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This Week's Haul

  • Blackest Night #1 of 8, by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis & Oclair Albert (DC)
  • Black Night: Tales of the Corps #1 of 3, by Geoff Johns, Peter J. Tomasi, Jerry Ordway, Chris Samnee & Rags Morales (DC)
  • The Brave and the Bold #25, by Adam Beechen, Roger Robinson & Hilary Barta (DC)
  • Fables #86, by Bill Willingham, Jim Fern & Craig Hamilton (DC/Vertigo)
  • JSA vs. Kobra #2 of 6, by Eric S. Trautmann, Don Kramer & Michael Babinski (DC)
  • Wednesday Comics #2 of 12, by many hands (DC)
  • Captain Britain Omnibus Edition HC, by Alan Moore, Alan Davis, Jamie Delano, Chris Claremont, and others (Marvel)
  • Incognito #5 of 6, by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips (Marvel/Icon)
  • Artesia Besieged #3 of 6, by Mark Smylie (Archaia)
  • The Unknown #3 of 4, by Mark Waid & Minck Oosterveer (Boom)
  • Unthinkable #3 of 5, by Mark Sable & Julian Totino Tedesco (Boom)
  • RASL #5, by Jeff Smith (Cartoon)
Blackest Night #1

Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #1

DC’s next big event is Blackest Night, which is basically the next Green Lantern event (the last one was The Sinestro Corps War. Extending the theme of power-ring-empowered characters across the color spectrum, Blackest Night introduces the Black Lanterns, spearheaded by longtime C-list Lantern foe Black Hand. The Black Lanterns’ rings seek out dead heroes and villains and turns them into evil zombies, rising from the grave to strike out against their former friends and allies.

Honestly, I wish this had stayed just a Green Lantern story, rather than bringing in all the other DC characters. I can see bringing in The Flash since he’s one of GL’s best friends, he’s newly back from the dead himself, and the fact that Flash and GL are both dead men walking looks like it’s going to be a theme of the series. But bringing back dozens of dead heroes and villains who are largely unrelated to GL seems completely gratuitous and unnecessary. This first issue’s final scene involves Elongated Man and his wife Sue coming back as zombies to attack and take down Hawkman and Hawkgirl, which is grisly and basically no fun. Whereas the scene in which a legion of dead Green Lanterns erupt from their mausoleum is actually pretty creepy.

(Aside: From my understanding of the status quo, the Elongated Man scene strongly suggests that the black rings haven’t brought the bodies’ souls back to their zombie forms, because Ralph and Sue Dibny’s souls have been doing good work as spiritual detectives lately. So the bodies have been reanimated with a vestige of their former personalities, I infer. But hopefully it will all be explained.)

Anyway, unfortunately we’re stuck with this as a company-wide crossover. Don McPherson liked it, while Chris Sims hated it. I’m closer to Sims’ opinion, as it mostly feels like a misfire: Geoff Johns’ attempts to paint various heroes’ emotions regarding their deceased comrades feels abrupt and artificial, basically manipulative. Johns does a decent job dealing with “his” characters (GL and Flash), but few of the other characters’ portrayals work for me.

I think this story can work if it focuses heavily on the Green Lanterns and shoves most of the other DCU character aside. I don’t think it’s going to do that. It could achieve a lower level of success by making the Black Lanterns interesting and novel, which it just might do. But it’s not off to a strong start. Ivan Reis and Oclair Albert’s art is good as always, though.

(BTW, DC is promoting the series with plastic Black Lantern rings, and I got one from my store on Wednesday.)

Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps is a tie-in title focusing on some of the supporting cast of the GL series. It’s not essential, but it is pretty fun. The first story provides the backstory of Saint Walker, the first of the Blue Lanterns, with excellent art by Jerry Ordway. The second story is about the son of the villain Mongul, is a very slight piece, and I didn’t care for the art at all. The third story is the introduction of the engimatic Indigo Tribe, with great art by Rags Morales (who I wish we saw more of), though the story is little more than a teaser.

