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This Week's Haul

  • Adventure Comics #526, by Paul Levitz, Kevin Sharpe & Marlo Alquiza, and Jeff Lemire, Mahmud A. Asrar & John Dell (DC)
  • Astro City Special: Silver Agent #1 of 2, by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson & Alex Ross (DC/Wildstorm)
  • The Brave and the Bold #35, by J. Michael Straczynski & Jesus Saiz (DC)
  • Superman #701, by J. Michael Straczynski, Eddy Barrow & J.P. Mayer (DC)
  • The Unwritten #15, by Mike Carey & Peter Gross (DC/Vertigo)
  • Echo #23, by Terry Moore (Abstract)
  • Age of Reptiles: The Journey #4 of 4, by Ricardo Delgado (Dark Horse)
  • The Mystery Society #2, by Steve Niles & Fiona Staples (IDW)
  • Chew #12, by John Layman & Rob Guillory (Image)
  • The Sixth Gun #1 & #2, by Cullen Bunn & Brian Hurtt (Oni)
Okay, I get the idea (after all of 2 issues): Adventure Comics is going to have little stories about the Legion of Super-Heroes past (well, relative to the regular Legion comic). This is too trivial for me to care about, especially since the Paul Levitz Legion has never been all that to me. (The Jim Shooter Legion it ain’t.) This issue especially annoys me because I’m dreadfully tired of Brainiac 5 being portrayed as essentially a cranky old Vulcan. I also loathe the faux-Russian speech mannerisms of the Legion’s late benefactor R.J. Brande here. Bad stuff.

This issue also had an Atom back-up that lost me after about 2 pages.

This series isn’t worth bothering with, so I’ll be sticking to the main series from here on out.

On the other hand, the new Astro City is a 2-parter focusing on the Silver Agent. The Agent was introduced early in the series via a statue of the man with the words “To Our Eternal Shame” on the plaque. We saw more of him in The Dark Age as his fate marked the end of the silver age in Astro City and the beginning of that dark age. But that wasn’t the end of the character.

In a nutshell, you could describe the premise of the character thus: What is Captain America were framed for murder, and was executed (with the public’s approval) before the truth came out? But what if just before the execution, he was rescued by the Legion of Super-Heroes, who pulled him forward to the future to help them in a war of their own? And what if he then had to weigh the decision to live the rest of his life in the future, or to return to meet the fate history had laid out for him?

That’s this issue (along with his origin). And it’s really good. The Dark Age felt like it meandered around too much, and this issue feels like it’s getting back the focus the series has otherwise always had. Next issue, well, I’m hoping Busiek and Anderson knock it out of the park, because it’s what we’ve been waiting for for a long, long time.

(And how awesome is the logo on the cover? It looks like it came right off a Marvel comic from the 1960s!)

Getting back to the chaff, J. Michael Straczynski’s The Brave and the Bold has been generally pretty bad, although seeing Jesus Saiz develop as an artist has been nice. But this issue is awful, as the Legion of Substitute Heroes and the Inferior Five “team up” to try to save the world – from the same menace the Legion of Super-Heroes and the Doom Patrol saved it from last issue, explaining a few mysteries from last issue. It’s supposed to be funny, but it’s anything but. It’s actually rather embarrassing. I’m not really sure why people think the Subs are best used as comical figures, since every attempt to write a funny story with them has been just awful. They were used much better in Geoff Johns’ “Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes” story a couple of years back. Sure, they’re second-stringers, but in a sense that just means they have to try harder. Making fun of them is, well, no fun at al. As for the Inferior Five, well, if ever there was a joke whose time has long since passed, they’re it.

I don’t think I can stand any more of this series, so I’m hitting the eject button.

In a way it’s too bad, because the first year of this series, by Mark Waid and George Pérez, was excellent (especially the first 6 issues), but it really went downhill quickly after that. Nothing really memorable other than the Green Lantern/Spectre issues, which were enjoyable enough.

And speaking of J. Michael Straczynski, Superman #701 is the real first chapter of his series “Grounded”. Superman doesn’t entirely stay on the ground, but he walks across the country to interact with people on their level. It’s basically full of Straczynski clichés: The slightly-too-sentimental rescues, the humor that fails badly, the out-of-place and rather tedious philosophical asides. It’s not quite as bad as all that, but it feels downright trivial, and very much unlike a Superman story. As I said last month, I don’t think Straczynski really gets superhero comics, since none of his really seem to work (other than The Twelve, in which the fact that the characters were superheroes was almost incidental to the story).

The story will need to shift in tone sharply next issue, because this premise as depicted here just doesn’t have legs (so to speak).

John Cassaday’s cover has been getting a lot of favorable reviews, but I think he’s done much better work. The composition is nothing special, and it looks like there’s something wrong with Supes’ head and neck.

A larger disappointment has been the new Age of Reptiles mini-series. The first two series were great stuff, telling actual stories about dinosaurs without anthropomorphizing them too much (just enough to make them a little more sympathetic – or not – to the readers). You could argue that Ricardo Delgado framed everything to make a story out of it.

But The Journey has been more a series of vignettes, without an actual story. Or if there was one, then it was too subtle or too buried for me to pick up on it. So although lavishly illustrated, it hasn’t been a very satisfying read. I got to the end of this issue and scratched my head wondering exactly what the point was. Okay, drawing dinosaurs may be a point in itself, but really this was a big letdown compared to the first two series.


Finally, The Sixth Gun premiered as a Free Comic Book Day giveaway, and the first two issues both came out this week. (The first issue is essentially identical to the FCBD issue.) It’s quite good, being a supernatural horror story set in the old west: An old Confederate general is raised from the grave (if he ever really went there in the first place) and wants his gun back. But his gun is bonded to the daughter of the man who stole it from him, and she’s being spirited away by one of the General’s former posse, whose motivations are still murky.

There’s violence, mayhem, dark magic, ghosts, and all kinds of good stuff, and Brian Hurtt’s art is excellent, expressive and nuanced despite his fundamentally simple style. Overall this is a nice package and a fun read. I’m looking forward to more.

This Week's Haul

Lots of collections this week, of which I’d most highly recommend the new Sandman Mystery Theatre volume, a series which I’ve been thoroughly enjoying in reprint (having passed on it the first time around since I didn’t warm to the art at first – it got better) as a retro-noir-detective series. Hopefully DC is committed to getting the whole series out in trade.

American Vampire #2 is a big leap forward from #1, tying together its two stories – outlaw Skinner Sweet from the 19th century, and aspiring showgirl Pearl from 1925. Although it’s essentially the second half of the two characters’ origin stories, it’s much more satisfying than the first half, which didn’t even scratch the surface. It also lays out the direction of the series, that American vampires will be fundamentally different from European vampires, which will put the two groups into conflict but also mirror the growing influence of America in world affairs (or, so I infer). I hope there will be at least a bone tossed to explain why American vampires are different, rather than “just ‘cuz”, though.

I’m still not sure what I think of Rafael Albuquerque’s art, though I’ve warmed to it more since last issue. My biggest gripes about it are the exaggeration he gives to the vampires when their feral nature emerges, which makes little sense and isn’t dramatically effective (it’s more silly than anything else), which undercuts the two big splash panels in the issue.

