Monday, February 28, 2011

The Week of February 23 in Review

I want to open this week talking about heroes. So much of what we read is about heroes but one story that caught my eye this week made me think about a real life hero. The Libyan pilots who flew their planes out of the country and landed them so they could avoid firing on their own people. I have not read the entire story I only caught a blurb on the morning news, but the actions of these pilots is true heroism, doing what is right regardless of the personal impact to you. Remember many people at the Nuremberg trials said they were following orders and often I believe we can never understand how we would react in certain situations. If I was a fighter pilot and my commander told me to bomb civilians what would I do? I hope it would be to disobey orders, but how about if they said they would kill my family if I didn’t? How about they just send up someone else who would do it and try to go for a big kill and I could have limited the damage by deliberately missing the primary target? These guys are true heroes and I hope one day they get some recognition for doing the right thing.

Which can lead into my review of Captain America #615, Bucky does the right thing and this issue hit all the right notes. Bucky fights against the new Red Skull, Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter show up to help, they save the Black Widow and the Falcon; and Bucky turns himself back into the police after the battle is over. The judge sentences Bucky to 20 years, then commutes the sentence to time served. A comic book standard type of ending that has a twist that the Russian government has extradition papers for him and has already tried him. Brubaker’s took what was a nice wrap up and this story and has now extended it into another arc. I want to enjoy this book more than I do. Bucky as Captain America has been ineffective and constantly needs someone to save his ass. In this issue Sin (new Red Skull) escapes and the Falcon has to save Bucky from killing himself when he jumped after her from the top of the Statue of Liberty. Add to that the pointless Nomad back up making the book $4 and I ended up liking and disliking this issue all at the same time. Of course Butch Guice’s art looked great as always.

This week form Marvel I thought perhaps the letters went on strike since Amazing Spider-Man #655 was half silent and Fantastic Four #588 almost all silent until the last page of the main story. Does anyone ever look over the entire publishing week and decide to maybe ship one a week later? It feels odd when two books are using the same gimmick. I like the Spider-Man issue as Peter struggled with the amount of death he has gone through. I didn’t like that he decides no one dies on his watch anymore. It is an emotionally immature and stupid response. With all Peter has been though you know this is not going to go well and I don’t want angst ridden man anymore. I like Peter being more on top of the world which is what drew me back into the series. Problems and headaches are okay, stupid pronouncements, not so much. Marcos Martin on the art was great and he is the best of the three artists being used on this book. I also appreciated that with Slott at the helm of this series they have some continuity. The FF issue left me a little cold. The art was decent, but I have no belief in this death at all so the emotional response does not resonate with me. Plus the Future Foundation looks so lame as to make me throw up in my mouth when I look at it. Spider-Man is now as bad as Wolverine since he will join the group and the new costumes are less than impressive and rather effeminate looking for the guys. The new FF stands for the Future Foundation and not fashion forward I guess. These are complaints for future issues I suppose, but they include it as back up material. Finally both books were $4, which is just wrong as Marvel should be leading the way to the $3 price point, not trying to kill the market.

As you can see I have abandoned my more formulaic approach again this week, but the titles were driving me to approach my review of the week differently and I tend to let the books dictate how I should review them so no reason I can’t weave in various review formats at different times.

The Age of X, Chapters 1 and 2 both hit this week. Again, does anyone at Marvel care about what is published at the same time; a week’s separation would not have killed these books. Of course having two issues at once we get deep into the story right away. I find it amusing how Marvel just uses two titles and gives them to one writer and turns it into a mini-series. I wonder what makes certain decision points from a publishing schedule. Would Age of X have been better as a standalone series or using two, what I’m guessing are lower selling, titles to host the idea. Anyway Mike Carey has crafted a great alternative world and drawn me in immediately. I love the mysteries that abound already. For the first time I’m sad one of these mini-events is so short as Mike has ton of potential built into what he has shown us so far. Rouge (or Legacy now) is the star of the book and it is interesting to see her try to unbury Magneto’s secrets (as he is the leader of the mutant band). The one negative is Steve Kurth’s art in Chapter 2 as he keeps drawing too many people like they are holding an imaginary phone with their head and neck, it drives me crazy.

I have to add a quick blurb about JL Generation Lost #20 and it is a message to DC Comics - I hope you are f***ing kidding me, if Blue Beetle stays dead I will be ticked off beyond belief. Another ‘death” I’m not buying at this point, alien armor can save the day. On another note of disappointment Teen Titan #92 has Robin leaving the team! His addition was one of the best things about the team. This book is getting better under JT Krul’s pen, but Jeanty’s art did not help the book and at times was downright poor.

Scalped #46 is part 2 of the “You Gotta Sin to Get Saved” arc. This is Jason Aaron’s best work in comics and yet I hope that we are driving to a conclusion of the entire story. I love this book but feel like it needs to wrap up the entire story of Red Crow and Dash and the whole mission for the FBI. The strength of this book is its believability and the longer the story goes on and more complex it becomes the less it feels real. Not to take anything away from one of the best series on the stands, just saying that a definitive conclusion of some storylines can strengthen a story that has so much emotional power.

Detective Comics #874 sees the backup story become the main story. I appreciate that DC is holding their books down to $3 and wanted to make it a companywide thing, but this book should have been the exception as Scott had obviously written the Jim Gordon story to be an adjunct to the main story of Batman. Regardless the story of Jim Gordon’s son returning is an exciting one as it is more of a psychological drama as opposed to an action story. Jim Gordon is such an interesting character and Snyder and Francavilla are making him come alive like he has not been in many years. It has all the earmarks of a story that will not end well for the Commissioner.

As seems to be the case sometimes different books written by a writer will show up on the same week and we got American Vampire #12 to go with Detective comics. Like Scalped, in-between longer arcs we are getting some character building pieces and this was a great one and done story about Skinner’s girl friend and some outstanding art by Daniel Zezelj. I love Zezelj’s art work and he turned in another terrific job. I loved the story about Dolly and why she turned in Skinner to the law; it had a poetic feel to it. AV is 12 for 12 now, a great run to a series that is on my top ten.

Echo #28 was another great chapter as we race to the end of this series. With the series coming to a conclusion with issue #30 speaking of all the great plot points is meaningless. If you are not reading this series, you should be. One of the best Science Fiction stories I have read in a long time and one with terrific characterization all supported by the wonderful artwork of Terry Moore. Terry shows he is equally skilled as a writer and an artist in this series.

To wrap up the week we have Dr. Solar #5, which is broken into two parts. The first half continues the main storyline as we see Dr. Solar dealing with the ramifications of what happened and trying to solve why it all happened. The second half is the origin story of how Dr. Solar ended up being what he is now. Jim Shooter has done a remarkable job in reinventing Dr. Solar yet again for another run at the character. I hope the sales are decent for this series as I’m enjoying the book, but worrying that a spotty publishing schedule is not helping develop a fan base.

Next week and the week after maybe just opinion columns as I’m taking a little time off and hope to catch an Orioles spring training game. I have never gone to a spring training game and I’m hoping this will be fun, plus I have high hopes that the O’s will be competitive this year.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Suicide Squad, 1-24

Taking a slight step out of my norm today. Most of my Comics Cabinet reviews are of trades, books I’ve stopped buying, or books that have come to an end. The ongoing singles I tend to buy get caught up in the monthly reading and don’t lead to review. With the better ones that works out because I recall what’s going on from month to month. Today’s review is definitely one of those better ones.

