Thursday, September 27, 2007

OML Comments for August, Part 5

I finished reading these just under the wire as the monthly DCBS shipment arrived on the last Thursday of September. Now if I could only write faster. And read faster. (And have more time for both. And have time for uninterrupted video game playing.) I've had the comics for a week and I've only read one of them, and I've not even looked yet at Previews.

Category C (cont.)
Batman #667
See below.

Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four #4
As sad as it is that Mike Wieringo died so young and without any warning, at least his last published work, that I know of, was this comic book, which played more to his strengths than any other in-continuity Marvel Universe comic right now. From everything I heard about the man since his death, it sounds like he enjoyed light-hearted stories and that was this four-part mini-series. In a perfect world, Wieringo would still be alive and working on Tellos. Then, in his free time, he and Dan Slott, the writer of this series, would team to create numerous such comics for both of the Big 2, a more appealing, to me at least, version of Loeb/Sales, presenting stories of the characters in a way the reminds readers that mainstream super-hero comic books used to champion a sense of wonder.

Batman #668
Batman is an important character to me. In January 1966, I was four-and-a-half years old and on a cold, I assume, Wednesday night Batman premiered on ABC. Though I had owned comic books by that age, Batman solidified my eternal love of the genre and produced in me a love for the Batman character that can only be produced when one is introduced to something at four and a half. One of the most bothersome aspects of the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths DCU is that a combination of Denny O'Neil, Tim Burton-man, and The Dark Knight Returns, created a vision of the character that could be described as "jerk," but for which "dick" worked much, much better. I couldn't stand Batman for decades and stopped buying most Bat-titles after "A Death in the Family," not for the story in and of itself, but because DC gave fans a voice in deciding if a character lives or dies. I tried a random title hear and there, I was suckered for an issue or two after "Bruce Wayne--Murderer," foolishly believing that Batman after that story would be less of a dick. Hearing that Grant Morrison would write Batman after Infinite Crisis didn't exactly make be feel good; his characterization of Batman in JLA was but one of many flaws in his handling of the team, in my opinion, of course, as he perpetuated the Bat-dick persona (as well as introducing that silly "HH" sound had Batman make, I guess he felt using "hurm" was too obvious) and built the base for the OMACs with Batman's take-down protocols of other heroes. Plus, I never know which Morrison is going to show up until after I've bought a comic, the one who knows how to write based on cultural expectations of the western world or the one that throws out crazy ideas with neither rhyme nor reason and only a loose connection to the concept of a beginning, a middle, and an end. So far, the former Morrison has been showing up and may I say that his handling of the character has been terrific; because of his writing on Batman, and Paul Dini's on Detective Comics, I can buy mainstream Bat-titles again, confident that the Batman presented in each is a hero, not a jerk, and really not "the God-damn Batman".

Morrison's story in this and the previous issue of Batman is a perfect example of everything that is good with Batman now, and with the post-Infinite Crisis DCU. One of the many things that disappointed me with DC's post-Crisis on Infinite Earths output was the random erasure of stories from a character's history because the then-current writer and/or editor didn't like them, deciding that the stories didn't fit into their view of the character. People can bash Dan Didio all they want, but for all of his supposed sins, why does no one ever bring up his statement that DC was wrong to ignore/remove stories from continuity?

It is with that attitude guiding him that, post-Infinite Crisis, Grant Morrison is actually able to respectfully re-introduce the Club of Heroes with a straight face. (I can't imagine such being possible under Denny "urban legend" O'Neil's term as Bat-title editor; better to break Batman's back.) Morrison allows the original story to stand, a photograph of Batman, smiling, standing in the middle of the Heroes is even show, but he also allows time to have passed and the Heroes are older and have evolved. Once they were that team in the photograph, but now each is in a different place. Honestly, that's all I ask: If you envision yourself as a post-modern writer of comic books, don't change past stories to fit your vision. A good writer works with what he is given; a poor writer changes the source material to better suit him. Yes, I am still referring to Justice League: Year One. Enjoyed these first two parts and I am looking forward to the last part.

Justice Society of America #8
Somehow, Geoff Johns is starting to show me in his writing on this comic what everyone else has seen since JSA #1. I still think he draws stories out too long; it would do him good to knock off at least one issue of every story he plots out. Still, the team and the book feels refreshed even if Johns is writing it and I am enjoying the book, not just thinking I should be enjoying it because if features characters named after Golden Age heroes. What Johns has created might all fall apart come the end of Final Crisis and whatever rearrangements are made to the DCU, but, hopefully, Johns won't be treated like Roy Thomas and All-Star Squadron, and he'll get to continue as he started.

The Spirit #9
I have decided that I don't enjoy this comic book as much as I should. I mean, I did, but now the luster of its newness has dulled and I can see it for what it really is: Poor work by Darwyn Cooke trying to be something he is not while being forced to conform to modern expectations of storytelling in comics. Mind you, the art is still wonderful to look at; other mainstream comic books should have the courage to admit that the ugly, jaggedly inked scratchings too many editors try to pass off as art is awful and reach out to more artists like Cooke, Mike Norton, Tom Grummett, etc. However, Cooke's writing is defeating the purpose of hiring a writer/artist, especially a writer/artist who is following in the footsteps of one of the best writer/artist, Will Eisner.