Fables #86 Gee, what more can I say about the new Fables that Greg Burgas hasn’t already said?:

Now that the interminable Great Fables Crossover is over, Willingham has turned back into a good writer and gives us a nice tale about the Dark Man and how he came to be trapped in a box.

The backstory of the Boxers – a secret society of powerful wizards tasked with imprisoning powerful evil creatures in the Empire – is compelling, one of the more interesting ideas put forth in the whole series. I’d be willing to read a whole mini-series about this group, honestly! Jim Fern and Craig Hamilton produce some stunningly lovely artwork here – among the best the series has ever seen, and that’s saying something! Hamilton is one of those rarely-seen artists whose absence is always sorely felt on those rare occasions when he does come back to draw something; even just as the inker here, his impact is clear. I still pull out his old Aquaman mini-series from 25 years ago in large part to enjoy his art anew.

Anyway, this is a great issue which has rekindled my enthusiasm for the series. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Wednesday Comics #2 Wednesday Comics‘ second week is about the same as its first. The standout story is Karl Kerschl & Brenden Fletcher’s Flash, which has a very interesting development involving time travel. The Demon and Catwoman is also becoming intriguing.

On the other hand, I couldn’t even read the Wonder Woman story, the layouts are so convoluted. The Superman page is just awful, with a tired old character development and artwork I really can’t stand. Teen Titans I could read, but I just don’t care. Hawkman has nice Kyle Baker artwork, but I really hate the ultra-violent portrayal of Hawkman that’s been in vogue over the last decade.

The other stories are, well, second pages of their stories, moving things forward a little bit. Kurt Busiek’s Green Lantern story is amusingly set in the (I think) 1950s, and it ends in a cliffhanger. Neil Gaiman and Mike Allred are taking a decidedly offbeat approach to their Metamorpho story, having a lot of fun with some clich├ęs of the genre, although there’s not a lot of story yet.

So as you’d expect, the second issue goes in all sorts of different directions, a few good, many bad. But the whole package still hasn’t really distinguished itself.

Captain Britain Omnibus Edition HC Captain Britain was originally a British superhero created and written by Americans. In the early 80s, Marvel Comics UK was interested in publishing a little original material, and pulled this character back from oblivion for a long run of short chapters in a variety of titles. The artist of the relaunch was Alan Davis, doing his first major comics series, who would go on to become one of Marvel’s major art stars in the 80s and 90s. Meanwhile, the writing included a lengthy story by Alan Moore (yes, that Alan Moore) and a run by Jamie Delano. Captain Britain and his girlfriend Meggan then became mainstays of Marvel’s Excalibur title.

In other words, despite a haphazard publication history, a neophyte artist, and stories that were sometimes hard to follow, Captain Britain ended up establishing both creators and characters who would impact Marvel for years to come. And after a couple of paperback collections from a decade ago, Marvel’s now given this the hardcover omnibus treatment, with the whole run – plus a few miscellaneous extras – collected in one lovely package.

Unfortunately, at just under a hundred bucks, it’s difficult for me to say, “Try it, you’ll like it!” The early chapters are pretty weak, and Davis is a below-average artist at first. Moore’s celebrated run is pretty good, but often a little too metaphysical for my tastes, as it’s difficult to figure out what’s going on or how the characters came around to their presence circumstances and motivations. Nonetheless, as a battle of heroes against two tremendously powerful – nigh-unbeatable, really – foes, it does a good job of evoking up the “always darkest before the dawn” feelings that such a story should have, and it has a satisfying climax.

