Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Is It Wednesday Yet?

Things have been really weird on the personal side lately and I haven't been reading a lot of comics. Half my pull from last week is still piled up on my desk unread. These things happen. I'm sure I'll get back into it soon.


I have two unfinished posts in my drafts folder and I'm beginning to think they may never see the light of day. One is about the lack of strong female characters in Thor (the movie) and the other is about the consternatingly bad Alpha Flight #0.5, a comic that takes place in Canada on election day but has nothing to do with the recent Canadian elections. Hopefully I'll get around to finishing that post sometime this week. I think I've more or less given up on the one about Thor, though. The movie gets less and less relevant as we move into summer and the theatres are about to get flooded with a bunch of other super-hero movies. All of which, by the way, I intend to see. So maybe I'll revisit the idea for the post later this summer as a comparison with the other big movies.


DC Women Kicking Ass has a post about what improvements DC have made in diversity since they announced a commitment to it five years ago. I haven't read it yet, because I'm afraid it's going to be too depressing. I didn't even know DC had made this commitment and as far as I can tell there is little to no evidence that they've made any real efforts in that department.


I'm going through one of my phases where my blogs seem to multiply faster than my readers do. Right now I could 6 active ones and 3 dormant ones. I won't mention all of them here, but here are a few that might be of interest to you:

  • I Have Thoughts and Feelings: Where I write about music. There is only one post so far and it's a detailed song-by-song review of Nirvana's In Utero. It was originally going to be "a blog about Phil Collins and Queen," as the header says. I know that seems inexplicably random and weird, and that was sort of the point. I was about halfway through a very long rambling introduction explaining the concept, but I decided to trash it and just review whatever. I'm sure I'll get to Phil Collins and Queen eventually.
  • Melt Into Whiteness: A Tumblr where I dump YouTube videos of songs I like. There's no concept here. Just a straightforward (though very eclectic) collection of music.
  • I Understand and I Wish to Continue: This is going to be my "personal" blog where I write about anything that isn't music or comics. Some of it is likely to be very personal and not all that interesting for anyone else but me, but I also plan to use it to dump ideas and rants about issues like social justice, feminism, queer politics, etc.
As an added bonus, I will also link to my Flick photostream, only because I just bought a new digital camera and I hope to get back into the habit of posting pictures regularly. It'll probably mostly be boring pictures of myself and my cat, since I don't have anything else to take pictures of.


New comics this week!

Flashpoint kicks into full speed this week with not only the second issue of the main series but also the first batch of minis:
  • Flashpoint #2 (of 5) 
  • Flashpoint: Abin Sur: The Green Lantern #1 (of 3)
  • Flashpoint: Batman: Knight of Vengeance #1 (of 3)
  • Flashpoint: Secret Seven #1 (of 3)
  • Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint #1 (of 3)
You'll find previews for each of those on DC's The Source. For now, I'm going to stick to my plan of only buying the main series, although I will admit that both the Batman and Secret Seven ones look better than I anticipated. As a blogger/reviewer, I really wish I could afford to cover all of Flashpoint. But as a fan/consumer, it's pretty hard to justify spending that much money on it.

Other stuff on my pull list:
  • Hellboy: The Fury #1 (of 3) (Dark Horse)
  • Static Shock Special (one-shot) (DC)
  • Superboy #8 (DC)
  • Sweet Tooth #22 (Vertigo)
  • Amazing Spider-Man #663 (Marvel)
  • 50 Girls 50 #1 (Image)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

One-paragraph reviews: American Vampire, Detective Comics, Xombi

American Vampire #15
Written by Scott Snyder; art by Rafael Albuquerque; Vertigo

I find that I don't really have anything to say about this issue that I haven't already said about previous issues. Good story, good dialogue, good art. And great colours by Dave McCaig. No complaints whatsoever. We're now three issues into this arc (I think there's going to be six in total) and things just got a lot more complicated than they seemed to be at first. No idea what's going to happen in the next issue, but the last page hints at something really horrific. It's going to be amazing. Also, as a side note, there's a preview for the American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest mini-series. I didn't read it, because I never read previews for stuff I already plan to get, but the art by Sean Murphy looks phenomenal.



Detective Comics #877
Written by Scott Snyder; art by Jock; DC

I'm still digging this book, but this might have been the weakest issue since the beginning of Snyder's run. The long conversation between Batman and the Roadrunner didn't seem to go anywhere. Jock's art seemed more minimalist than usual, with a lot of empty space filled by weird airbrushed backgrounds that kind of clash with the style of his line work. I'm not sure if those backgrounds are by the colourist or by Jock himself. I find myself actually looking forward to Francavilla being back on art, although I think both are really great artists and I'm not really complaining. Bottom line is that even as possibly the weakest issue in the arc, this is still really good and it remains probably the best Batman title at the moment. I loved the scene at the end where Dick cuts off the communication channel to shut Tim up. Also, that's a really awesome looking sci-fi boat on the last page.



Xombi #3
Written by John Rozum; art by Frazer Irving; DC

Still a great story full of crazy concepts and original ideas. Still great art by Frazer Irving in his unique style. (Absolutely brilliant use of colour!) This is probably the weirdest book DC publishes right now and if there's anything I love in narrative art forms, it's weird shit. My only complaint with this issue is that it was really heavy on the narration, and that slowed it down a bit too much. But it's a relatively minor nitpick. Also, by the way, we need more characters with awesome mustaches in comics.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Is It Wednesday Yet?

New comics this week!

  • Detective Comics #877 (DC)
  • Xombi #3 (DC)
  • American Vampire #15 (Vertigo)
  • Strange Adventures #1 (Vertigo)
  • Amazing Spider-Man #622 (Marvel)
  • FF #4 (Marvel)
  • Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters #3 (IDW)
  • Butcher Baker: The Righteous Maker #3 (Image)
  • Super Dinosaur #2 (Image)
I dropped Action Comics this month, because although I've been enjoying Paul Cornell's run so far, the Lex Luthor arc has concluded and the story now shifts to the "Reign of Doomsdays" arc. That story so far has consisted of Doomsday beating the shit out of various heroes, and based on the solicits for the next three issues, that's about all we can expect until its conclusion. This is a totally idiotic crossover, hijacking several titles and adding absolutely no value to any of them. It's the best example I've ever seen of how NOT to do crossovers.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

One-paragraph reviews: Spider-Man, Fear Itself, Last Mortal, Supergirl

Amazing Spider-Man #661
Written by Christos Gage, art by Reilly Brown; Marvel

I probably wouldn't have bought this issue if I had noticed that it was written by Christos Gage before leaving the store. I read the first few issues of Avengers Academy, and while I like the characters, the weak scripts and occasionally even worse art prevented me from enjoying it. I've always been a bit puzzled by the generally positive reviews of it I see online. Here, we get the same level of quality I've come to expect from Gage: an all right story, mostly bad dialogue, and scenes that somehow ring false. No complaints about the art, though.