If you have this issue, take it out and really look at it. Look at how Cooke overwrites in the style of the modern comic-book writer. The page where we follow Ebony on his own. There are far, far too many thought captions (and why are those in anyway better than thought balloons). Cooke is telling us, rather than showing us. I am pretty sure Eisner could have presented the same images cinematically. Maybe it is just Cooke's discontent showing through and he didn't want to do the work necessary to present wordless sequences, but, in retrospect, he really has diminished the Spirit, turning the character from classic icon to run-of-the-mill-noirish P.I., by shoving the character into the constraints of modern story telling. The Spirit goes from classic icon,

The Brave and the Bold #6
Booster Gold #1
In my opinion, mainstream comic books fell upon hard creative times because the companies tried to force basically fantastic characters and millieus into realistic straightjackets. Case in point, was DC's determination to remove the ability for characters to easily travel through time and/or space. This led to such things as the decree that any method of time travel can only be used once by anyone. At that time, I thought such things were foolish additions that hamstrung writers every bit as much as if the producers of a Star Trek series or Stargate decided to impose rules that made the intergalactic travel impossible. In retrospect, I must have been right because time travel and intergalactic travel are both back, and both appear relatively easy. I'm not saying they are accessible to every character, but they sure seem easier than they did post-Crisis on Infinite Earths.

I write all that as introduction to my comments on these two series. I love them. They are everything I want in a DC comic: Fine, high-adventure writing with the illusion of character development thrown in, presented with clear, dramatic art by artists unafraid to use their art in service of the story, rather than in service of their ego. The Brave and the Bold was a roller coaster of a story, mixing and matching characters in a joyful way, taking them across space and across time. It does my heart good to see Batman teaming with the Legion of Super-Heroes, and credit must be given to Waid for teaming Batman and Green Lantern in the first issue, recalling . For the first time since Empire, Mark Waid just told a story and didn't feel the need to tweak a character concept by inserting the little "Waidisms" that eventually turn me off of his writing. By not doing that, I finally appreciated what he is capable of doing with company-owned characters. As for George Perez's art, others have praised it better than I am capable. Suffice to say, it is perfect for this book, and superhero comic books in general; would that more editors would look to his work as inspiration when assigning book to artists rather than to the current generation of Image-influenced scratchers.

As for Booster Gold, I just want to say that anyone who whines out the sentence "Time travel makes my head hurt," is an idiot and should not be suffered to live. Booster serving as an unknown hero is a very cool, and yet sad, concept. He is now the Sam Beckett of the DCU, as he tries to make right what went wrong. If he could actually save Blue Beetle, that would be an enormous correction. Great writing, clear attractive art by Dan Jurgens. Here's hoping this book has a long life, exploring the many possible permutations of the DCU, as Booster serves as a living retcon device.

Countdown ##37-34
Let me say this once, calmly serene knowing I am correct: This is a good series. I will admit that I am not crazy about the artists that have been rotated through, but the stories themselves aren't bad. At least Countdown is following through with its promise of acting as "the backbone of the DC Universe." I read this after I have read everything else and I do not feel that I am missing out on anything, and I think it is filling in blanks for me quite nicely. People still become orgamsic discussing 52, but, to be honest, 52 did not fulfill its promise of filling in what happened during the missing year without Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, and that the series, as good as it might have been, ran out of editorial control with its focus on just Doc Magnus, Steel, etc. I think the only reason DC released the World War III specials was less to dig into the sales of "World War Hulk" and more of a place to try to fill in all the caps that Johns, Rucka, et al. were not filling in 52.

Regarding Countdown, may I suggest that those who think that DC is forcing them to buy other titles is transferring their completest mindset to DC editorial. No one is making you buy the related titles, you anal fanboy you, and I think the story does not suffer for not reading them. Unclench and don't worry about the story than might be taking place over there if you have no desire to read that comic, or that the story in The Flash isn't perfectly in line with the current issue of Countdown. Read Countdown with a more open mind and make it the last book you read every week. I think you will find it is serving as a supportive structure to the DCU.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

OML Comments for August, Part 4

In the home stretch. I might actually finish everything before the next order arrives.

Category C (cont.)
Annihilation: Conquest Starlord #2
This is the only Annihilation: Conquest title I'm reading out of the four Marvel is publishing and I only bought this because of Star-Lord. Not that the Star-Lord here even resembles the version I remember from 1977, but I don't care because there is more to this comic than just one character. As you may have heard, the basic plot is "the Dirty Dozen in space," though with with just seven characters. And what characters. Who but Keith Giffen could put Star-Lord, Mantis, Captain Universe, Deathcry, Bug, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot in the same comic, and have the ability to make Rocket Raccoon and Groot friends. I honestly can't tell you anything about the mission; though I think the mission may have something to do with what is happening in the other Annihilation comics, for me the mission doesn't matter. It is is a macguffin to me. What I am enjoying is Giffen's ability to take a band of B- and C-grade, Marvel space characters and make them more interesting through their interactions with each other. I did think that Deathcry needs/needed to think about learning to let things go, but otherwise I like these characters together. I don't know how this concept would play as an ongoing, especially if Giffen isn't writing it, but for the limited issues of a mini-series, it is working well. I really like the art on this title, too. I wouldn't necessarily want Timothy Green II and Victor Olazaba drawing a "lighter" title, She-Hulk, for instance, but the art and Nathan Fairbairn's coloring help to create a claustrophobic feeling. The uniforms designed for the characters, though I don't know if Giffen or Green designed them, are interesting, too. They remind me of uniforms worn into battle by the British in World War I. Starlord's helmet really reminds me of something from the Edwardian era, and that overfall mis-matched feeling between high technology and trench warfare really helps sell the possibility that none of the characters are going to live. In fact, two died in this issue, and one was an unexpectedly heroic death from a character Giffen hadn't been taking seriously.

