Saturday, February 27, 2010

Review: Dark Reign: Fantastic Four

Now this, this is more like it.

Dark Reign: Fantastic Four was a five-issue miniseries of the sort Marvel started doing during Secret Invasion, and DC has since followed suit with during Blackest Night: Short miniseries tied in to the events of the big event series in order to leave the franchises’ main titles free to keep doing whatever it was they were doing.

During this series, what Fantastic Four was doing was hosting the end of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s short run, which was fairly divorced from the month-to-month continuity of the greater Marvel universe line of books.

Dark Reign: Fantastic Four was also written by Jonathan Hickman, who would go on to take over the main FF title after Millar departed, so this is essentially the start of Hickman’s run.

I was honestly a little surprised to see the collection at the library, as I must have missed its announcement (or forgotten all about it), in the deluge of Dark Reign titles. The premise of the Dark Reign branding, that villain Norman Osborn and his cronies have taken over the U.S. government’s management and policing of Marvel’s superheroes, doesn’t seem to have obvious implications for the FF, which have been rather divorced from the storyline (and Marvel Universe politics) in general thus far…perhaps in large part because Millar’s writing of the title has been off doing its own thing for so long, and FF has never really fallen into Dark Reign mastermind Brian Michael Bendis’ portfolio.

Hickman didn’t even go with the most obvious FF tie-in, the presence of archenemy Doctor Doom and on-again-off-again frenemy Namor among Osborn’s “Cabal.”

He did find an interesting, even natural way to tie the FF into Dark Reign, through Reed Richards. Since the superhero “civil war” in Civil War which (somehow not entirely clear to me) lead to the villains-in-charge status quo was in large part Reed’s fault, Hickman has Reed decide to figure out where exactly his grand plans went wrong. How could the smartest super-genius in the universe have been that wrong about something, after all? Reed does so in a very Fantastic Four kind of way, by building a machine that processes alternate realities, so he can see how the Reeds in parallel dimensions addressed the challenges, isolate the problem, and then fix everything.

Something goes slightly wrong though, when Osborn and his army bust in to schedule a meeting with the FF, and Johnny, Thing and Sue find themselves living and fighting through multiple realities. What this means is we see get to see different versions of the trio and other Marvel heroes in different genres—war, western, pirate, medieval, space-faring sci-fi and so on.

Much of this is of the good-crazy sort of comics insanity, like “Black Susan” Storm in a high noon showdown with The Beyonder, or “The Man In White.” Or like the monocle-wearing Chamberlain Grimm declaring, “Milday, ‘tis the clobbering hour.” Or Venom-possessed Skrulls on a rampage.

Pencil artist Sean Chen and inker Lorenzo Gurriero provide the visuals, and they’re incredibly deft juggling the rather wild shifts in genre. No matter the setting, the characters look consistent, and the costuming, props and geography look right. It’s really handsome-looking work, and very refreshing after the strained realism of Hitch’s work on the same characters.

Hickman does a pretty great job of juggling conflicts, with the Thing and company’s wild adventures essentially providing action and comedy relief to Reed’s oblivious pondering, and the children left alone to face the invading Osborn and HAMMER agents. It all comes together quite effectively at the climax, although it is perhaps the twelfth time or so I’ve seen Osborn do something so ridiculously, comically evil in a fairly public setting that one has to work really hard to continue to suspend disbelief hard enough to take Marvel’s event cycle seriously. (Here, he personally shoots his gun at a couple of little kids in the headquarters of the world’s most famous and trustworthy superheroes…Reed Richards built an alternate-reality viewer, but there’s no security cameras in The Baxter Building?)

Another Hickman-written, Dark Reign-related story is included in this volume, an Adi Granov-illustrated eight-page short story that is little more than a tour of Dr. Doom’s day-dreaming about dealing with the rest of the cabal. I’m not a big fan of Granov’s slick, painted-looking style, but this is an awfully small dose of it. It’s fine as a short, grim joke character sketch of a story, the biggest revelation being that Dr. Doom totally wants to fuck Loki-in-a-lady-body. Weird.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Reviews of some recent super-comics, more than half of which were written by Geoff Johns

Batman and Robin #9 (DC Comics) Hmm, what could possibly be cooler than an undead zombie copy of Batman mass-produced by the god of evil to use to use as a foot soldier in his subjugation of reality fighting Batman, Batwoman, Alfred and Damian al Ghul (wearing a neck brace), while The Knight and Squire take on King Coal? Maybe if the undead zombie copy of Batman mass-produced by the god of evil talked like one of the animals from We3?
Yeah, I think that might make it even cooler.

Blackest Night #7 (DC) Credit where credit is due—Geoff Johns and everyone at DC in charge of promoting comics without spoiling them have done a bang-up job with Blackest Night so far, as this issue contains yet another example of an extremely obvious thing most readers expected to happen at some point happening, but in such a radically different way (although perhaps predictable through 20/20 hindsight) that it still comes off as a huge surprise. As I said at Blog@ earlier today, it’s really exciting to be surprised by a comic like this these days, and the double-page splash that ends the book is just such a surprise, but I think the bigger revelation is what came before—the real reason Nekron attacked Earth.

It’s a big change in the DC Universe’s creation story, and for any of who are interested in mythology, theology and DC super-comics, it’s going to be a hell of a thing to think about and mull over in the months to come.

Wait, is this too positive a review? Then let me find something to complain about…

Oh yeah, this issue costs $4, a full dollar more than DC’s regular 22-page comics, despite the fact that it’s only 25 pages long. And factoring in all the splashes (two full-page splashes, two double-page splashes), that’s not very much in the way of extra comics for the price hike.

Also, why doesn’t John Stewart form a force field around the earth with his ring to keep all the Black Lanterns out? Why is he such a wuss? Kyle Rayner used his ring and will to hold an exploding sun in a giant cartoon safe before, but Stewart can’t form a planet-sized force field for a few minutes? Man up, Stewart!

Blackest Night: The Flash #3 (DC) Ha ha, the concluding issue of this Geoff Johns-written Flash miniseries was released on February 18, a full week before the concluding issue of Flash: Rebirth (see below), a story that is set before Blackest Night: The Flash. Oh modern super-comic scheduling, why are you so terrible?

It is, appropriately enough, very fast-paced, splitting its attention between Blue Lantern Barry Allen and Flash Wally West as they battle the Black Lanterns in Coast City and try to save Black Lanternized Kid Flash, and Captain Cold and his team of Rogues as they try to kill the Black Lanternized Rogues.

I confess to being completely bewildered as to what actually happens during a pivotal moment of the issue—the bit with the original Reverse Flash doing…something to the Black Lantern Rogues—but other than that it’s a pretty fun issue, moving along at a fast enough clip that I hardly had time to dwell on how many movies I’ve seen the grief-stricken-living-character-mistakenly-tries-to-keep-a-zombie-loved-one-alive plot in before, or whether or not the Barry Allen and his archenemy are two sides of the same coin ending could possibly have been any less subtle.

Once again Scott Kolins does a terrific job on art, my favorite panel of this issue being the second one on page 21, with the three heroic speedsters riding bolts of lightning and speed lines toward a giant Black Lantern Spectre in the background.

Flash: Rebirth #6 (DC) It’s so strange that the conclusion of what should be a fictional universe-shaking event—the return of second Flash Barry Allen after over 20 years of being dead—comes across as a whimper instead of a bang, but then, I suppose that’s only natural when the release schedule of the six-part monthly is so leisurely that it concludes during the climax of the same publisher’s even bigger event series (which, coincidentally, is written by the very same author).