But although the series is off to a shaky start, I’m much more optimistic that it will be worthwhile than I was after the first issue.

This issue of The Brave and the Bold actually made me mad. It starts out as a “girl’s night out” yarn in which Zatanna invites out Wonder Woman and Batgirl (the Barbara Gordon version) for a night of dancing, but with the hint of something ominous. That “something” soon becomes clear: Zatanna’s had a vision of Batgirl’s impending crippling at the hands of the Joker (from Batman: The Killing Joke) and she’s set this up as one nice last night while Batgirl is still ambulatory.

The story is manipulative and heavy-handed, overly sentimental, and about 20 years past its expiration date. As a lead-in to some new tragedy befalling a character it might have been okay, but done this way it’s just awful, twisting the knife (again and again and again, as comics are wont to do) by bringing up Gordon’s injury in full force yet again.

Everyone associated with this issue should be ashamed of themselves. This is crap.


Since it launched in the wake of Annihilation, Nova has been consistently one of Marvel’s best comics, despite struggling through one pointless event crossover comic (Secret Invasion) after another (War of Kings). In Annihilation Richard Ryder had grown up from a teenage hot-shot superhero to a first-tier leader who led the good guys to victory after the Nova Corps had been annihilated and he’d inherited their aggregate power. Nova continued his development, taking on increasingly larger threats while he worked to rebirth the Nova Corps. The journey was haphazard, but ultimately enjoyable. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning kept the focus on the main character, and the art was consistently strong, first with the always-great Sean Chen, and later with the solid Andrea Divito.

At the other end of the Spectrum, Guardians of the Galaxy followed a year later after Annihilation Conquest, and although it started off strong – tying in with the 30th-century Guardians and picking up the pieces scattered around after the two Annihilation series – it quickly fragmented, the Guardians never really seeming to have an officially-recognized place in the galaxy which undercut their effectiveness. The cast was too large and got pulled in too many directions – Moondragon died and came back, Phyla-Vell died and came back with entirely different powers, Warlock went through his predictable metamorphosis into the Magus – and the story was weighed down by too many unbelievably high-stakes events to ever be grounded in its characters or its setting. And the art ranged from quite good to pretty ugly. The series was just never satisfying.

And now both series are being cancelled ahead of a new event comic, The Thanos Imperative, which not only is a stupid-sounding title but heralds yet another return of Marvel’s second-string cosmic heavy (after Galactus). Unfortunately, I have little interest in reading yet another iteration of Jim Starlin’s prime baddie, so I think this is it for me and Marvel’s cosmic line. Keith Giffen and company did a great job getting things started back in Annihilation (still one of the best Marvel books of the last decade) and a 3-year run of spin-offs ain’t bad. But I think the train’s about to jump the rails.

I might sign on for another Nova series, if there is one, and if it’s not too weighed down by crossovers. But otherwise: Thanks guys, it’s been fun.

This Week's Haul

Hey, would you look at this, it’s an entry finally posted in a timely manner!

  • The Brave and the Bold #31, by J. Michael Straczynski, Chad Hardin, Justiniano, Wayne Faucher & Walden Wong (DC)
  • Fables #92, by Bill Willingham & David Lapham (DC/Vertigo)
  • Green Lantern Corps #44, by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Rebecca Buchman, Tom Nguyen & Keith Champagne (DC)
  • Power Girl #8, by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti & Amanda Conner (DC)
  • Starman #81, by James Robinson, Fernando Dagnino & Bill Sienkiewicz (DC)
  • The Incredible Hercules #140, by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lante & Rodney Buchemi (Marvel)
  • Nova #33, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Andrea DiVito (Marvel)
  • The Thing: Project Pegasus deluxe HC, by Ralph Macchio, Mark Gruenwald, Sal Buscema, John Byrne, George Pérez, Sam Grainger, Alfredo Alcala, Joe Sinnott & Gene Day (Marvel)
  • X-Men: The Asgardian Wars HC, by Chris Claremont, Paul Smith, Arthur Adams, Bob Wiacek, Terry Austin, Al Gordon & Mike Mignola (Marvel)
  • Incorruptible #2, by Mark Waid, Jean Diaz & Belardino Brabo (Boom)
  • RASL #6, by Jeff Smith (Cartoon)
The Brave and the Bold #31 I picked up a couple of DC books this week which are largely humorous, but they couldn’t be much more different if they’d tried. The Brave and the Bold features the uncomfortable pairing of the Atom and the Joker, where the Joker is suffering from a brain illness, and only the Atom can save him, by shrinking down far enough to deliver a capsule to a point in his brain that might cure him – or kill him. The story opens with Atom being unable to get to Arkham at first because he can only travel through land telephone lines, not cell phones, and then features several pages of Atom refusing to help save the Joker until he’s told that the cure might not even work, so Atom could do his best and still fail. The phone idea is cute, as long as you don’t think about it too hard (throwing an arbitrary limit on an ability that doesn’t make much sense in the first place is always silly; wouldn’t Atom also have trouble with fiber optic cables in the phone system?), but wrestling with his conscience doesn’t work at all. The Atom if an old-style hero who’s largely stuck to those roots, and while he might lament the need to save the life of an enemy, his over-the-top heart-wringing here feels completely out of character.

The rest of the story is okay, and played more seriously: While in the Joker’s brain, Atom gets flashes of Joker’s childhood memories – the making of a psychopath, as it were. It’s not terribly insightful, and has flashes of gallows humor, which still isn’t terribly funny. There’s isn’t much covered here that hasn’t been covered in many Joker stories previously, and the story wasn’t as satisfying overall as, say, John Byrne’s tale in his Generations series where one Batman has to save the Joker from being haunted to death by the ghost of an earlier Batman.

But mostly it’s that the humorous bits go so horribly wrong that makes this story rather painful to read. Quite a letdown after last month’s decent Green Lantern/Doctor Fate yarn. The format of The Brave and the Bold seems to be exposing many of Straczynski’s flaws as a writer, and it’s not pretty.

Power Girl #8 On the other hand, while the set-up of this 2-part Power Girl story disappointed me, the payoff in this issue is considerably funnier. Okay, the cliffhanger from last month gets handled in 4 pages (despite “hours of fighting” having elapsed between issues), but after that, rather than PG being (theoretically) at the mercy of Vartox, she manages to tame him down to civilized levels, and laughs out loud at some of the ridiculousness of his plans. There are several giggle-worthy moments in the issue, and everything works out for the best for both characters.

I still think Power Girl would be better served with some more serious stories – since very little about the series has been serious so far – but at least they got the lightheartedness of this issue right. And certainly more right than Straczynski did in The Brave and the Bold.

Starman #81 The most-heralded Blackest Night series revival has to be this one issue of James Robinson’s Starman. Naturally Robinson – who writes the issue – sticks to his guns by having Jack Knight stay retired despite his brother being raised by the black lantern rings to wreak havoc on Opal City; instead we catch up with some of his supporting cast to see where they’ve ended up since Jack left and his father died. Naturally the Shade figures as the prominent hero. It’s a clever way to do another Starman issue without really doing another Starman issue. Even the art evokes some of the low-key feel of the original series, although I’ve never been a big fan of Bill Sienkiewicz’s endless squiggles as an inker.

