This Week’s Haul

  • Fables #100, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Andrew Pepoy, Chrissie Zullo & others (DC/Vertigo)
  • First Wave #5 of 6, by Brian Azzarello, Rags Morales & Rick Bryant (DC)
  • Knight and Squire #3 of 6, by Paul Cornell & Jimmy Broxton (DC)
  • Echo #26, by Terry Moore (Abstract)
  • Lady Mechanika #1, by Joe Benitez (Aspen)
  • The Mystery Society #5 of 5, by Steve Niles & Fiona Staples (IDW)
Fables reaches the big one-zero-zero this month – quite a milestone for a comic that features no superheroes at all. I’ve been on board since the beginning, and while it’s had its ups and downs, it’s been quite a fun ride.

Since the war against The Adversary wrapped up in #75, the book has taken an even darker turn (and considering the book’s first story arc was entitled “Legends in Exile”, that’s saying something): A powerful entity named Mister Dark (whom some compare to Neil Gaiman’s character Morpheus, but I think the similarity is superficial at best) destroyed Fabletown, forcing the surviving fables to flee to The Farm in upstate New York. Mister Dark has been building his own edifice atop the remains of Fabletown, but finally someone has dared to challenge him: Frau Totenkinder, having been reborn as a young woman and calling herself Bellflower, engages him in a duel to the death of one of them in this issue.

The Mister Dark storyline has had some gripping moments, but overall the series has felt somewhat adrift, much like the Fables themselves. The most recent story arc highlighted the backstory of Rose Red, and her getting her act together to be a leader on the Farm again. But since Bellflower is the one who actually brings the fight to Mister Dark, that arc now feels a little superfluous. Fables has always tended to take a circuitous route to the end of its stories, but whether they end up being fun has depended more on the characters involved than anything else; Bigby Wolf, Snow White and Boy Blue carried the first 75 issues, but the recent focus on Rose Red and the witches has been a lot less successful, as none of them have really been sympathetic characters. More to the point, they’re all fairly inwardly-turned characters, so their interactions with the other Fables tend to be not very entertaining.

The conclusion of this issue is disappointing since it’s more of a transition than an end to the Mister Dark story, and I was really ready for his story to be over. The big fight in the issue is quite well done, but I’d been hoping for a different outcome.

The issue contains lots of extras – short stories, even paper doll cut-outs – which feels like an anniversary issue or giant-sized “annual” of years past. Certainly a nice package. I’d just been hoping for more out of the main story.

I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything rom Aspen Comics before – they seem to largely specialize in ladies-in-skimpy-costumes fare with run-of-the-mill stories. But Joe Benitez’ new steampunk series Lady Mechanika interested me. (That cover on the left, by the way, is by J. Scott Campbell, and is awful. The main cover, which you can see here is much better. But the Campbell cover is the only one my retailer still had in stock when I was there.) Certainly steampunk doesn’t have a shortage of improbably-skin-baring Victorian ladieswear, and Lady Mechanika‘s interiors seem right in keeping with the genre as I’ve seen it otherwise.

The story is okay: Lady Mechanika is an almost-legendary vigilante in the English city of Mechanika, a woman who’s left-machine, but whose role in the city’s life seems vague (is she a protector or avenger like Batman, or just someone investigating other unusual creatures like herself?). In this issue she’s looking into a report of another woman who’s turned up in the city with mechanical limbs, who promptly died after her arrival. The story and art are long on atmosphere, but short on plot advancement or characterization. It’s not bad, by any means, but it’s lightweight. I’m not familiar with Joe Benitez’ work, but he’s a pretty good artist, definitely a cut above the typical Image-style artist.

The book has some promise, but it’s also at great risk of being an ordinary steampunk adventure. Time will tell which direction it heads.

Steve Niles’ The Mystery Society wraps up this month. As a new entry in the monster-hunter adventure genre (alongside Hellboy and The Perhapanauts), it holds up quite well, with a strong dose of The Thin Man-inspired marital intrigue between Nick and Anastasia Mystery, with several peculiar characters joining them in their quest to investigate strange occurrences and liberate mysterious objects from around the world. It’s not going to set the world on fire, but it’s fun and funny.

The best part, I think, has been watching artist Fiona Staples develop, expanding her range of expressions and poses. Her biggest drawback as an artist is that her backgrounds tend to be sketchy-to-nonexistent, which makes the book feel like it’s taking place in a multicolored mist at times. Hopefully she’ll flesh out that part of her skill set on her next project.

I don’t know that The Mystery Society has a huge amount of long-term potential, but I’d read another series about these characters. Whether I’d go beyond that depends on whether Niles has some solid character surprises up his sleeve.

This Week’s Haul

Wow, a tiny week this week:

  • Blackest Night #4, by Geoff Johns, Peter J. Tomasi, Ivan Reis, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark, Oclair Albert, Vicente Cifuentes & David Beaty (DC)
  • DC Universe: Legacies #2 of 10, by Len Wein, Andy Kubert, Joe Kubert, Scott Kolins & J.H. Williams (DC)
  • Fables #96, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham & Andrew Pepoy (DC/Vertigo)
  • The Boys #43, by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson (Dynamite)
That cover to Brightest Day #4 has nothing at all to do with the contents of the issue. Okay, the two men who are the parts of Firestorm do show up, but the hero himself doesn’t, never mind as the “Black Lantern” version. What in the world is DC thinking? Do they have such little faith in the story that they can’t be bothered to come up with a cover that matches it?