Really, on my list of things to read Secret Six is right there with Invincible in the superhero titles. They’re both consistently good and consistently memorable. Secret Six probably has more humor than Invincible and currently has better art. So, here we go with the first 24 issues of Secret Six.

The first arc, entitled Unhinged, spans issues 1-7. Gail Simone writes, while Nicola Scott pencils, and Doug Hazelwood inks. It’s a full out roller coaster ride from the beginning. The Six are retained by someone to break Tarantula out of prison on the west coast and bring her and a card she stole from a fearsome mobster to the employer in Gotham City. The Six are now composed of Scandal Savage, Bane, Catman, Deadshot, Ragdoll, and Jeannette. Well, the latter isn’t with the team at first, and Scandal Savage is in the cups over the death of teammate and lover, Knockout. She sobers up for the job, though. Tarantula is broken out and the card obtained. Throughout the team is told that every villain in the DCU who’s working freelance is going to try to kill them for the card. Evidently it was created by the demon Neron and is a get out of Hell free card. Between that and the bounty on them, it's a lock there will be a lot of interest in the card.

Lesser known villains, and the occasional better known like the Cheetah, attack throughout the mission. The fearsome, never-before-seen mobster also comes out of the box in which she lives to personally try to regain the card, as it was stolen from her. Many deaths of bystanders and unknown mobsters occur. Some of the lesser known villains have a hard time of it, too. Fortunately for King Shark he grows back parts like a lizard.

In the end Deadshot, in uncharacteristic compassion, steals the card from his teammates in an attempt to protect them from all the hired killers. Of course, this band being its own brand of psychotic, he shoots Jeannette and Scandal, beats Catman, and runs over Ragdoll in the process. They track him down and try to kill him for his troubles, thinking he’s just stealing the card for himself. Our fearsome mobster turns out to be Ragdoll’s sister, Alex aka Junior, who has mutilated herself in the same way he has and is even crazier than he is, which is saying something. She, Tarantula and the card all go over a bridge, at least as far as everyone except Scandal knows. Scandal actually has the card. When Alex goes over, the hired killers stop attacking, as there’s no card and no one to pay them.

It’s a great way to open the series. The team had been established previously in Villains United and through some additional appearances in a limited series and in Birds of Prey. Most of that history, such as Deadshot killing The Fiddler, is mentioned at some point during this 24 issue start, but it’s not necessary to have read those issues to enjoy these. Simone has the team fleshed out as individual identities from the jump. Deadshot, Catman and Bane all have associations with Batman but not with each other. Bane almost immediately takes on a paternal view of Scandal. Jeannette and Deadshot become a couple in the most emotionless and amoral of senses. Most importantly, the fact that Scandal has the card lays groundwork for much to come later, as her lover Knockout is presumably in Hell.

Issue 8 is out an out fun. Simone writes while Carlos Rodriguez pencils and Bit inks. It’s a double date with Jeannette and Deadshot going out with Scandal and a stripper who looks a lot like Knockout (and was hired in the first issue by Deadshot, Catman and Ragdoll to try to make Scandal feel better). Deadshot has promised not to kill anyone on the date, so when neo-Nazis that he and Catman maimed in a previous issue spot him and attack him, he’s constrained in a way he’s not normally. Liana Kerzner is the name of the stripper. She’s remarkably nonplussed by the abilities of everyone else on the date, as well as the attacks by the neo-Nazis. The issue also features a 3 page short called Ragdoll Dreams. This was drawn by Amanda Gould and is a beautifully child-like yet freakish depiction of things that go through Ragdoll’s head as he’s been locked in the trunk of Catman’s car for three days after he snuck in there to go along on the double date.

Issue 9 is also a single issue story. This one ties into the Battle for the Cowl stories running through the various Bat titles at the time. Fortunately it really has nothing much to do with all that, other than Catman and Bane each speculating that the other wants to take on the mantle of Batman. Meanwhile, they’re slaughtering a kidnapping team that’s killing and kidnapping wealthy Gotham City residents in a coordinated assault designed to take advantage of Batman’s absence. Simone is again writing and Scott and Hazelwood are back on art duties. It’s beautifully done. Somehow I like the art in this issue better than in the original 7 issues, even though it’s the same team. Ragdoll’s along with Bane and Catman, dressed in his own bizarre way as Robin. They even manage the notorious climbing of a wall on ropes, a la the Batman TV show of the ‘60s. Lots of humor amidst the mayhem and a nice scolding by Nightwing toward the end. Of course, our three “heroes” feel put upon by the scolding for their killing ways and don’t perceive how that’s a problem.

Issues 10-14, entitled Depths, return to the multi-issue arc format. A man named Smyth has purchased an island in warm climes, taken over its government, and constructed a massive prison. His plan is to return slavery as a valid concept and to have all the world’s prisoners shipped to his facility so that the better parts of humanity can achieve their full potential. He has a partially completed facility, slave labor from the island's populace, and guards from around the world. He hires the Six to provide additional security and tests them on arrival, which they pass when Deadshot shoots and kills a woman he’s told is an escaping prisoner but who was really a slave laborer who Smyth told could leave if she made it to the fence line.

Shortly after this the team begins to disintegrate, as some members are adamantly opposed to slavery. As a result Jeanette frees Artemis, leader of a band of Amazons who are prisoners there. Scandal joins her, leading Catman to attack Scanal, thus infuriating Bane. Just then, Wonder Woman arrives and beats Jeannette. Jeannette, though, is a banshee. When she switches to that mode, she screams Wonder Woman into a comatose state, so the prison now holds Wonder Woman. Catman, Deadshot and Ragdoll become fed up with Smyth, though, and the team is re-united, at least so much as it ever is. A demon is being held at the prison and is let loose to attack the freed Amazons but it loses its head. The Amazons were there because they had attacked Washington, DC, so there’s some question of whether they should be freed, but the Six don’t really care about that. Wonder Woman has more problem with that, but only momentarily.

The hardest part of the battle is an Amazon who’s become unkillable because of her function as healer of the imprisoned band of Amazons. She uses something called a purple ray to heal them and her constant exposure has made her immortal. She’s sided with Smyth. Fortunately, Deadshot shoots her in the head, which at least temporarily stops her from killing the rest.

One of the more interesting elements of Secret Six is that Bane refuses to take the Venom that gave him superhuman strength. He’s still larger and stronger than most because of his use of it for so long, but he’s also not berserk. He won’t use it because it’s addictive. In this story, Scandal uses it without his knowledge. At the end, Bane and Jeanette agree that Bane should lead the team instead, so he tells Scandal she’s off the team for her own protection.

The issues also visit Liana at her job. She’s being stalked by a customer who’s infatuated with her and won’t take no for an answer. There’s also a very nice flashback to Jeanette’s younger days and to Scandal’s childhood when her father, Vandal Savage, made her run a gauntlet to save her mother’s life.

Issue 15 returns to a single issue arc. It’s written by John Ostrander and penciled and inked by Jim Califore. Deadshot is having fantasies of shooting pretty much everyone, including his friends and lover (Jeanette, who he’d shot not all that long ago). He meets a priest he knew as a kid at a diner and takes a walk through his past and his Gotham neighborhood where he lived with his wife and son after being disinherited by his father. His home is condemned now, but it’s where he became Deadshot after his wife and son were killed. It’s a nice origin on Floyd Lawton. Of course, he doesn’t really resolve his problem with fantasizing about killing everyone. He just decides he’s got it under control.

