Sunday, October 31, 2010

Quick Reviews: Teen Titans, Secret Avengers, Action Comics, Hellblazer

Written by J.T. Krul; art by Nicola Scott.

I’ve been very cynical about this new creative team, because although I think Nicola Scott’s art is wonderful, JT Krul wrote a certain scene featuring a dead cat that we all know about and that I probably don’t need to elaborate upon. So even though I really desperately wanted to like this book, I went into it with very cautious optimism. And I'm glad to say that it didn't suck! In fact, this was pretty damn good. I mean, there's nothing amazing about it, but just there's nothing terribly wrong with it is already kind of remarkable, considering how bad this series has been (by all accounts) for the past few years.

I’m not 100% sure I like that scene with Raven in the middle of the book. I don’t know why, but I have a bad feeling about where that’s going. Maybe it’s nothing, though. We'll see.

I’m officially adding this to my pull list and looking forward to the next issue.

Written by Ed Brubaker; art by Mike Deodato.

It still doesn’t feel like this series is as good as it should be. It’s weird. I can’t put my finger on it, but something seems lacking. There’s nothing really wrong, but also nothing really amazing. I think maybe it’s because it’s very plot-driven, and what I expect from Brubaker is really great characterization.

Still, I enjoyed this. I like Deodato’s art and this issue was probably the best looking so far. The colouring was also much improved, compared to the first arc, which I thought was too dark and lacking dynamics. All things considered, this is still a very good title. Maybe my expectations are just too high, because Brubaker’s Captain America is so amazing.

Written by Paul Cornell; art by Pete Woods.

I've been in love with this series since Paul Cornell started writing it. Everything about his writing here is exactly right. Luthor is amazing. Death (from Neil Gaiman's Sandman) was also amazing in this issue. And Pete Woods’ art also shines.

My only slight complaint is that the whole villain-of-the-month format of the story risks getting kind of monotonous. There’s obviously a larger story being told in small increments here, but it’s hard to get a sense of where it’s all going. I kind of wish Cornell wasn’t dead set on following this structure.

But the characterization and the dialogue and the ideas and the weirdness… loving it all.

Written by Si Spencer; art by Sean Murphy. 

This is somewhat embarrassing to admit, but this mini-series is the first thing I've ever read featuring John Constantine, so only two issues into it, I'm still getting a feel for his character and exactly what he's all about. But I have to say he's a very easy character to like! I'm already thinking I need to read some of the older, classic stories about him.

This is petty good so far. Sean Murphy's art is fantastic. (I can't wait to read Joe the Barbarian! I missed the boat on the first couple of issues, so I'm eagerly awaiting the trade paperback.) Also, Dave Stewart is becoming my favourite colourist.

Review: Secret Avengers #5

(This review was originally posted on September 27 at Population GO.)

SECRET AVENGERS #5 "Secret Histories Epilogue: The Secret Life of Max Fury"
Written by Ed Brubaker; art by David Aja, Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano.

Secret Avengers is a comic book that should’ve been awesome from the start. Writer Ed Brubaker has been doing a fantastic job with Captain America for a long time, and to have him write about a new covert ops Avengers team headed by former Captain America Steve Rogers sounds like a perfect fit. While the first issue was promising, the next three were very underwhelming, to the point where I was considering dropping the title after the completion of the first arc. But now, issue #5 comes out and I’m perplexed. This issue was great, definitely the best in the series thus far, but it was also very atypical. Not only did it have a different artist, but the story also focused on a couple of characters who are not even members of the team. The question is, will the quality hold up when it’s back to business as usual next month?

Mike Deodato’s art so far on the series has been decent, so I was initially a little weary when I saw that issue #5 featured a different artist – or rather a team of artists, namely, David Aja, Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano. (Deodato will be back next month.) But the strikingly different style in this issue, which is an epilogue to the first arc, ends up working in favour of it. The art is a bit grittier or sketchier, which fits nicely with the story of our antagonist’s origins, told mostly in flashbacks. 

