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This Week’s Haul

  • Action Comics #858, by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank & Jon Sibal (DC)
  • Countdown to Final Crisis #26 of 52 (backwards), by Paul Dini, Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Keith Giffen & Scott Kolins (DC)
  • Countdown to Adventure #3 of 8, by Adam Beechen, Eddy Barrows & Julio Ferreira, and Justin Gray & Fabrizio Fiorentino (DC)
  • Countdown to Mystery #2 of 8, by Steve Gerber, Justiniano & Walden Wong, and Matthew Sturges & Steven Jorge Segovia (DC)
  • The Death of the New Gods #2 of 8, by Jim Starlin & Matt Banning (DC)
  • Justice Society of America #10, by Geoff Johns, Alex Ross, Dale Eaglesham, Ruy José & Drew Geraci (DC)
  • Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #35, by Tony Bedard & Dennis Calero (DC)
  • Annihilation: Book Two TPB, by Keith Giffen & Renato Arlen, Javier Grillo-Marxuach & Gregory Titus, and Simon Furman & Jorge Lucas (Marvel)
  • Annihilation Conquest: Quasar #4 of 4, by Christos N. Gage, Mike Lilly & Bob Almond (Marvel)
  • Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 by David Petersen (Archaia)
  • The Secret History Book Three: The Grail of Montségur by Jean-Pierre Pécau, Goran Sedzuka & Geto (Archaia)
  • The Secret History Book Four: The Keys of Saint Peter by Jean-Pierre Pécau & Leo Pilipovic (Archaia)
  • The Perhapanauts: First Blood TPB, by Todd Dezago & Craig Rousseau (Dark Horse)
Action Comics #858 Action Comics is continuing the latest weirdness at DC Comics: The “return” of the “original” Legion of Super-Heroes, as prefaced in the awful “Lightning Saga” in JLA and JSA earlier this year. This issue kicks of “Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes”, in which Brainiac 5 sends an automated time bubble back to the 20th century to recruit superman to help with some disaster in 3008. He also fixes Superman’s memory so he remembers the Legion (without explaining why Superman remembered them perfectly clearly in the Lightning Saga), triggering a reminiscence of Supes being recruited into the Legion as a boy. He’s then catapulted forward where he finds that things are in bad shape indeed, and that the rest of the Legion had a really good reason to not want Superman brought into the fray.

I’m not a real big fan of either Geoff Johns or Gary Frank. In Johns’ case, I find his characterizations bland and his stories so even-keeled that one hardly notices when they pass their climactic moment. In Frank’s case, I think it’s mostly his association with the tedious and dull Supreme Power series over at Marvel, and that’s not really his fault. His designs and rendering are actually quite strong, although I wish his characters weren’t so… toothy. Reservations aside, this issue is a fine example of hooking your readers and drawing them in: Why did the Legion vanish from Superman’s life when he became an adult? Why did they contact him now? And how’s he going to get out of this one? The success or failure of this story will primarily rest on answering those questions.

All of this completely shoves aside he question of how this Legion reconciles with the other in-continuity Legions which have been around for the last 15 years, which have all be in-continuity, too. My bet is that most or all of them have been from the futures of parallel Earths, now that we have them back thanks to Infinite Crisis. Which is not a very satisfying answer, but DC’s continuity isn’t exactly about satisfaction these days.

Rachelle has some nice scans of this issue, although she also spoils the cliffhanger at the end, so view at your own risk.

Anyway, if this sounds at all interesting, I would in fact recommend it. The art is nice, Johns does a fine job of recapping who the Legion are and why they’re important without going into the nitty-gritty details that casual readers won’t care about, and like I said it ends on a compelling cliffhanger. Maybe this story will be Johns art his best>?

Countdown to Mystery #2 Three Countdown books this week. Countdown itself has been renamed Countdown to Final Crisis, and the story is mainly a recap of what’s going on. Since the answer is basically “nothing much” you can draw your own conclusions. (There’s some reason to believe that Final Crisis will reboot the DC Universe again. While Crisis on Infinite Earths rebooted things while DC was at its creative apex, a reboot now feels like editorial admitting that things are so screwed up that it’s not salvageable. Which ironically is exactly the opposite message delivered by Infinite Crisis. But nothing DC does these days can really surprise me – I’m that cynical about it.)

Countdown to Adventure is the best of the three, a little on the grim side to my tastes, but at least it’s exciting and the heroes (Adam Strange, Starfire and Animal Man) are likable. The backup story with Forerunner is vaguely interesting since she’s visiting a new parallel Earth, but the use of Dark Angel as the villain is a big snooze.