Simone returns with issue 16. Peter Nguyen does pencils and Hazelwood is back on inks. This issue brings Black Alice onto the team. She’s a 16 year old who can take on the powers of any magic wielder she knows. She doesn’t have to be in the person’s presence or even know them personally. She’s kind of a Rogue character because of the absorption and the iffy control of the powers, but she can control who she takes from and doesn’t have the whole touching issue. It’s a funny story as the Six take her to the strip club where Liana works, in an attempt to get her to not want to join the team, but that’s all she wants to do. She wants to make money to pay for cancer treatment for her father. There’s a nice bit in the beginning when Catman and Deadshot free a psychopathic killer in order to deliver him up to the father of one of his victims. Catman gives the father lovely instructions on how to slowly kill the killer. Black Alice also has an inexplicable liking for the bendy, scarred Ragdoll, who had his genitals removed quite a long time ago.

In the end, she’s allowed on the team and we’re off to issues 17 and 18. These are the Blackest Night crossovers that are joined with the one shot Suicide Squad that was published in the midst of all that mess. I have that issue, too, but I’m not going into it. Suffice it to say that the Six and the Suicide Squad are in conflict. Amanda Waller is trying to get the Six under her control, though she really only wants Deadshot back on the Suicide Squad. There’s much fighting of dead villains and heroes when the two teams aren’t busy trying to kill each other. It’s fun enough, and has the advantage of being written by both Simone and Ostrander, as well as beautiful art by Califore, but it leaves me cold. Most of that is because I really didn’t like the legions of dead in Blackest Night. I had no idea who most of them were or if they had any significance. The entire Blackest Night story was written for those entirely too enmeshed in the lore of the DCU, which was at the expense of a good story. It ended up at the status quo at the end, though Deadshot did leave a bullet in Waller that was too close to her heart to remove.

Issues 19-22, entitled Cats in the Cradle, get the series back on track. Simone’s writing and Califore’s got the art. It’s lovely. A wealthy man hires the Six to retrieve his son from the Brother Blood cult. He’s already dead by the time they infiltrate the cult with Black Alice, though, which the old man new. As the Six go to the man’s house to get paid a call comes in for Catman on the old man’s phone. The old man knows the call is for Catman even before he picks up the phone. It’s a kidnapper on the other end. He’s taken Catman’s son from Cheshire, the boy’s mother. They’re going to kill the boy if Catman doesn’t kill his teammates.

Instead of doing the expected, Catman tells the kidnapper he’s coming to kill all the kidnappers. He lets on that he has an idea of where they are, too. The old man then shoots himself in the head, but his manservant still pays the team. Catman then takes off on his own to track down the killers while some of his teammates try to find him. Catman first kills an Italian who was part of the kidnapping team and had returned home to Italy. He does it gruesomely to get information out of the man about the other kidnappers. He then goes to South Africa and kills an enhanced Boer named Loki who has dreams of an honorable fight between himself and Catman, as men of a certain ethos. Catman’s having nothing of it and severs the man’s spine before leaving him to be devoured by lions.

Throughout the story there are flashbacks to Catman’s youth with his crazy, wealthy father who thought Thomas Blake was coddled and made soft by the boy’s mother. This lead to the killing of the mother and a slow death for the father when Thomas in turn stabbed him. Unlike Floyd, Thomas seems to have retained his wealth.

Catman does track down the lead kidnapper, a Brit who has an ability with electricity. Catman kills him despite the electricity coursing through him and goes into the house, only to discover that the old man, though maimed and bed ridden, is not dead. The old man did kidnap Catman’s son and placed him with a loving family. Catman decides to leave it at that, though he kills the old man. Seems the old man never did care about getting at Catman. He wanted to get back at Cheshire, who had done him wrong. Catman calls Cheshire and tells her their son is dead before he kills the old man, who goes happily.
Most notably in this story, Bane and Jeanette do not pursue Catman. Only Black Alice, Scandal, Deadshot and Ragdoll pursue him, and they never catch up to him. Bane and Jeanette are dedicated to the job they're supposed to be taking on next, so they bring in 4 new members to join the team. Giganta, Dwarfstar, Lady Vic and King Shark were all seen in the opening arc, Unhingned. Of course, they were trying to kill the Six then. King Shark is primarily interested in eating just about anyone. Dwarfstar is a rapist and murder who can shrink, a la the Atom. Giganta seems to be in it for the money. Lady Vic is something of a cypher at this point, but wields a sword.

Issue 23 returns to one shot form. Ostrander writes again while RB Silva does pencils and Alexandre Palamaro does inks. It’s a variation on The Most Dangerous Game. Wealthy guys pay to come to an island and use high end military gear to hunt and kill people. They’re all dissatisfied with the ease of killing normal mercenaries, so the island operator hires the Six but then knocks them out while they’re on their way and separates them and takes away any weapons. He then unleashes the wealthy, who preserve their anonymity from one another by using the names of presidents. Even without weapons, the Six kill them all fairly easily. It’s an issue that’s supposed to take place before the Catman story, which explains why the team is united, though it doesn't explain why Black Alice isn't there. Other than that it doesn’t make much difference when it occurred. It’s not a great story, but it’s passable.

Issue 24 was more interesting. Simone wrote and Califore returned on art. It’s an Elseworlds sort of thing. It’s set in the American West in the late 1800s. Scandal is a town Sheriff. Bane is one of her deputies. Deadshot is a bounty hunter. Jeanette is a saloon girl, as is Liana. Ragdoll operates a Punch and Judy show. Catman is a trapper who’s been left for dead by twins who are iterations of the henchman of Alex (Junior) in the first arc. The entire story harkens back to that, as Junior is coming to take control of the town and has hired Slade Wilson to clear it out. All of the Six and Liana end up dead in this one, while Wilson ends up losing his other eye. It’s a nice character exploration in a short story that hasn’t anything to do with continuity. It may will be one of my favorites in the entire run to date.

Altogether this is easily the best super powers title published by either DC or Marvel. Ok, I don’t read any Marvel these days, but if there was anything I thought worth purchasing, this would be better. With the quality of the art, I’d put it ahead of Invincible, but Invincible is more consistent for having the same creative team almost all the time. Some of Ostrander’s writing isn’t as strong as Simone’s writing. More noticeably, when there’s a break in the artists so that neither Califore or Scott are doing the pencils, it’s a bit of a detraction. Nonetheless, this book is something anyone who likes to read good stories should be getting. Like the Vertigo titles Northlanders and Scalped, longer arcs are intentionally bookended by shorter tales that may only involve a few members of the team, or only one. The way this book is being published it looks like there’s a plan for a long way down the road akin to a creator owned title. As long as Simone and Ostrander continue to be the writers on the book, I look forward to a long and happy experience with this read. These B list villains are now some of my favorite characters in comics. And let's not forget grovelling servant, Insignificus.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Amazing Spider-Man #655 – A Review

If you’re looking for the next installment of my Dan Jurgen’s Justice League America back issue retrospective, you’ll have to try another Saturday. Part 2 is in the queue ready to post, but Amazing Spider-Man #655 was just too good to not mention. Actually, there were several good books in my box (more so since I didn’t make it to the store the Wednesday before last). I totally loved the ASM 654.1 issue starring Venom (which I just added to my pull list). I don’t really feel it was false advertising -- lots of times we’ll have a supporting character be the main focus of a book for an issue. Plus, Flash’s observation of Peter screwing up “BIG TIME” by confiding in MJ when he has another girlfriend was just what I’ve been saying for awhile now. Seeing the symbiote take control of him during the mission was intense and really upped the danger level of the assignment. I also loved seeing him trying to stand up to comfort Betty – he’s already getting dependent on his new legs and will really miss them when his “tour” is over. And just a quick update on Spider-Girl: Issue 4 came out and all I can say is Clayton Henry will be back in issue 6!

