Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lunch Hour Comix: SPX Preview Edition

Dug this one out of the backlog pile.

Title: Lunch Hour Comix: SPX Preview Edition
Date: 2004
Publisher: Alternative Comics
Writer: Robert Ullman
Artist: Robert Ullman

Eight-page quarter-sized minicomic released as a promo at the SPX convention. This is an autobiographical comic that does a nice job of using a couple of vignettes in a very limited amount of pages to paint a portrait of the narrator. The situations involve reflections on the nature of seasonal and long-term depression, a meeting with an old friend, and dealing with a bird trapped in the house.

As might be expected, there is not much resolution of plot, given the small page count, but it's a nice introduction with a fun geeky vibe.

Rating: 6.5/10

Monday, February 27, 2012

Action Comics #421

Here's an oddity from the 1970s that I picked up today at the South Attleboro Collectibles Show, which capped off my attending four conventions in eight days (Queen City Kamikaze, Boskone, Totalcon, South Attleboro Collectibles Show).

Title: Action Comics
Issue: 421
Date: February 1973
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Cary Bates, Elliot Maggin
Artist: Curt Swan, Murphy Anderson, Sal Amendola, Dick Giordano
Editor: Julius Schwartz

Let me guess? This is a tribute, right? Or maybe it's just a coincidence that Superman happens to be going up against a bald musclebound sailor who just happens to gain super strength by eating a special green vegetable? No, really, it's called "sauncha" (hey, that is several letters off from spinach!).

Interestingly, when you google "sauncha", the first entry that comes up is Wikipedia's page on "Captain Strong".

The story is also a bit on the mean-spirited side in the sense that sauncha affects Captain Strong as an addictive drug. He's well-intentioned, and presented as more of a victim than a bad guy, but it was still an unexpected tack if the intention was to pay tribute to Popeye. And it was played a bit too seriously for it to be treated as a spoof.

The story itself is pretty straightforward. Superhero fanboy Billy Anders is trapped in a collapsed building. When the door is busted in, he expects Superman to be the one to rescue him. Instead, it's Captain Strong. Billy tells the story to Clark Kent, while Strong tries to make a deal to sell the secret of his mysterious sauncha vegetable to a greedy businessman. When the food executive tries to doublecross the sailor, Captain Strong shows up looking for revenge (and amped up on a sauncha overdose). Superman arrives and it is ON.

Lots of Silver-Age goofiness, including silly identity-concealing tricks by Clark Kent.

With the weird Popeye ripoff going on, this had me scratching my head more than anything else. It is certainly an interesting curiosity piece.

The backup story featured Green Arrow. Dinah Lance is getting set to open her new flower shop ("Pretty Bird Flower Shoppe"; sorry, guys, "Sherwood Florist" was a much better name). After meeting an obnoxious press agent while saving a theater audience from a forest, Oliver Queen decides that he might just have a future as a publicist. After all, he can out-obnoxious just about anyone. So he promises Dinah that he's going to get her shop on the front page of the local paper.

Then he just has to figure out how to do it. The answer comes in the form of a fugitive mob hitman. All Ollie needs to do is to make sure he apprehends the criminal in exactly the right place.

This is a light story where not much really goes wrong. The action is secondary to the romantic comedy vibe between Dinah and Ollie, which is pretty amusing. It helps that Dinah is gorgeous, in spite of her appearing only in small panels on a couple of pages. It also helps that she's not buy into any of Ollie's attempts to turn on the charm.

Trick Arrow Count: Net arrow, bugging device arrow, siren arrow. Ollie also uses one regular arrow. You know, the pointy kind. Sadly, no boxing glove arrow.

Good backup story and a historically interesting (if only in the "how could this not have resulted in a lawsuit?" sense) main story.

Rating: 6.5/10

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Battlestar Galactica: Cylon Apocalypse #1

Here's one from the unread comics backlog. Picked these up a few years ago at a bulk sale when a local comic shop closed.

Title: Battlestar Galactica: Cylon Apcocalypse
Issue: #1
Date: 2007
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Writer: Javier Grillo-Marxuach
Art: Carlos Rafael
Colorist: Carlos Lopez
Letterer: Bill Tortolini
Cover: Jim Starlin, Carlos Rafael

This issue has six different variant covers. I ended up with two of them (pictured here; by Carlos Rafael and Jim Starlin respectively).

This is original-series BSG. Starbuck is a guy and Cylons look like dudes in clunky armor who go around repeating "By your command." I got all nostalgic when the captions on the opening page of this issue ran through the original Battlestar Galactica opening voiceover ("There are those who believe that life here began out there...").

This suffers from the same problem that most movie/TV comics do, which is that no matter how good the art, the characters just don't look "right" because the mental image of the actor is so strong in the mind of any reader who is familiar with the show.

That being said, the book does an admirable job of capturing the overall flavor of the original show.

The plot involves Starbuck and Apollo witnessing Cylon forces attacking and destroying one of their own base stars. Investigation of the wreckage reveals something so dangerous that even the Cylons are determined to destroy it.

This was a good beginning to what could be a pretty interesting story.

Rating: 7.5/10

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Static Shock #4

Title: Static Shock
Issue: 4
Date: February 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Scott McDaniel, John Rozum
Penciler: Scott McDaniel
Inker: Andy Owens
Colorist: Guy Major
Letterer: Dezi Sienty
Editor: Harvey Richards
Cover: Khary Randolph, Emilio Lopez

Villain du jour is Guillotina. Aside from her silly name, her power is that she's covered in razor-sharp scales.