To be sure, there’s very little story here, which is pretty much what happens when you only devote a few pages to each of a dozen or so characters. Hawkman and Hawkgirl are still following their stolen bodies from past lives, and have finally ended up in some alternate dimension. Something’s still up with Firestorm. Hawk has demanded that Deadman use the white power ring to try to bring his brother (the first Dove) back to life. Corpses show up in the Bermuda Triangle, and Mera seems to still be under the spell of the red power ring.

Brightest Day has been a total snooze-fest so far.

The second issue of DC Universe: Legacies reverses the pattern of the first one: The backup story, about the Seven Soldiers of Victory, is a total throwaway, unlike the interesting take on the Spectre and Doctor Fate in the back of the first issue. But the main story here is better than in the first issue, as it follows the main character through to the early 50s and the disbanding of the Justice Society, and the downfall of his friend who decided to go the criminal route. The story overall is not terribly strong, as the inspiration of the heroes on our protagonist is strong but simplistic, and I wonder how writer Len Wein can draw out this influence for the remaining 10 issues. I also wonder how he’ll cover the 50s through the 80s in this volume, as thanks to the march of time that’s a period when most of DC’s big-name heroes weren’t active (Superman, after all, would have only started his career in the mid/late 90s). Marvel had a whole series about this “missing era” in its history (Marvel: The Lost Generation, worth seeking out), but DC has mostly glossed over it. It’ll be hard for Wein to do the same here.

The big questions, though, are: Will this be more than a recapitulation of DC universe history, and what exactly are the “legacies” going to be? Or is the title going to end up not really being relevant to the story?

My enthusiasm for Fables has flagged a bit since the first story wrapped up in issue #75, but I think a lot of that is because the two main characters of that arc (Bigby Wolf and Boy Blue) have stepped off the stage, and no one’s really come in to replace them. There are many interesting plot elements, but the characters aren’t keeping me engaged.

Presently the series is doing a piece about Rose Red, the sister of Snow White, illuminating their childhood and how they ended up as such different people. While Rose Red is anything but a sympathetic character (she’s a schemer and a whiner, frankly), this run is otherwise one of the better stories of the last couple of years, as writer Bill Willingham gets to tell his reinterpretation of classic fairy tales, where he always takes their darker nature to heart. Here he presents Snow White’s famous tale (hinted at in the graphic novel 1001 Nights of Snowfall), and how and way it came to pass. And it’ll clearly be a big part of why Rose Red turned out the way she did. Fun stuff.

I do hope that the story gets back to the larger arc of the Dark Man who destroyed Fabletown, and presents some more heroic figures we can get behind in the fight against him, though.

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 clichés 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 – 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.)

This Week’s Haul

Actually two week’s worth of comics, since I didn’t pick them up while I was on vacation. This includes Marvel’s notoriously large shipment from that week:

  • Astro City: The Dark Age Book Three #3 of 4, by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson & Alex Ross (DC/Wildstorm)
  • Batman and Robin #2, by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely (DC)
  • Green Lantern #42, by Geoff Johns, Philip Tan, Eddy Barrow, Jonathan Glapion & Ruy José (DC)
  • Justice Society of America #28, by Jerry Ordway & Bob Wiacek (DC)
  • The Literals #3, by Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges, Mark Buckingham & Andrew Pepoy (DC/Vertigo)
  • Madame Xanadu #12, by Matt Wagner & Michael Wm. Kaluta (DC/Vertigo)
  • Astonishing X-Men #30, by Warren Ellis & Simone Bianchi (Marvel)
  • Avengers/Invaders #12 of 12, by Alex Ross, Jim Krueger, Steve Sadowski & Jack Herbert (Marvel)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy #15, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Brad Walker, Victor Olazaba & Livesay (Marvel)
  • The Incredible Hercules #130, by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, Ryan Stegman, Rodney Buchemi & Terry Pallot (Marvel)
  • The Immortal Iron Fist #27, by Duane Swierczynski, Travel Foreman, David Lapham & Timothy Green II (Marvel)
  • Nova #26, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Andrea DiVito (Marvel)
  • War of Kings #5 of 6, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Paul Pelletier & Rick Magyar (Marvel)
  • Echo #13, by Terry Moore (Abstract)
  • Irredeemable #4, by Mark Waid & Peter Krause (Boom)
  • Sir Edward Grey: Witchfinder #1 of 5, by Mike Mignola, Ben Stenbeck & Dave Stewart (Dark Horse)
  • The Boys #32, by Garth Ennis & Carlos Ezquerra (Dynamite)
  • Prince Valiant: 1937-1938 vol 1 HC, by Hal Foster (Fantagraphics)
Green Lantern #42 The interesting thing about Green Lantern #42 – which wraps up the “Agent Orange” story before we launch into “Blackest Night” – is that it so baldly demonstrates how machiavellian the Guardians of the Universe have become. The Guardians started off as mysterious and withdrawn arbiters of justice, and over the years have become less and less sympathetic, pursuing their own agendas, answering to nobody (least of all their own Green Lantern Corps), and making decisions humans would consider questionable.

In “Agent Orange”, a group of Lanterns confronts Larfleeze, the keeper of the orange light, an obsessive collector who desires the blue ring that Hal Jordan has acquired. (For those keeping score at home the lights we’ve seen so far include green for will, yellow for fear, magenta for love, blue for hope, and orange for avarice.) Hal manages to hold him off until the Guardians – Larfleeze’s old enemies – show up and make peace with him by giving him something he wants. What he wants is a blue ring, so they tell him where the two renegade Guardians who are forming the blue corps are hiding, and he attacks them. Yes, the Guardians essentially threw two of their own under the bus to build a treaty with this insane creature. Hal doesn’t know what exactly they gave him, but he knows it can’t be a good thing, whatever it is.