It works as an add-on to the original series, rather than just a cynical Blackest Night tie-in. (Don McPherson notes that readers of the series are likely to enjoy the issue more than people surfing by due to the tie-in, which is exactly right.)

I’ve heard a rumor (which may be baseless) that Robinson is interested in doing a Shade series. I’d totally sign up for that.

The Thing: Project Pegasus If you want to see how they did good superhero comics when I was a teenager (in the 1980s), Marvel has two fine hardcover collections out this week. First (and best), is the Thing in Project Pegasus, from his old Marvel Two-in-One series. If you can believe it, there was once a series (it ran for 100 issues!) which mostly featured this member of the Fantastic Four teaming up with a different hero every month, often with good stories and better artwork. Project Pegasus was the apex of the series, a 6-issue story featuring some third- and fourth-string supporting characters, but what made it work was the setting: Ol’ blue-eyes signs on for a tour as a security guard at Project Pegasus, a high-security prison and research institute for super-powered criminals, as well as heroes and innocents who need some sort of high-tech treatment. During his stint, an outside organization infiltrates the project for their own nefarious aims, leading to a major disaster (when their main agent goes rogue) which Ben and company have to fight.

Admittedly, the motivations of the infiltrating organization are a little vague, but it’s still cracking good superhero adventure stuff. Great art by Byrne, Pérez and company, too. The series has also been collected in paperback in the past, but the hardcover has a 2-part story which introduced Pegasus 2 years earlier. Check it out.

X-Men: The Asgardian Wars Then there’s X-Men: The Asgardian Wars, which was arguably Chris Claremont’s last hurrah as a great comics writer. The Uncanny X-Men and New Mutants titles (the main X-books in the late 80s) had been spluttering along in gradual artistic decline (in my opinion) when Claremont put together this pair of 2-part stories featuring Marvel’s mutants facing off against the Norse god Loki. First Loki tries to gain favors from even more powerful gods by forcing a boon on humanity, and the X-Men and the Canadian team Alpha Flight have to deal with the consequences. Then, perturbed by the X-Men’s interference, Loki abducts Storm (who was powerless at the time) and accidentally knocks a collection of New Mutants across the realm of Asgard, where they find themselves rather out of their league. The X-Men join in the fun to foil Loki, who’s really just entertaining himself while waiting for the right moment to make a play for the throne of Asgard.

The first story is one of Claremont’s better moral dilemmas for his characters, putting the heroes on opposite sides of a complex issue, and it’s lushly illustrated by the great Paul Smith. The second story more of a straightforward adventure story, and it’s drawn by Arthur Adams just as he was getting good, although it still has a little too much of the “boobs, boobs and more boobs” style he sometimes lapses into, and the finishes are not as clean nor the work as detailed as his later stuff.

But honestly I think this was the last great X-Men story. Yeah yeah, Grant Morrison, Josh Whedon, Warren Ellis, blah blah blah. None of them turned out X-Men stories as good as this. And this was just the last gasp of the “All-New, All-Different X-Men”; it used to be even better.

This Week’s Haul

  • The Brave and the Bold #30, by J. Michael Straczynski & Jesus Saiz (DC)
  • Ex Machina #47, by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris (DC/Wildstorm)
  • Fables #91, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham & Steve Leialoha (DC/Vertigo)
  • Green Lantern Corps #43, by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Rebecca Buchman & Tom Nguyen (DC)
  • Power Girl #7, by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti & Amanda Conner (DC)
  • Astonishing X-Men #33, by Warren Ellis, Phil Jimenez & Andy Lanning (Marvel)
  • Incorruptible #1, by Mark Waid, Jean Diaz & Belardino Brabo (Boom)
  • The Unknown: The Devil Made Flesh #3 of 4, by Mark Waid & Minck Oosterveer (Boom)
The Brave and the Bold #30 The fourth issue of J. Michael Straczynski’s The Brave and the Bold is a little better than the first three. The plot works like this: Some years ago Doctor Fate encountered Green Lantern (the Hal Jordan version) at a point when Fate was feeling a little uneasy about his role in the universe. He imprinted a piece of himself in Green Lantern’s ring with the intent that it will emerge sometime in the future, and then return to the past to inform him of how his life has turned out in the intervening years. So in the present day, GL has gotten into trouble on a dead world when the Fate aspect emerges, and together the two of them work to help GL escape safely, but at the cost of the Fate aspect not being able to return to his originator. This is a small tragedy since this Doctor Fate – the original, Kent Nelson – has died years since, and GL suggests that maybe by going back, the aspect could help the original Fate survive.

The story is rather contrived, relying on some pretty obscure continuity details, but glossing over some other continuity details (such as that GL probably doesn’t have the same ring he had years ago, due to his own convoluted history). But the spirit of the story works pretty well.

Unfortunately, Straczynski’s run on the title has been dragged down by exposing many of his weaknesses as a writer. To start with, when Mark Waid launched the series a few years ago, he put a new spin on the book by writing an epic story which featured a large cast, whereas Staczynski has been writing one-off character pieces pairing a major hero (Batman, Flash, Green Lantern) with a lesser one (Doctor Fate is the biggest name among these; the others have been Dial “H” For Hero, the Blackhawks, and Brother Power the Geek). Straczynski seems to have a weakness for these little character pieces, and they worked fine in Babylon 5 as a break from the larger story, but a steady diet of them makes the title feel, well, trivial.

Straczynski is known – rightly or wrongly – for writing weak or stilted dialogue. I mostly think his dialogue is fine, but B&B seems filled with some of the most overwrought narratives I can recall him writing, mixed with some flagrantly inappropriate dialogue for the characters in question. The set-up for this story seems contrived for Fate to get in a zinger about GL’s ring not working on the color yellow, which is very much against character for Fate. The story also ends with a lengthy monologue by Fate in the past wondering what happened to his aspect, which also feels very un-Fate-like. The line between Doctor Fate’s character and Kent Nelson’s has always been fuzzily drawn – on purpose, I think – with the character acting very differently depending on whether he has his mask on or not, and Straczynski seems to tear down the divide here, having Fate speak with Nelson’s voice, a development which just doesn’t ring true for the character. This feels especially wrong since it occurs just two pages after Fate took off his helmet to speak with Nelson’s voice, underscoring the difference between the two sides of the character. Straczynski seems to be forcing the character to fit his story, rather than writing to the character, and it hurts what in general is a fine story.

The brightest light in the issue is the development of Jesus Saiz as the artist. A few issues ago his art felt generic and even stiff, but this issue flows beautifully and has a smoothness and use of shadow and expression that goes some way to compensate for the dialogue, especially since the story is mostly two guys standing around and talking to each other. It’s a nearly-unprecedented pace of development for an artist, and it does make me curious to see where he’ll go next.