Delano’s stories don’t hold together as a coherent whole, they’re more a series of vignettes, but overall they’re better than Moore’s story, with much deeper emotional resonance, and even a certain sense of regret that the series was ultimately cancelled even though it seemed there was a lot more story to tell. Captain Britain’s heroic deeds have a certain amount of fall-out which his friends and especially his sister believe it’s their responsibility to care for. Cap doesn’t agree, since his actions were really cleaning up someone else’s mess, and he’s not truly responsible for the events. This leads to a schism between Cap and his friends, but he finds a new ally – and lover – in Meggan, an elfish shapeshifter. Each individual chapter is powerful, and the ongoing story shifts and develops over time, but the ending feels rather abrupt, even if it’s arguably the best that could have been done under the circumstances. Still, really good stuff.

Holding it all together is Davis’ artwork, which steadily improves, and arguably the early Delano stories feature some of the best art he’s even done, imaginative yet realistic, and a little more moody than his hyper-polished style that he developed not long after. Certainly if top-shelf Davis artwork is what you want, you can’t really ask for better than what you’ll find here.

I admit a waffled a little on whether I really wanted to pick this up. I finally decided there was just enough material here that I hadn’t seen before that combined with the lovely hardcover volume it was worth the money to me. I’ll surely pull it out and read it many times. But it’s a tall investment for other fans, I understand. You might do better to seek out one of the older paperback collections to give it a try before you plunk down a C-note – or even a little over $60 at Amazon.com – for this one.

(I think Marvel issued this with two covers, one each with Cap’s two costumes. I picked up the one with his original costume, as depicted at left. I actually like his original costume better, but it’s incongruous here since he shifts to his new costume on the very first page. Small matter, though.)

2 comments to This Week’s Haul

  • J.D.

    What is it about the Hawkman art that appeals to you? I don’t hate it (thought I find the story lame); I just don’t love it. And what’s intriguing about the Catwoman/Demon thing? I found it…pedestrian.

    I agree with you on the Flash and Wonder Woman strips. The one is good and the other unreadable. Green Lantern is set in the 1950s, as mentioned last week. (Specifically, it’s “New Frontier”-universe GL.)

    What do you think of Adam Strange and Kamandi? These are still my two favorite strips out of the bunch (though I like Flash quit a bit, too). I think the Kamandi page is brilliant. I would definitely buy a monthly of this. I also think Paul Pope’s Adam Strange is excellent, very much capturing the feel of Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers.

    Wednesday Comics is the first “floppy” I’ve bought in years! Some of the stuff sucks (Teen Titans, Wonder Woman), but it’s worth it to me to get the other stories.

  • I like Baker’s artwork when it’s highly-rendered. Indeed, I first became aware of him when he was doing some inking work back in the 80s, and he was probably the first inker I really came to appreciate as an inker. (He did a really amazing job over Al Milgrom’s pencils in an issue of West Coast Avengers, for instance.) His inks don’t go with everyone… but I digress. I like the individual panels of his Hawkman strip quite a bit, along with the coloring technique used (which I presume is also by Baker, since no one else is credited). I don’t especially like the storytelling approach he’s chosen for this particular story (the ridiculously exaggerated facial expressions, the huge glasses on the girl on the plane), but the art is very pretty.

    Considering the story is only two pages in, The Demon and Catwoman story has me interested in what she’s gotten ahold of and where she’s gone. While my enthusiasm is tempered by the realization that this will only be a 12-page story, it’s got me more intrigued than most of the other stories in the series.

    I appreciate the storytelling style in Kamandi, how it’s evoking the Prince Valiant and Flash Gordon style of newspaper strips. I’ve never been especially interested in the premise of Kamandi (or anything in Kirby’s Fourth World work, really), and this hasn’t changed my mind so far. Ryan Sook’s artwork is good, but undercut by the corny images the story demands he draw. So it’s a mixed bag for me.

    As for Adam Strange, well, while I see what Paul Pope’s generally trying to do in his comics, his work has never really clicked for me. His art style has always seemed rather ugly to me, right down to the lettering, but especially his faces. So while I can obliquely understand why he appeals to many people, it’s not my cup of tea.

    I’d almost rather see Gibbons and Sook doing Adam Strange, and Pope doing Kamandi!

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