I wonder where Johns is going with all this – and I wonder it in a good way. Are we heading towards an eventual rebellion of the Lanterns towards the Guardians? Is something going on with the Guardians to make them so nasty? It’s hard to see how this status quo can hold without the heroes becoming complicit in the questionable actions of their bosses. Yet it’s also a fascinating romp through the relationships among the powerful beings that inhabit DC’s outer space milieu. Good stuff.

The Literals #3 Well thank the powers that be that that’s over.

The Literals #3 wraps up “The Great Fables Crossover”, which has been so horribly written that it actually made me consider giving up on Fables altogether. The premise is that Kevin Thorn has the power to rewrite reality, and he’s decided that our reality has worn out its welcome, so he’s going to wipe it out and create a new one. He kills his brother, Writer’s Block, and stops his father, his son, and several other characters from interfering, spending eight issues eventually getting around to taking action – before the heroes get to him and do, indeed, stop him.

There was maybe three issues of story here, stretched out to nine issues. The rest of the space is filled with plenty of Jack of Fables’ annoying antics (reminding me why I dropped his book in the first place – I can’t stand reading about him), introducing a new character (Jack Frost, the other Jack’s son), and stretching out Kevin’s efforts to overcome Writer’s Block and other minor obstacles as far as possible.

And honestly I just didn’t give a damn about any of it, especially since most of the setup appeared to revolve around the Jack of Fables supporting cast, and having nothing at all to do with the ongoing story in Fables itself.

The Literals appears to have been created specifically to play out this crossover story, featuring several character who represent various elements of literature (individual genres, as well as more abstract elements). It looks like this was the last issue of the series, which is something of a mercy: While these characters are interesting ideas in the abstract, this story has been the worst possible manner in which to launch a new series.

Honestly I’m not sure what Willingham and Sturges were thinking here. The whole thing was badly conceived, badly written, and unrewarding, a strong contender for the award of worst comics story I’ve read this year. I hope Fables gets back on track next issue and we can all forget that “The Great Fables Crossover” ever happened.

Avengers/Invaders #12 Avengers/Invaders has been perhaps the best of the Alex Ross/Jim Krueger collaborations. Unfortunately, that doesn’t set the bar very high, so this 12-issue series has been merely “okay”.

I’m not sure exactly what it is, but every Ross/Krueger book I’ve read has been ponderously paced, striving to be thoughtful but instead being merely dull. I don’t know whether this is a fundamental flaw in Ross’ approach to plotting, or if Krueger brings out the worst in his storytelling, but either way Earth X, Project Superpowers and this one have all been pretty tedious.

What elevates this series above the others is that it seems more tightly focused (even though it’s told in three discrete four-issue segments), having a clear direction and a reasonable resolution at each stage of the way. The other books seemed to get bogged down in their ambition, losing sight of what they were doing and ultimately just being unsatisfying both to read and to have read. A/I also has more action and some sympathetic characters, from tragic World War II soldier Paul Anselm who is thrown into the present along with the Invaders and who causes the problems they’re trying to resolve in this third chapter, to the two Captains America, the first of whom is currently dead in modern times, and the second of whom is his partner Bucky, who is one of the Invaders thrown forward in time. The cast is way too large to give everyone equal time – most of the Avengers are merely troops supporting the main characters – but the focus on the main figures, especially the Invaders, makes the story work well enough.

Unfortunately, the story isn’t really very original: We have Ultron again, the Red Skull controlling the Cosmic Cube again, characters from the past viewing elements of the present day as downright evil (a theme explored more brutally in the DC Two Thousand JLA/JSA story from 9 years ago). So the story has less of an impact than it might have since it feels largely rehashed.

Steve Sadowski’s artwork is pretty nifty, although I find his layouts to be a little confusing at times, and his action sequences to feel somewhat muted. I think he’s inking himself here, but a stronger inker might bring out his best elements more effectively. (His inks seem influenced by Tom Palmer, whose style worked best over a more dynamic penciller.)

Anyway, I don’t regret having read it, but Avengers/Invaders doesn’t make me optimistic that the Ross/Krueger tandem has turned the corner. And certainly I still have no interest in reading anymore of Project Superpowers.

The Immortal Iron Fist #27 The Immortal Iron Fist ends its run this week, although it’ll be followed by an Immortal Weapons mini-series, focusing on the Fist’s peer heroes from the other Seven Capital Cities of Heaven. (The preview of the first issue at the end of this issue looks pretty good.)

The series on the whole has been quite entertaining, and the switch from Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction and writers to Duane Swierczynski has barely been noticeable, as the style and quality hardly changed at all. The art has generally been strong, and the book’s strength of exploring the background of the Fist’s mystical city of K’un Lun has been intriguing and often exciting. If I have a criticism, it’s that the characterizations of Fist and his friends has been rather thin, so his personal struggles to maintain his relationship with his girlfriend Misty Knight, retain control of his company, and come to grips with getting older have felt superficial. I guess there’s just been too much stuff to pack into a regular-sized monthly comic to make the characters truly engaging.

(For example, this issue ends with a revelation in the Fist/Misty relationship, which is touching and makes his future a little more intriguing, but it feels like it comes out of left field.

Nonetheless, it’s been a fun ride, and I hope Iron Fist will be back after the interregnum of the mini-series. But if not, well, I’m sure he’ll be back sometime.