Static has a fun fight with her. As we've seen with this title, Static has a very Spider-Man vibe, cracking jokes while he thinks and improvises his way to victory. The only problem with this scene is that is has basically been done in each of the three previous issues. It's still fun, but it feels a bit meaningless.

We get some transitional scenes that keep subplots in motion without any real progress, and then it's back to brawling.

Unfortunately, Static seems to forget all of the tactical savvy he'd been using up to now, and just gets captured in short order to set up the rather cliched cliffhanger.

The problem with writing a comic that is fun is that sometimes it needs to have some originality here. This felt like the writers were running short on ideas and were just repeating what they had done previously.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, February 24, 2012

Justice League Dark #4

Title: Justice League Dark
Issue: 4
Date: February 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colorist: Ulises Arreola
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Editor: Rex Ogle
Cover: Ryan Sook

Four issues and and the team is still being assembled.

At least the heroes were acting a bit more heroic this time around, although Zatanna continues to be pretty much useless in every situation. Deadman, surprisingly, is actually pretty effective. Constantine is a jerk, as usual, but at least he's staying in character.

This issue also gave some attention to Madame Xanadu's personal problems, interspersed with occasional glimpses of mayhem that the Enchantress is causing, which seem strangely out of place. I felt like we needed to see some news reports or at least some more extended reactions to all of this random horror that is being inflicted on the world. Instead, it feels like Milligan is just brainstorming shocking ideas and presenting a few panels of each without follow-up (Look! Children turning evil and stabbing their caretakers! Look! People being driven insane by banal music that they hear in their heads! Look! Mass murder at the mall!). The reader is meant to be shocked by the images, but not to actually spend time contemplating the long-term repercussions of these events, because we need to get back to assembling the team to defeat the Enchantress.

Can we just assemble to team, already?

Better issue than the last couple, but STILL operating way below potential.

Rating: 5/10

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Superman #4

Continuing to make my way through the #4's.

Title: Superman
Issue: 4
Date: February 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: George Perez
Artist: Jesus Merino
Colorist: Brian Buccellato, Brett Smith
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Editor: Will Moss, Matt Idelson
Cover: George Perez, Brian Buccellato

No massive battle this time. Instead, the pattern gets broken for the sake of a transitional issue focusing mostly on the supporting cast.

And that is a good thing. The supporting cast, especially Daily Planet and Galaxy Broadcasting staff, are getting their chance to shine, or at least to develop some individual personalities, and there are plenty of good workplace intrigue subplots happening. We also see some storyline progress made on Superman's evolving relationship with the Metropolis Police Department and the mayor's office. And there is also the problems that Clark is having with keeping his cover stories straight.

Eventually, the three alien elemental creatures from the previous three issues do return, setting up a cliffhanger which continues the silver-age feel that this series has had from the beginning. Some of the actual details seem a bit arbitrary (Bugs. Why did it have to be bugs?), but all in all it builds nicely toward what will probably be the climax of this plotline next issue.

Rating: 6.5/10

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Detective Comics #4

Title: Detective Comics
Issue: 4
Date: February 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Tony Salvador Daniel
Penciler: Tony Salvador Daniel
Inker: Sandu Florea
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Katie Kubert, Harvey Richards, Mike Marts
Cover: Tony Salvador Daniel, Tomeu Morey

When I did my review of last issue, I said that this title needed to show some improvement if I was going to keep spending my money on it.

Well, it did improve. This conclusion to the Dollmaker storyline spent a lot of time explaining and filling in gaps, and it spent a lot of time setting up future plotlines, and it did all of that fairly smoothly.

The Batman came off looking strong (as did Bullock and Gordon), and the stage is now set for the return of one the classic Batman rogues. Dollmaker is also still available as a future threat, and a number of smaller plot threads have potential to grow into major stories.

This didn't completely make up for the nonsense that preceded it, but it was a big help.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Aquaman #4

Title: Aquaman
Issue: 4
Date: February 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciler: Ivan Reis
Inker: Joe Prado, Eber Ferreira
Colorist: Rod Reis
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano
Editor: Sean Mackiewicz, Pat McCallum
Cover: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Rod Reis

Aquaman and Mera have a debate about the morals of wiping out an entire species. Arthur seems to be on the side that says even a species with a dumb a name as the Trench deserves to live. Mera points out all the issues involved: voracious appetites, preferences for human flesh, natural food supply has run out, etc.

It's starting to look like this actually could be a real dilemma. Until Aquaman, in the grip of the Trench Queen (no, really), decides that now would not be a good time for philosophy, and sets of a volcanic eruption resulting in the genocide that was pretty much the only way this was possibly going to end.

Oh, and while this was going on, Mera is off hauling the captive humans to safety because she's not the one with her name on the title of the book. And because she's a girl.

It was obvious where this was going, and I'm probably being a bit harsh in the above assessment. The pacing was solid. Aquaman and Mera's dialogue continues to be good. The conclusion was feel-good (almost to the point of ridiculousness, but it worked for me).

And the art was awesome, especially on the Trench Queen.

Still, considering that the Trench were hyped as the most shocking new villains in the relaunch, they certainly have not made much of an impact. There were some hints that there may be more to this story than appears, but I'm not sure if I'd prefer that or if I'd rather just move on to something else.

