Saturday, December 31, 2011

Nightwing #2

Bonus Review! I goofed and bought the third issue of three DC titles that I had planned to drop after issue #1, so I went out and bought the second issue of those three titles today (yay for a good sale going on at New England Comics!).

Title: Nightwing
Issue: 2
Date: December 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Penciler: Eddy Barrows
Inker: JP Mayer, Paulo Siqueira
Colorist: Rod Reis
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Editor: Katie Kubert, Bobbie Chase
Cover: Eddie Barrows, JP Mayer, Rod Reis

This was a big improvement on the first issue, especially once we got past the rather generic (and inconclusive) fight scene between Nightwing and new villain Saiko.

Dick Grayson's relationship with new love interest (well, old flame, actually) Raya Vestry developed nicely, with a decent flow to the dialogue and some advancement of the plot along the way.

This was followed by a BIG plot twist that was actually pretty clever, especially if they allow it to be a long-term development rather than something that gets resolved and forgotten at the end of this storyline.

Ending brings us round two with Saiko (still generic; this villain is doing nothing for me right now), and some tragedy and mystery to finish things up.

Saiko isn't doing the story any favors, but fortunately he appears to be a hired gun. Maybe there's a more interesting boss waiting in the wings. Other than that, the handling of Dick Grayson continues to be good, and the new plot elements in this issue raise a ton of potential.

Rating: 6.5/10

Aquaman #3

And here we go with the #3's!

Title: Aquaman
Issue: 3
Date: January 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciler: Ivan Reis
Inker: Joe Prado
Colorist: Rod Reis
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano
Editor: Sean Mackiewicz, Pat McCallum
Cover: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Rod Reis

Introductory flashback scene and then it's right back into the brawl we left off with last issue. Better job this time of showing the police/soldiers involved in the fight in the background and making it look more like the pitched battle it was meant to be. Added bonus for showing a female officer among the casualties. Diversity does need to extend to the redshirt roles.

Eventually, the Trench deep ones retreat back into the sea and I guess we can call it a draw. Then comes the detective work of figuring out where the monsters came from. Because they didn't actually mention their collective (dumb) name to anyone.

Oddly, Justice League member Aquaman apparently only knows one competent marine scientist, and it's a guy who's definitely on the mad side of the scientist spectrum. This is basically an excuse to 1) Infodump, 2) Establish some more of Arthur's backstory, and 3) Set up a future villain. Still, all I could think of through the whole scene was why doesn't Aquaman just pick up the (bat) phone and call Bruce Wayne.

Then it's over. Next issue will finally take place... wait for it... under water!

This issue was a bit short on plot and long on exposition. In general, "The Trench" feels like a two issue story that is being padded out to four or five issues with long fight scenes and unnecessary explanations. The science involved in the analysis of the origins of the deep ones was weak, and all it really established was where Arthur and Mera need to go searching. I'm not sure if this was the best introduction for Atlantis-obsessed Dr. Stephen Shin since it didn't feel like Arthur really needed to call on him, but it may have been important to establish him for upcoming plotlines.

On the good side, Arthur and Mera continue to have a really strong vibe, and their dialogue is sharp. The art looks great and this issue in particular is loaded with cool background details (the establishing shots of Shin's house were perfect).

I'm enjoying this series, but much like the deep ones, I'm waiting for an issue with a bit more meat to it.

Rating: 6.5/10

Friday, December 30, 2011

New 52 Recap #2

This is the second in my series of stats posts on the DC Comics New 52. The previous installment is here.

Here is the list of New 52 titles I stuck with through two issues, in order of their issue #2 ratings:

Action Comics #2 (7.5)
Batman #2 (7.5)
Animal Man #2 (7)
Batwoman #2 (7)
Birds of Prey #2 (7)
Detective Comics #2 (7)
Justice League #2 (7)
Static Shock #2 (7)
Wonder Woman #2 (7)
Aquaman #2 (6.5)
DC Universe Presents (Deadman) #2 (6.5)
Superman#2 (6.5)
Swamp Thing #2 (6.5)
Batgirl #6 (6)
Batman: The Dark Knight #2 (6)
Justice League Dark #2 (4)
Catwoman #2 (2.5)

And here are the titles in order of their running average:

Batman (7.75)
Batwoman (7.5)
Action Comics (7.25)
Aquaman (7.25)
Static Shock (7.25)
Wonder Woman (7.25)
Animal Man (7)
Swamp Thing (7)
Detective Comics (6.75)
Birds of Prey (6.5)
Superman (6.5)
DC Universe Presents (Deadman) (6)
Justice League (5.75)
Justice League Dark (5.75)
Batman: The Dark Knight (5)
Catwoman (4.75)

Biggest Rating Increase From Issue 1: Justice League (+2.5)
Biggest Rating Decrease From Issue 1: Catwoman (-4.5)

Here is the list of titles that I have purchased a third issue of:

Action Comics
Animal Man
Aquaman
Batgirl
Batman
Batman and Robin*
Batman: The Dark Knight
Batwoman
Birds of Prey
DC Universe Presents (Deadman)
Detective Comics
Justice League Dark
Nightwing*
Static Shock
Suicide Squad*
Superman
Swamp Thing
Wonder Woman

*Apparently I bought a couple of titles that I had not actually purchased the second issues of. Must have been a couple of slow weeks at the comic shop. Not sure if I'm going to go back and pick up the second issue of those three books or not.

Pleasant surprises so far:

  • Both Superman books (Action particularly, but Superman has been good Silver Age style fun).
  • Wonder Woman. I was really prepared to hate this book, and it's been excellent through two issues.
  • Static Shock! There's this concept called fun. Sometimes it feels like Static Shock is the only book in the New 52 that constantly remembers that.
  • Batwoman. Complex plots right from the get-go.
  • Justice League. Shaky start, but the non-stop action and awesome visuals in the second issue won me over. Now if they would just get Hal Jordan to shut up, this could be the flagship title that it's intended to be.
  • Birds of Prey. Showing hints of becoming something with more depth than just women doing kung fu.
  • Batman. Batman titles come in with high expectations. This book is meeting those.

Some less pleasant trends:

  • Misogyny. Brutal killing of a good female supporting character. An implied attempted rape (two, actually) by a hero. Plus the usual skimpy costumes and generic Barbie-doll body types all over the place. This stuff is easy to fix. It involves actively realizing that there are females in the audience (well, there are a few left after DC and Marvel lost most of them to manga years ago; but still it would be nice to at least try!).
  • Same old same old. Look, I am enjoying Swamp Thing and Animal Man. I've given them good ratings and I plan to continue reading them. But both titles feel like they are simply retreading ground covered in their Vertigo runs. It IS possible to have too much of a good thing, especially when what might have been shocking in 1992 just feels run-of-the-mill today. I'm not saying the two former Vertigo titles are guilty of this yet, but I am a bit concerned.
  • Aquaman started off great, but I remain dubious about the Trench as a major villain. Too generic, too derivative, and not interesting enough. The dialogue writing remains good, so I would love to be proved wrong on this, but I am concerned about where the book is heading.
  • Bad names. Mirror? Nobody? N.O.W.H.E.R.E.? White Rabbit? The Reach? The Trench? (Hey, can we have a The Reach vs. The Trench vs. The Brood vs. The Hand Marvel/DC crossover? Because I'm telling you, THAT would sell comics!).

I already reviewed one of the #3's, and starting tomorrow I'll be making my way through the rest of them. Look for another stats post after that!

DC Universe Presents #2

This is the last of the DC New 52 #2's that I am reviewing.

Title: DC Universe Presents
Issue: 2
Date: December 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
By: Paul Jenkins, Bernard Chang
Colorist: Blond
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Editor: Wil Moss
Cover: Ryan Sook

First up, Ryan Sook's cover is just an awesome bit of surrealism.

The story picks up where we left off last time with Boston Brand (in the body of a disabled veteran) confronting Rama, who basically feeds him a bunch of bullshit about what his purpose is. At least Brand recognizes it as BS, but Rama's dialogue drags the scene out for way too long. I do like the design of Rama herself, but this whole scene felt unnecessary.

From there, Brand does his host a bit of a favor in a local bar, and then heads off for the major action of this issue: A rather comical sequence involving him attempting to sneak into an exclusive Gotham nightclub full of supernatural beings (a significant number of which can actually see him or otherwise sense his presence).

