Monday, May 31, 2010

Quick reviews and previews

I haven't been doing a very good job of posting regular reviews of the comics I've read the past few weeks, so here's a catch-all update with quick reviews of a few recent issues. I'm going to save Return of Bruce Wayne #2 for a longer reviews, to be posted later this week.


A good start to the series, if not exactly the mind-blowing first issue I was hoping for. Gail Simone starts putting all the pieces in place for her first story arc and does so competently. The in-story excuse for reuniting the team is refreshingly straightforward. Throwing Hawk and Dove into the mix feels a bit forced to me, and I suspect it was editorially mandated so the book could tie in to all the Brightest Day nonsense. Be that as it may, they only appeared in a few pages in this issue, so it's too early to judge whether they are going to fit in nicely with the rest of the team. The issue ends with a mystery villain, which is always fun. Looking forward to #2.


Still really enjoying Francis Manapul's art and the lighter tone of this book. Let's hope that tone doesn't take a turn for the dark too soon, but with Geoff Johns writing and the connection to the apparently ironically titled Brightest Day, I wouldn't be surprised if it did. I think I remember reading some rather baffling complaints from fans who thought "nothing happened" in this issue. I'll never understand how these people's minds work. I was pretty skeptical about this title when I added it to my pull list, but so far I'm enjoying it more than I expected and have no real complaints.


I've never read any Legion stories before, so being introduced to so many characters and a completely different setting (i.e., the 31st century) all at once is a bit overwhelming. But not to the extent that I was completely lose or unable to follow the story. Again, this is a #1 issue, so I don't have a whole lot to say about it other than it sets things up nicely and now I'm looking forward to seeing where it's going to go.


Hated it even more than the first issue! Wow, that art is ugly. In the first issue, I thought it was awkward in a few places. Here, it's just unpleasant throughout. The writing is just as bad. I'm really sorry that I committed to buying the first three issues before the series started. But thankfully there's only one more to go. I read a lot of comments about how the short black-and-white back-up stories are worth the price of admission alone, but I beg to differ. While I agree the back-up is the best thing about this issue, it's still just a back-up, and it's not strong enough to justify spending 4$ on. Not by a long shot.


I was very much on the fence about this mini-series, which is supposed to tell the history of the DC universe from the Golden Age to the present. I decided to give it a shot mostly because I thought the art was nice. It opens with a lame framing device where some old guy is sitting in a rocking chair, drinking a cup of joe and talking directly at the reader, before we flashback to his childhood and he recounts his encounters with the first super-heroes. I thought this was extremely cheesy and unnecessary. The rest of the book is okay, but since we're getting the story from the perspective of these kids, we don't really get much insight into the "mystery men," who are of course the characters everyone is reading the book to find out more about. The issue ends somewhere around the time of the formation of the Justice Society of America, and by the time I got to the backup story, I had already pretty much lost interest. I don't think I'm going to pick up #2.


Definitely getting Sweet Tooth #10 and Red Robin #13. I enjoyed the last arc of Chris Yost's run on Red Robin. Now Fabian Nicieza is taking over and I'm looking forward to what he's going to do with the title. Tim Drake is still possibly my favourite character in the DC universe. My only complaint is that the Red Robin costume covers up too much of his head and makes him look like a second-rate Batman without the pointy ears. Tim Drake has awesome hair, and they shouldn't cover it up with that ugly cowl.

I may or may not pick up the first issue of Red Hood: The Lost Days. I am interested, but I might just decide to wait for the trade on that one. Same thing with the series of Joker's Asylum one-shots.

Last but not least, there's an original graphic novel called A God Somewhere coming out on Wildstorm that looks really good. There's a short preview here.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

60 good comics from the last decade

This dates back to February, but it's worth checking out. Ed Howard made a list of what he considers the 60 best comics of the past decade. These types of lists are generally useless if you think of them as absolutes, but this one serves as a very useful list of recommendations. The list leans heavily toward the non-super-hero genre, but the selections cover a wide variety of genres and types of comics, ranging from self-published to indie to "big two". It also doesn't ignore manga.

