Sunday, June 25, 2006

Comics in Review - Week June 21ish

I was going comic reviews over at, but as mentioned last week, I'm moving some of that back here.

Mostly I read and review DC books, but I'm trying to branch out a bit.

Here we go.

Civil War #1 and Civil War: Frontline #1 - Marvel Comics:

Decent story. Overkill on the books I'm expected to pick up. Event fatigue creeping in around the edges.

I think I honestly enjoyed Civil War #1 more than Frontline #1. Frontline seemed to be forcing the square pegs of Marvel's make-believe issues into the round slots of real-world political issues in a way which sort of strained logic. The worst offender was the nebulous story at the end of Frontline #1 which I'm still not sure wasn't suggesting that Japanese-Americans were doing their patriotic duty by being herded into internment camps during World War II. I don't honestly think that's what the writer intended to say, but there were a few lines about patriotic duty, blah blah blah and then the folks entering the camps.

The League doesn't want to get political, but we're also not really sure this was a well executed story.

Also, Spider-Man's "Iron Spider" outfit is lame.

Uncle Scrooge #355 - Gemstone Publishing:

This is so dorky, but I've started picking up Uncle Scrooge comics. They're just genuinely fun and goofy comics. These comics by Gemstone include work by Carl Barks as well as new work, pretty much continuing the Uncle Scrooge comics that have been in print for fifty years.

There's certainly a pastiche for the past, but also a certain "all-ages" quality to the comics that Disney used to hold up as their gold-standard of story-telling.

Due to the amount of content in each issue of Uncle Scrooge, the price is that of two comics, but I'm okay with that.

I'd highly recommend these comics as a springboard for kids. There's plenty going on in each comic, and the characters are very likeable.

All-Star Superman #4 - DC Comics
Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

After having just read my way through 500+ pages of Jimmy Olsen stories in Showcase Presents: Superman Family Vol. 1, this issue was a welcome treat. As he's done in the three previous issues of All-Star Superman, Morrison has taken the Silver-Age concept and brought it into the mid 21st Century. Quitely's art is just as astonishing in this issue as the previous three, but his "re-design" of Jimmy suggests a hipster idiot-savant.

For those of you who may not know, Jimmy Olsen carried his own title for decades at DC Comics, routinely falling into as much or more trouble than Lois Lane, and counting on Superman to pull his fat out of the fire. No matter the circumstances, Jimmy would get the story and learn a little lesson about, say, not walking into a hail of bullets just because you've previously signaled Superman with your secret signal watch.

In this issue, Superman discovers the super-dense black Kryptonite, which seems to make him act the opposite of his nature, in this case, evil, and Jimmy is unable to call in Superman to combat the threat as the very threat is Superman himself.

Anyway, highly recommended.

Shadowpact #2 - DC Comics:
Art and Story by Bill Willingham

I have no idea why, but this comic keeps getting good reviews.

During Infinite Crisis, Willingham stated that he planned to re-imagine magic in the DCU, an act which raised The League's eyebrows as magic in the DCU had always been pretty cool. I like Dr. Fate. I like The Spectre and Phantom Stranger. I love Zatanna.

Willingham has pretty much turned magic into a superheroic power battery, like radiation, etc... etc... without really adding anything. In short, Shadowpact is nothing more than a C-List team of superheroes fighting C-list "magical" villains. I could forgive all of that, but the writing just doesn't feel terribly imaginative and none of the characters have been explained or developed from a "power" standpoint, or from who the heck they are.

The villains are unimaginative "magic" characters whose names I can't be bothered to remember who, like in Ghostbusters 1 & 2, seem to be trying to summon an evil power from beyond. Whatever.

I think I realized I gave this comic a shot because I liked the idea of Detective Chimp. There's absolutely nothing else of interest going on in this comic. At that, Willingham put Detective Chimp in combat tights for some reason.

This is a bad comic. I give it 8-12 issues. Issue #2 is my final issue.

Give me Dr. Fate.

Superman/ Batman #27:
Mark Verheiden and Kevin MacGuire

A filler issue if there ever was one. Readers have been patient. DC should have just waited until July for the next storyline. This story was deeply embedded in Earth-2 DC history and ultimately adds nothing.