It's goofy fun, although it had a bit too blatant a paranormal romance vibe. I'm not really sure if trying to win over the Anita Blake crowd is the direction Deadman should be going in. Still, harmless fun is harmless fun.

Rating: 6.5

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Animal Man #2

Still working on New 52 #2's. Only one more after this.

Title: Animal Man
Issue: 2
Date: December 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Penciler: Travel Foreman
Inker: Travel Foreman, Dan Green
Colorist: Lovern Kindzierski
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Kate Stewart, Joey Cavalieri
Cover: Travel Foreman, Lovern Kindzierski

Things go rapidly from strange to stranger in the Baker household, and Maxine tells Buddy that he needs to go "into the Red" to save the Old Tree, on which all other life depends. Conveniently, the map of the way into the red as appeared tattooed onto Buddy's skin.

Maxine as the mysterious prodigy with all the answers is walking a thin line on the edge of cliche territory, but the actual execution of the plot was pretty good in this issue. The art is surreal in places and intense everywhere, and the horror elements were pretty disturbing.

This is a solid follow-up to the first issue that delivers good emotional conflict, well-paced advancement of the plot, and some nice shocks along the way.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Stormchasers #2

Here's a comic I picked up at the 2011 New York Comic Con.

Title: Stormchasers
Issue: 2
Date: 2009
Publisher: Unstoppable Comics

Okay, before I get started on the actual story here, I have to mention something that hits a pet peeve of mine, and I'm sorry to have to do that because I know JayDee Rosario, who publishes this line, and he's a good guy.

But... No credits for the creative team?!?

I'm used to seeing this with big companies who are doing books based on familiar licensed properties. For an indy book which (I assume) features talent who are trying to make names for themselves in a crowded field of small press comics, I can see no excuse for leaving their names off the book. And while the Unstoppable Comics website is better about crediting the writers, artists, and letterers, it's still missing a lot of the information. It does look like this oversight is fixed in subsequent issues, but it still seems like a rather glaring omission.

On to the book itself, which is a superhero team book in the style of The Avengers or Justice League. This is the second issue, but it is the beginning of a storyline. The Stormchasers are based in their skyscraper headquarters in New York City, and they are in the midst of a poker-game-turned-brawl when an old friend teleports in with news that her child has been abducted.

From there, it's time to assemble the team and head out for the first big cliffhanger of the adventure.

The best aspect of this issue was the dynamic of Starstriker, who is the new leader of the team in spite of a rocky past history with them (and in general, according to the profile in the back of this issue). Starstriker is trying to hold together the team when they are fighting among themselves and not exactly brimming with confidence in his leadership skills.

The book has a nice silver-age-Marvel feel to it, and the art style is on the simple side, but effective.

Rating: 5.5/10

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Batwoman #2

Just two more #2s after this one.

Title: Batwoman
Issue: 2
Date: December 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: J. H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman
Artist: J. H. Williams III
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Todd Klein
Editor: Janelle Asselin, Katie Kubert, Mike Marts

Opening scene has Batwoman and Flamebird brawling with some generic thugs, complete with little overlaid x-ray panels showing the bones breaking. Odd effect, particularly when juxtaposed against the conversation that the heroines are having while they casually beat up the bad guys. This is the kind of thing that works once in a while, but could get annoying (and fight scenes with too much talking in them are always at a certain level of annoying to begin with).

Fortunately, it gets better. I'm really digging the complex intrigue that's going on between federal agent Cameron Chase, Gotham detective Maggie Sawyer, and Kate Kane/Batwoman. Kate and Maggie's first date is a great scene loaded with sharp dialogue and a ton of underlying tension.

There are several other plot elements that get advanced, including the supernatural water-spirit that has been taking revenge for a drowning and a brewing metahuman gang war in Gotham.

The Batman makes a guest appearance (and gets surprisingly meta when he observes that "Murdered sidekicks tend to come back from the dead. As supervillains."; seriously, that's a direct quote!).

The art and layout style shifts with the scene. Some of the gimmicks (like the x-ray bit in the opening scene) are, well, gimmicky, but I liked the bat signal as frame for the Batman's scene and the use of two-page spreads in the CSI of the gang fight aftermath.

The ending was surprisingly sudden. Nothing wrong with it; I guess I'm just so used to splash page endings in the New 52 that I was left expecting one.

The overall quality and complexity of this book are so far more than making up for the few little things that don't quite work.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Detective Comics #2

Closing in on the end of my DC New 52 #2's. I believe I only have two more after this.

Title: Detective Comics
Issue: 2
Date: December 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Tony Salvador Daniel
Penciler: Tony Salvador Daniel
Inker: Ryan Winn
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Katie Kubert, Janelle Asselin, Mike Marts
Cover: Tony Salvador Daniel, Ryan Winn, Tomeu Morey

This issue has a lot going on. We get a new business rival and a new love interest (two separate characters) for Bruce Wayne, along with the Joker on the loose and the new villain the Dollmaker, who has his own little troupe of psychos.

Jim Gordon gets a big role here too, and the appearance by Harvey Bullock is always appreciated.

The actual plot still seems convoluted, and the fixation with removal of human skin is a bit gratuitous.

But overall, I liked the fact that this issue had plenty of plot and subplots and the series is succeeding in keeping my interest in where it is heading.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Static Shock #2

Title: Static Shock
Issue: 2
Date: December 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Scott McDaniel, John Rozum
Penciler: Scott McDaniel
Inker: Andy Owens
Colorist: Guy Major
Letterer: Dezi Sienty
Editor: Harvey Richards
Cover: Chris Brunner, Rico Renzi

We launch right into the action with Static being ambushed by Virule, who nearly severs Static's arm with some sort of disc-projectile (with a one-atom cutting edge, as it turns out!). Fortunately, Static has some abilities that even he wasn't aware of, and he manages to escape the situation.

Most of the rest of the story is set-up for the rematch. There are a lot of villains, and a pretty large supporting cast, many of whom have their own subplots already in progress (taken, I assume, from Static's previous comics).

The book juggles a lot this issue, but manages to keep things fast-paced and fun. Even the things that I had problems with were good in their own ways. Sure, Static gets information about a super-powered gang from a gang-affiliated schoolmate a bit too easily, but it was still nice to see the teenaged superhero not being portrayed as horribly socially awkward in his secret identity. Virgil's confidence is a refreshing change from a lot of similar characters.

I also like the fact that Static's powers get some respect, both from the villains and from the plot itself. Having some doubts about how to handle Static makes the villains a lot more human.

We end the issue pretty much where we started, but the book was definitely entertaining.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, December 19, 2011

Wonder Woman #2

Title: Wonder Woman
Issue: 2
Date: December 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Cliff Chiang
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Chris Conroy, Matt Idelson
Cover: Cliff Chiang

We open (presumably) on Mount Olympus with Hera and her daughter Strife, who have been watching the events of the first issue from on high. Strife is, as one might imagine from the name, rather an ungrateful child, but she's happy to go and do some mayhem in her mom's name.

Which brings us to Paradise Island.

Is it just me, or does every story that takes place on Paradise Island absolutely have to include...

1) An amazon challenging Diana to some sort of sparring match, and...

2) A bunch of Amazon's getting killed by whichever villain is invading Paradise Island this week.

The Amazons are seriously the redshirts of the DC Universe (but better looking and wearing less).

To the credit of the team of Azzarello and Chiang, both of these somewhat unsurprising developments are at least handled well. Diana's fight with amazon challenger Aleka is visually fun, and Strife's trouncing of the Amazon guards does a perfect job of building her up as the god-level threat that she is.

Zola has the best line of the issue when Hermes asks her what form Zeus took to seduce her, and we get the beginning of what looks like a major continuity change in regards to Wonder Woman's origin.

This was a case where the details were strong enough to overcome a plot that felt phoned-in.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Catwoman #2

Title: Catwoman
Issue: 2
Date: December 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Judd Winick
Artist: Guillem March
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Editor: Rachel Gluckstern, Rickey Purdin
Cover: Guillem March

Biggest disappointment of the New 52 so far for me.