Our favorite comic storeowner mentioned that he was surprised we got two silent funeral issues from Marvel this week – the other being FF #588. I agree with his assessment that both were well done. Nick Dragotta did an exceptional job on the art for FF, but I’d say Spidey was the better of the two (otherwise, I’d be writing a FF review). Also, if there is one thing I’ve come to notice about wintertime is that it’s the time for people to die. Something about the pre-spring days just lends itself to grief, whether from a sudden tragedy, the end of a long illness, or even old age. The majority of funerals that I’ve attended seem to occur during this time of the year. In fact, I was at one last weekend. For two services to be occurring the same week in the Marvel U is totally realistic from my point of view.

Since I rejoined the Spidey bandwagon after my long absence, I’ve been waiting for an issue drawn by Marcos Martin. His work is perfect for this character and it’s a shame he can’t illustrate each and every issue (not that I haven’t been enjoying the other artists) -- awesome, awesome stuff. However, I can’t forget Dan Slott’s wonderful pacing either. Just because it’s mostly a silent issue, doesn’t mean it’s just a bunch of pretty pictures. I bet Dan wrote more for this issue than he does for a normal one, if I remember some of my “Nuff Said” scripts. I would love to read his notes for this book.

Let’s start with the cover. Beautiful. The Big Time banner is gone (Yea!) and going white with black lettering was extremely effective. It’s a minimal image, but that just makes it more impressive – great design, especially with the blood-splattered web (The actual cover is much better than the image above).

Knowing someone who recently lost his wife made me especially sensitive to Jonah’s sadness. Of course he would forget to turn off her alarm setting. Seeing the bed so neatly made with her reading pillows and stack of books on the end table was heart wrenching. The silence puts you into the same numb-funk as the character. You don’t see Peter crying, but you can tell he’s on the verge with the puffy eyes. The one and a quarter page spreads of the cathedral and the gravesite are wonderful – you get the impact of the larger size without having to sacrifice too much storytelling time. I also appreciated how the scenes skipped around a little, capturing the most important moments. It was very easy to follow (sometimes you have to read into a silent panel) and emotional.

The dream sequence was also fantastic. I loved the slight change to the colors with the pinkish-red on Spidey’s costume (like you only had one red in your Crayola box and it wasn’t quite right). You get a good grasp of Peter’s afterlife beliefs with his outrage that the burglar would be going to same place as Uncle Ben. No One Is Good but One Peter. The exchange with Marla is particularly chilling – his subconscious isn’t letting him off the hook – he does seem to try harder when Aunt May is involved. The two page upside-down and sideways shot of all the dead characters from the Spidey Universe was spectacular, especially given the level of detail involved. It was nice to see Sally Avril from Busiek’s Untold Tales of Spider-Man series, the “Kid who read Spider-man”, Jean DeWolfe and of course the Spider-Mobile. It was a feast for the eyes as well as the memory for longtime fans. I didn’t even know Jackpot was dead.

I’m little confused by the culmination of the dream where he finally lets out his rage against the burglar only to have killed Uncle Ben instead for going too far. I understood the sequence well enough, but not the meaning. To me it seemed like Uncle Ben was cautioning Peter against going over the line, but the victims caught up in his battles are calling for lethal force. Regardless of what he should’ve heeded from the dream, he seems to be making the decision that he will do everything in his power from now on (For the record, I think he should've listened to Uncle Ben instead and this will result in terrible consequences for Peter -- yes worse than seeing his loved ones die). I love the irony of his “no one dies” vow, but he’s about to meet a villain that’s going to make that promise impossible to keep.

GRADE A+: Marcos Martin rules the Spidey art world and he and Dan Slott deliver a moving portrayal of Marla Jameson’s funeral, resulting in significant changes for Peter following an innovative and Easter-egg filled dream sequence. It’s good to love Spider-Man again!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Indies Previews Review for April 2011 Part 3 of 3

Finally, the boobs....

One Peace Books
Tenken GN by (W/A/C) Yumiko Shirai
The world has been annihiliated and an evil bestial deity must be appeased. Saki, a young girl, finds refuge in an unusual and rough line of work. But she has been chosen for an unthinkable role - as a princess who must be sacrificed to the monster Yamata-no-Orochi at the 50-year Tenken Festival. Can Manaka, the man who loves her, follow her into the abyss to save her from her fate? Winner of the Japan Media Festival Arts Award. 328 pgs. $16.95 Something different, a review of the book can be found here.
Lee: I don’t like to link to reviews because I believe that people should make their own decisions. But this one was too good, and seemed to summarize the book so well that I had to include it. Basically, a beautiful novel, steeped in Japanese culture. Not for the meek, but rewarding read if you can do it.
Gwen: This looks amazing - I really enjoy Japanese myth-style stories ever since I did a research project on feudalism in Japan. It's always interesting to me to read stories with a cultural background so different from "western" civilization.

Image Comics
Undying Love #1 by (W) Tomm Coker, Daniel Freedman (A/C) Tomm Coker
A horror-action tale, equal parts vampire mythology and Chinese folklore, set in modern day Hong Kong. Ex-soldier John Sargent has fallen for a beautiful Chinese woman named Mei. The only thing keeping the star-crossed lovers apart: Mei's a vampire. To free Mei from the curse, Sargent sets out to destroy the vampire that made her. The only problem: Mei was turned by one of the most powerful vampires in history... $2.99 You can see a 5 page preview here.
Lee: As soon as I saw Coker’s name attached to the project I was sold. His art is toooo good, and too rare on the stands, to be missed. And, the previews just proved what I already knew. Yeah, it’s a vampire story but the art.. oh la la the art.
Gwen: Another cool mix of cutural and mythological contexts. On top of it the art looks to be very appealing. I also like the vampire human romance as American Vampire has opened up new aspects to the monster-romance genre.

Smurfs Vol. 06: Smurfs & Howlibird HC by (W/A/C) Peyo, Gos
When Papa Smurf tries to make a new fertilizer for his crops, it transforms an ordinary flower into a dangerous smurfivore plant. When two Smurfs try to get rid of the fertilizer by dumping it outside the Smurf village, a bird swallows it and becomes a huge monster - the Howlibird! Now, the Smurfs must figure out how to defeat the monster and save their village. Available in Softcover and Hardcover editions. $10.99
Lee: People are gonna laugh at this pick but, in terms of pure fun, you really can’t beat the Smurfs. Both the kids and I absolutely love this material, it is fun, entertaining, and humorous all at the same time. These are so good that the kids and I now read them in English and French! Highly, highly recommended. My only complaint, now that I am reading the full size versions in French, the art would be better served by a larger format, but even tiny, it’s great.
Gwen: Wow, the smurfs. The funny thing is I just recently watched a few episodes of the smurf because my fiance had never seen them before. While somewhat dated they are still fairly entertaining. Azrael is still the best character.