Astonishing X-Men #22
This is one of two X-titles I read and when Joss Whedon leaves in two issues, I probably will, too. It has been so many decades since I did read a current-day X-title that most of the background of the story Whedon is telling is lost on me, but I don't care and I find that not knowing doesn't make the story any less compelling. I know some of you may find that difficult to believe, but it is the truth. You don't have to know every little detail from prior stories to help you enjoy a current story. Anyway, semi-interesting story, though I don't really think Whedon could ever top his first story arc that he wrote for this title. A possibly X-title changing ending, one I thought I would have heard more about, but I guess that may speak to just how jaded comic fans are these days. John Cassaday's art is beautiful as ever, though it is a shame that he can't produce work at a faster rate. By the way, am I the only one who sees a hint of Willow in Cassaday's drawing of Kitty?

Action Comics #855
For all the excitement over this comic that I've been reading, I have to say that it isn't as good as Busiek's work on Superman, but I've found Geoff Johns's and Richard Donner's writing on Action to be unimpressive so far, so why should this new story be any different? I will give Donner credit for opening himself to new ideas regarding Superman. It must have been uncharted waters not to have the Phantom Zone villains or Kryptonian crystals (again) in a Superman story. I enjoyed the re-population of Bizzaro-Earth, in a much creepier manner than Mort Weisinger ever would have allowed. I normally love anything Eric Powell does, but I didn't think his work on the art here was anything special. Bizzaro looked a lot like the Goon and I didn't see much of Joe Shuster's influence on Powell's Superman, but I'll take the blame for that. When I first read people comparing Powell's Superman to Shuster's, I was imagining that the drawing would be more akin to the Superman Wally Wood drew in the mid-seventies All Star Comics revival and I was a little disappointed that Powell's wasn't closer to the original in my eye. Still, not a bad comic book, I just didn't get as much enjoyment out of it as I do with Busiek's Superman.

Fantastic Four #548

I know Michael Turner has been treated for cancer, and from what I read he's doing better, so how much longer are people going to put up with his art? I am not a Turner fan, I never have been, and I know that Mr. Fantastic is a character that doesn't necessarily conform to the rules of anatomy and perspective, but look at his arms on this cover. What the hell is that? And don't get me started on the unnecessarily over-rendered drawing in general. Way too busy, weirdly drawn, strangely constructed, yet people love his art. I don't get it. What did I think about the comic book itself? I'll tell you right after I've read #549, which should show up in the next post.

Jack of Fables #13
There is actually subtext in this comic. Intended subtext, I think, as opposed to the subtext some people want to find in creative works. On the surface, we follow along with Jack of storybook fame. Name a Jack and it is he. Jack is Little Jack Horner, Jack be-Nimble, Jack the Giant Killer, and other of which you can think. In this comic, Jack has left Fabletown and adventuring on his own. Well, I guess he's more looking for an easy mark or three than truly adventuring, but still, he's on the road and it is the journey that matters. Underneath the story, though, I think Bill Willingham is making an examination of the mutability of mythology and culturally shared stories, which is something comic book fans should think about when they start complaining that a favorite character has changed. With Jack, after his time in Hollywood and a series of movies that he starred in, he is quite well known. For the people from the Fable lands, the more well known you are, the more concrete you are. Jack is now so popular that the cultural group mind is finding him in other stories whether he was originally present or not. For instance, a belief has sprung up that Jack is part of the King Arthur legend. Since there is no real place for him in the stories, he has replaced the Stone into which Excalibur was thrust. Lucky for him, too, since Excalibur has been thrust through his sternum. Now, all he needs is the true king to step forward and remove the sword, but he and his companions are in the middle of nowhere. Look, just read the comic. You'll like it.

Green Lantern #22
Simply put, this is a great story and has been since the Sinestro Corps Special. Ever since David Goyer stopped co-writing JSA with Geoff Johns, I've always felt his writing lacks something, I've never enjoyed his writing as much as I do when he is part of a team. However, Green Lantern is one comic book Johns appears to be able to write solo without going off into strange little places (and after one issue, at least, Booster Gold could be another). This is a story at once simple in presentation and complex in what story is told. It reminds of where mainstream comics were heading before the double whammy of Watchmen and Dark Knight produced the belief in less-talented creators that adult situations layered over a nihlistic presentation of the world (1) could reproduce the success of those earlier works; and (2) acurately represented the world. The story Johns is writing has character development and action scenes, neither more important than the other

Once upon a time, before comic fans started driving the industry and Superman, comic book stories could occur in their own little bubble, even as the characters were part of a greater shared universe. I know it crushes the soul of some fans, but Flash, for instance, could take on an alien invasion near Central City and there was no indication that he even considered calling the Justice League for help. Right now, until the inevitable merging of the aftermath of the Sinestro War with the coming Great Disaster/Final Crisis, it is just nice to read a huge story taking place in its own little bubble, without having to read the complaints of people over being "forced" to buy titles they don't want to to follow the story. You know what, I'm not buying Green Lantern Corps, I'm only following the story in Green Lantern, and I sure don't feel like I'm missing anything. We can talk about how the so-called "event fatigue" is really "obsessiveness fatigue" later.