Rating: 5.5/10

Monday, February 20, 2012

Chaotic Kiss Book Two

I actually bought this at the Free Comic Book Day festival last year, but since Michelle Pinard was at yesterday's Queen City Kamikaze, I figured I would feature it as today's review. This will be all for convention-related comics from this weekend. I attended Boskone today, but purchased only a couple of prose books. I also got to meet the editors of Fat Girl In A Strange Land, an anthology that debuted this weekend which includes a story I wrote!

Back to the New 52 tomorrow!

Title: Chaotic Kiss
Issue: Book Two
Date: 2012
Publisher: MKT Productions
Writer: Michelle Pinard
Artist: Michelle Pinard

Michelle Pinard's geeky transgendered soap opera returns with more drama, more plot twists, and a lot more geekiness.

It's the geeky elements that are the real fun for me with this book. The intrigue and plot twists are complex and engaging, and writer/artist Michelle Pinard does a great job of incorporating the unique challenges and struggles of her transgendered protagonists in a way that stays hopeful and never gets too angry or preachy.

But it's the geek culture elements that really make me smile when I read Chaotic Kiss. In this issue, we've got a Halloween cosplay ball (complete with a Cinderella-flavored romantic moment), a viewing of Rocky Horror Picture Show ("What the hell does this 'V' mean?" HA!), a video game tournament, and a maid cafe. Plus plenty of cosplay, corsetry, and goth-lolita fashion.

The plot focuses primarily on Yujiko, who is still transitioning and is in an emotionally abusive relationship, and Syd, who decides that even though Halloween is approaching, it's time to play cupid.

Subplots abound, although there was one bit of plot that seemed to get dropped without explanation (a character who was angry with another character, and then things were normal between them without explanation; small in the overall scheme, but it did have me scratching my head).

A lot of the characters in this are rather over-the-top, but that is intentional and very much part of the fun.

This was a thoroughly entertaining follow-up to the first volume and it leaves plenty of story potential for Book 3.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Love Letters to Tokyo from Boston

Queen City Kamikaze was a fun show, and I have a couple of comics to feature from artists who were on hand.

Title: Love Letters to Tokyo from Boston
Date: August, 2008
Publisher: Kristilyn
Writer: Kristilyn Stevenson
Artist: Kristilyn Stevenson

This minicomic collects a series of poetic comics inspired by writer/artist Kristilyn's time living in a small Boston apartment in 2003-2004.

The writing is simple free-verse that suggests haiku, and is nicely loaded with meaning in every word. The first story is a brief scene that takes place at the end of three days of falling snow. The second story involves a sleepless night spent after watching Dawn of the Dead with only a cat for company. The third is a reflection on a freckle and a memory.

Kristilyn's illustration style compliments the simplicity and the emotion of her words. This was touching and fun.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Batgirl #4

Another DC issue for tonight. I'll be heading to Queen City Kamikaze tomorrow and to Boskone on Sunday, so I may pick up some comics to review at those shows.

Title: Batgirl
Issue: 4
Date: February 2012
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

It took a few issues, but this one finally gets it right.

Opening dream sequence was effective, tying in nicely with the current ongoing plot while also filling in some background and giving insights into Barbara's emotional state.

This was followed up with a good scene between Barbara and her roommate that finally felt like a natural interaction. Then Barbara gets to win one. Okay, so it was a jobber squash of some muggers, but it was necessary. And it also featured one of the cleverest little details I've seen in a while: A batman-tracking smartphone app in use by the criminals (and it actually made pretty decent sense and even hinted at a possible future villain).

Then the final confrontation with Mirror, which saw Barbara use some downright nasty psychological tactics in a fight where she was physically outmatched.

Ending surprise came out of left field, but after a bunch of really good scenes I'm not complaining. This is the level of quality that this series really needed to start out on, but I'll definitely accept it as better late than never.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, February 17, 2012

Action Comics #4

Title: Action Comics
Issue: 4
Date: February 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Grant Morrison, Sholly Fisch
Penciler: Rags Morales, Brad Walker
Inker: Rick Bryant, Sean Parsons, Brad Walker
Colorist: Brad Anderson, Jay David Ramos
Letterer: Patrick Brosseau, Carlos M. Mangual
Editor: Wil Moss, Matt Idelson
Cover: Rags Morales, Brad Anderson

In the midst of a full-scale robot invasion, the people of Metropolis begin to realize that Superman is one of the good guys. I particularly liked Clark's reaction to the police who try to arrest him (As a huge robot looms over them: "Slap on the bracelets, boys. Otherwise, stand back and let me do my job.").

The alien force behind the robot invasion is the same force that "collected" Kandor. Now it's grabbing a significant chunk of Metropolis (including Lois Lane). Meanwhile Superman has his own problems in the form of John Wayne Corben AKA Metallo.

But Superman has some backup too. As it turns out, Corben isn't the only guy named John who can put on a suit of armor.

Steel gets the backup feature, and his introduction is handled in short-and-sweet style that integrates nicely into the overall plot. And references back to the original tale of John Henry are always fun in Steel's stories.

Rating: 7.5/10

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Robotech: The Macross Saga #23

Nostalgia time! While I was a Marvel fan as a kid, this was the first comic series I seriously collected when I got into comics again after high school.

Title: Robotech: The Macross Saga
Issue: 23
Date: November 1987
Publisher: Comico
Writer: Markalan Joplin
Penciler: Mike Leeke
Inker: Mike Chen
Letterer: Bob Pinaha
Editor: Maggie Brenner
Cover: Mike Leeke, Mike Chen

Comic adaptation of the English-language TV adaptation of the Macross anime.