The first issue of this was controversial. I was okay with that. I went to bat for it. (Went to "bat"! Um, sorry.). But then...

*grumbles*

*SPOILER WARNING*

Lola was the best character in the first issue by far. Competent and capable woman who's attractive, but with a body type that isn't, well, that isn't EVERY OTHER WOMAN IN THE DC UNIVERSE NOW THAT THEY MESSED WITH AMANDA WALLER. In other words, not an anatomically dubious body that ranges somewhere between bikini model and Barbie doll.

So, of course, what happens?

She gets tortured and killed in the friggin' second issue.

Women in Refrigerators much?

Nothing in this issue made this particular plot development worth it. And I suppose it's possible that Lola's death with be made meaningful and poignant as the story develops in the subsequent issues.

But I won't be around for that. Too bad. The first issue was a good start. But you've just lost a reader.

Rating: 2.5/10

Friday, December 16, 2011

Batgirl #2

Title: Batgirl
Issue: 2
Date: December 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciler: Adrian Syaf
Inker: Vincente Cifuentes
Colorist: Ulises Arreola
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Editor: Katie Kubert, Bobbie Chase
Cover: Adam Hughes

As you might recall, I had some serious reservations about the new version of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl as presented in issue #1 (see my review).

This issue gives the reader a bit more of a chance to get inside Barbara's head. While I'm still not totally warmed up to vibe that they are going for here, I feel like writer Gail Simone's concept came through a lot better in this issue. Barbara Gordon came returned to her costumed identity too soon. She is skilled and talented, but out of practice, and she is paying a price for that.

Okay, I am buying into it a bit more here.

We pick up right where we left off, and we proceed directly to Babs vs. Mirror, who is quickly established as very formidable in a brawl. Batgirl may be outmatched against this guy. The running fight is a good mix of strategy and brutality. There's even a momentary comic relief bit involving a woman cab driver that actually works pretty well (these things usually don't). We can finally call the thing a close-fought draw (or possibly a saved-by-the-bell situation for Barbara), and we make the switch over to detective mode.

Oh, but first we have a couple of scenes establishing Barbara's new life.

Scene involving roommate was cringe-worthy. The tough and confident roommate takes one look at Babs' injuries and immediately assumes (quite reasonably) that Babs is a domestic violence victim. But then she backs down on the flimsiest of excuses. I think I actually would have preferred it if they'd simply gone with Babs revealing that she's Batgirl on the spot. Okay, admittedly that wouldn't have made for interesting logic, but at least it would have been a bold and different approach. This was just awkward, and it left me with the feeling that the roommate is in line to suffer a horrible fate (ironically, at the hands of the writer who was responsible for the original "Women in Refrigerators" essay). Really hoping that Simone is going to prove me wrong on this one.

We also get an introduction to Barbara's boyfriend (her physical therapist, conveniently). Decent scene. Good dialogue. Character is likeable enough. I wonder who will survive longer, him or the roommate?

Now we get the detective work. Nice little nod to tradition with Barbara doing her research in a library. This leads to an ending cliffhanger that was pretty standard fare, but should keep the pace of the story brisk to start the next issue.

This was a lot better than the first issue, but I remain unconvinced.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Yen Press 2011 Manga Sampler

Manga freebie featuring the writing of mega-bestselling prose author James Patterson. I picked this one up at the New York Comic Con.

Title: Yen Press 2011 Manga Sampler
Date: 2011
Publisher: Yen Press
Writer: James Patterson, Gabrielle Charbonnet, Michael Ledwidge
Artist: NaRae Lee, Svetlana Chmakova, SeungHui Kye

This digest-sized book features three previews, all authored or co-authored by mega-bestselling author James Patterson, one of the few really successful writers who seems to work comfortably in a wide variety of genres.

First up is Maximum Ride, which proved to be my favorite of the three. The story features a family of teenaged winged people who are living in an isolated house away from the forces of civilization who would imprison them or worse for their differences. Nice job of introducing the cast up front, followed by an attack by (mutated, apparently) agents of the government, who lay a pretty brutal beatdown on the heroes. NaRae Lee's artwork is gorgeous, especially once the wings are in play, and the fight scene is well handled. I felt like I came to care about this group of characters very quickly and the cliffhanger ending left me eager to find out what happens next.

The second story was Witch & Wizard, and featured the (awesome) artwork of Svetlana Chmakova, who wrote and drew one of my all-time favorite manga titles, Dramacon. Unfortunately, I was not as impressed with the story here. A brother and sister living in a pretty generic near-future dystopian dictatorship are imprisoned for the crime of witchcraft. They have no idea why they are being accused of such a thing, until their (generic) magical powers manifest right on schedule. This is a very black-and-white world. The dictator is almost a parody of evil dictators, and the political statement about how the rights of the people were basically stripped away because no one was really paying attention is heavyhanded and not terribly interesting. Chmakova does a nice job on the artwork, especially with the villains, but there just isn't enough of a hook in the preview story to make it interesting.

The third story has more of a shonen flavor than the first two. It's Daniel X, the story of a young hunter charged with killing dangerous extraterrestrials who have taken up residence on Earth. Daniel has the power to conjure up objects from subatomic particles. Daniel creates constructs to replace his dead parents while he spends his time hunting down the fugitive aliens. Daniel is an interesting character who shows a good amount of complexity even in this short preview. The quest to defeat the list of aliens is a bit of a video game style plot, but it accomplishes the objective of keeping the plot moving.

This was free, and I would say it was definitely worth taking the time to read. Patterson has done his homework. The pacing and timing of the stories matches that of Japanese manga, and I was interested enough to want to follow two out of the three books.

Rating: 6.5/10

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Swamp Thing #2

Title: Swamp Thing
Issue: 2
Date: December 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Yanick Paquette
Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn
Letterer: John J. Hill
Editor: Matt Idelson, Chris Conroy
Cover: Yanick Paquette, Nathan Fairbairn

We meet a one of the past Swamp Things, and get a glimpse into his origin, followed by a very long infodump that reveals the identity of the villain-entity that will be Alec Holland's major foe, along with some insights into the nature of Alec Holland and his past as the Swamp Thing. In fact, the infodump is long enough to allow just a basic combat encounter (zombie-like townsfolk with their necks twisted so their heads are backwards; a disturbing image but at times a confusing one in fight scenes).

We end with a big shocking revelation/cliffhanger, and a great final image.

This issue accomplished several important objectives in terms of bringing the reader up to speed on the current incarnation of the Swamp Thing. It did so is a slightly heavyhanded manner, but still managed to entertain. It will be nice to see the story flowing again now that the exposition is taken care of.

Rating: 6.5/10

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Meridian City: Preview Edition

I picked this one up at New York Comic Con after meeting writer Georgia Lee. Glad I did.

Title: Meridian City: Preview Edition
Date: October 2011
Publisher: Alpha Girl Comics
Writer: Georgia Lee
Penciler: Silvio DB
Inker: Silvio DB
Colorist: Cabbral
Letterer: Amy Chu
Editor: Amy Chu

Clever SF setting for this crime story. The planet Glisa is tidally locked, meaning that one side of the planet always faces its sun and the other side always faces away. The result is a world that is half-burning and half-frozen, with a narrow overpopulated urbanized zone encircling the planet's prime meridian. With the habitable zone shrinking, Glisa is a harsh and crowded landscape. It's a difficult place to be a cop, especially if you volunteer for duty on the outer edge where heatstroke will kill you as quickly as the criminals will.

Detective Cannon Hunter (okay, admittedly the name is a bit hokey, but I'm willing to go with it) is tracking down a serial killer who makes his victims look like heatstroke deaths. But when she encounters a group of heat-tolerant people known as Firewalkers, she finds a link to the mysteries of her own past.

The setting is not the only good thing here. Cannon Hunter and her partner Dax have a tough noir-style partnership, but there is a good amount of depth in the characters and their interactions are fun. The action is realistic and the artwork looks great.

I've seen plenty of SF detective stories, but it was nice to see one that really evoked some thoughtful science fiction while still functioning as a hard-boiled cop story. Cannon Hunter is the kind of tough-while-realistic female character that is sadly too rare in comics and I look forward to reading more of her adventures.