Prince Valiant vol 1: 1937-1938 My choice for the greatest comic strip in history would be Hal Foster’s epic adventure strip Prince Valiant. And now Fantagraphics is reprinting the series in a series of spiffy, oversized hardcover collections, with the first volume out this week. And even though I own the whole 40-volume set of the Foster-drawn pages that Fantagraphics published in the 1990s, I’m perfectly happy to buy this new series, with larger pages, better-quality paper, and much better-quality coloring. The first volume covers the first two years, 1937-1938, and while the earliest episodes feel a little primitive by the standards of Foster’s tremendous skills, by the end of 1937 you can clearly see Foster getting his footing and developing into the artistic legend he’s become.

What makes Prince Valiant so great? After all, it’s about a fictional hero from Norway who’s exiled along with his father to the British isles during the age of the equally-fictional King Arthur (circa the 5th century). Val becomes a Knight of the Round Table and embarks on many adventures of varying plausibility, so in the large it sounds like pretty standard stuff.

Well, aside from Foster being one of the greatest pop artists of the 20th century, the story feels like nothing else in graphic storytelling: It’s told in narration rather than in the immediate action-and-dialogue style of comic books, yet it loses none of is impact. Foster conveys action and excitement without many of the conventions of superhero comics. And Val gradually grows up, matures, gets married, and has children during the course of the strip. In this volume he’s a young man of maybe 15 or 16 years of age, full of bluster and passion, yet still finding his place in the world. He’s clever, yet makes mistakes along the way and is often saved through dumb (sometimes tragic) luck. It’s an epic saga a little bit different from anything like it, and Foster’s dedication to his craft makes it better than even the notable stories by his not-inconsiderable peers (Alex Raymond, Milton Caniff, etc.).

The next volume is announced for “spring of 2010”, so it looks like we’ll be getting 2 years worth of pages every 9 months or so, which will make for a pretty slow crawl to get to the strip’s apex in the 1950s. I think it will be worth it, though. It’s excellent stuff, and I look forward to enjoying it all over again.

This Week’s Haul

You’d think this was the all-Geoff-Johns week given what I picked up:

  • Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #4 of 5, by Geoff Johns, George Pérez & Scott Koblish (DC)
  • Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War TPB vol 1, by Geoff Johns, Dave Gibbons, Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason & Ethan Van Sciver (DC)
  • Green Lantern #40, by Geoff Johns, Philip Tan & Jonathan Glapion (DC)
  • Justice Society of America #26, by Geoff Johns, Dale Eaglesham & Nathan Massengill (DC)
  • The Literals #1, by Bill Willingham, Matt Sturges, Mark Buckingham & Andrew Pepoy (DC/Vertigo)
  • Madame Xanadu #10, by Matt Wagner, Amy Reeder Hadley & Richard Friend (DC/Vertigo)
  • Avengers/Invaders #10 of 12, by Alex Ross, Jim Kruger, Steve Sadowski & Patrick Berkenkotter (Marvel)
  • Nova #24, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Andrea Divito (Marvel)
  • RASL #4, by Jeff Smith (Cartoon)
  • Invincible: Ultimate Collection HC vol 4, by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley (Image)
  • Atomic Robo: Shadow From Beyond Time #1 of 5, by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener & Lauren Pettapiece (Red 5)
Justice Society of America #26 Geoff Johns ends his run on JSA with a charming issue focusing on Stargirl’s birthday, which the whole team celebrates over at her house. No fights, just a lot of talk and a cute little ending. And a three-cover painting by Alex Ross that you can view in its entirety here.

Despite this issue being a pleasant surprise, Johns’ run on the series has been shaky: The team is too big and has too many marginal characters to really work as a team book. Character development has been nearly nonexistent. The story arc “Thy Kingdom Come” had some good bits, but it also stretched itself too thin (the Power Girl/Earth 2 stuff was a big disappointment), and the climax was rather a big nothing. The series has pretensions of being about a big family, but the strength of character just isn’t there for it to work (or matter). Of course, it’s living in the shadow of the outstanding All-Star Comics run of the 1970s, which did everything this series did, but better, but Johns never seems able to give the book its own identity. I think he’s just not very strong at managing a large cast of characters (which admittedly is one of the toughest tasks in comic books).

Bill Willingham takes over the writing duties soon. I generally enjoy his work, although it might be too dark or cynical for this team. Then again, after this series and the previous one, a change-up is probably just what the series needs.

The Literals #1 Speaking of Willingham, this year’s first entry into “least necessary event” is “The Great Fables Crossover”, which this week is into its third part of nine in the first issue of The Literals. The premise is that a guy named Kevin Thorn is able to change the world by writing in his book, and he wants to re-write the whole world, but he’s not sure what he should write. The titular character in Jack of Fables contacts the other Fables so they can try to stop him. Unfortunately after three issues the story’s barely budged, and boy howdy is it hard to care about Jack at all (which is why I dropped his book in the first place). It’s not nearly as good as what’s been going on in Fables recently, so the distraction is not welcome.

I guess the Literals themselves are the embodiments of various genres which Kevin brings into existence here. An ignominious beginning of so: Shoved into a supporting role in the first issue of their own comic.

Nice artwork by mark Buckingham, as usual. That’s hardly enough, though.

Atomic Robo: Shadow From Beyond Time #1 I really want to like – even love – Atomic Robo, but it’s just been so hit-or-miss thus far: It’s got a fun-loving, goofy attitude, but the stories are the lightest fluff, and the characters only slightly thicker than tissue paper. The premise is that Robo was Nikola Tesla‘s greatest invention, a robot created in the 1920s and who since that time has been a scholar but has mostly fought weird menaces, such as giant robotic mummies. That and a lot of punching sums up the first two mini-series: If you like a lot of punching and things like giant robot mummies, then Atomic Robo is for you. Myself, I’m looking for more than that.