We open in the midst of a full-scale Zentraedi attack on Macross City, but it's quickly revealed that there is more going on here than meets the eye. In the midst of the chaos, Zentraedi are attempting to defect to the Micronian (human) side.

Meanwhile Rick Hunter walks in on Minmei and Kyle in an awkward moment. Melodrama ensues.

The second half of the book is almost all dialogue (there is one brief battle toward the end), and this is where the strengths of this series really come through. There is some pretty intense political intrigue and maneuvering going on both on the Zentraedi side and the human side. There is also a great scene between Lisa Hayes and Rick Hunter as they discuss past and present loves (all the while dancing around the topic of their own feeling for each other) over tea. What really makes this scene work is that it is given plenty of time, so the conversation flows naturally. The small talk develops the characters and deepens the backgrounds of the supporting cast, while it builds up the romantic tension between Rick and Lisa. This was as good a "quiet" scene as I've seen done in comics.

Nice mix of space-opera and soap-opera.

Rating: 7.5/10

I'm selling my copy of this comic here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Justice League #4

Continuing with the DC #4's.

Title: Justice League
Issue: 4
Date: February 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciler: Jim Lee
Inker: Scott Williams
Colorist: Alex Sinclair, Gabe Eltaeb
Letterer: Patrick Brosseau
Editor: Darren Shan, Brian Cunningham
Cover: Jim Lee, Alex Sinclair, Scott Williams

There are really three things going on here. First is the introduction of Aquqman, who basically takes the attitude that someone has got to be the leader of the rather disorganized team of heroes that have banded together to fight the parademon invasion. And, well, he's the only one who's a king, so it might as well be him.

Green Lantern (still acting like an idiot) issues the "Really? What can you do that we can't?" challenge. The answer is a resounding "Talk to fish!" in the form of great white sharks jumping out of the water and nom-nom-nom-ing some parademons. Which is actually not all that impressive when you think about it. Lanter, Superman, or Wonder Woman could have done the same amount of damage with less effort and no endangered species in the line of fire. Still, the sharks plus Aquaman putting a trident through the head of a parademon prove sufficient to win at least a grudging acceptance.

In the midst of all of this is an attempt at comedy when Lantern just happens to "accidentally" have his hand on Wonder Woman's lasso and becomes a bit more truthful than he might have liked to be. So Lantern is consistently a sexist jerk. Yay for consistency, I suppose.

The other two big plotlines are the continuing origin of Cyborg, which is going about how you would expect, and the arrival of Darkseid, which is, well, big. As in two-page- turn-the-comic-sideways big. Nice job of making him impressive, but it will be next issue before he does anything more than announce his name.

Goofy fun, but this issue leaned a bit too heavily on the goofy side.

Rating: 5.5/10

New 52 Recap #3

Here is my latest recap of DC Comics' New 52 line. I'm covering the issue #3's today. My previous recaps are here and here.

Here is the list of New 52 titles I stuck with through three issues, in order of their issue #3 ratings:

Wonder Woman #3 (8)
Batwoman #3 (7.5)
Static Shock #3 (7.5)
Action Comics #3 (7)
Justice League #3 (7)
Swamp Thing #3 (7)
Batman: The Dark Knight #3 (7)
Aquaman #3 (6.5)
Batman #3 (6.5)
Nightwing #3 (6.5)
Animal Man #3 (6)
Batgirl #3 (5.5)
Birds of Prey #3 (5.5)
Superman#3 (5.5)
Batman And Robin #3 (4.5)
DC Universe Presents (Deadman) #3 (4.5)
Detective Comics #3 (4)
Justice League Dark #3 (3.5)
Suicide Squad #3 (3)

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

Batwoman (7.50)
Wonder Woman (7.50)
Batman (7.33)
Static Shock (7.33)
Action Comics (7.17)
Aquaman (7)
Swamp Thing (7)
Animal Man (6.67)
Birds of Prey (6.17)
Justice League (6.17)
Nightwing (6.17)
Superman (6.17)
Detective Comics (5.83)
Batman: The Dark Knight (5.67)
DC Universe Presents (Deadman) (5.50)
Batgirl (5.33)
Justice League Dark (5.00)
Batman And Robin (4.00)
Suicide Squad (3.00)

Biggest Rating Increase From Issue 1: Batman: The Dark Knight (+3.0)
Biggest Rating Decrease From Issue 1: Justice League: Dark (-4.0)

Here is the list of titles that I have purchased a Fourth 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
Swamp Thing
Wonder Woman

Titles Dropped After Issue #3:

Suicide Squad


I'm still quite a bit behind the current releases of these books as far as my reading goes, so a lot of my decisions to keep or drop a title are done on a "benefit of the doubt" basis. Starting after issue #6, I plan on paring my pull list down to what will likely be a stable level for a while. I bought 15 #4's. There's one title in there (Batman And Robin), which is very likely to be dropped unless it improved drastically. I also may consider revisiting Nightwing, which actually improved a bit from the first issue. I dropped it after #3, but I don't rule out picking up #4 as a back issue if I get a chance. Suicide Squad, on the other hand is staying dropped. It was remarkably consistent, earning a 3/10 in three consecutive reviews from me.

Here are some other titles that are "on the bubble" for when I make the cuts after the #6's:

Aquaman: Great start, but has gotten progressively less interesting with each issue.