Pure Imagination Publishing
Fleagles: Classic EC Artists SC by Various
Joe Orlando, Wally Wood, Sid Check, Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, and many others provided artwork for the classic EC Comics books in the 1950s. This volume collects some of their work for other publishers, across a variety of genres, and each page has been Theakstonized for maximum reproduction. $25.00
Lee: If you have an extra dollar then I can’t recommend these collections from PI enough. I have several and they have never failed to entertain. If you love art then this is a must have.
Gwen: I'm not familiar with these but I'm always interested in more Frank Frazetta art.

Rebellion / 2000AD
Slaine: Lord of Misrule SC by (W) Pat Mills (A) Clint Langley, Greg Staples
Sent on a quest by the Earth Goddess to destroy the Blood God, Slaine has now been reborn in the time of the Normans as Robin Goodfellow, King of the Greenwood. First, he has to seek out his beloved Niamh (herself reborn as a Christian nun called Marian), and together they must learn the secret name of the beast so that Slaine can destroy it as the Lord of Misrule! 128 pgs. $24.99
Lee: I’ve been reading Slaine adventures since Bisley drew them and I have yet to be disappointed. In fact, I just finished reading a collection of his earliest adventures. This is one of the best, grisliest without being gorey, barbarian adventure stories on the stands. If you like real barbarian stories then this is for you. Great stuff.
Gwen: As i'm not a big fan of barbarian stories this is an easy pass for me.

Red 5 Comics
Moon Girl #1 by (W) Tony Trov, Johnny Zito (A/C) The Rahzzah
Based on the character created by Golden Age legends Gardner Fox and Sheldon Moldoff! In the pulp New York of the 1950s, Moon Girl looks to a life beyond her role as champion of the counter-culture and social revolution. However, she is forced back into action when fanatics, inspired by her adventures, begin enforcing their own brand of justice. It's Mad Men meets The Dark Knight in this beautifully painted series featured in the FCBD 2011 issue! #1 of 5, $3.50. See preview pages here.
Lee: I looked at the preview for the first issue of Moon Girl and it looks pretty good. The story starts quickly and doesn’t let up. Lots of action, lots of adventure, and some pretty good art. If you’re looking for solid superheroes without a whole universe to bog it down, this is a good place to start.
Gwen: This is the first time in a while that I've really been interested in a new Red 5 book so I'm happy to see such cool looking material up and coming. Of course Atomic Robo is still fun but that's and ongoing series.

Titmouse Inc
Titmouse HC by (W/A) Dave Cooper, Andy Suriano, Dave Johnson & othersTitmouse Volume 1 is not a cartoon. It is also not a comic book, not a magazine, and it's not a book - it's a Mook, a magazine-book. Like Sushi, Mook is an addictive Japanese concept that will take the world by storm. We have assembled a team of weirdo artist-types to create this 100 page hardcover anthology and printed it in full color on fancy paper featuring comic strips, paintings, and interviews from some of the art world's most interesting individuals. It's 1/3 Heavy Metal, 1/3 MAD Magazine, 1/3 Juxtapoz, and 1/3 Ralph Bakshi film-on-paper, fancy paper. $24.99 Visit Titmouse here. The opening animation sequence alone is worth it.
Lee: Not many covers with farting death signs on the cover these days, nope nope nope. But after that, this sounds really good. At first, I wasn’t thrilled because I thought it was trying to do too much, then I watched the intro animation on the website and realized if the creators can capture, on paper, ¼ of the obvious nuttiness on the website, then this will be great. It’s worth a chance if nothing else.
Gwen: Wow, I am totally turned off of this material.

Top Shelf Productions
Liar's Kiss HC by (W) Eric Skillman (A/C) Jhomar Soriano
Nick Archer isn't much of a detective, but he's managed to get himself one pretty sweet surveillance gig: once a week he sends a jealous millionaire the photos that prove his wife is faithful, leaving Nick plenty of free nights to spend making a liar of both himself and the client's wife. But when the client turns up dead, his cheating wife is the prime suspect and it's up to Nick to clear her, except Nick has connections to this case that go deeper than anyone realizes. 120 pgs. $14.95 Visit Jhomar’s blog here.
Lee: I think Top Shelf is one of the better indie publishers so I always look forward to their listings. When I got there, this cover jumped right out at me. An incredibly sleek design, with a great swath of purple that will make this jumps off the racks. The story seems generic but I bet the art wins the day on this one.
Gwen: Very cool plot idea even if it's pretty despicable. Either way it seemed to be a pretty good deal for the private investigator.

Vertical Inc
Lychee Light Club Vol. 01 GN by (W/A/C) Usamaru Furuya
The Lychee Light Club is considered Usamaru Furuya's breakthrough work. Originally designed as an experiemental project, Lychee's themes of youthful rebellion, deus ex machina destruction, and attractive designs won over a generation of readers and critics, leading the way for Furuya to take on other high-profile projects. A surreal yet touching horror/comedy, The Lychee Light Club mixes elements of French Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol and with modern day pop-culture tropes. Shocking, sexy, and innovative, the The Lychee Light Club is at the pinnacle of modern day Japanese seinen manga. 320 pgs. $16.95
Lee: With a write up like that, it’s hard not to get excited about this book. And, since I looked up “seinen” and discovered this was aimed directly at men ages 20-40, I got even more excited. No touchy-feely manga for me, lets go blow some stuff up and have some man fun! YEEAAAHHHHAAAA.
Gwen: I'm glad Lee has found a word for a genre specifically targeting him.

Lee: Hum, after all these books, there really weren't any boob covers. It's kinda depressing. Luckily I still have Marvel picks so never fear. As for indies, this was one of the best months in a long, long time. There really was something for everyone.
Gwen: I'm sure Marvel will have plenty of boob covers for you Lee.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dwayne McDuffie

Earlier this week, one of the great talents of the comics community left us when Dwayne McDuffie suddenly passed away. The comics internet is awash in much deserved tributes to him from colleagues, fans, and friends alike.

I was too young to enjoy his initial successes, namely Milestone Comics and his work on Marvel’s Damage Control, as it came out. I became familiar with him like most people my age, through his work on the Justice League cartoon. The second season of that show was the first where it really clicked and not so coincidentally, it was the first where McDuffie was on staff. He became as essential to the production of that cartoon as Paul Dini and Bruce Timm were to the Batman and Superman cartoons. I still think the second season of Justice League can stand alongside the very best that the DC Animated Universe has to offer.

Though he remained heavily involved in animated work on shows like Justice League, Ben 10, and Static Shock, I was excited when he came back to comics. His run on Fantastic Four and the Beyond miniseries are some of my favorite comics of the mid 2000’s. Like many comic fans, I was extremely excited when he was given the reins to the JLA, and I was equally disappointed when it became clear that DC was tying his hands to the point that the book became unreadable.

McDuffie, for me, came to personify one of the most frustrating things about the comics industry – an enormously talented creator that just didn’t seem to catch on. I could never understand why McDuffie wasn’t getting more work. He could be funny, touching, dramatic, and insightful within 22 pages. In retrospect this is a bit of a silly way to look at things.