Power Girl #7 Power Girl reintroduces the character Vartox, who in the 1970s (before DC rebooted everything) was a rival with Superman for Lana Lang’s attentions. Amanda Conner even draws an homage to the cover of Vartox’s first appearance, and the character still has his extra-cheesy 1970s porn star outfit. In this issue, Vartox’s world becomes sterilized, so he comes to Earth to court Power Girl to be his mate, to start repopulating his world. You can imagine how this goes over with PG, and Vartox is also unspeakably stupid in the stunts he uses to try to woo her, resulting in a powerful and destructive alien being released on Earth.

Greg Burgas loved this issue but I was disappointed. Gray and Palmiotti’s writing on Power Girl has been filled with jokes and themes about Power Girl’s body and sexuality, and while I don’t expect a PG title to never have such things, it’s been just one after another in this series. And her adventures have been fairly trivial: Another fight with the Ultra-Humanite, who wants to put his brain in her body, a group of spoiled rich space girls who come to Earth to have fun, and now Vartox. It’s become a one-note series, and the note is sounding pretty flat.

What I’d like to see in Power Girl is more attention to her being the CEO of her own company (in her secret identity), more time mentoring the young heroine Terra, and some threats with some real weight behind them. There’s a lot of good material to work with here, but instead it’s one lighthearted adventure after another, and not even particularly clever ones.

Yeah, yeah, Amanda Conner’s art is still terrific, but that can only take the book so far.

Incorruptible #1 Mark Waid’s bid to take over the world from Boom! Studios continues with his third title from the company, Incorruptible a spin-off of his excellent series Irredeemable. (His other series, The Unknown also has a fine issue out this week.) Where Irredeemable was about a Superman-like hero going bad for reasons still being explored, Incorruptible is about one of the foremost super-villains going straight and becoming a hero after the Plutonian went bad. The main character is Max Damage, who shows up in this issue after an extended absence to take down his own gang and turn them into the police. He then takes a detective to his lair where he shows him the millions of dollars in his vault – before torching it all as tainted money. Naturally this doesn’t make his sidekick, Jailbait, happy; she’s an underage girl who used to be Max’s lover, and now he’s toeing the straight-and-narrow, while she was happy with a life of crime.

It’s a hell of a set-up, and Waid packs a lot into this first issue, with the promise of plenty of mayhem and ethical dilemmas in Max and Jailbait’s future. Jean Diaz draws the hell out of the thing, the main flaw being some flat expressions, but hopefully that will change with experience. Incorruptible has every sign of being as solid a book as Irredeemable, showcasing Waid’s strengths as having a deep understanding of what makes superheroes work, while being interested in taking them in new directions while staying within the main conventions of the genre. No one in the industry does that better than Mark Waid.

This Week’s Haul

  • Batman and Robin #4, by Grant Morrison, Philip Tan & Jonathan Glapion (DC)
  • Blackest Night #3 of 8, by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis & Oclair Albert (DC)
  • The Brave and the Bold #27, by J. Michael Straczynski & Jesus Saiz (DC)
  • Ex Machina #45, by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris (DC/Wildstorm)
  • JSA vs. Kobra #4 of 6, by Eric S. Trautmann, Don Kramer & Michael Babinski (DC)
  • Hercules: Prince of Power HC, by Bob Layton (Marvel)
  • Wednesday Comics #11, by many hands (DC)
  • Unthinkable #5 of 5, by Mark Sable & Julian Totino Tedesco (Boom)
  • Star Trek: Romulans: Schism #1 of 5, by John Byrne (IDW)
  • Atomic Robo: Shadow From Beyond Time #5 of 5, by Brian Clevinger & Scott Wegener (Red 5)
The Brave and the Bold #27 J. Michael Straczynski starts his long-awaited run on The Brave and the Bold this month. The comics blogosphere’s reaction to this assignment was basically, “Wait, DC signs one of the biggest names in comics and assigns him to a book whose sales were in a slump the last time big name creators were on it, and has been slogging along through limbo ever since?” B&B was thoroughly Mark Waid’s book, and honestly it should have been cancelled when he left it (although some of the interim stories have been decent). But why put Straczynski on it? Did he request it, to be able to have his own sandbox to play in? Who knows?

The story itself is merely okay. It features Batman and the extremely obscure character from the original Dial H For Hero, and it’s a thin story with a rather simplistic moral about doing something with one’s life.

I’ve written several times before about my criticisms of Straczynski’s comics work, as much as I loved Babylon 5, and this issue is towards the lower end of his comics work. If all he’s going to do in B&B is write a few unconnected stories, then I don’t think it’s going to be worth it. Meanwhile, we’ll see how well he keeps up with the schedule, inasmuch as Thor was consistently shipping late and The Twelve – perhaps his best comics work – seems to be on hiatus. And, more importantly, whether he has a plan for what to do with a series with such a scatterbrained premise.

Wednesday Comics #11 It’s a little hard to believe that Wednesday Comics is coming to an end after one more issue, given that some of the stories feel like they’re not even close to being done after this issue. Superman, even though it’s been a terrible story, feels like it’s about to turn into the second half of the story after the cliffhanger here. Supergirl has been much better, but with her facing down aliens as her super-pets arrive on the scene seems like it’s setting up for several more pages, too. And then there’s Hawkman, which has a climactic moment this page, but then Kyle Baker’s over-the-top writing in this story has featured a climactic moment every other page. But I don’t see how Baker’s going to pull together Hawkman, Aquaman, an alien invasion, and DInosaur Island together into a satisfying finish in one more page. Of course, the writing’s been on the wall for weeks that Hawkman would be a terrible story.

In other episodes, Strange Adventures has a neat touch in dealing with its villain this issue. And although I haven’t read Wonder Woman in weeks, this week’s page finally makes good use of the large-page format with a nice 2/3-page spread. Too bad I’ve long since stopped caring.

Next week we’ll see how things finish up, and I’ll revisit all of the stories in their totalities.

Hercules Prince of Power HC Among the most fun comics I can recall reading were Bob Layton’s two Hercules mini-series from back in the 80s. Hercules, the Greek demigod of myth, had returned to Earth and adventured with The Avengers for quite a few years; although a good guy, he also had a tendency to get drunk and pick fights, and – being a god – was able to shrug off the consequences of his actions much of the time, sometimes leaving a trail of carnage and/or sadness behind him. In short, having Hercules on Earth didn’t seem quite fair to everyone else.

Layton tackled this challenge in novel fashion: Hundreds of years in the future, Hercules angers his father Zeus – again – and Zeus exiles him, but this time he exiles him to outer space, where there are plenty of beings who are Hercules’ equal, or more. This helps Hercules gain perspective on his place in the universe, but Layton also uses it for a series of absolutely hilarious adventures. Accompanied by a Recorder, a robot charged with observing everything he does, Hercules wades through a series of entertaining adventures, before finding himself suddenly aging, and learning that things have recently gone quite poorly for the gods of Olympus, forcing him to return home before he dies of old age to find out what’s going on.

Although at times a moving drama, Layton never relinquishes his light touch on the material, and Hercules generally comes across as a nicer guy – and a more mature one – than the one currently appearing in The Incredible Hercules (although that series is not bad). And now that Marvel’s collected this in a handsome hardcover volume, I highly recommend checking it out. It’s a good time.