I'm a pretty big fan of Power Girl and will pick up pretty much anything with her on the cover, but this isn't a good way to treat a flagship title, even if the creators are A or B+.

DC, you've got a lot of people watching you in a post-IC market. This is exactly how to drop the ball.

The Flash: Fastest Man Alive #1
Written by Paul DeMeo and Danny Bilson; Art and cover by Ken Lashley

Ultimately, this wasn't a great comic. There's a lot of promise here, but from a structural standpoint, the comic was a mess. If DC was planning to pull in all new readers with their all-new Flash, this was not the way to do it.

The art is good, but not great.

I'll stick with the comic, partly because these things have a tendency to settle themselves, and partly because I think we'll see 6 issues with the current creative team and then an established comic writer will take over.

For whatever reason, DC decided to hand writing chores over to some of the guys responsible for the 1990's era Flash TV show. In my mind, you've just finished one Flash series with some of the top guns of the comic industry writing (Mark Waid, Geoff Johns), and you put on two writers unknown to the industry? That's a misstep.

And I have to vent a little bit here: What is up with every roommate to every super hero being a clueless party-dude? Yes, it does set up a stark contrast between our troubled hero and the care-free youth he'd like to be, but there's got to be another stock character.

Also, I'm not buying the "concerned intern" bit of the pretty, bespectacled girl who is interested in the fate of Bart Allen. To complicate matters, Bart is, if you do the math, somewhere around 10 years-old. There's just something icky about forcing the romance thing where it doesn't belong.

I've enjoyed The Flash on and off since middle-school. I have fond memories of sitting in my bunk at camp and re-reading an issue of The Flash (and sharing it with my bunkmates) over and over until it more resembled confetti than a comic. It was so destroyed, in fact, that it never made it home. I just didn't think a comic with a footprint on the cover was going to look good in my collection.

I was hoping for a re-launch worthy of The Flash franchise, and this one doesn't quite hit the mark. Still, it's The Flash, so I'm hopeful he can outrun some sub-par writing and land squarely on his feet, no matter who is behind the mask.

Eternals #1 - Marvel Comics:
by Neil Gaiman and JRjr
based on some old Marvel Kirby stuff

If anyone at Marvel will understand that Kirby's Eternals are not just another bunch of superheroes, it will be Neil Gaiman. That said, I've never read any of Kirby's Eternals work, and until it's released in a TPB I can afford, I probably won't. So, in a way, I'm walking into this comic completely unsure of what to expect, and for a comic from Marvel or DC, that's a rare and good thing.

The odd thing, the thing I can't shake the feeling of with this comic, is that I've seen this idea somewhere before. Highlander? Highlander 2? Bendis' "Powers"? Gaiman's own work in Books of Magic? Cosmic sleeper agents? There's got to be a precedent somewhere. Maybe in scientology.

There's something utterly recognizable about what I read in Eternals #1 that I just can't shake. Maybe I read a Marvel handbook entry on the Eternals when I was a kid and it's just been sort of buried there in the back of my head. I have no idea.

Still, the comic is good. It's worth a read. The bits and parts about ancient times pop out of the book like fireworks, JRjr handling the switch between mundane NYC and cosmic doings without breaking a sweat.

I'm in for a while. I'm curious about the whole thing.

52 #7 - DC Comics

Man, are other reviewers looking for reasons not to like this book. They've picked on the art even when it was as good or better than the average issue of pretty much any second-tier "Nightwing"-type comic. They've picked on bits of weak dialogue as if comics are known for their believeable parlance.

52 is a mystery, wrapped in an engima and smothered in secret sauce (thank you, News Radio). More has happened in this comic in 7 weeks than happens in the average Bendis book in three years. Of course, this is just the set-up. We've got 45 more weeks to go.

I was surprised that so few reviewers picked up on the "Island of the Lotus Eaters" bit in this issue, and I saw one reviewer actually misidentify the allusion as an Aesop Fable about lazy animals.

It's impossible to tackle all the threads in this comic in what I am planning to be a brief review, but so far I'm interested in all of them to one extent or another. I'm definitely more interested in the Question/ Montoya storyline than other readers. Really enjoying the Booster Gold stuff.

And, of course, the Kathy Kane entrance had that detective novel entrance you like to see.

I'm still recommending this comic, you bunch of unappreciative thugs.

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