For all the difficulty that DC gave him on his run on JLA, through his work on the Justice League cartoon, more people are familiar with his take on DC’s premier team than any other creator’s. In fact, I’ll bet that due to his success on that cartoon there will be more than a few kids this summer wondering why the Green Lantern movie isn’t about a black guy. His work on Static Shock was probably the most successful work on the young superhero archetype of the past quarter century and while it was on TV, it was probably seen by way more people than read Spider-Man.

If you read or watch anything by McDuffie, you get a genuine intelligence and sense of humor that is rare in comics. And perhaps nothing illustrates this more than his crowning achievement, Milestone Comics. Designed to bring more diversity to comics both on the page and behind the scenes, Milestone was responsible for some of the best comics of the 90’s as well as giving numerous creators an opportunity they would have never otherwise had. Go read McDuffie’s work on Hardware, Static, or Icon. He deals with difficult issues like race, gender, and creators rights. He never soft pedals his subject matter and he always keeps it entertaining.

With his successful career in animation (his adaptation of All Star Superman was released this week), McDuffie hadn’t been a regular presence in the comics industry for a while. And with DC’s manhandling of the Milestone property, he probably wouldn’t have been for a while. However, whenever he did find time in his schedule to work on the medium we all love, it was a breath of fresh air. He will be missed.

I can't think of a more fitting tribute to him than one of his favorite storytelling sequences, one he reused quite a few times over the years, from Hardware.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Indies Previews Review for April 2011 Part 2 of 3

Continued from Monday, but still no boob covers, more of a punks, attitude, and zombies kinda day...

Boom! Studios
Zombie Tales Omnibus SC by (W/A) Various A who's who of great storytellers populate this volume that collects the bestselling Zombie Tales volumes 1 and 2 into one gigantic 224-page package! Featuring heavyweights Mark Waid, Keith Giffen, Steve Niles, William Mesner-Loebs, Karl Kesel, Brian Augustyn, Michael Alan Nelson, Joe R. Lansdale, screenwriters Chris Morgan (Wanted), John Rogers (Leverage), Andrew Cosby (Eureka), Johanna Stokes (Eureka), Christine Boylan (Leverage), and Academy Award-Nominee Kim Krizan (Before Sunrise) with a murderer's row of artists: Fabio Moon, Eduardo Barreto, Lee Moder, Tom Fowler, Ron Lim, Minck Oosterveer, Andy Kuhn, J.K. Woodward, Carlos Magno, Mark Badger, and Gabriel Hardman! $19.99
Lee: And Boom gets into the Omnibus market. I like the idea but it’s getting to point of tpb saturation. This is a giant collection of short stories that I remember being pretty good. It has a great group of artists and writers so this is a pretty safe bet.
Gwen: You can (apparently) never have enough zombies. This should actually be a really cool collection as these were decent stories and a good variety of talent from what I recall.

Drawn & Quarterly
Reunion SC by (W/A/C) Pascal Girard
In the summer of 2009, Pascal Girard received an invitation to attend his ten-year high-school reunion. Initially dismissing the idea of attending, he quickly changes his mind when he receives an e-mail from Lucie Coté, the girl he had a huge crush on in high school, who wonders if he would like to accompany her. Pascal becomes flustered with joy, but he must keep his uncontrollable infatuation a secret from his girlfriend, Julie, and he must do something about his weight. He takes up jogging every day until he reaches his goal of shedding fifty pounds. The now-slender Pascal arrives at the big event, full of fervent anticipation, but his fantasies become cruelly deflated with each conversation he has with his former classmates. 152 pgs. $19.95
Lee: I didn’t make it back to my 10 yr reunion so I can only imagine what it must have been like. But, this sounds like it could be an excellent example of what I might have encountered. This really does sound too good to pass up.
Gwen: I don't think my graduating class had a 10 year reunion - or if we did they didn't contact me about it. The media has scared me off of high school reunions, they sound like a terrible idea.

Fantagraphics Books
Death Valley HC by (W/A/C) Floyd Gottfredson
Today everyone knows Mickey Mouse as Disney's cheerful ambassador. But back in the 1930s, Mickey gained fame as a rough-and-tumble, two-fisted epic hero! And Mickey's greatest feats of derring-do were written and drawn by one of the greatest cartoonists of the 20th century - Floyd Gottfredson. The premiere volume, Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Vol. 1: Race to Death Valley features a dozen different adventures starring Mickey, his gal Minnie and her uncle Mortimer (not to be confused with Mickey's rival in the animates shorts!), his pals Horace Horsecollar and Butch, the villainous Pegleg Pete, and the mysterious and shrouded Fox. Relive Mickey's race to a gold mine with Pegleg Pete hot on his heels; Mickey's life on the lam after being framed for bank robbery; even Mickey's ringside battle with a hulking heavyweight champ! Now it's time to rediscover the wild, unforgettable personality behind the icon: Floyd Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse. 260 pgs. $29.99
Lee: This is sooooo good that I’ve already ordered my copy. Forget everything you have ever seen in Mickey Mouse cartoons, this is the original Indiana Jones version of the mouse. These are excellent stories that have great art and are still highly entertaining to this day.

Gwen: I have a feeling this is being put out now because of the success of the Epic Mickey video game for the Wii. Which is a pretty cool game but before it came out I don't think many people thought of Mickey Mouse as an adventure hero.

Isle of 100000 Graves HC by (W) Fabien Vehlmann (A/C) Jason
Five years ago, little Gwenny's father found, a map inside a bottle with instructions on how to reach the mysterious (and titular) Isle of 100,000 Graves and its legendary treasures - and then he vanished. Now Gwenny, having stumbled across another bottle-shipped map, enlists the dubious help of a shipful of pirates and sets out to find the island and her long-lost dad. Little does she realize that the Isle comes by its ominous name honestly, as the location of a secret school for executioners and torturers, where apple-cheeked youngsters are taught the finer points of extracting information from prisoners... and then putting an end to their lives in a wide variety of gruesome ways. And they've reached the point in their studies where theory should ideally give way to practice, so an influx of uninvited visitors comes as a blessing to the faculty. This story is a comedy, albeit a dark one. 56 pgs. $14.99
Lee: This has two things going for it: (1) I love Jasons art, & (2) Vehlmann’s a good writer. Never hurts to have the deck stacked in your favour! This just looks like a ton of fun.
Gwen: Pirate minions - I've always wanted pirate minions of my own.

Taking Punk to Masses SC by (W) Jacob McMurray
Taking Punk to the Masses: From Nowhere to Nevermind and Beyond serves as a companion and contextual backdrop to the Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses exhibition, which opens at Seattle's Experience Music Project (EMP) in 2011. It visually traces Grunge, the Seattle Sound, from the punk subculture of the late 70s through the heady 1990s when bands such as Nirvana rose to the national stage. This decade-and-a-half musical journey will be represented by 100 key objects from EMP's object collection - instruments, costumes, posters, records, and other ephemera - that are put into context by the stories of those who lived it, culled from EMP's vast archive of oral histories with such Northwest icons as Nirvana's Krist Novoselic and many more. The exhibition Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses includes footage from over 100 interviews: selections are included in a DVD exclusive to the Taking Punk to the Masses book. NOTE: Item ships with DVD insert. 248 pgs. $29.99
Lee: I’m a huge music fan and one of the genre I love is Punk! I can’t miss this opportunity see how it went from the underground greats (Ban Brains!) to the very socially acceptable (Green Day!?). I’m sure this will be very entertaining.
Gwen: While I've enjoyed some punk music in my time I've never been all that interested in reading about music. Not that the world music class I took in college wasn't cool, but I have a short attention span for music history - I'd rather just listen to music.

