Comics Reviews October, Part 1

Action Comics 2. Grant Morrison and Rags Morales. [****]
I loved the first issue of Morrison’s revitalization of Superman. He deftly fused some of the best of the golden age Superman with choice pieces of Byrne’s reboot and later versions. It had an energy that most comics, let alone most Superman comics, lack. It was great, this brash young Superman fighting for the little people and against the studied hate of Lex Luthor. This second issue doesn’t lose the energy, but it does lose control of it some.
Captured at the end of the previous issue, Superman is subjected to torturous tests by Lex and a cadre of military scientists, defended only by Doctor Irons, who in previous continuity was the hero Steel. It is still a magnificent re-imagining of the Superman mythos, with as many warts as possible sanded off. However, the plot of this issue falls into the trap that people often erroneously claim Morrison’s stories fall into. Somewhere in the ideas and the big moments, it loses cohesion and any sense of actual narrative. While that is usually a bogus claim of those whose reading comprehension is poor, I believe this issue strays into incoherence. It feels like 30 pages of story crammed into 20 and that compression leads to a story that feels like some important parts are missing. Still, the ideas underlying the carry it well enough, as long as this is a one-issue blip and not a continued problem.

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E 2. Jeff Lemire and Alberto Ponticelli. [****½]
The first issue of this series promised much, but didn’t quite deliver it. This issue does. It cleans up the action from the first, throws a few more big science fiction concepts onto the page and manages some deft characterization of the monster fighting crew of monsters that populate this book.
Frankenstein is a no nonsense man of action. Griffith, the werewolf, is an eager young soldier. Mazursky, the sea monster, is a committed, possibly mad scientist with a combination of determination and damage. Velcoro, the vampire, has gotten the least characterization so far, but he seems to be a bit of a sociopath. Then there are the scientists of SHADE, who supply the team with support and crazy tools. It is like a monster sci-fi James Bond. Ponticelli’s scratchy art is a perfect complement to the black humor of the story. It all adds up to a terrific comic.

The Shade 1 of 12. James Robinson and Cully Hamner. [*****]
James Robinson returns the world where he really made his name. Back to Opal City and to the Shade, one of the biggest characters from Robinson’s seminal Starman run. The villain turned hero, sort of, Shade was easily the best character from that series, save for maybe its star.
Despite it being ten or so years since Starman ended, Shade manages to pick up right where it left off but not be alienating to new readers. All information needed is on the page. Shade is jovial and verbose, though he claims to be in the dumps. His girlfriend, police officer Hope O’Dare, suggests an adventure to perk him up. Interspersed in between Shade scenes in an encounter between one Von Hammer and a group of hit men. What he learns from them points him to Shade. There is an undeniable charm to the Victorian born Shade. He is acts like a man who has lived for more than a century might act. He is calm and never surprised but also not jaded. At least not anymore. This is just a great book. I look forward to the rest of it eagerly.


Mister Terrific 2. Eric Wallace and Gianluca Gugliotta. [***]
I’m giving this a star more than it probably deserves because it is so close to something great. It is aiming for this big science adventure, but the dialogue really hamstrings it. It just feels unnatural and stilted. The art, while likely not to everyone’s taste, is quite good, with pleasing but weirdly fluid figures and the plotting is good. But the often-terrible dialogue undermines the whole endeavor. The intended tone seems intended to be snarky humor, but it fails to convey this consistently.

American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest 5 of 5. Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy [****½]
This remarkable mini-series has been an amazing horror spin on a classic spy movie. It is a perfect blend of heist, escape and war movie. It feels like a blockbuster movie in the best possible way.

Animal Man 2. Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman. [****]
This is a twisted, horrific take on a superhero, but the heart of the book is in the firmly grounded Buddy and the rest of the Baker family.

Batwoman 2. J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman. [***½]
The art is stunningly beautiful. There is no getting around that. The story is fine, but Williams and Blackman may have too many balls in the air. Still, a fine issue.

Demon Knights 2. Paul Cornell and Diogenes Neves. [***]
This should come together to a fine book, but even this second issue is still a little scattered. As it is, Cornell is still bringing the crazy fun.

Justice League International 2. Dan Jurgens and Aaron Lopresti. [***]
This issue is struggling to find its footing, trying to both establish the protagonists, mainly Booster Gold, and set up a big villain but ding neither particularly well.

Swamp Thing 2. Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette. [***½]
Another book that is possibly trying to do too much but is buoyed by terrific art. It looks like it is going places, but the book isn’t there yet. Still, I’m not going to complain about that art.

OMAC 2. Dan Didio and Keith Giffen. [****]
This is the superhero comic book in its purest form. Big ideas, big action and big personalities. It is pure distilled fun.

Green Lantern 2. Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke. [***]
Last issue had Hal’s abilities at everything except being Green Lantern questioned, this month his GL skills are taken down. I like it as a come down from the last few years worth of nonstop action, but it isn’t really anything special.

Batgirl 2. Gail Simone and Ardian Syaf. [**½]
There are hints of the usual Simone humor and character bits, but this whole thing feels too grim. This new villain is bland and the plot is jumpy.

Mega Man 6. Ian Flynn and Chad Thomas. [***]
My love for Mega Man notwithstanding, this is a fine all ages comic. This issue is nothing particularly outstanding, but it maintains the fun momentum of the rest of the series.

My Greatest Adventure 1 of 6. Kevin Maguire, Aaron Lopresti, Matt Kindt and Scot Kolins. [**½]
None of the three stories in this anthology are particularly great, they are merely okay. But the biggest draw is Kevin Maguire’s art, which I love, and that didn’t disappoint. Any of these stories could turn out to be really good, but they are hard to get excited about.

Mystic 3 of 4. G. Willow Wilson and David Lopez. [***½]
For a four-issue mini-series, this really seems to be moving slowly. It appears to be setting up more stories than can be wrapped up in one more issue. Still, good art and good writing make for a good comic, even if it is one that is setting up the readers for disappointment.

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