Comic Reviews for Early March

I have some more comics this week. Most of DC’s best stuff hits early in the month, so I have a load of good stuff from that company.

Action Comics 7
Morrison moves back to his Brainiac/Superman introduction story and it is a strong as it has been since the first issue. This young Superman is brash and a bit reckless, but he is still the character readers have loved for 80 years. Morrison’s take on Brainiac is as brilliant as one would expect. After a few months of great back-ups, this one is completely pointless. This title still feels like the deleted scenes from All-Star Superman, but even a pale shadow of the greatest Superman story is still pretty good. A-

Animal Man 7
Lemire is working wonders on this title, and doing it in a way completely different from the previous well-loved take on this character. Animal Man is somehow a family horror comic. The horror is never far from the front of this comic, only ever a few pages away, but there is still tons of true family moments, this has some nice ones between Buddy and his son Cliff. This issue is still in cool down mode after the frightful first arc, but it is no less entertaining. A

Kirby Genesis: Captain Victory 4
After last issue’s surprise attack, this issue of Captain Victory follows his aquatic lieutenant Orca as he tries to raise their ship from the ocean it crashed into. It is also an origin story for the character. There really isn’t much surprising or original, except for a micro-troop attack, in this issue but it was well executed. Still, it is largely enjoyable. C+

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. 7
What a difference an inker can make. Not a good one in this case. No offense meant to Walden Wong, but he smoothes Ponticelli’s scratchy lines, making for a comic less appealing looking than either Ponticelli’s usual look or something more traditional. The story is still the same outrageous fun that its been from the start. The only problem is that the threat doesn’t really feel threatening, not after what Frank and the gang have dealt with. A-

Green Arrow 7
The addition of Ann Nocenti to this comic immediately elevates it to being worth reading. While I don’t think this issue is especially good, but it is interesting and intelligently written. The art isn’t quite as good, but I don’t hate it. New villains Skylark could go either way, but at least they are something fairly new and original. This isn’t the best start, but it is good enough to get me back for the next issue. C

Huntress 6
This was a 5 issue mini that went on for an issue too long. There is nothing really wrong with this comic, but there is really nothing too it. Huntress’s mission was wrapped up last issue and there aren’t really any loose ends. This is mostly a twenty page prologue for the upcoming Worlds’ Finest comic. Fortunately, this comic looks good enough that is still is a largely pleasant read. C-

Justice League International 7
Eughh. After six issues of turgid team building, Jurgens decides to blow it all up. Even Lopresti’s art can’t save this mess. Though there are a few moments that are redeeming, like Guy’s worrying over the injured Ice, but mostly is it a lot of death and destruction for no reason effectively erasing all the character work over the last six issues. I tried, I really did, but I’m done with this. I just can’t. D

OMAC 7
Didio and Giffen’s romp through the Kirby created portion of the DC Universe, this time with a loose take on the Kamandi mythos. It is pure comics magic, even if the overall story is barely anything. It is sad that next issue is the last of this. Giffen’s art is very Kirby like, though it is not just a pastiche. This is the kind of story that only happens in comics, with talking Zoo animals and evil underground factories. Good stuff. B+

Saga 1
There is a lot of buzz about this comic right now, and I don’t really have anything to add. It is good. Not quite great I don’t think, but its well written with nice art. A good start to this magical sci-fi story. B

The Shade 6
In some cases I would be annoyed with a comic where the main character even admits that the current story has little to do with the main story. But the current side story in The Shade is so good that I can’t feel bad about it. Shade and his vampire daughter are still trying to track down the Inquisitor, La Sangre’s arch nemesis, in Barcelona. Robinson introduces more foreign superheroes and quickly and effectively sets up La Sangre’s status quo. Plus great art by Javier Pulido. I love this comic. A+

Swamp Thing 7
This vegetarian counterpart to Animal Man is still almost as good as that title. After nearly 7 full issues, Swamp Thing finally appears. Paquette’s art is amazing, as always, and Snyder is working his usual magic. Underneath all the creepiness, there is something of a love story brewing. Another one of DC’s best titles. B

Comic Reviews for Late February

So I guess I’m doing comic reviews again. We’ll see if I can keep this consistent or if it is doomed to be a sporadic thing. Not too many titles this week.