(It looks like Layton’s other Hercules-related stuff, including the sequel to these stories, will be collected in a second volume later this year.)

Unthinkable #5 Unthinkable was one of three series from Boom! Studios that piqued my interest this year, but I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as either Irredeemable or The Unknown. The premise was that author Alan Ripley joined a government think tank after September 11 to try to come up with other unlikely scenarios that terrorists might use to attack America or other countries. Which sounds fine until the think tank is disbanded and some of their scenarios come to pass.

It’s a nifty high concept, but a tough one to pull off, since it plays its premise largely straight, which means having to thread a needle to make it seem plausible in the face of, well, doing the impossible. Writer Mark Sable gives it a good try, but I don’t think he pulls it off; the ultimate story behind the unthinkable events feels a little too simplistic, really in much the same way the climax to Watchmen didn’t quite hold up. I guess when you’re being compared to Watchmen – even flaws in Watchmen – you’re doing something right, but still the story didn’t really work for me. A worthy try, though.

Artist Julian Totino Tedesco isn’t really my kind of artist; his sketchy linework over highly realistic layouts remind me of Jackson Guice, but darker. I think he could have used an inker with a strong sense of line coherence, a Tom Palmer sort, to pull the pencils together. But that’s just me.

Star Trek: Romulans: Schism #1 I’m not sure what to make of John Byrne’s Star Trek series for IDW. Assignment: Earth followed the adventures of Gary Seven and Roberta Franklin in the early 1970s, and then Crew followed the career of Number One prior to becoming Captain Pike’s first officer on the Enterprise. Now Romulans: Schism appears to involve the shaky Klingon/Romulan alliance circa the end of the classic Star Trek TV series (or maybe a couple of years after that, although not much later since Star Trek: The Motion Picture takes place at most 5 years after the end of the series, and the designs here are mostly classic Trek). Number One appears to be back, a little grayer, and the Commodore commanding a Constitution-class ship.

What’s confusing to me is that Byrne usually has a method to his madness, a larger story that the smaller ones fit into, but it’s awfully hard to see how these three series fit together. Assignment: Earth was a set of mildly entertaining short stories, but the characters and plots weren’t really all that exciting. Crew was considerably more entertaining, but seemed to end just as it was about to get really good. Now we’ve jumped forward to focus on the two main villainous races in classic Trek. So where’s it all going? Or is Byrne just content to tell a few independent short stories, and enjoy playing in the Trek universe on his terms? Maybe it’s not going anywhere.

On the bright side, Byrne captures the visuals of classic Trek perfectly; the thing looks beautiful. And Crew was a very well-told set of stories, while Romulans: Schism is off to a good, if rather ominous, start, with a solid cliffhanger at the end of this first issue. Despite being perplexed by Byrne’s ultimate goal – if there is one – this is some of the best Trek material I’ve read in decades, and that makes it worth the price on its own.

(Hmm, on further review, it looks like this might be a sequel to an earlier two-part Byrne story, The Hollow Crown, which I hadn’t heard of before. So apparently I’m missing at least one piece of the puzzle.)

Atomic Robo: Shadow From Beyond Time #5 I’ve been conflicted about Atomic Robo since it began. I appreciate the premise – Nikola Tesla creates a sentient robot who lives into the present day and fights big monsters – and also Brian Clevinger’s wacky sense of humor in setting up the situations and writing the dialogue. Of course, the parallels between Robo and Hellboy are obvious; Robo’s personality is a little more extroverted, but they’re both strong monster-fighters with flippant tongues. The problem is that while Mike Mignola’s stories for Hellboy can be a little erratic, each individual story holds together pretty well, and when the story trails off at the end, it’s usually evident that that’s what Mignola was going for. The first Robo mini-series was a collection of vaguely-linked short stories, and the second one purported to be a single story but scattered to the four winds at the end.

All that said, Shadow From Beyond Time is a solid step forward for Robo. It starts with Robo, Charles Fort, and H.P. Lovecraft in the 1920s fighting a Lovecraftian creature. The problem is that this creature comes from outside time, so Robo fights it over and over in the following years until it all comes to an end in this issue when he figures out a way to deal with it, and even loops back to the beginning to bring some closure to the first chapter of the story. It’s easily the best-told story in the series so far, and it makes me optimistic that things will keep getting better.

Which is good, because as amusing as Robo can be as a character, it’s difficult to get invested in a series which is largely told in retrospect, and whose setting (Robo’s team and organization at Tesladyne) is left, at best, fuzzy. Madcap adventure can only take you so far.

This Week’s Haul

  • The Brave and the Bold #23, by Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund (DC)
  • Ex Machina #42, by Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris & Jim Clark (DC/Wildstorm)
  • Jack of Fables #34, by Bill Willingham Matthew Sturges, Russ Braun & José Marzán Jr. (DC/Vertigo)
  • Far West #1, by Richard Moore (Antarctic)
  • Gigantic #4 of 5, by Rich Remender & Eric Nguyen (Dark Horse)
  • Invincible #62, by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley (Image)
The Brave and the Bold #23 In a way, the best part of The Brave and the Bold is the wonky character team-ups, and matching second-stringer Booster Gold (time-traveling self-promoting superhero) with fifth-stringer Magog (irrelevant Justice Society member based on a villain from an alternate future) is about as wonky as they come. You’d think with Booster Gold creator Dan Jurgens doing the story and art that it would be a nice side-trip from the enjoyable Booster Gold series.

Unfortunately it’s not a Booster Gold story at all: Booster sees Rip Hunter apparently fighting Magog on his way back from another time period, and when Booster goes to see what Magog is up to in the present day, he finds that Magog’s reckless behavior puts innocent people at risk, and he’s disgusted at Magog’s viciousness. But this just tells us what we’ve suspected about Magog all along (although he’s a little nastier here than he is in JSA) and the fact that Booster is the hero who sees is it really just coincidence. There’s a little irony in that Booster used to have a cavalier approach to heroics himself, but he’s grown up now. Magog’s motivations are completely different from Booster’s, though, so the parallel doesn’t really work.

So the story’s thinner than I’d hoped; it would have worked better had it somehow been spun to be a Booster Gold story, not a Magog story. But, wonky team-ups are risky things, since it’s hard to throw two unrelated characters together and make the story work. Jurgens gave it a good try (and his art is as smooth and polished as ever), but I don’t think he pulled it off.

Far West: Bad Mojo #1 My comic shop found me a copy of the first issue of Richard Moore’s Far West to go with the second issue from a couple weeks back. I wasn’t too impressed with Moore’s recent series Fire and Brimstone, but I’ve enjoyed his series Boneyard for several years. (It’s one of the few series Debbi reads, too.)

Far West is somewhere in between: In a mythical Wild West, gunfighters, trains and saloons exist alongside dragons, ogres and spirits. Our heroes are Meg and Phil, a gunfighting half-elf woman and an anthropomorphic bear, who are also the best bounty hunters in the area. In Bad Mojo they’ve pursued their quarries into the Deadlands, where things are decidedly not what they seem.

