Sunday, April 20, 2008

DC Capsule Reviews Week 13 2008

Still running through weeks of missed comics. The next two weeks of reviews will be done more briefly to fully catch up.


ALL-STAR SUPERMAN #10

(Grant Morrison / Frank Quitely)

Do I even need to waste a paragraph to state the obvious? Perfection. Superman, feeling his death approaching, writes his last will and testament, putting his affairs in order. Enjoy the bottled city of Kandor, the giant Mechano, damsel-in-distress Lois, nano-sized super-doctors, artificial universes, time-travellers, the true identity of our Creator, all seen through the twisted brilliant prism-mind of Grant Morrisson. It's big ideas by the panel for a series that's sure to be studied for years to come. Enjoy it while you still can.

9/10



AUTHORITY PRIME #6

(Christos Gage / Darrick Robertson)


Last issue. The Authority and remaining Stormwatch (award for most pointless return...ever) face off against Bendix (award for blandest recurring villain... ever), now yielding the collected powers of both teams. Someone in Wildstorm must have figured it's a great idea to pit their avant-garde super-team against their take on Mimic/ Super-Adaptoid/ Super-Skrull/ Amazo, yet also mix it with the pre-Authority (read: forgettable) super-hero team and main villain. Is there really an audience out there that's nostalgic of the pre-Ellis Stormwatch?

A solid super-hero battle, but not up to Authority standards (blame Ellis and Millar for setting the threat bar higher than conventional Marvel/DC slugfests). Hawksmoor gets a moment to shine, and Rose Tattoo remains a mystery (mainly concerning why she's part of the team when no writer really has anything interesting to do with her or her powers). Darrick Robertson would have been a great match for the book if he wasn't too busy doing 2 books a month to bother.

Overall disappointingly average for what I've come to expect from both creators in the past years.

4/10



BLUE BEETLE #25

(John Rogers / Rafael Albuquerque)


Blue Beetle: hostage! The Scarab: surprisingly talkative -and sarcastic. Guy Gardner: flirts with Ice! Oracle, Fire, Booster Gold: guest-appearing! Plus, stuff blows up, there's some smooching, funny lines and the Justice League International team reunites for a barbeque party! Being a very new reader to Blue Beetle I've really enjoyed the creative team's efforts here, even though I'm still extremely foggy on the identities/purposes of 100% of the supporting cast.

7/10




CROSSING MIDNIGHT #17

(Mike Carey / Jim Fern)

'The Sword in the Soul' part one.

If you haven't read the story so far there's little point starting now. Still, for the faithful readers, CM is gearing for the final stretch, as the protagonists start taking their places before the upcoming confrontation between the warring divine factions. Carey keeps introducing exciting new mythological elements to his story, but he may be asking too much from his artist here. Even though Jose Villarubia's digital inks have improved since the last storyline to properly compliment the linework, Fern seems to have trouble with certain demands of the script, like designing a scene where a flock of needles assemble themselves into an armour. What under different circumstances would have been a jaw-dropping visual is simply squandered here. And similarly, what was comfortably on each way to becoming Vertigo's greatest ongoing series is canceled prematurely due to bad marketing and insufficient in-house support. Boo.

7.5/10



COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS #5

(Paul Dini & Adam Beechen / Jim Starlin)


Wonders will never cease! A few weeks before its final croak, Countdown delivers a beautiful swan song: a self-contained story told from everyman Buddy Blank's perspective as he seeks out his family in the middle of a world gone crazy where a mutated virus attacks every living person mutating the people into animals and the animals into humanoid monsters. It's a fairly inconsequential way to end one of the longest-running story arcs in the book: the heroes have finally united on a world trying to save the infected Karate Kid; instead they end up infecting the entire planet; and as everything starts going nuclear they do the heroic thing (sic) and bail out for greener pastures. Nevertheless, this is a very enjoyable story if read out of the context of the mess that is Countdown. Jim Starlin is a legend unto himself, and although his figure-work hasn't aged well (retaining only a smidge of the crazy energetic dynamic) it's still a kick to follow his storytelling.

7/10




GREEN LANTERN #29

(Geoff Johns / Ivan Reis)


I've never really gotten into Hal Jordan or any Green Lantern book before. Sure I enjoyed the introductory chapter to Sinestro Corps War, but felt too intimidated by the sheer mass of the cast involved in the story to keep reading more than a few issues here and there (mostly the specials). For me the only acceptable GL will always be Guy Gardner and G'Nort. (ducks). Still, Johns is a sure-fire good writer, and I've been getting brainwashed by the Nexus peeps for months to give this a good try.