Being fairly new to the Marvel universe myself, I’m not exactly sure how much of the information we are given in this issue was previously established. It’s all new to me, but easy enough to follow. Though presented as an epilogue to the first arc, the story could work as well as a stand-alone, and as such it would be a good jumping-on point for readers who want to get some background before the next arc begins. All you really need to know is that the Secret Avengers have been attacked by a group called the Shadow Council, led by someone who looks suspiciously like Nick Fury.

Ed Brubaker’s writing is excellent in this issue and I’m finally getting a sense of what makes him such a unique voice in comics. It’s clear he has a good handle on the characters of Nick Fury and Steve Rogers and the way they interact with each other. If the writing stays this good once the focus returns to the rest of the team next month, Secret Avengers could become the best current ongoing Avengers title – which it really ought to be.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Too Much Awesome: Comics in January

Time to look at the January 2011 solicitations, as listed in Previews #266.


Hmm, there's not a single book from Dark Horse I'm interested in this month.


The DC solicitations start with a bunch of random one-shots, none of which look all that interesting to me. Depending on whether or not Krul's Teen Titans gone south by then, I might check out the Wonder Girl one-shot that ties into it, otherwise I think I'm going to pass on all of these.

The new anthology mini-series Weird Worlds features "a kind-hearted monster called Garbageman." I think that speaks for itself, but you can read more about that wonderful creation in this interview with Aaron Lopresti, who will be writing and drawing that story.

Batman: Europa is a new mini-series based on a story by Brian Azzarello and Matteo Casali, with painted art by "many of the industry's top talents. This first issue is by Jim Lee, and if that cover is any indication, it's going to be really, really ugly. Not interested.

I'll probably be getting the new issues of Batman Inc, Batman and Robin, Knight and Squire, Red Robin, Birds of Prey, Action Comics, Superboy, The Flash, Adventure Comics, Legion of Super-Heroes and Teen Titans, all of which are on my regular pull list at the moment.

Superman/Batman #80 is the conclusion of a two-part story by Chris Roberson and Jesus Merino, taking place in the 853rd century, and I'm looking forward to that as well.

In the collected editions section, I noticed that the first collection of Paul Cornell's Action Comics run is going to be titled Superman: The Black Ring. Now why would they put "Superman" in the title when the character is not even featured in the story? I know, I know, the answer is probably just that his name sells better than Lex Luthor's, but that seems really disingenuous, even by DC's low standards. Is it possible that Superman does make an appearance at the end of the story Cornell has planned? I'm also confused by the fact that there's no "volume 1" attached to the title, since that collection only includes issues #890-895 and the story will not have concluded by then. Very weird.

Notice a bunch of Wildstorm titles at the end of the DC Comics section. Mostly these are mini-series that haven't yet concluded, but it's nice to see a seamless transition into DC's main imprint instead of a bunch of abrupt cancellations.


Daytripper gets a trade paperback collection. I bought all the single issues, so I won't be getting this, but I highly recommend this beautiful story by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon.

I'm going to be picking up the new issues of Northlanders and Sweet Tooth. It seems like there are fewer and fewer Vertigo books of interest. I hope they're going to announce some new titles soon.


I'm not going to get sucked into this Infestation mega crossover event, featuring zombies across IDW's various licensed properties (Star Trek, G.I. Joe, Transformers, Ghostbusters), but I'll admit it's a pretty clever marketing stunt. Of course, it would maybe have a bit more impact if we hadn't seen major zombie crossover events at DC and Marvel recently. Coupled with the surge in popularity of Kirkman's Walking Dead due to the new TV series, I'd expect most people to be really sick of zombies by January. I'm pretty sure I will be.

I bought the first issue of Steve Niles and Kelley Jones' Edge of Doom mini-series this month and didn't think much of it, so I'm dropping this one.

There's a trade paperback of something called Off-Road, written and drawn by Sean Murphy. I'm assuming this was previously released as a mini-series, although the solicitation doesn't say. It's the first time I notice this title, but I'm probably going to look into it, since I really love Murphy's art.


I dropped Morning Glories after issue #3. I don't understand where all the positive reviews are coming from, as I found both the art and the writing to be mediocre.