Far West is predicated on Meg being a tough-as-nails smartass, with Phil playing her straight man as she drags him into situations that are more than he bargained for. It works pretty well, although Phil is definitely the second fiddle to his partner, especially here, in which Phil plays comic relief while Meg’s background is revealed and her personality is tested. The series doesn’t have the variety of character interaction of Boneyard, but it’s also not sheer fluff like Fire and Brimstone. I bet Far West could be a good ongoing series if developed as such, as Moore seems content to do the occasional short piece, like this two-issue series, and that’s fine.

And happily, I understand there will be more Boneyard soon.

This Week’s Haul

  • The Brave and the Bold #22, by David Hine, Doug Braithwaite & Bill Reinhold (DC)
  • Tangent: Superman’s Reign #12 of 12, by Dan Jurgens, Carlos Magno & Julio Ferreira (DC)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy #10, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Brad Walker, Victor Olazaba & Livesay (Marvel)
  • Invincible #59, by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley (Image)
Tangent: Superman's Reign #12 Tangent: Superman’s Reign had a promising start: The DC Universe heroes meeting their counterparts from “Earth Tangent”, and catching up with the main characters from that world was fun, since it’s spent the last few years under the supposedly-benevolent rule of their Superman, a powerful telepath and telekinetic.

Unfortunately the series ended up being a mess, padded by at least four issues. It didn’t help that each issue (save the last) featured a back-up story taking up a quarter of the pages, but doing nothing more than recounting the backstory of the Tangent characters (and ultimately going nowhere). There were too many characters so no one stood out as the protagonist, everyone got lost in the shuffle. Plus the game of musical artists started mid-way through, none of them quite working out as well as the original artist, Matthew Clark, did.

I think the series would have been better served by getting rid of the backup story and cutting it back to 6 issues or so. But ultimately I think the series just didn’t have a reason for being other than throwing the DC and Tangent heroes together, and frankly that just wasn’t enough to carry it.

The Brave and the Bold #22 On the other hand, the underrated series The Brave and the Bold wraps up its latest story arc and it turned out to be a perfectly enjoyable retro-style team-up of Green Lantern and the Phantom Stranger (with a side of Green Arrow) facing down a powerful creature trying to end all life in the universe. It includes a visit to a fairly alien world (by comic book standards) and themes of the value of life even in trying circumstances. I’ve never read anything by David Hine before, but this is a pretty good indication that I should check out his other work, if I come across any. Doug Braithwaite is a pretty good artist with a bit of Mike Grell and Norm Breyfogle in his style, and his work looks better here than it did in Alex Ross’ series Justice.

After this series of fill-in issues, I guess J. Michael Straczynski is taking over the series with the next issue. Although it sounds like it’s already running late, and as you saw in my review of Thor last week his previous comics work hasn’t thrilled me (although The Twelve has been quite good, though it’s running late, too). Anyway, we can cross that bridge when we come to it. If we come to it.

This Week’s Haul

  • The Brave and the Bold: The Book of Destiny HC, by Mark Waid, George Pérez, Jerry Ordway, Bob Wiacek & Scott Koblish (DC)
  • Justice Society of America #18, by Geoff Johns, Alex Ross, Dale Eaglesham, Jerry Ordway, Mick Gray, Kris Justice & Nathan Massengill (DC)
  • Legion of Super-Heroes #45, by Jim Shooter, Francis Manapul & Livesay (DC)
  • Madame Xanadu #3, by Matt Wagner & Amy Reeder Hadley (DC/Vertigo)
  • Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D #1 of 2, by Grant Morrison, Doug Mahnke & Christian Alamy (DC)
  • newuniversal: Conqueror #1, by Simon Spurrier & Eric Nguyen (Marvel)
  • Nova #16, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Wellington Alves & Scott Hanna (Marvel)
The Brave and the Bold vol 2: The Book of Destiny Although I loved the first volume in Mark Waid and George Pérez’s The Brave and the Bold (The Lords of Luck), I was not nearly as enthusiastic about the second one. Although The Book of Destiny reads better in collected form than as individual issues, it still shows all of its warts: It’s got a hodge-podge of characters thrown together for shakier-than-usual reasons (Ultraman?), and a plot whose villain’s motivation feels insufficiently crafted, with a sudden reversal at the end which also doesn’t work for me. But the big problem is that Waid’s characterizations – usually his strong suit – fail him badly here. His depiction of Power Girl in the first chapter is about as ham-handed as I can recall seeing, and the Flash/Doom Patrol story also features one-note characterizations which often feel contrived and out-of-place.

The best story in the volume is the short Hawkman/Atom yarn, although the beginning of the Superman/Ultraman one is pretty funny. And of course Pérez’s artwork is great, as usual, and if you’re losing George Pérez in the middle of a story – as happened here – you can’t do much better than replacing him with Jerry Ordway, who gets to pencil the finale.

It’s the artwork that motivated me to pick up the hardcover of this – well, that and the fact that I already owned the first volume in hardcover – but anyone else who wants to read the back half of the Waid/Pérez run on this title would probably do better to wait for the (cheaper) paperback. Overall, it was a big disappointment compared to the terrific first half.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1 Superman Beyond 3D is a 2-part story spinning out of Final Crisis #3, in which a Monitor, Zilla Vallo, plucks Superman from the side of Lois Lane’s hospital bed to take him outside reality on a quest to save her. She’s recruited several of his counterparts from parallel worlds to help: Ultraman, Captain Marvel, Overman (from a world in which the Nazis won World War II) and Quantum Superman (based on a combination of Captain Atom and Doctor Manhattan, it seems like). They end up in limbo – the place where forgotten characters go to live forever in obscurity – and learn about their nemesis, Mandrakk.

I’ve been pretty down on Final Crisis so far, and unfortunately this issue fits right in with that: It’s a bunch of gosh-wow stuff thrown together so that it makes no sense. Why bring together the five Supermen? Who thought bringing in Ultraman would be a good idea? (Although if you’re an Ultraman fan, that means you can get a double dose this week.) What exactly are they supposed to accomplish? Who is Zilla Vallo and why is this her fight? Why go to limbo? To be fair, it’s the first issue and arguably Morrison is going to explain it all in the second issue. Unfortunately, his track record suggests that a lot of it won’t be explained at all, it’s just there for the gosh-wow factor, but that’s not the reaction it gets from me.

Much of it also feels like old territory, too. The form of Limbo is certainly old news, whether it feels like it’s from Morrison’s own Animal Man of 20 years ago, or the Supremacy from Alan Moore’s Supreme, and in any event it feels a lot like the Bizarro world from All-Star Superman, and the concept seems like just a more depressing version of . Morrison references the Bleed, which is a Warren Ellis interpretation of the multiverse, and Morrison doesn’t add anything new to it here. And on top of this we have the silliness with some pages being in 3-D – a pair of 3-D glasses are included – which adds nothing to the story. (At least it wasn’t all in 3-D, or I’d have passed on it entirely.)