Rating: 8.5/10

Monday, December 12, 2011

Batman #2

Title: Batman
Issue: 2
Date: December 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Scott Snyder
Penciler: Greg Capullo
Inker: Jonathan Glapion
Colorist: FCO
Letterer: Richard Starkings, Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Editor: Katie Kubert, Janelle Asselin, Mike Marts
Cover: Greg Capullo, FCO

Lots of plot-thickening as a mysterious and possibly super-powered assassin targets Bruce Wayne, and an old legend of Gotham reemerges.

In fact, this issue is steeped in Gotham lore, with an excellent opening narrative on the history of Wayne Tower and its 12 (make that 13) gargoyles.

The surprise twist that ended the first issue is now twisted again into a new direction.

This had some really solid action sequences (although one was a bit of a throwaway), and a lot of detective work. But it was the Gotham City history and mythology that really made it stand apart from the typical Batman vs. generic-assassin fare.

I'm definitely interested in seeing where this is headed.

Rating: 7.5/10

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Action Comics #2

Title: Action Comics
Issue: 2
Date: December 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Grant Morrison
Penciler: Rags Morales, Brent Anderson
Inker: Rick Bryant, Brent Anderson
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Patrick Brosseau
Editor: Wil Moss, Matt Idelson
Cover: Rags Morales, Brad Anderson

Still in the "Superman Year One" mode. The military has captured Superman following last issue's train collision, and Lex Luthor is in charge of giving the Man of Steel a little taste of what Dick Cheney liked to call "enhanced interrogation techniques". In this case, it involves an electric chair. When Luthor is done with that, he plans to try some fluoroantimonic acid (Which is actually pretty cool stuff! Wikipedia it! I did!). And speaking of chemistry, Clark gets the best line of the series with this exchange:

Luthor: Does the word 'Krypton' mean anything to you?
Superman: Noble gas... Number 36...

Oh, hey! It's John Henry Irons! We also get to see General Lane (who gets a visit from his daughter, who's on the trail of the captured Superman). Also introduced is John Corben, who has some past romantic history with Lois.

Not surprisingly, the army doesn't hold Superman captive for long, but the story had lots of good details and little plot developments along the way to its inevitable ending. A major revelation about Lex Luthor sets the stage very nicely for some future storylines.

This was good. Superman is still "super" but a bit more limited than in some past versions. The young, inexperienced, and slightly cocky attitude is refreshing, while still maintaining the underlying potential to grow into the familiar heroic persona. The supporting cast had plenty to do and the action was fun and clever.

Backup feature is picture-essay with the creative team discussing character and prop design and it's a pretty interesting read, especially the revelations about their inspirations from very early Superman stories.

I've neglected to mention this in a few previous reviews, but all of the New 52 #2's contain a preview of the Christmas-themed Batman graphic novel, Batman: Noel. The artwork is gorgeous, but there isn't much you can make out as far a plot goes. It appears to be a variation on Dicken's A Christmas Carol.

Rating: 7.5/10

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hayseed's

This is the second of two comics by Dustin LaValley and Kick Save Comics that I picked up at the recent Anthology Convention in New Hampshire.

Title: Hayseed's
Date: 2011
Publisher: Kick Save Comics
Writer: Dustin LaValley
Artist: Don Kunkel

Twelve-page standard format b/w horror comic. The tale of Hayseed's Service Station plays up a fear that most people can relate to: The disgusting gas-station restroom. Kunkel and LaValley do a nice job of capturing all of the unsavory details of this unsavory setting. Of course, in most such places, it's just a matter of getting in, doing your business, and getting out without getting too grossed out. At Hayseed's, you may not come out at all.

Good use of the setting. The ending isn't really much of a surprise, although it's still presented in a pretty nice visual. The little details are what makes this standard horror story into something interesting.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Justice League #3

I'm on the road today and looking through the comics I have on me, all I've got is #3's from the New 52. So here's a little jump ahead, as I look at Justice League #3.

Title: Justice League
Issue: 3
Date: January 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciler: Jim Lee
Inker: Scott Williams
Colorist: Alex Sinclair, Hi-Fi, Gabe Eltaeb
Letterer: Patrick Brosseau
Editor: Darren Shan, Brian Cunningham
Cover: Jim Lee, Alex Sinclair, Scott Williams

Amazingly, Hal Jordan barely gets any lines here, but it only takes him one word four letters long ("Dibs"; his reaction to seeing Diana for the first time) to cement his place as as sexist jerk for this issue.

Wonder Woman herself is the major focus of this issue, with a rather clumsily handled attempt at portraying her as totally naive to the ways of human civilization. The problem is that there is a fine line between naive and dumb, and Diana spends a bit too much time on the wrong side of that line. That being said, the kid who introduces her to ice cream is adorable and should be a recurring character.

The main plot here is a large-scale attack on Earth by enough parademons to make the heroes look somewhat impressive fighting them, but not nearly enough to actually mount a successful invasion.

We also get some progress on Cyborg's origin, as well as the introduction of Aquaman (who gets a great first line). Dialogue in general was pretty sharp. Flash to the Batman. "You don't have powers? I thought you were a vampire or something!" Ha! There's a cute introductory exchange between Superman and Wonder Woman as well.

Art continues to be great. It's nothing all that daring or innovative, but it looks great, and as mentioned before, it's really exactly the look that a big and loud action-oriented book like this needs.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Goober Glade Volume 1: Adventurers Don't Fart

Title: Goober Glade Volume 1: Adventurers Don't Fart
Date: 2011
Publisher: Projectpoppet.com
Writer: Lisa Cavalear
Artist: Lisa Cavalear

Webcomic collection that is essentially a parody of D&D, somewhat in the style of Order of the Stick. When King Barry's daughter is abducted by the evil Dragon Queen, would-be hero MacGuffin Distresshammer finally gets the chance to prove his valor as a member of the Quest Knights of Goober Glade.

He is joined by gruff (and drunk) dwarven fighter Bevedere Shortround, barkeep with "sneaky talents" Clare Voyeur, depressing dark elf Forlornus D'Emo, and witch Emery Borden.

This is fast-paced with plenty of jokes. A bit crude in places, but that is part of the fun. Writer/artist Lisa Cavalier gleefully smashes fantasy cliches, as we discover that you're really better off seeking information in a library than in a tavern.

There's also some romance and a battle with a giant rat along the way.

The print version isn't a perfect transition from webcomic form as the fonts are very small in some places, but the artwork comes through nicely.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, December 5, 2011

Justice League #2

Title: Justice League
Issue: 2
Date: December 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciler: Jim Lee
Inker: Scott Williams
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Patrick Brosseau
Editor: Eddie Berganza, Rex Ogle
Cover: Jim Lee, Alex Sinclair, Scott Williams

We open with a quick introduction of Barry Allen, then it's back to Superman vs. Green Lantern and the Batman. This is a pretty standard, fight-until-cooler-heads-prevail scene, but it's handled well. The Flash joins in as backup called by Hal Jordan and he gets a particularly fun sequence against Superman.

Hal Jordan continues to be written as an annoying twit, which is frustrating for me, so it must be extra-frustrating for people who are actual Green Lantern fans.

Other than that, the character interactions are good, including a nice scene between Victor Stone and his dad, a head scientist at STAR Labs.

The art team of Lee, Williams, and Sinclair continue to do a great job of giving the book the big, explosive look that a major superhero team book should have.

A couple of backup features give us some concept sketches for Batman and Superman, as well as a text piece that does a reasonable job of laying down the foundation for introducing Wonder Woman next issue.

The major flaw in the first issue was Hal Jordan, and he's still terrible, but now he's essentially a fourth of the team rather than half, which is sort of an improvement by subtraction. Everything else is simply an improvement.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Birds of Prey #2

Back to the New 52! Here's another of the issue #2's.

Title: Birds of Prey
Issue: 2
Date: December 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Artist: Jesus Saiz
Colorist: Allen Passalaqua
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Editor: Janelle Asselin
Cover: Jesus Saiz, Nei Ruffino

We open with Katana killing a bunch of guys with, well, her katana. She mentions that she's heading for Gotham City.

Meanwhile, Canary and Starling learn what the rest of us have suspected for the last few years: That TSA screening is essentially useless. Kaboom follows. Investigation follows that. Katana joins the team and they are attempting to track down a mystery compound found at the scene of the bombing. Except they call it a mystery "element".