I've only read a handful of books from the list, but the ones I have read are among my favourites (especially Pluto and Skyscrapers of the Midwest).

Of the titles I didn't read, I was familiar with about half of them, while the other half are completely new to me. I've just added at least a dozen new books on my to-read list.

Check it out here (60-41), here (40-21) and here (20-1).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Review: Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1

Written by Grant Morrison; art by Chris Sprouse

I said last week that the book I was most excited about was Birds of Prey #1, but that was obvious a lie. There was one book I couldn't to read when I got back home from the comics shop on Wednesday and it was this one. We've all known for months that Bruce Wayne is trapped in time and that in this mini-series he's going to gradually make his way back from pre-history to the present. The concept is outrageous and it's the kind of thing that very few writers could pull off. Thankfully, Grant Morrison is pretty much at the top of the list of the few who could. Bruce Wayne hardly says a word. He basically just looks cool and kicks ass. And that's perfect.

One thing that really surprised me was how little time Bruce spends in this first time period. I had always imagined that Bruce would spend years, possibly even an entire lifetime, in each period before getting zapped to the next. But by the looks of it he was only in pre-history for a few days. The fast pace of the story caught me off guard, and based on the last couple of pages, it looks like this kind of frenetic rhythm is going to continue in the next issue. I don't really understand how that's going to work in some of the upcoming issues (like the one where Bruce is supposed to be a private investigator) but I trust that Morrison will find a way to make it work.

Two things that make me a little bit wary:

1. The appearance of Superman & co. at the end of the issue. I had hoped that this whole Time Masters parallel series was just a blatant cash grab from DC attempting to capitalize on the buzz surrounding Bruce Wayne's return and that it wouldn't actually play a major role in Grant Morrison's magnum opus. The way they show up a few minutes late and claim to have "just missed him" is tacky and nonsensical – you have a time machine, just go back 5 minutes into the past and you'll catch him! – and it feels like something that editorial imposed on Morrison, rather than an organic element of his story. I would be more than happy if that was their only appearance in the series, but I'm afraid that we're going to get this same ploy in every issue. Which brings me to my second point...

2. The structure of the story works well for the first issue – we get lots of references to Batman mythos and Bruce's brief adventure in caveman land is like a condensed and transposed version of his history. While this is a lot of fun, I sincerely hope that Morrison has more in store for us in the next issues, because following the same basic structure and pattern for every issue is going to get very boring and very repetitive. It's a big challenge to tell a full story in a completely different setting with a completely different set of characters in each issue.

This is a great start, though, and I look forward to the next issue, which is coming out next week!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A bunch of comics I haven't read yet

I've been meaning to review the first issue of I, Zombie (I refuse to spell it "iZombie," 'cause it's a comic book, not a fucking Apple product) but it seems that I have absolutely nothing to say about it, so I'm not going to bother. In short, it's not really my thing, so I won't be picking up #2.

Tomorrow, I am picking up:

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1
Birds of Prey #1
Daytripper #6
The Flash #2
Sweet Tooth vol. 1 (TPB)

Return of Bruce Wayne is going to be epic, of course, but I think I might be even more excited by Gail Simone's Birds of Prey relaunch. There's an interview with Simone about the new book at USA Today. Which, by the way, reminds me that I have no read the Hawk and Dove mini-series I picked up from the dollar bins on Free Comic Book Day.

Something else I'm going to be checking out: Orc Stain, an ongoing series from Image by writer/artist James Stokoe. I read several positive reviews (just google it) of the three issues that are out so far, and it looks like a lot of fun. Some of the art is pretty wild (see to the right).