Fear Itself #2 (of 7)
Written by Matt Fraction; art by Stuart Immonen and Wade Von Grawbadger; Marvel

I had mixed feelings about the first issue. The story was better than I had expected, but I was really turned off by the pretentious attempt at "relevance" that steered clear of any actual political commentary. In the end, although I was curious to see what would happen next, I decided not to bother with the rest of the series or crossover event. Then I started reading Journey into Mystery and was surprised by how awesome it was. Since it seems like an important tie-in, I figured I would give the main series another try. Aside from the annoying and utterly pointless soundbites from the news that occasionally intrude on the narrative, Matt Fraction seems to have abandoned any effort to connect this story to what's going on in the real world. In fact, there isn't much of a story here at all. We see various characters pick up the hammers that fell from the sky and get transformed into different beings, which is repetitive and boring. Meanwhile, the Avengers are in full crisis mode, but it's not clear exactly what they're reacting to. In one of the most unconvincing pep speeches ever delivered, Steve Rogers talks about "incident zones" and tells his troops that people will be hurt, scared and panicking. I guess these "incidents" occurred in other books. I'm not going to start buying more titles to figure out what's going on. In fact, I regret buying this one. I'm just going to stick to Journey into Mystery from now on and hope that the story remains self-contained enough for me to be able to make sense of it without paying any attention to this.



Last Mortal #1
Written by John Mahoney and Filip Sablik; art by Thomas Nachlik; Image

Nice black and white art, but I couldn't really bring myself to care about the characters or what happens to them in this issue. The hook of this series is that the main character apparently can't die, so it was a bad idea to not explore that in the first issue. As an idea, it's not really strong enough on its own to just throw it at the reader on the last page. It might work once this is collected in a trade, but for now if the goal is to keep me buying the issues, I need a little more to go on. Especially considering this wasn't much of a twist, since I already knew what the series would be about based on the promotional material. I may or may not pick up the next issue. It'll probably mostly depend on how heavy my pull list happens to be next month. I know how unfair it is to judge a book on a single issue, but unfortunately that's the economic reality I have to deal with.



Supergirl #64
Written by James Peaty; art by Bernard Chang; DC

This concludes the "Good Looking Corpse" story that Nick Spencer started four issues ago. Looking back at the full story, I have to say it was pretty disappointing. We'll probably never know what Spencer intended to do with it, but we know that he left after only one issue because his editors apparently didn't like what he was giving them. So Peaty was almost certainly following an editorial mandate here, which makes it hard to hold him responsible for the story's failure. Does it really come as a surprise to anyone that when you take one writer's idea, have an editor twist and bend it out of shape, and then hire someone else to hack out the scripts, the results are not very good? What you get is a flat, somewhat pointless story that feels like nobody's heart was really in it. Bernard Change's art is pretty good, although this last issue feels a bit sketchier than the others, and there's a lot of ugly digital blur effects (the bane of my existence) added by the colourist.


Friday, May 20, 2011

One-paragraph reviews: Gates of Gotham, Teen Titans, Booster Gold, Silver Surfer

(No spoilers unless otherwise indicated.)

Batman: Gates of Gotham #1 (of 5)
Written by Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins; art by Trevor McCarthy; DC

My expectations for this mini-series were insanely high. Partly because Scott Snyder's recent work on Detective Comics resulted in one of the best Batman stories I've ever read and I was looking forward to more of the same. And partly because Cassandra Cain, former Batgirl, is set to play an important role in it. Cass has a very passionate fanbase and she's a character I've read a lot about but haven't had much first-hand exposure to. While this first issue doesn't quite live up to the hype I built up for it, it's still pretty good. I'm not the biggest fan of the art style. It has a cartoony feel that doesn't appeal to me and I really dislike the character designs for all the bat characters when they're out of costume. But these are mostly due to aesthetic preferences, not a lack of skill on the artist's part. The important thing is it's good storytelling. Kyle Higgins' dialogues don't pack the same kind punch that Synder delivers with surgical precision in Detective, but it does the job. Cass only makes a brief appearance in the end, but it looks like she's going to play an integral part in the story going forward. We only get hints of what is really going on in this first issue, but it sets up an interesting mystery. Looking forward to the next issue.



Booster Gold #44
Written by Dan Jurgens; art by Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund; DC


This is the first issue of Booster Gold that I've ever read, although I've previously enjoyed him as one of the main characters in 52. I was thankful for the in-story recap, which make this a very easy jump-on point for readers like me who are mostly picking this up because it ties into Flashpoint. This issue is mostly set-up, as Booster finds himself stranded in the Flashpoint timeline and realizes that something is very wrong. Booster and Barry Allen (who's not in this) seem to be the only two people so far who remember the old timeline. Jurgens' dialogues have a very old-school feel, which I don't mind at all. Considering how exasperating the ongoing Doomsday crossover in the Super titles has been, I wasn't too thrilled to find that he's going to be an antagonist in this series as well, albeit as a transformed, Flashpointified version of the character. I guess Jurgens did create him, so it shouldn't be too surprising. In any case, I'll keep reading, as I want to know how Booster pulls through this mess and what part he's going to play in restoring the timeline.



Silver Surfer #4 (of 5)
Written  by Greg Pak; art by Harvey Talibao, Iban Coello and Sandu Florea; Marvel

I don't have a lot to say about this issue. I think the art continues to be pretty weak, while the story continues to be pretty good. This concludes next month. Maybe I'll have more to say then.



Teen Titans #95
Written by JT Krul; art by Nicola Scott and Doug Hazlewood; DC

Nicola Scott is one hell of an artist. I suspect this title is going to end with #100 in August, but you can be sure that I'll follow Nicola to whatever book she'll be drawing next. In the meantime, she and inker Doug Hazlewood are drawing the shit out these characters and the story could be the most inane, boring crap and you would hardly notice. Thankfully, though, this story is actually pretty good. The combination of decent story and stellar art makes this one of the best books DC currently puts out, which is remarkable when you consider that before this creative team took over it had long been considered awful by fans. (I wasn't reading it, so I can't confirm that.) The one thing that has me feeling a little uncomfortable is the way this story turns Hindu mythology into supervillany. Obviously, a lot of comic book stories and characters are inspired by myth or religion, but int he case of Greek or Norse mythology, these are religions that are largely "extinct" (although some people still believe in them) and in the case of Christianity, it's usually the writer's own culture that is being mined for inspiration. Here, JT Krul steps dangerously close to cultural appropriation and exoticism. Solstice, the Indian girl who will apparently join the Teen Titans, brings some much needed diversity to the team, but did her first adventure have to be one against comic book versions of her culture's religion? From what I understand, Rankor, the god/demon/villain in this story, is a made-up character not based on any actual Hindu deity, so I don't want to overplay this. It's not that I disapprove of this story or anything. All I'm saying is that these questions remain in the back of my head while I'm reading (and enjoying) this.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fear Itself vs. Flashpoint August solicitations

When DC announced that they were releasing a gazillion mini-series spinning out of Flashpoint, the entire comics blogsphere gasped and felt an overwhelming sense of event fatigue all of a sudden. But a closer look at the numbers shows that Fear Itself is way bigger event than Flashpoint. If someone wanted to get every tie-in issue for both series, here's what their pull list would look like in August.