Hey, DC, if you need a chemistry teacher on the writing staff, I'm available. Just sayin.

Things proceed pretty quickly to the brawl portion of the story. Nice looking fight scene, but it's just the girls taking down a bunch of jobbers in stealthsuits. Haven't had your vegetables today? How about this nice helping of squash?

And speaking of vegetables, here's the new surprise addition to the team, which would be shocking except for the fact that she was on the cover of the first issue. Welcome to the side of good, Poison Ivy.

This issue was fun in a relatively harmless way. There isn't much depth to the characters other than Canary. Sparrow is the goofy reckless loose cannon and Katana is the scary psycho who talks to her dead husband's spirit (inhabiting her sword!). The villains are generic. But character devel0pment can happen with time, and the story is providing a fun ride in the meantime.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, December 2, 2011

Society's Ills: The Lumpy Bandit

I'm back from the Nanowrimo and day job silly season and heading right back to the reviews. I attended Gobble-Con in Stamford CT a couple of weeks back and picked up some indy comics there. First up is a minicomic by Lisa Cavalear.

Title: Society's Ills in The Lumpy Bandit
Date: 2011
Publisher: Projectpoppet.com
Writer: Lisa Cavalear
Artist: Lisa Cavalear

Four-page minicomic webcomic preview by Lisa Cavalear.

Tiny works at the University Library Circulation, Reserve, and Gripe Desk. His stoner buddies arrive in time for Tiny to pass along the news of a mysterious convenience store robbery by someone dressed as Lumpy the library mascot.

This is really just a single gag strip in minicomic form, but writer/artist Lisa Cavalear manages to throw in a decent number of little visual jokes and funny offhand bits in the dialogue. I'm not really that into stoner humor, but there were enough library jokes to keep me entertained.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Not So Daily

Just a note to let people know that the daily reviews will resume in December.

Between a major deadline at my job, the holiday, and the end of Nanowrimo, I haven't been able to keep up with the updates in the last week or so.

Fear not! Reviews will resume soon!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Go Ta Sleep


I'm at Anthocon in Portsmouth NH this weekend. It's a literary SF/Horror convention primarily, but I did pick up a couple of horror comics from Kick Save Comics. Here's the first of those.

Title: Go Ta Sleep
Date: 2011
Publisher: Kick Save Comics
Writer: Dustin LaValley
Artist: Cory Galusha
Cover: Don Kunkel

Classic monster-in-the-closet story. It was pretty clear where this eight-page horror tale was heading, but getting there was still fun, with some nice touches of depth and detail considering the limited length of the story.

The art style is stark but effective, and relies on atmosphere rather than gore. I also really liked Don Kunkel's cover, which managed to make some classic toys look pretty menacing.

Rating: 7/10Link

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Healed #1

My wife picked up issue #3 and #4 at MICE and I was able to get the first two issues at NYCC.

Title: Healed
Issue: #1
Date: 2010
Publisher: Homeless Comics
Writer: George O'Connor
Artist: S. Griffin
Editor: Tracy O'Connor

What if there was no disease? In fact, what if there was no death by natural causes at all? And what if it happened in an instant, with no explanation? That's the scenario that Healed uses as its starting point, and the reader is quickly shown that effective immortality for humanity isn't as good a thing as one might think at first.

There are three separate stories in this book, two of which appear to be self-contained. First up is the story of a preacher dealing with the implications of a world where the afterlife has become optional. he doesn't deal with it well.

Second is the introduction of a ruthless pharmaceutical executive who finds herself demoted when her company realizes that no one will be needing medicine anymore. In a world where overpopulation is now a looming global threat, the company is turning its attention to keeping the world fed. For drug executive Donna Gibbs, this means no more corner office, and possibly no more career.

Finally there is the story of a woman whose child just missed the chance to be healed, told almost entirely wordlessly.

This book does a nice job of introducing its very intriguing premise, and the individual stories are powerful and definitely thought-provoking. I would have liked to see a bit more ongoing plot on the first issue; two of the three stories appear to simply end, which leaves only two ongoing characters if that is the case.

Still, this serves as a nice introduction to a story with a ton of potential.

Rating: 7.5/10

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Justice League Dark #2

Title: Justice League Dark
Issue: 2
Date: December 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colorist: Ulises Arreola
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Editor: Rex Ogle
Cover: Ryan Sook

This issue was impressive visually, but I had a lot of problems with it story-wise.

First there's Zatanna. Remember how last issue she hexed (dexhe?) the Batman because she thought she'd be better off handling Enchantress on her own? Well, in this issue she gets to match sorcery with Enchantress and Zatanna accomplishes essentially nothing. Or, as she would say, she gets ylhguoroht decnuort.

(Aren't you glad the New 52 didn't include a Zatanna solo comic? I would SO be writing the entire review sdrawkcab).

On to a much more serious problem.

Then there's Boston Brand and Dove, who are apparently dating. Actually by the end of this they're pretty much reset their relationship status to "it's complicated". Why? Because Deadman keeps wanting to engage in some fooling around while in possession of someone's body. Okay, I get what Milligan is going for here. Brand is cursed with his ghostly, invisible status and the only way he can think of to actually get some physical affection is to have a convenient possessed body on hand.

Except that there is a word for forcing someone to unwillingly engage in sex. It's called rape. And you know what? If you do it by spiritual possession using superpowers, it's still rape.

I haven't followed Deadman's adventures all that much. I get the impression that Boston Brand isn't exactly Lawful Good on the old alignment chart. But nothing I've ever read about him before suggested rapist.

And no, I don't care that he doesn't actually go through with it. He tries it TWICE, and the only thing that stops it from happening is that Dove actually has a bit of morality.

I'd feel better about the scenes if I thought that the full implications were really going to get addressed, but the impression I got was that this was all a ploy to make the Deadman character somehow "edgy", and that it will all get glossed over or never mentioned again. I'm hoping I'm wrong, but that looks like the direction the story is heading in.

Constantine gets the one really good scene in this issue, and it ends with one of those "shocking" twists that seems to come out of left field, because, well, it pretty much DOES come out of left field.

The overall plot is developing fairly well, but the business with Deadman (and to a lesser extent the uselessness of Zatanna) really ruined this one for me.

Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Batman: The Dark Knight #2

Title: Batman: The Dark Knight
Issue: 2
Date: December 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Paul Jenkins, David Finch
Penciler: David Finch
Inker: Richard Friend
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Editor: Mike Marts, Rickey Purdin
Cover: David Finch, Richard Friend, Alex Sinclair

Harvey Dent's tagline at the end of the first issue actually makes no sense at all, but that doesn't stop the drugged-up and muscled-up Two Face from beating on the Batman in a pretty one-sided brawl that ends when the Batman is effectively saved by the bell.

It turns out that someone has been injecting the Batman villains with a drug that I at first assumed to be Venom, but is actually some variant on the scarecrow's fear-gas. Its effects include superhuman strength, fearlessness, and really badly-drawn anatomy.

In spite of the rather goofy nature of the premise, the creative team milks it for all its worth, including a montage of Bat-Family members getting trounced by an array of second and third rate villains on (for all intents and purposes) steroids.

Some minor gripes:

More dead GCPD officers. Is this really necessary? These guys must spend their off-duty time doing nothing but attending funerals for their fellow officers. I don't have a grip with violence when it serves a purpose, but to draw in a few dead bodies of cops just for the sake of getting a villain over is lazy storytelling, and it has been happening way too much in the DCnU (in the old DCU in recent years too). How about doing this a lot less often but making an effort to get the readers to care?

Also, Damian Wayne only appears on two pages (good!), but he is completely out of character in this scene. Some consistency would be nice (even if it involves making a character consistently intolerable).

I was also a bit puzzled with the kid-gloves approach that the Batman takes with the White Rabbit, who is pretty clearly one of the bad guys.

On the good side, the pacing was great. Art was solid aside from the Image Comics 1990s look for all the drugged-up villains. And the story was a lot more complex than in the first issue. All in all, despite some problems, an improvement.

Rating: 6

Monday, November 7, 2011

Aquaman #2

Continuing with the New 52 second issues. I really liked the first issue of Aquaman. Let's see how the follow-up fared.