The Raven HC by (W) Lou Reed (A/C) Lorenzo Mattotti
In 2001 legendary rock n roller Lou Reed immersed himself in the world of one of his spiritual forefathers, Edgar Allan Poe, to produce one of his most challenging and original works: POEtry, a cycle of songs directed by the legendary theater director Robert Wilson, in which Reed's poetically streetwise sensibility merged with Poe's dark chronicles of terror and despair - combining Poe's prose and work set to music, Reed songs inspired by Poe, and even two classic Reed tunes whose insertion into this context gave them a new resonance. This spectacular volume adds a third dark, unique vision to the mix: The brilliant Italian cartoonist and illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti (Raw Magazine, The New Yorker), whose vivid, abstracted and enigmatic paintings perfectly complement Reed and Poe's haunting words. 188 pgs. $22.99
Lee: Fantagraphics is really pumping out the Mattotti material these days and I love all of it! Mattotti’s art is too good to be missed. Combine it with classic material from Poe and this is too good to be missed.
Gwen: A little to esoteric for me and as far as comic books and Poe are concerned the Edgar Allen Poo books were good enough for me.

Last Gasp
Cynic's Guide to a Rich Full Life HC by (W) Mario Digiorgio
Learn how to be a more self-centered, cynical, and sardonic person as Austin-based stand-up comic Mario Digiorgio presents A Cynic's Guide to a Rich and Full Life, full of tongue-in-cheek advice on how to be an hilariously inappropriate person. So we urge you, hesitant reader, to plant your tongue firmly in cheek and prepare to learn the secrets of living a truly rich and full life. "Dance like nobody's watching. Then apologize to those who were.” "Tape record your mother's laughter. Play it at your father's funeral.” "Be big enough to admit your mistakes. Then take them all out for happy meals.” "To battle the blues, try exercising. Still down? Try cutting yourself.” "Every year, send out a dozen Christmas cards. All addressed to your Jewish neighbor.” "Ignorance may be bliss, but it's also expensive. You poor, happy idiot.” "If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Check for an Adam's apple.” "Find someone who can always be trusted. Then find a unicorn that farts rainbows.” "Start a standing ovation at a grade-school play. Stand and boo.” "Learn a new card trick! Then show it to your dog. Seriously, no one else cares.” "Obey all ten commandments. Nerd.” This expanded edition boasts of 40 extra pages of delightful wrongness. 160 pgs. $11.95
Lee: This should come as no surprise but this sounds really funny! Total irreverence is always good. Actually, I can think of a number of people this will appeal too… Thomm?
Gwen: Yeah... I'll pass on this, thanks.

Lerner Publishing Group
My Boyfriend Is a Monster Vol. 01: I Love Him to Pieces GN by (W) Evonne Tsang (A/C) Janina Gorrissen
Funny, quirky and fast-paced, the My Boyfriend is a Monster series of teen romances mixes horror with romance-proving that, sometimes, boys really can be monsters! In I Love Him To Pieces, can love survive the zombie apocalypse? Maybe Dicey's first chance at a real relationship was dead from the start. Her idea of a study session includes sleeping in the sun, and his idea of a good game involves dungeons and dice. But opposites start attracting when they're assigned to be partners in a class project. Now an outbreak of a weird infectio - it eats your brains and leaves you hungry for more - might not mean just the end of their first date. It might mean the end of everything! 128 pgs. $9.95 See Gorrissen’s comics here.
Lee: For all the talk of girls not liking comics, yadda yadda, there certainly is a lot of material aimed at them. I think it’s a great idea, and this is perfect if those of you that have tweens.
Gwen: This is hilarious. I love this idea and really want this book.

Ayn Rand Anthem Graphic Novel SC by (W) Ayn Rand; Charles Santino (A/C) Joe Staton
The controversial classic work of one individual's will versus the subjugation of society is now available as a compelling graphic novel. In all that was left of humanity there was only one man who dared to think, seek, and love. He, Equality 7-2521, would place his life in jeopardy. For his knowledge was regarded as a treacherous blasphemy. He had rediscovered the lost and holy word - I. 144 pgs. $15.00.
Lee: One day, I had the luck of being cc’ed on a long discussion between Jim, Greg, and Thomm on Ayn Rand. It was enlightening to say the least. But, I did learn that I never wanted to read one of her prose books. But the cliff note comic book version? This is perfect for my short attention span.
Gwen: I don't even want to read the cliff note version after that email conversation.

Friday... the boobs.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Week of February 16 in Review

Another huge week of books for me and I have to say that I’m now looking forward to the five week month of March so I have some weeks that are not killer. I have realized if I really reduce the hard covers that I get I can easily afford to still read a lot of the monthly titles. As I type this I’m about halfway through and it has been a very good week of comics.

A quick side note and a commentary, just by what it is, about our society and what passes for news. When I signed onto one of my e-mail accounts I see the Comcast home page. Today (Sunday) two of the top four headlines, “Asteriods on Collision Course?” and "Aubrey’s dress goes too far". Obviously these are stories of equal weight. I had no clue who Aubrey O’Day was but enjoyed her images on Google.

Wonder Woman #607 – Writers J. Michael Straczynski & Phil Hester, Pencils Don Kramer with Eduardo Pansica, Inks Owens, Parsons & Ferreira

What I Liked – I like this version of Wonder Woman. It has taken a few issues to come together but this Wonder Woman is one that I find I enjoy reading about. This issue she fights her way though some animated skeletons and a Minotaur, but her safe house and sisters are being killed by the bad guys. Still not 100% sure about the whole set up, but once we are through this one year storyline I hope she remains this Wonder Woman, She is more of a young woman learning the way of the world and not the old version of the character that has no real identity.

What I Didn’t Like – The publishing schedule has been erratic and the art team can’t make a deadline to save their soul, both hurt the flow of the story.

Justice League of America #54 – Writer James Robinson, Pencils Brett Booth, Inks Norm Rapmund

What I Liked – The issue was devoted to the newest incarnation of Eclipso and it was an effective build up of the menace that the JLA will have to face. It is the first JLA story in a long time that has my interest and saved me from canning this book off my list.

What I Didn’t Like – Brett Booth’s art is just off and weird in my opinion. The bodies are oddly elongated at times, the natives are running around in gym shorts and Eclipso is bare-chested for no reason.

Captain Wonder 3-D #1 – Writer Brain Haberlin, Art Phillip Tan

What I Liked – I loved the concept that the biggest super hero is a robot that needs a child to run it. The art that I could see was Tan’s best work ever; I can see why he has missed other deadlines as it looks like this has gotten his best effort. The story itself was wonderful as it was filled with the young boy’s enthusiasm and wonder as he is drawn into becoming his hero.