fear itself
fear itsef: fearsome four
fear itself: wolverine
avengers (fear itself tie-in)
journey into mystery (fear itself tie-in)
invincible iron man (fear itself tie-in)
alpha flight (fear itself tie-in)
fear itself: the deep
fear itself: youth in revolt
fear itself: the home front
fear itself: poster book
ghost rider (fear itself tie-in)
avengers academy (two issues) fear itself tie-in)
new avengers (fear itself tie-in)
herc (fear itself tie-in)
black panther: man without fear (fear itself tie-in)
hulk (fear itself tie-in)
heroes for hire (fear itself tie-in)
thunderbolts (two issues) (fear itself tie-in)
fear itself: fellowship of fear
uncanny x-men (fear itself tie-in)
fear itself: deadpool
fear itself: uncanny x-force
new mutans (two issues) (fear itself tie-in)

Total: 27 issues


flashpoint (two issues)
booster gold (flashpoint tie-in)
flashpoint: batmaan - knight of vengeance
flashpoint: secret seven
flashpoint: abin sur - the green lantern
flashpoint: world of flashpoint
flashpoint: emperor aquaman
flashpoint: deathstroke and the curse of the ravager
flashpoint: frankenstein and the creatures of the unknown
flashpoint: citizen cold
flashpoint: wonder woman and the furies
flashpoint: deadman and the flying graysons
flashpoint: legion of doom
flashpoint: lois lane and the resistance
flashpoint: the outsider
flashpoint: kid flash lost
flashpoint: project superman
flashpoint: hal jordan

Total: 19 issues

It's also worth pointing out that Flashpoint ends in August, whereas Fear Itself will be just over the halfway mark.

Is It Wednesday Yet? // What's going on with DC books after August 31?

So I've been looking at DC's August solicitations and I have to admit that I'm pretty damn excited about what's going to happen after August 31st. Yes, I know that as a comic book blogger, it is my job to be cynical about the stunts that the big two pull to convince us that their comics are really important and a big deal and that they're going to change everything. Which is pretty much what DC has been telling us lately about Flashpoint, with all the PR and creator interviews and now the solicitations for August, where it is revealed that the only title currently scheduled to be released on the fifth Wednesday of the month is Flashpoint #5, because of the tremendous impact it's going to have on the DCU. I mean, I am fully aware that this is all manufactured hype, but it doesn't mean I shouldn't care. Or even, perhaps, enjoy it? Is that permitted?

Okay, editors and creators and ads constantly telling us that "it's a big deal" gets tiring and needs to be taken with a grain of salt. And only soliciting one book for the last week of August is a bold move, but what I think is much more telling about the solicitations is the fact that pretty much every book in the mainstream DCU in August is either the conclusion of some longer story arc, or what feels suspiciously like a filler done-in-one. It's like all the loose ends are getting wrapped up in August, so that it's really impossible to tell which book is going to continue in September and which book is going to be cancelled or transformed.

Let's take a closer look at the non-Flashpoint August solicitations. JMS's two epic failures, "Grounded" in Superman and "Odyssey" in Wonder Woman, both come to an end. Kelly Sue DeConnick's three-issue story in Supergirl also concludes. Superboy ships twice in August so that Jeff Lemire can finish the Hollow Men story he's been crafting since the first issue. Karl Kerschl's cover for #11 is an homage to Rafael Albuquerque's cover for the first issue (see above), which would gives the whole series a nice symmetry if this turned out to be the last issue. And Teen Titans ships twice in July and twice again in August, all so it can reach issue #100 before August 31. Do they want to end on a nice round number, or start off in a new direction on #101?

In the Bat books: Scott Snyder's long arc in Detective ends (with two issues shipping the previous month so they could fit everything in before August 31). Batman Inc promises a "surprise ending." Red Robin will have concluded its current arc the previous month and in August gets a story about Tim going after Captain Boomerang, the man who killed his father; it sounds like a done-in-one and is thematically appropriate for a final issue, with some payoff for an issue that's been in the background since Brightest Day started. Batgirl has to "put her past behind her" in a story that sounds like the conclusion for the stuff that's been going on for months with the Reapers. Batman and Robin is a done-in-one by David Hine, to kill time after Judd Winnick's three-issue arc that will end in July. Batman also sounds like a done-in-one, this one by Fabian Nicieza, and it hints that Dick Grayson's time time under the cowl might be coming to an end.

So there you have it. There's pretty much no way to predict what September's going to look like. What's going to be interesting is how DC manages to hold the suspense once it becomes time to release those solicits next month. Ideally, they wouldn't tell us anything about what comes next until the last issue of Flashpoint comes out on August 31, but obviously they can't do that. I'm predicting a lot of "top secret" covers in the September solicits. Should be interesting.

New comics this week!
  • Batman: Gates of Gotham #1 (of 5) (DC)
  • Booster Gold #44 (DC)
  • Supergirl #24 (DC)
  • Teen Titans #95 (DC)
  • Amazing Spider-Man #661 (Marvel)
  • Sigil #3 of 4 (Marvel/CrossGen)
  • Silver Surfer #4 (of 5) (Marvel)
Wow. Only Marvel and DC for me this week. That's rare.

I'm super excited about Gates of Gotham, the Batman mini-series written by Scott Snyder. As you probably know if you've been reading my reviews, his current run on Detective Comics is probably the best Batman comic in a long time, so there's little doubt that this is going to be a good story. The wildcard is artist Trevor McCarthy, whose work I'm not familiar with. His covers are definitely nice, though.

I'm adding Booster Gold to my pull list as it seems to be a major tie-in to the Flashpoint event. This will be my first-ever issue of Booster Gold, though he was one of my favourite characters in 52.

I decided to drop Legion of Super-Heroes. Not that it was terrible, but I realized it was always the book I was least looking forward to reading. Sometime the issue would stay on my to-read pile for almost a full month before I'd get around to it. Nothing that's happened in it so far has really gotten me excited. And with Flashpoint and a few other additions to my pull list, this one just had to go.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Review: Flashpoint #1

Flashpoint #1 (of 5)
Written by Geoff Johns; art by Andy Kubert and Sandra Hope; DC

(Spoiler-free review.)

Let's start by talking about the art. I've seen both positive and negative responses to it online. I think it's good. Some of Andy Kubert's faces are a bit weird and occasionally the proportions seems to go a bit wonky, but it doesn't really bother me. I'd much rather have some quirks from an artist who has his own style than bland uniformity or lifeless photorealism. Alex Sinclair's colours are also worth mentioning. They give the book a crisp, saturated look, with sharp contrast between warm and cold hues. It works.

Now, about the story... If you've read my review of the final issue of Flash, which leads directly into Flashpoint, you know that I've been pretty hard on Geoff Johns' lazy scripts. This issue further cements my feeling that his strength is in the ideas, stories and concepts he comes up with, more than in the scene-by-scene scripting or dialogue.