Finally, since reading We3, I've developed a weird fascination for comic books that feature animals in lead roles, with varying degrees of anthropomorphism. I watched Watership Down a couple of weekends again, which kind of fed into that same interest. I have my eye on a few books I need to check out, including the two Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers mini-series from Marvel (the first, from last year, is now collected in trade paperback, while the second is currently being serialized); a graphic novel called Grandville by Bryan Talbot (available in hardcover from Dark Horse); and Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson's Beasts of Burden (also from Dark Horse, upcoming) and which I first read about on The Groovy Age of Horror (there's also an interview with the creators on Newsarama). I'm sure I will have something more to say about all this once I've explored a bit more, but in the meantime, if you have any suggestions for comics featuring animals, leave me a comment!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Review: Batman and Robin #12

I'm really struggling to find my voice with these reviews. I follow so many comics blog and they all review the same issues that come out every week and a lot of them have very insightful things to say. By the time I get around to writing my review, I kinda feel like I have nothing to add. I also realize that very few people ever read this blog. To be honest, I don't think the internet needs another comics blog right now. But that's not really why I'm doing this, is it? I'm just trying to record my personal reactions to the things I read. If I come up with some interesting observations along the way, it's like an added bonus. I just don't want to get too hung up on trying to say something insightful, and instead focus on trying to be sincere.

Written by Grant Morrison; pencils by Andy Clarke; inks/finishes by Scott Hanna; layouts by Dustin Nguyen

(Possible spoilers.)

I think I'm starting to understand what is so different about the way Grant Morrison writes comics, and it's got nothing to do with the meta-textual elements or his penchant for the weird and trippy. It's more about the pacing and how much story he packs into every issue. I've read a lot of comments about how comic books are "decompressed" these days, but Morrison seems to go against that trend. He comes up with crazy complicated stories and then doesn't waste any time getting from one plot point to the next. It takes a bit of getting used to, and I think that's why every issue of Batman and Robin that I read initially leaves me feeling a bit disoriented and confused. It's only after a second or third reading that I start to fully grasp everything that's happened, and only then can I appreciate how the subtle character moments and scenes that brought us from point A to B to C were carefully chosen by Morrison in order to tell that story.

A lot happens in this issue, and on my first read, I felt like the transitions were too abrupt and the overall structure a bit awkward. They go from the fight in the graveyard, to a brief stop in the cave, to a visit to Talia's HQ halfway across the globe, back to the Batcave, and finally to Oberon's hotel room, where his identity is finally revealed. It's a lot of jumping around, and it's presented as one continuous sequence of event, when it seems you would need several days to cram all that into a schedule. But who cares? The structure is less built around a realistic sense of time than it is designed to hit all the right story beats and character moments. Examined in that light, it works.

The confrontation between Damian and his mother is the emotional climax of the issue, and it's full of great lines and shocking revelations. One of my favourites is when Talia tells Damian: "Take off that ridiculous costume. It's not normal." Considering the insane childhood that Damian has had so far, it's hilarious that she's now all of a sudden concerned with normality. Damian tells her that being Robin is the best thing he's ever done. It's the life he chose, whether or not his father returns. Talia shows him the creepy foetus she's growing in a laboratory and tells him that he's made from the same augmented DNA combination as Damian. This is essentially her backup copy. Her experiment with Damian failed, and now she rejects him and is preparing to start over with Damian #2. Damian asks: "Can't you just love me for who I am? Not what you want me to be?" To which she says no, then expels him from the Al Ghul family. Damian replies that he hopes he can be a worthy enemy.

Over the course of Batman and Robin, we've seen Damian's character evolve and mature. We've seen how seriously he takes the job of being Robin, and how sincere he is in his decision to honour his father and fight crime. With this scene, Morrison firmly cements Damian's place in the Bat family, and proves that he does in fact deserve our sympathy. Whether this will actually help to silence all the annoying Damian haters who still can't see past the annoying little brat, I doubt it. But for the rest of us, this simply confirms what we already knew – that Damian is a great character full of potential.