So this is the last issue of Flash: Rebirth, and it’s surprisingly light on revelations. The big stuff—which speedsters come back to life, who’s going by what name now, who’s wearing what costume now—all happened in the last issue, so the only real cliffhanger leading into this was whether or not the villain was going to kill the hero’s love interest or not (Guess!).

Writer Geoff Johns does take some time foreshadowing conflicts that will likely be resolved in the upcoming Flash monthly, with a variety of villains speaking cryptically from off-panel, addressing themselves or one another, and a boy who is probably Wally West’s son is wearing a green shirt with a turtle pattern on it, and given a special attention during a series of panels showing all seven members of the “Speed Force” or Flash family. (Maybe he’s going to be The Turtle’s sidekick or The Turtle II or something…? I didn’t really like what Johns did with The Turtle during his first Flash run, but I find that character super-fascinating, if only because super-slowness is such a weird, weird super-power.)

If you’re reading this series just to see how Barry Allen returns or to keep abreast of the big events in the DCU, this issue is surprisingly, entirely skip-able. But if you’re reading it because you love The Flash half as much as Johns and artist Ethan Van Sciver seem to, then chances are you’ll find this a pretty satisfying experience.

Green Lantern #51 (DC) Given what a big deal was made out of Jordan allowing the Parallax entity to possess him again earlier in the storyline, the actual battle between Parallax-ed Jordan and Black Lantern Spectre is sort of anti-climatic, with Parallax being defeated by the other characters quite quickly for a thing that once erased all of existence.

If you’ve been digging this series and/or Blackest Night though, there’s certainly a lot to like here, with over-the-top, grand guignol ultra-violent superheroics, Doug Mahnke’s fantastic artwork, The Spectre briefly joining another Corps and getting a brief redesign and thorough explanations of how the black rings were able to possess God’s wrath and why Nekron is an actual threat to The Spectre.

Best of all, Mahnke draws the Spectre without his stupid goatee—hooray!

Incredible Hercules #141 (Marvel Comics) Is there anything less suspenseful than the “death” of an immortal god?

Justice League of America #42 (DC) Jesus, Brad Meltzer’s stupid run on this series ended, let’s see, 30 issues, two-and-a-half years and two writers ago, and they’re still dealing with his loose ends? Yeesh.

This particular loose end is Dr. Impossible, the mysterious evil version of Mister Miracle who showed up for some reason in the early parts of Meltzer’s run before disappearing, and picking him up at this point is rather problematic, given the state of the New Gods in the DCU (Which is…what, exactly? I have no idea what the post-Final Crisis status quo of the New Gods is supposed to be, and this is the first time I’ve heard anyone mention them at all. These are the evil versions, probably from Earth-2 or Earth-3 or whatever the current number of the Crime Syndicate’s world is post-FC, but the Justice League at least remains familiar with the concept of New Genesis).

That little head-scratcher—as well as Plastic Man being alive and active during WWII as he was pre-Crisis (on Infinite Earths), way too-much first-person narration and some awfully weird word choices, aside—James Robinson’s still just-starting run is a lot more readable than the book has been since Meltzer launched this volume. (Hmm, that’s an awful lot to put aside, isn’t it?)

What I like best about the book is that Robinson is apparently endeavoring to use the whole of the DC Universe and it’s deep, deep character catalogue to give his storyline plenty of scope.

The official League roster in this issue is already about a dozen characters deep, but on top of that we get Shade, the blue Starperson, Congorilla, The Silver Age Challengers of the Unknown, Doc Magnus and The Metal Men, Blackhawk, Uncle Sam, Atlas, The Power Company, the aforementioned Plastic Man and the head of Red Tornado.

The plot is basically the same as every G.I. Joe cartoon miniseries, with the good guys and bad guys racing to get components to a device of some kind, but it’s occurring in multiple time periods and has a gigantic and varied cast (Something’s going on with Green Arrow too, but since this is set after Justice League: Cry For Justice, which I’m not reading and hasn’t ended yet anyway, I have no idea what it’s about yet).

Mark Bagley’s still handling the pencils, although this issue it takes three different inkers to finish his work. Perhaps that’s what’s to blame for the fact that Bagley’s art sometimes looks awfully rough around the edges—or right in the middle of the panel, with a couple of rather asymmetrical faces spread throughout the issue—but even still, compared to some of the artists who have drawn issues of this volume of JLoA, Bagley’s Michel-freaking-angelo.

Tiny Titans #25 (DC) Man, there’s just no getting away from Geoff Johns! To celebrate the 25th issue of Tiny Titans, DC’s most popular writer joins the regular creative team of Art Baltazar and Franco, both behind the scenes and on-panel. Favorite Johns characters Conner “Superboy” Kent, Stargirl, the Green Lantern Corps and Hal Jordan are all prominently featured (Well, Jordan, like most of the superheroic adults, is only shown from the neck down), and Johns himself appears, as the proprietor of “Mr. Johns’s Sidekick City Pawn Shop and Bubblegum Emporium.”
Not a bad likeness, either.

It’s through Mr. Johns’ shop that the Tiny Titans get their hands on green, indigo, sapphire, yellow, red, blue and orange rings, briefly forming their own version of the New Guardians until the GLC send Hal Jordan to recover the rings.

Now, I haven’t read every single Green Lantern story ever, so I can’t say this with 100% certitude or anything, but I’m pretty sure that Baltazar’s Corps, which includes “Tiny” versions of G’Nort, Kilowog, Tomar Re, the tree guy, the big head with arms and legs and the cycloptic cucumber shaped guy is the cutest version of the GLC ever published.

Here’s a terrible photo, in lieu of a scan:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Some miscellaneous links and unimportant comments:

I really thought the "blood and boobs" formula of cover design was a modern DC thing, but I guess Marvel's trying it out now too. That's the cover of May's Dazzler one shot, which I apparently didn't look all that closely at when first going through the solicits, but got a better look at when it was re-posted by Kelly Thompson her blog 1979Semi-Finalist.

Yes John Porcellino, love them!

—I reviewed the first volume of First Second and George O'Connor's planned 12-book series The Olympians, Zeus: King of the Gods, at Blog@ last weekend. It's a really, really good graphic novel, and, as a reader, I was very excited about it. Two things I liked about it that I forgot to mention in my review: First, O'Connor makes great use of the comics medium to tell the creation-of-the-universe story in a way that it couldn't really be told in another medium (the blank, white space of an un-drawn upon page reveals the raw, yet-to-be-manipulated material of a finished comic in a way that a blank white page in a novel or a few seconds of black nothingness in a film can't), and second, there are some neat scenes where Zeus grabs a hold of lightning bolts that seem to plunge out of the sky to pick him up and deposit him elsewhere—in film, the visual would be impossible to depict so casually and effectively, given the speed of lightning (I guess they could use a very showy slow-motion effect) and, obviously, prose wouldn't provide the precise picture without a whole lot of verbiage to detail it. And that's part of what makes Zeus such a great comic—it's a comic that takes advantage of being a comic; it's a comic that could only be a comic.

Also, it has some sort of weird foil-y material on the cover; the lightning bolt Zeus is holding looks like the silver foil stuff you used to see on '90s incentive covers.