Justice League of America #12
I guess there are people who like his work, but Brad Meltzer, in my opinion, is really over rated as a comic book writer. God bless him for having an affection for the JLA, but, you know, having an affection for something doesn't mean you should do anything more than admire that thing from afar. I think it says something that the most interesting story Meltzer wrote was in Justice League of America #0, and in retrospect, it was the single panel images of JLA stories that will/may occur in the future that really made the story. It did have an incredible use of foreshadowing though, as Meltzer leaves subtle hints that he enjoys thought captions,

What really happened in the remaing twelve issues of Meltzer's Justice League of America? Well, may I suggest nothing? Issues #1-7 were a composite story, part recreation of the JLA post-Infinite Crisis, part recreation of Red Tornado post-52. There were some interesting ideas; well, the idea of the multiple Tornados of various colors was at least visually appealing, but the intelligent Solomon Grundy just reminded me of the intelligent Grey Hulk and, for some reason, Vandal Savage. Then, after way too many issues of the Big 3 making their choices for the team, and where Meltzer used way too many thought captions as if he was writing a novel using a simultaneous narrative technique, it is all negated when other heroes go to them, offering the Big 3 membership.

The next three issues was the crossover story with Justice Society of America, "The Lightning Saga." These issues at least felt like Meltzer was telling a story about the JLA, though I think that that is more of an artifact of Meltzer being dragged into actually telling a story in comic book form because he was forced to continue the story from Geoff Johns lead in JSA every month. The story presented in #11 could have involved almost any two random heroes, there was nothing about it that inherently made it a Justice League story save that Red Arrow and Vixen, JLA members, were present. Actually, there's the next fifth-week event for DC. Throw ten character names in a hat, have five different writers each pull out two, and have each write his/her version of this story. Really, to me, this felt more like a fill-in Marvel story written when Jim Shooter was editor-in-chief there than anything else. At least it served dual purposes of getting the issue out, ticking off one story from Meltzer's contractual obligation, and of not having to reprint an old story.

Then there is this issue. Didn't I read this story, like, back in issues #1-5 or so? Why in the world did Meltzer think we needed to see, or wanted to see, small groups of heroes, talking about other groups of heroes? When I think of Justice League of America, my first thought should never be "writer's exercise." Brad Meltzer is just one person, but his work here, and, yes, on Green Arrow and Identity Crisis previously, is a key example as to why someone who is a comic book fan, even if he is a published author or a professional in another creative writing endeavor, should not necessarily write mainstream comic books. Only my affection for the Justice League, and naive hope that this run was going to be equal the hype, kept this book as near the bottom of the pile as I placed it. Had this been any other book with the same creative team, it would have placed high in category A. Next month, Dwayne McDuffie starts writing and even if I didn't already know the general quality of his work, I'd be anticipating issue #13 because sight unseen I'd know it was an improvement.

Fantastic Four #549
This is how Fantastic Four should always be written. When I've dropped FF over the years, it has been when the comic has strayed far from the basic idea presented by Lee & Kirby: Four adventurers who happen to have super power going on adventures by choice or necessity. Some people understand that concept: Byrne, Karl Kesel (who really deserves a chance to write the FF full time, and Dwayne McDuffie. (Who doesn't understand it? In my opinion, anyone who talks about the FF being a family, like that is the biggest, most important discovery ever made. Yes, I am looking at you, Mark Waid, but I digress.) McDuffie is doing great things with this comic, the least of which is salvaging Reed Richards after the previous writer and Mark Millar transformed him into a jerk, one that was one step away from using "I was only following orders" as his excuse for his actions during the Civil War, so, of course, he is only a placeholder in Marvel's eyes, keeping the writer's seat warm for Millar when he and Bryan Hitch take over the title next year.

Fables #64
A fill-in issue, I guess, because there was a fill-in artist, but it didn't matter because the story Bill Willingham chose to tell was still wonderful. As the refugees from the various Fable lands answer the call and come to the United States in preparation for the (final?) battle with the Advisary, Snow White's and the Big Bad Wolf's litter of children celebrate their birthday and are let in on a secret. I'd say that 95% of all comic books can be picked up at the beginning of a story and a new reader can figure out the characters and situations rather quickly, if said reader allows himself the chance to learn. In other words, I don't think that you have to go back and read the totality of a series to understand where the series is at the top of a new story. However, with Fables, like Sandman years ago, to not go back and pick up the back issues or trade collections is a disservice to that new reader. Fables is telling a wonderful story, and I think telling it in the same manner Sandman did, too. That is, Fables presents stories that are stand alone, yet are forming a larger story when considered as a whole. Don't let that dissuade you. I think anyone could pick up the first part of any story arc Willingham has written thus far and you could understand the story, so if you aren't picking up Fables, start here.

She-Hulk #20
Dan Slott's penultimate issue as this comic's writer, and mine as a reader. For me, this She-Hulk has only worked as a headliner when Slott is writing the character and until Civil War infected the whole Marvel Universe, it was a pleasant little corner. In this issue, Slott overtly hits the reset button for the next writer and does it with such finality I wonder what his final issue will be about.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

OML Comments for August, Part 3

I was driving to work in the pre-dawn hours this morning when the thought crossed that next week is the last Wednesday of the month. Boy, September goes fast when you aren't in school. Anyway, the last Wednesday means that I'll be getting my DCBS shipment soon and I'm way behind on the comics for August. Add to that, the fact that Halo 3 ships next week and I'll be using less time to read comic books, so I decided to get my act together and post any thoughts on the last batch of books I've read. Again, I'm posting in the order read.