The major revelation at the end of this issue is of course Oberon's true identity. I saw it coming, because it was one of two popular theories that were being thrown around on message boards a lot, although it wasn't one that I personally subscribed to. I still don't know how I feel about it. Since it ends on a cliffhanger, we don't know exactly how that fits into the bigger picture or how it's going to affect what happens next, including of course the return of Bruce Wayne. I'm going to hold off on commenting further until we know more.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Free Comic Book Day

I hit four stores on Free Comic Book Day and picked up 3 freebies and some dollar-bin comics. One of the stores we went to was so crowded that we just turned around and walked out without picking anything up. There seemed to be good traffic at all the stores, which is nice. Not as many kids as I would have expected, and nothing too crazy as far as festivities go. No balloons. No costumes. No cake. Oh well.

Doctor Solar/Magnus (Dark Horse)

This was the only free super-hero comic book I was interested in, since DC was offering some War of the Supermen issue and I still can't bring myself to really care about anything Marvel does. But in retrospect, I wish I'd picked up the Iron Man/Thor issue from Marvel instead. There's no way it could've been as bland and pointless as this was. Apparently Jim Shooter is some comic book legend who started selling stories to DC when he was only 14. That's impressive, but both of these stories were terrible.

Mouse Guard/Fraggle Rock (Archaia)

I don't really know anything about Mouse Guard, written and drawn by David Petersen, but I got it because the art was so beautiful. Apparently there are a couple of mini-series before this, and two more are launching in May and September. I might be curious enough to check some of these out. This short one-shot was pretty low on story, but the drawings really are amazing and make me want to read more. There's no dialogue, only narration, which makes this almost more of a storybook than a comic. I wonder if this is a technique that is used in all the Mouse Guard books, or if the other ones include speech bubbles.

I didn't read the Fraggle Rock side of the book. I skimmed through it and it seems like an alright book for kids, but it's a strange pairing, as Mouse Guard seems to be aimed at a completely different age group.

The Sixth Gun (Oni Press)

This is a complete first issue of a new series written by Cullen Bunn and illustrated by Brian Hurtt. It's definitely the more substantial of the free comics I got. It's a kind of supernatural western about a gun with mystical powers. It's a pretty good first issue and I enjoyed it. If I was more interested in the genre (or if I had unlimited funds) I would probably buy the next few issues to see where the story goes. I recommend you check it out if you're a fan of the genre, but for me, unfortunately, there's just too many other books I plan to spend my money on.

Hawk and Dove mini-series (DC Comics)

This wasn't free. I got this 5-part mini-series from the discounted dollar bin, meaning they were only about 75 cents per issue. I have no idea if it's going to be any good, but it wasn't much of an investment so I figured it was worth the risk. I'm interested in these characters because they're going to be featured in the new Birds of Prey series that Gail Simone is writing. I haven't read this yet, so I'll report back later.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Read in April 2010

Teen Titans: Family Lost (TPB)
Teen Titans: Beast Boys & Girls (TPB)
Teen Titans: Titans Tomorrow (TPB)
Batman and Robin #11 (my review)
The Flash: Secret Files and Origins 2010 (my review)
Red Robin #9-11
Batgirl #8
Birds of Prey #69-73
Batman and Son (TPB) (my review)
The Flash #1 (my review)
Pluto vol. 1-2
The Brave and the Bold #33 (my review)
The Spirit #1 (my review)
Daytripper #1-5
The Unwritten #12
Sweet Tooth #6-8
Sin Titulo (all of it, up to current page)

A few quick comments

Pluto is amazing! I bought volumes 3 and 4 (there are 8 in total) and I'm really looking forward to reading them. I'm going to wait until I finish the full series before posting a review.

I also really enjoyed the three Vertigo titles I checked out last month, all of which I would like to continue following. I'm adding Daytripper and Sweet Tooth to my pull list, and I guess I'm going to wait for trades on The Unwrtitten.

I was very pleasantly surprised by Cameron Stewart's Eisner-nominated webcomic, Sin Titulo. I don't have much interest in webcomics in general, probably simply because I haven't seen a lot of quality ones, but this one is a must-read. Two or three pages into it I was hooked, and I read the whole thing in one sitting.

The next chapter in Grant Morrison's epic Batman run, The Black Glove, almost made it on the list, but I still have a few pages to read. It's blowing my mind!

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