This third series gets off to a promising start, though: Charles Fort and H.P. Lovecraft show up on Tesla’s doorstep in 1926 hoping for Tesla’s help to deal with a terror they’d fought years before, but only Robo is there, and he has no idea what’s going on. Clevinger plays the whole thing for comedy, so the reader overlooks the fact that a conversation that should have lasted a few sentences instead goes on for pages, before Robo finally learns what the threat is. It works fairly well, and makes me encouraged that the rest of the series will be as weirdly amusing as this one.

What the series really needs is to stay focused for a whole story, and not go spinning off into tangents like the second series did at the end. Hopefully this series can hold itself together, stay focused, and have a big finish; that would go a long way to making Atomic Robo feel like more than disposable fluff.

(Robo is one of Greg Burgas’ favorite series, so it’s no surprise that he likes this issue more than I do.)

This Week’s Haul

  • Booster Gold #14, by Rick Remender, Pat Olliffe & Jerry Ordway (DC)
  • Fables #78, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham & Steve Leialoha (DC/Vertigo)
  • Justice Society of America: Kingdom Come Special: Superman #1, by Alex Ross (DC)
  • Fire & Brimstone #3 of 5, by Richard Moore (Antarctic)
  • B.P.R.D.: The Warning #5 of 5, by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Guy Davis (Dark Horse)
Fables #78 Wow, after a couple issues of adjustment, Fables is hitting the ground running in its post-Adversary storyline. A couple of treasure-hunters in the homelands free what looks like a Really Bad Man aims to cause big trouble for our heroes. Geppetto is still holier-than-thou, and he maybe has some justification. And something really bad happens to a good guy, while something really good happens to a bad girl (and that ain’t good for the good guys). Things could get out of hand quickly for our heroes, and I think that’s the point: They’re heading into uncharted waters against opponents they don’t know much about, one of whom they don’t even know exists.

Willingham’s usual modus operandi as a writer involves characters making careful plans and then navigating the difficulties in executing them. It looks like he’s preparing for a sequence of sheer carnage and mayhem, and I’m very interested in seeing how it plays out. And, frankly, a little nervous, because I foresee things going very, very badly for some of our heroes – and that this makes me nervous is a sign of good writing.

Justice Society of America: Kingdom Come Special: Superman #1 Alex Ross flies solo on this Justice Society tie-in, focusing on the Superman from Kingdom Come. The issue is mainly an exploration of Superman’s feelings and regrets in the wake of the death of his wife and friends on his own world, and it’s quite well-done. Arguably it doesn’t really provide a lot more information than we received in Kingdom Come, but it does provide some depth and nuance, and humanizes the Man of Steel from the parallel world some. The most touching moments are when he tells this world’s Lois Lane what happened on his world, and how it changed him.

The important detail regarding the ongoing JSA story is the revelation that Superman was sent to this Earth when the bomb was dropped on the warring superheroes. This occurs near the end of Kingdom Come, but it’s still before the end. That suggests that Superman’s presence here is part of his redemption at the end of that story, and it also explains his anger in JSA since he hasn’t gone through the crucial experiences in the final pages of that story.

Well, either that, or Ross and Geoff Johns are just messin’ with us. (That would suck.)

The book has an afterword in which Ross describes his process of illustrating the book, which is not painted like his usual work. It’s fairly interesting, although somehow seeing how extensively he uses photographic models takes some of the magic out of his otherwise wonderful artwork.

I’ve given Ross a rough time in my reviews of many of his recent projects, but this one is solid. I wish all his work was this good. Heck, I wish JSA was this good, as character bits like this have been almost entirely absent from that series (a problem I’ve had with it ever since the previous volume was launched back in 1999).

B.P.R.D.: The Warning #5 The latest B.P.R.D. mini-series comes to an end, and although some of the pieces have moved around (there’s a new villain – who might be a hero, but his methods are questionable; Liz Sherman has disappeared; monsters are allying with each other and have decimated Munich), I’m still wondering where it’s all going. It’s been years and it doesn’t feel like we’re getting anywhere.

I know, I’m sung this song before, and anyone who’s been reading me long enough is probably wondering why I keep reading the series. I wonder that myself; every time I decide to give up I figure if I just read one more mini-series, then the answers and resolutions will start coming. Sometimes I read one more series and it’s just good enough to make me curious what happens next. But ultimately I keep being disappointed: I honestly can’t tell whether the plot has really progressed over the last couple of years.

Maybe it is time for me to quit.

This Week’s Haul

  • Fables #76, by Bill Willingham & Michael Allred (DC/Vertigo)
  • Legion of Super-Heroes #46, by Jim Shooter, Francis Manapul & Livesay (DC)
  • Madame Xanadu #4, by Matt Wagner, Amy Reeder Hadley & Richard Friend (DC/Vertigo)
  • Hulk #6, by Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuinness & Dexter Vines (Marvel)
  • The Immortal Iron Fist: Orson Randall and the Death Queen of California one-shot (Marvel)
  • Nova #17, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Wellington Alves & Scott Hanna (Marvel)
  • Echo #6, by Terry Moore (Abstract)
  • Hellboy: The Crooked Man #3 of 3, by Mike Mignola & Richard Corben (Dark Horse)
  • Project Superpowers #6 of 7, by Alex Ross, Jim Krueger & Carlos Paul (Dynamite)
  • Perhapanauts #4, by Todd Dezago, Craig Rousseau & Jason Armstrong (Image)

A pretty big week, yet I have little to say about most of the books. Sometimes this happens. In many cases the books are just moving their stories forward (interminably so in the case of books like Legion and Hulk). Generally good reading, but neither great enough nor awful enough to prompt a review.