Over at Robot 6, Sean T. Collins tackles the perception that maybe Marvel's Siege is, if not an outright bomb, at least not as big as a hit as one might expect it to be. It's an interesting piece, with some interesting folks offering interesting perspectives in the comments (in addition to usual, expected Internet idiocy, of course). I don't have anything to add, beyond the fact that I'm not reading Siege despite having read the rest of the events said to be leading up to it, and, for me, the reason was Marvel's price hike, although the involvement of Bendis was also a big turn-off. After a decade of his Marvel writing, and about five or six years of his work on the Avengers and several of Marvel's big cross-over event stories, I felt I had a pretty good idea of whether or not I'd like Siege (I'm sure I will read it at some point; but probably in a trade from a library, as I've been doing with Bendis' Marvel output post-Secret Invasion).

So I'm guessing the principle of diminishing returns coupled with the expense of Marvel comics may have a lot to do with Siege being one of the best-selling comics in the direct market, just not a super big hit comparable to past Marvel events.

Whatever the reasons, there definitely seems to be less chatter about the Siege than there was about Secret Invasion, Civil War and "Avengers: Disassembled." I certainly see less comics bloggers talking about, reviewing or even making fun of it than the previous stories. I don't know that it's anything Marvel needs to worry about thous, as it's the difference between success and more success we're talking about here, not the difference between success and failure.

Anyway, Graeme MacMillan took up the topic as well, and he suggests that perhaps Marvel's big promotional push for what comes after Siege may account for the lack of Siege enthusiasm on the Internet.

—I think I linked to this article about the kung fu flick Pandamen over at Blog@ previously, but the film sounds so good I don't think it can be over-linked too. Here's the paragraph about the plot:

The series takes place in a fictional city in 2030 where an evil crime syndicate boss named Tiger is plotting to use a mind control device to rule over the populace. The only ones who can stop Tiger and his gang of violent thugs are the city’s two superheroes, Panda Superman, the son of an anthropologist, and Panda Heroic, the son of a zoo custodian.
I'm excited to see it, even if it means I'll be less likely than ever to do anything with the panda-themed character I created in high school. His name was Red Panda, and he wore a red spandex suit with a mask exactly like Deadpool's (only with little round ears on top) and a tiny little red panda tail on the back. It's been a while, so I don't remember exactly what I was planning on doing with him, but the inspiration was first hearing of the animal "the red panda," and thinking it sounded like a superhero name. You know, like, The Green Hornet, Blue Falcon and so on. Oddly enough, Pandamen is directed by and co-stars Jay Chou, who plays Kato in the upcoming Green Hornet film. Synchronicity!

—I had a the URL for this piece by Alex Boney about the Captain America/tea party hullabaloo on my To Link-To list, but I honestly can't remember if I ever linked to it anywhere or not.

So I'm going to go ahead and do so here. Here's a taste:
Furthermore, Marvel’s apology is problematic because it implies that the company doesn’t trust their chosen artistic medium to carry a significant political or social message. They also don’t trust their readership to process and understand complex political issues. Because it’s comics, right? Nobody really has anything serious to say about the issues that dominate everyday political discourse in this country, right? Quesada (and Brubaker, in his interview with Fox News) might as well have said, “No, sorry—we have nothing important to say so don’t bother paying attention to us.”
On the same subject, Tucker Stone notes that the case of the nefarious letterer who has been besmirching Ed Brubaker's perfectly neutral politics is much more dramatic than you may have realized (during the course of his weekly reviews of new comics).

—A quick note regarding new super-comic reviews: Okay, so I've found a new comics shop, although it's a bit of a drive from where I'm living...certainly too far to visit every week just to pick up two-to-four super-comics. I went there today and picked up the last two week's worth of super-comics, and set up a pull-list. I think my plan will be to visit there every two or three weeks and post reviews the day after I read them. Obviously, that won't be anywhere near as timely as the "Weekly Haul" reviews used to be, but that's where I am for now. I'll have reviews of new releases from this Wednesday and last Wednesday posted tomorrow, and in the future, maybe ever two-to-three Thursdays or so...? I've just gotta think of a new name for the feature as "Bi-or-Tri-Weekly Haul" just doesn't have the same ring to it...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Review: A couple of very violent Teen Titans trades

The new library I’ve been going to doesn’t have much in the way of a graphic novel collection. There are none among the adult shelves of the library; everything is shelved in the teen portion of the youth section, along with all the YA novels.

Unsurprisingly, the bulk of the graphic novel space is comprised of popular manga series, and what little superhero franchises are represented at all generally only have a few books a piece. I was somewhat surprised to find a pair of recent Teen Titans collections there…at least until I stopped to think about it.

It is, after all, the only superhero comic with the word “teen” right there in the title…if you didn’t know all that much about comics but were in charge of spending the graphic novel budget picking out books for teens, wouldn’t you naturally gravitate toward that? Especially if you saw Robin and Blue Beetle, star of those YALSA honored books, on the cover?

I hope whoever ordered Teen Titans: On the Clock and Teen Titans: Changing of the Guard read them both before putting them on the shelves though, because hoo boy are these some nasty, violent, icky, decadent super-comics, even by the standards of post-Dr. Light-raping-Sue Dibny DC Comics.

Among the things featured in these two books are…

—A full-page splash detailing the horrific wounds Kid Devil suffered while being gang-beaten by the Terror Titans:
—Ravager beating Copperhead II’s face into a bloody pulp

—Miss Martian about to be raped in a bathroom stall by two men

—Adult supervillain Clock King in bed with his teenage girlfriend

—A gory spread in which a supervillain version of Miss Martian shows the superhero version images of her killing the Teen Titans, including choking Wonder Girl with her own lasso, tearing out Blue Beetle’s spine, putting a sword through Ravagers head and ripping Kid Devil’s head in half by his horns:

—Kid Devil being tortured on-panel

—Robin being stabbed and his face beaten into a bloody pulp

—“Wonder Dog” killing Marvin before stalking a terrified Wendy through the halls of Titans Tower and mauling her

—Bombshell unconscious in a morgue, her throat slashed and bloody…three panels before an image of Wendy, scarred and bandaged, unconscious in a hospital bed

—Wonder Dog exploding, showering the team with gore

—Kid Devil’s desiccated corpse

—Brother Blood ripping someone’s arms off

—Short-lived character The Face being impaled

Not only is it a lot of violence for about a year’s worth of a comics series, it’s all presented as blatantly as possible, and with as much blood as possible, and the fact that it is almost all violence for violence’s sake gives it an exploitive, snuffy vibe.

It’s not like the violence ever leads to anything like, say, character development, or some sort of message—Teen Titans is almost entirely devoid of plot or characterization.

The first book opens with Supergirl quitting the team, flying away from Titans Tower while another Titan stands on the rooftop. It’s a scene that will be repeated over and over during the course of these two books—comprising 15 issues of the monthly series—with Miss Martian, Ravager and Robin similarly leaving the team one-by-one.

If I had to take a stab at what Teen Titans was about, I would guess it was about how hard it is to produce the comic Teen Titans. The cast is constantly in flux—only three characters from the first issue of the trades are still on the team in the last issue—and the team’s biggest conflict seems to be maintaining a roster of more than four heroes, as fretting over how few members they have and how hard it is to keep people on the team seems to be all the characters ever talk about.