The opening scenes where Barry realizes he's lost his powers and that his mother is still alive are fine, up until the point where they start talking. This is something that always bothers me in alternate reality stories where one character is the only person aware that the world has changed. As soon as they start saying things like "Where's Dad?" when their father died three years ago or "Do I own a car?" people would freak out. They would immediately become extremely concerned about their mental health and want to take them to a doctor. I've had friends who started showing signs of schizophrenia and let me tell you it's a very disturbing and frightening thing to see someone you love lose their grip on reality. It's not something you just shrug off and ask "Are you sure you're okay?"

Like the scenes in Flash #12 that were seemingly lifted right out of a bad TV drama, this tells me that Geoff Johns is not the kind of writer who draws a lot from his own experience  in terms of how human beings interact with each other, but instead takes his cues from television, movies and other comic books. This scene immediately calls to mind dozens of similar scenes from alternate reality stories we're all familiar with and it makes no effort to rise above the clichés.

Fortunately, the rest of the book is a lot better. There's still a lot of exposition through dialogue, but honestly I'm not sure how else you could convey so much information about a completely new world in a single issue without those types of info dumps, so I'm more willing to forgive it. The only thing that bothers me slightly is that all this time is spent introducing characters that will apparently not feature prominently in the main series but whose stories will instead be told in the four gazillion spin-off mini-series. So for those of us who don't plan on reading the spin-offs, this is just a lot of extra information that isn't going to pay off in any way. But, again, I understand that this is an "event" comic and this issue essentially functions as a big advertisement for all the other books DC is hoping you will buy. Anybody who buys the first issue of Flashpoint is a willing participant in that game, so to bitch about it too much would be kind of disingenuous.

The book ends on a very effective revelation about one of the major players, one that most readers will have probably seen coming by the time they get to the last page but that packs a good punch anyway just because of its implications and how it sets the tone for the next four issues.

Flashpoint #1 doesn't really rise above the problems you'd expect from the first issue of a big summer event comic book, but it gets the job done. It was a good choice to keep the two main antagonists (Aquaman and Wonder Woman) out of the book. Their threat is felt throughout the book, but Johns wisely delays the impact of their first appearance for a later issue. The business about the Amazons castrating all males who enter their territory definitely makes me groan - a lot! - but I'm willing to bite my tongue for now and wait to see exactly where they go with it before I critique that story decision. I plan on picking up the next issue. Haven't decided yet if I'm going to bother with any of the minis.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

One-paragraph reviews: Spider-Man, Batgirl, Birds of Prey, Journey into Mystery

Now in alphabetical order! Some of these may be a bit spoilery. Approach with caution.

Amazing Spider-Man #660
Written by Dan Slott and Fred Van Lente; art by Mike McKone and Stefano Caselli; Marvel

Still enjoying this book. Fun adventure with the FF and their awesome new costumes. Nice art. Good dialogue. But, man, that thing with Peter's girlfriend last issue was a low blow. Seriously, I was starting to warm up to the character and I would have sympathized with her when she found out Peter was lying to her if she hadn't reacted in such a stupid fucking way. Jumping to conclusions, getting drunk with her girlfriends and getting an ugly tattoo? Seriously? And the fact that last issue clearly misdirected readers by giving the impression that she was going to get a Green Goblin tattoo only to reveal in this issue that she didn't annoys me. That's not good writing. That's a cheap trick anybody can pull off. Besides, her character loses points just for having considered it, regardless of the fact that she didn't go through with it. And what's with Peter Parker finding a tattoo of Spider-Man sexy? Isn't that kind of narcissistic? I'm disappointed because I think Dan Slott's been doing an awesome job on this book since the Big Time story started, and I'm pretty excited about where he's going with this Spider Island thing. But in just a couple of issues, he's managed to completely turn me off of the only really prominent female supporting character in the book. Now he has a real uphill battle if he wants to make the character appealing to me again. (PS: I haven't read the back-up story yet.)



Batgirl #21
Written by Bryan Q. Miller; art by... who knows?; DC

This was another solid script by Bryan Q. Miller. I’ll confess that I don’t feel too invested in this “Lesson” story arc, but it may be because I missed the first couple of issues. I tend to enjoy Stephanie Brown the most when she’s teaming up with unlikely partners like Damian or Klarion. Proxy is a character I wasn’t familiar with until I started reading this a few months ago, so it’s a bit hard for me to care about her story at this point. It does look like things are about to get interesting, though, with a trip to Nanda Parbat. The art is fine, whoever’s responsible for it. I don’t know who drew this issue, because the cover says it’s Pere Perez, but the inside says Dustin Nguyen. I could compare the art style to previous issues and make an educated guess, but why bother? This is the second time the info on the cover of Batgirl contradicts the credits inside. Get some proofreaders, DC!



Birds of Prey #12
Written by Gail Simone; art by Jesus Saiz; DC

This was a very good issue, maybe the best one since the relaunch. And I think it’s due in equal parts to Jesus Saiz’s super-clean art and Gail Simone’s super-tight script. However, I have one beef with this series I want to address. Last month, I read Kelly Thompson’s review of Birds of Prey #11 in which she said she wished “Simone would slow down and enjoy these characters and let them breathe,” and I realized this was exactly what’s been bothering me with this series (aside from inconsistent - and sometimes plain awful - art). The pacing in the first ten issues was frenetic, with the characters constantly in action. Last issue slowed down a bit and this one also feels more relaxed, but it still starts in media res, and I find myself hoping for a bit of a pause in the action, a scene where the birds get to actually be in the same room together and just relax before they go on their next mission. Obviously, Gail Simone has a knack for inserting personal moments in the middle of the action, but when all those personal moments happen on the field, it kind of gives the impression that these characters have no life outside of the team. Even the way that Barbara is multi-tasking while she’s leading the team from headquarters, lifting weights while she’s giving out instructions, it makes me think she must be doing this 24 hours a day and it’s kind of exhausting. This is more a problem with the overall series than it is with this particular issue.



Journey into Mystery #623
Written by Kieron Gillen; art by Doug Braithwaite; Marvel

I was disappointed at first when I found out that Matt Fraction's run on Thor would be cut short, but two issues into the re-titled book, I have absolutely no regrets. I'm completely sold on it. I thought the return of Loki as a child in Fraction's arc was handled extremely poorly. I wasn't at all convinced by Thor's motivations for bringing him back so soon and I didn't really understand how he had the power to do so anyway. But evidently this was all done to set things up for Kieron Gillen's story, in which Loki is now the protagonist, and no matter how awkward that transition was, I absolutely love what's going on with the character now. Art and script are both great and I can't wait to see where it's all headed. My only concern is that, as a Fear Itself tie-in, the story might might not be as self-contained as I would like it to be. So far that hasn't been a problem, but we'll see whether that continues to be the case.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Review: Flash #12

The Flash #12
Written by Geoff Johns; art by Scott Kolins and Francis Manapul; DC.