This issue starts an utterly new-reader-friendly storyline, going back to Hal Jordan's origins long before he found the Green Ring. Call it 'Year -1' if you must. We are introduced to Hal Jordan at a young impressionable age, a great fanboy for airplanes and his father the pilot, we meet his family and follow his life through consecutive tragedies, successes and bad decisions. It's riveting stuff, and the first time (apart from DC New Frontier) that I find myself interested in the character. How can you not love this airplane geekboy, who camps out of the airforce recruitment offices the night before his 18th birthday to sign up as soon as he's legal age?

When I last checked on Ivan Reis he was an average fill-in artist on DC's rotation (was it 52?). I was surprised to see his name pop up with such high frequency in our Nexus Awards ballot a few months back, but didn't bother checking out the mystery. Now, I discover that while I wasn't looking Ivan Reis has grown into a super-star artist. Still keeping a not-so-distinctive character design style, yet slowly turning into Bryan Hitch (while at the same time Bryan Hitch is turning into John Byrne in the pages of FF), he was evolved into a great storyteller. The double-page spread opener of young Hal Jordan gawking at airplanes overhead left me as slack-jawed as the young protagonist. Bravo.

8/10



Bonus Kid Hal Jordan wallpaper for your desktop:



LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #40

(Jim Shooter / Francis Manapul)


'Enemy Rising' part 1

This is my first exposure to Jim Shooter's writing for the Legion of Super-heroes, so I'm not predisposed from what I hear was a defining run; I do come in as a huge fan of Mark Waid's handling of the franchise (which I again hear wasn't a big fave amongst the die-hard fans).

What a bore. Let's get down to the math:

5 pages of Shadow Lass and Brainy fighting some bland-looking green alien monsters (I'm struggling to retain the barest details of the fight in my head as I type this, it's screaming to be forgotten).
2 pages of various Legionnaires walking in a room in groups.
4 more pages of them bickering at their telepath for controlling their berserker teammate's violent urges so he wouldn't slash her. Like, duh!
and the rest of the issue spent with the legionnaires split up either chatting about bureacracy (again, info seeping out of my short-memory as I type), hunting down some sort of comet fragments (again, no idea), or fussing over Princess Projectra dropping the 'Princess', and Lightning Lad's ability to lead.
Scattered in-between, more puking jokes (at least 5 female Legionnaires hurl on panel or make references to the act) and bodily function references than I could stomach.

Overall impression? Like I said: 'zzzz'. It's ably written, but I couldn't care for anything happening inside, and it was all too wordy for its own good, most pages collapsing under the sheer weight of the word balloons. Shooter still writes like it's the 70s, but the rest of the world has moved on, and judging from fans' reactions in recent DC panels, so has his fanbase.

3.5/10



TANGENT: SUPERMAN'S REIGN #1

(Dan Jurgens & Ron Marz / Matthew Clark & Fernando Pasarin)


Another DC concept I'm vaguely familiar with. Again, I hear only good comments on the Tangent line, but I never had the chance to read any of them, since I was hardcore Marvel Zombie at the time of its original publication.

Tangent's premise is simple. A world (or in post-Crisis DC: 'Earth 9') whose only similarity to 'Earth-1' is the names of the heroes, while their identities, personalities, origins and powers have been completely re-imagined. Neat.

Coming in knowing next to nothing about this world, I didn't feel lost for a second, as Jurgens weaves exposition neatly inside the story, filling us in as we're moving on, and the 'History of the Tangent Universe' back-up in the end of the issue (by Marz and Pasarin) does the rest. It's certainly whetted my appetite to hunt down the older one-shots and get the full story on this exciting world.

7/10



WILDSTORM REVELATIONS #6

(Christos Gage & Scott Beatty / Wes Craig)

The Wild Girls finish their Wild ride through the Wildstorm Universe. For a title dubbed 'Revelations' it ends up with more questions than when it started. The Girls have a big stabby party dressed as harem girls on Gamorra's island, they castrate a centaur, and discover a huge undergroun super-hero breeding lab. They lost my interest as soon as the fun in bronze bras stopped and the unavoidable segue into 'Number of the Beast' (Wildstorm's next big event) begun. Too X-Files for my liking. Wes Craig is too good for the current state Wildstorm is in, start your timers till mainstream DC or Marvel nabs him for their flagships.