Justice League #6: The new Justice League’s first story comes to its cacophonous conclusion. I’m not jumping on the rapidly filling up hate train for this title, but I would say that this story didn’t quite come together as well as it could have. In the end it is all empty noise and confusion. Lee’s art is as explosive as usual and John’s has a strong handle on the team’s various personalities, so its not all bad just a touch incoherent and soulless. C+

The Flash #6: The art in this titles remains as impressive as it has been since Manapul took over drawing it at the start of the previous Flash title. The story, while less exceptional than the art, is solid. The Flash is one of the few books on the shelves that actually lets the hero’s out of costume life actually play a part as of late. The love triangle among Barry, Iris and Patty is as entertaining as the quite good superheroics, even though I am fairly certain that Barry will end up with the woman who was until recently Mrs. Flash. A-

Aquaman #6: Prado does finishes over Reis breakdowns instead of just inking this issue, but it is not that significant a departure other than some wonky faces. Aquaman takes an issue off as we focus on his wife Mera. Johns really needs to turn the volume on this issue down. In big hero v villain fights his eschewing of subtlety is often a plus, but this issue could stand to be much less bombastic. Mera breaking the wrist of a handsy pervert would be more effective than her crushing all of the bones in his arm. For all its overloud warts, this is an effective if blunt bit of character work for Mera. B-

All-Star Western #6: This issue reinforces that Jonah Hex is an awful bastard. He is cowboy Punisher, a man the reader can only root for because his enemies are even worse than he is. The highlight of this issue is the extended gunfight between Hex and some child slavers, where Palmiotti and Gray step back and let Bernet tell the story with his art. Which he does beautifully and gruesomely. The back-up story is just as good as main one, bringing this story about the Barbary Ghost to a close, but leaving the door open for her to return in either another back-up or in the main story. This is an excellent comic. A

The Ray #3: This series has been a bright spot amongst a sea of darker titles. A ray of light, if you will. This issue turns a bit darker, but is still primarily fun, classic superheroics. The villain is a man who makes reality his own movie, a fitting villain for a book set in Southern California. I’m sad that this is only a four issue series. Good stuff here. B

The Shade #5: This is one of the best books on the stands. Robinson, teamed with a variety of excellent artists like this issue”s Javier Pulido, has recaptured the magic of his Starman run from a decade ago. His work since has been hit-or-miss, but he has yet to go wrong when writing the Shade. Here we meet La Sangre, the Shade’s adopted vampire daughter, and have an adventure in Barcelona searching for a vial of the Shade’s blood. The art is beautiful and the writing is intelligent and highly literate. A

New Mutants #38: Marvel’s double shipping policy means a change of artist, but it is not that big of a problem. This series is on the verge of being as fun as it should be, but for some reason I’m just not engaged. Maybe it’s the cast. I’m a fan of the classic New Mutants, I like Doug, Dani and Bobby and I’m okay with Amara, but I just don’t care for Warlock or Nate Grey. Warlock is supposed to be a joke character, but even with his goofy way of speaking he isn’t that funny and Nate is just aggressively boring. Plus, this issue tries to bring back Bird-Brain, one of the worst characters in X-Men history, which is saying something. C+

Voodoo #6: This title always seems to be just on the verge of taking off and being truly good. But it never quite gets there. Still, at the end of every issue I’m eager for the next one, ready for everything to fall into place so I can proclaim this series truly excellent. Basri is a terrific artist with a clear, fine style. With Williamson taking over for Marz the title has shifted from being a Sci-Fi tinged spy story to a spy tinged Sci-Fi story. Hopefully soon Voodoo will get it together and give readers some answers. B-

Next week look for the next VGA and for my reread of The Dragon Reborn, as well as some musings on my present video game playing and lack thereof.

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.

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