And yet, here I am looking at Nick Spencer's new series, The Infinite Vacation, thinking it looks pretty cool. Art is by Christian Ward and it looks a lot more up my alley than Joe Eisma's work in Morning Glories. I'm intrigued, if not completely sold on this one.

And depending on how I like the first issues of Halcyon and Marineman (coming out in November and December, respectively), I may or may not continue reading them in January.


I will be getting the new issues of Avengers: Children's Crusade, Secret Avengers, and Thor. I think that's it. I dropped Avengers Academy because it hasn't been very good (and the last issue, to put it politely, sucked cock) and I'm not really tempted by anything else at the moment. Which is not a bad thing, considering my budget is already stretched thin as it is.

There's a Magneto one-shot written by Howard Chaykin and pencilled by "TBD." Awesome.


Casanova continues, with Fabio Moon taking over art duties from Gabriel Ba. They're both amazing artists, so that's cool.

I'll also be getting Mark Millar and Leinil Yu's Superior, unless something goes horribly wrong in issue #2 or #3.


By January, all three of Stan Lee's new series will have launched: Soldier Zero, Starborn and The Traveler. I read the first issue of Soldier Zero this week and I'm currently working on a review of it. I haven't decided yet whether I'm going to continue reading it or check out those other two books when they launch, but for now I'll just say these are worth keeping an eye on.


I have Atomic Robo and the Deadly Art of Science #3 on my pull  list.


I'm picking up the first issue of Magus in December. Depending on whether or not that's any good, I may or may not pick up the second issue in January. The premise is interesting.

And that's all for January, folks.

Top 10 ugliest faces in Avengers Academy #5

(This was originally posted on Tumblr on October 8, 2010.)

Avengers Academy #5 was the worst comic I bought in months. In large part, this was due to filler artist Jorge Molina’s apparent inability to draw character faces consistently. Below are the top 10 ugliest faces from the pages of the issue. Please note that it was actually really difficult to narrow it down to these 10, as I had originally about 25 cropped faces that would all qualify.

#10 - Striker

#9 - I don’t even know who this is

#8 - Veil

#7 - Hank Pym (why is he wearing black lipstick?)

#6 - Striker’s dad

#5 - Steve Rogers

#4 - Veil

#3 - Hank Pym

#2 - Steve Rogers

#1 - Striker

Five images x2

by Scott Hampton, from Batman Masterpieces: Portrait of the Dark Knight and His World.

"Icons" by Marc Laming.

"Catwoman - Cat Got Your Keys" by Eric Goff.

Invincible vs. Power Girl, by Ryan Ottley.

Superboy and Krypto, by Jeff Lemire and Jose Villarubia.

"Lil' Matches" by lebzpel on Deviant Art. (This is Damian Wayne in his Halloween costume, based on Superman/Batman #77)

Atom (from Pluto) with a snail, by orb01 on Deviant Art.

Superboy sketch by Mike Wieringo.

Supergirl sketch by Yildiray Cinar.

Man-Thing by Art Adams.
Found on the following tumblrs: fuckyeahttk, spoonr, discowing, kandidkandor, fuckyeahcomicrelationships, korovamilk, awyeahcomics and yours truly.

Review: The Flash #5

(This review was originally posted on September 30 at Population GO.)

THE FLASH #5 "The Dastardly Death of the Rogues - Part Four"
Written by Geoff Johns; art by Francis Manapul.

When the new volume of The Flash launched about four months ago, I wasn’t quite convinced that I would enjoy it much. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Flash to begin with, and I’d read some very negative comments about Geoff Johns’ Flash Rebirth mini-series, in which he resurrected the Silver Age Flash, Barry Allen, and set him up to star in this new ongoing series. I decided to give it a shot out of curiosity and because reading a new series from #1 is always more appealing than trying to jump on in the middle of a run, but I was half expecting to drop it from my pull list after a couple of issues. To my surprise, the book was an instant hit for me. And #5 is another issue in a series that consistently feels fresh and exciting.

