I should have known that, I suppose. I actually rather like Nemesis, but man, he's not too bright.

Sea-of-Green said...

Gaaaaahh!! Now I gotta go pick up a copy of Action Comics.

It's so much easier to save money on the ol' comic book budget when they all suck. ;-)

Sea-of-Green said...

Gaaaaahh!! Now I gotta go pick up a copy of Action Comics.

It's so much easier to save money on the ol' comic book budget when they all suck. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I believe that the plot of GL Corps will tie into Geoff Johns' greater plans for the "Blackest Night" arc.

Tomasi appears to be lining "Mother Mercy" up for the Indigo (Compassion) Corps. Note the colour of the speech bubbles they gave it.

Caleb said...

Was this the original Claw or the Primal Force Claw?

It looked like the WildStorm one, who seemed like the original. Definitely not the Primal Force one.

You recognize the faces in Greg Land art?

Heh. Well, none lately. I haven't read anything featuring interior work from him since Ultimate FF, where Reed would suddenly look like Topher Grace for, like, one panel, or Namor would look like Billy Zane in one panel, then a WWE wrestler in the next and so on.

Tomasi appears to be lining "Mother Mercy" up for the Indigo (Compassion) Corps. Note the colour of the speech bubbles they gave it.

Hey, that makes sens. There's that breif scene where the Guardians detect some Zamoran energy or whatever, and Mother Mercy is female(-ish), which would fit with the Zamoran-as-space-Amazon theme.