What I Didn’t Like – 3D comics don’t work for me and it is frustrating. Number one the new lights we are all almost forced to use suck for reading and trying to wear 3D goggles while trying to read the comic is next to impossible. It killed me on this comic as the story itself is a great one and I really want to follow it, but the 3D stuff is too problematic with glasses. I guess I need to get a pair of reading glasses and have them turned into 3D glasses.

Amazing Spider-Man #654.1 – Writer Dan Slott, Pencils Humberto Ramos, Inks Carlos Cuevas

What I Liked – It was a very good Venom story that sets up the new status quo for the character (being Flash Thompson) and does a lot of plotting and characterization. I had heard that John Jameson was going to be the new Venom in Rick Remender’s mini-series and I still think they may be true. Either way this was a great prelude to the new Venom series and certainly has me interested in getting more.

What I Didn’t Like – It was not even a Spider-Man story. The .1 initiative has been marketed by Marvel as a jumping on point for new readers. Well I’m not buying the .1 unless I get the books and so far these have been rock solid good one issue stories, but have offered very little for bringing in new readers. I don’t feel ripped off or anything because they have been $3 books that are entertaining, but I can understand if a casual fan feels ripped off or at least suckered by a false marketing pitch.

GI Joe Cobra #13 – Writers Mike Costa & Christos Gage, Art Chee & Antino Fuso

What I Liked – The entire story line with Chuckles was fantastic and this book was never suppose to be an ongoing, so they ended it with a heck of a bang. It was a Warren Ellis type of ending with a nuke putting the final touches on everyone dying. What I loved about this series is that it was a psychological drama as much as anything. I felt they were just scratching the surface of perception versus reality and what one needs to become to be a true double agent. Still I have been around comics long enough to know be happy with what we got and this series was very enjoyable.

What I Didn’t Like – The series ending. There goes my relationship with the GI Joe world of comics.

Brightest Day #20 – Writers Geoff Johns & Peter Tomasi, Art Ivan Reis & Joe Prado with Diverse Hands on Inks

What I Liked – I have enjoyed the Aquaman segments of this series and this issue was devoted to Aquaman. They have built up a good characterization for Aquaman, shown why he is one of the more powerful heroes and have established a great supporting cast and some interesting plotlines. Of course they kill him at the end of the issue. DC said dead is now dead, yet I know he is coming back by the end of the series. If he doesn’t come back they wasted a lot of energy building something they will be left unused.

What I Didn’t Like – The killing off (of course it will be said they were not dead, drawn into the white light or some garbage explanation) of all the characters we have invested almost one year in. Plus the entire series has been a treadmill with few real resolutions of anything.

Jennifer Blood #1 – Writer Garth Ennis, Art Adriano Batista

What I Liked – This is almost a light hearted book about a wife and Mom who sidelines as a violent vigilante. I enjoyed this quite a bit, if nothing else from the absurdity of the story. This is a Mom who drugs her family so she can dress up in black leather, dark wig and then strapped on some guns to take out a bunch of bad guys. Her motivations for doing this have yet to be laid out, but the story has plenty of potential.

Side Note: Certain stories could only work as a comic book and this is one of them.

What I Didn’t Like – The art is a little on the cartoony side of things and my preference for this style of series would be for someone closer to the realistic side of things, but it is a minor quibble.

Thunderbolts #153 – Writer Jeff Parker, Pencils Kev Walker, Inks Jason Gorder

What I Liked – The group is just a lot of fun. Parker excels in taking essentially obscure characters and making them work as a group. If I can’t have Agents of Atlas anymore this will have to serve as my favorite Jeff Parker book. I just loved this issue when Ghost helped revive Moonstone and Songbird with mouth to mouth resuscitation, very funny stuff. Kev Walker’s quirky pencils fit the tone of this book, plus Kev is a strong layout artist and choreographs great fight scenes. Constant betrayals from inside the group make sure that we know the team consist of mainly bad guys.

What I Didn’t Like – Nothing really, a strong series.

Uncanny X-Force #5 – Writer Rick Remender, Pencils Esad Ribic, Inks John Lucas

What I Liked – It was sort of a Fantomex issue as we got into the strange life that he lives. I got the feeling a lot of this was playing off his established history, which I really know very little about. It appears the next menace for X-Force will be a group of alternative versions of various Marvel characters who are cyborgs. It was odd seeing Deadpool being sane, I actually find I like this version of the character.

What I Didn’t Like – Opena only was able to do four issues before needing to have a break from the book. Ribic is decent, but still I miss Opena.

Green Lantern #62 – Writer Geoff Johns, Pencils Doug Mahnke

What I Liked – I love Mahnke’s artwork and the guy is a pro who can deliver a monthly book. The actual story finally put some closure to the New Guardians storyline and yet never gave us New Guardians.

What I Didn’t Like – This arc felt like it was rather pointless and overly long to get us from Blackest Night to War of the Green Lanterns. These events need to have some meaning to the overall series for me to feel like this is some purposes to everything being done outside the eight series of action figures. Finally Hal Jordon almost doesn’t exist anymore and Johns actually recognized that this issue.

Fables #102 – Writer Bill Willingham, Pencils Mark Buckingham, Inks Steve Loialoha

What I Liked – The Dark Man is pushing in on Fly’s kingdom and the group has to fight back or else lose to the Dark Man. The Dark Man has been such a great adversary and how they won and then lost against him in issue #100 was great. Now they are putting together a strike team and dressing up as super heroes to feed on that mythology. This series has been and continues to be very good. It has been around so long and so consistent in its quality I think I take it for granite.

What I Didn’t Like – Nada.

Mighty Sampson #2 – Writer Jim Shooter & JC Vaughn, Art Patrick Olliffe

What I Liked – What a great cover by Raymond Swanland. The story itself is fast paced and engaging. Sampson is a straight forward guy and has a childlike innocence in his manner and bearing. Olliffe is inking himself or they are shooting from his pencils, either way the scratchy feel to his art works great with this story.

What I Didn’t Like – The dialogue seems a little stilted at times and I’m not sure if it is intentional to give us a different feeling for when we are or if it is just something that is off with the book.

Side Notes – The Gold Key books coming out from Dark Horse under Jim Shooter’s pen and direction are highly entertaining. The scheduling has been sporadic but all of the books are fun. I’m enjoying Sampson and Turok more than Dr. Solar and Magnus, but that is probably more of a “been there done that” with the latter two characters. I’m also surprised to see Jim Shooter with a co-writer on Sampson.

Cyclops #4 (of 8) – Writer Matz, Art Luc Jacamon

What I Liked – The concept and the story is just great. It is exploring the themes of private armies running war operations, reality television and what goes on beneath the surface. By setting it in 2054 it escapes making specific targets of anyone that maybe in existence today, yet like all good science fiction makes the future illustrate points about things that are wrong today. Given my political leanings which are somewhere in the Ron Paul category and firmly against the military industrial complex we have built, this book plays into my wheelhouse. Jacamon’s art always delivers the story and makes what could be a book that is overly dry have plenty of life. Of course the sex scenes keep things lively also. Doug Pistoia, our point of view character, is now in a very precarious situation and could lose everything.

What I Didn’t Like – That the hardcover version is only collection two issues of the series at a time, horrible way to have to keep it in my collection and as much as I love this stuff I will pass.
That wraps up this week. This was a very good week of comics with GI Joe Cobra and Cyclops being a couple of my absolute favorites.