Category C (cont.)
Metal Men #1
Much to my surprise, I really liked this comic book. I admit that after living through the reworking of the DCU after Crisis on Infinite Earths, I am always a little scared as to the new presentation of favorite characters; hell, Mike Carlin's horribly conceived version of the Metal Men, you know the one, where Doc Magnus decided to become a robot, was six years distant from CoIE and Carlin still saw fit to screw with a good concept. Not Duncan Rouleau, the writer/artist, though. The man appears to understand the concept and is not embarrassed by it. I may have seen his art before, but it didn't make an impression on me, but it did here. When I saw the cover in Previews, my first thought was that the art had a Walt Simonson feel to it and I like that style of art. Add to it a little mystery involving alternate earths, I think, and you have a terrific first issue. I'm hearing murmurs that the next issue is just as good, so it is good to know the first issue isn't a fluke.

Action Comics #854
Kurt Busiek writes interesting Superman stories. I don't know if it is because of the subject matter, the continuation of the "Mr. Action" story started in Countdown, or he just is capable of writing Superman without having to lean on Clark and Lois to pad out a story, but I hope Busiek writes the character for a long while. I'd really like to see him get a chance to write done-in-one stories or two stories per issue ala the Weisinger era. Not all stories need to be multi-part and I think Busiek has the talent to write tight, good stories.

Teen Titans #50
Not bad, not good, just kind of there. The story jumped around, something not helped when there are multiple writers on a story. I enjoyed this comic when Geoff Johns was writing it, but I don't know if I'll be staying around much longer.

B.P.R.D. Killing Ground #1
Continued competent work from Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, and Guy Davis. I actually like this comic more than Hellboy.

Welcome to Tranquility #9
Take Eureka, remove the scientists, replace them with retired super-heroes, and you have this comic. It is actually a lot better than my description, but I think it only works because of Gail Simone's writing. I don't think any other writer could write this comic and not turn it into a lampoon, so I'm hoping she writes for as long as it is published.

Shadowpact #16
I like the basic idea of Bill Willingham's story: Hell is using Blue Devil as its poster boy to entice more to sell their souls. I hope BD doesn't end up worse than when he started.

The All New Atom #14
Take Gail Simone, add the clean art of Mike Norton and you have another comic book that more people should be reading. My only question is if anyone else thinks the inker made Norton's art look more like second-rate Alan Davis rather then first-rate Mike Norton?

Ultimate Fantastic Four #45

Ms. Marvel #15
I like this title more than I should. It is just a shame that it takes place against the backdrop of the post-Civil War Marvel Universe.

Illuminati #4
The cover for this one is really a good example of bait and switch. I was hoping for a story where the wives/girlfriends of the Illuminati acted in their place. I have figured out what Bendis's greatest strength as a writer is, though. If Stan Lee was the champion of the illusion of change, Bendis's writing is based on the illusion of action. Boy, his characters really talk a lot.

Powers #25
And that talking/pacing is what helps make Powers a must-read comic. Speaking of not ending well, I don't see Deena's story having a happy ending. However, Christian got some in a two-page spread, in small panels. Am I the only one who thought that scene a homage to Howard Chaykin's work in the early issues of American Flagg!?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

OML Comments for August, Part 2

Continuing with the comic books I received in my DCBS shipment for August:

Category C (cont.)
Captain America #29
There probably isn't a better way to do a Captain America comic book in the 21st. A shame it took killing Cap to get there, but I know--we all know--he's coming back, assassin's bullet or not. The shame is that when that happens, Bucky will probably die for real. Anyway, I love the Epting/Perkins art: clear without being simplistic and with no obvious reliance, to me, at least, upon computer tricks. Brubaker's story is good, too, in its way hearkening back to the mainstream style of the 80s, when stories were presented with some maturity but not so mature as to be dull for a twelve year old.

Super-Villain Team-Up Modok's 11 #2
How could I not have bought this comic book? I loved the Super-Villain Team-Up concept in the seventies and just the sound of "Modok's 11" made me want to buy it. The first issue was more of a comedy, like I'd assumed the comic was going to be, and the humorous moments continued into this issue. However, the last page hints at a possible sinister turn for the story that doesn't feel like a 180-degree turn from what had happened previously. Besides, the title has "Super-Villain" in it, so some bad crap has to go down.

Maintenance #4
If you aren't reading this, you should be reading this. The lead characters are two two guys who work maintenance at a scientific institute and comedy ensues. In this issue, the two are blackmailed into cleaning up a problem one of the scientists flushed down the toilet to show it who was boss, said cleaning up requiring them to be shrunk and flushed down the toilet after it. Trust me, it is a better story than I am describing.

Birds of Prey #109
Tony Bedard replaces Gail Simone with better than expected results. Mind you, Bedard still has an up-hill battle coming after Simone, especially with her farewell to the title, but I thought the characters sounded right. I especially liked Barda getting into Pokemon because it is "a warrior's game." My own complaint is that the cover is a red herring as far as I'm concerned is Barbara and Dinah's conversation regarding the latter's possible marriage. The conversation was far more serious than I thought it was going to be and, considering that the Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special was solicited by the time this comic was being written, the result was a foregone conclusion. Still, a nice set-up for Bedard's run.