6/10



TEEN TITANS #57

(Sean McKeever / Eddy Barrows)


Sean McKeever continues (what he has labeled in interviews as) his real debut story arc. McKeever is one of the writers I count on to revolutionalise mainstream comics in the coming year, the enrmous expectations perhaps making his debut arc feel surprisingly... trite. This 'real debut' though lives up to his hype, as he rotates the focus to each individual Titan as they're hunted down one by one by the 'Terror Titans', a new opposing Titans team. Not very excited at the concept or membership of these guys; then again, we've fresh out of the Titans Army from the future storyline and the Titans East storyline right before that, so may be simply experience overburn. Very excited on the other hand with McKeever finally making himself at home (he bowed out of his stellar run on Birds of Prey to focus on this book), getting into the characters' heads, giving everyone a distinctive voice and setting up the inter-team relationships.
Kid Devil is strapped tight, Robin and Wonder Girl have a bitch fest, while Ravager defends the Titans Tower against B-list Reptile baddie and C-list baddette with an axe. Ravager's new power-set (basically Midnighter's powers) give the action sequence a great edge, especially the way 'predicting your opponent's next move' is clearly established in the art without the need for anyone to explain to the reader. Ravager started off as a two-dimensional cold-shrew character but is growing into a very fun sociopath to have around! Stellar.

7.5/10




TEEN TITANS GO #53

(J. Torres / Joe Quinones & Todd Nauck)

Joe Quinones knocks my socks off with his art this issue, the colour, inks and designs all medling perfectly together for a very impressive textured effect on the cartoony template of the art. His story flashes back at an early adventure of Baby Beast Boy and his Doom Patrol family, when he accidentally swaps minds with his daddy Mento; Aptly titled 'Wacky Wednesday', it also features the entire Doom Patrol family and a giant one-eyed alien squid monster.Fun fun fun! Quinones deserves a spot in a flagship title, DC!

The second story features regular series artist Todd Nauck, back in his element drawing the teenage Titans, with Flash and Jinx taking down Jinx's ex Kid Kold and his new flame Ice Kate. The pun-ny names were all the fun for me here.

6.5/10





SECRET HISTORY OF THE AUTHORITY: HAWKSMOOR #1

(Mike Costa / Fiona Staples)

What, another one. Fine, add Staples on the pile of hot artists inexplicably drawn to DC's doomed low-selling titles and Wildstorm. Why do they then still have Derenick and Freddie Williams working on their best-sellers if they have such a strong hidden artist dynamic? The mind baffles.

Anyhoo, Hawksmoor gets the Secret History treatm-- wait, oh no, he doesn't. Despite the title, this isn't a look at the King of Cities' origins (not yet in any case), but simply a solo series looking inside the most often over-looked Authority character. I always dug the character design and the potential of the powers, but they seldom get realised to ful potential. Not the case here, thankfully. Costa gives Hawksmoor a noir-ish narritive voice that's very distinctive and endlessly enjoyable to read, colouring it with ingenious tasty bites of what it must feel to be a man who can have conversations with the city he lives in.

I don't know what's changed in Wildstorm editorial, but things are definitely looking up!

8/10





JSA CLASSIFIED #36

(B. Clay Moore / Ramon Perez)


'Forward Through The Past part 2.

What's up with hot new talented artists cropping up out of nowhere this week? Add Ramon Perez to the pile, as he wows the crowds with the help of his sparring partner, colourist Dave McCaig, providing an exciting pallette and snazzy colour effects and page scratch marks to separate the current storlyine from the flashbacks. The issue was enjoyable as a quick read, with Ted and Selina working beauifully together (wouldn't mind seeing them together again in her solo title, Bru worked wonders on their dynamic), and making sweet violence on the page! Plus, if you're a big fan of heroes crawling through air-ducts, bikes crashing through crates holding unidentified products or super-powered fiddlers, you're in for a special treat!

7.5/10



3 comments:

Barrett said...

I totally agree about All-Star Superman. It's so great. I've gotten use to the release schedule, but I wish there was more out there like it.

And I'm sad to see "Crossing Midnight" go, but it's lost a lot of steam lately. (I think in part because Fern seems kind of tired?) I'm just glad they gave Carey enough time to resolve some of what he wanted.

Barrett said...

PS I've blog-rolled you and I hope that's not creepy, but you write a good one, so I hope you get some more readers.

Manolis Vamvounis said...

thanks a lot man!

spread the word ;)

(also check out the website I edit, for more reviews and content: www.comicsnexus.com )