So the story isn’t very much. The art is sometimes very good, and sometimes rather iffy. I think I liked Doug Mahnke’s work best back when he was drawing The Mask, since his sense of shape and form gave his books a very solid feel, the exact opposite of the Image style which was prevalent in those days. He’s changed quite a bit since then, working more with shadows and layouts, and I think it hasn’t been a change for the better. Some of his pages look great – especially the two-page spread in which Zilla Vallo contacts Superman – but others look very awkward: Any page in which a character is grimacing or gasping or shouting or gritting their teeth, and their faces just look deeply unnatural (which means that Ultraman always looks unnatural).

It’s weird to think that Grant Morrison, who’s usually one of the more innovative ideas men in comics, seems to be retracing the steps of Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, and himself, but that seems to be what’s happening. But this could still be a pretty good story, except that Morrison seems to have lost sight of giving the readers a reason to care. Superman’s supposedly doing this to save Lois, but what ‘this’ is he doing? And the adventure is all too metaphysical to have any emotional resonance (not really surprising, as emotional resonance has never been Morrison’s strong suit). Is this story really going to matter? My guess is no.

newuniversal: Conqueror newuniversal: Conqueror is another one-shot providing background to Warren Ellis’ newuniversal series, this one taking place in 2689 B.C., when a White Event has given several individuals in this primitive world the powers of the New Universe heroes we’re seeing play out in the main title. In this story, one of the empowered characters has gone badly wrong, and he’s manipulating the others for his own end, to the detriment of the timeline. The beings from outside the timeline are trying to warn the others, and this issue is mostly about the Star Brand character – the Conqueror of the title – trying to figure out what’s going on.

It’s a story of small scope, and it works on those terms, although I found the ending to be too abrupt and unsatisfying. Eric Nguyen’s art has a sketchy quality to it, but it works for me in the gloomy atmosphere it brings to the story – although as with many artists these days (it seems), he needs to work on drawing background so the story doesn’t seem like it’s taking place in mid-air.

newuniversal is quietly becoming one of the more intriguing mainstream comics. I hope Ellis keeps with it and sees it through to a conclusion. (Of course, I’m still waiting for that last issue of Planetary…)

This Week’s Haul

A small week, but one chock-full of geeky goodness. Which seems fitting, since this is my 500th post to Fascination Place!

  • The Brave and the Bold #16, by Mark Waid & Scott Kolins (DC)
  • Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #1 of 5, by Geoff Johns, George Pérez & Scott Koblish (DC)
  • Tangent: Superman’s Reign #6 of 12, by Dan Jurgens, Jamal Ingle & Robin Riggs, and Ron Marz, Fernando Pasarin & Scott McKenna (DC)
  • Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man vol 101 HC, collecting Amazing Spider-Man #88-99, by Stan Lee, John Romita & Gil Kane (Marvel)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy #4, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Paul Pelletier & Rick Magyar (Marvel)
The Brave and the Bold #16 Mark Waid’s run on The Brave and the Bold comes to a quiet end with a decent team-up of Superman and Catwoman. I’m not a big fan of Scott Kolins’ artwork these days – it seems like it’s getting increasingly less polished in its finishes, which I find rather off-putting – but it’s okay. The series never quite recovered from its stumbles starting with issue #7, nor the loss of George Pérez’s artwork, so it feels like it kind of limped to a finish. The first 6-issue story was terrific, though.

But the series is continuing with some fill-ins by Marv Wolfman, and then I guess J. Michael Straczynski is going to be the next regular writer. It’ll be interesting to see how that turns out, since Straczynski is a very low-key writer (in his comics work, anyway) and B&B always feels like it should be full of bombast and improbable, wild creativity.

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #1 If ever there was a series made for fanboys, it’s Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds. Boy, where to even begin? Well to start with, it’s drawn by George Pérez, who’s probably my favorite comics artist ever, and who’s noted for packing an amazing amount of detail into each panel, but who’s hardly ever drawn the Legion of Super-Heroes (nor, often, Superman). And the art is just gorgeous, as you’d expect.

The story all by itself has so many back-references to the history of the Legion and this decade’s DC continuity that anyone unfamiliar with it probably isn’t part of the target audience: The Time Trapper plucks Superboy Prime out of the time stream in the wake of the Sinestro Corps War and sends him to the 31st century, where the world is picking up the pieces in the wake of the defeat of Earth-Man during the recent Action Comics story “Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes”. Prime visits the Superman Museum, where he learns about the Legion and how Superman – whom he hates – inspired the team and the creation of the United Planets, and also about the Legion of Super-Villains, whom he breaks out of prison to they can help him tear down everything Superman inspired.

Meanwhile, the Legion are being interrogated by the UP’s governing body, since many of them feel the Legion is no longer needed. Their one-time backer, R.J. Brande, shows up to speak in support of them, and it seems to be working, until he’s abruptly murdered, and the fact that he’s actually a Durlan is publicly revealed. This throws the UP into chaos. Other Legionnaires are busy finding and/or rescuing their missing teammates, but several of them can’t be found. Amidst all of this, they find out about Prime’s missing, and they summon Superman from the 20th century. Brainiac 5 reasons that the best way to fight the villains is to recruit their counterparts from two parallel worlds, and while Superman thinks that will help, he also thinks that Prime can’t merely be stopped, nor should he be killed, but that they need to find some way to redeem him, to bring him back to the hero he was during the Crisis on Infinite Earths.

If that made your head spin, then this series might not be for you, but as a longtime Legion fan, I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Now, to enjoy it you do basically have to avoid worrying about continuity, as there are continuity errors all over the place, and I assume it’s because Geoff Johns just didn’t want to bother dealing with all the little details which would prevent it from being a fun story, not least because he clearly wants to tell a story about the Legion he grew up with. Just a few of the differences I spotted:

  • The “classic” Legion clearly spins off from the end of Paul Levitz’ run on the book, and Keith Giffen’s “Five Years Later” stories never took place. For instance, the Legion remembers Superman as having been a member, so the Pocket Universe stories never took place, and Mon-El is his original self, rather than his FYL “Valor” self. I think FYL started out strong but fizzled after half a year or so, so I don’t mind this being pushed out of continuity.
  • The panel depicting the Zero Hour rebooted Legion shows some characters who are dead in that continuity, such as Monstress and Leviathan.
  • The Mark Waid/Barry Kitson Legion (the one currently being depicted in the ongoing Legion series) shows Supergirl as a member, even though she departed a while ago.
  • Superboy Prime is still Superboy, even though he’d had adventures as Superman Prime during Countdown – another example of Countdown being basically willfully disregarded by later series (which isn’t such a bad thing, as it was awful).

There are a lot of interesting things that bringing the three Legions could result in. For instance, maybe one of them is the Legion of Earth 2. Or having characters meet who are substantially different among the worlds, such as Princess Projectra and Sensor. I don’t expect them to clear up which Karate Kid stayed in the 20th century at the end of “The Lightning Saga”, though. Honestly I don’t think anyone at DC editorial has any idea why they bothered with that plot thread, anyway, since it ended up going nowhere.