Title: Aquaman
Issue: 2
Date: December 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciler: Ivan Reis
Inker: Joe Prado
Colorist: Rod Reis
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano
Editor: Sean Mackiewicz, Pat McCallum
Cover: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Rod Reis

First of all, awesome cover! My favorite so far of the New 52.

We pick up right at last issue's cut scene with a fishing boat being attacked by, um, The Trench. That name is already awkward. There seems to be some sort of gimmick going on here with Trench (Trench dwellers? Trench members? Trench warriors? Trenchmen? Trenchpersons? Johnny Trench? Oh heck, I'm just going to call them Deep Ones and be done with it), spitting paralyzing slime. At least that seems to be what is implied. The Deep Ones kill some humans now, and they slime, paralyze, and cocoon others to snack on later. Waste not want not, you know.

So they make short work of the fishing boat. But it's the kind of short work that occupies about four pages of comic. Then we go to the town dock where a kid is saying "Look! Daddy's boat is coming in!" and we finally cut. The book could easily have opened with that scene and cut out all the preliminary mayhem on the boat and no story would be lost. When it's a horde of Deep Ones against a few fishermen with one flair gun, the Deep Ones win. We get it. Keep things moving please.

Aquaman and Mera are summoned to the scene of the attack, and the town is now being swarmed by police, Coast Guard, and various other authorities. Apparently large numbers of people are missing and nobody thought to look inside the hold of the fishing boat that is right at the center of where all the disaster started.

The rest of the issue is a zombie apocalypse style brawl except with Deep Ones instead of zombies, but it's the same basic idea. Aquaman and Mera are fighting, but the numbers are getting the better of them. All the guys with guns around them appear to be pretty much no help at all (despite the fact that the Deep Ones are not depicted as being particularly bulletproof).

The nine pages of this issue that did not involve the Deep Ones were pretty good. Still a touch of the meta "Aquaman gets no respect" vibe from the first issue, but more subtle (in a good way).

The action scenes were nicely drawn, but it just felt like in spite of all the mayhem this issue had not actually accomplished all that much by the end.

Rating: 6.5/10

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Superman #2

On to the New 52 #2's!

Title: Superman
Issue: 2
Date: December 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: George Perez
Artist: George Perez, Jesus Merino
Colorist: Brian Buccellato
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Editor: Will Moss, Matt Idelson
Cover: George Perez, Brian Buccellato

Let me get this out of the way first: George Perez over-writes. Dialogue good, but every so often it veers into the realm of slightly-too-wordy. Narrative captions are WAY too wordy. Remember the old adage in writing, "Show, don't tell."? Well Perez is doing way too much telling, especially considering that he's got an entire art team (which HE is part of) to present the story visually. Everything that happens in this book is over-explained, especially in the first-person narrative captions in Clark's voice.

Which is too bad because plot-wise I'm digging this series. It's old-school Superman, and it is the exact kind of story that I always liked best with Superman: The kind where Superman, in spite of all those powers, has to rely on his intelligence to win. This has a very Silver Age feel to it, with Superman taking on a monster with a kind of extreme invisibility. None of Superman's super-senses can detect this critter at all. Fortunately, though, the monster is perfectly visible to everyone else, and Clark ends up using a pretty amusing tactic to get the better of the creature.

This is the second random monster in a row, and it looks like we're set up for a third one next issue. I know some fans won't be into this, but as I said, I like some old-school Superman action.

There's also a really good scene here between Clark and Lois as Lois is moving into her new corner office. I liked the handling of their friendship and their professional relationship. A few of the lines were slightly forced (and wordy; see above), but for the most part it was a nice chance to give the two character the space to show some different sides of their personalities.

We also get the reintroduction of another supporting character from the 1970s: Cat Grant. And General Lane gets an extended scene as well. He's being played up as the J. Jonah Jameson of the series, with the overriding motivation that he thinks Superman causes more problems and danger (to his daughter!) than he solves.

The flaws in the writing are definitely an issue here, but I'm still having fun with this title.

Rating: 6.5/10

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hellvis Teaser Issue

This is a freebie I picked up at the New York Comic Con.

Title: Hellvis Teaser Issue
Date: 2011
Publisher: Hellvis
Writer: Patrick Vitagliano, Eric Fontana
Penciler: Craig Marier
Inker: Corey Marier
Colorist: Craig Marier
Cover: Corey Marier

Oversized magazine-format freebie. Full color.

The title character is an undead soldier of the Civil War, condemned to walk the Earth with an insatiable need for human flesh. He's accompanied on his mission of venegeance by two wolves, who are apparently possessed by (female and nekid!) spirits.

In this six page preview, Hellvis is something of a scavenger. He satiates his cravings by feeding on dead bodies, of which there are plenty, as well as finding a creative solution at a field hospital.

The book is gory, and the nudity with the spirits seemed a bit like generic fanservice, but the overall look was great. The narration was a bit heavy on exposition, but that was probably just a function of this being the introductory chapter. Dialogue was on the wordy side too, but again, this should smooth out as more characters are introduced.

It's hard to fully get a sense of a series in six pages, but this certainly shows potential. This preview is also available from the Hellvis website as a free download.

Rating: 6.5/10

Monday, October 31, 2011

New 52 Recap

I've always been a sucker for big events in the comic universes, even if many of these crossover storylines fail to live up to their billing.

So when I heard about the DC Comics reboot, I was immediately interested, even though I was a bit cynical for the need for a reboot after they had just DONE a whole succession of reboots (Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis, Blackest Night, Brightest Day, etc).

Since the release of Justice League #1, I've been buying, reading, and reviewing debut issues from the New 52. I started with my review of the free preview book, where I gave my thoughts on the pitches for the upcoming releases. You can read that post here.

From there, it was on to the actual books. Here are some quick stats:

Number of First Issues Reviewed: 30 out of 52
Highest Rating: 8
Lowest Rating: 3
Surprise Favorites: Static Shock, Action Comics, Aquaman
Non-Surprising Favorites: Animal Man, Justice League Dark
Biggest Disappointments: Batgirl, Suicide Squad
Least Surprising Disappointment: Deathstroke
Average Rating: 5.73
Number Of Titles That I Have Purchased A Second Issue Of: 17

And here is a complete list of the titles I've reviewed from best to worst rated. All ratings are out of 10.

Aquaman #1 (8)
Batman #1 (8)
Batwoman #1 (8)
Justice League: Dark #1 (7.5)
Static Shock #1 (7.5)
Swamp Thing #1 (7.5)
Wonder Woman #1 (7.5)
Action Comics #1 (7)
Animal Man #1 (7)
Catwoman #1 (7)
Detective Comics #1 (6.5)
Green Arrow #1 (6.5)
Superman #1 (6.5)
Birds of Prey #1 (6)
Blue Beetle #1 (6)
DC Universe Presents (Deadman) #1 (5.5)
Nightwing #1 (5.5)
Demon Knights #1 (5)
Men of War #1 (5)
Superboy #1 (5)
Supergirl #1 (5)
Batgirl #1 (4.5)
Batwing #1 (4.5)
Justice League #1 (4.5)
Batman And Robin #1 (4)
Batman: The Dark Knight #1 (4)
Green Lantern #1 (4)
All Star Western #1 (3)
Deathstroke #1 (3)
Suicide Squad #1 (3)

Here's my complete list of second issues purchased:

Action Comics
Animal Man
Aquaman
Batgirl
Batman
Batman: The Dark Knight
Batwoman
Birds of Prey
Catwoman
DC Universe Presents (Deadman)
Detective Comics
Justice League
Justice League Dark
Static Shock
Superman
Swamp Thing
Wonder Woman

I'll be starting on that stack shortly.

Superboy #1

This is the last of the New 52 issue #1's I'm planning on reviewing. On to #2's soon!

Title: Superboy
Issue: 1
Date: November 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: R.B. Silva
Inker: Rob Lean
Colorist: The Hories
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Editor: Chris Conroy
Cover: Eric Canete, Guy Major

Superboy is a clone being grown in a tank, and the experiment is about to be terminated because the team of (mad) scientists involved can't detect any signs of consciousness. Until he wakes up and kills a bunch of people. That probably counts.