It would be unfair to blame writer Sean McKeever, who wrote all of these issues save the final one, Teen Titans #61, which originally shipped without a writer credited, as there were clearly problems producing the book. These fifteen issues have seven different pencil artists and eight different inkers, and the narrative is quite regularly interrupted by things occurring in other books, adding to the chaotic, almost arbitrary feel of the book.

Halfway through the second trade, for example, Robin quits the team, because of whatever was going on in the Batman line of books at the time these issues were produced.

Similarly, the Clock King/Terror Titans arc is a Final Crisis tie-in, and despite the fact that those characters torture a couple of Titans and almost kill some of the others, the team moves on to other things, because if you want to find out what happens, you’ll presumably have read Final Crisis and the Terror Titans miniseries.

Given the speed at which characters arrive, depart or radically change, the fact that McKeever and his team of artists manage any thing resembling a throughline to the book is in itself rather remarkable.

And, for Teen Titans’ many, many, many faults, it’s not as if it’s a creative black hole or anything—there are enough glimmers of quality here and there to make the book’s poor quality seem almost tragic. Every now and then there’s a clue that maybe, given different circumstance, Sean McKeever and a single art team might have made a decent, fun comic book about teenage superheroes.

As two of the three Titans to stay on the roster throughout these fifteen issues, Blue Beetle and Kid Devil get the most attention, and are the most consistent. McKeever gives them distinct voices and relationships to one another and their various teammates and, unlike Wonder Girl and Robin, they are a bit more mutable, particularly Kid Devil, whose only appearances were in this book (and thus McKeever as the only writer writing him).

The book’s lightest, brightest moments seem to revolve around these characters, perhaps my favorite being a scene in which Robin dresses Kid Devil down over a communications device, looking all angry and bad-ass in Kid Devil’s computer screen, but the next panel cuts away so that we see Robin in his bedroom in his socks and boxers, wearing his mask and clutching his cape around him…he’s only Robin from the neck up, and a silly kid play-acting from the neck down.

Such moments are, of course, overshadowed by the book veering into torture porn or horror territory in the Clock King arc or the Wonder Dog-eats-Marvin-and-Wendy issue, and the artwork is always there to make this ugly content all the uglier.

And the artwork is, of course, horrible, but that’s to be expected with the artists changing so frequently…characters morph from page to page, and if it weren’t for dialogue clues, it would be difficult to keep them straight.

I think Eddy Barrows is supposed to be the “regular” pencil artist, and he seems to be doing most of the drawing here. I’m not a big fan of his style, although it’s well-suited for the material. His women all share the same body, so that computer geek Wendy has the same big-breasted, pinched-waist, well muscled limbs as the chemically-enhanced super-ninja Ravager, and he dresses them in the ugliest street clothes imaginable, but he draws decent enough gore, and he’s fairly gifted with facial expressions.

He’s not given much opportunity to draw anything other than ugly sneers and grimaces—which he draws well—but I like what he does with Kid Devil and Blue Beetle’s faces in their lighter moments, and he draws a neat one eye narrowed, one eye wide open confused look on Robin sometimes.

Looking at this mess after the fact, and taken in all at once instead of in the monthly drip-drip of serial comics plotting, it’s hard to imagine why DC even collected these issues—they read incredibly poorly, and, in fact, almost refuse to be read like this at all. I had to continually stop and remember what else was going on in other DC books during the time of publication just to make sense of why Character A had Secret Identity B for six pages in the middle of one of these things, or why Granny Goodness was a black woman with a sideways ball cap, or how the hell Kid Eternity and Static Shock got into the DCU.

If this were going to be a good comic, it would have had to been given a lot more leeway, like a cast stable enough to last, say, an entire year perhaps, rather than being tied so closely into DCU continuity that Teen Titans can hardly even stand on it’s own. But much like Justice League of America during the same time, Teen Titans seems to have sacrificed everything simply to line up better with whatever events were going on in the wider line at the time, which perhaps made sense to folks reading all of DC’s comics as they were released each Wednesday, but, revisited later in trade (you know, the way the stories will live on with a longer than 30-day shelf-life) make for some awful, awful comics.

Basically, Teen Titans could have used some space from the DCU line. And a real, regular art team. And a lot less torture, violence, gore and adults doing it with teenagers. Then DC might have really had something here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Review: Fantastic Four: World's Greatest

It was a somewhat fortuitous coincidence that the same week I sat down to read some of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s short run on Fantastic Four was the one during which some clever soul decided to start the Twitter account Not_Mark_Millar so as to parody the way Millar talks about himself in public (“If Kick-Ass does not out-gross Avatar I will eat my shirt and you can punch me in the throat when you see me at conventions” for example, or “Had tea with the Queen today. Said she like my books and will knight me sometime this year,” and like that.)

Millar is a talented writer who has had some honest-to-God great ideas before, and there’s no denying he’s one of the more popular/successful writers of his generation, but his public persona can be a bit, well…insufferable, and his boasts not always grounded in reality.

His FF run was a particularly interesting entry on his bibliography, because it came after he had really made his name as a super-successful, blockbuster writer (as much as any superhero comic book writer can be considered a super-successful, blockbuster writer at this point in time), with The Ultimates and Civil War already under his belt, and yet it didn’t really sell any better than Fantastic Four under the previous creative team of Dwayne McDuffie and Paul Pelletier.

There are a couple of factors to consider before going with the most obvious reading of that fact—i.e. that the Millar/Hitch team lost most of the market heat they possessed during their delay-plagued Ultimates runs. First, McDuffie and Pelletier may have benefited from a post-Civil War bump, as their run was branded with an “Initiative” logo. Second, their run featured an all-new, all-different team roster, with Storm and the Black Panther filling-in for Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman, which perhaps gave it a bit of novelty that the Millar/Hitch run lacked. And, finally, Millar’s run was almost completely divorced from the day-to-day goings on of the Marvel Universe, with only the occasional mention of “registration” or superhero fighting acknowledging the events of the past few years. During Secret Invasion, for example, Millar and Hitch kept right on doing what they were doing, and a separate Fantastic Four miniseries was launched to detail what the team was doing during the big Skrull invasion.

Or maybe it really was as simple as fans not being all that excited about following another Millar/Hitch (supposedly) monthly comic. I know that’s the reason I didn’t even attempt to read this run as it was released in single issues, and am just not getting to it via a trade paperback collection of the first eight issues, one of the few books in the tiny graphic novel section of a new library I just visited.

I suppose there’s still one more possibility—readers and retailers tried out the first few issues of the run and decided they didn’t like it. After all, while it’s hardly incompetent comics-making or anything, this creative team makes for very poor heirs to the Kirby/Lee one, being particularly aesthetically ill-suited to the characters and concepts, and neither Millar nor Hitch do their best work here.

Millar does a good job of balancing the cast, assigning a plotline to each of the four: Reed Richards’ college friend/almost-but-never-quite lover comes back into his life, Sue is trying start up an all-female charity super-team, Ben has a new girlfriend, Johnny begins dating a super-villainess on the down low.

Each of these play through each of the issues, occasionally inter-tangling, but generally advancing bit-by-bit as perfectly adequate, soap opera-style plotting—it’s what you’d expect from FF or Spider-Man comics.

Millar also tries to play with big, crazy cosmic ideas, but cosmic has never been his strong suit. There’s a cabal of rich and powerful people building a new earth to escape when this one invariably collapses (And they actually all it “Nu-Earth,” completely unironically; the prefix “Nu- is one I recall being assigned to things that sucked as far back as 1996 or so, as in “Nu-metal” and so on), and an invasion of the present by the people of the future, pissed off about how we’re screwing them over all the time.