The biggest risk the series runs is that of not just having a single large cast of Legionnaires, but three of them, and characterization getting lost in the shuffle – always a risk with any Legion series. But the most encouraging thing is Superman’s stated goal at the end of the issue: Not to just to stop Prime, but to redeem him. I’ve been pretty unhappy with how this character has been treated, and finding a way to redeem him would be a challenge well worthy of a 5-issue series illustrated by George Pérez. Here’s hoping Geoff Johns can pull it off; he’s off to a good start.

(Oh, one more thing: There’s no apparent connection between this series and Final Crisis that I can see. Maybe they’ll work it in there somehow, but I rather hope it ends up standing on its own.)

Anyway, yes, I’m a big Legion geek. I don’t think that “my” Legion will ever truly appear again, but I do enjoy reading good Legion stories.

Guardians of the Galaxy #4 Guardians of the Galaxy is saddled with a Secret Invasion crossover in its 4th issue, much like Nova got stuck with an Annihilation: Conquest crossover in its 4th, but this one makes even less sense since the Guardians don’t operate on Earth, which is where the invasion is taking place! but Abnett & Lanning play a neat trick by locking the Guardians on their extradimensional home base of Knowhere, and revealing that there are shape-shifting Skrulls infiltrating that place, too! Plus, the Guardians find that many inhabitants of Knowhere don’t really trust or like them, and a couple of the Guardians members are acting a little oddly. From the issue’s last panel, it looks like things are really going to blow up next month, so this might be pretty good as non-crossover crossover stories go. If nothing else, DnA are taking every opportunity to keep advancing the Guardians’ own story in the middle of all this.

This Week’s Haul

  • The Brave and the Bold #12, by Mark Waid, Jerry Ordway & Bob Wiacek (DC)
  • Countdown to Final Crisis #2 of 52 (backwards), by Paul Dini, Sean McKeever, Keith Giffen & Scott Kolins (DC)
  • Salvation Run #6 of 7, by Matthew Sturges, Sean Chen & Walden Wong (DC)
  • Suicide Squad: Raise the Flag #8 of 8, by John Ostrander, Javier Pina & Robin Riggs (DC)
  • Tangent: Superman’s Reign #2 of 12, by Dan Jurgens, Jamal Ingle & Robin Riggs, and Ron Marz, Fernando Pasarin & Jesse Delperdang (DC)
  • Annihilation Conquest #6 of 6, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Tom Raney & Scott Hanna (Marvel)
  • The Perhapanauts #1, by Todd DeZago & Craig Rousseau (Image)
The Brave and the Bold #12 The second story arc of The Brave and the Bold wraps up in disappointing fashion: George Pérez left the book after #10, and while Jerry Ordway is another of my five favorite pencillers, I don’t think he works as well with the madcap adventure yarns that Mark Waid is writing here as well as Pérez did. And this six-issue arc wasn’t that interesting: It involved a villain named Megistus collecting mystical artifacts in order to reshape the universe, which is not exactly a new storyline, and served to be little more than an excuse to romp randomly through the DC universe – much less interesting than the coherent single story of the first six issues. Worst of all, Megistus’ motivations are supposed to be an attempt to avoid the upcoming Final Crisis (assuming he was telling the truth, that is), which is as disappointing a tie-in as I can recall in recent memory. Sigh.

Not that it hasn’t been an enjoyable arc on some levels – there have been some good character bits and the gorgeous artwork – but it’s just not nearly as good as the first arc. I can see that Waid was trying to do something a little different, but I think a multi-character team-up book needs a tight framework in which to operate or else it just falls apart. Indeed, I think such books succeed best when a hodge-podge of characters are pulled together into a very tight, sensical story, but the loose framework of this second arc made it feel much less coherent, and thus much less enjoyable.

Suicide Squad: Raise the Flag #8 Two other series concluded their arc this week, with much greater success. Suicide Squad: Raise the Flag marks John Ostrander’s return to one of his more artistically successful series. The Suicide Squad is a covert government organization which forcibly recruits villains to go on missions; if they succeed, their sentences are reduced; if they fail, they probably end up dying on the mission anyway. This series picked up where the original series left off, even bringing back a character long assumed deceased. After careful set-up taking us back to the days of the earlier series, we’re also introduced to the tension between Amanda Waller, the leader of the Squad, and General Wade Eiling, an SOB who eventually had his brain transplanted into the body of an invulnerable, super-strong android.

Ostrander always made the Squad work because not only was his unflinching in killing off some of the characters – including the occasional major one – but he maintained a careful balance of distrust and respect among the main characters, both heroes and villains, and dug deeply into their motivations. Everyone here has some sort of pathology, as you might expect from people who dress up in spandex to commit or fight crimes. A couple of the heroes attached to the Squad are a little less nutty than the others – Bronze Tiger is arguably the most ‘pure’ of the heroes – but everyone has a point of view of an agenda which brings them into conflict with the others at some point.

Anyway, this story wraps up with a mission – to which Eiling is now attached as a convicted villain – going horribly wrong. Of course, this being the Squad and not the Justice League, a decidedly different form of mayhem ensues, and it all wraps up rather neatly. Nifty character bits abound, especially those involving Deadshot and the new Captain Boomerang, the writing is sharp, and the art is mostly terrific, although inker Robin Riggs pencils a few of the last pages, and they’re noticeably stiff next to those of Javier Pina.

But all things considered, this series is made of win. If it results in a new Suicide Squad ongoing series, I would totally be on board with it.

Annihilation Conquest #6 The first Annihilation series was totally awesome, and consequently was a hard act to follow. Annihilation Conquest doesn’t quite reach its heights, but it’s still a heck of a lot of fun.

Basically, the Phalanx takes over the Kree empire, seals it in an impenetrable bubble (dozens of light-years wide!) and starts infecting all beings inside with its technovirus, including Nova, Drax, Gamora, Blastaar, etc. Pockets of rebellion persist, primarily a team of misfits led by the former Star-Lord who seek to bring down the Babel Spire which is generating the field. Meanwhile Quasar – sister of the most recent Captain Marvel – find the High Evolutionary and a resurrected Adam Warlock (again?) and strives to enlist them, but the Evolutionary betrays her and puts the mind of the Phalanx’s leader – whose identity might elicit a groan from longtime Marvel readers, but seems almost obligatory to me – in Adam’s body.

In the conclusion, Nova shows up with the cavalry, Star-Lord’s team makes its last stand, and Ronan the Accuser implements his final solution to the problem of the Phalanx infestation. As grand, “last, desperate hope” climaxes go, this one is pretty good. A lot of people really loved Star-Lord’s strike force, especially Groot and Rocket Raccoon, but I enjoyed the weightier characters, such as Nova and Wraith (I wish we’d seen more of the latter). I appreciate Star-Lord as a sort of tragic hero, having lost all his powers in defending the galaxy from an insane Herald of Galactus, but I don’t think the rest of his team is a very good foil for his character. I guess we’ll see how well it works in a longer form in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy series, though.

Overall, Marvel’s revitalization of their space characters has been a smashing success, relying on good stories, clever plotting, and well-defined characters who stay in character. The mess which is the rest of Marvel’s line of titles would do well to watch what these guys are doing, because they’re doing it right.