So Superboy is falling in love with the one scientist who showed a bit of compassion, except that once she's placed in charge of the project by means of the mad-science equivalent of a battlefield commission, she's suddenly married to her job and Superboy is left to his virtual reality world, a world where teenagers who look remarkably like Slade Wilson's daughter talk philosophy and distract the new kid in town from doing the important things like rescuing people trapped in burning buildings.

In the non-virtual world, Rose Wilson is the hired-assassin-on-standby in case things get out of hand a second time. Like THAT is going to help.

Half of Superboy's DNA comes from Superman. The other half is not-quite-revealed in the last words of one of the dying scientists. The scientists try to figure out why the kid has no empathy. They even consider the possibility that the human donor could have been "a deeply pathological, megalomaniacal narcissist (That sounds familiar. I'm thinking the initials L.L are involved, and I don't mean Lois Lane. Or Lana Lang. Or that mermaid chick. Or... Oh, never mind.).

Because of course, we all know that personality is inherited as a simple Mendelian trait. Not that I should be surprised. Comics writers have been writing about genetics since X-Men #1 and it sometimes feels like none of them ever bother to actually learn anything about the subject.

So the guy behind project N.O.W.H.E.R.E. (sadly we don't get to find out what the acronym stands for) shows up and decides he wants to field-test Superboy against the Teen Titans. Seems pretty obvious where this is heading.

Rating: 5/10

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Blue Beetle #1

As of right now, tomorrow's review of Superboy #1 will be the last of my reviews of New 52 first issues. I have two more titles that were of mild interest (Blackhawks and Teen Titans), but the #2's are starting to pile up and #3's on their way soon, and I've got a backlog of books picked up at cons this year as well. So I'm going to try to post some kind of wrap-up of the #1's in the next day or two before I start reading any of the #2's.

Title: Blue Beetle
Issue: 1
Date: November 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Tony Bedard
Penciler: Ig Guara
Inker: Ruy Jose
Colorist: Pete Pantazis
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Editor: Alex Ogle, Eddie Berganza

Opening sequence takes place long ago and in a galaxy far, far away, and the retcon is being applied with a shovel. It's also one of those annoying sequences where we're supposed to be impressed because we see one dude taking on an entire planet's armed forces and winning singlehandedly. Hint to DC: This does not make the bad guy look impressive. It makes the victims look like idiots. Fortunately, much like the "war" that is being depicted, this scene is over quickly.

The real point is to establish that the Beetle scarab is part of a techno-insectoid collective called the Reach (and they are really reaching when it comes to thinking up original names). The Reach are BAD guys. They "assimilate" locals, turn them into unstoppable monsters, and then "coccoon" entire planets, presumably to eat later. They are a universe-level threat and the only force standing in their way is Starfleet Jedi Knights Sailor Scouts the Green Lantern Corps.

Only, that was then, and this is now. One of their scarabs has been sitting around on Earth waiting for an archaeologist or two to go "Hey, look! A cursed artifact of unknown origin! This belongs in a museum! But I think I'll sell it to the highest-bidding unscrupulous relic dealer instead!"

Actually, it appears to be a feud between a couple of black market types and they've each brought in their own team of third-rate super villains. A huge brawl follows and when it's all said and done, the one still standing with the scarab is... Ted Kord Jaime Reyes.

See, there's another plot going on here and it involves El Paso teenager Jaime Reyes, who just wants to play soccer and go to the quinceanera of the cute girl he has the crush on. You know, the girl with the rich aunt who's in the black market artifact-selling business. Reyes was the previous Blue Beetle reboot, and is now being re-rebooted. I'm sure that the Ted Kord fans would have preferred it if he'd just been plain booted. But no such luck. There's an explosion and the backpack containing the scarab literally falls out of the air into the car that Reyes is riding in. One thrown knife later and scarab-mania is about to run wild, but unfortunately we're out of time, so tune in for issue 2.

Okay, this actually wasn't terrible. Well, the opening scene really WAS terrible, but it got better. Reyes has generic teen issues, but the book introduced a pretty multifaceted cast of supporting characters. And while I'm iffy about any villain that shares a name with a toothbrush, the Reach have the potential to be a fairly interesting cosmic-level threat at some future point. Their technology certainly provides some nice visuals, and its ability to shift and reassemble provides a nice counter for the constructs of the Green Lantern rings.

And I also liked the portrayal of Reyes in his first action scene, where loyalty to his friend gave him the courage to act. Comics could use more heroes who act heroic.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Batwoman #1

Getting down to the last of my #1's. I think I only have two more (I only bought the titles I was interested in, not the entire 52).

Title: Batwoman
Issue: 1
Date: November 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: J. H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman
Artist: J. H. Williams III
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Todd Klein
Editor: Janelle Asselin, Mike Marts

With so many of the DC relaunch books doing introductory issues that served only to establish the bare bones of the rebooted character with barely any advancement of plot (Supergirl, Suicide Squad, and Justice League were particularly blatant examples of this), it was refreshing to find a "New 52" debut issue that was absolutely loaded with plots and subplots.

DC had a hit on its hands with Batwoman as done by this creative team and they wisely decided not to fix what wasn't broke (why couldn't they have followed that line of thinking with Harley Quinn's costume? Or with Amanda Waller in general?). So this book dives right into the action with much of the supporting cast from the previous version of the book, along with some new additions.

The villain in this issue is also pretty interesting, a malevolent spirit associated with drownings who targets children. It'll be interesting to see Batwoman taking on a supernatural foe, and I could see that being pushed as a theme in this title among the Bat-books.

Also on the supernatural child-abduction is Gotham detective Maggie Sawyer. You might remember her heading up the Special Crimes Unit in Metropolis in a long run of Superman books. She's quickly established as a new potential love interest for Kate Kane in a scene that also establishes Renee Montoya as presumed dead (Yeah, right.). This was actually a really well-played scene with good dialogue and use of artwork. Definitely my favorite moment in the book.

On top of all that, there is a subplot involving Mr. Bones (From Infinity Inc. Remember him?) and the Department of Extranormal Operations, interactions with Kate Kane's father and with the Batman, and Kate training her niece (formerly Firebird) as her new sidekick.

Basically, there was a lot going on here and it all looked great, and it was mostly pretty intriguing. Unlike a lot of the new DC titles, this book didn't try to hold the reader's hand. It just jumped right in and got things moving.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, October 28, 2011

Deep Suit

Here's a minicomic we picked up at MICE 2010.

Title: Deep Suit
Date: 2010
Publisher: Jam Jar
Writer: Benjamin Doane
Artist: Benjamin Doane

Half-sized b/w minicomic.

A hero in a diving suit seeks out a lost spyglass and a treasure of orange marmalade on the zombie-infested sea floor of a flooded Earth. And the statue that keeps watch on the hero's ship is being decidedly unhelpful.

This is some good sureal fun with a little dash of political satire in the opening scene. The plot jumps around quite a bit, but there are so many oddball scenes that come out of left field that I wasn't really feeling the lack of explanation.

Rating: 6.5/10

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Suicide Squad #1

Still making my way through the New 52's issue #1's.

Title: Suicide Squad
Issue: 1
Date: November 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Adam Glass
Artist: Frederico Dallocchio, Ransom Getty, Scott Hanna
Colorist: Val Staples
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Sean Mackiewicz, Pat McCallum

I don't have a gripe with Harley Quinn's new costume. I mean, it does make her look more like a prostitute than a superheroine, but it isn't any worse than half the female characters in mainstream comics. Bleach the outfit and you've basically got Emma Frost.

But I do think the costume change is a pretty idiotic decision by the powers-that-be at DC comics. The classic Harley Quinn costume is incredibly popular with cosplayers (take a look around any major convention and you'll usually see several Harley Quinns), and it seems like a waste to not support that popularity.

What I DO object to is the new look for Amanda Waller. "The Wall" was one of the best female characters in comics, someone who was tough enough to face down the Batman without any powers of her own. The fact that she was middle-aged and overweight was a refreshing change from pretty much every other female character in the DCU. Well, the new version of Amanda only appears on one panel in this issue, but she's got the exact same body type as well, I would assume it's the same body type that the marketing department feels in necessary to keep the 14-to18-male demographic reading.