Splitting art duties between Francis Manapul and Scott Kolins wasn't so bad when Kolins would do the occasional fill-in issue to give Manapul a chance to catch up. They're both competent artists and their styles have enough similarities that it didn't seem like a complete break. But when you put them side by side in the same issue, as happens here, it's a bit harder to swallow because it becomes clear that Manapul's art is vastly superior. The few pages that he illustrates really stand out, and it doesn't do Kolins any justice to have to compete with that. Once again, it's a case of poor scheduling choices from DC editors where it became necessary to have multiple artists on a single issue in order to meet deadlines. I wish DC would make more effort to avoid this sort of thing. (And no, I don't blame the artists.)

Script-wise, this issue may only have a single scribe, but there are still lots of problems with it. I'm not a Geoff Johns hater. I think he's very good at coming up with epic ideas and stories that evidently appeal to the fans. But when it comes to the actual scene-by-scene scripting of his books, sometimes I find it a bit weak.

In this case, the action scenes in the first half of the book are okay, but the emotional stuff in the second half is handled so poorly that some of it actually made me angry. 

First, there's a totally unconvincing reconciliation between Barry and Bart. It's unconvincing because the conflict didn't really make any sense to begin with. It came out of the blue last issue when the entire speedster family decided to have an "intervention" and confront Barry about how emotionally distant he's been (despite the fact that nothing in the previous 10 issues really hinted at him being emotionally distant, aside from the fact that he was too busy to attend a fucking family picnic, 'cause he was, you know, catching bad guys) during which Bart stormed off like a little crybaby for apparently no reason. And now, after a big fight during which Bart was almost killed, they're pals again. They haven't really dealt with whatever it was that was bothered Bart. It just magically resolved itself while they were fighting side by side against the Reverse Flash. I guess that's male bonding.

That's only a one-page scene. What follows is much worst. It's a goodbye scene with Patty Spivot which, again, feels pretty hollow because we never really got a good sense of what their relationship was all about in previous issues. But what's so terrible about this scene is that it sets up one of the most infuriating clichés of bad drama. Patty confesses she'd been hoping they'd be more than co-workers or even friends, but she respects that he has someone else in his life. Barry politely lets her know the feelings are not mutual, while tenderly stroking her face (seriously, who does that?) and they they hug. It's the most harmless, passionless, sexless, lifeless scene ever. Both characters are being very respectable and chaste and mature about it, and aside from that ridiculous face stroke, there's nothing reproachable about their behaviour. It's clear that they have no intention to commit adultery, because they're such good people. And of course, you can see it coming from a mile away: Barry's wife, Iris, walks in on them at exactly the wrong moment.

It's just such bad writing. The set-up is obvious and predictable, and yet it feels completely contrived and removed from anything anyone's ever experienced in reality. What follows is so by-the-numbers I don't even have to describe it, because you've seen it a hundred times in bad movies and bad TV. The dialogue is lifted right out of the book of clichés: "Iris! You remember Patty Spivot?" "Of course."

The only thing that goes against what you would expect here is that Iris is such a good wife that she doesn't even get the wrong impression from what she's witnessed, despite Barry's awkward fumbling which make him seem guilty. She tells him he doesn't have to explain anything, because she trusts him. At first I was like, "Oh, well, at least Geoff Johns didn't go there." But then I realized this was even more infuriating, because it doesn't to any kind of conflict or drama and it just serves to highlight how flawless and incredibly bland these characters are. The whole Patty Spivot subplot in these last few issues was stillborn, because they never flirted, Barry never got an erection and he was never tempted. There was never any sexual tension. And now Iris, being the inhuman cardboard template of a perfect wife that she is, doesn't feel any jealousy. She's just full of compassion and understanding and concern for Barry's wellbeing. And they discuss this over coffee while holding hands and looking into each other's eyes and being very mature about it. It just makes me vomit.

This is the final issue of The Flash. It started out strong with some really brilliant issues with gorgeous art by Francis Manapul. But about halfway through, it became clear that Geoff Johns wasn't really interested in telling stories in this book and that it functioned merely as an elaborate set-up for this summer's big "event," Flashpoint, the first issue of which also came out this week. If you've been following The Flash all along, then you'll probably want to pick this one up for whatever closure it offers. (Hint: not much.) Otherwise, don't bother. If you're interested in Flashpoint, you can just go straight to #1 and you won't be missing any crucial information.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Is It Wednesday Yet?

I feel like my "Is It Wednesday Yet?" column is getting a bit stale, so in an effort to keep things exciting, I'm changing the format AGAIN! The thing is, I'm not delusional. I know that I don't have a lot of regular readers. For a while, I thought maybe if I pretended to be a "real" comics news site that people who land here randomly might be fooled by it and start visiting regularly. If you build it, they will come, etc. And so I pretended that this weekly look at new comics wasn't just my personal pull list, but an informative survey of new and exciting books people might want to know about. But let's be honest. There are two dozen other blogs who do this EXACT SAME FEATURE EVERY WEEK and at least half of them probably do a better job of it than I do and a few of them probably get thousands of hits while I'm extremely lucky if I hit the 100 mark on a good day.

So, fuck that shit. This is not a comics news site. This is my blog. And I'm just some guy who happens to be into comics and, for whatever reason, isn't satisfied with just reading them and feels this perverse need to talk about them on the internet. I know, it's weird.

The point is, there is no point. I'm in a constant existential crisis over my relationship to language in general and written language in particular and I constantly alternate between manic, ambitious writing projects and absolute despair over my inability to write. Frustrated attempts to express myself are followed by shameful regrets at having wasted time and energy over such a pointless task.

On this blog in particular, I have attempted to maintain a facade of "professionalism" because I'm desperate for some kind of recognition from my "peers" (if I can even call them that), by which I mean fellow bloggers and critics, but I don't know if I really have it in me to be a serious comic book critic with ever-insightful commentary and clear prose and witty remarks and whatever else you need to "make it" as a blogger. Which, think about it for a minute, is probably the most pathetic and saddest ambition anyone could ever have. What do you want to be when you grow up? A guy whose blog posts get linked to from other blogs.

This post is supposed to be about this week's new comics, but what I'm trying to say is that it really isn't. It's always about me, and about my desperate need for attention and for approval and for recognition and for validation and, I suppose, for affection. I wish I had more followers on Twitter and that most of them were not spambots. I wish people would reply to everything I write and tell me how much they agree with me and how smart I am and how well put that was.

So this new format? There is no format. I'm just going to stream-of-consciousness it and rant about whatever the hell I want whether it's even related to comic books or not. Kind of like I've been doing for the past several paragraphs. And then, at the end of it, I'll post the list of books I may or may not buy this Wednesday.

(Don't worry. Not every post on this blog will turn into an unreadable mess like this one. This will mostly just affect the "Is It Wednesday Yet?" column.)

Go read something that actually makes sense

Like for example this post at DC Women Kicking Ass about race issues in comic books. I don't always agree completely with everything that Sue has to say (though I tend to agree more often than I disagree, and even when I disagree I usually think she brings up important points that need to be acknowledged), but when she's on, holy fucking shit, she's on. That's what I'm talking about.