Animal Man and Swamp Thing: I'm grouping these two former Vertigo titles together because I'm having the same problem with both of them. The do a nice job of recapturing the flavor of their Vertigo runs, but the feeling I'm getting is nostalgia and not much more than that. Both titles are good, but I keep waiting to see something that feels really original in them.

Batgirl: There have been signs of improvement, but probably not enough to keep me reading.

Batman And Robin: As mentioned above, pretty consistently bad. Likely drop.

Batman: The Dark Knight, Birds of Prey, Justice League: Weak starts, but steady improvement. Could be keepers if they continue to get better.

Detective Comics: Opposite direction. Started good and has gone downhill.

DC Universe Presents: Probably will be dropped after the Deadman run concludes, unless the next feature is really interesting to me (I know it's been announced, but I don't remember what it is; it wasn't something that sounded exciting from the description).

Justice League Dark: I keep hoping for this to be good. So far it has been okay in its best moments and absolutely awful in its worst.

Nightwing: As mentioned above, considering giving it another shot.

Static Shock: Well, this one is canceled after #8, and I've heard that I've heard a fair amount of negative comments on it. I still loved the first three issues, and I think I'm going to plan on reading it to the end of it's run, but I reserve the right to drop it if it turns horrible.

Superman: Leaning toward keeping it.

That puts Action Comics, Batman, Batwoman, and Wonder Woman in the almost-definitely-keep category.

I've already started reviewing the #4's and I'm slowly making progress on catching up to the more current issues.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Batman #4

Slowly catching up on the DC backlog. Today I start the #4's.

Title: Batman
Issue: 4
Date: February 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Scott Snyder
Penciler: Greg Capullo
Inker: Jonathan Glapion
Colorist: FCO
Letterer: Richard Starkings, Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Editor: Katie Kubert, Harvey Richards, Mike Marts
Cover: Greg Capullo, FCO

Dick Grayson visits the Batcave, concerned that the Batman has been pushing himself too hard on the Court of Owls case. Interestingly, Bruce is the skeptical one. He is not convinced that the Court is real, even after finding evidence that they have been active for centuries. Dick and Jim Gordon are open to the possibility.

Why is Bruce unconvinced? Well, the answer is revealed in an incident from Bruce's childhood, right after the deaths of his parents. It might be considered his first attempt at detective work and it turned into a hard lesson and one that the boy who would become the Batman never forgot.

The flashback seemed a bit contrived, but it still held my interest as most additions to the origin story do. It's interesting how writers always seem to come up with gaps in the Batman's past that are in need of stories.

Other than the flashback scene, this issue was mostly transitional, bridging the gap between the closing peril of last issue and some new imperilment to end this one. The interaction between Bruce and Dick seemed a little bit forced. And the action consisted mainly of the Court being one step ahead of the Batman in the way that ancient and powerful conspiracies often are.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, February 13, 2012

Batman And Robin #3

Title: Batman And Robin
Issue: 3
Date: January 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Peter J Tomasi
Penciler: Patrick Gleason
Inker: Mick Gray
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Patrick Brosseau
Editor: Harvey Richards, Katie Kubert, Mike Marts
Cover: Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, John Kalisz

Bruce Wayne is busy upgrading the Wayne Manor defenses (like THAT is going to help), and he's not letting Damian go out on patrol (which actually would have been a good idea if he'd done that from the start).

He's also bought Damian a dog, and Damian is getting repeatedly outwitted by Alfred.

Eventually, Damian heads out anyway, lays a severe beatdown on a couple of muggers, and then gets mugged himself by Nobody (AKA Morgan; can you explain to me again why the we know the identity of a villain named Nobody?).

The Batman shows up, mayhem occurs and we end with Batman and Robin waking up locked in a junk car in an abandoned drive-in theater. No, really! The only thing missing was a narrator to tell us to tune in "Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel!"

This was a lot better than the previous two issues, mostly due to Alfred, who was awesome in all the right ways.

Unfortunately, the attempt to humanize Damian is handled in a clunky and inconsistent way. The boy-assassin is suddenly hesitant when Nobody tells him to go ahead and finish off one of the muggers. Sorry, not buying it. Not the way it was handled here. Accusing Nobody of "cold-blooded murder" is just about the most idiotically out-of-character line that Damian could possibly be saddled with. I realize the objective is to get Damian to be one of the good guys, but it needs to be done in a way that is consistent with the character as established.

Some improvements here. Still a long way to go.

And did I mention that Damian is still annoying?

Rating: 4.5/10

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Batwoman #3

Back to the New 52. Closing in on the last of the #3's!

Title: Batwoman
Issue: 3
Date: January 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: J. H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman
Artist: J. H. Williams III
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Todd Klein
Editor: Harvey Richards, Rickey Purdin, Mike Marts

Batwoman takes on the Weeping Woman in the Weeping Woman's own element. As one might imagine, that doesn't go well. To make matters worse, when Batwoman does manage to avoid drowning, she walks right into the hands of Cameron Chase and a team of feds. Oh, and she has to ditch her planned date with Maggie Sawyer.

Artist J. H. Williams III continues to excel in design, with some of the most interesting panel layouts in mainstream comics. There is always something going on in the art in this title, and the dialogue is excellent as well. A confrontation between Kate Kane's father and Cameron Chase was excellent (in spite of misusing the term "enlisted"; maybe we could get a military-jargon-checker?).