Those are some pretty neat ideas, although it’s unfortunate that Millar doesn’t do a whole lot with them.

The storyline which introduces the first concept quickly devolves into a pretty generic fight comic story, in which an unbeatable robot foe inspired by Robocop 2 is demonstrated as being unbeatable by beating up the whole Marvel Universe (Sentry/God included, although how the damn thing is so powerful is never explained, and the super-awesome robot versus the Marvel Universe combat all happens between panels), and it is then beat by Reed Richards, who then gets to wear the championship belt of the Marvel Universe, I guess.

The storyline dealing with the second sidesteps a lot of the ethical questions and, again, the science (or fake super-science; same thing, really) to deal instead with a team of Marvels from a possible future, so we get yet another alternate Hulk and Wolverine to spend time with.

Hitch is still Hitch, for better or worse. There’s no denying the man can draw, and his success and popularity are well earned, but that realistic style is less than ideal for a books whose cast includes a stretchy guy, a guy on fire and a guy who looks like a gorilla made out of bricks (in the same way that the FF looked pretty goofy in the live-action film—Jack Kirby characters shouldn’t look much more realistic than Kirby could draw ‘em, you know?).

Given how long Hitch and Millar have worked together now, it’s also surprising how often his images don’t quite work with Millar’s scripting of certain panels. The amount of detail Hitch puts in many of his facial expressions manages to freeze the characters during a particular reaction or a particular syllable of dialogue, but the panels will sometimes have several sentences or paragraphs of dialogue in them. In other words, the words are moving much faster than the pictures; it’s kind of like how Marvel comics used to have Captain America frozen in mid-leap, throwing his shield, while rattling off 150 words before falling back to the floor, only long after everyone knows better. (Hitch has a weird habit of drawing some of his female characters making weird faces with their tongues too, which makes these panels especially awkward; there are at least two occasions where characters speak a few sentences of dialogue with their tongues between their teeth).

It reminded me, rather unfortunately, of Millar’s Ultimate Fantastic Four run with Greg Land, who also freezes time awkwardly and with no regard for the scripting of the panel. Hitch’s art is, obviously, a lot less off-putting than Land’s, which often looks like air-brushed fumetti and features perhaps the worst character “acting” in modern comic books, but the pair share at least a few tendencies when it comes to synching up with Millars’ scripts.

And like Ultimate Fantastic Four, its greatest deficiency is it’s lack of fun and wonder. It’s fairly solidly plotted and drawn, it’s remarkably devoid of some of Millar’s more annoying writing tics, but I read the whole book cover to cover without chuckling once, feeling a tickle in my mind warning me that someone was at least attempting to blow my mind, “hearing” Ben Grimm’s voice or encountering the suggestion of a great idea left unexplored for now, something for other writers and artists to exploit and perhaps run into the ground later.

Those are the things that made Fantastic Four live up to the “World’s Greatest Comics Magazine!” tagline, and remain the criteria by which Fantastic Four reads like Fantastic Four to me. McDuffie and Pelletier didn’t quite get there either, of course, but they got a hell of a lot closer than Millar and Hitch did, and perhaps that’s the reason the all-superstar creative team didn’t move the sales needle much more than the talented-but-underappreciated one.

But that’s just my opinion. Let’s see what Not_Mark_Millar had to say about Mark Millar’s FF

My Fantastic Four work with @THEHITCHFACTORY is the highest selling, and if you pardon a bit of self-promotion, the best since Lee and Kirby

Hmm. That’s actually more modest than I would have expected...

"Try stamp collecting."

—My father, while helping me move, on account of the fact that about 85% of my possessions seem to be comic books, graphic novels or prose books about comics and graphic novels.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Showcase Presents: Doom Patrol Vol. 1 starts collecting My Greatest Adventure

with #80, the first issue to feature The Doom Patrol. The team would remain the cover feature for the last five issues of the series, before it was renamed The Doom Patrol with issue #86 in 1964.

After perusing some of the covers for the earlier issues of My Greatest Adventure, however...

...I'm pretty sure I'd like to see a Showcase Presents collection or three devoted to the pre-DP issues too.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Three pretty clever gags from Super Friends #24

1.) Mr. Mind's conveyance

2.) Taking Superman's frequent self-referential in-joke about once boasting that being inflicted with potent forces like lightning only tickled him, and weaponizing it to take out Superman.

3.) A Gardner Fox name-drop. I can't be certain, but I'm pretty sure the only reason writer Sholly Fisch included Batman villains The Terrible Trio (Fox, Shark and Vulture) was so he could make this joke. And honestly, that's as good a reason as any.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Three new-ish comics

Ghostbusters: Tainted Love #1 (IDW Publishing) Please note that writer Dara Naraghi and I both lived in the same city at the same time for about a decade, and have previously communicated via email and in person during that time, so it’s possible that some sort of Go Columbus! boosterism was affecting me on a subconscious level while I was reading this issue (I don’t think so; I’ve never had a problem identifying whether or not I found a creative work sorely lacking, no matter who created it, before).

This one-shot is a Valentine’s Day special and, in keeping with the spirit of the holiday, I loved it. As some of you know, I tried out some of the more recent Ghostbusters comics, and, despite some virtues, found them both somewhat wanting.

This comic isn’t exactly a perfect one, but I thought Naraghi had done the best job so far of distilling the characters’ voices to the point that they sounded completely like “themselves” throughout; of the three different Ghostbusters projects I’ve read recently, this one hewed closest to the characters as they existed in the first movie. Also, Naraghi did a nice job of focusing on the love lives of all four characters to a certain extent, even if Winston and Venkman get the most panel time (Egon and Ray, meanwhile, boast of a date with science).

The art is by Salgood Sam, and he met the main challenge of the franchise—keeping the three white brunettes distinct from one another and recognizable form previous appearances in other media, without falling into strict celebrity likeness. He also lettered the work, which gives it a really nice, rather home-made feel, particularly when compared to Big Two super-comics and many of the other licensed comics out there at the moment.

If you’d like to hear a little bit more about the book, I’ll have a brief Q and A with Naraghi on Blog@ tomorrow morning.

Muppet King Arthur #1 (Boom Kids) The various Muppet miniseries adapting classic tales are, pretty much by necessity somewhat formulaic—re-tell the familiar story, but casting various Muppets as if they were actors playing the major parts and imbuing their performances with their personal quirks and schticks.

This one, obviously, takes on the King Arthur story, with Kermit in the role of Arthur, at this point still a lowly page serving Sir Sam the Eagle. I suppose it will be interesting to see where the series goes after this first issue, given the all the variations on the Arthur myth (unlike, say, Peter Pan, the basis of the previous Muppet adaptation), but this first issue doesn’t stray far from the sword-in-the-stone stuff.

Janis is Lady of the Lake, Rolf is Merlin, Miss Piggy is a (good version of) Morgan Le Fay and Fozzie seems to be the first knight of the eventual roundtable. Paul Benjamin and Patrick Storck’s script was rather hit or miss for me, the Muppets and Arthurian business not always blending all that smoothly (Fozzie as a jester knight, for example). When the gags hit though, they’re effective enough to make up for those that don’t quite hit the mark.