I got involved in some of the discussion in the comments thread (hint: if you want to venture into that section of the post, start by selecting "Sort by Oldest first," otherwise Discus arranges the comments in order of "popularity" which makes it completely impossible to follow the thread), although I don't necessarily recommend you read anything other than what Sue says in the post itself. And that dude CharlesHB is really annoying.

Why is Thor plastered all over DC Comics' website?

I've been complaining about this for about a week, but nobody's been paying any attention to me, probably because they justifiably have much more important shit to worry about, but...

Every time I head over to the DC Comics website (which seems to happen several times a day, believe it or not) I am greeted with the same awful Thor video game animated banner advertisement. And it annoys me for two reasons. First, because it's advertisement and advertisement is generally annoying. And second, because I can't understand why DC is putting advertisement for their competitor's properties on its corporate website. It makes no sense to me.

I know. I know. Who cares?

Lowest Denomination

I got into a "fight" with Rich Johnston on Twitter because I think it's stupid that he routinely includes art that has clearly not been "swiped" in his regular feature Swipe File on his blog, Bleeding Cool. My point was that it doesn't matter if there's a disclaimer that says Swipe File includes homages, parodies, etc. The title of the post is still Swipe File and for most people in the comics world, "swiping" means "tracing" or "copying without acknowledgement."

His reply: "I'm not changing the title of something that's been used successfully for thirty years because of knee jerk reactions. I certain refuse to pander to the lowest denomination. I like to presume a certain intelligence and desire to read in readers."

Fair enough. But I think he meant lowest common denominator.

New comics this week

  • Hellboy: Being Human (one shot) (Dark Horse)
  • Batgirl #21 (DC)
  • Batman Incorporated #6 (DC)
  • Birds of Prey #12 (DC)
  • Flash #12 (DC)
  • Flashpoint #1 (DC)
  • Northlanders #40 (Vertigo)
  • Amazing Spider-Man #660 (Marvel)
  • FF #3 (Marvel)
  • Journey Into Mystery #623 (Marvel)
  • Magus #4 (12-Gauge)
  • Mega Man #1 (Archie)
Yep, that's a lot of comics, and since I'm not a millionaire, I probably won't buy all of them.

What's Batman, Inc doing on this list, you ask? That's right, I didn't bother picking up the last issue and I'm kind of sick of Grant Morrison. But it's on the list mostly because I want to check out the new artist, Chris Burnham. Also, I'm curious to find out this nonsense about Red Robin becoming the leader of the Outsiders. I'll probably just flip through the book at the store.

Flash #12 is the last issue of that series, and Flashpoint #1 presumably picks up right where it leaves off and kicks off the big humongous giant overwhelming summer blockbuster event. I will try the first issue, but depending on how unreadable it ends up being, I may not follow through with it.

Northlanders #40 is a one-shot with art by Matthew Woodson and should be pretty good.

Journey into Mystery... I just know I'm going to get burned by that one, because it has a "Fear Itself" trade dress and that presumably means that the story will tie into whatever's going on in that event, which I'm not interested in at all. But the first issue was all right, so we'll see.

Mega Man looks like it's aimed at young kids, so I'm probably not going to stick with it. But I'm curious enough to give the first issue a try.

Friday, May 6, 2011

One-paragraph reviews: Superboy, Sweet Tooth, Astonishing Thor, Godzilla

Superboy #7
Written by Jeff Lemire; art by Marco Rudy and Daniel HDR; DC.

I saw someone on Twitter describe this as "absolutely perfect. I couldn't read it fast enough. Perfect art. Best single issue of 2011 so far." And I seriously have to ask myself whether they read the same comic book I read. Not that this was terrible, but with the exception of last issue (the pointless Doomsday crossover issue), this was probably the weakest in the series so far. So this is not even the best issue of Superboy in 2011, let alone of all comics. As for the art, "perfect" is the last word I would use to describe it, no matter how talented I think Marco Rudy is. The problem is we have two artists whose styles are constantly at war with one another, and even though the different looks are sometimes use to separate what's real and what's not, it still makes for a very inconsistent visual narrative. I'm just sick of having multiple art styles in a 20 page book, which these days is almost becoming the norm on DC books. In addition, I thought a lot of the layouts were ugly, and a few pages were so confusing that I wasn't even sure what order I was supposed to read the panels in. I know that Lemire likes to experiment with layouts, and when he draws his own books, the results are wonderful (see my review of Sweet Tooth, below), and with regular artist Pier Gallo, who seems particularly good at following his instructions, it can still work. But in this issue, I thought it ended up looking like a mess. Gallo is back next month, just in time for the four-story arc that's going to conclude the Hollow Men plot. I'm looking forward to it.



Sweet Tooth #21
Written and drawn by Jeff Lemire; Vertigo

As much fun as Lemire's superhero comics can get when they're on, for me they'll never compare to Sweet Tooth. When he's in full control of the writing, art and direction of the story, we see just how strong he is as a storyteller and artist. This issue reuses a technique that Lemire first experimented with in #12, where we had a narrated story in a continuous strip at the bottom of each page, while a separate world-less story was shown in the rest of the page. In that issue, the technique doubled as a kind of homage to Crisis on Infinite Earths #10, whereas in this one he seems to have developed it into a unique style all his own. I almost wonder if he took a cue from Frank Santoro's fascinating Layout Workbook column at TCJ.com, as he divides each page in such a way that the top narrative occupies a near-perfect square, which gives the book a particularly harmonious feel. I loved issue #12, but I think this one is even better. What's truly remarkable is that in spite of this fairly rigid grid being followed throughout the book, Lemire still finds additional ways to experiment and play with this form. There's something cool and different happening with the layout on literally every page, and it's always in the service of the story and never feels gratuitous or gimmicky. It's just brilliant. Plus there's a panel where Gus and Jepperd hug that is so sweet and moving that it almost made me cry.



Astonishing Thor #4
Written by Rob Rodi; art by Mike Choi; Marvel

Thor is fighting against a living planet. It's pretty cool.



Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters #2
Written by Eric Powell and Tracy Marsh; art by Phil Hester and Bruce McCorkindale; IDW

I thought this issue was better than the first one. I was so happy to see the fisherman who was looking for his kids in the first issue return, as one of my biggest concerns was whether the story would follow up on any of the characters who only appeared in a few panels last time. I still think some of Phil Hester's layouts are a little bit...messy?, but less so than in the first issue. I think it's mostly just a personal preference anyway. More and more I realize that I don't favour comic book art that constantly spills out of the panels. I like gutters. I like things neatly contained within grids. So that on the rare occasion that this neat order is broken it has a big impact on the narrative. On the other hand, I suppose you could argue that this is a comic book about giant dinosaur-like monsters fucking shit up all over the world, and subtlety is not exactly what it's going for. So perhaps it's fitting that the art refuses to be contained into those neat borders that I crave. Maybe the chaotic layouts are part of the chaos of the story.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Review: Action Comics #900

Adam Hughes variant cover
Action Comics #900
By (take a deep breath) Paul Cornell, Pete Woods, Jesus Merino, Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, Rags Morales, Ardian Syaf, Jamal Igle, Jon Sibal, Gary Frank, Damon Lindelof, Ryan Sook, Paul Dini, RB Silva, Rob Lean, Geoff Johns, David S. Goyer, Miguel Sepulveda, Richard Donner, Derek Hoffman, Matt Camp, Brian Steltfreeze; DC.