The only real weak spot in this is the relationship between Batwoman and Flamebird, which seems forced (and forced in a not-boding-well direction for Flamebird). Other than that, this was solid. Good advancement of multiple plots, good dialogue, and a a really nice tender romantic scene with Kate and Maggie ("If you're going through hell, keep going."; nice!).

Rating: 7.5/10

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lost Nova: Rabbit And Fox

This is a comic I purchased at Gobble-Con back in November.

Title: Lost Nova: Rabbit And Fox
Publisher: Lost Nova
Writer: Stephanie B.
Artist: Stephanie B.

Set in a world of seafaring elves (17th-18th century technology; and reminiscent of New England in that era), Lost Nova begins with a young girl found washed up on a beach, wrapped in a cloak. Pyrena is taken in by a local tavern owner and grows up in a trading and fishing town.

But when a sullen halver (slang for a half-elf, I am assuming) takes an interest in Pyrena's origins, Pyrena's own longing to learn the secrets of her past sets her on the road to adventure.

This is a print edition of the webcomic of the same name, and I loved the pacing of this story. It is given time to breathe. There are a lot of wordless panels and they are used to great effect to convey the details of the world and the emotions of the characters.

And those characters immediately come across as reasonable people. Shades of grey (metaphorically; the book is in full color!), rather than straight-up heroes and villains.

Since the story does take its time, there weren't huge numbers of plot developments or twists in this issue, but I really didn't mind. There was enough to introduce the world and the characters and to get the story moving, and writer/artist Stephanie B. does a great job doing both.

Rating: 8.5/10

Friday, February 10, 2012

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise Part One

Title: Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise
Issue: Part One
Date: January, 2012
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Gene Luen Yang
Artist: Gurihiru
Letterer: Michael Heisler

This is a direct sequel to the Avatar: The Last Airbender animated series, and it takes place after the conclusion of that series. Writer Gene Luen Yang (I gave him an 8.5 for his graphic novel American Born Chinese) has a great feel for the flavor and characters of the show while loading this story with political themes and elements of classic tragedy.

The story focuses on the deadly promise that Ang has made to Zuko, and Zuko's own struggles with the burden of leadership of the Fire Nation. Starting out with the best of intentions to return captured territory to the Earth Nation, Zuko finds himself mired in political problems far more complex than he had anticipated, all while struggling with the creeping paranoia that comes with absolute power.

Meanwhile Ang and Kitara take on the role of peacemakers, but the conflicts that are brewing threaten to turn friend against friend.

The story is accessible, fast-paced, and fun. And the political dilemmas that it presents echo the situations in Israel/Palestine and in post-colonial nations around the world. And Zuko's experiences as ruler are classic Shakespearean tragedy.

This book is a worthy sequel and stands alone quite well. I could take or leave the comic relief portions, but they are in keeping with the flavor of the series and they never get in the way of the more serious elements of the story.

Rating: 8.5/10

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Justice League Dark #3

Title: Justice League Dark
Issue: 3
Date: January 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colorist: Ulises Arreola
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Editor: Rex Ogle
Cover: Ryan Sook

Boy did the pacing on this ever slow to a crawl. Enchantress babbles on the side of a road while Constantine wakes up Zatanna from the coma we left her in last issue. Apparently, that entire scene actually accomplished nothing.

Meanwhile, Deadman describes his actions in the previous issue as "I was a jerk" and then hints that it might not even have been his fault. I'll be sticking with my previous assessment that what he should be saying is "I was an attempted rapist."

But that would probably slow down the plot, wouldn't it?

Not that we're exactly going at a breakneck pace here. Shade tries to contact Deadman and Deadman does the mystical equivalent of sending his call directly to voicemail while June Moone screams, panics, falls off a roof, and requires saving. Because she's a girl, I suppose. I might be a bit harsh with that last point, but seriously, can anyone imagine them actually doing that same reaction with a male character? I can't.

The rest of the book involves Shade tracking down some guy called Mindwarp because he's an out-of-control psycho and therefore would make a great addition to the team. That scene gets as far as "We need to talk."

Then it's back to the Enchantress and just as it looks like she might actually get to do something to June and Deadman, we're done.

I really want to like this title. Really. And I was willing to give another chance even after the nonsense with Deadman last issue. But this issue consisted of that whole thing being brushed off just like I expected it would and, well, pretty much nothing else of consequence. I did enjoy the interaction between Zatanna and Constantine, but otherwise, this issue did not go far in terms of winning me back. Actually, it simply didn't go far at all.

Rating: 3.5/10

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Suicide Squad #3

Title: Suicide Squad
Issue: 3
Date: January 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Adam Glass
Artist: Cliff Richards
Colorist: Val Staples
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Sean Mackiewicz, Pat McCallum
Cover: Ken Lashley

Mad Dog!

Sadly, though, it's Mad Dog repackaged as a generic mercenary/bounty hunter with none of what made the original character (a "home grown" midwestern vigilante) interesting or appealing.

In spite of being in a downtown domed stadium last issue, the team is out in the boondocks. They've got a baby (carrying zombie virus immunity) to protect, but it's pretty much the most cooperative baby of all time, as NONE of the possible problems one might expect from trying to care for a newborn in a dangerous situation actually occur. In fact, the baby is pretty much an afterthought.

Actually, logic and common sense are afterthoughts in this issue as well. The structure of the story is an unnecessary jumble of flashbacks for no apparent reason, as the team counts down to an arbitrary "evac" and wander around town scrounging supplies (evac is only two hours away!) in really bad attempts at "disguise".