Artist Dave Alvarez’s style is probably this book’s greatest attribute, though. His artwork is stripped-down, flat, bright and highly kinetic. Like Roger Langridge, he’s perfectly able to draw the characters so they look like the Muppets and simultaneously look like his characters, and seeing the familiar characters filtered through his expressive, kinetic artwork is a treat in and of itself.

Zombies Vs. Robots Aventure #1 (IDW) I think it’s safe to assume that we all know what a zombie is and what a robot is, but what is “aventure?” Is it simply a rather embarrassing typo?

Well, according to online dictionaries, it’s an obsolete term for an accident, chance or adventure, which makes it sound like an overly pretentious way of saying “adventure,” but a second, also obsolete definition is “a mischance causing of a person’s death.” Given that this is yet another comic set during a zombiepocalypse, perhaps that’s fitting.

Ashley Wood provides the cover art, and gets a credit for presenting the book, an anthology of three serialized stories by three different cartoonists, each dealing with the subject matter of conflict between zombies and robots (With humanity in there somewhere as well).

Menton Matthews III’s story “Kampf” opens with a one-page explanation of the cause of the zombiepocalypse and the fact that humans turned to un-infectable robots to help them fight the zombie menace. From there it plunges into a tense domestic drama in which a scarred sergeant argues with his wife about whether he should go and try to fight the zombie war or stay home and spend time with her before they die. It’s more of a scene then a story, and so hard to judge, really; Matthews has some nice, wide horizontal layouts, and the robot designs are pretty cool, but the last panel looked depressingly like a still from a shoot ‘em up videogame of the sort I have no interest in (If you do, though, that might actually be an awesome panel).

Paul McCaffrey’s “Masques” has a janitor stumbling upon a pack of little helper robots and the body of his dead boss, and starting to think about what he should do with the roots. It’s devoid of zombies so far. Again, the story isn’t even complete enough to get a good sense of where it might be going, but the art is appealing—McCaffrey does very nice work with textures, making for an impressive invocation of visual-to-tactile synesthesia.

The final story, Gabriel Hernandez’s “Zuvembies Vs. Robots,” offers the most intriguing premise—I think. If I read it right, it seems like a voodoo priest, his friends and a clunky old robot are going to attempt to raise a zombie or zombies of their own, perhaps to fight off the “bad” zombies? That is something I’ve never read before, and, in the tired zombiepocalypse genre, that’s a precious thing.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

DC's May previews reviewed

As with Marvel, so with DC. Full here, Me Talking About Some here:

Written by KEVIN VANHOOK • Art and cover by TOM MANDRAKE
“Batman vs. the Undead” begins here! When Doctor Herbert Combs escapes from Arkham Asylum, he travels to New Orleans in an attempt to once again raise the dead. The only ones who can stop him are Dimeter – a vampire with a score to settle – and The Dark Knight. Can Batman join this creature of the night in order to stop Combs’ mad plan

Damn, that Tom Mandrake sure can draw Batman fighting undead monsters. It sounds like this is something of a sequel to the same creative team’s Superman and Batman vs. Vampires and Werewolves, which I kinda sorta reviewed here.

Written by GAIL SIMONE • Art and cover by ED BENES • 1:25 Variant cover by CLIFF CHIANG
Soaring out of BRIGHTEST DAY, the Birds are back in town! Because you demanded it, fan-favorites Gail Simone (WONDER WOMAN, SECRET SIX) and Ed Benes (JUSTICE LEAGUE, GREEN LANTERN) reunite to reinvent the book where they made their explosive debut as a team. Oracle, Black Canary, Huntress and Lady Blackhawk all return to Gotham City where they belong – and they’ve brought a couple of new friends (or are they foes?) along with them! Guest-starring a major Bat-villain and the first appearance of the most dangerous, most twisted new Birds villain ever!

I can’t remember if I ever said this in public anywhere, or just thought it a couple of weeks back when they first announced this creative team, so I’ll go ahead and say it now.

I know I say a lot of harsh things about Ed Benes on a somewhat frequent basis (in general, any time I encounter his work), but I think this book is one he’s actually well-suited for. I still don’t think he’s good at sequential art, and I won’t buy this despite having read most of the last volume of the series (and all of writer Gail Simone’s part of it) because of the art, but if Benes’ specialty—and the thing he’s going to draw anyway no matter what—is indistinguishable, big-breasted, scantily-clad, well-muscled women thrusting their asses at the viewer, well, better to have him drawing a team book consisting entirely of big-breasted, scantily-clad, well-muscled women, few of whom ever wear any pants.

I’m not sure if Simone is going to be writing the sort of cheesecake or exploitation comics Benes seems to always draw or not, but at least here he’s off of DC’s should-be flagship title, and he’s not being forced to draw a bunch of characters he hates drawing and I hate looking at him drawing.

Also, is this one more example of DC seeming to not really know what they’re doing more than a month or two in advance? It wasn’t that long ago that Simone left this title, which then had two different writers with very short runs, and then was canceled. Now it’s back, with Simone and Benes on it again.

On sale MAY 19 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Art and cover by JESUS SAIZ
Don't miss this first chapter of a most unexpected two-parter! This wouldn't be the first instance where the Legion of Super-Heroes have gone back in time looking to add to their ranks. But the sheer craziness the Doom Patrol will bring into their lives just might make that it the last time... and the Legion's mission will lead to some rather unexpected consequences next issue!

If the previous issues of JMS and Saiz’s Brave and the Bold are any indication, not only will this be awful, but it will probably make me sad too. But I’m still kind of curious about those two teams meeting up.

Brightest Day #1-2
Written by GEOFF JOHNS and PETER J. TOMASI, Art by IVAN REIS, PATRICK GLEASON, ADIAN SYAF, SCOTT CLARK & JOE PRADO. BRIGHTEST DAY continues, but in ways you can't possibly expct! What does BRIGHTEST DAY mean to the DC Universe? Is everything from here on out going to be bright and shiny? No, BRIGHTEST DAY means something else entirely, something we can't tell you...yet. But we can tell you our heroes will need to rise up more than ever to combat the forces of evil, and a select few will uncover a secret that binds them ALL. It all beings with the specially priced issue #1!

Crap. I’m reeaaalllly gonna regret living in a city with no comic shop once these weekly-ish series start up, aren’t I?

Aw, that’s a cute cover! Too bad Calafiore is still going to be on art chores. Come on DC, I really want to read this series!

40 pg, FC, $3.99 US
Written by LEN WEIN * Art by ANDY KUBERT, JOE KUBERT & J.G. JONES * Cover by ANDY KUBERT & JOE KUBERT It starts here! DC Comics proudly presents a ten-part history of the DC Universe spanning five generations of heroes from the dawn of the Mystery Men to present day. In this first exciting issue, the Second World War rages on, giving birth to a new breed of hero. Caped and masked urban myths become legends as they emerge from the shadows to earn their place in history. Meanwhile, explore the bizarre new heroes Dr. Fate and The Spectre and learn whether their powers are real...or imagined. Join renowned writer Len Wein (SWAMP THING, Incredible Hulk), legendary artist Joe Kubert (SGT. ROCK), his son, the fan-favorite Andy Kubert (BATMAN, X-Men) and J.G. Jones (FINAL CRISIS, 52) as they unearth the DCU's epic history in this event you won't want to miss!

With Joe Kubert and Andy Kubert on art, I’m sure this is going to look great. I hope the story is good though…I guess I’ll be waiting for the trade on this though.