The Order #2
Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #33
I know that now that Mark Waid has left this title, Supergirl probably isn't long for it, which is a shame since Waid's Supergirl has been the only version I've liked since the (re-)introduction of Kara Zor-El. However, Tony Bedard (again) does a fine job with the writing and I don't even think that I'm not reading a Waid story. Still, Jim Shooter is returning and I have to admit that that does kind of excite me.

Supernatural Law: Wolff & Byrd: The Movie
If only actually being a lawyer was this much fun.

Omega Flight #5
I never read any permutation of Alpha Flight, so I can't really tell you why I bought this mini-series, but I'm glad I did. This was some of the best writing I've ever read from Michael Oeming, but the real star was Scott Kollins art. I was never a fan after seeing his work previously, but I hope that he brings whatever he is doing differently with him to DC.

Countdown to Adventure #1
First, I love the title, calling back to a 1950's science fiction title from DC. It also reminds me, for reason, of the opening narration from The Cisco Kid television show, but that neither here nor there. I'm interested in the story, so far, though I thought I'd read an Adam-Strange-is-replaced-by-another-as-the-hero-of-Rann story in the past, but I could be wrong. The only thing that didn't feel right was Ellen's attitude toward Kory. She always seemed trusting of Buddy and, maybe more importantly, confident about herself so that having an impossibly beautiful, golden-skinned, solid-green-eyed princess from space staying at her home shouldn't turn her into a stereotype of mistrust and jealousy. As for the Forerunner back-up story: eh. I'm not yet sure why Forerunner is so important that she needs her own story, but I'll give DC a chance that, at least in their eyes, she is important enough to spend pages on her character/story. Personally, I'd have liked a back-up akin to the Dr. Thirteen stories that appeared in Tales of the Unexpected last year, stories that fit a "countdown to adventure" theme featuring characters like Space Ranger, Tommy Tomorrow, or Space Cabbie (a personal favorite).

Nova #5
Part of the fun of comic books for me is the nostalgia. I'm not one of those people who demand that when a character returns to print it be a repeat of the previous incarnation, e.g., Erik Larsen's abortive Nova comic from 1999, but I don't want the characters so far removed that the characters and concept little resemble the original, e.g., Jeph Loeb's terrible Challengers of the Unknown mini-series. This Nova comic, however, does it right. This is still Richard Rider, and his Nova lived through his previous adventures, and while this is a different take on the character, I don't think it alienates old fans while welcoming new ones.

Ex Machina Masquerade Special
I like Ex Machina and as I expected, I like this comic. We get more of back story on Mitchell Hundred, this time right after the accident that allowed him to be the Great Machine. In some ways, I enjoy the jigsaw piecing of Hundred's story, it works as well here as it did for Gaiman when he related Morpheus's story in Sandman, but I wonder if such specials like this weren't planned from the beginning because Tony Harris can't keep a monthly schedule.

Avengers: The Initiative #5
This should be the Avengers title I like the best because it is the one not written by Bendis, but I still haven't warmed to it. I hope that Dan Slott hasn't lost the magic that made his writing of She-Hulk and The Thing such fun books. On the other hand, the Marvel Universe isn't necessarily a place for those kind of stories. Let me rephrase that: The MU could allow for those kind of stories, even after Civil War, but I think editorial is second guessing the fans and making everything a little more serious because editorial things that is what the majority of fans expect. Maybe it is, but I hope Ben Grimm will be able to organize poker parties again like he did pre-Civil War. Nothing much really happens, this was a "World War Hulk" tie-in, though we did get some more on Trauma. The art, like so much of Marvel's output these days, had too much computer finishing, but I found it appealing under the digital shine. There were places that Stefano Caselli's work looked like Tom Grummett's art, never a bad thing. Speaking of, is Tom Grummett drawing anything for Marvel these days or was that Baron Zemo mini-series earlier this year his swan song?

Action Comics #853
First off, a terrible cover:

While I give credit to the editor for 1) letting the artist of the comic draw the cover, and 2) using word balloons, had the cover not been this poorly designed said balloons would not have been necessary. When I think of all the covers from the Mort Weisinger era that had a similar theme, ones that would allow a potential buyer to see the character who can beat a villain Superman cannot, I shake my head at this pitiful thing.

Other than that though, I liked this comic, and I've been enjoying the transformations of Jimmy Olsen here and in Countdown. While I would like to see such changes a more common occurrence, that DC is letting us see Werewolf Jimmy, Turtleboy Jimmy, or Elastic Lad in the post-modern, we're-too-cool-to-want-to-see-super-heroes-be-treated-silly attitude that too many writers, editors, and fans exude, should be appreciated. Here's hoping the DCU after Final Crisis continues to acknowledge, appreciate, and display all the goofy, fun that made comic books fun once upon a time.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Background on One Month Later (OML) Comments

As I've mentioned previously, I get a Big Box o' Comics® twelve times a year box. In other words, once a month, a month after most everyone else has read the comics found therein. That doesn't mean that what I think about some of the comics I read isn't as important as what anyone else thinks, my comments just aren't as timely.

In my next post, hopefully up today, too (all I do is write for a living, so you'd think writing in general would come easier, but it doesn't) there'll be a list of comics I've read as of Sept. 7. The comics are listed in the order I read them. I am not of the immediate gratification generation, unlike how most of the comic-reading world appears to read their comics, I save those comics that I think are the best and/or I've looked forward to reading for last.