Everyone's talking about the back-up story by David S. Goyer and Miguel Sepulveda in which Superman says he's going to renounce his American citizenship. (I'm not even going to bother linking to any of the blog posts about it, because if you pay any attention to comics, you've definitely already seen them.) When I read the story, I thought two things: 1. DC planted this on purpose because they knew it would get them media attention, and 2. it's going to be retconned within a year. As it turns out, I seem to have been wrong about the first one, judging by how unprepared DC seemed to be when the media shitstorm hit them. As for the second, it remains to be seen, but I still think someone's going to find a way to make sure Superman remains a US citizen. Of course, we all know that IT DOESN'T MATTER and this was all blown way out of proportion.

So let's talk about the main story, which was, for me, the main attraction.

It's difficult to tell to what extent Paul Cornell is responsible for the "Reign of Doomsday(s)" nonsense. Is this a story that he pitched to his editors as a follow-up to "The Black Ring" and that then spiraled out of control into a crossover event? Or was the whole thing planned by editorial and Cornell just ended up having to squeeze it into his story? In any case, he does a better job of integrating it into his narrative than any of the other super-books that have been affected so far (at least from what I can tell, as I've only read two of them). But even though he comes up with a relatively plausible link between the two, it still feels in this issue like we're moving back and forth between two separate stories (which is emphasized by the different art team on each story), and I don't know about anybody else, but I just happen to only care about one of them.

The conclusion of Lex Luthor's story is suitably epic, and the return of Superman is satisfying and handled without fanfare. Pete Woods' art is clean and elegant, as it has been throughout the story line. I loved the way Cornell managed to reference all the issues that came before and give us a little extra payoff with those characters when Luthor's wave of pure bliss spread through the universe. And I'm extremely happy that Robot Lois Lane is not dead after all, though it sounds like she's going to be getting a new face and, if/when she returns, may no longer identify as Lois Lane. I hope Paul Cornell gets to write her again, no matter what form she takes, because her character remains the highlight of the story for me.

Meanwhile, the Doomsday shenanigans continue. The various characters wearing S shields are stuck with him in a spaceship that appears to contain a black hole. As they fight him individually, they notice that he appears to have different powers (mimicking their own) depending on who's fighting him. Finally, Superman makes his way there to save him, and they find out that they're not only dealing with Doomsday but with a bunch of his clones.

I don't know about you, but the only thing I find more boring than Doomsday in a Superman comic is four Doomsdays in a Superman comic. So much so, that I am seriously wondering whether I should bother to pick up the next issue, because I have zero interest in this story. On the other hand, I've enjoyed Paul Cornell's writing on the title since the beginning of his run, and the new artist coming in (Kenneth Rocafort) looks pretty good (judging by his covers anyway - I don't really know anything about him). So I guess I will give it a shot and hope that the story resolves quickly and we move on to something more interesting.

About some of the other back-up material:

"Life Support," by Damon Lindelof and Ryan Sook, is a story set in the last days of Krypton. It was very similar in tone to the story about Jor-El in this year's 80-Page Giant. The story's not bad, but it's Ryan Sook's art that really shines.

"Autobiography," by Paul Dini and RB Silva, is probably the weirdest story in the book. It's only three pages and involves a conversation between Superman and a weird purple hippo alien. Nice art.

"Friday Night in the 21st Century" is a four-page story by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. Light-hearted and fun, with a guest appearance by the Legion.

I haven't read the last story yet. It's in a screenplay format, written by Richard Donner and Derek Hoffman, with storyboards by Matt Camp.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Yes, It Is Wednesday Yet! + Read in April 2011

If you're wondering why this blog is being updated so sporadically lately, there are many perfectly valid explanations. I'm getting ready for a show (tomorrow night, details here) and that's been eating up a lot of my time. Meanwhile, I've also been going through a bit of an existential crisis, where I'm putting everything into question and wondering whether there's any point to me writing anything at all, let alone a blog about comic books. This happens to me fairly frequently and, hopefully, this too shall pass. (Although the recent blow of Canadians electing a majority Conservative government doesn't help.)

Anyway, some comic books are coming out today, and I will be buying a few of them. Namely:

  • Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth #3 (of 3) (Dark Horse) - although I haven't even read issue #2 yet
  • Superboy #7 (DC) - although last issue sucked, but that was because of the Doomsday crossover
  • Sweet Tooth #21 (Vertigo) - which will be amazing, because it's Sweet Tooth
  • Astonishing Thor #4 (of 5) (Marvel) - I almost forgot this wasn't over
That's a remarkably small pull list for me this week. I'm proud of myself. However, I may also be tempted to try Fear Itself #2, Megaman #1 or iZombie #13. Or maybe I'll forget about all those and pick up a the hardcover of Greg Rucka's Stumptown that came out a few weeks ago.


In other news, here's a list of all the comics I read in April:
  • 5 Ronin #4-5
  • Thor #621
  • Fear Itself #1
  • Nonplayer #1
  • Sweet Tooth #20
  • Superboy #6
  • Flash #10-11
  • Journey into Mystery #622
  • Hellboy: Buster Oakley Gets His Wish
  • Birds of Prey #11
  • Batgirl #20
  • Amazing Spider-Man #658-659
  • Avengers: Children's Crusade #5
  • Wolverine and Jubilee #4
  • Super Dinosaur #1
  • Supergirl #63
  • Teen Titans #94
  • Butcher Baker #2
  • Infinite Vacation #2
  • Madman Special
  • Dark Horse Presents #1 (most of it, anyway)
  • Detective Comics #876
  • Action Comics #900
  • Xombi #2
  • Silver Surfer #3
  • Sigil #2
  • American Vampire #14
  • Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters #2
I'm not going to pick my usual top 5 and stinker of the month, but I will say that Super Dinosaur was way better than I expected it to be and Dark Horse Presents was probably the biggest disappointment. If I thought any of this was in any way important, I might even bother to write reviews for both. But I probably won't.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Comic Book Carnage 006: Xombi #2 and Flash #11

Xombi #2
Written by John Rozum; art by Frazer Irving; DC.

Mike: The nuns with guns issue.

Yan: Yeah! Before we start, I want to mention that I read an interview with Rozum on CBR where he says they'd discussed doing this series on Vertigo, but one of the reasons it ended up in the DCU was to avoid confusion with iZombie. Which strikes me as a missed opportunity, because I feel like this book would have a much better chance of finding an audience on Vertigo. I think he said the editors also wanted to have it set in the DCU for other reasons, something about needing a book to deal with the the supernatural or magic side of the DCU.

Mike: That's ridiculous. Can you imagine The Flash rolling up to help David Kim fight, I don't know, some demonically possessed Taco Bell or whatever?

Yan: It's gonna be awful when that happens.