On sale JUNE 2 • 232 pg, FC, $19.99 US
With the secret of his origin in danger, Icon must abandon Dakota, leaving Rocket in charge. Plus: Don’t miss the amazing exploits of Buck Wild! Collecting ICON #13, 19-22, 24-26 and 30.


Okay no seriously, why haven’t they done a plastic incentive Legion flight ring yet?

It’s Magog versus The Shield when Killer App takes hold! But why are the Planeteers keeping their distance from Magog as well?

There is actually a character named Killer App? Really? He does predate that term as it applies to cell phone application, right? Also, the Planeteers? Also, Magog has his own comic? Wait, wait, I knew about that last one…I just haven’t been able to process it yet. Maybe by it’s two-year anniversary.

56 pg, FC, $4.99 US
The Shield, Inferno, Hangman and The Web are finally brought together to uncover a vast conspiracy that will change their lives and potentially ripple through the entire DC Universe! Bringing together Eric Trautmann, Matt Sturges, Brandon Jerwa and John Rozum, the four critically acclaimed writers from THE SHIELD and THE WEB, alongside SUPERMAN artist Javi Pina, this extrasized dose of high-stakes metahuman action is a perfect jumping-on point for new readers and faithful followers alike, setting the stage for the future of the Red Circle — and the coming of the MIGHTY CRUSADERS!

Ohhhhhhh…is this why they keep publishing Red Circle books, despite the fact that they sell only marginally better than ear-boxings would? They wanted to introduce all the characters before their team-up title rolled out and maybe (possibly hopefully) saved the whole franchise? The Web and The Shield both made it to nine issues, by the way.

194 pg, B&W, $12.99 US • MATURE
Written and illustrated by Yunosuke Yoshinaga
CMX/FLEX COMIX. The showdown continues between the Yellow Turban Army and Liu Bei’s Army! The mysterious and invincible Zhao Yun wreaks havoc on Liu Bei’s soldiers and the army leader is next on his list. If Liu Bei’s soldiers stay to fight, their death is inevitable, so they retreat, leaving the fearless Liu to stand alone. Will Guan Yu or Zhang Fei be able to come to her aid in time?

If DC's going to publish a billion based-on-a-videogame books on their WildStorm imprint, and they're going to publish something entitled Rampage, why oh why can't it be a comic series based on this game?

Resolicit •On sale JUNE 16 • 552 pg, B&W, $17.99 US
Captured villains are offered an ultimatum: Go on near-impossible covert missions or rot in jail. For the first time, DC collects SUICIDE SQUAD #1-19, DOOM PATROL/SUICIDE SQUAD SPECIAL #1 and JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL #13.


On sale MAY 5 * 1 of 4 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
The Battle for New Krypton! This is it! The storyline the SUPERMAN books have been building to since 2008 has arrived! Superman has never faced such a difficult challenge - how can he stop the two worlds he loves from destroying each other? General Zod has been waiting for another shot at Earth for years, and with 100,000 supermen on his side, it looks like it's his war to win! But on Earth, General Lane has an ace up his sleeve that will level the playing field quite nicely!

On sale MAY 12 * 2 of 4 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
The Battle for Mars! With Superman having left the Kryptonian military to try to stop the war, General Zod needs a new Commander El - enter Supergirl! As Zod's army gets closer to Earth, the battlefield shifts to Mars where Superman must confront his cousin! Neither wants to fight, but both will do what they must for the sake of what they think is right! Meanwhile, Superboy knows what he must do to stop this war - even if it means becoming hated by both planets!

On sale MAY 19 * 3 of 4 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
The Battle for Earth! All of Earth's heroes must make one last stand against the Kryptonians while Superboy and Steel try exposing the evils of General Lane! But will they be branded traitors?

On sale MAY 26 * 4 of 4 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
The Battle for Survival! Supergirl vs. Ursa! Superboy vs. Non! And Superman vs. Zod! The fate of two worlds will be decided here! In the end, can Superman save either?

I just wanted to note that I think shipping an event like this on a weekly basis is a great idea. Not sure how it works out for DC on the business side of things, but as a reader, a big event that begins and ends in the same month, and not letting up for any of the Wednesdays in that month, has gotta be an exciting read, with little time to over-think any inadequacies in the story.

On sale MAY 19 * 32 pg, FC $2.99 US
Written by PAUL LEVITZ
Legendary writer Paul Levitz begins a new story here with "Worship," a tale that will have repercussions for a millennium. While The Man of Steel's godlike presence on another world is perverted by Lex Luthor, zealous Superman followers look to make human sacrifices in his name back on Earth. Can Batman save the first victim before it's too late?

You wouldn’t know it from the completely generic, could-have-been-the-cover-for-any-of-the-previous-71-issues cover, but this arc has art by Jerry Ordway, and should thus be pretty nice looking. This is the first time I’ve been interested in picking up an issue of this since…the (pretty awful) Metal Men arc, maybe…?

On sale MAY 26 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US
Co-feature written by REX OGLE
Art and cover by JOE BENNETT & JACK JADSON
Co-feature art by TED NAIFEH
Wyld days are here again! The supernatural menace has returned stronger, meaner and now in possession of the one hero who could stop him! Will the addition of Superboy and Kid Flash to the Teen Titans’ ranks be enough to beat back the darkness? Or is this really the end of the world as we know it? Plus, a brand-new co-feature kicks off introducing the fresh talents of Rex Ogle and Ted Naifeh (Courtney Crumrin) as they take Black Alice, Zatara and Traci 13 into uncharted magical territories. Can this troubled trio stand together – or is this already the end of the COVEN?

Woah hey, Ted Naifeh drawing DC super-characters!

Fuck yeah, Super Pets! Er, I mean, um, F yeah, Super Pets...?

On sale MAY 12 • 56 pg, FC, $4.99 US
Written by ERIC WALLACE • Art and cover by FABRIZIO FIORENTINO
1:25 Variant cover by FABRIZIO FIORENTINO
It’s a new team and direction for the Titans! Deathstroke and his mercenary team including Cheshire, Tattooed Man and other surprise members burst out of BRIGHTEST DAY #0! Get in on the ground floor here as the team is hired to assassinate The Atom! And for this team, failure is not an option!

Hmm, I’m not sure I get this book. Half of these guys aren’t Titans villains (actually, I have no idea who that red lady is), and they’re going to be hunting a former Justice Leaguer who was only a Titan for about 20 minutes in the early ‘90s after being temporarily de-aged in Zero Hour.

Also, what the hell does Deathstroke need Tattooed Man II or Cheshire for?

Marvel's May previews reviewed

Full Marvel previews here, full Things That Caught My Eye In Marvel's Previews here:

AGE OF HEROES #1 (of 4)
Heroic Age Variant by MIKE PERKINS
Eisner-winner & fan-favorite KURT BUSIEK RETURNS TO MARVEL!
The Heroes are restored to their rightful place in this new era, and the world is safer for them. They defeated Osborn & his Siege on Asgard, now they have one last foe to face: the Mayor of New York—J. Jonah Jameson! Also, MI13 come to the US, but one of them isn't leaving—they are defecting to the AVENGERS?! Plus Dr. Voodoo's Sorcerer Supreme duties infringe on “date night” and how much trouble can Spider-Man get into in one day? The answer: A LOT!
40 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

I’d buy this for the MI13 story alone; I didn’t realize how much I missed those characters until I saw some of ‘em on the cover here. I sure wouldn’t mind Black Knight and Excalibur (was that the codename she was going by…?) joining the Avengers, even if Captain Britain seems slightly more A-List. But hey, you can only have so many Captains on one team, right?