Yes, I actually put the comics in order of desired readability. It is part of the process, like swimming through the piles of comic books like a dolphin or throwing them in the air and letting them hit me on the head, but I digress. However, not only do I order the comics by desired readability, but I order them by readability within three categories:

Category A.: Primarily reserved for comics that disappoint me. If I haven't already stopped ordering them from DCBS, I will be shortly. I also put new titles or titles I'm trying for the first time here. If I like a title, it gets moved to Category C the next month; if I don't, it stays here until its time is up.

Category B.: Reserved for "kid" comic books. Since the early 1990s, long before I was married, let alone before I had a child, I've bought comic books that I thought were suitable for kids, mainly because I saw that the mainstream titles were not going to be kid friendly anymore. I've yet to put a comic in this category that I haven't really enjoyed and the order here, except for a select few titles, is pretty random.

Category C.: The best of what I think are some if the best comic books being published.

And you know what, I sometimes get as much enjoyment out of separating the comics as I do from looking through Previews. The sad think is that I often enjoy looking through Previews than I do some of the comics themselves.

Monday, September 10, 2007

OML Comments for August, Part 1

Yes, I'm taking a page from Dr. Norge on the Raging Bullets podcast and breaking these down into parts. I'm thinking that there'll be three parts a month, but we'll see. For explanations of the categories, scroll up or go here.

Category A
Archie & Friends #112
Archie stories. That about sums it up. I started buying this last year when we found out that we were going to have a girl. At the time, the comic had stories featuring Archie, Josie and the Pussycats, and Katy Keene. I thought that line-up skewed toward little girls, so I bought it stockpile in preparation for the day when monthly comics disappear. However, the Josie stories disappeared and Katy hasn't has a story for a couple of months, so I can't think of a reason to keep ordering it. Even my daughter, now eight months old, acts bored when I read it to her.

Nihilist-Man and His Amazing Friends #1
I bought it because I saw E-Man on the cover in Previews. It wasn't a bad comic, just nothing special either. However, I liked it enough that I'd order it if a Nihilist-Man comic was regularly offered.

The Mice Templar #1
I just couldn't get into this and I'm really not sure why. I found the story a little difficult to follow and that difficulty wasn't precipitated by an inherently complex story. I think the problem is the art, primarily the coloring. I just had problems remembering which character was which and by the end of the comic, I didn't really care. I've seen sample uncolored pages of Mice Templar on Newsarama and the art looks much clearer than I remember the art being in the actual book. I'm wondering if the coloring muddled the art, making the characters resemble each other more than the artist intended. On the whole, I don't know if I care enough to continue ordering the title.

JSA Classified #29
I dropped JLA Classified earlier this year because I found the stories pointless; I got more out of any back-up story in a DC comic back in the 80s then I did out of the JLA book and, after some strong stories, JSA Classified is becoming just as dull. The problem, as I see it, is that JSA Classified focuses on individual members of the team, which gives the rotating writers an excuse to be WRITERS, more concerned about showing off their craft rather than delivering a story about which a reader can care. Both of these titles would be well served to have permanent writer/artist teams. The writer here, Arvid Nelson, is no worse than most of the others that preceded him presenting character development and insight with rather pointless action. At least Nelson isn't a faddish writer, substituting narrative captions for thought balloons, so that is something in his and the story's favor. The art, however, is not a style I like, the characters are heavily inked and they do not look natural, but, rather, as snapshots in a panel. Some might like that style, but not me--at least when Greg Land does it, his characters are traced with a clean line.

The Flash #231
Eh. Mark Waid writing Flash never excited me like it does the rest of fandom, but I'll admit that that is my problem. I'll always have an expectation of what I expect in a Flash comic book and focusing on human drama--or having Wally drone on about his and Linda's perfect love together--will never be as exciting to be as watching a Flash use super-speed tricks to get out of a fantastic Rouge deathtrap. There was none of that in this issue, but I'm still not excited about this comic. I ca say that I am not crazy about the kids aging so rapidly due to their exhilarated metabolisms because it just feels like a set-up for an inevitable tragedy, probably just in time for Final Crisis. However, the biggest problem with the book is Daniel Acuna's art. I want to see art, not a demonstration of digital inking. And could could someone please someone could please explain to me why it is now acceptable for artists to let colorists carry the primary art burden, I'd be appreciative. It was good news to learn that he'll be leaving the book soon. I might be able to give the book a better chance with a new artist.

Daredevil #99
I always think I'm going to drop this book, but then the story becomes semi-interesting enough to keep me going. Personally, I'm tired of the "Frank Miller-light" Daredevil that we've had for what feels to me like the last thirty years; there are other ways to write the character and I think it may be time for one of those ways to be explored. Even the art by the usually great Michael Lark is sub-par to me; in fact, I had forgotten he was even drawing the book until I checked the credits. Maybe it is time to partner Lark with a different inker so that his style isn't completely lost.

Wonder Woman #12
I'm just killing time until Gail Simone starts writing the book.

New Avengers #33 Yu & McCaig

The Irredeemable Ant-Man #11
I know I'm supposed to like this, and I do, but just not enough to care that there is one issue left before cancellation. Maybe it is just my inherent dislike of the comic's conceit, that the protagonist is just a self-serving jerk or that if you really thing about it, the situation that set this title up should never have happened because there is no way Eric O'Grady could have passed S.H.I.E.L.D.'s psychological battery.

Dynamo 5 #6
The Clockwork Girl #0
A very enjoyable all-ages comic from Sean O'Reilly, Kevin Hanna, and Grant Bond. I'm adding this one to my monthly order and moving it into Category B for reading.