Then Mad Dog, who's been sent to recover the baby, decides to blow up a diner with the Squad AND the baby inside.

Oh, and Harley seduces Deadshot in the midst of all of this. Because this story didn't have enough sex, I guess.

Ends with the team being assigned some additional personnel. Except that they spell it "personal". Hey, look, it's an Asian guy named Yo-Yo! Does he play cello? Because that would actually be cool. The other new addition is a classic Suicide Squad regular, and fairly inevitable choice.

Oh, and he's got a handy remote control detonator for everybody's implanted bombs. Because of course that makes a ton of sense.

I could go on, because there was plenty more idiocy in this issue, but I think I'll leave it at that. And I'll be leaving future issues of this series on the shelf, a decision I probably would have been better off making three issues ago.

Rating: 3/10

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Batgirl #3

Title: Batgirl
Issue: 3
Date: January 2012
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

This is basically split into two parts. First up, in something that was a bit reminiscent of the film Speed, Batgirl chases down a subway train carrying a bomb planted by villain Mirror. Barbara tries to out-mindgame mirror, and it works about as well as her attempts to brawl with him, which is to say, not well at all.

Unfortunately, Mirror still comes off as needing all sorts of trumped-up contrivances in order to "outsmart" Batgirl. His overly-complex plans don't actually make much sense, and they only end up working because that's how the plot needs to advance.

The whole train scene is also full of logical flaws from atrocious physics to gaping holes in the continuity. I'm still not exactly sure what happened with the trains.

The second half of the story involves Batgirl in a confrontation with Nightwing. This is a lot better, even if it falls back on some cliches in places. There is some good intensity to their relationship, and I really liked the dynamic between Barbara's need for respect and understanding and Dick's love for her. The brawling was a bit silly in that whole "whenever two superheroes meet they need to fight" sense, but there was enough emotion in the dialogue to give the scene some punch. The use of flashbacks was good too.

Looks like we're done with Mirror after next issue, which is probably about three issues longer than he needed to appear.

Rating: 5.5/10

Monday, February 6, 2012

Animal Man #3

I didn't get another comic to review at Templecon today, so it's back to the New 52.

Title: Animal Man
Issue: 3
Date: January 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Penciler: Travel Foreman
Inker: Travel Foreman
Colorist: Lovern Kindzierski
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Kate Stewart, Joey Cavalieri
Cover: Travel Foreman, Lovern Kindzierski

The pace of the plot picks up in this issue as the Hunters Three launch an all-out attack on the Baker family, both on Earth and in the Red.

The action back home is the more interesting scenario, as Ellen tries to escape from one of the Hunters only to find herself walking into a trap.

Meanwhile in the Red, Buddy meets the Totems (kinda the Red equivalent of the Parlaiment of Trees, or at least that's the vibe I got), and then fights to defend Maxine (who is, rather unfortunately, being referred to as the "Avatar" here) against the remaining two Hunters.

The pacing is good and the visuals are great, but a lot of this feels very familiar. The child savior must fight the war against the forces of the Rot, and Buddy doesn't want his daughter put at risk. And meanwhile, the rest of his family is in jeopardy.

I feel like I'm still waiting for this series to wow me with something really unexpected. Maybe next issue.

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Magic: The Gathering #1

This had a mainstream national release this week, but I did buy my copy from one of the Templecon vendors.

Title: Magic: The Gathering
Issue: 1
Date: December, 2011
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Matt Forbeck
Artist: Martin Coccolo
Colorist: J. Edwin Stevens
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Editor: Carol Guzman, John Barber
Cover: Aleksi Briclot

Okay, fine. I admit it. I bought this for the promo card. I would guess I'm probably not the only one.

Magic: The Gathering has been failing to translate well into comic form since around the release of Ice Age. This is the latest attempt, with the offer spiced up by the addition of an alternate art promo card (in this case, the card is Treasure Hunt, and the artwork on the card is the cover art for the comic).

The lead character here is Dack Fayden, a roguish planeswalker, who seems to be in some sort of trouble pretty much everywhere he goes. In this sense, Dack is a fairly generic loveable rogue, and much of the book is spent with him on the run from various enemies including Ravnica's cult of Rakdos, from whom Dack has just stolen an artifact.

Stealing artifacts is Dack's business, as it turns out, although he describes it as stealing spells. And Dack discovers that this particular artifact holds a link to his own past, and the first clue on a mission of vengeance that Dack had once followed until the trail went cold. Now, the new clue is leading him to (wait for it...) Innistrad.

The story was fast paced, and there were enough hints of depth to Dack that I was left with hope that he might be more than the cliche that is mostly evident here. I was pleased that writer Matt Forbeck generally kept game mechanics out of the story, as there are few things dumber than a game-based comic getting bogged down in game-mechanics references.

The artwork is good mechanically, but the choice to keep everything dark and on multiple pages to use a red wash over everything does more to obscure the art than to enhance the mood.

Overall, this was a reasonable start, and it is possible that a good story can be built out of this.

And the promo card is nice.

Rating: 5.5/10

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sky Pirates of Valendor Series 2 #4

We're at Templecon in Warwick RI this weekend. It's a steampunk and gaming con, so I'm not sure if I'll get much in the way of comics, but there was one major comic release at Templecon: The new issue of Sky Pirates of Valendor from Jolly Rogue Studios!