This is in no small part due to Francis Manapul’s magnificent art and Brian Buccellato’s stellar colouring. These two are a match made in heaven, and every month they make this book look amazing, elevating Geoff Johns’ material to truly inspired levels. This latest issue is no exception. Every page is a pleasure to look at, including the trippy, psychedelic splash page shown at the top of this review. (That’s the unlettered version from Francis Manapul’s Deviant Art profile, which you should really have a look at if you’re a fan of beautiful comic art.)

From the story angle, this issue is also pretty fantastic. The fight between the Rogues and the Renegades (who are mirror versions of them from the future), with Flash caught in between, continues, and we start to get some answers to the questions that have been raised in previous issues. There’s a pretty big twist in the last few pages that seriously alters everything we thought we knew about what exactly is going on here. I’m not going to spoil it, but let’s just say I’m excited to find out what happens next. 

The only minor quibble I have with the issue is about the jarring scene that ties into Brightest Day. It’s very clumsy and serves no real purpose other than to justify the banner that’s been appearing at the top of the cover each month since #1. There’s a similarly out-of-place scene in last week’s Birds of Prey, and I’m assuming the same thing happens once in a while in the other titles tied to the event. If you’re not following Brightest Day, you’ll probably be left scratching your head wondering what that was all about. My advice is to just pretend it didn’t happen and continue reading.

Awkward crossover bleed aside, this is another great issue of one of DC’s best current ongoing titles. Recommended.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Review: Birds of Prey #5

(This review was originally posted on September 20, at Population GO.)

BIRDS OF PREY #5 "Aftershock"
Written by Gail Simone; art by Alvin Lee, Adriana Melo, Jack Purcell and J.P. Mayer.

In a recent post at 4thletter!, David Brothers asked, “Why do people read Birds of Prey?” It’s a fair question. Since the book re-launched last spring, I’ve been reading it with a mixture of trepidation and frustration. 

For those not familiar with this title, the Birds of Prey team consists of core members Oracle, Huntress, Black Canary and Lady Blackhawk, now joined by the recently resurrected (in Brightest Day) Hawk and his partner, Dove. Immediately after regrouping as a team in the first issue, the Birds have been hit by a non-stop barrage of inter-related problems: a PR nightmare when Black Canary was publicly accused of murder, blackmail from former villains-turned-allies Savant and Creote, attacks from the Gotham police who now consider them outlaws, sneaky manipulation from the Penguin, and a deadly new villain known as White Canary. All these threats reached a climax at the end of the last arc. This issue picks up right where the last one left off, with some of the team members heading to Bangkok to deal with some unfinished business between the Black and White canaries. 

Gail Simone’s writing is sharp – she has a good handle on the characters and a great ear for dialogue. A lot of the plot threads in this story have been picked up from her run on the first volume of the title, and for those of us not familiar with all the back stories, the payoff sometimes feel a little slim, but it’s nothing a few quick Google searches can’t fix. 

The main source of frustration with this book has been the art. Opinions vary on whether Ed Benes is a talented artist or not. I’m inclined to side with those who defend his technical abilities. I think he’s quite capable of drawing a good-looking comic, but unfortunately he has the annoying habit of constantly drawing women in ridiculous poses that serve no purpose other than to emphasize their asses and crotches.

Don’t get me wrong – I understand that comics are all about good-looking people with idealized bodies in sexy outfits. I think sex appeal is part of why most people read comics, whether they are willing to admit it or not. But there’s a fine line between sex appeal and bad taste, and too often, unfortunately, Birds of Prey crosses that line.

Even apart from the excessive cheesecake, the art has suffered on this book since the re-launch. Due to some health problems, Ed Benes has been unable to complete any of the issues except the first one, which has led to some less-than-stellar art from fill-in artists rushing to complete the books. In a word, the art has been spotty at best, and this seems to be the consensus even among fans of the title; in the comments to David Brothers’ post mentioned earlier, most people agreed with his suggestion that fans enjoy Gail Simone’s script, while merely tolerating the art.