Mike: If they wanted a magic/supernatural book it would have made more sense to use a much more accessible character like Dr. Fate, or perhaps do that in Zatanna since it's already around. Xombi's premise is just too out there for the average DC fan, so yeah, the decision not to go on Vertigo was terrible all around. NOT that we're saying we think this book will be canceled or anything.

Yan: We're definitely not saying that. I just think the book does a fine job of creating its own universe. I don't really understand why there's any need to have it be set in the DCU. I don't really care if it's on DC or Vertigo, but the moment Batman or Superman shows up in this story, something special will be lost. Not that it has to be Batman or Superman. Maybe a guest appearance by Zatanna or Etrigan would be cool. I don't know. We'll see, I guess. I just don't want this to get hijacked into some stupid crossover.

Mike: So let's talk about the issue itself. This picks up right after things got crazy at the prison and just gets even crazier. I'm glad to see John Rozum is able to match the bizarre ideas of the last issue, my favorite being the introduction of this issue's villain/monster/concept?

Yan: Yeah, it's a cool villain. (If we can call it that.) And we really only get a glimpse of him and some foreshadowing of how dangerous he is. Definitely piqued my interest. I really liked the scene at the beginning where David Kim's arm is regenerating and he has to tell everyone to stay away from him to avoid them being used as raw material to patch up his wounds. It illustrates how weird and problematic his "powers" are.

Mike: That leads me to my one concern with this book, just how well do you think John Rozum's doing in giving David Kim a personality?

Yan: Why, you find it lacking? I think he's doing fine.

Mike: I guess I find his and most of the cast's personalities to be a bit vague. Like, other than their strange powers, there doesn't seem to be a lot done to differentiate them. I need a little more than scribbled out profanity.

Yan: I think there's a lot more. Besides, we're only two issues in and there's been lots of action, so I guess there's not a ton of time for character development, but I feel like the dialogue has enough attitude that it gives me a good idea of the characters' personalities. Plus, Frazer Irving's art helps a lot. His character designs and facial expressions and poses are excellent. You get a real sense of the characters' mannerisms and body language. Like David's face when the coins fall out of his pocket, or the flamboyant way he points down when he says, "Change back into your other half. Now." It's hard to separate who is responsible for it between Rozum and Irving, but the combined effect for me is pretty satisfying.

Mike: Well, I'll agree with you that Frazer Irving gives personality to the cast, and I would argue that it's probably his artwork that makes this book so enjoyable. The guy puts so much effort into every square inch of this book and for me that's why Xombi feels so engrossing.

Yan: The art is amazing, but I don't want to sell Rozum short. I think his dialogue goes a long way too. The only thing in this issue I thought was a little bit awkward was the third-person narration about the homunculi. I can't remember if there was a lot of third-person narration in the first issue. But in that scene, I would have preferred to get an interior monologue instead. Not only would it have been more effective for the scene, but it bothers me that the narration switched from first-person at the beginning of the issue to third-person for no real reason. Other than that, I thought this issue was great. Great marriage of writing and art. I can't imagine the book with a different creative team, so I hope they keep it going for a long run. I'll rate this one EXCELLENT.

Mike: Despite my nitpicking I will also give this book a firm EXCELLENT.

Flash #11
Written by Geoff Johns; art by Scott Kolins; DC.

Mike: I remember when this current Flash series started, I was just starting up my blog and I had nothing but nice things to say. Now we're, what, 2 years later, and I don't even know why I liked this book to begin with.

Yan: It's only been a year, but yeah.

Mike: Oh, well, good, because 11 issues in 2 years would be shameful, but anyway. Geoff Johns is not doing his best work on this book. When I was reading this issue, I felt like I was reading a first draft, like there's good ideas in here but it's all delivered in so unfocused a manner that it loses all impact. Like this new character shows up - Patty Spivot - who is an old flame of Barry Allen's. The idea of Barry having to deal with lingering feelings for Patty would have been an interesting plot development that would help to define his personality, but instead it's handled in this aggressively vague manner. Like, I wasn't even completely sure there were supposed to be lingering feelings until Patty explicitly acknowledges them.

Yan: The Patty Spivot subplot seems unnecessary. If you're not going to have time to explore it properly, then just don't bother. I mean, this title is now officially cancelled, right? This was the last issue. If she's not playing an important role in Flashpoint, then introducing her here was a total waste of time. I guess that remains to be seen. But what bothered me more was the scene with Bart acting like a little baby because Barry didn't show up at the family picnic. WTF? That "intervention" scene was ridiculous! I mean, how much time has even passed since Barry came back. I feel like these 11 issues only span a few days. A week at the most. So Barry Allen came back to life, went back to his old job. First couple of issues showed that he had a great relationship with his wife. None of the other speedsters are even mentioned for the entire run until the stupid picnic comes up, and now all of a sudden they're having an intervention because... what exactly? I'm not even sure. This drama comes out of nowhere.

Mike: Yes, the intervention was pretty bizarre. Like there was just no way I could wrap my mind around the idea that a group of guys with very similar backgrounds couldn't accept that someone from the same background would be incapable of showing up for their picnic. Also I really hate that a picnic is the catalyst for all of this. Picnic is a goofy word, so any drama Johns was attempting was negated by the constant utterance of "picnic."

Yan: It feels like these ideas were just tossed around carelessly. Maybe Geoff Johns has too much on his hands these days with his Chief Creative Officer duties, wrapping up Brightest Day, and orchestrating the whole Flashpoint event. But this just reads as sloppy. And it comes back to what I said in my review of the previous issue, which was that this book should have been given at least a couple of years before leading to this cross-company event. There wasn't really enough space to explore everything, so it feels very rushed. Now the question is: Are you going to read any of Flashpoint?

Mike: I really hate myself for saying this, but I may pick up the first issue. I think the reason is I like The Flash, and much like seeing a close friend struggle with alcoholism, despite how bad things get I love this character too much to walk away.

Yan: I feel pretty indifferent about the character. I gave this title a shot because it launched right around the time that I started buying comics, so it seemed really convenient. And I fell in love with Francis Manapul's art, so that's what kept me onboard this long. (Speaking of whom, I wonder what he's working on now. I don't remember seeing his name on any of the solicitations for DC in the next three months.) But I think I'm going to pick up the first issue also, mostly out of morbid curiosity. There's a good chance that by the end of the summer, I'll drastically reduce the number of books I read from both DC and Marvel.

Mike: Even though I'll probably buy Flashpoint #1, I'm giving this book a SKIP/DROP

Yan: Honestly, I don't know how to rate this. Other than the ridiculous intervention scene, it's not really that much worse than all the issues that preceded it. As a lead-in story setting things up for Flashpoint, it's adequate, I suppose. But as a conclusion to an 11-issue aborted run of a new series that showed so much promise in its first couple of issues, it's just a shame. Totally unsatisfying. So I'll rate it WHATEVER.

UPDATE: It has come to my attention that this is in fact not the last issue. #12 comes out on May 11, according to DC's website, and will provide the conclusion. This doesn't really change my opinion of this issue, except for the criticism about it being a poor conclusion. We'll see whether #12 does any better at that.


Mike appears courtesy of It's a Bit of a Shame.

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