Fables #76 Fables launches into its new era with an issue in which Pinocchio shows Geppetto – the former Emperor who has been granted amnesty – around Fabletown in New York City. Geppetto is outraged at having to live around the little people, while the other inhabitants are outraged that Geppetto has been granted amnesty and allowed to live. Exactly why he was granted amnesty is also explained.

Willingham’s depiction of Geppetto here is, frankly, masterful. Geppetto truly believes that his conquest of the homelands was for the best, trading millions of lives for the welfare of billions, and he holds the fables who opposed him in utter contempt for bringing down his empire, probably throwing it into violent chaos, and refusing to keep their own citizens in line through the use of force. To Geppetto, there’s no hypocrisy in his outlook: The ends justify the means, and the concept of democracy and any freedom other than that allowed by the ruler is useless. Most revealing is his confrontation with Snow White, whom he asks, basically, what he ever did to her to make her oppose him as one of the leaders of the opposition. The fact that he didn’t personally assail her misses the whole point, of course, but he doesn’t see that. He simply has no common ground with which to interact with the other fables. His only ally is Pinocchio, who loves him as his father.

Naturally, the Fabletown leaders are also trying to figure out how they can get more information out of Geppetto, which involves taking down his considerable mystical defenses. How that plays out could be interesting. And we also see progress on other fronts, notably Snow and Bigby’s kids growing up. I always enjoyed the adventures in Fabletown best in this series, and it’d nice to get back to it.

I have mixed feelings about Michael Allred’s art, especially since he draws Pinocchio radically differently from regular artist Mark Buckingham. He does draw a mean Geppetto, and the absence of shading in his figures and backgrounds gives it a distinctive look, but it lacks the dynamism of Buckingham as the figures all look rather stiff.

But the story easily carries the day here. It’s a promising start to the new era.

The Immortal Iron Fist: Orson Randall and the Death Queen of California The second Iron Fist one-shot featuring Orson Randall, and “golden age” Iron Fist, is a standalone story in which he visits California in 1928. It’s a decent enough pulp yarn somewhat inspired by Weird Tales style horror stories. But I don’t really see the point in it, since it doesn’t seem to tie in to the main series at all. Filling in Orson’s back story in this way doesn’t seem like an effective use of pages, especially since the character met his demise early in the ongoing series (in the present day).

I guess it’s just a bold effort to extract more money from me (and I’m shocked! Shocked! I tell you!). And it seems to have worked in this case. But I’ll be more wary next time.

This Week’s Haul

Fables #75 Fables #75 is reportedly the story with which Bill Willingham planned to end the series; instead he’s decided to wrap up the war against the Adversary and take the series in a new, post-war direction. So here we see the conclusion of Fabletown’s plan to defeat the Empire’s forces, Bigby Wolf battling the Emperor directly, and the denouement of the Adversary’s defeat. As usual there are some twists along the way.

One of the problem with series based on war is that the series can never be satisfying unless the war comes to a conclusion, yet writers often seem torn between taking the series in one of two unsatisfying directions: Either they drag the war out forever until the series is cancelled (and then it either never wraps up, or wraps up too abruptly), or they decide they really just want to write the end of the war (and they get there too quickly and the war wraps up too abruptly). One of the great things about Fables has been that the story has developed naturally and at a reasonable pace, with the fight against the Adversary making steady progress while still considering the premise from many different angles. It’s been a terrific ride.

Despite that, well, the war still feels like it wraps up too abruptly in this issue, despite its extra length. I think it’s that the story has too many brief snapshots of the multifaceted battle that’s going on, and then much of the denouement gets jammed in at the end. I think the story would have benefitted from just one more issue to work through the events depicted here, and to work through more of the character bits.

Nonetheless, I think Wllingham deserves a lot of credit for executing this story so well, and despite my kvetch above, he avoids the worst problems of wrapping up war stories: The resolution feels natural, like the execution of plans and the reasonable implications thereof that it is. And it’s got the terrific artwork by Buckingham and Leialoha that has served the series so well all along. Arguably I’m just a little too picky in what I was hoping for from the story’s climax, and I imagine most fans will feel I’m splitting hairs. To which I say: Fair enough.

No matter how you slice it, Fables has been one of the great success stories in mainstream comics today, and I’m delighted that this isn’t the end of it. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where it goes from here. I have faith that Willingham has lots of good stuff up his sleeve.

The Immortal Iron Fist: The Last Iron Fist Story vol 1 TPB A lot of people love the writing of Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction, and I’ve read little of the former’s work and none of the latter’s. And The Immortal Iron Fist has generally been getting good reviews, too. On top of that, I was a big fan of earlier incarnations of the character, especially Chris Claremont & John Byrne’s from the 70s, and Jim Owsley and Mark Bright’s from the 80s. So with volume 2 of this current series having hit the stands this week, I decided to pick up volume 1 and see what I thought.

And the answer is: It’s pretty darned good. Daniel Rand, our hero, has inherited his father’s multinational company, but he’s more interested in superheroing. Consequently a Chinese company initiates a hostile takeover of the company. But of course the aggressors are largely a front for an old enemy of Iron Fist’s to get back at his enemy. The twist is that Danny isn’t the first Iron Fist – not by a longshot – and he’s not the only one active today, either. There’s a lot about his history he doesn’t know, and now he gets to find out about it.