Title: Sky Pirates of Valendor
Issue: Series 2 #4
Date: 2012
Publisher: Jolly Rogue Studios
Writer: Everett Soares
Penciler: Brian Brinlee
Inker: Alex Rivera
Tones: Jet Amago
Letterer: Steve Kuster
Editor: Amy Haley
Cover: Craig DeBoard

The Prince of Valen has been poisoned, and he's fighting for his life while sky pirates Gearz and Shyni spent most of last issue fighting, well, each other. But now, the Night Razors have decided not to wait to see the outcome of the poisoning. Time for the old frontal assault with half pincer movement.

Up against the horde of assassins (plus one chimera!) is Shyni and Gearz, plus Gun Knight Kirby Kingsman and about 30 redshirts. As it turns out, that's about even odds.

This issue was almost entirely one huge fight scene. And generally it was a pretty good one. It had even had a few little touches that were quite awesome. I love how artist Brinlee delivers the details on Shyni's fighting style, switching knives between two hands and a prehensile tail and making every movement graceful and deadly.

Gearz actually gets the big moment in this, as she takes on the chimera (which actually resembles a manticore) and manages to add some depth to the mystery of her origins as she is upping her ability to dish out damage by several notches.

Some of the fighting is a bit goofy, and in spite of the threat of the chimera, the bad guys really don't ever seem all that effective here, but this is a good scene for showing what the heroes are capable of, especially Gearz. There is action start to finish, and it's all fun.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, February 3, 2012

Superman #3

Title: Superman
Issue: 3
Date: January 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: George Perez
Artist: George Perez, Nicola Scott, Trevor Scott
Colorist: Brian Buccellato, Brett Smith, Blond
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Editor: Will Moss, Matt Idelson
Cover: George Perez, Brian Buccellato

The latest in a series of attacks on Superman involves a sort of ice-elemental with similar powers to the fire-creature of the first issue. This time, however, the human host for the monster is a friend of Clark Kent's, and Superman must risk her life for the sake of saving Metropolis.

Around the battle scene is some intrigue between the staffs of Galaxy Broadcasting and the Daily Planet as Lois Lane must decide whether to run an investigative feature on Superman. It's not quite a J. Jonah Jameson "Threat or Menace?" type of story, but it's not exactly a fluff piece either (and it functions as an introduction/recap for this issue).

There is nothing terrible here, but there is an awful lot of repetition. I'm not sure a major recap was needed. We're only in the third issue. And on a similar note, the threat of the ice-monster is so similar to that of the previous fire-creature from the first issue, that this felt mostly like retreading old ground. The fact that Superman was aware that a person was being possessed by the creature added a bit more dynamic to the fight, but the clear threat to the city made the outcome inevitable.

There are some nice little touches here, including Clark visiting the grave of Ma and Pa Kent, and the supporting cast gets some good additional development, but that still left too much of this issue feeling like just more of the same.

Rating: 5.5/10

Thursday, February 2, 2012

DC Universe Presents #3

Title: DC Universe Presents
Issue: 3
Date: January 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artist: Bernard Chang
Colorist: Blond
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Editor: Wil Moss
Cover: Ryan Sook

Interrogation sequences are boring. You've seen one, you've pretty much seen them all, especially when it's the good guy doing the interrogating. I suppose the main tension is supposed to be in wondering whether the hero is going to "cross the line", but the opening scene of this comic fails even in that. The fallen-angel librarian who Boston Brand has tied up is pretty easily coerced. All he has to do is threaten her precious books. A lame attempt at humor (villains always say the same cliches in these situations) falls flat as well, and we could have saved three pages of this nonsense by simply starting with Brand walking out of the building saying to himself "So, after I got the librarian to talk...".

There's a flashback to a failed past mission of Brand's that is actually pretty good, and there is a generic busting up of an illegal gun deal.

Everything else here is transitional and none of it is particularly interesting.

Rating: 4.5/10

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

January 2012 Stats

I'm trying something a bit different with the monthly stats, since I dropped the ball on them pretty early on in 2012. I'm going to keep this short and focus on stats for this month only, rather than try to do much in the way of cumulative stats.

Let's give it a try!

January 2012

Number of Comics Reviewed: 17

Highest Rated Comics:

Life With Archie #16 (9)
Wonder Woman #3 (8)

Lowest Rated Comics:

Suicide Squad #2 (3)
Batman & Robin #2 (3.5)
Detective Comics #3 (4)

Average Rating For January 2012: 6.382

See you next month, hopefully with more reviews!

Swamp Thing #3

Last review for January!

Title: Swamp Thing
Issue: 3
Date: January 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Yanick Paquette, Victor Ibanez
Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn
Letterer: John J. Hill
Editor: Matt Idelson, Chris Conroy
Cover: Yanick Paquette, Nathan Fairbairn

The cover is a bit of a bait-and-switch, and the opening posturing between Abigail Arcane and Alec Holland is tired and tedious, but the main story in this issue is the introduction of a pretty disturbing new villain, and that story is intense and creepy enough that it nicely covers the infodump that goes along with it.

William, the "boy in the bubble" is allergic to chlorophyll, which means he's pretty much allergic to everything. But his connection to the Rot, by way of the Arcane family might just make him the perfect counterpart to the Swamp Thing.

It's the details that make this work. At it's core, this is just the bullied kid with the secret dark power who gets pushed over the edge. It was done in Carrie, and it was done with Kid Miracleman (done better in both of those cases; but this version is still pretty good). The little bits of dialogue, and the pacing, and the gory details make this a compelling read, and set up what looks to be a really good future confrontation between the Green and the Rot.

Rating: 7/10