Note the number of pages and price up there by the way. If you scan Marvel’s previes, they charge that $3.99 cover price for everything from books marked 32 pages (although that usually means 22 story pages and ten pages of ads) to ones marked 48 pages.

An Untold Tale of Spider-Man reveals the web-head’s very first meeting with the Star-Spangled Avenger! Find out the secret history of how the Marvel Universe’s two biggest icons save the world from the deadly brains of the ROGUE SCHOLARS!
48 PGS./Rated A ...$3.99

“Rogue Scholars” made me laugh. But hey, I’m easy.

Written by JASON AARON
Pencils & Cover by ADAM KUBERT
Foilogram Variant Cover by ADAM KUBERT
Spider-Man and Wolverine! Everyone’s favorite wise-cracking web-spinner and ferocious furball come together in their first major series ever! The super-star creative team of Jason Aaron (WOLVERINE: WEAPON X, PUNISHERMAX) and Adam Kubert (ULT. FANTASTIC FOUR, X-MEN) send Spidey and Wolvie to the edges of the Marvel Universe as they face such awful beings as The Czar, Big Murder and Doom the Living Planet! But who is the major Marvel villain pulling the strings? And can Spidey & Wolvie refrain from killing one another long enough to find out?
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

Oh my God, how high up are they? Wolverine’s not even hanging on to anything! Is he just going to fall all the way to the pavement and let his healing factor save him from death? Is that how he gets around the city, flinging himself from the tops of skyscrapers onto the pavement below, healing, and then climbing the next sky scaper?!

Oh, and also blah blah blah Adam Kubert’s too damn slow for a monthly blah blah what are they thinking blah blah.

Written by JEFF PARKER
Women of Marvel Variant by JELENA KEVIC-DJURDJEVIC
Heroic Age Variant by CHRIS STEVENS
It’s the Agents you love, in an ALL-NEW ONGOING SERIES! Someone has come to ATLAS looking for answers to some very strange questions, and on his trail is a danger of a new level. Marvel's Rat Pack are back to solve the mystery behind THE 3-D MAN. The star team of Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman return to take Jimmy Woo's agents to the weirdest and most fantastic heights yet!
40 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

Long, long ago—like, in 2006 or so?—I briefly contributed to a new comics news site, and one of the interviews I conducted for them was with Jeff Parker. The subject was his two teams that began with the letter A—the Marvel Adventures version of the Avengers and the Agents of Atlas, who were just being reintroduced in their first miniseries.

I remember one of the questions I asked Parker was about 3-D Man, who was shown to be part of a 1950’s Avengers team with the other Agents in Avengers Forever, and he mentioned he had plans for the character.

It looks like he’s finally going to get to put those plans in action. If I still lived near a comic shop, I’d totally be psyched for May to check this out; as is, I guess I’ll look forward to the eventual trade paperback collections.

Pencils by Sean Chen
Before the Shadowland comes, we look back at a bit of brutal history between Luke Cage and Daredevil, revealing a mutual respect that may soon be torn asunder.
32 PGS./One-Shot/Rated T+...$2.99

That is an excellent title.

Written by JIM MCCANN
She’s survived Necrosha, but how can Dazzler defend herself against the onslaught of villains from her past that have targeted her all at once?! Dr. Doom! The Enchantress! And Rogue?! And what's worse--they are led by her murderous sister, MORTIS! This is no family reunion, but the disco-ball shattering showdown you’ve been waiting for! Will Alison Blaire survive this blood-soaked trip down memory lane? Find out in this special by fan-favorites Jim McCann (NEW AVENGERS: THE REUNION) and Kalman Andrasofszky (CAPTAIN AMERICA)!
48 PGS./One-Shot/Parental Advisory ...$3.99

Penciled by TBA
Spinning out of the Eisner-winning INVINCIBLE IRON MAN!
When Tony Stark needed to save Pepper Potts’ life, he gave her the Iron Man treatment -- with a repulsor chest implant and a suit of armor to call her own! Pepper went on to become Rescue, one of the heroes of the fan-favorite, critically acclaimed arc WORLD’S MOST WANTED! Now see one of Rescue’s incredible solo adventures, as Pepper Potts lets loose with her bleeding-edge suit and her astonishing power!
32 PGS./One-Shot/Rated T+ ...$3.99

I guess part of Marvel’s Year of Super-Broads or whatever they’re calling it is publishing one-shots featuring various tertiary female characters (Firestar had a one-shot already announced, for example). That’s kind of a neat idea, and I guess maybe they’ll collect them all together into something with an unfortunate title (Her-oes Before Bros….?) eventually.

Also, how cool is it that the wife of Invincible Iron Man writer Matt Fraction is writing a one-shot about Iron Man’s love interest?

See, this is the difference between male and female superhero cover artists. Jo Chen will go to the trouble of drawing a character in the so-called “brokeback” pose, the one that allows them to show off their breasts and ass simultaneously, and yet she draws a cape covering the ass, thus defeating the whole purpose of the pose. Let’s hope they can make the cover for this issue of Girl Comics more exploitive in post-production…

Janet van Dyne’s going through a bit of a teenage crisis. She has no boyfriend, her grades are tanking, and she doesn’t quite fit into the high school scene. Oh, and she can shrink down to the size of a wasp, sprout wings and fly on a moment’s notice! It’s a hard knock life for the girl under the popular radar, until she realizes the Queen of Cool herself, Namora, has got some skills of her own. Meanwhile seems like Janet’s peace-lovin’ gal pal, Jenny, has got some issues maintaining the peace. Forget Geometry class, Jenny needs to enroll in Anger Management Advanced... before Janet and Namora get caught in some hulked-up destruction!
32 PGS./All Ages ...$3.99

I kind of wish I worked in a comic shop, just so I can listen to all the different ways people pronounce the title of this comic out loud.

Heroic Age Variant by TBA
Prelude to PAYBACK!
Punisher: REBORN! In the past few months, Frank Castle has had his family desecrated by the Hood, been killed by Daken, been slashed to ribbons by The Hand, been hunted by Microchip’s Deadly Dozen, and had a bounty placed on his head by Jigsaw. But now, The Punisher has made a list of his own. God help you if your name is on it. It’s time for the rise of Frank Castle. It’s time for PAYBACK.
32 PGS./Parental Advisory ...$2.99

I’m honestly quite curious to see how the Punisher comes back to life, given the fact that he’s currently some sort of Frankenstein-like patchwork monster man.

Pencils & Cover by SONNY LIEW
Award-winning writer Nancy Butler, adapter of
Marvel’s best-selling adaptation of PRIDE & PREJUDICE, returns to Marvel with another Jane Austen classic: SENSE & SENSIBILITY! Alongside incredible artist Sonny Liew (My Faith in Frankie, Wonderland), Butler brings to life the world of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, two daughters without parents or means, forced to experience hardship, romance, and heartbreak, all in the hopes of achieving love and lasting happiness.
40 PGS./Rated A ...$3.99

When Marvel was adapting Pride and Prejudice, I remember seeing one of Liew’s wonderful covers and thinking how much better that book would look if Liew was doing the interiors as well. It’s nice to see someone else at Marvel had the same idea.

Guess I better hurry up and read the original novel, so I can read this…

Best cover of the month…? Year...? History of comics...?