Countdown to Mystery is somewhere in-between. Steve Gerber’s Doctor Fate is not without interest, although it’s slow and feels like he’s trying to impose some structure onto Fate’s magic, which always seems like it’s just a bad idea when it comes to magic in fiction. So I’m on the fence about it, but it could turn out to be good. The backup story involving Eclipso, however, is just vile: Eclipso corrupts Plastic Man and then sets her sights on the Creeper. It’s borderline-unreadable. Yuck.

Justice Society of America #10 Geoff Johns is a busy guy – I may not be his biggest fan, but I sure can’t complain about his work ethic. After last issue’s prologue, this issue launches full-on into “Thy Kingdom Come”, in which the Kingdom Come Superman from Earth-22 is pulled into Earth-1. He resembles Power Girl’s late cousin, leaving her confused and disappointed, and Starman knows him, having been to Earth-22 for the events of Kingdom Come. This Superman is pretty messed up, having seen a lot of death and destruction on his world, much of it due directly or indirectly to him, and he feels responsible even for that which he wasn’t responsible for. This could play out any of several different ways, and I hope Johns surprises us rather than ending the story with a silly “Superman on a rampage” fight.

The real potential of this story is that it could make the JSA matter again. The JSA has felt for a long time like a team whose time is long since past, and the array of bland writers and artists who have been helming the book for the last ten years haven’t helped. Just because the team has multiple generations of heroes doesn’t mean it’s anything more than a generic superhero book. (Contrast with the 1970s revival of All-Star Comics, which is the finest example of multigenerational superheroes I’ve yet seen.) It would only take a little adventurousness to give this JSA series some depth and feeling, and the KC Superman could give it that.

Incidentally, I’ve given penciller Dale Eaglesham the short shrift when talking about this series: His simple linework is winning me over: His facial expressions are getting stronger with every issue, and unlike many artists he draws full backgrounds, making it feel like his characters are inhabiting a fully-realized world. This issue opens with a full-page panel with Power Girl, Cyclone and Ma Hunkel, and Cyclone’s expression is just perfect. It’s followed by a double-page spread with Superman and the original JSAers in their meeting room, and it’s equally powerful. Later on, there’s another nearly-full-page panel of Superman’s first public appearance, and while the focus is entirely on Superman, the backgrounds are fully-rendered and the composition is great. While Eaglesham’s style isn’t entirely to my taste, I definitely have to applaud him for putting so much effort and detail into his work, without compromising basic storytelling. Honestly it seems like there aren’t a lot of artists around today who can do all that.

Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 #2 Archaia Studios Press has been bunching up their releases lately, with two issues of another series I don’t read coming out last week, and two issues of The Secret History this week. I suspect ASP is growing a little faster than it can keep up with, so some stuff is getting delayed due to lack of manpower or capital. That’s just my guess, though. I’m pretty forgiving of small presses and their delays, although I am an unusually committed comics reader. Surely a regular schedule would serve the company’s cash flow better, though.

I’m mostly enjoying The Secret History, although it delves too far into historical details I’m entirely unfamiliar with. The general storyline is okay (four powerful individuals influencing world events from prehistory through today) and the art is excellent (even with a different artist each issue), so I’m willing to follow it through its 7-issue run. I just wish it were more accessible.

David Petersen keeps a perfectly regular schedule with Mouse Guard, and the second issue of the new series came out right on time, so he’s bucked the trend there.. The series has been a surprise hit and has gotten lots of critical acclaim. I enjoy it myself, and can certainly recommend it as well-drawn entertainment, albeit maybe not for preteens since the violence does get a little rough sometimes.

The Perhapanauts vol 1: First Blood The Perhapanauts resembles Mike Mignola’s B.P.R.D. in that it’s a team of operatives who investigate paranormal phenomena and deal with them if necessary. This team is a little more out there than B.P.R.D., with Bigfoot and El Chupacabras as team members, along with a telepath, a ghost, and a mysterious guy whose background is kept secret. They can time travel and dimension hop with minimal difficulty, although they also face some pretty rough opposition as a result.

Nonetheless, the series feels a lot like Mignola’s work, which isn’t bad, but being “B.P.R.D. lite” isn’t a real strong recommendation. Moreover, this first volume ends on a cliffhanger, which is a pretty lousy way to treat new readers. Johanna Draper Carlson likes the series more than I do, I just thought it was pretty lightweight.

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