Younger Superman with an attitude? I can live with that. Emphasis on the warrior side of Wonder Woman? Okay. Barbara Gordon back as Batgirl? Controversial, but I'm at least willing to give it a try. Catwoman/Batman sex scene? Well, hopefully not in every issue, but at least it fits the vibe of a Catwoman book. And as I said, I can even overlook the stupidity of the new Harley Quinn costume. But mess with The Wall? You just lost a reader. This will be my last review of the new Suicide Squad.

But as it turns out, I don't think I'm going to be missing much. This entire issue was an extended torture sequence involving the captured members of the Squad. Actually, it could be argued that it's the readers who are being tortured, especially since the "surprise" twist at the end of the issue can be seen from a mile away.

Anyway, there is a little bit of background on some of the characters about how they were captured (Harley got taken down by Black Canary; well actually Harley just kinda surrendered to Canary). The other characters who get the spotlight are Deadshot and El Diablo (a Latino fire-elementalist guy, not the DC hero from the late 80s of the same name). Sadly we didn't get to see how King Shark got arrested and tried. That at least might have been some good comic relief ("Candygram!").

And that's it. Torture. (Not) Surprise plot twist. Amanda Waller is skinny. The end.

If this book was a member of the team, I'd be hoping they'd detonate the bomb implant right about now.

Rating: 3/10

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Batman And Robin #1

Title: Batman And Robin
Issue: 1
Date: November 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Peter J Tomasi
Penciler: Patrick Gleason
Inker: Mick Gray
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Patrick Brosseau
Editor: Harvey Richards, Mike Marts
Cover: Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray

Introductory sequence introduces the new villain, Nobody (talk about a name with some epic potential!). Nobody can be best summed up by the words Tom Baker used to describe the monsters in an old Dr. Who episode: Big, bad, and invisible. Kudos to the art team of Gleason, Gray, and Kalisz for their handling of a really challenging opening fight scene. It still took me two readings before I figured out exactly what was going on, but I'm impressed they managed to successfully get it across at all.

From there it's off to (stately!) Wayne Manor and the Batman, who unfortunately has to share half the billing in this book with Damian Wayne. Damian manages to be both a liability AND a complete jerk for the entire book, which is just about par for the course for this character.

The problem here isn't so much the writing as the basic concept. And I freely admit that there are probably readers who love Damian. Those people probably also think Hit Girl is pretty awesome. I guess I'm old fashioned. Children as cold-blooded killers don't do much for me. Or maybe it's because I work with real teenagers in my day job. Heck, I didn't even like the Cassandra Cain version of Batgirl (Wonder where she'll show up in the DCNU? Teen Titans villain, maybe?).

So the writer isn't doing anything more than following precedent. Damian Wayne's unique talent for being both lethal and incredibly annoying is quickly becoming established tradition.

There are even a couple of decent moments. I already mentioned the opening scene that introduces Nobody. The bit with Damian lying awake on his bed waiting for the call to action was a great visual.

But the second half of the book is a generic takedown of random terrorists trying to steal nuclear material. Aside from the Batman's somewhat amusing solution to keeping the reactor from melting down, the only thing that distinguishes this from any other Batman/Robin brawl is Damian doing his loose cannon routine.

Can we just have Tim Drake back please? I'd ask for Stephanie Brown back (at least she manages to not be a jerk while she's being a liability), but they'd probably just kill her around issue 4.

Rating: 4/10

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wonder Woman #1

Title: Wonder Woman
Issue: 1
Date: November 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Cliff Chiang
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Chris Conroy, Matt Idelson
Cover: Cliff Chiang

Wonder Woman always struck me as a character that DC couldn't quite figure out what to do with. The Batman had his comedic phase in the 1960s when the TV show was popular, but other than that he's always been the "avenging dark knight". Superman was always the "big boy scout".

With Diana it seems you never know what you're going to get. Amazon warrior or pacifist? Is she the naive visitor to "man's world" from her Paradise Island, or is she the only JLA member with the guts to break Max Lord's neck when that was what had to be done? Patriotic symbol or mythological figure? Feminist, or sex-object? Or a bad attempt at both?

Unlike a lot of the DCU, Wonder Woman could really use a reboot, along with an attempt to bring her some coherence and consistency. Now personally, my favorite versions of Wonder Woman have been the George Perez run in the 1980s (emphasis on her pacifist side and really strong on interactions with her supporting cast, which in that series was pretty much the best it has ever been), and the Lynda Carter TV version (which I love in spite of all the goofiness because the character showed wisdom, restraint, and most importantly the sense of humor that is so often lacking in her comic portrayals).

And for the record, I feel that some of the more recent Wonder Woman comic stories have been among the worst I've read in recent years (must avoid ranting about Genocide...).

So I approached this book with some trepidation, having heard that it would emphasize the warrior side of Diana and that it would be heavily based in Greek mythology. That's not necessarily the direction I was hoping they would go.

But as it turned out, the first issue a pleasant surprise that showed some good potential.

Opening scene involved a villain, a demigod (literally; he's a son of Zeus). He's hanging out atop the world's tallest building, which for some reason in the DCU is located in Singapore and not Dubai. Anyway, there's some small-talk with some women, followed by some throwing of women off of the aforementioned world's tallest building. That was how I was able to figure out the guy was a villain.

Fortunately, this does get better, although not before we have some gratuitous equine decapitation. Now THAT was a phrase that I didn't expect to be writing on this blog. It actually leads to a gruesome, but at least clever sequence where a pair of centaur assassins are conjured using the bodies of the just-slain horses.

The assassins, as it turns out are after a woman named Zola and her child (fetus, actually; DC Comics apparently favors the Mississippi definition of personhood). Hermes has just arrived to protect her, but she's not actually all that thrilled with a strange blue-skinned dude breaking into her house to warn her of her impending assassination. But just as things get out of hand, Hermes tosses her the magical key of teleportation and she ends up in Diana Prince's bedroom (Wonder Woman sleeps naked btw, just in case anyone was curious, and DC was hoping you were).

Now it's Diana's turn to be not amused by an uninvited guest.

And then it actually gets pretty good. No, really. I realize I've been mocking this issue pretty mercilessly up to now, but I loved the interaction between Zola and Diana. The action sequence that followed was excellent. A bit more gory than might be expected from a Wonder Woman book, but we are in Amazon warrior mode here so it works. And the scene that followed with Zola, Diana, and Hermes was really solid too. Ending bit brought us back to the opening scene and some generic prophesy, but the good of the second half of this book really overshadowed the bad.

And Cliff Chiang's artwork helped a lot. It's a slightly more stylized look than most of the new DC titles, but it really fits the mythological feel of the book and Chiang's action sequences are crisp and powerful.

Rating: 7.5/10

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Batman: The Dark Knight #1

Back to the New 52. Still working my way through first issues.

Title: Batman: The Dark Knight
Issue: 1
Date: November 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Paul Jenkins, David Finch
Penciler: David Finch
Inker: Richard Friend
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Editor: Mike Marts, Rickey Purdin
Cover: David Finch, Richard Friend, Alex Sinclair

You know the line in Austin Powers where Dr. Evil gives up on making a creative plan for world domination and just says "The hell with it. Let's just do what we always do and hijack a nuclear weapon."?

This book felt a lot like that. No original ideas? No problem. Let's just do what we always do and have a mass breakout from Arkham Asylum. That always works.

In the lead-up, we get a little bit of narrated monologue on the nature of fear, followed by a scene of Bruce Wayne doing his playboy/philanthropist gig. Two long-term complications are introduced right off the bat (Bat! Get it! Never mind...). First there's a Gotham internal affairs detective who's got his sights set on Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon. Then we have Jaina Hudson, a possible new love interest, who's flirting more than a bit outrageously at first sight.

From there it's mayhem at Arkham, and as usual, it doesn't matter how many cops you've got. The only way to restore order is to have the Batman lead the charge fists-flying. Oh, and in the midst of it, there's some random villainess in what is basically a Playboy bunny outfit who manages to strike pretty much the most sexist pose possible while dodging bullets. But that's not who the Batman is going after. He's heading straight into the heart of darkness to find Two-Face before he gets... Oops too late. Harvey Dent has been redrawn by way of the Rob Liefeld School Of Excessive Muscles.

The two new supporting cast members seemed decent. Everything else here has been done before. Only a lot better.

Rating: 4/10