With issue #5, Ed Benes has been taken off the title completely and replaced by penciller Alvin Lee. Now I’m not familiar with this guy’s previous work, but I was disappointed to find that (a) he wasn’t able to complete the art on his first issue (Adriana Melo, who helped finish Benes issues, fills in here as well), and (b) the quality of the art has actually decreased significantly with this latest issue (most of the faces look worse than what you would expect from an average amateur fan artist on Deviant Art), and (c) the camel toes, low-angle crotch shots and asses pointing at the camera are as present as ever. Now I really have to question whether Ed Benes really was to blame for all that cheesecake. Are the new artists just continuing in the same tradition for the sake of consistency? Is this an editorial mandate? Or is Gail Simone including specific instructions for these kinds of shots in her scripts? Who knows? 

It’s a bit of a shame, because it gives the impression that DC doesn’t care about the art in this book. Maybe Gail Simone is a big enough name that doesn’t need a grade-A artist attached to sell the book. And in terms of the story, this really is good. I’m excited about where these various characters are headed, especially Creote and Savant, who it seems will now be working more closely with Oracle at the Birds’ headquarters. (Speaking of which, HQ has conveniently moved out of the Bat cave in anticipation for Bruce Wayne’s eminent return.) The first arc was a bit chaotic, but things are starting to fall into place. 

If the art improves over the next few issues, this title has the potential to become one of DC’s strongest. I have enough faith in Gail Simone to keep reading, knowing that on a story level it will probably pay off. For that reason, I recommend the book, in spite of the inconsistent art.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Read in September 2010

Here's the list of everything I read last month:

Avengers: Children’s Crusade #1-2
5 Days to Die #1
One Month to Live #1-4
Sweet Tooth #13
Brightest Day #0-9
Walking Dead #1-30
Batman #703
Batman and Robin #14
Daytripper #10
Invaders Now! #1
Red Robin #16
Animal Man #27-29 (Peter Milligan run)
Birds of Prey #5
Morning Glories #2
X-Force #116
Justice League: Generation Lost #1
Thor #615
Legion of Super-Heroes #5
Flash #5
Thunderbolts #147
Avengers Academy #4
Secret Avengers #5
Casanova #1-2
Godland #1
Bulletproof Coffin #4

In no particular order, these were my favourite:

1. Sweet Tooth #13 (Vertigo) Jeff Lemire writes and draws this series, and every issue is a miniature masterpiece. A new arc begins with issue #13, setting into motion a series of events that are likely to lead to some pretty crazy action in the coming months. Sweet Tooth just keeps getting better and better. 

2. Daytripper #10 (Vertigo) Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba’s mini-series about the life and death(s) of a Brazilian writer concludes with a quiet issue that almost seems like an understatement, but ties everything together beautifully. This was a wonderful series and I’m sad to see it come to an end. It will surely get collected in trade paperback in the near future, so keep an eye out for it.

3. Thor #615 (Marvel) A new creative team starts a new story with this issue, and things are off to a great start. Matt Fraction sets things up for what is sure to be an epic cosmic adventure, perfectly suited to Pasqual Ferry’s otherworldly artwork. This is definitely a title that should be on your pull list right now.

4. Bulletproof Coffin #4 (Image) Thing are definitely starting to fall into place in this totally weird mini-series written by David Hine and drawn by Shaky Kane. Hine and Kan have cast themselves as the mysterious creators of lost Golden Age comics, and metatextual shenanigans abound as our hero slips in and out of the reality of the comic books he’s reading. The story is clever and the eye-popping art and vibrant colours give this book a unique look. Two more issues to go.

5. Action Comics #893 (DC) And last, but certainly not least, the issue that feature Gorilla Grodd coming after Lex Luthor with a giant spoon! Writer Paul Cornell doesn’t hold back, allowing his story to get as gloriously bizarre and entertaining as all super-hero comic books should be.

And my least favourite comic of the month:

Invaders Now #1 (Marvel) This mini-series started off on the wrong foot, with bad dialogue from Christos Gage, way too much setting up and not enough moving the plot forward. The art was also underwhelming, and despite a mildly interesting premise (orchestrated by Alex Ross), I wasn’t interested enough to buy the next issue. This one was a big fail for me.

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