Expanding the scope of Iron Fist’s background is certainly welcome, and a great wrinkle to the character. Less welcome is treating Danny like he’s an ignorant kid, which happens frequently in the story. While Danny’s always had trouble maintaining the inner calm he should have – that’s at the heart of the character – he’s been portrayed as a mature character in the past, and being patronized and acting immature as he often does here just feels out of character. But he does have some fine moments, especially at the end when he’s confronted with a typical Fistian dilemma of having to make a sacrifice to live up to his responsibilities as the living weapon of K’un Lun.

David Aja’s art is pretty good, although I find it to be a little muddy in its use of shadows, not unlike Jae Lee’s art. He does better with the establishing shots (especially of the terrific abandoned underground train station Danny visits, a setting I thought was greatly underutilized in the story) and character dialogue scenes than he does in the action sequences. I wonder if a more traditional style of inking would bring out the best in Aja’s pencils at both ends of the spectrum.

Overall I enjoyed this book a lot, and I’m going to pick up the second volume next week. I’m hoping Danny will come off a little better as the story goes on, but I’m more interested to see where Danny fits in to the history of the Iron Fist, as there’s a lot of potential in that angle.

Rex Libris: I, Librarian vol 1 TPB Every so often I buy a comic which is, by my lights, pretty far out there: It’s highly stylized, or it’s got a weird narrative structure, or it has a backdrop which doesn’t make sense and isn’t supposed to make sense. For instance, the series Strange Attractors which ran for a while back in the 90s featuring an adventuress who finds that her favorite fictional heroes aren’t so fictional. Sometimes these series work for me, sometimes they don’t; that’s the thing about experimental comics: You never know what you’re going to get. In my experience such comics are rarely great, and otherwise range from pretty good to poor.

Rex Libris is one of these comics: The titular hero is a librarian at a library on Earth, but one who has to deal with supernatural and science fictional characters bedeviling him, and he works for the Egyptian god Thoth. Deeply devoted to the needs of library patrons, he also travels far afield to deal with unreturned books. And he’s a black-suited, tough-talking, square-jawed hero type surrounded by various weird characters, such as a megalomaniacal telekinetic talking bird.

Drawn on a computer by James Turner, Rex Libris is goofy and action-packed, but I found it to be total fluff: The narrative is silly and nothing but, and the story doesn’t really go anywhere. And I guess that’s the point, just a bunch of fun, but I thought it was too lightweight, without anything to grab onto to really care about. It was a cute gag for one chapter, but it quickly felt repetitive as this collection (of the first 5 issues of the series) went on, and the overall level of humor was pretty middling: A chuckle here and there, but nothing that made me laugh out loud. The art is highly stylized and had a very stiff feel, which again I think is part of the point, a few steps beyond the modernist looks of Dean Motter‘s comics or Chassis, but it’s not at all the sort of style I’m into.

So, not really my cup of tea, though I know that others like it (such as Greg Burgas over at Comics Should Be Good). But if you enjoy unorthodox comic series, this might be for you.

This Week’s Haul

Comic books I bought the week of 6 February 2008.

  • Countdown to Final Crisis #12 of 52 (backwards), by Paul Dini, Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Keith Giffen, Jesus Saiz & Tom Derenick (DC)
  • Fables #69, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham & Steve Leialoha (DC/Vertigo)
  • Justice Society of America #12, by Geoff Johns, Alex Ross, Dale Eaglesham & Ruy José (DC)
  • Metal Men #6 of 8, by Duncan Rouleau (DC)
  • Annihilation Conquest #4 of 6, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Tom Raney & Scott Hanna (Marvel)
  • Clandestine #1 of 5, by Alan Davis & Mark Farmer (Marvel)
  • The Twelve #2 of 12, by J. Michael Straczynski, Chris Weston & Garry Leach (Marvel)
  • The Boys #15, by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson (Dynamite)
  • Dynamo 5: Post-Nuclear Family vol 1 TPB, by Jay Faerber & Mahmud A. Asrar (Image)
Fables #69 This month’s Fables concludes the latest lengthy story in the series, “The Good Prince”. In it, Flycatcher, the erstwhile janitor of Fabletown in New York (and for that matter the frog prince), dons some magical armor and, guided by Sir Launcelot, helps guide a group of Fables out of the lands of the dead, and sets up the kingdom of Haven and invites refugees from the Empire to find shelter with him. At the end of last issue, the Emperor sent a huge army of his forces to destroy Haven, and the prince goes out to meet them, expecting to defeat them to save his kingdom, but die in the process.

“The Good Prince” isn’t the best story in the series, but I genuinely enjoyed watching Flycatcher’s turnaround from guilt-ridden janitor to earnest leader (who reminds me a little of the Lama from Doctor Strange #66, but that’s neither here nor there). Writer Bill Willingham continues to artfully shift the status quo of the series, and the balance of power between Fabletown and the Empire. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say that Fables is the best comic being published todayl, but it’s in my top ten.

By the way, the book’s secret – well, really unheralded – weapon is penciller Mark Buckingham, who’s quietly become one of the most inventive and versatile artists working on a major comic: He can handle a wide range of emotions and faces, as well as all the fantastic elements Willingham can throw at him, while having fundamentally good storytelling skills and some smooth, skillful linework. Good stuff.

Clandestine vol 2 #1 Alan Davis’ Clandestine first came out in the mid-90s. At first it was about a family of colorful characters – not quite superheroes – and the mystery regarding who they were and how they came to be. It wasn’t a huge mystery: The Destine family (the “clan Destine”, geddit?) are all children of Adam Destine, an immortal, indestructible man born centuries ago, and whose children are similarly long-lived and each have their own amazing powers. The series was a lot of fun, but didn’t last long, only 12 issues plus a crossover with the X-Men. (The whole thing will soon be reprinted in hardcover, and has previously been issued in paperback.)