Mouse Guard Winter 1152 #1

The Last Fantastic Four Story
People have been kicking Stan Lee for this book, but I think the kickers are those with no appreciation of the past. The dialog was not as bombastic as previous current-day, Lee-written comics and if there were clinkers here and there, at least the words and actions rang were true to the characters unlike, say, Reed Richards as written in Civil War.

Category B
Amelia Rules! #18
This book. This book. It is a fantastic book and I look forward to the time when my daughter can read these comics. However, I always tread picking this book up because I know that Jimmy Gownley, Amelia's writer/artist is going to somehow touch me with the story. This issue was no different, telling the story of ten-year-old Amelia's "first date," but it also told the story a child dealing with the news that her father is being deployed to Iraq. (Not Amelia's father, her parents are divorced, but the father of a friend.) Gownley doesn't have an agenda in his story, except that anything that separates families is never a good thing. However, now that I am a father, it touched me even more. I recently turned down a job in Virginia because I would have had to go without my family; I can't imagine what it must be like for people on both sides of the equation for someone to have to leave leaving is part of the job and there is no assurance that person will be coming back. Another great story by Gownley.

Simpsons Comics #133
I never would have equated Chuck Dixon with comedy writing, but he does a good job getting the flavor of the television show in his Simpsons work.

Bart Simpson #37
Ty Templeton does double duty as writer and artist, and also captures the flavor of the show. Templeton deserves more opportunities at the Big 2 on mainstream books.

The Batman Strikes #36
Marvel Adventures Hulk #2
Marvel Adventures Iron Man #1
Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #5
Marvel Adventures Iron Man #4
Teen Titans Go! #46
Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four #27
The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles #2

Fantastic Five #3
When Tom DeFalco was editor in chief at Marvel I wasn't reading too much Marvel, so I can't speak to how damaging his tenure was to the company, but I like his work with the M2 characters. At least Mary Jane is still alive somewhere (assuming she dies in "One More Day"). Credit should also be to Marvel for giving Ron Lim work as the artist. It would be so easy to give these books to unknown artists at a cheaper rate, especially because art by people with style's like Lim's doesn't seem to be in favor much anymore, so it nice that Lim still has the job.

Fantastic Four Power Pack #2
Man, I have been loving this series of mini-series. I never read Power Pack the first time around, so I can't speak to how close it is to the original series, but I like the characters here. After a return in a solo mini, each new mini has guest starred a different Marvel hero or team. Thankfully, the guest star has never overshadowed Power Pack, not even when the Hulk was the title's visitor. Here, for instance, the book opens up with Jack Power running away with Franklin Richards because neither felt they were being treated properly by their respective families. The FF appears, but it is still a Power Pack story and it is Power Pack that brings the adventure to an end. Marvel has quietly cornered the market on kid-centric comics with this title, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, and the Franklin Richards one-shots, but you are missing out if you are over fifteen and not reading any of those comics.

Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #30
Why do I get a feeling that this is the kind of MU Spider-Man Peter David thought he was going to get to write when he went exclusive to Marvel. At least he gets to write that Spider-Man here, and I'm glad he does, because it is pure Spider-Man, unfettered by Marvel inter-title continuity.

Fantastic Five #4

Marvel Adventures #15
Jeff Parker is an unsung writer. He works under the radar, but he does consistently good work in done-in-one stories. Bendis needs to look at Parker's work to see how an Avengers title needs to be written. No talking heads here, just action and, yes, character moments if not true character development, which is all I need because I buy into the illusion of change concept.

Justice League Unlimited #36
Dare I say that this is the best Justice League title being printed. Well, until I read McDuffie's first issue of Justice League of America, and compared to the filler that appears in JLA Classified and the emptiness of Brad Meltzer's work now in Justice League of America, I say JLU is the best. A Question-centric story, it captures the character well, even if his dialog sounded more like it should be said by Rorschach. If you read any of the news out of the Baltimore convention, you may know that Dan Didio said this title is not necessarily canceled. It will run at least until the middle of next year and cancellation isn't necessarily a certainty, even if there are no more new episodes of the show. "If sales support the number of kids books out there, we'll keep them out there" I'd like to thing I did my part in that decision.

Category C
Amazons Attack! #4
Amazons Attack! #5

Nightwing #135
Jon Bosco, I'm sorry to say, is not a substitute for the art of Jamal Igle. Add to that the news that Marv Wolfman is leaving the book and I think I'll be leaving before Marv does.

Amazons Attack! #6
People hated this mini-series from what I've read. It wasn't anything special, but, IMO, the attack of the Amazons felt kind of like an empty threat. The best thing I've read, though, was the writer, Will Pfeifer, passing the buck on the story quality, saying there was a lot of editorial interference. I'm sorry, but a mini-series like this had to have been editorially directed from conception, so "interference" should have been expected.

Big Bang Presents #6 Agents of B.A.D.G.E.
The last issue of this title for the foreseeable future. Maybe its time has come, as the stories feel more bogged in continuity than stories from the companies being homaged.

Supergirl #20
Hellboy Darkness Calls #5
Superman #666

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Justice League Theme

Here's a little number from God knows when, but I'll bet from around the mid-sixties, that great time when I fell in love with comic books. The cut I've selected is titled Call the Roll (Justice League Theme) and you'll either love it or hate it. Fifty-fifty are pretty good odds.

If you're looking at this at work and Flash is blocked, click this link for the same experience.