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
Batman and Robin*
Batman: The Dark Knight
Birds of Prey
DC Universe Presents (Deadman)
Detective Comics
Justice League Dark
Static Shock
Suicide Squad*
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...



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


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
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
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