Ten years later, Davis’ family is back in a new 5-issue limited series. This first issue is a pretty good summary of the family, their background and powers, and their various problems and conflicts. In particular, some of them have a strong sense of family ties, while others do not, but they all feel bound together in various ways. Adam is not much of a patriarch, being so long-lived that he feels and acts a little inhuman, and the family often views him with suspicion since he once killed one of his children, even though the child was apparently a huge threat.

Like the first series, this one looks like it’s going to involve the family going up against another secret organization which has their sights set on them. So I do worry that it’s going to be a bit repetitious. But Davis’ art is always terrific – dynamic and colorful – so I expect it will be entertaining in any event. I do recommend checking out the first series and then trying this one if you like it.

Dynamo 5 TPB vol 1: Post-Nuclear Family I’d been reading good things about Dynamo 5, Jay Faerber’s latest project. But I hadn’t been moved to buy the monthly comic because I’d been reading his other comic, Noble Causes, since the beginning, and a few mini-series and the first 12 or so issues of the monthly in, I’d realized that it was a comic about a bunch of thoroughly unlikeable characters, with haphazard and often-nonsensical story developments, and artwork of extremely varying quality. So I’d bailed on it. But Dynamo 5 had been getting such good reviews, that I decided to give the first paperback collection a try this week.

It’s way better than Noble Causes.

The premise is that a major superhero, Captain Dynamo, had died a few years ago, and his widow, Maddie Warner, learned that he’d been sleeping around a lot over the last few decades. Worried about the welfare of the city he’d protected, she tracked down five children his liaisons had produced and activated their latent powers. It turns out that each of them had one of the Captain’s powers: Strength, flight, vision powers, telepathy, and shapeshifting.

This collection contains the first 7 issues. The first issue gives us the set-up, and ends with Maddie revealing a secret to the readers (although not to her proteges). The remaining issues are a loosely-related set of stories in which the heroes adjust to one another and to their new roles. But Faerber does a great job of setting up conflicts and tensions among the characters, most of whom are in their late teens or early 20s, and from very different backgrounds. Artist Mahmud Asrar is a good find, handling the superhero scenes quite well, and doing well enough at the civilian/talking heads scenes (although he’s not quite as comfortable with those, it seems). The collection ends with a big two-part story, and a surprise on the last page.

Faerber seems much more adept at pacing Dynamo 5 than Noble Causes, and I’m not sure why that is. Noble Causes did have a big challenge built into it, since so many of the characters were such scumbags, and maybe getting the reader to identify with them was just more than he was able to accomplish. (Well, getting this reader to identify with them; NC‘s regular series is still running so obviously some people enjoy it.) The characters here are likable even though they’re flawed, and the high concept feels easier to plug in to. The book has a bit of the feel of Robert Kirkman’s Invincible to it, although it’s not so iconoclastic.

So I’m definitely interested in coming back for the second volume. I’m not sure I’ll latch onto the monthly series, though.

This Week’s Haul

Comic books I bought the week of 8 August 2007.

  • Countdown #38 of 52 (backwards), by Paul Dini, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray & Jesus Saiz (DC)
  • Fables #64, by Bill Willingham & Aaron Alexovich (DC/Vertigo)
  • Annihilation Conquest: Wraith #2 of 4, by Javier Grillo-Marxuach & Kyle Holz (Marvel)
  • The Incredible Hulk #109, by Greg Pak, Carlo Pagulayan & Jeffrey Huet (Marvel)
  • Nova #5, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Sean Chen, Scott Hanna & Brian Denham (Marvel)
  • The Clockwork Girl #0, by Sean O’Reilly, Kevin Hanna & Grant Bond (Arcana)
  • B.P.R.D.: Killing Ground #1 of 5, by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Guy Davis (Dark Horse)
  • Invincible: Ultimate Collection HC vol 3, by Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley & Cliff Rathburn (Image)

Fables_64.jpgAaron Alexovich’s art on the latest Fables is interesting: it’s reminiscent of Sam Keith‘s: Very expressive, somewhat cartoony. I like it in many ways, but I don’t think it works very well for Fables, which even when it’s being lighthearted is pretty weighty. Otherwise this is a pretty fun issue, focusing on Snow and Bigby and the cubs’ fifth birthday. (Wow, 5 years old already?) Alexovich’s strength is drawing the rather dynamic children, which surely is why he was picked for this issue.

Both Annihiliation Conquest issues this week (Wraith and Nova) ratchet up the tension pretty nicely. This is a fun crossover series. Would that all corners of the Marvel universe tried to be fun.

Clockwork_Girl_0.jpgThe Clockwork Girl looks promising: #0 is a preview issue costing 25¢. It looks like this will be a series about two inventors, one who creates biological wonders, and one who creates mechanical ones. There isn’t enough story in this preview to judge how it’s going to work, but it’s a good start. Grant Bond’s artwork is quite strong: Very expressive faces, solid layouts, inventive designs. The production values are quite high for a small press, too. I’m looking forward to the regular series.

But don’t take my word for it: you can read this issue on-line (PDF).

Invincible_Ultimate_Collection_3.jpgI’m debating whether I want to start buying Invincible monthly. It’s handy to be able to read 12 issues at a pop whenever the hardcover collections come out (and on a cost basis they’re about as expensive as the paperbacks, only more durable and with larger pages). I’m very impressed with how Ryan Ottley is developing as an artist: He’s incorporating some Frank Cho-like form and detail, but he’s much better at action sequences and emotions than Cho (not to mention that his women don’t all look alike). His web page is cool, too.

It might not be “the best superhero comic book in the universe”, but it is fun stuff.